Unbreakable Page 1

Author: Melanie Harlow

Series: Cloverleigh Farms #4

Genres: Romance



In hindsight, I should not have had that fifth mimosa at Breakfast with Santa.

Or the sixth, seventh, and eighth.

In my defense, I would like to say that they were incredibly tasty and deceptively strong. In fact, I’m pretty sure the bartenders began adding more alcohol to them as the event wore on.

And I needed it.

It was the first time Brett, my ex-husband, and fucking Kimmy, his soon-to-be-next-wife, and I were all in a room together. They were seated at a table with Whitney, our newly thirteen-year-old daughter, and Keaton, our ten-year-old son, along with another family from the country club. Back in August, when we’d made the reservations, I’d assumed it would be me sitting in the seat now occupied by Kimmy. Of course, I’d been totally unaware at the time that Brett had already hired a divorce attorney, established residency in Nevada so the whole thing could be done quickly, and purchased a love nest for himself and his little side dish.

I was only attending this breakfast because my daughter had begged me to come. She couldn’t stand Kimmy, and she was furious with her dad. I was careful not to badmouth him in front of the kids, but I probably didn’t even need to worry about it. He’d never been Father of the Year. In his mind, paying their private school tuition bills, buying them expensive birthday presents, and taking them on fancy trips made him a good dad. He never spent any real time with them, and he blamed his work schedule for missing out on their activities.

I’d practically been a single parent anyway the last few years, and when he left for good, the kids had made it clear they were staying with me. They tolerated weekend visits with their dad—when he didn’t cancel—but there was never any question where their loyalty lay. And when I’d floated the idea of moving to Cloverleigh Farms, my childhood home in northern Michigan, where they’d spent some fun summer vacations over the years, they’d both voted yes. They might have been young, but they knew I needed to get away from here in order to put the pieces of my life back together.

Every night I lay awake wondering if I was being too selfish, taking them from the only home they’d ever known, but then I’d think about having to run into Brett and Kimmy all over town, or drive by my dream house and see the For Sale sign out front, or endure the pity of people who’d pretended to be my friends yet ditched me entirely when I’d needed them most. I wanted to be around family, around people I could trust, in a place that felt like home. I needed a safe harbor.

And the kids did too.

Ever since Brett left, Whitney had been wearing more and more makeup. I wasn’t sure if she was just a normal thirteen-year-old girl experimenting or if it went deeper, but it worried me. When I tried to talk to her about it, she claimed she just really liked makeup. Brett hated it, of course, so maybe it was her way of defying him? Of saying fuck you for leaving with her loud red lips? Part of me admired her for that. Did I really need to take it away from her?

Keaton, for his part, seemed to be eating his feelings. He was hungry all the time, and even though I didn’t keep junk food in the house, he would manage to buy it somewhere. Recently he’d started hiding it—I’d found a bunch of candy bar wrappers shoved under his pillow last week. When I’d checked his desk drawers, I discovered even more. I’d asked him about it, and he’d blamed a friend. I hadn’t had the heart to call him out.

I prayed every night that Cloverleigh Farms would heal our aching hearts—or at least make me a better parent.

Tipping up the sixth mimosa, I turned around, setting the empty champagne flute on the bar. “I’ll have another, please.” What the hell, it was Saturday, right?

“Yes, Mrs. Baxter,” said the bartender.

Mrs. Baxter. What a joke.

“Sylvia! So nice to see you!” Tippy Hewitt Hamilton air-kissed my cheek and gestured to the drink the bartender handed me. “I’ll have one too.”

“Yes, Mrs. Hamilton.”

I took a sip of my drink, fortifying myself for a conversation with Tippy, the gossipy queen bee of the Ocean View Country Club set, women I’d considered friends until recently. But many of them had known Brett was cheating on me, and none of them had said a thing. Their excuse? They didn’t want to upset me.

It was bullshit.

There was politeness, and there was loyalty, and I knew the damn difference, even if they didn’t.

“So I hear you’re moving back to Michigan,” Tippy said with a toothy smile.


“You poor thing. Hard enough to have to leave that big, beautiful home, but moving to Michigan at the start of winter? It’s practically inhumane!”

“Actually, Tippy, I didn’t have to move. I’m choosing to. The weather might be cold in Michigan, but the people there are a lot warmer.”

The barb went right over her head.

“And you grew up on a . . . farm, right?” She made a face that told me she equated farm with disease-ridden, backwater swamp.

I saw no point in telling her that Cloverleigh Farms was actually one of the most beautiful places on earth in any season. That people came from all over the country to stay at our inn or get married in our orchard. That our vineyard rivaled anything I’d ever visited in Napa Valley, and our wines won awards all over the world. She wouldn’t have believed me. “Yes.”

“How quaint.” She patted my arm condescendingly. “I’m sure you’ll be very happy there.”

I took another sip of my drink as we were joined by three other women, whose gossip antennae had no doubt communicated to them the opportunity to get a good scoop.

“Sylvia, darling, you look wonderful.” Hilly Briggs air-kissed my cheek. She was wearing so much perfume—an attempt to mask the fact that she smoked to stay skinny—I nearly choked.

“The decorations are the best we’ve ever had,” said Liz Dunham, whose carefully applied concealer couldn’t quite mask the needle marks where her dermatologist had recently injected something to combat her wrinkles and plump her cheeks.

Looking thin and young was a competitive sport around here.

“Who are you sitting with, dear?” asked Jane Blythe Miller. I could tell she felt sorry for me from the tone of her voice and the tilt of her head—and also that she kind of enjoyed it. “Do you have a table?”

“I’m sort of just floating,” I said, attempting to smile. “I’m not very hungry anyway.”

They all nodded, their matching haircuts swinging. They were dressed alike too, each wearing some version of a twinset or turtleneck sweater and skirt of a “proper length,” per club rules. Pearl necklaces hung around every one of their necks. I’d noticed Kimmy was wearing a pearl necklace too, and I’d wondered if Brett had purchased it for her. It was the kind of thing he liked to do, buy people’s affection.

“You’re better off,” said Jane with a sigh. “I shouldn’t have eaten that giant slice of coffee cake. It probably had a thousand calories.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Sylvia doesn’t have to worry about her weight,” said Hilly with a touch of envy. “She’s already so nice and thin these days.”

I was actually too thin, and I knew it. But the stress of the last year or so had robbed me of my appetite and caused vomiting episodes when I did manage to finish a meal. Deep down, I’d known for a long time that my passionless marriage was disintegrating. I’d just been too scared to do anything about it.

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