Three years ago, television reporter Deirdre King witnessed an organized crime hit and testified against the perpetrator. When he threatened her and the love of her life, Quinn Sullivan, she accepted the WITSEC offer for protection and allowed them to fake her death. Now she’s cast aside her new persona and come back to Quinn. Her resurrection is a surprise, to say the least, but once he realizes she’s alive, the lovers reunite. Deirdre slips back into the life at Quinn’s Kansas City pub, County Tyrone, and works alongside him and his uncle Desmond. Quinn’s sister and family arrive from Ireland to celebrate a holiday but when the threat hits close to home, they leave. It’s up to Deirdre, Quinn, and Desmond to face the danger – and survive.
What if WITSEC, the Federal Witness Protection Program, separated you from the one you love? What if your lover believed you were dead and buried? And what if you couldn’t stand the lie or the separation any longer and decided returning would be worth the risk to your life?
Those are the questions Deirdre King faces in Quinn’s Deirdre. The prologue and first chapter follow with links to purchase if readers want to know the rest of the story!!
Those are the questions Deirdre King faces in Quinn’s Deirdre. The prologue and first chapter follow with links to purchase if readers want to know the rest of the story!!
The wind howled with fury and lashed the last of the leaves from the trees. It blew bits of debris and litter in all directions as Mallory watched. After three years alone, autumn had become her least favorite season. The pretty colors appealed, but the shift from vibrant, alive green to the drab, bleak winter didn’t. She hated almost every aspect of her new life, but when the sun shone, flowers bloomed, and it was summer, she tolerated it. Fall depressed her; it brought back memories she’d rather forget and reminded her of death, not life.
As the wind carried the fallen leaves across the yard and dumped them into the farthest corner, something in the powerful gusts called to her, and she ventured outside. As the blast hit her, cool and powerful, it rushed through her hair and over her face. Emotions she denied daily stirred as she realized how much the illusion of her life gnawed at her soul. Every day she lived a false existence, and the lies she told took a toll. The untruths drained her spirit.
Renewed and refreshed by the wuthering winds, she made a reckless decision. I’m going home to Quinn, and I’m going to be me, Deirdre. Forget Mallory. Deirdre hadn’t liked her anyway, not much. None of her so-called friends knew her, not at all. Jeff, the man she’d dated on a few occasions had no clue about her past or the woman who lurked beneath her façade. If he had an inkling, she figured he’d run away, screaming. Jeff might be enamored of easygoing Mallory but lacked the balls to handle Deirdre.
Mallory no longer existed. Deirdre banished her the moment she decided she would go home, back to the only person left who mattered – Quinn Sullivan. She’d given him her heart, shared her body, and allowed him entrance into her soul. Deirdre’s pulse increased when she thought of Quinn, as dark as she with eyes the rich shade of sapphires. Remembering his strong arms locked around her in an embrace, his broad shoulders sheltering her from the world, and the way he’d look at her with such intensity she’d melt every time served to make her miss him more.
She had thought of him each day, dreamed of him at night, and picked up the phone to call him more times than she could count. Deirdre had no idea how many scribbled letters she penned and tore up without ever mailing. She’d scanned his business page on Facebook daily, hungry for photographs and news from his pub, County Tyrone. Once or twice she left a comment, or rather Mallory did.
I’ll see him soon. Deirdre hugged the thought and held it close, but there remained one slight problem. Quinn believed she was dead so she would have a lot of explanations ahead. I hope he can forgive me.
The basic ranch style house tucked away on a quiet street on the far edge of a small town in the Arkansas Ozarks had never seemed like home, just a place to stay awhile. All of the furniture had been basic and utilitarian, a brown sofa and matching loveseat, a twenty-seven inch television, a cheap discount store stereo, and a wobbly table with two chairs in the dining alcove. Her bedroom furniture was just as plain and inexpensive. The framed photos hanging on the wall were bought at a flea market hundreds of miles away and the accents, the dried flower bouquet, the figurines, and the music boxes had been her handler’s suggestion. None reflected her style in the least, but Mallory had been a boring bitch, no doubt about it.
Deirdre packed light, ready to reclaim her life. She didn’t bother with the khaki slacks, the beige blouses, or the navy blue skirts. They could rot in the dresser drawers or hang in the closest until the end of time. She donned her favorite skintight blue jeans and pulled on the one blouse she liked. The rich red satin jersey radiated with power and beauty, much brighter than the mundane look she’d sported for three years. It matched her hair, black as midnight in hell, the one thing the witness protection program hadn’t forced her to change. They tried, she remembered, but failed when it proved more difficult to turn black hair blonde. She removed the contact lenses, ones to change her eye color and not correct vision, then peered at her emerald eyes with a smile. She liked them much better than the mud brown she’d been sporting.
She dropped the fashion glasses, one more part of her Mallory look, into the trash along with the boring cosmetics suited to her alter ego. The light pinks, the soft rose, the pale blue and green eye shadows followed the glasses. Deirdre did her make-up, using the products she’d bought in the event she ever decided to bolt. With crimson lipstick, bronze blush, and vivid turquoise eye shadows to accent her smoky eye look, she restored her appearance to original. Liberal application of her favorite fragrance and thrusting her feet into knee high black boots completed her transformation.
With a nylon travel bag in one hand, she grabbed her purse and the keys to the Chevy she’d been driving as Mallory Marsh. The sedate sedan would take her where she wanted to go, and if she hurried, she could be there before anyone realized she had gone missing. Without bothering to call in sick at the weekly newspaper where she wrote household hints, the occasional feature about a quilter or wood carver, and the obituaries, Deirdre tossed her luggage into the backseat and left. She didn’t look back, not once as she motored north. Even if she maintained the speed limit, she could hit the Kansas City metro area in about four hours.
When she rolled across the Missouri state line, Deirdre whooped aloud. She hadn’t set foot in her home state in three years, although she’d never lived more than forty miles away. With vintage rock and roll blaring from the stereo speakers, she picked up her speed as the rural scenery flew past. In Joplin, she paused to refuel and buy a soda, but she didn’t linger. Every mile she put behind her increased her desire to go home, back to where she began. Although she didn’t have many relatives left, a couple of aunts, some cousins, and a senile grandfather, Quinn meant everything to her. For a long time, he’d filled the family gap for her. He’d been the closest thing to family she had.
Leaving him behind ranked as the hardest thing she’d ever been forced to do, but she’d had no choice. In researching a news story for her popular Crime Busting series for a local television station, Deirdre stumbled into a professional hit. En route to an interview, she’d watched the murder of two local police officers with a clear view of the perpetrators. She fled but not before one of the two men recognized her from the news. Deirdre headed for a detective she knew and told him what happened. The men she could identify had serious ties to organized crime. Based on her eyewitness account, Kansas City law enforcement tracked down and arrested the men. Then they set a trial date and named Deirdre as the star witness for the prosecution.
The incident rattled her, and she sought comfort with Quinn. Deirdre gave up her apartment and moved in with him. She spent most of her free time at his pub or upstairs in the living quarters. If she ventured out, Quinn accompanied her. He kept her close during the months leading up to the trial and hired a bodyguard to keep her safe. When she testified, her story convinced the jury to return a guilty verdict. Deirdre left the courthouse with relief, certain her ordeal had ended, on Quinn’s arm. When he went to retrieve the car from the parking garage nearby, she waited on the corner. Various people passed, some nodded or smiled, others didn’t. One man in a dark pin-striped suit approached. She remembered thinking he looked like a lawyer, but he paused long enough to whisper into her ear. “I’m gonna gank you, bitch, but first I’m going to cut out your tongue. Then I’m going to ram my dick into your pussy till you come. And after that, I’ll ice the nice Irish guy. Maybe I’ll even make him watch me kill you first. You crossed the wrong people, cunt.”
Before Deirdre could respond, he moved away and melted into the crowds. A bitter winter chill brought her blood down to freezing, and she shuddered. Fear clenched around her heart, tighter than a fist. Judging by what she’d seen, he meant it. Two hit men might be on their way to prison, but more existed to fill their shoes. The cold menace in his voice frightened her more than if he’d displayed anger. His hardened face, lack of expression, and granite eyes convinced her how serious the threat. Moments later, Quinn pulled up to the curb and she hurried to the SUV, still shaking. Although she tried to force a smile and fake calm, she failed.
“Jesus, Mary, and her husband Joseph, woman,” he said in his rich, beloved Irish brogue. “What’s wrong with ye? You look awful, acushla.”
She almost blurted it out, nearly told him but one look at his beautiful eyes, his kind face and Deirdre balked. If he knew, he could get hurt. Knowledge put him in danger, so she sighed and lied. “I’ve got one of my headaches,” she told him. The throbbing in her temples indicated it would be true soon. “I need to go home and lie down, I think. Will that be all right?”
He’d planned to take her out for a celebration meal, but she couldn’t face food at the moment. Quinn nodded and reached out his right hand to cover hers. “Aye, of course it is. We can always do it another day. You’re not sick, are you?”
His concern almost undid her. “No, it’s just a headache, but it’s a bad one.”
Once settled into his comfortable king-sized bed, Deirdre had burrowed beneath the blankets and cried. Quinn had gone downstairs to the pub, and in his absence she’d decided what she had to do. Before the trial, the US Marshals office contacted her about the possibility of entering the Federal Witness Security Program, but she had laughed it off. She failed to realize the risk she took or the potential for payback. “No, thanks,” she had said with a laugh. “I can’t leave my life, my man, or my career.”
“If you change your mind,” the Marshal had replied. “Call me. Here’s my card.”
The moment she heard Quinn’s voice raised in song below, Deirdre scooted out of bed and dug through her purse to find the card. She used her cell to dial the number and told the Marshal, Thomas Madison, what had happened and what she wanted to do. They talked for two hours and although he’d been reluctant about some details in the beginning, she won him over and he agreed, pending formal agreement by his supervisors.
Driving north on the interstate now, Deirdre remembered those last bittersweet weeks with Quinn. After closing, he’d come upstairs and found her sitting in the living room, a drink in her hand, staring through the window at the downtown lights.
“Do you feel better at all, love?” he had asked.
As her heart broke within, she had given him a nod. “Make love to me, Quinn,” she had whispered. “Please.”
And he did, with his unique combination of hungry enthusiasm and finesse. Powerful recollection swamped her with such force she took the next exit and pulled over in a restaurant parking lot in Lamar.
His mouth came down on hers in answer to her request, lips tasting of John Jameson’s finest whiskey, and Deirdre responded as his heat conquered her cold fear. Quinn took hold of her hands and raised her to her feet, then kissed her deeper. She leaned against him, and he wrapped both arms about her, cuddling her close. As his kiss became more urgent, her hands locked around his waist, her fingers strayed into his waistband and untucked his shirt. His grunt encouraged her to do more, and she let her fingers climb his back. Beneath her touch, his skin radiated warmth, and she savored the smoothness. At the same time, her breath caught with desire. This Irishman had captured her fancy the first time she’d met him, his accent catching her attention before his personality won her heart. They’d been together for two and a half years, the best she could remember. Until Quinn, she’d been lonely and alone.
Without breaking his rhythm or stopping the kiss, Quinn managed to pull her thin nightgown over her head. Bare beneath it, Deirdre quivered, eager for his touch. He stroked her breasts, his fingers as gentle as spring rain and without a word moved his lips from hers to suckle her nipples, one at a time. His warm mouth brought her buds to bloom, full and pink, so sensitive she wanted to wince but didn’t. Each of her many nerve endings sang an ancient tune, a plaintive plea for an erotic release. Quinn shed his shirt and undid his jeans. Within moments, he stood naked, so damned beautiful she wanted to weep with appreciation for his physique. Clothed, he was one hell of a sexy guy, a good-looking Irishman blessed with charm and more than a bit of blarney. Nude, however, he became something greater, an ancient Irish warrior or god, Cuchulain or maybe Lugh of the Long Hand. His long legs, his rock hard muscles, his flat belly, and his broad chest could be those of a statue, she thought, and understood why people once worshipped such deities.
As Quinn used his tongue on her nipples, Deirdre cupped his balls in her hand. She loved the way they felt, heavy and warm. Then she grasped his cock with her right hand, pleased it became harder at her touch. Deirdre stroked it then used her hand to create friction. Quinn’s moans of pleasure delighted her and made her pussy wet. The walls of her cleft ached for him to fill it, but she determined she would be patient, savor each slow moment and make the exhilaration last as long as possible. The sweet yet bitter need grew but with such intense sensations that Deirdre craved more.
He kissed her breasts and used his slender fingers to intrude into her pussy. Her hips thrust at him with instinct, not intent and he laughed, his soft chuckle sweeter than music in her ears. Quinn maneuvered her into position, then lifted her into his arms and carried her to the bed they shared. Once on her back, Deirdre spread her legs wide, and he lowered his body between them. Quinn entered her with rapid thrusts, swift and yet graceful with a swordsman’s skill. She’d watched him at sword play before and saw the echoes of his feint and parry now.
Deirdre’s body heated until she burned with a fever sensual in origin. She locked her legs tight around his torso and trapped him in position. He slowed his entry and lingered, longer each time, moving his cock within her in slow patterns until spirals of delight erupted. They rippled through her body and shook her to the core. Their shared heat centered in her loins and threatened to consume her, body and soul. Quinn rocked her, moaning and whispering things she didn’t hear, until she sensed the shift in him. He pulled back, not all the way, and then pounded into her with force and magnificence.
Pleasure burst over her body and carried her into orgasm. Deidre clung to him, gasping and making inarticulate sounds to show her delight, and strained with Quinn until he shuddered hard. They came in a blinding wild rush of sensation so powerful she didn’t think, just experienced and felt. In those moments, Deidre didn’t exist. She became part of Quinn, one body, one heart, and one soul.
Afterward, she basked in his arms, body spent and sated. Her mind shifted into overdrive as she struggled to commit every moment, each nuance into memory. It was necessary if she had the courage to carry out her plan.
Over the next week, they made love more often than ever before, every night and most mornings when they awakened. Deirdre spent fewer hours at the television studios and more with Quinn. They did things they’d never done so frequently together before, stuff she had always wanted to but there hadn’t been time. Now she made time for them to cook together, to go to a few movies, to visit an art museum together, and to talk. They listened to music, his Irish favorites like Tommy Makem, the Clancy Brothers, and Mary O’Hara, then hers, AC/DC, KISS, and Ozzy Osborne.
On Saturday, she awakened early and watched Quinn sleep, committing the details of his face to memory. The night before, they’d drank too much and sang a lot in the pub, but she’d had fun. Deirdre almost lost her nerve and changed her mind, but the US Marshal working with her, Marshal Madison, confirmed the threat had been real. She loved Quinn more than life, more than herself and if the way to save him was to leave him, she would.
Deirdre didn’t plan for him to be awake, so there would be no goodbyes, but he woke up as she tried to sneak out of the bedroom. “Where are you off to so early?” he asked. “Come back to bed, woman. Whatever it is can wait.”
She forced a smile. “It can’t. There’s a sale at Macy’s I don’t want to miss.”
He held out one hand, his smile an invitation. “Go later.”
The lie came from her lips. “I’ll be back before eleven, Quinn.”
The way he frowned hurt her. He didn’t understand, she could tell, and hell, neither did Deirdre. “Oh, all right then, mo ghra, go but hurry back. I love you too much to do without ye long.”
Tears clogged her throat and threatened to flow from her eyes. “I love you too, Quinn.”
Deirdre leaned down, kissed him, then grabbed her purse, all she dared take, and walked out of the room and out of his life. She drove to Bannister Mall, left her car in the lot, and met the marshal. He loaded her into his SUV and drove her far away.
She cried now, parked in the lot of a convenience store, the way she hadn’t then. If she’d wept then, she doubted she could have ever stopped. Her new life began, but she’d left Quinn behind. Worse, the WITSEC program faked her death, something off the record and seldom done. They’d insisted, citing the extreme danger, and she had agreed because she had come too far to back out. Months later, she had looked up the newspaper reports online. Although it never happened, she’d been reported as taken at gunpoint from the mall parking lot. Her car had been found down along the Missouri River, burned. A woman’s body, scorched beyond recognition, had been inside. The authorities identified Deirdre. A photograph taken at her faux funeral captured Quinn, head bowed with grief. His sister, Eileen, stood beside him with one hand on his back to offer apparent comfort.
Unable to read any more, Deirdre kept the clipping. It and her favorite picture of Quinn had been the only two physical ties to her old life. She reached for the snapshot now, thinking it might ease her hurt but instead, when she glanced down at his familiar, dear face, her pain increased. In the photo, his bright smile reminded her of the happiness they once had. I robbed him of joy. I took it away and gave him grief. He thinks I’m dead and God only knows how he’s managed. If he’d died, God forbid, I don’t think I could’ve handled it. He may hate me for what I did, but he’s alive. I want him to stay that way. Maybe I shouldn’t go back. Three years has been an eternity, but not long enough for the baddies to have forgotten me.
The sudden realization that the danger she fled might remain, as potent and possible as ever, hit her with force. In her sudden decision to resume life as Deirdre, she’d never considered the same factors which sent her on the run and wrecked her life hadn’t gone away. The danger remained, ready to rear up and bite her ass hard. Quinn’s too.
But she’d come this far and although she hadn’t hit a point of no return, it hovered ahead. For a moment, Deirdre considered giving up, becoming Mallory again, but she couldn’t. Incapable to continue living a lie, she had to go back. She needed Quinn, if he’d still have her, more than oxygen or food or shelter. He loves me. He won’t hold a grudge. He’ll be too happy I’m alive to mind I wasn’t really dead.
Uncertain but committed, she headed into the convenience store and locked herself into the tiny restroom. Deirdre washed her face to remove the tear tracks and ruined make-up. She redid her face, then headed north. Each mile brought her closer to Quinn and the moment of reckoning.
She prayed to all the angel and saints, even the ones she couldn’t believe in anymore that she could stay alive long enough to find Quinn. If she could manage that, no small feat, everything else would fall into place and make sense.
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