Can't wait until release day? The newest addition to The Friessens big family romance is coming soon, but you can grab a sneak peek of THE VISITOR today!
In Laura Friessen’s peaceful, comfortable world, her family is everything, and at times she has to remind herself how lucky she is. These days, she gives barely a passing thought to her unsupportive, hypocritical parents or to her husband’s father, who, as far as she’s concerned, is a scourge on the earth. Good riddance to them all!
However, her world comes crashing down in a single day. First, her husband’s father shows up on their doorstep without a penny to his name, believing Laura is solely responsible for his misfortune in life. Then an article appears online about her
parents, who run a church mission in Africa and are portrayed as saints, with no mention of them ever having a daughter. Last, a courier arrives with an envelope addressed to her, with no return address, containing only three words: You owe me!
Laura believes this is Andy’s father’s pathetic attempt at revenge, at extracting what he believes he’s entitled to. She knows that if they let Todd Friessen through the door, he’ll attempt to manipulate not only Andy but also their children and grandchildren, who don’t know the man who now wants to be called Grandfather.
Unfortunately, what Laura doesn’t realize is that even though she has an amazing life, before she can move forward into her future, she has to confront her past.
THE VISITOR (The Friessens, Book 29) is available for pre-sale at:
The horses had been herded into the corral, and Laura could hear them nicker as she watched Jeremy and Tiffy come out of the barn, where they lived in the loft, which had been transformed into their apartment. There was something comforting about having her family close, something that had her breathing a little easier.
Tiffy was dressed in capris and a floral tee, her hair pulled high in a ponytail, evidently on her way to work. Laura’s three-year-old grandson, Brandon, was between them, jumping, running, reminding her so much of Jeremy at that age. Being called Grandma warmed her heart even though she wasn’t yet forty.
She took in her son with his gorgeous young wife. Jeremy was tall and handsome just like his father, dressed in blue jeans and a faded blue shirt. As she watched the kiss between the two, she was reminded of how much he still needed to learn about life, about marriage. Tiffy climbed into her small Subaru wagon, leaving Jeremy holding Brandon’s hand. They waved to her as she pulled away.
Laura lingered at the kitchen window, rinsing the last of the breakfast dishes from the fruit and granola she and Andy had shared. Zac had left a pile of toast crumbs before going back to bed, and she suspected Sara was still sleeping until she heard a creak from somewhere in the house. Obviously, Sara was up, and maybe Zac too, considering it was Saturday and Andy had insisted they help with the cattle.
She heard footsteps, voices, Andy and Jeremy laughing before they opened the door with a creak. She couldn’t have explained to anyone why having her family close gave her a sense of peace, one she had to remind herself every day that she was entitled to and deserved. It was the kind of life she never could have imagined for herself.
“Told you I need both you and Zac to help move the herd today,” Andy said to Jeremy as they strode into the kitchen. “Time to bring them into the north field. It’s an all-day job.”
His boots scraped the floor, just clean from the day before, and he reached for a mug in the cupboard. Why did no one seem to realize the time it took to keep this place clean?
Laura pulled at the tie of the silky green robe around her waist, her bare feet on the hardwood floor. She knew she should hop in the shower, but there was something she appreciated about lingering in the morning with another coffee and having a minute or two to herself.
“Grandma, I’m hungry. Can I have a cookie?” Brandon said. He had Jeremy’s dark wavy hair, and his eyes held that same smart mischievousness her son had been known for, always thinking he was pulling one over on them.
“You just ate breakfast, Brandon. No cookies…” Jeremy started, but Laura reached into the Cookie Monster jar and held out a peanut butter cookie to Brandon.
“Just one,” she said. Her grandson gave her a big smile, and she took in Jeremy’s frown and Andy shaking his head as she offered them both one of the batch she’d made just the day before.
“Mom, you’re not helping,” Jeremy said, though he grabbed three from the jar and shoved one in his mouth as he talked. Andy took a bite, made a sound of appreciation, and then leaned in and kissed her.
“He had breakfast, and it’s just one. You were worse,” Laura said. She settled the lid back on the cookie jar after taking one herself.
Jeremy made a rude noise. She knew he didn’t remember how he and his twin sister, Chelsea, had never given her a moment’s rest. From his first step, he had taken off at a run, getting into anything and everything. He turned back to Andy, who was staring down at Brandon.
“I have to work this afternoon at two, so we’d need to saddle the horses and start now,” Jeremy said. “I’ll have to cut out early if we don’t finish. I was going to take Brandon to Tiffy’s parents’ place to hang out for the day.”
Andy was shaking his head. “If everyone pitches in, we should be done before then. Brandon can stay here with your mom.”
She listened to what she knew was the bathroom door closing, likely Sara, as Zac wandered in. He was almost as tall as his dad and brother, but he had that lanky teenage build, his eyes glued to his cell phone, texting something as he walked. His hair was a mess as he reached for the loaf of bread and popped a few slices into the toaster, then pulled open the cupboard and reached for a box of cornflakes. He was a bottomless pit and could’ve eaten them out of house and home.
“Grandpa, I want to come to ride my horsey. I help too.” Brandon was jumping.
Andy lifted him up and kissed his cheek. “Nope, not this time. You’re too young, and it’s too dangerous. Grandpa will take you out on your pony tomorrow, but today you can stay here with Grandma. Zac, you need to shake a leg. We’re going to be moving the herd, and I need you out there.”
Zac had poured cereal into one of their large serving bowls and dumped milk over it, and he was shoving it in his mouth. “Fine,” he mumbled around a mouthful, milk dripping down his faded brown T-shirt.
Andy slid his gaze over to her. She wondered whether he had any idea how much she loved him, whether he knew that she felt as if this life she’d settled into with her family was just a dream that could be yanked away. “Sara up? I need her out there, too,” Andy said. He had poured more coffee and leaned against the counter to take a swallow.
“Likely just up, but Sara can look after Brandon while I have a shower and get dressed,” Laura said. She wasn’t sure what to make of Andy’s smile, but she knew he enjoyed the mornings they shared a shower. She did, too, even though it didn’t happen as often as she liked.
“Hey, Mom, aren’t these your parents?” Sara said as she walked into the kitchen, her long blond hair a tousled mess, wearing a white tank and sweatpants. She was holding her cell phone.
What was it about her kids and their never-ending need for their devices, their social media accounts, and texting everyone? She wondered at times if they saw anything that went on in the outside world. She didn’t move as Sara held up the Android screen, showing an article with a photo of her parents, whom she hadn’t seen in some twenty years. It was a punch to her gut, and for a second, she forgot to breathe.
“George and Sue Parnell, voted parents of the year by the Midwest Baptists. Their two grown sons are following in their father’s footsteps in the church, with their missionary work in Africa, and the people they’ve helped…”
Sara was reading the article aloud, but Laura just stared in horror at the smiling image of her parents, who were so much older now, and her brothers, whom she’d also lost touch with. They were the perfect image of the perfect family who loved and adored each other, and even to her, they looked like the kind of family people would see as role models.
As she scanned the article, which talked about how wonderful they were, all the sacrifices they’d made, and the fine sons they’d raised, their morals, their values, their principles, she realized there was no mention of her—just them and the perfect image of the family they were.
“Uh, yeah…” Her throat thickened, and she could feel Andy looking down, reading. He was pressed against her, so close.
“What is that?” Zac asked, or maybe it was Jeremy. She was only half listening as she stared at the article.
It had to be a mistake. She scanned it again, looking for some hint, some mention of a daughter, but there was nothing. It was as if she’d never existed to them, and she couldn’t explain to anyone how raw the ache still was. Weren’t all children supposed to be loved and supported by their parents?
Andy powered off the screen and pulled the phone away, handing it back to Sara. Of course, he knew. It was an ache that just didn’t go away. Andy had said to her time and again that they didn’t matter. She knew to them she was a disappointment, and her parents would never accept her, all because she’d gotten pregnant at fifteen. She pulled in another breath.
“You know what? It’s not worth reading,” Andy said. “They’re not family, and let’s just leave it at that. Sara, why don’t you give us a hand moving the cattle?”
Sara had that look on her face, one Laura knew well. She was curious and wanted the scoop, wanted to know all the dirt on her folks. Laura had never shared anything with her kids other than to confirm that yes, she had parents and brothers, but they were estranged. End of story.
“Not this time. Sorry, Dad,” Sara said. “I have to get ready to go out. I’m meeting Devon and have that appointment with school.” She lifted Brandon, who was always hanging off her. She was good with him—no, great.
Laura had to turn away, as the memory of that smiling image of her parents was like a knife stabbing her in the heart. Then the article, parents of the year…seriously? She wasn’t sure what Andy said to Sara, as she was only half listening, staring through the window above the sink.
Then Andy was right beside her, and she didn’t have to look over to know how he was watching her. There was his touch, his hand sliding over hers. He didn’t have to say a word. It was there. He did, though, lean down and kiss her cheek.
“Forget them. It means nothing,” he said.
She knew what he was saying, but at the same time, it hurt more than she knew was reasonable, that feeling of being unwanted. She and Andy had created the kind of family she’d never had, a family that was her everything. She nodded as her throat thickened. His touch said everything, and she could hear her kids talking in the background as Andy leaned in and kissed her again, as if it was just her and him.
“Go shower,” he said. “Sara will watch Brandon.” His voice was low, and his gaze lingered a second as his hand grazed her cheek. Then he stepped away, her hand sliding over his arm. “After your mom showers, Sara, you meet us out in the south field. Your life is on hold until the cattle are moved. Devon can wait, but the cattle won’t.”
She took in the stubborn yet angelic look her daughter always pulled with Andy before she rolled her eyes. “Fine, but not all day, Dad…”
Andy lifted his hand as Jeremy and Zac stepped out of the kitchen. “Yeah, I know, you have a life that’s not centered on this ranch or these cattle, and that’s far more exciting than following a bunch of noisy cows. You’ve made that clear. At the same time, this pays the bills and provides for this family, which you’re still a part of. Are we clear?” he said. She waited for Sara to add something, but Andy shook his head and made a face as he glanced at her. “Don’t be long.”
As he stepped out of the kitchen, she listened to the squeak of the screen door. Everything about her family was so chaotic, always butting heads, but they were perfect. Still, she couldn’t get the image of the family she’d grown up in out of her head. They were so alien to her, yet the image had brought with it a dreadful ache in her gut, as if someone had reached in and squeezed. It was a past she’d thought she’d closed the door on.
“So it’s just us now, and…” Sara said, putting Brandon down and glancing at him. He was standing there, watching her and Sara. Smart kid. “Hey, bud, go play, scram,” Sara said, and Laura watched as Brandon took off to the family room and pulled out his box of cars. “So, Mom, why is there an article about your parents, your brothers, and no mention of you?”
There it was. How could she explain to her daughter that not everyone had the kind of family that would stand by them through thick and thin?
“It’s just the way they are, Sara. I’m their disappointment.”
Her daughter’s eyes widened.
“It bothered me once and still does, even though it shouldn’t—but at the same time, you know what?” she said.
Her daughter didn’t pull her gaze from her. She said nothing as she waited, then shrugged.
“I have you guys and your dad,” Laura said. “We’re close and love each other, even though there are times I want to pull my hair out at some of the choices you make and the things you do. We’re all I need, so they don’t matter. They’re from another lifetime. As a kid, you can’t pick your family, but you can when you’re an adult. What happened to me is not the kind of thing a parent should be proud of. No, your dad is right, and he’s said this to me time and again. They’re the ones who should be ashamed, and maybe they are, since it’s evidently easier for them to pretend I don’t exist, to never mention me, than to explain how that image of a model family they’re putting out to the world is false. They’re hypocrites, but they’d never want to be labeled as such. Perfection is what they want—and to control how they’re seen by everyone.” She wondered how she hadn’t thought of that before, and she took in the smile that touched her daughter’s lips.
“You’re right, Mom. Though I have to say, I sometimes wondered what they were like and was curious to meet them and know them.”
Maybe the shock on her face was what had her daughter reaching over and rubbing her arm with a teasing smile.
“Relax, Mom. I said ‘wondered.’ We all have, but you know what? We’re awesome, and we really don’t need anyone like that in our lives, hypocrites who pretend to be something they’re not. I mean, look at us. Just how would they react if they met us?”
She stared at her daughter. When had she become so wise? At the same time, she did wonder what her parents would think of her kids. “Good point. Sara, they don’t deserve to know you.”
Sara winked. “You got it, Mom. So you have about twenty minutes to shower and get dressed, and then I need to get ready, because Dad is on the warpath, insisting I help move the herd even though he knows I need to get ready and have stuff to do.”
She took in her daughter, who was in an on-again, off-again relationship with Devon. “What stuff?”
Her daughter shrugged, smiled, and stretched. “Well, Devon’s coming over, or rather, he’s picking me up, and we’re heading into town today. I have a life too, Mom.” Then Sara’s phone dinged, and she pulled her gaze away, smiled, and answered.
Laura didn’t have to ask who it was. She knew it was Devon, the tall, dark, and handsome boyfriend who had saved her. That teenage love, which Laura knew well, was quickly turning into something serious.
She turned to look out the window again when she saw a minivan she didn’t recognize driving up the dirt road to the house. She was still wearing her housecoat, yet the way today was going, it seemed as if her peaceful, quiet morning was turning into anything but.
IT'S AUDIOBOOK MANIA PLUS A ONE-DAY SALE!
Calling all reviewers! Get your FREE Audible copy of FRIENDLY FIRE!
Receive your free audio code for Book 3 in The Wilde Brothers series in exchange for an honest online review. E-mail me at LorhainneEckhart.LE@gmail.com to request your code and indicate whether you need a US or UK code. A limited number of codes are available; one code per person, please. Reviews should be posted within seven days after completion.
If you have previously requested an Audible code, please be sure to redeem your code in a timely fashion (check your spam folder if you have not received your requested code) and kindly drop me an e-mail along with your reviewer name to direct me to your honest online review so that I can continue to receive complimentary codes to share with my fans! A great big THANK YOU to all who continue to listen to my stories and post a review! Please note that unfortunately additional code requests cannot be honored if previous codes have not been redeemed and your honest review posted; reviews for this title can be posted here. As always, thank you so much for your support and happy listening!
After a roadside bomb ends his career in the marines, Logan Wilde struggles to put his life back together, taking a job as a sheriff in a small Idaho town. He expects a quiet, peaceful life that will bore him to tears. Until he walks through the door of Julia Cooper's cafe.
"This is such a powerful read. From the realistic flashback scenes to the awkward beginning and resistance of a budding relationship. Lorhainne Eckhart has crafted another book that will keep you turning the pages." ★★★★★ Frugal Girl, Amazon Reviewer
Don't miss the western flair, hot men and strong women in this romantic family saga--request your audiobook review copy today!
Rather purchase this title? Logan and Julia's story, narrated by Daniel James Lewis, is sold at Audible US, Audible UK, Audible France and Audible Germany. Listen to a sample here.
Please, please! Always check the retailer's price before downloading as some retailers may be slow in changing over to the sale price.
Already own the Kindle version of a title? You can pick up the audiobook at Audible for a specially-reduced rate!
CALLING ALL AMAZON READERS! If you've enjoyed FRIENDLY FIRE and wouldn't mind leaving an honest review here, I'd truly appreciate it! The number of reviews a book accumulates on a daily basis has a direct impact on its success at Amazon, so leaving a review--no matter how short--helps make it possible for me to continue to do what I do. Again, thank you so much for your consideration and support--I am extremely grateful!
GET YOUR AUDIO ON
If you aren’t already an Audible listener, did you know that you can try audiobooks with a FREE trial? No risk for 30 days. Seriously, this is a super hot deal with Audible and a great way to have a listen to some of my books on audio for FREE in the FREE trial. And if you cancel, you pay nothing. What are you waiting for? Click on your Audible country of choice below and try it out. Then shoot me an email to let me know which audible narrator is your favorite!
And did you know... if you already own one of my eBooks on Kindle, you can pick up the audiobook at a reduced price with Whispersync? Whispersync allows you to both read and listen, and you can even switch back and forth between reading the book on Kindle and listening to the book on Audible without losing your place.
Don't forget to check out my eBookstore where there are more ways to save and be rewarded--from refer a friend, to share on social media for a 25% discount, to my new affiliate program! More of my books will be added soon, so be sure to check back often.