The Obsession Page 135

“Damn right, he did. Damn right,” she repeated, and strode up and down the deck. “If he tries it again, he won’t get to leave, heart knocking, because he’s going down bloody. If he thinks I’m an easy mark, that he can come for me whenever he damn well pleases, he miscalculated.”

“I get the value of mad, as long as it doesn’t walk with stupid and careless.”

She whirled to him, eyes dark green fire. “Do I look stupid and careless?”

“Not so far.”

“And that’s not going to change.” She calmed a little, told herself to keep the mad in a back corner until she needed it. “Do you think Kevin and Jenny can get a sitter? I’d like them to come over, I want to tell them sooner rather than later, but not with their kids around.”

“I’ll make it happen, if you’re sure.”

“I am.”

“What time?”

“Whatever works for them will work for me. I’m going to finish these containers, clean up, so any time that works for them.”

Where did you confess your blood ties? Naomi wondered. The scarcity of furniture in the living and sitting rooms made that difficult. Sitting around the dining room table on folding chairs seemed too uncomfortable.

She opted for where she herself felt most relaxed and brought more chairs out to what she thought of as the kitchen deck.

“Do you want me here?” Mason asked her.

“You have work?”

Did she serve food? Naomi wondered. What sort of canapé suited the moment, for God’s sake?

My father’s a serial killer. Try the crab balls.

“I mean, of course you have work, but something specific?”

“The team’s meeting for a briefing, but I can catch up with it if you want me here. This is hard for you.”

“Why hasn’t it ever been as hard for you?”

“I wasn’t in the woods that night. I didn’t go down into that cellar. I didn’t find Mom. She was his last victim.”

“You never were.”

She remembered that day in the coffee shop, after she’d bolted from the movie theater. How young he’d been, and how strong and steady.

“You resolved so early on not to be, to be everything he wasn’t. And however much I denied it, ignored it, shoved it back, I let myself be his victim. I’m done with that. Go to the briefing. Find a way to end this, Mason.”

She put a tray together—cheese, flatbread crackers, olives. It kept her busy until Xander got back from a roadside call and Mason left.

“Do you know how many people don’t pay attention to, or just don’t believe the fuel gauge?”

“How many?”

“More than you think, so they end up paying more than double what the gas would’ve cost in the first place, so they bitch about that—like you should make the service call as a fricking favor. Are these any good?”

Look at him, she thought, heading toward scruffy again. Annoyed with some stranger who’d neglected to get gas, unsure what to make of sesame and rosemary flatbread. Idly scratching the dog’s head as he decided whether to risk the fancy.

“You brought me lilacs.”

He looked over, frown deepening. “Yeah. Was I supposed to do that again?”

“Sometime. But you brought me lilacs in an old blue pitcher. That was when.”

“When what?”

Not really listening, she thought. She’d grown up with a brother. She knew when a male wasn’t really listening.

All the better.

“You told me when, and I’m telling you.”


“Stolen lilacs in an old blue vase.”

“It wasn’t that big a deal.”

“You’re wrong. It was a very big deal, the biggest of my life, because that’s when. That’s when, Xander, I knew I was in love with you. I didn’t know what to do about it,” she said as—oh, he was paying attention now—his gaze snapped to hers, hot blue and intense. “I’ve never felt what I feel for you before, never believed I could feel it, so I didn’t know what to do about it. I have a better idea now.”

“What’s the better idea?”

“To be glad you’re in love with me, too. To be grateful, really grateful it happened now after I’d already realized it was time to stop running. Or at least try to. To be happy it happened here where we both want to be. And to hope. To be brave enough to hope you’ll want to stay with me here.”



“Lelo needs to work one into his design.”

“It’s going out back, so we can see it from the deck. I told him I wanted to plant it myself.”

“We’ll plant it.”

Her throat closed; her eyes brimmed. “We’ll plant it.”

He stepped to her, caught her face in his hands. “I’m moving in. You’re going to have to make room.”

The first tear spilled over. “There’s plenty of room.”

“You say that now.” He kissed the tear away, then the second as it trailed down her other cheek. “Wait until I tell Kevin to build a garage.”

“A garage.”

“A guy’s got to have a garage.” He brushed his lips to hers. “Three-car garage, north side of the house, put a side door on the laundry room.”

“You’ve given this some thought.”

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