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."

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.

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.

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.

Emma Bridgewater

Emma Bridgewater established her successful pottery business in 1985. She found a manufacturer in Stoke-on-Trent to produce a range of mugs, jugs and teapots inspired by traditional shapes and spongeware designs. She now employs over 230 people and continues to make all her ceramics in Staffordshire, the historic home of pottery manufacture in Britain. Emma is married with four children and lives outside Oxford, where she was brought up.Follow Emma on Twitter: @EmmaBridgewater www.emmabridgewater.co.uk

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.

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.

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.

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.

Lily Koppel

Lily Koppel is the bestselling author of The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal. She writes for the New York Times, and her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, the Huffington Post and Glamour.

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.

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 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, collaborated 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.

Nicola Barry

Nicola Barry is a feature writer and columnist. She has worked at the Edinburgh Evening News for five years and for The Scotsman. As a child, she spent eight years in a wheelchair and on crutches, having some twenty operations on both legs. She learned to walk again, just in time to break her neck and become addicted to alcohol, both of which she overcame. She is a recent graduate of the celebrated MPhil course in Creative Writing at Glasgow University and is currently studying for a PhD in the same field.She has won 29 press awards, mainly for social issue writing and for her columns and lives with her husband Alastair Murray and dog Coll in Edinburgh.

Phil Tufnell

Phil Tufnell, aka "Tuffers", played 42 Test matches and 20 One-Day Internationals for England between 1990 and 1997. Following retirement in 2002, Tufnell became a hugely popular TV personality. He was the winner of ITV1's "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" in 2003, and enjoyed a long run in BBC1's "Strictly Come Dancing" in 2009. Current broadcasting commitments include being team captain on BBC1's "A Question of Sport" and regular features on BBC1's "The One Show". He remains a star turn on Radio 4's iconic "Test Match Special" show.

Rachel Roddy

Rachel Roddy writes a weekly award-winning column in Guardian Cook. Rachel's first book Five Quarters won the André Simon Food Book award in 2015, as well as the Guild of Food Writers' First Book award. Rachel has lived in Testaccio, a distinctive working-class quarter of Rome, for over twelve years. She shares a small flat near the food market with her partner Vincenzo and son Luca and spends part of the year in Vincenzo's family house in Gela, south-east Sicily. racheleats.wordpress.com Follow Rachel on Twitter @racheleats Follow Rachel on Instagram @rachelaliceroddy

Ronnie Thompson

Ronnie Thompson is an ex-prison officer. He saw more corruption and violence in his years in the service than most people see in a lifetime. Ronnie lives with his partner and their two children.