When had Allison become so observant? Rose gazed out the window at their newly adopted home of Aztec, New Mexico. “I need to be alone.”
“It’s Christmas Eve. ‘Alone’ is the last thing you need to be.” Allison’s voice turned whiny. “Come on. Everyone in town will be at Las Posadas.”
The neighborhood was decked out in the same types of Christmas decorations as back in their native Pennsylvania. Tinsel. Strings of lights. Reindeer and Santa figures. Nativity scenes. But set against a backdrop of adobe houses without a towering pine or spruce tree to be seen—except for the cut ones imported for sale—she felt homesick. She missed the pungent fragrance of pine, the heavily wooded hillsides…
She missed Ted. This would be her first Christmas without him. And in a couple of weeks, she’d face the one-year anniversary of the night he’d died.
“Miguel will be there.” Allison replaced the whiny voice with a lilt. “Emily’s going to lead the procession through town.”
The mention of Miguel Morales, the San Juan County deputy sheriff who’d become a good friend, almost brought a smile to Rose’s heart. The thought of his five-year-old daughter taking part in a tradition Rose had heard so much about succeeded in lightening her mood. Briefly.
Miguel had been working a missing person’s case. Poor old Mr. Alvarez with his full white beard had gained the nickname Santa, not only because he looked the part but acted it as well. And not just in December. Mr. Alvarez had been known to deliver meals to the homebound, pay an outstanding bill for families about to have their power cut off, or bring toys to kids whose parents couldn’t afford them. He’d disappeared two days ago. No one had seen or heard from him. He wasn’t answering his phone.
Making matters worse, the weathermen on the TV station out of Albuquerque were calling for a huge snowstorm to hit the Four Corners that evening.
“Are you listening to me?”
Allison gave an impressive eye roll. “Never mind. I’m gonna go talk to Logan. Maybe he’ll pay attention.”
Rose watched her daughter stomp off in search of her brother and breathed a sigh. Thank goodness her kids had each other. And thank goodness she had them. She knew they ached from losing Ted too, but somehow, they handled it better.
Her doorbell rang, snapping her out of her reverie. She caught a glimpse of the green Sheriff’s Office SUV through the window before she opened the door to her favorite deputy. “Miguel. What are you doing here?”
He stepped inside, out of the cold dry winter air. “I was in the neighborhood.”
“Right,” she said sarcastically. “Can’t you be more original than that?”
“I’m serious. I had to question one of your neighbors on the next street, who thought they spotted Mr. Alvarez.”
Miguel had disappeared into the crowd to collect his daughter, leaving Rose alone to take in the celebration.