Page 15 of Forced Alliance

“No,” Connor replied. “Do you expect that?”

“I have no idea,” Armond retorted. “But if they were willing to kill Lewanna, they’ll probably try to kill anyone else close to me.” He glanced out the window, then back at Connor. “You already know too much. Some of my associates might feel the same way now.” He shook that off with a shrug. “I’m glad my wife is safe in New York.”

“Are you sure she’s safe?” Josie asked, her tone as warm and unaffected as the still wind outside.

“I have people in place,” Armond said with another shrug.

“Can you trust them?” Connor asked, wondering why Armond didn’t trust his local security team.

“I have to trust them right now,” Armond responded. “I’m a sitting duck. I knew better than to get involved with the feds. Starting with you.”

“You can trust me,” Connor replied, hating the lie but using his close relationship with the old man as collateral.

“I only need you now to hide me and help keep me safe,” Armond retorted. “Don’t make me regret that decision.”

And so much for that. Connor glanced at Josie. “He’s right. We have to be careful here. A lot of unsavory people know I work for Mr. Armond.”

Armond’s bushy brows lifted at that statement. “You used to work for me, but we both know why I had to...let you go.”

Connor cleared his throat. “Yes, but I’m back for now. If everyone can work with that?”

“I don’t have a choice and you certainly don’t,” Armond said, his gaze saying otherwise. “But I’m watching you, Randall.” He gave Josie a harsh appraisal. “And I’m still not sure about you, young lady. I’ll have my people do a rundown on you, but I need your full name.”

Josie gave him one of her undercover names. “Grant. Josie Grant.”

“Do you mind if I do a background check?”

“Not a problem for me,” Josie replied, her tough-girl stance sounding completely real. She tossed her straight dark hair and crossed her arms over her shiny black leather jacket. “I always watch my back.” She tapped her phone. “I’ve put people in place to squelch any rumors. And I’ve already done my homework on you. Your name won’t cross any lips.” Her eyes slanted up. “You command a lot of respect around these parts, Mr. Armond.”

Armond chuckled. “And I intend to keep it that way.” But he didn’t sound so confident right now. After giving her name to one of the guards, he waited, staring at them until the man returned and whispered something in his ear.

“Seems you also command a great deal of respect, Josie...Grant.”

“That’s what I get paid for,” Josie replied, obviously relieved that Sherwood and the techs had managed to set up a cover so quickly. She named her price and waited. Armond’s slight nod got his men moving. Josie sent the old man a lifted eyebrow in thanks.

Nerves of steel, Connor decided. He liked that in a woman.

Connor wondered if Armond truly did care about his wife or his grown son. The man was all about making more money, and he really didn’t care how he did that. Or who he hurt or destroyed in doing it. But he’d made and lost more money than anyone knew, and he’d had to get into cahoots with some ruthless people. In return, he’d pledged to keep names out of the conversation. Until the FBI had cornered him and offered him a deal he couldn’t refuse. No wonder he was afraid someone was after him. They’d need to remember that, too.

“Did you make that list of people you suspect?” Josie asked. “I can get right on that, since we’ve done a rundown on any chatter and cleaned that up for now.” She glanced around the room. “And we need to check your personal weapons.”

“I have the list you requested but it’s only a partial one.”

Connor’s hope deflated. The man still refused to name the main players. Witnessing the death of his mistress had done exactly what those players wanted it to do—scare Armond back into silence.

“Let’s get started on checking the weapons,” Josie said, shifting a worried glance toward Connor.


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