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Bear Meets Girl (Pride #7)(5)

By:Shelly Laurenston

“My mother wasn’t there, and your mother is a well-balanced, normal woman who can shift into animal form. She’s not descended from gypsies. Nor was your father.”
“Nope. Third generation Chinese me mum, and daddy was good ol’ Jamaican. And I thought Malones preferred ‘Traveller’ to gypsy.”
“I can call my damn family whatever I want to. Does it look like I give a shit about any of that right now?”
“I’m still not clear on why you think you’re dying.”
“Because”—Cella rubbed her forehead, still hungover and beginning to panic—“when the Malones come at ya, and are nice ... someone’s dying!”
After dinner with his team to celebrate another devastating loss to shifters in the Long Island Fire Department, Crush got home, tossed his equipment and clothes into a corner, and took a quick shower. Once clean, he sat on his bed, a towel around his waist, his sidearm within easy reach. He shook his hair out to dry it before dropping back on the bed, letting out a breath, and smiling.
“Hello, sexy,” he said. “You lucked out tonight. No other females to keep me from you.” He crooked a finger. “Now come over here and keep me company.”
Lola moved in, snuggling up against his side. At least tomorrow morning Crush wouldn’t be waking up with any unknown felines wrapped around him. It was kind of a relief really ... while at the same time strangely disappointing.
“Don’t drool on me tonight,” he warned Lola, the English Bulldog. “You know I hate that.”
She snorted, as always completely ignoring what he’d just told her, and rolled to her back, belly exposed. Like most animals, Lola knew what Crush was, but she trusted him. Knew he’d never hurt her.
With Crush rubbing her pink-and-white exposed belly, Lola fell asleep almost immediately, but it took Crush another hour, even though he was exhausted down to his bones. But he knew the following week his life would change—and he still wasn’t happy about it.
After four solid days of waiting and not wanting to spend another day—or even worse, an entire weekend—anticipating the anvil about to drop on his head, Crush went to his boss’s office and stood silently in the man’s doorway. Miller had his back to him, going through his files, when he suddenly tensed, his entire body going rigid. His reaction didn’t shock Crush, though; the man had the same reaction every time the polar was around.
Slowly, Miller lifted his head and looked over his shoulder, then swallowed. “Crushek.” 
“Uh, yeah ...” He went to his desk, but didn’t sit down. He never sat down around Crush. Instead, he always looked like he was about to make a run for it. Good luck with that. Crush was an incredibly fast runner. Great swimmer, too.
“You’ve been transferred.”
“So I heard.”
“Sorry about the delay. I was just waiting for the final paperwork to come in.” And he’d been working up the guts, too. Wuss.
Already knowing the answer, Crush still asked, “And Conway?”
“Stays here.”
The captain picked up a folder from his desk and handed it over to Crush. His hand shook.
Crush didn’t take the folder, simply looked at it and back at his captain.
“The ... the transfer is effective immediately”—and the man looked relieved by that—“so feel free to, um ... go.”
“I think we should discuss—”
“This isn’t up for discussion, Crushek. It’s from the top. You gotta beef, take it up with them. Just leave your case notes and Conway will take care of the rest.”
The captain sounded tough until Crush growled a little. He couldn’t help it. He was annoyed. Really, truly annoyed.
The captain looked moments from shitting himself right then, but Crush took the folder before he had to see that.
Yet, before walking out, Crush still chuffed. A big one, the power of it sending his ex-boss stumbling back a bit. It was a shit move, but still kind of satisfying.
Cella was doing pull-ups in the gym when her phone went off. She dropped to the ground and pulled it out of the pocket of the hoodie she had lying on the floor. “Yeah?” she said around the panting.
“It’s Smith.”
“You busy?”
“Working out. Home game tomorrow night.”
“So is that a yes or a no to my question?”
“What do you want, Smith?”
Dee-Ann Smith was the She-wolf Cella had trained with when she’d joined the shifter-only Marine Unit. And, at the time, she’d hated her. But years later, after they’d been forced to work together—Smith was part of the nationally based Group, an organization that protected all species and breeds—the wolf had managed to grow on her. Still, some days, Smith still got on Cella’s last Irish nerve.
“Meet me in Brooklyn.”
When the wolf didn’t give an address before disconnecting the call, Cella knew that Smith wanted to meet at the NYPD precinct in Brooklyn for the shifter division. Of course, the difficult She-wolf could have just said that.
Cella pulled on her hoodie, zipped it up, and grabbed a towel. She was heading for the stairs to the lower level of the gym, wiping sweat off her face, when a big male stepped in front of her, blocking her path.
Cella looked at the wolf in front of her, waiting for him to say something.
He grinned. “Cella Malone, are you flirtin’ with me?”
“What d’ya want, Reed?” Reece Lee Reed of the New York Smith Pack had made the hard-won leap from the minors to the majors back when they’d signed Bo Novikov. And the pair had been at each other ever since. Reed, the more personable of the two, had the loyalty of the team. Novikov, the more ruthless, had no problem beating the living shit out of Reed anytime the kid annoyed him. And Reed annoyed Novikov constantly. The grey wolf knew it, too. That was the thing about the Smith Pack wolves. They seemed to enjoy fucking with people as much as the felines did.
“You need to handle him,” he replied.
“Handle him? Novikov?”“Yeah.”
She glanced around. “Why me?”
“What do you mean why you? You’re the only one on the team who can hold a conversation with the man.”
God, that country accent. So irritating. Not so bad on Dee-Ann Smith, also of the Smith Pack, because she wasn’t wasn’t much of a talker, so Cella didn’t have to hear that annoying accent more than was necessary. Reed, however ... chatty.
“I’m asking you, darlin’, to help us out.”
“Yeah. Us. The rookies.”
“You’ve been on the team a little long to be called a rookie. In fact, you’ve been on longer than I have.”
“Exactly. And yet you’re considered one of the gang by Lordship Pain in the Ass, and the rest of us are considered worthless scum.”
“That’s not true. I’m sure that, um ... did you know you’re bleeding from the head?”
“I can feel it drippin’. Do you know why I’m bleeding from the head?”
“Because you were hit there?”
“With a row of bleachers from the training rink.”
“A row of ... you mean actual bleachers?”
“Yeah. Actual bleachers. That homicidal maniac”—and that could only be Novikov—“pried actual bleachers from their steel moorings and threw them at us.”
“Did he perhaps give you a reason why he thought that was okay?”
“I was minding my own business, gettin’ ready for tomorrow night’s game.”
“But Hammond, that new kid, decided to rally the boys and go to Novikov to ask for some tips so they could perform at their best and not let him down.”
Cella cringed, easily imagining exactly what happened because she knew all the idiot males involved so well. “Uh-huh.”
“So Novikov starts yellin’ at ’em, but Hammond wouldn’t back down. Kept pushin’, kept nippin’, as them little foxes are wont to do, which is why they’re not allowed on Smith territory.”
“And?” she pushed.
“I tried to get Hammond to let it go. Move on. He wouldn’t. Next thing I know, I hear metal being ripped away from concrete and by the time I look up, bleachers are flying at my head!”
“Okay, okay. Calm down. Take a breath.” Cella patted his shoulder. “I’ll talk to Novikov.”
“Do something, Cella, because I’m this close to callin’ in all the Reeds to come here and start kicking some mutt ass.”
“Now, now. Let’s not get nasty. That’s my job.” She reached up and touched Reed’s forehead, the wolf shying away from her. “Go see Jai about that. She should be in her office.” 
“It’ll heal.”
“If that gets infected, you’ll get the fever, and she’ll pull you from tomorrow’s game and then Novikov has more ammo against you. Don’t give it to him.”
“Yeah. You’re right.” He smirked, his anger slipping away, the cute, flirty wolf quickly returning. “Think Dr. D. will let me cuddle if I ask her nice?”
“What about you? Wanna cuddle? Help me heeeeal?”
Rolling her eyes, Cella turned and headed to the stairs.
“That ain’t real friendly, Malone,” Reed called after her.