Get your next glimpse of STAY AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER! Book 24 in The Friessens series is on the way, but you can preview Chapter 3 now!
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.
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She could hear her dad outside the curtained-off area in the emergency room, talking to the sheriff, as her mom helped her put on the hospital gown. She was already sore, with bruising down her side, which was now turning purple and was the reason she was having trouble pulling in a full breath. Add in the throbbing in her arm, her shoulder, and her face, which was scraped from her chin to her cheek and bruised under her eye where he had slugged her, and she knew the soreness she was feeling now would be worse in the morning. Then there was her hand. She could see bits of grit and dirt under the blood that was already crusting over.
“Come on, get up there, easy now,” Laura said, helping her up on the gurney and covering her with a cotton blanket. She had put a pillow under her head and lifted the bed so she was sitting up.
Sara took a second to rest, her mom’s hand on her forehead. It was nice having her there to fuss over her. “I just want to go home, Mom. I’m fine. Why did I have to come to the hospital?”
“Because, Sara, you were attacked and you were hurt. We just need a doctor to check you over, make sure you’re okay, and then we’ll go home.” Her mom sounded so calm. She was hovering over her but offered a reassuring smile. There was just something about her mom. Sara swore she could handle anything. Her hand was still resting on Sara’s forehead, and she smoothed back her hair. “You’re going to be okay. Your dad and I are here.”
She wondered if her dad had been listening, as he parted the curtain, his gaze landing on her. Yup, overprotective, worried—it was all there in his expression. He stepped inside, followed by Sheriff Blake, and she could feel her mom hovering closer, her hand now pressed into the pillow above her head, her other hand on her shoulder. She didn’t know when she’d reached up and taken her mom’s hand, but she wasn’t about to let it go.
“So we got a description out about the guy who attacked you, and a couple of my deputies are already talking to the kids in the dorm. I wanted to go over a few things with you, Sara, from my deputy’s notes. He said you’d been drinking, and you said this guy was with you at a party?”
She could see the way her dad pulled his arms across his chest and breathed. He was tense, and the way he shook his head told her he was disappointed without him having to say a word. Of course, she wondered how long she’d have to wait until she got an earful from him.
“Sara, you’re only eighteen,” Laura said. She didn’t have to look up to her mom to know how angry she was, either. “So it was a party you went to, yet you told us you were studying. This isn’t okay, and we’ll be talking about this later.”
“I did go to study, and I told you, we did go into the coffeehouse…”
“Don’t start lying,” Andy snapped. “Some asshole put his hands on you, so if you’re thinking of trying to downplay anything, don’t. You were drinking, and we’ve already established you weren’t where you were supposed to be. So it was a party at the dorms? This guy who attacked you was at the party. You knew him?”
The way his heavy gaze lingered, she knew there was an edge to his anger.
“You hold nothing back, I mean nothing,” he demanded. Even Blake shifted his gaze over to her father, and she wasn’t sure what passed between them in that exchange, but it only added to her unease.
“I’m a kid, you’re right,” she said. “I’m eighteen, and yes, we were drinking—but I wasn’t drunk, or I wouldn’t have been driving. I didn’t know him at all, Dad. That was just what he said to me, that he was at the party, but I’d never seen him before. He was in my face before he grabbed me, saying I was the one who had been making eyes at him.” She looked over to the sheriff, who was giving her a heavy gaze that was all cop, as if he knew there was more to the story. But he couldn’t know, because he hadn’t been there. She hoped not, anyways.
“You shouldn’t have been drinking, period, Sara,” Blake said. “And then what were you thinking, to get behind the wheel? It may be a moot point, because you didn’t, but let me point out to you the serious hot water you could’ve been in if you did. Even though I’ve known you since you were a baby, and I’m friends with your parents, don’t think I wouldn’t have had you tossed in the back of a cop car and driven you home. I would’ve taken your license, too, and done anything else I could think of to show you that underage drinking isn’t tolerated—and never drinking and driving!” He exhaled. “But let’s put that aside for now. There will never be a next time. You’ll never think about getting behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking, because the smart move is to call your parents or your brothers or even me to pick you up. You may be in trouble for the drinking, but it’s nothing compared to the trouble you’d have been in if you got behind the wheel after a few drinks.”
Andy pulled his arms over his chest again and let his gaze linger on her. She knew he had a lot to say on the matter, as well. “So you said a party at the dorms,” he started. “Who was there? I want to know everything, Sara.”
She had to swallow. Her throat still ached. Her dad was doing the tough-love thing, and now her friends were going to get dragged into this nightmare. She didn’t want anyone to know anything about this. “I don’t know everyone who was there,” she said. “My friends…we were in the dorm social area where the sofas are, but I think just about everyone in the dorms was there, and their friends. We were on the sofa. There was tequila.”
“And drugs?” Her dad cut in.
“I’m not that stupid, Dad,” she said, even though she had been able to smell weed in the dorms. “I only had a couple shots.” She shrugged, but that was a mistake, as her shoulder was already stiffening. She took in the exchange between her dad and the sheriff and didn’t look up when her mom swore.
“Okay, let’s get back to who was there,” Blake said. “This guy who attacked you, you never saw him before?”
“No, he was just there in front of me when I was at the truck, about to get in,” she said, and she told them the rest, how he had grabbed her, how she had screamed, how fast it had all happened. She could hear her voice, feel the stress and the panic as she relived the horror of his hand working the button of her jeans. “I couldn’t breathe, and he had me pinned on the ground. He was going to rape me…”
“Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay,” her mom said. “We’re here. You’re okay. You did everything right, Sara.”
She felt her dad’s hand on her foot. He was watching her in that overprotective way of his that she usually hated, but not right now.
“I mean, did I do this?” she said. “Am I responsible? He seemed to think he had every right to put his hands on me, as if it was my fault. He even said so, that I had given him a look…like, what the fuck does that mean?”
“Hey, it’s okay,” Laura said, holding her hand. She didn’t even scold her about dropping the F-bomb, even though she’d heard both her parents drop it more times than she could count.
“Sara, you listen to me,” Blake said, and she didn’t miss the overprotective way her dad was watching over her and her mom. There it was in his expression: the same worry that had taken over in Cancun, when his cousins had been held hostage by some crazy man. She wondered now if he’d ever let her out of his sights again. Maybe, right now, she didn’t mind so much.
The sheriff stepped closer to her so she was looking right up at him. “No one has any right to put their hands on you, and you did nothing wrong. You’re not responsible for any of that. The booze is another matter, but the guy who attacked you and tried to put this in your head…” He shook his head. “None of that is on you. You fought, you did everything right. We’ll catch that son of a bitch, and we’ll put him away for a long time, so you just get that out of your head that you brought this on. You didn’t. It’s not your fault. This may not help, Sara, but it’s never the woman’s fault in this type of assault. People who say it was somehow her fault, that she made him do it…that’s what cowardly assholes do. They twist everything and never take responsibility for their actions.”
She could hear her heart thumping, the adrenaline still surging. “You know he saved me,” she said. “Devon, he pulled that guy off me. I thought I was going to die. He was choking me, and I couldn’t breathe.”
Her dad’s face said everything. “You don’t know him, then?”
She just shook her head. She’d never seen Devon before, and she didn’t think she’d thanked him enough for what he’d done. She didn’t even know if she could ever find the words to tell him, not that she’d know how to get a hold of him.
“I’ll be talking to him,” her dad said, and she just nodded. She knew he would want to be involved with every aspect of this, and she was sure he’d track down the guy who had touched her. She wanted to say more, but she heard the curtain pull back.
A doctor stepped in, a woman with light hair and blue eyes. “Okay, Sara,” she said. “I’m going to take a look at you. No more questions right now, Sheriff.”
The sheriff just nodded. “We’ll need evidence, photos.”
“We’ll take care of it,” the doctor replied.
Sara didn’t miss the way Blake let his gaze linger on her another second.
“We’ll get him, Sara,” he said. Then he stepped away, stopped beside her dad, and gestured out to the waiting area with his head.
Andy just nodded and patted her foot again. “We’ll be right outside, Sara. Your mom will stay here,” he said, and then he and the sheriff stepped out, and the doctor pulled up a stool and sat down.
All she wanted to do was get dressed and go home.
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