Related to: 'The Broken Girls'

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."

A.K. Shevchenko

A.K. Shevchenko is the author of BEQUEST and two bestselling cultural guides to Russia and Ukraine. She was awarded a residential fellowship by the Hosking Houses Trust in 2010 to write THE GAME.

Adam Hamdy

Adam Hamdy is an author and screenwriter who works with producers and studios on both sides of the Atlantic. Prior to becoming a writer, Adam was a strategy consultant and advised global businesses operating in a wide range of industries. Adam lives in Shropshire with his wife and three children.Follow Adam on Twitter @adamhamdy

Alex Dryden

Alex Dryden is a pseudonym. He worked for many years in intelligence specialising in Russian matters and is now a writer and journalist. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Dryden watched the statues of Lenin fall across the former Soviet Union. Since then he has charted the false dawn of democracy in Russia as the country morphed into the world's most powerful secret state.

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

Christopher Radmann

Christopher Radmann is from South Africa, but has lived in the UK for the last twelve years. He is currently Head of Sixth Form and Head of English at a boarding school in Hampshire, England, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Claire McGowan

Claire McGowan grew up in a small village in Northern Ireland and now lives in London, where she runs an MA in creative writing at City University. THE KILLING HOUSE is Claire's seventh crime novel, and the sixth in the highly-acclaimed Paula Maguire series. She also writes women's fiction as Eva Woods.

Debra Webb

Debra Webb, born in Alabama, wrote her first story at age nine and her first romance at thirteen. It wasn't until she spent three years working for the military behind the Iron Curtain - and a five-year stint with NASA - that she realised her true calling. A collision course between suspense and romance was set. Since then she has penned more than 100 novels. Visit her website at www.debrawebb.com, follow her on Twitter @DebraWebbAuthor and find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Debra-Webb-USA-Today-Bestselling-Author-Fan-Club-693790780634694.

Emily Barr

Emily Barr is the well-loved and bestselling author of Backpack, the original backpacking novel, and many other highly acclaimed novels. A former journalist, she has travelled around the world and written columns and travel pieces for the Observer and the Guardian. After living in France, Emily and her husband (whom she met backpacking) have settled in Cornwall with their three children. You can learn more about Emily and her novels by visiting her website www.emilybarr.com.

Emily Gunnis

Emily Gunnis previously worked in TV drama and lives in Brighton with her young family. She is one of the four daughters of Sunday Times bestselling author Penny Vincenzi.

Frank Barnard

Frank Barnard trained as a journalist before moving into public relations. He worked as managing director for major international consultancies before quitting at fifty to write full time and race cars. He is married with two children and four grandchildren with whom he enjoys sailing and sea-fishing near his home in Rye, Sussex.

Gj Moffat

GJ Moffat has been fascinated by courtroom melodramas starring the good and the bad guys since he was a boy. Although he became a lawyer, he always had the urge to write and bring good guys and bad guys to life in glorious Technicolor. He is married with two little angel girls and is struggling to learn the electric guitar (hitting more bum notes than good ones).

Imogen Robertson

Imogen Robertson grew up in Darlington, studied Russian and German at Cambridge, and now lives in London. She directed for TV, film and radio before becoming a full-time author, and also writes and reviews poetry. Imogen won the Telegraph's 'First thousand words of a novel competition' in 2007 with the opening of Instruments of Darkness, her first novel.Want to know more? Visit www.imogenrobertson.com.

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.

Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell is the author of over twenty Sunday Times bestsellers including THIS COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING, MEET ME AT BEACHCOMBER BAY, YOU AND ME, ALWAYS and THREE AMAZING THINGS ABOUT YOU. TAKE A CHANCE ON ME won the Romantic Novelists' Association's Romantic Comedy Prize, and in 2015 the RNA presented Jill with an outstanding achievement award. She lives in Bristol with her family.Jill keeps in touch with her readers on Twitter - @JillMansell - and Facebook - /OfficialJillMansell.

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.

Karen Rose

Karen Rose was introduced to suspense and horror at the tender age of eight when she accidentally read Poe's The Pit and The Pendulum and was afraid to go to sleep for years. She now enjoys writing books that make other people afraid to go to sleep. Karen lives in Florida with her family, their cat, Bella, and two dogs, Loki and Freya. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, and her new hobby - knitting.

Kathryn Hughes

Kathryn Hughes was born in Altrincham, near Manchester. After completing a secretarial course, Kathryn met her husband and they married in Canada. For twenty-nine years they ran a business together, raised two children and travelled when they could to places such as India, Singapore, South Africa and New Zealand. Kathryn and her family now make their home in a village near Manchester. The Letter, Kathryn's first novel, was a digital #1 and international bestseller, and her second novel The Secret has been highly acclaimed. The Key is Kathryn Hughes' third 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/

Marcia Willett

Marcia Willett was born in Somerset, the youngest of five girls. After training to become a ballet dancer, she joined her sister's Dance Academy as ballet mistress. She then became a naval wife and her son was born in 1970. She now lives in Devon with her husband, Rodney, who first encouraged Marcia to write, and their Newfoundland, Trubshawe.

Matt Lynn

Matt Lynn is a thriller writer and financial commentator. He has written regularly for Bloomberg and The Sunday Times. His action-adventure Death Force thrillers feature a group of mercenaries fighting around the world. He is the author of Bust: Greece, The Euro and The Sovereign Debt Crisis.