The Obsession Page 59

“Yeah, it’s open! Come on in.”

Naomi pushed the door open to see Xander in the jut that formed a kitchen, opening a bottle of wine.

Jeans, a chambray work shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow, at least a day’s worth of scruff on that toughly handsome face.

She’d break down, she thought, and ask him to pose for her. “I could have been a trained assassin with her vicious hellhound.”

“A locked door wouldn’t stop a trained assassin or her vicious hellhound.”

He had a point. Tag strolled right in and wagged his way over to Xander.

And Naomi stared, with wonder and delight, at the living room wall of books. “Wow, the rumors of book lover are true. That’s quite a collection.”

“Part of it.”

“Part? You’re a serious man, Xander.”

“About books, anyway.”

She glanced around. “Very efficient space, and that is one of the best uses of a wall I’ve ever seen. Color, texture, dimension.”

“Not to mention words.”

He walked over, offered her a glass of wine, took the bottle from her.

“Yeah, words. I like to read as much as the next guy—unless you’re the next guy.”

“That’s the plan.”

She laughed, waving him off as she walked up and down the wall. “But this is art. You’re smart enough to know your furniture is absolute crap. You don’t care about that. You’ve arranged your space for efficiency and highlighted a passion. And by highlighting it, created art. I want pictures of this.”

“Sure, go ahead. I don’t care.”

“Not now, not with my phone. I mean serious pictures. I want to come back with my camera. And with big daddy Hasselblad.”

“Whose daddy is he?”

She laughed, but continued to study the wall of books. “Film camera. Medium format. I could do a nice panorama, too, and—”

“Bring your camera when you want. But why don’t we sit outside and have this wine?”

“You’re having wine?”

“It’s not so bad now and again. You smell great.”

He cupped her chin, but not like Kevin had, and took her mouth.

No, she thought, no, not like Kevin. Not in the least.

“Bath salts—it was medicinal.”

“Yeah, I heard. Small-dog fear.”


He took her hand, tugged her into the bedroom, felt her resist. “I’ve got a deck through the door in here.”

And more books, she noted. A big-screen TV, crap furniture, and more books.

He opened the door to the small square of deck with a half-rusted table and a couple of folding chairs. “I can get you a pillow to sit on.”

“You talked to Kevin.”

“I’m supposed to keep an eye on you, which I’d planned to do anyway.”

“I’m fine.” She sat, carefully. “Mostly. But to the issue: There’s no such thing as small-dog fear.”


On a laugh, she sampled the wine. “You’re making that up.”

“Cynophobia’s fear of dogs—add the micro. You can look it up.”

Though she had her doubts, considering his collection of books, she didn’t argue the term. “Why would he—and he’s eighty-five pounds now, a lot of it muscle, I can attest—have microcynophobia?”

“Can’t say. Maybe he was traumatized at an early age by a Chihuahua.”

He reached behind her head, gently tested. “Ow.”

“That’s what I said once I got my breath back. My ass hit harder than my head.”

“Want me to check it out for you?”

“I’ve taken care of that, thanks.” She studied his view. “You can sit here and watch the ball game.”

“And do, if I’m too lazy to walk over.”

“Little League?”

“T-ball, Little League, Pony League, and some sponsored adult leagues. Keaton’s sponsored the Whales—currently battling their way out of the basement.”

“Do you play?”

“Not much anymore. Not a lot of time for it. You?”

“No, I never did.”

“What kind of feminist are you?”

“The non-sport-playing type. My brother played for a while, but basketball was his deal.”

“Is that right?”

“He played for Harvard.”

“Huh. Crimson. What position?”

“Point guard. I noticed you have a blacktop court and hoop out back.”

“Shooting hoops clears the brain. Used to play, back in high school. Mostly pickup games now.”

“What position?”

“Same as your brother. We’ll have to go one-on-one if he ever gets out here.”

“He will.” She’d have her family here, she thought, including her grandparents so they could see what they’d helped her have. Maybe by the fall, she’d have her family out.

“Are you any good, because, I can attest, he is.”

“I hold my own.”

She suspected he did, in many ways.

And he was right about the sunlight through the trees as it dropped toward the horizon.

“It seems like a good spot for a garage. Quick and easy access to the road, close to town, and a quick zip to 101. Is that why you picked it?”

“The place was here already. It used to be Hobart’s. He was looking to sell—getting up in age, and his wife took sick. We came to an agreement, and they moved to Walla Walla. Their daughter lives there.”

Prev Next