I’m SO excited to welcome Michaela Grey on Queer Books Unbound today. Her first hockey romance Blindside Hit releases today! Scroll down for a guest post and a (super adorable) excerpt.
If you’d told me, even five years ago, that I’d fall in love with hockey in the 2017-2018 season, and by 2020 it would be an all-consuming passion of mine, I’d have laughed in your face.
I’m not a sports fan. I’ve never understood the point of sports—any of them, honestly. All that running around and sweating and putting your body through severe stress and injury—why?
And then the Golden Knights made a deep playoff run for the Stanley Cup, a brand new team of castoffs and misfits (and Marc Andre Fleury) that never should have made it to the first round of playoffs, let alone the last one.
I was fascinated by the team’s chemistry, the mindsets that drove this group of men to succeed against all the odds, and suddenly I saw it. I saw why people become fans. Why they root for their teams. The despair of losing is more than balanced out by the euphoria of seeing these players sweat and bleed and suffer and win.
The Knights didn’t win the Cup, but they converted me into a hockey fan in just a few short weeks.
Over the next few years, I read every hockey how-to book I could get my hands on. I devoured hockey novels. I followed blogs and Twitters with hockey content. The more I learned, the more I realized how incredibly grueling, demanding, and difficult this sport is. My respect for players who’d made it to the show—hell, who even got their skate in the door—skyrocketed.
And I wanted to write about them. I wanted to explore what drives someone to excel in this sport, despite all the pain, the disappointment, the crushing heartbreak when a season ends early or is cut short due to injury.
The characters in Blindside Hit didn’t materialize fully formed. It took awhile for me to see them clearly. But I felt an immediate kinship with Etienne, so prickly and ready to be rejected for the way he looks, and with Adam, who just wants to play his beautiful sport and be with the man he loves. Exploring their relationship, both on and off the ice, was a delightful journey, and in the writing of it, I made so many new friends who share my passion for this amazing game.
Since the writing of Blindside Hit, I’ve written another full novel and I’m working on a novella and another novel to follow up. Each book is a spinoff of the last, featuring characters you met in previous stories but exploring new situations.
At any given moment, I’m either writing or thinking about writing, and I love discussing my books and characters with readers. (And I’m always experiencing emotions about Marc Andre Fleury.)
Adam Caron has everything he could want. A brand-new contract with an NHL team, a nice apartment, the life he’s dreamed about since he was a little boy. He has everything, except the name of the man he shared a drunken, blistering hot night with.
Etienne Brideau can’t stop thinking about the night he spent with Adam, but he knows better than to think Adam will want him sober. People don’t fall in love with him, especially not men like Adam Caron, rising hockey star, with his stunning good looks and charismatic personality.
When Adam gets back in contact with him, Etienne doesn’t let himself hope that they’ll ever be more than friends. But the more entangled he becomes in Adam’s life, the more he can’t imagine letting him go, and when an injury threatens Adam’s career, Etienne knows he’s in too deep to walk away.
But Adam has secrets of his own, and more than just their life as a couple may be at stake.
Etienne wasn’t proud of the way he’d fled after he’d caught sight of Adam Caron in the stands. He and Rudy are friends, he scolded himself on the way home as the subway car swayed. He was just there to see Rudy, he probably doesn’t even remember you. But he hadn’t been able to stop the jolt of sheer panic at the sight of him, sitting there watching them practice so intently. Don’t let him get close enough to reject you, his heart whispered.
He was almost to his door when his phone buzzed. Etienne pulled it out and frowned at the unfamiliar number.
A little birdie gave me your number, the message read.
Etienne stared at the screen for a long minute before remembering to dig out his keys and unlock his door. Who is this? he typed back once he was inside, but he knew, and his traitorous heart jumped.
He dropped his keys on the hook and kicked off his shoes, waiting for the reply.
Call me Prince Charming.
Etienne snorted. Why would I do that?
Because you ran like Cinderella when you saw me.
Etienne stared at the screen for several long moments. Nothing else came through. Finally, he set his jaw and began to type.
Maybe I had things to do.
Unhitch your pumpkin?
Etienne bit back a laugh. Two minutes in and we’ve already descended to euphemisms?
Please, was the response. If we were using euphemisms, I’d come up with better ones than that.
Polishing my slippers, Etienne sent.
Good one. Cleaning the chimney.
Etienne bit his lip against the smile. Emptying the gutters. He flopped onto the couch, stretching his legs out.
Jerking off, Adam suggested.
Etienne burst out laughing. What do you want, Adam?
So you DO remember me!
Etienne rolled his eyes. You’re kind of hard to forget.
😀 was the reply this time. Etienne stared at it, unreasonably charmed, as Adam started typing again.
Was wondering if you wanted to get together.
That put the brakes on Etienne’s good mood. No, he sent immediately.
A beat of silence.
You didn’t like me?
I did something wrong.
Etienne chewed his lip.
I made you uncomfortable. I’m sorry.
“Goddammit!” Etienne said aloud. He could almost see Adam’s hangdog expression at the thought of upsetting him. You didn’t make me uncomfortable, you didn’t do anything wrong. I liked you a lot, I’m just… really busy. I don’t have time to hang out.
He pressed Send and waited. It didn’t take long for Adam to start typing again.
Lucky for me I’m a patient man.
Etienne blinked. What does that mean?
It means you won’t be busy forever. And when you’re free, I’m gonna…
Etienne waited but the sentence stayed unfinished. You’re gonna what?
Romance the shit outta you, Adam replied promptly.
Etienne nearly dropped the phone. He hadn’t really just said that, had he? But it was still there, blue on white, and Etienne couldn’t breathe.
He leaned forward, putting his head between his knees and waiting for this fantasy to fade, the one where the star hockey player—the gorgeous star hockey player—was interested in him, Etienne Brideau, with his big nose and stupid gummy smile and gangly, rawboned awkwardness.
The phone buzzed again and Etienne scrambled for it.
Yeah, Etienne sent. Just swooning from how romantic you are.
Oh, I’ve got better moves than that, Adam replied. You sure you’re too busy to go out? I can show you some of them in person.
And that was the worst idea ever. Adam hadn’t gotten an up-close look at him at the rink that afternoon—Etienne had made sure of that. And the night at the bar, Adam had been so drunk he was probably seeing triplicate of everything. He had no idea what Etienne really looked like, and when he did? He’d run. Politely, of course, because Etienne already knew Adam was nothing if not a well-mannered Canadian boy, but he’d find a reason to cut their date short, and there’d never be another one.
You’re taking way too long to think about this, Adam sent. I must be getting to you.
Etienne shook his head. You’re persistent, I’ll give you that.
I wish I could say yes. God, how he wished he could say yes. It hurt, deep in his gut, to tell Adam no, to turn down the opportunity to see him again. To touch him again. But in the cold light of day, Adam wouldn’t want him to anyway. But I just can’t.
In that case, Adam replied, I’ve got another question for you.
Etienne braced himself. Shoot.
Wanna be friends?
Etienne did drop the phone that time, and it bounced off the hardwood floor as he scrambled to retrieve it.
Seriously? Are we twelve?
Don’t hate, Adam responded. I haven’t been here long. My only friends are my teammates, and most of ‘em are okay but I don’t really want to be with them 24/7, you feel me? And I like talking to you.
Etienne laughed helplessly, rubbing his face. What was it about this man that made him forget all his carefully constructed defenses? It didn’t take him long to compose a reply.
As long as you don’t mind that we can’t hang out in person much (at all) then yeah. I’d like to be your friend.
Michaela Grey told stories to put herself to sleep since she was old enough to hold a conversation in her head. When she learned to write, she began putting those stories down on paper. She resides in the Texas Hill Country with her cats, and is perpetually on the hunt for peaceful writing time.
When she’s not writing, she’s watching hockey or blogging about writing and men on knife shoes chasing a frozen Oreo around the ice while trying to keep her cat off the keyboard.