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512 pages, Paperback
First published March 3, 2015
Annia felt queer and cold, triumphant and sick, and her face was blank as stone.
“You look like the sack of Troy,” her father said mildly as she came to his dining couch in the triclinium.
“A virtuous man cannot be tempted to an evil act.” Marcus sounded thoughtful, but very certain. “Therefore, the sight of your ankles or your anything else makes no difference.”
Hadrian’s voice was low, his mouth pressed against Antinous’s curls as he crushed my son against him. “I’d die in a lion’s mouth for you,” he murmured. “I’d die in its teeth and let the Empire burn after me, if it meant you lived.”
“I have to give him up,” my son said bleakly. “It will break his heart, and it will break mine because I would rather be dead than be without him. But he’s my world. And I will not be the thing that brings him to ruin.”
“I don’t know,” he whispered, and I bled for him. That’s what you do, when your children grow up and you can no longer slay their demons for them.”
But if men are the makers and breakers of empires, then women are the makers and breakers of men.
Then the dark was gone and the stars were rushing at him, reflected in the Nile.
So beautiful, Antinous had time to think. And then he was falling among the stars.
Chorus, she thought. That’s what we are—the chorus to a Greek tragedy, and the last act is upon us and all we can do is react.
It was in a grove of lemon trees just outside Athens, after the Mysteries. Gods know what excuse I made, to get you away and him alone. He wore a blue tunic, and he looked at me with such clear eyes, and the sight of him made me tremble like a boy.
Annia touched her hair, defensive. “People think I’m a boy,” she found herself saying.
“Why do they think that?”
“The way I play.”
“And how do you play?”
Annia jutted out her jaw. “To win.”
“Vix watched you like a lion watches a lioness.”
“And how does a lion watch a lioness?” Sabina didn’t even try to pretend nonchalance this time.
“He doesn’t need to tend her, because she hunts her own prey. He doesn’t need to shield her, because she kills her own enemies. He doesn’t need to look for her, because she’s always at his side.”
"Our girls were pretty pink-cheeked little things, but it was Antinous everyone noticed first: his carved Bithynian face that broke into such a radiant smile, his lean-muscled height, his curling hair the color of dark honey..."
"Six months. Can he still make me so dizzy after six months? Just watching Hadrian go striding through this vast villa was enough to melt Atninous's knees."