Chloe Sullivan-soon-to-be-Dean paused in the act of smelling the roses – literally – and turned automatically at the sound of her name. A young man, looking particularly pleased to see her, was heading in her direction, and she stared at him questioningly as he approached.
What a hunk, she thought, a small smile playing at the corner of her lips. Sure, she was seconds away from getting a ring on her finger, but that didn’t mean window-shopping was a thing of the past.
“Chloe Sullivan – Smallville High, Class of ’05?” he supplied as he got to her, his expression pleasant and expectant.
She blinked. Whoa. A hunk that knew her full name and academic history going back quite a bit. She narrowed her eyes and studied the face of the handsome stranger whose manner was inexplicably familiar for someone she was sure she was meeting for the very first time, despite the detailed information he’d just provided.
Chloe gave up trying to place the face and shook her head. “I’m sorry, my inner database is coming up empty,” she said apologetically. “Do I know you?”
“It’s Clark; Clark Kent?” he added hopefully.
Nope, nothing. The name didn’t even tinkle distantly in her memory, let alone ring a bell.
Her errant thoughts must have shown on her face because he looked vastly disappointed.
“It’s okay,” he said with a sad smile. “I was a bit of an outsider in high school, so you may not remember me.”
Instantly, her reporter’s instincts kicked into high gear. Okay, now that little nugget of information just didn’t add up. Anyone who looked like this couldn’t possibly have gone through school with her and remained unnoticed by her. He was a definite head-turner. More than that, he was easily a dead ringer for her fiancé; exactly the type of person she’d have gone for as a youngster.
“Is there anything I can help you with?” she asked politely.
“Actually, there is,” he replied. “I’m trying to track down a mutual friend of ours. Lana Lang?”
Chloe almost snorted. Lana Lang, a mutual friend? This guy was clearly living on a different plane of existence.
“The cheerleader?” she said, her incredulity showing on her face. “To be honest we didn’t really swim in the same social pond, and I don’t remember seeing her again after graduation.”
His face fell, and she suddenly felt this inexplicable desire to give him a warm, comforting hug. Which was crazy, since he was a complete stranger to her.
“But you’re a reporter, right?” he asked. She narrowed her eyes at him as she nodded. How could be possibly know that? Her professional name was completely different from her personal one, and it had been years since she’d published anything under her given name.
“You did such a fantastic job with The Torch in High School, and I was hoping you could use some of your investigative skills to track Lana down,” he continued hopefully.
This time, she barely managed to stifle the snort. It looked like poor Lana was still susceptible to stalkers, several years on. Cute as this guy was, his urgent request to find The Lang has just lost him several brownie points with her. It turned out he was just another creep who wouldn’t leave a pretty face alone.
“I’d love to help,” she said, trying to sound sincere, “but I kind of have something I’m busy with right now.”
His shoulders slumped, and he gazed at her pleadingly through enviously thick lashes, and Chloe found her resolve not to assist him weakening. This dude had a patent-worthy with a puppy dog look, which was dangerously close to working.
“Hey, honey,” she heard a warm voice say behind her as a familiar hand dropped on her shoulder. She lifted her hand to cover his and smiled into the face of the man she loved, momentarily forgetting her beautiful stranger.
George Dean, her fiancé, nodded in the other man’s direction. “Who’s your friend?” he asked, returning her grin.
“He’s, er…” she turned towards him, having forgotten his name, and froze, completely arrested by the look in his wide eyes as he caught sight of her engagement ring. He looked…stricken, hurt; almost as though he’d caught his girlfriend cheating on him, or something.
“You’re getting married?” he whispered.
Well, duh. That was pretty much stating the obvious, but George chipped in before a snarky retort could find its way past her lips.
“We sure are. The wedding’s on Sunday,” he said, gazing down at her with a look that clearly said that Sunday couldn’t come fast enough for him.
The young man…Clark, that was it – swallowed hard and smiled brightly at them. “That’s great,” he said softly. “You deserve it.”
Okay, this guy was really beginning to weird her out. How would he know what she did or didn’t deserve in life? He seemed to be showing an inordinate amount of interest in her – or worse, he appeared to have some knowledge of her, which made her uncomfortable, to say the least.
Surreptitiously, she squeezed her fiancé’s hand, and he got the message.
“Oh – er…honey, your Dad just called, he’s waiting for us at the Tuxedo shop,” he lied blithely, and she grinned up at him, thankful as ever for his intimate understanding of her and his perfect timing.
“We’d better get going, then,” she said, wrapping her arm around George’s waist. She turned to Clark, who was looking decidedly upset at her departure.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t help you find your friend,” she said as they walked away.
“That’s okay,” he replied. “Have a lovely day on Sunday.”
She smiled at him. Psycho or no, he was absolutely gorgeous. “I’m sure I will.” Turning away from him, she started to step into the car.
“Chloe?” he blurted out, startling her. She stared at him, wondering what on earth was in the meds he was sure to be taking.
“I really am happy for you,” he added, looking a tad more sincere that he had the first time he’d congratulated them.
“Thank you,” she said, amused. She gave him a little wave and sat down beside her intended.
“Boy, that was weird,” she said, leaning over to give him a kiss.
“You tell me,” George said with a grin as he kissed her back and checked her seatbelt – he always double-checked her seatbelt – and started the engine. “Who was that guy?”
Chloe thought of the question in terms of the odd conversation she’d had with Clark, and the investigative wheels in her head just would not go to sleep. There was definitely something out of the ordinary about him…the way he appeared to know her, the way he reacted to news of her pending nuptials…
“I honestly have no idea,” she said at last.
Several hours later, Chloe lay alone in the double bed she shared with her fiancé. George, ever the hero, had volunteered a graveyard shift down at the Station, and as the caring fiancée, she supported and encouraged him to soar in his career at Metropolis PD. He was fast rising the ranks there, and was destined to be a real game-changer in the fight against crime, just as she was destined to be the finest reporter the Daily Planet had ever recruited.
Chloe smiled and cuddled the duvet to herself. She and George truly were two sides of the same coin.
Yawning, she stretched and glanced at the beside table alarm clock. The display read 2:00am. Wearily she rose, snuggled her feet into her bunny slippers and decided not to bother with a robe as she headed towards the kitchen for a cup of decaf.
She giggled to herself as she started the percolator. George always teased her about her coffee addiction, convinced she must have either caffeine or printer’s ink in her veins. The switch to decaf hadn’t been easy for her, but she was slowly starting to adjust to the so-called ‘healthier’ option.
Before long, she had a steaming mug of the fragrant beverage in her hands and she took a quick sip, warming her hands briefly on the mug before setting it down. As she did so, she felt rather than heard a presence behind her and uttered a prayer of thanks that the Precinct had been kind enough to send her man back home to her in one piece.
“What happened, did the Chief let you off early for good behaviour?” she smiled, turning to face her fiancé.
Chloe’s warm smile became a frozen mask when she came face to face with dark hair and green eyes – but not those belonging to her husband.
“Hi Chloe,” he said softly. “It’s me again.”
Her blood ran cold as she stared in dread at the now familiar face.
Oh, God. It was him.
The handsome stranger from the afternoon.
It was the middle of the night, she was barely dressed…and she had a stalker in her apartment.
To be continued….