Beast Behaving Badly

By: Shelly Laurenston




“I’ll be here. Tomorrow at seven. I’ll be on time! I promise!”

She skated away from him and over to a pile of . . . stuff. She viciously shoved all that stuff into a backpack—without even a modicum of attempting to organize it first—and pulled the straps onto her shoulders. “Thank you . . . uh . . .”

“You don’t know my name?”

“I know your name! I just don’t know what to call you. Do I call you Novikov or Coach or Mr. Novikov or The Marauder?”

“Bo. Call me Bo.”

“I like Novikov.” And he wondered why she’d bothered asking him in the first place. “And you can call me Blayne.”

“Like I’ve been doing?”

“Exactly!”

She headed off for the door.

“Are you skating to work?”

She stopped, looked down at her skates. “Oops,” she said with a laugh. “I guess I am now.” She looked back at him and shrugged. “If I’m late to the office, Gwen’s gonna have my ass. Oh! And I’m not speaking to her today anyway. Ha! Take that, feline who thinks I’m too weak for the Babes!”

Then she was gone and Bo wondered what the hell he’d just gotten himself into.





CHAPTER 1

The face slammed into the protective glass, blood spurting out as cartilage was demolished, bone shattered.

The crowd around her either roared and howled in approval or hissed and barked in disapproval, depending on which team they supported. But Blayne Thorpe could do neither. Instead, she only gaped at the behemoth hybrid continuing to force that poor, battered feline face into the glass by using nothing more than his hockey stick and overwhelming size.

She had heard he’d gotten bigger since she’d last seen him nearly ten years ago, but she thought they were talking about the man’s career. Not his size.

Career wise, the minor shifter league’s onetime left defenseman from nowhere Maine had gone on to become one of the greatest hockey players the pro shifter league had ever known. Bo “The Marauder” Novikov was one of the first—and at one time, one of the only—hybrids to ever play on a professional team in any league. Of course, his saving grace had been that he wasn’t one of the more feared—and, to be quite honest, more unstable—canine hybrids like Blayne, but a rare by-product of species crossbreeding. Specifically a polar bear–lion. Or, as Blayne always secretly thought of him, a mighty bear-cat. A much cuter name in Blayne’s estimation than polar bear–lion. But bears breeding with felines was such a rare thing—and damn near nonexistent more than twenty-five years ago—that they didn’t have any cute nicknames like coydogs for coyote-dogs or ligers and tigons for lion and tiger mixes.

Yet that didn’t mean Blayne saw Novikov as one of the top representatives of the hybrid nation. How could she? He represented everything she loathed in sports. Where was the sportsmanship? Where was the team spirit? Where was the loyalty?

Nowhere.

In ten years the Marauder had become one of the most hated and feared players in any shifter league in the States, Asia, and most of Europe. Although in Russia and Sweden, he was merely considered “tough—for an American.” Adored and loathed by fans in equal amounts, Novikov was equally detested by both his opponents and his own teammates. Bo Novikov had made a name for himself by being what Blayne could only describe as pure asshole on skates. If you were in his way, Novikov would either make you move or plow right through you. If you had his puck—and it was always his puck—he’d find a way to get it away from you, even if it meant permanent damage and learning to walk again for the opposition. From what Blayne had heard, he never had a friendly word for anyone, even the cubs and pups who worshipped at his feet.

None of this surprised Blayne. How could it? She’d met the man when he was a much shorter, nineteen-year-old minor league player. Tracey, a tigress that Blayne liked about as much as her best friend Gwen detested her, had seen Novikov playing and had begged Blayne to somehow get Gwen to invite her to one of her uncle’s practices. At the time, the O’Neill males ran the Philly Furors minor hockey team. Two of Gwen’s uncles were the managers and six of her cousins were either coaches or players. Although Blayne was invited anywhere that the O’Neills were, Tracey couldn’t risk just showing up whenever she felt like it. Not unless she wanted to get her ass kicked by Gwen and her female cousins. It took some pleading, begging, and whining on Blayne’s part, but eventually Gwen agreed that Tracey could come to one of the practices.