Page 57 of Forced Alliance

When Josie turned to the left, she stopped and glanced back at him. “I guess you were right, after all.”

He didn’t want to be right. “I’m sorry,” he said. He started past her.

“Wait!” She hurried around him, her gun up while she checked the bathroom, bedroom and kitchen.

The whole place was ruined. Shattered dishes, broken lamps and knickknacks, clothes tossed, pillows gutted and spewing foam and feathers.

Josie stood at the end of the hall and stared. Thinking she was in shock, Connor tried to reach out to her. “Josie?”

She turned on him, her eyes a burning golden-green. “I’m fine. You don’t have to handle me with kid gloves. I won’t break, Connor. I never break.”

“I know,” he said, his heart doing enough breaking for both of them. “But you’re coming home with me.”

“No.” She went into action. “Don’t touch anything. I have to call this in, and we have to preserve the scene. I’m sure they didn’t leave any prints, but we can dust the door and...anything they might have touched.” She looked around. “Which seems to be everything.”

Connor watched as she walked over to a broken picture of a smiling little girl with two adults. Her parents? She stared down at the image, then moved her fingers over the shattered glass. With a gasp, she put it down and stared at her hand.

Blood poured from her wound.

“Here, let me help you,” Connor said, taking her hand in his.

“No. I told you I’m fine. Now get out of the way and let me do my job.”

He ignored that and went to the kitchen, found a paper towel and wet it. Then he came back and took her hand again. “You’re bleeding. You’ll be the one to contaminate the scene.”

She stared across at him, her eyes still blazing, her hair wild and tumbled around her face. “I don’t need you,” she said, her anger boiling over. “Do you understand me, Connor? I don’t need you.”

“I know.” He kept touching the cool paper towel to her cut. “I know.”

She yanked away and dialed 911, then called Sherwood.

Then she started taking pictures of each room, her phone clicking as she went. After each picture, she jotted notes on her notebook app, her thoroughness as solid as her dislike of him.

But Connor wasn’t finished with her. Not by a long shot.

Because he’d seen something else there in her fiery gaze.


She’d been hurt, and now she was trying very hard to hide that hurt behind an FBI shield.

He wanted to be the man to take that hurt away. But before he could do that, he needed to prove to her that he could be worthy of the task.


“My apartment is off the beaten path and I have good security. The FBI knows where I live, but they tend to stay away from here. The only reason I haven’t been back here is because we’ve been forced to stay on the move since I first called you. Time for a break from the bad guys.”

Connor had tried every tactic to get Josie to talk, but she wasn’t in the mood for conversation. She kept jotting notes on her phone notepad. And ignoring him.

He’d had to do some tall talking back at her place to get Sherwood to let her come with him.

The SAC had a whole team moving through Josie’s ransacked apartment. “She’s my agent, Randall. And all this running around on your own ends right now. You’re chasing shadows and that’s all you know. Agent Gilbert knows how to do her job with or without you.”

Connor had never liked Sherwood, but he ignored that dig and concentrated on persuading the man. “Look, sir, with all due respect, we did manage to hand over three members of the Armond family to you. If you give us another chance, I think we can figure this out.”

“We’re running out of chances,” Sherwood retorted. “I’ve let you get away with a lot, Randall. It’s time to finish this.”

“You have Armond,” Connor replied. “Maybe if Josie and I talk to him—”

“He’s not talking,” Sherwood retorted, his face lined with a gray weariness. “He’s still not out of the woods. He got through surgery but he’s an old man. He can’t have a lot of visitors. Besides, I’ve questioned him, and he’s not giving us anything that we don’t already know.”

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