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“This is perfect,” she told him, and his eyes warmed. “Thank you.”

He dropped an arm over her slender shoulders and gave her a quick, little one-armed hug.

“I saw an advertisement for this place last winter and I knew that you’d like it.” Last winter? At least six months before her return? He had learned about this place and thought of her. Not with any hatred or resentment it seemed. Instead he had thought about something that would make her happy. It was startling to know that he hadn’t always thought of her in anger over the last couple of years, and Bronwyn wasn’t sure how to process that information.

They got home shortly before eight, and Kayla was once again drooping in exhaustion. Bryce took her from Bronwyn’s arms.

“I’ll put her to bed,” he offered.

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“Bryce, you’ve been taking care of her all week, I should—”

“And you’ve been taking care of her on your own for years. This is the least I can do,” he interrupted, and she protested no further. She knew that he needed to make up for the past but that wasn’t what she wanted from him anymore. They had to think of the future and ensure that it was a happy one for all of them. Bronwyn just couldn’t live with his secrets any longer. And she was only human, so she still felt so much anger and bitterness toward him for misjudging her so horribly.

She went upstairs to take a hot shower, and when she headed toward the study later, she ran into Bryce as he was coming from the kitchen with a glass of fruit juice in his hand.

“Hitting the books?” His deep, quiet voice sent a little tremor of awareness shivering up her spine. She shoved back the unwanted frisson of sexual awareness and forced herself to smile.

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“I’m doing research on an assignment due in a couple of weeks,” she explained.

“Well, don’t overtax yourself,” he advised before heading upstairs. She saluted his back sarcastically.

“Yes sir,” she said smartly before rolling her eyes at her own childishness and continuing on her way to the study. She didn’t get much done before the rigors of the weekend caught up with her and her eyes drifted shut.

She came awake with a start when she felt strong arms encircling her and lifting her up.

“Wha . . . I was just taking a catnap,” she protested groggily, somehow managing to speak clearly enough for him to read her lips.

“You’ve been in here for nearly four hours, and judging from the computer screen, you’ve done all of five minutes’ worth of work. That wasn’t a catnap, babe; you were completely out.”

“Just so tired,” she murmured incoherently before snuggling up to his warm, strong, and naked chest. He must have been in bed until some instinct had told him to check on her.

“It’s okay,” he soothed into her hair. “Sleep, sweetheart.” She sighed contentedly, burrowed closer, and was asleep seconds after he’d deposited her in bed.

It was still dark when she woke up, but the room was filling with the eerie gray light of the impending dawn. She soon recognized that she was in Bryce’s room, in his bed, and wrapped in his arms. He lay spooning her, his knees tucked into the crook of hers, one strong arm snaked under her head and the other draped over her torso. His large hand was possessively spread over her abdomen. Bronwyn tried not to think about how incredibly right this felt and focused on extricating herself from his hold. She moved experimentally, but his arms flexed and his hand gently exerted a little bit more pressure on her stomach. She relaxed until she felt the tension seeping out of his arms and heard his breathing regulate again. Once she was sure he was still asleep, she subtly tried to move away again, but his reaction was the same as before. She sighed quietly and stilled her movements, wondering why he hadn’t taken her to her own bed. She was still wearing the tank top she had donned after her shower the night before, but her sweatpants were missing. He must have removed them to make her more comfortable. This left her wearing only her tiny silk bikini panties, and judging from the expanse of hot, smooth male flesh pressed up against her back, Bryce wasn’t wearing much more than a pair of boxers.

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She groaned softly, knowing that she should try harder to remove herself from his arms, but it felt so good to be held by him that she was tempted to stay where she was. She carefully laid her hand over his where it rested low on her stomach and gently tried to lift it. His hand quite unexpectedly curled around hers and she jumped in response to the touch.

“I just wanted to hold you.” His voice rumbled in her ear. His hand briefly tightened around her smaller hand for a few seconds longer before he let her go and removed his arm from around her waist. He shifted away from her, giving her the space to leave if she so desired. Bronwyn hesitated for a brief moment, impulsively turning around to face him. She could barely make out his expression in the predawn light, and against her better judgment she reached out a hand to touch his stubbled jaw. His own hand lifted to trap her against the bristly surface of his skin. Her palm brushed against the lower edge of his sensuous lips.

“If you don’t leave now, Bronwyn . . .” He left the rest of the desperately whispered warning unspoken, and Bronwyn closed her eyes briefly, praying for the strength to get up and walk away. She steeled herself and gently dragged her hand out from under his.

“Wait,” he whispered urgently, and she hesitated. He moved closer, bracing himself on one elbow to look down at her. “I’m sorry, I have to do this.” Before she could react, his mouth found hers in an achingly sweet yet infinitely hungry kiss.

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