Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(81) by Susan Mallery
Penny didn’t want to believe her. It couldn’t be true. Cal moving? He hadn’t said a word.
“You’re a cold, calculating lying bitch,” she told Gloria. “I don’t know why you find such pleasure in hurting people, but you do. Dani only ever wanted to make you proud of her, but you couldn’t accept that. You had to run her off.”
Gloria sniffed. “Dani is hardly my granddaughter. We’re no blood relation at all.”
“Funny how worried you are that Dani’s not a Buchanan when you’re not one yourself. If I remember my history correctly, you married into this family. You were a poor nobody. What? A hotel chambermaid?”
Penny allowed herself a slight smile. “Oh, yeah. I did my research on you years ago. I know all about your affair with Ian Buchanan and how when that ended, you married his son. Tell me, Gloria. Were you still banging Daddy when you walked down the aisle with the son?”
“You slut,” Gloria hissed.
“You should know.”
“I’ll destroy you.”
“You can try. I’m up to the fight. But before you waste your effort on that, let me share one thing with you. You’re an old woman. You’ll be dead soon. But first you’re going to be alone because you’ve driven anyone interested in loving you away. Now get the hell out of my kitchen.”
PENNY SAT IN HER OFFICE long after Gloria had left. She had to wait for the shaking to stop before she could catch her breath. That hadn’t just happened, she told herself, even though she knew it had. No one could imagine an encounter like that. At least not on purpose.
“A nightmare,” she murmured. “That woman is a nightmare.”
She put her arms on her desk and rested her head on them. It was fine, she told herself. She was fine. Gloria could scream and yell and tell all the lies she wanted, but Penny refused to believe them. There was no way that old bitch was going to drive a wedge between her and Cal.
Of course she knew he was only working at the restaurant for four months. He’d told her that from the beginning. He wasn’t the man he had been three years ago. He didn’t keep secrets anymore. She knew about Lindsey and Dani and why he’d tried to keep her out of the family business. Honestly, after Gloria’s last visit, his motivation seemed more noble than ever.
But he hadn’t mentioned anything about expanding The Daily Grind back east.
“No,” she said as she sat up. “No, no, no. I won’t let her get away with this.”
Cal wasn’t leaving. He would have told her. They’d become friends. They were lovers. Their lives were entwined in a way they hadn’t been since they were married. She mattered to him. She had to because she was totally in love with him.
“Everything is fine,” she said aloud. But the words didn’t sound right and she didn’t believe them.
Hating herself for letting Gloria get to her, she found an old phone book in her bottom desk draw and looked up the corporate headquarters for The Daily Grind. After a receptionist answered, she asked for someone in charge of their corporate expansion.
CAL SAT in his office at The Daily Grind and considered his life. After tallying up the wins and losses, he knew he’d come up short of even, which meant he needed a new game plan.
Dani was furious at him, and rightfully so. He should have told her a long time ago. He should have known she was tough enough to hear the truth and that however it hurt her, better that she hear it from someone who loved her rather than from Gloria whose agenda was her own twisted secret. Dani would survive, but the timing sucked, coming on the heels of Hugh’s shitty behavior.
He should have listened to Penny.
Shaking his head, he turned to his computer, but instead of the screen, he saw Penny’s smiling face. So much had happened so quickly, he thought. So much had changed. After the divorce he’d assumed she was out of his life forever. He’d resisted taking the job at The Waterfront because he didn’t want to deal with Gloria. But she’d guilted him into it and because of that, he and Penny were…
Were what? Back together? He wouldn’t go that far, but they mattered to each other. Once again he’d fallen for her smile, her brain, her talent. She was funny and beautiful and fearless.
She was strong. Having a baby on her own. He never would have guessed that one, even knowing how much she wanted children. She would be a great mom.
He stood and walked to the window. His side of the building looked toward Lake Union. As he stared out on the cloudy sky, he thought about her growing bigger with her baby. About her giving birth…by herself.
No, not by herself. Naomi would be there. And Dani. Reid. Would he? Would he want to be in the room with her, holding her hand, telling her to breathe?
The question immobilized him. What did he want with Penny?
Instantly Lindsey came to mind, but for once he didn’t think about all he’d lost by giving her up. Instead he thought about her life. How much her parents loved her. How much she was their world. They didn’t care that they hadn’t created her themselves.
It could be like that, he thought. For him and Penny’s baby. Loving a child wasn’t about biology. It was about the heart.
Seventeen years ago, he’d made the only choice that made sense. Now, with hindsight, he knew it was the right choice. He’d allowed guilt and anger to blind him to that. He’d punished himself by refusing to be happy.
He swore under his breath. That blindness had cost him his marriage, he realized.
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