THE DADDY SEARCH by Shawna Delacorte
Silhouette Desire #1253
Original Print Release: November 1999
eBook Reissue: July 2011
eBook ISBN: 978-1-459-25853-2
Available at: (do search for author name)
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When Lexi Parker first set foot onto Nick Clayton's dude ranch, she had one goal in mind: to vacation undercover and find out if Nick really was the father of Lexi's precious, now-motherless nephew. It seemed like a perfect plan...

Until Lexi herself succumbed to the cowboy's devastating charms -- and found out that this bighearted, honorable rancher was nothing like the love-'em-and-leave-'em rake her sister had portrayed. But if Lexi revealed her secret agenda to Nick now, would she lose her chance with the one man who'd ever stolen her heart?


Read G-rated Excerpt inside front cover
Read Excerpt #1 (G-rated)
Read Excerpt #2 (G-rated)


Inside front cover:

Which one was the real Nick Clayton? The man her sister had described, or the one Lexi herself had observed?

There was no way you could call Nick irresponsible or callous. She could not imagine him knowingly abandoning his son or tell the boy's mother to get out of his life.

And most devastating of all was Lexi's sense of guilt for her personal involvement with the very man she had come to confront. What was she to believe? Her sister's accusations, or her own observations of a man who made her tingle with excitement and caused her heart to sing?


G-excerpt #1 (first meeting)

Little trails of heat followed in the wake of his touch. She had to force the words that came out as not much more than a whisper. "I only meant that I don't do very well with casual, flirty conversations. I never know what to say and usually end up feeling foolish." Her own words shocked her. She could not imagine what had prompted her to say something so personal to this complete stranger.

"I guess that brings us back full circle to my original observation that I haven't seen you around here before." He blatantly looked her up and down, sending a second tremor of excitement coursing through her veins. He reestablished eye contact, which included another quick wink. "And believe me, I would have noticed you. Did you just arrive?"

"Uh... yes. I just got off the shuttle from the airport." She waved her hand in the direction of the driveway, indicating the van parked in front of the registration lobby. She noticed the hint of confusion followed by the look of surprise that darted across his face as he shifted his attention in that direction.

His words were slightly distracted, as if he were thinking out loud rather than talking to her. "Looks like Herb made good time from the airport. He's here a little sooner than I expected." Then his gaze returned to her along with his devastatingly sexy smile. "As much as I'd love to stand here and talk to you for the rest of the morning, I'm afraid I need to get to work."

"You mean riding that bucking horse and getting thrown to the ground wasn't work? It sure looked like work to me."

"That?" He gave a quick glance over his shoulder toward the horse being herded out of the corral. "No, that wasn't work. I was handling a little problem. No big deal." His gaze wandered toward the shuttle van again. "I really need to be on my way." He climbed over the fence, then paused as he smoothed back his glossy hair and settled his hat firmly on his head. He smiled at her while touching his hand to his hat brim. "I'll definitely see you later." He had spoken the words as a statement of fact rather than a casual comment.

She returned his smile. "I'll look forward to it." Unsettled, she felt a flutter in the pit of her stomach as she watched him walk away, his stride purposeful and determined. Yes... she would like that very much in spite of the fact that he had left her feeling off balance. She knew she had just fallen instantly in lust with the sexiest man she had ever met, but there seemed to be more to it than that. He had literally rocked her senses to the core and knocked her for a loop. She toyed with the notion of love at first sight. Was there such a thing, and if so, how could someone clearly define it? Whatever the answers, this cowboy had totally captivated her. She turned her attention back to the shuttle van and to the reality of her objective. The driver had gotten a cart and loaded the baggage onto it. She hurried to rejoin the others, her insides still quivering from her encounter with the brash cowboy. A moment later, she spotted the same drop-dead gorgeous man headed toward the van. He smiled at her... at least it seemed that it had been directed solely for her benefit, rather than extended to the group. Or perhaps it was merely wishful thinking on her part. He joined the new arrivals. "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. If you'll give me a moment or two, I'll be right with you." He turned toward the driver and held out his hand. "Do you have a copy of the guest list, Herb? You got here a little sooner than I expected and caught me unprepared. Then I got sidetracked -- " he shot a quick sideways glance at Lexi along with a knowing grin " -- and didn't have a chance to grab the clipboard from the office."

As if to confirm his statement he brushed some dirt from his shirt and took another swipe at his jeans. A sheepish grin appeared and a hint of embarrassment darted across his features, giving him the appearance of a mischievous little boy who had just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

"I obviously didn't have an opportunity to get cleaned up, either."

The driver handed him a sheet of paper, then returned to the task of wheeling the baggage cart into the building.

The cowboy turned toward the group with an engaging smile. "I'm Nick Clayton. On behalf of my mother, Gloria, and my brother, Danny, I'd like to officially welcome you to the Via Verde Dude Ranch. We hope to make your vacation a fun and memorable experience."

A solid jab of alarm shot through Lexi, then it settled in the pit of her stomach where it continued to churn. A hard knot lodged in her throat as the shock jolted her senses. She tried to swallow it away, but it almost choked her. Had she heard him correctly? This sexy cowboy who had totally grabbed her attention and triggered such sensual thoughts and desires in her imagination was Nick Clayton? This man whose mere presence had sent tingles of excitement through her body and turned her world upside down was the very man she had come to confront -- the man who had ruined her sister's life?


G-excerpt #2 (first kiss)

Everything about him seemed so straightforward, something she found confusing. Nothing about him seemed to coincide with the type of men Marnie usually chose. Lexi's casual conversation with Nick Clayton had done nothing to help clarify what had happened between him and her sister... if anything had actually happened.

She cleared her throat in an attempt to drive away her doubts. "I guess it's my turn to be embarrassed. I certainly didn't mean -- "

He touched his fingertips to her lips to still her words. "That's okay. No harm done."

He continued to clasp her hand as they started walking again. She felt as if she were walking through a dream... with the man of her dreams. It was exciting and at the same time frightening. The warmth of his touch began to melt away her resistance. She hadn't anticipated this type of personal involvement, and the emotional overtones were particularly unsettling. She didn't welcome it, but neither did she seem able to turn her back and walk away. They finally arrived at her cabin.

Millions of stars sparkled like diamonds on a black velvet background, each point of light casting a spell on the moment. Nick didn't know if it was simply the magic of the night or the exhilaration caused by the nearness of a beautiful and desirable woman, but he felt himself being drawn in by more than a physical attraction and a longing to make love to her. He also wanted to know her, to discover who she was under that unpredictable exterior. At times, she seemed everything a man could ever want, then suddenly she'd become distant as if she had just remembered who she was or why she was there.

"Well, here we are. Your home sweet home for the next three weeks." He glanced at his watch. "It's still early. Could I tempt you with a glass of wine before calling it a night?"

"I don't think so." She felt as if all the oxygen had suddenly been sucked from the air. His face was so close to hers, the faint illumination highlighting his handsome features. She tried to project a casual manner as if this was nothing more than a normal end to a normal day. "I have a sunrise breakfast ride in the morning and sunrise comes very early."

"So it does." His words were more like a caress against her cheek then simply conversation.

Her throat went dry. She literally forced out her words. "And I need to get some sleep if I'm going to -- "

The rest of her words were lost along with her thoughts when Nick Clayton brushed his lips against hers, then drew her into his embrace as he captured her mouth fully with a delicious and sensually heated kiss. And like a moth drawn to a flame, she could not resist regardless of the risk involved.

Her mind went blank, devoid of everything excerpt the feel of his lips against hers, the way he had pulled her body tight against his, and the overwhelming need to have much more of this dangerous man than merely a kiss. She raised her arms until they encircled his neck.

Random thoughts tried to penetrate the sensual cloud fogging her brain. This man ruined her sister's life... this bounder wouldn't treat her any better than he had Marnie... this man was a forbidden treat glistening on the horizon, tempting, beckoning... this man was no good for her. But still she savored the excitement of his touch, the delicious truth of his kiss as he pulled her body tighter against his.

He reveled in her intoxicating taste and the feel of her body pressed along the length of his. She had the power to drive him to total distraction and she didn't even seem to be aware of it. He knew he would not be satisfied until he intimately knew every inch of her. And if the burning need surging through his body was any indication, he would still want more. He finally broke off the kiss.

His voice came out as a husky whisper. "I have an excellent bottle of wine in my cabin and a private hot tub on my enclosed patio. Could I entice you to join me?"

His words sent a tremor of nervousness through her body. He had no idea how easy it would be to entice her. In fact, it took every bit of the determination she could muster just to keep from dragging him inside her cabin, shoving him down on her bed and ripping off his clothes. What was the matter with her? She'd never felt this way about any other man, and this was the wrong man to -- she gulped in a steadying breath, then another, before she attempted to speak. She knew she needed to sound totally in control.

"It's late."

"Yes." He leaned forward and brushed his mouth lightly against her kiss-swollen lips. "I guess it is." He directed one last look of longing in her direction. "I'll see you at sunrise." With that, he turned and walked away.