As they exited the hotel, a handful of paparazzi appeared out of nowhere. The rumors had begun and the press was dying for more to the story. Cameras were rolling and the questions were, too.

“Secret rendezvous with your girlfriend?”

“How’s Piper doing?”

“How long have you two been together?”

“Why have you been keeping this romance a secret?”

Sawyer ducked his head as the three of them ran for the car. He kept his mouth shut and could already imagine the look of dread on Piper’s face when she found out reporters were circling the place like vultures.

“What does Heath Starling think about the two of you together?” someone shouted.

Even the paps knew who was in charge of Piper’s life. Sawyer opened the passenger door for his sister and climbed into the back seat. Heath was going to do everything he could to control this situation. Sawyer needed to rise to the challenge.


“MY ANKLE IS a little black-and-blue, but it doesn’t hurt to walk around.”

Telling her father that she was pregnant had somehow been less daunting than sharing the same news with her mother. Maybe it was the impersonal nature of a phone call. Maybe it was the fact that Piper in no way felt like she would ever be as good at being a mom as hers was.

“Good. I wasn’t expecting to hear from you so soon after we spoke last night. Is everything else all right?”

Piper glanced at her father’s bedroom door. He hadn’t said a word to her after everyone had left. He had had Lana run out and buy a home pregnancy test to be sure Piper hadn’t been misdiagnosed. When it came back positive, he had gone into his bedroom and shut the door, leaving Piper to stew about the future and obsess over the way it felt when Sawyer held her hand.

“There was one thing I needed to tell you. I should have told you last night, but I was a little bit overwhelmed.”

“Oh, sweetheart. That’s understandable. You had a crazy day yesterday. What’s going on?”

Piper crossed and uncrossed her legs. She was like the princess who could feel the pea under a hundred mattresses. No matter what she did, she could not get comfortable.

“When I was at the hospital yesterday, they had to do some blood tests before they could give me an X-ray.” The other end of the line went dead silent. “Mom, are you there?”

“I’m here. Please tell me you’re well. There’s nothing wrong, is there?”

“Oh, no, I mean, yes. I’m fine. No problems. But I did find out something I wasn’t exactly prepared for. They told me…I’m pregnant.”

Her mom was quiet again before bursting with laughter. “That’s a good one! I can picture your father’s face when he heard that. What kind of hospital was this? How could they have messed that up so badly?”

Piper put her mom on speaker and pressed her palms over her eyes to stop the tears. Her throat was so tight, she wasn’t sure she could get the words out.

“They didn’t mess up, Mom. I did.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that I fell in love with Sawyer Stratton and we shared a moment of weakness six weeks ago, and in less than nine months, I’ll be having a baby.”

Her hands were no match for the tears that leaked out anyway. It was horrible to have to break the news this way. She couldn’t imagine how disappointed her mother was.

“You’re pregnant? For real?”

“For real. Dad had me take a second test to be sure.”

Her mom was quiet another moment, which was a bad sign.

“How is your dad handling it?” she finally asked.

“He’s disappointed and not talking to me.”

Piper waited for her mom to repeat the same sentiments her dad had spewed before Sawyer and his family left. She had to be devastated.

“I know this comes as a surprise,” Piper said to end the silence. “This is not the way I wanted to start a family, but here we are and I am ready to do whatever it takes to make it right.”

“My baby is going to have a baby? Oh, Piper, this is so exciting!”

Exciting? That was not the word her dad had used. Piper’s mouth fell open.

“You’re happy for me?”