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Two determined souls plumb the dark depths of the past in order to forge a brighter future--together.


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Excerpt of Father Found by Laurie Paige

Purchase


Montana Mavericks #9
Silhouette Special
February 2010
On Sale: February 1, 2010
Featuring: Moriah Gilmore; Kane Hunter
182 pages
ISBN: 0373310315
EAN: 9780373310319
Mass Market Paperback (reprint)
Add to Wish List

Romance

Also by Laurie Paige:

Her Montana Man, May 2011
Paperback
A Hero's Homecoming, March 2010
Mass Market Paperback
Father Found, February 2010
Mass Market Paperback (reprint)
The Once And Future Wife, January 2010
Mass Market Paperback (reprint)
A Place To Call Home, January 2007
Paperback
Acquiring Mr. Right, November 2006
Paperback
Christmas Kisses for a Dollar, November 2006
Paperback (reprint)
Under the Western Sky, September 2006
Paperback
The Unknown Woman, August 2006
Paperback
Second-Time Lucky, July 2006
Paperback

Excerpt of Father Found by Laurie Paige

Moriah Gilmore let herself into the apartment. Silence greeted her. With a frown, she went into the kitchen and deposited the heavy grocery bag on the counter. Her arm trembled with the effort. She sighed and looked for a note on the refrigerator.

Mom, I'm at Jessy's. We're studying for a big test. Her mom said I could have dinner with them. Okay?

Love, Melanie

Moriah smiled. Yes, it was okay. Jessy and Melanie were both A students, merit society and all that. They also worked on the school paper, an honor because only two juniors were chosen for this job each year. They would be co-editors their senior year. Moriah was proud of both girls.

After pausing to stretch her tired back, she put the groceries away, prepared a grilled-cheese sandwich and, because she felt a little lonely without Melanie's bright chatter, treated herself to three bread-and-butter pickle slices.

"Some treat," she muttered. She ate a bite of sandwich and popped a pickle into her mouth. Sitting at the breakfast bar on a tall stool, she looked out the window toward the south.

Clouds, dark and sullen, hovered on the far horizon. It was raining down that way, she supposed. Here in Great Falls it was partly cloudy, humid and growing cold. She was glad she didn't have to dash out to a class.

When she'd finished the summer term, she'd decided to take a break until after Christmas. It would be a relief not to have to worry about grades and tests and attending courses for a while.

When she finished night school and got her degree, she'd be a paralegal. Only one year to go!

With the experience she was gaining as a receptionist-typist at a local law firm, she should be able to land a good position next year. And an interesting one, she hoped. Maybe in the same firm. She'd been there almost five years—

Her thoughts were interrupted by the telephone.

Probably Melanie. Moriah answered it with a quip: "What did you forget that you can't live without?"

Silence greeted her. Moriah realized she'd surprised someone on the other end of the line… and it wasn't her daughter.

"Sorry, I was expecting someone else," she said. She slipped into the crisp but friendly manner she used at the office. "This is the Gilmore residence. How may I help you?"

"Moriah?"

Her heart stopped. It had been sixteen, almost seventeen years since she'd heard this particular masculine baritone, the unique timbre of which reminded her of a mountain lion's purr. Not that she'd personally heard one of the big cats purr, but she imagined it would sound the way this man did—smooth and rough at the same time. His was unlike any other voice. She recognized it at once.

Heat swept through her. She felt disoriented, as if in an instant she'd been catapulted back in time, to a distant past in which this same voice had whispered the loveliest of love words in her ear as they lay together, their hearts beating as one.

She ran a trembling hand through her hair and immediately recalled other hands doing that. Kane had loved her hair, had loved to smooth a strand and watch the curl bounce back when he released it. He'd liked to tickle her neck and her breasts, using a lock of her hair like an artist's brush, his touch sure and gentle, so very gentle.

"It's like holding fire," he'd murmured, nuzzling his nose along her temple, kissing and biting at her ear. He'd dropped his hand lower, touching the auburn hair at the joining of her legs. "There's fire here, too," he'd said, teasing her, loving her, making her feel beautiful and wanted, which was something more than desired, although that was there, too.

Oh, God, she'd been so young. Seventeen…

She closed her eyes and drew a deep breath, seeking the calm center in the hurricane of emotion his voice induced. Like a drowning person, she pressed a hand to her throat, needing air and unable to get enough of it.

"Moriah?" Kane Hunter said again.

She had to answer, but only one thought—one illogical, stubborn thought—swirled in her head. Kane. Her first love. Her lover. Her betrayer.

"Yes?" She forced the word from her parched throat. Her voice came out husky, cautious. Perhaps this wasn't Kane. It could be a salesman. One who called her by her first name with that oddly intimate note of past knowledge in it? No, the man on the other end of the line was no stranger.

Her heart beat furiously, loud and frantic in her ears. She glanced around the small, neat kitchen as if looking for a place to escape the memories this voice conjured up.

"This is Kane. Kane Hunter," he clarified. "This is Moriah Gilmore, isn't it?"

"Yes."

The drowning sensation became stronger. Once she had thought she would die of ecstasy in his arms, he'd brought her such bliss. He'd liked to watch her take pleasure from his touch. And she had. So much pleasure. And later, he'd caused so much pain.

She swallowed as emotion balled in her throat, and forced herself to respond like a normal person rather than like the loving, trusting teenager she'd once been.

"Kane," she managed to say without gasping. "This is a surprise."

"I'll bet." His tone was sardonic. "I'm calling about your father," he continued, without giving her a chance to speak again. "The police have been looking for him—"

"What police?" she interrupted, unable to take all this in at once—that Kane was calling like a ghost out of the past and that he wanted to talk about her father, who had abandoned her and her mother years ago.

"The Whitehorn police," Kane replied caustically. "You know, the ones in the town where you used to live?"

He spoke as if she were dimwitted. Which was how she felt. She ignored his nasty crack and assumed the cool, controlled manner she'd learned years ago in order to cope with life. "Why were the police looking for my father?"

"That's what I'm trying to explain to you."

She could almost see him forcing the words out, the muscles in his jaw like steel ropes under his smooth, swarthy skin. A picture came to mind of her stroking along his whipcord-lean body, down the rippling contours of his chest and torso, along his thighs, feeling the powerful muscles tense beneath her touch. He'd been incredibly strong from his years of ranch work, his body hard… all over.

She freed the image from her mind with a violent toss of her head. "Then please do," she requested, after a sizzling pause.

"I went up to his cabin—"

"My father has a cabin?" She'd wondered about him over the years, of course. She'd even sent a Christmas card to their old address a couple of years after she and her mother left. Her father hadn't answered. "He doesn't have the house?"

"Not anymore," Kane said.

Moriah could hear the forced patience in his voice. The Kane she'd once known had been infinitely patient with her. And tender. The most considerate of lovers.

That tenderness was gone. And so was the house where they'd shared their love during the snowy afternoons of that magical Christmas holiday. Gone like the lovely snowflakes that had whispered so softly against her bedroom window while she and Kane murmured their hopes and dreams for the future.

Foolish, ridiculous tears burned behind her eyes. She realized that someplace inside her she still mourned the loss of that innocence, that sublime belief in life that only fools and children have.

She clutched the telephone as pain she'd thought long dead and forgotten coursed through her. She'd trusted Kane, and for a while, he'd given her bliss and a sense of wholeness, of freedom… and oh, so many wonderful things.

"So he lives in this cabin?" she prompted when the silence stretched to unbearable lengths. She wondered if Kane was remembering, too. She sighed and focused on the present. Her father was in trouble. She'd better listen.

"Yes. Anyway, I went up there a couple of weeks ago. He and I were supposed to go fishing. He didn't show up. Then Rafe Rawlings spoke to me about him—"

"Rafe Rawlings?"

"A cop in Whitehorn. If you'll let me finish…"

She stilled the questions that rose in her.

"Your father is missing," Kane said bluntly after the taut silence. "He's been gone two weeks that we know of."

She started to ask him how he knew and if he was sure of the length of time her father had been missing, but decided against it. He'd only snap at her.

"Rafe and I searched, but we didn't find any signs of the old codg—uh, Homer. That was this past weekend. I was up there the weekend before. So that makes two weeks we know he's been gone. And he's missed two appointments he knew about."

"Is that unusual?" She was in her office mode now, asking questions, taking down information from the clients who called, assessing their needs.

"Yes. Homer is a bit…um, eccentric, but he's usually reliable. Skipping out isn't like him."

A lot Kane knew, she thought, calling on cynicism to stop the hurt from long ago. Her father hadn't been there when she'd needed him. When she'd been pregnant and desperate and afraid.

Only her mother had stood by her. Men slipped out the back when trouble walked in the front, as her mom had often stated.

Moriah knew that for a fact. Moreover, men followed their own dreams, heedless of others' wishes, then blamed the woman when things didn't pan out. Oh, yes, she knew how reliable men were.

"Let me get this straight," she said. "My father lives in a cabin in Whitehorn. He's been gone somewhere for two weeks. You and some local cop searched but couldn't find him. Is that right?"

"Actually, Homer lives in a line shack on the old Baxter place. It's owned by the Kincaids now, but they've let him use it for the past ten or fifteen years, I think."

"I remember it," she said.

"It isn't the same one we used that time," Kane informed her, his tone as chilling as a north wind.

Wild heat ran into her face at his reference to the cabin where they'd once taken refuge in a snowstorm. They'd made love by the fire while the wind raged outside, heaping snow against the side of the tiny hut. Inside, she'd been warm and cozy, locked in Kane's embrace, covered by his kisses.

Her body reacted with another surge of heat, becoming soft and liquid, ready to receive him…. She gripped the counter edge until her knuckles turned white.

"I didn't mean… I wasn't talking about…" She drew a calming breath. "My father used to take me prospecting with him. We stayed at a cabin in the heart of the old mining country. It was near the Baxter ranch road."

"Yeah, that's probably the one." His tone was flat, without any emotion that she could detect. "You need to file a Missing Person's Report. Rafe and I are afraid something serious has happened to him."

"Do you think he's lost in the mountains?"

"I wish I knew. There's no evidence of foul play, but I have a gut feeling that all isn't well. Homer needs help. You'll have to come home."

Her mouth dropped open at this imperious order. There was no mistaking Kane's attitude. He expected her to rush right down to Whitehorn and find her missing parent.

"I can't. Why should I?" she added defensively.

"Because he's your father and I'm damned tired of being responsible for him. If you don't care, then he'll probably die, perhaps trapped in a cave-in somewhere."

His angry voice beat at her through the telephone. Her own temper mounted. "I recognize a guilt trip when I hear one." She was as cold as he was. "It won't wash. My father abandoned me years ago—"

"That's a damned lie!"

She stopped, stunned by Kane's vehemence. "It's true," she insisted. "He deserted us. My mom and I had to leave and make our way alone in the world."

"Save the sad tale for someone who'll fall for it. I won't." His disgust hit her like a whiplash.

"I wouldn't expect sympathy from you." She banged the receiver onto the wall receptacle and tried to calm the tremors that rushed through her.

Taking her plate, she tossed the sandwich, which had only one bite out of it, and the other two pickle slices down the drain and hit the switch, letting the grinder run until her anger cooled.

She didn't know what was going on, but she wasn't going to become involved in it. If Kane expected her to drop everything—her life, her job—to go on some wild-goose chase, he could think again. Her father had always headed into the mountains every chance he got. There was nothing unusual in that.

Go back to Whitehorn?

Never!

Dr. Kane Hunter observed the birth in progress with both professional and personal interest—professional because Lori Bains, the midwife, had asked him to stand by in case a Caesarian section became necessary; personal because the parents were Native Americans from the Laughing Horse Reservation and were known to him. He, too, had grown up on the res.

Kane found his own muscles clenching, working with the mother as she struggled to bring new life into the world. He'd delivered hundreds of babies, both on the res and in the small town of Whitehorn, but it never failed to move him.

This was Day One in the life of the child. He thought of all the days that would follow, and the growing and learning needed to make it in this world. He studied the new father, who stood by his wife's side, her hand clutched in his.

The silent, earnest young man was eighteen.

The same age he'd been when he'd met his first love….

The memory leapt into his mind with the hot insistence of a branding iron. He frowned, angry but not surprised by it.

Since he'd talked to Moriah about her father on Monday, bits and pieces of the past had floated into his consciousness at odd moments. For a second, tired from too much work and too little sleep, he let the memory have its way.

When he and Moriah Gilmore had been lovers, he'd thought the world was his. He'd had a scholarship for college, all the way through medical school, one based on brains, not his athletic ability. And then, the first day of his first Christmas home from classes, he'd met her.

Sure, he'd known her before. She'd been a year behind him in high school, but they hadn't spoken more than a dozen times during his sojourn at Whitehorn High. Certainly it had never occurred to him to ask her for a date.

The Indian kids had been bussed in from the res, and he hadn't had a car. Besides, town girls didn't date res guys.

Their meeting had been an accident. He'd walked out of the diner and bumped into her. Christmas packages had tumbled into the fluffy snow that was falling, driven by a northwest wind.

"Sorry," he'd said, recognizing her at once. "Here, let me help you."

Excerpt from Father Found by Laurie Paige
All rights reserved by publisher and author

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