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A Husband's Regret (The Unwanted Series)

By:Natasha Anders

PROLOGUE

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

What do you mean, you're pregnant? What about your studies? We were  going to wait, Bronwyn, remember? Just tell me you're joking?" Bronwyn  felt her husband's furious words strike her like boulders. She stared up  into his livid face and didn't recognize the man standing in front of  her. He was shocked, that was all. He was thrown by her news. Her words  would sink in soon enough and he'd go back to being the man she adored,  the wonderful man to whom she had entrusted her heart. She just needed  to give him time to get over his shock. The more she tried to  rationalize his inexplicable reaction to what should have been joyous  news, the more the insidious little voice in the back of her mind kept  telling her that she was lying to herself. This was a side of Bryce that  she had never seen before-one that he had never allowed her to see-and  she was terrified of what that said about their two-year marriage.

"I know that it's sooner than we'd planned," she said softly, trying to  maintain an even tone of voice. "But this is the reality of our  situation now, and it can't be changed. We're having a baby . . . a  baby, Bryce. Don't you get how wonderful that is?"

"I can't believe you did this. I can't believe you would stoop to this,"  he gritted out bitterly. "This was supposed to be a joint decision. I'm  not ready for this, Bronwyn. I don't want a kid, damn it!"

"But it's our baby. We made it together," she protested, trying and  failing to keep the pain and confusion from her voice. She tried to find  a glimmer of her kind and loving Bryce beneath the mask of anger and  frustration that he was displaying, but he wasn't there. She wondered if  he had ever been there.

"You mean you made it, without my consent." He could barely meet her  eyes, and she was grateful for that because the tears that she had been  struggling to keep at bay were finally winning the battle.

"I don't know why you're being like this," she cried. "I didn't plan  this; it just happened. Our birth control failed. I asked the doctor and  he said that if I'd had a stomach virus or anything like that it could  have provided a window of opportunity. And remember? I was sick a couple  of days before your company party three months ago." He strode out of  the conservatory without a word and she followed him as he made his way  downstairs to their en suite. She watched in sick disbelief as he opened  the medicine chest and yanked out her birth-control pills.

"What are you doing?" She tried to maintain her composure as he counted  the pills left in the box and felt the hope that she had been clinging  to shrivel up into a tiny ball inside her chest and die. She felt  nauseated as she watched the man she had married turn into a monster  right in front of her. Slowly the confused mortification turned to fury.  How could he do this to her? How could he humiliate her like this?

"God, have you been chucking pills down the drain every night?" he  wondered out loud, and she found herself almost hating him for asking  the question.

"You know I wouldn't do that."

"Do I? Well I obviously don't know you as well as I thought I did, do I?"

"Of course you know me, Bryce." She tried to appeal to the reasonable  man who had to be in there somewhere and laid a tentative hand on his  rigid forearm, but he yanked his arm away and turned away from her.

"Get out of here," he whispered harshly, and Bronwyn felt something give way and break at those four words.

"What?" She must have misheard him. Still she tried to give him the benefit of the doubt.

"Get the hell out," he said before turning to face her. Bronwyn tried  not to flinch when she saw his face. There was nothing there-no anger,  no regret, just a blank mask. She didn't know this man at all. "Go now."

She sobbed, whirled from the room, and did as he had commanded. She fled.





CHAPTER ONE

TWO YEARS LATER

She had been working for less than two hours and already she knew that  it had been a mistake to come in. But not showing up for work meant not  getting paid, and that would be disastrous. She needed her job  desperately and couldn't risk losing it.

A bout of flu had wiped her out for nearly a week, leaving her without  an income and dangerously low on resources. Though she still felt a bit  shaky, she had dragged herself in to work that morning. But no sooner  had she walked through the front door of the busiest, trendiest  beachfront restaurant in Plettenberg Bay, than she comprehended what a  grave error in judgment she had made. She was muddling up her orders,  breaking dishes, and walking blindly into her fellow servers. She knew  that the manager-who already felt that her personal circumstances were  incompatible with her working environment-was just itching to fire her.  Now she was basically handing him an excuse to get rid of her.





  

She valiantly soldiered on, hoping against hope that Gerhard would, by  some miracle, take pity on her and keep her on his books. A young couple  with a baby cart made their way into her section and she shuffled over  to them, her lack of enthusiasm obvious with every reluctant step. The  couple were leaning into one another, whispering and laughing  intimately, while the baby slept peacefully in its stroller. The pair  looked very much in love and pretty much oblivious to the rest of the  world.

"Good afternoon," she murmured, so focused on keeping her nausea at bay  that she barely glanced at them. "Would you like anything to drink?" The  woman looked up and started to say something, but she was interrupted  by her companion, who swore viciously before jumping to his feet like a  scalded cat.

"Oh my God! Bronwyn?"

Bronwyn gasped and raised one shaking hand to her mouth to stifle a  shocked cry when she recognized the handsome man standing in front of  her. Her vision blurred and she blinked rapidly to clear it. The baby,  clearly startled by the man's harsh voice, started crying.

"So this is where you have been hiding out all this time?" The shock had disappeared from his voice to be replaced by contempt.

"Ricky," she moaned shakily, overwhelmed by love, fear, and relief all at the same time.

"Don't call me that!" he growled in warning, and she flinched. "God,  you're an ice-cold bitch, aren't you? How could you stay away all this  time? How could you live with yourself?"

"Please," she implored in the smallest whisper. "Please don't . . ."

"Don't what? Call a spade a spade?" He sneered.

"Rick," the woman, whom Bronwyn had forgotten about, spoke up. She kept  her voice low, while she rocked the still-crying baby. "Take it easy,  for heaven's sake, she doesn't look well. What's going on here?"

"Of course she doesn't look well," he scoffed, his harsh tone of voice  totally unfamiliar. "Why would she look well when she has finally been  caught, like the miserable little sneak that she is?"

Bronwyn swayed even more. Rick had never spoken to her like this  before-it wasn't in his gentle nature to be deliberately cruel-but he  was firing on all cylinders today, and Bronwyn flinched with each  terrible barb.

"Rick." The woman was speaking again, but her voice sounded hollow, like  it was coming from down a long tunnel. "Rick, stop it . . ." She was  saying something else but this time her voice had disappeared behind the  angry buzzing in Bronwyn's head. She shook her head but the sound got  worse and louder until it was as deafening as a chainsaw. She groaned  weakly and lifted her hands to her ears. That didn't help, and she  sobbed as her field of vision got narrower and narrower, until she could  not see them at all, until there was only blackness.



Voices faded in and out of her consciousness and Bronwyn struggled to  make sense of what they were saying. She was comfortable again, no  longer dizzy and no longer achy. She felt like she was floating and was  enveloped by an incredible sense of well-being. But this feeling was not  quite right, and that awareness prevented her from being entirely at  ease. She was sure that this uneasiness stemmed from the raised voices  in the background, and again she attempted to filter out the garbled  speech from the few words that she could understand.

". . . Don't get . . ." it was a man's voice, recognizable and well  loved but unfamiliarly harsh. ". . . What she did . . . unforgivable . .  . left him . . . bitch!" An unfamiliar female voice intervened, her  gentle voice soothed Bronwyn's overwrought nerves.

". . . Is she? What . . . she do . . . so bad?" Bronwyn strained to open her eyes but it felt like a colossal effort.

". . . Deserted Bryce . . . needed her most . . ."

Bronwyn managed a weak gasp at that, outraged by this blatant lie. The couple went abruptly silent.

". . . Waking up," the woman said urgently. ". . . The doctor! Now, Rick!"

Doctor? Bronwyn frowned. Why a doctor? For the first time since  regaining consciousness she wondered where she was and managed to drag  her heavy lids apart with great effort. She stared up into the vaguely  recognizable features of a pretty woman who seemed to be a couple of  years younger than Bronwyn's twenty-eight. The woman's warm smile  transformed her gentle features from plain to almost pretty and had the  effect of immediately calming Bronwyn down.

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