Dating Ryan Alback
by J.E. Birk
Date Released: February 20, 2017
About Dating Ryan Alback
Ryan Alback has almost everything he’s ever wanted: a successful acting career, a dog who adores him, great family and friends, and a life outside the closet. The only thing missing is a boyfriend—but Ryan’s been burned by Hollywood relationships before, and he’s not eager to try one again.
Jason Santos has almost everything he's ever wanted: a fulfilling career teaching middle school, a house in a city he loves, and parents who support him in every way. Too bad he can't seem to forget the ex-boyfriend who rejected his marriage proposal.
When a talk show host launches a dating contest to find Ryan a boyfriend and Jason accidentally wins, neither of them expect anything to come from it. Yet somewhere between a disastrous massage and a mud sinkhole, they both start to wonder if this date could be more than just a public relations stunt. But before they can move into the future, they'll both have to learn to let go of the past.
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An Excerpt from Dating Ryan Alback
“Remember when you appeared on The Selena Show not too long ago?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“Her producer called me. Selena’s had the most wonderful idea: she wants to find you a boyfriend!”
A kid of about eight attempted to do some kind of kick on his skateboard and ended up in a sobbing heap on the pavement. His mother rushed over.
“Excuse me?” said Ryan.
“Here’s what they’re thinking. They’ll hold a contest: Dating Ryan Alback. Guys will write in explaining why they, above all others, should have the chance to date you. Selena chooses someone and sets you up on weekend-long date with him. A sort of getaway, if you will. The show will pay for everything!”
“And tape every single second we’re together,” Ryan noted drily. “Ab. So. Lute. Ly. Not.” He couldn’t believe Betsy was even pitching this to him. She, of all people, knew how very much he valued his privacy and hated being in the spotlight. How could she even think that he’d consider this?
“No, sweetie, of course not! Selena’s people know you would never go for that. No cameras for the actual getaway date. It’ll be just the two of you. No producers in sight.”
“Yeah? So what’s in it for them, then?” Ryan didn’t even try to keep the confusion out of his voice.
“I know; I thought it was strange at first. But they’re going to use the whole stunt as a chance to build publicity for the show. Lots of people love you, babe. You’re quite the hero for coming out when you did, and Selena and her producers want to play that up and boost their gay viewership. Your part in the whole thing can be relatively small. They’ll interview you once to launch the contest, and then again after the weekend is over. If things do go well, you can bring the date with you on the show, but you don’t have to if the weekend doesn’t pan out. Then you thank Selena for the time and opportunity and—”
“And they ask when I’ll do it all over again. Or when my new boyfriend and I will be back. Hell no.” Ryan wished Betsy could see how emphatically he was shaking his head.
“Babe, look. I know you’ve never been big on the publicity part of this job. Believe me—I get it. But you know what else I know? You are practically a recluse. You barely leave your house, and your only company most of the time is that dog of yours. It’s not natural! You need companionship!”
“This again? Betsy, why are you always on me about my dating life? My own mother doesn’t nag me as much as you.”
“Because I care about your happiness, silly!”
“And my image,” Ryan said drily. “And you want me to be seen more often, preferably with a hot guy on my arm.”
“Listen, love, don’t get pissy with me because I know what’s best for your career. You do need to be seen out and about more; the rags would die for a little Ryan-Alback-dating action.”
Ryan struggled not to roll his eyes. Alby nuzzled into his thigh.
“And I do want you to be happy; I promise you that. I know you. You don’t like getting into relationships with people in the industry; you don’t like the publicity. But you also work long hours and you keep to yourself when you’re not working, so when are you ever going to meet anyone outside of the industry? This is basic math, hon. So why not let Selena find a nice nonindustry man for you to go out with?”
“So we can break up once he realizes what my work schedule is like? Sounds great, Betsy. And I did meet someone outside of the industry, remember? Dave? You introduced us.”
“Love, Dave was barely out of the industry. He’s a lawyer who works in media contracts, for goodness’ sake. And the two of you barely dated.”
“We did so date.”
“A series of one-night stands is not dating.”
Ryan threw the ball for Alby. A particularly large group of men and women came jogging down the path in front of them, and Alby quickly ducked behind Ryan’s legs again.
“Now here’s what I want you to do. I want you to go back to your cold, empty apartment and remember that every single gay or bi male in this country who has the opportunity to date you would jump at the chance. I want you to remember that I am approximately five minutes away from signing you up for an online dating service. I want you to remember that Selena is not going to do anything to make you woefully uncomfortable. She loves you.”
“Right,” Ryan spat. “Loves me enough to completely exploit my dating life to boost her ratings.”
“Exploit is a harsh word. Yes, her show will benefit from this. And so will you. And I’m guessing someone else will as well.”
He didn’t answer.
“Honey,” Betsy said after a few beats. “I need you to hear me when I say this: not everyone in this world is Connor.”
Ryan stood quickly, and Alby gave a sharp bark. “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
“Don’t swear at me. You know exactly what I mean.”
Ryan’s heartrate began to increase. Betsy never brought up Connor to him. No one did. “Please don’t say his name to me.”
“All of us have been not saying his name for so many years that I’m sometimes surprised we even remember it. And I don’t blame you for not wanting to hear it, not one bit. But someday you’re going to have to trust someone again. Someday you’re going to need to have faith that not everyone is like Connor.”
Ryan took some steadying breaths while Alby circled his legs, whimpering. It was amazing how fast he figured out when Ryan was upset.
“Betsy,” Ryan finally told her in a strangled voice, “I know that. I do. I just . . . I like my privacy, okay? You know that. And this stunt seems like it will give me the opposite of privacy.”
“I understand that. But stunts like this build sweethearts in the eyes of the public. You, my darling, could be America’s next sweetheart.”
“I don’t want to be America’s next sweetheart,” Ryan replied grouchily. “I want to be an actor. And I’m already doing that.”
“You’re not getting any younger. And sweethearts have jobs even when they’re wrinkly. Ask John Cusack.”
“I don’t think he’d appreciate that remark.”
“Sure he would. Because he appreciates that he’s still incredibly employable at his slightly-advanced-for-Hollywood age. And also . . .”
“What?” Ryan asked, warily.
“I already told the show you’d do it.”
“What?!” Alby whimpered again and anxiously did more laps around Ryan’s feet.
A Note from J.E. Birk
Greetings! I'm J.E. Birk, and right now I'm traversing the internets to discuss my new romantic comedy, Dating Ryan Alback. Follow along to learn more about an insecure movie star, a klutzy teacher, and the neurotic dog who loves them. Leave comments for a chance to win a $10 Riptide giftcard and copy of any book from my backlist!
J.E. Birk has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them since she was introduced to the alphabet. She hails from Colorado, where you can usually find her skiing, training for a 5K she won’t end up running, or watching people run into each other on football fields and in hockey rinks. You can follow her ramblings on Twitter by looking for @jebirkwrites. She’s also been known to ramble on Facebook as J Elisabeth Birk.
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To celebrate the release of Dating Ryan Alback, one lucky winner will receive a $10 Riptide Publishing credit and their choice of ebook from J.E.’s backlist! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on February 25, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
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