Brighter Than the Sun

Page 47

“I forget what you do most of the time.”

His smile and ready laughter faded as he tensed.

“How hard it must be to protect and defend people you don’t even know at such a great risk to yourself. I’d be shocked if you weren’t all those things your brothers call you. But that isn’t who you are. I haven’t seen that person even once. I think I’ve figured out your little secret, Joe Kelly.”

He looked at her in horror. “You’re not going to expose me, are you?”

“What you are is a nice guy. A tough guy outside and a completely gooey, mushy softy on the inside.”

He damn near choked. He covered his reaction with a cough and then cleared his throat. A softy? Oh wait, not just a softy. It was way worse. A “gooey, mushy” softy. Sweet mother of God. If he thought he was going to get shit from his brothers before, that was nothing compared to the way he’d be laughed right out of the war room if it ever got out that Zoe called him a “gooey, mushy softy.”

His expression must have been as appalled as he felt because she burst into laughter and proceeded to laugh so hard that she was wiping tears from her cheeks.

“Oh God, if you could just see your face,” she sputtered and choked out.

“Yeah, yeah, have your fun. Kick a man when he’s down,” he grumbled good-naturedly. “We’ll see who has the last laugh.”

“Do they also call you a bad sport?” she teased.


She cracked up again. “No! I can’t imagine why.”

“Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, pretty lady.”

“I think it suits me just fine,” she said cheekily.

Well, she had him there, but then everything suited her just fine. He couldn’t think of a single thing that wouldn’t suit her.

“Oh, here we are,” she said, sounding surprised—and a little disappointed—as they drove into the compound.

He well understood the feeling. Today had been one of the best days he could ever remember. It was right up there with the day he learned his twin was finally safe and coming home when it wasn’t known if Nathan was dead or alive. Or the day when a badly traumatized Shea had finally returned to them after days of being withdrawn completely into herself as the only way she’d survived the worst.

He frowned. Until now, all the best times he could remember revolved around either Nathan and Shea or his other brothers and memorable moments with their wives. Never before had he had anyone to share those kinds of moments with. Until now.

He gazed lovingly at her as he parked in front of his mother’s house, knowing she wouldn’t see how he was looking at her. She was too busy glancing up at the porch like she expected his mom or dad to walk out at any moment.


She turned to look up at him. He touched a tendril of hair, tenderly pulling it away from her cheek to tuck behind her ear.

“Thank you for today,” he said, brushing his thumb over her chin and jaw.

She looked inquisitively at him. “Shouldn’t that be my line?”

“Not unless you’re me and you just had one of the best days of your life for the second day in a row,” he said with no hint of teasing or jest in his tone.

Her gaze softened and for a moment he saw so much want and need, so much yearning in her eyes, that it was like a punch to the stomach. No longer could he resist the temptation of her pull. Slowly he closed the distance between them in the cab of the truck. He cupped her jaw in his palm, tilting her head in just the right position for her to take his kiss.

He said nothing for fear of breaking the spell. Instead he gently pressed his lips to hers. He swallowed up her breathy sigh, sucking it deep into his lungs, savoring it before reluctantly expelling it once more. He lapped slowly over the surface of her lips, tasting every centimeter, leaving no part untouched or untasted. Then he became a little bolder, flicking his tongue forward, asking her to let him in even as he continued his gentle assault on her mouth.

She gasped, her lips parting and another breathy-sounding noise, almost like a tiny sob, disappeared into his mouth as he slid his tongue inside, rubbing sensuously over hers. Touching, retreating, performing a delicate dance. Careful not to batter her senses or overwhelm her, he merely continued to pour every bit of his love and desire into one precious kiss.

Then suddenly she yanked away, tears filling her eyes as she stared back at him. Grief shone in her gaze. Grief? What the fuck?

“I’m sorry, Joe. God, I’m so sorry,” she said with an agonized cry. “I didn’t mean to lead you on. I know I sent mixed signals. But we can’t do this. I can’t,” she whispered in a tortured voice. “Oh God, don’t you see?”

“No, I don’t see,” he said in the most gentle tone he could muster when he was raging on the inside at the blame she was heaping on herself. Misplaced and misdirected blame!

“You deserve so much better than someone like me,” she said, tears now streaming down her face. “Please, we have to forget this ever happened.”

He almost snorted. Like that was going to happen. And what the fuck kind of bullshit was she spouting about him deserving so much better? He wanted to put his fist through the fucking glass he was so enraged at how a pathetic excuse of a human being could ever tear down a woman as sweet and vulnerable and beautiful as Zoe. He wanted to kill the son of a bitch!

“I’m sorry,” she whispered again.

Before he could collect himself and trust himself to speak without roaring and scaring her to death, she flung her door open and jumped down and was gone, leaving him sitting in the truck, staring in frustration, as she ran into the house.

Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.