Josie sucked in a breath and leaned her head against the bathroom wall. “This job is not easy, but I’d never seen anything like that. It was horrible, and for a while I think I lost my grip on reality.” She lifted her head to stare over at him. “Whether you’ve gone legit or not, I can’t have your death on my head. Not after what I’ve just been through. I can’t have you lying or withholding information, either. I need to know every thread, every thought, every move, so I can make the right call.”
The look of compassion in his eyes held her. “Josie, I know how this works. I’m always careful. I want to do the right thing, too.”
“We all want to do the right thing,” she replied. “But sometimes, even that is not enough. I just need you to be honest with me. That’s what I need right now.”
“I’m not schooled in being honest,” he admitted, his head down. “You’re...you’re new territory.” He started toward her, then stopped. “Maybe I’m waiting for the right time, a time when I know I can trust you.”
“We befriend and betray in this job,” she said. “Neither of us can pin our hopes on the future, Connor. We can only rely on each other right now, in the moment.”
Connor didn’t speak. He came over to her and pulled her into his arms. “I’m not a teenager, Josie. I’ve been at this for most of my life. You can rely on me, no matter what.”
She stepped back to touch a hand to his face. “But aren’t you tired? Aren’t you weary of always having to be on the run, of always looking back to make sure you won’t wind up dead in a ditch or left in pieces in the swamp?”
Connor tugged her close again. “I’m completely weary. I want to be the kind of man my sister can respect and admire. I want you to understand me and know I’ll always have your back. I want to be a faithful, good man.”
“You don’t have to prove anything to me,” she said, her heart bursting with a feeling she couldn’t put a name to. “You only need to prove it to yourself. You have to want it badly enough to make it happen, and that means you have to be open with me.”
“I’m trying to come clean,” he said, frustration deepening his words. “I need to see this through to the end, this thing with Armond.”
“And I need you to give me some space,” she replied. “Just for today, just for a little while. I’ll get in touch with you as soon as I know something.”
* * *
Connor didn’t believe her. She was angry and disillusioned, and in her mind, he’d failed her. And maybe she was right. He had failed to be completely honest with her, but he had no way of proving his suspicions regarding Armond and the possibility of a secret son. He just went with his gut on these things.
But this time, his gut instincts weren’t helping very much.
Except when it came to Josie. He couldn’t let her finish this without him. He had a vested interest in ending Armond’s long-standing criminal reign but he had another, more important reason, too.
He had to protect Josie, at all costs.
So while he waited for her to get dressed, he sat with another cup of coffee and went back over his notes. Had he seen anything unusual while working with Armond? Anything that could give them a hint on what the man had wanted to tell him that night? Had Armond been ready to turn or had he been trying to warn Connor?
He thought about his time embedded at the Armond mansion. He’d made his way into that shady world by pretending to be a crooked art dealer. He’d conned Armond by fencing several rare pieces—coins, paintings and relics that belonged in museums or with the descendants of the original owners.
He’d helped Armond find the Benoits and was as surprised as everyone else when Armond’s papers proved that he did indeed own the three priceless paintings. Primitives of the early Acadians in Louisiana, mixed in with a dreamy kind of real arcadia.
Pictures. He’d taken pictures, mostly of documents and mostly with a tiny camera that he hid away whenever he had to pass through scanners or stand through being frisked. Most of the pictures hadn’t yielded anything concrete. But he had turned in a few to the FBI so they could slowly build a case against Armond.