Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(1) by Susan Mallery
PENNY JACKSON KNEW that it was probably wrong to be so excited to see her ex-husband come crawling back, but she was willing to live with the character flaw.
“You know he’s going to want to hire you,” her friend Naomi said.
“Oh, yeah. The sweet smell of validation.” Penny leaned back in her chair and considered the possibilities. “I want him to beg. Not in a vicious, I hate your guts way, but more as a…”
“Show of support for divorced women everywhere?” Naomi asked.
Penny laughed. “Exactly. I suppose that makes me petty and small.”
“Maybe, but you’re looking especially fabulous today, if that helps.”
“A little.” Penny smoothed the front of her loose sweater and glanced at the clock. “We’re meeting for lunch downtown. A neutral location—no memories, good or bad.”
“Stay away from the good ones,” Naomi warned her. “You always were a sucker where Cal was concerned.”
“That was so three years ago. I’m completely over him. I’ve moved on.”
“Right.” Naomi didn’t look convinced. “Don’t think about how great he looks in his clothes, or out of them. Instead remember how he broke your heart, lied about wanting children and trampled your fragile dreams.”
Easy enough, Penny thought, a flicker of annoyance muscling in on her good mood.
Nearly as bad, four years ago she’d applied for a job as a cook in Buchanan’s, one of Cal’s family’s restaurants. The job had been strictly entry-level—she would have been in charge of salads. There had been ten other applicants. Worried she wouldn’t make the cut, Penny had asked her then-husband to put in a good word for her with his grandmother. He’d refused and she hadn’t gotten the job.
“This time the job is coming to me,” Penny said. “I intend to take advantage of that. And him. In a strictly business way, of course.”
“Of course,” Naomi echoed, not sounding the least bit convinced. “He’s trouble for you. Always has been. Be careful.”
Penny stood and reached for her purse. “When am I not?”
“Ask for lots of money.”
“Don’t think about having sex with him.”
Penny laughed. “Oh, please. That isn’t an issue. You’ll see.”
PENNY ARRIVED EARLY, then stayed in her car until five minutes after the appointed time. A small, possibly insignificant power play on her part, but she figured she’d earned it.
She walked into the quiet leather-and-linen bistro. Before she could approach the hostess, she saw Cal standing by a booth in the back. They might have friends in common, and live in the same city, but since she’d done her darnedest to avoid close proximity to him they never ran into each other. This lunch was going to change that.
“Hi,” she said with a breezy smile.
“Penny.” He looked her over, then motioned to the other side of the booth. “Thanks for joining me.”
“How could I refuse? You wouldn’t say much over the phone, which made me curious.” She slid onto the seat.
Cal looked good. Tall, muscled, the same soulful eyes she remembered. Just sitting across from him caused her body to remember what it had been like back when things had been good and they’d been unable to keep their hands off each other. Not that she was interested in him in that way. She’d learned her lesson.
Plus, she couldn’t forgive the fact that in the three years they’d been apart, he hadn’t had the common courtesy to get fat or wrinkled. Nope, he was gorgeous—which was just like a man.
Still, he needed her help. Oh, yeah, that part was very cool. While they’d been married the message had been she wasn’t good enough. Now he wanted her to save the day…or the restaurant, in this case. While she planned to say yes, eventually, she was going to enjoy every second of making him beg.
“The Waterfront is in trouble,” he said, then paused as the waitress came by to take their order.
When the woman left, Penny leaned back in the tufted seat of the booth and smiled. “I’d heard it was more than in trouble. I’d heard the place was done for. Hemorrhaging customers and money.”
She blinked, going for an innocent expression. No doubt Cal would see through her attempt and want to strangle her. But he couldn’t. Because he needed her. Was, in fact, desperate for her help. How she loved that in a man. Especially in Cal.
“Things have been better,” he admitted, looking as if he hated every second of the conversation.
“The Waterfront is the oldest restaurant in the infamous Buchanan dynasty,” she said cheerfully. “The flagship. Or it used to be. Now you have a reputation for bad food and worse service.” She sipped her water. “At least that’s the word on the street.”
“Thanks for the update.”
His jaw tightened as he spoke. She could tell he was furious about this meeting. She had an idea of what he was thinking—of all the chefs in all of Seattle, why did it have to be her?
She didn’t know either, but sometimes a girl couldn’t help catching a break.
“Your contract is up,” he said.
She smiled. “Yes, it is.”
“You’re looking for a new position.”
“Yes, I am.”
“I’d like to hire you.”
Five little words. Words that weren’t significant on their own, but when joined together, could mean the world to someone. In this case, her.
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