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

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

TWO MONTHS LATER

I haven’t been back here since before the accident,” Bryce told Bronwyn as they stepped into their beautiful holiday home in Knysna. They had arrived after dark and so had missed out on the house’s spectacular panoramic views of the gorgeous lagoon and Knysna Heads. Still, the serenity of the place was reflected in the sounds of the quietly chirruping night insects and the susurration of the gentle waves lapping at the shore. Bronwyn was filled with mixed emotions as she stepped into the huge stone foyer. The last time she had been here hadn’t been a happy time for her, and as she glanced around the gorgeously appointed house, all she could see was her former self disconsolately drifting from room to room like a lonely little ghost as hope faded to despair with every passing minute.

The domestic staff had been in before their arrival since the place was freshly cleaned and the refrigerator restocked for their weekend here. He hadn’t told her that this was where he was bringing her, but she had easily recognized the unmistakable Garden Route and had known for hours where they were headed. The drive had become more and more tense with every kilometer that the car ate up, and the last hour had been mostly quiet without Kayla around to break the silence. They had asked Rick and Lisa to take the little girl for this weekend that Bryce had so carefully been planning for weeks.

Bronwyn wandered into the living room and he trailed after her, dropping their bags in the hallway. She made her way to the floor-to-ceiling window that overlooked the tranquil lagoon. Because of the pitch-blackness outside, she could see nothing but her own troubled reflection staring back at her, and she tracked Bryce’s movements as he came up to stand behind her. He placed his hands on her slender shoulders and tugged her back until she was leaning against his chest. She went willingly into his loose embrace, her head tilting back until it rested just below his shoulder. His strong arms folded around her narrow waist, his hands rested against her abdomen, and his lightly stubbled jaw nuzzled into the nook just below her ear. She could feel his gentle, warm breath washing against the sensitive skin of her ear as he exhaled deeply.

“I know this place holds some pretty unhappy memories for you,” he murmured, his lips brushing against her earlobe as he spoke. “I want to replace those memories with sweeter ones.”

She dropped her hands and entwined her fingers with his.

“Will you give me the chance do that for you, Bron?” he asked thickly, and she blinked away the tears before nodding. She watched his reflection in the glass and saw the naked relief on his face at her response.

“Thank you,” he said before sucking her delicate lobe into his mouth. She dragged in a harsh breath at the sensation. His hands moved to the curve of her waist, and he turned her around before she fully understood what his intention was. She had her hands braced against his broad chest and could feel the accelerated beat of his heart as he stared down into her eyes. He had looped his arms around her waist and his hands were now resting just above the curve of her behind.

“It’s been years since I kissed you last,” he observed urgently, his eyes dropping down to her lips and dilating when she sucked her full lower lip into her mouth to moisten it.

“It has been years,” she agreed—even though it had been mere hours. Ever since they had started seeing each other again, they had been getting increasingly hot and heavy with the petting, and while they had gotten close to making love, they had always stopped before the point of no return. Neither of them wanted to muddy the waters with sex before they both felt that their relationship was strong enough to withstand all emotional and physical obstacles. They would not rush into bed until they were both completely ready for it. Somehow, by unspoken mutual agreement, they knew that this weekend would see them consummating their new relationship. Bryce had known it when he had planned the trip, and Bronwyn had known it when she had agreed to go with him.

He groaned and dropped his hungry mouth onto hers and just about ate her alive. Bronwyn met his desperate kiss with feverish concentration, her tongue dueling with his in a battle for supremacy. The kiss eventually gentled, and his hands lifted to cup her face as he tilted her head for easier access to her mouth. He loved holding her face when he kissed her; his thumbs were always restlessly stroking her soft skin, brushing over her cheekbones and tracing the delicate line of her jaw. After a long while, he eased up, his tongue retreated, and his mouth softened as he feathered butterfly kisses on her lips and up over her cheeks and down into her neck.

Their kiss had been mostly silent, punctuated by heavy breathing and the occasional gasp or desperate moan. Now, as he lifted his head to stare into her eyes, he smiled gently down at her.

“I love you,” he whispered, and Bronwyn’s face lit up as she smiled radiantly at him.

“I know you do, Bryce . . . but I never get sick of hearing those words,” she told him.

Well, since I’ll never get tired of saying them, I guess we’ll have to resign ourselves to making each other revoltingly happy for the rest of our lives.” He stepped away from her reluctantly, and Bronwyn had to bite back her protest as his gorgeous—and visibly aroused—body moved beyond her reach. When she unconsciously raised one of her hands toward him, he tut-tutted and waved a finger back and forth in front of her face

“Hands off the merchandise, lady. I have plans for this evening and I can’t have you distracting me. Why don’t you head up for a nap and a shower? And chat with Kayla like you’ve been dying to do for the last hour? Leave me to prepare our dinner.”

She grinned at the thought of him bumbling about in the kitchen. He really wasn’t the domestic god he seemed to think he was. He made a terrible mess and his meals were often culinary disasters, with unpalatable over- or undercooked dishes. Still, he tried—bless him—and she appreciated his efforts. He was always so disgustingly pleased with himself that she didn’t have the heart to mention the occasional raw potato or the burned edges on a steak. She blew him a little kiss and headed toward the hallway, picking up her overnight bag along the way.

“Dress code?” she turned to ask him, and he shrugged.

“Casual.”

She nodded and turned away again.

“Give the munchkin my love.”

She flicked him a thumbs-up to acknowledge his request.

She made her way back downstairs an hour later, feeling refreshed after a short nap and a long shower. She had also called Kayla to say good night but the little girl had been distracted by a game she was playing with Rhys and Rick, so the call had been a little rushed. She had taken Bryce at his word and hadn’t dressed up, wearing only a pair of jeans and a loose T-shirt. She hadn’t bothered with shoes at all; the under-floor heating kept her feet warm enough

Whatever Bryce was cooking up in the huge kitchen smelled surprisingly good. She was a little mystified when she got to the kitchen and saw no trace of him. Curiously, she poked around a few of the scattered Tupperware containers left on the white marble top of the gorgeous stone island in the middle of the kitchen. The whole house had a spacious log cabin feel to it, with its stone floors and wooden walls and high-beamed ceilings. Unfortunately her search yielded little in the way of answers except to inform her that whatever Bryce was offering for dinner was of the stick-in-the-microwave-and-heat variety. Which could only mean that he had asked someone else—probably Celeste—to cook it. She smiled ruefully at his minor deception, but her taste buds were truly grateful.

She heard a sound coming from the living room and headed in that direction. She found him out on the large, covered balcony, which had a spectacular view of the lagoon. In fact, they were so close to the water that it actually felt like they were on a boat out on the lagoon when they stood on the balcony. In winter, they were able to enclose the space entirely by slotting in glass panes between the eaves and the balcony railing. It allowed them to still enjoy the view without being exposed to the cold wind and rain. It was a pretty mild evening, so Bryce had a couple of the panes open, allowing the night sounds and the fragrant briny air to drift in.

He was bustling around the round table that he had shifted into the center of the balcony. It was covered in a white tablecloth—the finest linen of course—and he had pulled out all the stops, bringing out the best china and silverware for the occasion. He also had a gorgeous bouquet of red roses in a crystal vase as the centerpiece of the table. He was currently struggling to keep the candles lit. Every time he managed to get one tiny flame burning, a breeze would snuff it out, and he was starting to curse under his breath. She giggled to herself when he tried again, only to be foiled by another mischievous gust of wind.

She lovingly traced the lines of his strong back with her eyes and saw that he had changed his clothes. He was wearing a pair of faded jeans that conformed beautifully to the gorgeous curve of his firm butt and a black dress shirt with a pair of running shoes. His hair was damp and a bit messy, so he must have showered sometime in the last hour.

He swore even more vituperatively than before, and she rolled her eyes before walking up to stand beside him. He was so absorbed in his task that he didn’t notice her until she placed a hand on his back. He jumped before relaxing when he saw that it was Bronwyn.

“I can’t get the damned things lit,” he groused, gesturing to the two tall, white candles beautifully showcased in their sterling silver holders. Bronwyn twined her arm around his and sandwiched his large hand between hers. She rested her cheek against his hard deltoid and contemplated the problem, while idly playing with his fingers before straightening up and smiling at him. The living room light illuminated the balcony just enough to enable them to see each other. She held up a finger indicating that he should wait there before dashing back inside for a few minutes.

She returned with a triumphant smirk, holding up four little scented Glade candles in glass holders. They usually kept them around for candlelit baths. He grinned and grabbed a couple of the glasses from her.

“Vanilla? My favorite,” he announced happily as he placed them strategically around the table. After they were lit, he frowned doubtfully at the scant light they offered. “Are there any more?” he asked, and she nodded.

I didn’t want to ruin your dinner by having the whole place reek of vanilla. Everything would taste like cake, she signed.

Fair point, he acknowledged.

“I think this is perfect.” She waved her arm at the table and he smiled.

“I think you’re perfect.” She snorted at that unnecessary bit of flattery, and he grinned again, sweeping her up in a hug.

“I’m starving,” he growled, nipping at her neck to let her know exactly what he was starving for. As if the erection insistently pushing against her wasn’t proof enough of that. She giggled and pushed him away.

“Down, boy,” she teased. “I want to see what culinary feast you’ve prepared for us tonight.” She didn’t miss the flash of guilt in his eyes as he uncovered the chafing dishes at the other end of the beautifully decorated table.

“We have”—he cleared his throat nervously, keeping his eyes averted—“roast beef soup with crème fraîche, followed by salad with vinaigrette dressing.” More throat clearing. He really was getting truly awful at deception. “Stuffed flank steak served with baby potatoes in a garlic butter sauce, and triple chocolate mousse for dessert.”

To be continued

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