Big Pickle: A Secret Boss Romantic Comedy - JJ Knight Page 0,1

over the baby. “Where’s Sherman?” she asks, her forehead crinkling in a way that makes us boys stand even straighter.

Max speaks up. “He went to get some balloons.”

Grammy nods. She settles in a rocking chair near the bed. “Good to see all you boys in the same place.”

“We wouldn’t miss it,” Anthony says.

A voice booms from the doorway. “It’s about time we all got together.”

It’s Dad, unmistakable in pressed khakis and a freshly ironed button-down. He holds a bouquet of blue balloons so enormous that he must have depleted the stock in the gift store.

“Oh, Uncle Sherman!” Greta exclaims. “That’s a lot of balloons!”

He peers around them, his hair a perfect gray wave. “Just want to make sure the newest Pickle knows he’s welcome!”

“He’s actually a Jones,” Jude says from the corner.

“Every Pickle’s a Pickle!” Dad insists, and his tone reminds everyone that nobody is to argue with him. He sets the base of the balloon cluster on a side table and approaches us, hand extended. I give him a hefty shake, like he expects.

“Jace,” he says. “I hear you tried to make the winning catch.”

I sigh. I’m never going to live that down.

He turns to Max. “Now that’s a physique. You trying to make your old man look weak?”

Max nods. “You make it too easy, Dad.”

Dad mock punches him in the shoulder. “You look good.”

When Dad extends a hand to Anthony, he instead pulls Dad into a hug. “Great to see you.”

Dad claps him on the back. “You remind me so much of your mother.”

Everybody goes quiet. Mom died ten years ago, a loss that never seems to get easier.

“Thank you,” Anthony says.

“Saving the old bat for last, are you?” Grammy calls from her corner.

“Always the best for last, Mother.” Dad approaches her rocking chair.

I glance over at Max. I still want to kill him.

He gives me a sneer. “How’s the playboy mansion?”

“Shut up.”

“I saw you went out with that actress. She was terrible in that frat boy movie.”

“Shut up.”

He laughs. “I’m surprised you graced us with your presence.”

“I was already in town.”

“Hey,” Greta calls from the bed. “Pay attention to the real hero here.”

Dad cups the baby’s tiny head. “A new Pickle son in the family.”

“You going to give him a franchise?” Grammy asks.

“I think the deli business is on your side of the family,” Greta says. She gazes down on her son. “Caden can be whoever he wants.”

I feel a twinge of jealousy. As the eldest Pickle, I’ve been expected to toe the line in the deli business. Sometimes it feels all I’ve done since leaving home is try to escape it.

Dad clasps his hands behind his back and faces the three of us skulking in the corner. “It seems my own sons don’t want to settle down. Why, Greta’s the youngest Pickle and here she is, married and providing my brother Martin a grandchild.”

“Where are Martin and Fran?” Grammy asks.

“On a flight,” Greta answers. “Caden wasn’t due for two more weeks.”

Dad clears his throat. “We’re glad to be here for you, Greta. It’s about time my boys started putting family first.”

Max’s eyebrows draw together in concern. I know what he’s thinking.

Lecture incoming.

We think we’re saved when a family friend arrives at the door. It’s Dell Brant, a New York billionaire who helped Dad find properties to buy as he expanded for us sons. He’s like an uncle to us, and his acquisition of an unexpected baby was the talk at our family table a year ago.

But apparently, he’s part of whatever Dad’s working up to. “Thank you for coming, Dell,” Dad says. “I think the boys will have questions for someone as experienced as you when they hear what I have to say.”

All three of us glance at each other anxiously. What’s going on?

Dad paces in front of where we stand like soldiers lined up for inspection. “When Greta announced she was having a baby, I started thinking about the future. The Pickle franchise is a really big deal.”

Chuckles fill the room, since Dad has inadvertently repeated the chain’s punny slogan, “A really big dill.”

He shuts us all up with one steely gaze.

“The delis have sustained my generation, as well as you boys.” His eyes meet ours. He gestures to the baby. “And it should help any member of the family who chooses to be a part of it.”

“Damn straight,” Grammy adds.

Dad nods at her. “But it’s time for me to begin the process of stepping down.”

Anthony gasps. “Dad! Why?”

“I’m not getting any younger, and I