The night sounds didn’t seem as harsh tonight. After a while Cidra realized that she wasn’t hearing very many of the usual chopped-off screams. That was a relief. It made one think of what this planet might have been like if it hadn’t evolved along such violent lines. It might have had some truly beautiful places in it, places that offered a green and welcoming tranquility. Places where even a Harmonic might feel at home.
There were such places here, Cidra thought with sudden certainty. And they weren’t far away. The jungle outside wasn’t as dangerous as it seemed. A person simply had to understand it. Humans were always struggling to subdue it, and, of course, the jungle had to fight back. But if a woman simply walked into it looking for the tranquil places, she would find them. They were so close.
Slowly Cidra slipped away from the shelter of Severance’s arm. He didn’t stir. She sat up, listening. The night noises were definitely quieter and less threatening this evening. The twin moons would be shining, illuminating a path through the thick foliage. It would be an easy matter to follow that path to the gentle, tranquil spaces hidden in the jungle.
Her compulsion to follow the moonlit path grew. Moonlight and Mirrors. She knew how to chase moonlight in mirrors. The jungles of Renaissance were open to her. All she had to do was walk into them.
Cidra got up and pulled on her trousers. Then she reached for her shirt. She found her boots near the tent entrance. When she had them on, she opened the iris closure and stepped out into the night.
She had been right. The twin moons were shining very brilliantly tonight, revealing a path through the jungle. Borgia and Medici weren’t their true names, she decided. ‘They had once been called by other names, names that she couldn’t quite say. The words were strange in her head. Without any hesitation Cidra turned toward the path.
Severance came awake with the startling certainty that something was wrong. He turned on his side and realized that Cidra’s warm weight was no longer pinning his arm.
When there was no response, a flare of panic reared up within him. He got to his feet. She was not in her own sleeper.
“Cidra!” Memories of her in his arms flooded his mind. And along with those memories came others. She wanted to be a Harmonic more than she wanted anything else. After tonight she would feel farther than ever from her goal. How would she react to that? He felt slightly sick as he reached for his boots. Surely she wouldn’t do anything rash just because she had been forced to face the fact that she was a true Wolf. It had hardly been rape, for Harmony’s sake. He’d seen the passion in her eyes, felt the throbbing, moist warmth between her legs. She had clung to him with a woman’s stirring need.
But what if she hadn’t been able to accept her own desires afterward? Severance thought wildly. He ignored the rest of his clothes and activated the tent opening with a savage twist of his hand. An instant later he was outside.
He saw her almost at once and breathed a sigh of relief. Then he realized that she was on the other side of the deflector screens, heading into the wall of vegetation.
“Cidra! Come back here. What in a renegade’s hell do you think you’re doing?” Severance raced through the screens, reaching for Cidra as she started into the mass of night-darkened greenery surrounding the campsite. He caught her shoulder and spun her around.
“Severance?” She smiled, but she didn’t seem to be quite focusing on him. She waved her hand gracefully at the jungle. “Isn’t it beautiful tonight? I never realized how beautiful it was.”
“What’s the matter with you? Are you out of your mind? If you think I’m going to let you walk into that green hell just because you finally discovered sex, you’re dumber than a novakeet.” He yanked her back toward the safety of the screens.
“But, Severance, it’s not a green hell. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.”
“You’re dreaming on your feet. Why didn’t you ever tell me you walk in your sleep?”
“I don’t walk in my sleep. Severance, there’s no need to hide behind the screens anymore.”
He ignored that, pulling her through the invisible safety net. There he turned to confront her. The moonlight seemed to shine in her eyes as she looked up at him. Something was wrong, and he couldn’t figure out what it was. He tried shaking her gently. She blinked and some of the moonlight seemed to fade from her gaze. He got the impression that she was starting to really see him. He clasped her shoulders firmly and tried another small shake.
“Cidra, listen to me. I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you do anything stupid because of what happened tonight. You’re coming back into that tent with me. In the morning everything will be all right. You’ll see.”
She frowned slightly, almost thoughtfully. “I’d rather not go back into the tent with you, Severance.”
“You haven’t got any choice, damn it!” He picked her up and carried her back to the opening. He stepped through and set her down on his sleeper. Methodically, he began stripping off her clothing.
“Severance, listen to me.”
“Why? So that you can give me some illogical reason for trying to commit suicide?”
She seemed genuinely shocked. “I wasn’t trying to commit suicide.”
“You’re upset because of what happened between us.” He tugged off her boots. “I can understand that. First time around, sex is a little upsetting. Like everything else, it improves with practice. I know I wasn’t the greatest lover between here and QED tonight, but I’d had a tough day. That’s no excuse for you to start thinking in terms of death before dishonor. I didn’t rape you, Cidra.”
“I know that,” she said gently.
He sat on the edge of the sleeper and yanked off his own boots. “Furthermore, you liked it. Or at least you liked most of it.” He bore her back down onto the sleeper, sprawling across her so that her legs were pinned beneath his. “This time around I’ll see to it that you like all of it. I swear it.”
Before she could protest, he sealed her mouth with his own. Beneath him he felt her stir, and the movement of her naked body began the chain reaction that led to the hardening in his groin. Severance forced himself to stay under control. He was going to make it right for her. If he satisfied her completely, maybe she would be able to accept her normal passions. She had to accept them. Damned if he would let her kill herself because he’d made love to her.