Real Men Don't Break Hearts

By: Coleen Kwan

“Like hell, me.” Tyler snorted. “No, Crystal Kerrigan’s daughter is getting married, right here in Burronga.”

“Oh. Okay.” Ally began to restack a pyramid of lavender soap, which the tourists had pawed through and left in an untidy heap. “Sorry if I’m not more enthusiastic about some minor celebrity’s wedding.” Crystal Kerrigan was the host of a popular TV talk show. She lived on a multi-million-dollar spread just outside Burronga, but as far as Ally knew she’d never once visited The Giftorium.

“It’s not Crystal who’s getting married. It’s her daughter, Paige. She’s in PR, does the occasional piece on her mother’s program about the social scene in Sydney. You’ve seen her, haven’t you?”

“No, I don’t watch much TV. But what does this have to do with me?”

“The wedding will be covered by all the best women’s magazines. It’s going to be a huge bash. Hundreds of people invited.” Tyler leaned across the counter and grabbed Ally’s hand. “Hundreds of people all loaded like the Kerrigans, wandering around Burronga looking for ways to unload their fat wallets. It’s got to be good for business.”

“Ah.” Ally glanced up, her interest finally piqued. “Yeah, that sounds great, but it won’t happen for quite a while, right?”

“Nuh-uh. Wedding’s in four weeks.”

“That soon? Seems like pretty short notice, especially for a big, fancy wedding. Where’d you hear about it, anyway?”

“My aunt’s the Kerrigans’ housekeeper, remember? She got it all from Crystal Kerrigan herself. If you ask me, sounds like the daughter’s pregnant, and they need to get married in a hurry.”

The stack of soap collapsed under Ally’s hands. Clumsily she began to rebuild it. “So who’s the groom?” she hurriedly asked. “Some hotshot from Sydney?”

“A Sydney stockbroker, but apparently he grew up here in Burronga, too. Name’s Seth Bailey.”

“Seth Bailey?”

Ally’s hands spasmed, and several soap bars shot off the counter. Tyler jumped back as one thudded into her leg. “Seth Bailey?” Every muscle in Ally’s body quivered. “Seth Bailey is going to marry Crystal Kerrigan’s daughter?”


“Right here in Burronga?” Blood pounded in Ally’s head.

“Uh-huh…” Tyler backed away.

“In four weeks?” A frightening ache pulsed against Ally’s temples. It felt as though her skull might burst.

“Uh, Ally, you look like you’re going to pop a blood vessel.” Tyler put her hands up, eyes wide with consternation. “What’s the problem?”

Ally pressed her palm against her heaving stomach. She thought she was going to be sick. “Oh, no problem. No problem at all. Or maybe…just a teeny tiny problem.” She sank into the ladder-back chair beside the counter. “Six years ago, I was supposed to marry Seth Bailey. Until his damn cousin Nate convinced him to jilt me at the altar.”

“Nate, you’ve made me a very happy man today.” Mr. Cummings’s egg-smooth head bobbed toward Nate Hardy as he reached across the table to shake hands on the deal. “I always knew you weren’t afraid of making a quick decision.”

Nate inclined his head. “In my line of work, quick decisions are the norm.”

As an investment manager, his quick decisions could make or break hundreds of thousands of dollars for his clients. He’d ridden to meteoric success on his nerves of steel, yet the deal he’d just struck with Mr. Cummings made him more nervous than any other in his career. Was he doing the right thing? Not the act of buying Mr. Cummings’s property—for his own private reasons he’d always wanted to do something for the man, and even if he took a loss on it, by no means would it wipe him out—but what it signified. Quitting Sydney. Moving back to Burronga. Turning his back on his high-powered job and instead, reviving an old, not very profitable business. He’d done his math, made his plans, mulled it over for months, but buying Mr. Cummings’s property on a whim today was a concrete sign to the wavering side of himself that he meant it.

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