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Therapeutic response is evident within two weeks with a maximum response in four weeks.'

'Is that response maintained in long-term therapy?' Oliver asked around a mouthful of biscuit. Sophie eyed the remaining peanut brownies on the plate with distaste.

Christine nodded enthusiastically. 'Absolutely. The dose response study showed a reduction in total cholesterol of 35 to 50 per cent. LDL reduced in the range of 43 to 65 per cent and triglycerides by 20 to 35 per cent.' Christine smiled at Sophie. 'Have a muffin.' She pushed a plate of tempting-looking savoury muffins closer. 'Or a peanut brownie. Oliver says they're great.'

'No, thanks. I'm not hungry,' Sophie responded. She was watching Christine closely. She knew her subject all right Probably had to be reasonably intelligent to field queries from the doctors. Like the one Oliver was asking, with great interest, about contraindications and drug interactions.

'There's the usual contraindication for lipid-lowering drugs in active liver disease, pregnancy and lactation,' Christine responded confidently. 'Clinical studies haven't shown any adverse interactions with anti-hypertensive agents. Digoxin levels have to be monitored, of course. Steady-state digoxin concentrations can go up by about 20 per cent. But, then, you would keep a careful eye on your patients' levels routinely.' Her glance at Oliver was admiring. 'You'll find this product comparable with or better than whatever you currently prescribe. The results are consistent in all forms of hyperlipidaemia, including patients with NIDDM.'

Sophie's interest quickened despite her inclinations. Ruby Murdock had non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. She also had a high cholesterol level. If her diet didn't achieve control then she would need some drug therapy to reduce the increased risk she was running of heart problems.

'I'll leave you all the info,' Christine promised. 'And some samples. I'll look forward to hearing what you think next time I'm here.'

Josh was playing with the Swiss army knife emblazoned with Christine's drug company logo which must have been the gift of the day. He eyed Janet as she collected mugs and took them over to the sink. Then he eyed the knife beside Oliver. Sophie smiled as she saw Josh pick up both knives as he excused himself. One for each of the twins, no doubt. Josh Cooper was quite a softie about kids, no matter what he advertised concerning his own lack of interest in having a family.

The gesture on Josh's part and the delight she saw on Janet's face as Josh whispered in her ear and slipped the knives into her pocket chased away the unpleasant side of having to sit and watch Oliver Spencer and his girlfriend. Christine was packing up, sorting leaflets and samples into a pile for Oliver.

'I hear you had a great weekend, Christine,' Sophie said sociably. 'Fantastic, even.'

Christine gave her a startled look. 'What? Where did you hear that?'

Sophie merely raised her eyebrows and smiled knowingly. Christine's confused glance flicked over to Oliver who appeared to have spotted something of consuming interest through the window that overlooked the car park. She looked back at Sophie and shook her head enough to make her curls bounce again. 'I think you might have your wires crossed,' she said apologetically. 'It's
this
weekend I'm planning to really let my hair down.'

Oliver's attention snapped back. He licked his lips. 'That sounds very promising,' he murmured suggestively.

'I hope so.' Christine flicked the locks on her briefcase. 'The last few weekends really haven't been up to scratch at all.'

Sophie's jaw sagged. Just what sort of standard did the men in Christine Prescott's life have to aspire to? She sat in a slightly stunned silence as the drug rep left. Oliver hurried after her.

'Have you got a minute, Christine?' Sophie heard him ask casually. 'I'd like a quick word.'

'Sure, Oliver.' There was the sound of something being dropped and then Christine giggled. 'Ooh, thanks.'

'Come into my office.' Oliver also sounded amused. 'We'll have a bit more room. It won't take long.'

Perhaps that had been the problem, Sophie thought acerbically as she stalked past Oliver's firmly closed door seconds later. She gave the solid wooden panels a dirty look. Maybe that's why the last few weekends hadn't been up to scratch. Christine Prescott's fragile appearance probably disguised a rampant sexual appetite and stamina that few men could handle.

Sophie couldn't resist having a dig at Oliver when she passed him later that morning. 'Not up to scratch,' she said sadly. 'You'll have to try a bit harder, Oliver.'

'I intend to.' Oliver sighed happily. 'What a challenge! Practice makes perfect, of course.'

'Of course,' Sophie agreed. God, it was hard to smile convincingly when your jaws were clenched.

She felt like kicking something. Preferably Oliver. Perhaps it was fortunate that her next patient was Pagan Ellis. For the first time Sophie really felt confident that she could put an end to this nonsense of a birth in the surf. She wasn't going to allow this patient's forceful personality, however attractive, to persuade her into involvement with something she was far from happy about. If she wanted a water birth, fine. Hospital facilities still catered for what had once been a popular option.

'Sit down, Pagan,' she invited crisply. 'I'm delighted to see that you did go along for the scan.'

'It was cool. You were right,' Pagan said happily. 'The baby was really in tune with the ultrasound waves. It was moving around all over the place. The girl doing the scan said it was difficult to take measurements. It looked like it was trying to dance.'

Sophie wasn't going to be distracted by Pagan's fervent imagination. 'The estimated gestation according to size is about two weeks longer than you made it. That's quite a big difference. Are you sure of your dates?'

'Are you kidding?' Pagan's eyes were round with disbelief. 'This has all been planned by the stars down to the last
second.
I know when I conceived.'

'Are your periods always so regular?'

'How do you mean?'

'Well, if you always had a cycle of, say, twenty-eight days, then you could be fairly confident of ovulating at around day 14. If they varied then there's no way of really being sure when ovulation occurred.
Were
they regular?'

'Sometimes.' Pagan looked vague. 'If I got stressed out and forgot to keep up my meditation and stuff then they got a bit mucked up.'

'What's the shortest cycle you've ever had?'

'Oh, about two weeks, I guess.'

'And the longest?'

'I don't know.' Pagan looked bored. 'A couple of months, maybe.'

Sophie sighed and made a note.

'Look, it doesn't really matter, does it?' Pagan asked impatiently. 'I am pregnant now and that's what's important.'

'Exactly.' Sophie wasn't about to let Pagan start running this interview. 'I have a few concerns, the least of which right now is your exact delivery date.' She tapped her pen on Pagan's file. 'You've refused to have any blood tests. We don't know your blood group, which could be important if you needed a transfusion. We don't know your rhesus factor status. We don't even know your haemoglobin level. If you're anaemic, then the amount of oxygen carried to the baby will drop. It will slow its development.'

'It's already big.' Pagan sounded smug.

'It will also affect brain development,' Sophie continued. 'You're over sixteen weeks now so we should be doing an AFP test which can detect abnormalities such as spina bifida. You haven't been checked for the possibility of syphilis either. If you had it and you weren't treated before week twenty, it could be passed to the baby.' Sophie tapped her pen again. 'You haven't even provided us with a routine urine sample, Pagan. Protein detected in urine can be a useful sign of complications in late pregnancy. Sugar can indicate diabetes, which is one cause of having abnormally large babies. You haven't even supplied me with the name and telephone number of this midwife you've chosen.'

Pagan was looking round-eyed again. 'Boy, you really know your stuff, Sophie. I'm impressed. And that list!' She pointed to the paper Sophie had been tapping her pen against. 'Very Virgo.' She caught Sophie's stern look. 'Hey! Birth isn't an illness, you know. It's a perfectly natural event. Plenty of women have produced babies in the wilderness totally unaided.'

'Most of them weren't having their first baby at thirty-seven,' Sophie pointed out calmly. 'And plenty of them died.'

'I let you do an internal examination and take a smear,' Pagan said indignantly: 'You've taken my blood pressure and weighed me. I'm doing my bit. I just want to do it my way.'

'Well, you've got to let me do some things my way,' Sophie said firmly. 'Otherwise I'm going to have to ask one of the partners here to take over for me.'

'You can't do that.' Pagan shook her head. 'I checked. There's a government paper on consumer rights within the health and disabilities services. I have the right to be provided with the services that take into account the needs, values and beliefs of my cultural, religious, social or ethnic group.'

It was Sophie's turn to look dumbfounded.

'Look,' Pagan said kindly. 'If it's so important to you I'll have a blood test. OK? I'll let you test my urine.'

Sophie smiled stiffly. 'That sounds like a good start.'

'What else did you want to do today?'

'Janet, our practice nurse, will take care of things like your weight and blood pressure. I would like to check the fetal heart beat and your abdominal measurements.'

'That's cool.' Pagan looked amenable. 'Anything else?'

'I'd like to contact your midwife.'

'Oh.' Pagan shrugged and looked wistful. 'Actually, we've had a bit of a falling out. She came to the conclusion that I should have a water birth in a hospital. Can you imagine? Some ghastly unhygienic bathtub that's already been used countless times.'

'I'm sure they get sterilised at frequent intervals,' Sophie said wearily. It clearly wasn't a good time to admit that she'd had the same brainwave. 'Come and hop up on the bed, Pagan. I'll just get the fetal stethoscope.'

She met Oliver on her way to the treatment room. 'I can't win,' she complained. 'Pagan Ellis is throwing government regulations about health customer consumer rights at me now.'

'Put it all down on paper,' Oliver advised. 'Spell out the risks as bluntly as you like and leave a space for her to sign that she understands and takes full responsibility. Let her take it home and think about it for a week or two.'

'That's a good idea.' Sophie nodded. 'Maybe some common sense might sink in.'

'I'll help you draft out the document if you like,' Oliver offered. 'I'll have plenty of time over the weekend.'

'Really?' Sophie raised her eyebrows pointedly.

'What about the promising session with the hair being really let down?'

Oliver looked taken aback. The slip was momentary but it was quite enough to arouse a surprising flash of suspicion in Sophie.

'I'm sure I'll still have time,' he said smoothly. 'I haven't got
that
much stamina. How 'bout coming in for an hour or two on Saturday morning?'

'Sorry.' The thought of an hour or two alone with Oliver when he was preoccupied with building up stamina for the rest of the weekend wasn't attractive. 'I think I might head up to Auckland this weekend.' Sophie had the satisfaction of seeing another disconcerted flash in Oliver's grey eyes. 'Maybe next week.'

In fact, Sophie drafted the document herself over a weekend that had to have been the worst since she had terminated her relationship with Greg. She'd had no intention of leaving town but, having said that she might, she didn't want to be spotted out walking or shopping. Who knew where Oliver and Christine might choose to go in order to recover from their bouts of over-exertion?

'This is totally ridiculous,' Sophie told herself more than once. She didn't really know what was going on between them. Maybe they
hadn't
had such a good time in Hanmer Springs. Christine's indifference had been puzzling. But the thought of Oliver Spencer being less than truthful was unthinkable. And he was right. Just look at the misery Sophie had managed to create in her own life by being less than truthful. She'd done it again by suggesting that she might head to Auckland for the weekend. The thought had clearly bothered Oliver. But why?

At least having to write up a document for Pagan to sign occupied an hour or two. Sophie dragged out her heavy obstetric textbook and listed all the complications of birth she could find that would be totally impossible to manage out of a hospital setting. Oliver would need to check it over. It might even need a medico-legal opinion, but Sophie eyed the completed draft with satisfaction. It should scare anyone into demanding that a high-tech obstetric unit be within easy availability.

High-tech. Sophie chewed her lip thoughtfully. Hadn't Pagan mentioned something about the Internet and the age of Aquarius being big on technology? Maybe that would be a more effective approach. Sophie made a trip to the local library late on Saturday afternoon. She returned home, armed with several books on astrology, which turned out to be a bonus by occupying her for a large portion of a cold, wet Sunday.

Oliver Spencer looked tired on Monday morning and was definitely less exuberantly cheerful. Sophie felt vaguely disgusted by this evidence of such an active weekend. She wished he hadn't bothered stepping into her consulting room to greet her.

'How was Auckland?' Oliver enquired politely.

'I didn't go after all,' Sophie said nonchalantly. She was through with being less than truthful. Completely cured.

'Really?' Oliver perked up. 'Why not?'

'Nothing to go for,' Sophie responded.

'Really?' Oliver repeated. 'That's a shame.' His tone didn't suggest any sympathy. 'So it's really all over between you and what's-his-name, then? No hope of a reconciliation?'

'No.' Sophie looked away and shifted papers on her desk purposefully. 'I've drafted a document for Pagan Ellis to sign,' she said briskly. 'Maybe you could read it over and let me know what you think.'

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