A Husband's Regret (The Unwanted Series)(8)By: Natasha Anders
“What’s your name, angel?” he asked her gently. The child refused to answer and her eyelids grew heavier as she started to slip into a doze.
“Her name’s Mikayla,” Bronwyn supplied, but he kept his eyes on Kayla’s face, ignoring Bronwyn again.
“Go on, tell me your name.” He blatantly snubbed her. Kayla dragged her thumb out of her mouth and deigned to respond.
“M’kayla.” She did not bother to lift her head and barely opened her eyes as she garbled her name the way she always did. It was recognizable enough, but Bryce was staring at the child with a baffled frown. He raised his confused eyes to Bronwyn, and she sighed before repeating the name.
“Mikayla, I named her Mikayla.” The frown deepened and something uncomfortably close to loathing settled over his taut, handsome features.
“Goddamn you, Bronwyn,” he growled, and she gasped. He didn’t like the name? She had named Kayla after him—his second name was Michael. Maybe he thought it was hypocritical of her to name their daughter after him when, as he now claimed, she had deprived him of his child. Bryce looked angry, hurt, and confused at the same time, and he kept glancing at his dozing little daughter and shutting his eyes despairingly. Bronwyn did not understand his reaction.
Rick stepped forward, leveling a resentful glare at Bronwyn that baffled her even further, before laying a calm hand on his agitated brother’s shoulder. Bryce looked up and grabbed Rick’s hand as if it were a lifeline.
“Tell me,” he pleaded desperately, and Rick nodded.
“Her name is Mikayla, Bryce,” he told his brother gently, with both his mouth and his hands.
W-why are you doing that?” Bronwyn stammered. Both men ignored her, and Bryce turned back to his sleeping daughter, with his heart in his eyes.
“Mikayla . . .” he murmured, running a gentle finger down the baby’s soft cheek. “What a beautiful name.”
“What’s going on here?” Bronwyn asked in a voice bordering on hysteria, before convulsing into a series of painful coughs. Kayla stirred a little, disturbed by the violent coughing, and Bryce picked the little girl up and cradled her to his chest.
“Give me your flat keys. Rick and Lisa will pack your things.” Her eyes were blurry with tears as the coughing tore at her throat and chest. She was unable to respond to the autocratic demand and was appalled when Bryce simply reached for her handbag and tossed it to Rick.
“They’re probably in there,” he told his brother. The younger man nodded and turned away.
“Wait!” Bronwyn called painfully, trying to get her coughing under control. Bryce handed her a glass of water that she gulped down thankfully. “Why were you using sign language?” she asked urgently, her throat on the verge of giving out. Rick turned back with naked disgust on his face.
“This display of ignorance is an insult to our intelligence, Bronwyn!” he hissed, and her eyes widened with hurt.
“I don’t know what’s going on here!” Her voice was strained but she hoped she managed to convey her urgency. “Can you hear me, Bryce?”
“I haven’t heard much of anything over the last two years, Bronwyn.” He shrugged scornfully. “And you know it. You did this to me, after all.”
“Me?” Bronwyn did not know what to react to first: the unbelievable news that her beautiful, strong husband was deaf, or the accusation that she was somehow responsible for his condition. It was all too awful to comprehend. “But . . . I . . . how?” Rick made an impatient sound at the back of his throat, seemingly sickened by her continued ignorance. He touched his brother’s arm to gain his attention. Bryce turned to face him.
“I’ve asked that girl Katrina where she lives.” He nodded toward Bronwyn, unable to even say her name. “Some dump downtown. I’ll pack a couple of bags for her and Mikayla.”
“Pack only a change of clothes for the little one,” Bryce ordered, his gaze softening as he looked down into his still-sleeping daughter’s pretty face. “If the rags she’s wearing right now are any indication, there won’t be anything worth keeping. I’ll clothe my own child.” Bronwyn’s eyes stung with tears at that terrible insult; if only he knew how much she had sacrificed and slaved for every single item of clothing the child possessed. She had worked double shifts, bypassed meals, and taken on extra jobs to keep her baby fed and clothed. They may not have been the most expensive clothes, but they were pretty and serviceable enough for an active toddler.