“And for you, sir?” Pierre was staring at his friend in disbelief, before refocusing his attention on Bronwyn. Those previously grim eyes of his were alight with humor.
“What the hell.” He had a French accent. She had been so focused on Bryce that she hadn’t noticed that before. “I think I’ll have that milkshake too!”
A few hours after arriving in Camps Bay, Bronwyn was still unsettled by the emotions those long ago memories on the chopper had stirred up. She was standing in the conservatory; it was the highest point in the staggered house and had always felt like an eagle’s aerie to her. All but one wall, as well as half of the ceiling, was entirely made of glass.
She gazed down at the beautiful, blue Atlantic Ocean with its pristine beaches. To her left was a view of the mountain range, the Twelve Apostles, named after the majestic craggy peaks that loomed above the gorgeous beaches, while the bustling city of Cape Town lay to the right.
The house was exactly as she remembered. Big and beautiful, it was built into the face of the mountain and had panoramic views all around. Bronwyn loved this house, absolutely loved the way it caught the sun and loved the fact that it had always felt like home. It still did. She had felt it welcoming her back from the moment she had stepped off the chopper. Bryce had deserted her immediately after their arrival, taking Kayla to introduce her to her new home. Bronwyn had wandered around listlessly before finding herself back in this room—her favorite. Bryce had always complained that she had turned it into a “girlie” room, with comfortably overstuffed furniture, beautiful throw rugs, and anything else that caught her fancy. She had trawled flea markets and out-of-the-way little shops for anything she felt would suit this room, and the result had been an eclectic blend of old and new, a room for all seasons.
He hadn’t changed it at all. Everything was still in exactly the same place as it had been when she had left, but the room felt unused, and Bronwyn knew that he hadn’t set foot in it over the last two years. The room contained so many memories. They had spent hours in it, night and day; it was the room they had done most of their daily living in, simply talking, often making love, and then arguing fiercely on that last day.
Her eyes flooded with tears and she covered her face with her hands. Kayla had been conceived in this room too. One night, three months or so before their final argument, they had returned home from a party, both of them slightly tipsy. He had looked at her like she was the most beautiful woman in the world and had, indeed, told her that over and over again as he had worshipped her body on one of the rugs in front of the window. They had fallen asleep here, right where she was standing, entangled in each other’s arms. They’d been so close it had felt like nothing would ever separate them.
She jumped and swung around, so wrapped up in her memories that it took a few seconds for her to realize that he was no longer the same Bryce who had held her so tenderly that night. He had a sleeping Kayla draped against his chest and looked at a bit of a loss. She felt a combination of anger and regret at the sight of him holding her daughter and possessively reached out for her, but Bryce sent her a quelling look.
“You can barely stand upright. Do you really think you’re capable of carrying her without dropping her?” Frustrated by the logic of his words and biting back her protestations only out of concern for her daughter’s safety, Bronwyn took a step back.
“It’s past her usual nap time,” she said, making certain that he was looking at her before she spoke, not wanting a repeat of the incident on the helicopter. “Where can we put her?”
“I have a room prepared for her.” He turned away and headed for the stairs, which led down to the second-story bedrooms. Bronwyn tensed when they passed the master bedroom and wondered where she would be expected to sleep. He led her to the room that adjoined the master and, with his hands full, he nodded toward the closed door. She obediently opened the door and then gasped when she saw the room. It was a nursery, beautifully decorated in lemon and cream. Toys of every kind were stacked neatly on shelves, and a crib—gorgeously detailed and obviously for a newborn—was positioned close to the large picture window. He carried Kayla to a bigger cot that Bronwyn hadn’t immediately noticed. She watched as he tenderly laid his daughter down and covered her with a lightweight downy blanket. He stared at her for the longest time, his hand looking clumsy and huge and infinitely gentle as it stroked the little girl’s silky hair.
“Welcome home, Mikayla,” he murmured gently before leaning down to place a sweet kiss on her forehead. He raised his head to meet her eyes, and seeing the question in them he shrugged, his face going a little bit red.
“I had the room done a few months after you left. It was that or go stir-crazy. I didn’t know if she was a boy or girl, so the colors had to be neutral. She has outgrown just about everything in here but I couldn’t imagine . . . couldn’t picture how she would look and didn’t know how big she would be.” His voice broke and he lowered his gaze to the sleeping toddler, his eyes glittering with unshed tears. “God, she’s so beautiful.”
Bronwyn didn’t know what to say, didn’t know how to respond to this obvious desire he’d had to be a part of his child’s life. Why hadn’t he come for her if he’d wanted the baby? Why hadn’t he taken, or returned, any of her calls? At the same time she couldn’t help but feel near hatred toward this clearly conflicted man. He had robbed them of the opportunity to be a real family with his inexplicably cruel actions, and pretty little rooms with expensive toys weren’t going to change that fact.