Related to: 'Egg and Soldiers'

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."

Alison Pick

Alison Pick is the author of FAR TO GO, longlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize, and winner of the Canadian Jewish Book Award for fiction; and a memoir, BETWEEN GODS, which was shortlisted for the Wingate Prize. She is also the author of two collections of poetry, and a novel, THE SWEET EDGE, all of which were published to wide acclaim. She lives in Toronto, Canada.

Andrew O'Neill

Andrew O'Neill is an award-winning comedian and heavy metal guitarist.His comedy show Andrew O'Neill's History Of Heavy Metal has received universally glowing reviews in the heavy metal press, as well as rave comedy reviews.He has appeared on television in Saxondale, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and 50 Years Of Rock Excess and his own award-winning BBC Radio 4 stand-up show Pharmacist Baffler. He has written for The New Statesman, Terrorizer and Time Out. His neck is so thick from headbanging that standard shirt sizes do not fit him.

Betty Herbert

Betty Herbert lives by the sea with her husband and much-adored cat, Bob. In real life, she's been a PA, a marketing consultant, a teacher, a writing tutor, a cultural producer and a director of a literary festival that never quite happened. She likes sea-swimming, cocktails, Stevie Wonder, swallows and holidaying in Devon.

Billy Connolly

Billy Connolly is a Scottish comedian, musician, presenter and actor.

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.

Catherine Paton Black

Catherine Paton was born in Hamilton, Lanarkshire in 1946, and married Doug Black when she was nineteen. Doug became a coal miner in 1974, working at Bevercotes pit for the next decade. After becoming a mum to five children, Catherine joined Bevercotes colliery herself, working in the canteen. During the great strike in 1984, Catherine was one of the few female official picketers when she joined her husband in the fight to stop the pit closing under the Tories.

Charlotte Ward

Charlotte Ward is an ex-features writer for Heat magazine and current columnist for the 'Your Life' section in the Daily Mirror. She lives in London, with 'the Beau'.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Clinton was brought up in Chicago and educated at Wellesley College and Yale after which she practised as a lawyer and was a children's rights activist. She married Bill Clinton in 1975 and became America's First Lady when he was elected President in 1993. She was elected Senator for New York in 2000 and from 2009 to 2013 served as President Obama's Secretary of State.

James Delingpole

James Delingpole was born in the Midlands, lives in London and rants on rock, politics, TV, books, food and culture for newspapers and magazines including the Spectator, the Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Mail. His main ambitions are to abolish windfarms, somehow find enough money to educate his children privately, bring about world peace, and go back in time and win a DSO commanding a battalion on D-Day.

James Mcconnel

James McConnel studied at the Royal College of Music and later with Stephen Sondheim at Oxford. An award-winning composer, he has written extensively for the theatre - collaborating with Lionel Bart, Barry Humphries and Kit Hesketh-Harvey among others - as well as the scores for over a hundred TV documentaries, dramas and the feature film ANOTHER LIFE. In 2004 he wrote and presented the Channel 4 documentary WHAT MADE MOZART TIC? based on James's belief that Mozart had Tourette's Syndrome. He lives in Norfolk.

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.

Jim Smallman

Jim Smallman is a writer and award-winning stand-up comedian. Performing comedy around the world since 2005, he has established a loyal following amongst those who enjoy hearing his brand of silly storytelling and improvised idiocy.He has been published in The Guardian, The Mirror, FSM, The Leicester Mercury, Skin Deep and The Huffington Post.He is the co-owner of PROGRESS Wrestling in London, now one of the most successful independent wrestling promotions in the world.

Joan Woodcock

Joan Woodcock was born and brought up in Blackburn, Lancashire, to hard-pressed working class parents. Hospitalisation at the young age of four inspired her to become a nurse, and at 16 she started as a cadet nurse, before beginning formal nurse training two years later under the traditional matron system. Despite the strict discipline and harsh training regime, Joan qualified as a State Registered Nurse in 1971. Her career spanned 41 years, and included positions in hospital casualty departments, GP practices, the prison service, Marie Curie cancer care homes and in the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Centre for Lancashire Police - as well as a brief moment of fame on national TV. Joan took early retirement in 2008 to spend more time with her family and her beloved pet spaniel Gino.

Juliana Foster

Juliana Foster is a former publisher and the author of the bestselling The Girls' Book: How to be the Best at Everything. She lives with her husband in Kent.

Kevin Joslin

Kevin Joslin was born in 1958, so is really old enough to know better. He runs the TOGs website, www.togs.org, an online home for the bewildered followers of Terry Wogan's BBC Radio 2 shows, and has written a good deal of nonsense for those shows under a variety of assumed names.

Maggie O'Farrell

Maggie O'Farrell is the author of seven novels, AFTER YOU'D GONE, MY LOVER'S LOVER, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US, which won a Somerset Maugham Award, THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX, THE HAND THAT FIRST HELD MINE, which won the 2010 Costa Novel Award, INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEATWAVE, which was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Novel Award, and THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, which was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award. She lives in Edinburgh.

Martin Berry

Martin Berry is a freelance illustrator and artist working in a range of media from oils and watercolours to digital. He receives commissions from a variety of clients for subjects including architecture, portraiture, illustrated maps, caricatures and cartoons. Examples of his work can be seen at martinberryart.co.uk. Martin lives in Leicestershire.

Matt Coyne

MATT COYNE is a 42-year-old graphic designer from Sheffield. In September 2015, Matt's life was turned upside-down by the arrival of his first child, Charlie. After three months of fatherhood, he logged on to Facebook and wrote about his experience of having to live with 'a furious, sleep-murdering, unstable and incontinent, breasts-obsessed midget lodger'. Within days, his post about surviving the first few months of parenthood became a viral sensation and was shared all over the world. He continues to impart his parental triumphs and disasters on his blog, Man vs Baby.Facebook: /manversusbabyTwitter: @mattcoyneywww.man-vs-baby.co.uk

Matt Simon

Matt Simon is a journalist who writes Wired Science's 'Absurd Creature of the Week' column. He has also edited Wired's 'This Day in Tech blog', which was compiled into the book Mad Science, and writes a second column called 'Fantastically Wrong' that explores the strangest mistakes in folklore and science. He lives in San Francisco.

Neil Ansell

Neil Ansell was an award winning television journalist with the BBC and a long standing writer for the broadsheets. He is the author of two previous books, Deep Country and Deer Island, and has contributed to nature programmes and wildlife documentaries though his main focus was news and current affairs. He has two daughters and lives in Brighton.