Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(75) by Susan Mallery
“But I flunked out of college. Twice. And let me tell you, it’s hard to flunk out of community college.”
“You refused to settle. Your father and I always admired that about you.”
“Of course. All I’ve ever wanted was for my girls to be happy. You’ve made that happen. Oh, Emily and Julie did, too, but in a more traditional way. They knew what to expect from their lives. You never did. You forged your own path. That takes courage.”
Until that moment, Penny had always assumed her parents saw her as a failure. That they’d been disappointed in her stops and starts along the road of figuring out what she wanted to do with her life.
“Thanks, Mom,” she said and kissed the other woman on the cheek. “You’re the best.”
Her mother laughed. “All I ask is a chance to taste your cooking.”
Fay returned to the table. Penny continued toward the kitchen, only to be intercepted by Cal.
“Your folks are here.”
“I know. Sorry. I forgot to tell you.” She stared at his face, liking the way the light played on his features. “Hi.”
“Hi, yourself. How are you feeling?”
“As if I could sing opera,” she said with a smile. “You?”
“Pretty damned good.” He jerked his head toward the table with her family. “Okay for me to go over and say hello? Or would that be too awkward?”
“I think it would be fine. They always liked you.”
“Good. Then I’ll do that.” He brushed his fingertips down her arm. “Maybe we can get together later?”
“I’d like that.”
She walked into the kitchen only to find Naomi standing in the middle of the room with her hands on her hips.
“What?” Penny asked.
Naomi grabbed her and pulled her into her office. “I saw that,” she said. “The whole thing. The intimate conversation. The private touches. There’s something going on with you and Cal.”
“No, there isn’t. Well, maybe. Something. But it’s no big deal.” If she didn’t count being in love with him. Then it was practically nothing.
“And?” Naomi demanded.
“And, what? I went with him to see his daughter. He decided not to tell Lindsey who he is. It was hard for him. I saw the whole thing and it made me…”
“It made me like him.”
“Ha. As if that’s all that’s going on between you. I know there’s more, but I’m not sure I’m up to the details. Just be sure this time.”
Naomi sighed. “Be sure. Last time you left. You shouldn’t leave. It’s wrong and it hurts the people left behind.”
The unfair accusation stunned her. “I didn’t leave. Okay, technically I did move out, but that was only because Cal didn’t care. He’s admitted so himself. He didn’t love me.”
“You didn’t fight for him.” Naomi held up a hand. “Look, I’m sorry. You don’t need this from me and I’m hardly in any position to judge. I’m the queen of running away.”
Penny was having a hard time getting her head around the conversation. “I didn’t run from Cal.”
“Yes, you did. And that’s okay. I’m just saying that before you start something up again, you need to know if you’re in it for the long haul.”
Naomi returned to the kitchen, leaving Penny speechless and annoyed.
She hadn’t run. Cal had disappeared emotionally long before she’d moved out. The problems in their marriage weren’t about her. Were they?
As she walked to the door a voice in her head pointed out that it took two to make or break any relationship. That no one person was all in the wrong or all in the right. That maybe, just maybe, she had some culpability in what had gone wrong.
DANI HATED EVERYTHING about Gloria’s office. The size, the whiteness of it all. Being here always made her feel as if she’d been called to the principal’s office, even when she’d been the one to request the meeting.
It was seven-thirty on a Saturday night. Most people were at home with family or out on dates or with friends. Not her grandmother. Gloria was at the office and if Dani wanted to talk to her, that was where she had to be, too.
“You may go in now,” her secretary said, holding open the door to the inner sanctum.
Dani smiled at the woman, one of two secretaries Gloria employed. Her hours were such that one assistant simply wasn’t enough.
“Dani,” Gloria said from behind her very large, very white desk. “How nice of you to ask to see me.”
Gloria didn’t stand or offer to shake hands or hug. Not at the office. Here things were strictly business. Here they were never family.
“I took the liberty of going over the numbers at Burger Heaven,” Gloria continued as she motioned to the chair opposite her desk. “They look good. So I don’t think there’s a problem there, is there?”
Dani had dressed carefully in a pantsuit with a silk blouse. She kept her back straight as she perched at the edge of the chair.
“Burger Heaven is doing well,” she said. “Which is why I wanted to see you. I’ve served my time there, Gloria. There’s nothing left for me to learn. I’m ready to move up in the company.”
Gloria sighed. “You’ve said that before, Dani. Several times. No matter how I discourage you, you keep insisting on wanting to move up. Why is that?”
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