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.

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.

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'.

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.

Claire Dederer

Claire Dederer is the author of the New York Times-bestselling memoir Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses which Elizabeth Gilbert called 'the book we all need'. A book critic, essayist, and reporter, Dederer is a long-time contributor to The New York Times, and has also written for The Atlantic, Vogue, Slate, The Nation, and New York magazine, among others. She lives on an island near Seattle with her family.

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.

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.

Gene Stone

Gene Stone is the author or co-author of over thirty books, including The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick and the No.1 New York Times bestseller Forks Over Knives.

Ivor Peters

Ivor Peters has spent the past two decades working in the media industry, publishing, PR, advertising, latterly as the Creative Director for a film/video production company. However, his zealous 5-9 career is spent running his pop up restaurant, Cash 'n' Curry, raising funds for projects helping India's street children, and populating his blog www.urbanrajah.com with recipes and stories about food, travel, life and style finds.

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.

Jayne Sterne

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

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.

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.

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.

Kate Humble

KATE HUMBLE is a writer and presenter. Her most recent television credits include Volcano Live, Orbit: Earth's Extraordinary Journey, Lambing Live and the long running popular wildlife series Springwatch and Autumnwatch. She is a qualified commercial diver and is the second woman to be appointed President of the RSPB. Kate and Ludo launched their business Humble By Nature in 2012. Based on a working farm in Monmouthshire, they run courses in food, rural skills and animal husbandry. They live nearby on their smallholding with Badger and Bella, a hive of bees and various other hoofed, furred and feathered livestock.

Lizzie Mcglynn

Elizabeth lives with her family in the Home Counties