The youngest of the three Knowles siblings, Quinn has in her blood the love of the land and its beautiful creatures. Raising enough money to build an animal sanctuary is a dream Quinn lives every day—while fending off her family’s well-intentioned matchmaking schemes. Though harboring secret fears about intimacy, Quinn soon realizes she cannot fight her growing attraction to a man who has suddenly entered her life.
Scarred by his months in Afghanistan and the violence he witnessed there through his camera lens, photojournalist Ethan Saunders throws himself into hard ranching work as a prescription for healing. But falling for Quinn has given him the one thing he thought he’d lost forever: hope. Ethan discovers that Quinn, like the innocent animals she rescues, is shy, and afraid of entrusting her heart to a man. Passion soon awakens Ethan’s strength, and his tender seduction may be just what Quinn needs to believe in herself—and in his love.
Praise for Once Touched and Laura Moore
“Moore is a very talented and gifted writer who just made the characters, the setting, and the animals come to life. The story was touching, romantic, sexy, heartbreaking, heartwarming, and just an overall good read.”—Always YA at Heart
“An emotional story of love, trust, and healing on many levels . . . I highly recommend this wonderful novel of family, hope, healing, and love.”—The Romance Dish
“Ethan and Quinn together are so good. . . . The tender moments, the passion, and the sweetness combine to make this a very heartwarming romance.”—The Sassy Bookster
“Once Touched is comprised of unique, realistic, and likable people. . . . This great read deserves a Perfect 10.”—Romance Reviews Today
“Moore is a fantastic storyteller, ensnaring your interest from the first page.”—Fresh Fiction
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
These days, when Quinn Knowles needed a pair of ears to listen to her, she sought out long, furry ones in a soft dove gray that stuck out like handlebars on a bike.
People were all right to talk to now and again. But her friends and family were unsuitable at present, for the simple reason that they were part of her problem.
“Okay, so it might not be exactly fair to call love a ‘problem.’ ” Perched on the goat pen’s top railing, she leaned forward to scratch Hennie’s furry chin. “But it’s all a bit much. I can’t take two steps without tripping over some blissed-out pair.”
Maybelle gave a bleat that sounded suspiciously like a laugh.
“I’m not exaggerating,” Quinn said. “The situation is seriously annoying.”
In response, the doe stuck her nose in the feeder and withdrew a mouthful of timothy hay. Maybelle had a weakness for timothy.
“I’m willing to give the guests a pass. After all, that’s what they’re here for.” Located on three thousand bucolic acres in Northern California, the setting encouraged relaxation. The amenities and services that her family and Silver Creek’s staff provided were designed to pamper the senses. The ranch’s restaurant offered delicious food, locally sourced. The cabins, stocked with luxury comforts—cloud-soft beds, combed-cotton bed linens, and bathtubs large enough to accommodate two with lots of wiggle room—created a sensual nest where guests could indulge and, in the true spirit of Marvin Gaye, get it on.
Wilhelmina stepped forward to nibble on Quinn’s knee. Because she had a staff meeting to attend later, Quinn moved her leg a tad to the left, avoiding a smear of masticated hay and spit on the front of her jeans, and returned to the topic du jour.
“It’d be one thing if all this love and romance were confined to strangers passing through. But thanks to my family, the love vibe’s closing in. And I’m the last one standing.”
Both her brothers had fallen, and fallen hard. Ward, her oldest brother, was engaged to be married. Tess’s and his wedding was scheduled for January, a mere three months away. Quinn preferred not to think about how fast the date was approaching. She’d attended enough weddings to be able to say with certainty that she was allergic to them.
Reid, her other brother—better and wiser than she was by four years, as he liked to claim—had also succumbed. He and Mia Bodell, their neighbor and one of Quinn’s best friends, had announced their engagement last night at the Sunday family dinner. Mia had looked beautiful, radiant with happiness, and Reid couldn’t stop grinning. Quinn’s mother—equestrian by vocation, hotelier by profession, and matchmaker by some weird and deeply twisted impulse—had wept tears of joy and satisfaction. Her two sons were destined for happily-ever-afters with terrific women.
Of course Quinn was happy for the four of them. But that didn’t mean she wanted to join the party. And it was getting old, her running into the lovers with their lips locked and their hands clutching and stroking. Their besotted cooing was driving her up the wall. She’d rather listen to her foster parrot Alfie’s loudest shrieks any day.
Even her parents, who should be immune after thirty-plus years of marriage, were afflicted—infected—and were behaving like newlyweds.
Whatever was going around her family, Quinn intended to remain immune. The whole point of being a twenty-four-year-old woman in the twenty-first century was that she could be single and totally absorbed in her own thing. Call her selfish, but she had neither the time nor the inclination to deal with guys and their wants and expectations.
And she’d rather be set upon by fire ants than be needy herself.
Albertina ambled over to Gertrude and began mouthing her neck in some communal morning grooming. Gertrude’s ears twitched in bliss.
“Don’t get me wrong, girls. It’s not that I have anything against love. It’s just not for me. I can’t have a man hanging around and slowing me down when I have so much to accomplish. Mom should understand that.”
But Quinn had the sneaking suspicion her mother was at it again—the compulsive matchmaking business. Couldn’t the woman leave well enough alone? It was embarrassing. Uncomfortable, too.
There was only one thing to do: figure out how to outwit a mother who was as wily as mothers came.
“You know my mom,” she continued. “She’s the one who brings you pine branches to chew. Nice lady, right? You’d think she’d be satisfied having two of her offspring happily matched and ready to say ‘I do’ before the minister. But no. She has to go and hire J—”
“You often talk to your goats, Quinn?” Josh Yates asked.
Speak of the chaps-wearing devil. Quinn teetered but managed to grab the metal bar and right herself before she fell splat onto Hennie. Glancing down, she saw that the animal’s almond-shaped eyes were closed.
Dang, she’d gone and talked her favorite goat to sleep.
Luckily Josh hadn’t noticed. Even luckier was that he’d arrived a millisecond before she said his name. Which meant somebody in the heavens was looking out for her.
“Oh, hey, Josh. Just a sec.” Swinging her legs over the rail, she jumped and landed next to the cowboy who unwittingly was part of her current dilemma. She swiped the dirt off the back of her jeans and caught herself wondering whether she’d remembered to brush her hair when she pulled it back this morning.
And didn’t that speak volumes?
She shouldn’t be worrying about how she looked. Wouldn’t be, except that Josh Yates was prettier than she was.
Josh and his cow pony, Waylon, had arrived ten days ago, hired by her parents to help with the fall sale of the cattle and to take up the slack when Ward and Tess’s January wedding came around.
His presence was a boon for Quinn as well. It would allow her to take off for a few days and avoid witnessing the steers being hauled away to the market to be sold and processed.
Quinn was happy to work on her family’s guest ranch in practically every capacity—she waited tables, led trail rides, herded sheep and cattle, helped train horses, tended dairy goats, and planted the kitchen’s vegetable garden. Heck, she even helped out with allergy-inducing wedding events. But she couldn’t take part in the slaughter of the cattle. It didn’t matter how humanely and painlessly the animals’ lives ended. The mere sight of the red and black Angus steers clambering up the ramps and into the trailers was enough to torment her.
That Quinn’s family cared enough to hire an extra ranch hand so that she could go off somewhere—in this case, spend a weekend at a wolf sanctuary—and be distracted from her horror and guilt was just one reason she adored them, her exasperating mother included.
Being a fair person, her gratitude necessarily extended to Josh, despite the fact that he was more than a touch unnerving.
It was easy to see why he’d been plucked from the pool of applicants. Josh had grown up on a large Texas cattle ranch and possessed all the necessary experience and wrangling skills; there’d been no breaking-in period. And his easygoing attitude made him a good fit with the guests who took advantage of the miles of trail riding the ranch offered.
It certainly didn’t hurt that he had the rugged cowboy look down to a T.
Quinn usually remained unaffected by a guy’s appearance. But Josh, with his thick, curly blond hair, caramel brown eyes, squared-off cleft chin, and aw-shucks grin, was why the term eye candy had been invented. The rest of him was equally distracting. He was tall, with exactly the right amount of honed muscle. One look, and a woman knew that here was a man willing to work his body hard.
It was this made-to-order aspect to Josh, his rugged good looks and his familiarity with ranch life, that had immediately put Quinn on her guard and made her suspect her mother was trying to extend her run of matchmaking.
Normally this would be enough to put Josh on Quinn’s top ten list of people to avoid at all costs. The thing was, she liked him. A part of her secretly acknowledged that if she were to want someone in her life, Josh Yates would be a prime candidate.
And then there was that little voice inside her head telling her that maybe it was time to try again. It was just possible Josh would get the job done where others before had failed.
She’d been on the verge of divulging as much to Hennie and the girls when he’d interrupted her with his comment about talking to her goats.
“Sure I talk to them,” she said, plucking a stray blade of half-chewed timothy off the seam of her jeans. “I’ll have you know they’re seriously underrated as listeners.”
“Me, I prefer to share my thoughts with Waylon.” Josh’s horse was a blue roan paint, possibly even dreamier-looking than his owner.
“Hmm,” Quinn said noncommittally. “Well, my gelding Domino is a noble beast, but that can be a problem conversation-wise. I feel petty if I complain to him. Sooner, my Sheltie, is so focused on listening for my next command, he sometimes misses the big picture. As for my cat, Pirate, he’s way too critical. There’s always the sheep, but they’re kind of placid. And really, who wants to talk to a steer?”
Her exaggerated eye roll had Josh laughing. “You’ve convinced me. Next time I need to share, I’ll come over and chat awhile with your goats,” he said, and then cursed softly as some of the coffee he was carrying—in not one but two mugs—sloshed over the rims.
“What’s with the doubling up of joe?” she asked. “Were you out painting our fair town of Acacia red last night?”
“Well . . .” He drew out the word, as if enjoying the sound of it. From what she’d observed, Josh enjoyed many things. “Figured it was past time I got the lay of the land. Your buddy Jim introduced me to The Drop last night. We shot a couple rounds of pool with two nice ladies, Nancy and . . .” Beneath his cowboy hat, his lips pursed as he searched his memory.
“Maebeth,” Quinn supplied. “They work at the luncheonette in town.”
“That’s right,” he said, nodding and smiling again. “They were real welcoming. Invited me down for a stack of pancakes—on the house—as soon as I have a morning off.”
“That was friendly of them.” She could imagine just how friendly the single women would be toward the new hottie in town, especially now that her brother Reid was very much taken. “So you liked The Drop?”
“Yeah, I did. Fun joint, but”—his voice lowered a shade to a warm rumble—“it would’ve been even more fun with you there, Quinn. Maybe next time you’ll give me a tour of the local scene. Your face is way prettier than Jim’s.”
“Don’t let Jim know. He’ll be devastated.”
“Here.” He extended one of the mugs toward her. A wispy tail of steam floated in the air. “This one’s for you. You take it black with sugar, right?”
Unnerved as she was at the prospect of a distractingly good-looking cowboy bringing her coffee and taking the time to indulge in an early morning flirtation, she nonetheless accepted the ceramic mug. Quinn was not the type of woman to turn down caffeine.
“That’s right, I do. Thanks,” she said lightly as she reminded herself that all the male ranch hands and wranglers at Silver Creek were like brothers and uncles to her. No need to treat Josh any differently.
Together they began walking toward the horse barn. This was Quinn’s favorite time of day, when everything was quiet and all about the care of the animals. In the corrals and pastures, she saw the horses’ jaws working as they enjoyed their morning hay.
Keeping her tone casual, she continued. “So, you’re coffee-ing me up, huh? What’s the angle?”
“Waylon’s thrown a shoe. Luckily the blacksmith’s coming this afternoon. But I was wondering if you’d let me ride Domino this morning. Pete asked me to lead a group.”
“You’re taking the guests out this morning?” Josh had been here less than two weeks, and Pete Williams, their foreman, was already letting him lead trail rides. In case anyone doubted how well Josh was adapting to his role as ranch hand, here was an embossed seal of approval. The safety of Silver Creek’s guests was paramount.
“It’s a small group, only six riders. Beginners. Afterward he wants me to ride the fence line.”
“And you want me to lend Domino to you?” She shook her head in mock despair. “A pecan pumpkin muffin should really accompany that kind of request, Josh. I mean, you’re an okay rider and all, but Domino, he’s—”
“Special. A prince.” Josh’s Texas twang, his dimples, and the cleft in his square chin might be awfully cute, but it was his keen eye in judging horses that was damned near irresistible.
“He’s all that and more.”
“I know it’s a huge favor.”
“It sure is,” she said, her gaze seeking out her black Appaloosa gelding. He was in the near corral, sniffing the ground for stray bits of hay. “But I guess I’ll lend him to you. A really great horse will boost your self-confidence, and I can see yours is a little shaky this morning.”
He shot her a sideways glance. “You definitely rattle mine. The girls back home are much easier to ask out.”
If he only knew just how challenging she was . . .
No need to go there now, she told herself, and tried for her breeziest smile as she ignored his comment, saying instead, “It actually works out well, your riding Domino—”
“Since you’ve got a meeting. Yeah, Pete mentioned y’all would be busy.”
She raised her brow. “Checking up, huh?”
His shrug was unabashed. “I figured you’d be happy knowing Domino was enjoying this pretty morning while you’re stuck inside talking business and bottom lines. And that might make you more inclined to say yes to a date.”
The line was so smoothly delivered, she couldn’t help but laugh. “Neatly planned.”
Josh tipped his hat in acknowledgment. “Planning’s important. I like to get what I want.”
Quinn was okay with that—she liked getting what she wanted, too. The question was whether she really wanted to get to know Josh . . . in a more intimate way. Could she bring herself to try to have sex again? Because experiencing yet another colossal failure at intimacy would be beyond mortifying with a man like Josh.
An excellent argument for ignoring his calendar-pinup body, cleft chin, Texas twang, and appreciation for fine horseflesh. But if she continued rejecting every man she met, she’d soon be the oldest virgin in California.
Was it any wonder she talked to goats?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Really enjoyed the series!
Hello lets start pls talk to me.
I really enjoyed this story it was a very touching read of loving someone so much you willing to do or give anything up to make their dreams come true and help them get over the pain of life. After reading this you will want to go back and read the rest of this series. One man might not have fought the war but it saw it first hand when the truck he was riding in got blown up and he lost all the soldiers he called friend. He is battered and bruised from the inside out. All of his wounds can’t be see or felt but are still as real as the pain of the lose he feels. He comes back to the one place that always gave him peace to heal. Healing takes time but some things you will never forget. Each time you close your eyes you will relive one terrible day when you lost not only your friends but your lively hood. One photojournalist will never take another picture, never feel the joy that he always felt in the past. He will never tell another story through his photos…..This is one romance you do not want to miss… Quinn is a lady who sees pain and works to bring those around to give them joy and a new lease on life. For her it is animals she takes them all in helps them overcome their pain and finds them new owners who will treat them right. Years ago when she was just a child one young man gave her attention never too busy as he took her on her first horse ride walking beside her and listening to her chatter for hours. Now he is on his way back but he is broken and not the man she knew from long ago. She uses her animals and her temper to try to bring him around. Will one woman who has the heart of gold be able to help this man or will she fall in love with him only to have him walk away. Ethan is trying to get through the day to day struggle of the long nights when his memory will not shut down. He just wants to be left alone so he goes to Silver Creek Ranch hoping to find the peace he is looking for and putting his parents mind as easy. What he finds is one young girl who is all grown up with one little temper who can set him on the straight and narrow. The age different is big and he knows he should walk away but she pulls him in like a moth to a flame taking his heart and healing it. The author gives you wonderful characters that you can relate to with and outstanding plot that reaches out and touches you to your soul. She gives you humor and pain that you can feel. The supporting characters are outstanding with their humor and support. The story does start out a little slow but is really a very touching outstanding read. The author showing how animals and humans once again help overcome and heal the heart and mind as she gives you a compelling love story that will stay with you long after you put this book down. I very much doubt you can read this and not have it touch your heart deeply. This is the first I have read of this author and plan on going back and reading the rest of the series.
I didn't want this story to end...not even at 421 am when I closed the back cover. Loved Quinn's story. Laura Moore made me laugh and cry. Such great character, main and secondary, human and non-human. This entire series was fantastic and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes contemporary romance. Laura writes compelling characters that you instantly connect and fall in love with, amazing settings, and some very wonderful love scenes al woven throughout a page-turning story. She's a must buy for me.
NUMBER OF HEARTS: 4 1/2 I am sad to say goodbye to the Silver Creek series. I loved the first two books and was really excited when I found out that Quinn was getting her own book. Quinn is the youngest of the Knowles family. I knew Quinn’s story was going to be good. Quinn is a smart, witty, animal loving, and rescuer of all things. But poor Quinn has been having to deal with both of her brothers falling in love. Quinn doesn’t think that love will ever be for her. She is just not good at it or maybe she has not found the right person yet. Ethan Saunders just wants to be left alone and needs to recover without having to deal with a lot of questions. But what Ethan finds on the ranch is so much more than just recovery and hard work. This was a great story and I thought that Ms. Moore did an excellent job or bring this trilogy to a close. While I truly hope that this is not our last visit to Silver Creek, if it was I am glad to see that everything has been wrapped up. Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley & Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine in exchange for an honest review. This review is my own opinion and not a paid review.
ONCE TOUCHED is a very sweet and beautiful story of hope, healing and love and I really enjoyed it. The youngest of the Knowles siblings, Quinn is a born nurturer, with a very large heart and a passion for the land and animals, especially abused and neglected ones, some of which she has personally rescued. But Quinn fears that loving her animals may be all there is for her and her experiences have only reinforced that belief. But when a damaged man takes refuge at the ranch, will Quinn take him on as one of her projects or will she open her heart up to the possibility of love? Ethan Saunders has very fond memories of the time he spent on the Silver Creek ranch and when he needs a place to recuperate from injuries sustained in Afghanistan, Silver Creek is his first choice, especially with the added bonus of being far away from his well-meaning but hovering family. The ranch and Quinn are exactly what Ethan needs to begin healing and letting go of his survivor's guilt and maybe return to his career as an accomplished photojournalist, but not before attraction between them blossoms into an intense love. I love Quinn. She's a wonderful character, beautiful on the inside as well as the outside, but what makes her so appealing is everything that makes her who she is - her fears, her hang-ups, her big heart, her selflessness and her willingness to risk it all for love. I love how patient and gentle Ethan was with Quinn, taking the time to earn her trust and ease her fears, just letting her move at her own pace. Ethan and Quinn together are so good and the tender moments, the passion, the sweetness combine to make this a very heartwarming and romance. My favorite quote is simple, but says everything: "...you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Quinn. I like the way you make me feel— any time of day, anyplace we are.” Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
5 stars Once Touched ticked all the boxes for me, I couldn't put it down. The storyline was sweet, romantic, heartwarming and very entertaining. Both the main and secondary characters made this such a wonderful read, they were likable and very relatable people that you couldn't help but form a connection with. Loved watching Ethan and Quinn's relationship develop over time, from the first meeting you could felt the attraction between them. Ethan's dark mood was slowly shifting with the happiness and sunshine that Quinn brought into his life. These two were perfect for each other, soul mates. While I loved Ethan and the man he turned out to be, I have to be honest and say for me Quinn made this book, LOVED HER! Loved her wit, her sass, her love of ALL animal wildlife and her HUGE heart. She made me laugh with her banter especially with her brothers, she made me tear up with her insecurities and doubts. She was selfless in all her actions, always putting everyone first, truly a remarkable character. Quinn has a special place in my heart. Once Touched is a beautiful ending to a wonderful series, I'm sad to be saying goodbye to these lovable characters. Laura Moore is a talented author that has written a sweet, fun and entertaining read with wonderful memorable characters in the Silver Creek series. Each book can be read as a standalone, I highly recommend them all.
Ethan Saunders is an award winning photographer, who was injured in Afghanistan. He returns states side to recover and chooses the Silver Creek farm as a way to escape pressure from his family. Quin Knowles is the youngest member of the family that owns and operates the farm, and she has a giant soft spot for an injured animal. After spending the weekend at a wolf rehabilitation camp, she picks up Ethan from the airport and takes him to the farm. Both are very weary of the other, but slowly they begin to form a bond that goes deeper than friendship. Will their tentative relationship lead to something more? I must confess this is my favorite of the Silver Creek series. I loved how both Quinn and Ethan matured throughout the book. It is well written, realistically paced and features characters from previous books. I was given a free copy for an honest review by netgalley.com
Ethan Saunders has returned home to Silver Creek in hopes of escaping the haunting memories that followed him home from Afghanistan and possibly find a way to get his life back on track. He is not only suffering from life altering injures, but also suffering from survivors guilt and is in great need of saving. And so a extended stay at the Knowles ranch surrounded by friends just might help pull him through this nightmare he's been living. The one thing he doesn't expect to find there though is love, but after working alongside the beautiful Quinn Knowles for a few days he begins to realize there's more there than just friendship...Question is does she feel the same way? Quinn Knowles has never really put much stake in finding love, and has often thought it's something that's just not really in the cards for her since she has intimacy issues. Being surrounded by love here recently, and seeing how it has changed her brothers, has actually made her want to run far away from it. Her main focus right now is finding a way to open a animal rescue sanctuary, and being able to help animals on a much larger scale. But when an old family friend shows up at the family ranch, and is in great need of saving, her nurturing takes over and the sparks begin to fly... This was my first encounter with this authors work and I can say with complete certainty that it won't be my last! The story line captivated my attention right from the start and had me burning right through the pages, and staying up well past my bed time just to finish it! Discovering this series has been quite the literary treat for me, and I look forward to revisiting the Knowles family very soon and getting better acquainted with them. Definitely a great first read for me, and one I think everyone should add to the top of their reading lists. ARC requested through Netgalley, and kindly provided by Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine in exchange for a honest and unbiased review.
I have loved Laura Moore's books from the beginning but I think that this might be the best one yet! When it starts with Quinn, the last sibling who is still single, at the barn, talking to a goat about her affectionate siblings and their intendeds, I started laughing out loud. It is a wonderful ending to a series but look forward to more stories by this author.
Sadly this is the last book in the Silver Creek Series but what a fantastic way to end it. With Quinn being the last unattached sibling, her family is in full matchmaking mode. All she has time for though are her animals, and maybe the new ranch hand Ethan Saunders. While their relationship grows, Quinn becomes more and more concerned about why Ethan has decided to hide out on a ranch rather than going back to his photojournalist career he is so good at. I loved reading all the books in this series and this one is no exception. It's definitely one that should go on everyone's must read list. I highly recommend it.