We're back with more of Clint and Jesse from A Christmas to Believe In!

For more of the brothers, check out the other two books in the Three Kings trilogy.

A Christmas to Believe In
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When a man's dreams are in ruin, all he needs is someone to believe...

Struggling Thoroughbred breeder, Clint King, hasn’t been home for Christmas in five years. Like his brothers, Alex and Heath, life has kept him away. Clint’s farm is barely hanging on. His prize mare's due to foal any day, and in the wake of his father’s death, Clint can’t stand the idea of returning. The memories are too much, let alone his father’s imposing shadow. Except, Alex is getting married on Christmas Eve, and their mother’s put her foot down. She’ll have her boys at home. With his mare in tow behind him, Clint prepares to meet a sister he’s never known and Alex’s unexpected triplets. The one salvation he looks forward to is childhood companion, tomboy Jesse Saurs. Yet when he reunites with Jesse, he uncomfortably discovers she’s become all woman.

Jesse Saurs has everything she needs – financial security, a home, and a foster child who’s about to become her son. She’s spent two years breaking down Ethan’s emotional barriers, and with the final hearing scheduled just before Christmas, this year promises to make his dreams come true. When she learns Clint and his brothers are returning, she anticipates a holiday reunion that’s sure to entertain Ethan. But on the night of Clint’s return, the ‘brother’ she expected leaves her trembling after just a single hug. Even worse, Ethan makes it clear Clint's not welcome.

Will this Christmas destroy what's left of hopes and dreams, or will it give the three the gift they've all been longing for?

Chapter Two

Clint steered on autopilot, staring at the tail lights in front of him. He’d much rather keep his horse at a professional stable. Not that he couldn’t provide the same care for his mare—hell, he’d provide better regardless of where she stayed. Being forced to go to Jesse’s, at least twice a day, when every time she looked at him his cock answered with a twinge, didn’t bode well.

He was tense enough already. If his mare foaled before January 1, the foal would become a yearling at less than two weeks of age. Which meant when the foal joined the rest of the racing field, he or she would be competing at a severe disadvantage.

Which meant dreams broken. Financial disaster. Every penny he’d saved was in that mare and her foal. Sired by a Grade 1, stakes-winning, stallion, and out of a heavily black-typed mare, the foal was as sure of a shot as he could get at a muchneeded Derby win. If it came out of the oven next year.

The whole damn situation had him waking up with headaches that lingered throughout the day. He absolutely didn’t need misplaced desire furthering his agitation. And certainly not when Jesse was the subject of said desire.

Jessie, for God’s sake. Man, Heath and Alex would give him hell for weeks, if they ever found out. Make that months. For that matter, it would destroy his friendship with her. Where they shared a casual comfortableness, tension would slip in. She’d avoid Mom’s. Mom would wonder why. In the end, he’d just be the jerk that drove Jesse away.

No, this was absolutely not where he wanted his horse. He’d accept it for the night, but come tomorrow morning, he was hitting the phone book for another boarding stable. Maybe even a veterinary clinic that offered foaling services.

He eased around the turn to her drive and rolled up the winding gravel path. Around him, the snow-covered landscape glistened beneath the light of the moon. The thick evergreens bordering the Saurs’ property drooped with clumps of ice and snow. He took it in, admiring the landscape. Thirty years, he’d lived in this cozy country corner of North Kansas City, and he hadn’t ever stopped to appreciate how pretty it could be.

Then again, he’d been twelve or thirteen when Missouri last saw this much snow.

Jesse eased to a stop behind her parents’ house, and her headlights went dark as she shut off the car. Jumping outside, she motioned him on ahead to the barn. When he pulled forward, he caught a glimpse of her wrapping a scarf around her neck before she disappeared from his side mirror.

He sincerely hoped she didn’t plan on helping him get his mare settled in. After the way his libido responded to touching her hand earlier, he could use the time alone. Taking care of Angel would steer his traitorous thoughts down a more appropriate course. One that absolutely didn’t involve fleeting visions of what Jesse might look like beneath that soft, baby blue sweater.

Choking back a groan, he eased the truck and trailer to a stop in front of the barn doors. New red paint hid the cracked, grey boards he remembered. A coat of brilliant white on the eaves and cross-boards added a touch of warm welcoming. Man, they used to play hide in seek in here as kids. Dug for snakes where her grandfather once stored hay. On more than one occasion, they’d camped out overnight in the loft and told ghost stories until all four of them surrendered their courage and raced back inside her house.

What happened to that Jesse? He’d have leapt at the idea of boarding Angel here if his tomboy friend had suggested the idea.

As reluctance crept into his veins, he eased out of the truck. Moving around to the side of the trailer, he took a lead rope out of the small tack room. He shut the door with a firm push and turned toward the rear loading door, only to find Jesse standing at his side.

Beneath the brim of her stylish winter hat, her eyes shone bright. One dark tendril of hair escaped the cap, falling just in front of her ear and framing the side of her face in a uniquely appealing fashion. His fingers itched to push it aside, tuck it behind her ear. Touch her cheek and see if it felt as silky as it looked.

She smiled and rubbed her hands together to generate warmth. “Tell me what to do?”

Go inside.

Clint bit back the uncalled for sharp retort. She hadn’t done anything to deserve his annoyance. It wasn’t her fault something had cross-fired in his brain. He forced himself to smile. “Open up the barn? I’ll get her.”

“Sure thing.”

Jesse trotted off through the ankle-deep drifts, her long dark hair tumbling along after her. Clint’s gaze fixed on the sway of her hips. Hugged by her dark jeans, she had the most amazing, perfect little, heart-shaped bottom.

With a roll of his eyes and a mutter, he turned back to his trailer and unlatched the door. Perfect or not, Jesse would deck him if she caught him looking.

“Hey girl.”

The dark bay mare nickered in return. Shavings rustled as she turned around and took a step closer.

“That’s right. We’re here. Don’t get too comfortable, we’re leaving in the morning.”

Stepping back, he unhooked the safety and slowly lowered the loading ramp to the ground. Angel moved to the edge of the stable box, and he snapped the end of the lead beneath her chin. He gave her an encouraging tug, and she took a tentative step out. Her ears pricked, she lifted her head and let out a long snort. Then, with more purpose, she descended into the snow.


From the open doorway, Jesse watched as Clint led a breathtaking mare her way. A wide white blaze ran between dark eyes and curled over one nostril. Neatly clipped, her short black mane grazed a muscular neck. Tall and sleek, despite the oversized belly that gave her an ambling gait, she carried herself with regal grace.

“She’s beautiful.” Stepping aside to let them pass, Jesse took in the mare’s dark, shiny coat. If not for the reddish hint that glinted in the dim light, she’d have sworn the mare was pitch black.

“Thanks,” Clint murmured. “Where to?”

“Over there.” Jesse swept her arm sideways indicating the old, dust-covered stall. “It’s not much, but it’s warm and dry.”

He escorted his horse through the half-door and secured her to a thick post. “I’ve got some shavings in the trailer. It won’t take long to get her settled in, then I’ll get out of your hair.”

She blinked. “Don’t be silly. You’re not in my hair, Clint.”

Halfway to the door, he paused and gave her a long look. Under the scrutiny of his warm amber gaze, a flush crept through her body. She crossed her arms protectively, feeling at once exposed and at the same time, strangely pleased.

A frown tugged his eyebrows together, and he opened his mouth to say something. Thinking better of it, he closed it and disappeared out the door. In a few seconds, he reappeared toting a vacuum-sealed bale of pine shavings.

He entered the stall, took out a pocketknife, and sliced the bag open. He dumped it in the corner, creating a fragrant mound. Still without speaking, he returned outside, presumably for another.

Jesse jumped to action. She wouldn’t stand by and let Clint do all the work when it was twenty degrees out. She hurried after him, catching up as he stepped out of the trailer’s tack room toting another bag of shavings. “I’ll take that.” Before he could argue, she snatched it out of his hands.

“Hey,” he protested.

She tossed him a wink and grinned. “I’m not helpless.”

“Yeah, but—”

“But what? C’mon, it’ll go faster with two, then you can come inside and warm up with some coffee. Say hello to Ethan.”

She didn’t give him a chance to protest. With a hefty yank, she dragged the bag toward the barn and dumped it beside the first pile. Six piles later, she joined Clint in flattening the shavings with the side of her boot. Then, she left the stall and leaned on the rough plank wall.

Clint approached his mare with a faint smile. He stroked the side of her neck, her shoulder, her expansive belly, and Jesse stared, transfixed. In all the years she’d known Clint, she’d never seen such compassion. Such respect. He moved around the mare, murmuring in a voice so low she couldn’t make out the words. But the expression on his face left no doubt about what he said. Praises. Little whispers of affection.

When he bent forward and pressed a kiss to her velvety nose, Jesse’s heart lurched. She’d listened to him babble about the race horses he’d worked with that long ago summer at The Woodlands. Back then, she’d known he loved his job, but she’d never fully grasped what took him away from Kansas City to Kentucky. Now, watching him, a little bubble of pride burst deep inside her soul. He’d gone after his dream. He was good with this horse. Damn good. And his love for his mare was unmistakable.

He stepped away from the horse, her halter in hand, and joined Jesse at the stall’s rail. Elbows propped over the top, he leaned forward and watched his horse.

“She’s really pretty,” Jesse whispered.

“She’s my future, Jesse. Everything’s riding on that foal.”

“How so?” Jesse tipped her head up to look at him. She took in the firm line of his strong jaw, his high-set cheekbones, the way his hair dusted the top of his ears. The shadows intensified the hint of whiskers on his chin, and she curled her fingers into her gloves, resisting the urge to run her knuckle over the stubble.

“I had some bad luck the last several years. So, I changed my tactics. I’ve still got good runners back home, but this one…” He nodded to the horse in reference. “I dumped all my savings into her and this foal. Pray that baby doesn’t make an appearance before New Year’s.”

Giving him a quizzical look, Jesse asked, “Why?”

“The Jockey Club ages Thoroughbreds on January first of every year. They compete, among other restrictions, by age. It will be a yearling come January first, which means that foal will have to run against horses a full year older. Situations like that don’t lead to wins very often.”

“But there’s a chance, right?”


She turned her gaze back to the mare and fell into silence. She didn’t know much about horses, but the way the mare grunted as she turned around suggested discomfort. As Jesse watched, the horse turned her head and looked at her flank. Her belly moved with the shift of a leg.

“What’s her name?”

When Clint didn’t immediately answer, she inched closer and gave his elbow a jab. “Hey. You in there?”

Clint smiled down at her with a chuckle. He draped his arm over her shoulder and pulled her in against his side. “Sorry.”

At once, the heady aroma of spice and leather seeped into her awareness. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply. She could stand here all night long, soaking up his warmth, pretending he was someone else. Someone who wouldn’t mind if she rose up on tiptoe and stole a kiss.

Instead, she shifted and nuzzled her cheek into his chest. One palm over the steady drum of his heart, she let out a contented sigh. “It’s good to have you home, Clint.”

His voice reverberated beneath her ear, amplifying his low murmur. “It’s good to be here.”

Lord, if he had any idea how the husky quality of his deep baritone turned her belly into liquid, he’d laugh her all the way out of the barn. She hid a blush by snuggling closer and dipping her head. Her fingers twitched with the longing to run her hand down his expansive chest and over his taut stomach.

He’d always been meticulous about working out. No doubt, those muscles would be firm and hard. A playground designed for fingertips, nails, lips.

She winced at the thought. Nothing good could come from thinking about Clint sexually. But it had been so long since a man had held her, so long since she’d even considered intimacy, she couldn’t squelch the fantasy of what he’d look like beneath his layers of clothes.

Distance would help. However, she wasn’t ready to let him leave just yet.

Leaning back into his familial embrace, she looked up at him with a smile. “Come inside for coffee? We can catch up. You can meet Ethan if I can drag him off his video game.”

Clint’s gaze fixed on something behind her. “I should get back to the house. With Mom’s broken ankle, she’ll need the help.”

As a rule, Jesse admired the way Clint embraced responsibility. Even as kids, he’d always been the voice of all their consciences. He’d always helped around the house, in the yard, worked a little harder at school than the rest of them.

Tonight, however, his need to step up to the plate and do what was expected only tweaked her nerves. If he didn’t have his arm around her, she’d swear he wanted away from her.

She turned a goading smile on him. “Oh, c’mon. They can live without you for a cup of coffee. Come inside with me.”

Twisting free, she caught his hand and tugged. Reluctantly, he pulled his gaze off his mare. Yet, as she led him out of the barn, he didn’t attempt to protest.


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