Brighter Than the Sun(116)

By: Maya Banks

Then he lowered his mouth and took her lips, savoring their first kiss as man and wife. Uncaring that they had an audience or that his mom and dad were sitting a few feet away watching the entire time, he teased the line of her lips with his tongue, coaxing her to open for him.

With a breathy sigh, she capitulated and he delved within, tasting her and sipping at her sweetness. The kiss went on for so long that they were both gasping for breath. Cheers, applause and ribbing broke out from the wedding party and those sitting in the pews.

“If you’ll turn around and face your family, I’ll present you and your wife,” the pastor said with an amused grin.

Joe tucked Zoe into his side as they turned and faced the people they loved.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Kelly.”

Those who’d been sitting stood and everyone started clapping—when they weren’t wiping tears from their cheeks. His mother had amassed a pile of tissues on the pew beside her while his father merely had his arm around her, a soft smile on his face as he gazed tenderly down at his own wife.

Joe smiled down at Zoe. “Shall we, Mrs. Kelly?”

She laughed. “There’s an awful lot of Mrs. Kellys, you know. How in the world do you not confuse the heck out of everyone?”

He threw back his head and laughed. “Honey, as long as you’re mine, I don’t care who we confuse. I can guarantee that I’ll never be confused over who my wife is.”

He propelled her forward and they walked back down the aisle, smiling at the offered congratulations and the obvious joy shared by everyone in attendance. When they got to the vestibule, Joe hurriedly pulled her into another long, breathless kiss. He reluctantly pulled back to see her eyes laughing up at him.

“Well, I only have a few seconds before they follow us,” he grumbled. “It’s not a crime to take every opportunity to kiss your wife on your wedding day.”

She leaned up and brushed her mouth across his. “Indeed not,” she murmured.

Then the doors opened as attendees began flooding out of the sanctuary. They stood and smiled until those not in the wedding party had exited, heading toward Marlene and Frank’s house where the reception would be held. Sean, however, stood in the vestibule, his expression brooding as he stared into the church.

“Come on,” Zoe whispered, tugging at Joe’s hand. “We have to take pictures.”

Joe sent Sean a curious look as he and Zoe walked by, wondering what was up and why he looked as though he were about to explode. Then something Zoe had said the night he’d climbed through her window registered, and the veritable lightbulb went off.

“Holy shit!” he whispered in Zoe’s ear as they walked through the doors and down the aisle. “Rusty and Sean?”

Zoe halted in midstep and turned, looking up at Joe, her expression pleading. “Please, Joe, you can’t say anything to anyone. I’ll explain later. I promise. But you can’t say anything or you’ll just make things worse for Rusty, and they’re already bad enough.”

“Is he why she left?” he asked harshly.

He had the sudden urge to walk back through the doors and beat the shit out of the man responsible for causing his sister so much pain that she’d left her own home, but Zoe was silently begging him to let it go, and he wasn’t about to do anything to mar her wedding day.

“I’ll tell you later,” she hissed.

He leaned down and kissed her so the others would think that was the reason for their hesitation.

“Later,” he agreed. “And I’ll want to know if I need to beat the county sheriff’s ass when it’s over.”

Zoe rolled her eyes and shook her head. Then she let go of his hand and hurried to where Rusty was being hugged and mauled by all his brothers. She sent him another pleading look and this time he understood that she wanted him to shield Rusty from inquisition from his five brothers.

Man, was he going to get shit for throwing in with the women, but hell, ask him if he gave a fuck.

He waded into the middle of his brothers and wrapped Rusty up in a huge bear hug as if he was thrilled she was here. And he was. But he maneuvered her away from the others, amid questions being asked by Sam and Donovan.