“Sorry, Bron, I thought you were giving her a bath. I didn’t know you were in the tub with her. I’ll talk to you later.” He turned to leave.
“Daddy no go!” Kayla demanded, fiercely unhappy that her father was about to leave. Bronwyn groaned and buried her face between the child’s fragile shoulder blades, then looked up to meet his amused eyes.
“You might as well stay; she’ll be insufferable if you don’t,” Bronwyn said. He nodded, lowering the lid on the commode and sitting down, leaning forward with his elbows resting on his denim-clad thighs and his hands loosely clasped between his knees. Happy that her daddy was watching, Kayla launched into full show-off mode. She decorated her mother’s face and hair with more bubbles before dragging a plastic doll into the water and starting a chatty tea party with it. Soon she was totally absorbed in her game, and Bryce shifted his beautiful eyes from child to disconcerted mother.
“I didn’t mean to lose my temper earlier,” he murmured.
“I know.” She shrugged, shampooing Kayla’s hair while the child continued to play. “You were worried. I’m sorry.”
“I was imagining all the worst scenarios,” he admitted, lowering his eyes to his hands. “I was on the verge of calling the police. I’d already decided I would once I’d finished feeding Kayla.” Because his eyes weren’t on her, she chose not to respond to that.
“I regret this morning too,” he said after a prolonged silence interrupted only by Kayla’s happy chatter. This time he did raise his eyes to her face. He looked both uncomfortable and sincere.
“I know,” she said again. “But even though I couldn’t really see it this morning, you did the right thing by leaving.”
“It nearly killed me,” he admitted gruffly.
“I know it wasn’t easy.” She nodded. “But thank you. I’m sorry for pressuring you to stay. It would only have led to even bigger regrets.” She grabbed the showerhead and started to rinse Kayla’s hair. The child squirmed irritably when it interfered with her game.
“Kayla, sit still.” Her mother’s tone brooked no argument. Kayla stopped moving and sulkily leaned back against Bronwyn’s chest. Bryce watched the two of them with a slightly dazed smile on his lips, and Bronwyn frowned, unable to interpret the expression on his face.
“You’re both so beautiful,” he whispered, sounding awed and humbled. He looked so possessively proud that Bronwyn squirmed uncomfortably.
He didn’t see her lips form his name. Instead he reached for a small towel and draped it over Kayla’s hair, knotting it turban-style around her head. He reached for another, bigger towel and opened it up, patiently waiting for Bronwyn to finish soaping and rinsing their daughter before kneeling beside the tub to reach for the squirming toddler. His white T-shirt immediately got drenched when he wrapped the small child in the towel. He picked her up before nodding down at Bronwyn, who immediately sank down beneath the rapidly dissipating bubbles.
“I’ll take it from here; you enjoy the rest of your bath,” he urged, and she smiled gratefully, watching his tall, well-built form as he retreated from the bathroom.
“Oh God,” she moaned, burying her face in her wet hands. This was going to be so difficult. She straightened her narrow shoulders resolutely before finishing her bath and heading off to find her husband. He was in Kayla’s room, reading the sleepy little girl a bedtime story. Bronwyn watched silently from the doorway, unseen by both father and daughter until eventually Kayla fell asleep. Bryce stopped reading and leaned down to drop a kiss on Kayla’s baby-soft cheek.
“Good night, angel,” he murmured, so quietly Bronwyn nearly missed it. When he got up and turned around, he seemed unsurprised to find her standing in the doorway. She came forward and dropped her own good-night kiss on Kayla’s cheek before straightening to meet his gaze unflinchingly.
“We need to talk,” she said, and he nodded. She led the way out of the room and downstairs to the living room. She couldn’t do this in the conservatory, not where they had shared so many experiences, both good and bad. He headed straight to the drinks cabinet and poured two glasses of neat scotch, seeming to realize that they would need it. He handed her one of the heavy, crystal glasses and gestured toward two comfortable chairs.
She nodded, sitting down opposite him and taking a nervous sip of the fiery liquid that swirled so prettily in the glass. She coughed and he grinned.
“Still can’t hold your liquor, I see,” he teased.
“Bryce, I filed for a divorce today,” she said very quickly. His grin faded, and he went as white as a sheet. His eyes dropped to his glass and he lifted it to his lips with a somewhat shaky hand before downing the contents in one gulp.
“I want nothing from you,” she continued hastily when his eyes lifted to meet hers again. “Just what we discussed before: child support and joint custody.” He got up and headed back to the drinks cabinet. He refilled his glass, doubling the amount this time. When he sat back down, he said nothing, merely drank down half of the liquor with a slight shudder.
“Say something,” she urged.
“Nothing more to say.” He shrugged. “Nothing more to do really, except sit here and get very, very drunk.”
“Bryce,” she admonished, but he didn’t see her lips form his name because he was up once again, refilling his glass. When he returned to his seat this time, he brought the decanter with him and held it up to her with a questioning tilt of his head.