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07.03.2019

“I saw you,” he maintained, clearly not believing her. “Saw you with my own eyes!”

“You were sliding in and out of consciousness; you were in shock and in pain . . .” she pointed out reasonably. “You don’t think that maybe you were delirious as well? Seeing things that were not there?”

He frowned and shook his head.

“No, of course not,” she scoffed. “Not Bryce Palmer, he never makes mistakes.”

“God damn you,” he growled. “I know what I saw . . . you were standing there looking impassive and completely uncaring.”

“This?” She waved her hand back and forth between their naked bodies. “This thing that just happened between us? It was a mistake that shouldn’t be repeated. I should never have let you touch me, but you got me in a moment of complete weakness. That ends now. I won’t allow a man who just hours ago said I made his skin crawl use me like this again. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a shower,” she informed him unsteadily. There was really nothing she could say or do right now to prove that she hadn’t been there that day. She didn’t know if she’d ever be able to convince him that she hadn’t been there. He seemed so convinced.

That a man she had once thought loved her could believe something so unspeakable about her was incredibly painful. Bryce was completely wrapped up in his thoughts and did not even seem to notice when she left the room. Bronwyn escaped to the en suite bathroom and locked the door securely behind her, afraid that he would come in and bombard her with yet more reasons he did not believe her. She ran the shower as hot as she could stand it but shivered beneath the relentless spray. God, if he had spent the last two years believing something so awful about her, it was no wonder he hated her so much. It was an obstacle that could not easily be overcome because he had it firmly in his head that she had betrayed him in the worst possible way by leaving him literally broken and bleeding.

She knew how her stubborn ass of a husband’s mind worked. To his way of thinking, all of his sins were now superseded by her “unforgivable betrayal.” How very convenient for him. It made complete sense that he would believe something like this about her. It was easier for him to blame her and hate her rather than deal with the fact that due to his own thoughtless actions he had lost his wife, his child, and his hearing all on the same night. Unfortunately he didn’t doubt what he had seen that night, and while Bronwyn could understand why his mind had fabricated this bizarre coping mechanism, she couldn’t forgive it.

She hunched over and clasped her arms around her midriff, afraid that she would be sick. She swallowed down the nausea and leaned back against the tiles of the shower stall, sliding down against the wall until she was sitting on the floor with her knees raised to her chest. She had her face buried in her knees and her arms covering her head.

She did not know how long she sat there shivering, unable to get warm, unable to even cry as she tried to deal with the shock of knowing how very much her husband despised her. The needle-like spray suddenly stopped and Bronwyn raised her head hesitantly, a bit disorientated by the sudden cessation of water. She looked up to find Bryce standing at the entrance of the shower stall and was baffled by his unexpected appearance.

“But I locked the door,” she murmured in a small voice that he might not have caught if he’d had his hearing.

“You forgot to lock the other door,” he pointed out quietly, able to read her lips despite the steam, and she groaned, remembering that the luxurious bathroom was shared by two bedrooms. “Come on, Bron . . . you need to dry off. You’ll make yourself sick again.” She noticed, for the first time, that he had a huge, fluffy, white bath towel draped over his hands. She nodded but didn’t move, and Bryce shocked her by stepping into the wet stall, uncaring of the fact that he wore socks and was dressed in clean boxer shorts and a T-shirt. He hunkered down in front of her and draped the bath towel around her shoulders, helping her up in the process.

“You’ve been in here for nearly an hour,” he informed her grimly. She tilted her face to his, still shivering violently.

“I . . . I c-couldn’t get warm,” she stuttered, and he frowned, evidently not catching that, but probably understanding the gist of it. He wrapped his arms around her and dragged her nude, wet body to his. He held her so tightly and so closely that the trembling abated almost immediately. He led her out of the shower stall and unlocked the door, leading her back into the master bedroom. He gently steered her toward the bed and seated her on the edge, kneeling in front of her as he patted her dry with the fluffy towel.

“You’re wet,” she observed inanely, noting the dampness of his T-shirt and shorts while she tried not to stare at his muscular naked legs. He had showered as well, if his damp hair was anything to go by. He caught her words because he was looking directly at her when she said them and shrugged in response.

“I’ll dry,” he dismissed. She noticed that it was still dark outside and grimaced. She checked the time on the alarm clock on her bedside pedestal; it was just after three thirty.

“Why did you come to my room tonight?” she asked hoarsely, and even though she was looking right at him when she asked it, he did not respond. Instead he lowered his eyes and continued to pat her dry. He left her briefly to pad to the bathroom and returned moments later with a smaller towel for her hair.

“We’ll have to dry this,” he was muttering. “You’ve been so sick; I don’t think it would be wise for you to sleep with wet hair. Where is your dryer?” She pointed to her dresser and he picked her up, ignoring the jerky movement of protest she made. He deposited her on the padded seat in front of the dressing table, and Bronwyn was confronted by her own haggard reflection. She looked a sight; her face was gaunt and unnaturally pale, and her eyes looked feverishly bright and overly large. The towel was still draped around her shoulders, but it had fallen open to reveal the thin body beneath. To Bronwyn’s own eyes she looked too thin, and she wondered how Bryce had been able to bring himself to touch her when she looked like this. He switched on the machine and started drying her hair, running his fingers through it with a rough tenderness. She blinked in surprise and sluggishly raised her hands in an attempt to take the blow dryer from him.

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