from More than Words Anthology
with Diana Palmer, Carla Neggers, Emilie Richards and Susan Mallery
Ordinary women…extraordinary compassion
Somewhere, at this very moment, a woman’s caring and commitment is changing a life in her community…and changing the world. Five of these compassionate, dedicated women have been chosen from nominees across North America to become Harlequin’s More Than Words award recipients.
Now five bestselling romance authors celebrate these recipients in the More Than Words short-story collection – fiction inspired by the lives and efforts of these real-life heroines…
Because of their dedication, handmade quilts wrap needy children in warmth and love. Hand-painted memory boxes comfort mothers grieving the loss of a newborn baby. Abused women can reach for help online, and families are brought closer through literacy. One woman even found a way to feed the needy when she was homeless herself.
We hope More Than Words will touch your heart and inspire you to reach out in your community.
Proceeds from the sale of this book will be reinvested into Harlequin More Than Words program to support the causes that are of concern to women.
About Small Packages
Brenda’s story, SMALL PACKAGES, is based on Tera Leigh and her Memory Box Artist Program.
Harrison Ferello is determined to make something of his life, something that proves he’s nothing like the no-good man who fathered him. He has no plans to marry or settle down, to take the risk that his father’s poor parenting skills might be in his genes. He’s going to become a doctor and do great things. But then he finds out that Lynnette, the woman he once loved but hasn’t heard from for months, has been keeping a devastating secret. She’s pregnant–with twins.
For Harrison, there is only choice. He’ll be the best father he can be, will support the children and Lynnette as much as possible. But as soon as he’s made his decision, Lynnette and one of the babies die in childbirth. Now he’s facing an even more difficult decision–what to do with his new son, a child he didn’t even know he’d created until two weeks ago.
Noelle Kane knows what it’s like to suffer the loss of a child. That’s why she’s gotten involved with the Memory Box Artist Program, which provides memory boxes to grieving parents. She finds helping others in this way very cathartic–until she meets Harrison Ferello. She knows Harrison is reeling from the recent changes in his life and, against her better judgment, agrees to help him by adopting his infant son. She’s eager for a second chance at motherhood, and is fairly certain Harrison will walk away without a backwards glance. But Harrison soon realizes that he can’t really let go of his baby that easily, not without turning out just like his father. Then he and Noelle must both decide what role they’ll play in the child’s life–and in each others.
What is Tera and her Memory Box Artist Program all about?
The Memory Box Artist Program is an all volunteer effort to provide boxes for families of infants that pass away in the hospital so that the families did not leave the hospital empty handed without any representation of that child’s life. To date, the program has provided more than 60,000 boxes for infant bereavement programs.
The purpose of the program is to affirm that life for the family. Each box is created with great love and a sincere wish to reach out in support and understanding. Each infant is special and very, very loved, regardless of how long the child lived.
To find out more about the Memory Box Artist Program, visit www.memoryboxes.org.
Noelle had trouble finding Harrison’s apartment. By the time she arrived, it was nearly 1 o’clock and raining again. Opening her compact umbrella, she stepped out of her Volvo and hurried across the puddle-ridden lot, moving as fast as she dared in high heels. It hadn’t made sense to go home and change. She’d been too excited to get Jeremy.
Jeremy… She liked that name. She’d been searching her brain for a good middle name to go with it ever since Harrison had mentioned he’d let her choose one, and had yet to come up with anything. But she was sure she’d have better luck once she had a chance to get to know her baby.
Her baby… She could hardly believe the twist of fate that had given this opportunity to her. Or was it an opportunity? Was she being stupid to get involved? She didn’t think so. Maybe it would be different if she could have more children of her own, but Steven had made that impossible.
A little damp and definitely cold, she lowered her umbrella before knocking softly on Unit #31. She waited several long seconds, then knocked again. Finally, she tried the door and found it unlocked.
“Harrison?” she called, poking her head inside.
The thickness of Harrison’s voice indicated that he’d fallen back asleep, just as she’d suspected he might.
“Sorry to barge in on you,” she said, “but you didn’t answer my knock.” Leaving her umbrella on the stoop, she stepped inside a utilitarian family room and kitchen area lit only by the flicker of an old console-style television. A bike stood in the corner, and some shelves held several books, a few photographs and the memory box she’d made.
Harrison was lying on the couch, wearing socks, a T-shirt and faded jeans and holding the baby. “I thought I was dreaming.” He yawned and scrubbed a hand over his face, then his gaze ran down to her feet and back up again.
“You look nice.”
“What time is it?”
“Late. I got lost.”
“Why didn’t you call me?”
“I wanted to let you rest.” She stared down at the baby in his lap and felt her pulse leap. “Looks like Jeremy’s doing okay.”
“You say that as though he’s sweet. He’s been a nightmare.”
A flash of white teeth told her Harrison wasn’t really upset, and Noelle couldn’t help returning his smile. For someone who didn’t want children, he’d taken his role as father pretty seriously. His apartment was in shambles, but from what she could see, the mess was all baby-related.
The television changed colors, allowing Noelle a better glimpse of Harrison’s clean, strong features. Stubble darkened his square jaw, but the thick blond hair sticking up on his head and his sleepy blue eyes gave his face a disarming, boyish look. Jeremy could certainly have inherited worse genes, she thought. If he took after Harrison, he had every chance of being tall, well-built and too handsome for his own good.
“Did you make it to the funeral today?” she asked. She was eager to get Jeremy in her arms, but she was afraid, too — afraid she’d melt down the moment she touched him. Sometimes she felt completely recovered from the loss of her baby a year earlier. But there were other times when it seemed as though the passing months had only camouflaged the hurt.
Harrison shook his head. “I would’ve been really late, and I had Jeremy by then. I decided it might be better for Lynnette’s family if we said our own prayers for her and Tyler—
“Lynnette’s mother named the other baby.”
“Anyway, I decided it might be better for them if we just faded away.”
“They’re not interested in seeing the baby?”
“It’s not that so much. Her mother suffers from depression and isn’t doing well, and her sister’s involved in a custody battle for her own child. They can’t do anything for Jeremy. I was afraid it’d just make them feel worse to have a reminder that the entire situation didn’t end with Lynnette’s and Tyler’s death.”
Noelle was mildly surprised by Harrison’s sensitivity. Lynnette had tried to trap him, yet he was doing his best to shield her family from the consequences?
“Can I hold him?” she asked at last, unable to wait any longer.
“Sure.” Harrison sat up and motioned to the space beside him. “Have a seat.”
Noelle could feel his residual body heat when she perched on the couch. But that had nothing to do with the warmth that rolled through her when he handed her the baby. This warmth came from somewhere deep inside, like a candle burning in her heart.
Closing her eyes, she rubbed her lips across the baby’s cheek. He smelled so good, so…familiar. She’d known this moment might be difficult for her. But she’d had no idea that Jeremy would evoke such vivid memories of the day she’d had her own baby. Although she’d held Austin only briefly, her arms had ached for him ever since. And now, after so long, if felt almost as if she had him back again.
She could sense Harrison watching her and tried to say, “He’s so soft,” to cover the depth of her reaction. But she couldn’t speak. Tears welled in her eyes almost instantly, and her chest constricted until she could scarcely breathe. Her only escape was to bury her face in the baby’s terrycloth sleeper before she came apart.
Mommy’s so sorry, Austin, so terribly, terribly sorry…
A Romance Review
“This is an anthology by five great authors; each story is unique. It is a tie between my favorites in the book. They were all so good. But I did really enjoy HANGING BY A THREAD by Emilie Richards. The other tie in favorite was SMALL PACKAGES by Brenda Novak. MORE THAN WORDS will touch your heart. It will make you want to be a part of something as great as the work these women are doing, if you’re not already. And the greatest news is by purchasing this book you can help, as a portion of each sale is being donated to future charity support work. So those of us that are too busy, and have families, this is something easy and small we can all do to be involved. And the added bonus is you get to read some wonderful, emotional stories from some great authors. You get a chance to read about how other women are making a difference. I wouldn’t miss this opportunity to add another Novak or Palmer to the keeper shelf. And that’s where this one will wind up. You won’t want to part with it because a gem like this can be read over and over again for a quick pick me up.”
–Katy, A Romance Review
“Poignant and powerful, this book should raise awareness of crucial social issues.”
4-1/2 Stars & “Top Pick” from Romantic Times Booklover’s Magazine
“Small Packages is a tender story … a poignant and touching tribute to the human spirit.”
–Romantic Times Booklover’s Magazine
Romance Reviews Today
“SMALL PACKAGES is large in characterization and emotion, and has a multi-stranded plot. The main characters are heartgrabbers, while the minor ones add even more interest…The stories in MORE THAN WORDS, the true and the made-up, will touch your hearts. Be sure to add MORE THAN WORDS to your shopping list.”
–Jane Bowers for Romance Reviews Today