Hope felt her hand shake as she gripped the phone. The precautions Quinn was taking—his talk of installing an alarm system, keeping the children within his sight and a bag packed for quick flight, and now, the cloak-and-dagger stuff with the phone—only increased her fears.
What if the hit man somehow learned Tom was assisting Quinn? The thought didn’t bear thinking about.
Hope heard the sound of a guitar and a smatter of applause in the background as her brother-in-law’s whiskey-smooth voice came on the line. “Hi, honey. Did your company arrive?”
“Yes, they’re here.”
“How are the kids?”
She assured him they were fine. “I’m phoning to tell you that Quinn and I have agreed to be married on Monday. We’ll get the license first thing in the morning.”
“You’re a good person. I just hope you won’t get hurt. Our friend strikes me as being a man of his word. I’ll do my best to protect your interests. But we’ll have to keep this news private. I don’t think we should tell your sister or your parents.”
“Our friend mentioned that. I understand.”
“Good. I’ll meet you Monday at one at the minister’s house. Our friend has the address.”
Hope gestured at Quinn to show her the slip of paper the phone number had been written on. Sure enough, there was an address on it, as well. And thank heavens it wasn’t the same renovated church where she’d planned to marry David.
“Fine. I’ve got it, Tom. We’ll be there.”
Hope punched the end conversation button and raised her eyes to meet Quinn’s steady gaze. Her heart twisted painfully at the thought of how brief he’d implied their marriage could be. Her voice trembled. “It’s all set. We’re getting married Monday at one.”
For the sake of those two precious babies sleeping upstairs, Hope prayed this time she’d actually get to exchange vows with the groom.
Since toasting their nuptials with champagne hardly seemed appropriate, Hope made a pot of hot coffee. Even though Quinn was obviously exhausted, she had questions, lots of them, and now seemed the best time to ask them. She poured two mugs of coffee and passed one to Quinn, who was seated at the old pine table in her kitchen. “Sorry, there’s no milk. You’ll have to take it black.”
His lean fingers tightened around the handle of the mug. “That’s the way I like it.”
All he wanted was the caffeine to keep him functioning, Hope thought, noting the exhaustion lining his features. She’d offered him something to eat, but he’d told her he’d eaten a hamburger earlier. She sat down across from him. “Do you really think you might have been followed here?”
“The possibility is slim, but police work taught me you live longer if you prepare for every eventuality. Which reminds me,” he opened his wallet and withdrew five one-thousand-dollar bills and several one-hundred-dollar bills and set them in a pile in front of her. “This is for you. I want you to keep it with you on your person. Not in your purse—unless it’s one of those pouches that you keep strapped around your waist at all times. And keep some ID with you, too. If we need to leave, you won’t be able to use credit cards. We’ll each keep a bag packed in the car for ourselves and for the kids with whatever supplies you think we’ll need. The bags will go with us wherever we go.”
“Okay. I’ll do it tonight before I go to bed. I’ll stock up on groceries tomorrow and buy the kids some more clothes.” Hope started making a mental list of things she should pick up.
“There’s one other thing, Hope.”
“If something goes wrong, if he somehow manages to find his way here, I’m counting on you to get the children safely away. I’m the one he wants, but if he views you as an obstacle or thinks you can ID him, he’ll kill you, too. And he wouldn’t hesitate to kill the children either.”
A chill clambered up Hope’s spine and spread into her arms, making her fingers tremble. Coffee spilled over the rim of her mug. Quinn’s lean fingers cupped her hands, bolstering her with their warmth and strength. “Get to a safe place. Drive to a police station or a place where there are a lot of people. If you make it to a police station have them contact Detectives Thacker and Beauchamp in the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police’s major crime section. I’ll give you their phone numbers to keep with you. You can also call Tom. He’ll help you.” He gave her fingers another squeeze. “I have no intention of letting this bastard take me down, too, but I’ll put up a much better fight if I know you and the children are out of harm’s way. Promise me.”
“I promise.” Relief flickered in his eyes as he removed his hands. Hope sighed, already missing his touch. “But there must be another way to deal with this. I don’t understand why we don’t all stay in hiding together. Couldn’t these police detectives you mentioned put us in some kind of protective custody until they make an arrest?”
“What if they don’t make an arrest? We’re dealing with a professional killer, not some punk who’s likely to make a stupid mistake. I’ve given the police a list of people who could have hired the hit, but it’s only gut feeling, nothing solid. Do you really want to just walk away from your home and your day care, not to mention sever all your ties with your family?”
Not see her family? Hope’s throat ached. Her mother had been so disappointed when Hope had told her she wouldn’t be home for Easter dinner this year. Hope had made an excuse about visiting a girlfriend in Halifax and had planned to surprise her family by showing up with David and announcing their marriage. She couldn’t imagine missing her family’s noisy Christmases or her nieces’ and nephews’ birthday celebrations. “I admit I’d miss my family terribly, but we could find a way to keep in touch with them,” she insisted. “I could live anywhere. Work anywhere.”
“Well, I can’t. I’ve got a partner and clients who count on me. Cases that I’m currently investigating. Court appearances that need to be made or the bad guys go free. I’m not willing to turn my back on those responsibilities.”
“Well, couldn’t you continue to do the same thing, but under a different name?”
“Not without major plastic surgery. A select group of people have my level of training and skills. Achieving some form of anonymity or working under another name would be impossible. Besides, we can’t live in fear for the rest of our lives.”
Hope pushed her mug away, unable to stomach the strong brew any more than she could stomach his line of reasoning. “That’s the whole point, Quinn. Your remaining alive. I think you’d do more for the children by being with them than by abandoning them with me. Isn’t that what you told me you hated most about your father? That he was always gone? That his career in the military was more important to him than his family?”
His lips stretched thin. “I’m not abandoning them. I’m protecting them. Can you honestly tell me they’ll be in any better hands than yours while I’m trying to find the bastard who killed their parents? The hit man will be back. I’m expecting him to track me down like a bloodhound after a wounded fox, СКАЧАТЬ