“Good call,” he complimented, and she cleared her throat before moving away from him without another word and retreating to her bedroom.
Alice De Coursey was not all what Bronwyn had been expecting. The woman was a couple of years older than Bronwyn, about thirty, and so tiny that she made Bronwyn feel like a giant by comparison. She could not have been more than five feet tall and had a small, perfectly proportioned body. She had soft brown eyes shielded by silly, little round glasses and she was almost pretty in a wholesome way, with freckles splattered across her nose and an endearingly mischievous grin. Her shoulder-length, uncontrollably frizzy, sandybrown corkscrew curls gave her a kind of Raggedy-Ann appeal. She was certainly not the drop-dead-gorgeous woman Bronwyn had expected a beautiful individual like Pierre De Coursey to fall for. She walked with a slight limp and still had faint scars on her upper arms and a slightly longer, more pronounced one on her round, firm jaw.
Her intimidatingly gorgeous husband doted on her. In fact every time Pierre looked at her, his eyes positively glowed with love. He lit up when she smiled and beamed whenever she laughed. It was a revelation for Bronwyn to see the previously austere Pierre so transparently in love. The man who had terrified her when she’d first met him now laughed freely, told silly jokes, and changed nappies! Their baby boy, Tristan, was about five months old and had a sweet, placid temperament. He had his father’s pitch-black hair and his mum’s large brown eyes. Kayla was quite excited to see the baby and meet new people, but she fell asleep half an hour after the couple’s arrival.
“She’s such a beautiful little girl,” Alice was telling Bronwyn after the latter had put Kayla to bed. “Such a little livewire . . .” Bronwyn laughed.
“That’s a polite way of phrasing it,” she told the woman. “She’s hell on wheels. When she started toddling, she was an unstoppable force. You wait until Tristan gets to that age; you’ll be running yourself ragged. I’m just happy we managed to get her off to bed with so little fuss tonight.”
Alice laughed and Bronwyn smiled, really liking the other woman. She had feared that Alice De Coursey would be an unbearable snob, the way Pierre sometimes tended to be, but not only was she not a snob, she had somehow managed to destarch Pierre in many ways. The man was definitely a lot more relaxed and a great deal more pleasant to spend time with. He was fluent in SASL, and he and Bryce were engaged in what looked like a serious conversation. Alice followed her eyes and smiled. She leaned conspiratorially close to Bronwyn.
“Pierre was very relieved when he heard you were back.”
Bronwyn frowned, that came as a surprise to her; she had always believed that Pierre did not care much for her. In fact he had barely spoken to her after arriving for dinner, leading Bronwyn to assume that he had heard the same story about her as Rick. “From what I understand, Bryce became something of a recluse after you left. He hardly ever leaves the house; he works from home, never goes into the office, and leaves it to Pierre to run the more social end of the business.” Bronwyn bit her lip and watched as her husband laughed at something Pierre said, the joke silent and just between the two of them.
“Where did Pierre learn to sign?” she asked quietly, admiring the fluent, graceful gestures of Pierre’s hands.
“He used to drive me to my physiotherapy sessions after I had recovered from the accident enough to start strengthening my weak leg, and they happened to have SASL classes at the same clinic, which fortunately coincided with my visits. Pierre saw it as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.”
“I would like to learn,” Bronwyn confided softly. “Could you give me the address of this place?”
Alice smiled. “Of course.” She nodded. “I’ll even go with you if you’d like.”
Bronwyn smiled gratefully before nodding. “I’d really like that.”
“Did you enjoy your evening?” Bryce asked in an indulgent voice that grated on Bronwyn’s nerves, after the other couple’s departure. They were standing on the front step watching the taillights on the De Coursey car grow more distant as it made its way down the steep, winding drive leading from the Palmer home back down to the main road.
“Yes.” She replied abruptly. “Alice is fantastic. I really like her.”
“I knew you would,” he confirmed, still looking and sounding like an indulgent father. For some reason Bronwyn felt like slapping the self-satisfied smirk off his face. Did he have to look so damned smug?
“Yes of course.” She looked straight up at him, her eyes gleaming angrily. “And, as we all know by now; you’re always right.” He couldn’t hear the venom in her voice, but he could certainly see it in her eyes and he took the tiniest step back.
“What the hell is wrong now?” he growled furiously.
“Nothing,” she hissed. “I’m tired . . . I’m going to bed.”
“Oh come on,” he fumed. “You’re not going to do this to me. You’re not going to play this game.”
“I’m not playing any games. I’m too tired for games.” She turned away and headed back indoors. He followed her inside and caught her elbow to halt her progress. She tried to tug her arm away, but his grip, while gentle, was unrelenting.
“What’s going on?” he asked on a whisper. “Did Alice or Pierre do or say something to offend you?”
“No,” she shook her head abruptly. “No, of course not.”