The Obsession Page 83

“You’ve got a basement, right?”

“A big one. Storage and utility. It’s not finished. I don’t need the room.”

“Might want it when you have kids. And you’d want to build up that wall more when you do. For now, you might want to put some hemlock over there, naturalize some daffodils, give you a foresty feel on that far side. And some shrubs fronting the wall. Keep them low ’cause you don’t want anything blocking the view. When you ever decide to finish the basement, you do yourself a walk-out, and you’ve got a nice shady patio area under the decks, then a sunny little backyard.”

“I wanted to put some herbs, some vegetables in. Not a huge space, but enough for a kitchen garden.”

“You could do that.” Nodding, he walked up the short steps to the first-floor deck. “It’s a ways from your kitchen, but you could do that. Or you could have yourself a container garden up here. You got the sun, you got the room on a deck this size. Build them out of the same wood as the house, make them look built-in, you know? Do yourself herbs, some cherry tomatoes, maybe some Romas, some peppers, whatever. Containers are easy to maintain.”

“And steps away from the kitchen.” More practical, she thought, more efficient. And pretty. “You know what you’re doing, Lelo.”

“Well, I’ve been working the business since I was about six.”

“It’s a lot of work.”

“Whatever you do, you can do some here, some there, some down the road.”

“But you can draw it up, give me an estimate—on each section?”

“Sure. And there’s this other thing.”

“Am I going to have to sell the family jewels?”

He grinned, shook his head, and shot out raindrops. “Maybe you could take pictures of the work—you know, before, during, after. We could use them in the business. Like a trade.”

Bartering again, she thought. The popular commerce of Sunrise Cove.

“That’s a smart idea.”

“I can’t claim it. It’s my dad’s. I haven’t seen what-all you sent to Dave yesterday. I’m swinging by his place after he gets off work—may be able to mooch dinner, too. But my dad took a look at your website, and he came up with it.”

She’d want pictures in any case, she thought. She’d been documenting the progress on the house, for herself, for Mason and her uncles and grandparents.

“We’ll work that deal.”

“Solid.” They fist-bumped on it. “I’ll get you some drawings and some figures. You’re really pretty.”

“Ah . . . thank you.”

“I’m not hitting on you or anything. Xander’s like my brother. It’s just you’re really pretty. And I like what you’re doing with the house. Like I said, I used to hang up here sometimes with Dikes. Even though I used to think working in the business was bogus, I’d end up planting stuff in my head.”

“Now you’ll plant it for real.”

“That’s something, isn’t it? I should book. Xander’s on my ass about the muffler. I guess I’ll take it in, let him fix the damn thing. I’ll come by when I’ve got everything worked up.”

“Thanks, Lelo.”

“Sure thing. You be good.” He rubbed the wet dog. “Later,” he said, and jogged down and away.

Xander stood under an aging Camry, replacing brake pads that should’ve been replaced ten thousand miles earlier. Some people just didn’t maintain. It needed an oil change and an all-around tune-up, but its owner—his ninth-grade American history teacher—still didn’t believe he knew what he was doing. About any damn thing.

And never let him forget he’d been suspended for hooking school.

Something that made no sense to him then or now. Suspension for hooking was like a damn reward.

Speaking of suspension, her shocks were about shot—but she wouldn’t listen there either. She’d wait, drive the car into the ground until he ended up towing it in.

He had a transmission job after this and had given a clutch replacement to one of his crew, a simple tire rotation to another.

He had two cars out in the lot, towed in from a wreck on rain-slick roads the night before—a call that had pulled him out of Naomi’s bed at two in the morning.

The drivers got off with mostly bumps, bruises, some cuts—though one of them ended up being taken in by the deputy when he didn’t pass the Breathalyzer.

Once the insurance companies finished wrangling, he’d have plenty of bodywork to deal with.

But he’d missed waking up with Naomi and the dog, having breakfast.

He’d gotten used to those sunrises. Funny how fast he’d gotten used to them, and unused to sleeping and waking alone in his own space.

Even now he had a low-grade urge to see her, to hear her voice—to catch a drift of her scent. That wasn’t like him. He just wasn’t the sort who needed constant contact—calling, texting, checking in, dropping by. But he’d caught himself thinking up excuses to do any of that, and had to order himself to knock it off.

He had work—and later in the afternoon a quick meeting with Loo about the bar. He had books to read, sports to watch, friends to hang with.

And the paperwork he should’ve done Sunday night to clear up.

Xander shook his head when he heard the unmistakable cough and rattle of Lelo’s shitty muffler.

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