Double-sided love

He was handsome. That was what Laria decided.

She watched Malar stretch his chocolate wings, yawning in the afternoon sun. The carmine Guardian had awoken from a nap, sleepy-eyed and loose-jawed. It was adorable.

He was two months older than her, the first grandchild of Safe and Zone, makers of their clan. Winse and Betes’ first son. Theria and Rosi’s older brother.

He was beautiful. Handsome. Gorgeous.

Laria wanted to run up to him, proclaim her love, kiss and nuzzle him like she saw her mother do to her father.

But…she was…too shy…

Malar was so much bigger than her. What if he rejected her? Thought she was strange? Hated her?

She was certain her heart would break into a million pieces. She’d have to leave the clan and live as a hermit somewhere far away from home.

“Having fun staring?”

Laria screamed so loud that everyone looked at her. Face hot, she turned and darted away. Her brother snickered, tailing her as they headed out into the boneyard to escape the stares.

Malar had been staring at her. Oh, Plaguebringer!

Mani grinned toothily when they finally stopped. He barely opened his mouth before he was yelping, ducking away from swinging claws and shouted insults. Mani cowered beneath his sister’s rage before pouncing, sending the Wildclaw siblings rolling across the ground, kicking up dust and shards of bone.

Though he was lighter, Mani managed to pin his sister. “Hey, cool it! It was a joke!”

“You don’t understand! You made him stare at me!” Laria cried, flailing beneath him. “He probably thinks I’m crazy or something! Augh! Why?!”

“Hey, relax! So you screamed. Everyone screams. That doesn’t mean we’re all crazy,” Mani reassured gently.

“You don’t get it,” Laria choked, eyes burning with unshed tears. “You don’t get it…”

Mani frowned before lowering his head to nuzzle his sister. “Actually…I’ve been doing staring of my own…at Somia…”

“Huh?”

Somia was the spotted black great-grandchild of Safe and Zone. Pati and Legion’s daughter. Jakob’s sister. Had Mani really been…?

“I get what you’re going through. I’m scared of making her think I’m weird. So…” Mani looked away, embarrassed. “Maybe we could help each other?”

Laria slowly smiled. Her brother was a genius.

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