“I think you’re perfect.” She snorted at that unnecessary bit of flattery, and he grinned again, sweeping her up in a hug.
“I’m starving,” he growled, nipping at her neck to let her know exactly what he was starving for. As if the erection insistently pushing against her wasn’t proof enough of that. She giggled and pushed him away.
“Down, boy,” she teased. “I want to see what culinary feast you’ve prepared for us tonight.” She didn’t miss the flash of guilt in his eyes as he uncovered the chafing dishes at the other end of the beautifully decorated table.
“We have”—he cleared his throat nervously, keeping his eyes averted—“roast beef soup with crème fraîche, followed by salad with vinaigrette dressing.” More throat clearing. He really was getting truly awful at deception. “Stuffed flank steak served with baby potatoes in a garlic butter sauce, and triple chocolate mousse for dessert.”
Her lips twitched at his discomfort as he raised miserable eyes to hers, and when he saw her gentle smile, he heaved a huge, sad sigh.
“You know, don’t you?” he asked wretchedly, and she nodded. “I’m sorry. I wanted everything to be perfect tonight, and I didn’t think burned meat and hard potatoes would cut it this time.” Again his gaze shifted slightly to the left of her as his cheeks lit with shame. She put a soft hand on his jaw and turned his head until he was looking at her again.
“Bryce, you’re a man of many talents . . . unfortunately, cooking isn’t really one of them. I love you for trying and even though those other meals weren’t perfect, I enjoyed them because of the love that went into the preparation. That said, this looks truly delicious, and I’m happy you decided to forgo cooking tonight. Where did this come from? Initially I thought you may have asked Celeste to prepare something for us, but this doesn’t at all resemble anything she has cooked for us before.”
“Yeah, it’s from a local restaurant. They delivered it earlier when the housekeeper was still here. They left very specific instructions on how to reheat everything. I hope nothing has dried out or spoiled.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine.” She waved aside his concern. He helped her into her chair and draped a napkin over her lap with flair. He sat down to her left and angled his chair so that he could see her face and hands clearly. The meal was divine, and they joked and fed each other as they devoured the food in front of them. They had made their way through half a bottle of delicious Cabernet Sauvignon, and as they licked the last of their chocolate mousse off their spoons, Bryce reached for the bottle to refill their long-stemmed wineglasses with the burgundy liquid. He raised his glass and eyed her expectantly. She smiled and raised hers as well.
“I know that I’m not the easiest guy to get along with, Bron,” he murmured, his voice shaking. “And that when you decided to give this relationship a second chance, you also took on a whole boatload of my emotional crap.” His voice wobbled, and he paused to gain control of his emotions. “I’m just so happy that you gave me another chance.”
She knew that. His ebullience over the last couple of months had been hard to miss. He was still terrified of losing his temper around her and Kayla, but Bronwyn wasn’t above pushing his buttons in order provoke a response from him. She trusted him not to hurt them, but she wanted him to trust himself too. Their therapist, in a one-on-one session with Bronwyn, had suggested that course of action, and they were making progress. He had lost his temper with her just two weeks before, after Bronwyn had ditched Paul while she was out shopping.
Recognizing how furious he was after Paul had informed him of her transgression, she had deliberately gotten belligerent in an effort to get him to lose his icy control and had then watched in unflinching awe as her ex-husband completely lost his legendary composure for the first time in her memory. He had ranted, raved, paced, growled, and even snapped a pencil, but he hadn’t even gotten close to harming a hair on her head. After he had calmed down, she had smugly kissed him and murmured, “You don’t scare me, big man. But I promise to be more careful in the future.” He had looked a little dazed after that and slightly mollified by her words. But the look of befuddled self-discovery in his eyes had been one of the sweetest things she had ever seen. After that he had stopped carrying himself like a man tiptoeing on eggshells around Bronwyn and Kayla.
Bronwyn had learned a lot more about him over the last two months than she had dreamed possible. At first it had been a little disheartening to discover just how much he had kept hidden from her in the past, but at the same time she had recognized that he was fundamentally the same man that she had fallen in love with all those years ago.
“Sometimes,” he was saying, still in that low, rough voice that shook with the force of his emotions, “I wonder how the hell I got so lucky. I don’t deserve you, no matter what you say, and I am awed, humbled, and so damned grateful that you’re in my life.”
He cleared his throat and carefully placed his glass back on the table before, quite unexpectedly, dropping out of his chair and on to one knee in front of her. Confused by the clumsy movement from her usually graceful ex-husband, Bronwyn wasn’t sure what was happening at first until he started patting at the breast pocket of his shirt. Flabbergasted, she watched as his eyes flared in panic and his hands dropped down to his jeans pockets and frantically started digging around in them. She started to get an inkling of what his intentions were and tried to hide her grin at this less-than-suave proposal.