Page 45 of Forced Alliance

“Care to elaborate?” Josie retorted. “Is that why you were in the garage? To find something valuable? Or did you set the fire to hide some incriminating activities?”

“No.” Vanessa glanced back to the embers of the garage. “But I...I need to go back out to the garage. I had something stored out there. Very important papers.”

Josie leaned close. “Such as?”

“Such as none of your business,” Vanessa replied. “I want my lawyer.”

“Give us a minute,” Connor said. He got up and motioned Josie over to the kitchen sink. “I might be able to convince her to share,” he said. “I know a few things about her, too.”

“And you’ll use that against her?”

“If I need to.”

“What do you know?” She wondered if he’d been playing her, telling her he’d never found enough to help put Armond away.

“We both know something we can use as leverage. Remember what Beaux told us?”

“Right.” Josie stared over at Vanessa Armond. “It’s worth a try.” Then she whirled back to Connor. “Speaking of Beaux, have you seen him since we left him out on the road?”

“No.” Connor glanced outside, his phone already to his ear. “He’s not answering. I’ll go check on things and try to find him.”

“Don’t be gone too long,” Josie replied. “Meanwhile, I’ll get back to the lady of the house.”

Connor headed out, leaving Josie with Mrs. Armond.

“How’s Lou?” Josie asked to test the waters.

Vanessa’s head shot up. “What do you mean?”

Josie tapped her fingers on the table. “I mean how is your son doing?”

“You stay away from my boy.”

The look in Vanessa’s dark eyes should have scared Josie, but instead it gave her an adrenaline rush. For the first time since this whole weird episode had started, she’d found a weak spot in the Armond armor. This mother would do anything to protect her only child, even if it meant breaking the law. Josie’s father had tried to protect his family from his crimes, but in the end, his house of cards had caught up with him. And their family had crumbled.

The same thing was happening to the Armonds. She should feel sorry for this woman, but she couldn’t find it in her heart to forgive just yet.

“I’m not going to harm your son, Mrs. Armond. But you both might be in danger. Someone is out to kill your entire family. Your husband is in and out of consciousness and being guarded by the police and the FBI, and you’re scared about something that might have burned up in your garage. What about your son, Lou? Are you sure he’s safe?”

Vanessa jumped up and started pulling at her blanket. “I have to talk to Louis. You need to take me to see my husband, right now.”

“I’ll do that,” Josie said, getting up, too. “I think that’s a very good idea.”

She buzzed Connor. When he didn’t answer, she texted him. We need to take her to see her husband.

“Let’s go,” Vanessa said. “Now.”

“I have to wait for Connor and Big Beaux,” Josie said. “They should be here in a few minutes.”

But after ten minutes and still no sign of Connor, Josie got worried. “Are you able to walk?” she asked Vanessa.

“I’m fine.”

“Then we’re going to find Connor.”

She took Vanessa by the arm. “And please, don’t try anything, Mrs. Armond. I do have my weapon.”

“And so do I,” said the man standing at the open back door.

Josie held Mrs. Armond behind her but not for long. The woman gasped and rushed around her. “Lou.”

“It’s me, Mom,” the dark-haired man said. “And I found these two snooping around outside.”

He pushed Connor and Big Beaux inside and shut the door.

“Now, together, I think we can get to the bottom of things,” he said, waving his semiautomatic in the air. “Because nobody’s leaving here until we do.”


Vanessa Armond hugged her son, her Italian greeting swift and hard to interpret.

Connor focused on Josie, hoping to convey that now wouldn’t be a good time to become a hero. She had her hand on her waistband, obviously going for her gun. But Lou Armond was a mean, ruthless son of a criminal who had the dark playboy looks that belied his cold personality. Right now, Lou’s black eyes held a cruel intent. He’d waylaid Beaux and held him in the dark until someone convenient came along.

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