authors: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

chapter 1 - Ever After (Heart of Stone #3.5) by K.M. Scott

Chapter One

Nina

A crashing noise in the kitchen woke me from the nap I’d slipped into, and I sat bolt upright in bed, disoriented and my heart pounding hard against my chest. Looking around, I tried to determine what time it was. The sun was still up, so I couldn’t have slept very long. Or had I slept all night and it was already morning of the next day? I had no memory of Tristan coming to bed, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t have slept all night. With his work at Stone Worldwide intensifying since our return from our honeymoon, he was often up before the crack of dawn after coming to bed after midnight.

My thoughts racing, I shook the sleep from my mind and swung my legs off the bed. Standing up, my legs buckled and everything around me swirled into a blur. Before I knew it, I was on the floor in a groggy heap. This was either the worst wake up ever, or I was having some incredibly realistic nightmare complete with throbbing pain in my right elbow that brought tears to my eyes. Either way, I needed to get up to see what or who was going on in my kitchen.

I lifted myself up to a sitting position to see Tristan standing in the doorway with a look of horror on his face.

“What happened?” he asked as he stepped into the room to kneel down next to me. “Did you trip?”

Shaking my head, I reached over to rub my aching arm. “No. I heard a noise that woke me up and when I went to see what happened, my legs gave out and I landed right on my elbow. Ouch.”

Tristan knitted his brows and frowned. “This is the second time this week you’ve had an accident. We need to get you to the doctor, Nina.”

I held onto his forearm as he lifted me up onto my feet, feeling foolish that I’d been so clumsy twice in one week. Smoothing my white cotton skirt down over my thighs, I looked up into Tristan’s still worried eyes and smiled, hoping to ease his mind. “There’s nothing wrong, honey. I just got up too quickly before I was fully awake. No big deal.”

“Are you sure?”

To be honest, I wasn’t sure. I’d felt run down for weeks. I hadn’t napped this much since I was a child, and even with sneaking extra sleep time, I still felt tired all the time. Instead of worrying Tristan, I’d told Jordan, who had tried to be helpful by suggesting I check out some medical site online. Boy, was that a mistake. Within the first hour, I’d convinced myself I had any number of diseases, including malaria, some variant of the Black Plague, and Lyme disease. Even worse, I’d stumbled onto a page dedicated to leukemia and one of the first symptoms listed was unexplained fatigue.

Nothing like having your heart stop cold for a moment as the possibility that you’re dying from the same disease your mother succumbed to weaves its way into your brain. I was so stressed out after reading that I couldn’t get to sleep all night. I told myself over and over that I was being foolish, and Jordan had scolded me about taking what I read online with a grain of salt. Since then, I’d tried to put it out of my mind, but every day I felt exhausted, and that tiny niggle of worry sitting in the back of my brain had mushroomed into full blown fear.

I knew it was wrong to keep all of this from Tristan. He was my husband, and I didn’t doubt for a second that he’d want to do whatever it took to take care of me. I just couldn’t face the reality that after finally finding complete and utter happiness with the man of my dreams it would all be taken away, just like it had been for my mother.

Standing on my toes, I placed a tiny kiss on the tip of Tristan’s nose and gave him my sweetest smile. “I’m fine. No need to worry. So what did you do in the kitchen to make all that noise?”

Tristan raised his eyebrows in fake surprise. “What makes you think I did anything?”

I folded my arms and shook my head. “I doubt it was Maria making all that racket. Unless you hired someone else without telling me—which would be really uncool since that would probably scare the hell out of me when I ran into them and thought the house was being robbed—there’s no one else here but us. Since I was busy examining the inside of my eyelids, that leaves you to blame for whatever happened. So fess up.”

“It was nothing. I was just checking the pantry to make sure we had Jiffy Pop. I thought a nice night in watching movies would be just what we need since I’ve been working day and night since we got back from our honeymoon. By the way, we’re out of Jiffy Pop, but there’s more than enough pie filling and tomato soup.”

“Nothing like an avalanche of canned goods coming down on top of you,” I said with a laugh.

Tristan winced and rubbed the top of his head. “I’m just happy the Jiffy Pop wasn’t next to the huge container of olive oil. I might have knocked myself out.”

I laughed out loud. “I can only imagine me finding you lying on the floor of the pantry covered in oil. Definitely not your usual look.”

“So what do you say to me picking up a pizza and some popcorn and the two of us making a night of it? I might even agree to some chick flick.”

“Bridget Jones?”

A look of pain crossed his face, but he quickly tried to hide it with a sexy grin. “It’s a deal but only if I get at least one superhero movie. Maybe two since that Bridget Jones stuff really puts me in danger in losing my man card. This might even require a Clint Eastwood.”

“Clint Eastwood? That seems a bit much, doesn’t it?” I joked, secretly fine with a Dirty Harry flick but not wanting Tristan to find out. If he did, our movie nights would turn into one long cop and bad guy fest. “I’ll agree to Clint if we watch Bridget first. Deal?”

“Deal. I’ll be stopping by the liquor store while I’m out. Bridget and I require more of the good stuff. Want me to pick you up the makings of your chocolate cake martini?”

“Sure. I haven’t had a martini since we got back, so I think one would be good tonight. But we need some birch beer for the pizza, so don’t forget to grab that at Tony’s.”

Tristan kissed me gently and pulled me close. “Got it.” He was quiet for a long moment, and then he finally said, “By the way, did I tell you how much I love you today?”

I slid my hands around him and grabbed his ass. “I think our time in the shower this morning included something about that, but I never get tired of hearing it.”

He leaned away from me and cradling my face, tilted my head back. Looking down at me with those gorgeous brown eyes, he licked his lips and a sly grin slid across his mouth. “I enjoyed that. Maybe we should make that a daily event. And by the way, I love you even more today, Mrs. Stone.”

I felt myself begin to get weak again, so quickly I said, “Me too, Mr. Stone. All this talk about food has gotten me hungry, so let’s get that pizza and get this movie party started.”

He kissed me and my stomach did that flipping thing it always did when his lips touched mine. Even now, as we stood there as a married couple used to each other, he had that effect on me. At least I hoped it was that and not some horrible disease slowly sapping the life from me.

Pulling away, he whispered next to my ear, “Your wish is my command, my lady. I’ll be back in a few. Feel free to begin Bridget Jones before I get back.”

I looked up and saw his smile telling me how much he really didn’t want to sit through one of my chick flicks. That he would and be so cute about it meant a lot to me. “And miss a moment of our movie time together? No way.”

* * *

Tristan’s heavy breathing behind me signaled he was fast asleep, so I pressed Stop on the remote and curled up against his chest. A light sleeper, most nights he really only dozed, but these days he barely did that. Wrapping his arms around me, he squeezed me tightly to him and murmured, “Did I miss Bridget?”

I hugged him and laughed at his joke. “Yes, and that’s not fair if you’re going to wake up just in time for your movies.”

“It’s in my DNA. As soon as the Man of Steel is even mentioned, men naturally wake up. Who am I to fight nature?”

His voice grew less sleepy with every word, and I looked up to see him wide awake. “I’m calling shenanigans on this, Mr. Stone. I should put Bridget in again.”

Kissing me on the forehead, he whispered, “Bridge is tired. You know how much that girl drinks. Let her sleep it off. We’ve got better things to do than hang out with her.”

- K.M. Scott free online

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