“I wish I would have figured out how to be present in your lives more. At the time, I thought it was an all or nothing decision. But that was unfair to you two and to your father,” Gretchen said, dabbing her eyes. “I’m sorry I didn’t come home for his funeral. I should have come and paid my respects, but I didn’t want to cause you two any more grief than you were already dealing with. But your dad was the best man I have ever known. Better than I deserved.”

Sawyer was torn. He had been angry about her not coming, but she was right that her presence would have taken away from their grieving process. Sawyer would miss his father every day for the rest of his life, but he had successfully moved into the acceptance phase. Big John lived on through Sawyer and Faith. Now, it was time for Sawyer to heal the part of his heart that had broken when Gretchen left. The only way to do that was to give her a chance to start over.

Maybe she would let them down, maybe she wouldn’t. Sawyer had to trust that he’d survive either way.

“I have some good news for you,” he said, turning around to face her. “Faith and I don’t need to be parented anymore. We cook our own dinner. Well, Faith is very good at cooking dinner, and I can boil water, which is useful at times.”

“We no longer have issues with crying for no reason or wanting to touch people who don’t want to be touched,” Faith added.

“We’re just really cool people,” Sawyer said. “People you might want to get to know and hang out with sometimes.”

“I’d like that,” Gretchen said as the tears fell a little faster.

“Now, don’t make me go lock myself in my room until you stop crying,” he teased.

Gretchen burst out laughing. “You are an impressive young man.”

“Thank you. I had the best role model in the world.”

“Yes, you did. And he would be very proud of the man you are.”

After everything Sawyer had been through in the last couple months, he felt pretty confident that his dad would have been happy with how he’d chosen to handle everything in the end. He’d made some mistakes, but he had set out to right the wrongs and mend the fences he had mistakenly thought had been destroyed beyond repair.

Nothing was ever lost forever.

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

THE FOURTH OF July parade in Grass Lake was one of Sawyer’s favorite events in his hometown. This year he was blessed to be riding alongside his gorgeous fiancée.

“Are you sure you packed enough water bottles?” Piper asked as she moved slowly around the kitchen. At nine months pregnant, she was due to give birth at any moment. In fact, Sawyer was a bit concerned that their little guy was going to make an appearance before they got to be grand marshals of this year’s parade.

“If you drink too much water, you’re going to have to wear a diaper, because they will not stop the parade so you can go to the bathroom.”

Piper scowled at him.

“Be nice to her. She is a woman on the edge,” Faith warned him.

“If she was on the edge of anything, she’d fall in. It’s amazing she can stand upright.”

“Please swat him in the back of the head, Gretchen. I can’t move fast enough to catch him,” Piper said.

Sawyer’s mom rolled up the newspaper she was reading and chased him around the island. “Be nice to her. You have no idea how miserable this part of pregnancy is.”

Sawyer came up behind Piper and wrapped his arms around her and that big belly. “I love you. I tease because I love.”

“Try loving me more and teasing me less. I seriously feel like if you poked me with a pin this thing would pop.”

“It won’t be long now.” He kissed her neck. “Let’s just hope it’s long enough to get us through the parade.”

“Let’s go, family. The Grass Lake Fourth of July parade coordinators wait for no one. Not even the grand marshals,” Dean said.

“You’re telling me Marilee Presley would start the parade without me?” Sawyer asked, grabbing the cooler he’d packed with plenty of water for Piper.

“My mother would start the parade without me, and she loves me.”

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