The Obsession Page 141

Had her kid brother with her, and after one look at the stage where the mechanic and his grease monkeys hammered away on some ancient Rolling Stones bullshit, the kid brother began to scan the room.

So he angled away, picked up his beer.

Grabbing a stool at the end of the bar hadn’t been a problem. Most people wanted tables—and he didn’t. A solo at a table drew attention. A guy sitting at the bar drinking a beer didn’t.

He shifted on the stool just enough to keep them in his line of sight as they worked their way through the tables to sit with the asshole carpenter and his asshole wife.

He’d thought about killing the wife—Jenny—just for the hell of it. But she really wasn’t his type.

Maybe, if he ever decided to come back this way, just for the memories, he’d pay her a little visit. But he didn’t have time to play with her now.

Now, it was all about Naomi. So he’d watch awhile, finish his beer, leave a decent tip. Nobody remembered a decent tipper, just the lousy ones or the big ones.

Then he had things to do. It was going to be a big night.

You said they were good,” Mason shouted at Naomi. “You didn’t say they were really good.”

Delighted, she nudged him toward the table. “They’re really good!” She locked eyes with Xander and thought: Oh yeah, I’m with the leader of the band.

After laying a hand on Jenny’s shoulder, she leaned down. “We’re a little later than we planned. I’m going to the bar for a round. Are you guys ready for another?”

“We could be.”

She gave the shoulder a squeeze, started toward the bar. Because she wanted to connect with Loo, she aimed for the middle, idly scanning as she went.

She saw a man at the far end, bill of a ball cap pulled low, head down toward the nearly empty beer glass in front of him. And felt him watching her.

He rubbed his fingers up the bridge of his nose, shouldered away from her. Something shivered up her spine like a warning. Despite it, or maybe because of it, she changed directions, started toward the other end of the bar.

“Hey, Naomi!” Krista popped up from her table, grabbing Naomi into a hug. “We sold the print of Xander with the dog. Ten minutes before closing.”

“That’s great.”

“We need more!”

“I’ll get you more.”

“Can we have a sit-down next week, talk about it?”

“Sure. Email me. We’ll set it up.”

She broke away in time to see the man in the cap walking casually toward the exit.

Nothing, she told herself. Probably nothing. Changing directions again, she walked up to the bar and Loo.

“Guy walking out was giving you the eye,” Loo said before Naomi could speak.

“I saw that. He was sitting alone, end of the bar.”

“Didn’t like the look of him.”


Loo shrugged, continued to mix a dirty martini. “Warmed that seat nearly two hours, nursed one beer—and had his eye on the door half the time. Kept his head down, wouldn’t look you in the eye.” She shrugged again, added a spear of two fat olives to the glass. “But he watched you, all the way to the table.”

“I couldn’t get a good look at him. Did you?”

“Not much of one. Suz! Order’s up! Kept his head down, like I said. Early thirties, I’d say, looked like brown hair under that cap. Long, skinny fingers. Couldn’t keep them off his face. Nervous like, if you ask me.”

She pulled the next ticket, set two beer mugs under taps, drew them both at once.

“Or maybe it’s me who has the jitters, between one thing and the other.”

“Are we all right? You and me?”

“No reason for us not to be. Terry! You’re up. Are you here to chat or drink?” she asked Naomi.

“Both, I guess. A round for the table. Kevin’s beer, Jenny’s wine, and I’ll have the same. A Corona with lime for my brother. I’m so sorry, Loo.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about. If you want to talk, we’ll talk when I don’t have to yell back at you. My boy up there loves you. Anything else is just noise.”

“I’m really going to try not to screw it up.”

On a bark of laughter, Loo set the two glasses of wine on a tray. “Aren’t you the positive thinker?”

“That’s pretty positive for me.”

She carried the tray to the table, served the drinks. Suz breezed by, grabbed the tray, kept breezing.

“Jenny says they’ve got a CD.” Mason hefted his bottle. “I’m going to buy it. You know the uncles are going to love this.” He drank some beer, sighed. “Thought you’d never get back with this.”

“They’re busy, and I was talking with Loo. There was this guy . . .”

Immediately Mason set down his beer. “What guy?”

“Just a guy at the bar. We both felt he was watching me.”


“He left.”

“Did you get a good look at him?”

“No. Mason—”

“Did she?”

“Not really.”

He got up, left his beer, and headed toward the bar.

“Hey! I was going to talk him into dancing with me.”

“He’ll be back—and he can dance.” Wishing she’d said nothing, Naomi picked up her wine.

When Mason came back, he leaned in close and spoke directly in her ear. “She says early thirties, white, short brown hair, average to slim build, about five-ten.”

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