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Ritika Ryder swore Havarl tilted.  Or at least increased rotation to squash her organs with its gravity.  She held her breath, frozen under Jaal’s stare.  Had his eyes always been so bright and transparent?  Angara were honest, but this?  This was different, foreign, daunting.

The Pathfinder struggled for a laugh—anything to alleviant the pit in her stomach.  Her voice was lost, though, and when Jaal spoke, Riti realized what felt like an eternity had actually been a few seconds.

“You make my heart sing.”  The corniness should’ve made Riti cringe.  Yet the tenderness beneath his gravelly voice and his next words left the young woman tingling.  “I want us to be together.”

He meant that, didn’t he?  Well, he was an Angara; of course, he did.  And the way he tucked his chin in wait of a reply left him looking so open, so vulnerable that Ritika feared what would happen should she take his heart in her hands.

Jaal was unlike anyone she dated back in the Milky Way.  She’d never need to guess where he stood on matters, no fear of secrets or hollow words.  He’d always let her know how much he cared, even at the cost of her dignity, and she failed to see the reason why.  She was human—one in twenty thousand across Andromeda—yet he found ways of making her feel like a queen in a hostile galaxy.

The thought alone warmed Riti’s chest like pulses of electricity raced through it.  Is that what Jaal meant by a heart singing?

“Yeah,” she managed through breathlessness, “I’d like that.”

Jaal chuckled, breaking eye contact with a soft cheer, “Yes.”

The laugh Riti had struggled for left her in full-force, more like a schoolgirl giggle than anything, but it stopped short when she met Jaal’s gaze again.

“I adore you,” he said, heartfelt.  Everything fell silent when he stroked the young woman’s scarred cheek and the electricity in her chest sent jolts through her muscles as he leaned in for a kiss.