The mind games the mind.., p.22
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       The Mind Games (The Mind Readers), p.22

           Lori Brighton
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  “I told you, I remember you in here.” He pressed his hand to his chest. “Now stop expecting me to abandon you.”

  Yeah, I suppose one could say that I might have abandonment issues. I looked at the floor, the heated shame of guilt creeping into my cheeks. “I abandoned you.”

  He reached out, taking my hand and pulling me close. “That wasn’t your fault. Nora—”

  “No. Not just in the field. When we were at Aaron’s I didn’t agree with your beliefs. I was going to leave you there, but Aaron caught me trying to escape. I thought you had betrayed me, but you saved me. You held them off so Maddox could help me escape. I had no idea; I hadn’t trusted you. It’s because of me that your memory is gone.”

  His thumb rubbed against the sensitive spot of my wrist. “It wasn’t your fault. None of this is. My memory is gone because of Aaron; because I trusted someone I shouldn’t have. Not because of you.”

  But our time in Maine wasn’t the only issue. “Lewis, it’s because of my father that your parents are dead. My father betrayed your parents. They were friends, and he betrayed them. They died because of him.”

  He pulled me close and cupped the sides of my face. “I know, but you’re not your father.”


  He frowned, dropping his hold and stepping back. A sliver of jealousy whispered through my body, a feeling I knew well. But this time it wasn’t coming from me, but from Lewis. Okay, so maybe it was a bad idea to bring up Maddox.

  “What about him?” Lewis asked warily.

  Before I could come up with some explanation, the door opened and my mom peeked outside. “What’s going on? Nora said you’re worried about something.”

  I glanced at Lewis. He was upset, but it would have to wait. “I had a dream… or vision.”

  She nodded and stepped aside, holding the door wide. “Come in.”

  It was a small room with a couch and two chairs. A flat screen T.V. hung from the wall and a coffee station was set up in the corner. It looked like a lounge of some sort. Aaron, Nora and Mom weren’t the only ones in the lounge. Father Myron, looking quite peeved, stood by the far wall in deep discussion with Aaron.

  “We have sent the children to a safe house,” Aaron explained, his movements desperate almost. “Deborah will go with them; they’ll be protected.”

  My relief was immediate.

  “Your island is hardly safe,” Father Myron stated. “He knows about it.”

  “We have nowhere else to take them! Dragging five kids across the U.S. would be a little noticeable.”

  “Only five?” I blurted out, drawing their attention toward me. No, that couldn’t be. We’d left Deborah with at least ten kids. “Who? Who is with her?”

  “I don’t know,” Father Myron said, shrugging in apology.

  I looked at my mom. “Is Caroline?”

  “Yes,” Aaron answered for her. “Caroline is headed to the island home.”

  I pressed my hand to my racing heart. Thank God for small miracles. At least she would be safe. One debt paid. Some of my guilt actually eased.

  Aaron turned back to Father Myron. “If we had a little more time to find a safe haven—”

  “We can’t wait any longer,” I blurted out. Everyone turned toward me again. Aaron looked annoyed. Father Myron shocked. Nora and Lewis merely looked curious. My mom was the only one who didn’t look surprised by my outburst.

  Maybe she already knew.

  “Why?” Aaron asked.

  I took in a deep breath. “Because he’s coming here now.”

  Chapter 21

  The day was cloudy as a storm brewed off the coast, threatening Savannah. Seated on the back stoop, I tucked my knees to my chest, hidden in the tiny lot that claimed to be my mom’s overgrown backyard. She wasn’t a cook, and she sure as heck wasn’t a gardener; the place looked like some unexplored Amazon jungle. But I supposed Mom had more important things to deal with, like saving the world.

  Thunder rumbled in the distance, shaking the very earth at my feet. I’d needed to get away and this was the furthest I could go for safety reasons. I wasn’t used to being around so many people, I craved my alone time; time to think. The scary thing wasn’t that I’d had my vision, and that somehow I had seen my dad, heard him, but he hadn’t sensed me.

  No, the scary thing was that when I’d told Mom and Aaron about the vision, they’d believed me. Not one person had questioned the authenticity of my dream. Instead they had immediately fled, each one preparing for the attack in their own way. I’d been left to sit and wait, and to realize that my dream hadn’t been a dream as I’d hoped, but had been real.

  I picked up a pink azalea blossom that reminded me of the island, warm weather and even warmer water. A place where there was no such thing as time. Where reality was almost an illusion. A place where my life had paused.

  But here my life came crashing back; all too real. Reality here meant my dad was coming. Reality meant Maddox had become a prisoner. And reality meant that at any moment the war would begin.

  A cool breeze whispered through the maple tree, the only tree in the small backyard. The wind rustled the gardenia bushes and sent their fragrant scent through the warm air. The town was preparing for the storm. Shingles on the house next store flapped in the wind, threatening to tear from the roof. I shivered, drawing my arms around me. The weather matched my mood.

  It wasn’t fate, but most likely Dad’s planning. As Mom had explained, the storm would be the perfect opportunity to sneak in undetected. Not to mention we’d be holed up in the tunnels and our homes. Sitting ducks. He wanted to attack when we’d least expected it, like a snake coiled, just waiting to ambush prey. The thought creeped me out.

  The door screeched open. I knew it was Lewis before I saw him.

  He settled next to me, his body warm, comforting, but I also knew he was upset about something; I could sense his unease. I glanced up at him. Those blue eyes seemed more intense than normal, darker in some way. “What is it? Did they talk to our spies? Did they find out why Dad’s leaving sooner than they’d expected?”

  “No. There’s no word from any of them.” He glanced away, staring at the wavering tree. When I was about to ask him what was wrong, he finally spoke. “Do you love Maddox?”

  It was such a funny question to ask me in the middle of a war. We were preparing for life or death, and he was worried about another guy? Yet, at the same time I welcomed the normalcy. I was in a relationship that was totally and ridiculously normal.

  I wanted to laugh. Instead, I managed to hide my smile. “No.”

  I felt his relief like a cool breeze. I admit it was nice being able to read his moods; we’d certainly never have to wonder what the other person was thinking. “I did…do…like him.”

  He jerked his gaze toward me.

  “Not that way.” I tossed the flower I held into the yard, watching the breeze carry it away. “Although I thought maybe I could at one time, when I believed you had betrayed me.”

  He was silent for a long moment, rubbing the palm of his left hand. “You have no feelings for him at all?”

  I flipped through the many troubled emotions I had toward Maddox, attempting to decipher the truth. “I care about him. I’m worried about him. He helped us escape, you know. If it wasn’t for him, we’d most likely still be in prison.”

  He nodded slowly. “I see.”

  I could tell that didn’t sit well with him. Men and their silly pride. “But I don’t love him that way.”

  Lewis visibly relaxed.

  “In the vision I saw them taking him to prison; they even threatened him with death.” I stared at the house across from the backyard. A woman was bringing in clothing that hung from the upper deck; wet clothes the worst of her worries. “I don’t know what will happen to him. I feel so guilty.”

  Lewis wrapped his arm around my waist and drew me close. “He knew what he was doing when he helped you.”

  “It doesn’t make me feel any less guilty.

  “I know,” he whispered.

  We stared at the yard, not really watching the petals as they tumbled and raced across the grass, chased by the wind.

  “I’ve heard more than once that there are always casualties, but it’s not fair. It’s not right.” Lewis slid his hand around mine, his firm grip comforting. “And worse, I wouldn’t change what happened because I know we couldn’t have gotten out without him.”

  “It sucks, I know. But you can only keep going on, Cameron. The alternative is to give up.”

  “Sometimes I want to give up,” I admitted. “I want to run away. Run back to my island.”

  “But you won’t, because that’s not you.”

  “No, unfortunately.” The wind picked up, whistling eerily through the trees, the branches bending at an impossibly low angle. It tore the hair from my braid, sending the strands flying around my face in a whirlwind. “I can feel them coming. They’re getting closer.”

  I shivered and not because the teperature had dropped. I hadn’t known what it was at first, this strange sensation. An acidic burn that started low in my gut and worked its way into my blood, burning a path through my veins. It was as if the very pounding of my heart echoed the thump of their feet coming closer…closer.

  “They’re not here yet, Cameron.” He trailed his knuckles softly against my cheek. “Right now, at this moment, it’s just me and you.” He pressed his lips to mine, a soft and gentle kiss. “And after, it will still be me and you.”

  I met his gaze, seeing only sincerity in his blue eyes. I wasn’t so sure we were going to escape unscathed, but I so desperately wanted to believe him. “Promise?”

  “Yeah.” Lewis reached up, tucking a loose lock of hair behind my ear. His hand hesitated, cupping the side of my face. When he started to lean toward me, I planned on meeting him halfway. But before he could kiss me again, the door screeched open.

  “Guys,” Nora called out.

  Lewis sighed, moving back.

  “Mom needs to talk to you.”

  “That doesn’t sound good,” I muttered.

  The fact that she didn’t wait for us but went back inside, worried me even more. Nora was never one to pass up an opportunity to mock our affection and she’d caught us in the midst of a kiss. Lewis took my hand and helped me to my feet.

  An hour ago Mom had left with Aaron, disappearing into the tunnels to research or set up guards, something. If she was back and asking for me, I knew she needed something important. Still, I paused. I looked at Lewis and all the emotions we’d been feeling coursed between us. We knew this could be our last moment together. Once I stepped through that door, the war would begin.

  “Whatever happens,” Lewis said softly. “We’ll get through it.”

  I nodded, although I wasn’t so sure.

  “Ready?” he asked.

  “I’m ready.”

  Together we entered the kitchen. The room was empty, the coffee pot gurgling on the countertop. I thought it funny that they would think about coffee at a time like this. Maybe they thought to keep things as normal as possible. I could feel their energy pulsing from the front of the house and tugged Lewis toward the living room.

  Mom and Aaron stood near the fireplace. Close together, their faces were fierce as they whispered back and forth. Even if I hadn’t been able to read their energy fields, I could tell that they were worried. Father Myron sat in a corner near the front door, head bent, eyes closed as he muttered words of prayer. Sierra sat in the opposite corner, her legs were folded as she took in deep meditative breaths. With all the seriousness and muttering I felt like we were having a freaking séance.

  Sensing me, Mom turned toward us. “We haven’t heard from our people.”

  I wondered why they continued to call them everything but what they were… spies. I suppose it made them feel better in some way. Only evil people like dad had spies. But in the end, we were all spies, tiptoeing around each other; thieving, lying, killing.

  “We aren’t sure why, but I have a bad feeling about it. We don’t know where John is at the moment.” She paced across the living room, the floorboards creaking with her movement. I’d never seen my mom pace; I’d never really seen her nervous. “He could be packing for the trip; he could be on his way.”

  I shivered slightly, whether from cold or nerves I wasn’t sure.

  “I need something from you, Cameron.”

  As soon as she said the words, all attention turned toward me. Father Myron stopped praying. Sierra stopped meditating. The entire world seemed to pause and I had to resist the urge to peek through the curtains to see if the cars had stopped in mid-traffic.

  “What do you need?” To say I was cautious would be an understatement. I trusted my mom, didn’t I? My unwillingness to jump right in said otherwise.

  “We need you to connect with John.”

  The thought freaked me out in more ways than I could count. One, he was psycho. Two, I didn’t know how. Three…did I mention he was psycho? “What? How?”

  Mom took my hand and led me to the couch. She was trying to get me to focus on her, only her, because she knew if I noticed Aaron’s dour face, I’d rebel. Or if I noticed Nora, arms crossed, obviously sick of the attention I received, I might falter.

  “I can’t delve into John’s mind because he knows my energy. He’d recognize me,” she explained. “You’ve had visions of him. Somehow you’ve been able to break into their minds, their consciousness, their very reality. We need you to get in again and locate where they are.”

  I didn’t want to visit my dad, I didn’t want to feel his energy, know his thoughts. But what could I say; no thanks?

  “I thought you had security tracking them.” Lewis stood with legs braced apart, arms crossed as he watched my mom suspiciously. I could sense his emotions and knew he was as reluctant for me to go as I was. It certainly helped having at least one person on my side. “I thought you had guards waiting for their attack?”

  “We lost contact with our spies days ago.”

  I was shocked speechless, apparently Lewis was too as he didn’t respond. Yeah, I’d known they’d lost contact, but I hadn’t realized it had happened days ago. Why hadn’t she said anything sooner?

  “We have guards at the exits, but for some reason we aren’t able to sense them. I would try… but like I said, I’m worried John will know I’m there. As I’m sure you’ve noticed we all have our own sort of imprint.”

  The room went quiet. I could feel Lewis’ trepidation pulsing around me. He didn’t trust any of them, he worried I’d be injured. But Lewis would trust my opinion, and I had no choice but to do whatever it took to destroy my father.

  Determined, I stood. “How do I get in?”

  Cameron, Lewis’ voice whispered through my head. Are you sure?

  I glanced at him. Yes. He said nothing more, but he didn’t look happy.

  “Remember the beach?” Mom asked, standing and drawing my attention back to her. “When we connected our energy?”

  I nodded. How could I forget? For that brief moment I’d experienced nirvana. I’d known peace, happiness, safety. And I’d known the power of the source, the reason why my dad so badly wanted to control the energy.

  “We’ll do that again, but you’ll lead.” She took my hands in hers. They were warm, smooth, comforting. I vaguely remembered those same hands brushing back my hair when I’d been but a toddler. “Trust me.”

  I had no choice but to try.

  “Get comfortable,” she said, sitting and pulling me to the ground.

  It was a strangely emotional moment sitting across from my mom and staring into her eyes. I wasn’t sure how to feel. I had so many questions, but I knew there wasn’t time for answers. I had to trust her. I had to trust those around me, including Aaron.

  “Your palms,” my mom said softly.

  We pressed our palms together and I immediately felt the source; a tingling warmth that spread up my arms, and vibrated through my entire body. Just
like when I’d healed Lewis, she guided the energy through me. The room started to fade as I focused on that pulsing energy, focused on the warmth, the buzz. Just like that I was gone. I no longer cared who watched me, I only wanted to feel that pure bliss.

  “Move around us, offer your energy,” Mom was speaking, but I knew she wasn’t talking to me.

  Nora and Lewis moved to the couch, so close I could reach out and touch them. From the corner of my eye I was vaguely aware of Sierra and Father Myron coming closer, while Aaron remained hovering in the background. A shiver of magnetism wavered through the room as everyone released their mental walls. It was an odd experience, as if I was swimming…almost drowning in their energy. Outside thunder rumbled, shaking the house. I wondered if it was from the storm, or from our powers combining.

  “Close your eyes, concentrate, just like at the beach.”

  I closed my eyes, took in a deep breath and relaxed. My hands warmed as energy branched between us… electricity that spread up my arms, through my blood. My entire body hummed with a heat I didn’t quite understand. I was no longer there; I was no longer on earth. I felt nothing but peace as the darkness surrounded me.

  Just as soon as I’d entered this new world, the space around me flashed to life. Although I no longer felt as if I had a body, I was somehow moving… moving through time…through space. White pinpoints of light burst to life as I raced through the universe.

  Dad, find my dad, I thought over and over again.

  As if by magic, the light faded and a room appeared at the end of a dark tunnel. The closer I got, the more it came into focus. Mom was gone. Lewis was gone. I was alone. It was just like it had been when I’d visited my father and Maddox at the compound the other night. I didn’t feel quite right… disconnected, floating. My body wasn’t with me, but my energy, my consciousness, had somehow found a way to travel.

  “Are you there?” My mom’s voice wavered in and out of focus.

  I wanted to respond, but couldn’t. Or maybe I just didn’t care. Slowly, I turned, searching the area. It was a nondescript hotel room. A large man stood at the closed door, as if guarding the entrance. I turned away from him, taking comfort in the fact that he couldn’t see me.

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