The Obsession Page 51

Holding him in place while she . . . Jesus Christ.

Appalled, sincerely, Xander pulled off his helmet. “What the hell are you doing?”

“What the hell does it look like I’m doing?”

“It looks like you’re putting pants on that dog.”

“Then that’s what the hell I’m doing.”

She dragged them the rest of the way on—red shorts with a white side stripe—then let the dog go.

She leaned back on the steps while the dog—looking like an idiot—hurried over for a rub.

“What kind of person puts pants on a dog?”

“The kind who isn’t going to keep fighting to keep the damn cone on him. He gets out of it. Kevin duct-taped the thing, and he still got out of it if I took my eyes off him for five damn minutes. And when he was in it, he ran into everything. Including me. I swear on purpose. He hated it.”

“Cone of Shame?”

“Yeah, the damn Cone of Shame. So now he’s wearing the Pants of Humiliation. But the stupid dog seems to like them.”

“Pants of Humiliation.” Xander had to grin. “You cut a hole for his tail.”

“Kevin had them in his truck. His old running shorts. I got creative.”

“Maybe, but how do you expect him to do what he needs to do out here?”

“Why the hell do you think I was dragging them back on him?” She waved her arms, winced, rubbed her right biceps. “I brought him out, took them off so he did what he needed to do. Now they’re on, and he can’t get to the incision site. In fact, he seems to forget about it when he’s wearing them.”

“Maybe you should buy him an outfit.” Impressed with her inventiveness, Xander sat down beside her, rubbed the dog. “I got my half of the deal. Alice said he did fine.”

“Yeah, yeah. He’s fine. I’m exhausted.”

“I can order a pizza.”

“No, thanks, but— Crap, just crap. Yes. Please order. The backs of my calves are covered in cone bruises. My arms ache from painting and from struggling with this dog—who’s putting on those pounds just fine, thanks.”

The dog brought Xander a ball he’d obviously stowed somewhere outside for easy access.

“Don’t throw it. He really shouldn’t run yet.”

Xander pushed up again. “Anything you don’t like on pizza?”

“No anchovies, no pineapple. Anything else is fine.”

The dog dropped the ball between Naomi’s feet, and when she didn’t respond laid his head on her knee.

“What’s the dog’s name?”

She heaved a sigh. “Tag.”

“As in ‘you’re it’?”

“No. As in he tags along.”

“Tag.” The dog couldn’t have recognized his name yet, but apparently he recognized humor as he looked over at Xander, gave a doggy grin. “It works.”


This visible world is but a picture of the invisible,

wherein, as in a portrait, things are not truly,

but in equivocal shapes.



Once or twice a week Xander and Kevin grabbed a beer after work. Sometimes they actually planned it and met up at Loo’s, but for the most part it just happened.

It just happened that Kevin swung into Xander’s garage after trips to the lumberyard and the tile distributor—and the half an hour huddled with his electrician.

He knew how to juggle jobs. Naomi’s was priority, but he had a couple others going, which meant he spent a lot of time traveling from site to site.

And right now he wanted a beer.

The garage doors, lowered and locked, didn’t mean Xander wasn’t around. Just as his truck sitting in the parking lot didn’t mean he was. Taking his chances, Kevin got out of his own truck and headed around the back of the garage, where a zigzag of steps led to Xander’s apartment.

He heard the music, classic Stones; he followed it around to the rear bay—Xander’s personal bay—and found his friend tending to the love of his life.

The ’67 GTO convertible.

Or, as Kevin thought of it, the Date Car.

“Who’s the lucky lady?” Kevin asked, pitching his voice to ride over Mick’s.

Xander glanced up from polishing the chrome rocker panels. “She is. She needed detailing. I’m just finishing it up.”

Xander had what he considered a damn fine crew of his own, but nobody, absolutely nobody, touched the GTO but himself. He loved her from her chain mail grille to her eight taillights, and every square inch of her Coke-bottle body between.

He rose now to take a critical look at his own work.

She shined, sparkling chrome against the red body. That was factory red—just as his grandfather had driven it off the showroom floor.

“Are you going to take her out for a spin? I’m up for it.”

“Not today. We got rehearsal in—” Xander checked the old schoolhouse-style clock on the wall. “In about an hour. We got a wedding up in Port Townsend on Saturday. Lelo’s cousin.”

“Right, right. I remember. Got time for a beer?”

“I can make time.” Xander took one last look at his sweetheart and stepped out. “Nice evening. How about we do this on the veranda?”

Kevin grinned. “That works.”

They trooped up the steps into the apartment. The main space held the living room, kitchen, and—with the card table and folding chairs—the dining area.

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