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By Jennifer Taylor
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"What we're hoping for is some sort of big emergency. A multiple car crash would be great! We want to grab the viewers by the scruffs of their necks and stop them reaching for their remote controls and changing channels."
"I'm surprised you haven't thought about it before, Hugh, and set something up."
Dominic Walsh tilted back his chair and placed his elegantly shod feet on the edge of the desk. There was a sardonic gleam in his green eyes as he noted the fervent expression on the other man's face.
They were sitting in a trailer that had been parked on the forecourt of St Justin's Hospital in London. All around them there was a hive of activity as the crew prepared for that week's episode of Health Matters, the country's top-rated medical show. Today was the opening of the hospital's newly refurbished Accident and Emergency unit and the show's producers had decided that they would spend the day there.
There were half a dozen live broadcasts scheduled throughout the day, plus regular updates on any patients who were treated. As the host of the show, Dominic was confident that it would draw a wide audience, although he wasn't sure if he agreed with the decision to spend so much time in the unit. The staff would be trying to find their feet, and the last thing he wanted was to make life more difficult for them.
"Surely it wouldn't be that difficult to stage an accident so you can get the effect you want?" he suggested drily.
"No, no, that's the whole point! We want real-life drama, the cutting edge of accident and emergency care as it happens. God forbid that our audience should think we're faking it!"
Hugh glanced round distractedly as one of the crew stuck his head round the door to tell him there was a problem with the lighting. He seemed unaware that Dominic's suggestion hadn't been a serious one. "I'll have to go and sort that out. Here's a list of the staff you'll be interviewing. They've all agreed to co-operate, apart from the senior registrar. She's made it clear that she wants nothing to do with the show."
Dominic frowned as he glanced at the clipboard Hugh had given him and saw a red line scored through one of the names. "So what's Dr Michelle Roberts got against becoming a television star?"
"No idea," Hugh replied as he grabbed a wad of notes off the desk. He hurried to the door then stopped and glanced back.
"Any chance you could try a bit of the famous Walsh charm on the lady, Dominic? She's quite a looker from all accounts and she could be a big draw for the male members of our audience if you could persuade her to co-operate."
"I'll try, but I'm not promising anything." Dominic swung his feet to the floor and stood up. "She might be a man-hater for all we know."
"Well, if you can't talk her round then nobody can," Hugh replied cheerfully as he made a hurried exit.
Dominic sighed as he followed Hugh out of the van. He still wasn't comfortable with the idea that he had become the nation's latest heart-throb. Oh, he was realistic enough to know that his looks had helped enormously when he'd decided to change track a couple of years ago and opt for this type of work.
The fact that he was six feet tall, leanly built with black hair and what one tabloid journalist had termed a 'killer smile' had definitely worked in his favour. However, he hated the thought that what he did might get trivialised because of it, and that people might not realise the true purpose behind Health Matters. Raising public awareness of the need for good health care had always been his main aim.
He shrugged aside the thought as he made his way to the A and E department. Although it wouldn't be opened officially for another half-hour, there was quite a crowd already gathered in the waiting area. His arrival caused a bit of a stir and he stopped a number of times to sign autographs for several of the people who were waiting to be seen.
"I just love your show, Dr Walsh. I never miss an episode."
"Thank you." He quickly signed his name on the scrap of paper the elderly woman had presented him with, then frowned in concern when he noticed the gash on her forehead. "How did you do that?"
"I tripped over the cat," she explained ruefully. "Silly of me, wasn't it? Do you think it will need stitching?"
"Well, I'm -" Dominic had been about to say that he was sure the doctor would decide on the best course of treatment when a cool, female voice suddenly forestalled him.
"I think we should wait until we've examined you, Mrs MacFarland, before we decide if you need stitches. The nurse will call you through very shortly."
Dominic swung round but the woman who had spoken to them had already walked away. He just caught a glimpse of a rigidly straight back and the most wonderful pair of legs he'd ever had the good fortune to see before she disappeared into one of the treatment rooms.
He quickly handed over the autograph, excused himself and went to the reception desk, wondering why that fleeting glimpse should have made his skin prickle in such a peculiar fashion. It felt as though a current of static electricity had suddenly passed through his system, and although it wasn't an unpleasant feeling it surprised him enough to want to know a little more about the woman who had caused such a reaction.
"I'm Dominic Walsh," he began, but the middle-aged receptionist didn't give him a chance to finish introducing himself.
"I know! Oh, I just love your programme, Dr Walsh. It's absolutely the best thing on television!"
"Thank you." Dominic glanced at the identity badge pinned to her blouse. "I wonder if you could help me, Trisha? Who was that woman who spoke to me just now?"
"Oh, that was Dr Roberts. She's the senior registrar in A and E." The receptionist lowered her voice confidingly. "Actually, she was offered the consultancy post after we were refurbished, but she turned it down. Said that she didn't want to have to waste her time playing politics."
"Really? That is interesting."
Dominic smiled, although it was an effort to hide his surprise. Few doctors would turn down the chance of a consultancy in this day and age when it meant missing out on all the perks that went with the job. Not that he didn't sympathise with her, of course. In his experience, the higher up the ladder you climbed, the more time you spent fighting for staffing and funding, or whatever else was on the agenda.
It was one of the main reasons why he had opted out of hands-on medicine, in fact. If he was going to do anything to improve the country's health-care system he needed to concentrate all his energies on that, rather than trying to split himself in two all the time.
Still, it did make him see that it could be interesting if Dr Roberts could be persuaded to air her views on live television. Although Hugh had said that she wasn't keen to appear on the show, he was confident that he would be able to change her mind with a little gentle encouragement.
"I'd really love to talk to Dr Roberts, Trisha. Do you think she would agree to be interviewed?"
"I'm not sure about that." Trisha looked a little embarrassed. "Dr Roberts wasn't very keen on having you here, I'm afraid. She said that the last thing people need when they're ill is a television camera being pointed at them."
Excerpted from Life Support by Jennifer Taylor Copyright ©2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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