Cidra swallowed unhappily. “Special handling,” the mail pilot’s slang for quick, easy sex, was not the term she wanted to hear applied to what might have been between herself and Severance. The phrase made it sound light, virtually meaningless. And while she knew intellectually that sex for a Wolf was on a different plane than the communion between Harmonics, she didn’t want to think of sex between herself and Severance as being just a little “special handling.” But, apparently, that was exactly how Severance saw it.

“I assumed you were sitting here brooding. We had talked about your brother earlier, and there was that light-painting you did. And you’ve been drinking so much before you go to bed lately.” She lifted one shoulder helplessly. “I thought perhaps sad memories were still bothering you.”

He closed his eyes in obvious disgust. “I should have known better than to try to take a fake Harmonic to bed.” His lashes lifted, revealing a hard, glittering gaze only slightly skewed due to the amount of Renaissance Rose ale in his system. “Let’s get one thing understood here, not that it’s going to do me any good to explain it. I have not been sitting here getting spaced every night since you’ve been on board because I’m suffering from deep depression. Jeude was killed a little more than two years ago. I learned to handle that some time back. In fact, I spent one reeting hell of a year as a bonus man on Renaissance, learning to deal with what happened to Jeude. I don’t need some damned therapist. Renaissance was my therapist. I do not spend every night drinking myself into a stupor because of Jeude.”

“I see.” She wondered what a bonus man was.

“No, you don’t, but I’m too drunk to explain it to you.” He rose to his feet with her in his arms.

Cidra’s sense of balance wavered unpleasantly again as Severance staggered a bit, trying to regain his own equilibrium. She clutched at him and tried to wriggle free. “Put me down, please.”

“I should.” He started toward the tiered bunks. “I should put you down right in the middle of my bed and make love to you until you can’t think. I’ve decided that thinking is part of your problem, Cidra. The Harmonics taught you to think too much. Gave you too much education. Oughta be a law against teaching fake Saints to think. Therapy. Saints in hell! The last thing I needed tonight was therapy.”

“Severance…?” She realized that he wasn’t going to stand her on her feet. Alarm shot through her as they neared the bunks.

“Sure as first-class postage, I’m going to regret this.” He halted and lifted her high in his arms.


Before she could protest further, he dropped her onto the top bunk. Physically it was something of an accomplishment, Cidra had to admit as she tumbled out of his arms and onto the bed. The act of lifting her that high required extensive use of the muscle tone he had obviously been developing on his exercise machine. Considering the fact that he’d been drinking strong ale for hours, it was an even more amazing performance.

Fred awakened with a shudder as Cidra bounced on top of him. She gasped as she felt him move under her leg. For a split second she was afraid that the rockrug might react instinctively, taking a chunk out of her ankle. But he simply slithered to one side in what probably passed for a huff among his species.

Severance glowered at Cidra over the edge of the bunk. “For a while back there you weren’t thinking in therapeutic terms, lady. For a while you weren’t even thinking in Harmonic terms. For just a short time you were thinking and acting like a real female Wolf. Like a woman. Wonder what the noble Mercer would have thought if he’d seen you with your fancy gold nails digging into a Wolf’s neck.”

Cidra followed Fred’s example and slithered back a few inches. “There’s no need to bring Mercer into this.”

“You’re right. He wouldn’t have the vaguest idea what was going on, would he? He wouldn’t have known what you were feeling when you were clinging to me like a sexy little snapcat. But I do know, Cidra. I felt what you were feeling.”

She flushed under the words, remembering from somewhere that the snapcats found in the central plains of Lovelady’s main continent were well known for their almost constant state of being in heat.

“I understand why you’re trying to insult me, Severance. You’re upset and you’ve had too much ale. If you have any sense, you’ll fall into your bunk and pass out. As for me, I don’t have to discuss this sort of thing with you. If you want to talk about it in the morning when you’ve calmed down and are no longer spaced, I’ll be willing to sit down and talk. Until then I’m going to sleep.”

He shook his head in mock admiration, hands on his hips. “Understanding, intellectual, and formal to the last. A true inspiration to the rest of us lowly mortals.”

“Good night, Severance.” She turned her back to him, sliding down into the bedding and pulling it up to her throat. She was trembling, but she knew she had to remain quiet and firm. Giving him anything to react to would be inviting more trouble. Severance was obviously spoiling for a fight. All the pent-up, tension that he had been unable to release on her body was being funneled into a different sort of release. He was a Wolf looking for combat.

Cidra had had her share of classes in Wolf psychology.


She flinched as she felt his hand on her arm. “Please, Severance. Go to sleep. I don’t think you’re going to want to remember this in the morning.”

“You’re probably right.” His hand fell away. “With any luck I won’t.”

A small jolt went through both bunks as Severance’s full weight hit the bottom one. An unnatural quiet filled the cabin. Cidra’s eyes were wide as she gazed at the bulkhead wall. Severance had warned her more than once that the cabin of a mail ship could be a very small place for two people.

“I hope,” Severance muttered from the lower bunk, “that you have a lot of trouble falling asleep tonight.”

Cidra was quiet for a moment, remembering the feel of his hands on her. She ought to keep her mouth shut, but the question was out before she could stop it. “Severance? How did you get those scars on your hands?”

“Don’t you ever stop asking questions?” He paused for a moment, then let out a deep sigh. “I had a run-in with a killweaver once. Their webs leave marks. We can’t all have soft, smooth hands like yours, Cidra.”