Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(70) by Susan Mallery
“What? No. Alison’s hair was straight.” And pale blond. Lindsey’s had been golden-blond and long. How much time would it take her to grow it back?
“Welcome to the germ-free zone,” Tracy said as they walked through the doorway. “Nothing can go into Lindsey’s room without being disinfected.”
“I didn’t bring her anything,” Cal said. He’d wanted to but his reading had warned him that she wouldn’t be able to accept anything like flowers or plants. He hadn’t known what else to bring.
“Good.” She showed him where the gowns and masks were, along with booties and caps for his hair. Penny settled into a chair with a magazine.
“Good luck,” she told him.
Five minutes later he was in Lindsey’s room. Tracy introduced him. Lindsey smiled and kept her gaze firmly fixed on him.
He looked back. His daughter was tall and slender, with large blue eyes and a smile that could light up Seattle. She wore a scarf on her head that reminded him of Penny’s head coverings in the kitchen.
He could see bits of Alison in her—the shape of her eyes, the way she tilted her head.
“I don’t know what to say,” Lindsey told him with a shy smile. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I was glad to help.”
“Did it hurt when they took your bone marrow?”
“I was asleep. I had a couple of bruises afterwards, but they’re no big deal. You’re the one going through the worst of it.”
Lindsey wrinkled her nose. “I was really sick for a while. Chemo is totally gross. But it’s over and now I’m feeling better.”
She sat up in her bed, on top of the covers. Brightly colored sweats covered her legs and she had on a blue long-sleeved fuzzy shirt that buttoned in front. There were IV lines coming from her chest and her arm.
“We should all sit,” Tracy said as she busied herself pulling up a couple of chairs.
Cal took the one closest to his daughter. She was so beautiful, he thought. He’d seen her before, of course, but always from a distance. Now he was close enough to see the color in her cheeks and the little mole she had on the side of her neck.
“I understand you’re a senior in high school,” he said.
“Yeah.” She sighed. “I’m probably going to miss graduation. Even though I’ll be better by then, it’s a big crowd and I have to avoid them for the next six months. I’m going to UW. Um, the University of Washington.”
He grinned. “I know. I went there.”
“Really? What did you study?”
“Oh.” She wrinkled her nose again. “I’m going pre-law. I want to learn about a lot of different things. Then I’m going to law school to study environmental law. You know, save the planet.”
She was young enough to believe that was possible, he thought in wonder. And he was entranced enough to think she could.
“I won’t be starting until January, though. The whole crowd thing. But my mom talked to the admissions people and there are some classes I can take online, which is totally great. So I’ll have the same number of units as everyone else when I finally get there.”
“You’ll have to let me know how it all goes,” he said.
“Really? You’d be interested?”
Tracy smiled at her daughter. “Honey, he just saved your life. I think he has a little something invested in your future.”
“Right. I never thought of it that way. Okay. Sure. I can let you know. Do you do e-mail?”
“Me, too. I love it. And instant messaging. I would just die without that and my cell phone to keep in touch with all my friends.” She flashed a smile at Tracy. “Mom’s been great about letting me do that. Of course we got unlimited local calling and my friends all have it, too.” Her voice trailed off. “You probably don’t care about that.”
Actually, he did. He wanted to hear about every aspect of her life. He couldn’t believe he was here, so close to her. He wanted to hug her and tell her who he was. He wanted to show her New York and Europe and watch her grow into a beautiful woman. Mostly, he wanted to turn back the clock and watch her from the time she’d been born.
The combination of pleasure at her company and pain for all he’d missed immobilized him. He ached in a way he’d never hurt before. She was incredible and no matter what he said or did, he couldn’t get those years back.
Lindsey frowned. “You look kinda familiar. It’s hard to tell with the mask, but I saw you when you came into the dressing room and I thought…” She looked from him to her mom, then back. “Do I know you?”
He’d been waiting for this moment for seventeen years. Here it was—the perfect invitation. The chance to tell her who he was.
Penny held her breath. Despite being in the waiting room, she could hear their conversation and she could feel Cal’s longing to be with his daughter. Love radiated out from him like heat from a stove. He’d done the right thing over and over and this was his reward. Yet she couldn’t help wanting to stop him.
The girl was an innocent in all this. She’d never wanted to know her birth parents. Why tell her now? It would change her forever, and possibly not in a good way. But Penny knew that Cal had earned this moment and right or wrong, he would take it.
“You’ve seen me,” Cal said, his voice thick with emotion.
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