Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(2) by Susan Mallery
“I’ve had other offers,” Penny said calmly.
“Have you accepted any of them?”
Cal was tall, about six-three, with dark hair. His face was all sculpted cheekbones and stubborn jaw, and his mouth frequently betrayed his mood. Right now it was thin and straight. He was so angry, he practically spouted steam. She’d never felt better.
“I’m here to offer you a five-year contract. You get complete control of the kitchen, the standard agreement.” He named a salary that made her blink.
Penny took another sip of her water. In truth she didn’t want just another job. She wanted her own place. But opening a restaurant took serious money, which she didn’t have. Her choices were to take on more partners than she wanted or wait. She’d decided to wait.
Her plan was to spend the next three years putting away money, then open the restaurant of her dreams. So while a big salary was nice, it wasn’t enough.
“Not interested,” she said, with a slight smile.
Cal’s gaze narrowed. “What do you want? Aside from my head on a stick.”
Her smile turned genuine. “I’ve never wanted that,” she told him. “Well, not after the divorce was final. It’s been three years, Cal. I’ve long since moved on. Haven’t you?”
“Of course. Then why aren’t you interested? It’s a good job.”
“I’m not looking for a job. I want an opportunity.”
“More than the standard agreement. I want my name out front and complete creative control in back.” She reached into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. “I have a list.”
DOING THE RIGHT THING had always been a pain in the ass, Cal thought as he took the sheet and unfolded it. This time was no different.
He scanned the list, then tossed it back to her. Penny didn’t want an opportunity, she wanted his balls sautéed with garlic and a nice cream sauce.
“No,” he said flatly, ignoring the way the afternoon sunlight brought out the different colors of red and brown in her auburn hair.
“Fine by me.” She picked up the sheet and started to slide out of the booth. “Nice to see you, Cal. Good luck with the restaurant.”
He reached across the table and grabbed her wrist. “Wait.”
“But if we have nothing to talk about…”
She looked innocent enough, he thought as he gazed into her big blue eyes, but he knew better than to believe the wide-eyed stare.
Penny could be convinced to take the job; otherwise she wouldn’t have bothered with a meeting. Playing him for a fool wasn’t her style. But that didn’t mean she wouldn’t enjoy making him beg.
Given their past, he supposed he’d earned it. So he would bargain with her, giving in where he had to. He would even have enjoyed the negotiation if only she didn’t look so damn smug.
He rubbed his thumb across her wrist bone, knowing she would hate that. She’d always lamented her large forearms, wrists and hands, claiming they were out of proportion with the rest of her body. He’d thought she was crazy to obsess about a flaw that didn’t exist. Besides, she had chef’s hands—scarred, nimble and strong. He’d always liked her hands, whether they were working on food in the kitchen or working on him in the bedroom.
“Not going to happen,” he said, nodding his head at the paper and releasing his hold on her. “You know that, too. So where’s the real list?”
She grinned and eased back into the booth. “I heard you were desperate. I had to try.”
“Not that desperate. What do you want?”
“Creative freedom on the menus, complete control over the back half of the store, my name on the menu, ownership of any specialty items I create, the right to refuse any general manager you try to stuff down my throat, four weeks vacation a year and ten percent of the profits.”
The waitress appeared with their lunches. He’d ordered a burger, Penny a salad. But not just any salad. Their server laid out eight plates with various ingredients in front of Penny’s bowl of four kinds of lettuce.
As he watched, she put olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette and ground pepper into a coffee cup, then squeezed in half a lemon. After whisking them with her fork, she dumped the diced, smoked chicken and feta onto her salad, then sniffed the candied pecans before adding them. She passed over walnuts, took only half of the tomato, added red onions instead of green and then put on her dressing. After tossing everything, she stacked the plates and took her first bite of lunch.
“How is it?” he asked.
“Why do you bother eating out?”
“I don’t usually.”
She hadn’t before, either. She’d been content to whip up something incredible in their kitchen and he’d been happy to let her.
He returned his attention to her demands. He wouldn’t give her everything she wanted on general principle. Plus it was just plain bad business.
“You can have creative control over the menus and the back half of the store,” he said. “Specialty items stay with the house.”
Anything a chef created while in the employ of a restaurant was owned by that restaurant.
“I want to be able to take them with me when I go.” She forked a piece of lettuce. “It’s a deal-breaker, Cal.”
“You’ll come up with something new there.”
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