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.

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.

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 Hannigan

Emma Hannigan is the No. 1 bestselling author of eleven novels including The Wedding Promise, The Perfect Gift, and The Summer Guest. Her bestselling memoir, Talk to the Headscarf, has now been updated and revised as All To Live For. Emma lives in Co. Wicklow, Ireland, with her husband, two children, two cats and their Labradoodle Herbie.For more about Emma, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @MsEmmaHannigan.

Jayne Sterne

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

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.

Kevin Joslin

Kevin Joslin was born in 1958, so is really old enough to know better. He runs the TOGs website,, 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.

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.

Lizzie Mcglynn

Elizabeth lives with her family in the Home Counties

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.

Marcus Butler

Marcus Butler is one of the world's biggest YouTubers, and is still growing enormously quickly. Marcus's observations on the world are very popular and his love of film-making shines through in every video he||| | Marcus Butler App

Maria Anderson

Maria Anderson has been a NHS midwife for over 20 years. She has worked across the UK and is now based in Inverness with her husband and two children.

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 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:

Matt Dawson

Matt Dawson won 77 caps and scored 101 points for England, and won 7 caps and scored 10 points for the British and Irish Lions, in a distinguished 15-year playing career, the pinnacle of which was winning the World Cup in 2003. At club level, he excelled at scrum-half for 13 years with Northampton and won the Heineken Cup in 2000, then finished his career at London Wasps where he won the Premiership in his first season.Dawson is now a much-loved broadcaster who captains a team on BBC1's long-running A Question of Sport and passionately presents and commentates on rugby on BT Sport and BBC Radio 5 Live. In 2006 he won BBC1's Celebrity Masterchef and finished second in BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing.

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.