The Obsession Page 26

She thought of Mark’s hand sliding down to her butt, of Chaffins’s blind ambition. “I don’t trust anybody but you, Seth, and Mason.”

“We can put you and Mason in private school.”

“It’ll just happen again. We can move again, and it’ll happen again. Mama’s gone, and it was hardest on her. We couldn’t protect her from him or herself.”

“Nobody’s going to hurt my baby girl.”

“I thought he was a friend. But nobody stays your friend when they find out who you are.”

“If they don’t, they weren’t worth your friendship.”

“But how do you know, ever, who is?” She remembered the card the policewoman who looked like she could play one on TV had given her, and took it out of her bag. “Detective Rossini.”

“What about her?”

“I think, maybe, she’s a friend. He smokes pot—Chaffins—sells it a little, too.”

Harry sighed. “Naomi, I understand peer pressure and the need for experimentation, and this isn’t the time to—”

“I don’t do drugs. Neither does Mason.” She frowned at the card as she spoke. “He wants Harvard and the FBI—Mason won’t take any chances with that. Chaffins wants Columbia, and the New York Times. It wouldn’t look good for him to get arrested for possession, maybe suspended from school.”

Harry’s eyebrows lifted. “Blackmail?”

“That’s what he’s doing. I’d be ratting him out to the cops—and I’m not proud of it. But I think Detective Rossini would go have that talk with him, and it might work, long enough for me to write the story.”

“What? What story?”

“I’m not as good a writer as Chaffins, but I can do this.” It came to her, like a lightning flash on a hot summer night. “If I write the story—as Naomi Bowes—and sell it, maybe even to the Times, he’s got nothing. I just need some time, and Detective Rossini could get me that. I write the story, like Chaffins said—from my point of view. And then he can’t. No one would care after that what some jerk writes about me. Mason? He won’t care.”

“Honey, are you sure?”

“No one’s going to do this to me, to us. I’m sure.”

“Talk to the detective. If you decide this is really what you want to do, well, we’re going to be behind you.”

She went back to school, forced herself to continue with the yearbook committee, the school paper. She ignored the furious stares from Chaffins—and completed the crap assignments he handed her. Because whatever Rossini had said to him kept him quiet, and she could comfort herself that in four months, he’d graduate and be out of her life.

After the Oscars, where the screenwriter for Daughter of Evil took home the gold, and the now-fifteen-year-old actress who’d played Naomi Bowes walked the red carpet in Alexander McQueen, after the movie-tie-in release of the book hung for sixteen weeks on the bestseller list, the New York Times ran a three-part article on consecutive Sundays.

She wasn’t at all surprised to receive an angry email from Anson Chaffins.

First you sic that cop on me, now this! You’re a lying bitch, and I’ll tell everybody who you are, where you are, what you are. I gave you the idea. You stole my article.

She wrote back only once.

My life, my story, and I never agreed to your deal. Tell anyone you want.

But he didn’t tell anyone. On her own she sent Detective Rossini flowers as a thank-you. She changed her email address, her phone number, and buckled down to focus on her schoolwork, her photography, and her family.

She told herself she’d put the past in the past now, where it needed to stay. And she’d really begun her life as Naomi Carson.


Ends and beginnings—there are no such things.

There are only middles.



Sunrise Cove, Washington State, 2016

It hadn’t been impulse. Naomi assured herself of that as she roamed the rambling old house on the bluff. A little rash, maybe. A gamble, absolutely. She’d taken plenty of gambles, so what was one more?

But holy shit, she’d bought a house. A house older than she was—about four times older. A house on the opposite side of the country from her family. A house, she admitted, that needed work. And furniture.

And a serious cleaning.

An investment, she told herself, wincing at the grimy kitchen with its dated appliances—surely older than she was—and cracked linoleum floor.

So she’d clean it up, fix it up, paint it up. Then she could put it back on the market, or rent it out. She didn’t have to live there. That was a choice—something else she’d made plenty of before.

It would be a project. Something to keep her busy when she wasn’t working. A home base, she considered, and tried the faucet of the chipped porcelain sink.

It coughed, banged, and then spewed out fits of water.

A home base with bad plumbing.

So, she’d make a list. Maybe it would’ve been smarter to have made a list before buying the house, but she’d make one. Plumber went straight to number one.

Gingerly, she opened the cabinet under the sink. It smelled a little dank, looked dingy, and the ancient bottle of Drano didn’t inspire confidence.

Definitely find a plumber.

And a whole bunch of cleaning supplies.

She blew out a breath, pulled her phone out of a pocket of her cargo pants, opened an app.

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