Page 40 of Forced Alliance

“They hate black SUVs?”

“Or they knew something was in that garage. Something no one was supposed to see. The same something Armond warned Beaux about.”

He turned from the flames to Josie. “Now what?”

“We can wait ’em out and investigate later but this fire might destroy any evidence we could use.”

“You know the feds will be all over this,” he reminded her. “Wait, you are a fed.”

“Yes, and I need to let Sherwood know that we’re on the scene. He won’t like that we came out here on our own, but that’s a perfect excuse for investigating this fire, too.”

“But, Josie, whoever set this fire might still be around. Maybe they set it to lure us out here.”

Her chin lifted. “Or as a distraction.”

“So they could go into the main house and get whatever it is they don’t want anyone to find,” Connor finished.

“Exactly. Let’s get moving.”

He had to follow her. He didn’t have any other choice.

He wanted to solve this mystery and get out from under this hit so he could enjoy being with Josie in a more relaxed, normal situation.

But could he actually spend his life with an FBI agent?

“I guess this is a good practice run,” he mumbled as he hurried to catch up with her. “If we survive this, we can survive anything.”


They jogged along the fence line and stayed in the shadows near the oak shrubs and tall grasses.

“Tell me again why we need to do this?” Connor asked, his hand on Josie’s elbow as they rushed toward the scene. He was halfway teasing but he wanted to talk this through one more time.

“We have to do a thorough search of the house and outbuildings, especially that burning garage. Except now we have to make sure no one is hurt or in danger from that fire.”

Connor thought of all the rules her supervisor, Sherwood, had allowed them to break. He found that odd. “Does it bother you that your boss has given you so much freedom?”

Her frown was shadowed in moonlight. “Why should it? He expects me to investigate Armond, and I’m doing that while I also try to keep you alive. He’s got Armond. Now he just needs more evidence to hold him. He’s got the alleged shooting of the mistress, but with no concrete witnesses and no weapon to prove it, that can only hold up for so long.” She shrugged. “The money can be explained away and those invoices have to be validated. In the meantime, I’d like to stay alive and get back to my other cases.”

Connor clapped his hands. “You actually make sense.”

“Look,” she said, waving her right hand toward the fire. “The garage is on fire but help is coming. It’s empty, right? We confiscated all the vehicles.”

“Right.” Connor glanced at the big stucco garage. “But some of the lowly employees did have rooms up there.”

Josie whirled to stare at him. “Are you saying someone could be trapped in that garage?”

“I’m saying people had rooms there,” Connor replied. “But they’re either in custody or out of the country by now.”

“We have to check it out.”

Josie took off running, leaving him in the dust again.

Wishing she’d quit doing that, Connor followed her, his mind whirling with how to spin this explanation in case they got in trouble.

She’s an FBI agent. That gives her jurisdiction, and the earlier interview with Big Beaux, along with what they found in the safe, gives her probable cause to enter and search the premises. And the fire is an emergency situation, so that gets first dibs.

Why was he so worried about rules and regulations now?

Because he was worried about Josie.

That also made perfect sense.

Didn’t it?

He shouted after her, “Josie, be careful.”

Connor reached her just as one end of the garage caved in. He grabbed her and pulled her around. “We can’t go in there.”

She held up a hand to shield her face from the heat. “What if someone is trapped?”

He heard the sirens growing closer. “The fire department will verify that. This place will soon be running over with the usual law-enforcement people. If we want to stay undercover, we might want to stay hidden, remember?”

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