The mind games the mind.., p.1
The Mind Games (The Mind Readers), p.1Lori Brighton
The Mind Games
Copyright 2012 Published by Lori Brighton
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The Mind Readers Series:
The Mind Readers, book 1
The Mind Thieves, book 2
The Mind Games, book 3
The Mind Games
For Aaron, the real Aaron.
What would you do if someone told you that your past and everything you believed was a lie?
The silence woke me.
A deathly, heavy silence that settled upon my chest and sat there like a bully pinning down a smaller child.An unnatural silence. A silence full of questions. Full of doubts.
When you could read minds, the very thoughts that shifted from a person’s brain—their hopes, their dreams, their fears— the world was never quiet. Chatter was constant, like a radio left on a static station.
But not here, not now. Something was definitely wrong.
Slowly, my lashes lifted and I stared at the dimly lit ceiling wavering in and out of focus. Where the hell was I? What had happened? My body seemed numb. I felt nothing. No form, no thought. It was as if the world was waiting for me to catch up, catch on, and to understand what had happened. But my mind was too muddled to care.
My hands curled at my sides, digging into the cot underneath me. The blanket was soft and smooth against my fingertips. But the room was chill, and the scent of mildew and condensation assaulted my senses. From somewhere a light glowed. I swallowed hard, my dry throat convulsing in protest. It was the quiet that got to me.
Immediately my instincts went into overdrive. I’d spent the last eighteen years of my life learning how to block the thoughts of others just so I could get some peace and quiet. But this silence…this silence was different. This silence told me I was alone. Completely and utterly alone.
I didn’t dare move, but remained still like a wild animal testing her surroundings. My mouth was dry and my eyes were blurry as if I’d been sleeping for a long time. How long? What had happened?
Just like that, I caught up to the world. Memories flashed through my mind, so quickly I had to grab hold before they took flight, disappearing forever.
Vaguely, I remembered running for my life. I remembered a cottage that was more of a shack than home. A place where I’d stayed the night, hidden from those who wished to use my powers for their own benefit.
Vaguely, I remembered running through a field, the sun so bright, it burned my eyes. Still, I kept running, running, chased by those who would do me harm.
Vaguely, I remembered…Lewis. My heart skipped a beat. Lewis, lying upon the ground, blood spreading across his white t-shirt.
“No,” I whispered, a sob catching in my throat.
The guy I had loved. The guy I still loved…shot in that field.
The memory came rushing back like a raging river, bursting and overflowing with emotion. My stomach clenched painfully, and I thought I might get sick. I rolled onto my side, the small cot creaking with the movement. How? How could this have happened?
Desperate, I shoved aside the thin blanket that covered my trembling body, momentarily struck dumb as I noticed my outfit. I wore cotton pants and a long-sleeved cotton shirt, both dark blue. Thick socks were on my feet. Somehow my clothing had changed, but I didn’t remember undressing.
“No,” I whispered, pressing my hands to my throbbing temples. “No.”
“Go, hurry,” Lewis’ words whispered through my mind. “They won’t hurt you.”
My heart hammered wildly in my chest, the image of Lewis upon the ground startling. I settled my feet on the cold stone floor and bolted upright. “No. No. No.”
He couldn’t be dead. I wouldn’t believe it. I’d know, deep down, wouldn’t I?
I would find Lewis. He was here…somewhere.
Determined, I pressed my hands to the damp stone wall and closed my eyes, searching for the feel of him—his very energy. The only sound was the soft drip of condensation from somewhere above.
Nothing else. But I wasn’t defeated. Stone was a natural insulator for people who could read minds. Just because I couldn’t feel him, didn’t mean he wasn’t here. I stumbled toward the center of my small room.
No sounds of footsteps. No murmur of conversation. No one.
Confused, I searched my small prison for an indication of where I was. For a weapon. For anything. But with the movement, the room wavered. I’d slept too much, or too little. Or maybe my reaction was from the tranquilizer. The memory rushed back powered by a surge of anger. Nora, the woman I’d grown to think of as a friend. The woman who had shot me.
Nora had stood before me, a silver gun gleaming from the tips of her fingers. Before I could even comprehend her actions, her finger twitched. “It will just hurt for a second.”
The dart hit my side, a sharp, stinging pain like someone had stuck me with a needle. I stumbled back a step.
“Sorry Cameron,” she said, but her words had come out warbled, like a song bird.
I hadn’t seen it coming.
Lewis had been right all along, I never should have trusted her. Because of me, Lewis was injured, or worse…
Anger and fear combined in an acidic swirl that burned in the pit of my belly. I would find Nora and this time, she would pay. I surged forward, traveling the square room. The walls were made of large cut stone. It was like I was in a prison cell…or dungeon…or buried alive. Panic had me turning and rushing toward the wooden door. I wrapped my hands around the iron handle, the metal chill and damp, and pulled. The door creaked open so easily that for a stunned moment I merely stood there staring out onto the dark hall.
Shock was an understatement. I sure as heck hadn’t expected the door to be unlocked. A shiver of unease tiptoed down my spine, warning me not to trust the lack of security. Someone was setting me up. Yet, anger and curiosity spurred me forward.
I stepped hesitantly into the hall. The corridor was long and narrow, made of the same dark stone as my room. Every twenty feet or so, an iron sconce threw dull light against glistening walls. I reached out, pressing my fingers to either side. The stone was damp, old. Where the heck was I?
The soft murmur of singing voices suddenly echoed down the hall, a low buzz, like a swarm of bees that rose and fell with each breath.
The sound was pure, so beautiful, that for a moment I thought I might have actually died and gone to heaven. I turned toward the music and started mindlessly down the hall. The song called to me. Voices like those of a men’s choir
I paused for only a moment, then followed those steps to the top. There was no door, only a wall in front of me and a grate above where dim light managed to pierce the gloominess. No way in, no way out. Confused, I stood on tiptoe, slipped my fingers through the grate and pulled. It didn’t budge. But the music was coming from that grate and whoever was above.
“You won’t find a door,” a voice said from behind me.
Startled, I spun around, only to teeter on the edge of the steps.
I pressed my hands to the damp wall, regaining my balance. A man stood at the bottom of the stairway, his pale face weathered with age, but there was a kindness in his smile, an ease in the set of his shoulders as he waited patiently for me.
“Who are you?” I demanded.
“Hello Cameron, I’m Father Myron.”
The fact that he knew my name didn’t worry me. Most people I came into contact with seemed to know more about my life than I did, thanks to Grandma keeping me in the dark most of my childhood. In fact, I expected to be confused at this point.
“Where am I?” I asked.
He folded his hands politely in front of his white robes. In the dimly lit corridor he practically glowed like a ghost. Hell, maybe he was some long, lost spirit. “You’re in Savannah, Georgia.”
Savannah. The name of the girl who had died almost a year ago in my small Maine town. The death that had started it all… acceptance of my powers, my relationship with Lewis. How weird.
“Savannah,” I whispered.
I started slowly down the steps. “How?”
“I’m sorry, but it was the only way we could get you here. Time was running out. Your father was headed your way with reinforcements. We had hoped you would trust us, trust Nora, and come of your own free will.”
Trust Nora? Trust anyone? Ha, I’d learned not to trust anyone long ago. I reached out with my mind, gently testing his brain. No thoughts escaped. But it wasn’t a hard, mental block like someone had put a chip in his brain. Holy Hell, this priest was a mind reader.
“And because I didn’t trust you, you kidnapped me?”
Some man of God.
There was no guilt upon his face, he fully accepted responsibility. “It was for your own protection.”
I paused in front of him and crossed my arms over my chest. I wasn’t the least bit intimidated by this man of the cloth. “Yeah, I’ve heard that before.”
In fact, I’d heard that most of my life.
He turned to the side, pressing his back to the wall and giving me space. “Come, let us walk. There are others eager to see you.”
I didn’t give a crap who wanted to see me. I knew who these “others” would be, more people wanting to use and abuse my powers. All I cared about at this point was my freedom.
“Where’s Lewis?” I demanded, not moving an inch.
He sighed, his easy-going nature slipping into the truth—a man exhausted by age or circumstances. “Lewis is alive.”
My entire body trembled with relief, but I didn’t dare let him see how his words affected me. “Where is he?”
“We shall discuss everything very soon. Don’t worry.” He waved me forward. “Now, if you’d like to know more, I suggest you follow me. Talking in the halls is dangerous. We don’t want to be overheard.”
Before I could question him further, he turned and started down the corridor. I surged forward, my stocking feet whispering over the cold stone. “Where, exactly, are we in Savannah?”
His footsteps were soft and sure. “Underground.”
Startled, I stumbled. “As in under the earth?”
He smiled, his blue eyes crinkling at the corners. “Savannah has underground tunnels. It’s no secret, although most people have found only remnants. The tunnels have been here for hundreds of years.”
I’d been to Savannah once with Grandma. I was only eight, but I remembered it so clearly because she had left me in the car alone. She never left me alone. I’d been with her for most of my childhood, hopping from place to place, always together, always running from some unknown enemy.
But, for thirty minutes on that trip to Savannah, she’d been gone, disappearing inside some building. She’d returned and we’d left. She’d never explained why or what she’d done. But then again, she explained little to me.
The bright spot had been when we’d stopped for lunch at a restaurant that used to be a pub for pirates. I’d been thrilled as we rarely went anywhere cool. I could still remember the story of the tunnels uncovered underneath that restaurant. Tunnels pirates had supposedly used to kidnap victims and escape the law.
But this tunnel was long, narrow…different.
“You use the tunnels?” I asked.
He nodded as we turned a corner, heading down yet another dimly lit corridor, this one with wooden doors spaced every so often. “We took use of them decades ago. No one but us knows about the corridors.”
I couldn’t help but wonder what was behind all those doors. More people like me? Kidnapped, used? I wrapped my arms around my waist, shivering. “What do you use them for?”
“We house those like us. Those who are in trouble or in pain. And we use some of the rooms for meetings and research.”
Those like us. Mind readers. Up until a year ago I’d thought Grandma and I were the only people on the planet who could read minds. It was still difficult for me to process the fact that there were actually thousands.
“The singing?” I rubbed my forehead, my skull beginning to throb from too much information, and too many unanswered questions. I only wanted to find Lewis and leave. He’d been right all along. We should have fled, we should have trusted only each other.
“Ah, yes, you were underneath the floor of a church. The church where I practice.”
Nothing made sense. Underground Savannah? Mystery rooms? Mind reading priests? “I want to see Lewis.”
I released a puff of air, frustrated with his lack of information. “Where are we now?”
He looked thoughtful for a moment as he glanced up at the ceiling as if reading a map on the carved blocks of stone. “I’d say we’re under Johnson Square.”
The words meant nothing to me, but I made a mental note to check a map as soon as possible. It was hard to believe that just above us there were cars driving, people walking, clueless as to what hid below. Hard to believe that somehow I’d traveled to Savannah without waking. I reached toward my right side where the muscle ached, a reminder of the tranquilizer Nora had shot into me.
“Why not just tell me the truth? Why send Nora to lie to me?”
We paused outside a wooden door. “Because we feared if we told you the truth you wouldn’t come.”
Warning bells rang through my body, clamoring an alarm in my head. I knew, if they’d kept the truth from me, it must be something major. “What truth?” I demanded.
He pushed the door wide. Inside, the room was much like mine, only larger. Stone walls, dimly lit, no décor. In the middle of the room was a large wooden table that seated twelve. Only one chair was occupied. Nora stood as I entered. My hands fisted, heated anger rushing through my blood fueled by pure hatred.
She looked nervous, unsure. That smirk she’d always worn was gone, replaced with obvious discomfort. Her bravado had disappeared. “Hey.”
My God, she was afraid… of me. The realization made me feel better, but not much. I still wanted to hurt her. It was all I could do not to lunge forward and show her exactly how I felt about her little tranquilizer stunt in Massachusetts. “Where’s Lewis?”
“He’s okay. Don’t worry.” She shoved her hands into her jean pockets. “Yo
How dare she act like she cared about me. “No.” I started toward her. She actually took a step back. “What matters is you tell me what the hell is going on. What matters is that you tell me where Lewis is. What matters is—”
“I know.” She held up her hands, warning me off. “I understand why you’re angry. And you can say whatever you want, but first I need you to meet someone.”
I paused, too damn curious for my own good. “Who?”
She took in a deep trembling breath. “Cameron,” Nora turned toward the far wall. “My mom.”
Confused, I spun around.
A woman stood there, arms crossed, relaxed, as if watching a play. She was too far away and the room too dimly lit for me to get a good look at her. How long she’d stood there, I hadn’t a clue. Most likely she’d heard our argument, but I didn’t care.
The woman stepped away from the shadows and into the light, her movements fluid and easy, like a graceful dancer. A tingle of awareness whispered over my body. A warning that told me there was something important I’d missed. Even before I saw her completely…I knew.
My heart warred with my rational mind.
Her dark hair glimmered in loose familiar waves that ran down her back. Her blue eyes found me and she smiled, a slow, easy smile. A smile so familiar my heart squeezed painfully as it denied what my brain knew to be true.
“Hello, Cameron,” she said softly, the voice achingly familiar.
“Mom?” I whispered.
My mother was still alive.
The realization shook me to my very core, but none of these things affected me in the way they should have. Maybe I was finally going insane. Maybe I was so used to being shocked, that nothing surprised me anymore. Or maybe I just didn’t care.
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