The Obsession Page 70

“Hey, Chip.”

“Hey, Xander. You’re heading out?”

“Yeah, but I got a minute. Do you want to come in?”

“That’s okay, I’ll walk down with you.”

Chip started down the steps on his slightly bowed legs. A big guy—football star in high school—he tended to lumber unless he stood on the deck of a boat, as he did daily for his family business. There, Xander knew, the man had the grace of a Baryshnikov, and his shy, self-effacing nature worked well for the tourists who wanted to do some fishing or sailing.

He’d mooned over Marla as long as Xander had known him, and had finally won her when she’d come back to the Cove after two years of college.

He’d won her by punching the guy she’d taken up with who liked punching her.

It wasn’t the first or the last guy Chip had punched over Marla. Xander really didn’t want to be the next guy.

But he didn’t sense anger, didn’t see that hard light in Chip’s eyes as they reached the base of the stairs.

“I wanted to, you know, say I was sorry about how Marla acted last night. I heard about it.”

“It’s no big.”

“She’s still got that thing for you.”

Xander kept a close watch, in case that hard light came calling. “Chip, you know there’s nothing there, and hasn’t been since high school.”

“I know it. I wanted to say how I know it, so you know. Patti, she’s making noises like there was something, but I know better. Plenty of other people know better, too.”

“Okay then. We’re cool?”

“Sure. I want to apologize to the lady—the new lady? It’s Naomi, right? But she doesn’t know me, so I didn’t want to go up there and scare her or anything.”

“You don’t have to worry about it, Chip. You don’t have to apologize to anybody.”

“I feel bad about it, all of it. Anyway.” He put those ham-hock hands in his pockets, gazed out at nothing special. “You don’t know where she is, do you?”


“No, not her, not Naomi. Marla.”

“Sorry, no.”

“She’s not at her place, the place she has now, and doesn’t answer the phone. Patti said she got mad at her last night, because Patti said she was embarrassed and all. She just took off—and she’d been drinking.”

“Was she driving?”

“Seems Patti was, but it’s not a far walk back to the place she has now. She didn’t go to work today at the market either. They’re that pissed at her now.”

Hungover, mortified, mad, probably in bed with the covers over her head.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“If you see her, maybe you can give me a call, so I know she’s okay and just in one of her moods.”

“I can do that.”

“I’ll let you go. Maybe if you see the lady—Naomi . . . If you see her, you could tell her I’m sorry about the trouble.”

“I’ll do that. You take it easy.”

“It’s the best way to take it.” Chip smiled a little, then climbed into his truck.

Since it was close, and he was running a bit late now, Xander got into his own truck and drove to Rinaldo’s.

She was already there, sitting in a booth, looking over the menu. He slid in across from her. “Sorry. I got into a thing just as I was leaving.”

“That’s all right. I was just trying to decide if I’d have room for this calamari starter.”

“I’ll split it with you, then you would.”

“Then I would.” She set the menu aside. “Busy place on Saturday night.”

“Always has been. You look good.”

“Better than I did a few hours ago?”

“You always look good. Hi, Maxie.”

The waitress, young and fresh with doe eyes and sunny blonde hair streaked with a pretty shade of lavender, pulled out a pad. “Hi, Xander. Hi,” she said to Naomi. “Can I get you some drinks?”

“A glass of chianti, thanks, and some ice water on the side.”

“You got it. Xan?”

“Yuengling. How’s that hatchback running?”

“It gets me where I’m going and back, thanks to you. I’ll be right back with your drinks.”

“I guess you get a lot of people where they’re going and back.”

“It’s what I do. Listen, if a big, lumbering sort of guy comes up to your place—”

“What? What guy?”

Xander waved a hand. “Harmless guy. Chip. He’s Marla’s ex. He came by just as I was leaving.”

As she straightened, Naomi’s shoulder blades went to iron. “If he’s mad about last night, he should be mad at who started it.”

“It’s not that. He’s a nice guy—too nice most of the time. He wanted to apologize for her. He said he wanted to apologize to you, too, but he was afraid he’d scare you if he just showed up.”

“Oh. It’s not his fault. What’s a nice guy who’d apologize for something that’s not his fault doing with someone like her?”

“It’s impossible to love and be wise.”

“Who said that?”

“Francis Bacon. Anyway, I told him I’d tell you he was sorry.”

Maxie brought their drinks and took their order.

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