Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(27) by Susan Mallery
She had a large plate of the batter-fried fish from her infamous fish and chips, a second plate with garlic smashed potatoes and a huge bowl of salad made with every vegetable she’d been able to dig up. There was enough to serve six or eight people, but sometimes she forgot how to cook for one.
She’d kind of thought Naomi would join her, but her friend had rushed off to warm Reid’s bed. Penny had always known they would eventually hook up and when they did, she would feel the temporary loss as her two closest friends entered a world of their own. She just hadn’t been expecting it now.
Cal walked into the dining room. She ignored him and began to fill her plate. He walked toward her.
“We had a good night,” he said.
“Numbers are still above projections.”
“You sound surprised,” she said.
“I am. I hope we can sustain the momentum.”
“No reason we can’t. The location is good, the food better. What’s not to like?”
He grinned. “You always did look on the bright side.”
“Beats the alternative.”
She looked at him then, at the handsome lines of his face and faint curve of his mouth. He wasn’t mad anymore and neither was she. Oh, she could pretend. Given a few minutes, she could work herself into a temper, but to what end?
“Only if you’re hungry,” she said. “I made a little extra.”
“So I see.”
He sat next to her and took one of the empty plates. After filling it, he picked up a fork and took a bite of potatoes.
“Still the best,” he said.
She shrugged. “Potatoes, garlic, butter, a few spices. You’re too easy, Cal.”
“I know what I like.”
That statement had danger written all over it, so she decided to change the subject. “I saw Gloria was here earlier. Mercifully, she stayed out of my kitchen. What did she want with you?”
“She’s trying to badger me into accepting the job of president of the corporation. The third guy in fifteen months just quit.”
“If he reports directly to her, I can see why.”
“That’s what I told her. I said she had to loosen up or she was going to lose everything.”
“You’d never do it,” Penny said confidently. “You’d hate working for her and you wouldn’t want to give up your work with The Daily Grind.”
He stared at her. “How do you know that?”
“Am I wrong?”
She smiled. “Cal, you’re a guy. Most of the time, you’re not very complex. Although there were a few times you confused the hell out of me.” She didn’t want to talk about them now. “So what’s the big deal? She should offer the job to Dani. She’d jump at the chance to run things and I think she’d do a good job.”
“That’s what I said, but Gloria won’t have any part of it.”
Typical, Penny thought. “Gloria’s always been horrible where Dani’s concerned. What’s the problem? What does she have against your sister?”
She expected Cal to brush off the question or say he didn’t know. He surprised her by putting down his fork and leaning toward her, then lowering his voice.
“She’s not a Buchanan.”
Penny couldn’t have been more surprised if Cal had morphed into a dancing squid. “Excuse me? She’s your sister.”
“Half sister. Same mother, different father. My dad was always really distant. He drank—I think having Gloria as his mother drove him to it. I don’t remember all that much about their marriage, but they never seemed happy or like other couples. At some point, she met someone else and had an affair. Dani was the result. I first found out about it when I graduated from college. I’d never guessed. None of us had.”
Penny instinctively reached for his hand and took it in her own. “That’s not possible. Of course Dani is one of you.”
“No. She’s completely different. Her looks, her personality. Also, look at how Gloria treats her. Dani thinks it’s because she’s a girl, but it’s more than that.”
Penny thought about the years she and Cal were married and interacting with the rest of the Buchanan family. Gloria was rude and difficult with everyone, but there was a special level of awfulness in her contact with Dani. It was almost…contempt.
“No,” Penny said, more to herself than Cal. “Family is everything to Dani. Being a Buchanan defines her world. The only thing she wants outside of her marriage is to run the corporation.”
“Gloria’s not going to let that happen.”
Penny squeezed his fingers. “Do Reid and Walker know?”
He nodded. “Gloria told them, then used the information to threaten them. Do what I say or I’ll tell your sister she’s not really part of this family.”
Penny’s chest tightened. “That’s awful. I never liked Gloria, but I never thought she was evil. Poor Dani. You have to tell her.”
Cal pulled his hand free and shook his head. “No way. I’m not screwing up her life.”
“Her life is already screwed. You’re keeping secrets from her, Cal. It’s not a good idea. I speak from personal experience.”
His gaze dropped to her belly. Without her white coat, her condition was fairly visible. While she doubted he’d noticed her br**sts were larger than usual, there was no way he could miss the distinct roundness of her belly.
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