The Obsession Page 144

“You stay away from him.”

“He doesn’t interest me. It’s always been you. I knew when we were on the floor with your mother’s cold, dead body, I’d do you one day. Then I figured out who you were, and that made it so fucking sweet. Now move, or I’ll kneecap you. Maybe I will anyway. I’ve never started out that way be—”

He jerked back when the dog charged the door like a bull.

The wild barks and Chaffins’s shouts exploded in the air.

When he swung the gun toward the door, Naomi threw up her hands. “Don’t. Don’t. I’ll go with you. I’ll go.” She positioned herself in front of the door, hands up.

There was still time, still a chance, she thought desperately. Xander would come back. She could get close enough to try to fight, to get the gun away. Or far enough away to run.

“Out the front, and fast, or I swear to God—”

Tag shoved the opening wider, gathered himself, and leaped.

As the gun swung back, Naomi threw herself over the dog.

The shock of pain dissolved her legs. She heard the dog’s sharp yip as fire burned in her side, as the room spun, as she fell, the dog beneath her.

“Bitch! Stupid bitch, stupid bitch.”

She saw his face swimming over her, the mad fury in his eyes. “This is the way you want it? You want a bullet in the brain? Maybe that’s how it was always supposed to be.”

She stared at the gun, mildly puzzled. Why did it look so small? Like it was a hundred miles away.

Then it was gone. She heard shouting, thought something crashed, but it was all, again, so far away. Nothing really to do with her. Not when she was floating away.

Look at me! Damn it, Naomi, open your eyes. You fucking stay with me.”

Pain seared back, like a brand in her side. She cried out against it, her eyes wheeling open.

“That got your attention. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I have to keep pressure on it.” Xander fixed his mouth on hers. “I have to hurt you. I’m sorry.”

“Xander.” She lifted a hand that didn’t feel like her own, touched his temple. “You’re bleeding. You’re bleeding a lot.”

“Yeah. You, too. Help’s coming. You just look at me. You talk to me.”

“Were you in an accident?”

“No. You’re going to be okay. Everything’s going to be okay.”

“I can’t . . .” Memory flooded back, washing through the pain. “Tag. The dog. The dog.”

“Stay down, stay still! He’s okay. He’s going to be okay, too. Hear that? Hear the sirens? Help’s coming.”

“He was in the house. He was going to shoot the dog. I couldn’t let him shoot the dog. He . . . the gun. He has a gun.”

“Not anymore. Don’t worry about him. Broke his nose for you,” Xander murmured, laying his brow to hers.

“I was going to fight. Going to try, but the dog—he came to save me. I need to close my eyes.”

“No, you don’t. You need to look at me. You need to stay awake. Back here!” he shouted. “Hurry, for Christ’s sake. I can’t stop the bleeding.”

“High school nerd.”


“Chaffins. Anson Chaffins. Tell Mason,” she said, and slid away.

She went in and out in the ambulance, caught snippets of words, mixed voices. She felt Xander’s hand clutching hers, and once turned her head and swore she saw the dog on a gurney beside hers.

“Anson Chaffins,” she said again.

“Got it. They got it. They got him. Just take it easy.”

She surfaced again, moving fast, lights blurring overhead, voices, more voices shouting out medical terms like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

She heard, “I’m going to give you something for the pain.”

And said, “Oh, yes. Yes, please.”

Furious they’d blocked him from going with Naomi, Xander argued with the burly nurse who stood in his way. If she’d been a man, he’d have decked her.

He considered doing it anyway.

“You need to get that dog out of here, and you need that head wound examined.”

“The dog’s hurt. He’s been shot, for God’s sake.”

“I’ll give you the number for an emergency veterinary clinic. But you have to—”

“You’re going to take care of this dog.”

“That’s exactly right.” Mason, face set, strode up, his ID held out. “The bullet is evidence, and needs to be removed. The dog is a material witness, and needs to be treated immediately.”

“He’s a fucking hero.”

“That’s right. I suggest you get a doctor, get this dog prepped for surgery, or I swear, I’ll arrest you for obstructing a federal investigation.”

They wouldn’t let him in with Naomi, but loosened up enough to let him sit with the dog while they removed the bullet, treated the wound. And while they cleaned his own wound, stitched up his scalp.

“He’s going to be fine.”

The surgeon who’d volunteered for the procedure neatly closed Tag’s wound.

“It’s going to be sore, and he’ll limp for a few days. I’ve given him some antibiotics, and I’ll write up a report for your vet. She should do a follow-up.”


“He’ll sleep another hour, I’d say. He looks like a good dog.”

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