“You shouldn’t be here.”

 “Going to throw me out?”

“Sweet Harmony, I haven’t got the strength.” He unfastened his trousers and stepped out of them, leaving them lying on the floor of the tent. With a heavy groan he crawled into the sleeper and found Cidra naked and waiting. He buried his face against her br**sts, aware that his body was hardening already with a fierce desire. “I doubt that I’d ever have the strength to throw you out of my bed.”

“I’m glad.” Her fingers laced through his hair as her body stirred against his.

He felt her soft leg moving along his thigh, and the tight ache in his loins became a fire almost instantly. She had such a powerful effect on him that he would have been alarmed if he hadn’t been so excited. Severance stroked her, savoring the curve of her hip and the smoothness of her belly. At this moment he easily convinced himself he had a right to this night. She would be gone all too soon from his life.

Hungrily he sought and found her lips, drinking the taste of her into his veins. He would never forget the sensation of probing the sweet warmth of her mouth. Her small tongue darted around his a little anxiously at first and then with greater boldness. Her body arched, opening to his touch. When he drew a palm across one breast, he could feel the nipple tighten. The response sent a wave of excitement through him.

She was his. The need and the longing roared through him, swamping the knowledge that soon he would have to send Cidra back to Clementia. The primitive certainty that she belonged to him and no one or no place else was too strong in that moment. Severance forgot about the morning and what it must bring in the way of reality. Tonight was his, and he was going to take all he could get.

“Cidra, you feel so good. Do you know what you’re doing to me?”

“I’m learning.”

He moved one hand lower, threading his fingers through the wonderfully soft tangle of hair below her stomach, and then he could feel the gathering moistness between her legs. The sensual dampness dazed him, almost overwhelming him with a sense of anticipation. He probed gently, and when she gasped, he probed again. He could never get enough of her soft cries of excitement. ‘Touch me, Cidra. I want to feel your hands on me.”

He caught her hand and guided it down to his throbbing manhood. When her fingers closed tenderly around him, he shut his eyes and forced himself to take a calming breath.

“What’s wrong?” She sounded anxious.

“Nothing,” he told her, his voice tight. “You have the damnedest effect on me, little Saint. Touch me again. I’m a glutton for punishment.”

“Like this?”

He nipped her shoulder as she obeyed. “Yes,” he muttered as she gently used her nails on him. “Yes, sweetheart. That’s exactly right.”

He gloried in the feel of her, moving his hand beneath her lushly rounded bu**ocks and finding the dark cleft between them. She flinched at the unfamiliar caress, and he held her more tightly until she relaxed again and let herself respond. When he had her straining urgently beneath him, he let his hand rove elsewhere. He teased the parting folds of flesh that guarded the entrance to her warm, fragrant core. She moved pleadingly under the touch, closing her thighs around his hand as if she would draw him further into her.

“Do you want me?” he asked, his voice harsh with his own need.

“I want you. I want you, Severance.”

“Not half as much as I want you.” He lifted himself, sliding her into position under his heaviness, and then lowered himself along the length of her. “Wrap your legs around me, love.”

She did. He had been poised on the threshold, and when she lifted her legs to clasp his thighs, the movement forced him into her. He heard his name on her lips and felt her shiver as he thrust forward, taking her completely.

Then she was clinging to him, her br**sts soft beneath his chest, her body strong and supple as she held on to him with all her might. He would never be able to get enough of her, Severance thought fleetingly. Not even if he had her all to himself for the rest of his life.

She accepted the rhythm he established, augmenting it with her own inner muscles. The resulting harmony sent both of them spiraling upward to an inevitable conclusion. Severance lifted his head to watch her face as he felt the beginning of her joyous release. He wanted to watch her expression forever, but already the sight and feel of her satisfaction were driving him over the edge of his own. He sucked in his breath and surged forward one last time, sinking himself into her until all sense of separateness was gone. The two of them felt like a single entity. And then he just held on, clutching her more tightly than he would hold on to a pulser in the middle of the jungle.


It was a long time before either of them surfaced in the darkness of the tent. In mutual silence they lay listening to each other’s breathing and to the sounds of the night beyond die deflectors. At long last Cidra stirred, stretching luxuriously in a movement that brushed her breast along Severance’s rib cage.

“Good night, Severance.” Her voice was soft and sleepy as she curled into him.

“Good night, Cidra.” He felt her drift off to sleep, a bundle of feminine contentment in his arms. Then he lay awake for a long time and thought about the future.

Cidra awoke the next morning feeling decidedly stiff. The sleeper could accommodate two people in a pinch, but it wasn’t really designed for the extra crowd. Tentatively she moved her leg and felt Severance turn in response. His arm, which was lying across her br**sts, tightened. He yawned in her ear.

“Do you mink your bunk on the ship is going to be big enough for both of us, or will you rig up something to connect the upper and lower berths?” she asked drowsily.

“My bunk? Do you mean on the ship?”


“I hadn’t thought about it.”

“Well,” she announced grandly, “you’d better, hadn’t you? You’re the one who’s always worrying about little details.”

He stilled for a moment and then slowly levered himself up on one elbow to gaze down at her searchingly. She smiled smugly, wondering why he was looking so serious.

“You’re talking about staying on Severance Pay with me?”

“I’m a full-fledged member of the crew, remember?” She reached up and toyed with his tousled hair. He ignored her.

“You’re going back to Clementia.”

“Nope. I’m going to QED to help deliver the mail.” She tugged at a lock experimentally. He didn’t seem to notice. The first faint trickle of alarm passed through her. “Severance?”