He was older than she’d thought he would be. Emilia wasn’t sure exactly what she’d been expecting. It wasn’t this. Carrick had said his son would be coming to check things out. And there was no doubt the man talking to the community center’s director was related to Carrick Hunter. Looked almost exactly like him. Minus about twenty years.
She didn’t know why she’d been expecting someone closer to thirty. If he was going to be in charge of this job, it made sense he’d have more experience. More experience meant older. She didn’t think of Carrick as being old enough to have a son who had to be in his forties, though. He didn’t usually act like he was just passing sixty.
This man had Carrick’s build, his hair, even his laugh. He had dark glasses on under the white hard hat, so she couldn’t see his eyes. She wondered if they were that same warm chocolate brown as Carrick’s.
“Hey, Emilia!” the director called out to her, waving her over.
She set her smock and her tool box on a table and started over to them. “Tate,” the director said when she reached them, “this is Emilia Stiel. She runs an art program here for our seniors.” She noticed he didn’t mention the new program she wanted to start. Of course not. He didn’t agree with what she was trying to do.
She held her hand out to the man. “It’s good to meet you, Tate. I’ve known your father a few years. He speaks well of you.”
He jerked back at that, as if surprised. Did he think his dad wasn’t proud of the son who followed in his footsteps? That didn’t make much sense. Maybe there was more there between them than she knew, though. “I’m certainly no hero,” he muttered.
Those words didn’t make much more sense to her. But, there was certainly some dynamic in the family she was unaware of. “I know your younger brother, too,” she said.
Now, his eyes wrinkled at the corners, and his lips pulled up slightly. “Which one?” he asked. She looked at him questioningly, and his smile widened a little. “Kelan, Nolan, or Jace? I’m the oldest, so they’re all younger.”
She laughed at that. “You sound kind of like my cousin Cormac. Lording over his birth order in the family. Of course, he’s not the oldest cousin. That honor goes to one of my other cousins, Calan.”
His gaze narrowed on her. “How many cousins do you have?”
She started counting off on her fingers then looked back up at him. “You don’t really want to know, do you?”
He started laughing then it drifted off. She’d always found the phrase, ‘a lightbulb went off’ a bit amusing, but that’s exactly how he looked right now. “You’re a goddamn Magaldi, aren’t you?”
She took one step back from him, but he didn’t look angry, despite the cursing. Instead she thought she caught a glimmer of humor in his eyes. “I’m not,” she said. “My mother was. What do you have against my family?”
“Not a damn thing,” he said, looking surprised. “Two of my brothers seem to have joined it, in a way.”
She tilted her head to the side. “What does that mean?”
He laughed. “My brother, Nolan, is engaged to Maura Reddick, whose brother is engaged to Caitie. My other brother, Jace, is in a relationship with Kammi Yates, who is cousins with a couple of you, I hear.”
She laughed, “Calan and Toya. So, Mark’s your brother-in-law. Or something.”
“Or something,” he said with a smile. She was surprised how much that changed his face. It had looked like granite before, now it was more like sandstone. He was handsome when that mask dropped away.
No, she shouldn’t be thinking like that. She’d been burned too many times by a handsome face.
Tate had no idea what he was doing. He was supposed to be here looking over what they wanted done with the center, figuring out an estimate on what it was going to cost. He wasn’t here to chat with a pretty young woman, no matter their family connections. And she looked too young for him.
He needed to get to work, but he couldn’t take his eyes from her. Especially when she laughed. It brightened up her already light face.
God, what was wrong with him? He’d just left his ex-wife’s bed the night before. He didn’t know how she still had such a hold over him. He swallowed and cleared his throat. Then, he turned back to the director. “So, are you going to show me what you want done with this place?”
He saw the frown cross Emilia’s face and felt like a jackass. But, he couldn’t take the things she was making him feel and think. So, he ignored it. “Right,” the director said. “This way, Tate. Emilia, I’ll see you tomorrow for our meeting.”
“Of course,” he heard her say, but something in her voice sounded off now. He glanced back, but she was already gathering up the supplies she’d set down earlier. He pushed it out of his mind and followed the director down the hallway. Him and his men would likely be working here for a while, but maybe he’d be able to avoid her during that time.
He tried to convince himself that’s exactly what he wanted.