Holiday Affair
But that’s also when your grandfather and I feel the most attached to this place. We’ve made a lot of happy memories here, Reid, especially holiday memories. If we try to do this ourselves, I just know what will happen: One minute, I’ll be demonstrating how to make paper cutout snowflakes to our guests…and the next I’ll be bawling into the eggnog and begging Bob to stop the sale.”
    “She does cry into the eggnog,” Robert said. “Salty eggnog is not the tastiest eggnog, let me tell you.”
    Exasperated, Reid shook his head. “I don’t have time. I need to line up other jobs.” He couldn’t take a chance with Alexis’s and Nicole’s security. “I have clients waiting to hear from me in Argentina and Iceland. That means I’ll be either herding cattle with gauchos or skiing the chutes in Isafjordur.”
    His grandparents looked at him uncomprehendingly.
    “The answer is no,” Reid clarified. “I have work to do.”
    His daughters—and Amanda—scowled at him, cookies in hand.
    “Real estate is hardly my forte,” he felt compelled to add. “Unless it’s untamed, untried, and located in some far-flung corner of the globe, and even then—” Getting off track, he regrouped. He squared his shoulders, then faced them all. “I’m an adventurer, not a salesman. You need a salesman.”
    “What we need,” his grandfather said, “is a Scrooge.”
    “And you’re him,” his grandmother added. “ You won’t get sentimental about all the holiday traditions here at the B&B. You’re practically immune to Christmas! That makes you perfect. ”
    Perfect, because he wouldn’t get nostalgic about the B&B.
    Perfect, because, to his grandparents, a sincere wish to sell The Christmas House and retire really was a crisis.
    Perfect, most of all, because he was a Scrooge at heart.
    Still unconvinced, Reid kept pacing. It was true that his world travels had left him one step removed from the traditions everyone else treasured. He really was unlikely to cave in to a sudden bout of nostalgia and call off the sale. His grandparents were right about that much. But his admitted lack of Christmas cheer didn’t mean he wanted to hang around Kismet—of all places—trying to please holiday vacationers and hoping to impress a clipboard-wielding hospitality company evaluator.
    Frankly, the whole idea sounded nightmarish to him.
    “You won’t have to do everything yourself,” Robert said.
    “That’s right!” Betty beamed at him. “I almost forgot that part. All your relatives—and our neighbors—will be here to help you, Reid. Everyone’s already agreed to drop in and volunteer on an as-needed basis. That will make things easy-peasy!”
    “If anyone can make sure this sale goes through,” his grandfather pushed, “it’s you, Reid. We need you.”
    That almost did it. As much as Reid loved to travel the world, he loved his family more. Loyalty was his middle name.
    Teetering on the verge of agreement, he exhaled. With his head tipped to the ceiling, he examined the B&B’s lovingly restored crown molding. It was edged with evergreens and starry LED white lights, lending the whole room a Christmassy air.
    A Christmassy air he felt utterly indifferent to.
    Maybe he really was a Scrooge.
    “Hey, Dad?” In the silence, Nicole piped up. “What’s that pine tree doing inside, with all that stuff on it?”
    She couldn’t be serious.
    “Pine tree?” Reid stepped closer to the gaily decorated fir, with its strings of popcorn and cranberries, old-fashioned bubble lights, and glass ornaments. “You mean this one?”
    Soberly, she nodded. “Yeah. I mean, it’s pretty and all, but…What’s it for? What does it do? How’d it get there?”
    Everyone in the front room stared at her. Then at Reid.
    Their disapproving gazes made him feel…itchy. He didn’t like it. He rubbed the back of his neck, then gave an uncomfortable chuckle. “Honey, come on. You know what that is.”
    His small daughter only gazed at

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