A Husband's Regret (The Unwanted Series)(6)

By: Natasha Anders

But he hadn’t come . . . he hadn’t come to the most obvious place, the one place that she had been certain he would look, the place where they had spent so many happy hours together. And as the hours had turned into days and then into weeks, Bronwyn had been forced to face the reality of her situation: he had meant every cruel word. Bryce did not want their child, and as a consequence, he no longer wanted her. She would never have believed it of him, would never have expected him to abandon her to care for their baby on her own.

He had never once during their two-year-long marriage said that he loved her, but he had shown her in so many ways that she had believed that was enough. In the face of his abandonment, she had come to question that love and had been forced to acknowledge that the words would have meant more; the words would have meant everything. They would have set his love in stone.

Now he was standing here telling her that he had wanted Kayla after all? What was she supposed to believe? Why was he treating her like the villain for leaving, when he was the one who had driven her away? In the midst of her turmoil, she heard an unmistakable sound—the familiar irrepressible chatter and giggle of a toddler . . . of a particular toddler. Bronwyn’s panicked gaze swung to the open door and she was horrified to see the babysitter leading her beautiful daughter toward the room. Her anxious gaze swung toward Bryce but he seemed oblivious. He was watching her intently, still wanting an answer to his previous question. Rick had heard though and his gaze was riveted on the doorway as well. Oh God how could Katrina bring her here? How had the woman even known where to find Bronwyn?

“Answer me, damn you!” Bryce was growling. How could he remain unaware of the approaching babble of an effervescent eighteen-month-old baby? He had his back to the door and so did not see when Kayla and the now-faltering Katrina crossed the threshold. The young woman hesitated as her gaze swept around the room, immediately picking up on the tension. The toddler had no such reservations and upon seeing her mother, her face lit up and she made a beeline for the cot. She was muttering incoherently under her breath, as was her wont, and her nappy-clad bottom waddled comically as she toddled her way toward Bronwyn. Bryce still seemed to have no idea that she was there, and as Kayla passed by the bemused Rick, barely sparing him a glance, she was suddenly confronted by an obstacle in the form of her tall father. She frowned up at the big man who had his back to her, looking so much like him in that moment that Bronwyn smiled.

“What do you find so funny about this Bronwyn?” he hissed.

“Man big,” Kayla said, her first two clear words since entering the room, and it sounded more like criticism than compliment. When he still didn’t get out of her way, she gave him a measuring look, drew back her leg, and . . .

“Kayla, no!” Bronwyn shouted in horror, just as the little girl kicked her father on his calf. Bryce staggered a little, shocked rather than hurt, and whirled around, scanning the room desperately for a few seconds before dropping his gaze to the mutinous tiny girl before him. Not even knee-high to him and still in nappies, but she refused to back down.

“Kayla go . . .” she stated like a queen, sweeping by her enthralled father. When she reached her destination, she stopped and stared up at her next obstacle with a fulminating glare. The bed was too high for her to climb on to, so the beautiful little imp with her mop of silky brown hair and her big ice-blue eyes swept beguilingly back to the tall man she had just slighted and undid him with a charming smile before lifting her arms demandingly.

“Up, peese!” she commanded with the air of one accustomed to getting her way. The “please” was just a formality, and her father was helpless to do anything but obey. He picked her up reverently, holding her close for just an instant longer than she liked and she squirmed uncomfortably until he settled her onto the cot beside her mother, before shifting his piercing scrutiny to the babysitter whom he had only just noticed.

“I’m sorry, Bronwyn,” Katrina spoke uncertainly from the doorway, unnerved by Bryce’s direct stare. “When you were late I called the restaurant and they told me what had happened. I spoke to the doctor before bringing her here, and he said that you weren’t contagious. I have a date . . . and I thought . . .”