The Mansfield Rescue
A single father discovers the price
of revenge and the power of love
wife's murder, Grant Mansfield vowed to stay true to her
memory and to protect their children. But fate has other
plans. His temporary houseguest, injured smokejumper Amy
Robinson, has him burning with a white-hot attraction,
and the single dad's nightmare comes true when his older
daughter is kidnapped.
Grant is just the man the
adventurous Amy never knew she needed, his children the
family she never knew she wanted. Before she can rescue
his lonely heart, the handsome widower must become a
hero. Only Grant can rescue his little girl. But time is
"I really liked the characters in this story,
especially Amy. The suspenseful tension was well
balanced with the romantic elements. I also
appreciated the cautious way the issue of sexual
abuse was handled in the story." -- SparkyMom at
"The flirtatious banter between Grant and Amy shines
and emotionally complex characters complete a
well-developed, heartfelt plot." -- Melanie Bates,
RT Book Reviews
Copyright Beth Cornelison 2014
David was out of prison.
Amy's gut swooped as
if she were in a free fall, and she clutched the edge of
her mother's kitchen counter for support. For a moment,
she considered hobbling back outside to flag down the
cab she'd taken from the airport before it left and
heading back to Idaho. Instead, telling herself David
couldn't hurt her anymore, now that she was an adult,
she growled at her stepfather. "What the hell are you
"Is that any way to greet your
family?" He furrowed his brow as if wounded by her
animosity and spread his arms, inviting her to hug him.
When hell froze.
"How did you get out? When
did you get out?" As her shock wore off, fury and hatred
filled her veins and spiked her blood pressure. She
started shaking—from rage, not fear, she told herself.
Dear God, she refused to let this man cause her another
minute of fear.
David lowered his arms and
casually stuck his hands in the pockets of the baggy
khakis he wore. His angular face was more sharply cut
now, a fact emphasized by the buzz cut of his
mud-colored hair and the sunken look of his dark eyes.
He may have been moderately handsome years ago, but time
and prison had done him no favors. Getting away from her
mother's Southern cooking, dominated by frying and
starches, had done that for her, too. That and her
squad's intensive fitness regimen.
"I was paroled
last week. Got out early for good behavior," he said,
Amy scoffed and mentally cursed the
parole board that had allowed this travesty to happen.
She'd sent her annual letter to the prison, arguing for
her stepfather to be kept behind bars, but this year,
clearly, it hadn't been enough to keep him locked away.
"And Mom let you move back in?" she asked, appalled.
"Shoot, honey. Your mama spoke on my behalf to the
parole board. She helped get me released." His term of
endearment and crooked grin crawled over her like
spiders, and she shuddered.
Amy shook her head,
refusing to believe her mother could betray her like
that. "You're lying."
He shrugged. "Ask her
"I will." She narrowed a suspicious
glare on him.
"Where is she?"
should be home any minute, though. She's bringing in
Gunther's for dinner. I sure missed Gunther's catfish
and hush puppies while I was gone."
Gone. As if
he'd been on vacation instead of serving time in the
His gaze dropped to the
walking cast on her foot. "I guess I don't have to ask
why you're here. What happened?"
I'm out for the rest of jump season."
brow dented as he frowned. "That's a shame." He had the
audacity to sound genuinely sympathetic. Like any good
stepfather would. "Well, despite the reason, it's nice
to see you." His smile returned, and her stomach roiled
with acid. "I know your mama will be glad to have you
home for a while. How long are you staying?"
jaw tightened, and she fisted her free hand at her side.
"I'm not. Not with you here."
dropped, and he looked crestfallen. "Amy, honey. Can't
we bury the hatchet? If I can forgive you for filing
trumped-up charges against me, lying about me in court
and sending me to prison for ten years, then surely you
Amy nearly choked on her disbelief.
"Trumped-up charges? You're both delusional and
perverted if you believe that!"
Pressing his lips
in a thin line, he gave her a look of dismay. "Do you
have any idea how much your actions hurt your mother?
What you did to me caused her—"
"What I did to
you?" she shouted over him.
"—more pain that you
can imagine. You should be ashamed of yourself for—"
"Me ashamed? You're the one who should be ashamed!
You're responsible for what happened to—"
The slam of the door and her mother's voice cut into
their argument. "What's going on?" Dropping her purse on
the kitchen counter, Bernice Holland, dressed in her
nursing scrubs, glanced darkly from her second husband
to Amy. Her eyes widened as she recognized her daughter.
"Amy! Oh, my goodness, what a surprise!" A smile
brightened her mother's face as she stepped close to hug
Backing out of the embrace
and holding Amy at arm's length, Bernice gave her
daughter a comprehensive up-and-down look. "Something's
wrong. You never come home during jump season. Why—" Her
face fell when she spotted the walking cast. "You're
"It's just a broken ankle, Mom. I'll
mend." She aimed a thumb at her stepfather. "Why didn't
you tell me he was out on parole?"
in her mother's eyes, and Bernice took a step back
before squaring her shoulders. "I was going to the next
time we talked. I figured you were busy, out on fire
calls and…I didn't want to bother you with—"
scoffed, interrupting her mother. "I guess the bigger
question is why is he here, in your house?"
Bernice sent an agitated glance to her husband before
returning her attention to Amy. "Because it's his home,
too. He's my husband, and he belongs here as much as you
"After what he did to me?" she volleyed, her
voice taut. "How can you let him back under this roof?
How can you forgive what he did?"
"David says you
misinterpreted what happened. He's just an affectionate
man who was trying to express his love for you."
Amy gaped at her mother, shaking from the inside out. "I
didn't misinterpret anything, Mom! He sexually abused
David grunted and shook his head. Her mother
pressed a hand to her throat, and her eyes filled with
tears. "Honey, calm down. Let's sit and—"
When her mother reached for her arm, Amy snatched it
back. Stiffening, she glared at her mother. "Did you
hear me, Mom? Don't sweep this under the rug again."
Bernice huffed and pursed her lips. "I'm not! It's
just that term is rather harsh. David's a loving man.
He's not abusive."
Amy growled her frustration.
How could her mother be so attentive and caring with her
patients at the hospital, and so stubbornly in denial
about her own daughter's pain? "What term do you prefer?
"What! That's a horrid thing
to accuse me of!" David pointed a finger at her. "I
never raped you."
"Maybe not in the classic sense
of the word," she returned bitterly, "but that's just
Her mother's jaw tightened, and she
wagged a finger in her direction. "Amy, I love you. You
know I do. But if you're going to stay here, you need to
apologize to David for—"
"I'd rather eat glass!"
Hobbling on her walking cast, she stormed back toward
the kitchen door.
"Amy, wait! Where are you
going?" her mother cried.
"Anywhere but here. It
was a mistake coming back, thinking that anything had
She ripped the door open, making the
Venetian blinds on the window clatter. "Call me when
you're ready to listen to the truth, and you've gotten
that scum out of your life."
slammed the door, and with hurt and anger burning in her
chest, Amy limped to her father's old Mustang in the
detached garage. After pulling off the protective car
cover, she climbed behind the steering wheel, pulled her
key ring from her purse and tried to crank the engine of
her father's beloved car. The back bumper still bore a
Houston Colt .45 s sticker from when her father had
first owned the classic model Ford. The Mustang was one
of the few things she had left that had belonged to her
father, and she treasured it more for its sentimental
value than for its historic worth.
She had to try
three times to get the engine to start, allowing enough
time for her mother to follow her out to the yard and
send her a disappointed look.
"Amy, come back
inside and let's talk!" Bernice called over the rumble
of the Mustang's motor.
"Sorry, Mom. You made
your choice, and you picked him over me," she called
back through the open driver's side window, evidence
that someone had driven the car while she was gone. "I
won't spend even one night under the same roof with
him." Amy gave the Mustang gas and peeled out of the
driveway, onto the rural road and headed back toward
Lagniappe. She could stay at a hotel tonight and either
drive back to Idaho in the Mustang or catch a flight out
in the morning.
Amy gritted her teeth and choked
back the tears that swelled in her throat. She was
through with shedding tears over her mother's lack of
support, her stepfather's destruction of her innocence
and the loss of the home she'd treasured as a little
girl. After David's trial, she'd fled Louisiana for the
farthest corner of the country, trying to outrun the
ugliness of what her stepfather had done to her and her
mother's blind denial of the truth. In the Pacific
Northwest, she'd discovered an exciting and dangerous
career opportunity as a smoke jumper and set her sights
on making the elite wildfire-fighting team, a goal she'd
reached after two years of hard work and training. She
hadn't minded the strenuous workouts and challenging
paces the smoke-jumper program had put her through.
She'd found the sweat and toil cathartic, freeing.
Cheaper than therapy for her broken heart and shattered
As she sped down the country highway,
Amy inhaled deeply the late-spring air, redolent with
honeysuckle and pine. She let the fresh scents of the
outdoors clear her mind and soothe her ragged nerves. If
her mother had told her about David's release, she could
have prepared herself, could have been emotionally
braced for seeing him again. Or could have stayed in
Boise to recuperate and avoided her tormenter
But staying in Idaho, enduring
friends' commiserative platitudes, would have driven her
crazy, would have meant constant reminders on the
evening news of all she was missing during jump season.
As much as she loved her job and the rugged mountain
terrain where she fought wildfires, she missed quiet
summer evenings by the bayous of her home. She'd looked
forward to spending her summer back in the state where
she grew up, eating jambalaya and catfish and spending
sweltering afternoons at the ballpark practicing her
But David had spoiled her plans,
just as he'd ruined her high-school years. While she'd
known he'd get out of prison eventually, she hadn't been
prepared to see him walk free so soon.
only made it a few miles, her mind distracted by replays
of the fight at her mother's house, the shock of finding
her stepmonster out of prison, before she noticed the
steam billowing out from under the hood of the Mustang.
"Oh, no," she groaned, pulling to the shoulder.
Heart sinking, she checked the display on the dash and
frowned when she saw the needle of the temperature gauge
sitting squarely over the hotengine indicator. She
didn't have to check under the hood to know what had
happened. She'd known the radiator was on its last legs.
She'd babied it the last time she was home, hoping to
delay what was bound to be a pricy repair. Finding
replacement parts for her classic Mustang wasn't always
easy and was never cheap.
After cutting the
motor, she climbed out of the car and limped up to the
hood. Using the edge of her shirt to protect her hand
from the heat, she popped the hood and winced as a cloud
of steam wafted up to greet her. Leaving the hood open
so the radiator could start cooling down, she returned
to the front seat to get her phone from her purse. The
towing bill into town alone would set her back close to
a hundred dollars, she'd bet.
Thumbing the screen
of her cell phone, she got her second unpleasant hit in
as many minutes. Her battery had died. On the airplane,
she'd played word games and read books on her phone all
the way from Idaho, including the layovers in Salt Lake
City and Dallas. She'd planned to charge it at her mom's
Tossing the phone back in her purse
with a grunt, she accepted the fact that she was stuck.
Her best bet was to wait for someone to drive past and
hitch a ride to Lagniappe. But patience had never been
one of her virtues. Amy preferred action to waiting, so
she locked the door of her Mustang and set out down the
shoulder of the road toward town.
The doctor in
Idaho had advised her to keep her ankle propped up until
the swelling receded, but she couldn't stand sitting
idle. Not her style. Besides, the confines of the
airplane hadn't allow her the luxury of propping her
foot higher than a couple of inches off the floor. She
gritted her teeth and considered going back to her
mother's house. But just the thought of being under the
same roof with David soured her stomach.
her purse strap high on her shoulder, she hobbled down
the side of the highway. She crossed her fingers that
someone would come along soon and give her a lift to a
repair shop. Her ankle ached as she limped along, but
she ignored the pain. She was a smoke jumper, by God. A
little pain, a long hike, less than ideal circumstances
were all in a day's work for her.