Page 9 of Forced Alliance

Somewhere off in the bug-infested woods, an owl hooted. Then she heard the flutter of powerful wings.

Another shiver of apprehension went down Josie’s spine, but she shook it off. “Got it. I’m good.” She stared over at him, took a breath. “I’ll do whatever it takes to bring this man down. If we help him tonight, we’ll have leverage, and hopefully, that will convince him to give us the goods on his operation.”

“Exactly,” Connor said as he ushered her to the big front doors. “He hasn’t executed me yet because I’m the only witness and my testimony can save him. And he’s kind of blackmailing me into helping to save his hide. See, we do think alike.”

“For now,” she replied, thinking a jury wouldn’t trust either the Mafia don or the good-looking man in the tux. She sure didn’t, now that he’d told her he was doing this to save himself. What a noble concept. “But, Randall...don’t take me for granted, ever.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

* * *

Once they were inside, the elegant warmth of the old mansion shimmered in hues of tasteful art, glittering crystal and aged bone china. The place looked untouched, like something out of another century. But the creepy factor echoed in the garish glowing yellow lights and the scent of too much aftershave.

“Swag,” she whispered to Connor. “By the way, let’s start with first names only unless I have to tell him I’m also FBI.”

It still smarted that her new supervisor had kept her so out of the loop on a lot of things regarding Louis Armond that she’d been forced to tug information out of Connor instead. She was surprised Sherwood had let her take point on a one-woman stakeout tonight. But Sherwood had warned her he’d also have a team of other agents out and about, too.

Fat lot of good that had done Armond.

Before he could respond, two big men came up the hall. “We need to check for wires or weapons,” one of them growled.

“I have one gun,” Josie offered, lifting her jacket to show her weapon. “And if you expect me to help with this little problem, I’m keeping it.”

Connor gave a slight nod to the men. After patting her down and checking the gun, they seemed satisfied. But they also followed on her heels.

He turned her to the left and motioned her inside the big, antique-filled drawing room, then closed the aged pocket doors. “Mr. Armond, this is my friend...Josie.”

“Does your friend Josie have a last name?” Armond asked, clearly in control of himself now that help had arrived.

“Just Josie for now,” she replied before Connor could come up with a name. “You only need to remember that.”

“I see, Just Josie.”

Armond sat in a brocade high-backed antique chair, a cup of coffee steaming on the table beside him. His salt-and-pepper hair was crisp with some sort of pomade but his olive-colored skin was pale against his white tuxedo shirt. Did everyone around here wear tuxedos?

Armond gave her a thorough once-over. “So, Connor has briefed you on the situation can take care of this?”

Ah, there was that bit of fear and doubt she’d expected. “Yes, he did, and I can, sir. The good news is that no one has come forward stating they saw you with the girl. So far Connor is your only witness and he can vouch for you. The bad news is that, yes, she’s dead and, yes, the NOPD is all over this.”

“So my name hasn’t come up?”

“Not so far. The only news right now is that there’s been a shooting near the Quarter.” She pulled out her cell. “I’m checking any trending right now.”

“Trending?” Armond looked confused.

Connor stepped forward. “Why don’t we sit down?”

Josie sat beside him on an exquisite butter-yellow brocade sofa. “Trending—it means news of your mishap might be all over the internet or evening news by now. We’ll check for any witnesses, any mentions of your name, any videos streaming about a woman being murdered.”

Armond’s face twisted. “Lewanna. That’s the woman.” Then he changed his tune. “Isn’t that dangerous, checking on your phone?”

She shook her head. “It’s a burner.”

Tags: Lenora Worth Suspense