The Obsession Page 38

She left with a slow, simmering cover of Clapton’s “Layla” following her into the night.

She decided the sex dream with Xander with throbbing bass and mad guitar riffs while the house burned around them was inevitable.

Maybe it left her a little edgy, but she had plenty to do to work off the beginnings of sexual frustration. She wasn’t ready to be sexually frustrated, and far from ready to take care of it.

A weekend of quiet, of work, of sun and soft evening rain polished the edges away. As promised, she took morning coffee out on the deck—she would buy a better coffeemaker—and soaked in the silence and solitude.

When she FaceTimed New York on Sunday, her mood was high and light.

“There she is!” Seth, sporting the trim goatee he’d decided he’d needed on his forty-fifth birthday, beamed through her iPad screen.

“Hi, handsome.”

“You talking to me?” Harry moved into view, draping an arm over Seth’s shoulders. The rings they’d exchanged in Boston in the summer of 2004 glinted on their hands.

“Two scoops of handsome.”

“Make it three. Guess who’s here for Sunday dinner?”

Mason slid on-screen just behind them and grinned at her.

“Why, it’s Doctor Agent Carson.”

Just look at him, she thought, so tall and—yes, three scoops of handsome now. And best, happy. He was on his way to doing and being just what he’d set out to do and be. “How’s the FBI?”

“That’s classified.”

“He just got back from upstate,” Seth told her. “He helped on a kidnapping, helped bring a twelve-year-old girl back home safe.”

“It’s a living. What’s going on with that crazy house you bought?”

“Crazy? Take a look.” She panned the tablet, slowly circling the kitchen. “Who’s crazy?”

“Naomi, it’s beautiful. Look at that range hood, Seth! You went with the Wolf.”

“I listen.”

“Forget the range hood,” Seth said. “The cabinets are fabulous. Why are they empty? Harry, we need to send her some dishes.”

“No, no, I’ve got a line on that. I’ll send you the link to what I’m looking at. I’m taking you upstairs. I want you to check out the master bedroom walls—which I painted myself.”

“You?” Mason snorted.

“Every inch of them. I may never pick up a paint roller again in my life, but I did every inch of this room.”

“And how many rooms in that place again?”

“Shut up, Mason. Now be honest—does the color work?”

Upstairs she did another slow pan.

“Pretty and restful,” Seth declared. “Now why don’t you have an actual bed?”

“It’s on the list.” The really long list. “Really, I just finished the paint, and I finally set up a temporary mat room. I have a ton of stuff I’ve been processing and printing.”

“You work too hard, too much,” Seth objected.

“You worry too hard, too much. I went out with friends Friday night, had a drink, listened to a local band.”

“Seeing anyone?” Harry prompted, and behind him Mason rolled his eyes—mouthed, Better you than me.

“I see lots of people. The crew’s here eight hours a day, five days a week.”

“Any good-looking, single men in that crew?”

“Are you looking for one?”

Harry laughed. “Got all I can handle.”

“Me, too, right now. I want to hear how you’re all doing. How’s the restaurant? What’s for Sunday dinner? Is Mrs. Koblowki next door still entertaining gentlemen callers?”

She didn’t distract them—she knew better—but they let it go, and for the next fifteen minutes they talked about easy things, funny things, homey things.

When she said good-bye and turned off the tablet, she missed them like a limb.

She worked in the mat room for an hour, tried to settle down at her laptop. But the contact with family left her restless and blue.

Time to get out, she told herself. She’d yet to take real pictures in town, real studies of the marina. What better way to spend the rest of a Sunday afternoon? Then she’d come home and cook something besides scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich in her gorgeous new kitchen.

Pleased with herself, she drove into town, dumped her car, and just walked. No errands to run, no chores to deal with. Just walk and study and compose shots.

The sailboat called Maggie Mae, its paint white as a bridal gown and its sails lowered, its shining brightwork. The cabin cruiser decked out with balloons for a party, the fishing boat of dull gray that made her think of a sturdy old workhorse.

All the masts naked and swaying into blue sky, and reflected blurrily in the water.

And farther out, a couple zipping along on Sea-Doos, their busy speed a perfect contrast to the dreamy waiting of the docked boats.

She treated herself to an orange Fanta—a staple of her teen years—and climbed back in the car with plans to spend the evening working on the prints.

She rounded a turn. Slammed the brakes.

It wasn’t a deer this time, but a dog. Not in the road, but limping on the shoulder. She started to drive on—not her dog, not her deal—but it took another couple of steps, then just lay down as if hurt or sick.

“Damn it.”

She couldn’t just drive away, so she pulled over, even as she asked herself what the hell she was supposed to do.

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