“If I was offered the chance, there’s no one else I’d rather tour with. Can you blame me?”
The crowd again exploded in questions about his relationship with Piper. Coy definitely got everyone talking and speculating the way Dean wanted.
Thankfully, the production assistant signaled to Sawyer that his time was up. He waved to the unsatisfied reporters and got the heck out of there.
He needed to check on Piper and let Dean know mission accomplished. Everyone would be talking about him and Piper tomorrow. He’d have to make sure he kept doing as he was told so his name stayed on their lips.
* * *
“WE NEED TO get a statement out before the press puts its own spin on this.” Piper’s father had not stopped pacing since they got in the dressing room.
Piper wanted this day to be over. She needed to get out of this arena and back to the hotel where she could hide. The press was sure to speculate about why she had fainted onstage, and none of their guesses would be helpful.
Lana handed her another bottle of apple juice. She couldn’t bear to drink any more. They had been pushing cookies and juice on her so much that her body tingled from the excessive amounts of sugar.
“Sawyer let everyone know she’s fine,” Dean said. “Social media is lighting up about it, but it’s all good.”
“Good? My daughter fainted onstage. We’re supposed to go on tour in a few weeks. People are going to question her stamina before she even begins touring.”
“No one is focused on her not being well,” Dean explained.
“What else would they be focused on?”
“Sawyer carrying her offstage. Everyone thinks it was part of the act, and they’re loving it. They love Piper and Sawyer together.”
Piper let that soak in. People loved her and Sawyer together. Everyone was thrilled at the simple idea of it. Except her father, of course.
“Ridiculous!” Heath scoured his own social media accounts to verify Dean’s claims.
“I think we should take advantage of this. You could have Sawyer join Piper’s tour as the opening act. As long as we don’t deny the possibility of a relationship, people will be scrambling to buy tickets to see for themselves if they’re a couple or not. It’s a win-win for both of them.”
“We were leaning more toward crossover performers for opening acts. Artists who aren’t only country.”
“I think Sawyer’s songs have a wide appeal, as well,” Dean argued.
Heath wouldn’t give in. “We were also considering female artists to avoid exactly what you’re suggesting we promote—rumors about my daughter and her love life.”
Piper saw it differently than her father for one very important reason. The baby wasn’t going to be a secret forever. Eventually, she would have to not only come clean to her father and Dean but also the world. Maybe Dean was giving her the answer she had been looking for since this morning. Maybe the feelings she’d had for him were more real than she’d thought.
Piper let her head fall into her hands. Her thoughts drifted back to right before she’d passed out. Instead of walking away at the end of the song, Sawyer had been drawn to her. He was going to kiss her. Maybe his feelings had changed. Her father would have to come around. Sawyer would always be part of their lives.
“I need to talk to Sawyer,” she announced. Everyone exchanged curious glances. “Now. I have to ask him something.”
Dean went to find him. Her father sat beside her on the couch. “Do we need to go back to the hospital? I know you were sick before the performance, but maybe it’s more than a stomach bug.”
The sincere concern in his voice made Piper’s guilt for keeping the secret resurge. Sawyer needed to hear the news first, however. “I’ll be fine. It’s nothing. Maybe I was more anxious about performing than I thought I was. I feel much better now, I swear.”
“We don’t have to include the Stratton boy in any of this. You know we can’t let him distract us from your ultimate goal. It’s not your job to sell his records, only yours.”
“The rumors have already started. I need to talk to him about what’s going on. I’m fully committed to making the crossover into popular music. I know what I have to do, and if Sawyer joins the tour, that’s not going to change.”