Lazily, Walker strolled over and stepped between them.
“That’s enough,” he said calmly. “You’re both going to be regretting this in the morning.”
Cal touched his mouth and winced as he felt blood and rapidly swelling flesh.
The anger had drained out of him until he was left only with pain and a sense of loss so strong, it nearly drove him to his knees.
Penny. He’d screwed things up so badly with her, he didn’t know how to recover.
“I’ve lost her,” he said as he sank onto the damp lawn. “Haven’t I?”
Reid sprawled next to him. “You screwed up on a massive scale,” he said. “Naomi wants your balls.”
The part of him in question tightened into his body.
“What does Penny want?” he asked hoarsely.
“To not love you anymore.”
Reid couldn’t have hurt him more if he’d shot him. “She has to love me,” Cal whispered. She was all he had.
Walker crouched in front of him and touched a sore spot just above his eyebrow. “You’re going to need stitches for that.” He looked at Reid. “Your knuckles are pretty bad, too. Let’s go inside and I’ll patch up the two of you.”
Cal looked at Reid. “I’m sorry.”
His brother grimaced. “I’m not the one you should apologize to.”
“I know. But I’m still sorry.”
Reid shrugged, then stood. But instead of turning to the house, he held out his hand to Cal.
“You might be an asshole,” he said as he pulled Cal to his feet. “But you’re still my brother.”
They looked at each other and Cal knew that things were right between them. If only the situation with Penny were so easily resolved.
He took a step and had to hold in a groan. Blood dripped down from the cut beside his eyes and from his lip. His body ached and he felt about a hundred and fifty years old.
But before he could make it to the porch, a car pulled up. Cal glanced over to see if by some miracle, Penny had come to see him. Right now he would be happy if she were simply willing to yell at him some more.
But she wasn’t the one who stepped out of the vehicle. Instead Lindsey opened the passenger’s door and got out.
She was too thin and wearing a scarf over her head, but he’d never seen anything so beautiful in his life.
“Lindsey,” he called. “What are you doing here?”
She glanced from him to Reid and Walker. “Um, is this a bad time?”
“But you’re…” She squinted. “Have you been fighting?”
He groaned. Talk about perfect timing. “Yeah, well, my brother and I had something we had to work out.”
Lindsey’s eyes lit up. “Brothers. Both of them?”
He nodded. “This is Reid and this is Walker.”
“Wow,” she breathed. “Uncles.”
His heart stood still. “What did you say?”
She looked at him and her smile quivered a little at the corners. “Um, I said uncles. That’s why I’m here. I just found out you’re my dad.”
LINDSEY WATCHED as Walker set out first aid supplies on the dining room table. Cal wanted to reassure her, but he was busy trying to stop the blood from dripping down the side of his face.
“We’re, ah, not usually like this,” he said, wishing he sounded less lame and slightly more smooth. “Reid and I haven’t had a fight in ten or fifteen years.”
Lindsey’s blue eyes widened slightly. “So why were you fighting now?”
Reid glanced at Cal, then at Cal’s daughter. “Long story.”
She sighed. “That’s what adults always say when they don’t want to tell you the truth.”
“Bummer, huh?” Reid said.
Lindsey smiled, then turned her attention to Walker. “Are you a doctor or something?”
“I used to be a marine and I know basic first aid.”
She looked him up and down. “That’s cool. Were you overseas?”
He nodded without looking up.
There was an awkward silence which Cal broke by saying, “You have an aunt, too. Our youngest sister. Dani-short for Danielle.”
“Big family,” Lindsey said. “It’s just my mom and dad and me. We’re-” She paused and pressed her lips together. “Can I still call them that? Are you going to get mad?”
“What? Of course not. Lindsey, Tracy and Tom are your parents.”
“Yeah,” Reid said. “He’s just some guy who donated-What?” he asked as Walker cuffed him on the arm. “What’d I say?”
“We have a young lady present,” Walker reminded him. “Not one of your women.”
Lindsey looked instantly intrigued. “You have women? A lot of them? Like more than one girlfriend at a time? Are you-” Her mouth dropped open. “Ohmygod! You’re Reid Buchanan. You’re a baseball pitcher.”
“Used to be,” Reid said curtly. “Now I run a bar.”
“Okay, but you’re famous.” She turned to Cal. “He’s your brother?”
“Uh-huh. And your uncle.”
“My uncle is Reid Buchanan? My friends are going to die when I tell them.”
Reid looked more uncomfortable than excited. Cal changed the subject by asking, “How did you find out about me?”
“What? Oh, my mom told me. We were talking about the transplant and how well it went and I was really surprised because there can be problems with blood from an unrelated donor. And when I said that she got this really weird look on her face.”
Walker motioned for Cal to take a seat by the dining room table. Cal settled down, then removed the washcloth from his temple. Instantly blood began to trickle down his face.
“Are you sure you’re not going to need stitches?” Lindsey asked.
“That’s what I’m thinking,” Walker said.
“I’ll be fine. Try the bandage,” Cal told him. “Go on, Lindsey.”
“Oh. Okay. Well, she, um, got this weird look on her face and then she just blurted it all out. She told me who you were and that you’d always wanted to be a part of my life, but you didn’t want to push and that you were my biological dad and stuff. So I wanted to come see you.”
Cal groaned. “Did we just walk in the house and leave your mom parked out there?”
Lindsey laughed. “No. She went to get coffee. I’m going to call her when it’s time to come get me.”
Walker tugged on his skin. Cal did his best not to react to the pain. The bandages were put in place, but Walker didn’t look pleased. “These aren’t going to hold.”
Lindsey moved close and wrinkled her nose. “He’s right. You really need to go to the hospital.”
“In a minute.” He smiled at her. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“Me, too. I thought, you know, maybe we could be friends.”
“I’d like that.”
She glanced at Reid and Walker. “It’s nice to have more family. I’ve always wanted that. Are any of you guys married?”
Walker snorted. “Reid settle down with one woman? Not likely. I’ve been out of the country and Cal…You’re going to have to talk to him about that.”
Lindsey glanced at him expectantly.
Cal shook his head. “Another long story,” he said, knowing there was no way he could explain about Penny.
“That’s too bad. I’d like some cousins or even half brothers and sisters. I wouldn’t even mind babysitting. Well, at least until I go to college. Then I’ll be really busy.”
Impulsively, Cal grabbed Lindsey’s hand. “Thanks for coming to see me. I know you’re all grown up and have a life, but maybe we could get together for lunch sometime.”
She ducked her head, but squeezed his fingers. “That would be nice. I can give you my cell number. We can talk and stuff. And e-mail, too.” She grinned. “I love e-mail.”
Reid pulled the towel away from the cut on his jaw and showed it to Walker. Just then a fresh gush of blood dripped down the front of his shirt.
“That’s it,” Lindsey said forcefully. “I can see I’m going to have to take charge here. You’re both going to the emergency room. You need stitches. There’s no discussion about this. I just went through chemo and a bone marrow transplant. I think you tough guys can survive a couple of stitches.”
“WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” Dani asked as she sat next to Cal in the emergency room. “You’re too old to be fighting each other.”
“We weren’t thinking,” Cal told her. “That’s how fights usually start. No one plans them. Well, Reid kind of planned this one.”
“But you’re mature adults. At least you were. And on the front lawn.”
He winced. “How’d you hear that?”
“I had a fascinating talk with your daughter before she had to leave. This was while you were being stitched up.” Her stern expression softened. “She’s great.”
“I know.” He still couldn’t believe she knew about him and wanted them to be friends.
“And her first impression of her father is he and his brother fighting. I should slap you myself.”
“Are you in pain?” Dani asked.
“Good. I hope Reid is suffering. Maybe that will teach you two.” She studied the bandages on his face. “What were you fighting about?”
“I made Penny cry.”
Dani’s eyes narrowed. “You sure did.”
“I don’t need you taking me on, too,” he told her. “I feel like shit.”
She socked his arm anyway, which, fortunately, was one of the only spots that didn’t hurt. “Why didn’t you tell her you were moving back east? What kind of moron has a relationship with a woman and doesn’t mention that at least once?”
“At first I didn’t think it mattered. Then I didn’t think about leaving at all. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking that maybe I wouldn’t now.”
“Maybe?” She socked him again.
“I won’t go,” he said as he rubbed his arm. “I know I should have told her. I never meant to hurt her.”
“Too bad. If you had meant to, you could be happy you’d accomplished your goal. As it is, her heart is broken and you’re an ass.”
“I mean it, Cal. You’re better than this. You don’t play with other people’s feelings. You’ve never been mean.”
He went from feeling like slime to feeling like slime was only something he could aspire to.
“What do you want me to say?” he asked.
“To me? Nothing. I’m not the problem.”
He knew that. But Penny had been so angry-not without cause, he admitted. “I should have told her,” he muttered. “I should have made it clear.”
“Not many people get a second chance,” Dani told him.
“I know. I lost Penny before. I’m not going to lose her again.” He couldn’t. She’d come to matter too much to him.
Three months ago, he’d been eager to leave Seattle, to try something new, but now…
“Is she all right?” he asked. “She was upset, and with the baby and all.”
“Upset? You call that upset?”
His insides clenched as he swore. “I should let Reid beat on me some more.”
“That will only help you. There’s someone more important to worry about.”
“How much have I blown it?” he asked.
“A lot, but Penny isn’t unreasonable. Lucky for you, she’s especially vulnerable right now. Naomi’s leaving.”
“What? Leaving for where?”
“Ohio. But that’s not important. What are you going to do?”
Beg and crawl, he thought. Hope the words came to him and if they didn’t, he was going to camp out on her doorstep until she finally agreed they belonged together.
He stood. Every muscle in his body complained loudly. “I’m too old for this crap,” he muttered. “Tell Reid and Walker I went to see Penny.”
Dani glanced at her watch. “She’ll be there the rest of the night.”
“Good. Don’t let her know I’m coming. I have another stop to make first, and I don’t know how long it’s going to take me.”
Dani glared at him. “You’re not going directly there?”
“No, and get off of me. I know what I’m doing.”
“Oh, that’s clear. We should all allow you to run our lives. You’re doing such a great job of your own.”
He bent down and kissed Dani’s cheek. “I love you, too.”
THIRTY MINUTES LATER Cal walked into Gloria’s office. His grandmother took one look at him and jumped out of her chair.
“What on earth happened?” she asked. “My God, you have stitches and a black eye. Is your lip cut?”
He waved away her questions. “Not important,” he said. “That’s not what I’m here about.”
“All right.” Gloria sank back in her chair. “Then why are you here? Not that I’m not delighted to see my oldest grandson.”
She even smiled, he thought in amazement. As if nothing had happened. As if she hadn’t tried to destroy Penny and any chance he had with her.
“You crossed the line,” he said, doing his best to stay calm. Gloria might be the devil, but she was still old and female. He had to respect that, if not her.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said easily.
“Bullshit. You know exactly what’s going on and don’t pretend you don’t.”
“Callister, I will not allow you to speak to me that way.”
He leaned forward and braced his hands on her desk. “I don’t give a good goddamn what you will or will not allow. You’ve had more chances than you’ve deserved and I’m through with you. You screwed up, Gloria. You messed with Penny and I won’t have anyone doing that.”
She sniffed. “Is this all about that woman? She left you, Callister, a fact I remember, even if you don’t.”
“This is about me protecting the ones I love. I’m through with you.” He straightened.
She stared at him. “What are you talking about? You can’t be through with me. I’m your grandmother. Your family.”
“We might be related by blood, but you’re not family. You don’t know how to be. You don’t know how to be anything other than an emotional vampire. You take and you take. You always have to be in control.” He shook his head. “We’re not kids anymore. You can’t make us do anything. You have officially meddled and per the contract I’m out of The Waterfront.”
She stood. “You can’t leave. The restaurant needs you.”
As always, business came first, he thought grimly. “The restaurant will be fine. Randy will take over and you’ll still have Penny as the chef. But don’t screw with her too much. I put an escape clause in her contract, too. If you start micromanaging, not only does she get to walk, but she takes all her recipes with her. You wouldn’t want that.”
“How dare you?”
“I dare because you don’t give me a choice. I wanted to care about you, Gloria. But you make it impossible. You want to own us and we weren’t about to let that happen. One by one, you’ve driven off your grandchildren until only Dani was left. But you refused to accept her and now she’s gone as well.”
“You can’t leave,” Gloria insisted. “This is who you are. This is your heritage.”
“This is not who I am. This is never who I’ve been.” He looked at her for a long time. “I thought I’d hate you, but I don’t. I feel sorry for you.”
He walked to the door.
“I’ll bring you back,” she called after him. “All of you.”
“Not in this lifetime,” he said and left.
PENNY LAY CURLED UP on the sofa, wishing she could find a way to put the pain in a box. If only she didn’t have to deal with it right now. In a few weeks or months, she could take it out and feel it for a while, then put it away until she was strong again.