Read The Excerpt: The Last To See Her By Courtney Evan Tate

“This intriguing tale of love and betrayal focuses on two outwardly close sisters, each with a big secret: Fans of domestic suspense will keep turning the pages to see what happens next.”

psychological suspense_the last to see her

Chapter 2

The airport was busy today, which was fine. Gen was used to busy. Chicago teemed with life, with people, with traffic. Soon, though, she’d have to acclimate to rural living again. The slowdown, take-a-minute-and-chat kind of life. So, yeah, it would be an adjustment.
But first… New York City.
She hefted her battered leather laptop bag over her shoulder. She’d packed everything else into a moving truck, and she had one suitcase checked in for the plane, but she would never trust anyone else to transport her laptop. It was the instrument she worked with. It was how she lived. It was more precious to her than gold. She’d be leaving directly from NYC to her new home. She already had a farmhouse out in the country bought and paid for, sitting at the end of a little one-lane road in Cedarburg.
She wove in and out among the people crowded in O’Hare’s corridors now, and made her way to a bar. Flight delays sucked, but at least she could have a drink while she waited.
She pulled up a stool at the far end of the bar, and ordered a Long Island iced tea, her drink of choice. The bartender didn’t even blink.
“Sure thing, little lady.” Being five-seven, she wasn’t little, although she was slender. But she smiled, anyway.
She set her laptop at her feet and watched the people.
Being a writer, her favorite game was to make up a story for everyone.
“See that lady over there?” she asked the bartender as he set her drink on a napkin in front of her. She motioned toward a heavily made-up woman standing in the middle of the flow of people, talking on her cell phone. “I think she’s breaking up with her boyfriend because she works too much.”
He lifted an eyebrow, examining the woman. “Oh, really? What makes you think that?”
Gen examined her, too. “Well, check out her pricey shoes. They indicate that she’s not married. Husbands tend to throw fits about shoes that expensive. She’s not wearing a wedding ring, and her suit is super expensive. Also, she’s been crying.”
Her eyes were red, and the bartender nodded. “You could be right.”
Gen sipped her drink. “I probably am. But either way, that’s what is happening with her in my head.”
“Okay, what about him?” the bartender gestured toward an elderly man in the back corner, nursing a beer. “He’s been there for at least an hour.”
“Him? He’s waiting on his mail-order bride, of course,” Gen said immediately. “That’s still a thing, you know. She’s coming in from the Czech Republic and her flight was delayed.”
He chuckled, and his eyes crinkled as he laughed. “You’ve got friendly eyes,” Gen observed. “You like your job.”
“I do,” he agreed.
“You must see all kinds of stories here.”
He nodded. “Yeah.”
Gen sipped again. “Wanna share? I’m a writer. I can always use new material.”
“What do you write?” he asked with interest. “Because I’ve been working on a sci-fi novel for a couple of years now.”
Gen tried not to cringe. That was inevitably something she heard from strangers. Oh, you’re a writer? Awesome, I’m writing a book, too! How do I get it published?
“I don’t know much about sci-fi,” she admitted to him. “I write romance.”
He looked down at her. “Oh, you’re one of those writers.” She could hear the disapproval in his voice and it made her want to whip out her tax returns from last year and wave them under his nose for validation.
But, of course, she didn’t. That was considered socially unacceptable.
Instead, she smirked. “Yeah. I write about sex. They say to write what you know.”
Then she winked.
Because fuck him.
He didn’t have to know that she hadn’t had sex in months.
He seemed intrigued now, at the very least. Mention sex, and you get a man’s attention. It wasn’t always the attention you wanted, though.
He stared at her. “So, what’s your story?”
Gen paused, taking another sip of her drink. It was perfectly mixed with the right amount of sour and liquor. “Me? I’m not that interesting.”
“Are you running from something?”
Her head snapped back. “Why would you say that?”
He shrugged. “You’ve just got the look.”
“I most certainly do not,” she said, as indignantly as she could. “My sister is a surgeon, and I’m going to spend the weekend with her while she’s at a convention.”
He nodded. “Uh-huh.”
“It’s true,” Gen insisted. “And then I’m moving to a new life. I’m not running from anything.”
He stared, unconvinced.
“Damn, bartenders are intuitive,” she said finally, drumming her fingers on the bar top. He grinned at that. She glared. “But I’m not running. I just lost two-hundred pounds of cheating husband. I’m divorcing his ass.”
He eyed her up and down. “What kind of idiot would cheat on you?” he asked, and she couldn’t decide if she was flattered or unnerved at the way he was looking through her. She shrugged.
“My ex, I guess.”
“What did the chick look like?” he asked, still incredulous.
She shrugged again. “Does it matter? I don’t even know how many there were. My ex is a lawyer, so he knew all the tricks to avoid a paper trail.”
The bartender cocked an eyebrow. “So how did you find out?”
“I saw him with one. From the back. It was entirely by chance. I was in town, and so was he. Only…he was with her.”
Gen was sarcastic, so she didn’t show her pain from that moment. It still stung.
Seeing him with her was so unexpected. It had sent her into a literal physical shock. Her mouth had gone dry, her vision blurred, she’d gotten cold and clammy. She hadn’t suspected a thing until that moment. She’d been such a fool.
“He was a dumbass,” the bartender told her, although he didn’t know her or her ex personally.
“Yes,” she answered. “And soon, he’ll be out of my life for good.”
The divorce would be final just a few weeks after she mailed the papers. They were tucked safely in her bag right now.
Her phone buzzed, and she glanced at it to find texts from her sister. Meg was already in the hotel in New York City, anxiously awaiting her.
I hope you packed lightly. We’re gonna buy all new clothes for you. I can’t wait!!!!!! Hurry up and get here!!!!!
Her sister’s excessive use of exclamation points was a direct comparison for her personality. Meggie was a walking exclamation point. Honestly, she was the one who seemed like a romance author, expressive and passionate, and Gen was the one who seemed like a physician, meticulous and careful.
Over the intercom, Gen’s flight to La Guardia was announced.
“Can I get my bill?” she asked. “My plane is boarding.”
He shook his head. “Go ahead. It’s on me today. Have fun with your sister.”
“Oh! Thank you,” she said, surprised. “It’s been a long time since a man has bought me a drink.”
He smiled. “I’m lucky to be your first. Oh, and here’s a tip. You might want to take your wedding ring off.”
Her head snapped back, and she looked down at her finger. How could she have forgotten that?
She twisted it around and around while she waited to board, and decided to take it off when she reached the hotel. She’d stick it in her suitcase and decide what to do with it later. It was a four-carat diamond.
She slept on the flight, and when she arrived, she actually felt good.
She was energized as she headed for a cab, and the bright lights of the city bounced off her skin in the back seat of the taxi. She texted her sister that she was close.
I’ll wait for you in the lobby, she answered. Hurry up!!
The cab driver let her out, and she hadn’t even turned around before Meg grabbed her in a bear hug. “I thought you’d never get here,” she exclaimed. “I’m starving!”
Like usual, she was wearing three-inch heels and looked perfect in her highlighted hair, slim suit and red lipstick.
“Let me at least drop my bag off in the room,” Gen complained as Meg tried to hail another cab. Her sister grumbled, but stepped back, and they walked to the elevator and rode to their two-bedroom suite on the top floor.
“Nice,” Gen observed, as they walked in. There were glittering chandeliers, marble counters, a spectacular view.
Meg shrugged. “Nothing but the best for my big sis.”
Gen dropped the bag. “I’m hungry, too,” she said. “Let’s go.”
They chattered all the way back to the main floor in the golden elevator, and were still chattering in the cab. As they glided to a stop outside a steakhouse, Meg’s stomach audibly growled and they laughed.
They tipped the driver and got out.
They were seated inside the glittering restaurant within a few minutes, and the waiter knew Meghan by name. After she’d ordered wine, Gen stared at her.
“How often do you come here?” Gen demanded, an eyebrow lifted. “I didn’t even know you were in New York that often.”
Meg smiled slightly, her fingers wrapped around her water glass. “I’m here a lot ever since I took my new role. It involves a lot of travel. New York is one of the cities I don’t actually mind.”
Gen rolled her eyes. “That’s the price you pay for brilliance, I guess. If you didn’t want to hustle, you shouldn’t have invented a new method to…” She paused. “What is it again that you figured out?”
Meg sighed. “Using robotics, I figured out a safer method to perform a coronary artery bypass graft. It’s literally called the McCready Method.” She stared at her sister, and Gen grimaced.
“Sorry. I’m not a doctor, so I don’t remember all of that…jargon. Also, I don’t know why you kept your maiden name.”
“That one’s easy,” Meg answered. “Meghan McCready sounds like a rock star. Meg Harris sounds like a housewife.”
The waiter returned with their wine, took their steak orders, and they were left to drink in peace.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a housewife,” Gen pointed out.
“Of course there isn’t. If that’s your thing. It’s just not mine. My mind races all of the time. It’s hard to explain. I’ve got to have a challenge, Gennie.”
Gen didn’t bother pointing out that running a household full of children was probably an incredible challenge. It was one she hadn’t had the opportunity to find out. Thad hadn’t wanted kids.
Meg lifted her glass. “Sisters forever.”
Gen nodded. “Sisters forever.” They clinked glasses, then drained them, in an almost identical way, each setting their empty glass down with a thud at the same time.
They chuckled, then poured a second glass.
After their second glasses were empty, Gen’s phone buzzed with a text. She glanced at it.

Have you signed the papers yet? They were delivered.

She ignored it, and her sister looked at her questioningly. Gen rolls her eyes with a sigh.
“Thad. He wants to know if I’ve signed yet.”
“Have you?” Meg asked, sipping her third glass of wine. By this time, her lips were starting to have a slight purple hue from the Merlot, and her cheeks were flushed.
“Not yet. I will, but I’m gonna make him sweat a little first. He certainly took his time coming to an agreement about them.” Gen dripped a bit of wine on the table, and the waiter came immediately to blot at it.
“True,” Meg agreed. “But what did you expect? You married a lawyer.”
She screwed up her face and then laughed. Her own husband, Joe, her high school sweetheart, was a contractor, and Joe didn’t have a contentious bone in his body.
The appetizer and salads they had ordered came, and they stopped talking as they attacked the brie drizzled with pesto and oil with wolfish vigor. By the time the steaks arrived, they had graduated from red wine to Long Island iced teas.
“We probably shouldn’t drink anymore,” Meg suggested, but they both laughed.
“Aren’t we here for my divorce party?” Gen laughed. “Don’t kill my buzz. Check out the hottie. Nine o’clock.”
Meg looked to the right, and Gen scowled. “Your other nine o’clock.”
“That’s your nine o’clock,” Meg pointed out, peering at the tall handsome waiter across the room. “But he’s delicious.”
“I think he’s Greek,” Gen said, almost falling out of her chair as she leaned to examine him more closely. He glanced at them, and they tittered and righted themselves.
“I am a dignified surgeon,” Meg announced to her sister. “I do not get drunk.”
“That ship has sailed tonight,” Gen answered, her nose pleasantly numb. “This is a nice way to kick off my new life, sis. Thank you for making me come.”
“That’s what he said.” Meg laughed hysterically and her sister rolled her eyes, but then got the joke and laughed, too.
They plowed through their steaks with abandon, without regard to calories or even manners.
“That was the best steak I’ve ever had in my life,” Gen announced at the end, when she finally decided to be ladylike and pat at her lips delicately.
Meg agreed. “They do it up right here.”
“How you doin’?” Gen said, looking up at the waiter, and he smiled as though he handled drunk women every night of his life.
“Quite well, miss. Should I hail you a cab?”
“We’re two independent women,” Gen slurred. “We’ve got this.”
She paid their bill, signing the check with a flourish. Miraculously, a cab was waiting outside (courtesy of the waiter) and they tumbled in. Gen practically fell into the back seat, and Meg laughed.
“You’re so drunk,” she giggled.
“You are, too,” Gen replied indignantly. In the rearview mirror, Gen saw the cab driver smile.
“Not as much as you,” Meg informed her, prim and proper now, straightening her jacket.
Gen pulled out her phone. “Here. We gotta take a drunk selfie for mom. She’ll be so proud.” They leaned together, and Gen snapped the picture, sending it off to their mother. Periodically, on the way back to the hotel, they broke out into uncontrollable laughter fits for no real reason.
When their mother replied to their text with, Oh, my gosh, you two. Don’t talk to strangers, they practically howled.
The doorman at the hotel opened the door, and Gen stopped to straighten his tie. To his credit, he didn’t even blink.
They laughed in the elevator up to the room, and when they burst into their suite, Gen went straight for her bed and collapsed onto it.
Meg came, too, lying down next to her sister.
“Is the room spinning, or is it just me?” she sighed.
“It’s spinning,” Gen confirmed.
Meg started to grin, but then she noticed Gen’s hand. In particular, the wedding ring.
She narrowed her eyes. “Why are you still wearing that?”
Gen shook her head, subconsciously covering it with her hand. “I forgot about it until earlier today. I haven’t taken it off in forever.”
“You should.” Meg nodded. Her eyes lit up. “Ohhhh, you could give it to me. Mine is small. Joe doesn’t like large rings. And yours has that giant diamond.” She sniffed as she looked at her own smallish ring. Gen rolled her eyes.
“It’s bad luck,” she announced, standing up. “Also, this ring has terrible energy.”
Her mood shifted into something dark, something angry, and her mirth was long gone. Thoughts of her ex-husband crushed them into the night.
The room swirled into a kaleidoscope of light, but she was determined. She marched to the balcony and stood by the edge. Suddenly, she wanted nothing more than to be rid of it.
Meg rushed to her, pulling her back. “Don’t stand there. You’re too close. You’re scaring me.”
Gen shook her off. “You’re just scared of heights. Wait a second.”
“I hope that whoever finds this ring will have better luck with it than I have,” she said loudly, kissing the ring and then throwing it into the night as hard as she could.
They both peered over the edge, but obviously they couldn’t see where it landed.
“Oh, my God. I can’t believe you did that,” Meg said, staring into the darkness. “That thing was worth like a jillion dollars. I wonder where it landed? Maybe a homeless person will find it.”
“That would be nice. They could sell it.”
“You could’ve sold it,” Meg answered. “It was valuable.”
“I don’t want anything else from that man. Ever. Fuck him, and his whore.”
“Yeah!” Meg agreed. She slumped against the door. “Fuck them. I’m sorry, Gen. You don’t deserve any of this.” She reached out to rub her sister’s back, but Gen hated the sympathy.
The idea of someone feeling sorry for her… It was too much in this moment. She wanted to be alone. Her happy buzz was gone, and anger had replaced it.
“Feel sorry for him,” she suggested. “He’s the one who will be leading the empty life. Not me.” Meg nodded, but Gen could tell her sister thought she was just blowing smoke. “I mean it,” she insisted. “I hope he ends up with that whore, and she ends up cheating on him. And then they both end up miserable. Because…karma.”
“You’re right,” Meg agreed. “He’s an asshole.”
“I’m gonna go get some air,” Gen decided, her cheeks flushed and hot. She hated feeling like a bitter wench.
“We’re standing on a balcony,” Meg pointed out.
“Nah. I mean, I’d like some air alone,” Gen clarified. Away from the sympathetic eyes of someone who knew she was scorned. It was humiliating, even in front of her sister.
Before Meg could protest, Gen backed out the door.
“At least take a jacket,” Meg managed to call.
Gen grabbed her sister’s coat on the way out the door. She couldn’t wait to move away, to a place where they wouldn’t know the whole seedy story, or a place where she didn’t have to wear her humiliation like a coat. It was a label she didn’t want.
For the third time today, she took a ride in the elevator. She dropped the coat on the floor, bent to pick it up and stumbled. Annoyed, she tied it around her waist, tugging it hard.
“Mrs. Tibault.” The doorman in the lobby nodded, as he opened the door for her. “Can I hail you a cab?”
“No, thank you,” she said. “I’m just going for a little walk. And I’m not Tibault anymore. It’s McCready, like the Lord intended.”
“All right. Be careful, ma’am,” he cautioned. “It’s dark.”
As if she didn’t know that.
She thanked him for his concern and set out on the New York City sidewalks…just for a minute. The night air was cool on her face, and it woke her up, clearing away a little of the two stiff Long Islands and countless glasses of wine she’d had at the restaurant.
The streetlights seemed hazy in the night, but the stars… The stars twinkled like beacons of hope.
She stared at the sidewalk, fighting to stay focused, and as she did, she saw a sparkle.
It couldn’t be.
She knelt to examine it, and it was.
It was her wedding ring.
What were the odds?
She shook her head as she curled her fingers around it and stood up. Maybe she’d never be rid of it.
She walked quickly, her shoes clicking on the pavement, and she stared up at the skyscrapers. She held her arms open wide and twirled drunkenly around. Spinning, spin-ning, spinning, she laughed at the sensation in her belly, the drunken blurriness, the moment of complete lightness.
Her joy was short-lived, however.
As she turned, someone grabbed her in the night, sharp fingers biting into her soft flesh.
There was a flash of pain in her temple.
Then nothing more.


Chapter 3

Meghan glanced at the clock. It was 8:03 a.m. She’d passed out the night before while she waited for Gen to come back. When she woke up at 7:30 a.m. with a start, she’d realized Gen hadn’t returned.
She was jittery now, a sense of foreboding swelling in her heart. For the second time, she picked up the phone and called the front desk.
“Were you able to reach the doorman from last night?” she asked them, her panic growing ever larger in her belly.
“Yes. He saw your sister go out for a walk,” the clerk told her. “He did not see her return. Is there a problem?”
Only the fact that Gen wasn’t answering her phone.
“It’s not like her,” she insisted to the clerk. “Something is wrong.”
She hung up and walked outside, looking all around. New York was already moving, trash blowing in the gutters. Her imagination started drifting. Had Gen snapped? She’d flung her ring off the balcony. Who does that? Meg felt guilt pull at
her. She should’ve known right then and there that her sister wasn’t in her right mind.
Maybe Gen realized her mistake and went to look for it.
Meg paused, looking around at her proximity to the hotel and their balcony. If she’d thrown a ring into the night and wanted to find it, where would she go?
She started tracking a path, along the sidewalks, into the bushes. She looked high and low. For a ring, the diamond was huge. But in scale with the size of a city, it was hunting for a needle in a haystack. She paused at a coffee cart, and paid for a cup of coffee, her fingers trembling. She gulped at the bitter liquid, trying to sharpen her fuzzy thoughts.
Why had they drank so much?
Two women alone, one of whom was emotionally shattered. Meg should’ve known better. Her sister had always been passionate and mercurial. Meg should’ve known that getting her drunk at a time like this was playing with fire.
“Damn it,” she muttered to herself, her fingers wrapped around the hot cup. “Think. Think.”
Maybe Gen headed to The Strand…to see if any of her books were displayed in the window. It was the gold standard for authors. She might’ve needed an ego boost. If Gen were Meg, that’s what she would’ve done.
She pivoted to head in that direction and promptly tripped, her coffee flying out of her hand.
As she scrambled to maintain her balance, she caught sight of something pink.
She froze and then knelt in the gutter to pull the pink coat from the ground.
It was soiled from being run over, but it was her own. The one Gen had been wearing last night.
Her breath caught in her throat and she whirled in every direction.
“Gen!” she shouted. “Gen!”
No one even glanced at her twice, not even the homeless guy on the bench.
“Did you see a woman last night in this coat?” she asked him. He stared at her with milky eyes and slowly shook his head.
She handed him a ten-dollar bill. “Are you sure?”
He nodded.
“Damn it.”
Her hand was shaking as she called 9-1-1.
After she explained the situation, the dispatcher wasn’t sympathetic. “Ma’am. This is not an emergency. I’m transferring you to the local precinct.”
Before Gen could argue, the call was transferred. She had to explain everything all over again to the man who answered the phone.
He didn’t seem concerned.
“She had too much to drink and went for a walk?” he asked, and she could almost hear his pen stop writing. “Lady, this is New York. Your sister wanted to see the sights and dropped her coat. She’s probably on a bench somewhere, sleeping it off.”
“No, she wouldn’t do that,” Meg told him. “In fact, it wasn’t like her to just get up and go for a walk alone. But she was upset, and…”
“What was she upset about?”
“She’s getting divorced,” Meg answered. “She threw her ring off the balcony and needed some air. Maybe she wanted to look for it. I have no idea. She was very upset.”
There was a pause on the other end. “Is her husband here with her?”
“No, of course not. They’re getting divorced. He’s in Chicago.”
“Is it an amicable divorce?”
Meg stared at the phone. “I know what you’re getting at but Thad wouldn’t do anything to her. He’s a lawyer. He can be an asshole, but he draws blood on paper and in the courtroom. He doesn’t need to in real life.”
“Is it an amicable divorce?” the officer asked again calmly.
Meg took a breath. “No.”
“Okay, ma’am. It’s too early to file a missing person. You’ll need to wait twenty-four hours. You can go look for her on your own, and wait for her to call, and if she doesn’t, call us back.”
“So, my sister is lost and you’re not going to do anything?” Meg was incredulous. “What do we pay you for?”
“Call us back in twenty-four hours if she doesn’t turn up,” the officer said curtly before hanging up.
“Twenty-four hours from when? From now, or from midnight of last night?” Meg asked, but of course, the officer was already off the phone.
Meg went back upstairs and paced the hotel suite, back and forth. She picked up her phone again, but laid it down. Should she really call and alarm people so soon? She waf-fled back and forth, trying to think logically. People who are severely emotionally distraught don’t act like themselves at times. Perhaps Gen really did just want time to herself.
But Meg didn’t think so. Deep in the pit of her belly, she felt like something was wrong. It was an instinct that had served her well in dozens of surgeries gone wrong. She usually listened to it and ended up saving a life that way. In the operating room, Meg was God. She called the shots. She always knew exactly what to do, because she had learned every contingency through a thousand surgeries on a thousand days, in a thousand different ways.
But this was different.
This wasn’t something they trained you for, and she didn’t have control over it.
Besides, as mercurial as Gen could be, this wasn’t in her wheelhouse.
Even still, Meg paced all the way out to the balcony, and though she was afraid, she pressed her belly against the cold railing and looked down. The sidewalks were bustling, and her sister was nowhere in sight.
“Where are you?” Meg whispered. “Come back.”
She threw on a heavy sweater, pausing only for a minute to scribble a note to her sister before she went out to look again.
She walked for several city blocks, checking every bench, every hidden set of stairs, every shadowy crevice. She checked her phone every few minutes.
Gen didn’t call.
She tried to call Gen, but got her voice mail, over and over. You’ve reached Genevieve Tibault. Leave a message, and when I find my phone, I’ll call you back. Or you could just text me. That would be better.
“Gen, call me back. Now,” Meg demanded. “I mean it. This isn’t cool. You’re scaring me.”
She looked at the picture they’d taken the night before, the one in the cab when their eyes were slightly unfocused and their cheeks were pink from alcohol. They were so happy, so delighted with life in general, in spite of everything. And now, Gen was gone.
“What happened?” Meg whispered, as she stood up, her heart pounding.
She ducked inside several twenty-four-hour pharmacies, asking the clerks if they’d seen her sister the night before or early that morning. But they hadn’t. At the last one, she bought ibuprofen, and tossed three down her throat. Her head was pounding.
There was another homeless man at the end of the block. She approached him with a photo of Gen on her phone, but he wouldn’t talk to her at all. He grunted and turned away with a snarl.
She was growing more frantic and more alarmed by the minute.
She stopped to question the day doorman. “Are you sure you haven’t seen my sister since she left around midnight?” she asked firmly, waving a photo of Gen from her phone at him. Her hands were shaking, and she hoped no one noticed.
The solemn man nodded. “I’m quite sure, ma’am. But I talked to Peter—he was the doorman on duty last night. He said he told her to be careful and saw her walk down the street. When he looked again, she was gone. He doesn’t know what direction she went after that. I’m sorry.”
He did look sorry. He was sympathetic.
“If I text you this picture, can you show it to guests and see if anyone saw anything?”
He started to nod, but the manager at the desk spoke up.
“No, we can’t do that, ma’am. I’m sorry. We can’t interfere in an investigation until the police instruct us.”
“But there’s not an investigation yet.” She turned, confused. “I can’t officially file a report until midnight. Plus, helping to find someone isn’t interfering.”
“After it becomes an investigation, we’ll do anything the police want us to do. In the meantime, we can’t disrupt our guests.” The manager’s face was stoic.
“Gen is your guest,” she replied slowly. “And she’s gone.”
“I’m sorry about that,” the manager said, but he was still firm. “We don’t want to alarm our other guests unnecessarily. We’ll be happy to cooperate with the police when they request it.”
She was hitting a stone wall here. Annoyed, Meg returned to her room and sat on her bed.
She hadn’t seen her sister since 12:30 a.m. It was now 10:04 a.m. The first session of the convention she came here to attend would be well underway. She couldn’t imagine sitting through panels about advances in medical devices while Gen was missing. All she could do was sit in the hotel room, and watch the clock, and wait. The time passed from 11:04 a.m. to 12:04 p.m., then 1:04 p.m., to 2:04 p.m. and finally, when it was 4:04 p.m. and her sister hadn’t come back, she knew she had to call someone.
She didn’t want to worry her parents, especially her mother yet, so she called Gen’s husband, Thad.
He answered quickly, his voice sharp.
“Thad, it’s Meg.”
“Why are you calling?”
“Gen’s gone,” she said without hesitating.
There was a pause. “What do you mean, gone?” he asked.
“She came to New York with me, and she went out for a walk late last night and she hasn’t come back to the hotel.”
“How long has she been gone?” he asked calmly.
“Since midnight.”
“That’s not like her,” he admitted.
“No, it’s not.”
“Did you call the police?”
“Of course. They said they can’t do anything for the first twenty-four hours.”
“Okay. Well, call them at the twenty-four-hour mark.”
“Are you coming? I think something is wrong. I mean, really wrong.”
There was silence on the other end.
“No,” he replied finally. “She’s divorcing me, remember? She doesn’t want me involved.”
“You don’t…” Her voice trailed off, and then she squared her shoulders. “You don’t think she…”
“Don’t be stupid,” he answered.
And he hung up.
Meg stared at the phone in disbelief. How could Gen’s husband be so cold? She thought back to what the policeman had asked her. Is the divorce amicable?
Lord. Thad wouldn’t do anything to Gen. That was stupid.
She shook the thoughts out of her head and took a shower.
She had skipped the entire first day of her convention because this was so much more important. She felt like if she left the room, something terrible might happen to Genevieve. It was illogical, but her mind was past logic at this point. She couldn’t imagine carrying on business as usual until Gen came back. The convention was just not that important.
She paced, and paced some more. Maybe Gen ran away. Maybe the divorce overwhelmed her all at once, and she’d snapped and just run away from it all.
But that train of thought didn’t last long.
Gen wasn’t that kind of person. She never ran away. She confronted everything head-on. Plus, Gen would never purposely worry her this way.
By the evening, when she hadn’t heard anything yet, she finally called their mother.
It wasn’t an easy phone call to make.
“I don’t understand what is happening,” her mother said. “You sent that picture last night. She was so happy. You girls were drunk. She probably got lost.”
“Mom, I think something might’ve happened,” Meg told her carefully. “This is New York City. It never sleeps, and crime never stops. I don’t know…”
“Don’t even say something like that,” her mother snapped. “She’s fine. I know she’s fine.”
After promising to call when there was any news, Meg hung up. Her arm was limp. Her mind was fuzzy. She collapsed onto the bed, staring at the window. The emotional roller coaster of today hit her in a wave, exhausting her. All of the adrenaline spikes and panic collapsed upon her now.
She didn’t even realize that she had fallen asleep until she woke up with a start.
It was dark.
She sat up, and looked around, finding the clock. It was 11:57 p.m.
She grabbed her phone, only to find zero messages.
She rushed through the suite, checking for Gen.
But her sister’s bed was unrumpled and the rooms were empty. She hadn’t returned, and it had now been twenty-four hours.
Meg decided not to call the police again, instead, she went downstairs and hopped into a taxi and went to the station in person.
“I’m here to file a missing-person report,” she told the person at the front desk.
She had to wait for over an hour for a detective to call for her.
“Detective Nate Hawkins,” he said as he shook her hand curtly and led her back to his office.
He was around her age, had two-day-old dark scruff on his jawline and eyes that had seen it all. He was unfazed as she answered his questions. What hotel are you staying at? Why are you here? Has she ever run away from loved ones before?
But then…then…his questions took a strange turn.
“Had you and Genevieve argued?” he asked, his blue eyes staring a hole in her.
She stared. “Um. No. We’d been to dinner.”
“You said you were talking about her divorce,” he corrected, glancing at his notes. “On the balcony.”
“Well, yes. Afterward. We’d just come back from dinner.”
“Were you angry with your sister?” His question was direct.
“Of course not!” she replied indignantly. “I love her. We were having fun. We were tipsy. Drunk, actually.”
“But you said that she was planning on leaving Chicago, and you clearly don’t agree with that decision.”
“That has nothing to do with this. I mentioned that as an aside. It’s irrelevant.”
“Never assume something is irrelevant,” he advised her. “In a situation like this one, any detail could be important.”
“Well, here’s a good detail: She’s my sister, and I love her. I want you to find her.”
“I’m sure you do,” he said, almost soothingly. “Listen, Miss McCready…”
“Dr. McCready,” she corrected him haughtily.
“Dr. McCready,” he confirmed. “We have to cover all the bases, and I’m sorry if my questions offend you. But here are two very blunt and very important facts about missing-person cases that I want you to know. The first forty-eight hours are crucial.”
“I know!” she snapped. “And you made me wait a full twenty-four to file this report.”
“And second,” he continued, ignoring her, “is that in a high percentage of cases, someone the victim knows is involved.”
She froze as she processed his words, and her mouth closed, as though it were on a hinge. He’d just referred to her sister as the victim. It suddenly seemed all too real. She stared at him without speaking.
His next words chilled her to the bone.
“You were the last to see her.”

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