The Obsession Page 67

He cupped the back of her head, leaned in to kiss her—softly, a surprise.

“We’re going to slow things down some this time.”

“We are?”

He smiled, eased her back. “Definitely. I don’t want to miss those fine details this time around.”

Later, Naomi could attest he hadn’t missed a single one.


Xander woke with the dog staring at him from the side of the bed—nearly nose to nose. His cloudy brain registered Milo before he remembered his longtime companion was gone. Still, he handled the interruption of sleep in the same way he had with Milo.

“Go away,” he muttered.

Instead of hanging his head, à la Milo, and sulking off to lie down again, Tag wagged his tail and pushed his cold, wet nose into Xander’s face.

“Crap.” To make his point, Xander nudged the cold, wet nose away, which Tag took as encouragement.

The wet, soggy tennis ball plopped on the bed an inch from Xander’s face.

Even the sleep-clouded brain knew better. If he knocked the ball on the floor, the dog would see it as a game and start all over again. So he closed his eyes, ignored the ball and the dog.

Helpfully Tag nosed the ball closer so now the soggy and wet rolled against Xander’s chest.

Beside him, Naomi stirred, reminding Xander he had much more interesting games he could play at oh-dark-thirty.

“He won’t stop,” Naomi murmured beside him, and sat up before Xander could make his move. And beside the bed, Tag danced in joy. “It’s morning ritual.”

“It’s not morning.”

“Five in the morning, like clockwork. He’s actually about ten minutes late.”

“Where are you going?”

“I’m getting up, which is part of the morning ritual. Getting dressed—also part of the ritual.”

To Xander’s severe disappointment, she moved away in the dark, rummaged around. He could see her silhouette pulling on some kind of pants.

“You get up at five, every morning?”

“Yes, we do.”

“Even weekends? This is America.”

“Yes, even weekends, in America. The dog and I are in tune there, at least.” She crossed over and opened the doors to the deck. Tag happily raced out. “Go back to sleep.”

“Why don’t you come back to bed, and we can try out a new morning ritual?”

“Tempting, but he’ll be back inside of ten minutes nagging for his breakfast.”

Xander considered. “I can work with ten minutes.”

He liked her laugh, the smoky morning sound of it.

“Go back to sleep. I need coffee before he comes back.”

If he wasn’t getting sex, maybe . . . “Is the dog the only one who gets breakfast?”

She was still just a shadow—a long, slim one—already heading for the door. “Not necessarily.”

When she walked out Xander lay there a moment. Normally he’d get another hour—maybe seventy minutes more on a Saturday. But he wouldn’t get a hot breakfast.

He picked up the tennis ball, judged the distance to the dog bed, tossed it.

So, she was an early riser, he thought as he got out of bed. He could handle that. She wasn’t a snuggler—and that equaled bonus points in his score book.

He didn’t mind staying tangled up for a while after sex, but when it came to sleep, he wanted his space. Apparently so did she.

Not only amazing in bed, but didn’t expect him to cuddle her like a teddy bear for hours after. Big bonus points.

And she cooked.

He found his pants, tugged them up, and when he couldn’t find his T-shirt, he turned on the mermaid light. It made him grin. A woman who’d buy a naked mermaid lamp—more points.

The room smelled like her, he realized. How did she do that? And she smelled of summer. Of storms and the sultry.

He found his T-shirt, pulled it over his head.

She still kept some of her clothes in packing boxes. Curious, he crossed over, glanced into them. Organized—and he appreciated at least a sense of organization. Not a lot to organize in there, to his eye.

He studied the opening of what would be a walk-in closet, currently under construction and empty of wardrobe.

Jesus, he had more clothes than she did.

It struck him as both weird and fascinating.

He also spotted a boxed toothbrush in what he’d term her bathroom box, and figured everyone would be happier if he took it.

He crossed over again to use the bathroom, and when he hit the light found it gutted. The rough plumbing told him where things would go—and she’d have a kick-ass shower from the size of it.

He could use a shower.

He went out, found another gutted bathroom, found a bedroom half painted—nice color—and a third gutted bathroom. Just as he decided he’d have to use the great outdoors like the dog, he found one outfitted with baby blue fixtures. Ugly, he decided, but serviceable.

And if the fist-sized showerhead over the blue tub worked, he’d make use of it later. But now, he really wanted coffee.

He wandered down, seeing bits and pieces of Kevin’s work. The place would be a showstopper. Not glitzy and fussy—and someone else might have looked for that.

But solid and handsome, with some serious respect for history, location, style.

He paused at the living room. Again, the color worked, and while the gas logs made sense up in the bedroom, he was glad she’d kept the wood-burning original here.

She could use some help with the yard, clearing out the overgrown, pruning back, digging up the weeds. Right now the view from the front was just sad.

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