Love Songs and Lullabies(4)

By: Amy Vastine



How could she tell? It had only been a second. “I’m fine,” he protested. He had known Piper was coming—he just hadn’t expected her to affect him the way she always seemed to.

The woman pushed past him and wrapped her arms around Hunter’s chest. Two seconds later, a chewed-up wad of Italian bread shot across the room.

Hunter coughed and gratefully took the water offered to him by his rescuer. “Thank you,” he choked out.

Sawyer shook off his embarrassment at misreading the situation and glanced at Piper. Her bright blue eyes were wide with shock, but her lips soon curled in amusement. Her father, however, stood behind her with his usual scowl.

“Perhaps Piper could have her own space to relax before the interview. These two—” Heath paused and glowered at Sawyer “—gentlemen seem to need some supervision we’d rather not be responsible for providing.”

“It was a bet,” Sawyer explained. “He lost. We’re done now. No supervision required. Hey, Piper. How’s the ankle? I’m so sorry about bumping into you.”

He went in for the awkward hug and kiss on the cheek. She felt stiff in his arms but returned the innocent kiss.

“It’s still a little sore. But I should be fine by showtime.” Her voice sounded different, colder if that was possible.

It had been awkward seeing her earlier today. Almost two months ago, he had followed his heart instead of listening to what his head had been telling him, which was that Piper would always put her career first.

He’d overreacted initially, but tried to cover up the humiliation he’d felt by pretending to be unaffected. They’d parted as friends, so why did Piper appear as if she’d rather be anywhere but in his company at the moment?

“Guess we get to perform our song two more times before we put it out to pasture,” she said. Her neck was as flushed as her cheeks. He couldn’t help but wonder if she was feeling all right.

Sawyer grabbed her a water bottle. “You saying we aren’t going to tour together the rest of our lives so we can sing it five nights a week?”

“Oh, we haven’t decided on an opening act yet.” Piper seemed to panic. “We were thinking about going in a different direction, though. You weren’t on our list. Our brands aren’t the same.”

Ouch. There was definitely no love there. Everything was always about her career, her brand. “Well, we wouldn’t want anything to tarnish your image, now would we?”

Clearly, Piper’s feelings for him had soured, but it was for the best. Her daddy already hated him for no good reason. If he ever found about that night on the farm, heads would roll—Sawyer’s and most likely Dean’s, since he was the reason the two of them had met in the first place.

“How about we move things along? Piper has places to be,” Heath said, placing himself between his darling daughter and the scoundrel he believed Sawyer to be.

“Great idea, Heath.” Sawyer’s use of his first name obviously irked the old man. That was as good a reason as any to make sure he used it all the time.

The radio assistant and Heimlich maneuver expert went to find out if the DJ was ready for them. Sawyer’s whole body was tingling with excitement. This was the first time Dean had invited him to do something like this. K104 was the most popular country station in Nashville, and this kind of exposure meant the world to a new singer’s career.

“Would it be okay if Sawyer and Piper signed some of our promo and took a couple pictures with Kelly first?” the woman asked when she returned.

“That’s perfect, Nancy.” Leave it to Piper to know her name. She probably knew if the radio station assistant was married or had children, where she’d gone to high school and college, and how she was spending the holidays this year. Piper was that kind of person—more interested in hearing about others than she was in talking about herself.

Sawyer followed them into another room and autographed everything they placed in front of him. He didn’t think he’d ever get used to the fact that someone would want his signature. This was just the beginning, too. Kelly Bonner, the afternoon DJ on K104, came out of the studio and introduced herself. Sawyer knew who she was. She had jet-black hair and crystal-blue eyes that grabbed everyone’s attention when they drove by the billboard along I-65. He had also listened to K104 for years, never imagining one day they’d play his songs across the airwaves.

“Thanks so much for coming in, you two,” Kelly said. “I’m a huge fan.”

Sawyer had fans. His chest puffed out. He wanted to soak this all in.

“Piper’s on a tight schedule,” her father reminded everyone.

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