Get your next glimpse of HOW TO HEAL A HEART! Book 32 in The Friessens series is on the way, but you can preview Chapter 3 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:
There were days when he felt as if he didn’t have enough hours to accomplish everything he wanted—no, needed to get done. It seemed everyone was on their own schedule, live and let live. They were too laid back, flaky, never getting anything done to his standards.
He still needed to fix the leaking pipe under his house, and he was still pissed off at the plumber who had originally done the work and used cheap PVC piping made in China. Evidently, that was why his prices were that much cheaper.
Gabriel could see his sister from the kitchen window, still outside by the black pickup his dad had given her. She was in the arms of Devon, her fiancé, saying goodbye, his tongue likely down her throat. Quite the show, really, and he felt like they had been out there for at least half an hour.
Inside, the painter was pulling tape off the now white walls, which the light bounced off of. The scent of fresh paint had once given him a happy, accomplished feeling, but that was nowhere to be found now.
The door opened, and his sister finally walked in, and she really did look happy.
“Wow, looks fantastic!” she said. “Okay, you were right about the white. I’ll give that to you. You really have been cracking the whip there, big brother. Looks almost ready for me to start staging and get the final touches done, and then we can get this house on the market. Yay!”
She rested her laptop bag on the huge center island of the kitchen as Gabriel wiped the grout from the backsplash tiles he’d just set, which were various shades of blue. The house really was coming together.
“Well, someone has to pick up the slack and get this house done so I can get my money out of it,” he said. “I have bills to pay, Sara. Feels like I’m doing most of the work here—and the electrician hasn’t shown yet, by the way. He was supposed to be here half an hour ago to install that fancy chandelier you insisted on having in the dining room, and the lights for the kitchen and bathroom. Then there’s the yard outside, still snow covered. We need to do something with it.”
He could feel his heart thumping, the tightness in his chest, the tension and the dampness in his hands. Anxiety seemed to be his constant companion as of late, and he forced himself to take a breath, still picturing the hurt on Elizabeth’s face. She’d thought he was angry at her. No, never! Then there was her brother. He’d been an ass, and he felt horrible.
He looked over to Sara, who was leaning against the island, her white toque still on her head, her light blue winter coat still zipped up, and her boots still on her feet. She wasn’t smiling, watching him in that same distant way his wife did, likely trying to figure out what bug had crawled up his ass.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to…”
“Be an asshole?” she said. “Just FYI, big brother, you act like you’re the only one doing anything here, but you take over and do a lot of the trades’ jobs instead of letting them do it, and then you let everyone know you’re the only one who can do anything right—like that backsplash. I thought Kip was supposed to do it after the shower tile, or are you doing that too? What time did you get here, anyway?”
He tossed the sponge in the bucket, feeling the grit of the grout on his hands. “Kip’s working on the shower now. I’ve done the backsplash so he won’t have to. I plan to keep this on schedule. I don’t want any delays. It’ll be ready by the end of the week so you can get in here and get it staged. I also want you to make sure today that everything is as it’s supposed to be, as I don’t want to have to rip one more thing out or redo anything else. I just want this done and finished, and…”
She lifted her hands. “Okay! Whoa, there,” she said. “One, we are ahead of schedule, and two, I am ready. You’ve never had to wait on me yet. I only had you redo the tiling job in the Harris house last year because you gave Kip the wrong tile for the master bath. That was all you, and it seems you’re still harping on it. Then the carpet fiasco was just that. It was supposed to be hardwood, not carpet, so yeah, of course I made you rip it out. What’s going on with you? Is everything okay with you and Elizabeth?”
There it was, the one thing he didn’t want to talk about. “Yeah, she said you called, worried, thinking we were…what, like, breaking up?”
His sister made a face and crossed her arms. Maybe the asshole tone was back in his voice. “I didn’t ask if you were breaking up,” she said. “I asked if there was a problem, because evidently, something is up with you. You haven’t been yourself for a while. You’re grumpy, and you snap at everyone. You’re even stepping in and doing everyone else’s work. I know you’ve been getting here earlier and earlier, and you’re staying later. You’re here before me and you leave after me, long after. I know that for a fact. Of course we’re all thinking something’s up on the home front, because if everything is fine at home, then why are you hiding out here, getting miserable and grumpy and snapping at everyone?”
He hadn’t realized he’d been that bad, and having it pointed out didn’t help. “No, rest your pretty little head. Elizabeth and I are fine.”
Sara was still leaning against the island, crossing her arms. The engagement ring on her finger flashed. “So if this new moody Gabriel isn’t because of trouble at home, then what is it? Is it finances? Because we’re doing well, Gabriel. Last house, we turned a tidy profit.”
He just shook his head. “No, stop digging, trying to find the worst-case scenario. It’s not my finances.”
“Let’s see. Love life? Check, everything fine. Finances? Fine. Then that leaves your house and…” She stopped and stared, her face pale. “That leaves your health. Oh, good God, Gabriel, did something happen? Are you sick? Your cancer came back…”
He could see the panic, the worry. “No! Sara, it didn’t. I’m fine. I just had another clean bill from my last check-up.”
She actually blew out a breath, and he could see how she’d thought the worst. He was starting to understand what his wife was saying, because he hadn’t told anyone why he hadn’t been sleeping or about how he was still plagued by this unresolved guilt, anger, resentment—feelings that made no sense, all for a man he didn’t know.
“Then what is it, Gabriel?” Sara said. “You’re too young for a midlife crisis.” She just wasn’t going to leave it alone.
He shook his head. “You wouldn’t understand, and it’s got nothing to do with you, so just drop it, Sara.”
She pulled back, wearing the same expression as Elizabeth had the night before when he’d given her the same arrogant attitude, keeping everything to himself. “Seriously? You know what, Gabriel? I’m having a hard time believing there isn’t something going on with you and Elizabeth. This isn’t like you, and it sounds like you’re telling me to mind my own business. That sucks, Gabriel, because that’s the one thing you and Jeremy and Dad have never done for me. You’re always sticking your noses into my business. I’ve lost track of the number of times you’ve interfered with my relationship with Devon or offered your two cents or even gone around making decisions for me. Like, seriously, the double standards, Gabriel…”
He could feel the bite, and he finally cut her off. “Fine, I get it,” he said. “You want to know what it is? Well, I’ll tell you. You know where you come from, every part of you. You have a lineage, and you know Mom and Dad, no matter how fucked up their pasts are. You know all of it. But I don’t have that. Yeah, Mom and Dad love me, I get it, they’re my parents, but there’s a man out there who’s my biological father, and I’m so fucking angry with him because of what he did to Mom, to me.
“I can see by your face you don’t get it. How could you? But I’ve wanted to stand in front of him and make him look me in the eye and explain how he could’ve been such an asshole. I want to hear him say he’s sorry. I want the hurt that’s right here”—he slapped his hand to his chest— “to stop and go away, because I’ve been ignoring it, but it won’t. It’s still there, keeping me awake at night, gnawing away at me, because I haven’t dealt with it, haven’t held him accountable for what he did. I haven’t gotten to say my piece.”
He’d never seen his sister so shocked. “Oh, Gabriel,” she said, “I had no idea…”
Behind them, the floor creaked.
“And neither did I,” Andy said.
It was just one of those surreal moments. As he stared at his dad, he wished he could go back five minutes in time and shut his damn mouth. He couldn’t believe Andy had just walked in on him, but that was just something he did, showing up anytime, anywhere. He should have known better, and he felt absolutely horrible.
“I’m sorry, Dad,” he said. “I didn’t want you to know.”
His sister was looking over to their dad. Gabriel couldn’t remember ever seeing Andy look at him the way he was—hurt, something. This was exactly what he hadn’t wanted to happen, and no one said anything.
“How much did you hear?” he asked. Could he dig himself out? Unlikely, by the way his dad was looking over to Sara, who still said nothing at all.
“Enough,” Andy replied. “Why didn’t you say anything? You know you’re my son, just as much my son as any of my kids, and just because I’m not your biological father, doesn’t mean I’m not very much your father. Have I in any way ever given you the idea that you’re not my son?”
He swallowed a thick lump, knowing Andy had taken it exactly how he’d thought he would, but it was worse. He knew his dad couldn’t understand how or why he was feeling the way he was.
“No, Dad. I know you’re my dad, and this is why I didn’t want to say anything, because I knew no one would understand. It’s got nothing to do with you and Mom and the family. I know I have a family and you’re my dad, but it’s…” He just stopped talking as he took in how uncomfortable Sara was, standing there, and he realized his dad wasn’t going to let it drop.
“It’s what, son? Come on. You’ve put it out there, so finish it. You’ve been holding on to this for a while, I take it?”
Andy took another step into the kitchen so that there were maybe three feet between them now. His dad could be intense, stubborn, strong, difficult, and he knew he wouldn’t get away with not answering. That was just who Andy Friessen was.
“I need to find him, to face him,” Gabriel said. “I want to say my piece, let him know he doesn’t get a pass for walking the cowardly way he did. I can tell by your face what you’re thinking…”
“I doubt very much you have any idea what I’m thinking,” his dad snapped, cutting him off. “I don’t understand. Is this about wanting a relationship with him? Then there’s your mom.”
That was exactly why he hadn’t said anything, exactly why it was best to let sleeping dogs lie, so to speak. Damn Elizabeth for pushing, and his sister too. It wasn’t all about him and his feelings.
“No, Dad, I do not want a relationship with him. You’re my father, and he’ll never be. This is exactly why I didn’t want to say anything, because the last thing I want to do is hurt you and Mom. I remember how hard it was for her. You think I want to drag all that up again? No, just forget I said anything.” He was getting loud, and he knew the tradespeople had to be listening.
His dad and sister exchanged the oddest of looks, and his dad took another step closer. “Well, that’s the thing, Gabriel,” Andy said. “We can’t forget. So is this why you’ve been so off for months, because you’re feeling this way, because of this man?” He was watching, waiting.
Sara, who hadn’t moved, looked past him now. “Electrician’s here,” she said.
He knew he needed to shut this down. “Fine, yes, maybe. I don’t know,” he said. “All I know is this has been festering for a lot of years. I’m angry—not at you and Mom. It’s about being rejected, unwanted, even though it’s not logical. I just need to face him, to say the words and tell him he missed out on me and that I had a great life despite him, because of him.”
His dad was now nodding, and Sara, well, he wondered if she thought he’d lost his mind.
“Okay, and then what?” Andy said. “You face him and then walk away? Is that what’s going to fix this, make you happy and pull you out of how off you’ve been?”
The word “yes” was on the tip of his tongue, and he was going to say it when the electrician walked in.
“Sorry I’m late,” the man said. “Got tied up at the last job. Great, Sara, you’re here. You can show me exactly…” He was down the hall now, and all Gabriel wanted to do was stop talking as Sara started out of the kitchen and down the hall after him, but his dad took another step closer until he was standing right there in front of him and rested his hand on his shoulder.
“Then you should talk to him,” Andy said. “But I don’t want your mom to know.”
There it was, his dad and his overprotectiveness, his love for his mom. Gabriel too wanted nothing more than to keep the one thing from her that he knew would really hurt her.
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