“You look much better,” he observed, his eyes continuing to run over her face and form. “Not as gaunt, and you’re getting some color in your cheeks. How do you feel?”

“Better.” She nodded. “Bored.” He shocked her by gracing her with the smallest of smiles.


“Yes, you were never one for long periods of inactivity.” He nodded. “Have you given any thought to what you want to do once you’ve recovered?” She stared at him in dismay, having no clue how to answer that question. She hadn’t dared think about the future; she had no idea what Bryce wanted from her. Did he expect them to just continue to live together in the same soulless fashion for the next fifty years or so? Because Bronwyn couldn’t do that. She absolutely refused to live like this for much longer; she would rather get a divorce. Did he want a divorce? For that matter, were they divorced already? She was certain of only two things; he wanted his daughter but he did not want Bronwyn.

“I don’t . . . what do you mean?”

He frowned. “It wasn’t a trick question, Bronwyn,” he responded scathingly.

“I’m not sure . . . I suppose I’ll find a place to live?”

He didn’t like her response. That much was evident from the way he was glowering at her.

“You’re not taking Kayla away from me again, Bronwyn. You’ll both be staying here. You’d best reconcile yourself to that fact!”

“Staying here as what?” she asked pointedly. A divorce was looking increasingly appealing right now. She had no idea why she hadn’t instigated proceedings herself long ago. She supposed she had clung to the remnants of a fairy-tale marriage that had never existed outside of her imagination.

“My wife and my daughter,” he responded angrily, his voice rising marginally. “I could do without the wife, but I realize that it’s a package deal for now, so I’m willing to suffer your presence in my life again.”

“How long do you expect us to continue to living like this?” she pressed. She was trying very hard to keep the emotional strain off her face.

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“Live like what? You have it made, Bronwyn, you’ll never want for anything, you have everything you need right here. I’m the one who will be making the sacrifices, shackled to the wife who crippled me and stole my child from me. I’ll be the one saddled with a wife whom I have absolutely no respect for. But I want my daughter, and for now this is the only way that I can have her.”

“Oh please, Bryce,” she retorted, her face pale with anger and hurt. “You’re not quite the prize you think you are. You forget that I’ll be trapped in a loveless marriage with a man who kicked me out of the house when I told him I was pregnant with his child. A man who hates me for absolutely no reason at all and who makes no secret of the fact that he doesn’t respect me. How on earth do you call that having it made? I’d rather we divorce and try to reach an amicable custody agreement. Kayla and I could live close by and . . .”

“The only other option you have here is if I took her from you, Bronwyn. No compromises. You live here with us, or you leave without her. What’s it to be?”

“You can’t take her from me . . .” she began helplessly, going ice cold as he pulled the rug out from under her again. Damn him, he held all the cards and he knew it. Her bravado was just empty posturing. She didn’t have his resources, and for now she’d have to toe his line until she could find a way out of this mess.

“Can’t I?” he asked frostily. She floundered beneath his steady gaze, lowering her eyes to where Kayla was happily playing on the floor. “You’d better start thinking about what you want, Bronwyn. Stay or leave. But if you stay, I suggest you start finding ways to make your life here more tolerable.”

“But what about . . .” she began before biting her tongue and blushing to her toes. The blush gave her away.

“Sex?” he prompted, and she nodded miserably. “Well, I don’t know about yours but my sex life is perfectly fine.” He shrugged. “Naturally, I don’t expect you to deprive yourself either. If you’re concerned that I’ll come creeping into your bed one desperate night, don’t worry about it. You’re the last woman in the world I want to sleep with.” His expression was filled with such distaste that Bronwyn’s eyes filled with tears of shame. She knuckled them away, infuriated by the display of weakness. His contempt hurt more than she could possibly have imagined. She glanced down at their daughter. The innocently playing little girl remained oblivious to the tension in the room, and Bronwyn was grateful for that. She refocused her attention on Bryce.

“You wanted me the other day,” she reminded him defiantly, and he laughed.

“I felt sorry for you,” he corrected. “Trust me, Bronwyn, the mere thought of touching you makes my skin crawl!” She flinched and struggled desperately to keep her tears at bay and her emotions in check, but one single scalding drop escaped to scorch its way down her cheek. His eyes followed the tear’s progress. His jaw clenched, and his expression remained emotionless. He looked like a man under enormous strain. She wiped at the moisture on her face, wanting to be as unemotional as he was but failing dismally when another tear escaped. She averted her face, not wanting to see the scorn in his eyes and pushed herself up as she sought an escape route out of the room. He got up too and stood in front of her, blocking her way to the exit, so she turned away from him and walked to one of the windows, staring blindly out at the magnificent scenery as she fought to control her emotions.

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