I tuned the rest of the speech out, my fingernails making shreds of Sawyer’s thigh as my mother’s hurtful words bounced around my head.

“She’s a fucking liar,” Sawyer seethed, so loud many of the heads at the table turned. My mother had stuck my date at the misfits table, full of forty-something singles and weird uncle Vinny who always asked the girls in the family for slow dances.

“Don’t believe a word she says, Katie. Don’t let a liar into your head. You’re better than her. You’re better than all of us.”

My wet eyes turned to Sawyer’s, anger tightening my muscles.

“That cake is beautiful, Katie, the prettiest I’ve seen–you out did yourself. J.Lo would pay a million bucks for a cake like that–”

“Sawyer, stop,” I sucked in a breath, trying my best to take in his words because I trusted him, and he wasn’t a liar. Sawyer’s words were kind and without judgement or manipulation.

I gulped, feeling the salted tracks of my tears start to itch on my cheeks.

“I’m going to talk to her.” Sawyer shot up, his hand slipping from mine before I could comprehend his words.

“Sawyer!” My feet were on his, but the waiters were cutting between tables serving slices of my carefully constructed seven-tier cake. The adrenaline and anxiety pumping through my veins overwhelmed me as fat tears began to slow roll down my cheeks and caused me to lose sight of the only thing that mattered.

The man that was going to defend my honor.

I bumped into a waiter then, his shoulder sending me spinning and causing me to plant my hand at a table, the safety pin under one pit popping and landing right in the champagne glass of my aunt Suzie, poised for her first bite of my cake.

“Oh, God, I’m so sorry,” tears rushed down my cheeks as I held my boob in place, narrowly preventing a peep show. I instantly thought of the monogrammed cashmere sweat suit Hallie had given to all of her wedding party, imagining how good it’d feel slipping against my skin tonight when I finally got out of this hideous contraption.

“Excuse me,” I whispered, tears clearing long enough to focus on the safety pin, shoving my fingers in the bubbly sweet concoction and fishing it out before smiling and bowing once to the table, then spinning to get as far the hell away as I could.

I just needed Sawyer, and then we needed to get out of here. I’d rather work a thousand nights at the bakery then come home for another anything. I was just starting to cuss at myself for even agreeing to make the wedding cake when I caught Sawyer and my mother in a heated discussion in the corner near the band speaker.

I moved quickly around the last few tables, getting close enough to hear Sawyer. “Katie is a stunning beauty, and she’s so funny and smart, and her entire life you’ve dulled her glow. She’s a saint for putting up with you all of the time.”

My mother’s mouth dropped in horror. “Why, I’ve never–”

“I want to respect you. I had every intention of doing just that when I walked into your home yesterday, but anyone that makes my girl feel like shit isn’t worth respect.”

I approached then, unable to bare the tension all over me.

“Katie! My goodness, Katie, you wouldn’t believe what this man just said about me–he’s rude and has absolutely zero manners, and Katie, I just don’t think he’s good enough for you.”

“He isn’t good enough for me?” I seethed, moving into her personal space. “You’ve made me feel like the ugly step-sister all of my life Nothing I did pleased you. I didn’t even know what it meant to be me anymore until Sawyer came along. Until he made me feel beautiful and perfect just the way I was. So mother, tell me who has things backwards? Tell me who I should be spending more time with again?”

“Katie, you…” my mother gulped, fishing for words, “I never–” she shook her head, tears crushing her eyelids, “you spoiled rotten little brat.”

And then Sawyer snagged my hand and turned us both around before she could finish. But I couldn’t help turning back to throw her one last glance, her mouth still hanging open like she was catching flies.

“Where are we going?” I giggled as we burst through the doors of the ballroom.

Sawyer winked, pulling me down the thick velvet-carpeted hallway before looking both ways and then ducking into a door disguised as gold-filigree paneling. “Need some privacy.”

“Privacy?” I giggled, still feeling high from finally telling my mother how I truly felt. “Why?”

“It’s been eight hours, sweet cheeks, I’m fucking starved.”

My giggle was halted by his mouth covering mine, hands hoisting me against the door we’d just crashed through, his erection already heavy and pressing between us.

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