"Why Daddy Should Marry"
by Breanna, Milly and Tina
1. It's been long enough.
2. He looks cute when he plays dress-up with us.
3. We want a mommynow!
In Cedar River, Grady Parker's a "catch." But on his ranch, he's just "Daddy." His three little daughters are all the females he needs until Marissa Ellis moves in next door. He and his late wife's best friend never agree on anythingbut attraction!
Marissa fulfills her promise to love her goddaughters, but their sexy cowboy daddy is off-limits. She can'twon'tstep into her best friend's shoes and husband's bed, no matter how tempting he is, or how cozy his family. But three darling little girls can be awfully persuasive
About the Author
Helen Lacey grew up reading Black Beauty, Anne of Green Gables and Little House on The Prairie. These childhood classics inspired her to write her first book when she was seven years old, a story about a girl and her horse. She continued to write with the dream of one day being a published author and writing for Harlequin Special Edition is the realization of that dream. She loves creating stories about cowboys and horses and heroine's who get their happily ever after.
Read an Excerpt
Marissa Ellis pulled up outside her aunt's house in Cedar River and switched off the ignition. The old home looked shabby and tired. Kind of like me. But she quickly pushed the thought aside. For the moment she had more important things to think about than her own complicated situation. Aunt Violet was recovering from a fall and would be in the hospital, then rehab, for at least a month. Which meant Ma-rissa needed to be in South Dakota to look after the small ranch.
It was the least she could do for the great-aunt who had taken her in following the death of her mother when Ma-rissa was twelve. She'd spent six years living on the ranch. Until she'd finished high school. Until a scholarship meant college. After college, there was an internship at one of the most successful advertising agencies in New York, followed by five years of fourteen-hour days and multimillion-dollar deals. And then there was her husband. Who quickly became her ex-husband.
Marissa shook herself. There was no point in reliving all that now. She was back for good.
The small town sat in the shadow of the Black Hills. It was actually two townsCedar Creek and Riverbendthat were separated by a narrow riverbed and a bridge and with a total combined population of a few thousand. A century ago, both had served as the backdrop for a booming silver mining industry. The mines were mostly closed now, with just a couple used as tourist attractions, and finally, after years of negotiating between the local governments, the town would soon be renamed Cedar River.
Marissa didn't really care what the town was called. She'd come back many times over the yearsto see her aunt. To see her best friend, Liz. To see Liz's three young daughters. And then to attend Liz's funeral.
Never to see Grady.
He didn't like her anyhow. And since Liz's death nearly two and a half years earlier, Grady's disinterest in Marissa had amplified tenfold. Oh, he was polite and respectful and allowed her to see the girls, but he never encouraged her interactions and always seemed relieved each time she left to return to New York. But now she was back for good.
Her great-aunt's place was right next door to Grady's ranch, which meant she would have the opportunity to see her goddaughters more regularly than if she decided to reside in town.
If Grady continued to allow it, of course.
She'd have to see him, talk to him and make arrangements. But first, there was a house to settle into and sleep to be had. Marissa got out of the car and grabbed her bag from the backseat. It was nearly dusk and she walked carefully up the pathway, mindful of the overhanging branches from trees and shrubs well past their last prune.
The house was clean but smelled musty, and she quickly placed her things into the spare room before she wandered through a few other rooms, opening windows to allow the fresh evening air to sweep through the place.
She made a cup of instant coffee and drank it black, since there was no milk in the refrigerator, and for dinner settled on the couple of cereal bars and the apple she had in her bag. Once she was done, she took a long shower and tumbled into bed around eight o'clock.
She tossed and turned before finally managing to get just a few hours' sleep, which left her restless and a little irritable when she was roused around six o'clock the following morning by a strange noise, like rustling bushes, coming from the backyard. Getting out of bed, Marissa padded down the hallway and opened the door to the small mudroom off the kitchen, peering outside. Dawn was peeking over the horizon and she blinked a couple of times to adjust to the sunlight.
And that's when she saw him.
Grady's two-thousand-pound Charolais bull was eating the geraniums in an overgrown flower bed by the fence. She quickly saw where he'd broken several of the fence palings to squeeze into the yard and let out an irritated sigh.
Marissa shut the door, trudged to her bedroom, grabbed her bag and took out her cell phone. She had the number on speed dial and it took about three rings for him to pick up.
"Marissa?" Grady's deep voice wound up her spine like silk. "This is a surprise."
She took a sharp breath. "Your bull is in my yard."
"Your yard?" He was silent for a few seconds, but she could almost hear him doing that half-smile, half-frown thing he regularly did when they were around one another.
"In New York?"
"At Aunt Violet's," she explained, her patience frayed.
He took another second to respond. "You're back in town?"
"I'm back," she replied quickly. "And your bull is eating the garden."
More silence. Marissa's skin prickled. Only Grady could do that to her. Only Grady could wind her up so much she wanted to scream. At eighteen she'd had a fleeting infatuation in him but then he started dating her best friend and everything changed. It had to. Liz meant more to her than some silly high school crush. And when Liz and Grady got married, she stood beside her friend as her maid of honor and wished them every happiness for the future. And she'd meant it. Her own feelings were forgotten and she'd kept a handle on them for fourteen years. And she always would. No matter how much his deep voice stirred the blood in her veins.
Grady Parker was off-limits.
And he always would be.
"I'll be there in fifteen minutes."
The phone clicked and she took a long breath. Then she raced around like a madwoman looking for clothes to wear that covered more than her short cotton nightdress. Minutes later she was dressed in jeans and a bright red T-shirt and quickly ran a brush through her long blond hair before she hooked it up into a ponytail. She ignored the contact lenses case on the bathroom shelf and pushed her glasses onto the bridge of her nose. By the time she grabbed her cell and shoved it into her pocket, she heard a vehicle pull up outside.
Marissa swallowed hard and headed for the front door. She spotted his truck and horse trailer in the driveway and felt the tension knot the back of her neck. She wiped her clammy hands over her hips and opened the screen door.
Seconds later he was out of the truck and walking up the path. Swaggering, really. With the kind of innate confidence of a man who knew exactly who he was. Grady Parker had always possessed that same self-assurance, even in high school. In jeans that rode low on his hips, a black shirt that stretched across broad shoulders, boots and a trademark Stetson, he made a striking image. He was about six foot two and as handsome as sin, with glittering blue eyes, dark hair and a whisker shadow on his jaw. He was cowboy through and through. With old-fashioned good manners and integrity.
But Marissa had no illusions about her relationship with Grady. It was tense, and always had been. When Liz was alive, Marissa had had her friend as a buffer. Now there was nothing. Just raw, complicated tension that seemed to spring up with a will of its own every time they were within twenty feet of one another. He stalled about five feet from the bottom step and looked up at her, hands on his lean hips. They stared at one another for a moment, and as always her nerves sizzled.
He looked at the Volvo sedan parked in the driveway and raised a brow. "New York plates. You drove here?"
She nodded. "Yes."
His head tilted a little. "Have you seen Miss Violet?"
"I was at the hospital yesterday afternoon," she said, unmoving. "Thank you for taking care of things until I got here."
It was Grady who'd discovered Aunt Violet had fallen and broken her leg. Grady who'd got her to the hospital and stayed with her until she was out of surgery. And Grady who'd called Marissa to let her know her great-aunt needed her.
He shrugged. "No problem."
"I got here as soon as I could."
"I wasn't expecting you."
She straightened her back. "I told you I'd be here," she said stiffly. "I just needed a few days to sort some things out. I was coming back anyway."
"Really? For what?"
"To see my aunt," she said quietly. "And the girls."
At the mention of his daughters, his shoulders twitched. "Well, they always like to see you."
His words should have warmed her. But they didn't. Because there was a bucket load of resentment in them. Ma-rissa pushed back her shoulders and stared at him. "Well, they'll be able to see as much of me as they like from now on."
He tilted his hat back. "They will? Why is that?"
"Because I'm staying."
Marissa experienced a tiny surge of triumph. He looked as if it was the last thing he wanted to hear. "Yes. I'm home for good this time."
I'm home for good.
It wasn't what Grady wanted to hear. Not ever. Marissa Ellis was the last person he wanted living in Cedar River. Or living next door!
For a long time she'd been living in New York. Out of sight. Out of mind. Just how he liked it. She'd turn up every now and then and he would deal with it because he had to. When Liz was alive, it had been easywhile Marissa visited, he stayed out of the way. Now it wasn't so simple. She was godmother to all three of his daughters and he'd promised Liz he wouldn't cut Marissa out of their lives. But he struggled with that promise whenever she returned.
Because once, long ago, he'd wanted to date her. Sure, it had been in high school. Before he was old enough to know better. She was dazzling back then with blond hair and brown eyes and a captivating smile. At eighteen he'd been fueled by hormones and lusted after the most beautiful girl in school. But Liz had set him straight when he'd asked her if Marissa would go with him to prom. It was a roundabout way to ask for a date, but he was a guy with all the usual insecurities. Liz had made it clear that Marissa wasn't interested. So he backed off and didn't ask her, despite how much he'd wanted to. Then he'd started dating Liz. And once school finished, Marissa left for college and New York. She would return a couple of times every year for a visit and he'd completely put aside the niggling awareness he had whenever she was near. He married Liz, had a family and forgot about the fact that long ago he'd wanted to ask her out. Life had turned out exactly as it should have. Until his wife died.
"For good?" He wondered if he sounded like the simpleton he felt.
She nodded. "That's right."
"The divorce is final, then?"
"Yes. All done."
She'd been married for only a couple of years. Grady had met her ex-husband twice. Once at the small wedding that had taken place in New York, when he and Liz had left the girls with his mother and flown in and out of the city in just a couple of days. The next time, Marissa brought him to Cedar River for Christmas. He was a suit, as dull and stiff as they came, and had looked down his nose at the town and everyone in it. He hadn't come with her the next time she came back for a visit. A year later they were separated. Grady didn't know the details and hadn't asked. Miss Violet hadn't said anything about it, either, so he figured the less he knew, the better.
"I'm sorry to hear it."
She frowned at his words, as if he'd said something he shouldn't have. "Don't be," she said quietly. "I'm glad it's over. And I'm glad to be home."
"I didn't realize you still considered Cedar River home."
Her shoulders straightened some more. "I was born here raised here just like you. And you seem to have adjusted to calling it Cedar River."
He shrugged. "The merger is good for the town. And I know you were born here, Marissa but I also know you left."
He saw her expression narrow, and the glasses on the bridge of her nose fell a little. Funny, he never knew she wore glasses. For some reason it pleased him. He couldn't figure why. Maybe because it made her less perfect. Vulnerable. Because he always felt as though he was under a kind of microscope whenever they were together. As though she was looking for flaws, some reason to dislike him. In a way he couldn't blame her. Their relationship had always been brittle, and for a long time he'd wondered if she knew he'd wanted to date her back in high school and disliked him for it. Liz swore she'd never said anything about it, and he certainly believed his wife. But there was something between them, a kind of mutual resentment that went deeper than simple dislike. Because it wasn't that he didn't like Marissa. He just didn't like to be around her. She put him on edge. And he didn't know why.
For years he hadn't thought about her as anything other than Liz's friend. He'd loved his wife. They had been devoted to one another and their family. But now Liz was gone and Marissa well, she wound him up in a way he couldn't quite fathom. And he didn't like the feeling. Not one bit.
She crossed her arms and glared at him. "So, about this bull of yours?"
"It's because of Delilah."
She frowned and came down the steps. Grady caught the scent of her flowery perfume on the breeze and he tensed automatically. How long had it been since he'd noticed perfume? Years. Too long.
"Miss Violet's Guernsey cow," he explained and stepped closer. "She bought her a couple of months ago."
"I don't understand what that means."
"Well, Earl has a hankering for Delilah," he said and bit back a grin when he saw her frown deepen.
"A hankering?" she echoed.
"Yeah," he replied quietly. "You know, when-a-boy-likes-a-girl kind of thing."
She didn't look the least bit amused. "Right. So where is this cow now?"
"Miss Violet would sometimes keep Delilah in the backyard, but a neighbor has been looking after her since your aunt went to the hospital." Grady shrugged casually. "I guess Earl didn't know that. He drops over from time to time."
"Can't you keep him tied up or something?" she suggested. "I mean, how hard is it to keep him corralled or whatever it is you do with a bull?"
"And stand in the way of true love?" Grady put a hand to his chest. "That's not very neighborly."
"I'm not in the mood to be neighborly when the blasted animal is eating my aunt's flower bed."
Grady smiled to himself. Marissa was so uptight she looked as though she was about to pop. "I'll take him home," he said easily and turned back toward the truck. By the time he'd opened the side door and extracted a halter and lead, Marissa was directly beside him. "You planning on helping?"
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A story of letting go, moving on, and finding love where you least expect it. It’s been two years since Liz Parker’s death. Her husband Grady and her best friend, Marissa Ellis, are still trying to come to terms with their loss. During this time, Grady has had no choice but to keep moving on as best as he can and raise his three little girls on his own, with the occasional help from his mother. Marissa, still grieving, has been trying to get her own life together, following her divorce. Realizing her ex, who was also her boss, has blackballed her and she isn’t able to find work, Marissa moves back to her hometown. She promised Liz she would love her kids and be there for them. But Marissa is finding it a little hard when she and Grady never seem to see eye to eye. To make matters worse, she’s starting to have feelings for the man again. Grady isn’t too happy with Marissa moving back to town, especially since she’s living at the farm next door. She was his wife’s best friend, the godmother of his kids and the infuriating woman who has finally gotten his blood pumping again, after all this time. Three Reasons to Wed brings five people together after tragic circumstances. Each needing a family they’ve long for or lost. But there’s more to this story than romance. This is a story of letting go, moving on, and finding love where you least expect it. Decade long secrets are about to be revealed, some that will impact the future. Helen Lacey’s story is sweet, with three little girls looking for a new mommy, a man who wouldn’t know romance if it slapped him in the face, a woman who is torn by the past actions of others, and a mother who refuses to take no for an answer. I loved the secondary characters in this book and I’m looking forward to their stories being told. **Received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.**
A heart-wrenching story filled with sadness for what was and what might have been, mixed in with the joy of those 3 little girls warming your heart and finding a new beginning. Really good read! Grady Parker is making it through life and giving his all to make his three little girls happy. He's not interested in anything more than them ... until his late wife's best friend moves in next door and attraction reawakens his body! Marissa Ellis has had her own ups and downs in life and now has come back home to be closer to her Aunt, and to keep her promise to her best friend to love her daughters. For years, Liz was the buffer between the tension between Grady and Marissa, but now that she's not there will they be able to get along when she visits with the kids? And when they both start to notice the other, will they fight their attraction or give in and enjoy it? ** Received free in exchange for an honest review **
THREE REASONS TO WED by author Helen Lacey is a January 2016 release by Harlequin Special Edition series. This is Book 1 of Helen Lacey’s mini-series: Cedar River Cowboys. Marissa Ellis moved back to small town Cedar River after being hurt in the big city. But coming back to Cedar River meant coming face-to-face with Grady Parker, her high school crush and the person who married her best friend. But Grady was a widower now with three small daughters. Marissa loved the three little girls and would do anything to make them happy. But could she agree to Grady’s proposal of marriage for them? After all, he didn’t really love her, did he? THREE REASONS TO WED is a sweet romance that would make a reader reach for tissues multiple times. I was reduced to sniffles when the little girls’ told Marissa that she was special and their best friend, as she was their mom’s best friend. Author Helen Lacey brought out the shimmering emotions in this story that would keep a reader hooked to the pages until the end. And she did a wonderful job of bringing Grady and Marissa together despite all the emotional baggage and past grief they carried. Highly recommended for all readers of romance.