Page 14 of Forced Alliance

Of course, Josie Gilbert would tell him to drop the protective-male persona. She gave off so many hostile vibes he was surprised he hadn’t been burned by electricity by now.

Just one more thing for him to deal with—a bitter female FBI agent. Bitter? Or just determined to prove her worth after that little dustup in Dallas?

Connor certainly could understand that concept, since his now-dead mother had been a hard-core, bitter working woman. He didn’t mind that so much, but being around Josie only made him want things he couldn’t have. He’d been on his own for too long now to think about normal, mundane things such as dating or dancing or settling down. He would never admit it, but he liked working with the feds on the good side of the law. For a change. He did the same things that he’d always done, but now he used his experience and talent to help bring in criminals. That gave him a bit of redemption, at least.

He wondered about Josie. What drove her to be so structured and buttoned-up? Had she believed she’d come from a normal, peaceful family or had she known early on that something was off with her successful father? Had she grown up in a small town with the white picket fence and the whole cheerleader, high-school-prom persona? Probably. Until it had all come crashing down.

That crash and burn would explain her need for justice now.

He’d have to find out so he could see inside her head. Sure, he’d found her file and...studied it, but some of the things that had transpired in Dallas were on a need-to-know basis. Probably to protect her identity. Connor wanted the real Josie to show up.

But right now, Louis Armond was waiting in his office for an update. So Connor planned to give him one.

“Are you ready?” he asked Josie.

“Ready, set, go,” she retorted on a close whisper. “We’ve covered every angle, including a thorough email report to Sherwood. If Armond asks for my credentials, we give him a rundown. If that doesn’t work, we give him the phone number.”

“And he’ll call and get a glowing report on your services.”

“Everything is in place,” she whispered. “We’re on our own unless we give the fail-safe signal.” She adjusted her black leather jacket. “And I’m not talking Mother’s Day here, Randall.”

“Why don’t you call me Connor?” he suggested, hoping to crack just a tiny edge of that chip on her shoulder.

“Why don’t you just lead on?” she replied.

But he did see a trace of acceptance in her eyes.

Progress, at least.

“All right, so we have our stories straight?”

She gave him a curt nod.

Connor turned to the giant guard waiting outside the drawing-room doors. He prayed this would work and that Armond would finally agree to immunity in exchange for his testimony regarding his nefarious associates. Connor had managed to unearth enough information to know the man had some sort of silent partner.

“Let’s get this show on the road,” he said to Josie.

She gave him a look of resolve and challenge.

Josie Gilbert might be the biggest challenge he faced right now.


The giant took them to the back of the house, where Armond’s massive study offered a wall of windows that gave a stunning view of the back gardens. With moonlight and strategically placed spotlights shining on it, the big sloping yard took on an ethereal glow. Only, tonight the moonlight seemed to chase after too many shifting shadows. Was someone out there right now, ready to do harm to all of them?

Josie’s golden-green eyes widened with a grudging admiration of the view, but she wiped her expression clean and turned tough again. “Mr. Armond, we’ve talked to all of our sources, and so far, you’re in the clear. No new information. But the police do know Lewanna’s identity, and they do have witnesses that reported seeing a man holding a gun standing near the body. Since the shot was muffled with a silencer, no one heard anything.” That had just come via rerouted text straight from her supervisor.

She tossed things over to Connor with a solemn stare.

“No one has yet identified me or my car,” Connor said. “If anyone saw you get in my car, they’re not talking.”

“Any reports of other such shootings?” Armond asked, clearly still shaken.

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