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The mind thieves the min.., p.23
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       The Mind Thieves (The Mind Readers), p.23

           Lori Brighton
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  Lewis, who I remembered wearing polo shirts and designer jeans. Lewis who used to be so sincere, with a smile that could warm my heart, a man who enjoyed life. And now…now he merely kept his head bent, his gaze on his job, no interest in the cry of the gulls or the beautiful orange sun hovering on the horizon.

  Taking in a deep breath I started toward the docks. This was why I hadn’t fallen for Maddox. I still cared about Lewis. It was obvious the moment I saw him yesterday. The way my body had heated from the inside out, as if the very sun had taken up residence in my heart. I couldn’t move on with my life until I knew for sure Lewis no longer cared about me.

  Nora had said to try again, and I would. Why not? Not like I had anything else to do. I’d spent the day with Nora, practicing how to send out false thoughts, but my effort hadn’t been as successful as I would have liked. I hadn’t really expected to pick up the gift that quickly. I’d merely been biding time until I could see Lewis.

  My foot hit the dock, the platform shaking, and I steeled myself for his annoyance. I wasn’t leaving him until I knew for sure his memory was gone for good. More importantly, before I knew for sure that he no longer had any feelings for me.

  When I reached the boat, I paused, taking in a deep breath. His back was to me as he coiled a thick rope around his muscled forearm and palm. Even though he looked different, acted different, he was still Lewis, the guy I’d dreamt about for months now. The guy I hoped was still there deep down.

  “I thought I told you to stay away,” he said, not missing a beat.

  “Did you hear my thoughts?” I demanded, wondering if my emotions had gotten the better of me and my mental wall had wavered. It had certainly happened before in Lewis’ presence.

  He turned, those blue eyes cold, unrelenting. “I heard your footsteps.”

  “I’m not leaving until you hear me out.”

  He sighed, setting the coiled rope upon a cooler.

  “We shared time together,” I continued. “We…dated.” I blushed as the words rushed passed my lips. Seriously, it was a little embarrassing to have to remind someone they had been in love with you.

  He remained stubbornly silent and my heart broke a little.

  “You don’t remember any of it?”

  He crossed his arms over his chest. “Nothing.”

  The word stung. Determined, I forged onward, stepping onto the rocking boat and sinking onto a bench. “That’s not all we shared. We also lost our memories together.”

  His blue eyes narrowed. Those blue eyes that had invaded my dreams. Blue eyes that had been so kind, but looked so hostile now. But he hadn’t always looked at me with adoration. No, there had been plenty of times in our months together when he had been angry at me.

  My mind shifted and for a brief moment we were back at Aaron’s, together in Lewis’ room, the memory so vivid I could have sworn I was actually there.

  He held me, our bodies so close I could feel his warm breath tickling my ear. I wrapped my arms around his waist and soaked in his essence; felt the thump of his heart against mine. God, I didn’t want it to end. But after a few moments, he stepped back, leaving me alone and cold. I curled my hands against my thighs, resisting the urge to latch onto him. He didn’t look at me, but stared at some point across the room.

  “Well?” I demanded. “You didn’t answer my question. Do you want me to leave?”

  He raked his hands through his hair and paced toward the large Queen bed. “Of course not. I want you here, but I want you on my side.”

  “It’s not about sides,” I insisted. “It’s about right and wrong.”

  He spun around to face me. “Right and wrong?”

  “Do you know what happened to me?” Lewis asked, jerking me from the memory.

  If there was a positive to this madness, it was that Lewis didn’t remember we had argued. He had no idea we’d fought about our own ideals of good and bad; that we’d taken different sides. Slowly, I nodded.

  He couldn’t hide the interest in his gaze. “Then tell me.”

  I licked my lower lip, my mouth suddenly dry. “Less than a year ago you arrived at my high school in Maine. You said you were a student, but it was obvious pretty quickly you were more than that. You were a mind reader, like me.”

  He lowered himself to the seat on the opposite side of the boat. “I remember my parents were mind readers. But they…” He rubbed his forehead, looking pained. “They died, didn’t they?”

  I flinched. What would he say if he realized my father had been responsible in some way for his parent’s death? I pushed aside the thought. “You came to my school so you could teach me, explain what I’d been missing by ignoring my powers. Together we traveled to an island off the coast where you’d spent most of your life.”

  He shook his head slowly. The confusion in his gaze made my heart ache. I knew how he felt, but instead of having my Grandma to back up Maddox’s insane story, Lewis had no one. Not even fragments of a former life he couldn’t place.

  “On that island we trained with a man named Aaron. The man who raised you. Aaron taught you everything you know…knew about your abilities.”

  “This is insane.” His hands fisted. “You expect me to believe you?”

  “Do you have any other choice?” I asked softly.

  The boat rocked gently as I waited for his response. The town was quiet, as most people had gone home to dinner. It was almost like Lewis and I were the only ones there, on the edge of the ocean. Above, the stars twinkled, sparkling merrily in the darkening sky. For a brief moment it felt as if we were connected once more.

  “I realized pretty quickly that Aaron and I didn’t share the same ideas of what was right and wrong,” I said softly. “I decided to leave, but he wouldn’t let me without erasing my memory.”

  His gaze had hardened, anger flaring to life once more. “How did he do it?”

  I shrugged, unsure how much I should tell him. “With his abilities. Somehow he’s able to delve into people’s minds and erase their past.”

  He swallowed hard and I could see the emotions working through his gaze: confusion, anger, sadness. The same things I’d felt. If only he’d trust me, he might not feel so alone. But I, more than anyone, knew how hard it was to trust someone you barely knew.

  “And he erased my memories too?”

  I nodded. He didn’t look like he believed a word I said. The desire to pull him close and shake some sense into his thick skull overwhelmed me. Sudden tears stung my eyes and I looked away, afraid he’d notice. It was as if I was reliving the moment all over again. It wasn’t fair. The one person I wanted on my side, the one person I needed to remember me…gone.

  “You tried to save me,” I said softly.

  I wanted him to know that in some way he was a hero, but I realized the moment the words left my mouth that he might take them to mean it was my fault.

  “I remember other children,” he said.

  Thoughts of Caroline stung. The child I’d promised to save, but had left behind. I would find her, if it was the last thing I did, if it was the only good thing I did in this life.

  “I remember a tutor teaching me to read and write, teaching me geometry and politics.”

  I nodded, urging him to continue.

  “But I don’t remember you,” he whispered. His gaze had changed and in his eyes I saw desperation. A desperation that tore at my heart. He studied my face almost frantically, looking for validation, for hope.

  I turned away before that look of hope faded into what I knew would be disappointment. “I know you don’t.”

  “No, you don’t get it.” He surged to his feet, the boat rocking. His voice had changed from frantic to harsh and angry. “I don’t remember you at all. Not even a stirring…nothing.”

  “Okay.” I faced him, annoyed, although why, I wasn’t sure. “I get it!”

  We were silent for a moment, staring at each other as our breaths left our bodies in harsh pants. Words were left unspoken, yet the emotions
so evidently clear.

  “So what do you want from me?” he demanded.

  The question hovered over me like a dark rain cloud. I searched for the right response. What did I want? “I just…I wanted…I wanted to make sure you were okay. I wanted to see if you could give me answers.”

  He laughed, placing his hands on his slim hips. “Obviously not.” With a frustrated sigh, he paced the deck, gazing out onto the ocean as if searching for answers amongst the waves. “This is insane.”

  How many times had I said those very words? I stepped hesitantly toward him, close enough that I could touch him. How badly I wanted to. He needed comfort, I needed comfort. “I know.”

  He faced me, his gaze accusatory. “If your memory was erased, how do you remember me?”

  “Mine has been coming back over the months. Bits and pieces. I have no idea why.”

  I didn’t miss the flash of hope that crossed his face. “Will mine?”

  I shrugged, unsure how to answer. How badly I wanted to give him hope, at the same time I didn’t want him to turn on me if his memory never came back. “I don’t know.”

  The hope was gone, replaced with anger. “What do you know? Other than apparently, everything about me, although I know nothing about you.”

  I stepped closer to him, reaching out. “Lewis…”

  He stepped back. “No. I’m sorry, but I find this entire situation unbelievable.”

  “I understand how you feel. But what choice do you have? You have no one else. If we work together, maybe we can get your memory back, or at the least, maybe we can piece together my memory with yours.”

  He didn’t say a word, just looked at me, studying my face as if searching for the truth within my eyes. I realized in that moment that he didn’t believe me. Nothing I said had registered. Oh God, they were truly gone. Every single memory of me.

  I didn’t want to beg him, but damn it all, he didn’t realize how badly I needed him on my side. And he didn’t realize how badly he needed me. “Please, Lewis, just trust me.”

  He pressed his lips into a firm line before saying, “Cameron.”

  “Yeah?” I replied hopefully.

  “Get down.” He grabbed my arm and jerked me to deck just as something whizzed past my ear. I hit the floor hard, the boat rocking. Lewis landed half atop me, pressing me uncomfortably into the deck, but protecting me from harm. He might not remember me, but maybe, just maybe, he still cared. The excitement of that revelation died as I noticed the dart quivering on the side of the boat.

  “What the hell is that?”

  “Tranquilizer,” he said, rolling off me. “Don’t ask me how I know, but I do.”

  I could hear the thump of feet coming down the dock, shaking the very boat. How many? One? No, two. “Keys?” I asked, my voice coming out high-pitched. Was it too much to hope we could drive the boat off into the sunset?

  “No. Boss took them.”

  Apparently it was too much.

  Lewis glanced toward the water. “Can you swim?”

  I nodded, not liking the way of his thoughts.

  He leaned close to me, his body warm and comforting at my side. “When I say go, jump.”

  “Into the water?”

  He lifted a dark brow. “Where else?”

  Okay, so it was a stupid question. “Oh God.” I glanced up at the sky, cursing the heavens for not coming to our rescue. Seriously, would it hurt to throw us a bone once in a while?

  “Stay underwater,” he added. “As long as you can. Swim toward the shore.”

  He paused and for one breathless moment, our gazes held. Yeah, he might not remember me, but I swore in that second he knew me. “Ready?”

  I nodded.

  He shoved the heels of his hands into the smooth deck. “Go!”

  I surged to my feet. In one fluid motion, my foot hit the railing and I jumped. For a brief second I stayed suspended in air. Then suddenly gravity took over and I hit the water. Hard. The sea rolled over me, a massive bucket of ice water that covered my head. Stunned, I sank toward the murky bottom. Darkness surrounded me, interrupted only by the slightest shimmer of light from above. A comforting, welcoming darkness. How easy it would be to stay there within the safety of the sea. But it was that light that startled me into action.

  As my lungs began to burn, I used all the strength I had left and kicked my feet, swimming below the surface in the direction I hoped was the shore. I could hear nothing in my watery grave and Lewis never appeared beside me. When I could take it no longer, I surged upward and broke through the surface, gulping cold air. Frantic, I brushed the damp locks from my face and spun around, searching for Lewis.

  I spotted him on the boat, struggling with two men. What the hell was he doing? Why hadn’t he followed me? I treaded water as the waves rocked me gently back and forth and waited for Lewis to jump. He jabbed his right arm forward, connecting with the chin of a bald man. But it wasn’t enough. Although the bald man hadn’t touched him, Lewis fell to his knees, crying out. When he gripped his head in his hands, I knew what they were doing. Hadn’t I used my powers to cause pain? I could do it again, but from this far would it work?

  I bit my lower lip and concentrated on the bald man who looked like Mr. Clean. Ignoring the cries of the gull and chill of the water, I mentally threw my energy at him. He pulled back, grimacing. But the thrill of victory was short lived. Yeah, he fell, stumbling back over the boat’s edge and hitting the water, but he took Lewis with him.

  I waited…waited for Lewis to burst through that water. The water rocked me gently back and forth. The other man on the boat raced to the dock, watching…waiting like me and for one moment we were bonded in time.

  “Lewis?” I called out, my voice barely audible over the cry of gulls.

  No response. No movement.

  My heart slammed frantically in my chest. Indecision held me captive. I glanced back at the shore… so close. I could easily make it and race to Nora for help. I looked back at the spot where Lewis had disappeared and I knew… I couldn’t leave him.

  “Damn it.” I kicked my legs, starting back toward the boat.

  A firm hand gripped my ankle and tugged me down. I screamed as the water rushed over my head once more. Saltwater burned my eyes, got into my mouth and made me gag. Through the murkiness, Lewis appeared, hovering next to me. He gave me a quick nod and then started toward the shore, expecting me to follow.

  The relief I felt was momentarily pushed aside as I focused on survival. We started through the water, swimming under the surface until our feet touched the rocky ground. Just when my lungs were ready to burst, we rose.

  “Hurry,” Lewis gasped, emerging from the surface like a model from a swimsuit catalog. Water ran in rivulets down the hard planes of his face, dripping to his soaked T-shirt. Although I should have been running for my life, instead I found myself mesmerized by the heat of attraction sweeping through my body. He raked his damp hair from his face and latched onto my hand.

  I jerked my gaze away, focusing on the warmth of his fingers. My body hummed, my lungs burned, but I wasn’t sure if my reaction was from the swim, or his nearness. I was positive if Lewis hadn’t held my hand, I would have fallen onto the rocky shore, face first.

  “Where are we going?” I glanced back. The men were racing down the dock, coming for us. “We have a hotel room—”

  “We?” he demanded as we hit the shoreline and raced toward the park.

  “I came with a friend,” the words came out in breathless gasp as I tried to regain control of my oxygen level. “She’s the one who knew where to find you.”

  He froze under an elm tree and I ran into his back. “You know this person?” He faced me, his jaw clenched.

  I pushed aside the wet hair that hung in front of my eyes. What was his problem? Shouldn’t we be running for our lives? “Sort of.”

  He spun back around and started across the park, leaving me behind. He was angry, obviously, but why? I raced after him.

; “You trusted someone you barely know?”

  A cool breeze swept off the ocean and I shivered, wrapping my arms around myself. So that was his issue? He obviously didn’t understand the situation I’d been in.

  “Someone who suspiciously knows not only all about you, but all about me? And now suddenly two men show up attacking us?”

  His footsteps were sure and hurried as he made his way onto the sidewalk. I couldn’t read his features for the sun had set, throwing the area into evening shadows. But then again, I didn’t really need to read his face. I knew he was pissed, which made me angry.

  “You think she set me up?”

  He glared at me. “What do you think?”

  “I did what I had to do,” I snapped. My wet tennis shoes squeaked as I followed, an irritating noise that I worried would draw attention. “Besides, if she wanted me gone, she’s had plenty of chances.”

  He paused at the nearest car, and lifted the handle. The owner hadn’t bothered to lock the vehicle and the door opened easily. “Get in.”

  I hesitated. “Is this your car?”

  “No.” He settled behind the wheel.

  I glanced back and spotted the two men headed our way, dark forms that morphed from the night. I tore open the door and dove onto the passenger seat. “Where are we going?”

  “A cabin.” He pressed his hands to the dashboard and closed his eyes. After only a few seconds, the engine roared to life.

  “How the heck did you do that?” I asked.

  He set his hands on the steering wheel and merged onto the street. “How’d it start? Simple mechanics. I used my mind like a key, turning the parts that needed turned.”

  I remembered that about him… that he could move things with his mind. Having his memory erased hadn’t made him lose that power. What else did he still have lurking within, waiting to be uncovered? “So, I guess your mind hasn’t been completely cleared.”

  Water trailed from his hair, down his neck, dripping to the leather seat. “I still have all my powers…I think.”

  “You just don’t remember me.”

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