Undiagnosed Love by Jacqueline Lee Publication date: July 1st 2021 Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
What happens when you fall for the one person you can’t have?
Anna has always tried to do everything right, working hard through medical school, and now in her career as a doctor. She’s worked hard at her eight-year relationship with her fiancé Phil too, and can’t wait to get married and become part of Phil’s extended family. Then the unthinkable happens. Phil breaks up with her three months before their wedding.
Luckily, Phil’s younger brother Seth works at the same hospital and is there to help her through the aftermath.
Seth’s always been the laid-back, jokey one in contrast to his more serious brother. He’s always secretly envied Phil’s relationship with Anna because she’s his epitome of the perfect girl. When he sees how devastated Anna is after his idiot brother dumps her, he does everything he can to get her smiling again. But the more time they spend together, the more their connection grows.
Your brother’s ex-fiancée is off-limits. Everyone knows that.
The problem is when you accidentally cross that line, the repercussions can be immense.
“Where on earth are you taking me?” Anna asked as we drove west along the motorway, heading away from the city. Through the rear window, we had a crazy good view of the city—Auckland’s Sky Tower dwarfing the other buildings as it spiraled up into the bright blue sky. While in front of us, an array of sailing boats bobbed on the turquoise sea. Even a die-hard South Islander such as me could grudgingly admit that Auckland on a beautiful spring day wasn’t a bad place to be.
Not that the weather mattered where we were going first.
I took the Henderson exit, and with luck, managed to get a park almost right outside our destination.
“We have arrived at our first destination.” I unbuckled my seat belt.
Anna climbed out, her brow creasing as she took in the row of very ordinary stores in front of us. She stared at the nearest one: a greengrocer. “We’re going veggie shopping?”
“Well, as thrilling as I find broccoli and cauliflower, we’re actually aiming for the store next door.” I grabbed her hand to tug her toward the door.
Anna’s brow remained creased as we approached the antique store. “Antiques?”
“Trust me, you’ll love it.” Shit. I only hoped this place was as cool in real life as it looked on the internet.
Anna followed me inside. I studied her face as she looked around, taking it all in before throwing me a grin. “Oh, this is so cool!”
Relief poured through me. Because it wasn’t just an antique store; it was a store of medical curiosities. Human skulls jostled with old-fashioned medicine bottles for space on the shelves.
“I know, fun, eh?” I couldn’t keep the note of triumph from my voice. When I’d come up with my idea for today, I’d wanted to take Anna places that she’d never been before, do stuff Phil wouldn’t have done with her even if they’d been together for a million years. Thanks to an extended history of torturing my brother on Halloween, I knew that this kind of stuff freaked Phil out.
“So much fun.” She stopped to look at some skeletons.
“Looking for a roommate?” I asked.
“I used to have a skeleton in my room when I was at university. His name was Frank,” Anna said absently as she examined a skeleton.
“What happened to Frank?”
“Oh.” Shit. Today was meant to be about forgetting Phil, not reminding Anna of him.
“He took a dislike to Frank, told me I had to choose. In hindsight, it appears I chose wrong, wouldn’t you say?” Anna said wryly.
I shrugged. “You never know. Frank might have fallen for a lady skeleton, and you’d have ended up in the same place as you are now.”
“Thanks.” Anna flashed me a smile. “Rejected because I have flesh, now that would have been a new experience.”
Her smile sliced through me. There was something about the way she smiled—the way her lips curved upward and her entire face lit up—that caused my heart to take an extra beat.
I’d wanted to do something small for Anna today to help make up for what my brother had done to her. But I couldn’t pretend my motives were completely selfless. I enjoyed spending time with her. On Fridays, before our spice and slice night, I often found myself humming on my rounds. I’d thought she was great when she was Phil’s fiancée. But these past few months, with us spending more time together minus Phil, I’d seen another side to her. With my brother, it was as though she’d been auditioning for the part of the perfect wife. But now she no longer had to perform, the genuine Anna was emerging. Someone with a wickedly funny, zany sense of humor. Someone who always made me laugh.
My conversation with Imogen popped into my head. What did it mean that I’d choose my friendship with Anna over my girlfriend? Was that normal?
I tried to sweep the web of confusion away. Stamp on those spiders intent on spinning more threads. Anna was my brother’s ex-fiancée. That put her safely in the friend zone. Forever.
“Hey, Seth, come look at this; these dice are made of real bone.” While I’d stood there like a moron, Anna had moved on to examining more of the curiosities.
I blinked, returning to reality. “That’d unsettle the competition next time you’re playing Yahtzee.”
After we’d had our fill of browsing medical curiosities, I took Anna on to part two of our non-romance day. Rock climbing. Although Phil never admitted it to anyone, he had a secret fear of heights, so I would place bets on the fact he’d never taken her rock climbing.
Was I doing this to one-up my brother? As a kid, I’d had a massive chip on my shoulder after constantly being compared to Phil because he had the kind of achievements Mum liked to boast about in her Christmas email to friends and family. Phil’s been selected to represent Canterbury in interprovincial tennis. Phil won the trophy for best all-around achievement in his year at school. My achievements at the time—breaking my arm while doing stunts on my BMX bike and pulling an April Fool’s joke that resulted in the school being evacuated—didn’t exactly rank highly on any parental brag list.
But seeing Anna’s eyes sparkle as we pulled up outside the indoor climbing place, I dismissed the idea. Making her happy made me happy. It was as pure and as simple as that.
“I haven’t done rock climbing since high school camp.”
“Did you enjoy it?”
“I loved it!”
Anna bounced along beside me as we headed inside.
The smile remained on her face as we put on our harnesses and the instructor talked us through the different routes. And then we had fun challenging each other over who could make it to the top of the wall the quickest.
I tried not to check out her body, as that would just be weird. But, hey, I was a heterosexual man with a pulse. I couldn’t help but notice how good Anna’s butt looked smooshed into a harness, but I did try to avert my eyes when she was on the wall above me.
“You ready for lunch?” I asked once she’d finished the last climb.
“Sure. Where are we heading? Somewhere non-romantic, I assume?”
“Yeah, it’s pretty non-romantic. Plus, it’s new, and I’ve wanted to go there since it opened, so this is a good excuse.”
“Now I’m intrigued.”
“That’s me, intriguing.” I tried to pull off my man-of-mystery look, but the effect was ruined somewhat by Anna laughing.
Jacqueline Lee is an award-winning romance author who writes stories with heart and humor. She loves writing characters who have fun with each other while building a deeper connection. Formerly a high school biology teacher, Jackie is living her own version of happily-ever-after with her husband and three children in New Zealand.