“He called me because I’m his brother and his loyalties lie with me.” The beautiful dark voice was calmer than she would have expected and drifted over her like a gentle caress. She closed her eyes at the sound of that voice. It was the first time she had heard it in over two years, and God how she had missed it. She had hungered for the sound of his voice and had often thought of calling him just to hear it but had dismissed that impulse as a dangerous and forbidden luxury.
When she opened her eyes, she was shocked to find that he had moved. He was standing right beside her bed and much too close for comfort. She shifted somewhat, lowering her eyes to the bed covers, afraid to meet his glacial gaze. She was terrified of what she would see in those eyes and sneaked a peek at him from beneath her half-mast lids.
He was so big. She had forgotten that about him, forgotten the sheer bulk of this man who had once been her love and her life. He stood six feet four and had the brawn to match the height, huge shoulders, trim waist, and slim hips. He resembled a Norse god of old with the darkly golden hair and the grim features that looked carved from granite. The only hints of softness in that roughly hewn face were his long, long lashes and his beautifully shaped mouth. She had always wondered what a gorgeous, successful man like him had seen in a plain nobody like her. She was an awkward and gangly woman who had long legs, a skinny body, and the gracelessness of a giraffe. There was nothing remarkable about her, save that a man like Bryce Palmer had chosen her to be his wife, had seemed to love her and want her.
He looked older than his thirty-three years. He had obviously aged since she had last seen him, but it wasn’t unflattering and it added even more character to an already strong face. Now he hovered over her like an avenging angel, beautiful and intimidating. He had all the power in the world to hurt her and—according to him—all the reason on Earth to hate her.
“Look at me!” he hissed furiously. She lifted her head to meet his cold eyes head-on and quaked before the sheer, unadulterated hatred she saw there. “You took everything from me when you left. You stripped me of all dignity, left me bleeding by the roadside, and you never once looked back. I will never forgive you for that, Bronwyn.”
“You told me to go,” she defended herself weakly, looking down as she spoke, and was shocked when his huge hand reached out and grasped her fragile jaw. His grip was so unexpectedly fierce that she cringed a bit. She sensed Rick moving to intervene, but Bryce let her go abruptly.
“Look at me when you talk to me,” he gritted out savagely. “You did this to me. The least you can do is look at me when you have something to say.”
“Bryce,” she managed weakly, looking up at him, even though it terrified her to meet his eyes. “You told me to go. Remember?” He made an impatient sound and turned his back on her. Bewildered, she stared at the broad expanse of his back and tried again, tears spilling from her eyes and her voice thickening with despair. “You didn’t want me anymore. You said . . . I t-tricked you . . . said . . .”
“Where is my baby?” He cut through her words coldly, spinning around to face her again, his eyes locked onto her tearful face with an intensity that unnerved her. She was aware of Rick making a shocked sound and Lisa quietly taking the stroller and leaving the room. “Where is the child you so cruelly deprived me of knowing?” The tears streaming down her face did not move him at all, and his vicious gaze was unwavering.
“Please,” she whispered, and his eyes dropped to her mouth. “Please, Bryce . . . you said you didn’t want a child . . . said I’d tricked you. I don’t understand why you’re being like this.”
“For God’s sake, Bronwyn,” he all but shouted, suddenly and quite spectacularly losing his cool. “You knew that I was angry! You knew that I would calm down eventually. But you chose to run out of there, chose to jump into your car when you weren’t the best of drivers, and then you sped down that hill so fast that I was terrified you’d kill yourself. You knew that I’d follow . . .” He gritted his teeth and tilted his head back, and she could see the muscles in his neck and throat work as he forced himself back under control. It took him longer than she would have expected. Bryce had always been quite adept at mastering his temper. Not this time, it seemed. While he managed to damp down the rage, she could still feel it simmering dangerously below the surface and it unsettled her. She didn’t quite understand where all this anger was coming from.
“Where is my child?” he growled dangerously, and Bronwyn’s eyes flooded as she thought of her beautiful little girl. Kayla had every right to know her father and vice versa. It was just that, up until now, Bronwyn had had no clue that Bryce wanted to know his daughter. She thought of the two weeks she’d spent at their holiday home in Knysna, waiting for him to come. Yes, she had known that he would need time to calm down and she had known that once he thought things through he would come for her. There had never been a doubt in her mind that he would want her and their baby.
But he hadn’t come . . . he hadn’t come to the most obvious place, the one place that she had been certain he would look, the place where they had spent so many happy hours together. And as the hours had turned into days and then into weeks, Bronwyn had been forced to face the reality of her situation: he had meant every cruel word. Bryce did not want their child, and as a consequence, he no longer wanted her. She would never have believed it of him, would never have expected him to abandon her to care for their baby on her own.