Page 19 of Forced Alliance

She nodded. “I’ve called in a report. We need to wait and give our statements to the locals and to our guys.”

Connor glanced around. “And blow what little cover we have. If you’re worried about one of Armond’s minions being a snitch, then why do you want to stay around and talk to any law-enforcement officials? We can file our reports later.”

He leaned close, nose to nose with her. “We’re supposed to be here on a very secret, very important mission that doesn’t involve the authorities.”

She took one last long glance around the room. “Good point. So we have to take him with us and get him in a safe place. It’s the only way to salvage this.” Then she planted her ever-changing golden-green eyes on him. “It looks like you’re the only person I can trust right now.”

* * *

“Yes, sir. I understand, sir.”

Josie turned from her phone and gave Connor a nod. Then she checked the hotel window for the third time. They were in an out-of-the-way boutique hotel close to the Garden District that had been cleared as one of their inner-city safe houses. Connor had a room across the hall from where Josie had an adjoining room with Armond. Big Beaux was watching over him, but Josie could see them through the open door. Connor had come over to join her.

“Sherwood is not happy with us,” she said. She motioned him away from the adjoining door. “They found more than just an explosive device in that room. They also found a duffel bag full of cash—close to two hundred thousand dollars—and some invoices providing a month’s worth of questionable shipments.”

Connor’s dark brows tipped up and he let out a low whistle. “Stolen and fake goods?”

She nodded. “They were shipped to a warehouse address on the river.” Pointing to the address, she added, “Sherwood’s got a team on the way there now. And he’s coming after Armond. We don’t need Armond’s cooperation now. This is enough to bring him in.”

Connor glanced back toward the other room. “This is a setup. Armond would never be that sloppy. He keeps his business records so hidden even I couldn’t find them. And he never kept cash around the house. Where did they find this stuff?”

“Inside an open safe in the closet,” Josie said. “Convenient, huh?”

“Too convenient.”

Josie crossed the room to make sure Armond was where she’d left him. Connor followed. Whispering, she said, “So if things had gone right, Armond would have come home after the opera and gone to bed and then—boom. But why leave the evidence if you’re trying to kill the man?”

Connor tugged at his curly hair. “Maybe the explosion was supposed to be a distraction while they emptied the safe? Or they purposely left the money and receipts for the FBI to find, whether Armond was alive or dead?”

“Or to implicate whoever happened to be here with him when the authorities came?”

“Which could have been me.” Connor tapped his knuckles on the nearby desk. “This makes no sense. Maybe we should have hung around a little longer.”

“That doesn’t matter now. Sherwood plans to make it more sensible. He’s on his way here, and he wants us gone once they take Armond.”

“Gone? As in still undercover?”

“He needs us out there gathering information,” Josie explained. “We have to stay here with Armond until we can swap him off to them. Sherwood wants us to do some more undercover work, ask around about Armond’s contacts and enemies so we can build a case against him. Or find out who’s after him.”

Connor pushed at the tousled hair against his forehead. “And your superior is cool with us going into hiding together?”

It had been a long night for both of them, and Josie was too tired to lie to him. “Not that cool, but he agrees we can get more information if we stay undercover. And we can protect each other. So the plan is to keep my true identity from Armond while we dig for suspects.”

“So we go to ground,” Connor said. “It’s not like I haven’t done that before.”

Josie saw the fatigue in his eyes. She’d never stopped to consider how much he had to look over his shoulder, either for the authorities or the criminals. But she refused to feel sorry for him and the double life he had been playing for the past couple of years. “Good. That means you’ll follow my instructions and stay out of trouble.”

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