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“This isn’t easy for me, Mr. Sloan.” She took a deep breath. “Alright, my friend Bev Saunders recommended you.”
“Ah yes, Mrs. Saunders. How is she?”
“She’s very happy now. She divorced Harry, as you no doubt know. She has taken up painting and, well, let’s just say she is enjoying life to the fullest. She said you were helpful and compassionate and above all discreet with her case. I know so very little about these things, but she guaranteed that you would be able to handle the entire matter for me.”
“I’ll certainly do my best Miss Smith.”
“To begin with, my name isn’t Smith, it’s Stratheden.”
He looked up quickly. “Any relation to the Stratheden banking family?” he asked.
“Yes,” she nodded once and lowered her eyes almost apologetically. “My father was Daniel Stratheden. So you understand the need for discretion. My father just recently passed away.”
“Yes, I read about him in the Globe. He was a well respected man. I am sorry for your loss.”
She looked into his eyes. She expected some hint of derision, envy perhaps, but found only genuine sympathy. He continued to stare at her expectantly. She sat unmoving.
“Miss Stratheden, how can I be of help?” he prompted.
“Olivia, please. Call me Olivia. Well, it’s about Carter, Carter Thompson, my fiancé. I think he’s having an affair and I need to find out for certain.” She looked into his eyes. “I don’t like it when people lie to me.”
Her voice remained even but the look in her eyes was chilling. Sloan watched her lips moving. Very nice lips they were, too. Full, pink and pillowy. But she was a little too wacko for his taste. He tuned out for a moment. He already knew her story. They were always the same.
“Tell me, Olivia, how long ago did you meet Mr. Thompson, and where?” he asked.
“About a year ago, at Bev and Harry’s summer party at the lake...Muskoka. They used to host a big weekend party every year. I had just become friendly with Bev and she had confided in me about Harry. That was just before their divorce. She begged me to come and give her moral support. And she said there was a man she wanted me to meet.”
“Please go on…”
“I’m not very good in the social arena. I mean, I used to have to attend Daddy’s charity events but I always hated them. Much ado about nothing, the small talk, the pretense. So much easier to just write a cheque. Anyway, I remember Daddy had just had his first stroke and I didn’t want to leave him but he insisted I go and have fun with younger people. So I went and that’s where I met Carter. We started going out, just simple, fun dates. He was so patient with me.”
“What do you mean by ‘patient’?”
“It’s hard for me to explain things logically sometimes but I’ll try. I have this condition I guess you could call it. I’ve always been very withdrawn. When I was a child it was much worse. I couldn’t even go to school. I had private tutors. My mother sent me to a psychiatrist and I was forced to go weekly until she died and then Daddy said I didn’t have to anymore. People have a tendency to underestimate me. They think I’m a little slow. Except Daddy. He understood me. He even let me help him with his work, some of his most complex negotiations. I’m really good with numbers. He valued my input, he was my biggest fan… Sorry, I’m rambling... So then Daddy got ill, and Carter was my rock. He stood by me. I don’t have many friends so his companionship was crucial to me. When Daddy died, Carter took me away to France. He proposed, and virtually changed my life.”
“Sounds romantic,” Sloan agreed. “What happened to bring you here then?”