The Mind Keepers (The Mind Readers)

The Mind
Keepers

 

By Lori
Brighton

 
 
Copyright 2013 Lori Brighton

www.LoriBrighton.com

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights
under copyright reserved above , no part of this publication may be reproduced,
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or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise)
without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above
publisher of this book.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s
imagination or used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademark status
and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction,
which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these
trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark
owners.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment
only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would
like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy
for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Cover art and design by Ronnell D. Porter.

 

The Mind Readers Series in Order
:

 

The Mind Readers,
book 1 (Ebook version
is free!)

 

The Mind Thieves
, book 2

 

The Mind Games
, book 3

 

The Mind Keepers
, a novella

 
 
 
 

The Mind Keepers

 

Lori Brighton

 
 

For all the fans
of the Mind Readers series.

One more story
for you, just one more…

 

Chapter 1

 

Nora

 
 

I saw my mom in the grocery
store.

I know what you’re thinking…so
freaking what? Big deal. And for normal people, it wouldn’t have been such a momentous
occasion. After all, most girls saw their moms regularly; in the grocery store,
at home, pretty much everywhere. But I wasn’t most girls.

And oh yeah, I forgot to mention
my mom died nine months ago.

Yet, as I stood there in the frozen
food section of Miller’s Mart, the only grocery store on Haddock Island in
Maine, I swore I saw her. With the door to the freezer open, through the cloud
of frost that rose around me obscuring my view, I tried desperately to decipher
that lithe form and that dark hair before she turned the corner.

The intercom crackled, jerking
me back into reality. “Clean up in aisle four.”

Desperate for answers, I slammed
the freezer shut, not bothering to grab the popsicles I’d been stocking up on. I
left the cart behind and moved purposefully down the aisle. Each squeak of my tennis
shoes over the linoleum sent my pulse thumping even harder. It wasn’t her. It
wasn’t
. So why then did my heart give out
a frantic, hopeful beat?

At the end of the aisle I paused
and took in a deep breath, attempting to calm my nerves.
It wasn’t her
. I stepped around a mountain of toilet paper. Mr.
Cramer was searching the meat section, looking for that perfect steak. No one
else.

Sensing me, he glanced up and
smiled. “Oh, hello Nora.”

Like me, he was a local, and all
the locals knew each other here.

She doesn’t look well,
he thought
. Hope she’s not into drugs. Kids and drugs these days…

His thoughts floated to me so
naturally that hearing his words didn’t even make me flinch. But then when you
grew up being able to read people’s minds, their very thoughts, not much
surprised you. Except for parents returning from their watery grave.

“Hey,” I replied, peeking around
the next aisle.

No one.

Just great. I rubbed my hands
over my face and moved back to my cart in utter humiliation. I was nuts. Don’t
get me wrong, I knew I had been on the brink of going crazy only months ago,
but then losing your parents would do that to a person. I’d say I had a pretty
good excuse.

In the past, when the house was
so quiet I could hear the waves crashing mournfully against the shore, the
night so dark it weighed on me like a thick wool blanket in the middle of
summer, I could barely move, let alone breathe. Nights when all I could do was
go over the events in my mind again and again, wondering if there was anything
I could have done to prevent what happened. Yeah, I’d been a bit obsessive.

But now I had the school and the
students to keep me occupied. Now, I actually had a life…sort of. I’d even gotten
to the point where I could go five minutes without thinking about Mom’s death.
I thought I was moving on. Apparently, I was wrong.
 

“Nora.” Caroline appeared next
to me, juggling four boxes of cereal in her scrawny arms. “You okay?”

The kid was way too astute as
she peered up at me with those soulful blue eyes. I recognized that look of
wariness. They thought I’d been cured of my insanity, and I didn’t want them
thinking any other way. I forced my lips to curl.

“Yeah.” I ruffled her blonde
hair. “Fine. You ready?”

“Sure.” She dumped the cereal in
the cart, then grabbed two boxes of popsicles.

I took the moment to quickly
scan the store one more time. Still, I couldn’t shake the eerie sensation that
I was being watched. But there was no one, of course, which didn’t bode well
for my sanity. When I returned my attention to Caroline it was with some
annoyance that I realized she was warily watching me again. Way too astute.

“Come on.” I made my way to the
cashier, hoping to outrun the kid’s intense gaze, and any questions that might
be forming in that little brain of hers. Thank God the girl didn’t blab much. Hopefully
she’d keep my little lapse of sanity to herself.

I was barely aware of the
cashier as she chatted with Caroline. Barely aware of the woman’s worrisome
thoughts as she wondered if her son had gotten his homework done. I just wanted
to get out of there and return home where I could lock myself away and figure
out what the heck had just happened.

“Have a good day,” the cashier
murmured with an overly bright smile that didn’t quite reach her tired brown
eyes.

Worried the woman might want to
continue our lame attempt at a polite conversation, I shoved my shopping cart
out the door, nearly running down some elderly tourist in the process.

“Sorry,” I called back as I
dodged left and headed toward the sidewalk, the wheels of the cart whizzing
like a cat trying to cough up a hair ball. The air was warm, spring having
arrived early. It wasn’t exactly humid, but sweat peppered my forehead. Just
one block over, tourists crowded Main Street, eating ice cream and fudge while
watching the boats pass by. An idyllic picture of New England, if one didn’t
have to worry about lurking ghosts.

Caroline hummed, thinking about the
warm weather and playing tag this evening with the other kids. Her memories seeped
onto the wind toward me. She hadn’t quite yet learned how to mask her thoughts,
and there was an innocence about her mind that made me acutely aware of how
vulnerable she was, how vulnerable so many of the people I cared about were.
 

I hadn’t seen my mom. It had
been a mirage. So why did the fine hairs on the back of my neck still stand on
end? Why did my pulse still pound and my gaze flicker from yard to yard as if
expecting to see her? I’d been trained from an early age to be aware of my
surroundings, to know when I was being followed. Why couldn’t I shake the
feeling that I was being trailed now?

We paused beside the car, and I
started loading groceries into the vehicle with what I hoped was a casual ease
while surreptitiously scanning my surroundings. No one but tourists strolled
the sidewalks. None of the Victorian cottages that lined the streets looked
suspicious. Where was the sensation coming from?

“Caroline.”

“Yeah?” She lifted a box of popsicles
and peeked inside, dreaming of the treat she’d have back home.

“Do you sense anything weird?”

She paused, frowning, and I
cursed myself for making her uneasy once more. “Not really. Why?”

I forced a smile. “Nothing.
Just…nothing. Go on, get in.”

Appeased, Caroline jumped into
the back and pulled the seatbelt across her chest, still humming. I glanced around
once more, and that’s when I saw her…

The woman’s back was to me as
she strolled down the alley that ran between the grocery and the hardware
store. I froze. The entire world disappeared, and only she and I remained. She
was slim, her footsteps sure, her long dark hair fluttering on the same breeze
that whispered across my neck.

No
. It couldn’t be. But even as my rational mind denied the
possibility, my heart told me it had to be true. “Mom?” I whispered.
 

She paused at the end of the
alley as if sensing my attention. Slowly, she glanced back. I couldn’t see her
features from where I stood… I
needed
to see her features. She turned left, disappearing behind the hardware store.

Desperation spurred me forward. Without
thought I bolted toward her, leaping over a potted fern and jumping onto the
sidewalk. I
was not
crazy. I
would
uncover the truth no matter what
it took. My feet echoed between the two buildings as I raced down the alley. At
the wall, I froze, breathless, and glanced left.

Empty. Nothing but a few pieces
of garbage rustling along the asphalt. She was gone, yet there was no way out. Brick
walls formed a narrow rectangle. Too high to climb, not even a window
interrupted the walls. I looked up at the sky. My blood went cold. No way out,
yet she was gone.

“Nora?” Caroline stood beside
me, that wariness back in her gaze. “Are you okay?”

I should have smiled reassuringly
at her. I should have demanded to know if she’d seen anything weird. I did neither.
I couldn’t.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Let’s go.” I
rested a hand on her shoulder and gently led her toward the car, not daring to
look back, afraid of what I’d see and what it would imply about my sanity.

But I wasn’t fine. Far from it.
My heart had dropped to my feet and my hands were trembling. The world was once
again harsh and confusing. God, I was going to be sick.
 

Either I had gone totally,
completely insane…or my mom was still alive.

 

****

 

I was still shaking as I carried
the bags through the front door. Shaking as I paused in the massive foyer to
calm my racing heart.
It wasn’t her.
Taking
in a deep breath, I focused on the crystal chandelier hanging above, glistening
from the early morning sun. Why had I trusted that anything could be normal? I
wasn’t made for normal.
 
 

Vaguely I could hear Lewis and
Cameron in the library, their soft laughter, their whispered words of love
interrupting the silence of the estate.
Gag
.
At least my nausea superseded the chill that had coated my body since I’d supposedly
spotted my mom. For a brief moment, I envied the fact that they could trust
each other so completely, that they had each other to rely upon.

If Cameron had seen our mother,
she would have undoubtedly told Lewis and he would have done something sickeningly
supportive, like dredge the river, find Mom’s body, take some of her cells and
clone her just so Cameron wouldn’t think she was insane. Hell, he was probably
working on it for his genetics class even now. But me, I had no one to back me
up. No one who would believe my crazy story. Sensing me, they surged from the
couch where they’d been cuddling.
 
 

“Need help?” Lewis was there
before I could respond.

Cameron flushed, looking guilty.
I quirked a brow, wondering what, exactly, they’d been doing.

“There are plenty more outside.”
The perfect boyfriend. Seriously, there was nothing the guy couldn’t do. It sort
of made me ill. Then again, considering my only serious boyfriend had betrayed me
more than once, anyone would look good in comparison.

“I’ll get the rest.” He left the
house, Caroline trailing after him. All the kids had a crush on Lewis, and why
wouldn’t they? Not only was he ridiculously kind, but he sort of looked like Zac
Efron.

“Your shirt is unbuttoned.”

Her face went brilliant red, her
hands going to the buttons of her white shirt. “What?”

“Just kidding.”

“Very funny,” Cameron muttered
as she started toward me.

But her annoyance was quickly
replaced with something I didn’t like. Concern. Either I still looked like I’d
just seen a ghost, or somehow Caroline had sent her a mental message that I’d
gone off the deep end. Either way, I was so not in the mood to discuss my
sanity.

Hoping to avoid her, I quickly headed
through the foyer and toward the back of the house. Although it had been a
weird, tumultuous relationship, I was finally starting to feel like Cameron was
actually my sister instead of some mythical mind reader who I only vaguely
recalled knowing as a child.

Although we hadn’t seen each
other in years, she was the only family I had left. I’d do whatever it took to
protect her, and I knew she’d do the same for me. I also knew that if I started
showing signs of crazy, she’d place me in the nearest mental ward ASAP, not
only for the children’s safety but for my own. I knew because months ago when
life seemed completely dark and depressing, I’d made her promise to put me away
if I didn’t get better. The truth was, people with our abilities could be
dangerous, and I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I’d hurt enough people
already.
 

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