Kyle Bones threw down his surfboard, sat on Miami Beach, and sucked in a few breaths. He’d been surfing all morning in the crystal-blue waters. Since it was the end of May, the weather was perfect. Propping his surfboard up in the sand, he dusted it off, then grabbed his jug of water and gulped it back.
He thought about what he’d been trying not to think about since coming to the ocean this morning—the all-stars event in Jackson this weekend and the fact that he had to go. Recently, he’d taken the role as coordinator for the Sparring for Vets program in Florida under Scar Walker’s direction. More recently, he’d discovered a desire to punch Scar Walker in the face.
Scar had set up some radio promotion to help raise awareness for the gym that was currently being built in Miami for vets, and he’d promised the radio station they could raffle off a trip to Jackson with Kyle Bones, famous ex-Navy SEAL and MMA fighter. The winner would accompany Kyle to the all-stars event. Just thinking about it sent a tsunami of curse words rushing through Kyle’s mind. Why would he ever want to attend an all-stars event in Jackson?
When he’d told Scar he would not be attending, Scar had guilted him and asked if he would do it for his military brothers and sisters. He’d said, “Are you willing to step up and lead or not, man?”
The words still bugged Kyle. He’d led missions in Afghanistan for five years. He didn’t need this crap. He didn’t need a talk on leadership. Forget Scar.
Kyle was busy enough. For the past two years, he’d been opening MMA gyms all over Florida, and he loved it. Making a lot of money at it had been a nice bonus. Plus, he had an expansion project in the works that included developing more gyms out west.
Unbidden, a woman’s face popped into his mind. That was the real reason he didn’t want to go to Jackson and the all-stars event: Cassidy Stone.
She would be attending the all-stars event. Two years had passed since she’d chosen the other guy—Anthony Kincaid. Humph. Kyle had come back from the dead for her, but she’d already moved on. Running a hand over his face, he tried to push away those dark thoughts that his best friend Russell would say didn’t suit him. Thoughts about how he’d lost the only woman he’d ever loved, the only woman he’d ever felt close to. Ugh. He clenched his hand into a fist. It usually didn’t get to him, but he hadn’t seen her in two years, and now they’d be attending the same event. It took all of his mixed martial arts training to keep his cool.
He let out a shaky breath and tried to focus on cleaning off his board, but his attention was drawn to the ocean, where a woman was paddling out on a surfboard. Though it wasn’t an odd thing to see women surf, it wasn’t as common as one might think. He’d only really noticed because he thought the pink wetsuit she was wearing was kind of cute. He watched her wait for the wave, watched as she popped up and was shaky at first, but then fell into a groove, riding it perfectly.
Then he noticed that he couldn’t see her other hand. Taking off his sunglasses, he saw that her wetsuit on her left side was pinned up halfway. She was missing a hand, yet she was so good, it didn’t matter. The girl rode the wave all the way in and then hopped off the board and snatched it up with her right hand, rushing toward him on the beach.
The first thing that hit him was how gorgeous she was. Curvy in all the right places, she was strong, athletic, blonde, and tall—maybe five-ten, five-eleven. When her blue eyes connected with his, bam! It was knock-you-down powerful.
He watched as she went to a mom and a little boy, not more than five or six; the boy was missing a hand too. It looked like she was showing him how to surf. Kyle noted that her injury was right above the wrist, and she used her arm just as she would a hand, plunking the surfboard back in. For the next ten minutes he stared, captivated, while she took the boy out to catch a couple of waves. It was seriously impressive. Here she was, without a hand, teaching others with disabilities how to surf too.
Pulling his wetsuit to his waist, Kyle let the water from the jug cascade over him, trying to keep his mind off of being in Jackson this weekend as a monkey in some act for charity. Granted, it was a charity he had agreed to help with and one he believed in, but still. He pinched the bridge of his nose. He did not want to attend the event. Period.
Kyle was startled to notice Surf Girl walking toward him, storming up the beach fast and furious. Wait, not toward him, but past him. He wanted to talk to her, say something. “Hey,” he said lamely as she stalked past. “Could we go out sometime?”
Not even turning to look at him, she huffed, “Never gonna happen.”
Humiliation slammed into him like a kick to the gut. He’d never spontaneously asked a woman out like that before. Turning, he watched her walk up the beach and wondered if he would ever see her again.