Excerpt from Dreaming Dangerously
Book 1 of the Children of the Psi Series
Book 1 of the Children of the Psi Series
Chapter 1 My Secret
I know when it’s going to happen. Usually. Because I want it to happen. Sometimes, I want to know other people’s secrets. So, I mind-drop them and read their thoughts. But sometimes I get accidentally curious, and that’s when my head feels like it’s going to explode.
Like just moments ago, when I peered out the car window at my new neighborhood. Houses huddled together in tight formation, one-story houses with cathedral ceilings, screened-in sun rooms and in-ground pools, squatting on perfectly landscaped yards way too small for them. I started to wonder what the people inside them are like. What are their secrets?
And before I realized it, I heard their thoughts:
…that skirt, eww… A girl’s thoughts.
It’s been. A woman.
…it hurts. A boy with a skinned knee.
When will he get it…she hates me…nooo …take down the drapes…whoa, mama…socks…cut the dead palm branches…Band-Aid…he didn’t even change the…
All the thoughts jumbled together, and images swirled in my head. I forgot to concentrate only on Dad’s thoughts. I should have known better. It makes me dizzy and nauseous. Burning fluid rises up the back of my throat.
“Dad! Pull over! Quick!” I grab his arm.
“What? What’s going on?” His thoughts fire at me. She looks pale, like she’s going to…not in the car! Dad slams on the breaks, tires squealing, and pulls the car over to the shoulder of the road. He reaches across me to open the passenger door. Is it the flu? Something else? He wonders.
I turn away from him, clutching my stomach. As I lean out the door, dry heaves erupt from my throat, but nothing comes up because my stomach is empty. A few hundred feet away from the curb, a family is having a Saturday cookout. Some people around my age are staring back at us. Humiliation crashes over me, and I cover my burning face with my hair. I sit back and slam the car door shut, slinking down in the seat as Dad drives away.
“You don’t have to apologize to me, Honey,” my father says. Her stomach is so sensitive. I thought she’d outgrown that. Isn’t that what the pediatrician told us? In Dad’s mind, I’m seven again, and we’re in a doctor’s office. His greenish-blue eyes flicker over to mine, drooped and reminiscent. She’s not a little girl anymore. She’s almost grown-up now.
“I can bring you back home and pick up some food later,” Dad offers.
“No, I just need to eat something. I think that’s why I almost got sick.” It’s a lie, but Dad doesn’t know that. When he gives me a doubtful look, I reassure him again, turning on my little girl charm, “Daddy, let’s just go. I’m okay, really.”
But a telepath like me can never be okay.
He doesn’t know I can mind-drop. Neither does my mother. Although, I think she almost figured it out once, but that was a long time ago. I was born with this so-called “gift,” and I have many theories why I’m not a normal person, but none of them seem realistic. I’m just a freak of nature, like a two-headed calf or a bald cat.
My parents can never know about my telepathy. They would never trust me again.
So, that’s my secret.
Dad drags me to one of those off-the-beaten-path places just to grab some burgers. Why can’t he just hit a drive-thru once in a while? I’m in a mood, I admit it, but I happen to have some very valid reasons why I’m not up for this today:
We’ve been moving into our house all day, and I’m tired.
In spite of nearly getting sick, I am hungry, which makes me cranky.
I don’t feel like standing around, waiting in line at some place called Mighty Joe Burgers.
I glance over my shoulder at Dad, waiting for him to make up his mind, but his arms are crossed, and he’s staring at the overhead menu of this crappy joint. My stomach grumbles from the overwhelming smell of sizzling burgers and frying potatoes. I’m not waiting for him. I step up to the counter and order for both of us. “I’ll take two double cheeseburgers, extra ketchup, no mayo, extra pickles, two large fries and two extra-large chocolate milk shakes.”
There’s no way she eats all of that!
My attention snaps to the guy taking my order. Did he just put that thought into my head? He’s about my age, and his dark, curly hair pokes out from beneath his uniform hat. The brown polyester shirt with orange collar is almost criminal. Although I guess he can’t choose the uniform he has to wear.
Whoa! Blonde hair, blue eyes. And she’s smokin’ hot. He smiles, all confidence. His hazel eyes even sparkle.
I didn’t mind-drop him. I didn’t purposely listen in on his thoughts. Yet, sometimes my gift gets the better of me, and I end up with a garbled mess of voices ripping through my brain. Like what happened in the car when I wondered about the people who live in our neighborhood. But I’m not curious right now. I’m just hungry.
I glance around at the other customers in the restaurant bracing myself for “other voices” to break through. I’m in a new place, after all. Far away from Palmetto Key with lots of unfamiliar minds to confuse me and plenty of opportunity for me to become curious. There’s an old couple by a window, sucking down milkshakes. A boy crashes his fries into each other like little toy cars. His mom shushes him. A bald guy dumps his trash. But I don’t hear their thoughts. Just his.
I turn back around to face the counter guy again. He smiles at me with dimples in both cheeks and one in his chin. He’s about Dad’s height. Judging by his sun-tanned, muscular arms and the way he stands – shoulders back, chest out – I can tell he’s a jock. All I want is a burger and fries. Not some random guy’s thoughts!
Exactly how is he doing that anyway? Somehow he’s pushing his thoughts into my head.
Glad I came into work today.
I narrow my eyes, letting him know that I am not at all interested in him. But then he does something I don’t expect. He smiles at my dad. It’s a warm, welcoming smile, as if he hadn’t just checked me out!
Is she a new girl in the neighborhood?
The guy is driving me nuts. Why can’t I get him out of my head? My face heats up into a full out blush. My throat is dry. I look over at Dad, who runs his hand through his graying hair and slumps against the counter. Since my mind is anchored to his, I know how tired and hungry he feels. I hear Dad thinking, What’s taking that kid so long? Is he staring at MY daughter? He straightens to his full height, over six foot two, his arms unfolding to hang down by his sides.
I wonder if she lives around here. I could show her around school. The mind-invader yanks my attention back to him again. He sends me an image of a high school sprawled across several acres of land with two palm trees twisted together in front of it. The marquee in front of the school says, “Home of the Panthers!” in black and gold writing with a Florida panther, gleaming golden-eyed and growling, on the front of it. Too bad football practice is on Monday, or I could show her around the neighborhood, too.
So, I’m right. He is a jock. I shake my head, but it doesn’t help. Unfortunately, he’s still there talking in my brain.
I should just ask her. But she doesn’t look like she’s that into me. Yep, just got the eye roll. She probably has a boyfriend.
Did it ever occur to him that a girl might not be interested in him?
He places the bags of burgers and fries on the counter next to two huge Styrofoam cups. When he pushes the food in my direction, I reach out for it and his fingers brush against the back of my hands. A humming sensation surges upward through my arms. The feeling is unique, almost pleasant, and it goes beyond just a feeling because I can hear it, too. A slight vibration of sound. My eyes flash up to his, but I don’t pull away.
I hope I see her again. He shows off those double dimples again.
As my cheeks burn even hotter than before, I check out his name tag. Tall black letters spell out the name “Will.” Will, William, like Prince William of England, or William the Conqueror. I step away from his touch, which lasted only a few seconds, but seemed a lot longer. I’m still staring at him, when my dad comes up behind me and says, “Cassie, here, let me help you.” He takes the bags of food, breaking my concentration.
Cassie, Cassandra, like the heroine in Greek mythology.
As I pick up the shakes, I glare at Will, but he’s already heading to the back of the kitchen. How does he dump thoughts into my head like that? I’ve been able to read minds ever since I can remember, but NO ONE has ever done that before. No one has ever pushed their thoughts at me, like he did.
And I don’t like it. Not at all.
(I don’t remember this one.)
I wake up overpowered by blackness, so absolute, it presses against my skin. Where am I? Where is this place? My heart is racing, and I can’t seem to catch my breath. A chill slips across my skin, making the hairs rise up on my arms. I shiver.
Gathering my soft comforter around me like a shield against whatever dream-monster my mind just conjured, I mind-scan for my parents. They’re asleep in their room across the house. Dad is snoring, and my mother turns over, annoyed to be awoken by him. More settled, I breathe deeply. My eyes adjust to the dimness, and I can finally make out the darker shapes in the room. Moving boxes. Lots of them.
I recognize where I am now. In my bed. In my new room. I’m safe. Everyone is safe. I dreamed something my waking mind has thankfully forgotten. Something disturbing, but I’m okay now. It was just a dream.