Holiday Affair
Room this overstuffed house never had!” Robert gestured at the B&B’s front room. It was fully decorated with lights, embellished holiday pillows, bowls of ornaments and clove-studded orange pomanders, fat flickering candles, and even topiaries made of holly and mistletoe. “And we won’t have any damn visitors for at least the first year!”
    “Robert!” Betty protested.
    “Sorry. ‘Darn’ visitors. For at least a year!”
    Puzzled, Reid examined them. “I thought you liked company. I thought that’s why you enjoyed running the B&B so much.”
    “Company, yes,” his grandmother said. “But there are limits. We’re getting on in years, you know. We want to relax.”
    His grandfather nodded at that. Vigorously.
    “ And we want some time to ourselves.” His grandfather gave Betty a grinning, lascivious wink. “If you know what I mean.”
    Reid nodded. It was a peculiarly American mind-set to believe that people stopped being interested in sex when they got older. In other parts of the world, people understood that a fulfilling life included plenty of whoopee. No matter your age.
    “That’s why we want to retire. Now. Before it’s too late.”
    Reid could hardly fault them for wanting to enjoy their golden years. He definitely wanted them to be happy. Still…
    What about the emergency? What about that phone call?
    Reid shot a glance at Alexis. She bit her lip, appearing to be thinking the same thing he was. What about what’s wrong?
    “All right. I hear you,” Reid said. “I understand that it can’t be easy to run this place, year in and year out.”
    His grandparents traded an enigmatic look.
    “Oh, it’s not that bad,” his grandfather said. He chuckled. “Most of the time, The Christmas House practically runs itself.”
    “It really does,” his grandmother assured him—pointlessly, since Reid was already busy preparing himself for the worst.
    “All right. Fine.” He got to his feet. He paced across the room, absently noting the presence of at least three dancing Santa figurines and one fireplace mantel full of already hung stockings. They even had names embroidered on their cuffs: Karina. Josh. Olivia. Michael. Suzanne. Rocky. Neil. “But when Alexis told me about that satellite call, I got the impression there was more to this story than a simple urge to retire. You could have told me about that over the phone, any one of the dozens of times I called. Or did no one give you my messages?”
    His grandmother gazed at him dotingly. “Look at him, pacing around like that, Bob. Reid still can’t sit still, even at his age. It’s just like when he was little. Isn’t that cute?”
    “You always were a rowdy one,” Robert confirmed fondly.
    Wheeling around, Reid confronted them. “Just tell me: Which one of you is sick? Exactly what’s wrong? And how can I help?”
    At his anguished tone, Nicole gawked. Amanda paused with a cookie halfway to her mouth, compelled by the unexpected drama to quit eating. His grandparents…laughed. Laughed!
    “No one is ill,” his grandfather said. “We’re quite well.”
    “I do water aerobics at the Y three times a week!”
    Reid didn’t believe them. “Then what’s the emergency?”
    Alexis and Nicole exchanged a furtive look.
    So did his grandparents. Did everyone have a secret around here?
    Reid felt too overwrought to contemplate the notion much further. “Enough about The Christmas House,” he said roughly. “Enough about Arizona! I want to know the real reason you called me. And don’t talk to me about going ten under par or taking up saguaro gardening, because I won’t buy it.”
    “Saguaro gardening,” his grandmother mused. “Good idea!”
    “We already told you,” his grandfather insisted. “We called you here because we want to sell The Christmas House—and we want your help with it. It’ll be easy. We already have—”
    Newly alert, Reid stopped. “My help? You want my help?”
    “—a deal lined up with a global

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