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“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” she apologized, both verbally and in the sign language that she was still trying to learn in her free time. Because of school, her lessons had had to be moved to Saturdays before her usual get-together with the other ladies. His eyes dropped to her busy hands and narrowed sharply as they took in the graceful movements of her fingers.

“It’s okay,” he said out loud, shrugging slightly. He didn’t mention the sign language she had used, and she was both relieved and somewhat disappointed by that. He brushed by her and headed toward the large wooden island in the middle of the kitchen to drop the ingredients on the black marble–topped surface, while Bronwyn used a damp paper towel to wipe up the mess on the floor. When she was done, she rounded the island to face him again while he busily went about constructing an imaginative sandwich. He kept his eyes on his task and Bronwyn sighed in frustration before waving her hand beneath his eyes to get his attention. Finally, reluctantly, he looked up to face her.

“I have to talk to you about something,” she half signed, half spoke, and he nodded warily. “I need you to watch Kayla tomorrow night.” Something akin to relief flickered in his eyes, and he smiled slowly, nodding again.

“Of course.” His eyes dropped back to his sandwich. “I know that you have to start studying, mid-terms can’t be that far off.” Bronwyn groaned, this was going to be more difficult than she had originally anticipated. She waved her hand beneath his eyes again.

“Bryce,” she began when she had his attention again. “I have a date.” She said the words aloud, choosing not to sign them, and his eyes remained fixed on her lips for such a long time that she began to wonder if he might have misunderstood her. His large hands were resting on the wooden surface of the island, his sloppy sandwich teetering unsteadily between them, and as she dropped her eyes, wondering if she should repeat the statement, she noticed them curling into huge fists and knew that he had not misunderstood or misread her lips. He was trying to figure out how to deal with her words.

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“You’re married,” he reminded, almost absently, his voice sounding strangely hoarse. She raised her eyes to his face again and was startled to see how strained and pale he looked.

“We’re not married, Bryce,” she whispered. “Not really. Not for a long time now. You know that. You said it yourself; there is no marriage. We’re separated and merely sharing a house.”

“Who . . .” He began to frame a question but then simply turned the one word into a question. “Who?”

“One of my professors. He’s a nice man, decent.”

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“How decent can he be if he dates his students?” Bryce hissed furiously.

“I’m not a child, Bryce, and Raymond is only two years older than you are. It’s hardly unethical for us to go out on a perfectly harmless date.”

“I don’t think you should do this,” he began, but she held up a silencing hand.

“I didn’t come to you for your blessing, Bryce,” she told him firmly. “I felt that telling you would be the right thing to do, because we are still legally bound. Yes, we have a child together and we’re sharing a house, but our marriage, if we can call it that anymore, is over. I want to move on with my life, and the only way either of us can do that is if we get a divorce. So if you won’t start the proceedings, then I will. I’ll be seeing an attorney as soon as possible.” He lowered his gaze back to his sandwich.

“It’s probably better that way,” he agreed quietly. “If you need me to watch Kayla tomorrow night, I will.” He raised his enigmatic eyes back to hers and she smiled gently.

“One more thing, Bryce,” she said tentatively. “I don’t want a security guy hovering in the background while I’m out tomorrow night. So I’m dismissing Paul early. Please clear it with Cal.” Poor Paul would probably be relieved to have the time off. Her life was pretty mundane, and while he was too professional to ever show it, she suspected that he was bored out of his mind for the most part.

“Fine,” he gritted after a long pause, clearly not happy with that idea but acquiescing when he realized that she wasn’t going to budge on the matter.

“In fact, I would prefer it if Paul didn’t come to campus or work with me. It’s a waste of your resources. I’m perfectly safe, and I would just feel more comfortable without him constantly hovering in the background.” She knew that she was pushing it and that Bryce wasn’t likely to budge on this, but she really felt like a pretentious freak with a bodyguard constantly dogging her steps. It made her feel completely conspicuous.

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“Bronwyn, I take your and Kayla’s safety very seriously,” he said darkly.

“Look, of course I want Kayla to be safe, and I absolutely agree on the issue of security for her, but I’m not quite in the same boat. I’m your all-but-estranged wife. Not quite the prime target for kidnappers.”

“Prospective kidnappers don’t know the intimate details of our marriage, Bron,” he pointed out reasonably. “You’re living with me, you’re the mother of my child, and you’re a target. End of story. Paul stays.”

“Well, can you at least give me some time to myself on Monday then? I have something to take care of.” While she had just informed him she would be seeing an attorney, she didn’t want Bryce hearing about it from the hired help before she had a chance to tell him about it in person. That wasn’t the way she wanted him to learn the news.

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