Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Division
 Steele for Better or for Worse
Part 6
Debra Talley and Thekla Kurth

The holding cell was filled with wolf whistles as Remington entered the room with a guard. Laura was sitting on a wooden bench, leaning dejectedly against the bars of her cell. She quickly stood and rushed to the cell door as soon as she saw her husband. Within seconds, Clarissa joined her.
Remington seemed to be in very good spirits.
"Thank goodness you're here!" Laura sighed in relief.
Remington grinned and addressed the guard, asking, "Has she been fingerprinted?"
"Yes, Sir."
"Mugged?" Remington asked.
"You bet."
"Strip searched?" Remington inquired.
"Every nook and cranny."
"You're really enjoying this, aren't you?" Laura asked testily.
"Indeed, it's a rare opportunity seeing you behind bars, Mrs. Steele. But, all good things must come to an end. Guard, I think you can let her out now."
The cell door was opened and Remington held out his arm for Laura. She shoved it away and crossed her own arms in a huff.
"Ah--you too, Clarissa," Remington said. "Although, from what I hear, this place is more like a second home to you."
Clarissa just smiled sheepishly and moved to stand beside Laura. The group of women still in the holding cell called out their farewells to Remington as they left. He merely smiled and gave them a wave. He was contemplating an appropriate response when Laura turned, grabbed him by the arm and dragged him out of the room. Everyone booed.
Police business taken care of, Remington dropped off Clarissa and Mildred at Clarissa's condo. As soon as Clarissa could locate a change of clothes, she and Mildred would be heading to Mildred's apartment for the night. It was Mildred's bowling night, but Clarissa would just have to go with her. Mildred was determined that her bosses would have the evening to themselves.
On the drive back to Remington's condo, Laura sat moodily in the Rabbit with her arms crossed. She and Remington had not spoken since leaving Mildred and Clarissa.
Finally, Remington could restrain himself no longer. "Really, Laura. You hold me off for two years and now here we are, married a mere three days and yet to experience that ultimate moment, and I find you've been standing on the street corner soliciting! Couldn't you have been patient just a little longer?"
"Mr. Steele, please! I have a headache!" Laura declared, rubbing her forehead. Then turning angrily to face Remington, she glared at him and added, "You sure took your sweet time showing up to bail me out! I called Mildred hours ago!"
"If you will recall, Laura, I was doing legwork," Remington reminded her. "I came just as soon as Mildred got in touch with me."
There was silence for a few seconds. "I shouldn't have jumped on you like that." Laura finally said. "I'm sorry."
"Yes, well, we've both been under a lot of pressure lately," Remington admitted.
"And the sooner we nail Keyes, the sooner we can do something to alleviate that pressure," Laura said. "Any ideas?"
"As a matter of fact...yes," Remington explained with a smile. "What say we discuss it over dinner at some quiet, out of the way spot. Candlelight, champagne, soft music..."
Laura smiled. "An offer I can't refuse, Mr. Steele."
"Good," Remington said with a grin. "Now if I can just keep you away from street corners..."
Laura hit him with her purse.
Later that evening, Laura and Remington entered their condo laughing. Both were in evening wear, having changed before dinner. Laura set her purse on the table by the door while Remington loosened his tuxedo tie and unbuttoned the first two buttons of his dress shirt.
"What makes you so sure Keyes will join in on your little poker game tomorrow, Mr. Steele?" Laura asked as she watched Remington light up the fireplace.
"He's a compulsive gambler. He'll play," Remington assured her. "I've got several of my friends from the streets spreading word of the game to the proper sources."
"And Vigilance Insurance really offered you $150,000 to use as bait?" Laura asked. "They must want Keyes as badly as we do."
"Oh, they do, but for entirely different reasons. When I told them word on the street was that Keyes had accepted thousands of dollars in jewels to keep mum about an insurance fraud, they were most obliging," he explained. "They thought my plan was brilliant: I bust him at the table, he has to retrieve the jewels to pay off his losses and then we have Keyes and the jewels."
"You're awfully cocky, Mr. Steele," Laura remarked as she slowly made her way across the room to Remington. "What makes you so sure you'll win?"
"My skills are endless, Laura," Remington explained huskily. "Poker is just one of the many areas in which I have expertise."
"Is that so?" Laura asked, putting her arms around Remington's shoulders. "You forget, I was a math major at Stanford. I've always had a mathematical appreciation for the game of poker. In fact, I had quite a reputation in college."
"Really, now? That *is* interesting," Remington exclaimed, cocking his head to one side and studying Laura's face. "What say we play a few hands?"
"Are you challenging me to a game of poker, Mr. Steele?"
"What better way to prove my gambling skills are unmatched?" Remington asked.
Laura grinned broadly. "You're on, Mr. Steele. Before this night is over, I'll have beat the pants off of you."
"Do you mean that literally or figuratively, my pet?" Remington asked, teasingly. "In fact, just to make it more interesting, Luv, what say we make it a game of strip poker?"
"Strip poker?" Laura asked, slightly shocked.
"Who knows? It could prove different--simulating--a whole new experience!" Remington explained, caressing Laura's arm.
She thought a moment and then smiled, chucking Remington under his chin. "You're on, Mr. Steele. Let's see just exactly who beats the pants off of whom."
Remington grinned rather maliciously. This was going to be one very interesting game--probably the most interesting game of his life.
He quickly fetched a deck of cards and sat down across from Laura at the dining room table. "Let's outline the rules, just to be sure there are no questions later," Remington suggested. "It'll be regular 5 Card Stud. At the completion of each hand, the loser must remove one article of clothing."
"Of their own selection?" Laura asked.
"Alright," he conceded, eying Laura. She couldn't be wearing much, he decided. He was sure it would be a short game.
"And no cheating!" she insisted.
"I wouldn't dream of it," Remington agreed.
"And knock off the cute names, Lamb Chop," Laura said, kicking him before he had a chance to move his leg out of the way.
Remington dealt the cards after fancily shuffling the deck. Laura finally sighed and told him to get on with it. He purposely let her win the first two hands, just to give her false confidence.
At least, he thought he was letting her win. He removed a shoe each time.
When Laura won the next two hands as well, Remington took off his socks.
She was quickly gaining more confidence. In fact, she was becoming over-confident, Remington thought smugly; that was sure to be her downfall. Then her four of a kind beat out his three of a kind.
He shrugged out of his jacket as Laura rubbed her hands together. She was just getting warmed up.
But then Remington started getting a lead. He drew a royal flush and Laura obediently kicked off a shoe.
Remington's luck was with him; his full house beat her two duces. Laura kicked off the other shoe.
Remington drew another full house, but Laura turned over a straight flush. While Laura watched with a nasty grin, he tossed aside his loosened bow tie.
"No fair!" she protested. "That was already half off."
"Ah, but it was still around my neck," he countered with a smile.
"Just deal the cards."
He obliged. Peeking at his cards, he thought he had a very good hand: four of a kind. Then Laura bested him once again with a straight flush.
He stood up and snapped off his cummerbund.
Laura couldn't resist. She spontaneously whistled until he grinned at her; then she blushed.
He sat back down and dealt another hand. This time Remington had a full house. He knew it could go either way with a hand like that, but luckily for him, she only had three of a kind.
Laura then had a decision to make: her top or her pants? She couldn't decide.
Remington tried to expedite matters, saying, "Come on, Laura; we don't have all night."
"I thought we did," she shot back, standing up and slipping off her white slacks. Since she'd be sitting down, she didn't think it would be that much of a loss. After all, her legs were still clothed in pantyhose.
But then she lost the next hand, too. The pantyhose went, too.
Remington watched appreciatively as she peeled them off slowly for his benefit. Impulsively, she tossed them across the table to him. Remington caught them in one hand, saying, "Now do you see the advantages of garters, my dear?"
"Yes. It would make three things to remove instead of just one," she agreed glumly as she sat back down.
Remington chuckled, but didn't laugh for long; he lost the next two hands.
First, he peeled off his white dress shirt. Laura took in the sight of his bare chest and imagined running her hands through that soft, thick, dark mat of hair.
Noticing her preoccupation, he asked, "Something the matter, Mrs. Steele?"
Shaking her head, she muttered, "Uh, no. It's ...ah ... Never mind; let's just get on with it." Then she rubbed her hands together in anticipation.
His pants went with the next hand.
If Laura had thought the shirt was fascinating, the pants were something else entirety. Remington made a production of their removal, taking his own, sweet time and making sure Laura had an unparalleled view. His legs were not exactly PLAYGIRL material, but she didn't care. As far as she was concerned, they were beautiful and he so was he.
Remington sat back down, saying jovially, "Well, I certainly hope I win this next hand or it will be all over, eh?"
As he dealt out a new hand, Laura could only nod, thinking of the delights awaiting her if she won.
Remington had not expected the game to go this way at all. He thought after purposely letting Laura win the first two hands, she'd lose the others. He was quite surprised to discover that she was such a good poker player. He had never imagined that facet of her personality. She was as cool a player as he was--perhaps even cooler.
"You know, Laura, your skills have astounded and impressed me."
Laura nodded her head in appreciation.
"I was thinking... maybe we'd have a better chance of ending this case quickly if *you* play in the poker game with Keyes."
"That's awfully big of you," she said, surprised he was admitting she was the better player.
"Anything to get this case over with in the most expeditious manner so we can move on to...other things," he explained.
"On to what other things?" Laura innocently inquired.
His look said it all. The devil rose in his eyes as he looked at Laura across the table and she smiled in understanding. As they gazed at each other in their current disheveled states, all the tension and longing of the previous two years surfaced.
Laura finally broke the silence. "I think we better stick with your original plan. You play in the game. Keyes might want to make it a game of strip poker and if he's as bad as Clarissa described, I don't want to be anywhere around," she explained with a laugh.
"Perhaps you're right. I don't want anyone but me gazing upon your lovely form," Remington assured her.
"Don't be so domineering, Mr. Steele," she snapped.
"Only looking after what's mine."
"I'm not your property!" she reminded him.
"Of course not," he said as he again began dealing the cards. "You'll never be the property of anyone. Merely an expression, Laura."
Laura slammed her cards down on the table. "Let's see you top that."
He looked at his hand and saw that it was a very good one. Gloatingly, he beat Laura's four of a kind with a royal flush.
She sighed and put her head down on the table.
"Well, Laura, what's it going to be?" he asked with a sly smile.
"What do you mean?" she mumbled, not even looking up.
"What piece of clothing will you remove next?"
Remington was looking forward to this and Laura knew it. Deciding there was no point in delaying the inevitable, she stood up and in one fluid motion pulled her black sequined top over her head. She shook out her hair in very most provocative manner and her eyes met Remington's.
The temperature in the condo rose to new levels.
Laura felt no embarrassment or shyness standing before her husband's gaze clad only in her black silk teddy.
Remington thought he'd never seen a more alluring sight. At that point, all he wanted was to gather her in his arms, caress her soft skin and kiss her tender lips.
Somehow he pulled himself away from those dangerous thoughts and said, "I believe we have one more hand to play, eh?" As he shuffled the deck, he asked, "What say we make it a bit more interesting?"
Laura licked her lips and sat down. "I thought it was already pretty interesting," she pointed out.
"I was contemplating raising the stakes," he explained.
"Oh?" She couldn't imagine how the stakes could be raised any further: they were each down to one article of clothing.
"You once promised to show me a certain exotic dance done with fans," he reminded her. "I propose that if you lose this hand, you not only remove your lingerie, but you also show me your fan dance."
"And if I win?"
"I'll let you do with me what you will," he brightly answered.
"That doesn't sound like much of a bet, Mr. Steele. I plan to do that anyway. What else do you have to offer?" she inquired.
"That sounds like a suggestive remark, Mrs. Steele."
Laura only smiled enigmatically.
"You drive a hard bargain, my dear," Remington conceded. "All right. I'll give you a year. Pick any year and I'll tell you all the gory details."
She took a few seconds to consider the odds, then said, "A year of your life versus a fan dance from me? OK; I think I can go for that."
Remington grinned and dealt the cards. The stakes were high and he had to win this hand, but he knew Laura felt the same way. He looked at his cards and then he studied Laura. She was cool, calm, collected and as unreadable as ever.
Then suddenly there came a knock on the door. Remington and Laura looked at each other in disbelief.
"Are you expecting anyone?" she asked.
"No," he replied, rising and heading for the door.
"Ah, Mr. Steele ..." Laura called after him.
But he was already opening the door, completely oblivious to his present attire.
Mildred, wearing her Dragon Ladies bowling shirt, barged past Remington and exclaimed, "Bosses, we've got big trouble! Clarissa's been kidnapped!" Then she got her first good look at Remington. "Boss!" she exclaimed, turning her head.
Remington noticed her embarrassed look and glanced down at himself. For once, did not have an appropriate response.
Mildred then saw Laura sitting nearby, similarly attired. "Miss Holt... I mean, Mrs. Steele! Oh, I am so sorry...barging in here like this... on your honeymoon... I'm so sorry if I interrupted anything."
Laura approached them and put her arm around Remington's waist. "That's all right, Mildred. Now, you were saying something about Clarissa being kidnapped?"
Remington chose that moment to put his arm around Laura.
She quickly became very aware of their skin contact --too aware. "Ah... Just a minute, Mildred. Maybe Mr. Steele and I should slip on some robes... or something," Laura stammered.
"Excellent idea," Remington agreed, slapping his bare chest.
They quickly retreated into the bedroom. While they were gone, Mildred peeked around the corner into the dining room. Seeing their clothes scattered around among the deck of cards, she merely smiled to herself.
Laura and Remington reappeared, he in his wine colored silk robe and Laura in her terry cloth robe. They sat down together on the couch and Remington placed his arm around Laura's shoulders. Mildred took a seat in one of the chairs opposite them and began her story.
"You know it's my bowling night and we're practicing for the league championships. I couldn't miss it, so Clarissa had to come with me. Of course, she didn't want to at first, but then I pointed out it might be a good chance to meet some new customers."
"Mildred!" Laura exclaimed.
Mildred shrugged. "Well, I had to think of something. Anyway, the Ladies and I were down at lane #2. Clarissa got bored watching us, so she wandered up to the snack bar. I was still keeping an eye on her, but the next thing I knew some short, bald guy was dragging her out the door! We all ran after him, but by the time we got to the parking lot, he was driving away in a green sedan. I got the license number, though."
She proudly handed Remington a scrap of paper, which turned out to be a candy bar wrapper. "It's all I could find on the spur of the moment," she explained.
Remington handed the wrapper to Laura. She glanced at the number, held the wrapper close to her nose and inhaled the aroma of chocolate which still clung to it.
Remington watched her actions and smiled. "Chocoholic," he whispered to Mildred.
Laura kicked him. Of course, with bare feet it wasn't quite as effective.
"Don't fret, Mildred," Remington assured her. "You did all you could, given the circumstances."
Laura spoke up. "Keyes must have been following both of you. How else would he have known she was at the bowling alley?"
"I guess so," Mildred said. "If I had known what he looked like, maybe I could have stopped him."
"Well, what we've got to do now is put our heads together and figure out where he could have taken her," Laura explained. "Mildred, you get on the phone and see if you can get an address for our Norman Keyes."
"Right!" Mildred exclaimed, standing up and running to the phone.
"In the meantime, Mr. Steele and I will get dressed."
When she and Remington once again retreated into their bedroom, he closed the door behind them.
"Yet another missed opportunity," he sighed.
"The story of our married life," Laura sighed.
Then she did what she'd been wanting to do ever since he'd taken his shirt off: she reached out her hand and lightly stroked his chest. Remington put his hand over hers, leaned forward and kissed her tenderly.
Mildred knocked on the door and quickly entered. "Got an address from Vigilance Insurance." Suddenly she became aware of their position. "Oops. I did it again, didn't I?"
She hastily backed out, closing the door behind her. Remington and Laura remained where they were, their lips mere inches apart.
"It never fails, eh?" Remington asked.
Laura nodded and reluctantly walked away from Remington.
"Come on. We'd better get dressed," she said.
To be cont... part 7

Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Div.

This story copyrighted 1982-2005by Debra Talley. The characters of Remington Steele
are used without permission. It is purely for entertainment purposes.