Related to: 'The Rules of Inheritance'

December Book of the Month

Nikki and Damien continue in Take Me

I awake to an empty bed and the smell of frying bacon. I roll over to find my phone on the bedside table, then glance at the time. Not yet six. I groan and fall back among the pillows, but I don't really want to go back to sleep. What I want is Damien. I slide out of bed, then grab the tank top and yoga pants I'd left draped across a nearby armchair. I head barefoot out of the bedroom and move the short distance down the hall to the third-floor kitchen. We're standing in Damien's Malibu house, and the wall of windows that faces the ocean is wide open, the glass panels having been thrust aside to let in the breeze. The smell of the ocean mingles with the scent of breakfast and I breathe deep, realizing that I am content. Whatever demons had poked at me during the night, Damien effectively banished them. I glance toward the windows and out at the darkened Pacific. Waves glow white in the fading moonlight as they break upon the shore. There is beauty there, and part of me wants to walk to the balcony and stare out at the roiling, frothing water. But the siren call of the ocean is nothing compared to my desire to see Damien, and so I turn away from the windows and head straight to the kitchen. It is larger than the one in the condo I used to share with my best friend, Jamie, and it is not even the primary kitchen for this house. That is on the first floor, and could easily service a one-hundred-table restaurant. But this - the "small" kitchen - was installed as an adjunct to the open area that serves as a venue for entertaining, and since it is just down the hall from our bedroom, Damien and I have gotten into the habit of cooking our meals and eating in this cozier, more informal area. Usually we're joined by Lady Meow-Meow, the fluffy white cat I took custody over when Jamie moved out. I know Lady M misses Jamie, but she's also enjoying having the run of this huge house, and Gregory - the valet, butler, and all around house-running guy - spoils her rotten. Now I lean against the half wall that marks the break from hallway to kitchen. Damien is standing at the stove cooking an omelette as if he were nothing more than an ordinary guy. Except there is nothing ordinary about Damien Stark. He is grace and power, beauty and heat. He is exceptional, and he has captured me completely. At the moment, he is shirtless, and I cannot help the way my breath stutters as my eyes skim over the defined muscles of his back and his taut, strong arms. Damien's first fortune came not form business, but from his original career as a champion tennis player. Even now, years later, he has both the look and the power of an elite athlete. I let my gaze drift down appreciatively. He is wearing simple gray sweatpants that sit low on his narrow hips and cling to the curves of his perfectly toned ass. Like me, he is barefoot. He looks young and sexy and completely delicious. Yet despite his casual appearance, I can still see the executive. The powerful businessman who harnessed the world, who shifted it to his own liking and made a fortune in the process. He is strength and control. And I am humbled by the knowledge that I am what he values most of all, and that I will spend the rest of my life at his side. "You're staring," he says, his eyes still on the stove. I grin happily, like a child. "I enjoy looking at pretty things." He turns now, and his eyes rake over me, starting at my toes. "So do I," he says when his gaze reaches my face, and there is so much heat in his voice that my legs go weak and my body quivers with want. His mouth curves into a slow, sexy smile, and I am absolutely certain in that moment that I am going to melt. "You spoiled my surprise," he says, then nods toward the breakfast table where a tray sits with a glass bud vase displaying a single, red rose. "Breakfast in bed."

Alexander Waugh

Alexander Waugh is the grandson of Evelyn Waugh and son of columnist Auberon Waugh and novelist Teresa Waugh. The former chief Opera Critic at both the Mail on Sunday and the London Evening Standard, he is also a publisher (Travelman Publishing), cartoonist and award-winning composer.

Carol Vorderman

Born in 1960, Carol grew up in North Wales with her sister, brother and her beloved mum, Jean. She went to the University of Cambridge at just seventeen. Since childhood, Carol has had a passion for everything mathematical and her skill with numbers secured her a role on Countdown in 1982, the show that cemented her position as one of the most successful and popular female presenters in British TV history. Awarded an MBE in 2000, she has now turned her attention to maths education. Carol lives in Bristol with her children.

Caspar Walsh

Caspar Walsh is a regular writer for BBC Radio 4, with broadcasts including the sixties gangster story Vincent Vice's Rainbow. The Prison Father, a critically acclaimed feature length docudrama, and the young offender docudrama, Inside Out, were based on his prison life experience. As a workshop facilitator in and out of prisons, he helps fathers and their families to rehabilitate by using his own experiences as an inspiration.

Charlotte Madison

Captain Charlotte Madison was the first female Apache pilot in the Army Air Corps and is still one of only two. She is the blonde and beautiful 27-year-old veteran of two tours of Afghanistan, and the only pilot ever to have gone 'Winchester' - to have used every single piece of ammunition in the Apache's awesome armoury - in a single sortie.

Claire Bidwell Smith

Claire Bidwell Smith lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. She is an experienced therapist specializing in grief. Claire has written for many publications including Time Out New York, Yoga Journal, BlackBook Magazine, The Huffington Post and Chicago Public Radio.Claire has a bachelor's degree from The New School University in Manhattan and a master's degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University in Los Angeles. She has worked for numerous publications and also for nonprofits like Dave Eggers' literacy center 826LA. She most recently worked as a bereavement counselor for a hospice in Chicago.

Colin Shindler

Colin Shindler is a leading TV writer and producer. He was responsible for the series Lovejoyand Madson, as well as the film Busterand won a BAFTA for his production of A Little Princess. His first book, MANCHESTER UNITED RUINED MY LIFE, was a big bestseller and was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year prize; and his second, FATHERS, SONS AND FOOTBALL, also hit the bestseller list. He is the author of two novels.

Colin Ward

Colin Ward was born in Walthamstow, east London. After graduating from Smithfield College he ran a successful meat marketing business. He is a committed Arsenal supporter and has written a number of bestselling football books, including STEAMING IN, which was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

Cynthia Owen

Cynthia Owen is happily married and lives in the UK. Living with Evil is her first book.

Dr David Dosa

Dr David Dosa is a practicing geriatrician in Providence, Rhode Island. He is also an assistant professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He is the author of an essay on Oscar the Cat that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine during July 2007 sparking international media attention. Dr Dosa lives in Rhode Island with his wife and two children.

Edna Healey

Edna Healey read English at Oxford and has lectured widely on literature and history. Her book LADY UNKNOWN, a biography of Angela Burdett-Coutts, received the Yorkshire Post Literary Award. She is married to former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer Denis Healey.

Gary Sutherland

Gary Sutherland is a journalist who has written for, among others, the BBC, Scotland on Sunday and the Sunday Times. He is married with a son and a daughter.

Geraint Anderson

Before sacrificing his soul to dark forces in the Square Mile, Cityboy was a genuine left-wing hippy and political activist, complete with ponytail and hoop earrings. His dream of becoming a global traveller was cruelly dashed when his brother got him an interview at a French bank in the City, which would set him on the rocky road to destruction and despair.

Graham Lord

Graham Lord was literary editor and weekly books columnist of the Sunday Express for many years, during which time he interviewed almost every major novelist and bestseller, from P.G. Wodehouse to Ruth Rendell. He is an author of both non-fiction and fiction.

Hunter Davies

Hunter Davies was born in Renfrew, Scotland, in January 1936. He has written more than 40 books - including biographies of the Beatles, Gazza and John Prescott - and, as a journalist, he contributes to the Sunday Times and writes a weekly football column in the New Statesman. He is an avid collector of football memorabilia and has amassed an impressive collection over the years. He lives with his wife in the Lake District and in London.

James Newton, Dfc

Lieutenant Commander James Newton DFC has flown in the Royal Navy since 1991. He flies all types of aircraft, including the Sea King helicopter, which he flew for the Maritime Counter Terrorist missions. He has flown Tony Blair, John Major and all the current military commanders. He flew the Lynx in the disaster relief following Hurricane Mitch and was involved in the handover in Hong Kong. He is still a serving Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy and is now responsible for Standards and Practices within the Fleet Air Arm.

Jason Padgett

Jason Padgett had struggled as a student and has spent his professional life working at his father's shop, Planet Futon. Following a mugging outside a bar in 2002 he became agoraphobic and during that time at home he developed an unprecedented passion for learning. A chance encounter in a mall with a university physicist encouraged him to return to college where his genius is discovered, particularly his unique ability to hand draw mathematical fractals. He has Acquired Savant Syndrome and synesthesia and is believed to be unique.

Jayne Sterne

Jayne Sterne lives in London with her husband and 4 children. Destroyed is her first book.

Jerry Coyne

Jerry Coyne is forty-six and lives in Nottingham, where he works as a bricklayer. His greatest hope is that, one day, he'll be able to leave the memories of his childhood behind him.

Jo Brand

Jo Brand is a stand-up comic with many TV and radio shows to her name. She is married with two children and lives in south London.

Joan Jonker

Joan Jonker was born and bred in Liverpool. She led a rich and varied life and was devoted to her family. Before writing novels, she worked tirelessly for the charity-run organisation Victims of Violence which she founded in 1976. Sadly, Joan died in 2006, but she is remembered fondly by her family and friends and her multitude of fans.