“Bronwyn, I always walked out in the middle of our arguments, remember? It used to drive you crazy, but every time I felt myself getting too angry, I’d rein in my temper and walk out because I was so terrified that I would hurt you physically.”
“Bryce, what’s the angriest you’ve ever been with me?” she asked him gently, and he shrugged helplessly.
“When you told me you were pregnant?” His statement came out in question form, as if he wasn’t entirely sure of his answer.
“No you weren’t angry then,” she denied. “You were afraid to allow yourself to hope and lashed out because of that fear. I know that now. I’m talking about real anger. The kind that makes you feel like your head’s going to explode.”
“I don’t know.” He looked confused. “I don’t think that I’ve ever allowed myself to get too angry with you,” he admitted, and she snorted, showing her disdain with a dismissive flick of her wrist.
“Please, I can recall several incidents off the top of my head. Like the time I told Rick that you enjoyed getting the occasional manicure with me. You were so furious you were practically breathing steam.”
“Okay, I was pissed off,” he admitted uncomfortably, looking a little uncertain. “Justifiably so, since Rick has never really let me hear the end of it. He still makes the odd snarky comment about it. But that’s petty stuff. I’d hardly hurt you over something so trivial.”
“Oh? Your father never beat you over trivial things then? Like a three-year-old’s accidently dropping a watch into a toilet bowl?”
“It was a gold watch,” he muttered.
It was a watch! she signed fiercely. “Gold, diamonds, whatever. Breaking a three-year-old child’s arm because of it isn’t a normal reaction. What if Kayla did the same thing? Would you hit her? Break her arm?” He paled at the question and shook his head in unconscious rejection.
“No, you wouldn’t,” she answered for him. “Of course you wouldn’t.”
“I don’t . . .”
“What about when we were on our honeymoon and I danced with Sasha Tisdale? You nearly went purple with jealousy.”
“You still remember that jerk’s name?” he asked incredulously. The same jealousy flared in his eyes again, and she grinned irreverently.
“Well he was really, really good looking,” she reminded, and he glowered, starting to look less shocked and more like the arrogant man she knew and loved beyond all reason.
“Seriously? You think that second ‘really’ was warranted?”
“I only left off the third one in deference to your fragile ego,” she teased. “Bryce, you were beyond irrational about that dance. You were jealous and possessive but nowhere near violent. Now, I’m no expert, but from what I’ve read about abusive spouses, they barely need an excuse to trigger the violence. Even when you were emotionally hurtful—even then—you were punishing yourself more than me.” She switched to sign language. It’s just not in your nature to be violent.
How do you know that? How can you be sure? he asked, his eyes were filled with anguished uncertainty, and she cupped his jaw before going up on her toes to plant a kiss on his gorgeous mouth.
“Because even at your most irrational, when I thought you were kicking me out of the house and then after my return when you seemed to hate me so much . . . I never once feared you. Not once, Bryce.”
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered, shutting his eyes and ducking his head. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry. I’m . . .”
She stopped his words with a soft kiss, and his eyes opened and met hers. She ended the kiss with a smile.
“I know you are,” she acknowledged. “I forgive you, Bryce, and I love you very much.”
“Of course I do. I don’t think that our problems have been miraculously resolved by any means. I think that we have a long, hard road ahead of us actually. But I think that we can finally move forward.”
“I’ve been going back to therapy,” he admitted softly. “It’s been . . . helpful.”
“I hope that we can go together sometime,” she said, and he nodded.
“I’d like that.” He stared down at her with something like awe in his eyes before shaking his head in disbelief. “How the hell did I get so lucky?”
“I got lucky too, you know,” she pointed out, and wrapped her arms around his waist. “Last night I said that I fell in love with a man not a superhero. But you know what? You are my hero, Bryce.”
“How can you say that after everything that’s happened and everything that you’ve heard tonight?”
“Bryce, if anything, tonight has taught me that you’re the kind of man who would place himself squarely between his family and any threat. Of course you’re a hero. Mine, Kayla’s, Rick’s . . . never doubt that.”
Bryce stared down into the tear-ravaged face of this woman who meant the world to him and saw sincerity shining up at him. It was in her eyes and in her smile, and the relief that coursed through his body nearly buckled his knees. For the first time in longer than he could remember, he really felt like everything was going to work out. That somehow, against all odds, he had managed to redeem himself and win his wife back. The panic and fear that he’d been living with for more than two years—no, even longer than that—since they had first married, was dissipating and he felt years younger. He captured her mouth with his own and kissed her with desperation that bordered on obsessive. When he eventually felt able to let her go, they were both flushed and breathless.