Piper waved a hand. “No problem. I haven’t been sleeping that well anyway.”
She eyed him, wanting to laugh for the natural way he asked, but wanting to cry because he genuinely seemed to care and she’d always wanted that father-daughter bond.
“Sorry,” he told her with a slight laugh. “I really have no room to ask.”
“It’s okay.” On a sigh, Piper fell back against the cushions. “I’m having an...issue. Nothing I can’t handle.”
Insomnia, loss of appetite and random bursts of crying, then screaming into an empty room. Yeah, she was handling this breakup quite well. Like a champ.
“I know I have no right to pry,” Walker said as he shifted to look at her. “But I’m more than happy to listen, and it’s the middle of the night. Since you’re not sleeping, we’ve got nothing else to do.”
Piper looked at her father. Another sense of déjà vu settled in. Weeks ago she’d opened up to Ryan in the middle of the night. There was something about darkness that made it easier to open up, easier to not face reality and pretend that there was this special connection.
“I made a stupid mistake and fell in love.”
Walker nodded as if he understood.
“And then I made an even stupider mistake and broke it off.”
He lifted his brows. “Why was that?”
Piper glanced away, hating how shallow this was going to sound. “I couldn’t handle his career decision.”
“And what’s his career?”
Bringing her eyes back up to his, she said, “Rodeo.”
Walker Kindred ran a hand down his face and sighed. He shook his head and let out a laugh.
“God, Piper Jane. I just... I can’t even think of what to say.” He met her gaze and now hurt stared back at her. “I had no idea my actions would ruin your life.”
“Why did you leave?” she asked, emotions clogging her throat. “Why did I never hear from you other than birthdays and Christmas?”
“I let my selfish ways lead my life.” He eased back against the cushions, sliding one arm along the back of the sofa. “I wish I could tell you something more tragic, but I was not ready for parenting, or at least not ready for staying home every day, day in and day out. I begged your mother to take you on the road with me. I begged her to homeschool you, but that was selfish of me. Even if you two had joined me, I wouldn’t have devoted the time and attention both of you needed.”
Piper brushed her hair behind her ear. “I hate your answer, but I appreciate your honesty.”
She toyed with the hem of her sleep shorts and wished she could’ve had her father around to talk to years ago. Even though she wasn’t happy with what he told her, she knew he was speaking from his heart and he’d come to her for a fresh start. And honesty was the place to begin if they wanted a firm foundation for building any relationship.
“Who’s the cowboy?”
Piper sighed. “Ryan Grant.”
Walker’s smile widened. “No kidding? Your childhood friend? That man tore up the circuit. It was a shame when he announced his retirement. Wasn’t he opening a school or something?”
“A rodeo school for kids,” she told him. “He already has most everything ready and had even asked one high school boy to come on full-time in the summer.”
“Will he be home for Thanksgiving?”
Piper shrugged. “Honestly, we didn’t discuss that.”
“You’re wishing you hadn’t called it quits?”
Shaking her head, Piper groaned. “I don’t even know what I wish. I really don’t. I wish he hadn’t made me fall in love. I wish he hadn’t been so damn giving... I wish he hadn’t left without even considering me... And I hate that I’m so selfish about it, but I wanted that love. I wanted him and the life he’d laid out for us.”
Walker reached out to her cheek to wipe away a tear that Piper hadn’t even realized had escaped.
“No man is worth your tears,” he whispered. “Including me.”
Piper wiped her eyes, hating the vulnerability she had no control over lately. “You’re both worth my tears.”
Walker started forward as if to hug her, but stopped.
Piper didn’t ask, didn’t care if she seemed vulnerable. It had been way too long since she’d felt the strong embrace of her father. She reached out, wrapped her arms around his broad shoulders and squeezed.