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“Well you and Pierre were having your little powwow.” She shrugged lightly. “What did you expect Alice and I to do? Sit around quietly and wait for our husbands to rejoin us? We talked, hit it off, and befriended each other. This is what friends do. We get together, have lunch, and go shopping . . .”

“You’re not well enough to venture out yet,” he said authoritatively. “Alice can come around here for lunch. I’ll SMS Pierre immediately and arrange it.” He whipped his mobile phone out of his jeans pocket, and Bronwyn stayed his hand by placing her smaller one over it.

“No.” She shook her head decisively, and he frowned.

“But . . .”

“I’m meeting Alice for lunch,” she reiterated.

“I don’t like it.”

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“Well that’s just too bad, isn’t it?” She was getting annoyed with his arrogance and her glare told him so.

“How are you getting there?” She frowned and lifted the set of car keys she was holding.

“I’m taking the Jeep,” she responded. The Jeep was one of the five cars he owned. Bronwyn had never seen the sense in anyone having more than one car, but Bryce loved his cars. She had already noted that his beloved metallic blue Maserati was gone, and she guessed that it must have been the one he’d been driving when he had his accident.

“I didn’t give you permission to use the Jeep,” he retaliated smugly, and she bit her lip.

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“You’ve never been selfish with your things; I didn’t think you’d mind,” she said uncertainly.

“I gave you a car as a wedding present. What happened to it?” he gritted, his eyes narrowing as he reminded her of the beautiful sporty BMW. She flushed as she struggled to respond to that question.

“What do you think happened to it? I sold it,” she whispered softly, defiance in her eyes. She had loved that car, but she had sold it before selling her wedding rings. She had clung to her marriage, her love for Bryce, and the rings that had symbolized both, for as long as she possibly could. The corners of his lips curled downward and she lowered her eyes, not wanting to see the contempt he had for her reflected on his face.

“Why?” he asked quietly. The question threw her. She had expected yet another one of his scathing set downs.

“I needed the money,” she confessed huskily. “I was seven months pregnant and I had no place to live. Up till then, I’d been staying in cheap hotels until the money I had in my personal bank account dried up.” The money in her personal account had been hers, money earned during her short-lived waitressing career, and that had been left over from her grandmother’s trust fund. It had lasted longer than expected after she had scrimped and saved, going without a lot of things in order to keep a roof over her head. She had worked three separate jobs, until she had been forced to concede that she wasn’t doing herself or her unborn baby much good. So eventually she’d had to sell her car and put some of the money down as a deposit on the small flat that she and Kayla had been still living in when Rick found her again. The money from the car and the rings had kept her comfortably afloat for nearly a year. The added income from work had been used for food and rent. The car and rings had paid for the extras and had helped with the medical bills as well as with feeding and clothing Kayla.

“It took me that long to grasp that our marriage was well and truly over,” she admitted shamefully. “It took four long months before I—at long last—accepted that I couldn’t continue living my life in limbo. I needed a place to stay, someplace that would be good for both the baby and me. I also knew that I would need medical care soon and some sort of financial cushion for a month or so after giving birth. I didn’t want to abandon Kayla for work mere days after giving birth to her. I wanted to spend some time with her.” He stared at her in silence for a long time, and she wet her lips nervously, not really knowing what to expect. Not even sure that he’d caught half of what she’d said. She had spoken a little too quickly, without really giving any thought to his deafness.

“I expected you to use the money in our mutual account, or to use your credit card. I was hoping that you would because it would have helped me track you down. I nearly went crazy wondering how the hell you were taking care of yourself. Why didn’t you use the money, Bronwyn?” he asked hoarsely, clearly staggered by her words. “Surely your health and the baby’s welfare meant more than your stubborn pride?”

She blinked at him in mute shock.

“I used my own money, Bryce,” she repeated with a shrug, knowing that the money had been a pittance compared to what he had. But at least it had been hers. “In my old account.”

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“What account?” he asked blankly, and she frowned.

“The account I had before we married,” she said quietly.

“You still had that account?” He practically exploded, and she winced, understanding how that must look to him. “After two years of marriage, you still had a bank account in your maiden name? What the hell was that about, Bronwyn? Your escape clause?”

“Hardly,” she scoffed. “It barely had enough in it to see me through the first month. I just never got around to closing it, that’s all. And besides, you have no right to get all self-righteous with me over it. You had cut me off so completely I’d assumed—”

“What? That I’d be happy to let you and the baby starve to death or wind up homeless?” he interrupted fiercely, and her mouth opened and then closed again as she tried to gather her thoughts. Yes, she should probably have used the money. When she thought back to all the unnecessary suffering that she had endured, it seemed stupid now, but at the time she’d been trying to prove a point.

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