Julian and I step onto the small deck in the backyard and wait for Brody to phase through the locked door. The night is damp and cool. It’s not actively raining, but judging by the moistness of the ground, it was not too long ago. The postage stamp property backs into a large alley where people leave their garbage to be picked up.
Julian’s gelled, black hair and overworked muscles disgust me. It all comes across as greasy. He has moments when I’m okay he’s around, but they’re rare. I don’t know how Brody lives with him. His beady, brown eyes watch the door. Not all powerhouses are built like Julian. His super strength has little to do with his muscles. He works on his body for the same reason I chain-smoke—a method of coping. We all have at least one. His other method of coping might be buying black T-shirts.
My arms are intertwined and locked. Brody materializes slowly as he steps through the door. Being able to phase through solid objects certainly makes it easier to rob houses. Locks mean very little to people like me and Brody.
“Madison took off,” Brody whispers. “We’re next.” Brody casts a quick glance around us. He shrugs and pulls open the back of Julian’s black van. A television, two laptops, an iPod, a stereo system, and the jewelry safe Brody found sit at my feet. Madison already pocketed the cash. This isn’t the worst haul we’ve ever had by a long shot. I don’t know what Madison was pissed about.
Julian scoops up the television set and struts to the back of the van. My thoughts tangle around the two laptops. A coolness flows through my body. My mind eases the laptops off the deck and glides them through the air. Julian steps to the side allowing the computers to sail into the van undisturbed. My thoughts come back to me.
There. I did my part.
Brody pockets the iPod. I smile. He sees this and smiles back. The van doors slam close.
“Ready?” Julian asks Brody.
Brody looks at me. “Are you good?”
“Yeah. I’m fine, Brody. I’ll meet you back at your house.” Brody steps forward to kiss me. He quickly stops, nods, then turns toward the van. I don’t know if Julian noticed anything. He either knows and pretends he doesn’t—which is likeliest—or he is completely oblivious. Julian isn’t the sharpest tool, but he does live with Brody.
My stomach twists. The alley fills with harsh growling from the van’s exhaust system. Brody climbs inside and slams the door. The van speeds off toward the street. Julian could use his brain and not make so much noise. Madison would burn a hole through his arm if she saw him acting that careless. I’ve seen her kill crew members for much less.
The van disappears in the distance. A rustle pulls my attention to a garage door. A young guy with wide eyes stands there holding plastic bags filled with newspapers. Brown curls stick out from his plaid fedora. A nervous smile settles between his two dimples. From his Converse sneakers to his skinny jeans to his tight T-shirt, he looks like something out of a Seattle-based sitcom. What did he see? How long was he there? Shit. Being sloppy like this is gonna get me killed.
I ready my hands in front of me. The guy sees this. He takes a step back. Judging by the fearful expression on his face, he was there long enough to see me use my powers. Shit. This means he also saw us robbing the house. He’s got to go. I straighten my fingers as I wrap him in my thoughts. My mind tightens around his throat. Our eyes lock. His are bright blue.
“Wrong place, wrong time,” I say without much thought. My grasp tightens. A gasp escapes from between his thin lips. Static hums in my ears. What’s that about? Trying to shake it off, I focus on my attack. I need to wrap this up. If I take too long to get back to the house, Madison will be suspicious.
His face turns red. A cry breaks through me. Powers. She has powers. That isn’t me. My heart beats faster. The wideness of his eyes suggests that he’s scared, but I can feel something more there. Feel? I don’t want to die. Am I hearing him? Feeling what he feels? My stomach knots up. I let go. My thoughts come back to me. We stand there, staring at each other.
“Were you talking to me?” I ask. My voice cracks as the words come out.
“I couldn’t talk.” His voice is hoarse. “You were choking me . . . from over there.” Our eyes stayed locked.
“I heard you saying something.” I shake my head. When my thoughts latched onto him, something happened. I could hear his thoughts and feel his fear. Nothing like that has ever happened before.
“Don’t kill me. I won’t tell anyone. I didn’t see a thing.” The guy’s voice is slightly less hoarse now. He puts his hands out, surrendering.
The ache in my stomach is forming an army. Madison can’t find out someone saw us—and that I let them live. I ready my hands again. My thoughts twist around him, beginning at his feet. His eyes widen. Can he feel me?
Static fills my head. I really won’t tell anyone. I’m not ready to die. Don’t kill me.
Guilt and dread wash over me. My mind lets go. My hands drop to my sides. “We never met. Forget tonight,” I whisper.
I run down the alleyway in the opposite direction that Julian and Brody went just moments ago. Not even ten minutes ago, my life was a lot less complicated than it is now, which is really saying something because everything was pretty damn complicated already. Silence swells in the spaces behind me. I really, really hope this doesn’t blow up in my face.
What was that? I could feel him and hear his thoughts. Is my power growing? Does he have some kind of ability that can tamper with mine? What if he follows me?
I need to make up for a few minutes. The rooftops should do the trick. They’ll be faster, too. I jump onto a closed dumpster, reach for a rusted ladder, and yank on it. Nothing happens. It’s stuck. I think one person seeing me use my talent is enough for the night. I grab the ladder again. This time, I suck in a deep breath and pull myself up.
***This is an excerpt from The Highly Capable