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."

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

Caroline Graham

Caroline Graham, the creator of Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby, was born in Warwickshire and educated at Nuneaton High School for Girls, and later the Open University. She was awarded an MA in Theatre Studies at Birmingham University, and has written several plays for both radio and theatre. She has been dubbed by The Sunday Times as, 'Simply the best detective writer since Agatha Christie'.

Charlie Owen

Charlie Owen enjoyed a thirty-year career in the police service, serving with two forces in the Home Counties and London, reaching the rank of Inspector.

Christina Schwarz

Christina Schwarz's novels include the Oprah Book Club selection Drowning Ruth, which was an international bestseller. Born and raised in rural Wisconsin, USA, she lives in southern California.

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.

Clio Gray

Clio Gray was born in Yorkshire, brought up in Devon and now lives in Scotland where she works in her local library, as she has done for many years. She has won prizes for many of her short stories, including the prestigious 2006 Scotsman & Orange Short Story Award for 'I Should Have Listened Harder', which can be downloaded from the Scotsman website. Her first novel, GUARDIANS OF THE KEY, was the winning recipient of the Harry Bowling Prize. More information about Clio can be found on her website www.cliogray.com.

David Gibbins

David Gibbins is the author of twelve novels that have sold over three million copies in thirty languages. He has been on both the New York Times and the Sunday Times top ten bestseller lists, and he has been a Newsweek number one bestseller in Poland. As well as nine novels in his Jack Howard series of archaeological thrillers, he has written two novels set in the world of ancient Rome. David has a PhD in archaeology from Cambridge University, is a passionate diver and derives much of the inspiration for his novels from the many expeditions he has led around the world to investigate ancient shipwrecks and other archaeological sites. His awards have included a Fellowship and Medallion from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. For his latest discoveries and more about David and his novels, visit www.davidgibbins.com and www.facebook.com/DavidGibbinsAuthor.

Duncan Campbell

Duncan Campbell is a senior correspondent with the Guardian, where he has worked as the paper's crime correspondent and Los Angeles correspondent. He has written five non-fiction books including The Underworld, That Was Business, This Is Personal and Billy Connolly: The Authorised Version. He previously worked for Time Out and contributed to OZ, IT and The Rising Nepal. He is married to Oscar-winning actress Julie Christie.

Geraint Anderson

Before sacrificing his soul to dark forces in the Square Mile, Cityboy was a genuine left-wing hippy and political activist, complete with ponytail and hoop earrings. His dream of becoming a global traveller was cruelly dashed when his brother got him an interview at a French bank in the City, which would set him on the rocky road to destruction and despair.

James H Jackson

An international defence and Political Risk Consultant, James H. Jackson continues to advise a wide range of global clients on overseas trade and security matters. He is a postgraduate in military studies, with further university and professional qualifications in law, politics and as a barrister. He lectures and writes extensively on a variety of specialist subjects including low-intensity conflict and arms trade issues.

Janet Evanovich

JANET EVANOVICH is the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stephanie Plum novels including Hardcore Twenty-Four and Turbo Twenty-Three; the Knight and Moon novels including Dangerous Minds, co-written with Phoef Sutton; the Fox & O'Hare series - The Heist, The Chase, The Job, The Scam and The Pursuit - co-written with Lee Goldberg; the Lizzy and Diesel novels including most recently Wicked Charms, co-written with Phoef Sutton. She has won several major crime fiction awards including the CWA John Creasey Award, Dilys Award and Silver Dagger.Janet's website can be found at www.evanovich.com. She is on Twitter - @janetevanovich - and Facebook - /JanetEvanovich.

Jed Rubenfeld

Currently the Robert R. Slaughter Professor of Law at Yale University, Jed Rubenfeld has been described as `one of the most elegant legal writers of his generation`. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut, with his wife and two daughters. His first novel, THE INTERPRETATION OF MURDER, published in thirty-six territories, was the bestselling UK adult paperback title of 2007, and winner of the Richard and Judy Bookclub. THE DEATH INSTINCT is his second novel.

Jenny Blackhurst

Jenny Blackhurst grew up in Shropshire where she still lives with her husband and children. Growing up she spent hours reading and talking about crime novels - writing her own seemed like natural progression. The Night She Died is Jenny's fourth novel.

Joseph Finder

Joseph Finder is the author of several previous thrillers, including the bestselling novels PARANOIA and KILLER INSTINCT. In addition to fiction, Joseph continues to write extensively on espionage and international affairs for the New York Times and the Washington Post. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter.

Katherine Clements

Katherine Clements is a critically acclaimed novelist, self-confessed costume drama addict and current Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Manchester. She is editor of Historia, the online magazine of the Historical Writers' Association, and is a member of the HWA committee. @KL_Clements

Madeleine Roux

Madeleine Roux received her BA in Creative Writing and Acting from Beloit College in 2008. In the spring of 2009, Madeleine completed an Honors Term at Beloit College, proposing, writing and presenting a full-length historical fiction novel. Shortly after, she began the experimental fiction blog Allison Hewitt Is Trapped. Allison Hewitt Is Trapped quickly spread throughout the blogosphere, bringing a unique serial fiction experience to readers. Born in Minnesota, she now lives and works in Wisconsin where she enjoys the local beer and preparing for the eventual and inevitable zombie apocalypse.

Mark Barrowcliffe

Mark Barrowcliffe was born in Coventry and studied at the University of Sussex. He worked as a journalist before penning his first novel, Girlfriend 44, and went on to write two other acclaimed comic novels, Lucky Dog and Infidelity for First-Time Fathers, as well as The Elfish Gene, a memoir of his youth in 1970s Coventry. He lives in Brighton.

Mary Torjussen

Mary Torjussen grew up in Stoke-on-Trent. There was no television in her family home so books have always been her escape - she spent hours reading and writing stories as a child. Mary has an MA in Creative Writing from Liverpool John Moores University, and worked as a teacher in Liverpool before becoming a full-time writer. She has two adult children and lives on the Wirral, where her debut novel, GONE WITHOUT A TRACE, is set.

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.

Michael Stanley

Michael Stanley is the writing team of native Africans Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. The two friends have had many adventures together, including tracking lions at night, fighting bush fires on the Savuti plains in northern Botswana, surviving a charging elephant, and losing their navigation maps while flying over the Kalahari. Sears lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. Stanley divides his time between South Africa and Minneapolis, MN.