Love Songs and Lullabies(9)

By: Amy Vastine

“You’ve done enough!” Heath’s harsh tone was enough to get Sawyer to back off. “Can we keep the press away? I don’t want any pictures of her like this.”

Sawyer rolled his eyes. The only thing that man seemed to care about was Piper’s public image. God forbid she get sick or have a human moment in her life.

“Piper, are you okay?” Dean appeared over Heath’s shoulder.

Sawyer wanted to shake Dean for coming up with the terrible idea of surprising her with what was supposed to look like a kiss. It had been nothing but a stupid publicity stunt. Why had he done it?

He’d done it because Dean had told him this was what the public wanted. Sawyer had to give people what they wanted if he was going to make it in this business.

It had also felt like the most natural thing in the world. Because when he’d listened to her sing, he had heard the pain in her words and wanted to take it away. Because when he’d looked at her, he had seen how vulnerable she allowed herself to be in front of not only everyone in the crowd and watching on television, but in front of him.

Sawyer got to his feet and took a couple steps back. Those were dangerous feelings. Piper had a way of drawing those out.

“I’m fine,” she said, rubbing her forehead. “I don’t know what happened.”

“Let’s get her to her dressing room.” Heath helped Piper to her feet, but she cried out when she tried to put weight on her bad foot.

Instinctively, Sawyer reached for her again. She steadied herself on one foot with his help. Their eyes met, and she bit down on her bottom lip. The desire to kiss her was immediately overwhelming. Sawyer picked her up instead and carried her to her dressing room.

Piper’s arms stayed wrapped around his neck even after he set her back on her good foot. She wasn’t helping him repress those feelings he was trying to avoid.

“You should sit,” he suggested.

Her blue eyes stayed locked on his. “Why did you do that?” she asked.

“Because he’s an idiot,” Heath said, swooping in. He led her to the chaise lounge in the corner of the room. “Come lie down over here.”

Piper’s entourage, as well as several CAA employees, began to fill the room. Sawyer quickly became claustrophobic. He slipped out and found his sister and Hunter waiting outside.

“I can’t believe you made Piper Starling pass out,” Hunter teased. “Just the thought of having to kiss you knocked her out.”

Sawyer shot him a look. “This isn’t funny. She’s hurt and obviously something is wrong.”

“She’s going to be fine,” Faith promised him. “I heard Lana say she was sick before the performance. You know this really isn’t your fault, right?”

“I know. I’m just worried.” He tried to shake off the fear that still lingered. “When she started to go down, my heart stopped.”

Faith patted him on the back. “It was a good thing you did what Dean told you to do. She could have been hurt much worse if you hadn’t been there to catch her.”

Dean came out and placed a hand on Sawyer’s shoulder. “We’re going to need you to talk to the press. Tell everyone Piper’s fine. Don’t confirm or deny anything between the two of you. Be as coy as possible.”

“What? I don’t know how to be coy. I’m a straight shooter. You know this.”

“Trust me,” Dean said. “If you play this right, you and Piper will be the headline story tomorrow.”

Headlines were what the business of being famous was all about. This was Sawyer’s chance to prove to Dean how much he wanted this.

“When they ask you if you’re dating Piper, say something like, ‘Wouldn’t you like to know.’ Then smile and they’ll go nuts,” Hunter suggested.

“Sawyer Stratton?” A frazzled-looking production assistant interrupted them. “We’re ready for you in the pressroom. I need you to come with me now,” he said.

Dean gave Sawyer a thumbs-up before slipping back into Piper’s dressing room. How would she feel about Sawyer leading the world to believe there was something going on with them?

Full of reluctance, Sawyer shuffled behind the man, praying she wouldn’t be angry with him for doing what was best for his career.

The assistant pushed open the door and held it so Sawyer could enter in front of him. “Just head on over to the microphone. They’re pretty good about not all asking questions at once. I’ll signal you when your time is up.”

“Wish me luck,” Sawyer said over his shoulder as he hesitantly made his way to the mic.

The clicking and flashing of the cameras overwhelmed his senses, quickly overriding the quiet murmurs of the reporters. Before Sawyer had a chance to adjust the microphone to his height, the questions started coming. And no one was taking turns.

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