Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(82) by Susan Mallery
How long had he been holding his heart in check so he didn’t get hurt? All his life? Maybe since his parents had died. Maybe since Gloria had started running his world with her twisted rules and cruel threats.
“Damn,” he muttered. “Get some therapy and move on, guy.”
He would move on, but not by himself. He loved Penny and he’d learned enough to make things work with her, if she would give him a chance.
Talk about an uphill battle, he thought grimly. If she knew he hadn’t wanted children before, children who were his, why would she believe he was willing to accept someone else’s baby?
He would convince her, he told himself. He would make her understand what was in his heart. He would tell her he’d finally learned what it meant to love someone. To love her.
He walked back to his desk and started to shut down his computer. Before it had finished, his assistant buzzed him.
“Yes,” he said.
“There’s someone to see you. Penny Jackson.”
Penny? “Send her in.”
He’d hoped to have a little time to figure out what he was going to say, but maybe it would be better to simply tell her now. The sooner he started convincing her, the sooner they could begin their life together.
The door opened. He stepped toward her, then stopped when he saw the fury in her eyes.
“You snake,” she said, her voice low and angry. “You lying, scummy, slithery snake. I consider myself a reasonable person. I’m willing to overlook a lot. I give second chances, but you are disgusting.”
He crossed to her and reached for her shoulders. She quickly stepped back.
“Don’t you dare touch me. Don’t ever touch me again.”
Cold panic slipped through him. “What the hell happened?”
She glared at him. “I defended you. I can’t believe it, but I did. Gloria came by for one of her emotional hit-and-runs. I defended you and all the time it was true.”
He opened his mouth to ask what she was talking about when he suddenly knew. He groaned.
“You’re leaving,” she said. “In less than a month you’re packing it all up and leaving Seattle. I understand everyone is very excited about The Daily Grind expanding back east. Too bad I don’t have stock in the damn company.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Don’t try to tell me it’s not true, Cal. I’ve already spoken to someone at your company. He was very friendly and explained the whole damn plan.”
Tears filled her eyes. She brushed them away with her hand. “I believed you,” she said. “I trusted you.”
“I’m sorry,” he said as sincerely as he knew how. “I should have told you.”
“Oh, right, but it just slipped your mind.”
“Yes,” he yelled. “I forgot! With all the crap going on lately, is that so much of a surprise? When I first hired you I told you I was the GM for four months. I didn’t think you cared what I did after that. Later, when we got involved, I planned to tell you but it wasn’t foremost on my mind. I didn’t keep this from you deliberately. It just happened. Besides, I’ve been talking to my partners. I’ve been rethinking my plans. It might be better if I stayed here.”
“Might be better?” she screamed. “That’s the best you can do? But it might not? Tell me, when do you plan to make up your mind?” She raised her hand. “On second thought, forget it. I don’t care anymore.”
She closed her eyes, then opened them. “I am such a fool,” she said, her voice back to normal, but so thick with sadness that he ached to hear her.
“You’re not,” he told her.
“A lot you know. You’re the reason. You’d think I’d learn. What’s that old saying? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Well, shame on me.”
What did that mean? He knew he was in deep shit with Penny, but he couldn’t help a flicker of hope deep inside.
“Don’t even go there,” she told him. “Not anymore. I loved you, Cal. Maybe for the second time, maybe I never stopped. I don’t know and now I don’t care. Because the truth is, you’re no different than you ever were. You still keep secrets. You’re still holding back, playing it safe, making sure you don’t get hurt. You’re still not willing to put your heart on the line. I’m not interested in a man like that. I’m not interested in someone I can’t trust.”
“But you love me.”
She grimaced. “I’ll get over it. And you.”
“But I love you, too.”
She stared at him for a long time, then turned toward the door. “I’ve heard that before and I know how little those words are worth.”
“IF THIS IS GOING TO become a regular occurrence,” Naomi said from her place next to Penny on the sofa, “then we’re going to need to establish some ground rules.”
Penny used the tissue to wipe her face, although she wasn’t sure why she bothered. No mattered how quickly she mopped up her tears, there were plenty of new ones to take their place.
“A code so we can call each other on the phone,” Naomi said as she continued to rub Penny’s back.
“A schedule so we don’t all break down at the same time,” Dani said from Penny’s other side.
“T-that would be good,” Penny said as she tried to fight the sobs building up inside of her.
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