Forced Alliance(4)

By: Lenora Worth



She only wanted to get Armond and him out alive and make sure Armond lived up to his side of this bargain. Her career needed a serious boost. If the Mafia lord was running scared, they’d never get the truth out of him.

Josie made a few turns to check any tails. She got off an exit ramp and looped back around to where she’d started, zooming as fast as she could.

There! She spotted another car behind her, doing the same loop. This time, she stayed on the interstate but zigzagged between other vehicles and took a different exit. When she felt sure she wasn’t being followed, she exited again and took the back roads that followed the Mississippi River.

No other cars were in sight, so she breathed a sigh of relief. Whoever had been behind her was gone now.

Or maybe they were just waiting.

Connor might be right after all. Maybe this went deeper than just someone trying to take down Armond. Maybe someone was also after Connor. The list could be long and far-reaching. Which meant they might be watching her, too.

* * *

Located about forty-five minutes north of New Orleans and set back off a narrow country road near the Mississippi River, the Armond estate consisted of a stunning antebellum house that was well over one hundred and fifty years old and set in the middle of an acreage that rivaled Versailles.

Stately columns surrounded the big stucco house. Massive mushrooming live oaks that had been planted over three hundred years ago lined the long drive leading to the double front doors. A high black iron fence and electronic gate surrounded the whole thing, while armed guards and nasty watchdogs patrolled the perimeters.

Connor paced out on the downstairs gallery, walking from column to column while he waited for Josie Gilbert to arrive. A guard stood near the big double doors, making sure Connor didn’t venture too far. Every now and then Connor would touch a hand to the still-warm eggshell-white patina of the old stucco. This house had good bones and an aged, distinguished history. When he’d first seen what was now called Armond Gardens, Connor thought this was exactly the kind of place he’d always dreamed of owning. But it hadn’t taken him long to realize a mansion didn’t make a home. A lot of criminal activities and nefarious comings and goings went on behind this tranquil, elegant facade. He didn’t want to live here now. But he sure didn’t want to die here, either. Not tonight.

Now he had a reason to live. He hoped to give his sister, Deidre, the kind of home she deserved even if he never lived there with her. His sister, just a few years younger than his thirty-two years, deserved a home of her own, and she deserved some peace of mind. He’d changed his ways for that purpose and he intended to see it through to prove to Deidre that he’d turned back toward the Lord.

His cell buzzed.

It was Armond, huddled up in the back of the house. “What is the holdup?”

“She’s on her way,” Connor said and then ended the call.

The man was seriously agitated, to the point of calling Connor himself rather than ordering a guard to carry a message. Someone had just murdered his young girlfriend, and he knew he might be next. Plus, he knew if his wife returned from New York and heard this, she’d leave him. Mrs. Armond had warned her philandering husband several times but Louis Armond thought he could get away with everything from murder to infidelity. Another great example of the criminal mind.

Somehow, he now expected—no, demanded—Connor to fix this. Kind of ironic, considering Connor had a target on his back that had been put there because he’d been associating with Louis Armond. Was this payback time, or had Louis understood that Connor had witnessed part of the shooting and might be willing to tell all? Including the fact that Armond could have possibly been the shooter or hired the shooter. If Armond hadn’t killed the woman, then who had? Connor wondered. And why had Armond been all alone on the street, without any of his guards?

Armond could have killed Connor several times over, tonight or any other night. They were out here away from the city in a fortress full of big-muscled bodyguards and a state-of-the-art security system. He’d be dead and buried in the river by now if Armond wanted him that way. The man knew Connor had worked with the FBI to take down Frederick Cordello for attempted art theft and murder. When Connor had shot Cordello to protect Princess Lara Kincade, Armond had witnessed the whole thing, but Connor had smoothed that one over by explaining the FBI had forced him to cooperate.

Which happened to be the truth.

That persuasive conversation, and Connor delivering on his promise to Armond, had saved Connor. For now. He’d found the famous Benoit paintings that technically and legitimately belonged to Armond. Armond already knew Connor had no love for the FBI. If he played the hand he’d been given, Connor might be able to stay alive long enough to be free from both Armond and the FBI.

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