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07.03.2019

“Children are resilient.” Theresa put a comforting arm around her shoulder and gave her a reassuring squeeze. “You’ll both be fine.”

“I wish I could be so sure.” Bronwyn stifled a sigh before pasting a determined smile on her face. “Still, there’s no use in worrying about it right now. Too much to do.”

Theresa smiled sympathetically.

“Bronwyn, it’s okay to be emotional about all of this, you know? I can kind of relate to what you’re going through. Sandro and I are happy now but we’ve had some . . . extremely difficult times in the past.” That news surprised Bronwyn. On the few occasions that she’d seen the couple together they had seemed completely devoted to each other. It was hard to believe that they hadn’t always been the perfect couple. “So anytime you need to talk, or just a shoulder to cry on, I’m there for you.”

“That means a lot,” Bronwyn whispered, hugging the other woman gratefully. “Thank you.”

After her friends had left later that night and Bronwyn was alone with her thoughts and her sleeping daughter, she sat down in the darkened conservatory and sadly looked around the still-chaotic room. The place felt alien and a little cold. Even though she had often complained about Bryce’s security team being a blatant invasion of her privacy, she felt a lot safer knowing that Paul had been assigned as the head of her security detail. The man was now in charge of the team that would take care of security for this separate household. It was comforting to know that they were just outside if she needed them. Her cell phone beeped and she dragged it out of her jeans pocket.

You settle in ok? A smiled tugged at her lips. It was from Bryce.

All good. A bit messy still.

Kayla ok?

Grumpy. She misses you.

I miss her. You too.

She didn’t know how to respond to that. She missed him like crazy but telling him that would definitely send a mixed message.

It’s late. I’m off to bed. It was abrupt but she didn’t want to be charmed by him. She didn’t want to encourage him. They both needed to move on. No matter how painful and difficult it was for them.

Right. I’ll see you 2m. G’nite.

She held the phone to her chest for a few long moments before eventually dragging herself up and to bed.

The bell jingling above the shop door jarred Bronwyn from her thoughts. She’d been staring down at her notes for about half an hour without actually absorbing any information and—despite it being nearly closing time—a customer would be a welcome distraction. She put what she hoped was a bright, welcoming smile on her face as she raised her eyes. The smile immediately withered when she saw who was standing there.

Bryce met her eyes with a brief nod before walking farther into the shop. Bronwyn pushed herself halfway out of her chair and then hovered uncertainly between standing and sitting, a puzzled frown on her face. He was supposed to have Kayla today, but there was no sign of the child.

“Bryce?” He didn’t see her question and continued his browsing, picking up a book here and there and reading the back-cover blurbs before replacing them on the shelves. She made her way to him and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned to face her with a polite smile on his face. Baffled by his odd behavior, she frowned and used sign language to ask him what he was doing there.

“Well, I wanted to learn how to balance my chakras.” He held up a book. His smile remained bland and polite. “And I’ve been thinking of buying some healing crystals or something.”

“Where’s Kayla?” she asked worriedly.

“I had to go in to the office this afternoon for an emergency meeting and instead of dropping her off at the day-care center, I thought she’d enjoy spending some time with Rhys since it is Lisa’s day off. When I swung by to pick her up a couple of hours later, she wasn’t ready to stop playing. Lisa suggested I let her stay for dinner. So I found myself at loose ends and thought you might like to grab some dinner.”

“I don’t think . . .” God, she was tempted. But their divorce had just been finalized and it seemed like a step in the wrong direction. They had fallen into a comfortable routine over the two and a half weeks since she had moved in to her new place. She dropped Kayla off at his house after breakfast in the mornings on her way to campus, and he brought her home before dinner every night. Kayla stayed over at his house on Friday nights, and Bryce returned her to her mother late Saturday afternoons. Bronwyn had her for the remainder of the weekend. They were coolly friendly when they spoke, and those brief moments in the mornings and evenings when Kayla was handed from one parent to the other were the only times they saw each other. He sent her the occasional SMS during the day, but that was it. It had been a bit of an adjustment for all of them.

“I think we should try to be friends at least,” he said. “For Kayla’s sake. It’s just dinner.”

“It’s never just dinner with us, Bryce,” she pointed out.

“Please?” His beautiful blue eyes mutely pleaded with hers, and Bronwyn had another fleeting moment of doubt before doing what she had wanted to all along. She told herself that she was doing it for Kayla’s sake—it was important for the little girl to have parents who got along—but she knew that she was lying to herself. She couldn’t resist the idea of spending time alone with him. He was her weakness, and while spending more time with him wouldn’t help her overcome that weakness, it certainly did a good job of keeping the part of her that craved his company satisfied. It didn’t seem to matter how counterproductive it was.

❮❯
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