Unholy Alliance: A Donahue Cousins Novel

Unholy Alliance: A Donahue Cousins Novel

by Kathleen Rowland

ASIN: B06X9DY642

Publisher Tirgearr Publishing

Published in Romance/Contemporary, Romance/Romantic Suspense, Literature & Fiction/Contemporary, Romance, Literature & Fiction

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Book Description


A decade ago, Tori Rourke, and her cousin, Vivienne, ran from the Irish mob after witnessing a brutal murder. Tori was framed by the mob, and while she served time in prison, she worried that the killer, Seamus McGinn, had kidnapped her missing cousin. All Grady knows is the biggest danger is the one standing right behind you.

Sample Chapter

“Don’t let the anxiety of freedom consume you.”

Attorney Grady Donahue Fletcher clenched his teeth and rehearsed what he’d say to his client, Victoria Morningstar. He’d won her appeal and drove to pick her up at Gladstone Penitentiary. “At least you won’t be placed in solitary.” That was worse.

Six months earlier Grady had phoned a reporter at the Los Angeles Globe. "Drew Barker. Grady Fletcher here.”

“Ah, the lawyer. Calling about a tip?”

“I am. Here's something you can investigate. Tori Morningstar, did she murder Irene Brennan?"

"I wrote that story many years back," the journalist had said. “I assume you have new discoveries.”

"Fraud, illegal testimony. Do you want the story first?" A second passed. "Otherwise, I'll call the Orange County Guardian."

"Okay, okay. We want it."

Three days later Grady had a hand in writing the first article in Drew Barker’s column. "The public labeled Tori Morningstar as an undesirable. Not black and poor, but disfavored, accused, incarcerated, and wrongly condemned. Her cellphone has been recovered. Her call to 911 identified her voice and substantiated screams of the victim in the background. Could she have beaten someone while speaking to dispatch at the same time?"

The reporter had written the second article. "People who get their ideas about criminal lawyers from TV probably would be disappointed in Grady Fletcher. He lacks flash but stands up straight, his posture neither ramrod nor slouched. He doesn't smoke, doesn't wear thousand dollar suits. His voice is soft and low, one of his assets. He speaks truth with a voice inviting confidences."

As nice as that was, Grady’s stomach cramped over pressure and strain from Drew Barker’s final article with the headline, Tori Morningstar, Released Today. Picked up by the online service, Newser, KTLA, and CBS Los Angeles, they planned to broadcast his arrival to escort his client from Gladstone.

Tori’s decade-long prison sentence ended today but with a sobering fear over tomorrow.

When was a July morning this hot? Grady balanced her release papers on his lap as he rolled up one sleeve then the other while gripping the damp steering wheel. Sweat blossomed on his throbbing forehead, wrapped like a python’s grip. He adjusted the dial for the AC and embraced the challenge of helping another client get back on track. Embrace and conquer. Or at least sound like it.

Grady didn’t necessarily believe in heaven, but suppose such a place existed and he was eligible for entry when his time came? He expected it’d look like a courtroom where he won appeals for deserving people.

The mobster’s daughter, Tori Rourke, took Morningstar as her surname. She’d run from the Irish mob but couldn’t hide. With no patience for those who leave its ranks, the mob had framed her. She’d spent a decade at Gladstone.

His most recent client, Tyrone Marquis, black and poor, worked at a poultry plant where he’d plucked, hacked, and processed thousands of chickens. Marquis had written a bad check and committed a petty theft. The court had handed him a twenty-year prison sentence. When Grady believed in the falsely accused or excessively sentenced, he fought hard from a deep pit. He won this man’s appeal.

Poor and black did not describe Tori, born into an Irish crime family, but in essence, she was marginalized and excluded too. Society detests any mobster association.

His cousin, Finbar Donahue, managed the trust accounts for the Rourke offspring. In spite of Finn’s hostile relationship with the mob, he’d followed Tori’s murder trial.

Finn had guilted Grady into appealing her case. “She’s a fringe relative. Okay. Not by blood, but come on.” Finn’s words landed like punches, sapped his resistance.

The closer he got to the maximum-security complex, the more his heart pounded with blood pressure exploding like a grenade. Thump, thump. How safe will she be when freed? He scrambled for his game face.

He turned off Highway 5 and onto the stark, industrial City Drive of Orange, California. Sunlight reflected off a homeless man’s shopping cart and the broken glass in the gutter. A jaywalker lunged across the street. Grady swung the steering wheel to miss him, tires squealing over the concrete. Ahead at the red stoplight, three kids, about the age of his son, crossed the street on their way to school. They jabbered in Spanish but giggled just like his son. A sharp-edged thought boiled up.

Grady’s rancorous custody battle continued post-divorce, and he’d relocated to be closer to seven-year-old Shane. How long would his job-hopping ex-wife stay in Long Beach? He stuffed a wishful dream to coach soccer into the caverns of his mind.

Ahead, a sign marked the penitentiary run by the most hard-hearted Godzillas of the human race. A shrill hiss grew to an ear-piercing whistle. At its command, prisoners rose at sunrise and appeared at their cell doors. Doors opened, and they stood on the threshold. “Right face.” All wheeled to the right. “March!” Without energy, the inmates zombied along for two hours of labor before breakfast. They made license plates, jeans, jackets, T-shirts, and hats. They worked in the laundry room, kitchen, or in the sewing room where they cut, basted, and stitched.

Color televisions, said to be available for viewing by those who earned the privilege, amounted to one set per eighty offenders. In the dayroom, they watched a nine-inch screen while seated on metal benches bolted to the floor. Correctional officers held remote controls and flipped through basic networks, sports, and educational channels. From there, prisoners marched to dinner, out in the yard, and then back to cramped stone cells.

On the bright side, according to his cousin Finn, Tori took college classes. She’d spent her college years in prison but earned a degree in restaurant management and planned to run a food truck.

Ahead, the Gladstone brooded on its hill. Beige stucco rectangles, complete with a tower, perched on the banks of the dry Santa Ana River bed. The penitentiary’s ten acres housed three and a half thousand inmates. He passed a complex for foster children. A knot formed in his stomach over its unfortunate location and similar architecture.

Grady’s experience with appeals was going on two years, and the details of each stood sharply in his mind. Nothing blurred into another. He slowed and checked his wristwatch. Nine o’clock, but a half hour early wasn’t early enough to beat the crowd. He tried to steady his shaking hands as he passed parked cars lining the curb. He looped twice before finding a space big enough. In another time, a throng of citizens would have suggested a terrible event such as the impending execution of a criminal or public whipping. Thanks to news media, this sympathetic crowd celebrated the release of a woman who’d served a sentence for a crime she didn’t commit.

Grady stepped out of his Jeep, smoothed down his grey-striped tie and adjusted the cuffs of his white shirt. He let out a breath, spotted Drew Barker of the Los Angeles Globe, and waved to the reporter who wasinstrumental in sharing his discoveriesof fraud and illegal testimony. Other reporters and cameramen shifted and rolled like an ocean of tipsy goodwill. Grady scanned over the waves for Tori Morningstar.

She stood stiffly at the high security entrance and hugged a leather moto jacket wrapped over crossed arms. Dressed in her pre-incarceration style, her defined muscles created a perfect fit for her silk blouse, In prison, she worked the heavy bag, labored hard so that she could protect herself in the yard.

Grady slipped papers into the hands of a guard. “Good morning, sir,” he said without another word, signed his clipboard, and rushed to her side. “Tori. It’s okay to speak to reporters.” The whoop-whoop of a hovering helicopter drew attention, and cameramen angled their equipment upward.

Beside him, she swallowed hard and took a deep breath. “These reporters helped. I’ll answer questions, but the publicity worries me.” She froze where she stood, aware of the potential dangers ahead.

“I know.” Their gazes collided. Her eyes resembled honey-brown gems. Fine cheekbones, a firm chin, and a mouth he found disturbingly inviting. In the sunlight, her dark hair glowed chestnut. She’d skinned her hair back from her face so tightly; it had to hurt.

Drew Barker pushed his way in front of the others. “Victoria Morningstar.” The reporter in his sixties, with a round, open face and wide eyes lent an expression of constant surprise. “Can you tell us what happened the night you were arrested?” He held a microphone close to her face.

“Go ahead. Talk to him, Tori,” Grady whispered.

She stood like a brittle statue. "My cousin and I were having dinner on the Long Beach waterfront. Rhubarb and Ginger, we went there a lot. Seamus McGinn and Timothy Noonan must have tailed us. They’re from Cobh, County Cork." Her words came out in a robotic rush.

“That’s in Ireland.” Grady chuckled for the camera. "For once Ireland was lucky. Lucky to be rid of them,” He took her ice-cold hand and stepped around Barker, a reporter familiar with McGinn’s government-agro kidnappings. Recovered victims had broken collarbones, fractured limbs, cigarette burns, stab wounds, shattered eye sockets and facial bones, accomplished with a blunt instrument. Casualties had been alive at the time of beatings, with foreign objects jammed down throats. Teeth were found in their stomachs.

“Excuse me.” Another reporter, a tall woman from the Long Beach Beacon, swarmed down on Tori. "So you saw McGinn and Noonan?"

"Correct," Tori lifted her chin, her vibrant eyes filling with the raw memory. “A half-dozen more stormed in. Carried automatics, ripped through the place. Found the owner, Irene Brennan. Dragged her out."

"The owner refused to pay them for protection,” Barker chimed.

Tori nodded, rubbed her forehead. “Same old deal, a mob upping the ante.”

And then what?" The earnest reporter from the Beacon leaned forward.

"My cousin Viv ran out the back. I was arrested."

“Make room, everybody.” Grady headed for his car, dragging Tori behind him.

Tori shuffled in slow, measured movements as if shackled.

“One last question, Tori,” Barker called from behind. “You tried to leave the mob. What did they want you to do?"

Tori turned halfway around. "Act as a lure. I refused." She shrugged. “I paid for that decision.”

The woman reporter elbowed Parker out of the way. “Tori. Your lawyer, Daniel McMahon. Didn’t he serve as the mob's lawyer?”

Tori nodded. “Just great for me,” She paused for a few seconds. “I didn’t anticipate a setup.”

The reporter touched her arm. “You’re a fighter. How will you bounce back?”

Tori looked up, her face bleached of color. “I’ll try to accomplish small things. This will help. Little by little, I’ll let go of fear.”

“We’ve got to go, folks.” Grady reached to shake hands with several surrounding him.

Barker popped his thick eyebrows up. “Glad things worked out.”

“Thank you for following the case.” Grady placed a hand on Tori’s trembling back and walked her to the passenger side of his Jeep.

She halted mid-motion. “Where to?”

He stared into her questioning eyes. “I’ll drop you at your apartment. From there, my assistant will come by.” Grady’s cousin Finn had rented a studio for her at the Marriott Residence Inn and paid the rent with her ample trust fund. “You’ll be on the top floor. The apartment overlooks the Queen Mary.”

“Sweet.” Tori placed a hand over her heart. “You, Finn, and Amy. You are so kind.” She squared her shoulders.

“If you have any questions,” he said, “ring my associate.” He handed her his private investigator’s business card. “Later you’ll meet Maeve McGuire.” He opened the passenger door of his Jeep and waited.

She stared at the card. “Oh, yes. Maeve. She found my cell phone at the scene. This made a big difference at the trial.”

“It did. You’d made a 911 call, silenced your phone, and jammed it in the slats under a table.”

Her smile, genuine and appreciative, drew him in. She glided onto the seat, but her boots remained on the curb. His ex-wife wore similar Saint Laurents at eight hundred a pair.

He watched her clutching hands and said, “Maeve will get you settled. Take you shopping.”

She angled her face up at him. “No need for shopping. I’ll order clothing online. T-shirts, capris, and sneakers. That’s all I’ll need.”

“Really? Sounds like you’re going to a church picnic.” He was about to close the door. “Where will you be going?”

“Not far.”

“You’ve been in a prison bubble.”

“Closed off for a decade,” she said. “A concealed bubble grows fetid.”

It happens, and he nodded. “Learn anything in prison?” It was a canned question, and he didn’t expect much of an answer.

“Accept dark times. Go from there. Find a teddy bear among the crocodiles.” She sat with a poker-straight back, a determined expression blossoming. “You represented my cellmate—”

“—Ebony Yves. Worked as a mule for her husband, Now she’s working as an embalmer for Coley-Reece Funeral Home. Ebony said you told her to drop your name when she interviewed.” He arched a brow.

“Mick Coley and my parents were friends.” She nodded. “It’s in the waterfront neighborhood. Used to be good for hiding illegal profits. The funeral home overcharged the living but paid employees well.”

“Now that you’re out,” he said, “you’ll need wheels. Unless you plan to drive your food truck around for supplies.”

“I considered a golf cart. It doesn’t hold enough. Eventually, I’ll buy a small truck. Today, I’d love to get a haircut.” She frowned, and he sensed her uncertainly about being out. Her thick, dark lashes closed over her eyes. Without those big, troubled eyes to distract him, fatigue lined her face. Did she want to blend in?

“Maeve knows a stylist across from a food truck lot.” He leaned on the door and arched his back to relieve the ache of worrying about her safety. He’d shut that down after today. Clients, particularly female, engaged in hero worship with their lawyer.

She raised a hand, pulled out the rubber band, and shook her head, letting it fall over her shoulders. “I’m hacking this off.”

Her hair was her business, but never had he seen such rich silk. For a second, he longed to run his hands through it. He imagined it sliding over his body and shivered over a terrifying rush of desire. It wasn’t a problem being civil to Tori. The hard part would be keeping his hands off her.

He braced a hand on the open door and gazed at her breathtakingly beautiful face. Vivienne, her cousin, resembled Jessica Rabbit with her amped up, voluptuous, blonde, and blue-eyed persona. Tori’s fair complexion contrasted with dark brown hair. Something elusive moved behind her amber eyes.

"Where is your office?" she asked.

“Not far from the Maersk Railyard and Union Pacific." His leased property was a two-story California Craftsman built in 1930, commercially zoned, that sparkled with yellow paint and had a front porch. Open and welcoming, it contrasted with the daunting courtrooms, institutional waiting rooms, and prison walls that defined his clients' family members.

She fixed her eyes on him. "If and when I get it going, my truck will be within smelling distance. Will you stop by?"

“For a heart attack?” He chuckled, but the warmth of their chitchat vanished in another second, replaced by a cold chill. She didn’t murder Irene Brennan, but did he see her for what lay beneath her social graces?


Excerpted from "Unholy Alliance: A Donahue Cousins Novel" by Kathleen Rowland. Copyright © 2017 by Kathleen Rowland. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Kathleen Rowland

Kathleen Rowland

Book Buyers Best finalist Kathleen Rowland is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes suspense with a sizzling love story sure to melt their hearts. Kathleen is writing a hot romantic suspense series for Tirgearr Publishing: Deadly Alliance and Unholy Alliance. More are in the works. Some novels are sweet new adult: Lily’s Pad and the Intervenus Series: A Brand New Address and Betrayal at Crater’s Edge. Her Under the Wire Series is ultra-hot. Deadly Alliance and her work-in-progress, Unholy Alliance, are contracted with Tirgearr Publishing. Kathleen used to write computer programs but now writes novels. She grew up in Iowa where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and raced her sailboat on Lake Okoboji. Now she wears flip-flops and sails with her husband, Gerry, on Newport Harbor but wishes there were lightning bugs in California. Kathleen exists happily with her witty CPA husband, Gerry, in their 70’s poolside retreat in Southern California where she adores time spent with visiting grandchildren, dogs, one bunny, and noisy neighbors. While proud of their five children who’ve flown the coop, she appreciates the luxury of time to write. If you’d enjoy news, sign up for Kathleen’s newsletter at Tirgearr Publishing - Leading The Pack

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