HEART CONDITIONS

HEART CONDITIONS

by Phoebe Fox

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Overview

"Delightful, witty, and chock full of warmth, I loved every page of this novel. Each character's journey was incredibly engaging and real, and I found myself wishing I could get some advice from the doctor myself. Reading this series is like taking a trip to see your best friend, therapist and love guru all in one. Phoebe Fox writes her heart out!" - Amy FitzHenry, Author of Cold Feet

"As heartwarming as they are humorous-Fox's books offer more than the usual chick lit fare, with a lot of heart and a smart, relatable heroine in Breakup Doctor Brook Ogden." - Sarah Bird, Author of The Boyfriend School and The Gap Year

"Phoebe Fox has given us characters that are lovably fallible, funny, and frazzled, and has proven that when it comes to love and relationships of any kind, even the sanest of us get a little crazy." - Elisa Lorello, Bestselling Author of Faking It and Why I Love Singlehood

"Not only were the characters life-like, but the writing style was creative, emotional, and it sucked me in. This book was funny, but it was also sad, heartwarming and melancholy...I give this book, and this series 5 out of 5 stars." - Comfy Reading

"Just the thing to put a smile on my face and I would heartily recommend a dose of this when you're feeling blue." - The Book Magnet

Running a massively successful relationship counseling practice should guarantee smooth sailing in a girl's own love life...

Breakup Doctor Brook Ogden has spent the last year sifting through the fallout from the disastrous decision that led to her unconscious uncoupling with boyfriend Ben Garrett. Despite advising her clients you can't be friends with an ex, she and Ben have somehow begun to stitch together a friendship-one Brook hopes is slowly turning into more. That is, until Ben introduces his new girlfriend, Perfect Pamela, a paragon of womanly virtues who is everything Brook is not.

While Brook navigates her newly volatile emotional life, an unwelcome surprise shows up on her doorstep: the ex-fiancé who broke her heart two years ago-one month before their wedding. Between her ex's desire to rekindle their attachment, her best friend Sasha's unexpected crisis, and her own unsquelchable feelings for Ben, Brook finds herself questioning the personal progress she's made in the last two years-and threatened with the highest-stakes Breakup Doctor failures she's ever faced.

Related subjects include: book club recommendations, dating advice, women's friendship and sisterhood, humorous fiction, women's fiction, chick lit romantic comedy, rom com, funny romance.

Books in The Breakup Doctor Chick Lit Series:

• THE BREAKUP DOCTOR (#1)
• BEDSIDE MANNERS (#2)
• HEART CONDITIONS (#3)

Part of the Henery Press Chick Lit Collection, if you like one, you'll probably like them all...

Author Bio: Phoebe Fox has been a contributor and regular columnist for a number of national, regional, and local publications (she currently writes about relationships for the Huffington Post, SheKnows, and Elite Daily). She has been a movie, theater, and book reviewer; a screenwriter; and has even been known to help with homework revisions for nieces and nephews. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two excellent dogs.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943390533
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication date: 12/31/2015
Pages: 282
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

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.
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