Sizzling(Buchanans, Book 3)(39) by Susan Mallery
“I’m willing to put money on my guess.”
“She doesn’t take your crap,” Cal said. “I like that.”
“She keeps me honest,” Reid said. “No one’s done that before.”
Lori tried to take pleasure in the compliment but she didn’t want to keep Reid honest. She wanted to keep him up nights with unquenchable desire. Like that was ever going to happen.
“Honest, huh?” Cal raised his eyebrows. “Interesting.”
“Yeah, yeah. Fascinating,” Reid grumbled. “Let’s eat. Gloria must be hungry.”
Lori wrinkled her nose. “There’s no way your grandmother will eat this horrible, greasy food.”
“You think you know everything,” he said, stepping away from her. “But you don’t.”
Then he handed her the plate of wings with the bowl of dipping sauce in the middle.
“Cal, grab the rest of this,” he said. “I’ll bring in plates and napkins. Tell Penny I don’t want any complaints about the food. Now that she’s a hot chef, she complains too much.”
Lori felt awkward as she carried the food into Gloria’s room. There was a little too much family for her comfort and she didn’t want anyone to think she assumed she was one of them.
But when she entered the study, the number of chairs pulled up to Gloria’s hospital bed indicated a party of four joining the elder Buchanan.
Lori hovered and fussed with the food and the plates until Reid pushed her into a chair and took the one next to her.
“I should—” she began, only to be cut off when he handed her a plate covered in fried food.
“Eat,” he said.
He picked up a taquito and placed it between her lips. “Eat.”
Conversation flowed easily. She listened, rather than participated, as they talked business and family. She’d already met Walker and could place him, but Reid and Cal’s sister, Dani, was still a mystery to her.
“Walker has a handle on the business,” Cal was saying. “Sales are up at The Waterfront.”
“I’m a little annoyed by that,” Penny admitted. She’d placed the baby on the bed next to Gloria and pulled up the side bars to keep everyone safe. “I was gone for nearly two months. How could sales be up without me there to supervise the meals? I hate the thought of being replaceable.”
“You’re never that,” Cal told her.
Gloria chewed, then swallowed. “Obviously you left a well-trained staff in place. Plus, Walker mentioned something about an increase in advertising. That wouldn’t have helped if not for your excellent menus.”
Cal and Penny exchanged a look of surprise, then Penny murmured, “Thank you.”
Lori felt like a proud parent watching a child in her first play. She wanted to remind them all that Gloria wasn’t really evil. She’d just lost her way. But Lori didn’t want to break the mood by saying that. Instead she enjoyed the death food and the way Reid sat close to her. Was it totally stupid of her to pretend that this was real? That she was one of them and that Reid…what? Cared about her?
The longing was as intense as it was foolish. If she were friends with someone in her situation, she would tell her friend to get over the guy who was out of reach and move on with her life. That time spent dreaming was just a waste.
Reid passed her a couple of chicken wings. “Secret recipe,” he whispered in her ear. “You’ll love them.”
As he spoke, he winked. Talk about charming. Now that she knew a little more about his past, she couldn’t keep telling herself he had the emotional depth of a cookie sheet. There was more to the man than just good looks and a way with women.
The information hardly helped her situation. He was still as out of reach as the moon and she was nothing more than a coyote howling for what she would never have.
CAL, PENNY AND the baby left just as Sandy arrived for her evening shift. She helped Lori pack up the leftovers.
“Take any of this,” Lori said. “I doubt Gloria will have seconds and Reid doesn’t need them.”
Sandy grinned. “I don’t know. I think he looks pretty great.”
“I was thinking more of his heart than how he fits in jeans,” Lori said dryly. “And aren’t you engaged?”
“I’m in love, but I’m not dead. He’s still a fine-looking man. Any reason you’re not going for some? I know he’s interested.”
Lori felt a shift in the space-time continuum. She glanced at the clock on the microwave and half expected to see it moving backward.
“Excuse me?” she said, her voice low and breathless. “I don’t think so.”
Sandy shrugged. “I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. He looks at you like…” She paused, then said, “Like you matter. You’re important to him.”
Lori hated how desperately she wanted the other woman’s words to be true. Once again she was the poster girl for pathetic.
“I have a brain,” she said. And fairly small br**sts—an obvious fact she didn’t share.
“Reid takes what’s easy because he can,” Sandy told her. “But none of us mean anything to him. There’s something about him. Something that makes me think he’s been through something bad. I don’t know. Maybe not.”
Sandy was surprisingly perceptive, Lori thought. The other woman had guessed what Lori had never imagined. Remembering Reid’s sad tale about love and rejection made her want to find him and tell him she was sorry for assuming he was too shallow to have actual feelings. It also made her want to ask for the rest of the story. There had to be more than he was telling her.
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