Who wants another sneak peek of THE VISITOR? The next installment in The Friessens family saga will be released next week, but you can read Chapter 2 now!
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:
Did you miss your sneak peek of Chapter 1? If so, click here.
“Mom, it’s addressed to you, and the guy at the door says you need to sign for it!” Sara called out.
Laura had only just managed to run a brush through her hair after pulling on trackpants and a T-shirt—forget the shower—when she pulled open the door of the master bedroom and hurried down the hall, barefoot.
The man at the door had brown hair and was average height, maybe thirtyish. She didn’t know why she felt as if someone had taken hold of her stomach and squeezed. Sara appeared amused as she waited with Brandon beside her, staring at the strange man who was standing just outside, propping open the screen door with his foot.
“Fine, fine. What is it, anyways?” she called. What was it that felt so off about the man and the way he held his clipboard? Sure, he was somewhat tall, but he had nothing on her husband. For a minute, she had to rack her brain, trying to remember whether Andy had said to expect a delivery.
“Are you Laura Friessen?” The man’s twang was local, and the lisp was irritating.
“Mm-hmm, that’s me. Again, what is this?” She flicked her gaze to the clipboard, the envelope, and the type on the letter, just her name and address.
“A delivery. Need you to sign for it.” He slid the clipboard around to reveal a list of names and signatures on a page that was both dirty and dog-eared, likely from all the other deliveries. She scribbled her name and took the letter, wondering why it was so important that she’d had to sign for it.
“So who’s it from? It doesn’t say.” She flipped it over.
The man stepped onto the front porch, his hand still on the screen door, and shrugged. “No idea. I just deliver. You all have a nice day, you hear?” His boots were ratty, his blue shirt faded, and he strode back to a minivan that had seen better days.
“Well? Open it,” Sara said, that curious light in her eyes, so Laura slid her finger under the crease and ripped it open, then pulled out a single sheet that was folded over.
“Likely some marketing scheme,” she said. “You know, they get a hold of your name and go to all these extraordinary lengths just so you’ll buy whatever they’re…” She flicked open the paper and stared at the big bold print, just three words: YOU OWE ME! For a second, she forgot to breathe. Okay, this was absolutely crazy.
“Uh, Mom, is this some kind of joke?” she vaguely heard Sara say. She just stared at the paper, looking for anything else, but it was just those three words. She flipped it over a second time, because she had to be missing something. Was it a joke? Maybe, considering her morning thus far. Even the envelope didn’t leave a clue.
She glanced over to her daughter, who was so much taller than she was, gorgeous and leggy. Thankfully, she had her head screwed on right, but that did nothing to help with this bizarre letter. Why was it addressed to her? She stared at the envelope again. Yup, just her name, their address.
She lifted her hands, then folded the letter and tucked it back into the envelope, confused and irritated that someone would think sending her this as a joke was in any way funny.
“Let me see it.” Sara took the envelope, and Laura stared at the trail of dust from the minivan as it drove away. Hadn’t he said he had no idea who it was from? That was a lot of trouble, hiring a courier to send something that made no sense.
“Maybe it’s a joke, or they addressed it to the wrong person,” Laura said. Or maybe she owed someone something—but who would that be? She’d never taken anything from anyone in her life.
“Or maybe it’s some mysterious person who’s trying to blackmail you or Dad or both of you. Maybe a former boyfriend, Mom, or someone who thinks you’ve done something to them, or…”
Laura took in Brandon and the way he was watching, listening, and frowning, and she reached over and ripped the envelope from her daughter’s hand. “Or maybe it’s a big mistake and it was addressed to the wrong person. It happens.” She walked back into the kitchen and slipped it with the other mail and bills and junk she hadn’t tossed away yet by the back door. Time for her to go through it all and clean it out.
“Mom, you’re no fun, seriously. But that’s just plain weird… What kind of sicko would send that in a letter? I bet it’s Chels or Ric trying to mess with you,” Sara said, then shrugged, likely at the way Laura was staring at her. “Okay, so I’m reaching.”
“Mm-hmm,” Laura said. “Although Chels likes to tease, she wouldn’t do that, and Ric? I think not.”
The unsettling letter had her thinking of everyone she’d ever had problems with. Yeah, there were a few, such as her son Gabriel’s father, Brian, who’d signed away his rights. Then there were the staff from when she’d worked as a maid in Andy’s parents’ mansion, just a young girl with a son, down on her luck. It seemed as if that was a different Laura from a different time, but some of the staff likely couldn’t believe she was still married to Andy. Then there was Andy’s mother. Though she was now dead, her family was still out there. There was also her own family, all those people who’d treated her as if she was no one as she struggled alone with Gabriel. And lastly, there was Andy’s father, Todd. She pressed her hands to her eyes and rubbed. She was going to drive herself crazy, thinking about this.
“Hey, Mom, you don’t think this has anything to do with what went down in Cancun, do you?” Sara said.
Laura pressed her hand to the counter, feeling gritty and still wanting a shower. Her too-smart, impressionable grandson was still listening to everything. Maybe she should consider a bath, give herself time to sort out all of this craziness. Her day was heading in a direction that wasn’t all that comforting.
“Does a bad man want to hurt you, Grandma?”
Laura leaned down to Brandon, taking in his innocent green eyes, the same as hers and all her kids, even though she could see so much of Andy, of Tiffy, of everyone in him. “Don’t you worry,” she said. “It’s nothing, just someone messing with me, a joke. So listen, why don’t you go pop on the TV and watch some cartoons?”
He frowned, and the way he furrowed his brow was so cute. “But you know Mom doesn’t let me watch TV during the day…” he replied. Had he seriously said that?
“And you know what? Your mom’s not here. This is Grandma’s time, and I say you can go watch some cartoons. I’m going to shower, and your auntie is going to look after you, and then you can go out and join your dad and grandpa and uncle Zac in herding up the cows. Then you can help Grandma…”
Help her do what? He was a little boy who wanted to run and play and spend time outside with Andy, Jeremy, and the horses—but not today. She knew Andy didn’t want him anywhere near the herd while he was moving the cattle, or while the hay was delivered, or while he was deworming, or while he was doing anything that could lead to Brandon being hurt in any way. She knew Andy needed to keep his focus, and she realized he was also trying to respect Tiffy’s fear of horses. That was just another thing she loved about him.
Sara rested her hand on Brandon’s head. “Yeah, bud, it’ll be you and me for a bit. I’ll make breakfast, and then…”
There was another knock at the door, and she wasn’t sure who was more shocked, her or Sara.
“I didn’t hear a car,” she said. Of course, her first thought was the courier. Maybe he’d figured out the mistake and had come back to tell her, or maybe he was in on the joke.
Brandon was already running to the door, and Sara followed him. Laura pulled in a shaky breath, convinced now that a bath definitely topped a shower. She ran her hands over her face and swept back her hair as she heard voices: Sara and a man.
His voice was deep and familiar, bringing a sick feeling to the pit of her stomach and making her dig into each step a little more as an icy chill settled in her bones. She had to be wrong.
As she rounded the corner, her toe stubbed on one of Brandon’s toy cars, and she swore and hopped. When she looked up, she saw the graying hair, icy blue eyes, and distinguished features of Todd Friessen. It was impossible, yet there he was, neatly shaven, his hair short. His clothes were tasteful, blue jeans and a maroon dress shirt under a leather jacket—clean, neat, new. He wore a gold ring on his finger, and the chain around his neck settled in his thick chest hair, which was visible from the open top button of his shirt.
“Laura,” he said.
Laura glanced to Sara, who stared at her and Todd. Brandon also seemed confused. She breathed from her open mouth and just stared, no words coming to her.
“Mom, who is this?” Sara asked.
Todd stepped inside, and the door squeaked shut. She didn’t move, forcing herself to swallow. How was it that she could still feel so small around a man who didn’t hold any power over her? She felt herself tossed back to a time when he had.
Todd pulled his shrewd gaze from her and gave everything to her daughter, and the look had Laura’s fear and rage simmering. Then he was staring down at Brandon, so she moved closer and stood in front of him so Todd Friessen couldn’t see him, touch him, talk to him.
Her hand was on his shoulder just as Todd said, “I’m your grandfather. So where is my son?” He flicked his gaze over to her, and she reached for Brandon’s hand, holding it and stepping back, smelling Todd’s cologne and the way he allowed his gaze to settle again on Sara and soften.
“Why are you here?” was all she could say, fighting the urge to tell Sara to go to her room, to call her father so he could tell Todd to get out of her house.
“Is that any way to greet me?” he replied. It sounded as if he felt entitled, but then, that was all he’d ever been. He shook his head. “I came a long way. Aren’t you going to invite me in? After all, we’re family, I came to meet my grandkids, to see my son. This is about family, my family.”
There it was, the way he looked at her again with that same predatory icy gaze—and something else. The way he watched her, she figured he wasn’t there to make amends. No, Todd was staring at her with such hate that it was no wonder she felt as if she was going to puke. Wow, how much worse could this day get?
“I think you’re confused,” she replied. “This is my family, not yours. You may be Andy’s father, but that’s all you are.” She turned to Sara, not missing the shock on her face. She opened her mouth to say something, but Laura touched her arm and said, “Call your dad. Tell him—”
“Tell my son that his father is here,” Todd said, never pulling his hard gaze from her. The way he stared her down, he was expecting her to retreat. To hell with him! “And then…Sara, is it? I think it’s time I got to know all my grandkids. After all, blood is everything. You’re my blood, and once upon a time, your dad and I were close. And you know what? That kind of closeness never really goes away.”
The way he said the last bit, Laura realized he was trying to rattle her, and it was working. She turned to Sara and gestured with her chin. “Call your dad, and take Brandon with you.”
Sara stared at her, a clear question in her eyes, before murmuring something to Brandon and slipping with him back into the kitchen.
Laura gave everything to a man she despised and feared, worried he could still have the kind of hold on her husband that he once had. She knew that couldn’t be possible, though.
“You’re still mighty fetching there, Laura,” Todd said. The smile that touched his handsome features had her wrapping her arms over her chest, feeling so exposed.
“So why are you really here, Todd?” she replied. It was the first time she’d ever said his first name, having always called him Mr. Friessen. It felt odd. She felt out of place in her own home.
“I told you: to see my son, to meet my grandkids—and to settle something that’s been a long time coming.”
The way he said it only deepened the icy chill that had settled in her stomach moments earlier. How could all of this, her peaceful, comfortable life, suddenly be wiped away?
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.