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Bear Meets Girl (Pride #7)(56)

By:Shelly Laurenston

“I have to get her father,” he said, walking past the wolf. “He needs to be there when she wakes up.”
The second string was on the ice and Lock sat on the bench next to Novikov, who sat next to Reed, who sat next to Bert. They sat and said nothing, waiting for Ric to get back.
Something didn’t feel right, but Lock couldn’t put his finger on it. Yet he knew something was off. It was a sixth sense he’d picked up while in the Marines. To know when something that looks completely benign and merely an accident was anything but. And after a quick glance at the teammates sitting with him, he kind of knew he wasn’t the only one feeling that way.
It just seemed like those hyenas had targeted Marcella. And maybe they had. She’d been on several other teams before she’d settled down with the Carnivores, recruited by Ric. She might have pissed off the Minnesota team or those hyenas specifically at any time over the last few years. Still ... they hadn’t just gone after her. Hell. Lots of players had gone after her. She was a well-hated woman in hockey because she was just so damn good at what she did. But this seemed so coordinated. So planned out. And they hadn’t gone for her jugular. They’d gone for her legs. For her weak knee...
Ric dropped down next to Lock and Novikov leaned around to look at him.
“Well?” Novikov demanded.
“They’re taking her to McMillian Presbyterian.” An excellent hospital for shifters. Lock’s sister was head of neurosurgery there. “Total knee replacement.”
Novikov blinked, shocked and clearly upset. “Are they sure?”
Ric nodded. “They’re sure.”
There was silence after that. The entire first string just sat there, already missing Cella’s “let’s kill them all!” attitude.Suddenly, Ric stood and put on his helmet. “First string in,” he ordered. Normally something he left up to the coach, but he was the owner. He could do anything he wanted.
As one they all stood and skated onto the ice, the second string passing them on their way to the bench. With the puck in play, the opposition maneuvered it down the ice toward the Carnivore goal. Ric crouched, waiting, and Lock raced down as one of the opposition neared the goal, trying to get the puck in the net. Ric stopped the puck and Lock skated between his friend and one of the hyenas. Lock had just passed by when he saw Ric’s stick flash out, slamming into the hyena’s side.
Startled—Ric never fought anybody unless they started it—Lock spun back around just as Ric dropped gloves and he and the hyena rammed into each other. Another hyena was going toward Ric so Lock ran into him, grabbing him around the neck and yanking him by his head while Novikov picked up the third hyena and began bouncing him around the rink like he was a basketball player and the hyena was the ball.
Then both teams were on the ice and that was pretty much the end of the game....
The elevator doors opened and Dez stepped out, her husband Mace behind her. She stopped immediately, her gaze moving around the packed hospital hallway. She knew most of the people there, but she could easily spot Cella’s family. They mostly looked like Dez’s friend. Black hair with orange and white streaks, gold or green eyes; the women curvy, the men built like linebackers.
But what worried Dez immediately was the weight of tragedy she felt throughout the entire hallway. She had no clue what had happened, getting one of those short-worded Dee-Ann Smith messages on her voice mail. God, was she too late?
No, no. She didn’t want to think like that.
After another quick look around, Dez saw Dee-Ann and she walked over to her. She stood next to a completely battered Ric Van Holtz, Lock MacRyrie, and Bo Novikov. They looked like they’d been through hell. Had they tried to stop what had happened to Cella? And if the guys looked like this ... what did Cella look like?
���Dee—” Dez began, but then Blayne was wrapped around Dez ... sobbing. Hysterically.
God, maybe I am too late.
Dee pulled Blayne off Dez and pushed her toward Novikov. “Come on.” She grabbed Dez’s arm and led her down another hallway and into an empty room, closing the door.
“What the fuck happened?” Dez got out before the door opened again and Blayne walked in.
“You can’t stay,” Dee told Blayne, “if all you’re gonna do is cry like a baby.”
Snarling, Blayne stepped into Dee, pointing her finger in her face. “She’s my friend, too, Dee-Ann!” The tears started again. “I love her.” 
“Just yesterday you called her a bitch.”
“How can you bring that up?” Blayne wailed.
Realizing that neither of these two would give her the answers she needed—one talked too much and the other not enough—Dez walked back into the hallway. “Stay here,” she ordered before she went in search of Crushek. She knew the bear well enough to know he wouldn’t be part of the crowd, but she also knew he was there. Somewhere. He wouldn’t leave Cella alone.
And Dez was right. She found Crush at the end of the long hallway inside one of the rooms. He sat on the floor, his back against the wall, his knees raised, his gaze focused on the empty bed. She stepped up next to him and held out her hand.
Crush looked at it and up at her.
“Come on,” she said.
He took her hand, but mostly got himself up off the floor. She led him back to the room where she’d left an eye-rolling Dee-Ann and a still sobbing Blayne.
“Oh, Crush!” Blayne cried before running into the startled polar, her arms wrapping around his waist. “You poor, poor man.”
Dez closed the door, ignoring the look her husband gave her before she did.
“What happened?” she asked, figuring she’d at least get most of the story from the three of them together.
“Poor Cella’s life is over!” Blayne sobbed into Crush’s chest, but Dez decided not to take that at face value. Instead, she focused on Dee-Ann.
The woman shrugged. “She was hurt.”
“How bad?”
“Bad enough.”
See? That wasn’t enough information. So Dez then moved her attention to Crush, who was awkwardly patting Blayne’s back.
“It’s my fault,” he told her. “All of this. I think it’s my fault.”
Blayne looked up at him. “Your fault? How can you say that?”
“I should have known Baissier would do something. I just never thought she’d go after Cella like that.”
Nope. Still not clear, so Dez went back to Dee-Ann.
“She called me earlier. Said someone was following her. It never occurred to either of us that they’d take her out on the ice.”
The ice? Someone attacked her during one of those hockey games? With hundreds, maybe even several thousand shifters nearby? Then Dez remembered the way Ric and Lock had looked outside. They’d clearly been in a fight. But then ...
Dez looked at the three shifters. “Was Cella shot?”
Dee-Ann shook her head. “No.”
“They destroyed her leg,” Blayne whimpered.
“Well,” Dee corrected, “mostly just her knee.”
“Her ...” Dez scratched her head. “Was she kneecapped in the bathroom or something?”
“No. It happened on the ice.”
Dez studied the three idiots. “Are you telling me you dragged me here for a fucking sports accident?”
“Figured you’d wanna know.”
“I do want to know, Dee. Cella’s my friend. But I want details. Telling me ‘You better come to the hospital. They got Cella’ implies something different to me than a sports injury.”
“You don’t undertstand, Dez,” Blayne explained, pulling away from Crush as more tears flowed. “Her career is over. She’ll never play pro hockey again.”
“Is she going to be in a wheelchair?”
Dee pulled a piece of jerky out of her back pocket. Why it was back there, Dez didn’t want to know. “Doubtful,” Dee said. “Once she gets that knee replaced and all, she’ll probably be back at KZS early next week. We’re just waitin’ for them to finish the surgery.”“Will she at least have a limp?”
“Nah. Our bodies take real well to replacement surgeries.” Dee held up her arm, pointing at her elbow. “Got this blown off during a hunt. Docs replaced it ... good as new.” To illustrate, she bent what looked to be a mostly unmarred joint.
Dez pointed at the door. “Get out. Both of you. Out.” She grabbed Blayne by the back of her jeans and dragged her to the door, opening it and shoving her out. “You, too, country. Out.”
“You sure are moody,” the wolf complained before she ambled out the door.
Slamming the door, Dez faced Crush. “What is going on?”
Cella opened her eyes and the first thing she saw was her mother ... and tears. Then she looked around the room. All those Malones. All that crying. Men and women. She felt like she’d just woken up in a casket after being misdiagnosed as dead.
“Oh! My dear sweet girl!”
Her mother hugged her and Cella could feel tears dripping against her neck. At least she hoped it was tears.
“It’ll be okay, baby.” Her mother pulled back and stroked her hair. “You’re going to be just ... just ...” Eyes wide, she looked at Cella’s aunts who just days before she’d threatened to bare-knuckle fight. They all smiled down at Cella, then Kathleen began to cry, then Margaret, then ... good God, even Deirdre. Then all of them were crying. It was pretty ... strange.