Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(21) by Susan Mallery
“This guy was bugging me. He didn’t like that I’d been promoted over him. You know how guys are in the kitchen. Every word is profane and it’s a giant power play. The guy had been backing me into the corner and touching me. I told him to stop it or I’d make him stop it.”
She paused as Cal stiffened. “Don’t get all macho on me. I mean it. I took care of him.”
There was anger in that word. His hands curled into fists and he looked ready to take on the world.
His reaction was that of a man to a woman in jeopardy. She liked that he was still one of the good guys, even if he wasn’t good for her.
“I didn’t exactly have a plan. One day I was cutting up chicken. Someone called to me. I turned, just as the guy moved close. I don’t think he meant to do anything. It was a small kitchen and really crowded. Anyway, I was holding the knife and someone bumped me from behind. I fell forward, so did the knife, which slid neatly between his ribs.”
She shrugged. “I didn’t hit anything vital and even though I told the police it was an accident and everyone backed me up on that, all the guys in the kitchen thought I’d done it on purpose. Including him.”
“What happened when he came back?”
“He called me ma’am.”
Cal grinned. “Good for you. Now you have a reputation for being a tough boss.”
“Now I have a reputation for being a dangerous bitch who’ll take out your eye if you talk back to her. I like that. It makes my job easier. I wonder how Gloria heard about it?”
“She hears everything.”
“Ah. A network of spies to admire.”
Penny was suddenly aware of the quiet of the evening. Except for the guy cleaning up the dining room they were alone. It was late, she was tired and that made her vulnerable to Cal’s appeal.
Dangerous, she thought. It was past time for her to head home.
“It’s late,” he said.
“So I was just thinking.”
“You head out. I’ll lock up.”
She jumped down from the counter. He moved toward her.
It was one of those moments when good sense seemed highly overrated.
“What are you thinking?” he asked.
Despite the tension, she grinned. “Yeah. But I’m cute when I do it.”
They moved closer until they were almost touching. And then they were in each other’s arms, his mouth on hers.
Several things occurred to her at once, the foremost being that the man could still kiss like the devil. Even with his lips only lightly pressing hers, she felt shivers and heat and need. Second, her br**sts were so exquisitely sensitive—probably from a combination of abstinence and the pregnancy—she suspected if he’d simply touch her tight ni**les she would explode into orgasm.
She wanted to throw her arms around him and give in to the moment. She wanted to crawl inside of him and see how much two-become-one they could muster. But then that pesky third thought crept into her brain.
This was not a good idea.
She wanted it to be, but it wasn’t. Smart people did not get involved with their ex-husbands at work. Not even ones who were only sticking around for a few months.
She gathered every ounce of strength and stepped back.
His arms looked inviting and she wouldn’t mind more pressing her sex-starved body against his. But then what? Did she really plan to get naked with him? Ignoring the whole working together issue, the second he saw her without clothes, the secret would be out. She might be able to disguise her condition behind loose shirts at work, but in the nude, she was obviously pregnant.
Not exactly how she wanted to tell him, she thought.
“You still have it,” he said, his eyes dilated, his voice low.
“Not a good idea. Mixing work and…”
She nodded. “So I guess I’ll, ah, go.”
She headed for her office where she grabbed her purse and keys. “See you in the morning.”
He walked her to the back door. “Come in later. I’ll be here at seven to check on the delivery. If there’s a problem, I’ll call. Otherwise, you get some sleep.”
The concept was too heavenly to ignore. “Thanks. You have to check the fish. Sniff it. You shouldn’t be able to smell anything.”
He smiled. “I know how to buy fish, Penny. I’ve done this before.”
“So you say.”
She hesitated, suddenly wanting something more but not sure what it was. A connection? Closure?
Whatever it was, she and Cal had already had their chance and messed it up big time. There was no going back.
TWO WEEKS LATER Cal ran the numbers a second time, then tossed the report in the air. “Damn, we’re good,” he said. They were already thirty percent above their income projections. Profits were only up eighteen percent, but that was because Penny insisted on large portions of expensive ingredients. As much as he hated to admit it, she was onto something.
Someone knocked on his open door. He glanced up, then waved in the young woman standing there.
Tina was still in street clothes, her coat and handbag over her arm. She held her punch card.
“You said you wanted to see me?” she asked.
Rather than asking her to sit, he stood, then pointed at the clock on his wall.
“Care to tell me what that says?” he asked.
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