After the Winter
Rudderless after betrayal by her former fiancé, Montreal heiress Sally Ryder discovers her deceased mother had a secret life and she has a half-sister. Helena has written to Sally, inviting her to Midwinter, an isolated estate in Quebec. But before they can meet, Helena and her husband die under disturbing circumstances.
Sally decides to visit nearby Waverley for a few days nevertheless, to learn what she can about the sister she never knew. Her first shock is to find that her brother-in-law left everything, including Midwinter, to his beautiful secretary Janine. During a storm, Sally is unexpectedly snowed in with Janine and an assortment of Midwinter guests. It isn't long before Sally becomes entangled with a handsome doctor from Boston in an effort to uncover the truth about her sister's mysterious life, and death.
There was a faint tenderness in her voice. Tom felt awkward, put out, must have looked it.
“I’m sorry about your friend,” she said quickly. “It sounds like he was very important to you when you were growing up. You were lucky, in a way.”
He sat back and stared at her.
“He was important, if that’s what you mean by lucky. As I imagine your sister was to you?”
“There’s a story there, Dr. Munro.”
“Well, tell me if you feel like it.” He could see her struggling with reticence and assumed his most persuasive manner. “After all, I spilled all my beans. Including a few I hadn’t planned to.”
A tentative laugh. “All right, since you put it that way. My story begins with correspondence.”
He blinked. “Correspondence, you say? Tell away.”
So she told him about the arrival of the letter from San Francisco, and what she’d found out afterwards from Annie Poirier. She went on to describe how she’d heard about the deaths of the Lanes, while waiting for the invitation to visit that never came. It was somehow not possible to avoid telling him at least a little about her life at present, and the tragedy involving her parents managed to slip out. Jack Pendergast was mentioned, a name in passing, and Tom was left with an understanding of an engagement that now wasn’t one.
He was a rapt audience.
“It’s hard to explain what this kind of news means. You can’t miss someone you never knew existed, but you want to meet them quite badly once you’ve got used to the idea. And then, for Helena to die… Like you I came to Waverley to find out things—but about my half-sister as a person.” She looked anxious. “Now it seems I have a lot more to find out.”
When Tom was about to protest, she said: “Don’t feel bad, Dr. Munro, the business with the will is disturbing, you can’t help but think there’s something strange and unpleasant under the surface. I’d like to know what happened as much as you do.”
A small sigh. “Not that it will help the Lanes anymore. But why is important. All the whys.” Her fingers fluttered, as if she was counting them.
“If it’s too late for an explanation of my mother’s other life and too late to meet Helena, at least this is something I can know. Maybe I owe Helena too. If it’s the only thing I can do, maybe it’s the least I can do.”
The little speech was spoken bravely, but it leaked reluctance, doubt. As Tom watched her, he suspected these were the words Sally felt she should say—the words of some ideal Sally Ryder who lived in her imagination only. The shadowed eyes told another story. He thought, how far should I push this?
The question troubled him. This was a young woman who’d been through the wringer. He didn’t need her help, perhaps—but he wanted it. Was he pulling her into a deep pool with him, without bothering to find out if she could swim?
She was very young. Who knew what their digging would uncover? It could get messy.