“Bronwyn, you can’t mean to argue with me on this matter,” he said aloud. “I know you don’t want to drive in this weather.”
We can all go in your car, she decided. Paul can pick mine up in the morning.
He looked a little stunned by that decision but agreed quickly as if he were afraid that she would change her mind.
Cal—who was proficient in sign language and had been following the conversation—looked relieved that they had made up their minds and ushered them toward Bryce’s sleek car.
“Do you think my car will be okay here?” she asked Cal worriedly as he held the car door open for them.
“Don’t worry about it, ma’am, I’ll have one of my guys pick it up tonight,” he assured her.
“I don’t want to inconvenience anybody, and this weather is atrocious.”
“It’s our job,” Cal said with a polite smile. “We’ll take care of it.” Realizing that he wasn’t going to bend on the matter, Bronwyn ducked her head and climbed into the back of the car; Bryce followed, his bulk taking up most of the space in the backseat. Bronwyn immediately felt boxed in, but he seemed to be aware of how uncomfortable she was, so he kept to his side of the car. Despite his attempts not to crowd her, Bronwyn was still hyperaware of his larger-than-life presence. Naturally conversation was severely limited because of the lack of light, and she tried not to squirm during the short drive from the restaurant to her new home.
She unthinkingly tried to start a conversation to alleviate the awkwardness but was immediately aware of the futility of the gesture. The words died in her throat before they had even properly formed. That left her to toy with the buckle of her seat belt, and after a few minutes of restless fidgeting, she jumped when his warm hand closed over her fingers.
He didn’t say anything, merely lifted her hand to his lips and dropped a sweet kiss onto her sensitive palm. Her breath caught as she tried to see his face in the gloom, but she couldn’t see anything other than the whites of his eyes. He squeezed her hand reassuringly before dropping it gently into her lap.
When they arrived at her townhouse, Cal asked her to open the electronic gates and slid the car to a smooth stop right at the front door. He dashed out to open the door on her side, and as she ducked beneath the umbrella he held up for her, she heard the other door open and saw that Bryce had exited the car as well. Before she could utter a word of protest, he had rounded the car and dismissed Cal, taking the umbrella from the other man and walking her to the front door himself. When they reached the lit porch, she turned to him with a nervous smile.
“Thanks for dinner,” she said quickly, not sure what else to say really. He continued to look down at her, his handsome face and hair wet from the lashing rain. He really wasn’t getting much protection from the large umbrella, focusing his attention on keeping her dry instead.
“I’m sorry if you thought I was being deceptive tonight, Bron,” he said after a few long moments of silence. “That wasn’t my intention.”
She sighed softly.
“You definitely need a little more practice in the full-disclosure department,” she conceded. He looked confused and realizing that he hadn’t quite understood her, she repeated the statement—to the best of her ability—in sign language. The shadows that were lurking in his eyes cleared up at her words, and she was moved by the hope that bloomed on his face. Yes, he had gone about this the wrong way by foolishly using Kayla as a platform to launch his crazy campaign for reconciliation from, but she had to admit that she was intrigued. More than that, she couldn’t deny that she had been profoundly affected by the vulnerability and shocking lack of self-confidence that he had revealed earlier. His words were hard to ignore and impossible to forget.
“I guess I’m just a sucker for punishment,” she said aloud, and judging by the smile that lit up his face, he could read that without a problem. “I’m going to Pierre’s birthday party on Saturday, and since Alice told me that you’ll be there too, we might as well go together.”
“I’d like that.” His voice was thick with barely restrained excitement, and Bronwyn found that lack of cool quite sweet.
“We can work out the details later.” She smiled.
“I’ll fetch Kayla from Rick and Lisa’s place in the morning and bring her home at the usual time,” he said after an awkward pause.
“Okay . . .”
They stood there for an endless moment leaning toward each other, oblivious to the storm raging all around them. She stared at his mouth, knowing that it was foolish of her to want to kiss him so badly. If nothing else it was premature. Especially since this fledgling relationship that they were trying to build from scratch wasn’t ready for any kind of physical intimacy yet. But Bronwyn ached for it so desperately that she could almost taste him on her lips. His head lowered, hers tilted back, and the world slowed down and . . . stopped. Her senses were so incredibly heightened that she could almost count each individual drop of rain as it hit his face and beaded in his hair and on his long eyelashes. His lips had just barely brushed against hers when the wind caught the umbrella and ripped it from his loosened grip, flipping it inside out in the process. They jerked apart abruptly, both flustered and breathing heavily. Reality shoved its way between them and quite literally dumped a shock-load of icy water all over them both. Bronwyn shuddered when she felt the freezing rain dripping down the back of her neck where the collar of her coat gaped a bit.