Page 46 of Forced Alliance

Connor had been that someone. Ambushed and now trapped, because Junior had made it clear he’d shoot Josie if Connor tried any tricks. Connor wouldn’t put it past Lou to set that fire. He had appeared right after they’d arrived, but he’d held Beaux so the authorities didn’t find them.

Lou hugged his mother but kept the gun on Connor and Beaux. Then he pointed the gun straight at Connor but his gaze hit on Josie. “Take out your weapon and place it on the floor, or someone might get hurt.”

Connor lifted his head toward Josie. “Leave her alone.”

She gave him a sharp glance, then trained her eyes on Lou Armond. “You look nothing like your father,” she said on a daring note. But she slowly took out her weapon and held the barrel down.

Connor watched as she mirrored Lou’s every move. Was she trying to win the man over or get herself killed?

“On the floor,” Lou said. “Shove it over here.”

She kicked the gun with her booted foot, then glanced back at Connor.

Connor wanted to throw a dish towel at her. She was walking a thin, dangerous line here, trying to mess with a man who had no scruples. What was she up to?

“I take after my mother’s side of the family, Agent Gilbert,” Lou replied with a touché attitude. He shoved her gun back behind him, near the open French doors out to the patio.

Josie’s smile was sugary sweet, but her stance was all business. “Yes, I can see the resemblance.”

Vanessa made a throaty sound, but kept watching her son with adoring eyes.

Lou pushed his doting mother out of the way and stalked toward Josie. “What are you and this loser doing on my property?”

“It’s your father’s property,” Josie replied, nose to nose. “We wanted to do a little more investigating, but someone beat us to that. Did you set the garage on fire? I thought I saw someone standing on the second-floor landing in the garage. Was that you?”

Lou shook his head and waved his gun. Motioning for Connor and Beaux to go stand beside Josie, he paced between the heavy wooden breakfast table and the long kitchen counter, his dark gaze hot with anger. “Somebody is messing with my family, and I need to understand who and why. I don’t like the FBI sniffing around and I especially don’t like this mole nosing around our property.”

Connor inclined his head. “I’ve been called worse, but I wasn’t nosing around. Your father mentioned the garage when he woke up from surgery. I owed it to him to come investigate, since he seemed worried about something.”

Lou snorted with disdain. “You don’t have to investigate anything, since you’re just a shadow for the FBI. I should have taken you out a long time ago, Randall.”

“Did you get a chance to chat with the fire chief and the police officers also milling around out there?” Josie asked, her tone so calm Connor couldn’t help but be impressed. “They’re preserving the crime scene and bagging evidence—even the tiniest bits of evidence. Your mother has already been checked over. She was inside that burning building.”

“They were too busy to notice us,” Lou said on a shrug, but he did glance over his shoulder. “I convinced Beaux to wait in the woods with me. We had such an interesting chat about the weather, politics and, oh, yes, that the FBI had confiscated my father’s files and all of the Armond official vehicles.”

“He threatened to kill me,” Beaux said, his dark eyes bleary and red-rimmed. “Ain’t nothing I could do but tell him the truth.”

Vanessa grated her words through a clenched jaw. “You’re all trespassing. I’m beginning to think one of you started that fire to keep us—”

“Enough, Mother!” Lou pushed his mother into a chair. “The garage isn’t a total loss, thanks to the rain and someone calling the ever-alert local volunteers. They’ve tromped all over the place out there, but we’ll deal with that later.”

“Lou, please,” Vanessa said, her hands trembling in the air. “We need to get out of here. Someone tried to kill me tonight. We have to hurry, darling.”

Josie turned to Vanessa. “You never mentioned to us that someone tried to kill you. That’s a whole new spin. Did you see someone else in the garage?”

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