Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(25) by Susan Mallery
“You do that. Want a beer?”
“No, thanks. I need to get back to the restaurant.”
He made a fist. Reid did the same, then they banged them together.
“Hang in there, big brother,” Reid said. “This isn’t your kid. You don’t have to sweat what goes on this time.”
Cal walked out of the office and headed for the front door. When the valet had retrieved his car, Cal drove back toward the restaurant.
Too much had happened too fast, he thought. Penny being pregnant. Learning that Reid and Walker knew about his daughter.
He remembered the fights he and Gloria had had back then. How he’d screamed at her with all the fury of a seventeen-year-old being denied something precious. It was amazing everyone in the neighborhood hadn’t heard. But his brothers hadn’t said anything. They’d waited for him to go to them, and he never had.
He should have. They would have understood. Especially three and a half years ago when his marriage had been unraveling. Penny had been pressuring him to emotionally engage, to have a baby with her, to be in their marriage. He’d been holding her as far away as he could while he dealt with the horror of knowing his only daughter had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
For three months he’d waited to hear what would happen. Lindsey’s adoptive parents had kept him informed at every stage of her treatment. He remembered the agony of not knowing if the chemo would work. Wondering if his daughter was going to live or die and then the joy when Lindsey had beaten the disease.
Should he have told Penny about her? At the time he’d known he couldn’t. She would never have understood how he could care so much about a child he had with someone else and yet be unwilling to have a baby with her. He hadn’t known how to explain he was afraid of losing Lindsey all over again.
So she’d pushed for more and he’d retreated until eventually she’d walked out. Her leaving had seemed like the best thing for both of them.
He entered the restaurant and spoke with his assistant manager, then he walked to the kitchen. As always, the level of noise filled his head with shouts, the hiss of the steamer, the roar of the grill.
“Three more salmon,” one of the waiters called as he put down a tray. “The lady wants to know what you put in the sauce.”
Penny looked up, saw him and turned her attention to the waiter. “Sorry, it’s a secret. But I promise if I ever publish a cookbook, I’ll put the recipe in the first chapter.”
When the waiter left, Penny glanced at Cal. “You left during dinner.”
Her expression told him not to do it again, but she didn’t say the words. Penny was too good for that. She wouldn’t chew his ass in front of her staff.
But she wanted to and under the circumstances, he couldn’t blame her.
“We need to talk,” he told her. “Around ten?”
“Sure. I’ll be the one in the chef’s coat.”
BY NINE-FIFTEEN, things had quieted down. They’d worked through all their reservations and there were a few empty tables in the dining room. Cal retreated to his office to catch up on paperwork before his meeting with Penny. He wasn’t sure what he was going to say to her. He wanted to apologize for overreacting, but he couldn’t tell her about Lindsey. Not when she’d just told him she was pregnant. He wanted to make things right with her before he dropped that bombshell.
He sat at his desk, but instead of turning on his computer, he leaned back in his chair and remembered the first time Penny had told him she was pregnant. Neither of them had planned for it. Sometimes birth control failed.
He’d been stunned—first by complete happiness and then by guilt. Because he would get to keep this child. He would experience everything he’d missed with Lindsey. What if he loved his child with Penny more than Lindsey?
He hadn’t known where to get answers to his questions, or who to trust with his confusion. So he hadn’t said anything. Eventually Penny had noticed that as time went on, he seemed less and less thrilled. She couldn’t understand why he’d held back. But then she’d never held back in her life.
Cal turned and saw Gloria standing in the doorway to his office. He held in a groan. Yeah, right, because he needed more stress in his day.
“You’re not supposed to be here,” he told his grandmother.
Gloria swept into the small space and claimed the only other chair. “I don’t know why you think I spend my life micromanaging. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m just here because I want to see my grandson. Is there anything wrong with that?”
There wouldn’t be, if he believed her. But he didn’t. Gloria always had a purpose and a motive.
“Fine,” he said. “If this is strictly a social visit, then you won’t have anything to say about the restaurant.”
She pressed her lips together. “I did notice a few things.”
He stared at her. She exhaled slowly.
“I won’t mention them. Although why you don’t want constructive criticism is beyond me. I would think you would want the restaurant to be the best it can be.”
“Nice try, but I’m not biting.”
“Oh, all right.” She shrugged out of her coat. “I just wanted to let you know that Daniel quit.”
He stared at her. “Who’s Daniel?”
“Daniel Langstrom. The president of the company. Honestly, Callister, can’t you even pretend interest? He wouldn’t say why he left. It’s very inconvenient. He’s the third one to leave in fifteen months. The executive searches are very expensive. Not to mention time-consuming. One would think the search firms could bring better candidates.”
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