The Obsession Page 62

“I hurt him. I didn’t have to.”

Maybe, Xander thought, but he doubted anybody got through the labyrinth of life without hurting someone, whether or not they had to.

“I guess you’re counting on me falling in love with you and asking you to live with me.”

“I’m pointing out the problems with relationships when they go south and people live and work in close proximity.”

“Maybe you’ll fall in love with me, ask me to live with you in that big house on the bluff.”

“I don’t fall in love, and I like living alone.”

Xander glanced at Tag and decided not to point out that she’d fallen for the mutt and lived with him.

“Then I know that going in—unlike the college boy. I’ll get those. I know how it works. Want more wine?”

She turned away from the sink. “Better not. Water’s better since I have to drive.”

“It’s a nice night. Once I clean this up we can take a walk, work off dinner. Let the dog stretch his legs.”

“He could probably use it.” She took the water he offered, wandered back toward the wall of books. “I really do want to take some shots here. Is there any time that works for you?”

“Why don’t you come over Friday—anytime. The door’s open if I’m working down below. But if you came later in the day, you could go over to Loo’s after. We could grab some dinner before we play.”

“You’re playing Friday?”

“Nine to midnight. Ish. Kevin and Jenny can probably come, if you want.”

Not really a date so much as a get-together, with food and music. And she did like the music. More, she wanted to get back in here with her camera and . . .

Everything went blank and cold as her gaze latched onto a single spine in the wall of books.

Blood in the Ground: The Legacy of Thomas David Bowes, by Simon Vance.

They’d changed the title for the movie—the title and focus—as they’d wanted the drama focused on the young girl who’d discovered her father, who’d saved a woman’s life, who’d stopped a murderer.

After her mother’s death, once she’d believed she could face it, Naomi read interviews by the director, the screenwriter, so she knew why they’d turned the book into Daughter of Evil. But this was where it had started, this held all the horror and the cold-blooded years of one man’s murderous secrets.

“Naomi?” Xander tossed the dishcloth aside and started for her. “What’s wrong?”

“What?” She turned, too sharply, and she’d gone pale so her eyes burned dark. “Nothing. Nothing. I . . . A little headache. I probably shouldn’t have had the wine after rapping my head.”

She sidestepped, talking too fast. “This was really great, Xander, but I should go pop a couple more Motrin, make it an early night.”

Before she could get to the door, he took her arm, felt it quivering. “You’re shaking.”

“Just the headache. I really need to go.” Afraid the shaking would turn into a panic attack, she laid a hand over his. “Please. I’ll come back Friday if I can. Thanks for everything.”

She bolted, barely waiting for the dog to catch up.

Xander turned back, eyes narrowed on the books. Was he crazy? he wondered. Or had something there put the fear of God into her?

He walked over, scanned the titles. Then adjusted, estimating where she’d been looking. Her position, her height.

Baffled, he shook his head. Just books, he thought. Words and worlds on pages. He pulled one out at random, put it back, tried another. She’d been looking right about here when he’d glanced back, when he’d seen her freeze as if he’d pointed a gun at her head.

He frowned, drew out the nonfiction book—serial killer, he remembered, back east. It had fascinated him as a teen when it buzzed all over the news. So he’d bought the book when it came out.

West Virginia, he remembered, looking at the grainy photo of the killer in the cover art.

Couldn’t have been this. She came from New York.

He started to slide it back in, and then, as he often did with a book in his hand, opened it to skim the flyleaf.

“Yeah, West Virginia, some little podunk town. Thomas David Bowes, cable guy, family man. Wife and two kids. Deacon in his church. How many did he kill again?”

Curious enough, Xander kept skimming.

“Hot August night, summer storm, country dark, blah blah. Eleven-year-old daughter finds his murder room, and . . . Naomi Bowes. Naomi.”

He stared at the book, once again saw her pale, stricken face in his head.

“Son of a bitch.”


After considerable internal debate, Naomi pushed herself out of the house on Friday night. A compromise of sorts, she thought, as she couldn’t and wouldn’t push herself to go back to Xander’s. Not yet.

Tag wasn’t thrilled with the idea of her going out at all, though she left him with his stuffed cat, a rawhide bone, and the promise that she’d be back.

She couldn’t take the dog into a bar.

She’d nearly used him as an excuse, at least to herself, but going out was normal, and normal, after the disaster ending Wednesday night, was her current goal.

One drink, she told herself. One drink, one set, easy Friday-night conversation with Jenny and Kevin—and if Xander came over during the break, easy conversation with him.


Maybe the thought of reaching for normal exhausted her, but she’d give it a solid attempt.

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