Authors: Dana Mentink,Tammy Johnson,Michelle Karl
Tags: #Love Inspired Suspense
Love Inspired Suspense April 2015 Box Set 2 of 2
More of the suspense you love â now Love Inspired Suspense brings you six new titles, in two convenient box sets! Enjoy these contemporary heart-pounding tales of suspense, romance, hope and faith. This Love Inspired Suspense box set includes
by Dana Mentink,
by Tammy Johnson and
by Michelle Karl.
Look for 6 new inspirational suspense stories every month from Love Inspired Suspense!
HIS CHANCE AT REDEMPTION
Former parole officer Mick Hudson blames himself for the death of Keeley Stevens's sister. If he hadn't paroled a criminal, she might still be alive. When he hears that the suspected killer has been spotted in Keeley's hometown, he worries she might be the next victim. Keeley doesn't want to take help from the man who could have prevented her sister's death, but she has more than herself to worry about. She'll do anything it takes to protect her family. And Mick will risk his life to make sure that the past does not repeat itself.
Wings of Danger: The path to love is treacherous
“I thought you left town.”
“Came back.” Mick's gaze made Keeley squirm.
“What do you want?” Keeley asked.
“Do you have reason to think Tucker knows the child is his?”
“What are you talking about?”
“The little girl your sister gave birth to. Tucker's the father, isn't he?”
“Who do you think you are?” she said, fear sparking into anger. “Coming into my life and prying into private information that you have no right to. June is mine, I'm her legal guardian, and her biological father is none of your business.”
“It's Tucker's business. He's come back to take her and punish you.”
“You have no right to interfere. You're not a cop.”
“I'm trying to help.”
“The time to help was when Tucker should have been under house arrest. You helped then, didn't you? You made sure he was a free man, and then he killed my sister.”
“Iâ¦don't want to cause you any more pain.”
“Then go away.”
is an award-winning author of Christian fiction. Her novel
Betrayal in the Badlands
won a 2010 RT Reviewers' Choice Award, and she was pleased to win the 2013 Carol Award for
. She has authored more than a dozen Love Inspired Suspense novels. Dana loves feedback from her readers. Contact her via her website at
Books by Dana Mentink
Love Inspired Suspense
Wings of Danger Series
Treasure Seekers Series
Visit the Author Profile page at
for more titles
By Dana Mentink
If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
For those special needs children who have flown into my life and taught me about love.
he handprint showed clearly in the dust on her driver's-side window, as if someone had leaned there to look inside Keeley Stevens's Jeep.
Who would be looking inside her aged vehicle? Nothing worth stealing in there.
The outline on the glass blurred as she washed the imprint away with the hose.
His face, Tucker's face, rose from the shadows of memory. Her sister's murderer. He had long fingers like that.
“Knock it off, Keeley,” she told herself. It was purely melodrama. She never should have watched that black-and-white mystery movie marathon the night before. The handprint was the work of a teen messing around, no doubt the kids she'd hassled earlier in the week. Or maybe her paranoia had taken root the morning before, when she'd noticed the long-haired man watching her from across the street as she gassed up her car. He was too far away to see clearly. Just a guy enjoying a smoke. Normal. She would not let a teen prank and her own nerves undo her. And no more mystery marathons. Strictly the cooking channel. Maybe she'd learn how to make something with more than three ingredients.
When the rinsing was complete, she loaded up her Jeep and drove out of town, heater turned on to high to fend off the early-spring chill. It had to be the cold that made her skin prickle, because she would not allow fear to nest in her soul. Once she did, it would lay down roots and conquer her. Keeley would not be conquered. Ever. But still the feeling that started when she saw the long-haired man remained alive in her stomach, somewhere down deep.
Had Tucker returned?
I murdered your sister, and now it's your turn
, she imagined him saying.
“Toughen up, girl,” she muttered to herself. Tucker was no doubt hiding from the cops in some faraway city. He'd murdered LeeAnn nearly two years ago, only two months after his parole agent had allowed for the removal of his tracking bracelet. Ironic, since he'd never been incarcerated for anything other than car theft, not a violent offender. No, not violent, until the day he'd smashed in LeeAnn's skull and stuffed her body into the trunk of his car, intending to flee.
And if he had made a successful escape? Would she ever have known what had happened to her sister? But LeeAnn had been able to send one frantic text before he killed her.
Tucker. Help me.
Keeley recalled the icy fear that had gripped her body as she'd dialed the police that day. They hadn't been able to save LeeAnn. Tucker had crashed the car into a pond, escaped custody and gone on the run.
Tucker was just a bad memory, but what if she did come face-to-face with him one day?
Keeley ground her teeth. He would be the one to lose.
* * *
No good news ever came at three o'clock in the morning. Mick Hudson knew that from his days as a marine in Iraq and his years as a parole officer in Portland. He cracked an eye open, rolled over and snatched up the old phone on the second ring before it could wake his father.
“Mick?” the voice said.
“Who wants to know?” His usual hospitable greeting. Whoever had broken the still of the small house tucked deep in the secluded bird sanctuary in the Oregon mountains did not deserve courtesy. Yet.
“It's Reggie.” A dry chuckle. “You've been in the woods so long you can't recognize a civilized voice? Retirement hasn't mellowed you.”
Mick sat up. Reggie Donaldson had been his supervisor when he was a parole officer, before the murder had torn his life apart. “What's going on?”
Reggie sighed. “Ever the one for charming small talk.”
“You want small talk, you don't call at three in the morning.”
There was a long pause. Mick braced himself for the news. Whatever it was, it was going to hurt. “My sources say Tucker Rivendale's been spotted in Oregon.”
Mick's heart jumped up into a higher gear. “When?”
“Yesterday. I made some calls and the cops are on it, but so far no arrest. Small town. They don't have the resources. They said they would contact you for info, but I knew you'd rather hear it from me.”
“Where you figure he was heading?”
Another long pause. “I could be wrong.”
“You usually aren't. Where?”
Reggie blew out a breath. “If I had to guess, I'd say he's on his way to Keeley Stevens's place in Silver Creek.”
A slow roar started up in Mick's ears. Tucker Rivendale was the one he'd misjudged, the man he'd vouched for who'd murdered Keeley's sister, LeeAnn. Mick's error had cost LeeAnn her life. He flashed for a moment on her wide grin, the way she would greet everyone from postal worker to parole officer with a hug. With her arm around Tucker, they were an adoring couple, or so he'd thought, right up until the moment he'd learned that Tucker had killed her.
“Mick? You still there?”
He forced the answer past dry lips. “Yeah.”
“Just thought you'd want to know. I knew you were going to catch wind of it, so better to hear it from me.”
Oh, yeah. He wanted to know, all right.
“You're not going to do anything risky, are you? I'm headed up there, and it's better for you to stay away,” Reggie said, betraying the smallest hint of excitement in his voice.
“You still need to follow the rules if you want to keep your job.”
Reggie laughed. “Since when did I ever worry about the rules?”
“I'll handle it.”
Reggie paused and Mick could hear the smile. “Cops won't want you interfering. I'll call and see if I can grease the wheels for you. Try not to get killed, huh?”
“Yes, sir.” Mick disconnected. He stood, letting the Oregon spring chill his skin and assimilate with the cold that had settled there permanently when he'd let Tucker Rivendale murder Keeley's sister.
* * *
Keeley pushed the old Jeep a little faster, and the engine complained as it took the mountain slope just before dusk. The morning shoot had gone flawlessly, and her courage was on the mend. Keeley Stevens, world-class avian photographer, at her finest. Now it was time for the night shots of the great horned owl emerging from the nest. One good picture of the powerful, yellow-eyed predator would net her three hundred dollars, which meant gas in the car, food on the table and utilities paid for another month anyway.
She squeezed the steering wheel as the engine's growling grew louder. Her sister would have given the vehicle a pep talk about little train engines and such. Keeley took a different tact. “If you leave me stranded on this road and I miss my shot, I'm turning you in for scrap. You'll be a toaster by morning.”
Big words. She hardly had the money to replace her crippled toaster, let alone a new vehicle. As it was, she was still driving LeeAnn's beat-up Jeep, picturing her sister clutching the armrest, urging Keeley to slow down.
I'm not in a hurry to leave this world, sis.
Ah, but you did leave it, Lee. And God took you way too early.
Her throat thickened. What she wouldn't give to hear her little sister's gentle criticisms one more time.
You were always too sweet, Lee.
Too trusting, right up until she was murdered just before her twenty-sixth birthday. Too innocent to see it coming. Naive about a man who said he loved her. Not a mistake Keeley was going to make.
Cold air whooshed in through the open driver's-side window along with crisp scent of pine and fir. She thought she heard the whine of a motorbike. Ahead? Behind? She stopped to listen. Nothing. Was it the tiny flicker of a headlamp she'd seen flitting through the dark tree trunks? No, nothing but that paranoia. LeeAnn's murder had stripped away her naive sense of safety, depositing a shadow just behind her shoulder that taunted her vision as much as she wanted to deny it, kept her from letting people close.
See what can happen?
Remember how easily your sister's life was extinguished?
“Get the shot and leave your paranoia at home,” she muttered to herself. She took the steep turn slowly, no sense making too much noise. As it was, her quarry was extremely sensitive to the slightest vibration, so she'd have to park soon and hike up the mountain on foot.
Her Nikon camera and tripod with the gimbal head rested safely on the passenger seat. They were her most precious belongings. Well, second most anyway. She got that strange, fuzzy feeling deep down in her gut, along with a swirl of desperation. She could not give up, in spite of the ever-present fatigue. Her life wasn't just about herself anymore. She had someone else relying on her, someone with flyaway hair that never stayed in pigtails and a ready smile.
Something cracked into the windshield, and her foot reflexively hit the brake. She stopped, engine idling. The wheels must have kicked up a rock. She probably had a new chip in the front windshield to show for it. She started on more slowly when another pebble hit the front glass. This time she put the Jeep in Park, slamming the door open.
“All right, Ricky and Stephano. Knock it off,” she hissed to the teen boys she knew must be hunkered down behind the boulders off the path. “If you scare my owl away, I'll have you tossed in jail.” She was on shaky ground here and the boys probably knew it. She'd threatened to cause trouble with their parents when they vandalized her shed, but incarceration for rock throwing might be a tad severe. Ricky and Stephano were rabble-rousers, but probably not ready for prison yet. In any case, they might just mess up her opportunity to photograph the bird she'd been stalking for a month.
There was a crackle of dry leaves, and someone stepped from behind the rocks. Baggy pants, dirty sweatshirt, backpack. She could not see his face in the near darkness, just a white gleam as he turned his face to hers. Long hair.
Something in the body language made her skin erupt in prickles. Was it the slope of the shoulders, the way he tucked a thumb into the belt loop of his jeans? She knew it was Tucker, even before he spoke. All the time she'd been hunting the owl, he'd been hunting her. Tingles of fear coursed along and tangled with white-hot rage.
“So,” she said, forcing the words out around the serrated edge in her throat. “Are you here to kill me now, too?”
He didn't answer, just stared at her with eyes that gleamed reptilian in the dim light.
She took a small step back toward the open car door. The motion seemed to jar him loose from his thoughts.
He moved fast, coming at her straight on. She had just enough time to get into the car and slam the door, jamming the lock down. His eyes went wide as he tried the handle, banging his palms against the glass. She started the engine and he backed off. Lurching forward, she lost sight of him and then she realized her mistake. She had not locked the passenger-side door.
Tucker's face loomed in the darkness, fingers yanking at the handle. Though she jammed the accelerator down, the wheels found no traction on the muddy ground, spinning grit and squealing their helplessness. She tried Reverse with no better luck. Tucker dived into the seat, hands grabbing at her forearms. With a scream, she threw an elbow as hard as she was able into his face and felt the give of his cheek. Momentarily, he released his grip, grunting in pain.
She pressed the gas again and the car shot forward, tumbling him to the floor. He tried to right himself, and she took her foot off the gas pedal long enough to kick out at him. He shoved her off.
“I want what's mine...” he began, and then suddenly he was pulled from the car. A tall stranger with a crew cut had Tucker by the shoulders. He looked vaguely familiar. Tucker whipped around and threw a punch, which glanced off the stranger's chin, sending him slightly off balance, but he straightened quickly. Through the open door, over the sound of her own shuddering breaths, she heard the guy say, “You're done, kid.”
Then there was a glint of metal, a shine of a blade in Tucker's hands. A knife.
“I'll die first, Mick,” he hissed. “I've got nothing more to lose.”
Keeley realized she'd taken her foot off the gas. Now, with a flood of crazy energy, she cranked the car forward then into a tight turn and stepped on the accelerator. The open door bumped and banged, but she did not take a moment to close it. Both men jerked their heads in her direction.
Tucker yelled something. She did not stop.
The car zipped forward, pinging gravel and dirt up. She was gratified to see the men scatter, running. Her front wheel hit a depression, causing the wheels to buck, and she fought to stay the course.
He would not win. Not again.
* * *
Mick saw the blur of the moving vehicle bearing down on him. The shock loosened his grip, and Tucker slashed with the knife, cutting into Mick's biceps. Fire rippled through his arm. Then the Jeep was upon them. Tucker leaped aside. With no time to do the same, Mick dived for the trees.
For a moment, he was airborne, cartwheeling over the hood of the car and tumbling headfirst onto the hard ground. The breath rushed out of him in a painful explosion. He tried to get to his feet, stumbled and fell, finding himself planted palms first in the dirt.
Where was Tucker? His nerves screamed. He looked up in time to see the flash of a T-shirt as the kid took off for the trees. Forcing his legs into motion, he made it to his feet.
Keeley got out of the car. She was slender, her hair chin length, cut in a careless bob showing under the knit cap. The same blue eyes as her sister. She looked older and more tired than he'd seen her the last time at LeeAnn's funeral, the lines more pronounced around her mouth. At least, he thought they were more pronounced. Blink as he would, her face blurred in his vision. He heard her speak as if from far away.
“Who are you?” she said.
I'm the man who let Tucker Rivendale kill your sister
, his mind said.
She hugged herself, waiting for him to respond.
Mick struggled to speak.
Get back in the car and drive before he comes back. Don't let him hurt you like he did LeeAnn
. But his mouth remained stubbornly closed. “I think I know you. Tell me who you are,” she demanded again.