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Can't wait till release day? The newest addition to The Friessens big family romance series is coming soon, but you can grab a sneak peek of STAY AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER today!
Her father says he’s no good for her, and she doesn’t want to believe that he might be right.
Sara Friessen, the youngest daughter of Laura and Andy, believes she’ll never find the man who can make her soul sing, especially because after just one meeting with her father, every young man who has ever knocked on her door has come to the quick conclusion that she isn’t worth the trouble. Fearing the promised wrath (as Andy so aptly puts it) that could befall them if they mess with his daughter, they always run the other way.
That is until one night when a mysterious handsome stranger comes to her rescue. He’s bold and strong, just the kind of man she never expected could be real or that she would ever possibly meet—but she soon uncovers a hidden truth and the cold, ruthless side of the dark world he belongs to.
Even though he tells her to stay away from him and that no good can come from getting involved with the likes of him, Sara’s heart has different ideas, and she’s determined to show him that true love is all they could ever need.
STAY AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER (The Friessens, Book 24) is available for pre-sale at:
Her phone was ringing again, a ridiculous squawking rooster, a.k.a. the ringtone she’d assigned for her dad, and it echoed as she walked across the dimly lit parking lot of the college campus, which was half empty.
Sara Friessen was tempted once again not to answer.
She could do that. She had done that.
What would she pretend when her dad asked her why she hadn’t answered her phone, which he paid for? Would she say she hadn’t heard it, or would she tell the truth, which was that she was feeling as though she were on a tight leash and didn’t want to have to face yet another inquisition?
Yeah, the latter definitely wouldn’t go over well, considering how overprotective her dad was of his family. Scratch that—he was obsessively overprotective of his youngest daughter. His sons were a different story, a fact she’d pointed out to him was the pure definition of sexism. He’d told her to deal with it, because it was a man’s role to protect his daughter, his wife, his family, and if that meant he was sexist, well, then he happily would take the title.
That was an argument she wasn’t going to win with her dad.
She was pretty sure her dad had also put a tracking app on his phone so that he would know where she was every minute of the day. She wondered, truth be told, of the legality of that. It was a gray area of the law, considering she was his daughter, but her dad wouldn’t take kindly to having that pointed out to him.
Her thumb hovered over the green and red buttons. Answer or decline? Andy Friessen was not a man she could keep blowing off, especially considering how late it was.
“I’m seriously on my way home,” she answered and said, putting all the annoyance she could into her tone and letting out a frustrated sigh as she kept walking to her black pickup. Well, it was her dad’s older model, which he’d insisted she drive, a fully loaded crew cab with leather seats—and yet another way to control what she was doing. He’d bought a newer version, also black. She’d have preferred to pick up a practical starter car for a few hundred bucks, something that would be entirely hers, not handed to her by her father. Just once, she’d like to be able to manage everything about her own life.
“Your father has called you twice, Sara,” her mother said. “You were supposed to be home already. It’s after ten.”
She dug in her purse for the truck keys. It was looped over her shoulder with her laptop bag, and she could feel the tension that pulled across her shoulders as she felt the tightening of the leash around her neck. It was a joke between Sara and her mom, but at times like this, she swore she could feel the leather biting into her skin. It felt very real.
“Would it do any good to say I lost track of time? Seriously, Mom, I’m eighteen and would really appreciate it if you and Dad would ease up. Maybe you could remind him, since I’m pretty sure he’s tracking me, that I’m capable of taking care of myself. I need some space. Stuff happens, and I’m going to get sidetracked when I’m studying. I thought you were going to talk to Dad about backing off. It’s getting really fricking embarrassing when I’m studying with my friends and my phone keeps ringing, and there’s Dad’s name on my screen. Even my friends are starting to wonder about this incessant need to set a ridiculously early curfew and continually check in…”
“Are you done?” Her mom cut her off, and she could hear impatience and sternness, which she’d never heard in her mom’s tone before. “Sara, you said you would be home at nine, and it’s now eight after ten, to be exact. When you tell us you’ll be home at a certain time and you don’t show up, we worry, and then you don’t answer your phone, so what are we to think?”
Something about the way her mom was talking let her know clearly that she’d gone too far and there was no talking her way out of this. She didn’t have to be standing in front of Laura Friessen to realize how mad she really was.
“Where are you, exactly, right now?” Laura said. “Because you said you were going to meet friends to study and do homework at the coffeeshop. Let me remind you, Sara, if you lie to me, it will be the last thing you ever do, and even your father isn’t going to step in and save you from such a fate. You go on and on about wanting to have freedom to date, to make your own decisions and be treated like an adult, but being eighteen means only that you’re eighteen. You’re still very much my daughter, and you’re acting like a spoiled, inconsiderate brat. That makes you anything but a responsible adult, because responsible adults don’t cause unneeded worry to their parents. This just confirms that you can’t be trusted, and the short leash your father has you on is necessary, because you can’t even pick up the damn phone and call us to say you’re going to be late and tell us where you are. Then we wouldn’t be sitting here, worrying and thinking you’ve been in an accident and are lying half dead on the side of the road!”
Holy shit! She’d never received this kind of scolding from her mom before, and she could feel the reprimand, realizing she should have picked up the phone instead of letting her friends goad her into not answering. The fact was that she’d been hanging out in the dorm party area on the comfy stained sofas, passing around a bottle of tequila, not doing homework in the coffeeshop. “Okay, I get it,” she said, about to hang up. “I’m on my way home. Ten minutes and I’ll be there.”
“Twenty, Sara, because ten is what it takes if you’re speeding, which is exactly what you’re not going to do. And you didn’t answer me about where you were. You said you were at the coffeeshop, but to our surprise, when we phoned the coffeeshop because we were thinking the worst, you want to know what they said?”
She pulled her phone away. “Fuck,” she said under her breath. Of course she should have known. She and her friends had walked in and then right out of the empty coffeehouse. Tonight, everyone was hanging in the dorm, drinking, partying, and doing what every normal college kid did—nothing her parents should ever know about.
“I heard that, Sara,” Laura said. “You want to tell me where you were, or do you need those twenty minutes to come up with a story? Let me remind you we already know the truth.”
Oh, shit! Maybe her dad was having her followed. She wouldn’t put it past him, and she felt the hair on the back of her neck spike. It was a creepy feeling, and she found herself looking around the basically deserted lot, with just a few other cars. She could hear the faint noise of someone’s music coming from the dorm she’d just left.
“It’s not a big deal. We really did go into the coffeehouse but ended up in the dorm instead, where it was more comfortable on the sofas and less noisy.” She winced, wondering if her nose grew, because the music blasting in the dorm had been anything but quiet. “Okay, Mom, I’m at the truck.” She pressed the fob and heard the lock click. “Just unlocked it and am getting in, so I’ll be home in twenty. You don’t have to wait up…”
“We’re waiting up, Sara,” her mom said, and then the line went dead. Her mom had hung up on her.
She was seriously in deep shit. She stared at the phone, knowing her parents were likely going to give her an earful when she got home, and maybe it wasn’t her dad she needed to be worried about. Would they be able to smell the two shots of tequila she’d had? She stopped at the truck after opening the door and held her hand up to her mouth, taking a whiff. Yeah, maybe some gum would help.
“Hey there, great party.”
She glanced over her shoulder to the guy walking across the lot: light hair, blue jeans, and a green and white jersey.
“Sure,” was all she said as she pulled open the back door of the truck and rested her computer bag on the seat. Then the guy was there in front of her as she tried to close the back door.
“So this is your truck? Fancy,” he said with a smile. His wavy hair and face weren’t familiar, but she could see the interest for her in his expression.
“Yeah, it is. Excuse me.” She stepped back, but he moved in front of her and was now standing between her and the open driver’s door.
“So how about giving a guy a ride home? Maybe we can continue the party,” he said.
She went to step around him, but he moved in front of her. He had about three, four inches on her in height and a solid build, too. She could smell the cigarette smoke on him.
“Sorry, not interested. My dad would kill me. I don’t know you, and I’m kind of late, so no.”
He didn’t move, so she stepped back, taking in the darkened parking lot and wondering who this guy was.
“Well, that’s not how it seemed in there.” He gestured with his thumb to the dorm, which was still lit up, the party going strong. “I guess I’m confused. You were drinking with everyone, passing the bottle around, there for a good time. I noticed the looks.” His hand was on her arm, his grip strong.
What the fuck? She pulled her arm away. “Hey, back off. I seriously think not. I was hanging with my friends, and if you think I was eyeing you up, you’re delusional. I don’t even remember seeing you. You’re dreaming, buddy.” She went to step around him again, but he took a step closer to her, right in her space, right in front of her. He was so quick, and she shrugged off his hand as it touched her shoulder again. He was so close she could smell the liquor, the lingering nicotine. That smell alone made her want to gag.
“I know you were interested.” He leaned in, and it happened so fast, the hard kiss he pressed to her. She could taste the stink of beer, booze, a dirty ashtray, and she stepped back, pushed him hard with both her hands, pissed off.
“What the hell is your problem?” she snapped. “Stop…”
But he was in her face again so quick, and he grabbed her, his hand around her, pulling her against him. He was so damn strong, and she could feel the panic rising, the anger at the fact that he wouldn’t back off.
“What the hell are you doing? Stop! Get your damn hands off me!” she yelled, and she fought against him as he held her tight.
He slapped his hand over her mouth. “Shut up,” he hissed.
She fought like a wildcat, kicking, clawing, and she somehow managed to get his hand from her mouth and screamed, but he grabbed her hard and slammed her to the pavement.
It happened so fast. She could smell nicotine, his fingers pressed so hard over her mouth as she fought at the hand digging into her face, clawing with her fingers and kicking with the heels of her sneakers, using everything she had.
She bit on his hand hard, and he yelled. When he pulled his hand away, she screamed as loud as she could again, considering she was still struggling for breath. Then she felt the punch to her face and was slammed to the concrete again, hitting her jaw, scraping her cheek on the cement. The sting of the ground barely registered as she struggled with the weight of him on top of her. His hand was back around her mouth, and somehow he’d pinned one of her arms behind her back, the weight of his body pulling so hard that she thought he’d wrench her arm from its socket.
She couldn’t pull her arm out, and he was working the button of her jeans, the zipper. She could feel the tug as he pushed her into the concrete, and she could hear him fumbling with his own belt, feeling his weight grinding her into the ground. She fought and squirmed and struggled to breathe, because now he was choking her, his hand squeezing her throat.
This couldn’t be happening, but he was strong—brutally strong. He overpowered her, and his large hand squeezed so hard she couldn’t breathe, knowing that she was going to pass out. She couldn’t get air, and he was going to rape her, hurt her, maybe kill her. She was getting weaker, struggling for a breath and then another. She couldn’t pass out, not like this, but even though she fought, she couldn’t get his hand off her throat.
It couldn’t end like this. This wasn’t fair. She just needed a breath, but she couldn’t move.
She vaguely heard someone yell, and then suddenly all the weight on her was gone. His hand was gone.
She gasped, dragging in a breath, her throat aching. She was gasping on her hands and knees, coughing and fighting to fill her lungs as she crawled to the side of the truck. Her jeans were undone.
She heard a man yell again, then the impact of a fist, a scuffle, fighting. Someone was slammed against the truck. She felt the rumble. She lifted her hand to her throat, and then she struggled to get up. The two men barely registered, one hitting the other. She was on her knees again, gasping.
The truck door was still open, and a guy was punching her assailant over and over. Then somehow he was gone, running, and the other one started after him but turned back and took her in. A fear she’d never felt before had paralyzed her. Somehow, her hands shaking, she righted her jeans and buttoned them up.
Then her rescuer was there in front of her, and she felt gravel digging into the palms of her hands as she tried to push herself up. He had a strong jaw and shaved dark hair, deep brown eyes, and two diamond studs in his ears.
“You okay?” he said. His voice was deep, and he watched her, waiting for her to answer, but she couldn’t get her brain to register. She knew he was the one who had saved her, but she couldn’t get her tongue to move. She clutched at her throat, which still ached.
He didn’t come any closer, and she instinctively backed away, scooting on her butt, feeling the hard wall of a tire at her back. She couldn’t move any farther. What was wrong with her?
He didn’t touch her or move closer, as he was now squatting down, holding his large hand out, and she just stared at it. There was no way in hell she could touch him.
“You’re hurt,” he said. “Your face. I’m going to call the police right now. Did you know him?” He had a cell phone out and was now standing, and he moved back, giving her space.
She couldn’t move as she took him in. He was talking to someone now, but what he was saying didn’t register. She still couldn’t get her head around the fact that she’d just been attacked, how fast it had happened. She was feeling catatonic. It was dark except for the lights in the parking lot, and then she heard the siren.
He was there again, squatting down in front of her, but she just sat, frozen, staring at her purse, which was lying on the ground—her keys too, and her wallet. “Can I help you up?” he said. “The police and help are on the way.” He still didn’t move closer.
What could she say? She took in her purse and then crawled on her knees over to it to stuff everything back inside. He didn’t touch her, and now she took in his face, the hint of mocha to his skin. She just shook her head, as she couldn’t get her tongue to move. Why was she so stuck on his large hands?
“You’re hurt, your face, your neck.” He gestured toward her.
“I’m fine, it’s okay. Who was he?” she said. Her voice sounded so odd, and she was shaking—not just shaking, trembling. It had started inside her and moved outside. He didn’t try to touch her, but he didn’t pull his gaze from her. She should feel safe, but she was worried about the other guy. What if he came back?
“You’re not fine, and it wasn’t okay,” he said. “Don’t be so polite. He assaulted you. I don’t know him, sorry. I was going to go after him, but I wasn’t sure how badly you were hurt. So you didn’t know him?”
She pressed her hand to the side of the truck and went on her knees again. She could see her hand shaking. The back of it was scraped, and beads of blood welled as she stood up. He did too as if getting ready to catch her, the way he watched her. He was damn tall, wearing a red and white jacket and what looked like a gold class ring on his finger. Just then, the sheriff’s car pulled up.
“I should go home,” she said. “I’m late. I was supposed to be home already. My dad, my parents…they’re going to be so mad at me. I said I was on my way home…” She stopped talking because she couldn’t make sense of what she was saying.
He glanced only once to the cop car and back to her, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Look, I can tell how shaken up you are. Some guy messed with you. You’re not okay. The police are here. You need to talk to them so they can catch that guy. You should go to the hospital too, get checked out. And you shouldn’t be driving now.”
The lights of the cop car were still flashing, and she was stuck on how kind his eyes were. He was tall, solid. She didn’t remember ever seeing him before.
A deputy climbed out of the cruiser, wearing a tan uniform, and he walked over to her, glancing sternly at the man who’d saved her. She didn’t know what to say. Her throat ached, her face hurt, and she just wanted to get in the truck and drive away. She couldn’t make sense of what had just happened.
She just shook her head as she held her keys and clutched her purse against her chest, then touched the door of her open truck. She was in a fog and just going through the motions.
“Whoa, whoa, hang on a second, here,” said the deputy, who grabbed the open truck door. “You can’t go anywhere. I need you to tell me what happened here. A call came in about an assault…”
She took him in. He had light hair, and she wondered for a minute if he’d touch her. She had to step back, shifting her glance to the other guy. The way he took in the cop, she wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“She was attacked,” the guy said. “He was trying to rape her. I heard her scream, and I pulled the guy off. We fought, but he got away. He took off between the buildings.” This stranger who had saved her didn’t pull his gaze from her.
The cop was now saying something into a walkie-talkie attached to his shirt. “There’s an ambulance on the way. How about we start with your names? Did either of you know the assailant?”
“My name’s Sara, Sara Friessen. I did nothing wrong. I just want to go home. I don’t know him, even though he said I was flirting with him. I don’t remember seeing him. He said he was in the dorm, at the party. I just don’t recall. There were so many people there. I don’t know everyone. I have to go. I was supposed to be home already. My parents are waiting,” she said, feeling the emotion squeeze her chest. Although she’d lied before to her mom and dad, she realized that as angry as they had been, now they were going to be furious. She’d really screwed up this time.
“Okay, Sara, let’s call your parents,” the deputy said. “And then I need to ask you if you’ve been drinking.”
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