Home > A Husband's Regret (Unwanted #2)(11)

A Husband's Regret (Unwanted #2)(11)
Natasha Anders

He had kept watching her and making her jumpier than she already was. After slurping down his milkshake with every appearance of complete enjoyment, he had asked her for a meal recommendation, but after the disaster with the drinks, she politely informed him that she highly recommended everything on the menu. He wasn’t having that, and, ignoring his impatient friend, he forced her to tell him what her favorite dish on the menu was. She hadn’t worked at the restaurant long enough to sample much of the menu and very reluctantly revealed her plebeian tastes by saying that she enjoyed the gourmet brie and bacon burger that they offered. He nodded and ordered said burger. His friend, done with indulging him, ordered something much more in keeping with his sophisticated palate. Bryce went through the same routine with dessert, and Pierre, evidently giving up on him, made his excuses and headed back to whatever glamorous life he led. Bryce remained though, eating his dessert and following it up with coffee. He remained for four hours, the last hour of which had been spent sitting solo at the table toying with dessert, ordering cup after cup of coffee and staring at her. He never smiled and never flirted; he simply watched her. Eventually he asked for the bill and when she brought it, he graced her with the slightest of smiles, his serious eyes warm and a bit confused.

“You’ve never done this before have you?” he asked gently, as if afraid of hurting her feelings, and she flushed painfully before nodding.

“What gave it away?” she joked, feeling like a miserable failure.

“I don’t know.” He shrugged, his smile widening. “Maybe the way you kept recommending the least expensive items on the menu, despite the fact that it would probably decrease your tip.” She was appalled for not realizing that herself and made a mental note to recommend the lobster to every client who asked in the future! She frowned, forcing herself to remember to write that down before giving up and drawing a Post-it booklet from her apron pocket to jot down in capital letters: REMEMBER LOBSTERS!!! He was watching her every reaction in complete fascination, and she looked up to find him staring at her again.

“Why do you keep watching me like that?” she asked bluntly, before going even redder, shocked by her own forwardness. His brows lowered as he gave her question some consideration.

“I wasn’t aware that I was being so . . . obvious,” he murmured. He shook himself out of some kind of reverie before reaching for his wallet and extracting a platinum credit card. It was pretty clear that he had no intention of answering her question. He was a generous, but not overly generous, tipper, and when she returned with his credit card he stood up while pocketing his wallet.

“Thank you . . . Bronwyn, is it?” She nodded mutely and he smiled—just the barest tilt at the corners of his mouth—again. “The name suits you.” She didn’t respond to that, not sure if it was a compliment or not.

He turned to go and then hesitated before turning back to face her.

“How old are you, Bronwyn?”

“Twenty-four.”

His expression was inscrutable.

“You seem younger.” He shrugged. “I’m twenty-nine.”

“Okay?” Why was he telling her this? He was a strange man, but not in a scary way. He seemed so sophisticated, so unlike anyone else she had ever met.

“I’m sorry. It’s just that . . .” He seemed to lose track of what he was saying and stood, awkwardly silent for a few seconds. “You just . . . you have . . .” What? She had what? She ran her tongue over her teeth, afraid that she may have something stuck in them, and then rubbed her nose in case she had a spot on it.

“Such amazing eyes,” he concluded in a rush.

Huh?

She gaped at him uncomprehendingly for a while, and he went dull-red before clearing his throat and turning away abruptly. He left before she could blink, before she could draw breath, and before she could call him back.

It had been nearly a week since their ill-fated kiss and Bryce hadn’t spoken to her much since then. He had given her the master bedroom and as with the conservatory, the room had an unlived feel to it. Her wardrobe had been left untouched, but Bryce’s clothes were gone; not a tie or even a stray cuff link remained. It was as if he had never shared the same closet space with her. None of her old clothes fit her anymore; they were all a couple of sizes too large. Bronwyn had been dismayed to discover exactly how much weight she had lost over the last couple of years. She had always been slender, so the fact that she had dropped two dress sizes must mean that she looked completely emaciated! No wonder Bryce had said that she looked like a wraith.

She made a concerted effort to eat more, and as Kayla was spending a lot of time with her father, Bronwyn was getting plenty of rest, so much rest that she was getting quite bored. She was sitting in the conservatory, reading an easy (or so the back blurb claimed) guide to South African Sign Language, when she heard Kayla’s happy chatter approaching. She tucked the book behind a cushion, not wanting Bryce to know she was trying to learn SASL. Something told her that he would not be happy about it. Any references she had made to his deafness were not well received.

Kayla entered the room in her inimitable way, all happy laughter and incomprehensible speech while Bryce followed her in his inimitable way, all scowls and growls when he saw that Bronwyn occupied the conservatory.

“Mummeeeee!” The little girl squealed when she saw Bronwyn, and she clambered into her mother’s lap, smelling of sunshine and sea air. She was wearing cute pink dungarees, one of the very many expensive items of clothing her father had purchased for her. He had taken his daughter out shopping, without Bronwyn, the day after their arrival in Camps Bay. He had sent the housekeeper to ask for Kayla’s sizes. Bronwyn had felt rather awkward around Celeste, the housekeeper, who had been with them since their wedding just over four years ago, but the elderly woman had welcomed her back with a genuinely warm smile. Bronwyn had written the sizes down and mentally wished him luck with Kayla, who inevitably became a nightmare to handle in any shopping situation. No sooner had they left, than she started worrying about both of them. Bryce might find Kayla more than a handful with his deafness, and Kayla would probably start panicking when she figured out that her mummy was nowhere to be found. Her worrying had come to nothing though, because the two had returned from their shopping spree fast friends and totally inseparable from that point onward. She was a little jealous and resentful at the ease with which Bryce had established a position in her daughter’s life. A petty part of her had hoped that Kayla would give him a hard time of it, but her daughter had accepted him without protest and seemed to barely miss Bron at all.

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