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The mind thieves the min.., p.9
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       The Mind Thieves (The Mind Readers), p.9

           Lori Brighton
 

  She frowned. “There’s no need for name calling.”

  “What do you want?”

  She shrugged, looking out at the ocean, her hair wavering on the breeze. She’d changed into jeans and a zip-up hoodie, but she still looked perfect. Every guys dream, my nightmare. “I want you to listen.”

  I tried to hear over the sound of the waves and the roar of blood pumping to my ears, but my frantic mind made it impossible to understand. Was she alone? Could I outrun her? I was used to running in sand…

  “There are things you need to know,” she started.

  The fishermen were too far away to hear me yell for help and the wind would just carry the sound away. “How’d you find me?”

  She laughed. “I’ve been following you since you got in that taxi and came here.”

  I grew cold at the realization. She’d known about our hotel room. I’d been sitting here a good half hour and the entire time she’d been watching me. I was majorly screwed. “Fine, I’m listening.”

  Like I had any other choice. I’d keep her occupied and grab that gun when she wasn’t looking. But could I actually shoot her? Hopefully I wouldn’t have to. I prayed she’d be smart enough to let me go.

  She picked up a broken scallop, turning the white shell over and rubbing her thumb along the smooth inside. “You’re not safe with Maddox, and you sure as hell aren’t safe on your own. You need to come with me.”

  Sure, no problem. She was obviously insane. “You work for Aaron.”

  She slid me a look filled with pure annoyance. “With Aaron.” She tossed the shell toward the shore. “I work for no one.”

  I rolled my eyes. She was so damn full of herself. “Well, I’ve worked with Aaron and it ended in me losing my memory. So I think I’ll pass, thank you very much.”

  She was quiet for a moment as she studied my face. What was she looking for? I grew warm under her scrutiny. “You think you know the truth?”

  I didn’t respond because I didn’t know the truth. We all knew that my knowledge of the situation was sparse. Still, her intense gaze left me feeling uncomfortable and I shifted, unsure of how far I could push her.

  “So, then tell me the truth,” I finally said, tired of her mind games.

  She shrugged, gazing out at the sea once more. Hot and cold. I couldn’t read the woman. One minute she was holding a gun to my head, the next she acted as if she had my best interest at heart.

  “Aaron might seem…overwhelming, but he’s loyal and thinks what he’s doing is right.”

  I snorted. “Right? I might not remember everything, but I remember the pain I felt when he erased my memory.”

  She slid me a curious glance. “Your memory’s coming back?”

  Although it was a nonchalant glance she gave me, I could see the surprise deep within her gaze. I gritted my teeth, cursing myself. Why had I said anything? I’d talked way too much and it was obvious she didn’t really have my best interest at heart. Time for the gun. I shifted, moving my hand from my knee to the sand.

  “Don’t even think about it.”

  Startled, I lifted my gaze to her.

  “You’re good, but so am I.” She grinned and suddenly the pistol flew across the sand, stopping directly at her feet. I sucked in a sharp breath, resisting the urge to dive after the weapon. She didn’t pick up the pistol as it lay beside her, much to my relief.

  “I prefer to work alone,” I said.

  “Then you’re as good as dead.” She sighed. “Besides, you don’t even know what the hell you’re running from. You think you know me? You think you know Aaron so well? Well, how well do you know your dad?”

  I bit my lower lip, uneasy. “I don’t trust Aaron because he’s proven to be untrustworthy.” But here was Blondie implying I couldn’t trust my own father either. Who could I trust?

  She leaned back, resting on the palms of her hands. Just a typical girl enjoying the beach. “Listen, enough chit chat. You have to decide now. You’re a sitting duck, Cameron…out here alone.”

  Her words triggered something in my memory.

  Suddenly I was inside the café by our cottage in Maine. Lewis and I were sitting at a small table near the windows. Bent close together, it was almost as if… we were dating.

  “Not being able to use your powers to your fullest ability, you’re just a sitting duck, waiting for them to find you,” he said.

  “We’ve been okay so far.”

  “Have you really?” When I didn’t respond he sighed and raked his hand through his hair, the strands shifting and shimmering under the light of the cafe. I could almost remember the feel of those silky strands…

  “Why do you think your Grandmother keeps moving you so often? God, Cam, they’re coming. Rumors are circulating that they’re on the move again, searching for ones with the ability.”

  Fear settled in my gut. “Why?”

  He shrugged. “The world is changing, my bet is the government wants to use us again.”

  “Would that be so bad? We’d be helping…right?”

  He released a harsh laugh, shaking his head. “Yes, it would be bad. We can’t trust them. Not after what they did to us in the past. You think you have no freedom now, wait and see if they get ahold of you. Your life will no longer be your own. And if you even think of rebelling they’ll know and they’ll make you regret it.”

  “So what is it?” Blondie asked, her voice breaking into the memory.

  If she worked with Aaron, she must have known Lewis. “Lewis,” I blurted out, surprised I’d said his name.

  She narrowed her eyes. “What about him?”

  “Is he…okay?”

  Her lips lifted into a slow smile. “So that’s it, huh? Your kryptonite?”

  I clenched my jaw, more than annoyed. How dare she play these games with me. “Is he okay?”

  “Yes.”

  The relief I felt was completely uncalled for, considering the guy had supposedly betrayed me. But Lewis had warned me, not about Aaron, but someone else…

  “I…I can’t.” I wasn’t even sure what I was responding to. All I knew was that Lewis had warned me not to trust anyone. “I can’t go with you.”

  “Too bad.” Blondie tucked her feet underneath her, as if preparing to stand. “Because you’re coming anyway.”

  I didn’t think, only reacted. My fingers curled around a clump of sand and I tossed it toward her. The crystals sparkled in the rising sun before peppering her face. Blondie cried out, her hands going to her eyes in a desperate attempt to swipe away the gritty bits.

  I knew I didn’t have time to waste. I jumped to my feet and raced toward the boardwalk that would take me to the parking lot. The thump of my heart and pound of my feet on the wooden planks drowned out any noise. How much of a head start did I have? Desperately need to know where she was, I dared to look back. Blondie was stumbling to her feet. I knew in that moment she wouldn’t give up. Ever.

  I made it to the large parking lot and froze. The road lay across the lot, the path open and long. She’d have plenty of time to shoot me. No place to hide. On the other hand, the fortress, gray and dark against the early morning light, stood to my left. It might look gloomy, but at the moment, it was all I had. Frantically, I searched my mind, attempting to remember the fort my father and I had explored those many, many years back. But I could barely remember the last six months of my life, it was impossible to know the details of a memory that old.

  The stairs. They would lead to the top.

  I bolted forward and raced up the wide, shallow steps at the back of the fort. A narrow platform provided a roof. Beyond lay another set of stairs. I ran to the low, stone wall that surrounded the top and leaned over, looking out upon the shore. The sand lay empty. I knew better than to believe Blondie had left. My heart slammed wildly, urging me to run, but I needed to think things through. Maddox and I had been running for days and look how well that had turned out. Resting my hands on the stone wall, I reached out with my mind, searching for Blondie, b
ut felt nothing. Where the hell was she?

  Grandma said I was powerful. One of the best. Maybe she’d been wrong.

  I squeezed my eyes shut and searched for her again.

  There… I felt someone coming up the steps, the slightest pulse of energy tingling over my skin… coming closer… closer… closer…

  “You think to break into my mind?” she yelled out, her voice echoing against the stone walls. “Can’t happen Cameron.”

  Startled, I opened my eyes. She could feel me, and if she could sense me, she knew where I was.

  “I’ll always be able to find you,” she said, as if reading my mind. “You’re being ridiculous. Time to give up.”

  I jerked my head right. Could I make it to the opposite stairs? But then where would I go? The vegetation below wasn’t tall enough to hide behind. I heard her footsteps at the top of the fort and panic overwhelmed me. Too late to run. I dove behind a black cannon, attempting to calm my harsh breath. She was insane if she thought I was going back to Aaron… the man who had deleted my memory.

  “You’re good, I’ll give you that, but you’re out of practice. Untrained.”

  Oh God, she was close… so close.

  “You don’t know what you’re capable of. We can teach you to use your full powers.”

  The world shifted again and I was in a study, Lewis and Aaron in front of me.

  “Your concentration is wonderful. Your ability to block everything…amazing.” Aaron shook his head. “If only you’d been taught meditation early on. Hell, if you’d done yoga it would have come out.”

  He took my hand and helped me to my feet. I felt oddly weak. “You’re doing amazingly well, Cameron. So much better than I’d expected.”

  I nodded slowly, watching Lewis as he walked toward the windows. He stared outside, as if in deep thought. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was contemplating. He seemed upset…or maybe just lost, confused, I wasn’t sure.

  “Cameron,” Blondie called out from directly behind me, jerking me from the memory.

  I didn’t have time to think, didn’t even dare look back, but bolted forward, out from behind the safety of the cannon and directly into Blondie. Shocked, I stumbled back.

  “But—”

  “I can make you think you’ve heard something you haven’t. Nifty trick.”

  Damn, but I’d forgotten. She’d made me think I’d heard her voice from behind, just as she had in the garage when Maddox and I had been hiding. Maddox had warned me… Oh God, what the hell was she? She sure as heck wasn’t some common mind reader.

  She grinned, obviously enjoying my shock. “Give it up. You’re coming with me, Cameron.”

  My fingers curled, my anger flaring. “You think so?”

  “I know so.” Her smirk fell, annoyance flashing in those blue eyes. She stepped closer, her body a dark shadow against the rising sun. “You have no idea what I’m capable of.”

  “Screw you.” A sharp pain sliced through my head. The entire world went blank, darkness and despair wrapping tightly around me, suffocating. It was too much. I cried out, landing on my knees to the hard, stone floor.

  The pain faded as quickly as it had come, but I remained breathless, kneeling upon the ground, fearful it would happen again. Blondie knelt beside me, her gaze as hard as the stone around us. “No idea.”

  I lifted my head, my anger palpable, it pulsed from me in waves I could barely contain. “And you have no idea what I’m capable of.”

  Before she had time to prepare, I threw my fist forward, right into her perfect face. My knuckles collided with her chin, sending her stumbling back. I had the advantage of surprise on my side once more. It was all I had.

  I surged to my feet and darted past her, stumbling down the back steps, knowing I had little time to hide. If only I knew how to hotwire a car! I followed the trail that led around the building to the front of the fort. Could I hitchhike?

  I focused my attention on the fort. Dark tunnels faded into the stone building. I remembered exploring those short corridors with my dad. Beyond the fort, right would take me back to the open beach. Left I’d end up at the road and further, in swampy water that I’d rather not take my chances with. No cars drove down the street, offering assistance. I was completely alone in this and I could sense Blondie’s energy coming closer.

  Thundering footsteps from above sent my heart skittering. I darted into one of those dark tunnels that led into the fort. The corridor wasn’t long and I had only two rooms to choose from.

  “Damn it, Cameron,” Blondie snapped.

  I slipped into the first room, hiding in the shadows and crouching low. My only source of light came from the barred windows fifteen feet from me. The dirt was soft underfoot and litter peppered the ground. Graffiti covered the walls in a sad display of those who had been here. But had they been running for their lives as I was? Who the hell was I kidding? I was so going to get caught.

  Blondie paused outside that window like a hunter waiting for prey. I didn’t dare move, barely even breathed.

  “Come out, come out,” she sang softly. “I can sense you close by.”

  My heart pounded, I thought for sure she would hear its beat. She sighed and started toward the parking lot, away from me. I released the air I held. Time to make my move. I’d have a clear shot to the road and then… then… I’d think about it when I got there. I started to stand. A steel arm wrapped around me and pulled me back into a hard, male chest. I opened my mouth to scream but a hand clamped over my lips, trapping the sound. I was pulled back, my shoes scraping against the floor, leaving trails in the dirt.

  “Shhh,” a man whispered, his breath warm on the side of my face. “She’s out there. Cover your thoughts.”

  I immediately did as he said, not daring to fight or question him. He knew of Blondie and he was trying to hide from her, that was good enough for me.

  “I’m going to let go,” he whispered. “Stay calm, alright?”

  I nodded.

  Slowly, he released his hold and stepped back. Just as slowly, I turned.

  There, in the shadows, his angular face seemed oddly familiar. Who was he?

  I narrowed my eyes, stepping closer to him. That brown hair, that tall, sinewy body, those eyes….

  Realization dawned like a slap to the face.

  “Dad?” I whispered.

  Chapter 10

  “Stay quiet.”

  He moved toward the doorway, not making a sound. A man trained to hide. Trained to hunt. Trained for this world.

  Stunned, I just stood there searching the familiarity of his features in the low light, unable to believe he was truly there. Searching the way he walked, his hair… everything about him…all so familiar.

  It was him. My dad was alive.

  I sank back, needing the stone wall for support. “Dad?”

  “Shhh,” he held up his hand, silencing me.

  But I didn’t want to keep quiet. I wanted to scream, to laugh, to… I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I gritted my teeth to keep from calling to him again. But I couldn’t stop the trembles from raking my body. Violent trembles that started in my very core. I felt close to losing it, as if that thin thread that had kept me linked to sanity was fraying. My dad was ten feet from me. My dad. The man who was supposed to be dead. The man I hadn’t seen in over a decade.

  My dad.

  He gave a quick wave of his hand, urging me forward. “Let’s go.”

  I paused for only a moment, my rational mind doing battle with my emotions. No explanations. I knew there wasn’t time. Still, I’d expected something, anything from the man who was supposed to be dead. We reached the tunnel, dull morning light hitting his body and making him glow.

  He was my father. Older, of course, but still my dad. There were lines at the corners of his eyes, I noticed them as he searched the front lawn. I couldn’t look away. Silver strands marked his temples, peppering his dark hair and showing his age. But there was no doubt about it...he was my father.
<
br />   Suddenly I was angry, so very mad that time had moved forward, stealing moments from me and my father. He had grown old. Any chance of a life with him was gone, really. There was no going back in time.

  “I have a car not far from here,” he whispered, completely oblivious to my pain.

  My dad was talking to me. I saw his lips moving, but couldn’t quite understand the words. I didn’t really understand anything at the moment. My emotions were going into overdrive, popping and sizzling like a bad circuit board.

  He looked back at me, as if expecting something. “Ready?”

  I nodded dumbly. He slipped his hand into mine. The contact sent my mind spinning. No longer was I in the present time. I was back in that small cottage we’d owned when I was a child.

  “Why are you doing this?” my mother asked.

  I was little. So young. I peeked around the corner of the hall, awakened by their argument.

  “To protect you. Both of you.”

  “You’ll protect us by staying with us!” She grasped onto his arm. “They’ll come for us. You know that.”

  “You know where to go if you need help.”

  “I don’t trust—”

  “Let’s go,” my father said and the memory disappeared as quickly as it had come.

  His grip on my hand tightened as he pulled me from the safety of the building and into the unforgiving morning. I stumbled over my feet, barely aware of where we went, still focused on that memory. Had my mom known about my father’s powers? Who hadn’t she trusted?

  As we burst into the sunlight, a combination of emotions rolled through me. Anger, confusion, worry… Running for our lives. This was so not the reunion I’d envisioned.

  Dad paused at the end of the fort wall. In the brilliant light of the sun it struck me hard… he was real. His touch real. This couldn’t be happening. My heart slammed erratically in my chest, not from fear. No, from shock.

  I stood there, so close to my father I could feel his body’s heat, so close I could see the flecks of blue in his hazel eyes. And as I stood there, I tried desperately to search my memory for anything other than our moment at the beach. Something. Surely there was more. Surely we’d had a relationship at one time. Had we shared breakfast in the morning? Had he taken me to the park and pushed me on the swings?

 
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