The Obsession Page 74

“Starting tomorrow.”

The least she could do was go check on Xander, offer him something cold to drink. Make sure the dog had something, too, as Tag had opted to hang with Xander instead of sprawling beside her while she worked.

She went down, opened the front door.

She saw him, stripped to the waist, torso gleaming with sweat, throwing a stick—more like an entire branch—for the wild-eyed dog.

More sticks, more debris, filled a wheelbarrow. A large swatch of lawn sat patchy, bumpy, and clear of weeds, tangling brush, and the thorny vines that seemed to grow a foot every night.

She spotted a pile of rocks, a chain saw, an ax, a pickax, those drywall buckets, plastic tarps with piles of leaves and pine needles centered on them.

She said, “Holy crap,” and got Xander’s attention.

“Hey. We got a good start here.”

“A start? Where did all this come from?”

“The yard trash from the trashy yard. The tools? Tag and I rode into town, got the truck, stopped by the garden center and the hardware. I left the bills on the kitchen counter. There’s half a cold-cut sub in the fridge if you want it. We got hungry.”

Slowly she walked down, stepped on grass—pathetic grass, but still. “I never expected you to do all this.”

“We had some fun with it. If I were you, I’d get rid of those foundation bushes.” He pulled a bandanna out of his back pocket and swiped the sweat off his face with it. “Lelo’d rip them out for you—or tell you if they’re worth saving.”

“Did I buy a chain saw?”

“No, that’s mine. You shouldn’t need one now that things are more under control. Once that Dumpster’s gone, you can figure out what you want to do over there.”

As he spoke, he threw the stick for Tag again. “I’d sure as hell plant myself a good tree.”

“I . . . I thought maybe I’d plant one of those weepers. A cherry or . . . whatever.”

“That’d be good.” He pulled off thick work gloves.

“Xander, how long— What time is it?” She dug for her phone to check, realized she didn’t have it.

He pulled out his own. “It’s about one.”

“In the afternoon?”

“It ain’t morning, baby.” Laughing, he kissed her. “Where do you go when you work?”

“I just never expected you to . . . You worked hours. Thank you, so much.”

“It’s just yard work, but you’re welcome. I need to get cleaned up so we can get going. If you still want those book pictures.”

“Yes, I do—and yes, you do. You’re all sweaty.” Stepping closer, she trained a finger down his chest. “And pretty dirty. You look . . . hot and thirsty.”

Since the look in her eyes invited it, he hauled her against him. “Now you’re sweaty and dirty, too.”

“Then I guess we both need a shower.”

He took her under cool water, running hard, soap-slick hands over her. Eager, avid, her mouth met his so he swallowed those gasps and moans as he took her higher.

When he pinned her against the wall, drove into her, her fingers dived into his hair, clutched there. Her eyes clung to his as, with lips close, their breath tangled.

The green of her eyes went opaque as she peaked, as she said his name as he’d wanted her to say it.

But he held back, denied himself that quick release, slowed the rhythm until her head lolled back.

She could feel nothing but pleasure, all so ripe, so full it should burst. But it only spread, engulfed her like warm, wet velvet.

The tiles, cool on her back, his body hot, pressed to her, in her. The air so thick that breathing it in, letting it go, was a moan. She tried to hold on, to give back, but felt as soft and pliable as wax in sunlight. His lips toyed with hers, conquering by torment rather than force.

She said his name again as her eyes closed.

“No, no, look at me. Open your eyes and see me, Naomi.”

“I see you. Yes. God.”

“A little more. A little more until there’s nothing left. I’m going to take more.”


He took more, kept them both swaying on that high wire between need and release, until it built beyond the bearing, until he let the wire snap beneath the weight.

Because she felt a little drunk, Naomi took great care packing her equipment. He’d taken her beyond her own boundaries of control, and somehow she’d allowed it. She’d need time and space to decide, to understand, what that meant.

And now wasn’t the time, not when everything in her felt so soft and vulnerable. When she could still feel his hands on her.

She packed her tripod, a camera bag, a case, a light stand, diffuser.

He walked in, smelling of her soap. “All that?”

“Better to have everything than leave behind the one thing you realize you need.”

She started to swing on a backpack.

“I’ve got it. Christ, does everything include bricks?” He picked up her tripod case, the light stand, started out.

As she picked up the rest, Tag barked as if dragons burned down the gates.

“Car’s coming,” Xander called back. “I’ve got it.”

“He’s got it,” she murmured. “That’s the problem. Why am I mostly okay that he’s got it?”

“Easy, killer,” Xander told the dog, and opened the front door. He recognized the official vehicle just pulling up beside his truck, and the chief of police behind the wheel.

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