The Obsession Page 76

“Will he really look?”

“Yeah, of course. He’s the chief.”

“Has anyone else ever gone missing?”

“Not that I know of, and I would. Hey.” Xander put a hand on her arm. “Marla’s the type who looks for trouble, likes to cause it. It’s just the way she is. The chief will do his job. Don’t worry about this.”

He was right, of course. Marla was a troublemaker and had very likely hooked up with some guy for the weekend to boost her wounded ego.

Not every woman who went off that way ended up raped and murdered. It had never happened here before, Naomi reminded herself. Hadn’t she checked into just that after she’d fallen for the house?

Low crime rate, even lower violent-crime rate. A safe place. A quiet place.

Marla would probably show up before nightfall, pleased she’d worried her ex-husband, her friend, had the police out looking for her.

She put it out of her mind, as much as she could, as Xander pulled away from the house in the truck, with the dog riding with his head out the window and his ears flying in the breeze.


Where there is a great deal of light,

the shadows are deeper.



When he’d realized she was serious about taking pictures in his place, Xander had considered pulling the Simon Vance book off the shelf. He’d done so long enough to read it again, refresh himself, then had nearly tossed it into the box he kept for donations.

He didn’t want to see that dull, stricken look on her face again.

In the end, he decided pulling it off gave it too much importance. She knew it was there, and would wonder why he’d taken it away.

Weighing the stress factor, he figured it at fifty-fifty, and opted to leave it alone.

She’d tell him when she was ready. Or she wouldn’t.

He helped her haul her equipment up the steps, where she paid more attention to the equipment than what she intended to shoot. She pulled a tripod out of a case, telescoped it, did the same with a light stand.

“I’ve still got that wine you like if you want.”

“Thanks, but not when I’m working.”

As he subscribed to the same rule, he got them both a Coke.

She nodded, ignored it as she pulled out a light meter. “Can I have one of those chairs over here for the laptop?”

“I’ll get it.”

She attached a camera to the tripod, eyes narrowed now on the wall of books.

“That’s an impressive camera.”

“Hasselblad, medium format. Larger media, higher resolution. I’m going to shoot digital first.”

She took a back from her case, attached it to the camera. When he looked in the case, the bag—the lenses, backs, cables, attachments—he understood why everything was so damn heavy.

How the hell did she haul all that stuff around?

He didn’t ask because he recognized focused work mode.

She peered through the viewfinder, used a remote to switch on the light, switch it off. She popped an umbrella out of the bag, screwed it onto the light stand, then shielded that with a screen.

She checked everything again, changed the angle of the tripod, walked it back about an inch.

If she thought about the book, she didn’t show it.

He figured it took her a good thirty minutes to set up and take a couple of test shots. Halfway through it, he decided she didn’t need him, got a book out of his office, and settled down at the table to read while she worked.

“Is there a system to the way you shelve the books?”

He glanced up. “Where they fit, why?”

“You have Jane Austen beside Stephen King.”

“I don’t think either one of them would mind, but if you do, you can move books around.”

“No, that’s part of the point. It’s a wall of stories. Take out any one, go anywhere. It’s . . . Storyland.”

She pulled him into watching her again. Shoot, study, adjust, test, shoot. Curious now, he got up to take a look at the laptop screen.

The colors bloomed deeper, the light a little dreamy. Somehow she made some of the tattered spines appear interesting rather than worn.

Another popped on. He couldn’t see the difference, but apparently she could as she squinted at it, said, “Yeah, yeah.”

She took half a dozen more, making minor adjustments, then crouched down to slideshow through all the shots.

“How come it looks better in the picture than in reality?”

“Magic. This one, yeah, this is the one, I think. It looks great in reality. Light, shadow, angle, that’s just atmosphere.”

“You made art.”

“I captured art,” she corrected. “I want to take some film.” She took the back off the camera and switched it with something out of her bag.

“That camera does both—digital and film?”

“Yeah. Handy.”

He wanted to ask how—wanted to see how. But she had that in-the-zone look about her again.

She went back to work; he went back to reading.

She pulled him out of his book when she switched backs again, changed lenses, and took the camera off the tripod. She moved to the side, took a picture of the books from a sharp angle. Checked the result, adjusted the light, took a few more.

When she lowered the camera, moved to the shelves, he thought for a moment she meant to pull off the book about her father. But she pulled one from a higher shelf, carried it to the table.

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