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Bear Meets Girl (Pride #7)(10)

By:Shelly Laurenston

“Come on, Jai,” Cella had said casually, picking up the giant Chanel purse that she’d been proud to get for practically nothing off the back of a truck. “We’ll go to my house and hang out.”
Although Frost had some involvement in Josie’s life now, he still hated Cella, wouldn’t speak to her or about her. But Jai would eternally adore Marcella Malone because up until then no one but her parents had ever fought for her like that.
Even better, Jai and Cella’s daughters were best friends, watching each other’s backs and supporting each other over the years. They’d turned out to be lovely, amazing young women who Jai had no doubt would do well in the world.
So, yeah, Jai was a single mom in a world where that was never easy, but she wasn’t alone. She had the Malones.
Jai e-mailed her daughter back and had just hit send when there was a knock at the door and Cella walked in with a bleeding Bo Novikov.
“What happened?” Jai asked, coming around her desk. Although she could guess. Another team fight.
“She broke my nose,” Novikov accused.
Jai stopped, surprised by that answer because Cella was always the one trying to stop the fights between her teammates. “You did?”
“He was fighting again.” Cella pushed the hybrid into a chair. “And he wouldn’t back off. What did you expect me to do?”
Jai grabbed the leather satchel where she kept emergency supplies. She could take Novikov downstairs to be treated by one of her technicians, but that would only cause more problems than it would solve since all the techs were afraid of Novikov. “You’ll have to cut her some slack, Bo. Cella only knows how to handle her brothers and uncles one way. And she hits them.”
“The Malone Bare Knuckle champ five years straight,” Cella bragged. It was an honest brag. There were several breeds and species of shifter Travellers who roamed the states and Cella had been named champ at their annual summer get-together five years in a row.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” Novikov complained, snarling a little when Jai began to examine his nose with her fingers. “I was just trying to help.”
“And how did you do that?” Cella asked.
“I told Van Holtz who he needs to fire and provided a helpful list.”
“Oh, really? Let me see.” He pulled the list out of his sock and handed it to Cella. Without looking at it, Cella ripped the sheet of paper into pieces and threw it in Novikov’s face.
He stared at her before calmly saying, “I made several copies.”
Jai stood back with a laugh and asked, “Why?”“Blayne,” he said, speaking of his fiancée.
“What about her?”
“She does the same thing to my lists, so I always make multiple copies.”
Wow, Jai mouthed at Cella before she went to get a towel to help control and clean up the bleeding.
“I tried to help,” Bo insisted, “and once again Van Holtz was being an asshole.”
“I personally think you’re both fighting for that title,” Cella shot back.
“He’s unreasonable.”
“And you’re a dick. You know you’re a dick. And you wear your dickness proudly.”
“I know. But we’re not going to make the play-offs this year if—”
“Play-offs are out. I know that.”
“And that doesn’t bother you?”
“It’s not going to keep me up nights. I’m definitely not making lists because the play-offs are out.”
Jai frowned at Cella’s statement, glancing at her friend. She’d admit she didn’t actually follow sports beyond the health and welfare of her patients. The money was great and she didn’t have to worry about her less-than-acceptable bedside manner—apparently she could be cold and standoffish. But she’d thought the team was doing well this year.
“Too many new guys,” Cella explained at Jai’s unspoken question about the play-offs. “Not enough focus. We’ve been all over the place this season.”
“And I’m trying to help,” Bo insisted.
“By throwing bleachers at Reed?”
Jai quickly looked down at her bag as the hybrid growled, “I hate that guy.”
“Because you don’t think he can play or because he flirts with Blayne?”
Bo scratched the back of his neck. “Both. But,” he quickly added, “Reed needs to work harder.”
“I agree with that, but when he asks for help for him or the guys, you throw things at him!”
“I’m here to play and to win, not handhold. That’s Coach’s job, but he’s weak. So I went to Van Holtz with my suggestions, since he fucking owns the team, and he hit me.”
“All right. All right.” Cella pressed her hands to her eyes. “Let me deal with Reed and the rookies.”
“Why? So Reed can hit on you more than he already does?”
“Reed is a whore,” Cella admitted—and boy, was he—there was not a pussy that man didn’t seem to take an interest in. “We know that, we’ve all accepted it. Besides, I’m beautiful. Everyone hits on me. They can’t help themselves.” Cella smiled, then winked at Jai. “I’m captivating. How’s his nose?” 
Jai carefully wiped up the blood. It was beginning to clot. “It’ll be fine. It’s not broken. Just bloody.”
“It’s not broken?” Cella looked at her knuckles. “I’m losing my touch.” Apparently deciding to worry about it later, Cella said, “Novikov, you worry about you. I’ll take care of everybody else.”
“Do you want my list?”
“If you give me any more lists, I will beat you to death with a baseball bat. Or a two-by-four. Whatever’s handy.”
Bo stared at Cella. “That seems unreasonable to me.” And Jai loved how he said that with almost a professorial air, like he was observing bacteria developing in a petri dish.
Cella clenched her fists, definitely trying to control her annoyance, and faced Jai. “Clean him up and have him ready for the game.”
“You got it.”
Cella walked to the office door. She had it open when Bo said, “Malone?”
She looked at him over her shoulder, but he just stared at her. Jai, having spent many hours cleaning up Bo Novikov and his victims, knew what he wanted to say and knew how much it would help at the moment. So Jai pushed his shoulder, urging him on. Finally, after a few seconds, he muttered, “Thank you.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Cella said with a smile. “But will you still love me in the morning?” Then she walked out, closing the door behind her.
“I never know what she’s talking about,” Bo admitted.
“It’s all right,” Jai promised. “I can assure you it’s rarely anything very serious.”
After “styling” Crush’s hair—okay, he’d admit it, it didn’t look too bad; at least he didn’t look like a serial killer—the two females insisted on walking with him to the Sports Center while Conway headed on home.
“So you’re both going to the game, too?” he asked.
“Later. We’ve got practice first.”
“Derby!” the wolfdog cheered.
Yeah, he’d seen that picture of the Carnivores with what he was now guessing was Blayne’s derby team. That explained how the two women knew Bo Novikov and Crush’s other favorite players from the current roster. At least, that’s what he hoped. He’d heard about Novikov’s reputation with women and he’d hate to think the man was using these two. They were just so damn sweet.
They arrived at the Sports Center and Crush headed for the front doors, but Blayne caught his hand. “This way,” she said, pulling him.
“Yeah, but—”
“With us.”
Blayne dragged him into the restricted, underground parking area of the center and to a set of elevator doors. They stepped into one and went down several levels. Although all of the shifter activities took place underground, Crush knew the floor they were heading to wasn’t the one he used to get to his season ticket holders’ nosebleed seats.
“Uh ... Blayne?”
The doors opened. “Come on.” She dragged him out, the feline following—and grinning.
“You might as well just go along,” Gwen told him.
“That sounds wrong.”
Blayne pulled him down a long hallway filled with shifters on the move, getting ready for the upcoming game.
Blayne suddenly stopped. “Wait here.”
“Yeah, but—” Blayne was gone so he looked at the feline. “I should grab my seat. The lines are usually long.”
“I promise it’ll be worth the wait. And”—she looked him over—“I did an amazing job with your hair. You need to show off your sexy new look.”“Yeah. Thanks for that.” Christ, it was just a haircut. From what he could tell he still looked like your average biker meth dealer. Only now it was like he was heading to the funeral of an aged relative.
Cella walked down the hall that held all the owners’ offices until she reached Van Holtz’s. Like his office with the Group, it was big but sparse. Except for occasional meetings, Van Holtz wasn’t big on using offices. He loved working in his kitchen, at home or at his restaurant. That was always the best place to talk to him. But today, Cella didn’t have that kind of time.