Home > Split Second (Pivot Point #2)(5)

Split Second (Pivot Point #2)(5)
Kasie West

I shifted on my feet, moving my hand to my hip. This would work a lot better if he looked at me, but his bike had all his attention. I finally got impatient. “I need something.”

“What?”

Since the guy at the party had been reluctant to give his name, I figured Connor wouldn’t openly admit he had ability advancement programs. I had to be careful in how I approached this: start with what I knew he had, then work my way up to the other things I needed. “I’m not sure. You offered me a block enhancer a few weeks ago at a party. I want it.” It wasn’t like I didn’t want the block enhancer. After my dad had taken the grocery money, I needed something to keep him out of my head. My own mental blocks weren’t strong enough yet.

“Give me one minute.” He popped off a dented section on the front of his bike and sighed. “These aren’t easy to get here.”

“Maybe you should stop playing with Norm toys, then.”

“This is not a Norm toy. It’s a hybrid. If it were Norm-made, it would be gas-powered. It just has the body of a Norm bike. I think they look so much better.”

I gave his holograph-cloaked bike a once-over. “Paint-covered metal, so beautiful.”

He ran his hand along the seat, the tips of his fingers glowing blue as the light hit them. “Can’t think of anything more beautiful.” He met my eyes then, with his muddy green ones, like he expected me to challenge that statement. I didn’t care what he thought was beautiful.

“If you get me the blocker, I’ll give you and your bike some privacy.”

“Funny.”

I took a lap around his garage. It was like a collision of old meets new. The sleek shelves and high-tech tools next to the old, greasy parts. A case of oil sat on the shelf. So his motorcycle wasn’t Norm, but he had something that was. Out the window, in his side yard, I saw the offender—a beat-up truck. He really did like Norm toys. I didn’t understand people who collected old things. Didn’t they appreciate how far we’d come? Whatever. It was none of my business. I just wanted his help.

I sat on a stool nearby. Now he was going slow on purpose. To make a point. I could tell by the way he studied the part in his hand, then looked at the image over and over. If he would just look at me more, I knew I could get him to do what I wanted. A small smile, a flip of my hair. Men weren’t hard to manipulate. I was so tempted to Erase the last five minutes and step into the garage again for a do-over. This time he wouldn’t be in control. I would.

“Do you ever sit still?”

“What?”

He pointed to my knee, which was bouncing all over the place.

“Most people don’t make me wait.” And by people I meant guys.

Connor wiped his hands on a towel and said, “I’ll be right back. Stay.”

I rolled my eyes.

He came back with a case and opened it, revealing several neat rows of electronic clips.

“Which one did you want? I forget.”

“A block for Telepaths.” I stood and peered over his shoulder into the case. “Does it work?”

He shrugged. “I’m just the middleman, Laila. I haven’t tried all these. But my customers are usually very happy.”

I pulled my card from my pocket. “I only have ten.”

“Well then, I guess you’re out of luck.”

“How much is it?”

“Twenty.”

“Bill me.” I handed him my card, and he pressed the chip into my palm. He ran my card down a black strip on the inside of the lid, then handed it back to me. His case was full of other chips and drives. They were a good excuse to ease my way into what I really wanted to talk about. “Do you have anything for ability advancement?”

His eyes flashed to mine and then back down again. “Nope.”

So he was going to be difficult. “Do you know anyone who does?”

“I only sell what I’m given. I don’t ask questions.”

“No questions? That’s not very smart. Didn’t think you were such a brainless follower, but I guess I was wrong.”

His eyes revealed only mild humor, not the anger I was hoping my comment would inspire. Anger was so much more telling. “I know what I need to know, and the rest is none of my business and definitely not any of yours.”

“Who’s your supplier?”

“Confidential.”

“I’m not trying to take over your business, Connor. I just need information.”

“You’re looking in the wrong place.” His hand hovered on the lid of the open case. “Now, did you need anything else?”

I had done this all wrong. He obviously had information, and I’d put him on the defensive. I lifted my hand ever so slightly and concentrated hard. Ten minutes. That’s all I’d take back, and then I’d try again. I’d be sweeter this time or more flirty. Act innocent, not demanding. I searched for the paths in his mind that I needed to block. His mind felt stiff. Usually I had no trouble quickly blocking the few active paths where I could feel the short-term memories had been stored. But as I tried to perform that task on him, the energy in them didn’t die. It only waned slightly and then sprang back to life.

He tilted his head. “Is that a no?”

I tried not to visually react to my failure, even though I wanted to demand how he’d done that. I hid my shock by studying the items in his case. “What are those?” On a raised portion, a variety of different metal devices were displayed. On closer inspection, I saw one even looked like a fly.

“Way out of your price range.”

“But . . . are they listening devices?”

He pointed to the row of winged bugs. “These are listening devices. This row is tracking devices.”

“They look so real.”

He slammed the case shut. I tried a memory wipe one more time, but it didn’t work. Tucking the chip into my pocket, I left his garage. What was wrong with me? Was I losing my ability? No. That was impossible. He must’ve been using something that protected him from Memory Erasers. Did he know that was my ability?

I’d get information from him. I’d just have to find another way.

CHAPTER 7

Addie: Must reread the Compound secrecy agreement.

I was under the table, because it was the only quiet corner of the bookstore. I found three books right away that I wanted, but apparently my dad was a browser. My dad was right—the bookstore was amazing, and normally my dad’s browsing wouldn’t have been a bad thing. I would’ve explored every corner of the place. But today was kids’ day or something, because a million kids who didn’t know how to use indoor voices had taken over the store. So with my purse as a pillow, I started reading a graphic novel under a table.

“What are you doing?”

I lowered the book to see a little boy staring at me between the slats of a wooden chair. “I’m reading.”

“That’s a boy book.”

“A boy book? It is not.”

“Is too.”

“Says who?” Why was I arguing back?

“It’s about shooting. Girls don’t like shooting books.”

“Well, I do, and I’m pretty sure I’m a girl.” I pointed to the book he held. “What do you have?”

Apparently thinking that was an invitation to join me, he pulled out the chair and plopped on the floor in its place, then held up the book. Spaceships. “I’m learning to draw. My brother is teaching me.”

At least he was a kid with good taste and seemed to be able to talk at a normal volume. “That’s cool.”

He offered it to me. I took it and flipped through a few pages, which illustrated steps to drawing different spaceships.

“This one kind of looks like the Millennium Falcon, don’t you think?”

He squinted at the picture. “Yeah, but the Millennium Falcon has a dish thing on top.”

“True, but you could always add that.”

I shut his book and handed it back. “Have fun drawing. Those are going to be cool.”

“Girls shouldn’t know what the Millennium Falcon is either.” I could tell he was trying to be funny. I looked at him closer. He couldn’t have been much older than eight.

“Who are you hiding from?” he asked.

“Nobody . . . everybody. I just wanted a quiet place to read.” I glanced around. “What about you? I bet your mom is looking for you.”

“My mom’s not here. She’s at work. I’m here with my brother. He brings me to story time every week.”

“That’s nice of him. So, don’t you think he’s worried about you?”

He looked up as if considering this and then furrowed his brow. “Ew, there’s gum under here.”

“Come on, I’m going to help you find your brother, okay?” This place was huge, and I could imagine his brother frantically looking for him in the mob scene. Plus, I obviously wasn’t getting any reading done. I slid out from under the table and tucked my books under one arm.

“What does he look like?”

“Who?”

“Darth Vader.”

“Huh?”

“Your brother, of course.”

“Oh, uh . . .” He screwed up his face. “He has brown hair and big muscles.”

I laughed. “Okay, that might help.” We walked the entire perimeter of the upstairs area and didn’t find his brother anywhere, so I led him toward the stairs.

“There he is!” The little boy pointed over the railing.

I followed his gaze, prepared to see the brown-haired, big-muscled guy, and felt my mouth open a little. “Trevor.” My heart gave a flip that surprised me.

It shouldn’t have surprised me. Trevor was even cuter in person than in his pictures in Stephanie’s room and a lot cuter than I remembered him being at the football game. Not the obvious cute. In fact, taken individually, his features were a little off: his lashes too long, his nose slightly crooked, his cheekbones too high. And yet as a whole, they made him uniquely attractive.

“Trevor!” the little boy yelled.

Trevor looked up, pointed at him, and then pointed at the ground beside him. As in, Get your butt down here.

“Looks like you’re in trouble,” I said.

“He pretends like he’s mad, but he never really is.”

I laughed.

“I better go.” He rounded the railing and took off down the stairs at a run. Halfway down, he turned and waved good-bye to me. I saw his misstep, the way his heel nicked the edge of the stair, causing him to lose his balance. He was going to fall the rest of the way down the wooden staircase. My breath caught, but then the world slowed.

The boy flew in the air, slowly careening backward, ready to land on his spine. I let go of my books, and as they swam toward the floor, I rushed forward and positioned myself below him. Then I directed him toward my lap, wrapping both arms around his waist and bracing my feet against the stair below me. It was a good thing I did, because the minute I touched him, he plopped into my lap. His momentum jerked me forward a little, but I was able to maintain my grip on the stair with my shoes.

I sat there for several deep breaths, not letting go, while the world around us took its time returning to normal speed. Then I panicked. I’d just used my ability in a store full of Norms. It was over, wasn’t it? I was in huge trouble. But when I looked around, nobody was even paying attention. Nobody was looking at us. Well, except Trevor.

He took the stairs two at a time and, when he arrived in front of us, squatted down. “Are you okay, Brody?” he asked, smoothing the boy’s hair out of his face.

“I almost fell.”

“Yes, you did. You scared me.”

I let go of Brody’s waist and he slid off me sideways, leaving Trevor and me face-to-face without a barrier. He met my eyes, his chest brushing lightly against my knees. “Are you okay?”

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