Operation Baby Rescue
Elise Norris wants nothing more than to be a mother.
Her joy turns to agony when newborn baby girl Grace dies
mysteriously--before the single mom could even say
goodbye. But grief-stricken Elise can't shake the
feeling that the final chapter of Grace's story isn't
As he works through his own tragic loss, widower
Jared Coleman and his one-year-old daughter become
captivated by Elise. But while investigating the
strange circumstances behind Grace's death, their new
friend teeters close to an explosive secret. Can
Jared protect her? Or is he in over his head in a
desperate life-or-death struggle?
permission. All rights reserved.
Her pause at the refreshment
table gave Joleen a chance to catch up with her before
Elise made her escape from the awkward meeting. "I'm so
glad you came tonight," she said, placing a hand on
Elise's arm. "I hope you'll come back. Talking about
your experiences and your feelings gets easier with
practice, and having the support of people who
understand what you're going through is invaluable."
How could anyone really know
what she was feeling? Her grief seemed so personal.
Elise forced a smile. "Thank you." She made no comment
on whether she'd return. The jury was still out on that.
Even the little she'd said tonight had been painful to
share. She drained her lemonade quickly, hoping to make
a hasty exit before any other members of the group
caught her in an uncomfortable conversation. Tossing her
empty cup in the trash, she spun on her heel to leave...
and almost collided with a broad chest belonging to a
man with dark brown, soulful eyes.
"Hi," Jared said with a quick
flash of a lopsided grin.
"Oh, uh...hi." Elise's heartbeat
performed a stutter-step. He was much taller than she'd
expected, and this close to him, she could smell a
tantalizing hint of sandalwood. He rubbed his palms on
his jeans once before sliding his hands in his pockets.
The rattle of keys told her he was fidgeting. "I'm sorry
if I... made you uneasy or caused you more pain
She blinked at him and furrowed
her brow. She wasn't sure what she'd expected him to
say, but an apology was not on the list. "Pardon?"
"Talking about my daughter." He
gave an apologetic wince. "When the Harrisons joined the
group..." he hitched his head toward the young couple
still chatting with an older lady at the circle of
chairs "...Kim would get upset when I talked about
Isabel. I thought maybe, since you'd lost your baby...
hearing about my daughter would be... especially
difficult." He pressed his lips in a taut line of
regret. "If it was, I'm sorry."
Elise could only stare for a
moment. His sensitivity to her pain was thoughtful and
"I, um..." She shook her head
in disbelief. "Thank you, but... I don't expect you to
censor yourself to protect me. Sure, it hurts to hear
about other people's kids and think about what might
have been, but...that's not your problem."
He shrugged and frowned. "Maybe,
but I'd hate to think you decided not to come back
because my stories about Isabel upset you. Losing my
wife was hard enough. I can't imagine how hard it would
be to have lost Isabel, how difficult it must be for you
and the Harrisons." Pain shot through her chest, and she
murmured, "It's been hell."
He pulled one hand out of his
pocket and flipped it up as in a gesture that said she'd
proved his point. "And I don't want to make it worse."
She nodded, swallowing hard to
force down the knot of emotion that worked its way up
her throat. "I appreciate that. But how selfish would it
be of me to expect you to not to say what you needed to
about your daughter, if it helped you work through your
own grief for your wife?"
He lifted his chin and cocked
his head as if her comment caught him off guard. Before
he could say anything, she raised a hand. "Besides, I
get a little tired of people avoiding mention of babies,
and especially Gracie, my daughter, as if pretending she
never existed would be easier for me, when really it's
their own awkwardness they want to avoid." She heard
the bitter edge in her tone and bit the inside of her
cheek. She hadn't meant to snap at him. Her frustrations
with her coworkers and neighbors weren't his fault. But
instead of taking offense, he smiled and nodded.
"Exactly. I get the same thing
from my friends concerning my wife. As if any talk of
spouses is suddenly taboo. I hate it."
His response surprised her.
Something warm unfurled in her chest, releasing a bit of
the pressure that squeezed her lungs. When was the last
time someone had actually understood the tangled
emotions she had over losing Grace? Even this tiny
connection to Jared made her feel a little less alone.