The Obsession Page 43


“Dead now, from the flea bath you gave him. I’m the only vet in town, and he hasn’t been in here before. Wouldn’t be the first time somebody dumped a dog they decided they didn’t want.”

“Oh.” Naomi looked down to where, despite the needles, the tests, the dog stared into her eyes with absolute trust.

“I’ll call the vets I know in the area, and we’ll put up your flyer, contact the shelters. It’s possible he got lost, and someone’s been looking for him.”

Naomi clung to the possibility.

It took more than an hour altogether, an unfortunate round of shots, though the dog handled them without more than a look of puzzlement. She left with a bag of pills, drops, pamphlets, written instructions, and a dog-sized hole in her credit card.

Reeling, she hunted up Xander’s garage.

It was bigger than she’d imagined. Cars and trucks scattered around a lot, some of them—such as the hatchback with the crunched front fender—obviously waiting for repairs.

One building about the size of a Quonset hut looked like it held offices. Another spread in a long backward L with the front bay doors open wide. The dog still didn’t like the leash, but she was onto him now, and shortened up her grip on it.

She intended to try the offices, but the dog pulled and bulled his way toward the open doors and the noise.

She heard the whoosh-thump of an air compressor, a steady banging, and Walk the Moon advising everyone to shut up and dance.

She’d spent a lot of time on the road, so she’d been in her share of garages. The sounds, the smells (grease, oil), the sights (tools, machines, car guts) seemed fairly usual. But they apparently fascinated the dog, who strained on the leash until he got inside.

Then his tail wagged like a flag in the breeze.

He’d obviously scented Xander over the motor oil, gas, lubes, and grease guns, and let out a happy, greeting bark.

Xander stood under a sedan on a lift doing whatever mechanics do to underbellies, Naomi decided. He wore scarred motorcycle boots and faded jeans with a hole in the knee and a dirty red rag hanging out of the back pocket. She couldn’t figure out how he made the look sexy.

“Hey, big guy.” He stuck the tool he’d used in his other back pocket, then crouched to greet the delighted dog. “You look better than you did yesterday.” He glanced up at Naomi. “You always look good.”

“We just came from the vet.”

“How’d he do?”

“He tried to crawl inside me in the waiting room because he was terrified of a Pomeranian. But she did have attitude. He has an ear infection and worms, and I have a bag full of pills and drops and instructions. He had to have a half million tests, followed by shots as the whatever-the-hell-it-is was low and he probably hasn’t had the shots before. He doesn’t have heartworm, so yay. And he needs to gain weight. I have dog vitamins, for God’s sake.


She dug in her purse, took out the vet bill, held it out.

Xander said, “Ouch.”

“And this is the discounted, Good Samaritan rate.”

“Well, it’s his first, and he needed it. I’m good for half.”

“It’s not the money, though okay yeah, ouch; it’s the very strong sense I get that in her opinion nobody’s looking for him. What am I supposed to do with him?”

“Looks like you’re doing it.”

A man in gray coveralls and a gray cap with the garage’s logo wandered out and plugged coins into the soda machine along the wall. “That Chevy’s looking good as new, boss. Better.”

“Will it be ready by four?”

“She’ll be ready.”

“I’ll tell Syl.”

The dog tugged on the leash, and as Naomi had loosened her grip, he slipped free to wag his way to the new guy.

“Hey, boy. Your dog’s got a sweet face, ma’am.”

“He’s not mine. He’s not mine,” she said almost desperately to Xander, who only shrugged.

“Want another dog, Pete?”

“You know I would, but Carol would skin me. Nice dog,” he added, then walked off while the dog wandered around sniffing at everything.

“How’d he sleep?”

“What? The dog? Fine. I woke up at five because he was standing by the bed staring at me—and scared the crap out of me.”

“So he’s housebroken.”

“I guess. So far anyway, but—”

“You live a ways from town,” Xander continued. “A dog’s good security.”

“I’m having an alarm system installed.”

“A dog’s good company,” he shot back.

“I like solitude.”

“You’re a hard sell, Naomi.”

The dog walked back, tail wagging, with a rag hanging out of his mouth and happy eyes as he brought it to Naomi.

“He loves you.”

“Because he brought me a filthy rag he found on the floor.”

“Yeah. You’ll get used to it. Meantime, I’ll get you half that bill, and I’ll keep asking around if anyone’s missing him or interested in taking him.”

She dug into her purse again and came out with the flyer she’d printed. “Put this up.”

Xander studied it. “Nice shot of him.”

“I have to go get some work done. I haven’t done anything but dog all morning.”

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