Dakota Willink is a contemporary romance writer and editor, and the author of The Stone Series. She is an associate member of Romance Writers of America and a two time Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards winner.
Dakota has always had a passion for reading and writing. From the time she was an adolescent, she enjoyed curling up with a good paperback, reading genres that ranged from thriller and fantasy, to mystery and romance. She always dreamed of one day writing her own book, but had put her aspirations on hold to focus on her family and a career that would pay the bills. However, her heart continued to be with fictional characters – whether they belonged to a favorite author or if they were just stories that she made up in her own head.
In 2013, Dakota gathered enough courage to turn her dreams into a reality. In between playing chauffeur to two very busy children and working her job during the day, Dakota began to put words on paper. Eventually, she began to describe her life as a book. Everything she saw or heard throughout the day, intertwined with her imagination for the creation of future writings. By 2014, with the support of her husband and two children, she gave up the security of a steady paycheck and began working on her first novel full time.
Her first novel, Heart of Stone, was published in December of 2015. Less than a year after its release, the Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards recognized Heart of Stone as the 2016 Bronze Medalist in the romance category. In September of 2017, Readers’ Favorite announced Stepping Stone as the Gold Medal winner in the Contemporary Romance category.
Dakota resides in the Western New York area, where she enjoys spending time with family, her two Labrador Retrievers, and her spoiled rotten cat. During the summer months, she can often be found soaking up the sun on the Great Lakes with her family.
Official Website: www.dakotawillink.com
Have you read Dakota’s first book, Heart of Stone? Check it out and grab your copy for only 99¢ for a limited time!!
Heart of Stone
Bound by need. Entwined in secrets.
Krystina Cole was a girl on a mission. She had big dreams and aspirations, none of which included a man by her side. She knew better than that – at least until she met Alexander Stone, the New York billionaire real estate tycoon. She saw the way he looked at her, and the dark promises in his eyes. She was curious about his world and all it entailed. But the shadows of her past haunted her, making her afraid to explore the possibilities she could never before have imagined.
Alexander Stone was a man who knew how to get what he wanted. He understood the value of finesse, and the importance of patience and diligence to achieve the desired result. He was successful and wealthy, relying on his naturally sharp instincts to guide him through life. But a chance run in with Krystina Cole quickly turned his world upside down. Her quick wit and firecracker attitude was the complete opposite of what he wanted in a woman, and his instincts failed him at every turn.
However, both Krystina and Alexander are clinging to the secrets in their past, and neither of them are willing to compromise. Krystina’s hardened heart makes emotional surrender a hard limit. But for Alexander, revealing his past could have devastating results.
Excerpt from Heart of Stone:
After unwrapping the cellophane from the platter, I moved over to the minibar to choose a bottle of white from the wine cooler. I perused the selections, trying to decide what would pair best with the cheeses.
Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay? Both will go nicely, but which would she prefer?
I glanced over at Krystina, intending to ask her if she had a particular wine preference. However, she had a look about her that made me pause, and I didn’t want to interrupt the picture that she painted before me.
She was running one delicate hand over the wooden top of my dining room table. She wore a soft smile on her lips, appreciating the craftsmanship of the design. She looked beautiful sitting there, feet up on the chair, seeming completely at ease. And in that moment, I realized that she had never before looked quite like that in my presence. She had never appeared so completely relaxed.
I stood there studying every beautiful line of her captivating face. Seeing her that way, it was almost hard to believe she was capable of so many smart remarks and witty comebacks. Perhaps her sharp tongue and contentious behavior was a defense mechanism, one that she relied on when she was uncomfortable. If that were truly the case, then I would need to take corrective actions to remedy that problem. I had to calm her, or else I’d never get through the weeks ahead.
Since when do I think long term about these things?
The idea was novel for me and I was stunned to discover that I liked the idea of her being here more regularly. In my space. With me. It was a distressing sort of feeling.
This can all go to shit at a moment’s notice. Take it one step at a time.
A change of tactics was needed, for Krystina’s sake as well as my own. My normal methods of operation would have to be thrown out the window. Attempting to take control by laying down the law would only backfire, so I began to construct a new plan – one that would make Krystina feel more at ease. Once she was relaxed, I would begin to work on her trust by giving her what she’s been asking for.
Krystina would have no doubts about what I wanted from her after tonight. She would know exactly who and what I was. She would either run, or she would stay. If she stayed, then that’s when the true test would come into play – tonight I would discover if Krystina could put away that independent mind of hers long enough to pass her first lesson in submission.
Finally feeling like I had somewhat of a solution to Krystina’s argumentative nature, I turned my attention back to the wine selection. Smiling to myself, I settled on a bottle of Joh. Jos. Prüm Riesling.
Sweet. Like her.
I grabbed two crystal wine goblets and went back to the dining room, focused on the mission ahead. I could only hope that Krystina would keep herself open to what I had in mind.
Stepping Stones is book 2
Sometimes the only way to take control is to surrender…
Krystina Cole is flawed and damaged from a traumatic experience. A relationship with Alexander Stone will never work. She knows that her capacity for love is limited, and that only she alone can repair the pieces of her shattered heart. But Alexander is everywhere she turns. In her mind. In her heart. And in her soul. She cannot deny him. He is her addiction and she is unable to stay away.
Alexander Stone has accepted the inevitable. If he wants to hold on to Krystina, he must bare all and release the secrets in his past. There were risks, but she is worth it. No woman has ever affected him the way that she did. She is the sunshine in his darkness. The lightning to his thunder. She is his angel.
Bound by their passion to be together, Alexander and Krystina fight to let go of their pasts. Together, they embark on journey of self-exploration, relying on trust to be their ultimate bond. Falling completely into one another, there finally seems to be a beacon of hope for their future. But as they test their boundaries of desire, fate takes an unexpected turn, threatening their only chance at survival…
Excerpt for Stepping Stone:
I looked up into his eyes. They were scorching, searing right through me and fanning the flames that flickered in my belly.
“Don’t do that,” I told him.
“That thing with your eyes. You’re trying to eye-sex me.”
He flashed me another crooked smile and a low chuckle reverberated through him.
“Is it working?”
Um, maybe. Yes!
But I couldn’t speak the words as Alexander leaned in closer to me. His mouth was mere inches away. Even though I knew what was coming, I was unable to stop it. It was if my brain had shut down and my body took over.
Suddenly, a tractor-trailer whizzed by, pulling on its horn. The sound was deafening and I jumped, the interruption startling me out of my trance and back to reality.
“I – I can’t…” I trailed off, at a complete loss for words, feeling pissed for being so weak. Even after everything that I had been telling myself, I couldn’t last more than two seconds around him.
How does he do this to me all the time?
“You can’t what, Krystina?”
“I can’t kiss you. You can’t kiss me. We aren’t the same as we were before. I don’t want you to think that there’s something still between us.”
“Think? I don’t have to think anything, angel. I know what’s between us.”
I wanted to deny him more than ever, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to keep up the fight for much longer with him standing so close to me. I summoned all the courage that I could muster, and tried to ignore the sexy way that a damp lock of hair fell over his brow.
“There’s nothing,” I tried to deny.
The rain started to come down, the slow drizzle being replaced by large droplets that splattered on my cheeks. I was about to mention that we should probably get out of the rain before it started coming down any harder, when Alexander placed his hand over my heart. The feel of his warm hand on my chest stunned me into silence as my heart beat rapidly against his palm.
“Are you going to deny that you feel it?” he asked quietly. His voice had become low and raspy, the sound of it resonating through me.
“You’re imagining things,” I said, swatting his hand away.
His eyes flashed dangerously and in one swift motion, he cupped the back of my neck and pulled me towards him. Without warning, he crushed his mouth to mine.
It happened so fast, that my breath was literally sucked out of me as I tried to free myself from his grasp.
It’s wrong. I can’t do THIS!
I could not accept his kiss. If I did, walking away again would be that much harder and the hurt even more unbearable. I kept my lips sealed in a firm tight line, refusing to give in.
Alexander fought me and continued to crush his mouth down against mine. He ran his tongue over by bottom lip, testing me for a weakness as I continued to deny him access. But I could feel the will slipping slowly away, my resistance now only halfhearted.
“Don’t fight me, Krystina,” he murmured against my lips. “It’s been too long since I’ve last tasted you.”
Lightning flashed in the distance and a low rumble of thunder sounded. I moaned, losing all will power to hold him off any longer. My body involuntarily gave away, prompting my hands to fly up and grip the back of his neck. Alexander growled his approval and deepened the kiss, pulling my body tighter against his. Our tongues lapped and danced together at an urgent pace. It was so good – too good. When his mouth began to work over my jaw line, I resigned myself to being lost to him and hummed with pleasure.
After a moment, he inched back slightly, our lips hovering over each other’s and our breaths mingling with every pant.
“Do you still want to say that this is just a figment of my imagination?” he breathed.
Set In Stone is releasing on January 18th!!
Set In Stone
Two declarations of love. And a past that won’t set them free.
Alexander had rules. Krystina broke them. Together, they learned the hard way that life was too short to play the game. Choosing to not leave their relationship to Fate, they fell completely and irrevocably into one another. As two shattered souls, wrapped in each other’s arms, it was as if the world and all its troubles did not exist.
However, committing to love each other was only the beginning. Caught up in their blazing desire, they unexpectedly find themselves facing the shadows of the past once again. Just when Krystina thought she knew the man she committed to, more questions arise, causing her to wonder if Alexander is who he says he is. It should have been one of the happiest times in their lives, but the darkness still loomed, threatening everything they fought so hard to overcome.
Now Krystina is faced with a terrible decision: go against Alexander in order to save him or sit idly by and watch as his world shatters around him. For her greatest battle was the very thing their relationship was founded upon. Trust.
Excerpt from Set In Stone:
When we reached the table, Luca was waiting for us with a bottle of wine in hand and a linen table napkin draped over one arm. Alexander removed his arm from around my waist so that I could slide into the booth that had been prepared for us. His hand lingered for a moment, tracing over the line of my hip, before he moved to sit beside me. Once we were settled, Luca held out a bottle of red for Alexander to inspect.
“Tonight’s main course will be Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Gremolata. Mr. Donati has chosen to pair it with a 2006 Villa Gemma Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva.”
The words rolled off his tongue with ease, although I didn’t comprehend much more than barley, risotto, and mushrooms. I was reminded of how out of my element I could feel in Alexander’s world sometimes. While I was getting used to it, I would never lose my appreciation for Tai takeout and cheap white wine. Conversely, Alexander seemed to know exactly what Luca said and nodded his approval. After removing the cork, Luca poured a small amount of red wine into a stemmed glass for Alexander to sample.
“Exceptional vintage,” Alexander said with appreciation. He swirled the glass and took another sip before handing the empty glass to Luca.
After Luca poured the deep maroon liquid into two glasses, another server seemed to materialize out of thin air to place a basket of fresh bread and olive oil at our table. Steam wafted from the basket and provoked a rumble from my stomach. During cocktail hour, the only thing I managed to consume was a pancetta wrapped fig. While it was delicious, it was hardly enough to curb my appetite.
Once Luca and the other server were gone, I went to reach for the bread but Alexander beat me to it. Tearing off a piece of the loaf, he dipped it into a small bit of oil and brought it to my mouth. Accepting his offer, I opened my lips for him.
“You’re beautiful. So enticing and radiant,” he murmured.
I blushed at his compliment, never one to accept them graciously, as I moved my mouth around the warm and flakey crust. Swallowing the bread, I reached for my wine. However, Alexander caught my wrist and stopped me. As he had with the bread, he brought the glass to my lips. Feeling awkward over such a public display of intimacy, I gently pulled my wrist free and took the glass from his hand. I took a sip and met his gaze. His eyes were intense as always, but there was something more in them that I couldn’t quite place.
“Matteo has really outdone himself. The wait staff he hired –,” I began. I stopped short when I saw the way Alexander’s eyes flashed hot. Smoldering almost. Baffled, I asked, “What is it?”
“I’ve asked once, but now I’m going to ask you again. Are you trying to give me a hard on in public?”
“What in the world are you talking about? I haven’t done anything,” I laughed.
“Angel, you’re not wearing any panties.”
My eyes widened in surprise.
How could he possibly know that?
But then I remembered the way his hand lingered on my hip right before we sat down at the table. I was fairly confident that was the moment he discovered the absence of my usual lace undergarment.
“Look, I didn’t do it to be kinky,” I tried to explain. “It’s just that the dress is somewhat fitted through the hips and you could see my underwear lines through it. That’s all.”
His eyes burned even darker. I was familiar with that expression of burning hunger. I knew it all too well. Alexander was undeniably aroused. That knowledge caused a sudden tightening in my core and I squirmed a bit in my chair. To my astonishment, I felt his hand move up the side of my calf, over my knee and to my thigh. He squeezed, biting into the skin of my leg.
“No panties and not following my instructions. I did warn you that you would be punished you if you were gone for too long,” he reminded me. His voice reverberated through the hum of conversation and the Louis Armstrong song that piped through the overhead speakers.
“I wasn’t gone that long,” I practically squeaked.
I tried to move away, but he gripped tighter and rendered me immobile. My pulse quickened as his hand travel up further. My breath caught in my throat.
“Angel, any amount of time you’re away from me is too long.”
I looked around the room. People were everywhere, conversing and eating, completely unaware of what was happening at the booth in the corner. To the casual observer, we were just two people enjoying dinner together. At least I hoped. I silently prayed that the tablecloth was long enough to hide Alexander’s roaming hand.
Inch by inch, his fingers crawled. For some ludicrous reason, the Itsy-Bitsy Spider song began to play in my head. As Alexander got closer to the mark, I began to feel slightly panicked. I glanced around the room again. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. All I saw were normal people enjoying a normal dinner. Except for our table. Nothing about this was normal.
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