The Obsession Page 39

Maybe it was rabid, or vicious, or . . .

It lifted its head when she got out of the car and gave her an exhausted, hopeful stare.

“Oh well. Okay, hey boy. Nice dog—I hope to God.”

Because he was pretty big, she noted. But thin—she could nearly count his ribs. Big, thin, and filthy, a big, skinny, dirty brown dog with shocking blue eyes that looked so painfully sad.

And damn it again, the blue against the brown made her think of Harry.

She didn’t see a collar, so no tags. Maybe he had a chip. Maybe she could contact the vet or the animal shelter—she could find the numbers on a quick search with her phone.

Then he whimpered, bellied toward her. She didn’t have the heart to leave him, so she walked closer, crouched, and gingerly held out her hand.

He licked it, bellied closer.

“Are you hurt?” Filthy, he—or she—might have been. Naomi gently stroked his head. “Are you lost? God, you look half starved. I don’t have anything to eat on me. How about I call somebody to help?”

He laid his head, all floppy eared and dirty, on her leg, didn’t whimper so much as moan.

She took out her phone, then heard the sound of an engine—motorcycle—heading out from the direction of town.

She lifted the dog’s head, set it gently back on the shoulder of the road, and stood to wave down the rider.

The second she spotted him—long legs in jeans, lean torso in black leather—she thought, of course. It would be. Even with the smoked-glass visor of the helmet, she recognized Xander Keaton.

He cut the engine, swung a leg over the bike. “Did you hit him?”

“No. He was limping along the side of the road, then he just lay there. And I—”

She broke off as he was already hunkered down, running those big, guitar-playing hands over the dog as gently as a mother stroked her baby.

“Okay, boy, just take it easy. I don’t see any blood, any wounds. Don’t feel any breaks. I don’t think he’s been hit by a car.”

“He’s so thin, and—”

“There’s some water in the saddlebag. Get it, will you? Thirsty? I bet you’re thirsty. Plenty hungry. Been on the road awhile, right? Been traveling.”

As he talked to the dog, stroked it, Naomi poked through the saddlebag of the bike, came out with a bottle of water.

“Let’s see what we can do here.” Xander took the bottle, gestured Naomi down. “Cup your hands.”


“Come on, come on. It won’t kill you.”

She did as he asked, cupping them in front of the dog’s muzzle. He lapped at the water Xander poured, panted, lapped, then laid his head down again.

“We need to get him off the road. I’ll put him in the back of your car.”

“Where should I take him?”

“You should take him home.”

“I can’t take him home.” She sprang up as Xander slid his arms under the dog, lifted him.

She saw that the dog was definitely male—unneutered male. “He belongs to somebody.”

With the bone-thin, tired, filthy dog in his arms, Xander stood, boots planted, and gave her a long look out of deep blue eyes. “Does this dog look like it belongs to anybody? Open the back.”

“He could’ve gotten lost. Somebody might be looking for him.”

“We’ll ask around, but I haven’t heard about anybody losing a dog. He’s full-grown. Mutt. Maybe some husky or Australian shepherd in there with those eyes. Alice will know—the vet. If somebody lost a dog, she’ll know. Meanwhile she’s closed on Sunday.”

“There must be an emergency number.”

“The only emergency I see is a dog who needs a decent meal, a good bath, and somewhere to rest.”

“You take him home.”

“On that?” He jerked his head toward his bike.

“I’ll wait.”

“You found him.”

“You’d have found him two minutes later.”

“There you go. Look, take him home, and I’ll go pick up some supplies for him. You get him to the vet tomorrow, I’ll split the bill with you. You’re not taking that dog to the shelter. If they don’t find the owners—and I’m betting they’re long gone—they’ll probably put him down.”

“Oh, don’t say that.” Turning a frustrated circle, she gripped fists in her hair. “Don’t say that so I feel guilty and obligated. Wait, wait—he’s filthy, and he smells amazing.”

Naomi grabbed the old blanket she carried in the back, spread it out.

“There you go. You’ll be all right. I’ll run back, get what you need. I’ll meet you back at your place.”

Trapped, as Xander strode back to his bike, swung on, kick-started it to a roar, and zoomed away, she looked back at the dog. “You just better not get carsick.”

She drove slowly, eyes flicking to the rearview, but didn’t hear any sounds of sick dog.

When she pulled up in front of her house, she wondered if the most excellent work she’d done that afternoon had been worth dealing with a stray, starving dog for a night.

She got out, walked around to open the back. “Yes, that’s an amazing smell that will potentially take weeks to dissipate. Not entirely your fault, of course, but you smell disgusting. I don’t guess you could just jump out on your own.”

He bellied over a little, tried to reach her hand with his tongue.

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