The Obsession Page 143

The car slowed. The Good Samaritan rolled down his window.

“You all right there, pal?”

“Sure am. Getting a jump, but thanks for stopping!”

“No problem. Have a good one.”

As the car pulled off, he swiped sweat from his face. Too close, and one good crack would have to do. No time for more. He slammed the hood, got back in the SUV, and drove toward the bluff.

He checked the time, smiled to himself. Right on schedule. He’d pull the camper off the road, just far enough up her drive so any cars passing wouldn’t give it a thought, but not so close that she or that damn dog would hear.

He’d thought about poisoning the dog, even researched methods. But they all took too long, were too unpredictable. He needed fast.

He’d thought about shooting the dog, which, while satisfying, would be noisy and give her a chance to run or hide.

And the knife? That meant getting too close to those teeth.

So he’d keep back, and let her go through the routine he’d watched countless times already.

She’d let the dog out the bedroom doors, then head down to the kitchen.

All he had to do was wait.

The dog woke her, predictably, at five. She reached out first, hoping Xander had come back. Then she reminded herself he’d only been gone about a half hour.

“I’m up. I’m up,” she grumbled as the dog did his predawn dance.

She let him out, then considered crawling back into bed. But the routine was too ingrained. She grabbed cotton pants and a tank, pulling the top on as she walked out of the bedroom.

She’d make waffle batter—after coffee. If Xander hadn’t gotten back by that time, she could text him, get an ETA.

Was it clingy or smothering to text about that?

She didn’t feel clingy or smothering, so she’d text, if necessary.

In the kitchen she hit the lights, put a mug under the machine, and punched the button for a shot of espresso in the coffee.

While it brewed she got out a bowl, eggs, milk, flour, sugar—and stopped gathering ingredients the minute the coffee was ready. And taking it, she walked to the accordion doors.

She wanted to smell morning.

Even as she started to open the glass, she heard movement behind her.


She whirled, saw him, threw the coffee, mug and all. The mug hit him dead center of his chest; hot coffee splashed into his face. He shouted, dropped the rag in his hand, and gave her enough time to leap toward the knives.

She grabbed one, spun back. And slowly lowered it.

“Yeah, you know what they say about bringing a knife to a gunfight.” He gestured with the .32 in his hand. “Put that down. You ruined this shirt. Let me tell you, you’re going to pay for it.”

“They’re closing in on you.”

“Yeah, you’d like to believe that, but the fact is, this is all just the way I pictured it.”

“Why?” she demanded.

“We’ll talk about it later. We’ll have plenty of time.” He grinned, pushed his fingers up the bridge of his nose.

“I’m not—”

It clicked, the gesture, the sarcastic quirk of his mouth.


“Took you this long.” Obviously pleased, he grinned. “Well, I had Lasik—ditched the glasses. And a nose job. Decent haircut, bulked up a little. It’s been a while, Carson. Or should I say Bowes.”

“How could you . . . We were friends.”

“Bullshit. You wouldn’t—didn’t—give me the time of day until I headed up the yearbook committee, cleared you onto the school paper.”

“This is because I didn’t pay enough attention to you? In high school?”

“Please, like I carried a torch. I’ve had plenty of women. Girls. Old ladies.” He bared his teeth in a smile. “All of that. I figured out who you were. I figured it out, and I made a deal with you. You lied, and you sent that fucking cop over to tell me to keep it zipped.”

How had she missed the madness in his eyes all those years ago? How could she have not seen what she saw now?

“I didn’t make any deal.”

“You fucking did, then you took my idea. You wrote the story yourself. It should’ve been my byline. It was my story.”

“It was never yours.”

“Because you’re Thomas David Bowes’s daughter?”

If he lowered the gun, just lowered it, she thought, she had a chance. She’d have to be fast, but she’d take the chance.

“It’s always been about my father.”

“Maybe, maybe he kicked it off because I knew, way back, I’d put your father in the shade. It’s more about your mother.”

“My mother.”

“I said we’ll talk later. Get moving.”

“My mother.” He didn’t want to shoot her, didn’t want to kill her fast. So she planted her feet, took a stand. “You tell me what my mother has to do with any of it.”

“Fine. I’ll give you another minute. But give me any trouble, I’ll shoot you in the knee. It won’t kill you, but it’ll hurt like hell.”

“My mother,” she said again, and checked the time on the oven clock behind him. And thought: Xander. Where was Xander?

“Your mother? Other than birds, some stray cats I killed, she was the first dead body I’d ever seen. Man, it was a revelation! She was cold, and her eyes. Man, her eyes. I got such a boner.” He laughed at the look of disgust on her face. “It’s just wiring, Carson. I was born for this, just like your old man. I’ve studied up on it, researched it. I bet your kid brother and I could have a hell of a conversation about it.”

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