Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(78) by Susan Mallery
He crossed to her. “Dani, what’s wrong?”
When he went to hold her, she sidestepped his embrace.
“Get yourself something to drink and have a seat,” she said.
She shook her head. “You can’t fix this with a hug, Cal. Just get a drink. Please.”
Reid walked into the living room and handed him a beer. The two of them joined Walker on the sofa.
Dani faced them. “I went to see Gloria. I wanted to talk to her about my career with the company. I told her I was done with Burger Heaven and either she moved me up the food chain or I was quitting.”
Cal was getting a bad feeling in his gut. Nothing good could have come from the conversation.
“She’s a bitch, Dani,” Reid said. “Consider the source.”
His sister clutched her glass in both hands. She looked each of them in the face, then spoke. “She told me I would never move up in the company. When I pointed out that I had the most education in the business of any of her grandchildren and that I wanted it more, she explained why neither of those things was an issue. Can you guess why?”
Cal kept his gaze firmly locked on Dani. He watched pain fill her eyes and then he knew Gloria had finally made good on her threat to tell Dani about her father.
He stood. “Dani, it’s not—”
She turned on him. “Don’t you dare try to tell me this doesn’t matter. Of course it matters. It’s my life. It’s who I am.”
She glared at him as she spoke, then she set her glass down on the mantel and folded her arms over her chest.
“Oh, God. You know.”
He didn’t know what to say or do. Penny had warned him to come clean with Dani more than once. She’d said it would be a disaster if Dani found out on her own and she’d been right.
Walker and Reid stood. They looked at each other, then at Dani.
“Listen,” Reid began.
“No!” Dani took two steps back.
Cal moved toward her. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m so sorry.”
Tears filled her eyes. “I thought the worst of it was finding out I wasn’t who I thought I was. I thought the worst was knowing I wasn’t really one of you, but that’s not the worst, is it?”
“You’re one of us,” Cal told her. “You’re my baby sister. I love you, Dani.”
“How long?” she demanded. “How long have you known?”
Walker looked at him, then turned to Dani. “Since high school. That’s when Gloria told me. She said that she would tell you the truth if I went into the marines. I talked to Cal and Reid and found out she’d threatened them, as well. It was information she used to keep us in line. But I knew that if she hadn’t already told you the truth, for some reason she didn’t want to.”
Cal hadn’t thought of the situation that way, but Walker was right. Gloria had used whatever threat she thought would work best. He’d never considered that it was all just a game to her. He’d always been willing to do anything to protect Dani.
“I love you so much,” he told her. “I didn’t want to hurt you.”
She dismissed his statement with a frown. “Oh, please. You’ve been keeping secrets from me all my life.”
A single tear rolled down her cheek. She brushed it away impatiently. “What else did you know? What else did you keep from me? Hugh’s affair? Did he tell you all about it?”
Reid grabbed her by the upper arms, and stared into her face. “Dammit, Dani, stop it. I’m sorry. We’re all sorry. No, we didn’t know about your bastard husband. Yes, we’ve kept secrets, but only because we didn’t want to hurt you.”
“Don’t you think it hurts to never fit in? Don’t you think it hurts to not be one of the guys? To know you three have a bond I’ll never have?”
Cal reached for her. She jerked away from him, but he pulled her close and held her against him.
“You mean the world to us.”
“Bullshit. You treat me like a child. Do you know what it was like to keep trying and trying? Year after year I worked my butt off trying to please Gloria and no matter what I did it wasn’t enough. You all stood there, watching me fail and you never once thought to tell me why? To spare me that?”
She was right, he thought. This time when she tried to pull away, he let her.
She glared at them. “This was not your decision to make.”
Reid shook his head. “How do you say something like that to your only sister?”
“You find the words and if they don’t come easily, you keep looking for them. And I’m not your sister.”
Cal stared at her. “You will always be my sister. I don’t give a damn about who your father is. You’re my sister.”
“Half, technically,” she told him. “Get out.”
She sucked in a breath. “Just go. I don’t want to talk to any of you. Go!”
The last word came out as a scream. Cal looked at his brothers, then back at her. Was it better to give her time, or should he try to get her to understand that he’d only been trying to protect her?
As soon as he thought the words, he realized that he’d screwed up trying to protect Penny all those years ago and he’d just made things even worse with Dani. It seemed as if he wasn’t very good at taking care of those he loved.
“Dani,” Reid began.
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