b'18LISA E. BETZThere you are, daughter, Mother beckoned with a preemp-tory finger. Let me see you before we meet the men.Liviacrossedtheperistyle,headheldhigh.Whatdoyou think? AlookofapprovalspreadacrossMothersartfullypainted face. Agneta has managed to make your hair presentable for once. Your father will be pleased and so will our guest.Not that Livia cared about either. Shed given up trying to please her father years ago, and as for the man she was being forced to marry . . .Her thoughts must have shown because Mother grabbed her by the chin. You know how important this dinner is to all of us.Livia obediently hid her anger. It had been understood for years she would be wed to a family friend named Marcellus once she turned sixteen. Then, three weeks before her birthday Father had cancelled the betrothal in a fit of pique. Two months later, here she was facing an unwanted suitor.Her friends might think a man of Avitus status a prime catch for a merchants daughter. They might think Livia was eager to climb the social ladder by wedding the son of a senator.They would be wrong.Keep a civil tongue, Mother said. And remember not to stare.Ah yes. A childhood accident involving a dropped oil lamp had resulted in scars on Avitus face and arm. Just what every girl dreams for her prospective husbanda younger son who in-herited a fraction of the family estate and none of the familys distinguished looks. Sigh.Aunt Livilla dispelled Livias sour thoughts by pulling her into an embrace. Where Mother was all stiff formality, every imper-fection hidden beneath cosmetics and expensive fabrics, Auntie'