Give Me A Steele Sometime
By Ilsa Lund
Part Two
Disclaimer, rating etc. in part one.

At 8.40am, Bernice Fox pushed open the suite doors and emitted a contented sigh. She sat at her desk and savoured the scene. No phones ringing, no press or police insisting to see the boss, no mad stampede of desperate clients, no
"Ah! Good morning! Good morning Miss Wolfe! Lovely day, eh?" The immaculately groomed man boomed at her.
"Oh no! This isn't happening! This can't be happening! You've finally taken away the last bit of pleasure I get from my working day! What are you doing here at this time?" she cried.
"I'm here because I live and breathe the intoxicating adrenaline rush of detective work. However, taking away the last bit of pleasure you get from your working day is a huge bonus too! Miss Holt in yet?"
Bernice responded glumly. "I'm the only one here. Apart from you that is."
Steele could barely contain his glee. He'd beaten Laura to work. Perfect for his little scheme. "Would you be so kind as to bring me a cup of tea and my morning paper in five minutes?"
"Anything to get you out of my hair."
"I'll take that as eagerness to please, Miss Wolfe."

Steele entered his office and opened the connecting door to Laura's. He stealthily made his way to her filing cabinet for the drawers containing current cases. Getting up at the crack of dawn - comparatively speaking would be worth it if fortune smiled on him. He could see it now: white sands, clear blue sea, scorching sun, Laura in an outrageously tiny bikini that she wouldn't be wearing for very long! Then they'd bring one of his fantasies to life and re-enact the most celebrated scene of `From Here To Eternity' he'd take the Burt Lancaster role, she'd be Deborah Kerr. The warm water would wash over their naked forms as they rolled around on the beach. Smirking lewdly to himself, Steele rushed back into his chair ready to receive his morning ritual.

"Good morning!" Laura sang. What a wonderful day! The sun was shining, the traffic had been light, it was Friday and she'd also finally find out exactly who her charming con-artist was.
"Not any more it ain't!" Bernice sipped her coffee.
"What have I done to deserve this Laura? It was bad enough having him around in the afternoons but now he's here early in the mornings too!"
"Mr Steele's here?" She couldn't keep the shock out of her voice.
"Here where? In this office or on this planet?"
"Where's Murphy?"
"Not in yet," her secretary responded.

Laura paced, brow furrowed, deep in thought. "He's up to something. I can feel it. But what? Have you taken any calls for him from shady characters?"
"No, sorry."
"Angry bookies?"
"Irate loan sharks?"
"Greedy fences?"
"It was his former profession." Laura explained.
Bernice shrugged, "No."
"FBI? CIA? Interpol?"
"Sorry no calls of that kind. Unfortunately."
"Friends of his in trouble?"
Laura pondered every possible scenario and came up with an unwelcome idea. "Okay. I'm going for a touchdown. A woman named Felicia?"
"An English lady rang yesterday and she wouldn't leave her name. But that was yesterday Laura! I've taken no calls for him today and he didn't act like he was expecting any either. He came in, gave me a headache and asked for a cup of tea and his paper!"
"There has to be a reason! This is the Superbowl of possibilities. Has Daniel Chalmers called here for him? Or a Leighton St Clair? Eric Gunar? Colonel Reginald Frobish?"
"No, sorry! None of the above."
Laura paced in frustration and then resigned herself to her fate. "I'll be in his office. Tell Murphy I need him as soon as he gets in." She walked purposefully towards the door, composed herself, knocked briefly and entered.
A sipping Steele peeked above his paper. "Ah, there you are Miss Holt! I was just about to send out a search party!"
She exhaled deeply. "Bit early in the day for you isn't it Mr Steele?"
"Laura, it was only a matter of time before some of your more endearing traits rubbed off on me! Speaking of rubbing, what brand of sun tan lotion should I buy for you? Wouldn't want that delicate skin of yours burnt in the Caribbean sun before I sample it!"
She crossed her arms, "Don't get cocky Mr Steele! That's the best way of ensuring you fall flat on your face!"
"Rest assured that the only thing I'm aiming to fall flat on is a rather slender brunette!" He flashed her a flirtatious glance over his paper.
"Well, when you find her, give her my best." Laura responded.
"With any luck Miss Holt, she'll be giving me her best!" He folded the newspaper and smiled warmly into her eyes.
There was no answer to that. "Mr Steele, we have business to conduct so while I'm discussing the Jennings matter with Murphy"
"Shouldn't I be included in that discussion? I'm already helping with the case, coming up with suppositions, bouncing my theories back and forth"
"Yes Mr Steele you are and I'll fill you in if we come up with anything in the meantime. But right now I'd appreciate it if you could work on your speech forthe `Save Poopsie's Poodle Parlour' fundraiser."
"Really Laura! The Remington Steele agency dragged into a canine concern? Isn't that rather beneath us?" He couldn't disguise his disdain.
"Think laterally Mr Steele. Those pampered poodles are owned by some of the wealthiest people in LA. It's good PR for the agency, so go along, say your little speech, flash your visage and those pearly whites for the cameras and press the flesh. I'm not asking you to do something you haven't done before."
"Oh if only you would Laura. If only you would!" He fiddled with the knot of his tie. "Press the flesh, you say?" She silently nodded as he sighed. "I suppose there's no harm getting some practice in before we go away. Must I really do this?"
She walked over to him and patted his shoulder. "Yes, Mr Steele. You must."
"The travails I put up with for the sake of the agency! You know"
He was interrupted by a knock on the door. Murphy popped his head around and immediately addressed Laura. "I heard it but I didn't believe it so I thought I'd check for myself. I told Bernice that a pig would fly first, that hell would freeze over, that"
"Good morning to you too Murphy." Steele pointedly remarked. "You don't look awake yet. Out late last night were we?" He was fully aware of Laura's warning glare but he ignored it.
"No, we weren't. I was."
"Don't be bashful Murphy! Regale us with a summation of your evening. Do anything in particular?"
Murphy answered him evenly but directed his remark at Laura. "I paid a visit to a very special lady."
"Really? Anyone I know?" Steele quietly winced as he felt the bruising kick on his shin.
Laura jumped in quickly. "While I'm sure this is all very interesting, business awaits so let's catch up on each other's social activities later. Murphy, come into my office and let's talk Jennings! Mr Steele, you should get started on that speech. They're counting on us. Or rather, on you."

She motioned to Murphy who followed through the connecting door into her office. He stole a quick look at her: as usual her vibrancy and energy could power an entire state. In contrast, he felt lousy. It killed him to admit it but the miscreant in the other room had keen observation skills. He'd slept fitfully. Something about his evening with Laura didn't feel right but he couldn't put his finger on it.
"So partner, did you catch up on your sleep last night as planned?"
"Eventually. Thanks for the flowers and for keeping me company." She briefly touched his arm.
"Hey, anytime. I enjoyed it. It's been ages since we've spent any time together. I hardly see you at the office these days. I was beginning to forget what you look like!"
Laura smiled at him fondly. "Okay, Jennings! Hold on Murph while I dig out the file." She opened the top drawer of her cabinet then quickly closed it.
Frowning, she moved downwards and repeated the exercise. Not believing her senses, she cracked open the top drawer again. Surely not? Yep! That's why he got in so early! That Machiavellian cheat!
"Murph, I've just got to brief Mr Steele on something. Would you excuse me for a moment?"
As she entered Steele's office again, he looked up from the rough notes he was busily composing.
"How does this sound to you?" Theatrically clearing his throat he pronounced, "Ladies and gentlemen, we at the Remington Steele detective agency are very proud to act in this capacity today, lending our support to your wonderfully worthy cause. They say that man's best friend is-"
"L'eau Dupont."
Steele flicked through his papers then returned his attention to Laura, who stood before him, arms crossed. "Actually I was going to say that man's best friend is a member of the canine family." He stalled for time. "Do you want this changed to man's best friend is some chap named Loe Dupont instead?"
"You sneaky, wily"
"Laura, if you don't like my speech all you have to do is say so!"
"I knew you were up to something! You got here early specifically to creep into my office and spray L'eau Dupont in my filing cabinet didn't you? Because you know how much I love that scent. Two nights ago I told you it was my favourite cologne of yours when I waswhile you werejust before we you know! And now you're using it to stimulate me like a Pavlovian dog, that's just your style!"
"Doggy style, eh?" Steele crossed his legs and rested them on the desk. "Oh come now Laura! I just wanted to remind you of my presence. That's all."
"My filing cabinet needed to be sprayed with L'eau Dupont to remind me of your presence when you're right next door? Nothing to do with a certain bet we made last night I suppose?"
"Thought never crossed my mind," he grinned.
"Fine. I was prepared to win honestly but you went too far Mr Steele. If you want to play dirty, we'll play dirty, no holds barred! Consider yourself warned. You now have no grounds for complaint when I too go below the belt!"
"How marvellous that sounds especially when you say it with that lilting voice of yours!" He paused and stared at her. "Ah yes! A mouth-watering prospect indeed, Laura Holt going below the belt!"
For once, the bawdy spin he put on her words irked her. She let out a cry of frustration and stormed out of his office.
"If I didn't know he was here, I sure know it now! Door slamming already partner? And what kind of air freshener are the cleaners using in here these days? It smells like aftershave!" Murphy observed with a sniff.
"That creep! That sly, crafty-" she fumed.
"Anyone I know? Let me guess."
"I'm sorry Murph! Let's get to the matter at hand. Jennings."
"Laura, I think this case is closed. Accept it, there's nothing going on here. It was an accident not murder. Miss Jennings is wrong about her brother's death. All the evidence so far points to a tragic accident."
"And that's why I say we keep going. It's all too neatly packaged up to be `file
under tragic accident' - we're missing something somewhere, I can feel it. We must be. Keep on it Murph. This is starting to get very serious. If we don't come up with something soon, the Remington Steele agency will flunk its first case. I'm not having that happen to us. We have a reputation to uphold. Go over the paperwork we've amassed so far, dissect the autopsy report again while I accompany Mr Steele to Poopsie's Poodle Parlour. After that I have an appointment but when I return, we'll compare thoughts."
"Poopsie's what?"
"PR for the agency. We're saving an establishment threatened with closure by putting on our caring, sharing face. Or rather Mr Steele is."
"He's putting on two faces? That's appropriate! I'll get on with Jennings. Pity these windows don't open, that air freshener is really starting to get up my nose." He strolled into his office and shut the door firmly behind him.

Laura hesitated for a moment then approached the filing cabinet with the kind of caution one would display towards a wild animal. She slowly opened it, inhaling deeply. A collage of images flashed before her as she remembered the last time she'd smelt it: Mr Steele's couch. Chianti. L'eau Dupont. Cat On A Hot Tin Roof with Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. What was the damn year and who was the distributor? Laughter. The rise and fall of Mr Steele's chest. Dimmed lights. Fire blazing. L'eau Dupont. Temperature rising. A soft kiss. A warm caress. Tongues dancing. Hands wandering. L'eau Dupont. Bodies fused. Swelling. Hardening. Fervour.

She closed her eyes and ran her fingers through her hair with a dreamy sigh but started guiltily as her door suddenly opened.
"Laura, how do you spell `Palaeolithic'?"
"Huh?" she said blankly, striving to appear composed as the star of her erotic fantasy nonchalantly scribbled away.
"You know, the early period of the Stone Age, Palaeolithic?" Steele stated with his eyes still on his notes.
She fought her raging hormones and the impulse to grab him. "P-a-l-a -wait a minute! What has the Stone Age got to do with poodles?"
Steele walked over and put an arm around her shoulder. It was a casual, friendly contact but she flinched. He noticed it.
"Visualise Miss Holt! This speech will be a majestic epic on a Cecil B DeMille scale celebrating man's relationship with the poodle." He removed his arm and in a grand gesture, illustrated a panoramic sweep. "Think of it Laura, a symbol of affection and trust from time immemorial! Who fetched the wood when man invented fire? His devoted poodle! When he hunted, who accompanied him? His faithful poodle! And when man valiantly fought the sabre-toothed tiger, where was little Fluffy? Right beside him, wagging his tail in support! By the time I finish this speech, they'll be beating a path to our door for our services!"
"Cecil B DeMille?" she queried.
"The director. You know, `The Greatest Show On Earth,' `The Ten Commandments,' movies with gigantic production, enormous crowd scenes, lavish spectacles"
"Mr Steele, your speech is to the owners and clientele of Poopsie's Poodle Parlour not Twentieth Century Fox!"
"If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing properly. What time do I have to leave?"
Laura checked her watch. "Very shortly. I've decided to accompany you. I need to run an errand so I'll sneak out during the opening speeches but I'll be back to hear yours."
"Delighted to have you along. Shall we, Miss Holt?"
The connecting door opened. Murphy leant against the jamb shaking his head wryly. "I think you've finally found your true calling. Saviour for Poopsie's Poodle Parlour where you'll discover that there's more to dogs than just betting on them!"
The comeback was swift and immediate. "You're wasted as a detective Murphy. You should put that comedic flair to use and warm up the audience for `Happy Days' instead."
"Happy Days? But that show hasn't been funny in years!"
"Then you're a perfect match!" Steele beamed at the scowling detective. "Well! I can't stand here shooting the breeze with you all day Murphy. As you correctly pointed out, I've got a poodle shop to save. Come along Miss Holt!"
Steele bade Murphy a cheerful farewell before shooing Laura into the outer office.
"Would you wait for me in the limo while I have a word with Bernice please? It's girl stuff."
"Girl stuff? Say no more. I'll go over my notes." He put a hand on a suite door then turned back to Laura. "Y'know Miss Holt, if I'm to continue with this PR angle, speeches and the like, you really ought to think about providing me with some visual aids!"


" `As God is our witness, as God is our witness, they're not going to lick you! Please pardon the pun!' Bracket; pause for hysterical laughter from audience before continuing with speech. Close bracket. `We're going to live through this, and when it's all over, your poodles will never be shaggy again - no, nor any of their litter! If we have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill! As God is our witness, they'll never be shaggy again!' " Laura stopped reading and looked out of the limo window, watching the world go by for a moment.
When she believed she had command of her temper, she turned to the object of her exasperation. He was giving her that damn crooked grin. The one she had sarcastically renamed his `get-out-of-jail-free' grin.
"Mr Steele! What on earth were you thinking? Even I know this is all paraphrased from `Gone With The Wind!' It's one of the most famous parts of the film!"
Steele yanked his notes from her. "I thought it was a stirring rendition myself and did you hear that applause for me? I'm sure they heard it all the way in London! I've never been hugged by so many women in my life! Granted most of them had blue hair but the principle's the same."
"Next time, you're going to keep movies out of your speeches and stick to the pertinent points!"
"Do you have to take the fun out of everything? And by the way, where did you sneak off to?"
"Well, since you're so certain that you're going to win our bet, I was shopping for our trip to the Bahamas and-" She delved into the bags containing her purchases.
"You were? Is that what all that is?" he pointed in amazement.
She continued as if she hadn't heard him. "I'm divided between this black bathing suit which is just a little, tiny thing really. It won't cover much. It's just string with material covering my front but-"
She held both items against her and put on her most provocative voice. "I need you to visualise intently Mr Steele and be honest with me. Imagine my figure enveloped in one of these, my skin damp from the surf, my body wet from-"
"Laura" he held up his hands wildly gesturing for her to stop but she continued babbling.
"-letting the water wash over me. They're both so pretty. I wonder if I should buy another one? I saw it in red too and that's always been a good colour on me. Then again, I can work on my tan by just wearing this white bikini. It kind of reminds me of that one the blonde woman wore when she emerged from the sea in that James Bond movie except it's way smaller so what do you think?"
"You mean Ursula Andress in Dr No? Oh no! Every schoolboy's fantasy at that time! Sean Connery, United Artists, 1962. Now Laura, this isn't-"
"Then again, why waste the opportunity to get an all over tan? I could just leave my bathing suit at home and go swimming in the sea as nature intended. Free of the constraints of elastic and material. What do you think Mr Steele?" She blinked at him sweetly, too sweetly.
"I need some air! I think you should sit as-" The car phone interrupted his train of thought and Laura lunged for it.
"Hello?Oh hello Barbara! How are you?I'm fine, thank you....Now I want you to make sure you water my plants while I'm gone...The Bahamas. I'm sure I told you, didn't I?..Oh, well I'll tell you now. I'll be going with a good friend...Yes, it is meant to be a rather romantic place..Yes, he's male...Well, you never know!...Naked you say?...I've been considering that myself. The thought of being wild and free on a tropical island is bringing out a strange urge in me to let-"
Steele had had enough. "Give me that!" he yelled and grabbed the phone. "I'm sorry but Miss Holt can't possibly...hello? Hello? There's no one on this phone Laura! What's going on?"
"I beg to differ. If you listen very, very carefully Mr Steele, I think you'll find that Darlene's on the end of that call too!"
Comprehension spread across his features. "You made it all up! There is no Barbara, is there? This is just your underhand method of winning our bet!" He crossed his arms. "Is that what your little `girl stuff' talk to Miss Wolfe was all about? Getting her to ring at a certain time to make it convincing?"
"I haven't forgotten that you made up Darlene to make me jealous Mr Steele. I made up Barbara to make youhow can I put this delicately?--amorous! That's for the L'eau Dupont in my filing cabinet too!" She tossed her head with a smile of supreme satisfaction. It wasn't very often that one got the opportunity of killing two birds with one phone.
"Y'know, my method of gaining a slight advantage was evocative, serene, tranquil even. I tried to appeal to your sense of whimsy, your sense of romance. You? You're as subtle as a sledgehammer! Straight for the jugular! Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Shame on you, Miss Holt. I thought you had more imagination than solely appealing to my baser instincts!"
Laura passed off his admonishment with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Mr Steele, this isn't about methodology. This is about winning and that's what I'm going to do! I'll have that year of your life I didn't get on the Donovan case and I'll have your real name by any means necessary!"
"Speaking of that Donovan case, I seem to recall a romantic trip away that I was within a whisker of getting. This isn't over yet. I'll have you right where I want you Laura!"
"Don't bet on it!" she snapped indignantly.
"We did, remember?"
"I haven't forgotten!"
"Pity. Am I correct in assuming that the swimming costumes are merely an appetiser and that there's more to come?"
"The gloves are off Mr Steele!"
"Don't stop there, Miss Holt!"
"And you wonder why I'm appealing to your baser instincts? Hah! This is almost too easy!"
Fred pulled up outside a smart little bistro. "Here we are Miss Holt. Buona Sera's restaurant."
"Thank you Fred. Take Mr Steele back to the office please."
"Where are you going?" he queried.
"I'm meeting someone. It's business. I'll see you and Murphy in a couple of hours and we'll talk over our strategy for the Jennings case. Could you please hand my bags to Bernice Mr Steele?" She checked the contents of her purse and straightened her grey tailored trouser suit.
"Meeting who? On what business? And why without me? We're a team, remember? Holmes and Watson, Batman and Robin, Steele and Holt. We're starting to do our best work together!"
"Steele and Holt? I'm second?"
"Really Laura, this preoccupation with semantics!"
"I haven't got time for this. I have a meeting and we also have the Jennings case to solve otherwise you face the prospect of telling our client that we've failed her."
Steele raised his hands in consternation. "Failed? The Remington Steele agency on the brink of ignominious defeat? How could you allow this to happen to us Laura? Remington Steele is never wrong!"
"Bear up Mr Steele! The Jennings deadline is Monday morning so I still have time to save our reputation!"
"I don't ask for much Laura. A superior cut to my suits, my professional standing in this city unblemished, a decent cup of tea. On a good day, all three. I'm not greedy." He straightened his tie and winked at her.

Laura eyed him wearily. What to do with such an incorrigible man? She sighed and climbed out of the limo waiting for Fred to drive out of sight before walking into the restaurant.


Buona Sera's was coolly and tastefully decorated in pastel shades, framed pictures of Impressionist art hung on the walls and all offset by the copious amount of ferns the owner insisted on. It was a discreet setting for the news Laura had to impart to her sculpture classmate. She marched confidently to the small reception desk situated in a cosy alcove and announced crisply. "Miss Valerie Rees' table please."
"Si signora." The mâitre d' scanned his bookings and duly announced, "This way, per favore."
He led her down a small flight of steps right to the back of the restaurant where Valerie was seated and already scanning a menu. As Laura approached, she stood up to her full five foot nine inches of height. Her thick, black, hair was fashionably wavy and her eyes were almost as dark as her mane, fringed by thick lashes. People often mistook her for `Charlie's Angels' actress Jaclyn Smith as they were around the same age. She greeted her lunching companion warmly with a light embrace.
"Laura! Thank you for coming."
"Hello Valerie. How are you?"
She wrung her hands in response. "Nervous. Very nervous. Shall we order? The pasta here is wonderful."
"Wouldn't you rather hear what I've discovered?"
"Good news or bad Laura, we're eating first. I know you're on a tight schedule but I owe you lunch at the very least for all the trouble you've gone to. Come on, humour me. Order. Please. Let's at least pretend this is just a normal lunch."
They both smiled.


In the limo, Steele surveyed the array of shopping bags. He was more piqued with Laura than he cared to admit. First she'd cosseted with Murphy about the Jennings case while he'd been stuck with bloody poodles and now she'd gone off somewhere meeting someone without him. Who the hell was she seeing? He tried to dampen his jealous impulses by coming up with sagacious, rational reasons to explain her behaviour.

Obviously Murphy wanted to pay homage to him, to express subordination by planning a surprise party for him, that's why he couldn't be involved earlier on. Yes, that was it! Murphy had colluded with Laura about the gift and had asked her opinionGod, not plaid shirts!and she'd stopped off at that restaurant to sort out the catering details and so theno. That wasn't it. He dismissed his first theory and promptly arrived at another. During the morning tête à tête Laura must have finally confessed a few things. Yes! That's why he'd been omitted! Steele brightened as he imagined how Laura would have broken the news to Murphy. He could see it now; she'd held a hand and said:

`Murph, it is written that fools rush in where wise men fear to tread. Never a truer word has been spoken but the heart has a wisdom of its own. Mr Steele and I have decided today to reverse the fall line of our aloneness by hopping in the sack and screwing each other's brains out as hard and as often as we can. Now let's talk about the Jennings case.' Murphy had probably started wailing and Laura had promised copious amounts of tiramisu from Buona Sera's as compensation forno. That wasn't it either. He wracked his brain but the logic behind her actions escaped him.

"Fred. Turn the car around please mate. Buona Sera's restaurant."
The chauffeur cocked his head slightly. "My instructions were to take you back to the office sir."
"And you shall Fred. And you shall but you're taking me to Buona Sera's restaurant first."
"Yes sir."
"Good man."


Over coffee, Valerie broached the difficult subject. "Okay. I've put this off long enough. Tell me what you found out."
Taking a deep breath that wasn't missed by her companion, Laura slipped into her business mode and began at the beginning. "Do you know a woman named Rebecca Collins?"
"No. No, I don't."
Carefully she stated, "Alex does Valerie."
"I see. And how well does he know her?"
"Very well. Well enough to have a set of keys to her apartment."
"Laura. Is there something going on between my Alex and that woman?"
She hesitated for a brief second. "I'm afraid there is. I staked out her place. I have visual evidence. Solid visual evidence."
Valerie scanned Laura's countenance before taking a sip of her coffee. "Well," she said, just for the sake of saying something.


At that moment, Steele was vainly trying to locate Laura's table. He intended to find out exactly whom his stubborn little missy was eating with. "Are you sure there's no booking for a Miss Laura Holt?"
"Si signor. I look but see no Signora Laura Holt." The mâitre d' looked at Steele affronted that his word had been doubted.
"It is rather important. Urgent. Please, could you try once more?"
He shrugged. "I look again."
"Thank you." Steele turned away and promptly began pacing up and down, brow furrowed, deep in thought. The next minute he'd hit the floor, landing on his stomach, winded.


Overcome with emotion, Valerie Rees had suddenly declared a need for the ladies room announcing that she'd return presently. Concerned, Laura immediately offered to accompany her but understood when Valerie insisted on going alone. The news, in all its Technicolor gory, was probably just starting to sink. It was the worst aspect of the job, giving people hurtful information, but it came with the territory and there was nothing Laura could do to change it. She watched the retreating figure of her classmate until it was out of sight, then sighed deeply.

Valerie dashed towards the stairs and ran up them but in her haste, tripped on the top step and collided into the back of Steele. Her momentum caused them both to fall to the ground, scattering the contents of her purse in the process.
"Signor! Signora! Che cosa posso fare per lei? I help you." The mâitre d' pulled her to her feet.
"I'm okay. Really, I'm okay, thank you." Valerie said as she swatted and straightened her clothing. Reassured, the mâitre d' discreetly departed.
She looked at the handsome man she'd accidentally felled. "I am so sorry! Are you alright?"
Steele stood up and immediately waved away her concerns, "I'm fine. I'm fine. These things happen. Here, allow me." He bent down and assisted her in the task of gathering up her possessions.
Valerie wiped the tears from her eyes. "What else can possibly go wrong this afternoon! I am so sorry."
He smiled tenderly. "Not to worry. Every now and then, a man likes to be swept off his feet by a beautiful woman!"
She sniffed, then gulped, then laughed. "That's the nicest thing I've been told today."
"Rough day, eh?"
"Rough past few months."
Steele paused for a brief moment before saying, "We've all been there. It gets better."
She stared at him. Something about his manner suggested his remark had come from the heart. "Do you really think so?"
"I know so," Steele responded enigmatically. He patted her hand sympathetically and resumed collecting her items.
The mâitre d' returned and announced firmly, "Excuse me signor. I look but see no booking for Signora Laura Holt." He departed for his desk.
Valerie shrilled excitedly, "Laura Holt? You're a friend of Laura Holt?"
Steele hesitated. "Errrr.yes, I am. Yes. You know her?"
"We met in sculpture class. I'm Valerie Rees and Laura's here, lunching with me. The booking's in my name. That's probably why the mâitre d' wasn't able to locate her. What a small world! I'll take you to her, Mr?"
"AhPearson. Ben Pearson. But I can't go to her nowyou see, I'm a surprise, I mean, it's a surprise. I wanted to surprise her." Steele was desperately trying to extricate himself from the web he'd unintentionally woven. Laura would kill him if she found out he had spiedfollowed, if she found out he had followed her. Steele dug his hands deep in his pockets.
"A surprise?" Valerie queried.
"Yes! Yes. You see, I thought she was lunching alone and I had planned to surprise herwith my totally unexpected presence. Call it a romantic whim, if you will. But knowing Laura as I doand I do, very well, I should stress, I am positiveabsolutely certain, that she will want to be there for you to act as a rock, as it were, for you at this precise moment. So perhaps it's best not to mention seeing me. I'm on my wayright now, this very minuteto the Remington Steele agency and I'll catch up with her there." He resisted the urge to run out of the restaurant.
"Oh. If you're sure?"
"Never surer Miss Rees. Never surer."
Valerie nodded. "Well, Mr Pearson, in that case let me just say thank you for being so kind, I really appreciate it and don't worry, I'll keep quiet so that Laura can get her surprise at the office. There's no point ruining romance for everyone."
"I'm sorry?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "Don't mind me, I'm just thinking aloud."
"It's been a pleasure meeting you Mr Pearson. I'm so glad I collided into you!"
"Likewise Miss Rees. Likewise. Remember, a happy tomorrow. Okay?"
"I'll remember and don't worry, I'll keep our secret to myself."
Steele watched as she calmly walked back down the small flight of stairs. She turned back and waved, he returned her gesture adding a confident smile. Smooth mate, keep it smooth Steele told himself. As soon as she was out of sight, he pulled out his handkerchief and dabbed his forehead. Time to go, quick, now, while he was ahead in the
"Mr Steele? It's me Alan Howe! The waiter from Chez Piaf. I work under Claude! Wait! Mr Steele, meet my wife Marsha! It's our wedding anniversary today so we're celebrating here! Marsha, meet Mr Remington Steele! The famous private detective! It's always a pleasure to serve you at Chez Piaf Mr Steele and may I say, you have great taste in cuisine?"
"Aha! Well, this is an unexpected sur" Steele desperately tried to leave but his hand was held in a vicelike grip by a woman overcome with emotion.
"Mr Steele? I've never met anyone famous before. Oh my!" Mrs Howe was dumbstruck.
"Marsha, you won't believe how generous Mr Steele is with his tips compared to some of the other people I have to serve. Mr Steele, you have no idea how bad I felt that night I had to tell you that your account was closed and your credit card refused."
Steele couldn't believe this was happening. "Really I don't"
"You had to tell him that? Oh poor Mr Steele!" Mrs Howe clucked.
"Marsha! It wasn't my fault. I had to do what I was ordered to do."
"And deprive Mr Steele of his credit card? Oh dear! Poor Mr Steele!"
The man under siege felt a tap on his shoulder. "Signor Remington Steele?" the mâitre d' asked.
"Huh? Ohahyes? Yes, I'm Remington Steele."
"This way, per favore? Telephone call."
"For me?" he couldn't keep the stupefaction out of his voice.
"For signor Remington Steele."
"For me," he sighed heavily. With more politeness than he felt, he excused himself from the Howes and followed the mâitre d' to the phone at the small reception desk.
Wearily he uttered, "Steele hereFred? Is that you?Why are you calling me here?What?What are you doing there?A sandwich?Okay. Fine but I need you to pick me up from Buona Sera's restaurant forthwith!Get here as soon as you can and don't show the traffic lights too much respect!"

He replaced the phone in a fluster. Good intentions. He had pursued Laura out of good intentions, concern for her. Okay, concern for himself too
but it all seemed to be blowing up in his face! Unbelievable. Steele thanked the mâitre d' and took a deep breath. The best course of action now would be to wait for Fred outside, somewhere discreet, somewhere

"YOU! What are you doing here? You're supposed to be at the office!"
Steele immediately threw his hands in the air in a gesture of conciliation and surrender. Doom too.
"Now Laura! There's a very good reason for my surprise appearance and as soon as I think of it, you'll be the first to know. I promise!" It occurred to Steele that he needed to get her away before Valerie Rees appeared.
Addressing the mâitre d' he requested breathlessly, "Would you be so kind as to inform Miss Valerie Rees that Miss Holt has had to leave on urgent business please?"
The mâitre d' smoothly acquiesced. What a story he had to tell his family when he got home!
Laura could feel her blood pressure rising with every passing minute. "I beg your pardon? I told her that I was going to powder my nose and how did you know whom I was lunching with?"
Steele took her left arm and pulled her towards the exit. "Let's not stand here
In this exquisite establishment arguing like fishwives, eh?"
She shrugged him off as soon as they stepped outside and oblivious to the passers by, vented her fury. "How dare you! You followed me, didn't you? Admit it!"
"I admit, the situation looks incriminating"
"Try insulting!" she screamed stomping further up the street. Steele caught up with her and forced her to stop.
"What did you expect me to think? You announce that you're going somewhere on business, you don't tell me why, you don't tell me with whom, you leave"
"I don't tell you?" she repeated incredulously, "I don't tell you? Mr Steele, in
case you didn't know, in case you weren't aware, this is the twentieth century! We've moved on from the days of Neanderthal man dragging women into caves by their hair!"
"What are you saying? That what I did was sexist? That it was male chauvinism? Is that it?"
"If the sabre-tooth tiger skin fits!" she barked placing her hands on her hips.
Steele tried to keep a lid on his own formidable temper despite the fact that he was face to face with a woman who never shrank from a fight.
"I'm trying to understand here Laura. How does what I did make me a male, chauvinist pig? Enlighten me."
"You would have never acted that way if it was Murphy, if he'd told you he was meeting someone on business at Buona Sera's!"
"Murphy wouldn't have the class to meet someone there in the first place!" he
gave her a dynamite smile but she refused to be placated.
Between gritted teeth she announced, "I had to take care of this alone. It was a very specific request."
He put his hands in his pockets and leant forward. "Why didn't you tell me that before?"
"I did tell you!" she yelled.
"No you didn't!" he bellowed back. "You kept it all covert, hush-hush, like you were going undercover on some secret government mission!"
"Might I remind you that Remington Steele Investigations is my agency! That I run it? That I own it? That I handle"
"That again? Good grief! You're beginning to sound like a broken record on the subject Miss Holt!"
"Well I'm sorry if the facts of the matter are so dis" she broke off and gave him a look he was becoming familiar with. "What did you say?" she queried.
He frowned, puzzled. "I said, covert, hush-hush, government miss"
She motioned with her hands. "Not that! The bit that followed!"
"You mean, when I accused you of sounding like a broken record?" There it was again, that gleam in her eye the one that usually preceded an epiphany about a case.
Her features became adorned with the most beatific grin. "Of course! That's it! That's the key to the Jennings case! It must be!"
"Laura, I don't follow. What's the key?"
"Mr Steele, David Jennings was the head of a company worth millions of dollars through the installation of home security equipment. Right?"
"Right," he conceded with a shrug of his shoulders.
"So, based on that, would such a man secure homes across this state and beyond but leave out his own?"
"Broken record? A record of his death?" Steele snapped his fingers, " `Blow Out'. John Travolta, Nancy Allen. Filmways, 1981. John Travolta plays a sound-effects recorder. He inadvertently captures on tape incriminating evidence which could prove an accident was in reality, murder."
"Precisely. If our theory is correct, the relevant camera, no doubt very well hidden, will probably provide a record of how he died."
"Do you have plans for the next couple of hours Miss Holt? Something tells me that we're going to have to have our wits fully about us to complete this case."
"Where's Fred? We need to get to the Jennings residence right now."
Steele hedged. "He'smomentarily indisposed."
"Come again?"
"Let's call him on the car phone and find out how long he's going to be," Steele suggested.
Laura beamed with happiness "And then the indomitable Remington Steele can find the missing jigsaw piece! Mr Steele, do you realise what this means? We're not failures! Our reputation is still intact! You've done it again!"


At Buona Sera's, the mâitre d' passed on Steele's message as soon as he encountered Valerie Rees. She thanked him and stepped out into the warm sunshine, taking a minute to bask in the heat. Casually strolling up the street, the sight of familiar figures stopped her dead in her tracks. She could see instantly that it was Laura and Mr Ben Pearson: it was impossible to miss a man who looked like that! People were walking around them so she stood to the side to observe in relative security.

Their body language suggested that they were in the middle of a heated quarrel. Valerie turned away but concern compelled her to watch: they pointed at each other, hands waved exasperatedly in the air, arms slapped thighs in frustration and feet stomped. Then stillness, a celebratory gesture from both and finally, Laura threw her arms around Mr Pearson and kissed him enthusiastically. Valerie smiled and ran in the opposite direction for a taxi.


At ten past six in the evening, Valerie Rees puffed with the effort of hauling her gift around. She'd carried it through the lobby and into the lift; barely managing to press the buttons, but not one man had offered to help her. Dismissing it as totally typical of their rotten, lousy, inconsiderate sex, she staggered towards suite 1157 and backed into the doors to open them. Heaving a sigh of relief, Valerie rested her sculpture on the reception desk. She looked around but the office seemed quiet. Had everybody gone home?

"Hello? Anyone here? Hello?"
A door opened and she took in the tall, fair-haired man wearing a brown plaid shirt and tan slacks. "Can I help you, Miss?" he said, slowly approaching her.
"Rees. Valerie Rees. And you are?"
"Murphy. Murphy Michaels. I'm a detective, an associate of the Remington Steele agency Miss Rees."
"Valerie," she stated with a smile.
"Valerie," he repeated. They shook hands.
"I'm looking for Laura Holt. Is she around?"
"I'm sorry, she's not here. She's out on a case. Can I help you?"
"I've brought this for Laura, my way of saying `thank you' to her. Giovanni thinks it's my best yet and I want her to have it."
Murphy glanced at the piece of art and strove to conceal his feelings. This wasn't his forte. To him, it looked like lumps of metal moulded together.
"It's very interesting. I'm sure Laura will appreciate it. Is that where you met? At sculpture class?"
"Yes, we started on the same day. Admittedly, our ideas on art differ but we
get on really well. We go for coffee after class and talk." Valerie smiled at the memory of some of their conversations.
"I remember another class mate of Laura's. Marian"
"Travis. You're thinking of Marian Travis. Such a sweetheart. I know Laura was a huge help to her and Teddy. Teddy Bennett, I should say. I was hoping to get as lucky as they were."
"I'm sorry. I don't follow."
Valerie let out a deep sigh. "Alex, my boyfrAlex started coming home late, smelling of someone else's perfume, giving me a thousand excuses for it and not touching me. I put up with it for five months and in the end, I decided I'd had enough. I asked Laura to look into it for me. She was so wonderful, she broke it to me in exactly the right way; if there is a right way to be told that your boyfriend's a lying son-of-a-bitch and that he's screwing another woman."
Murphy spoke gently. "Valerie. I'm sorry. For us, it's part of the job. The unsavoury side of people, what they're capable of."
"Yeah, well. Them's the breaks. What can you do, y'know? Look, I don't mean to unload on you. It's not your problem, it's mine." She bent her head as if suddenly weighed down by the enormity of her predicament. Then raised it to look him square in the face.
"I think I understand now why people bellyache to bartenders. Sometimes it's easier to talk to a stranger, to bare your soul to them."
Murphy understood her point of view all too well. "Yes. Sometimes it is."
She managed a wry smile. "It's not all bad. I can be happy for Laura even if I'm miserable for myself. So okay, I didn't get Marian and Teddy's ending but at least there's"
"Excuse me. Happy for Laura?"
"Uh-huh. I bumped into this nice man. I mean, literally! Everything went everywhere and he helped me. Anyway, it turns out that he's a close friend of Laura's! A Mr Ben Pearson. Small world, isn't it? He was planning on surprising her butwellI guess I got in the way of that. She's bagged herself a gorgeous one: blue eyes, English accent. I've always been a sucker for English accents ever since I fell in love with Davy Jones in `The Monkees.' God, I used to think he was so cute! Anyway as I was saying, I saw Laura with her Mr Pearson: one minute they looked like they were having a fight, the next they'd kissed and made up. It really reminded me of how things used to be with Alex. We were always fighting and making up but the tramp was a bridge too far. I couldn't forgive him for that and whosay, are you alright? You look as if you've seen a ghost."

Like a video cassette recorder, Murphy's mind was playing back his evening with Laura. He recalled her frantic cry of being in the shower and yet three minutes later when she'd invited him in, her hair had been bone dry. Then there was the pizza episode; it was an order for two people. Not one. Her claim of hunger from aerobics class was fast thinking, he'd give her that. She had always been resourceful. However, it hurt. She'd lied. No, that was too harsh. Perhaps in some misguided way, Laura had felt a need to protect him from the truth, to massage his ego, to keep up a pretence that things were as they had always been in the past. The reality was that things had changed from the very minute, no the very second, the jewel thief had breezed in as Ben Pearson.

So while a part of Murphy recognised Laura's consideration, another part reeled at the fact that she still couldn't be completely honest about her feelings for him. He thought back to the night they'd staked out Morrie Singer's apartment. He'd challenged her directly, backed her onto the ropes but she still hadn't admitted it. Now Murphy finally accepted that her silence at the time spoke volumes. She wouldn't confirm his suspicions but she didn't deny them either.

As a detective, there were numerous occasions, situations thrown up, which necessitated relying on wit, trusting gut instinct he'd had a hunch that Laura was with him that night. Why had he been so reluctant to listen to it? Stubbornness? Unwillingness? Fear? Denial? All four reasons? He took a deep breath and faced cold reality. It was over. The fat lady had sung, received her bouquet of flowers and was leaving the building for a Big Mac.

He now found himself wondering how long it had been going on. How far had he got? Valerie's exact words were `kissed and made up' which by anyone's way of thinking, implied intimacy. And yet, they came into the office every day and acted asas what?as if nothing was going on. As if they were only employer and employee. Weird.

Murphy eventually realised that Valerie was addressing him. "I'm sorry?"
Concerned, she reached an arm out to him. "I said, you look as if you've seen a ghost."
"No. No. I've just laid one to rest, that's all. You know that feeling when you've
been in limbo for a long time and there's no need to be anymore?"
It was her turn to be perplexed. "Huh?"
"Never mind. Why don't I help you put this in Laura's office? It looks heavy."
Valerie shook her head in agreement. "It is heavy! Can you believe that not one man tried to help me as I struggled along with it?"
"Hey, don't blame us! You women have put us in such a quandary. If we offer assistance you get offended and tell us in no uncertain terms that you can manage, that we're being sexist, that"
"Listen wiseguy, stop with the lecture already and grab the other end!"

They lifted the figure into Laura's office and cleared a space on her desk for it. Valerie tore some sheets of paper from a pad and wrote a note expressing her gratitude and hope that Laura would like her present. Murphy watched as she stopped and started her message several times. Finally pleased with the result and the sentiments conveyed, she pinned it to her gift. He escorted her into the outer office. So much could have been said but both were silent, lost in their own thoughts, thinking of their empty houses. Valerie sighed and turned to face him with a smile, offering her hand in a gesture of farewell.

In light of his recent revelation, Murphy resolved to do something about his nights alone. Even if Laura stopped seeing their mythical leader tomorrow, she wouldn't turn to him for romance. He knew that now. All that time, that longing for her through Havenhurst and beyond. Some things were just not meant to be. Bernice would be proud if she could see him now.

"Are you doing anything in particular tonight Valerie? I know this nice little place where they do the best pasta. We can go to a friendly bar afterwards and have a drink and swap sad stories."
Relief flooded through her. She could do with some company. "Sad stories? What sad stories could you possibly have? No, I'm through with all that. Let's have that pasta, down some alcohol and talk about a happy tomorrow instead."
" `A happy tomorrow'? I'll drink to that."
She glanced around the office. "It must be so exciting, the life of a detective I mean. Lot's of hair-raising moments and danger."
He placed a comforting arm around her as they headed for the suite doors.
"It has its moments. In fact, there was one particular case which foxed the best minds in the business and"
"Even your boss? Mr Steele? I've heard so much about him from Laura."
Murphy raised a wry smile. "Yes. Even Mr Steele. It was a hot day in July. We were called to the house of a wealthy industrialist by his wife. She met us at the front door and escorted us into the study. There, lying on the floor was her husband, shot dead." He pushed open a suite door and motioned for her to step through as they walked companionably towards the lifts.
"That's the case which foxed criminal minds? I don't"
"Valerie, I've saved the best for last. Ballistic tests conducted several days later proved that the path of the bullet began inside the industrialist's chest and travelled outwards."
"The bullet travelled from his insides out? But how?" she asked, amazed.
Murphy pressed the buttons and smiled cheerfully. "I told you it foxed the best minds in the business, didn't I?"


Approximately half an hour later, the lift swung open. The detective and her apprentice stepped out. He was carrying her shopping; she had a small box of cassettes in her arms. From the moment Fred had picked them up, dropped them off at David Jennings' house and deposited them back at Century City Plaza, she'd gabbed on non-stop about the vagaries of the case too preoccupied to notice her partner's silence.
"And I'll have to make sure that Murphy is available tomorrow too. We'll all watch the tapes together" she opened a suite door and stood aside for Steele to enter then headed for her office. "here. I'm sorry if you had plans for tomorrow but I don't anticipate making a habit of us all working weekends. You don't mind do you? Of course you don't! When I think how close we were to failOh! Good lord! What's this?" Her attention was caught by the figure resting on her desk. Steele dropped the bags and stood beside her.
Laura read the note, smiled and announced, "This is a gift from my sculpture classmate Valerie Rees to thank me for my help. Care to tell me how you knew I was lunching with her?"
Steele surveyed his fingernails. "A good detective never reveals his modus operandi Miss Holt." He pointed at the piece of art. "What is it?"
Pendulum like, they both slowly swung their heads to the left and then to the right.
"Wellit's an, errrexpression offeeling." Laura began.
"Isn't it though?" her companion answered.
"And the way it's been designed evokes"
"Doesn't it though?"
She pressed on. "Lest we forget, art is in the eye of the individual to"
She caught the spark in his eye and laughed. "Oh heck! It's the thought that counts!"
Steele rummaged around in one of her bags and sat on the desk. "I may not know what that is but I do know what this is Honey." He held up the white bikini and waved it in the air.
"Honey? Term of endearment?" she queried.
"Name. Honey Ryder. Remember? `Dr No' and the majestic body of Ursula Andress emerging from the sea clad in a skimpy, white"
"Laura, you're spoiling me. `Dr No', `From Here To Eternity', `Deep Throat' - so many films to ape, so many fantasies to bring to life when we get to the Bahamas!"
The bomb dropped. Her eyes widened in dismay. "The bet!"
"The bet. And if memory serves correct, French kissing does not qualify as avuncular conduct. Hence, I wear my crown as the truly irresistible one in this partnership with immense pride. I take my hat off to you Laura for your exquisite taste and I also take you first to the Bahamas and then"
"You know Mr Steele, I could stand here and argue extenuating circumstances for the fact that I lost my head"
"You may have lost your head Laura but you didn't lose your tongue!"
She ignored his crowing, "Maybe the thought of telling a client that we'd failed them was preying heavily on my mind and the surge of joy I felt"
"That wasn't the only thing you felt!"
"pushed all other considerations aside. However, I'll concede that you won fair and square. Just one thing Mr Steele"
She stood directly in front of him and ran a finger down his chest. "As I recall, the exact terms of our bet was that if you won, your prize was `a weekend away' not a dirty weekend away, not a naughty weekend away not even a romantic weekend away. Just `a weekend' away."
"Aha." He put on his best bluffing mask, aiming to display more self-confidence than he felt.
"Rest assured Mr Steele that our weekend away in the Bahamas will be so chaste, you'll wish you were with a nun instead! We'll have separate bedrooms, I'll wear a T-shirt the entire time, I won't sunbathe and you'll be very lucky if you get so much as a peck on the cheek."
"However, I propose a compromise."
"You do?"
Laura smiled. "It's quite simple. You have a choice. I can either give you more action tonight than you'll get in the Bahamas or you can collect your prize from our bet. What was it again? Something about me working on the `hide and seek' aspect of our association and also a platonic, wholesome, sinless trip away to the Caribbean. Choose, Mr Steele." She moved her hand languidly across his chest over both nipples.
"This is the perfect example of how to win and lose at the same time!" he sighed ruefully.
Her hand sensuously travelled downward. "Choose, Mr Steele."
"Dinner and a movie tonight Miss Holt?"


Laura strolled dreamily to her front door. As she put the key in the lock, the telephone began ringing. Was it him? Eager to grab the call, she flung open the door, slammed it, dropped her purse on the floor and ran to the phone fearing he'd hang up before she got there.
"Hello?" she cried hopefully. The voice on the other end was not the one she most wanted to hear and she couldn't hide her disappointment.

"Oh, hello motherOf course I'm happy to speak to you, I just thought you were someone else that's allI'm not expecting anyone in particular mother, I just wasn't expecting youOf course you can call me anytime mother, I'm not trying to say that I don't want you to callHow are you?I'm not changing the subject, I'm asking after your healthI'm fine too motherWork is fine, it's going to be a goodMr Steele? He's fine tooYes I know I'm lucky to work for such an understanding bossYes I know you view him as quite a catch. You tell me that every time we speakYes, I agree. He is very good lookingAm I seeing anyone? Errm, no. No I'm notIs Mr Steele seeing anyone? Errrm, no. No. Not as far as I know anywayMother, how many times do I have to tell you that Mr Steele and I, well, we have a professional relationshipFor heaven's sake! It's the 1980s not the 1880s. Women don't have to think like that anymore!Have you spoken to Francis recently?I'm not trying to change the subject, I'm asking after my sisterReally? Well I'm pleased for herYes, it would be nice to see you again. I look forward to thatYes mother, I'll pass on your regards to Mr Steele when I see him at the officeBye."
Laura hung up with a sigh. She walked into her kitchen for a glass of water reflecting on the conversation she'd just had with her mother. Their cranky relationship was not helped by endless comparisons the woman insisted on drawing between her and her older sister Francis.

No matter what the reason for the initial call, it always boiled down to the same tiresome theme: Francis was happily married to Donald, Francis was a good wife, Francis had adorable children, Francis was a wonderful mother, Francis was not a loser in love. Increasingly, Laura had to force herself to bite back the retorts she was dying to make. How she'd love to shut her mother up by telling her that she was seeing someone. Well, kind of. Sort of. Almost. Virtually.

Laura waited by the phone for five minutes before deciding that there was work to be done. She potted around her house straightening cushions, dusting and cleaning. Finally, she turned off the living room light and headed for the bathroom. As the water beat down on her she reflected on yet another exciting day. Since her charming con man had arrived on the scene, life had completely turned upside down. Goodbye, ordered routine! See you later, humdrum existence! Hello, emotional instability! Take a seat, rampant desire! Make yourself at home, fearful doubt and distrust!

As she stepped out of the shower, the phone rang. Dashing to answer it, she heavily breathed a greeting. "Hello?"
"Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!" that familiar voice tutted. "Why go home if you're panting so much for me Laura?"
"For your information Mr Steele, I ran for this call. I've just come out of the shower."
"Really?" He lowered his voice and seductively asked, "What are you wearing?"
She smiled to herself and sat on the bed. "A towel. Very small. Barely covers me."
"This is a first. I'm actually jealous of a towel!" he quipped.
"Now who's panting?" she asked archly.
"Touché Miss Holt."
She laughed. "You deserved that!"
"Want to know what I'm wearing?"
"No" was the immediate response but natural curiosity got the better of her and after a pause she piped up, "What?"
"What, what?" he queried.
"You asked me if I wanted to know what you were wearing, remember?"
"Ah yes, so I did. So I did." There was silence for several seconds.
"Well?" Laura prompted.
"In the best of health Miss Holt, thank you," he answered with a smirk.
"No Mr Steele" she said wearily, "That's not what I meant."
He suppressed an urge to chuckle. "I'm waiting for you to ask Laura."
"This is ridiculous! I'm not going to ask again. I've already asked and you chose not to hear!" She fiddled with her hair determined not to give in. Her resolve lasted just over ten seconds.
"Okay, fine. Mr Steele, what are you wearing?"
"A lascivious grin Miss Holt," he announced.
She was incredulous. "A grin? That's it? You put me through a protracted cat-and-mouse game just to tell me you're wearing a grin?"
"Shame on you Laura!" He stretched out on his bed. "It's not `a grin' per se. How ordinary! How pedestrian! How mundane! No, no, this is more than `a grin' it's a lascivious grin at the thought of you emerging from the shower, hair dripping, skin damp and just a towel covering your "
"I get the picture Mr Steele!" she hastily cut in.
"A picture's a poor substitute for the real thing Laura." He sighed. "Good job I've got an active imagination, eh?"
"Over-active is what springs to mind."
"Have you removed it yet?" His question was light, casual.
"Removed what?"
"The towel. Have you taken it off yet?"
Laura injected firmness into her voice, "Where is this conversation going Mr Steele?"
"Where do you think it's going Miss Holt?" he bantered playfully.
"You are incorrigible!"
"And you are hell to spend an evening with." Steele's mind replayed a specific aspect of their night together. Shortly after returning to his flat, their after-dinner drink turned yet again into a torrid session on his couch. One minute they were laughing at a joke - the next, arms and legs were fiercely entangled and deep kisses hungrily exchanged. His hands had wandered freely and possessively over her body coaxing rather than demanding a reaction. The fervour of Laura's response had pleased him and encouraged the belief that she would finally succumb. But just as their ardour reached a critical juncture, she broke away. Again. Still, she'd promised action and she'd delivered.
"What are you talking about? What's so hellish about dinner, a movie and back to your place for coffee? It reminded me of a first date."
"Yes but I was hoping for rather more than coffee. Oh well! If our evening together reminded you of a first date, at least I know you kiss on one!"
She had to giggle at his rueful tone, "Are you calling me just to get a sympathy vote? Because tomorrow you, me and Murphy"
"Laura" he chided, "No shop talk. It occurred to me that you never did spell out `Palaeolithic' so I'm calling for my answer."
She smiled. "Nothing to do with seeing that I got home safely, I suppose? Rest assured that I'm fine but I need to get ready for bed."
"Perfect!" he enthused brightly, "I'll be there in twenty minutes."
"Mr Steele"
"I can still smell your perfume Laura."
"Mr Steele"
"And I know for a fact that you couldn't wear a bra tonight. Back-less dresses are a big clue Laura."
"You're not playing fair."
"Fair? What's fair about this? All I've got of you is an image in my mind! But what a lovely image! It's of your body, naked of course, and in this fantasy, I'm naked too and we're"
Laura stopped dead in her tracks as a picture of his earlier caresses popped into her head. She interrupted him, "I don't think this topic is doing either of us any good."
"Compared to one of your hot and steamy Charlotte Knight novels, it's positively tame! What say we re-enact all the scorching chapters of `Bated Breath' tomorrow night, eh?"
Laura was embarrassed. She'd inadvertently revealed an occasional penchant for bodice-rippers on a past case and since then, he abused that knowledge mercilessly. "I hate it when you do that," she muttered between gritted teeth.
He laughed softly before saying, "You know, there's one particular part of you that I'm dying to kiss."
"Mr Steele, it's late and I'mwhat part?" Puzzled, she looked at her reflection in the mirror.
"You don't know where I'm referring to?"
Her breath caught in her throat. "No" she managed to squeeze out.
"What a dilemma! Do I tell or not?" he pondered the question aloud.
"Spit it out Mr Steele! What part of me are you dying to kiss?"
He aped her earlier admonishment, "Where is this conversation going Miss Holt?"
"You brought it up!"
"And you didn't let it go."
"Fine. Don't tell me. I can live without knowing," she lied.
"Believe me Miss Holt, you won't have to. When I kiss you there tomorrow night, you'll know exactly where I mean and that's a promise."
Laura felt her pulse quickening. She closed her eyes and tried to get command of her raging hormones. "This really isn't doing either of us any good," she repeated breathlessly.
"On the contrary, I'm enjoying myself immensely." Steele gloried in the knowledge that his words were having such an obvious effect. He was massively turned on by the power he had over her despite the distance between them. A cold shower was already a necessity so further arousal would make no difference. Besides, he reasoned, if he had to go to sleep deeply frustrated and unfulfilled so should she.
"Actually, now I consider the matter, I haven't devoted enough attention to that part of you. How remiss of me! Rest assured Miss Holt, I plan to make it up to you thoroughly. So tomorrow night after I rustle up one of my gourmet creations, we'll sit on my couch and watch a movie. Then I'll move in for a kiss and circle that area very slowly with my tongue and I'll lower my lips for another leisurely kiss before I gently"
Laura was ready to explode. "Stop!" she begged.
"Stop?" he asked innocently. Too innocently.
"Yes!" she exclaimed.
"Yes what?"
"Stop that!" she implored.
"Stop what?" he pressed her.
"Yes that!"
"That what?"
"You know very well what!" she reproached.
"You mean, stop talking about my mouth and your"
She closed her eyes. "I know what you're doing."
"You do? Do you like it?"
She ignored the question. "You're trying to get me to change my mind. I only kiss on a first date, remember?"
"Ah but what kisses! Long, lingering, passionate."
She sighed at the memory, "Goodnight Mr Steele. Sweet dreams."
"Correction Miss Holt. Tortured dreams. Tortured dreams of you and me."
"Try and sleep well. We've got a busy day ahead of us."
"And a busy night too, I hope."
"Get some rest Mr Steele."
"You too, Miss Holt. You too."
"I'm sorry?"
"You wanted me to spell `Palaeolithic'. Remember?"
"Ah yes! Invaluable information, thank you. Laura?"
"What exactly is that piece of art in your office?"
"Good night Mr Steele."


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