The Obsession Page 96

“I . . . I just want to find out if I can live here. I want time to try.”

“It seems to me you’re already living here, and doing it well. I’m going to say something personal now, and then I’m going to go, get back to town. It’s clear to me now you haven’t told Xander any of this.” Sam pushed to his feet. “I’m going to say to you, on a personal level, you’re doing him, and yourself, a disservice. But it’s your story to tell, or not. Take care of yourself, Naomi.”

He walked down the deck steps, left her sitting there staring out at the water, at the white sails of clouds above it, wondering if she’d ever feel again.

Like twin storms, grief and gossip rumbled through the cemetery and left Xander with a low-grade headache. He slipped away as soon as possible, switched the radio off for the drive back to town. He could do with some quiet.

He had enough work, including what he’d postponed that morning, to keep him fully occupied. He stopped into parts and sales, got a ginger ale from the machine, picked up some parts, then headed over to the garage.

After a check of his worksheet, he opted to take the easy first, ease his way into the delayed workday. Before he walked out to drive the Mini Cooper into the bay for its diagnostic, he swung by to see the progress in the body shop.

He considered himself better than good at bodywork, but Pete was a freaking artist. The wrecked Escort would look showroom fine when Pete finished the job.

“Back from the funeral?”


Frowning, Pete adjusted his safety goggles. “Can’t stand funerals.”

“I don’t think anybody likes them.”

“Some do.” Pete nodded wisely. “Some people are fucked-up and get off on them. They hunt them up and go even when they don’t know who’s dead.”

“It takes all kinds,” Xander said, and left Pete to his work.

Once he’d finished with the Mini, keyed in the worksheet on the shop computer, and sent it to sales, he broke long enough to go up to his apartment, make a sandwich with the slim pickings he had available. With the Mini in the pickup area, he moved on to the next on his sheet.

He put in a solid four hours more—ditched the headache, picked up a stiff neck.

Since he’d told Naomi he’d bring dinner, he called in an order for baked spaghetti before going about the business of closing up.

He’d just started to his bike when Maxie from Rinaldo’s pulled in with her flat rear tire bumping.

“Oh, Xander! Please.” She actually gripped her hands together as if in prayer as she jumped out of the car. “I know you’re closed, but please. Something’s wrong with my car, it just started making this noise, and I could hardly steer it.”

“You’ve got a flat, Maxie.”

“I do?” She turned, looked where he pointed. “How did that happen? It didn’t like blow or anything. It just started thumping. I thought it was the engine or something.”

After raking her hand through her purple-streaked blonde hair, she sent him a sheepish smile. “Can you change it?”

He squatted down. “Maxie, this tire’s bald as your grandfather, plus you trashed it by driving on it.”

“I have to get a new one? Can you change it for now, put the spare on?”

“You don’t have a spare, you’ve got a donut—emergency tire—and you can’t drive around on that.” He circled the compact, shook his head.

“Your tires lost any excuse for tread about ten thousand miles ago.”

Her mouth dropped open; her eyes went to shocked moons. “I need four new tires?”

“That’s a fact.”

“Crap. Crap. Crap. There goes the money I’ve been saving for a shopping weekend in Seattle with Lisa. And now I’m going to be late for work.”

She tried a quick flirt. “Couldn’t you just, you know, patch the flat one, just for now, and . . . One more crap,” she muttered as he just stared her down. “You’ve got my father’s look on your face.”

That stung a little, as he only had about a dozen years on her. But he didn’t relent.

“You could have a blowout, end up wrecked. I’ll make you the best deal I can, but you’ve got to replace these. I can have them on for you tomorrow, before noon, and I can run you over to work. I’ve got a couple of takeouts waiting anyway. Can you get a ride home?”

Resigned, Maxie blew out a breath. “I can just walk over to Lisa’s, stay there tonight.”

Risking being compared to her father again, Xander shook his head. “No walking alone after closing. Not right now.”

“Everybody thinks whoever killed Marla is long gone. Just some horrible pervert passing through.”

“I’ll make you a deal. You get the tires at my cost, and you make this deal with me. No walking alone after closing.”

“All right, all right. I’ll get my dad to pick me up.” When Xander narrowed his eyes on her face, she rolled hers. “I promise.” She swiped a finger over her heart.

“Okay.” He got the spare helmet, handed it to her. “You break the deal, I charge you double for the tires.”

“Oh, Xander.” But she laughed and got on the bike behind him. “A deal’s a deal, and at least I get a cool ride to work out of it.”

By the time he got to the big house, all he wanted was to sit out on the deck with Naomi, maybe have a beer. And let the entire day shed like dead skin.

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