Who wants another sneak peek of THE BAD BOY? The next installment in The Friessens family saga will be released next week, but you can read Chapter 2 now!
As the youngest brother, Mark Friessen refuses to answer to anyone. He’s been called a restless bad boy because responsibility for his father’s ranch has never rested on his shoulders, even though he loves everything about the life of a cowboy. Working with the horses and the land, being in charge, and doing all the hard work on the ranch has always settled his restless nature—that is, until a rodeo queen broke his heart by running off with his best friend after two-timing him for six long months.
The funny thing about broken hearts is that they make people do things they wouldn’t do if they were thinking clearly, as his mother so succinctly advised him during his ensuing dating spree. This is likely why Mark has now signed up to be a deputy in the next county over, with a badge, a gun, and the kind of power he thought he wanted.
When he pulls young mousy librarian Daria McKenzie over for speeding, she is speechless and furious when she realizes he doesn’t remember who she is. This bad boy has left a trail of broken hearts in his wake—including hers.
THE BAD BOY (The Friessens, Book 25) is available for pre-sale at:
Did you miss your sneak peek of Chapter 1? If so, click here.
“Hey there, Uncle Mark,” said his niece Ally, who was looking more and more like her mom every day. Her front lower two teeth were missing, and she had the same brilliant red hair that had been passed from Diana to each of her sons, Chris, Danny, and Mark.
Ally slid onto the stool at the island of the open-concept kitchen. His parents had finally bitten the bullet and renovated, knocking out the wall and putting in two ovens and high-end appliances. JD, his sister-in-law, used the space well as the one who did all the cooking, something they were all grateful for, considering they all still lived on his parents’ ranch.
“So how was work today, kid?” Mark asked as he slid a plate to Ally, half expecting Sophie to come running in next.
“I’m in grade one, Uncle Mark. I’m too young to work. And do you know what the best part of school is?” She was so darn cute. He wasn’t the kind of guy who was partial to kids, but in his mind, his two nieces were perfect.
“Let me guess, recess?”
She actually rolled her eyes, and he had to fight the urge to laugh. “No, the bus, silly! I got old Mrs. Kruger, and she’s always cranky. Today she yelled at us, saying we were a bunch of misbehaving, inconsiderate misfits, and if we didn’t smarten up, she was going to make us all stay in and miss recess for a week. We weren’t doing nothing wrong. She just wanted us to sit quietly and not move. Do you know how hard that is?” The spark in her bold blue eyes was so innocent and trusting, and he didn’t want any adult to take that away from her.
“Did you tell your mom and dad?” he asked.
She just shrugged and shook her head. “Nope, just you. Remember how you told me how women complain a lot? Well, I know I wasn’t supposed to be listening, but I heard her talking with another teacher at recess, and she had a fight with her husband. Apparently, he keeps leaving the toilet seat up and leaves everything in the house a mess for her to clean. She’s not very nice sometimes. I thought about telling her that if she came to our house, she’d see that the toilet seat is always up here and that my mom is always cleaning up after my dad and you, but she doesn’t complain.”
Of course, he laughed. She was so cute and direct. “Well, I can do my part. I didn’t realize I was just walking out and leaving things. Habit, I guess. I’ll make sure to pick up after myself so your mom isn’t having to do it.”
Ally reached for a chicken leg from one of the two boxes he’d opened and sat on the island. The fries were half gone, considering Chris had stuck his hand in and dumped half on a plate along with two breasts, then tousled Ally’s hair and walked out the door to the barn.
He was out there with their dad, he thought, looking after this ranch, the horses. That had been the only thing Mark had ever wanted to do. He knew Chris didn’t have the same passion for this place that he did.
“I’m sure my mom would appreciate it,” she said, sounding so mature.
“But your teacher sounds like a problem,” Mark said. “I can remember having trouble with a few in school myself, but then, I wasn’t that easy. Sitting still wasn’t something I was about to do, either. You want me to go and have a talk with her? I’ll flash my badge and show her who’s in charge, and I’ll tell her if she doesn’t behave and treat you nicely, I’ll be coming back—and I’ll remind her she doesn’t want me to come back.” Mark scooped up some of the salad onto Ally’s plate and some onto his as he listened to her giggle.
“Oh, Uncle Mark, no, you can’t do that. It’s fine.”
“Why not? Of course I can. It says right here I can.” He tapped a finger to the deputy’s badge pinned to his chest, but she just rolled her eyes. “Okay, but if you change your mind, just say the word and I’m there. Better still, why don’t I take you into school this week and I can have a friendly talk with her?”
She actually reached over and rested her hand on his, and her gaze dropped to his gun, still holstered. “Maybe you could just tell her what Grandma says to all of us, to leave her problems at home and not take it out on everyone, because we are, after all, just kids.”
Great advice. He could hear Danny in the office with his mom at the back of the house, likely talking over some big case, but he didn’t have a clue where JD and Evie were.
“So where’s your mom?” he said.
Ally took a huge bite of chicken and looked up to him. “She’s in town with Auntie Evie and Sophie. Sophie’s dance recital is today.”
He took in his niece, who was in faded blue jeans and tiny cowboy boots that she never seemed to take off unless she was sleeping or bathing. Add in her long soft reddish hair, which seemed to go every which way, and her clear innocent blue eyes, and of course she had a corner of his heart. He would do anything for her. “So how come you’re not there too?” he said. “You should be dancing. You and Sophie do everything together.” They were practically twins, even though they were cousins, Sophie being Danny and Evie’s, Ally being Chris and JD’s. Ally was all tomboy and horses, whereas Sophie was Barbie dolls and dresses.
She made a face. “That’s not my thing. I like horses and playing in the barn and getting dirty, as my mom puts it. Sophie likes to dance and play dress-up. I don’t have time for such things, and I sure didn’t want to sit and watch a bunch of boring dancing and whining and crying from girls who can barely dance. Do you have any idea how boring that is?”
He had to fight the urge to laugh as he took in Danny walking into the kitchen in blue jeans, a white T-shirt, and a two-day beard. Their mom, Diana, was behind him, her deep red hair lighter from the gray that had crept in. She was in a blue tracksuit, still slim, and she stepped behind Ally, swept her arms around her, and kissed her cheek over and over. Ally giggled. He knew his mom couldn’t get enough of her granddaughters.
“Mark, see you got dinner. Thank you. So how was deputy duty?” Danny remarked as he grabbed a plate and rummaged through the pieces. Mark knew he was looking for something big, with substance. He pulled out two thighs and dug into the coleslaw.
“It was great. What can I say? It’s the perfect job. Get to carry a gun, a badge. Kind of forces people to respect you, to behave, mind their Ps and Qs. I love it.”
Of course, from the expression on his mom’s and Danny’s faces, filled with pure shock, he realized he was letting his personal feelings take free rein again.
“That kind of thinking can land you in a world of trouble, little brother,” Danny said. “It’s definitely been the downfall of a number of cops.”
Diana raised a brow, and he could feel Ally staring up at him, her eyes wide. He didn’t like the scrutiny, so he bit into a piece of chicken and took in his mom, who busied herself with dishing up some slaw and fries and rummaged in the second box before picking out a wing.
“Now, Danny,” Diana started, “you, Chris, and Mark are all the same in that one respect: You push it with everything. Mark, as I said to you before, sometimes when someone has hurt you, you do things you wouldn’t do if you were thinking clearly. Your dad and I didn’t say anything when you took this job even though you’ve never given us the slightest clue that you were interested in law enforcement, in being on the front lines. Just be sure you understand that having a badge doesn’t give you the right to hold it over anyone or go on a power trip, so to speak. You be respectful. At the same time, I wonder if this is a reaction to what happened with Cindy.”
Mark could still feel Ally staring up at him, feeling very much as if his mom was ready to pick up where Betty had left off not even an hour earlier. “I am respectful,” he said. “I’m also the law. This has nothing to do with her. I’m over her. Like, seriously, Mom…”
“Well, just a minute now,” Diana said. “Betty called and said you ran into Cindy and Randy in the diner.”
He didn’t miss the look his brother was giving him. It was a look Danny had mastered, one he gave when he was trying to set someone straight or trying to tell Mark how he should be thinking or feeling.
“You know, Mark, you need to move on,” Diana said. “They’re married, and we’ve had this talk. She chose him. You have to reconcile all of that hurt I can see you’re still carrying. Let it go, move on, because they have a life together now—and I heard they’re expecting, too.”
That was the one thing he hadn’t wanted to hear. Obviously, his mom realized, by the way her expression softened. He felt sucker punched, and it had to be written all over his face.
“Oh, Mark, you didn’t know?”
What was he supposed to say? He’d run into the girl who still had his heart tangled up in knots, and now she was pregnant with his best friend’s kid? It was over, and he’d known that before, but there was something about the fact that she’d moved on and was married, and now that ultimate commitment, a baby, killed the hope he’d never have admitted was still there. He dropped his piece of chicken on his plate and had to fight the urge to roll his shoulders, his appetite gone.
“It’s okay, Uncle Mark,” Ally said. “She’s not good enough for you. You need to forget her. You have me and Sophie.”
He stared down at her to find her staring up at him with wise eyes, so serious. “Thanks, Ally. Don’t worry, she’s forgotten. I got you and Soph.” He nudged her and took in the way his mom lifted her eyes to the ceiling. Danny was just shaking his head as if he too had more to say. “Hey, I have the perfect job that I love,” Mark continued. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a deputy? I get a badge, a gun. What more is there to want? I get to pull over dickheads…” He stopped, taking in the look leveled his way by his mom, Danny, and Ally. “Oops, sorry. I mean bad people.”
He took in the exchange between his mom and Danny just as the front door opened and his dad stepped in. Of course, his dad zeroed right in on the gun he still had holstered to his side.
“Make sure you discharge that,” Jed said, “and be doubly sure it’s not loaded. Lock that up when you’re home. I don’t want to ever find that lying around with the girls. Gun safety, Mark.”
There it was, his dad treating him as if he didn’t know any better.
“Always do,” he said, thinking of the gun safe on the top shelf of his closet, which his dad had insisted on since day one of his new job.
“And that brings me to something else I wanted to mention, so your timing is great, Dad,” Mark said, taking in the way his dad lingered by his mom, who handed him a plate. “I’m moving out. Got a place over in Clancy. Close to work, and…” It would give him the space he needed without one more person asking him if he knew what he was doing.
“You sure about that, son? Mighty expensive. And this is home, you know that.”
Yeah, an overcrowded home, with Chris and Danny both there with their wives and his nieces. He loved them all, but sometimes he just needed to make a fresh start. “Time to leave the nest, Dad. Besides, you have Chris and Danny. You don’t need me hanging around, too.”
Their expressions were full of shock, as if they couldn’t believe what he’d just said. Except he meant every bit of it. Danny had his place, and Chris had his, but Mark was still looking for his own.
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Holidays are about family, love and giving, but this Christmas, the Friessens are in for a rough holiday season.
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