Picking up his glass, he swallowed his final mouthful of wine and transferred his gaze from Kenzie’s backside to a much safer object, her dog. Satisfied he’d checked on who was at the front door, Marley headed back toward him in search of a little attention.
“Happy birthday. Sorry, we’re late. We got a later start than we intended.” The deep baritone voice tugged at Ryan’s memory, and he looked over toward the door. The man hugging Kenzie appeared a little older, but no question about it, he’d been one of Ryan’s firearms instructors at the academy.
Talk about a small world. At least it wasn’t the instructor he’d had for defensive tactics. While Kenzie’s father had been one of the tougher firearms instructors there, he’d treated all the new agents in training with respect, and he’d been willing to give anyone extra help. The same couldn’t be said about the agent in charge of teaching defensive tactics. The man had been an absolute dick. Until this moment, he’d seen none of his instructors again after graduation.
Kenzie immediately made introductions when she came back in the kitchen. “Mom, Dad, this is Ryan.” Rather than assign him a label, she looked over at him. “Ryan, my parents, Ed and Maeve.”
An older version of Kenzie but with hazel-colored eyes extended her hand toward him. “I’d say it’s nice to finally meet you, but until this morning I didn’t know Kenzie had someone special in her life.” She sent an accusing look in her daughter’s direction. “But I’m glad you could join us tonight. I look forward to getting to know you.”
Although he was in Edward Armstrong’s crosshairs, he focused all his attention on Kenzie’s mom. “Thanks for including me.”
Maeve appeared about to speak, and if he had to guess, she planned to ask how long he’d known Kenzie, but she never got the opportunity.
“Do you want a glass of wine, Mom?”
“That’s Kenzie’s way of preventing me from embarrassing her any further.” Mother and daughter might look alike, but they didn’t sound it. Although not strong, the older woman’s voice contained enough of an Irish accent to tell him she’d lived in the United States for a long time, but she hadn’t been born here. “We’ll talk more later,” she promised, patting his shoulder and then stepping away. “I’d love a small glass.”
With his wife out of the way, Kenzie’s father didn’t hesitate to occupy the space she’d vacated. Tall and muscular, Ryan’s former firearms instructor wasn’t someone you’d want to mess with in a dark alley. The only signs the guy was on the older side were the considerable streaks of gray in his hair and the laugh lines around his mouth. Although retired, he kept himself in excellent shape.
“You look familiar,” he said after they shook hands and exchanged greetings. “But I don’t know from where.”
“Quantico.” Ryan stifled the urge to add sir to his response. He was no longer a new agent in training, and he wasn’t addressing his instructor.
Ed considered Ryan’s answer before nodding. “Saltarelli. Everyone in your class called you Salty. You were at the academy when I was there on a temporary duty assignment. It’s good to see you again.”
With the mystery of how he knew Ryan solved, Kenzie’s dad turned his attention toward his daughter and wife. “If we’re going to make our reservation, we should leave soon.”
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