Page 35 of Forced Alliance

“My real name is Randall Connor.” He shrugged. “I turned it around to make it more mysterious. Did it work?”

She laughed, her smile hitting at that spot inside his heart that tightened each time he thought about her. “I think it did. You are a mystery. Bad guy turned good. Or still a con man? I can’t be sure.”

Connor stared across at her, then reached up to touch her still-damp hair. “We’ve been together for close to forty-eight hours now, and you still don’t trust me?”

“I trust you,” she said, her eyes wide and clear. “I just don’t know what to do about you.”

“What’s there to do?” he asked, his fingers curled in her hair. “Except your job.”

“I’m not talking about my job,” she said on a husky whisper.

“Oh.” He leaned in, took in the spicy scent of the hotel shampoo she’d used on her hair. “Then you must be talking about this.”

The kiss was broad and sweeping, like a painter stroking a fresh canvas. Connor savored each touch, each sigh, each spark of awareness. He tugged her closer, the feel of her in his arms too strong to resist. All of those sensations he’d felt since the day he’d met her came bubbling to the surface like lost treasure. Like lost hope.

Josie tugged away, shaking her head. She caught her breath. “We shouldn’t be doing this.” Her eyes said differently.

“We shouldn’t be on the run from killers, either,” he countered. “A lot can happen, Josie. My mother died in an instant and I never even told her how sorry I was for the things I said and did because I blamed her for too many things. Your dad went to prison in an instant, after conning people out of their money for years.”

“So that makes this right?” she asked, stepping away. “Just because we’re forced together and we feel exposed and justified?”

“No, this is the only right thing in our lives now, right now. This is a different kind of exposure, the kind where two people learn to adjust and trust each other. And maybe to just go with our feelings. What’s so wrong with that?”

“Everything,” she said, shaking her head. “I’m supposed to watch you, watch out for you and make sure you don’t walk away from your obligations.”

“I don’t plan to walk away,” he replied, a silent rage draining him of any hope. When would someone finally see that about him? When would she see the real him? “And I’ve stopped running. You need to understand that.”

“And you need to understand that my job has to come first. I won’t be a conquest, Connor. I can’t.”

“ want to be with me,” he replied. “I know a kiss when I feel it. That was a good kiss.”

“Yes, the kiss felt good,” she admitted. “But the consequences won’t feel so great. And that’s what we both need to remember.”

A commotion in the hallway stopped them both in their tracks.

“We also need to remember that we’re still on somebody’s hit list,” she said on a hiss of a whisper. Then, without a backward glance, she went for her weapon and went back to work.


Connor rushed to the door and peered through the keyhole.

“Looks like a bellhop passing by with a cart of suitcases.”

Josie breathed a sigh of relief. That kiss had left her so rattled and shaken, she felt like a jigsaw puzzle. That kind of notion could get her in serious trouble.

He turned to stare over at her. “Are we okay here, Josie?”

Josie didn’t think she’d be okay for a while to come. “I don’t know,” she said, aiming for sarcasm. “I mean, since we’re been thrown together I’ve gone undercover, gotten way too close to a Mafia boss and the bomb waiting to kill him, lost someone on my FBI team and I’ve been shot at several times.” She paced around the hotel room, wondering what to do next. “Of course, I’ve also had some of the best food in the world at the Crooked Nail and I’ve slept in a boathouse and had a firsthand tour of a swamp.” She shrugged. “Oh, and I’ve been kissed by the elusive Connor Randall. Yeah, sure, I’m A-OK.”

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