“I hope I’m half the wife and mother you are someday,” Piper said, taking the pie from her. “Though I know I don’t have a prayer in the baking department.”
Sawyer opened the front door before they even got to the porch. He wore jeans and an untucked forest green button-down shirt that was sure to irk her father, who thought holidays were formal affairs. His big dog barked at his side. Sawyer pushed the dog back into the house. He didn’t wait for an introduction, instead wrapping her mom in a big hug and welcoming her to his family farm.
“It is so good to finally meet you,” he said. “Piper talks about you all the time, but she failed to mention that you could pass for her sister.”
Claudia waved him off with a huge smile. “Oh, stop.”
“You stop. You must hear that all the time.”
Piper and Sawyer had talked about strategy and she’d told him winning over her mother was imperative. He had obviously listened. The charm was turned up to ten.
“And you must be Matthew.”
Matthew climbed the stairs and shook Sawyer’s hand. “Hurt my sister and I’ll hurt you.”
Sawyer fumbled for something to say.
Matthew patted him on the back, laughing. “I’m kidding. I’m a pacifist. I would never hurt anyone.”
“That’s good,” Sawyer said with a sigh of relief.
“Plus, she pays her huge security guys to handle that kind of stuff.” Matthew winked over his shoulder at his sister.
“Don’t listen to him,” Piper said, handing him the pie. “He thinks he’s hilarious. We brought a pecan pie.”
“I love pecan pie, so thank you.”
Heath trailed behind his family. Sawyer wished him a happy Thanksgiving, but Heath wasn’t in the mood for niceties. “When someone tells you not to hurt Piper or else, you say you would never think about hurting her. That’s what a devoted fiancé would say.”
Her dad had relentlessly corrected Sawyer for the last few weeks. She could tell Sawyer was only going to tolerate so much more of that.
They entered the house, which was filled with the sounds of people talking and laughing. Sawyer had warned her that their family friends with no other place to go on the holidays came to the Strattons’ house every year. Sawyer’s dog gave them all a sniff before accepting that the Starlings were welcomed by the humans and therefore allowed to be there.
They moved through the farmhouse, meeting the other guests as they went. Jesse Keyes and Lily Peters were sitting in the front room. They both worked for Faith, Jesse as the therapy farm’s social worker and Lily as a teen volunteer. Sawyer had strongly suggested Piper not get too talkative with Jesse. He was scary good at getting people to tell him their secrets.
Dean and his father, Ted, were filling the water glasses on the enormous dining room table that they had moved into the great room. Ted Presley was a supersized version of his son with blue eyes instead of green.
In the kitchen, Faith was busy cooking with the help of several of the guests. The woman dressed in an olive tweed riding jacket and a burnt-orange beret embellished with a flowery appliqué was Harriet Windsor. They had met a couple of times when Piper was working on the album here, and Sawyer had made it clear she was one Piper needed to win over.
“Can you imagine what Big John would say about all these famous people hanging around here these days? First Boone Williams, now Piper Starling. It’s nice to see you again, dear.”
“You, too. Did you do the flowers out there?” Piper motioned toward the great room, where the table was decorated with the loveliest bouquets of bright yellow sunflowers, orange lilies and rusty roses.
Harriet owned the flower shop in town and was very close to Sawyer and his sister. “Of course, I did. I might have overdone it a bit to impress a certain bride-to-be,” she mock whispered.
Bride-not-to-be anytime soon was more like it. As lovely as the flowers were, it was unlikely that Sawyer’s family friend would agree to do the flowers for Piper’s wedding to someone else. If there ever was a someone else.
“They’re gorgeous. You’re very talented. I can’t imagine Sawyer would want anyone other than you to do the flowers for his wedding.”