The Obsession Page 42

She could have stopped it. He was bigger, certainly stronger, but she knew how to defend herself. She didn’t want to stop—not yet, not quite yet. She didn’t want to defend.

She gripped the sides of his waist, fingers digging in. And let herself burn.

It was he who eased back until she stared into those dangerous blue eyes. “Just like you look.”


“Potent,” he said. “You pack a punch.”

She saw the move this time, laid a hand firmly on his chest. “So do you, but I’m not up for a bout right now.”

“That’s a damn shame.”

“You know, right at the moment, I couldn’t agree more. But.”

“But.” He nodded, stepped back. “I’ll be in touch. About the dog.”

“About the dog.”

When he went out, the dog looked after him, looked at Naomi. Whined.

“You’re with me for now.” She sat on the foot of the bed—such as it was—because her legs felt shaky. “He’s completely the wrong choice. I’m absolutely sure of it.”

The dog came over, laid his paw on her knee. “And don’t think you’re going to charm me. I’m not getting tangled up with Xander, and I’m not keeping you. It’s all temporary.”

A night or two for the dog, she promised herself. And absolutely not with Xander Keaton.


The dog didn’t like the leash. The minute Naomi snapped it on, he pulled, tugged, tried to turn around and bite it. She ended up dragging him out of the house, using a Milk-Bone as a bribe.

He also didn’t like the vet’s office. The minute she got him into the waiting room, he quivered, shook, strained to get back out the door. A grizzled old man sat in one of the plastic chairs with a grizzled old mutt sprawled at his feet. The old mutt’s lips curled as if in disdain. A cat in a carrier stared out with feral green eyes.

It was hard to blame the dog for dropping down on the floor, refusing to budge. He trembled the whole time Naomi filled out the paperwork, even when the old man took the dog, who walked obediently even if he cast a look back—disdain again—as they went into the back.

While they waited, and Naomi had to be grateful they’d squeezed her in, a woman came in with a red-gold ball of fur and fluff. The fluffball stopped dead when it spotted Naomi’s stray, then went into a wild series of high-pitched yips punctuated by throaty little growls.

The dog did his best to crawl into Naomi’s lap.

“Sorry! Consuela’s very high-strung.” The woman plucked up Consuela and tried to quiet and soothe her while Naomi struggled to keep the dog’s nose out of her crotch.

When they called her name, the relief was so huge she didn’t mind being forced to half drag, half carry her charge into the exam room.

He quivered in there, too, and looked at her with such abject terror that she crouched down to hug him.

“Come on now, pull yourself together.”

He whined, licked, then laid his head on her shoulder.

“Somebody’s in love. Alice Patton.”

The vet, maybe five-two with a sturdy, compact build, had her gray-streaked brown hair pulled back in a short ponytail and black, square-framed glasses over eyes of soft, quiet brown. She came in briskly, wearing a short white lab coat over T-shirt and jeans, and crouched down.

“Naomi Carson.”

“It’s nice to meet you. And this is the handsome guy you picked up on the side of the road.”

“I made up some flyers to help find his owner. Your receptionist took a few.”

“We’ll put them out, but I haven’t seen this boy before. Let’s get him on the scale first, then we’ll see what’s what.”

He didn’t much care for the idea, but they weighed him in at seventy-one pounds.

“He could use another ten. Definitely undernourished. Clean, though.”

“He wasn’t. We bathed him. Twice.”

“Xander helped you out with him, right?” And to Naomi’s astonishment, Alice hefted seventy-one pounds of trembling dog onto the exam table.

“Yes, he came along a couple minutes after I found the dog.”

“Put Milo’s collar on him, I see.”

“Milo? Was that his dog?”

“Mmm-hmmm.” Like her eyes, her voice was soft and calm as she ran her hands over the dog. “Great dog, Milo. Cancer came on fast and hard. We did everything we could, but . . . He had fifteen good, happy years, and that’s what counts. This one here, he’s about two, and he’s been on the road awhile from the looks of his paws.”

She got out her light, slipped him a small treat before examining his ears. “I’m going to give you some drops for his ears.”


“He’s got an infection brewing in the left one. And I’ve got some meds you’ll need to give him for worms.”


“Stool sample you brought in. He’s got worms, but the meds should clear that up quick enough. I’m going to give him a test for heartworm, and I’d like to do a titer to gauge if he needs shots. Seeing as he’s a stray, I’m going to discount all this for you.”

“I appreciate it. He’s got to belong to somebody, right?”

“Hasn’t been neutered.” Alice stepped away, got a syringe. “As he’s a mixed breed, it’s not likely he has all his works because someone intends to breed him. He’s seriously underweight. Go on and stroke his head, distract him a little. He’s got intestinal worms,” Alice continued, as she drew blood. “The pads of all four paws are raw. I’m going to be able to tell in about twenty minutes or so if he’s had shots for rabies and distemper, if he has heartworm. But he’s got a little mange, and ticks and fleas have been at him.”

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