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."

@Charles_HRH

By the Grace of God, Prince Charles of Wales. Future King. Currently resides in Clarence House, London, and on social media, where over 450,000 subjects worldwide continue to enjoy His Royal Highness's sarcasm and wit. The British Empire ruled one quarter of the world, so why not the Internet as well?Winner of the Golden Twits 2012, and the Shorty Awards 2013 in the Fake Celebrity categories. Husband to Camilla. Father to William and Harry. Grandpa to George.

Amanda Berry

Amanda Berry is a national bestselling author for Harlequin Special Edition books. Leaving behind a career as a public accountant, she followed her heart and began to write romantic fiction. Find out more about Amanda by visiting www.amanda-berry.com, and follow her on Twitter @amandasberry.

Amy Nickell

Amy Nickell is a journalist and whether she is oversharing in newspapers and magazines, such as the Metro, the Guardian and Grazia, or in front of the camera offering Jennifer Aniston Doritos, she's never taken a standard approach. But the real surprise came when Amy discovered she was pregnant and without a boyfriend. Despite the bad press, unplanned pregnancy and single parenthood didn't ruin her life and she's been writing and talking about it ever since including appearances on Good Morning Britain and BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour. She now lives in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire with her son Freddy who is now three and her partner, Oliver. Her favourite Spice Girl is Geri and she eats one avocado every day.

Billy Connolly

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

Brian Kimberling

Brian Kimberling was born and grew up in Indiana, where he was briefly employed as an ornithologist, a job that inspired his first book, SNAPPER. Before settling in the UK, he lived and worked in Prague, and drew on extensive experience teaching English in bars to create the character of Elliott in GOULASH. He now lives and works in Bath.

Bryony Gordon

In the 18 years that she has worked for the Telegraph, Bryony Gordon has become one of the paper's best-loved writers. She is the author of the bestselling The Wrong Knickers plus The Sunday Times Number One bestseller Mad Girl which was nominated for a British Book Award. Her weekly column in the Sunday Telegraph has won her an army of fans who have followed her journey from single girl about town to - finally! - settled mum. Bryony is now 37 and lives in Nappy Valley (Clapham) with her daughter Edie and her husband, a financial journalist. The last sentence is one she never thought she would see written down on paper.

Emma Hannigan

Emma Hannigan is the No. 1 bestselling author of twelve novels including Letters to my Daughters, The Wedding Promise and The Perfect Gift. Her bestselling memoir, Talk to the Headscarf, was updated and revised as All To Live For: Fighting Cancer. Finding Hope. and was also a top ten bestseller.

Jeannie Lin

Jeannie Lin is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning author best known for bringing Tang Dynasty China to historical romance. She also writes Opium War steampunk. Find her online at www.jeannielin.com, and connect with her on Twitter @JeannieLin, and Facebook at www.facebook.com/JeannieLinOfficialPage.

John Kv Eunson

John KV Eunson was born in Shetland and moved to the mainland to see where all that North Sea Oil went to. Graduating from Edinburgh University, where he excelled at Earth Science 1, John has worked for many years in bookselling and publishing. Having lived in Scotland for most of his life and being fairly interested in old things, John is ideally qualified to write a book on Scottish history. John KV Eunson is 42, but looks up to 18 months younger.

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.

Mandy Mcmillan

Mandy McMillan is a hairdresser from Glasgow. She lives there with her husband, Scott, and their daughter, Holly.

Matt Coyne

Matt Coyne is 44 years old and a writer from Sheffield, South Yorkshire. In September 2015, Matt's life was turned upside down by the arrival of his son 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. Following this, Matt created his popular blog Man vs. Baby, which now has over 200,000 followers, and subsequently wrote a Sunday Times-bestselling book based on his first year of parental triumphs and disasters entitled Dummy. Matt lives in Sheffield with Charlie, his partner Lyndsay and a Jack Russell terrier with 'issues' called Eddie.Facebook: /manversusbabyTwitter: @mattcoyney

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.

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is the author of over thirty acclaimed books and graphic novels for adults and children, including AMERICAN GODS, STARDUST, CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. His most recent novel for adults, THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE was highly acclaimed, appeared on the hardback and paperback Sunday Times bestseller lists and won several awards, including being voted Book of the Year in the National Book Awards 2013: 'Some books you read. Some books you enjoy. But some books just swallow you up, heart and soul' Joanne Harris. The recipient of numerous literary honours, Neil Gaiman's work has been adapted for film, television and radio. He has written scripts for Doctor Who, worked with authors and illustrators including Terry Pratchett, Dave McKean and Chris Riddell, and THE SANDMAN is established as one of the classic graphic novels. As George R R Martin says: 'There's no one quite like Neil Gaiman.'Originally from England, Neil Gaiman now lives in America.

October Jones

Joe Butcher (October Jones) was born and raised in Birmingham, England. Ironically, he spent most of his childhood terrified of dogs.Joe developed a keen interest in visual storytelling at school, and he attended the University of Wolverhampton where he came away with a shiny first class degree in animation.Joe eventually landed a job at a small media company in Derby, where to this day he designs learning software for kids. He has recently worked on animation projects for the BBC, as well as doing music videos for UK comedy band 'The Amateur Transplants'Despite being almost 30 years old, Joe has wonderful Lego Star Wars collection and no girlfriend. These two facts are not connected. He currently lives in Stourbridge with his bulldog 'Cooper'.

Omid Djalili

With a career spanning over three decades, British-born Iranian comic and actor Omid Djalili's legendary performances on stage and screen have won him plaudits the world over. Credits include the NBC sitcom 'Whoopi' with Whoopi Goldberg, 'Fagin' in West-End smash-hit 'Oliver!', 'Dr Rance' in Joe Orton's What The Butler Saw at The Vaudeville Theatre 2012 and Red in The Shawshank Redemption. His role as 'Mahmud Nasir' in the international hit 'The Infidel' won him a best actor award at the Turin film festival. Omid also starred in the blockbusting 'Sex and the City 2', 'The Mummy', 'Gladiator' and 'Mr.Nice' among many others. Further successes include two series of 'The Omid Djalili Show' for BBC One, the first to dive off a 10m board on ITV's hit show Splash! and the release of highly acclaimed DVDs No Agenda, Live in London and Tour Of Duty. Not to mention sell out live tours in 2005, 2008 and 2012.

Rex Harper

Rex Harper set up home in Cornwall in 1958 after serving in the RAF as a police dog handler. He worked in a local woollen mill and post office whilst building up his farm with his wife Julie, becoming the full-time RSPCA warden of the Perranporth centre in 1987. He was awarded the MBE for services to animal welfare in 2003.

Shawntelle Madison

Shawntelle Madison is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of speculative fiction and contemporary romance. She is a web developer who loves to weave words as well as code. Visit her website at www.shawntellemadison.com, follow her on Twitter @Shawntelle, and find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ShawntelleMadisonAuthor.

Sheena Byrom

Sheena Byrom was born and brought up in North West England and has lived and worked there all her life. Sheena's career spans 35 years - and she has recently taken early retirement to complete a PhD in normal childbirth with the University of Nottingham. She is married wit hfour children, one of whom has followed her mother's footsteps in becoming a midwife lecturer.

Stephanie Draven

Stephanie Draven is a national bestselling, award-winning, two-time RITA-nominated author of historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance whose mission is to write very smart books for very bad girls. Connect with her on Twitter @stephaniedraven, and visit her website at www.stephaniedraven.com.