Here's your final peek at my upcoming Friessens book! THE VISITOR will be released tomorrow, but here's an exclusive look at Chapter 5!
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 4? If so, click here.
“Andy, you really have one of the nicest and best-looking brood of kids I’ve ever seen. Every one of you gets it all from your grandfather,” Todd said. He laughed again, and so did the kids. “You’ve done well. Looking at the legacy you’ve created makes me damn proud you’re my son. These are my grandkids, my blood, my family.”
Todd Friessen actually had his arm looped around Sara, who was beaming under all his charm, which he’d been laying on extra thick. Jeremy was leaning against the fridge, Zac standing off to the side, and Andy was pouring his dad a glass of what she knew was bourbon from the bottle that hadn’t been opened since Jeremy’s New Year’s wedding over a year ago—and there it was, not even noon.
“Here you go, Dad.” Andy offered him the glass. She noted it was the good crystal, which they never used except for holidays and special occasions, never for when someone just came over. She wanted to pull Andy aside, give him a good shake, and ask him what the hell he was doing.
“Grandma, I want a cookie.” Brandon bounced into the kitchen again, and she wasn’t sure if it was from everyone’s excitement or from all the cookies he’d eaten—likely from the sugar he’d been pounding down, since she’d been in over her head, trying to deal with a situation she still hadn’t managed to wrap her brain around.
Her parents, Todd, and the letter! She felt a flutter again in her chest and turned to the sink, resting her hands there, feeling suffocated. She had to remind herself yet again to breathe. It came out like a wheeze, and she wondered whether anyone heard.
“Hey, Brandon, no way,” Jeremy said. “Geeze, Mom, how many has he had?”
She turned and stared at Jeremy, because it seemed from the way he’d just spoken to her as if he’d picked up on some of how Todd thought of her. But that was crazy. She couldn’t remember ever having given her son such a disapproving glare.
“Brandon, no more cookies,” she said a lot more sharply than she’d planned. “Grandma is making lunch. Jeremy, you can help.” She rested her hand on the loaf of bread and gave it a shove across the island, then gestured to her son. “Grab a knife. Spread mayo on half, mustard on the other, and pull the leftover roast from the fridge.”
She wondered for a second what he was going to say, but he must have realized she wasn’t in the mood to play any games, as he nodded. Brandon wrapped his arm around her leg and stuck out his bottom lip to pout, and she rested her hand on his dark hair and ruffled it. “Go clean up your toys, and then we’re having lunch.” She patted his back, and he bumped against her once as if ready to argue but then hopped away. He never walked; he ran, he bounced, he rolled.
“Hey, Zac, you too. Give your mom a hand,” Andy added, resting his hand on her bare arm. She knew he hadn’t missed the fact that she was wearing the white sleeveless blouse she wore only for going out, along with beige capris. For no reason she could explain, she’d even added a hint of blush and mascara. “You look nice,” he said. “Can I pour you a glass of wine?”
Had he seriously just asked that?
“Andy, it’s not even noon yet. I think tea would be better—and don’t you still have the cattle to move? You were barely out there before your father showed up and interrupted the morning. Then there’s Brandon. Jeremy, you still need to take him over to Tiffy’s parents, and don’t you have to work at the hardware store at two?” She took in everyone, letting her gaze land finally on Jeremy as he reached for a beer from the fridge and cracked it open. Just because a grandfather had shown up, it was suddenly party time? She stared at the beer and gave everything to him in that one look, just daring him to lift the can and take a swallow. He must have got it, as she saw the hesitation, the way a lump worked in his throat.
“Right,” he said. “I guess I thought Brandon could stay here and get to know his great-grandfather, and I’d call in and see if Cady would take my shift for me…”
Laura was already shaking her head. “I think not. You have a responsibility, and Tiffy’s parents are expecting Brandon. Fair is fair. And drinking before work, this early in the day, isn’t happening.”
Jeremy looked over to Andy. Did he seriously think he’d overrule her? She curled her fingers around the lip of the counter, having to fight the urge to walk over and give his ear a yank. At least he set the beer down on the counter.
“Your mother’s right, Jeremy,” Todd said. “A young lad has responsibilities. Even your dad, growing up, was always a big help to me. We’ll have more time to get to know each other, I promise.”
She gave everything to Todd, who smiled down at Sara and then at Zac and Brandon before letting his gaze linger on Jeremy. He was looking at his grandson with pride. It was a look she didn’t want to see, and she found herself dragging her gaze over to Andy, who was taking in the scene. Why wasn’t he saying anything, doing something to stop this madness?
“So, Dad, it’s a surprise and all that you dropped by, but how long are you planning on being out this way?” Andy said.
Laura reached for a cutting board and took in Jeremy, who had the bread on the island and was putting the mayo and mustard on as she’d asked. She reached in the fridge for a block of marble cheese and a head of lettuce, then spotted the pickles at the back. She reached for the jar.
“Oh, I’d like to stick around and get to know my grandkids for a while, so no plans on time or anything.”
Laura pulled back and nearly dropped the jar. Sara was still taking in everything, and Zac too. He didn’t even have his head buried in his phone. What the hell did Todd mean by that?
“So you have a place nearby,” she said. She couldn’t help herself and didn’t miss the way Andy glanced at her. But she was having none of that.
“Well, no. Was going to find a motel, a cheap one, and see about getting a room. Didn’t have a chance to find someplace, as I came right here once I decided. It’s been too long, too many years, and there’s something about family. When you drift apart and things are said, you realize all that stuff is just that, because family is more important. I’ve missed too many years. Didn’t get to see my grandkids grow up, offer my wisdom. Why, kids need to have their grandfather around to talk to, especially when they’re growing up and have differences with their parents. But then, you kids look like you’ve done just fine. That doesn’t surprise me, considering your dad. He always had my back in some of the worst times, you know. And two granddaughters? I’m a lucky man.” He smiled and squeezed Sara tighter to him before he let her go. She beamed. Todd didn’t even bother looking Laura’s way as he glanced over to Andy and said, “So when do I get to meet Chelsea?”
Laura put the jar on the counter and set the lettuce and cheese in front of Jeremy. “Cut up the cheese, too, and put some lettuce on the sandwiches,” she ordered.
Jeremy stilled. Of course, he had to have picked up on her mood: pissed, irritated, and pushed to the limit.
“Ah, Chels doesn’t live here,” Andy said. “She’s married and lives in Boston with her husband, Ric.” He sounded so reasonable, but she wanted to tell him to stop sharing so much about the kids. This was his father, not a man to be reasonable and have a polite conversation with.
“Sara, you said Devon was picking you up,” Laura said. “You’re not even dressed or ready yet. You need to go shake a leg. Zac, put some plates out on the table and grab the paper towels over there.” Yup, she wasn’t in a nice, pleasant mom mood, and she was sure the kids picked up on her tone.
“Can’t we just grab a sandwich and eat like we always do?” Zac said. “Why do we have to sit at the table? We never do that for lunch.”
Something about her kids questioning her in front of Todd wasn’t working for her. She stared at Zac with a hard look. He had to know she was pushed as far as she was going to be.
“Your mom wants to sit at the table, Zac. You heard her,” Andy added, then dragged his gaze over to her. She didn’t miss the same question in his eyes, the teasing smile as if he was trying to get her to relax.
“Grandfather. Call me Grandfather, Sara, all of you,” Todd interrupted.
Laura reached for a knife and the block of cheese, as Jeremy hadn’t even finished the roast beef, still slicing it and putting it on the bread. She squeezed the handle and reached for a cutting board.
Her daughter laughed, and Laura shot her a sharp glance. She needed to pull her daughter aside and have a talk with her, with all the kids, but at the same time, how much did she want to share? How much did Andy want to share? Neither had wanted their kids to know about everything Todd and Caroline had done.
“I should get ready,” Sara said, and Laura inclined her head, the word Really? on the tip of her tongue, pure sarcasm. Sara backed up and then headed down the hall. Zac was setting the table, and Jeremy seemed to be confused about how to put together a sandwich.
“Seriously, Jeremy, does Tiffy have this much trouble with you, too?” She nudged him aside and put the cheese, lettuce, and beef on the sandwiches, quickly assembling them.
“That’s not funny, Mom,” he said. “Tiffy and I share the cooking. In fact, I do more than she does.”
She wanted to roll her eyes, and maybe Jeremy knew. He went to reach for the beer on the counter, but Laura grabbed it first and dumped it in the sink. “Go and get Brandon washed up for lunch,” she ordered, knowing Todd was still watching her.
“You shouldn’t stay in a hotel, Grandfather,” Zac said. “We have room. Mom, can’t Grandfather stay in the spare room?”
She heard the door, the footsteps, and took in Gabriel as he stepped into the kitchen. He wore blue jeans and a faded T-shirt, his dark hair freshly cut. He took in Todd and shifted his glance to her, then Andy. He said nothing.
“Hi,” she said. “Didn’t know you were dropping by.”
Andy lifted his hand. “Dad, you remember Gabriel.”
Todd looked over to her son, and she wondered whether Gabriel remembered the estate, living there under Todd and Caroline. Of course he did. He dragged his gaze from Zac, to Jeremy, to Andy, and then to her.
“Oh, right,” Todd said. “Laura’s little son, who didn’t talk. Wow, you’re all grown up.”
Her heart pounded, and she pulled in a breath, her chest rising and falling. She saw the way Jeremy and Zac looked at Gabriel with confusion. They didn’t know.
“It’s been a long time,” Gabriel said, letting his gaze linger on Todd. “So what’s going on here? Thought you were moving the cattle. Figured I’d find you out in the field.” He looked over to Andy.
She could say something, but what?
“After lunch, we’ll move them,” Andy said.
“And Grandfather can stay here, right, Mom, Dad?” Zac asked.
She wondered by Jeremy’s face whether he’d figured out yet that something wasn’t quite right, as he fell unusually quiet just as Brandon came running back into the kitchen.
Hell, no. It was on the tip of her tongue. “I’m sure your grandfather would be more comfortable in a motel, Zac.”
“Mom, you never let anyone stay in a hotel, and Grandfather is family.”
Why wasn’t Andy jumping in?
“It’ll be only a few days,” Todd said, “and it would be nice to be close to the kids, to my son.” It was as if he’d figured out that the final decision came down to her. He had to hate that.
Andy glanced over to her and then the kids. “Sure, Dad, a few days,” he said.
She turned to look at him, wondering what he was doing. Zac was saying something and laughing with Todd, and the next thing she realized, Todd had him walking out of the kitchen with him to get his bags. Laura forced herself to put down the knife. Gabriel looked from her to Andy and hadn’t said a word.
“Are you kidding, Andy?” she snapped. “You invited him to stay. What are you thinking?”
“It’s only a few days. I promise he’ll behave himself, and if he does anything, I promise you I’ll ask him to leave.”
She made a rude noise and took in Gabriel, who glanced over his shoulder and then back to them, then shook his head.
Andy leaned against the island, sliding his arm out and pulling her close. “What are you worried about?” he said.
She stepped closer and rested her arms on his forearms. “Everything, Andy. You just invited a snake into a henhouse.”
Andy pulled her close, pressed a kiss to her forehead, and then stepped away. “Maybe once upon a time, but he’s lost everything, Laura, and sometimes when that happens to someone, they turn into a better person.”
She wondered if he really believed that. She glanced over to Gabriel, who she could see was holding something back. Yeah, he remembered. How could he not?
“I’m going to go give Zac a hand,” Andy said, then stepped out of the kitchen, Brandon heading after him. That left her, Gabriel, and Jeremy.
“You think he wants something?” Gabriel asked, and she didn’t miss the shock in Jeremy’s expression as he stared at him.
“Don’t know,” she replied, “but this is Todd Friessen, and there’s one thing I know about him: We can’t take anything at face value. He wants something, he’s up to something, and whatever it is could end up costing this family in ways I don’t think any of us can imagine.”
“Maybe…” Gabriel started.
“Evidently, there’s something about him I don’t know,” Jeremy finally said.
When she heard the door close again, cutting off the voices of Todd, Andy, Zac, and Brandon, Laura rested her hand on Jeremy’s arm. “Yeah,” she said. “Just do me a favor. Make sure no one is ever alone with him.”
Jeremy’s eyes widened.
“You want me to have a word with Dad?” Gabriel asked, but she just shook her head as she listened to Andy laugh.
“No, I’ll talk to him.”
But what could she say? She needed to talk some sense into Andy and try to figure out why he was suddenly welcoming a man into their home who’d tried to destroy their family and separate her from her children—all because of money, power, and position.
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Growing up I had dreams that one day I'd fall in love, get married and start a family. Then one night I was taken. But I survived, I escaped and I was saved. Eric didn't see me as damaged. He didn't see my baby as a monster. He protected me, he kept me safe ... he saved me.
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