Real Men Don't Break Hearts

By: Coleen Kwan

“How much time do you have?” she retorted.

He blinked, straightened up. “You really can’t stand me, can you?”

She gave a brief laugh. “You don’t say.” Her temples had started to ache again. Moving behind the counter, she began to slam the soap bars into order. Bam, bam! She whacked them into a topsy-turvy stack.

“Are you still mad at me about Seth?”

“That’s one way of putting it.”

“I’m sorry about what happened at your wedding,” Nate said, much closer.

She hadn’t heard him approaching, but his sober tone made the back of her neck prickle. She searched his eyes for a hint of insincerity and found none.

Nate drummed his fingers on the counter, the tattoo loud in the sudden silence. “I should have found Seth and dragged him to the church and made him explain himself to you face-to-face,” Nate continued, “not cower in some bar miles away.”

Her head snapped up. “Oh. So you’re just sorry for the way Seth jilted me, not for the fact that he did jilt me.”

“It was cowardly of him. He should have manned up.”

The bar of soap was in her grip. Before she knew what she was doing, she hurled it straight at him. Mouth gaping, he dodged it by just a few millimeters. “What the—”

“Man up? Man up?” She flung another soap bar at him. It zipped past his ear and crashed into a row of candles. “Is that all you care about? What about the fact that you turned him against me, that you talked me down to him at every opportunity, that you sabotaged my relationship with him?”

“You’re crazy. I never did—” He ducked as another lavender missile whizzed past his head. “Will you stop throwing bloody soap at me!”

“You’re such a damn liar!” She thought she’d gotten over the whole episode, but perhaps because she’d never had the chance to scream and yell, she’d bottled it all up, and Nate’s arrogant reappearance was her opportunity to finally vent everything. In a strange way it felt good to get it all out. “Let’s face it—you never liked me, and you hated the thought of Seth and me being together. You were jealous of what we had, so you deliberately destroyed it, you sad, miserable, cocky waste of space!”

She snatched up another soap, but before she could throw it, Nate grabbed her wrists and pinned her hands down on the counter.

“You’re right. I didn’t like you.” His fuming face was just inches from hers. Her heart skipped a beat as she saw the faint stubble on his gritted jaw, the veins tracing his temples, the icy chips in his irises. His hot breath burned her cheeks. “You were a prissy Goody Two-shoes who looked down your nose at me like I was scum. You thought I was a bad influence on Seth, and you didn’t care what he wanted. All you cared about was having a fancy wedding and a husband to take care of you. Jeez, why d’you think Seth spent so much time with me? It was the only way he got to enjoy himself.”

Ally could hear the blood swooshing against her eardrums, could feel Nate’s hard grip on her skin, but she couldn’t seem to move or to speak. All she could do was stare at him and drink in all the terrible things he was saying.

“Yes, I didn’t like you one bit, and I made no bones about it,” he continued relentlessly, “but I didn’t sabotage your relationship. You did that all on your own. And you’re dead right: I’m not sorry Seth dumped you. You were all wrong for him, and I’m glad he realized that just in time. Marrying you would have been the worst mistake of his life.” He paused, his voice losing some of its razor sharpness as he added, “And your life would’ve been ruined as well. You both had a lucky escape.”

At last she found the strength to yank herself free. A chill settled over her, cooling the hammering in her ears, snap-freezing her stomach into a cramp. “Get out of my shop.”

His expression faltered as though his conscience had finally been pricked. “Ally, I—”

“I said, get out. You don’t own this place yet, and until you do, stay away from here.”

“Look, I know we—”

“Get out!” The chill was evaporating, and everything inside her was starting to seethe again. She seized another bar of soap.

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