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  • Copyright: 2009-01-01
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Horse friends forever?Emily Summers is on a mission. A scared little pony has come to Running Horse Ridge, the horse rescue ranch where she lives. Hercules desperately needs a friend, and Emily knows exactly how the lonely pony feels. She is new to Running Horse Ridge herself. But unlike Hercules, she has begun to make new friends, and she has the love of her horse friend forever, Sapphire. Can Emily get Hercules to trust her before he is beyond help?


Running Horse Ridge #2: Hercules: A Matter of Trust

Chapter One

Emily Summers was on her knees in the main aisle of the Running Horse Ridge barn trimming Sapphire's ankles, and she couldn't stop giggling.

She was peering intently at Sapphire's left front hoof as she carefully glided the electric clippers over the glossy black hair, when she felt something nuzzling her back pocket for the fifth time.

She peeked over her left shoulder at Sapphire's dark brown eyes blinking innocently at her, even as his upper lip was trying to worm the piece of carrot out of her jeans. "I already told you, that's not yours. The fifteen I already gave you are all you're getting!"

He stopped nibbling on her jeans, his dark face with the white blaze so close that she couldn't resist the urge to give him a little kiss right on the splash of white between his eyes. He immediately lifted his upper lip and grinned at her, then gave her a firm nudge with his nose that knocked her right over onto the rubber mat they were standing on.

Emily laughed as Sapphire pressed his face to her chest, wiggling his black ears as if to point out no one was scratching them. She smiled and scratched behind his ears, and he let out a loud sigh of satisfaction, blowing hay dust across the floor. "You do realize you are so making it hard to get anything accomplished, don't you?"

He snuffled against her, and she realized he was trying to lick her jeans, searching for any remnants of anything tasty, as he'd done ever since he'd found chocolate ice cream on her pants the first time they'd met.

And yes, okay, so maybe she'd intentionally spilled ice cream on her jeans a couple times since then just because she thought it was so cute the way he licked it off. . . .


Emily scrambled to her feet at the sound of her aunt's voice, brushing the hay off her pants. Had her aunt caught her allowing Sapphire to knock her down? She hoped not. She and her aunt had very different ideas about what Sapphire should be allowed to do, and since Aunt Debby owned him, she got to make the rules.

And her aunt didn't appreciate it when Emily broke them, as Emily knew all too well. She didn't try to break the rules, really; she didn't. It just . . . well, sometimes it just happened.

Wiping her hands on her jeans, she turned to face her aunt. "Hi, Aunt Debby."

Aunt Debby was wearing jeans and worn paddock boots as she always did. Her gray T-shirt had the family farm's name across the front in letters that were so faded Emily could barely read them. Aunt Debby's light brown hair was pulled up in a ponytail that showed her silver hoop earrings. She set her hands on her hips and raised her brows.

Emily winced. Oh, Aunt Debby had so seen Emily allow Sapphire to goof around.

"Where are the cross ties?" Aunt Debby asked.

Emily quickly grabbed a cross tie and hooked it to Sapphire's halter. "If I cross-tie him, then he can't reach my jeans to lick them—"

"Of course he can't. That's the point. We're trying to train him so he can be sold." Aunt Debby hooked up the other cross tie and gave Sapphire a pat.

"But he gets so bored—" Emily swallowed her protest at Aunt Debby's look. "Yeah, okay," she mumbled, hating the mention of Sapphire being sold.

Yes, she'd known Sapphire only for a few weeks, but the thought of being at Running Horse Ridge without him . . . Somehow in the short time she'd been at the farm, he'd become more important to her even than Rhapsody, the horse she was leasing back home in New Jersey.

Emily instantly felt guilty about Rhapsody. She loved him, too. She did. But he wasn't there and Sapphire was and Sapphire needed her and—

There was a soft snort behind her, and she turned her head to see Max, the old gray horse who got the run of the farm, standing in the aisle behind her. "Max!" He'd been following her around lately, and she suspected it was because he missed Grandpa. From what her family had told her, Max and Grandpa had been best friends until Grandpa had died, and Max hadn't been quite himself ever since. She handed Max the one piece of carrot she'd held back from Sapphire. "Here you go, sweetie. I had to fight Sapphire off for it, so appreciate it."

Max gently took the hunk of carrot between his lips while Sapphire perked his ears and watched the old horse as if he was hoping for a stray piece to drop to the floor. When nothing seemed forthcoming, Sapphire set his chin on Emily's shoulder with a resigned grunt. Max's eyes studied Emily and Sapphire, his jaw moving slowly as he worked his way through the carrot.

Aunt Debby patted Max's neck. "That's nice you're befriending Max. I think he's lonely." There was a softness in her voice that made Emily glance at her aunt. She'd only seen her aunt be that gentle once, when a horse they'd both loved had died.

Aunt Debby was smiling at the old guy, her gaze warm with concern. Emily knew from the look on Aunt Debby's face that Max would never have to worry about being sold. Aunt Debby might be all business when it came to training Sapphire, but there was only love when she looked at Max. Emily felt a tinge of jealousy. Aunt Debby had never looked at Emily like that, even though they were family. . . . Whoa. Since when was she jealous of a horse? That was ridiculous.

Emily gave Max's withers a brisk scratch. "Yeah, I think he's lonely, too." Emily wrinkled her nose at the dirt under her fingernails when she lifted her hand from Max's coat. "I'll give him a bath today, and then a good brushing." She cooed at him, "You'd like that, wouldn't you, old guy? Maybe we could get Caitlyn to help."

Running Horse Ridge #2: Hercules: A Matter of Trust. Copyright © by Heather Brooks. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Hercules: A Matter of Trust by Heather Brooks
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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