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Hamilton Stables #2
Hamilton Stables #2
By: Melissa West
Released February 16, 2016
In the lush heart of Kentucky, horse racing is king, and the Hamilton family is royalty, born to produce champions. Maybe that’s because they understand wildness better than most…
Charming, reckless, and restless, youngest brother Alex Hamilton has a reputation for sweet talking his way into any woman’s arms—and failing at anything to do with the family business. So when he commits to managing their new breeding operation, it’s under one condition: he’ll focus on work and nothing else—no distractions, no fun…no women. But just when Alex has promised to keep his hands to himself, sweet, sexy Kate Littleton gallops away with his heart…
Kate knows Alex isn’t the long-term type—he proved that in a lot of delicious ways when they first met more than a year ago. But seeing him blazing with new dedication to Hamilton Stables, she can’t deny that he’s miles ahead of any other man who interests her. The attraction between them is electric right out of the gate, but it will take an unexpected loss to put them back in the race and headed for a passionate future together…
"Bout damn time.” Trip walked out of the foaling barn, his Stetson firmly planted on his head, the same cowboy boots he always wore around the farm on his feet. A red-and-black plaid shirt hung loose over his Levis, and though to some he might appear to be an ignorant hick, those in the business knew the truth: Trip was the best trainer in horse racing.
Among owners, Alex felt the weight of his brother’s name following him around like a dark shadow that refused to lift. He introduced himself, and immediately owners asked, “Trip’s brother, right?” He’d have no choice but to agree, but for Christ’s sake, there were three Hamilton brothers, not one, and it was time he and Nick receive the respect they deserved.
Pushing aside his bitter thoughts, he opened his mouth to say that he wasn’t late, Trip was early, but then he noticed the two women standing a few yards away from his brother, and suddenly Alex’s throat refused to work properly.
“Hey, there. Doing okay today?” Emery, Trip’s fiancée, asked him as she started over. At five foot nothing and barely over a hundred pounds, she looked like a child beside Trip, but her size fit her job well. She was a rider for Hamilton Stables, and her father was the legendary Hall-of-Fame trainer Beckett Carlisle. Which meant Trip and Emery’s relationship owned the title of most unexpected match, but there they were, head over heels in love, wedding date six months away.
But while his eyes were on his future sister-in-law now, she wasn’t the woman who’d caught his attention.
His gaze drifted over and refused to lift from the bright redhead beside Emery, her skin as fair as milk except for the occasional freckle. Her eyes were so intensely blue Alex found it difficult to look at her without his mouth falling slack. She wore a simple blue and white cotton dress that hit midthigh, her look so out of place on the farm a normal woman might feel self-conscious, but Alex would bet this woman had never felt self-conscious a day in her life. Why would she? To date, he’d never met a woman who held a candle to her.
“Alex,” she said, her voice soft, a hint of modesty there that he’d never understood but cut through him all the same.
He nodded back. “Kate."
Kate Littleton stared at the man she’d had sex with not eighteen months before, curious if he still looked the same underneath his perfectly fitted T-shirt and jeans.
She tried to remember why she’d ended their dating streak, and then the memory came to her like a spoon full of vinegar. Alex had freaked out when Trip and Emery became serious. Something about complications and awkwardness and other words that really meant freak-out on aisle seven. No really, it meant he had no real feelings for her anyway, which was fine, she was fine. Great, even. But the part that had always gnawed at her was that she didn’t want anything from him beyond a chance to spend time with him. Just his time, and was that really so much to ask for?
See, despite the arrogant vibe he put out there, Alex was a genuinely sweet and funny guy. She enjoyed being around him, enjoyed his laugh, enjoyed the way the conversation never became stilted. He had a carefree spirit and a sharp mind that could fascinate her with a single comment, then he’d smirk like he knew just what he’d done.
But Alex just didn’t see himself clearly. Shadowed by his brothers, he’d spent his whole life climbing a hill that only rose higher with each step.
But instead of telling him as much or trying to make him see, she’d said goodbye. She’d rather turn him loose than trust her heart to keep its word to her and remain unaffected.
So one day they sat on his couch watching the Falcons play, both of them screaming at the TV and laughing like old friends, and the next day he was a stranger.
Eighteen months had gone by without a word, which was fine. Completely and totally fine. Kate had things to do. Students to teach. Plays to plan out. Little league games to attend. She didn’t need Alex Hamilton, but she did want someone. She wanted the movie experience, the soft kisses and walks on the beach and happily-ever-afters.
If only she could find the right man to fill the job.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Melissa West writes heartfelt Southern romance and teen sci-fi romance, all with lots of kissing. Because who doesn't like kissing? She lives outside of Atlanta, GA, with her husband and two daughters and spends most of her time writing, reading, or fueling her coffee addiction.
TOP 5 SCENES:
1. Kate runs into Alex at the bakery shop. :)
"Kate, honey, you're too pretty for a mailman. You should date a fireman." Again with the firemen. Then Annie's eyes sparkled and she snapped her fingers, as though she'd figured it all out and could now properly wed Kate off. "I've got it! What about one of Trip's brothers?"
"Yes, what about one of Trip's brothers?" a rough voice said from behind Kate, and she knew without turning who had stepped into their conversation.
Annie held her hands out to Alex. "Exactly. Look at him. Cute as a button, and I bet he knows what to do with his parts."
Dear God, forget my prayer to live to seventy. I'd like to cash in my card right now.
"Indeed I do, Ms. Annie," he said with a wink, flirting with the woman. He had on rugged jeans and a T-shirt, flip-flops on his feet, his hair as messy as ever.
Annie-Jean smiled, because Alex had that effect on a woman. "You are trouble on toast, Alex Hamilton. You know that?"
"It's a tough job, Ms. Annie, but someone's gotta do it."
2. Alex calls Kate out on her attempt to move on.
Alex's smile lit his face."You know, if I didn't know any better, I would say you were having less than honorable thoughts right now."
Kate straightened, then reached behind herself to grab one of the glasses of wine Emery had set out. She dropped a few cubes of ice into it that were really meant for the other drinks, but she didn't care. Etiquette be damned. She was never a prim and proper sort of girl anyway.
"You sure have a lot of opinions about me all ofa sudden," she said, deflecting his innuendo.
"It's not all of a sudden at all. But I have been curious if—Matt, was it?—got that lunch he seemed so impatient to eat. Or did he go straight for the dessert? Is he a fan of cake, too?"
At that, Kate tilted her glass back, drinking down its full contents, then reached around for a second one. How many did Emery set out? There were only six people there.
"I take that as a no. I told you he wasn't your type."
"Oh really, Mr. Knows-All-Kate-Related-Things? What's my type?" Okay, that glass was hitting her already. Damn her embarrassing excuse for an alcohol tolerance.
Alex took the glass from her hand and set it on the bar beside her. "You should eat before you drink anything else." When Kate opened her mouth to tell him he should worry about himself, not her, he leaned in closer, silencing her with his proximity and the assault on her senses. He smelled like lemongrass and Ivory Soap and man. One hundred percent man. "You want a man who reads to you on the beach. Who knows better than to step in to help when you're struggling with a project. Who gets that you need to figure it out yourself. A man who never opens your car door but always shares his popcorn. Or any food really. A man who’s comfortable enough in his own skin to let you brag when your team wins instead of his. A man who makes you want him so badly you never grow tired of him. Even after years and years together, you're still in love."
Kate's heart had stopped in her chest, and she knew if Alex hadn’t placed her wineglass on the bar, it would have slipped from her grasp. She stared at him, curious when the feeling had left her fingers and toes and praying Emery wouldn't call them to come out back, because she was pretty sure her legs had turned to jelly and wouldn't cooperate.
She had spent only a few occasions around Alex, yet he understood her better than people who had known her a lifetime. He saw through to the real her. And normally, this would be a sign of something great. A connection. A feeling. Something deeper than casual lust. But that wasn’t their story. And what made it so much worse was that she could see him in each of the roles he described. The one reading to her on the beach, refusing to step in to open the jar of jelly when she would eventually get it open herself. The one she could love for years and years.
And then, despite herself, she peered up at him, only to find those vibrant green eyes staring back at her.
“Am I right?”
3. The first kiss J
"I think we should watch the game," Kate said, but she made no effort to move.
Alex stroked the back of her neck gently, sending another shiver rippling through her. "I think you should kiss me. Or I can kiss you. Either way, there should be kissing."
"You said that already. Give me something else. Anything, red. Honestly, I'll let you talk me out of this if you try. But I'm a competitive man, and right now the win is in sight, and damn—" He bit his lip as his gaze dropped back down to her mouth—"I want the win."
"I'm not willing to be one of many."
"No one is asking you to be. I'm just asking you to wait for me. Spend time with me now; we'll keep it easy and casual. Do whatever you like, whenever you like."
"So you're saying you're keeping your vow of celibacy, but you want to hang out with me. And only me?"
A grin played at her lips. "Plus kissing. And if I say yes, what then?" The words were breathy and full of meaning. She was asking what their next step would be.
"I don't know. All I know is that if I don't kiss you now, I'm going to go crazy."
"So kiss me."
4. The first hint at Alex and Kate’s chemistry.
Alex propped open the auditorium door and went back in for another sheet of plywood, this time returning with four, his biceps bulging from the stress of carrying them. Kate took the opportunity to take him in. Tan cargo shorts with worn fringe here and there at the ends. Fitted white T-shirt with the green Hamilton Stables logo printed across his broad chest. His dirty blond hair was pushed off his forehead, but she knew as the day carried on, it would inevitably end in a mess on his head. A fine layer of stubble covered his jaw, and she wondered if he purposely shaved so he always had that slightly rugged look or if he let it go and shaved only when he must.
"Are you staring at me, Ms. Littleton?"
Jerking back, Kate dropped her gaze to the paint cans and pretended to organize them by color. "Of course not."
"All right, I'll give you a hundred dollars right now if you can tell me what I'm wearing." He turned her around and placed a hand over her eyes. Without thinking, she drew a breath, taking in his spicy, lemony scent, and before she could order her mouth to be good, she released an audible sigh.
Alex chuckled, his chest rumbling against her back, and it was then she realized how close they were to each other. "Hundred bucks your way, red. Just tell me what I'm wearing."
Gritting her teeth, Kate tightened her spine. "This is stupid."
"Just admit you were checking me out and you get your hundred. That has to be the easiest payout on the planet."
The smile in his voice was enough to make her consider stomping on his foot and rushing away with her arms crossed, like one of her students, if she didn't get her way. But while Kate liked to consider herself a responsible adult, she could use a hundred dollars. Hell, who couldn't? Right—the Hamiltons. That's who.
Walking over to a stable boy who was coming into the barn, Alex shook his hand and motioned around the stalls, asking the young man to change out the soiled hay. "They're my clients. I can't control who goes across the finish line first—that's on Trip—but if I do my job right, they'll keep champions and sell champions.”
"Seems like a lot of pressure. No wonder you gave up sex."
At that, the stable boy released a hiccupped laugh and Alex glared at Kate. "Thank you," he whispered.
She grinned back. "Hey, I didn't force you into celibacy. Blame your brother."
Now the boy was outright boiled over laughing, unable to stop.
"All right. We're done here." He motioned for Kate to get back into the golf cart. "Thank you. Now all of the farm will think the Hamilton brothers are into some freaky shit."
Kate beamed back at him. "You're not? Then maybe I could help you with that. Show you a few things. I am a teacher after all."
"Like I said: You're going to be the death of me, woman."