The Obsession Page 41

“This one’s not stupid.” Xander took the second half of the biscuit, offered it. This offering was taken politely.

“He’s a good dog. It shows.”


“You get him to Alice tomorrow. I’ll split the vet bill with you. I’ll get the word out.”

“All right.”

“I’ve got a leash and a dog bed—it’s a little worn, but he won’t care. A couple of rawhide bones. I’ll bring it in.”

Naomi looked at the dog, at Xander, at the enormous bag of dog food. “Want a beer? I’d say you’ve earned it.”

“Hang on.” He pulled out his phone, punched in a number. “Hey. Yeah, yeah, I texted I would be. Now I’m going to be later.”

“Oh, if you’ve got a date, don’t—”

Xander shifted his gaze—a deeper, bolder blue than the no-name dog’s. “Kevin and Jenny. Sunday dinner. Naomi found this dog, I’m just helping her get it cleaned up. Don’t know. At least a couple years old, golden brown now that six inches of filth are washed off. Mixed breed.”

“I took pictures. I’ll send them a picture, in case they recognize him.”

“Your boss here’s going to send you a picture of the mutt. No, go ahead. Yeah, later.” He put the phone away, hefted the bag of dog food over his shoulder. “I could use that beer.”

They started toward the house, the dog between them. “He’s still limping.”

“He’s been on the road awhile, I’d say. The pads of his paws are scraped up and sore.”

After unlocking the door, holding it open, she watched the dog limp inside, begin to explore.

“You don’t think we’re going to find his owners.”

“I’d lay money against it. You want this back in the kitchen?”

“Yeah.” She’d keep him overnight, even for a few days while they tried to locate his owners or found someone who wanted a dog. She got out a beer, a bottle of wine, handed Xander the beer, poured wine into a plastic cup.

“Thanks.” As he drank, Xander wandered around the kitchen. “Looks good. Real good. I didn’t see how he’d turn this one around, but he always does.”

“I love it. Nowhere to sit yet—I have to find stools. And a table and chairs, and according to my uncles, a divan or love seat for that space over there, fronted by a burl-wood table for tension.”

“Who are these mysterious uncles who take you to see Springsteen, buy you dogs, and advise you to buy divans—and why do they call it a divan instead of a couch?”

“I think it’s size or shape, or maybe geography—on the divan/couch part. My mother’s younger brother and his husband. They more or less raised me and my brother.”

“You were raised by your gay uncles?”

“Yes, is that a problem?”

“No. It’s interesting. It’s New York, right?” He leaned back against the counter, as apparently at home as the dog who now stretched out on the floor and slept the sleep of the clean, content, and completely trusting.

“Yes, it’s New York.”

“Never been there. What do they do? The uncles.”

“They own a restaurant. Harry’s a chef. Seth is the man of numbers and business. So it works. My brother’s with the FBI.”

“No shit?”

“He’s got degrees in psychiatry, psychology, and criminology. He wants the Behavioral Analysis Unit.”


“Yes. He’s brilliant.”

“You four sound tight. But you’re three thousand miles away.”

“I didn’t expect to be. But . . .” She shrugged. “Do you have family here?”

“My parents moved to Sedona a few years ago. I’ve got a sister in Seattle, and a brother in L.A. Not so tight, but we get along all right when we have to.”

“You grew up here—with Kevin.”

“Womb to tomb.”

“And own a garage, body shop place, own half interest in a bar—Jenny mentioned it—and run a band.”

“I don’t run the band. But half interest in the bar means we get to play there.” He set down the bottle. “I’ll get the dog bed. Down here or upstairs?”

She looked at the dog again, sighed. “I guess up in the bedroom. I hope to Christ he’s housebroken.”

“Most likely.”

He hauled the brown corduroy dog bed up the stairs, set it in front of the fireplace, tossed a yellow tennis ball in it.

“Color works,” he said.

“I really think so.”

“So . . . I wouldn’t feed him any more tonight. Maybe one of the Milk-Bones, and maybe give him the rawhide to chew on.”

“It better be all he chews on.” She glanced over as the dog had followed them out, then back in, then up the stairs, and now had the yellow tennis ball in his mouth.

“I’d better get going or Jenny won’t feed me. Uncle’s a chef?”

“A terrific chef.”

“You cook?”

“I was taught by a master.”

“It’s a good skill.”

He stepped up. She should’ve seen it coming. She was always, always aware of moods and moves. But he stepped up, pulled her in before she’d read the warning sign.

He didn’t go slow; he didn’t ease in. It was one bright, hot explosion followed by shuddering dark. His mouth covered, conquered, while his hands ran straight up her body as if they had every right, then down again.

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