Rs FanFic—family steele              steele joys, steele tears   Part 14-C

By: Phaedra Phelan

June, 2005


PG Rated


Summary: It is 2003 and the Steele’s are dealing with family issues on several fronts as well as solving a mystery that involves their own family.


Disclaimer:  This “Remington Steele” story is not-for-profit and is purely for entertainment purposes. The author and this site do not own the characters and are in no way affiliated with “Remington Steele,” the actors, their agents, the producers, MTM Productions, the NBC Television Network or any station or network carrying the show in syndication, or anyone in the industry.


A week later George Harrelson was released from the hospital and Joanna went to get him and drive him home to his apartment.  He was still mending, but because of his youth, he was rebounding surprisingly well from the brutal beating he had suffered.

“Thank you for driving me home, Joanna,” he said and he pulled himself out of the car somewhat stiffly.

“I wanted to be here . . . to help you, George.”

They went into his apartment, a simple studio with the normal clutter of a college student.

“You straightened my apartment.” George looked at his neatly made bed and his other possessions carefully arranged.

“I wanted to do it.”

“I’m sorry it isn’t such a great place, Jo.”  He had started calling her Jo when he was in the hospital and it somehow felt good.

“It’s all right.  It’s yours.”

“Yes, it’s mine.”

They stood awkwardly facing one another for a long moment.

As George stared at the lovely brown-haired girl in front of him, he blushed.  The more he had been in close contact with Joanna, the more he had realized that he did indeed love her.  He could not remember that ill-fated moment when he had impregnated her, but he knew that he cared for her.  Now, seeing her with her hair down on her shoulders, her slender figure in a sundress printed with tiny rosebuds all over, her gently swelling belly evident, he was overwhelmed.  He had never been with a girl before that night at the party, and though his mind could not recall the incident, his body was remembering and was about to embarrass him with its readiness.

“I’m feeling something very deep for you, Joanna.  I don’t want you to misunderstand, to be offended.  I have never felt this way toward anyone.”

Joanna stepped closer to him and drew his arms around her and his passions immediately asserted themselves.

“Jo, forgive me.  I can’t help myself when I’m this close to you.”

Joanna did not step back, but moved even closer to him.

“I feel the same thing, George.”

Their mouths touched lightly, both of them keeping their lips carefully closed at first. When Joanna’s lips suddenly parted, George hungrily possessed her mouth in a passionate kiss that went on and on till they were both lost in each other.

“Joanna, I love you so much.  God! I am so sorry about what happened.” He kissed Joanna over and over on her face and neck and on her bare shoulders. 

“I love you too, George.  I do love you!” Joanna cried, throwing her arms around him.

“I have nothing to offer you but myself.  I have nothing, Joanna.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Would you live in a place like this with me?”

“I would live anywhere with you.  Let me show you.”

Joanna gently disengaged herself from George and walked over to the single bed in the corner of the room.  She turned back the covers and then she slipped the sundress over her head and stood before him in just her panties.

“Does this belong to you?” she said holding her hands around her small round pregnant belly.

“I pray to God that it is mine,” George said fervently.

“Then it’s yours, yours and mine, George, no matter whose DNA it carries.  Do you understand what I am saying?”

“Yes! Yes, Jo.”

In just a step he was next to her again, embracing her, kissing her tenderly, almost reverently, and then so passionately that they were both breathless.

“I don’t ever want you to forget this afternoon, George.  And I want to remember it every day of my life.”

“God, I love you, Jo!”

Later, they lay dazed and speechless in George’s narrow bed.  They needed no more words. They belonged to each other and they would remember this encounter for as long as they lived.

* * * * * *

Summer came and the second Saturday in August Joanna and George were to be married at McCullum Park. But on the Friday before the wedding was to take place Remington and Laura received a visit from an official of the Department of Homeland Security at the Remington Steele Agency, a Mr. Wilfred Wright.

It had been a hectic week for all concerned. The preparations had been finalized and arrangements made for everything to be done in an understated by elegant manner. Weddings Unlimited was handling everything and Laura felt secure with the major issues in the hands of Jocelyn Walters and her team.  But suddenly as Mr. Wright unfolded the possible scenario facing them, everything seemed to unravel before Laura.

“You, Mr. Steele, are well aware that we apprehended Ziad Hassan a couple of months ago in connection with the crime perpetrated against your daughter and George Harrelson earlier this year.  With the new Security Act we were able to proceed to have Hassan deported back to Jordan.”

“That’s good news,” Remington said.

“Well, things don’t always work as they should.  Ziad Hassan was being transferred into Federal custody two days ago and slipped through our hands, escaped.”

Laura’s hands flew to her face.

“You have not located him?” she asked.

“There was an informant, a cell mate, who, despite his life of crime, felt an obligation to divulge certain pertinent information.”

“What information?” Remington’s eyes were like blue steel as he focused on the agent’s words.

“Seems this Hassan had some sort of screwball idea that since he, uh, was the first with your daughter, that she belongs to him, that this fellow Harrelson has no right to have her. Somehow he heard that they were getting married and it sent him over the edge apparently.”

“Sent him over the edge!” Laura exclaimed as Remington caught her hand and tried to calm her.

“He said that he was going to get out and find her and take her back to Jordan. He says that the baby she’s carrying is his, belongs to him according to Muslim law, even if she doesn’t want him. This is a new brand of fanaticism we’re dealing with these days, Mr. and Mrs. Steele.”

“From all accounts Hassan was the one who deflowered my daughter. That much is true. But Jack Steuben said that all the blokes were using condoms except Harrelson. Harrelson was also drugged when it happened. And besides all that, it is irrelevant that Hassan wants Joanna. She doesn’t want him under any circumstances, and she is not having him.  She and Harrelson realize that only DNA will establish finally whose child she is carrying, but that is not of significance in the decision they have made to marry.”

“But you can see what we’re dealing with here. We think that probably the wedding would be the likely time Hassan would try to make the snatch. He could have all kind of help with the connections he has.”

“What can we do? The wedding is planned already.  If we change the plans, then we are still sitting ducks, waiting for these people to strike,” Laura said.

“But if we allow things to proceed, we are possibly placing everyone in the family in danger. These people are quite irrational when they want something.”  Remington sat for a long moment, head bowed, slender fingertips arching together, and then finally lifted his head up again.  “This must be over, completely over, so that these young people can go on with their lives.”

“I agree,” Laura said.  “But how can we protect our family?”

“We cannot. It is as simple as that. They have us at a disadvantage here. We are highly visible and they are not.  Mr. Wright, what plan would you have in place at McCullum Park?”

“We could stake the place out. If they know it’s going to be there, they have a number of options open to them.”

“I would try a helicopter . . . if I were going to attempt a snatch of this sort, wouldn’t you?”

“Why, yes, Mr. Steele. That would be a distinct possibility.”

“Damn it, Mr. Wright! You can see my wife is pregnant! My daughter is pregnant! My daughter-in-law is pregnant!  There are numerous children of all ages involved. My uncle and his wife and my wife’s mother, the oldest members of our family are going to be present. I cannot chance any of these being in harm’s way!” Remington was furious.

“I can appreciate your position.  That is why I am here.  But what is the alternative? If Hassan has attached himself to some terrorist cell, then none of you are safe.  Let us do our job.”

“I was in the North Twin Tower on September 11, 2001, Mr. Wright, and I barely escaped with my life. You are talking to a man who knows this kind of danger only too well.  My wife and I will have to discuss this further. I will get back to you first thing tomorrow morning.”

“We will listen for your call, Steele.”  The agent extended his hand and the two men shook hands before as he took his leave.

As the door closed behind him, Remington picked up the phone and called the new apartment George had found for himself and Joanna. It was just two blocks from where Jonathan and Ileana lived. Joanna had been spending a lot of time there unpacking and setting up things, and with George.

“George, Remington Steele here. Joanna is there with you?”

George looked over at Joanna curled up in the bed, fast asleep.

“Yes . . . yes sir. She’s here. Would you like to speak with her?”

“No, actually this is something that you are going to have to do, son.  A situation has developed that could be potentially dangerous for her and I have to have her where she can be protected.”

George’s heart sank and began to pound at the same time.

“Are you there, son?”

“Yes sir, I’m here.”

“For the moment I want you to come down here to my office. Bring whatever things you will need between now and the wedding. I am sending Fred with the limo to help you. We have to get you to a safe house.”

“Yes sir, we’ll be ready.”

George hung up the phone and went to waken Joanna.  The thought that she might be in danger terrified him.  Since becoming involved with her, the late-blooming George had felt the full impact of loving a woman and he was consumed with his feelings. The young mathematician who had maintained a single focus to his life now found himself constantly bombarded with passionate urges as his manhood had come suddenly upon him full force.

“Joanna, honey,” George whispered to her as he lay down next to her and embraced her, kissing her all over her face to waken her.

“George . . .” Joanna welcomed him into her arms.

“I just got a call from your dad. We’re going to have to pull out of here right now.  We are in some danger.”

Joanna started to cry and put her hands to her belly as if to protect her unborn child.

“Don’t cry, Jo. We’ve got to get these things together now. Your dad’s driver is coming for us within the hour and we are going to a safe house.”

Joanna sat up on the side of the bed and rested her head upon his shoulder. She and George had spent such a passionate morning together that, in spite of her youth, she was still exhausted. Now she had to rise to the present needs.  George bent his head to kiss her tenderly on her lips and Joanna clung to him.

“I love you, George . . . so much.”

“And I love you. I just want to be married to you.  I know your parents don’t really approve of us being together . . . like this . . . and I just want us to be able to hold our heads up as man and wife.  I’m really a conservative sort of guy, Joanna.  And I respect you. I want you to know that I have the greatest respect for you.  But since we addressed our feelings, and, and knowing that you are having our baby, I have just been unable to control myself.  I need you, and I know that you need me.”

“I don’t know myself anymore, George.” Joanna blushed deeply. “Coming over here all the time, getting into your bed, I never dreamed that I could be like this.  I’m sorry. I was coming to help you finish unpacking and see where we ended up.”

“We always end up like that now, Jo.  We have to face the fact that we are in love and that the physical part has just taken us over.  I see you and you drive me crazy with wanting you.”

“I shouldn’t have been so forward.  I started it.  I should have held back.”

“Don’t . . . don’t think that way.  If you had not started it, I would have started it that day, that first time when you came home with me. I see you . . . so shy and timid most of the time, and then when we get together, you change completely. I love you both ways, Jo.  And I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

They hugged each other and then forced themselves to the task at hand, quickly packing George’s necessary things together into a couple of suitcases.  The majority of his belongings were still in a few boxes that they had already moved into their apartment. 

George had been working full time as a computer repairman and had managed to rent the small apartment.  He insisted that he use only his money for this and had taken a year off from school to get his life with Joanna on track. Remington and Laura had let him carry out his plan without interference, even though they wanted to step in an manage things, realizing how important it would be for the future of their marriage that he handle his affairs in a responsible fashion.

Remington and Laura also knew that George and Joanna had become intimate. Joanna carefully avoided breaking house rules against carrying on blatant sexual activity in the household with the full knowledge of her younger siblings, but the change in her was obvious.  In spite of her basically quiet and shy disposition, it was evident that a powerful sexual awakening had taken place in her and they had been forced to accept that for the fact that it was.

* * * * * *

Remington and Laura sat quietly for a long time after his call to George Harrelson.  They both realized that the possibility of a kidnap attempt of Joanna was a serious matter.

“It is one day before the wedding, Remy. What can we do at this point in time? All of the relatives are here. Everything is arranged. But safety, security becomes the issue.”

“I don’t think that we can stave this thing off by postponing the wedding.  And besides, George and Joanna appear to be going at it hot and heavy. I don’t think we are helping them by postponing the marriage.  Actually I have been quite perturbed at the situation, Laura. I know Joanna has been through a terrible experience and I don’t want to throw her completely into his arms by speaking so harshly.”

“Well, you’re late. They’re past our stopping them. You see how different she is, the confidence and self-awareness. I see that she has apparently inherited her birth mother’s passionate nature.  We shouldn’t be surprised really, should we?”

“Well, I want her to be confident and self-aware, but I want that self-confidence to be based on more than the use of her arse by a bloke who has just barely figured what to do with his equipment. I know they’re screwing quite regularly and I think it’s damned cheeky of him.”

“It’s true. But why use such terminology, Remy? Must you be so crude? They’re making love, having sex.”

“Laura, it remains to be seen whether they are in fact ‘making love.’ He hasn’t suffered enough for the want of her to know how to make love to her.  Look at us!  When I first met you, I would have gladly taken you to bed, but I wouldn’t have called that ‘making love’ to you. I suffered for the need of you and the want of you and when we did get together, it was no mere physical act of sexual release we shared.  We made <ilove,/i> and you know it.”

“Yes, I know we did.  And we do.” Laura smiled. “And you are an amazing man. Will I ever know all there is to know, Remy?”

“Laura, I just don’t want her to miss out on the real thing because she thinks that the only thing of value she possesses is her tail.”

Remington sighed and reached for Laura’s hand and held it for a long time before he spoke again.

“Laura, imagine that we are at that wedding and the attempt comes. You are in your seventh month. How do I protect you? How do I protect our children?”

Remington drew Laura close, catching her hips with his hands, pulling her full belly up against his hard firm midsection, his blue eyes full of his concern for her.

“Please, Rem, don’t hold me like this.  You know I can’t think straight when you do.”

Remington relaxed his embrace and shook his head acknowledging the truth of her statement.

“I think we should put them in your old place. They should be safe there.  When they get here, we can put them into a van and have them taken out there. No one should be able to trail them.”

“Then we will have to tell everybody that there is some situation, without telling them everything,” Laura added. “I’ll contact Jocelyn Walters and let her know that we have more than just the normal wedding to prepare for tomorrow.”

“At least we are having just people that are family or very close so everyone should know everyone else there. It should be difficult for a stranger to penetrate that.”

“Hopefully.”  Remington sat down and drew Laura down onto his lap and kissed her tenderly as his hand wandered to the buttons of the loose white maternity blouse she wore over a short black skirt that showed off her great legs. She was at seven months and suddenly her belly was growing very rapidly.

“Do we have time for this now?” Laura whispered.

“Give me this, darling. It is the only reality after all, isn’t it? You and I . . . together, what we have produced . . . together, what we are producing . . . together.”

As her blouse fell open, Remington released her breasts from their confinement and found their softness, kissing them, suckling them as his hand caressed the fullness of her belly. Laura caught her hands in his dark hair as she accepted him.  They were both overcome as their need encompassed everything else that was happening around them at that moment. 

“Darling, I need you so today,” Remington murmured, and when he lifted his head, his eyes were full.

“You know that I am here for you, for us.”

“I am so fearful of anything happening to any one of us. That boy George and our lovely Joanna are just finding out about this wonderful man/woman thing . . . and Jonathan and Ileana maturing as passionate young lovers together. I don’t ever want to lose you and this we have between us.”

Laura sensed his need and loosened his tie and unbuttoned his shirt.

“Come with me and let me take care of you,” she said, sliding from his lap and leading him by the hand to the room they often used for moments like this in the back of their office.  “Everyone is out to lunch.”

Laura loosened Remington’s tie, unbuttoned his shirt, and unfastened his slacks. 

“Lie down, Mr. Steele,” Laura said as she shed her clothes for him.

“God, you are beautiful with your belly so full,” Remington said as he watched her carefully hang up their clothes before giving her full attention to him.

When Laura climbed onto him, his eyes filling suddenly with tears at the realization of what they had together.

“Didn’t you say this was the only reality, darling?” Laura asked as she took him.

When Laura awakened after their noontime tryst, Remington was gone from her side.  She lay for a while, collecting herself.

<i>What am I going to do with this man except give him what he needs whenever he wants it? And when he’s in pain, he seems to want even more than usual.  I thought when he turned fifty, he would slow down, but it isn’t happening. And I’m shocked at myself . . . needing him as much as he needs me. Pregnant . . . facing menopause, I still crave him just as much as I ever did.</i>

When Laura pulled herself together and went back into the office to face the rest of the day, she found Remington on the phone with Jocelyn Walters, letting her know the situation they now faced at the wedding that was planned for the following afternoon.  He was himself again . . . handsome, full of energy, a far cry from the man who had cried upon her bosom earlier.

“Darling, I’m glad you’re back from your . . . nap,” he said with a wink and a tender smile. “I just finished with Jocelyn Walters. She is up for the challenge. Her security system will be in full gear. All her people will be wearing blue wristbands with white dots. And she will give each <ibona fide/i> guest a white wristband with blue dots. So anyone we don’t know who happens to be missing a blue white-dotted or white blue-dotted wristband is a possible suspect.”

“Good idea!  At least we’ll know who’s who. Did you happen to call Lieutenant Woodley?”

“As a matter of fact I did. Mildred got in touch with him. He will have an LAPD S.W.A.T. team out there. That is in addition to the Federal people.”

At that moment George Harrelson and Joanna arrived and Mildred brought them into Remington’s office.

“George, you are about to understand what it means to take care of your woman.  I wish it were a different scenario, but we don’t get to choose these battles.”

“What is it, sir?  You know how I feel about your daughter.”

“I do know that you and Joanna have been managing to regularly get together in intimate fashion despite my and her mother’s urgings to the contrary.  But we are trying to understand your situation and we at this point simply want you to be happily married.”

“Rem, I believe it’s too late for this conversation,” Laura interjected. “George, he can’t help being the protective father. But that is not why we had you come down here.  That fellow, Hassan, has escaped from government custody and we got a tip that he might try to disrupt your wedding tomorrow.”

“Disrupt my wedding!” Joanna exclaimed.

“By kidnapping you, Joanna,” Remington said gently. “He thinks that you might be carrying his child, and because he was . . . the first on that unfortunate evening, he thinks that you somehow belong to him. He would like to carry you off to Jordan and claim your child as his own.”

Joanna started to shake uncontrollably and George took her into his arms.

“Mr. Steele, what are we going to do?”

“We are not going to chance anything happening to Joanna. But we have to draw these people out or you will be lookin’ over your shoulder for the next twenty years. You have to follow instructions to the letter. I have a plan.”

  Laura’s brows registered her surprise that Remington’s mood had changed so completely from earlier when he was despairing of any solution.

“For now I want you to go to Laura’s old apartment. We keep it as a safe house these days. Once you go in there, don’t go out of the apartment for any reason. We will have your things there later tonight, Joanna.”

“My wedding dress . . .”

“Everything, lovey. Now I don’t imagine that you and George will have difficulty finding somethin’ to do this evening.”

“Mr. Steele . . . sir, I’m truly sorry to have caused this trouble for your family.”

“Your family now, George. And you can figure out something else to call me besides ‘Mr. Steele’ since you are marrying my daughter tomorrow. Joanna, would you mind excusing yourself while George and I have a word here?”

“Dad . . . please,” Joanna objected.

“I’ll warrant that you don’t want to hear what I am going to say to George. Go with your mother into the other office if you don’t mind.”

Joanna obediently followed Laura and they left Remington and George facing one another.

“Sir . . .”

“No, George, I called this little chat. These are the last words that we will have man-to-man before you legally claim my daughter. This whole episode has been extremely trying for Laura and myself.  I really did not want you as a husband for Joanna. I hope that you understand that.  But I was overruled.”

“Sir . . .”

“Don’t say anything, George. You have hardly attempted to conceal the fact that you have been regularly . . . using my daughter. I have tried to understand the extenuating circumstances, but I want you to know that I have not appreciated it in the least.  I realize that you grew up without a father to school you in the treatment of women and so I want to give you a bit of advice before you officially take my daughter’s hand.”

George Harrelson sat with his head bowed, as if waiting for the blows from Remington Steele to rain upon him.

“Look at me when I talk to you, son,” Remington commanded.

George slowly raised his head and his eyes met Remington’s steely blue gaze.

“If you take my daughter, you’d better be bloody well ready to be faithful to her.  She made the decision to allow you to take liberties with her, but you are a man.  You should have exercised more self-restraint and given her the opportunity to make her decision without sexual pressure being the determining factor.”

“You never forbade us to . . .”

“I shouldn’t have had to, George. You should have understood that.”

“I’m truly sorry.  I didn’t realize . . .”

“If I ever hear that you have hurt our Joanna in any way . . . emotionally or physically, I will come after you and beat the literal crap out of you. You’d better be damned sure that this is the only woman you will put your prick in for as long as she lives, or you can just walk out of here right now and we will take care of her as we have always done.  Do you understand me, young man?”

“Yes sir, I understand. I promise you I’ll take care of Joanna. I guess I just didn’t realize. My dad left when I was only three. No one ever sat down and talked to me about being a man like this, about sexual things.  When this thing happened to me . . . my feelings for Joanna . . . it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had fantasized about her for a long time and when, when she happened to me, I lost it. I know that I love her. I will die before I let anything happen to her, or to that baby she is carrying.”

“We hope that doesn’t have to happen. But I wanted you to know where I stand. It’s up to you to prove to me that you’re the man that Joanna deserves. I don’t ever want her coming to us saying that she is not being cared for sexually by you.  Here is a list of books, required reading for any man who plans to maintain the interest of his woman for more than a short while.  If you are somewhat well-endowed, it may not be as important, but if you are less well-endowed, it is paramount to have this knowledge. Keeping a woman’s interest for a few weeks or months is completely different from maintaining that interest for years and years, George. Are you following me?”

“Yes, sir.  Thank you.  I appreciate your taking the time . . . to speak to me on this.  I have no one to ask these things.  I have no experience.  And I do want to please Jo . . . more than anything.”

“Well, if you ever have need of more information, I’m here.  For now go on over to the apartment and wait for further instructions.”

George stood up to leave and moved to clasp Remington’s hand, but his eyes filled and he fell upon the older man’s neck in tears.

“There, there now, son,” Remington said, his voice softening.

“I’m scared to death for Joanna. I’ve done everything wrong and now she’s in danger.”

“That had nothing to do with you.”

“If I had had presence of mind to use a condom, then she wouldn’t have gotten pregnant and all of this would not be happening to us now.”

“And you would perhaps have never dealt with your feelings for each other. We don’t know why certain things happen, George.  We simply have to play them out.”

“I think I know what I want to call you. Can I call you ‘dad?’ ”

“Sure, son, call me ‘dad.’ ”

The two men began to bond from that moment on.

* * * * * *

Saturday dawned clear and bright. Remington and Laura were up early organizing the household for the wedding that would take place in the afternoon.

“So is everything all set, Rem?” Laura asked as they were dressing for the wedding. That was a brilliant idea.  It should have been obvious. When did you think of it?”

“Actually when I was lying beside you after we had passed those precious moments together, it just popped into my head.  Sex always increases my mental acuity.”

“Well, we shall just have to see that you always have enough of that, won’t we?”

“You are taking care of me very well, darling. I have no complaints, only the deepest gratitude.”

Remington kissed Laura quickly on her lips before continuing to dress.

“Help me, darling, I’m having difficulty putting on my stockings with this belly in the way.”

Remington knelt in front of her and slid her stockings on and fastened them to the lacy garter belt that Laura was wearing. He kissed her inner thigh before smoothing her skirt down over her legs.

“Thank you, Mr. Steele.”

“I will be glad to reverse this process a bit later this evening, Mrs. Steele. You look especially ravishing.”

“I am feeling quite pregnant.  You really fixed me up this time.”

“And so I did,” Remington said as his perfectly sculptured lips curved in a smile.

“At least Joanna is not carrying large. You wouldn’t think that she and I are both finishing our six month. I feel like I did with the twins.”

“Well, you are the experienced one. Your marvelous body is fine-tuned for this job, love.”

Remington extended both his hands and helped Laura to her feet.

Finally they were all ready to go. Ingrid stood watching, expecting to come along.  Her ten puppies were six weeks old and just weaned and given to the persons to whom they were promised, except for one female that Laura had fallen in love with and decided to keep.

“What do you think, Rem? Should we bring her along?”

“Sure, she will be another layer of security. Let her ride in the limo with Cassie and Chlöe. And put Esperanza and the younger twins in with them.”

Remington and Laura drove the sleek Mercedes SUV and Michael, Harry, and Tabby went along with them. 

“My, what a handsome group we have here,” Remington exclaimed as he surveyed his family in the car.

“Dad, tell us we don’t have to keep these suits on all afternoon.”

“You have to keep them on. You must learn to be comfortable in all sorts of clothes. This is part of your training. Now one final bit of instruction.  If you see someone there that you do not know, I want you to immediately inform me or your mother. Everyone who is to be at the wedding will be wearing either a blue wristband with white dots or a white wristband with blue dots. Anyone without that is a suspicious person and we have to know about it.”

“Are you expecting something to happen, Dad?” Michael asked pointedly.

“One never knows, son.  One never knows.”

When they arrived at McCullum park, the majority of guests were there already sitting in the rotunda where the wedding would take place at 1:00 p.m.  The rotunda was in an exposed open area surrounding the gazebo in the center. Remington and Laura kept scanning the crowd and the sky for any sign of trouble. Ingrid lay quietly next to Laura’s chair.

At just before one o’clock the organist began to play and Joanna came from one of the side porticos in a formal wedding gown, her face heavily veiled.  George and the Brathwaite twins, stood waiting for her as Cassie and Chlöe, her bridesmaids preceded her down the aisle that formed where the chairs separated and to the flowered trellised gazebo where the minister waited.  They reached that point and were ready to begin.

Suddenly the whirring of a helicopter was heard overhead. It was directly above them.

“Damn, they’re here,” Remington breathed to Laura without looking at her.

“Yes they certainly are. What now?”

“It’s their move. If they try anything, we will be ready for them. But we have to let them get down.”

The helicopter landed. It had police markings and was met with only mild curiosity by those gathered for the wedding.  McCullum Park was a place where all sorts of events took place.

The minister had started the wedding with a few introductory comments and was now asking who gave Joanna in marriage.

Remington stood up to answer the question and that was when Laura caught sight of a man who had come from the back of the audience. He grabbed one of the attendants as a diversionary tactic and proceeded to pummel him.

“Remy!” Laura said quite loudly.

At that moment men in black and white checked masks from the helicopter ran toward the gazebo where Joanna stood alongside George. They seized her and were dragging her away when suddenly men in S.W.A.T. gear carrying serious artillery appeared from nowhere.

“Stop or you will be shot,” came from a bullhorn.

“You let us go or you risk shooting her.  I don’t think that is what anyone wants,” the one dragging Joanna screamed.

Laura clicked her tongue and in a flash Ingrid responded to the signal and eased forward on her haunches till she was in range of the desperate men. Then suddenly the big dog lunged forward and caught the man who was holding Joanna by his gun arm. He dropped his gun and the bride turned on him and socked him and kicked him. He was stunned but didn’t stop trying to drag her away. Drawing another gun from his waist he continued to pull her. Ingrid growled, stood her ground and lunged at him again. In desperation he shot at Ingrid, striking her in her flank. At that point the S.W.A.T. team got a shot in and felled the man with a single shot. Others closed in and captured all of the accomplices. As the helicopter took off in an escape attempt, an FBI helicopter took off behind it and shot the helicopter down out over the Pacific Ocean when it refused to turn back.

The police closed in and pulled back the black and white checkered scarf of the felled man to reveal Ziad Hassan, dead.

Laura and Remington and their children ran to examine Ingrid, who lay whimpering and bleeding on the ground. And the “bride” took off her veil, revealing that she was indeed a policewoman, a “stand in” for Joanna.

“Ingrid, Ingrid, hold on, old girl,” Remington said. “Get a doctor for my dog.”

Lieutenant Woodley rushed to their aid.  “We got an ambulance here. We’ll take your dog to the vet right now. Looks like she’ll survive that wound. I can’t say the same thing for Hassan. Steele.”

“He made his choice.”

“Yes, he did.”

Remington Steele turned to address the thoroughly rattled gathering of friends and family.

“Everybody, calm down. It’s all over. Everything has been taken care of. We are going to have the wedding now. Joanna is here, and she is fine and the wedding will take place just as soon as the police take care of these matters and tidy things up. The people from Weddings Unlimited are here and they are going to serve drinks and bottled water while we prepare for the wedding to get started.”

“I go with your dog to the vet, Mrs. Steele.  Don’t worry. She gonna be okay. It look like a flesh wound,” Hector said, as he gladly took over Ingrid and her immediate needs.

Laura was shaking and Remington took her into his arms and hugged her.

“It’s over, darling. It’s all over. Hassan was going to have what he wanted or go out in a blaze of glory apparently.”

“He didn’t count on his plan being foiled.”

“Chlöe and Cassie and the Brathwaite boys played it off beautifully.  Not risking them blowing it by telling them in advance, but alerting them just a few minutes before the wedding, was the final touch, Laura.”

“Well, it was a blazing exit for sure, especially for the men in the helicopter.”

“They made their choice also.”

“Let’s hope Cassie and Chlöe choose young men that we know when their time comes.  These complications are just a bit much, don’t you think?”

“Yes, but no choice in life is simple, darling. We may be seeing a somewhat complicated future right there.” He directed Laura’s attention to Chlöe and Cassie who were giving their undivided attention to Gregory and Geoffrey Brathwaite.

The girls were rapidly growing into tall long-stemmed beauties as at fifteen they were undergoing the metamorphosis into young women.  This day, dressed in simple pastel blue linen sheaths it was evident that all of the pubescent baby fat had melted away. Their black hair flowed in matching cascades caught up with blue grosgrain ribbon and periwinkle blossoms. 

Geoffrey and Gregory were obviously in a growth spurt and would soon be more than six feet tall like their handsome father. They engaged the girls in conversation with the ease of a cousin or a brother, but there was a light in their eyes that Remington and Laura had not noticed before.

“Dear me, don’t let me see it, Remy. I am just not ready for them to be interested in anyone yet.”

Remington smiled in the direction of his children and turned back to face Laura.

“Let’s get this pair married.”

 * * * * * *                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

It turned out to be a lovely wedding and Joanna got her wish to wear her lace empire dress. It only slightly camouflaged her pregnant state, but everyone there, family and closest friends, loved Joanna, and wished the newlyweds success in this marriage that they had been somehow catapulted into.

As the sun set and the wedding began to wind down, the orchestra played “While We’re Young.”

“They’re playing our song, darling,” he said.

“Yes, they are.” 

Remington took Laura’s hand and led her onto the dance floor.

“I think George is completely intoxicated with our Joanna,” Remington surmised as he danced slowly with Laura.

“I hope it lasts. I just hope it lasts,” Laura fretted. “In that Jonathan decided to elope, this becomes the first of our children’s weddings we’ve been privileged to see. We’ve got a long way to go before all of this tribe is married.”

“They seem to be quite satisfied with each other.  Ileana seems especially happy since she found out she’s pregnant.”

“She wants to really show and it’s still too early.  She’s just missed two periods.  She’s so anxious.”

“Umm, that wee one in your belly should be thinkin’ about findin’ that special someone twenty or twenty-five years from now, darling.”

“They are so inexperienced. They seem somehow like children playing house to you.  You were the man of the world, knowing how to woo any woman. I was ‘crazy dysfunctional run-around Laura’ and we have these, these wonderful children.”

“Don’t start counting your chickens before they’re hatched. We have to get the rest of them past puberty and safely into adulthood before they self-destruct. I was definitely insane to get you pregnant again.”

“We’ve had this discussion many times and I think we agree that we were both insane that afternoon.”

“Well, we must leave them to their own devices now. George is going to have to inform himself on dealing with the fair sex.  If he is half as interested in sex as he is in computers, he should do just fine. I had a few harsh words for him yesterday.”

“About what?”

“About freely fornicating with my daughter these last two months.  I did not appreciate it. You know that I didn’t like it.”

“I realize that. I did not approve them getting so involved so quickly. But they are young people and they were in a situation.”

“And he did not respect Joanna as I would have wished. He lacks a great deal. Even Daniel taught me appropriate conduct with the opposite sex,” Remington quipped. “I told young George how I felt about it, told him I’d thrash the crap out of him if he ever hurts her or is unfaithful to her.”

“And how did he react?”

“He cried and hugged me and called me ‘dad,’ ” Remington said.  “As they say in the parlance, ‘go figure.’ ”

“Remy, that is so sweet!”

“Relax, darling, and just dance with me. I want to enjoy the sensation of your body against mine. I want nothing more at this point than to go home and make love with you.”

“You are so bad, Remy.”

“I know.  I’m incorrigible, Laura.  But it took me a long time to find the ‘real thing,’ darling. And I’m determined to enjoy every moment of life with you to the full.”

Remington kissed Laura tenderly on her cheek and then on her forehead.

“Would it be terribly scandalous if the father of the bride kissed the obviously pregnant mother of the bride upon her lovely lips right now?”

Laura raised her eyebrows and Remington promptly bent to find her lips in a soft kiss before she could respond verbally.

“Our children are probably mortified at our behavior.”

“They see us kiss all the time.”

“But not at a public function, Remy.”

“Are you saying you didn’t appreciate my kiss?”

Laura buried her head in his chest for a moment and then looked up at him again.

“You still are the most handsome man I’ve ever seen in a tux.”

“And you are the loveliest forty-eight year old, six months pregnant, mother-of-the-bride I’ve ever seen, a veritable vision in turquoise lace, driving me mad with your fabulous freckled décolleté. And you haven’t answered whether that kiss upon your lips was satisfactory.”

“You know that it was.”

Remington’s nostrils quivered ever so slightly and his arm drew Laura perceptibly closer, betraying to her just how deeply his feelings for her were running at that moment.

“Remy, you know I can’t concentrate on dancing when you do that.”

“Don’t try to concentrate.  Just stay here with me, and let me hold you close to my heart.”

They didn’t speak any more.  They simply danced in the evening shadows.

All of the family with their young people were there. Daniel and Frances Piper’s three were all young adults.  Harriett and Peter Rourke with their young adult children, Sean David, Chlöe Ann, and their twins Harper Remington and Helene Reneé, borne two years after Chlöe and Cassie were there.  The Brathwaite’s with their twins and their younger sister Blythe, who was a year younger than Michael, were enjoying visiting with Bryce Daniel Johnson, Remington and Harriett’s half brother by Kadijah Kammasooka, who had flown out from Chicago.  He was thirty-three years old now and had made regular visits out to visit Remington and the rest of his family ever since they had become acquainted in 1991.   He was still single, a lawyer acting as an advocate for troubled youth.

* * * * * *

Sunday, November 16, 2003, was in its early morning hours when Laura touched Remington to waken him. He responded instantly, well aware that she was two weeks past her due date and that the birth of their baby could come at any time.

“Is everything all right, darling?”

“Yes, I just have to go to the bathroom for what seems like the umpteenth time tonight.”

Remington helped Laura up from their bed.  She was nearly as ungainly at this stage of this pregnancy as she had been with twins, and Remington was insisting that she let him help her up and down at night.

Laura stood and regarded herself in their bathroom mirror and tears sprang to her eyes.  When pregnant she was always warmer than normal and wore sleeveless sheer cotton gowns that let her breathe. This gown was stretched to capacity, her ruptured navel, and swollen breasts proclaiming her advanced state of pregnancy, and suddenly she felt very ungainly and unattractive.

Remington came to check on her and finding her with tears streaming down her cheeks, embraced her from behind, encircling the precious burden she carried.

“Laura, darling, what’s the matter?”

“I’m just such a mess.  Look at me!”

“I see only beauty, Laura, a very special kind of beauty that I will never see again in my life.  And I cherish every opportunity I have had to see you like this.”

“You are so good to me, Remy. But I don’t know whether to believe you. I look like a bloated freckled balloon here now.”

“I am as excited by you like this beyond measure.  You are a gorgeous flower, in fullest bloom, fragrant, intoxicatingly fragrant, giving up the sweetest nectar at the slightest touch.”

Laura stopped crying and blushed and Remington’s nostrils flared as he bent to kiss her neck and inhaled deeply the scent of her. He pulled her gown over her head and dropped it to the floor so that she was as naked as he was.

“That’s better. Look at you . . . radiant . . . voluptuous, full of our wee one. Come back to bed with me . . . before the children waken. How can you doubt your loveliness when you see what you do to me?”

Remington took her by her hand and led her back to bed and then helped her adjust into position on her side so that he could lie against her back embracing her belly and breasts. When they came together, Laura trembled helplessly in response, her parts in such a tumescent state that she cried out, immediately seeing stars.

“Shh, love, just lie here with me.  Just enjoy being loved, darling.  Laura, Laura,” he groaned.

He struggled to restrain himself, protecting Laura from his full power.

“Remy!” Laura wailed softly as he comforted her with his love, whispering to her words that were so intimately passionate that Laura’s eyes filled with tears of joy.

They let themselves float in <i>karezza</i>, losing track of time till they finally climaxed gently together.

Remington lay beside Laura as she slept again, relaxed and at peace after his sensitive attention to her need for his love, his reassurance that she was as beautiful as ever to him even with her body swollen in her advanced pregnant state.

<i>She has no idea how beautiful I find her when she is like this. I’m just tryin’ to hold back and keep from injuring her or the wee one. Lord, seein’ her like this, so full, so lush, so sensual, so needin’ of me to cool her passions . . . </i>

Laura moaned softly in her sleep and Remington drew the covers up over her and patted her belly.  The little one that they had named Margaret Alessandre was moving inside her. 

<i>’Maggie, take it easy on your mum.  I know you’re wantin’ to come out and meet us face to face.’</i>

It was morning when Remington awakened again. Laura appeared to still be fast asleep, so he eased from their bed and padded barefoot toward their bathroom. He reached for his robe and then he realized that Laura had awakened.

“You don’t need that robe, Mr. Steele.  I prefer the view <i>au naturel</i> actually.”

Remington came back and sat down on her side of their bed.

“How are things with you this morning, darling?”

“I think I’m going to have a baby real soon.”

Remington’s face registered alarm.

“I don’t mean right this minute . . . but I’m overdue. I’ve never been this much overdue.  Two weeks.  Sandra says that I got the time right.”

“We know when you conceived.” Remington winked and grinned at her.

“The baby is just comfortable in here . . . and lazy.”

Remington drew the covers back so that he could look at Laura’s huge freckled belly and felt it all over, finally tenderly kissing it as Laura ran her fingers through his silver streaked dark hair.

“Pied beauty,” he said.

Laura’s eyes were a question.

“‘Pied Beauty’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1877.  ‘Pied’ as in speckled, freckled, spotted. The poem just popped into my head.  I read it years ago when I was just a boy on that tanker with Marcos Androkos.  Then I had no idea how intriguing a freckled woman could be.  I had no experience with a woman, just what I’d seen in countless movies.”

“Do you remember the poem?”

“A few lines. Let’s see. ‘Glory be to God for dappled things, for skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow.  For rose moles all in stipple upon trout that swim.  All things counter, original, spare, strange.  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)’”

“It’s beautiful.”

“Like this . . . you . . . ‘rose-moles all in stipple.’  I finally figured it out.”


“The allure of freckles.”

Laura blushed and giggled and Remington nuzzled her breasts and gently pinched her hips, playing with her, teasing her as she squealed with delight.

“See, you can’t possibly get away from me with that belly I gave you, love.  I dare say I have a decided advantage these days in these encounters.”

“You always have the advantage when you come after me.  You always did. I loved you from the first moment I laid eyes on you,” Laura said, her eyes misting slightly.

Remington nodded and bent his head to kiss her and caress her intimately.

“I’m, sorry, darling. Do you want me to refrain? I don’t want to tire you excessively,” he whispered to her as his lips brushed her breasts.

There was a knock on their bedroom door.

“I think you’d better get under the covers, Remy.  You’re in no condition to greet our children like that.”

Remington slid back under the bedclothes next to Laura and responded to the knocker.  There were Chlöe and Cassie, still in their pajamas.

“We heard Mom crying out . . . you know. Are you okay?  We thought maybe . . .”

“Maybe the baby was coming,” Cassie finished her sister’s sentence.

“I’m fine, girls,” Laura said.  “But thank you for being alert to my welfare.”

“Your mother is very close to her time, but it is not exactly this moment.”

Cassie and Chlöe glanced at their parents’ nightclothes strewn on the floor and then looked at each other.

“Dad! You and mom were having sex!” Chlöe said, as if she were disappointed in a mischievous child. “Good grief!”

“Girls, I think that now is the time that you should realize something about adults who love each other.  It doesn’t change because someone is ill, or someone is pregnant. I love your mother and we need to be with each other and touch and connect with each other physically when she is like this as much as any other time.  She is carrying my child, just like she carried the two of you inside her and that is a miracle that I want to be as close to as possible.

“Now if you want to sit here on our bed and have a chat we can do that, or you can go and check on your brothers and sisters and give them cereal or something while your mother and I finish what we were doing in here.”

“We’ll . . . get breakfast started.” Chlöe rolled her eyes upward.

“Can we bring you coffee . . . or something, Dad?” Cassie offered.  “Later?”

“Mom, we’re going to make you breakfast in bed!” Chlöe insisted, as they backed out of their parents’ bedroom.

“No, Dad, you and mom come out when you are ready . . . to eat,” Cassie nearly tripped over Chlöe as they left.

Laura smiled as Remington got from under the covers, picked up his pajama bottoms and Laura’s gown from the floor where they had tossed them, then strode naked to the door and locked it before coming back to their bed.

“Now, where were we?”

Laura was speechless with laughter.

“Will you please tell me what you are laughing about, woman?”

“You are such a sight and I love you so much,” Laura said.

Remington remembered his evident condition and grinned rakishly before sliding under the covers again and into the position that was the safest for them at this point.

“Lord, like two perfectly matched spoons,” Remington murmured into her ear as his turgid parts easily joined hers in near perfect congruence as the morning sun spilled upon them through their bedroom windows.

It was some time later before Remington was able to get Laura out of bed and go into the shower with her so that they could prepare for the day. She was still drowsy after their passionate morning as they stood under the warm water together and Remington bathed her himself, helped her out of the shower and carefully dried her with a large soft towel. 

“I’m so tired, Remy. I had all these plans for today, but I just feel so heavy and useless.”

“I fear that I must blame myself for allowing you to overexert yourself, darling.  I should have exercised more restraint,” he said as he helped her pull on a voluminous olive-green velour sweat suit.

“I didn’t want you to restrain yourself,” Laura said, smiling a special smile that no one other than Remington ever saw.

“No, you have always managed to get what you want on that score, Laura. Now, we have the option of your daughters bringing you breakfast or coming out to the kitchen with me.”

“I think I’ll come out,” Laura said.

Remington helped her get up, but as she started to walk toward the door, she wobbled slightly, and almost lost her balance.

“I feel suddenly lightheaded, Rem.  Maybe I will just sit here for a while longer.

Remington regarded her very carefully.

“I think that I will call Sandra.  You’ve never been dizzy without a headache.”

Laura sat quietly as he spoke with Sandra Brathwaite on the phone.

“No, she’s not having any pain.  No sign of anything else untoward.  Just the dizziness.”

When Remington hung up, Laura knew from his facial expression what was coming.

“She wants you in Cedars this morning, darling. She will meet us there.  I don’t think she wants you to have this baby at home.”        

By noon Laura was checked in and resting in her room at Cedars-Sinai Hospital.  Remington, naturally concerned, watched his wife sleep. The sedative that Sandra Brathwaite had given her seemed to be working. He had known that Sandra was taking no chances that Laura get into unsupervised labor with this pregnancy, but he had not thought that a routine phone call would end up with Laura being admitted. He looked at her asleep on her back, her hair in thick braids, her huge belly a mountain that seemed ready to burst now. Sandra had taken one look at Laura today and was doubly glad that she had admitted her.

“I’ve never seen her as huge as this other than with twins, Sandra. Are you sure she’s going to be all right?”

“It’s not unusual, Remington. The body finds it easier and easier to accommodate pregnancies. Laura is holding on to this baby just like she always has in each pregnancy. But her blood pressure is slightly elevated for her, thus the lightheadedness. My concern is that she may go into labor and experience a sudden precipitous rise in blood pressure. Eclampsia is a major risk for mothers her age. If it happens, I want her here. Besides she can hardly walk with the load she’s carrying. She needs to be off her feet till this thing is over.”

Sandra saw the concern in Remington’s blue eyes and patted him on his shoulder. If anything, he was even more handsome than when she had met him and Laura during her first pregnancy. The streaks of white in his thick black hair and the fine lines around his cobalt blue eyes added character and nothing else. Yes, he and Laura made a striking pair with their tribe of children.

“Don’t worry unduly, Remington. She is tough. I just don’t want her getting hysterical at this point. The tranquilizer I gave her is something quite mild, safe for the baby. I want her calmed down.”

“Well, she has had some pretty hysterical moments. She looked at herself in the mirror this morning and started to cry. As soon as I think she has completely adjusted to the idea, she comes back at me again about it.”

Sandra smiled at her friend. “Well, it takes two, they say. But then I know the both of you.”

Remington flushed.

“Touché, Sandra. She has a right to call me anything she wants. I just want my woman to get through this safely. I’m glad we made the decision to have the tubal ligation. We can’t take any more chances with her health.”

At that point, Laura stirred and moaned softly.

“I think the sedative is wearing off, Remington. I want to let her wake up and see if she will go into labor naturally. I don’t want to induce or give her a C-section. She has had no problem giving birth normally in the past.”

“Remy . . .”

Remington went to Laura’s bedside.

“I’m here, love. Everything is just fine. Sandra just gave you a bit of a rest for a while.”

“My baby, my little girl . . .” Laura felt her huge belly.

“She is fine, Laura,” Dr. Sandra said. “You are just high risk and we are keeping watch. I’m going to take a look down here and see how we’re doing.”

“I’m near, Sandra,” Laura said simply.

“Yes, you are very near,” Sandra said as she checked Laura’s degree of dilation.

Laura’s water broke at that moment.

“My goodness, girl! You <i>are</i> ready! We’re going to take you into the delivery room. Come, Remington, you’re about to be a papa again.”

Dr. Braithwaite went to the phone to call the nurse and just then Laura felt the first labor pain and gripped her belly.

“Remy, the baby is coming!”

“Hold on, Laura,” Dr. Sandra said.

Laura was suddenly in full labor, holding her legs wide open, groaning in pain.

“She can’t hold on, Sandra. This is it. Damn!”

“Help me, Remy! Hold my . . . legs for me.”

A nurse had arrived and she held one thigh while Remington held Laura’s other thigh so that she could push. The contractions were coming in rapid succession at one-minute intervals and Laura hardly had time to gasp for breath between them.

“You’re doing fine, Laura, just fine. Still lively for an old girl,” Dr. Sandra teased.

Laura smiled triumphantly in the brief moment between contractions and then cried out in pain as she felt her pelvis stretching open.

“Come, darling. You can do it!”

“Blood pressure elevating, Dr. Brathwaite,” the nurse attending warned. “She is at 150 over 100.”

“Don’t push, Laura. We’re going to have to slow this down.”

“I can’t!  I’m having this baby now!” Laura groaned and pushed.

“Blood pressure at 166 over 112, Dr. Brathwaite,” the nurse reported.

“You can’t take this. You’re going into eclampsia,” Dr. Sandra warned.

“Damn, Laura, don’t push,” Remington pleaded. “I can’t lose you.”

“What the hell do you want me to do with this baby!” Laura groaned and pushed and screamed as the baby crowned. “Help me, Remy!”

“She’s ahead of us. She’s delivering. She has to deliver before she has a stroke or goes into renal failure. Come on, Laura. Have this baby. Hold her legs so she can push it out, Remington.”

“Yes! Yes! Help me, Remy!” Laura wailed in pain as she pushed again to no avail. She had never felt such intense pain as the huge baby forced her pelvis open and then seemed to stop in her birth canal. “I can’t . . . I can’t get her . . . out!”

“Dear God, Laura! You can do it! You have to keep pushing!” Remington cried, holding her thighs for her.

“I . . . I can’t do it,” Laura gasped, weakening, helpless, unable to push any more. “I’m done.”

“I’m here, darling.  I’m helping you. Don’t leave me, Laura! God! Please don’t let my woman leave me like this!”

“Laura, you have to deliver this wee one right now.  Come on, mother, you can do it,” Sandra urged firmly, trying to mask her deep concern for this patient who was also her friend.

The next contraction came and Laura screamed and pushed one last time with all her power and their baby’s head finally emerged completely, followed by a huge gush of amniotic fluid. Laura, grunting and groaning, pushed their baby girl into the world, and then fell back exhausted, barely conscious.

“Thank God,” Remington murmured.

The infant was quite large, but lethargic, not crying.

“In the nick of time. This baby was in distress.”

Dr. Brathwaite stimulated the baby and she began to whimper softly.

“Blood pressure dropping . . . 160 over 110, Dr. Brathwaite,” the attending nurse said.

“Good. Start that IV. We have to get that blood pressure back in normal range.” Sandra took a look at Remington stagger backwards and knew that he was about to pass out.  “And get someone in here to help the father. He’s fainting just now.”

“Remy . . . Remy . . .” Laura gasped weakly.

“He only fainted, Laura. He’ll be fine. You relax now. You gave me a fright here. Let me finish with you. You have to push that placenta out.”

“My baby . . . Maggs. . .”

“Your beautiful little girl. She was suffering a bit, but she came round nicely. Good you pushed her out or we might have lost her. She looked like she could be ten pounds, but you handled her well.”

“I couldn’t push hard enough.”

“You pushed when you had to. That’s all that matters.”

 “Where is my little girl?”

“I sent her to neo-natal to have her checked out . . . make sure she’s just fine. Don’t worry. She was fretting when they took her. Right now I have to give you something to calm you down, Laura, get that blood pressure back down. We’ll bring the baby back shortly.”

“It was a close call, wasn’t it, Sandra? I felt like I was going to die.”

“If you hadn’t delivered lightning fast, you and the baby could have been in real trouble. God knows you scared the life out of me, girl.”

Laura nodded, beginning to drift with the medication  that her doctor had ordered.

Within a few minutes Remington came to on the sofa in Laura’s room. He was nauseous, dizzy.

“Sir, you just fainted. You will be fine. Your wife  . . . and baby are fine.”

Remington sat up and struggled to come to full consciousness.

“Laura . . .”

“She’s fine, Daddy Steele,” Dr. Sandra said. “Exhausted, but stabilizing nicely.”

“I almost lost my wife, Sandra.” Remington shook his head in disbelief at the close call Laura had just had.

“Yes. But you didn’t,” Sandra Brathwaite said simply.

Remington stood up somewhat unsteadily and approached Laura’s bed.

“Laura, darling . . .” he whispered, reaching to touch her face, smooth her hair that had pulled out of the two fat chestnut braids that hung to her shoulders.

“Remy, I . . . I,” she broke down in tears now. “You helped me push her out. She was so huge . . . and I felt myself giving out.”

Remington tried to smile. “You were in high gear. I just did what you told me to do, ma’am.” But his blue eyes filled and spilled over. “I thought I was going to lose you, babe. I love you so desperately.”

Remington caught her hand and kissed it as his tears flowed. They were both unable to speak, just thankful. Laura stroked his hair with her free hand as they cried together.

“My, my, I know those are happy tears,” Sandra Brathwaite said as she came into the room and saw her friends so emotionally engaged.

“Thank you, Sandra. You saved my wife and my child for me today. I will be eternally grateful.”

“May I see her now, Sandra?” Laura asked.

“They are bringing her in now. She was in some distress and we wanted to check her out thoroughly. She is just fine . . . all ten pounds eight ounces of her. I was ready to help you but you didn’t tear at all. You are going to feel like a truck ran over you for the next few days. That baby should have been a C-section. But you had always delivered so easily before, and the baby did not appear to be too big for you to deliver.”

“I just ran out of steam. I felt like there was a log jam inside me, and I just couldn’t move it.”

“But you did . . . with your dear man’s encouragement.  That’s the up side of mature experienced mothers. The down side you have seen . . . eclampsia. We can’t take that risk again. That’s why I’m glad that you decided on tubal ligation . . . even this late in the game. I’m not trusting you two, you know.”

A nurse brought a bundle into the room and placed it in Laura’s arms and they were enthralled.

“I leave you now with?”

“Margaret Alessandre Steele . . . Maggs,” Remington answered.

“Well, Maggs has a whole family out here waiting to meet her. I’ll send them in after you two have had a few minutes with her.”

Laura and Remington examined little Maggs from head to toe.

“A black Irish beauty like her grandmother Margaret,” Remington said wistfully as he relinquished her to Laura.

 She was dark-haired, quite chubby and there were just a few tiny freckles showing on her round middle. She stared at Laura with total recognition in her huge blue eyes. Obviously recovered from her birthing ordeal and very hungry, she latched on easily and began to nurse.

“I’ll get the children.”

Remington went to the waiting room and found his children.

“Dad, is mom okay?” Chlöe asked anxiously. “Can we see her?”

“You look terrible, Dad,” Cassie said. “You’ve been crying.”

“Crying for happiness, love. Your mom is fine now.”

“Now? She had a hard time, didn’t she?” Chlöe said, her eyes filling.

“And he didn’t want to tell us,” Cassie continued tearfully. “Oh, Daddy!” She hugged her father.

“Aunt Sandra said she is fine,” Michael said.

“She is fine, son,” Remington said, tousling his son’s hair and drawing him close. “We almost lost her, but she’s fine now.”

Then Remington broke down in tears and all the children hugged their father at the same time. Tabby started to cry because she felt left out and Remington, tears streaming, bent to pick her up in his arms.

“It’s all right, lovey. It’s all right. Come, let’s see mum.”

Remington brought the family into Laura’s room and they all ran immediately to their mother and the newest member of the family. Laura reached out to touch each of her children and then fell asleep with her newborn daughter still nursing.

“Now I think we should let your mother rest for a while, children.” Remington looked at Joanna who had suddenly gone very pale. She was in her last month. “Good Lord, Joanna, are you in labor?”

“I . . . I think so,” Joanna said as water streamed down her legs.

“Get Dr. Sandra! I think this is it,” Remington said as he helped Joanna over to the sofa in Laura’s room.

Jonathan and Ileana had just arrived and Jonathan quickly took charge of the situation while Ileana calmed the other children. Her own near death experience, along with the pregnancy she was herself now five months into, had given her maturity far beyond her years.

“What . . . what’s going on?” Laura asked drowsily.

“Joanna is having her baby. Jonathan and Ileana have things well in hand.”

“They called George?”

“Yes, and George . . . is just about to find out what life is all about,” Remington said wryly.

“He loves her. They’re married just three months now and they act like they’ve known each other all their lives.”

“Truth is stranger than fiction, isn’t it?”

“Yes . . . look at us.”

“I almost lost you today. My whole life with you passed through my head when you were pushing this baby out like that.”

“I knew that both of us, me and our baby, would have died if I hadn’t delivered then. I didn’t care how big she was. I had to push her out. I’ve was in such agony.”

“I never get used to seeing you like that . . . thighs wide open, all modesty gone, all your beautiful intimate parts dilated.”

“You’ve seen that plenty of times,” Laura teased almost shyly.

“You know what I mean . . . seeing our wee ones head stretching you open like that.  Giving birth is such a miraculous thing and such a frightening thing.  I was scared to death. I don’t know where I got the strength to hold your legs.”

“You’ve held my legs for me every time I’ve given birth. You’ve helped me very single time.”

“But this time . . . it was nip and tuck, life and death in the balance. I’m completely knackered.”

“Me too. And I’m having terrific after-pains. Please take her.”

Remington took Maggs into his arms and rocked her as Laura dealt with her pain.

“She is beautiful, Laura. Blue eyes, curly black hair . . . lovely <itaches de rousseur /i>here and there.”

“Pied beauty?”

 “Exactly. Hopefully she will be a freckled lovely just like her mum. God, she will break hearts one day.”

Laura reached out, touched Remington’s cheek with her hand, and he caught it and kissed her palm, inhaling the scent of it.

“I love you so. And I almost lost you. Nothing else would have mattered if I had lost you,” Remington said, his blue eyes brimming. “Trying to raise our children . . . without you . . .”

“Remy . . . don’t think about that. I’m here, darling.”

“Thank God.”


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