Love Songs and Lullabies(8)

By: Amy Vastine



He reached for her hand when they were directed to head out during the commercial break. Like a stupid moth drawn to the flame that had no goal but to zap the life out of it, she took his hand and let him lead the way.

“I’m so nervous,” he admitted. “Tell me everything’s going to be all right.”

Sawyer was usually so full of naive confidence. It always seemed like he had no idea whom he could disappoint. In front of this crowd, however, he was obviously humbled.

“Almost everyone out there has been on this stage and knows it’s not easy. They’re more forgiving than you’d expect. But we’re going to be better than all right, so no worries,” she assured him. At least she knew they would survive this performance. Afterward, things didn’t look as promising.

“How’s your sprain?”

She’d almost forgotten about her ankle. Had it not been for twisting it earlier today, she might not have figured out she was pregnant until much later. She wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing.

They had offered to let her sit on a stool for the performance, but she had refused. She would tough it out because she needed to knock this out of the park if she was going to have any hope saving her career from complete ruin.

The lights went down and the orchestra under the stage began to play. Commercial over. Piper felt her own set of butterflies, only they weren’t flying—they were swimming some rough seas in her stomach. Closing her eyes, she prayed she wouldn’t throw up onstage—on television—in front of millions of people.

One song. One last time pouring out her heart to a man who was about to find out their time together had major consequences. This song had brought them into each other’s lives and yet was all about saying goodbye.

“I’m thrilled to present Piper Starling and Sawyer Stratton!” country icon Sara Gilmore exclaimed as the lights came up and the music started to play.

Sawyer strummed his guitar and let what he did best guide him out of the fear. Piper reminded herself that the stage was home. Nothing could hurt her here. This was where she shone bright.

Piper sang the song, holding nothing back. She let her real emotions fuel the performance. The song was about fear—the fear of letting go. Piper was very much afraid, but this time of having to hold on.

As the song neared the end, their gazes locked. He sang about goodbye, and sadness tightened her throat. He stepped closer. Piper froze. At rehearsal, they had decided he would begin to back away as the music faded and the lights dimmed. He was clearly changing the plan here.

Piper’s heart pounded as he stood in front of her. Sawyer pushed the guitar behind his back so there was nothing between them. He reached up and cradled her cheek in his hand. The blood thumped in her ears. She had no idea what he was doing. As the lights began to dim, he leaned forward, his lips inches from hers.

The crowd gasped and then exploded into thunderous applause. Piper blinked and everything went black.





CHAPTER FOUR

SAWYER TRIED NOT to panic as he scooped Piper up. The stage was dark, but there was little chance no one had noticed her faint. Her head fell back as she lay limp in his arms.

“Piper, wake up. Please wake up,” he said as he carried her offstage. What was wrong with her? Fear mixed with the adrenaline coursing through his body was similar to what he’d felt when he found his father on the floor after his heart attack. “Piper, you need to wake up.”

Hunter, drumsticks still in hand, was the first to join him. “I can’t believe you made her pass out with one kiss.”

“I didn’t kiss her.”

A bearded stage manager was waiting in the wings to help. He cleared a space for Sawyer to lay her down.

Sawyer put his face close to hers. He could feel her breath on his cheek, thank God. She felt warm to him, though, and her skin was covered in a light sheen of sweat.

“Come on, Piper. Wake up. Please, Piper.”

“What happened out there?” Heath came barreling through the small crowd that had gathered.

“She passed out,” Sawyer explained, although he knew that wasn’t what Heath was curious about.

“Why were you in her personal space?” her father demanded. “What did you do to her?”

“I didn’t do anything to her.”

Piper’s eyes fluttered open, her gaze landing on Sawyer first, then her father, then her surroundings. It was clear the moment she became aware she was lying on the ground instead of standing onstage. Her cheeks turned as red as the barn back at the Strattons’ horse farm.

“What happened?” she asked as she tried to sit up. Both Sawyer and Heath reached out to help.

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