Chapter 19: Mystery Man
Corrie considered running. She could definitely make it back to Gilkey before he could, and Dawn wasn’t in bad shape, either. But could they make it inside in time? He looked like he was in good shape, too. She looked around for a guard, but the gates were still wide open, despite the late hour—they’d been expecting parents to come and go. There might be someone in the little guard house, but that was on the other side. If this man wanted to hurt them, he could probably stop them before they got anywhere.
Besides, in her moment of frozen panic, he hadn’t moved either. His hands dangled at his side, empty. And he wasn’t a faerie—or if he was, he was really strong somehow, since she saw no difference in his appearance whether she was touching the clover or not. And if he was a really powerful faerie, there wasn’t much they could do. If he was just human, they had options.
Then he smiled. “I’m sorry. I guess you don’t recognize me.”
That turned some of her fear to confusion. “Should I?” she asked cautiously. What she wouldn’t give to have Byron standing there behind her, just to be a comforting presence. Dawn was here, of course, but she was just as scared as Corrie was.
“No, I suppose not. Though I hoped you might see something familiar when you looked at me.” He took a step closer to them.
“Don’t come any closer,” Dawn snapped. “We can protect ourselves…”
“Dawn, do you see anything?” Corrie whispered to her, as softly as she could. Dawn shook her head mutely. Neither of them were taking their eyes off the strange man.
He had stopped again, his eyes wide with surprise. There was something odd about his eyes, Corrie was sure of it, but in the faint light provided by the moon and the emergency lights she couldn’t tell what it was. “I don’t mean either of you any harm. Especially Corrie. I’m sorry if I frightened you.”
“What did you think would happen, with you jumping out of the bushes at us?” Dawn asked.
The man shook his head hard enough to set his hair flying. He had shaggy, longish hair, which was pale in the moonlight. Blond? Like Corrie? “I just wanted to catch Corrie alone. That seems to be hard to do.”
“Of course it is,” Corrie said. “I’m not stupid enough to go wandering around alone.”
“Even on your own college campus?” He sounded surprised.
Of course, Corrie realized, he probably didn’t know about the faeries if he wasn’t one. Then again, if he was one, he would pretend to not know—but if neither she nor Dawn could see anything untoward, chances were good he really didn’t know. “There are always dangers,” she replied cautiously. She didn’t want to take her eyes off the man, but she looked around briefly, trying to see if there might be a security guard somewhere about. They did patrol campus, didn’t they? She’d never noticed before.
He smiled again. “You are smart. I’m glad to hear that.”
“So if you don’t want to hurt us, why don’t you just walk away, get off our campus, and let us go back to our lives?” asked Dawn. She didn’t seem so scared any more, though—her breathing had returned to normal. Corrie, though, felt as though her heartbeat refused to slow down.
“I just want to talk to Corrie,” he said.
“You must be crazy if you think I’m just going to wander off and talk to you,” Corrie said.
“No, I don’t want you to do that. Look, I… I was hoping to catch you during the day, but every time I saw you, you were with a group of people.”
“You’ve been following me?” Corrie cried. Had she acquired another stalker? She’d just had a conversation with her mom about leaving the protection up against Paul, and now this? This was a grown man, and not someone she knew well, like Paul was. She would need a protection against him much more.
“No, no! Just waiting.” He shook his head again. “I’m sorry. I’m going about this all wrong.”
“That’s the first thing you’ve said that made sense,” said Dawn.
“Corrie, if your friend is really close, if she’s the kind you share secrets with, I don’t mind if she stays while we talk.”
“Of course she is,” Corrie said instantly, grabbing Dawn’s arm.
“And I wouldn’t leave her alone to talk to some creepy man no matter what,” said Dawn.
He nodded. “I understand.”
“So, talk,” Corrie said. “I’m listening.”
He took a deep breath and looked right at her. “Corrie, I’m your father.”