Piper wasn’t sure that would help. It didn’t matter if Sawyer’s mom was in the building. It mattered that she wanted back into Sawyer’s life and clearly did not want him to be with Piper. All the support she’d felt from Sawyer’s side of the family seemed threatened by Mrs. Stratton’s arrival.

Sawyer returned with Lana. Heath tried to keep him out, but Piper needed to see him. “Let him in, Daddy.”

Sawyer sat in the makeup chair next to hers. He looked like she felt—mentally and physically exhausted. He slouched in his seat and pulled on the front of his hair.

“I can’t believe she had the nerve to show up here,” he said. “Or at Thornberry’s. I am so sorry for what she put you through today.”

“What did she want?” Piper asked, though she already knew his mom didn’t want him to get married. She’d made that clear.

“I don’t really care what she wanted. She comes here acting like she gets to have an opinion on how I live. Who does that? She abandoned us when we were kids, when we needed her opinions and guidance. Does she really think I need anything from her?”

Piper felt horrible for him. She’d been so busy worrying about what that woman’s appearance meant to her that she had failed to realize what it meant to Sawyer.

“I’m sorry she’s causing you so much pain.” Piper reached over and touched his hand.

“Dean warned me that when you become famous, people crawl out of the woodwork. You suddenly have something they want, which is usually money. I don’t know if that’s her ultimate goal, but I wouldn’t put it past her. Right now, she’s claiming she’s only here to stop me from ruining my life.”

Piper twisted her stud earring. His mother thought Piper was going to ruin his life.

“Because of me and the baby?”

Sawyer turned his head toward her. “You and the baby are not going to ruin my life.”

“I’m glad you think so.”

“I know so,” he said firmly.

Piper’s shoulders relaxed. “I’m sorry I pressured you today. I wish I could go back in time and not call in to Kelly’s show. That was stupid.”

“Hey.” He stopped her. “Let’s not look back. Let’s move forward. I need to focus on the show we’re about to put on tonight, and you need to do the same.”

She nodded. One thing at a time. The past was the past and there was no predicting the future.

He placed his hand on her belly. “How’s my boy doing?”

As soon as he asked, the baby kicked. Sawyer’s and Piper’s eyes widened. “Did you feel that?” she asked.

“It’s like he knew I was talking about him.” The smile on Sawyer’s face was as big as the one he’d worn this morning during the ultrasound.

The baby kicked again. He was definitely letting them know he was there. He was the one who mattered. Piper needed to take care of herself so the baby wouldn’t feel her stress. She wanted her child to have two parents who loved one another, and nothing would stop her from getting her goal. Not unsupportive best friends. Not well-intentioned fathers. Not long-lost mothers, either.

* * *

“GOOD NIGHT, NASHVILLE!” Piper shouted over the screaming crowd. She stood on the trapdoor of the stage and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

Under the stage, her people were waiting to take her back to the dressing room. The show had gone off without a hitch. That was a huge relief given the events of the day.

Sawyer was noticeably missing from the backstage area. He usually waited for her when she got offstage, but wasn’t anywhere to be seen. That awful feeling of dread resurfaced. What if his mom had reappeared?

She didn’t bother with a shower at the arena, opting to go straight to the hotel instead. She made it out to the bus in record time and knew something was up immediately.

The inside of her bus had been transformed into a flower garden. Bouquets of her favorites covered every flat surface. Fuchsia roses, pink gerbera daisies and cream calla lilies exploded from vases. Garlands of fresh, pale pink peonies, white hydrangeas and branches of boxwood ran from the front to the back of the bus. Strands of twinkling lights were twirled around the garlands.

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