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Who wants another sneak peek of HOW TO HEAL A HEART? The next installment in The Friessens family saga will be released this weekend, but you can read Chapter 2 now!
Gabriel Friessen can’t shake his growing unrest at the idea that his seemingly perfect life is nothing but a lie he’s spent a lifetime running away from.
Even though he loves his wife and step-daughter and has a family who loves him, he suspects that to move forward, he needs to close the door on his past—namely, on the man who is his father, his real father, who turned his back on his mother and left her alone and pregnant in what seemed to be another lifetime, before he was born.
Just getting on with things is no longer as easy as it has been all his life. Andy Friessen adopted him, gave him his name, raised him, and loved him, but part of Gabriel needs to face the man who turned his mother away. His mother has moved on, and his brothers and sisters would never understand, but Gabriel knows that to find the peace he needs, he must confront his biological father before he spirals any further into guilt and anger.
HOW TO HEAL A HEART (The Friessens, Book 32) is available for pre-sale at:
Elizabeth hadn’t said anything more to Gabriel the night before, likely because what he told her hadn’t made sense. She blinked and opened her eyes. The room was still dark, and the clock flashed 5:55 a.m. as she listened to the shower running.
How many mornings had she woken up alone to Gabriel already showered and dressed, ready to leave for the job site with barely a goodbye, a touch, a kiss? She couldn’t remember. Now at least she had an idea of why, but at the same time, she didn’t understand where this had come from or why he felt this way.
She listened as he turned the shower off and opened the glass door. She knew he now had to be toweling himself off, and she pictured what he was doing, knowing well his morning routine. The water ran as he brushed his teeth, and then he’d dress and make a quick smoothie in the kitchen before leaving.
The door opened, and he strode out into the darkened room with just a towel riding low on his waist, the light from the bathroom silhouetting him softly. She took in the sculpted outline of the muscles in his back and the kind of ass she could stare at all day. He was hot, moody, and hers.
She reached over and flicked on the bedside light, sitting up, the duvet falling to her waist, feeling the chill of the morning air on her bare arms. She ran her hand over her shoulders, over the spaghetti straps of her pajama top. Gabriel turned, his dark brown hair damp with that messy towel-dried look. The beard he’d started growing a while ago was now neatly trimmed.
“Did I wake you?” he said.
He dropped the towel and stood there naked. He was so damn attractive and fit and strong. He pulled on underwear, then opened a drawer to grab a pair of jeans.
“No, I woke up a bit ago, heard you in the shower. Seems we’ve been two ships passing in the night for so long. I guess I’m a little bothered still,” she said. “No, scratch that. I’m a lot bothered that you didn’t tell me what was going on with you. I mean, how long have you been thinking about going to meet your birth father, and why? I don’t understand. Andy…”
Andy was his father. Everything about the man had shown her how much he loved Gabriel and all his kids.
“I mean, I’ve seen Andy with you, with all of you,” she said. “If you hadn’t told me he wasn’t your birth father, I wouldn’t have known. He treats you no different than Jeremy, Zac, Sara, or Chelsea. I see the way he looks at you. You’re his son in every way, so I don’t understand your need to see this man who…”
He sighed. That was his tone as of late: no patience, ready to snap. He pulled on a pair of socks and then a long-sleeved navy Henley. Maybe he was about to blow her off again.
“This has nothing to do with my dad or my mom or my brothers and sisters. Maybe you can’t understand.”
She leaned forward, feeling the punch in his words. Did he have any idea how he sounded? “There you go again, shutting down. How am I supposed to take that, Gabriel? You said it has nothing to do with me and us, but I say that’s absolute bullshit, because it has everything to do with me, and what really pisses me off is that you can’t even see how you’re treating me. You don’t share what you’re feeling or thinking, and then you say I can’t understand. You’re right. I can’t understand something when you won’t share it. I’m not a fucking mind reader, Gabriel.”
She sucked in a breath and fisted her hands, realizing how loud she had been. Yeah, she had all his attention now. At the same time, she listened for Shaunty, hoping she hadn’t woken her.
Gabriel was now watching her, his hands on his hips, and he didn’t pull his gaze away. “What do you want from me, Elizabeth?”
She tossed back the covers and stepped onto the cold floor, her pajama pants riding low on her hips. She jammed her fingers through her sleep-tousled hair. “Some damn communication. Is that too much to ask? Don’t talk to me like that, Gabriel. I’m your wife, yet here you are, ready to run off to the job site and shut down again in this misery, and you’re dragging us all down with you. I want to know what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, if you’re hurt, if you’re upset, if something is bothering you. You dropped a bomb on me last night and said this is about your birth father, and you want to hunt him down for an apology. Why?”
He pulled in a breath, and she could feel how closed off he was. Where was her handsome, thoughtful, loving husband who was always trying to fix everything for her? Of course he didn’t answer. That was just what he did as of late.
“How would you like it if I started hiding things from you?” she said, and she crossed her arms, not moving any closer to him. He was standing there, rooted to the spot, and she could see how stubborn he was. Was he trying to protect her?
“You know I wouldn’t like it,” he said. She lifted her brows and expected him to say something else, but she could tell he was thinking. Then he said, “You must think I’m crazy for wanting an apology.”
Her heart squeezed. She swallowed. “Never, but I’m hurt that you would think that of me.”
He just stared at her, then nodded as if maybe she was getting through to him. She squeezed her crossed arms, pulling in a shallow breath. “My birth father, Tyler Cassidy…his name has been haunting me for a while. I don’t know why, maybe because every time I look at my ID, I see Andy’s name, but he’s not my birth father. My father is the scumbag who walked away from my mother, the guy who closed the door in her face and left her alone and pregnant to figure everything out on her own, living in dive after dive. My mother worked her hands to the bone to put food on the table, a roof over our heads, and we went through hell.”
“For how long have you been thinking this way? Why didn’t you say anything?”
He lifted his gaze, and for a second she thought he was going to say something about not wanting to bother her, or that she wouldn’t understand, or something ridiculous along those lines.
“Months, I guess,” he said. “I don’t know. Maybe since summer, early fall.”
She lowered her arms, fisting her hands again. “That long, huh?” Even she could hear the anger in her tone. It was the middle of winter. “You know what, Gabriel? What really pisses me off is that you’ve kept this all bottled up for months and said nothing, instead letting me think it was something I did, and you automatically assumed I wouldn’t understand, which tells me you think pretty low of me.
“If something is bothering you, I can’t know unless you tell me,” she continued. “Yeah, I may not understand, hearing now that you’re thinking about a father you don’t even know. What I see is that you have a family who loves you—a father, Andy, who loves you and would do anything for you. But put that aside. You want an apology from the guy who gave you his genes? Sure, I get it. What I don’t get is you keeping it in, hiding it like a secret.”
She walked over to him and thumped his chest with her hand. “This, here, is not the place you get to hide everything, what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, because that’s a sure-fire way to get us right back here, with me thinking I’ve done something wrong and that you’re angry with me. Do you know how much that hurts?”
He shut his eyes, pulled in a breath, rested both his hands on her shoulders, and rubbed. He smelled so good, freshly showered, as he lowered his head and pressed his forehead to hers. He pressed a kiss to her lips and didn’t pull back from her morning breath.
“Okay, I get it,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’m just tired, disillusioned. I don’t understand why now, after all these years, it’s bothering me. It makes no sense and isn’t logical, and you’re right—I have a father, a mother, a family who are everything to me, and I love all of them. At the same time, Elizabeth, they wouldn’t understand any of this, as you’ve said. Andy is my dad, and nothing will take that from him, but there’s this piece of something in my heart that’s missing, and I can’t explain it, even to myself.
“I know my mother may have moved on, forgiven him, and my parents love each other so deeply. They’re an inspiration,” he said. “But this is about me. I want him to see what he did, to own up to all his mistakes, to admit to me that he was a coward. More than anything, I want him to look me in the eye and explain to me how he could have been such a cowardly asshole, turning his back on not just my mother but me, knowing there was a piece of him out there who looked just like him, who he was responsible for. Is it wrong for me to want to hear him say he was wrong, that he’s sorry?”
She stared at Gabriel as he slid his hands around the small of her back. She looped her arms over his shoulders and just stood there in his arms, feeling him. It was in these moments where she felt that flicker, that something, a sign that he was opening his heart and letting her in.
“Okay,” was all she said. Then she pulled in another breath. “So have you looked for him? Do you know where he is?”
In that second, she could feel him pulling back.
“Yes…no, sort of,” he said. “Before I do, I think I need to talk to my mom, and that’s a conversation I don’t want to have. You see, it’s not just about finding Tyler. That’s the easy part. It’s about what it would mean for my mom, for my dad.”
Gabriel stepped back, and she could feel his angst. She understood what he was saying and why he’d been wrestling with this.
“Okay, I think I get it,” she said. “Basically, you’ve lost sleep and put off something that you feel you need to do because you’re worried about how your mom and dad will react.”
His eyes weren’t the same vivid green as his mom’s, as his siblings. Now, as she really looked, she could see they were so different. He didn’t answer at first but pulled in a breath, and she started to feel and see the tension he’d been hiding. “Yeah, so you see my dilemma,” he said. “How can I be so selfish, wanting to call up a man who likely hasn’t given a second thought to me or my mom? Andy has given me more love than I thought was possible. He adopted me, gave me his name, and here I am, feeling as if there’s this big hole in me and something is missing. Right, like they would get it. I don’t even get it. It will hurt them. They won’t understand.”
He was so definite, and she wanted to argue with him, wanted to reason with him. At the same time, something had her holding her tongue.
“Whatever you decide, you know I’m in your corner,” she said, “but you can’t do nothing. You can’t bury it. You obviously need to confront this guy. You need to speak with him, even just for closure for yourself. I don’t know how your parents would react, but I think, Gabriel, you may not be giving them enough credit. This is about being honest. Whatever you decide, you know I’m behind you and I love you, but ask yourself if you can honestly keep going the way you’re going. As you’ve said, this has been bothering you for a while. If you don’t confront all of this and do something, I’m pretty sure, even though I’m no expert on carrying guilt, it will continue to haunt you even while you’re trying to bury it. I mean, look how you’ve been acting. Your family’s noticed. I think if you talk to your mom, your dad, you may realize they’re a lot more supportive and understanding than you think. As you said, you love your dad, and it’s not about him.”
Gabriel sighed, leaned in, and kissed her hard and fast, then pulled away. “I’ve got to go,” was all he said, then pulled open the bedroom door, letting the hallway nightlight shine in. When he looked back at her, she wondered if he’d just dismissed everything she’d said.
“You know I love you,” he said, and she just stood there, feeling a giant ache in her heart for his angst and seeing now what he was struggling with. She nodded.
“Talk to your mom. Talk to your dad,” she said.
He said nothing else at first as he took her in, then pulled in a breath and gestured with his chin toward her. “Have a great day at work.”
Then he was gone, leaving her feeling another moment of disconnect. She’d told him just last week that her payroll job at Burky’s Discount Food Market was being replaced by a software program, but evidently, he hadn’t heard a word she’d said.
For a limited time only, you can pick up A VOW OF LOVE (The Friessens: A New Beginning, Book 4) for 99cents!
Holidays are about family, love and giving, but this Christmas, the Friessens are in for a rough holiday season.
"WOW!!...This Friessen family is by no means perfect, but they love hard and protect what's theirs. This has been a wonderful series and I can't wait to read more about this family." ★★★★★ Mary Rhonda M., Kindle Customer
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