The Obsession Page 119

“It put another hole in Naomi. Me? Sure, I lived with it and through it, but I’m not the one who saw firsthand what our father had done. I’m not the one who helped pull a victim out of a hole in the ground and half carry her through the woods. I’m not the one who came home from school and found our mother dead by her own hand. Naomi has no degree of separation. And she might deny it—would,” he corrected, “but there’s a part of her that doesn’t see herself worthy of being loved.”

“She’d be wrong about that.”

“Yeah, she’d be wrong. We had counseling, we had the uncles, but no one else has those images of what our parents did, to themselves, to others, to us, in their head the way she does. So there’s a part of her that doesn’t think she’s capable of loving outside of me and the uncles, or worthy of being loved.”

“Well.” Xander jerked a shoulder. “She’ll have to get used to it.”

The simplicity, the carelessness of the remark, made Mason smile. “You’re good for her. That irritated me a little when I first came into it, saw that. I’m pretty much over that now.”

“Did you run my background?”

“Oh yeah, right off.”

“I’d have thought less of you if you hadn’t. I’m never going to hurt her. That’s bullshit,” Xander said immediately. “Why do people say that? Of course I’ll end up hurting her. Everybody does or says something stupid or petty or acts like an asshole sometime and ends up hurting somebody else. What I mean is—”

“I know what you mean, and I believe you. So, are we good?”

“Yeah, we’re good.”

Mason held out a hand; they shook.

Then he studied the bike again. “How about you let me drive it?”

Considering, Xander rocked back on his heels. “Have you ever been on a bike before—at the controls?”

“No. But I’m an FBI agent, I should know how to drive a bike. Right? What if, in the pursuit of a criminal, I had to hop on a motorcycle, and due to lack of knowledge and experience, said criminal escaped justice? None of us would feel good about that.”

Amused, Xander unclipped the helmet. “Okay.”

“Really? Are you serious?” And beaming like a boy on Christmas morning, Mason took the helmet.

“Sure. You wreck it, you pay for repairs. You end up needing the ER, dinner’s going to get cold. I can go with that.”

“I don’t have a motorcycle license.”

“You’re FBI.”

“Damn fucking straight.” Delighted, Mason swung a leg over, settled. “Now what the hell do I do?”

Before long, drawn by the revving engine and Mason’s war whoops, Naomi came out the front door.

“Is that— Is Mason on your bike?”

“Yeah.” Xander sat on the steps with the dog.

“When did he learn to drive a motorcycle?”

“Pretty much now.”

“Oh, dear God. Get him off before he hurts himself.”

“He’s fine, Mom.”

She huffed. “Well, get him off because dinner’s ready.”


He got up as she went back in, and decided it was best all around that Mason waited until her back was turned to pop a wheelie.

Her brother was a quick study.


Her house was full of people and noisy tools and machines. Now her front yard was full of people and noisy tools and machines.

She couldn’t defy her brother, Xander, and her own common sense and take off to the forest or down to the shoreline for quiet. For a couple of hours she made the best of it by taking pictures of what was essentially demo—just like the interior—while Lelo uprooted old woody shrubs and ugly tree stumps she’d simply stopped seeing with a massive chain attached to a massive tractor.

The sounds of a wood chipper, of chain saws, of trucks, joined the sounds of nail guns and saws.

Tag loved every minute.

Eventually she escaped inside, popped in her earbuds, and drowned out most of it with music.

The tap on her shoulder had her nearly jumping out of her chair.

“Sorry,” Mason apologized.

“God! I didn’t know you were back.”

“You couldn’t hear a plane land on your deck with this noise—and with Lady Gaga blasting in your ears.”

“Lady Gaga, and others, help me tolerate the rest.” But she took out the earbuds and paused her playlist. “Did they—the autopsy?”

“Yeah. There’s not much more I can tell you. She hadn’t had any food, any water, since about eight, nine o’clock Friday night. That’s consistent with Marla. The same type of blade was used on both. No prints, no DNA, no hairs but her own, that’s also consistent. He’s careful. Anyway, I’m going to work outside on the deck for a while, take advantage of the sun. I’m heading to Seattle tomorrow, and surprise, they’re calling for rain.”

“I don’t know how you can work outside with this noise.”

“My great powers of concentration. These are nice.” He nodded toward the photos on her screen. “These were taken in the forest just west of here?”

“Yes. I was just checking downloads and orders. And I think I’m going to do more notecards—nature shots. They tend to sell.”

Wanting his company just a bit longer, she began to scroll. “This one, then no, no, yes. This one. Then . . . maybe this.”

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