The Obsession Page 109

“Because I brought her with me.”

Loo turned, caught sight of Naomi, and hissed out a tired breath. Before she could say anything else, Tag decided it was time for introductions and trotted over to her.

“Is this that half-dead dog you found?”

“Yeah.” Xander came from in back of the bar.

“Looks pretty healthy now. You’ve got some blue eyes, don’t you?” She gave him a rub. “Okay, nice of you to drop by, but I’ve got work to finish. I oughta close down for a week, get out the whips and chains, slap some ass, and get the crew to clean top to bottom. If you’re not on them every second, they’ll give these floors a swipe and consider it done.”

By the time she’d finished, her words tumbled together, rushed and breathless, with her arms pumping pistons on the mop.

Xander just stood for a moment, then dragged his hand through his hair. He walked to her, wrestled the mop away from her. Then just wrapped his arms around her.

“I need to finish! Damn it, I need to finish.”

“Come on, Loo.”

She struggled and shoved against him another moment, then gripped the back of his shirt in her fists. “Xander. I’m so scared. Donna. Where is she? What’s happening to her? How can this be happening?”

When she began to weep, he just held on.


Not sure of her role, Naomi decided to make herself useful. Quietly, she went behind the bar, studied the hot beverage machine. She checked its supplies, opted for coffee because Loo didn’t strike her as the tea sort.

She found mugs, kept herself busy as Loo composed herself.

“I don’t know what to do,” Loo said. “I need something to do.”

“Right now, we’re going to sit down.”

As Xander steered Loo to a booth, Naomi called out, “I’m making coffee.”

Swiping at tears, Loo spun around. “That machine’s complicated,” she began.

“She practically grew up in a restaurant, Loo. Sit down.”

“She breaks it, you bought it,” Loo muttered. “And I’d rather have a whiskey.”

“Irish coffee, then,” Naomi said easily. “Xander?”

“Just a Coke.”

As she sat, Loo snatched napkins from the holder, blew her nose. “They don’t know dick. Sam came around here last night on the off chance she’d decided to stay home, was with me. Nobody knows squat about it, nobody’s seen her, heard from her.”

“I know, Loo.”

The dog worked his way under the table, laid his head in Loo’s lap.

He did have a way.

“She’d been talking about this trip for weeks—until you wanted to stuff a sock in her mouth. She tried to get me to go, nagged me brainless. I’ve got nothing against a couple days at a spa, but her sister’s a pain in the ass. If I’d said I’d go with her, if I’d been with her . . .”

“That’s bullshit, Loo.”

“It’s not.” Her eyes filled to brimming again. “It’s not! I’d’ve gone over there, picked her up.”

“And maybe you’d be the one no one’s seen or heard from.”

“That’s the bullshit.” After she swiped at the tears, she balled up the napkins. “I can handle myself. Donna . . . She’s just soft. She’s soft.”

Naomi came to the table with a glass mug of Irish coffee, expertly topped with whipped cream, and a glass of Coke.

“I’ll take the dog for a walk, give the two of you some privacy.”

“The dog’s fine right here.” Loo stroked Tag’s ears as she studied Naomi. “And so are you. Sorry about the in-your-pants remark. It was rude.”

“Well, he’s been in them a few times, so not entirely.”

Loo let out a bark of laughter, then went watery at the edges. “You’re fine here, too. Get a drink, sit down.”

“All right. I’m going to say something first. The only blame is on the person who took her. We can always say if I’d done this, or hadn’t done that, but it doesn’t change what is. The only person who could change what is, is the one who took her.”

While Loo stared into her coffee, Naomi went to get herself a Coke.

“She’s my closest friend,” Loo said quietly. “Since high school. We didn’t have a thing in common, but we just got to be friends anyway. I stood up for her when she married that asshole, just like she stood up for me when I married Johnny. And when he died, I don’t know how I’d have gotten through it without her.”

She sighed, sniffled. “And she told me not to marry Dikes. But when I did, she stood up for me again.”

She sampled the coffee, arched eyebrows at Naomi. “This is damn good Irish coffee.”

“I learned from the master.” She slid into the booth beside Xander. “I don’t know if it helps, but my brother’s here, and meeting with Chief Winston right now. He’s with the FBI.”

“Sam called the FBI?”

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know who called who—it got lost in translation—but we’ve got an FBI agent helping look for her.”

“He’s had her—whoever the bastard is—since Friday night. Word’s gotten out on what was done to Marla. Donna . . .”

Reaching over, Xander closed a hand over hers. “Don’t do that, Loo. We’ll go crazy if we do that.”

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