He took a final puff on the cigarette in his hand, then flicked it into the show, watching as it disappeared beneath the white cover. "Those things will kill you," a woman said from behind him.
Daniel smiled, but he didn't turn around. He'd heard the front door open earlier, caught the scent of the expensive cologne which had been his gift to her. It had reminded him of her somehow. "I wondered if you were going to speak or just stand there, my dear."
Mildred came carefully down the steps to join him. "I wasn't sure myself," she admitted. "I was trying to decide how I was going to say what I have to say."
"I've found the best way is to simply say the words, Miss Krebs. But-may I say something first?"
Mildred's eyes were wary and uncertain as she looked up at him. "I suppose."
"I've seen how much Harry- your Mr. Steele- means to you."
"I love them both as if they were my own kids," Mildred began, but Daniel lifted a hand.
"Of course. But Laura already HAS a mother. And while dear Abigail does have her faults, she loves Laura. Harry also thinks very highly of you. I suppose, in a sense, the two of us are all the family he has. Family of his own, that is." He sighed. "I'm making a mess of this. What I'm trying to say, Miss Krebs- Mildred, is that I'm glad he has you around to give him sound, sensible advice. Someone to give him the mothering he so desparately needs at times."
Mildred's eyes narrowed. "Don't you try to con me, Daniel Chalmers. You and I both know that you've never approved of Laura. You've done everything you could to pry those two apart-"
"I'm serious, my dear. And the only reason I tried at all to lure Harry back to the life was to test his resolve to remain with Laura. To find out if being Remington Steele was what he truly wanted to do. I knew the moment I saw him as Remington Steele that I'd lost Harry. He expected me to do everything I could to get him back- and so did Laura." He smiled at the memories. "If you were to ask, I think she'd tell you that she actually enjoyed our competition. Even though she had no way of knowing that she'd already won the game."
Mildred looked at him as if trying to gauge his sincerity. "I don't know if I should believe you or not."
"Then give me a chance to prove it to you," he suggested. "I told Harry I'd go back to Los Angeles with all of you tomorrow." He looked out over the snow covered yards. "Perhaps I could convince you to have dinner with me one evening?"
"A nice restaurant, pleasant conversation-"
"And at some point you try to con me out of my life savings," Mildred said, but he could tell she was wavering.
"Not at all, Mildred. I'd never try to con someone who's as close to Harry as you are. For one thing, he'd never forgive me. And for another- I don't con people that I like."
"But- what about- I thought you and Abigail were-"
"We're friends. Besides, she's going back to Connecticut tomorrow, and won't be in Los Angeles for awhile. Not until Harry and Laura set a date for their wedding, anyway."
"She thinks you're more than friends," Mildred told him. "While we were in the kitchen earlier, she told me all about her visit to your villa in the South of France a few years ago."
Daniel's eyes met hers. "I made Abigail no promises, Mildred," Daniel said quietly. "In fact, I hadn't seen or spoke to her since that visit until I arrived here last night." He watched her carefully. "Why don't you think about it? And once we're back in Los Angeles, I'll ask again."
"I guess I can do that," Mildred agreed. Oh. Thank you for the perfume."
"Perfume, my dear?" Daniel smiled to himself at the thought of anyone calling two hundred dollar and ounce French cologne "perfume".
"The label was in French. And I've never seen it in any stores in Los Angeles. It had to have been bought in Paris. And since you're probably the only one who's been there recently-"
"And how would you know that?"
"I asked Mr. Steele if you spent much time in Paris," she explained.
"Ah. I see. I bought it the day I called Laura and told her that I would be here after all. I was looking for something for her, actually. But the scent reminded me of you instead."
"Me? We've hardly spoken two words to each other since that time at the Duke of Rutherford's place. When you tried to pass Mr. Steele off as his heir?" she reminded him.
He saw her shiver and pull her cape closer. "Are you cold?"
"A little, I guess. I'm not used to a cold climate."
Noting how thin the cape was, he took her arm and gently steered her back toward the house. "It's late. And we have a flight back to Los Angeles tomorrow," he told her.
"I'm fine," she insisted, and Daniel sighed in frustration at the 'modern independent woman' .
"Well, I'm freezing to death," he told her as he opened the front door and lowered his voice. "Besides, we can't have you catching a cold, now, can we?" He closed the door and locked it before turning them toward the stairs. "Harry would never forgive me."
Mildred paused at her doorway. "Do you have an answer for everything?"
He shook his head. "Not everything." He took her hand in his. "Goodnight, my dear. Pleasant dreams." He lifted her hand to his lips and bowed slightly before leaving her to continue to his own room down the hall.
It wasn't until Abigail Holt's flight left the ground the following afternoon that Mildred was certain that her late night talk with Daniel hadn't been simply a dream.
Until she's boarded the flight, Daniel had spent every moment at Abigail's side, charming her into not moving back to Los Angeles, into not going back with the rest of them now instead of going home.
Even Frances seemed to join the collective sigh of relief when she was finally gone. She started sheparding her brood toward their own flight, with Laura and Remington close by. When Mildred turned to join them, she found Daniel at her side.
"Alone at last," he commented with a smile.
Mildred cast a cautious glance toward the others. "Alone? In this bunch?"
"For the moment," he temporized, then sighed. "You don't want them to know that we're- friends." It was a statement, not a question.
Mildred looked up at him. "Are we? Friends? We barely know each other."
"A situation that can be easily rectified, my dear. Have dinner with me tonight. I promise that I'll answer any question you ask."
"Truthfully?" she queried.
"As truthfully as I can," he replied.
Mildred aws still afraid to trust him. He was a con man, pickpocket, who knew what else- but then, Mr. Steele had once been all those things too. And she knew that she could trust Mr. Steele. And HE trusted Daniel. She opened her mouth to say yes, but Laura Holt's voice disturbed the moment.
"Mildred! Daniel! They've called our flight!"
There was no chance for them to talk on the flight back to Los Angeles, a fact for which Mildred wasn't sure if she was grateful- or frustrated. Mindy and Danny both fought over who would sit beside their recently dubbed "Aunt Mildred". IN the end, Daniel took Danny under his wing, leaving Mildred to converse with his sister.
As for Remington and Laura, the two of them talked quietly, ensconsed in a world of their own.
At LAX, the Pipers quickly said their goodbyes and went to their car. Remington and Laura watched as Fred began to put their cases in to the trunk of the limo, then turned to Mildred and Daniel. "Mr. Chalmers cases as well, Fred," Remington instructed the driver.
But Daniel shook his head. "I'll get a cab to a hotel, Harry."
"A hotel?" Remington questioned as Laura slipped her arm though his.
Daniel's eyes met Laura's with a knowing look. "Your apartment is a bit- small for three people," he noted. "I won't have any trouble finding a room, I'm sure," he assured his friend.
Mildred spoke up, telling herself that she was only trying to reassure Mr. Steele. "I'll be glad to drop Mr. Chalmers off wherever he needs to go, Mr. Steele."
Daniel's smile was filled with gratitude and something that Mildred didn't want to think about. "See, my boy? Everything is taken care of. You two go on. I'm sure Mildred and I will find a way to muddle through."
"If you're certain I can't change your mind," Remington said.
"Not a chance," Daniel insisted.
"Then you'll drop by for dinner tonight?"
Daniel sighed. "Perhaps lunch tomorrow would be a better idea, Harry," he suggested.
"A MUCH better idea," Laura agreed with a grateful smile as Fred opened the rear door of the limo. She got into the car and sat back. "We'll see you tomorrow, Mildred."
When Remington would have hesitated further, still unwilling to put his old friend out on the street, Mildred glanced down the roadway. "You'd better get the limo moving, Chief. This is only a ten minute parking zone."
Remington nodded as Daniel promised, "I'll give you call later when I'm settled somewhere, Harry." Remington reluctantly got into the limo with Laura and Fred closed the door before getting behind the steering wheel and pulling into traffic.
Once the car was out of sight, Daniel smiled at Mildred once more. "Alone at last- again."
Mildred picked up her suitcase. "My car's this way," she told him, starting forward, only to have him deftly take her case in his free hand.
As they neared the car, Mildred told him, "The only reason I agreed to this was because I saw how worried Mr. Steele was."
Daniel's smile never faltered as she unlocked the trunk of her car. "If you say so, my dear," was his response. He lifted the cases into the car. "Shall we?"
He didn't offer to drive, which surprised Mildred. It wasn't until they were out of the airport that she asked, "Do you have a preference for a hotel?"
Daniel looked thoughtful. "There's a small European style hotel on Davenport. The owner's an old friend. I'm sure he'll put me up."
At the Devon House, Daniel easily found a room. The uniformed bellhop carried Daniel's case toward the grille fronted elevator, but Daniel paused to speak to Mildred. "You never gave me an answer about dinner."
She wanted to say yes, but something held her back. He was too smooth. Too sure of himself. "Oh, I don't know, Daniel. It's been a long day-"
"All the more reason for you to pamper yourself with a meal cooked by someone else. I have it on excellent authority that the chef here is superb. Much nicer than having to cook something for yourself at home, don't you think?" He must have read the hesitation in her eyes, because he took her hand. "Tell you what, I have to eat anyway. I'll be in the dining room at seven. I hope you won't force me to endure a solitary repaste," he told her, lifting her hand to his lips. "I'll walk you out to your car," he offered.