Laura Holt Steele entered the apartment that she shared with her "husband" and paused to listen for any sounds. The apartment was quiet. He wasn't here. Tossing her coat over the back of the sofa, she sat down heavily. This had been one of the worst days of her entire life, she decided. First, Mildred had called in to say that she had to make an emergency trip to see her sister, and then a client had threatened to sue the agency because he hadn't liked the way his case had been resolved - was it her fault that the person they'd proved had been stealing him blind was his wife? And then, the argument had started. Laura put her head back, closing her eyes.
She couldn't even remember what the argument had been about - just that it had escalated until she was shrieking at him at the top of her lungs, telling him to leave if he was so unhappy with the way things were going. "Go on, get out! I don't need you here! I don't need anyone!" She hadn't expected him to go. Hadn't expected him to pick up his coat and stalk out of the office without another word.
Laura moaned softly. How many times had she said those words? They were like her personal mantra, the words she always pulled out when he got too close. She'd hurt him. She remembered the haunted look in those blue eyes as he'd been assaulted by her sharp words. She'd hoped he would have come back here to lick his wounds. There wasn't anywhere for him to go, now that Daniel was gone. She picked up a pillow and held it tightly, a poor substitution of his strong, lean body. And pillows didn't have arms to hold her in return, to rub her back and tell her it was okay, that things would work out.
Rubbing a hand across her cheek, the turned to look at the bedroom doorway, putting off going in there, certain she'd find what she'd found once before: an empty closet and dresser, the suitcase gone. He hadn't gone to Daniel, that time. He'd gone to see if he could find who he really was- and had failed. Slowly, Laura rose from the sofa, dropping the pillow to the floor as she took a hesitant step toward that dark portal. The mirrored closet doors were closed, revealing nothing, and Laura swallowed heavily as she approached them, a ghostly figure in the mirror. She reached out and slid the door aside, and her knees almost collapsed with relief. His clothes were still there, beside hers, where they were supposed to be.
He hadn't left. Not yet, anyway. And she was going to be here when he got back. She would apologize for losing her temper, for saying all of those awful things to him - she sat down on the edge of the bed, then lay down, dragging his pillow against her, inhaling his scent that clung to the silken fibers.
Remington Steele frowned as he realized the door to the apartment was unlocked. It meant Laura was home- but it wasn't like her to stay here alone without locking it from inside. He dropped his keys on the credenza, removed his jacket and loosened his tie as he noticed Laura's coat laying over the back of the sofa. Another frown. Laura was almost obsessively neat. She never left her things lying about that way - he started toward the bedroom, only to feel something against his foot. Reaching down, he picked up the pillow and deposited it back onto the sofa where it belonged before continuing to the door.
In the light from the window, he could see her, laying on top of the covers, fully clothed, her arms wrapped tightly around his pillow. Any residual anger towards her evaporated. She looked so vulnerable, so tiny. He just wanted to take her into his arms and protect her from the entire world.
A smile crossed his handsome face at the thought how those sentiments would no doubt be the cause of another argument if Laura knew about them. She wore her independence, her self reliance like a damned badge of honor. Yes, it was one of the things that he loved about her, but sometimes - sometimes he just wished she would let him be the strong one, if she would lean on him, let him comfort her as he had the night after her house had been destroyed. That vulnerable Laura came out so infrequently. It was as though she were afraid to be weak around him, afraid he'd take advantage of it somehow.
He had hoped that, once they had agreed to continue this little charade of a marriage, she would learn to let him support her, take care of her for a change. But she had been fighting every step of the way, and this afternoon - His eyes darkened as he recalled her angry words, her shrill voice, accusing him of things he hadn't even considered doing - all because she'd found that bloody receipt from the jeweler's. A smile lightened his features as he considered that at least it meant she was jealous, and that was a start, wasn't it? Maybe not a good start, but a start nonetheless --
He picked up a light coverlet and placed it over her, deciding to let her sleep for awhile longer. Then he turned and went back toward the kitchen to prepare something to eat. Something light, something that would easily reheat in case they started talking and dinner was put off, he decided. Something that Laura would like.
Laura woke with a start, her eyes flying open to look at the still open closet. His clothes were still there. The clock glowed softly, revealing that she'd been asleep for almost two hours. Turning over, she realized that there was a blanket over her, and there was a light coming from beneath the bedroom door. He was home.
She scrambled from the bed, leaving the blanket and pillow on the floor, and opened the door as he came from the kitchen. Remington looked around, smiling as she ran across the room and into his arms. "It's only dinner, love. I -"
"I'm sorry," she said. "I'm sorry for yelling, for all the things I said- "
"All of them?" he questioned, and Laura looked up at him, expecting to see him frowning. Instead, there was a gentle, loving smile on his face. She reached up to touch his lips.
"I don't want you to go- not ever -"
His eyes met hers, serious. "I'm not going anywhere, my love. Obviously, you haven't quite figured that out just yet." He pulled her against him, holding her tightly. "I'm where I want to be, with the person I want to be with. That's not going to change. No matter how many times you tell me to go, or try to frighten me away - I'll be here."
"Promise?" she asked, lifting her tear filled eyes to his again.
"Cross my heart," he whispered, lowering his lips to hers, relieved when she opened to him, meeting his probing tongue with her own.
"Let's have some dinner, shall we?" he suggested. "It's only a chef's salad, but-"
"That's fine. I'm not really very hungry," she said, sitting in the chair that he pulled out for her.
Remington bent to placed a teasing kiss on her back of her neck. "We'll have to see what we can do about increasing your appetite," he said, and chuckled when Laura blushed slightly. "I'll get the salad. Wait here."
She picked up her fork. "This looks wonderful," she said.
"Then eat." He opened a bottle of wine and poured two glasses, handing one to her. When she would have said something, he shook his head. "Eat now. We'll talk later."
As she sat in his arms on the sofa, watching the fire, Laura asked, "I wonder why I do it?"
"Do what?" Remington asked, taking a sip of his wine.
"Try to drive you away like I do."
"You're afraid of being hurt again," he said, putting his glass down to place both arms around her. "Afraid that I'll leave on my own the way your father and Wilson did-"
Laura thought about his answer. "And so I try to force you to leave so that I can control it instead of letting it control me."
"Something like that. You've lost two people who were very important to you - losing someone can make a person wary of letting anyone else get too close -"
"What about you? You've lost more than I ever have - yet you don't push me away, try to make me leave -"
He smiled, sighing. "I learned a long time ago that it hurt when people I cared about left," he admitted. "But I also knew I could either shut myself off from that hurt- simply refuse to let anything good back into my life - or I could simply accept whatever happiness I could get while they were there- and if they did leave, at least I'd have the memory of that happiness to get me through the dark times. Until you, it worked." Laura turned to look at him.
"If you ever left me, Laura, if something happened and I never saw you again, the memories wouldn't be nearly enough for me to live on. Not this time." He rested his forehead against hers. "You've given me so much, Laura. A new identity, a new life, love. There's no way I can ever repay that gift - "
"I don't expect -"
"I know. But I have to try." He kissed the tip of her nose. "Be right back."
"Where are you going?" Laura asked, watching as he went to his coat that was hanging by the door.
He reached his hand into an inner pocket, then withdrew it before returning to sit beside her. "To get this," he said, holding out the deep blue velvet box.
"It will explain that receipt from the jeweler," he told her. "I bought it to celebrate the first anniversary of our 'marriage' in a month, but, now I suppose I'll have to find something else." Laura took the long, narrow box with shaking hands and opened it slowly, her eyes widening as she saw what it contained. Remington watched her carefully, trying to read her expression. "Well? Do you like it?"
"Like it?" she asked, lifting the fine gold chain with the simple blue sapphire teardrop pendant. "It's beautiful." She looked at him. "But you really shouldn't have-" He placed the necklace around her neck, dropping a kiss on where the clasp fastened.
"Don't worry. I didn't use agency funds," he assured her, reminding her for a moment of their earlier argument and what had started it. "Turns out that Daniel left me a bit of money - his investments paid off quite handsomely,-"
"I didn't know-"
"I only found out a couple of months ago - But it's going to mean another trip to London and to the South of France-"
"To sell the house in London- and the villa in France -"
"Sell them? You're going to sell them?"
"My life is here, Laura. With you. And with the money, I can start to repay you for everything you've done for me-" He held up a hand. "I know. You don't expect me to repay you."
Laura's arms went around his neck. "No. I don't. Because I have everything I could possibly want right here."
"Do you mean that?" he asked.
"More than I've ever meant anything in my life, Remington."
"Isn't there anything I can give you?"
She smiled. "Well, there is one thing," she said, "But I think we can discuss that later, don't you?"
"Why not now?" Remington asked, frowning.
Laura rose from the sofa, pulling him to his feet as well, leading him toward the bedroom door. "Because I'm hungry again, Mr. Steele," she explained, a sexy smile on her face.
Remington lifted her into his arms. "I knew we'd find a way to increase your appetite, Mrs. Steele," he declared as he carried her through the doorway, kicking the door closed behind him.