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Natalie Keller Reinert Books

Runaway Alex (Alex & Alexander: Book One) Paperback

Runaway Alex (Alex & Alexander: Book One) Paperback

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Synopsis

A coming-of-age story with a feisty protagonist, and an unlikely romance!

Horse racing isn’t for nice girls like Alex. She’s been told again and again: stick to horse shows, stick to riding lessons, stick to the relative safety of the suburban equestrian center where she has been a working student since grade school.

But Alex can’t shake the conviction that the Thoroughbred life is her destiny.

When her unstable trainer cuts her off from horses, Alex finally has to obey her instinct to run away from the safe version of life. She heads to Ocala, where horse racing is king, with no plan and no leads on jobs. When she meets handsome, successful racehorse trainer Alexander White, she feels an instant connection with him. Could this be her dream come true?

Falling for Alexander and learning to stay on young racehorses all at once: that’s risky business. But it’s a risk Alex is willing to take — until a storm of emotion threatens to founder her new life. Nothing at Alexander’s gorgeous Thoroughbred farm is as simple as it seems, and she’s not the only one lining up for Alexander’s affection — or his horses.

How many times will Alex obey her urge to run away when things get too real? And what happens to her dreams if she can’t stay the course?

The Alex & Alexander Series

Book One: Runaway Alex
Book Two: The Head and Not The Heart: A Novella
Book Three: Other People's Horses
Book Four: Claiming Christmas
Book Five: Turning for Home

Look Inside: Chapter One

In the first chapter of Runaway Alex, Alex has a few run-ins with the authority figures in her life, including a professor and her mother. They're both pushing her in directions she doesn't want to go. And it might be what finally shoves Alex over the edge...in the other direction.

From Chapter One of RUNAWAY ALEX

The Florida sun was blazing overhead as I escaped the chilly school hallways, and when I got into my car I had to roll down the windows to let the air conditioning blow the hot air out. I took in my current situation: I had the farrier, six horses to ride, and a hay delivery to put away before nightfall. I still had almost five hours to sunset. I could do this.

Piece of cake.

My phone rang just as I started to reverse. I sighed, put the car back in park, and answered unwillingly. “Hello, Mom,” I said in a monotone.

“You’re supposed to be in class,” my mother said.

“Then you shouldn’t be calling me.”

“Your ringer would have been off.”

“What is this, a sting?”

“Just a check-in,” she replied crisply. “To confirm my suspicions. I thought I saw you driving up Dixon Avenue last Tuesday at two o’clock.”

Damn. I’d gone up Dixon to grab some Wendy’s. I was starving and that was the only reason I’d strayed so close to my mother’s office. The one time I had enough money in my pocket to eat something I hadn’t pocketed from the pantry on my way out the door…

“This is your last shot to get your A.A.,” my mother reminded me, her tone ominous. “If this semester ends and you’re still not on track to graduate next June, the rent is coming due.”

Rent in Calusa wasn’t cheap. My parents had been threatening to charge me market rate on my bedroom for a while, which would require one of two things to happen: either Diana would find some money and start paying me again, or I’d have to quit, give up my job at Calusa Lakes Equestrian Center, and find a job with a paycheck. Novel idea, right? It wouldn’t be as simple as just finding a barn manager with a solvent checking account, though. I’d have to find a place where they actually wanted to hire me. Sad but true: I knew enough to run any stable in town, but I didn’t have the right kind of resume.

Most of the other equestrian centers in the area were posh show barns. They made their money as Diana used to, on bringing up new students into show-ring riders. That had been Diana’s job—mine had been schooling young project horses, which were sold on before we had a chance to move up the levels.

So, I could ride the toughest off-track Thoroughbred in town, retired racehorses barely two steps off their last start, but I couldn’t put an upper-level horse through its paces in either the dressage ring or the jumping arena. I didn’t have any teaching experience, either. All I was really good at was getting on racehorses, figuring out how their brains worked, and reverse-engineering them to the basics so I could teach them to jump.

After eight years of sneaking around, begging forgiveness, and outright defying my parents for the right to work for Diana, I had no marketable abilities to show for it.

Someone might take me on as a junior riding instructor, or to muck stalls and scrub buckets, and actually write me a check or give me an envelope of cash every week. If they did, though, I’d be running around after girls five or ten years my junior, holding their horses at shows and sweeping up after them at night.

It was incredible to me how much work I’d put in and how little in actual, cash-earning skills I’d gotten out of it. Frankly, the only proposition with a more wasteful ROI was college.

I could do it, though. If I had to, if there was no other way to keep a roof over my head and horses in my life, I would bite my tongue and swallow my pride and head to a show barn to start over. There was a very clear roadmap in this industry, which led directly from my childhood as hardworking student in a local lesson barn to an adulthood as a tanned and wisecracking trainer with dozens of adolescent girls and average horses surrounding me.

The problem was, I didn’t want that future at all.

What I wanted to do wasn’t show horses. I wanted to work with racehorses.

I couldn’t explain why. But just like the love of horses is a deep, primal, inexplicable thing which some people simply arrive on this planet with, I was deeply in love with racehorses for no easily definable reason. I could line up reasons, of course: I adored Thoroughbreds, so sleek and so noble and so flighty and so bold, a contradicting lineage of inbreeding and outcrosses, a breed developed by kings and queens. I loved that racing was competing in the most pure form of sports: my horse is faster than your horse!

That was my true dream. I just wanted to be surrounded by fast horses. Riding them. Caring for them. Cheering for them. Leading them into the winner’s circle, my name next to theirs, the headlining stars of the day.

Unfortunately, Calusa was a little short on racehorses.

Down here in our soupy corner of the peninsula, the most desirable horses came with auto-changes on the hunter course and a five-figure price-tag, or a good head for cows and a trail-riding resume that included every swamp in a twenty-mile radius. The Thoroughbreds I rode here weren’t the cream of the track; that’s how they’d ended up in a lesson barn that wasn’t even the cream of the county. I didn’t know how to go from retired racehorses to current racehorses. I didn’t even know where to start.

I blinked. The world through my windshield had gotten a little blurry. I’d spaced out for a minute there after my mom had said the rent was coming due.

My mom, still on the line, huffed an impatient sigh. “Alex? You understand me? School, Alex. School or rent.”

“I understand,” I replied woodenly, looking at the car’s digital clock. Two-twenty. Where did the time go? My head-start was long gone. My misspent youth was coming for me. I was on my way to another unpaid afternoon at a failing lesson barn, and the only way out was to go work at a different lesson barn where they’d pay me. Sounded so simple, right?

So simple, but it meant my dream felt farther away than ever.

The Alex & Alexander series is an award-finalist series set in horse racing and Thoroughbred retirement. These books are set in the same lush and detailed world as Natalie Keller Reinert's previous bestselling series, including...

  • The Eventing Series
  • The Alex & Alexander Series
  • The Show Barn Blues Series
  • The Briar Hill Farm Series
  • The Ocala Horse Girls Series

These novels include overlapping characters, events, and locales which create a community of equestrians you'll love recognizing and catching up with in each book!

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The Eventing Series is one of the bestselling equestrian fiction series of the past ten years! Mentioned in Horse Illustrated, Horse & Style, and more.

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