The Obsession Page 118

“I said I would.”

“I love you, Naomi.”

She sighed, hugely. “I love you, too, Mason.”

“So even though I know you’re smart, you’re careful, and you can kick ass, I’m going to worry about you.”

“I worry about you, Special Agent Carson. Especially since I know you can’t always take what civilians consider reasonable precautions.”

“You could spend a couple weeks in Seattle,” Xander suggested. “Hang with your brother there, do some shopping or whatever, do some work. It’d give them a chance to do the floors in this place.”

“First, Kevin and I have a schedule and the floors are dead last. Second and all the other numbers after that, I’m not leaving here to run off to Seattle so my baby brother can look out for me.”

“You’ve got two years on me,” Mason objected. “That doesn’t make me baby brother. She won’t do it,” he added to Xander. “I walked through the conversation about it with her in my head, and always hit the same wall. But this might make you feel better about it. Did you tell him about the mugger, Naomi?”

“I haven’t thought about that in years.” She picked up the wine, dumped some into the skillet, then trapped the steam with a lid and lowered the heat.

“What mugger?”

“In New York. Naomi was home on summer break from college, working at the restaurant. Decided to walk home one night.”

“It was a nice night,” she added.

“The mugger thought so, too. Anyway, this guy comes up on her—with a knife—wants her money and her watch, her earrings, her phone.”

“I would have given it all to him, just like the uncles had impressed on both of us a million times.”

“Maybe you would have.” Mason shrugged. “But the asshole figured he had a defenseless woman, a scared one. And a pretty one. So he copped a feel.”

“And he smirked,” Naomi stated, and, remembering it all now, sneered.

“She bruised his balls, broke his nose, and dislocated his shoulder, called nine-one-one. He was still on the ground moaning when the cops got there.”

“He shouldn’t have grabbed my breast. He shouldn’t have touched me.”

“You broke his nose.” Purely fascinated by her, Xander studied those slim, almost elegant hands. “You like breaking noses.”

“The nose is a quick and reliable target—offense and defense. I like yours.” She gathered up the carrots, the cauliflower, the broccoli she’d prepped herself, in a big strainer, and took them to the sink to wash. “So don’t piss me off.”

“Just let me know if you’re not in the mood for me to cop a feel.”

She laughed, then brought the carrots back to slice for steaming. “You’ll be the first. Excellent florets and carrot peeling. You’re both dismissed from duty if you want to take the dog out or whatever. You’ve got about thirty.”

“Did you come over on your bike?” Mason asked Xander.


“I wouldn’t mind taking a look at it.”

“Sure.” Xander led the way out the back and around. “Just so you know, the landscape crew starts tomorrow. Early.”

“Define early.”

“By seven. Maybe a little before.”

“As early as or earlier than the bang-and-clang crew inside. Oh well. I wanted to say I feel comfortable working out of Seattle, coming over a couple times a week, because you’re going to keep an eye on her. And I didn’t want to say that where she could hear me.”

“I got that. I feel more comfortable knowing she can dislocate some asshole’s shoulder. And still.”

“Still. I don’t know a goddamn thing about motorcycles.” Head angled, Mason studied it. “Except it looks impressive.”


“Both women were taken in town, so I have to consider that, for now, as his hunting ground. But Naomi’s his type, and she shops and banks and has business in town. She’s the sort he looks for.”

“I got that, too. I’m going to be here every night. We play this Friday at Loo’s. I’ll make sure she comes, and make sure Kevin and Jenny stick with her until we close.”

“If I can be here, I will be. She’ll be careful, but I believe this guy works fast, takes his target quickly.”

As he spoke, Mason studied the house as if looking for security breaches.

“No defensive wounds on either victim. They didn’t have a chance to fight back. Anybody can be taken by surprise, even if they’re careful, even if they’ve studied martial arts and self-defense, so she’s going to have to deal with not having as much time alone as she likes for a while.”

“She’s doing all right with people around.”

“Better than she imagined she would, I’ll bet. She doesn’t know you’re in love with her.”

Saying nothing, Xander held Mason’s steady gaze.

“I’m going there because she’s the most important person in my world. We lived through a nightmare you never come all the way out of, because he’s sitting in a cell in West Virginia. Our mother wasn’t strong enough to keep living on the edge of that nightmare. Naomi found her—came home to pick something up on lunch break from school, and found her, already cold.”

“I know—at least some of it. I looked up what I could after I figured out about Bowes. And I found the piece she wrote back then, for the New York Times. I didn’t want to hit a sore spot by accident, so I read what I could find. I’m sorry about your mother, man.”

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