He’d downplayed his injuries because he didn’t want to stay overnight in the hospital, unless, of course, Lexi needed to be observed. No matter what, he was not going to leave his daughter. Lexi had already been through so much, more than any six-year-old should have to handle. With her mother dead and buried, she needed him now, more than ever.
If only he’d stopped for something to eat earlier, he wouldn’t have been driving through the intersection at the same moment as the idiot who’d run a red light, slamming into them.
He turned his head, hiding a wince, to look at his daughter. True to her word, the pretty nurse—what in the world was her name?—had gotten Lexi into a wheelchair and brought her over to the side of his gurney. He forced a broad, reassuring smile. “Hey Lexi, how are you feeling?”
Her solemn gaze didn’t waver from his. “Fine,” she whispered. “Can we leave now?”
If only they could. He’d been all set to leave without the scans until the nurse had mentioned the possibility of a cracked spine. At this point, he needed to know exactly what he was dealing with. Besides, he needed to be sure Lexi was all right, and if that meant getting a scan first, so his daughter could see it wouldn’t hurt, then that’s exactly what he’d do. He held his daughter’s gaze, holding his smile in place. “Afraid not, baby-doll, first we have to get checked out by the kitty-cat machine.” Lexi wasn’t easily distracted, especially when she wanted something. But that didn’t stop him from trying.
“I don’t want to stay here.” Lexi’s eyes, blue like his, revealed a hint of fear. “It’s scary.”
The pretty nurse, he couldn’t read her name on her ID badge because his vision was blurry, another tidbit he hadn’t fessed up to, came over. “Lexi, we need to make sure your daddy’s not seriously hurt. So we’re going to take him for a CT scan, but you can watch from behind the glass the whole time, all right?”
Lexi barely spared the nurse a glance. He wanted to apologize for his daughter’s behavior, but there was no point, since Lexi had no idea she was being rude.
“Okay, let’s go,” the woman said in a cheerful voice. She went behind Lexi’s wheelchair to push her forward, while his gurney was maneuvered by a tall guy who was likely some sort of orderly. When the gurney went over a bump, he had to clench his teeth against a surge of pain. He focused on the nurse, who was talking to Lexi.
“We’ll be finished with these scans in a half hour, Lexi,” she was saying in that same cheery tone. “See the clock on the wall up there? It’s seven o’clock in the evening. Do you know how to tell time?”
Derek was surprised when Lexi’s head moved in a barely discernible nod. His daughter was listening, even if she didn’t appear to be paying attention.
“The big hand is on the twelve, and we’ll be all finished before the big hand gets down to the six.”
Lexi glanced at the clock but said nothing more. The lack of response didn’t stop the nurse’s rather one-sided conversation, and he was grateful she didn’t pass judgment on his daughter the way so many others had.
The way Lexi’s grandparents had.
The CT scan didn’t take long, and as soon as they were finished looking into his head, he talked briefly to Lexi, reassuring her. Then he had to stay quiet until the rest of the scan was completed. When the scan was complete, he heard the nurse encouraging Lexi to take her turn.
His daughter, bless her stubborn heart, wasn’t too keen on the idea. When he saw Lexi’s wheelchair come closer, he turned his head toward her. “Lexi, we can’t leave until I know you’re safe and healthy. The kitty-cat machine doesn’t hurt. All you have to do is to close your eyes and let them take pictures. Once I know you’re fine, we’ll leave.”
He could see the instant flare of protest in the nurse’s eyes at his rash promise, but he glared at her, silently threatening her not to contradict him. She pressed her lips together firmly but didn’t say anything.
Lexi finally agreed to the scan, and he watched protectively as the nurse allowed his daughter to climb down from the wheelchair and up onto the CT table by herself. He had to give the woman points for being astute—she seemed to instinctively know that Lexi wouldn’t tolerate being touched or carried by a stranger.