Fans of Forbidden Mind, I have exciting news. You have spoken and I have listened. You wanted more in Forbidden Mind. More of the school, more Sam, and more Drake. So I’ve rewritten Forbidden Mind with more of everything you loved in the original. This new version is nearly twice as long and will be available on June 26th, 2012 through Evolved Publishing.
This version will have the same basic plot line as the first, after all, Forbidden Fire is already out so I can’t change too much, but I’ve added a lot of fun content that I hope you’ll enjoy.
So, here are the first two chapters of entirely new content. Enjoy and come join us for the new launch! For those who have purchased the current version, Amazon should be sending a way to update the version you currently have. Evolved will also be doing some 99cent specials for Forbidden Mind!
Let me know what you think! (And remember, my editor hasn’t gotten his hands on this yet!)
One more stroke of red… and done! My cramped fingers released the paintbrush reluctantly. After six hours of non-stop painting, no part of my body wanted to move, but all of it needed to. When in the zone I never felt the strain of time, only after the project did it catch up to me—the aching muscles and burning pain in my hand, the serious need to pee.
I darted to the bathroom attached to the art studio and nearly tripped over my still-asleep legs when they failed to move as instructed. With a groan and a very full bladder, I lumbered to the bathroom and relieved myself, then set about to stretch all of my angry muscles.
A deep voice startled me out of my back stretch. “Wow, Sam, this has got to be your best work yet.”
Mr. Krevner, Mr. K for short, stood in the shadowed corner of the studio and stared at my painting. I’d never seen him so enraptured by any of my work, but his glazed eyes and slack jaw stroked my artistic ego like nothing else could. The 16×24 canvas oil painting that had stolen my social life for the past two months radiated an aliveness and color that I’d never been able to capture before.
My art professor came forward, walking as one might in a church and speaking in a hushed voice. “Where did you get the inspiration for this? The layers of color are extraordinary and the juxtaposition of fluid brush strokes and harsh, jagged lines create a dynamic movement to the piece, a conflict that has been missing in your other work. Extraordinary. What are you calling it?”
The hitch in my voice betrayed my nerves. “The Color of Thought. It represents how I ‘see’ the world, with the thoughts of everyone swirling around me and the conflict I feel at having so many minds invade my own.”
Nothing in my art had ever been so personal. Maybe great art had to be ripped from a person’s soul, before it could evoke emotion in others.
“Do you think it’s good enough? For the contest?” I dipped into his thoughts but he spoke exactly what was on his mind.
His long fingers intertwined with each other and his thin, penciled-in eyebrows shot up and down in excitement. “Good enough? It’s better than that. It’s incredible! In two weeks you’ll be the winner of one of the most prestigious art contests in the world. It’ll make your career and your studies at Sarah Lawrence.”
I covered my painting with the canvas, careful not to touch the wet paint, scrubbed my hands in the sink as clean as I could get them and grabbed my book bag. “I haven’t even gotten accepted yet.”
He walked me to the door and out into the too bright sun. “You will. Don’t worry about it. Your future is assured.”
I shielded my eyes until they could adjust to the light and warmth. “I’m going to get something to eat. I’ll come back later to talk about the details with you.”
When Mr. K smiled, his hawk nose and skeletal facial features transformed into something less reminiscent of The Nightmare Before Christmas. He was almost, for just a moment, handsome—though not my type at all! And way too old, obviously.
“Enjoy your dinner, Sam. We’ll talk more when you get back.” He walked back into the studio, his long scarecrow body barely swimming in his khakis and Grateful Dead t-shirt.
The great clock above the Headmaster’s building chimed four times. Where would Lucy and Luke be this fine Saturday, I wondered. I cocked my head and listened for their mental signatures. A blast of unwelcome thoughts barraged me.
‘Can’t believe I have to study today… Where is my sock?… Really need to get this fire under control… Wish the weekend would last longer… ‘
Our secret school for kids with para-powers only had about 500 students from grade seven to twelve, but that’s still a lot of minds to wade through. Finally, Lucy’s distinctive mental voice pierced through the rest.
I stood on the southeast end of campus, where a cluster of classrooms made up the Fine Arts department. Each building looked like a small mansion that transported itself here from the Tudor period in England. The meticulous landscaping complete with bushes trimmed into animal shapes reinforced the illusion of a proper English estate. Only the high voltage fences surrounding the perimeter spoiled the effect.
The winding cobblestone path led me west from the studio towards the Phys Ed building and training courtyard. Spring hadn’t yet given way to the approaching summer, but today felt like a small victory over a long winter. I basked in the warmth of the sun as I looked for my best friends.
I knew what I’d see when I arrived, and I wasn’t disappointed.
A small crowd had formed around the outdoor training court, which had layers of mats on the ground and my two favorite people standing center stage. Lucy had her much bigger and taller twin brother, Luke, in a choke hold from which he struggled to remove himself. Students passed small wads of cash back and forth, clearly betting on the winner. When Luke flipped Lucy on her back and pinned her petite frame on the mat, those who had bet on Luke started cheering.
They didn’t know Lucy.
She scissored her legs around her brother’s neck and flipped herself up so that she straddled his neck. Incredible! With another hip move she knocked him down and had him pinned for the count.
More cheers and exchanges of money as she stood and offered her hand to him. He grudgingly accepted and they pushed through the crowds, finally spotting me.
Luke draped his long arm over my shoulder. His blue eyes twinkled even as he moaned and groaned in mock abuse. “Did you see what this pint-size maniac did to me? Appalling.”
I laughed and tugged at Lucy’s dark ponytail. “You sure showed him.”
She smiled a 100-watt smile. “Did you finish? Do I finally get to see this super secret painting that has kept you in hermit mode for months?”
My grin spread into a full on face cramping smile. “It’s done! And it’s… I can’t even explain. It’s the best thing I’ve ever painted!”
They both grabbed my arms and pulled me back to the studio. “We want to see it now!” they said in unison.
“But I’m so hungry. I haven’t eaten all day.” They ignored my pleas as we retraced my steps.
Truth be told, as much as my rumbling stomach needed food, I was way more excited to share my work with my best friends. I hadn’t shown anyone this painting while I worked on it, and being out of any loop never sat well with my feisty friend.
The door to the studio hung open just a crack, and angry screams assaulted us as we approached. Luke and Lucy looked to me, as if I knew what was going on. I shrugged my shoulders in the universal I’ve-got-no-freaking-idea way and crept to the door. I could have just slipped into their minds, but listening to people talk out load and mentally was hard to track and gave me a pretty big headache. At that moment, I was more interested in what they were saying, or rather screaming, to each other.
We didn’t want to budge the door and draw attention to ourselves, so Luke pushed his head through. He bobbed in and out so quickly, I almost missed it. Being able to walk through anything was mighty handy at times.
I nudged him. “Well?”
“Higgins and Mr. K. They both look pretty pissed.”
They sounded it too. I’d never heard Headmaster Higgins yell at any of the teachers, or students for that matter. He wasn’t a pushover by any stretch, but he’d always been level headed—until today.
Higgins shouted at Mr. K. “How could you enter her without permission from me? Do you realize what you’ve done? This could ruin the school and everything we’re doing here.”
Was Higgins talking about me?
Mr. K replied with the same volume and anger. I could imagine the vein over his left eye bulging just then. “You have no idea how talented that girl is! She should be at the best art school in the world, not hidden here like a freak of nature. It’s my job to make sure she has a future when she leaves this god awful place, and I’m not letting you, or the people you work for, stand in my way. Or hers.”
They must have been talking about me, but it made no sense. Why didn’t Higgins want me entering the contest and why did Mr. K hate this place so much?
“Don’t you mean, the people we work for. They employ us both, and you’d do well to remember that Mr. Krevner. Their reach extends beyond the gates of this school.”
I couldn’t believe it. Was the headmaster actually threatening my art teacher? What was going on?
“You will pull her from that competition and clean up the mess you’ve made, or your days here are numbered. Am I making myself clear?”
Something crashed into a wall and we all jumped back in surprise.
“Everything is very clear. You use her and her gifts, rent her and all these kids out to the highest bidder as spies, and now that she has a chance to shine on her own merit doing something she truly loves, you want to snuff that? If you want to destroy her dreams, you can do it yourself. I’ll have no part in it.”
Footsteps approached the door our ears pressed against. I tripped back, grabbed Luke and Lucy, and the three of us ducked around the corner of the building. I peeked out just as Mr. K stormed out of the studio; his face had turned bright red and looked squished together in anger. Not his best look.
Headmaster Higgins followed him out moments later. He adjusted his pin stripe navy blue suit and plastered a calm mask over his face. His midnight black skin did not reveal his recent spike in blood pressure the same way that Mr. K’s had, but the tight way he held his shoulders and the fists he made of his hands spoke to the anger and stress he carried.
Tears stung my eyes and I swiped at them with the back of my hand, which still had splashes of paint stained into it. If they pulled me from the contest, hundreds of hours of hard work would be waisted and my future would get flushed down the toilet. That couldn’t happen!
When both men were gone, the three of us snuck back into the studio and closed the door behind us. My enthusiasm had been drained out of me, like dirty bathtub water. I sniffled and wiped my traitorous eyes again.
Lucy put her arm around me. “Cheer up, Chica. We’ll figure this out, I promise. They can’t keep you from this, not after all the hard work you’ve done. And you’ll be leaving for New York soon. Luke and I will join you there within a month and we’ll make all of our dreams come true, just watch!”
I tried to smile, for her sake, but the smile didn’t reach my eyes.
Luke rubbed my head like I was his pet dog. “Where’s this painting I’ve been hearing so little about?”
I swatted his hand and couldn’t suppress a small, but genuine smile. Luke could always cheer me. Funny, gorgeous, and so much like a brother it sucked. “Over here.”
The canvas draped over my painting appeared undisturbed. A sigh of relief escaped me. At least nothing had happened to it. “Close your eyes.”
They both groaned but did as they were told.
Fear and nerves buzzed through me as I pulled the canvas off. What if they hated it? What if everyone hated it and my dreams of being a real artist died before they could even be born? My lungs clenched with stale breath and I exhaled before I got too dizzy. “Okay, you can look!”
They stood there, jaws dropped, stunned into silence. They either hated it or totally loved it.
“Um, is this a bad or good silence?”
Lucy pulled her mouth closed and swallowed before she spoke. “O.M.G. Sam, this is the most incredible, unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen in my life. You painted this?”
“You like it?”
Her mental voice slammed into me. ‘Would I lie to you? It’s amazing!’
Relief flooded me even as I laughed at her joke. I could read minds, sure, but she was the human lie detector. No one dared lie to her. Luke hugged me and whispered into my ear. “I’m so proud of you, Sam. This is truly epic!”
We stood there staring for several minutes. This painting represented so much about me, my life, my future… everything. I hated to leave it, but my stomach protested its neglect with a loud rumble.
Luke grabbed my hand. “Come on, let’s feed you. My treat.”
The Hub occupied prime real estate in the middle of campus and offered the only thing that passed for excitement at our school, which we had dubbed Rent-A-Kid. On such a beautiful day, every shop and cafe was open for business. The Hub was our little town, the only place we had to buy clothes, food, knickknacks and whatever else we needed or wanted. If a store didn’t have what we needed, they’d order it.
We walked down the tree lined sidewalks and looked for a restaurant that had space for us. Three girls from my math class were just getting up to leave as we approached The Bistro, a fun deli that served the best meatball subs. We snagged the table and settled in for a much needed meal.
The waitress took our order promptly, probably trying to get people in and out as quickly as possible for more tips. Luke sipped his soda with over-the-top slurping noises.
“Honestly, you are such a pig, Luke.”
He threw his wadded up straw paper at me. “Wacha gonna do about it, pip squeak?”
I stuck my tongue at him, then settled into a sulk, arms crossed over my chest. “What am I going to do if Higgins pulls me from the contest?”
Lucy’s brown eyes blazed with fire. “He wouldn’t dare! You’ve worked too hard for that. And Mr. K won’t let him pull you. I think he’d crawl across sharp glass with your painting strapped to his back all the way to New York if he had to, just to make sure you were entered. Honestly, I think the only reason he still teaches here is because of you.”
“He does seem really unhappy. Why do you think he hates it here so much?” I looked around at the palatial grounds and happy students strolling the streets. We had everything we could ever need. Sure, it got boring and lonely sometimes, but the occasional assignment to places all over the world kept it interesting and made coming home a nice change of pace. Why would he want to leave?
Our meals arrived, and talking ceased as we all took big bites of our sandwiches.
The warm meatballs and toasted honey and oat bread had never tasted better.
Lucy talked through a mouth full of roasted turkey breast. “Who knows, but it’s not so crazy, is it? I mean how badly do we want to leave?”
“That’s different. We all have para-powers that make us vulnerable in the real world, and make some of us dangerous. We’re here to learn to control our powers and to protect us from those who might exploit us. We have no choice, at least until we turn eighteen and are finally free! But Mr. K is a teacher and as far as schools go, we’ve got it pretty good. I mean, we’ve all had to go to other schools while on assignment, and they suck compared to this! Here he gets to work with state of the art equipment, he gets any kind of art supply he wants, and an incredible studio. Why leave?”
Luke paused from inhaling his bacon burger long enough to respond. “True. Some of those schools are scary. Don’t know how anyone learns anything. But who knows? Maybe he just doesn’t like how secluded we are or that he has to keep secrets about where he works and what he does. I doubt any teacher here has much of a life off campus, ya know?”
I finished my last bite of sandwich and wiped the extra marina sauce off my lips with a napkin. “I’m going to go talk to Higgins. I can’t lose this chance.”
Lucy picked a stray piece of chicken from her plate and plopped it into her mouth. “Do you want us to come? Moral support? Back up? Whatever.”
“Nah, you two need showers after all your sparring. I’ll be okay. When I’m done I’ll find you in your suite.”
Luke left money for our dinner and the tip and we parted ways as they walked back to the dorms and I made my way to Higgins’ office. Normally he took the weekends off, but I had a suspicion he’d be there today. The main offices took up the northwest corner of campus, which was basically shaped like a square and surrounded by an electrified fence and a brick wall with tall trees cloaking the outside. We’d gone on field trips before during survival training, and while I didn’t know what state we were in, or even what country, I did know that we were surrounded by woods. Lots of woods. My guess? Our locale felt distinctly North American, though I couldn’t pin point exactly why. The weather made me think Pacific Northwest, or Midwest, with the seasonal changes and landscape.
I walked past the only entrance or exit on campus and waved at the guard who stood post at the gate. Old Charlie was a staple at Rent-A-Kid and always treated us well. He smiled and waved back. He looked harmless, but he’d done some demonstrations for us in martial arts. I wouldn’t mess with him. Even Luke and Lucy, who put my sad excuse for combat skills to shame, bowed to his ninja ways. It had always made me feel safe, knowing Old Charlie was standing guard, protecting us from anyone who might discover our secret location and cause us harm.
The offices were cloaked in the shadows of twilight and none of the lights inside appeared to be on. I turned the knob, relieved that it wasn’t locked, and let myself in. A voice carried from Higgins’ office. The conversation sounded one sided so I assumed he was on the phone. I opened my mind and pressed into his thoughts.
‘Damage control. Must contain this situation before it gets to the top. Damn Krevner, should never have hired him. Always has been a renegade. What to tell Sam?’
When he stopped talking I knocked on his door.
“Who is it?”
“It’s Sam. Can I talk to you?”
‘Crap, not ready to deal with her.’ “Can this wait?”
“Um, not really, can I come in?”
‘Damn Krevner.’ “Sure, come on in.”
Higgins office, normally so meticulous, from the always clean and empty trashcan, to the perfectly placed pens and pencils, now looked surprisingly messy. Crumpled up papers covered his desk, his suit jacket slouched in a pile on the floor like a deflated man, and his tie hung down his chest at an odd angle, as if he’d been pulling at it. He ran his hands through his greying hair, and I could see his toned muscles flex under his shirt. For someone in his 50s, he was pretty cut. “Sam, I’m actually glad you came. I have an assignment for you.”
This was unexpected. “Headmaster Higgins, I really can’t go on assignment right now. I have the art contest to prep for, an interview with Sarah Lawrence coming up, and homework. I’m swamped.”
‘What do I do about this damn art contest? How do I get out of this?’
“You know I can read your mind, right? I also overheard you and Mr. K screaming at each other. Actually, I’m surprised the whole school didn’t hear. You can’t pull me from the contest. I have to be in it! I’ve worked so hard on this painting and if I win, Sarah Lawrence is guaranteed. So is my career.”
He shuffled his hands back and forth nervously, then put them on his lap when he saw me looking. “I’m sorry, Sam, but it’s too much exposure for the school. We have to keep a low profile to keep you all safe. How do we explain who you are or where you’re from if you win?”
A tightness formed in my chest. “You create believable false identities for us every time we leave this campus. Why can’t you use my new identity, the one I’ll be using at Sarah Lawrence. I’m assuming their admissions department have some fake history for me there, right? So I become her, whoever she is, and I take on that role like any other assignment. It doesn’t seem like it would be that hard.”
“I’ll give it some thought and see what we can do, okay? But only if you agree to take this assignment. It just came in, it’s an important client and it has your name, and para-power, written all over it.”
He scooted a file across the desk and I opened it up while he gave me a verbal briefing. “Henry Dollinger needs dirt on his business partner, Ronald Beaumont, so he can force a buy out and control the company himself. He knows Beaumont is hiding something, but can’t figure out what.”
“That’s where I come in. You want me to crack open his mind and dig out his secrets.”
Higgins’ chair squeaked as he sat back in it. “Yes. You leave on Tuesday. We’re putting together your identity now.”
“What? My interview with Sarah Lawrence is on Friday. I’ll never have enough time to get there, do this job and get back.”
“It shouldn’t take you that long to get what you need. And while you’re gone, I’ll do everything I can to keep you in the art contest, deal?”
I considered it. I’d never turned down an assignment before and I was within my rights to do so now if I wanted, but I had no idea what the consequences would be if I did. At the very least, I’d lose all chance of being in the contest.
Even as my head nodded yes, my gut screamed no. Everything about this felt off, but what could I do?
“Oh, and I’ll be sending a guard with you.”
My eyebrow shot up. “Why?” I scratched at the hidden tracking device in my forearm. “You always know where I am. It’s not like I can get lost or kidnapped.”
“It’s not that. Another organization has formed, a group bent on destroying anyone with para-powers. Several teens and children have been killed or seriously injured from random attacks. I just want to make sure you’re safe.”
My heart skipped a beat. I knew that kids with para-powers who weren’t protected by Rent-A-Kid were at risk, but I didn’t realize they were being aggressively attacked… and even killed. Still, a guard?
“How will I explain it?”
“It’s part of your cover. You’re the daughter of Dollinger’s college roommate. Your father is powerful and has enemies, and your life has been threatened. You’re staying with Dollinger, under guard, while your family deals with the threats.”
I nodded. “Makes sense. Okay, I’ll be ready on Tuesday, but I need to be back by Thursday. Be prepared to extricate me quickly.”
“We will. And thanks, Sam. Is there anything else you needed from me?”
“No, but I’ll let you know if anything comes up.”
As I left the office I slipped back into his mind, but he blocked me by thinking Shakespeare sonnets over and over.
What was Higgins afraid of thinking that he didn’t want me to know?
My gut tightened in fear of whatever that might be.