The Obsession Page 124

“It’s my life, my choice.”

“Screw that. You want to try to run, I’ll just bring you back.”

“Stop telling me what to do. Stop yelling at me.”

“You started it. Maybe you haven’t worked it through your system, pulled it free from the I’ve-got-bad-blood excuses you fall back on, but you’ve got feelings for me.”

“How can you say things like that? How can you minimize this?”

“Because you overinflate it, so it’s easy to stick a damn pin in it. Because I’ve got feelings for you. I’m in fucking love with you, so you’re going to stick. And that’s it.”

She took one stumbling step back, went pale.

Xander rolled his eyes. “Cut that out and breathe. Yell back. You don’t panic when you’re pissed. And maybe I’d have done that with more class if I weren’t pissed right back at you.”

Or maybe not, he thought, but either way.

“Sunlight in your hair. Morning light. You’re standing there, working on a piece of plywood, sunlight all over you, and I feel like someone kicked me off a damn cliff. So you’re not going anywhere, just check that off the list.”

“It can’t work.”

“You should try to balance out that Pollyanna attitude of yours, season it with some cynicism. It has been working,” he added. “For both of us. I know what the hell works and what doesn’t. We work, Naomi.”

“That was before . . .” When his eyebrows lifted, she dragged a hand through her hair, tried to find level ground again. “Can’t you see what’s going to happen? I pray, and I’ll keep praying Mason’s right. They’ll find him, they’ll stop him. And I’ll hope with all I have they do that before he kills again. But when they do find him, it’ll all fall apart again. Me, my father, whoever this maniac is, all tied together. And the press—”

“Oh, fuck the press. You’ll stand up to it.”

“You have no idea what it’s like.”

“You’ll stand up to it,” he repeated, without a hint of doubt. “And you won’t be alone. You’ll never have to be alone again. You can count on me.”

“Oh God, Xander.”

When he crossed to her, she tried to back away, shook her head, but he simply grabbed her, pulled her in. “You can count on me. And you’re damn well going to.”

He tipped her head back, kissed her more gently than he ever had. “I love you.” Kissed her again, drew her in, just held. “Get used to it.”

“I’m not sure that’s possible.”

“You don’t know until you try. We’re not going anywhere, Naomi.”

She felt herself breathe in, breathe out. “I’ll try.”

“That’ll do.”


Still to ourselves in every place consigned,

Our own felicity we make or find.



It felt like an interrogation. She knew better—she knew—but when Mason came into her studio in the morning, set up a folding chair, and sat, he turned the sanctuary into an interrogation room.

“You didn’t sleep well,” he said.

“No, not very well. Neither did you.”

“Well enough, just not very long. I worked late.”

“You didn’t come down for breakfast.”

“Because it’s at dawn.” He smiled a little. “I grabbed a bagel, had coffee, talked to the tile guys. The room you’ve earmarked for the uncles is really coming along. They’re going to love it.”

“I’m not sure they should come.”

“Naomi, I know it has to feel like your life tipped sideways, but you have to keep living it.”

“If something happened to them—”

He cut her off. “The unsub’s not interested in men.”

“He’s interested in me, and they’re mine. So.”

“They’ll come anyway. Put that away for a while. I’m heading into town shortly, meeting the team. We’ll work out of the police station. He’s never had an investigation focused on him like this, Naomi. It changes things.”

“Whatever we do, it doesn’t change what’s already happened.”


“And I know, Dr. Carson, dwelling on that, brooding on my part of it, however involuntary, isn’t healthy or productive.”

Knowing that, knowing he thought it, irritated the crap out of her.

“But I might need a couple days to dwell and brood.”

All understanding, he simply nodded. “You should play to your strengths, and you’ve always been a champion brooder.”

“Up yours, Mason Jar.”

“Another strength,” he went on, “is your power of observation. You see the big picture and the small details. It’s going to be an advantage. It’s going to help.”

“My keen powers of observation didn’t clue me in that I’ve been followed by a serial killer for a couple years.”

“Longer, I think—and being clued in now, you can go back, remember things and people you noticed. You can go back, refresh those memories by going through pictures you took—the where, when, what was going on around you.”

Longer, she wanted to dwell on longer, but pressed her fingers to her eyes, ordered herself to deal with it. “I don’t pay attention to people when I’m working. I block them out.”

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