The Obsession Page 142

“Yeah, that’s what I’d say. And I can pick out twenty more guys in here that more or less fit that.”

“But you had a feeling, both of you. Feelings count. I’m going to have someone work with you tomorrow.”


“People see more than they think they do, especially observant people. It can’t hurt.”

“Okay, okay. Now dance with Jenny. She wants to dance, and Kevin has to be cattle-prodded onto the dance floor.”

“I could dance.” He took another swig of beer, then got up to grab Jenny.

With Kevin grinning after them, Naomi turned her attention back to the stage. Xander watched her—and that gave her a feeling she could live with.

Pleasantly tired, absolutely relaxed, Naomi settled into Xander’s truck.

Ky leaned in the window. “Sure you don’t want a postgig brew, man?”

“I’m on call, as of ten minutes ago.”

Ky shook his head. “One beer isn’t going to impair you, son.”

“One beer could cost me my license. I’ll catch up with you guys later.”

“You shouldn’t feel like you can’t decompress because I’m here,” Naomi began.

“We go that same round after nearly every gig when I’m on call. Plus, I’m ready to head home.”

“I bet the dog’s more than ready to get out.”

“And there’s that. And there’s another way to decompress.”

She smiled. “Is that so?”

“I’ll show you.”

After the dog went out, made his rounds, and settled down for the night, he showed her why home and bed was a much better idea than a beer.

When his phone went off at four fifteen, Xander sincerely wished he’d stuck Jimmy (first night in his new apartment, and with a female companion) on the graveyard shift.

“Shit, fuck, shit.” He grabbed the phone, stared blearily at the readout. “Keaton’s. Uh-huh. Right. Okay, got it. About fifteen minutes.”

“You have to go.”

“Dead battery—probably. Between here and town, so I’ll check it, jump it if that’s it, and be back in a half hour.”

“You want coffee?” she mumbled.

“Like I want to breathe, but I’ll get it. Go back to sleep.”

“Don’t tell me twice,” she managed, and did just that.

Even the dog didn’t get up. Xander saw Tag’s eyes gleam as he pulled on clothes, but the dog didn’t stir or follow him down to grab that coffee before he headed out.

He used a travel mug, downing the coffee as he walked out to his truck.

Thirty, forty minutes, he thought as he gave the house one last long look. He’d be back. The doors were locked, the alarm set, the dog right there.

She’d be fine.

Still, he wished he’d dumped the shift on Jimmy. He knew about the guy at the bar—had noted him himself. The way he sat alone, head down, the way he’d kept a bead on Naomi when she’d come in.

Then again, he’d noted a guy sitting alone at a table, one who fit the basic nondescription, and who’d given Naomi a long study when she’d walked through the bar.

Until a woman had come in, hurried over, and snuggled up with him.

This murdering bastard didn’t break into houses anyway, he reminded himself. But he flicked a glance in the rearview as he drove away.

“2013 Ford Escape towing a 2006 Fun Finder RV,” he muttered. “Can’t miss that.”

He slowed rounding the turn, and indeed couldn’t miss it. SUV and camper both sat on the shoulder, emergency flashers blinking.

Xander slid in, nose to nose, and watched the man get out of the driver’s seat.

Another reason he hadn’t dumped on Jimmy. The murdering bastard liked hunting on Friday nights. Women, but why take chances?

The man lifted his hands, waving one, blinking against the headlights. Then he turned back to the SUV and spoke to someone inside as Xander got out.


“That’s right.”

“Mike Rhoder. You were really quick. It just won’t start. I got my kid in the back, and we were heading to Olympia to camp for the weekend. I just pulled over—he had to pee—and it wouldn’t start back up. Just clicks. No, we’re not there yet, Bobby.” He rolled his eyes. “Just go back to sleep.”

Xander hit his own flashers. “Go on and pop the hood. I’ll take a look.”

“Thought I’d be stuck here till morning, then I’d never hear the end of it from my ex. Hope like hell I don’t need a new battery.”

With the hood latch released, Xander went around to the front while the man leaned into the SUV again. “We’re fixing it right now, and it shouldn’t take long. It’s an adventure, right, buddy? And we’re nearly there. Promise.”

“Why don’t you try to start her up?” Xander said with his head under the hood.

“Sure, I can do that.”

There was just the faintest hint of . . . excitement in the tone to have Xander pushing back, bracing. But the blow to the side of his head flashed pain, flashed lights, then shut out into the dark.

“Or I could do that. How about a couple more, for good measure?”

He lifted the crowbar over his head just as he caught headlights beaming ahead of the turn.

Swearing, he lowered the crowbar and gave Xander a shove with his boot to roll him off the shoulder.

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