“Are we at your parent’s beach house or an insane asylum?” Sawyer asked and I elbowed him in the ribs.

“She has the ears of a bat. Be careful what you say.”

“Katherine!” My mother called, saying my name in an irritating high-pitched tone. She was dressed in a white pant suit. Perfectly fitted and it looked like it cost a fortune. I couldn’t help smiling, not because I was happy to see her, but she actually matched the interior of her house.

“Hello, mom. The place looks fantastic.” I said as we gave each other air kisses on each cheek.

“And who is this young man?” Mom asked, a sly smile fixated on her thin, painted lips.

“Hello, Mrs. Wilder.” Sawyer offered his hand, and my mother shook it.

“Mother, this is Sawyer, my boyfriend.” I said linking my arm in his.

“Boyfriend? Katherine, why didn’t you say anything? Is this very new? God, please don’t make a scene on your sister’s wedding day.”

“We’ve been together for a while. We actually know each other from high school.” Sawyer interrupted. My mother stared at Sawyer until recognition finally dawned on her face.

“Sawyer Williams, the cute little quarterback you used to tutor?” The look on her face was one of shock laced with ridicule.

“Yes ma’am, your beautiful and smart daughter was the one that got me through AP English.” Sawyer put his arm around me, pulling me towards him. I could feel my shoulders start to relax from the small gesture.

“Well, Katherine has always been the smart one. I was fortunate to have a beautiful girl, in my Hallie and a smart one in my Katherine.” My mother’s words stung, making me feel like that insecure girl again, too scared to wear anything that would make her stand out, too self-conscious to talk to any boys. Always the girl standing on the sidelines.

“I don’t know ma’am. Katie is the prettiest girl my eyes have ever seen.” Sawyer said, looking at me in a way that I forgot that we were standing in the entryway to hell with Satan welcoming us inside.

“Katherine does have a lovely face. If only she could get that weight under control.” My shoulders tensed again, my fist clenched to my sides as my nails dug in furiously in my palms.

“Every part of Katie is lovely. She is the kind of woman that men wrote poems about, and she has the figure that inspired the greatest works of art the world has ever seen.” Sawyer said as he rubbed my upper arm, his body now in a protective stance, wedged in front of me to keep my mother’s glare off me and force her to look at him.

“Well, come on into the parlor. We are having a cake tasting.” She said, walking away and forcing us to follow like good, obedient children.

“I’m so sorry. You probably want to run for the hills.” I whispered in Sawyer’s ears.

“Baby, I would brave anything just to be with you.” He whispered back. And just like that, hell didn’t feel as hot and bothersome as it normally did.

Sawyer

“Katie!” A girl that looked almost identical to Katie with much more makeup came barreling out of the kitchen.

“Hi, Hallie,” I heard my girl whisper as they hugged.

“We found the perfect bridesmaid dress for you–it was challenging at first to find one in my color scheme that would accommodate all of you, but just wait and see how pretty it is. My baby sister is going to steal the show.”

“I’ve lost a few pounds,” Katie said.

“Really?” Hallie held her at arm’s length and frowned. “You look exactly the same as the last time I saw you, and just as pretty.”

“My baby girl!” A tall gentleman who I assumed was her dad came out of the kitchen, arms wrapping around Katie. “Wait ‘til you see the chocolate cinnamon mousse I made for dessert, I’m hoping it blows your taste buds off.”

The warmth in his eyes crackled back at Katie, almost a hint of wetness forming before he squinted the moisture away and patted her shoulder. “Missed you, sweetheart, wish you wouldn’t stay away so long.”

“I’ve been so busy, you know how it goes.”

“Always with that bakery. Seems to me if you spent a little less time there maybe you wouldn’t be so tempted to taste-test the goods.” My shoulders bunched and tensed as Katie’s mother entered the room, my hackles always on guard never knowing when a well-placed barb might land.

“Sawyer owns a gym, so I’ve been spending a lot of time there.” I pulled a seat out for Katie as she spoke.

“Well, not working out, I’m assuming.” Katie’s mother laughed at what she thought was a funny statement before jumping into orders for the staff that’d just entered with the food. “Sit, sit, everyone They won’t know how much to give if you’re not at your setting.”


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