AVAILABLE FEBRUARY 28TH, 2022
From New York Times bestselling author Penelope Ward, comes a new standalone novel.
Reasons why I should not be drawn to Troy Serrano.
Number one: He’s obnoxious.
Number two: He and I were enemies over a decade ago in high school.
Number three: He’s my friend’s ex-boyfriend.
I could go on and on, really.
When my boss gives me an unwanted assignment and tells me it involves spending time with the grandson of one of our residents—the grandson turns out to be Troy. He’s now as successful as he is undeniably handsome.
Lucky me. Four hours a week of having to deal with his insufferable personality and unsolicited advice.
The only consolation is getting to stare at his annoyingly gorgeous face in between our many arguments.
Eventually, though, we slowly warm to each other and our outings become something I actually look forward to.
What’s happening to me?
Apparently, I misunderstood the assignment, because it certainly didn’t include thinking about Troy when I close my eyes at night, imagining what it would be like with him—just once. All the while hating myself for fantasizing about a guy who’s all wrong for me. A guy whose car I keyed back in the day. (Long story, but he deserved it.)
That’s all this is—a fantasy.
Well, until that one night at the bar.
The night Troy and I run into each other, and all of our pent-up frustration comes barreling out.
Still, I refuse to accept that it means anything.
There’s no way the guy I’m supposed to hate is also the one I can’t live without.
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I hadn’t gone out with a man in ages, and I needed to get back in the game before I shriveled up. I laughed to myself. If only these dating app boys could see me in this mask and robe.
I sipped my tea and began to alternate scrolling with shoveling unsweetened cacao nibs into my mouth.
After several minutes of swiping through, I suddenly stopped chewing at the sight of a familiar pair of pearly whites.
I know those teeth.
I know that man.
Staring me in the face was none other than Troy Serrano.
I tossed my phone as if it were infected with a contagious virus.
A few seconds later, I picked it back up and stared at his profile picture. I wouldn’t have imagined Troy needed to use a dating app, but being new to town again, maybe he felt like it was the easiest way to meet people. Of course, the app had sent him my way in part because we were geographically close to each other. I wanted to block him, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to do that. I’d never had to block anyone from seeing my profile before. But there was no way I wanted him to notice me on here. If he’d come up as an option for me, surely the app would present me to him at some point. My stomach sank. I’d figure out how to block him right after I thoroughly scrutinized his profile.
The photos he’d chosen were, of course, really good. But could he even take a bad photo with that face and f*ck-me hair? In one, he wore a form-fitting black sweater and leaned up against a brick wall. In another, he held up a fish he’d caught, with his chiseled abs on display.
Then I scrolled down to the section where you were supposed to describe yourself. Whereas most men write a simple paragraph, Troy had written an obituary.
God, what the hell is this?
Financial advisor Troy S.’s love of life will live on through his many friends who will continue to honor his legacy by living their lives to the fullest.
Born in Meadowbrook, New Jersey, to a single father who broke his ass raising him, Troy learned firsthand what it meant to work hard. On his own, though, he figured out that working hard meant you should play harder.
Troy attended the University of Florida for both his undergraduate degree and Masters in Business Administration. (Go Gators!) After several years of partying it up, Troy decided to take life seriously for once as he embarked on a career as one of the premier financial advisors in the Pacific Northwest. Troy shared his passion for numbers with his many happy clients.
The simplest pleasures in life brought great joy to Troy. He was equally happy Netflix-and-chilling as he was ziplining in Costa Rica. On weekends, Troy often spent time teaching himself how to play the guitar. He loved to explore local hiking trails and struck up conversations with strangers in many of Seattle’s coffee shops, charming people with his charisma and verve for life.
He had a remarkable ability to see the silver lining in everything. His positive personality was contagious to everyone he met. Troy is survived by his father, grandfather, and one needy cat.
Lucky for you, all of the above is mostly true except that Troy’s not actually dead. He’s very much alive and eager to see if you’re a match.
My phone vibrated, scaring the living hell out of me. It was a text from Jasmine, making sure I’d gotten home okay. But then the screen changed. Wait, what? When my hand jerked, I’d accidentally swiped right on Troy’s profile. I wouldn’t have even realized this were it not for the words: It’s a match!
No. No. No.
If we matched, that meant one thing: Troy had previously swiped right on me. Ugh! How long had he known I was on here?
I threw the phone again, as if it were infected with yet another dangerous virus.
For about a minute, I just sat in a panic, my hands wrapped around my face.
Then I picked up the phone to try to undo the action. But before I could find the information, a notification popped up. Troy had sent me a direct message through the app.
My heart pounded in my chest. I clicked on it.
Troy: Well, well, well. What do we have here?
I couldn’t type fast enough.
Aspyn: We have nothing here. I accidentally swiped right on your profile. This was a mistake.
My pulse raced as the little dots moved around.
Troy: Um, what now? How exactly does that happen? Accidentally swiping right?
I realized how ridiculous that sounded. But it was the damn truth! Figures the stupidest thing ever would happen to me, and I’d never be able to convince him it was true.
Aspyn: My phone vibrated and startled me. I happened to be looking at your profile at the time.
Troy: Oh, that explains it. Phones vibrating can be quite traumatic.
I blew a frustrated breath toward my forehead.
Aspyn: You don’t have to believe me, but it’s the truth.
Troy: Why were you looking at my profile?
Aspyn: Because this stupid app force fed it to me.
Troy: So, were you looking at my pictures, thinking: “Damn, he’s a handsome sonofabitch. Too bad I hate him.”
Aspyn: You got the last part right. 😉
Troy: What did you think of my profile?
Aspyn: It’s utterly obnoxious.
Troy: Why do you say that?
Aspyn: That fake obituary? LOL Do you expect people to take you seriously?
Troy: It was supposed to be FUNNY and clever. I thought you said you liked funny men, according to your boring-as-f*ck bio.
Aspyn: If I’m so boring, why the hell did you swipe right on me?
Troy: Because I couldn’t get myself to swipe left. I felt bad for you. Let’s talk about your bio, though.
I looked up and screamed at the ceiling. My voice echoed throughout the house.
Aspyn: Let’s not.
Troy: Boring. As. F*ck. First off, though, a compliment: You look really hot in those photos. I barely recognized you.
I refused to acknowledge the chill that ran down my spine at his backhanded compliment. Instead, I typed again.
Aspyn: Nothing like immediately following up an insult with a compliment and then another insult.
Troy: It’s constructive criticism. I know you’re better than that bio. It was as if you copied and pasted it from some other boring-as-f*ck profile.
Aspyn: There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s simple and to the point. You’re not supposed to write a dissertation—or an obituary.
Troy: But you’re not selling who you actually are.
Aspyn: I didn’t realize I was supposed to be “selling” myself. I have enough trouble on the app attracting losers without doing anything at all. Maybe I should intentionally remain boring to keep them away. Yeah, that’s a better idea.
Troy: Well, your photos are the bomb. So you’re gonna attract a fair share of men. But come on, put a little life into the other stuff.
Aspyn: I was embarrassed for you reading your profile.
Troy: Well, at least within my fake obituary lies the essence of who I am.
Aspyn: A buffoon? You’re correct.
Troy: Let me help you rewrite your bio.
I cackled and typed.
Aspyn: No, thank you.
Troy: Give me a sec.
Copyright © 2022 Penelope Ward