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“And as for you . . . How dare you sit there judging me with nothing but the so-called facts your stupid brother gave you to go on?” She was so furious, hurt, and frustrated that she couldn’t stop herself from clenching her fist and punching him on his arm. He winced and angled his chair away from her. “I thought you were smarter and fairer than that, Rick!” She got up and turned to face Lisa, who was staring up at her with an approving grin playing about her lips.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, her eyes burning with the tears she refused to shed. “Please excuse me . . .”

Lisa nodded and Bronwyn turned to flee, leaving absolute silence in her wake.

“Well,” Lisa drawled into the shocked silence. “I think she’s a little angry, don’t you?”

“Stop it, Lisa,” Rick grunted irritably. “This is none of your—”

“Don’t say it,” she warned direly. “Don’t even think about saying it!”

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Rick wisely shut up.

“Your behavior was atrocious, and I was so ashamed of you.”

“Lisa, you don’t know—”

“She claims that she tried to call me,” Bryce interrupted the squabbling couple quietly, and Rick frowned.

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“What?”

“Before having Kayla, as little as a week after leaving me and then again after she gave birth.” He knew enough to read between the lines of her sarcastic responses of that morning. “She said she tried to call me. She said she tried my cell phone, but of course that was wrecked in the accident. She also professes to have tried the house but you’d given Celeste and the staff time off while I was recuperating. But then she also says that she tried to contact the office and was stonewalled by my people.”

Rick gaped at him.

“Bronwyn tried to contact you?”

“So she claims.” Bryce shrugged, trying to disguise his unease behind the careless movement. “My staff would not have given her the run-around, not unless I’d given specific instructions to that effect. Something I could not have done while laid up in hospital. So she has to be lying. But why the hell does she keep telling the same lie, over and over again?”

“Bryce,” Rick looked aghast. “You did give an order to that effect.”

“What?” Bryce leaped to his feet at the outrageousness of the remark. “What in God’s name are you talking about?”

“It was the same night as your accident. Pierre, Cooper”—Cooper had been Bryce’s personal assistant at the time, a young and ambitious self-starter who had since moved on to bigger and better things—“and I were all there. You had just gotten out of surgery and you were still groggy, but when I asked you where Bronwyn was, you were very adamant that you did not want to see her or hear from her ever again. You were in so much pain and the fact that I had to write down everything I said was adding to your emotional strain. I knew that something pretty awful must have happened between the two of you. The mere fact that she wasn’t at the hospital was testament enough of that, but I still figured the words were bluster and that you two would work things out, so I shrugged them off.”

Bryce’s face revealed absolutely no emotion as he got up from the table and dug his cell phone out of his pocket.

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“Call Pierre and ask him if he knows of any calls Bronwyn may have made to my office while I was recuperating.”

“Bryce . . .” Rick began.

“Just do it, Rick!” The younger man nodded and dialed. Bryce watched his brother’s face as he spoke with Pierre, unable to read his lips while he had the phone up against his ear. He kept picturing Bronwyn’s tormented face as she had flung her bitter words at him. He hadn’t been able to read half of what she’d said to him, but he had gotten the gist of it. She actually believed he didn’t think she was good enough for him? Where the hell had she gotten a demented idea like that? He was still mulling over the question when Rick disconnected his call and looked up. Bryce watched his younger brother’s expression closely, anxious to know what Pierre had revealed. When Rick first spoke, Bryce was so intent on watching his brother’s eyes that he missed the first few words and impatiently signed for him to start again.

“Pierre doesn’t know of any calls Bron may have placed to the office,” Rick began, and Bryce felt an overwhelming surge of despair battling with an equally large dose of anger at himself for almost believing the treacherous little bitch! Rick was still talking and it took all of Bryce’s concentration to focus on his brother’s lips again. “. . . Does remember you categorically stating that you wanted nothing more to do with her. Like me, he didn’t take the words seriously, so he placed no such order on your behalf. Pierre thinks that Cooper may not have dismissed your words as lightly. After all, Pierre is your friend and partner, and I’m your brother, and unlike Cooper we had no jobs on the line.” Bryce said nothing, merely stared at his brother thoughtfully for the longest time. The anger and despair was forgotten as a terrible feeling of sinking panic rapidly settled over him, and he frantically tried to figure out what to do next.

“Rick,” he said out loud, as carefully and concisely as he could, not wanting his brother to misunderstand his next words in the slightest way. “I want you to find Cooper. I want to know if she’s lying about this because . . . because . . .” He couldn’t bear to utter the words. His eyes slid away from Rick’s, and he found himself meeting Lisa’s gaze. He saw that her lips were moving and he automatically focused on them.

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