Title: Toe the Line
Author: Penelope Ward
Genre: Standalone Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 27, 2023
From New York Times bestselling author Penelope Ward comes a friends-to-lovers story spanning more than a decade…
At first, I thought I’d hate spending the summer with Archie Remington—the conceited son of my parents’ friends.
What I knew about Archie: he was gorgeous, pre-law, and had always treated me like I didn’t exist when we were younger.
When our families bought a house together on an island in Maine, he and I were forced to share a bathroom.
The boy I remembered was now a full-grown man—but with the same attitude.
After a rough start, Archie and I unexpectedly started getting along one day and eventually became friends. We shared secrets and bonded during our morning jogs. I discovered that Archie had a wild spirit and that he struggled to conform to his father’s expectations.
Things were cool until I had to go and ruin it, getting drunk one night, and blurting out my fantasy—involving him.
I took it back, but it was too late. Archie had heard me loud and clear. After that, we never quite knew how to toe the line.
When that summer came to an abrupt and shocking end, I headed back to college, unsure if anything would ever be the same again.
Across the miles over the years, he and I stayed in touch as friends, but fate and timing always kept us from becoming more.
You know the saying: If two people are meant to be, they’ll find their way back to each other?
Let’s just say Archie came back into my life in a way I would’ve never expected.
And this time, my heart would really be put to the test.
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Will go live on/around release day
Copyright © 2022 Penelope Ward
Mixing alcohol with nostalgia, it turns out, is not always the wisest choice.
When Archie and I returned to the house that night, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. Neither of us was tired enough to sleep. But the alcohol from the beers at the beach and the wine he’d opened once we got back home was going to my head fast. I could no longer be trusted with my words.
Archie took out the chocolate cake he’d made earlier and placed it on the counter. We both began eating it—with our bare hands. It was a mess, and I likely had chocolate all over my face. So this is how it ends, huh? I suppose it could be worse.
“I had so much fun tonight,” he said with his mouth full. “You?”
“It was awesome. Reminded me of the old days.” I licked chocolate off the corner of my mouth.
Archie’s eyes fell to my lips. “Seven years ago sometimes feels like yesterday, and other times like forever ago, doesn’t it?”
When I felt my eyes starting to well up, I knew that was my cue. I never wanted to leave Archie’s side, but I needed this weekend to be over before I lost it in front of him. “Anyway, we’d better go to bed,” I told him. “We both have early flights in the morning.”
I hopped down from my stool and rushed over to the sink to wash my hands. I hadn’t intended to make eye contact with him again because I didn’t want him to notice my eyes. Then again, he was a little drunk, too, so not sure how perceptive he would be.
Then I felt his presence nearby.
“I have so many regrets,” he said from behind me.
I turned to face him and swallowed. “Regrets about what?”
He had chocolate cake on his face, but somehow he’d never looked hotter.
“Everything,” he whispered. “With you.” He paused. “What we did and what we didn’t do. The way that summer ended. Everything.”
“Why are you bringing this up now?”
“Because I’m fucking drunk, I guess. I don’t know.” He pulled on his hair. “You look so goddamn beautiful right now.” His eyes were hazy as he murmured, “It hurts to look at you.”
My tears felt ready to fall. I couldn’t let that happen. “Keep that shit to yourself,” I muttered.
“We never talk about it, Noelle. We talk about everything else except the massive elephant in the room—the things we did that summer, what almost happened before—”
“Stop.” I sniffled. “You’re only bringing it up because you’re drunk. This is not a healthy way to discuss anything.”
“Maybe.” Archie leaned against the center island and placed his head in his hands. He went silent for a long time. “You were with Shane for like…forever. I thought you were gonna marry that guy. And I thought you were happy. I never thought you’d break up with him.” He looked down at the floor. “I kept waiting and…”
Waiting? He was waiting for things to end between Shane and me?
“I’m sorry…” He shook his head. “You’re right. I need to stop.”
Nothing good could come of two people with a ton of unspoken baggage trying to work things out while drunk. I could’ve poured out all of my feelings. I could have chosen to complicate his already-complicated life—turned it into a goddamn soap opera. But I loved him too much. I loved him. So I wouldn’t do that.
“Goodnight, Archie. Get some sleep.”
I left him standing in the kitchen next to a chocolate cake that looked like it had been ravaged by wild animals.
Then I went to my room and cried myself to sleep.
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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