The Obsession Page 65

He took her face in his hands—not gentle there either—as if temper bubbled just under the surface.

“You walked in, and the air changed. I wasn’t going to tell you that. It gives you an advantage, and you’re enough of a challenge.”

“I’m not trying to be a challenge.”

“It’s one of the things that makes you one. I want you. I want you under me and over me and around me. And you want. I’m a good reader, and I read that from you clear enough. I’m coming by your place when we wrap tonight.”

“I don’t—”

He took her mouth again, just took it.

“If there’s a light on,” he continued, “I’ll knock. If there’s not, I’ll turn around and go home. You’ve got a couple hours to figure out what you’d rather. Text Jenny when you get home. She’s worried about you.”

He opened the door for her, held it open as she yanked at the seat belt.

“Leave the light on, Naomi,” he said, and closed the door.

She’d left a light on for herself, and turned it off, very deliberately, while the dog danced around her in desperate, delirious welcome.

“Just you and me.”

Determined not to dwell on the disaster of the evening—and wasn’t she racking them up—she went back to the kitchen. She’d make tea, take something for the stress headache banging in her skull. And let the dog out for a last round, she reminded herself, before she locked up and went to bed.

“Sleep’s the great escape,” she told Tag, who clung to her every word, every move.

Since he wanted her close, and she wanted the air, she went out the back with him, sat watching the moon over the water, drinking soothing tea while he wandered.

She didn’t want scenes, she thought. She didn’t want complications. This was what she wanted, this right here. The quiet, the peace of moonlight over the water.

It calmed her, settled the jumps the altercation with a drunk, jealous woman had wound up inside her. She’d just stay away from Loo’s, from Xander, from everyone else for a while.

Plenty of work to do, and she could take that trip to Seattle. Maybe take two or three days there.

Tag came back, sat beside her.

If she could find a motel that took dogs, she realized, and laid a hand on his head.

She hadn’t thought she’d wanted him either, she remembered. And now . . . Now she needed a motel that took dogs if she took a trip.

“Why don’t I mind that? I should mind that.”

They sat, companionably, for more than an hour.

He rose when she did, walked in when she did, followed her as she checked locks. He walked upstairs with her, darted to his bed to get his stuffed cat, and though he settled down with it, he watched her while she checked her email, her accounts.

As she worked, she’d glance back, see the dog continuing to watch her. Did he sense her restlessness? she wondered.

She got up to put on the fire, hoping that would settle them both.

When it didn’t, he walked back down with her, waiting while she turned on the light again.

“This is a mistake, a terrible, stupid, shortsighted mistake.”

Still time to change her mind, she thought. But she wouldn’t, no, she wouldn’t change her mind. So she walked into the kitchen again, this time pouring herself a glass of wine.

And went back outside with the dog again, to wait for Xander to knock.

He caught the tiny glimmer of light up ahead, and everything inside him unknotted. He’d told himself he’d accept the dark—the choice would always be hers—but that glimmer lit inside him like a torch.

She’d left the light on—just one, but one would do.

He parked his bike beside her car, swung off with the guitar case still strapped to his back. He wouldn’t leave it out in the air overnight—and he fully intended to stay.

He’d heard the dog bark, approved that. Nothing like a dog for an early-warning system. And his knock brought out another trio of woofs.

When she opened the door, Tag rushed out to wag and lean and wag some more. But Xander kept his eyes on Naomi, with the dark house behind her.

“I’m coming in.”

“Yeah.” She stepped back. “You’re coming in.”

When he did, she closed the door behind him, checked the lock.

“I worked out some things to say if the light was on.”

“Would you have gone home if it wasn’t?”

“I can want, you can want. But unless you open the door, I stay out. Until,” he corrected. “Until you open it.”

She believed that, realized she could trust that. He might overwhelm, but he’d never force.

“Confidence or patience?”

“It can be both.”

“I’d go to the wall telling myself I’m not impulsive. But I have this house, this dog, and I left the light on when I swore I wouldn’t.”

“You’re not impulsive.” He unstrapped the guitar case, set it against the wall by the door. “You just know how to make a decision.”

“Maybe. All right, I’ve made a decision. This is just sex.”

He didn’t smile, just kept his gaze—patience, confidence—locked on hers. “No, it’s not. You know that, too. But I’m more than happy to start with that. Tell me what you want.”

“Tonight, I want you, and if that doesn’t—”

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