One with You (Page 73)
Lucky wriggled out of my lax grip and jumped to the floor.
Angus took a deep breath. “That mention and the photo made me take a deeper look.”
He pulled out a picture and set it down.
I glanced at it. “Who is that?”
“That’s Monica Tramell—now Monica Dieck.”
My blood turned cold. The woman in the photo was a brunette, like her parents. And she looked nothing like the Monica I knew or my wife. “I don’t understand.”
“I haven’t yet figured out what Eva’s mother’s actual name is, but the real Monica Tramell had a brother named Jackson who was briefly married to Lauren Kittrie.”
“Lauren.” Eva’s middle name. “What do we know about her?”
“For now, nothing, but that’ll change. We’re looking.”
I raked my hand through my hair. “Is it possible we’ve confused the Tramells and looked at the wrong family?”
Standing, I went to the bar. I took two tumblers off the shelf and poured two fingers of Ardbeg Uigeadail single malt into each. “Stanton would’ve checked out Monica—Eva’s mother—thoroughly before he married her.”
“You didn’t find out about Eva’s past until she told you,” he pointed out.
He was right. The records of Eva’s abuse, her miscarriage, the court transcripts, the settlement … they’d all been meticulously buried. When I’d tasked Arash with drafting the prenuptial agreement, we had verified her financial assets and debts, but that was all. I loved her. I wanted her. Discrediting her in any way had never been considered.
Stanton loved his wife as well. Her personal fortune, accumulated after two financially advantageous divorces, would have addressed the most pressing concern. As for the rest, I expect he and I had acted similarly. Why search for trouble when all indications were that there was none? Love was willfully blind and made fools of men.
I rounded the bar and nearly tripped over Lucky as he bounded in front of me. “Benjamin Clancy is damned good. He wouldn’t have missed this.”
“We missed it.” He took the glass I handed him. “If the Tramells hadn’t passed away, we still wouldn’t know. The background check was clean.”
“How can it be clean, for f**k’s sake?” I knocked back the whiskey in one swallow.
“Eva’s mother used Monica’s name, birthdate, and family history, but she never opened a line of credit, which is how most identity theft is discovered. The bank account she’s using was established twenty-five years ago and is a business account with a separate tax ID.”
She would’ve had to provide a personal SSN, as well, when she opened it, but the world was a very different place before the Internet.
The enormity of the fraud was difficult for me to grasp. If Angus was right, Eva’s mother had lived more of her life as another woman than she had as herself.
“There’s no trail, lad,” he reiterated, setting his tumbler down untouched. “No crumbs to follow.”
“What about the real Monica Tramell?”
“Her husband manages everything. In that sense, she hardly exists.”
I looked down at the puppy who pawed at my shin. “Eva doesn’t know about any of this,” I said grimly. “She would’ve told me.”
Even as I said it, I had to wonder how she would’ve told me. How would I tell her, if I were in her place? Could she keep such a huge secret, having lived with the lie so long she now believed it was true?
“Aye, Gideon,” Angus said, his tone low and conciliatory. He wondered, too. It was his job to do so. “She loves you. Deeper and truer than I’ve ever seen a lass love a man.”
I lowered back onto the sofa, felt the slight weight of Lucky as he scrambled up beside me. “I need to know more. Everything. I can’t bring information like this to Eva in bits and pieces.”
“You’ll have it,” he promised.
“It’s …” Wincing at the detailed sketch Cary had placed in front of me, I shook my head. “It’s pretty, but it’s not … right. It’s not the right one.”
Cary heaved out his breath. From where he sat on the floor at my feet, he dropped his head back on the couch to look at me upside down. “You’re kidding. I hand you a one-of-a-kind wedding dress designed just for you and you blow it off ?”
“I don’t want a strapless dress. And this has a high-low hemline—”
“That’s a train,” he said dryly.
“Then why can I see the shoes? You shouldn’t be able to see the shoes.”