With boneless grace only a feline could possess, the eerily silent lynx glided through the tall grass. Upwind, not twenty feet away, an unsuspecting rabbit innocently nibbled at a patch of clover. Despite the fact that it was constantly on guard, in this instance, the rabbit failed to notice the danger closing in.
The sun had set and the day was steeped in twilight. The reduced light was no impediment to the lynx. His visual acuity was geared for day or night. Inch after inch of ground was meticulously traversed. The space between hunter and prey grew smaller and smaller until finally the lynx crouched even lower. Every muscle tensed and quivered with the repressed surge of adrenaline that rushed through his veins. Poised to strike, he froze at the rush of air that passed near enough to ruffle his fur, then snarled as his prey was snatched practically from beneath his nose. A frustrated yowl echoed on the wind that carried his nemesis, a barred owl, away. The limp body of the rabbit dangled from the owl's claws.
The air around the cat shivered with the force of his wrath before engulfing him in an opaque bubble that burst to reveal not the enraged cat, but an exasperated yet thoughtful man. “You little son of a bitch,” Bryan growled. “I don’t know what the fuck your game is, but this is going to stop. That’s the third time you’ve snatched my prey. Someone needs to teach you some manners.”
Blinking green eyes that still held a slight hint of tawny gold, Bryan pondered the problem. A simple solution presented itself. If the owl wanted his prey, Bryan was going to serve it up on a silver platter. A smile of anticipation curved his lips. He was going catch himself an owl. In the blink of an eye he shifted. The lynx padded through the woods, leaving as silently as he’d arrived.
* * * *
Two days later the lynx was once again on the hunt. Shadows on the ground lengthened as evening approached. From a slow, ghosting glide, the lynx froze in his tracks. His eyes scanned the surrounding trees while his nostrils quivered, obviously taking in the surrounding scents. Apparently satisfied, he continued on his way. Cautiously he approached that same clearing with its tall grass and tempting clover. Another rabbit had found the succulent treasure and was feasting while its ears swiveled and its nose twitched.
As before, the lynx went into hunt mode, slinking with deadly silence toward his unsuspecting prey. Within pouncing distance, he paused. A split second later, that which he expected, happened. With a silent beat of wings, the barred owl swooped in to snatch the rabbit. Instead of yowling with anger, the cat held his breath in anticipation.
The owl, prize clutched in his talons, swept upward and away, failing to notice the near-invisible line attached to the rabbit’s back leg. Twenty feet in the air, the line stretched taut, finally at its limit. For the owl, it was like slamming into a brick wall. The tremendous wrench of resistance slammed him off balance. His body was jerked violently backward. His wings, fouled by the awkward posture in which he found himself, lost the buoyancy of the air beneath them. With a startled, hooting cry he tumbled out of the sky to land with a thump in the tall, springy grass. With the air momentarily shimmering around him, the owl transformed to reveal a slim young man, winded and dazed.
Totally naked, Bryan sauntered up and stood over his prize. “Well, well, well. Look what the cat dragged in. What’s your name, wing nut?” Bryan growled while admiring the owl shifter’s trim body and sleek, wiry muscles.
The man on the ground had just enough time to mutter, “Kyle Brixton,” before passing out.
“Oh shit,” Bryan cursed. He knelt and put his ear the man’s chest. His heartbeat was strong and steady, his breathing even and regular. “I suppose that was
a shock. You bird-types are so delicate.”
Sighing in resignation, Bryan levered Kyle up and over his shoulder. As he headed toward home, the thought crossed his mind that this was definitely not how he’d pictured things happening. Still, he’d managed to catch the owlish little imp, and toying with one’s prey was a time-honored feline tradition. Smiling like the proverbial cat that’d swallowed the canary, Bryan formulated a plan designed to show his captive just how inventive a playful cat could be.