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A Husband’s Regret (Unwanted #2) by Natasha Anders

CHAPTER SEVEN

The house was in chaos when Bronwyn returned home half an hour later. Kayla was screaming her head off in the den while Bryce held her writhing little body in his arms as he frantically tried to soothe her. Celeste stood to the side, wringing her hands nervously, a concerned look on her plain face.

“Oh my God! What’s going on here?” Kayla’s crying worsened when she heard her mother’s voice. She managed to pull herself out of her father’s arms and launched herself toward her mother, her unsteady gait nearly sending her off balance.

“Mummy! Kayla ouch! Kayla ouch, Mummy!” Bronwyn sank to her knees, and her heart dropped like a stone when she registered the genuine fear and pain on her little girl’s face. As the child crept into her mother’s open arms and snuggled against her chest, Bronwyn allowed her furious eyes to meet Bryce’s. His face had closed up like a shutter, a remote look in his eyes as he stood watching them, his hands thrust into his trouser pockets.

“What did you do to her?” she hissed, her maternal instincts on full alert. “I trusted you to look after her and I come back to this?” Kayla had stopped her hysterical sobbing and was hiccupping into Bronwyn’s chest, her tense little body relaxing as she clung to the familiar comfort her mother represented. Bryce’s shadowed eyes revealed absolutely no emotion; his clenched jaw the only visible sign of his tension. She got up, Kayla in her arms, and advanced toward him, a stalking lioness intent on protecting her cub.

“What happened here?”

His eyes remained level but he refused to say a word.

“Bryce, answer me! She never cries like this unless she’s hurt. How did she get hurt?”

His eyes flickered a little, as he cast an involuntary look down at the little girl who was staring up at him with huge, tear-drenched blue eyes. Her thumb was propped in her mouth and her breath still hitched. Bronwyn glanced over her daughter’s little body, doing a damage assessment. Her eyes detected no visible signs of injury until she reached one plump little bare foot. Her big toe was bleeding and looked somewhat swollen. Bronwyn made a soft sound of dismay and lifted the foot to inspect it more closely. Fortunately the damage seemed minimal, and judging from Kayla’s ever-lessening sniffles, the immediate shock of pain had worn off already. As the haze of panic dissipated, Bronwyn began to recognize that the damage she had done by storming blindly into the fray may have been a lot worse than the injury to Kayla’s toe. She had shown an appalling lack of trust by assuming Bryce had been responsible for the toddler’s injury, and she was beginning to feel like an overprotective fool.

“Bryce,” she began hesitantly, taking a step toward where he stood. He was as still and remote as a statue. He ignored her and swung on his heel to leave the room abruptly. Bronwyn made a dismayed little sound, and Kayla, her pain mostly forgotten already, dragged her thumb from her mouth to add her own opinion.

“Daddy go bye-bye,” she observed solemnly before resting her head on Bronwyn’s shoulder and sticking her thumb back into her mouth.

“Yes,” Bronwyn whispered, burying her face in her daughter’s silky curls. “Daddy’s gone away.” But that wasn’t entirely true; he hadn’t left the house, she had heard his study door slam and knew that he was probably brooding in there. She knew that she would have to get to the bottom of things sooner rather than later and also had the sinking feeling that she was the one who would have to make serious amends. She glanced over at the appalled Celeste and nodded down at the drowsy little girl in her arms.

“I’ll take care of her toe,” she said hoarsely, and Celeste mumbled that she’d be in the kitchen. Bronwyn fussed over Kayla for a while, her mind on Bryce while she kissed the toe of her now-giggling baby all better and placed a cute Finding Nemo Band-Aid on the tiny cut. Kayla’s eyelids started to droop after half an hour of cuddling and playing with her mother—it was way past time for her afternoon nap. Bronwyn carried her to the housekeeper in the kitchen.

“Celeste, would you mind . . .” She left the question unfinished, and Celeste nodded immediately and bustled forward to take an unprotesting Kayla into her arms. Bronwyn dropped an affectionate kiss on the sleepy child’s forehead before hurrying out of the room toward Bryce’s study. With each heavy step she took, she felt more and more like Daniel preparing to beard the lion’s den. When she reached the ominously shut study door, she paused to listen but couldn’t hear a sound coming from behind the door. She cautiously knocked on the solid wood before berating herself for her thoughtless action. Now she faced an unfamiliar dilemma: did she just enter? Or did she wait until he eventually came out on his own? She regarded the suddenly insurmountable obstacle of the door cautiously before deciding to take the bull by the horns and open the door.

Bryce sat behind his huge desk, with his elbows resting on the gleaming wooden surface and his face buried in his hands. His large shoulders were shaking slightly. He looked terribly vulnerable, and in that moment Bronwyn felt like a voyeur of the worst kind. She cleared her throat to alert him of her presence and then swore softly beneath her breath when she realized that the gesture was as futile as her knock had been.

“Bryce . . .” Again she swore, feeling like a complete idiot, and hesitantly took a few steps toward him, lifting her hand to his shoulder in the process. He leaped out of the chair like a scalded cat and swore furiously. He glared at her, looking a bit a shaken and a lot furious.

“Don’t sneak up on me,” he berated hoarsely.

“A doorbell? But how . . .” her question trailed off when he pointed toward the lamp on his desk.

“The lamp is rigged to flicker when the bell rings. It works for both the front door and the study door. Two flickers for outside, one for inside.”

“Oh. That’s quite clever,” she murmured, impressed by the ingenious device and feeling like a complete idiot for not realizing sooner that the flickering lights that she had absently noticed intermittently since her return were not the result of an electrical fault as she had assumed.

“Clever, yes.” He smiled humorlessly and practically sneered the words. “It’s a common-enough device for the deaf. There are so many ways to make our lives as convenient as possible, clever little toys that light up and vibrate, tablet computers and smart phones with face-to-face call capabilities, SMSes and various other little gadgets designed to ease my life. Yet not one of these clever little toys would ever be able to alert me to the fact that my little girl is standing right behind me, trying to get my attention, not one of them could prevent me from turning around and treading on her before I’m able to stop myself.” Oh God! After her initial panic at finding Kayla in floods of tears and obvious pain, she had suspected that it might be something like this. Of course it was an accident, something that Bryce would tear himself up over, a situation that she had worsened with her stupid overreaction. His eyes were tormented, and she swallowed back a sob as she cupped his jaw in her slender hands.

“Bryce,” she whispered, her eyes liquid with regret and sympathy. He saw nothing but the sympathy and mistook it for pity. He jerked away from her and turned his back on her.

“No,” she moaned softly, not willing to allow him to close himself off when he was clearly in pain. She stepped around him and forced him to meet her eyes.

“Mikayla and I are going to have to learn not to sneak up on you then,” she told him firmly. “You are not at fault here, Bryce, it was an accident!”

“You’ve changed your tune rather quickly,” he mocked, and she flushed.

“I overreacted,” she conceded. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have gone off the deep end like that. I know that you would never intentionally hurt our daughter.”

“Intentionally or not, I did hurt her,” he pointed out harshly. “And I can’t promise that it won’t happen again in the future. And she—she’s frightened of me now. I don’t think . . .”

“She’s a baby, Bryce,” Bron pointed out firmly. “She was shocked and in pain, but she’ll soon forget. Children are resilient and have a much larger capacity for forgiveness than we do. She has also learned her lesson, and I doubt she’ll be coming up behind you without warning you in some way in the future. One thing about your daughter”—she smiled fondly—“she’s a fast learner!”

“She was crying so much,” he remembered in a shaken voice. “I couldn’t make her stop! Her little face was so sad and confused. I felt like a monster.”

She took a step closer to him, her heart going out to him.

“Oh, Bryce,” she began, not sure how to make this better. “I’m so sorry.”

“I don’t need your pity,” he snarled, as defensive and dangerous as a wounded animal. Bronwyn blinked, his abrupt mood swing throwing her completely off guard.

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“I don’t pity you,” she denied, placing one tentative hand on his forearm, but he shrugged her off and signed something at her, glaring wildly while he did.

“I don’t understand,” she said helplessly, and he responded with another mutinous flurry of sign that left her completely adrift. His eyes were burning with anger and some other emotion that she could not define.

“Bryce, please . . .” she begged, not sure why it mattered to her that she comfort him. “Don’t shut me out like this.” He said something else, again with his hands, and then quite abruptly turned his back on her. Once again shutting her out as completely as he could. She sobbed a little before lifting a clenched fist to her lips and biting down on her knuckles, not sure how to deal with this. She stared at his broad, stiff back through burning eyes. She refused to let him do this.

Bryce had always been much too good at shutting her out. After a bad day at work, he used to closet himself in his study and refuse to speak to her about it until after it was resolved. She had never told him how much that had hurt her, and the one time she had dared mention it, he had quite condescendingly informed her that she wouldn’t understand anyway and not to worry about it. That had made her so furious, but she had let it slide. She had let a lot of things slide back then, in an effort not to upset Bryce. But she wasn’t that silly, spineless girl anymore, and she was determined not to let him shut her out again, not this time. Not when it was so important to their future as a functioning family. She threw back her shoulders resolutely before stepping around him again to meet his glare with a ferocious one of her own. She chose to ignore the scorching anger in his eyes.

“I won’t allow you to turn your back on me this time, Bryce. And I refuse to leave until you acknowledge me and we talk about this!” she told him resolutely, and his lips tightened as he signed something particularly vicious looking back at her.

“I don’t know what you’re saying,” Bronwyn all but screamed in frustration, and he smiled, a feral showing of teeth that bore no resemblance to his normally beautiful smile. He signed again and quite abruptly grabbed her upper arms and kissed her. Hard! His tongue forced its way into the tender interior of her mouth, assaulting and insulting rather than caressing and loving. There was nothing remotely affectionate in the embrace, nothing but contempt and anger.

“I said,” he told her scornfully, when he lifted his head to end the vile kiss. “That since you refuse to leave, you might as well make yourself useful!”

God, what on Earth had made her think she could deal with this man on an equal footing? Whenever she tried, he moved the goalposts and left her floundering. She couldn’t take him on and win; she couldn’t even hope to try. More fool her, for thinking that she could.

“Not so eager to stick around now, are you?” he taunted when she took a step back. “Then again, you never were any good at seeing things through, were you? Important things like your studies and our marriage.”

“You’re the one who abandoned our marriage, Bryce. And then you compounded your sins by believing, and telling, the most despicable lies about me!”

“Will you ever stop singing this same pathetic tune over and over again? Your self-righteous indignation does not sit well with me, Bronwyn. This air of injured dignity is wearing thin and getting on my nerves.”

“Since we’re apparently ‘forced’ to make a life together, don’t you think we should try to set our differences aside and be a family?”

“Then let’s be a family Bronwyn,” he muttered smoothly. “Let’s be man and wife.” He took hold of her thin upper arms again and dragged her toward him, securing her lips in another kiss. This time the kiss contained all the elements the former had lacked—heat, sensation, and desire. Bronwyn moaned in despair, but his mouth captured the desolate little sound and swallowed it hungrily. His lips were soft but insistent against hers; they opened her mouth with the skill that she had always been unable to resist, and his tongue flowed in, skilfully subduing any protest she may have made. But Bronwyn was beyond protest, hadn’t even thought of protesting. She knew that this wouldn’t solve any of their problems—would probably worsen them if anything—but she had always melted at the first sign of tenderness from him, and this mocking kiss was so humiliatingly tender.

His hands moved up to cup her face, thumbs caressing her jaw as he coaxed her to open up a little more, to respond despite herself and, God help her, did she respond. She kissed him back, parried with his tongue, and ran restless, seeking hands over his shoulders, his neck, and his face. He made a satisfied little sound when her questing hands burrowed beneath his T-shirt and found the silky hot skin beneath the cotton. Somehow, together, they managed to rid him of the T-shirt without once losing contact. Her blouse soon followed suit. Before she knew it, the rest of their clothes were off, and they were skin-to-skin, with nothing between them but a fine sheen of sweat. He closed his hands around her waist and lifted her up. Bronwyn immediately knew what he wanted and obliged him by wrapping her long legs around his waist and her arms around his neck.

He staggered toward his desk, her weight throwing him a tad off balance, but his mouth never lost contact with hers. There was a terrible clatter as he swept stationery from the surface of the desk, nearly sending his computer monitor toppling over the side in the process. He lifted his lips from hers as he laid her down on the desk and plunged into her in the same fluid motion.

Someone sobbed in relief. Bronwyn didn’t know which of them it was, but she suspected it was Bryce. He rested there for a while, bearing her down with his weight. He felt big, hot, and hard inside of her and showered her face with worshipful little kisses as he began to move. Her legs had fallen away from his waist and now dangled over the edge of the desk with her thighs spread wide to accommodate his powerful thrusts. His hands were flat against the desk on either side of her head as he focused all of his formidable attention on their mutual pleasure.

He was starting to groan, and his long, smooth strokes were becoming choppier and less controlled. Bronwyn drew her legs up and wrapped them around his waist again, lifting her bottom from the desk to allow him easier and deeper access. He lowered his head to her breasts, licking, sucking, and kissing them hungrily. One of his hands dropped down to where their bodies were joined and he touched her in a way that had always driven her wild. This time was no exception—she grunted in surprise, breathing his name, before squealing with pleasure as she shuddered, then shuddered again and fell apart all around him.

He moaned, moving his hands to her slender hips to hold her steady as he focused fiercely on her contorted face. Sweat was beading on his brow as he slammed into her. Bronwyn, who was just descending from her climax, tensed up again as yet another powerful orgasm crept up on her.

Bryce’s back arched and he lifted her clear off the desk with his frantic plunges. He held her close as he shuddered violently and poured himself into her, as they came simultaneously. They cried out their pleasure and desperately clung to each other as the world receded. Bryce collapsed onto her and she briefly bore his full weight before he braced his hands on the desk and relieved her of some of the burden. His eyes were searching her face almost desperately, and Bronwyn wasn’t sure what he was hoping to find.

He kissed her sweetly and the part of him that was still buried deep inside of her pulsed lazily in reaction to the gentle caress. Bronwyn gasped as she felt the movement and wondered if they could do it again so soon after the mind-shattering bliss of just minutes before. But he ended the kiss abruptly and lifted himself off and out of her without any warning. The suddenness of the separation left her feeling ridiculously vulnerable. He swore, his face darkening with anger.

“I didn’t use any protection.” She flinched at the reminder of how much he would loathe getting her pregnant again. But after the last time, getting pregnant by Bryce wasn’t exactly high on her to-do list either.

“I’m on the pill,” she admitted huskily. “I asked the doctor for a prescription last week during my checkup.” She flinched when he laughed scathingly.

“Do forgive me if I choose to doubt you, my dear. We both know how very unreliable you are when it comes to taking care of the birth control,” he mocked, and she trembled violently at the derision in his voice and the contempt on his face. He gave her one last piercing stare before dropping the matter.

“Did I hurt you?” he asked almost impersonally as he hunted around for his boxers. Her reply obviously held little interest for him because he had his back to her. She didn’t bother responding but sat up, humiliated by the position she found herself in—laid out on his desk, naked, and spread out for his pleasure. She was covered in a mixture of their perspiration and other fluids and smelled of sex and sweat. She felt used and cheap and her cheeks burned with mortification. He couldn’t have made his disdain for her any clearer, and Bronwyn was disgusted with herself for falling into his arms so easily every time. She was a little shell-shocked by her unforgivable stupidity and could barely gather her scattered thoughts. She just wanted out of the room and away from Bryce but for some reason she couldn’t seem to figure out how to do that.

She stood up and crossed one arm over her naked breasts and used the other hand to cup the wispy triangle of curls at the juncture of her thighs in a classic pose of feminine shame.

When Bryce looked up and saw her he was struck as still as a statue. Her tear-filled eyes were darting frantically around the room, searching for her scattered clothing. He had dragged on his boxers by now and urgently started hunting for her things, hating the trapped and desperate look in her eyes. He eventually found her blouse and handed it to her, but she didn’t move. She looked almost catatonic and Bryce swallowed down an irrational surge of panic. He helped her into the blouse and buttoned it clumsily, but she looked even more vulnerable with only her lower half exposed. She ducked her head and hid her face behind her heavy fall of hair. He hunted around but couldn’t seem to find her panties. Instead he turned up a dainty bra and her creased trousers. Deciding that the latter would do, he helped her into them, hunkering down to physically lift her feet, one at a time, into the trouser legs. The position brought his face level with the fine curls at her center, but her very nakedness made her seem even more defenceless and in need of his protection.

He eventually managed to get her all zipped and buttoned up, and when he looked into her face he saw that her lips were moving and the tears that had been threatening had spilled over. He gripped her arms urgently, hating the sight of her tears. He focused on her lips and was able to discern that she was saying the same thing over and over again.

You keep punishing me . . .

Bryce acknowledged that fact to himself. He did keep punishing her, but what she didn’t know was that he was punishing himself as well. He hated seeing her like this, and he hated the guilt that burned away at his insides like acid with every reluctant tear that she shed. He kept telling himself that she deserved it but it was getting so damned hard to keep convincing himself of that fact. He lifted a hand to her face but she flinched away from him and he glowered, hating the reaction. He had never physically hurt her, he had always taken great care not to hurt her, and seeing her flinch away from him like he was the monster he so dreaded becoming, had the same visceral effect on him as a punch to the gut. He gingerly wrapped his arms around her and tugged her against his chest. She was as stiff as a board and refused to relax in his embrace. Eventually realizing that she was probably emotionally drained, he lifted her into his arms and rather awkwardly managed to open the door and carry her upstairs to her bedroom. Thankfully, Celeste and Kayla were nowhere in sight. He placed her onto the soft bed and knelt in front of her, trying to catch her eyes.

“If you’d just admit it,” he said. She lifted her dull eyes to his, seeming to register his presence at last and frowned in confusion.

“Admit what?” She looked confused, and he gritted his teeth as he tried to maintain his temper.

“Admit that you were at the scene of my accident and that you lied about trying to reach me. I could try to forgive you and we could start rebuilding our relationship. Just be honest, Bronwyn.” She sighed tiredly, defeat weighing heavily on her shoulders. She shifted her eyes again and shrugged, looking like someone who just wanted to be left alone and would do anything to achieve that end.

“If that’s what you want, Bryce, then I confess to being guilty of everything that you accused me of. I stood beside that road and watched you suffer before walking away. I never tried to contact you; I preferred to struggle along with no money, no home, and rapidly deteriorating health.

“I didn’t try, and fail, to reach you just after Kayla was born either, when I was so ill I could barely hold the phone, when I was terrified I would die and she would be left alone. I clung to my stubborn pride and quite selfishly never once thought about what was best for you or our daughter.” She shaped the words so clearly, he had absolutely no difficulty understanding her. It was what he had wanted, what he believed to be true, a wholesale admission of guilt, but it did not sit well with him and it certainly didn’t feel right. He wasn’t quite sure how to proceed from here and gently pushed her down until she was lying back on the bed.

“You need to rest,” he said as gently as he could, but he was an inaccurate judge of his own tone of voice at the best of times, and from the way she flinched, he suspected that his words had emerged a lot harsher than he had intended. Still she obeyed him and lay unresisting, looking utterly drained of any desire to fight him anymore. He tugged the covers up over her unmoving body and kissed her forehead tenderly before standing up. He hovered uncertainly, feeling faintly ridiculous in nothing but his black cotton boxers.

“Try to get some sleep. Don’t worry about Kayla. I’ll see to her dinner and get her to bed . . .” He seemed to be rambling now and Bronwyn was confused by his uncertainty. “I’ll bring her up to say good night later. Things will get better now, Bron,” he vowed in an awkward rush, but Bronwyn refused to acknowledge his impulsive promise. “You’ll see. They’ll get better.”

Well, things certainly felt better when she woke up the following morning. She felt warm and cherished and soon realized that it was because she was being cradled in Bryce’s arms with her back pressed to his warm chest. It was only the second time she found herself waking up beside him since her return, and after the events of the last twenty-four hours, she felt more than a little ambivalent about his presence in her bed. He had one arm wrapped around her waist with his hand cradled between her breasts, and the other arm was tucked beneath her head. One of his muscled thighs was squeezed between her own slender thighs. Against her better judgment, Bronwyn felt safe, secure, and almost cherished. She felt his warm and steady breath feathering against the vulnerable nape of her neck, and she fought back a little shiver of pleasure. She slowly became aware of the fact that they were both naked—and vaguely recalled Bryce brusquely helping her out of her clothes sometime during the night. The scorching hot length of his erection was pressing up against the small of her back. She immediately tensed.

“Relax.” His voice sounded like the contented purr of a cat and had the exact opposite effect of relaxing her. “I’m not going to jump you this morning. We need to talk.”

“I have nothing to say to you,” she responded mutinously, safe in the knowledge that he could not hear her or see her lips.

“What did you say?” he surprised her by demanding, and she tensed even further. He turned her resisting body to face him as if she weighed no more than a feather, but she kept her gaze glued to his jaw. “I know you said something . . . I could feel the vibration in your chest!”

“I asked what you wanted to talk about,” she lied, meeting his eyes. He looked unconvinced, and his eyes seethed with frustration, but he tamped it down determinedly.

“Us . . .”

“I thought we’d said all that needed saying last night,” she responded. “I’m a liar and you’re the victim of my vindictive and cruel nature.” He chose to ignore her sarcasm.

“I want to know what you meant last night when you said that you were terrified that you would die,” he probed softly, watching her face carefully. They were lying so close together that it was difficult to conceal the smallest emotion from him.

“There were complications.” She shrugged casually. “It was a difficult pregnancy, worsened by the fact that I was . . . malnourished.” How humiliating it was to admit that. She lowered her eyes again, embarrassed by her inability to take care of herself. “I was underweight and weak by the time I went into labor. It was a long, intense labor, and because my body had been deprived of the vitamins it needed during the pregnancy, it was ill-equipped to deal with the . . . trauma . . . of an extended labor. There was some tearing, I lost a lot of blood and went into shock. I remember them asking for the name and number of my next of kin right after Kayla was born.” She felt moisture on her cheeks and was appalled to discover that she was crying silently. God, she was so sick of crying all the time, but it was so difficult to recall the fear and absolute loneliness of that moment without succumbing to emotion. “I was so scared. I just wanted to hold my baby. I wanted to be sure that she was okay. The doctors all looked so grim behind their masks; they told me that she was fine but nobody would show me.” She felt a rough thumb wiping away the tears on her cheeks and shut her eyes at the gruff gentleness. She swallowed bravely before continuing. “One of the last things I remember before everything went dark was begging to see my baby, and then a doctor calling my name and swearing. I remember him swearing because he sounded so angry and so concerned that he reminded me of you. For a split second I thought it was you! And I was so happy . . .” She could feel him trembling now, as if chilled to the bone, but for some reason she couldn’t seem to stop the flow of words. He had asked, he had wanted to know, and she was not going to sugar coat it for him. She cleared her throat hoarsely before continuing.

“They told me my heart stopped . . . twice. Of course, I don’t remember it at all. I just woke up to the sound of Kayla’s crying. It took so much strength to turn my head but . . .” She smiled radiantly up into his face, her tears blinding her to his expression. “She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. So perfect and so healthy, and in that moment I knew that I would do anything to keep her safe!”

“Bronwyn . . .” Bryce’s throat was tight with emotion, and he struggled to get the words out. “Why didn’t you . . .”

“Call you?” She completed the question and gazed at him levelly. “Perhaps I was stubborn . . . or stupid? Maybe I didn’t love Kayla enough to want the best for her?” He didn’t want her truth, he had forced her into uttering the only major lie she had ever told him, and she would be damned if she ever tried to convince him of the facts again. She was tired of defending herself to a man who refused to see the truth. Well, now the truth was something that Bryce would have to discover for himself. She had given up on it and on him.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered painfully, his own eyes shimmering with what could only be tears. “God, I’m so sorry you had to go through that on your own.”

Bryce wasn’t quite able to process everything he had just learned without wanting to howl in agony at the horror of it all. Her heart had stopped for God’s sake! She had died and he hadn’t even known about it. His beautiful, fragile Bronwyn had nearly been snatched from him forever and the knowledge was eating him up alive. His own suffering seemed almost immaterial when measured against the cripplingly painful facts that she had just revealed and yet he couldn’t help thinking that if she had just stayed, come back, called him—anything—he could have protected her, kept her safe from harm. He ignored the shrill voice screeching at him in the back of his mind, Who would have kept her safe from you?

“You said the nurse asked you for your next of kin’s contact details. Why didn’t you give them my number?” he asked gruffly.

“Oh, now why on earth would I do that?” Bronwyn asked flippantly. “I much preferred the thought of leaving Kayla an orphan.” His brow lowered threateningly. You didn’t have to be able to hear to recognize such blatant sarcasm.

“Bron, now’s not the time for facetiousness!”

“Well,” she blinked up at him innocently, forming her words carefully so that there would be no misunderstanding. “I’m just telling you what I believe you want to know, since it has become rather self-evident that the truth gets rejected when it doesn’t suit you. What I don’t get is how on earth you could marry a woman you have such a low opinion of. By now we’ve established that I’m foolish, fickle, cruel, and selfish! God knows what you saw in me in the first place. You must be an appalling judge of character.” She disentangled herself from his arms and jumped out of bed, uncaring of her nudity. She just wanted to get away from him.

“Where are you going?” he asked, sounding panicky.

“Shower,” was her succinct reply.

“But we haven’t finished our talk . . .”

“I’ve said all I have to say on that particular subject.” She waved her hand dismissively and turned toward the en suite.

“Bron,” his voice was gruff with some indefinable emotion, and she turned to face him. He stared at her for a long moment, looking completely lost for words, before shaking his head.

“Rick and Lisa got back from their holiday last night, and I thought it would be nice to have them come by for the afternoon. I’d like Rick to get to know Kayla, and I think that you and Lisa might get along.” She nodded in response, part of her looking forward to seeing Rick again and the other part remembering his cold-bloodedness at the hospital when she had been ill and defenseless. She was looking forward to spending more time with his new wife though; the woman had been very kind to her in the brief moments they had shared.

“That’ll be nice,” she murmured before turning back toward the bathroom, and this time he let her go without protest.

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