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Authors: Arika Stone

The Sanctuary

BOOK: The Sanctuary
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 The Sanctuary

Eros’ Edge, Book 1

Arika Stone

Published 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62210-212-9

Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © Published 2015, Arika Stone. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

 

Manufactured in the United States of America

Liquid Silver Books

http://LSbooks.com

This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.

Blurb

Eve Lauren has it all—an elite New York City wedding and event planning business and a fabulous jet-setting life. When she discovers her fiancé, Jude Wright, cheated, she loses the
joie de vivre
for everything wedding related and gives up on ever finding romance. She escapes to Helsinki for vacation—a place she describes as “moody and dark.” It’s exactly how she feels after being burned by Jude.

Val Ruska isn’t looking for love. Infamous for being one of the most elusive rock stars to bed, the musician turned brooding artist can have any woman he wants, but doesn’t. Not any woman will do. But he’s intrigued by Eve, a single American woman dining alone, and invites her to dinner.

Val rocks Eve’s world as hard and fast as the music he plays. Eve explores her deepest erotic fantasies with him and finds a side of herself that she didn’t know existed. Their relationship causes Eve to question everything she believes about sex, love, and starting a family. Val can give her everything she’s ever dreamed of, if she’s willing to submit to his desires. But is she ready to give up her life in exchange for his? Reality sinks in when she returns to New York City and Jude seizes the opportunity to win her back—but Val isn’t so eager to let her go.

Dedication

For Gene,

My motivator, my love, my sanctuary.

Acknowledgements

The Sanctuary
was hidden in the cobwebs of my hard drive for seven long years, locked away to be forgotten. Without the encouragement, prodding, and support of my boyfriend, Gene, to edit and submit it to publishers, it may never have blossomed into a published book. Thank you for giving me the push that I needed and for spending many late nights alone as I toiled over it. You believed in me—I love you.

 

Mom: Thank you for always supporting me no matter how crazy my dreams may be. Without you, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

 

Leci, Kelsey, and Wendy: You have been by my side since the beginning, allowing me to bounce ideas off you and read the many draft copies. I am forever grateful for your hard work.

 

Marko: Thank you for traveling with me and bringing me to places in Finland I always dreamed about. I will always remember our visits and time together.

 

My editor, Devin, thank you for your expertise—you’ve made this book shine!

 

Chapter 1

I tapped my pen feverishly on the desk before me, as hard and as fast as the rain that pelted my sixth-floor hotel suite overlooking the city. My mind drew a blank. Over and over I began typing, and over and over I hit the delete button, erasing the nonsensical matter from the page. I threw my pen in disgust at the desk. Why had I come to Finland, a dreary, gloom-filled country?

Three months ago, I got an itch to break free from my daily routines. My days were structured and exhausting, overseeing my event planning company,
Luxe Life
. I decided a sabbatical was what I needed, a few months off to travel alone, exploring and writing my first romance novel. When I informed my staff that I would be leaving on vacation, a
long
vacation, it completely caught them off guard.

“Are you sure about this?” Victoria, my chief operating officer and my best friend, asked as she slammed my office door behind her.

“Positive. I need to find my muse again. My creativity is zapped. Inspiration is eluding me.”

“This is about Jude, isn’t it?” Vicki questioned in her all-knowing voice.

“No, it’s not,” I assured her, but my voice was not as convincing as I tried to make it sound. I shook my head. “It’s not him. I need to re-focus, re-energize.”

“Sure you do, and he’s the reason why,” she responded smugly.

I could hear her voice lingering in my mind. Maybe Jude was the reason for the writer’s block and my wanderlust. I grabbed my coat and journal. Perhaps a brisk walk through the rain would change my point of view.

I passed through small and narrow streets, the buildings old and foreign. A chill ran through my body. Maybe this wasn’t the place for me. It was the first time I’d ventured out since arriving three days prior. A mixture of jet lag and exhaustion, plus a combination of vodka and Xanax taken to calm my nerves during the flight, had kept me lounging in the hotel. Sleeping as needed was an indulgence I had forgotten about until now.

What I really craved was a joint, but knew buying or using illegal drugs in a foreign country wouldn’t be easy or wise. I briefly considered moving to Amsterdam to finish my vacation, but my thoughts were quickly derailed when I realized I had no idea where I was.


Hyvää päivää
,” a foreign voice greeted me.

I glanced up, not realizing I’d stopped in front of a café. The man who greeted me appeared to be the host.


Anteeksi, en puhu suomea. Puhutteko englantia
?” I replied. It was the only phrase I knew in Finnish, not that I pronounced it correctly, and I could only imagine what I might have said instead of asking if he spoke English. I eyed him to see how he perceived me.

“Ahh, English, yes. As a matter of fact, most everyone here does, in some way. Are you here on holiday?” he said with a thick accent. He walked into the café. “Please, follow me.”

And I did. His accent made my knees want to melt. “Yes, but I plan to be here longer than an average holiday. I need to refuel, so to speak.”

“Please, have a seat.” He gestured toward a chair. “My name is Kari.” He handed me the menu, smiling as I sat down.

I took the menu from him and skimmed it. It was in Finnish.

Kari noticed my confusion. “Tell me what you desire, and I will make it happen.”

I peeked over the menu to the table across from me, hoping to steal a glance at what others were consuming. Instead, I found a pair of deep green eyes looking directly at mine. The man smiled and continued with his paper, sipping his coffee. He was mesmerizing.

“Umm…coffee,” I mumbled. “And…something sweet.”

“I have just the thing,” Kari stated. “Do you like berries?”

“Yes,” I said, dismissing him.

I couldn’t help but watch the tall, lanky man sitting across from me. My mouth watered at his tousled, shoulder-length hair, which was as rich and tempting as a delicious cup of cocoa. I imagined the silky smoothness under my fingers and how it would graze my skin as it trailed down my body.

I continued to eye him while he ignored me, consumed by the paper in front of him. What could he be? It was Monday, mid-morning, too late for the average working Joe to be on the streets. He reminded me of an artist, a writer, or a lecturer. I watched him pick up his cup and set it down.

Abruptly, a cup and plate were put in front of me, startling me from my people watching.


Köyhät ritarit
, what we call Poor Knights or, as you may know it, French toast,” Kari said. “With whipped cream and lingonberry jam. Enjoy!”

I stirred my coffee and glanced up to find my knight watching me. Our eyes met again, and he smiled. I sipped my coffee, opening my journal. As I stared at the blank page, I realized I still didn’t know how to begin my tale.

And with four little words, I suddenly knew what to write…

“How do you do?”

My eyes shifted to the face that accompanied the words. It was
him.
He had his cup of coffee in his hand and his paper under his arm. “My name is Val. Would you mind if I joined you?”

I briefly thought over his words. “No, I don’t mind. My name is Eve.” I closed my journal and eyeballed him, questioning his intentions.

“I couldn’t help but notice your accent,” Val explained as he sat down. “I spent a good deal of time traveling throughout America. I recognized it right away. What brings you to Finland?”

For some reason, I felt relaxed. It didn’t matter what I said. He was a complete stranger, and even if I befriended him, I was leaving shortly anyway. “I’m here on vacation. I wanted to see something different, something new. But if you ask my friend Vicki, she might tell you that I am running away.”

He chuckled. “Well, this isn’t the place to run away to, maybe run from. If I was trying to escape, I would be in Paris or London.”

“Or Amsterdam?” I joked to see his reaction.

“Perhaps Amsterdam, but it’s overrated. It’s not inspiring like Paris or as historical as Rome.”

“Paris can have its glamour, and Rome can burn down. I’ve been there, done that. I wanted to explore more off the beaten path. You see, I’ve traveled the world quite a bit for business. This vacation is just for me.” I paused briefly before continuing. “So, what would you suggest a first-time visitor see?”

“Depends on what you are searching for,” Val stated, his eyes questioning me.

“History, culture, adventure, and doing things a typical Finn may do. I’m here on my will and my fancy. I can do as much or as little as I desire.”

Val paused, his finger circling the rim of his cup. I noticed two silver rings on his left hand. I wondered if he was married. I watched him, and as his eyes met mine, my heart pounded through my chest. I desired him, and since the breakup, Val had been the first man to make me feel this way.

“If it’s history and culture you want, there are plenty of tourist attractions here in Helsinki: churches, museums, the market square. But why do I have a feeling you know this already?” His eyes twinkled.

“Because I do,” I said matter-of-factly. “I’d prefer to be immersed in the daily life, get a real feel of life as it is here.”

“And where do I fit in?” Val asked, the attraction apparently mutual.

“I didn’t know I’d invited you along,” I teased. The sexual tension was mounting. My clit tingled with anticipation.

“But you did. You watched me when you first came in. So I took your invitation and introduced myself.”

His hand extended to mine and danced lightly over my skin. His fingers were long, shapely, and well-manicured. I quickly envisioned how those fingers would feel against my flesh, plunging into my body.

“Would you have dinner with me this evening?” Val asked.

I wanted to say yes, but I had a video conference tonight with Victoria. “I’m sorry. I have plans for this evening.”

Val got up from the table. “Well, if you change your mind”—he extended his hand and placed his card on the table—“here is my number. I will look forward to your call.” He smiled and, with a cute salute, left.

Chapter 2

I sat cross-legged on the bed with my laptop open in front of me. The conference began, and I couldn’t wait for it to end. My mind was in other places, consumed with other ideas.

“Do me a favor, Vicki,” I interrupted. “I need you to run a background check. Name: Valo Ruska. V-A-L-O-R-U-S-K-A.”

“Networking already?”

“You could say that, but it’s personal rather than business. His card states he is an artist, and I wondered if he was known.” I analyzed the business card in front of me.
Valo Ruska, Metal Sculptor
.

I flipped the card between my fingers. Maybe a change of pace was what I needed. An artist would be the complete opposite of Jude, who was one of the top entertainment agents in America. Between socializing, networking, and schmoozing, we spent more time working than dating. Perhaps Val would be more attentive and relaxed.

“I’ll see what I can find. Speaking of networking, word travels fast. You were spotted. I don’t have the source yet, but the president heard you were in town.” Vicki began flipping through the paperwork in front of her.

“Please don’t tell me this is work related.” I was afraid it would be. After all,
Luxe
was the company to go to when your event planning expectations were higher than the skyscrapers of Manhattan. My success in the industry made it impossible to travel unnoticed.

“I’m not sure. The president’s secretary called regarding the presidential ball, which celebrates Finland’s Independence Day on December 6th. This is a gala event with the guest list nearing two thousand people, and it is broadcast on national television. She would like you to attend, if you’re still visiting in December.”

I sighed. I had a hunch my mere acceptance of such an offer would turn into additional work, a phone call here, a recommendation there, a consultation disguised as afternoon tea. “Send my regards. I would be delighted to attend if I am visiting at the time. Now fill me in on the day’s events.”

BOOK: The Sanctuary
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