Page 54 of Forced Alliance

“Armond fits that mold,” Connor said, his hand on the gearshift. “One minute, I’d think I had him, and the next he’d be in such a foul mood no one, including me, wanted to be around him. He always seemed secretive, but at times he sounded downright depressed.”

“A life of lies and crime can do that to a man.”

“I should know that.” He glanced over at her. “One day, I want to be able to walk down a street without having to look behind me.”

Josie’s heart did another little shift. That made her mad. She didn’t want to like this man and she sure didn’t want to be attracted to him. But when he kissed her...her whole world became blurred and confused. She’d stepped over a mighty big line, and now she couldn’t go back.

Did she want to go back?

She glanced over at Connor. He was dirty, windblown and gritty right now, but he still did things to her.

“What?” he asked, giving her that slanted look that always took hold of her heart.

Josie shook her head. “I don’t know. Still trying to figure you out.”

“You need to give up on that.”

“Why? Afraid I’ll get too close?”

“You are too close.”

So he felt the same way. Or had he purposely tried to confuse her?

“We have to stay on track,” she said. “We’re running out of Armonds.”

“I won’t stop until they’re all either turned or in jail.”

“But you said you didn’t have much on them. Have you been holding out on the FBI?”

“No. I’ve shared things with the FBI to build a file and a case, but it was never enough to bring him in. For two long years I’ve worked hard to gain Armond’s trust. I expected the man to kill me several times over. The puzzle is this—why hasn’t he? And why did he turn to me the other night?”

“He thought he had you cornered,” Josie said. “By the way, why did you agree to meet him at the opera? We went along with it, but now that I look back that seems crazy, considering we wanted to bring him in without any fanfare.”

He winked at her. “It was La Bohème.”

“I get that you’re into Italian operas, but you had another reason for being there. Or maybe he did.”

He finally nodded. “I wanted to spy on Armond before I met with him. I thought if I got something else on him, I could use it against him as leverage when we had our little talk.”

“A gift to the FBI or payback with Armond?”

“I’m not above blackmailing a criminal to get out of a jam.”

“Why at the opera?”

“He conducts a lot of business in his balcony box.”

“So you dressed up and planned to what...stand in the corner and listen in, or maybe sit down beside him and ask him to tell you something you could use against him?”

“It wasn’t like that. I wanted to see who would be meeting him there.”

“Oh, and how did you know he’d be meeting someone else there?”

He hesitated, then glanced over at her. “You won’t like this, but I haven’t told you everything.”

Josie’s heart pulled back up to solid ground. Of course he hadn’t told her everything. Hadn’t she felt this coming? “You just told me you had. Talk, Connor, and this time, don’t leave anything out.”

Connor’s expression filled with regret and resolve. “Sometimes, he’d dismiss all his guards and go alone to his box seats. And I mean alone. I never was invited to attend with him, but I’ve gone to the opera house several times to see if I could figure out who he was meeting.” He maneuvered the car around a sharp curve. “I thought maybe it was Lewanna. His guards weren’t around when she got shot.”

“But you obviously didn’t see anyone else.”

“No. I was getting close—I’d dismissed several people as bit players. I’m beginning to wonder if maybe his son wasn’t showing up. His other son, that is. Whoever it was always slipped away before anyone knew.”

“Did you know there might be another son?”

Connor shifted gears and turned onto another stretch of highway. “I suspected. I was trying to find out who that might be back when the Benoit issue came to a close. But I’m beginning to think no one will ever know for sure.”


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