Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(38) by Susan Mallery
“Penny. She’s upset because she’s not getting any,” Edouard said, staring at the carrier. “What do you have in there? A dog? There will be no dogs in my kitchen. Go. Shoo.”
He waved his hands toward the door, as if that would make Cal retreat.
No such luck, Penny thought, knowing her cheeks were on fire. Kitchens were rowdy, randy places where no one had secrets and every weakness was a target. She knew that and accepted it. But why did Edouard have to announce her lack of sex to Cal? And why was her ex-husband grinning at her?
“What?” she asked. “Did you have something you wanted to say to me?”
He held out the grocery bag. She took it and looked inside. Instantly her stomach growled.
“You brought me cilantro.”
He shrugged. “You said you needed it.” He set down the pet carrier and opened it. “This is for the other problem,” he said as a massive black-and-white cat jumped gracefully out.
“A cat!” Edouard sounded so horrified, Penny half expected him to jump on the counter. “No. No! They shed. The hair would be everywhere.”
“I agree,” Penny said. “No cats in my kitchen. It’s not sanitary. We won’t even discuss the health code violations.”
“Better a cat than rats,” Cal said. “He’s not an indoor cat. He’s a hunter. Guess what he likes to eat?”
That was something. She eyed the creature. “How much does he weigh?”
“Twenty-eight pounds. The lady at the shelter said he was clean, friendly and always on the prowl. He’s big enough that rats shouldn’t be a problem.”
The cat looked around, then strolled over to Penny. He rubbed against her leg and started to purr. She bent down and petted it. “Nice kitty.” She looked at Cal. “Does he have a name?”
She felt the muscles in his back. “I hope he really does eat what he catches, otherwise he’s going to be damned expensive to feed.”
Edouard continued to eye the cat as if it would attack him. Suddenly the cat’s ears perked up and it took off toward the open wall. It slipped inside and there was silence.
“Seal up the wall quickly,” Edouard said. “While we still can.”
Penny shook her head. “The cat stays. The building is old. There have been so many remodels, I’m sure there are dozens of places the exterminator can’t get to. A cat is a good idea.”
At least she hoped it was.
A low rumble told her the second produce truck had arrived.
“It’s all going to be crap,” she muttered as she made her way outside. “The good stuff was in the crash.”
“Can’t you sort through it?” Cal asked, falling into step beside her.
“I’ll have to.”
“I’ll help.” When she looked at him, he added, “I know what decent lettuce looks like. I might not be a trained chef, but I’m not an idiot.”
“I’ll accept that.” She was grateful he was going to ignore what he’d heard earlier. Maybe he would even—
“Not getting any, huh?” he asked with a grin. “Bummer.”
PENNY STOOD and chopped cilantro. Her back ached, a fairly new event in her pregnancy, but one she was willing to live with. In an effort to ease the pressure, she scrounged a footstool and rested her left foot on it. The new position helped and she resumed her chopping and imagined forty-seven ways she could use cilantro in various dishes.
She winced when she heard Cal call her name. It had been nearly a week since Edouard had announced she wasn’t “getting any” and she was still feeling a little self-conscious. Not that Cal had been anything but the perfect gentleman. She couldn’t complain about that. But still, it was embarrassing.
She looked up. “We’re fine in here. All the orders are out. Do not tell me we have an unexpected party of twelve showing up.”
“No. We’ve cleared the reservations. We’re done for the night.”
He walked toward her, all tall and good-looking in slacks and a sweater. Gloria might be a bitch on wheels, but her grandsons came from a mighty fine gene pool. Just looking at Cal, at the way his body moved and the slight smile on his lips, made her knees wobble. Not a good thing when she was holding such a sharp knife.
“You’re off tomorrow,” he said into her ear.
His warm breath tickled and aroused in equal measures. There hadn’t been any repeats of their hot kisses. She’d told herself she didn’t care. She’d told herself it was better this way. She’d been lying both times.
“Is that a question or a statement?” she asked.
She kept her gaze on her cilantro. It had been delivered fresh and smelled heavenly. “Yes.”
“Good.” He tucked a piece of paper into her jacket pocket. “My place. Tomorrow. Sixty-thirty. I’m cooking. Here are directions.”
“What if I have plans?” she asked, turning her head so she could meet his gaze. His dark eyes made her want to jump without looking. A divorce and being many years wiser than the last time she’d jumped made her less sure.
She was tempted to say she did. Except she was curious about why Cal was inviting her over. Plus the man was offering to cook. Most people assumed chefs hated to eat anyone else’s food or that they were critical. Maybe others were, but Penny loved having someone else take responsibility for the food.
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