Book: Faking It
Series: Ringside Romance
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist: LC Chase
Publication date: May 8, 2017
Length: 238 pages
Max Tremblay should be happy. His nightclub, Frantic, is one of the most popular gay clubs in Toronto, and his childhood refuge, Ringside Gym, is well on the way to reopening. But when he finds yet another drunk in the alley beside the bar, Max isn’t sure this is the life he truly wants.
Grady Barnes has it all. He’s rich, famous, and wants for nothing. Well, nothing but a good relationship with his father. When he discovers that his father is going to force him into an arranged marriage, Grady has had enough. He tracks down Max, the man who got him to safety after a night of overindulgence, and makes him a proposal: pretend to be his fiancé for two weeks and he’ll invest in Ringside Gym.
When the pair travel to Vancouver to attend a family wedding, the flames of their mutual attraction ignite, and they discover that the only difference between pretend and reality is how well they can fake it.
Hello, my name is Christine d’Abo and I’m so happy to be here today.
I’m a firm believer that the good friends are the family members that we get to choose. The get us on a level that sometimes our biological family doesn’t. When I came up with the idea of Ringside Gym and the men who were involved with it, I wanted to make sure that their relationships reflected that feeling.
Max would be the “middle” child of the trio of heroes. He’s my peacemaker, the one who wants to make sure everyone and everything is okay. But Max has a problem – he doesn’t know what to do when he’s not needed. Zack no longer needs him now that he has Noland in his life, and their other friend Eli has been MIA due to his MMA career. Max’s life begins to drift and he questions not only what he wants, but also who he wants in it.
When Grady Barnes shows up on the scene, Max is equal parts intrigued and annoyed. Here is a man who seems to have it all, but is seemingly at the whim of his father. When Grady asks Max for help, he takes a leap of faith and agrees. What Max doesn’t anticipate is how quickly Grady will work his way into his heart.
All Max needs to do is find a way to prevent Grady from being forced into a marriage he doesn’t want, while not giving in to his impulse to sweep Grady into his arm.
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So when he looked up and saw a stranger standing there, he immediately went on the defensive. “May I help you?”
Whoever the guy was, he certainly knew how to rock the casual look. Gray suit pants that hugged his thighs perfectly, a plum-colored dress shirt with the top two buttons opened and the sleeves rolled partway up his arms. Max forced his gaze past the man’s smirk to his eyes. There was something familiar about the sparkle he saw there, not to mention the mop of black curls that sat atop his head.
The drunk cleaned up nice.
Max’s grin slipped back into place. “I see you survived what I’m sure was an epic hangover.”
“Yes, I had quite the headache this morning, but at least I woke up in my own bed.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and stepped into the office. “I wanted to stop by and thank you for getting me back to my hotel in one piece. I’m not sure many people would have done that and not taken advantage of the situation.”
Max found it difficult to imagine anyone taking advantage of the stranger. He seemed to be a man who was used to getting his own way. “You were a guest at my club and needed help. I take my responsibilities seriously.”
The man pulled his hand from his pocket and crossed the floor. “Sorry. I’m Grady, Grady Barnes.” There was a note in his voice, as though the mere mention of his name held a degree of power. Like saying Beetlejuice or some such insanity.
Max got to his feet and took Grady’s hand. “Max Tremblay. Good to meet you.”
Their hands slid together; Grady’s warm skin pressed against Max’s calloused fingers.
Looking into Grady’s eyes as they shook hands, Max’s chest tightened and a trickle of adrenaline seeped into his bloodstream. Max had met more than his fair share of attractive men over the years—it was one of the perks of owning one of the hottest gay clubs in the city—but there was something different about Grady, something that resonated in a way that Max hadn’t experienced before. Despite what Zack had told him about meeting his partner, Nolan, for the first time, how he’d been overwhelmed by shock and a feeling he’d never been able to name, Max hadn’t quite understood what his friend meant.
Now? Yeah, he did now.
When the handshake came to an end, he missed the warmth of Grady’s touch almost immediately, which disturbed him more than it probably should.
Clearing his throat, Max pointed to his guest chair. “Can I offer you a drink?”
Grady sat down, a smirk firmly in place. “Is this a test to see if I’ll take it or not? Because I’m about to fail it and say yes please. Whatever you’re pouring.”
A man shouldn’t be that smooth and charming all at the same time. “I own a bar. Getting people drunk is kind of my thing. And, boy, did that sound better in my head than coming out of my mouth.”
Grady laughed as he took the glass of Scotch from Max. “You found me puking in an alley last night. I’m the last one to criticize. Thanks.”
“I take it last night was an anomaly for you?” Reclaiming his seat, Max let the burn of the Scotch distract him from Grady’s good looks. “I don’t remember seeing you here before.”
“I’m in town from Vancouver. Was trying to do my best impression of the prodigal son running away from home.”
Grady looked him right in the eyes as though he were waiting for something. Some sort of recognition, of his face, or name, or . . .
Max sat bolt upright. “Oh shit. You’re Grady Barnes! As in youngest son of Theo Barnes, CEO of Barnes Retail Development.” Max downed the rest of his drink in two gulps. “No way.”
Grady laughed. “It doesn’t normally take that long for someone to recognize me.”
“Sorry, I’m not a reality TV person.” A lot of his staff were though. Canadian Celebrity House had been last summer’s biggest show. Most of the staff had been in lust with Grady and had been heartbroken when he’d been prematurely eliminated for trying to bribe the house monitor into letting him go out unattended for a night to party.
“I’m going to thank you for that. I hated every minute I was involved in that hell house.”
“So why do it at all?” Max had always assumed that anyone who went on one of those shows did it for the exposure. Washed-up celebrities looking for a way to stay relevant, or up-and-comers wanting to make a splash.
“Let’s just say that I was trying to get back at my father for . . . well, something he’d done.” Grady took a drink and let out a sigh. “I didn’t think it would be quite as awful as it turned out to be. Nothing more frustrating than having every minute of your life under a microscope for public consumption.”
“Ah. So the bribe—”
“Was my way to get off as quickly as possible. It had the added bonus of pissing my father off because it made our family look bad, so a complete win-win. Cheers.”
Interesting. So Max wasn’t the only one with an awkward relationship with his father. “Yeah, my dad and I butt heads quite a bit. Sometimes you just have to walk away for everyone’s sake.”
“Or, in my case, run halfway across the country.” Grady rolled his glass between his hands. “You don’t strike me as the kind of guy who needles his parents for no reason.”
“Not exactly.” This wasn’t the type of conversation he’d normally have with his friends, let alone a complete stranger. “We had a falling out when I was a kid. We mostly got past it, but every now and again . . .” He shrugged.
“You’re in better shape than we are. We never saw eye to eye.” Grady’s gaze slipped to his glass. “Life has a way of throwing you curves, and sometimes you can’t quite manage them.”
Max had developed a definite bartender sixth sense, knew when someone had a problem they wanted to share but had no clue how to go about doing it. Grady obviously had something going on, and needed someone to talk to. Max couldn’t imagine not having at least a friend to go to, talk to, when things got rough.
Leaning forward, Max set his glass on his desk and cleared his throat to get Grady’s attention. “I won’t pry, but are you okay? Do you need help or . . . something?”
Whatever had been bothering him, Grady must have pushed it away. The too-charming smile was back in place, and he drained his glass. “I’m good. But thanks for asking. Now normally, I’d ask for another, but I think given my previous evening’s adventures, I better leave while I’m ahead.” He got to his feet and ran his fingertip across the edge of Max’s desk. “Thank you for not taking advantage of me last night. Not everyone in your position would be that honorable. Or pass up the chance to take some compromising pictures of me for the press.”
“I’m not in the habit of abusing my power.” Jesus, what kind of life did this guy lead if he had to thank a person for not raping him?
“Never thought you were. But you have to understand that with some of the people in my life, it’s a rare thing. Pictures and videos ending up on the internet is a pretty common occurrence. I’ve had a few people try to blackmail me over the years.” There wasn’t so much a note of anger in his voice, but rather something almost sad. Grady shook his head. “Also, if anyone comes asking about me, or last night—”
“Don’t worry. You weren’t here and nothing happened. And even if you were here, I never saw you and I’m sure you would appreciate your privacy.”
Grady’s smirk morphed into a full-on grin. “It’s been good to meet you, Max Tremblay.”
“You too, Mr. Barnes.”
The scent of Grady’s aftershave lingered far longer than Max would have anticipated, making his erection as inconvenient as it was uncomfortable.
About the Ringside Romance Universe
Deep in the heart of Toronto lies Ringside Gym. Once a safe haven for troubled teens, Ringside has gone derelict, a forgotten memory of past days. Until a group of friends set out to do what they can to bring life back to the ring and create a new home for LGBT youths.
But when their lives threaten to pull down their dreams, each man must turn to others to help make it a reality. Winners take all—but there are no losers in love.
Check out Ringside Romance. http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/universe/ringside-romance
About Christine d'Abo
A romance novelist and short story writer, Christine has over thirty publications to her name. She loves to exercise and stops writing just long enough to keep her body in motion too. When she’s not pretending to be a ninja in her basement, she’s most likely spending time with her family and two dogs.
Connect with Christine:
- Website: christinedabo.com
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To celebrate the release of Faking It, one lucky winner will receive a $25 Riptide credit. Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on May 13, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!