Book 1 in the Jardines Series by L.L. Foster
Total Control is featured in the anthology Out of the Light, Into the Shadows and is not available on its own.
by Lori Foster writing as L.L. Foster
Book 1 in the Jardines Series by L.L. Foster
A novella by Lori writing as L.L. Foster, featuring Brax Jardine, Mercedes Jardine’s brother, as the hero.
For centuries, males in the Jardine family have been born with a gift: they can sense, capture and manipulate the emotions of others. Such a talent comes with grave responsibility, and the Jardine men, working with high-level government officials, have been given immunity to tame the more psychotic edges of society. Only a very special woman would be able to match such a powerful male. When Brax Jardine realizes that Cameo Smithson can somewhat withstand his influence on her emotions, he’s more than intrigued.
He’s in love.
Since meeting her, he’s wanted Cameo, but settling down into a monogamous relationship isn’t easy for the Jardine men. They “feed” off the ultimate, mind-numbing release of sexual activity, using it to counter the corrosive influence of darker animus. Without a woman to soften the edges, a Jardine male starts losing his sanity.
Only when the right woman is found can a Jardine male stop carousing and settle for true love.
Brax already knows that Cameo loves him, but will her love be enough for her to face his horrific battles with inhumanity, and the carnal demands he’ll put on her in the bedroom?
Reviews of Total Control
Together, these authors have combined their talents to create four very interesting and enjoyable stories. Fans of Foster and McCarthy will enjoy these short stories that are perfect for a quick summer get-away.
— Lori Sears - The Romance Readers Connection
Sweet and touching or dark and dangerous, this sexy quartet has happy endings for all-dead or alive.
— Library Journal
This spicy supernatural anthology delivers four fast-paced love stories about vampires, Russian royalty and darkly passionate men. With their signature heat and heart Foster and McCarty deliver smart heroines and heroes readers will fall in love with. Plot twists and fully developed supporting characters add to the fun.
— Whitney Kate Sullivan, Romantic Times
Don't miss this thoroughly entertaining read; these are authors who can always be counted on to make you laugh, make you sigh, and who always leave you feeling satisfied that you picked their books off the shelf.
— Lori Ann, Romance Reviews Today
is Book 1 in the Jardines Series by L.L. Foster
The full series reading order is as follows:
Read An Excerpt
Impatience clawed through Brax, sparking a fire to his every nerve ending. After his last bloody assignment, he required her total surrender to his will. Only her heated touch, her screams of fulfillment, would salve his turmoil and save his sanity.
The cursed talent made it far too easy to get lost in eternal blackness. Lately it felt as though the depravity soaked into his pores, worming its way into his soul.
Only the most complete possession of Cameo Smithson, body and soul, would save him.
He needed her.
Desire battled with his conscience until he heard the quiet opening of his office door. His smile was one of anticipation, satisfaction.
But inside his heart the apology burned. For his benefit, he’d bring her into his private hell. If he were a stronger man, he’d do as his uncle Amos had done, and disappear from humanity.
He couldn’t. Knowing she was near proved an irresistible temptation.
Today he’d end the eternal wait.
For weeks he’s struggled with non-existent patience, determined to give her enough time to acclimate to the new shift in their relationship, her new life, her new sexuality.
What they’d share would be electric and sizzling hot. It would feed him, and drain her, and only together would they both survive.
He would give her more than she’d ever experienced before. More than most could tolerate.
Cameo didn’t yet realize she was his salvation, but he’d accepted the fact months ago. Now he had to coerce her into accepting it, too.
The door closed with barely a snick of sound. He felt her heavy pause as she surveyed him standing before the yawning hole in the wall.
Her voice held that tentative, cautious tone that he’d expected, the tone she’d adopted since picking up on his sexual advances.
She was right to be wary; before long he’d strip her of even that small choice. Claiming her meant obliterating her reserve. She’d be totally vulnerable to him and his whims.
Gathering his thoughts, he continued to stare out the gaping hole in the outside office wall. On the third floor of his expansive home, the giant cavity opened to his backyard, showcasing a decorative pool, fountain, and manicured landscaping carefully arranged to look as if nature had a hand in its design.
The upscale lifestyle helped him to forget what he was, what he did, and worked to conceal his atrocious proclivities.
No one would believe a wealthy, respected businessman would occupy his free time by demolishing brutish societal abnormalities.
Barefoot, he stood so near the edge that his toes hung over the broken bricks of the house’s exterior. A stirring breeze wafted in; he heard the trickle of the fountain, the songs of birds.
The steep drop was such that it sucked the air from his lungs.
Keeping his back to her, he commanded, “Come here, Cameo.”
He could almost hear her searching for a reply. He waited, muscles knotted, hoping for the right answer.
“I’d rather we sit down, okay?”
Something dark and destructive loosened inside him. She worried for him. His smile teased; he braced his hands at the top of the hole and leaned out, letting gravity drag at him, feeling himself grow weightless.
“Damn it, Brax,” she snapped. “Move away from there right now.”
Ah, so she tried a different tact. That was so like Cameo, adaptable, always in charge, always intelligent, thinking through possibilities and consequences.
He looked down at the yard below, and saw a few discarded bricks lying broken amid plaster dust. “I told you to come to me.”
The seconds ticked by. When he heard no movement behind him, he turned. Staying close to the edge, he took in the tantalizing sight of her. Dressed in another of the proper but alluring business suits that he’d grown to associate with her unique style, she looked… exciting.
In an effort to withstand him, she locked her hands on the back of the wing chair placed before his desk. It was where she’d normally sit to take dictation.
Her innocent, baby blue eyes closed, denying him a sight he adored, a sight that gentled him against the ugly corruptive influence of his life. The lips he’d so often dreamed of were now compressed.
Brax understood. She felt his compulsion – but she fought it. It was as much her ability to deny him, as her other attributes, that reeled him in.
Determined to test her, Brax centered his efforts, hardened his tone. “Cameo, you will come to me. Now.”
Tensing her entire body, she shook her head.
God, but she stirred him on the most elemental levels. Her refusal caused his voice to drop to a husky whisper. “You know you want to.”
A shiver ran over her. “I’m not an idiot.” She opened her eyes, showing him stark pain and gutsy defiance. “You move away from there.”
The display of rebellion perversely thrilled him; his pulse sped, his blood heated. “No, Cameo,” he agreed, “no one would ever accuse you of lacking smarts.”
When conquering others, he often got a frisson of excitement.
But Cameo conquered him – without even knowing it.
Satisfied with her reaction, he eased back mentally, freeing her from the grip of his power. She immediately sucked in a deep breath.
Still edgy with predacious excitement, Brax watched the lush rise of her full breasts beneath a buttoned up blouse. The sheer material showed the lace, and the woman, beneath.
Lounging on the broken wall beside the yawning void, he studied her, taking in every nuance of her expression. “I need to locate a new contractor. As you can see -” He indicated the hole in his office wall. “-I fired the last one.”
She visibly struggled for composure. “But… I’d only just hired him.”
He shrugged, and waited for her to make a move.
Cameo took her time regaining her balance. Would she mention the compulsion to join him at the dangerous rupture of plaster and drywall? Would she acknowledge his attempt to utilize control over her?
Doubtful. Until Cameo understood and accepted his influence over her, she wouldn’t address the issue at all.
After today, she’d be forced to understand.
Drawing herself together in an efficient and practiced manner, she whisked aside fallen plastic sheeting and seated herself in the chair.
Adopting a de rigueur posture, she crossed long, very shapely legs and placed her hands in her lap. The turmoil vacated her expression, replaced with query. “Why?”
Smiling at her façade of serenity, Brax moved to sit at his desk across from her. Other than his desk, and now the chair she occupied, plastic adorned everything in the room to protect it from the demolition debris.
Studying her, Brax sat back at his leisure. The ensuing conversation would no doubt prove a fun interlude before the trials he’d impress on her. “He didn’t show up on time this morning.”
“Did he have a reason?”
“Not one that he called with in advance.” He loved how myriad emotions flashed through her expressive eyes. “Cameo, you of all people know that I won’t tolerate that type of unprofessional behavior.”
“You are strict,” she admitted before turning very businesslike. “I’ll compile a list of reputable and available contractors for you to peruse. I’ll have it ready within an hour.”
“That’s not necessary.” How long would it take her to catch on? How long would it take him to convince her?
“You intend to keep that… that…” She gestured toward the sign of demolition. “That?”
“Of course not.”
“Well… surely you want it repaired sooner rather than later.”
“By the end of the week, I’ll have sliding doors and a railed balcony. The walls will be repaired, sanded and painted.” He was not a man without influence. Enough money could solve most problems. But it couldn’t put a dent in his nightmare.
Anticipation heightened. “I’m taking care of it myself.”
Her slim eyebrows nudged closer together. “You don’t want me to handle it for you?”
Damn, but even her frowns brought about the start of a boner. Cameo’s gentle, uncorrupted, moralistic ways made the perfect foil for his life of destruction.
His voice dropped, went rough but gentle. “Henceforth, Cameo, you will no longer serve in the capacity of my personal assistant.”
She stared at him. “You’re firing me?”
“I’m relieving you of those duties. Effective immediately.”
Time stood still. For long moments, she said nothing, did nothing, didn’t break the contact of their locked gazes.
Then her head tilted and she affected a look of mere curiosity – but he saw the hurt.
He felt the hurt.
“I see.” A proud smile lifted the corners of her full lips. “I suppose I lasted longer than most.”
Brax didn’t move. If he did, he’d grab her, crush her close, absorb her into himself. “Understand Cameo, it’s because you’re different from anyone I’ve met that you’ve lasted longer.” The tension inside him tightened.
It was a craving like no other.
He put his hands on the desk top. “That’s also why you can’t remain my personal assistant.”
In a sudden burst of energy, she left the chair. She looked to be at a loss as she started for the door, but then turned back. “I guess I’m grateful you didn’t have me hire my own replacement.”
“I’ll choose someone myself. I start interviewing tomorrow.”
Anger and hurt showed before she cloaked herself behind a shield of indifference. “You have everything taken care of then.”
“No.” Slowly, his desire for her a live, demanding thing, he left his chair and circled the desk. “Come here, Cameo.”
Her mouth quirked. “Ah, but I don’t take orders from you anymore.”
“I’m afraid you do.”
She said, “Ha!” even though he detected the many ways she strained to deny his lure.
Brax advanced every so slowly. He hadn’t planned to, but now he needed her to understand the altruism of his motive. “I could make this easier for you, Cameo, but I’m not going to.”
“This?” Alarm took her back a step, then she stopped and straightened her shoulders. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
He couldn’t look away from her beautiful eyes. “In the long run, it’ll make you better able to accept certain things.”
“What things?” She turned and moved closer to the door before again facing him. With her hands behind her on the doorknob, she cast a nervous glance at the perilous hole in the broken wall. “You didn’t… didn’t hurt the contractor, did you?”
Brax paused to study her. “You believe I’m capable of causing him harm?”
“Oh, most definitely.” She didn’t shy away from the disturbing eye contact. “You’re capable of a great many things, not all of them good.”