“You have to go back to Clementia, Cidra.” His voice sounded raw.
“Because that’s where you want to go.” She shook her head with grave certainty. “No. Not anymore. I want to be with you.”
“But you belong in Clementia. It’s your home. Your work is there. The people you care about…” “I care about you now.”
He drew a deep breath as if preparing himself for an unpleasant task. “You have to go back.”
His dogged stubbornness began to make an impression. “Why do I have to go back? Just because you say so?”
“Yes, damn it!” He sat up abruptly, pushing aside the cover of the sleeper. In the muted morning light that passed through the tent screen, the muscles of his shoulders and back were set and rigid. “You have to go back to Clementia because you’ve been saying all along that you belong there. Your life’s ambition is to be a Harmonic.”
“I’m not a Harmonic. I never was one and I never will be one. I know that now.”
He looked at her. “But you can live like one. You can change your fancy gown four times a day, practice all the rituals, study the philosophy and the laws. Part of you is Harmonic, Cidra. Hell, Harmonics aren’t an alien race living among humans. Some part of every human being is Harmonic. You can indulge that part of yourself. All you’ll lack is the telepathic ability. You were born into that world, and you can’t possibly know for certain that you want to leave it permanently.”
“I do know for certain,” she said calmly. “I’m ready to leave it permanently.”
“Get one thing straight, Cidra. If you do leave it to come with me, you can never go back. I wouldn’t let you go back. Do you understand what I’m saving?”
“Do you want me to come with you?” she countered.
He closed his eyes for an anguished instant. When he opened them, his gaze was very hard. In that moment he was all Wolf. “Sweet Harmony, yes. Yes, damn it, I want you to come with me. But not unless you’re absolutely sure it’s what you want too.”
“Cidra, you can’t possibly know that. It’s too soon.” She tilted her head as understanding dawned. “You don’t trust me, do you?”
He was startled. “What do you mean, I don’t trust you?” “It’s true. You don’t trust me. You’re afraid I don’t know my own mind. Well, that’s one thing about being a Wolf, Severance. You have to learn to trust the hard way. You have to take a chance.”
“I’m not going to take a chance on this. It’s too important. And don’t give me any lectures on what it means to be a Wolf. I’m the Wolf here.”
“So am I.”
“Only because I made you into one!” Cidra began to get angry. “Don’t go taking all the credit for everything, Teague Severance. You’re always so anxious to assume responsibility, to be the pilot in command, that you tend to forget I’m capable of free will and clear thinking too. I’ve got news for you, this is a decision I’m making all by myself.”
“Be reasonable, Cidra. You’ve only been away from Clementia for about three weeks. So much has happened to you in that time that you can’t possibly be thinking clearly.”
“I was trained to think clearly under all circumstances!” He eyed her.
“You’re starting to lose your temper.”
“Astute observation. I’m getting very angry, Severance.”
“Cidra, all I’m asking is that you consider this in a calm, rational manner. You’ve been under a great deal of strain lately.”
“Strain? I’ve been seduced, assaulted by wild beasts, attacked by alien illusions, obliged to eat meat, and taught to gamble. Yes, I’ve been under a strain. But that doesn’t mean I can’t think straight. It’s Wolves such as you who get muddle-headed in emotional circumstances. And the fact that you are presently in just such a circumstance is the only reason I’m making allowances for your behavior at the moment. I’m the best crew mate you ever had, Teague Severance. I’m loyal, trustworthy, and intelligent. If you had any sense, you’d realize just how lucky you are and get down on your knees in gratitude!”
He stared at her as she sat up in the sleeper, her long hair spilling around her shoulders and dancing across the tips of her br**sts. Her eyes were full of fire and daunting determination. He felt himself wavering in the face of it. Summoning all his fortitude, he stood firm. “Cidra, I know you think you mean what you say.”
“I do mean what I say!”
“But this decision is too important.”
“To me, you little idiot. Will you listen to me? I’m trying to do what’s best for both of us.”
“You’re just trying to protect yourself,” she retorted. He started to argue and then halted abruptly. “Maybe I am.” He looked away from her. “I couldn’t bear it if I took you with me and you changed your mind a season or two from now. I couldn’t bear to watch you pining for the gardens of Clementia and the love of a man who will never want to make love to you. It would destroy me, Cidra.”
She heard the gritty truth in his words and knew her first sense of genuine uncertainty. She didn’t doubt her own feelings for a moment, but she had to acknowledge that Severance had a right to be unsure of her. From the moment he had met her she had talked mainly of finding a way to go back to Clementia. She couldn’t blame him for doubting her change of heart and mind.
“What about a compromise?” she asked softly.
He swung around to face her. “What kind of compromise? I’m not going to be a visiting lover for you. I won’t agree to just drop in and sleep with you occasionally when I happen to be near Clementia.”
Her head came up proudly. “I’m not interested in such a … a thin relationship, either. For the record I won’t be a convenient resource for a little special handling when you’re between mail runs.”
“I know mat.”
“Very well, then, why don’t we try a more or less platonic association for a while.”
“The way we did for two weeks on the hop from Lovelady to Renaissance? You’re out of your tuned mind. I’d never survive. Talk about strain!”
“Then you suggest something,” she shot back.