But the weeks of gathering uncertainty had done their work well. He had to find her and take her with him. She might be able to mingle with Harmonics, but under the surface she was his passionate, loving woman, and if she had forgotten that in the time she had been back in Clementia, he would remind her. He needed her with him.

Severance found the Archives without further instructions. The curved structure seemed to rest almost unsupported on the ground, its diazite walls protecting the array of computers, study areas, and treasured bound volumes within. The bits and pieces of knowledge that had survived the crash of the colony ship had formed the heart of Clementia’s Archives. In the intervening years a great deal of new information had been added. It was the center of learning for the Stanza Nine system.

Only when he was inside the building did Severance realize just how large it was. He would need help in locating Cidra.

‘Try History. She works with First Family files a lot,” an attendant at the front desk told him. “Straight ahead and to your left.”

Severance followed the directions to a room that had been designated as the repository of First Family diaries and written records. He saw Cidra almost at once. She was wearing a morning robe, her neat head bent attentively toward a computer screen. She didn’t notice him. For a long moment Severance simply stood staring at her, waiting for the sudden, aching surge of hunger to fade back to more manageable proportions. Sweet Harmony, but he had missed her! What in a renegade’s hell was he going to do if she hadn’t missed him?

She looked up at that moment and saw him.

“Severance!” Then she was on her feet, flying toward him with a lover’s welcome in her eyes.

He caught her up fiercely and swung her around as she threw herself into his arms. The exhilaration washing over him was almost shattering in its intensity. He realized he was shaking. “I’ve come to steal you out of Paradise.”

“It’s about time you got here.”

“I know.” He captured her face between his hands and kissed her. “I know.”

It was a long time later before Severance had Cidra to himself. Her parents had been gracious and hospitable, accepting him immediately. He had been grateful for that. One niggling concern he’d had to face on the long trip back to Lovelady was the issue of how he would deal with a set of Harmonic in-laws. But with Harmonic civility Talina and Gam had taken all obstacles out of his path. They were content with their daughter’s decision. And with Gam, at least, Severance had found some common ground. He had spent two hours going over the investment program Cidra’s father had mapped out.

After dinner, during which Severance had worried excessively about his table manners, Cidra had invited him out into the gardens. He had welcomed the escape, pulling her into his arms beneath the shelter of a flowering tree. In the moonlight her eyes were luminous. Severance knew that he could get lost in them.

“I was afraid from time to time during the past few weeks, but deep inside I think I knew you’d be waiting,” he said. – “I know. I had a few anxious moments myself. But somehow I knew you’d come for me.” She leaned her head on his shoulder and smiled. “We belong together. When are we leaving?”

“As soon as possible. But there are one or two things we have to take care of first.”

She lifted her head and wrapped her arms around his neck. “Such as?”

“Such as getting married.” He brushed a stray strand of her hair behind her ear. “I love you, Cidra. I want this done right. I want the bonds in place for life.”

“I love you, Severance.”

“I know.” He smiled. “I saw it in your eyes today when you came running into my arms.”

“It must have been in my eyes when you put me on the freighter back to Lovelady because I knew I loved you then too.”

“I couldn’t see things as clearly then,” he admitted.

“And now you can? You’re sure of your decision, Severance? I couldn’t bear it if you changed your mind.”

“Cidra, it was never my own mind I was unsure of. I only wanted the time so that you could be certain of what you were doing.”

“We could argue about who didn’t trust whom all evening, but it doesn’t matter any longer. You’re here now and I’m going with you.”

“Yes.” He stroked his hands down to her hips and smiled slightly. “Absolutely. Sometimes we Wolves sort of blunder along until we get things right, but when we finally do get them right, we stick to them. I’ll never let you go, Cidra.”

Her mouth curved teasingly as her eyes mirrored her love. “Wait until you hear my marriage terms before you make any rash promises.”

“I’m listening,” he drawled.

“I should warn you that by leaving me alone for the past few weeks you’ve given me plenty of time to work out these terms.”

“Obviously a mistake on my part.”

“Yes, well, first, I am no longer satisfied to sign on as a mere member of Severance Pay’s crew. I am demanding full partnership status.”


She nodded vigorously. “Ah, indeed. Next I must insist on a full High Ritual wedding ceremony.”

He groaned. “Why?”

“For luck. We can skip the two hours of telepathic meditation in the middle of the ceremony if you like.”

“Given the fact that the bride and groom can’t communicate telepathically and would be bored to their toes, I think that would be wise,” he agreed.

“And last but not least, I want some more opportunities to learn the fine points of Free Market without having to wager every fireberyl hair comb or emerald-floss slipper I happen to own. And don’t even think of suggesting I bet genuine credit. It’s all invested along with yours.”

“You know the game’s no fun unless the stakes make it worthwhile.”

“Until I get to the point where I’ve got half a chance of winning occasionally, we’re going to have to settle for wagers that won’t bankrupt me.”

Severance pulled her close. “I’m sure,” he said, his mouth hovering just above hers, “that we can find something for you to bet that has nothing to do with credit or fireberyl combs. Don’t worry. I’ll think of something.”

“You’re so resourceful.”

“Ummm. Good with my hands too.”

“Does this mean,” Cidra asked as she lifted her face for his kiss, “that you’re accepting my marriage terms?”