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The mind thieves the min.., p.26
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       The Mind Thieves (The Mind Readers), p.26

           Lori Brighton
 
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  My mind. My body. My soul. Frozen in that moment of realization. A red circle near the shoulder of Lewis’ white t-shirt. A red circle that was growing…spreading…seeping across his chest.

  “No!” I screamed, the word echoing across the field. “No!”

  Lewis’ breath was harsh as his gaze met mine. There was no fear upon his face. His blue eyes shone with acceptance. “Go, hurry,” he gasped. “They won’t hurt you.”

  “No!” I leaned over him, my hands fluttering above his chest like butterflies afraid to land. If I pressed down, would I hurt him? Make things worse? Could I stop the flow of blood? Oh God, so much blood.

  “Lewis?”

  His eyes blinked once and then closed. I waited…waited…waited for them to open, but they didn’t. My heart squeezed painfully, tearing apart inside my chest.

  “No!” I screamed again, cupping the sides of his face.

  It was my fault. My fault! Why hadn’t I sensed the other man? Why hadn’t I assumed he would be here? Why had I gone to Lewis in the first place? Why? Why? Why? Tears stung my eyes, blurring the world around me. The very air seemed tainted and I couldn’t breathe anymore.

  My fault.

  A twig snapped.

  I jerked my head upright.

  The man with the dark hair hovered over us, his face passively content. Anger and fear mixed in a sickening swirl. I wanted to charge at him. I wanted to grab that gun from his hand and point it at his chest. I wanted to use my powers to make him feel the kind of pain he’d never felt before. A pain so intense he’d beg for mercy. The kind of pain I felt.

  “I won’t kill you,” he said, his tone level, unconcerned.

  I surged to my feet, my entire body trembling with rage. “You killed him!”

  He didn’t even glance at Lewis. “He’s not dead. Yet.”

  I jerked my gaze toward Lewis, searching for signs of life. Was he right? Did Lewis live? Then it happened…ever so slowly, his chest rose. For a brief moment that was all that mattered.

  “If you come with me,” the man said. “We will not harm him further.”

  A threat. But it was too late for threats. My anger got the better of me. My hands curled at my sides and the energy deep within burned in the pit of my belly, so strong that I felt on fire. I couldn’t control it. Didn’t want to control the anger.

  Kill him. Kill him. The words repeated over and over in my mind.

  The man’s dark eyes narrow slightly as if he could read my thoughts.

  Kill him.

  His face flinched and the gun in his hand wavered.

  Kill him.

  The energy seeped from my body in pulsing waves, the fire spreading…spreading until my skin tingled and the world around me faded. All faded but him…the monster that had shot Lewis.

  Kill him.

  He cried out, dropping the pistol and clutching the sides of his head. Vaguely, I was aware that I had broken through his chip. I had entered his mind. I had won. But the monster inside me didn’t care, couldn’t stop feeding on his pain, taking pleasure from the torture.

  Kill him.

  He fell to the ground, but my energy wouldn’t recede. He squirmed there, like a worm in the sun, his mouth open, although I couldn’t hear his screams. And I would have stayed like that forever, until the man was dead, if Nora hadn’t appeared, kneeling beside him. She looked up at me, her eyes wide with shock. Her lips moved, she said something, but I couldn’t hear her words. The man grew still. I might have killed him. I didn’t care.

  Nora surged to her feet and bolted the few steps to me. When her warm hands gripped my upper arms, the touch forced me back into the present. The world burst before me. Colors came vividly into focus and the call of the birds was loud… too loud.

  “Cameron!” Nora screamed.

  I flinched.

  Her gaze shifted to Lewis. “Oh God,” she whispered and dropped to her knees. Reality returned. Lewis was dying.

  He lay still, quiet, his eyes closed, his breathing so shallow that I wasn’t even sure if he still lived. My lungs shrunk. My heart collapsed within itself. My entire body seemed to stop functioning. There was nothing I could do to help him. Nothing.

  Lewis.

  Nora pressed her fingers to his neck and her shoulders visibly relaxed. “He’s all right. His pulse is steady. The bullet seems to have gone through his shoulder. Will hurt like hell, but he’ll be all right.”

  Just like that, every emotion I should have felt, came rushing through my body leaving me panicked and cold. My legs quivered and gave out. With a cry, I slumped onto the ground next to Lewis. Tears burned, sliding down my cheeks, falling to his white T-shirt and mixing with his blood.

  “He’ll be all right,” I whispered over and over to myself as I cupped the sides of his face. “He’ll be all right.”

  Nora was talking on her cell phone, but I barely listened to her words. All I knew, all I cared about, was the fact that Lewis would be all right. Nora would help us. There was hope. Beautiful, fleeting hope. He would be all right.

  “I knew you’d help,” I said, looking up at Nora through my tears. She wavered in and out of focus. “I knew I could trust you.” I swiped the tears away with my forearm. But I realized as I met her gaze that something was wrong. For a split second I worried it was Lewis. Maybe he was worse than she was letting on. But no…she was staring hard at me. A shiver of unease raced down my spine.

  I surged to my feet. “Nora, what is it?”

  She swallowed hard and slowly lifted her arm. From the tips of her fingers, a gun gleamed smooth and silver. Before my muddled mind could even comprehend her actions, her finger twitched. “It will just hurt for a second.”

  The dart hit my side, a sharp, stinging pain as if someone had stuck me with a needle. I glanced down, watching the red dart waver back and forth. No. This wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be happening. I stumbled back a step… shocked, confused.

  “Sorry Cameron,” she said, but her words came out as warbled as a song bird.

  I tried to blink her into focus, but the scenery grew blurry. The field around me wavered.

  I couldn’t seem to feel my body. Frantic, I turned my head, searching for Lewis, but the world faded…the light disappearing and slowly…slowly, I sank toward the ground.

  Chapter 26

  The silence woke me.

  A deathly, heavy silence that settled upon my chest and sat there like a bully pinning down a smaller child. An unnatural silence. A silence full of questions.

  When you could read minds, the very thoughts that shifted from a person’s brain…their hopes, their dreams, their fears… the world was never quiet. Chatter was constant, like a radio left on a static station.

  But not here, not now. Something was definitely wrong.

  Slowly, my lashes lifted and I stared at the dimly lit ceiling wavering in and out of focus. Where the hell was I? What had happened? My body felt oddly numb. I felt nothing. No form, no thought. It was as if the world was waiting for me to catch up, catch on, understand what had happened. But my mind was too muddled to care.

  My hands curled at my sides, digging into the cot underneath me. The blanket was soft and smooth against my fingertips. From somewhere a light glowed softly. I swallowed hard, my dry throat convulsing in protest. The room was chill, but not cold and the scent of mildew and condensation assaulted my senses. But it was the quiet that got to me.

  Immediately my instincts went into overdrive. I’d spent the past eighteen years of my life learning how to block the thoughts of others just so I could get some peace and quiet. But this silence…this silence was different. This silence told me I was alone. Completely and utterly alone.

  I didn’t dare move, but remained still like a wild animal testing her surroundings. My mouth was dry and my eyes were blurry as if I’d been sleeping for a long time. How long? What had happened?

  Just like that, I caught up to the world. Memories flashed through my mind, so quickly I had to grab hold be
fore they took flight, disappearing forever.

  Vaguely, I remembered running for my life. A cottage that was more of a shack than home. A place where I’d stayed the night, hidden from those who wished to use my powers for their own benefit.

  Vaguely, I remembered running through a field, the sun so bright, it burned my eyes. Still I kept running, running, chased by those who would do me harm.

  Vaguely, I remembered…Lewis. My heart skipped a beat. Lewis, lying upon the ground, blood spreading across his white t-shirt.

  “No,” I whispered, a sob catching in my throat.

  Lewis.

  The guy I had loved. The guy I still loved…shot in that field.

  The memory came rushing back like a raging river, bursting and overflowing with emotion. My stomach clenched painfully and I thought I might get sick. I rolled onto my side, the small cot creaking with the movement. How? How could this have happened?

  Desperate, I shoved aside the thin, cotton blanket that covered my trembling body, momentarily struck dumb as I noticed my outfit. I wore cotton pants and a long sleeved cotton shirt, both dark blue. Thick socks were on my feet. I’d changed clothes, but I didn’t remember changing.

  “No,” I whispered, pressing my hands to my throbbing temples. “No.”

  “Go, hurry,” Lewis’ words whispered through my mind. “They won’t hurt you.”

  My heart hammered wildly in my chest, the image of Lewis upon the ground startling. I settled my feet on the cold stone floor and bolted upright. “No. No. No.”

  He couldn’t be dead. I wouldn’t believe it. I’d know, deep down, wouldn’t I?

  I would find Lewis. He was here…somewhere.

  Determined, I pressed my hands to the damp stone wall and closed my eyes, searching for the feel of him. His very energy. The only sound was the soft drip of condensation from somewhere above.

  Nothing else. But I wasn’t defeated. Stone was a natural insulator for people who could read minds. Just because I couldn’t feel him, didn’t mean he wasn’t here. I stumbled toward the center of my small room.

  No sounds of footsteps. No murmur of conversation. No one.

  Confused, I searched my small prison for an indication of where I was. For a weapon. For anything. But with the movement, the room wavered. I’d slept too much, or too little. Or maybe my reaction was from the tranquilizer. The memory rushed back on a surge of anger. Nora, the woman I’d grown to think of as a friend. The woman who shot me.

  Nora had stood before me, a silver gun gleaming from the tips of her fingers. Before I could even comprehend her actions, her finger twitched. “It will just hurt for a second.”

  The dart hit my side, a sharp, stinging pain like someone had stuck me with a needle. I stumbled back a step.

  “Sorry Cameron,” she said, but her words came out warbled, like a song bird.

  I hadn’t seen it coming.

  Lewis had been right all along, I never should have trusted her. Because of me, Lewis was injured, or worse…

  Anger and fear combined in an acidic swirl that burned in the pit of my belly. I would find Nora and this time, she would pay. I surged forward, traveling the square room. The walls were made of large cut stone. Like I was in a prison cell…or dungeon…or buried alive. Panic had me turning and rushing toward the wooden door. I wrapped my hands around the iron handle, the metal chill and damp, and pulled. The door creaked open so easily that for a stunned moment I merely stood there staring out onto the dark hall.

  Shock was an understatement. I sure as heck hadn’t expected the door to be unlocked. A shiver of unease tiptoed down my spine, warning me not to trust the lack of security. Someone was setting me up.

  Yet, anger and curiosity spurred me forward. I stepped hesitantly into the hall. The corridor was long and narrow, made of the same dark stone as my room. Every twenty feet or so, an iron lamp threw dull light against the glistening walls. I reached out, pressing my fingers to either side. The stone was damp, old. Where the heck was I?

  The soft murmur of singing voices suddenly echoed down the hall, a low buzz, like a swarm of bees that rose and fell with each breath.

  I froze.

  The sound was pure. So beautiful, that for a moment I thought I might have actually died and gone to heaven. I turned toward the music and started mindlessly down the hall. The song called to me. Voices like those of a men’s choir. I followed the holy music as if in a trance. They drew me near with their song, as if the heavens were speaking directly to me. At the end of the corridor a narrow staircase curved up into darkness.

  I paused for only a moment, then followed those steps to the top. There was no door. Only a wall in front of me and a grate above where dim light managed to pierce the gloominess. No way in, no way out. Confused, I stood on tiptoe, slipped my fingers through the grate and pulled. It didn’t budge. But the music was coming from that grate and whoever was above.

  “You won’t find a door,” a voice said from behind me.

  Startled, I spun around, only to teeter on the edge of the steps.

  “Careful.”

  I pressed my hands to the damp wall, regaining my balance. A man stood at the bottom of the stairway, his pale face weathered with age, but there was a kindness in his smile, an ease in the set of his shoulders as he waited patiently for me.

  “Who are you?” I demanded.

  “Hello Cameron, I’m Father Myron.”

  The fact that he knew my name didn’t worry me. Most people I came into contact with seemed to know more about my life than I did, thanks to Grandma keeping me in the dark most of my childhood. In fact, I expected to be confused at this point.

  “Where am I?” I asked.

  He folded his hands politely in front of his white robes. In the dimly lit corridor he practically glowed like a ghost. Hell, maybe he was some long, lost spirit. “You’re in Savannah, Georgia.”

  Savannah. The name of the girl who had died almost a year ago in my small town in Maine. The death that had started it all… acceptance of my powers, my relationship with Lewis. How weird.

  “Savannah,” I whispered.

  “Yes.”

  I started slowly down the steps. “How?”

  “I’m sorry, but it was the only way we could get you here. Time was running out. Your father was headed your way with reinforcements. We had hoped you would trust us, trust Nora, and come of your own free will.”

  Trust Nora? Trust anyone? Ha, I’d learned my lesson. I reached out with my mind, gently testing his brain. No thoughts escaped. But it wasn’t a hard, mental block like someone had put a chip in his brain. Holy Hell, this priest was a mind reader.

  “And because I didn’t trust you, you kidnapped me?”

  Some man of God.

  There was no guilt upon his face, he fully accepted responsibility. “It was for your own protection.”

  I paused in front of him and crossed my arms over my chest. I wasn’t the least bit intimidated by this man of the cloth. “Yeah, I’ve heard that before.”

  In fact, I’d heard that most of my life.

  He turned to the side, pressing his back to the wall. “Come, let us walk. There are other’s eager to see you.”

  I didn’t give a shit who wanted to see me. I knew who they would be, other people wanting to use and abuse my powers. All I cared about at this point was my freedom. “Where’s Lewis?” I demanded, not moving an inch.

  He sighed, his easy-going nature slipping. “Lewis is alive.”

  My entire body trembled with relief, but I didn’t dare let him see how his words affected me. “Where is he?”

  “We shall discuss everything very soon. Don’t worry.” He waved me forward. “Now, if you’d like to know more, I suggest you follow. Talking in the halls is dangerous. We don’t want to be overheard.”

  He turned and started down the corridor. Before I lost him in the shadows, I surged forward, my stocking feet whispering over the cold stone. “Where, exactly, are we in Savannah?”

&nbs
p; His footsteps were soft and sure. “Underground.”

  Startled, I stumbled. “As in under the earth?”

  He smiled, his blue eyes crinkling at the corners. “Savannah has underground tunnels. It’s no secret, although most people have found only remnants. They’ve been here for hundreds of years.”

  I’d been to Savannah once with Grandma. I’d been only eight, but I remembered it so clearly because she had left me in the car alone. She never left me alone. I’d been with her for most of childhood, hopping from place to place, always together, always running from some unknown enemy.

  But for thirty minutes she’d been gone, disappearing inside some building. She’d returned and we’d left. She’d never explained why or what she’d done. But then again, she explained little to me.

  We had stopped for lunch at a restaurant which used to be a pub for pirates. I’d been thrilled as we rarely went anywhere cool. I could still remember the story of the tunnels uncovered underneath that restaurant. Tunnels pirates had supposedly used to kidnap victims and escape the law.

  But this tunnel was long, narrow…different.

  “You use the tunnels?” I asked.

  He nodded as we turned a corner, heading down yet another dimply lit corridor, this one with wooden doors spaced every so often. “We took them over decades ago. No one but us knows about them.”

  I couldn’t help but wonder what was behind those doors. I wrapped my arms around my waist, shivering. “What do you use them for?”

  “We house those like us. Those in trouble, in pain. We use the rooms for meetings.”

  Those like us. Mind readers. Up until a year ago I’d thought Grandma and I were the only people on this planet who could read minds. It was still hard for me to process the fact that there were actually thousands.

  “The singing?” I rubbed my forehead, my skull beginning to throb from too much information, and too many unanswered questions. I only wanted to find Lewis and leave. He’d been right all along. We should have fled, we should have trusted only each other.

  “Ah, yes, you were underneath the floor of a church. The church where I practice.”

 
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