The Obsession Page 129

“Who was she?” Xander asked.

“She worked at the restaurant where you had your early dinner. She got off at seven that Friday, had a yoga class in a studio in town. Her car was still in the lot the next morning, her husband frantic. They found her body Sunday morning on the beach where Naomi’s club spent that Friday afternoon.”

“It’s not a coincidence. Did he use her car?” Naomi asked. “The way he did with Liza?”

“No. We believe he had his own vehicle. Incapacitated her or forced her into it.”

“Middle of February,” Xander speculated. “Cold, windy, storm coming in. He sure as hell didn’t kill her outside. Maybe he rented a motel room, or had a van.”

“A lot of motel rooms in that area. The locals checked every one, came up empty.”

“He’d had time to think about it,” Xander pointed out. “To prepare. You put down a tarp, do what you’re going to do. TV or radio on, she’s gagged, who’s going to hear?”

“I wish I’d gotten up, gone to the bar, gotten a look at him. At least I could give you a description.”

“This Holly did. Maybe she remembers.”

Naomi just shook her head at Xander. “She was half lit, a decade ago. In any case, I don’t remember her last name, have no idea where she is.”

“Your brother’s FBI. I bet he can find her.”

“Yeah, we can find her. We will find her. She’s the only one we know of who knows what he looks like. Or looked like, so it’s worth a shot. Do you want a break from this?”

“No, keep going. You said a runaway in New York. In July—between these two murders.”

He took her through that, plucking at her memories, then called it when Xander got up to grill the steaks.

“Just give me the next you have,” Naomi insisted. “So I can think about the time and place, what I was doing.”

“April of my sophomore year—your senior year. Spring break. You, me, the uncles, we road-tripped it down to South Carolina, stayed a week in that beach house Seth found.”

“I remember. It rained four of the six and a half days we were there.” Remembering made her smile. “We played a hell of a lot of Scrabble and rented movies. But . . . that’s nine months, isn’t it? Nine months between. Doesn’t it usually escalate?”

“It does, and I think he practiced between July and April. Disposed of the body or bodies.”

“It’s going to be like . . . Bowes. Even when you find him, you might never know how many he killed.”

“Let’s worry about that when we get to that.”


“How do you want your steak?” Xander interrupted.

“Oh. Ah. Medium rare for me, medium for Mason.” She sloughed it off, rose. “I’ll go dress the salad.”

They’d take that break, she decided, dig into that pocket of normal. Then she’d go back to that rainy week at the beach, and whatever came after it.

She wouldn’t stop.


When she turned to him in the night, Xander came half awake.

“Just a dream.” He slid an arm around her, hoped she’d settle again. “You’re okay.”

“He was chasing me. Through the forest, along the beach, everywhere I went. Right behind me, but I couldn’t see him. Then I fell into a pit. But it was the cellar. And when he put the rope around my neck, it was my father.”

He lay quiet a moment. “I’m no shrink, but that’s pretty straightforward, right?”

“I dream of that cellar more than anything else. I can even smell it in the dreams. I never get out of it, in the dreams. He always comes back before I can get away, get away from him.”

“He’s not going to get out.”

“But he has an apprentice, a competitor, whatever this is. I can’t be afraid, Xander. I can’t live afraid. Before all of this, before that night, I used to dream of finding a puppy and being able to keep it, or riding the brand-new shiny bike I wanted so bad. I’ll never go back to that, that simple, that innocent, but I won’t live afraid. I did get out of the cellar. I got out. I got Ashley out. I won’t live afraid of what didn’t happen, or what’s going to happen.”

“Good. Smart. Can you go back to sleep now?”

“No.” She rolled on top of him. “And neither can you.”

Fisting her hands in his hair, she took his mouth aggressively, took her fill of it.

“I have purpose.”

“Yeah,” he managed as she ravished his mouth again. “I got that.”

“Not that.” Her laugh came low and husky. “Or not just that. Oh God, I love your hands on me, so hard and strong it feels like you could break me in half.”

Those hard, strong hands gripped her hips. “You don’t break easily.”

No, she didn’t. She’d nearly forgotten that. She didn’t break easily. She scraped her teeth along his jawline, down his throat, reveling in the taste and texture, gathering pleasure and excitement from the rapid beat of his pulse against her lips.

His heart, a quick, thick thud against the press of her breast. He’d given that heart to her. She didn’t know, not yet, couldn’t be sure, not now, what to do with it, for it. But she wouldn’t be afraid of being loved.

She wouldn’t fear the gift.

Strong, she thought. He was strong, body and mind and will. She would never be weak, never forget her own strength. His strength would remind her, even challenge her.

Prev Next