We Were One Once Book 1

By: Willow Madison

This one’s never looked up at me, never acknowledged that she’s seen me. I don’t want to take any chances though, not this close.

For now, I’ll stay in the shadows. Watching.

This one will be mine soon enough. Won’t be long now, Grace. I hide a grin, trying to imagine what surprise will look like on her normally blank face.

Seattle: Miles Vanderson

Facing away from my office door, I take a moment to center my thoughts. From my lofty vantage point, the snaking boardwalk lights of Bell Harbor are starting to brighten against the darkening sky. The cacophony of clinking from sailboat riggings is barely audible through glass thickened to withstand the harsh Northwestern weather. I take a deep, calming breath in and wish for the salt in my lungs. If only these windows could open.

With a measure of control that I don’t truly feel, I turn in time to see my door opening. “Spencer, glad you could check in before I have to take off tonight. You have news about Gillian?” I direct the man to sit on a sofa, choosing the chair to his right for myself.

Spencer puts his bag on the coffee table and pulls out a large laptop, old-school to a fault. I wave off my assistant, indicating that the door should be closed behind her. She leaves in silence, quickly.

My irritation has been evident all day. Spencer is only the latest in a long line of investigators I’ve hired over the past three years to search for Gillian. Each one has disappointed me. In this age of information and technology, you would think finding one small girl would be easy! With my vast fortune, you would think it would be even easier.

Our family has always garnered the attention of the press, but never more so than when my stepsister went missing three years ago. Every detective for hire in the country knew the names Gillian Starck and Miles Vanderson then. In the beginning, they resembled salmon forcing their way up hatchery ladders, churning up every square inch of Seattle in an attempt to look busy and useful. They all wanted a chance at the large reward I offered.

I ended up hiring the agency with the best track record, both for finding missing women and for keeping quiet about any details. I paid a premium price to keep my family’s name out of any potentially sordid stories. And still, every detective has failed to provide me with any useful information, leaving me with only a cold trail.

“Mr. Vanderson, I’m afraid I don’t really have much to report.” Spencer responds to my arched brows, “Yet, Sir. I’m following a few new leads though. Let me show you…”

“I fired your former boss, Spencer, because his agency failed to produce any concrete news on Gillian. He exhausted all of my patience.” I sit forward to look at his computer but keep my fingers steepled in front of me, a copy of a look my father employed often; he used it to intimidate and exude calm, controlled anger. I think I do a better job with it.

“Of course, Sir.” He pulls up copies of documents, old emails, stubs from ATMs, and transcripts from interviews. “But I think I may have found where Miss Starck went after she left Seattle.”

I lower my chin onto my fingers and rest my eyes on a far wall to conceal the excitement this news generates in me. “Go on.” My voice only betrays my longing by a slight ratchet in its depth.

San Francisco: Simon Lamb

Another look at my watch, it’s 9:03 p.m. Grace still isn’t here. My hands are sledgehammers at the ends of my corded arms.

I have to loosen up. I’m in public. The dragon-embraced streetlights only provide a sickening glow, but it’s enough for anyone to see that I don’t belong in this quiet neighborhood now.

I had to leave the restaurant; I couldn’t sit there any longer and go unnoticed. I smell like Dim Sum. This whole fucking block smells like it. I won’t leave until she’s home, but I can’t stay on the street. I wish I’d driven over here.

I make a decision. It’s early, but I’m ready for her. I’ll have to get my car and come back. But tonight, Grace, you’re mine.

I smile, relaxing now that I have a plan.

I take the three steps up Grace’s shitty building with the smell of the closed tea shop filling my nose. I already have a key. This is the easiest part. Money buys a way in every time. Doors, locks, alarms—they never matter to me.

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