The mind games the mind.., p.6
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       The Mind Games (The Mind Readers), p.6

           Lori Brighton
 

  She stood. “No. If you stay a little longer, we might be able to formulate a plan.”

  “How long?”

  She tucked her hair behind her ears, ears that matched mine. “I’m not sure. A month.”

  “A month? No!”

  She sighed, looking out over the waves. “It’s not just about you and your guilt.” Those blue eyes pierced mine. “You’re being selfish.”

  “And you’re telling me that Lewis’ life isn’t worth anything.”

  Her jaw clenched. Was she just like Aaron? Sacrifice others for the greater good? Just like my father? Just like all of them?

  “I know you don’t care about me, but what about your sister?” She was playing the guilt card. “Nora has already gone through enough. Would you really risk endangering her again?”

  I wondered for a brief moment if she even cared about my life. Or was this all about Nora? Obviously they were close; they’d lived together for years. But the realization that I was an afterthought still stung.

  “Why me?” I whispered, hating the way my voice had cracked with emotion. “Why send only me away; why not Nora?”

  “Because you’re the carrier, Cameron.”

  Exasperated, I spread my arms wide. “What does that even mean?”

  “What did Sierra tell you?”

  “Just that…that I’m a carrier. I can use other people’s powers for my own. Big deal.”

  “It is a big deal.” She glanced toward the cottage where Nora and Sierra were still chatting. “Let’s walk.”

  I wanted answers. I didn’t want to stroll along the beach chatting with my mom. But she started down the shore and because I needed to know, I followed. The beach was empty; tourists had headed toward town for dinner. On the horizon the sun was a fiery ball of orange and pink. I liked the ocean here; it reminded me more of Maine and the moment when I’d first met Lewis. The waves dark and mysterious, threatening and powerful. I’d missed the suspense of the rough water.

  “Do you feel the energy, coming off the waves?” my mom asked, as if sensing the way of my thoughts. “The energy from the moon? The energy that keeps the planets in balance?”

  I nodded. Even now I could feel that energy. I’d always felt it… that pull. That low hum that pulsed through my blood; that connected me to the world and kept me sane when my life seemed to be falling apart.

  “Everything is made up of energy. We are made up of energy. It’s what connects us together.”

  Chilled, I crossed my arms over my chest, the skirt of my dress whipping around my legs. “If everyone has energy, why am I so special? What does this have to do with being the carrier?”

  “It’s true, everyone has energy, but only a few carry that energy like a host. The energy that you have, that Nora has, that all of my family has comes from me. I am the carrier, the source.”

  I shook my head, confused and paused near a breaker of large rocks. “What do you mean?”

  “The ability to carry the energy to others is passed down through generations. The universe chooses who it seems fit. I was chosen to carry the energy for my family, and now you have been chosen as well. You are the next carrier, the next source of power.”

  Chapter 6

  That night I dreamt.

  I was in a field of purple wildflowers, a place vaguely familiar, although I couldn’t place it, or maybe I didn’t want to place it. Sitting on a blanket, I waited. Who or what I waited for, I wasn’t sure.

  There was no clue around me. The sun was warm, and white fluffy clouds floated lazily across a brilliant blue sky. It was a peaceful setting, but I grew impatient.

  I shoved my hands into the red plaid and stood, realizing I wore the T-shirt and shorts I’d put on for bed, my feet still bare. I wasn’t even sure who I looked for, but knew it was someone important. The sun was bright, too bright and I could barely see. I shaded my eyes and searched the field. Only swaying grass, and on the perimeter, a thick, dark woods.

  “Cameron,” a familiar voice called softly from behind me.

  I spun around, my heart leaping in my chest. “Lewis?”

  From the brilliant light of the sun, Lewis stepped forward. “It’s me. I’m okay.”

  I raced toward him, the wildflowers whispering against my legs, and threw my arms around his neck. He stumbled back under the force of me. I didn’t care if I was dreaming, didn’t care if I’d gone insane. I laughed, so happy I could barely breathe. Afraid he’d disappear, I squeezed him close and lifted on tiptoes, pressing my lips to his. The heat of his skin startled me, and I leaned away.

  “You’re okay? You’re sure?”

  When he didn’t answer, I stepped back and studied him. He wore a gray jumpsuit, the same sort of jumpsuit the prisoners wore at the S.P.I. compound. He was pale, and if possible, he seemed thinner than when I’d seen him less than a week ago. A shiver of unease whispered over my skin. I crossed my arms, trying to hug myself.

  “Tell me the truth,” I insisted, feeling suddenly cold.

  He smiled that half smile. “I’ll be okay. But don’t come after me, please, just stay here.”

  The sun disappeared, covered by a large dark cloud, throwing the field into shadows that lurked along the edges as if waiting to pounce. Had my mom somehow gotten to him? Was this dream her doing? “What do you mean?”

  He reached for me, but I stepped back, away from him, afraid that if he touched me I’d lose sense of reality. “Please, I don’t want you to put yourself in danger. You would never make it through the fence. Just let me go.”

  “No!”

  “Cameron…” He started to fade, the trees visible through his shimmering body.

  “Lewis?” I surged forward but just as I reached him the world around me disappeared.

  The arguing woke me. It surged over the roar of the waves coming through the open window, and startled me from slumber. For one long moment I merely lay there in the dark, listening to my own harsh breathing, the thrum of blood through my veins.

  “Lewis,” I whispered. “No.”

  Squeezing my eyes shut, I curled into a ball. I didn’t want the dream to end. I didn’t want Lewis to disappear. Lewis. I’d dreamt of Lewis. Lewis, who had looked so ill. Lewis, who had told me to leave him to the wolves; to accept that I would never see him again.

  It was a dream. Just a dream. He certainly hadn’t meant it.

  Slowly, I opened my eyes and studied Sierra’s guest room I was sharing with Nora. She slept in the twin bed next to mine, her breathing soft and even.

  I rubbed my forehead. Had I been dreaming? He’d felt so real, looked so real. I pressed my fingers to my lips. I could still feel the pressure of our kiss.

  The dream of Aaron and my mom in her kitchen had been real; what if this dream with Lewis was real as well? No, I couldn’t accept that it was real. I shoved aside my blanket, suddenly hot.

  There it was again… murmured voices that echoed through the window. I bolted upright, and brushed my hair from my face. Between the open curtains I could see a small bonfire on the beach. Slowly, I stood and moved toward the windows. Aaron and my mom sat in the sand, while Sierra stood near the water’s edge, gazing out at the dark ocean. Above, the moon glowed brightly, highlighting the tense scene with an eerie glow.

  I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it was obvious they were upset. Aaron jumped to his feet and began pacing while my mom shook her head. I narrowed my eyes and tried to focus on their murmured voices, tried to hear them as I’d heard them that day when they were in the kitchen. Mom turned, looking directly at the window. Startled, I stumbled back into the darkness.

  Shoot, had she sensed me?

  The murmuring continued and I relaxed somewhat. Unable to help myself, I slipped on my flip-flops and moved into the living room. The French doors were open, allowing the cool night breeze to flutter those white curtains like ghostly dwellers. Buddha sat in the middle of the deck, grinning up at me as if knowing something I didn’t. I ignored the statue and moved
across the deck, following the light of the moon. Beyond the campfire the sky was black, mysterious, peppered with tiny white stars.

  Sierra had settled near the campfire, and watched me walk toward them. But Mom and Aaron were still arguing, completely oblivious to the fact that I was headed their way.

  “I want Lewis back as much as the rest of you, but there is no way we can reach him,” Aaron said harshly.

  Was he joking? Since when did he want Lewis back? Since when did he care? Anger quickened my steps. “You want Lewis back?”

  They turned toward me.

  “He’s there because of you!”

  I could feel the pulse of Aaron’s annoyance; it came at me like the waves currently crashing upon the shore. “No, he was safely in Massachusetts where I left him.”

  I narrowed my eyes, was he blaming me?

  “Stop,” my mom demanded, standing. “Just stop. I’m tired of the lies, tired of keeping secrets, tired of the fighting. No more trying to control each other.”

  Aaron pointed toward me. “If she goes to the compound, she will be caught. If she’s caught, she’ll be tortured. Nora barely escaped and she’s better qualified then Cameron.”

  “You don’t know how qualified I am.”

  “Did she tell you?” he asked, settling his hands on his hips. “Did your sister tell you about the pain she went through?”

  “I think I know a little about pain.”

  “The pain you felt when I erased your memory is nothing compared to what they will do.”

  Despite myself, a shiver raced over my body. I’d tortured prisoners, hadn’t I? Probably even killed one or two while I’d been at the compound, working for my dad. Was this karma coming back to kick me in the butt?

  “You think you’re so qualified,” Aaron sneered. “Can you keep me out?”

  I barely had time to reinforce my mental wall when I felt him come after me. The force of his mental invasion sent me stumbling back, although he hadn’t physically touched me. For a brief moment everything went black and I fell onto my butt into the cold sand.

  I stared unblinkingly up at the dark sky, the voices of my Mother and Sierra a muffled murmur. As I lay there, stunned, I knew I had to regain control and fast. I had to prove to them that I was capable of helping Lewis.

  I clawed my way through the darkness, forced myself to feel the strength of my body, the strength of my energy. Gritting my teeth, I jumped to my feet and reinforced my mental wall that had crumbled so easily. The world came roaring back, leaving behind a dull ache in the back of my skull. The firelight danced and blurred before me. My mom was arguing with Aaron, their voices overly harsh. Sierra stood to the side, merely watching.

  Aaron, who had hurt me with ease, no reservations. A man who I swore took delight in torturing others and abusing his power. He hadn’t even bothered to glance my way to make sure I was all right. It would be his mistake.

  With a mental roar, I threw my energy forward, directed the source right at him. I took perverse satisfaction in watching Aaron cry out and fall to his knees. When he gripped his head in his hands, I only grew more delighted.

  “Cameron, stop!” my mom was suddenly in front of me. “You don’t understand your own strength! Now stop!”

  When I didn’t immediately cease, she gripped my shoulder and shook me. I pulled back my energy and jerked away from her, my giddiness turning to anger. “Why? He wanted to see what I could do; I showed him.”

  Aaron was breathing harshly as he regained his feet. A trickle of blood trailed from the corner of his mouth and glistened in the moonlight. The sight of that blood made me ill. I looked away, realizing what I’d done, the same thing my father had me do to his prisoners. What the hell was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I stop myself?

  “I see you’ve learned something new since you left Maine.” He swiped the blood with the back of his hand, smearing it across his pale skin.

  Left him? As if I’d had a choice. The anger I thought I could control had returned.

  “More than one thing.” I swiped my arm through the air, sending my energy toward the fire pit. A log lifted. I jerked my arm left and the log took off toward Aaron, twirling and spinning through the air like a baton on fire.

  Aaron gasped, stumbling out of the way.

  The log fell harmlessly to the sand, embers bursting into the air like fireworks.

  Aaron’s attention snapped to me. “Anything else you want to share?”

  “I am ready. As ready as I can be.”

  My mom sighed, rubbing her hands over her face. “Do you understand how secure their compound is?”

  “I’m touched you care,” I said wryly.

  The cool breeze shifted as a dark cloud rolled over the moon. It was as if the weather matched our moods.

  “I do care,” Mom insisted.

  I dismissed her comment. The weight of her words meant nothing, at least that’s what I told myself. “I was there; I know the lay of the land.”

  Mom kicked sand over the fire pit, extinguishing the flames and throwing the beach into darkness. “Whatever you saw was the basics. There’s more. There is no way to get in and out without being seen. Tara can’t help you; you’ll be on your own.” Mom shook her head. “I’m sorry Cameron. We can’t risk it. We can’t lose you again. You’re not going.”

  She turned and started for the house, Aaron following. Just like that, they thought they could actually tell me what to do? I was eighteen, for God’s sake. She didn’t have the right to control me, not after she’d abandoned me.

  For one long moment, Sierra and I merely stood there, the soft murmur of the ocean waves our only company. As my mom disappeared into the house, so did my anger, leaving me lost and confused.

  “Well,” Sierra said softly. “That was quite dramatic.”

  I slid a wary glance her way, wondering what her point was.

  She started toward the cottage. “I’m off to bed. You better get some sleep, you’ll have a long drive ahead of you tomorrow.”

  I stiffened at her comment, watching with some shock as she moved toward the deck. How had she known I was planning to leave with or without my mom’s permission? I shook my head in exasperation and started toward the cottage. It didn’t matter what Sierra knew. What mattered was she was obviously not going to tell Mom.

  It was settled; in the morning, I would save Lewis.

  ****

  While the rest of the house slept, I shoved a pair of jeans, an extra T-shirt, and my measly fifty bucks in a backpack. The sun had yet to rise, but the sky had turned from black to gray, indicating dawn would soon make an appearance. I didn’t plan to be here when that sun peeked over the horizon.

  “They’ll most likely catch you,” Nora said, her voice unnaturally loud in the quiet morning.

  Startled, I glanced toward her bed. She was wide awake, sitting up and watching me. So much for sneaking out. Seriously, was I being punished for some crappy past life where I’d murdered bunnies or something? I wondered how much I’d have to pay to keep her mouth shut.

  She drew her knees to her chest and leaned back against the headboard. “And if they catch you, they will torture you.”

  How many times would they try that line? The threat hadn’t worked when Mom and Aaron said it, and it wasn’t working now. I pulled the backpack straps over my shoulders. “I can handle the pain.”

  She released a wry laugh as she jumped from bed. “Right. So your plan is to stroll in there and rescue the damsel in distress? No problem.” She grabbed her jeans and T-shirt and started dressing.

  I frowned, wondering if she was going to tell Mom and the others. “Yep, that’s the plan.” Okay, I was acting completely blasé about the entire situation, but I knew enough to show no fear. Any weakness and they’d pounce.

  She flipped on the bedside lamp, adding a soft glow to the dark room. “Aaron thinks I should tell you in detail what they did to me so you’ll drop this asinine plan.”

  My face flushed with annoyance
. Ignoring her, I turned and started toward the door, but she was too quick and stepped in front of me, blocking my exit. Dressed in jeans and a baby blue T-shirt, she pulled on her tennis shoes as if she had plans to go somewhere. My instincts clamored in warning.

  “Here.” She lifted her hair, pulling the strands away from her face. Even in the low lamp light I could see the thin white scar that followed her hairline under her ear and down around the back of her skull.

  A shiver of unease raced across my scalp, as if I’d been the one to have the surgery.

  “The first thing they did was crack open my skull.” She let her hair fall back into place, hiding the damage. “Dad didn’t know. Although I’m not sure he would’ve stopped them even if he had.”

  I felt ill, my knees suddenly weak. Were they doing the same thing to Lewis even now? If she’d thought to talk me out of leaving, she was only doing the opposite. In fact, I should have left days ago.

  She grabbed her purse and pulled the strap over her shoulders, letting it fall diagonally across her chest. “They placed some sort of implants in my head, to collect my brain waves. After I healed they used me to break into the thoughts of other mind readers.”

  The same thing they’d done to me, except I hadn’t been forced.

  She grabbed her own overnight bag and hefted it upon her shoulder. “Mom had a surgeon friend, another mind reader, who extracted the implants once I escaped and returned home.”

  She’d had two bouts of brain surgery. Yeah, you could say I felt like a wimp for whining about the things that had happened to me. I shook off my dread, replacing it with a driving need to save Lewis. “I have to go.”

  Nora opened the bedroom door. “Then let’s go.”

  “Wait a minute. Go where?” I demanded, confused.

  “Shhh,” she whispered as she moved into the living room.

  With a frustrated sigh, I followed. The house was silent. Mom and Aaron were sleeping in the other guest room. Gross. I prayed they were just sharing the bed as friends. Sierra was somewhere, probably talking to spirits, meditating or something equally as spiritual.

 

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