“Bryce.” She was a little stunned by his revelations and tried to gather her thoughts before responding. “I never expected you to be this perfect heroic husband. I fell in love with a man, not a superhero.”
“You didn’t know the real man, Bron,” he said heavily. “And that’s why I had to sign those papers. I wanted to give you a chance to get to know me. Flaws and all. I wanted us to have a fresh start, to go back to the beginning. I wanted this dinner to be a new beginning for us.”
“So, let me get this straight, you agreed to a divorce because you wanted us to start dating again?” she asked incredulously. Not quite sure she had understood him correctly.
“Basically . . . yes,” he confirmed, and Bronwyn felt like the top of her head was about to blow off. She actually lifted a hand to her face, almost certain that steam was billowing from her nose and ears like she was some maddened cartoon character. Unfortunately their server chose that moment to return, and Bronwyn waited impatiently while the woman offloaded the piping-hot, aromatic bowls of pasta and crispy garlic bread onto the table in front of them. As soon as the server left, Bronwyn turned her frowning gaze back on the uncomfortable-looking man sitting across from her.
“And did you really think, after the emotional turmoil of the last few months, that I’d be on board with this scheme of yours?” she asked, trying extremely hard to rein in her temper, unable to believe the absolute arrogance of the man. “And what’s this? Phase One of some big reconciliation plot?”
“There is no such thing,” he said quietly. “I was just hoping you’d understand what motivated me.”
“You wanted to start a new, honest relationship by deceiving me into coming out to dinner with you? I mean, what is this if not luring me here under false pretences? I’m not quite feeling the honesty here, Bryce,” she pointed out sarcastically. He had the grace to look repentant.
“I didn’t say it would be an easy habit to break, Bron,” he said uneasily, and she swallowed down the irreverent giggle that wanted to burble from her lips. For some unfathomable reason, she was both irritated and oddly charmed by his flagrant presumption. She felt so many conflicting emotions that she wasn’t quite sure how to approach this crazy new spanner that he had tossed into the works. Part of her wanted to move on and rebuild her life without him in it, a larger part wanted to know why he had such a low opinion of himself. She wanted to know why he thought he was a villain. She didn’t for a second believe that the man she had fallen in love with had never existed, but it disturbed her that he clearly thought that. Still, they couldn’t keep going around in circles like this. It wasn’t doing either of them any good.
Bryce, I don’t know if I can go another round with you, she signed sadly. It’s so exhausting.
“For now, let’s try to enjoy our dinner,” he suggested. “Nothing more, nothing less. Just dinner. Okay?”
She hesitated for a long moment before nodding with a resigned little sigh.
“Okay. Just dinner.”
The rest of the evening wasn’t as strained as Bronwyn had expected it to be after that outrageous conversation. Bryce kept her entertained with his tales of Kayla’s daytime antics. He didn’t touch on the controversial subject of dating again, but it remained there between them, the huge elephant sitting at the table with them.
The wind was howling when they left the restaurant a couple of hours later, and a combination of rain and hail was viciously pelting down on Cal who dashed over to meet them when they paused under the eaves of the restaurant. The huge black umbrella that Cal held up over his head was being buffeted by the wind, and Bronwyn didn’t have high hopes for its survival. It was mid-June and winter—which had been late in arriving—was gleefully showing off its jagged teeth. Cape Town was notorious for its terrible winter storms, and this one, which had arrived without much warning, looked like it was going to be one of the bad ones. They quickly decided that bringing Kayla home from Rick and Lisa’s place in such bad weather wasn’t a good idea, and they ducked back into the restaurant for a few minutes while Bronwyn called Lisa to ask if Kayla could sleep over. The other woman readily agreed with their decision and put the sleepy little girl on the line to say good night to her parents. Kayla sounded happy enough but Bronwyn was naturally worried, as Kayla had never spent a night away from either of her parents before. After a few more minutes of reassurance, Bronwyn hung up and met Bryce’s concerned gaze.
“You okay?” he asked, and she nodded, blinking back the sheen of tears. Kayla’s first overnight stay away from her parents was a big deal, and Bronwyn felt more than a little emotional about it.
“She’ll be fine.” Bryce gave her a self-conscious one-armed hug. Bronwyn was touched by his masculine awkwardness at the sight of her tears, and she gave him a wobbly smile as he led her back outside. Once again they hesitated under the eaves, where poor Cal had been left waiting.
I don’t want you to drive home in this weather, he signed urgently. Bronwyn stared out at the deluge and tended to agree with him. She definitely didn’t fancy driving in this downpour. The near gale-force winds didn’t help matters. She bit her lip as she stared out at their cars parked by the sidewalk. Unfortunately Bryce had dismissed Paul before they’d even left the bookshop, stating that he and Cal would ensure that Bronwyn got home safely.
Cal can drive you. I’ll follow, he signed authoritatively, and she shook her head. She didn’t like that suggestion at all, not with Bryce being an uneasy driver himself, but she knew that protesting for that reason wouldn’t sit too well with his pride.