The Obsession Page 145

“He’s a damn good dog. Please, God, somebody find out about Naomi. Naomi Carson. Just—shit!”

“I need you to hold still.” The intern doing the scalp stitching looked at the surgeon.

“She’s doing a good job, just give her a few more minutes. I’ll check on Ms. Carson.”

Before he could, Mason came in. “How’s it going?”

“Both patients are doing well. One more cooperative than the other.”

“Where is she? How is she? Fuck! Are you mining for gold in my scalp?”

“They’re working on her. But she’s going to be fine. It was through-and-through. Through her, into Tag.”

“Your evidence, Special Agent.”

“Thanks.” Mason took the dish with the spent bullet.

“She lost a lot of blood, and a bullet never does you a favor, but it didn’t hit any organs. Just the meat. They’re going to want to keep her overnight. Probably want to do the same with you.”

Xander readied for battle if need be, because his mind was set. “I’m staying with her. So’s the dog.”

“Already arranged. Are you up to giving me a statement? It can wait.”

“I’m okay. Just tell me, where’s this Chaffins now?”

“In a cell in Sunrise Cove, but officially in federal custody. He’s been examined by a doctor, and his injuries treated. Among other things, you broke his nose, knocked out three of his teeth, cracked a couple ribs.”

“Did I?” Xander looked down at his hand, flexed his aching fingers, his raw and swollen knuckles.

“Thanks. I know you love her, but I loved her first, so thanks for saving my sister’s life.”

“No problem.”

Mason pulled up a stool. “Okay, tell me what happened.”

He ran it through.

“I should’ve seen it coming. I did see it, but too late. I actually bought the little-Bobby-in-the-backseat bullshit. And when I came to, I knew he’d gone after her. I called you while I drove back. Pulled in behind his damn camper, ran for the house. I heard the gunshot.”

He stopped, closed his eyes. “I heard the shot. I heard her scream. When I ran in he was standing over her, ranting, had the gun pointed at her head. I pulled him off, beat him unconscious. She and the dog were lying there, bleeding. So much blood. I grabbed a couple of dish towels and put pressure on her side—like they always say you’re supposed to. It hurt her. I hurt her.”

“He hurt her,” Mason corrected.

She dreamed she swam, slow and lazy, through the palest of pale blue water. Surfaced and floated, skimmed under to glide. Up and down, in and out, with everything warm and watery.

Once in the dream, beavers cut down trees with chain saws, deep, rhythmic buzzing. She surfaced, thought she saw the dog snoring away on a cot beside her.

She laughed in her sleep—heard Xander’s voice. Wouldn’t mind some of whatever they gave you.

And smiling, slid under again.

She thought of moonlight falling in slants over the bed, how it felt to make love with him over and under those moonlit slants.

Opening her eyes, she saw it was sunlight, sliding through the slats over the window.

“There she is. Are you staying with me this time around?”

She turned her head, met Xander’s eyes.

He looked so tired, she thought, and pale under the scruff. Bruised—badly—on the temple.

“We . . . had an accident.”

“Not exactly.”

“I can’t remember what . . .” She turned her head again, saw Tag watching her from a cot. “He is sleeping on a cot. And we’re . . . we’re in the hospital. He shot me. He shot us.”

“Simmer down.” Xander pressed a hand on her shoulder, kept her in place. “Anson Chaffins.”

“Yes. Yes, I remember. I remember all of it. He got in the house.”

“Bedroom. You let the dog out, he waited, came in that way, caught you in the kitchen. Mason said you went to school with him.”

“Yes. He was a year ahead of me. I only got to know him for a few months—yearbook committee, school newspaper. But he was with me when I found my mother. He said—he told me—it was his revelation. He said it was wiring, he and my father, both born to be what they are. And seeing my mother’s body opened things up for him. Excited him. All this time . . .”

“Don’t worry about it now.”

“How bad am I hurt? Don’t sugarcoat it.”

“Well, baby, they did the best they could.” And laughed when her mouth fell open. “That ought to cure some of that pessimism. You’re fine. As fine as anybody who’s been shot. Hit your left side, just above the waist, pinched right through, and straight into the dog’s right hindquarters. He’s fine, too. I’m saying right now, no Cone of Shame, not for him.”

“No Cone of Shame.” She reached out, stroked the dog. “Not ever. He can have the Pants of Heroism.”

“You jumped in front of the dog, didn’t you? He was going to shoot the dog, and you jumped in front of him.”

“Wouldn’t you have done the same?”

“Yeah.” Shakier than he wanted to be, Xander blew out a breath. “Yeah, probably. Idiots.”

“How did you get hurt? Your head. You were covered with blood.”

“Head wounds bleed a lot.”

“He was the call—that’s it. The breakdown. It was him. He could’ve killed you.”

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