Real Men Don't Break Hearts

By: Coleen Kwan



He raised his hands. “Okay, I’m going. We’ll talk later when you’ve calmed down.”

Growling, she raised her arm. He backed away slowly. Only when he’d left the shop did she let the soap fall.



So much for a fresh start. If he had any sense he’d drive straight back to Sydney and never visit this damn town again. But since when did he act sensibly? He’d never been one to back down from a fight, and he wasn’t going to let one pissed-off jilted bride from six bloody years ago drive him out of town.

Nate slipped into his Maserati parked outside the Red Possum and gunned the engine. If he were younger he’d have roared away as fast as he could, but now he forced himself to stay under the speed limit as he motored down the road in the direction of Robbie’s house. His house.

What was Ally’s problem, anyway? Was she really still hung up on something that had happened years ago? Sure, it was pretty humiliating to be left at the altar with all the wedding guests waiting, and Seth had been a weasely coward for going into hiding. To this day Nate was still disgusted with his cousin’s behavior. But still, did Ally really wish she’d married Seth? Couldn’t she see what a terrible match they were? And then to lay the blame squarely on him, well, that was just bullshit. Still, he shouldn’t have laid into her so hard. She’d surprised him the way she’d stood up to him. Ally was all grown up now and, he had to admit, surprisingly attractive even when she was riled.

Why did he have to buy the one building containing Ally’s shop—not to mention her apartment, too? He groaned at his rashness. Of course, he didn’t have to go through with it. Property purchases had a cooling-off period, and he could take advantage of that to extricate himself from a tricky situation. But he knew he wouldn’t. He’d promised Mr. Cummings, and Nate never went back on his word. Old-fashioned, maybe, but there it was. Also, by buying Mr. Cummings’s less-than-prime piece of real estate so the old man could go fishing in the sun, he was doing the right thing by the bloke. Making amends for the past. Even though the man had no inkling of Nate’s reasons. Reasons he didn’t want to think about too closely right now. And regardless of that, why the hell should he back down anyway, just because of Ally?

All too soon he reached his house. It was situated on what had once been the outskirts of town, but recent subdivisions meant the old timber-clad home on half an acre was now surrounded by modern villas on small allotments. As he got out of the car, he glimpsed the curtains twitching at the front window of the place next door. Mrs. Bennett, his old neighbor, being a busybody. Just like old times.

Opening the front door, Nate was greeted by a cold, musty smell tinged with a hint of mildew. A cleaner went through the place once a month, but an old house like this needed living in to disperse the ghostly damp.

Ghostly damp? Where’d that come from? He wasn’t exactly the sensitive type. Yet, walking through the house, he couldn’t get rid of a sense of an otherworldly presence hovering over his shoulder. Ignoring it, he flicked on lights, opened windows, turned on heaters. Ghostly damp or not, he was determined to spend the night here.

He fetched his bag from the car, found some sheets, and made up his old bed. Every movement echoed through the house; he’d forgotten how quiet it was around here.

When his mobile phone rang, the caller ID told him it was Seth. The muscles in his abdomen tensed slightly as he answered. “Hey, Seth.”

“Hi.” Seth sounded disconcerted. “Er, are you okay to talk right now?”

“Sure.”

“Wasn’t expecting you to pick up. Thought on a Friday night you’d be on a date.”

Oh, yeah? Nate’s mental antennae bristled. He knew his cousin pretty well. Seth had chosen this hour to call on purpose, hoping to get his voice mail, and wasn’t keen to speak to him directly. Why?

“No, no date tonight.” Just a flipped-out woman hurling soap at him.

“So…where are you?”

Nate frowned, his suspicions growing. Seth didn’t normally indulge in phone chit-chat. “I’m down in Burronga.”

A half-strangled choke bounced against Nate’s eardrum. “Burronga! What the hell are you doing there?”

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