“You should get inside before you catch a cold,” he urged, ushering her toward the door, and she nodded numbly. She messed up the security code a couple of times before he gently pushed her aside and did it for her with hands that trembled only marginally less than hers. Once he had the door opened, he turned to her, caught her face in his cold, wet hands, and kissed her unceremoniously. There was no finesse to the kiss at all, just raw passion, and Bronwyn was left feeling a little dazed and unsteady on her feet when he released her seconds later.
“Good night,” he said gruffly, jerking the collar of his soaked coat to protect his already wet neck from the rain and turning to walk back to the car. She stood in the doorway and watched as he gestured at Cal to remain in the car before he climbed into the passenger seat and shut the door in one smooth movement. The car remained standing there after that, and she knew that he wouldn’t leave until she stepped inside and shut the door. She waved at the dark figure in the front of the car before stepping back and shutting the door. As she watched the car head back down her driveway, she sighed and for once tried not to dwell on the definite mistakes that she had made tonight.
She really was a fool when it came to her relationship with Bryce. She made the same stupid blunders over and over again, but tonight she had seen something in him that had never been there before. She had seen resolution in his eyes as well as an unfamiliar mix of determination and vulnerability. The man she’d been married to would never have let her catch so much as a glimpse of that susceptibility before. It gave her hope.
“Hi.” Bryce looked almost shy when he brought Kayla home the following evening. The little girl threw herself at Bronwyn and they reconciled like two people who had been separated for months instead of a mere day, showering each other with exaggerated hugs and kisses.
After a long and exuberant greeting, Kayla ran off to her room to check if her toys had missed her too, leaving her parents to stare at each other nervously.
“Hey.” Bronwyn returned his greeting and pushed her hands into the back pockets of her jeans as she rocked back and forth on her heels. It had been raining incessantly since the night before, and Bron stared out at the dismal weather over Bryce’s shoulder. He was still standing on the porch, as was his habit when he dropped Kayla off. He never came inside.
“It’s freezing out there,” Bronwyn observed inanely. “Do you want a hot drink?” His eyes lit up at the invitation and he nodded quickly. He turned and signed his intentions to stay at Cal, who was waiting in the car. The other man nodded and sent back an “okay” sign.
“You’ve done a lot with the place in such a short time,” he said, looking around the homey kitchen as he sat down at the island. He watched as she bustled around the large room, preparing a pot of tea. She sat down across from him a few minutes later with the pot of tea steeping between them.
To keep her hands busy and her anxiousness at bay, she poured his tea, automatically making it the way he liked it.
“Do I make you nervous?” he asked, and her hands stopped their restless movements as she considered his frank question. How like Bryce to cut to the chase.
“No,” she replied. “You don’t but the situation does. Don’t you feel the same way?”
He took a sip of his tea as he considered her question and placed his dainty teacup carefully back into its saucer before replying.
“I’m bloody terrified,” he admitted with a disarming grin. “Terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing. Last night is a perfect example of me screwing things up without meaning to.” The smile faded and his eyes darkened. “Our entire marriage was an example of me screwing up without meaning to.”
She honestly had no idea what to say in response to that and was relieved when Kayla came running back into the kitchen with Broccoli clutched to her chest. They were both grateful for the interruption and focused their attention on the little girl, who was talking a mile a minute. After a few minutes of fussing over the child, Bronwyn tapped Bryce on his shoulder to get his attention.
“Do you want to stay for dinner?”
“I’d like that very much,” he said.
“We’re ordering pizza,” she warned in case he was expecting some miraculous home-cooked meal after she’d spent all day at school and work.
“No problem.” He whipped out his phone. “I’ll let Cal know that I’ll be staying a while. He and Paul can order takeout for dinner too.”
She nodded as she sent Kayla to the refrigerator for the magnetized pizza menu that she kept low enough for the child to reach.
“I can’t remember the last time I had pizza,” Bryce said, leaning back against the sofa with a contented groan. “That was delicious.”
They were all in the living room, where they had enjoyed an impromptu picnic on the heated carpet. Kayla liked the novelty of eating on the floor and constantly crawled from her mother’s lap to her father’s lap, loving the undivided attention from her doting parents. She was currently sitting on her mother’s lap and Bronwyn could feel the child’s head getting heavier and heavier as she started to doze off. It was getting close to her bedtime.
“Bath time, munchkin,” Bron whispered into her ear.
“No baf, Mummy,” the child protested sleepily.
“Yes bath, Kayla.”
The little girl was grubby and her face was covered in pizza stains. The child pushed herself up and heaved a long-suffering sigh that nearly had Bronwyn in stitches when she heard it.