A strange sensation came over him. He was jealous. Jealous that he couldn’t be that guy because Piper’s father hadn’t deemed him good enough, and Piper never did anything without her father’s consent. Sawyer had to pretend they were perfect for one another, knowing Piper had never really felt that way about him. But she would eventually feel that way about someone else. How ridiculous, to be jealous of some guy who didn’t even exist yet.

Of course, someday he would.

CHAPTER NINE

“DO NOT TOUCH those cookies, Sawyer, or I will chop off your hands after I finish chopping these onions.” Faith held up her knife like someone out of a horror movie.

Sawyer put his hands behind his back. His chocolate Lab, Scout, gave them a sniff like he might be hiding something back there. “Someone should taste one to make sure they’re acceptable for Heath Starling.”

Thanksgiving was usually one of Sawyer’s favorite holidays, mainly because he loved to eat and his sister was an incredible cook. The farmhouse smelled like warm apple pie, savory turkey that had been roasting all morning and her famous salted whiskey chocolate chip cookies.

Dean waltzed in, looking like he’d just rolled out of bed. He snatched one of the cookies right off the cooling rack. It was in his mouth before Sawyer could protest.

“Mmm-mmm. Heath will definitely approve.” Dean gave Faith a kiss on the lips.

“How come I get threatened with bodily harm and he gets a cookie and a kiss?” Sawyer complained, grabbing a banana and taking a seat at the kitchen table. Scout lay at his feet.

“Advantages of being her soon-to-be husband, little brother,” Dean said. “Too bad it doesn’t work that way in a fake engagement. Bummer for you.”

Sawyer rubbed the back of his neck. This year he was dreading Thanksgiving because of the lies he had to tell. He had invited the Starling family to Grass Lake for the holiday with the plan being to convince his friends this engagement was real.

“What time are our guests of honor arriving?” Dean asked, taking another cookie off the rack. This time Faith took it away and set it back down.

The Starlings had two estates in a town about twenty minutes north of Nashville while Grass Lake was a little over an hour south of the city. “I told Piper to come on over around two o’clock.”

“Then I better jump in the shower and make myself presentable.” Dean started to leave but sneaked back to grab another cookie and ran.

“You ready for today?” Faith asked.

“I cannot wait to lie to all my friends, deceive Piper’s mother and brother, and listen to Heath tell me I’m not good enough for his daughter.”

“I really don’t like him,” Faith said. “And I usually like everyone.”

“He’s so condescending. He treats us like we’re two kids who don’t know what we’re doing. He thinks he needs to throw in his two cents all the time. Maybe when Piper has the baby, he’ll accept that we’re capable of handling this on our own.”

Faith pressed her lips together and her eyebrows shot up.

“What? You don’t think so?”

“I think you’re being very optimistic that he’s going to loosen his hold over Piper once the baby is born.”

Maybe she was right. Heath’s behavior during this entire ordeal was exactly why he hadn’t fought her about wanting to end the relationship. Piper was completely under her father’s thumb and too willing to put her career before everything else in her life.

Even if she truly had entertained the idea of being in a relationship back then, Sawyer would have regretted it in the end. He wanted to be like his father without having to make the same mistakes. Falling in love with someone who wouldn’t stick it out in the long run was one he absolutely wanted to avoid.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Sawyer said. “I only know I hate being disingenuous. It makes me feel like my emotions are everywhere and nowhere at the same time. I don’t even know how I really feel about anything, because I’m so busy trying to make sure I act like I feel the way I am supposed to feel.”

Faith stopped cooking and sat down next to her brother. “I hate that. I am all for telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We both know that lying has never gotten me what I wanted. What do you want?”

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