Related to: 'The List That Changed My Life'

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."

Abi Maxwell

Abi Maxwell is the author of an acclaimed story collection, LAKE PEOPLE, and her fiction has also appeared in McSweeney's. She studied writing at the University of Montana and now lives in New Hampshire, where she grew up, with her husband and son.

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.

Bernie McGill

Bernie McGill was born and raised in Northern Ireland and attended Queen's University, Belfast. Her first novel, The Butterfly Cabinet, was published by Headline Review in 2011. Bernie is also the author of Sleepwalkers, a collection of short fiction (shortlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize) and a contributor to three acclaimed anthologies of Irish women writers, The Long Gaze Back, The Glass Shore and Female Lines (New Island, 2015, 2016 & 2017). She has numerous theatre credits to her name. Bernie lives in Portstewart, Northern Ireland, with her family.

Brian Kimberling

Brian Kimberling was born and grew up in Indiana, where he was briefly employed as an ornithologist, a job that inspired his first book, SNAPPER. Before settling in the UK, he lived and worked in Prague, and drew on extensive experience teaching English in bars to create the character of Elliott in GOULASH. He now lives and works in Bath.

Carly Bloom

Carly Bloom began her writing career as a family humor columnist and blogger, a pursuit she abandoned when her children grew old enough to literally die from embarrassment. To save their delicate lives, Carly turned to penning steamy, contemporary romance. The kind with bare chests on the covers. Carly and her husband raise their mortified brood of offspring on a cattle ranch in South Texas. Also? Carly is vegan. The cows love her. To find out more about Carly, visit her website at www.carlybloombooks.com, find her on Facebook www.facebook.com/authorcarlybloom and follow her on Twitter @carlybloombooks and Instagram @carlybloombooks.

Clemency Burton-Hill

Clemency Burton-Hill has been one of the UK's most prominent arts and music broadcasters for the past decade. As the host of BBC Radio 3's Breakfast Show she welcomed a new audience to classical music. Her television presenting work includes the BBC Proms and Young Musician of the Year, as well as numerous other music and arts programmes on radio, television and online. As a journalist her work has been published in every major UK publication, including the Economist, the Financial Times, Guardian, Observer and Independent. She is also the music columnist for BBC Culture. An award-winning violinist, Clemency has performed all over the world under leading conductors. She is the co-founder of Aurora Orchestra and a patron of the music and arts education charities The Choir of London Trust and Dramatic Need. She was appointed Creative Director of Music and Arts for New York Public Radio in September 2018 and she divides her time between London and New York.

Deborah Moggach

Deborah Moggach, OBE is an English novelist and an award-winning screenwriter. She has written nineteen novels, including The Ex-Wives, Tulip Fever, These Foolish Thing, Heartbreak Hotel and Something to hide. She lives in Wales.

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.

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.

Emma Cooper

Emma Cooper is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire with her partner and four children. She spends her spare time writing novels, drinking wine and watching box-sets with her partner of twenty-four years, who still makes her smile every day.Emma has always wanted to be a writer - ever since childhood, she's been inventing characters (her favourite being her imaginary friend 'Boot') and is thrilled that she now gets to use this imagination to bring to life all of her creations.The Songs of Us was inspired by Emma's love of music and her ability to almost always embarrass herself, and her children, in the most mundane situations. She was so fascinated by the idea of combining the two that she began to write Melody's story. The majority of her novel was written during her lunchtime in a tiny school office.

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.

Gill Thompson

Gill Thompson is an English lecturer who recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at Chichester University. The first three chapters of THE OCEANS BETWEEN US were longlisted for the Mslexia novel award and the first page of her second work in progress has been selected to feature in Mslexia magazine. She lives with her family in West Sussex and teaches English to college students.

Hannah Doyle

Hannah Doyle likes to write so much that she went to university twice just so that she could call putting pen to paper (well...finger to keyboard) her profession. She started out at a press agency in Bristol before skipping off to London to be a celebrity journalist. During the five years she spent at Reveal magazine and, for reasons unknown, Hannah became the go-to girl for interviewing male stars during scantily clad photo shoots. She now lives with her husband in Yorkshire where she writes for women's magazines, runs a blog and faffs about on Instagram. THE YEAR OF SAYING YES is her debut novel. Join Hannah online!Twitter: @HannahShowbizInstagram: @byhannahdoyleFacebook: /byHannahDoyleBlog: www.thisishannah.co.uk

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.

Jay Crownover

Jay Crownover is the international and multiple New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men Series, the Saints of Denver Series, the Point Series, Breaking Point Series, and the Getaway Series. Her books have been translated in many different languages all around the world. She is a tattooed, crazy haired Colorado native who lives at the base of the Rockies with her awesome dogs. This is where she can frequently be found enjoying a cold beer and Taco Tuesdays. Jay is a self-declared music snob and outspoken book lover who is always looking for her next adventure, between the pages and on the road.Learn more:www.jaycrownover.comTwitter @JayCrownoverFacebook.com/AuthorJayCrownover

Jen Williams

JEN WILLIAMS started writing about pirates and dragons as a young girl and hasn't ever stopped. Her short stories have featured in numerous anthologies and her debut novel, The Copper Promise, was published in 2014 to huge acclaim. Jen was nominated in the Best Newcomer category at the 2015 British Fantasy Awards and her following two novels, The Iron Ghost and The Silver Tide were both shortlisted for the British Fantasy Awards Novel of the Year. Jen lives in London with her partner and their cat.

Jill Mansell

'The queen of witty, heart-warming, feel-good love stories' RedJill Mansell started writing fiction while working in the NHS, after she read a magazine article that inspired her to join a local creative writing class. She has since written over twenty Sunday Times bestsellers, including The One You Really Want and You And Me, Always, and her books have sold over 11 million copies around the world. Jill's hobbies include buying stationery, particularly magical new colours of ink for the fountain pen she uses to write all her books. 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.

Kelly Rimmer

Kelly Rimmer is the USA Today bestselling women's fiction author of six novels, including Before I Let You Go and Me Without You. She lives in rural Australia with her husband, two children and fantastically naughty dogs, Sully and Basil. Her novels have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Laura Sims

Laura Sims is the author of four books of poetry, and LOOKER is her debut novel. She lives in Brooklyn.