The Obsession Page 82

“Hah.” Visibly tickled, Kevin pushed up to stand. “Xander’s going to New York. You know, the shop where Jenny works would go nuts for those smaller ones there—the flowers and the barn door, the old tree.”

She’d matted them for herself, but . . . maybe. The commission, if they sold, could carve nicely into the cost of the old cedar chest she had her eye on at Cecil’s.

“I might take some of them in, see about that. Did you say Lelo’s downstairs?”

“Hell, got off track. Yeah, he said he’d look at the yard, work up some ideas. But he’s poking around with the guys downstairs—or was when I came up.”

“We talked about him looking at the yard, but it’s pouring rain.”

“It’s Lelo.” Kevin’s shrug said it all. “If you’re going to break for a bit, I’ve got some things to talk to you about downstairs. The laundry room deal, and up here, the studio.”

“Okay. Let me talk to Lelo, then I’ll find you.”

“We appreciate you don’t breathe down our necks when we’re working. I mean that. But you might want to take a look at the work on the master bath before you close off again.”

“All right.”

Kevin peeled off in the direction of the master, and the dog started down with her. Tag paused on the stairs, sniffed the air. If a single bark could signify utter delight, his did before he all but flew down the stairs.

She heard Lelo laugh. “Hey, there he is! How’s it going, big guy!”

She found them, already wrestling over the painter’s tarp. Lelo wore a wet cowboy hat and a yellow rain slicker.

“Hi. Figured it was a good day to take a look around since we’re rained out on this patio job.”

“So you want to slosh around outside here instead?”

“Rain’s gotta rain. I didn’t want to go poking around without letting you know.”

“Let me get a jacket.”

“I can just make some notes and all if you don’t wanna get wet.”

“Rain’s gotta rain.”

He grinned. “There you go. Meet you out there. Okay if Tag tags with me?”

“I’d have a hard time stopping him. I’ll be right out.”

She grabbed her rain jacket, a ball cap, and took the time to change her sneakers for boots.

When she got out front, Lelo wandered in the steady rain, tossed a sodden tennis ball for the delirious dog.

“Got a good start on the cleanup,” he called out.

“Xander did. I’d barely started on it.”

“He likes the work. My dad’s always saying he’d hire Xander in a heartbeat, but then who’d fix his truck? I want to say right off, I hope you’re not in love with those old arborvitaes because they gotta go.”

“I’m not in love.”

“Excellent. Anything you especially want?”

“I thought an ornamental weeper, like a cherry. Over there.”

“Uh-huh.” He stood, rain dripping off the brim of his hat, studied. “That’d work. Have you ever seen a weeping redbud?”

“I don’t know.”

“It’s not red. It’s lavender.”


“Awesome color, and just a little less usual. And it’s got heart-shaped leaves.”


“You maybe want to look it up.”

“I’m going to.”

“You could maybe do some pavers, you know? Kind of winding, not straight-arrow-like. And set off the house with native shrubs and plants. You like birds and butterflies? Like that?”


“You gotta have a mock orange. It smells good, looks pretty, and it’ll draw the birds and butterflies. And Juneberry. It’s got white starry flowers, and it fruits. Purple fruit about this big.” He circled his thumb and finger. “You’ll get the songbirds with that. You can eat it—it’s pretty good. And you want some rhodos.”

He walked, gesturing, tossing the ball, rattling off names, descriptions. And painted a picture of something fanciful and lovely.

“I was going to plug in a tree, a couple of shrubs, do some bedding plants and bulbs.”

“You could do that. It’d look fine.”

“Maybe it would, but now you’ve got me thinking about plants I’ve never heard of and trees with heart-shaped leaves.”

“I could draw it up for you, give you a better picture.”

“Okay, let’s do that.”

“Can I see around back?”

“We’re already wet.”

As they started around the side, he reached into the pocket of his slicker. “Want?”

She glanced down, saw the classic yellow pack, caught just the drift of that comforting scent as he drew out a stick of Juicy Fruit.

Though she shook her head, deemed herself foolish, the simple pack of gum cemented her initial impression of him.

Kind, sweet, loyal. No wonder the dog adored him.

“You get afternoon shade here,” Lelo continued as he folded a stick of gum into his mouth. “It’s a nice spot for a hammock or a bench, some shade lovers. You wind those pavers around, you’d be able to walk clear around the house barefoot.”

“You’re killing me, Lelo.”

They circled to the back, where he set his hands on his skinny hips and looked up the deck steps, out to the narrow ribbon of scrubby lawn to the stone wall.

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