Delicious(Buchanans, Book 1)(84) by Susan Mallery
“I can’t leave you now. Not with everything going on and the baby coming. What about the restaurant? You need me.”
Dani looked at Penny. “I could do that.”
Penny stared at her. “But it’s The Waterfront. Why would you go work for your grandmother again?”
“I wouldn’t be. Your contract allows you to bring in your own crew, doesn’t it?”
“Hello,” Naomi said. “Still in the room. There’s no need to have this conversation right now.”
Penny ignored her. “Three people. I only brought in Naomi and Edouard because the rest of the crew is so great. So adding you wouldn’t be a problem.”
It could work, she thought. She and Dani hadn’t worked together, but they knew each other and she knew Dani put in long hours. She’d survived Burger Heaven nearly five years. She was tough and smart.
“The job is yours if you want it,” Penny told Dani.
Naomi stood. “You’re giving away my job? Just like that? What about the baby? You’re going to need help as you get closer to your due date.”
“I’ll be here,” Dani said. “I can help.”
“There,” Penny said. “You don’t have any more excuses.”
Maybe it wasn’t fair to push her friend, but thinking about Naomi’s life kept her from dwelling on the disaster hers had become. A disaster that would get a whole lot more lonely once Naomi left.
Penny stood and hugged Naomi. “I’ll miss you so much.”
Naomi squeezed her. “I won’t be gone that long. Just a few weeks.”
Or forever, Penny thought. Maybe Naomi would be lucky enough to find there was still a whole life waiting for her back in Ohio.
“Is this a chick thing or can anyone join in?”
Penny turned at the sound of Reid’s voice. “What are you doing here?”
“Hell of a way to greet me,” he said as he walked over and pulled her close. “Dani called me.”
“I thought you’d want him here,” Dani said. “Is that okay?”
Penny was too busy crying to do much more than nod.
Reid wrapped his arms around her. He was tall and strong and she felt as if she could lean on him forever.
“Go ahead and cry,” he said, smoothing her hair and rocking her gently. “My brother is a lying bastard and his days are numbered.”
“You can’t kill him,” Dani said. “Not even for Penny.”
Penny raised her head and sniffed. “I don’t want him dead.”
“Fine. I’ll just teach him a lesson. How’s that?”
Penny shook her head. “No fighting.”
Reid grunted. “I’m sorry,” he said.
That was enough to set her off again. She pressed her face into his chest. “It hurts so much. He doesn’t love me. He’s moving away and so’s Naomi and Dani’s going to help me but nothing is ever going to be the same.”
“I’m here and I love you,” Reid said.
“I know. That’s good.”
She raised her head again and looked at him. “Why couldn’t I fall in love with you?”
He smiled, then kissed her cheek. “Not a good idea, kid. I’m not one of the good guys. You’re better off with Cal or Walker.”
Penny didn’t think so but it didn’t matter. She and Reid could only ever be friends. The heart, ever a contrary organ, had apparently decided she could only love one man. Even if that man was destined to forever be breaking her heart.
CAL DROVE AROUND until sunset, then returned to his house. He wanted to go see Penny, but first he had to figure out what he wanted to say to her. Until then, he had a feeling showing up there would only make things worse.
She was right about him, he thought as he turned onto his street. She always had been. In the past, he’d been okay with that but this time he wanted things to be different. He wanted to be different.
He headed into his driveway and saw two other cars there. As he glanced toward the front door. He saw Reid and Walker on the porch, having what looked like a heated conversation.
“What’s up?” he asked as he climbed out of his car and walked toward them.
Reid glared at him. “You made Penny cry,” he said, his voice a low growl. “Nobody makes Penny cry.”
“So what does that mean?” Cal asked. “You’re here to make me pay?”
“You got that right.”
Cal shrugged, not the least bit worried about taking Reid on in a fight. His brother might be the same size and in great shape, but Cal had some repressed anger on his side.
He turned to Walker. “You gonna help him?”
Walker shrugged. “No. I’m here to make sure you don’t both kill yourselves.”
Cal knew fighting wouldn’t change anything one way or the other, but in that moment, he didn’t care. He wanted to lash out at someone and if his brother was willing to be a target, then that was good enough for Cal.
He stepped onto the lawn and beckoned Reid. “Bring it on, little brother.”
For a second he thought Reid wouldn’t react. Then his brother came flying at him.
Their bodies collided with a force that rattled every bone in his body. They both went down. Cal got to his feet first and was ready to defend himself when Reid came out swinging.
Cal ducked, got in a good punch to the gut that reverberated back to his elbow. Reid clipped his jaw, which made Cal stagger back a step. A couple more hits by each of them and he was rethinking his plan. He hadn’t been in a fight since he was thirteen years old and he’d forgotten how much they hurt.
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