The Obsession Page 44

“You could ask me to dinner.”

“Why would I?”

“Then you’d have done something else, and I’ll give him his evening meds. You said you can cook.”

She gave him a long, cool look. “You’re not after a meal.”

“Man’s gotta eat.”

“I don’t have dishes, or chairs, or a table. I’m not going to sleep with you, and I am not keeping this dog.” Annoyed with him, with herself, she snatched the leash and began to pull the dog out of the bay.

“You like to gamble, Naomi?”

She looked over her shoulder, still dragging the dog. “No.”

“Too bad, because I’d bet you every bit you just said’s going to change.”

The hell it would, she told herself.

She didn’t realize until she got home that the dog still had the disgusting rag. When she tried to get it from him, he decided she wanted to play tug. In the end, she gave up and sat on the top step of her front porch, the dog with the disgusting rag beside her. And the noise of saws and hammers behind.

“What have I done? Why didn’t I just pitch a tent in the woods? Why do I have a big house full of all these people? Why do I have a dog I have to medicate?”

Adoringly, he dropped the wet, greasy rag in her lap.

“Perfect. Just perfect.”

He went with her when she climbed down the steep, jumbled path to the shoreline. She’d been certain the dog would stay, hang out with the crew, but he’d insisted on going out when she did. Next time, she’d sneak out.

Still, she found he didn’t get in the way as she found her shots. Even the one of the dark purple starfish shining in a tidal pool. In fact, after a brief exploration, the dog seemed content to doze in the sun as long as she stayed in sight.

Just as he seemed content to curl up nearby when she sat at her desk working, or worked in her mat room.

If she went downstairs, the dog followed. If she went up, he climbed right up after.

When the house was quiet again, she wondered if dogs could have abandonment issues.

He didn’t like the ear drops, and that was a battle—but she won. She knew from Kong the best way to get meds into a dog, and disguised the pills in rolled slices of cheese.

When she sat out on the deck eating her dinner of a grilled cheese sandwich, he ate his—and didn’t bolt it down as if starved this time.

And when she got into bed with her laptop to spend the last hour of her day looking for faucets and showerheads, the dog curled into his bed as if he’d done so all his life.

At five in the morning she woke with a start, the dog’s eyes gleaming at her, his doggy breath in her face.

Xander sent his half of the vet bill with Kevin, along with the message that he’d split the follow-up, too.

Two days later, he showed up himself with another bag of dog food, another rawhide bone, and the biggest box of Milk-Bones she’d ever seen.

She wondered if he’d timed it to arrive minutes after the crew left, or if it was just coincidence. But it made the dog happy, and he spent some time roughhousing with him.

“He’s getting some energy back.” Xander winged a tennis ball so the dog could chase it like it was gold.

“Nobody’s responded to the flyers. Nothing from any of the vets or shelters.”

“You’re going to have to face it, Slim. You’ve got yourself a dog. What’s his name?”

“I’m not naming him.” If she named him, she was finished.

“What do you call him?”

“The dog.”

Xander winged the ball again when the dog retrieved it, and shook his head. “Have a heart.”

“Having a heart’s what got me into this. If I keep him any longer, I have to have him neutered.”

Xander gave the dog a pitying look. “Yeah. Sorry about that, pal. You should try out some names.”

“I’m not going to—” She broke off. Why argue? “Alice said your dog was Milo. Where’d you get the name?”

“Milo Minderbinder.”

“Catch-22? Everybody gets a share?”

“Yeah. I’d just read it, and the pup, he just looked like he’d have all the angles. Name’s gotta fit. Are you going to ask me in?”

“I am not. Nothing’s changed.”

“It’s early days yet,” he said, then turned as she did at the sound of an approaching vehicle. “Expecting anybody?”


The dog barked, raced up to stand beside Naomi.

“You’ve got a guard dog there.”

“I can guard myself just fine.” And her hand went into her pocket, closed over the folding knife.

The big truck lumbered up the hill—the big truck with New York plates.

The driver—young, sharp-eyed—leaned out the window. “Naomi Carson?”


“Sorry we’re so late in the day. We got a little turned around.”

“I didn’t order anything from New York. Did you drive cross-country?”

“Yes, ma’am. Me and Chuck did it in fifty-five hours, twenty-six minutes.” He hopped out of the truck and gave the dog a pat while his companion hopped out the other side.

“Why?” Naomi asked.


“I don’t understand what you’re doing here.”

“Delivering your bed.”

“I didn’t order a bed.”

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