Under by Duress(46)

By: Kayla Stonor

“You look a different person,” he commented, obviously pleased.

She smiled and looked him up and down. His suit was Italian and barely able to contain the bulge at his crotch. His shoes were the ones that had mysteriously vanished from her lodge when she had finally got home, leaving no trace that Rossini had ever been there.

Even stranger, a new radio had been waiting on the porch.

She climbed into the limo and settled into the lush, leather seat, shifting until she found a bearable position. A privacy screen separated them from the driver. Rossini sat beside her and the car pulled away.

“When did you find time to order me a new radio?”

He looked taken aback, and then he grinned. “When I used your radio to call for backup—the FBI is remarkably efficient. By the way, Stephen was picked up by the Treasury Department earlier today. He was lurking outside your office.”

“Really? The Treasury?” She thought about that, distracted from his reference to the FBI. She knew Stephen had very dodgy financial arrangements. “That is perfect.”

“I’m predicting he’ll get his beating in jail.”

“How did they know where to find him?”

“I guessed he’d be keeping an eye on you. Got an APB put out on his car.”

Her mouth dropped open. “You have a lot of pull with law enforcement.”

“I said there was a lot to explain.” The car stopped and Tahima realized they were inside a parking garage. The door opened and Agent Westley climbed in.

She smiled warmly at Tahima. “Miss Sheldon.”

Tahima suddenly twigged. She turned to Rossini. “You’re the informant?”

“You’re sharp, Miss Sheldon,” Agent Westley confirmed. The FBI agent sat on the edge of the seat, obviously not intending to stay for long. “Mr. Rossini has asked me to help explain his position. You must understand that what you learn today will be covered by the injunction I showed you before.”

Tahima remembered. “Okay . . .”

“Well, the easiest point to start is the day Mr. Rossini walked into the FBI building, aged sixteen, with an interesting proposition. He’d seen his best friend destroyed by drugs and saw where his life was headed. He wanted nothing to do with his family’s dealings and wanted to build legitimate businesses from a trust fund he’d inherited from his grandmother’s side of the family. He asked for our help. Well, Gian was too young to become an informant back then, but we built a relationship. After all, this sixteen-year old boy was heir to a criminal empire.”

Tahima stared at Rossini. He looked embarrassed and shrugged.

Westley continued her story. “For the last two months, Mr. Rossini has been secretly helping us surgically destroy the Rossini empire and several other mob families at the same time. We’ve taken drugs worth billions of dollar out of the market and cut the supply lines. It’s a huge operation, and because Rossini was in hiding—thanks to his uncle framing him for his father’s murder—the blame for our actions has been pinned on his uncle. The only parts of the Rossini empire that will survive will be legitimate operations set up by Gian Rossini. Everything else will be confiscated.”

The agent checked her watch. “I have to go.”

Rossini touched her hand. “Thank you, Gabriela.”

“You’re very welcome.” She looked at Tahima. “I really hope things work out for you both.” Giving Rossini a friendly smile, she opened the door and slid out.

When the door shut, the car started moving.

Tahima realized she had no idea where they were going, but didn’t care. She arched an eyebrow at the man she had dragged through the outback for nearly two whole days. “Sooo . . . not a crime boss?”

He grimaced. “Sorry. I know that’s going to make you feel bad, what with torturing me and all, but I want you to know I kinda got off on it.”

“Why didn’t you say you’d contacted the FBI?”

“I didn’t know you, and if word got out it would have done immense damage—I have to be very careful. My life depends on it. Then you panicked and,” he smiled sheepishly, “well, you turned the tables very effectively. The more I tried to put you off, the more determined you got. In the end, you didn’t give me much choice. I thought the safest thing to do was allow you to turn me in and let the FBI clean up the mess.”