Steele, Inc.-Atlanta Division
Steeling a New Life
Part 4
A Sequel to "Steele in the Mood" and "Bonds of Steele"
by
Debra Talley, with Thekla Kurth
Written Summer, 1988
 
 

Way to go, Sport, Remington told himself as he lay in his lonely bed. You've been married almost a week and haven't had a wedding night yet. That must be some sort of a record.

 
But then, his marriage to Laura was probably the most unique affair in the history of romance. A wedding on a tuna boat preformed by a Mexican fish cleaner? A cactus for a wedding present? A honeymoon in a Mexican jail? Not even a TV writer could come up with such a ludicrous plot. But, as Laura had said, when had they ever been a normal couple?
 
So what if they weren't a normal couple? Who wanted to be normal, anyway? The fact was, he and Laura had both experienced less than typical upbringings. They both had experienced life in the fast lane and it was their unique experiences that made them so right for each other. Remington didn't expect their relationship to fit the mold and he didn't expect their marriage to, either. But he did want to sleep with his wife like a normal husband! Was that too much to hope for?
 
Looking back over their recent argument, Remington realized he had been the one to take the first jab. Even if Laura had wanted to apologize, her pride wouldn't have allowed her to after he started in with the hurtful remarks. That was part of their problem. They were both too proud. And what had pride gotten them? Nothing but hurt feelings and separate beds.
 
Remington felt like a louse. He'd been feeling that way quite often lately, he realized. He never intended to wait this long before telling Laura the truth about their marriage. That in itself was enough to make him feel guilty--and now he had this fight on his conscience about as well.
 
He wondered just how long Laura would put up with him if he didn't make things right between them. Could it be that he had already waited too long--that he had pushed her too far? Was she seeking comfort in Tony's arms? Had she actually meant it when she said she didn't care what he did? Her actions indicated she cared very much, but what if she didn't? She had promised him two years to satisfy Immigration, but would she care enough to stick around after those two years were up?
 
On that bleak thought, Remington drifted off into a troubled sleep...
 
Remington turned over in bed and reached for his wife of almost two years. She wasn't there. He sleepily opened one eye and stared at Laura's empty side of the bed. Glancing at the bedside clock, he noted the time: 11:40 p.m.
 
Where could she be at twenty minutes until midnight?His first reaction was that something was wrong with the twins, so he crawled out of bed and checked their cribs.
 
No problem there; their 15-month old son and daughter were sleeping soundly. So where was Laura?
 
After a quick check proved she wasn't in the bathroom, he took a long thoughtful look around their bedroom. Surely she had left him a clue of some sort as to her whereabouts. Once he set his mind to it, it didn't take him long to notice that something wasn't quite right about the dresser. Laura's comb and brush were missing. She had placed them there on the dresser each night since their marriage, but tonight they were missing.
 
Suddenly, Remington had a very bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.
 
He checked her side of the mirrored closet. Empty. Even her suitcases were gone. Then Remington remembered all of the late nights Laura had put in during the past week. She claimed she had a lot of filing to catch up on, but wasn't that Mildred's job?
 
And besides the late nights, there had been something else strange about Laura's behavior lately. She had never spent much time with the twins, but during the past week she had barely even looked at them. She claimed she was coming down with a cold and didn't want to infect them, but Remington had his doubts.
 
Nothing added up. Or rather, it all added up, but Remington didn't want to believe the implications. Their second wedding anniversary was tomorrow. Their two year obligation would be over then. And Anthony Roselli was back in town. Laura had never even tried to hide her affection for Anthony. Could it be that she was actually leaving him for Tony?
 
A noise in the living room caught Remington's attention. He moved to the bedroom door and slowly opened it. There in the shadows he saw Laura and Tony in a heated embrace.
 
"Well, Anthony. It appears that mi casa es su case. I'd ask you in, but you've already made yourself at home, I see."
 
Laura and Tony broke their kiss moved apart, Laura threw her shoulders back in a defiant manner.
 
"I suppose you're wondering what I'm doing here in your apartment," Tony said.
 
"Nonsense," Remington declared. "I think it's pretty obvious what you were doing. Kissing my wife, wasn't it?"
 
"I won't lie and say I didn't enjoy it," Tony admitted.
 
"So, you're an honest man. Eh, Anthony? I like that in a person. So does my wife."
 
"You should know that I find your wife very attractive, but I'm not the kind of guy who'd go after a married woman," Tony said.
 
"In case you haven't noticed, Anthony, my wife *is* a married woman," Remington pointed out.
 
"No. I'm your pretend wife," Laura clarified. "I promised you two years and our two years will be over tomorrow. You'll have met your requirement with Immigration and I'll be free to marry Tony."
 
"But why?" Remington asked. "We've had a good marriage. We've got two beautiful children. Why would you want out?"
 
"All we've had is a living arrangement based on trickery and deceit," Laura said sadly. "And you know the twins were an accident."
 
"But Laura, I love you," Remington said.
 
"And I loved you, once. Before you resorted to this sham of a marriage to deceive Immigration."
 
"But the marriage is legal! Juan was the captain!; well, the acting captain. I always meant to tell you; I just never got around to it. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. I always meant to."
 
"Saying you're sorry after two years of living a lie isn't good enough. If you'd told me the truth to start with, maybe it would have made a difference. But not now."
 
"But since the marriage *is* legal, you can't just walk out and marry Anthony. You'd be committing bigamy and I don't think many people would be interested in hiring a bigamist detective, now would they?"
 
Remington hoped threatening Laura with the agency would bring her to her senses.
 
"It wouldn't matter anyway. I'm leaving you the agency. My lawyer will draw up the necessary papers."
 
Remington was shocked by the revelation. "You're giving up the agency? But why? You've always loved the agency like it was your own child."
 
Laura sighed. How could she make him understand how she felt? She took a deep breath and plunged ahead. "I need a new beginning. Everything close to me these last few years has been tarnished by deceit and dishonesty. Even the agency was founded by a man who didn't exist. I just want to start over someplace where everything is as it appears. I want to share my life with someone who doesn't get by on charm and blarney."
 
"And Anthony is that person?"
 
"Maybe."
 
"But what about the twins? What could be more honest and innocent than our children?"
 
Laura stared at the floor. "I haven't been honest with you about the twins," she finally confessed. "Remember when I said they were conceived after we returned from Mexico?"
 
"Yes."
 
"Well, that's not quite true. They were conceived while we were in Mexico."
 
"But that's not possible. We were never together in Mexico," Remington protested.
 
"But we were," Tony announced.
 
Remington was stunned by this news. "Are you telling me that while I was stuck in jail, you and Anthony--that the two of you actually --Oh, my God! Laura, how could you? How can you stand there and talk to me about honesty after you betrayed me on our honeymoon?"
 
"It just happened. It wasn't something I planned. And then when I learned I was pregnant, I just let you assume you were the father. After all, you could have been. But after they were born and I learned their blood type, I knew Anthony was the father. You were so proud of them that I just couldn't tell you that truth. But every time I looked at them or held them, I hated myself for my dishonesty. I'd grown to resent your dishonesty and here I was as dishonest as you had ever been. l knew I couldn't go on living like that, so when Tony returned last week I saw the opportunity to start a new life."
 
Remington scowled at Tony. "You can just walk away from your own children? What kind of man are you?"
 
Tony shrugged. "Hey. I don't like kids. You can have them with my blessings. Them, for Laura. Sounds like a fair trade to me. Come on, Laura. Let 's get out of here."
 
He grabbed her arm and pulled her to the front door.
 
"But Laura, I love you! I need you! Your children need you!" Remington pleaded. He tried to run after them, but his feet felt bolted to the door.
 
Laura stopped in the open doorway and looked back at Remington. She started to say something, but what else was there to say?
 
Remington watched as Tony jerked her into the corridor and slammed the door.
 
The slamming of the door awoke the twins. They both began to cry, sounding like a strange duet. Remington instinctively went to comfort the crying babes, but he stopped as he reached their cribs. All this time, he had thought they were his children. He had diapered them, fed them, burped them, played with them, spoiled them, disciplined them--and loved them. And all that time, he had been loving someone else's children. They had no claim on him, and he owed them nothing. Right?
 
Wrong, Remington decided as he picked up his daughter and rubbed his son's back. They had the most important claim on him of all--they had claimed his heart. If ever these twins had needed a loving home, it was now. Maybe Laura could walk away from her children, but he could not. They were *his* children now, and he vowed to always be there for them.
 
Remington carefully bent over and picked up his son, also. He carried the squalling babies to a nearby rocker and began singing one of his favorite songs from the musical Shenandoah. He hoped the soothing words would have a calming effect on all three of them.
 
Papa's gonna make it all right, babe.
Papa's gonna make it all right;
So hush-a-bye and don't you cry,
Papa's gonna make it all right.
You're gonna flourish and grow, babe,
You're gonna flourish and grow..."
 
Suddenly the front door was forced open and the apartment was swarming with people. Two uniformed women rushed into the bedroom and tore the sleeping twins from Remington's arms, causing them to cry again. Handcuffs were then clapped on his wrists and he was roughly jerked to his feet.
 
"Hey, what in blazes is going on here?" he demanded.
 
"You, Mr. Steele, are being arrested for trying to stay in this country illegally," declared an office.
 
"But I'm married to an American citizen!"
 
"You *were* married to an American citizen. She just walked out on you, and now you're nothing but an illegal alien."
 
"But we were married two years! I met your bloody requirement You can't just come in here and arrest me!"
 
"Wrong, Mr. Steele. You were married *almost* two years. Your wife left you at precisely six minutes before midnight. *Tomorrow* you would have met Immigration's requirements, but *today* you're just out of luck."
 
"But what about my children? They need me! I'm all they have now that their mother deserted them!"
 
"They'll be placed in foster homes. Don't worry; they'll be fine. They won't be the first children to grow up without parents."
 
Remington watched broken heartedly as his children were taken from the room. Their screams mingled with the bonging of the grandfather clock in the living room. Remington put his hands over his ears to muffle the maddening sounds, but he could still hear them.
 
As the clock struck midnight, he could stand it no longer and his own screams mingled with those of his twins...
 
Remington awoke with a gasp and bolted upright in bed. Good heavens, what a nightmare! He glanced around the room to assure himself it had been just a dream. What a relief to see no babies, no rocker, no crib...
 
...And once again, no Laura.
 
For some reason, he needed to reassure himself that Laura was still there. He crawled out of bed, padded into the living room, and stood silently over the couch. He couldn't help smiling at the picture she made as she slept there with the moonlight streaming over her face and sparkling in her hair.
 
"Oh, Laura," he whispered. "Why is it so hard to be honest with you? Why is it so hard to tell you how much I love you?"
 
He stood there in the shadows for what seemed like hours, contemplating whether or not he should he wake her and share his feelings with her once and for all? He finally rationalized that since she had already waited four long years to hear the words, she could surely wait until morning. Besides, he told himself, she hadn't been well and needed her sleep. It would be kinder to let her rest. Wouldn't it?
 
Okay, so maybe he didn't have the courage to bare his soul just yet, but his nightmare had made him painfully aware of one thing--he certainly wasn't going to wait two more years to tell Laura the truth! He leaned over and tenderly kissed her on the forehead. She smiled in her sleep. Remington straightened up and smiled, also. Perhaps, just perhaps, she had a least forgiven him in her dreams.
 
******
 
Remington awoke once again to the sounds of Laura being sick. This time, however, she had locked the bathroom door. He didn't even consider picking the lock. He would grant Laura her privacy if that was what she wanted.
Still, he felt the need to comfort her. Throwing back the covers and slipping on his robe, he headed to the kitchen to fulfill that need.
 
While Remington was puttering around in the kitchen, Laura studied her face in the bathroom mirror. She couldn't remember ever looking so pale or feeling so wretched. Good Lord, how long was her morning sickness going to last, anyway? She'd heard about women who were sick their entire nine months. Sighing, she prayed she wouldn't be one of them.
 
More than anything else at the moment, Laura wanted to be soothed by Remington's comforting presence. She knew if she had left the door open-- or even unlocked--he would have been by her side as soon as he heard her. But as much as she wanted his comfort, she felt far too guilty to accept it. She wanted to apologize for treating him so dreadfully earlier that evening, but she didn't want to do it during a wave of nausea.
 
She splashed cold water on her face again and squared her shoulders. She didn't exactly dread facing Remington, but she would be glad when they had finally aired things out between them. She didn't like feeling awkward around her own husband. She wanted to be held in his arms again. It would sure beat holding him at arms length.
 
Laura gathered her courage and opened the bathroom door. She took a few steps into the bedroom and then stopped in shock. There under the covers was her husband, fast asleep. That was the last thing she had expected to see! How could he possibly still be asleep? She had made enough noise to raise the dead! There she was, sick as a dog, and her lousy husband hadn't even had the decency to feel sorry for her? Well, if he wasn't the most selfish, ill-natured, self-centered, egotistical man she'd ever met!
 
Laura stomped her bare foot and stormed into the living room. As soon as she approached her makeshift bed, though, something on the coffee table caught her eye. Shakily, she walked around the couch and sat down. She smiled through glistening eyes at the silver tray containing hot tea and toast. She gingerly touched the single rose and picked up the note propped against it.
 
It read simply: "From your not-so-secret admirer."
 
She ran her fingertips over the words and then held them next to her heart. She felt a sudden desire to thank Remington for his thoughtfulness. Chances were he'd only been faking sleep so as not to spoil her surprise, so she didn't think he'd mind if she showed him now just how grateful she was.
 
She hurried into the bedroom. Carefully sitting down beside him on the bed, she ran her finger across his beard. She was surprised she had never realized just how very sensuous stubble was! When her fingers failed to rouse him, she decided he must have fallen asleep again while waiting for her nausea to pass. Well, she could hardly blame him for that. She had put a locked door between them, after all. He had been a real gentleman to respect her privacy. Part of her wished he had gone ahead and picked the lock, but a bigger part of her was glad he hadn't. Because then, he would have ceased to be the gentle, honorable man she'd fallen in love with four years ago.
 
She decided to let him sleep awhile longer. She had heard him cry out in the night, so likely he hadn't gotten much sleep. Even a man of Steele needed his sleep, and he'd better get it while he could. With any luck, neither of them would be getting much sleep later that evening.
 
Laura let her sleeping husband lie and walked to the dresser. She took the underthings she would need and headed to the closet to choose a dress from the pile of clothes still on the floor.
 
It took all of her resolve not to scream bloody murder when she spied a long black fur coat lying before her.
 
The nerve of that two-timing scoundrel! Hiding his ex-girlfriend's fur in their closet, of all things! He could at least have had the originality to stuff it someplace where she wouldn't find it! Or could it be that he had once given the coat to Shannon and now he was planning to give it to her? The creep! He wouldn't give her a wedding ring, but he'd give her a used fur?!
 
Laura kicked the offending fur aside and grabbed the first outfit she could get her hands on. She marched into the bathroom and closed the door. She would have slammed it, but she didn't want to awaken Remington. She was too angry to face him just yet. She wanted some time to fume before she had to took into those lavulite blue eyes of his and forget why she was angry. She needed to feel angry for a while, and nothing was going to take that pleasure away from her.
 
*****
 
The sound of the front door slamming startled Remington out of a sound sleep. After calling Laura's name several times and receiving no answer, he checked the living room. Her covers were still scattered about the couch, but she was nowhere to be seen. He noticed, however, that she had eaten the toast and drank the tea he had provided for her. Then realizing his note was gone, he smiled. Dare he hope she had put it aside for sentimental reasons? Could it be that his small gesture of comfort had caused her to soften toward him?
 
He hoped that was the case, but he couldn't get the sound of the slamming door out of his head. If Laura had decided to forgive him for last night, would she have left in such a huff? It didn't seem likely. But then, Laura had been more enigmatic than usual lately. Her constant mood swings were causing his head to spin. He felt as if he were constantly walking a tightrope when he was around her. He never knew whether his actions would reward him with tears, a tongue lashing or a heart-stopping kiss.
 
Remington shook his head. "You're a hard woman to understand, Laura Holt-Steele," he said out loud. "But I guess that's part of your charm, isn't it?"
 
Picking up the silver serving tray, he carried it back to the kitchen. Then he straightened Laura's bedclothes and headed into the bedroom to get ready for the day. He was anxious to get to the office, confront his schizophrenic bride and have a long talk with her. The sooner the better.
 
*********
 
As it turned out, Remington was too preoccupied with Tony and Shannon to have his talk with Laura. He arrived at the agency to find that Laura had already left with a new client. He tried to give Mildred the impression that he had left Laura sleeping like a baby, but she didn't buy it for a minute. She knew that all wasn't right at Honeymoon Manor.
 
Mildred's computer spewed out some very interesting information about Laura's muscle man. It turned out he wasn't what he pretended to be. Well, Remington was familiar with the type, and he wasn't about to let some impostor steal his wife out from under him.
 
Remington couldn't believe his good fortune when Tony walked into the agency lobby; it saved him the trouble of tracking him down later. Tony had no doubt after his meeting with the ticked-off detective that he was dealing with a very determined man--hypothetically speaking, of course. He left quickly, not even remembering why he had gone there in the first place.
 
Tony was sure of one thing, though. Remington Steele didn't take kindly to having anyone kiss his woman. He wasn't sure if Laura was really and truly Mrs. Steele, but there was no question in his mind that she was definitely Remington's woman. And Tony didn't like the implications of that one bit.
 
The entire confrontation had left Remington with a definite feeling of deja vu. Hadn't he and Anthony already had almost that exact same conversation? The details were foggy at the moment, but Remington knew this wasn't his first confrontation with Anthony, and suspected it wouldn't be his last.
 
Next, Remington was off to console Shannon, who had supposedly collapsed in her hotel room. Before confronting his flighty ex, however, he had Fred stop at a nearby bakery. Mildred's comment about tarts had reminded him that he hadn't eaten breakfast yet, so he had Fred order some cherry tarts. No doubt Shannon would still be alive and kicking when he arrived after his brunch.
 
Unfortunately, his supposition was correct. Shannon was the healthiest picture of poor health he could ever remember seeing. He firmly reminded her that he was a married man now. What he wanted to do was spank her for ruining his honeymoon, but he feared she would mistake it for foreplay. He settled for wiping off her kiss with his handkerchief. As he did so, he made a mental note to discard the smeared silk at the nearest trash receptacle. The last thing he wanted Laura to see was another woman's lipstick on his clothing.
 
Remington then spent the greater part of the day aimlessly wandering the streets of Los Angeles. He spent an hour in a run down theater watching part of a movie he couldn't even remember the name of. All he could think of was Laura.
 
Laura, reclining in a Maltese gondola wearing a white gauzy dress. Laura, smothering him with kisses while they burned every issue of Bedside Babes. Laura, sharing a flea ridden cot with him in a flop house. Laura, walking barefoot on the beach, reading his letter. Laura, staying awake all night tending a gangster's grandson. Laura, crying beneath a rain streaked window in the dark after her house was blown up.
 
Remington fondly remembered comforting her in her time of grief. He had bared his soul to her on that rainy night in a way he had never done to anyone. None of his old lovers had been shown that part of him. None of them had seen the real man beneath the polished facade. None of them, except Laura.
 
Xenos the Stranger had ceased to exist that rainy night, only Remington hadn't realized it until now. As he held Laura in his arms and shared her pain, he had become bound to her forever in a way he was only now beginning to understand. All those years of searching for himself had ended when he found Laura. He realized that now.
 
Remington felt a great need to show Laura just how he felt about her. But even more than that, he wanted to show the world how he felt. Tony's earlier visit reminded him of what he had said in Mexico about Laura not having a wedding ring. That was it! He'd get her the perfect wedding band with just the right inscription. And if he was lucky, maybe he could give her an engagement ring of Royal Lavulite.
 
He left the theater with a lighter step. He couldn't believe he hadn't already thought to get Laura a set of rings. Clarissa had furnished her own, but he certainly didn't expect Laura to do the same. After all, he would allow women's lib to go only so far!
 
An inscription. He definitely wanted an inscription in the wedding band. A dozen movie quotes came to mind immediately, but was a movie quote what he wanted? He wasn't sure. These had to be the right words. Words were important to Laura. And since there would only be room for a few, he would have to choose them carefully.
 
For the time being at least, Remington forgot all about Tony and Shannon. He stopped thinking about honeymoons in Mexican jails and human leech Immigration officials out to draw blood. He even forgot about long delayed magical moments. All he could think of was finding just the right words for Laura.
 
*****
 
"I can't believe what I'm hearing!" Remington bellowed as he stood in the agency lobby. "Laura called and you actually told her she could reach me at Shannon's hotel room?"
 
"Guess I screwed up. Huh, Boss?" Mildred asked with a cringe.
 
Remington growled through clinched teeth and took a deep breath. "Just exactly how much of a pension do you have with the IRS, Mildred?"
 
Mildred ignored his comment and Mildred went straight to the heart of the matter. "Oh, Boss. Are things really that bad between you and the Mrs.?"
 
Remington nervously ran his hand across the smooth surface of Mildred's desk. "Let's just say this hasn't been the honeymoon I've always imagined."
 
"Oh, but it will be. You two kids love each other; you'll work things out."
 
"Kind of hard to do that with so much competition about," Remington complained as he started plucking the leaves off the nearby Jade plant.
 
"But I already explained to the Little Woman that Shannon is history. And Laura assured me that Tony the Tiger is merely a friend."
 
Remington continued to pluck leaves. "Somehow, Mildred, that doesn't reassure me. Shannon doesn't give up easily. I don't know what her game is, but I'm willing to bet she hasn't played her ace yet. And Anthony strikes me as another Butch Beemis type. Don't ask me why, but Laura has always been attracted to his type. I just never figured she'd suffer another momentary aberration on our honeymoon!"
 
"Don't worry about that Bozo, Boss. He's just Laura's latest weapon in the Battle of the Sexes. Laura doesn't care a hoot for him, except as a way to make you jealous."
 
"Yes, well, I know that, and you know that, but does Anthony know it?"
 
"I wouldn't worry about him anymore, Chief. I'd say you made your point quite effectively a while ago. Hypothetically speaking, of course."
 
Remington gave Mildred a chastising took.
 
"Well, somebody's got to look out after you," Mildred retorted.
 
Remington suddenly realized he had stripped Mildred's plant clean. He stood up and straightened his shoulders, saying. "Well, it appears I've done all the damage I can do here for the time being. Exactly what was Lindstrom's address?"
 
Mildred wrote it down for him.
 
When he started to leave, however, she stopped him. "Boss, just in case Mrs. Steele is a little bent out of shape when you find her, maybe this will help lighten the mood."
 
She reached into her bottom desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of Temptation, the cola of love.
 
Remington was aghast. "Mildred, I thought I told you to throw every bottle of that nasty stuff away! It brought us nothing but trouble and I will not have it in our office!"
 
"But I thought, seeing as how you and Mrs. Steele are at odds with each other, this might be just the thing to help you patch things up. It certainly put the two of you in a romantic mood last month."
 
"Mildred, I am thoroughly and completely shocked and outraged that you would even suggest such a thing! When Laura and I are ready to experience the 'magical moment,' we won't need to resort to such barbarian means." Remington straightened his tie, adding, "Besides, it'd be just my luck that Anthony would arrive on our doorstep just as we finished off the bottle, and I'm not about to take a chance on him reaping the benefits instead of me. Let him get is own bride."
 
"Good point. Boss. Want me to dump this down the drain, too?"
 
"No," Remington said on his way to the door. "I may get desperate enough to use it if Laura and I don't get together soon. Just keep it someplace where it won't fall into the wrong hands."
 
"Got ya!" Mildred said as Remington exited through the glass doors.
 
She was looking around for a safe place to hide the aphrodisiac cola when suddenly Remington's head popped back through the double doors.
 
"Oh, and Mildred," he added. "I owe you a new plant."
 
"Just make sure it's not a cactus!"
 
*****
 
Remington's conversation with his bride later that evening at Lindstrom's was the most intimate one they had shared all day, which wasn't saying much. He had almost taken Laura's head off when she attacked him in the dark. If Metzger hadn't flipped on the light when he did, however, Remington might have lost his head and taken advantage of the situation in far more satisfying manner. After all, what better way the break the ice wall between them? So what if they were in a suspect's house? It was the first time Laura had been in his arms since their romantic roll on his bed the day before. And who would have blamed him for mixing a little business with pleasure during his honeymoon?
 
As it was, though, Metzger had been Johnny on the Spot. The lights came on and Remington found himself facing a seething Laura. He could tell by her sarcastic tone that Shannon had laid it on thick. Well, if his own wife didn't have more faith in him than that, he wasn't about to explain. She either trusted him or she didn't.
 
Laura filled him in on the details surrounding the gun shot, somehow managing to relate the entire incident without once looking him in the eye. While she sat and fumed, Remington found an itinerary which placed Lindstrom, their prime target, a continent away at the time of the shooting. And if Lindstrom didn't do it, then Remington could think of only one other person who could have.
 
Shannon.
 
What was it Shannon had said the night before when she had appeared on his doorstep? Something about loving it when he took charge? Well, she was about to get her wish.
 
*******
 
Shannon wasn't in her hotel room when Remington arrived there, fully charged. He picked the lock and made himself at home. The longer he waited, the angrier he became. For the second night in a row, Shannon was coming between him and his bride. Her unwelcome presence was one thing, but shooting at Laura was another kettle of fish entirely.
 
What if the bullet hadn't missed? What if Laura had died before he had told her how much he loved her? Before he had told her the truth about their marriage? Remington thought of Laura's cold lifeless body being lowered into a grave surrounded by cacti. Just the thought of life without Laura scared him, but the thought of her dying before he told her he loved her was more than he could imagine. If it ever came to that, he realized, he would welcome a five-year jail sentence.
 
He stood and started pacing. To take his mind off Laura, he concentrated on how he would handle Shannon. He didn't have much time to formulate a plan, however, because Shannon soon returned from her evening constitutional.
 
If she had expected a charming reunion with Dougie, she was in for a shock. All signs of her Douglas Quintain were gone. In his place stood a very upset, very determined Remington Steele. Shannon wasn't so sure she liked Dougie's new persona. He was no fun at all! All he wanted to talk about were his phony passports, his possible deportation and his marriage to Lu Lu.
 
Remington hadn't intended to say anything to Shannon about the rotten mess with Immigration; it just sort of slipped out in the heat of anger. He just prayed Shannon would accept his lop-sided description of the situation at face value. If she stopped to analyze his story, she would realize he was full of blarney.
 
Unfortunately, she believed it all too well.
 
********
 
It was late when Remington returned to the apartment for the night. He found himself hoping Laura was asleep. He was too tired to argue, much less make up. All he wanted to do was collapse someplace soft.
 
He smiled as he walked past Laura, sleeping upright on the couch with a cushion clutched to her chest. He looked about, but saw no bedclothes anywhere. Maybe they were making progress, he surmised. But then again, maybe she had fallen asleep while waiting to give him a tongue lashing.
 
Remington decided to get ready for bed before carrying Laura into the bedroom. He certainly couldn't let her sleep sitting up, and he'd take a chance that the absence of bedclothes meant she wanted to make up.
 
If worse came to worse, he'd sleep on the couch himself.
 
Walking into the bedroom, he turned down the covers on the bed and plumped the pillows. It was a ritual Laura often teased him about and he found himself chuckling. Then locating his pajama bottoms, he began changing clothes.
 
"And exactly what do you think you're doing?" Laura suddenly asked.
 
Remington jumped, startled. After a brief pause, he resumed his task of changing clothes. "Laura, please! Don't go sneaking around like that. You're liable to give me a heart attack!"
 
"Speaking of sneaking around, where were you tonight?" Laura asked tersely.
 
"Out," Remington said calmly as he stepped out of his trousers and into his pajama bottoms.
 
He smiled inwardly at the sight of Laura staring at him with wide, appreciate eyes. He then casually moved her out of the way with an "Excuse me, love."
 
She followed him into the bathroom and watched spellbound as he calmly began brushing his teeth.
 
"Out where?" she finally asked.
 
Remington calmly brushed a few more strokes. "Just out," he eventually mumbled through a mouthful of foam.
 
Laura grred and stalked out of the room.
 
In a moment, however, she stalked back in.
 
It wasn't fair! she groaned to herself as she watched him brush. He was even handsome with a mouth full of toothpaste!
 
He eventually rinsed and splashed cold water on his face. What he really needed was a cold shower, but he wasn't about to let Laura know that. For once, he seemed to be in control of an argument and he didn't want Laura to know how close he was to losing that control. He patted his face with a towel, hung the towel on the rack, and turned to leave.
 
Laura, however, was blocking his way.
 
"Uh, would you mind moving just a tad to the left?" he inquired, indicating with his hand exactly where she should move.
 
Angrily she stepped to the right and let him pass. He silently sidestepped her and headed to bed, humming a tune as he walked. She stared incredulously as he crawled beneath the covers and made himself comfortable.
 
"Uh, Laura, would you be an angel and get the light?" he asked, not bothering to raise his head.
 
He was surprised when the light went off a few moments later. He was even more surprised when Laura crawled into bed beside him. But the biggest surprise came when Laura shoved him right off the bed onto the floor.
 
"What the...?"
 
A well aimed pillow to his head kept him from completing the question. Sitting up quickly, he threw the pillow aside. He saw Laura's face glaring at him over the edge of the bed and he glared back.
 
"If you think I'm sleeping on the couch again tonight, you've got another thing coming, buster!"
 
"I was rather hoping we could sleep in the same bed for a change!" Remington explained.
 
"Think again! Now get your pillow and get out of here before I get angry!" Laura demanded.
 
Remington scrambled to his feet and grabbed his pillow. Giving Laura a growl, he headed for the door.
 
"Wait!" Laura yelled.
 
Remington turned expectantly, hoping against hope that his hot-headed bride had softened.
 
He should have known better. Laura stomped to the mirrored closet, removed a pile of black fur and then stomped back over to him. Even in the dark, he could see the anger in her eyes.
 
"Don't forget your covers," she said as she flung the fur in his face. Then with a quick stomp to his foot, she marched back to bed and barricaded herself beneath the covers.
 
Remington stifled a scream as he hobbled out of the bedroom and to the couch. Even barefooted, that woman's stomp packed quite a wallop. By the time they finally made up, he'd need foot surgery! He plopped his pillow down on the couch and wrapped up in Shannon's fur. Actually, it made pretty good comforter. He just wished it smelled less like Shannon and more like Laura.
 
Taking one final look at the open doorway leading to his bedroom, he smiled. Yes, he and his bride were definitely making progress. At least they were no longer putting closed doors between them. There was hope for them yet.
 
**********
 
Laura was sick again the next morning. Remington had been listening for her from his bed on the couch. A great wave of relief swept over him when he did not hear her close the bathroom door. He tossed Shannon's fur to the foot of the couch and walked to the bathroom door, which was standing half open.
 
The sound of Laura's retching tore at his heart. He was worried about her. Perhaps she had picked up some virus from the Mexican jungle. No, the timing wasn't right, he realized. She had been sick every morning since their marriage. Whatever it was, it was time she saw a doctor. He would insist she make an appointment at the soonest possible opportunity.
 
Remington took advantage of a momentary silence and knocked on the bathroom door. "Laura?" he asked, poking his head in. "Do you do this all day?"
 
Laura hesitated. If she said no, he might suspect she was enduring morning sickness, and she didn't want him to know until she was ready to tell him.
 
"Whenever the mood hits me," she answered truthfully.
 
"Is there anything I can do to help?"
 
"Yeah," Laura said as she ran her fingers through her bangs. "Tell the captain to stop rocking the boat."
 
Her attempted smile warmed him all over. He didn't even try to stop the silly grin he felt spreading across his face.
 
"I'll give him your message right after I order room service," he said.
 
He was off before the next wave of nausea washed over her.
 
*********
 
Remington and Laura spent the next hour in leisurely companionship. Propped against their pillows, they laughed about old cases and speculated what favorite past clients might be doing. Both knew they were avoiding the real issue, but at the moment it didn't matter. They were together, and they were enjoying each other's company.
Remington's supposition that Jackie was class president at reform school nearly cracked them up. They could just see his "family" coming to hear his inaugural address and lifting the wallets of half the student body.
 
When their laughter died down, there was a moment of silence. Each nervously glanced at the other, searching for a way to break the stillness.
 
Remington was the first to gather his courage. "Uh, Laura, considering you've been sick several days now, don't you think it'd be a good idea if you saw a doctor? I mean, maybe you picked up a bug in the jungle or something."
 
"I was sick before we left for Mexico, remember?"
 
"Yes, well, then maybe you encountered something in the jungle that made you worse..."
 
"If you're worried about catching something from me, you can relax. I can almost guarantee that whatever I have, it's not contagious."
 
"I'm not worried about catching something, Laura. I'm worried about you. I hate seeing you this way every day. I'd just feel better if you'd see a doctor; that's all."
 
Laura got a far away took in her eyes and drew her legs up against her chest, resting her chin on her knees. Should she tell him now? Was this the right time to tell him he was going to be a father?
 
Why not? she decided. They'd just had a lovely breakfast in bed. They were both feeling very affectionate. What better time?
 
"Remember when we succumbed to Temptation?" she asked, dreamily.
 
"Which time?" he asked with a grin.
 
"Take your pick," she said.
 
"Are you trying to change the subject? Because if you are, it won't work. I'll make the appointment myself, if I have to."
 
"Remember the bushes at Frances'?" Laura asked, oblivious to Remington's previous declaration.
 
"How could I forget? I still itch just thinking about that poison ivy!"
 
"And remember that night in the limo when you poured the cola all over my...?"
 
"I remember. Fred had to have the entire back seat reupholstered," Remington said, puzzled as to where this was going.
 
He turned his head in an effort to examine her more closely. She had a far away look in her eyes and was smiling contentedly. Could this be the same woman who had pushed him out of bed the night before, and had been deathly ill just an hour before?
 
"Uh, Laura, is this conversation leading somewhere?" he inquired.
 
"I was just wondering how that aphrodisiac cola worked."
 
"What do you mean, how it worked? We drank it and then we, uh..."
 
"No, no--that's not what I mean."
 
"Well. what do you mean?"
 
"I'm not sure, exactly. But I have a theory that all that cola did was lower our inhibitions. It didn't cause us to have sudden feelings for just anyone."
 
"You mean we didn't drink it and suddenly develop an overwhelming desire to make love to the first person we saw?"
 
"Exactly! Think about it. I was around Fred, but I never had a sudden urge to..."
 
"Laura, please!"
 
"And you were around Mildred, but you two never..."
 
"Laura! How could you even suggest that I --that we--Good heavens, woman! I'm her boss! We have a professional relationship to maintain! And as for you and Fred, I never dreamed...!"
 
"Calm down, Mr. Steele; I'm just trying to make a point. The cola worked for you and me; it worked for Mildred and Ralph; it worked for Donald and Frances. It even worked for Laurie Both and her boyfriend next door."
 
"In other words, it only worked on people who already had feelings for each other."
 
"Right! It just lowered the inhibitions of whatever parties imbibed."
 
"Does this mean you're admitting you have...feelings for me?" Remington asked, moving in close for a kiss.
 
"Well, yes, I suppose so."
 
"You suppose what?"
 
"That I have feelings for you."
 
"And what might those feelings be?" Remington asked as he put his arms around Laura's shoulders.
 
Laura put her arms around his neck. "Well, I am...fond of you."
 
"Fond? You're *fond* of me?"
 
"Well, certainly! You don't think I'd marry someone if I wasn't fond of him, do you?"
 
"I wouldn't know."
 
"Well, I wouldn't. I do have my standards, you know," she insisted.
 
"That I do. So you're fond of me. That's the best you can do?" he prompted.
 
"Well, I'm very fond of you."
 
"Very fond of me, eh?" Remington leaned in for that kiss.
 
"One might even say that I lo..."
 
The phone rang, drowning out Laura's last few words. Remington just pursed his lips and shook his head as if to say, It figures.
 
After three rings Laura leaned over and picked up the receiver. Remington just sat and made a mental note to sue the phone company for pain and suffering. He then made a mental note to kill Mildred.
 
Laura finally hung up the phone. "That was Mildred. Metzger is already at the office. He says he has some new evidence against Lindstrom. I'll get dressed and meet with him as soon as l can. Fred can pick you up in the limo later."
 
Laura was already up, gathering her clothes.
 
"No. You need to see a doctor," Remington insisted. "I'll see Metzger, and Fred can pick you up in the limo later for your doctor's appointment."
 
"Don't be silly. You have to shower and shave; all I have to do is get dressed."
 
"Laura, I'm serious about the doctor," Remington said soberly, his voice a challenge.
 
Laura's first reaction was to get angry. How dare he tell her what to do! After all, he was her husband; not her father. But that reaction passed quickly, however, when she saw the love and concern on his face.
 
She walked to his side and tenderly caressed his rough cheek. "I'll have Mildred make an appointment for me this afternoon," she promised.
 
"I just want to be sure you're okay," Remington explained.
 
"I know," Laura said, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek before she returned to the business of getting dressed.
 
"Oh, Laura--that conversation we had earlier about Temptation..."
 
"I was just thinking out loud. Don't worry about it."
 
Laura had really intended to tell Remington her secret. If the phone hadn't rang, she was sure she would have. Oh, well, she decided; she still had close to eight months before the baby was due. Surely she would find the right words before then. Unless, of course, he found the back pack in the trunk of the limo first.
 
*****
 
The doctor's appointment would have to wait; Mildred ended up making plane reservations to London instead. Even though the trip was for business, both Remington and Laura felt a sense of excitement. London had been good to them. After all, it held special memories of their first magical moment. They were confident that as soon as they dispensed with Lindstrom and the stolen painting, they would have plenty of time to make even more special memories.
 
Remington and Laura packed in silence, each caught up in their own private thoughts. It wasn't long before Remington, whistling a lively tune, triumphantly closed his second suitcase.
 
"There! All done!" he declared. Then realizing Laura was struggling to close her first one, he said, "Here, let me help you with that."
 
Laura fought the urge to scream as he smashed several piles of her clothing in his zealous desire to close the offending piece of baggage,
 
"There you go! All shut tight!" Remington finally announced with a grin.
 
Glancing at his watch, he put his arms around Laura. "Our plane doesn't leave for a couple of hours yet," he explained, planting little kisses across the bridge of her nose. "What say we, uh, take up where we left off in Mexico?"
 
"But I haven't finished packing," Laura protested weakly.
 
She was finding it difficult to put up much of a struggle when Remington was kissing her neck and unbuttoning her top buttons with his teeth.
 
"Oh, why not?" she finally declared, throwing her arms around Remington with great force.
 
Her enthusiasm caught him off guard. They both fell backwards onto the floor and landed beside Laura's other suitcase, which was still only half full.
 
"You seem to have developed a fondness for the floor lately," Remington teased.
 
As soon as he said it, he realized it was the wrong thing to say. Laura stiffened immediately.
 
"Laura, I promise you, there are no old girlfriends in the closet, or under the bed, or anywhere in this apartment!"
 
Laura coolly rose to her feet. "Just the same, we do have a plane to catch and we can't afford to be late. This is a business trip, you know."
 
Remington slowly stood, also. "Yes, indeed. And heaven forbid we mix a little pleasure with that business!"
 
"Just because we're pretending to be married doesn't mean we can turn all of our cases into pleasure trips. We do have a reputation to maintain."
 
"Of course! Our reputation! We wouldn't want to tarnish that, now would we? To hell with the marriage; let's protect that agency's reputation at all costs!"
 
"Will you hush and finish packing?"
 
"I am finished!" Remington declared, grabbing a suitcase in each hand. "I'll wait for you in the living room."
 
"Fine!" Laura declared.
 
Remington staggered out of the room with his luggage. Laura returned to her packing, but not before she wiped the tears from her eyes.
 
To be continued...
 

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Disclaimer: The characters of Remington Steele are used without permission.
This story copyrighted 1988 by Debra Talley. It is purely for entertainment purposes.