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Bear Meets Girl (Pride #7)(66)

By:Shelly Laurenston

She stopped in front of Sophie, crouching down. “You all right?”
Sophie nodded, but she still didn’t know if she could trust her. If she should. Her eyes ... as she moved, the moon reflected her eyes back to Sophie. Just like a dog’s.
The knife flashed again and then Sophie’s hands were loose. Fingers gripped her and helped her to her feet.
“I’m sorry,” the woman said. “I promised to look out for you. Sorry I let you down.”
Sophie hadn’t wanted to admit it to herself. She wasn’t much for fanciful flights of fantasy as her grandmother liked to call it. Reality had always made that impossible. But now she knew. That guy she’d picked up, he was one. The guys who took her tonight. That bitch woman who’d slapped her around until she got the answers she wanted. And this woman. They were all kind of the same. They weren’t human. Not completely. Not like Sophie. Because no human Sophie knew, who could cut a man’s throat, then shoot him in major areas and arteries on the body, would turn around and apologize for letting her down. And she’d meant that apology, too. Sophie could tell. Sophie knew liars and she knew truth tellers. This woman, or whatever she was, was all about the truth. 
“What ... what’s your name?”
“Dee-Ann. Dee-Ann Smith.”
“What now, Dee-Ann?”
“We get you someplace safe.” With her arm around Sophie, Dee-Ann led her back to the road. “While my friends deal with Whitlan and Baissier.”
Sophie stopped, forcing Dee-Ann to face her.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. Sophie could see the concern on the woman’s face, but it wasn’t easy not to be completely freaked out by those eyes.
But Sophie choked back the fear. The woman had saved her life; she owed her this much. “Your friends are in there?”
“Get them out, Dee-Ann. Get them out right now.” Sophie licked her lips and admitted, “There’s something I didn’t tell the other woman.”
So this is what a country club looks like from the inside.
Not surprisingly, most Malones were never invited to join country clubs. Although a few had worked in them and robbed several.
Following the scent of bears, Cella and her team worked their way down several flights of stairs, far under the club, until she hit the last floor. She and the two lions walked out a door and into a long and wide hallway with marble floors. There were animal trophies lined up on both sides of the hallway. It wasn’t until she passed the first one that she stopped in her tracks, her body shaking. The two males looked at her, then at the trophies. They stepped closer, took a sniff, and immediately stepped back.
Every trophy in this hallway that had been stuffed and mounted—a male shifter. A couple of wolves, several panthers, but a whole lot of bears—grizzly and polar—and lions. The ultimate predators. Cella didn’t see any tigers, but she had the feeling the pelts of her kind were decorating people’s beds and floors.
Cella took several breaths. She had to keep it together. If she lost her control, got angry, and started killing everyone, this would not end well.
Cella gestured forward with two fingers and she walked on, trying hard not to look or think about those who’d met what could only be called a cruel end.
They’d neared the end of the hallway when one male stopped, his hand raised to halt them. He lifted his head, sniffed. When he looked back at Cella, she let out a groan and pushed past him. She ran until she hit the last room. Stopping right inside, she closed her eyes and lowered her weapon.
“You need to pull them out.”
Knowing his team had Baissier’s men covered by their SUVs, Crush looked over his shoulder at Dee-Ann. She had the girl with her. The poor thing had clearly ended up on the wrong side of Baissier, but at least she was still alive. It seemed as if the sow had taken it easy on her. Surprising.
“What is it?”
But before Dee-Ann could answer his question, he heard Cella’s voice over his earpiece.
He and Dee looked at each other and Crush said, “Repeat that.”
“I said he’s gone, Crush. Whitlan’s gone. And you better bring everybody down here. Including Baissier’s men.”
Crush raised his arm and motioned to Dez, who had a spot on a nearby building.
“You better come with us,” Crush said to the remainder of Baissier’s team.
One of the bears laughed. “What? Are you arresting us?”
Crush shrugged. “I don’t think there’s a point.”
“It was some kind of gas,” Cella explained while turning her back to the room. The device that had been triggered had released a gas that had not killed Baissier or her team easily, their twisted and tortured remains littering the floor. “As soon as they opened this door. It went off and took ’em out.”“Dissipated quick, too,” Smith muttered, walking around the room and coldly examining everything.
“And Whitlan’s gone,” Crush noted again, his gaze locked on where this room led ... to a dock filled with lots of very fast and very expensive boats.
“Yeah, but he’s got us looking for him. And the feds.”
“And we have our own inside there. We’ll find him, Crush.”
“It better be quick. Whitlan enjoys killing our kind. He’s not going to lose his taste for that anytime soon.”
“So what do we do now?” one of Baissier’s men asked.
“Call whoever is next in command,” Crush told him. “Let him or her know about this.”
“The trophies,” Cella said. “We identify those we can, alert the families. The ones we can’t, we give a proper burial.”
Cella called in the cleanup team for assistance since they had to be done before the country club staff made it in for the morning shift. Knowing they were short on time, they all got to work.
These days Cella didn’t have time to be as exhausted as she felt. Why? Because she was a goddamn bridesmaid. Why? Why did she say yes to being a bridesmaid? Even worse, a maid of honor!
She could be such an idiot.
Between the bachelorette party, the bridal shower, and the never-ending dress fittings, Cella was goddamn burnt out. But she was almost done. Almost.
So, running down the stairs, lifting the hem of her five-thousand-dollar dress—only for a friend would she spend that kind of cash on a stupid dress—Cella yelled out, “Let’s go, Malones! We’ve gotta get a move on!”
“Where’s the kid?” she asked her young cousins, busy getting dressed up for the day.
“In back,” one answered.
“All right. The cars will be here to pick you guys up soon. Do not keep the drivers waiting. And no whore makeup,” she added before running outside.
Meghan and Josie, already dressed, with minimal makeup, and ready to go, sat at one of the tables and ...
Eyes narrowing on her daughter and daughter-by-friendship, Cella demanded, “What is that?”
Meghan held the thing up, her grin wide. “It’s a kitty! Miss Smith brought it over for me and Josie while you were in the hospital.”
Cella studied the black-and-white tabby carefully. A bright red collar with an annoying little bell that kept making this tinkling noise was around its neck and it smelled distinctly of ... well ... of bear sow.
Josie reached over and took the tabby from Meghan’s hands. What always amazed Cella about the pair of them was that they never fought over anything. They shared so easily. Cella would admit she didn’t know any felines who could do that. 
“Isn’t she cute?” Josie asked, nuzzling her nose against the cat’s.
“It’s a cat. It’s a house cat.”
“And we’re keeping her,” Meghan told her mother, all haughty about it, too! “She was a gift to us and Grams said we can keep her. So we’re keeping her.”
“Whatever. But I’m not taking care of that thing while you’re off partying with frat boys.”
Her daughter shuddered in disgust. Knowing her kid, she’d spend her college years partying with the chess players’ club or with the geeks who design lasers before returning home for a hot cocoa at eight p.m.
Cella stepped close, scrunching her nose at the cat. “What are you going to name it?”
“It’s a she, and we’re naming her—”
“Mrs. Fuzzybottom!”
“No,” Meghan told Josie in no uncertain terms. “We will not give a cat a stupid name.”
While Josie pouted, Meghan thought a moment and finally offered, “Cleo?”
“Over my dead body,” Cella said quickly. “There will be no cliché cat names. No. Never.”
“Well, since you’re being so picky about it, She Who Will Not Take Care of This Thing, what would you suggest?”
The answer hit her so quickly, she was surprised she hadn’t thought of it before. “Do you know what a really nice gesture would be, girls? Naming the cat Dee-Ann.”
Josie grinned. “You mean in honor of Miss Smith?”
“It was her gift to you guys. I just think it would be a really sweet gesture.”
“I like it.” Josie stood, the cat in her arms. “I’m going to tell Mom. I’ll let her know you’re ready to go, Aunt C.”
“Thanks, sweetheart.”
Josie walked off to her house and Cella looked at her daughter. “What?”
“How do you live with yourself?”