The Obsession Page 121

Then, forgetting the noise, she gave herself the pleasure of working in her own space.

With Tag apparently preferring Mason’s company, and all of her tools and supplies exactly where she wanted them, Naomi lost track of time in the best possible way. The productivity and the pleasure of working in a settled, organized space told her she’d been making do far too long, sacrificing all this for the pick-up-and-go she’d felt necessary.

No one chased her, she thought, but her own ghosts and neuroses. Time to put it all away, time to believe instead of doubt that the past was over and done.

She had a home, and in it, she’d watch summer roll in, then feel the change in the air, then the light change as fall painted the world. She’d have fires lit when winter blew, and be there, just be there when spring bloomed again.

She had a home, she thought again as she added the last of the new stock to her page. She had friends, good friends. She had a man she . . . All right, maybe she wasn’t entirely ready for what she felt for Xander, but she could be ready to see what happened tomorrow, or next week or— Maybe a week at a time was all she could be ready for in that department.

But it was a hell of an improvement.

Most of all, she was ready to be happy—all the way happy. To hold on to what she had, what she was building for herself.

Now it was time—past time, she realized as she noted the time on her computer—to go down and put a meal together.

She took the back stairs, reminding herself to hit her list and pick out the lighting for that area, and, singing the Katy Perry that had been in her earbuds when she’d shut down, she all but danced into the kitchen.

To find Mason at the counter, laptop open, maps spread out, coffee steaming, a couple of legal pads scattered among the work debris.

“Hey. I thought you were working outside in the sunshine.”

“I needed more room.”

“I see that. No problem. I have enough room here for the shrimp farfalle I have in mind.”

“I asked Xander to pick up pizza. He’s on his way.”

“Oh.” Already in the fridge, she paused, glanced back. “That’s fine, if you’re in a pizza mood, and saves me the trouble.”

Closing the fridge, she switched modes, decided they could eat on the deck. “Where’s the dog?”

“He wanted out. Everyone’s gone for the day.”

“So I see—or rather hear. I worked later than I’d planned. You have to see my studio space.” The thrill of it bubbled through her. “It’s finished, and it’s awesome. I’m going ahead with that darkroom space—in the basement. I don’t do film that often, and Kevin said the plumbing would be easy down there. So it would be really quiet, out of the way, and make use of some of that space.”

She turned, found him watching her quietly. “And I’m babbling while you’re working. Why don’t I take this outside, let you finish up in peace?”

“Why don’t you sit down? I need to talk to you about something.”

“Sure. Is everything all right? Of course everything’s not all right,” she said, shut her eyes for a minute. “I’ve been so caught up in my own space, my own work, I forgot about Donna and Marla. Forgot about your work.”

She sat at the counter with him. “It didn’t seem real for a little while. Donna’s funeral’s the day after tomorrow, and Xander . . . It’s the second funeral since I’ve been here, the second terrible funeral.”

“I know. Naomi—”

He broke off as the dog raced in from the front, danced in place, raced back again.

“That would be Xander and pizza,” Naomi said, started to rise.

“Just sit.”

“You found something.” She put a hand on his arm, squeezed. “Something about the murders.”

She swiveled in the stool when Xander came in, tossed the pizza box on the counter by the cooktop.

“What do you know?”

“Let me start with this. Naomi, this is the picture you took in the forest just west of here. This nurse log.”

She frowned at the image he brought up on his computer. “That’s right. Why did you download it?”

“Because this is one I took yesterday, when Donna’s body was discovered.” Carefully cropped, he thought, as he toggled to it. “It’s the same log.”

“All right, yes.”

“Donna’s body was dumped just off the track, beside this log. It’s an eight-minute trek into the woods—and that’s without carrying a hundred and fifty pounds. It bothered me right off. Why take her in that far? You want her to be found, why take her so far in—put in that time, that effort? Why that spot?”

“I don’t know, Mason. Wanting a little more time before she was found?”

“No point to it. But this place, right here.” He tapped the screen. “It has a point. You’ve had that photo on your site a couple of weeks.”

The chill skipped along her skin. “If you’ve got some wild idea he . . . this photo inspired him or factored into where he left her, it doesn’t make sense. For one thing, I’ve got a dozen photos up I took in that area.”

“He had to pick one.” Face grim, Xander studied the images.

“It’s just a weird coincidence,” Naomi insisted. “Disturbing, but a coincidence. I barely knew either of the victims. I’ve only been in this area since March.”

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