This prologue was written to allow anyone reading the book without having read the previous book in the series to catch up on what they’d missed. While the general plotline is the same, the two books are very different. The first book, “An Unknown Attraction” focused on Alex’s reaction to the strange events surrounding him. The focus of this story is on his attempting to preserve his existing life, despite the changes he experienced in the previous book.
If you’ve read the previous book, this prologue isn’t strictly necessary, but it will still be handy to catch up on the previous events and to catch up on which characters did what in the story so far.
Cate and her parents, Linda and Frank Jennings, were worried about their son. While the events of the past week where they’d gone to New Orleans for their two youngest kids spring break from high school were extraordinarily strange, it was the trip home that had put Cate’s brother Alex into a terminal funk.
And the past week was indeed odd. The family lived in a very quiet and secluded little community in Shawneetown, Illinois, set in a major national forest that restricted the amount of development that could take place. As a result, their kids hadn’t had much exposure to the wider world. Their kids were no slouches, and they were certainly well read, but all the kids were bookish and shy, and they hadn’t traveled much other than in their reading, so taking them on this trip had seemed like a good idea.
The trip was actually an early graduation present for their only son, Alex. Frank and Linda had promised him that if he kept his grades up, they’d take him to New Orleans as a reward. And rather than leave his younger sister Cate behind, they brought her along as well since she was already an excellent student, but also because she was especially devoted to her older brother, whereas neither of them seemed as close to their two older sisters, who were already in college. The trip turned out to be quite different than any of them had anticipated. On their first day there, that evening actually, since they’d arrived in the late evening on a Friday, Cate and Alex had discovered something they’d never had a chance to discover before, largely because they’d always lived in such a small, insular community all their lives.
They encountered a woman, Shaniqua (Shani) Sharp, a Jamaican-American, who ran up to them, promptly fell to her knees before Alex and proclaimed him as an angel. The two kids, aged seventeen and sixteen respectively, immediately tried to disabuse her of this notion, but they quickly learned that this woman was no quack. Instead it seemed that Alex had some unknown ability to trigger an underlying ability in certain women—and it was almost exclusively women—which allowed them to ‘see’ a person’s life force.
It seemed they could see an ‘aura’ around people. The person themselves shone with a light that reflected their overall health, and any underlying health problem would present itself as a dimming in this light. Overlaying this central color, and overlaying their normal vision as well, were a series of odd colors completely different than those normally seen, which reflected the person’s basic personality traits. Surround them danced a variety of colors which seemed to represent their emotions—which affected the underlying personality on a changing basis.
However, the most notable thing was that in Alex, the person responsible for effecting this change, his aura was incredibly strong, so much so that Shani was unable to even look at him directly for more than a few short moments. It was Cate that had theorized that Shani was seeing some kind of ‘life force’ that gave energy to all living things, and that somehow she had been attracted to Alex because he had a much stronger dosage of this energy, enough that he could trigger these changes in people.
Almost right there, Shani, a human resources specialist for a major corporation, decided that she was going to stick to Alex’s side in an effort to learn as much about him, and her new abilities, as she could. Of course, this presented a bit of a dilemma for Alex, as he now had to explain all of this to his parents to account for her following him around.
In order to help explain it the next morning over breakfast, he pulled in someone that seemed to be strangely attracted to him, but that seemed to be missing whatever affected the change in Shani. That person, a hotel employee named Natalie Mendoz, explained that she felt compelled by Alex, could somehow know instantly that he was not only incredibly powerful, but that he was inherently a good, honest and reliable individual. That first awkward introduction led to a series of ‘experiments’ that Cate led which fleshed out much of these basic abilities.
Over the rest of the week, they met more and more people, almost a person a day. There seemed to be two different ‘classes’ of individuals, ‘Watchers’—as Alex decided to call them because that is what they seemed to do, constantly watch him from the periphery—and those like Shani who actually demanded his immediate attention when he ‘activated’ their abilities.
Over the next several days they met: Patricia (Patty) Moore, a blues singer performing at a nearby club; Allison Livermore, a high-class escort catering to the rich and powerful in New Orleans, who Alex convinced to change her profession; Anh Ngo, a Vietnamese native with a more old-world spiritual understanding of Alex’s abilities; Brook Knowles, an EMT that got Alex to use his ability to save someone who’d ‘died’ of a heart-attack; Rebecca Boles, a nurse at the hospital they took him too. Like Natalie and Rebecca, they discovered three other Watchers, only these broke the rules in that two of them were men—which screwed up their theories about how the process worked—by the names of Peter Hammond, David Samuels and Darice Chavira, who Alex put in charge of organizing all the Watchers in New Orleans and spreading what they’d learned while there.
However, the other kink they encountered was that Alex’s abilities weren’t static. It seemed that during times of stress, his abilities would sometimes kick up a notch. When he got into a fight with Anh’s tough-as-nails fisherman son, Alex suddenly developed the ability to communicate telepathically with the girls. While he’d been able to sense their ‘feelings’ on a variety of topics before, it wasn’t a very reliable source. But after that fight, he found he could freely communicate with all of these women—except the Watchers—irrespective of distance, obstructions or any other known restrictions of basic physics, making Cate think they were dealing with some completely new aspect of physics that no one had ever realized existed before.
But finally, these awkward encounters over which they had no real control got to be too much, attracting way too much attention, finally leading to a local reporter, one Albert Rodriguez, to write a series of fairly scathing articles where he poked fun at Alex and questioned his ultimate motives. It was at that point that they all decided to ‘get out of Dodge’, as it were, and they packed up and returned home, accompanied by Anh (who could only speak a halting English) and Allison (driving her fire-engine red sports car).
Only Alex’s problems didn’t halt at the outskirts of the city. While crossing a road-repair project at an intersection that merged traffic coming from four different directions, Alex accidentally activated yet another woman, except in this case he never met her, had no idea who she was, how to find her, where she was from, and he had no opportunity to explain any of what they’d learned to her.
And it was this last episode which worried those around him, because Alex seemed to have formed some intense bonds with each of these women, not only worrying about them, but effectively taking responsibility for them all—despite them all being much older and more experienced than he was. The idea that he’d accidentally left one of them adrift with no chance for him to explain all that she needed to know, what her visions meant, or how to use them left him both desperate to find her and despondent about how she’d fare on her own without either any support or the basic knowledge to use these abilities.
And now they found themselves home once again, with Alex almost catatonic in his despair, and his sister, parents and the two new followers unable to help him as he wrestled alone with how to cope with all of these changes. And what’s more, they only had a few days to wrestle with these issues, to convey what they’d learned to Alex and Cate’s other two sisters, and for him to prepare for school when it resumed on the following Monday—a time when Alex would have to struggle to retain his normalcy for a few more months, trying to pretend to be just another teenager while the world around him had changed considerably.
His parents, Cate, Anh and Allison had no clue how to help him, as they had no idea how to handle these issues, and Alex was the one ultimately responsible for whatever happened from here on out.