"This seriously sucks. Tell me again why we have to be here?" Lev whispered.
Asad huffed out a breath, shifting in place to lean up against the wall behind him. At his side, Lev sniffed, hiding a grin when Laithe turned to glare at them both. Lev was a few years younger than Asad, but they looked enough alike to be mistaken for twins occasionally. Lacking the dark brown mane Laithe had, both middle Gatti brothers possessed a heavy, thick mane in shades of tawny gold. Asad was larger than his brother, standing mere inches taller than him, but it was a height difference that he liked to take advantage of whenever he could.
Asad shifted again, trying to keep his mind from wandering away from the discussion taking place in front of him. There were six pride leaders present, brought from all across Felid. This was their chance to talk to the Appaliunas, Asad's father Haytham. He was the leader of the Felidae, and every clan owed him allegiance, from the Leo and the Pardus, to the Tigris and the Lynx. They might not all like it, but the Leo had always been the ruling class and they always would be.
"You know very well why we have to be here, Lev. The pride leaders have come to announce their grievances," he muttered.
"Yeah, I get that, but why the hell do they have to be so damn boring. Blah, blah, blah. And how exactly did Usama manage to sneak his way out? Lucky bastard."
Asad chuckled, quickly turning it into a cough when Laithe glared at them again. His eldest brother looked like he was ready to tear a piece off both of them. He waited until Laithe returned his attention to the men petitioning their father. Laithe would one day rule over the prides and the other clans. It was his duty to sit with Haytham and listen to the grievances being brought forward. He had always taken his duties seriously.
A flash of black caught his eye. Fahd shifted from where he stood behind Laithe. Fahd was a black Pardus, his entire body covered with short, black hair. Small, dark rosettes were interspersed throughout his fur, glinting in the light coming from the window to his right. At his side was his father, Pantheras. Both men acted as guards to Laithe and Haytham, although they took their duty to another level. Guarding one's body was definitely easier when you had full access to said body. Asad snorted, secretly jealous that his brother had a mate and a guard to fuck while Asad was busy chasing after his shy little Lynx. His hand was starting to become a poor substitute for a warm body.
"You have been spending too much time with our newest pride member, brother. Rowan is becoming a bad influence on you. You are starting to sound like her," Asad whispered, trying to keep his voice down.
"If you think that is bad, you should hear your little Catan. He is fast taking up her peculiarities," Lev snorted.
"Leave Catan out of this," he mock growled, trying to get a rise out of Lev.
He thought about the little Lynx. Honestly, it was hard not to think about him. Catan was covered in a sleek pelt of long, tan hair. He was leaner than the Leo, his head only coming up to Asad's chest. His face was small, rounded where Asad's was long. He had the most appealing tufts of white fur at either side of his face, drifting down into a patch of white on his chest. The rest of his body was lightly spotted, little markings a shade darker than his tan coat. His tail was short, smooth, capped with a splotch of black and tipped in white. His ears were large and pointed. Small tufts of black hair rose off the ends of his ears.
Asad couldn't help but be infatuated with every aspect of him. It was almost unheard of. No Leo had ever mated with one of the smaller Lynx before. The Lynx normally stayed away from the other members of the Felidae. They were very much solitary. He couldn't stop thinking of him though. There was just something about the smaller man that called to him. He had never acted like this before, but from his first glimpse of the Lynx, he had fallen for him. He knew he wanted to look after him, to grow old with him.
He could still remember what he'd looked like when they'd found him. Responding to a distress call from Kanad, the planet where the Lynx chose to live, Laithe had sent his warship to them immediately, only to find the pride that had attacked them had already left, leaving only one survivor. They had meant to kill him--that much was obvious from the wounds on the smaller man's body.
It was pure luck that Asad had found the body. Their home had been torn apart and completely ransacked. The bodies of his parents and his relatives had been left where they fell, and it was obvious they had been there for a while. Catan had been dragged from his room, the blood trail leading them outside to the back of the abode. There, he had found a small, broken body, beaten and violated. His fur was matted with blood and come and a thick layer of dirt.
Laithe swore he was dead, but Asad knew better. He didn't know how he could tell through all the filth, but he just knew that he couldn't be dead. No one had wanted to touch him. They were all so horrified at his appearance, at possibly injuring him further. He had bent down and tenderly picked him up, carrying him back to their ship. He had stayed beside Catan the entire time until he had healed, refusing to leave his side for more than a few minutes at a time, before retreating to watch him from the shadows.
He shook his head, returning his attention to the meeting in front of him. Asad glanced at Laithe, waiting for him to turn again and chastise them for talking. This was starting to become fun. Anything to break up the monotony of the pride meeting.
Lev smirked at him, realizing what he was doing. Always game to pester their eldest sibling, Lev opened his mouth to retort.
Laithe's head shot up, his eyes unfocused, like he was hearing something the rest of them weren't. Suddenly, he let out a loud, snapping roar. "Rowan!"
Asad jerked upright. Laithe and his mate had a mind link that was able to connect them from any distance. It was the mark of a pride leader; the ability to link to his mate was one of the requirements for ruling. If Laithe was seeing something through his mate, it wasn't good. The men in the room started, quickly gaining their feet and looking to the man who would one day rule them.
"Shyam is here with his pride. He has my mate cornered in the first clearing south of here," Laithe managed to grunt out while running toward the opening of the abode.
He stared after his brother, before following him out the door, his roar joining those of the other men when his words sank in. Shyam on Felid? He had to protect Catan.