Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(71) by Susan Mallery
Penny’s eyes filled with tears. She glanced at Tracy and saw the woman trembling with emotion. No doubt she was terrified she would lose some part of her daughter. That a piece of her heart would be given to Cal.
“I’m one of the owners of The Daily Grind. My partners and I used to do the commercials on television.”
Penny blinked back tears as her heart froze in her chest. Was that it? She braced herself for more and was stunned when after a second Lindsey said, “Oh, yeah. That’s it. I knew you looked like somebody I knew.”
Then she mentioned how sad she was to miss the prom, but that her boyfriend had promised her they would go dancing as soon as she could handle the crowds. Cal asked if she had any pets and the conversation continued.
Tracy looked as stunned as she, Penny, felt. What had just happened? Why had Cal passed over the perfect opportunity to tell Lindsey who he was?
Fifteen minutes later the visit ended. Cal promised to answer Lindsey’s e-mail and she promised to keep in touch. She turned on the TV before they left the room.
When the door to Lindsey’s room was closed, Tracy turned to him. “Why didn’t you tell her?” she asked in a low voice.
Cal pulled off his protective gown. “I wanted to, but I couldn’t say the words. She’s a great kid, Tracy, and that’s because of you and Tom. But she’s still young and I didn’t want to screw with her world.”
Tracy threw herself at him. “Thank you,” she said as tears poured down her cheeks. “Thank you. I know you could have told her. You had every right. You’ve given her to us twice now and taken nothing for yourself. I don’t know how to repay that kind of sacrifice.”
Penny found herself fighting tears of her own. When Cal looked at her and raised his eyebrows, she shrugged. “Hormones,” she said with a sniff.
He patted Tracy’s back until she straightened. “I should get back to her,” she said.
“Thanks for letting me meet her,” he told Tracy.
“You’re a great man, Cal. Truly.” She wiped her face, then entered her daughter’s room.
Cal was quiet the whole way to the car. Once they were on the road, he looked at her. “I know it’s only three in the afternoon, but I need a drink. Want to keep me company?”
“Sure. Where do you want to go?”
“Somewhere quiet. How about my place?”
He didn’t speak again until they arrived at his house. Penny followed him inside, then watched as he poured himself a Scotch. After he’d taken a long drink, she walked over and touched his arm.
“You did a good thing,” she murmured.
He looked at her. “It hurt like hell. All I wanted was for her to be mine. I couldn’t stop thinking about everything I’d missed by giving her up. All those years. But look at the life she has with Tracy and Tom. I couldn’t have done that. I’d be hard-pressed to do that now, let alone at seventeen.”
“What changed your mind?”
He took another drink. “I realized that loving my daughter meant wanting what was best for her. For her, not for me. As much as I might want a place in her life, that’s not what she wants. She’s looking forward to college and growing up to change the world. She has great parents. She doesn’t need me barging in and changing everything.”
He put down the drink. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Harder than giving her up, even, because now I know what I’ve lost and back then I could only guess.”
She felt his pain as if it were her own. “I can’t fix this, but for what it’s worth, I’m incredibly proud of you. You did good.”
She nodded, then moved in front of him and raised herself on tiptoe so she could kiss his mouth. “Lindsey’s a very lucky young lady. She has a hell of a father in you.”
He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. As his mouth claimed hers, she felt his longing for both sex and relief from the pain. He wanted to find solace in her.
She gave in because she couldn’t imagine walking away. Not when she wanted him, too. But even as he ran his hands up and down her back and touched her bottom lip with his tongue, she knew she was making a big mistake.
Nothing had changed. If anything, Cal’s actions today had only reinforced what she knew to be true. He loved Lindsey enough to make the big and painful sacrifices. He was, at his core, a good man.
But that had never been the issue between them. The problems had been about his inability to love more than just his daughter. He hadn’t opened his heart to Penny or their child.
Had that changed or was she beating her head against an unmoving emotional wall?
“Earth to Penny,” he murmured, kissing the side of her neck. “You’re a thousand miles away. Do you want me to stop?”
Heat poured through her body. Every nerve ending begged for his touch. She wrapped her arms around him and surrendered to his sensual caress.
“Of course not,” she whispered.
He returned his mouth to hers. She parted for him. As he swept inside, she told herself it was a hell of a time to realize she was still in love with him.
LOVE. Was it possible? Penny told herself it wasn’t and yet she felt the emotion building inside of her.
Not now, she thought as Cal tugged at the hem of her shirt. Now wasn’t for thinking, it was for feeling.
He pulled the shirt over her head and tossed it onto the table by the sofa. After running his hands across her shoulders and down her arms, he gently cupped her br**sts.
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