The Obsession Page 52

Bookshelves—loaded—rose and spread over an entire wall of the living room. Kevin had built them—and the bookshelves in the skinny second bedroom used as an office, and the bookcase in the bedroom—when Xander bought the property and the business.

Xander opened the old fridge, a cast-off harvest gold number that had been the rage in the seventies, grabbed two bottles of St. Pauli Girl, popped the tops on the wall-mounted opener—a rust-colored naked woman holding the opener in upstretched arms—and tossed the caps in the trash.

They went out the bedroom door onto a postage-stamp porch and sat in two of the folding chairs that went with the card table.

And considered it fine.

“Big wedding?”

“Yeah. I’ll be glad when it’s done. The bride texts me every five minutes the last few days, screwing around with the playlist. Anyway. It’s a living.”

“Did you break your ban on the Chicken Dance?”

“Never happen. I took an oath.” Xander stretched out his legs. He’d positioned the chairs so he could just stretch them out without his feet dropping off the edge. It worked.

“I saw your built-ins in the big house—library? And the tile work in the half bath. Nice.”

Kevin stretched out his legs as well and took his first end-of-the-workday pull. “You were up there?”

“Yeah. The dog was wearing your pants, man. I gotta say, he looked better in them than you.”

“I’ve got excellent, manly legs.”

“With bear pelts.”

“Keeps me and my woman warm in the winter. It was a smart solution. I don’t know how the hell that dog kept getting out of the cone, but once she got the idea for the shorts, and we got them on him, he left his no-balls alone.”

Kevin took a second pull on his beer. “And you’re still trying to move on that?”

“The dog?” When Kevin just snorted, Xander shrugged. “I will move on that. In time.”

“I’ve never known you to take time on a move.”

“She’s skittish.” At least that word came to Xander’s mind. “Don’t you wonder why that is? She doesn’t act especially skittish, look skittish, but she is under there. I’m curious enough to take time. If I just liked the look of her—and I do like the look of her—but if I just, I wouldn’t bother with so much time. Either it’s going to happen or it isn’t. I like that she’s smart. I like the contrasts.”


“Skittish, but ballsy enough to buy that old place, live out there on her own. She handles herself—and makes you think she’s had to. I like what she’s doing to the old place, or paying you to do.”

“She’s got ideas.”

“Yeah. She’s damn good at what she does. You’ve gotta appreciate somebody with talent who knows how to use it. And then . . .” Smiling, Xander took a long drink. “She named the dog.”

“He’s a good dog. He loves her like you love that GTO. He stole Jerry’s hammer the other day.”

“A hammer?”

“Naomi brought it, a sandpaper block, two work gloves, and a pipe fitting back down the other day. He takes them up to her like presents.”

They sat a moment, in companionable silence, looking out toward the road where a few cars passed, the scatter of houses beyond, and the field where they’d both played Little League what seemed like a million years before.

“Tyler’s got a T-ball game on Saturday.”

“I’m sorry I’ll miss that. It’ll probably be more entertaining than the wedding.”

“I remember playing T-ball, right over in the field. You and me and Lelo. Remember?”

“Yeah. Dim, but yeah.”

“Now I’ve got a kid playing. Makes you think.”

It made Xander think, nostalgically, of Lelo, who’d been scarecrow scrawny with beaver teeth. He’d stayed scrawny, Xander considered, but had grown into the teeth. “We sucked at T-ball, man, both of us. Got a groove on in Little League.”

“Kids mostly suck at T-ball, that’s part of the charm. Maddy starts kindergarten next fall.”

Xander turned his head, gave Kevin a long look. “You’re thinking about having another.”

“The subject’s come up a few times.”

“Well, you do good work there.”

“Yeah, we do. We always said two, and when we ended up with one of each, hey, that’s a nice balance. Now Ty’s playing T-ball, Maddy’s going into kindergarten, and we’re talking about starting another from scratch.”

“Three’s a magic number. You can look it up,” Xander added when Kevin just looked at him.

“It’s looking like we’re going for the magic number.”

“Have fun with that.”

“That’s the plus side. It sure is fun working on making one. You’re not looking for sex with Naomi.”

“Are you crazy?”

“I mean not just sex.”

Xander contemplated his beer. “Why do married guys think single guys are only after sex?”

“Because they used to be single guys, and remember. Case in point—what was her name. Shit. Ah, Ari, Alli, Annie. The redhead with the rack and the overbite? Worked at Singler’s last summer?”


“Bonnie? Where’d I get all those A’s from? That was just sex. She was built, so there’s that. But all the work went into the face and body, none into the brain.”

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