A forensic examiner specializing in counterfeit detection and prevention, Quinn had left the RCMP at the invitation of Oliver Wells, a forgery specialist who was ready to retire from the RCMP and wanted to open up a private consulting firm. Their clients were many and varied: government agencies, financial institutions, insurance companies, law-enforcement agencies, private-investigation and security agencies, and private companies all over the world sought out their technological expertise to deter fraud and their investigative skills to combat it.
Once Quinn had realized his twin’s death was a professional hit, it hadn’t taken him long to provide the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police with a short list of crime syndicates and individuals who possessed the motivation and the resources to order a hit on him. Not that he thought a list would do much good when the hit had likely been ordered by someone outside the country.
Quinn had a more straightforward means of finding out who’d hired the hit man. He planned to extract the information from the bastard when he came back to rectify his mistake. Oh yes, Quinn knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the cold-blooded killer would return to finish the job he’d been hired to do. And when he did, Quinn planned to be ready and waiting. But first, he had to make sure that Quentin and Carrie’s children would be well taken care of in the event something happened to him.
Quinn cast a watchful eye toward the play area of the restaurant where his friend, Gordon Swenson, who’d arranged this meeting with the lawyer, was supervising nineteen-month-old Kyle and three-year-old Melanie’s antics in the ball room. Then he panned the room, checking for anyone or anything that seemed unusual or out of place. The police hadn’t released the names of the victims to the press yet, but that didn’t mean the hit man hadn’t already been alerted to his error.
Tom Parrish carefully placed Carrie’s will on top of Quentin’s and aligned the corners. “Given what Gord has told me over the phone about your circumstances, Quinn,” he ventured in a low tone, “the best way to ensure that your niece and nephew don’t end up wards of the Crown—in the unfortunate event of your death—would be for you to marry and appoint your wife as their guardian in your will. As their aunt, your wife would be considered a relative of the children and it’s unlikely the court would choose not to uphold your request, particularly since there would be no opposing claim. Have you been seeing anyone lately you might consider marrying?”
Quinn shook his head. He’d only ever considered marriage once in his life—very briefly—and that was a decade ago. “The ladies I occasionally date aren’t the nurturing types. Besides, Kyle and Mel deserve a mother who’ll love them as much as Carrie did and be willing to raise them on her own if she has to. From a security perspective, the children would be safer with a stranger. We don’t know the resources behind whoever ordered the hit. Once they realize I’ve gone into hiding with the children, they’ll start digging into my background looking for people who might be in a position to help me out. That’s why I came to you instead of my own lawyer. It minimizes the risk of discovery because there are no links to trace.”
Quinn rubbed his jaw, feeling the rasping bite of the stubble on his chin. “Gord told me you come from a big extended family. I don’t suppose you know any single women willing to take on two kids?”
Parrish looked thoughtful for a moment. “My wife will probably string me up for suggesting this, but one of her sisters runs a day care out in Kanata. She’s a terrific person. Funny, caring. Loves kids. My daughters are five and two and they adore her. She’s definitely the kind of person you think should have kids of her own, but she lost her fiancé a few years ago in a car accident and she’s pretty much given up on the idea of having a family. You could talk to her, see if she’s willing to help you. To my knowledge she’s not seriously involved with anyone, but she likes to keep her personal life private. It drives my wife nuts.”
“I’d make it worth her while. Money won’t be a problem.”
Parrish didn’t bat an eyelash. “Since I’m your lawyer and she’s my sister-in-law, I’ll make sure she’s adequately provided for. But the only reason she’d do it is because she loves children. I just don’t want her to get hurt.”
“I’ll take every precaution necessary to make sure that doesn’t happen. You have my word. I only plan to stay long enough for the kids to bond with her.” Quinn couldn’t believe he was even talking about marrying a perfect stranger. “How soon could we be married if your sister-in-law accepts my proposal?”
“Monday at the earliest. The two of you would need to go down to city hall and apply for a marriage license in person. There’s no waiting period or blood test required in the province of Ontario. Unfortunately, judges no longer perform civil ceremonies in this region, but I can make all the necessary arrangements with a nondenominational minister and draft your will once you talk to Hope.”
Hope? Quinn’s heart thumped queerly in the numb cavern of his chest. “Your sister-in-law’s name is Hope?”
“Yes, Hope Fancy, if you can believe it.”
Quinn couldn’t. He’d never thought he’d hear that quaint, old-fashioned name again.
Parrish removed a cell phone from the pocket of his overcoat. “Maybe I should call her and tell her I’m sending a visitor her way.”
“I’d rather you didn’t,” Quinn said sharply. Too sharply. He softened the edge to his request, realizing Parrish didn’t have a clue he’d known Hope long ago. “Cell phone calls can be picked up on scanners. I’d prefer a letter of introduction and directions to her place. I’ll take care of the explanations myself.”
Quinn just hoped she wouldn’t hate him even more for what he was about to do.
SO MUCH FOR eloping with David and living happily ever after!
Hope dropped her suitcase containing the silky jewel-toned lingerie she’d bought for her honeymoon on the mat inside the darkened foyer and sagged against the firm panels of the front door as the humiliation she’d been holding back for the last hour and a half burst from her heart in a guttural moan.
Why on earth had she been jinxed with the uncanny ability to pick the wrong men to fall in love with? As if two broken engagements and the death of one fiancé in the last ten years weren’t hard enough for a woman to endure, she could now add being jilted at the altar to her list of challenging life experiences.
Her chin jutted up stubbornly in her own defense. Not that those two broken engagements were anything to be ashamed of. She had loved Quinn Mc-Clure with her whole heart and soul, and the week they’d been engaged had been tantamount to heaven on earth. If his father hadn’t died, her life might have been so different…. She hadn’t dated anyone else for over a year and a half, hoping that Quinn would somehow come to his senses.
But Quinn hadn’t and she’d met Steven. Her engagement to the Realtor had been a mistake. He was everything Quinn wasn’t, which was the problem. Though charming and successful, he simply wasn’t Quinn. Telling Steven the truth had been the right, though painful, thing to do. Hope ran into him now and again in parks and at Ottawa’s many museums and had met his wife and his growing family: two daughters and a third child on the way. No, that had worked out for the best because two years later she’d met Matthew, a veterinarian, whose quiet strength, Nordic good looks and infinite patience had helped her recover from the damage Quinn had done to her heart. They’d dated for over a year before Matthew had asked her to marry him. Hope’s only regret was that she had insisted on a long engagement to give them time to truly get to know each other. He’d died in a car accident three weeks before their Valentine’s Day wedding.
Four years had passed since Matthew’s death and Hope had decided she’d had quite enough of love until David Randall had entered her life six months ago.