Book Two of the Mindjack Trilogy
When you control minds, only your heart can be used against you.
Eight months ago, Kira Moore revealed to the mindreading world that mindjackers like herself were hidden in their midst. Now she wonders if telling the truth was the right choice after all. As wild rumors spread, a powerful anti-jacker politician capitalizes on mindreaders’ fears and strips jackers of their rights. While some jackers flee to Jackertown—a slum rife with jackworkers who trade mind control favors for cash—Kira and her family hide from the readers who fear her and jackers who hate her. But when a jacker Clan member makes Kira’s boyfriend Raf collapse in her arms, Kira is forced to save the people she loves by facing the thing she fears most: FBI agent Kestrel and his experimental torture chamber for jackers.
Signed copies on the sidebar
Early PRAISE for Closed Hearts
"Closed Hearts was a gripping read and I never knew what would happen next, I was hooked from the moment I started reading." - Michelle Smith, Much Loved Books Blog
"This is really a great followup to Open Minds. It's exciting, it advances the plot, it's heartbreaking, it perfectly sets up the next book, and it pushes Kira into the position of heroine once again ... whether she wants to be, or not." - Rhiannon Frater, author of As The World Dies
"The twists and turns kept me guessing and chuckling in delight; I love to be surprised. Kira is forced to come to grip with some heavy issues in this book, and she has to make hard choices." - Carol Riggs on Goodreads
No one called me Kira anymore.
“Lucy, dear.” Mr. Trullite worked hard to think of me as his granddaughter Lucy, and lying wasn’t easy for a mindreader. “Would it be possible for you to check on the protesters at the gate? I’d like to know if we’ll have any trouble.” His voice was halting and thick, but it carried in the luxurious quiet of the limousine to the driver up front. Speaking out loud shattered the illusion that I was a mindreader like everyone else, but the driver had seen enough to know I wasn’t a mindreader or Mr. Trullite’s granddaughter. He still didn’t suspect who I really was.
Which was a good thing.
“I’m in range now, sir. I’ll check to see if there’s any change from when we left.” Mr. Trullite’s mansion was nearly a quarter mile away along the crazy-rich North Shore, well outside the range of most mindjackers. But that wouldn’t be a problem for me.
I mentally reached for the minds of the protesters camped outside the wrought-iron gate and easily pushed into the soft Jell-O of their minds. They were all mindreaders, waving their banners to protest the export of Trullite Electronics jobs to Canada. Each had their own mind-scent, and the flavors clashed in the back of my throat: wild berry from a radical teen girl; wood shavings from an older factory worker; and a musky smell from the leader. A new protester stood separate from the rest, probably because they couldn’t tolerate his scrambled thoughts. Dipping into his mind was like riding the Tilt-A-Whirl at Six Flags, and his mind-scent burned with the peppermint taste of someone driven mad by the change into a mindreader at adolescence. In the city, there were lots of demens that roamed the streets instead of being locked up in a demens ward, but it was unusual to find one here in the suburbs of Chicago New Metro.
Just what I needed. No sense in alarming the boss, though.
“The protesters are still there, Mr. Trullite. No jackers, though.” I could easily mindjack the demens guy if I had to—it wouldn’t be difficult so much as unpleasant—but a mindjacker would be a lot worse. It had been a while since I’d tangled with another jacker, and I was out of practice. I hoped to stay that way.
I smoothed my hands down my tailored dress pants, and the seats adjusted to give me a mechanical hug as I sat taller. The fabric of the seats was like silk, if silk warmed to your touch and rippled like water when you moved. The not-quite-realness of the fabric matched the fake stone lantern by the limo door and the holographic koi pond below our feet. The scent of rainwater wafted through the spacious interior, too fresh to be the water exhaust from the hydro engine.
Mr. Trullite sipped tea from a delicate white cup trimmed in gold, then set it down on the bamboo tray between us. “What about the gentlemen joining us today?” He meant the trio of high-powered executives in the limo behind us, along with my dad and two of Mr. Trullite’s bodyguards. They were coming to the estate to negotiate a big business deal. “Are you sure there are no lurking mindjackers? This merger is important, and I want to make sure we’re not unduly influenced on either side.”
“I’m sure, Mr. Trullite,” I said. “Besides, my—I mean Mr. O’Reilly—would have already alerted us if there was a problem.” My dad had changed his name too. He couldn’t be Officer Patrick Moore of Naval Intelligence anymore, not with a famous mindjacker for a daughter. I skimmed the minds of the executives again, just to give Mr. Trullite a heads-up. “Although the skinny guy in the seat next to him is planning on robbing you blind in the…” I plucked the term from his mind. “…securities package transfer exchange.”
“Yes, I know.” His thoughts drifted to the delicate mental dance he would perform to secure the merger deal.
I could easily jack the executives to do whatever Mr. Trullite wanted, but he had never asked me to influence a business deal. When he hired my dad and me, he made it clear he wanted mindguard security, not jackworkers to mind control his business partners. And when the jacker clan attacked our home in Gurnee, Mr. Trullite offered to create our own personal witness-protection program, with a move to Libertyville and new identities for my family—it was Mr. Trullite’s idea for the granddaughter cover story. He seemed like a guardian angel sent to protect us from the fallout of telling the world that mindjackers existed.
As we closed in on the compound, the driver focused his thoughts on the mindware interface to switch the limo off autopath. We slowed down, waiting for the gate to open. The protesters surged forward and pounded the hood and darkened windows. The demens guy’s scraggly face smashed against the flexiglass next to Mr. Trullite, who flinched and leaned away. I reflexively jacked into the demens guy’s head, but the gibberish and rage swirling through his thoughts made me gag. I quickly knocked him out, and the man’s eyes rolled back as he slimed down the window, leaving a trail of saliva from his gaping mouth. I heard him thump the ground, even through the limousine’s shock-absorbent paneling.
I bit my lip, wishing I had jacked him to walk away instead, but it got the job done. Mr. Trullite straightened his high-collared shirt, and the limo whispered forward so smoothly it didn’t even ripple the surface of his half-filled teacup. I scrambled to jack the other protesters to pull the demens guy out of the limo’s path.
Once inside the compound, I took a position flanking Mr. Trullite while he waited on the granite entranceway steps to welcome his guests to the mansion. The second limo pulled up, its bullet-diffusive armor shimmering purple in the late afternoon sun. The bodyguards climbed out first, muscles bulging under their custom navy jackets. They radiated hostile thoughts in my direction, as usual. They didn’t like having mindguards among them, certainly not a girl who was barely seventeen and looked about as terrifying as a kitten.
I unnerved them.
The executives in shiny nove-fiber suits came next, their hard-soled shoes scraping the cobbled driveway as they jockeyed each other with fast-paced thoughts about supply-chain management. My dad followed in his trim black jacket, subtly angling himself between me and the bodyguards. I could easily jack the goons myself—I was more of a threat to them than the other way around—but my dad was extra protective these days.
The executives joined Mr. Trullite on the steps of the mansion, a twenty-thousand-square-foot behemoth with north and south wings, plus a west wing tucked behind the thick marble columns of the entrance. I mentally brushed over the usual assortment of cooks, maids and executive staff inside. A gardener I didn’t recognize worked the English garden in back near the pool, attending pansies that were already wilting in the early summer heat. My featherlight touch on his mind barrier popped up his name. David. As I pressed into his mind to find more, the gardener surprised me by reacting to my mental touch.
What the…? How had I missed that he was a jacker? Were my skills getting that rusty? Maybe he was just a linker—a weak jacker who could only link thoughts, not control minds. Sometimes their mind barriers were really soft, like a reader’s. Then the gardener shoved me out of his head and mentally hunted for me, something no linker could do. I was outside the reach of most normal jackers, so his search netted him nothing but the staff inside the mansion. I could easily reach him, but he couldn’t reach me.
That was when he panicked and ran.
If he wasn’t a linker, maybe he was only a rook—a jacker who passed for a mindreader, usually so they could keep a normal job. But Mr. Trullite was paying me to find hidden jackers, no matter what their situation, even if they were relatively harmless rooks. I left Mr. Trullite’s side and sprinted down the south wing of the mansion, skirting the landscaping that heaped onto the tightly trimmed lawn. I needed to get closer. If I’d caught the gardener by surprise, rather than the other way around, I might have been able to knock him out. Now that he was on full alert, I could barely stay in his head, much less stop him from running off. Maybe my skills really had gotten weaker. Back in the camp, when I was mentally wrestling with jackers all the time, I had gotten stronger the more I used my abilities. But the last time I’d wrestled with another jacker was when that angry clan found me, and that was months ago.
I pushed as hard as I could into the gardener’s mind, going deeper and distracting him into stumbling. He landed knee-down in the grass. Fear stung his mind as an image flashed through his thoughts: a man in a dark, skin-hugging mask. A contractor from Jackertown. The kind that set up deals between mindreaders with lots of cash and jackers willing to do anything for it.
I sucked in a breath. David wasn’t a rook. He was a jackworker.
This was not good.
Picking up my pace, I linked a thought to my dad’s mind. Dad—
His thoughts rushed a million miles an hour. What are you doing? What’s going on! I should have linked in earlier, before I took off running. With my Impenetrable Mind, my dad couldn’t link his thoughts into my head, so communication was always a little one-sided.
The gardener who works in back. He’s on the run. South lawn. I didn’t have to say he was a jacker. That was the only threat that would make either of us break a sweat.
Let me handle this! My dad’s thoughts burned through my head. I don’t want you chasing after some strange jacker. He could be anyone.
I slowed to let my dad catch up. Yeah, well, Mr. Anyone is getting away. I clung to David’s mind, but the farther he got, the more I struggled to keep him from shoving me out. He staggered out of the gardens and tore across the lawn. And he’s from Jackertown.
My dad let loose a mental curse, the kind he never let my mom hear, and sprinted past. I caught up to him at the end of the south wing, ready to put on some speed. David was a hundred yards away, out of Dad’s range, and halfway across the expanse of lawn that pushed back the raw Illinois forest surrounding the estate. I’d still be able to track him in there, and maybe the thick underbrush would slow him down. Then again, maybe the masked contractor that hired him to jack Mr. Trullite would be waiting in the woods with a gun. I pulled out of David’s mind so I could sweep the forest to the full extent of my ability. No one was there, but Mr. Trullite’s estate was huge, extending beyond my quarter-mile reach. At least there was no one close by, and we’d have a heads-up before anyone could shoot us, even if they could get a line of sight through the trees.
Still, not really a situation I wanted to get into.
I quickly checked back on Mr. Trullite. He had ushered his spooked guests inside, assuring them that his granddaughter “Lucy” was a mindjacker—which thoroughly shocked them. Waves of fear pulsed through their minds and distracted them while Mr. Trullite tried not to think of my real name. He was more concerned about keeping my identity secret than his own safety.
I focused back on the jackworker, more determined than ever to stop him.
Near the edge of the neatly manicured lawn, David was about to disappear into the thickets. As I reached for his mind, my dad stopped cold, drew a gun out of a holster inside his jacket, and fired. Nearly a hundred yards away, the jacker went facedown in the grass. My breath caught, and I stumbled to a stop. Did my dad just kill him? Then I realized the gun barrel was too wide for a regular gun, and his shot had made a pop-whoosh sound.
I unlocked my legs and jogged up next to my dad. “Where’d you learn to be such a marksman with a dart gun?” My lungs fought for air between my words. I wanted to ask, And when did you start carrying a weapon?
“Weapons training.” His face darkened, the way it did when I asked questions about his past, and he marched toward the fallen body of the jackworker. I pushed into David’s mind to make sure he was only unconscious, felled by the fast-acting sedative from the dart. The same sedative that the government had used in gas form to subdue jackers in the concentration camp. The orange anesthetic of the sedative overwhelmed David’s mind-scent and stung the back of my tongue, bringing back memories I didn’t want to revisit. I spent the walk out to his body trying to keep my mom’s cheese-sandwich lunch from coming back up.
My dad flipped the body over so we could see his face. “Do you know him?”
“No.” He was only a year or two older than me. Were the contractors in Jackertown using kids for jackwork now?
My dad’s clear blue eyes met mine. “Did he get a good look at you? Did he recognize you when you were in his head?”
His words made my stomach twist even more than the orange-flavored sedative. “I’m not sure.”
We had never discussed what would happen if we actually found a hidden jacker during our mindguard duties. Only the government was equipped to keep jackers contained for any length of time. And I’d rather cut off my own arm than hand another jacker over to them.
The security goons crunched the dry grass as they trotted up. They would be defenseless against this guy once he woke up. You’re not going to give him to these bozos, are you?
No. We’re letting him go.
I hiked up my eyebrows.
We’ll erase him first, my dad elaborated. Then take him up to Wisconsin.
I cringed. If we erased his memories and dumped him in Wisconsin, the Jackertown contractor might not find him, or be able to take his lost money out in blood. On the other hand, if we let the jackworker keep his memories, the contractor might piece together who I was and my cover would be blown. And that wouldn’t be safe for any of us, including Mr. Trullite. No, erasing him was the best option.
My dad knelt in the grass as he plunged into David’s sedative-filled mind. The smooth features of the jackworker’s face twitched. He was just a kid, too young for this kind of business.
But he should have known better than to do jackwork in the first place.