The Obsession Page 71

Maybe it wasn’t so bad, coming out, Naomi thought. The place was noisy, but in a good, happy way. And the calamari would’ve met with Harry’s approval.

“I hear you met Loo.”

“I did?”

“At the bar last night. The bartender.”

“Is that Loo?” Sharp-looking brunette with sexy magenta streaks. “I expected her to be older, sort of businesslike, sitting in some back office with ledgers.”

“Loo likes to keep her hand in. She liked you.”

She caught a bright peal of laughter, noted that the comfortably built brunette behind the counter let out another as she rang up an order.

“That’s flattering, since we talked over the bar for about two minutes.”

“She knows what she knows, as she likes to say.”

“She mentioned her ex-husband used to be the groundskeeper when my house was a B-and-B.”

“Right, the stoner. He’s long gone. But it reminds me I could give you a hand with some of the heavy yard work. Kevin said you didn’t want to hire a landscaper, at least not yet, but if you decide otherwise, you might talk to Lelo.”

“From the band?”

“His family runs the local nursery. He’s actually pretty good at the whole lawn-and-garden thing.”

“And having a stoner is tradition up there?”

After a gesture with his beer, he took a drink. “A former stoner in Lelo’s case. You can size him up tomorrow for yourself.”

“Maybe I will.” More, maybe she’d just have to. “I wanted to deal with it myself, but so far I’ve managed to hack away the worst, plant a couple of pots and some kitchen herbs.”

“No landscaping in New York?”

“Not like this. We’ve got a pretty back courtyard garden, simple and easy to maintain. And that’s mostly Seth anyway. So maybe I’ll think about getting some help with it.”

“We could barter some labor for the photo shoot.”

“Hmm. Let’s see how the shoot goes. That could work all around.”

“Why don’t you come by, take a look at the garage?”

“I’ve got to get back for the dog.” Ace in the hole, she reminded herself.

“Ten minutes won’t matter. It’s basically on the way. You take a look tonight, get that sense you wanted.”

It would help, she thought. And she still had the dog for her ace in the hole. No matter how tempting, she couldn’t end up in Xander’s bed—not with a dog pining away at home.

“All right. Let’s do that.”

Of course, night had fallen so she couldn’t judge the light, but she could get a sense of the space, a feel for what she’d have to work with if she shot in their practice area.

Floodlights popped on as she pulled around back behind Xander.

She saw now he had the bays locked and secured with some sort of keypad alarm as well as the motion lights.

“I hadn’t thought about the security you’d need.”

“A lot of tools, cars, car parts, and sometimes the band equipment.”

He opened the bay door and hit the lights.

A good-sized space, she mused, stepping in. The place smelled of oil, and the concrete floor was stained with it. It held a lift, bright orange. She scanned tools: compressors, grease guns, hydraulic jacks, rolly boards, a couple of enormous tool chests—one black, one red.

Yes, she could make this work.

“Where do you set up?”

“Pretty much like we do onstage. If the weather’s good, and we start early enough, we set up outside on the pad. It’s nice.”

Maybe, but she wanted them inside, with those clashing colors, those big, bulky tools.

“I’m going to want your motorcycle in here.”

“For the shoot?”

“Yeah, maybe. I want to try that.”

And parts, she thought. An old engine would be great, maybe a broken windshield—all those spiderwebs. A steering wheel. Tires.

Yes, she could make this work.

She stepped back out, looked at the space, walked back in, studied it.

“Okay, I want some wardrobe choices—things you’re all comfortable in, but like I said, not just black. Get some ball caps, bandannas. Cowboy hat, maybe a duster. Leather. Definitely leather.”


She heard the doubt in his voice and smiled. “Trust me. You’re going to like what I do here.”

But it was a big garage, and maybe there were other possibilities.

“What’s in the next bay?”

“The love of my life.”

“Is that so?”

“It is. Do you want to see her?”


He went out, left the first bay open in case she wasn’t done, opened the next. Hit the light.

He’d heard her gasp like that before, he realized. When he’d been inside her.

“This is yours?”

“It is now.”

“You have a sixty-seven GTO convertible, in factory red.”

He stood in reverent silence for ten full seconds. “I think you have to marry me now. You’re the first woman besides Loo who’s seen her and known what she is. I’m pretty sure we’re engaged.”

“It’s beautiful.” She moved closer, skimmed her fingertips lightly over the hood. “Absolutely pristine. Did you restore it?”

“Maintain’s more like it. My grandfather bought her right off the showroom floor, treated her like a baby. The mechanic gene skipped my father, so Grandpa showed me the ropes, and when I turned twenty-one, he gave her to me.”

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