Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(18) by Susan Mallery
“I want to help.”
“You will. Tell me you drive something bigger than that expensive toy.”
“I have a full-sized truck.”
“Good. Go get it. Dress dirty. We’re going to Pike Place Market. But first I’m calling my fish people and finding out what they can do for me.” She winced. “They’re going to charge a lot for a last minute order.”
“We’ll pay.” He moved close and grabbed her shoulders. “I’m sorry the delivery was crap, but we’ll handle this. We can do an opening night chef’s menu and pretend it was our plan all along.”
“I know, but you have the easy part. You just have to print it out on the computer and slip it into the menus. I have to figure it all out and then make sure we have enough food, then cook it.”
“You can do it.”
“There’s an assumption.”
He saw the doubt in her eyes.
He felt her pain and annoyance and couldn’t think of a damn thing to make her feel better. She deserved more. Worse, he was partially to blame. He’d insisted on keeping the old vendors.
“Yes? Any solution would be welcome.”
When he was silent, she sighed. “Yeah, I don’t have a miracle up my sleeve, either. Okay, meet us at the market in forty-five minutes,” she said. “We’ll check out what’s available and I’ll come up with a menu. Then we’ll put it all together and pray that it works.”
CAL WALKED THROUGH the dining room at eight-thirty on opening night. Every table was full and there wasn’t an empty seat at the bar. Quiet music blended with conversation and laughter from the guests. He could smell the various foods and hear the comments of surprise as people tasted one of Penny’s many special dishes.
The disaster had been averted.
Three hours at the market, with everyone running around buying mushrooms, shallots, fish, shellfish and ingredients for salad had produced a Chef’s Menu that should fool everyone. He couldn’t believe she’d pulled it all together so quickly, but she had.
He crossed the floor and pushed through the swinging door. In contrast to the quiet elegance of the dining room, the kitchen was a loud, bright, crazy house of activity.
“Fire up!” one of the cooks yelled. “Fire up, you skinny-assed sonofabitch.”
“Puta,” the other man replied without looking up from his pan where he sautéed shrimp with various vegetables.
“Table three. I’m waiting on bisque,” Naomi yelled from the front. “Bisque, ladies. How hard is that?”
Another chef pushed a full bowl toward her. She grabbed it, put it on a tray, expertly turned, then hustled out into the dining room.
Cal moved next to Penny who watched everything anxiously. She fingered the orders lined up and then turned to him. “What’s the next seating?” she asked.
“Two tables of four are going to open up in about five minutes.”
“Okay, once they’re seated, switch the menu.” She shook her head. “I hate this.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“Ha. Like that helps me now.”
He was just as pissed as she was, but figured there was no point in showing it. One of them screaming was enough. But the contracts with the old supplier had already been canceled and the new company would start in the morning. He would be there himself to make sure everything was up to standard. If it wasn’t, there would be hell to pay.
“I’ve never had to do this,” Penny said. “It’s opening night, Cal. I’m playing fast and loose with the menu. One special order could sink me. I don’t need this kind of pressure.”
The small printer in the corner spat out three more orders. Penny lunged for them. He sidestepped her and started out of the kitchen. On his way, he passed Naomi.
“She still threatening to kill you?” the other woman asked.
“Not to my face.”
“You should have been here earlier.” Naomi lowered her voice. “Orange sherbet. Bring her some and she’ll be eating out of your hand. Assuming you’re into that sort of thing.”
He looked at Naomi. “Why are you being nice to me?”
She grinned. “Because sex with your brother was so amazing, I’m feeling at one with the world. I’d say that you should try it, but that’s a place neither of us wants to go.”
“You got that right.”
He left the kitchen and made his way to his office. Leaving the store wasn’t an option—not on opening night. But he was management, he knew how to delegate. Once there he picked up the phone and called Reid. “Do me a favor,” he said. “Stop at the store on your way over and pick up some orange sherbet.”
IT WAS AFTER MIDNIGHT before the last guests had left, the kitchen had been cleaned and the staff clocked out. Penny sat at a round table for six, her feet propped on a chair, her lower back aching.
Every cell in her body groaned with exhaustion. She’d been at the restaurant since shortly after six. Eighteen-hour days weren’t all that uncommon in the business, but she was pregnant and apparently that changed things.
“You did good,” Dani told her. “I was impressed.”
“Thanks. I just never wanted to have to replace menus partway through the evening.”
Talk about doubling the work in the kitchen. But they’d done it. Their first night in business was a hit.
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