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 make 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?
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Christmas lights glinted on Thea Moretti's black patent leather boots as she hurried along East Eighty-Sixth Street, across Park Avenue, heading for Madison. The night air held a damp chill that boded snow, and a few drops of borderline-freezing rain spattered her hair. She tightened the belt of her matching thigh-length trench coat and turned up her collar against the cold. If she stood perfectly still the coat and boots covered her from ears to toes, but based on the looks she'd gotten on the bus, any movement flashed a couple of inches of bare skin between the coat's hem and the tops of her thigh-high boots.
Korn pounded her eardrums as she passed Demarchelier, crowded even on a Tuesday evening, and crossed Madison against the light when the uptown traffic broke. She ducked through The Croydon's glass door as a man in a business suit exited and headed for Fifth Avenue. The doorman gave her a quick onceover.
"He expecting you?" She couldn't hear him over the sounds of "Falling Away From Me" but she'd gotten really good at reading lips since she'd moved to New York nearly a year before.
He was Ronan O'Rourke, resident of apartment 9B, and the answer to that question was no.
"Don't buzz him," Thea said, keeping her own volume natural. "You've got your hands full."
Rick, occupied with handing out packages to impatient residents while accepting a rack of dry-cleaning from a laundry and buzzing an apartment expecting a delivery of what smelled like Chinese food, took her at her word and gave her a grateful nod as he hit the security buzzer to open the second set of doors. Thea slipped through with the delivery man. The fury-filled music thundering against her eardrums contrasted starkly with the cream marble floor and potted ferns as she headed for the bank of elevators at the back of the lobby. She and the delivery man waited for a couple to exit the elevator, then rode as far as the fourth floor together. Thea trusted the aroma of Kung Pao chicken wouldn't permeate her outerwear.
There wasn't enough material under the trench coat to absorb the scent of Chinese food.
Apartment 9B was right off the elevator bank. Thea paused just outside the door and adjusted everything she wore, tugging down the coat's hem, straightening the boot tops. She shook the few droplets of chilled rain from her hair and left the coat collar up, as a glance in the mirror opposite the elevator told her it added a sexy-spy overtone to the look.
Reluctantly she turned off her iPod, tugged the earbuds from her ears, and wrapped the cord around the device. Silence rang loud in her head until the canned laughter of a sitcom rerun rose and fell behind Ronan's door. She slipped the iPod into her coat pocket with her MetroCard, then depressed the buzzer.
The deadbolt clicked, then the door opened. Ronan stood on the other side in his stocking feet, his blue eyes widening with surprise and a pleasure that made her heart jitter. He wore a dark blue uniform with the single silver bar of the FDNY's Lieutenant insignia on the collar. The sleeves of a white thermal undershirt were pushed to his elbows.
"Hey, Thea," he said. "Did Rick buzz? I didn't hear it."
His voice trailed off as his eyes narrowed with interest. In some distant part of her mind she noted the fine lines radiating from the corners of his eyes, a sign that his last stretch of duty at FDNY's Battalion 10, Engine Company 22, hadn't been uneventful.
So much the better. He needed this. She needed it, too. More than he knew.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love, love, love this story!!!! Kept my interest from beginning to the end. Would love to see more from this author!!
An emotional erotic that is a must read for the Holiday Season I found this novella during a mini-reading-slump about a week ago. Usually this close to Christmas I’m chomping at the bit for Christmas Romances. I Eat. Them. Up. But, alas, this year nothing was calling to me. The synopses seemed forced rather than jolly and not too many reviews had me clamoring for an impulse click. Until Breath of Embers. Wow. You can purchase this novella as part of a holiday anthology (Red Hot Holiday) or as a single title for 2.99. This novella was just what I needed. Technically categorized as an erotic romance the amount of feeling and emotion in these pages surpasses many a chick-lit or general romance title. People, I teared up during this read! No sex scene was gratuitous. Each one gave me deeper insight to the characters. To see Thea fighting so hard to stay emotionally dead with her husband. To see Ronan fighting so hard – not to erase the memory of Thea’s lost love – but to show her that she’s not dead physically or emotionally. Learning how Thea was as responsible for Ronan’s own rebirth after the loss of those close to him. Watching Thea realize that she has something special in her life. Something worth living for. Oh my. The scenes were lovely and enthralling both in and out of the bedroom. “I’m not trying to fix it for her…There is no fix for this. She has to endure it, and somewhere along the line she has to learn to live again. Surviving isn’t the goal. Living is. This is a battle between me and her grief, and I’m going to be the last man standing.” (Ronan, 196) Calhoun has managed quite a feat. An erotic romance as delicious for its sex (hello, expensive lingerie store sex!) as its emotional breakthroughs (candles and carols). And I must bow down to the woman who created a threesome that brought a couple closer! rather than distancing them apart. Never was a scene so hot and heavy from both the sexual side and the emotional side. Filled with Christmas scenes that don’t feel forced or fake. this one is a must read during the Holiday Season. Perfect for the erotic romance regular as well as the fist-timers. Well written and beautifully developed characters abound. Rating: 5/5 An emotional erotic that is a must read for the Holiday Season
This is the first book by Anne Calhoun I've read. Can I just say WOW? This book contains almost every fantasy one could possibly want. You should definitely be prepared for a cold shower or two. Thea and Ronan are two very likeable characters. I fell for them both immediately. Thea is pretty much "dead" to the world because her husband was killed in a car accident shortly after Thanksgiving two years ago. Thea and her late husband Jesse loved the Christmas holidays. Christmas was a big thing for them and both of their large families. Ronan is a firefighter who has the classic “rescuer’s syndrome”. He lost his uncle, who he was extremely close to, on 9/11 and his best friend, a fellow firefighter, three years ago during a building collapse. Thea’s family, including her in-laws have absolutely no idea how hard the death of her husband has been for her. No one understands how hard it is for her to deal with Christmas and the holiday season while she has to watch them go on with their happy lives. They are constantly pushing for her to move back to the city where her hopes, dreams, and pretty much her whole world came to an end. Ronan knows Thea is using him to avoid dealing with her issues and problems. To a certain extent he is or was okay with that, but not any more. Now he wants more. He thinks they both deserve more. Thea and Ronan are two people who need each other. They met almost two years after Ronan lost his best friend and he is coming out of his own fog, ready to start living again. Thea made Ronan feel alive for the first time in years. She needs Ronan to teach her how to live and love again, without all of the darkness surrounding her. My favorite quote from the book isn’t romantic or heated, but it’s truthful. “The second year of grieving. It’s harder than the first. Everyone remembers the first anniversary without a husband or the first Thanksgiving without a father. By the time the second one comes around, you’re supposed to be over it. Everyone else is, but you’re not. So it’s harder. Lonelier.” Oh silly me...I forgot about about the other man, not really. He’s 6’5” how could you possibly forget him? Tim Cannon is Ronan’s good friend and fellow rescuer. Yeah, he seems like a jerk at first, but he really isn’t. It’s all just an act he puts on. Unbeknownst to Thea, Tim helps to provide the start of the turning point in her life. Because of him, he realizes what Ronan means to her. I am definitely looking forward to reading more from Anne in the future. Rating: 4 ½ (I really liked it.) Source: Net Galley Reviewed for Read Your Writes Book Reviews blog
This was my first from Calhoun and it was read as part of the Red Hot Holiday anthology I had purchased for Leah Braemel's story I Need You For Christmas. (which btw is great) Thea is still grieving her husband's sudden death two years ago. She feels emotionally numb and unable to actually live. Ronan was supposed to be a fling to take her mind away from her pain, but he has other ideas and desires something more meaningful than unattached physical pleasure. The chemistry between these two in the bedroom is off the charts, but Thea is fighting any type of emotional entanglements. Ronan is willing to give her anything she desires just to see the pain in her eyes disappear. I fell head over heals for Ronan, so I wanted to shake some sense into Thea when she kept wanting to push him away. The sex scenes in this book were very hot...especially the dressing room one, but the menage scene was a bit lacking for me because it just felt a bit awkward. This coupled with the way the author is overly descriptive about streets and locations detracting from the story is my reasoning for my lower rating. It was a solid 3 1/2 stars. What is it with holiday romances always having to have one of the main characters getting over the loss of a spouse? This stuff aside, I did enjoy the story over all so definitely give it a read.