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The mind thieves the min.., p.21
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       The Mind Thieves (The Mind Readers), p.21

           Lori Brighton
 
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  “Pain,” I said. “I can cause…”

  She shook her head. “It won’t work on them.”

  “Why?”

  “They have chips. I’m not even sure if they’re fully human.”

  “Mind readers with chips.” This was taking a turn for the bizarre sci-fi.

  The door suddenly rattled. Terrified, I faced the entrance. It was my worst nightmare come true. Sweet, innocent Tara stood outside, trying desperately to get in. “No. Oh God, no.”

  I shook my head, urging her to leave. Instead, somehow the insane woman managed to tear open the door. “Tara, go!”

  She didn’t pause, but scooped up a baseball bat and started toward us, a fierce look of determination upon her face.

  “They might not be fully human,” she drawled out, “but they feel pain.”

  I stood shocked mute. How the hell had she heard us?

  “We love our baseball in the south,” she uttered, swinging the bat forward. The metal hit Tweedle-dee in the head, propelling him backward. He hit the wall and slid to the ground with a thud.

  “Go!” Tara snapped, waving us toward the door. “I’ll hold them back.”

  “But—”

  “Go!”

  Nora grabbed my arm and jerked me toward the door.

  “Take my car.” Tara threw the keys to Nora.

  She caught them and without a backward glance, rushed outside. “Let’s go.”

  “But…” I looked at Tara. She’d managed to knock the second guy unconscious and was dragging the bodies toward the back of the building. I hadn’t a clue what she was going to do with them, and didn’t want to know. Good God, it was like finding Martha Stewart was a serial killer.

  Shoppers strolled by chatting amicably with no clue as to what was happening in that tiny toy shop. Nora and I walked casually toward the parking lot. My thundering heart mirrored the tap of my tennis shoes. I was positive someone would notice my pale face and wide eyes. Positive that a police officer would come tearing across the parking lot at any moment. Or worse, my dad.

  “Where’s the car?” Nora asked.

  “There.” I nodded toward Tara’s blue Honda.

  It was with some relief when we reached the car. With trembling fingers, I somehow managed to open my door and sink onto the passenger’s seat. My body was shaking with nerves and adrenaline; there was no way I could drive. I could barely think, barely breathe. As Nora started the car, I glanced at the toy shop. No sign of Tara. How the heck would she clean up our mess?

  We drove out of the parking lot and I finally managed to look at Nora. She was relaxed against the seat, driving in and out of traffic as if nothing insane had happened.

  “What the hell was that about?” I asked.

  She merged onto the highway. “Isn’t it obvious?”

  “No,” I snapped. “It’s not obvious.”

  She slid me a glance and grinned. “Tara’s a mind reader.”

  Chapter 21

  “Where are we going?” I asked, as Nora pulled off the highway.

  Only an hour ago we’d crossed the border into Virginia. We’d been driving well into the evening and the adrenaline of the situation had worn off, leaving me cold and confused.

  “Massachusetts,” she replied.

  Massachusetts? We wouldn’t be there until tomorrow which would give me plenty of time to try and piece together the insanity that had become my life. Mostly it gave me plenty of time to worry about Lewis’ upcoming reaction. Would he be happy to see me? Or annoyed?

  “He’s in Massachusetts?” I said mostly to myself.

  “Yep.” She pulled into the parking lot of a motel where few other cars dared to venture. The town, if you could call it that, boasted a laundry mat and MacDonald’s attached to a gas station.

  Nora found a parking spot and turned off the car, the area settling into silence. “We should be there tomorrow afternoon.”

  We’d talked little in the hours after making our great escape and my throat had gone dry and rough. I’d been too nervous to talk. But considering I was wanted by the world, I figured I had a right to be anxious. “And Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum… they won’t follow?”

  She laughed. “You can stop looking over your shoulder.”

  I’d turned around so many times in the past few hours that my neck was stiff. I rubbed my tense shoulders and glared at her. “Do we have to worry about them or not?”

  “Not right now. Tara took care of them.”

  Tara. I still couldn’t believe she’d saved us. Sweet, kind, unassuming Tara. It made no sense. “How? How’d she take care of them?”

  When I’d asked earlier, Nora had brushed off my questions, saying she needed to concentrate on driving and I’d been too nervous about Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum to insist. But I was getting answers now.

  She shrugged and pushed open her car door. “Don’t worry about it. She’ll make up some story, probably about how you were kidnapped and the car stolen.”

  “So my dad has no idea she’s a mind reader?”

  “Nope.” She grinned, taking delight in the response.

  Her blasé reaction toward our situation drove me nuts. For all I knew, they could have posted our mug shots on the nightly news: America’s Most Wanted. “Will she tell my dad the truth eventually?”

  “Of course not.” She stepped outside and I followed, scanning the open fields that lay on either side of the road. The motel was seriously in the middle of nowhere. I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.

  Nora’s phone rang, momentarily interrupting our conversation. She pulled the cell from her sweatshirt pocket. “Hello.”

  There was a slight pause as we made our way onto the cracked sidewalk surrounding the motel. The growing weeds told me few people had been here. No surprise. I glanced toward the office. A light was on, but I couldn’t see a manager. Still, there were two other cars so someone, besides us, was desperate enough to stay.

  “Yep, all’s good,” Nora said. “Okay. See you soon.” She hung up and glanced at me. “My mom.”

  Surprise, surprise. I would have thought Nora had been raised by wolves. At the least, been invented in some test tube in a lab. “You have parents?”

  She laughed. “Don’t we all?” Just as quickly as her laughter came, it faded and her brows drew together, a frown tugging at her lips. It was the most emotion she’d shown all day. “Dad’s a jerk who abandoned me.”

  “Sounds familiar,” I muttered.

  “And Mom…” She shrugged, the furrowing of her brow smoothing. “She’s great.”

  At least she had a mom. I tried to keep the envy from burrowing deep within. “Are they mind readers?”

  “Yep.” She started down the sidewalk and I followed.

  Did that mean it was always hereditary? “Where is your mom?”

  “She works with us. You’ll meet her eventually, if you stay on.”

  I couldn’t imagine what Nora’s mom would be like; Cruella De Vil came to mind. “You’ve always known what you were?”

  We turned a corner, another row of doors against a white, stucco wall. “Yep.”

  “Always been around others like you?”

  “Yep.”

  Nora didn’t head to an office, but went directly to a room in the middle of the two-story building. I pushed aside thoughts of Nora’s childhood and focused on the present. The wind was cold, easily piercing my sweatshirt, and I was tired. So very tired. “What if my dad calls the cops?”

  “He won’t, will bring up too much attention.”

  Just as I’d thought.

  “He’ll send his people after you.”

  I shivered. Who would have thought I’d be hunted down by my own father? He definitely knew I was missing by now. How had he reacted? Would he think I’d been kidnapped, or would he realize I’d left of my own accord?

  “And he’ll probably try to clear Tara’s memory. Or at least he’ll think he is.”

  I was startled by the revelation. “He can c
lear memories like Aaron?”

  “They learned together. Best of friends, at one time,” she said the words with disgust.

  She’d made it pointedly clear how she felt about my dad. There were so many things I didn’t know about my own father. About my life. Nora brushed aside a cobweb and slid a keycard across a panel. The door clicked open.

  “What are you doing?” I whispered, glancing around for witnesses. “Did you prepay or is this some sort of safe house?”

  “Nope. Nifty trick key, can open any room as long as it has the right program.”

  “How do you know the room’s empty?”

  She tapped a long finger at her temple. “Don’t hear any thoughts, do you?”

  I reached out with my mind. She was right, the room was silent. Still, we could easily be caught and being caught wasn’t exactly an option at the moment. There were no baseball bats or doll houses to use as weapons.

  “Come on. The manager’s a drunk, he’s passed out.” She pushed the door open and I followed her inside, worried about being seen on the sidewalk. The room smelled musty and damp. I wrinkled my nose but was too tired to really care how clean it was or wasn’t. Now that the rush was over, I found myself shaking and I couldn’t seem to stop.

  I sank onto one of the two beds. “You really don’t have my grandma?”

  “Nope, sorry.”

  I was silent for a moment, letting the realization of the situation sink in. I’d left Dad. I’d left Tara. I’d left Maddox. I’d joined the enemy. But I didn’t want to be on either side. A myriad of emotions bombarded me. As much as I hated my dad at the moment, he was still my father. If he was injured in this war, I’d feel partly responsible. And Tara…she’d completely betrayed me. God, I felt like a total idiot.

  “I’m really tired of the lies,” I muttered.

  “I haven’t lied to you.”

  “Yet,” I said.

  She gave me a wry grin that told me I definitely shouldn’t trust her. Like I would. Ha. I’d learned my lesson. I didn’t trust anyone, and she was at the top of the list. “So what’s your story?”

  Nora laughed, tossing her sweatshirt to the other beds. She wore a pink T-shirt with “Savannah, GA” printed across the front and I wondered if that was where she had been born. “What story?”

  The more I knew about her, the better prepared I’d be. And I was determined not to be taken by surprise again. “Where’d you come from? When did you realize you were a mind reader?”

  She shrugged, pulling off her tennis shoes and dropped them to the floor. “I’ve always known, I guess.”

  I had no other clothing and only twenty bucks to my name. I was totally reliant on Nora. Who the heck knew if she was telling me the truth about her life, about Lewis, but I had no choice, especially now, but to go along.

  “I’ve lived practically everywhere.” Nora pulled off her socks and tossed them toward the shoes. Her toes were painted purple, perfectly manicured. I curled my unpolished toes in my dingy canvas shoes. I was envious. Jealous that Nora had a mother she was obviously close to. Jealous that Nora had always known about her abilities. Jealous that Nora’s freaking toes were painted.

  Although I wasn’t sure where I belonged, maybe if I hadn’t been hidden away and made to feel like a freak, I wouldn’t be so screwed up. Then again, Nora was anything but normal. She had a knife strapped to her calf, for God’s sake. She reached for the remote, but the T.V. wouldn’t turn on.

  “Seriously, why do you people always pick seedy motels?” I asked.

  She dropped the useless remote to the bedside table. “Less likely to be noticed. The people who do see us, don’t care.”

  Even though she’d been traveling most of the day, she still looked pretty. Her hair was smooth, her clothing unwrinkled.

  Something small scurried across the far wall, drawing my attention to the stained plaster. Surprise, surprise, the place was infested with cockroaches. I shivered, looking away. Yeah, maybe I should have killed it, but I sort of felt bad for the insect. I knew only too well what it felt like to race from hiding place to hiding place, always looking over your shoulder.

  I glanced toward the windows where the late evening sun managed to pierce the threadbare curtains. Would my dad send Maddox after me? Would Maddox even care that I’d left? Or was I merely a diversion, another chick in a long line? He’d loved Nora. I remembered the emotions I’d felt when I’d seen his memories. But did she realize how much he still cared?

  “I’m taking a shower,” Nora said, heading toward the bathroom. “You take first watch.”

  “That’s it?”

  She paused at the bathroom door, glancing cautiously back at me. “What else do you want? A welcome basket?”

  I jumped from the bed, annoyed. “Answers.”

  She sighed, leaning against the door jamb and crossing her arms. “All right, answers to what?”

  I threw my arms wide, exasperated. “Where are we going?”

  “To see Lewis, I thought I made that clear.”

  She was being a dunce on purpose. “Okay, and after we see Lewis?”

  She shrugged. “You decide. I’m not some prison warden.”

  I narrowed my eyes. I didn’t trust her in the least. She was being way too easy-going about all of this. “What’s Tara’s situation? I need to know more, she’s with my father and my half-siblings, after all.”

  She rolled her eyes and I flushed, embarrassed. Yeah, maybe I’d started to think about Gemma as a sister, so what? And yes, my dad was a jerk, but I didn’t want him injured or worse.

  “Don’t worry, she won’t hurt your dad. She’s just there to keep tabs on him.”

  I didn’t believe her. If Tara could lie to me, if she could marry my dad and have kids with him… who the hell knew what she was capable of. “How does she do it?”

  “Spy on him?”

  “No, how can she marry someone, pretend to love him, have kids with him for God’s sake.” Just the thought made me ill. I hoped to hell they never expected me to do that, because there were some things I’d refuse.

  She shrugged, as if she’d never really thought about it. “I don’t know.”

  “And Jake, which side is he on?”

  “Jake’s a plant.”

  That definitely made sense. “And Maddox?”

  She sighed and looked away. It was impossible to read anything but annoyance upon her face. “Maddox was born and raised in a military family. He thinks the government is all good. Can’t accept the fact that what they’re doing is wrong.”

  “Is that why it didn’t work between you?”

  Her gaze jumped to me, and I took some satisfaction in surprising her. But she quickly covered her emotions, smoothing her face into an unreadable mask. She was good at that, pretending disinterest. “You know?”

  I nodded.

  She nudged the carpet with her right foot. Lord, was she actually embarrassed? “Yeah, that’s why it didn’t work. That, among other things.”

  She might not ever admit it, but it was obvious she still cared about him. Oddly, I wasn’t jealous. Shouldn’t I have been? I took my lower lip between my teeth, thinking over my feelings for the agent, but they remained as confusing as my life.

  She pushed away from the wall and started pacing the small room. “Decades ago, when the government first discovered mind readers, we helped capture criminals.” She went to the window and peeked outside. “Some mind readers didn’t like what they were doing. They felt used. My mom, Aaron, Lewis’ parents. They decided to leave, but the government wouldn’t allow them to just walk away, so they had to escape.” She took in a deep breath and leaned against the small table holding the T.V. “S.P.I takes mind readers captive to use for their own purposes.”

  It was the same thing Maddox had said about her little group. I crossed my arms over my chest. She was personally involved, and so I knew her opinion was skewed. I wasn’t going to just take her word for the truth. “So you guys are saints? Never do anything
wrong? Remember Aaron? The man who painfully erased my mind?”

  She shrugged. “I suppose we aren’t perfect, but we’re not as bad as S.P.I.”

  Ha, right. “This is insane.”

  She moved away from the table and started toward the empty bed. “And you don’t know the half of it.”

  Maybe not, but by this time tomorrow, I’d know a whole hell of a lot more. “So Tara can make people believe she’s thinking something she isn’t…like you.”

  Nora nodded.

  “What else can she do?”

  Nora shrugged. “Other than typical mind reading, nothing. Most people have one specialty.” She plopped down on the bed. “But there are a few people who can do anything they set their minds to. People like you.” She was watching me expectantly, as if I had any clue what she was talking about.

  “Like what? What makes me so special?”

  “Like, you can move things with your mind.”

  I blushed. “It’s new.”

  She grinned, knowing how uncomfortable she was making me. “Like, you can cause pain.”

  Okay, so I’d admitted that in the toy shop.

  “Like, you make people think they’re seeing or thinking something they aren’t.”

  I felt oddly relieved that I couldn’t do that, justified in the fact that she didn’t know me like she thought she did. “I can’t.”

  She nodded, looking way too pleased with herself. “I bet if you try, you can.”

  Dang, if she didn’t catch my attention. “How?”

  She nodded toward the bed. “Sit across from me.”

  I hesitated.

  “Come on, nothing else to do until tomorrow when we go find your one true love.”

  I sighed over her snarky tone, but settled on the bed cross-legged. The mattress sagged under my weight and it was hard to get comfortable on the lumpy bed. Even more difficult getting comfortable sitting this close to Nutty Nora.

  “Read my mind,” she demanded.

  I took in a deep breath and stared into her blue eyes, delving into her brain.

 
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