The Obsession Page 93

“There’s a brochure in there with different pavers, different patterns. We can get you whatever you want in there.”

She nodded, sat down on the glider to look over the estimates. He’d done it several ways. The entire grounds and deck—holy shit!—and breaking it down section by section.

And breaking it down yet again with the bartering factored.

“My dad did most of the figuring and math there.”

“It’s a lot of math and figuring.” And would take some of her own, but . . .

“I want the raised beds on the deck. Cooking can relax me after I’ve worked all day.”

“If you ditch Xander, maybe you’d marry me. I can’t cook worth shit,” Lelo told her, “but I sure like to eat.”

“I’ll keep you in reserve. I really want the front done, just the way you’ve drawn it. But I’m going to need another five percent off for the photographs.”

“I can text my dad, see what he has to say. I’m thinking he’ll go for that.”

“And you can tell him if this turns out the way we all want, I should be able to do the rest in the fall. Or next spring. You can’t do the whole front until the Dumpster’s gone, but I’d love to see some of these trees and shrubs in place.”

“Give me a sec.”

When Lelo pulled out his phone, the dogs leaped up and raced down the deck steps.

“That must be Xander,” Kevin noted. “Dogs are a good early-warning system.”

The dogs ran back. Molly settled, but Tag ran away, ran back, all but doing cartwheels until Xander caught up with him.

“Are we having a party?”


“Good thing I brought more beer.” He came up with the six-pack he carried, setting it down long enough to grab Naomi’s face and give her a kiss that went from hello to steamy in a heartbeat.

“Just letting them know to get their own woman. Do you want me to top that off?”

She looked down, a little blankly, at her wine. “No, it’s good.”

“Another round?” he asked Kevin.

“No, one’s enough.”

He glanced at Lelo, who wandered the deck as he talked on the phone, and held up his three-quarters-full beer.

“Just me, then.” Xander took the six-pack inside, came back out with a cold one. “What’s all this?”

“My landscape. You didn’t tell me Lelo was an artist.”

“He’s got a knack.” After he sat and blew out a cleansing breath, Xander took the first pull.

“Long day?” Naomi asked.

“And then some. Finished now.”

Lelo wandered back. “We can start next week.”

“Next week?”

“My dad’s going to want to come take a look for himself—mostly to meet you, that’s the truth. He likes knowing who he’s working for, but we can start next week. Probably Tuesday. He’s fine with the five percent more.” Lelo held out a hand. “We have to shake on it. I’d rather kiss you, but Xander’d pitch me over the deck.”

“I’d knock you unconscious first so it wouldn’t hurt so much.”

“That’s a friend.” Lelo sat again, scrubbed Tag’s head, then Molly’s. “You’re going to have to teach him not to dig in your beds or lift his leg on the shrubs.”

“God. I never thought of that.”

“He’s a good dog. He’ll learn.”

Naomi sipped her wine. They were subtle about it—they’d known each other so long, these men. But she caught the signals passing back and forth.

Like Xander, she let out a breath. “Why don’t we talk about the elephant on the deck? I’m not the tender sort, and don’t need to be shielded. I don’t like it either. So has there been anything more about Marla’s murder?”

Lelo looked down at the beer he dangled between his legs and said nothing.

“They did the autopsy,” Xander said. “And there’s some talk leaking out. It could just be talk.”

“What could be just talk?”

“That she’d been raped, probably multiple times. Choked multiple times, cut up a little, beat on more than a little.”

“I don’t get how somebody could do that to somebody else,” Lelo murmured. “I just don’t. They’re saying she wasn’t killed down below here, just dumped there that way. I heard Chip about went crazy.”

“He loved her,” Kevin said. “He always did.”

“It couldn’t have been anybody from the Cove,” Lelo put in. “We’d know if somebody who could do that lived right here.”

No, Naomi thought, you don’t always know what lives with you.

She lost herself in work. She rarely worked on an agenda other than her own, and found it interesting to create photos with Krista’s specific wants in mind.

When she talked to or emailed her family, she said nothing of murder.

She didn’t give Xander a key—nor did he ask for one. But she thought about it.

Though it brought on a massive stress headache, she attended Marla’s funeral. She sat through the short service with Xander, with Kevin and Jenny flanking her other side.

It seemed to her nearly everyone in town had come, wearing sober faces, paying respects to Marla’s mother, to Chip.

The church smelled too strongly of lilies—the pink ones draped over the glossy coffin, the pink and white ones rising in sprays from tall baskets.

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