Daring Wes

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Wes kept his eyes focused on his golf club—and not on his ex-girlfriend two sections up at the driving range.

Okay, he’d been watching Kaylee the entire time. But dammit, what was she doing here? Until a few days ago, when she’d ambushed him in the club’s pro shop, he hadn’t seen Kaylee in four years.

Her hair was shorter now, and not the long, nearly black sheet of silk it had been in college. And despite her natural elegance, she was doing a fine job hacking it up on the driving range.

The same guy she’d been with a couple of days ago slid his hand to her firm, round ass, causing a pulse to pound behind Wes’s temples. It had been years since he’d seen Kaylee, but she’d been his the last time he had.

Wes shoved his club into his golf bag, prepared to call it a day and get the hell out, but Kaylee glanced in his direction. Her gaze landed on him and her eyes widened as though she hadn’t expected to see him there.

Wes owned Club Tahoe with his brothers. What kind of bullshit was this? Everyone knew finding him at the golf range was a given.

Kaylee said something to the man she was with and they headed toward Wes.

Fuck.

“Do you have a minute?” she asked as Wes packed up his clubs.

He sent her a tight smile. “I’ve gotta return to the pro shop.” Seeing Kaylee with someone else was like a fork in the eye, and Wes was doing everything he could to keep it together.

The guy with Kaylee put his arm around her shoulders, and Wes’s hands tightened into fists. “This’ll just take a moment. Kaylee said you went to college together and that you’re a professional golfer.”

Wes sighed. Had it not been for this girl and the head games she’d played in college, he would be a professional golfer, tearing it up on the tour. “I’m a pro at the resort.”

McDouche gave Wes a blank stare.

Obviously, the guy didn’t know much about golf. There was a big difference between playing tournaments and giving lessons as a course pro.

“Anyway,” McDouche said, “Kaylee says you’re good.” He looked down at Kaylee and grinned. “I’d love to get my fiancée some lessons. She’s just learning and could use the help.”

Fiancée… Fiancée? Wes leveled Kaylee a look, and she flinched.

He let out a slow breath. Was this some sick joke? His ex showed up out of nowhere at his family’s resort—his turf—and brought a fiancé?

“You don’t have to do it,” Kaylee said in a rush.

Her fiancé frowned. “We talked about this, Kaylee. You need lessons if you’re going to join me on the course in Fiji during our honeymoon.”

“Yes, but”—she glanced at Wes hesitantly—“he’s probably busy. I don’t even know if Wes gives lessons.”

“I give them,” Wes heard himself say.

He’d lost his mind. The last thing he should do was give lessons to Kaylee. She’d screwed him over, and neither he nor his golf career had ever fully recovered.

When Kaylee broke up with Wes, he’d been in the middle of the most pivotal tournament of his life. He’d shoved the breakup on the back burner and put all his mental energy into making it onto the pro tour, convinced he could make things right with Kaylee once he got home. Only Wes had bombed during tryouts, and “later” never came. By the time he returned, Kaylee had wrapped up her classes and left town. Wes never saw or heard from her again.

Golf was a head sport. Without focus, your score could easily go from six under to six over and knock you out of the game. Kaylee breaking up with him during the tournament had messed up his mental energy, and he hadn’t recovered since.

The sad coincidence in this little reunion four years later was that Wes was once again attempting to qualify for the tour. Running into his ex was either shit-poor luck—or just what he needed to regain his winning edge.

She’d dumped him coldly without a good reason, and the idea of trusting Kaylee left a sour taste in his mouth. But if he could find out why she’d hightailed it out of town all those years ago, it might help him build back his mental game and give him back the edge he’d lost. “I’m available Tuesday and Thursday afternoons from four to five.”

“Excellent!” McDouche with the overly chiseled jaw grinned at Kaylee, who appeared wary. “Kaylee can take lessons while she plans our wedding. We’re having it at the club. Beautiful place you got here.”

She was getting married…at his motherfucking resort? Had she lost her mind?

Kaylee lifted her chin in a defiant manner Wes remembered all too well. “I’ve always loved Lake Tahoe. My parents still have their cabin here. That’s where Eddy and I are staying.”

Eddy glanced between Wes and Kaylee. “Is there a problem? If you’re too busy to do the lessons, I can find someone else.”

“I’ll do them,” Wes said, staring at Kaylee.

Wes didn’t know why Kaylee was really here, but it was too much of a coincidence that she was, and he was going to make damn sure and find out why.

***

Kaylee tucked her hair behind her ears and slowly made her way toward Wes, standing near the driving range and talking to another guy. Wes was in a red Club Tahoe golf shirt, his hand shoved into his pants pocket, stretching the fabric of his khakis and giving her a nice view of his rear. Kaylee’s ex was as fit as he’d been in college—more so, because he was broader and a little more filled out now.

Her heart fluttered—had been a fluttering, spastic mess since she saw Wes last week after nearly four years. They’d parted on such crappy terms. This was her chance to make things right. Only Wes was holding a grudge based on his reaction to seeing her again. And that was a grudge she had to get past if she had any hope of finding closure.

Kaylee had come into the pro shop with Eddy last week to look for a lightweight jacket for the cooler mornings on the golf course. But as soon as she’d caught sight of Wes behind the counter, her heart had nearly given out. She’d planned for her wedding to take place at Club Tahoe because the resort was beautiful and she’d grown up coming to the lake. And because she needed to see Wes one last time before she married.

Kaylee had no idea Wes would actually be working at the club. He’d had big plans for a golf career. Plans that had consumed him—to the detriment of their relationship. She thought she’d have to hunt him down. Possibly reach out to his father. But a few days ago, Kaylee discovered that Wes’s father recently died, leaving Wes’s older brother Levi in charge of the luxury resort. Wes ran the golf course, and two of his other brothers managed programs on the property.

Entering Wes’s life after such a loss was the worst possible timing. But Kaylee’s wedding was in a couple of months, and it was now or never.

She trudged forward, golf bag on her shoulder, and stopped a few feet behind him. He hadn’t noticed her yet, and she took the opportunity to soak in the man she’d once loved more than anything.

Wes’s casual stance, the light smile that played on the corner of his mouth as he chatted with the other golfer—this was the fun-loving guy she remembered. She couldn’t see his deep blue eyes with part of his back to her, but she remembered the glint in them when he’d steal a kiss. Or the depths they could hold when he squeezed her hand while making love to her…

A warm shiver spread along her lower spine. This was a bad idea, tracking down Wes. And taking golf lessons from him? Maybe closure wasn’t so important after all. Not when unwanted sparks filled her whenever Wes was near. He evoked emotions she thought were gone, but apparently, they’d just been dormant. And they were emotions she needed to forget if she had any hope of starting a new life with Eddy.

Kaylee was about to abandon the entire idea of lessons with Wes, when his body stiffened.

He turned slowly and faced her, his gaze dropping to her lips before moving to her cheeks—where her face still burned from those stupid memories of them together.

If he’d tensed from her presence a moment ago, he hid it now. Wes didn’t fidget, didn’t break his stare. His demeanor was cool. Meanwhile, her temperature had risen and her legs felt wobbly.

“Is this still a good time?” Her voice came out high and nervous. She cleared her throat. “I can return later if you’re busy.” Or not return at all. Darn Eddy and his obsession with golf on their honeymoon. What was it with men and that sport?

Kaylee might have moved on, but Wes had stolen a piece of her heart. That didn’t mean they were right for each other. She would never forget the pain she’d suffered during and after their relationship.

Her plan had been to finally put the past to rest…once she told Wes what she should have said years ago. But she couldn’t explain things until they were on better terms. The truth was too personal and raw to mention while Wes looked at her like she was mud stuck to the bottom of his shoe. Which meant she had to tough things out, no matter how uncomfortable being around Wes would be.

“Now is fine,” he said.

He sent a catch-you-later nod to the man he’d been talking to and looked over Kaylee’s shoulder, his gaze settling somewhere beyond. A sweet smile spread across his face.

Kaylee’s heart lurched. Wes’s smiles had always melted her, and the effect they still had on her rattled Kaylee—reminding her again of why she’d fallen for Wes all those years ago. But Wes’s smile hadn’t been directed at her.

Kaylee turned to see a little girl—maybe four years old?—walking toward them. The child was carrying a small set of clubs, her hair pulled into a braided ponytail that swung back and forth with her determined pace. She had the same intense expression Wes used to sport when he headed out for a round of golf.

“Bella, meet Kaylee,” Wes said.

The young girl gave Kaylee a once-over. “Is she training too?”

Wes frowned. “Course not. Kaylee’s nowhere near your skill level. I’ll be training you and giving Kaylee tips. She can watch your form as an example of how it’s done.”

Bella grinned.

“Show me how it’s done?” Kaylee said quietly for only Wes’s ears. “By a four-year-old?”

“Five,” Wes said, and crossed his arms over his chest, widening his stance. “Bella’s small for her age, but don’t let the size fool you. She’s my best student.”

Kaylee caught the smirk on his lips.

Awesome. Not only was spending time with Wes going to be awkward, but he planned to make her look like an idiot. She supposed that in his mind she deserved it. Which she could handle. What she couldn’t handle was going the rest of her life without clearing the air with him.

Even so, Wes training a little girl was odd. He’d never much cared for anyone else’s game, always too focused on his own. “You’re really teaching kids now?”

“New program at the club. It’s not so bad. Especially with students like Bella.”

Bella took a practice swing. And she was really good.

“That’s it,” Wes called. “Keep your arm straight like I taught you last week. Slow and easy.”

Bella lined up a ball, raised her club, and swung, sending the ball way the hell out onto the driving range.

Kaylee coughed into her palm, holding back a smile. “Okay, you’re right. She’s talented.”

Wes glanced over. “Nervous?”

“Not at all.” Kaylee crossed her arms below her breasts. “I’ve got skills too.”

He cut her a look, his gaze dropping briefly to her chest, then rising slowly back to her eyes. He shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

Dammit. He must have seen her hitting balls at the driving range the other day.

The truth was that Kaylee royally sucked at golf. Not that she’d admit that to Wes.

He smiled proudly at another ball Bella launched into the atmosphere. “Good job,” he called.

Kaylee swallowed. And swallowed again. Because, suddenly, something else occurred to her. Wes wasn’t only teaching Bella for the fun of it or because he admired her talent…he genuinely cared for the little girl.

Seeing her self-centered ex teach a little girl how to play his favorite sport had an odd effect on Kaylee’s chest—a pinching, pulling sensation that made her heart ache.

Bella grinned over her shoulder, seeking Wes’s approval.

He nodded and said, “Practice what I taught you while I get Kaylee set up.”

Kaylee squared her shoulders. She would not let Wes acting adorable with a child affect her. Lots of men liked kids. This was no different.

Except it was different, because this was Wes.

He’d always been self-focused. He might have said he loved her when they’d dated, but his actions had made it clear she’d never been a priority.

Kaylee pulled out her golf glove and slipped it on. “How often does Bella practice?”

Wes shrugged. “Her parents come here often. I’ve been instructing her off and on all summer. That girl’s gonna be a pro someday.”

For a moment, Kaylee just stared. He almost seemed to care more about a small child’s success than his own. And that was just crazy.

“What if she decides to quit golf and take up dance?” Kaylee was goading him like she used to do. Only now she wasn’t sure how he’d take it.

Wes snarled. “No way. Not if I have anything to say about it.”

Kaylee laughed. He’d taken it exactly how he used to—with an air of arrogance and disgruntlement. Though deep down, he’d always been a softy at heart.

Her smile faded. Didn’t matter if he’d had a good heart. Sometimes that wasn’t enough.

Keeping things light, she said, “You never know, Wes. Women change their minds.”

His expression fell and his mouth hardened. “I’m familiar with women changing their minds.”

Shit. She’d not meant to go there so soon. She was still trying to get them back on good terms.

Kaylee turned and grabbed a golf club. “So what should I work on first? My swing? My stance?”

Wes looked off into the distance, as though he knew she was changing the subject. When he peered back, his gaze was neutral. “Your posture, form, and just about everything suck, so we’ll start at the beginning. Right where I started Bella.” He grinned smugly.

“You enjoy rubbing in how bad I am?”

“Do you really want the answer to that?”

“No,” she grumbled, and set a ball on a wooden tee she’d shoved into the soil.

“Hold up.” Wes walked over and grabbed her club. “First of all, use your pitching wedge, not the driver. You need to build up to the longer clubs.”

He dropped the driver into her golf bag, grabbed a shorter, smaller club, and handed it to her. Wes bent over and plucked the wooden tee she’d used to prop up the ball. He set the ball flush with the grass instead. Which, in Kaylee’s limited experience, was harder to hit from.

Wes scanned her body.

And her chest warmed, belly dropping.

The first time Kaylee had met Wes, he’d zeroed in on her at a college party and asked her to dance. That dance had turned into a kiss, which had turned into an overnight stay at her house that lasted all weekend. They were inseparable for two years. And it seemed her body remembered the effect he had on her and responded accordingly.

Be strong. You’re engaged! Wes was observing her golf stance, not checking her out—though she was pretty sure he’d given her a boob check earlier. Didn’t matter.

“Let me see your grip,” he said.

She held out her club and showed him the grip her fiancé had taught her.

Wes shifted her hand slightly, his warm palm grazing the skin on her bared fingers. A spark of heat swept up Kaylee’s arm. Wes’s eyes shot to hers, as though he felt it too.

He let go of her hand and cleared his throat. “Not bad. Give me your starting position.”

Kaylee went through the motions of her setup and swung the club the way she’d practiced.

Wes pressed his fingers to his forehead and shook his head. “Jesus, Kaylee. Are you sure you want to take up golf?”

She dropped her club to the turf. “Yes. Now are you going to show me or not?”

“Is this all because your fiancé wants you to play?”

She noted the emphasis on her intended. Her engagement had gone over about as well as she’d expected—not well at all. Wes had always dominated the room when they’d been together. There had never been space for other guys, even if she wanted to date someone else. “I’ve always wanted to learn, but you weren’t…”

His brow furrowed. “I wasn’t what?”

She huffed out a sigh. “You were always too busy in college to teach me. I could have gone to someone else, but I wanted to learn from you.”

He stared at her for a long moment, ocean-blue eyes unreadable. “Keep your arms down, feet shoulder width apart, and bend your knees.”

She blinked, then did as he said. Because, despite their rocky past, he was trying.

The rest of the lesson went a lot like that. Wes barked orders at Kaylee and cooed over Bella’s—admittedly incredible—form. Bella kicked ass, and by the end of the lesson, Kaylee wanted to be Bella when she grew up. Because at present, Kaylee still missed the ball more often than she made contact.

“Your form is better,” Wes mumbled. “Can’t hit for shit, but form is important. The rest will come.”

It was a backward compliment, but she’d take it because Wes didn’t dole them out often. Kaylee grinned.

Wes’s eyes widened, and he glanced away. “It’ll take practice.” He grabbed her club and slipped it into her golf bag. “Lots of practice, if you plan to be out on the course in… When did you say you’re getting married?” She heard the edge in his tone.

Kaylee rattled off her wedding date, mere months away, which suddenly seemed to loom over her. There was so much to get done, not the least of which was getting close enough to her ex to make things right. And now Eddy was putting pressure on her to keep up with him on the golf course, which seemed about as insurmountable as warming Wes up.

Wes stared without responding, like he was silently attempting to drill some message into her head with his eyes. That he hated her? That he wanted her gone? What?

Some things about Wes were the same. In other ways, he was an entirely different man. More hardened. Less trusting.

“If you want to be ready by then,” he finally said, “you had better practice in between lessons.”

“I can come every day if needed.”

Wes flinched. After a moment, he said, “I’ve gotta get back to Bella,” and turned and walked away.

Kaylee’s shoulders sank. Things were awkward, when at one point they’d been the opposite. Kaylee had never felt a connection like the one she’d had with Wes. Until the end, when everything in her life had crumpled.

It had taken a long time to recover from the loss. She planned to make things right between her and Wes.

It was the only way to move on with a clear conscience.