The Obsession Page 54

“Haven’t had one that bad in a while. Working too hard, that’s all. Just working too hard, thinking too much.”

Since the dog remained braced on the bed, she shifted to wrap her arms around his neck, pressing her face into his fur until the trembling eased.

“I thought I didn’t want a dog. I’d say the way you were wandering you must’ve thought you didn’t want a human.” She eased back, rubbed his ears. “And here we are.”

She picked up the bottle of water she always kept on her nightstand and drank half of it before rising to go into the bathroom and splash cold water on her face.

Still shy of five, she noted, early for both of them, but she couldn’t risk sleep. Not now.

She picked up the flashlight—also handy on her nightstand—and went downstairs. She’d gotten into the habit of just letting him out in the morning, but this time she delighted him by going out with him. For a while they just walked, around the house, around the quiet.

Tag found one of his secreted balls and happily carried it around in his mouth. When she went back in, he watched her make coffee, let the ball drop when she filled his food bowl, picked it up.

“Let’s take it upstairs.”

He raced halfway up the back stairs, stopped, looked back to make sure she was coming, and then raced the rest of the way.

With the dog, with the coffee, she settled down, calm and content again, to wait for sunrise to bloom over her world.

When Sunday rolled around she thought of a dozen reasons not to go to Jenny’s, and the excuses that would cover it.

Why would she take one of her two days of quiet and solitude a week and spend it with people? Nice people, certainly, but people who wanted to talk and interact.

She could drive to the national forest, go hiking—alone. She could work on the yard, or finish painting the first guest room.

She could sit around and fat-ass all day.

Really, she’d agreed to go in a weak moment, in the rush of mermaid lamps and bargains. She should . . .

She’d agreed to go, Naomi reminded herself. What was a couple of hours? If she was going to live here, she needed to be moderately sociable. Hermits and recluses generated gossip and speculation.

And she’d said she’d bring dessert, and had even shopped for what she needed to make the strawberry torte. It was spring, after all—stubbornly cool, often rainy, but spring.

She decided to compromise. She’d make the torte, then see how she felt.

Tag cast suspicious looks at her new stand mixer, as he did the vacuum cleaner. But she loved it, had actually done a little dance when it had arrived two days before.

Cooking soothed her and gave her a chance to spend quality time in the kitchen with the pretty blue dishes behind the glass, her exceptional knives arranged on their magnetic strip.

Tag changed his mind about the mixer when she skimmed her finger over the batter left in the bowl and let him have a lick.

“Damn right, it’s good.” She slid the jelly roll pan into the oven, got to work on the strawberries.

She put them in one of her blue bowls first, found the right spot, the right light. Ripe red berries in a blue glass bowl—good stock photo. Considering, she added more props—new wineglasses—then put the bowl of berries and the wineglasses on the bamboo tray she’d bought and set it all out on her glider. She took another shot with the pot of pansies in frame.

She wished she had a throw pillow—hadn’t bought any yet. Maybe she would then set up this shot again with a colorful pillow in the corner of the—

No, better, a woman’s white silk slip or sexy nightgown, draped over the arm of the glider.

She didn’t have that either, and had less use for a slip or a sexy nightgown, but—

The oven timer buzzed.

“Crap. I haven’t done the berries.”

She went back to the kitchen work, composing other shots in her head.

The finished torte looked so beautiful, the making of it so satisfying, she convinced herself she’d be fine for a couple of hours with people she actually liked.

“And how the hell am I going to get it from here to there? Didn’t think of that.”

She didn’t have a cake carrier or a torte carrier or any carrier. In the end she lined a shipping box with foil, tented the torte on its white platter, secured it in the box, and, thinking of the dog, taped the lid shut.

She packed it in the fridge, then went up to dress.

Next problem, she realized. What did people wear to Sunday dinner?

Sunday brunch had been the thing in New York. Seth and Harry hosted elaborate Sunday brunches. Dress code had been casual or colorful, or whatever struck your fancy.

She hated to think about clothes, so she didn’t have any to worry about. Eventually she’d send for what was still in New York—the cocktail dresses, the sharp business wear, the artist black. Meanwhile, she had what she had.

The reliable black jeans, a white shirt. After a short debate, she went with the Converse high-tops.

Nobody would care.

She added a red belt to prove she’d given some thought to the whole deal, and remembered to do her makeup.

Anytime after four, she remembered, and as it was now four thirty, she should just go. A couple of hours—three, tops—and she’d be home, in her pajamas, back at her computer.

She loaded the boxed torte onto the floor of the passenger seat and let the dog in the back.

“Don’t even think about it,” she warned him when he eyed the box.

Prev Next