Christmas is the perfect time for Firefighter Ronan O’Rourke to take things to the next level with his sexually adventurous girlfriend. He knows she has feelings for him—and he’s sure of his feelings for her—but when Thea refuses his invitation to sample Christmas in New York City because what they share is nothing more than sheet-burning sex, Ronan sets out to change her mind.
Deep down Thea Moretti knows she cares for Ronan, but she can’t move past her grief over her late husband. Loud music and sex with Ronan are the only things she’s got that her feel alive, so she takes as much of both as she can get. She knows Ronan wants more, but during the darkest time of the year finding her way won’t be easy.
Ronan gambles everything and challenges Thea: one night of passion with him and another man. Can he prove to her that what they share isn’t just great sex but an emotional connection strong enough to last forever?
Meet Thea Moretti
Thea walks into the Starbucks at 87th and Lex and orders a peppermint hot cocoa. She’s wearing leggings and boots and a pea coat, with her blond hair spilling out of her black watchcap, and a scarf wrapped around her neck.
Thea: Ronan said you wrote a story about us.
Anne: He’s pissed at me, I assume.
Thea: To put it mildly.
Anne: He’ll get over it. So, how are you?
Thea: Better, thanks. It was a long couple of years.
Anne: I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a husband you love, and at your favorite time of year, too.
Thea: Words can’t really describe the loss. I thought I was going to grow old with Jesse and raise our kids in Columbus, Ohio, celebrating Christmas every year with our families. Then he died. I loved Jesse, and I thought I’d never feel alive again, let alone love like that.
Anne: Why did you move to New York City?
Thea: I needed to get out of Columbus. Both our families were watching me grieve. It was like being pinned to a corkboard by an entomologist. When a headhunter called about a job at Cooper Bensonhurst, I took it. I thought it would help. It didn’t.
Anne: Until you met Ronan.
Thea (sips cocoa): I didn’t meet Ronan so much as hurl myself into sex with him. I saw the most wickedly handsome man I’d ever seen in real life. Black hair, blue eyes, firefighter’s dress uniform over a firefighter’s build, hot enough to be a total player but surprisingly a really good guy. A good man, even after we hooked up.
Anne: So he snared you with the uniform and kept you with character?
Thea (smiles): In hindsight, I didn’t stand a chance.
Anne: But you held him off as long as you could.
Thea: I’m stubborn. (pauses) There’s this strange space when you’re grieving, where you want something so passionately, but you’ve forgotten how to have it. I could get all the other things I needed – food, water, sex. I could work. I could function. I’d just forgotten how to be alive.
Anne (types away): You give answers much more easily than Ronan.
Thea: He’s very protective of me.
Anne: In what way? In the story he specifically says he doesn’t let you do anything.
Thea: There’s more to protecting than deciding what someone can or can’t do. He could have forced the issue so many different times, given up, or demanded I get over Jesse or lose him forever. Ronan’s infinitely patient. He gave me the space I needed to say goodbye when it was the right time to say goodbye…until I hurt him.
Anne: And hurt him you did.
Thea: I think I had to go there, to feel what I was doing to myself, and to someone I loved, even if I wouldn’t admit it. But if he’d been a hardass about it I would have just resisted more. It’s hard to stand strong against someone who gives you everything but the freedom to destroy yourself.
Anne (whispers): Don’t tell the other guys, but Ronan’s actually my favorite hero.
Thea (whispers back): Ronan said you were a little odd, but I think you have good taste.
Anne: Last question…why should people read this story?
Thea: I can’t imagine why anyone would want to read about me, but Ronan’s worth it. Ronan’s…everything. He’s amazing.
Anne: Funny, Ronan said the same thing.
Thea (in disbelief): Ronan said to read the story for him?
Anne: No, he said to read it for you. That you were amazing, and that every time he looks at you, his heart nearly stops from the shock of it.
Thea: Wow. Really?
Thea: That’s kind of sweet. (sips cocoa) So. You included everything between December 3 and Christmas Eve?
Anne: I did.
Thea: December was an excellent month.
Anne: What’s next for you two?
Thea: We’re taking it slow. More dinners, more walks in the park. We made great plans for New Year’s Eve. January promises to be better than December.
Anne: Oooh! Tell me about them!
Thea (slightly wicked smile): I think you need to move on, Ms. Calhoun.
Anne (wrinkles brow): Hmmmmm. You may be right. Now that you and Ronan are sorted, perhaps I’ll work on poor Tim. So gorgeous and yet such bad lines.
Thea: Good luck.
Anne: Thanks. I’m going to need it.
If you want to spend a little more time with Thea, and Ronan, the man who wouldn’t let her drown, ask Thea a question in the comments for a chance to win a copy of BREATH ON EMBERS! I promise she’ll answer all of them.
One commenter will win a digital copy of BREATH ON EMBERS. Good luck!