The mind games the mind.., p.21
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       The Mind Games (The Mind Readers), p.21

           Lori Brighton
 
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  The door clicked open and there stood my mom as if she’d sensed the anger pulsing from the room. “How’s everything going?”

  I grabbed the book, needing two hands to lift the heavy volume. “Is this a joke?”

  Her eyes narrowed in confusion. “What?”

  “Aaron.”

  Her confusion cleared and she reached out, taking the journal from me. “So you noticed.”

  “Did you think I wouldn’t?”

  She held the book close to her, as if it was a child that needed protection. “I wasn’t sure. It wasn’t as if I was hiding it from you.”

  “Why didn’t you tell me he carried the source as well?”

  “Because it’s not my secret to tell. Besides, it would be dangerous if others found out.” She started across the room and set the book carefully back on the pedestal. “I explained that there are many from which the source flows.”

  So she had a point. I assumed Dad didn’t know about Aaron and if I’d read it before going to the compound, he might have uncovered the truth. It really wasn’t my business what or who Aaron was, but damn it all if I wasn’t royally pissed. “Yeah, but not him!” He couldn’t be a chosen one, he couldn’t.

  “Why not? Did you think erasing someone’s memory was an ability anyone could do? It takes a person of incredible power to do something like that.”

  “No, I didn’t think he could possibly be a carrier of the source because he’s an ass.”

  Mom frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. “That’s your opinion. Besides, the source does not discriminate. He is a carrier. There’s nothing you can do but accept it.”

  She swept past us and pulled open the door, thinking to put an end to the subject. As if I’d just let it drop.

  “It’s alright,” Lewis said, resting his hand on my shoulder. “It doesn’t matter.”

  “No, it’s not all right.” I moved around him and followed my mom into the corridor. “Do you understand the pain I felt when he erased my memory?”

  She didn’t pause, but kept walking. “I do.”

  I had to run to keep up with her. “Have you had it happen to you?”

  She turned right, not even pausing. “No, I haven’t.”

  “Then you don’t understand! It was torture!” I followed her, resisting the urge to grab her arm, shake her, scream… do something. “Yet you continually take his side!”

  She paused, obviously angry, but something else lurked within her eyes. Guilt?

  “When are you going to understand that this isn’t about sides? That this petty thing you have going with Aaron doesn’t matter in the grand scheme? You felt the energy on that beach. You know it’s so much more than this silliness.” The harshness of her tone hurt. “Aaron did what he had to do in order to protect you.”

  I laughed. “Protect me? Yeah, that worked well considering dad found me anyway!”

  She schooled her features, the guilt gone, or maybe I’d imagined it. “That was unfortunate.”

  “Unfortunate?” Was she joking? I shook my head, feeling almost frantic. “Aaron can’t carry the source.”

  Mom raked her hand through her dark hair, obviously flustered with me. “Why?”

  “Because…because…” I couldn’t say the words, knowing how annoyed she’d be, but I thought them.

  Because that would mean maybe the source hadn’t picked me because it thought I deserved it; it had picked me because it was the luck of the draw. It would mean that we didn’t have the universe on our side, and that good wouldn’t necessarily win against evil.

  My mom sighed long and loud. I had a feeling she knew exactly what I was thinking. “Get some rest. You’re exhausted.”

  She was right. I’d had so little sleep in the last couple weeks. My mind was muddled, my body humming with an energy I couldn’t quite control. Feeling vulnerable, I crossed my arms over my chest, suddenly so very tired of it all.

  “There are things we need to discuss, but tomorrow. Okay?” She rested her hand on my check, then she turned and left me standing there alone with more answers and more questions to keep me company.

  Chapter 20

  “Cameron.”

  Someone called my name, pulling me from slumber. But I didn’t want to wake; my mind was too exhausted, my body spent. I groaned and attempted to sink back into the beautiful unconscious world of sleep.

  “Cameron.”

  They wouldn’t stop, the whispered word, echoing against my skull, thumping in time to my heartbeat. Yet, when I cracked my eyes, I wasn’t in my bedroom, or the living room. I wasn’t even in my mom’s house. The dimly lit hallway blurred in and out of focus. For one long moment I just stood there, too confused to move.

  “Cameron.”

  I stumbled forward, trying to follow the voice, only to fall against the cold wall. My body didn’t seem attached to my brain. Unable to continue, I stood there, too dizzy, too confused to continue on. Where was I? The fluorescent lights buzzed from above, barely lighting the sterile, white hall… a familiar hall. I’d been here before, but couldn’t quite place it in my muddled mind. I pressed my palms to my head, attempting to put order to my swirling thoughts.

  I still wore my pajamas— a pink T-shirt and gray sweats, my feet bare. How the hell had I gotten here? The sudden sound of murmured voices from down the hall spurred me into action. There… at the end of the corridor a door stood open, light pouring over the threshold, calling to me. I pushed away from the wall and shuffled over the linoleum floor. The fluorescent lights above wavered in and out of focus. I followed those lights like a sailor following stars. The murmured voices grew louder.

  Two?Three? No, four people talking.

  “Hello?” I called out, my voice echoing down the hall, bouncing back and forth against the walls.

  The conversation continued, and no one came to investigate. Frustrated, I tried to quicken my steps and forced myself onward, so close to that open door…so close.

  “You knew what was happening,” a familiar voice snapped out. “You knew what Cameron was capable of but you let her get away!”

  The realization hit me hard. I froze right outside the door as I recognized that voice, my location…

  I’d returned to the compound. I should have panicked; I should have bolted. Instead I remained firmly in place, as if my feet had been glued to the floor. My body stopped working, my muscles stiffened. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming, having a vision or if by some sick turn of fate I’d been recaptured.

  “You can no longer be trusted, Maddox.”

  “Maddox.” My damn loyalty sent me toward that open door. “Maddox!”

  I froze on the threshold. Not one person looked my way. They were seated around a table; three men and my father staring intimidatingly at Maddox. My father sat closest to me, but he wasn’t the one who caught my attention. Maddox wore a gray jumpsuit. His bound wrists rested on the table. His face was pale, making the dark bruise under his left eye stand out even more. He looked exhausted, beaten down, but not yet destroyed. Maddox would never give up, and his arrogance would get him killed.

  “No,” I whispered, sinking against the door jamb. The guilt I’d been trying so hard to ignore came rushing forward. I was stuck in this dream-like hell, with no way to stop them. No way to help.

  My father leaned back against his chair in a nonchalant manner that made me want to punch him. He had no empathy for the guy who had been his right-hand man. “What have you to say for yourself?”

  Maddox lifted his gaze. “That I’d do it all over again.”

  There was a moment of stunned silence. The other men exchanged anxious glances, but my dad didn’t react. He rarely did.

  “You know, Maddox.” My father drummed his fingers against the tabletop. “I, too, at one point let my emotions get the better of me. Fortunately, I was able to pull myself out of it before I was completely consumed. I was lucky enough to have a father who showed me the light. No woman is worth selling your soul.”

 
Was he actually saying he loved my mom at one time?

  “I think we both know you sold your soul long ago,” Maddox stated.

  Dad sighed. “Although I certainly considered you my son, I realize you never really had that father figure to lead you. Because of that, you will not be sentenced to death.”

  My stomach tightened. Death? They had actually been thinking about sentencing him to death? I gripped either side of the door frame for support.

  “How kind of you,” Maddox seethed.

  I wanted to tell Maddox to shut up, to take whatever they had to offer, but I knew he couldn’t hear me, couldn’t see me. It didn’t stop the panic from sinking into my gut.

  Dad stood. “Take him. He’ll stay at the compound for now, until he’s escorted to a regular prison.”

  I jumped to the side of the door. Two of the men stood and grabbed Maddox’s upper arms. He was jerked forward, the handcuffs rattling. He didn’t fight them, but lifted his chin high and walked out that door like the soldier he was.

  “Maddox?” I reached out but my hand went through him. I was a freaking ghost.

  He didn’t hear me, didn’t feel my touch, but disappeared into the shadows, gone before I could figure out a way to help him.

  My dad sighed and sank back into his chair. “Another one lost. Is no one loyal anymore?”

  His comment disgusted me. He really had no clue that he was the monster here.

  “Sir, what should we do with him?” the one remaining man asked.

  “Imprisonment, for now.” He slapped his hands onto the tabletop, as if wiping away the memory. “How long before we’re ready to leave?”

  “Tomorrow.”

  “And you know for sure where they’re located?”

  “We have a map of the tunnels.”

  Thoughts of Maddox sank into the background. My heart hammered wildly in my chest, blood roaring to my ears, threatening to drown out their conversation.

  My father nodded. “Good. I’m ready to be done with this once and for all.”

  They were coming; the attack was coming and I was here, unable to warn my mom. “No!”

  As the cry left my throat, the world around me vanished, light giving way to darkness. Air rushed around me, those pinpoint stars that had left me feeling exhilarated at the beach now left me breathless, frightened. I hit my body full force. The impact woke me immediately. My eyes burst open, the early morning light coming from Nora’s room was too bright.

  I bolted upright from the cot, my blanket falling to the ground. My lungs burned, my heart hammered as if I’d run a marathon. What the hell had just happened? I pressed my fingers to my temples, attempting to make sense of my spinning thoughts.

  Had it been a dream?

  I glanced at Nora’s bed but she was gone, the room empty. Lewis was in the guest room; I needed to talk to him. He was the only one I could trust. Stumbling across the room, I somehow managed to open the door. The clank of dishes from below gave me pause. I didn’t want to talk to anyone but Lewis. I wasn’t ready, not until I figured out what had just happened.

  It had been a dream, hadn’t it? Merely a dream. But…it had felt so real.

  “Hey,” Lewis was suddenly standing in front of me, a towel around his waist, his chest beautifully bared and muscled.

  No! I didn’t need the distraction, and he was certainly a distraction. Was this another test from Mommy Dearest? I jerked my gaze from his muscled stomach and focused on his face. “I need help.”

  Understatement of the year.

  “What’s wrong?”

  I threw my arms around his neck and pressed my body to his. He was still slightly damp and my clothes clung to his skin, but I didn’t care. I breathed deeply his scent, taking comfort in the familiarity.

  “What is it?” His hands moved down my back in long strokes.

  I pulled back, giving him room to breathe. “Dream… I think.”

  He frowned, obviously worried. “About what?”

  It was ridiculous, having a conversation with him while he was half-naked. I shook the thought from my mind. “He’s coming. My father. I think they’re coming.”

  His gaze hardened. He hated my dad as much as I did, and he had reason enough. I just hoped that deep down his hatred of my father didn’t affect our relationship. “When?”

  “Now. I don’t know.” I shook my head. “I have to see my mom.”

  He pressed his lips to mine in a quick kiss. “Go. I’ll follow when I’m dressed.”

  We parted, Lewis heading toward the guest room and me heading down the steps. I didn’t know if I’d dreamt Maddox, or if it was a vision, but I wasn’t about to take chances. I stumbled down the steps and straight to the kitchen.

  “What’s up?” Nora stood at the sink, already dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. She was alone.

  “I need to see Mom.”

  “She’s in the tunnels.”

  I didn’t wait but spun around and raced to the bookshelf. I felt Nora behind me, could sense her curiosity. “The code!”

  “Sheesh,” she huffed. “It’s five, eight, one, three. What the hell’s going on?”

  My fingers trembled as I typed in the numbers. I waited impatiently for the shelf to swing wide and when it did, I wasted no time in running down the steps. So much for a week before my dad attacked. Did Mom have any clue, or were we sitting ducks?

  I froze at the bottom of the steps, indecision holding me captive. Left or right? The corridor was dark and cool and eerily quiet. I started to yell for Nora’s help, but a sudden whisper of energy stopped me, prompting me left. I could feel them. A buzz of electricity that made the fine hairs on my arm stand on end. When I turned left, it grew stronger. I saw no guards as I moved down the corridor, the energy growing with each step closer I took.

  It was a familiar energy…someone I’d felt before… my mom. It was as if we were connected now. We shared the same power; the same source that flowed from her to me. I supposed I’d always felt it, but only just now did I realize who it was; where it came from.

  “Do you know where she is?” Nora asked, appearing in the corridor, looking as confused as I felt.

  “I do.” I raced down the hall. The stone floor was cold against my feet, the air chill against my bare arms, but I hardly noticed. My father was coming. Even now they were moving. I could feel it…a pulsing energy that burned through my body; that made my stomach roil.

  It had been no dream.

  “Are you sure you know?” Nora was watching me curiously. “I can call her.”

  “I know.” I froze outside a door. They were behind that steel, I knew it as fact. I started raised my fist, intending to knock, when Nora reached out, grasping my arm.

  “How do you know?”

  I sighed. “I just know. I can sense them.”

  She released her hold. “Oh.”

  Oh? That’s all she had to say? I couldn’t help but notice that things were growing more strained between us. Nora knew I had power, more than most, but I had a feeling this was another arrow in her target of jealousy. I didn’t have time for petty emotions. Seriously, did these people not realize the direness of the situation? Annoyed, I lifted my fist to knock, but was interrupted again, this time by Lewis.

  “When will he arrive?” Lewis asked moving down the hall toward us, unfortunately fully dressed. Still I admit that I felt some relief at seeing him. I knew Nora was my sister and all, but I still wasn’t quite sure I could trust her.

  “I don’t…”

  The soft murmur of Aaron’s voice interrupted me. I snapped my head toward the door. Solid steel. I shouldn’t be able to hear through it, should I? I inched closer, attempting to decipher the words. His voice came out warbled, in and out of focus like a murmured conversation through the water.

  “You hear that?” I asked Nora and Lewis.

  Nora frowned. “What?”

  They were watching me with confusion and wariness in their eyes, wondering if I’d gone off the deep end.

/>   “Cameron,” Nora started.

  I held up my hand in silent command for them not to speak.

  Cameron…

  Won’t let her go…

  It would be best if she didn’t have the powers…

  The words wavered in and out of focus like bees buzzing in a hive, a soft drone that vibrated through me. Had I suddenly developed super human hearing, or was I actually reading their thoughts?

  “Come on.” Nora punched in a code on the keypad, tired of waiting.

  Too freaking bizarre. Who knew what I’d be capable of a week from now, if I was still alive to find out. I frowned, shaking the haziness from my brain. There were things I needed to say to Lewis before it was too late, and I had a feeling once I told my mom about Dad’s plan to attack, Lewis and I would have no more time together. “Give us a minute?”

  She shrugged and pulled open the door, disappearing inside. Alone, I waited for the silence to settle; savored this last moment. Lewis still smelled like the shower and his aftershave. He’d dressed in cargo shorts, and a blue T-shirt that matched his eyes.

  “What is it?” he asked.

  “I think you should leave. There’s no reason for you to stay here.”

  His brows snapped together. The hurt and anger that crossed his face made me flush with guilt. I started to turn toward the door, but he pressed his palm to the wall, blocking me. “Why would you say that?”

  When I didn’t answer he stepped closer to me. With my back pressed to the wall, I had nowhere to look but at him. The annoyance had faded and his gaze had taken on a softness. “What’s this about?”

  His breath was warm upon my lips and worries about my father and the others selfishly took a back seat. “You don’t remember me. You’re in this situation where your life is in danger. You had an uncle once. You might have other family. You could find them. It’s not like me…every family member I know is stuck in this hell.”

  “You are my family.”

  My heart melted into a bloody puddle. Seriously, the guy knew exactly what to say to get to me. Frustrated, I ducked underneath his arm, needing space. “You don’t remember us, any of us, why are you so loyal?”

 
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