The colonial charm of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia is always special. The stately, historic homes are lovely in every season, but when snow begins to fall, Christmas wreaths appear on doors, and candles light the windows at night, it’s almost magical.
I rose to a lazy snowfall this morning. Not enough to accumulate, just enough to put me in the holiday spirit. No sooner did I pour hot water into my French coffee press, than Nina Reid Norwood, my best friend and across the street neighbor, appeared at the kitchen door. I lit a small fire in the kitchen fireplace. My Ocicat, Mochie, curled up on a chair by the fire while Nina and I lingered over French toast spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, and topped with hot apples sautéed in butter and dark brown sugar.
Although I longed to dive into decorating my house for Christmas, that project had to take a backseat to Horace Scroggins’s Christmas party, which always kicked off the holiday season in Old Town. Horace reminded me of Santa Claus, with pink cheeks, white hair, a little round belly, and a smile for everyone. He had talked me into organizing the party for him. The employees of his real estate company delighted in decorating a huge tree in their two-story foyer. Ruby red poinsettias and Scottish tartan ribbons brought holiday spirit to his elegant office building. Horace spared no expense in entertaining his clients and neighbors. The menu included delicacies like oysters on the half shell and caramelized pears with foie gras. Most of my neighbors would be in attendance. It was always a special event.
I spent the morning and early afternoon taking care of details. The carolers were coming and the caterer was on schedule. I made a quick trip to Horace’s office to be sure the buffet tables and extra chairs were in place. Everything looked perfect.
I hurried the few blocks home, showered and changed into a sleeveless red velvet dress with a V-neck, musing about the fact that velvet made me feel like the Christmas season had finally arrived. I pinned my hair up and added dangling earrings. Black sling-back shoes seemed appropriate. They had short heels in case I needed to dash through the halls.
For the next couple of hours, I tended to the party. The food smelled heavenly. The clove-studded oranges in the English Bishop punch made it look as delicious as it tasted. Nina arrived. Mars, my ex-husband, made it, and droves of our neighbors poured through the doors. Everyone appeared to be having a great time.
Checking my watch, I strode to the front door and peeked outside for the carolers. The snow had picked up just enough to be festive. In their traditional Victorian outfits, the carolers looked right at home on the colonial street. I swung open the door and stepped onto the sidewalk. The carolers burst into “Deck the Halls.”
Guests gathered at the door and the windows. Upstairs, Horace led a group out onto a small decorative balcony.
He didn’t look well. His rosy cheeks had gone white. Something wasn’t right. Horace leaned forward. The railing split with an enormous snap, and Horace plunged headlong onto the sidewalk, landing at the feet of the carolers.
You can read more about Sophie in The Diva Wraps It Up, the 8th book in the “Domestic Diva” mystery series, published by Berkley Prime Crime. The first book in the series is The Diva Runs Out of Thyme. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.
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Meet the author
Like her characters, Krista Davis has a soft spot for cats, dogs, and cupcakes. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with three dogs and two cats. The Diva Wraps It Up is the eighth book in her Domestic Diva Mystery series. Three of those books have been nominated for Agatha awards and three have made the New York Times Bestseller list. In December, The Ghost and Mrs Mewer, the second book in her Paws and Claws Mysteries will be published.
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