Sage swiftly shook her head.

“Yes, of course,” she said. “I’ll be there as soon as I can. Poor thing.”

Melissa put a gentle hand on Sage’s arm. Once again, TJ was dying to do the same thing, to touch her, to comfort her over whatever she was hearing on the phone.

“Thank you,” she said, a quaver in her voice.

“What is it?” he asked as she ended the call.

“It’s Heidi. Her mom just died.” Sage’s tone was filled with disbelief. “They’d taken her out of ICU over a week ago. I thought she was getting better. They even let Heidi see her a couple of times.”

“That’s terrible,” Melissa said. “Were you friends with her mom?”

“I never met her,” Sage said. “Heidi was already in the hospital, her mom in ICU after a car accident, when Eli was diagnosed. She’s the sweetest little girl. She’s asking for me.” Sage looked to TJ. “I have to go to Seattle.”

“Yes,” he said. “Of course. I’ll get us a plane.”

Sage looked like she was going to protest. But she didn’t. She obviously wanted to get there as quickly as she could and recognized that a plane was the way to do that.

“I’ll come with you,” he said.

“You don’t need to.”

He kept his tone gentle. “Eli should see her too, and I’ll make sure you get there quickly.”

“Let him help you,” Melissa said.

TJ appreciated Melissa’s support.

“I’m sure Heidi would like to see Eli,” Sage agreed.

“Coastal West Air Charter,” came a pleasant woman’s voice on the phone.

“Hi. This is TJ Bauer.”

“Hello, Mr. Bauer.”

“I need to get from Whiskey Bay to Seattle right away. There’ll be three passengers.”

“Yes, sir. We have a single-engine Cessna or a twin-engine King Air.”

“We’ll take the King Air.” TJ knew it would be faster.

“What is your ETA to the airport?”

“Thirty minutes.” He raised his brow to Sage to confirm.

She gave him a nod.

“I’ll get the other boys home for you,” Melissa offered.

Arrangements made, TJ explained the situation to Eli and made sure he was ready for the trip.

Sage packed her son a sandwich and a drink for the flight. Despite the situation, TJ couldn’t help but smile at her maternal instincts. Eli wouldn’t realize it for years to come, but he had the most caring mother in the world.

The flight was smooth, and TJ had arranged for a car to pick them up in Seattle. In less than two hours, they were at Heidi’s hospital room.

TJ hung back outside the door, letting Sage and Eli go in to comfort the little girl.

He could hear Heidi crying, and he watched Sage take the girl in her arms. Sage spoke to Heidi in soft tones. He couldn’t hear the words. But he saw Eli take Heidi’s hand and hold it. Eli smoothed her hair and spoke to her.

TJ’s heart swelled with pride.

He crossed the hallway to sit down in a chair, content to wait and give the trio space.

“Mr. Bauer?” A nurse said his name.

TJ recognized her, and she was wearing a name tag. He came to his feet. “Hi, Claire. Please, call me TJ.”

The nurse’s gaze flicked to Heidi’s room. “It was nice of Sage to come so quickly.”

“I don’t think anything would have stopped her. How’s Heidi doing?”

“She’s upset, of course. And she’s frightened.”

Sadly, that seemed par for the course.

“And physically?” he asked.

The question brought a small smile to Claire’s face. “She’s doing really well. She’s ready to go home.” Claire drew a breath. “We were just waiting for her mom to get stronger.”

Sage appeared, and Claire turned her attention, giving Sage a quick hug. “How’s Eli?”

“Amazing,” Sage said.

“That’s good. This is such a tragedy.”

“Yes. It is.”

“I have some patients,” Claire said. “Can we talk later?”

“I’ll be here for a while,” Sage answered.

Then Claire headed silently down the hall.

Sage’s gaze met TJ’s, and she crossed the hall to him.

He so desperately wanted to pull her into his arms. He clenched his fists to fight the impulse.

“She’s all alone,” Sage said.

He nodded. “It’s tragic.”

“She needs help.”

“Whatever she needs,” TJ said. “Her medical bills, specialized care.”

“Money can’t fix this one.” There was a shade of exasperation to Sage’s tone.

He was puzzled. “Sage?”