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Bear Meets Girl (Pride #7)(8)

By:Shelly Laurenston

Gentry’s hands dropped to her desk. “BPC was watching the place? Are you sure?”
“Recognized one of the team.”
“Recognized him how?” Cella had to know.
“Broke his spine during a fight once.”
And that was why Cella “had to know,” because she knew she’d be entertained!
“Y’all can stop staring at me like that. He’s clearly walkin’ ... now.”
“You gotta wonder why BPC wouldn’t just move on a place like that, too,” MacDermot said, her gaze out the window. “From what I hear, they handle shit the way Cella and Dee do.”
“They do,” Gentry confirmed. “Which makes me very curious about what they’re doing.”
MacDermot looked at her boss. “You want me to put surveillance on it?”
“I do.”
“Okay, but if BPC is already on it, why do we need to get involved?”
“BPC is run by Peg Baissier. And has been for the last twenty years. It’s believed that she’s become a bit of a problem. There are some of us in the bear community that have been looking for a way to ...”
“Force her into retirement?”
“Something like that.”
“Just because you don’t like her?”
“No. Because she’s dangerous to her own.”
“How do you figure that?” Smith asked.
Gentry moved around in her chair, her hands tugging the jacket of her suit down.
MacDermot glanced at Cella and Smith before saying, “Chief?”
The sow cleared her throat. “Besides his stellar record, there’s another reason I had Crushek—the polar bear”—she clarified for Cella and Smith—“pulled into this division as quickly as I could manage without setting off major alarms and a massive investigation by the full-humans of NYPD.”
“What reason?”
“There’s a rumor his cover was blown.”
“By Baissier?”
“Most likely.”
“Did you tell his C.O.? Chief of D’s?” MacDermot asked.
“I didn’t tell anyone.”
“Why not?”
“Because this is shifter business and the last thing we need is the NYPD looking into the BPC.” She sighed. “And ...”
“And?” MacDermot pushed. “And what?”
“And ...” Gentry looked at them all before finally admitting, “Peg Baissier was Crushek’s foster mother.”
Sick of hearing Conway laugh at him about having to get his hair cut, Crush slammed his phone down.
He hated change. Change was bad. Change sucked. Change ...
Crush looked around the room, realizing that everyone was staring in his direction, but they weren’t really looking at him.
Slowly, he swiveled his office chair around and looked at Gentry’s office. MacDermot, the She-wolf, and that damn feline were all standing on the other side of that big window. . . watching him. Even worse—they all looked sad. Devastated. What the fuck was going on?“That’s it.” Crush stood, officially unable to take any more of this. “I’m out of here.”
With MacDermot out on Friday, Lynsey had Lou Crushek spend most of the day going through files and acquainting himself with some of the current open cases. When he said he was leaving early because he had something to do in Manhattan, Lynsey called him in. She knew she couldn’t keep hiding the truth about Baissier and what the sow had done or, at the very least, was rumored to have done.
But the polar’s reaction to the news ... not exactly what Lynsey had been expecting.
Crush stared at her, nodded, and replied, “Uh-huh.”
Lynsey blinked and looked around her office, concerned she hadn’t actually said the words out loud. She finally settled her gaze back on him and asked, “I did just tell you that—”
“My cover was blown? Yeah. You just told me.”
“And that it was—”
“My former foster mother? Yeah. Yeah. You told me.”
“Uhhhhh, okay. I ... I guess I just expected more of a panicked, ‘Oh, my God! The guys I was trying to put away are going to come kill me’ kind of thing.”
“Well, they can try.”
“Okay. Uh ... perhaps some devastation at the betrayal of the woman who raised you?”
“Have you met Peg Baissier?” he asked flatly. “I wouldn’t exactly call what she did ‘raising me’ in the traditional sense. Her leaving me alone this long is really surprising. Which kind of makes me wonder why blow my cover now? What’s the benefit? Because she always has a benefit. But other than thinking that, I’m not really shocked.”
“All right then.”
“If it helps, I’m kind of pissed she ruined my career.”
“Well, she didn’t ruin your career. I mean, you’re out of undercover, but you’re still a cop. And now that you’re with my division, you’ll be making more money and have great people to work with. So, ya know, all good. Right?”
“Sure. Why not?” He glanced around, shrugged, and asked, “Anything else?”
“Not really.”
“Okay. Well, like I said this morning, I’m leaving early.”
“Okay. Have a good weekend.”
“Yeah. Thanks. You, too.”
She watched him walk out. Jesus, what had Peg Baissier done to the boy Lou Crushek once was? Hearing the news, it was like he’d just shut down, and honestly, she had to wonder ... if what she had just told him didn’t get a reaction out of him, what exactly would?
Crush scrambled out of the barber’s chair, shaking his head. “Forget it.” 
Conway, who’d dragged him to this shifter-friendly barbershop, laughed. “I can’t believe what a baby you’re being. Just get the damn haircut.”
At the time, it had seemed like a good idea. Late lunch with his old partner and then he could head over to the Sports Center for tonight’s game. But Crush had had no idea that Conway would get such a bug up his ass about Crush getting a goddamn haircut. A haircut he didn’t even want!
“No way. MacDermot will just have to deal with my long hair.” He tugged at the strands. “This is polar hair. It’s not like everyone else’s. It just can’t be randomly butchered.” And, to be honest, Crush kind of knew he would never look good with a buzz cut, which was apparently all this particular barber could handle. In fact, Crush was pretty certain that with a buzz cut, he’d go from looking like a lowlife biker to looking just like a serial killer. Especially with what a full-human date once called his “soulless black eyes.” He didn’t think they were soulless, but his eyes were black. Like most polar bears’ eyes.
The sun bear barber let out a sigh. “Get your ass in the seat.”
“No way. You’re not just cutting it off.”
“All done!” a cheerful voice chirped. And from a back room, a pretty black woman walked out. She was definitely canine, but Crush couldn’t tell if she was wolf, wild dog, coyote, or some other canine, which made him think she was a mutt. “Hybrid” being the less offensive term. “I cleaned out your pipes and they should be flowing just perfect now.”
Crush and Conway looked at each other, trying not to laugh. To them, “cleaning out your pipes” usually meant a blow job, but since she was dressed in grimy khaki pants and a Philadelphia Eagles football jersey while carrying a tool bag in her hand and had a tool belt around her waist, Crush would guess she was actually a plumber.
“You’re a lifesaver, Blayne,” the barber said. “And I appreciate you coming over here so fast.”
“No problem, Mr. P. Anyway, I gotta go. I got practice in a couple of hours. Gotta meet Gwenie.”
“How much do I owe ya, sweetie?”
“We’ll bill you. But don’t forget you get the neighbor discount.” She suddenly focused on Crush and Conway, grinned, waved, and said with an alarming amount of cheer, “Hi!”
Crush jumped a little. Wow. She sure was perky. “Hi.”
“What’s going on? Everyone looks very tense. Like this.” She made a frown that had Conway chuckling.
“This wuss”—the sun bear motioned to Crush—“won’t let me cut off his hair.”
“Because it’s cool!” She walked over and took a closer look. “Wow. So very cool!” Then she sniffed him. “Are you a polar?”
“How cool!”
“You need the cut, dude,” Conway reminded him. “There’s no getting around it. He needs it for work,” Conway explained to the hybrid. Although why he felt that was necessary ...
“Well, there’s a cut,” the canine explained to them, “and then there’s butchering.” She shrugged at the sun bear. “Sorry, Mr. Peterson, but you’re kind of a butcher. You should come with me,” she told Crush.
“I know someone who can cut your hair but give you, like, a great cut. That way you’ll look more handsome bear and less ...”
She dropped her tool kit on the floor, dragged a chair over, and stood on the seat. Then she put her hands into his hair and pushed the strands off his face. Why did women keep touching him? Was he releasing pheromones or something?“Oh, God. Yeah,” she said. “You lose all this hair it’s totally serial killer time.” She frowned, leaned back a little. “You’re not, though, right? A serial killer?”