The mind games the mind.., p.15
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       The Mind Games (The Mind Readers), p.15

           Lori Brighton
 
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  “Just wait,” I whispered near Lewis’ ear, praying I could beat my father and his men; praying Lewis would last long enough for me to get him back to Savannah.

  “You have nowhere to go,” my father said from only about fifteen feet in front of us.

  Lewis stiffened.

  I pressed my hand to his chest, silently telling him to stay put. It was too dark to see them; I’d have to use my powers. I closed my eyes and drew in a deep breath. I could feel them… sense their energy surrounding us…coming closer. How many? Four? No, five, and more in the distance.

  “Crap,” I whispered, feeling the sinking sensation of dread.

  “Problems?” Lewis whispered. I didn’t appreciate the smugness of his tone. I knew exactly what he was thinking; I should have run when I’d had the chance. He certainly didn’t need to rub it in.

  “Not at all.” I closed my eyes and reached out with my mind. I could feel each person; separate individuals; everyone had their own distinct energy field. Two were close…closer than the rest. The other three were spread out around and behind us. Hell, we were trapped but that didn’t mean I would give up.

  Wait for it, I mentally said to Lewis.

  He didn’t move, but I knew he wanted to react; I prayed he wouldn’t.

  Stay still, let me take care of this.

  Their hearts beat close, I could hear the thumping. Their energy pulsing around them… closer…closer. I waited until I could see their eyes gleaming white in the moonlight. Then sucking in a sharp breath, I jumped to my feet and threw out my powers… the energy that burned low in my body; a power not fully mine, but a mixture of all those around me.

  Those microchips easily crumpled against the force and a flood of memories and feelings came surging toward me. I stumbled back as they fell to their knees. Three were on the ground, crying out in pain, but two were still running toward us. They didn’t fall. Why wouldn’t they fall? I concentrated harder. Another man cried out and stumbled. One to go.

  Vaguely I was aware of Lewis shifting beside me. It wasn’t until he surged forward, a branch in hand, that I jumped back, startled. Lewis swung the stick; it hit the guard’s head with a thump. The man stumbled forward and fell next to his cohort…both still.

  “Sometimes,” Lewis breathed heavily, dropping the stick. “You just have to do it the easy way.”

  Where was my dad? I grabbed his hand and we darted into the trees. I knew the road was close; I could hear the creak gurgling ahead, but would Nora be there?

  We splashed through more water and clambered up the slippery creek bed. Shouts from guards peppered the air, interrupting the still night. “Don’t look back.”

  Together, we climbed the small incline that would take us to the road. It was close, so damn close. The mud was slick and I slipped, nearly falling to my face. Lewis used the rest of his strength to haul me to my feet.

  “Keep going,” he demanded, shoving me forward.

  I reached out with my mind, attempting to concentrate and run at the same time. “One coming left, one right,” I gasped out.

  Sweat trailed down Lewis’ face and even in the moonlight I could tell his eyes had become almost glassy with pain and exhaustion. “Your father?”

  “Behind us.” I hoped.

  I hadn’t a clue what I would do to the guards following us, let alone my dad. My body was shaking from the exertion; I could probably take down the two agents coming toward us on either side, but my dad? Our feet hit the asphalt and I froze. No car. No Nora. I wasn’t surprised, I was defeated.

  A dark feeling of dread sucked any remaining hope from me. “No,” I whispered, jerking my head left, then right. Nothing but inky black. “No!”

  A dark form burst through the brush at our left. The agent raced toward Lewis.

  “Stop!” I searched for a weapon and found a piece of broken road. Nothing else was nearby. I threw my energy at the chuck of asphalt. It burst forward, hitting the man in the head with a satisfying thunk. He fell onto his back, unmoving.

  A dark pool of blood spread out from underneath him. Bile rose to my throat. I wasn’t sure which shocked me more, that I’d moved a freaking chunk of asphalt with my mind, or that I was pretty sure I’d just killed a man.

  “It’s okay,” Lewis said, as if sensing my agitation. He grasped my arm and pulled me down the road. “Come on.”

  But it was too late. I could feel my father near, and I knew others were coming from both directions. Lewis couldn’t run anymore, and frankly I was about ready to collapse as well.

  I pulled away from him. “Lewis, just stop.”

  He paused, his shoulders rising with each harsh breath. For one long moment, we merely stood in the middle of the road and stared at each other.

  “Go,” I whispered. They didn’t want him, they wanted me. Maybe, just maybe, if they captured me, they’d let him go. “Just leave. I don’t want you to get hurt, and if you stay with me, you’ll get hurt.”

  “I’m not leaving you.”

  I sucked in a hiss of frustration. “They’re coming, lots of them, and I’m not going down without a fight.”

  He gave me a sad half-smile. “Me neither.”

  “Please—”

  He gripped my shoulders and pulled me forward, pressing his lips to mine. I soaked in his essence, tried to remember the feel of him, his scent, his taste, for I knew this would probably be the last time we’d kiss.

  A branch snapped from behind us. I tore away from Lewis, leaping in front of him and facing our next enemy. The form that stepped from the shadows wasn’t my father or a hulking guard. I narrowed my eyes and tried to feel his energy. No, not a him. A her.

  “Use his energy,” the woman said. I knew that sweet southern drawl. Tara. My father’s wife. The stepmother I never thought I’d see again. “Use his energy.”

  The same thing Maddox had said.

  “Reach out,” she said, coming to stand some ten feet from us. She wasn’t wearing her normal heels and dress clothes, but instead wore a dark sweatshirt and jeans. “Feel his energy, take it and throw it back.”

  “I…I can’t.”

  She gripped my shoulders and gave me a quick shake. She smelled like roses, roses in this dark forest. “You can. Only you.”

  Because I was the source.

  I heard the snap of branches coming closer…closer. His energy vibrated around me. A darkness that sent a shudder through my body.

  “Take care of your dad, I’ll stop the others.” She disappeared into the darkness and just like Maddox, I knew I’d never see her again.

  “Stay back,” I whispered to Lewis.

  I had no choice but to try, but I wasn’t so sure I could win again. I shifted my feet and braced myself …waiting…waiting. The moment I saw his shadow, I mentally surged forward, giving him no time to react. He stumbled from the woods.

  “You’re weakening,” he said through gritted teeth. “There are more men coming, Cameron. You won’t escape.”

  “I have twice now, Dad, so you might not want to bet on that.”

  Before he could respond, I tapped into the source. The world around me disappeared. I no longer saw the trees, or the moon, or heard the guards racing toward us. But I felt it all around me… the energy from the forest, from the humans, from the animals. I felt their energy and I sank into it, I pulled it close and used it to my benefit.

  And although I couldn’t see him, I felt Lewis; felt him press his hand to my shoulder, felt his energy flow into mine. He was helping me, using what little strength he had left, and vaguely I knew he would die because of it but I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop.

  My father’s wall burst and his energy poured out. I heard his cry and knew I’d won, but I couldn’t seem to let go, to release the hold of the source that was so powerful, that was slowly taking me over. Lewis’ hand slipped away, but it was the sudden brilliant flash of car lights that jerked me back into reality.

  The energy roared backwards, being sucked from my body and
leaving me chilled and trembling. The world had returned, and it was dark and ugly. Weak, I stumbled, and then fell to my knees.

  “Cameron!” Nora called, but her voice came out muffled… far away. I could hear nothing over the insane beat of my heart and roar of blood through my veins.

  Firm fingers bit into my upper arms and someone pulled me to my feet. “Cameron, damn it, look at me.”

  I tilted my head back and stared into Nora’s concerned face. She’d come for us. She hadn’t abandoned us. I wanted to laugh with the thrill of it all, but I couldn’t.

  “What the hell have you done?” she whispered.

  I dropped my attention and found our father lying upon the ground, unmoving. Oh God, was he dead? As much as I hated him, the thought that I’d murdered my own father made me sick.

  “Come on.” Nora shoved me toward the back seat of her car. I fell onto the soft leather, sinking into the cushions, so exhausted I couldn’t even pull the seatbelt across my chest.

  “Lewis,” I managed to mutter.

  “He’s coming.”

  I closed my eyes. A few moments later I sensed Nora pulling Lewis into the backseat with me. I reached out, resting my hand on his arm, but he was cold… so cold. Nora jumped into the driver’s seat, the car bouncing slightly, and slammed the door shut.

  “Did I kill him?” I asked.

  She pressed on the gas and we jerked forward, the car roaring to life. “No, Dad’s still alive.”

  I didn’t want to know about Dad. I didn’t care about Dad. I wanted to know about Lewis. But before I could ask her, my mind went black, and I faded into nothingness.

  Chapter 15

  The soft hum of the car eventually woke me.

  My lashes lifted, the daylight brilliant and startling. For a few seconds I just sat there, staring out the dusty window and trying to make sense of the moment. I wasn’t sure how long I’d slept, but as I noticed the brilliant sun peeking over Victorian homes, I knew it must have been hours. The realization that we’d escaped the compound hit me hard.

  Tears of relief stung my eyes. We’d done it. We hadn’t died. I shifted my aching body, intending to ask Nora where we were, that’s when I noticed Lewis slumped in the corner of the backseat. Lewis, his face smooth and still, almost like polished marble.

  “Lewis?” I whispered, my voice quivering.

  “He’s okay,” Nora spoke up from the front seat, glancing at me in the rearview mirror.

  I reached out, pressing my palm to his cheek. His skin was cold, but his breath whispered encouragingly against my hand.

  He still lived. I still lived. We had escaped.

  I pressed my hand to his chest, and buried my face against his shoulder. His heart thumped slowly. Too slowly. The fact that he didn’t even flinch when I touched him added to my worry. I pressed my lips to his cheek. He was completely unresponsive.

  Worried, I turned toward Nora. “Lewis…”

  She glanced at him in the mirror. “Just needs some sleep… I think.”

  The worried look in her blue eyes didn’t exactly make me feel better. I rubbed the crick in my neck and glanced toward the horizon. I think she knew as well as I that it wasn’t just rest that he needed. I could feel the lack of energy coming from his body.

  We were in a city, but which? “What time is it?”

  She glanced at the dashboard clock. “Nine.”

  Then we had to be close to Savannah. My anxiety eased the tiniest bit. “Thank you,” I whispered.

  She stared straight ahead. “No problem.”

  She acted as if it wasn’t a big deal, but it was. It was a huge deal. I had a family; a family who would risk their lives for me. Loyal, almost to a fault. And it made me feel guilty.

  “You stayed longer than we agreed, didn’t you?” I still wasn’t sure how many days I’d been there, but I knew enough to know she should have high-tailed it back to Savannah.

  She shrugged.

  “I didn’t exactly…” I wasn’t sure how to say what I wanted to without offending her. She glanced at me in the mirror. “I didn’t exactly trust you,” I blurted out.

  She grinned. “Think I was leading you to your demise?”

  I flushed. “Something like that.” Yeah, it had crossed my mind that she was setting me up, but I supposed I had a reason not to trust her; I hadn’t really known her. I glanced at Lewis. Even our conversation hadn’t stirred him.

  “Has mom called?”

  She rolled her eyes. “Many times.”

  Now that I knew Grandma might be lost to me forever, I realized that Nora and Mom were the only family I had left. Yeah, they were a bit nuts, but maybe, just maybe I could actually trust them.

  “And did you tell her?”

  “I didn’t answer. But she knows. She always knows.”

  I nodded. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask her if Mom would be angry, but I wouldn’t let myself care. I had done what I needed to. And it was worth it… or would be… if Lewis lived. I glanced back at him. He still sat in the corner, still quiet and unmoving. Worry swept through me, renewed and determined. Nora said he just needed rest, but I knew he needed something more. I just wasn’t sure what.

  I took his hand in mine. “I don’t know what’s wrong with him. I think…I think his energy’s gone.”

  She gave me a kind smile. “Mom will know what to do. She always does.”

  “How much longer until we’re home?”

  “Five minutes.”

  I released a puff of air; relieved would be an understatement. “Good.” The sooner the better. I glanced behind us, but no cars followed. “Will they come after us?”

  “I doubt it. Dad looked pretty bad, and Dad’s in charge.”

  I nodded, unsure how to feel about the fact that I’d practically destroyed my own father. She turned left, headed down a neighborhood street where kids were already outside playing; unwilling to let a perfect day go by without some fun. I’d never had those carefree days. I was always worried about being attacked by some unknown enemy. No carefree days even now, but I could honestly say that I had friends; trustworthy, loyal friends.

  “Nora?”

  She glanced back. “Yeah?”

  “Maddox helped me escape.”

  She shifted her gaze to the horizon and I could read nothing on her face. “Good for him.”

  She turned right, a little too sharply. I moved closer to her, scooting to the edge of the backseat. “Nora, he went way beyond what even I had hoped. Shut off electricity, cut a fence—”

  “So what,” she snapped.

  Okay, so she still held a grudge against him. I moved back, resting next to Lewis. She might not care, but I did. “I never would have escaped without him. He’ll most likely be jailed. Or worse.”

  “He picked his side long ago.” She sounded heartless, but I heard the emotion underneath her hard tone. She still had feelings for him. Oddly, I didn’t care. I didn’t care that she loved him, and I didn’t care that he might still love her.

  “So you don’t think he’s changed?”

  She laughed. “Cameron, people never change.”

  But I’d changed so much over the past year. Forgiveness was obviously not her forte. She might be able to dismiss Maddox, but I couldn’t quite so easily. I swore someday we’d help him; if he survived long enough to wait. Thoughts of Maddox fled as we reached Mom’s square.

  I’d never been so happy to see Savannah. Even the early morning tourists filled me with joy. I felt as if I was… home. But I knew it wasn’t the city, but the people who made me feel as if I belonged here. Nora parked alongside the sidewalk. As much as I dreaded my mother’s reaction to my return, I was also counting on her to help Lewis.

  Nora shoved open the door and stepped outside. “Wait here and I’ll get help…try to explain.”

  I nodded, shifting closer to Lewis. “Hurry.”

  The dark circles under his eyes seemed almost black against his pale skin. I wouldn’t let Lewis die. I couldn’t b
e here on my own. I trailed my fingers down the side of his face. As much as we’d gone through, as much as we’d shared, I couldn’t imagine life without him. “Lewis, please.”

  His fingers curled. Hope whispered seductively through me.

  “Talk to me,” I urged. “Help me out of this mess. Help me decide who to trust. Help me with my powers… everything.”

  I was surprised and relieved when those thick lashes lifted and his blue eyes found mine. “Cameron?”

  I pressed my trembling hands to his face; his cheeks rough with a scruff that made him look older than he was. “I’m here. We’re safe.” For now, but that was all that mattered. Live in the moment was my new motto.

  “I’m tired,” he muttered, his voice rough with exhaustion and pain. His lashes began to drift downward.

  “No,” I said a little more harshly than I’d intended. “Stay awake with me, okay?”

  He nodded, but his lids were still half-closed, his eyes glazed over. “Where are we?”

  I inched closer, as close as I could get, and wrapped my arm around him, resting his head against my shoulder. “We made it back to Savannah. Nora’s getting help right now. Just a few more minutes, okay?”

  “Thank you,” he whispered.

  I smiled through the sudden sting of tears. “I owed you. You’ve saved me more than a couple times.”

  He shook his head, his hair tickling my cheek. “You owe me nothing. I know I betrayed you in some way, didn’t I?”

  My smile waned.

  He tilted his head back. “I can see it in your eyes sometimes. A weariness. A sadness.”

  I swallowed hard and forced my tears to dry. “It was in the past, and it was just a disagreement, that’s all. You made up for it.” I spread my fingers over his shaved hair. “You’ll get better. My mom will help you.”

  He smiled a smile that lifted only the left corner of his mouth, as if too tired to smile fully. “Cameron?”

  “Yeah?”

  “I don’t have any memories of us.”

  My heart clenched, the reminder still painful. Live in the moment, I had to remind myself, not the past. I squeezed his hand. How depressed I’d been when he hadn’t remembered me. Now I didn’t care; I only wanted him to live.

 
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