Remington helped her from the limo. Putting his arm around her to steady her, they walked into the building. When they were safely inside, Fred drove away.
"You know, this is becoming a habit with us," Remington commented in the elevator.
"What is?" Laura asked sleepily, enjoying the feel of her cheek against Remington's shoulder.
Motioning for her to enter, he followed her in and closed the door. Then removing his jacket and turning around, he began rubbing his back against the door frame.
"Mr. Steele, really!" Laura laughed, turning him around and scratching his back for him.
"Oh, Laura; you are truly an angel of mercy," he proclaimed.
"I thought you were doing better. You hardly scratched at all while we were at the movie."
"Yes, it did seem to be better," Remington admitted. "But obviously, it's catching up with me now."
"Well, hopefully this will do the trick," she said as she handed him the recently purchased container of Aveeno. "
"I'm willing to give it a try if you are, Miss Holt," Remington said as he took it from her. "A nice soak and we should both be feeling better."
Laura sheepishly looked at the floor, not wanting to meet Remington's gaze. Finally she said softly, "Mr. Steele, we're both really tired. Will you be terribly disappointed if we take a rain check on that soak?"
Remington pouted for a moment before taking Laura's hands in his own and planting a kiss on each of them. "Laura, love, this isn't just about me; it's about us."
"I really hate disappointing you..."
"It's okay, Laura," he assured her. "Disappointment and I are old friends."
"I'll make it up to you," she promised, looking into his mesmerizing eyes and giving him a tiny smile.
"Of that, I have absolutely no doubt," he whispered, pulling her into his arms for a warm embrace. "In the meantime, though, I'm starved. Why don't you make us some sandwiches or something while I go soak my afflictions?"
"I suppose I can manage that," Laura admitted. "Our midnight snack will be ready when you are."
The Aveeno did the trick. After his long relaxing soak, Remington insisted Laura take a soak of her own. At first she was hesitant, but when he escorted her into the bathroom and she saw the inviting bath he had already drawn for her, she changed her mind.
She didn't know which warmed her more, the soothing soak or Remington's thoughtfulness in preparing it for her. She smiled as she climbed from the tub and dried herself in the thick towel he had set out for her. Beneath the towel she found one of Remington's velour robes. Gathering it up in her arms, she buried her face in it and inhaled deeply. Then pulling the pins from her hair, she picked up Remington's brush from the vanity and gave her hair a quick forty strokes. Smiling at her reflection in the mirror, Laura decided she was ready to face her mystery man.
Remington, dressed in his dark silk robe, was lounging on the bed looking through The Los Angeles Times when Laura walked into his room.
"Feeling better?" he asked, looking up.
"I feel wonderful," she admitted, "but what's all this?" There on the nightstand was the silver tray of sandwiches she had prepared earlier--but they weren't what was making her mouth water.
"I thought a little Chocolate a la Steele might warm your heart," Remington explained, dipping a spoon into a bowl of the creamy chocolate and holding it to Laura's mouth.
"Umm, it's exquisite!" Laura declared as she closed her eyes and swallowed slowly.
Suddenly leaning over, he licked a smear of chocolate from her upper lip. "Yes, I wholeheartedly agree," he said, his voice barely a whisper. "It's exquisite."
They gazed into each other's eyes for what seemed like an eternity.
Eventually Remington broke the silence, saying, "Yes, well...What say we sit down and enjoy this lovely midnight snack?"
They did just that. The sandwiches were filling, the Chocolate a la Steele was exquisite, the conversation was satisfying, the laughter was lilting and the mood was relaxed.
When they had finished their snack, Laura leaned back on the bed and stretched lazily. Remington stretched out beside her, fingered a wisp of her damp hair and began twirling it. Laura knew he was watching her, but she didn't mind. She was busy staring at the ceiling, deep in her own thoughts.
Remington put his arms behind his head and moved closer to Laura's side. "Thinking about what we're going to do about our latest appearance in the dirt?" he asked.
Laura roused herself out of her daydream. "No, not really," she confessed. "There's not much we can do, except wait for the hoopla to pass."
"I supposed we could sue," Remington pointed out.
Laura shook her head. "No. That would only draw more attention to the situation, and that's the last thing we want."
"But, Laura," he protested, "Those pictures..."
"...are perfectly innocent," she reminded him.
"Yes, but they don't *appear* to be innocent. Can you imagine what the public will think when they read we wear flea collars to bed?! No one will want to hire a private investigator who carries on in photo booths and does kinky, depraved things with flea collars."
"Well, at least you weren't referred to as a secretary," Laura said with a shudder which made Remington smile.
"Oh, come now, Laura," he said. "That is so petty, so..."
"...so demeaning," she finished for him. "I worked hard to get to where I am today. And it wasn't to become a secretary known for sleeping her way to the top!"
"If that's the only thing you're worried about, Laura, then perhaps I should just marry you and salvage your reputation," he said, expecting to get a rise out of her.
Instead, he received silence. Discouraged, he shook his head and decided to change the subject.
"Perhaps Vigilance Insurance will refuse to have anything to do with us now!" he said hopefully, breaking into a broad grin."That could be the one bright spot to come of this mess."
"I don't think Vigilance Insurance reads those kind of trashy papers," Laura stated.
"Oh, I wouldn't be too sure, Laura. The Inquirer is right up Keyes' alley."
"I don't know why *you're* so worried," she said, rolling onto her side and looking at him. "You're a man. Everyone expects that sort of behavior from a man... At least, a man in your position."
Undaunted, she continued with her train of thought. "Chasing after your secretary, stealing away to Palm Springs... "
"Laura, we've never gone to Palm Springs," Remington protested.
Laura stared at him a few moments longer, then rolled onto her back and started staring at the ceiling again.
Remington waited until the silence became too uncomfortable. Then clearing his throat, he remarked, "Well, at least now we can stop wondering where those blasted photos will turn up."
"I suppose," Laura responded, too busy pondering his previous remark to hear what he had just said. Had he really offered to marry her to salvage her reputation? Her head told her he was joking, but her heart remembered all the little remarks he had been making about marriage recently.
Laura smiled to herself. She had never really thought much about marriage, but now she found the idea appealing. Before she knew it, she was lost in her imagination. She envisioned herself walking down the aisle of a church wearing a long, off-the-shoulder white dress with a train that extended halfway down the aisle. Carrying a bouquet of white orchids, she saw herself approaching Remington as he stood waiting at the altar. He was so handsome when he smiled that sexy lop-sided smile at her that she gasped aloud.
Remington's voice startled Laura into alertness.
"Where were you?" he asked, smiling.
"Oh, just daydreaming," she said with a wistful sigh, reminding herself of the probability that her man of mystery wasn't a marrying man. In the back of her mind, however, she couldn't shake the memory of Remington's conversation with Laurie Beth about marriage. Hadn't he had said he loved her? Hadn't he said he wanted to marry her? Even though Laura had heard him say the words, she was afraid to really believe them. She was afraid they were as much of a fairy tale as The Children of Lir, just sweet empty words to lull Laurie Beth to sleep.
In an effort to take her mind off weddings that might never be, Laura propped herself up on her elbow and began staring at Remington. She had noticed earlier that something was different about him and she was suddenly determined to figure out what it was.
After a few moments of intense study, the answer came to her. "Have you been bulking up, Mr. Steele?" she asked.
"You know," she said, patting his chest in emphasis. "Working out."
"What makes you think that?"
"Oh, I don't know," she said, stroking her hands along the newly discovered muscles in his shoulders and upper arms. "How long have you been doing it?"
"I never said I was," Remington told her, trying his best not to break into a megawatt smile. He was pleased Laura had noticed, but he hadn't expected her to notice quite so quickly. He wasn't ready to fess up to his new workout regime just yet.
Laura trailed her fingers down his chest and began fingering the belt to his silk robe. "Let's see if you've been working out any other...areas," she said suggestively.
"In answer to your question, yes," he admitted. "My other, ah, areas have indeed been receiving quite a work lately."
From the moment Remington slowly and tenderly took Laura into his arms, they knew this magical moment would be far different from the ones they had shared while under the influence of Temptation. In many ways, it was far more satisfying. Afterwards, Remington just held Laura close and they lay together in quiet, drowsy contentment.
Laura could not shake the images of her daydream from her mind. She knew she wanted that dream to come true. She wanted Remington Steele for her husband and she wanted to be his wife. And most surprising of all, the realization that she wanted those things no longer scared her!
As Remington held Laura in his arms, he thought of the passion they had shared in the last few days. He thought of being with the Piper kids and watching Laura sooth Laurie Beth's fears. He thought of the great satisfaction he received when taking Laura and the kids to the carnival. He thought of the domestic bliss which Frances and Donald shared.More than anything, Remington yearned to experience that same domestic bliss with Laura. He knew it was within his reach, if only he could get up the courage to be honest with Laura.
What could he say to make her realize the depth of his sincerity? I love you. Will you marry me, me darling? No, she'd question his love for her and besides, it was corny. Laura, I can't live without you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife? No, there was too much there that she would want to argue about, like honor and his staying around to spend the rest of his life with her. Laura, it's time our relationship grew into something deeper, something more... No, too indirect. He needed something daring, something unexpected, something she couldn't waste a lot of time arguing over, something that would capture her heart.
As Remington turned his head look at her, he realized she had fallen asleep. He took that moment of rare indulgence to study her face, so peacefully composed in sleep. What she was dreaming of? Could it be that she was having the same dreams he had been having lately?
Knowing how afraid she was of marriage, he doubted it. If only there was something he could do to put her rest to rest! He'd spent four years proving himself to her and still she couldn't completely let go of her deepest fears. In many ways she was just a scared, insecure little girl, afraid to trust her heart.
All Remington wanted was to be able to love Laura and be loved by her. Why couldn't things ever be simple? Why did they always so bloody complicated?
"Oh, Laura," he sighed, stroking her face.
He wished he had the courage to wake her... to ask her to marry him...to go with him to the nearest the justice of the peace. He tried to think of an appropriate movie quote, but for once, the right one eluded him. So instead, he tried to image how Humphrey Bogart would propose to Lauren Bacall or Clark Gable to Carole Lombard---or even Rhett Butler to Scarlett O'Hara. As he thought, he idly scratched his chest.
His movements awakened Laura, causing her to stir. She opened her eyes and glanced around. "I guess I dozed off again," she said sleepily as she stretched lazily.
"Quite all right and perfectly understandable, love," he said. "Besides, I enjoy having you awake up in my arms."
He tried desperately to think of something clever or daring to say, but his mind went blank. No one was more surprised than he when he heard himself ask, "Laura, do you remember our visit to the Devil's Playground the first year I was here?"
"Yes, I remember. And I *still* haven't forgiven you for saddling me with the name Myrtle Groggins!"
"Do you remember our second night there?" he asked.
"You mean when you slept on the love seat?"
"Ah, yes, that one. Well, I've been thinking about the talk we had that night. Do you remember what we said?"
"We said a lot of things," Laura said vaguely.
"Yes, I suppose we did," Remington admitted. "But specifically, do you remember what I said about avoiding commitment like the proverbial plague?"
"I remember," Laura assured him, her dreams suddenly dashed by his blatant statement. She knew she couldn't stay there with him any longer. He'd inevitably sense a change in her and how could she explain it to him? How could she admit that even though she knew about his inability to make a commitment, she had still dared to dream?
So still wearing Remington's silk robe, Laura slowly stood up.Hoping her voice didn't betray the disappointment she was feeling, she said, " Well, I suppose I'd better be going then." Leaving him alone, she retreated to the bathroom and closed the door behind her.
Remington sat dumbfounded for a moment. He'd blown it and, what was worse, he wasn't quite sure exactly *how* he had blown it. He hurriedly followed Laura to the bathroom, but paused outside the closed door, hesitant to simply barge in. He had visions of kicking the door in and sweeping Laura off her feet, but that had never been his style. Instead, he merely spoke to her through the door.
"I don't really know quite how to say this, Laura, but I want you more than any woman I've ever seen and, well, I thought you'd be interested in knowing that."
Laura stared at the door in disbelief. What could he possibly mean by that? That made it sound like he wanted her merely for physical satisfaction, but didn't the mere fact that he had stayed around for 4 years prove that wasn't true? She just shook her head in confusion and finished dressing.
Laura opened the door and looked up at Remington with glistening eyes. "It's late," she said, hesitantly. "I think I better go."
Realizing he must have said something wrong again, Remington stared at her in confusion, saying, "Laura, I'm afraid you miss my point."
"I don't think so," she said as she picked up her purse.
"Laura, I'm trying to ask you to marry me," he finally managed to say. "Would you be convinced if I knelt down?"
"Are you serious?" Laura asked, her voice filled with fear.
"I don't believe this!" Remington declared, throwing up his hands. "I bare my soul and you are suspicious! No, Laura, this is a bona fide honorable declaration. Just name the day, my dear."
Laura just stared at him, speechless.
"I'm too ardent a lover to restrain my passions any longer," he declared as he bent down onto one knee for a proper proposal. "Forgive me for startling you with the impetuosity of my sentiments, my dear Laura--I mean, my dear Miss Holt-- but the friendship I have in my heart for you has ripened into a deeper feeling, a feeling more beautiful, more pure, more sacred. Dare I name it? Ah! It is love which makes me so bold!"
"Do get up," Laura insisted.
Remington rose and took her hand in his. "Come, Laura, you are no child, no school girl to put me off with foolish excuses. Say you'll marry me or I'll play a guitar under the your window every night and sing at the top of my voice, and I'll compromise you so you'll have to marry me to save your reputation."
"That sounds awfully old-fashioned," she said, pulling her hand from his grasp.
Remington looked deeply into her eyes and decided to try for honesty. "Laura, can you not say that you love me?"
She stammered, not at all sure how to answer such a question. Yes, she did love him, but did she dare admit it to him?
"Well, Mr. Steele, I am fond of you," Laura admitted.
"Fond, eh?" he asked, the disappointment apparent in his voice.
It was not the answer Remington was hoping for. Pulling Laura into his arms, he gave her the most passionate kiss he could muster. Her head was swimming and she was afraid she might faint, but she did not ask him to stop.
"You've had this coming for years," he finally told her. "Say you'll marry me. Say yes, before we waste any more time...Before our chance to grab happiness is gone with the wind."
Laura looked deeply into his face and became lost in his clear blue eyes, darkened with desire. Frightened by what she saw there, she dropped her eyes and ran from the room.
When she reached the front door, she realized she had no way home. Fred had left long ago with the limo and waiting around for a cab was out of the question. Noticing Remington's keys on the coffee table, she quickly scooped them up and ran from his apartment without so much as a backward glance.
Remington was thunderstruck by Laura's hasty departure. Would he ever learn to understand her? He had tried to overwhelm her with passion and what had she done? She had run away like a frightened child. "This isn't the way the scene is supposed to be played!" he exclaimed to himself as he wandered into the living room. Noticing his missing keys, he shook his head, adding, "And she even took the Auburn!"
Laura breathed a sigh of relief as she ran through the parking garage and crawled behind the wheel of the Auburn. Wiping the tears from her eyes, she pulled onto Rossmore and headed towards home. It wasn't until later, as she tossed and turned in her lonely bed, that she allowed herself to ponder the surprising events of the evening. Had Remington actually proposed to her? And if he had, then what was all that talk about the Devil's Playground and avoiding commitment like the plague?
As she tried to make the pieces fit, she thought again of Remington's talk with Laurie Beth. That conversation put an entirely different light on the evening's unexpected turn of events. Was it possible she had misunderstood Remington's comments about the Devil's Playground? Was it possible he had been so nervous that his words hadn't come out the way he intended? Was it possible he was just so overwhelmed by emotion that he wasn't thinking clearly?
Laura smiled to herself and hugged her pillow, overwhelmed by the realization that Remington's fiasco of a marriage proposal had truly been sincere. In a way, it heartened her to realize that a proposal of marriage had turned her Man of Steele into a babbling idiot. But then, he certainly wasn't the only who had 'blown it' because of nerves; she had made a royal mess of things, as well. His proposal had scared the hell out of her and she had reacted defensively, choosing to run away rather than face her true feelings.
Well, if he asked her once, surely he would ask her again. After all, tomorrow was another day, wasn't it? And wasn't it Remington who had once said, "All things are new again. Just think of the possibilities."? Well, the future looked brighter than Laura had ever thought possible-- and the possibilities were just beginning!
Clinging to that thought, Laura felt a calming peace settle over her. The knowledge that Remington loved her wrapped itself around her like a warm blanket and she drifted into a restful sleep.
To be continued...