The grievous experience continued on for another week or so. I got better at hiding from Mystery Stalker, sometimes hiding in the library, other times in the Agriculture greenhouse. My hiding places were infinite and always varied; predictability would surely get me caught. I learned all the secrets to getting to my classes in the shortest amount of time, and I had shorted an eight-minute walk across campus to a two-minute run. I figured that if I was never caught alone or stationary, then surely I would be safe.
My delusion of safety was shattered after my final class of the day, Technical Ballet, which was held only on Wednesdays and Fridays. I was the last to peel off my tights and leotard. I had stayed back a few minutes to work on a difficult move, and by the time my jeans were zipped up and my halter-top on, I was alone in the locker room. I hadn’t had an incident with Mystery Stalker all week, so I didn’t feel as panicked to be so late in leaving. I shut off the lights and strolled out, humming Greensleeves under my breath as I slung my bag over my shoulder. I intended to jog leisurely back to my safe, cozy dorm and enjoy the balmy night, but when I reached the middle of the hall, I froze. His footsteps preceded him, echoing down to me and jump-starting my heart to full gear.
He turned the corner to find me locked in place, shaking with fear, and that damnable half smile he always wore only made my tremors worse. Like any healthy wolf, he could smell the terror coming off his rabbit prey, and the smirk turned into a full-fledged predatorial grin. He sauntered closer, languid and lazy, knowing he had me trapped in the dead-end hallway. Expecting violence, I squeezed my eyes shut and braced myself for impact…
A hand, big enough to cover my entire face and then some, gently caressed my cheek, the calluses on his palm lightly scraping my skin and drawing another shudder out of me. This was so not what I had expected. When I finally mustered up the courage to open my eyes, I looked up to see a pair of dark blue-green eyes, staring back at me with unfathomable tenderness. He was handsome, with a strong jawline and smooth, lightly tanned skin, complimenting the burnished gold of his hair. So captivated was I by the face of my hunter, it was surprising that I didn’t even notice he was leaning down until his lips gently brushed against my forehead.
Naturally my first reaction was to flinch and run away, but the hand on my cheek reached around and gripped my braid with none of the gentility he had a moment ago. A pitiful little whimper escaped from me and a pained look crossed his face. Quickly he released my braid, then he cradled my face between his palms, kissing my forehead again. In a soft, pleading tone that made my heart skip several beats, he whispered, “Don’t run away from me any more.”
Then he let go, turned around, and walked away as if nothing had happened. I stared at his back, still frozen on the spot, and tried to figure out what the hell had just happened.
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