The 11th Hour is made up of men and women who are no longer deemed fit to serve their country, but still need to fight a war. They work in shadows, keep their secrets—and follow their hearts . . .
Helicopter pilot Kellan Blake has always hated being told what to do, so being discharged from the army for insubordination doesn't come as much of a surprise. What does surprise him is that when he joins up with the elite, underground 11th Hour squad instead, they send him straight home. The nest of vipers that calls itself his family is the next target for the team’s tech unit, so he’ll either have to brave their traps and deceptions himself—or watch his sweet, shy friend Sabrina walk into them alone . . .
Sabrina’s no femme fatale, but since there's no one else with the tech skills to get the info they need, she’ll put on a party dress and take one for the team. But whoever decided she should pretend to be Kellan’s new fiancée hit a little too close to home. How can she concentrate on a dangerous mission when she's worried about giving away what she really feels for her loyal, passionate, smoking hot partner? At least she isn’t likely to blow their cover. Until she’s in the line of fire, and neither Kellan's demons nor his heart are hers to tame . . .
Praise for Jackie Ashenden’s Dirty for Me
“An intense scorcher of a story that is sure to delight fans and win her a legion of new devotees. . . . Unforgettable.” —RT Book Reviews, Top Pick
“Tension and heat pervade the frequent sex scenes . . . Readers will eagerly anticipate future installments in the series.” —Publishers Weekly
“Explosively sexy.” —Heroes & Heartbreakers
About the Author
Carrie Brach comes to the voice acting business after a career in legal staffing. Originally from the Midwest, she recently moved to the East Coast and discovered not only her creative abilities but also her love of the beach and all things coastal.
Read an Excerpt
"We suspect your father's been associated with an illegal arms ring, Kellan." Faith Beasley's blue eyes were coolly sympathetic. "I'm sorry, but we're going to need to investigate."
Kellan Blake, former Night Stalker helicopter pilot, former SEAL, now member of the "special projects" semilegal 11th Hour team, and still total badass motherfucker, laughed.
He liked Faith. She was the one who gave the team their "jobs" on behalf of Jacob Night, the shadowy figure who'd set up and basically owned the 11th Hour. She was cool, calm, and collected, a complete professional, and he had a lot of respect for her.
But this? This was bullshit.
They were sitting in the gutted building that comprised the 11th Hour's San Diego HQ, a massive wall-less space that had been divided off into various areas with furniture.
The area Kellan was in was the "living area." There was a couch, a couple of armchairs, a coffee table, and a floor lamp with a fringed shade. In his opinion all they needed was a large screen TV so he could watch the Giants play and it would be fucking complete.
Sadly no one else was a football fan. Philistines.
In the recliner near the couch sat Isiah, the grizzled former army ranger who was the ostensible CO of the team. He wasn't laughing.
In fact, no one else was laughing. Not Jack, a former marine who'd joined a few months earlier, not Faith, and not Callie, Jack's fiancée, who'd somehow become part of the team along with Jack, even though she wasn't ex-military.
Then again, Sabrina, his best friend, wasn't ex-military and she was also part of the team. And she wasn't laughing either.
Her wholesome freckled face was pale and her big hazel eyes were full of what looked a hell of a lot like worry.
Kellan stopped laughing. "Jesus Christ," he said to her. "Please don't tell me you believe this arms dealer bullshit?"
She shifted on the couch beside him, glancing at Faith who was sitting in one of the armchairs opposite, then back at him again. "I ... don't know. Do you think there might be ... you know ... something in it?"
Kellan was aware of a deep kind of shock seeping through him.
Sabrina had lived with the Blake family since she'd been ten years old, after her father — the Blakes' gardener — had walked out and left her behind. She knew his parents. Sure, she was closer to his mother than he was, but surely — surely — she didn't believe this gun running crap?
The Blakes were an old money New York family and his father had been one of the top brass in the army. He'd had a well-respected career and was still incredibly well thought of even after he'd retired.
Kellan had wanted to be just like him.
Until the helicopter accident had put an end to that.
Best not to dwell on that failure. Best to think about what was happening now. Sabrina and her reaction, which was ... weird.
He laughed again, because that tended to be his general response to shit that didn't make any sense. "You're kidding, right? Come on, Bree. Dad? Five-star general Dad? Running guns?"
But Sabrina didn't laugh along with him the way she normally did. Instead, she glanced down at her hands where they clutched her favorite laptop and said nothing.
Okay, this was getting weirder by the fucking second.
Kellan looked at Faith. "So this is according to who? How? Why?"
"Mr. Night has reason to believe —"
"Mr. Night can go fuck himself."
Faith didn't even blink. "As I said, Mr. Night has information that implicates your father, along with a number of other high-ranking members of the military, in a black ops mission that went wrong two years ago. A mission that was deliberately sabotaged."
Kellan grinned, pushing his shock and anger way down deep the way he did with every emotion he didn't like. "Do you know how fucking crazy that sounds?"
"We think that this mission was sabotaged because it was getting too close to uncovering an illegal arms ring providing guns to various drug cartels in Central America. An arms ring that was being run by these high-ranking military members."
"Including my father, presumably?" He grinned wider. "Because Dad really likes guns and loves selling them to people who shouldn't have them?"
No one smiled.
Isiah's hazel eyes were sharp. "This isn't a joke, Blake."
"Yes, it is." Kellan flicked a glance at him, then back to Faith again, skewering her with it. "It's a massive fucking joke. Dad gave forty years of his life to the military. He was a general, for fuck's sake. He wouldn't throw that all away to sell a bunch of guns."
"The information Mr. Night has is —"
"Wrong," Kellan interrupted. "The information Mr. Night has is wrong."
Faith opened her mouth again then shut it. She let out a breath. "Then consider this a chance to prove your father's innocence."
A bolt of pure fury shot down Kellan's spine and he could feel his smile become edged and sharp. "I don't need to prove Dad's innocence." He had to fight to keep his voice steady. "I know it."
And he did. Phillip Blake would never turn traitor. The man who'd raised him, who'd taught him how to learn from his mistakes and move on, who'd protected him, shown him what it was to be a good man, to aim high and to never accept anything less than complete success ... Yeah, the idea of a man like that being associated with a secret and highly illegal arms ring, along with a whole lot of high-ranking friends, was ludicrous.
Beside him, Sabrina shifted and he felt her hand come down on his thigh. She squeezed his leg in reassurance and, he thought, as a warning.
Both of which he ignored.
"Well," Faith said in her usual calm way. "Mr. Night disagrees. Your father is implicated. So your choice is to either accept the job of investigating and discovering the truth yourself, or he'll find someone else to do it."
The job ... what a goddamned joke.
He and Jack, with the support of the rest of the team, had just finished up a mission dealing with a scumbag drug lord when yet another job had come in from Night. Usually the jobs involved protection or handling threats, and most of them barely legal, though he'd never had a problem with that.
He had a problem with this.
"We need you, Kellan," Faith went on when he didn't say anything. "Mr. Night wants the contents of a computer file apparently in your father's possession."
"Well, that's it," Sabrina muttered. "We couldn't find it. There was nothing on his computer when I hacked in to take a look."
Kellan gave her an incredulous look. "You hacked into Dad's computer?"
She flushed and opened her mouth, probably to explain, but Faith answered before she could.
"I asked Sabrina to," Faith said. "She's the best hacker in the business and your father had some heavy firewalls."
Jesus. What the fuck did Faith think she was doing getting Sabrina to hack into Phillip Blake's computer?
"Regardless of the fact that Sabrina didn't find anything," Faith went on, "Mr. Night is convinced that the file is there. Either on another computer elsewhere or stored on a portable hard drive. All of which means that we need you to search for it personally." She paused. "You and Sabrina."
Well, shit. Bad enough that it involved his family, but Sabrina too? Christ, no. Just ... No. She never went physically to jobs since that wasn't her strength, and there was no reason for her to go now.
"Why Sabrina?" he asked, making no effort to keep the demand from his tone. "She doesn't need to be part of this."
Beside him Sabrina stiffened, but he ignored her.
"Why?" Faith glanced at her. "If the file is anywhere, it'll be heavily encrypted, plus, if it's on another computer, there's likely to be all kinds of other protections in place to keep it safe. Which means we need her skills."
He hated that it sounded so ... logical.
"Fine," he said curtly. "But find someone else."
"Easy enough." Faith's blue gaze was steady. "We have others who can be Sabrina's backup."
The fury inside Kellan seemed to solidify at Faith's deliberate misunderstanding. "No, you don't get it. If I'm not going, then she's not going either. We're a package deal."
Sabrina stiffened even further, removing her hand from his thigh as if she'd burned herself. "Hey, wait a second —"
"Sabrina is nonnegotiable," Faith said before Sabrina could finish her protest. "As I said, she's the only one with the necessary skills. Your family connection would make the job easier, but we can do without it if necessary. Sabrina knows your parents. Jack could easily pose as her friend or boyfriend —"
"What?" Jack interrupted from his position near the armchair Isiah was sitting in, at the same time as Kellan let loose a growl, not liking that thought at all.
Faith merely looked back at him. "A friend, then. Jack could pose as her friend."
Kellan gritted his teeth, fighting to get a handle on himself and keep that fucking smile on his face. But for the first time in years, it was difficult. Anger — or indeed any extreme emotion — was unproductive and didn't get you what you wanted, or at least, that's what his father had taught him. Charm. A smile. And action. Those were the three keys to success according to Phillip Blake and Kellan had found that to be true.
He'd certainly gotten everything he'd wanted by employing them.
Not quite everything.
Well, no. But the two other things he'd wanted and hadn't gotten didn't matter anymore. Not since he'd decided he didn't want them after all.
"I could," Jack said after a moment. "It wouldn't be that hard."
Kellan only just stopped himself from snarling. The scarred former marine was good, and since he'd joined the 11th Hour team three months earlier, he'd gotten even better. And if there was a guy he needed at his back or to protect those he cared about, Kellan would have chosen Jack King.
But only if Kellan himself were dead. And since he wasn't, the only person who was going to be protecting Sabrina was him.
"No," he said flatly. "Not happening."
There was amusement in Jack's green eyes, which was annoying. Especially seeing as the guy hadn't had a sense of humor at all when he'd first joined the team. That seemed to have changed since he'd hooked up with Callie, the pretty socialite he'd been guarding for an 11th Hour job and had subsequently gotten engaged to.
But it turned out that Kellan didn't have a sense of humor either, at least not when it came to Sabrina's safety.
"Oh, for God's sake." Sabrina's voice was tight.
He turned sharply to meet her green-gold eyes, glowing with anger. "What?" he demanded. "You don't think your safety's important?"
"I like my safety, believe me. What I do not like is you being a territorial asshole about it."
He raised a brow in surprise. "I'm not being territorial. I just don't want —"
Isiah cleared his throat loudly. "Perhaps you two need a moment to discuss this?"
Kellan's attention snapped round to the older man. "No, I don't," he began at the same time as Sabrina said, "Yes, that's a great idea."
There was a silence.
"Seems like Sabrina has a different opinion," Isiah pointed out. Needlessly.
Kellan turned back to her, trying to not to let his anger show. Her familiar freckled face with its small upturned nose was set in lines of determination and there was a mulish slant to her chin.
She almost never disagreed with him. Almost never got angry with him either, at least not like this. It was as if a friendly kitten had suddenly grown razor sharp teeth and bitten him.
"Bree," he said. "What's the problem? You can't possibly —"
Sabrina suddenly pushed herself off the couch, not giving him a chance to finish, presenting him with her long, slender back and the bouncy ponytail of dark curls that ran down the length of it. "Tell Mr. Night I'm in," she said to Faith.
Then before anyone could say another word, she strode to the door and walked through it.
* * *
Sabrina headed straight down the corridors that led from the 11th Hour HQ to Mac's, the bar that fronted the place. The bar was kept deliberately seedy to discourage too many patrons: cracked linoleum and vinyl seats, crappy TV above the bar, the scent of cigarette smoke from the decades before the first smoking laws imbued into the very walls.
When she'd left her job at an internet start-up in Silicon Valley in order to join the 11th Hour, she'd taken on some of the Mac's bar work when there was some downtime, and she'd found she'd liked it. Pouring drinks and listening to sob stories from the few patrons that Mac's did have didn't require any brain power and neither did wiping down the bar and messing around with the bottles stacked on shelves behind it. She found both tasks soothing.
But she didn't find it particularly soothing today as she slammed the door that led to HQ behind her and stormed into the empty bar.
Not that she would have found anything particularly soothing if she was honest with herself.
Her hand was shaking as she reached for the least crappy of the bourbons, pulling the bottle off the shelf and grabbing a glass, pouring herself a hefty measure. Then she picked the glass up and downed it.
Drinking was another thing she didn't do very often, but shit, after what had happened in there, needs must and all of that.
She poured herself a second glass, then put her hands flat on the bar and stared down at the bar top, taking a few calming breaths.
Fear and shock sat like small hard stones in her gut, the rush of alcohol doing nothing to dissolve them, along with a flickering anger that didn't help either.
The moment Faith had gotten her to hack into Phillip Blake's computer a day or so earlier, Sabrina had felt that fear touch her, and it had only gotten worse now Faith had made the latest mission clear. And the more Kellan had protested, the angrier and more afraid she'd gotten.
It wasn't fair to get angry at him, not when she knew how much of a shock finding out about this latest job had been to him. He idolized his father — always had — so it was no surprise that he hadn't reacted well to the news.
And that was part of the problem.
His father wasn't the man Kellan thought he was, as Sabrina had good reason to know. And if there was one thing she didn't want, it was Kellan finding that out.
He'd already been through so much after the helicopter crash that had effectively ended the military career that had given him his identity. Physical pain from the burns he'd suffered. Emotional pain from the medics' decision that he wasn't fit to resume military service and wouldn't ever be.
She stared down at the amber liquid in the glass, pain twisting inside her. Then there was him getting all territorial on her. It made her think things she shouldn't be thinking, feel things she shouldn't be feeling.
Friends. That's all they were. Just friends.
She'd been telling herself that for years, but it never made any difference to her poor stupid heart. Her poor stupid heart had been in love with him since she was ten years old.
But that was beside the point.
The point was the potential of this mission to uncover a lot of skeletons in Phillip Blake's closet. Skeletons that Sabrina had been trying to keep secret from Kellan for years. She didn't know for certain that Kellan's father was involved in the things that Faith said he was, but she knew he wasn't the fine, upstanding former general that everyone thought so well of either.
She also knew that Kellan couldn't find out, not ever. He was a man who protected people, but someone had to protect him, and she'd decided years ago that someone was going to be her. Because she'd do anything for him.
Anything at all.
Besides, she'd made a promise to Charlotte, Kellan's mother, who'd been a mother to Sabrina too, after she'd lost her own and her father had left. A promise that she wouldn't tell Kellan a thing.
Charlotte had been very clear to Sabrina how important it was that Kellan know nothing about the cracks in Phillip's smooth facade. Family. That's what it was about, and Sabrina, having lost her own, could only agree. Her own father had once been the Blakes' live-in gardener and when he'd simply left one day and never come home, Charlotte had taken her in and made her part of the Blake family.
Well, maybe not quite part of the family. Charlotte was always very careful to make sure that Sabrina knew she wasn't actually a Blake. Her purpose was to be Charlotte's confidant without all the "messy"' stuff around being her actual child, which was how Charlotte herself had put it.
Anyway, Sabrina had always been grateful to the Blakes for their kindness to her and to Charlotte in particular for making her feel less like an abandoned stray and more like a valuable family member.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Total Control"
Copyright © 2018 Jackie Ashenden.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Another great story from Jackie, I'm loving the new series already. The 11th hour group is made up of primarly ex military personnel with a few exceptions, based on their skills and talents. The group is run by a man called Night. He's elusive, no traceable history and serves to correct all wrongs to rights. This book opens with an angry Kellan, once a SEAL then to an Army helicopter pilot until a crash ended his career. His father was career military and Kellan seems to think the man walks on water. So is surprised to say the least when their next assignment concerns his father and a group of higher ups and wealthy men funneling guns for money into Central America. Guns that are being used to kill innocent people. Briana is the computer whiz with a genius IQ who grew up with Kellan and has always had a thing for him. When Kellan blows his cork about his father's innocence and refuses to take part he feels the need to speak for Bree too and Bree gets angry. So unlike her. Bree knows things about the family he doesn't know. Things she promised his mother she'd protect him from. All these years later, she's still doing that. She also doesn't believe his father is innocent. When Kellan finally agrees to join in thinking he's going to prove his father innocent, but he'll accept whatever he finds, he and Bree make a trip back to NY as a couple. Not received well by either parent because even though they raised her after her father left her there in their care, she's never been a part of the family. What really struck me was that Kellan never caught on until Bree finally pointed it out and things slowly dawned on him, along with watching the way his parents treated her. The suspense in this book was stellar and Jackie's writing was perfect. Character driven with a great plot, who could ask for more. I loved Bree, Kellan was a little hard to take at times, even on a good day but he fit his role so well. As we watch this story unfold the twists just get better and better and I can't wait for the next book! *arc from NetGalley and publisher for an honest review**
4.5Stars Another great book from the series in this one two of the 11th Hour fell in love. Sabrina and Kellan are best friends since they were kids little that everyone's knows Sabrina is also in love with Kellan for years. In new assignment they are on a mission to discover is Kellan's father really involved in gun trafficking. So for the assignment, they have to pretend that they are engaged. For Sabrina that is pure torture, for Kellan is eyes opening in everything, how he sees Sabrina, start to feel for her, her relationship with the family, and he sees who his father truly is. Both characters well developed, likable. The story flows through the pages, chemistry between Sabrina and Kellan hot. I can't wait for for the next one. I volunteered to review an ARC of this book for Netgelly.
3.5 stars--TOTAL CONTROL is the second instalment in Jackie Ashenden’s contemporary, adult 11th HOUR romantic suspense series focusing on the men and women who work for 11th Hour Security. This is former Night Stalker Helicopter pilot and former Navy SEAL Kellan Blake, and IT specialist Sabrina Leighton’s story line. TOTAL CONTROL can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Any important information from the previous story line is revealed where necessary. Told from dual third person perspectives (Kellan and Sabrina) TOTAL CONTROL follows the friends to lovers relationship between 11th Hour Security team members former Night Stalker Helicopter pilot and former Navy SEAL Kellan Blake, and IT specialist Sabrina Leighton. Sabrina and Kellan were childhood best friends. The daughter of the Blake estate gardener, Sabrina was raised alongside Kellan when her mother’s death and her father’s subsequent abandonment left a ten year old Sabrina with no one else to care. Fast forward to present day wherein, Sabrina and Kellan must work side by side when an 11th Hour Security assignment pits father against son as Kellan must uncover the truth behind the accusations against the father he loves. What ensues is the building physical romance between Kellan and Sabrina; the take down of the man Kellan calls dad; and the fall-out of the relationship and friendship between our leading couple as Sabrina struggles with memories from the past. Sabrina Leighton has loved Kellan since she was ten-years old but as the daughter of the hired help, Sabrina was constantly reminded that she would never be acceptable for the man that she loved. With secrets of her own, Sabrina knew that to get involved with Kellan potentially meant a broken heart-a heart she had already lost to the man who only saw Sabrina as a friend, and nothing more. Low self esteem and numerous insecurities were always at the forefront of our heroine’s mind. Kellan Blake refused to believe that the man that he loved, his father, was involved in the things of which the 11th Hour Team had accused. With secrets of his own Kellan and Sabrina return to their childhood home, only to come face to face with the dysfunction within. The relationship between Sabrina and Kellan is a friends to lovers romance that is doomed to fail as secrets and ghosts from the past continue to loom over our leading couple. From unrequited love to the hero’s overprotective alpha personality, the relationship also struggles with preconceived notions and a familial history that continues to eat at our heroine’s heart. The $ex scenes are intimate, erotic and intense without the use of over the top, sexually graphic language and text. There are some issues of repetitiveness and redundancy including 79 mentions of varying eye shades of blue, and 16 comments about the green or green-gold color of the heroine’s eyes. I also had a difficult time accepting the ‘issues’ that eventually tore our couple apart-Sabrina’s explanations and actions just didn’t fly in the face of everything that had happened. Kellan’s quick emotional turn around once he discovers that Sabrina has wanted a relationship for close to twenty years is questionable; and the results of the team investigation that culminated in nothing more than a slap on the hand were unfulfilling and underwhelming. TOTAL CONTROL is an interesting and entertaining story line but I struggled with a number of issues. The premise is engaging
Total Control was awesome. It was right blend of suspense and naughty. It's friends to lovers and centers around Sabrina and Kellan. I loved going on this journey with them and watching them deal with both internal and external conflicts. I also loved that a piece of the overall story arc was revealed it has so excited not only about it but also the illusive Mr. Night. I cannot wait to see where the author is taking this revelation. I recommend this to lovers of romantic suspense. ARC provided by publisher through Net Galley
Fantastic as expected! It's no secret that I'm a huge Jackie Ashenden fan and this book is the perfect example of exactly why. Unique and fresh storyline, superb writing, and unforgettable characters make this book a must read. Kellan Blake is a help pilot for the elite crime fighting group The 11th Hour. He's surprised when one of his first assignments is to return home and investigate his father. He's positive they have it all wrong but agrees to do it certain he can prove his father innocent. Going with him is his lifelong friend Sabrina. She's a tech genius and her skills will be invaluable. This mission will open Kellan's eyes not only to exactly what type of man his father really is but also to what an amazing woman Sabrina has grown into. Must read! I highly recommend it.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - especially Sabrina's character. She's the classic best friend that's been in love with her friend (Kellan) for years, however there are a number of twists to her story that made her an interesting character. That they both work together at 11th Hour makes their pairing more challenging and quickly shows them their relative value to the organization. To me, Kellan wasn't as likable a character as Sabrina was. While I wanted them to get their HEA, Kellan seemed a bit too focused on himself to me - to the point of vacillating between hero and martyr. I loved that we finally get to meet the illusive Mr. Knight in this book. He's an interesting character and the exact opposite of how I'd pictured him in my head, although the author's description works and makes more sense. Fans of the genre will enjoy this book and want to put it at the top of their TBR list. I'd give this one 4.5 stars, but am rounding up. The author is on my must read authors' list.