dark Waves Excerpt

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“Besides the hacker who went rogue, have there been any other disgruntled patients of yours over the last few years?”

Audrey frowned and rubbed her temple. “Not that I recall.”

“You have a headache?”

The pain in her head throbbed as if in answer. “I… Yes, a small one.”

“Have you noticed any recent gaps in your memory? Fuzzy thoughts?”

She narrowed her gaze. “What are you suggesting?”

“Audrey, some of your memories have been wiped.”

Her heartbeat sped up, and it felt like all the blood drained from her forehead at once. The room tilted in a crazy circle, and she saw white spots in front of her eyes. There was a rushing sound, and in an instant, all the colors in the room faded to black. She blinked and realized she was slumped in the recliner with Kevin leaning over her, shaking her shoulders, the earthy scent of him filling her nostrils.

“You okay?”

“Yes,” she managed. Her skull felt like someone had stuffed it with cotton. “I…”

“You fainted. Take it easy.” He crouched next to her, tucked a pillow behind her head, and helped her sit up. “I probably should have found a better way to tell you.”

Ya think? What was even more shocking was him hovering over her like she was his patient. He needed to move far away so she didn’t have to breathe in his rich, masculine smell. She had the insane desire to reach out and hug him so she’d feel safe.

Heat rushed to her cheeks, and her head cleared. “I’m…I’m all right now.”

Kevin didn’t budge, sending her blood pressure up a notch.

She brushed her hair behind her ears and tried to think. “You said my mind had been wiped. How can you know for certain?”

“I’m a former hacker, remember. I know the signs. What’s more, your blocks have been removed.”

“My…blocks?” She sat forward, the hair on her arms rising with her. The blocks were for her safety—to protect her as she worked with hackers. “They’re permanent. It’s impossible to remove them…isn’t it?”

He must have been reassured she had recovered from her faint because he stood and returned to the couch before answering, and she managed to get her breathing under control.

“Not quite. It’s difficult for the vast majority of hackers, but not everyone.”

“You mean you can do it,” she said, hardly daring to breath.

“Yes, and any other class tens who specialize in blocks. After all, we’re the ones who put them in place. Audrey, I need you to think really hard about when you first started having headaches.”

Audrey wrinkled her brow and considered. “Several years ago, maybe, but they seemed to get worse around the time Luke first arrived. That was about six months ago.”

“Who’s Luke?”

“The hacker who went rogue.”

“Is Luke a class ten?”

“No, of course not. I don’t work with class tens. You’re the exception. Why are you glaring at me?”

Kevin had risen from the couch and was pacing. “If you don’t normally work with class tens, don’t you find it strange that you would be given an assignment to cure an incurable former hacker who is one?”

She sat forward. “Well, of course, I found it strange I was asked to work with you. I questioned it, but my boss didn’t know the reason. He’s new to the program and not well-versed in CMU policies. And for your information, I’m pretty good at what I do. I’ve had some success working with damaged hackers. Up until Luke, I had a fantastic reputation and was on my way to a promotion.”

“Your reputation may be in shreds for a reason. Your memory loss isn’t random. The person who removed your blocks knew what they were doing.”

“Why would someone do this?”

“You must have witnessed something you shouldn’t have. That would be the only reason to erase your memory. They could have removed your blocks to make you an easy target for hackers to invade your mind. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say whoever’s behind this caused Luke to go rogue so you’d be fired.”

“But I was told I can come back if I’m able to cure you. Why would they give me the opportunity to return if they wanted me permanently gone?”

He clapped his hands together. “That’s it! It’s not counterintuitive because you can’t cure me, and whoever this is knows it. They sent you here because they know you’ll spend all your time trying. It’s only an excuse to get you away from the situation. In the end you will fail, and you won’t be able to return to the CMU. But in the meantime, you’ll be out of the way.”

She got up slowly. My God, it made a convoluted sense. A cold chill crawled down her spine, and she shivered. They had sent her here deliberately and didn’t intend to give her job back. How would she ever earn the money she needed to meet her monthly expenses? Her mother would suffer because she couldn’t get the care needed for severe stroke patients. Her sister would be a Harvard dropout.

She dropped her head in her hands. She didn’t realize she was shaking until a pair of powerful arms encircled her, pulling her into a hard male chest.

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