HEART CONDITIONS

HEART CONDITIONS

by Phoebe Fox

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943390533
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication date: 02/09/2016
Pages: 282
Sales rank: 967,381
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

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Heart Conditions

The Breakup Doctor Series


By Phoebe Fox

Henery Press

Copyright © 2016 Phoebe Fox
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-943390-56-4


CHAPTER 1

Every time, I hoped this would be the day it wouldn't happen. But when I caught sight of the tall, lean figure standing near the picnic tables and grills of Lakes Park, a familiar ache shot through me.

I sighed. Clearly not today.

Ben looked great in a button-down oxford in a light green I knew from memory would bring out the deeper tones in his hazel eyes, and dark-wash jeans clung to his legs with an attentiveness I could understand. Next to him, Jake was straining the leash in every direction, sniffing all the scents the park offered him like a junkie in a crack den.

Jake saw me before Ben did, his vaunted Pyrenees hearing catching the sound of my car door as I stepped out, and the dog nearly pulled Ben off his feet trying to get to me. I lifted a hand to Ben as we walked toward each other.

"Hi," I said when I got closer.

Ben was better at conjuring a smile than I was. "Hi."

I braced myself for the giant dog's greeting, but to my surprise he didn't plunge his nose between my legs, as was his usual delicate way, but sat at my feet, only his furiously swishing tail giving away his excitement.

"Good, Jake," I said, looking into his eyes instead of Ben's.

The dog's tail wagged so hard I worried he'd leave a fan shape indented into the asphalt, and I couldn't contain myself any longer either. "How's Jakie?" I crooned, dropping to a crouch to ruffle his ears. "How's my boy?" I wrapped my arms around him, hiding my face for a moment in his long fur as Jake shoved a nose into my neck and then pulled back to gaze at me with a joyful open-mouthed smile, and for just that second everything felt right.

"Thanks for this, Brook," Ben said above me. "With Mom gone, I wasn't sure what to do with him."

The moment was over, reality bursting back in. I stood and finally met his eyes. "How's Adelaide doing — have you heard from her since she left?"

"I got an email from her yesterday. She met two women at a poker tournament onboard and they've already gotten pretty tight, it sounds like. Last I heard they were headed to go dancing in the ship's club."

"That's awesome. I'm so glad she's having fun."

He looked at me, familiar smile lines crinkling beside his eyes, and I had to look back down at the dog. "You know she credits you for this, right? She says if you hadn't 'stayed all over her back' — her words, not mine — about dating again, she'd never have done a singles' cruise."

"She'd have dated eventually," I said with a shrug.

"Well, she didn't 'til she started hanging out with the Breakup Doctor. So thanks."

Adelaide and I hadn't "hung out" for quite some time. The last I saw her, her face had been drawn into tight lines of disappointment. "I hope she has fun," I said.

Ben reached to hand me the leash and our fingers brushed. For a heartbeat there was only that warm touch, the shushing of the palms in the February breeze, the whirring coos of mourning doves, the distant sounds of traffic from Gladiolus — and the steady gaze of those familiar hazel eyes.

Jake's ear-piercing bark shattered the moment, and we both followed the dog's alert focus on Ben's truck, where a willowy redhead now stood in the open passenger door, shielding her eyes against the yellow sun, waving when she saw us looking.

"Well ... I guess we need to get going," Ben said. "I'll get you Jake's things."

I made another smile happen across my lips. "I'll come get them. I can say hi to Pamela."

Ben's girlfriend was the kind of woman you never, ever want the ex you still have very complicated feelings for — despite the fact that it was you who torpedoed the relationship — to date. The perfect height — an inch or two above average, but not so tall that men were threatened by her. Slim as a prepubescent boy, but with the full, perfect round breasts of a Madonna. Long red hair with a slight curl. Vivid green eyes and teeth so perfect, you would have asked for the name of her orthodontist, except that you already know she never wore braces a day in her life.

You know this only because you actually did ask for the name of her orthodontist the first time you met her, because your blabbering tongue wouldn't stay in your mouth with your nervousness upon meeting the perfect specimen who replaced you, and you vomited out a number of inane comments like this, and she answered with a disarming smile so appealing that you yourself felt a little stirring of attraction to her, despite the fact that you are solidly heterosexual, and she said with charming self-deprecation, "Believe it or not, I never had braces — my parents have these ridiculously straight teeth they passed on to all us kids."

And you liked her. Despite how much you desperately, desperately wanted to hate her.

Oh — and it turns out she's a brain surgeon. For real. On kids. A pediatric brain surgeon with a supermodel's body and the soul of Mother Teresa.

"Hi, Pamela!" I called out as we approached her, my tone overly enthusiastic in the quiet morning.

But of course she didn't point that out. "Hi, Brook. Nice to see you. Looks like Jake is thrilled to see you too." She flashed her perfect teeth.

"He's the best," I said over the stupid lump in my throat, tangling my fingers into the ruff at his neck.

"We need to get going," Ben said, clearly uncomfortable. In his defense, with our history he had every reason to expect me to be a loose cannon. He opened the back hatch. "Is this enough food? I can leave you some money if you need to —"

"We're fine." I waved him off, accepting the bag of Jake's current favorite toys — he went through them pretty quickly with those piranha fangs of his — as Ben picked up half a thirty-pound bag of dog food.

"Let me carry this to your car for you," he said, but I reached for the bag with my free hand.

"No, you guys go — you don't want to miss your flight."

Pamela glanced down at her watch and made an adorable little mew of concern in her throat. On me it would have sounded like hawking up a loogie. "You're right." She stepped gracefully back into the car with a wave. "Have fun, Brook!"

"You guys have fun, Pamela!" I sang.

She must've thought I was manic, but Pamela never showed it.

Ben gave me a warm smile that for a while I'd feared I'd never see again, and something uncoiled in my stomach. "Thanks again, Brook. It eases my mind to know Jake's in such good hands."

"I'm glad to do it."

I meant that. Even though helping Ben out meant sending him off on what I was sure would be an über-romantic getaway to New York City with a goddess.

"Okay ... well." He patted his pocket for his keys, a gesture so like my dad I wanted to hug him.

But we weren't there yet — if we ever would be — and I was grateful the food and leash I held literally took the awkward decision out of my hands.

"Get going, you," I said lightly. "I'll see you Thursday night."

Ben gave one last pet to Jake's smooth head, and a small wave to me, and then I watched their taillights turn left onto Gladiolus toward Six Mile Cypress and the airport, grateful to let my tired face muscles relax from their perma-smile. It would get easier.

It would.


For all that Ben and I were finally beginning to knit together a fragile sort of friendship after almost six months of total radio silence, it was hard to see him, knowing that we'd lost the closeness we'd once had. Harder still to see him with Perfect Pamela.

I rolled down the windows so Jake and I could both breathe in the orange blossom-scented air as we pulled onto Gladiolus, letting my anxiety recede. It was typical February weather for Florida, about seventy-three degrees and cloudless, with not a drop of humidity. This was why snowbirds flocked here when the Northeast got socked in by winter.

As soon as we pulled into my neighborhood Jake's tail started swishing madly, and I buried my fingers in his fur with a smile. Having him back, even for a short time, made up for some of what I'd lost with Ben.

Inside I scattered the dog toys, filled Jake's water dish, and let him outside to frolic around in my fenced yard, where he eagerly proceeded to deepen the impressive hole he'd started digging so many months ago — when I used to keep him during the week while Ben worked a job in Cedar Key — as if he'd never been gone.

I wished I could be as adaptable as Jake.

The sound of the doorbell drew me back inside. Sasha and Stu had taken to bringing over breakfast on weekends more often than not, and helping me with the endless renovations my extreme fixer-upper of a house required. Glad to be distracted from my own agitated thoughts, I left the sliding glass doors open as I crossed to the front door and pulled it open with a welcoming smile.

And came face-to-face with the main reason I'd screwed everything up with Ben.

Michael. The man I hadn't seen since he'd dumped me by phone two years ago.

A month before we made it to the altar.

CHAPTER 2

I couldn't move. I'm pretty sure I forgot to breathe, judging by the way my lungs started to burn and I suddenly took in a huge gasp of air.

He looked so ... normal. So familiar standing in front of me with those grass-green eyes peeking out from under the unruly lock of dark hair that fell over his right eye the way it always did. I had to stop myself from reaching out to push it back, out of habit. He was dressed the way I'd always seen him, in slim-fitting faded jeans and a battered black concert T-shirt, this one from a David Bowie show that had to have happened long before he was born. Like Jake and his hole in my backyard, I could almost let myself believe no time had passed since I saw him last — except for the uncertain expression he wore, instead of the slightly cocky grin I'd been used to.

And the fact that he was standing on the doorstep of my house, which he'd never been to before. The one I bought in a furious blind rush with the rest of our wedding money right after he called it off — the part I didn't lose in nonrefundable deposits.

My mouth was so dry, I couldn't have formed words even if my flatlined brain had provided any. Which it did not.

Michael had moved away shortly after we broke up — I didn't want to know where, just that he was gone. The last time I'd seen him was two years ago in May. May 4, to be exact — a date I could never forget because of Michael's stupid repeated joke: "May the fourth be with you." At 7:43 a.m. That was when I'd left his apartment — the one I thought I'd be living in weeks later — with a frustrated admonition for him to please not forget our cake tasting that afternoon.

He'd been tangled up in the sheets, logy with sleep and lovemaking, after a late-night gig at the Buddha Bar the night before with his band, the Dogs of Society. He'd blinked sleepy green eyes at me. "Okay."

I stopped in the doorway of the bedroom with a huffing sigh, hands on hips like a fishwife. "I'm serious, Michael. Don't space this out, okay? I'm not asking you to do much for this wedding — just please be there. Okay? Michael?"

He started awake from a doze. "Okay, Brook. Bakery. Four o'clock. Cake. I get it."

Those would have been the last words we'd ever spoken, except for the phone call I got from him eight hours later, en route to the Sweet Dreams Bakery.

"Brook, I'm sorry. I can't do this."

An annoyed sigh had torn out of me. "Oh, for God's sake, Michael — it's cake. Surely you can do cake, at least?"

There was a long silence, and then: "No, not the cake. All of it. Any of it. I can't go through with this."

Ice had seemed to crystallize in every cell of my body. "Okay. That's fine," my mouth said. And I hung up.

That was the epilogue on our two-year relationship. The way I dealt with adversity back then was to push it way down deep and carry on, which I did: I went on to the cake tasting, though I don't remember actually tasting any of the expensive pastries I put in my mouth. The next day I called all the vendors to cancel their services, and had blindly put a down payment on a house within two weeks.

This house. Where the man it had taken me two years, two shattered relationships, and a near nervous breakdown to get over stood on the stoop, staring at me.

"Brook," he finally said, the timbre of his voice lower than I remembered.

I swallowed, trying to remember how words were made.

"What are you doing here?"

"I'm sorry. I know it's a surprise."

Behind me I heard the oncoming clickety-clack of Jake's nails on my tile as he shot through the house from the back, having figured out someone new to play with was here. Without thinking I stepped outside and shut the front door behind me before he could investigate.

That brought Michael and me in close proximity. I could smell his familiar scent — sandalwood — and see the slightly darkened indentations beneath his eyes. He hadn't been sleeping.

I pushed backward against the closed door, where I could hear Jake scratching questioningly on the other side.

"What do you want?" I asked flatly.

"I wanted to see you. To talk to you."

Jake started barking.

"You got a dog," Michael said.

"Yes." I didn't owe him any explanations.

Jake's barking grew louder as he heard our voices but couldn't get to us, trailing off into an ear-piercing, mournful howling that went on and on, as if he were being tortured. Michael's face turned stupefied at the racket, and I panicked as a bubble of hysterical laughter swelled up in my chest and threatened to burst out.

A smile spread over Michael's face, and something panged behind my ribs. His smile had always been like the sun coming out from behind a cloud, shining directly on whomever it was focused on. "You know, he might calm down if we went in."

I had to clench my hands into fists and dig my nails hard into my palms to avoid returning that smile. Letting him in.

"I don't think so. My guess is he'd probably tear you limb from limb."

The smile vanished. "You have a vicious dog?"

"Like Cujo."

"Brook ... that's not safe."

Nothing was safe at the moment. But Jake was hardly the threat here.

"I think it's best if you go."

He sighed. "I know you have every reason to be angry." He waited, as if for me to agree. I met his eyes with a steady, flat gaze. "Look, I get that ... that this is a bad time. And I caught you off guard. I just didn't know how to ..." He let out a gust of air, looking off to his right and then focusing on something there.

"Hey, you have a wasp nest in your eaves," he said. "I can —"

"I'll take care of it." I hoped they stung him.

He looked back at me, and the vulnerability I saw in his eyes almost made me gasp. "Brook, I am ... God, I'm endlessly sorry for hurting you."

My eyes heated and I had to look away, staring unseeingly out to where two egrets were picking their way through my shaggy lawn. His words were almost exactly the ones I'd used in my letter to Ben after I'd broken his heart. I am profoundly sorry.

It had tortured me to have hurt someone I cared about so much. In Michael's agonized expression I saw the reflection of my own remorse, and an unwelcome pinch of empathy wheedled into me.

"Fine," I said grudgingly.

The tension in his face eased just a little. "Thank you. Just for hearing that — thanks." He took a breath, running his hands through his hair in a way I'd seen him do a hundred times. "Look, Brook ... can we talk? Please? Just for a minute?"

Jake's anguished howls started up again, and I was suddenly seized with an urgent need to comfort him.

"I don't think that's a very good idea."

"Right." A trailing laugh leaked out of him. "Cujo. Maybe somewhere else, then? Or ... another time, maybe?"

He was openly pleading, and the traitorous part of me that had once loved him with everything I had pulled at me to hear him out.

But I couldn't. I needed to think — away from the overwhelming presence of him. I shook my head. "No. Not now."

His face cleared as if I'd said yes, and he reached into his front pocket. "Okay. That's fair. But when you're ready — soon, Brook, I hope — will you call me? I'll be here ... for a while. At least until I hear from you." He pulled his hand out with a creased white card between two fingers, and I took it by reflex when he held it out.

Michael Cooper, Promotions.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Heart Conditions by Phoebe Fox. Copyright © 2016 Phoebe Fox. Excerpted by permission of Henery Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Heart Conditions 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
ethel55 More than 1 year ago
I wasn't sure what to expect when Brook's ex Michael showed up in what has been such a fun, smart, chick lit series so far. It was hard to know at first if he was just searching for redemption, or out to use Brook as a vehicle for more business. This installment was a bit more introspective, less about her practice and their foibles and more about her own. Her family storylines continue to be a favorite part of the story, as well as her relationship with Ben and that big lovable pup Jake.
KimHeniadis More than 1 year ago
So much drama in this book! Brook’s ex-boyfriend, is with Perfect Pam, but Brook still has feelings for him. Then her ex-fiance comes back to town, and wants to try to make things work again. And Brook thinks maybe there’s still something there between the two of them as well. Add to that a hyper, and yet depressed dog, a best friend and brother who have hit a rocky patch in their relationship, and parents who are not acting like their normal selves, and you have a laugh out loud plot for book three in The Breakup Doctor Series. I have not read the first two books in the series, but Phoebe Fox includes the perfect amount of backstory that I didn’t feel lost. After reading this one though, I think I would enjoy reading the previous ones. Although had serious moments, there were a few times I was chuckling. They were mainly when Brook was trying to help her best friend with an issue. There is the scene in a fetish club, where I was mortified, but still laughed. If you are looking for an amusing love story with lots of drama, then get a copy of Heart Conditions, or better yet, start with the first one in the series, The Breakup Doctor.
CatmomJD More than 1 year ago
Brook Ogden, The Breakup Doctor, is a therapist who has her own practice, runs a newspaper column and a radio show to help people move on after their breakup. But Brook faces a few dilemmas of her own. First off, trying to be friends with her recent breakup, Ben and his girlfriend, Perfect Pamela, is starting to be a bit more difficult than expected. Then, another ex-boyfriend is back in the picture as well and wants to work through their unfinished business. To top it off, Brook's best friend Sasha is keeping something from her. It’s almost enough to send a girl into a complete meltdown. How will Brook handle everything in her personal life while trying to help those who depend on her professionally? I didn't read the previous books in this series and felt if I had, I would have had more background on the characters. But story had a way of telling enough to get through the book, while not giving away too much in case you want to read the previous books. The story was very vivid and easy to follow and the situations felt like something anyone could be going through. I thought it was well told and entertaining.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
I love this series, but this one for some reason this one just didn't cut it for me. I think the routes she was taking to help Sasha through her problem were WAY out there and I didn't see how they could help at all. I also think the way she handled her ex-fiance was all wrong as well. I'm beginning to wonder if the Breakup Doctor needs to go back to school for herself. I just wasn't that impressed with this one. That doesn't mean I'm done with the series, because I can see some hilarious adventures coming up in the future. Fingers crossed. Thanks Henery Press for approving my request and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
HelloChickLit More than 1 year ago
I love this series by Phoebe Fox. I reviewed book 1 & 2 here, in case you haven’t read it. This series also made my 2015 top 10 of the year! Brook Ogden is The Breakup Doctor and in this last book she’s in quite a heart-wrenching turmoil of events. Not only does recent boyfriend breakup, Ben, have a new, too perfect girlfriend but the almost husband that shattered her heart re-appears unexpectedly to make up his wrongs to her. Even though her and Ben aren’t ‘together’ they are still friends and she still takes care of his enormous teddy bear of a dog, just to make sure they don’t lose complete contact. But the dog seems to bring her more heartache at times, forcing her into watching Ben and his new lady in their relationship. Brooks family is still as crazy as ever and giving her a few more things to worry about as well. But what is life if we don’t have a gazillion things interrupting how we hoped things would go. Crazy families often make a story and Brooks is no exception. I love how I am completely vested in this entire cast of characters, which I see is a compliment to Phoebe’s writing skills. This book was rated 5+ coffees – aka ‘Hells to the Yeah’ Poor Brook! I was heart broken for her at the end of book 2 and now this book goes through your emotions of will she or won’t she end up with lovely Ben or will she go back to her douchey ex. I’ll admit, I’m a Ben fan and I have been since he was introduced in book 1. You can really feel Brooks pain and confusion in this book. No, it’s not a ‘so sad book’ it’s actually quite the opposite but after 2 previous books I feel connected to all these characters! Even the darn dog! This book is no exception from the first two, bringing you loads of laughs and the constant rooting for Brook to finally find her happily ever after that she deserves so much. I’m so pleased to see her business growing, as it should considering Brook is an expert in moving on from a break-up for everyone excluding herself. But we’re all allowed a little crazy in our personal lives. Why did I rate this a ‘Hells to the Yeah’? Phoebe is a great writer. She writes in a way that you fall in love with these characters just about immediately and you not only root for the heroine, Brook, but you root for everyone around her as well. Even the sad ex-almost husband who by the end, you’re hoping he finds his way in life (just not with Brook lol) I laughed out loud many times, and sped through these books literally in one weekend. My family was thrilled to see I loved a book so much that I read it in an hour, until I told them I had 2 more to go and dinner would have to wait until tomorrow when I was finished. lol What I loved: -All the characters – they’re just so like-able. -The ‘issues’ in this book were so real, that they could actually be happening in your life all at once. It made the book very realistic. -That Brook has a happy ending on it’s way (I hope!) I just want her to be happy! What I didn’t Love: -Nothing, seriously I don’t think I closed this book with a question about the plot. It’s great! -That I’m pretty sure there is a book 4 I have to wait for! lol What I thought of the Cover: -LOVE. In fact I was drawn to these books even before Phoebe had contacted me and added them to my ‘wish list’. My Conclusion: If you love chick lit, you will LOVE this series. To me Phoebe writes in a Janet Evanovich/Sophie Kinsella tone which make the books fun and addicting. I will forever read a
bookloverfl12 More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed reading this series! To be a breakup doctor has to be so difficult, especially when you struggle with following your own recommendations. Brooke struggles with following her own guidelines that she sets for her patients and now can see just how difficult moving on can be. What happens when the ex-fiance that left Brooke as the alter 2 years ago comes back and is wanting to make amends yet Brooke is still struggling with her feelings for her ex-boyfriend, who has already moved on? I loved the additional storyline with Brooke’s best friend – it added a variety to the story! Even though this is a series book, it can be read as a stand-alone. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.