“Well there is no more marriage, is there?” he droned tonelessly. “This house is big enough for us to live completely separate lives. We could work out some kind of schedule, times you may need certain areas of the house to yourself. Please don’t reject the idea out of hand just because it came from me. It makes sense and you won’t be killing yourself trying to make ends meet. I won’t interfere with your life at all.”
“What about your work?” she asked when his eyes were on her again.
“I work mostly from home these days.” He shrugged and she hesitated, her mind busily going over every angle of his plan. “I do plan to spend some more time in the office in the future, but we have an excellent in-house day-care facility, so she’ll never be too far from me.”
“This can’t be a permanent arrangement,” she said after a long pause, knowing that she was compromising way too much. Her instincts were screaming at her to move out, but she kept thinking of Kayla and how much she adored her father. “And if I’m staying here, I’ll want to pay rent,” she cautioned, and he dipped his head in acquiescence.
“I know it can’t be permanent, but it’ll give you time to arrange your future; it will give me time to get to know Kayla and vice versa. You can pay a reasonable amount for rent, and the amount will include food and utilities. But if you’re paying rent, you won’t be able to pay for your tuition and books, so I’d like to give you a student loan, low interest, which you can pay off in your own time,” he hurried on when it looked like she was about to protest. “It’s a better deal than you’d get from any bank, Bronwyn. No strings attached. Once you’ve finished your studies and are settled into your new career, you’ll be better equipped to move out, and Kayla will be old enough to understand.”
“Bryce, that will take years.” She was aghast at the thought of living in limbo for so long. But still, it was an awfully tempting suggestion, and Bronwyn knew she’d be a fool to turn it down when she had so few other options. But things were starting to get sticky again, too many ties and way too many complications. “We have to move on with our lives.”
“And so we shall. We’ll just be sharing a house, Bron . . . nothing else. This works out to everyone’s advantage, and it’s best for Kayla.”
“We’ll have to . . .” She cleared her throat, not really wanting to be the one to mention the inevitable. “We’ll have to start proceedings.”
“Proceedings?” He looked confused.
“Divorce proceedings,” she clarified, and he very quickly averted his face, shielding his eyes from her.
“Yes, of course.” He nodded before lifting his eyes to her face again.
“It will be awkward once we start seeing other people, Bryce.” She decided to be the one to bite the bullet and speak the inescapable words. He cleared his throat uncomfortably before nodding again.
“I just ask that we both practice some discretion when it comes to that. Any . . . uh . . . any liaisons you . . . we see fit to start will have to be conducted outside of the home. For Kayla’s sake, of course. Anything else would confuse her.”
“That sounds reasonable,” she agreed, even while nervousness ate away at her stomach. She wasn’t sure that she was doing the right thing. Sure, she was taking the easy way out, but apprehension kept niggling away at the back of her mind. She got up gracefully and looked down at him for a long moment. “This marriage was probably never meant to be, Bryce. We were always too different.” He averted his gaze, saying nothing in response, and Bronwyn sighed before turning away and heading toward the door.
“We were good together once.” The words sounded torn from him, and she turned around to face him again.
“For a very brief time, so long ago that it seems like a dream now,” she reflected, her eyes misty. She dipped her chin at him before leaving.
Bryce watched her go before slumping back into his chair and kneading his temples with his fists. God, how the hell had this happened? How could he have gotten everything so wrong? He thought back to that terrible night and fought the painful memories, but they were relentlessly flooding back.
That night, two years ago, Bryce had leaned against the doorframe and watched as Bronwyn, unaware of his presence, flitted happily around the kitchen. She had her back to the door and her sweet little behind, deliciously molded by the faded fabric of her jeans, had wriggled energetically to the beat of the lively salsa tune coming from the iPod speakers on the kitchen counter. She clearly thought she was alone in the house. It was something she did quite often: dismissed the servants to surprise him with a meal that she had lovingly prepared. He would be lying if he didn’t admit to loving these moments of intimate domesticity. Eventually, he found the temptation of that cute little butt too much to resist. He crept up behind her to grab her hips and draw her back against him. She squealed in delight before turning in his grasp and throwing her arms around his neck. His own arms crept around her slender waist and they danced together sexily for a while. He started nuzzling her neck before she laughed and pulled herself out of his embrace.
“Silly man, stop distracting me,” she chided, bracing her hands on his chest. “Dinner will be spoiled if I allow you to lead me into temptation.”
“I can give dinner a miss,” he growled as he reached for her again, but she giggled happily and danced out of his reach.
“But I can’t,” she laughed. “I’m starving. Why don’t you go and shower off the day’s grit and grime while I finish up in here?”