“I want to go on tour and play music.”
“You’re going to do that.”
“I want to have fun and not have to constantly think about whether or not what I do is going to ruin someone’s brand.”
Faith frowned. “Piper’s brand.”
“Piper’s brand, my brand, Grace Note’s brand. I didn’t realize this business was so complicated. I thought I was finally getting the chance to be me. Not the me Dad wanted me to be or the me you wanted me to be, but the me I wanted to be. Now I have to be the me Piper wants me to be so no one finds out who she really is.”
“And who is that?”
“I don’t even know!” Sawyer threw his hands up. “I’m not sure I’ve even met the real Piper. I’ve only caught glimpses of her. Everything about her is so calculated. She has to be this, that and everything else to keep everyone else happy.”
“She seems so sweet and genuine.”
“I’m not saying she’s not a good person. She cares about people. But she also cares too much about what they think. Sometimes I just want her to tell me what’s going on inside her head. She must have opinions that are only hers.”
Faith put her hand on his. “She thought you two should be together while her dad was away. That was all her. She saw something in you.”
Piper saw something in him, that’s for sure. Sawyer felt so naive for thinking he had been with the real Piper a couple months ago. It hadn’t taken her long to show him all he was good for were a few lyrics and melodies. Whatever boosted the Piper Starling brand was all that mattered. Faith propped her chin up on her hand. “I wish I knew what to tell you, but I’m just as lost as you are. I’m here for you whenever you need me, though. If you want to vent or scream or just be your weird self, you can always do that with me.”
She warmed his heart. “Have I told you lately that you are my favorite sister ever?”
“That would probably make me feel more special if I wasn’t your only sister, but I’ll take it.” Faith’s smile lit up her whole face as she went back to the kitchen island to finish chopping onions. “Maybe you should talk to Harriet tonight about the baby on the way,” she suggested. “She might have some words of wisdom.”
Harriet was a dear family friend who had acted as a surrogate mother to the Stratton siblings after theirs left. She was big on personality and always willing to help without being intrusive.
“That’s a good idea. I’m sure she’ll have some interesting opinions about all this.”
Faith chuckled. “Oh, for sure.”
* * *
PIPER SLID THE charm on her necklace back and forth along the chain. By the end of the day, she needed to convince Sawyer’s friends she had won his heart. Her stomach was in knots as she rode in the back of the town car to the Strattons’ farm.
Matthew squeezed just above her knee. “You okay?”
“I’m fine,” she assured him. “I can’t wait for you to see all of Sawyer’s horses. They are so beautiful.”
“I wish I could ride,” he said, staring out the window at the rolling hills.
“We can feed them apples,” Piper said to console him. Sawyer had taken her to the stables to feed them when she was working on her album. He had kissed her for the first time in those stables. His lips had made her promises his heart couldn’t keep.
The driver turned onto the dusty road that led to the farmhouse. The house where the baby growing in her belly had been conceived. It was also the place where Sawyer had rejected her. She touched her stomach. How different things would be if she had gone back to the bed-and-breakfast that night.
“I hope they like pecan pie,” her mom said as they got out of the car. She wrapped an arm around Piper’s back. “I figured if I made your dad’s favorite, he’d stay through dessert.”
Claudia was as smart as she was beautiful. Piper had always looked up to her mom as the epitome of patience and strength—besides being Matthew’s full-time caregiver, she wasn’t married to the most easygoing man. They had the same blond hair and blue eyes, but Piper couldn’t ever imagine being as fierce as her mother.