“How’d we get on the subject of your mother anyway? I thought we agreed not to go there.”
Sawyer and Harriet had a long-standing agreement not to talk about his mother, because they were destined to disagree. There was nothing Harriet could say that would make him think Gretchen was anything other than selfish.
“You were supposed to be giving me some insight into my future father-in-law. Did Grandpa come around? He must have eventually figured out that Dad was a stand-up guy.”
“He sure did. As soon as Faith was born. When he saw what kind of father your dad was, he came around. Your dad loved your mom and his kids with everything he was. So, if you’re worried about Mr. Starling, my suggestion is just love your wife—and someday your children—with all your heart. Make it undeniable and he’ll come around.”
This felt a lot like the speech Boone had given him a couple weeks ago. Love, love, love. Would his father have loved his mother so much if he had known she was going to run away? Would he have tried so hard to give her everything she wanted if he had known their family would never be enough for her?
Piper wanted to be famous. To provide for her family by doing as she was told. She would always bend to her father’s interpretation of what was right for her, because taking care of her family was the most important thing. Sawyer could love her with all his heart and in the end, Piper could still walk away. The fake engagement was about pleasing the masses. As soon as they lost interest, so could Piper.
Sawyer would not fall blindly in love like his dad did, trusting that someone would put him first, only to be disappointed. Love like that was a risk Sawyer wouldn’t take, but he would emulate his father in another way.
The baby had already won his heart. Sawyer had no idea what Heath had in mind. Maybe he planned to have Piper raise the baby without Sawyer. Maybe Heath would encourage Piper to turn custody over to Sawyer once he saw what kind of father he could be.
When the baby was born, new rules would have to be established. Sawyer wouldn’t lie to his child—or make his child live a lie. He certainly wouldn’t walk away from the baby, no matter what Heath or Piper thought was best for her career. This was a conversation he and Piper needed to have, and soon.
“OH, PLEASE DON’T CRY!”
Piper threw her arms around the teenage girl who had dissolved into tears when it was her turn to meet the country singer. The girl could barely speak. Her equally emotional friend joined in the hug. It was the opening night of Piper’s tour. The holidays were over and January was in full swing.
Performing and recording music were all Piper had wanted to do since she was knee-high. What she hadn’t expected was the loneliness that would come hand in hand with celebrity.
Thankfully, the meet and greets backstage before the show gave her a chance to connect with her fans on a personal level. That was something she couldn’t get when she was onstage in front of tens of thousands of them.
“We just love you so much. We can’t believe we’re here,” the first girl said.
More tears. More hugging. Piper thanked them for coming to the show and for supporting her new album. Sawyer hung back, seemingly a bit afraid of the overwrought teenagers.
“I’m so happy for you two,” the second girl said. “Hannah wanted you to marry Boone Williams, but I think he’s too old for you. You and Sawyer are perfect.”
“Oh my gosh, Sabrina! I do not want her to marry Boone! I said a long time ago that it would be cool if she got to marry her idol, but I’ve wanted Piper and Sawyer to get together since their song came out,” Hannah defended herself. “You’re adorable together.”
“Well, thank you. It would have been very cool to marry Boone as well, but he is madly in love with someone else, so I am stuck with this guy,” Piper joked, trying to ease the girl’s embarrassment and her own.
There was one more round of hugging before Piper and Sawyer signed the girls’ backstage passes. They posed for a picture, and Piper hoped this was a day the girls would never forget.
“Be sure to stop at the candy bar over there and fill up a bag with all the sugar you can handle.”