Read His Healing Touch Online

Authors: Loree Lough

His Healing Touch

“You know, folks say
I’m a pretty good listener.”

Adam looked at her then and, tucking in one corner of his mouth, shook his head. “Seems you’re pretty good at lots of things.” Blue eyes blazing, lips trembling, he added, “Wonder how good you are at forgiveness.”

Forgiveness? What in the world could a man this good, this decent, have done to make him feel unworthy of forgiveness?

While she stood there, trying to decipher his comment, Adam grasped her upper arms. “How much do you know about me?” he demanded in a raspy voice.

Kasey had never seen a man more tortured, more troubled. She felt helpless, inept, unable to put a stop to his misery. And so she did what she’d always done in times of trouble, and turned to God.

Lord
, she prayed,
guide me. Help me know what Adam needs to hear right now….

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LOREE LOUGH

A full-time writer for nearly fifteen years, Loree Lough has produced more than two thousand articles, dozens of short stories and novels for the young (and young at heart), and all have been published here and abroad. The author of thirty-seven award-winning romances, Loree also writes as Cara McCormack and Aleesha Carter.

A comedic teacher and conference speaker, Loree loves sharing in classrooms what she’s learned the hard way. The mother of two grown daughters lives in Maryland with her husband and a fourteen-year-old cat named Mouser (who, until this year—when she caught and killed her first mouse—had no idea what a rodent was).

His Healing Touch
Loree Lough

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works.


Psalms
145:8-9

To my family…the heart of my stories…and my life!

 

Dear Reader,

Though Webster’s defines “guilty” as “the state of one who has committed a crime,” the word means different things to different people: blameworthy, sinful, wicked, offensive… The list can be long and unwieldy, indeed.

The most difficult guilt to bear isn’t the kind we assign to others, but that which we drape around
ourselves
…to protect others from our supposed corruptness, to protect us from dealing with their judgment.

Like Adam and Kasey in
His Healing Touch
, we’ve all done things we’re sorry for. But Adam and Kasey learned that together they had the strength to shed their guilt—forever—and that’s what I wish for you and me.

Next time guilt looms large in your life, try to see yourself through the eyes of God, for “great are His tender mercies” (
Psalms
—119:156) and “He delighteth in mercy” (
Micah
7:18). I have faith I’ll be surprised and amazed at how swiftly my own guilty heart will turn!

If you enjoyed
His Healing Touch
, please drop me a note c/o Steeple Hill Books, 300 East 42nd Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10017. (I love hearing from my readers and try to answer every letter personally!)

All my best,

Prologue

Halloween Night

B
uddy’s instructions had been simple: Dress in black. Smuggle the assigned item out of the house. Meet at the graveyard, near the angel tombstone, eleven-thirty sharp….

It was eleven twenty-five, and Adam Thorne’s skin prickled with uneasiness as he walked along the eerielooking iron fence surrounding Crescent Lawn Memorial Gardens.

He didn’t like the way the moonlight, slanting down from above, turned tree branches into gnarled, witch-finger shadows. Didn’t like the way it glinted from the wide golden eyes of the owl, perched above his head, either. He couldn’t decide which caused the dread coiling around his spine…the winged hunter’s hollow hoot, or the dried leaves scuttling across the sidewalk like rodents fleeing the owl’s crooked beak.

The nippy October wind moaned. Dogs howled. Cats screamed. Sixteen-year-old Adam couldn’t have asked for
a more perfect Halloween. So why did he have this…
feeling?

Crouching, he slid between several missing spike-topped fence pickets. He hadn’t been here in years, but if he remembered right, the appointed meeting place was just on the other side of the caretaker’s toolshed.

Sure enough, like a tiny red beacon, the telltale glow of Buddy’s lit cigarette signaled him.

As Adam got closer to his buddies, a bigger-than-life marble angel came into view in the graveyard. In the bright silvery moonglow, it seemed that she stared…directly at
him.
Distracted by the creepy-crawly sensation, he tripped over a tree root, nearly dropping the basketball-size pumpkin Buddy had ordered him to bring.

“You’re such a klutz, Thorne,” Buddy taunted, grabbing the jack-o’-lantern and handing it to Luke.

The others watched as Luke jammed it onto the metal rod—his “assignment”—that served as the dummy’s neck. Travis brought the hay, and Wade, a faded plaid shirt and torn work pants. Good ole Buddy, never one to overlook a detail, added boots and a grease-stained fedora to the ensemble.

“Man,” Travis said, snickering, “he could make
The Guinness Book of Records,
he looks so real!”

Wade said, “Y’mean cuz his head’s so big?”

“That,” Luke put in, “and there’s so much hay stuffed in him, he can practically stand on his own.”

Adam didn’t join in their laughter.

Luke gave him a playful punch on the arm. “What’s your problem?”

“Nothin’. I just…I think this whole thing is…it’s stupid, that’s what.”

Buddy wrinkled his face in disapproval. “Put a lid on it,
mama’s boy.” Sneering, he looked at the others. “Who thinks Thorne is a mama’s boy?”

Luke, Wade and Travis exchanged guilty glances. “Well,” Luke started, “what we’re doin’
is
kinda—”

Quick as a bullet, Buddy’s hand shot out, knocking off Luke’s baseball cap. “
You
put a lid on it.” With one icy glare, he silenced any further disagreement.

Of the five gathered round the tombstone, only Buddy hadn’t made the Centennial High football team. Adam thought it odd that the outsider did the best Coach Jones imitation of the lot of them: “‘Get with the program, boys,”’ Buddy aped, as they waited for his next order. “‘Time’s a-wastin’!”’

As if even the B & O Railroad was afraid to disobey, a tremor pulsed beneath their feet, a sign that the midnight train was fast approaching.

Buddy leaped up, punching the air with a hard right cross. “Yes-s-s!” came his hoarse whisper. “I’ve been lookin’ forward to this all day!”

Shaking his head, Wade wrapped his arms around the dummy’s waist and, half dragging, half carrying it, headed for the tracks. Luke and Travis followed, muttering to one another as they huffed up the grassy incline. When the foursome crested the hill, their leader looked back at Adam, who lagged behind.

“C’mon, mama’s boy,” Buddy said, his voice a sarcastic singsong, “or you’re gonna miss all the fun….”

The uneasy feeling that had been dogging Adam all night took another nip at his heels. Was he edgy because Buddy’s harebrained ideas had gotten them into trouble, dozens of times? Was it that this time, Buddy had decided to hone the fun-slash-risk factor by tossing a Halloween dummy onto the railroad tracks in front of a moving train?

Or was it simply that despite their obvious reluctance,
the rest of them had agreed to go along with one of his schemes…
again?

 

Engineer Al Delaney wished he could belch. Just one good healthy burp, and maybe this discomfort would end.

All day, he’d been feeling, well, odd. He blamed a sleepless night. Overwork. The bologna-and-sauerkraut sandwich he’d stuffed into his mouth an hour ago. Cranking his left shoulder in a clumsy forward-then-backward circle, he peered through the train’s front window, wondering what to blame for the pressure that had been tightening across his chest for the past half-hour or so.

Wincing at this latest troubling twinge, Al thumped his chest.
Well,
he thought, taking a deep, difficult breath,
I’ll be clockin’ out in half an hour, and then—

Movement up ahead caught his eye. Something—looked to him like a man—on the tracks.

“What the—?”

Heart pounding like a parade drum, Al reached for the whistle with one hand, the brake stick with the other. The high-pitched squeal of locked wheels strained against polished steel tracks.

But it was too late.

 

Kasey Delaney woke to the repeated dinging of the doorbell. Knuckling her eyes, she padded into the upstairs hall and croaked a sleepy “What’s going on?”

“Probably just Buddy and his gang,” her mother said.

It would be just like the neighborhood juvenile delinquent to need a Halloween finale, but why he’d think ringing people’s doorbells in the middle of the night was fun, Kasey couldn’t guess.

“Mrs. Delaney?”

Her mom stood at the top of the stairs, one hand on the
newel post, the other clutching her bathrobe tight to her throat. Kasey reached for her hand, but froze when her mother whispered, “Dear God, don’t let it be—”

Her mother had always been calm, practical, easygoing. Hearing the fear in her voice frightened Kasey, too. Heart beating double time, she said, “What, Mom? Don’t let it be
what?

She watched as her mom took a deep breath, smoothed back her bangs. Despite the outward attempts at bravado, her voice trembled when she exhaled. When she opened her mouth to answer her daughter’s question, the grandfather clock chimed, announcing two o’clock, tolling in odd harmony with the doorbell.

A cold chill wrapped around Kasey’s shoulders. “Where’s Dad?”

“Oh, you know your father,” she said, squaring her shoulders. “I’ll bet he took Jimmy’s shift. His wife was supposed to have her baby tonight, you know.”

Kasey nodded. That would be just like her dad, all right, stepping in to help out a pal. Still…wouldn’t he have called?

“Mrs. Delaney? Mrs. Al Delaney!” The man on the porch had stopped ringing the bell and started banging on the door.

Lifting the front of her nightgown with her right hand, her mother started down the stairs, the left hand making a soft, hissing sound as it dragged over the polished banister. “Go back to your room,” she said from the tiny foyer.

“But Mom—”

“Don’t argue with me, Kasey Delaney!”

Kasey took two reluctant steps back, shut her eyes tight and leaned her forehead against the doorjamb.
“Please, God, please, God, please, God,”
she chanted, hands clasped in prayer,
“let Dad be okay.”

Kasey opened her eyes in response to the loud, grating sound of the deadbolt. Its echo, resounding up the uncarpeted stairs, reminded her of the noise her father’s hammer had made when it drove in the steel pins that secured the landscape timbers surrounding her mother’s flower garden. Seemed he was always doing things for others….

“Mrs. Delaney?”

The door was open now, and the overhead porch light cast the man’s shadow on the foyer floor. He was a policeman, as evidenced by his short-billed hat.

“What is it?” her mother asked in a thin, little-girl voice. “What’s happened?”

In the instant before the officer answered, a thousand pictures of her father flashed through Kasey’s mind: tossing her a softball; sitting beside her at the piano, playing corny duets; helping her with math and science homework. He’d taught her to tie her shoes, to swim, to twirl spaghetti like a Rome-born pro, forced himself to eat every bite of every oven-baked fiasco she’d ever cooked up.

Kasey pressed the heels of her hands against her ears, but she still heard the policeman say, “Ah, may I come in, Mrs. Delaney? I think this might be easier to hear if you were sitting down….”

Easier?
Was the man out of his mind? Kasey slammed her door, knowing even before her teary face met her pillow that nothing would ever be easy again.

 

The radio alarm jarred Adam awake.

“…and the vagrant reportedly hit by the train was never found,” the rise-and-shine announcer was saying. “Engineer Al Delaney is survived by his wife and daughter.”

Heart pounding, Adam leaped from bed, bare feet slapping on the hardwood as he raced toward the kitchen. “Mom,” he gasped, “where’s the
Sun?

Without looking up from the Today section, she pointed.

Adam paged through the rest of the paper scattered on the tabletop, eyes narrowed as he searched for a corroborating story. And then, on page twelve of the main section he found it: Vagrant Missing; Engineer Dead. The article explained how, just before he’d breathed his last, Al Delaney told paramedics that a vagabond had staggered onto the tracks behind Crescent Lawn Memorial Gardens.

Thirty-five-year-old Al Delaney, the report said, had a long history of heart disease. The tidbit didn’t matter one whit to Adam. What mattered was that Mr. Delaney probably wouldn’t have died
last night
if it hadn’t been for—

Adam’s gaze froze on the black-and-white photograph of the Delaney family—Al, his wife Karin, their daughter, Kasey, age twelve.

Twelve. Same age Adam had been when his own dad died, four years earlier.

Overwhelmed with guilt and shame, Adam stood and, taking the paper with him, trudged woodenly back to his room.

“Do you see the time, young man?” his mom said from behind the paper. “School starts in less than half an hour, y’know.”

Yeah, he knew. But he wouldn’t be going to school today. Too much to think about….

Five minutes later, when he opened the back door, his mom was at the sink, rinsing her coffee mug. “Where’s your book bag? And what about your lunch?”

“Don’t need ’em.”

She started toward him. “Adam Thorne, where—?”

“Got stuff to do,” he muttered.

“Stuff? What stuff?”

Truthfully? Adam didn’t know
what,
exactly. But he knew this: A man had died last night because he hadn’t
had the guts to put a stop to a moronic stunt—and now, he had to do
something.

Shrugging, he stepped off the porch. “Love ya, Mom,” he said over his shoulder. “Have a good day at work.”

Today, Adam intended to work, too…at finding a way to make right something that had gone so very wrong.

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