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The mind thieves the min.., p.16
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       The Mind Thieves (The Mind Readers), p.16

           Lori Brighton
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Why, I wanted to ask. Why did he want me there? To be close to me, or to use my powers? But before I could question him, Maddox strolled to the door and disappeared into the hall.

  Not a word about our kiss. Nothing. And I let him go because I was too confused to ask him to stay. Shocked that he’d kissed me and shocked that I’d let him. And even as I admitted that I liked the kiss, I knew it wasn’t the same as Lewis kissing me. I closed my eyes, my heart squeezing painfully.

  “Lewis, where are you?”

  “Cam, Cam, please, dear God, please look at me.” Lewis’ words whispered through my mind. “Please Cameron, please talk to me.”

  Shoot, I’d forgotten to ask Maddox about that last day at Aaron’s. I pulled on my tennis shoes and I raced out the door.

  “Cameron,” Tara appeared at the bottom of the steps, dishtowel in hand. “Is everything all right?”

  I rushed passed her. “Yeah, just need to ask Maddox something.”

  I tore open the front door and burst outside. Maddox’s motorcycle was disappearing down the drive. “No!”

  I ran down the steps of the front porch and called out to him. “Maddox!”

  Too late. I paused, breathless in the drive. He was gone, disappeared into the shadows of the trees. Stupid me, I’d been too caught up in the moment. I pressed my fingers to my lips where the skin still tingled. Maddox had kissed me. I closed my eyes. Suddenly, I remembered. No flashback, but a soft memory that whispered seductively through my mind. Lewis and I standing outside in the dark…

  For one moment we merely stared at each other. Then Lewis lowered his head, bending toward me. My eyes closed and I held my breath, waiting. His lips met mine. A soft kiss, a wonderful kiss. My toes had curled in my shoes, my heart had jumped madly against my ribs. Soft, warm, intense.

  “Lewis,” I whispered, his name catching in my throat.

  A branch snapped from behind. I spun around, facing the trees. The shadows were thick even though the day was bright. Anything could be out there. Surely it was just an animal. Maybe a squirrel?

  Another snap, this one closer.

  A rabbit?

  I took a step back. “Hello?”

  No response.

  My heart hammered wildly in my chest. A raccoon? Deer? Bear? Did they have bears in North Carolina? I swallowed hard, preparing to flee when a shadow morphed from the trees. A feminine silhouette, a familiar form. She stepped into a patch of sunlight, and the rays glinted off her blonde hair.

  I gasped in surprise. “Nora.”

  She grinned. “So, you know my name.”

  I didn’t respond, too shocked to speak. How the hell had she made it to the house unseen? I dared to glance down the drive where Maddox had disappeared. But I was alone, he was gone and Tara would be of no help. Oh God, Tara and the kids were close by.

  “What do you want?” I demanded.

  “I’ve been waiting to catch you alone.” She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against a tree trunk, completely at ease. She wore jeans and a leather jacket that reminded me of Maddox’s. How sweet, his and hers. I wanted to gag.

  “Where’s my grandma?” I asked, praying Tara wouldn’t come outside looking for me, or worse send Gemma.

  She frowned. “How the hell should I know?”

  “Your people took her.”

  She laughed. “Someone’s been feeding you lies.”

  I hesitated, startled. I couldn’t trust her, I knew that. But if they didn’t have Grandma, who did? “What do you want with me?”

  She shrugged. “I’m just wondering if you’re ready to leave yet.”

  I shook my head, confused. As if she was giving me a choice. “I don’t—”

  “Obviously not.” She sighed. “Never mind.” She stepped away from the tree. “Can’t stay. I’m sure your father has already sent agents to apprehend me.”

  “How?” I glanced around, but saw only birds. “What do you mean?”

  She narrowed her eyes. “You seriously think he doesn’t realize I’m here?” She turned and slipped into the shadows. “But I will be back, Cameron and I’m betting by then, you’ll be ready to leave.”

  “Dream on.”

  I heard her laughter over the chirp of birds. “Think you can just walk away? You’re working for the U.S. government now. It’s not so easy to back out. You’ll need my help when the time is right.”

  She was so sure I would want to leave, that she made me rethink my position.

  “Cameron?” Tara called from the porch.

  I spun around. She was standing there watching me curiously. Crap, what had she seen?

  “Just a minute,” I called back.

  I turned toward the woods. Blondie was gone. There was no snap of branches this time. No crunch of leaves to indicate the retreat of her steps. Only the chirp of birds.

  Chapter 16

  Three days later and I was strolling the halls of Alcatraz, back to work with good ol’ dad. I could only pretend to be exhausted for so many days. And I sure as heck could only play dolls with Gemma for so long before I wanted to rip their pretty little heads off and shove them down Charlie’s tormenting throat. Being around the bickering siblings had made me realize how fortunate I was to grow up as an only child.

  Besides, staying home was doing no good, I was still as confused as when I’d arrived. But I was determined to do what I had to in order to get answers. If they wanted to use me, so be it. I’d use them as well. When I laid out my options, this was the best move… for now. Maybe someday I’d trust my dad, maybe someday I’d forgive him. Maybe. But Maddox had been right, I needed to stop sitting around waiting for someone to give me answers. Time to take charge.

  “So,” I said as we followed the path toward the interrogation building. “What’s on the agenda for today?”

  “There’s someone I’d like you to question, if you’re up for it.”

  It was on the tip of my tongue to ask him if he’d rather I make photocopies or answer phone calls. Instead, I bit back my response. Looked like I was following in Dad’s footsteps whether I wanted to or not. I took in a deep breath and focused on the blue skies. So blue, so bright, it almost hurt to look upward. The color reminded me of Lewis’ gaze.

  “Cameron,” my dad said, his voice hesitant. “I know about Nora’s visit.”

  I stumbled to a stop outside the door of building two, too shocked to feel guilty about not telling him. “How do you know?”

  “There are cameras in the woods surrounding the house.”

  Stunned, I couldn’t think of a word to say. Nora had known. It made sense now, why she’d arrived and left so quickly. She’d known we were being watched. God, I was so stupid.

  “Don’t look at me like that,” he said. “Like I’m invading your privacy. The security is there to protect my family and that includes you.”

  An excuse that was sort of growing old. He pulled open the door. Anger and annoyance fought for control. Why hadn’t he told me? “Just the woods?”

  So help me if my room was bugged…

  His lips lifted into a quick grin. He seemed amused by my question. “Yes.”

  I didn’t find it amusing at all. “She said they don’t have Grandma.”

  He sighed, his amusement fading. “And you believe her?”

  “No.” Maybe. Hell, I wasn’t sure who to believe anymore. “So what’s this guy done?” I asked, eager to change the subject.

  He pulled open the door. “He was responsible for the death of ten innocent school children in Berlin. And that’s just one of many.”

  I glanced at him, surprised. I hadn’t been expecting the truth and such a terrible truth as that. I felt ill. “H…how?”

  Ellen was seated in her usual spot and lifted her head just quick enough to give us a polite smile.

  “He worked with a terrorist organization.” We moved through that gate and into the hall with the many, many doors. “We need to find out if he was working alone, or with others.”

  We paused outsid
e a door midway down the hall. The man seated in that room behind a nondescript table was blond, pale and tall. Not fat at all, but at least twice my size. Despite the fact that there were two guards in the room, there was something about that prisoner that sent a chill down my spine.

  “Is he a mind reader?”

  “Yes.” My dad handed me the earpiece.

  For some reason the fact that this prisoner was a mind reader made me even more nervous. I felt like he could turn the tables at any moment. It would be a battle of wills.

  “Are you okay?”

  I nodded. I had a job to do. People to save. This is the path I’d chosen… or been forced upon, at least for now.

  The prisoner turned his head, as if sensing us. He didn’t look nervous or uneasy in any way. A slow smile lifted the corners of his lips. A creepy smile. I knew in that moment that everything my father had told me about him was totally true.

  “Cameron, he’s a sick bastard. This isn’t going to be easy, but we need the information. You’ll be completely protected. There’s no reason to be afraid.”

  “I’ll be okay. Besides, he can’t harm me, right?” I rested my hand on the door knob.

  “You want me to come in with you?”

  I paused, surprised. He was actually showing he cared and dang it all, I liked it. “Dad, there are two guards, I think I’ll be fine.”

  “Don’t trust him.”

  No worries, I wasn’t planning on trusting anyone. I nodded and pulled open the door. He was wearing that same gray jumpsuit as the other prisoner and I wondered briefly why they didn’t wear orange.

  “So, they’ve sent you? A child,” he said in a thick accent. “Wunderbar.”

  I settled in the chair across from him, praying he didn’t notice how my hands shook. The guards watched silently from their corners like huge German shepherds waiting for the sign to attack.

  “You know what will happen if you don’t talk?” I was proud that my voice held steady.

  He lifted a golden brow. “Indeed.”

  I rested my elbows on the table and leaned forward. “Then why don’t you make it easier for the both of us and tell me if you’re working alone?”

  He rested his chained arms on the table and leaned forward, much like I had. “But that, mein liebling, would be no fun, would it?”

  Great, he was going to be difficult and the longer I talked to him, the longer I’d have to be in his creepy presence. I glanced at the tinted window where I knew my father waited and where I assumed Maddox stood.

  “Go ahead,” my father said from the earpiece.

  “Why are you in a hurry?” the prisoner asked, surprising me. “Do you have dinner plans? Perhaps with the handsome agent who keeps thinking lustful thoughts about you?”

  My gaze jumped to the window where I knew Maddox stood. A horrified flush crept its way up my neck, knowing not only Maddox, but also my dad heard what he had said. How could he possible know what Maddox was thinking? Maddox supposedly had a chip. Unless this guy was ridiculously powerful.

  “I’ve hit a nerve.” The prisoner leaned even closer, his chains rattling with the movement. “What makes you special?”

  I didn’t respond. I sure as hell had asked myself that many times in the past.

  “Cameron,” my father said through the earpiece. “Start.”

  The prisoner lowered his gaze, looking me up and down. “You’re no different from me.”

  My heart slammed wildly in my chest. He’d spoken the very words I feared were true, but would never admit out loud. Was I just as bad as him? “I don’t kill innocent people.”

  “Maybe not directly, but do you think all will be well? Do you honestly believe innocents will not suffer when they rush in to destroy us?”

  The earpiece crackled. “Cameron, break into his mind now,” Maddox demanded.

  Were they trying to protect me? Or was there something they didn’t want me to hear? I closed my eyes, mostly to escape the prisoner’s eerie gaze. Without pause, I mentally reached out. I felt the wall in place, as it should be, hard, unrelenting. I knew he’d try to block me. I took in a deep breath and pushed. Easily the pressure crumbled. Suddenly pictures flashed to mind… ocean…a beach…brilliant blue water. Where was I?

  I stood by the shore, a map in hand.

  “Grand Cayman,” I said.

  “Cameron,” my dad’s voice crackled. “It’s a lie. Something he’s forcing you to see. You didn’t break through.”

  I opened my eyes. The German man was grinning. “Sehr gut, sehr gut.”

  “Shut up,” I snapped.

  This weirdo was getting on my nerves. I closed my eyes again and mentally raced forward full force. I felt like I’d slammed against a brick wall. My body actually trembled, my bones ached. I gritted my teeth and held tight, refusing to cry out. I wouldn’t relent until that wall of his was down. It was a battle of wills and I would win. I wasn’t sure how long we fought, but it seemed like an eternity.

  Sweat broke out on my forehead, my muscles trembled, but I swore I felt him wavering… like a cool breeze that whispered temptingly through my body.

  He cried out in pain and a sick part of me was thrilled with the realization that I’d won. The thrill was short lived when suddenly a million pictures flashed through my mind.

  His childhood in an orphanage… his teenage years seducing and stalking girls…hitting them if they didn’t do what he wanted.

  Dad was right, he was horrible.

  The memory shifted and I was walking down an alley in some European town. Three men strolled from the shadows, knives in hand. Just as suddenly as they had appeared, they cried out, dropping their weapons and falling to their knees. I knew what he was doing, controlling them with his mind.

  They begged for mercy. He didn’t relent and they fell back, blood trailing from their mouths and nostrils. They lay upon the dirty alley, unmoving, dead. He reached into each of their pockets, taking their cash and strolling away, leaving the bodies behind.

  Another memory, this one even slower. I was in a room with maps all over the walls. Men speaking in some sort of language I didn’t understand.

  “Where are you?” My dad’s voice crackled through the earpiece.

  “An office.” My head thumped, interrupting my concentration. Delving into his brain was taking its toll and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could hold him off. I refocused, ignoring the pain. “They’re looking at maps.”

  The image wavered.

  “Maps of what?”

  I forced myself to concentrate. “Umm, Scotland, Edinburgh…I think.”

  “Where exactly? Do you see a street name?”

  I watched as a man reached out and pressed his finger to the map, pointing at a street. The pain in my head increased. I squeezed my eyes shut, concentrating. “Princess Street.”

  As soon as the words left my lips, the world exploded with pain. Everything went black, disappearing. I could no longer hear anything, no longer feel my body. I floated in nothingness. I forced my eyes to open, but the room around me spun…spun…

  I could hear voices coming from my ear piece, but I couldn’t understand the words. Everything was garbled nonsense. Yet, one thing stood out…the warm coppery taste of blood trailing down the back of my throat. My stomach churned and I thought I might get sick.

  “Cameron.” Maddox stood in front of me, his face wavering in and out of focus. Warm hands lifted me, cradling me to a strong chest. For a moment I thought I was back in Aaron’s house during that fateful day when I’d lost my memory. But no, my memory was fine.

  “Damn, it was too much for her,” he said.

  “We couldn’t know,” my father replied, then turned toward the guards. “Take him out.”

  Chains rattled. I cracked my eyes just enough to see my guards dragging the blond from the room, his chin on his chest, his body lax. Obviously he’d fainted… or I’d killed again. Just call me the angel of death.

  “I feel sick,” I muttered.
br />   “I know. We’ll get—”

  A high pitched shriek rang through the room, echoing, pulsing against the walls. I cringed, the sound too loud, too irritating.

  “What the hell?” Maddox demanded.

  My dad rushed toward the door. “Take her to my office, now!”

  I pushed at Maddox’s chest. “Put me down. I can walk.”

  “You look half-dead.”

  “Put me down!”

  “Fine, but we need to hurry.”

  He let me slide down his body, then grabbed my hand. I’d barely had time to gather my thoughts before we bolted through the door and down the hall. My legs trembled, my feet tripping over each other as if they just didn’t know how to work any longer.

  “What’s happening?” I managed to ask. Obviously the noise was some sort of alarm.

  “Someone’s trying to escape.” I felt like we were running through that airport in Florida all over again and I had to trust Maddox. Only problem was, I still didn’t know if I could.

  We reached the gate and Maddox tore open the door.

  “Do we have time?” he asked Ellen who was typing furiously upon her computer keyboard. My dad had disappeared, reaching the door before us.

  It was only as we paused next to her desk that I realized Ellen’s computer was actually hooked to four cameras outside. She wasn’t a secretary, but a security guard.

  “Looks like you’re clear to leave,” she said.

  “Why the office?” I asked as we started for the front door. “Why can’t we stay here?”

  “The office building is the most secure. In this building there are prisoners who could potentially escape.”

  Wow, this day was getting better and better.

  Maddox reached for the door. “Not a big deal. It’s happened before.”

  Right, if it wasn’t a big deal, why the shrill alarm and hectic faces?

  “Stop!” Ellen cried out, but it was too late.

  The door burst open, sending both of us stumbling back. A man rushed inside, wearing that prisoner gray jumpsuit, a frantic look upon his face. I had a feeling he wasn’t here to ask where the nearest restroom was located. Maddox pulled a pistol from the holster at his side. Before he had time to point the gun, the weapon flew from his fingers. The pistol skittered across the floor, useless.

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