Accidents Happen

by Angie

For Mandi, who said she enjoyed the Ezra’s daughter stories. Follows What’s Your Mama’s Name? and the other short stories in the Ezra’s Daughter series. . I had started this one a long time ago and the end was a little rough so I worked it over. Enjoy.

Sighing once again, Ezra looked at the clipboard in his hands. He had gotten as far as writing her name on the form before his mind had led him off. A moment later, Buck and JD rushed into the room and immediately to his side. The older man sat in the hard, plastic chair to Ezra’s right, the younger man knelt on the floor and eased the clipboard from the southerner’s hands. The effect of their caring concern was immediate; Ezra leaned toward Buck and began to shudder.

It had all begun early that morning. Eve Standish had gone out with a friend from school. A few hours later he had gotten the call. There had been an accident and Mrs. Banachek was seriously injured. The two girls, who were in the back seat at the time, were in serious but stable condition. Ezra didn’t even remember the drive to the hospital. He had been met at the ER by a very stern and somber pediatric specialist who informed him that his daughter was going in to surgery right away. The rest of the words were a jumble and he barely understood when someone from admitting handed him a clipboard and guided him to a chair. The woman recognized him immediately and called the rest of the team.


Buck wrapped a towel around his hips as he hurried to answer the phone. He was getting ready for a picnic date with the new woman in accounting. She was a very outdoorsy type, into camping and rock climbing and her red hair drove the ladies man to distraction. The voice on the other end identified itself and his heart clenched in his chest. Nothing good ever came of a call that began with ‘Mr. Wilmington, this is Diane Fletcher from Denver General.’ Absorbing the information the woman imparted, he hung up the phone and beat on JD’s bedroom door.

“JD! Get up and get dressed, now!”

The young man wasted no time asking questions. He had learned to recognize that tone of voice, it meant business. He pulled on a clean pair of jeans and a lightweight sweatshirt before grabbing a clean pair of socks and running out to the living room. Buck came out of his room and barreled down the steps to the main floor.

“Just got a call from the hospital. Eve’s been in an accident and Ez needs us there, now,” Buck explained as they hurried to JD’s Mustang.

+ + + + + + +

Which brought them to where they were at the moment. Buck holding up a sobbing, near hysterical Ezra while JD filled out the admission paperwork as best he could. A moment later, Josiah hurried in and zeroed in on the trio. No words were exchanged; he merely took in the devastated look on Ezra’s face and moved to sit behind him where he could run his hand back and forth across the shuddering shoulders. JD took the clipboard to the desk and returned to take up a chair. Boldly daring to ask the question on the tip of the other men’s tongues, the young man asked.

“Do you know what happened?”

“Missy Banachek invited Eve to the mall. Mrs. Banachek said that they were shopping for a gift for Missy’s cousin and she wanted another little girl’s opinion. They were only a few blocks from her house when it happened,” Ezra whispered before dissolving again into tears. The woman from the admissions desk came over and suggested that they go up to the surgical waiting room on the third floor. Josiah and Buck drew Ezra to his feet and supported him until his knees got the idea. They ascended in the elevator in silence, each lost in thought.

In the surgical waiting room was another group of anguished people. Elizabeth Banachek was not expected to live and her husband and his family were there waiting for word on Missy. Trusting that Buck and JD could handle Ezra, Josiah approached the other group and offered what he hoped were words of comfort and hope. Adam Banachek looked across the room at Ezra and pushed his two-year-old daughter into another lap as he came to his feet.

“Mr. Standish, I am so very sorry. Beth is such a defensive driver, I can’t imagine how this happened,” he said.

Ezra looked into the stricken man’s face and nodded. “And your wife and daughter? Have you had any word?”

“Missy is having a pin put in her arm. It was pretty badly shattered in the accident. Beth is … that is, she has … they don’t expect her to make it,” Adam Banachek sobbed. Ezra came to his feet and put his arms around the man, sharing his anguish. Buck stood just behind the southerner, ready to lend his support if needed.

When Adam turned away, Ezra sank back into the couch and rested his elbows on his knees. He rested his forehead on his palms and he began to pray.

“Dear God, I know I haven’t spoken to you as much as a person should but I’m asking you not to take my little girl from me. I didn’t even know what love was until I found Eve. She makes each day special and she gives me a reason to get up in the morning. Please, just let her be all right, please?”

As it happens in hospitals, the time spent waiting seems to stretch into infinity. For the people in the surgical waiting area, it was much more than that. Ezra replayed every moment of his life since finding out about his daughter. He was so very careful with her. When she had to have a shot, he hurt. When she had the flu, he was sick right with her. How could something like this happen?

‘That’s why they call them accidents,’ someone told him. He remembered the only other time his daughter had been transported to the hospital for an emergency. Glancing at the bouncing knees of the young man sitting next to him, he realized that JD remembered it too.

It had been a beautiful spring day. JD and Casey were going on a picnic and they invited Eve to come along. The little girl leapt at the chance to spend time with her uncle JD and begged to be allowed to go. Reluctantly, Ezra agreed after reviewing their ‘itinerary’ for the day. He made sure they had plenty of gas in the car and both cell phones were fully charged before allowing his precious child to leave his sight.

The three had gone to the park to watch a show of mimes. After sharing their picnic lunch, they had gone for a walk on one of the trails that wound through the woods that abutted the park. JD admitted that it was a turtle that lured Eve off of the path. She had spotted the little box turtle and climbed up the rocks to see it. Her well-worn tennis shoes hit a patch of moss and before she knew what happened, she was flying through the air.

Miserable couldn’t even come close to describing the way JD felt when he heard the girl’s cry of pain and fear. He and Casey gently gathered Eve into their arms and checked her injuries. The worst of which seemed to be a deep gash near her elbow that was bleeding profusely. Casey took out her clean handkerchief, thanking her aunt again for insisting that she carry one, and pressed it to the wound while JD tied his around it to hold it in place. They rushed back up the path to the car and hurried to the hospital. JD had asked Casey to drive because his hands were shaking so hard he was afraid he’d have an accident and he wanted to call Ezra.

The southerner remembered the call. He saw the number on the caller ID and figured that the young couple was just calling to tell him that they were taking Eve for ice cream or something. He knew something was wrong right away.

“Ezra? It’s JD. Listen, we’re on the way to the hospital. Eve fell and hurt herself and,” JD’s voice faltered. In the background, the southerner heard the soft voice of his daughter.

“Is that my daddy? Can I talk to him? Daddy … it hurts,” she said before sniffling and swallowing hard. “But JD and Casey are taking really good care of me. Okay?”

In spite of the fear squeezing his chest, Ezra smiled. As frightened and hurt as she was, Eve was trying to comfort him. He drew a deep breath and tried to calm her. “I’ll meet you at the hospital. You be good for JD, he sounds pretty rough.”

A giggle floated out of the phone and Ezra blinked back tears. “You should see him, Daddy. His hands are shaking and he’s got leaves in his hair,” she said.

Arriving at the hospital only moments behind them, Ezra was taken directly to an examining room where JD was sitting on a chair with his head between his knees while Casey rubbed his back and encouraged him to breathe deeply. Eve was sitting on the examining table looking on with a mixture of fear and amusement.

“Eve, sweetheart!” Ezra cried as he wrapped her in his arms. He passed his hand repeatedly over the back of her head as he crushed her to his chest with the other arm.

“Daddy! I can’t breathe when you do that,” she scolded. He released her and looked into the beautiful green eyes, so like his own.

Dr. Browning came in and consulted the chart. “Well, well, what do we have here? Can I see?” He untied the handkerchiefs and lightly touched the jagged tear. “Wow! I’ll bet that hurts. Can I give you something to stop it from hurting?” he asked as he looked at Eve.

“Is it a shot?” she asked in a tremulous voice.

“I’m afraid so. But it’ll numb the area so we can clean it up and fix it for you. What do you think?” He watched as she reached for her father.

“N-no, no shots, please?” she pleaded softly.

“Okay, let’s take a look at it and see what we’ve got,” the doctor said as he began to guide her to lie back on the bed. Her breathing quickened and she winced as soon as he touched her. “Let’s try pouring some sterile water over it and cleaning it out first,” he said, more to the nurse than to Eve.

Ezra remembered how bravely his daughter had allowed the doctor to open and flush the gash. She pulled his arm down to cover her face as she wrapped her small hand around two of his fingers. He heard the doctor call for the ‘papoose board’ and knew what was coming. He tried to prepare her for it.

“Eve, honey, they’re going to wrap you in a special blanket so that you don’t move while they fix up your arm,” he told her. Tears welled up in her eyes and she nodded. The nurse had him lift her while they put the confining device in place. JD and Casey were quietly steered out of the room. The suture kit was placed on the table and covered with a sterile cloth. None of this was lost on the child and she clasped her father’s hand again.

“Daddy?” she questioned as the blanket was secured over her legs. Ezra forced a smile to his face as he brushed her bangs back from her forehead and placed a kiss there as the nurse guided her free arm under the blanket. Now Eve was in a full-blown panic. “Don’t leave me!” she cried.

“Mr. Standish, perhaps it would be better if you stepped outside. She’ll be fine once the meds take effect,” the nurse suggested. Ezra didn’t even bother to reply, he simply ignored her as he continued to try to comfort Eve.

“I’ll be right here. I won’t leave you,” he assured her.

The doctor situated Eve’s injured arm on the board that they had placed under the papoose board and he secured it at the wrist with a Velcro closure. Making certain that he had everything he needed, he nodded to the nurse as she leaned across Eve’s legs.

“Okay, Eve, be a big girl and let’s get this done. It will feel like a bee sting and,” the doctor began. Eve saw the needle and began to cry.

“No shots. Please Daddy, no shots,” she pleaded as she tried to twist inside of the confining wrap.

“Eve, look at me. It has to be done. I’m right here and you can yell all you want but you must not move, okay?” he asked as he stared into her eyes. Pulling his handkerchief, he wiped her cheeks and had her blow her nose. While she was distracted, the doctor gave her the first of the numbing shots.

“Ow, ow, ow,” she whimpered as the medicine burned a little at first. The doctor waited several seconds before starting the second shot and Eve only hissed a little. By the third shot, she was numb enough not to feel it.

While the doctor was putting in the stitches, Eve spoke again, “Daddy? Don’t be mad at JD. It wasn’t his fault. I wanted to see the turtle on the shelf and I climbed up on my own.”

“We’ll talk about this later,” he assured her. By the time the doctor finished, Eve was asleep. The doctor assured him that it was a combination of stress and adrenaline decline and that she was fine. They wrapped the stitches and began to remove the papoose board.

+ + + + + + +

The door opened and Vin and Chris rushed in. While Josiah updated the team leader, Vin knelt in front of Ezra. He placed a hand lightly on the southerner’s shoulder to get his attention. “Any word?” he asked. A sigh and slow shake of Ezra’s head was the only answer he got.

A moment later, the door opened again. A doctor came in and went directly to the Banachek family. A few quiet words were imparted before Adam’s cry of anguish split the hushed atmosphere of the room. The devastated man was led from the room while the rest of the group silently wept.

Ezra came to his feet. He had to get out! The air in the room was suddenly stiflingly thick and hard to breathe. Buck and Vin sprang up with him and hovered close.

“Where do ya need to go, Ez?” Vin asked softly.

“Can’t breathe,” he whispered. “Oh, God. I can’t lose her!” Ezra cried before bolting for the door. Vin followed him as he walked the length of the corridor. At the elevators, Ezra leaned heavily on the wall and panted. Shaking, he slowly knelt until he could sit on the floor. The cool of the tiles penetrated his flesh but his mind didn’t recognize it.

“Take it easy, Ezra. We’re all here for you,” Vin said as he knelt protectively close to his friend.

Back in the waiting room, another member of the team was close to melting down. Chris stared around the room as his heart pounded loudly in his ears. His mind spun back to another time when he had stood in a room like this. ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Larabee,’ a voice from the past said, setting up an echo in his head until he wanted to scream. Buck sidled up and lightly brushed against Chris.

“You okay, pard?” he asked.

The blond looked into the face of his oldest friend, the man he could not lie to. He shuddered.

“Too much like before. Has anyone told Ezra how badly she was hurt?” Chris asked.

“If they did, he was too shocked to remember. I’ll see what I can find out,” Buck said before slipping out of the room. Chris moved to take a seat next to JD.

“You all right, kid?” he asked.

“Just remembering when she hurt her arm on the rocks when Casey and I took her out,” JD explained.

He couldn’t remember being so afraid. It wasn’t even like when one of them got shot and they didn’t know if they would live, this was different. Eve was just a little girl and she had been given into his care. He felt like such a failure. When they reached the exam room, he’d been overcome by dizziness and was made to sit down. Peripherally, he was aware that Ezra arrived and thankful that the southerner hadn’t thrown him bodily from the room. If it had not been for Casey, he probably would have fled the hospital altogether.

When Ezra and Eve came out of the exam room an hour later, they were smiling. Eve was sporting a new sling with ‘Hello Kitty’ on it. Ezra was loaded down with papers and extra gauze to change the dressing on the wound. With shaky knees, JD had approached his teammate.

“I’m sorry, Ezra. I know you wanted me to look after her and I wouldn’t blame you if you never let me near her again but I am sorry,” JD blurted out as soon as his mouth opened.

“That’s why they call them accidents,” Ezra replied softly as he smiled. “Eve told me it was her idea to climb the rocks. I’ve lived with her long enough to know that once she sets her mind on something, it’s pretty much a done deal.”

+ + + + + + +

Another doctor came into the lounge and called out, “Standish?”

“He’s in the hall,” Buck said as the others came to their feet.

At the end of the hall, Vin nudged Ezra. “The doc’s looking for you. Come on, Ez. We’re all with you.”

The entire team had migrated into the hall and surrounded the doctor. The man did a good impression of not being cowed by the intimidating group standing around him as he cleared his throat.

“Mr. Standish, if you would like to come with me?” he offered.

“These men are family, whatever you have to say can be said in front of them,” Ezra stated calmly.

“Very well, your daughter had a compound fracture of her right tibia and fibula. We had to put in pins to hold the bone in place. She also sustained a serious concussion. We will be watching her very closely for the next few days to see if there is any swelling in her brain. There is also some concern about her cervical vertebra. We won’t know more until she’s stabilized enough for an MRI. We could be looking at just tissue swelling or we could be looking at broken bones.”

The edges of his vision grayed and Ezra staggered back into Buck, who caught him before he hit the floor. Wilmington gathered the smaller man into his arms and followed the doctor to another waiting room. He eased the southerner onto the couch and began to loosen his clothes. The doctor brought a vial of smelling salts and passed it under Ezra’s nose for a few seconds. As soon as he began to turn from the scent, the doctor replaced the cap and slipped it into his pocket.

“Are you all right, Mr. Standish?” the doctor asked as the man struggled to sit up against the restraint of his friends who wanted him to stay down. “Perhaps I should have prefaced my last comment with the fact that your daughter is neurologically intact. If the vertebra are broken, they are not compressing the spinal cord in any way. She wiggled her toes in the operating room just before she went under. If you think you can take it, I’ll take you to the recovery room to see her. I’m afraid the rest of you will have to wait until she’s in a room, though.”

Ezra came to his feet and followed the doctor. As they came to the door into recovery, he asked, “Is she on a vent?”

The doctor turned and took in the young father. “Yes, until we know if there’s swelling in her brain I want to keep her on it. Does that trouble you?”

“No. But I don’t want her to wake up with it. Okay? I’ve had one several times and I don’t want her to go through that. Please?” Ezra asked.

“Of course. We’ll remove it before we wean her off of the drugs that keep her asleep. I understand completely,” he said as he turned to open the door.

Ezra hesitated. He looked back up the hall to where the others were gathered, watching him. He looked back at the doctor. “I need one of them to …” His voice trailed off as he began to tremble again. The doctor nodded and motioned one finger toward the others.

There was hesitation in the group. Chris wanted to be there for Ezra but knew he couldn’t face seeing another child in the recovery room. JD desperately wanted to go but was afraid he wouldn’t be able to support Ezra if he collapsed. Vin wanted to go but he wasn’t sure if he should.

“Brothers, the doctor is waiting for one of us,” Josiah prompted and Vin nodded and started up the hall.

No matter how many times they had heard it, the sound of a heart monitor was eerie. Mingled with the ‘hiss-plop’ of the respirator, it was terrifying. Eve looked so tiny, lying in that big bed surrounded by those monster machines. Ezra turned to look at the doctor after seeing the thick cervical collar holding Eve’s head immobile.

“It’s just a precautionary measure. Until we know for certain. You can touch her but be careful of the lines,” he warned.

Both men approached the bed and reached out to take up a tiny, pale hand. Tears rolled down Ezra’s face as he looked at the bruised, swollen face of his child. He looked at the open cast that encased her leg in the traction sling. The purple nail polish on her toes made him smile for a moment.

All too soon, a nurse came and told the men that they would have to return to the waiting room so Eve could be moved to her room. She gently pried his hand off of the bed rail so Vin could steer Ezra back to the waiting room. A short time later, they were directed to the PICU. A nurse gently but firmly insisted that only two people could go back for ten minutes an hour. Ezra batted an eye and promptly ignored her. He steered the entire group into the room and they took up positions around the bed. The southerner noticed that Nathan had arrived. The team medic had been on an outing with Rain and it took him a while to get to the hospital when he got the message.

There wasn’t really anything to be said and the group stood silently, watching Ezra as he stood over Eve. The nurse had returned with security. The guards took one look at the men she wanted removed and laughed in her face. They had dealt with Team 7 before and had no desire to tangle with them again.

“Lady, if you want those men out of that room, put them out yourself. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll call upstairs and talk to some of the staff that’s dealt with them before,” the head of the security detail informed her before leaving.

Chris Larabee was in hell. He was certain of it. As he stood at the foot of the hospital bed and looked at the curly headed cherub he had come to love, his heart was breaking. He had stood over his son’s bed like this for the brief period of time it took for his internal organs to shut down from the shock and pain of being burned over so large a percentage of his tiny body. Flashbacks of the sight and smell of burnt tissue had him bolting out of the room a moment later. Buck found him in the restroom and handed him wet paper towels to wipe his face.

“I didn’t think it’d be this hard on ya, pard,” Buck said softly.

“Damned flashbacks,” Chris hissed as he rinsed his mouth and glared at the weak stomached being in the mirror.

“Why don’t I come out to the ranch tonight?” Buck offered.

“Nah, I’ll be all right. You should stay … for JD. He’s taking this really hard,” the blond replied. “Tell Ezra I had to go. I’ll check in with him tonight.”

“Time moves too slowly for those who wait,” Josiah whispered as he moved in behind Ezra. The younger man had not moved from Eve’s side since arriving in the room four hours ago. He stood like a statue, staring at her face and rubbing the back of her little hand with the pad of his thumb. His touch was light, the skin never reddened beneath his thumb. “You need to sit down, son,” the profiler urged. The others had slipped from the room to give Ezra some privacy with Eve.

“I promised her I would always be here,” Ezra whispered, never lifting his eyes from her face.

“She knows you’re here. She knows you love her. Come and sit down and let me try to bring you up something to eat,” Josiah urged gently.

“Josiah? See if you can find out about Missy, please?” Ezra asked as he looked up momentarily.

The vigil lasted for seventy-three hours and twelve minutes according to Ezra’s expensive Rolex. The doctor had determined that there was no swelling in Eve’s brain and had removed the respirator. She was transferred to another bed for an MRI to determine if there was any damage to the vertebra in her neck. The doctor had continually shown Ezra that she wiggled her toes in response to certain stimulation. The team gathered to hear the results of the MRI. Chris was shocked at just how bad Ezra looked after three days. They had brought him clean clothes and his shaving kit but nothing could take away the dark circles under his eyes or the haunted look in them.

“Well, there’s good news and bad news,” the doctor began. “There are minor breaks in the vertebra in her neck. That’s the bad news. The good news is and always has been that she’s neurologically intact and the breaks will heal. She’ll have to wear a neck brace for the next six to eight weeks. The rest of her injuries are healing well and should not cause any permanent handicap. We’ll move her to a regular room as soon as she wakes up. We won’t put another cast on her leg until right before she’s discharged, so we can keep an eye on her surgical incision. Any questions?”

“When can I take her home?” Ezra asked.

“Not for at least a week, Mr. Standish. She was on a vent for three days. I want to make sure that she’s recovered from that and the surgery before I let her go,” the doctor replied.

“What are we looking at in the way of physical therapy?” Nathan asked.

“Once the cast is off, she may need some range of motion therapy and to build back the muscle mass that she’ll have lost, but I don’t see it as a major thing,” he answered.

It was another twelve hours and six minutes before Eve began to show signs of waking. Her eyelids fluttered and her hands twitched under her father’s hands. She remembered the accident. The big truck that barreled through the stoplight and struck the car had winking lights around the license plate. She moaned softly at the pain that seemed to come from everywhere.

“Eve, sweetheart, just lay still. Don’t try to move yet,” Ezra whispered before placing a kiss on her forehead.

Her green eyes opened and she looked around. Panic lit her features when she realized that she couldn’t turn her head. “Daddy! I’m scared!” she called as his hand tightened on hers.

“Just relax for a minute. You’re in the hospital. The thing around your neck is to keep you from moving your head while your injuries heal. Do you remember what happened?”

“There was a truck. It hit the car. Oh, Daddy, is Missy all right?”

Ezra leaned over the bed so Eve could see him. Her panic eased slightly when she saw him. He teased her bangs back from her eyes slightly.

“Missy was hurt very badly in the accident. She’s still in the ICU. She had a slight stroke, that’s where a blood vessel in the brain starts to bleed. She may have some permanent paralysis on one side of her body. When she gets better, she’s going to need all the help she can get. Now, I’m going to ring for the nurse, she wants to see you now that you’re awake.”

After the nurse checked her out, Eve went right back to sleep. Ezra waited until morning to tell the guys that she had wakened, he didn’t want to call them in the middle of the night. Only after he had spoken to his daughter was the southerner able to sleep. Exhausted but relieved, he sank into the recliner next to the hospital bed and slept.

The team was delighted to hear that Eve had finally awakened. Over their lunch hour, they came down to see her, bringing balloons and stuffed animals to brighten her room and lift her spirits. Ezra had informed her of Missy’s mom’s death earlier and her eyes were still red and puffy from crying. She smiled brightly at her ‘uncles’ as they carried in their treasures. JD’s huge purple Care Bear was immediately given a place of honor at the head of her bed. Nathan’s bear was wearing a cast on its leg and wearing a hospital gown, Eve loved it. The others brought balloons, puzzles and coloring books to keep her entertained. She fell asleep before they left and each one placed a light kiss on her forehead or cheek as they left.

Two days later, Eve was discharged from the hospital. She now sported a hot pink cast from her toes to mid thigh. As uncomfortable as the cervical collar was, she had solemnly promised the doctor that she would wear it faithfully until he said it could come off. He had shown her the X-rays and explained that she needed to allow the small fractures in her neck to heal fully. After she was dressed in a pair of denim shorts and a purple tee shirt, Ezra lifted her into the wheelchair.

“Daddy, I want to see Missy before we go home,” she said.

“I anticipated your request and cleared it with her doctor and her father. She, too, has been eager to see you. Now, you remember what I told you about her injuries? She has some weakness on her left side,” he reminded her as he gathered up the huge bag of things his daughter had acquired during her week at the hospital.

Missy’s room was painfully quiet when they arrived. Adam Banachek was seated in the chair beside the bed, reading from a magazine while his daughter stared at the TV. Ezra knocked on the door before he turned Eve’s wheelchair into the room.

“I have someone who wants very much to see you, Miss Banachek,” he said as he studied the other girl’s sad expression. Missy’s brown eyes came up as she recognized the voice.

“Eve? You brought Eve to see me!”

The two girls visited for over an hour before the physical therapist arrived and Missy had to do her exercises. Ezra promised that he would bring Eve around again the next day if she did her best for the therapist. He had heard that the little girl was resistant of the therapy and it was hampering her recovery. Nathan had explained to him that her brain was still developing connections and she could easily regain full control of her body, but she had to work for it.

They arrived at the condo and walked into a full-blown welcome home party. Bella and her mother were there along with a few of her closest friends from school. The rest of the team was there too, eager to see her and show off their handiwork. She was surprised to see that her bedroom had been moved to the first floor, into her father’s home office. Mrs. Hernandez had made a variety of finger foods and the team had brought other snacks. An hour later, her teacher arrived with all of her books and the list of assignments she had missed. Although Eve was delighted to see the teacher, she stuck out her lip and pouted at the long list of things she had missed. She knew that her dad had arranged for someone to come to the condo every day to help her keep up with her classmates.

That night, after everyone else had gone, Ezra lifted Eve from the wheel chair and placed her on the bed. He helped her change into her pajamas and washed her up before tucking her carefully into bed. She knew he had installed an intercom so that she could call to him if she needed help in the night. Smiling at her dad as he smoothed the wrinkles from the blanket, she teased him.

“You know I’m just going to mess that up when I try to get comfortable, right?”

“Then I’ll just have to come down here and straighten it again,” he said as he brushed her bangs up to kiss her forehead. “I love you, you know?”

“Love you too, Daddy,” she said, holding her arms up to collect a hug.

Alone in his bedroom, Ezra turned the monitor up until he could hear Eve’s soft breath. Since he had not been in the condo while Eve was in the hospital, he sank gratefully onto his bed. Relief washed over him as he realized how easily his daughter could have died in the car accident. As the tears rolled down his face, he prayed.

“Dear God, thank you for protecting my little girl. She’s all the best parts of her mother and me. Please take care of little Missy. She’s having such a hard time of everything.”

Over the speaker on his nightstand, he heard his daughter’s soft voice, “Go to sleep, Daddy. I love you.”