Page 17 of Forced Alliance

Armond finally sat back in his big leather chair. “What happens next?”

Josie stood, gave Connor a relieved glance and then turned back to Louis Armond. “We make a plan to move you. But until then, you stay put with your guards. You don’t let anyone but the two of us in or out of this compound.”


Connor took over. “We go into the city, do our thing with setting you up in a safe place. Look for that missing gun. We’ll question the kind of people the police can’t even begin to find and we’ll get to the truth about who killed Lewanna.”

“You will report back to me.”

Not a question, but a demand.

“Of course.” Connor came to stand by Josie. “I’ll keep you posted.”

Armond stood and shook his head. “I need a more reassuring guarantee. Before I agree to move, you have to agree to one of my men accompanying you at all times. As insurance, of course.”

Josie let out a sigh. “You need to trust us.”

Armond motioned for the giant. “I will, because Beaux is going to be with you. He knows how to make people more trustworthy.”

Connor and Josie exchanged looks. Beaux was big, really big, and he had a perpetual scowl on his meaty face. He’d be hard to shake. And deadweight in quick getaways.

“Uh, that’s not such a good idea, Mr. Armond,” Connor replied.

“Then we all sit here and watch and wait,” Armond retorted.

Josie let out an exaggerated grunt. “Look, let’s just get moving with this before someone comes after you again. If he wants to tag along, then so be it. I refuse to sit here wasting precious time when I could be out there clearing you of any wrongdoing.”

She gave Connor a look that could have melted the Remington sculpture displayed behind Armond’s desk. This was not going to be easy. But then, Connor had learned that working with criminals and agents never was. And here he stood caught between two very opposing forces.

He had a feeling things would only get worse.

Things got worse in the next second.

They heard an explosion somewhere deep in the interior of the house.


Armond’s guard jumped to his aid and pushed him down behind the big desk and shouted, “He’s okay. But we need to get him out of here.”

Connor grabbed Josie and tugged her past Big Beaux. “Let’s get us out of here.”

“What? And leave Armond to die?”

“That’s probably what he has in mind for us once he’s done with us.”

Josie followed him toward the front of the house, her weapon drawn. When they heard shouts, she stopped. “I can’t abandon someone who’s in danger, Connor. Not even a hardened criminal.” She turned and headed toward the back of the house.


She kept going. With a groan, Connor hurried after her. Did she have to go all noble right in the middle of an explosion? Of course she did. She struck him as solid on the honor system.

And because he was trying hard to learn that trait, and because she was cute and he’d enjoyed touching his forehead to hers earlier, he went after her. For all the above and to keep her alive, of course.

When they got to the back of the house, several guards were using fire extinguishers to put out the blaze from the explosion. Connor held Josie back as they took in the scene. Armond stood in the door of the huge master bedroom, a look of shock darkening his face. He wasn’t responding to Big Beaux’s coaxing him away.

“He usually goes to bed early,” Beaux explained. “He’s all shook up. Normally, he would have been in that bed by now.”

“This is not good,” Armond mumbled, disbelief evident in his scowl. “This is not good at all.”

The enormous room had been destroyed. Beyond the fog of the fire extinguishers, the burgundy brocade curtains were now in charred shreds that whipped like dark tentacles reaching out in the wind. The massive bed had exploded like a bag of popcorn, white feathers and mattress stuffing covering the once-elegant comforter. The ceiling-to-floor windows were shattered and broken. And the whole room smelled dank and charred, the scent of burning wires merging with the smell of scorched furnishings and the chemical fumes from the fire extinguishers.

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