“I know,” she appeased, kissing his chest and neck lovingly before raising her head to meet his eyes. “It’s okay.”
“No,” he whispered quietly. “No, it’s not.” He hovered for a moment before, with a growl of brutal self-denial, he dragged himself out of her arms and off the bed all in one swift movement. He stood at the side of the bed, gloriously naked and painfully aroused, to stare at her for a heartbeat before turning away and heading toward the en suite. Bronwyn watched the door close gently behind him and an instant later, heard the shower going on. She turned her face into the pillow with an anguished sob and wondered at the amount of self-control it must have taken for him to get up and leave her. She was tempted to join him in the shower, but she knew that he believed he had done the right thing. She could not undermine the sacrifice he had just made by stepping into that shower with him.
She dragged herself out of the warm bed and to her own room. Knowing that she would get no more sleep that morning, she showered as well and tried not to think about how difficult it would be to get through the day ahead.
Getting through the day really was a lot harder than she had anticipated once she remembered her appointment with the lawyer that afternoon. She was so tempted to let it slide, especially after the wonderful weekend the Palmer family had just enjoyed, but she couldn’t keep leaving things up in the air like this. The weekend and the incident between her and Bryce that morning had complicated matters, but it hadn’t really changed the big picture. The marriage was over, and it had been over for a very long time. It was with a heavy heart that she kept her appointment after her morning lectures and started the divorce proceedings. Jason Goodson, her attorney, had been a bit dismayed to discover that despite Bryce’s sizeable assets, Bronwyn wanted nothing from him other than continued child support and joint custody. Goodson had tried to dissuade her from this course of action, but she had remained firm in her decision until he’d had no choice but to accept his client’s wishes.
Getting through the rest of the afternoon was hell. Nothing seemed to go right, she couldn’t concentrate enough to get any studying done, and the bookshop was even quieter than usual. It offered no distraction from her inner turmoil. To top off a truly miserable day, after she finished work she discovered that she had a flat tire on her brand-spanking-new car. To make matters even worse, her cell-phone battery had died and she didn’t have her charger. Of all days to have given Paul the day off, this was the one time she could actually have used his help. Sobbing with frustration, she returned to the shop to call the Automobile Association and then waited nearly half an hour for them to arrive. Luckily, she had discovered the flat tire before leaving work and could safely wait for the AA inside the shop. By the time they had fixed the tire, she was nearly an hour late and the autumn sun had already disappeared behind the mountain. When she got home it was to find Bryce in the kitchen feeding a happily chattering Kayla. The toddler was intent on redistributing clumps of mashed potatoes from her bowl to her chubby fists and onto her hair. Bryce looked up when Bronwyn entered his field of vision, and his indulgent smile immediately faded.
“Where the hell have you been?” he asked in a controlled voice, his face dark with tightly leashed anger. “I’ve been going out of my mind with worry.”
“I had a flat tire,” she explained tiredly, dropping her bag onto the kitchen table and sitting down next to Kayla, picking up a damp cloth to wipe the food from the little girl’s face and hair. “The AA guys thought it may have been a slow puncture that I picked up on one of the gravel roads yesterday.”
“I’ve been sending message after message and getting zero response from you,” he growled, still in that frighteningly controlled voice.
“Well, my battery died.” She shrugged, doggedly wiping the smudges from Kayla’s face despite the child’s frantically shaking head. “I’m sorry.”
He swore, startling both her and Kayla, before handing the toddler’s spoon to Bronwyn and stalking from the kitchen.
“Daddy go ’way!” Kayla informed redundantly, waving happily at the door through which her father had disappeared. Bronwyn sighed and dropped a kiss onto the child’s silky curls, grimacing when her lips met a clump of cold food.
“You need a bath, little girl,” she groaned, overcome with exhaustion at the mere thought of it, when all she wanted was to soak her own weary bones. “Want a bubble bath with Mummy?”
Kayla grinned and nodded happily, starting to sing a tuneless song occasionally peppered with words like “mummy,” “bath,” “happy,” “bubbles,” and “play”; the rest was complete gibberish. Bronwyn laughed as she carried the child up to the master bath, wishing Bryce could hear the charming little ditty.
They were soon happily settled in the huge round tub and immersed in fragrant warm water. Kayla was on Bronwyn’s lap and both of them were enjoying the massive amount of bubbles in the tub when Bryce walked in. He halted at the door, visibly surprised to see his wife and child sporting foam bubble caps and beards. Bronwyn yelped, feeling like an idiot for not locking the door, but she had been so preoccupied with Kayla that she hadn’t even thought about it.
“Daddy,” the child squealed, happy to see him as always. “Baf?”
“Uh . . . not right now, sweetheart.” He shook his head regretfully, raising a wicked eyebrow at Bronwyn. “Although I would love to.” She rolled her eyes at the pathetic attempt at a leer and he chuckled.