The Obsession Page 81

He hurt her, whoever he was, and when he did, he whispered how he would hurt her more the next time. And he did.

She tried to scream, but he’d taped her mouth. Sometimes he pushed a rag over her face, and the terrible fumes of it made her sick, then made her go away.

She always woke in the dark, woke cold and scared, and wishing with all her heart for Chip to come save her.

Then he’d rape her again. He cut her, and he hit her. He cut her and he hit her even if she didn’t fight the rape. Sometimes he choked her until her lungs burned, until she passed out.

She couldn’t remember what had happened, not exactly. When she tried to think, her head hurt so bad. She remembered walking home, being mad, so mad. But couldn’t remember why. And she remembered—or thought she did—having to stop and puke in some bushes.

Then the big car with the camper—was that it? She walked by a camper, and then something hit her. Something hurt her. And those awful fumes took her away.

She wanted to go home, she needed to go home. She wanted to go back to Chip. Tears leaked out of her swollen eyes.

Then he came back. She felt the movement. Were they on a boat? She felt, as she had before, the space tilt, and creak. His footsteps. She struggled, tried to scream, though she knew it was useless.

Please, please, somebody hear me!

He gave her one hard slap. “Let’s see if you’ve got one more night in you.”

Something flashed, blinding her. And he laughed.

“You sure aren’t much to look at now. But I can always get it up.”

He cut her first so she screamed against the tape. He punched her with a fist cased in a leather glove, then slapped her to bring her around again so she’d cry when he raped her.

It was always better when they cried.

Then he used the rope to choke her. This time he didn’t stop when she passed out. This time he finished it, and took her out of the nightmare.

When he raped her, when he choked her, he called her Naomi.


Soaking, sopping spring rains blew in. They made for muddy boots, wet dog, and some dramatic photos.

Naomi worked in the unfinished bedroom with the ugly blue bathroom and learned to block out the scream of tile cutters.

She spent the rainy Monday and started the rainy Tuesday refining the weekend’s work. She’d added the Wreckers to her playlist, used their music while she worked on the band shots.

She switched off to blues when refining the shots of Xander on her deck, went random on the book-in-hand.

If she put off working on what she thought of as Storyland, she’d get to it. Inside, she knew she had to get past the upset of seeing that damn book tucked in with all the others on Xander’s book wall. And right now, she was experiencing something new and different.

She was happy. Not just satisfied, content, or engaged. Happy in a way that stuck with her right through the day—rainy or not. The house, the progress on it, the work—because, God, she did good work here. Even the dog gave her a sense of happiness.

And still, this was more. However it had happened, however it ran contrary to ingrained habit and what she considered good, sensible judgment, she was in a relationship. And in one, she had to admit, with an interesting man. One who engaged her, mind and body, who worked as hard as she did, and enjoyed it as she did.

Who could blame her for wanting to hold on to it as long as it lasted?

She matted the manipulated shot of him on the deck. Toned black-and-white, his eyes boldly blue, the dog’s crystal. Bright white mug, and the red-gold streak of sun an arrow over the horizon where sky met water. She’d debated between white mat or gray, and saw now she’d been right to go with the gray. It popped the colors out, didn’t distract as the white might have. Pewter frame, she decided, not black. Keep those edges soft.

She propped the matted print against the wall, stepped back to study it.

The start of a good day, she thought, remembering. She only had to eliminate the visit from the chief of police, and it had been the start to a most excellent day—that ended as it began, with Xander in her bed.

She hooked her thumbs in her pockets, giving the prints ranged against the wall a critical study, called out a come in at the knock on the door.


“It’s okay,” she told Kevin. “Perfect time to break.”

“Good, because Lelo’s downstairs.”

“He is?”

“Yeah, he wanted to . . . Wow.” He came all the way in, leaving the door open so the sounds of hammers and saws echoed from downstairs, and the tile cutter screamed down the hall. “Those are great. That’s Cecil’s barn—and Cecil. And Xander. Mind?” he asked, and crouched down before she answered. Tag padded over to nose under Kevin’s arm for a hug.

“This one? Man, you can smell morning. That minute before it bangs open and it’s day.”

“You make me wish you were an art critic.”

“It’s how it hits. The black-and-white with the bits of color, that’s dramatic, right? And seriously cool. But this one, it’s the quiet and the . . . possibilities?”

“Definitely wish you were an art critic.”

“I’m not, but I’ve got to say Cecil’s barn never looked so good. Where are you going to hang them?”

“I’m not. They’re going to the gallery in New York. In fact, I need to do a second print of what seems to be your favorite. The gallery owner wants one for his personal collection.”

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies