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Bear Meets Girl (Pride #7)(55)

By:Shelly Laurenston

Crush nodded. “Uh-huh.” He looked at Conway again. Your fault!
I’m sorry!
“She’s out of the penalty box.”
Thankful, because Nice Guy seemed to talk less when his daughter was on the ice, Crush focused on Cella. He’d have to admit, it was a tough game. The Minnesota team had a healthy mix of predators, but their best players were the hyenas. They were all from the same Clan and didn’t like to give up their puck. They especially seemed to hate the Marauder. Must be the lion thing, because they kept going after him and Cella just kept getting in their way. There was a lot of blood on the ice and for once he couldn’t just say it belonged only to the opposition. The team was fighting hard tonight to just keep the no-score going.
It was at times like this that Crush could see the benefit of Cella. She didn’t back down, did she? And she always protected the Marauder. She kicked ass.
But as Crush watched the teams go at it, fighting for that puck, he noticed something right away. It was between the hyenas. Three of them. They skated around by their team’s net, something silent passing between them. Then they shot off in three different directions.
Crush thought maybe it was his imagination, until Nice Guy stopped talking—the man rarely stopped talking altogether—and leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees, fingers steepled together. 
Focusing back on the ice, Crush watched the hyenas circle around and behind the Carnivores’ goal. They were heading for the Marauder, again, and several players moved in to protect him. As they did, the hyenas broke off and went around them. It seemed normal. Until Crush realized that Cella was out on her own, away from the rest of the team, moving toward Novikov. She was focused on him, always watching out for her team more than herself. So she didn’t see them coming. Didn’t see them gunning right for her.
“Jesus—” was the last thing Crush heard from Nice Guy Malone seconds before two hyenas ran right into Cella. Hit hard from two sides, she went airborne, her body spinning up and over. Yet she was feline and when she landed, she landed on two legs. Crush winced, knowing her bad knee must have felt that.
But as soon as Cella landed, the third hyena was there, ramming into her, low and at an angle. Right into her lower body. Her legs collided with the rink wall. The entire crowd roared with rage and awe at the bold move, but Crush heard Cella’s roar above everything else and he knew—knew—what had just happened.
He jumped from his seat, standing tall, not thinking of any poor sap that might be behind him. It took him a second to realize that Nice Guy was right by him, the father’s horror palpable.
Together they watched Cella’s body flip again and land hard. She wasn’t knocked out. She was in too much pain. She’d still managed to hold on to her stick, but she finally dropped that and went for her left leg, now bent at an unnatural angle. The pain so bad, she couldn’t even pretend not to feel it.
The hyenas, staring down at her, skated back as the rest of the two teams stopped completely. It was strange, how everyone just sort of froze.
The refs—a fellow polar and a lion male—skated between the two teams, pushing them apart while the Carnivores’ team manager ran out on the ice and to Cella’s side. A few seconds later the medical team came out, Dr. Davis with them. They surrounded Cella and Crush could only see the tops of their heads, so it was impossible to know what was going on. Although, on a gut level, he already knew. So did her father.
“I ... I ...”
He motioned to Conway, knew his friend would keep Mr. Malone calm. He was good at that. Crush patted the older man’s shoulder. “I’ll go check on her. You stay here.”
Crush walked to the door and out of it. Once the security monitoring the door had closed it again, he ran.
Gritting her teeth, never having felt pain like this since the birth of her daughter, Cella tried her best to hold on. To not black out. But it was getting harder and harder. She was definitely out of this game. Fucking hyenas.
“Get the stretcher!” Jai ordered the techs. Then she was over Cella, hands on her shoulders, trying to hold her down, but the pain was too much to stay still. “Honey, you need to let me see.”
“Fuck, Jai. Fuck!”
“I know.”
Man, Cella would never hear the end of this. It would take at least a week for her knee to heal this time. Ice wouldn’t do it. Not tonight, at least. But she could get through this. She would. She was a Malone. She’d force herself to stay off her knee for a week or so and that would be it. Then she wanted a rematch with those assholes.
Hands went under her shoulders and another under her waist. She was lifted/dragged onto the stretcher. The crowd didn’t sound happy. They wanted blood. Good luck getting out of the Sports Center, Minnesota. Hell. Good luck getting out of the city.
Another bolt of pain hit Cella and everything went blank there for a bit. When she woke up, she was in one of the med rooms. God, how long had she been out?
“Cella? Hon? Can you hear me?”She looked up at Jai. The pain was less. They must have shot her up with something. Good. That helped.
“Yeah. I can hear you.”
“Okay. Great. We’re going to be transferring you in the next few minutes.”
“Transferring me?” Cella fought hard to focus. The meds were making her loopy. “Transfer me where?”
“To McMillian Presbyterian Hospital.”
“But I’m Catholic.” Oh. Wow. She was high. Cella shook her head. Tried again. “Why hospital? I can recover at home. I wanna go home.”
Cella saw her friend’s face. That expression. “What’s going on?” Cella asked.
“Nothing. Let’s just get you to the hospital.”
Cella caught Jai’s arm, and held her tight. “What’s going on?”
Jai looked up at her techs, motioned them away with a hard jerk of her head. When they’d moved across the room, Jai looked back at her. “Your knee, hon.”
“What about it?”
Jai stared at her, took a moment. “This has to be fixed. This won’t heal on its own.”
“What does that mean?”
“You know what it means.”
Jai’s voice was no nonsense, strictly professional. “If we let this set, Cella, the way it is ... you won’t be able to walk on that leg, much less skate. But I’ve already contacted the specialist there. He’s going to meet us at the hospital.”
“To fix what I have.”
“No,” Jai said firmly. “There is no fixing what you have, Cella. We either replace or you start using a walker to get around.
“But don’t worry. Once it’s done, you’ll be fine. This guy knows what he’s doing. He’s the best and no one will ever know you were ever hurt.”
But that wasn’t the point, was it? It wasn’t that she’d walk or not walk again. It was that, in effect, her entire career was over. Just like that. There’d be no heroic tales of her working back to the team after lots of physical therapy and a miracle. Instead, Cella would get her knee replaced, her leg would be as strong, if not stronger than it had ever been before ... and she’d never play pro sports again. Ever.
One of the techs moved up to Jai and whispered in her ear.
“Right. Okay.” Jai looked down at her. “The ambulance is here, hon. We have to go.” Because if they waited too long, her leg would heal on its own, but badly, forcing the doctors to destroy her leg again in order to repair it.
Taking her silence as some kind of agreement, Jai motioned for the techs to let in the ones who’d be taking her to the hospital. 
But another bout of pain ripped through her before anyone could move her and Cella roared, her fangs and claws unleashing, ready to slash and rip and destroy. Big hands held her down and someone stuck a needle in her, more meds forced into her system.
And that was pretty much the last thing she remembered.
Crush impatiently waited outside the med offices, pacing. No one got too close to him. No one ever got too close to an anxious bear.
He was hoping to get in to see Cella, to find out what was going on. But then the EMS guys were taking her out, heading toward an ambulance parked outside the Sports Center. Dr. Davis followed behind them, rushing to keep up. Crush followed, calling out her name.
She looked over her shoulder. At first, he wasn’t sure she even recognized him. Once at the elevator, she faced him, walking in backward, unwilling to waste precious seconds getting Cella to the hospital.
“We’re taking her to McMillian Presbyterian Hospital. Get her father. He needs to be there when she wakes up. Understand?”
Crush nodded and watched the elevator doors close.
But instead of running to get her father, Crush stood there. He couldn’t move. And he had no idea how long he stood there, staring at that closed door until he heard his name called.
Finally snapping out of whatever catatonic state he’d dropped into, Crush slowly turned. It was Van Holtz.
“Where is she?”
“How bad is it?” When Crush could only shrug, Van Holtz turned to one of the med techs hanging around outside the room. “How bad?”
The jackal, using a towel to wipe blood off her hands, stated, “The knee’s destroyed. They’re going to have to replace it. They’re waiting for her at McMillian.”
Now Van Holtz looked like Crush was guessing he did. Stunned and confused. But he couldn’t help Van Holtz deal with it. Not now.