Brighter Than the Sun (KGI Series #11)

Brighter Than the Sun (KGI Series #11)

by Maya Banks

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Overview

Brighter Than the Sun (KGI Series #11) by Maya Banks

Searing action and passion ignite the latest New York Times bestselling KGI novel from the author of Darkest Before Dawn.
 
The Kelly Group International (KGI): A super-elite, top secret, family-run business.
Qualifications: High intelligence, rock-hard body, military background.
Mission: Hostage/kidnap victim recovery. Intelligence gathering.
Handling jobs the U.S. government can’t...
 
As the last unattached member of the Kelly clan, Joe is more than ready to risk life and limb on any mission he’s assigned to, but when it comes to love, he’ll keep his distance. He’s content to watch his brothers become thoroughly domesticated. 
 
Zoe’s had nothing but heartbreak in her life, and she’s determined to start over with a completely new identity, thanks to her college friend, Rusty Kelly. But it’s the gorgeous smile and tender words of Joe Kelly that begin to weaken her resolve to never risk her heart again. And Joe will have to put everything on the line to save Zoe, when secrets of her past resurface—and threaten to tear them apart…

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698176195
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/07/2017
Series: KGI Series , #11
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 6,657
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Maya Banks is the #1 USA Today and #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Surrender trilogy, the Breathless trilogy, the Sweet series, the Colters’ Legacy novels, and The Enforcers series. 

She lives in the South with her husband and three children and other assorted babies, such as her two Bengal kitties and a calico who’s been with her as long as her youngest child. She’s an avid reader of romance and loves to dish books with her fans and anyone else who’ll listen!


From the Paperback edition.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Zoe. Your name is Zoe Kildare now.

Zoe mentally cautioned herself while she paced back and forth, her agitation only increasing as she stopped to check her watch. Where was she? Rusty should have been here by now. Zoe's mind raced with a number of gruesome possibilities. What if she'd been found out? What if she'd led Rusty straight into harm's way?

The door burst open and she barely managed to suppress her surprised cry of fright. She sagged with relief when her college friend Rusty Kelly hurried through carrying a stack of folders and loose papers.

Rusty dropped the load onto the coffee table and pulled Zoe into a fierce hug. The two women held on to each other for a long moment before Rusty finally pulled away, her gaze sweeping up and down Zoe as if assessing her condition.

"Are you okay?" Rusty asked anxiously.

Zoe swallowed and nodded though tears pricked her eyelids.

Rusty gave her another bone-crushing hug, and Zoe held on to her friend just as tightly. Then Rusty guided her to the nearby couch and urged her down, sitting diagonal to her and gathering her hands in her firm grip.

"Did anyone follow you? Did you see anything out of the ordinary or get a sense that anyone was watching you?" Rusty asked urgently.

Zoe shook her head. "No, I don't think so. I was careful. I did everything you told me. I made it appear as though I was heading west to California."

Rusty nodded approvingly. "That's good, but we can't afford to waste any time nor can we ever adopt a false sense of security. You went to college here and it's a city you're familiar with, so it stands to reason this is a logical place you'd go."

"I can't stay here," Zoe choked out.

"No, you can't," Rusty said calmly. "I need you to answer some questions for me, Stel-I mean Zoe. Damn it. We can't afford to slip. You've got to be aware and on your toes at all times. You cannot react to your real name. You can't flinch, show any awareness. You have to act as though you assume whoever is using it is calling someone else's name. And you absolutely have to be tuned in to your alias and behave as if it's the name you were born with."

Zoe nodded, clasping Rusty's hands more fiercely. Her heart felt as though it were going to beat right out of her chest. Not a minute had passed since overhearing Sebastian's-or whoever the hell he was-conversation six days ago that fear hadn't been a living, breathing constant for her. Her entire life had been upended the day she'd been crushed and had learned what a gullible, na•ve fool she'd been. Had always been.

"Zoe is a name I'm intimately familiar with," she admitted, lowering her eyes in embarrassment. "When I was a child, I felt so isolated . . . so alone that I made up an imaginary friend. Zoe. Zoe Kildare. I had no other friends. I was a stranger in my own home. My father barely acknowledged my presence."

She broke off, tears threatening once more. Damn it. She'd shed no more tears over her father or a bastard like Sebastian. She'd never mattered to anyone in her life, so why should she have believed for a moment that she would matter to the man who became her lover? A man whom she'd overheard laughing and saying what a chore it was to have to fuck a loser like her. Just the memory had her cringing with humiliation.

"Oh honey," Rusty said, her own eyes going bright with tears.

Zoe shook her head, firming her lips. "They aren't worth your tears or mine. Now, what questions did you have for me?"

Rusty sighed but returned to the matter at hand. "Did you ever at any time mention me, my name, anything about me, to Sebastian, your father or anyone? Think hard, Zoe. This is important."

Zoe frowned as she thought back. But no. She hadn't wanted to risk Rusty in any way-Rusty was her first and only true friend. The only person in her entire life who was real and loyal. She shook her head in response to the question.

"Are you one hundred percent certain?" Rusty persisted.

"I wasn't exactly on speaking terms with my father," Zoe said bitterly. "And when I was with Sebastian we didn't talk about my life outside of our 'relationship.' I was too worried he would find out about me . . . who I was . . . and that he'd hate me, never knowing he knew all along."

Rusty looked relieved and then smiled, her eyes lighting up with triumph. "I don't want you to worry. I have the perfect plan."

Zoe looked at her in confusion, but Rusty went over and gathered the stack of folders she'd carried in with her. She began placing items in front of a stunned Zoe.

"First, here's your driver's license. You're from Chicago, by the way. Here's your birth certificate, passport and Social Security card. Oh, and credit cards with an already well-established credit history. You have a penchant for books and wine, judging by the purchases. And clothes. I made you a total clothes and shoe whore. You even have Facebook and Twitter accounts that date back seven years-do you have any idea how long it took me to make up and post inane details of your life as well as establish fake friends for you? Oh, and you also have a solid purchase history with Amazon, including a Kindle and plenty of e-books. You're a devoted fan of cookbooks, romance and science fiction."

Zoe looked at her in utter bewilderment. Then she latched on to one of the last things Rusty said. "Cookbooks?" She broke into hysterical laughter. "I can't even boil water!"

Rusty shrugged. "Details. Not like you'll have to prove your culinary prowess, and it was all I could come up with on such short notice."

Zoe's jaw gaped in awe. "Rusty, how on earth did you accomplish all this? Isn't this . . . illegal?"

Rusty didn't look overly concerned. "What can I say? I have mad tech and hacking skills. I impressed even myself this time."

"I have no idea what to say. This is . . ."

Rusty gave her a cheeky grin. "Brilliant? Genius?" She made a show of blowing on her nails, a devilish gleam in her eyes. "Oh, and by the way, after you got your BA, you also graduated with an MBA from DePaul University. I didn't want any similarities to your past reality."

"I think I'm kind of afraid of you right now," Zoe said, though some of the panic that had been ever present since hearing of her intended fate from her scumbag ex-lover eased, and for the first time she began to feel . . . hope.

Rusty rolled her eyes. "It's just as well you can't tell anyone what I've done because it's not like my overbearing brothers would ever believe I was more tech savvy than my geek-god brother, Donovan. Not to mention a certain asshole sheriff who's the bane of my existence and hasn't missed any opportunity to demean and insult me over the years but then inexplicably decided to give me the most delicious kiss of my life. Not that there've been that many."

Zoe winced in sympathy. She was the only person Rusty had confided in about her love/hate relationship with Sean Cameron, the sheriff of the county she lived in.

"Apparently we both suck when it comes to men," she said lamely.

"No, sister. We don't suck. They do," Rusty said emphatically.

"I'll drink to that," she muttered.

Rusty leaned forward and squeezed her hands, sympathy brimming in her eyes. "He's an asshole, Zoe. And not worth your time or regret. You did nothing wrong. He played you. That's on him. Not you."

"Doesn't make me any less stupid," Zoe muttered.

"Well, join the crowd. I should have knocked Sean's teeth out when he pulled that stunt and especially since he apologized and said it never should have happened. But noooo. I stood there like a moron. God, I'm mortified to this day and avoid him at all costs."

"So you said you had the perfect plan," Zoe said, purposely turning the subject away from what was clearly a painful, embarrassing memory for Rusty.

Rusty's eyes lit up as she smiled. "I have the perfect plan. You're going to come home with me and stay for a while. You know. A friend I met at a conference while in college and kept in touch with. Marlene and Frank will love you and take you in just like family."

Zoe's expression became troubled. "That's not a good idea, Rusty. I don't want you or your family exposed to any danger. You've already risked far too much."

To Zoe's surprise, Rusty laughed. "I realize we've both kept our secrets during our friendship-you keeping the fact your father is involved in organized crime, and me? Well, let's just say that the very safest place for you to stay until we figure out a better plan or nail Sebastian's sorry ass to the wall is with my family. He doesn't stand a chance against my brothers, not to mention all the people who work for them."

Zoe's eyebrows went up in question.

Rusty held up fingers as she ticked off her points. "Apart from the fact that the asshole sheriff is exceedingly protective of our family and is an adopted family member much like myself, my brothers kick asses for a living. They're all ex-military and someone would be a fool to ever cross them in any way, and once you come home with me as a friend? Well, consider yourself a member of the Kelly clan. Their motto is 'no one fucks with the Kellys,' and trust me, sister, that isn't just an idle boast."

"What on earth do they do? I mean, apart from kicking asses for a living and being ex-military."

"They run an organization that takes a wide range of assignments from personal protection to hostage retrieval to messy jobs the government doesn't want to soil their hands on but don't mind throwing KGI under the bus for in order to achieve their purpose. They've done fugitive recovery, rescue missions, obliterated terrorist organizations, and that's when they aren't meeting their significant others while on a mission."

Zoe studied her for a long moment. "You're not joking, are you?"

Rusty shook her head. "Nope. When I say they are the ultimate badasses, I am not in the least bit exaggerating. Wait until you meet them!"

"Uh, maybe that's not a good idea," Zoe mumbled. "I'd feel better staying to myself as much as possible."

Rusty shrugged. "If you come home with me, it's inevitable you'll meet them at some point. Just be yourself and act casual. If you start acting all weird and jumpy then they're going to get suspicious, and that's the last thing we want."

"So you aren't going to tell them about . . . me? I mean, the truth?"

Rusty's eyes grew earnest. "I would never betray your confidence, Zoe. You're my friend, and as far as they're concerned, we're friends who met in college and you're visiting me while we decide what to do with our degrees and futures. The less they know, the better. In fact, no one but the two of us ever needs to know the truth. That's how fuckups happen. I'm going to keep you alive no matter what it takes. I won't let that asshole get his hands on you."

Zoe took a deep breath. "So when do we leave then?"

Chapter 2

"We're almost there," Rusty said cheerfully as they crossed the bridge over Kentucky Lake.

"It's beautiful here," Zoe breathed. "It seems so quiet and peaceful. No hustle and bustle of a big city. Are the people here nice?"

Rusty wrinkled her nose. "For the most part. I mean, like any small town we have our share of nosy busybodies whose sole ambition in life is to make others miserable, but the Kellys are very respected in this area. Frank owns a hardware store in Dover, and as I told you, all six of his and Marlene's sons served in various branches of the military. I was on the other side of the fence growing up. White trash. Troublemaker. Loser. Pick your poison. My life changed when I broke into Frank and Marlene's house because I was starving and my asshole stepfather didn't give a shit about anything except where to score his next hit. He wasn't choosy. Alcohol, drugs, whatever would get him hammered the fastest. Taking care of a stepdaughter dumped on him by his slut of a wife wasn't exactly a priority. I wouldn't have ever stayed the first night with him, but I had nowhere else to go and I was too young at the time to pull off acting older than I was, so I would have just gotten hauled into the foster care system. At least my stepfather was the devil I knew and I learned to get around him." She grimaced. "Most of the time."

"God, Rusty. My life wasn't exactly wonderful, but I was never abused and I never went without. My father saw to it that I had the best of everything. Most likely so I wouldn't be more of an embarrassment to him than I already was. I mean, it was obvious that my own mother had no use for me. She left and couldn't be bothered to take her daughter with her."

Rusty scowled. "I don't see much of a difference in our situations. We were both unwanted, and that does a number on a child, as we can both attest to."

"That's true," Zoe admitted.

"I was so lucky," Rusty said, her features going soft, her eyes lighting with love and pride. "Marlene and Frank are the very best kind of people. Marlene took me in without question, even confronting my asshole stepfather and then permanently removing me from his custody. They even adopted me after I turned eighteen because they wanted me to know they truly did consider me a part of the family. Their daughter."

"They sound wonderful," Zoe said wistfully.

"Wait until you meet them," Rusty said, smiling. "I give it a day before Marlene claims you as family. My brothers give her shit about her propensity for collecting 'strays.' Strays being all the people she's adopted into the family over the years. It's impossible not to love her and Frank."

"They sound too good to be true," Zoe admitted.

"They're the real deal. You'll see soon enough."

Zoe twirled the ends of her long hair nervously through her fingers and glanced at her reflection in the side-view mirror.

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Brighter Than the Sun 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 62 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Joe deserved a much better story. First 19 chapters is all "woe is me I'm so worthless" from Zoe thoughts and "I fell hard just like my brothers" crap from Joe. Nothing really interesting happens until chapter 20 and then it's all wrapped up in the next 60 pages. As a faithful reader of the KGI books I could have saved the cost of the book and read those last 60 pages at the bookstore.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Waited so long for this story and she blew over what me as a reader was looking for. She did not tells us what happened to Zoe father or Sebastian. We do not know if Nathan and Shea had a boy or a girl. No information on Maren and Steeles baby. What happened between Rusty and Sean. Lots of missing pieces. Left totally dissapointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've been a Maya Banks fan for years. Her books were amazing . I fell in love with the Kelly brothers from the start and looked forward to every book. It seems the last great book I read was Nathan's story line. It's like she ran out if idea's or just doesn't care anymore and wants them out of the way. I even considered a ghost rider. I like the fact that we seem to be heading towards a Rusty and Sean storyline which I intend to read because I love these characters so much. I just hope I am not disappointed once more. Maya Banks needs to fall in love with writing again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What happened? That was the question I asked myself continuously throughout this book. What happened between Zoe' s father and mother? Things were great and then they weren't and her father checked out on her. Ok and....? How did Sebastian find Zoe? What happened to him during Zoe's rescue? Never actually said what happened. They showed up, they blew some stuff up, Zoe ran into the woods, Zoe was rescued. Why aren't we worried about Sebastian anymore? What about her father? Shouldn't we be a little worried about the mobster father? There was no action and not much of a plot to this story. This book was easy for me to put down when normally I would stay up all night reading. So easily forgettable, in fact, it took me a whole week to finish it. I never start a new book until I finish the one I'm reading but I was pretty tempted with this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First, let me say that I am a HUGE Maya Banks fan. I've loved her books from day one. However, her work lately has been pitiful. It's like she is a college student who has known about a paper for months but waits until the night before to write it. Now, I know that romance novels are never realistic, but it bothered me that Zoe and Joe had sex so quickly. It didn't seem realistic. Their feelings didn't seem real to be because they happened so fast. I have mixed feelings about getting the updates on the whole Kelley family. On one hand, I enjoyed it. On the other, I hated that it took time away from Joe and Zoe. Instead of showing all the pointless banter between other characters, Maya could have used that for a build up between main characters. Her earlier KGI books (1-4) are books I could read over and over again. This one is one I bought and will never look at again. It's just not that good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was Maya in a hurry to get it done in a month? Very slow and no real drama in this book. This is a throw away story of no point of this one. Bummer, I loved most of the books in the series. Text me and "friend me" and ill share "borrow" it to you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was expecting more to Joe's story than this. The story seemed to drag on forever with 'woe is me' tales from both Joe and Zoe, then with the last 50 or so pages.. the plot seemed rushed. Maya is just not hitting it like she used to
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the KGI book that changes the way you look at the Kelly brothers. Yes, they're still the alphas that you love, but ... well you have to read the book to understand. Loved Joe and Zoe's story. Joe discovered that when you fall it's fast snd hard, but sometimes you have to be able to put her needs above your own wants. Joe's understanding of when to wait and when to take the chance really made me love his character. While Zoe seemed to immediately fall for Joe after her bad experience, I kind of believe that she and Rusty had been "working" on her new life for longer than mentioned. Remember that Rusty made several references to how much time it took her to "help" Zoe with her new "life". But what put this book into the must read KGI place for me was the set-ups for the next books. Skylar's book is next. Plus hope we get to see more of Allie and who gets to her heart and soul. But most of all, Rusty. If you're not teary eyed at what happens with her, well... Sean and most of the Kelly brothers need to find a ways to fix what they broke with her. I don't expect that to be an easy journey. Knowing that Maya Banks' is planning to end this series soon, I can't wait to reading Rusty's book. I think that it will be epic. Most wilk love this book, others might not, but it's definitely a must read KGI book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The KGI series began with special ops action and romance thrown in. This book waited until about page 185 before anything happened. There were five pages of inconclusive action, and we were back to the romance...again. I found myself glancing through most of the pages that really didn't hold my interest. After the first four books, this series really went downhill in the action department. Ms. Banks needs to ratchet it back up.
beeLG More than 1 year ago
Awesome story! If u haven't read this series, you must they. They are awesome stories of The Kelly's. This is Joe Kelly, last unmarried brother. He meets his younger sisters friend, Zoe when she comes to stay with their parents. They are drawn to each other. Danger, excitement, emotional, family, comaraderie, and romance make this story kickass Couldn't put it down. 9 stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I used to love this series. The latest installments weren't quite as good but I still enjoyed them. This book was terrible. It was so boring I fell asleep trying to read it. There was no suspense. Not only does she not give any explanations or answers, she does not even bother asking the questions. I won't say what questions because I don't want to spoil what little plot there is. I am done with this series and probably this author. What a waste of money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this story, can't wait for Rusty's story!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the story, but felt that there were too many side stories. I didn't think we found out enough about Zoe's background story. She's running but not sure who's really looking for her and we get no sense of anyone trying to track her down and then out of no where she's taken and that seemed anticlimactic (the rescue.) What I got teary-eyed at was what is happening with Rusty. I was shocked at the way the brothers treated her and Sean doesn't deserve her. He is a total jerk. After the ending I wanted to find out that Rusty story was next, but I read here that Skylar's story is next. Missed not having Resnick in this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Am i the only one who feels that the crude language that is used makes those tough guys seem like teenagers and make the women seem illiterate? That ruined the story as well as the unanswered questions.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maya Banks does it again with another action packed romance with truly believable characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Extremely painful to read. I kept trying, because I didn't want to throw away the $7.99 I spent on it. But frankly it just kept getting worse. I've read the first four or five books in this series, and loved them and the characters. This book is making me despise them. Don't waste your money! I know you'll be tempted because Maya Banks USED to write amazing books. This isn't even close to the quality she used to put out. I don't think it's even deserves one star.
2kasmom More than 1 year ago
This is book #11, in the fast paced KGI series. This can be read as a standalone novel. For reader enjoyment, and to completely understand the series and what is going on in the book, I recommend reading this 5* series in order. Joe has heard from all the other brothers, and sometimes even his sister, that he will know the "one" when he finds her. Well that all seems like a bunch of garbage. Until she steps into view. Now it is a whole new adventure. Zoe has never had a family who loves her. In fact her whole life has been a lot of the opposite. With the help of her college roommate, she finds herself on the run for her life. Having a man there who wants to cherish and protect her is so unheard of, she is not sure really how to respond. This series always gets my heart pumping. Each character is so unique and special. This book has some fan favorite characters inside to make you get excited! I absolutely cannot wait until the next installment in the series is here.
2kasmom More than 1 year ago
This is book #11, in the fast paced KGI series. This can be read as a standalone novel. For reader enjoyment, and to completely understand the series and what is going on in the book, I recommend reading this 5* series in order. Joe has heard from all the other brothers, and sometimes even his sister, that he will know the "one" when he finds her. Well that all seems like a bunch of garbage. Until she steps into view. Now it is a whole new adventure. Zoe has never had a family who loves her. In fact her whole life has been a lot of the opposite. With the help of her college roommate, she finds herself on the run for her life. Having a man there who wants to cherish and protect her is so unheard of, she is not sure really how to respond. This series always gets my heart pumping. Each character is so unique and special. This book has some fan favorite characters inside to make you get excited! I absolutely cannot wait until the next installment in the series is here.
2kasmom More than 1 year ago
This is book #11, in the fast paced KGI series. This can be read as a standalone novel. For reader enjoyment, and to completely understand the series and what is going on in the book, I recommend reading this 5* series in order. Joe has heard from all the other brothers, and sometimes even his sister, that he will know the "one" when he finds her. Well that all seems like a bunch of garbage. Until she steps into view. Now it is a whole new adventure. Zoe has never had a family who loves her. In fact her whole life has been a lot of the opposite. With the help of her college roommate, she finds herself on the run for her life. Having a man there who wants to cherish and protect her is so unheard of, she is not sure really how to respond. This series always gets my heart pumping. Each character is so unique and special. This book has some fan favorite characters inside to make you get excited! I absolutely cannot wait until the next installment in the series is here.
2kasmom More than 1 year ago
This is book #11, in the fast paced KGI series. This can be read as a standalone novel. For reader enjoyment, and to completely understand the series and what is going on in the book, I recommend reading this 5* series in order. Joe has heard from all the other brothers, and sometimes even his sister, that he will know the "one" when he finds her. Well that all seems like a bunch of garbage. Until she steps into view. Now it is a whole new adventure. Zoe has never had a family who loves her. In fact her whole life has been a lot of the opposite. With the help of her college roommate, she finds herself on the run for her life. Having a man there who wants to cherish and protect her is so unheard of, she is not sure really how to respond. This series always gets my heart pumping. Each character is so unique and special. This book has some fan favorite characters inside to make you get excited! I absolutely cannot wait until the next installment in the series is here.
2kasmom More than 1 year ago
This is book #11, in the fast paced KGI series. This can be read as a standalone novel. For reader enjoyment, and to completely understand the series and what is going on in the book, I recommend reading this 5* series in order. Joe has heard from all the other brothers, and sometimes even his sister, that he will know the "one" when he finds her. Well that all seems like a bunch of garbage. Until she steps into view. Now it is a whole new adventure. Zoe has never had a family who loves her. In fact her whole life has been a lot of the opposite. With the help of her college roommate, she finds herself on the run for her life. Having a man there who wants to cherish and protect her is so unheard of, she is not sure really how to respond. This series always gets my heart pumping. Each character is so unique and special. This book has some fan favorite characters inside to make you get excited! I absolutely cannot wait until the next installment in the series is here.
2kasmom More than 1 year ago
This is book #11, in the fast paced KGI series. This can be read as a standalone novel. For reader enjoyment, and to completely understand the series and what is going on in the book, I recommend reading this 5* series in order. Joe has heard from all the other brothers, and sometimes even his sister, that he will know the "one" when he finds her. Well that all seems like a bunch of garbage. Until she steps into view. Now it is a whole new adventure. Zoe has never had a family who loves her. In fact her whole life has been a lot of the opposite. With the help of her college roommate, she finds herself on the run for her life. Having a man there who wants to cherish and protect her is so unheard of, she is not sure really how to respond. This series always gets my heart pumping. Each character is so unique and special. This book has some fan favorite characters inside to make you get excited! I absolutely cannot wait until the next installment in the series is here.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although it happened very fast I enjoyed it. I admit that I would have loved to know what happened to Sebastian. Joe owed him. This series continues to be one of my favorites.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I love all the KGI stories, my favorites are Joe's and Nathan's. Can't wait for Rusty's story.