A guttural moan escaped from somewhere deep in Steeles chest. It would be hard to say if the sound were one of real pain, or rather, of frustration at being helpless; captive ultimately to Lauras cajoling demands. He twisted slightly, his hands clenched, knuckles white and shaking.
Laura reached for one of his hands, slipping her small, soft fingers into the circle of his fist and gently stroking it with her thumb until it relaxed. She laid her cheek against the back of his hand for a moment.
Shh, Mr. Steele, she whispered soothingly, as a mother might have reassured an ill child. She wondered briefly if Frances had ever found herself in a similar position. Youre doing just fine.
That Mr. Steele had been in great need of this afternoons session there was little doubt, and yet it had been Laura who had pushed him into it, made all the arrangements, and now sat at his knee regretting the whole thing.
Another groaning cry escaped Steeles lips.
Raising her head, Lauras eyes focused on Steeles face, her dark eyes unreadable pools. Moving her free hand to Steeles leg she grasped it lightly, her strong fingers kneading the muscle.
Mr. Steele, Lauras voice sought to penetrate the fog of Steeles distraction. Were almost finished. Hang in here with me for just a few more minutes. The first time is the hardest; it will be easier next time, I promise. Please try to relax.
Steele seemed to respond to the sound of Lauras voice. His hand tightened briefly around hers, before his entire body visibly sagged.
Looking alarmed, Laura increased her pressure on his leg.
In the silence that followed Mr. Steeles slightly labored breathing mingled with the gentle strains of Mozart, falling into tempo with the music. Hearing the reassuring duet, Laura began to breathe again as well. She leaned in to rest her head against Steeles knee, not sure for a moment that either one of them would survive this initial encounter. Her back was beginning to ache with the awkward position she had been in for so long. She shifted a bit, closed her eyes and sighed.
Laura, its O.K. I promise. At this quiet reassurance Laura looked up and smiled weakly. Ive had far worse than this before.
Donald pulled the mask from his face and looked down sympathetically at Laura, seated on a low stool near Steeles knees, where she had been trying to stay close even as she stayed out of the way of both Donald and his assistant as they labored over Mr. Steeles wonderful, lovely, and highly cherished, if currently problematic, teeth.
Hes going to be just fine, Laura. We got a lot accomplished today. Apparently your Remington has been avoiding dentists for some time now. Doing two root canals in one afternoon is a lot, but it made sense to get them both done while I had the left side of his mouth numbed up. His next visit will be much easier.
Of course, piece of cake. I just promised him I wouldnt make him do this alone.
Youre a very caring associate. Donalds eyes were twinkling as he and his assistant finished tidying up Mr. Steeles mouth, removing the various pieces of equipment necessary for the work he had done. Im going to write Remington a prescription for some pain pills, but Ill give you a few to get him settled. Thanks to the magic of modern pain management, he probably wont remember much of this afternoon, but he should be able to walk to the car and up to his apartment. Try to get him to take a pill before he falls asleep so he can stay on top of the pain. Ready, Remington?
Donald and Laura helped Steele to his feet. He wobbled for a moment, Laura reaching quickly to slip her arm around his waist. Groggily Steele draped his arm over Lauras shoulder.
You two O.K.? Donald asked, smiling.
Jus fine, Dr. Pepper. Steele slurred with half a grin. Thanks.
Laura groaned a bit as Steele swayed against her, but braced him as the two walked somewhat unsteadily out of Donalds office.
Tha wasnt so bad, MisHolt. Steele said, looking down cross-eyed at his partner as she maneuvered him toward the passenger side of the Rabbit. I don know wha you were so worried bout.
Steele tumbled into the car. Slipping loosely down, he cradled his head against the seat. A smile drifted drowsily across his handsome face.
Climbing into the drivers seat, Laura reached across to lovingly straighten the strand of silky hair that slid onto Steeles forehead. Not what, Mr. Steele, who. Lets get you home and into bed.
Swonderful idea, MisHolt. Steele said without opening his eyes. Bed. Sprised to have you suggest it.
Laura smiled lovingly at her now silent companion. You may not thank me for this tomorrow when the pain pills wear off, but in the long run, it was what was needed.