"Desire is war." Shalott never understood Aphrodite's words so well until now. True, the Goddess of Love had been speaking about her tumultuous relationship with Cupid, the god of War, but Shalott figured it fit well now.

He lay before her like a great cat, his sable hair and bronze skin glowing in the lamplight. "Surely, you are Adonis." Shalott breathed

"Then come. Be my Aphrodite." He beckoned her.

Shalott wanted to resist, but in the end there was really no need. She was his, and he was hers for however long he allowed it.

She had sworn to never be owned by a man again. After years of abuse at the hand of her husband (an arranged marriage) and the men who had bought her services when she was destitute, Shalott had sworn an oath to never lose herself like that again. Yet, she was lost.

He was so beautiful to her, Shalott could weep. One touch of his hand sent her reeling and his cool baritone caused shivers to run down her spine.

Caesar, Julius Caesar grew impatient and once more beckoned her to the bed. Shalott held out no longer. She went to him and kissed him. He tasted sweet like wine, but with a hint of bitterness underneath. He lips caressed his like honey flowing into mead. She finally had to break the kiss, to come up for air.

Julius smiled at her. It was filled with lust. Shalott felt something inside her pull back a little, and when she looked again, there was only longing in his eyes. Shalott fell into Julius, and then there was only one.

Shalott had always been a late sleeper, but since immigrating to Rome, she had found herself up with the sun. Maybe it was the way the old Roman women called to each other on their way to the market, or how the air was always tinged with the perfume of exotic goods, animal, and underneath it all, human excrement. There was something about Rome that called Shalott, and it woke her up at dawn, begging to be heard.

Now, she understood why Julius called Rome his mistress. Shalott had become her slave.

Shalott had spent her life in cities. When she had been three years old, a merchant family in Corinth had adopted her. Corinth was a sailing village gone corpulent. It sprawled away from the sea in an untidy mess. It stank of fish and saltwater. Shalott hated it, and left at thirteen, though not by choice.

Her father had arranged a marriage for his striking adoptive daughter. When a king asks for her hand, you don't say no. So Shalott left Greece for the tiny eastern country of Tanghra.

Tanghria was the capital city, and it was beautiful. Often called the city of trees, it was green and smelled of cool air, budding greenery and the ever-present food scents coming from its famous marketplace. Shalott had been a prisoner there. Raped by a brutal husband and kept a prisoner in his home, she had grown desperate, desperate enough to try the impossible. She succeeded. Shalott had escaped Tanghria in the dead of night and fled to Delphi.

The city of Acolytes and Heretics, Delphi was called. It was here one opened one's door, never knowing if a god was on the other side. Shalott had sought asylum in Aphrodite's Temple, and it had been granted.

Delphi smelled of blood and incense.

Now, Shalott was here, in the Eternal City. Her lover was Rome's greatest general, the man destined to rule the world. She was frightened. She was exhilarated. She knew Destiny had a part for her to play, and she couldn't wait to find out what.