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Bear Meets Girl (Pride #7)(12)

By:Shelly Laurenston

“I’m only half polar,” Novikov reminded her.
“What you are is a mother—”
“Is he supposed to be nice to fans?” Crush, ever the detective, had to ask, barely realizing he was cutting into Blayne’s sentence.
Blayne blinked. “Huh?”
“Well, isn’t he known for not being nice to his fans? So is it fair of us as fans to ask him to be something he’s not?” Crush thought on that a moment before deciding, “No. It’s not fair.”
Looking kind of smug, Bo Novikov gazed down at Blayne.
“You can just get that look off your face, Bo Novikov!” Then Blayne stomped her foot and pointed at Crush. “And you’re not helping me, Crush! And after I got you such a nice haircut!”
“I didn’t know my hair was contingent on the approving or disapproving of your appropriate fan theory treatment.”
“I don’t even know what that means.”
“In Blayneland,” Novikov explained, “everyone helps everyone and there is respect and love throughout the universe.”
“Really?” Crush asked honestly. “Are there faeries and horses with wings in that universe, too?”
“Yes,” Novikov replied flatly. “There are.”
“You guys!” Blayne whined, sounding just like a cranky six-year-old.
Crush began to laugh, but it faded when Gwen returned to his side with another player. “Lou Crushek, this is my fiancé, Lock MacRyrie.”
The grizzly held his hand out and when Crush did nothing but gape at him, he went ahead and shook Crush’s hand, smiling a little.
“It’s nice to meet you, Detective.”
“You’re the Tank,” Crush finally said.
MacRyrie blinked. “Sorry?”
“That’s what everyone calls you. The Tank.”
The grizzly looked surprised. “I have a nickname?”
“You have a cool nickname,” Blayne corrected, her annoyance from mere seconds ago completely gone. “The coolest!”
“It fits,” Novikov noted, which got him everyone’s attention. “What?”
“Was that a compliment?” MacRyrie asked.
With an eye roll and a sigh, “If it must be to make you feel better.”
Again Crush started to laugh, but the sound—and happiness—died in his throat as she—she!—suddenly appeared in front of Crush. Grinning.Why was she here? Why? And why could he not shake this feline? Was this how antelopes felt when a cat ran them down? And why was she here ruining what should be one of the greatest nights of his goddamn life?
That was it. That was it ! Never again would he ever have another Jell-O shot. In fact, no more liquor. Ever. Because clearly Crush would never be allowed to live down that one goddamn night—and he blamed the goddamn Jell-O shots!
Letting out a breath, Crush snarled, “You.”
“Baby!” she cried out just before she attacked him, wrapping her arms around his waist. “Oh, baby, I’ve missed you!”
“I am not your baby.” He tried to pull her arms off him. “Away, female!”
“Aren’t you glad to see me?”
Still wrapped around him like a spider monkey, the feline rested her chin on his chest and asked the small group, “Have you guys met the new man in my life?”
Blayne’s eyes grew wide, her smile huge, and Crush immediately knew he had to stop this.
“I am not the new ... would you get off!”
“He’s shy,” the female felt the need to explain.
“I am not shy. You’re insane.” He finally pried her arms off his body and pushed her back. “Now stop harassing ...” Crush studied her, his heart dropping. “Why ... why are you dressed like that?”
She had on a Carnivore jersey, shoulder pads under that, hockey pants, socks, and shin pads.
“Why do you think I’m dressed like this?”
“Because hell has come to earth?”
She laughed and Novikov said, “You’re such a fan, figured you’d know Bare Knuckles Ma—”
“No!” And the grizzly and the hybrid male snarled a little at his outburst, both pulling their females back from the hysterical polar. “No, no, no, no!”
The feline’s grin was wide and happy. “Come on, baby, don’t be like that.”
“No! You cannot be Bare Knuckles Malone. You cannot be. You”—and he pointed at her with an accusing finger—“cannot be the daughter of the greatest player ever. And you cannot be the most feared enforcer in the league right now. You? No!”
“I’m sensing I should be insulted by that tone.” The feline grinned. “But I’m not! Because I have such a giving and loving nature and you are just so cute. We will have such adorable cubs. And since I’m never home, my little girl”—she raised her hand barely to her waist to illustrate her child’s height—“can raise them.”
“I am not cute and I’m not having kids with you!”
“You guys, you guys.” Blayne slipped between the pair. “There’s no reason to be angry.” 
“I’m not angry.” Flinging her arms out and turning in a circle like a little girl, the feline exclaimed, “I’m in love!”
“That’s it.” Crush stepped away. “I’m leaving.”
“You can’t run from our love!”
Crush had almost reached the elevators when Blayne leaped in front of him. “Don’t go, Crush.”
“I can’t stay. The game’s about to start, I need to get to my seat ... I can’t stay.” He reached around Blayne, punching the elevator button. When he leaned back, he realized that the wolfdog was staring up at him. And the more she stared, the sadder she looked.
“What? What’s wrong?”
Then she looked mad. He assumed she was mad at him, but when she grabbed his hand and walked back over to the others, it was the feline who received Blayne’s wrath.
“Why are you being mean?” Blayne demanded.
“I’m not being—”
“Bullshit! I know when a feline’s being mean, and you’re being mean. I don’t like it.”
“Now ask me if I care if you—owww! You bitch!”
Blayne had dropped Crush’s hand to latch on to the feline’s hair, digging her fingers in and twisting.
“Get off me!”
“Excuse us,” Blayne said before she stormed off down the hallway, dragging the feline with her.
Crush watched the pair disappear around a corner; then he looked at Novikov. He knew the man had the same expression Crush did, and they both started off at the same time to follow, but Gwen grabbed their arms. “Don’t get in the middle.”
“Yeah, but—”
“You’re not listening to me. Do not get in the middle of this. Trust me.”
“It’s really not that big a deal,” Crush felt the need to explain. “She drives me nuts, but Blayne didn’t have to get so upset about it.”
“Blayne felt she did, so you might as well not get in the middle.” Gwen glanced at him. “Rough couple of days, Crush? Maybe a rough couple of years?”
Crush, feeling uncomfortable, asked, “What are you talking about?”
“Whatever Blayne Thorpe saw, she’s worried about you.”
“Worried about me? Why? I mean, life is what it is.”
“Ooooh.” Gwen cringed. “Yeah, if Blayne asks you a similar question, I wouldn’t give that response.”
“Do not give Blayne that response,” Novikov agreed. “Otherwise, she’ll make me adopt you.”
“That would be kind of weird cause I’m older than you.”
“Is that really the only reason you can come up with of why that would be weird?”
Blayne stalked around the corner, the feline following behind, eyes rolling, feet dragging. Stopping between Crush and Gwen, Blayne waited for Malone to reach them, her foot tapping.
Once the feline stood in front of them, she said, “Now what was it you wanted me to say again?”
Blayne went for Malone’s throat, but Novikov caught her first, yanking the swinging, spitting, and screeching wolfdog away.
“Is there anyone,” Crush asked, “that you don’t irritate?”
The feline looked him over, and grinned. “Come on.”
She grabbed his hand, but Crush immediately yanked it back. “I’m not going anywhere with you. I’m going to my seat and forget I ever met you and then I’ll decide whether to sue the makers of delicious Jell-O products or just the MacDermots for using Jell-O in a clearly despicable way.”“You really are cute, you know?” And for once it didn’t sound like the feline was mocking. “My suggestion is to go after MacDermot and Llewellyn. The Jell-O people are probably a huge conglomerate that will have you tied up in court for years. And I need you to come with me because I’d prefer not to end up on the wrong side of Blayne Thorpe.”
“You already seem to be on the wrong side of Blayne.”
“If I was really on the wrong side of Blayne, I’d be in little consumable pieces for the hyena population. You wouldn’t want that, would you?”
“Morally ... I guess not.”
“Morally, huh?”
“Should I get a dictionary so you can look up the meaning?”
Laughing, the feline grabbed his hand and started walking. “According to Blayne,” who was watching them walk by, panting hard, fangs out, “I owe you for being so mean to you. You apparently have a broken heart that needs to be mended.” She glanced back at him. “Just break up with your girlfriend or something?”