The Obsession Page 34

“Yeah. I think.” She worried over it as she signed her name. “Does it read warm to you?”

He handed her back her card and studied the soft, watery blue seriously. “Yeah. It’s warm, and calm, right? You’re picking up the tones of the water, early morning before it goes deep.”

“That’s it. I almost went a little more gray. More spa-like. Maybe I should’ve . . . It’s just paint.”

“It’s walls,” he corrected. “You’ve got to live with them.”


“You hit warm and calm if that’s what you were after. And whatever it is, you’ll get used to it. I can email you a receipt.”

“That’s all right. I don’t need one.”

Didn’t want him to have her email, more likely. Xander pocketed the reader, the phone. “That’s a lot of wall to paint. You ought to open those doors, get some air in here.”

“It’s raining. And you’re right.” She stepped over, fought the slider open an inch. “This stubborn, ugly bastard’s going.”

Xander put a hand above hers, gave the slider one good shove. Then looked out as she did.

“Walls don’t mean dick when you look at that.”

“I keep telling myself.”

In the rain the world outside was dreamy, with gloom adding a fanciful edge, just touches of fog and mist floating like gossamer birds.

“Makes you forget the second floor looks like part of the Overlook Hotel.”

“Well, thanks for that. I’m going to imagine Redrum written in blood on that horrible wallpaper now.”

He grinned. “Points for getting the reference. I gotta get going. Good luck with this.”


She stood when he walked out, watching the cool spring rain.

He’d scared her, she could admit that. The quick, firm tap on her shoulder when her mind had been on painting and music. The equally quick and firm hand on her butt.

She’d have caught her balance, probably.

He’d backed off when she’d told him, easily, signaling he was harmless.

But he wasn’t harmless. Despite the easy talk about paint and wallpaper, he wasn’t harmless. He had strong blue eyes, very direct—and something behind them warned that he wasn’t a man to trifle with.

She had no intention of trifling with Xander Keaton.

He might have had a runner’s build, but there was a toughness in there. She knew how to judge who might be an easy companion for a night or two, if she had the need.

No question he was attractive, in a rough and sexy sort of way, and though she’d learned not to let it matter, it was a bonus that he had a good four inches over her in height. She wouldn’t deny she’d felt a tug in the belly, but if and when she had that need, she’d steer clear of Keaton.

Keep it simple, she thought as she went back to the stepladder. Because her life, her nature, would always be complicated.

Instinct told her Xander Keaton was anything but simple.

When the soaking rain finally moved off and the sun sparkled again, Naomi had the sheer delight of folding outswing doors off her kitchen. After they’d been installed and the crew left, she opened and closed them half a dozen times just for the fun of it.

With the turn of weather, she donned her boots and a light jacket and grabbed her camera. Stock photos of flowers always provided a decent revenue, and the burgeoning bulbs and wildflowers offered her a treasure trove. She could ramble the woods looking for the interest of rough bark, nurse logs, the charm of a narrow stream running fast with snowmelt. The surprise of a little waterfall running faster yet to a tumble of rocks below.

And she got an unexpected shot of a bear when they encountered each other in the silvery quiet of dawn.

After ten days of working for a living, the tedium of painting, the stress of selecting cabinet hardware and kitchen appliances, she sat on her new king-size mattress with her laptop.

Hello from Construction Central, loves of my life.

I did it. This room is painted, every square inch of wall, ceiling, and trim. I have wonderful atrium doors leading out to my deck, and intend to sit out there—on the chair I sanded and repainted—in the morning and wallow with coffee over my view. It’ll be a short wallow as the crew comes early, and the indescribable noise comes along with them. But I can see the kitchen coming together. I remember when you had the kitchen redone about—what—six years ago. I was home for a couple weeks and it was chaos. This is chaos times infinity.

But I think I like it—the process of it.

I saw a bear this morning. Don’t worry, I was more interested in him than he was in me. Picture attached. I couldn’t get one of the whale—I’m sure it was a whale—sounding way out. By the time I got my camera, zoomed out, it was gone.

I’m happy here. They’re getting to know me in town—enough to say hello when I’m at the market or hardware—my two favorite places right now. Oh, and the pizza place. It’s not New York pizza, but it’s not crap either.

I’m happy here, despite the daily noise, the deluge of decisions. Kevin says I really have to decide on the tile for the master, and the backsplash for the kitchen. Both terrify me more than a little. But that’s for later.

Write me back soon—and that goes for you, too, Mason, with more than an all’s good, how’s it going. I’m about to start picking color and designs out for the rooms I’ve earmarked as yours when you visit.

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