Severance watched the window as Cidra disappeared and wondered if she could ever accept the part of him that was capable of this kind of violence. Then he looked down at the man on the ground and felt like slitting the renegade’s throat. The temptation to finish the job he’d begun with the utility knife was strong. Not only had the intruder represented a threat to Cidra, he had given her one more glimpse of Severance as a man who was about as far from being a Harmonic as it was possible to get.
Cidra stood in the departure lounge the next day waiting for Severance to confirm her reservation. She was wearing her embroidered green midday robe, and her hair was in its usual coronet. Her hands were clasped in front of her in the formal position of patience. Around her the hustle of passengers and crew flowed unheeded, not touching her either physically or emotionally. She felt isolated and intensely alone, her eyes following Severance as he verified her flight. As he turned to make his way back through the crowd she searched his face, hoping for some sign of a reprieve.
There was none. Severance had made up his mind, and she knew better than to expect to change it at this late hour. Cidra felt a rush of anger and resentment at the midnight intruder, not because he had come through the window with the intention of killing her so mat she couldn’t identify him, but because he had succeeded in ruining what was left of her last night with Severance. The man had been questioned by company security immediately after he had received medical aid for the knife wound. Then Severance and Cidra had both been obliged to give statements. It was all cut-and-dried as far as the legal aspects went. Violence within Try Again was dealt with severely. Renaissance couldn’t afford to encourage it inside the one safe zone on the planet. Bad for business. The intruder was under computer lock, but no one could give Cidra back the rest of her night with Severance. Morning had arrived all too quickly.
“You’re all set. I upgraded your cabin. This way you’ll have more room.”
She inclined her head in formal thanks.
“Bigger lav too,” he added in a deadpan tone. “You can bathe to your heart’s content. You’ll be able to spend the whole trip under a spray if you feel like it.”
“It was very thoughtful of you. I am in your debt.”
Severance winced. “Could you cut out the ritualistic good manners? Sometimes lately I’ve had the feeling that you use them when you want to be sarcastic. I’m never sure how to take them.”
“I’m sorry, Severance,” she whispered unhappily. Nothing was going right. Severance had been short-tempered with her since he had used his knife against the man who had tried to kill her. Time was running out, and they seemed to have less and less to say to each other. Cidra was aware of a sensation of panic waiting to swamp her.
Severance ignored her soft apology, took her arm, and guided her over to a quieter section of the lounge. “I’ve got something I want you to do for me.”
Cidra’s heart lifted for the first time that morning. “Of course,” she said simply, but her eyes were shining.
He handed her a credit plate. “Take it.”
She stared at it in dismay. “But it’s for your account.”
“I’ve had it opened for you. You can use that card to access it.”
“But, Severance, I don’t need any credit. I have plenty of my own, remember? What is this all about? I don’t understand. If this is some gesture of warped responsibility on your part, you can just forget it. I don’t want your share of the stake!”
“Cidra, try not to get hysterical on me over a little thing like this. I am not exactly giving you the entire contents of my credit account.”
“Then what are you giving me?”
“Access to it. I’m going to be stuck on board Severance Pay for the next several weeks. On board, communications are limited. You know that. I don’t have the facilities to do research or make investments from the deck of a mail ship. On the other hand, you’re going to be running around Clementia with access to the best information sources on three planets. I don’t want my two hundred and fifty thousand sitting still in a credit account. I want it working.”
“You want me to invest it for you?”
“Something short-term and highly profitable,” he said bluntly. “You’re the one with all the education. Do something useful with it and with my stake. Take good care of it, Cidra. Lose my capital for me and I’ll—”
“I know,” she said. “You’ll take it out of my hide.” She was gazing up at him with a palpable glow as she clutched the credit slip tightly in her palm. “I’ll take care of your stake for you, Severance. I swear it.”
He smiled crookedly. “I know you will. I trust you.”
Not with his heart and not yet with his future, but he trusted her with his credit. It was a hopeful sign, and Cidra clung to it. She dropped the credit slip carefully into the concealed pocket of her robe. It was a bond between herself and Severance, one that would surely draw him back for no other reason than to find out what she had done with his capital. Any kind of dust at all from a Wolf like Severance was a small miracle.
“You will be very careful, Severance?”
“I’ll be careful.” He touched the tip of her ear. “You’ll go straight home to Clementia and stay out of second-class taverns and dives?”
“Cidra—” He broke off as if uncertain about what to say next.
Cidra touched his hand. “It’s all right, Severance. I understand. It has to be mis way. This is the only way you can be sure of yourself and of me.” She stood on tiptoe and kissed him lightly. Then she stepped back. “I’ll be waiting for you.” She turned and was gone.
Severance felt his gut twist as she walked into the crowd of departing passengers. Her slender, green-robed figure was lost amid the hulking uniforms and standard-issue Renaissance jungle garb. For an instant he almost gave into the sense of panic that was clawing at his insides. She was out of reach already. The panel doors of the boarding gate were sealing shut, cutting her off from him, perhaps forever.
He had been a fool. He should have taken his chances, should have risked the odds and kept her with him. He’d taken so many risks in his life; why hadn’t he been able to take this one?
But he had no right to try to make up her mind for her. She needed time and the peace of Clementia. Only then could she be sure of what she was doing.