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Chapter One

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The scorching Florida sunshine battered down on my bare shoulders.

If I didn't find some air conditioning soon, I was going to pass out and end up sprawled across the concrete pick-up platform next to the airport parking lot, where eventually some poor airport security officer might stumble upon my unconscious body and have the unfortunate duty of reviving me.

Okay, maybe I was being a little overdramatic.

But still, it was only a few minutes past three o'clock, and I was the only person who had been stupid enough to step out of the cool airport terminal and head to the parking lot, where temperatures had to be in the hundreds—or at least upper nineties.

I squinted down the road, searching for any sign of my aunt, Rachel. But I didn't even know what color car I was looking for, so I just stood there, in the scalding sun, feeling like an idiot. A wet, sticky idiot.

Would I ever stop sweating?

Maybe wearing jeans hadn't been the best idea. I wasn't good at planning ahead; when I boarded the plane in Alaska, I'd dressed like any normal person from Alaksa would. Well, that's not entirely true. No one was normal up in Alaska. My hometown—or, as most people knew it, the fourth coldest town in the United States—was populated, for the most part, by climatologists and university researchers and a handful of disillusioned activists who thought their mere presence could somehow halt the melting of the ice caps and save all the polar bears. So, not exactly normal

But I'd dressed like someone from Alaska would.

This meant a big sweater and a coat thick enough to shelter me from even the coldest winter winds. I didn't realize anything was wrong with my choice of outfit until I noticed that I was the only one on the airplane that wasn't wearing shorts. And while I was happy to strip off my sweaters and coat, leaving me in a spaghetti strapped undershirt, I didn't exactly feel like taking off my jeans and parading around in my panties.

Airport security wouldn't have appreciated that.

They'd already given me the evil eye when they heard the wheels on my suitcase screech against the terminal's linoleum flooring. As it turns out, lugging one tiny roller bag back and forth between my mom's house and my dad's apartment for seven years really wore down the metalwork. Go figure.

I'd started to really hate that abomination of a suitcase, what with its stuttering wheels and broken zippers. Not to mention, it was small and black, and had given me absolute hell to find at the baggage claim.

Right then, I decided that I was going to paint it neon green. Maybe with orange stripes. You know, so I could find it when I went back to Alaska. Rachel probably had plenty of paint; she was a freelance artist. My dad, a researcher who cared way too much about being precise and organized, had never liked to accept the fact that his younger sister was an artist. She moved from state to state whenever she felt like a change of scenery. She'd ended up in Florida when she dated an amusement park engineer named PhineasJones. But ever since Phineas left her to find himself—whatever that meant—in a remote Tibetan village of Buddhist monks, Rachel had been single and stuck in Holden.

After staring down at my suitcase for a minute or two, imagining it in different colors and trying to decide whether to go for stripes or polka-dots, I looked up—and I was practically blinded as I caught sight of the car barreling towards me.

It was a neon green Volkswagen Beetle.

My hands flew up to shield my eyes from the reflection of the sunlight off of the car's exterior. The Beetle, once I thought about it, would make a pretty good model for my suitcase renovations. How could you possibly miss something of that color? 

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