It All Falls Down (Rose Gardner Investigations #7) - Denise Grover Swank

Chapter 1

“Your turn,” I said, reaching out blindly for Joe in the darkness. My hand connected with his elbow, and I gave him a shove as the baby’s wails grew louder.

He tugged the sheet over his head, but I still heard his muffled response. “I got up last time.”

Had he? I was so sleep deprived I couldn’t be sure, but baby Hope didn’t appreciate our debate and cried even louder.

“I’m so tired I think I might be brain dead,” I groaned as I rolled out of bed and stumbled across the hall to the nursery. Hope had worked herself up to a decibel level that would have been fitting for a fire alarm. My dog, Muffy, was giving me an anxious glare from her new bed next to the crib. The day we brought Hope home from the hospital Muffy had appointed herself my daughter’s guardian, and she rarely left her side.

“It’s okay. Momma’s here,” I said as I reached into the crib and scooped Hope up. “What’s wrong? Are you missin’ us, sweet girl? You just ate.”

Her response was to cry louder. Muffy got out of her bed and gave me a look that begged me to do something.

“Okay. Okay,” I said, soothing them both as I cuddled Hope close to my chest. I sat in the rocking chair and lifted my pajama T-shirt so I could nurse her. She latched on immediately and settled down, putting Muffy at ease. My little dog went back to her bed and resumed her guard post.

Hope nursed for less than five minutes before she dozed off. I was so tired, I leaned the back of my head against the high back of the rocking chair as I fought to stay awake. Between the two of us, Joe and I had been up at least five times tonight—thank God she took bottled breast milk from Joe—but this had become a pattern for the past several nights. Nurse for a few minutes, then fall asleep and wake up soon afterward, wanting to nurse again. We’d moved her from the bassinet next to our bed to her crib in the nursery in the hopes it would help—Joe had to wake up at a specific time for work, and it always roused her, plus he occasionally got work calls or alerts in the middle of the night—but it hadn’t helped.

My head knew she needed to learn to put herself back to sleep, but my heart couldn’t handle letting her cry. Thankfully—or not—Joe felt the same way. There was no question about Muffy’s opinion on the matter.

I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew, Joe was leaning in front of me, his hand on my arm.

“Rose, come to bed,” he whispered.

Hope was in the crook of my arm, fast asleep.

“She’s just gonna wake up again,” I said, so tired I was close to tears. “Maybe I should stay in here.”

“Bring her to bed with us.”

“Back in the bassinet, you mean?”

He cradled my upper arm and gently pulled me out of the rocking chair. “It’ll be more of the same if you put her in there. Let her sleep in the bed tonight. It’s obvious she wants us. She barely takes any milk from either of us before dozing off. Just bring her to bed so we all can get some sleep.”

“But the experts—”

“Screw the experts,” he whispered, wrapping an arm around my back and leading me toward the door. “We need sleep, and I refuse to let her cry, thinkin’ her parents won’t be there when she needs them.”

I couldn’t argue with that, so I didn’t. I felt exactly the same way. Instead, I let him help me into bed. I was scared we would roll over and smother her, so I carefully laid her on the middle of the bed, and Joe put two narrow throw pillows on either side of her.

Muffy hopped up onto the bed, using the bench at the end as a springboard, and curled up into a ball.

Hope started to fuss now that she wasn’t pressed against my body, so Joe lay down on his side facing her. He rested his head on his pillow and placed a hand on her chest. “Daddy’s here, Hope,” he cooed softly. “You’re safe.”

At his touch, her whimpering stopped.

I lay down on my side, facing him in the semi-darkness. My heart melted into a puddle of goo as I saw him looking down at her. His gaze lifted to mine, and I could barely