The Obsession Page 132

“Maybe I’ll stick this down your throat instead.” He pulled the knife, stabbed out with it.

Rather than cowering back, the dog leaped at the glass and stood on his hind legs, barking madly with eyes creepy blue and feral.

“Screw this.” His hand shook as he shoved the knife back in its sheath. “I’ll be back, you fuck, I’ll be back. I’ll gut you like a trout and make her watch.”

Furious, shaken, hot tears, hot rage burning behind his eyes, he stormed off the deck. Hands fisted, he hurried around the side of the house, stomped back to the drive and down.

He’d be back. And she and that fucking dog would pay for ruining his day.

In Xander’s opinion no one had ever wanted to get out of a suit as badly as he wanted out of his. And once he had, he decided, he intended to toss it into Naomi’s closet, leave it there, and forget it for as long as humanly possible.

“I appreciate your staying,” he told her as he turned up her drive. “I know it was long.”

“People really loved her. I think when you hear as much laughter as you see tears it’s a testament to that. People loved her, and won’t forget her. I wanted to stay, which isn’t something I say often about any sort of event that involves so many people, but I did want to stay. And I didn’t realize until I did that I’ve become part of the community. Or at least crossed that careful border into the edges of the community.”

He parked, then just sat a moment. “You bought this place, and nobody else was willing to put the time, money, and vision into it. You shop local, you hire local, and that counts a whole hell of a lot. You put your art at Krista’s, and it’s something people notice, take stock of. You’re hooked up with me, and people notice and take stock of that, too.”

“I bet they do. New York Naomi and Our Own Xander.” She smiled now. “I’ve heard myself referred to that way, which is why it surprised me to realize I’d crossed that border.”

“You might always be New York Naomi. It has a ring. God, I’ve got to get out of this suit.”

“And I’ve got to let that poor dog out. We were longer than I thought we’d be. Where’s Lelo?” she wondered.

Xander glanced over at his friend’s truck. “Around somewhere. The rest will be coming along, get a few hours in yet.”

He waited while she unlocked the door and deactivated the alarm—and the dog raced in from the back of the house to wiggle and wag and lick and lean.

“Okay, okay, I know we were forever.” But when she started to open the front door, Xander stopped her.

“He’ll be all over the dirt. He should go out the back.”

Though he intended to go straight up and ditch the suit, he went with instinct when Tag raced toward the back of the house, ran back a few feet, raced back again.

Something’s up.

“I’ll let him out,” Naomi began as Xander started back. “I know you want to change and get to work.”

“I’ll go up the back.”

He relaxed when he saw the reason for Tag’s actions. Lelo—already out of dress clothes and into work mode—stood on the other side of the glass doors, pouring potting soil into the first of two containers.

Grinning, Lelo shifted the bag, gave a thumbs-up.

“Hey,” he said when Xander opened the door. “You’re sprung!” He laughed, setting the bag down to rub the dog all over. “I’d’ve broken him out, but the door was locked. He was pretty upset at first. Weren’tcha, yeah. Shaky and whining, but he settled down pretty quick when he saw I was sticking around. Sorry about the nose prints on the glass.”

“Yours or his?” Xander asked.

“Har. I couldn’t stay anymore at the, you know, thing after the thing. The first time I’ve ever seen Loo cry, and that just . . . wow. The other guys’ll be along, I guess, since you are. I got a jump.”

“Yes, you did.” Naomi studied the planters. Lelo had been exactly right. They might have grown out of the house, and were the perfect size for her needs, just steps from the kitchen. “They’re perfect, Lelo. They’re wonderful. I love them.”

“Turned out pretty good. I’ve got some herbs and tomatoes, peppers, like that, out in the truck. I can plant them up for you.”

“You got all that?”

Shuffling, he adjusted his battered straw cowboy hat. “I was going right by the nursery anyway. Anything you don’t want, I’ll take home. My mom will plug it in somewhere.”

“Can I take a look? I’d like to change and plant them myself. It’d be nice to balance out the day making something grow.”

“I hear that. These’ll be ready for planting by the time you’re ready. Oh, and Xander? It’s been a while since you’ve put in time on my dad’s crew, but you oughta know not to go stomping around on dirt just seeded.”

“I didn’t.”

“Well, somebody did since we knocked off yesterday. No big. I’ll have it raked out.”


“Around the front side. No big, like I said. I was just ragging on you.”

“Let’s have a look. Naomi, keep the dog back.”

“We’re not going to put you—or whoever—in jail for tromping over the topsoil,” Lelo said, but led the way down. “I’ll get those plants while we’re out there. You can carry a flat unless you’re worried about getting dirt on your suit.”

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