Set In StoneBy: Dakota Willink
The Stone Series: Book 3
This past year has given me a lot to be thankful for. There are so many individuals who have helped me on this journey. When people say it takes a village, it is a complete understatement.
To the ladies of Team Dakota - I cannot express how much I appreciate your hard work. I also want to thank you for your patience, as I’ll probably need another Google Spreadsheet made before you finish reading this (shhh…no eye-rolling allowed). Without your amazing talents, Krystina and Alexander’s story would not have reached the audience that it did. You are simply the best!
To the beta team – as always, your feedback is immeasurable. A lot of time and effort goes into the beta process and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to thank you enough! A special shout out goes to Amanda - thank you for making me “feel” the music again.
To Lacy and Jeffrey - for bringing Krystina and Alexander to life. Lacy, you believed in this story so much. Your words of wisdom and friendship will always be treasured. Thank you for being you.
To my mom, the strongest woman I know – you are the woman who defines the full circle. You create, nurture and transform. Thank you for your acceptance and unending support.
To my charming and witty teenagers – thank you for understanding the many late nights I spent tapping away on the computer. But, mom is now back from the writing cave. Your rooms better be clean.
To my husband…my best friend, my rock, and my number one fan. You made me believe that the sky was the limit. It was a roller coaster of a year, but your support for my writing career never wavered. I love you so much, babe.
And finally, I’d like to thank the readers. This book is dedicated to you, as words cannot define how grateful I am for the many relationships I’ve made with readers from around the globe. I wouldn’t be able to write full-time without your continued love and dedication to my stories. Whether you picked up a copy, shared with a friend, or are one of my beloved Diva’s in my Facebook reader group - you have helped me chip away at my goals one page at a time. You believed in Krystina and Alexander as much as I did and I can only hope I did their conclusion justice. Love you all!
As I dressed for work, I looked out at the horizon through the floor to ceiling windows in the bedroom of the penthouse. The sky looked ominous. The blackened clouds off in the distance showed that a heavy snowfall was imminent. I absently wondered if it would be the last of the season. I was becoming tired of the cold winter winds and was looking forward to seeing New York come to life in the spring.
Alexander, my gorgeous and delectable fiancé, stood in front of the window and was buttoning the cuffs of his fitted Versace dress shirt. I shifted my attention from the threatening skies to admire him while he dressed. From the navy silk tie that hung untied around his neck to his perfectly tailored pants, he was dressing for business, yet he displayed the powerful virility of a man in his prime. His nearly jet-black hair was still damp from the shower, falling in soft locks that barely skimmed the top of his collar. When he casually strode over to the dresser to pocket his wallet and cell phone, his movements were confident, yet sexy as hell. I felt a stirring, my lust for him always shimmering just below the surface.
As if noticing my watchful eye, he looked up at me and flashed me one of those lopsided smiles that I had come to love so much. He knew that he was gorgeous and knew that I loved looking at him. Sometimes it was hard to believe that he was mine. All mine.
Embarrassed to be caught staring, I shifted my eyes back to the darkening skies and finished fastening the last few buttons of my blouse.
“Even with the nasty weather that’s brewing, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this view,” I said, motioning to the Manhattan skyline. I truly loved my city, and its grandeur never ceased to amaze me.
Alexander glanced absently over his shoulder out the window before moving a few steps toward me. Wrapping both arms around my waist, he pulled me close.
“I have all the view I need right here,” he said huskily before brushing his lips over mine. He hadn’t buttoned his shirt yet, leaving his chest bare for my touch. I skimmed my fingertips over his abdomen, up to the honed muscle of his pectorals. His soft shiver and low moan sent my heart skipping.
I returned his gentle kiss, unable to do anything but feel the touch of his lips on mine. It was as if the earth beneath my feet melted away and time seemed to stand still. His tongue grazed over mine and set me on fire. His kiss, always so possessive and domineering, consumed me. It was his signature. His stamp. And nothing else in the world seemed to matter.
Except when it did.
I suppressed a sigh as a wave of sadness overcame me and I pulled my lips from his. I rested my head against his chest, listening to the steady beat of his heart. There were times when I felt like I could stay this way forever, but those times had been few and far between as of late.
I had once thought moving in with Alexander would be a big adjustment for the both of us. Surprisingly, we settled into an easy routine with very little friction. From our morning shower schedule to planning our meals, the stereotypical domestic life had come easily. Vivian, the housekeeper, would pick up the groceries while Alexander and I were at work. She used to prepare our evening meals daily, but I eventually chose to take it over. I enjoyed it. On the days when I was unable to cook, we would either get takeout or Alexander would make breakfast fixings for dinner, as he proved unable to make anything other than an omelet.
I smiled to myself at the memory of Alexander’s mad dash for the fire extinguisher after he nearly set the penthouse kitchen on fire. He had attempted to make a dish of Italian sausage and baby portabellas, but underestimated the amount of grease the sausage would produce. Grease overflowed from the shallow pan he used, making for a hard-fought battle. It was one that the kitchen inevitably won. I recalled watching my fiancé, a man who dominated everything in his life, be forced into submission by an oven. It may have been one of the most comical scenes I ever witnessed. I recalled laughing until my sides ached.
We were so happy that day.
That moment in time, the laughter we shared, now seemed like eons ago. Something shifted over the past few weeks and it changed our dynamic. Our relationship had become strained, although I couldn’t quite pinpoint when it all began. I only knew that Alexander’s controlling nature was taking over our lives. I was beginning to feel lost, like I didn’t know who I was anymore.
“Where are you?” Alexander asked, breaking me away from my thoughts. I looked up at him and cocked my head to the side innocently.
“What do you mean?”
“You seem far away in thought.”
I wanted to tell him what I was thinking. I knew I should tell him how I felt. He needed to know how much he was literally dictating everything. From the building of our new home to the discussions about our pending wedding, he wielded his full power and left me little room to express my wants or desires.
No, Krystina. Not a good idea, Krystina. Don’t do that, Krystina.
While I understood that his past dictated who he was, his need for order and control was becoming stifling. Something had to give. I couldn’t breathe. Even still, I loved him so much that it hurt. The tension between us was killing me. I wanted my Alexander back. I wanted us back. I only wished I knew when the balance had shifted so I could fix it.
Not wanting to voice my concerns and start the day with an argument, I smiled and stared deep into the sapphire eyes that I adored so much.
“Not far away,” I assured him. “I’m right here. Where I belong.”
I moved my arms up to wrap them around his neck. The light from the nearby lamp sparkled off of my left hand and caught my attention. Tilting my head up, I held out my hand to look at the diamond and sapphire ring that Alexander had placed on my finger.
It was a symbol of hope and the dream of a white picket fence. I smiled every time I looked at it. It was a sign that even two people like us, as messed up as our pasts were, could still find happiness. I knew he would give me all that and more. It was a reminder that things between us would get better. Relationships were full of ups and downs. Lately, I felt like our honeymoon phase was already over, although we hadn’t even made it to the altar yet. I told myself that this was just a bump in the road and nothing more.
I wrapped my arms tighter around his neck, pulling his hard body closer to mine. His hands trailed up and down my spine before coming to rest at my waist. I felt a tug and realized he was attempting to pull my blouse free from the waistband of my skirt.
“Oh, no you don’t, mister! We’ll never get to work on time if you start that,” I joked and untangled myself from his arms.
“I kept you up late last night, angel” he said with a wink.
I laughed at the devilish gleam in his eyes.
“Yes, you did,” I agreed. My cheeks began to redden as I thought about the passionate love we made the night before. As strained as things had been, sex was never an issue for us. Our passion for each other was the one thing that could erase all the problems from the day.
“So, take the morning off. Go in after lunch time.”
“Mmm…now that’s a novel idea,” I murmured.
“Good. I’m glad you see things my way,” he said, as if the matter was settled. “A morning off is just what you need.”