For my dad.
Thanks for always being there for me and
teaching me the importance of always
putting family first.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, I’m pregnant?”
Piper Starling felt like she’d stepped outside her body. Her stomach rolled. The walls of the exam room inside Nashville General Hospital’s ER began to close in. This could not be happening.
“Miss Starling—” The doctor took a seat on the stool beside the exam table.
“You must be mistaken.” Piper tried to control the shakiness of her voice and hang on to the single shred of hope from which she dangled. “I’m here because I twisted my ankle. I’m waiting for an X-ray, not a pregnancy test.”
She had bumped into Sawyer Stratton onstage while setting up for rehearsal and twisted it. High heels and poor balance did not mix well.
The doctor scratched at his closely cropped gray beard and gave her a sympathetic smile. “I know why you came in, Piper. I think perhaps my nurse failed to mention a pregnancy test is part of the routine bloodwork we perform here in the ER.”
Piper crinkled the paper covering the exam table in her fists. Pregnant. This made the possibility of a broken ankle seem like nothing. She could barely absorb what the doctor was saying as he went on about soft-tissue damage and the necessity of prenatal vitamins and a more balanced lifestyle going forward.
A sharp knock on the door made Piper jump. Before the doctor could get to his feet, her father pushed it open. Piper’s heart flew into overdrive. She might be a grown woman, but her father’s opinion of her was still the most important thing in her life.
“Ah, so a doctor finally did show up.” Heath Starling handed Piper the bottle of water he had gotten her and began his rant. “We’ve been here for almost two hours. Are you here to take her to get this X-ray? You do know who my daughter is, right?”
“I know who your daughter is, sir.” The doctor rose and offered his hand. “I’m Dr. Michaels.”
Her father had no time for niceties. “We’re on a tight schedule today. If her ankle is broken, we have to know so we can make adjustments sooner than later. Why do hospitals have to be so inefficient?”
The doctor was about to respond when Piper slid off the table and gingerly put some weight on her foot. “No X-ray, Dad. I’m fine. The doctor was just explaining to me that he’s sure it’s a sprain and not broken.”
“Shouldn’t we check to make sure?” The concern in his voice made her feel guilty for not being completely honest, but all Piper wanted was to get out of here before someone let her current condition slip.
“It would hurt a lot more if it was broken. As long as I rest it, I should be fine for the awards show.”
She wished she could tell her dad the truth. What she wouldn’t give to hear him reassure her that everything would be fine, but she knew there was no chance of that happening. An out-of-wedlock pregnancy with a man her father had convinced her was the wrong choice had the potential to ruin everything.
Thankfully, Heath was not a fan of hospitals. “Great! Then we’ll make it to the radio interview after all,” he said.
“I’ll get the discharge paperwork together,” Dr. Michaels said. “I’ll have some instructions and recommendations for follow-up put in there for you, Piper. Good luck…with everything.”
Piper needed more than luck. She needed someone to come in and tell the doctor that the lab had made a terrible mistake.
How could this have happened? Until now, every move she’d made had been perfectly orchestrated. Her image was vital to her success, which was why she always did as she was told. Her father constantly emphasized how one misstep could ruin a career. Say or do the wrong thing and the world would know about it instantly, thanks to social media and smartphones. And for some reason, the public was always on the lookout for their idol’s fatal flaw.
Piper struggled to stop herself from trembling. A few months ago, she had fallen for Sawyer and his soulful brown eyes. She had let him woo her with his clever quips and gentle touch, but what she felt wasn’t real. She’d been tricked into thinking she was in love by the intense emotions that writing music together pulled out of her.