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His Off Limits Bride

His Off Limits Bride

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When Elliot becomes the guardian to his adorable niece and nephew, he tries his best to handle it on his own. When his late sister-in-law’s crazy sister tries to claim she would be the better guardian because she’s married, Elliot knows he could never let the kids go to her. Getting married would solve his problems, only he’s been too busy starting his own business and working shifts as a firefighter to pursue a relationship. Until he remembers Maggie.

Maggie can’t believe the brother-in-law to her best friend would actually propose. She knows it’s all for the kids, but deep in her heart, she wishes it could mean something more. She’d crushed on him from afar but never dared do anything about it, especially since he was her best friend’s almost brother. Since Maggie already loves the children almost as if they were hers, she agrees without hesitation. As they start their life together, can she stay committed to just being a mother figure to the children, or will she lose her heart to this man she can never have?

Intro into Chapter One

Elliot hugged his niece and nephew close as they stood in front of the newly sodded graves where their parents’ headstone had finally been placed. He listened as seven-year- old Katie and five-year-old Mark told their parents about what they’d been up to lately and Elliot smiled for the first time in way too long. The kids had adjusted pretty well. Much better than Elliot had.
The last few months had been difficult, to say the least. Not that the children were hard to be with. They were well mannered and sweet as could be. Elliot had just never expected to become a father to his brother’s kids. Everything changed in an instant when Scott and Rebecca were killed in a car accident while on their way home from their weekly date. Once he’d come to grips with the loss of his only sibling and last remaining relative, apart from the children, Elliot learned he was the first choice of guardian in his brother’s and sister-in-law’s will.
Elliot was just grateful he hadn’t been on shift at the fire station the night of the accident. He didn’t think he could have handled arriving on scene to the obvious fatalities of his two closest loved ones. The fire department had given him bereavement leave for a month, telling him he needed time to come to terms with what had happened and to get used to being the new guardian to his niece and nephew. And if losing his brother and sister-in-law wasn’t stress enough, now he’d been given notice from his lawyer that Rebecca’s greedy sister wanted to contest the will and trust so she could have custody over the kids.
The only thing she really wanted custody over was the life savings and the property that had been left to the kids. Though Elliot had loved and admired Rebecca, her sister Jenny was a piece of work. Elliot’s lawyer’s words repeated over and over in his head. “I don’t know what to tell you. Judge Conner is very big on a two parent household. Since Jenny is married, he could possibly rule in her favor. She is listed as the second guardian if you were unable to care for them.”
“But I am able to care for them,” Elliot had replied.
Yet his lawyer had continued on. “You’re still a single man with two jobs. One of them highly dangerous. If you were married, then the judge wouldn’t give Jenny’s request a second thought, but as things are, you should prepare for an uphill battle.”
Elliot sighed. He wasn’t even dating anyone. At least nothing serious. He’d been working on setting up his business and hadn’t had a lot of free time. Especially since he had started working at Emerald Cove’s Fire Department a few years ago. Not long before his brother’s death, Elliot had considered the idea of settling down or at least looking for a girlfriend, but now there was no time. What kind of woman would want to get involved with a man who was the guardian of two young children?
It was hopeless. Elliot placed his hand on Mark’s shoulder and patted it. He loved these kids as if they were his own, and he didn’t want to see them end up with Jenny. He’d been invited to enough family get-togethers where Jenny had been in attendance that he knew she was completely self-centered and only worried about one thing. “What’s in it for me.” He’d often overheard her reason for not having any kids of her own. The fact that she now wanted to raise her sister’s kids when she “couldn’t stand the little creatures” made him sick to his stomach.
Katie took a few steps away from him, bringing Elliot back to the present. He looked to see what had caught her attention and Elliot smiled. This one was even more genuine than the last as he saw Rebecca’s best friend.
“It’s Maggie,” Katie said as she hurried off to hug the curvy woman who approached. She would completely understand his worry about Jenny wanting to take the kids.
“Hi, Maggie,” Elliot said as she reached the headstones. He’d met Rebecca’s best friend a few times over the years and had always liked the woman. His brother, Scott, had tried to set them up once, but Elliot had declined the offer. She was nice enough and rather attractive, yet his main hang up was that he hadn’t wanted to cause any issues between Rebecca’s best friend and himself if things didn’t go well. It was easier to just remain friends and keep any hint of romance out of the picture.
Maggie smiled at Elliot. “I’d heard the headstone had arrived. I wanted to come bring Rebecca some flowers.”
Her voice caught on the last word and Elliot felt her sorrow since it mirrored his.
“Those are mommy’s favorite,” Katie said as Maggie placed some daisies on the top of the stone.
“I know,” Maggie said, kneeling down and giving Katie and Mark hugs. “How have you two munchkins been?”
“Good,” Mark said. “Uncle Elliot is taking care of us.”
“That’s great,” Maggie said brightly. “I’ll bet you have been such a good help to him as he learns how to take care of you.”
“We are good helpers!” Mark told her. “I showed him how to mow the lawn. He didn’t know where to find the mower or the gas for it.”
Elliot played along. “I could never do it without them. Katie even showed me where to find the soap for the dishwasher.”
Katie nodded and met Maggie’s eyes. “He was looking for a bottle, but I showed him where the pouches were.”
Elliot shrugged. “I had no idea that dish soap came in different forms.” He pulled Katie into a side hug and patted her shoulder. “I was worried I’d have to wash them all by hand.” He spoke dramatically for the kids entertainment and was rewarded with their laughter.
The children told Maggie all kinds of stories about what they’d been up to with their uncle, allowing him time to watch Maggie get excited and laugh in all the right places as they played up his qualities as a fun uncle. Eventually, they tired of telling stories and asked permission to go look at the different flowers and designs placed on the different head stones. When they were gone, Maggie looked up and met his eyes. “How are you holding up?”
“We manage I guess.”
“I’m so glad they have you,” Maggie said. “I can’t imagine losing both parents. It’s a good thing you’re here for them. You are so much better than their other option.”
“Thanks.” Elliot looked over at the children who were on their way back to them. Concern gripped his heart as he thought of the threat he faced against his sort of sister-in-law. As he tried to think of a way to keep them from Jenny, a crazy idea began to form. Elliot looked at Maggie, considering the possibility. She loved the kids as much as he did, and he was sure if he worded it right, there might be a chance he could convince her to join him. “Are you busy tonight?” Elliot asked. Maggie looked up at him and he quickly added. “The kids obviously miss you. I wondered if you might want to come over and visit with them.”
Maggie smiled. “Sure. I guess I could stop by for a little while.”
“Are you coming over?” Katie asked, catching the last bit of the conversation.
“If that’s okay with you,” Maggie said.
“Yes!” Katie shouted, grabbing Maggie’s leg in a hug. “We can play memory. Uncle Elliot isn’t very good at it.”
Maggie looked at him and Elliot shrugged. She just smiled and patted Katie’s back as the little girl continued to cling to Maggie’s leg. Maggie looked down at Katie and Mark. “I’ll bet you’ll be able to teach him how it works before too long. He seems smart enough to figure it out with teachers like you.”
“Wanna play too, Uncle Elliot?” Katie asked. “I’d love to.”
“Want me to bring anything over for dinner?” Maggie asked. “At least I’m guessing it will be around dinner time.”
“Can you make us some macaroni and cheese?” Mark asked. “Uncle Elliot uses the box. I want the good kind Mom used to make.”
“Absolutely,” Maggie said. She looked up at Elliot. “You have the real noodles for that?”
Elliot shook his head and put his hands up. “Not a clue.” Maggie’s blue eyes sparkled as she rolled her eyes and played it up for the children.
“Well, we can’t run the risk and be forced to use a box. I’ll swing by the store before I come over. You still at their house?”
Elliot nodded and put his hands in his pockets. “Didn’t feel right to take them from what was familiar and into my small apartment.”
Maggie smiled. “Good thinking. I’ll see you soon.”
He watched as she walked away and ran through his crazy idea once more. He would have to be very thorough in the plans and make it worth her while, but he’d do almost anything to save his two kids from being taken from him. Even if it did involve getting married.


Maggie knocked on the door to the house she’d visited weekly before Rebecca’s death. It still hurt too much to believe, yet she wanted to make things as normal and easy for the kids as possible. It was smart thinking on Elliot’s part to stay here at the home the kids knew so well. He was obviously good for them. When she’d seen them at the cemetery, they’d seemed as good as could be expected. Likely even better since they had someone who completely loved and cherished them. When the door opened, Maggie smiled into the excited faces of the two kids looking up at her. “Maggie!”
“Hey, Katie. Can you grab this bag and take it into the kitchen? I need to get one more out of the car.” She adjusted the plastic handles to give Katie a good place to hold it.
Elliot joined Katie and Mark at the door and smiled widely. “I can get the other bag. Front or back seat?”
“Back,” Maggie said as she stepped inside at the same time he moved to leave the house. They bumped chests and shoulders and Maggie sucked in a breath of surprise at how soft, yet solid he was. How was such a combination even possible? She remembered the long hug they had shared at the funeral as they both mourned the loss of their loved ones. Yet now, she wished she was allowed to hold him for a completely different reason.
“Sorry,” Elliot said as he stepped back enough for her to get through. She slid past him with the bags she held and still managed to brush up against his side with her extra weight. She always fluctuated, and she was currently on the heavy side of her normal. He stepped outside once she’d passed and Maggie watched him bound down the stairs in one step and jog to the car. He was all kinds of handsome and athletic and Maggie needed to get her head examined. She couldn’t go there. It wouldn’t be right, and he would never find her attractive. Any of her pathetic attempts at flirting with him years ago when she’d first met him had crashed and burned. She would never put herself through something like that again. She had to just put it out of her mind.
“Did you get the noodles?” Katie asked, bringing her back to the moment.
“Sure did. And three kinds of cheeses, just like your mommy used.”
“Yay!” Katie said, joined quickly by Mark in his excitement. “Come on. Let’s go get the water.” The two dashed off toward the kitchen and sweet little Katie let Mark go past her and into the room first. “You were always a good helper in the kitchen, weren’t you,” Maggie said when she entered the room. She placed the bag on the counter and turned to take the pot Katie held up for her. “Yup,” Katie said. “Mommy said I was the best.”
“Well,” Maggie replied. “I’m glad you’ll be helping me. Because it’s been a while since I made this. I might need some reminders.”
Mark opened the cupboard under the counter as if wanting to be a helper too. “Do you need the lid?” He held up a glass lid, almost dropping it on his foot but Maggie grabbed it just in time.
“No, we’ll just be boiling the noodles in this. I will need a colander. Do you know where that is?”
“Why do you need a calendar to make noodles?” Mark asked.
Maggie chuckled. “Colander. A strainer, something to hold the noodles while you pour the water out.”
Katie pulled a folding stepping stool out of the pantry and climbed onto the first step once she’d opened it. She wasn’t quite tall enough to reach the cupboard shelf where the strainer rested, but with the door open, Maggie could see it.
“Here,” Maggie said. “Let me climb up on the stool and I’ll get it. How about you two go set the table so it will be all ready when we are finished cooking.”
Elliot entered the room just as she grabbed the strainer, then with her attention on him, she didn’t judge the distance of the step down and stumbled. She took a few awkward steps to keep her balance.
His strong hand wrapped around her upper arm. “Whoa, there. You okay?” Maggie hoped her face wasn’t as hot as where her arm was still being touched by him.
“Oh yeah, fine.” She set the colander on the counter and took the step ladder to fold it up and return it to the pantry so she wouldn’t have to meet his eyes. She didn’t want to see his reaction to her clumsiness. By the time she turned around, he was off to the drawer to pull out the silverware for the children to place on the table. As they worked with the kids, she marveled at how much the children got into even with the adults both in the same room. How did Elliot managed to do this on his own?
When they sat down to eat the homemade macaroni and cheese, Maggie sat in the seat that had always been Rebecca’s while Elliot sat where Scott had been at the head of the table. It should have felt awkward, but instead, it felt comfortable, and the kids easily talked
about anything and everything. Maggie chuckled at their antics, but as she turned to Elliot to share the joy, she could see there was something on his mind.
“Can we have some ice cream for dessert?” Mark asked a few minutes later.
“Are you sure you have room for ice cream?” Elliot asked. “You’ve had four bowls of this macaroni.”
“There is always room for ice cream,” Mark said with as much seriousness as a five-year-old could give. Maggie couldn’t help the giggle that escaped.
“I couldn’t agree more, buddy.” Maggie, Mark, and Katie all looked over at Elliot who finally nodded. “After you clean up your dishes first. Put them in to soak so they’re easier to clean.”
“I’ll get the bowls, and the scoop,” Katie said.
“I’ll get the ice cream,” Mark chimed in.
Maggie turned to Elliot as the kids busied themselves with their self assigned task. “Are you doing okay?” She reached out and placed her hand on his, hoping to give him some comfort. She’d always thought he was a nice guy, but seeing the stress he was under first hand for the short time she’d been here made her worried for him.
“There’s actually something I wanted to talk to you about. Maybe after the ice cream and once these two are in bed. Can you stay that long?”
Maggie nodded. Whatever it was, it was serious because he didn’t even smile. His nervousness and discomfort made her worry it might be something about the kids. Were they unwell? They seemed really well cared for and completely happy with their uncle. She studied him for a moment when he turned his attention to the container of ice cream the kids had brought for him to start scooping. He looked healthy enough. In fact, he looked perfect, other than a hint of tired eyes. She hoped there wasn’t something wrong with him. That would be the worst kind of trauma for the kids so soon after losing their parents.
Once they’d finished dessert, Maggie offered to get the kids ready for bed while Elliot cleared up the dishes. She helped them get their teeth brushed and jammies on, then read them a bedtime story before tucking them into their beds after a kiss goodnight. At the top of the stairs, Maggie paused for a moment, listening to the sounds of Elliot finishing up in the kitchen. She hoped whatever it was he had to tell her would be something she could handle. Something she could help him with to ease the burden he’d so willingly taken on.
When she reached the second to bottom step, Elliot met her as he left the kitchen on his way to the front room. He led her over to the couch and motioned for her to sit down. Instead of sitting on the love seat across from her, he sat on the same sofa, but left a cushion open between them. He turned toward her and studied her for a moment.
“You’re making me a little nervous, Elliot. What’s wrong? You aren’t sick are you?”
He shook his head and gave a soft chuckle. “No. Thank heavens. I’m perfectly healthy. Just a little worried about something I learned yesterday.”
“What is it?” Maggie asked. “Let me know how I can help you. I’ll do whatever I can. Is it something about the kids?”
Elliot nodded and took a slow breath in, then closed his eyes as if he was praying or something. When he opened his eyes and met her gaze he cleared his throat of the nerves that had seemed to take up residence inside him. “Please don’t think I’m crazy. Just listen to the whole thing first, before you give your answer, okay?”
“Uh, okay,” Maggie said, her eyes widening.
“Will you marry me?"

He's just become guardian to two children, could she be the one to help him raise them?

Main Tropes

  • Marriage of Convenience
  • Instant Family
  • Long Time Crush
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