Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, nor am I making any sort of profit from them. Please don't sue.
Summary: Set directly after the episode Molten Steele, Laura reads the fictional Lord Marchmanes "Sexual Exploits of an English Nobleman" and asks the question just how did Mr. Steele come up with something so kinky? Determined to prove she can be just as wild, she decides to show him the famous fan dance from Acapulco. Add in some tequila and a watermelon and things get a bit weird.
Author's Note: Reviews are welcome and appreciated. You can send them to kmcarthurfanfiction @ gmail.com (remove the spaces)
Wrapping up a case had always been the least favourite part of Laura Holts job, even less so since her partner Murphy Michaels had left to start his own agency in Denver. At least when he had been there, he could help her share the paper work, unlike Mr. Steele who seemed positively allergic to the concept.
It had been a fairly satisfactory end of a case that had somewhat surprised Laura, though looking back at it she realized she neednt have been. The fact that things were not all sunshine and roses among the wealthy couples in Rancho Santa Luisa only served to reinforce what Laura had learned from a very young age that most marriages lacked the foundation of trust necessary to maintain them.
Thats not to say that she was entirely cynical of relationships or the institution of marriage. Hell, the more time she spent with her partner the man who she affectionately referred to as Mr. Steele for want of a better tittle the more she had begun to slowly begin to trust again. It wasnt the fact that the couples she had been investigating were unfaithful that surprised Laura, it was the fact that it disappointed her so much to learn they were.
For some reason, since meeting Mr. Steele, she desperately wanted to see evidence that two people could, in fact, make it work. Unfortunately for her, her line of work rarely showed her the sunny side of anything, much less relationships and marriage.
She sighed as she put the finishing touches on the write up of the case in question. She was glad not to have to field anymore obscene phone calls for flaming Emily and eager to line up new clients involved in less vulgar exploits.
She placed the folder containing the paper work for the case in the filing cabinet and left her office to pour herself a cup of tea and see what Mildred had scheduled for the day. Mr. Steele had taken the morning off, something he generally did the morning after a case to avoid the aforementioned paper work.
He would show up towards the end of the day (if at all), no doubt with some flimsy excuse for his absence and Laura would pretend to buy it. If Murphy were still here, he would chastise Laura for going soft. He was probably right, but for some reason, Laura no longer cared. She had long since realized that Steele was a grown man and there were certain things about him that were never going to change. She knew how to pick her battles and forcing him into paper work was not a hill she was prepared to die on, especially since things had been so good for them lately in their personal relationship.
"Morning Miss Holt," Mildred said to her as Laura poured her coffee and grabbed a copy of the morning paper. "The boss called and said he will be late today."
"What is it now, Mildred? Did he forget to return a video to the rental store?" Laura asked, amusement instead of annoyance in her tone. She had to admit that his excuses were becoming more and more inventive with each case.
"Had to walk his neighbours dog," Mildred supplied, aware this was part of the game that Miss Holt and the boss would play but still rather fuzzy on the rules. "I see you two seemed to have wrapped up the Rancho Santa Luisa case."
"Caught Tommy and Anne Montague yesterday as they were trying to escape in a helicopter," Laura confirmed as she took a sip of her coffee. "It was a classic case of an affair gone wrong. You can read the details in the file folder if you want."
"You and Mr. Steele lead such exciting lives sometimes," Mildred said wistfully as she tidied up her desk.
"It seems that way, doesnt it?" Laura said with a small sigh. "Days like this though, when its slow and theres only paperwork to do it doesnt feel so exciting."
"Speaking of paperwork," Mildred said, picking up a clip board with a piece of paper that had caught her attention out of the corner of her eye, "whats this? Looks like the boss handwriting."
Mildred paused as she read the title and raised a quizzical eyebrow. "The Sexual Exploits of An English Nobleman?"
Laura recognized the clip board as the one Steele had been writing on in the limo on the way to the Love Library and gave a small chuckle.
"I imagine thats one of the pages of Lord Marchmanes memoires," Laura told Mildred. "Mr. Steele assumed the identity to get a list of the advertisers from that porno publisher."
"Did he actually come up with this himself?" Mildreds voice was pitched much higher than normal as she read the contents of the clip board.
"Provocative, is it?" Laura asked, amused by the half horrified, half disgusted look on Mildreds face. She hadnt bothered to read what Steele had written, but the ease with which he had convinced Mr. Vishuva to give up his clients information had her curiosity slightly peaked.
"Its disgusting!" Mildred exclaimed. "Thoroughly and completely disgusting!"
"Come now, Mildred," Laura said, her tone extremely reasonable, "Im sure its not that bad. A little kinky maybe, but "
"Kinky is one thing, Miss Holt," Mildred said. She forcefully set the clip board down as if even so much as touching it was too much for her. "This is depraved I mean can you even do that with a watermelon? Legally, I mean?"
Overcome by her own curiosity, Laura grabbed the clip board and allowed her eyes to skim its contents written in Mr. Steeles unmistakable hand. Her own eyes grew wide with surprise, then shock, then complete revulsion as she read down to the bottom of the page. Mildred had been right. This was more than just a little kinky. No wonder Vishuva had given up the information so quickly.
"Oh .my " she said as she sat the clip board back down. "I certainly didnt expect that," she admitted.
"Where do you think he came up with that stuff?" Mildred asked voicing a thought that had already managed to worm itself into Lauras mind. "I know you two are still figuring things out, but has he ever expressed an interest in "
"No!" Laura exclaimed, possibly much louder and more defensively than she needed to. "We havent gotten to that point yet. And besides, I dont even like watermelon."
"Do you think maybe you ought to start?" Mildred wondered. "I mean if this is what the boss is into "
"Hes not into this," Laura replied, again on the defensive. "Im sure I would have noticed if he had expressed an interest in watermelon. This was simply a prop for the disguise Mr. Steele used to get information for a case. We are detectives, remember? And Mr. Steele is one of the best. Occasionally a case forces us to get a bit .creative."
"Any more creative and you might end up on the evening news," Mildred observed. "All Im saying is that maybe you should have a conversation with him. Make sure the two of you are on the same page. All euphemisms, aside honey, sex is a big deal with someone you care about. If you arent physically compatible, it wont matter how much you care for one another."
"Voice of experience, Mildred?" Laura guessed. Mildred gave her a pained smile.
"One of the many reasons my marriage bit the dust," she confirmed with a shrug. "Im not saying I wanted my ex to like watermelon, but it wouldnt have hurt to see him spend some time in the produce isle, if you get what I mean."
"I get it," Laura said holding a hand up to indicate that any further detail would be too much. "But I really dont think this applies to us. This was all just for a case. Once we go on to the next one it will be long forgotten."
"If you say so, Miss Holt," Mildred said, sounding thoroughly unconvinced. "But mark my words, ideas like that dont just come from nothing."
"Duly noted," Laura said wryly. "Ill be in my office if anybody calls. Oh and make sure you toss out that filth. Cant have potential clients reading that."
As much as Laura wanted to forget what she had read earlier, she was unable to do so. The lack of any new clients and the fact that she had finished the paperwork from the last case meant that her thoughts had thoroughly run away from her.
Around lunch time, Mildred popped her head in to let her know that Mr. Steele was on his way and that she had lined up a meeting with a new client for the following morning. Laura was grateful for that small mercy as it meant she could spend the rest of her afternoon analyzing the details Mildred had given her on the new client and thinking of how she might approach the case.
It sounded fairly simple from what Mildred had told her a missing heirloom necklace. Nothing Laura and Steele couldnt handle and yet she still found herself unable to concentrate.
Had Mildred been right? She didnt consider herself a prude by any stretch of the imagination and though her own sex life had been pretty non existent of late, she felt like she had been pretty adventurous in her day. The fan dance at Pepes was just one of the reasons Wilson had referred to her as absurdly passionate. Still, for all of her pervious bedroom experience she couldnt fathom being able to come up with half of what was on that page. Was that his own personal history on that page?
She knew that Steele had far more sexual experience than she did and she had found that experience fairly intimidating especially when faced with past lovers of his who were arguably far more worldly and glamorous than she would ever be. She sometimes found herself wondering if those were the types of women he was attracted to, why was he so determined to go to bed with her?
It wasnt as if Laura didnt believe herself worthy of male attention. Men were often attracted to her and she knew it was because she exuded a certain girl next door kind of beauty that men tended to like. The women that Steele had dated were anything but the girl next door. They were glamourous, wealthy, and very sexy. Were they also extremely kinky as well?
If she and Mr. Steele were to cross that line, is that what he would expect of her? They had been getting much closer as a couple lately and Laura had felt that the time to finally consummate their relationship was drawing ever closer. Each night they spent together she asked herself if this was the night. She had been both nervous and excited at that possibility for quite some time now. What if she was a huge disappointment to him?
She tried to reconcile the thought of Mr. Steele and some of the things she had read on that clip board. What if she was unable to measure up to the sexual stimulation he was used to? Would their relationship end before it began?
Before her thoughts could run away any further, the door swung open and Mr. Steele sauntered in, coffee in hand, looking annoyingly perfect in an exquisitely tailored dark suit and deep blue tie. She checked her watch and saw that it was quarter to five. Why on earth would he come in for fifteen minutes? Why not just take the entire day off?
"Ahh Laura, hard at work, I see!" He said enthusiastically. "Mildred says we have a new client. Happy to jump right back into things, eh?"
"Yes," she said, her mind still elsewhere. "I was just making notes."
"Were you, indeed?" Steele remarked, pulling the notepad from her hand. "This is blank."
"Ahh, yes, well " Laura snatched it back, her cheeks pink with embarrassment even though there was no way he would be able to know what she was thinking. "You cant rush this process."
"Oh most assuredly not," Steele agreed, all too readily. "In fact, I say we let things steep in our brains a little bit. Allow us to ponder what few facts we have of this next case over dinner tonight? Say at my place, in front of the fire?"
"I Im not sure tonight would be good," Laura stuttered, suddenly terrified of what might happen between them alone in his flat. "I uh, have to balance my check book. Its long overdue."
"A rather flimsy excuse, eh Miss Holt?" He chastised, "really I expected better of you."
"Youre one to talk," Laura said sarcastically, "hows your neighbours dog?"
"Youre changing the subject." His eyes met hers and she had a hard time not getting lost in that deep blue gaze. "I have a surprise for tonight and I wont take no for an answer."
Gently, he tipped her chin upwards and kissed her in a way that sent shivers down her spine.
"Ill see you at seven?"
Unable to find a single reason why not, Laura found herself nodding dumbly.
"Excellent," he said, clearly satisfied. "Its almost five now. That should give you just enough time to go home and change into something more comfortable, hmm?"
"Mr. Steele "
"Have to run," he was saying as he opened the door. "Lots to prepare. Ill see you at seven."
And then he was gone, leaving Laura completely and thoroughly confused.
This certainly wasnt the first time he had invited her to his apartment for a home cooked dinner. It was fast becoming Lauras favourite type of date. It was an excuse to see the domestic and almost normal side of a man who still remained for the most part a mystery to her. It humanized him and made her feel closer to him more than a romantic evening at the ballet or tickets to the theatre ever could.
Plus, she had to admit that being able to relax in his arms in front of a roaring fire (who cares if it was 90 degrees outside) was one of her favourite ways to end an evening. The last few times they had done that, Laura had found it harder and harder to leave. It was ever so tempting to just give in to all that his kisses promised and spend the night there.
And that was one of the reasons she has been hesitant to accept the invitation. After reading his excerpt from the fictitious Lord Marchmane, Laura had to admit to a slight reluctance to being in the same room with him, especially in a highly romantic setting such as that.
She tried to remember back to the last time shed had dinner with him. Had she seen any fruit in the kitchen?
And what had he meant by having a surprise for her and telling her to change into something more comfortable?
Would her leg actually bend that far?
Damn you, Mildred! She thought angrily. Why did you have to put all of these thoughts into my head?
If he was expecting some kind of kink fest, how would Laura handle that? She wasnt even sure she was ready for their relationship to cross that barrier, how was she going to handle things if he brought out the watermelon?
Snap out of it, Holt! Laura told herself, you are being way too hard on yourself! You can be just as kinky as any of his old lovers!
In fact, maybe this was just the excuse she had been waiting for. She had to admit that her reasons for not wanting to make love to Mr. Steele were becoming less and less concrete. She had told him she wanted commitment and while he hadnt verbalized that commitment, he had shown it to her time and again with his actions.
Was there really any reason for her to hold back anymore? And if there wasnt, maybe she could distract him from some of his odder fetishes by letting her more wild side out to play.
She felt an odd thrill descend on her as she thought about what might transpire between them that evening.
She remembered how fascinated he had been when her former boyfriend Wilson had mentioned the fan dance she had done for his work colleagues at Pepes nightclub in Acapulco. An idea began to take root inside her head.
He wanted something more comfortable? There was nothing more comfortable than wearing very little at all.
Yes, Laura decided, thats what she would do. Checking her watch, she realized she didnt have much time. If she was going to make this work she would need several things: a long trench coat, a couple of small fans, and lots and lots of tequila.
Get ready, Mr. Steele, she thought, for a night you wont soon forget!
Remington Steele grinned with satisfaction as he beheld his finished and latest culinary creation. If this chocolate soufflé tasted even half as good as it looked, Laura would be putty in his hands.
He had wanted to make this for her for a while now, especially since learning of her rather amusing addiction to chocolate, the only problem was that the recipe belonged to one of the elderly ladies in the building Mrs. Beauchamp and up until recently shed refused to share it with him.
She hadnt seemed to have any family or friends to visit her so hed been popping by to visit her on and off for months. Occasionally she would share the latest thing she had baked with him. She had claimed the soufflé was a family recipe that was not meant to be shared with outsiders, but he suspected she had said that just so he would keep visiting.
The truth was, he had a soft spot for those who seemed a little bit lost as he was. He hated to think of that poor old woman alone with nobody to talk to. When she broke her hip the month previous, Remington had managed to get into her good graces by doing a few grocery runs, walking her dog in the morning (that much had not been a lie) and dropping by every now and then to keep her company and play a few rounds of Gin Rummy.
The recipe had been a happy bonus and he had been eager to try it out.
Cooking for Laura was becoming one of his favourite ways to spend an evening with her which surprised him. Usually when he dated a woman, they spent their evenings at high class restaurants, theatre events or other sorts of cultural gatherings. He enjoyed the life of a high flyer and the women he dated were generally of the same mindset. A home cooked meal and a movie rental would hardly be their idea of a good time and thus he had never entertained a woman in that fashion. Until Laura.
With Laura, although he still enjoyed those types of events, he no longer felt compelled to impress her the same way. He knew she enjoyed theatre and ballet tickets, but he also knew she liked sitting in his apartment watching a film together.
He had never before felt so comfortable with a woman in his home before, nor had he ever allowed a relationship to become this intimate. His love of film was something that helped define him as a person. Hed had almost no actual role models in his real life to look up to and so the fictional characters in the films he loved became a rather poor substitute. Still, every time he shared one of those films with Laura he gave her a piece of himself he had never given anybody before.
Whether she realized it or not, it was a huge step for him. He was surprised to realize how much he loved just spending time with her, hearing her stories and learning more about her as a person. Hed never realized how shallow and superficial his past relationships had been or how empty and hollow they had made him feel.
Laura made him feel whole. The more time they spent together, the more he was fascinated and intrigued by her. It was no secret he was frustrated that they hadnt managed to make their relationship more physically intimate, but that certainly wasnt the only thing he wanted from her. Day after day he found himself wanting to just be with her. He found himself wanting to curl up next to her on the couch or hold her in his arms as they danced to a favourite song.
He loved the way she leaned her head on his shoulder when they rode in the limo together or the way her nose crinkled slightly when she laughed.
It was one of the reasons he was looking forward to tonight so much. A delicious meal followed by one of his absolute favourite Humphy Bogart films and a special dessert. He couldnt wait to see the look on her face when presented with the chocolate soufflé.
He pictured Laura at his door, hair up in a casual pony tail showing off her beautiful brown eyes dressed in a loose sweatshirt and blue jeans. It was those moments where he got to see the vulnerability she usually tried so hard to hide. It was these all too infrequent evenings in which she would let her guard down and let him see her for the person she truly was a person in which Steele felt he was falling quite hard and quite irrevocably for.
The buzzer on his door brought him out of his reverie and back to reality.
She was here!
Checking himself over in the mirror one more time, Steele clapped his hands together and strode over to the door.
When he opened it, his jaw dropped open in surprise.
Laura was not in fact dressed in a casual pony tail, sweater and blue jeans. She wore a long, dark trench coat, had applied heavy make up, carried with her two very small fans and a duffle bag and smelled heavily of tequila.
"Good evening, Missster, Steele," she slurred. Was she drunk? What the hell was going on? She stepped into the apartment and Steele wordlessly closed the door, more than a little baffled by her.
"Sssshhhh!" She said, placing a slender finger over his mouth. "Sit down. Get ready for an evening you wont forget!"
Steele watched, in complete bewilderment as Laura strode over to his sound system and put a tape in the cassette deck. When she pressed play, an annoyingly catchy pop song blasted out from the speakers as she began to sway to the music.
She opened the duffle bag and pulled out a few items that puzzled him even further (why on earth had she brought a watermelon?) and then began to undo the buttons of her trench coat one by one.
Steele had a sinking feeling he knew where this was going (though where it came from was anybodys guess) and while there was nothing he would love more in this world than to see Laura Holt naked, this was not the right time or the place. He wanted her, but not like this, not smelling of tequila.
Remington Steele was not a man who relied on liquor as a romantic inducement. He found enthusiastic consent to be one of the most powerful aphrodisiacs in the world and would never involve himself with a woman who might not be in a position to fully give that consent. Laura was definitely not in that position.
"Laura, stop, please," he pleaded. Striding over to the sound system, he turned off the music. She looked up at him, slightly startled by the action. "What is going on here?"
"Its simple," Laura said, placing what she clearly thought was a seductive grin on her face and placing her hands on his chest. She toyed with the zipper on the front of the pullover sweater he was wearing. "You remember how interested you were in seeing my fan dance from Acapulco? Well here I am and here are my fans."
"I see that," he acknowledged, knowing he had to tread carefully. Laura Holt was not a woman who took embarrassment very well. He had no idea what caused her to do all of this, but whatever it was, she would heavily regret it the next day when she sobered up especially if he allowed it to go too far. "While I would love to, erm, see the rest of the dance, it wasnt exactly what I had in mind for this evening."
"Oh no?" Laura said, her confidence seeming to falter for a moment. Then, attempting a sultry voice she said, "I did bring some watermelon as well "
"Yes, you certainly did," Remington replied still thoroughly baffled by the entire thing. She was back to attempting to undo her buttons, but thankfully in her state of inebriation she was not very successful. "Tell me, Laura, what are you wearing under that coat?"
She grinned and leaned up to kiss him on the lips as she undid the second button.
"Not a thing, Mr. Steele," she replied, confirming his suspicions.
Reaching out, he grabbed her hands, stopping their movements. Dinner was obviously out of the question for the night, as was the film and his special soufflé.
What was most important was making sure she sobered up and keeping her from removing that trench coat until he had something suitable for her to wear underneath.
"Lets put these things away, shall we?" He suggested gently as he guided her away from the fans and the duffle bag and towards his couch. "Ill get you some coffee."
"I dont want coffee!" She said swiping her hand in the air. "You think I cant keep up, dont you? All those sophisticated women you go for! Bah! You think that I wouldnt know what to do? Well lemme tell you something, Mister. I might not own a trumpet, and my leg might not bend quite that far, but I can still surprise you."
"Im sure you can," he said gently. That much was true. Every day with Laura Holt was a constant surprise. He had never dreamed she could be insecure and yet something had obviously caused her to feel that way resulting in whatever this was. He would get to the bottom of it when she was fully sober, and wasnt trying to remove her clothes.
"I can be just as wild as all your other women," she told him, chin up in defiance. "You think Im all work and no play, dont you?"
"Never," he replied honestly. Although he did often wish she would let her hair down more, he knew that Laura was capable of incredible passion.
He wasnt sure why she would pick tonight of all nights to be jealous or insecure about his past relationships, nor why that would prompt her to attempt to repeat the infamous fan dance from Pepes. There were nights he would go to bed thinking about what that dance might have looked like, but in all of his fantasies it had never included Laura this drunk or carrying a watermelon.
Eventually she sat down on the couch and he allowed himself a sigh of relief. If he could get some coffee in her then maybe they could figure this whole thing out.
It was then he remembered that he did in fact have some of Lauras clothing in his closet from when her house had blown up. Shed stayed on his couch for a couple of days before the loft was livable and so she had brought one or two items over to his place. She had left a t-shirt and pair of sweatpants that she had slept in and he was grateful now that he had forgotten to return those things to her.
He went into the kitchen and put the coffee on, then into the bedroom to get the clothing for her. When he returned to the living room, with the clothes and coffee in hand, she had already fallen asleep.
Not wanting to wake her, but also wishing to preserve as much of her dignity as he could, he set the clothes down at the end of the couch and went back into the kitchen to tidy up and put the food away. His dinner and dessert could wait another day.
Once everything was cleaned up, he readied himself for bed, all the while running scenarios through his head, trying to figure out if he had said or done anything to cause this strange bout of insecurity. Shed only ever met one of his past lovers, and that was well over a year ago. He didnt think Felicia had said or done anything to make Laura doubt him, but maybe he was wrong.
He had also been very clear with Laura about having not invited Millicent Fairbush to spend the night while working on the bachelor case. She had appeared to believe him after they had talked about it, so what else could have caused this?
Shaking his head, he grabbed a small blanket from the closet and placed it over Lauras sleeping form. Leaning in, he kissed her gently on the top of her head and murmured a soft good night before slipping into his own bedroom. They would figure it all out in the morning.
The marching band pounding steadily in Lauras ears brought her to full consciousness though with great reluctance the following morning. Her tongue felt swollen and covered in sandpaper, and her entire mouth was dry. Her eyes seemed to be glued shut and she had a cramp in her back that would not abate.
She sat up, and felt the entire floor move and tilt below her causing her stomach to churn. When she was able to finally open her eyes, the glare of the sun through Mr. Steeles windows caused her to immediately shut them again with a groan.
Mr. Steeles windows!
Opening her eyes again confirmed that she was indeed in his apartment on his couch. Daylight streamed in, telling her that the sun had come up quite some time ago and she had clearly slept through it.
She ran a hand over her eyes and shook her head as if to clear the cobwebs from her brain. Her memory was fuzzy, but she could remember finishing off the bottle of tequila she had bought in Acapulco, taking a taxi, and arriving here last night wearing a trench coat and not much else underneath it. She was relieved to see the trench coat was still on her and appeared to have been slept in. Whatever she had done, and whatever he had seen, it hadnt gone too far which was a small mercy.
Looking around, she also noted that Mr. Steele did not appear to be home. Had he gone in to the office? What time was it anyway? Looking at her watch, she was shocked to see it was in fact well after 11AM! They had a client scheduled to see them half an hour ago. Had Mr. Steele taken the meeting without her? How would she ever live that one down?
She needed to get home and collect herself before she could face him again. She was already thoroughly humiliated. When she finally did face him, she needed to be in a place of strength, not in his apartment wearing nothing but her coat.
What had she been thinking? What had prompted her to behave this way? She stood up, ignoring the dizziness she felt and gratefully noticed that Mr. Steele had left some clothes on the end of the couch. They were hers from a while ago when she had spent the night waiting for some of the loft renovations to be finished before she moved in.
Grabbing the t-shirt and jeans she headed into the bathroom to use the spare toothbrush he kept there for her, change, and freshen herself up. Having done this, she left the bathroom only to see his front door open and Mr. Steele enter, coffee in hand as well as a few grocery bags.
"Good morning sleepy head," he said a little too loudly and brightly for Lauras liking.
"Must you be so chipper?" She grumbled, annoyed that she hadnt manage to get home before he returned and embarrassed to have to deal with the fall out of the previous night while she was still hung over.
"My apologies, Miss Holt," Steele replied handing her a cup of coffee. "Here, I figured you could use this."
She took it gratefully and sat back down on the couch. He sat down with her and for a while they were both silent.
Laura drank her coffee, trying desperately to think of something to say to him. Her memory had now completely returned, as did the reason she had attempted to do the fan dance for him in the first place. She was grateful as hell he stopped her and kept her from further embarrassment but had no idea what she could possibly say that wouldnt result in even more humiliation.
"I had Mildred call the client and reschedule for tomorrow afternoon," he told her, finally breaking the silence.
"I appreciate that," she replied, unable to meet his gaze. She sighed and took another long fortifying sip of her coffee. "Look about last night is there any way we could just forget what happened? I mean no questions, no explanations, just forget it?"
Steele ran his hand through his dark lush hair a gesture Laura had come to realize he did primarily when lost in thought or stressed.
"While I have no doubt that we are both very practised in that department, do you really think thats wise?" He asked her. "If we are truly interested in pushing this relationship forward, I think that we need to discuss it. Specifically what prompted it."
"So now youre the expert on communicating your feelings?" She winced inwardly at how angry she sounded. Anger tended to be her go-to whenever she was feeling defensive.
"I admit I havent been forthcoming as I could have been in the past," Steele acknowledged patiently, "but I wasnt the one who turned up last night wearing a trench coat and carrying a watermelon. Despite what you sometimes believe, I am invested in this relationship and I just want to understand. What happened?"
Laura stood up and paced the room, trying to find the words to explain what had caused her to go temporarily insane the way she had. It all seemed so silly now. Mr. Steele had written something to go with an alias for a case and somehow she had allowed Mildred to put a bug in her ear that made it into something far more.
Why? Why had she allowed Mildred to get to her? Why had she suddenly felt so insecure about Mr. Steeles previous sexual relationships? She didnt know those women and with the exception of one, she would likely never meet any of them. Why had she cared what their physical relationship had been like? Where had her confidence gone? She had never worried about what a partner might think of her when she had gone to bed with someone. So why had it suddenly seemed so important to prove to Mr. Steele that she could measure up to his former conquests when the two of them had yet to cross that line?
And how could she even say this to him without sounding completely insane?
Out of the corner of her eye she noticed the duffle bag still sat next to the sound system. The watermelon was on the floor beside it. The duffle was not open and Laura could only hope Mr. Steele had not gone through it to find some of the other items she had brought with her.
She cringed when she thought about them and the fact that she had shown up drunk. She very rarely ever drank and almost never to excess. She thought a couple of shots of tequila would give her the courage she needed but now she realized that only made it more glaringly obvious that she was not ready to further their relationship just yet.
When they did decide to sleep together, Laura wanted to remember every second of it, not wake up with a pounding hangover the next day wondering if he had found the handcuffs and feather boa.
She sat back down on the couch and buried her face in her hands. Her headache had not improved despite the coffee and her own cognitive skills still felt fuzzy which made this a rather discussion difficult for her. He was watching her intently, clearly waiting for an answer, but content to let her take her time with it which only frustrated her more as she had no good answer to give.
Start at the beginning, Laura, her inner voice encouraged. The beginning was as good a place as any she supposed. Sitting up straight she turned to meet his gaze and found herself surprised at the level of concern she saw in his eyes. Did he really mean it about pushing their relationship forward?
"Mr. Steele, how many women have you been involved with?"
The look in his eyes told her the question had caught him off guard. Whatever he had been expecting her to say, it definitely hadnt been that. He touched a finger to his lips another gesture Laura had come to recognize as he tried to formulate his own answer.
"I am embarrassed to say that I havent exactly kept count," he admitted looking slightly chagrined. "Somehow it felt crass to keep a tally."
"I understand," she replied, trying to ignore the sharp pang of disappointment. She had no claim on his past, and what was done was done. She couldnt change that, so there was no use in feeling upset about it. "If you had to classify it as a lot, or a little, what would you say?"
"I would say Im not exactly sure how this is going to help explain last night," he replied, clearly uncomfortable with this line of questioning. Laura wondered if it was his usual discomfort when talking about his past or something more specific to the situation. Either way, she had no choice but to press on.
"Bear with me?" As she spoke, the pounding in her head intensified and she found herself touching her temples and wincing in pain. As if reading her mind, Mr. Steele got up and fetched her a glass of water as well as some pain medication from his kitchen. Once seated back on the couch, she took the pills and gave him a grateful smile.
"Look, Im not always proud of the life I used to lead," he said quietly. "Most of the time thats why I dont want to indulge in specifics. Since you are asking and since it pertains to the two of us, I will tell you that I have been involved with quite a lot of women. The reasons for that vary from simple boredom to outright loneliness. However none of those women were people with whom I wished to maintain a relationship with. Does that answer the question to your satisfaction?"
Laura wasnt sure what to say. He had answered the question and while she wasnt happy about the fact that his past was full of faceless, nameless women, she certainly hadnt expected the declaration that had followed. She had been so caught up in her fear that she wouldnt be able to measure up to the women of his past, she had never stopped to ask herself whether he wanted her to.
"And these women," she continued, "what was it like with them physically?"
"Physically?" He echoed.
"Sexually," she clarified, trying desperately to ignore the flush of embarrassment that coloured her cheeks. She was a grown adult, talking to a man she was in a romantic relationship with. Why was it embarrassing to talk to him about sex?
"Im not quite sure what you expect me to say here," he told her, hesitance evident in his voice. "Ive never really been a man to kiss and tell but if you must know, at the time I considered my past sexual experiences to be satisfying."
"And now?" She couldnt help but push.
"Merely adequate," he said shifting uncomfortably on the couch. "Lately I seem to have lost my appetite for meaningless sexual conquests."
"I dont know what to say," she finally replied.
"Last night," he replied patiently. "Last night I had a beautiful supper cooked as well as a desert I have been itching to try out for you. I had a film rented and a whole evening planned."
"Im sorry about supper "
"Please," he said, throwing his hand up and cutting her off. Laura fell silent when she saw the intense look in his eyes. "Its not about the food. Do you know how long I have wanted to see you cut loose the way Wilson said you could? Do you know how often Ive wondered about this famous fan dance you did in Acapulco? How much I have longed to have you do that or something like it for me? Last night was every single one of my dreams come true except for one thing."
"You didnt really want to be there," he said sadly. She could see the disappointment that was written in his handsome features. "Oh, you were there in body, but your mind, your heart "
He stood up and walked over to the fireplace, hands in his pockets and his head down, lost in thought.
"You said some things last night about keeping up with the women in my past. This morning you ask me how many women Ive been with. The Laura Holt I know is attractive, strong and very confident. Why are you all of a sudden so pre-occupied with who I was with before you? Those women, those nights, they didnt mean anything."
"I want to say its all Mildreds fault," she told him. He raised an eyebrow in surprise.
"I was telling her that we had just finished the Rancho Santa Luisa case, when she found the clipboard you had used with, umm, Lord Marchmanes more erotic exploits."
Steele was still looking at her, this time with even more puzzlement, which only made Laura more defensive. Surely her reasons were obvious! Why did he have to push her to verbalize them?
"Well she suggested that a normal person couldnt make something like that up out of nowhere that perversion like that had to come from experience so naturally I assumed "
"You assumed that I was secretly the Marquis de Sade?" Steele questioned sounding even more confused.
"Well what was I supposed to think?" Laura asked, her voice exasperated. "Weve never talked about what we expect from each other when we finally go to bed, nor have we discussed what things have been like with past lovers. I could only assume before how many women you have been with, and if someone like that woman Felicia is your usual kind of partner, then what are you doing with me? Im nothing like those women!"
"Listen, the contents of that clip board "
"Are disgusting!" Laura interrupted, allowing a bit of her own anger to drown out the ringing she still heard in her ears. "I mean, the stuff in paragraph three? I dont even own a unicycle! I read that and started to think that not only can I not compete with your criminal past, but I would almost certainly fall short of your sexual past as well."
"Laura, can I just "
"And another thing," Laura said, now fully on a roll and allowing her own frustration and fear to take over. Anger was a lot easier than embarrassment and she suddenly found herself very angry. It was mostly anger at herself, but it was far easier to pretend it was his fault than it was to acknowledge the fact that she had let her own insecurities get the better of her. Vulnerability had never been her strong suit. She stormed over to him and place her finger in the middle of his chest to emphasize her points.
"If thats the kind of thing you expect me to do when we finally sleep together, we can just forget this whole thing right now. Im not into any of that stuff, especially if it involves barnyard animals."
"Now hold on a bloody minute!" Steele erupted, his jaw set firmly and his eyes fired up in response to her. "You read some perverse scribbles on a page and assume Im Caligula re-incarnated and somehow Im at fault?"
"How else could a mind come up with something so so "
"Twisted?" Steele offered. "I didnt. None of what I wrote was from my own personal experiences, but those of a friend who had very peculiar tastes and a rather loose tongue. We pulled a few jobs together and I often got an earful of his more exotic experiences with the female sex. I never thought it would come in handy until this case."
"So you mean youve never " Laura trailed off, feeling her anger deflate and embarrassment once again set in. "Not even with the "
"I dont even like the taste of watermelon," he confirmed, his own anger seemingly leaving him as well.
Laura stood there, staring at him and felt the full absurdity of the situation descend on her all at once.
Suddenly, to her own complete astonishment, a smile started to creep across her face, followed immediately by a soft chuckle and then a full, all out belly laugh. It had all been one, very bizarre mistake and as humiliated as she was by it, she had to see the humor in it, if nothing else.
Steele was looking at her as if she had completely lost her mind, which only made her laugh even harder. The trench coat, the watermelon, the fan dance, all of it caused by Mildred and her own mind running amok.
"Just what on earth is so damned funny?" Steele finally asked, his own brow knit together in annoyance.
"You me your dinner my trenchcoat and that watermelon " the rest of her sentence was cut off by laughter as the tears rolled down her face.
Eventually Steele must have seen the humor in the situation as well as his own shoulders started to shake and he leaned against the wall, holding onto his chest.
Before long the two of them had sat down on the couch trying desperately to regain their composure.
"So what do we do now?" She asked as she leaned against him on the couch, exhausted from the range of emotions and still not feeling well from the previous night. His arms seemed to fit around her of their own accord and she allowed herself to take comfort in the feel of him holding her.
"You mean where do we go from here?" He asked, placing a gentle but electrifying kiss on her neck that sent shivers to all the right places. "That I wish I knew. We always seem one step behind, dont we?"
"Well I think we both agree that when the time is right we want to take things further physically, right?"
Laura felt her heart speed up as she spoke those words. His own heartbeat which she could feel against her back through the t shirt he wore seemed to echo her own nervousness. His body was solid and he smelled incredible. Laura realized that aside from quickly brushing her teeth that morning, she was a complete mess from the night before.
Steele must not have noticed, or must not have cared because he had begun to gently run his fingers along her arms and place soft, tantalizing kisses on her cheek and the top of her head.
"Ive wanted to take this further with you since the moment I met you," he murmured. His voice was a low, intense rumble and Laura was acutely aware of how good it felt to be touched by him and how desperately she didnt want him to stop.
Against every instinct she had, she made herself sit up, if only to ensure she didnt get lost in his kisses and so something she would regret. She knew now that they would in fact cross that line someday but the morning after a night of tequila shots with a monster hangover and some rather odd items in a duffle bag was not that time.
"Then perhaps we ought to have a conversation, Mr. Steele, about what we might expect from each other," she looked at him and took a deep breath. "I dont have the same experiences you do with casual sex, but ."
"Laura, stop," Steele said as he sat up himself, clearly disappointed at the lack of physical contact. "I dont want to hear about your former lovers as I am sure you dont want to hear about mine. I know we often disagree on this but when it comes to sex, I think the past should remain firmly in the past. I dont want our future to be tainted with insecurities or comparisons. I dont want to know how many men youve been with, or what it was like to be with them."
"And what about the possibility of STDs?" Laura asked him, ever the practical thinker. They had never been this candid with each other before and she had to admit that knowing he had a long list of partners caused a little bit of worry on her part.
"I have no problem going to a doctor and producing a clean bill of health if thats a concern," he replied with a dismissive wave, "as I am sure you wouldnt mind doing the same. I just dont want to have our future clouded by thoughts of each other with other people."
"You know, for once, I agree with you," Laura said thoughtfully. Steele raised an eyebrow.
"Last night I let my own insecurities regarding your past get in my head and ruined a perfectly good dinner, not to mention gave myself the hangover of a lifetime." She chuckled. "I would rather not spend the time we have together thinking that whatever we are doing, youve already done with someone else. I guess I just wanted to make sure that you didnt have any odd preferences."
"If youre worried about what you read on that clip board, you can rest assured I would not expect anything of the sort from you." Leaning forward, he brushed a stray hair from her face and kissed her softly. "And while I dont want to get into too much detail, I think it is important that you know Im not interested in anything bizarre or exotic. When I am with a woman, I like to touch, to feel, to experience. Im not into acrobatics or props."
"Neither am I," she said, feeling slightly breathless and caught off guard by the desire she could see in his eyes. "I will warn you though I can be passionate."
"I certainly hope so," he murmured, his eyes full of sensual promise. "And as much as I would love to explore that with you, I think we both know that right now is not the time."
"No," she agreed with a smile. "I really need to go home and get cleaned up."
She went over to the duffle bag and began to pack up everything she had brought with her. Steele watched her silently, hands in his pockets and a contemplative look on his face.
While she knew it was the right thing to do, Laura felt slightly disappointed that he was letting her go so readily. Secretly she desperately wanted to just fall into his arms and spend the day in bed with him. Her own common sense prevailed though and she forced herself to make her way to the door.
Steele followed her reluctantly.
"Im sorry again about last night," she told him. "I feel like I must have missed out on an incredible meal."
"Nothing I cant replicate another evening," he told her, his eyes hopeful. Taking her by the shoulders, he backed her up until she was against the door and pressed his body against her for a deep and deliciously erotic kiss. When he finally pulled away, Laura fought to catch her breath.
"That was " she trailed off, and pulled him close again for one more kiss.
"One day," he said when they pulled back a second time, "Ill see that fan dance. And all that passion. Until then I want you to know that while I may have been involved with a lot of women, there is one thing I have never done before."
"Whats that?" She asked, trying to not to let her imagination run away with her. He reached up and touched her cheek tenderly. His eyes bored into hers and she could see longing mixed with deep emotion that he normally kept locked away.
"Ive never made love to a woman," he replied. "Ive had sex, but its not the same thing."
"No," she said hoarsely, her hands shaking ever so slightly. "It isnt."
"Perhaps one day you and I can cross that threshold together."
Laura stared at him for a moment, unsure of how to respond. While he hadnt said he loved her, this was as close as he had ever gotten to those particular words and she had no idea how to respond.
"Id like that," she finally managed. "I must admit, Ive never really made love either. I thought I had at the time, but "
"Ahh ahh, no more details," he said holding up his hand and stepping back. "We agreed, remember?"
"Yes, of course," she nodded. "I..I guess Ill see you tomorrow at work? New client, new case "
"Indeed," he replied, trying to his best to sound business like. "Ill see you tomorrow."
She opened the door, then thought better of it and turned back to look at him.
"You, ah, wouldnt by any chance be interested in a watermelon for breakfast, would you? I have an awful lot of it and its not really my favourite food."
"Nor mine," Steele replied, his eyes twinkling mischievously. "Perhaps you ought to bring it to the office and leave it out for Mildred and the client tomorrow morning."
"That sounds like a wonderful idea, Mr. Steele," Laura said with a laugh. "Absolutely wonderful."