The newest addition to The Friessens series is here! HOW TO HEAL A HEART, Book 32, is now available at all online retailers!
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 now available at all eRetailers:
And here's your final sneak peek of Chapter 5!
The sun was just skimming the horizon, sending golds and yellows across the darkened sky. The snow-covered fields and the smoke from the chimney of his parents’ ranch house were both welcoming and a reminder of the rude reality of what he was about to do. He could see cattle in the distance, the barn doors were closed, and the lights in the loft were out. Jeremy, Tiffy, and his nephew, Brandon, were evidently still asleep. As he pulled up to the house, he could see the light from the kitchen and knew his mom and dad would be up.
Yeah, he’d wanted to come out the night before—ready to slay the dragon, so to speak. He’d been pissed off at his dad for telling him what he could and couldn’t do. Laura was his mom, yet he felt as if Andy had slapped him down and would do everything he could to keep her from him. It was a side of his dad he’d never seen before, and Andy had left him feeling much like an outsider. Of course, he couldn’t explain that to Elizabeth or even to himself, and maybe that was why, seeing his sleeping wife in bed as he left that morning, he’d had the shitty feeling that he was sneaking out.
He stepped out of the truck and closed the door, the sound echoing, then strode around the front of the truck, seeing his mom’s SUV buried under what he thought was a foot of snow. His ears were cold as he started to the house he’d grown up in, remembering Elizabeth’s panicked face and how she’d convinced him to leave it be the night before. One more person who would be angry with him.
The stairs and the wooden porch were free of snow, and he pulled at the screen door, hearing the soft squeak. He’d been expecting the inside door to be locked, but it opened. He was met with warmth and stamped his feet, knocking the snow off his boots, then stepped in to see his dad in the living room, crouched by the woodstove, shoving split wood into the roaring fire. Andy glanced back to him, then closed the door to the stove and stood up, wearing blue jeans and a black sweater. It appeared he’d just gotten up.
“You’re here early. Hope it’s not for what I think it is,” Andy said, walking his way, moving the way he did when he was getting ready for battle. Being on the wrong side of his father was not something he wanted.
Gabriel flicked his gaze down the hall, wondering if his mom was still in bed. Then he felt his dad’s hand on his shoulder.
“You had coffee yet?”
Not what he’d expected. “You know I don’t drink coffee, Dad.”
His dad patted his shoulder but didn’t smile as he walked into the kitchen. “No, but I do, and I can put the kettle on for you, at least. I’m sure your mom has some of that tasteless tea that you love.”
He just shrugged as his dad walked into the kitchen and reached for the kettle, then put it under the tap and plugged it in. While rinsing out the coffee carafe, he glanced back to Gabriel, who wasn’t sure what to make of the way his dad was looking at him.
“So what’s going on, son?” Andy said.
Gabriel was glad he hadn’t barreled out there the night before to raise holy hell and upset everyone. Maybe he should thank Elizabeth for that much. “I haven’t been sleeping, so I’m not exactly reacting to things the way I should. I wanted to drive out here last night,” he said.
His dad scooped coffee into a filter and turned on the coffee maker, then hesitated before he turned around and leaned against the counter. Of course, his expression wasn’t amused. “I see,” he said. “But, evidently, you came to your senses.”
No, that had been Elizabeth, who had chased after him in those ridiculous fuck-me heels, grabbing his arm with an alarmed expression before he could get out the front door. “No, my wife seemed to think sleeping on it and waiting for today was a much better idea.”
He didn’t agree, but he loved her, and here he was.
“Yes, well, Elizabeth called,” Andy said. “She woke up alone and was worried about what you would do, so I was expecting you.”
He wondered if the shock he was feeling showed. He didn’t like the feeling that his wife had called his dad behind his back. It seemed so wrong.
“And don’t go looking like that,” Andy said. “She’s worried because she feels she’s solely responsible for all of this because she encouraged you to figure out these unresolved feelings. She seems to be under the impression that you and I are headed for trouble—a rift, as she said.”
He dragged his hand over his face, hearing the scrape of whiskers, feeling the anger, the tension, wanting to snap at his wife for not staying out of it. “She shouldn’t have done that, called you,” Gabriel said. “She’s my wife.”
Maybe it was the way he said it, but his dad didn’t pull his gaze from him at first as the kettle whistled. Finally, he reached around and unplugged it, then opened the cupboard where Laura stashed all the tea. He pulled out a box and held it up. White tea, yeah, so Andy knew what he wanted.
“Sure,” was all Gabriel said.
Andy reached for a mug, tossed in a tea bag, and poured the kettle of boiled water overtop. It was something his mom would have done, yet here was his dad instead, seeming very much like a gatekeeper.
“She is your wife, but we’re family, Gabriel,” Andy said. “Elizabeth, as your wife, is part of this family. Whatever is going through your head, nothing is going to change that. We may not agree on things, but that doesn’t mean I love you any less.”
His dad held out the steaming mug and didn’t pull his icy blue eyes from him. Gabriel could see so much of his dad in Jeremy, in Zac, just not in him. Even Sara and Chelsea had parts of Andy that he’d never have. He nodded and took the mug, and his dad reached for another from the cupboard and poured himself a cup of coffee.
“So you were expecting me, then.”
His dad took a swallow of the steaming coffee. “So to speak,” he replied. “Wasn’t sure which version of my son would be walking through the door. Look, Gabriel, I realize you’re struggling with something, and I’m sorry for not seeing it. Maybe I don’t understand why you would even give that man a second thought. Have I in any way ever made you feel as if you’re not truly my son?”
There it was.
“No, Dad, of course not, and it’s got nothing to do with that.” He just held the mug and stared down into the tea, then took in this house, this kitchen, the place where he’d grown up. If he shut his eyes, he could still remember the childlike joy he had felt as he looked up to Andy, but it was different for him than for his brothers and sisters. It was just something that had become more pronounced as of late.
“Well, then explain it to me so I can understand, so I can help you.”
He groaned. There Andy went, wanting to fix everything. “Dad, this isn’t something you can fix with just words. You can’t do anything about it. It’s just something I feel right here.” He tapped his chest and rested his mug on the kitchen island, leaning against it. “It’s got nothing to do with you, Jeremy, Chels, Sara, and Zac. It has everything to do with me and Mom.”
He heard a rustle and turned, seeing his mom standing there, pulling at the belt of her housecoat. Her hair was tousled from sleep, and she looked from him to Andy.
“Mom, I didn’t hear you…” Gabriel said.
Laura strode into the kitchen, her gaze lingering on him, confused, tired, before she dragged it over to his dad. It was the kind of look that said she’d heard something, but not everything. “Well, the two of you aren’t exactly quiet, but I suppose it was the phone that woke me half an hour ago and got your dad out of bed. So, what’s going on here?”
Andy reached for a mug and handed it to her. She touched his arm, and the intimacy lingered without words between them as she poured her coffee, then turned and leaned against the counter beside him. Gabriel didn’t have to look over to know his dad was ready to do everything he could to protect her.
“Come on, you two,” Laura said. “What’s going on? You were saying something, Gabriel, something that involves me but not your brothers and sisters. Does this have anything to do with how off you’ve been? We’ve all noticed, but we stayed out of it even though I wanted to pull you aside over and over and ask you what the hell was happening. As a matter of fact, I was planning on stopping by your job site to find out for myself what’s going on, since I hear you pretty much live there. But, since you’re here now, why don’t you spill it?”
His dad was staring down at his mom. Gabriel wanted to tell her, but at the same time, he wondered if he’d ever forget how hard it had been for her, for him. Her face, her image, her fear…he remembered it all still
“Gabriel wants to see Tyler, his birth father,” Andy said. He just wasn’t going to let him handle this.
Laura said nothing, staring at his dad. He couldn’t have missed how thrown she was. “I see,” she finally said, then dragged her gaze back over to him. He expected hurt, and he wanted to apologize and take it all back, but instead Laura said, “Well, that’s his right, Andy.”
That was exactly what he hadn’t expected, and maybe his dad hadn’t, either, from the expression on his face.
“Laura, I don’t agree,” he said.
She simply rested her hand on Andy’s arm. The way she touched him, Gabriel could really see she understood him better than anyone, the voice of reason. “It’s not up to you or me, Andy, either of us. So this is what’s been up.” She looked back over to him, her hand still lingering on his dad’s arm. “Is it, Gabriel? Is this why you’ve been so off, so moody, so distracted that we all wondered if you and Elizabeth were having problems? Is this because of Tyler?”
“It is,” he said.
Laura nodded. “Then you should reach out to him, talk to him, do whatever you need to do to get yourself the answers you need.” She rested her coffee, which she’d barely touched, on the counter. “I’m going to climb in the shower before Zac takes all the hot water—and you really should shave the beard off that handsome face of yours,” she said, resting her hands on Gabriel’s cheeks. Her gaze lingered for a second before she started out of the kitchen.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” he called out over his shoulder. “The last thing I want to do is hurt you.”
She stopped in the entryway and turned back to him. “No, Gabriel, I’m sorry,” she said. “I should have known this was something you’d want to deal with. I just…” She paused and smiled, but at the same time, she fisted her hands. It was such a contrast, and she seemed to have to force herself to relax them, straighten them out. She pulled in a breath, and in that second, he wanted to take it all back, and he could feel his dad ready to swoop in. “It was hard for us,” Laura said, “especially you. I just never realized how much you remembered, if anything, of what happened before Andy.”
His throat thickened, and he forced himself to clear it. “It’s not your fault, Mom. I know what you did for me, which is why I have to see him. I know how hard you worked, how hard it was for you, giving everything to me first, and he got to walk away scot-free. I’m angry. I want him to know that I know him as nothing but a worthless jerk who didn’t lift a finger to help, and I want him to look me in the eye and say he’s sorry for what he did. I want to say my piece.”
His mom nodded but said nothing else, then exchanged a look with his dad before starting back down the hall.
As Gabriel turned back to his dad, he could see the anger in his expression. Andy didn’t like it when anyone hurt his family.
“You just make sure that’s all it is, Gabriel,” he said. “Say your piece, get the apology you need. But the last thing I want is for the likes of Tyler Cassidy to be anywhere in our lives.”
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" This is a beautifully written story full of emotion, love and family values and one I thoroughly enjoyed..." ★★★★★ Samanthagirl, Amazon UK Reviewer
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