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Chapter One

The first time I ever saw Jolie was at the Four States Fair, the year I turned sixteen.

It didn’t seem like one of those days when your whole life changes, and if you’d told me I was about to get dragged into the most dangerous and amazing experience of my entire life, I never would have believed it.

Or maybe I would have, come to think of it. I’ve been through a few tight spots in my life, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that you should always expect the unexpected.

I remember it was about nine o’clock or so, and me and Cameron were just getting ready to grab a bite to eat before we headed home for the night.

That’s when I saw her, standing by the ticket booth and sipping on a can of Cherry Coke. I wouldn’t usually have paid much attention, but she was so pretty I couldn’t help giving her a second glance. She had long red hair with blonde streaks that glinted in the carnival lights, and she reminded me of a basketball player or maybe Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Very athletic.

She must have noticed me looking, because she turned in my direction and smiled at me with a little wave. I smiled back and then walked over to say hi to her, since she caught me looking. Cam was too busy playing a game to notice.

“Hey, I’m Zach. Have we ever met before? You look so familiar for some reason,” I told her when I got close enough. That was sort of a half-truth; she didn’t really look familiar, but then again she kinda did. I couldn’t decide for sure.

“No, I’m new around here, I’m afraid. I don’t know much of anybody,” she said.

“Really? Where are you from?” I asked.

“Natchitoches, Louisiana. Nowhere you ever heard of, I’m sure,” she laughed.

“No, I guess not,” I admitted.

“I didn’t think so. Nobody ever has. My name’s Jolie, by the way,” she said. There was a pause, and I tried to think of something else to say.

“So what brings you up this way?” I finally asked.

“Oh, I just came to stay with my aunt for a few days. She lives up here all by herself, and she needs some help now and then,” she said.

“Well, hey, me and my brother are fixing to go get somethin’ to eat. You want to come with us?” I offered.

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