Get your next glimpse of THE VISITOR! Book 29 in The Friessens series is on the way, but you can preview Chapter 3 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 2? If so, click here.
All she wanted was a bath to soak away what was turning into a really shitty morning, the worst of the worst. She couldn’t fight the worry at what else could possibly be coming her way. It was the kind of feeling she hadn’t experienced in years. It was humbling, and she missed her peaceful, quiet existence. She couldn’t shake the feeling that this strange start to the day had shaken up her happy life with her family, and nothing would ever be the same again. Why now? Why her? What had she done?
She held the phone to her ear as she stood just inside the kitchen, her hand resting on the island, taking in the breadcrumbs and spilled milk from Zac’s rushed breakfast. Andy’s phone rang a second time before it went to voicemail again: “This is Andy. You can leave a message, or if you need to get a hold of me, send an email.”
Everyone hated his message, but he insisted on using it because everyone thought they could call any time and expect him to drop everything at a moment’s notice. She wasn’t about to email him, though, because she’d see him long before he thought to check all his emails.
“Andy, please call me at home. Your dad’s here. He’s in the house. He’s talking to Sara, to Brandon, and…”
She’d never even invited him in. The man had walked in and taken over, still ordering her around, and what had she done? Nothing. She’d shrunk back into that young woman without a voice. She’d seen the way he still looked at her as if she was his servant. Damn him! She hated feeling this way and needed to remind herself she had a voice, and this was her home.
She disconnected the phone and squeezed the handset. She could hear him still talking to Sara, giving that same laugh, as if he were someone of importance. Through the kitchen window, she spotted Andy’s two trucks, her SUV, Jeremy’s truck, and a silver BMW. So that was what Todd had driven. She’d never heard him pull in.
“Shit,” she said, tapping her fingers on the counter. What was she going to do? She should go dig out her cell phone, which was likely dead because she never used it. Texting Zac or Jeremy would be a sure-fire way to reach one of them and get Andy to ride in and take care of his father. Zac never parted with his phone, and Jeremy was just as likely to respond right away.
She spotted her purse hanging at the back door and rummaged inside before pulling out her cell phone. Todd was still talking with her daughter, and she fought her panic at the idea of Sara or Brandon being anywhere near him. She pressed the button to power on her iPhone, seeing the screen light up, and for a second the relief was indescribable. She couldn’t believe it worked.
She pulled in a breath, knowing she should feel relieved, but her hand was shaking. She glanced up and pulled in another breath, and this time she sent Andy a text.
Your dad’s here. I already left you a voicemail!!!
Nothing. No dots to show he’d read it and was replying, but then, he didn’t live with his cell phone in hand as though it held all the answers in the world. She texted Zac next.
Are you with your dad? Tell him to check his damn phone and call me now! His father showed up here. Tell him to come home now.
She waited for the familiar three dots to show, but there was nothing. She texted Jeremy next.
911! I need your dad now! Are you there?
Nothing. Shit! Of all times for her kids to put aside their phones. “Dammit,” she breathed out, staring at the lack of replies.
She dumped her cell phone on the counter and forced herself to turn around and go into the living room to face Todd, at the same time wishing Andy were there to do something and tell his father to go away, leave them be, and never bother them again.
Her feet were bare, and she felt naked and exposed under her T-shirt and sweats. She needed a bra and some underwear, to at least splash water on her face and brush her teeth, but that would mean leaving Todd alone with Sara and Brandon, whom she loved more than her next breath. She couldn’t do that—she wouldn’t. She was freaking out over the fact that they were with him now.
She stared at the landline again, willing it to ring, then took in the living room, where Todd was sitting in the easy chair as if holding court. Maybe he expected something from her, a coffee, a drink, a sandwich. Sara was on the sofa, Brandon beside her, sitting so quiet and good, and Todd was giving everything to them. He watched them as if they were everything and she didn’t even exist, as if he were the one in charge in her house. How could anyone walk in and do this? Evidently, Todd Friessen could. The man still made her skin crawl and made her feel as if she was nothing.
“Andy will be here soon,” she said as she took another step into the living room. “Sara, why don’t you take Brandon outside? You were going to help with the herd. You know where your dad is.” She hoped Sara knew what she meant and could see the panic she was doing her best to hide.
Sara seemed confused, and she noted the look, the hesitation, or was she about to argue? But she said nothing, then nodded as she glanced down to Brandon, having picked up on what was becoming a full-blown panic attack.
“Nonsense,” Todd said. “I came all this way to see my grandkids. I have a right to know them and for them to know me. They can stay. I’ll see my son when he gets here.”
Her hands were crossed over her chest, and she squeezed under her arms, feeling the dampness of her cotton T-shirt. Of course, she was sweating. “Sara, I believe I said something to you.” She let her full gaze land on Sara, who stood, realizing Laura meant business, even though she took in Todd again. Laura wondered for a second whether her daughter would go along with him.
“Uh, sure, Mom. Come on, Brandon.” Sara took Brandon’s hand, and, thankfully, he went with her. She stopped beside Laura, a worried question in her eyes. “You okay, Mom?” Her voice was low, soft, just above a whisper.
Laura wondered whether Todd could hear. She hoped not and cleared her throat roughly. “Just go. I’m fine.”
“But Dad said no to Brandon being around the cattle. What do you want me to do?”
Laura had to pull in another breath. Right. Andy wouldn’t be happy. Panic and fear coursed through her. She was making a mess of things. She blinked, feeling again as though she couldn’t breathe. She wondered why it had started today.
“Leave Brandon,” she said. “Go, saddle up, and tell him to hurry. He’s not answering his cell, and Zac and Jeremy aren’t responding to my texts…”
It was in that moment that Sara seemed to get it. Considering there was so much she and Andy hadn’t shared with the kids about his father, his family, she knew Sara had to have at least a dozen questions, if not more.
She watched as Sara let go of Brandon and shoved her bare feet into boots, then pulled a gray hoodie out of the front closet and shrugged it on before zipping it up. She stepped out, took a look back, and Brandon ran to the door.
“I want to go!” he called out.
“No, Brandon, stay here,” Sara said. “Your grandpa said he didn’t want you out with him today. You stay with Grandma.”
Laura listened as Sara went down the steps, then hurried to the barn. She knew Todd Friessen hadn’t pulled his gaze from her, watching her with disgust and dislike. He hadn’t tried to hide it.
Her back ached. He had to see how rattled she was, but at the same time, she couldn’t afford to let him know all her hard-earned confidence had disappeared in one moment of being alone with him. She forced herself not to cower under him or look his way as she rested her hands on Brandon’s shoulders.
“Hey, come with Grandma. I’ll give you two cookies, and you can watch cartoons. Can you do that for Grandma?” She somehow had him racing into the kitchen, and she followed. As she handed him two cookies from the jar, she knew she was doing the one thing she and Tiffy had been hounding Jeremy to stop doing.
She took a second as she watched him flick on the TV and settle down on the small taupe sectional. Okay, another of her flock was out of the way. She knew her time was up. She couldn’t stall. She needed to go face the man who’d tried to end everything she had with her husband. She took a step and then another, seeing him standing in the living room, taking in the family photos on the wall—from Chelsea’s wedding, from when the kids were small, from over the years, all of them together, all those special moments that connected them and her and Andy’s love for each other. He had to see it. His back was to her. She could hear him breathing.
“So you’ve made something of yourself.”
She wasn’t sure whether she jumped. He hadn’t turned around as he continued to take in all the images of her children, Gabriel and Elizabeth and Shaunty, Chelsea and Ric, Jeremy and Tiffy and Brandon, Sara and Zac. The moments that showed their love.
Then he turned around, and she could see some of his resemblance to her husband. “And my son gave up everything. Wonder if he still sees the choice he made as the right one.”
For a second, she didn’t know what to say. How could he say something so cruel, making her think she could in any way be responsible for her husband having given up everything for her?
“All my grandchildren?” he said, gesturing to the wall behind him. “They’ve grown.”
She said nothing, just crossed her arms.
“Well, at least you were good for something,” he said.
For another second, she forgot to breathe, but then she heard the flutter of her lungs working again. She wondered whether Todd knew what he was doing to her. “If you came here to insult me…”
He started laughing. It was deep and had her wanting to back up, but she couldn’t do that. She wouldn’t cower. She wouldn’t let him do that to her in her house. “Insult you? No, not something I’ve ever been accused of. Brash, disgusting, rude, confident, direct, chauvinistic, a pig. I believe my son still made the biggest mistake of his life, taking up with you, putting a ring on your finger. He could have done so much better. He had his fun, I told him. All because of you, I lost everything I worked for, everything I earned and spent my life waiting to have, everything my son should have had. I mean, who are you, really? You’re nothing, just a mistake—though, I admit, a pretty one. Yet here you are, still married to my son. At least you provided him children. At least you could do that much. I had everything, and I still can’t believe he chose you over his blood, over me.”
Had he ever been so cruel? It ached even though she knew it wasn’t true. It couldn’t be. “You’re blaming me for what, exactly?” Was that her voice? She’d stood her ground and didn’t move even though he took another step closer to her. Would he touch her, reach out to her, treat her like every woman he saw as just a plaything for him?
He laughed again, but now she heard voices outside. Andy.
Thank God! The relief was indescribable. His feet pounded the stairs, and the door flew open. His eyes were icy blue, his expression dark. It was something she hadn’t seen in a long time. He seemed to take in everything—Todd, her. He let his gaze linger on her as he walked her way.
“You okay?” he said.
She nodded, but her breath caught. He walked past her, in front of her, and she lifted her hand to touch him but reached only air, as he kept moving toward his father.
“What are you doing here?” Andy’s voice was accusing.
She heard voices outside, Jeremy, Zac, Sara, all of them on the stairs. The door squeaked, and they stepped inside, their expressions a mix of surprise and shock. She could almost hear the questions they now had to have.
“I came to see you, my boy,” Todd said. “Hey, hey, are these my grandsons?” His face seemed to light up as Jeremy and Zac strode in. Sara stopped beside her, and she watched in horror as her sons stepped in past their dad and went over to a man she figured was only one step above a snake. She didn’t hear what they said, but Jeremy held out his hand. “None of that,” Todd replied. “I’m your grandfather. Come here, you two.” He hugged both her kids, laughed, and she felt Sara’s hand on her arm.
“Mom, are you okay?” Sara said. She looked worried, and what the hell was Laura supposed to say? They’d opened the door to someone despicable. Todd Friessen had fathered Andy, but he was the family she hadn’t chosen.
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