A Husband's Regret (The Unwanted Series)(2)

By: Natasha Anders

A bout of flu had wiped her out for nearly a week, leaving her without an income and dangerously low on resources. Though she still felt a bit shaky, she had dragged herself in to work that morning. But no sooner had she walked through the front door of the busiest, trendiest beachfront restaurant in Plettenberg Bay, than she comprehended what a grave error in judgment she had made. She was muddling up her orders, breaking dishes, and walking blindly into her fellow servers. She knew that the manager—who already felt that her personal circumstances were incompatible with her working environment—was just itching to fire her. Now she was basically handing him an excuse to get rid of her.

She valiantly soldiered on, hoping against hope that Gerhard would, by some miracle, take pity on her and keep her on his books. A young couple with a baby cart made their way into her section and she shuffled over to them, her lack of enthusiasm obvious with every reluctant step. The couple were leaning into one another, whispering and laughing intimately, while the baby slept peacefully in its stroller. The pair looked very much in love and pretty much oblivious to the rest of the world.

“Good afternoon,” she murmured, so focused on keeping her nausea at bay that she barely glanced at them. “Would you like anything to drink?” The woman looked up and started to say something, but she was interrupted by her companion, who swore viciously before jumping to his feet like a scalded cat.

“Oh my God! Bronwyn?”

Bronwyn gasped and raised one shaking hand to her mouth to stifle a shocked cry when she recognized the handsome man standing in front of her. Her vision blurred and she blinked rapidly to clear it. The baby, clearly startled by the man’s harsh voice, started crying.

“So this is where you have been hiding out all this time?” The shock had disappeared from his voice to be replaced by contempt.

“Ricky,” she moaned shakily, overwhelmed by love, fear, and relief all at the same time.

“Don’t call me that!” he growled in warning, and she flinched. “God, you’re an ice-cold bitch, aren’t you? How could you stay away all this time? How could you live with yourself?”

“Please,” she implored in the smallest whisper. “Please don’t . . .”

“Don’t what? Call a spade a spade?” He sneered.

“Rick,” the woman, whom Bronwyn had forgotten about, spoke up. She kept her voice low, while she rocked the still-crying baby. “Take it easy, for heaven’s sake, she doesn’t look well. What’s going on here?”

“Of course she doesn’t look well,” he scoffed, his harsh tone of voice totally unfamiliar. “Why would she look well when she has finally been caught, like the miserable little sneak that she is?”

Bronwyn swayed even more. Rick had never spoken to her like this before—it wasn’t in his gentle nature to be deliberately cruel—but he was firing on all cylinders today, and Bronwyn flinched with each terrible barb.

“Rick.” The woman was speaking again, but her voice sounded hollow, like it was coming from down a long tunnel. “Rick, stop it . . .” She was saying something else but this time her voice had disappeared behind the angry buzzing in Bronwyn’s head. She shook her head but the sound got worse and louder until it was as deafening as a chainsaw. She groaned weakly and lifted her hands to her ears. That didn’t help, and she sobbed as her field of vision got narrower and narrower, until she could not see them at all, until there was only blackness.

 Voices faded in and out of her consciousness and Bronwyn struggled to make sense of what they were saying. She was comfortable again, no longer dizzy and no longer achy. She felt like she was floating and was enveloped by an incredible sense of well-being. But this feeling was not quite right, and that awareness prevented her from being entirely at ease. She was sure that this uneasiness stemmed from the raised voices in the background, and again she attempted to filter out the garbled speech from the few words that she could understand.

“. . . Don’t get . . .” it was a man’s voice, recognizable and well loved but unfamiliarly harsh. “. . . What she did . . . unforgivable . . . left him . . . bitch!” An unfamiliar female voice intervened, her gentle voice soothed Bronwyn’s overwrought nerves.