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“Don’t call me that,” she said. She just felt tired and defeated. He stood there, hand still outstretched and looking miserable, with alcohol dripping from his hair and into his eyes. For a very brief moment she felt herself softening.

“I know that I’ve been an utter bastard,” he admitted.

“Yes.”

His admission strengthened her resolve.

“I’m sorry . . . ?”

“Is that a question? Or an actual apology?”

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He hesitated briefly and she rolled her eyes. “Get back to me when you know for sure.” She swept from the room, and Bryce stared at the door for a long time after she’d left.

Now that this whole divorce thing was becoming a palpable fact, he admitted to himself that he wasn’t quite so willing to roll over and give her everything that she asked for. He wanted his wife and child but he was a broken man, both physically and emotionally, and it hardly seemed fair to saddle her with his innumerable problems after everything that he had already put her through. Yet he knew that without her he’d go back to being the empty husk he’d been after she’d left. He sighed and corrected the thought, after he’d driven her away. Two years ago he had been careless with the most precious thing in his world and had lost it as a result. He wished that there were some way to regain her trust and reconcile with her, but in his heart he didn’t think he deserved that much anymore.

“You still with us, Bronwyn?” Bronwyn blinked when a slender hand was waved in front of her face and she saw that the four other women sitting at the restaurant table were staring at her expectantly. They had been discussing Theresa’s marriage renewal ceremony, which was coming up later in the year. The other women were excitedly exchanging ideas for the event.

“Sorry, I missed that,” she muttered, and Alice snorted.

“You’ve missed large chunks of the conversation from what I could tell,” the other woman said with raised eyebrows. “What’s going on with you? You checked out of this conversation before it even started.”

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“I’m divorcing Bryce,” Bronwyn told them after taking a fortifying sip of alcohol. It had been a difficult week. She and Bryce had barely spoken since Monday even though he had tried to approach her on numerous occasions. She’d spent her time actively avoiding him and felt like a rank coward because of it.

“Seriously?” Lisa looked stunned by the information, and the other women were all staring at her sympathetically.

“Yes. I’ve spoken to a lawyer.”

“But I thought things were getting better.” Lisa looked devastated by the information, and Bronwyn sighed quietly before shaking her head.

“No, the plan has always been to get a divorce. We’re living together because it’s convenient right now and less stressful for Kayla, but as soon as I graduate and find a job I’m leaving.”

“But that will take years.” Theresa unknowingly echoed the words Bronwyn had spoken to Bryce when he’d first suggested his house-sharing idea to her.

“Yes and it does bother me. I really don’t want to take advantage of Bryce’s generosity . . .”

“Oh bullcrap,” Theresa cut her off with what for her was uncharacteristically strong language. “You’re the mother of his child and you spent the first year and a half of Kayla’s life struggling to take care of her at the cost of your own health. So don’t you dare feel bad about accepting the aid that you’re entitled to receive from the father of your child. It’s the very least he can do.” The other women stared at Theresa in surprise, and she looked a little uncomfortable before shrugging. “It’s something I feel strongly about.” Bronwyn smiled before nodding her agreement.

“You’re right, Theresa, but Bryce has suffered too. He missed the first year and a half of Kayla’s life, and he had that accident while following me and we all know how that ended.”

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“All things that could have been avoided if he’d acted less like an arse after he discovered that you were pregnant,” Lisa pointed out reasonably.

“Yes, what married man reacts like that to the news that he’s going to be a father, anyway?” Alice added her two cents worth. “I like Bryce but seriously, that was a jerk move.”

“I think that everything will seem a lot less complicated after a couple of drinks,” Roberta Richmond, who had joined their group for the first time that night, suggested with a decisive nod. She wasn’t quite up to speed on the Bronwyn and Bryce situation, but she showed her solidarity by ordering a round of drinks—even though she kept herself restricted to nonalcoholic cocktails. The woman, at twenty-six, was a couple of years younger than Bronwyn and was a friend of Theresa’s. Apparently they had met at some football thing that Sandro, Theresa’s husband, attended regularly. The tomboyish young woman was now the only single, childless member of their group. Theresa had informed them before inviting Bobbi—as she preferred to be called—that the other woman had very few female friends. Bronwyn liked her positive energy. She was a good addition to their little group.

They spent the rest of the day tossing back cocktails, and, in an effort to cheer her up, the other women started offering Bronwyn all kinds of increasingly bawdy advice on how she could bounce back from her divorce. One of them suggested Bronwyn hook up with a male stripper, which actually made very little sense, but they weren’t very sensible by that point.

“I guarantee a male stripper would know what to do between the sheets.” Lisa nodded knowingly.

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