Last week, when I announced the new series, I mentioned that this book is the most personal story I’ve ever written and writing it tore me wide open. Boy oh boy is that true. I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling the hell out of it, but I will say that the story is semi-autobiographical—or, at least, inspired by an event in my family.
No, I’m not an MMA fighter (hahahaha no), and neither is my husband. In fact, we have little in common with the characters. But we know the heart of this story intimately well.
And that’s all I can say.
After Thunder is out in the world, it might be that readers want to know more; in that case, then, I’ll get into more detail. (Though there’s an author’s note at the end of the book that will explain a lot.)
Meanwhile, oh man, this story means so incredibly much to me.
Thunder goes live on multiple platforms on Saturday, 7 March. Preorder will be available on 15 February.
You can check out the series Pinterest board for visuals for Thor, Nina, and other characters.
And you can add Thunder to your Goodreads TBR.
Thorin “Thunder” Vaduva is a journeyman MMA fighter—toiling in the shadows, a set of strong shoulders to lift other fighters toward stardom. After years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he’s trying to get his life on track—be a good father to his teenage son, get his fights in, do his work, keep his head down, keep his demons at bay.
Nina Rodriguez is trying to get her life started. Her days are filled with work and school, slowly climbing toward a meaningful career. Her aspirations aren’t flashy, but she wants a life with purpose.
When Nina comes to the Capital City Fight Center so her brother, Thor’s teammate, can teach her to fight, she and Thor really notice each other for the first time. After that they fall hard and fast, even while they’re taking things slow.
Their love comes easy. But life is hard, and full of storms.
When one of those storms tears Thor’s life apart, only real love can bring the sun back.
And a scene from Chapter Four for a preview:
Thor held the door for her, and Nina walked out of the bar. The night had taken on its customary chill, dropping probably forty degrees from the high of the day, and she shoved her hands in her jeans with a little shiver.
“You cold?” he asked, and then glanced down at himself, as if he were wishing he had a jacket to offer her. But he was in jeans and a t-shirt. He seemed to only ever wear plain white t-shirts and basic Levi’s when he wasn’t in gym gear, but he wore them so they fit him perfectly.
“No, I’m okay. I’m over there,” she said, nodding toward her Outback, parked by the bank, a freestanding building across the lot from the bar. She’d wanted get some cash from the ATM before she and Heather went into Jewel’s, and had overridden Heather’s complaints that they were parked too far away. It had seemed silly to get back in the car and drive a couple hundred feet to the other side of the lot.
Now, with that area in shadow, she wished she had.
“I’ll walk you over,” Thor said.
She smiled. What a gentleman. And what a giant step up her night had taken from the sewer it had fallen into.
Heather had finished her little flask before they’d made it into Sac. Then she’d had four glasses of wine with their dinner at Zócalo. And then they’d gone to Jewel’s and she’d kept on drinking. She was such an obnoxious drunk, especially when Nina wasn’t on the ride to Plasteredville with her.
She was mad at Heather, mad at Rafi, and mad at herself for not fighting harder to keep them apart. But when Heather got combative, Nina just couldn’t deal. She had actual scars from her friend’s drunken outbursts over the years.
Now she was left to hope Heather would pass out before anything happened. Or that Rafi would be a decent human being and not fuck her. The former was more likely than the latter.
There was no more she could do about it now, so Nina set that worry aside for tomorrow. After her final, she no doubt would have a shattered friend to clean up. In this moment, however, a very hot guy was walking her to her car in the dark and quiet.
They’d had one beer together, and then Nina had, like a good girl, asserted her need to go home. She could get a C on her final in the morning and still get an A in the course, but she didn’t want a C. Not even a hot guy she was crushing on could derail her from her schoolwork. Not at this point in the semester, anyway.
Thor had nodded and said he needed to get home, too. He worked early in the morning. And then he’d offered to walk her out.
Nina wanted him to ask her out. And she was working up the nerve to do it herself if he didn’t. One way or another, before she got in her car, the question was going to get asked.
While they’d sat at the bar together, they’d chatted a little, but not about anything important. Mostly, they’d talked about Heather, and that was mostly Nina’s fault. She’d still been boiling in a stew of anger and guilt, and a rant had bubbled out of her.
Mostly, she’d ranted, and he’d listened.
That probably wasn’t a great advertisement for her sparkling personality. But she was still going to try to see this guy again. On a night when she could sparkle.
They reached her car, and Nina turned and rested back against the driver’s door. She looked up at him—he was so good looking, all tall and jacked, with a head of dark blond scruff, scalp and face the same, and those serious blue eyes.
He was gorgeous, but not beautiful. His nose was wonky in the way most fighters’ noses were wonky, crooked and a little smooshed, and he had the funky ears of all wrestlers and MMA fighters, though his weren’t nearly the freakiest she’d seen. Not full-blooming cauliflower; more like early buds. Scars crossed through both his eyebrows and hatched the tops of his strong cheekbones. One was new; he’d had it taped with butterflies when she’d seen him at the gym the other day, but now it was just a fresh red line, still showing the dots where stitches had been.
To look at him was to know he was a fighter—especially a fighter like him, who won, when he won, by taking punches better than the other guy.
Every good MMA fighter had a varied set of skills, knowing how to use all the parts of their body as weapons, but most fighters had one particular strength, generally the thing that had brought them to the sport—they’d started out as wrestlers or boxers or martial artists and learned additional skills, but that first one was their chief strength.
Some were strikers, fast and quick, staying on their feet, dodging blows and sneaking their own in through minute gaps. Some were sinewy and flexible and could work the mat best, snaking out of holds and twisting their limbs like iron bands around an opponent. Some preferred to use their feet and legs, keeping distance and aiming kicks with precision.
And then there were the brawlers, who relied on a big arm and a hard chin. Thor was a brawler.
Rafael—known in the fight world for his good looks—loved his own scars as his best features. He insisted he could never respect a pretty fighter, because they hadn’t been really tested, taken their licks. It didn’t matter how quick you were, it didn’t even matter how much you won; you weren’t a real fighter until you could take a beating.
Thor could take a beating.
Smiling a little, he asked, “See anything you like?”
She’d been staring at him. He’d checked her out earlier; now she’d done the same thing to him. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay.” He looked around the lot. “I better get—”
As he stepped back, preparing to leave, Nina reached out and put her hand on his arm. “Wait.” She didn’t like asking guys out, she felt twitchy and embarrassed, but he hadn’t done it, and she wasn’t getting in her car until the question got asked.
“How would you … do you want … to go out sometime? Get a coffee or something?”
“Or something.” Fuck, this was hard.
His half smile deepened a little, but creases formed between his brows. “Are you asking me out? On a date?”
“Yes. I am. And you’re making it very uncomfortable for me to do it.”
“Sorry. Just …”
“You can say no, Thor.” Okay, from now on, she was going to sit back and let guys do this. It sucked.
“I don’t want to say no.”
Oh. Okay. “So yes?”
He didn’t answer right away; his gaze was fixed on hers, his brow furrowed. After what felt like ten minutes and was probably three seconds, he said, “You know I’m an ex-con, right?”
“I know. Rafi told me.”
“Did he tell you what I went down for?”
“No.” But he was away for years, so it was probably pretty bad. When Thor opened his mouth to say something, Nina could sense him about to tell her the charge and the sentence. She jumped in before he could. “All I want to know is, did you hurt somebody?”
The answer was slow in coming. “No, I didn’t. People I was with did, though.”
“But you didn’t?”
He shook his head.
Nina set her hands on his chest—oh god, so strong. “Then I don’t care.”
Thor looked down at her hands. He picked up the one with the angry red marks, lifted it to his mouth, and kissed the skin at the top of her wrist, just above the outside scratch, where his mouth would soothe without stinging.
Nina felt her body sway toward his. He felt it, too, and pulled her closer, into his arms.
“Can I kiss you?” he asked, his voice soft and slow. He asked. Nina felt a little piece of her heart tear loose and fly away.
“Please,” she whispered.
His mouth came down and covered hers.
That was it—just lips to lips. He didn’t try to use his tongue, or open his mouth. He didn’t close her tightly in his arms or grab her ass in his hands. He almost seemed to rest on her. Just a few seconds, and then he lifted his head and smiled.
Nina’s toes had curled into knots inside her boots, and her heart thumped heavily. Just that tiny little kiss, a gentleman’s farewell, and she was entirely done for.
“I’d like to go out with you sometime. Good night, pretty Nina. Good luck on your exam tomorrow.” He stepped back, walked backward to the sidewalk in front of the ATM, and leaned against a support post.
He stayed there until Nina fumbled her way into her car and pulled out of the spot.
She was on Arden Way before she realized that she didn’t have his number.
©2019 Susan Fanetti