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       The Mind Thieves (The Mind Readers), p.1

           Lori Brighton
The Mind Thieves (The Mind Readers)

  The Mind Thieves

  Book 2

  Copyright 2012 Published by Lori Brighton

  All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced , stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  The Mind Readers Series:

  The Mind Readers, book 1

  The Mind Thieves, book 2

  The Mind Thieves

  Book 2


  Lori Brighton

  Chapter 1

  The woman sitting at the table across from me was thinking about having an affair with her scuba instructor.

  She was imagining his dark skin glistening under the warm sun, his muscles flexing as he wrapped his arms around her waist and lowered his mouth to hers. Or maybe, she thought, she’d have an affair with the guy who cleaned her pool. Her husband was heading back to the U.S. for business and would never know.

  I wanted to tell her it would never work, that in those desperate housewife shows, they always suspected the pool guy. Instead, I hid my grin by lowering my head and swiping down the counter where I’d been serving fruity drinks, hotdogs and meat pies since eleven this morning.

  I wished she’d keep her R-rated thoughts to herself. I really didn’t want to imagine her, her Scuba instructor, or the pool guy naked. But I guess she couldn’t help it. The thoughts seeped from her mind like the warm breeze currently drifting in from the Caribbean Sea.

  Their hopes, their dreams, their nightmares…

  What they thought about, I thought about.

  Sometimes it really sucked to be able to read minds.

  With a sigh I focused on the ocean not twenty feet from me. The soft roar of the waves was always calming. Sure, our little café wasn’t exactly five-star, but you couldn’t beat the view. Pink and orange rays from the setting sun pierced the late-afternoon clouds, trailing pastel fingers across the waves. The telltale fins of dolphins crested the water’s surface, always thrilling me like a kid on Christmas morning. And you couldn’t beat the uniform: shorts and a tank top.

  It was hard to believe that almost seven months ago I was freezing in Maine, forced to wake up every morning at six and trudge to a school where I had to pretend to be normal. No more hiding. No more pretending. This…this was freedom. And I wasn’t going to waste another moment.

  “Closing time.”

  I pressed stop on the CD player, putting an end to Bob Marley, for today at least. The evening was cool and promising. I hopped over the counter, my bare feet sinking into the sand. Why wear shoes when you lived on the beach?

  “Anyone need a drink for the ride home?”

  The natives eating meat pies shook their heads, their thoughts on sleep. With a wave, they stood from their wooden benches, taking their pies with them, and made their way toward their bikes. They were regulars who often stopped on their way home from work.

  But Mrs. Miller, the woman who was thinking of seducing the hired help, still sat at her small table, looking lost and forlorn, almost like some cartoon orphan child. She was lonely. She didn’t want to go home to an empty house, even if her house was a mansion. I felt bad for her, but not bad enough to stick around and listen to her sob story.

  Besides, today was my birthday. Today I turned eighteen. No way in heck I was working any longer then I had to. Funny how a year could make such a difference in a person’s life. Gazing out at the water, I pulled my dark hair from the ponytail I’d secured this morning, massaging my scalp. Only a short time ago my need to please would have had me walking over to Mrs. Miller and asking her if she was okay. Not now. Nope, when you faced death, things changed big time.

  “It’s so quiet here,” the woman drawled in her southern accent.

  I nodded noncommittally, not daring to look her in the eyes. I wasn’t going to be sucked in by her puppy-dog gaze. Instead, I welcomed the breeze ruffling my hair, focusing on the swaying palm trees. Of course it was quiet. It was paradise. A paradise I’d craved after being in a hospital for over a month. And don’t bother asking what was wrong with me, they never did figure it out. The doctor said some nonsense about how sometimes people slipped into comas for no reason.

  Whatever. It didn’t matter because I wasn’t going to waste any more time hiding or trying to please others. That month of illness had been a blessing. Grandma had apparently been thinking the same thing. The moment I’d regained consciousness, she had packed our bags, sold the house in Maine and we’d ended up here. I sure as heck wasn’t going to complain.

  I paused, listening to the sad cry of a gull. Still…there were times when I felt like I’d missed something…something important. The doctors claimed a coma would do that to a person, make them feel lost. But there were also times when I’d catch my grandma watching me with this odd combination of sadness and worry in her hazel gaze, as if she knew something I didn’t.

  “Guess I should head home,” Mrs. Miller said in that sugary drawl.

  She stood, slapped a huge straw hat on her bleached blonde hair and sauntered toward her small, red convertible. She wasn’t our typical customer, but she’d stopped by once and liked the place because we seemed to know exactly what she wanted even before she said a word. Yep, to her, we were the perfect little servants.

  I gave her a wave as she drove away, then swiped down the small benches and tables that seated our customers. Our restaurant, if you could call it that, boasted three tables and a small bar, all outside seating. Still, it was ours, Grandma’s and mine, and we had plans to expand eventually…when we weren’t busy sunbathing, snorkeling and collecting shells.

  “All done?” Grandma asked, strolling out of the small abode where she’d been cooking. She hung her white apron on the hook outside the door. It was hot work, but we could always take a break and dip into the ocean for a quick swim. Really, my job couldn’t get any better. I was even second-guessing college. Why leave paradise?

  “Yep.” I picked up the few pieces of trash that littered the white sand, stuffing them into the trash bag Grandma had grabbed.

  I’d been living with her since I was five and my mind-reading ability had surfaced. Mom pretty much thought I was a freak and shoved me into Grandma’s capable arms, the one person who understood. Another freak. Yep, Grandma, too, could read minds, which made it hard for me to sneak out after curfew. Even though we had that ability in common, it didn’t mean we got along. Until my illness, we’d rarely had a civil conversation.

  “I’m heading home now,” she said.

  Home was a two-bedroom cottage across the street that hung heavy with white Jasmine, a fragrant flower I could smell through my bedroom window at night.

  “Okay, I’m almost done.”

  She paused at the road, her short dark hair wavering on the co
ol breeze. “Whose pink moped?”

  I shrugged and made my way toward her. It was a cute Vespa, a soft pink in color with a white helmet dangling from the handlebar. I’d been admiring it earlier and even now couldn’t resist running my fingers over the white seat.

  “Not sure. It’s been here awhile though. Was here when I got in this morning.” I frowned, glancing at the beach where palm trees swayed on the breeze. The ocean might look peaceful, but underneath the surface was a world of danger to unsuspecting victims. “Should we be concerned?”

  It had been known to happen that tourists would go snorkeling and be taken out by the current, never to be seen again.

  Grandma grinned, a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. She wasn’t like most grandmas and looked younger than she was. We spent many mornings hiking the island, exploring waterfalls and bays. “Nah, I think I know the owner.”

  Confused, I watched her warily. I couldn’t read her thoughts, I’d never been able to no matter how hard I tried. Whereas thoughts from others flowed freely into the universe, Grandma’s remained firmly encased in her brain.

  Until a few months ago, Grandma had been able to read mine, much to my ever-growing annoyance. But since my illness Grandma had taught me things I’d always wanted to know, like how to block my thoughts from being read by others like us. Not that I knew anyone else who could read minds. Still, it was a handy trick to have and made me feel as if freedom was within my grasp, instead of some far-off dream.

  “Who’s the owner?” I asked.

  She tossed something toward me. Instinctively I caught the small, shiny object. A key, cool against the palm of my hand. I glanced up at her, shocked. She couldn’t mean…

  She grinned. “Happy birthday. The moped is all yours.”

  My mouth dropped open. “Are you serious? But we can’t afford it!”

  She waved her hand through the air, dismissing my comment. “Don’t you worry about that.”

  I threw my arms around her neck. Before my illness, we’d barely touched. I hugged her often now and much to my delight, she hugged me back. We’d both changed since moving here, and both for the better.

  After a few seconds, she pulled away, looking like her gruff self once more, but she couldn’t fool me. “Finish cleaning, then go for a ride, I know you want to. But don’t be out too late.” She strolled across the road to our small cottage, her gait easy and carefree.

  I tossed the trash in the brown dumpster that sat alongside the dirt road, eager to test out my Vespa. On the island a scooter was pretty much like having a car. I’d be able to see the entire place on my own. Meet up with friends, go on dates. And I wanted to date so badly it hurt. I was eighteen years old, for God’s sake. It was time to fall in love…to truly be kissed. My gaze strayed to two tourists who strolled the beach hand-in-hand. Sure, I’d had boyfriends, but no one had made my hormones flare to life. No one had made me want to sneak out of the house and make out on sandy beaches. Slowly, I started back toward the bar.

  My heart gave a painful squeeze. For one brief moment I forgot my Vespa, forgot my illness as I stood suspended in some odd reality where something important lay just out of reach and if only I could touch it, I’d know….

  The couple shifted and there, further down the beach, I noticed a man walking my way. An odd tingle of awareness pulled me back to earth. Alone, but he didn’t seem lonely. No, he was too tall, too gorgeous, and his stroll too confident to be lonely. I tilted my head, leaning against the bar, feeling confused.

  There was something about the way he walked…the way his dark hair glimmered under the light of the setting sun. Even though I couldn’t see his eyes through his sunglasses, I could have sworn he was staring at me.

  Perhaps I was dreaming. Or maybe this island truly was magical and had sent me the boyfriend I wanted. I grinned at the thought.

  There was nothing unusual in the cargo shorts and T-shirt he wore. Not even in the way his body moved fluidly, all muscle. He was gorgeous, simply put. And I’d seen a lot of hot guys on the island, natives and tourists. But something about this man gave me pause; something that made my smile fall and my heart beat a little faster. Something I couldn’t explain. He didn’t follow the coastline, but headed right toward me. So close I could see the scruff along his chin and cheeks. I shifted, placing the counter between us.

  “Sorry,” I said, as he started toward the café. “We’re closed. I can get you a drink to go if you want.” Much to my horror, my voice came out a little breathless and telling. Lord, I desperately needed a date.

  This close, I realized he was taller than I’d expected. He settled on a bar stool near me, the lightest hint of spicy cologne permeating the air. He had a black backpack slung over one shoulder and I wondered what was in that bag. His presence was overwhelming and I had to resist the urge to take a step back. The breeze ruffled his dark hair, but it did little to soften his look. Who the heck was this guy?

  “Hello, Cameron.”

  I drew back, startled. For a moment, I merely looked at him, too shocked to respond. He knew my name, but I didn’t know him. At least, I didn’t think I knew him. Yet, I couldn’t deny that there was something familiar in the way he smiled at me.

  Warning bells clamored in my head. A hundred memories of Grandma warning me to keep quiet about my abilities came rushing back. Had I slipped and told someone something I shouldn’t have? Is that why he was here? I rested my hand on my thigh, feeling the weight of my Swiss army knife in my pocket. It might be a pathetic weapon, but it made me feel better all the same.

  “How do you know my name?” I demanded.

  He held out his hand, a strong, tanned hand with long fingers. “We’ve met before, sweetheart. Although you won’t remember.”

  I didn’t dare touch him, afraid if I did, something would change, although what, I wasn’t sure. A shiver of awareness caressed my skin, a warning that something wasn’t quite right. I glanced around the beach, taking comfort in the fact that the couple was still nearby, cuddling close enough that if I screamed they’d hear me.

  “Sorry, but we’ve never met. And I’m headed home.” I stepped away from the bar, backing up a couple feet.

  “I have something to tell you.”

  My heart hammered madly as indecision gripped me. Instinct told me to run, to dart across the road to safety. Except something held me back. Something inexplicable. Something that said I needed to know- must know- what he was going to tell me.

  “What?” I asked, in no mood for guessing games.

  He lifted his hand to his face and slowly removed his sunglasses. Piercing gray eyes met mine. A gaze so relentless, I felt it all the way to my soul. “My name is Maddox. Your father sent me.”

  I laughed, a harsh sound of disbelief. “That’s impossible, because if you really knew me, Maddox, you’d know that my father is dead.”

  “He’s not.” Maddox stood, towering over me. “Your father is alive and well, and he’s sent me here to protect you.” He slipped his sunglasses back into place, hiding those steel eyes behind mirrored lenses. “Whether you believe me or not, sweetheart, I’m pretty much the only thing standing between you and death.”

  Chapter 2

  What would you do if someone told you that your past and everything you believed was a lie?

  I swung my arm forward, my fist connecting with Maddox’s chin. No time to think or discuss, only time for action. His head snapped back as pain shot up my arm. Even over the adrenaline and fear, I felt the pain. I’d never punched anyone before, and it hurt much more than I’d expected. But the pain centered me, gave me that moment I needed to clear away the cobwebs clouding my rational brain.

  Run, my mind said.

  “Damn it,” Maddox growled as I bolted around the counter and toward the beach.

  The tourists were gone. No witnesses.

  “Shoot.” I rubbed my aching knuckles as I paused, breathless, near the water’s edge. A car sped down the dirt road, gone as quickly as it had arrived,
leaving behind only a cloud of dust. No boats near shore. Nobody taking a stroll. I was utterly alone. Frantically, I glanced toward the cottage. The living room light glowed softly from the windows. But if I went home, wouldn’t I be putting Grandma in danger?

  Every nerve in my body tingled, urging me to run, to do something, yet I stood frozen in indecision. Too late. I felt his presence a split second before he hit me. It was like being tackled by a bull. I landed on my stomach with a thud that knocked the breath from my lungs. Sand burst around me, flying through the air like crystalline confetti. As I gasped for breath, he flipped me over. Determination etched across his very face. He placed his knees on either side of my thighs, straddling me.

  Above, stars twinkled in the darkening sky. It was surreal… as if I dreamt. Or maybe I was having a nightmare. This could not be happening. The feel of his gaze brought me back to reality and I realized it was no dream. If I didn’t act fast, I might not have another chance. Focusing, I used all the energy I could muster and I swung my fist forward, but he easily caught my wrists, his massive hands pinning my arms above my head.

  “Let go!” I screamed, digging my heels into the sand and arching against him.

  “Not until you listen.” His sunglasses were gone, as well as his smirk. He looked annoyed, thoroughly.

  At least I could take some comfort in the fact that I’d wiped that grin from his face. But as his grip on my wrists tightened, my gloating fled. Frantically, I focused on his steel-colored eyes, reached out with my mind, attempting to read his thoughts, but heard nothing. His brain was blank. Startled, I actually stopped fighting him for a moment. What was he?

  “Your father sent me,” he stated between gritted teeth.

  I jerked against his grip, seething, but my arms were pinned too tightly to the sand. “You’re lying. My father died years ago.”

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