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His Forbidden Touch

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An Unexpected Reunion

Mariah Lowe has returned to Coffee Creek, dreading the moment she'll have to face Jake Sullivan again. Once, she gave this rugged, handsome man every ounce of her love and trust — and he betrayed her in the worst way imaginable. But she's wiser now and her small town desperately needs her medical skills, so Mariah's determined to ignore the unwanted spark that flares to life every time she sees the dark-haired, powerful ...

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2000 Mass-market paperback New. Mass market (rack) paperback. Glued binding. 384 p. Audience: General/trade.

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Overview

An Unexpected Reunion

Mariah Lowe has returned to Coffee Creek, dreading the moment she'll have to face Jake Sullivan again. Once, she gave this rugged, handsome man every ounce of her love and trust — and he betrayed her in the worst way imaginable. But she's wiser now and her small town desperately needs her medical skills, so Mariah's determined to ignore the unwanted spark that flares to life every time she sees the dark-haired, powerful mine owner.An Unexpected Love

Jake knows there's more between them than Mariah's willing to admit. But he's protected her from the full truth of the past for so long, how can he ever regain the love and passion they once shared? His powerful sense of responsiblity forbids Jake from telling the truth, but when danger threatens the woman he loves, all else is stripped away — and Mariah's healing heart shows them the way.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380813438
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/1/2000
  • Pages: 384

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Coffee Creek, Indiana
July, 1898

A powerful explosion shattered the quiet summer afternoon. China cups rattled in Gertrude Johnson's cupboards, her dozing cat scurried for cover, and Mariah Lowe, who was bandaging Gertrude's sprained wrist, jumped.

In the eerie stillness that followed, Mariah held her breath and waited, praying silently, as the mantel clock ticked off the seconds.

The alarm sounded moments later, a high, mournful wail that turned her blood to ice.

Quickly, Mariah finished wrapping the woman's wrist and closed her medical bag. “I'll check on you tomorrow, Mrs. Johnson.”

Mariah joined other women pouring into the street'wives and mothers'as they hurried toward the limestone quarry.

Explosions were common; the Jefferson quarry was mined with dynamite. The men who set the charges were experts, and serious injuries were rare. Yet two serious accidents had already oc-curred at the Jefferson in the past month. And now this explosion was much too loud. Something had gone wrong.

Mariah caught snippets of the women's conversation as they hurried along, some talking about her: “Thank the Lord she's come home.” “She's a godsend.” “A loyal daughter.” “Just like her father.” “She'll fight for us.”

They didn't know how wrong they were.

Since coming home two weeks ago, Mariah had avoided the quarries'and the man who ran them. The thought of having to see Jake Sullivan again was too upsetting.

This time, however, she had no escape.

An image of Jake as he had looked ten years before flashed through her mind. Tall and broad-shouldered, with gleamingblack hair and mischievous dark blue eyes, he'd been a bold, handsome daredevil with a passion for adventure. Nothing had been too risky for Jake Sullivan.

How she had loved him! At the age of sixteen, Mariah had never felt such a deep connection with anyone before. He was four years her senior, and she'd trusted him implicitly; she couldn't have imagined life without him. He'd been her confidant, her advocate, and her heart's true love.

He had also been her brother's best friend. And his murderer.

Mariah knew it was inevitable that they would meet again'as a doctor she could hardly avoid it'and the thought of seeing Jake now strained her already taut nerves. She steeled herself. She had work to do; nothing should distract her from that.

Mariah paused at the crest of the hill to survey the mine below. Half of the hillside had been cut away, exposing a sheer wall of limestone that fell twenty-five feet to the immense quarry floor. Wood-en derricks jutted skyward at each end of the floor, and the horses that operated them pranced nervously nearby.

In a corner near the wall, three bodies lay amidst a huge rubble of stone. All that made them identifiable was their bloodied, torn clothing. Close by lay others who'd been injured by flying debris.

Mariah started down, a handkerchief pressed to her mouth to keep out the choking dust. Why had she come back? She'd been perfectly content working in the hospital in Chicago. There she'd been anonymous. Here she was Doc Lowe's daughter. Charles Lowe had devoted his life to caring for the stone workers and their families as well as fighting for their causes. Now the people assumed she would do the same.

It wasn't that Mariah didn't love the picturesque town, with its wooded hills, sparkling creek, and underground caverns. It just held too many pain-ful memories for her. She was back for only one reason: her father had requested it on his deathbed. And being the dutiful daughter, she'd come home to step into his practice. It was his bag she carried now'but she was reluctant to take up his sword.

Mariah pushed through the frantic women searching for their loved ones and the men milling around in shock. She knelt beside a young boy of about ten years of age lying close to the dead miners. Blood oozed from his ears and eyes as he moaned in pain. He didn't respond when Mariah spoke to him.

She examined him quickly, then called over her shoulder, “I need bandages and water. Someone fetch a cart! Does anyone know this boy?”

One of the stone workers crouched beside her. “This is Willy Burton, our water boy. His pa is over there.” He nodded toward one of the dead men.

A women dropped to the ground on Mariah's left, rocking back and forth as she sobbed hysterically beside another body. “It's my Clyde. I know it is. He was wearing that shirt this morning. Oh, Lordy, he's dead, he's dead!”

As women gathered around to comfort her, one came rushing up with an armload of cloth, followed by a man with a bucket of water.

“Is Willy all right?” the woman asked.

Mariah dipped a piece of cloth in the water. “He has a concussion.”

“Poor little tyke,” the woman said. “His ma died two years back, and he ain't got no relatives here. Someone's gonna have to take him in now that his pa's gone.”

Mariah had learned not to show emotion when she was doctoring, yet she could feel the sting of tears behind her eyelids as she wiped the blood from the child's face. Willy didn't know it, but he had just become an orphan. “I'll take him to the dispensary. Is someone bringing a cart?”

“Right here, Doc.”

As Mariah rose to oversee the boy's move, a full-bearded, red-haired man on her right said in a low, gravelly voice, “This accident shouldn't have happened.” He glanced over his shoulder, as though he feared being overheard. “They've been working us too hard to finish the road. It's greed, pure and simple, that caused this blast.”

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    exciting Americana romantic mystery

    In 1898, Dr. Mariah Lowe would have preferred to remain relatively anonymous while practicing medicine in Chicago. Only her father¿s deathbed request brought Mariah home to Coffee Creek, Indiana to take over his practice. Mariah never wanted to come home because the memories of her love, trust, and betrayal by Jake Sullivan, foreman of the local mine, remains too strong. When she was sixteen, Jake killed his best friend, her brother. <P>A mining accident forces Mariah and Jake to meet for the first time in years. He realizes he still loves her, but knows by having hid the truth behind her sibling¿s death to protect her, he lost her. She also still loves Jake, but feels she can never trust him. As Mariah intends to uncover the truth behind the mining incident and other so-called accidents, Jake becomes determined to protect her from an unknown but extremely dangerous assailant. <P>HIS FORBIDDEN TOUCH is an exciting Americana romantic mystery that works because of Linda O¿Brien¿s effective characters that bring the ¿Gay Nineties¿ to life. The time, place, and romance will remind readers of By the Silvery Moon. The mystery is a delightful historical piece that augments the feel of the audience reading in a previous century¿s parlor. Sub-genre fans will be courting Ms. O¿Brien to provide similarly captivating tales. <P>Harriet Klausner

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