Title: The Aristocrat
Author: Penelope Ward
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 30, 2021
From New York Times bestselling author Penelope Ward, comes a new standalone novel.
The one that got away. Every girl has one, right?
Mine was a charming, British aristocrat who turned my world upside down one summer.
From the moment I first spotted Leo in the distance through my binoculars, Iâd been captivated. I certainly never expected to find a man showering outside of the property across the bay in his birthday suit.
Then I noticed his housemate staring back at me with binoculars of his ownâwatching me watching Leo.
That made for an interesting conversation starter when I inevitably ran into them.
Turned out, the handsome Brits were only renting that house for the summer in my seaside town.
Leo and I formed an instant connection, even though we were technically opposites by all appearances. I taught him how to dig for clams, and he taught me that not all wealthy and powerful guys are pretentious.
Despite knowing he was totally wrong for me, I couldnât seem to stay away.
It was a wild and crazy few months. And before I knew it, weâd fallen in love.
We both had one wish: more time together.
But Leo had obligations back home. He lived a life Iâd never fit into. And I was going to law school. So, we decided to end it and never look back.
A part of me always felt like Iâd let my soulmate walk away.
I believed our story was over.
Until five years later when he sent me a letter that shook me to my core.
Iâd thought my world was turned upside down that first summer?
Well, I knew nothing yet.
Hell was the moment I stepped into the grocery store a few days later and nearly knocked right into him.
âItâs you.â He held up a long, phallic-looking baguette and shook it. âRemind you of something?â
My face felt hot. âVery funny.â
âI havenât seen much of you outside over the last couple of days. Did we scare you?â
This was not Shower Guy, but rather the one whoâd caught me peeping. He had a strong British accent and was extremely tall, with dark hair.
âIâve just been taking a break from the backyard.â
âToo hot outside for you, eh?â
âLook, I didnât intend to see what I saw. Iâve been intoâ¦birdwatching this summer. Then one day you two moved in, and Iââ
âWhoa, whoa, whoa...â The other guy had appeared next to his housemate. âIâm sorry for anything he might have said to you just now. Rest assured, itâs all shite. Heâs just playing around.â He, too, had a strong British accent. âI donât believe weâve properly met.â
âAlthough, youâve improperly met...â his friend chided.
âPut a sock in it, Sigmund.â
Okay, so the asshole is Sigâor Sigmund. The previously naked one must be Leo, then. They were both tall and good-looking, but Leo, with his chiseled features, lustrous hair, and striking eyes was on another levelâa total Adonis, and intimidatingly gorgeous.
Sigmund shrugged. âSurely she knows Iâm just kidding.â
âBut you donât know when to stop. Thatâs always been your problem. Canât you see how red her face is getting? Youâre embarrassing her.â
Uhâ¦how red is my face getting? This was mortifying. I couldnât control that about myself. After all, I was a redhead with fair skin covered in freckles. Whenever I got embarrassed, I basically turned red from head to toe.
Leoâs tone softened. âI apologize for his rude behavior.â He held out his hand. âIâm Leo Covington.â
I took it, enjoying the warmth of his skin. âFelicity Dunleavy.â
The other guy offered his hand. âSigmund Benedictus. But please call me Sig.â
Been a dick-tus.
He sure had.
âGood to meet you,â I said.
âAnd you, as well, Freckles.â
Freckles? He couldnât have come up with a more original nickname? I was self-conscious about my freckles, and typically wanted to murder anyone who dubbed me Freckles.
âDo you mind not calling me that?â
âDo you prefer a different nickname?â Sig asked. âPeeping Tom, perhaps?â
Leo gritted his teeth. âEnough. Seriously.â
âAll right. Iâll behave. Going in search of tapenade for this bread.â He winked. âBe back.â
Relief washed over me as he walked away.
âIâm...really sorry about him,â Leo said.
âWell, given how you came to know of me, the ridicule is warranted. I shouldnât have been spying.â
âI donât reckon you anticipated seeing me in my birthday suit. That was the first time Iâd ever done that. I assumed no one was in the vicinity, of course. For the record, I donât make a habit of showering for all the world to see. I never had an outdoor shower in England. So itâs a novelty.â
Leo was simply striking. His hair was light brown with golden undertones. He had beautiful bone structure and full lips that were difficult not to stare at. There wasnât one thing I would change about his face. His eyes were a deep blue. They reminded me of a piece of sea glass Iâd used to make a necklace once.
I cleared my throat. âWhat brings you to Narragansett?â
âIâm taking six months off from life. It seemed like a good location to get lost. We picked this place randomly on a map, actually. Sigmund and I have spent our time in a few different locales. First was California, then New York, and now Rhode Island.â
âAre you twoâ¦together?â
His brow lifted. âWhat do you mean by together? Weâre rooming together. But if you mean romantically together, then no. Exactly what did you assume?â
âI thought you might be gay.â
âIf I were gay, Iâd have far better taste in men than that wanker cousin of mine. What in Godâs name made you think we were gay?â
âI donât know. Two handsome men...living together in a big houseâ¦â
âSo, if Iâm a guy living with another man, Iâm automatically shagging him?â
âYouâre right. That was a hasty assumption.â
âThank you for the compliment, by the way.â
I just called him handsome, didnât I? Feeling suddenly hot, I looked toward the produce section. âWell, Iâd better be going...â
âBefore you do, I want to apologize for the flowers he sent your way the other night. I urged him not to. Not everyone appreciates that sense of humor.â
I shrugged. âIt was fine. And they were pretty. I was embarrassed, at first, but then I ended up laughing about the whole thing. Mrs. Angelini certainly got a kick out of it.â
His brow lifted. âMrs. Angelini?â
How do I explain who she is without unloading my history on this stranger? I kept it simple. âSheâs my roommate.â
âAh. Roommate. So she must be your lesbian lover, then.â He raised an eyebrow, and I had to smile. âAnyway, why do you call her Mrs. Angelini? She doesnât have a first name?â
âWell, sheâs seventy. Itâs more of a respect thing. Itâs what I started calling her some years back, and it stuck. Sheâs always asked me to call her by her first name, but I got used to calling her Mrs. Angelini.â
âI see.â His eyes seared into mine for a moment. âYour roommate is seventy. And how old are you, might I ask?â
âTwenty-four. What about you?â
âTwenty-eight,â he answered. His eyes lingered on mine for a bit. âListen, weâre going to be renting the house across from you for the entire summer. We know virtually nothing about Narragansett. Iâd love to pick your brain about places to go and things to do here. Maybe you wouldnât mind coming over for tea sometime this week?â
âTea? You really are British, arenât you?â
âGuilty as charged.â His white teeth gleamed.
Looking down at my feet, I said, âI donât know.â
âI promise not to take off my clothes...â He added a crooked smile.
I let out a much-needed laugh. âWell, since you put it that way.â
âTomorrow at two, then? Or whatever time works for you.â
A part of me wanted to refuse, but why? It wasnât like I had anything more exciting going on. I didnât quite understand whether he genuinely wanted my expertise on Narragansett, or if there was something more to the invitation, now that I knew he wasnât gay.
âSure. Two tomorrow works.â
âBrilliant. You know how to get to the house without having to swim across, I take it?â
âYes.â I smiled.
âVery well, then. And I promise, Sigmund will be on his best behavior.â
âI can handle it if heâs not.â
This seemingly rich traveler had no idea just how much I could handle. I might turn red when I was embarrassed, but Iâd grown a pretty-thick skin over the years.
Thatâs the way it is when you always had to fend for yourself.
Copyright Â© 2021 Penelope Ward
Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance.
She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism.
With over two million books sold, she is a 21-time New York Times bestseller and the author of over twenty novels. Her books have been translated into over a dozen languages and can be found in bookstores around the world.
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