The Obsession Page 46

“Don’t those just come in jars without pits?”

“These are Kalamata olives, friend, and they’re worth the extra step. Anything I put in here you don’t like, you eat around.”

“I’m not fussy.”

“Good thing.”

Now she took a hunk of cheese and worked it to a blur over a grater. He’d have asked why she didn’t buy it already grated but figured he knew the answer.

She tossed little tomatoes in the pan, added some sort of herbs, and stirred—even while muttering how she wished the local produce ran to fresh basil.

“I need to get good cookware before Harry sends me that, too.”

“What’s wrong with what you’ve got? Looks like it’s working fine to me.”

“Hardware store special. He’d be appalled. I’m a little appalled myself, actually. And I definitely need good knives. Something to add to the list.”

He liked watching her—quick, sure movement. Liked listening to her—a voice that held just the right amount of smoke.

“What else is on the list?”

“Painting the guest rooms I have earmarked for my brother and for my uncles. The one for my grandparents. After that, I think I’ll retire my roller and pan. I don’t like painting.”

“Have the painters paint.”

“I need to buy decent cookware and knives—I can paint two more rooms in this ridiculously big house. And now I have to find furniture worthy of that bed, and so on.”

She drained the pasta—the little tube sort—then added it to the skillet, along with the olives, the cheese. Tossed it all around.

“Plates are in that cupboard there, such as they are, as are paper napkins and a box of plastic forks.”

“Got it.”

She tossed the stuff in the skillet a couple more times, then served it up on the paper plates and added wedges of Italian bread that she’d slathered with butter, sprinkled with herbs, and toasted.

“That looks amazing.”

“It would look better on the plates I ordered, but it’s good enough.” She handed him a plate, took one for herself, and then led the way out. Then she handed him her plate. “Hold this while I feed the dog.”

The dog looked at the kibble she dumped in his bowl, then back at Xander with the two aromatic plates of pasta. His tail drooped, and Xander swore the dog sighed in disappointment.

She sat, eyeing the dog, who eyed her. “This is mine, that’s yours. That’s how it goes.”



Xander sat down and sampled what she’d thrown together magically and a little maniacally in about twenty minutes.

“This is really good. Seriously good.”

“It’s not bad. It’d be better with fresh herbs. I guess I’ll have to plant some.”

It didn’t feel as odd as she’d expected, to sit there, eating pasta with him while the dog—who’d polished off his own bowl—watched them mournfully. Maybe it was the view—that soft hand of dusk gliding pale and purple over water and the green—maybe it was the wine. Either way, she needed to set the line.

“Do you want to know why I’m not going to sleep with you?”

“Yet,” he added. “Is there a list?”

“We can call it that. You live here, and right now, so do I.”

“Right now? You’ve got pots and pans for the right now, but have better ones on your list. It seems to me you’re looking at the down-the-road.”

“Maybe. I’ve never lived in any one place for more than a few months since I left New York. I don’t know if this will stick. Maybe,” she said again, “because it feels right—right now. But in any case, you live here and you’re friends with Kevin and Jenny—long-term, serious friends. We start something—and I’m also not looking to start something—and it gets messed up, your friend and my contractor’s in the middle of it.”

“That’s weak,” Xander said, and went back to the pasta.

“Not from where I’m sitting, in the heart of a construction zone. Plus you’re the only local garage and mechanic, and I might need a mechanic.”

Thoughtfully, he crunched into the bread. “Probably get the work done faster if we’re having sex.”

She laughed, shook her head. “Not if we stop having it, and you’re pissed at me. There’s work, of which I have to do a lot to pay for this house, and everything that goes into it. I don’t have time for sex.”

“There’s always time for sex. Next time, I’ll bring pizza and we can have sex in the time you spent making dinner.”

And thoughtfully, Naomi ate pasta. “That doesn’t speak well of your . . . stamina.”

“Just trying to work on your schedule.”

“Considerate, but unnecessary as dinner tonight is a one-off. I don’t know you.”

“That’s the only thing you’ve said so far that makes sense. But we can go back up your list and I can remind you I’m friends—serious, long-term—with Kev and Jenny. They’d warn you if I was a psychopath.”

She kept her eye on the view. “People don’t always know people close to them the way they think they do.”

There was a story, Xander thought. He could hear it murmuring under her words. Instead of pressing on that, he tried something else.

He leaned over and took her face in his hand. Her mouth with his. Strong and hot and edging onto the fierce.

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