Knock

The sound was so soft that he almost didn’t hear it over the television. It was a scratching, scuffing sound that made Tom think of knocking the mud off his shoes when he came in through the back door. It could have been anything and he wasn’t the sort of man to jump at strange sounds so he settled deeper into his chair.

He was dozing, wrapped in the sort of warmth that came from security and nearly good health, and was almost asleep when he heard the sound again. The same scuffing, just underneath a green and fragrant crackling that he knew was coming from the side of the house.

“Dammit, Lee,” he muttered under his breath. He was sick of his neighbor letting that damn dog nose through his bushes. It always preceded a massive bowel movement and left both his bushes and backyard in a sorrier state than before the dog arrived, and Lee refused to do anything to stop it. Tom had spent the better part of a year trying to figure out the best way to confront his neighbor but he didn’t have the stomach for conflict anymore.

The sounds stopped abruptly and he let his eyelids droop again. It wasn’t worth it. He’d take the scooper out the next morning and get rid of the evidence so he could spend another day pretending it wouldn’t happen again. He’d give just about anything not to have to deal with it anymore.

“And now to our red carpet coverage,” the host of the celebrity news show said amidst an exciting sting of music that forced Tom’s eyes open. “Kima Carpenter is wearing a daring dress by one of the newest, hottest young designers, and doesn’t she look fantastic in it?”

“You can say that again,” his co-host said in a bubbly blonde tone. “Not many people can pull off those sorts of patterns but Kima sure does. Wow.” Tom reached for the remote control. He had zero interest in what the next big thing was wearing, and not just because he didn’t represent her. It had no bearing on whether or not he wanted them in his stable, and if he was being honest he preferred potential clients to come in dressed as simply as possible.

“Now here’s a good looking couple,” the host said. “Alyssa Duvall and Taylor Kyle, who still won’t tell whether or not they’re a real couple or just a pair of friends who like to keep us guessing. They’re both wearing Versace, making us wonder whether they do their shopping – and anything else – together.”

“I hope not,” Tom muttered. Taylor Kyle’s style left plenty to be desired as far as he was concerned, and always had. Bright colors were one thing, especially now that everyone was wearing them, but the man had some sort bizarre attraction to patterns and it seemed like fashion was determined to accommodate him.o The tuxedo jacket he was wearing had lapels of shocking red paisley and Tom groaned. “Thank God I dropped you when I did,” he said, turning the channel.

To his dismay, Taylor Kyle was on that channel as well. There was something about his smile, something too-wide and deep-rolling to express that gave Tom the shivers. He was handsome, no two ways about it, but there was something else there that he just didn’t like.

At first he thought the knocking he heard was at the front door, but it was too close. It almost sounded like it was coming from the kitchen, then the hall. It was soft and traveling, and by the time he figured out that it wasn’t knocking but the snaps of shiny, shiny shoes on his hardwood floor the knife was already at his throat.

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