“I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You’re not hurting me.” She framed his face between her hands.

“I should get cleaned up first.”

“Later,” she murmured. “We have so little time.”

“Cidra, do you know what it does to me when you look at me like that?”

“Like what?”

“As if you want me so much, you’ll dissolve if you don’t get me.”

“I might.”

His fingers were trembling as he undid the delicate fastenings of the yellow-gold robe. It slid to the floor, a heap of treasure around her feet. Severance decided it was nothing compared to the treasure it had concealed. He unhooked the utility belt and draped it on the table beside the bed. Impatiently he tugged off the rest of his clothing. When he was finished, he reached out to touch Cidra. It occurred to him again that he should get under a hot spray before he claimed such a sweet-smelling woman, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself. Already he was pushing her backward onto the bed.

“Watch out for Fred,” Cidra said.

“Where is he?”

“I don’t know. He’s usually in here somewhere.”

Severance looked up and saw three rows of teeth grinning at him from the window ledge above the bed. “Hello, Fred. Go back to sleep.”

The three rows of teeth winked out of sight. Severance gathered Cidra into his arms. He heard her soft sigh, felt the warm, eager welcome in her arms, and wondered how he could let her go in the morning. Then he stopped thinking of the future entirely. All that existed for him was the present with its promise of passion and satisfaction. On Renaissance a man took what he could get.

He made love to Cidra with the burning need of a man who knows he’s going to go hungry for a long time.

Severance didn’t know what brought him up out of sleep later that night. He came awake the way he usually did on Renaissance: with a sudden alertness that kicked his system into full gear. He lay listening to the shadows, unmoving. One arm was wrapped securely around Cidra as if even in his sleep he were afraid of losing her. Her rounded rear was nestled intimately into his thighs, and he could feel the curves of her br**sts under his palm.

But it hadn’t been Cidra who had awakened him. She was sound asleep. He listened intently, and then he heard a faint movement on the window ledge. Fred was awake too. Perhaps he had only heard the sound of his movement. The rain had begun, pouring down outside with enough force and noise to mask any sounds from the street. Severance wondered if it had been Desma’s return to the house that had brought him up out of sleep. But he could hear nothing from the hall.

Then he heard another sound, and this time he recognized it: the hiss of a deflector screen as a man moved through it. The faint noise was coming from the deflector that guarded the window across the room, Severance slitted his eyes and turned his head a few fractions of a centimeter. A shadow moved on the other side of the diazite pane. On the window ledge over the bed Fred shifted again.

Severance reached up and touched the rockrug. Fred went still, his body still and alert. Satisfied that the creature was going to obey the silent command, Severance reached for the knife in his utility belt. Logically, whoever was outside the window shouldn’t be able to open it. The diazite was locked. But there were ways around locks. Too many ways.

Severance wasn’t very surprised when the diazite pane swung inward without a sound. The figure coming through the window was holding a pulser. He got no more man one leg hooked over the windowsill. Severance came to a sitting position in a smooth rush of movement, launching the knife in his hand with the full power of his shoulder and upper arm.

The heavy-duty utility knife caught the intruder in the right side of his chest. The pulser dropped to the floor as the victim yelled in pain and rage. The force of the blow sent him spinning backward, out of the window and onto the ground.

“Severance!” Cidra came awake with a startled gasp, clutching at the sheet. Rain was pouring through the open window. “What happened? What’s wrong?”

But he was already out of bed and leaning out of the window. An instant later he was through it and crouching on the ground outside. Cidra heard Fred moving agitatedly on the ledge above her, and then she felt him undulating down onto her shoulder and along the bed. He was moving almost as fast as Severance had moved. The rockrug crossed the room and wriggled onto the other window ledge. Cidra wasn’t far behind both of them.

“Severance? What are you… Sweet Harmony, it’s him!” She stared at the man lying flat on the ground in the pouring rain. Severance was hunkered down beside him, his nude body gleaming sleekly from the steady downpour. “It’s him,” she said again, dazed. “The man who attacked Desma and me in the lab.”

Then she saw the blood mingling with the rainwater that was running down the man’s chest. The hilt of the utility knife protruded from his rumpled clothing. She caught her breath. “Is he… is he dead?”

“No. My aim was a little off. It’s hard to get an accurate shot from a sitting position. Especially when you’re in a hurry.” Severance was examining his victim. “You’re sure it’s the same renegade?”

She stared at the stricken man, whose face was twisted in a grimace of pain. It was an expression that wasn’t all that different from the one of fear she had last seen him wearing. “It’s him. What’s he doing here? Everyone assumed he’d disappeared.”

“Since he’s still alive, we’ll be able to ask him a whole lot of interesting questions. See if Desma is home yet. If not, use her comp-phone to get company Security out here.”

Cidra hesitated, deeply aware of the pain the intruder must be feeling. “We’ve got to stop the bleeding, Severance.”

He looked up at her as she stood framed in the window. For the first time Cidra saw the expression on his face. Rain washed over his hard features, revealing a grim, hollow stare that shook her to the core.

“I’m almost sure he came through that window to kill you,” Severance said much too softly. “I don’t give a damn if he dies right here and now. Go wake Desma.”

She still had far to go yet before she became completely accustomed to Wolf ways, Cidra thought as she went in search of Desma. There was no sense fooling herself. In some respects she would never become a true Wolf. She wondered if it was that weakness in her nature that made Severance wary of taking her with him.