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Operation Baby RescueOperation 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 yet written...

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?


Coming soon!


Reprinted by 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 tonight."

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 also...frustrating.

 "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.

September 2011
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
Top Secret Deliveries
ISBN 978-0-373-27747-6

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Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.  Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited.  All rights reserved.  and are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited and/or its affiliated companies, used under license.

 

 

 

 

 

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