The mind games the mind.., p.23
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       The Mind Games (The Mind Readers), p.23

           Lori Brighton
 
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  Two queen beds made up most of the area, but in the far corner, seated around a small table, were four men. I noticed my father first, relaxed and at ease. Another guard stood at the windows gazing out at some city skyline, obviously keeping watch. We were up high. For what he was keeping watch, I wasn’t sure. It wasn’t as if Spider-Man would come crashing through at any moment.

  I glanced back at the table and inched forward, attempting to make sense of their conversation. Although I knew they couldn’t see me, it didn’t make it any less intimidating being next to them. What if my dad could sense my energy as he could with Mom? Then what would happen? No one had mentioned the repercussions of my actions if caught.

  “Here.” One man I didn’t recognize pulled a rolled up paper from a briefcase.

  “Where are they, Cameron?” my mom’s mental voice whispered through my mind.

  I frowned, annoyed, wishing she would leave me alone. It was too hard to concentrate on them and her at the same time. I didn’t answer but watched as they unrolled the paper across the table.

  Savannah… a map of Savannah.

  “The tunnels run here and here.” The same man pointed to the map. “You get the girl, while we attack their structure. They won’t be expecting it. In and out within twenty minutes.”

  A shiver of apprehension whispered through my body. Oh God, they knew exactly where every one of our corridors were located. They even knew where my mom lived. I stared at that map of crisscrossing lines in horror.

  “And the river?” my father asked.

  “An easy distance. Not far.”

  “Cameron, where are they?” My mom asked again.

  Frantic, I glanced around the room. The two queen beds were made, almost as if they hadn’t been slept in. The T.V. was on some talk show, and I had a feeling it was on just to make noise; I highly doubted they were interested in who was the baby daddy. All men in the room wore pressed tan trousers and polo shirts that said Pensely Computer Services.

  I realized they’d put on a front so they wouldn’t be noticed. They’d probably told hotel staff they were staying for a conference or something. But none of this told me where they were or when they were going to attack.

  “Cameron?” my mom called out to me. “She’s not responding, we need to pull her back.”

  “No!” I screamed, hoping they would hear, although not even sure how to get my message to her. I could find my father’s location. I would.

  I shifted my gaze toward the T.V. once more and that’s when I saw the local weather… “Savannah,” I whispered. “They’re here.”

  Just as I said the words, one of the men stood and faced me; those hazel eyes locked on mine. I froze, my worst nightmare coming true. The oddly familiar blond guy I’d seen talking to my dad right before I’d escaped the compound.

  He started forward and I stumbled back. Get out! he demanded through clenched teeth, his face furious. Get out now!

  He didn’t touch me; he couldn’t touch me. Yet, suddenly I found myself flying backward, the hotel room gone. It was only as I raced through the darkness that I realized he had spoken to me through his mind. I noticed my mom’s living room right before I hit my body, but the entry was jarring. Too soon, too fast. The pain was all consuming, throwing me back until I hit the floor hard. I felt as if someone had ripped out my skeleton, then shoved the bones back in piece by piece.

  “Cameron?” Someone called my name, but the voice wavered, fading.

  The metallic taste of blood seeped across my tongue. Why hadn’t she told me this could happen? My stomach churned. I groaned, biting back the urge to puke.

  Warm hands cupped the sides of my face, forcing me to stay in the present, to stay awake when all I wanted to do was sink into oblivion. “Cameron?”

  Somehow I managed to open my eyes. Although the lamp in the corner of the room provided only a weak glow, it still hurt. Lewis was holding me, his eyes wide and wild, his face pale with worry.

  “Are you okay?”

  I tried to answer, but my throat felt raw, my tongue almost swollen and the only thing I could manage were a few indecipherably mumbled words.

  “What happened?” Lewis demanded.

  I hoped to God he didn’t expect me to answer. My teeth chattered as a chilling shudder went through my body, still unused to my awkward landing. It hadn’t been like this before when I’d traveled. Never this bad. What had gone wrong? What had that blond man done to me?

  “Cameron.” My mom leaned over me. “Can you talk?”

  “Th…they knew I..I was th…there,” I chattered, my raspy voice barely audible.

  “They couldn’t have,” Mom replied, shaking her head. Even as she denied the possibility, her gaze found Aaron. “Unless…”

  Aaron hovered over me, frowning as if he blamed me for this situation. “Unless they have a source of their own.”

  The room erupted, a million comments and questions flying over my head.

  “How?”

  “It can’t be.”

  “Who?”

  Only Lewis remained quiet, Lewis who held me and whispered in my ear that I’d be okay as soon as I got some rest. Although I wanted to understand what had happened as badly as everyone else, I didn’t hear a word of explanation because suddenly the world slipped away.

  The room faded, and I sank into blissful sleep.

  Chapter 22

  Thunder shook the house, rattling the window panes and pulling me from a world of blissful nothingness. Either the storm was worsening, or the war had begun. My body felt so buzzed, I could barely find enough energy to open my eyes. Slowly, I opened my eyes. Shadows covered the room with dusky fingers; time seemed to stand still, as if waiting for me to wake.

  Late evening, or early morning? Which, I wasn’t sure, and didn’t care much because the moment I opened my eyes my head pounded with a pain that throbbed relentlessly at the back of my skull. Funny enough I welcomed the pain because it meant I still lived.

  For a long moment I merely lay there, waiting for my breath to return to normal, waiting for the room to stop spinning. When the second rumble of thunder shook the house, I realized time was wasting. I forced myself to shift on the guest bed, and managed to roll to my side.

  I wasn’t surprised to see Lewis asleep on a chair only five feet from me. I sensed his energy nearby, but was growing so accustomed to it, I’d hardly noticed. A warm feeling of gratitude washed over me, and I wondered how long he’d stayed by my side.

  Obviously my dad hadn’t attacked yet. I also knew that if he did any time soon, I was in no shape to fight him. Gritting my teeth, I pressed my hands to the soft mattress and managed to somehow sit upright. The room spun, and the throbbing intensified. A groan slipped from my lips.

  Lewis was at my side before I had time to stand. “Are you all right?”

  “Yeah. I think.” I managed to set my feet on the floor, the wooden boards cold against my toes. “But my head is killing me.”

  He reached out, turning on the bedside lamp and adding a soft glow that chased away the shadows. “Your mom said you’d feel like hell. It should go away.”

  Should? It better. It would have been nice if she’d have mentioned the pain ahead of time. I was getting really sick of these fainting fits and headaches. “How long was I out? What time is it?”

  “Three hours.” He glanced at the clock. “It’s seven.”

  I nodded and slipped on the tennis shoes placed neatly near my bed. So it was still the same day, thank God. “I take it my dad hasn’t attacked?”

  Lewis shook his head as he sat next to me. I wasn’t the only one who’d suffered. Lewis had dark circles under his eyes, his face paler than normal. He wasn’t getting much sleep, and I worried he’d have some sort of relapse. Neither of us would be helpful in a fight. I wanted to lean into him, to draw comfort in his presence. I couldn’t. We didn’t have time to cuddle. I didn’t have time to be weak.

  “Does she think he’ll attack tonight?”

&
nbsp; “I hope not.” Lewis shrugged. “The guards haven’t seen or felt any movement, but who knows.”

  We both knew the guards weren’t exactly perfect at their jobs, otherwise they would have known my dad and his men were in Savannah.

  “They’ll attack at night,” I said, sure of it. “They’ll be less likely to be seen. There will be fewer people around, especially because of the storm.”

  But when?Tonight? Tomorrow? A week from now?

  “I have to talk to my mom.” I surged to my feet, only to swerve when the room tipped precariously off balance. Or maybe I was the one who had tilted.

  “Careful.” Lewis slipped his arm around my waist and helped me to the door. “They’re in the tunnels, plotting.”

  “Plotting? Why does that sound like they don’t know what the heck to do?”

  He shrugged. “Because I don’t think they do.”

  We made it to the hall where the soft murmur of the television floated up from below. Nora was asleep on the couch. Who knew what Mom and Aaron were doing, apparently not much. The air felt stale, as if everyone held their breaths, waiting to see what would happen next.

  “This is ridiculous,” I muttered, finding the strength to move away from Lewis. I was angry. Angry that no one seemed to know what to do. Angry that I kept fainting, waking up weak and helpless. “We’re just sitting here doing nothing.”

  I moved down the steps and headed directly toward the bookshelf.

  “Where are you going?” Nora asked drowsily.

  I didn’t bother to respond, but punched in the code. Yeah, we’d uncovered Dad’s location, but really, what good did that do? Now I was weak and in no position to help fight if he did arrive. As the shelf slid open, I started down the steps into the dark corridor of underground Savannah. I could hear Lewis mumble something to Nora but didn’t wait around to find out what.

  The tunnels were quiet, almost too quiet. Uneasy, I paused at the bottom of the steps. Was it my imagination, or did it seem colder? Darker? Maybe it was the storm making me feel off balance, but I felt a distinct lurking presence, as if the halls knew more than I did. A shudder went through me.

  I dismissed the sensation and focused, desperate to find Mom. Taking in a deep breath, I closed my eyes and tapped into the source. Almost immediately the slightest tingling sensation of power urged me to go left, toward the lounge. My shoes tapped against the stone floor, echoing eerily down the corridor. Where were the guards? Why weren’t people rushing around, trying to secure locations?

  “That won’t work,” my mom said from somewhere nearby, her voice echoing through my head.

  Lord, it was happening again. How could I hear them when they weren’t anywhere nearby?

  “Do you have a better suggestion,” Aaron replied. I’m so tired of her bossy attitude.

  I paused outside the lounge door. Not only could I hear their words, but I could read their minds. Stunned, I sank against the cold wall. I suppose it made sense that I could hear what they said, after all every sentence was first a thought. But Mom and Aaron were way too powerful to let their guard down. Was this the source at work?

  “If she had the powers fully, she could protect herself,” Mom continued. And I wouldn’t have to constantly worry about her.

  I bristled as mom’s thought entered my mind. Please, I had proven that I could protect myself. Why did everyone insist on seeing me as a child?

  “She can’t even handle the powers she has now! Why do you think she keeps fainting? There is too much power in her, she can’t take it.”

  What the heck did they mean by that? I heard the soft fall of footsteps behind me and pushed away from the wall. Nora and Lewis emerged from the shadows. For some reason I didn’t want them to know about my newfound ability. At least not until I understood them better.

  “Apparently one of our spies was found dead on the outskirts of Savannah,” Lewis said, pausing next to me. “Your mom and Aaron are in a near panic.”

  My body went cold. “How?”

  “No wounds,” Nora said, crossing her arms over her chest as if she, too, had felt the sudden chill. “Which means his energy was sucked dry.”

  “You sure you don’t want to just skip town?” Lewis muttered.

  “Starting to sound better and better every day,” I replied.

  “Come on.” Nora shouldered her way by me and punched in a code. So many numbers I didn’t know how the heck I was supposed to remember them all.

  The door opened just in time to hear Aaron say, “There’s nothing we can do but wait for their attack.” He leaned against the far wall, arms crossed and spotted me. Mom was seated at the table, a coffee cup in hand. This was ridiculous. Dad could be here at any moment and we were sitting around twiddling our thumbs and discussing our nonexistent options.

  “Let me help,” I said firmly.

  The room grew quiet. My mom was the only one who didn’t seem surprised by my offer. Most likely she’d known I’d say it all along. Heck, maybe she could read my mind, since I could occasionally read hers. The thought didn’t sit well.

  Aaron narrowed his eyes, looking more than annoyed that I’d interrupted, or maybe annoyed that I’d offered to help, when they couldn’t. I was in no mood to appease his ego.

  “How will you do anything? You can barely stand.”

  He sounded angry, which annoyed me even more. I was doing what I could. In fact, I was probably doing more than him, which was obviously the problem. “I’ll use the source to go back into the hotel room.”

  He pushed away from the wall and strolled to the sofa. “You can’t.”

  “You’re already exhausted,” Mom said, trying to be more diplomatic. “If you go under again, it will put you out for a good day. You’ll be in no position to protect yourself.”

  They’d both dismissed me so easily, not bothering to hear me out. There had to be something, anything I could do. I knew, as it was, this wasn’t going to end well. Yeah, a week ago we might have had a chance against my dad, but not now that he had his own source. We were pretty much screwed, and I wasn’t the only one to think so. I could see the despair in their eyes, feel it in their energy.

  Mom set her mug down and stood. “I think it’s time to talk.”

  “About what?” I asked warily.

  She took in a deep breath. “It’s time for you to leave. In fact, it’s time for all three of you to leave and find a safer—”

  “No!” Nora, Lewis and I shouted together.

  Aaron surged to his feet. “You aren’t the parents here, we get to decide what you will and will not do!”

  “You?” I sneered. “You’re actually calling yourself a father figure? The man who tortured and erased the memory of at least two people here. The man who kept children locked in a basement on some island, stealing them away from their homes? Don’t you dare think you have any say in what I can and can’t do.”

  “Enough!” My mom slapped her palms onto the tabletop, the sound echoing overly loud in the small room.

  “He doesn’t deserve a say in my life,” I insisted.

  “Cameron, just stop.” My mom held up her hands, as if begging me to shut up. Why? Why was she so insistent I respect a man who had tortured me? A man who cared about nothing, no one, but himself?

  “I don’t get it,” I whispered. “Why do you take his side?”

  Was she really so pathetically in love with him? But no, I could see by the shielded look in her eyes that there was something more. And apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought so. For one long moment the entire room went silent, everyone holding their breaths as if we all knew there was something very wrong with this story.

  “John isn’t your father,” Mom finally said in a rush of words, as if unloading the secret had taken a thousand pound weight from her shoulders.

  I blinked, confused by the sudden change in topic. Was this some odd joke meant to lighten the mood? But no, Mom wasn’t laughing. She looked deadly serious. And I was stunned silent. John, t
he very man coming to destroy us, the very man who so desperately wanted to use me, who had allowed me to live in his home, wasn’t my father.

  “I don’t understand.” It was all I could manage to say.

  “There’s a reason why you’re the source, Cameron,” Mom explained. “It has nothing to do with luck, it has to do with your real father.”

  I sank onto Mom’s empty chair, my legs weak, my body drained. Lewis and Nora just stood there looking as stunned as I felt. So, not even my sister had known? The realization didn’t make me feel any better.

  “Why? Why would you lie?” My voice came out rough with emotion. I was desperately trying to hold it together, sinking into the numbness and clinging to it like a toddler with a baby blanket because I knew if I allowed myself to react, I wouldn’t be able to keep hold of what little control was left.

  When Mom started toward me the entire world faded. All I could hear was my heart pounding in my ears. All I could see was my mom, the woman who had abandoned me, this woman who had lied. The woman who still lied to me.

  “You have to understand Cameron. There are others who hold the source. Others capable of amazing things, just like us.”

  What the hell did this have to do with anything? The pulsing energy that flared through my body brought with it anger so heated it nearly burned me from the inside out. I wanted to lash out at her. I wanted to shove her aside and run from the room.

  “Who?” I demanded. “Who is my real father?”

  “The reason why you were chosen to be the carrier of the source at such an early age, the reason the energy is so strong within you, is because your father carries the source as well.”

  “Who!” I demanded, surging to my feet so fast the chair toppled to the ground.

  “Me,” Aaron whispered from the other side of the room.

  The word hit me like a punch to the gut. I stumbled back a step, then two. Horrified would be an understatement. I wouldn’t have been more stunned if I’d found out Satan was my dad.

 
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