Real Men Don't Break Hearts

By: Coleen Kwan

“I’m sure we can work something out,” Nate said smoothly.

“Capital!” Mr. Cummings beamed at him again like Father Christmas.

Nate studied the front of the shop. He’d passed it a thousand times before but had never gone in. The Giftorium, it said in delicate gold script across the glass. The store window held a tasteful arrangement of the kind of stuff he’d never think of buying. Wind chimes, leaded glass lampshades, embroidered cushions, painted pottery. Clutter, that was all he saw. Dust-collecting clutter.

“So who is she?” Nate moved toward the glass-paned front door. “My new tenant?”

“Ally Griffin.”

Nate’s feet stuck to the pavement. A cold shock ran through him. “Ally Griffin?”

Mr. Cummings gave him a puzzled little frown. “You know her, then?”

“Y-yes,” he managed to choke out.

Ally Griffin. The last time he’d seen her was on her wedding day, when he’d had to tell her there wasn’t going to be a wedding after all. And now she was his new tenant? Oh, shit.

Ally leaned back in the chair and rubbed her throbbing temples. She hadn’t felt this pole-axed since…well, since she’d been left high and dry on her wedding day.

Tyler stood in front of her, incredulous. “You were supposed to marry Seth Bailey?” she demanded. “When? Why didn’t I know anything about it?”

“You must have heard about the wedding. I was the talk of the town for months.”

“It could have been after I left. What happened?”

Ally took a breath and crossed her arms. “Seth and I were together since we were fifteen. When we were nineteen, we wanted to get married. At least, I wanted to get married, and Seth said he wanted to get married, only it turned out he didn’t, because on our wedding day he never showed up at the church.”

“Wow.” Tyler let out a soft whistle. “He really did that? Just left you there waiting?”


“It’s like something out of a movie.”

With a deprecating laugh, Ally stood from the chair and bent to gather the fallen bars of soap. She wished she hadn’t needed to sit down to recover herself. She didn’t want to give Tyler the impression that she still cared about her aborted wedding day. Because she didn’t. It had happened six years ago, and she wasn’t a silly nineteen-year-old anymore.

“It’s not a movie, because I’m well and truly over Seth.” She rose to her feet with an armful of soap. “It’s just that you gave me a shock when you said he was getting married.”

Tyler’s silver bangles chimed as she rested her hand on her hip, her expression narrowing. “He’s got some nerve wanting to get married here in Burronga.”

Sure, that was a slap in the face—Seth brazenly planning to have his wedding here. Again.

“Did you ever speak to him afterward?” Tyler asked, obviously unable to hide her curiosity.

“On the phone, a day after the non-wedding. And then I saw him a few weeks later when we had to return gifts and separate all our stuff.” She paused, emotion ambushing her as she remembered the last stilted meeting with Seth. She’d wanted to scream at him, to vomit out all her rage and hurt, but he’d shifted around, avoiding her eye, mumbling apologies, and she hadn’t been able to focus her fury. Everyone assumed being jilted at the altar would be her worst memory of Seth, but it wasn’t. That last meeting, when she’d finally seen her years of hopes crushed under the heel of reality, had knocked her like nothing else had.

“He apologized for embarrassing me in front of all my friends and family, but he said he was too young to get married, that he only realized it on the morning of the wedding and didn’t know how to tell me, and then he panicked and ran out. Spent our wedding day holed up in a bar an hour from here.”

“What a jerk!” Tyler’s face screwed up in disgust.

“Yeah.” Ally drew in a deep breath, indignation filling her with strength. “But the biggest jerk was the guy who talked Seth out of marrying me. His cousin, Nate Hardy. He’s the real jerk.”

“Nate Hardy? Oh yeah, I’ve heard of him. Was a teenage delinquent, right? What’s he got to do with Seth?”

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