Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(31) by Susan Mallery
“You’re right. I’ll keep looking until I find the right job. Maybe then I won’t regret all the years I’ve already wasted.”
He raised his eyebrows. “You’re too young for regrets.”
“You’d be surprised.” She sipped her latte. “My family owns restaurants. I’ve wanted to go into the business my whole life. My parents died when I was young and my grandmother raised me and my three brothers. There was always something tortured about my relationship with Gloria—that’s my grandmother. It was as if she didn’t really like me.” She paused. “I should probably stop talking now.”
“Not on my account,” he told her. “I’m a good listener.”
She frowned slightly. “Yes, you are. Why is that?”
For a second, she would swear he looked uncomfortable, then he smiled. “It’s a gift. Go on. Gloria was acting weird.”
She smiled. “More than weird. I got my master’s and came home to go to work in the family business. There are four restaurants in all. Two fine dining places, a sports bar and a place called Burger Heaven. She put me to work there, which was fine. I was more than willing to prove myself. But years went by and I couldn’t get her to talk to me about moving up the food chain. Nothing I did made her happy.”
She shook her head. “I finally quit.”
Gary studied her. “There’s more to it than that, Dani. But if you’re not comfortable talking about it, I understand.”
She believed him. He would be okay with her moving on. Yet there was a part of her that wanted to tell the whole story, to share it with someone outside of the family.
“Gloria and I had a huge fight. I demanded to know why she’d been holding me back. She said it was because I wasn’t a real Buchanan. My mother had had an affair and I was the result. She was never going to let me work anywhere but Burger Heaven. She said I wasn’t worthy. So I quit.”
Gary nodded slowly. “She sounds like a very unhappy woman.”
Dani blinked. “You’re taking her side?”
“Not at all. I’m saying that if she raised you and then later refused to see your potential because of who your father is, there are a lot of rules in her life. That doesn’t usually make people happy.”
“I hadn’t thought of it that way. Honestly, and I know this makes me sound like a horrible person, but I don’t care if she’s unhappy. She’s been so mean to me for so long.”
“So you quit and now you’re going to find something you like.”
“I am. No matter how long it takes.”
“What about your father? Are you also looking for him?”
“No.” Dani sipped her latte, then set it back on the table. “I’m afraid,” she admitted. “I’m guessing he didn’t know about me, but what if he did? What if he just didn’t care?”
She wasn’t looking for any more rejection in her life right now.
“Is that enough of a reason not to go looking for him?” Gary asked.
“So far it’s working just fine.”
“He’s your family. What is more important than that?”
Good question, she thought. “So what about your family?” she asked.
“Two sisters, both married. Between them they have seven kids.” He grinned. “I love being an uncle.”
“No kids of your own?”
His expression tightened slightly, then he relaxed. “I’ve never been married.”
He had to be in his mid to late thirties, she thought. While not everyone got married, it was strange that Gary hadn’t. He was a great guy. Kind and sensitive and easy to talk to. The kind of man who…
Duh, she thought, wanting to smack herself on the side of the head. Of course. He was g*y.
She looked him over. All the signs were there. His low-key occupation, the perfect grooming, his interest in actual conversation, the lack of any sexual spark.
Relief spilled into pleasure. If Gary was g*y then maybe they could be friends. She could use a few more friends in her life.
“I WOULD HAVE COOKED,” Madeline said as Lori stirred the simmering beef and filled a pot of water for the noodles.
“I’ve got it,” she said. “You cooked all week.”
Madeline leaned against the counter. “I cooked twice, we had takeout twice and leftovers once. I’m not overwhelmed with work.”
“You should be resting.”
“You should try to catch your breath,” her sister told her.
Lori set the pasta pot on the stove and turned on the heat. “I’m fine. The whole breathing thing is fine.”
“You looked panicked—like we’re going to be firebombed any second.”
Lori did her best to smile. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Which was a big, fat lie, she thought grimly. Madeline was many things, but stupid wasn’t one of them. Of course Madeline wasn’t anything bad or negative. She was perfect. Physically, mentally, spiritually. She was what the rest of the world aspired to be.
Lori had given up being bitter about that years ago. It was a matter of accepting her sister’s amazingness or live her life chronically cranky. She’d decided to move on. These days all she allowed herself was a little ambivalence.
The fact was Madeline couldn’t help being beautiful and smart and charming. So when Lori had realized she didn’t know how to get her feelings for Reid under control, she’d decided to manage them the only way she knew how. Introduce him to her sister.
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