The Obsession Page 100

The lone woman started across the lot. Not young like the others, not so pretty—not blonde like his desire—but she’d do. She’d do well enough.

She hummed to herself as she opened her purse to dig out her key.

All he had to do, really all he had to do was step up behind her. He deliberately gave her that instant to feel fear, to have her heart jump as she turned her head.

Then he covered her face with the cloth, gripped her around the waist while she struggled, while her muffled screams pushed hot against his hand. As she went so quickly, almost too quickly, limp.

He had her in the back of the car, wrists and ankles wrapped in duct tape, more tape over her mouth, a blanket over her, within twenty seconds.

He drove out of the lot, through town, careful to keep to the posted speed, to use his turn signals. He didn’t even turn on the radio until he passed the town limits. He opened the windows to cool his hot cheeks, flicked a glance in the rearview at the shape under the blanket.

“We’re going to have some fun now. We’re going to have one hell of a good time.”


The spectator ofttimes sees more

than the gamester.



By the time Sunday morning rolled around, all Xander wanted in this world was to sleep until the sun came up. Three road service calls Friday night had pulled him away from practice for a Saturday-night gig, and dragged him out of bed. Twice.

They’d rocked the bar in Union, good exposure, good times, good pay—but he hadn’t flopped into Naomi’s bed until two in the morning.

He met Tag’s five A.M. wake-up call with a snarl.

“I’ve got it,” Naomi told him.

With a grunt of assent, Xander dropped back to sleep.

Mildly disoriented, he woke, alone, three hours later. He thought, Naomi, and scrubbed his hands over his face. Christ, he needed a shave—not his favorite sport. Then he remembered it was Sunday, and didn’t see why anybody had to shave on Sunday.

The sun shined through the glass doors. Through them he could see the blue lines of water, the quiet spread of it beyond the inlet. A couple of boats—early risers—plied the blue.

He wasn’t a fan of boats any more than he was of shaving, but he appreciated the look of them.

But at the moment, he’d appreciate coffee a hell of a lot more. He got up, pulled on his jeans, saw a T-shirt he’d left there at some point neatly folded on the dresser.

Grateful he didn’t have to wear the shirt he’d sweated through the night before, he pulled it over his head—and discovered that whatever she washed stuff in smelled better than whatever he washed stuff in.

He’d had to tap Kevin and Jenny for the favor—then persuade Naomi to drive with them to Union for a couple of hours. He’d liked seeing her there—and more, he’d liked knowing Kevin would make sure she got home, got in the house, locked up safe until he’d made it back.

She’d given him a key and the alarm code, though he wasn’t sure if it had been for the single night or what. He didn’t think she was sure either.

The . . . arrangement would be easier if he could leave a few essentials at her place. He wasn’t sure of his ground there—brand-new territory.

He’d never lived, even half lived, with a woman before. He’d been careful not to. His space might not have been as big as Naomi’s, but he liked his space all the same.

Yet here he was, getting out of her bed again, wearing a shirt she’d washed, and thinking about hitting her up for coffee.

This thing between them had a lot of moving parts, and he’d yet to figure out how they all fit.

But he would, he told himself as he walked out to find her—and coffee. He always figured out how things fit.

He heard her voice, pitched low, so he changed directions from the pursuit of coffee and walked to her temporary work space.

She had the windows wide open and the dog sprawled under her makeshift worktable.

The sun flooded her hair, turned it into a hundred shades of gold and bronze and caramel as she used a long tool to cut some mat board while she muttered to herself. Nearby a big, slick printer hummed while it slid a poster-size print into a tray.

It took him a minute to realize the poster-size print was of his hands holding the Austen book.

He saw himself again, already framed and matted and tipped against the wall. That shot she’d taken in the early morning, with the sunrise at his back and his eyes on her.

She had other poster prints—his book wall, his hands again, sunrise over the inlet—clipped to the arms of some sort of stand and a stack of smaller prints in a tray.

The dog’s tail thumped good morning, and since hope sprang eternal in Tag, he uncurled himself and brought Xander a ball.

Distracted, Xander laid a hand on the dog’s head and just looked at Naomi.

Immersed in her work, immersed in sunlight, slim hands competent with her tools, dark green eyes focused on her art. That long, slim body in a pale blue shirt and khaki pants that stopped above her ankles, her feet bare.

So this was what it was, this was how it fit. How his half fit anyway, he thought. It fit, all those moving parts, because he was in love with her.

Shouldn’t the universe have given him a heads-up on that? He needed a little time, needed to adjust, regroup, needed to—

Then she glanced over, and her eyes met his.

It blew through him, that storm of feeling, all but took his breath. For an instant he wondered how people lived this way, how they could carry so much for someone else inside them.

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