Brighter than the sun, p.16
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       Brighter Than the Sun, p.16
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         Part #11 of KGI series by Maya Banks
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  short cropped hair, stroking, allowing her fingers to drift down the chiseled line of his jaw. He captured her index finger with his lips, sucking it and laving his tongue over the tip.

  “I need you now,” she whispered huskily.

  His hand eased from her pussy as his body slid sensuously up hers until his mouth aligned perfectly with hers. He kissed her deeply, thoroughly, outlining the bow of her lips before pulling away to stare intently at her.

  “Let me get a condom, sweetheart.”

  She watched in a dreamlike state as he leaned over her body to open the drawer of his nightstand. He pulled out a packet and tore open the foil, for now leaving the condom still in the opened wrapper. Then he returned to kissing her with renewed vigor, his body moving to position himself above her, his knee nudging her thighs apart.

  He reexplored his earlier route down her body with his mouth, this time teasing her with his hand at the same time, pushing gently inward, stretching her in preparation for his possession.

  She grew restless, writhing beneath him, her legs moving wider apart, her ankles hooking over the backs of his calves, silently urging him to take her. Holding his weight off her with one hand, he reached with the other for the condom and deftly rolled it over his straining erection. Then he grasped the base and rubbed the tip up and down her cleft, circling her clitoris before easing downward to circle her opening repeatedly.

  She was nearly to the point of mindless begging when he finally, finally positioned the broad tip at the mouth of her entrance and pushed barely inside, stilling as he stared down at her, watching intently for any sign of discomfort.

  Her response was to tighten her ankles around his legs, urging him downward as her hands flew to his shoulders, her nails digging into his flesh, marking and branding him in the same way he’d marked her repeatedly the entire time with his mouth.

  He inched forward, and she sighed as she stretched and re-formed around him to accommodate his size. Every centimeter of flesh he touched was highly sensitized and it was like receiving an electric shock each time he moved the slightest bit.

  She clutched at him, desperate for release and yet wanting it to last forever. His name was a litany on her lips and it seemed to make him more dominant, more forceful and possessive. He levered his body lower until it was flush with hers and put his elbows down on either side of her head so she didn’t bear his full weight and then he fused his mouth to hers as he began surging deeper, harder, faster.

  Her eyes fluttered shut but he nipped at her chin, and when she opened her eyes, he was staring at her with an intensity that set her ablaze.

  “Keep your eyes open, baby. I want to see you when you come.”

  The words were demanding—not a request but a command—and only heightened her desire and added a sharper edge to the building inferno deep within her. She did as he asked and locked her gaze with his, fascinated by the fierce pleasure burning so brightly in his eyes, surely a mirror to her own.

  “Want you with me,” he said with a ragged breath. “Come with me, baby. Let’s go together.”

  To ensure the outcome he desired, he slid one hand between them just as he increased the speed and force of his thrusts. His fingers performed a tight circle around and over her clitoris and she gasped for breath as the storm blew out of control.

  “Joe, I can’t—I can’t . . .”

  “Breathe, honey. Ride the wave with me. See how beautiful we are together.” He smoothed her hair from her forehead and then pressed his lips in a line across her brow as his face creased in an expression of sweet agony. “Now,” he whispered. “Now, Zoe. Let go. Step off and let yourself fall.”

  The tender words so filled with genuine emotion and need as urgent as her own catapulted her into free fall. She spiraled downward like a leaf in autumn, spinning crazily until she was dizzy and so filled with pleasure that she feared bursting with it. The edge grew sharper and sharper still until she could no longer bear the strain. Every muscle in her body tensed and coiled to the point of delicious pain.

  And then the world exploded around her and she lost all sense of time and space. She tried valiantly to obey Joe’s command to keep her eyes open, but they were so weighted down that it was a struggle to keep them even half lidded. He didn’t chasten or rebuke her. He seemed to understand—and share—her experience. He kissed each eyelid sweetly and reverently as he tensed inside her, his body shaking uncontrollably.

  He roared her name and then gathered her tightly in his arms, sliding them beneath her body until they were locked together in every possible way. He buried his face in her neck, inhaling her scent as if permanently imprinting himself with her essence. She let her head fall back, giving him free access to imprint all he wanted, simply enjoying the feel of his touch and tenderness in the aftermath of the most explosive orgasm she’d ever experienced in her life.

  Several long minutes passed, Joe atop Zoe, alternately kissing and nibbling her neck and her lazily running her palms and fingers up and down his back as he went completely limp, sated and satisfied, as was she.

  “That was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced,” she whispered against his ear.

  His arms tightened around her, and for a moment he was silent, as if collecting himself after such an earth-shattering event.

  “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced,” he said softly. “I never want it to end, baby. Never had anything as precious as you, and never will.”


  ZOE slowly woke, remaining perfectly still as she absorbed the simple comfort not waking up alone gave her. Joe was wrapped so tightly around her that there was no space between them. She closed her eyes, reliving the beauty of his lovemaking. Tears surged and despite her best effort they leaked from underneath her eyelashes and trickled down her cheeks. She turned her head away from where it rested on Joe’s chest, praying he was still sound asleep.

  No such luck.

  He stirred and rolled so they faced each other, his eyes bright with worry and fear.

  “Hey,” he said softly, reaching to wipe away her tears. “What’s wrong, baby? Did I hurt you? Are you okay?”

  Emotion clogged her throat, nearly rendering her incapable of speech. “It was beautiful,” she whispered, echoing the words she’d used the night before. “I’ve never experienced anything so . . . perfect.”

  No longer able to bear his scrutiny, she buried her face against his shoulder and sucked in steadying breaths in an effort to gain control over her scattered emotions.

  He said nothing, just caressed up and down her back in a soothing motion. “Did I scare you, Zoe? Did I come on too hard and fast?”

  He sounded so worried and disgusted with himself that she lifted herself from the warm haven of his body so that she could stare down at him, hoping her expression reflected all she could barely put into words. How could you explain such exquisiteness with mere words?

  Her eyes glittered with tears and frustration. What had she done to give him the idea that he’d been anything but gentle, loving and so very tender?

  It was when fire blazed in his eyes and a flood of emotion swamped his face and he pulled her back down until their mouths were just a breath away that she realized, to her complete mortification, that she had voiced her last question aloud.

  “Honey, you did nothing wrong,” he said, smudging away the remnants of tears that had collected in the corners of her eyes. “As it is, I’ve wondered more than once if I’ve died and gone to heaven, because having you here, in my bed after giving me the honor and privilege of making love to you, is nothing short of God’s glory. I’m pretty sure I heard angels singing the ‘Hallelujah Chorus,’ or maybe that was me, in which case I probably did scare you to death,” he teased.

  “Or maybe we should do it all over again, you know, just so you’re sure,” he added in a husky whisper.

  Zoe’s body came to life, her nipples forming rigid points and a pulse beginning low in her groin.
  “Maybe you’re right,” she whispered.

  “I like the way my woman thinks,” he said, kissing her, his tongue plunging inside her mouth as he licked and dueled with her tongue.

  “Am I?” she asked breathlessly. “Your woman?”

  He drew away, a deep frown on his face. “That’s the dumbest question I’ve ever heard. Was it not you I was so deep inside that I could feel your every movement?”

  She blushed.

  “You are mine, Zoe. Make no mistake in that.”

  “We need to talk, Joe,” she said in a quiet, somber voice.

  “And we will. Just as soon as I convince you beyond a shadow of a doubt that you belong to me heart, body and soul.”


  He shushed her with a gentle finger and then followed it with his lips. His words thrilled and scared her at the same time. And they released a pent-up longing for things she’d never dared to dream of.

  His hands drifted up and down the curves of her body, caressing, making lazy patterns on her skin, dipping lower and lower until she thought she’d go mad with wanting. Her nipples strained upward as if begging for his mouth, and he readily complied, taking one taut peak deeply into his mouth and sucking in rhythmic motion, then turning to give equal attention to the other.

  Her fingers delved into his hair, her nails digging into his scalp before lovingly cradling his head to her breast as his fingers worked their magic over her most delicate, quivering flesh. He inserted one long finger inside her channel, causing her to cry out and arch her hips upward, seeking more.

  “Please, Joe, don’t make me wait,” she pleaded softly. “I need you right now.”

  He added another finger, stretching the swollen, slick passage, and then eased them out, raising them to his mouth to suck her moisture from each digit.

  “You taste delicious,” he said in a new growl.

  “Now, Joe,” she urged, twisting and rolling her head from side to side as urgency continued to mount until she feared going mad with it.

  “Shhh, my darling,” he said tenderly.

  He laced their fingers together and then pressed the backs of her palms against the mattress as he positioned himself between her legs.

  “Are you ready for me, baby?”

  She moaned and arched upward, trying to force him inside her. And then he slid deep, causing her to gasp at the sudden fullness. He stopped withdrawing when he was barely inside, concern flashing in his eyes.

  “If you stop now, I’ll be forced to kill you,” she said in a ragged breath.

  Joe chuckled but he thrust deeply, eliciting a groan from them both. Zoe’s nails scoured his back as she held tightly to him, arching upward to meet him. Where the night before had been long, sweet and languid, an exploration of something new and so very precious, this morning was borne of desperation to renew that connection. Hurried. A tangle of arms and legs, passionate kisses and breathless sighs and moans of pleasure from both of them.

  “Fuck,” he breathed. “Damn it, I’m sorry, baby, but this is going to be fast. I can’t hold back.”

  “Who asked you to go slow?” she growled.

  He slammed into her and her nails tightened in his shoulders. He was likely going to bear marks, but she didn’t care. She liked the idea of marking him, of making her ownership known.

  His face was a wreath of agony as he hammered his way into her, rocking her against the headboard in unrelenting thrusts.

  “Want you with me, baby. How close are you?”

  “If you’d stop asking me how I was, I’d be there already,” she wailed.

  He smiled, dropping a kiss on her lips that soon turned into a ravenous exploration of her mouth. She felt him swell inside her just as she felt the sharp rise of her orgasm, suddenly explosive and all consuming.

  “Joe!” she cried.

  “I’m here, baby. Always here. Come with me. Be with me.”

  She shattered just as he shouted and thrust home one last time, their release flashing like a lightning storm crashing wildly in the night sky. He slumped against her and she wrapped her arms tightly around him, refusing to allow him to move his weight.

  “Honey, I’m going to crush you,” he said, his voice thick with amusement.

  “Don’t care,” she said, her voice muffled by his chest.

  He buried his face in her neck and lay there a long moment. Then he let out a groan.


  “What’s wrong?” she asked, suddenly worried.

  He rolled off her and flopped onto his back. “Damn it! I forgot all about the mandatory KGI meeting this morning.”

  She sat up, pulling the sheets to cover her chest. She looked anxiously at him. “Should I go, then?” she asked in a hesitant voice.

  He leaned forward and kissed her, cupping her cheek and deepening the kiss.

  “What I want is for you to stay here,” he said softly. “This won’t take long, and when I get back I’ll make you breakfast in bed. Please stay, Zoe. Give me something worth coming home to.”

  Her heart fluttered out of control as she stared at the sincerity etched in his features.

  “Okay,” she whispered. “But Joe, when you get back . . . we have to talk.”

  “We’ll talk about whatever you want, baby.”


  He pressed one more kiss to her trembling lips. “Promise,” he whispered.

  • • •

  JOE walked into the meeting five minutes late, ignoring Sam’s sharp look of reprimand. Nathan and Donovan, however, grinned broadly while Nathan arched an inquiring eyebrow.

  “Later, bro,” Joe murmured to Nathan. “How long is today’s sermon supposed to last?”

  “However long it takes us all to ace this candy-ass final exam that Allie is under the impression will make fools of us all,” Skylar muttered, overhearing Joe’s question.

  “Need y’all to run interference for me if big brother wants to hold me after for time-out in the corner,” Joe said so only his team could hear.

  Skylar smiled. “We have your back. We’re well aware you have better things to be doing. And Joe? For what it’s worth, I wish you the best,” she said sincerely.

  He smiled warmly at his teammate. “Thanks, Sky. I really appreciate that.”

  Allie had set up a station where each team member would disable and dismantle an explosive device, and it had to be done in under two minutes.

  “Jesus,” Dolphin, one of Steele’s men, muttered. “A fifth grader could disarm this pansy-ass thing.”

  Chuckles went up, causing Allie to frown and look in their direction.

  “Time to get serious, y’all,” Edge drawled. “As our esteemed colleague is so fond of saying, giddyup, let’s rope the goats and get the hell out of here.”

  This time laughter broke out and P.J., who was within earshot, rolled her eyes. “Y’all are never going to let me live that one down.”

  “Hey, it was a damn good mantra at the time,” Dolphin said, grinning like an idiot.

  “If I could have your attention, we can get started,” Allie said in a voice that could freeze the fires of hell.

  “I’ll go first,” Joe volunteered. If it got him out first, he’d gladly be the sacrificial lamb.

  “I was going to go by team,” Allie replied.

  Joe shrugged. “Works for me. My team will go first, and as coleader of my team, that means I go first. Nathan will follow. Got any problem with that?” he asked sweetly.

  She motioned him to the first station, and he wanted to laugh. He could do this with his eyes closed. Did she really think KGI was this stupid? If she did, then why bother joining?

  She started to drone on with instructions, but before she could finish, Joe snipped the final wire, checked for any remaining traps that would detonate the bomb if the primary trigger were disabled then stood back, holding his hands up.

  “Done. Satisfied, ma’am?”

  She had a stunned look on her face. She stepped forw
ard with a frown and did a thorough check of the device and then shook her head.

  “That was amazing,” she said, a hint of admiration creeping into her voice. “I think that’s the fastest time anyone’s ever registered in any of my classes.”

  Joe smiled. “I’m not even the best. We like to give Baker shit about explosives, but he’s the man when it comes to setting, dismantling or detonating any device known, and well, quite a few classified ones that we aren’t supposed to know about.”

  Allie looked like she had no idea what to do with that information.

  Joe turned to his twin. “You’re up, bro. Try not to show me up too badly.”

  The others laughed, but Allie was now giving them all thoughtful looks, and something that resembled guilt and embarrassment shadowed her eyes.

  Joe made a subtle gesture to pull Donovan to the side.

  “What’s up?” Donovan asked quietly.

  “I need you to cover for me with Sam. I’m sure he’s still pissed about me ducking out yesterday, but I have to go. It’s important or I wouldn’t ask.”

  Concern shone in his brother’s eyes. “Is everything okay?”

  Joe smiled. “It will be, Van. It will be just as soon as I can get back home.”

  Donovan grinned with sudden understanding. “Don’t worry about Sam. I’ll handle things here.”

  Joe didn’t waste any time, striding out of the war room as Sam called for him to hold up. Ignoring the request, he hopped into his truck and headed out of the compound back to his cabin. He was out of his truck heading to the front door when he noticed it was ajar.

  Alarm prickled up his spine. He hadn’t left the door open. Had Zoe taken off despite her promise to stay? He rushed inside, hastily looking in the living room and kitchen before running to the bedroom. It too was empty, but what made his blood run cold, his heart nearly stopping, was the utter chaos there.

  There were obvious signs of a struggle. Knocked-over lamps. The covers and sheets were off the bed and strewn all over the floor, and Zoe’s clothing was still where he’d tossed it the night before when he’d undressed her.

  But what sent terror blazing through his heart and mind were blood spatters on the bed, the floor and even the wall.

  Someone had taken Zoe while he’d left her alone. Without protection. Outside the safety of the compound. Oh God, this was his fault. All the Kelly women were safely ensconced within the walls of the compound, and yet he’d left Zoe to fend for herself. He’d never forgive himself if he didn’t get her back safe and unharmed, and so help him, if it was the last thing he did, he’d track down every last fucker who’d dared to put their hands on the woman he loved. Who’d shed her blood. He’d kill every last one of them.


  RUSTY crept through Sean’s house, and then realizing how absurd she was being, she rolled her eyes and made her way into his bedroom. It wasn’t as though anyone was here, and Sean’s security system was an embarrassment for a law enforcement officer.

  She paused in the doorway of his bedroom, heat suffusing her cheeks as she imagined being in that bed with Sean. It was humiliating to acknowledge just how long she’d had that particular fantasy. But she was no longer a young girl with adolescent fantasies about kissing Sean. Her fantasies were of the adult variety now. The naked kind that involved Sean making love to her and admitting he wanted her every bit as much as she wanted him.

  Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. She hastily undressed before she lost her nerve and then pulled back the covers of the neatly made bed and slid underneath sheets that smelled like him. She buried her face in his pillows, inhaling his wholly masculine smell that had driven her crazy for more years than she’d like to admit.

  She heard the front door open and shivered. Boy, she hadn’t been a minute too soon. She heard his light step through the house, pausing at intervals, and then his pace slowed and she could no longer hear his footfalls. She frowned, wondering what was going on.

  Then suddenly the bedroom door burst open and she was looking down the barrel of Sean’s pistol. She shot upward, forgetting that she was naked underneath, and the sheet fell, baring her breasts to his startled gaze.

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