Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
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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.
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"The characters are flawed but very well-sketched, the narrative is smooth, sprinkled with a nice dose of dry, sarcastic humour, and the romance is always present." - Ele, Goodreads Review
"This book was everything I love about the fake relationship trope...and without any of the unnecessary drama. WIN!" - Mirjana, Goodreads Review
Friday Night . . . before everything changed
Max Tremblay stood in the alley behind his bar, a bag of garbage in one hand and a puking patron in front of him, and wondered if this was really what he wanted from his career. Because the combined smells of those particular things was something he’d never needed to experience, and yet they’d somehow become a regular weekly occurrence.
Oh yes, the glamourous life of a bar owner.
This was the perfect end to a craptastic day. First, the order of limes hadn’t made it, and he’d had to run over to the grocery store and clean them out, which left more than a few people there pissed off. He’d had an almost fight with his dad on the phone, partially because the stubborn ass wouldn’t admit that he wasn’t feeling well again, but mostly because they couldn’t have a conversation without it devolving into a pissing match. Then Moe had called in sick at the last possible minute, which meant he’d had to take over behind the bar. That had led to some impressive cuts on his right hand—so much for his calluses—from the never-ending removal of bottle caps. Not to mention the three fights that had sent Teddy running and required Max to act as backup bouncer.
And now . . . a vomiting customer.
At least he’d come outside. Cleaning up the bathroom would have made things so much worse.
“Hey, buddy.” He stepped farther into the alley, tossing the garbage into the covered bin before carefully approaching the man. The last thing he wanted was to get punched by a confused drunk. Or get vomit on his shoes. He didn’t have to live through either of those experiences more than once to learn his lesson. “Are you with someone? Do you need me to get you some help?”
I could have opened a clothing store, or been smart and put my money into the gym with Zack like he wanted. But oh no, I wanted to own a gay bar. I wanted to live the high life and be in charge of party central.
He’d spent four years getting his business degree and another five setting up Frantic to be a successful club, but nothing had prepared him for the sort of customer service necessary when dealing with too much alcohol and not enough inhibitions.
Another heave and Max cringed. Dude probably had some friends inside, wondering what happened to him. “I’ll let the bouncer know you’re out here. Don’t want anyone worried about you.”
He turned to go back through the service entrance; one sharp yank and Max realized the security lock that Cameron had sworn up and down was totally and completely fixed this time, boss, wasn’t. Max let gravity take hold of his head, his chin dropping to his chest and the muscles in the back of his neck stretching out. They’d all been run off their feet tonight, and Frantic would be open for another two hours. After that, it would be at least another hour before he’d be able to head home to take a much-needed shower before falling into bed.
First, he’d need to dodge the drunk and go around to the front in order to head back inside. Max turned as the man pushed away from the wall. One look at the man’s blood-shot eyes and too-white skin and Max knew there was no way the drunk would be able to make it back into the bar. No matter how tired Max might be, he couldn’t in good conscience
leave someone this bad off on their own. No telling what might happen to him.
I could have owned a bakery, or become a personal trainer . . .
Max stepped cautiously up to the man, and when he was certain that he wouldn’t get a fist to the face for his troubles, he slid his arm around the man’s back. “What’s your name, buddy?”
Max shook his head. “What?”
The guy cleared his throat. “Grady.”
“Okay, Grady, let’s get your drunk ass into a cab and get you home.”
Grady groaned. “Nooo.”
“Yes. You’re not going back into my bar like this.” Thankfully, Max had more than enough experience moving drunks where he wanted them to go. “Come on.”
With effort, Max encouraged Grady to stumble his way down the short alley to the street, close to the smokers who’d gathered the requisite distance from the main door to partake in their poison. “Hey. One of you guys go grab Teddy for me.”
A young woman peeled from the group and jogged toward Frantic’s front door.
Grady let his head rest against Max’s shoulder, his breathing coming out in shallow pants. “Don’t wanna.”
Despite the taint of alcohol, there was something about the way Grady spoke that set off alarm bells in Max’s brain. He had a familiar look about him, like an itch in the back of Max’s brain that he couldn’t quite scratch. He’d probably seen the guy around the bar a few times, nothing more. “I know. But you’re going to.” Hurry up, Teddy.
Shit. The last thing he wanted to do was send someone to a place where they weren’t welcome. Not everyone who visited his bar was out, or had a family who supported them the way they should. Not that a drunk guy arriving home in a cab would necessarily cause any problems, but he wasn’t willing to risk it.
“Where do you want to go, then?” Relief washed through Max at the sight of Teddy striding toward him.
Thank God. Here comes the cavalry. Hurry up, he’s heavy.”
“Only you find the pukers.” Teddy took over holding Grady up. “Cab’s been called.”
“Thanks.” Max wasn’t about to leave Teddy out here alone. There was no telling what could happen past midnight once the drunks started to wander around Toronto’s entertainment district. Turning his attention back to Grady, Max snapped his fingers in the man’s face to refocus his attention. “Hey, if you don’t want to go home, you need to tell me where else to send you.”
Grady frowned. “How did you get over there?”
Oh dear. “Magic.” He waved his hands for added effect.
The sloppy grin that slipped across Grady’s somehow familiar face was adorable. “I like magic.”