Real Men Don't Break Hearts

By: Coleen Kwan



“Seth always had a bit of a hero worship thing going there.” Scowling, Ally began to stack the soap on the counter. “Don’t ask me why. Seth never got into trouble the way Nate did. But when Nate started making it big in Sydney, Seth idolized him even more. And Nate and I never got along.”

Her frown deepened as she remembered how Nate had always riled her back when she was dating Seth. He was handsome as sin and already making lots of money doing something in finance. By all accounts he led a hedonistic life in Sydney—fast cars, glamorous women, penthouse apartments—a life she thought was shallow, materialistic, unenviable. Each time they’d met, which was as little as possible if she could help it, he had a way of looking at her that told her he knew exactly what she was thinking, a look that made her all too aware of her shortcomings. In his brazen eyes she’d seen an unflattering reflection of herself—unsophisticated, fuddy-duddy, countrified—and no doubt Seth had started seeing her in that light, too.

Once, when she’d found herself unavoidably alone with Nate, he’d asked her why she was with Seth. His breathtaking insolence had made her flush with anger, and she’d retorted it was none of his damn business before stalking off. She hadn’t told Seth about his cousin’s meddling, didn’t want to lend any credence to Nate’s insufferable audacity, and besides, Seth had a huge blind spot where Nate was concerned.

“Seth didn’t have the guts to tell me to my face the wedding was off, so he sent Nate instead.” The soap wrappers crinkled under the pressure of her fingers. She’d been sitting in the vestry with her nana and sister, wondering where Seth was, worrying he’d had an accident, when Nate had walked in without knocking. He’d tried to sound sympathetic and angry at Seth, but deep down she knew he was gloating. He didn’t like her, and he didn’t believe in marriage. He wanted Seth to be free and easy just like him, and he’d succeeded. “Oh, Nate had no problem telling me. I was so mad at him, I slapped him across the face. Twice.”

“You did? Good for you.”

And then she’d dissolved into a wet puddle of tears and tulle, the final humiliation in front of Nate, who’d still managed to look triumphant despite the red marks on his cheeks left by her stinging hand.

“Nate didn’t care. He’s never cared. He treated this place like his personal garbage can, and he infected Seth with his poison.” After the failed wedding, Seth had gone to Sydney, where Nate had helped him get into stockbroking. Nate was responsible for a lot.

Tyler made a moue with her poppy red lips. “Hell, I’m sorry to be the bearer of such bad news.”

Ally’s spine stiffened. “Listen, I don’t want you treating me like a victim. I’m perfectly fine.”

“Oh, sure.” But Tyler didn’t look convinced.

“I mean it, Tyler. I don’t want you thinking I’m still hung up on Seth. I’m not.”

Her friend nodded vigorously. “I hear you loud and clear. Who wants to get hung up on a man? As far as I’m concerned, men are good for just one thing, and it ain’t killing spiders.”

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

“Oh, you should.” Tyler tossed back her hair. “Take it from me, there’s no such thing as Mr. Perfect. Just a lot of Mr. Fun-for-nows.”

Ally frowned. She was single, too, but unlike Tyler, she did want to fall in love and marry the man of her dreams. “I’m not like you. I can’t make men keel over with lust.”

“How do you know when you’ve never tried?”

“Well, I guess I don’t, but right now I have more important things to worry about.”

“Okay. Well, you won’t hear a word about the wedding from me.” Tyler made a zipping motion across her mouth.

“Hey, I just told you not to treat me with kid gloves. I don’t like the idea of the wedding happening in my own backyard, but business is business, and I need the money.”

The Southern Highlands had always been a haven for the rich. A hundred years ago it had been wealthy merchants who carved out their pockets of English countryside in the Australian bush. Now, it was well-heeled bankers and advertising gurus who fancied a country estate complete with manor, stables, and tennis court. But just like a century ago, a strict divide separated the wealthy “haves” from the everyday “have-nots.”

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