David B. Coe

October 2021 $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-61026-166-1

Our PriceUS$14.95
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DeDe Mercer is a Radiant who can control other people's thoughts, make them do what she wants. For years she's controlled her power, keeping her secret, never using it on anyone--until the day she had no choice.

Now the government is after her, after her brother, too, because he'll come into his power before long. The Department of Energy, the Defense Intelligence Agency, Homeland Security--they all want her, and they're willing to do anything, hurt anyone, kill if necessary, to make her their weapon.


"Grabbed me and didn't let go!"
—Patricia Briggs

As gripping as its ideas about selfhood, identity, and privacy are urgent, RADIANTSis a psychological thrill ride through dangers physical and conceptual. Serious fun.”

—AJ Hartley, NY Times bestselling author of

"[RADIANTS is] controversial, nail-biting, edge-of-my-seat excitement.”

—Faith Hunter, NYT and USA Todaybestselling author of the
Jane Yellowrock series

"A thoroughly engrossing and involving entry that no series fan will want to miss.”

Kirkus Reviews on Dead Man’s Reach

A Plunder of Souls and Dead Man’s Reach named one of the best books of their year by SciFi Chick.com

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Chapter 1

THE FIRST TIME I did it, my mom, who was about as chill as any parent anywhere, hit me. Slapped me across the face. This was after I con­fessed. She never would have known if I hadn’t told her, and still she hit me. That’s how pissed off she was.

She told me it was a violation, which I didn’t even understand at first. I thought she meant it was against the rules—like a violation in sports—and I had pretty much figured that out when she slapped me. But no, she meant violation in a way I’d never heard the word used.

An invasion. A rape of the mind. She called it that, too. Her slap shocked me. When she called it a rape, I started to cry. I swore I’d never do it again, and she made me promise on my dad’s grave, something she hadn’t ever done before. I did, and I meant it.

I was twelve at the time. About the age my brother is now, and you just know Mom is aware of that. Hyper-aware.

I honored the promise I made that day. I had been tempted in the weeks and months and years since. Many, many times. But never once did I break my vow. Not until today.

BEING A STUDENT at Mossdale High School sucked. I was a junior, and I guess I had it easier than some—the freshmen in particular—but the improvements from grade to grade were marginal at best. It wasn’t a function of age; it was this place. Mossdale High was too small, too old, too mean and sad and closed-minded. I suppose it was an accurate re­flection of the entire town, but that didn’t make it any easier to deal with.

It was hard enough for someone like me—boring, plain-looking, okay at a lot of things, but great at none of them. For my best friend Kyle, though, school was torture.

I had known Kyle since they were Sarah, since we were kids in pig­tails—the two of us and Megan Galloway—riding our bikes through the misting rain that always seemed to fall on this part of Oregon. When we were thirteen, maybe a year after that incident with my mom, Kyle came out to me. By that time, we had been super close for so long that either of us could have come out as a zombie, and the other would have been fine with it.

The rest of Mossdale, though.... Let’s just say that zombie would have been easier. Most of Kyle’s other friends, including Megan, were ready for gay, but not so much for non-binary. Friends shunned them. So did members of their family. Their mom and dad, who were super religious and conservative, totally freaked.

At Mossdale Middle School, the bullies and assholes swarmed out of the woodwork, and even though we’d moved on to high school, they hadn’t gone away. It wasn’t always the same ones. Sometimes I thought they took turns, like they had a chore calendar somewhere and could sign up. "Wednesday a.m.—Harass Kyle Reid.”

Today, it was Grant Nelson’s turn.

Kyle was beautiful. Their father was white, and their mother was Korean; Kyle had rich amber skin and these gorgeous, dark eyes. Their hair was silky black, shaved close on one side of their head, short and wavy on the other side. Their face was roundish and perfect. The truth was, I’d been crushing on them since freshman year, but hadn’t yet worked up the nerve to act on those feelings. We had joked for some time now that they were inconveniently curvy—their phrase—which made the non-binary thing harder for them than it might otherwise have been. They weren’t especially tall or short; they were normal-sized, solid— not tiny by any means.

Next to Grant, though, they looked like a little kid. Grant was on the school football team. He was tall, broad—muscular from hours spent working out in the weight room with his buddies.

Kyle, on the other hand, had been studying jujutsu for years, since even before they came out to their family. Their father thought all kids, boys and girls, should be able to protect themselves, and Kyle was into it from the start. Maybe they knew even then that they would need the training; maybe they knew all along they were different and would put up with all sorts of shit because of it.

Late this morning, in between third and fourth periods, Kyle and I were walking from English to the math rooms, where they had algebra and I had geometry. As we started up the stairs to the second floor, we spotted Grant coming down with a couple of his jock pals. Kyle spotted them first, but kept talking, unwilling as always to be frightened into silence or timidity. We met them on the landing halfway up the stairway, where the flow of students narrowed to two single-file streams. As he passed, Grant threw his hip into Kyle, the way one hockey player hits another.

Kyle bounced off him like a pinball, slammed into the wall, and fell, dropping their books. Grant and his friends laughed. Kyle scrambled to their feet, and glared up at him, fists clenched.

"Watch where you’re going,” Grant said. "Fucking tranny mutant.” This drew more chuckles from his idiot followers. The other students around us said nothing, made no sound. They watched, though, smelling blood.

"You should watch out yourself, shit-for-brains. You been forgetting to wear your helmet again?”

Grant’s face reddened. He shoved Kyle hard, hands hitting both their boobs. They stumbled into the wall again, but kept their feet.

"Got it in the tits,” Grant said. "I didn’t think it was supposed to have any.”

More laughter. The other students backed away, clearing a space on the landing. Kyle eased into their fighting stance, one I had seen them use at their dojo, and also in some of the short films they had made about their training. On top of everything else, Kyle was really good at making movies.

"I dare you to try that again,” they said.

"Kyle,” I whispered.

They flicked a glance my way. "It’s all right.” To Grant, they said, "C’mon.” A pause, and then, "Pussy.”

I held my breath.

Grant didn’t shove them again. He took a short step and threw a punch. Kyle ducked under it, lunged, grabbed Grant with both hands, and threw him down over their extended leg. At least that’s what they appeared to do. It all happened pretty fast. What I know is, Grant landed hard on his back, breath leaving him in a whoosh. And while he was still down, Kyle hammered one punch into his face.

Blood spurted from Grant’s nose. The kids around us gave a low, "Whoa” in unison. Except Grant’s friends, who could only gape.

I had to keep myself from cheering.

Kyle gathered up their books. "And just so you know,” they said, glaring down at Grant, who hadn’t yet moved. "I’m enby. I’m not trans. Come on,” they said to me, starting up the stairs. "We’ll be late for math.”

I stared at Grant for another moment, watching as he blinked and dabbed at the blood covering his lips and chin. Then I followed Kyle.

"That was amazing.”

"Pretty basic move, actually.”

"Well, I couldn’t do it.”

I grinned. They did, too.

Kyle went into Mr. Gentry’s classroom for algebra. I walked to the next room, Ms. Gill’s, and took my usual seat near the back beside the window. From there, I had a clear view of the white board, the door, and the clock above it. I pulled out my notebook as the bell rang to start fourth period, and soon was fighting my way through a blizzard of theorems and corollaries.

About ten minutes into class, raised voices echoed in the hallway outside the classroom. All of us stared at the window in the door, craning our necks to see. Even Ms. Gill, cat-eye glasses perched on her nose, paused to glance that way. I knew immediately the commotion was about Kyle. That awesome display they put on in the stairwell was bound to bring trouble. Grant would make sure of it.

I stood, drawing a frown from Ms. Gill.

"Miss Preston, please sit down.”

"I need to use the bathroom.” I met her gaze, the lie coming easily.

"Class just started. You had your chance in passing period.”

"I have English before this. It’s too long a walk.”

The teacher’s frown deepened. "I think—”

"I really have to go,” I said, crossing to the door. She called after me, but I didn’t slow. As soon as I was in the hallway, I saw Kyle walking beside a small, silver-haired woman I assumed was Mrs. Bryant, the principal’s secretary. I followed. After a moment I spoke Kyle’s name and hurried to catch up with them.

Both turned. Kyle gave a small shake of their head. Mrs. Bryant eyed me, lips pursed in disapproval, the loose skin at her neck shifting with the mild palsy that kept her head moving.

"Go back to your class,” she said, her voice as dry as dead wood.

"I saw what happened. There should be a witness when they talk to Mr. Perry.”

"Mr. Nelson has already told the principal what happened.”

I chuffed a laugh. "Yeah, I’ll bet he did.”

"Go back to your class.”

I crossed my arms, raised my chin a little.

Her lips flattened into a hard line, but she twitched a shoulder. "Fine,” she said and walked on.

Kyle shot me a look and shook their head a second time. I ignored them, and we fell in step a half pace behind the shuffling secretary.

Upon entering the suite of administrative offices, I spotted Grant sitting on a bench outside Mister Perry’s door. Blood stained the front of his T-shirt, and his nose was swollen and red. He glared at me and wouldn’t even look at Kyle. I could imagine the story he’d told. Lie layered upon lie to distort the basic truth: that Kyle, a foot shorter and a hundred pounds lighter, had beat him bloody.

Mrs. Bryant waved a hand at two chairs opposite Grant’s bench and let herself into Mr. Perry’s office. Kyle and I sat, both of us angling our bodies away from Grant.

"They’re never going to let you in there with me,” Kyle said. "You’re just going to sit out here.”

"No, I’m not.” At their look, I added, "Let them try to stop me.”

I’ll admit that I was already thinking then about my ability, about what I could do. If I had to, I could use it to force my way into the office, to stand with Kyle as they faced whatever punishment the principal had in mind. I didn’t say anything, because even Kyle didn’t know. That’s how deep a secret it was.

The door opened again.

"You can go in, Miss Reid.”

Kyle stiffened, but didn’t correct her. We both stood.

"Miss Preston—”

"I’m going in, too. Kyle wants me with them.”

"That’s right. I do.” Their voice sounded tight. They tucked a strand of hair behind their ear with a shaking hand.

"Very well.” Mrs. Bryant regarded us both as if we were radioactive, like if she got too close, we’d make her sick. It was a look I’d seen others give Kyle. I wasn’t used to dealing with it myself, but that was all right. It made me feel closer to them. We walked into the office.

As Mrs. Bryant pulled the door closed, I heard Grant mutter, "Fuck­ing mutants.”

Mr. Perry leaned back in his desk chair, his elbows on the arm rests, his fingers steepled as he watched us take our seats. Even sitting, he looked tall, elongated, like a shadow in late afternoon. A swoop of steel gray hair hung over a steep forehead and small brown eyes. Diplomas and photographs covered the walls of the office, including a picture of him in his Air Force uniform standing beside a fighter jet. He’d fought in the desert long before either of us was born. He talked about his war days every chance he got—assemblies, graduation ceremonies, introductions for other speakers. It had become something we all laughed about, even knowing that we shouldn’t, that his service was something we should honor. He had turned it into his own private cliché.

He glanced my way, but didn’t appear surprised that I had come in with Kyle. Probably Mrs. Bryant had prepared him. An instant later, he speared Kyle with his glare.

"I assume you know why you’re here.”

"Because Grant was bullying me and I had the guts to fight back?”

The corners of the principal’s mouth drooped. "That is not—”

"That’s what happened,” I said. "I was there. I saw the whole thing.”

His eyes shifted to me. "You may sit and observe, Miss Preston. That’s all. Miss Reid can speak for herself.”

I returned his glare. "Their name is Kyle. And it’s themself.”

After another moment, he turned back to them. "I see no bruises on you, no blood. Mister Nelson came out of your confrontation in far worse shape. Would you care to explain that?”

"Yeah. He shoved me in the tits. Want to check them for bruises?”

Perry’s face reddened. "Miss Reid—”

"It’s Kyle,” they said. "He shoved me, called me something I won’t repeat. And when I dared him to try to push me again, he threw a punch. I defended myself—I know how—and he wound up on the floor with a bloody nose. That’s what happened. There were a lot of people watching; you can ask any of them.”

"That won’t be necessary.”

"What do you—”

He silenced me with another hard glance.

"Mr. Nelson admits that he said something he shouldn’t have. But that doesn’t excuse violence.”

"He shoved me!”

And in that moment I understood.

"He doesn’t care,” I said, ignoring another silent warning from Perry. I faced Kyle. "He’s not going to do anything to Grant. We play Fairlea on Friday, and they wouldn’t want to go up against a rival without their split end, or whatever the hell he is.” To the principal I said, "Isn’t that right?”

Perry’s expression turned shrewd, but he didn’t answer. Addressing Kyle again, he said, "I’ve told you before...” He faltered, and I know he had to bite his tongue to keep from calling them Miss Reid. "You’re a disruptive influence. More, you admit that you struck him. That’s an automatic suspension. Three days.”

Their mouth fell open. "Three...” They swallowed, eyes welling. "That’s not fair.”

"I might reduce it by a day, if you’d be willing to amend your recent behavior.”

A tear rolled down their cheek. They left it to me to ask, "What do you mean by that?”

This once, Perry didn’t seem to mind me intervening. "I think you both know. As I say, she’s disruptive, and it needs to stop.”

It was the pronoun that finally did it, which I know is ridiculous, but it’s the truth. After all of it—Grant’s bullying, Mrs. Bryant’s contempt, the injustice of Mr. Perry’s punishment—that snide she was what pushed me over the edge.

I had only done it that one time, to my mom, but I remembered the feeling the way I remembered waking up this very morning. I knew how to access the power, how to peel open Perry’s mind. And I was angry enough that I didn’t give a damn whether or not it was a violation.

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