“OW!” the beast yelped, scrambling back a few steps. “What did you do that for?”

Jessica held her fist in her hand; it pounded fiercely. “Wha- what do you mean?” she asked timidly. “You were going to eat me!”

“Eat you?” the beast snorted. “I wasn’t going to do anything of the sort. Children are far too gamy for my taste.” It licked at a trickle of blood that had begun to flow from its nose. “That really hurt, you know.” The beast whimpered.

“But you were growling at me and drooling!” Jessica persisted, not being one to trust strange talking beasts at their word.

“It’s glandular; I make way too much saliva. Some goes in my throat and sounds like I’m growling. The rest falls out of my mouth.”

“I see…” Jessica replied, feeling a bit more comfortable. “Well, you gave me the willies. I- I’m sorry I hit you.” She held out her hand.

The beast eyed her warily. “You’re not going to hit me again, are you?” it asked.

“No. Promise.” It sat on its haunches and extended a paw.

“I’m Larry. Pleased to meet you.”

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