Related to: 'Blood Orange'

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."

Alexandra Ivy

Alexandra Ivy is a New York Times bestselling author of romantic suspense, paranormal and erotic romance. She has also written Regency historicals under the name Deborah Raleigh. A five-time Romantic Times Book Award Finalist, Ivy has received much acclaim for her Guardians of Eternity, ARES Security, Immortal Rogues and Sentinels series. She lives with her family in Missouri and can be found online at AlexandraIvy.com.Connect with her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/alexandraivyfanpage and on Twitter @AlexandraIvy

Amanda Reynolds

Amanda Reynolds lives in the Cotswolds with her family where she writes full-time. Her debut novel, Close To Me, is a #1 e-book bestseller. Lying To You is her second book.

Barbara Nadel

Trained as an actress, Barbara Nadel used to work in mental health services. Born in the East End of London, she now writes full time and has been a visitor to Turkey for over twenty years. She received the Crime Writers' Association Silver Dagger for her novel DEADLY WEB, and the Swedish Flintax Prize for historical crime fiction for her first Francis Hancock novel, LAST RIGHTS.To find out more, follow Barbara on Twitter @BarbaraNadel or visit her website www.barbara-nadel.com

C. L. Pattison

C. L. Pattison spent twenty years as an entertainment journalist, before embarking on a frontline career in the police force. She lives on the south coast of England.

Chloe Benjamin

Chloe Benjamin is the author of The Anatomy of Dreams, which won the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award and was longlisted for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. She lives with her husband in Wisconsin.

Chris Hammer

Chris Hammer has been a journalist for over twenty-five years. He has been an international correspondent for SBS TV's flagship current affairs program Dateline, the chief political correspondent for The Bulletin and a senior political journalist for The Age. His non-fiction book, The River, published by Melbourne University Publishing in 2010 to critical acclaim, was the recipient of the ACT Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Walkley Book Award and the Manning Clark House National Cultural Award.

Dorothy Koomson

Dorothy Koomson is the award-winning author of 14 novels including the Sunday Times bestsellers My Best Friend's Girl, The Ice Cream Girls and Goodnight, Beautiful. Dorothy's novels have been translated into over 30 languages, and a TV adaptation based on The Ice Cream Girls was shown on ITV1 in 2013. After briefly living in Australia, Dorothy now lives in Brighton. The Brighton Mermaid is her most recent novel.

G X Todd

G X Todd lives and works in the West Midlands. After completing a history degree at the University of Birmingham, she worked for public libraries for fifteen years, where she drove a 35-foot-long library van around the Black Country. She now spends her days living the dream: writing books while in her PJs.

James Oswald

James Oswald is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Inspector McLean series of detective mysteries, as well as the new DC Constance Fairchild series. James's first two books, NATURAL CAUSES and THE BOOK OF SOULS, were both short-listed for the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award. AS COLD AS THE GRAVE is the ninth book in the Inspector Mclean Series.James farms Highland cows and Romney sheep by day, writes disturbing fiction by night.

James Patterson

James Patterson is one of the best-known and biggest-selling writers of all time. Since winning the EdgarT Award for Best First Novel with The Thomas Berryman Number, his books have sold in excess of 300 million copies worldwide and he has been the most borrowed author in UK libraries for the past eight years in a row. He is the author of some of the most popular series of the past two decades - the Alex Cross, Women's Murder Club, Detective Michael Bennett and Private novels - and he has written many other number one bestsellers including romance novels and stand-alone thrillers. He lives in Florida with his wife and son. James is passionate about encouraging children to read. Inspired by his own son who was a reluctant reader, he also writes a range of books specifically for young readers. James is a founding partner of Booktrust's Children's Reading Fund in the UK.

Jannine Gallant

Write what you know. Jannine Gallant has taken this advice to heart, creating characters from small towns and plots that unfold in the great outdoors. She grew up in a tiny Northern California town and currently lives in beautiful Lake Tahoe with her husband and two daughters. When she isn't busy writing or being a full time mom, Jannine hikes or snowshoes in the woods around her home. Whether she's writing contemporary, historical or romantic suspense, Jannine brings the beauty of nature to her stories.To find out more about Jannine and her books, visit her website at www.janninegallant.com, find her on Facebook www.facebook.com/JannineGallant.Author and follow her on Twitter @JannineGallant.

Jo Davis

Bestselling author Jo Davis is the author of the popular Firefighters of Station Five series, written as Jo Davis, and the dark, sexy paranormal series Alpha Pack, written as J. D. Tyler. Primal Law, the first book in her Alpha Pack series, is the winner of the National Reader's Choice Award in Paranormal. She has also been a multiple finalist in the Colarado Romance Writers Award of Excellence and a finalist for the Bookseller's Best Award, has captured the HOLT Medallion Award of Merit, and has been a two-time nominee for the Australian Romance Readers Award in romantic suspense. She's had one book optioned for a major motion picture.Visit her website at www.jodavis.net, follow her on Twitter at @JoDavisAuthor and find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Jo-Davis-109547185743800/.

Jodi Taylor

Jodi Taylor is the author of the bestselling Chronicles of St Mary's series, the story of a bunch of disaster-prone historians who investigate major historical events in contemporary time. Do NOT call it time travel!Born in Bristol and educated in Gloucester (facts both cities vigorously deny), she spent many years with her head somewhere else, much to the dismay of family, teachers and employers, before finally deciding to put all that daydreaming to good use and pick up a pen. She still has no idea what she wants to do when she grows up.

Karen Hamilton

Karen Hamilton spent her childhood in Angola, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy and worked as a flight attendant for many years. Karen is a recent graduate of the Faber Academy and, having now put down roots in Hampshire to raise her young family with her husband, she satisfies her wanderlust by exploring the world through her writing. THE PERFECT GIRLFRIEND is her first novel.

Laura Griffin

Laura Griffin is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books. She is a two-time RITA Award winner as well as the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award. Laura got her start in journalism before venturing into the world of romance fiction. She lives in Austin, Texas, where she is working on her next novel. Visit her website at www.lauragriffin.com and find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LauraGriffinAuthor and Twitter @Laura_GriffTo hear about new releases, sign up for Laura's newsletter at: http://lauragriffin.com/subscribe/

Lisa Gardner

Lisa Gardner is a New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author. Her FBI Profiler novels include SAY GOODBYE, GONE and THE KILLING HOUR. Her Detective D.D. Warren series includes THE NEIGHBOUR, which won the International Thriller Writers' Award in 2010, CATCH ME, CRASH & BURN and FIND HER. Lisa lives with her family in New England.

Martina Cole

Martina Cole is the acknowledged queen of crime drama with more than twenty novels to her name, of which over a dozen have been No.1 bestsellers.Several of Martina's novels have been adapted for the screen, including The Take and The Runaway which were shown on Sky 1 to remarkable reviews. In addition, Two Women and The Graft have been adapted for the stage; both were highly acclaimed when performed at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, which also staged Dangerous Lady in 2012, celebrating twenty years since Martina's debut novel was published.Martina Cole is a phenomenon. She continues to smash sales records with each of her books, which have sold thirteen million copies. In 2011 Martina surpassed the £50 million sales mark since records began and was the first British female novelist for adult audiences to achieve this - and she has spent more weeks in the No. 1 slot on the original fiction bestseller list than any other adult novelist. Her hard-hitting, uncompromising and haunting writing is in a genre all its own - no one writes like Martina.

Michelle Adams

Michelle Adams grew up in the UK and now lives in Cyprus, where she works as a part-time scientist. She read her first Stephen King novel at the tender age of nine, and has been addicted to suspense fiction ever since. MY SISTER is her first novel.

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.

Nick Clark Windo

Nick Clark Windo studied English Literature at Cambridge University and acting at RADA. As well as writing, he works as a film producer and communications coach. He lives in London with his wife and daughter. The Feed is his first novel.