“What?” he asked suspiciously.
“Bryce, I don’t ask you for much, just grant me this one request and allow me to cling to the illusion that I still have some semblance of privacy in my life.”
“Only on Monday?” he clarified reluctantly, and she nodded. “Very well, I’ll inform Cal.”
“Thank you,” she said, and he inclined his head curtly before turning away from her and heading to the refrigerator, his rigid back telling her that he wanted her gone by the time he turned back. Bronwyn wasted no time in beating a hasty retreat. She headed to the nursery to watch Kayla sleep and silently mourned the loss of the life she could never have with the man she so desperately loved.
Bryce wanted to break something, wanted to hurt someone, preferably the smarmy bastard who had ingratiated himself to Bryce’s wife! God, this was so much worse than he’d imagined. Bronwyn was moving on with her life and seeing other people. What if she let this guy, this Raymond, touch her or, worse, make love to her? His stomach rebelled at the thought, and he picked up his half-made sandwich and tossed it into the trashcan.
He pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes and frantically tried to figure out what to do, how to make this right, but he didn’t know how. He no longer had any control over his own life. Everything was sliding so swiftly downhill that he knew it was only a matter of time before it all ended. Bronwyn didn’t see herself as his wife anymore. She wanted nothing to do with him, and who could blame her? After the way he had behaved, it was nothing less than he deserved. He could threaten her with a custody battle, but he didn’t have it in him to do that to her or Kayla.
After all those months of self-righteous anger and believing he was the wronged one, while his Bronwyn suffered unimaginable horrors on her own, he now had to face up to the fact that he had brought all of this upon himself. Blackmailing Bronwyn to stay with him, after everything else that he had done wrong, would in no way, shape, or form restore his self-respect. He had to let her go; she deserved to be happy and it was obvious that he couldn’t make her happy, that he had very rarely made her happy. That was his failure, his shame, and his cross to bear, and he would no longer have her share that burden.
“What the hell do you mean, you’re pregnant? What about your studies and the mutual decision we made when we first got married? We were going to wait, Bronwyn, remember? Just tell me you’re joking.” The fury he had felt that night scorched its way through his body and obliterated his ability to think rationally. He moved away from her and jumped to his feet to glower down at her. She had looked so confused and hurt that for a moment he nearly softened, nearly took her into his arms to comfort her. But then those two words echoed their way through his brain again and his white-hot, bitter anger reasserted itself. The sense of betrayal left an acrid taste in his mouth.
“I know that it’s sooner than we’d planned,” she said softly, trying to maintain an even tone of voice. “But this is the reality of our situation now and it can’t be changed. We’re having a baby . . . a baby, Bryce. Don’t you understand how wonderful that is?”
“I can’t believe you did this. I can’t believe you would stoop to this,” he gritted out bitterly. “This was supposed to be a joint decision. I’m not ready for this, Bronwyn. I don’t want a kid, damn it!”
“But it’s our baby . . . we made it together,” she protested, and he could hear the pain and confusion in her voice but just couldn’t keep the venom out of his own, knowing that if he allowed her to see through his anger to his own pain and confusion, she would think that what she had done was okay, and he was too furious with her to allow her to think that yet.
“You mean you made it, without my consent.” He could barely look at her. He didn’t want to see her tears—he hated her tears—but he could hear them in her gasp and in her voice when she spoke.
“I don’t know why you’re being like this,” she cried. “I didn’t plan this, it just happened. Our birth control failed. I asked the doctor and he said that if I’d had a stomach virus or anything like that it could provide a window of opportunity. And you know that I was sick a couple of days before your company party three months ago.” Damn her, she was trying to cover her tracks. He strode out of the conservatory and downstairs into their en suite, while she trotted behind him, still trying to tell him about a stomach bug that she had had three months ago. How the hell could she expect him to remember something like that, anyway? He pushed back the niggling voice that told him he did remember it and that he had pampered her ridiculously while she had been sick. Instead, he convinced himself that he couldn’t recall whatever insignificant bug she was referring to. He opened the medicine chest and yanked out her birth-control pills.
“What are you doing?” She sounded scared and appalled as she watched him count the pills in the box. His eyes clouded over with a haze of red when he realized that the numbers were right.
“God, have you been chucking pills down the drain every night?” he wondered out loud, hating himself even as he asked the question.
“You know I wouldn’t do that,” she defended urgently.
“Is that so? I obviously don’t know you as well as I thought I did, do I?”
“Of course you know me, Bryce.” she laid a tentative hand on his rigid forearm, and his flesh burned beneath the contact. He yanked his arm away and turned away from her. His eyes flooded with tears, he needed time to think, but he couldn’t think with her standing in the same room, not when she was crying, not when he was the one responsible for her tears.