What happens when
you meet a man
you can't take home
to meet your parents?
Author Lorhainne Eckhart returns with a brand-new generation of Friessens in an engrossing romance series about family, commitment, hope, and making relationships work. In this Friessen Family novel, an unexpected proposition leaves a young woman tempting fate, pursuing a love that will inevitably end in heartbreak.
She looked him straight in the eyes, those blue eyes that were so intense. She wondered what they’d be able to get her to do. She was smart, level headed, and not lacking in self-confidence. She loved who she was, she had a family who loved her, and yet here she was, sitting here, discussing giving something to a man she would never have considered giving to anyone.
Living on her parents’ ranch in the middle of nowhere, Becky Friessen realizes most people would give anything to be part of her family and have the kind of love her parents have, but she needs more than quiet and stability. She craves excitement, action, a spark of adventure—and she won’t let anyone steer her into something she doesn’t want to do, living in a quiet piece of the world where nothing ever happens.
That is until she meets a man who shocks her with an indecent proposal that she finds herself actually considering. He’s a man she could never tell her parents about, a man she could never take home to meet the family. However, fighting this insane attraction between them could drive her down a one-way road to heartbreak.
Didn't get a chance to read the other books in the McCabe Brothers?
Everything was the same.
The same house.
The same family.
The same boring, sheltered existence where nothing exciting ever happened. Everything about her life was predictable as if she were following a script, one that included a safe, comfortable, stable life, an existence that did nothing to fill her with excitement and anticipation of what her future could be.
Her parents, Brad and Emily Friessen, were amazing, full of love and laughter, with a closeness even her friends were envious of, and they lived the kind of life everyone seemed to want—everyone, that was, except Becky. However, in all honesty, she wouldn’t trade her family for anything, a family filled with laughter, closeness, and questions about as familiar as the pull of breath every time she walked through the door after school. “How was your day?” they would always say before asking her to keep an eye on her little brother, Jack. Then there was Trevor, her older brother with autism, who would never have a life of his own.
The steps creaked on the porch as she stepped up. She pulled open the squeaky screen and then the inside door, which had been painted the same white as long as she could remember. She expected her mom to come around the corner, since Becky was home directly after school instead of working a shift at the grocery store, her part-time job, which filled her smart car with gas and gave her a modicum of freedom. Her backpack, which was filled with her schoolwork, binders, and basically her entire locker from her second time around senior year at high school, was still looped over her shoulder.
Yup, she’d actually been short two courses to graduate the previous year with the credits she would need to start her next adventure, college—all because the robotics course she’d once been excited about had only shown her she was never meant to be an engineer, so now instead of being on her way to college, she was stuck at home, working part time in a dead-end job, taking more courses that would finally bring her closer to her dreams. Only therein lay the problem she hadn’t spent a lot of time considering: Becky didn’t have a clue what that dream job could be. Instead, she kept seeing this same predictable life that would bore her to tears.
She did know it wouldn’t be anything to do with the ranch, anything way out in the country where her closest neighbor was a mile away. She wanted people around, action, aliveness, excitement, but instead of sharing any of that with her mom, her dad, or anyone in her family, she kept it to herself.
Her sneakers squeaked on the pristine hardwood floor as she took another step, holding her backpack strap. She realized as she strode into the house she’d grown up in that she didn’t hear the familiar clatter from the kitchen that said her mom was cooking dinner, or Jack, her six-year-old little brother, who was always chattering, running, playing. She expected him to come running as he always did and slam into her, all smiles, his way of saying he was happy to see his big sister. She often wished he’d dial it back a bit and finally get that she wasn’t unbreakable.
It was unusually quiet.
“She’s here now.” She heard her dad’s voice, and the floor squeaked as he stepped out of the kitchen, giving her a pointed look, the phone to his ear. It was in that second that she knew he was talking about her to whomever he was speaking with. “Thanks again for letting me know.”
Then he disconnected the phone and stepped into the living room, where he rested it on the side table. Had she done something? She wracked her brain, trying to figure it out. Again, her dad said nothing, and she took in his dark blue shirt and the faint white lines that weaved a pattern through the cotton. His sleeves were rolled up, and she could see a line of mud on his forearm as if he’d just come in from someplace on the ranch and hadn’t had a chance to wash up. His thick dark hair was wavy and in need of a cut, and the gray threading its way through was taking over the color more and more.
“Hi, Dad, where’s Mom?”
“She’s over at Candy and Neil’s, picking up your little brother and dropping off Trevor for the night.” Her dad glanced to the door and gestured. “So you’re not working today? Good, because I want to have a talk with you.”
He took her in, and her heart kicked up as she wondered again for a second whether he’d found out something she’d done or maybe hadn’t done—but she was careful. She didn’t share with anyone what she was thinking, instead slipping back and away and remaining purposely vague. His expression was curious, and that had her saying, “…Okay? About what, Dad?”
“Go hang up your coat and your backpack, and come and help me start dinner,” he said, gesturing to the kitchen. He was being vague, too. Maybe that was who she got it from. So what was up? Her dad didn’t cook, her mom did, so something was a little off. The house was way too quiet. Talking was something her mom always wanted to do, whereas her dad was more about stepping in when there was problem and fixing everything.
The tap was running in the kitchen when she walked back in, wearing her blue jeans, which were beyond comfortable, and her bright orange and brown peasant blouse with sleeves that flowed to midarm. She took in her dad washing his hands, his arms, and then shaking the water off as he reached for a towel.
“So how was school today?” he said. That was her mom’s line. She noticed a pot steaming on the stove. Her dad reached over and turned it to low.
“Great, so is that dinner?” It smelled good, and she lifted the lid to see a pot of chili. Yum.
“Your mom started it this morning asked me to reheat it. She wants you to make a salad,” he added.
She gave him a withering look, and a smile touched his lips. “Pretty sure she didn’t say that,” she said, but then, her dad really wasn’t any use in the kitchen, and he helped by not cooking.
“No, but make the salad just the same. I’ll wash the lettuce for you.” He winked, and she rolled her eyes, because next she’d be doing all the work and her dad would be helping himself to a beer or something else, leaning against the counter, asking her…what? Oh, yeah, he wanted to have a talk with her.
“Here.” Her dad had the fridge open and tossed her a cucumber. She caught it and pulled down the chopping board that was always clean and propped upright against the backsplash. Her dad began washing the lettuce and a bunch of green onions and tomatoes.
“So how about elaborating a little more on school? The courses you’re taking are what, again?” Brad asked as he rinsed the tomato and then took the cucumber from her before she could chop it, giving it a rinse under the tap.
Becky pulled the wooden salad bowl from the cupboard above her and set it on the counter, then reached for a knife from the block. She sliced the cucumber. “Calculus, remember, and history,” she said, thinking of the classes she’d thought were a great idea at the time. She was passing them, of course, but they too held little interest to her.
“Hmm” was all he said.
“Could tell you all about the French Revolution we’re studying or the formulas I managed to nail today in Calculus, if you like.”
Her dad shook the water off the lettuce, and she was about to point out he should really use a salad spinner. She was about to but knew then he probably wouldn’t, since he likely didn’t have a clue where her mom put it. That would force Becky to take over everything, which she pretty much was now as she took in how out of place her dad appeared, prepping a salad in the kitchen. He slowly turned his head, giving her a withering dark look. His answer so clear she wanted to laugh.
“No, but I’d like to talk with you about what’s next, about college,” he said. So that was the big talk he wanted. Who had been on the phone? Maybe that would give her a clue as to what this was about.
“Sure, what about?”
Her dad nudged her with his elbow. “You’re evading, Becky. Don’t think I don’t know you haven’t really figured out what you want to do. Not once have you ever said what you’re dying to do. Everyone has a vision, as in a lifelong dream of something, but you’ve never once said anything about yours. In school, you do well enough, and I’m starting to get the feeling that—”
“Linguistics,” she said to cut her dad off before he started down a road he’d never ventured on before, analyzing her and maybe steering her into something she didn’t want to do. No, that was what her mom did. She analyzed and poked and questioned, and at times it seemed like nagging even though Becky knew she cared and worried. This was starting to sound like something her mom had put her dad up to.
“Linguistics, really?” he said and rested the dripping leafy green lettuce on the cutting board when he really needed to tear it up. She realized washing the lettuce was all he was going to do.
“Yup, linguistics, you know, the study of languages and variations, how they’ve changed over time, how they’re processed by the brain. Linguistics,” she added, this time with more sureness, wanting to pat herself on the back and thinking this would shut down any more of this probing into her future plans.
“Sounds like you pulled that out of your butt just now.” Her dad was studying her, and she realized he probably knew her better than most. She said nothing as she stood there, and he leaned down, resting his forearms on the edge of the counter. He was level to her, considering she was only a little taller than her mom, at five foot four, and her dad was such a tall man—and, as her girlfriends said, a man who hadn’t let himself go. He was built like a linebacker, with a chest that was built to hold a woman, and he was a hotty for a man his age. The thought made her cringe, knowing her friends often drooled over her dad. If only he knew.
“Becky, linguistics, really?” he said. She didn’t miss the humor that seemed to light up his eyes. “I’m starting to think you’re more about becoming a professional student.”
“What?” How could he say that, even if she was more comfortable keeping on with school until she found that spark of something that excited her, even though she wasn’t an exceptionally gifted straight A student? She did want to find something and thought it would come to her when she was away at school, preferably someplace like Berkley or Cambridge, Ohio State, or even Michigan, someplace hopping and alive with people, with a nightlife and energy that would feed that part of her that at times was so bored living on her father’s ranch in Hoquiam, a quiet piece of the world where nothing ever happened.
“Dad…” she started as he handed her the tomato. Just then, she heard a vehicle.
“Sounds like your mom’s home, so how about coming up with something better than linguistics? Oh, and that was your principal, who called with the good news.” He rested his hand on her shoulder. “You have all the credits you need to graduate. You’re done. Wait till your mom hears.”
She realized now what her dad was saying and the reason for this talk. Her mom was on her way in. Soon enough, she’d know the news and start poking away at Becky until she came up with an idea for her future, and if she didn’t, Emily would start pushing her in a direction she didn’t want to go. “Great. Thanks for the heads up, Dad.”
Her dad lingered just a second in the doorway, long enough for Becky to realize he understood her more than she was comfortable with, more than she liked. Then he was gone, and she listened to the car doors, the chatter of her family.
She pressed down on the knife and hit something hard. “What the…?” Too late, she felt the stabbing pain and realized she’d cut into her finger. She saw white bone and blood gushing, covering the cutting board and turning the salad fixings into a bloody mess. She just stared, hearing nothing and everything as she was hit by a wave of dizziness, and the sounds around her drew out long and loud. The world seemed to lighten around her and then plunge into nothing, as everything suddenly went black.
“I can’t believe you almost cut your finger off,” Emily said, arms crossed over her chest, pacing the tiny curtained-off area in the emergency room where Becky lay on a bed, inclined to almost sitting. Brad towered over her, holding Jack, who was more impressed with the blood, the trauma, than Becky was.
When she’d come to, she’d been on the floor of the kitchen. Her dad had wrapped her hand with a towel, and her mom had been yelling. She hadn’t been able to make sense of anything other than the fact that she’d been lifted and carried outside to her mom’s minivan and then belted in back before she could gather herself. Her dad had been behind the wheel, driving, and her mom had been in the back beside her, holding the towel around her finger, putting pressure a little too hard. Jack, for the first time, had been quiet.
Becky was grateful this time that Brad Friessen was the kind of man he was, the kind her friends teased was the last of a dying breed of men who knew how to be men, not asking but making things happen. Thus, she was in a bed and not stuck in a waiting room with dozens of other people waiting for hours. This time she was okay with it, maybe because she was lightheaded and it had hit her like a ton of bricks that the sight of blood freaked her out, so she could cross off any job in the medical field.
“Emily, calm yourself. Sit down. Your pacing is only making it worse.” Her dad had a direct gaze, and it wasn’t lost on her that he was likely the only one who could reason with her mom, calm her sometimes. Her mom touched her dad’s hip a little too close to his butt, which bordered on intimate, and Becky had to roll her eyes, considering the number of times she’d walked into the house and caught her parents kissing, touching, laughing in each other’s arms, behaving like newlyweds instead of like the typical couple, who never held hands, kissed, touched, or shared anything bordering on intimacy anymore. Brad and Emily were not the typical couple who just occupied space in a room. It was embarrassing at times how intimate they were around people. Here they were, a touch, a look.
Jack was now sitting at the foot of the bed, reaching up to touch the bloody towel wrapped around her hand. She noticed the blood that had dried on her favorite blouse, an image she’d never get out of her head. Great, it too was now ruined.
The curtain swung back, revealing a young doctor in green scrubs with a five o’clock shadow and deep brown hair with a hint of red. “Becky Friessen, I’m Dr. Tom Campbell,” he said. “It says here you cut yourself—”
“Her finger is hanging off!” Jack interrupted, sounding so excited.
The doctor took in her dad, mom, and little brother as he rested the chart, which had to contain her details, on a hook at the side of the bed. Then he glanced her way. She took in his eyes, blue, so deep and vibrant she felt awkward lying so prone and vulnerable, even if the bed was inclined so she was almost sitting. Still, her first thought was how she looked, but he was more interested in her hand as he unwrapped the towel. She squeezed her eyes shut.
“A little squeamish, are you?” he teased.
“Yeah, well, blood’s not really my thing,” she said. Her finger hit air, and instantly there was a rush of pain.
“How’d this happen again?”
“A knife,” Brad said. “She was chopping—you were chopping vegetables, right?”
It would be really nice if everyone could let her speak. She opened her eyes, seeing her mom beside her dad, his hand now around her waist. Jack was too busy trying to get a closer look at her almost severed finger, which she still hadn’t looked at.
“Yes, I was making a salad,” Becky said—the one her dad had said her mom insisted she make. She knew that was likely not the way of it, but she wasn’t about to throw that bit in as she remembered the call from school and the good news her mom had yet to learn. “I guess I wasn’t really paying attention when I pushed down with the knife, and my finger was there. I felt it, and then—”
“We found you on the floor. You fainted,” Emily said. Becky could see now the worry she had caused. “Maybe you have low blood sugar. Did you eat all the lunch I packed for you? You should do a blood test to check her levels.”
Now she was horrified. Her mom was telling a doctor what tests he should be ordering. The doctor paused and glanced her way. It was a look that had her suddenly feeling five years old. Her dad cleared his throat. Could this moment get any worse?
“Emily, just let the doctor work,” he said.
“Mom, seriously, I fainted because of all the blood. I don’t like blood. It kind of freaks me out. Ignore my mom, please. She’s never happy unless she’s doing something for all of us. You’ll be happy to know I’m not helpless, thus making the salad which got me here. I was distracted over some good news.” She turned to Emily. “I’ll be off to college sooner rather than later and will be out of your hair.” Becky glanced back to the doctor, to her dad, and finally to her mom again as she tried to save whatever dignity she could. The moment it was out of her mouth, she wanted to take it back.
“What!” her mom snapped, and the pointed look her father leveled on her had her wanting to sink back into the bed. When she looked over to the doctor, who was taking in all of them, she wondered whether it could be any worse. There was humor and something else in his expression she couldn’t make out.
“Okay, first things first. This is deep, to the bone. I’ll stitch it up, and I want to give you a tetanus shot and order a round of antibiotics.” He snapped off the latex gloves she hadn’t known he’d put on.
“Her shots are up to date,” her mom added as if she were a dog at the vet’s office, so she stared up at the ceiling, horrified and wanting to remind her mom she was all of nineteen, an adult, and didn’t need her parents here speaking, handling things for her.
“Great,” Doctor Campbell said. “So how about this? Since this is such a small space and it’s getting a little crowded in here, how about everyone wait out in the waiting area while I stitch up Becky’s finger. Then I’ll have you out of here in no time.”
She lifted her head and took in her dad as he ushered her mom out, Jack following on the ground. Brad stopped just inside the open curtain and took in the doctor, something in his expression that was…what, a warning that he wasn’t amused? She couldn’t say for sure. Then Brad softened as he took in his daughter.
“We’ll be in the waiting room,” he said and then left, his boots scraping the floor.
She took in the hot doctor, who appeared ready to laugh as he pulled up a stool with a covered tray, prepping everything. He pulled on fresh gloves and scooted closer, holding up a needle.
“So how about we get that stitched up?”
She stared at the syringe, the size of it, huge and steel. He was going to jab that where, exactly? It was moving closer to her hand, her finger, which he was holding now on the draped tray.
“Hey, look at me,” he said. “Tell me about school.”
She jerked her head to his face, this handsome doctor who didn’t have a ring. She was now alone with him. He jabbed her with the needle.
“Ow!” she snapped, and he smiled brightly, dropping the needle and then getting ready to stitch up her cut.
“Sorry. I’m usually a lot gentler,” he said as he dabbed away some of the blood still oozing. “Whatever would have distracted you so much that you cut your finger like this?”
She took in the calm of this handsome stranger, who had a touch that was somewhat welcoming. “Well, she just left the exam room, and I’ll give you two guesses as to who it was.”
He said nothing as she took in his concentration, then the smile again as he glanced her way. “Let me guess, your mom?”
Oh, wow, those eyes. She’d never seen any like them. Everything in them seemed to reach inside her and make her feel special, wanted, and she thought she could have sat there all day with him, just talking and looking into those eyes.
“Yeah, but it’s more about the news she now knows,” she said. Then her gaze went right to the smaller needle he was now holding, about to stick into her finger, ready to stitch. She felt her chest tighten as if the air had thinned, and she just stared at the steel, the surgical thread, the tools, and her bloody finger. Then she did something she’d never have expected to do: She yanked her hand away.
Copyright 2017, Author Lorhainne Eckhart