Joanna Neil.

The Doctor's Longed-For Family






Two strong arms reached for her and steadied her, and Abby looked up distractedly, to find herself staring into Matts laughing blue eyes.

I know we said that we were going to be working closely together, he murmured huskily, keeping hold of her, his hands coming to rest at the base of her spine, but I hadnt expected it to be quite such a riveting experience. He ran his glance over her. Not that Im complaining, of course. This has to be one of the bonuses of the job.

Yes, wellumI think I can manage now, thank you. Iumneed to go and find my patient. He should be arriving any minute now. Her heart was pounding, and she couldnt think straight with his arms wrapped around her that way.

Dear Reader

What a great start to the New Year! Mills & Boon is celebrating its centenarya hundred years of exciting romance and the joy of compelling love stories to warm our hearts. As a writer and an avid reader of romantic fiction, Im delighted to be part of, and to be able to share with you, this momentous occasion in Mills and Boons history.

I think youll agree with me that the world has changed a great deal in those fabulous years. We have the wonder of technology to make our lives easier and help us to communicate better with one another. The world has been opened up for us through the media of the internet and television. Every day people from across the continents appear on our television screens, and at the touch of a button we can send missives out into cyberspace.

There is a downside to all this, though. What if you later regret what youve sent, or, heaven forbid, you meet up with the object of your scorn?

Television and technology both play a part in bringing together Abby and Matt in my latest book, THE DOCTORS LONGED-FOR FAMILY.

Can you imagine the excitement of a TV celebrity coming to a hospital near you? No? Neither can Abby Byford, and she certainly doesnt take kindly to the idea of having a camera crew following her around as she works. As things turn out, though, Matt Calder proves to be far more persistent than she might have imagined.

Ive been able to bring Abby and Matts story to you by being a contributor to this milestone in Mills & Boons history.

My very best wishes to you all

Joanna

The Doctors Longed-For Family
Joanna Neil

www.millsandboon.co.uk

When JOANNA NEIL discovered Mills & Boon, her life-long addiction to reading crystallised into an exciting new career writing Medical Romance.

Her characters are probably the outcome of her varied lifestyle, which includes working as a clerk, typist, nurse and infant teacher. She enjoys dressmaking and cooking at her Leicestershire home. Her family includes a husband, son and daughter, an exuberant yellow Labrador and two slightly crazed cockatiels. She currently works with a team of tutors at her local education centre, to provide creative writing workshops for people interested in exploring their own writing ambitions.

Contents

COVER

Dear Reader

TITLE PAGE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

EXTRACT

COPYRIGHT

CHAPTER ONE

WELCOME to Matt Calders website. You might like to take a look at the guest book area while youre here. Theres a message from a Dr Abby Byford, who wants to know why we think it necessary to take the TV cameras along with the ambulance crew when they go out on call.

Abby stared at the computer screen, her green eyes widening, her mouth opening in shock. She had imagined that her brief email would have been hidden away somewhere, for his eyes only, or virtually out of sight, or at the very least that it would be lost in an electronic void. She hadnt expected him to reply, or even to use it on his website, yet here was her name, blazoned across the Internet for all to see. He was actually singling her out for attention. Why would he want to do that?

Is this what passes for entertainment these days? she asks. Why on earth would anyone want to sit and watch injured people having their wounds assessed and then follow them as they go through the process of treatment?

Abby had been taking bites out of her breakfast toast while she was on the move this morning, but now she let it slide down onto her plate while she stared transfixed at the monitor. Her long, honey-gold hair tumbled down around her face in a wild mass of curls and she swiftly pushed it back out of the way.

Im sure many of you will have a view on this, and Id be glad to see your comments on the website. My own feeling is that we all have a choice in the matter. Its called the channel change button on the remote control, or, if you have the energy, theres always the off switch on the television set.

Her jaw dropped. That was a total put-down, wasnt it, and what had she done to deserve that kind of treatment? This man, Calder, was impossible. OK, so his television programme had disturbed her, enough to prompt her to send a carefully worded message his way. After all, he had invited comments at the end of the programme, but surely she didnt merit that kind of sarcasm? Hers had been a perfectly legitimate query, but his reply was a pure dig at her expense in front of the thousands who accessed his site.

Her appetite had suddenly disappeared, but it was replaced by a growing rumble of annoyance. She didnt have time for any of this. She was supposed to be getting ready for work, and all she had meant to do was to swiftly check her emails in case any problems had cropped up overnight. Only her friends message had included a link to the website. You have to check this out, she had written. You seem to have stirred something up.

Now Abby was rapidly regretting the impulse that had led her to click on the link. Merely thinking about the arrogance of the man brought a red haze to sizzle in front of her eyes. Why had she even bothered to switch on the television the other night? If she had left well alone, she might never have caught sight of his TV show, but she had left it on in the background as shed dealt with her emails that evening. As she was already online it had been all too easy to let her emotions get away from her and write in to the address given.

They had all been talking about it in A and E, where she worked. He has such a wry sense of humour, Helen, her specialist registrar, had said, and when hes on TV hes absolutely brilliant as a presenter. Everybodys watching his show, Emergency Call. Its on once a week, in the evening, and he has a weekly slot that deals with different medical topics. It tends to throw up a controversy once in a while. Hes interviewed on radio and TV talk shows from time to time, and he writes occasionally, too.

At least on radio, Abby thought, the listening public wouldnt have been drawn to watch the suffering of the poor young woman who had slipped and fallen down the stairs last night. She was heavily pregnant, and Abby had felt her pain along with her as she had been filmed being carefully transferred into the ambulance.

It looks as though Megan is going into labour, Matt Calder had said softly to the camera. Well be by her side through every stage, from here to the delivery room.

The baby, though, hadnt wanted to wait that long, and soon the presenter had said, I dont think were going to make it to the hospital before this infant is born.

Remembering, Abby felt her hackles begin to rise all over again. Why was everyone so obsessed with fly-on-the-wall coverage these days?

Her fingers were already stabbing at the keyboard, and she banged out another message to Matt Calder.

I stand by what I said before, she wrote. Isnt your programme taking things a stretch too far? Do we really need to pry into every aspect of peoples lives, even stooping so low as to let cameras intrude on the special, intensely personal moment when a woman gives birth? Its bad enough that the mothers privacy is violated, but doesnt it ever occur to anyone that the infant concerned is being exploited?

Fuelled by a growing sense of righteousness, she added, What depths will be plundered next, I wonder? Will someone be filmed saying, Oh, Im sorry, but I really dont feel too well. I think I might not be able to make it through the night, please excuse me while I suck in my last breath. Would you be sure and show the film to my mother? I did so want her to be here with me at the end. How very sad that we have to live our lives through other people.

Pressing her lips together, she hit the send button and flung her diatribe out into cyberspace. She stood for a moment glaring at the screen, and then she switched off the computer and went to finish getting ready for work.

Her cottage was in a valley at the edge of the Chilterns, and she had a half-hour drive ahead of her to reach the hospital, which was on the outskirts of London. She would need all of that time in order to calm herself down.

It was only when she was sliding into her car a while later that she realised that she had done it again. She had acted without giving herself time to stop and think things through. Had she gone too far? Maybe that sarcasm had been a tad over the top, but something about the show and the website, along with Matt Calders all too persuasive manner, had managed to ruffle her feathers. Was it possible that she had overreacted?

Perhaps the truth of the matter was that she was beginning to feel stressed and overworked. Her working life was very different from that of Dr Calder. She had spent long hours the previous day in A and E, doing her best to help the children in her care. She was the doctor in charge of the paediatric emergency department, and it was a responsible job, one that weighed heavily on her at times. She would be the first to admit that it sometimes took its toll on her.

Maybe that was the reason she had responded so badly to the programme. The truth was, Dr Calder, the latest hot new doctor out there enjoying celebrity status, had managed to graze a raw nerve with his bright and breezy invitation to watch events unfold on TV. His role as lead presenter was to comment on events as the trauma team went on its travels attending to casualties. What did he know of hospital targets and patient throughput and the daily anguish of dealing with severely ill patients?

His was a light and fluffy job, involving nothing more than going out and about with the paramedics, or taking part in chat shows on the radio, writing a blog on his website or spouting his own type of wisdom on a variety of health issues. One of them shed even glanced at briefly, a magazine article on whether or not parents should let their children be vaccinated, and that was a subject guaranteed to put her on edge.

Not that she had seen or heard any of this up until now. She only had Helens version of what his work entailed and Helen appeared to be heavily biased in his favour.

Hes incredibly good-looking, shed enthused. Those lovely blue eyesand his voiceHe has such a deep, warm way of talking that he makes me go weak at the knees. He can come and assess my symptoms any day.

In spite of herself, Abby had laughed. Youre totally smitten, arent you?

Helen had nodded. Me and most of the women who work in A and E.

For her part, Abby hadnt paid much attention to the way he looked. She had only watched the programme in passing as shed sat at the computer. He had been doing a voice-over some of the time, and mostly her gaze had been riveted to the young woman, Megan, who had been going through the throes of labour. The poor girl had been asking for painkillers, and a film of sweat had broken out on her brow.

Abby had switched off the TV set in a fit of annoyance. Was nothing sacred any more? She had been so fired up by the whole set of events that she had rattled off her comments without a second thought. It was only now, a couple of days later, that she had begun to regret her haste. She was a paediatrician, for heavens sake, a specialist in A and E, it ought to be beyond her to behave in such an impulsive manner. Why had she even bothered to write in? Hadnt she anything better to do with her time?

And to send off another message at breakfast-time today, well, that had to be pure folly, hadnt it? What on earth was wrong with her?

She pulled out on to the city road and flicked on the car radio so that she wouldnt have to listen to her own thoughts any longer.

Were glad to have you with us for our twice-weekly programme, Morning Surgery, with Dr Matt Calder, the radio host was saying in reverent tones, and Abbys breath hissed into her lungs. Before we open the door to the first patient, we just have time for a few words with our amiable physician. He paused. Dr Calder, I see youve been going through your post in the last few minutes. Whats new for today? Abbys fingers were poised to find the off button, but she had to negotiate traffic and for the moment she let it ride.

Medical ethics seem to be on the agenda right now, Dr Calder replied. His voice floated over the airways, easygoing, friendly and compellingly smooth, and Abby had no doubt that he would be soothing troubled souls all over the nation.

People have been replying to the comment made by the doctor who objected to the cameras following patients to the emergency room. I have to say that opinion is divided on the matter, with some for and some against. Weve actually had another, rather more strongly worded message from the doctor herself this morning, pointing out that what were doing is akin to exploitation.

He proceeded to read out some of her hastily written comments, and Abbys cheeks filled with heat. Having him repeat her words only served to add a new dimension to her embarrassment.

He had stopped to take a breath, and Abby could imagine him giving a wry smile. There was a definite inflection in his voice as he went on, I tend to see it more as helping people to learn from others experiences. We hope that by televising these situations, others might be less afraid and better informed if they should find themselves in similar situations. We are very grateful to Megan and people like her who allow us to share their particular traumas. Some people are extraordinarily outgoing and generous in their outlook. We thank them heartily.

Some people are extraordinarily outgoing and generous? Abby pressed her lips together. What did that make her? The way he spoke, the implication was that, in contrast, she was clearly a crabby spinster.

By now she had arrived in the grounds of the hospital. She switched off the radio with a jerking twist of her fingers and then she parked the car in her dedicated slot. Sliding out of the drivers seat, she straightened up, locked the doors, and then pulled in a deep breath, assuming the mantle of consultant paediatrician. She had a difficult job to do, and it took every ounce of her reserves. She was the one who set the tone for the A and E department, and people had to be able to trust her to work efficiently and set in place a good atmosphere. Her colleagues relied on her to provide them with guidance and a good example, though what they would make of her recent outbursts via the website they all seemed to favour was anybodys guess.

Ive checked on all the patients in the observation ward, Helen said, coming to greet her a short time later. Everyone seems fairly stable at the moment. I thought maybe you would want to transfer the six-year-old to the childrens ward, though. His breathing is still impaired, and hes certainly not well enough to be sent home.

Abby glanced at the boys chart. Yes, I agree with you. As to the boy with the head injury, well need to find him a bed, too. The others will probably be able to go home later today, but well monitor them up until lunchtime.

Helen nodded. Ill organise that. We seem to be busy this morning. Theres a full waiting room already and we have an incoming patient from a domestic accident, a girl who scalded herself.

Abby winced. It never ends, does it? Theres always some poor little scrap who ends up being hurt when it might have been avoided.

She glanced at Helen. The registrars black hair was sleek and shining, expertly cut to fall neatly into place at the nape of her neck. It lifted and swirled in a delicate flurry as she turned her head.

Youre looking good today, Abby remarked. Have you been to the hairdresser?

The registrar grinned. I thought Id better make an effort, she murmured. We have the interviews later today, remember. I figured I should do my best to look impeccably groomed and professional, as you asked me to sit in on them.

Is that today? Abby grimaced. I havent looked at the diary yet but, of course, youre right. I remember thinking that I ought to put in another advertisement. Judging from the response we had, I dont think were going to find the person we want. Most people want full-time work, but the budget wont run to that. No wonder were run off our feet most of the time. We need more doctors, not to mention more specialist nurses and a whole load of other staff, like porters and other ancillary staff to take up some of the burden.

You never know, we might get lucky. We could find someone wholl be able to do the work of ten men.

Abby chuckled. We can always dream, cant we?

She went to check on the incoming patient, and for the next couple of hours she was busy dealing with youngsters and their various injuries. She tried, as ever, to push their distress to the back of her mind, and concentrated on providing pain relief and applying treatment that would promote healing and lessen their discomfort.

Weve a child coming in from a traffic accident, the senior house officer told her. It looks like a displaced midshaft femur fracture. Hes three years old. Apparently he ran into the road and the car driver didnt manage to stop in time to avoid hitting him.

OK, Sam. Make sure that trauma room four is ready to receive him. Wed better have Helen on standby if shes freeand tell radiology to expect him for a CT scan.

Will do. Sam moved away to set things in motion and Abby prepared to take over from the paramedics when they wheeled the little boy into the emergency room.

He was unconscious when we reached him, the paramedic told her. An airways been put in, and weve set up two intravenous lines. His right thigh appears to be deformed from the impact.

Thanks for that, Lewis. She glanced at him. Ill let you know how he gets on.

He looked relieved. Thanks, Abby. Ill pop back later on. Hes such a tiny little thing. I hope hell do all right.

So do I.

He moved away and she began to swiftly examine the boy. The abdomen is distended, with decreased bowel sounds, she told Sam when he returned to her side. The pelvis is stable, but the thigh is swollen and tense. Hes still unresponsive. Well get a CT of the abdomen to check for any lacerations, and X-ray the leg to see what were dealing with. It will most likely need fixation, so you should ring for the orthopaedic surgeon to come and take a look.

Im on it. Sam hurried away once more, while Abby checked with the nurse as to the boys immediate care.

She was writing out the drugs requisition when a man came over to the trolley and said, I think he may have banged his head on the road surface when the accident happened. Im wondering if he might have a head injury as well as all his other problems.

Abby glanced up at the man. Well take care of him, she said. We always check for head injury in these cases. Are you the boys father?

No, but his parents are on their way. Apparently he was playing at a friends house when the accident happened.

Oh, I see. Abby studied him a little more closely. Looking at him was way too distracting, she discovered. He was exceptionally good-looking, with hair that was midnight black, and he was around six feet tall, broad-shouldered and fit, with an athletic build that gave her the idea that he probably worked out regularly. He was wearing an expensively tailored, dark grey suit that sat well on him, and his shirt was a mid-blue, crisp and fresh-looking. She dragged her mind back to the task in hand.

So who are you? she asked. Are you a relative?

No. I was on my way to the hospital when I saw the accident happen, and I stopped to see if I could help in any way. I was concerned about the little fellow, and I just wanted to see how he was doing. I wanted to make sure that you didnt rule out the possibility of a head injury. I think there might be some damage to his spleen as well.

You sound very knowledgeable, Abby remarked as she started to write out the forms for Radiology. Are you a doctor?

Yes, thats right, I am. I have a strong interest in A and E and the way these departments operate.

Well, well take care of him. You can rest assured that well do everything thats necessary to make certain hes looked after properly, Abby told him.





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