Liam ran back over to Piper. She was in her element tonight. She had walked into this room full of fans and lit it right up. She’d had no qualms about hugging whoever she could get her hands on.

The fans had been mildly interested in Sawyer, but they were definitely more excited to see Piper. She’d reminded him of his sister—Faith and Piper both had a way of making everyone feel welcome.

She’d had them under her spell. She was good at that. Sawyer couldn’t afford to let himself get caught in her web, though. He needed to protect his heart. Piper treated everyone like they were special, but who really was? Sawyer wasn’t about to fall for someone who held him in the same regard as she held a fan or a friend. He wanted someone who loved him back. Maybe he had more abandonment issues than he cared to admit, but he wanted someone who would choose him over everyone else. Piper wouldn’t…or maybe couldn’t do that.

“I can’t tell you what it means to Liam that you guys are willing to support his foundation,” Liam’s dad said, joining him at the candy bar.

“He’s a real inspiration,” Sawyer said. “It’s hard to believe he’s only six. He’s wise beyond his years.”

Tears welled in the man’s eyes. “He’s been through more than most people ten times his age. Two months ago, the doctors told us he only had about three months left. I wish he would get those sixty years. But every day is a gift at this point.”

Sawyer’s heart clenched. Liam was busy showing his mom and Piper everything he had in his bag and explaining all the people he wanted to share with. He was so generous when so much was being taken from him. Sawyer fought back his own tears at the thought of such a bright light being extinguished.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Liam’s dad said. “It would have been worse not to know him at all. These six years have been a roller coaster, but I wouldn’t give them back for all the money in the world.”

Sawyer couldn’t help but admire the man’s strength. Having been so caught up in his drama with Piper, Sawyer hadn’t thought about what loving a child would be like. He’d assumed it would be easy. Yet this experience had shown him it was anything but. What horrible helplessness this man must feel day in and day out.

Piper, on the other hand, had firsthand experience with this kind of thing. Her family dealt with her brother’s illness every day. She was willing to do anything to help Matty and would most likely go to any extreme for their child, as well. Maybe that was why she was so afraid. She knew bad things could happen and that this job they were about to take on would be full of challenges—even if their child was completely healthy.

Sawyer watched Liam’s father rejoin his family. He put his arm around his wife and kissed her head. The burden the two of them carried was so heavy, but because they carried it together, they could still breathe. Sawyer’s gaze fell on Piper. How much more could they accomplish together?

Lana announced the end of the meet and greet. Time to shift into performance mode. If this was how all these things were going to be, Sawyer was in trouble. The emotional toll was more than he’d ever expected.

“I have to go and you better get in your seats for the show,” Piper said, trying to sound as upbeat as she could. “But I want to thank you for coming to see me today.”

“You’re welcome.” Sweet Liam smiled from ear to ear. “Sawyer said I can be in your wedding. Just email my mom with all the details.”

Sawyer’s eyes went wide. He hadn’t expected the kid to tell Piper. Her jaw was tight, but she managed a smile.

“I’ll do that,” she said and gave Liam a kiss on the cheek.

When Liam and his family left the room, the only ones left behind were Piper, Sawyer, Lana and a couple security guards. Piper pressed her back to the wall and covered her face with her hands.

“Hey.” Sawyer had to control the emotion in his own voice. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against his chest. Piper cried on his shoulder as he rubbed her back.

Lana escorted the security guys out of the room and closed the door to give them some privacy. Wouldn’t want anyone to know this whole thing was nothing but a giant fraud.

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