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“Bronwyn,” he murmured, and she jumped, nearly spilling the wine. She blinked up at him as if surprised to see him standing there. She self-consciously tucked an errant strand of brown hair behind her ear.

“Bryce, you startled me.” He sat down next to her and turned to face her.

“Sorry about that,” he apologized. “I just wanted to give you these.” He handed over half of the papers he was holding, and she put the glass onto a side table to take hold of the documents. She stared blankly down at the big, bold words at the top of the first sheet.

“That was fast,” she murmured. He reached over and angled her jaw upward, and she realized that he hadn’t been able to read her lips. She repeated the three words, keeping her face determinedly neutral.

“I had them drawn up last week. I gambled on the fact that I knew you well enough to guess which place you’d go for.”

“Why bother showing me the other places then?” she asked, and Bryce shrugged. Yes, he’d been confident she would go for the last place, but he had wanted her to have choices and . . . he had wanted to spend time with her.

His first instinct was to cling to his reticence, but all her accusations of secrecy were valid. He had kept things from her—important things that would probably have made a big difference to their marriage. But if he wanted any kind of future with her, he would have to let go of his fear of appearing weak and vulnerable in her eyes and keep her “in the loop,” so to speak. And if that meant keeping her up to date on the minutia of his every fleeting thought, then so be it.

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“I wanted the choice to be yours. You may have hated that last one. I didn’t want to presume too much.”

“And yet you went ahead and drew up the necessary paperwork?” she asked with an incredulous little shake of her head.

“I like to be prepared,” he muttered, abashed. “All you have to do is sign these and the flat will be yours. Finances have been taken care of.” Naturally.

“Still you could have taken me to three or four places instead of eight.”

He sighed and bit the bullet.

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“I also wanted to spend some time with you and Kayla,” he confessed. He could see the shock in her eyes and wondered if it was a result of his words or the fact that he’d actually said them out loud. He watched her luscious lips form an o and took a deep breath before rushing in to the next bit of this ordeal.

“I wanted to spend some time with you before I gave you these,” he said, holding out a second sheaf of papers. He had a moment’s hesitation when she reached for them and tightened his grip when she tried to take them. After a brief tug of war, he reluctantly released the papers and stepped back. He tried to gauge her reaction, but her usually open face had closed up and revealed not a single emotion as she read the top of the first page. He was breathing in uneven gasps, and he counted slowly to twenty, then thirty, as he tried to regulate his breathing.

She looked up at him and the impact of her devastated gaze hit him like a two-ton truck. She said nothing for the longest time, and when she spoke her words nearly sent him to his knees in agony.

Thank you, she signed.

Bryce nodded before turning and walking away.

Bronwyn stared at the signed divorce decree in her hands for the longest time and now understood that the restaurant hadn’t been a counterattack, it had been a farewell. For an endless age shock kept her numb, but by agonizingly slow degrees feeling returned. She felt . . . raw. Her entire body felt like an open, festering wound. She sat perfectly still, afraid to move because even the simple act of blinking was excruciating. When she allowed herself the luxury of crying, it wasn’t a cathartic act meant to heal. Instead the tears lodged in her throat and scalded her skin like acid.

She had gotten what she had asked for. Her marriage was over.

Hours later she found herself staring at the front door of the only place she could think of to go. She rang the doorbell, and after several minutes a disheveled-looking Rick opened the door. He blinked down at her in confusion.

“Bron?”

At the sound of his voice the fragile control she’d managed to exert over her emotions shattered, and she burst into tears and launched herself into his arms. He folded her into his embrace and murmured soothing little sounds into her hair. “What’s this now? Shhh, sweetheart, it’s okay. It’s okay.” He was drawing her farther into the house. And after a few long minutes of inconsolable weeping, Bronwyn surfaced enough to take in her surroundings.

She was sitting on a sofa, curled up against Rick’s bare chest, which was now slick with her tears. Lisa was sitting on her other side, patting her back comfortingly.

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“I’m sorry,” she whispered, her voice hoarse after her extended bout of crying. “You were asleep. I wasn’t thinking of the time.” They were both dressed for bed. Rick in loose pajama bottoms and Lisa in a tank top and shorts. A quick glance up at the clock on the wall told her that it was nearly midnight.

“Don’t worry about it,” Rick dismissed. “Tell us what happened. You didn’t drive here in this state did you?”

She blinked in confusion, trying to gather her thoughts.

“No. No, of course not. Cal brought me.” She vaguely recalled waking the man up and remembered the concerned glances he kept directing at her via the rear-view mirror. Lisa held up a box of tissues, and Bronwyn gratefully took one and blew her nose.

“Is Kayla okay?” Rick asked urgently.

“Yes, she’s fine. She’s with B-Bryce.” She stumbled over his name and almost lost it again. “He signed the p-papers,” she told them, and Lisa’s eyes immediately went soft and sympathetic. Rick merely looked confused.

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