The Obsession Page 108

“And I am. Why don’t you give me a few minutes? I’m going to work on getting those rentals checked outside the town limits, into the park. I’m going to make it twenty-five miles. Then I’ll take you to Donna’s, and the parking lot. We can walk around some. You get a better sense of a place walking it.”

“Good enough.” Mason rose. “Is that coffee still available?”

“Plenty of it in the break room.” Sam smiled. “Green tea, too.”

“I think I’ll hit you up for coffee.”

Back home, Naomi read Mason’s text.

“He says he’ll be a couple more hours. Are you sure you want me to go with you? I don’t want Loo to feel uncomfortable.”

“If it seems like she is, I’ll kick you out.”

“Tough, but fair.” She stepped back, looked at the scatter of pieces they’d carted up from the basement storage area. She hadn’t collected a great deal yet, and none of what she had belonged in this guest room.

But, for now, they made the space feel less empty.

“I can’t come up with a bed before tonight, but at least he’s got a chair—that needs to be reupholstered—a table, a lamp. And the walls look good. Bare, but clean and freshly painted.”

She turned to him, held out a hand. “Dog or no dog to Loo’s? Your call.”

“She’ll like the dog. She was nuts for Milo.”

“Good, because he has a comforting way. Just let me change and fix up a little, and we can go.”

“What for?” Since he had her hand he pulled her out of the room, headed for the steps. “We’re not going to a party.”

“I don’t have any makeup on.”

“You’re beautiful.”

He caught the wide-eyed, surprised blink, aimed her down the stairs. “What? You’ve got a mirror. You don’t need me telling you.”

“It’s nice to hear.”

“You don’t wear makeup most of the time anyway.”

“When I go out I try to make some minimal effort.”

Since the dog meant taking her car rather than his bike, he headed for that with Tag racing ahead of them in anticipation.

“I don’t even have my wallet.”

“I do. I’ll drive.” He opened the door for the dog, then got behind the wheel. “Huh, first time I remember getting in a seat after a woman and not having my knees hit my ears. You got legs, baby.” Still, he adjusted the seat back a couple of inches before he glanced over, saw her frowning at him. “What?”

“Have you ever in your life waited five minutes for a woman with shorter legs to get ready, grab her purse?”

“You hardly ever have a purse. I admire that.”

“That wasn’t the question.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve waited. Mostly I think women just like having guys wait. And the fact is, most of them could work a couple hours at it and not look like you. So why wait?”

She huffed, pulled on her seat belt. “That’s one hell of a compliment mixed in with amazing arrogance. I can’t decide whether to be seriously flattered or seriously annoyed on behalf of women everywhere.”

“Slim, you’re not like women everywhere.”

“I’m not sure what that means, but I think you consider it another compliment. In any case, give me a clear signal if I should leave you and Loo alone. Where does she live?”

“Over the bar. She has an apartment up there. Owns the building.”

“She owns the building?” Because she understood more pieces of him now, she took the leap. “The two of you own the building,” Naomi deduced.

“It’s an investment, and since she lives up there she doesn’t have a tenant—or we don’t—bitching about the noise from the bar. I don’t know what the hell to say to her.”

“You’ll know. You’ve got a way, too.”

“Yeah. Me and the dog.”

He parked, drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as he studied the building. “She’s in the bar. Lights are on down there, and we don’t open until four on Sundays.”

When he got out, she took the spare leash she stowed in the center box. But Xander came around, let the dog out before she could use it. She started to object, but Tag stood beside Xander, wagging and waiting.

“Isn’t there a leash law?”

“I think we’re safe for the next ten steps.” Digging in his pocket, Xander pulled out keys, unlocked the door.

Music blared out of the sound system, hard-driving rock with screaming guitars Naomi couldn’t identify. She’d never been in the bar in daylight or with the houselights on full. It looked bigger, she realized, especially with the chairs upended on the tables, the booths empty of patrons.

In snug cropped jeans and a black tank that showed off sculpted arms and shoulders, Loo attacked the floor with some sort of mop.

Because he was directly beside her, Naomi heard Xander mutter, “Shit,” before he strode to the bar, behind it, and turned down the music.

Loo snapped straight, hefting the mop like a bat—and lowered it again when she saw Xander.

“You’ll blow out your eardrums.”

“Rock’s meant to be loud.”

“Why are you down here doing Justin’s job?”

“Because I want it done right for a change. And why aren’t you up on the bluff trying to get into the blonde’s pants?”

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