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The mind thieves the min.., p.22
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       The Mind Thieves (The Mind Readers), p.22

           Lori Brighton
 
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  I hope she likes me. She can come over with the rest of my friends, and we can braid each other’s hair.

  I pulled back, mentally and physically. “Funny. You’re hilarious.”

  She laughed. “How’d you know it was a lie?”

  “Because you obviously have no friends.”

  “Nice.” She frowned. “I’m serious. How’d you know?”

  I shrugged, annoyed we were wasting time. “Because I know you well enough.”

  She shook her head. “No. Listen again. Feel it.”

  I closed my eyes and mentally reached out, delving into her brain.

  I wish I’d known my dad.

  The words sank heavily into me. I felt her sorrow, her anger. I opened my eyes, seeing her in a new light. I hadn’t just read her mind, I’d felt her emotions. “It was real.”

  “Good. Again.”

  I took in a deep breath and concentrated.

  Sometimes I wish I was a rock star.

  I absorbed the thought, held it with my mind like I was weighing gold on one of those old-fashioned scales.

  “Feel the difference?” she asked.

  I thought about it for a moment, when it hit me. “There’s no reaction in my body. No emotion with it.”

  She grinned. “Exactly.”

  Oh God, she was right. When I’d met Nora on the plane, her thoughts about Maddox had seemed so shallow because there was no emotion attached to them. And Tara… I’d thought her some sweet airhead because I’d felt no true emotion with her thoughts.

  “And that,” she said, jumping from the bed and standing. “Is how you know a thought for truth or not.”

  “How do I make someone think my thoughts are real?”

  “You have to hold up your mental wall, blocking your thoughts, while sending the fake thought out at the same time. It’s tricky, and takes practice. I’m too damn tired to work on it now.” She started toward the bathroom. “Get some sleep. You’ll want to look your best when you see Lewis tomorrow.” She closed the door, leaving me alone. The only sound was the annoying buzz of the light overhead.

  Lewis.

  For one brief moment I’d managed to forget about the importance of tomorrow. I lay back upon my bed and stared at the water-stained ceiling. Lewis, a guy who may or may not have searched for me. A guy who may or may not still consider himself to be my boyfriend.

  How would he feel when he saw me? I rolled onto my side and pulled my knees up to my chest, listening to the soft sound of water against the shower walls.

  More importantly, how would I feel when I finally saw him?

  Chapter 22

  The small Massachusetts town was typical New England with clapboard sided homes lining a rocky coast. But I barely noticed the beautiful shoreline, or the colorful boats bobbing on the sparkling water. I was too nervous to care. My entire body hummed with some unidentifiable reaction…as if I could sense him the closer we got.

  “You okay?” Nora asked as she pulled alongside the curb and parked.

  I wondered if she really cared. Doubtful. “Yeah, just ready to get it over with.” I searched the sidewalks, looking for Lewis’ familiar face, expecting to see him amongst the few people strolling up and down the streets, headed home after work.

  She turned off the car. “What will you say to him?”

  I shrugged. “Hey, how’s it going?”

  “Seriously,” she said.

  “I have no idea.” I raked my fingers through my hair. I’d left it down, knowing I looked better and hoping he wouldn’t notice my wrinkled t-shirt and jeans. “I’ve practiced a thousand times on the drive, but nothing seems right.” I looked out my passenger-side window onto the water, sparkling pink and silver under the setting sun.

  “What’s your gut say?”

  “Why’d he not come for me? Why’d he let me go?”

  She shrugged. “Sounds a bit needy to me, but whatever.” She pushed open her door. “Time to find some answers.”

  Oh God, she was right. I was being pathetic when I should be pissed. The anger surged forward, pushing passed my nerves. I shoved open my door and stepped into the cool spring evening. I was determined to see this through, even if it meant total heartache.

  Nora was staring at the docks. “He’s out there.”

  My lungs seemed to shrink. Just like that the anger dissipated, leaving me shaken. Nora had been surprisingly quiet all day, like she understood the importance of this meeting. And even now I could feel her attention like a weight falling over me.

  “You coming?” I asked.

  She shoved her hands into the pockets of her blue hoodie. “I’ll wait. Give you some alone time.”

  I nodded and started forward, reluctantly thankful. The entire world seemed too still as I made my way toward the docks. Like I floated, my brain didn’t seem connected to the rest of me. The other people around me faded when my foot hit the metal platform. A few men were cleaning their boats. Weathered, burly men. But there….at the end of the dock next to a fishing boat stood a young guy. He was hard to see, the setting sun bright at his back. He was a mere dark outline, but he seemed heart-wrenchingly familiar.

  I froze. My heart slammed wildly in my chest. I couldn’t seem to move. My legs no longer worked.

  “Excuse me,” someone grunted, pushing me aside as he started down the dock.

  I barely noticed the man and his pungent scent of fish. My knees gave out and I sank onto a bench. Instead of going to Lewis, I sat and watched the way he moved so efficiently, as if he’d always worked on a boat, although I was sure he hadn’t. Watched the way his broad shoulders flexed as he lifted crate after crate. The way the wind tousled his dark hair, which was longer than I’d remembered.

  He was different than the guy in my visions… my dreams. Dark scruff covered his angular cheeks as if he hadn’t shaved in a couple days, making him look older, tougher. This wasn’t the sweet, preppy Lewis I’d known. He’d changed. I felt oddly numb at the realization.

  He lifted a crate, slamming it on top of another. The T-shirt he wore tightened against his back and I had the sudden urge to touch his shoulders, to bring him close and breathe in his familiar scent. His muscles were larger than I remembered, his movements more languid than I remembered. It was Lewis…but it wasn’t. His very essence was different… somehow.

  Confused and frustrated, tears stung my eyes. It was as if I missed him, yet he was right here, only twenty feet from me.

  “Lewis,” I whispered.

  He was too far away to hear, but he paused. I sucked in a sharp breath, waiting. Moments later he was back to work, pulling up another crate. I released the air I held. He might have changed, but the feelings he stirred within me were the same. My heart ached, filling with need. Need to touch him, to be closer. The need to have him look at me like he had those months ago. But mostly I wanted to talk to him; share what had happened and understand what he’d been through in the past seven months.

  “You realize you’ve been sitting here for a good fifteen minutes?” Nora settled beside me.

  Startled, I glanced at her. How could fifteen minutes go by so quickly? “I’m…just thinking about how to approach him.”

  “Bullshit. You’re scared.”

  I glared at her, annoyed, mostly because she was right.

  “Well, you don’t have to worry about approaching him. Here comes your boyfriend now.”

  I jerked my gaze toward that boat. Oh God, she was right. Lewis was headed down the dock, straight toward us. I swear, as I waited for him to approach and notice me, my heart actually stopped beating. He swept by, so close I could have reached out and touched him. Strangely, he didn’t even glance our way. My heart took off into a wild gallop, making up for the fact that it had briefly ceased working.

  “He didn’t even notice me,” I said, feeling slightly offended.

  “He’s escaping,” Nora warned.

  Annoyed and confused, I jumped to my feet and started after him. He’d made it to a coffee
shop before I caught up. I grabbed the door just as it was shutting. Lewis moved to the counter and sat on a stool. The few people in the shop glanced up at me, no doubt curious as to why I just stood in the doorway. But not Lewis, nope, he kept his gaze on the newspaper someone had left behind. Was he purposefully ignoring me? Or had he really not seen me sitting there?

  “Come on in,” the waitress called out as she poured coffee into some man’s cup. “Sit where you like.”

  I nodded and moved down the aisle toward Lewis. My hands trembled, and the closer I got, the more nervous I became.

  “What’ya have?” A waitress appeared just as I was sitting next to Lewis. She glanced at Lewis, then me, assuming we were together.

  Lewis lowered his paper and looked at me. I felt his gaze all the way to my toes, a shiver of awareness that tingled through my body. His lips lifted into a bemused smile. “Well, what will you have?”

  “Hot chocolate,” I got out in a rush of words.

  He returned his gaze to the waitress. “A coffee, black, and a hot chocolate.”

  The waitress sauntered away and we were alone once more. I didn’t understand. Why wasn’t he demanding answers? Why wasn’t he angry? Happy? Annoyed? Something.

  He slid me another glance, curiosity in those blue eyes. “You don’t look like you belong here.”

  I flushed. I knew what he meant. I’d tanned since living on the island and my dark hair had highlights of blonde. “You don’t either.”

  That wasn’t exactly the truth. With the scruff on his face and his tanned skin… he did. He looked like any other fisherman. Young and hot, but still a fisherman. He rested his forearms on the counter. They were strong, roped with more muscled than I’d remembered. My gaze moved down his forearms to his fingers. Rough hands, as if he’d been working for some time. He sure as heck didn’t seem like he missed me. Maybe this had been a mistake.

  The waitress brought our drinks, the liquid steaming temptingly. I waited until she was gone and wrapped my chilled fingers around the warm cup. “I need answers.”

  He smiled, his white teeth flashing. “To what?”

  This didn’t make sense. This wasn’t the Lewis I remembered. Lewis hadn’t been cocky and flirtatious. He’d been sincere and kind. Was my mind playing tricks? Was my memory wrong?

  He lifted his coffee mug. “So, what do you want to know?”

  “I want to know what happened seven months ago,” I blurted out.

  The cup froze halfway to his lips. Those amused blue eyes turned hard as ice. “What do you mean?” His voice had gone gruff, losing any flirtatious warmth.

  I leaned closer to him, afraid of being overheard. His scent was familiar, if not his actions.

  “What happened, Lewis? What happened to you?”

  His jaw clenched, a pulse ticking alongside his tanned neck. “You know my name, but I didn’t give it.”

  Wait… what? I pulled back and blinked in confusion.

  “Outside.” Lewis tossed a few dollars onto the counter and stood, towering over me.

  “You want those to go?” the waitress called out.

  Lewis didn’t respond, but latched onto my upper arm in a firm grip and led me toward the door.

  “Where are we going?” I demanded, tripping as I attempted to keep up with his quick steps.

  He didn’t respond, just shoved open the door and kept walking, his grip growing tighter as he dragged me around the building and into an alley where the setting sun didn’t quite reach. Hidden behind a dark dumpster, he finally let go.

  “Lewis,” I snapped. “Tell me what’s—”

  I was slammed against the wall, my back pinned to the clapboard siding. I couldn’t move. Somehow he’d controlled my body. Anger and fear combined. Lewis was in front of me, a breath away, his eyes blazing, so close I could smell his scent… musky aftershave, the sun and the salt of the ocean. But this wasn’t the Lewis I knew.

  “Who the hell are you and what do you want?” he demanded.

  Stunned, my lips parted, but I couldn’t think of a single word to say. Lewis didn’t know me.

  His gaze slid from my face down my body, like he was looking for answers. “I know what you are. I couldn’t read your thoughts in the diner. You can read minds, but why are you here?”

  “Lewis…”

  His blue eyes narrowed. “How do you know my name?”

  “What are you saying?”

  He stepped back and his powers on me released. I stumbled forward.

  “I don’t know who you are, but leave me alone.” He turned and started toward the street.

  I raced after him. “Lewis, seven months ago you came to my town in Maine. You and I…we…dated.”

  He paused at the mouth of the alley. “You’re lying.” He faced me, his features furious. “I would remember if we dated. I don’t know what games you’re playing, but leave me alone.”

  I watched him walk away, too confused and stunned to go after him. He didn’t know me? He wasn’t acting, he was genuinely oblivious. I swallowed over the sudden lump in my throat. Had Aaron erased his memory? I pressed my hand to my mouth, watching him walk down the sidewalk and turn, headed back to the docks.

  Of course Aaron had erased his memories. It all made sense now. Lewis had betrayed Aaron. He wouldn’t let him go with just a slap on the wrist. I jerked my gaze toward the street where Nora leaned against the car, watching Lewis walk away. She didn’t seem surprised in the least. Just like that, it all became clear...a cool breeze of reality that swept away the confusion.

  Furious, I stomped from the alleyway. If Aaron had erased Lewis’ memory, Nora had known.

  She saw me coming and stepped up on the sidewalk. “So?”

  I threw my energy forward, reaching out with my mind, and mentally shoved her until she stumbled back into the car. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

  “Ease up Wonderwoman.” She glared at me, crossing her arms over her chest. “So, his memory is still gone?”

  “You knew and you made me think…” I couldn’t go on as my anger gave way to humiliation, sadness. That damn lump was back in my throat. Unwillingly, my gaze strayed toward the docks, but Lewis wasn’t there. Gone. Disappeared. For good? The thought sent icy panic through my body.

  “We had to know if he was faking it. And if he wasn’t, we were hoping that if he saw you it might spur his memory into coming back, as yours did.”

  “So you humiliated me?”

  She didn’t respond.

  “Screw you.” I brushed by her and started down the sidewalk. I didn’t know where I was going, and didn’t care. I didn’t mind the humiliation as much as I did the fact that Lewis hadn’t remembered me. The one remaining person I thought might be able to give me answers. The one person I thought I could trust.

  “Cameron, wait,” Nora called out.

  I kept walking, resisting the urge to turn around and punch Nora in her perfect face. How stupid I was to leave with her. To trust her. I was so damn sick of having to rely on other people to piece together my life.

  “You got your memory back, maybe he can get his back too.”

  Unwillingly, the words wiggled their way into my mind. If he got his memory back, maybe he could fill in the gaps and tell me what had happened that last night at Aaron’s. If he got his memory back, maybe he’d remember me. I paused near an iron bench, watching the blazing sun dip below the horizon. I felt her pause next to me but didn’t bother to glance her way.

  “What happened to him?” I dared to ask.

  “Aaron…”

  I released a wry laugh. “Figures.” I sank onto the bench. “So he took his memory too?”

  She sat next to me. The sun was gone, the sky gray and shadowed. Lights from nearby cottages flickered on, casting a cozy glow around the town.

  “Aaron felt like he had to erase Lewis’ memory. He’d taken your side. He went berserk. We didn’t think we could trust him any longer.”

  The realization that Lewis had tried to save me
was diminished by my anger. “And so he just erased his mind. Destroyed his life like he did mine with no thought to how it would affect us?”

  She sighed and leaned back against the bench. “Of course he thought about it. He just figured it was the only way to keep you both alive, unharmed and still have a life.”

  And I’d had a life. For a brief moment in time, while living on that island with my Grandma, I’d had a life. But it had been a mirage, not real.

  “So why are you bringing us back now?”

  “Because we need you. Both of you. When Aaron took your memories he went against the order. It wasn’t a group decision and the rest weren’t happy.”

  Her admittance didn’t make me feel any better. “How many are in this group?”

  She shrugged, looking unconcerned. “There are mind readers from all over the world. We really don’t know. Of course we have our main contacts, just about one from every country.”

  We lapsed into silence. I didn’t know what she was thinking and I didn’t care. I couldn’t help but feel like I was trading one prison for another. But where else would I go? What could I possibly do with no money and no connections?

  “What if I don’t want to belong to your little order?”

  She shrugged. “You don’t have to.”

  It was cold, but I barely felt the chill air. I’d grown numb with confusion and exhaustion. Did I believe her? I slid Nora a glance. She looked sincere, but she also lied really well, just like the rest of them.

  “Seriously. You don’t have to go with me.” She stood. “But I’ll stick around, okay? Until you decide.”

  I waited for one long moment, studying her face, her body, her words, looking for any signs of deception. “Do you really think Lewis’ memory might return?”

  She smiled a half smile. “Only one way to find out. Talk to him. Don’t give up.”

  Chapter 23

  The next day at six, I stood under a maple tree near the docks, watching Lewis from afar. I waited for the right moment to catch him unguarded. The rest of the fishermen had left, headed home or the bar nearby. But for Lewis…Lewis just kept working, that white T-shirt contrasting against his tanned skin, his dark hair gleaming under the setting sun.

 
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