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He couldn’t take his eyes off her. So absorbed was he in her climax that his own took him completely by surprise. He shouted hoarsely as his entire body bucked and he jerked once, twice before with another shout—her name—he poured himself into her with a broken sob. His eyes closed as his brain shut down and his body went limp. He stirred himself only to remove the condom before flopping down beside her again, dropping a heavy arm over her waist.

“I miss your breathless little sounds.” He broke the silence five minutes later, after their heartbeats and breathing had returned to normal, just as Bronwyn was starting to feel awkward and wondering now what? “Those half-formed gasping little words, God they used to turn me on more than you can imagine.” She lifted her head from his chest to stare at him.

“You never mentioned that before,” she pointed out, and he smiled.

“Because I knew that if I’d said anything you would immediately have felt self-conscious about it.” His reminiscent smile became a wicked grin. “And I didn’t want you tensing up at crucial moments.”

“Yet you feel comfortable enough telling me about it now?” she asked, curious, and he snorted.

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“I can’t hear them anymore,” he pointed out, and she tensed. “So getting self-conscious about any sounds you produce while we’re making love is a little pointless.”

“Are you going to tell me what happened to you, Bryce?” she asked faintly, and it was his turn to tense up. “Or are you never going to afford me the opportunity to defend myself?”

“You were there,” he reminded grimly, and she frowned irritably.

“Why do you keep saying that? What do you mean I was ‘there’?” she asked angrily. “Where the hell was I?”

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“There when I had my goddamned accident!” he snapped before launching himself out of bed and stalking around the bedroom angrily, looking for his clothing. She leaped out as well and walked around his back until she was facing him again. She was stark naked, but she no longer cared about anything except getting to the bottom of this strange accusation.

“I was not there when you had your accident!” she retorted indignantly.

“I saw you,” he forced the words out between clenched teeth.

“What?” She was completely baffled now. “Saw me where? Bryce I don’t even know when you had your accident. Please just tell me what happened!”

“It burns me to have to tell you something that you already know, Bronwyn,” he gritted. “You’re playing me for a fool and I don’t like it!” He moved to step around her but she put her hands up against his broad chest to stop him. He felt about as immovable as a block of granite.

“Please, just . . . just . . .” Her eyes begged him when words failed her.

“I went after you that night, when you raced out of here like a bat out of hell,” he said so quietly that his lips barely moved. “As you knew that I would. You were going so fast that I was terrified you would get into an accident.” His lips twisted at that bit of irony. “It took me a few minutes to get my car out, so by the time I headed out in the direction you had gone, you’d disappeared. I was frantic and wasn’t paying attention to anything around me. I was so focused on trying to spot your car that I didn’t see the couple crossing the road until it was almost too late. I swerved to avoid them and the car rolled. I was drifting in and out of consciousness, trapped in the car, when I saw you standing there amongst the crowd, staring at me with nothing but ice-cold contempt on your face . . . you heartless bitch!” He hissed viciously. “You turned around and walked away without so much as a backward glance.

“I wasn’t even surprised when I woke up three days later in Intensive Care to be informed that you hadn’t even bothered to visit or call. I couldn’t have cared less if I never saw you again but for the fact that you were having my baby. You were having my baby and you had simply disappeared off the face of the earth. Is it any wonder I hate you? Not only is my accident your fault, but you walked away from me when I was at my most vulnerable, when I needed you most, and you took my daughter along with you!”

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Bronwyn’s face was ashen with shock at his story. She ached to think of the agony he must have gone through in that hospital, wondering about his baby, but she was also filled to the brim with fury and offense that he dared to think she could do something so awful as walk away from him while he lay injured and bleeding. Not to mention his ridiculous statement that the accident had been her fault when he had caused the entire sorry situation.

“I concede,” she began quietly, with barely repressed sarcasm, “that maybe the accident was my fault because for some crazy reason I saw fit to flee after you drove me out of the house right when I needed you most. But I absolutely refuse to listen to this nonsense about me standing impassively by the side of the road while you lay bleeding and trapped in a car. Or, worse, walking away while you were still in the car!

“I didn’t know that you’d been in an accident until the day you walked into my hospital room. I would never have stood there watching you suffer, and if I had known you were in the hospital, no force in heaven or hell would have kept me away from your bedside, because, even though you had treated me like something to be scraped off the bottom of your boot, I still loved you so damned much!” He started to say something but she held up her hand.

“No. You’ve had your turn; it’s only fair I get a chance to defend myself against this . . . this insult! I did not think you would immediately come chasing after me—you were so irrationally angry that I knew you needed time to calm down. I headed straight for the beach house in Knysna. I stopped only for brief bathroom breaks and drove the distance in just under five and a half hours. I was confident that once you had time to calm down and think, you would change your mind about the baby.”

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