An action-packed, young adult coming-of-age adventure, K. K. Perez's The Tesla Legacy follows a precocious young scientist named Lucy Phelps whose fateful encounter in the Tesla Suite of the New Yorker Hotel unlocks her dormant electrical powers. As Lucy struggles to understand her new abilities through scientific experimentation, she is thrust into a centuries old battle between rival alchemical societies.
One side wants her help and the other wants her dead, but both believe she is the next step in human evolution. Unfortunately, carriers of the genetic mutationincluding Nikola Teslahave a greatly reduced life expectancy. Even if Lucy can outrun her enemies, she can’t outrun herself.
About the Author
K. K. Pérez is a half-Argentine/half-Norwegian native New Yorker who has spent the past two decades living in Europe and Asia. She holds a PhD in medieval literature from the University of Cambridge and has taught at the National University of Singapore and the University of Hong Kong. As a journalist, she’s written for many international news outlets including the Wall Street Journal Asia, Condé Nast Traveler, and CNN. Her first nonfiction adult title, The Myth of Morgan la Fey, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014. Sweet Black Waves is her debut fiction novel.
Read an Excerpt
"Wait, let me explain. "Please."
Cole grabbed her naked elbow. It was such a mild late-March day that Lucy hadn't bothered with a jacket. Big mistake. Cole knew his touch made her hair stand on end mad scientist–style. Metaphorically speaking.
Lucy jerked away. "I suppose this is the part where you tell me what I saw isn't what it looked like," she said, and started unlocking Marie Curie — her dependable two-wheeler — from the fence that surrounded Eaton High. God forbid her parents should trust her behind the wheel of a car.
"Aren't you going to hear me out?" Cole exhaled a frustrated breath.
Shifting closer, he rounded to Lucy's side of the bike, sliding an arm around her waist, then threaded his fingers through her tangle of black curls. His fingertips were magic as he gently massaged her scalp. A tiny, traitorous sigh escaped her.
Lucy fidgeted with the lock's dial, beginning to lose focus. The combination was the date of their first kiss. Of course it was.
She remembered each excruciating detail. She'd spilled her chocolate milkshake down her shirt, and was calculating the fastest escape route from Casey's Diner when Cole leaned across the table to steady her hand. He licked a dab of chocolate from her chin and plunged his delectably edible tongue into her mouth.
"Lucy Phelps," he'd declared. "You taste delicious."
Lucy never told Cole that he'd been her very first kiss. She had some shame. But hey, it wasn't like she'd met a ton of guys being homeschooled until junior year. She should be grateful that after some hardcore lobbying on the part of her neurologist, her parents had agreed to let her attend regular school at all. She'd already garnered enough AP credits to start taking college courses online — their distinct preference — but Lucy craved a semblance of normalcy.
"All right," Lucy relented, flicking her gaze at Cole. "Explain."
She pocketed the bike lock and turned to face him. Lucy loved his floppy brown hair, chestnut-colored, and the way he pushed back his bangs when he was agitated. Like now.
"We're seniors, Lucy. I didn't think it would matter."
"You didn't think it would matter that you were selling test answers?" The image of Cole handing over her notes in the middle of the hallway flashed through Lucy's mind. "Answers I gave you in the first place!" She winced as her voice reached a pitch only dogs should hear.
Cole's brow puckered. "Megan won't tell," he said lamely.
Megan Harper was one of the many girls who orbited around Cole, waiting for him to realize that he was way out of Lucy's league. Cole had also come to Eaton at the start of junior year, a track star from California with a lithely muscled runner's body and easygoing charm, who immediately took his rightful place at the top of the high school food chain. Nobody was more flabbergasted than Lucy that Cole gave her the time of day, let alone asked her out.
Cupping her cheek with his hand, he protested, "There's nothing between Megan and me."
Lucy lowered an eyebrow. Not twenty seconds ago, she hadn't thought there was anything going on with Megan.
"This isn't about me being jealous, Cole." She shook him off. "I only agreed to help you." And she shouldn't have.
A cheater, that's what Lucy was. It had started with help on his chemistry homework, taking her payment in kisses, and then letting him look over her shoulder on a calculus quiz. Harmless. She enjoyed physics experiments. Why shouldn't she do his take-home assignments?
It wasn't like Cole wasn't smart, he was just always so busy with track. The team depended on him to set new long-distance records at the state championships, and his athletic scholarship was riding on it; it wasn't fair to expect him to have time to study like everyone else.
Opposites attract, he was always saying: the manga-hot geek and the homecoming hero. The first time Lucy laid eyes on him, Cole was slouched on a worn tan love seat in the school administration office like he belonged there. He had a talent for belonging anywhere, Lucy figured out later. At the time, he was waiting for the orientation tour when she stumbled in, quite literally, much to her dismay.
Her book bag banged against the doorjamb, and Cole had glanced up sharply.
"I'm Lucy," she'd told him, as if maybe she wasn't sure.
"Cole." He coughed into his hand. "I'm new."
A mischievous smile slipped over his features. "Then we'd better stick together."
"Like magnets," Lucy had chimed in, mentally eye-rolling at herself for not being able to get through the first fifteen minutes of official school — ever — without revealing her inner dork.
He'd laughed, bemused but not unkind.
"Yeah," Cole had agreed that crisp September day. "Opposites attract."
She hadn't bothered asking him how he knew they were opposites.
"Luce." Cole breathed her name, bringing her back to the present, and aimed his ultramarine gaze at her like a bull's-eye. It was the finest weapon in his arsenal. "You're blowing this out of proportion. No harm, no foul."
Ultramarine: beyond the sea. That was where Cole's eyes transported her. Always. Especially the night of Lucy's eighteenth birthday. Another first.
Such vivid blue was the result of an unpaired electron. Which was the kind of nerdtastic factoid Lucy had gleaned during a life of near isolation, helicopter parenting, and being prodded and poked to divine the root of her migraines and seizures — although they never had. The fact that plenty of other people with epilepsy didn't know what had caused theirs, either, did nothing to make Lucy feel better.
Being with Cole carried her away from all that, beyond herself, but ... but ...
He leaned within kissing distance. "I did it for us."
"Oh, really?" Lucy leaned back.
"Prom night. It's expensive."
Sure, she'd been fantasizing about a certain dress at Neiman Marcus, and a matching corsage, and all the rest of it, but where did Cole get off implying that this was somehow her fault?
"Then I'm not going," Lucy told him. "You're not putting this on me. Just give Megan her money back."
"I can't." He jutted out his lip.
"Of course you can."
"No." A pause. "I spent it."
"Since sixth period? On what?" Continuing to stare into his eyes, she realized. "This wasn't the first time. Was it, Cole?"
He shook his head.
"How long? How long has this been going on?"
Cole shrugged. "Since Christmas, maybe?" he said, like he couldn't remember when he'd started selling her out. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
He chewed his bottom lip. She wished his lips weren't so perfect, wished she didn't know how soft they were, or the taste of his ChapStick.
"No, you just didn't mean for me to find out!" Lucy said, voice breaking.
He didn't deny it. Tugging her in close, teasing his nose along her temple, Cole murmured, "I'm sorry. I love you, Luce."
Lucy started to shake, the whole world started to shake, and she saw flashes in the sky. "You don't use someone you love."
"Calm down. You know you're not supposed to stress. It's not good for you."
Hell no. She yanked away from him. "Don't you dare!" she yelled, her anger blazing white-hot. "Don't you dare treat me like my parents do!"
Lucy could take anything but that.
Cole's eyes went wide. She'd never allowed herself to be so furious around him before. He'd never given her a reason.
"You know what isn't good for me, Cole? You."
Thunder boomed in agreement. Lucy jumped on Marie Curie and pedaled full steam ahead without looking back. Rain began to pelt her maliciously, camouflaging her tears like in every pop-song cliché.
Cole didn't chase after her.
By the time she made it home, Lucy was soaked, freezing, and alone.
An unpaired electron.CHAPTER 2
LIBER LIBRUM APERIT
"It's just you and me, Schrödinger." Lucy sighed and ladled Fancy Feast into his bowl as the tabby cat wended himself between her ankles, rubbing against her legs with a plaintive yowl. Raindrops tapped against the window, marking time.
As Schrödinger purred louder, Lucy muttered, "I'm feeding you, I'm feeding you." She realized she should probably fear for her mental state — and her social life — being home alone on a Friday night, talking to her feline companion.
At least Schrödinger wasn't talking back.
And really, the tabby treated Lucy better than she deserved, considering she'd named him after an Austrian scientist whose most celebrated thought experiment left a cat sealed in a box with a flask of poison and a radioactive agent, simultaneously alive and dead. Lucy scratched her Schrödinger behind the ears, releasing another sigh. Alive and dead was precisely how she felt this evening.
She slanted a surreptitious glance at her cell phone for the umpteenth time.
Still no text from Cole, just a message from her bestie, Claudia, asking if she was going to make an appearance at the swim-team party. Odds were Cole would be there. Cole never missed a party. Overzealous stereo systems pushed Lucy toward a migraine and she didn't drink because of her meds, but she'd usually go with him just to feel the comfort of his hand in hers.
Not tonight. If Cole wasn't coming to her, Lucy sure as hell wasn't going to him. Especially after he pulled the "don't stress" card. The way he'd doubted her this afternoon made her as angry as the cheating.
She wasn't a glass figurine that would shatter.
Schrödinger vibrated, begging for more. "Finish what you've got first," she admonished. Yikes, Lucy sounded just like her mother.
She opened the fridge, rummaging around for a little guilty pleasure. Normal parents would leave money for pizza; Professor Elaine Phelps had prepared a kale and quinoa salad before taking off for some departmental wine-and-cheese evening at the college where she taught. Her mom was a walking epilepsy-trigger encyclopedia, and because there was a possible correlation between foods that caused energy spikes and seizures, Lucy wasn't supposed to eat sugar or carbs or anything fun.
Both her parents handled her like a live grenade despite the fact that she hadn't had a seizure for two years. No amount of browbeating, begging, or cajoling would convince them to sign the permission slip for driver's ed. The bicycle itself had been a huge compromise when she hit the twelvemonth seizure-free mark.
Lucy huffed as her eyes snagged on a can of Coke. Her dad possessed a finely honed sweet tooth. How had he slipped that past her mother?
Hello, sugar rush.
Schrödinger traipsed after her as Lucy flung herself onto the sofa in the living room and began scrolling through her Netflix queue — mostly vintage sci-fi. Shockingly enough, the parental locks hadn't been enabled. Her mom's profile was comprised entirely of History Channel programs about the Roman Empire, while her dad's was a mix of stand-up comedy, TED talks, and science documentaries.
Before her father sold out and became a banker, he'd done a Ph.D. in quantum mechanics. A few years ago, he converted the garage into a lab, where he and Lucy would run experiments together. Einstein Time, he called it. Between his business trips and her college prep, however, there hadn't been much Einstein Time lately. She actually missed it.
Restlessness coursed through Lucy that had nothing to do with the sugar high taking hold. Scroll, scroll, scroll.
She and Cole never fought like this. They never fought. Period.
Picturing Cole enjoying the party without her, Lucy tossed aside the remote control, pushed to her feet, and began to pace. She padded into her father's office, which was just as messy as her bedroom.
Slovenliness must be genetic.
Her eyes panned around the room and caught on the Gilbert College diploma framed on the wall beside his desk — another family tradition.
Gilbert was where her parents had met, and Lucy would be starting there in the fall. Her chest pinched. She should be thrilled. It was an excellent small college with a lauded physics department and she should feel honored to have been admitted. She did. But it was only a forty-five-minute drive from Eaton.
Lucy's parents hadn't allowed her to apply to college anywhere more than two hours away by car. That perimeter included New York City, where her dad worked at a venture capital firm, but her parents had vetoed the Big Apple because they said it would be too overwhelming for her.
She took a long slurp of Coke. If they had their way, Lucy would spend her entire life dressed in bubble wrap.
Schrödinger scampered into the office and pawed at Lucy's calf. Only catnip would pacify the little beast when he got in this mood.
Her pocket buzzed. Claudia again.
Do U need a ride? I'll let U practice ?
Claudia had been giving Lucy driving lessons on the down-low. She didn't know what she'd do when Claudia moved halfway across the country to the University of Chicago. Claudia had lived a few houses over from Lucy for their entire lives. She'd been her best friend — her only friend for a while there — since the day she beat up Tony Morelli for calling Lucy "Helmet Head."
This was especially impressive seeing as Tony grew up to be Eaton High's fiercest linebacker and Claudia capped out at five-foot-nothing. And Tony wasn't wrong. Lucy had worn a helmet outside for most of her childhood in case a seizure struck. That one act of heroism — and to six-year-old Lucy it was truly heroic — had elevated Claudia to I'll-help-you-bury-the-body-no-questions-asked status forever.
Schrödinger upped the ante to whining as Lucy texted Claudia back, begging off the party. But she didn't text fast enough.
The tabby vaulted his ample derrière onto the desk, landing in the middle of haphazardly strewn manila folders, and sending them flying. Along with a photo of toddler Lucy missing most of her teeth.
"Schrödinger!" she yelled. The cat mewled in contrition, but it was too late.
And because the fates had conspired against her, Lucy heard the distinctive sound of a key turning in the front door. Perfect. The office looked like a bomb site.
Dropping to her hands and knees, Lucy desperately tried to gather the files as her dad called out, "Lucy? Lucy! We're back!" She reached for the photo frame — the glass had cracked, of course, and the black backing had popped open, exposing the blank side of the photo. Except it wasn't blank.
Liber Librum Aperit was scrawled on the back.
Thanks to her mom's Latin lessons, Lucy did a quick translation: One book opens another. She scrunched up her nose. Her mom was the Classics professor in the family but it wasn't her handwriting. Or her dad's, for that matter. Weird.
"What's going on in here?" Lucy darted her eyes toward her dad, who hovered in the doorway.
His tie was already loosened and his suit rumpled. He looked exhausted. Harried.
"Tidying?" she replied, more question than answer, and continued trying to make some kind of order out of the chaos Schrödinger had unleashed.
Over her dad's shoulder, Lucy spied her mother, brow creased in concern.
"Did you have an episode?" she asked.
Elaine Phelps was tall, blond, and patrician. The opposite of Lucy with her black curls and gray eyes. She possessed what Lucy referred to as "monastic composure." Her mom allowed herself one cigarette every day. Rather than the habit being an example of relatable human imperfection, Lucy saw it for what it was: an exercise in discipline.
Her mother's gaze zeroed in on the telltale can of Coke next to Lucy on the floor.
"I've warned you that sugar can be a trigger," she said in a placating kindergarten-teacher voice, and Lucy's temper flared.
"It wasn't the sugar, Mom. It was Schrödinger." Although the feline had conveniently vanished.
"Don't snap at your mom, Luce," her dad said, an edge to his words.
Sheesh. Two on one was not fair. "Sorry," she mumbled, and lowered her eyes to avoid his glare. "Long day." She shuffled a few folders into a pile.
Her dad stepped forward, resting a conciliatory hand on Lucy's shoulder.
"I hear you, kiddo. And I've gotta head back to the office first thing in the morning."
"On a Saturday?" she said, head flicking up.
The tension in his jaw relaxed into a tired smile. "No rest for the wicked."
"Victor, why don't we get you a beer?" Lucy's mom suggested. He nodded, adjusting his rimless glasses; dark circles shadowed his brown eyes, making his pale skin almost vampiric. To Lucy, her mom said, "Leave the files. I'll take care of them."
Her mother couldn't stand disorder. If she noticed even the smallest speck of brown discoloring a single petal, she would discard an entire flower arrangement. Narrowing her eyes at the picture frame, she said, "You didn't cut yourself, did you?"
"Nope. Got all my digits." Lucy stretched out her hands and wiggled her fingers as proof.
Her mom's lips thinned into a patient smile. "How about some tea? To help you sleep?"
Sleep deprivation was another potential trigger.
"No, thanks." Lucy forced up one corner of her mouth. Now didn't seem like the right moment to ask her parents about the Latin quotation.
Once they'd gone through to the kitchen, she gingerly picked up the broken frame and slid the photo out, examining the scratch across the swath of blue sky. She bet she could repair the scratch on her computer and replace the photo before her parents even knew it'd been damaged.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Tesla Legacy"
Copyright © 2019 K. K. Pérez.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Liber Librum Aperit,
Curiouser and Curiouser,
To Boldly Go,
Brave New World,
Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?,
A Peter Parker Experience,
Snap! Crackle! Pop!,
Schoolgirl Fantasy, Indeed,
That Girl is Poison,
We're All Mad Here,
Hurts so Good,
Reach out and Touch Someone,
Shaken, Not Stirred,
The Body Piezoelectric,
Into the Woods,
Time for a Montage,
Ink of a Scholar,
Tea and Sympathy,
You Wouldn't like me When I'm Angry,
Red Sky at Morning,
Through the Looking Glass,
Under my Skin,
Eye of the Storm,
The Lion's Den,
Lasso of Truth,
Don't Look Down,
A Worthy Foe,
Bullets Over Broadway,
Another Way to Die,
The Chopping Block,
The Fifth Element,
Signed, Sealed, Delivered,
Remembrance of Things Past,
Writing as Kristina Pérez,
About the Author,