“Sawyer’s wedding,” Hunter mused from the kitchen table, where he was putting the finishing touches on a black forest cake. “I can’t even believe we’re allowed to say those two words in the same sentence. Remember when you used to say you were never getting married, Sawyer?”
He had said that? Piper was surprised.
Sawyer drew in a long breath. “I know I said that in the past, but that was before I met Piper. Weren’t you one of the people who always told me that once I met the right woman, I would change my mind? Well, Piper is the right woman.”
Faith’s friend Josie slid the sweet potatoes into the top section of the double oven. Josie Peters owned the Sundown Bar and Grill in town. She was also Lily’s mother. “You have to tell us how and when you proposed. I love a good proposal story.”
Sawyer and Piper had practiced answering all of these questions, but he seemed flustered. Lying to a camera was one thing; lying to his family and friends was another.
“His proposal was a little bit spontaneous,” Piper replied. “It was after the CAAs. We hadn’t seen each other for a bit between recording the album and the show.”
“Seeing her and performing with her onstage just made me realize I never wanted to be apart from her again,” Sawyer jumped in. “I asked her to marry me backstage. I didn’t even have a ring.”
Hunter’s creased brow was full of skepticism. “You’re telling me you were in love with her the whole time but never once let on there was something going on between you two?”
“Guess he’s not the only Stratton who likes dating in secret,” Marilee Presley said. She was Dean’s mom. Dean and Faith had known each other most of their lives. They had secretly dated for a summer after Faith graduated from high school.
“At least Sawyer didn’t wait twelve years to figure out she was the one. Unlike some people,” Josie said as Dean emerged from the great room.
“What are we talking about?” he asked.
“How Sawyer and Piper are moving at the speed of light with this engagement,” Hunter said. Piper hadn’t expected him to be the tough sell. “I thought I was your best friend, bro.”
Sawyer squared up to Hunter. “What is your problem all of a sudden?”
“How could you not tell me?”
It was clear Sawyer had no answer for that.
“That was probably because of me,” Piper’s dad said to help out. “They were apparently hiding from me. The less people who knew, the less likely I was to find out.”
“Do you think they’re moving too fast?” Harriet asked Heath.
“Why did this become an interrogation?” Dean asked. “Piper and Sawyer are in love. They want to get married. They are adults capable of making their own choices.”
“Let’s get everything on the table,” Faith said. “Who’s hungry?”
Much to Piper’s relief, that was all it took to shift everyone’s attention. Dean led the way into the other room. Sawyer and Piper hung back.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “I didn’t realize we were walking into an inquisition.”
“Hunter is your best friend. He was with us at the awards show. Of course he’s going to question how you could go from never wanting to get married to being engaged to someone he didn’t even know you were interested in. Because you weren’t.”
It was disappointing that at no time when they were working on the album together had Sawyer spoken to his best friend about having any feelings for her. The way it had felt was so different from what it had apparently really been.
“I hate lying,” he said.
She hated it, too, but Piper needed this facade to hold strong. Once they announced her pregnancy, more people were going to question the romance. They had to be as convincing as possible to squash as many rumors as they could when the time came to tell the world about their baby.
* * *
THE THANKSGIVING MEAL was served, which thankfully distracted everyone from asking questions Sawyer didn’t want to answer. Instead, they were all busy devouring every last bite.
Sawyer was happy to see Piper and her family fitting in with this quirky little makeshift family of his own. Harriet and Claudia chatted all through the meal. Dean and his dad kept Heath occupied. Josie and Faith helped make Piper feel welcome.