Page 59 of Forced Alliance

He pulled the purring car up onto a ramp, then rolled down the window to hit a button. The ramp lifted them up four floors with an elevator-like precision and stopped in front of another elevator.

Killing the engine, he turned to Josie. “They wanted to take Deidre away, since she was underage. I had just turned eighteen, but she was only fourteen. I took her with me and I made sure she was with people I could trust before I left her. I came to America because I had ties here in New Orleans, through my mother. I camped out in this building and did what I had to do to survive. I’m not proud of some of the things I did, but as long as Deidre...and God...have forgiven me, I can live with that.”

“Maybe you should forgive yourself,” Josie said, her tone quiet and accepting now.

Connor didn’t want to talk about forgiveness. “I’ve been working on that one for years.”

He opened the car door to get out, then noticed the gold coin dangling on a chain around the rearview mirror. In all the fuss, he’d forgotten about it. Grabbing it, Connor decided he would indulge in studying the necklace later.

“I’ve always had a thing for old coins,” he explained when Josie gave him a questioning look.

“You stole the car. Might as well take the coin, too.”

“I didn’t steal the car. I borrowed it. Armond will understand.”

“Really? The man who wants you dead but can’t make up his mind to whack you? That man will understand?”

“He has a heart underneath all that...illegal stuff,” Connor admitted. “At least, I think so.”


She obviously still didn’t believe anything he or Armond had to say.

Connor put the long chain around his neck and tucked it inside his shirt. He came around the car and was about to open her door, but Josie beat him to that and got out to glance around. “This place is a dump.”

“That’s right. My dump.”

He guided her toward the old industrial elevator. “Your next ride is waiting, m’lady.”

* * *

Josie wondered what to expect, but then Connor had taken her to some strange places over the past few days. She couldn’t blame him for someone deciding to tear apart the home she’d set up just a few weeks ago. She traveled light and that stuff could be replaced.

Connor’s holding back on her tore at her and worried her. Sherwood thought they’d been taken down a merry road to nowhere and maybe they had. But she’d brought him Armond and family. And she was bone tired with this whole case. She wouldn’t rest until she’d cracked the whole thing.

She needed to talk to Louis Armond. She didn’t trust anyone else to tell her what he could.

And she wouldn’t let Sherwood or Connor hold her back on that decision. She’d have to find the right time, then she’d have to find the right hospital. But she would find Armond.


She glanced over at Connor as they rode up the rickety old elevator. “No.”

Wishing for some of Mama Joe’s biscuits, she held on and took a deep breath. “So I love what you’ve done with the place.”

Connor laughed and touched a hand to her frazzled, smoke-scented hair. “You need a bath, Special Agent Gilbert.”

“You sure know how to make a girl feel lovely, Randall.”

“Part of my speciality.”

His eyes promised more, but Josie decided going back to an all-business stance had to be the best plan. “So we need to consider that we might not ever find anything on Armond’s silent partner. The house has been wiped clean, either by several different law-enforcement agencies or...someone else. The garage is toast and we really didn’t get to do a very thorough search.”

“I’m thinking after seeing your place your supervisor will send a forensic team back out there to make sure we didn’t miss anything. At least now he believes we’re both still in danger. Which is why we have to stay away from Armond Gardens.”

“You really don’t like Sherwood, do you?”

He gave her a blank stare. “No, I don’t.”

She needed to remember that he probably didn’t trust anyone in the FBI, especially her. That worked both ways. But they were in this together now, and Sherwood would expect her to do her job.

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