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The mind thieves the min.., p.24
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       The Mind Thieves (The Mind Readers), p.24

           Lori Brighton
 
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“No.”

  “And you don’t trust me.”

  He turned down a dark street and slid me a glance. “No, and sorry but you’re not leaving my side until I have the answers I want.”

  I didn’t bother to tell him that his threat held no power over me. Things had worked out exactly as I had hoped. I wanted to be with Lewis, even if he didn’t trust me. For once things were going my way. Hiding my grin, I settled back in the seat and let Lewis think he was in control.

  Chapter 24

  Two hours later we pulled onto a dirt road and I still had no idea where we were going. I knew this much, we’d left the coast and the air no longer smelled like the sea. Thick forests grew alongside the road and the land had become hilly and void of human population. At least no one followed and I felt somewhat safe for the first time in two days.

  I slid Lewis a glance but his face was hard to read in the dark. He had remained stubbornly silent throughout the drive. Even when I’d asked him pointed questions, he’d ignored me. He was starting to get on my last nerve. And I’d thought Nora was annoying.

  “Where are we going?” I demanded, leaving no room for avoidance by the tone of my voice. My clothing had dried, but was uncomfortably stiff with salt water and my shoes were still damp. I just wanted a hot shower and soft bed.

  He was silent for a moment and I worried I’d have to do something desperate to get him to talk. Just as I opened my mouth to scream like a child throwing the ultimate tantrum, he spoke. “My boss owns a cabin. Since he’s not using it, we will.”

  “You sure there’s no one home?” I certainly didn’t want to put any innocent people in harm’s way.

  “We’ll find out.”

  Not exactly reassuring. The trees gave way. The headlights hit a small shack settled in the middle of a clearing. A shack that, based on the weathered clapboard and the moss growing across the roof, had been there for some time. It looked like it had sprouted, clawing its way from the earth, rather than having been made by man. Seriously, a perfect location for a horror movie. When Lewis parked the car in a clearing I realized with some shock, that this was the cabin he spoke of.

  So here I was, nestled in a dark forest with a guy I wasn’t quite sure was sane anymore. I hadn’t seen a town in over an hour. I wasn’t even sure we were still in Massachusetts. And no one, not even Nora, knew where I was. Yep, smart move on my part.

  “You have to let me call Nora. She could be walking into a trap.”

  He laughed and pushed open his door. “You’re a moron to trust her.”

  New Lewis was a real ass. I glared at him as I stood. Where was the charming Lewis I’d known in Maine? I swore, if I ever saw Aaron again, he’d regret what he’d done. My former boyfriend started toward the cabin and as it was either be eaten by bears or follow, I followed.

  The spring ground was soft underfoot and the trees were just unfurling their leaves. It smelled like damp earth and rain…like new growth. A promise of something exciting, my mother used to say. Something, all right, but I wasn’t so sure it would be exciting.

  The forest was pitch-black, not even a moon could be seen. Anything could be out there. A shiver of unease raced over my spine. Still too cold for any insects, the land was eerily quiet. Lewis pressed his hand to the door, a wooden panel with brown peeling paint, and closed his eyes. I heard the soft click of a lock being undone and for a split second, thought someone was inside.

  Lewis turned the doorknob, and pushed it wide. That’s when I realized he had somehow maneuvered the lock with his mind. Nifty trick, something I wouldn’t mind possessing, but I doubted he’d teach me.

  He stepped aside and nodded toward the dark opening. “After you.”

  Hesitating, I glanced back at the car. No way I could start it without keys, and the woods weren’t exactly inviting. This wasn’t the Lewis I knew. This Lewis made me nervous, anxious. But being with him was better than being food for the bears, or whatever it was that lurked in a New England forest.

  I stepped into the dingy shack, the scent of mildew and dust tickling my nose.

  Truth was Lewis was right. It was stupid of me to trust Nora. Sure, she’d led me to Lewis, but she’d managed to conveniently omit the fact that he had lost his memory.

  She’d never lied to me, my ass.

  Lewis shut the door and locked it, then flipped a light switch. A bare bulb glowed weakly, dangling from a wire in the middle of rafters. The cabin boasted all of one large room with a bed, sink and mini fridge. There was another door that interrupted the far wall, a door I hoped led to a bathroom. Cobwebs hung from the rafters above and thick dust coated the one table near the minifridge. A cold fireplace was next to the bathroom door.

  It was disgusting, but it was shelter, and warmer than being outside.

  “You’re cold,” Lewis stated.

  I’d wrapped my arms around myself, shivering, although I was surprised he’d noticed or cared. “Yeah, that little swim wasn’t exactly pleasant.”

  My clothing had dried, for the most part, but the chill remained deep within my bones. What I wouldn’t do for a warm bath. Even that hot springs I’d gone to with Maddox.

  Maddox. I hadn’t had much time to think about him. I rubbed my aching temples, sorrow and resignation fighting for control. I’d had to leave, but I wondered if he’d understand. Probably not. The realization that I’d probably never see Maddox again hit me hard.

  “I can’t light a fire; they might notice. But there are blankets in there,” he said, nodding toward the trunk at the end of the bed.

  I was with Lewis, I should have been thrilled. Instead, I found myself angry and depressed. Cold and hungry. My frustration flared. “What will we do, Lewis? We can’t stay here forever.”

  He raked his hands through his hair, something I remembered him doing in Maine. Since drying, the edges had curled slightly but it didn’t soften his look. No, his eyes had changed. They were that same brilliant blue I remembered, but hard. Soulless. Bitter.

  “I don’t know,” he admitted.

  Dark circles marked the area under his eyes. My insides softened. I felt bad for him. Truly, I did. The Lewis I knew had always been in control, now he seemed so alone. “We can’t stay here. We need to find supplies…” I started pacing the room, my body restless, even if my mind was exhausted. “I’m going to call Nora. I know you don’t want me to, but I can at least contact her, see what she has to say. At least warn her.”

  “No!”

  I snapped my gaze toward him. “You have a better plan? It’s just me and you, and right now we’re pretty pathetic.”

  We fell silent, glaring at each other for the longest moment. But there… underneath the anger…I saw his true emotions. Confusion. Exasperation. Exhaustion. It was hard for me to remember that Lewis was completely lost in this new world.

  Here I was in a tiny cabin, completely alone with Lewis. It was a dream come true. I wanted things right between us. Yet, I couldn’t deny that there was a wall, an invisible wall keeping us apart.

  “Don’t look at me like that,” he said softly.

  I flushed. “Like what?”

  “Like you expect more from me than I can give.”

  I closed my eyes. He was right; I expected too much. I expected him to be normal; the Lewis I knew. It wasn’t fair to him. It wasn’t fair to me. Truth was Lewis was a stranger. Just a person in need. I had to accept the fact that Lewis no longer loved me.

  “What happened?” I asked, steeling my resolve. “How did you end up in Massachusetts?”

  He swallowed hard and looked away. “I don’t know.”

  I sighed. I wanted to help him, but I couldn’t unless he shared. Did he not understand how important it was that we trust each other? But I knew as well as anyone how confused he felt, and so I kept my mouth shut, waiting for him to open up.

  Lewis sank onto the edge of the bed and clasped his hands together. Large hands, roughened by work. “Seven months ago I woke up in a one bedroom apartment in town. My c
lothing was there. Food was in the cupboards and a note was on the kitchen table.”

  I moved to the wooden chair near the empty fireplace, the only chair in the cabin, and nodded for him to continue.

  But he stared blankly at the wall, as if reciting another person’s life history, something he had no emotional attachment to. “The note said to head to the marina and ask for Beckerman. He’ll give you a job.”

  “Your boss?”

  He nodded.

  “And is he a mind reader? Does he know about us?”

  His brows drew together. “I don’t think so.”

  But he couldn’t be sure. “And that’s it? All the note said?”

  He glanced at me. “That’s it.”

  When I didn’t respond, he stood and paced to the windows. Aaron obviously had a soft spot for Lewis, otherwise he would have killed him, or left him to wander the world with no memory. But it didn’t negate what Aaron had done. No person should have that much power over another. No person should play God, and that’s what Aaron and my dad were doing… creating their own worlds where they ruled supreme.

  “There was a check book on the table with a thousand dollars,” he added. “No idea where it came from. No idea how I got to the town.”

  He seemed so completely lost, so weighed down by his own mystery that my heart clenched, and I couldn’t help but go to him. Maybe it was because I knew exactly how he felt, or maybe it was because I still cared. Gently, I reached out and rested my hand on his shoulder. He stiffened at the touch, but didn’t pull back.

  “Most likely Aaron set it all up.”

  He glanced at me. “The man who supposedly raised me?”

  I nodded. “What else do you remember? Any details of the past at all?”

  He shook his head, looking completely bemused. “I remember my parents dying. I remember my uncle coming for me. Then it gets spotty.”

  I bit my lower lip. How I wanted to pull him close. How I wanted to wrap my arms around him and tell him everything would be okay. This was the Lewis I remembered. The Lewis I knew. As if reading my thoughts he stepped away, uneasy. My Lewis was gone. I admit it hurt. Just when I thought we’d had some sort of breakthrough, it crashed down around me, ripping me to shreds.

  He paced the small room, the weathered floorboards underneath creaking with the movement. He wasn’t in his element. When I’d first met Lewis, I’d been in awe of how sure he was of himself and his beliefs. But now… now he was a fragment of what he used to be. A man he didn’t know. A man I didn’t know. And the worst thing was that there was nothing I could do to get him back. Time to start over. Time to keep my distance. Time to be the old me.

  “Let’s get some rest.” I started toward the bed, eager to close my eyes and forget the day. “Tomorrow will be better. We’ll figure out a plan.” Honestly, it couldn’t get much worse.

  “There’s only one bed,” he reminded me.

  I glanced back at him, and lifted a brow. “I promise not to take advantage of you while you sleep.”

  He flushed and I laughed, easing some of the tension. I realized with some delight that there was one positive to this situation. Somehow, in some way, the tables had turned. In Maine I’d been at his mercy, so out of the loop I didn’t even know there were other mind readers.

  Now, Lewis had only me to rely on for guidance, and frankly, I liked it.

  ****

  Hours later I woke cuddled next to Lewis. My eyes opened and for one horrifyingly embarrassed moment, I stared at his chest. Thank God we still wore our clothes.

  We’d needed sleep. We were adults. It shouldn’t have been a big deal lying in the same bed. I’d pretended it wasn’t. It was. To me anyway. I resisted the urge to groan, and instead, breathed in his scent. It was pretty hard to ignore my feelings for him when I was plastered to his body. So much for keeping my distance.

  So close, I was only reminded of the comfort I used to feel when he held me. Now, I didn’t even have my grandma and her awkward hugs. I so needed a pet… a cat or dog, one of those little ones I could dress up, and carry in a purse. Yep, I was in some serious need of affection if I was actually still obsessed with Lewis. And dang it all, I was. I couldn’t ignore the desire to scoot even closer to him. To tuck my head under his chin and wrap my arms around his waist.

  The urgent desire to be comforted was sickeningly present. Slowly, ever so slowly, I tilted my head back. I realized in that moment he was awake. Our gazes clashed. I felt his stare all the way to my toes…a heated bolt of electricity that sizzled through my body.

  I stiffened, frozen against him, my heart slamming erratically. Did he know how he made me feel? Did he have any idea how desperately I wanted him to remember us? I breathed in his scent. The same scent he’d had in Maine. Wind and salt water, and him…Lewis. I didn’t want to admit it, but I felt safe next to him. I didn’t feel so alone in this world.

  “Lewis,” I whispered, almost a plea.

  He lowered his head, and because I was weak and couldn’t quite help myself, I lifted, meeting him halfway. I felt the warmth of his breath right before his lips met mine. It was a soft, hesitant kiss. For a brief moment we didn’t move, just lay there pressed together, side by side.

  Then ever so slowly I tilted my head, deepening the kiss. Lewis’ hands cupped the sides of my face and his tongue slipped across my bottom lip sending a shiver of hot and cold down my spine. I was gone. Lost in a memory. Lost in a past that had been perfect.

  A warm aching need curled through my body. A need to have more of him, to have all of him. I wanted to press my hands to his shoulders, and down his back. To taste his skin. To breathe in his scent. He shifted, settling atop me and the weight of his hard body on mine felt deliciously wicked. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, my fingers sliding into the curls at the base of his neck.

  We were so close, so intimately close that I could feel his heart beating wildly against mine. This is what I’d wanted, this was Lewis. My Lewis. He tore his mouth from mine, his lips finding a sensitive spot at my throat. I shivered, the feeling so wonderful that I almost let him slide his hands under my shirt. Almost. But as his warm fingers found my waist, reality came rushing back.

  “Stop,” I demanded, shoving my palms into his chest.

  He pulled back warily, his breath harsh upon my lips. “What is it?”

  “Are you kissing me because you remember me, or just because you’re a guy and I’m a girl?”

  He parted his lips, but didn’t respond.

  He didn’t need to. I knew the answer, it was proclaimed quite loudly in his hesitation. A heated flush of embarrassment crawled up my chest. I turned my head, unable to look into his familiar eyes. He didn’t love me. He didn’t even care about me, but I’d been caught up in the moment, thinking the old Lewis was back.

  “Get off,” I shouted.

  Fortunately he moved to the side. I didn’t dwell upon the fact that I missed his warmth. Instead, I jumped off the bed and shoved my feet into my shoes, which were still damp from our swim in the ocean. The chillness chased away Lewis’ heat.

  “Where are you going?” he asked.

  I dared to glance back. He was sitting on the bed, his hair mussed and clothing rumpled. He looked almost boyish. My heart squeezed painfully and I had to remind myself this was not the Lewis I knew. That Lewis was gone. This was a stranger.

  “Don’t worry about it.” I moved to the door. The panicked need to escape overwhelmed me. My emotions had overtaken any common sense, and I could barely breathe. All I knew, all I was sure of, was that I had to get away from Lewis.

  “Cameron.” He jumped from the bed. “You’re surrounded by woods, there’s nowhere to go.”

  “I’ll figure something out. I always do.”

  I tore open the door and stepped outside. The sun was just rising, but the sky was still gray. A chill morning wind pierced my sweatshirt. I trembled from the cold, or maybe it was aftereffects from kissing Lewis.

  But as my gaze f
ell on the car, my footsteps faltered. I couldn’t start it with my mind like Lewis. I couldn’t survive in the wilds like some animal. I was screwed.

  “Cameron, just stop,” Lewis called from the cabin.

  Furious, I faced him. How dare he try to rationalize what had happened. He had no clue what I’d been through, and had no desire to listen. I threw my energy at the door. It slammed shut in his face. I took some satisfaction in seeing the startled look in his eyes right before the door closed.

  If he could get the car to start, so could I. After all, I was special, right? I tore open the driver side door. If I wasn’t powerful, I wouldn’t have so many insane people after me. I settled on the seat and pressed my hands to the dashboard.

  Nothing.

  I closed my eyes and threw my energy at the engine, praying it would turn over or do whatever it was an engine was supposed to do.

  Nothing.

  “It’s not working,” Lewis said, standing beside me, arms crossed. “Because you don’t know the parts of an engine. You have to understand how it works so you can picture the parts turning.”

  Well, that would have been nice to know beforehand. “Fine, I’ll walk.” I stood and shoved my way past him. The drive was dark and long, heading toward a road that would take me somewhere…eventually.

  “The nearest town is twenty miles.”

  I ignored him and started down the dirt drive.

  “Don’t be ridiculous.”

  I stumbled, the memory coming quickly to mind. I was in that room at Aaron’s home, kneeling next to my suitcase.

  Lewis glared down at me. “We’re only trying to protect—”

  “Bull!” I tilted my chin high, staring directly into his angry eyes. Lewis wouldn’t frighten me. I was sick of being afraid. “I’m going home.”

  He didn’t respond, remaining stubbornly silent. I wanted to scream, to stomp my foot like a child. I needed to have my wits about me, but I couldn’t think when he was so close, his scent so warm and wonderful. And in the back of my mind I realized that this could very well be the last time we spoke. But my emotions and anger wouldn’t let me care.

 
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