Laura pushed the envelope off to the side of her desk, and after giving it one more long, disgusted look, pulled her laptop closer and opened the screen. She typed purposefully for a few moments then glanced at the letter again. With a deliberateness born of stubborn determination, , she returned her gaze and attention to the file open on the screen. As she typed, the rhythmic music of an accomplished typist filled the room only to be shattered moments later by the violent rat-a-tat-tat of the backspace button being pressed forcefully with frustration.
Startled, she jumped in her chair. Steele stood in the doorway between her office and the reception area, leaning casually on the doorjamb. Laura saved the file as it was. With more care and intention than was usual she clicked the lid of the laptop closed and put on her everyday smile.
"I didn't realize you were back from your meeting. How did it go?" Laura said, ignoring the question. He wasn't fooled. They both knew it but played it out anyway.
"Fine, Laura. I left a few things for Mildred to follow
up on. It still seems like a fairly straight forward matter at
this point. Nothing especially interesting."
Steele had learned it was unadvisable to force Laura's hand,
but better instead to give her the opportunity to process whatever
was bothering her--at least at first. Hard as it was for him to
not try to step in and save the day, that was usually the easy
part. Sometimes, he got lucky. Laura would think her way out and
all would be well. Better than well. She would feel competent
and valuable--which led to a confident, happy Laura. And a very
satisfied, deliriously happy Harry. His eyes darkened and the
corners of his mouth turned up ever so slightly at the thoughts
that came to mind. It often worked that way when it was a case
that was bothering her. If it wasn't a case, but something personal,
well that was rather messier. After almost six years of working
with Laura, he had developed something of a sixth-sense about
these things. He couldn't pinpoint why, but he was fairly certain
this was not a case problem. He sighed.
Laura lifted her gaze from the letter. "Sorry, what
did you say?"
"I was just going to tell you the Thomas Crown Affair,
Steve McQueen, Fay Dunaway, United Artists, 1968, is playing tonight
at the dollar theater. I thought we might wrap up a half-hour
early since our case load is well in hand. Have an early dinner
then take in the show to start off the weekend." He flashed
that hopeful, boyish grin. "I know how you love a good heist."
In spite of her general annoyance and inner turmoil, her
heart skipped a beat. Well a couple of beats. A sad smile escaped
without her permission. "Not tonight, Harry."
Steele was afraid she wasn't just talking about dinner and
Laura stood up and began packing her laptop and papers from
her desk into her briefcase. " I think I am going to grab
take-out and work on some files at the loft, then call it an early
Reaching the doorway, she gave him a quick, flat kiss on the mouth and slipped under his arm. She never made eye contact. He turned to watch her go. She dropped a few papers in Mildred's inbox.
Without looking back, Laura shouldered her way through the
double glass doors with his name on them.
She'd said she was going to the loft--and he believed her.
But there was a lump in his throat, a stone in the pit of his
stomach and the hairs on his arms and neck stood on end as the
chill ran up his spine. The much too familiar feeling of being
left. Physically she would be at the loft, had even told him which
place she would be at tonight. But emotionally she was pulling
"Boss, are you alright?" Mildred asked as she
came out of his office.
Steele swallowed hard and loosened his tie. He cleared his
throat. "Yes, Mildred. I'm fine."
He didn't sound fine, even to himself. He ran two long fingers
around the collar of his shirt. The edges of his vision were a
little black and he rested more heavily on the door frame.
"Boss. Boss?" Mildred's tone had gone from confused
Steele pulled the tie loose with his free hand and let it
fall down the lapels of his grey suit coat before undoing the
top two buttons of the crisp, white shirt. He pushed off the door
"Rather warm in here this afternoon, Mildred."
"Seemed kind of frosty to me, Boss."
"Maybe I'm coming down with something. Have Fred bring
the limo around, please Mildred. I'll see you Monday."
Mildred picked up the phone and Steele walked out to the
elevator. She didn't know what was wrong but she could count on
one hand the number of times she had seen her very fashionable
boss leave the office with his tie hanging haphazardly around
his neck. Yep. Something was definitely up with those two kids
Steele reflected on the afternoon as he rode down in the
empty elevator. At lunch, Laura had been upbeat and flirtatious.
So much so they had been a little late getting back to the office.
And she hadn't seemed upset when he left for his meeting. Laura
had always been mercurial, but over the last year, she had grown
more relaxed and less prone to sudden swings in temperament. This
afternoon she seemed to be reverting to her old pattern of behavior.
He got in the limo. "The dollar theater, Fred. And
take a scenic route, eh." A few minutes later, Steele stared
out the window at the coastline and tried to figure out what could
have happened between 2:00-4:30 this afternoon to cause Laura
to fall prey to her old insecurities, what he could do about it.
And what it meant for their relationship.
Laura's fingers flowed across the keys. Piano had been her
first passion. She loved the cool, smooth feel of the ivory. Loved
the way playing required all her concentration yet allowed her
mind to run free. Here on this bench, she could unleash her emotions
in all their intensity and let music consume them and soothe her
soul. Playing had been her haven when her father had left, her
solace when her beloved grandmother had died, her best therapy
when Wilson moved out.
With no conscious volition, Laura segued from the Rachmaninoff
piece to Chopin's Prelude in E Minor. One tear rolled slowly down
her left cheek. Her fingers began to tremble ever so slightly
but she played on. For a few more measures she willed herself
toward the end of the short piece. For once, her strength of will
alone was not enough. Tears continued to flow and the tremors
in her fingers increased. Three bars from the end she succumbed.
Defeated, Laura dropped her head to her hands and sobbed.
Fear and grief flowed out of her, the emotion as uncharacteristic
as her failed attempt at self-control. Another personal failure.
In spite of her determined efforts and beliefs to the contrary,
that charming pickpocket had stolen her heart when she'd walked
into this loft that very first night--the baby grand he'd arranged
for her gleaming in the stark, industrial lighting. When he was
gone he would take her heart with him. He'd take this release,
this respite, too. Oh, the piano would remain. But it would be
like living with his ghost, an ever-present reminder of what she'd
lost and what might have been. Impossible to live with but even
more unthinkable to let it go.
"Thanks, Fred. See you Monday." Steele tapped
the top of the limo twice. The sounds of Chopin on a piano were
literally music to his ears. When she played that piece, it usually
meant Laura was thinking fondly of him. Apparently she had worked
out whatever was troubling her earlier. For once, he smiled as
he climbed the three flights of stairs to the loft with a bit
of bounce in his step.
The music ended abruptly as he pulled back the door.
"Don't stop on my account, Laura. I love to hear you
play, especially that piece." Steele turned and bolted the
door behind him. No one was going to interrupt them tonight. Not
Petite as Laura was, she was hidden by the piano when the
top was raised. He moved towards the piano in a slow stroll that
telegraphed his intentions for the evening. He rounded the corner
of the piano. Stunned by what he saw, he dropped to his haunches
beside the bench. Anxiety edging towards panic twisted his face,
shook his voice.
She never cried. Well, there was that one time when her
house burn...His mind raced in a million directions at once, trying
to find the answer to the same question. What horrible, truly
awful thing must have happened to leave his strong, resilient,
resourceful, defiant Laura sobbing at her piano?
Steele slipped his arm behind her and slid onto the bench
beside her. She remained turned mostly away from him, her face
obscured. He pulled her against his chest, wrapping her securely
in his arms, gently kissing her gleaming hair.
"I'm here, Laura. Whatever it is, I'm here and we'll
get through it together. Always."
Laura met his eyes for a brief moment- "That's what
I love about you, Mr. Steele always there when I need you."
She laid her head on his chest and wept.
Steele rode out the release with Laura, rocking her gently,
fingering her hair. "There, there, love. It's alright. Let
it out. Let it go."
Slowly, Laura regained her composure. Taking deep breaths,
she wiped at her face with the back of her hand while he absently
rubbed circles on her back with his fingers. He felt it before
she moved to sit up taller, before she slid her facade of icy
calm back into place. Felt her trying to put distance between
them, trying to separate herself from the person who had lost
control and the person who had witnessed the loss. But he would
have none of it. He wouldn't push her to talk about it but he
was damn well not going to sit idly by while she re-bricked her
walls. She had often teased him about being jealous. Truth be
told, he was a jealous man. He would not be satisfied until she
gave him all of herself, even her weakness.
He pulled her onto his lap, slipped an arm under her knees
and quickly pushed to his feet. Still somewhat dazed and lethargic
from her crying jag, Laura didn't lean into him as quickly as
he was expecting. Her hip, then her calf banged the keys resulting
in a sudden discordant noise. Steele stepped back, knocked over
the piano bench and tripped over the leg. As they tumble to the
floor, Steele led with his shoulder, rolling them through the
worst of the impact. With a sharp mew, Nero dashed across the
scattered music, Laura and Steele, to cower under the couch. Lying
in a tangle of arms and legs, Nero's tail quivering from the edge
of the couch, the tension was broken. Laura giggled. Steele grinned.
Then they laughed until they were gasping for breath. Steele brushed
the hair from Laura's face, kissed a stray tear from her cheek.
She lowered her lips to his, her fingers ruffling his glossy,
dark, hair. Their emotional connection restored, he left Steele
and his need to understand behind and went with his area of strength.
Harry did what he does best--showed Laura he loved her.
Laura's stride still had plenty of energy as she ran up
the three flights of stairs and pulled open the loft door.
"Good Morning, Mr. Steele."
He stood at the counter in front of the window overlooking
the fire escape, beating eggs in a cobalt blue ceramic bowl with
a shiny, wire whisk. His hair was still damp from the shower.
His white oxford shirt was open at the collar, tucked neatly into
the faded jeans slung low on his hips. Laura put her hands on
the top of his shoulder for balance and stretched up nearly en
pointe to buss his clean shaven cheek with a kiss.
"Good Morning, Mrs. Steele."
He still got a little thrill out of calling her that. Was
glad she had decided let go of the Holt-Steele hyphenation. Professionally
she was still Laura Holt but outside of work she was Laura Steele.
He set the bowl on the counter and began adding ingredients from
the palate of diced food on the wooden cutting board.
"How was your run?"
He picked up the bowl and began stirring as he turned back
towards her. Steele let his eyes roam over her from head to toe,
then slowly traced back up her long, lean, athletic legs. Maybe
his long-legged field darter would let him chase her this afternoon.
His smile grew wider.
"Hard as it may be for you to believe, it was energizing.
Just what I needed to get the day off to a good start." Laura
laughed and snatched a few cubes of cheese off the counter and
popped them in her mouth.
"Funny enough, Laura, I find your Saturday morning
runs quite energizing myself." He wiggled his eyebrows.
Laura's whole face glowed and her eyes sparkled as she laughed
and shook her head. After washing her hands she poured two glasses
of orange juice. Rounding the piano, she saw a mostly neat pile
of music stacked on top, apparently unscathed by the events of
last night. She set the juice down, then gathered up the music
and nudged open the lid to the bench by lifting it on her knee.
She gave a strangled gasp and tottered on one leg. Heat crawled
up her neck to her face. The sheets inside were crumpled, creased,
folded and splotched. Steele walked by with the plates of omelets
and glanced at the music he had stuffed in the bench while Laura
was out running. He placed the plates on the piano.
"Ah well, dear," he said, steadying her.
Casually he took the music from her and unceremoniously dropped it in the bench before closing the lid. The music stuck out at odd angles. It looked more like a recycling bin than a piano bench.
Laura looked at him, horrified at the disarray. Steele shrugged.
"Small price to pay for making beautiful music."
He swept her into his arms for a kiss, then took her elbow
and led her to the table where he pulled out her chair. Momentarily
dazed, Laura sat staring at her plate.
Steele sat across from her and dug in to his omelet, flipping
through the funnies in the paper. Laura finally picked up her
fork and took a bite. She riffled through the pile of newsprint
and pulled out the sports section. Status quo restored, they finished
their breakfast in a companionable silence punctuated with an
occasional laugh, cheer or groan at the contents of the paper.
Finished with breakfast and the important sections of the
paper, Laura began to clear the table.
"You know, Laura, ..."
Laura's antennae jumped to attention. 'I've been thinking'
usually came next from his mouth, followed closely by a plan for
disaster, something not entirely legal or a very large expenditure
of agency funds.
"I've been thinking..."
She put the dishes in the sink and turned to lean against
the counter, where she could keep a close eye and ear on what
"About our ...living arrangements." He made a
flourish with his hand designed to make one believe he was being
nonchalant or careless. But he was anything but that.
"You know, Steele's apartment, your loft. How we've
just..." Another pause for dramatic effect. Laura fought
the urge to sigh out loud. Then processed what he had just said.
Steele's apartment. Her loft. The sigh escaped. How did one bolster
the self-esteem of an insecure confidence man? She quickly tuned
back in to him.
"...well after last night, I just wondered if it wasn't
For one split second she saw all the vulnerability, fear
and doubt before he covered it with his boyish, hopeful charm.
Lord, weren't they a matched pair. Somehow they had to learn how
to vanquish their demons or learn to live with their own, each
other's and the consequences. It strengthened her resolve to stick
with the decision she'd made this morning on her run about how
to handle the envelope on her desk.
"We need a place where I have all my pots and pans
in one place so I know I will have what I need when I start something.
And poor Nero needs a place where he knows when his next meal
Laura rolled her eyes. Steele walked towards her. Nero got
fed every night. It just sometimes meant she made an extra stop
on the way home from work.
He stepped in close to her. Placed his hands on the firmly
sculpted muscles of her upper arms. His voice was tender, almost
"I knew when you stood there among the ashes of your house, staring at what had been your piano, that it was important to you. That you loved it. Until last night, I didn't fully understand that you
need it. You need to play the way Mildred needs a romance
novel, the way I need a few extra passports and a pick set."
He quirked his mouth up into a wry smile. "It's an extension
For the second time in the morning. Laura was speechless.
"I'd already made plans for today. And there's no pressure
to jump into anything. We can take some time over the next month
or so to drive through some neighborhoods, take in a few open
houses. Get some ideas about what suits us, together. Will you
think about it, Laura?"
Laura laughed to herself. She had been right about a large
expenditure of funds. And in the past she would have felt it necessary
to tell him just how right she was. To point out that many of
the reasons, well her reasons, for not 'consolidating' still existed.
And in the past he'd likely have had a deal already in the works
for what he wanted before he mentioned it to her. Maybe they were
making progress on breaking patterns and healing old wounds.
She answered him confidently. There was a sense of having
taken a huge leap in maturity and a deeper sense of commitment
to their relationship than when she'd said 'si' on that fishing
She sealed her promise with a kiss.
"You know, you're getting pretty good at this husband
stuff, Mr. Steele."
It was his turn to be speechless.
Laura juggled her briefcase and the dry cleaning as she
worked the lock on the door at the Rossmore flat. Mr. Steele's
favorite tuxedo shirt slid from her arm and she reached to catch
the hanger, dropping her bulging briefcase. Papers spilled out
of the case into the hallway.
"Oh, well. At least I saved the shirt."
She pushed the door open with her hip and quickly but carefully
placed the clothes on hook behind the door then dashed back into
the hall to collect her files. Laura crouched low to the floor,
gathering up papers and stacking them in her bag. With a chime,
the elevator opened and Steele stepped out, a large, brown paper
grocery sack in one arm.
"Finally stuffed your briefcase to the breaking point,
eh Laura?" He made a show of tiptoeing through her paper
trail. She tossed him a dark look that sent most people ducking
He bent over and picked up a non-descript envelope that
had landed at the edge of the doorway. After a quick glance at
it, he tossed it to her.
"Mildred would be appalled."
Laura looked at him, confused.
"No post mark. Dinner should be ready in about half
an hour." He disappeared into the flat.
Heart hammering, Laura snatched the envelope up. Her hands
shaking, she shoved it in the front pocket of the bag and quickly
finished picking up the remaining pages.
That sealed it, Laura thought as she dropped the bag by
the couch. That envelope and its contents had to go. Now. There
was no reason for him to know anything about it. She started a
fire, walked back to the bag and retrieved the envelope. With
one long last look, she turned and tossed it in the fireplace.
She watched with satisfaction as the flames consumed the pages
and along with them, her doubts, her jealousy about what had been
before he'd appeared in her life. She had fought this round of
demons. And won.
"Bit warm for a fire tonight. Are you coming down with
"No. I feel great." Couldn't remember when she
had felt better.
She reached up, slid his tie off, pulled the tails of his
shirt from his trousers and started undoing buttons.
"Maybe this will help put you in the mood for a fire."
"This will definitely put me in the mood for a fire.
But one much too large for the fireplace, Laura."
She pushed his shirt off his shoulders. He leaned in and
kissed her lips, her jaw line. As he slowly removed the scarf,
his lips followed the trail of the silk down her neck. A mutual
project, her shirt followed the scarf to the floor, then trousers
and skirt. Then Laura, then Steele.
Steele knew that things were getting hot. And he'd heard
ringing in his ears before when making love with Laura, but the
fire alarm was a new one. And really it carried the whole metaphor
too far, was much too loud.
Laura ripped her mouth away. Pounded on his chest with her
fists. Then flipped him over using her best Havenhurst training.
"Smoke, Harry! In the kitchen!"
He jumped up and ran from the room.
Steele and Laura came into the office at the same time and
very close together. She glowed. His eyes shone. Mildred grinned
"Good Morning, Mildred," they said in unison.
Steele's eyes never left Laura. Her hand was still on his sleeve.
Good morning indeed, Mildred thought to herself. She got
great pleasure in seeing the Steeles this way, knowing how long
and hard the road had been for them.
"Good morning, Boss, Chief."
Mildred began running through the calendar for the day.
"You have a conference call at 9:30 with Vigilance
Insurance. At 11:00, the new alarm system vendor is coming in.
You are scheduled to be in court after the lunch recess."
"Um hm. Lunch sounds good," said Steele.
Mildred glanced up to find them headed into the Boss's office
and shook her head. While she was glad things were finally going
well for them, she had a job to do.
"Oh, and I scheduled Tony, the rat for dinner at 7:00
at the loft."
Nothing. Nada. Mildred threw her hands up. She stalked from
behind the desk and waved her steno pad at them.
"Boss? Mrs. Holt? Hello? We've got an agency to run."
Laura's face flamed and she stepped away from Steele. He
grinned at Mildred, slipped his arm around Laura's waist and pulled
her back against him. She tried to pull away. He settled her closer,
her back partially against his chest. She gave him a dark look
over her shoulder. He nodded at Mildred.
"We're all ears." He nibbled Laura's.
"9:30 Vigilance Insurance..."
Laura picked up her right foot. Steele spun her away, the
pulled her back, as if they were dancing.
"Careful, luv." Steele whispered so only Laura
could hear. "I'd hate for something to happen to your impressive
collection of lethal heels."
Mildred stared at them as if they were crazy. She was pretty
sure she'd heard Mrs. Holt growl.
Mildred glanced at Laura.
"Go ahead," she agreed.
"The new alarm vendor at 11:00 and court this afternoon
regarding the Fernandez matter. And I've got papers that need
your signature, Boss."
"Right. Put them on my desk."
Mildred grabbed the papers and started towards his desk.
"Mildred. We won't be returning to the office after
court this afternoon." Laura said.
"We won't?" Steele asked, raising his eyebrow.
"We have some shopping to do. Remember, Mr. Steele?"
She winked then turned and strode into her office. Steele
followed, just far enough behind to have a good view.
"Hold our calls, Mildred." He called back with
a big grin before firmly closing the door behind him.
Laura propped on the corner of her desk. Butterflies fluttered
in Laura's stomach. She took a slow, deep breath in. Sometimes
she still panicked, still fought it when the depth of them felt
as though it would overwhelm her. Didn't understand how other
couples went about their lives as if nothing was happening if
this was normal.
"So where did you have in mind to go shopping this
afternoon, Mrs. Steele?" His voice was thick with emotion
at the thought of having the thing he always dreamed about but
never dreamed of having himself.
"I thought we might drive around a bit--like you said
the other night. Maybe see what is out there, what appeals to
Steele tipped her chin up and kissed her deeply, then dropped
a kiss on her head. He allowed Laura a brief view into his soul
through his glistening blue eyes. Let her know how very much it
meant to him before he turned and collected himself.
"I should go sign those papers." he said and walked
through to his office.
Laura smiled as he left, reveling in his pleasure and in the knowledge of her part in it. But there was also a tiny twinge in her heart. Sometimes it scared her how much seeing him happy made her happy. Made her wonder at what point his happiness became more important than her own. And how close that meant she was to losing herself in him. Like her mother had done with her father.
Steele sat at his desk. He finally felt it was time to make the call he'd been wanting to make. Wanting to make, but had been waiting until he felt more certain of Laura. He picked up the phone and dialed out.
"Good Morning, Ms. Phillips. This is Remington Steele.
We spoke a few weeks ago about my permanent resident status. I'd
like to go ahead and make an appointment with you, for my wife
and myself to get the final paperwork underway."
Steele scrounged in his desk drawer for a scrap of paper
he could write on.
"Thursday at 3:00. At our office." Steele scratched
her name, the date and time on the paper.
"Right. Thank you very much. I look forward to seeing
you Thursday, then."
Two months. In two months this whole INS fiasco would be behind them. If he didn't mess it up. He wouldn't blame Laura if she didn't trust him to handle this himself. Hell, he didn't trust himself.
And that was where Catherine Phillips came in. She was one
of the top immigration lawyers in Southern California. He needed
everything to go off smoothly and he wasn't too proud to stack
the deck in his, their, favor. He folded the paper and stuck it
in his pocket to talk to Laura about this evening. He picked the
pen back up and started on the pile in front of him. He still
had an aversion to paperwork. But he had learned the price of
putting it off or ignoring it altogether was too steep. Had learned
it the hard way and it had almost cost him the one thing he wasn't
willing to risk. He'd not make that mistake again.
Laura pulled the files for their current Vigilance Insurance
cases and thumbed through them, refreshing her memory in case
she had forgotten something they were likely to ask about. Satisfied
she was prepared for their call, she flipped through the calendar
she kept in her desk. A note on Friday's page caught her attention.
In order for his status to be approved unconditionally,
they were required to file a joint petition during the ninety
day period prior to their second anniversary. As of Friday, she
and Harry had sixty days remaining to file their final petition
for his permanent resident status. And as of today, he had yet
to bring it up. Surely he remembers. He can't possibly have forgotten.
She had been waiting for him to say something for the last thirty
days. Had thought he was going to when he brought up 'consolidating'
their living arrangements. That seemed to indicate he was planning
to stay, with her, didn't it? Laura felt herself spiraling into
the black hole of doubt.
"Laura, get a grip on yourself."
She thought of the envelope, the letter, the malicious, taunting words that she had consigned to the flames. She had chosen faith. Had chosen to trust without questioning. She knew that what they had was more than some farce for the benefit of the INS. She would choose to continue to believe him when he said he loved her. That what they had was different from anything that had come before.
She had trusted him with her heart, surely she could trust
him with this.
Mildred knocked then stuck her head in the doorway. "Mr.
Steele said it was okay to interrupt you. Vigilance is on the
line in his office."
"Thanks, Mildred. I'll be right in."
Laura gathered up the files and started around her desk, then stopped. She grabbed the calendar, flipped forward one month and wrote thirty days! and underlined it. She closed the calendar, picked the files back up and headed for Steele's office. Harry's love for her should not be measured by his disdain for paperwork. Nor her's for him by her inability to cede complete control over something so critical.
"Have a good afternoon, Mrs. Steele."
"Thanks, Eric. You too."
Laura took the 9" x 12" manila envelope, added it to the pile in her hand and headed for the elevator. As the elevator rose, Laura shuffled through the mail. Credit card offers, a sales flyer for the local grocer, a movie catalog, Stanford Magazine and the large envelope. She exited the elevator and let herself in the flat. She held onto the large envelope and dropped the rest of it on the table. She slipped off her black pumps and wiggled her toes in the plush carpet before opening the envelope addressed to Laura Holt. As she pulled the paper from the packet, two photos fell to the floor.
Laura left the page sticking half-in and half-out and retrieved
At first glance, Laura didn't think she knew the girl in
the photo but at the same time, she seemed somehow familiar. She
was standing in the sand along a rocky coastline. Her hair blown
back from her face by the wind. Laura carried the pictures over
to the windows where the light was brighter and took a look at
the second photo.
Her hand shook as she carefully laid the photos down. The
tremors made it difficult to extract the letter from the envelope.
She took a slow breath.
"Icy calm, Laura. Icy calm."
Rather nice photos, don't you think? They should go well
in the family album.
"That's it?!" Laura yelled at the page. "That's
She threw the letter and envelope away from her, crossed
her arms over her chest and stared out the window.
"How could someone do this?"
She paced over and picked up the second photo. Ran her finger
tenderly over the familiar features.
"How am I supposed to tell you this, Harry?"
Laura picked up the letter and carefully returned it and
the photos to the envelope. She scanned the flat for a moment,
then strode to the bedroom. She pulled out a dresser drawer and
slid the packet under her workout clothes and closed the drawer.
She glanced at her watch. She had thirty minutes before she needed
to leave to meet Harry at the loft. She marched into the den,
picked up the phone and dialed.
"Come on. Please be in. I really need you." Annoyed,
Laura swiped a tear from the corner of her eye. She'd cried more
in the last month than in the last five years.
"Murphy Michaels." Just the sound of his voice
helped soothe Laura's fraying nerves. She exhaled for what seemed
like the first time since she'd looked at the second photo.
"Hi Murphy, it's Laura."
"Laura, what's wrong?"
"Does there have to be something wrong for me to call
"No. But I know you Laura Holt...Steele," he added
grudgingly. "You're calling me at 3:15 on a Tuesday from
home. Besides, I can hear it in your voice. You're upset. Get
over your misplaced pride. We all need someone, sometimes. Tell
me what's wrong. What's he done this time?"
"It's not him. I'm not sure who it is. And that's part
of the problem. In the last three weeks, I've gotten two anonymous
letters. The first one said something to the effect that I was
a stand-in wife. That Steele didn't really love me and that he
had something with her I would never have with him."
"Well that makes sense." Murphy laughed. "A
guy who's never stayed in the same place or even used the same
name for more than six months has been stuck to you like glue
for most of the last six years. If that's not love, what is? Even
I've had to concede that point. What did Pretty Boy have to say?"
"Nothing. He doesn't know anything about it."
"I didn't tell him, alright. Things have been going
really well. And you said it. He's here with me. Now. For the
last six years."
"So why keep a secret like this? Why not tell him if
things are going so well?"
Laura ground her teeth. "Look Murphy, I'm on a schedule
here. I've got about twenty minutes before I have to leave to
meet him. I didn't tell him. I had my reasons."
"Alright, Laura. Have it your way. You usually do.
Just for the record, I think keeping secrets like that are a bad
idea in a relationship. Anyway, tell me how you think I can help."
"Today I got a second delivery. This time it included
a couple of photographs." Her voice quavered. "They're
of a young girl, maybe eight or nine. I don't know. Murphy, she
looks like him. Her hair, her eyes. They're his."
"All the letter said was Rather nice photos, don't
you think? They should go well in the family album. I don't
know what to do Murphy. How do I show him? Tell him? There are
a lot of things I believe he was once capable of, some things
I think he is still tempted by but I can't imagine a situation
where he would..." Laura took a breath. Sighed. "I can't
even say it to you, Murphy. And in less than half an hour I'm
meeting him at the loft start looking for a home for us."
The silence stretched out to an uncomfortable tautness.
"You have to tell him, Laura. You can't go without
"But Murphy we're so close. So close to his dream.
His legal resident status is permanent in sixty days. We've made
so much progress. I started to believe Murphy. To honestly believe
he wouldn't leave..."
"Don't put it off Laura. It won't make it easier."
"I know Murphy. But how? How do I break his heart?"
"You hand him the envelope. You put his needs first
and you stand by him no matter what. No matter what, Laura. You
know I wasn't in favor of your taking him on to start with but
you two have worked it out. Have built something special."
Murphy paused for a moment. Laura started to speak but he
cut her off.
"If you get scared and push him away, he'll go Laura.
And this time he might not come back. He's going to be wounded
to the core if it turns out this is real." Murphy was as
authoritative as Laura had ever heard him. "And if he goes
anyway, then you follow him. He's going to need you. He's going
to want to protect you. And he's going to think he let you down.
That he's not worthy of you. He's not, but no one is."
Laura smiled. Good old Murphy. She'd been right to call
"It's going to be the most difficult thing you have
ever done, Laura. This is his fight you're being drug into. You're
going to have to let him take the lead. Let him make the decisions.
Let him have control of everything--except whether you stay in
Laura wiped her tears with the back of her hand. She looked
at her watch, realized the time. "I've got to go, Murphy.
"Anytime, friend. Let me know how things go. I have
faith in you."
Laura heard the dial tone.
"What would I do without you, Murphy?"
Laura stared at the phone in her hand . She stabbed the
numbers for the loft.
He answered on the first ring.
"Can, can you come by the flat, instead?"
"No problem, Laura. I'll just put out the rubbish on
my way down. I'll see you in a few minutes. I know we probably
won't find anything but I'd like to look by the beach, just to
Laura choked a laugh out of her tight throat. "I'll
see you soon, Harry."
She put the phone down. She could do this. She had to.
"Marvelous afternoon, isn't it gentlemen?" Steele
asked as he passed through the lobby of the Rossmore. "Ready,
Laura?" He called as he opened the door to the penthouse
Laura looked at him as he moved towards her. His eyes danced
with excitement, with anticipation. It's what he should have looked
like as a boy at Christmas. The hope, the expectation shining
in his face.
He grabbed her around the waist, spun her in a circle. Kissed
her breathless. His touch, her response to it, was electric. Laura
shivered as goose bumps ran up her back. Her neck. Her arms. Her
face flushed with heat. He pulled her closer, her head resting
on his chest, his hand in her hair. "Pinch me Laura... No
wait, don't. If this is a dream, I want to enjoy every minute
Laura kissed his cheek then pushed away. "What are
you waiting for, then? Time's a wasting."
She grabbed her bag off the top of the mail still on the
counter. 'Sorry Murphy."
"So in this dream of yours, who's driving?" She
grabbed his hand and pulled him out the door.
"You, Laura. Always you."
"Pull in there, Laura, three houses down on the left."
Steele pointed to modest, cream-colored frame house with darker
brown trim. A For sale by Owner sign in the stood forlornly
in the unkempt yard. The house appeared vacant from the outside.
Laura pulled the Rabbit into the gravel drive. Steele pulled a
small notebook and pen from the glove box and wrote the phone
number and address down. Something about it called to him.
"I thought we were just looking for ideas, neighborhoods."
Laura asked, her hands still on the wheel and gear shift. Steele
reached over, turned the car off and pocketed the key as he got
out of the car. He came round to the driver's side, opened the
door and held out his hand.
"We've been riding for almost two hours. Let's walk
down to the beach. Stretch a bit, eh."
Reluctantly, Laura put her hand in his and allowed him to help her from the car. He gave her hand a squeeze, then laced his fingers through hers as they walked in silence down the side of the street to a beach access trail. When they reached the beach, Steele stopped and toed off his shoes, then knelt and undid the ribbons on Laura's espadrilles. He gazed up and smiled, looking for answers in her golden eyes. She offered him a hand up and smiled back. It wasn't the carefree, unrestrained smile that lit up her whole face. Instead of dancing with pleasure or mischief, her eyes were dark, tired.
He collected their shoes and set them near the trail. When
he reached her side again, he slid his arm around her waist. She
let her head rest on his shoulder for a moment. Then they strolled
quietly through the sand.
"Look." Steele stopped and turned Laura's shoulders
just a bit so she was cradled against him and pointed up the hill.
"See the house?"
"I see it."
"Can you see it, Laura? Can you see us standing on
the deck, like this, you in my arms? A light breeze blowing off
the ocean, the sun setting over the water? Can you hear it? You
talking about a case, me talking about dinner and an old movie,
the sound of the surf in the distance?"
"Mmmm. Sounds nice, doesn't it."
Harry turned her in his arms. "It does. It sounds like
home to me." His fingers tangled in her glorious hair as
he brought their lips together. He let one hand roam down her
back, supporting her when he deepened their kiss. After a long,
full taste of her, her pulled back but kept her at his side.
"Is it big enough, do you think?" he asked as
they started back. "I mean, how many bed rooms do you think
Laura shrugged. "That house? I don't know. Two maybe
three, I'd guess."
"Would that be enough for us? I mean I'd like to have
one home. To not need to move again in a few years...You know
because we've... had a family, outgrown our space." Harry
stuck his hands in his pockets and stared out over the water.
"Another thing that I cost us in my haste to get married,
a chance to talk about our plans and dreams for a future together."
He was quiet for a moment, remembering the most awful month of
his life. He'd almost lost everything that mattered in four short
weeks. But God's grace, and Laura's, had pulled them through even
that fiasco. He turned back to Laura and draped an arm over her
shoulder. "Guess we have some things to talk about, Mrs.
"We most definitely do, Mr. Steele."
"Look out!" someone yelled.
Out of instinct, and habit, Harry threw them to the sand,
taking the brunt of the tumble. A large Frisbee, the most atrocious
color green he had ever seen, landed a few inches from them.
"Sorry. He hasn't learned how to control his throws
yet." The teenage girl scooped up the disc and tossed a perfect
arc to the young man at the water's edge.
Laura laughed and vaulted to her feet. He loved how she
moved, always so fluid and effortless. Grace in motion.
"No harm done." Harry sat up with a wry grin.
"Happens to us all the time." Laura laughed again. He
took then hand that she offered and got to his feet.
The girl looked at him confused. She shrugged her shoulders
and ran off to join her friend.
Laura swayed and grabbed Harry's arm.
"Laura? Are you alright?" He thought she had put
rather a lot of weight on his arm if she was only steadying herself.
" I'm just a little dizzy. I must have gotten up too
quickly. Give me a minute. I'll be fine."
He lowered them to the sand. "Lay your head in my lap
and relax." He brushed the hair from her face then gently
massaged her temples.
"Um that feels wonderful, Harry."
She rested quietly in his lap while he watched the sun set
over the Pacific. There wasn't anywhere else he'd rather be. "You
are the luckiest man in the world, Harry. So much luckier than
As the last pink tendrils of the sun's rays floated just
above the horizon, he tenderly ran a finger across Laura's cheek.
"Laura, love. We should get back to the car. It will be dark
and cool, soon."
She turned her face towards his hand and snuggled closer.
"Laura." He shook her shoulder gently. "Laura."
He called a bit louder and shook her shoulder more firmly.
"Hmm?" She answered but made no effort to move.
"Time to get up and go home, Mrs. Steele." He
sat her up against him. He scrolled back in his mind through their
tumble to the sand--the Frisbee had missed them and he'd broken
their fall. She'd had no opportunity to bang her head and he hadn't
felt any lumps when he was rubbing her head earlier. He shifted
her so she was sitting in his lap. In the dusky light, her face
looked pale. He touched his lips to her forehead. She didn't feel
too warm. Actually, she felt just right. He lowered his lips to
hers. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back.
"Come on, love. We should get back." He slid her
off his lap and got to his feet, then took her arm and helped
her up. "Nice and slow this time."
He kept his arm around her waist until they reached the
trail to the street. He made a cursory attempt to dust the sand
from his feet before sliding them into his shoes. He tied the
ribbons of Laura's espadrilles together.
He slung them over his shoulder. "You won't need them."
He swept her into his arms and started up the trail.
"Harry." He chose to pay attention to the delight
in her eyes rather than the scolding in her voice.
A group of young women jogged past them and waved. "Oh
my. Isn't that the most romantic thing," they giggled.
"Romantic, Mrs. Steele. So relax and enjoy the ride."
The flush across Laura's cheeks made the effort more than worth
Laughing, Laura gave in. "Carry on, Harry. Carry on."
Carry on he did until they reached the Rabbit. He settled
her in the passenger seat and secured her safety belt. She was
asleep before he reached the main road.
He pulled in front of the Rossmore and parked. He tried
not to wake Laura this time. He lifted her from the seat and banged
the door close with his foot. "Here," he whispered to
the doorman "take the keys. I'll be back down as soon as
I get Mrs. Steele tucked in. Move it if you need to before I get
The doorman called the elevator for Steele and selected
the button for the penthouse flat.
"Thanks. Shouldn't be more than a few minutes."
At the top, Steele struggled to keep Laura in his arms and
work the key in the lock. Amazed she slept through the less than
smooth process, he finally got the door unlocked and open.
"Almost there, Laura."
He carried her straight through to the bedroom and groaned
softly as he saw the perfectly made bed.
While Laura was very slim, she was muscular and right now
she was dead weight. He sat down on the corner of the bed with
a sigh and contemplated his options. He could formulate a plan
to steal priceless jewels, surely he could figure out how to get
Laura under the covers--or not. He could hear Daniel in his head,
laughing. "Took you almost five years the last time you hatched
a plan to get Laura in your bed, Harry. "
"Well, I'm a lot faster now, Daniel. I've gotten plenty
of practice in the last year and half."
He cradled Laura to his chest with one arm, then reached back across their bodies to pull at the covers. He slid up to the space he'd created and gently shifted Laura from his lap to the sheets.
Knowing she would sleep better in something less restrictive,
Steele moved to Laura's dresser to find something that would be
easy for him to get her into. He'd just opened a drawer when the
He scrambled around the corner of the bed to grab the phone
before it woke Laura.
"Abigail. Hello. How are you?"
"Um. I see. Yes that is too bad. I'm sure Mrs. Prescott
"No. Laura isn't available by phone right now."
"Yes, Abigail, I see your problem. How about some advice
from your daughter's partner and husband instead? Will that help
"Yes, well. I think Laura would tell your neighbor
to look for prints. Foot prints around the area where she planted
the pansies. If she has any other advice, I'll have her call you
"Good night, Abigail."
Steele shook his head as he returned to finish tucking Laura
in. Deer. He was almost certain deer or rabbits were the culprit
in Mrs. Prescott's $200 worth of stolen pansies and tulips. Laura's
mother was one-of-a-kind...
He peeled off Laura's skirt then looked at her top again. There was no easy way for him to get it off, since it would have to come over her head. He slid his hands under her shirt and deftly removed her bra. Deciding that was as comfortable as he could make her, he pulled up the covers and smoothed them over her. Quietly, he closed the dresser drawer and slipped out of the room and the flat to move the car.
"Is she still asleep, Boss?"
"Yes, Mildred," he whispered, stepping out into
the hall with her. "And I'd like to keep it that way. So
I've taken the phone off the hook. If there's a desperate emergency
that just can't wait, call downstairs and have them send someone
"you don't think it's anything serious do you Boss.
I mean, she's never sick. And nothing slows her down."
Steele took the files he'd had her bring and tucked them
under his arm. "I'm sure she'll be right as rain before we
know it." He walked Mildred to the elevator. "But I'll
be right here keeping an eye on her just in case."
"Call me if you need anything else. Anything."
"Will do Mildred."
Steele walked back into the flat and sat down on the couch
and set to work.
An hour and a half later, he stretched his arms up over
his head. He stood up, arched his back and rubbed his hands over
his face. If he continued doing paperwork, he'd soon be asleep
like Laura. He set the files on the counter beside yesterday's
mail then headed to the kitchen to start brunch. Laura hadn't
eaten in nearly twenty-four hours. She was sure to be hungry when
she woke. And that would likely be any time now.
Laura woke to her stomach rumbling and the smell of bacon.
She stretched then swung her feet over the side of the bed. As
she stood up she realized she was still wearing the blouse she
had on yesterday. She grabbed her chenille robe from the door
and slipped into it then padded barefooted to the kitchen.
"Good Morning, Harry."
"Laura, good morning." He put his arm around her
and led her to the table. "Perfect timing as always. Brunch
will be right out. Almost ready."
"I can help you." She pushed up from the chair.
"Not this morning you can't. I've got it. You just
"Harry that's all well and good on the weekend. But
it's a work day. We can't be late."
He set a steaming plate of pancakes, bacon and eggs at each
place, then sat down. Laura picked up her fork and attacked her
"Laura, it's a quarter after eleven. We're already
She dropped her fork back onto the plate. "Why didn't
you wake me." She started to push back her chair. But Steele
had anticipated her reaction and clamped his hand gently around
"Laura, you had a nap at the beach yesterday. Then
you fell asleep in the car on the way home and slept through the
night and half the day. Don't you think you needed the rest?"
She jerked her arm away.
"I should have had plenty of rest before the alarm went off this morning." She glared at him. "You turned it off, didn't you," she was almost shouting now. "We have an agency to run. People depend
on us, Harry."
"Yes, Laura they do. They depend on us to be able to
pick up on clues and react appropriately. Like recognizing you
need to rest before you're so bloody exhausted that you fall asleep
before dinner and sleep like the dead through till lunch."
Laura pushed away from the table again. This time he didn't
stop her. "I'm fine. And you could have still gone in. I
can take care..."
His face flushed in frustration. "Back to that, Laura?
So you've said many times. Almost as many times as I've saved
your beautiful, stubborn neck."
He stood and held her chair for her. "Now sit down
and eat your breakfast before it gets cold." he said calmly.
"Don't patronize me, Harry."
"Laura, you're acting like a spoiled child. A hungry,
spoiled child who didn't get finished with their nap."
Laura stomped her foot.
Steele smirked and raised an eyebrow.
"What would you know about it?" she shouted and
stormed off to the bedroom--and slammed the door behind her for
Laura snatched the first skirt and blouse she came to from
the closet and headed to the shower. She turned on the water,
stripped off her clothes and stepped under the spray. She splashed
the water over her face, refused to acknowledge she was crying,
"Stupid, Harry. That was stupid." His heart still stung from her last barb, even though he knew he'd goaded her into it. He had no better idea than he had on Friday about what was bothering Laura but they were running out of time. They needed to work this out before they met with Catherine Phillips about their INS petition tomorrow afternoon.
Steele knocked on the bedroom door as he opened it. Laura
stood in front of the closet, wrapped in a towel, hanging her
skirt and blouse back up. She turned to face him.
"I put your plate..."
He waved his hand for her to go ahead.
"We need to talk. I'd thought last night..." Her
towel came undone. She let it fall to the floor and turned back
to the closet.
"Let me get dressed."
She could feel his eyes on her as she flipped through his dress shirts. Blue. They're all blue. She slipped a green-blue one off its hanger and slid her arm in. When she reached back for the other
sleeve, Harry was there, at her side, sleeve in hand. He
held it for her, then worked the buttons from the bottom up.
"I'm sorry for earlier." She knew she'd behaved
He kissed her damp hair and hugged her close. "Thank
you. I wasn't blameless either."
After rolling up the sleeves, she pulled open the dresser
drawer. She removed a pair of leggings she wore running when it
was cool, and after staring it down for a moment, the envelope.
Perched on the side of the bed she tugged on the leggings. She
settled herself cross-legged, clutching the envelope to her chest.
"Alright, Harry. Let's talk."
Harry looked at the envelope Laura held, could see the slight
tremble in its edge from her shaking hand. Laura didn't meet his
eyes. Suddenly talking didn't seem nearly so urgent.
"You know, Laura. You've hardly eaten a thing in the
last twenty-four hours. Your plate is warming in the oven. Whatever
it is can wait until you've had a bite to eat can't it?"
he asked hopefully.
She meant to say no. Needed to get this over with. But somehow
found herself allowing him to help her from the bed. Found herself
unable to refuse his offer to care for her, again. It was an olive
branch after earlier, wasn't it. And what if it bought her, them
a few more minutes of before. There would be no going back to
the ways things were after.
He read the morning's paper while she ate, mentioning things
to her from time to time. She listened but didn't really hear.
After eating most of her eggs and a few of the silver dollar sized
pancakes, she moved to push her chair back from the table again.
Harry stepped behind and pulled it out for her. She picked the
envelope up off the table. She sat on one end of the couch.
"Come sit with me, Harry." She patted the spot
He wasn't sure when he'd ever been this nervous with her.
He hadn't had time to get nervous before she confronted him about
Clarissa and the INS, he'd been too busy trying to save both their
skins and the agency.
"I need to give you what's in this envelope, Harry.
But before you see what's inside, I need to tell you a few things,
a few very important things."
She set the envelope in her lap, reached over and touched
his face. "I love you, Harry. And I believe in you. Nothing
in this envelope can change that. And I'm trusting that you will
be honest with me."
She opened the end of the envelope and pulled out the photos
and the letter. Steele felt the sweat beading up on his forehead.
He patted the chest pocket of his casual shirt. Where was a bloody
pocket square when you needed one? For God's sake would she just
do it already?
"I wish I knew how to prepare you for what you're going
to see. I keep telling myself they could have been tampered with,
altered somehow. I mean we both saw what can be done with the
"Laura. I'm coming up with the most awful possibilities
here. The reality can't be as bad as what I am thinking, with
my over-active imagination."
"You're over-active something else may have more to
do with this picture."
"Like a plaster, Laura. Just rip it off and get it
She took a deep breath, closed her eyes....
"Laura. Just let me see..."
And handed him the photos.
Harry took the photographs from her. He looked the first
one over, then slid it beneath and looked at the second one. Laura
searched his face, watched for body language that might let her
know what he was thinking, feeling. Nervously, she smoothed her
hands over the envelope on her lap and felt the letter sitting
"There was a note with them." She held out the
half-folded sheet to him.
He unfolded the letter and read it aloud. "Rather nice
photos, don't you think? I'm sure he'll want them for the family
album." He flipped the page closed and set it beside him.
"Him, who, Laura?"
Laura hesitated. She didn't want to say it. Didn't know
if she could. Here it was, the after. She hadn't needed the letter
to tell her.
"Laura, who do you think they are talking about in
"You, Harry...you." she kept her voice quite but
it still sounded like a bomb blast in her head. She felt her world
shatter the same way it had the night her house had been blown-up.
"Where did you get this?" he was suddenly more
Johnny Todd than Steele or Harry.
She handed him the envelope. "It came here to the flat."
Laura didn't know what to think. Johnny Todd was not a side
of Harry she had much experience with, was a side of him she was
not at all comfortable with. She didn't know how to handle Johnny
Todd. It made her edgier.
"How long, Laura?" He stood. Ran his hand through
his hair. "How long have you had this? When did it come?"
He began to pace. That nervous energy rolling off him in waves.
Laura rubbed her hands together. Surprised to find her palms sweaty, she ran them down her thighs. She wasn't afraid of him. Not really. But he was menacing like this. She understood why Johnny
Todd got answers when he wanted them. "Yesterday. The
envelope came yesterday."
"Yesterday. And you didn't bother to mention it. Went
along as if nothing was wrong. As if you didn't know?" His
hands flew around, gesticulating wildly as they did when he was
Laura jumped to her feet. She hadn't built the top private
investigation agency in Southern California because she allowed
herself to be intimidated or bullied. "As if I didn't know
what Harry? As if I didn't know you have a child?" she yelled
back. She fisted her hands in his shirt and pulled them nose to
nose. "How long have you known, Harry? When did you know?"
Harry wrapped his arms around her, pulled her tight against
him. She could hardly catch her breath. "About three minutes
He crushed his lips to hers. She felt his tears run down her cheek before she lost herself in his desperate kiss.
His mind swirling, his heart pounding, Harry held on to Laura as if his life depended on her. Because it did. He would not have become what he was without her. Probably could not continue to be that man without her. She had truly made him what he was in so many ways. But at what cost to herself? He could hear Mildred's voice chiding him the last time he'd almost cost Laura the agency.
I've watched all the trouble you've put Miss Holt through,
Boss. I just hope your worth it. "I hope so too, Mildred,"
he'd replied then. And he'd worked hard over the last two and
a half years to be worth it. And now here he was again. Could
he ever be worth it...
"Harry, you're crushing me." Laura pushed gently
against his chest.
"Sorry." he murmured. He dropped his arms and
pulled away from her.
"So it's true?"
Harry made himself look at her, he owed her that much, the
set of her jaw as she tried not to let the tears fall, the quaver
in her voice she didn't quite hide. Her smile was meant to reassure,
to encourage him to feel safe, to be honest. But the slightest
trembling at the corners of her mouth and the carefully controlled
modulation of her normally lilting voice were a clear tell of
the inner battle for composure she was fighting. For him. For
them. His heart swelled with more love for her than he'd thought
possible. And broke for what he was about to do, for having to
give her the answer she had already figured out was coming. Those
golden eyes begged him to prove her wrong. He blinked.
"Before I'd seen those pictures I would have said no.
No, it can't be true." He turned to the windows, his hand
reflexively running through his already disheveled hair. "You
know about my childhood. Know I would never want to have anyone
suffer what I did. Know I didn't want to stay in one place, even
be one person. And Daniel was a thorough teacher. I always took
it upon myself, no matter what promises were made on the other
side, to make sure I was covered, so to speak. It still seems
like it shouldn't be possible..."
"But we both know there is only one fool-proof method..."
Laura finished for him.
He couldn't stop the wry grin that flashed across his face.
"We should, since we used it for four and a half bloody long
He tenderly took her into his arms again and kissed the
top of her head, soaking in the feel of her against him, the scent
of her hair.
"Tell me we'll find a way through this Laura."
She lifted her head from his chest, placed her small, strong
hand gently on his cheek. "I won't send you away, Harry.
I won't send you away."
It was the only thing she could have said to make him believe
they would find a way. In spite of her own hurt and betrayal,
she'd known what he needed. And had been willing to give it to
him when he didn't believe he deserved it. Harry had thought he
was emotionally spent. That he couldn't feel more than he'd felt
in the last half-hour. He'd been wrong.
He brushed his lips to hers.
He was tempted to follow the kiss to his preferred conclusion.
To lay Laura down and lose himself in her. He slid his hand up
her back, let her soft curls slip through his fingers until he
cradled her head.
Laura stepped away from him. Hugged her arms to her chest.
She didn't know where things went from here, but they didn't go
The silence stretched out between them like a suspect high-wire.
She stared at Myrna Loy on the wall. What would you have done
Nora? Besides have a drink, of course. Oh God, now she was
talking to them, too. She raked her hand through her hair in just
the way he did when he was frustrated with himself. Laura ground
her teeth so hard they squeaked.
"What did you say, Laura?"
"I didn't say anything."
She thought he sounded disappointed. She wanted to be angry.
Was angry. What else did he want her to say? What more could she
give him than her promise? She was doing her best to keep Murphy's
admonition about not pushing him away in the front of her mind.
But there were so many thoughts and emotions running through her
head, competing for her attention.
"I didn't know, don't know. I have to know, Laura.
I have to find her, find out. If..."
She watched him stick his hands in his pants pockets and
stare at his foot where it scuffed at the carpet. He looked like
he was five years-old, waiting for a sure to be harsh punishment.
"Of course you do. If there is anything I know about
you, it's that you'd never have left her if you had known. Nothing
would have kept you from her."
His foot stopped and he looked up at Laura. His hands flew
from his pockets, his eyes flashed, and the initial shock and
disbelief were thawed with heat of righteous fury.
"Nothing will, now. I will find her. And once I do,
nothing will ever keep me from her, Laura. Nothing. And no one."
He stormed over to the door and flung it open. Hand still
on the knob, he called to her. "I need to go." He nodded
towards the hallway. "I just need to go."
Laura stood rooted to the floor, the sound of the door closing
echoed in her ears, waiting for the tears that never came. Waiting
A thin stream of blood ran down Steele's left cheek, the
metallic taste bitter in his mouth. Bloody fool. He should have
seen it coming. He pushed the pain from his mind as he stepped
away from another blow intended for his face. Keeping his right
arm up, he delivered a sharp left jab to the gut, heard the grunt
of breath leaving lungs as the diaphragm flexes up unexpectedly.
Bull's eye. He dropped his right, ready to deliver a follow
up jab when his head snapped back. Staggering back a step, he
managed to regain his balance before he fell over. Quickly he
pulled his right back up to protect his head better. He landed
three jabs in a row and followed with a quick right upper cut.
Yes. Like that. A few more blows and...
Laura stood by the window, staring out at the city. She
flipped through the pages of Steele's passport. Having it in her
hands, knowing it was here with her, had seemed comforting six
hours ago. She glanced down at her watch to check the time again.
Seven minutes since the last time she'd checked. She vowed at
least fifteen would pass before she checked it again.
She stared at the photo of him on the watermarked page. Who was she kidding? He'd had five passports when she'd met him. There was no reason he had to have this passport to leave the country.
He could have already had new papers made and be on a flight
out to God knows where by now. Could have. Not that she thought
he had. Did she? No. Not unless he knew where to go to find her.
She tossed the passport on the table and rubbed her face
with her hands. She didn't know what he might have done. How did
anyone know what they would do if they suddenly found out they
had a child that had been hidden from them?
The buzzer rang twice in succession followed by a sharp
rap on the door.
Relieved, Laura hurried to the door. Harry had rushed out
so quickly he'd probably forgotten to take his keys or pick set.
She opened the door and threw her arms around Detective Jarvis.
"Oh. Sorry, I wasn't expecting you." She stumbled
back through the door. "What case brings you here? I wasn't
aware you were handling any of ours at the moment."
As soon as she asked the question she realized she wasn't
going to like the answer.
"I'm not here on business. Well, I am here on business,
just not your business. It's personal."
Laura reached out to the wall for support.
"Damn." Jarvis ran a hand through his sandy red
hair. Laura's stomach churned at the possibilities that rolled
through her as he continued to fumble through his explanation.
"Maybe sending me wasn't the best idea. It seemed like
it at the time. Since we know each other and everything. And your
phone is out."
She opened her mouth to tell him to get to the point but
found that words didn't come out. And whatever he was saying didn't
make sense anymore. Maybe she should see a doctor about these
dizzy spells, she thought as she slid down the wall.
"Miss Holt! Mrs. Steele!" Detective Jarvis knelt
beside her, helped her prop her back against the wall and shoved
her head between her knees. "Come on, Laura. I've never know
you to buckle under pressure. Take slow, steady breaths."
After a moment, Laura raised her head and swiped bravely
at the tears running unashamedly down her face.
"It's okay. Detective Jarvis. I'm alright now."
She continued to sit on the floor by the door, her arms clasped
around her knees. Icy calm, Laura. Icy calm. You can fall apart
"Where is he? Can you take me to him, please?"
Jarvis took her elbow and helped her to her feet.
"Absolutely. It's why they sent me."
They walked out the door. As it closed behind her, Laura
realized she didn't have her keys, either. But it wasn't important.
If he wasn't in it, there was nothing else that really mattered
in the flat.
Laura, Mildred and Jarvis at the hospital
Jarvis didn't say another word as he drove through the city.
That was fine with her. Laura stared out the window of the front
seat of the police cruiser and tried to gather her thoughts. She
didn't know how she'd... No. She would have time for that later.
She needed to focus on more immediate things right now.
"How did he look?"
"He took quite a beating, I tell you. Both eyes are
black and blue. Mouth is busted up pretty good. Doesn't look much
like his PR photos right now, that's for sure. It'd be hard to
recognize him if you didn't know who you were looking at."
Oh God, oh God. Laura heard an awful moan, then realized
it had come from her.
"Never would have thought you'd be so upset over something
so superficial as looks. I wouldn't let it bother you too much.
Even if pictures of him like this get out in the press, my guess
is it just adds another chapter to his already legendary exploits.
In a few weeks, no one will remember how awful he looks now."
Laura stuck her hand in her mouth to keep from screaming
at Jarvis. Harry was more than a pretty face. So much more. But
there was also that part of him that took such pride in his appearance,
in maintaining the image of Remington Steele. He wouldn't want
to be remembered...
The media. She and Mildred couldn't handle all of this on their own. Although Mildred rarely spoke about that time when she had thought Laura and Steele were...Laura had seen how overwhelmed
Mildred was not just by managing the details but by the
media, the police, all of it. And it wasn't because Mildred was
lacking. She was good. It was just too much. They would need to
have someone else. Fast. Lord knows calling Frances or her mother
was out of the question. They would need more support than they
would give. Murphy. Murphy would get her through...
Jarvis parked the cruiser in a no parking zone and killed
the engine. Laura dug her nails into her fist and took a big breath,
steeling herself for what was to come. She raised her chin and
opened her own door. As she stepped out of the car, Jarvis's radio
went off like fireworks on the Fourth of July.
"Hey. Emergency. I gotta go. Just ask at the desk.
They'll direct you through."
Jarvis slammed the door and flipped on his lights, tires
squealing as he whipped the car around the corner of the parking
lot and out into traffic.
Laura looked up to find herself standing in front of the
hospital. For a moment she was confused. He must have still
been... They must have thought he had a chance... She forced
herself to stop thinking of "might have been"s and "what
if"s and focus again on the next step. Squaring her shoulders,
she marched inside to the information desk.
"Hi. I'm Laura Steele. Could you tell me where they
have my husband's..."
"Your husband's name, please," the woman, between
18 and 20 years old, with too much blue eye shadow and mascara
"Sorry, I don't have a Harry Seal." The girl giggled
a bit, hearing what she had just said. "That must have been
a great name to have on the playground.
"No, not Seal. Steele."
"No Steele, either, Hairy or otherwise." she smiled
at her little pun. "Are you sure you're at the right hospital?"
"Detective Jarvis drove me here..."
"Oh, Detective Jarvis from homicide..." the girl
dropped her eyes. "Um maybe the already moved your husband,
you know... That happened one other time before. Let me get my
Before Laura could say anything the girl scurried off. A
white-haired woman still chewing something came out of the door
the girl had entered.
"Spell the last name."
"S-T-E-E-L-E," Laura spoke as clearly as possible
around the thick knot that had grown in her throat.
"He's right here. These kids can't do anything without
help. I'm not sure why they keep hiring them. Completely incompetent
at even the simple task of looking up a patient's room number."
Laura was going to lose it any moment.
"I see. So can you give me his room number?"
The woman walked away before Laura could say thank you. Or ask for directions.
Slowly, Harry opened his eyes. The lights were bright and
he let his heavy lids fall closed again. The pounding in his head
did not lessen. He thought he heard voices coming closer. Instinctively,
he curled his knees up to protect his middle then tucked his chin
and tried to pull his arms up to cover his head. He couldn't get
one arm to move. It was trapped. He cracked his eyes just a bit,
trying to see what had him trapped. An IV. I'm in hospital.
He sighed, shut his eyes again and let his legs relax.
Harry cautiously opened his eyes again. A bald man in a
white jacket was standing over him.
"I'm Dr. Robbins, Mr. Steele. It looks like someone
got the better of you this time. Seems like you got knocked out
over at the boxing club. When you came around, you weren't making
sense, didn't act like yourself according to the people there..."
There was a faint knock on the door before it opened.
"Ah. You must be Mrs. Steele. We tried to get a hold
of you for a half hour. Operator couldn't interrupt the line.
Your phone must have been off the hook."
"Laura, you're here..."
A broad smile on his battered face, Steele sat up just in
time to see the color drain from Laura's as she crumpled to the
Harry moved to get out of the bed before he was stopped
by his immobilized arm. He rolled back over and ripped his arm
free of the velcro straps that restrained him, then yanked out
the IV. The loud beeping of an alarm did nothing to help his head.
Finally free, he quickly knelt beside Laura, reached out to touch
her hair, her cheek.
Dr. Robbins had his fingers on her wrist, checking her heart
rate. Laying her wrist over her stomach, he turned to Harry.
"Sit." He ordered firmly and strode across the
Harry sat, his right hand resting on Laura's face.
The doctor handed Harry a large square of gauze and pointed
to his left arm. Harry looked where Dr. Robbins pointed. Blood
ran down his arm and spotted his gown. "Put pressure on that
until it stops. I can't have you bleeding all over in here."
A nurse rushed through the door, saw the three of them on
the floor and stopped just before she crashed into them. "How
can I help?"
"Help me get her into his bed." Harry grinned.
He always liked the sound of that, Laura in his bed.
"You," he pointed at Harry, "can sit in that
chair until we get this sorted out."
Harry opened his mouth to argue. Dr. Robbins glared. The
nurse pointed. Meekly, Harry stood and made his way to the chair.
He sat down and sighed. Then winced. Apparently his head wasn't
the only thing that had taken a beating.
Harry opened his mouth to argue. Dr. Robbins glared. The
nurse pointed. Meekly, Harry stood and made his way to the chair.
He sat down and sighed. Then winced. Apparently his head wasn't
the only thing that had taken a beating. He'd not be taking any
deep breaths, at least not comfortably, for a while.
He watched intently as the doctor and nurse moved Laura
from the floor to his bed. The nurse wrapped a cuff around Laura's
arm to check her blood pressure. As the nurse inflated the cuff,
Laura began to mumble and push at her arm.
"Her blood pressure is a little low but within normal."
Dr. Robbins turned to Harry. "Does your wife have a
history of dizziness or fainting?"
"No. Not until yesterday." Laura did not faint.
Not even on those occasions where she probably should have. She
was much too stubborn for that.
"Tell me about yesterday."
"We went for a walk on the beach Monday evening. On
the way back to the car, we fell trying to get out of the way
of a Frisbee. She popped right up but a minute later she felt
light-headed. We sat down for a while and she said she felt fine
after a bit of rest. She fell asleep on the way home and slept
until eleven this morning."
Dr. Robbins smiled. "Well, I think your short term
memory is intact. You know what day it is and what you were doing
yesterday. Does Mrs. Steele have any medical conditions?"
"No. Laura is as healthy as a horse. She's never sick."
He looked anxiously at Laura. How long had she been out? Shouldn't
she be coming around by now?
"Don't worry too much. Fainting and dizziness are rarely
signs of anything serious." Dr. Robbins pulled his stethoscope
from around his neck, turned back to Laura and placed it on her
chest to listen to her lungs and heart.
"Everything sounds fine, Mr. Steele. If Mrs. Steele were a patient, it would be standard procedure in cases like this to run a pregnancy test. Just to rule that out as a cause for her fainting since she does not seem to have had any episodes in the past..."
Laura pushed herself up on her forearms and opened her eyes. A man in a white coat was sitting with his back to her. A doctor. The hospital.
That voice, that accent.
"Harry?"Laura whispered to herself, afraid she might be dreaming him up. Slowly, she rolled over to a sitting position. It was Harry! She sat there for a moment, savoring the sight of him. Watched the relief cross his face as their eyes met.
Harry's eyes never left Laura's face. The doctor reached out and steadied Harry as he stood gingerly.
Dr. Robbins looked at Laura and smiled. "Ah good. You've decided to wake up and join us, Mrs. Steele."
Laura slid off the bed and into Harry's arms.
"Don't ever scare me like that again, Harry. I thought I'd lost you. I thought you were gone."
"Ahhh. Only to the gym, Laura."
Harry's sharp intake of breath caught Laura's attention. She helped him to the bed. He pulled her down to sit next to him.
"I suppose expecting you to believe I am not going to leave you is still too much to ask? Will you ever be able to believe that?"
"No. That's. Yes. I don't..." Laura stumbled to figure out which word to use. Of course she had to figure out what she was trying to say, first.
"Hey Kid. You wouldn't believe the sandwiches they've got in the cafeteria here." A man carrying a Styrofoam cup and a sub sandwich banged through the door.
The door had barely settled on its hinges when it swung open again, right into the man with the cup.
"Boss? Mr. Steele?" Mildred whispered loudly.
Coffee sloshed out of the cup, drops and small pools of brown liquid splattering the grey industrial flooring.
"Oh. I am so sorry..."
"I haven't had a chance to visit with my patient yet, so I need you to go sit in the waiting area now. I'll have someone let you know when you can return." Dr. Robbins ushered Mildred and the man to the door.
"I'm sure glad you're here now Laura. You wouldn't believe all the nonsense he's been spouting. Maybe he'll believe you when you tell him he doesn't have a daughter with some other woman. I'm sure glad Jarvis was there to help us get him in here. Man can't box to save his life but he's a damn good wrestler, Jarvis. Just wish he'd have ducked your head better when we were loading you in the cruiser, Kid." The man pointed his sandwich at Harry. "Used to be no one could crack that noggin, no matter how bad the thumping." The man shook his head, took another bite out of his sandwich and followed a still concerned looking Mildred out of the room.
Mildred popped her head back around the door. "You won't forget to send someone..."
"We won't forget, ma'am." Dr. Robbins sent Mildred
on her way and closed the door. He turned back to the Steeles
and picked up Harry's chart.
"It does appear you have a concussion, Mr. Steele. But you seem more oriented to time and place than the fellows who brought you in seemed to indicate. Any nausea?"
Harry shook his head no, then winced. Laura rubbed his hand where it rested on her thigh.
"Blurry or double vision?"
'No...yes." Harry smiled.
"What is your first name Mr. Steele?"
Laura fought the urge to squeeze his hand. Instead she stared at a dark blot of coffee drying on the floor.
"Okay. And how about your wife's name."
"Laura. Laura Steele." His eyes darkened and he gave her that devastating grin. Heat crept across Laura's face. He knew it made her pulse race, made her think of...
Dr. Robbins cleared his throat. "Count backward from 100 by sevens."
Laura counted with him in her head, glad for something else to think about and trying not be frustrated with how long it took Harry to get from 72 to 65. Finally he finished and with no mistakes. She let out a sigh of relief. He smiled at her and squeezed her thigh.
Dr. Robbins had a few more questions and tasks then leaned back against a cabinet door.
"You do seem to have at least a minor concussion, Mr. Steele." He turned to Laura, "It would be best to keep a watchful eye on him over the next 24 hours. They will give you an instruction sheet before he is released. The ribs will be sore for a while but so far are nothing more dangerous than just being painful, although one is cracked. You should avoid situations where it might be further injured."
He scribbled in Harry's chart for a moment. "One final question. I need to make sure we have the correct name on your chart. Your chart lists Remington but you both used Harry. Can you give me your full legal name?"
"Remington Harrison Steele."
"Good. Clears that up then. I'll let them know you
can be discharged once you've received care and follow-up instructions.
Take care." He shook their hands and started out of the room.
"Let the nurse know when you are ready for your visitors
to return and she'll take care of it."
Laura reached to call the nurse but Harry caught her hand.
"They can wait a few more minutes, Laura."
He took her hand and held it between his, using the moment to collect his thoughts, steady his nerve. How did one go about asking anyway? Ah, Daniel. I sure could use some fatherly advice about
He wondered how his mother had told Daniel. How Daniel had
responded. His mother most certainly would have been scared. Even
if she had been happy, the circumstances would have been frightening
for her. How would Laura feel? Without raising his head from where
he had been staring at their joined hands, his eyes searched the
profile of Laura's face. He knew she would love their child, if
there was one. But would she feel the pure joy and sheer terror
that had run through him when Dr. Robbins had mentioned the idea?
Or would she be angry that it had happened without being planned?
Resentful that she'd had no say, that her life, their lives would
change? And what of the other? Laura's golden eyes had found his.
He could see the questions in them, the insecurities hidden behind
the stubborn jaw and defiant chin. An impossible challenge.
No, my impossible challenge. He grinned.
"You're starting to worry me with these little episodes
of yours, love." He turned to face her. "Dr. Robbins
assured me they are unlikely to be dangerous." He thought
he saw a flash of relief flicker across her face before she covered
it up. But he felt her hand relax in his.
"There was one possibility he thought we should follow
up on, though. Unless you already know the answer to the one question
I did not."
Laura seemed genuinely lost. He breathed a sigh of relief.
Even the brief thought that she might have known but hadn't shared
with him had been like a stake in his heart.
"What was the question?"
He studied her face, ready to detect the most minute change
in expression, to hear the slightest nuance in her voice.
"Is it possible that you might be pregnant?"
Whatever she had thought he was going to ask, that clearly
was not it. She stared at him as if he were speaking Mandarin.
He reached over with his other hand and brushed a wisp of hair
from her face.
"Pregnancy is apparently a common cause of dizziness
and fainting." He let his hand rest under her jaw. "Could
you be carrying our child? Could that be why you've been dizzy,
tired and just off a bit the last week or two?"
His heart leapt. He saw the joy and excitement on her face
that brief moment before her brain kicked in and started with
all the implications, complications and practical applications
of the information.
"No. Umm, surely not. I mean we..."
She gripped his hand tightly. Panic filled her eyes.
"I need a calendar..."
He wondered if it was wrong that he enjoyed watching her
unravel. It happened so rarely and he knew that if it turned out
to be true, they would be the perfect partners in that endeavor,
too. He let her go on another minute then pulled her to him and
kissed her soundly.
"Knock, knock..." He pulled back reluctantly as
the nurse walked into the room. "I've got your discharge
form and information. We'll go over this and you can get out of
here and finish that at home." she laughed.
When Laura came out of the bathroom, Harry was lounging
on the covers in his blue and white striped silk pajamas, holding
her picture. The one of her close-up. He had stared at
it, touched it and finally spoken to it, steely determination
in his haunted blue eyes.
"Hold on, my lass. I will find you. And when I do,
I will never let anyone or anything keep us apart again."
He was so caught up in the moment that he jumped when Laura
touched his arm.
"I. uhh, was just..." He set the picture on the
table beside the bed.
They flipped the covers back and slid between the sheets.
Laura reached over him and took the photo. Snuggling in beside
him, she held the picture where they could both see it. She was
determined, too. Determined to not to make this more difficult
than it had to be. Determined to be there for him, like he had
been for her the night after her house had exploded. She'd worry
about herself later.
"She's lovely, Harry." He just stared at Laura,
his eyes glistening with unshed tears. "She looks healthy
and well cared for, don't you think?" She put the photo in
his hand. He looked away for a moment then turned to her and nodded.
"And that smile." Laura pointed to the photo. "That
smile is real. And I think she's up to something..."
"How can you tell that from a picture of someone you've
never even met, Laura?" she could see he wanted to believe
her. To believe that his girl was happy. That her childhood, if
only for this one small slice of time, was different from his.
"See that glint in her eyes, the crook at the corner
of her grin? I've seen them many, many times."
He raised his eyebrow and leaned in closer. "When?"
" When you're playing with Laurie Beth. When you're
about to cheat at solitaire." She felt her face stretch as
her grin widened ear to ear. "When you're about to try and
dunk me at the pool."
He stared at her, as if she had revealed the location of
a treasure trove of long missing masterpieces. "That's why
I can almost never catch you."
"Only when I want to be caught..." she laughed.
His eyes glinted and the corner of his mouth crooked up
in just that way. In a split-second, Laura rolled away from him
but the bed was much smaller than the pool. His hand slid under
her gown tickling her ribs as he worked his way higher. She tried
to stifle her squeal in the pillow.
"Bloody hell." he whispered good naturedly as
he bumped his ribs but continued his campaign without interruption.
Laura sighed as his lips found that spot on her neck under her ear. Right now being caught was the best place either of them could be.
Laura roused again from a not very restful night's sleep.
She rolled over and glanced at the clock. Seven a.m. The photos
sat there beside the clock. She softly brushed the lock of hair
off his forehead, her heart filled with tenderness as she recalled
last night. A child would be fortunate to have him for a father.
Nothing would keep him from his child.
Her hand drifted to rest on her abdomen. Was their child growing there now? She felt the tug of something that might be disappointment. It seemed unlikely based on what she'd found on her calendar.
It's a good thing, Laura. Now is not a good time. Really
there couldn't be a worse time. Her words rang true but hollow.
She climbed out of bed, stuffed her arms into her robe and headed into the kitchen. They'd both lost an entire day of work yesterday. Someone needed to get something accomplished today. She put on tea, bread in the toaster and grabbed a banana off the counter. It wasn't what she'd gotten used to for breakfast but she'd survive for one morning. Harry needed to sleep. Mildred should be in the office in a hour and Laura had arranged to call her just a bit later and get caught up on what had happened at the agency yesterday. The aroma of burnt bread reached her nose just before the toast popped up. Laura stared at the charred remains of her breakfast. How come his toast never came out like this? She tossed the bread in the trash and added a couple of paper towels to the top before pouring herself a cup of tea.
Just before 11:00, Harry padded out of the bedroom to find
Laura sitting on the couch, pen and pad in hand, phone to her
"Alright, Mildred. Let me work on it for a while, then
I'll get back to you. What else..."
He dropped a kiss on the top of her head and kept going.
It had been too long since he had eaten. His sensitive nose crinkled
before he reached the kitchen. With no small amount of trepidation,
he crossed the threshold. There were no dishes in the sink, the
counters looked relatively unscathed. Only the lingering scent
of ...burnt toast. He laughed. That meant Laura was probably hungry,
as well. He grabbed his good omelet pan and set it on the stovetop,
then a carton of eggs, cutting board and knife and set them on
the counter. He'd have them both well fed in no time.
His mind wandered as it often did when he was doing prep
work in the kitchen. So much had changed in the last few days.
And so much more change loomed on the horizon. It was all there,
almost within reach. He'd dreamt last night of Laura dangling
from an I beam, high above the Federal Reserve Bank. That was
nothing new. He'd had nightmares about that night since it happened
more than five years ago. And it didn't often work out right in
his dreams. He'd had nightmares that he'd dropped her. More often,
the nightmare was that she'd been too afraid, had been unable
to bring herself to trust him and she plunged to her death rather
than take the risk to reach for him. But last night, she'd let
go and reached for him. He'd had her. All was going to be well.
Then he'd heard it. The scream. "Daddy, help me!" For
a split second, he'd taken his eyes and focus from Laura. The
next scream had been his as Laura slipped through his fingers.
Shoving aside the horror of the scene below him, he'd swung around,
looking for his daughter. He couldn't lose them both. But there
was no sign of her. She was nowhere to be found. Then he'd been
lying on the beam, staring at Laura's broken body, unable to look
away, his whole body, whole being convulsing as he sobbed and
whispered, "God forgive me. I'm sorry, love. I'm sorry."
He'd awakened with his face damp, his head stuffy, strangling
his pillow. He didn't need Murphy's old girlfriend to interpret
He looked down to see his fingers were white from the tightness
of his grip on the knife he was using to dice vegetables for the
omelets. Perhaps he should focus on the task at hand. Especially
as there were no answers to be found in his nightmare. Only more
questions. Questions he prayed he'd never have to face in the
light of day.
As they stood at the sink, washing up from brunch, Laura
gave Harry a recap of agency news and issues while they have been
out of commission.
"I agree, Mildred can handle that. Have you..."
"Good. I'm glad you agree. Now with the Morrison Media
matter..." Laura interrupted. Again.
Harry felt his frustration rise as she prattled on without
pause. She never looked up from the dishes she was drying and
"And there are two other possible embezzlement cases
that have come in while we have been out. I told Mildred to set
up meetings with her and me tomorrow with both companies. I didn't,
don't want to presume what, how much time...I, you... I told Mildred
you had some other concerns and we hadn't, I didn't know what
your plans were for the next few days." Laura turned to put
away some silverware. And stayed there, shuffling utensils in
the drawer. "I don't want you to feel like you have to be
involved in agency business much right now. I know finding her
needs to be your top priority right now."
He'd never thought Laura would make a good martyr no matter how much she believed in the cause. And he'd been right. It just didn't suit her. He didn't say anything. She wouldn't hear him anyway.
He just stood behind her and put away the plates, then let
his hands drift down her arms and around her middle where he could
pull her close, feel her hair on his face. He felt her stiffen,
then she pulled away and moved back to the empty sink.
"Since we're finished in here, I'll run through the
shower and get to the office."
His patience had worn out.
"The dishes may be done, but we are definitely not
finished with this conversation." He grabbed her arm and
turned her towards him. "You've had your say, maybe. But
I haven't had mine."
Laura wrenched her arm from his hand. Raised her other hand
and rubbed where his hand had been then crossed her arms over
her chest. Most men would take at least one step back at the dark
look she gave him. He took a step closer. She inched forward.
Let the battle begin. God she was glorious when she was
angry. But he was not going to be distracted by their spark this
time. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and decided he should
count to ten before he spoke. At thirty-four he realized that
he might reach infinity and still not be able to be calm and reasonable
about this. And really, why should he be.
"And that right there is the problem, Laura."
He was nigh unto yelling and that was just fine with him. Maybe
if he yelled loud enough she would actually hear what he was saying
over her own thoughts and opinions. "Yet again, you've taken
what is a mutual concern and decided unilaterally what should
happen. How it should be." He ran his hand through his hair
while searching for the words he needed. "Most of the time,
I just let it go. Your plan, your way, will get us where we need
to go and if it isn't the way I'd have done it, well... But every
now and again, Laura." He thought of Cannes. Them in the
hall outside her door at the hotel when she dropped her bombshell
that tonight was to be the night... "Every now and again,
Laura," he repeated. Oh, how much he wanted to wring her
long, graceful neck.
"Since you seem to have everything under control, everything
figured out, and it's not too much trouble, would you care to
share with me whether or not we are having a child!?" He
leaned back on the counter, crossed his arms to match hers. He
held her gaze, dared her to look away.
Laura sucked in a sharp breath. His words felt like a bucket
of ice water. Her legs began to shake. She grabbed the edge of
the counter for support. She had rarely seen him this angry.
"No." she took the coolness that had been in his
voice and returned it with interest. "Fortunately, you can
take that off your list of mutual concerns." She gave
that icicle time to hit it's mark and fully embed itself before
she continued. "Which is such a relief, since the timing
couldn't have been worse, what with the busiest part of the year
at the agency coming up and the girl and the end of our commitment
for the INS coming up soon..." Even as she said it, Laura
knew she was crossing a line she would later wish she hadn't but
Harry suddenly pushed off the counter. "The INS, oh
God." He glanced at his watch. "If we hurry, we can
still make it."
"Still make what?"
"The 3:00 appointment with Catherine Phillips, the
attorney I retained to help us with our INS petition."
"Talk about unilateral decisions! When exactly were
you planning on telling me about this appointment?!"
"Can the castigation wait, Laura? We need to get going
if we're going to get to the office in time."
He placed a hand on her back and herded her towards the
"Maybe we should reschedule. We still have time..."
"No!" He called out from the bathroom.
Laura heard the shower come on.
"I can't afford to mess this up again, Laura. Not this
time. Not now. I have to think about more than just myself."
She followed him into the bathroom.
"Look at everything that is going on, Laura. I need
to be able to give my family a name, some legitimacy..."
She snapped. Her whole body shook with anger, fear. "Oh,
yeah. Some legitimacy. With what? With a fraudulent citizenship
on a forged passport and a falsified marriage certificate for
a figment of my imagination with a fictitious background?"
It was as if all the air was sucked out of the room.
"And a felonious wife and business partner. Or did
you conveniently forget those facts, Mrs. Steele?"
Laura thought her heart might explode out of her chest with
the force of its hammering.
"I can understand that you are angry right now--with
me, the situation, the fates, yourself. But there is only one
way out at this point for either one of us that does not involve
jail time, life as fugitives and the loss of your beloved agency--and
that is to play this out to the end.
All of the sudden, the full impact of what she had set in
motion when she'd created Remington Steele, when she'd let him
assume the persona, when she'd arranged his passport, when she'd
said I do, became clear to her.
"False house deeds, birth certificates..." she
whispered. Then looked to him, begging for him to contradict her
next words. "It never ends, Harry. It never ends..."
"Did you just now figure that out, Laura?" His
face was contorted in pain. He took her by the shoulders. "Why
do you think I wanted to keep you out of this in the first place?!
Now can you believe that I tried to marry Clarissa because I loved
you! Everything about my life has been a lie. Everything except
loving you. And now your life is a lie, her life is a lie.
If we have children, their life is built on a lie they can't escape.
Because the great detective Remington Steele. He doesn't exist.
You invented him."
He pulled her into his arms and rocked them back and forth.
"And with Daniel Chalmers, Reginald Frobish or whoever
he was, gone, so is any chance I had of making any of this right."
He took a step back and a deep breath. "So, icy calm,
Mrs. Steele. We have an appointment with our future we can't afford
He strode out of the room.
Still shaking, Laura stripped of her clothes and stepped
into the shower. It was probably a waste of water to even have
it turned on. She was sure there were enough of her own tears
to fill the tub.
The subdued Steeles arrived at the agency with less than
fifteen minutes to spare before Ms. Phillips was scheduled to
"Laura, Boss." Mildred hurried over from behind
her desk, " I didn't expect to see you two here today. Does
that mean you are both feeling better?" She turned a watchful
eye towards them, "Because you don't have to be here if you're
not, you know. I've got everything under control."
"I'm glad someone does, Mildred, " Steele replied.
"Laura and I have a 3:00 appointment I forgot to have you
put on the calendar, a Ms. Phillips. Please buzz my office when
she arrives." He placed his hand at Laura's back and they
walked through to his office. He gently but firmly closed the
door behind them.
Laura stood behind Steele's desk, staring out the window.
She hadn't said a single word since he'd walked out of the bathroom.
Hadn't met his eyes. What a mess.
He still wasn't sure how things had gotten so out of hand
earlier. But it wasn't like they hadn't had some major flame outs
in the past. Hadn't said things in the heat of the moment that
they'd regretted--whether or not there was truth in them. He thought
of some of the previous explosions, their first trip to Mexico,
the Serenity Spa, Cannes, and of course Clarissa and Tony. While
those confrontations had ripped his heart out, hers too, for that
matter, they had paved the way for them to move forward.. They
were both so guarded until they lost control. How he hoped that
somehow this time would be the same. But right now he couldn't
see it. He'd dreaded this moment for most of the last two years.
The moment when she realized just what he had cost her...
"Ms. Phillips is here, Mr. Steele." Mildred's
tone was coolly professional. He wasn't surprised. The woman had
always been perceptive where their moods were concerned.
No matter now, this was definitely spilt milk. It couldn't
be put back in the bottle, couldn't be undone. As he'd done so
many times before in his life, he slammed the door on his pain,
fear and the uncertainty. He walked over and cleared his throat
before laying a hand gently on Laura's shoulder.
"Showtime, Mrs. Steele."
He felt her shoulders straighten as she inhaled deeply.
When she turned to him, her best Laura Holt smile was fixed on
her face. He knew it didn't reach her eyes but otherwise she was
the picture of a professional woman with the world on a string.
His admiration for her grew, again. He knew how difficult her
task was. He opened the door and greeted Ms. Phillips
"Ms. Phillips, this is my wife, Laura Steele. Laura,
Catherine Phillips. She specializes in immigration law."
Laura offered her hand to Ms. Phillips. "Thank you
so much for meeting with us, Ms. Phillips. I think it was very
wise of Remington to ask you to assist us with this extremely
An Oscar. The woman deserved an Oscar. He only hoped to
play his role half as well as his wife.
Their meeting on Thursday with Ms. Phillips had gone unbelievably well. It looked like everything was in order and Ms. Phillips saw no reason to expect anything other than the formality of official approval. After their meeting concluded, they had worked another couple of hours in a polite and professional manner, he in his office and Laura in hers with Mildred splitting her time in between.
They had come home, eaten Chinese takeout, snuggled wordlessly
on the couch watching 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' then gone
straight to bed, to sleep.
Friday had been much the same. They seemed to have settled into an unspoken truce. Whatever they had been before, they had never been tepid or indifferent to each other. It broke his heart to think of becoming one of those couples who went through the motions, who stayed because of duty alone. He hated seeing Laura's shining golden eyes the dull, flat, almost lifeless brown they were the last few days. He'd rather fight with her every day of the week and make-up every night than spend the rest of their lives doing a quiet waltz that would have been acceptable to even the most staid and conservative Victorian chaperone.
Whether Laura liked it or not, they were a fast tango. Strangers who had felt the pull from the first moment, who had taken the risk to trust instinctively, whose dance was one challenge, one improvisation after another. Made more complex, exciting, as they passed the leading role between themselves creating an intimacy that wove them irrevocably together. Desire coursed through him at the images of Laura, dressed to kill, lethal heels strapped to her feet, wrapped in his arms silently and skillfully negotiating who was calling the shots, who was in control of the next step .
He slid his hands back under the sheet to caress her body. Bent his head to hers and let his tongue circle her ear, then trail down her long, lovely neck. She stretched against him not away, but still didn't rouse from her sleep. He shifted so he could pull her fully against him, felt her start to move with him. Tangling his fingers in her hair he brought their mouths together, telling, showing her what was to come. Her arms twined themselves around his neck, feathered across the hair at the base of his head. A small victory. But short lived as her small but strong hands dropped to his shoulders and pushed away as she ripped her mouth from his.
For a moment, Harry considered letting her go. Considered getting into a war of words to see if he could convince her to go along. But right now, he wasn't interested in what her brilliant, overly analytical mind thought it wanted. He was interested in what her heart, soul and body wanted. And they were making a very compelling case for him to continue.
He pulled her back against him, gently but firmly.
"For God's sake Laura don't think. For just a few minutes, feel."
Swiftly, he rolled on top of her. Stared deep into her eyes, tried to read her soul. The fear he saw there stopped him.
"Laura, love, I don't see how we can think our way out of this, now. Nothing can change the facts about where we are." He softly kissed the tears that ran down her cheeks. "What we can change is
how we respond to them. We have nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by giving up and going through the rest of our lives numbed and hiding in fortresses. I'm not willing to live like that, Laura.
Not when I know what being fully alive with you by my side is like. If you need to be angry, so be it. It's better than your feigned indifference..."
He lowered his mouth to hers, refusing to hear any argument she might try to put forth.
"I love you , Laura. Let me, love you."
He read the intent in her eyes just a split second before
Laura flipped them over. Now he was flat on his back with a huge
grin on his face. Thank God, she was back. His Laura would never
be content to let him lead for the whole dance.
Both spent, he cradled her in his arms. She kissed his chest,
ran her fingers through his curls and let her hand rest over his
He mustered up enough energy for a contented sigh. There
The cacophony in her own mind was so loud, Laura hardly
registered the squawking gulls arguing over a bag of discarded
French fries as she ran past them. She loved puzzles, the more
complex the better. She needed to step back, to gain perspective
again. This was just another puzzle to be solved. It was not beyond
her abilities. Her pace picked up as she gained self-confidence.
Permanent residency status, permanent legal limbo and accepting
her own role in creating it, combining households, her body's
revolt and her--those were a lot of strands...
Suddenly Laura was eight years old, sitting in the floor
by her grandmother's wooden rocker. The kittens had found her
grandmother's knitting bag. The result was the same as unsupervised
children in a toy store. A royal mess that had taken minutes to
create and would take hours to restore to order. Frances had worked
at it for a few minutes then declared that scissors would be the
best way to solve the problem. Their grandmother had looked horrified.
She had purchase it months earlier, and there was only enough
yarn to complete the sweater for Laura's father.
"It's hopeless." declared Frances as she threw
up her hands, shook her head and walked off.
"No it's not!" Laura took the tangled wad of cream,
blue, green and brown and held it as gently as if it were one
of the tiny kittens. Determination burned in her heart. "Don't
worry, grandmother, I will untangle it if I have to sit here all
Laura's feet continued to beat a steady rhythm across the
damp sand while her head and heart remained back in her grandmother's
It had taken her a while to figure out how to tease the
knotted mass apart; to work one strand out as far as possible,
then look to see where it met and overlapped with the whole before
finding the right place to work next. There had been many false
starts. Many times she thought she was on the right path only
to find it dead-ended or even made the knots worse. But she had
done it. The annoyance on Frances's face and the approval in her
grandmother's eyes when she was done, the pleasure in her father's
eyes every time he wore the sweater-- those were almost as sweet
as the sheer joy of knowing she was not going to be denied when
she set her mind to something.
And that was how she needed to attack her current ball of problems--with confidence, determination and a refusal to acknowledge failure as an option. No longer feeling the urgency to run further away, Laura slowed to make a turn back home.
Her internal voices quieted, Laura took time to appreciate
atmosphere of the beach. She and Harry both loved the water. She
being in it most, him being on it. She laughed at the antics of
a little bird and enviously watched a group of teenagers surfing.
A kaleidoscope of color caught her eye back up the beach. She
slowed her pace to watch as it sailed higher, higher. There on
the hill sat the house she and Harry had looked at earlier in
the week. Had it only been days ago? The kite crashed to the sand
but Laura's eyes stayed fixed on the house. She felt the warmth
of Harry's arms as if he was standing there behind her--and something
else. The gears in her head began to engage. You didn't buy the
first... Harry's words from earlier whispered through her mind.
For God's sake, Laura, don't think. For just a few minutes,
Laura stopped running.
She was alone; not even Harry had to know unless she chose
to tell him. And she couldn't do anything about what she felt.
Not here, not now. There was no danger. Risk assessment completed,
she turned the same determination she had used on the tangled
yarn to focusing on what she felt, to shutting out the voices
of ration and reason.
Peace and something she guessed might be contentment settled
over her as she imagined Harry and herself standing at the railing,
looking over the water. His eyes twinkled at some silly joke he'd
made. Her laughter sounded, comfortable, like it was something
she did often. There was an ease in how they stood, looked, touched.
Longing began to build
Laura took a deep, shaky breath and let it out slowly. Okay,
that's enough. I don't want to over do it on the feeling...
She quickly settled back in to her normal pace as she made
her way down the beach. As she made the turn up the trail to where
the Rabbit was parked, she took one long last look over her shoulder
at the house.
Laura returned home to find Harry with the photos. Laura
smiled, Her. Another string in tangle of yarn that was her life.
With a renewed sense of self-efficacy, Laura went over and put
her hand on his arm and gave him quick kiss. "How is it going,
"It's not." he set the photo aside and pulled
Laura onto his lap.
"No leads at all?"
He nuzzled her neck. Something about this conversation seemed
off to Laura.
"Is there anything you'd like me to do to help?"
Harry shifted her off his lap and moved to the windows.
He stuffed his hands in the front pockets of his faded denims.
Laura quickly pushed aside the stab of pain and disappointment
caused by his distancing himself, pushing her out.
She walked up behind him and put her arms around him.
"So what are you going to do next?"
His shoulders slumped like a moody fourteen year-old boy.
What was going on here? Now think, Laura. Think like Harry. Nothing about this was right. It made no sense that Harry would just walk away from this, from her. The girl needs a name. Laura
couldn't go on referring to her as an impersonal pronoun
"What's her name?"
Harry spun around sharply. "What's her name?! How should I know? I don't even know my own name." He flung his hands in the air. "Ah, bloody hell, Laura!" He ran his hands through his hair.
"And we're right back where we started, aren't we."
He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her tight to him.
"It always comes back to that, doesn't it?" He loosened
his hold enough that she could see his face, the pain in his eyes.
"You said it the other day. She looks happy, without a care
in her world. She knows who she is, or at least she thinks she
does. So I find her. Then what? Then I shatter her heart, destroy
her childhood. Take away everything she thinks she knows. Then
what? Then what, Laura?"
He pulled away, stepped away. Laura's heart hurt for him;
she would give anything to take away his torment.
'Then what?" his voice was a hoarse whisper, his chin
quivered. "What do I have to give her? What can I say when
that innocent angel asks who I am, what my name is--what her name
Laura could hardly understand his words at the end. But
she didn't need to hear the words that were coming next. She already
"I don't have an answer, Laura. I can't do that to
her. How could I do that to her?"
She pulled him to her and held him. "You do have an answer, Harry. Your name is daddy. That's all she'll need to hear. It's the most important name you could give her."
Harry sat on the couch with Laura's feet in his lap.
"...does that sum it up?" Laura asked over the
notepad on her lap.
"In extensive detail, Miss Holt."
Laura shuffled the file off to the floor and picked up the
next one from the pile on the table. This had become a weekend
ritual. Laura handled the paperwork and he, well, he handled her.
Once she was resettled, Harry took her other foot in his hand
and began to massage her sole. In his opinion, this was the only
way to do paperwork.
He loved to feel the tension leave her body, watch her relax.
He worked over her arch then let his hand run over her ankle and
up to knead her calf. He found a tight knot and let his skilled
fingers do their magic.
"Right there, Harry."
Her eyes closed, her head rolled back displaying her lovely
neck to its best advantage. Her shoulders relaxed and her arms
slipped to her side, sending papers spilling from her lap across
the table and floor. He set her leg down with a gentle pat.
"Don't move. I don't want you to undo all my work."
He bent and collected the papers. As he shuffled them back
into the pile he glanced at the one on top."
"Laura, where did you get this?"
She opened her eyes and looked over at the papers he held
up. Light danced in her eyes as a grin slid across her face.
"Where one normally gets papers like those."
"On the way back from my run."
Laura sat up and took the papers from him. 'Because it was
on the way and I didn't want to make another trip later."
"Laura!" Oh, the woman was exasperating and he
wouldn't have her any other way but... "What were you thinking
that made you want the information..." he snatched the file
back and waved it at her, "on this house in the first place."
Before he knew what hit him, Laura had kissed his mouth,
grabbed the file and vaulted the couch. He wasn't sure what had
gotten into her, but from the sparkle in her eyes it looked like
he was going to enjoy it. Acapulco! He laughed--and was
not entirely sure if it was at her antics now, the ones at the
winery or his Pavlovian response.
Still, he wanted to see what else was in that file besides
the sales sheet on that house. What else was she hiding? He leaned
slightly in one direction, watching for Laura to move.
"I wasn't thinking anything."
He raised his eyebrows skeptically.
"You," she pointed a finger at him, "told
me to stop thinking..."
"So I did, and not for the first time, I might add."
He took a half-step towards the couch.
"Well, while I was running I thought about what you
"Of course you thought about it, that's what
you do." He mentally prepared himself to spring over the
couch. If she could do it, he could do it, right?
"Well this time, It's going to be what you do."
Harry took a step away from the couch, let his weight rest
on his heels.
"This time you're going to think."
He wasn't at all sure he liked where this was going. It
had the ominous feel of responsibility attached to it--kind of
like doing paperwork, at his desk, at the office, alone.
"Don't look at me that way. It won't work." Laura
gave him a stern look and shook her head.
"While I was running down on the beach, I saw the house again." Her eyes softened and her face glowed. She hugged the file to her chest and stared off in the distance for a moment before turning
back to him.
"Do you remember when we went to the loft the first
time, to set up our stakeout?"
Harry nodded, not at all understanding what a stakeout had
to do with the house near the beach. Where was she going this
"Huh?" he raised an eyebrow at her.
"You were me. You thought it was a fine place for keeping
an eye on the case."
He shrugged one shoulder, still not following her. "That's
because it was, Laura. What does that.."
"I felt, Harry. I felt ...home."
"So when I think I'm still wrong--because I thought
your moving in there was possibly the worst idea you'd ever had
in our time together."
Laura laughed. "You were wrong because there was still
so much you didn't know about me. You wouldn't be wrong now, would
Harry's head was starting to hurt. And what happened to
Acapulco? "I don't think I should answer that question
"When I stood on the beach and looked up at that house
again, I felt the same thing I felt that day at the loft. I felt
That Harry understood. He felt home whenever he was with
her. But he still didn't understand what he was supposed to think...
Love or at least his love, was still an enigma.
Laura smiled that knowing smile. It was met with a dark
scowl. She reminded herself that teasing Harry, as enjoyable as
it might be, wasn't her main goal. She sobered quickly.
"Where this house is concerned, I don't think, Harry,
I feel. I need to know that you're going to be able to see what
I can't, ask the hard questions. I'm not asking you to answer
them on your own. This is supposed to be about finding a place
for us, not you or me; and we will make the decision together.
But one of us needs to be reasonable about this."
When he started to speak, she held her hand up, asking him
to wait. She wasn't finished yet. She knew what she wanted, needed,
to say but they were words that did not come naturally from her
mouth. And she hoped to never need to utter them again.
"I don't know that I can be that person, Harry. I don't
think I can reasonable about this house." She walked to him
and held the folder out for him to take. "The realtor said
she can show us the house this afternoon if we're ready to take
She watched anxiously as Harry flipped through the folder.
"I know it is ridiculous to feel a connection with
the house. We haven't even been inside it yet."
Finished, he closed the file and tapped it on the back of
"I see the you have the agent's number in here, after
the record of previous owners and before the past sale prices
and comparables. There are a few things I'd like to follow up
on before we go for a walk through."
He pushed her hair back over her shoulder and let his hand
rest at the back of her head while he left a trail of kisses from
her mouth down her neck.
"I'll give you a call once I have things set-up."
He called as he walked out the door.
Harry looked at his watch for the third time in the last
hour and frowned. She should have called already. The anticipation
was killing him.
There were limits even to what Remington Steele could do,
what doors the name would open, at least on a Sunday afternoon.
But his time with Marcos Androkos had taught him something about
turning challenges into opportunities. He'd taken advantage of
the extra time to move beyond his initial thought. Daniel would
have been proud of the grandiose scale of this plan, even if he
wouldn't have understood the motivation behind it. But then again,
maybe Daniel would have, if things in his life had been different.
Harry pushed the melancholy thoughts of his past and Daniel out
of his mind.
"Aren't you ready for lunch yet, Mr. Steele?"
Laura sauntered in and propped on the corner of his desk.
Anticipation shone in her golden eyes, making her even lovelier
"Not yet." He couldn't stop himself from stealing
a kiss. She was a vision in red, with her chestnut hair flowing
in waves around her face. The three-quarter sleeve knit dress
clung in all the right places. She would be picture perfect. "You
know, Laura, if we put a sprig of holly in your hair, someone
might believe it was almost Christmas from the looks of you."
"Still waiting on that phone call?" She picked
up his pencil and tapped the eraser end on his desk.
"Yes. I am still waiting on that call." And he
was getting a bit nervous about having not gotten it yet.
Laura leaned further over on the desk, "Don't you think Mildred can take it?" Her voice was soft and husky, her eyes full of promise. Harry ran his fingers around his collar and shifted in his chair.
That woman had better call soon. He couldn't hold Laura
off long when she was like this. Actually, he never bothered to
hold her off at home and he'd never had to try when they were
in the office, they were always...
Saved by the bell. He snatched up the phone before Laura
had a chance. "Remington Steele here."
"Hold just a moment, I need. Don't hang up..."
He stood and took Laura by the arm. "Why don't you
wait in your office for me. Freshen up your lipstick or something."
He shoved her, gently, through the door, slammed it closed behind
her and snapped the lock in place. Hurriedly, he did the same
to the door to the lobby then dashed back to the phone.
"Sorry." he whispered. "Is everything in
"Excellent. And the cat?...Fine...Right. No, I think
that is all. You have been marvelous. Yes. We'll talk again, soon."
He disconnected the call and dialed out.
"Monroe. How are things coming along? I think I can
give you another hour, max. Thirty minutes? Are you sure? I don't
want...And you remember where...Precisely. I owe you, Monroe.
More than just dinner but absolutely, we'll have you over before
the week is out. Thirty minutes..."
Harry hung up the phone and unlocked the door to the lobby
.He knocked on the door to Laura's office before letting himself
"Alright, Laura. We can go now." He held his arm
out for her.
"What was that all about, Mr. Steele?" She asked
taking the arm he offered.
Daniel's advice about evading the truth ran through Harry's
mind. Keep as close to the truth as possible, Harry my boy.
It's always more believable and less likely to get you caught
in a trap of your own making.
"It was Monroe. I shouldn't say more..."
Relief washed over her face. "Okay, I don't want to
pry in Monroe's affairs. So where do you want to go for lunch?"
"I was thinking about this nice little place I found
down by the beach. I think you'll like the atmosphere."
"The beach sounds lovely. Lead on Mr. Steele."
Laura gave Harry a long look as he pulled the Rabbit into
the driveway of the house near the beach.
"I thought we were going to eat first. You said our
appointment with the realtor wasn't until 4:30 this afternoon."
"We are meeting the realtor at 4:30, Laura."
He came around and took her hand as she got out of the car
and kept it clasped tightly in his as they walked to the door.
Harry let go of her hand, pulled the key from his front pocket
and opened the door just a hair. Laura took a step towards it
only to find herself swung up in his arms and carried across the
"Oh my God, Harry! What have you done?!" She tightened
her arms around his neck not sure whether to kiss him passionately
or strangle him.
"Welcome home, love." He lowered his lips to hers,
taking the immediate decision out of her hands.
When he raised his head, he set her to her feet but kept
his arm at her back.
"Don't tell me what you think. Trust me to have done
the thinking, just like you asked. Tell me what you feel."
He gave her a nudge and she walked through the foyer into
the dining room. A table that looked very much like the one from
the Rossmore flat was set for two. She stopped and looked back
"Keep going. Take a look at the whole place, if you
want. Lunch will wait for us."
She stepped past the dining room into the kitchen. The appliances
were older. She frowned.
"The kitchen isn't as nice as either of ours.."
Harry smiled indulgently at her. "No, but it is larger
than either one and it has a nice work flow. New appliances and
a little face-lift, then it will be nicer than either of ours
now could become."
He stepped around her and entered the living room ahead
of her. He held out his hand. Come see what you think in here.
Their fingers barely touched when she could see what he had done. How had he done it? She squeezed his hand then walked over and ran her fingers across the lid of her piano as the tears streamed
down her face. There next to a vase with a single red rose was a white envelope. She slipped the card out. It had only her name drawn in his bold hand. Laura Holt Steele. But along with the card
was a key.
She looked to Harry for confirmation. His face beaming,
he nodded. She threw herself into his arms.
"It's perfect, Harry. It's perfect. I don't know how
you did it, but it's perfect."
He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tight.
"I'm glad you approve, love. And I'll tell you about
the how, later. Right now, let's finish the tour and have that
lunch I promised you."
He slipped his arm around her waist and led her through
the house. We do have an appointment with the realtor at 4:30
for you to sign the initial lease. I had to go with twelve months
in order to secure the deal. We can decide after that to purchase
if we'd like to stay.
"You, Harry Steele, are brilliant!"
They walked into the master bedroom where the King bed from
the Rossmore was already assembled, made and ready for them. Rose
petals were strewn across the spread.
"Would you care to repeat yourself, love?"
Laura squealed as he scooped her up and tossed her on the
"You, Harry Steele, are brilliant!" she repeated as he followed her to the mattress.
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