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Dillon sat on the back porch enjoying the cool evening breeze with a cold Mason jar of sun tea in his hand. He yawned, tired after his long day of helping clear out the west garden for spring planting. He generally didn't mind pitching in—a pride was only as strong as its weakest member and Dillon had decided long ago that he wouldn't be the weakest. He might have been born the runt of the litter but time dedicated to building up his body and a late growth spurt had helped him rise to the second strongest of the pride. Now only the alpha pair was stronger than him...and Adrian didn't really count because Dillon had met few people as vicious as Talan's sweet wolf mate.
Sighing, Dillon pushed at the deck with his foot, sending the wooden swing tilting higher.
His life should've been just about fucking perfect. He had a good job as overseer of the pride's work teams and sometimes as a representative for their alpha. Talan trusted him to negotiate treaties and represent him when he couldn't get away. Why, then, did he feel hollow inside? The last few days it had taken effort to even drag himself out of bed. Nothing seemed to bring him joy anymore. Not even the cubs running around the house could bring out his usual smile. Now that both Kevin and Talan had mates, he longed for one of his own.
A sigh ripped through his chest. None of the local lions appealed to him, and although he'd started to take a look at Adrian's pack for potential mates, he hadn't found a wolf partner who appealed to him either. Was it too much to hope to find one perfect man? Hell, he'd even take a woman if she made his heart beat faster.
The tiny sound caught Dillon's attention. He stopped the sway of the swing to peer into the darkness. A large tabby cat pranced through the high grasses, attacking dandelions as he crossed the field.
Walk. Walk. Pounce.
The animal followed that pattern over and over as it approached. Dozens of hapless dandelions lost their fluff as it moved closer.
"Hey there, little fella," Dillon said, keeping his voice low and soothing. What a cute cat. However, Dillon needed to get the small creature off the pride lands before he became a lion snack. "Come here," he cooed to the pretty cat.
An owl's screech made the hairs on the back of Dillon's neck stand up straight. He leapt off the porch and ran towards the tabby as a great horned owl launched off a nearby tree. The bird zeroed in on the cat, and, before Dillon's horrified gaze, swooped down and grabbed the feline in its claws.
"No!" Dillon screamed. He scooped up a rock off the ground and threw it at the bird. His stone hit its mark, striking the avian on the wing.
The owl screeched, releasing its grip on the small animal. To Dillon's surprise, the tabby flipped midair and transformed. Fur changed to smooth, muscled skin and red—gold hair flowed across a well—shaped skull. Instead of a fluffy cat, a naked man landed on his feet in the grass. The cat shifter crouched down like a feral creature afraid to be out in the wide open. His brilliant hair shone in the moonlight and even in human form the man's eyes shimmered reflectively.
Another cry came from the owl. It landed several feet away and transformed into a tall muscular man with brown and white speckled hair. Bruises covered him from face to torso. His ribs stood out in sharp relief against his battered mocha-coloured skin.
The owl man swayed for a moment before his eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he collapsed onto the ground.
Why the hell were a cat and an owl intruding on lion land? Concern for the injured shifter had Dillon moving towards the avian first.
"I hope you two have a good reason for being on our land. I'd hate to have to kill you," Dillon muttered as he reached the owl shifter's side.