Professional greyhound trainer Kat McKinley is a soft touch. When she's talked into having sex with a guy who's just not her type, a romp so pathetic it registers minus ten on a sex-to-die-for scale, she decides to end the relationship. When Kat wakes the next morning to find Mr Wham-Bam sprawled beside her, a knife embedded in his left nipple, she wishes she'd ended the relationship sooner.After that wake-up call, Kat figures life can't nose-dive any lower. But with a killer out to get her, the police suspecting her of murder, a misbehaving greyhound, a complicated love triangle and a vicious kidnapper who threatens to cut out a child's tongue if her dog, Big Mistake wins his next race, maybe it can...
I gave the naked man beside me a suggestive nudge. No response.
That’d be right. One noisy Wham-bam-thank-you-Ma’am the moment we collided with my king-sized brass bed and since then Lover Boy, alias Matthew Turner, had been impersonating a bear in hibernation.
A bear with appallingly bad manners.
I ticked off my complaints. Post-sex, did Matt dispose of the condom? Whisper sweet nothings in my ear? Offer to investigate the racket when my racing greyhounds woke me almost twenty minutes ago barking loud enough to put the Socceroos’ cheer-squad to shame?
You guessed it. Thumbs down to all of the above.
When the dogs went into barking mode, it was yours truly who’d felt her way down the stairs in the dark, pressed the buzzer to switch soothing classical music on in the kennel-house and waited, shivering, for the noise to subside. Not Matt. God knows what had set the dogs off this time. Probably that mangy feral cat hanging around again—the one who’d already used up ten of its nine lives. Although, come to think of it, since giving birth to kittens under the woodpile, said cat had been more concerned with motherhood and catching mice for her babies than teasing my greyhounds. Once quiet, I’d scuttled up the stairs where my bed, not Matt, called to me; ignoring the niggle of unease prickling the hairs on the back of my neck.
And when I slipped back under the sheets did Lover Boy react to my seductive presence?
Huh. Like I wasn’t even there….
I’d known Matt as a fellow greyhound trainer for over a year but since half-heartedly agreeing to go out with him two weeks ago, had been tactfully trying to let him know his presence left me feeling flatter than a warm beer on a summer’s day.
Perhaps if I instigated the foreplay this time, pretended he was someone else—like Greyhound Training’s gorgeous heart throb, Ben Taylor—who knows, I might be lucky enough to experience an orgasm before Matt’s ten-second deadline expired. Before he thrust three times, hollered something unintelligible, his little boy went pfft and I was left imagining vibrators in a sex shop window while he blew the bedroom ceiling away with the volume of his snores.
Since returning to bed, his snores had stopped. Thank you, God.
According to the Guinness World Records the loudest snore ever recorded reached 93 decibels—about the volume of a diesel engine. Whoever documented that record had never slept with Matt. And believe me, there’s nothing worse than attempting to light a man’s fires when the back draft from said man’s snores keeps blowing out the matches.
I flopped back on my pillow and let out a sigh. Lighting a man’s fires? What was I thinking? What was I doing in bed with a guy who reminded me of a basset hound, right down to his sad droopy eyes? Okay, a nice friendly sort of basset hound who’d share his last can of VB beer with you—but still a dog. Jeez, it’s not like I was one of those women whose hormones were so highly charged the sniff of testosterone had me stripping down to my designer thong. In fact, I hadn’t seen any action for almost six months. Not since my last boyfriend informed me in the middle of an orgasm that he was dumping me for someone younger, with a bust size of 42D. I could have explained to him that fifty percent of his fantasy-woman was most likely implants. Instead, I let him have it with my right knee.
The memory of Robert the Rat curled on the floor, moaning, tears streaming down his face still warms me on cold winter nights. Yet here I was doing exactly the same thing—acting like Kat the Rat. I had no interest in the guy in my bed. He just wasn’t my type. On the other hand, if the irresistible Ben Taylor, with his washboard stomach and crinkly eyed grin ever coerced his way into my bed, I’d be flying to the moon on a cloud of screaming lust and planning for multiple repeats. Warmth crept between my legs even picturing, me, bed and Ben Taylor—but let’s face it, that scenario was a fizzer too. Ben, a rival greyhound trainer, the guy who starred as the hero in all my erotic dreams, treated me like I was just a good mate.
With an even deeper sigh that sprung from my chest and ended in my toes, I patted Matt’s beer-gut stomach. “Okay, Matt,” I told him, in a voice that brooked no argument. “You can go back to sleep now, but first thing in the morning, we need to have The Big Talk. Okay?”
Funny, the night was warm, yet Matt’s skin was cold. And sort of strange. Like putty. And why was he so still? Before I slipped downstairs to quiet the dogs, he’d been tossing and turning, his snores rocking the bed like a roller-coaster ride at Dream World. I lifted my head from the pillow, one ear cocked, listening for the regularity of his breathing.
Jesus…I bolted straight up in bed and stared at the dark shape beside me. This had to be a bad dream. Please, let it be a bad dream. I reached forward with one hand and touched his chest. Was it rising and falling? Couldn’t tell...my hand shook so much I couldn’t feel a thing. Scarcely breathing myself, I slid my hand across his chest, inched forward again until my fingers connected with something hard. Something smooth. Something that felt like the handle of a knife….
Holy cat shit!
I was in bed with a corpse.
Heart banging against my ribs, I scrabbled backwards, screaming, hyperventilating, until I tumbled off the bed and hit the floor crawling. Still on hands and knees, I kept motoring until my head bounced off the bedroom door. I pulled myself up by the handle, switched on the light—and immediately wished I hadn’t. For there was Matt. A long-handled kitchen knife protruded from his chest. My kitchen knife! I recognized it by the blue and white fake ivory handle. A thin trickle of blood and saliva had coagulated at the corner of his sagging, little-boy mouth. His glassy, slightly accusing eyes stared up at me. As I returned his stare, a curious fly, gauze-like wings fluttering in anticipation, landed on his left eyeball.
That’s when the Big Mac and double fries I’d eaten for dinner the night before announced their comeback. I heard the telephone ringing downstairs but was far too busy to fully register the sound.
Stomach empty at last, I wiped the gunk from my mouth with the back of my hand and took a hesitant step closer to the bed. Was Matt really dead? And if so—who the hell had killed him?
And then an even more frightening thought slammed into my beleaguered brain. Was the person who made him dead still inside the house?
The fine hairs on the back of my neck reared up, one by one. I tried to swallow a lump of cement stuck in my throat. Maybe this was a joke. Maybe Matt was playing a stupid trick on me with a fake knife and ketchup. Oh, please God, let that be true. I shuffled closer to the bed and picked up his hand. Felt for a pulse. Oh, dear Jesus, Mary and Joseph…not a flicker…not a quiver. Mind silently screaming, I dropped the hand like it was a poisonous snake and shot backwards, flinching when the lifeless limb thwacked on the bed beside him. I had to get away from the sight of Matt’s dead, quickly cooling body. I had to hide in case the murderer was still in the house.
Bare-assed naked, I flew out onto the landing, legs and arms struggling to catch up with my body. And if I hadn’t clutched the hand rail at the very last minute, I would have fallen head first down the stairs. Then, with only one thought on my mind—where to hide—I pivoted at the bottom of the stairs, undecided. The bathroom? The kitchen? The coat cupboard in the hallway?
Rejecting both the bathroom and coat cupboard as the first place a murderer would look, I dashed into the kitchen and slammed the bolt across the connecting door. Arms wrapped around my torso trying to stave off the goose bumps that shivered up and down my body, I cowered in the middle of the room. Think. Think. What do I do next? It was like a heavy weight pressed down on my chest preventing me from taking one full breath and clearing my mind.
Okay, ring the police. I’d left the cordless phone beside the walking-machine out in the kennel-house. My mobile resided in my tote bag upstairs in the bedroom and I’d rather die a lingering death involving hot oil and sharp screwdrivers than go back in there. So I had only one choice. Undo the bolt, leave the safety of the kitchen and ring from the wall phone in the lounge.
Gasping like I’d just competed in a 515 meter sprint at Globe Raceway, I made a grab for the receiver ready to wrench it off the wall and dial 000. But before I could do so—the phone rang. I screamed. And my heart performed a double somersault, tripped over its feet and landed with a gut-wrenching belly flop on the floor beside me.
Hand shaking, I lifted the receiver off the cradle and brought the phone to my ear. “H-Hello.”
“Interesting collection of dog statues lined up on your dresser.”
The speaker was male, but that’s all I could make out. It sounded like he was talking through a thick scarf.
“I owned a boxer dog once,” the muffled voice went on, “just like the one in your collection. Turns out I hated the mongrel’s guts, so I tied him to a tree and shot both his ears off. I guess he eventually bled to death. Never went back to find out.”
I opened my mouth to speak but nothing came out.
“Since then, I’ve found knives much quieter than guns.”
Sharp icicles broke off and clanged in my chest making it difficult to breathe. My hand shook so much I almost dropped the phone.
“Turner knew the consequences of disobeying orders. But I’m sure you won’t make the same mistake…Katrina.”
He knew my name.
Like the sound of a doomsday clock, a deep pounding started in my head. If Matt’s murderer knew me—I must know him. “What are you talking about?” I whispered. “Who are you?”
He laughed, and it made me think of the dead chill at a city morgue. “If I hear you’ve told anyone about this call—anyone at all,” he warned, “I will become your worst nightmare.”
“Ever felt a knife slicing into your face, Katrina? The pain as the blade cuts through the flesh into the bone, blood filling your eyes and mouth?”
I think I wet myself about then.
“Tell anyone about this call and I’ll come back and rearrange that pretty face of yours. Make it so even your own mother won’t recognize you.”
Open mouthed, heart quaking somewhere around my ankles, I listened to the buzzing tone in my ear before the line went dead.