Piper saw it on her father’s face. He was about to say something he couldn’t take back.
“Dad, please,” she begged.
“It was all pretend. I made them pretend to be engaged to protect Piper’s reputation,” Heath confessed. “The entire relationship was a fraud up until a little while ago when they decided they should date.”
Piper felt like a flower wilting in the sun. She couldn’t look at her mother.
“In fact, we discussed telling the media they had set a wedding date when we were in LA, and Sawyer refused because he had no intentions of getting married. He wasn’t ready. That was four days ago. Four days ago, he said he wouldn’t lie and claim the wedding was this summer because that was too soon.”
“Is that true?” Piper’s mom turned on Sawyer.
“I don’t like it when Heath tells me what to do. It was more about not wanting him orchestrating the whole thing than it was about marrying Piper.”
“You were angry with her after she called in to the radio station three days ago and said she wanted a summer wedding. You felt she was pressuring you,” her father said, more emboldened by the second. “The only thing that changed was her.” He pointed at Gretchen, who actually wasn’t gloating. She appeared more saddened by this than anything. “She showed up and all of a sudden he wants to get married.”
“That’s not true,” Sawyer said, sounding less convincing than he had a moment ago.
“Piper Ann, why is your father saying this if it isn’t true?” Claudia asked.
“I fell in love with Sawyer at the end of the summer. We made this baby because I was in love with him. I want to marry him because I’m in love with him.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
She knew that wasn’t the answer to the question, but she felt it needed to be said. Piper had been in love with Sawyer from the beginning. Yet her heart was breaking because everything her father said was right. She’d tried to ignore it, but the ugly truth couldn’t be denied any longer. Sawyer was rushing their wedding to spite his mother.
“What about you, Sawyer? Have you been in love this whole time like Piper?” Gretchen asked. “Or did you decide that you were going to marry her because I showed up saying it was a mistake? If you love her, I’ll back off. If you love her, it doesn’t matter when you get married.”
Piper had a hand on his arm, and his muscles were so tight. He was straining to keep control. “I am not answering you. You aren’t my mother. Harriet has been more of a mother to me than you ever were.”
“Then answer me,” Harriet said. “If I had asked you a week ago if you wanted to get married, what would you have said?”
Sawyer swallowed hard. “I would have said I wasn’t sure. But just because I wasn’t sure a week ago doesn’t mean I’m not sure now. Maybe Gretchen made me realize that I do want to be married. That making that commitment is important. Not like she would know anything about commitment.”
Every answer led back to his mother. Piper wanted to cry.
“What have you two gotten yourselves into?” Piper’s mom shook her head and covered her mouth with her hand.
“It was a business deal. Their relationship was supposed to soften the blow that Piper was pregnant. We didn’t want to tarnish her brand,” her father said.
Claudia would have none of that. “You are the one I’m most upset with right now. Your daughter is a person, not a brand. She has feelings. Obviously she has very strong feelings for this man, and you put her brand ahead of those feelings. She’s been forced to pretend to be in a relationship with someone who wasn’t sure he felt the same way until three days ago. That’s horrible. Have you thought for a second what that was like for her?”
It was kind of horrible. But Heath hadn’t come up with this plan on his own. “I’m the one who suggested we handle things this way, Mom. I didn’t want anything to jeopardize my ability to take care of you and Dad and Matthew.”
“It’s your father’s job to take care of you and your job to take care of yourself and the baby you’re carrying. Period,” her mom said, pulling her in for a hug. “I am sorry you thought you had to put all of us above yourself.”