Forced Alliance(5)

By: Lenora Worth



Finally.

Or he could be dead before morning.

“But you’ve got lawyers, people,” Connor had reminded the man after Armond had jumped into his car and they’d hurried out of New Orleans. “I just happened to come along at the wrong time. I saw you standing there and I reacted.”

“You were in the right place,” Armond replied, a hint of fear coloring his nervous appreciation. “We have to keep this tight. No one can know I was associated with that poor girl. I can’t call the lawyers or anyone else. Too dangerous.” Then he’d turned in the seat, waving the weapon he still held. “You owe me, remember?”

So now Connor was being held as a “guest” in the Armond fortress. He’d wanted to get closer to the criminal, but not this way. Armond could turn trigger-happy and shoot him on the spot.

To keep building up to the rapport they’d once had, Connor asked the Mafia boss why he’d thought it a good idea to bring his girlfriend to the opera while his wife was out of town.

“She wasn’t supposed to be there,” Armond retorted. “I told her never to acknowledge me in public. But she showed up, scared and shouting at me to do something.”

Armond thought he’d been set up by someone who wanted him dead. Someone who’d killed the girl just to show him they were serious. “I’ll be next. That’s how this works.” He’d included Connor in his fears. “They know you were my close associate, so now they might know I’m in cahoots with the feds.”

The scared bully had centered on Connor the way a newborn lamb might center on the human who’d fed him a bottle. Attachments such as this could only lead to more trouble. Connor was in so deep now, he wondered how he’d ever get out of this. But he could use this latest development to his advantage, at least.

Armond came out the door, sweating and ruddy-faced, surrounded by armed guards. “This woman—are you sure she can take care of this?”

Armond didn’t know Josie. Up until a couple of weeks ago, Connor’s handler had been a by-the-book veteran of the FBI. But John Burgess had abruptly decided to retire, and just like that, Josie Gilbert had walked into Connor’s already-complicated life. That could work in their favor now, however. Armond technically didn’t have any choice. He had to trust Josie, and he didn’t have a clue that she was FBI.

“Yes,” Connor replied, trying to piece things together, since he knew Josie would question him with a heavy-handed attitude. The newest FBI special agent to hit town did not approve of Connor’s methods. But they were stuck with each other until he could prove his merit and finally go free.

Right now, he had to get his facts straight regarding this bizarre turn of events.

The parking attendant had watched in surprise as Connor got back in his car and took off. He might have seen the whole thing, and by now the police and the FBI were probably swarming around the crime scene. The attendant could have given them Connor’s license-plate number and a description of his car, too, but Sherwood obviously would already know Connor had been on the scene. Since the FBI kept tabs on his whereabouts, he understood they’d see him as a suspect. He had to have the story straight. And he was hoping Special Agent Josie Gilbert would agree with him on that.

“She’s good, Louis. She has experience in these matters.”

Or at least he hoped she did. If Josie would think beyond her distaste at having to work with Connor, she’d realize they had Armond. The man would do anything to stay out of the limelight and keep this nasty business from his irritable wife, or he could decide he no longer wanted to talk.

“Is she ever gonna get here?”

A car pulled around the curve and waited at the gate. Since Armond had already told security to let her in the minute she arrived, the gate swung open.

Connor’s heartbeat slid into fast gear, the way it always did when he was on a big case. Or maybe tonight it was the added thrill of working with Josie Gilbert. Could he help it if he had a secret crush on her? He’d have to put all of that aside while they tidied up things. Now he had a niggling doubt regarding the newest addition to the New Orleans bureau. There was the Dallas incident that no one wanted to discuss.

“Go back inside, Mr. Armond,” he suggested. “I’ll update her and bring her to you.”

Still dazed, Louis Armond nodded and hurried past two bodyguards into the big drawing room to the left of the central hallway. Connor nodded to one of the guards and shut the doors. He needed to prep Josie Gilbert.

Now the fun part. Had she trusted Connor enough to come alone? He prayed she’d been wise enough to know they had Armond cornered and scared. He also prayed they could use this little dustup to their advantage. If so, he might be able to finally shed Louis Armond’s iron-tight grip and the halo of death that came with being in a forced alliance with a beautiful, determined female FBI agent.

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