The Obsession Page 116

“I won’t, don’t worry. Sit down.”

In her forest, she thought. At the foot of her bluff, and in her forest.

Because it was remote, she told herself. Because he could slip through the dark with no one to see. That was all it was, and what it was, was bad enough.

She sat in the chair beside him.

“Your studio’s nearly finished,” he told her, and threw her off balance. “After tomorrow, day after latest, you can set it up.”

They’d talk of something else, she realized, of anything else but the unthinkable.

“Can’t wait.”

“We’ll get the desk, the equipment in there for you. A couple more weeks, we’re going to be out of here. Well, three. We should be out in three.”

“You’ve brought the house back to life, Kevin.”

“We have,” he said just before the dog leaped up and raced off the deck.

“Xander,” Naomi told him. “He just knows—the way the bike sounds, I guess. He doesn’t bark anymore when it’s Xander.”

“He’s nuts about you, you know—Xander. So’s the dog, but I’m talking about Xander, who’d kick my ass for saying it, but I need something good to balance things out. I’ve never seen him nuts about anybody.”


Shaking his head, Kevin smiled a little. “You’re the first.”

She got up and went to meet Xander as he came up the steps with the dog.


“How’s Loo?” she asked.

“She took it hard. Really hard.” Looking exhausted, he blew out a breath. “But she pulled it together, talked to Donna’s daughter. She’s over there now. Did you hear from your brother?”

“No, and I’ve had to stop myself from texting him a dozen times. He’ll tell us what he can when he can.”

“Would you let me know if there’s anything?” Kevin pushed to his feet. “It feels like if you just knew something it would start to make sense. I’m going to go on, get home. Keep this one close, Xan.”

“I intend to. Same for Jenny.”

He sat when Kevin left. “Her daughter—you don’t know her—she’s inconsolable. I wasn’t doing any good over there, so I got out of the way. She and Loo are better off huddling up together.”

“Kevin said she was found in the forest—over there.”

Eyes hard, Xander nodded. “Somewhere in that area—and too damn close to here. Like Marla.”

“Likely for the same reason. It’s out of town, hardly any houses, hardly any traffic on the road, or the water depending on how he comes in.”

“That’s probably what it is, all it is. But if what Mason said has weight, and if Maxie was the actual target, he has a type. Right? Young, blonde, attractive, slender. You’re all of that.”

“And I can promise you I know better than any young blonde woman in this town how to take care of myself. I can promise you, Xander, not to take unnecessary chances, and to take sensible precautions. I’ll also point out that both women he killed lived or worked in town. I think he must stalk them, or at least watch their routines. I don’t have a routine—and you have enough on your mind without worrying about me.”

“Nothing that’s on my mind is more important than you.”

He turned to her, took her breath away with one long, steady stare.

And once again, the dog raced off the deck, this time leading with a bark.

“It’s probably Mason.” She laid a hand on Xander’s tensed arm. “This son of a bitch comes at women in the dark, and I’ll bet from behind like a coward. He doesn’t walk up to them in the daylight.”

“You’re right. I’m edgy.”

He relaxed a little when Mason rounded the house with Tag.

“I have to make a couple calls. I’ll be down when I’m done and tell you what I can. Xander, I’m sorry about your friend.”

“Yeah, we all are.”

“I’m going to see what I have to throw together for dinner,” she told Xander.

“I can call in for pizza or whatever. You don’t have to cook.”

“I’m edgy, too. Cooking helps.”

“Have you thought about getting a grill? I can grill—you know, steaks, chops, even fish.” He shrugged when she stopped at the opening. “Give you a hand with meals sometime.”

“As a matter of fact, I’ve been looking at grills online.”

“You can’t buy a grill online.” Sincerely appalled, he stared at her—with some pity. “You have to see it, and—”

“Stroke it?” She offered a bright smile. “Speak to it?”

Appalled pity turned on a dime to a cool disdain that made her want to laugh. “You have to see it,” he repeated.

She made a humming sound, then went in to check her supplies and formulate a menu.

Moments later, he came in, grabbed a beer, sat at the counter. “I’m buying the grill.”


“I said I’m buying the grill.”

Sauté some chicken breasts, she thought. Garlic, herbs, wine. Distracted, she turned to him. “The grill? Seriously, Xander.”

“Grills are serious.”

Now she did laugh. “I’d be the last one to say any cooking appliance or tool isn’t serious, which is why I’ve been researching and eliminating and considering online.”

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