"I do not need to be carried, Mr. Steele," Laura complained.
"Mrs. Steele, unless you have forgotten, you have received a nasty gash on your head which could have some rather ill side effects. The discharge papers from that nice doctor stated you should not be traversing stairs for 24 hours in the event you do have a concussion," Remington reprimanded her as he carried her down the stairs from their bedchamber to the study.
"I don't have a concussion!" she insisted.
"Humor me, Laura, could you please?" Remington asked as he deposited her on the couch beside the fireplace. "Are you cold? I can start a fire for you."
"I'm not cold, I don't have a concussion. I just want to get something to eat, take a long hot shower to wash my hair, stretch and then crawl into bed for the rest of the night," Laura complained.
"Laura, I'll cook you whatever you wish, but again, those discharge papers state you cannot get the stitches wet, so I'm afraid the hot shower you request is out of the question," Remington said firmly. "Now, what you you like to eat."
"I don't know, something greasy and rich," Laura groaned.
"Greasy….and….rich? Laura, I'm not sure…" Remington cringed.
"All right then….fettuccine alfredo," Laura said as she crossed her arms.
"Fettuccine alfredo I can do, love. Now if you will sit here, I'll have dinner ready for you in half an hour. After that I promise you I will help you wash the debris from your hair without getting your injury wet. Then if you still require some assistance in making yourself comfortable, I'll give you a massage," Remington patted her shoulder.
"A massage? I suppose I can behave then. What time is it? Maybe I can call Mildred," Laura sighed.
Remington checked his watch, "She should be awake now, unless she had a late night with the Dragon Ladies. Give her my love, eh. I'll go get that fettuccine started." Closing the door to the study as he left, Remington walked toward the kitchen quickly. He wanted to get Laura fed and relaxed as quickly as possible, so she would hopefully sleep off any additional aches and pains that may occur in the next day or two. She was still asleep when they arrived at the Castle after dropping Pace off. He had carried her to their bedchamber, hoping she would wake feeling better than earlier. The doctor had sent a few prescription pain pills if she needed along with the supplies she would need for keeping the stitches clean.
Remington found freshly prepared pasta in the refrigerator so quickly started the water to boil it. Pulling out the remaining ingredients needed, he hummed to himself as he prepared the requested fettuccine alfredo.
Back in the study, Laura gingerly made her way over to the telephone on the table. She didn't want to tell Remington her head was hurting again. Instead she wanted to check in with Mildred, make sure there was nothing outstanding at the office. Dialing Mildred's home number, she waited as the phone rang. Instead of Mildred's voice, she heard the machine pick up. "Mildred, it's me, Laura. I was hoping to talk to you about the office and the wedding. It's getting late here so try to call from the office tomorrow when you get in. We should be here all day, bye," Laura left her message.
Hanging up the phone, Laura drummed her fingers on the table. She touched her head gingerly, wincing when her fingers made contact with the injured area. She then moved her fingers through her hair, feeling the dried blood and dirt embedded in it. She wanted nothing more than to take a hot shower but Remington was right, she had to be careful of the stitches. She hated feeling helpless, being coddled in anyway however, she knew she couldn't take care of this on her own. She would have to give in and let him help her.
She carefully made her way toward the kitchen, slightly unsteady on her feet. She found Remington stirring the heavy cream into the pan with the melted butter and cream cheese. "Smells delicious," she said, making Remington jump.
"Laura! What are you doing? You're supposed to be resting, now wandering about," Remington admonished her.
"I tried to call Mildred but I had to leave her a message. I told her to call from the office tomorrow," Laura said, leaning against the counter.
"Laura, will you atleast go sit down before you fall down," Remington stopped stirring long enough to guide her to a chair nearby. Moving back to the stove, he continued stirring, dropping the pasta into the boiling water. Taking a spoon, he tasted the sauce, now simmering. "Needs more salt, I think." Dipping the spoon once again, he handed it to Laura, "What do you think?"
"Mmmm, perfect," Laura licked the spoon.
"Well it's almost ready, love. Why don't I help you into the dining room, eh?" Remington turned the heat down for the sauce, stirring the pasta again. He helped guide Laura to the table, made sure she was settled at the table before returning to the kitchen to finish preparing their meal. Loading a tray with their plates and two glasses of water, he carried everything to the table.
"Water? No wine?" Laura asked.
"No wine. With that medication they injected you with in the hospital for the pain and nausea you were experiencing I don't think wine would be the best choice for the evening," Remington explained.
"So after dinner, you said you'd help me wash my hair. And a massage I believe," Laura said after a few bites.
"Whatever will make you more comfortable, Mrs. Steele," Remington smiled.
"You can make fettuccine alfredo for me anytime, Mr. Steele. This is simply delicious," Laura hummed.
They finished eating in near silence. Remington stood to clear the table, "I'll be back in a minute to bring you upstairs," he told Laura.
"I don't need…" Laura started.
"I will bring you upstairs. Now please, Laura, just be patient. I just want to get these dishes in the sink to soak. Then I'll bring you upstairs, help you wash your hair in the tub. Then you can have a nice soak of your own, I'll take care of the dishes then return and give you a nice relaxing massage, eh," Remington detailed everything for her.
With a deep sigh, Laura relented, "Fine."
"Thank you," Remington piled their dishes on the same tray he carried them in on. Before leaving, he leaned down to kiss Laura's cheek. Carrying the tray into the kitchen, he piled the dishes in the deep sink along with the pots he used, filling everything with hot, soapy water, before going back into the dining room where Laura waited. "You want to walk to the stairs and I'll carry you up from there?" Remington asked.
"I don't need to be…" Laura repeated before Remington interrupted her.
"Lau-ra, please. The doctor's notes say…" Remington pursed his lips.
"I know what the damn notes say, but I say I don't need to be carried," Laura said angrily, hands planted on her hips.
"Mrs. Steele, I'm not going to argue with you over this. Now please, let's get you washed up and resting," Remington said as he ran his hand across his mouth, frustrated with Laura's ire.
Laura turned and stomped toward the stairs without answering him. Remington followed, two steps behind. Just before they reached the steps, the doorbell rang. They both stopped mid-stride, looking at each other, confused.
"Are you expecting anyone?" Laura asked, eyebrow raised.
"No, are you?" Remington asked, his eyebrow also raised in question.
"No. Are you going to answer it?" Laura was exasperated.
Remington pursed his lips again, knowing she would probably try to make her way up the steps as soon as he walked away. The doorbell rang again, insistantly..
Remington pointed at Laura, "Don't go anywhere." Laura rolled her eyes at him but stopped and leaned on the bannister.
The doorbell rang again, this time accompanied with banging. "All right, all right. No need to beat the door down," Remington said as he opened the door. "Antony…. I don't believe you've been invited here."
Anthony Roselli pushed his way past Remington. "Where's Laura?" he demanded.
"Tony? What are you doing here?" Laura asked from the bottom of the stairwell.
"Laura?" Tony noticed the gauze wrap around her head, the dried blood in her hair. Turning to Remington, he slammed him against the door. "What the hell did you do to her?"
Remington tamped down the urge he had to sucker punch Roselli. Instead, he forcefully removed Tony's hands from his shirt. "Laura was in an accident this morning. Now if you wouldn't mind," Remington started only to be cut off.
"I can see that! What the hell happened?" Tony motioned toward Laura.
"Well, she was in a mine in Galmoy that nearly collapsed on her all while trying to collect evidence on a drug dealer and murderer. How was your day, Antony?" Remington said sarcastically as he walked away from Tony and toward Laura who was noticeably leaning on the banister.
"A mine… drug dealer… murderer? Steele, what the hell are you talking about?" Tony turned, confused.
"Rem, I think I need to go lay down," Laura said, her voice shaky.
"Laura? What's wrong?" Remington walked quickly to stand beside her.
"I'm not feeling very well, I need to go lay down," Laura admitted. "Tony, I don't know why you came here but you're not welcome here. Not now, not ever. I told you before…"
"And I told you I wasn't giving up on us," Tony said angrily.
"There is no us, there never was an us," Laura shook her head, but regretted it as soon as she did. The wave of nausea hit her hard, almost buckling her knees. Remington caught her before she fell, scooping her up into his arms.
"Lau-ra? Antony, see yourself out. I need to attend to my wife if you don't mind," Remington didn't even look at him as he spoke, all of his attention focused on Laura's face which had gone white. "Let's get you upstairs," he spoke softly as Laura leaned into his shoulder, eyes closed.
"This isn't over, Steele," Tony yelled but no one responded. Remington continued to walk up the steps carrying Laura, ignoring him. Tony slammed the door as he made his way outside. Laura winced at the bang.
Remington laid Laura on the bed gently. "I'm going to get that pain medicine the doctor sent along, love, then start a nice hot bath for you, eh," he said nervously. He had never seen Laura give in to pain like this before. It was making him very uncomfortable. Looking at Laura, a thought struck him, "Are you going to be sick? I can get… something…." he stopped talking when she put a hand up.
"No, the feeling passed. I think the stress from Tony showing up combined with everything else today was a little too much for me to handle," Laura admitted. "But I will take that pain pill. I hate to say it, but my head hurts. Not like a headache, just here." Laura motioned toward the gash.
"How about some ice then after we get you cleaned up?" Remington suggested as he moved to the table where he left the bag of medical supplies. Extracting one pain pill, he handed it to Laura before he realized she needed a drink too. "I'll be right back," he said as he ran down the stairs to get a glass of water for her. He returned just a few minutes later. "Let me get that bath started for you."
"Rem, if I haven't thanked you today… Thank you," Laura said softly.
"No worries, love. I have to say, I'm rather enjoying this new moniker," Remington smiled warmly as he moved toward the bathroom. Inside, Laura could hear the sound of the water filling the large tub.
"What moniker is that?" Laura sounded slightly confused.
Remington called from the bathroom, "What was that?"
"I said, what moniker is that?" Laura started to yell but softened her voice as he walked into the room.
Remington walked to the side of the bed. "Up you go," he said as he guided Laura into a sitting position. He helped her walk into the bathroom as she was still slightly unsteady on her feet. "I'll leave you for a few minutes. Call me when you're ready to get in the tub, eh," Remington left Laura, walking into the bedroom. Stripping down, he changed into just a pair of pajama pants, knowing he would probably end up wet regardless. He pulled out clean pajamas for Laura just as he heard her calling for him.
He found Laura in the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the tub, a towel loosely wrapped around her. "Careful, love, we can't have you falling in," he teased.
Laura just looked at him, her expression a toss up between annoyed and amused. Holding out her hand, she used his to balance as she climbed into the tub, dropping the towel on the floor. She sat down and sighed, appreciating the hot, steamy water. Remington picked up a washcloth and dipped it in the water.
"Laura, if you lean your head to the side, I can wash your hair for you and avoid the stitches," Remington explained. Laura did as he suggest, closing her eyes, enjoying the sensation of his fingers in her hair.
After a few minutes, he declared her hair debris free. He folded the washcloth and placed it against the side of the tub, guiding Laura to lean her neck against it. "Relax, I'll be back in a bit to help you out," he said, gently kissing her forehead.
Before he moved too far away, Laura reached up to touch his arm, "Rem, you didn't answer me. What moniker?" she asked still curious.
Remington smiled and said, "That one. I'll be back," as he walked away. In the bedroom he grabbed a T shirt and his robe, heading back to the kitchen to wash the dishes he left.
In the tub, Laura closed her eyes, trying to figure out what he meant. It didn't take long before her eyes snapped open and she said, "Rem?" Where did that come from? When did she start using Rem instead of Mr. Steele? "Rem," she said again. It rolled off her tongue so easily, so naturally. Rem. One syllable that now represented comfort and love instead of mystery and confusion. Rem. A new name for a new beginning? Smiling, she closed her eyes again, content. This is how Remington found her almost 20 minutes later.
"Laura? Ready to move back to bed? A little massage perhaps?" Remington asked, holding the towel for her.
"Mr. Steele, you keep pampering me like that I may get used to it," Laura teased. Standing slowly, she took the towel he offered, wrapped it around her body and carefully stepped out. The pain medicine was now working as her head wasn't hurting for the moment.
Together they walked to the bedroom, not as slowly as before. Sitting on the edge of the bed, Remington carefully covered the stitches again, wrapping gauze around her head to hold the square in place. Once he finished, Laura began to dress but after putting on just her underpants, Remington stopped her. "Lay on your stomach, Mrs. Steele," he instructed. Laura did as instructed, closing her eyes again as she put her head on the pillow he gave her.
Taking a bottle of lotion he had found in Laura's bag of toiletry items, Remington squeezed some in his hand, rubbing them together to warm it. He began with her neck and shoulders, gently rubbing tight muscles loose with long glides of his fingers. Laura relaxed, breathing deeply. Moving to her lower back, Remington sensed the instant she fell asleep. Her whole body relaxed, exposing more of the tensed muscles. He continued down her legs and moved to her upper arms, careful not to disturb her. Smiling, he looked lovingly at Laura, sleeping soundly. He pulled the comforter over her, kissing her gently. He took a quick shower before climbing into bed beside her, snuggling up against her.
At some point during the night, Laura turned and had found Remington's chest, his arms wound around her protectively. He felt her hands begin to twitch, even in his sleep. Rousing slowly, he didn't move initially. He was trying to determine what could be bothering Laura, even in her sleep. Her hand was on his chest, twitching again, this time she shook her head slightly. Remington tried shhhing her, rubbing Laura's back to soothe her.
After a minute or two, Laura's movements became more pronounced. She whimpered at first, the whimpers becoming whispers. "No," Laura whispered, "No!"
Remington debated what to do, so he gently touched her face, "Laura. Laura, wake up, love."
Her hand twitched again, her fingers flexing, head shaking again. "Dammit, Tony, I said NO," Laura said forcefully in her sleep.
Remington frowned. Why was Laura dreaming about Tony? "Laura? Laura, wake up," he shook her shoulder to try to wake her.
Laura was so deep in her nightmare she didn't realize the arms around her were Remington's not Tony's. In her dream, Tony was holding her back as the mine collapsed around Remington and she was unable to save him. She began fighting against the arms holding her, "Let me go, Tony… he's in there. Dammit, let me go. He's going to die in there… let me go!"
"Laura! Wake up… it's me… it's Remington. I'm here, I'm safe… we're safe. Laura. Open your eyes, love, open your eyes," Remington stopped trying to hold her arms, instead began stroking her face gently.
The nightmare she was in finally released her from its grip. Laura could feel something on her face, her arms no longer being held. From somewhere far away, she heard Remington calling her. Finally she opened her eyes to see concerned blue ones staring back at her. "I'm here, we're safe, love, we're safe. Antony's not going to harm us," he whispered as he stroked her face again.
"Rem?… Rem…" Laura whispered, tears in her eyes. She reached up to touch his face. "You're safe… you're safe," she breathed deeply, each exhale shaky.
"It's okay. I'm here, you're here. We're okay," Remington said as he pulled her close.
He could feel the wetness of her tears on his chest as he held her. Gently rubbing her back again, he didn't question the dream she had. Later, when she was calmer he would ask, not now. After a few minutes, when he felt her breathing even off, he relaxed against the pillows behind him, his hand still caressing her back. He thought she was asleep until he heard her speak.
"Rem?" Laura said his name quietly.
"Yes, love?" Remington answered.
"I didn't invite him here," Laura said quietly again.
"I know. Antony didn't seem to take the hint the last time you spoke with him. We'll see to it he understands now," Remington stated.
"I tried to tell him you know… how long you and I had been trying to get to where we are now… I told him I couldn't pull back…" Laura said, her voice shaky again.
"Laura, I don't need an explanation. We've gotten past that point… finally able to say those words that we both needed… And Antony… well, he's much like Felicia or Shannon or even Anna… a piece of our past… distant or not so distant… But it's not going to interfere with our future. OUR future, Laura, yours and mine," Remington said into her hair as he pulled her close again, his cheek on the top of her head.
"He's not going to stop that easy. He's going to keep trying. He still thinks our marriage is phony. I don't trust that he won't go back to Immigration…." Laura's voice faded away. She was afraid of what might come next.
"Well, our first ceremony may have been slightly less than legal in most standards, but we are making strides to correct that, now aren't we, Mrs. Steele? In what, seventeen days or so, our marriage will be so complete and binding, no one, not Antony, hell not even the INS will be able to refute it. Seventeen days, love. Seventeen days and we will be able to share with your family, our friends, what we really mean to each other. Seventeen days to plan all the minute details on your list. And seventeen days to start planning the rest of our lives, together," Remington assured her as only he could.
"Seventeen? That's all? Its seems so much further away than that," Laura said almost wistfully.
"Which means your mother will be here in a fortnight. And Frances with Donald," Remington reminded her.
"That's right… I think I'd like to scout out some dress shops in Dublin before they get here. Maybe have a few dresses picked out and let my mother and Frances help decide on the final one," Laura stated, thinking ahead.
"That sounds like an excellent plan. Why don't you take Sarah with you? She may enjoy a day out, after the stress she's been under," Remington suggested.
"Sarah?" Laura asked.
"Well, you seemed to have developed a rapport with the lass. She hasn't had much in the way of influences in her life and well, it may do her some good to spend some time with you - a strong, independent woman. She may enjoy some … girl time," Remington said thoughtfully.
"Girl time, Mr. Steele?" Laura turned to face him, an eyebrow raised.
"You know, shopping, lunch perhaps at a nice restaurant. How do you feel about purchasing some items for Sarah's babe?" Remington asked. "I noticed they are lacking some of the barest infant necessities, a crib perhaps, some nappies to start."
Laura sat up fully looking at him. "You want to purchase items for the baby? Sarah and Pace's baby?" she questioned.
"Laura, Pace saved your life. You could have been killed in that collapse and yet he risked his own life to save yours. The least we can do is put their minds at ease slightly but gifting them a few tokens of our appreciation," Remington nodded. In an attempt to change the subject, Remington reached up and gently touched the gauze pad on her head. "Does it hurt? Are you in need of another pain pill?"
Laura thought for a minute then "No, I don't think so. I do need to go to the bathroom though. I'll be back." She carefully got off the bed, testing herself for any signs of dizziness. As she stood, Remington leaned forward, ready to move at the first sign of trouble.
Feeling steady, Laura reached for her robe at the end of the bed, wrapping it around herself, she slowly walked toward the bathroom. Remington just watched but relaxed back into the pillows. A few minutes later, Laura returned, looking around the room for her pajamas. She found them on the end of the bed as well and after donning them, she climbed back into bed and Remington's awaiting arms. Pulling her close again, they drifted off to sleep.
Laura woke to an empty bed and sunlight filtering through the windows. Blinking, she took inventory of her body's aches and pains, noticing her head was tender but not unbearable. The room was cool but not cold, hopefully an indication of the day's weather. Sitting up, Laura was trying to decide if she wanted to try to shower without getting her head wet or simply head down for something to eat when the door opened slowly. Remington was carrying a steaming cup of hot coffee for her, tea for himself.
"Feeling better, Mrs. Steele?" he asked.
"Mmmm, nothing time won't take care of, Mr. Steele," Laura replied. Taking the coffee from him, she closed her eyes as she took her first sip. "This will help," she decided.
"I think we should stay close to the Castle today. Maybe walk the grounds a little. The Dunnes, Pace and Christian should be about for lunch," Remington suggested. He didn't want Laura to overexert herself.
"And I'm still waiting for Mildred to call. So, yes, a walk on the grounds sounds perfect," Laura smiled.
"Well then, Mrs. Steele, let's say we get some breakfast, attend to the dressing on your wound, and figure out a lunch menu with the cook," Remington stood, reaching out for Laura.
"Maybe a shower?" Laura asked as she stood.
"Laura, you know what…" Remington pursed his lips as he began.
"I won't wash my hair or even try to. Just some hot water to finish loosening up these muscles," Laura pleaded.
"A bath. And another light massage if you need," Remington countered.
"A bath, some stretching at the barre and a massage," Laura countered again, stepping forward to close the gap between them.
"Mrs. Steele, you are one stubborn woman," Remington said as he swiped his mouth with his hand. Chewing on his lip for a few seconds, he said, "Stretching at your barre, minimally, a hot bath, a light massage if needed after breakfast. Nothing else."
Laura wrapped her arms around him, "Nothing else."
Hugging her, Remington kissed the top of her head gently. "How's your head this morning?" he asked.
"I'll live. It could be worse," Laura admitted. She was grateful she no longer had a headache.
Together, they made their way to the kitchen where Mickeline was sitting, sipping a cup of tea. "My Lord, my Lady, what can I do for you this morning?" he greeted them. When he noticed the gauze wrapping on Laura's head, he immediately got concerned. "Mrs. Steele! Are you alright?"
"I will be. Just a scratch," Laura played off the injury as she usually did.
"A scratch, Mrs. Steele? That looks much worse than a scratch," Mickeline exclaimed.
Knowing Laura didn't like to be the center of attention for an injury, Remington changed the subject quickly, "Mickeline, we will be expecting guests for lunch today. Is the cook about? I'd like to see if he has any new recipes he'd like to try. Dinner the other night was absolutely delicious, I'd suspect lunch would be nothing less."
"I'll get him straightaway," Mickeline stood and disappeared into the office beyond the kitchen. The cook appeared shortly after.
"My Lord, Mickeline just informed me you are expecting guests today. Will your lunch be formal or informal?"
"Informal I would think. Salads, soup, sandwiches maybe. Would you agree, Mrs. Steele?" Remington pondered.
"It all sounds wonderful to me. I'm starving now," Laura admitted. Her stomach was just beginning to rumble.
"I have some new scones this morning, my Lady," the cook informed her. He turned toward a cabinet and removed several covered containers. "Walnut raisin, black treacle and spicy ones."
Laura eyed the containers, trying to decide which one she wanted to taste. Remington smiled as he watched her then said, "Why don't we try a few of each? We can bring them into the gallery for a change. The sun is out, warming the room. A nice spot for breakfast I would say."
The cook nodded affirmatively, placing several of each flavor on a plate. Remington refilled Laura's coffee mug and poured one for himself. He carried the scones and mug, Laura following.
The gallery was a good sized room, painted buttery yellow with bookshelves filled with the colorful spines of the old tomes. Above a glass topped table surrounded by pillow topped rattan chairs was a skylight, the soft glow of the morning sun warming the room. Remington placed the scones on the table and pulled a chair out for Laura to recline in.
"What a beautiful space, Mr. Steele! I haven't seen this room before, " she exclaimed as she relaxed into the cushioned seat. Picking up a scone, she tasted, then hummed with satisfaction.
"Well, there are a number of rooms about the castle I'm sure you've yet to explore, Laura. Maybe after lunch we can do just that," he proposed.
"I thought we were going to walk the grounds?" Laura asked, slightly confused.
Grinning, Remington answered, "We have all day, love."
Laura returned his grin, but quickly sobered. "You don't think Tony is going to show up again today, do you?" she asked quietly.
Remington placed his mug on the table, appearing slightly agitated at her question. Running his hand across his mouth, he stood and began to pace.
"Rem, I…" Laura began but he cut her off.
"Laura, I've been thinking about Mr. Roselli and his unnatural obsession with you. And I'll be honest, I think the only one that is going to convince him to leave us alone is you. He's not going to listen to me. Hasn't yet, the bloody maggot, and I hate asking you to do this but I think you're going to have to sit him down and tell him to bugger off," Remington uttered rigidly as he paced.
Laura opened her mouth to reply but closed it again quickly. Taking a deep breath, she answered him, "Fine. When?"
"The sooner the better, I'd say. I don't want him sniffing around your heels like a damn dog in heat any longer," Remington voiced angrily.
"Do you know where he's staying because I don't," Laura spit back at him. She was getting angry although she wasn't sure why.
Remington stopped pacing to look at her. He could hear her tone, he knew she was getting angry and that wasn't his intention. Slowly, he crossed the room to stand beside her chair. Kneeling down so he was eye level with her, he ran his knuckles down her cheek. Quietly, he spoke. "We'll find him. I'm sure someone in town, at the pub, knows him by now. He's a hard fellow to forget, eh? I just want him out of our lives for good, Laura."
Laura reached up to hold his hand hovering just above her jawline. Looking into his crystal clear blue eyes, she could see the intensity they held, focused only on her. She closed her eyes sighed, then said, "So do I."
Remington brought her hand to his lips, brushing her fingers lightly. "I'll take a trip into town later, see what we can find out, while you rest," he said matter of factly.
"While I rest? What am I, a child? I don't need…" Laura pulled her hand away as she spoke. Something in the way he looked at her made her stop talking. She couldn't place her finger on it, but it reminded her of the look her father used to give her as a child when she was misbehaving. No words were necessary to get the meaning across. "Fine. I'll… rest… later, while you go into town," she conceded.
"Splendid idea, Mrs. Steele. Now let's say we enjoy these wonderful scones so we will have time to go for a walk before everyone gets here for lunch. I'd like to find some places for the photographer to take pictures. Truly document the occasion," Remington stated as he sat beside her at the table. Choosing one of the spice scones, he took a bite, savory every morsel.
"I haven't found one yet. Do you think Mickeline would have any suggestions?" Laura asked between bites.
"Most likely. He seems to be a wealth of local knowledge. Said he had a local band in mind. I'll have to remember to get the name from him when we get back to the kitchen," Remington sipped his coffee.
Once they finished breakfast and Laura declared she couldn't possibly eat another bite, they carried their dirty dished to the kitchen. As Laura washed, Remington found Mickeline in the office on the phone. Remington waved apologetically, turning to leave. Mickeline noticed him immediately, holding up his hand to stop him.
"My Lord, what can I help you with?" Mickeline asked as he hung up the phone.
"The name of that local band… I don't remember seeing it beside the phone in the study," Remington began.
"Ah, yes, I apologize, Mr. Steele. The one I was originally thinking of has taken a small tour offer for some pubs across England and Scotland. I have another in mind. They are quite good. I heard they will be playing in town this evening if you'd be interested," Mickeline explained.
"This evening? Well, I'm not sure Mrs. Steele is feeling up to an adventure out. I may have to go alone, unless you want to join me for a pint?" Remington smiled at the gentleman.
"Mrs. Steele isn't going to be angry?" Mickeline asked, not wanting to cause any friction between the two.
"Not at all. She's very understanding about these matters," Remington assured him.
"Well then, shall we depart around eight o'clock?" Mickeline suggested.
"Excellent, my good man. What ah… what is the name of this band? Just out of pure curiosity," Remington asked.
"Hothouse Flowers, my Lord," Mickeline stated.
"Hot...House….Flowers…." Remington eyed him suspiciously.
"Yes, my Lord," Mickeline nodded.
"Eight o'clock then," Remington walked back toward the kitchen trying to decide if a band was a good idea or not. He would find out that evening.
After dressing in jeans and sweaters, Remington changed the bandage on Laura's head. Instead of the gauze headband, Laura opted for a hat with a strategically placed square. She also chose to forgo the pain medicine from the hospital, instead taking a few aspirin for the discomfort she was feeling. Outside, Laura took a deep breath and decided the fresh air was exactly what she needed.
Laura and Remington strolled through the grounds, finding a few areas they declared they would like to explore again when Laura was feeling up to it. Conversation was light, the periods of silence comfortable. They found just a quick light touch, a guiding hand or hands entwined for mere minutes were enough for them to feel the unspoken comfort of each other's presence.
They found the stables absent of horses which Remington declared to be a grievous oversight that needed to be righted immediately. Laura smiled fondly, knowing the stable would probably be full in a few weeks time. On the outskirts of the property they came across a small stone house. Looking around, they didn't see any signs of life. Remington knocked on the door and not hearing a reply, gently pushed it open.
Inside, the house was nothing more than one large room. A large four posted, canopy bed was the main focus of the room. To one side a small kitchenette with a small two burner stove, a small sink and a very small refrigerator. Beside the kitchenette was a door leading to a small half bath. On the other side of the room was a beautifully crafted stone fireplace and beside the hearth, a deep claw-footed tub. There were no personal pictures to be found, just some simple artwork above the fireplace. Everything in the room was covered in a light film of dust, as if no one had been there for months.
"Rem, I wonder who lived here. This place is beautiful, even with the dust," Laura said as she ran her fingers lightly over the edge of the bed.
"I'm not sure but I'll bet Mickeline will know," Remington nodded. The quality of the stonework on the hearth along appeared to have been done by a master mason. He couldn't help appreciate all the details in the room. "What do you say, Mrs. Steele? Want to head back? I'm sure everyone will be arriving soon for lunch and we don't want our guests to be waiting for us," he said, extending his hand to Laura.
She accepted his hand as they left the mystery house. Together they walked back to the castle arriving before Fergus, Sarah, Pace and Christian. In their bedchamber, Remington removed Laura's hat to check the stitches, replacing the square with a fresh one, creating a band again with the gauze roll. They returned to the study to wait for everyone. Remington noticed Laura pinching the bridge of her nose a few times as they waited. "Laura? Headache coming back?" he asked.
"No… Maybe a little. Do you think you can get me some ice? That might be all I need, just something to numb this a little," Laura said tentatively.
"Ice it is. I'll be right back. Just relax," Remington touched her shoulder lightly as he passed by. Laura reclined on the couch, closing her eyes.
She dozed off, waking only when Remington touched her again. "Laura, if you're not up to company…" he started but she shook her head as she sat up.
"No, I'm fine. Too much fresh air I think," Laura smiled at him, taking the ice packet he handed her. Holding the ice to her head, she cringed. The area was very sensitive but after a few minutes, the initial burning sensation turned to numbness. "Thank you, that did the trick for now. Did you see what the cook has made for lunch or is it going to be a surprise?" Laura asked hungrily.
"Ah yes, Mrs. Steele, your stomach taking command of the moment? He has several toasted sandwiches - ham and cheese, cheese and tomato, turkey with bacon. Three soups from what I could see and salads all made and ready to go. Not sure what the soups were but the kitchen smells divine," Remington said. Just as he was about to sit down he heard a knock on the door. "Yes?" he called.
Mickeline opened the door, "My Lord, your guests have arrived." Behind him Pace and Sarah stood hand in hand, Fergus behind, his hands shoved in his pockets nervously and a distracted Christian. Christian had noticed one of the newer maid walking up the stairs and he couldn't keep his eyes off her. Fergus saw as everyone else entered the room and Christian was still staring off at her so he slapped him in the chest to get his attention. Christian eyed him, almost ready to hit him back but realized he was the last one standing the hall. Stepping inside the study, he hung his head slightly embarrassed.
"Sarah!" Laura exclaimed as she got off the couch and crossed the room to hug the girl.
"Mrs. Steele, oh my, are you …" Sarah started seeing the gauze on Laura's head. She reached up to touch it gently, tears forming in her eyes as she did.
Laura caught her hand. "I'm fine. Really, nothing more than a scratch. If it wasn't for Pace I wouldn't be here at all," Laura smiled. She pulled Sarah toward the couch to sit, Pace tagging along behind them.
Remington extended his hand to Fergus and Christian and shook, declaring "Come, sit." Remington watched Pace wince and hold his ribs as he sat back against the couch. "Pace, ribs sore this morning?" he asked, already knowing the answer.
Pace nodded, "More than I want to admit. I think worse than the wrist. But the pain is worth it to be home with Sarah." He reached out to hold her hand.
"My Lord, I know words don't always tell how you feel and thank you isn't enough for what you've done for our family," Fergus began.
"Fergus, my boy, I understand. No words needed. Knowing everyone is safe and out of that hellhole… no words needed," Remington repeated.
Christian spoke up, "So what's going to happen to McDonough? Is he going to jail for good or what?"
"I'm not sure exactly how the drug laws in Ireland work but I should hope so. I don't think the authorities take too kindly to attempted murder of American citizens either," Remington stated. "I'll have to contact Detective Doyle and find out."
"I'm just happy they're home, my lord. I don't care what happens to that… that…." Sarah spit, her voice shaking with anger.
Pace put his good hand on Sarah's swollen baby belly, "Sarah, shh, getting upset is bad for the baby, remember?"
"I know, I know, that… MAN… just got under my skin," Sarah spit again. Taking a deep breath, she let it out slowly, rubbing her belly as she did. She inhaled sharply again, blowing it out slowly.
Pace watched her face, "Sarah?"
Sarah smiled weakly for a moment, "I'm okay. I told you… the midwife said the contractions aren't real yet. They are called Braxton Hicks, remember. They hurt for just a few seconds but they're okay."
"Have you seen your midwife recently?" Laura asked.
"She came by the house yesterday to check on me. She's from our church, we don't have medical care, so she comes by every few weeks. She promised me she'd help me when the time comes," Sarah explained. "Mr. Steele, Pace told me you paid his bill at the hospital. We will find a way to…"
Remington put his hand up to stop her, "No. I told Pace no repayment is necessary. Keeping my wife safe the way he did, that's all that's needed for me."
Sarah dropped her head, holding Pace's hand tightly against her belly, tears running down her cheeks. Without warning, Pace's eyes lit up, "I felt it! I finally felt it… I felt the baby move!" he exclaimed. He kissed Sarah, not caring who was watching. His excitement broke the tension that was building in the room, causing everyone to laugh.
"With that note, I think our lunch is just about ready to be served," Remington announced. "Mrs. Steele?" he offered her his hand to stand.
"Mr. Steele," Laura answered as she stood.
The group made their way to the dining room where lunch was already waiting for them. As they ate, Remington asked questions about their education, their friends, and the community. He wasn't surprised to learn only Sarah had completed second level schooling at Fergus' insistence. Pace talked about the horse stables at the farm his family worked which gave Remington an idea. "Pace, it appears our stables are currently empty however that will be rectified soon enough. Would you like to manage the stable for me? You and Christian perhaps?"
Pace looked at Remington, then at Christian, ending at Sarah who shook her head yes. He stood up, walking around the table and wrapped his arms around Remington, not caring about the pain in his ribs. Remington laughed, "I take it that means yes?"
"Yes, sir. Yes, please… yes… yes… yes!" Pace said enthusiastically.
"Well, then, let's enjoy the rest of our meal and walk over the the stables," Remington exclaimed after Pace sat down again.
The group finished their lunch in agreement that the food was delicious. Mickeline noted anything in particular they had to say, and shared it with the cook for tweaking the recipes, although a bad review was hard to come by from the group. Even Remington's refined palate was pleasantly teased and, as he enjoyed the meal, he found himself taking a few minutes to try to identify spices used in the soup or the salad dressings.
Remington asked Mickeline to bring the cook to the dining room and, rising from his seat, toasted him, causing the older man to blush. There hadn't been a Lord in the castle that had taken the time to acknowledge the staff in any way, never mind toasting one.
Remington suggested that he, Christian, Pace and Fergus walk down to the stables to determine the safety and structure of the buildings, as Laura and Sarah moved to the gallery to relax with a cup of tea for each of them.
"How are you feeling, Sarah? Getting ready?" Laura asked as she watched Sarah rub her belly.
"Babe's getting more and more active as he or she is running out of room. Won't be too much longer now I don't think," Sarah answered.
"Have you thought of names for the baby yet?" Laura asked. "I know Pace is pretty excited. He talked about you and that baby each time I saw him."
Sarah smiled, dropping her eyes to the floor and said "I know, he can't wait to become a Da. I think he's going to be a good one too. He wants to wait until the babe is born before deciding on a name but I've thought of a few. If she's a girl, I'd like to call her Emma Rose and if he's a boy, I'd like to name him after Pace's Granddad, Richard. Call him Ricky for short maybe."
Laura watched Sarah's face as she spoke. It softened when she mentioned the names, relaxed. "Sarah, I'm planning on heading into Dublin in a few days to do some shopping. Would you like to join me? A day out, just for us girls, so to speak," she asked.
Sarah's eyes grew wide, her smile wider. "You mean that? A trip to Dublin? I haven't been there since I was a child!" she exclaimed excitedly.
"Yes, how about Thursday or Friday? I need to wait a few days for the stitches to heal a little more before Mr. Steele will let me out of his sight. And I don't really want to be walking around with this gauze headband. It tends to draw attention in the most unexpected ways," Laura stated, fingering the gauze as she did.
"Mrs. Steele, can I ask you a question?" Sarah asked tentatively, the tone in her voice hesitant.
"What's wrong?" Laura asked, reaching a hand out to her.
Sarah sat down on the arm of one of the overstuffed chairs by the window. "Pace won't tell me what happened in the mine. He won't tell me what he saw before, why you and Mr. Steele had to help bring him home, but last night he had a nightmare. I thought it was from the pain, but I heard him mumbling. He's afraid I think. Afraid McDonough is going to find him and blame him," Sarah said quietly as she stared out of the glass.
Laura chewed her lip, trying to decide what to tell her. "Sarah, I can't tell you everything. That's Pace's story when he's ready. But I can tell you he saved me. We saw the explosive McDonough had set and we were trying to get Mr. O'Leary out when the explosion went off. Pace seemed to know exactly what to do. He pushed O'Leary forward as everything started to collapse then shoved me into a space along the wall, just under a beam covering my body with his. He saved me, Sarah. If he hadn't pushed me I probably would have tried to keep running and I'm not sure what would have happened then," she said.
Sarah looked at Laura, her green eyes wide. She whispered loudly, "He did that? Pace… saved you… while the mine was collapsing?"
Laura walked over to Sarah, putting her arms around the girl. "He did. I told you, he saved me. And now Mr. Steele is going to make sure he doesn't go back there. I'll bet they are at the stables right now, making plans to return them to their previous splendor, with a team of dashing horses!," Laura laughed knowing how Remington could never do anything on a small scale.
At the stables, the four men were doing just that. They had determined the stables could hold twenty horses easily. Fergus and Christian walked the perimeter, checking the fencing for any weak spots while Remington and Pace inspected the stable itself, allowing them to converse freely. As Remington sauntered through the stable, he ran his hand along the wall and stable doors, feeling the smooth wood grain under his fingertips. "Pace, how are the ribs?" he asked, trying to break the ice.
"Sore. I've never had pain like this before," Pace admitted, gently rubbing his side. He stopped walking and sat on a long forgotten stool to rest.
Remington inhaled, the air smelling of old hay, damp earth and wood. "Pace, I still don't have the words to thank you for what you did. I don't know that I'll ever find them. As a child, I learned words can hide so much, but actions speak loudly. You risked your life for my wife's. There is nothing I can say for that. But I was telling the truth when I said you can manage these stables if you think you can," Remington toyed with a piece of hay as he spoke.
"Mr. Steele, between Christian and I… we can do this. What we don't know, well Christian's dad can help guide us. He's a good man, always trying to do right for his family too. That's why we took the jobs in the mine in the first place. Christian wanted to help his family and well, Sarah is my family now," Pace said honestly.
Remington put his hand on Pace's shoulder as he said, "That's the spirit! Let's say we find Fergus and Christian and head back to see what the ladies are up to."
Outside of the stable, they could see Christian and Fergus laughing as they walked. When they got closer, Fergus began a detailed report of the damage to the fences surrounding the paddock. "I think if we started right away, we could get it all done in a week or so," he said.
"Well then Fergus, looks like you have a new position here at Ashford Castle. You will be in charge of the grounds specific to the stables, paddock and livery yard. Can you handle that?" Remington said, as a slow smile crept onto his face.
Fergus's eyes widen when Remington's words sunk in. "My Lord? Do you… do you mean that?" he asked, stuttering.
Remington held his hand out to shake with Fergus, "Only if you're willing to take on the job," he said.
Gripping his hand tightly, Fergus pumped Remington's up and down enthusiastically. "Thank you, my Lord, thank you. Our families thank you. You don't know…" he rambled on.
"I know, Fergus my boy, I do. Just promise me one thing," Remington said nodding his head.
"Anything, my Lord," Fergus said.
"Just promise me you treat this place as you would that babe that Sarah is carrying. That you help care for it and nurture it so it can grow for the future," Remington gestured toward the fields and the stables.
"As if it were my own child, my Lord," Fergus said solemnly as he put his hand over his heart.
"That's all I can ask then," Remington answered. "Now let's see what the ladies are up to, shall we?"
As the four men entered the castle through the side door near the kitchen, they could hear laughter echoing through the halls - Sarah's light giggles followed by Laura's infectious full bellied laugh. Remington looked at the other three, an eyebrow raised, trying to determine what the source of their entertainment could possibly have been. Following the sounds of the laughter to the source, Laura and Sarah were found in the study.
"Stop, stop," Sarah laughed again, trying to get herself under control.
"One more time, please. I've just never seen anything like that before," Laura begged.
Pushing the door open slowly, Remington poked his head around the corner to see Laura and Sarah sitting on the couch. He waved the other men to follow him as he moved into the room.
Sarah was sitting on the couch, her feet propped up on the table in front of her. She had pulled her T shirt up, exposing her swollen belly. Sitting on top of her belly was a small plate of chocolate chip cookies.
Laura was munching a cookie, watching Sarah's belly intently. Sarah giggled, then took another bite of the cookie she had in her hand and a sip of the juice beside her.
"Mrs. Steele? What in the world…." Remington started to ask when the giggling began. He wasn't sure what they were laughing about until he saw the plate moving. Sarah's pale, taut skin was rippling across one side to the other. Each ripple sent the two women into a fit of giggles all over again.
Pace watched, completely fascinated. He moved closer and sat on the table across from Sarah. Reaching out, he touched her bare skin as it rippled underneath.
"Alien," Remington announced. Everyone in the room turned to look at him, confused, except Laura who began laughing even harder.
"Mr. Steele?" Fergus asked.
"Alien. Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Twentieth Century Fox, 1979," he answered. Laura could barely contain herself, she started coughing from laughing so much. "Mrs. Steele, if you could please breathe deeply, you may find you can control yourself."
Fergus was still trying to figure out what Remington was talking about when Christian piped up, "That part in the movie… when the… when the.. thing… exploded out of his chest."
"Precisely my boy. Reminiscent of what we just witnessed I would say," Remington explained, trying hard to supress the smile that was threatening. He was finding great enjoyment from watching Laura's inability to calm herself down. She was practically hyperventilating which brought another thought to mind, "Mrs. Steele, how many of those cookies have you eaten?"
Laura straightened up on the couch, coughing again. "I, um… only two or three," she answered.
"Uh huh, before or after you started laughing," Remington asked smiling, knowing she was probably lying.
Laura narrowed her eyes at him. He knew her so well. "Well, the cook made fresh cookies and asked us to taste them. I ate… two… and Sarah ate a few then… that started happening. So we ate a few more and then you showed up," Laura informed him.
"Can we make that happen again?" Pace asked. He hadn't been paying attention to anything but Sarah's belly which had finally settled down.
Sarah reached out to touch his face. "At home. I'll eat as many cookies as you want, just to see this look on your face over and over again," she said. Moving the plate off her belly, she moved her feet and with a little maneuvering managed to lean forward enough to pull Pace to her to kiss him.
Laura looked at Remington who was currently trying to divert his attention elsewhere to allow Pace and Sarah the private moment without everyone in the room staring at them.
When the young couple finally separated, Remington announced he would have the cook pack up cookies for the group to take home with them. Before he finished speaking, he heard a knock on the door. "My Lord, a phone call for you, Sir," Mickeline said as he opened the door.
"Did the caller give you a name?" Remington asked. Looking at his watch he was trying to calculate the time difference to Los Angeles. No, too early for Mildred if she was calling from the office.
"A Mr. Monroe, sir," Mickeline offered.
"Ah, yes… I've been expecting this. Mrs. Steele, are you feeling well enough to walk our guests to collect the cookies in the kitchen? See if Terrence can drive them home as well. I'll expect to see Fergus and Christian first thing in the morning to start the repairs on the paddock," Remington instructed.
Pace looked up at him, "And me, sir? I can be here as well."
Remington shook his head and said "You need to rest for another day or two. Those ribs heal slower than you think. Besides that, I'm sure Sarah needs you to herself for a bit longer."
Sarah blushed but then remembered what Laura had said about going to Dublin at the end of the week. "Mrs. Steele suggested we make a trip to Dublin on Friday perhaps. Would that give his ribs enough time to heal in order for him to start working again?" she asked.
"My wife is in need of a dress and a trip to Dublin is in order. We shall confirm the details later in the week and if Pace rests between now and then, Friday may be a good day to start. That stable is going to need to be completely cleaned out before we can think of bringing any animals into it. We will also need to inventory the tack left behind," Remington said thoughtfully. "Enjoy the rest of your day, I apologize but I must take this call."
Laura stood and gently guided the group out of the room as Remington picked up the phone. "Monroe, old chap! You're in your office early today," Remington greeted his friend.
"Well my friend, someone needs to work to keep your business running smoothly," Monroe answered.
"To what do I owe the pleasure of this call then?" Remington asked. Monroe was helping with their security contracts while he and Laura were in Ireland for the next few weeks.
"There is one snag with the Crafton House job. Seems old Mr. Crafton didn't realize how disruptive installing a security system can be," Monroe explained. "Threw my men off his property within a few hours of the beginning stages and refuses to allow them access to complete the installation."
Remington pursed his lips, trying to remember the meeting with Mr. Crafton. Then it clicked - large estate, lots of priceless artwork and statuary. His insurance company was refusing to insure him without a security system. He was fighting them tooth and nail but gave in when the company threatened to drop him completely. So he showed up at the agency, a chip on his shoulder and an axe to grind. As Remington tried to explain the details, Crafton had dismissed him, only listening to what Laura had to offer.
"Ah, yes, Mr. Crafton. If I recall, he was rather testy with the entire idea from the start however the mere inkling his insurance company would walk away was enough to leave the man with no other option. I'll have Laura call him. He responded well to her, rather taken with her if I'm not mistaken," Remington said.
"And you think that's wise, Mick?" Monroe asked.
"After the last week here in Ireland, I'm positive Laura will not be returning anyone's attentions other than my own," Remington smiled.
"Ha ha, so, your Miss Holt has finally given in to your charms, Mick?" Monroe laughed. He didn't know all the details of Remington and Laura's relationship but he knew she had been the source of frustration for him for the last few years.
"It's not my charms that attracted her, Monroe, I can assure you. And your lady friend, is she aware of your charms?" Remington teased his friend.
"Karina is one of us, she understands our ways. And she is looking forward to meeting you," Monroe said.
"As I her, to see the one that has captured your heart, my old friend," Remington said. "I may have another investment if you'd be interested. Seems the stables here have been absent of any steeds for some time. I've instructed the paddock and the stable to be repaired and cleaned. Now all we need are some inhabitants."
"Any particular breeds in mind?" Monroe asked. He had extensive knowledge of horses as he had worked at a stable for a few years before his other talents took him on his adventures with Remington.
"I'll leave that up to you, Monroe. Just let me know what the impact on my wallet will be," Remington said.
"Consider it a gift, Mick," Monroe said firmly.
"Monroe…" Remington started but Monroe cut him off.
"A few horses in exchange for my friend's true happiness? A mere pittance," Monroe smiled.
"I don't know what to say," Remington admitted.
"Say nothing, Mick. We shall be in your presence in two weeks time, you can thank me over a drink. Expect to see those horses arrive the beginning of next week. Will that give you enough time for the repairs?" Monroe asked.
"We'll make it happen. Thank you," Remington didn't know what else to say. He was left almost speechless by his friend's generosity.
"Until then. Now, return to Miss Holt. I'm sure she isn't going to take too kindly to me if I keep on the line much longer," Monroe said before hanging up the phone, not waiting for a reply from Remington.
As Remington hung up the phone, Laura returned, alone. "Everything okay with Monroe?" she asked.
"Yes, just a small kink in the installation at the Crafton estate which requires some of your finessing with Mr. Crafton, I believe. Appears he's not happy with the installation process and the slight disruption it is causing," Remington explained.
"I'll call him after I talk to Mildred. Anything else I need to know?" Laura asked.
"Monroe's lady friend's name is Karina. First solid thing about her he's told me. That and she's one of us… Monroe and I… from our past. They'll be here in two weeks," Remington said thoughtfully. "Oh, and one last thing."
"Yes?" Laura looked at him with an eyebrow raised.
"Monroe will be purchasing the horses for us. A wedding gift he said," Remington informed her.
"That's… that's… too much," Laura stuttered.
Remington agreed, "I said the same but Monroe sees it differently, I'm afraid. I believe the phrase he used was 'a mere pittance for our true happiness.'"
"We will have to find a proper way to thank him," Laura answered. Before she could say anything else, Mickeline entered the room once again.
"Mrs. Steele, a call for you this time. Miss Krebs." Mickeline said with a smile.
"Thank you, Mickeline," Laura said. Glancing at her watch, she turned to Remington and stated, "Mildred's in early today." Picking up the phone, she greeted her, "Mildred! Good morning! How's Los Angeles?"
"The weather is perfect, not a cloud in the sky. Very little traffic this morning. The only thing that would make my day better is if my kids were home where they belong," Mildred joked. She loved Laura and Remington as if they were her own children and she was over the moon they finally came to their senses.
"A few more weeks, Mildred. But we'll see you sooner than that. Are the travel plans for everyone still in place? Nothing's changed we need to know about?" Laura asked as Remington moved to the couch to listen nearby.
"Not to the best of my knowledge. Were you able to figure out that mine problem? You know, the drug dealers and stuff?" Mildred was curious. Not being there to see the entire scenario play out was bothering her. She liked being a part of the action, not stuck 5,000 miles away, where all she could do was investigate on the computer.
"We did. McDonough is behind bars now, Pace and Christian both home safe. Mr. Steele and I, no worse for the wear," Laura said, causing Remington to cough.
"Is that the boss? Is he okay? He hasn't caught a cold, has he? The weather was awfully damp," Mildred rambled.
"No, he hasn't caught a cold. I, um, sustained a scratch that required some medical attention, but that's it," Laura admitted.
"It's more than a scratch, Mildred. Took nine bloody stitches to close the damn thing," Remington yelled across the room so Mildred could hear him.
"Nine stitches? Mrs. Steele, are you all right?" Mildred cried.
"I'm fine, Mildred, really," Laura rolled her eyes as she spoke.
Mildred was upset, hearing Laura had been hurt. "Are you sure? I could be there on the next flight… you know, help you out with anything you need," Mildred suggested.
"Mildred, please. I'm fine. Now is there anything going on at the agency we should be aware of, anything that may need our immediate attention?" Laura insisted.
Mildred shook her head, "At the agency, no, that's all under control. But, there is a solicitor who keeps calling for the boss. Said he's from Carter, Faulker, Judge, Taylor and White in London. Something about Daniel Chalmer's will?"
"Daniel's will?" Laura asked as she raised an eyebrow at Remington. He raised his shoulders in response.
"Did he leave a number?" Laura asked.
Mildred answered quickly, "No, I told him where he could find you. He said he was going to send the paperwork directly to Ashford Castle."
"Paperwork, Mildred?" Laura questioned.
"I'm not sure what it involves, he wouldn't give me any details," Mildred explained.
"I guess we'll have to wait and see what comes. Is there anything else, Mildred?" Laura sighed.
"No,Mrs. Steele, that's all. Everything else is under control," Mildred said. "I'll be seeing you in just a couple of weeks. Do you need me to take care of anything else?"
"No, Mildred, you are right on top of everything as usual," Laura stated.
"Ok, give my love to the boss. I'll talk to you soon," Mildred said as she hung up the phone.
Laura hung up the phone and turned to Remington. "Mildred sends her love," she said smiling.
"And what is our Miss Krebs up to?" Remington asked.
"She said a solicitor from London has been calling about Daniel's will. She told him he could find us here so we should be expecting some paperwork," Laura informed him.
Remington pursed his lips together before running a hand across them. "I was, um, expecting that. Not quite this soon but expecting it nonetheless," he said quietly.
"Is there anything I can do?" Laura asked as she moved across the room so sit on the arm of the couch beside him.
Slipping his arms around her, he hugged her as he simply replied, "No."
Laura figured this news was opening the raw wound in his heart so she simply suggested, "Let's go upstairs and take a nap."
Remington turned his head to look up at her, an eyebrow raised.
"A nap, you know, snuggling close, eyes closed, recharge the body for a bit," Laura said lightly.
"Laura, I'm not sure…" Remington began.
"Well, I am. I'm feeling a little drained from all the activity this morning and could use a rest and I'd like my husband to rest with me," she stated.
Remington shook his head again. "Well, if a nap is what my wife wishes, a nap is what she shall get. Oh, before I forget, I'll be going out later with Mickeline. He's informed me of a local band that is playing in the pub tonight. I didn't think you'd feel up to it just yet," he said as he gently reached up and touched the gauze square on her head.
Smiling, Laura answered, "That sounds perfect, I think the doctor would have ordered a quiet night in. I was thinking I may even give Frances a call."
Remington tilted his head, eyebrow cocked. Reaching up, he touched her forehead with the back of his fingers, "Mrs. Steele? Are you feeling ill? Fever?"
"What? Is it wrong that I actually miss talking to Frances? After all, she did call me everyday when she first moved to California even if she drove me crazy," Laura explained.
"And your mother?" Remington teased.
"Don't push it, buster," Laura said firmly as she poked him in the chest.
Blue eyes met brown as they both began to laugh. Remington stood, pulling Laura up with him, hugging her tightly, his chin tucked on her shoulder. Her hands ran along the length of his back, comforting him. "Oh, Laura. You've no idea what you do to me, love," he whispered.
"I think I have an inkling. Let's go take a nap, Mr. Steele," Laura whispered back.
Together, they climbed the stairs to their bedchamber to recharge not only their bodies but their minds and hearts as well.
Laura woke not more than a hour later to a rather insistent knock on their bedchamber door. "Tell them to go away," she muttered as she tried to snuggle closer to Remington's chest.
"In order to do that, love, I'm going to need to get up," Remington said gently as he tried to slide off the bed without moving Laura too much.
"Damn," she swore, "get rid of them."
Remington stood, straightened his shirt before moving to the door. Opening it just a crack, he said, "Mickeline? What is it? Mrs. Steele isn't feeling well and we wish to not be disturbed."
"I understand that, your Lordship, however there is a solicitor here. Says he's from London. Rather insistent fella," Mickeline said apologetically.
"A solicitor? From London?" Remington repeated.
"Yes, sir," Mickeline nodded in affirmation.
"Ah, take him to the study. I'll be down in a minute. Thank you, my good man," Remington said, nervously running a hand through his hair. Closing the door, he moved back to sit on the edge of the bed, "Laura, love, the solicitor Mildred mentioned is here. I'll meet him, you stay here and rest."
Laura's eyes opened slowly. She was processing what he just said. "The solicitor is here? Now?" she said groggily.
"Appears so," Remington answered as he ran his fingers lightly down her cheek. "I'll tell you all about it after. Get some rest. You need it, love," he said as he leaned forward to kiss her forehead.
"No, no, you need me… I can sleep later," Laura groaned as she slowly sat up, trying to clear the sleepy fog from her head.
"Are you sure? I can…" Remington started to argue but Laura cut him off.
"I know you CAN do this by yourself but I want to be there, just in case," she said, running her hand along his arm. "Just give me time to splash some water on my face."
As Laura headed to the bathroom, Remington checked his appearance in the mirror. He brushed his hair back with his hands, buttoned his shirt higher and straightened it out. Laura emerged, looking more awake, her own hair straightened out, the gauze headband noticeably absent. "Laura, where is your...?" he motioned toward her head.
"I'll be fine for a bit. Besides, its making my head itchy," Laura admitted. "Ready, Mr. Steele?"
"As ready as I'll ever be, Mrs. Steele," Remington said, taking her hand as they walked down the steps toward the study where they could hear Mickeline talking.
"Ah, here they are now, Mr. and Mrs. Steele. This is James Cartwright, solicitor for Carter, Faulker, Judge, Taylor and White in London, my Lord," Mickeline made the introductions.
A rather tall, lanky gentleman rose to stand before them. He had dark hair, cut short, sharp features and dark brown eyes. Dressed in a brown, three piece suit, he had an air of authority about him. He spoke with a clipped accent, "Mr. Steele, Mrs. Steele. I have been sent to serve you with the announcement for the reading of the Last Will and Testament for one Daniel Chalmers. You know of him?"
"Yes, yes I do," Remington answered.
Mr. Cartwright stepped forward, handing Remington a thick, sealed, light grey envelope. "The reading will be held on Thursday evening, six o'clock sharp. Should you not be able to attend, please notify the office immediately. I'll be expecting your presence," he said before turning abruptly to Mickeline. "Please show me out. My business is completed."
Remington nervously turned the envelope over in his hands several times as he leaned against the arm of the couch. Laura watched, debating what to say.
"Do you want me to open it?" she asked softly.
"No, no, I'll do it. I'm just not sure… I knew this day was coming… " Remington tripped over his words. Deciding he couldn't find the right words, he slowly tore the envelope open. Pulling the stack of papers out, he skimmed the pages, but stopped as unshed tears blurred his vision. He dropped his head and hands, unable to hide his emotions any longer. Laura stepped forward, pulling his head to her shoulder, wrapping her arms around his back. Remington held her as the tears fell silently, absorbed into Laura's sweater.
They held each other for what felt like an eternity before he finally cleared his throat as he lifted his head. "Laura, I… ah… thank you, love," he whispered, his voice faltering still.
"Shhh, Rem, there's no need to thank me. Do you want me to read these?" Laura said softly as she indicated the papers in his hand. Remington gently shoved the stack toward her, his hands shaking slightly, unable to look at them again. Laura took them, and read quietly, "Dear Mr. Steele. Your presence is requested for the reading of the last will and testament of the deceased, one Daniel Chalmers. Should you be unable to attend, please reserve council with one of our attorneys to represent you for any decisions regarding the estate of Daniel Chalmers as well as any holdings should you be the recipient of any property, investment or residuary estates. Included with this proclamation is a list of all attorneys in our practice as well as the named executor for the deceased, Daniel Chalmers." Flipping the pages, Laura stopped as she read the last page. "Rem, Daniel named you his executor. 'I, Daniel Chalmers, name my son, Remington Steele as sole executor for my estate.' Now we know why the solicitor was so insistent in getting in touch with you."
Remington pulled his mouth tight, then ran his hands across his lips, wiping away the remaining tears that streaked his cheeks. Shaking his head he said, "I don't know what to say, Laura."
"There's nothing to say. I think Daniel said it all. He named his son," Laura said as she put her hand on his chest in comfort.
"But how do we know he's telling the truth? How do we know he wasn't lying to all of us, eh? I've no proof, other than his word, that he is, was, who he said he was," Remington's mood changed quickly from grief to anger. He pulled himself to his full height then, stepping away from Laura began pacing, a sure sign he was agitated.
"We don't know, do we? We don't know if he was really your father or if he took it upon himself to think of himself as your father. We might never know the truth, but maybe, just maybe there's something here," Laura held up the papers in her hand, "something in his estate, his loft, that is proof. Maybe he's hidden something away all these years. Something you've never seen."
"But why wait, Laura? Why? So I can be tortured by… by… his memory? By all the could have beens? Why didn't he tell me twenty years ago, dammit, when he found me on the bloody streets of London?" Remington paced, frustrated, angry, each question a turn of his body, each thought a stab with his hands to the space around him.
Shrugging her shoulders in defeat, Laura tossed her hands in the air, "I don't know. I don't know why he waited. But I do know one thing. He loved you. He loved you so much he protected you all these years, protected your heart."
'My heart, Laura? What… how can you say that? How can you say the man that spent twenty years building the ultimate con protected my heart? Bloody hell, he almost destroyed it, he damn well did. If he had told me, gave me any indication way back when…" Remington was borderline furious, punctuating each word with a jab or swing of his hand, the muscles in his jaw flexing furiously.
"If he had, I never would have met you. There would be no Remington Steele, no us. We can't change the past, Rem, but we can plan the future. Our future, together," Laura stood up in front of him, her hands on his chest to stop him from pacing, to try to calm him.
"You're right, Mrs. Steele, you're right," he said sounding almost defeated.
"I don't want to be right," she answered him.
"Then what is it that you do want?" Remington asked.
"I want you to know that I love you and we will get through this, like everything else. It's just another test for us, but we'll pass it with flying colors," Laura smiled weakly, hoping he would respond.
Sighing, Remington hugged her closely as he said, "Any test taken for you, my bride, is well worth it."
Knowing Remington's mood was still teetering between anger and grief, Laura had a suggestion. "How about we have a cup of tea then take a stroll down by the lough?" she asked.
Remington nodded, "Tea and a stroll, eh. I think I can handle that."
Together they wandered to the kitchen where, after starting the water for the tea, found Mickeline in the office on the phone with Mildred. "Yes, Mildred, I was able to work the deals with the bank, just like you suggested. I can't wait for you to return… how many more days is that? I'll be counting them down for sure," he said smiling, not having noticed Laura and Remington standing in the hall.
Without a sound Laura motioned with her finger for Remington to follow her, leaving Mickeline none the wiser to their presence. "Sounds like Mickeline and Mildred are having a long distance thing," she laughed.
"A thing? He sounds like a love sick puppy," Remington joked.
"Are you still up for heading to the pub with Mickeline tonight? If you're not, I'm sure Mickeline would understand," Laura asked softly.
"No, I supposed it would be good to head out tonight. Drink a toast to Daniel I suppose," Remington said, running his hand across his face, trying to keep his emotions in check.
"Hopefully find a band for our wedding while you're toasting Daniel," Laura reminded him of the real reason he was going.
Remington chuckled, "Did I share with you the name of said band, Laura?"
Laura narrowed her eyes at him, trying to figure out what the joke was, "No, but I think you're about to tell me, aren't you?"
"Hot...house… flowers," Remington said, chuckling still.
"Hothouse Flowers is the name of the band? You're going to book a band called Hothouse Flowers for our wedding?" Laura said attempting to sound serious when she really wanted to laugh just because he was laughing.
"I didn't say I was going to book them tonight, Laura, I simply said I would go to hear them," Remington tried to clarify. Just at that moment, the tea kettle began to whistle. "Saved by the bell," he muttered under his breath. Preparing two cups of tea, Remington handed one to Laura before taking her free hand to hold in his. "Shall we sit in the gallery or would you prefer to walk?" he asked.
"Walk, I think," Laura replied heading for the door just past Mickeline's office. As they passed, they could see Mickeline looking at a few sample catalogs. "Hello, Mickeline, what are you looking at?"
"Ah, Mrs. Steele, just a few catalogs of linens. We need to order more but the selections…. I wasn't aware there were so many choices to be made. I'm at a loss as to where to begin," Mickeline admitted. He was overwhelmed by all the changes being made.
"Maybe when Mildred arrives back at the castle she can sit with you and help you out," Laura suggested.
"Ms. Krebs, yes, that might be a good idea. She has such a keen eye for these things, doesn't she," Mickeline's eyes lit up at the mere mention of Mildred's name.
"That she does, Mickeline, that she does. Mrs. Steele and I will be outside walking about the lough should anyone else need us," Remington informed him. "And we are still on for our venture to the pub this evening?" he asked.
"Yes, my lord. Say we leave here about 7:30? Get a good spot at the pub. A few pints before the music begins," Mickeline suggested.
"Well then, Mrs. Steele and I will be needing dinner before that then. Don't want to be drinking on an empty stomach. Please tell the cook we'll be expecting our meal to be ready at six. And we'd like to be served in the gallery," Remington stated, watching Laura's face for any sign she wasn't agreeable to his plans. Seeing none, he continued, "We'll let the cook decide on the evening meal, although nothing too heavy this evening."
"Very good, your Lordship. I'll let him know," Mickeline said.
Laura reached out and took Remington's hand as they walked down the hall and outside. Sipping her tea, she walked, allowing Remington's long stride to set their pace. Once they reached the water's edge they followed it silently.
Looking around Laura stopped and released his hand as she was taken in by the scenery before her. Remington stopped, "Laura?"
"This is it," she declared. Looking around she took a few steps away from him before stopping again, looking from the castle to the water and said it again, "This is it."
"This is what precisely?" Remington asked suddenly confused.
"This is it. This is the spot. I don't know why we didn't see it before," Laura said excitedly.
"Mrs. Steele, excuse me if I seem lagging on the thought train, however, what are we talking about now?" Remington had no idea what she was looking at that had her so excited.
"As we were walking down here, I was thinking about our wedding. The music, the food and the photographer. This is the spot where I want our pictures taken. Right here. The water on this side, the castle on the other," Laura gestured with her hands, effectively spilling her tea in the process.
"Laura… give me your cup before you drop it…." Remington removed the mug from her hand. He placed the mugs down on a bench nearby, then turned to face her, a smile slowly forming on his face.
Laura stopped and looked at him, "What?"
"You. I don't know how you do it. When we came out here, I didn't know what to feel… angry at Daniel, grief… I don't know… but you. You just managed to twist my heart into… into….mush for lack of a better term," Remington said as he reached out to hold her in his arms, resting his chin on the top of her head.
They stood that way for a few minutes before Laura broke the silence, "You mean you don't agree this would be the perfect spot for pictures?"
Remington couldn't suppress the laugh that bubbled up from his chest. "This, Mrs. Steele, is the perfect spot just because you see it to be. Let's walk some more, shall we?" Remington said.
Collecting their now empty mugs, the pair walked, occasionally swinging their hands, now and then Remington bringing their hands to brush his lips across her fingers. After almost an hour, they made their way back to the castle. They had walked in almost complete silence, yet, it was the unspoken words that calmed Remington. By the time they returned to castle, his mood had improved greatly and a thought had occurred to him. Dropping their mugs in the kitchen, together, they moved to their bedchamber.
"Laura, how about before dinner, I run a bath for you, help wash your hair again," he suggested.
Laura looked at him, smiling, "That sounds wonderful but I thought I was trying to make you feel better?"
"You have, love, in ways you might not understand. We'll have to make plans to travel to London as well for the reading. I don't think I want to make it an extended stay so let's say we leave Wednesday and return Friday. That will put a damper on your plans to shop with Sarah," Remington said thoughtfully.
"Well, under the circumstances, I'm sure Sarah will understand if we need to postpone our shopping trip by one day. She and I can shop on Saturday," Laura answered.
Remington nodded in agreement. "Then it's decided. I'll have Mickeline make the arrangements for us for the trip to London. Now, let's get this bath started for you," he said as he moved to the bathroom and turned on the water.
A short time later, Laura's hair was washed and she was relaxing in the large tub when she heard the distinct click of the door to their bedchamber closing. Closing her eyes, she couldn't help but wonder where he was heading.
After getting Laura settled in the bath, Remington slipped out of their room. As he and Laura had walked, his mind kept wandering back to the last conversation he and Daniel had. He needed to feel close to him at that moment so he briskly walked the halls of the castle to the room Daniel had stayed in. His belongings had been removed but somehow, his presence still hung in the room. Remington touched the dresser lightly, traced the poster at the end of the bed with his fingers before moving to the bench Daniel had last sat.
"Ah, Daniel, I don't know what to say, mate," Remington said quietly to the empty room. "You've done it now, I'll tell you. If you ever thought I was angry at you before… well... " Remington paused. Was he really angry at Daniel? "I don't know, Daniel. I don't know why you did it, why you waited and I hope I find some answers in London, but bloody hell, if this is one of your cons… I'll never forgive you. But I guess that doesn't matter now does it. Laura's an amazing woman and if it wasn't for you… she and I would never have found each other, so for that, I thank you, my old friend."
Remington looked around the room again, sensing a change in the atmosphere but he couldn't find a reason for it. "Daniel… if you're…" he said quietly but shook his head, berating himself for his active imagination. Standing, he surveyed the room one last time before leaving, closing the door behind him as he walked back to where Laura was waiting for him.
Laura was already dressing when Remington returned to their room. She had decided comfort over appearance, choosing to wear loose fitting sweatpants and a long sleeved T shirt. Thanks to Remington's help, her hair was brushed back, antibiotic ointment applied to the stitches and without too much convincing the gauze headband was forgone for the evening. They still had some time before dinner so while Remington showered, Laura spent a few minutes at her barre stretching out a few tight muscles. Remington dressed in dark jeans and a light blue sweater for the evening, pulling out his brown leather jacket and a brown tweed flat cap, the bill of it bent just so. Tossing the cap and the jacket on the bed, Remington asked, "Mrs. Steele, shall we see what the cook has prepared for us this evening?"
"By all means, Mr. Steele, lead the way," Laura answered as she linked her arm in his.
In the gallery, a small cart had been left beside the table which had been set for dinner. Lifting the covers, they found a simple meal of chicken parmigiana with penne pasta, garlic bread, and a tossed salad. A bottle of Merlot as well as water glasses were left. Remington didn't open the wine, choosing to forgo it for both of them. Laura just raised an eyebrow to question him. "I'll be imbibing later, Laura, and I'm not sure mixing wine and Guinness will be beneficial for my head this evening. As for you, wine and any pain medication you choose this evening will not mix well either," he explained.
"Just remember, one of you needs to drive," Laura said. "And you need to get back, preferably in one piece."
"Laura, do think I would jeopardize both life and limb for a pint? Honestly, who do you think I am?" Remington asked in mock annoyance. Laura didn't answer him, she simply pursed her lips and raised an eyebrow. Once their meal was finished, Remington loaded the cart and pushed it back to the kitchen to converse with the cook. They had enjoyed the meal although he had a few suggestions on how to tweak the sauce just a bit. The cook nodded in agreement, promising to make the changes for Remington to sample.
Remington returned to Laura in the gallery where she was waiting, carrying a cup of tea for her. Laura willingly accepted it as she said, "Are you leaving now?"
"About five minutes or so. Mickeline was on the phone with Mildred again. Bugger waved me off," Remington teased.
"Do you want me to wait up for you?" Laura asked.
"If you want. I've no idea how late we might be. Just hoping this night will be worth my while," Remington checked his watch again. "I better go see if I can drag Mickeline off the line. Don't want to be late," he said. Laura stood nervously trying to decide what to do. She knew his mood had been pensive so should she hug him goodbye? She didn't need to decide, as Remington stepped forward to kiss her lips lightly, "I'll be back as soon as I can, love." With that, he turned, licking his lips as if committing the taste of her to memory as he walked down the hall to collect Mickeline.
Mickeline was waiting for him, a set of keys in hand. "Terrence said you were partial to the Porsche," he stated.
Thinking fast, Remington shook his head. "No, I think we need something a little less conspicuous for this evening. What else have we got available?" he said.
Mickeline was surprised but didn't question him as he hung the keys on the hook. Choosing another set, he asked, "How about the Merkur?" He walked to a small sedan parked just outside the garage.
"Excellent choice, my good man. Now which way to the pub?" Remington took the keys and climbed in.
He easily followed Mickeline's directions, arriving at the same pub he and Roselli had fought in just a few weeks prior. Once inside, the bartender recognized Mickeline immediately, greeting the man, "Who's yer friend? Looks kinda familiar, eh?"
Remington held out his hand, "Remington Steele from Los Angeles. I, um, want to apologize for my behavior a few weeks past and pay for any damages."
The bartender laughed heartily, "No need my new friend from Los Angeles. That's a regular occurrence 'round here. I keep a carpenter on staff just for days like that. What can I get for ya?"
Remington and Mickeline laughed, "A couple of pints then, my good man."
The bartender quickly filled two glasses and handed them to the men. "Ya want me to start a tab?" Remington nodded affirmatively. Taking their glasses, he and Mickeline parked themselves at the end of the bar, closest to the makeshift stage where the band was still tuning their instruments.
Looking around, Remington scanned the modest crowd. He found it hard to believe that this many people would be hanging around a pub on a Monday night, unless there was a reason to. Just as he began to turn back toward Mickeline, he caught site of Christian. Making eye contact, Christian waved to him before turning to someone beside him who was bent forward speaking to another patron. Christian tugged on the sleeve of his companion and as Remington took a drag of his beer, he nearly choked on it. Walking toward him with Christian was an older version of a cousin from his past.
"Can't be," Remington uttered, just loud enough for Mickeline to hear.
"Can't be what?" the older gentleman asked.
Before Remington could answer Christian was standing before him with his companion. "Mr. Steele! I didn't expect to see you here. I'd like you to meet my father…" Christian began.
"Paddy?" Remington whispered loudly, not believing his eyes. He stood, now eye level with the familiar face.
"Have we met before?" Christian's father asked. Narrowing his eyes, he studied a speechless Remington for a minute. "Wait… Seanie?"
Remington exhaled loudly at the name he hadn't heard since he was 4 or 5 years old. "Paddy… I didn't know… how…" he tripped over this words.
"Seanie! I haven't seen you…. since…. since…." Paddy O'Malley was having a hard time remembering the last time he had seen his cousin.
Remington rubbed his mouth, thinking. "I wasn't more than a tot but if I remember, your mother was sick… consumption….um… tuberculosis wasn't it? I don't remember much, just her in bed, pale… so pale…" Remington shuddered at the memory. He was a small boy, hiding behind Paddy's long legs, listening to the coughing, scared.
"That's when Anne came and took you. I don't know what was worse, Mama being so sick or your cries the day she came," Paddy said solemnly. Without another word, Paddy threw his arms around Remington, effectively spilling his beer on the bar beside them in the process.
"I don't know… I didn't know Christian… how?" Remington was still confused, the words not coming out of his brain the way he wanted them to.
Christian just stood watching the exchange between the two men. He was trying to figure out what was going on when the pieces began to connect. "Wait… Dad…. are you saying… you and Mr. Steele know each other? From when you were kids, before Nanna died?"
Paddy looked at his son, trying to figure out how to explain it when Remington spoke, "Your dad and I… were… maybe… cousins. You see my mother died shortly after I was born from what I've been told and I was sent to live with different family members. The fondest memories I have are from the time I lived with your dad and your Nanna."
Christian's eyes grew wide as realization set in. "I'm related to the lord of Ashford Castle," he said.
"The what?" Paddy wasn't sure he heard his son correctly.
Christian smiled and said, "I guess a formal introduction is necessary. Dad, I'd like you to meet, Remington Steele, the Lord of Ashford Castle."
"Well, I'll be damned," Paddy said, stunned.
Remington rubbed his mouth nervously, trying to decide what to say next. Looking at the faces before him, an idea came to him. Turning to the bartender he said, "Another round please," He held up 4 fingers to indicate how many beers were needed. The bartender nodded before turning away. A few minutes later, Remington was passing the beers out to the group. "I supposed a toast is necessary. To long lost family," he said simply.
Paddy raised his glass. "And stories untold," he added.
"And what stories might those be?" a familiar voice boomed from a few feet away. Turning toward it, Remington clenched his jaw as he saw Anthony Roselli strolling toward them.
"Antony. Why are you here?" he managed through tight teeth. Remington was barely hanging onto his emotional balance as it was, but seeing Roselli was almost enough to push him over the edge.
"I heard this band was pretty good, thought I'd see for myself," Tony answered casually.
"I mean here, Antony, back in Ireland, back in Glen Cree," Remington clarified.
"I think you know. I need to talk to her, Steele," Tony said firmly.
"My wife? As much as I hate to say this, Antony, I believe she needs to converse with you as well. Set the record straight as it may be," Remington agreed. "Let's say, tomorrow. One o'clock?"
"And Laura's not going to care that you set this up?" Tony challenged him.
"No, actually, Antony, my wife and I had discussed this exact scenario. We feel a conversation between you and her is in order given the circumstances of the past month," Remington answered stiffly.
"How's her head?" Tony asked, remembering how he had seen Laura the day before.
"Healing. My wife is a bit of the stubborn sort, you see. She's not going to let something like that keep her down for long," Remington stated.
At this, Christian jumped in, "Mr. Steele, I couldn't believe Mrs. Steele this morning. If I hadn't been there yesterday, I never would have guessed she hurt her head in that mine."
Remington cringed a little when he saw the expression on Paddy's face as he listened to his son. It was obvious Christian hadn't told Paddy what had transpired over the last week. Paddy gave Christian the stern look that said he had a lot of explaining to do later. Ignoring Roselli, Remington put his arm around Paddy and said, "Don't be too hard on him. He's a good boy and he was a tremendous help the last few days. If you're free for breakfast, I'll introduce you to my wife and together we'll tell you the whole story. Christian, you and Fergus will be down at the paddock in the morning, if memory serves me right."
"I'll be picking him up as the sun rises, my Lord," Christian confirmed.
"Very good. I'll need you both to coordinate a list of repair supplies you'll be needing so we can get those ordered," Remington stated. Turning to Mickeline, who had been quietly listening to the unexpected reunion, he said, "Christian and Fergus will be repairing the stables, the paddock. Fergus will be in charge of maintaining the paddock area from now on and Pace and Christian will be the stable managers."
Mickeline smiled, "Very good, your Lordship. I had some concerns over that area but my attention has been pulled elsewhere recently."
Tony listened then added snidely, "So what, now you're giving the orders? You swept right in and took over?"
Remington narrowed his eyes at him, "No, Antony as the Lord of the Castle it is my duty to be sure the castle is running smoothly. By delegating responsibilities, not only will the work that is needed will get done but Mickeline here won't feel any undue stress over it."
"But I thought you were dumping the whole thing?" Tony asked.
"Ah, Antony, at one point yes, I had considered attempting to sell the castle however after careful examination of all the options, Mickeline had the idea of turning the castle into hotel, which Laura and I fully support. So with help from Ms. Krebs, he has spent the last week or so working with the local lending establishments to procure credit in which to make the necessary upgrades. Not that any of this is your business, mind you," Remington stated.
Before Tony had a chance to respond, the lead singer of the band stepped up to the microphone to introduce the members of the band and their first song, a cover version of John Waite's Missing You. The hard edge of the lead singer's deep voice was softened simply by the lyrics of the song itself. Their second song was a traditional Irish pub song to which most of the patrons cheerfully sang along.
The third song on their musical set was another cover to the popular song Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News. Remington couldn't help but relish in the idea that at that moment in time he could raise the parallels between Marty McFly from Back to the Future (Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson, Christopher Lloyd, Universal, 1985) and his own life where his past and present were currently colliding with unexpected results.
The band continued alternating songs between covers of popular hits, traditional Irish songs and even a few originals they had written themselves. Remington was impressed with the expanse of their music as well as the band itself. The last song they played before they broke for the evening hit home for Remington. It took every ounce of strength he had left to control his emotions as the band sang their version of Hard Habit To Break by Chicago. The first two verses tore at the fragile wound Daniel's death had left on his heart.
"I guess I thought you'd be here forever,
Another illusion I chose to create.
You don't know what ya got until it's gone,
And I found out a little too late.
I was acting as if you were lucky to have me,
Doin' you a favor I hardly knew you were there
But then you were gone and it all was wrong,
Had no idea how much I cared. "
Before the chorus had even begun, Remington excused himself to step outside, fighting the tears that were threatening to spill down his face. He walked as quickly as he could away from the pub into a side alley where he leaned against the the wall, partially hidden in the shadows, drawing in harsh breaths to try to calm himself. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Paddy looking for him. Pushing himself upright, he stood as close to the building as he could, hoping he wouldn't be seen, but Paddy had caught his movement and rushed down the alley.
"Seanie, are you all right? You're not sick are you?" Paddy asked. He could see the tear streaks on what was now Remington's pale face.
Embarrassed, Remington wiped his face as he cleared his throat. "No, not at all… I just… ah… needed some fresh air, that's all. The smoke… starting to get to me… you know, irritating the eyes," he said, hoping Paddy would believe him, but by the look on his face, he knew he didn't.
"The smoke… it bothered me a lot too after Mama died. Was it someone close to you?" Paddy offered, hoping Remington would understand.
Still trying to regain his composure, Remington nodded sharply, "Yeah, you could say that. Listen, Paddy, I'd rather not… discuss… this," he motioned to the the alley, "with everyone else you know. I've built an image, especially with Christian, that I'd like to try to maintain if possible."
"I get that. Maybe tomorrow, over breakfast you can tell me more," Paddy said as he put his arm around Remington's shoulders as they began to walk back to the entrance of the pub. "Seanie, can I ask you something?"
Remington stopped walking to look at him, "Of course," he answered.
"How in bloody hell did you get the name Remington Steele?" Paddy asked.
Laughing loudly, Remington said, "That is a long story, much too long for tonight. Tomorrow over breakfast, I'll have my wife, Laura, help tell it."
Back inside, the band finished their set, thanking the audience. Remington stood beside the stage and waited until he could get the lead singer's attention. "Excuse me, Remington Steele," he began to introduce himself.
"Liam Ó Maonlaí," Liam answered shaking hands. "What can I do for you?"
"Liam, first I want to say well done. You boys put on a wonderful show," Remington smiled.
"Thanks, mate. Always good to hear someone liked it," Liam laughed.
"Second, how would you like another gig? It's local… right here at Ashford Castle," Remington began to explain.
"Ashford Castle, you say? I heard they just got themselves a new Lord of the manor over there," Liam tilted his head, a little confused.
"That is correct, there is a new Lord," Remington said hurriedly. He was anxious to book the band and finalize plans for the wedding. "Now this gig is a rather special one. It would be on Wednesday evening, two weeks coming. Would that fit into your schedule?"
Liam looked at Remington again before saying, "Listen, mate, I don't know who you are, but I'm not gonna be booking anything at Ashford Castle without the new Lord's permission."
Remington interrupted him in a slightly clipped tone, "Liam? I AM the new Lord of Ashford Castle and I'd like your band to play at my wedding in two weeks time. Now, are you available on that date or not?"
Liam's mouth dropped open, shocked. Stuttering a reply he said, "Yes, sir, yes, my Lord, Wednesday, two weeks, your wedding. We can, we can be there."
Nodding, Remington clapped Liam on the shoulder as he replied, "Looking forward to it."
Remington threaded his way through the crowd to find Mickeline standing alone at the end of the bar. Looking around, Remington asked,"Where'd they go?"
"Young Christian mentioned tomorrow was going to be an early morn so they took their leave. Looks like the band is done for the evening, too. We should go before this crowd tries to pull us into a few rounds," Mickeline suggested.
Outside where the noise volume was much quieter, Remington turned to Mickeline, stating, "I want to thank you for the suggestion of that band, Mickeline. They were quite good, much better than I had anticipated in fact. I'm sure Mrs. Steele is going to thoroughly enjoy them for entertainment. Now the last item on her agenda is to find a photographer."
Mickeline smiled at Remington, and said, "Glad I could be of service, your Lordship. Now a photographer, you say? I may know of a lass that may provide the services you'll be needing. She's just starting out but has a keen eye for detail."
Climbing into the car, Remington sat and thought for a moment, gently rubbing his mouth with his hand. "Just starting out? I'm sure my wife will want someone established, with good references and a portfolio. Our first ceremony left a lot to be desired so I'm sure she'll be wanting every last detail to be perfect," he said thoughtfully. He knew Laura was fully committed to the entire wedding planning process now and an unseasoned photographer may not fit the bill.
"A portfolio she does have, Mr. Steele and a beautiful one at that. She's taken photographs all around the castle and of every family in the surrounding area. She's just returned from University with a degree in art. Smart lass, she is," Mickeline said proudly.
Remington started the car and as he dropped it into gear, turned to look at Mickeline. "Why do I get the distinct impression you know this lass quite well?" he asked suspiciously.
"Ay, that I do, Mr. Steele, you see Kaitlyn is my niece, my brother's oldest girl. First O'Flynn to graduate from University and a fine example she is," he answered, a wide smile spreading across his face.
"And this brother? Is it the same brother that is currently commissioned to produce the engagement and wedding band for my wife?" Remington asked.
Laughing, Mickeline answered, "One and the same. She inherited his eye, that she did."
Remington nodded, "Well then Mickeline, it seems Mrs. Steele is going to be very busy tomorrow. Can you arrange for… Kaitlyn… to come by the castle in the evening? Say five o'clock?"
Mickeline nodded enthusiastically, "I'll ring her as soon as we arrive at the castle. Anything else you need from me this evening?"
Remington laughed, "No, Mickeline, I think you've been worth your weight in gold this evening."
The two men laughed as they drove the next few minutes back to Ashford Castle. Parking the car just outside the garage, they entered in the side door where they parted ways. Remington thanked him again before heading up to find Laura in their bed chamber. It was just after eleven and he wasn't sure if she would be asleep or not.
As Remington entered the dark room, he toed off his shoes to try to remain as quiet as possible to not wake Laura. He could see her form on the bed, partially curled up on the side he had been sleeping on, his pillow beside her. Quietly, he undressed, pulling on a pair of pajama pants before climbing onto the bed. He gently coaxed the pillow out of her hands as he moved to lay beside her. "Rem?" Laura spoke, her voice barely a whisper.
"It's me, love, go back to sleep," he answered, brushing her hair off her forehead where he leaned down to give it a gentle kiss.
"How was the band?" she asked, sleepily.
"Quite good but we'll talk about it in the morning. You're going to have a busy day tomorrow, you need your rest," Remington explained quietly hoping she would fall back to sleep.
Pushing up onto her elbows, Laura opened her eyes slowly. "What do you mean I'm going to have a busy day? Mr. Steele, what is going on?" she asked suspiciously.
Pursing his lips together, Remington silently berated himself for saying anything. He knew Laura wasn't going to go back to sleep now until she knew exactly what was going on. Taking a deep breath, he explained, "Well, let's see, Antony will be here around one so you can talk to him, you'll have a meeting with an up and coming photographer at five and oh yes, my cousin will be here for breakfast."
Laura blinked several times, processing what he just said. Finally deciding she needed clarification she said, "A photographer? You found a photographer?"
"Correction, Mickeline found her, in a way. It's his niece who has recently graduated from University with a degree in art. She'll bring her portfolio," he stated, settling himself on the pillow, hoping Laura would take the hint and go back to sleep.
"And you saw Tony tonight? At the pub?" Laura continued.
"Yes, told him you need to have a discussion with him regarding the events of the last few weeks. He agreed," Remington said as he closed his eyes.
"One last thing, Mr. Steele. Did you say your COUSIN was coming for breakfast?" Laura sat upright, as realization finally set in.
"Yes, Laura, but really, can we discuss this in the morning, please? It's a long story and well, I'm rather tired. I promise you, I'll explain the whole thing in the morning. Please, let's just get some sleep," Remington tried to sound irritated, hoping she would just let it go for the moment.
"But I thought…" Laura started.
"I know how it sounds, Laura. As fate would have it, Christian's father, Paddy, is a cousin of mine. Or at least that's my understanding of it. It was in his home I spent the better part of two years around the time I was three or four years old. I barely remember it however, his face I would never forget, nor him, mine. When his mother became ill with consumption… eh…. Tuberculosis, I was picked up by another cousin, Anne. That was the end of my time there. But Paddy will be here tomorrow for breakfast and honestly, maybe he has more answers for me. But for tonight, please, can we rest?" Blue eyes filled with emotions stared into dark brown ones. Even in the dim light of the room, Laura could see the glistening tears unshed once again.
Snuggling onto his chest, Laura played with the dark hairs beneath her fingers. Her mind was now reeling with everything he had just said. Possibly finding a photographer, check. One item off her mental checklist of wedding issues that needed to be addressed. Remington bumping into Tony at the pub, perfect, less work they needed to do to find him. But finding a cousin… a family member of Remington's… someone who knew him as a child, who may have known his birth mother. Well, that was icing on the proverbial cake. She grinned at the mere thought they could get some answers about who he really was.
"Let it go, Laura," Remington groused. He knew she was awake and her mind was ticking away. Raising his head just a little, he gently kissed the top of hers, avoiding the line of stitches. "Get some rest. You're going to need all that energy tomorrow."
Sighing, Laura stopped moving her fingers, allowing the earthy scent of him to relax her. Remington put his arms around her, pulling her closer, protectively. Giving in, Laura closed her eyes and together they drifted off to sleep.
Laura woke as a single ray of sunlight found its way across her pillow. Blinking in the bright light, she took a few moments trying to figure out what was different. The room was the same, the warm body curled up behind her was the same but something seemed different. Then it dawned on her, the discomfort on her head was nearly gone. Hesitantly, she touched the area surrounding the stitches, feeling very little pain. Smiling, she shimmied backward toward Remington's body on the bed. He pulled her closer, and in a sleepy voice whispered, "Go back to sleep. It's too early."
Laura rolled over to face him, and asked, "Aren't we having company for breakfast?"
"Yes, love, we are, but I'm sure it's much too early to wake now," he murmured.
Twisting her mouth slightly, Laura began thinking. Her head wasn't hurting so maybe, if Remington helped her, she could shower and wash her hair, leaving it curly so she wouldn't have to wear the gauze headband and the curls would help hide the stitches. Reaching over to touch his face, she whispered, "Rem, can you help me shower?"
Sleepy blue eyes opened, and an eyebrow raised at her questions. "Um, Mrs. Steele, I think that's one of the best offers I've had to get out of bed," he teased.
Laura laughed, "I didn't mean it like that… we shouldn't… not yet. I just need help washing my hair again."
Remington groaned loudly. "It's not that I don't understand the whole process of a woman's cycle because I do, but, um, how many more days can I expect to be… put on hold so to speak?" he asked.
Leaning forward to kiss his forehead, she said, "Just one more day… maybe two at the most."
"Uh huh, and you're asking me to join you in the shower for what, precisely?" Remington asked again.
"If you can help me wash my hair, I can let it go curly. It's not hurting anymore so if I wear my hair down, then I can hide the stitches a little," she explained rationally.
"Well, then, if that will make you happy, Mrs. Steele, let's get you in the shower," Remington sighed. He knew today was going to be a long day for Laura, possibly emotional, so he wanted to make sure it started off as smoothly as possible.
Laura walked into the bathroom and turned the shower on. Taking care of her morning business, she stripped down and stepped into the hot stream, careful not to wet her head as she waited for Remington. A minute or two later, the shower curtain was pushed aside and he stepped in behind her. Almost immediately, his desire for her began to cloud his senses. Seeing her standing before him, water spilling over her naked, lithe body was almost too much for him. Pulling her close, he wrapped his arms around her, pressing her back to his chest as he kissed her neck and shoulder. Laura groaned inwardly as her body began to respond to his. "Rem, we can't. I mean we shouldn't…but then again...," she managed weakly.
Raising his head from her shoulder, he turned her around while stepping out of the hot spray. Taking her face in his hands, he kissed her, slowly at first but with unmistakable desire. "Then again, what, love?" he asked seductively. Without waiting for an answer, he pressed her body against the cool tile wall, causing her to shiver as he devoured her lips with his.
As Laura brought her hands up his back, pulling him close, his desire pressing against her, she attempted to be coherent, "Rem, I'm just not comfortable with…. I've just never….damn… I can't...," she managed in his ear while she felt herself spiralling down in a storm of sensuality.
As he continued to sprinkle kisses down her neck, she firmly reigned in her senses and turned the tide on him by reaching down and wrapping her hand around his now throbbing member. Remington bucked his hips in response. "Lau-ra… you just said…" Remington began.
"I know what I said for me but that doesn't mean I can't… take care of business… for you," she said suggestively, as she began to stroke him.
Remington reached down to still her hand as he said, "As wonderful as that feels, that is not what I need, love, and as much as I'm enjoying the feel of your soft and, er, very talented hand wrapped around me, I'll ask we hold off until we can both enjoy ourselves, eh?"
Laura narrowed her eyes, knitting her eyebrows together, trying to figure out what angle he might be working. In all her history with men, none of them had ever refused the offer of release. Remington could see the confusion on her face and, dropping his head and giving it a slight shake, he blew out a hesitant breath as he smiled, "Uh, Laura, wanting you as much as I do, any release now would only be a tease. It won't be until I can properly make love to you again that my desire will be sated, and even then, it will be but a temporary reprieve. In truth, it may take an entire lifetime to quench that thirst."
"Oh," Laura was speechless, stunned by the depth of devotion his words revealed.
Without another word, Remington moved her body toward the water spray again, only this time her back was facing the water spray. Tilting her head, he carefully wet as much of it as he could, then lathered the wet curls with shampoo. Laura couldn't help but lean her head forward onto his chest, humming happily. Remington smiled at the sound as he rinsed her hair before working the conditioner into the curls. Lifting her head slightly, Laura pulled him down for a sweet kiss, she said, "Thank you. This is so much better than showering alone."
Remington kissed her back, trying hard to reign in his libido. "You want help washing anything else, Mrs. Steele?" he asked, his voice husky.
"I think I can take care of the rest myself, Mr. Steele. But my offer is still there if you need any help with…" Laura began but was interrupted by an insistent knocking on their bedchamber door.
"I'll go, " Remington said as he quickly climbed out of the shower, grabbing a towel to rub across his wet body as he called, "One minute! Just give me a minute!" Cinching the towel around his waist, he padded to the door, opening it just a crack to see who it was. "Mickeline! What's…"
"I'm sorry, your Lordship, I don't mean to interrupt but Christian and Fergus are needing your attention at the paddock immediately. Christian also mentioned his father will be here in 45 minutes, as well," Mickeline explained
"Thank you, Mickeline. I'll be down in a few minutes. Can you have coffee and tea ready for Mrs. Steele and myself?" Remington asked. "And something for the boys to eat perhaps," he added.
"Yes, Mr. Steele. I'll take care of that now," Mickeline said as he turned away and headed down the stairs.
Back in the bathroom, Laura was just stepping out of the shower, wrapping a towel tightly around her small frame. Walking into the bedroom, Remington walked past her toward the bathroom. She raised a hand to his chest to stop him, she asked, "What's going on? Is everything all right?"
"Yes, I think so. I need to finish my shower quickly to meet Christian and Fergus at the stables. Paddy will be here soon so if you wouldn't mind, Mrs. Steele, I'll be needing you to entertain him until I return. With any luck, I won't be long," he explained before closing the bathroom door.
Laura heard the shower turn on again so she dressed quickly. She ran her fingers through her hair, carefully arranging the soft, wet curls to fall over the line of stitches. When she was satisfied, she headed down the stairs toward the kitchen in search of Mickeline. She found him pouring a cup of coffee for her which she gratefully accepted. "So, how was the band last night, Mickeline?" she asked, curiously.
"Excellent. Mr. Steele was quite moved by them. Took leave during one of their songs, headed outside to get some air he said, but I didn't say anything, but I could see he was upset. Is Mr. Chalmers death still haunting him, Mrs. Steele?" Mickeline said innocently.
"You could say that, Mickeline. Thank you for taking him. He mentioned you have a photographer for us as well?" Laura commented.
"Yes, my niece, Kaitlyn. She'll be here this evening with her portfolio. She was quite excited when I rang her to tell her," Mickeline said, as he pulled himself a little taller and puffed out his chest just a little.
"Who's excited?" Remington asked as he soundlessly moved into the room. Picking up the travel mug of tea waiting for him, he sipped it appreciatively.
"Kaitlyn, my niece. My hearing may need to be checked after she screeched into the phone," Mickeline joked as he rubbed his ear for emphasis.
"Laura, can you check on breakfast with the cook? I'll be back in a bit," Remington asked. Turning to Mickeline, he said, "I may need Andy to head down to the paddock as well if he can spare a few minutes from the project he is working on."
Handing Remington a brown bag, Mickeline said, "Pastries, for the lads", then added, "I know he's been working up in the East wing the last few days but I'll send him right out."
Remington nodded his thanks before quickly exiting down the hall. After Laura heard the outside door close, she sidled up to Mickeline. Standing very close to him, she peered over his shoulder onto the counter where he was working. "Did you say pastries? What else is on the breakfast menu today?" she asked as her stomach rumbled hungrily.
"Eggs, Belgian waffles, fresh fruit, bacon I believe. And pastries," Mickeline ticked off the items the cook had told him earlier, trying to backup and create space between them.
As Mickeline spoke, Laura's eyes widened and her smile grew. "Hmmm, my stomach thanks him already. I'll be in the study when Mr. Steele's cousin arrives," she stated, taking her coffee with her.
Outside, Remington quickly found his way to the stable and paddock where Christian and Fergus were waiting for him, writing out a list. "Mr. Steele, my lord, thank you for coming so quickly. We need some additional tools but we're not sure if we should order some or if there were some stored away somewhere," Fergus explained.
Remington looked around the stable, searching stalls and any place tools could possibly be hidden. Finding none, he walked outside, propping one elbow with his hand as he drummed his cheek with his fingers. Spotting a small building off to the side, he led the way as the two men followed.. Inside, they found shovels, rakes, a few small sledge hammers, and a few rolls of heavy woven mesh fencing. "Would these be some of the tools you'll be looking for?" Remington asked.
Looking around, Fergus nodded. "We'll still need hammers, a few hand saws, posts, some lumber to repair the stalls, nails…" As Fergus rattled on, Remington noticed the Castle's carpenter Andy jogging across the lawn toward them. Giving him a wave of acknowledgement, he turned to the two young men, saying, "Here comes Andy, our resident carpenter. He should be able to help procure the remaining items you need. Now, I must be on my way back. Mrs. Steele and I are expecting company," he stopped to look at his watch, "in just a few minutes."
Christian laughed, "My dad is always late, so don't rush for him."
Remington smiled, then clapping him on the shoulder said, "Thank you for that insight, Christian, but as well as it may be, Remington Steele never shows up late. Now, if you gentlemen need anything else from me, I'll be in the gallery having breakfast with my wife and your father." Turning, he walked briskly back to the castle to find Laura.
Laura was waiting for him in the study, still sipping her coffee. "Laura? Mickeline told me I could find you in here. Everything all right?" Remington asked, worried her head might be hurting or worse.
Laura smiled at him. "No, I'm fine. Just waiting for breakfast. I'm famished. Do you think... " she hesitated, trying to remember the name he said the previous night.
"Paddy?" Remington offered.
"Yes, Paddy. Do you think Paddy will be here soon?" Laura finished.
"Well, according to Christian he is habitually late so I'm not entirely sure," Remington said. Sitting beside her on the couch he said, "So, what did you do while I was gone last night?"
Laura ran her finger around the rim of her coffee mug. "Well, I called Frances…. And we talked about the kids, the weather, Mother, you…"
"Me?" Remington asked surprised.
"Yes, you. She couldn't say enough about how wonderful you were, paying for the tickets for she and Donald to come here and hinted at some kind of surprise the two of you have cooked up," Laura stated. "What kind of surprise are we talking here?"
Remington bit his bottom lip for a minute, then tugged on his earlobe, trying to find the right words without giving away the fact that the children would be coming with Frances and Donald. Finally, after a few long minutes he said, "Let's just say our wedding wouldn't be complete without this surprise and leave it at that, eh."
Laura narrowed her eyes at him as she said, "Rem, you know how I feel about surprises. Can you tell me anything?"
Pursing his lips to suppress the smile that was threatening, he said, "No, Laura, please, just let me have this one. You'll like it, I promise."
Exhaling loudly, Laura said, "Fine, but I can't guarantee I'll like it."
"Thata girl, that's my little…. Trooper," Remington almost slipped and called her his little woman again. Seeing Laura's eyebrow arch, he knew he needed to distract her from his slip up so he said, "And your mother, did you call her too?"
Narrowing her eyes again, Laura replied, "Yes. And I had to listen to her complain the entire time. She wanted to know what kind of dress did she need and why black and white and do I know how many shades of emerald green there are? Really, just buy a damn dress and come or stay home! And then she wanted to know why we were doing family pictures here and not back in California. And last but not least… the pièce de résistance… why we had to book her on the flight we did because it's going to interfere with her bridge game. Why? Why did we bother?" Laura threw her hands in the air, frustrated. "Ooohhh, that woman. She just… just…" Laura pressed her hand to her forehead.
"Now, Laura, this is your mother we're talking about here. Come on now, its not all that bad, is it?" Remington tried to calm her.
"Mr. Steele, you've met my mother. How can you even say she's not that bad? All she does is find fault in everything I do," Laura groused. Folding her arms across her chest, she turned away from him, staring out the window at nothing in particular.
"Laura, please. When Abigail gets here, I'll be sure to set her straight… about a lot of things," Remington said softly, putting his hand on her arm, to try to turn her to face him again.
"Set her straight about what?" a voice asked from the doorway. Paddy walked into the room, smiling, after overhearing only part of the conversation between Remington and Laura.
"Paddy!" Remington practically jumped off the couch, crossing the room to hug him. Laura stood slowly, trying to decide what to do. Remington released Paddy and turned toward Laura. "Paddy, this is my wife, Laura. Laura, this is… my cousin… Paddy," Remington said, his voice thick with emotion.
Laura extended her hand. "It's nice to meet you, Paddy. I'm glad you're able to join us for breakfast," she said. Taking her hand, Paddy pulled her in for a back slapping hug causing Remington to laugh heartily.
"Come, come, come… I'll let Mickeline know we'll be in the gallery. Beautiful space, Paddy. You're gonna love it. Come now, Laura, don't dawdle. I know how famished you must be," Remington rambled happily as he strolled out of the room.
Laura smiled at Paddy and said, "Follow him."
Paddy smiled back, and said, "Same old, Seanie. Would never pass up a meal and always had to be the first one to the table."
"Seanie?" Laura asked. Another pseudonym from his past? she thought.
"Yeah, that's what Mum called him. When he came to us he was all of two. Barely spoke a word. Mum's cousin, Mara, just dropped him off one day. Said she didn't want to deal with it anymore. She never even said his name so Mum started calling him Sean, Seanie. She left him there and never looked back," Paddy explained quietly as they walked. Laura listened, shaking her head in disbelief.
In the gallery, the table had already been set, the cart set up again as it had been the previous night. Lifting the covers, Remington inhaled the delicious scents from the steaming dishes. "Hmmm, the cook's outdone himself this morning. Passing dishes to each of them, Remington poured coffee from the carafe on the table before sitting down with Laura and Paddy. "So, Paddy, did Christian explain the events of the last few days?" he asked as he shoveled in a bite of waffle.
Swallowing, Paddy took a sip of his coffee before answering, "Yes, and I have to say, I'm shocked. Drug-dealing? From the mine? And no one said a word?"
"I think everyone was too afraid to. We know Pace was. He saw McDonough murder the driver and that was enough to scare him into silence," Laura said thoughtfully.
"But thanks to both Christian and Pace, McDonough is now behind bars where he belongs," Remington stated.
"Laura, how is your head? Christian… and that man at the pub last night… mentioned you were injured," Paddy said, surprised he could not see anything. He had expected to see bandages, bruises, something, not this well put together petite woman before him.
"My head will be fine, Paddy, thank you for your concern. My head is probably one of the hardest parts of me, wouldn't you say, Remington?" Laura asked, knowing how he would react.
Remington had been in the process of swallowing a bite of pastry when he heard her comment, effectively choking him. Sputtering, he grabbed a glass of water off the table to try to wash things down as Laura laughed. Wiping his mouth, he commented, "Yes, Mrs. Steele, your head is definitely the hardest part of you. But not the toughest. That would have to be your attitude."
"My attitude? Why… I…. you….OHHHH!" Laura was exasperated. Paddy watched the exchange, confused, until Remington began laughing again. Laura stared at him for a minute before picking up her napkin and throwing it at him which set him off laughing again.
Once Laura and Remington composed themselves, they piled their dirty dishes onto the cart, refilling their coffee mugs before they sat on the couches and chairs near the window where the sun was streaming in, warming the room nicely.
Remington was the first to speak. "Paddy, do you know much about my mother?" he asked tentatively.
Paddy looked at him, sipping his coffee. "What do you mean?" he asked, confused.
"Well, all I remember from my childhood was being shuffled from one place to another, one cousin to the next, a new name each time. I don't know… anything… about her. I just recently found out who my father was," Remington started to explain.
"Seanie, where were you living all this time? Who took care of you?" Paddy shook his head, shocked.
Remington took a deep breath before he put his coffee mug down on the table in front of him. Rising to his feet, he walked over the windows. Leaning on the window sill, he stared out, not answering.
Laura watched as her husband was clearly fighting his emotions. "Remington had to take care of himself for a few years before Daniel found him," she tried to explain.
"Daniel? Who's Daniel?" Paddy asked looking from Laura to Remington who's back was still facing him.
"Daniel is… was… my mentor for a good many years. It wasn't until recently that I learned he was my father," Remington said quietly.
Paddy looked shocked and confused. "Your father? So he took care of you? How old were you when he took you? Who were you living with?" Paddy hammered them with questions.
Remington turned and leaned against the windows as he said, "Paddy, can we back up? Do you know my mother's name?"
Paddy nodded. "Yes, your mother was my mother's cousin. Her name was Siobhan O'Brien. From what I was told, Mara, the one who dropped you off at our house, was there when you were born. Your mother… she… she… didn't make it. She died a few hours after you were born, holding you in her arms. Mara had five children of her own at that point. I think she felt guilty for not bringing her to hospital, so for two years she took care of you. Once she got pregnant again, well, you were a burden. So she dropped you off and never looked back," he explained.
"Siobhan," Remington whispered, the reality sinking in.
"Did Mara give you a birth certificate or anything like that?" Laura asked, curious.
"No, Mara never even told us his name, she just dropped him off with a bag of a few items and that was it. And how Seanie cried. Mum and I took turns holding him those first few days. He would get this panicked look in those eyes, I never forgot it. I was only 12 at the time, old enough to know what Mara did was wrong. At night he would sleep with me, curled up tight against me, holding onto my shirt," Paddy recalled memories from long ago, a sadness settling across his face as he spoke.
"How long?" Remington interjected.
Paddy looked up at him, "How long? It took almost a month before you trusted anyone even though you were nothing more than a tot."
"A month… a month of learning to trust for a child that young might have well been years," Remington sputtered out, disgusted at the idea that anyone could be that cold to abandoned a child like that.
"But once you figured out we weren't the enemy you became the sweetest little boy. You began to talk and would laugh every time Mum sang to you," Paddy tried to bring back happier memories. "Do you remember the song? That little ditty you and Mum would bounce around the kitchen to as she sang?"
Remington searched his memories, a smile slowly spreading across his face, "McNamara's Band. That's where that came from. I… I… never forgot the song. I just couldn't remember how I knew it. It always gave me a comfort I could never understand."
Laura knit her brows together, trying to think of the lyrics. Remington could see the wheels in her mind turning so he said, "Laura, little Joey. You overheard me comforting him at my flat that night…"
Together, they both started to sing at the same time, "And Hennessy Tennessee tootled the flute and the music was ever so grand. It's a credit to old Ireland is McNamara's band. Da-da-dah. Ba-ba-bum. Da-da-dah."
Paddy smiled, happily recalling the song from his childhood. Seeing the look on Remington's face, he knew this brought forth a happy memory. "Can I ask something though, Seanie?" Paddy asked, unsure he wanted to ruin the mood but he needed to know.
Remington pushed away from the window sill as he moved to sit on the arm of the couch beside Laura. "Anything," he replied.
"If you were living with your father Daniel, is Steele his name? I guess what I'm asking is… how did you get the name Remington Steele?" Paddy asked pointedly.
Remington rubbed his mouth for a moment, trying to decide how much he wanted to indulge to his cousin. It was Laura who began to speak as she put her hand on Remington's leg, "Well, that's my fault, I guess you could say. When I met Remington he was working on private acquisitions, under an alias as he didn't have a name to call his own. Long story short, Remington Steele was a name I fabricated but he embodied it. That was four years ago and now, it's who he is. Steele is not just a name… it's a persona no one else could have fulfilled."
"So, that's not your name?" Paddy was confused.
"Remington Steele is who I am now and who I will forever be. My life is no longer unstable, living out of a suitcase, with no permanency. My life is with Laura in Los Angeles. She managed to start roots I never thought I'd have. It's because of her I finally stopped running," Remington stated as he entwined his fingers with hers.
Paddy ran his hand through his hair, an action Laura recognized. "I think I'm confused. But I guess it doesn't matter. You're home, Cousin. Somehow, call it providence, fate, whatever, you've been brought home to Ireland. How long have you been married?" Paddy tried to change the direction of the conversation.
Remington laughed nervously before saying, "Well, that's a tricky one. We had a hasty… elopement… in Los Angeles about 4 weeks ago, now I think it was. The INS…."
Paddy threw his hand up, shaking his head, "Say no more. I've heard some horror stories of that blasted institution."
Laura suddenly had an idea. Without consulting with Remington first she immediately said, "Paddy, we are having another ceremony here. My family will be here, a few friends… please tell me you and your family will join us."
Remington's eyes widened, glistening. Waiting for Paddy's reply, he gripped Laura's hand in uncharacteristic nervousness.
"Seanie, is that what you'd want as well? I don't want to intrude on a family…" Paddy began but Remington cut him off.
"Paddy, you are family. Family I lost at one time. It would mean… everything if you'd be there," Remington said, almost desperately.
Before Paddy could answer, they heard the distinct sound of footsteps in the hall and Mickeline clearing his throat. "My Lord, I don't mean to interrupt but Detective Doyle is here to see you," he explained.
"Send him down, Mickeline," Laura stated.
Paddy stood, "I guess that's my cue to go. I'm going to go check on Christian, see if I can lend a hand, perhaps."
Remington stood and without a word, hugged his cousin. "Please consider the invitation. I'll get you all the details. Christian too. Any others?"
Paddy laughed, "You forget, Seanie, this is Ireland. There are always others. We'll talk in a day or two."
"We need to travel to London for a few days and won't be back until late Friday. Why don't we plan to have brunch on Sunday? Bring the family," Laura suggested.
"Sunday brunch it is. After church, so around eleven?" Paddy asked.
"Sunday brunch with the family sounds perfect," Remington said as Detective Doyle entered the room.
"Mr. Steele, I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Detective Doyle said as he crossed the room to where Laura and Remington were standing.
"No, not at all. We were just finishing up breakfast. Can I offer you some coffee? Pastries?" Remington offered.
"Coffee sounds good. Thank you. Mrs. Steele, how are you feeling? You had us all scared quite a bit the other day," Detective Doyle addressed her, the concern evident in his voice.
Laura smiled as she said, "I'll be fine. Nothing more than a scratch."
Remington pursed his lips and shook his head at her comment. "A scratch… Mrs. Steele, do we have to rehash this again?" he asked firmly.
Laura didn't reply, she simple shot him a sideways glance that silenced him immediately. Turning to Detective Doyle, she asked, "Is everything okay, Detective? Were there any problems with McDonough's arrest?"
Detective Doyle laughed loudly, "No, nothing like that. Glad to have that scum off the streets. We even rounded up a few of his colleagues thanks to Mr. O'Brien there. Once David was given a plea deal he started singing like a bird. The names started rolling off his tongue faster than you can say in your best Boston accent 'pahk tha cah in Hahvahd yahd'. Actually, I came to ask Mr. Steele for one more favor."
Laura raised an eyebrow, as she asked "And what may that be?"
Before he could answer, Mickeline was back in the doorway again, "Mrs. Steele, Mr. Roselli is here for you. He claims he has an appointment at this time."
Remington looked at Laura with concern. "Do you want me to tell him to wait?" he asked.
"Thanks but no, I can handle Tony, and I might as well get this over with. The sooner I tell him, the sooner he'll be out of our lives for good," Laura answered as she stood.
Remington reached out to touch her gently as she walked past him. "Any sign of trouble, Mrs. Steele, just call," he said. She placed her hand over his and gave him a reassuring nod.
"Detective Doyle," Laura addressed him as she left the room to meet with Tony in the study.
Remington watched her leave, then turning back to Detective Doyle he asked, "What else can I assist you with, Detective?"
"Well, McDonough still thinks you set him up. Well, Johnny Todd set him up. I figure this… character... of yours must have quite a reputation and you might want to keep that reputation. Don't want anyone thinking Todd is a snitch, know what I mean? So if you have some time later this afternoon, I would ask you to help… convince McDonough… you're in just as much hot water as he is. A little display during transit perhaps," the detective explained.
Remington looked at him, contemplating his suggestion. It made perfect sense after all. Todd was supposedly arrested as well and would be moved to the county lock up as would McDonough. Perhaps a planned display could be helpful in keeping Johnny Todd's reputation intact. Nodding his head, he said, "Let's say we go for a walk and discuss what you have in mind."
In the study, Laura had just seated herself on one end of the couch while Tony chose to lean against the window sill, arms folded across his chest. Awkward silence filled the room for a few minutes before either of them spoke.
"Tony, I…" Laura started at the same time Tony said, "Laura…"
They both laughed nervously before Laura shook her head. "Go ahead, you first."
Tony opened his mouth to speak, then closed it. Sighing, he said, "How's your head, Laura?"
"My head?" she replied, confused.
"Yeah, your head. You know. The thing attached to your shoulders? You got hurt the other day. How is it?" Tony said sarcastically.
"Oh, that. It's fine, I'll be fine," she answered with a shrug of her shoulder.
"Are you sure? You didn't look fine the other day, hell you almost passed out on the stairs…" Tony continued.
"My head is fine, Tony. It will be fine. Mr. Steele takes very good care of me, don't you worry," she snapped back.
"Oh, I'm sure he does. And what about you, Laura? Are you taking good care of him? If you know what I mean…" Tony grumbled.
Laura bit back the sharp retort she had, knowing it wouldn't help the situation. She needed to explain to Tony, clearly, that he was not welcome to be part of their lives in any way. "Tony, we need to talk… about us… or rather why there will never be an us," she started to explain.
"But there was an US or a something us…. You can't deny that, Laura," Tony interrupted her.
"Tony, I know it may seem that I lead you on, but I need you to understand… what I did… what I felt… it doesn't hold a candle to what I feel for Mr. Steele. You were there at a time I was feeling vulernable, confused. It's because of you that he and I..." Laura's voice faded away, as, in that moment, she realized that the more time she had spent with Tony, the more her commitment to Remington became crystal clear. She wondered if it was wise to reveal this to Tony, but it was too late. She had said too much.
"So you're trying to tell me that as you were kissing me, you figured out something about him? Oh, that's rich," Tony said menacingly.
"No!… yes… Look , Tony. I have said all there is to say. I can't even begin to explain the relationship Remington and I have had over the last 4 years, and frankly, it's none of your business, but I can tell you that he is my husband in all senses of the word. I am here because it's where I want to be, beside him, for better or for worse."
"So when you practically tackled me on your bed…" Tony started.
"I thought you were him!" Laura interrupted emphatically, shaking her head, "I knew as soon as you kissed me that it wasn't him!".
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Remington and Detective Doyle walking outside the window. "There could never be anyone like him..." she added wistfully, as she turned away from Tony toward the window and watched them continue down the drive in front of the castle.
"Laura, what does he have over you? What could he possibly be holding over you to keep you with him?" Tony challenged.
"Holding over me?!" Laura snapped her head back and looked at Tony incredulously. "Wait, is that what you think? That I'm being held here against my will?" Laura asked, quickly realizing that Tony may be a little unstable.
Tony bit the inside of his cheek and pressed on, "He must have something on you, otherwise why would you go through this charade with him?"
Laura stared at Tony for a solid minute, carefully contemplating her next move. Finally, Laura rose to her feet and said, "Tony, I think we're finished here. I'll see you out."
"You call him your husband, yet you still insist on calling him Mr. Steele. Let me guess, he's the dominant type… gets off on that kind of thing," Tony desperately grasped for straws, badgering her. Pushing away from the window sill, he began walking toward Laura. "I'm not going to stop until I have you far away from this monster!" Tony said firmly as he stood in front of her.
Laura stood firm and looked Tony in the eye: "He's no monster," she stated, "But you are a monstrous person!" She pushed past Tony and quickly moved into the hall. "Now, if you don't mind, I would like to rejoin my husband to attend to our other guest."
Tony followed her to the door, desperately trying to think of a way to regain control of the situation. Once they reached the front doors to the castle, Laura pulled it open and gestured for him to leave, saying, "Well, it was nice knowing you Tony. If you ever need investigative services, you can reach us at our office in Los Angeles."
Jutting his chin out arrogantly, Tony eyed her and shifted restlessly before saying: "The only way I'm leaving here is with you." He grabbed her wrist tightly and he pulled her toward his car.
"Tony! Let go of me! Let go!" Laura yelled, struggling to pull her hand loose.
"Not without you!" Tony yelled back. Laura was pulling back, making it difficult for him to move forward, so thinking it was the only choice he had, he stopped and picked her up, tossing her over his shoulder.
Laura could see Remington and Detective Doyle on the driveway, a few hundred yards away, their backs to her, engrossed in their conversation. "REM!" she yelled but neither man appeared to have heard her. "MR. STEELE!" she yelled again, as loudly as she could. Both men turned and immediately started running toward her.
Tony set her on her feet beside the car and tried to hold her against it long enough to get the door open, but this gave Laura an opportunity to fight back. She stomped on his foot first then with a quick move, she hit him with a left hook, effectively snapping his head to the side giving her space to run toward Remington and the detective.
"Son of a …." Tony yelled, holding his jaw as Remington circled his arms protectively around Laura when she met them.
"Laura? What happened? What did Roselli do to you?" Remington asked as he quickly scanned her person for any injuries.
"He tried to take me… he tried to force me to get in the car," Laura said, breathing heavily from fear as much as the short sprint.
Detective Doyle didn't need to hear anything else. He moved quickly toward Tony, now leaning against the car, and slamming him backward said, "Mr. Roselli, I presume? I'm going to introduce myself. I am Detective Inspector Patrick Doyle and you, sir, are under arrest for the attempted kidnapping of Laura Steele, the Lady of Ashford Castle." Spinning him quickly until he was face down on the hood of the car, Detective Doyle held Tony's wrist tightly in the middle of his back as he pulled a set of handcuffs off his belt.
Tony struggled as he tried to say, "But I didn't do…"
"I watched with my own eyes, you dragging Mrs. Steele out of the castle, picking her up by force and then attempting to force her into your car. Now tell me again what you didn't do?" Doyle spit out.
"That wasn't my intention," Tony tried again. "I just wanted to get her away from him! He's the one holding her here, he's blackmailing her or something."
Laura and Remington finally reached the car, Laura's breathing returning to normal. Remington clenched his jaw, the muscles twitching almost wildly in his cheek. It was Laura's hand on his chest that reeled his emotions in. After a few deep breaths he finally said, "Antony, I can assure you, the only thing holding Laura here is her heart. She is free to leave any time she pleases, to go wherever it is she chooses. She chooses to stay. She is a grown woman who is more than capable of making her own decisions. And if you even remotely knew my wife, you would know that no one can force her to do anything."
"Including marrying you on a fishing trawler?" Tony questioned.
"Laura made that decision. I tried to keep her out of the mess with the INS, she choose to step knee deep into it," Remington countered.
"You're telling me she willingly agreed to marry you after Keyes busted your little prostitute's wedding and you're not holding anything on her?" Tony spat again.
"My wife is an amazing woman. She forgives without question," Remington stated as he rubbed her back, as if he was trying to draw both strength and courage from her.
Tony wiggled against the handcuffs that were now beginning to pinch. "The INS is going to know this whole marriage is a fraud still. Doesn't matter how long you try to hide here, they are going to know. And when you return to the States, your precious wife will be thrown in jail beside you," he challenged.
Laura finally had had enough. Moving to stand before Tony, she pushed her shoulders back as she said, "And that's where you're wrong. You see, in just a few short weeks, our family and friends will be here to witness us renew our vows in a chapel in front of a priest and magistrate. Our first ceremony may not have passed INS inspection but I can assure you, our second will be absolutely irrefutable. It's too bad you won't be there to see it. But I hope you enjoy your view from inside the jail cell you'll be in. Unless…."
"Unless what? Lau-ra?" Remington questioned, startled. He reached out to touch her, to turn her toward him.
Laura walked toward the steps, motioning for Remington to follow.
"Laura? Unless what?" he questioned again once they were far enough away so they could talk in private.
"What if… what if I tell him I won't press charges if he leaves us alone. You know he doesn't want to go to jail, who does? So what if I tell him I won't press charges unless he continues to bother us. I'll write up a report with Detective Doyle as the witness," Laura suggested.
Rubbing his face, Remington clenched his jaw again as he considered her plan. He didn't like the idea of trusting Roselli to play by the rules, but buying his favour by arranging his release might just be enough to quell his animosity towards them. It appeared that they would not get Roselli's cooperation without some kind of leverage against him."Very well, but I don't like it, Laura. However, I don't see any alternative. I'm going to trust your judgement on this," he said as he touched her shoulder gently.
Laura wrapped her arms around him as she said, "Don't worry, he'll be out of our lives, once and for all."
Taking her hand in his, Remington brought her hand to his lips before turning to walk back toward Roselli and Detective Doyle.
"What would you like to do, Mrs. Steele? I can have a squad car here in minutes. Just say the word," Detective Doyle offered.
"That depends on Mr. Roselli. Tony, I am going to fill out a police report," she started but Tony tried to interrupt, "Laura…" She held her hand up to stop him from talking. "I'm going to fill out a police report, with Detective Doyle as my witness, BUT, I won't press charges if you leave. Leave Ashford Castle, leave us alone, for good. Let us live our lives. I'm not going to get a restraining order, but I will if I have to."
Tony pressed his lips together before answering, "Fine."
"Fine what, Antony?" Remington questioned.
"Fine. I'll leave you alone. I won't come here again," Tony answered slowly.
"And what else? What about Los Angeles?" Laura asked firmly as she folded her arms across her chest.
"I won't contact you in Los Angeles, all right? I'll let you ….live your life," he replied, then added "but I'm telling you Laura, I'm not going to forget about us."
Laura threw her hands in the air. Exasperated she said, "There is no us. There never was."
Detective Doyle just looked from one face to another, thoroughly confused. "So, am I letting him go or what do you want me to do with him?" he asked.
"Let him go," Laura answered as she turned and stormed toward the castle doors.
"Mr. Steele?" Detective Doyle turned to Remington.
"Let him go, Detective. My wife will be filling out that report this afternoon in your Dublin offices while you and I attend to our other matter," Remington suggested as he followed Laura toward the doors.
Detective Doyle looked at Tony and said, "Turn around. You heard them. I'll let you go, but if I even catch wind of you near either one of them, I'll bag you myself and make damn sure they don't change their mind. Back where I come from there's a word for someone like you - sheisty."
As Detective Doyle removed the handcuffs, Tony rubbed his wrists. "Could you have made them any tighter?" he complained.
"You want to find out?" the detective challenged.
"No," Tony replied as he walked around the car to get in. He glanced back one more time toward the castle doors.
"Remember what I said. I'm doing this against my better judgment because this is their wishes. I won't think twice next time," Detective Doyle reminded him. He turned and walked away from the car.
Roselli took a deep breath before hitting the gas and speeding out of the driveway, shaking his head the entire way.
Inside, Laura stormed into the study and began pacing, Remington following her into the room. Leaning against the arm of one of the chaises, he apprehensively watched Laura's journey back and forth across the room's fine wool rug.
"Lau-ra..." he began.
"Mr. Steele, we have a great deal to accomplish today, and it won't do for us to sit back on this thing!" Laura's voice was high pitched and near it's cracking point.
Remington was eyeing the rug, saying, "...if you keep pacing, you're going to wear a hole through that fine rug..."
"Our day has gone from 2 relatively routine appointments to 3 meetings, 1 Police report and 1 assault and attempted kidnapping!" She continued pacing, vigorously slicing the air this way and that with her hands as she rattled off her list.
"...Pakistani, I believe..." Remington looked between Laura and the rug she was abusing, his eyebrows working furiously.
"Relatively routine, ha! The man I had allowed to infiltrate our lives turns out to be unstable and could potentially cause more trouble for us..." Laura continued, seemingly oblivious to Remington's comments.
"At this rate you may reach the country of it's origin, and not via the usual route..." he continued.
This time her voice really cracked, "...and I don't have a CLUE how we'll go under-cover at the police headquarters, fill out a police report and get back in time to meet Kaitlyn!"
At this, Remington took two long-legged strides, heading off Laura with firm hands at her hips, to stop her, concerned eyes brought level with hers. "Look, Laura. I know a lot has happened and we suddenly have an over-flowing plate, but we can prioritize, and move some things to another day."
She was still very agitated, her eyes darting this way and that, so Remington gently, but firmly grasped both sides of her face, desperately trying to calm her. As her eyes met and settled with his, she calmed, and he added, "But most importantly, we will face these trials together."
With this he touched his lips with hers and held them there, willing her to relax, then encircled her with his arms, rubbing her back and bringing her head in to cradle against his chest.
Laura took a deep breath and melted into his embrace, taking comfort without restraint. They remained like this for a moment until Remington suddenly said, "Laura, how did you know about us going undercover?" He leaned back slightly giving her a perplexed look.
"Well, it seemed like the logical conclusion. The sting operation always carried the risk of exposing Johnny Todd unless we saw it through to the bitter end. I was expecting something like this to come up, I just never had the chance to make firm plans to deal with that particular contingency. But it seems it's upon us," she answered matter-of-factly.
Remington grinned widely, saying, "That's what I love about you, Laura. Always thinking ahead."
And he leaned in for the sweetest and softest of brief kisses. Afterwards, they stayed that way, smiling at one other, taking comfort in the solace of one other's arms, ignoring for a precious moment the hurdles ahead of them.
Detective Doyle appeared at the door and took in the scene, the silhouette of Mr. and Mrs. Steele, facing each other, framed by the tall windows one only finds in a castle boasting 20-foot ceilings. A picture worthy of melting the coldest heart. He started to turn back, not wanting to intrude on the intimate moment, but out of the corner of his eye, Remington saw him. They both turned to him and parted, each immediately assuming their professional airs.
"Ah, Detective Doyle." Remington called out, "I'm glad you're here. We were just discussing the situation with McDonough...um, it seems that Mrs. Steele..." he glanced at Laura, giving her a twinkle, "...insightful clairvoyant that she is..." at this, she tossed him back an affectionate smirk, her eyes alight with amusement, "...has foreseen your dilemma. Why don't I ask Mickeline to arrange a light lunch for us. We can discuss the particulars of the plan to close the book on this sordid business while we eat, and afterwards, Mrs. Steele and I will suit up, and you can return ahead of us to the station to set the wheels in motion."
As he finished speaking, Remington indicated for Detective Doyle to precede them as they left the room and, with a hand to the small of her back, he and Laura followed.
After lunch, Laura and Remington retired to their bed chamber to prepare for the visit to the police station in Dublin. She had prepared her Tracy Lord outfit, a black silk blouse, the leather skirt and her leather jacket, laying the pieces smoothly on the bed.
Remington was rushing around transforming himself into Johnny Todd, pulling on a dark blue dress shirt, donning the signature jewelry Johnny favored.
As Laura watched him, she looked at him with envy thinking she should do the same, but she was overcome with fatigue and a sense of hopelessness. Laura sat back on the bed, and let out a shaky, heavy sigh, holding back tears she didn't realize were threatening to fall until now. She slid her hands between her knees, looking around the room, wondering how she could gather the energy to pull off the sassy Tracy Lord.
Remington peered at Laura from the bathroom door, his toothbrush dangling out of the corner of his mouth. Having noticed the sudden lack of activity, he had quietly approached the door to the bedroom to check on Laura without her knowing. He suspected that her harrowing experience of the morning had taken a toll, and wanted to see how she was doing, without her putting on a brave face. He quietly returned to finish brushing his teeth, ruminating on how to best support Laura through her trauma.
Laura remained where she was, sitting on the bed. She put her elbows on her knees, her head in her hands, willing the tears not to fall. When she heard Remington coming, she stood up quickly, grabbing her brush to look busy, turning away from him so that he would not notice her teary eyes. This was no time for weakness.
Remington also kept busy, slicking his hair back, retrieving his single diamond stud, all the while shooting her sideways glances, looking for a safe window to start a conversation. But with her back to him, it was difficult to determine her demeanour. Finally, when she couldn't accomplish anything else without a trip to the bathroom, he saw his opportunity as they passed each other and he reached out to stop her with a gentle hand to her waist.
"Laura,..." he began.
"What?!" Laura turned to him, her eyes flashing angrily.
He could confirm now how distraught she was by the strain in her face, not to mention, her obvious ire.
He quickly put his hands in his pockets nervously and said, "Laura, do you want to talk about this?"
"What is there to discuss? I need to fill out a police report, you need to protect Johnny's reputation," Laura answered as she walked back to the bed and began stripping off her clothes, removing her slacks, tossing them on the bed, not bothering to fold them.
Remington shook his head, confused. "You are clearly upset about something!"
"I want to get this done, Mr. Steele. I want Tony out, for good. The only way to accomplish that is to fill out that report. To protect Johnny, you need to do what Detective Doyle has asked. Nothing to discuss."
With that, she turned to walk away.
"Laura, just slow down, eh?" he said, as he reached out, once again placing his hand on her stomach, manoeuvring her around to sit down on the bed. He sat down next to her, putting his arm around her.
Laura couldn't settle and stood up again, pulling her shirt over her head, wincing as it brushed roughly against the stitches. Remington didn't miss this and with a sharp intake of breath through his clenched teeth, he shook his head slightly, giving her a stern look.
Laura looked at him a bit sheepishly but didn't say a word.
With his hands on her shoulders, he gently sat her down on the edge of the bed again. Silently, he checked her head to make sure it wasn't bleeding before sitting beside her again.
"Let's just sit and talk about this for a moment. Now, tell me. What did Roselli say to you… before he… he…" Remington was at a loss for words.
"Before he tried to kidnap me?" Laura offered, angrily.
"Yes, love, …. to abscond with you? What did he say before that?" Remington asked again.
"Nothing really, just that he thinks you are a monster," Laura said quietly.
Remington stood up, and exclaimed, "Me? I'm the monster? He tries to force you to get in his car and yet, I am the monster?"
Standing up suddenly and slapping her thighs in exasperation, she said anxiously: "Look, Rem, we need to get changed and get to the Dublin offices to finish this." Then added more calmly and rationally, "We can talk in the car on the way," She stood up and pulled on the black silk blouse. She was doing her best to maintain a strong front but inside, her stomach was full of butterflies.
Remington looked at Laura incredulously, frustrated that they didn't have the time to resolve the situation, then he stood up saying, "You're right. If we don't hurry up and get dressed, we're going to be late."
While she put on her jewelry and touched up her make-up, Laura called out, "Could we take a moment to review our MO in this..er...masquerade?"
"After we arrive, we will park at the location which the good detective explained to us, where he will meet me to bring me in the back way so as not to be seen. I'll change into a lovely orange jumpsuit and be escorted into a large holding cell where McDonough will also be, and where he and I can have a nice little chat. Then, you, Miss Tracy Lord, will make an ostentatious entrance to bail me out," Remington called from the bathroom as he completed his transformation into Johnny Todd. Before Laura could reply, he swept through the bedroom, grabbing clothes out of the closet and his valet out of the top drawer of the bureau. "Laura? Are you ready yet? Hurry up! Mustn't keep our fellow dissolutes waiting!" he exclaimed as he moved to the door. "Meet me out front in 10 minutes. I'll be waiting in the Porsche."
Carrying her shoes down the stairs, she heard the roar of the powerful engine outside. Without a word to anyone, she closed the door and climbed into the car, and Remington sped toward the main road and Dublin.
In the car, Remington was the first to break the silence, "Laura, I spoke to Mickeline. He's booked us on the ferry to Holyhead tomorrow at noon. From there we'll catch the train and arrive in London at roughly six o'clock. We have a reservation at the St. John Hotel…"
Recognizing a hint of satisfaction in his tone set Laura on high alert. Sitting up and facing him, eyes wide with dread, she cried, "Don't tell me you reserved the Honeymoon Suite!"
With a voice of indignation, Remington said, "Laura! You know me better than that! I wouldn't dream of staying in the Honeymoon Suite before our actual Honeymoon, not to mention before the Wedding! Oh no indeed...", he assured her.
Laura relaxed back into her seat, relieved, as he continued, "...uh... instead we'll be staying in the Embassy Suite on the penthouse floor."
He stole a furtive glance at her, smiling mischievously, as she sat right back up and railed, "Have you lost your mind?! The Agency will not be able to keep up with this, what with our long absence, the wedding, our expenses at Ashford..." Laura was looking at Remington aghast.
"Lau-ra!" he interrupted, "Remington Steele still has an image to uphold, even in this part of the world!"
Laura sank back down again, shaking her head. "It's Las Vegas all over again, except this time I do not plan on doing any gambling..."
"Oh, I'm incorrigible Laura, but you'll be relieved to hear I took the liberty of changing our appointment with Kaitlyn to Friday evening after our return."
"Oh, well, that makes things easier then, doesn't it," Laura answered as she looked out the window.
Reaching over to cover her hand with his, Remington squeezed it gently. Laura gave him a haughty look down her nose, still sore about the hotel arrangements, but, despite herself, nodded once when he managed a look in her direction, a hint of a smile pulling at her eyes and mouth. Taking a deep breath, she said, "So, McDonough, are you clear on your part?"
"Ah yes, business it is. Well, I'm more or less going to let him talk, let him vent and go from there. And, of course, Johnny Todd, in his own eloquent manner, will sing his own song, denying any involvement with the police, and supporting those claims by airing his own grievances against the good detective." Remington revelled for a moment in the feeling of exhilaration that generally preceded a well-planned sting, but his mood quickly darkened, as he moved his hand to swipe at his face nervously. Shooting Laura a furtive glance, he said, "In truth, I'm a little on edge about this. McDonough is unpredictable as we've seen. And I've got a lot… we've got a lot riding on this."
Laura reached over to still his hand which had been wandering from his mouth to the back of his neck. He immediately dropped it to his thigh, made aware of the nervous movement, where her hand covered it, gently stroking, saying, "Don't worry. Johnny will handle it. And Tracy won't let anything happen to Johnny." Turning back to the window, and releasing his hand, Laura became quiet again, and it wasn't long before the motion of the car and the fleeting stretches of every shade of green lulled her to sleep.
Remington drove in silence, and once again, resumed his nervous fidgeting. It wasn't just the meeting with McDonough that had him slightly on edge, it was Laura's weakened state. With her significant injuries from just a few days ago, and the assault on her person that very morning, she was, by rights, in no condition to undertake an operation such as the one they were about to embark upon. He feared she was pushing herself too much, or that he was pushing her too much, but knew, rationally, that they had no choice if they were to protect their cover. Silently, he fought an inner battle, his rational side vs. his emotional side, each vying for domination. He knew that they were taking the right course of action, however, he couldn't help berating himself for not taking better care of Laura in these circumstances. He fought the urge to reach out and touch her, to wake her, to tell her they could forget the whole business and steal away to a remote beach somewhere and lose themselves in each other... No, it wouldn't do to go down that road in his mind. This was going to be tricky enough without that kind of distraction invading his thoughts. No, for now, a catnap in the car would have to do for Laura.
Following the directions Detective Doyle gave them, Remington drove down a narrow alley to the back entrance to the parking lot behind the Dublin station where he saw the officer waiting for him. He acknowledged the detective with a wave as he slowed the vehicle.
"Laura? We're here," Remington shook her gently after putting the car in park. Groggy, Laura opened her eyes, staring into Remington's concerned blue ones. "Laura, if this is too much, you don't have to do…" he tried to say, but she stopped him.
"No, it needs to be done, and it needs to be done now. I can rest later. We need to put this to bed… McDonough… Roselli… all of it," Laura said as she reached out in a reassuring gesture to pat him on the arm, but Remington caught her hand, pulling it close, and pressing his lips to her fingers.
"Well then, Mrs. Steele, let's not delay any further. Shall we?" he said.
Detective Doyle was waiting for them holding a package in one hand which he promptly tossed to Remington as he approached. "Mrs. Steele, are you ready for this?" he asked Laura.
"Tracy Lord is, Detective. Now should I enter through the front of the station causing a scene or would you prefer something quieter?" Laura asked as she adjusted her skirt.
"A scene would be good, then I can get you into an interrogation room where you can fill out that report on Roselli. Less suspicious that way if McDonough has anyone on payroll here. I've already put together a rap sheet for Todd, bogus of course, which will be given to you when you leave. Feel free to destroy it any way you wish," Detective Doyle nodded.
"Well, then, how much time do you need before I make my grand entrance?" Laura asked, mentally reviewing the scenario.
"Give us a few minutes. Mr. Steele needs to get changed and I'll need to get him situated. After you make your entrance, I'll move you to an interrogation room, under the pretence of taking care of some business related to the bail out, at which point, you can fill out the assault report on Roselli without being interrupted. Mr. Steele and McDonough will be placed in a holding cell together," Detective Doyle continued. "I've already wired the cell so that, in case there's any trouble, we can monitor it and step in if need be."
"Sound good to me. I'm ready. The sooner we can finish this, the better!" Laura nodded,her chin up and jaw firmly set, and a look of determination in her eyes.
As she turned back towards the Porsche, Remington stopped her, his hand on her arm, scanning her face, hoping to find her usual strength in the face of a challenge. "Laura, if you're not up to this, we can find another way..." he said softly.
She covered his hand firmly with hers and, meeting his eyes with a steady gaze, she declared,
"Johnny needs Tracy." And immediately added, with a faint quirk of her eyebrows, "So why don't you get in that cell and let's just get this thing over with, okay?"
He gave her a half smile with a ghost of a laugh, and then, releasing her, turned to Detective Doyle, saying, "You heard my wife, Detective. Let's get this show on the road!" With that, he turned to go up the stairs.
Laura sat in the driver's seat of the Porsche and touched up her hair and make-up, before bringing the engine back to life with a roar. After taking it for a spin to kill time and to approach the building from a different direction, she returned, skidding to the front of the building, and parking where the car could easily be seen by anyone who might be watching. She checked the mirror again, grabbed a piece of gum out of her purse and popped it in her mouth.
Emerging from the Porsche, Laura heard a few low whistles from across the street where a small construction crew was working. She gave them a show, leaning back inside the car to get her purse and, with a grin, an exaggerated sway of her hips and a toss of her bag onto her shoulder, she sauntered up the steps to the entrance of the Garda station. Taking a deep breath, she pulled the doors opened and immediately began yelling, "Where is he? Where's my Johnny?"
The officer working the front desk immediately looked up at the commotion.
"What'd you do with him? Did you cage him like an animal because if you did… I'll tell ya…." Laura yelled again, her manner crass. The officer grimaced at her agitated, high-pitched voice, and raised his hands in a pacifying gesture in an attempt to quiet her, "Excuse me, Miss, keep your voice down please and I'll be happy to help you."
"Not until I see my Johnny. I'm here to bail him out, ya know. He called me and told me I can do that," she said loudly. Laura could see Detective Doyle walking across the room toward the front desk. Deciding she needed to drive her point home with the officer at the desk, she pointed at the detective and yelled, "That's him! That's the one that set my Johnny up! I wanna talk to him!" She slammed her hand down on the counter, startling the officer, who jumped back slightly, his hands up again.
"Miss Lord? I'm Detective Doyle. I heard from Todd you might be by to bail him out. I'm impressed that you got the money together that quickly." Detective Doyle addressed her across the counter. "I'll take over from here, Mike," he said to the officer, who gratefully resumed his previous task, with a couple of wary glances in Laura's direction. "This way, Miss Lord. There are some forms you must fill out before Mr. Todd can be released and I have some routine questions to ask you."
Lifting a portion of the counter for Laura to pass through, he gestured toward a hallway at the other end of the room. When they reached the hallway, he indicated a door, saying, "Right this way, please. We'll have some privacy in here," he said loudly, ensuring he was heard by everyone. Looking around the squad room, one officer in particular caught his eye, as he watched them with a little too much interest. Detective Doyle recognized him as Officer Baker, a freshman officer in his third year. "Mike," he called to the desk duty officer, "if the captain comes looking for me, tell him I'll be in Interrogation 5."
Laura shifted from one heeled foot to the other, pretending to be nervous. Chomping the gum loudly, she said, "I'm not under arrest am I? I didn't do nothin'. I wasn't even with Johnny when you arrested him."
"Not to worry, Miss Lord." he patronized her, "It is standard practice for any person posting bail to answer a few questions regarding their relationship to the prisoner being released." Detective Doyle was now fully attuned to Officer Baker, who was listening intently. "Please take a seat," he said as he opened the door to the room. "Can I get you something before we begin? Tea, coffee?" he offered.
Laura could see on his face that the offer was genuine, "I guess I could use a coffee...but I hope this won't take too long!" She whined, but gave him a faint smile.
"I'll be right back," Detective Doyle answered as she sat down in the chair. Back in the squad room, he became evermore suspicious of Officer Baker, who had casually moved to the coffee pot.
"What's the deal with her?" he asked as Detective Doyle started pouring two cups of coffee.
"She's the girlfriend of that joker we finally caught up with, Johnny Todd. She's here to bail him out . Just in time too. We were about to send him over to Mountjoy with McDonough," he explained.
"What did we pick him up on? I'm not familiar with the case," he asked.
Doyle took a sip of coffee as he answered, "Trafficking, suspicion of distribution. It was the big bust on Sunday at the mines. You must've missed the memo. Biggest sting operation we've done yet."
"No… I, ah… I've been off, just got back today. I'll get caught up," Officer Baker replied nervously.
"Yeah, you do that. I'm gonna go talk to Miss Lord, see if I can get any more info out of her," Detective Doyle replied, eyeing the man. Picking up the coffee, he walked away, stealing a few glances at him before entering the room where Laura waited.
Detective Doyle entered the room where Laura sat, styrofoam coffee cups in hand. He quickly handed Laura her coffee, placing a finger to his lips, nervous that she may slip out of character in the seeming privacy of the interrogation room. If his suspicions of Baker were true, they could not afford to take any chances of being overheard, otherwise the Steele's cover would be well and truly blown without a hope of reinstating it. He placed his cup on the small table before loudly announcing, "Here you go, Miss Lord. Milk and sugar okay? Now you sit tight while I pull the release forms for Mr. Todd." He left the room, closing the door quickly behind him, leaving Laura, sitting alone, wondering why Doyle seemed suddenly on edge, more so than she would have expected.
Walking back into the main squad room, Detective Doyle retrieved a file folder he had discreetly hidden under a pile of other folders on his desk. In retrospect, he was glad he had made sure no one was around when hiding it not more than two hours ago. He could feel Baker's eyes watching every move he made.
Back in the interrogation room, after firmly closing the door, Detective Doyle handed Laura the folder and a pen. The folder contained the paperwork she needed to fill out for Tony's assault. "Mrs. Steele, I need to go check on your husband... Will you be okay in here? You've been through a lot today..." he asked quietly.
"Yes, I can handle myself, but what was that all about when you brought me coffee?" Laura narrowed her eyes.
"We are being watched. McDonough has a mole… but not for long," Detective Doyle explained.
"Oh," she replied, her eyes wide.
"I'm locking this door so that no one will enter but me," Detective Doyle reassured her as he closed the door behind him. Laura heard the sound of jangling keys and the click of the lock, then Doyle's retreating footsteps echoing down the hall.
On the lower level of the station, Remington sat on an uncomfortably hard and narrow bench in one of the holding cells. He was ready to play the captive version of Johnny Todd, devoid of his signature hardware and donning an orange jumpsuit. For good measure, he ran his fingers through his hair to ruffle it up just enough. He let out a deep breath when he heard shuffling footsteps in the hall.
"Todd, you're going to have to share for a bit," an officer called to him as he escorted McDonough into the cell.
"Hey, I'm not staying in here with him," McDonough exclaimed, gesturing toward Remington with a nod of his head, his hands handcuffed behind his back.
" 'ere! Ye' don' expect me t' stay in 'ere wiv 'im, now, do ye'?" Remington cried, mimicking McDonough's exasperation.
"This isn't the Ritz Carlton, you don't get to pick and choose who you spend time with. I just put you where they tell me. And I suggest you work out your differences, seeing as you'll be sharing a limo ride to Mountjoy in an hour."" the office sneered as he removed McDonough's handcuffs before shoving him into the cell. "Now get in there!".
Remington crossed his ankles and his arms, and, dismissing McDonough, he addressed the prison guard, saying, "Nah ma'e, I won' be takin' no limo ride. Me bird is comin' wiv a load o' cash to bail me ou', in' she?", then giving him a saucy wink, "We'll be in each other's arms well b'fore supper, eh?!" The prison guard finished locking the cell door, straightened up giving him a withering look, then walked away, shaking his head.
McDonough narrowed his eyes at Remington and scoffed, "That's right, you have that detective upstairs in your pocket, right? I'm surprised you're still here."
Remington was on his feet, facing McDonough nose to nose, saying,, "What you goin' on abou', Ma'e? I got busted same as you, an' I've spen' the last few nights sleepin' on a cot, watchin' me back. Ok?"
McDonough didn't back down from Remington's physical presence so close to his. Instead, he put his hand in the center of Remington's chest and pushed him backward as he said, "Right, and you didn't know your driver was a detective? Get away from me, Todd. It's snitches like you that make me sick."
"Me? A snitch? 'ow do I know it wasn' you settin' me up, eh? Yes, I see it now! This is all pa't of your maste' plan, innit? I bet you been greasin' the wallets of 'alf a dozen coppas upstairs," Remington challenged.
McDonough just shook his head, "You're crazy, Todd." He took a few steps away from Remington, leaning on the bars of the cell wall.
"Ye' call me crazy?! You're the one tha's crazy!" Remington persisted with turning the tables on McDonough, "I'd like t' know what gave ye' the idea tha' I se' you up? I knew Doyle across d' pond. 'e ran fe' me on some jobs. 'ow would I know 'e was a detective wif d' Irish Garda, eh?" Shaking his head, he continued, "You've boiled us a fine ke''le of fish, you 'ave. Thanks t' you I go 'a figure ou' 'ow t' keep my neck out o' d' pokey. If no', I'll be off to the clink for a spell. Won't be good if tha' 'appens. My bird isn't gonna take a liking t' me bein' gone tha' long." Then, with a wide grin, he added, "She's not one t' wait, y' know wo' I mean?"
McDonough glared at Remington, "You really are a tool, Johnny." Then he just shook his head, saying, "I should have known better than to trust anyone that idiot O'Brien brought in. But you don't need to worry about him. He's no threat, not anymore."
"I thought 'e survived your cha'min' li''le firewo'ks display. At least that's what I 'eard," Remington sat back down, pretending to be more interested in his thumb nail.
"Yeah, maybe he did, but he's not going to leech off me. That parasite has seen the last of those days. The last of any," McDonough said as he sat down on the opposite side of the bench.
Remington rubbed his face nervously, and reached in his pocket for a toothpick, to keep his fidgeting hands occupied. "Wot now, take ou' O'Brien? 'ow do you expect to accomplish tha' from in 'ere?"
McDonough slanted narrow eyes at Remington, sizing him up further, before he said, "I've got a guy… upstairs… he promised me he can make it look like an accident."
"So take ou' O'Brien once an' for all, make it look like an accident and d' coppa's are none the wiser, eh?" Remington continued, rolling the toothpick between his finger tips.
"Yeah, something like that. Not a big loss to me. Just tying up loose ends," McDonough said.
Remington gestured towards McDonough, the toothpick still suspended between his thumb and middle finger, and said, "And do those loose ends include me, too? O'Brien introduced us, remember?" Slowly putting it in his mouth and pressing it into his cheek, he casually flicked away an imaginary piece of lint off his sleeve.
"And it was your buddy Doyle that busted us both," McDonough spat at him, eyes blazing. Then he stood and walked over to where Remington sat.
Remington looked up at him, slowly chewing on the toothpick dangling out of the corner of his mouth. McDonough grabbed a handful of his jumpsuit, pulling him to his feet. "Let me just let you in on a little secret, Todd. I said it before, I don't like snitches. Snitches don't live long in my business. Now I can't prove you rolled or it was Doyle but I'm gonna find out. And when I do, you'll be the first and the last to know. But don't worry, I'll keep your bird company," he said smirking through clenched teeth.
Pushing McDonough away from him but still clutching a clump of his shirt, Remington raised his fist and said firmly, trying to conceal his fury, "Is tha' a threat, McDonough, eh?"
Before Remington could swing, he heard the sound of high heels running on tile followed by a voice yelled from the hallway, "Johnny! Don't hit 'im. I'm here to get you out!"
Turning his head, Remington could see Laura standing beside Detective Doyle, hanging onto the bars.
Turning back to Doyle, hands on her hips, she groused, "Are you just gonna stand there and watch? I paid the damn bail, now let 'im out! Let me take him home!".
"Todd! You're out of here. Miss Lord has made bail for you, so you are free to go. But don't make any travel plans. You can expect to be served with a court date in the next few days, so you'll need to obtain a lawyer. And get a good one, you're going to need it!" Detective Doyle said dryly, hoping McDonough believed him. Unlocking the cell, he slid the door to the side.
Remington lowered his fist slowly, smoothing out the front of McDonough's jumpsuit, "Well, mate, looks like me bird is 'ere t' collect me. I 'ope you 'ave a short stay over at Mountjoy."
"Come on, Johnny, I wanna get outta here. This place gives me the heebie jeebies," Laura drawled.
Walking toward the open door, Remington pulled Laura tightly to him. Knowing McDonough was watching, he took the toothpick from his mouth, flicked it toward him before giving Laura a sensual, long, open mouthed kiss that even Detective Doyle had to clear his throat and look away. Releasing Laura, Remington licked his lips, touched his fingers to them lightly then said, "My, my, my, Tracy, me love, I can see you've missed me. Let's jus' save some fer later, eh? Know what I mean?"
Closing the door to the cell, Detective Doyle said, "Don't get too comfortable, McDonough. Your escort will be here any minute. I hope you enjoy your stay at Mountjoy. I hear their facilities aren't as nice as the ones we have here."
"Go to hell, Doyle," McDonough spat back. "Hey, Todd, remember what I said. You can't hide from me."
Remington placed his hand around Laura's shoulders and squeezed her tightly for a moment before walking off toward the end of the hall. Locking the cell door, Detective Doyle followed behind them.
Once they cleared the holding cell area, Detective Doyle stopped them, guiding them into a small room on the lower floor where Remington's clothes were waiting.
"Mr. and Mrs. Steele, I'm not sure how to thank you for all you've done. I'll give you a few minutes to change, Mr. Steele, before I escort you both out the front. You'll have to keep in character just a bit longer to get past McDonough's mole upstairs, I'm afraid," Detective Doyle explained.
"Thank you, Detective, I'll just be a minute or two. If you wouldn't mind," Remington said, gesturing toward the door.
Laura looked at Detective Doyle, then at Remington who was beginning to unzip the jumpsuit. "I'll wait in the hall too, just in case someone walks by," she said without any further explanation.
Remington looked puzzled for a moment but simply answered, "As you wish, Mrs. Steele." Closing the door, he made quick work of removing the jumpsuit and changed back into Johnny's attire. Opening the door again, he could see Laura leaning heavily against the wall, looking exhausted. "Miss Lord? Ready to go home?" he said lightly, trying to hide the concern in his voice, not caring about the Cockney accent Johnny usually spoke with.
Hearing his voice, Laura pushed off the wall, plastered a smile on her face and replied, "Come on, Johnny. It's gonna be a long ride."
The Steeles followed Detective Doyle back upstairs to the squad room where Tracy Lord had made her flamboyant entrance earlier. The room was empty, except for Officer Baker, who Doyle now firmly believed was associated with McDonough. He was on the phone, his back to them, talking in low tones. Doyle indicated for them to tread lightly when he noticed Baker's suspicious behaviour, to give them a chance to possibly glean information from the situation before their presence was noticed. Remington's excellent hearing picked up on the last bit of the conversation before Baker hung up, at which point they all resumed a more raucous entrance.
Pretending to stumble, Remington whispered into Detective Doyle's ear, "He's setting up a hit on O'Leary!", as Laura followed suit and clumsily added to the pile up. She quickly straightened up, adjusting her hair and checking her heel, "Hey, watch it Johnny! You'll mess up my hair!"
Detective Doyle played along, pushing Remington a few steps ahead, saying, "Come on, Johnny, get off me...", but not before giving him a subtle nod with an arched eyebrow to acknowledge the tip.
"Sorry, mate, lost me footing..." Baker looked up at the commotion, and nervously fidgeted at objects on his desk, trying to look busy.
Escorting them to the front side of the desk, Doyle said, "Now, I'll just need you to sign for the rest of your personal items." Taking a large envelope out from a locked cabinet, he couldn't help notice the seal was already broken. Using a letter opener, he opened the opposite end, carefully avoiding the seal, in case any fingerprints were left behind. As he was the only one who would have had authority to handle the the bag, Doyle knew that the only prints on it should be his own.
Sliding the contents of the bag out onto the counter, Doyle meticulously went over each item, checking them off the list to ensure that nothing was missing. Multiple pieces of jewelry, one diamond stud earring, cash, three sticks of chewing gum, a toothpick, and a money clip. Handing Remington a pen, he pointed to two spots for him to initial, then another sheet to sign before he could pocket the items. After first putting in his earring, he handed the jewelry to Laura, saying, "'ang onto these for me, would y', Tracy, m' luv?""
"Sure thing, Johnny. Don't wanna lose any of those. I know what they mean to you," Laura answered him. Dropping the chains into her purse, she turned back to him to adjust the collar on his jacket.
Remington brought his hands up to nudge hers away, "Okay, okay, don' fuss, Tracy..." He arched his eyebrows trepidatiously at her primping, yet was unable to fully suppress his smile at all the attention he was getting from her.
Still eyeing her as she stuck her tongue out at him, he reached for a piece of gum and pocketed the other two.
Detective Doyle finished reviewing the paperwork and announced, "Mr. Todd, you're free to go. But remember, don't leave town."
Remington bounced his head around in annoyance, saying, "Yes, yes, I 'eard you the firs' time." Then, after putting his arm around Laura protectively he added, "Come on Tracy, we're finished 'ere." He steered her toward the door, ever mindful of the treacherous Baker's underhanded scrutiny.
As soon as Remington and Laura had left through the door to the outside, Baker furtively glanced at Doyle to make certain his back was turned, then rose abruptly and hastily made his way to and down the stairs to the lower level.
Detective Doyle turned at the movement behind him, ready to apprehend Baker, but thought the better of it, as a plan formulated in his mind. He picked up the closest phone to call the officer waiting for his cue to transport McDonough. "Hold off just a bit longer. I'll let you know when I'm ready," he instructed. Hanging up the phone, he carried the large envelope by the corner as he moved to another room where the front desk officer Mike was watching a hidden surveillance camera . The camera was a silent eye in the cell, watching Baker approach. Flipping a switch, they listened as the room filled with the conversation being held below.
"What are you doing down here?" McDonough hissed.
"O'Leary's a dead man. It's all set." Baker replied, "What do you want me to do about Todd?"
"Just shut up. You've got a big mouth. I'll take care of Todd myself," McDonough hissed again in a low voice.
"No one can hear us down here. Do you want me to take care of Doyle, too? I can cut his brake lines, just like we're doing to O'Leary. O'Leary's not gonna make it to Slieve Bloom Mountain. He's on R440, and the first stop he makes, he won't make it more than a few miles and that is NOT the road you want to lose your brakes on if you understand me," Baker whispered loudly.
"And you're sure your man has him?" McDonough asked quietly as he looked down the hall.
Back in the surveillance room, Doyle picked up a phone, punching out a number.. "I have something I need fingerprinted immediately. Send a tech up here. I already know who's prints we need to compare to. Yeah, I need this done in less than an hour. Good," he said as he hung up the phone.
Turning back to the screen, he watched and listened for a few more minutes. Satisfied that he'd heard enough, he picked up the phone again and waited for the other end of the line to pick up. He was pleased that everything was falling into place so quickly. While Remington had performed his song and dance with McDonough, Doyle had consulted with his superior, obtaining authorization to gather evidence on Baker. "Captain? Yeah, we got it. Yeah, Baker's said enough to be sharing a cell with McDonough in Mountjoy now. Forensics are on their way up now for the envelope. As soon as they get here, I'm heading down. Yes, sir. You want him? I'll meet you down there."
A quiet knock on the door distracted Doyle for a moment. As the Forensics officer entered the room, he gestured toward the envelope. "There should only be two sets of prints on that, mine and Baker's. I pulled that clean from a new package. Locked it up. Baker had no reason to touch it or break the seal. Check every inch."
"Yes, sir. And the results?" The technician asked.
"Send them directly to the Captain," he declared.
Meanwhile, Remington and Laura, oblivious to the goings on inside the station, made their way to the Porsche. As they descended the steps in front of the building, low whistles could be heard again from the small construction crew Laura had seen on her way in.
"Hey little lady!" one of the worker's yelled across the street.
Remington pulled Laura a little closer to his side protectively as they continued down the steps toward the awaiting Porsche.
"Hey Honey, you look like you need a real man. How 'bout I show you one?" the worker called again.
Remington swiped a hand across his face, trying hard to suppress his response. Reaching the car, he held the door open for Laura but before she could climb in, they heard the worker again.
"Those are some pretty legs. Bet they'd look even better wrapped around me."
Remington pursed his lips together, the muscle in his cheek twitching. Before he could make a move, Laura stilled him with her on hand to his chest. Turning away from him, she sauntered over to the men, stopping in front of them.
The worker moved close to Laura, looking her up and down with an exaggerated nod. "Decided you want to give it a go, Little Lady?" he asked.
Laura ran her hand down the front of his shirt, smiling, just before she stomped on his foot and spit out, "I am NO ONE's little lady. Not his, not yours. And these legs will not be wrapped around anyone or anything that treats women like nothing more than flesh."
Turning away sharply, she practically stomped her way back to the car, climbing inside and slamming the door, arms folded tightly across her chest.
Remington was still standing, trying hard not to laugh. Moving around to the driver's side, waved to the construction workers as he practically bounced into the car. "Have I told you how much I love you, Mrs. Steele?" he asked lightly as he revved the powerful engine and spun the tires as he screeched away from the curb.
During the ride back to the castle, Laura was uncharacteristically quiet as Remington gave her an account of his conversation with McDonough. On more than one occasion, he glanced over to be sure she hadn't fallen asleep. As the miles rolled out under their tires, his concern stretched paper thin. "Laura," he called her name softly, practically singing her name.
"Hmmm?," she responded, without looking at him, peering intently out the passenger window.
"Laura, am I boring you?" Remington tried drawing her out.
"What?..." She looked at him with knitted brows. He stole a glance at her, but she quickly turned back, replying noncommittally, "...oh no, not at all..." She fell silent again, ruminating on the events of the day.
Remington swiped his hand across his mouth nervously. " Laura, McDonough can't hurt us, nor Roselli," he said firmly, trying to convince himself as much as her.
"You're probably right," Laura replied, still facing away from him. But Tony tried to and I'm sure, given another chance, he would do it again, she thought to herself.
Remington was completely at a loss as to what was going on in Laura's head, finally stating, "Laura, I've never known you to be quite so taciturn."
Laura turned from the fleeting scenery through the side window, but didn't look at Remington, and instead, contemplated the road ahead, saying, "I have my moments." She gave him a fleeting sidelong glance, and added in a huff, "Perhaps there is more to being married to Laura Holt than you bargained for?" She returned to her perusal of the blurry Irish countryside.
Without looking at her, Remington clenched his teeth and sulked for a moment. Stepping on the gas, he sped faster to the castle. He knew better than to engage in that!
A more immediate concern was putting as much distance between Dublin and them as he could, for the time being anyway. He knew they would have to return,as earlier that afternoon at the Garda, just before changing into the orange jumpsuit, Detective Doyle had reminded him that Laura still needed to give her statement about what had occurred in the mine just a few days before.
As the minutes and miles ticked by, the sun sank relentlessly towards the horizon. Placing on hold for a moment his exasperation with Laura's reticence, Remington decided to trust that she would open up in due course. He checked the time and decided to appeal to her more basic needs. Maybe THAT's what marriage entails, he thought to himself sullenly. "So, Mrs. Steele, have you thought about dinner this evening?" he asked lightly.
"Not really. I don't have much of an appetite right now," she replied in the same monotone.
Stay the course, mate! Icy calm, he thought to himself, pressing his lips together and inhaling deeply. He was pretty sure angry blue fire might shoot out of his eyes, but he reminded himself what this infuriating bundle of prim and proper brilliance meant to him. Well...she wasn't exactly prim and proper at the moment, dressed like the tart that is Tracy Lord. He glanced over at Laura, eyeing the woman beneath the disguise. He smiled at himself, shaking his head. He knew none of it mattered. At the moment, she was most likely exhausted and clearly stressed about something, nevertheless, he knew she really had him, heart and soul, no matter her mood or ability to raise his ire. Remington took her hand in his, squeezing it gently before bringing it to his lips. After a few more minutes of silence, he finally suggested, "What about that wonderful soup the chef made… which one was your favorite?"
With a small smile, Laura turned and conceded, "Chicken noodle."
"Then chicken noodle soup it will be, Mrs. Steele," Remington declared, relieved to have finally found an opening with Laura.
They arrived at the castle just as the sun had finally set, the darkness settling all around them. Leaving the car by the garage, they walked hand in hand through the back entrance, Remington stopping in the kitchen to request their soup be delivered to their bed chamber. Guiding Laura upstairs with a comforting hand on her back, Remington closed the door behind them. In their room, Remington and Laura quickly changed out of their Johnny and Tracy disguises. Scrubbing the heavy make-up off her face, Laura brushed her hair out gently, carefully avoiding the stitches, while Remington put away Todd's signature jewelry collection in his travel valet.
Heading into the bathroom, Remington opted for a quick shower before supper. Laura changed into jeans and a sweatshirt before folding and putting away the clothes they had removed. When she finished, feeling drained, she sat on the couch, curling her legs under her and crossing her arms, almost protectively, across her body.
Along with her fatigue, Laura's ruminations about that morning's events returned. Filling out a police report and detailing Tony's assault on her had provoked something unsettling in her and she sat quietly grappling with the demons that threatened to overwhelm her.
Meanwhile, Remington, finishing his shower, emerged from the bathroom, dressed in jeans and an unbuttoned dress shirt, his hair still dripping, a towel hanging around his neck. Rubbing his hair with one end of the towel, he looked up. Seeing Laura huddled in a ball on the couch, he stalled and watched her, his eyes pained at her apparent distress. He stepped towards her, saying "Care for some company wherever you're sailing to, Mrs. Steele?"
Laura, startled from her introspection, turned her head towards Remington, and drew in a quick breath, mouth opening and eyes wide. Even in her exhausted state, she couldn't help but appreciate the enticing image of a damp Mr. Steele. Damn, he's a sight to see!
Before she could say a word, they both heard a quiet knock at the door. Remington went to the door and opened it, allowing Bridgett O'Leary, the chamber maid, and Mickeline, to enter. Bridgett was carrying a tray laden with soup and fresh bread followed closely by Mickeline carrying another smaller tray with two steaming mugs of tea. Placing the trays on the table, Mickeline asked, "Would you be needing anything else this evening, your Lordship?"
"No, thank you, Mickeline. I'll be sure to bring the trays down later," Remington replied as he escorted them to the door. Closing and locking the door behind them, Remington returned to the couch and lifted one of the two bowls off the tray, handing it to Laura with a minimal bow, saying "Your chicken noodle soup, m' lady."
Laura snapped out of her reverie, unfurled herself and accepted the steaming bowl in one smooth move, smiling a little, and saying: "You are too kind."
Eating slowly, Laura finished her soup in silence, Remington settling beside her on the couch to do the same. Although the soup was comforting and nourishing, the mundane task of eating sank Laura back into the darkness. As her fears and insecurities set in, she struggled to figure out how to tell Remington she was afraid. She felt a painful lump form in her throat, making it difficult to swallow.
Placing her bowl back on the tray, she stood, barely getting out, "Excuse me." She headed into the bathroom, picking up the pajamas she had left folded on the edge of the bed. She could feel the unshed tears burning her eyes. She didn't want Remington to see her so upset, another sign of weakness. She retreated to the one place she could, thinking a hot bath would clear her mind, rejuvenate her body. When the bathroom door closed, Remington didn't miss the snick of the lock.
He watched her go by, concerned eyes trailing her and dropping when she disappear behind the door. Then, after placing his bowl on the tray, he closed his eyes, dropping his head into his hands as he whispered aloud, "Laura, love, what is going on in that mind of yours?" He heard the sound of water running, filling the tub. Shaking his head, he rose, and walked to the door, slowly rubbing his hand back and forth across the back of his neck. "Laura?" he gently knocked, trying the handle, "Lau-ra, please open the door," he requested, stretching back and looking straight up to the ceiling, absently contemplating the filigree of the crown moulding.
Inside the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the tub, Laura lifted her chin, trying to will the tears to stop falling. At the sound of his voice, she wiped her tears away brusquely, and moved toward the door, knowing full well ignoring him wasn't an option. Letting out a staccato breath, she released the lock and turned the knob slowly. She couldn't make eye contact with him, so as she allowed him entrance, she turned her back to him, hugging herself, the tears beginning to fall again.
"Laura, talk to me. Please, tell me what's wrong," Remington said as he stepped up behind her, unaware of the tears had begun to fall. He reached up with both hands to lay them on her shoulders, but they hovered momentarily as he hesitated, but finally came to rest, warm and comforting. She began to crack under his tender touch, her shoulders quivering uncontrollably, and without more than a single sob, she turned into his arms, unable to control the despair that was overtaking her. Still a bit unsure, he simply put his arms around her, holding her close until the sobs subsided and she was able to catch her breath again. Gently, he ran his hand down her back, trying to soothe her, murmuring assurances, "Shhh...it's okay, Laura...You're safe with me...I'm here for you...". He hadn't seen her this upset since Veckmer at the Enterprow Foundation had blown up her house.
Noticing the tub was filling up fast, he moved them toward it, his arm firmly around Laura's shoulders. He released her, saying, "Hup, just a sec..", then swiftly bent down to turn off the tap. Facing her again, Remington held her face in his hands so he could look directly into her dark brown eyes. "Now. Talk to me, Laura." Remington insisted, his voice thick with concern.
"I hate this. I hate feeling... helpless. I hate that I allowed Tony to make me feel helpless," Laura cried defiantly.
"Laura, you are not helpless. You fought back when Antony tried to… to…." he stopped. The muscle in Remington's cheek pulsed as he was consumed by a strong desire to destroy Tony and, for that matter, every other poor excuse for a man that had ever injured Laura. He tried again to tell her, "Laura, you are the most remarkable woman I have ever known. And the bravest. You are not helpless."
"I feel helpless. I couldn't fight back enough to get away from Tony earlier. He picked me up like it was nothing, like I was nothing," Laura groaned.
"Laura, are you forgetting what transpired just a few short days ago? Are you forgetting your body is still healing from that rather nasty injury you received in that mine as it collapsed around you?" Remington said almost angrily.
"I know, I know…" Laura muttered.
"Do you really think Antony would have tried that had you been at your best?" Remington reminded her.
Laura looked up into his concerned blue eyes and said, "No, I guess not."
"So how can you sit here and say you are helpless?" Remington said softly as he rubbed his thumb along her cheek. As Laura dropped her eyes in silent resignation, he pulled her close once again and said, "Ah, Mrs. Steele, what am going to do with you, eh?"
Laura half grunted, half laughed into his chest as she said, "How about a hot bath for two?"
Leaning back to look at her, Remington smiled the crooked dimpled grin she loved and asked, "With you?"
Laura smiled back and laughed lightly as she answered, "Unless there's someone else in this room with you I don't know about…."
Grasping her face again, Remington cut her off with a gentle kiss.
Laura relaxed into his kiss, bringing her hands up his chest, relishing the feeling of his skin under her fingers. She could feel every muscle tense as her hands found his collarbones where they stilled. Breaking the kiss, Remington pursed his lips before saying, "Laura, are you certain you're up to…"
"A nice relaxing bath with my husband? Yes, I'm quite certain it may be just what the doctor ordered," Laura answered as a hand drifted down,from his shoulder to his chest, playfully fingering the silky hair she adored.
Pulling her close, Remington kissed her forehead softly before saying, "Then, by all means, we wouldn't want to go against the doctor's orders now would we?"
"No, Mr. Steele, we should definitely follow orders, so why don't you get our robes from the other room and I'll slip into the bath," Laura suggested with an arched eyebrow.
Blue eyes, dark with desire, looked down into intense brown ones, her desire a mirror image of his own. "I'll be back in a moment," he replied with a kiss.
As he left the room, he stripped his shirt off, tossing it onto the chair nearby and quickly shed his remaining clothing, leaving just his briefs for the moment. Beside the tub, Laura was doing the same, folding each article of clothing carefully as she placed them in a pile on the vanity. She was just slipping into the steaming water when he returned, carrying the requested robes. Leaving the garments beside Laura's neat pile of clothing, Remington removed his briefs before sliding into the tub across from Laura.
As they soaked in relative silence, facing each other, Remington took one of Laura's feet in his hands, carefully massaging her tender arches and ankles before moving to the next one. Laura practically hummed with delight at the attention he gave to each sore spot. After completing his task, he moved to sit behind her, so he could work out the tight muscles he knew she had in her neck and shoulders. Before he could begin, Laura leaned back against his chest, bringing her hand up behind her to bury her fingers in his hair.
Wrapping his arms around her waist, Remington leaned into her neck, closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. Laura's fingers toyed with the hair at the base of his neck as he began to nuzzle the wet skin along her neck. Running his fingers down the freckled column of skin, Remington turned her face to kiss her gently. Laura shifted slightly in his arms, reaching across with her other hand to stroke his cheek.
Remington ran his hand down Laura's shoulder and down her back, his fingertips lightly skimming across her skin drawing goosebumps in their wake despite the hot water they were submerged in. "Laura, have I ever mentioned how delightfully appealing I find your freckles?" he asked between kisses.
"No," Laura replied as she leaned back to look at him. Kissing his lips, she said "Have I ever mentioned how intriguing I find your hands? How soft and delicate they are, yet how strong they are?" Laura covered his hand with hers as it rested on her waist.
"Hmmm, and your kisses, Mrs. Steele. Sweeter than any dessert I've ever tasted," he said as he gently nipped at her bottom lip.
Laura turned to face him completely, straddling his legs. Raising up on her knees, Laura sprinkled kisses across his forehead. "And your mind, Mr. Steele. I find your mind positively…. Stimulating…"
"Stimulating, eh? Laura, we may be entering waters that….um… I believe this morning you were not willing to sail," Remington said as he brought his hands up her back, pulling her close.
"Well," Laura began as she contemplated his comment, "That was this morning… and this is now." Without another word, she sank down upon his lap, burying his throbbing manhood into her tight depths.
"My God, Laura, the things you do, love," Remington gasped. Drawing her head close, he kissed her as she began to rock, slowly at first, establishing a rhythm he was more than happy to join. They kissed until they were gasping in pleasure, as much as for their need to breathe. Laura dropped her head back, holding Remington's shoulders as they continued to move, her short nails digging in as he showered her neck with kisses, his breath hot against her skin, his hands burning a path along her spine. The water lapped at the sides of the tub, threatening to splash over with every move they made.
In mere minutes, Laura, bracing her forehead against his, curled her body, her pelvis pressing into his as he thrusted into her, his name the only coherent sound to escape her lips. Teetering on the edge of oblivion, she sensed he wasn't far behind. She clamped her mouth on his collarbone as he continued to thrust, pulling him closer and closer to the edge with her. Just before her release she whispered into his ear, "Acushla. Follow me."
Remington held her tight, never faltering in their rhythm, only his breathing was an indication he was on pleasure's precipice as well. "Forever, my love," he managed to respond before he tumbled over with her.
Clinging to each other tightly, they kissed away beads of sweat as they nuzzled, exchanging soft whispers, until their breathing evened. As the water began to cool, Remington was the first to break the silence. "Laura, we should get you into bed. Tomorrow's going to be a long day of travel and we still need to pack," he reminded her softly.
"You're right, as usual, Mr. Steele," she replied, then added, "Oh, and the trays need to be brought back to the kitchen."
Climbing out of the tub, Remington toweled himself off before pulling on the robe and said, "I'll dress and take care of the trays, you get yourself into bed." And without another word, he kissed her gently on the forehead before exiting the room, stopping in the bedroom only long enough to pull on clean pajama pants and picking up the trays to return to the kitchen.
Laura climbed out of the cool water, shivering slightly as she dried herself off, pulled on her own pajamas and climbed into their bed. When Remington returned she was already dozing lightly, curled up on her side, her back to his side of the bed. Climbing into bed beside her, she turned over, seeking his warmth and protective arms, even in her sleep. He couldn't help but sigh happily as he drifted off.
Hours later, Laura's screams ripped him from the dream he was having. She was fighting something, kicking in her sleep, and when he heard Laura yelling the name Tony, he cursed he would find the man and make him pay. Holding her tight, he rubbed her back gently, speaking in soft tones, calling her name to pull her out of whatever hell her subconscious was holding her in until she settled, never waking fully. She calmed against him, curling her hand into the hair on his chest, fingers twitching, keeping Remington on alert for the remainder of the night.
Remington woke to a cold empty bed and the sound of the shower running in the bathroom. Glancing at his watch, he rolled his eyes, "It's late," he mumbled. Climbing out of bed, he stumbled toward the sound, as he called, "Laura? Please tell me you are not…"
"I'm not what, Mr. Steele," she called back from behind the shower curtain. Peeking her head out, Remington could see her hair was mostly dry, just the ends were damp.
"Not washing your hair, Mrs. Steele. I see you're feeling better this morning," he replied. As Laura closed the shower curtain to finish showering, he relieved himself. Brushing the shower curtain aside, he commented, "We don't have much time to pack."
"Already done. I took the liberty of packing your bag for you as well. Your suit for traveling is on the chair," Laura informed him as she turned off the water and snapped open the curtain fully. Taking the towel she had left on the vanity, she wrapped it tightly around her body before stepping close to him. "You'll need to shave as well," she commented as she ran her hand along his rough, stubbled cheek. Remington caught her hand before she could pull away, drawing it close to his lips as he said, "Thank you, love. I'll be ready in short order."
Pulling her hand away slowly she replied, "I'll leave your bag on the bed. We need to leave within the hour to make the ferry on time."
Remington was ready as promised, showering and shaving in record time, dropping his shaving kit into his awaiting suitcase. He didn't miss Laura's meticulous packing, every item in its place, folded neatly to prevent wrinkles. Zipping up the bag, he surveyed the room for a moment, almost sad they were leaving, if only for a few days.
Carrying the bag down the stairs, Remington called for Laura when he reached the landing, noticing her bags beside the door. "I'm here," she called as she entered the foyer, Terrence only steps behind. "Do you have everything?" she questioned.
Patting his pockets, Remington pulled out his passport as well as his wallet, knowing full well what her comment referred to. "You?" he replied simply.
Picking up her purse, she pulled out her own passport and wallet. "If we don't leave now, we're going to miss our ferry," she stated.
"Well then, after you, Mrs. Steele," Remington stated, reaching down to lift his suitcase as well as hers as they departed the castle.
As they rode to the ferry and ate the scones Mickeline had packed for them, Terrence entertained them with story after story of visitors to the castle he had seen through the years. Once they confirmed Terrence would be picking them up Friday afternoon, the Steeles boarded the ferry, stored their luggage before settling in for the three hour ride. They found a few reclining seats near the window where Remington immediately made himself comfortable, allowing the gentle rocking of the ship to lull him to sleep.
Laura sat beside him, her mind racing as she mulled over the events of the last few days. Looking at it every which way, she considered everything she could have done differently, of things that could have been changed, of ways she could have persuaded Tony to accept that their relationship meant nothing, but in the end, she was convinced. She was a victim of Tony's obsession with her and nothing she had done would have changed that.
She lightly fingered the line of stitches on her head, wondering if she hadn't been in the mine, would that have changed anything. Again, her conclusion was the same. Her injury only added to Tony's obsession, as he attempted to blame Remington for it without listening to reason.
Glancing back at her sleeping husband, Laura stood, stretched and walked outside hoping some fresh air would help clear her mind. She walked the length of the deck towards the stern, basking in the warm sun, lifting her face to the wind and inhaling the strong, salt air. She took a moment to lean on the railing, to watch the horizon rippling with the distant choppy waves. The scene was almost mesmerizing as she closed her eyes to inhale again. She straightened up suddenly when she was startled by hands stealing around her waist, her own hands snapping back to stop them, but relaxed again when she felt Remington's chin settle on her shoulder.
"I thought you were sleeping," she said, inclining her head against him, her hands rubbing his. She closed her eyes and breathed him in, his scent mingling with the salt air, taking comfort in his presence.
"I was, until I realized my wife had taken leave once again." His lilting voice rumbled low close to her ear, "Laura, I'm going to start getting a complex if you keep that up," Remington continued, pulling her closer to his body protectively.
"Sorry, I needed some air. Time to think," Laura said cryptically.
"Think? About what, love?" Remington questioned, rubbing her waist with his hand.
"I think I finally understand," Laura stated.
Confused, and more than a little apprehensive, Remington released her, leaning against the railing to look at her, and asked, "Understand what, Laura?"
"Tony. He's very much like Keyes, you know. He was obsessed with proving you weren't who you said you were and Tony's obsessed with who he thinks I am. He wouldn't listen to me, wouldn't let me explain, didn't want to let me explain us. He only wanted me, to possess me," Laura stated matter of factly, leaning on the rail beside him.
The muscle in his cheek twitched, and he folded his arms, "I see. And what does that tell you? Do you really think he will just simply scurry back to the States, full of remorse, licking his wounds?" he said through clenching jaws, frustration simmering.
"No, I wouldn't be surprised if he hangs around Ireland for a bit longer. Tries to contact me again, somehow, although I don't think he's stupid enough to come back to Ashford Castle," Laura said. She took a deep breath, absently rubbing his arm, subconsciously aware of his growing tension.
"And then what? Do we sit around, waiting for the axe to fall or do we call Detective Doyle and finish this for good?" Remington snapped. Laura turned to him in shock, her caressing hand frozen in mid-air. Her shocked expression told him all he needed to know. His frustration had been misdirected and she didn't deserve that. Standing to his full height, he pulled her into a hug, dropping his chin on her head. "I'm sorry, Laura! That bastard just gets under my skin. I just don't know what else he's capable of and that bloody well scares me."
Hugging him tightly, Laura thought for a moment before she replied, "I'm here, with you. And we are together, on our way to London, just us."
At that, Remington tensed and hesitated, before saying, "Laura, about that..." He was feeling uncomfortable about this trip, knowing instinctively, that, despite his best efforts, it would be difficult to keep his emotions from bubbling to the surface.
Leaning back to look at him, Laura was surprised to see the strained look in his eyes. She reached up, brushing a stray lock of hair off his forehead, and urged him on, "Tell me."
Shaking his head slightly, his jaws tightening as he let out a breath, he stared blankly at the horizon and continued, "This trip… I don't know what awaits us in London. Daniel… well, you never know what you're going to find. I'm afraid there may be something, some part of my past… I don't want it to affect us, where we are." At this, he closed his eyes and dropped his chin, unable to look at Laura.
Laura's heart twisted at his renewed insecurity about their relationship, and, seeking to banish it, she lifted his chin, her thumb nestling in his faint cleft, and and when he opened his eyes, she declared softly, "Your past cannot, and will never change where we are now."
"Are you sure about that, Laura? After all, how many people from my past have popped up along the way and managed to drive a wedge between us? Daniel, Shannon, Felicia, Anna?" he questioned, his voice shaking slightly.
"Rem, we're fine," she tried to reassure him as she rubbed his cheek with her hand.
Stilling her hand with his, Remington released her and turned away. Leaning on the rail, he blindly focused on the water churning in the ship's wake. With an air of dejection, he could only bring himself to answer, "For now."
Inside the hour that remained of the ferry ride, Laura and Remington's moods seemed to have taken 180 degree turns. Instead of Laura being pensive, Remington was now the one who was tense and withdrawn, worrying a thumbnail as he stared out across the water, lost in thought. And it was now Laura who was trying to draw him into a conversation, his responses consisting mostly of one or two hollow words. The closer they were to the ferry's arrival at Holyhead, the more distant he became.
Once the ferry had docked, it was Laura who ended up pulling the suitcases from where they had been stowed, while Remington stood up at the window, staring off into the distance. "Rem," she said, "We need to leave, unless you fancy a trip back to Ireland."
As she put on her coat and arranged her sleeves and collars, he walked over to her despondently, hands in his pants pockets even though he was wearing a trench coat. While this stance defied logic and he had a sullen expression to boot, he still looked incredibly debonair. Laura couldn't help but sigh inwardly at her gorgeous husband, who was now looking distractedly into the crowd of people as they made their way to the exit. He began to saunter in their direction and Laura's look of appreciation soon changed to one of astonishment. She continued to look at him with disbelief as he walked away and, with a huff, she picked up both bags and followed him. He finally snapped out of his daze, and spun around, exclaiming, "Hup! Sorry Laura, I must have been day-dreaming. Let me get those for you!"
Laura gave him a saccharin smile, saying, "Thank you, Mr. Steele, but I can handle my bag. It will suffice if you just carry your own." And with that, they exited the ferry and walked towards the train station.
With minimal conversation, they settled themselves into a private first class compartment, Laura stretching out on one of the luxurious first class settees, closing her eyes to rest as Remington sat across from her, staring out the window, a toothpick now replacing the thumbnail. It wasn't until the soft wood splintered, digging into his lip, that he finally tossed it aside in the small waste bag.
Glancing over at Laura, he saw concerned brown eyes watching him and he immediately looked away again with some irritation. He wasn't irritated with her per se, but, he was out of sorts and didn't want it to be noticeable. He looked back at her as she sat up, his eyes unsure, following her as she moved over to sit beside him. Tucking one hand under his arm, she stilled his unconsciously bouncing leg with the other, intently smoothing his leg to soothe his ragged nerves.
Together, they silently watched the blur of scenery pass by. After a time, when the unresolved quietude became too uncomfortable to bear, Laura decided a more direct approach was going to be needed. She stood and turned to face him, crossing her arms, striking her ´interrogation' pose, but the train gave a sudden jolt, almost upending her, so she settled for her ´hands on her hips, miffed wife' pose, "All right, Mr. Steele, let's hear it," she demanded.
Remington looked up at her, puzzled. "Hear what, Laura?"
Planting her feet against the rocking of the train, she said, "What are you not telling me? What has you so despondent?" Remington shook his head, looking out the window once again, avoiding Laura's intent gaze. Laura pressed on, "Is it something you might find in London? You mentioned Daniel earlier..."
"Daniel?..." he echoed, still avoiding eye contact, "Well, it could be a number of things really..." he answered vaguely, gesturing dismissively with his hand. Then, seeing Laura swaying, he reached out to help steady her but she pushed his hand away. She wasn't about to be sidetracked.
"Well, then, enlighten me... what could be waiting for you that has you so anxious… so…so... " another bout of jostling had her reaching her arms out for balance, but she persevered, "...so...unnerved?", she concluded with a flourishing gesture, trying to conceal her difficulties with finding her balance on the moving train.
Remington stared up at her and countered, "Anxious? Unnerved? Laura, I hardly think...", He was now sitting at the edge of his seat, hands on his knees, restraining himself from offering her a helping hand again.
"Well, it's the only logical explanation," confirmed Laura, "Since we boarded this train, I've watched you pout, and mope, with childish petulance, hardly saying a word," she stated, swiping the air for added effect.
"Childish petulance?!" Remington stood, raising his voice in the small space, standing toe to toe with Laura. "Mrs. Steele, I can assure you I am not…"
At that moment the train crossed over the signal switches, bouncing and clacking heavily, and they grabbed each other as they were jostled off balance. Remington fell back, sitting down hard, and Laura landed on his lap, his hands firmly holding her by the waist. Their eyes were suddenly locked in a heated gaze as frustration flashed to desire for just a moment. Laura tried to stifle a smirk as her eyes went to his lips, which were now also quirking into a smile. Another jolt of the train snapped them out of it and Laura, giving Remington a haughty look, pushed herself off of him. They stood and took a minute to right themselves, Remington firmly tugging downward on his jacket, Laura brushing her hair off her face before she continued.
"I would beg to differ, Mr. Steele. For the last few hours, you've done nothing but stare out that window, lost in a world into which I don't remotely know how to find my way," Laura stated firmly as she pointed toward the window. Using the same finger, she poked him in the chest and said, "And I do know you, and you, Mr. Steele are prevaricating!"
"Prevari...Laura, I assure you, I am not prevaricating! I am merely...processing." he relented, reaching for his tie to adjust it, his voice losing it's edge.
Laura softened as well, approaching him. "Is it Shannon? Because of the letter she wrote to the INS?" Laura urged, relieved to have found an opening.
"Shannon? No… I can handle Shannon," he scoffed, sitting back down, crossing his arms and legs.
"Felicia? Is she still in London? Last time you saw her she tried to convince you to kill the Earl of Claridge with Daniel," Laura said scornfully, as she paced the small space,wobbling now and again at the train's movement, methodically going through the list of people she'd met from Remington's past, who might be in London, although she was fully aware that her knowledge on that score was limited.
"Felicia? No… Laura, listen to me… please, just sit." Remington grasped her hand as she passed him amidst her precarious pacing, his blue eyes pleading the words he couldn't find yet.
Laura stopped and looked at him. Sitting down across from him, she leaned forward and placed her other hand over their joined hands. "I'm listening," she said softly.
Shifting to lean in as well, his free hand now atop hers, rubbing soothingly, Remington took a deep breath and blew it out before saying, "Yes, Laura, I have some reservations about this trip and all it entails, but it's not what you think. I'm not afraid of a who as much as a what."
Laura knitted her brows trying to decipher exactly what he was getting at. "A what. What what are we talking about here?" she asked.
"Daniel," he said softly.
"Daniel? That's a who, not a what," she replied, confused.
"Daniel's legacy," he added, one hand moving to his mouth.
"Daniel's legacy… now there's a what…. But what about it?" Laura asked.
Sitting back against the seat, Remington released her hands, putting space between them. "I don't know what I'm going to find. Daniel… well, Daniel's never been one to let go of a plan. His plan… many years ago… was to cultivate my skills to surpass his own... " he tried to explain.
Now Laura leaned back and let out a heavy sigh, "And you're afraid, now that he's gone, that he would want you to continue in his footsteps, to carry on the family business." Laura said scornfully, hooking the air in front her with her fist in ridicule.
Exhaling he replied, "Something like that… Look, Laura…. I don't know what we're going to find...and I don't want to drag you into something you will regret...""
"Whatever it is, we will get through it together, Mr. Steele, as always," she answered him reassuringly.
"Are you sure about that, Laura?" For the first time since they boarded the ferry, Remington really looked at her and held her gaze when she looked at him. He pressed on, "I mean, I wouldn't want to drag your impeccable reputation through the mud;;" then, with a smirk and a wink, his eyes giving her a quick once over, he added, " sully your virtu-ous track record..."
"Your imagination never stops, does it?" Laura said dryly.
"Well, Laura you bring the devil out in me. But in all seriousness, I truly fear losing you through all of this. When will it become too much, when will Daniel have crossed the line?"
Moving to sit beside him, she took his hand in hers once more. "It may have escaped your notice, but, I am in love with you. I have known since the very beginning what you are, and, although it infuriates me to no end that you have lead a life of crime in the past, I always recognized the man beneath that veneer to be one possessing a heart of gold." Remington smiled bashfully, shaking his head. "Besides,". she added, "my reputation is not as lily-white as you claim. Have you forgotten that the whole notion of Remington Steele was a con before you came along to fill his shoes? Most admirably, I might add! Even Daniel himself recognized that and proposed the three of us take on Europe!" Brushing her lips against his knuckles, she leaned over to rest her head against his shoulder.
Remington manoeuvred his arms around Laura, holding her close, saying, "What did I ever do to deserve you?"
Laura snuggled in and said, "Well, Mr. Steele, I could tell you, but I would much rather show you."
With a waggle of his eyebrows, Remington said, "Show me, eh? I'll hold you to that, Mrs. Steele!" They remained that way, basking in the comfort they were to each other, for the remainder of the journey. As the train pulled into the station without incident, they collected their luggage and left the terminal where Remington flagged down a passing taxi.
"What, no waiting limo?" Laura teased.
"Really, Mrs. Steele, this is London," he stated as he slid into the vehicle with no further explanation, leaving her standing on the sidewalk, her mouth gaping. "Coming, Mrs. Steele?"
With a huff, she climbed into the taxi beside him. "Really, ! I know you're the continental, but I seriously doubt that when in London, one should take a cab!" Laura said when she was seated inside the car.
Remington simply grinned at her then turned to the driver. "The St. John, my good man," Remington instructed him with a tap on the head rest.
At the hotel, the Steeles checked in with relative ease. Laura could barely contain the exasperated exhale that escaped her lungs when they entered the suite Remington had reserved for them. Under her breath she muttered, "He's gonna pay for this one."
"What was that, Mrs. Steele? Did you say something?" Remington teased, his excellent hearing picking up every word.
Pursing her lips, Laura ignored him as she tossed her suitcase on the bed, and began to unpack, moving clothing to the closet and the chest of drawers. Once the bag was empty, she slid it under the bed, straightened up, and surveyed the room. Watching her closely as he unpacked his own bag,, Remington waited until he saw an opening and playfully tackled her onto the bed. Laura couldn't suppress the shriek she emitted as she hit the mattress.
"So, tell me, how exactly do you intend to make me pay, hmmm?" Remington said as he kissed her with small playful kisses, holding her close.
Laughing, Laura said, "Have something on your mind, Mr. Steele?"
"Just needed to be close to you, Mrs. Steele, nothing more," Remington stated, snuggling his chin against the top of her head as he held her close.
"Nothing?" Laura asked, leaning back, eyebrows raised.
"Well, I'm sure we could come up with a few ideas, if we tried hard enough," Remington teased as he sprinkled kisses across her cheeks, brushing lightly across her lips.
"Dinner perhaps, Mr. Steele," Laura smirked, knowing exactly what was on his mind now.
Looking down at her face, Remington questioned "Dinner, really, Mrs. Steele?"
"I'm starving. So yes, dinner, Mr. Steele. Dessert later," Laura answered suggestively, kissing him lightly.
With a sigh, Remington kissed her once more before releasing her and rolling off the bed. Offering her a hand, he said, "Dinner it is then Mrs. Steele, but I was hoping you had something else in mind as payment..."
Remington raised his hand, flagging down a taxi outside of the hotel.
"Again, with a taxi, Mr. Steele?" Laura asked.
Smiling, Remington teased, "Just to keep you on your toes, Mrs. Steele." Seeing Laura's eyebrow twitch, he added, "Really, Laura, a taxi ride through the streets of London adds to the charm, the allure of this beautiful old city. Besides, London's black cabs are the most efficient way to get about town." Holding the door for Laura, he watched her climb in before glancing around the street and sliding into the vehicle beside her. "J Sheekey's, please. And don't spare the rubber. My wife is famished," he instructed the cabbie.
"J Sheekey's?" Laura asked, unfamiliar with the restaurant.
"Laura, I'm shocked. J Sheekey's is one of the oldest restaurants in London's Covent Gardens. Serves some of the best seafood to the theatre set. You will absolutely love it's classic style and old-world charm." he said, adjusting his tie as they drew near their destination.
"Mr. Steele, may I remind you that the last few times we visited London I didn't exactly hit the usual tourist attractions." Laura stated.
"Precisely! A sad state of affairs I hope to rectify on this trip," Remington declared.
Laura reached out, slipping her hand into his and replied, "I look forward to that, Mr. Steele."
Smiling, Remington patted her hand with his as the taxi wove it's way through traffic, covering the two mile distance in just under twenty minutes.
Remington handed the driver a few bills before exiting the taxi, extending his hand to Laura. They stood and straightened their clothing before entering the restaurant, currently bustling with patrons. The maître d' addressed the couple as they entered, "Good evening, do you have a reservation?"
"Ah, no. The name is Steele, Remington Steele. Is there a long wait this evening?" Remington asked as he glanced into the first dining room.
The maître d's eyes opened wide and he replied, "For you, Mr. Steele, there will be no waiting. Just give me a moment and we will have a table ready for you."
Laura watched the man depart as she asked, dryly, "You come here often?"
Licking his lips, Remington replied, "Well, Laura, it appears my reputation precedes me. After all, is it any surprise that a fine establishment such as this would be well versed in headline makers of recent years? Oh yes, indeed, there must be any number cases we've solved on this side of the pond that made the London Times, perhaps even cases solved in the States." He started counting down with his fingers, starting with the pinky, "Let me see, there was the Whitechapel Slasher, and, of course, saving the Earl of Claridge's life from those disgruntled miners, the Hapsburg dagger would have made the international news. You said so yourself. I'd say we've been making headlines since the Royal Lav..."
He was cut off by the maître d's return, who graciously announced, "Our finest table awaits you and your guest, Mr. Steele. Please, follow me. It's an honor to have you visit our humble establishment, sir."
Laura bristled at the maître d' referring to her as a mere "guest", and she rolled her eyes as Remington, basking in the glory of notoriety, replied, "It's an honor to be honored, my good man."
They were seated in the third dining room at a small table in the back of the room near the wood paneled wall where they could easily view the 8x10 black and white photographs lining the room. Laura couldn't help but be impressed by the images of the actors and actresses from the 1930's, 40's and 50's that adorned the walls.
Remington watched Laura's face as she scanned the vast display around them. Leaning forward he explained, "Daniel brought me here a few times. I couldn't have been any more than 15 or 16 at the time. I felt somehow at home, dining with all the actors and actresses I recognized from the big screen. And it was nice to do something so...conventional...", his face twisted a little at that, and he became a little wistful as he continued, getting lost in one of the portraits behind Laura, "The times we came here are some of the fondest memories I have of Daniel."
Laura looked at Remington, her heart wrenching a little at something she perceived in his expression. Reaching under the table to pat his knee reassuringly, she said, "Well then, let's make some fond memories of our own, Mr. Steele."
A waiter appeared with menus which Remington quickly dismissed, rubbing his hands together with glee. Laura sat back as Remington commandeered the menu choices, a delighted expression adorning her face. She had every confidence that she would enjoy every bite of his expert selections. "We shall whet our appetite with the dressed crab followed by the traditional fried fillet of haddock complete with chips and peas. To complete our evening, my lovely wife will most definitely find delight in the mandarin and chocolate semi freddo," Remington grinned as he recited his choices to the waiter who simply nodded as he noted the menu selections. Upon hearing the last of these, Laura's face twitched and she sat up straight, mouth open, Remington grinning at her reaction.
"Wine, sir?" the waiter asked.
"Please, send the sommelier. I'd like his opinion this evening," he replied, looking back at Laura with a mischievous grin.
"Did you say ch...choh...chohh...?" Laura stuttered.
"Chocolate." Remington finished for her. " Really, Laura, is chocolate the only thing I ordered that has left you speechless? Tsk, tsk!"," he teased, then leaned in close to her ear, his breath wisping along her skin. "Don't think for a moment that this meal is anything but a prelude to the main event of the evening, my blushing bride!"
"How very bold you are, Mr. Steele!" she exclaimed.
The sommelier arrived, "You requested my services, Mr. Steele?"
"Yes, yes… any recommendation for this evening?" Remington asked.
"What have you ordered sir?" the man asked.
Remington repeated the menu and the wine steward smiled. "Excellent choices. I can see that you've dined here before. Would you care for champagne or wine?" he asked.
"Champagne, please," Laura jumped in before Remington could answer and, with a smile, added, "We're having a celebration of sorts."
Remington raised an eyebrow and, addressing the steward, confirmed, "My wife has something in mind so, champagne it is," he replied.
The sommelier nodded and said, "We have an excellent vintage of Le Chapitre."
"Very good. Thank you," Remington gestured with a roll of the hand toward the man. Once he had departed, Remington turned to Laura taking her hands in his, and asked, "So, Mrs. Steele, what exactly are we celebrating?"
"Us," Laura said airily.
"Us?" he repeated.
"Yes. Us. You, me. We!" Laura exclaimed.
Remington sat back in the chair, propped one elbow up and tapped his cheek with one finger, pondering her comment. "Celebrating us or we is an excellent notion, however, I sense that you have something more specific in mind."
Laura laughed at his bewilderment and said lightly, "We let the chips fall where they may…" Biting her bottom lip, she tried to hide her amusement, but as she smiled, the dimple he loved deepened.
Remington smiled back roguishly, recognition dawning, and countered, "We were bold?"
"You… rose to the occasion," she blushed.
"Up periscope?" he breathed, his eyebrows working.
"And you convinced me," Laura smiled, placing her hands back in his as he reached for them.
"No, Laura, my love. It was you who convinced me," he said bringing her fingers to his lips.
At that moment the champagne arrived and when they had their flutes in hand, Laura toasted, "We did it together."
Remington was speechless, tipping his head in agreement. They curled their arms in a celebratory toast, the bubbles dancing on their tongues as they leaned in for a kiss. They had just touched lips when they heard the sound of someone clearing their throat. Beside them stood a junior waiter, red faced, holding a dish of dressed crab on an open shell, ribbons of steam curling up out of it.
Laughing at the predictability of the interruption, they untangled themselves as the dish was placed between them. Lifting his fork first, Remington shifted the full flavored brown meat along with the delicate white flakes around, coating each savory bite with the buttery onion mixture it rested upon. He offered Laura the first bite, watching her face as she closed her eyes in pure delight. Indulging in a bite of his own, he had to agree, the flavors were almost as intoxicating as the champagne they were drinking.
They were just sharing the last few bites of the succulent crab when the young waiter returned carrying two dishes of traditional fried fillet of haddock, bright green mushy peas and hand cut french fries. After skillfully switching the used with the new plates, he swept away without a word.
Laura spun her plate clockwise then rotated it again back to admire the mouthwatering golden fish. Cutting into the fillet, she admired the crispy shell surrounding the milky white meat before bringing the bite to her lips. The light, sweetness of the perfectly flaky fish melted on her tongue, eliciting a moan from her lips. Remington couldn't help but smirk at the sounds emanating from Laura. "Enjoying that are you, Laura?" he asked between bites. She hummed her reply and they finished their meal in relative silence.
When dessert arrived, Laura pushed back in her seat and proclaimed, "Oh Mr. Steele! There is no way I could eat another bite."
"Nonsense!" said Remington, taking a spoon in hand, and scooping some of the decadent dessert. "It's Italian, Laura, frozen cream and mascarpone, and...chocolate, with mandarin orange wedges, ready to melt on your tongue and burst in your mouth." Laura pressed her lips together and turned away, shutting her eyes. "Did I mention more chocolate, melted and drizzled..." Her eyes popped open, "Laura, indulge me. Please," he begged, his blue eyes pleading, trying to make contact with hers, as she slowly looked back.
When the spoon approached her mouth, she opened her lips, and as the creamy dessert melted in her mouth, her eyes rolled up as she closed them, sighing heavily. She clamped down on the spoon until is was sucked clean, licking her lips as he pulled it from her mouth, and Remington couldn't help but imagine what else she could do with her tongue when he got her alone in the hotel room. His eyes sparkled with desire, focused only on her, as he started to fall under the trance of his own trap.
He was about to get another spoonful, when she stilled his hand with hers as she declared, "What's good for the goose, Mr. Steele." He obeyed, his eyes wide and betraying his complete and utter surrender to her commands, as she put the spoon in his mouth. Unlike her he did not close his eyes, but held her gaze as he savoured the melting sweetness of the dessert. Laura flinched as she drew the spoon from his lips, and he snagged her by the wrist, pulling her close to him, speaking in low, seductive tones, his eyes glued to her lips, "We should take this back to the hotel, Mrs. Steele, before I do something grossly indecent with you here." To prove his point, he kissed her deeply, swirling his cream covered tongue through her mouth. She teased him back, running the tip of her tongue across the roof of his mouth before sitting back and reaching for her napkin.
"I believe dinner has been a rousing success, don't you think, Mr. Steele," she announced seductively.
Remington was trying to catch his breath and tamp down his desire enough to get them out of the restaurant without embarrassment. He took a sip of water, swallowed wrong and began coughing. Grabbing his napkin off his lap, he coughed until he was able to recover his breath. "The things you say, love," he replied hoarsely. Raising his hand at their waiter he coughed out, "Check, please."
Laura leaned forward, rubbing his leg with her hand as she said, "Easy there, Mr. Steele."
The waiter returned with their check as Laura excused herself from the table to use the powder room. When she returned, he was waiting for her near the front door, holding her jacket. Outside, he quickly raised his arm, flagging down another taxi. Laura kissed him lightly on the lips before climbing into the car. Reaching up to touch the spot her lips had just warmed, Remington waggled his eyebrows, anticipating what was going to happen once they returned to the hotel.
"The St. John Hotel," he instructed, pulling Laura close to his side in the small backseat as the taxi pulled away from the curb. Stroking her neck lightly with his finger tips, Remington leaned close to her ear and whispered, "Enjoyed that did you, love?"
"Very much so. Looking forward to the remainder of our evening," Laura whispered back, her breath hot on his cheek.
"As am I, Mrs. Steele," he said before planting his lips on hers.
With their lips locked in the back seat of the cab, Remington could barely restrain himself from removing every stitch of clothing from Laura's delectable form, as they held one another, hands roaming every which way. He kissed her deeply and she was right there with him, opening her mouth at his tongue's urging. Remington broke the kiss, as his dexterous fingers found her buttons, undoing them and, taking advantage of her exposed curves, teased them with tiny nips and kisses as his other hand stilled on her back, pulling her to him. A thrill rushed through Laura and she dropped her head back on to the leather of the backseat, giving him as much access as possible. His lips returning to her mouth, Remington groaned as he felt her hand on his back slip down under his belt.
The cab driver alerted the pair of their imminent arrival at the hotel, and the kiss ended. Remington leaned his forehead against Laura's, both of them fighting to get their breathing under control. "Oh Laura, my love! Do you think you could work on being a little less irresistible? I am completely undone by you." Laura pulled back enough to give him an exasperated, if somewhat disheveled look. "You're one to talk!" Then they both laughed breathily as Laura removed her hands, adjusting his collar, with a brief brush of his cheek and loving look, and Remington buttoned the front of his suit jacket to hide his obvious reaction to their heated exchange. Remington gave Laura one more swift kiss, saying quietly, "I'll get out and pay the driver. Take a minute to compose yourself, okay love?
Laura nodded, breathing heavily, trying to regain her composure, as she watched Remington open the car door.
Remington paid the driver and climbed out, leaving the door ajar instead of closing it all the way. He bent down slightly, watching as Laura finished buttoning her blouse. He started to turn, and was about to open the door for her, when he felt a pair of arms thrown around his neck, knocking him backward into the door, effectively shutting it on Laura.
"Dougie! Oh Dougie! It really is you!" Shannon crooned into his ear as she hugged him tightly.
Remington tried to push her backward to separate himself from her, "Shannon? What… How?"
He took a step forward, forcefully pulling her arms from around his neck as she continued.
"How did I find you? Oh, Bella saw you getting into the cab earlier and phoned me immediately. I'm so glad you're back… why are you back in London?" Shannon asked as she began peppering his face with kisses.
Remington could feel the car door open and push against him. Stepping forward again, he lost his footing on the curb, his arms slipping around Shannon's back and onto her backside where she immediately pressed her hands on his.
"Oh, Dougie… I've missed you so…" she crooned again as she pushed herself closer to him. Standing chest to hip, she could feel his swollen member pressing against her thigh. "And I can see you've missed me, Dougie, you naughty boy!"
"Shannon, I didn't miss..!" Remington tried again but Shannon pressed her lips to his, forcing her tongue into his mouth. He removed his hands from her backside and tried to push her away again. At the same moment, she released his lips, dropped her head back, pushing her breasts forward. As he moved to push her shoulders, he ended up with her breasts in his hands.
Horrified, he backed up another step, immediately releasing her. "Dougie, You always did know exactly where I liked to be touched, but we shouldn't be doing this… not here. After all, what would little Lulu think?" Shannon exhaled.
By that time, Laura had climbed out of the other door of the car. When she saw Remington's hands on Shannon's breasts, the desire from their passionate exchange in the cab immediately turned to rage. "Lulu thinks her husband should keep his hands to himself!," she spoke, her voice quivering with anger.
"Laura! Oh, thank God. Shannon, you remember Laura, my wife," Remington rushed out nervously. His hands were shaking, and he was trying to move as far away from Shannon as he possibly could. He sidestepped around her, standing beside Laura, dropping his hand around her waist, pulled her tightly against his side and repeated again, "My wife."
"Lulu… I mean Laura…. You're here in London with Dougie. How nice… Bella didn't mention he was with anyone," Shannon stated as she straightened her dress.
"Obviously not," Laura said between clenched teeth, "And what have you been up to, Shannon? I see you managed to find your way out of jail. How is the Duke these days?"
"The Duke?" Shannon asked, looking confused.
"The Duke, you remember!.." Laura knew there was nothing wrong with Shannon's memory, but she played along all the same, "As I recall, he blackmailed you for a picture and some jewelry you…"
Shannon interrupted her before she could continue. "Yes, you know, I'm remembering that now. The Duke is still behind bars as far as I know. I haven't seen him around and no one's been shooting at me," she replied, looking around the street, her eyes darting from one corner to another as if she was looking for him now.
"Well, I'm sure you'll know when he's released, now won't you," Laura said as she firmly patted Shannon's arm. "Mr. Steele, I'm going up to our room. If you wish to join me, I suggest you follow me, otherwise you may find yourself on a very uncomfortable couch this evening. Goodbye, Shannon." Laura stormed into the hotel, practically knocking over the doorman as he tried to get the door open for her.
"Shannon, look," Remington head snapped from Laura's retreating back to Shannon's face. "It was wonderful seeing you again, but I need to go with my wife. It appears she's in a bit of a tizzy now, thanks to you."
"But Dougie… I've missed you," Shannon pouted.
"Don't worry, Shannon, I'm sure you'll find someone to replace me," Remington brushed her aside as he walked quickly toward the doors of the hotel. The last thing he heard as the door closed behind him was "Call me!"
Inside the hotel, Laura was impatiently tapping the button for the elevator as Remington approached. Rubbing his mouth nervously, he wasn't sure what to say to Laura that wouldn't push her over the edge. Taking a breath, he said quietly, "Laura…"
"Finally!" she exhaled as the elevator doors opened. Ignoring him, she stepped inside, pivoted to press the floor button then declared, "Coming, Mr. Steele?"
Remington stepped inside muttering, "Coming, coming." He shoved his hands in his pockets, shifting from one foot to the other in the short ride to their floor. When the elevator jerked to a stop, Laura immediately stomped off toward their room, leaving him leaning on the wall. Pushing off, he quickly caught up to her before she got the room key out of her purse. Placing his hand on the wall to stop her, he asked, "Laura, what has gotten into you?"
"What has gotten into me? What about you? Groping Shannon like that in plain view!" Laura angrily shoved the key into the lock and pushed the door open. Following her, he closed the door behind them as she moved toward the bedroom of their suite, stripping off her jacket as she went.
"Good God, Laura, I was trying to extricate myself from her. At any rate, I doubt she'll bother us again. I handled her," Remington reasoned as he shrugged off his suit jacket, tossing it onto a chair.
Laura bent down, yanking a nightie out of her drawer, and straightened up. She arched an eyebrow at him and gestured emphatically, nightie still in hand, "Yes, you handled her alright. I'm sure most of the lobby got a view of that nauseating sight!" she spat out, flinging her nightgown on the bed and unbuttoning her blouse.
Stepping forward, Remington took her shoulders in his hands and implored, "Laura, there is only one woman I want to handle, but at the moment, she is making that very difficult."
Laura threw her hands up in exasperation, "Is that all you think about?" she wailed. Turning her back to him, she stripped off her shirt, and tossed it on the bed.
Seeing her standing there in her silky lace bra and dress pants, Remington couldn't help the surge of desire that coursed through his body. He moved close behind her, placing his hands on her hips, and turned her to face him, her legs against the edge of the bed. "Laura, love, Shannon means nothing to me. She never did. Now please, can we just stop this… this…" Remington pleaded.
"This what, Mr. Steele? Is it going to be like this every time we run into one of your old paramours? Groping and kissing before you 'extricate' yourself?" Laura snapped, frustrated.
"Groping and kissing? I was doing nothing of the sort! If you were watching closely, it was Shannon who was kissing me, I was trying to separate myself when the… the…." Remington stuttered angrily.
"Groping," Laura supplied the word for him.
"All right… the groping… occurred..." he conceded, but immediately amended with a wag of his finger, "...although it was completely an accident!" he finished with a nod of his head.
"Right, your hands on her breasts were an accident," Laura countered, pursing her lips resignedly.
Remington didn't want to fight anymore, so he pulled her close to his chest and said, "Laura, my love, there is only one woman, and one woman alone, I wish to grope, paw, fondle, caress, twiddle or any other word you can find." To punctuate his statement, he leaned in to kiss her, caressing her back until he could feel her soften into him. He deepened the kiss, unsnapping her bra with one hand and slipping the other up her ribs to cup her velvety warm breast in his hand, brushing her nipple with a teasing thumb.
Laura moaned into his mouth before ending the kiss, but she didn't push him away. Instead, she said, "I'm beginning to appreciate the idea of deeds rather than words."
Her eyes drifted down to his lips, as he said, "Everything in its own time and place, my loveliest Laura." And they both sank down onto the bed, losing themselves in one another once again.
Laura woke as the first rays of sunlight filtered into the room. She immediately reached for her husband only to find his side of the bed cold and empty. She looked around the room to find it just as empty as the space beside her. Standing, she pulled her robe around herself and wandered into the sitting area where she found Remington, leaning against the window staring at the street below. Without a sound she closed the gap between them, coming to a standstill beside him.
Although Remington had not lifted his head to watch her, he knew the instant she was beside him, offering a hand to pull her close. Laura took it, settling herself against his side, trying to see what he was watching.
Outside, partially hidden in an alley across the street, was a small group of boys, ranging in age from ten to fourteen. One older boy was gesturing to the younger ones as if he were directing them. One by one the boys disappeared from view, only to reappear following a well dressed gentleman or woman, 'accidentally' bumping into them. "Just watch the young ones, Laura. They create the diversion as the older boys pick the pockets of those poor unsuspecting souls. One of the oldest cons in the book," Remington stated quietly.
"Which one were you?" Laura asked.
"Me? Well, I started off causing the diversion, but my quick fingers helped me rise through the ranks I guess you could say. It wasn't long before I was much like that older boy. I must have been about thirteen when I had my first big score," he recounted, the memory so fresh in his mind. He chuckled, remembering the thrill of the take and how cocky he was, crowing his success far and wide amongst the other abandoned factory squatters. "Me and a couple other lads managed to steal away with a good portion of the cash from the wallet before some gang members commandeered it. We lived high on the hog for precisely 14 hours...huh...… we thought we were rolling in the big time. We were so full of ourselves….it wasn't to last long though... My 'big score' started a chain of events that led to some unsavoury events."
"What happened?" asked Laura, furrowing her brows, half scared to hear the sordid details of his precarious childhood, but riveted all the same, invested in learning everything possible about this good man who had risen above his mean start in life.
"The man's pocket I picked was known to have considerable wealth, and through my filching of his wallet, some junior members of one of central London's crime gangs masterminded the break-and-enter robbery of his home based on information gleaned from that pick. Some people got hurt, others arrested...I was young enough not to get dragged into that particular job. But the whole affair didn't sit well with me...I tried to keep to myself after that."
Laura rubbed his hand with hers, shuddering at the thought. "And after?" she asked quietly.
"After what? That day? It was a new day, just trying to survive… that is until I met Daniel. I didn't know who he was. He was just a mark on the street as far as I was concerned. A well dressed gentleman on his way in the city. Much to my surprise as soon as my hand hit his pocket he grabbed me, held on tight he did. Dragged me into the alley... " he reminisced, half smiling, shaking his head. "I thought he would beat me, but instead he held my wrist until I stopped struggling. He just… stared at me… like he knew me, but I didn't know why. When I finally stopped he asked me if I wanted to get a bite to eat. Just like that. Like we were old mates, you know." Remington stared off, out the window, lost in thought.
"Did you go with him?" Laura asked, nudging him back to her.
"Daniel?" he laughed, "No, I ran like hell as soon as I felt his grip loosen. A few days later, he found me again. For a week, every time I turned around, there he was. I thought he was… well, I won't tell you what I thought…" he stopped.
"I can imagine. A fine featured young boy being followed by an older gentleman. It doesn't take a detective to figure that out. What'd you do?" Laura slipped her arm around his waist, hugging him closer, offering him comfort with her presence.
"The first few times, I ran and hid. Then after a while, I let my curiosity get the better of me. Or maybe it was the hunger pangs of an empty belly, eh… in any case, I finally stopped running and asked him why he was following me. He told him he saw 'great potential in me'…." he shook his head and swiped at his mouth.
Laura watched his face, the troubled emotions he must have experienced at the time casting shadows across his handsome face, like threatening storm clouds closing in on a fine day. "How did you reply?"
"I told him to go to hell!" Remington laughed heartily at the memory. "But Daniel… ah.. .Daniel didn't give up. He followed me around that whole day, you know. Watched me, studied me. At one point he stopped me, gave me a few pointers, then walked away. Just like that. Just… left." He was watching the boys below again, his keen blue eyes not fully focused, as if he was watching the same scene, but in a different time and place.
Taking Laura by surprise, Remington suddenly turned to her, grasping her arms, and announced, "Let's get dressed then, shall we? We'll grab a bite to eat then ...I promised you a tour of London!"
"Now? Don't you want to talk some more?" Laura asked, confused by his sudden change in mood, and a little disappointed she couldn't uncover more about his past.
"In time, Laura, all in good time. Now, wear something comfortable. And good shoes. We'll be doing a fair bit of walking. And hurry," he instructed as he stepped away toward the bedroom, stripping off his robe as he went.
"But...wait… slow down. Why the rush?" Laura called after him. "You could at least tell me where we are going!" Hearing no response, she walked into the room to find him, jeans on, buttoning up a crisp white shirt. "Rem?"
"Laura, indulge me just this once, please. No questions, not yet," he pleaded as he tucked in his shirt and pulled on a cream colored sweater.
Throwing her hands in the air, Laura groused, "Oh hell!" She yanked a pair of khaki's and a sweater from a drawer and, rushed to get dressed and catch up to Remington who was pacing from one window to the next watching something intently outside.
"Laura, meet me in the lobby," he called out to her and left the hotel suite without waiting for a reply.
"Rem! Wait…." she was cut off by the slamming of the door. Shaking her head, Laura walked into the bathroom to try to fix her hair. She finger combed her locks back into a low, curly ponytail, carefully avoiding the line of stitches as she tried to hide the area. Wetting a brush, she ran it through her bangs, she silently cursing her hairdresser yet again. When she finally felt presentable, she took another minute to apply a thin layer of makeup in an attempt to hide some of her freckles.
Wondering how to dress for the weather, Laura walked towards the windows to get an idea of the temperature outdoors. She looked up towards the sky first, then looked down. She stopped short, inhaling sharply, and brought her hand to her chest. Outside, she could see Rem talking to the oldest of the boys. She watched as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of cash. The older boy held his hands up, as if he was refusing the handout. She could see Rem nodding, his hand extended, offering the money again, his other hand jammed into his jacket pocket. The boy reached out tentatively, then snatched the bills and took off running. As Remington watched him go, he ran a hand through his hair before swiping his face. Laura's heart melted a little as she watched Remington turn away from the alley and walk back across the street towards the hotel.
Laura found Remington in the hotel's cafe, sipping his tea and browsing the London Times. On the table across from him was a carafe with a cup and saucer and a pastry on a plate.
Forgetting for a moment what she had witnessed from the windows upstairs, curiosity got the better of her and she asked: "What's this?"
Remington lowered the newspaper and smiled at her, "Oh this? Breakfast."
Laura pulled out the chair and sat down, shaking the napkin out and placing it on her lap, "I can see that it's breakfast, but what exactly is it?"
"That, Laura, is a Chelsea Bun," he looked at her expectantly.
"I don't like raisins," she stated.
His face fell, but he recovered quickly, and added hastily, "Laura, those are not raisins. They are currants. Much smaller, dryer, with a slight tang." Then his expression sombered somewhat, "Besides, there are some that would gladly have one in place of nothing..."
Laura detected a slight pique in his voice, as she was gingerly lifting the bun, and she looked at him just in time to see a flash of indignation in his eyes before they disappeared behind the headlines in a noisy flutter of paper. Despite herself, Laura enjoyed the bun and closed her eyes appreciatively when she took her first sip of coffee. By the time she had finished, Remington was folding up the paper and stood, offering Laura his arm, "Ready?"
"Lead the way, Mr. Steele," Laura said, giving him an appraising look, hoping his irritation with her had abated. She was hoping he would open up about his gestures towards the boys in the street, but didn't feel it was wise to press the point just now. She began to understand his earlier trepidation about returning to London and decided to go with the flow and simply be there for him.
Outside, Remington once again flagged down a cab and instructed the driver to take them to the Dominion Theater. Laura raised an eyebrow in response. "Isn't it a bit early for a show, Mr. Steele?" she asked.
Remington did not answer, but merely gave a brittle laugh, turning back to look out the window. Laura watched as he nervously chewed on his thumbnail during the cab ride, occasionally doing a double take and craning his neck, looking back, usually at some dark alleyway. The pair emerged from the cab and Laura stood on the sidewalk, looking up at the facade of the old theatre. Nestled tightly between two characteristically big-city grey buildings, it's neon lights glowed in anticipation of the Saturday matinée. She started for the front door, but was surprised when Remington continued down Tottenham Court Road. When she caught up to him, she slipped her hand inside his arm and teased, "Given up front doors already?"
"Nonsense, Laura, " Remington retorted, his indignation dialed back up, "For your information, I was merely trying to share a piece of my past in which I thought you might have some interest, and I think you know full well that front doors were out of my reach when I first came to London!"
Laura stopped and held him back with her hand inside his arm, until he turned around and faced her. "Rem, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. Of course I want to know about your past. And I do understand the situation you were in back then." Then, placing her other hand on his shoulder she continued, "I also know who and what you really are inside." Then she leaned up and kissed his cheek. "Now, show me."
Remington placed his hand on top of hers saying, "Thank you Laura.". He curled his arm around her neck, and pulled her to him, pressing his cheek to her forehead, as they headed down the narrow side street. Laura wrapped her arm around his waist and they walked and talked, the daylight high above lighting up their faces whenever they looked up, Remington pointing to this or that. Approaching a small covered stoop all in red, they startled a covey of pigeons, that flew up in a flurry of feathers and dispersed into the sky high above their heads.
"The Dominion Theater. Used to be a movie house. It's been around since the dawn of motion pictures, uh...1929...I believe." He stood on the edge of the step in the entryway, examining the shelter above him, absently reaching his hand up to it. "When I arrived in London I was 11 or 12, and I soon learned what it was like to not have a roof over my head. Stoops like this were where I kipped until I found the squatters at an old abandoned factory. I'll never forget what it feels like to be so cold and hungry that you can't get comfortable enough to fall asleep, but before you know it, you wake up feeling worse than before. The only relief was to keep moving...which worked out well, considering I was often on the run for stealing a bun or an apple from the grocer." Laura's stomach clenched and, crossing her arms around her middle, she looked away, focusing her eyes on nothing in particular far in the distance.
Remington laughed quietly and hopped off the step, his polished shoe gleaming in the dim alley. "Still, this place resonated with me, being a movie house. It offered frequent distractions, with it's merry clientele. And rich! It was a good place to hone my skills. The people were not as attentive in their merriment and often had their pockets full for a night on the town..." Suddenly he snapped his fingers saying, " Oh! I just remembered!" He looked furtively up and down the alley, and swung around to examine the brick wall adjacent to the stage entryway, running his dexterous fingers along under the window sill.
Laura looked alarmed and strode over to him, whispering, "What are you doing?"
Remington was already pulling a lose brick out of the wall, and in doing so, a weathered note tumbled out onto the ground. Laura bent over to pick it up while Remington replaced the brick. Laura unfolded it gingerly and Remington leaned in to take a look. With both eyebrows arched, Laura looked at it in utter amazement, or puzzlement, or both, then slowly turned that look towards him. Remington's action mirrored hers, as he eye-balled her apprehensively, gaging her reaction, then, quick as lightening, he snatched the note from her and, with a cheeky grin, said, "Foun' me a quid!" He deftly pocketed the note and rolled on his heels, looking very proud of himself. Laura put her hands on her hips and gave him a stern look. At that very moment, they were startled by a noise coming from behind the stage door and in an instant, they both took off back down the alley, Remington grabbing Laura's hand. They kept running, turning this way and that, at one point running through a court yard amongst the tall buildings, and finally came to a halt as they emerged onto a busy street, across from a treed church yard. Trying to look inconspicuous, they straightened their clothes, and proceeded to cross the street.
As they followed the walk, adjacent to the wrought iron fencing surrounding the church premises, Laura turned to Remington with a quizzical look and asked him, "Why did we run?"
And Remington shrugged, saying, "Don't know. Force of habit?" He looked at her and they shared a hearty laugh at each other's expense.
Laura took Remington's arm and they made their less harried way around the perimeter of the church yard. They remained in companionable silence for a time when, at length, Laura asked, "So, is that theatre where you developed your love of the movies?"
Remington smiled at her question, and replied, " In the village where I lived when I was small boy, there was a flea pit...um, you remember...one of those small movie houses, run-down and dirty..." he interjected at Laura's questioning look, "...such as the one in which we found ourselves when I had that damned amnesia in Ireland?...", she mouthed a silent "Ah!" and nodded, and Remington continued, "At any rate...when I was very young, it was the only place I could go where no one could find me...or see me. It was so dark inside the building when a movie was in progress and there were many places to hide. Throughout the week they would have matinee showings of classic film dramas. In the darkness I felt invisible, and safe. When I arrived in London and found the Dominion, I snuck in to see The Sound of Music, which seemed to be the only film they screened there for quite a while."
Laura looked at him in surprise, saying, "But I thought you didn't care for musicals…."
"Yes, well, the Sound of Music is the reason for that Laura. I wasn't in a position to be choosy when I was desperate for warmth, so I got an earful. Trust me, the sound of someone singing "Climb Every Mountain" or any of those delightful tunes is apt to make me violent." He began walking again, "Come now, Laura, lots more to see." Remington looked around, saying, "Now, where are we?..." Then, seeing the front gates of the churchyard, "Ah yes, I remember now..." and turned to look down a narrow street lined with shops.
"Where are we?" Laura asked.
Remington gestured for them to cross the road and continued down the narrow sidewalk. "This is Denmark Street, one of the hotbeds of British popular music." he said. "Some of the boys and I used to like coming down here, hoping for a golden pick, with some of the famous faces you'd see around here. I did pick the pocket of a famous person once...but, it was before he made the big time, so his wallet was virtually bare."
Laura looked surprised, "Who was that?"
"Reginald Kenneth Dwight." Remington replied.
"I think you know him better as Elton John." he said with grin.
Laura gave him an impressed nod. "Wow! Rubbing shoulders with musical royalty. Not bad, Mr. Steele!"
"Well, I was destined for greatness myself...so, why not?", and he gave her a saucy wink. Laura laughed and they continued down the street taking in the various music shops, their windows lined with guitars of every shape and colour. As they arrived at the end of the narrow street and emerged onto another busy street, Remington announced, "Charing Cross Road,..."
"Oh, I know that movie!" Laura interrupted. "Uh...80-something Charing Cross Road, with...um...so-and-so and whatsisname...".
"Very good, Laura!" Remington praised her, then repeated, filling in the gaps, "84 Charing Cross Road; Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins; Columbia Pictures, 1987. That's a recent release. You didn't go see that without me, I hope!"
"Well, I was hoping we could go see it together, but then, all hell broke lose with all phoney marriage business and...everything..." Laura said, as a dark cloud seemed to park itself over her head.
Remington reached his hand over to place it on hers, giving it a shake, and said hastily, "But we will soon set all that to rights, hmm, Mrs. Steele?"
"You're right, Mr. Steele." And then, giving herself a shake she continued, "So, what about 84 Charing Cross Road?"
"We are on it." replied Remington.
Laura looked around, up and down the street and, pointing downwards, exclaimed, "Here? This is Charing Cross Road?"
"It is! Shall we press on?" Remington indicated the direction they were to take.
"By all means, Mr. Steele. Press on!" Remington and Laura crossed the road to take advantage of sporadic bits of morning sunshine that would shine through the occasional gap between the buildings and, as they walked, they came upon a store with neon lights announcing the name Foyle's. Laura's attention was drawn to the windows displaying books for every interest.
They both came to a stop, both speaking at the same time, Laura saying, "Oh good! A bookstore", and from Remington, a puzzled, "Foyle's?".
They looked at each other and then Remington turned to look back in the other direction. "This place used to be down the street from here."
Laura said, "I'd like to go in." and made for the front doors, but Remington stopped her, saying, "But Laura, I thought you didn't like reading. Or is Charlotte Knight's new book out?"
Laura ignored his teasing and retorted, "I believe it was you who thought that reading was a chore."
"I like reading useful things but when it comes to interpersonal relations, I prefer the real thing."
"Yes, you have made that abundantly clear. At any rate, I like to keep a novel in my purse for long journeys and I finished my last one."
"Mmm, alright, let's go then."
In the bookstore, they went their separate ways. Laura found a book to her liking, then went in search of Remington. She found him perusing the art supplies. He seemed deep in thought but turned to her all the same when she approached. He was holding a tin of charcoal pencils, noncommittally looking them over as he spoke. "I bought my first very own sketchbook here. I had run away from Daniel not long after he'd taken me in. He and I had argued over my…studies, that, at the time, I felt were tedious. Daniel was renting a flat not far from here. He'd insisted I learn philosophy and that was the last straw. I was fifteen then. Adjusting to my new life had been frustrating in itself. Being ordered to study things that did not interest me was more than I could bear and I lashed out. Daniel scolded me as one would a young child and I stormed out in a fit of rage. I headed for the only safe place I knew - the theater. I filched a few wallets on the way so I'd have a few quid in my pocket, but as I approached the theatre, I saw Daniel waiting for me, so I turned back and meandered through the streets until I eventually ended up here."
"Did he find you?" Laura asked.
He answered cryptically as he replaced the pencil set on the shelf, "Yes, but not here..." His eyes scanned the store, looking for the exit. He turned back to Laura and, exuding restlessness, said, "Shall we go?"
Laura had been looking at him, empathy in her eyes. She wished desperately that she could take away all the hurt he had experienced in his childhood, but knew that forward was the only direction one could go. Then she had a thought and said to him, "I have a couple of other things I'd like to pick up. Meet you outside?"
"Okay. See you outside." Remington said, and drifted sombrely towards the exit, hands in pockets.
Laura emerged from the store carrying her purchases contained in a large, flat paper bag and found Remington leaning against the wall just past the the last shop window. He pushed away from the wall when he saw her and reached out in an offer to carry Laura's bag for her, but she said, "No thanks, Rem, I got it."
They continued down the street and Laura asked, "So where did Daniel find you?"
Remington laughed airily and said, "That's what I love about you Laura. You never give up until you have all the facts."
Laura took his arm with her free hand, pulling close to him as they walked, saying, "As I recall, you consider that part of my charm, eh Mr. Steele?" She ducked her head, trying to catch his eye.
"Indeed, Mrs. Steele. Indeed." Remington turned to her smiling warmly, and continued his account of his teenaged retaliation.
"After buying the sketchbook, I made my way to a place not far from here...we're on our way there right now. Picadilly Circus." At Laura's eyes brightening, he quickly doused her excitement, "It's not that kind of circus Laura. But I think you will like it all the same. It's a place where one can sit and read or write or, in my case, draw. And that's what I did. I never realized I was any good at it. When I was small, I remember pencils and colours always being thrust at me to keep quiet. I don't know if it was intended as punishment, but that is not what it was for me. It was an escape. A place where I could make things right."
"At any rate, that is how Daniel found me. Immersed in my drawing. When I first spotted him…I thought he might lay into me…it wouldn't have been anything new. But instead he sat beside me and just watched. After a time, he told me that I drew well. And then he mumbled something about having known someone with a talent for the visual arts. Something about how he said that, even though he mumbled it, seemed significant, so I asked him who that was. But he didn't tell me. He proceeded to explain to me the importance of a thorough education. He said I needed to be able to hold an intelligent and informed conversation with the the members of upper crust society, so that I might gain access to their riches. While I charmed the mark, he would pilfer the goods in their coffers, or visa versa. It was then that I realized that the lessons he was teaching me weren't for my betterment, but for his benefit. At the time, I figured he was similar to the people I'd lived with previously, just in finer circumstances. Still, I was better off and he fed me well and didn't beat me, so I went along. But in time, he became much more to me. The next week he had me enrolled in a commercial arts class at a local university. He gave me a chance to do something just for me. No one had ever done that for me before. It didn't last too long, though. After a few months we took off on a job in Monte Carlo. We had to earn a living after all."
They continued on their way through the busy streets, Remington leading the way, Laura admiring the grand architecture that could be seen in every direction. Soon they came upon a narrow cobbled street, lined with colourful store fronts and awnings, where only pedestrian traffic was permitted.
"Chinatown?", Laura asked, observing the chinese characters in place of the english words one would have expected on the shop signage. "So this is from where all delicious smells were emanating!"
Remington smiled and, like Laura, admired the ambiance, "Yes, Chinatown. I… ah….spent some time here snitching and poaching the wears when the shopkeepers were looking the other way, just to ward off the hunger pangs. I could tell you which carts to stay away from and which ones would share at the end of the day. Back in those days… some of the keepers would offer a spot to sleep… for a price. I took my chances in a doorway or two. Don't misunderstand, I wouldn't resort to… well… never mind that…" his voice trailing of.
Remington felt Laura shudder when the reality of what he wouldn't say struck her. He pulled her closer, dropping his chin on the top of her head as they slowly walked down the street. "Laura… if it wasn't for Daniel… I never would have made it. I heard stories of many that didn't. Daniel saved me… I don't know if he ever knew exactly what he did for me."
"I think he did." Laura assured him. "And he did his best for you. In his own way. He taught you what he knew, like any good father would."
They stopped in at an intimate little restaurant for a quick lunch where they shared a pot of green tea and Laura insisted on teaching Remington how to use chopsticks. After lunch they relaxed for a few minutes while they looked out the window at the people passing by.
Remington became wistful again and began, "Laura, did I ever tell you the reason I came to London? What prompted me to leave Ireland?" Without waiting for a reply, he continued, "Night and the City. Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Twentieth Century Fox , 1950. Widmark plays Harry Fabian, a London hustler with ambitious plans that never work out. Finally he tries to perpetrate a con that ultimately leads to his own undoing. I happened to see that film in one of those flea pits in Dublin. I was just a boy but for some reason I identified so much with Harry. My life in Ireland was dreadful… shuffled from one family to the next, suffering beatings and neglect, running away to live on the streets… London looked like the place of dreams. So I hid on the next ferry and found my way here..."
At that moment, the waiter returned with the cheque. After paying, they returned to the cobbled street, slowly making their way through the rest of Chinatown. They turned a corner, where it was less busy and made their way slowly back to the main road.
Laura spoke up, "Is that when you picked up the name Harry? When you saw the movie and came to London?"
Remington nodded, and continued, "I lived on these streets for almost 2 years before Daniel and I happened upon each other… I had no home, no name..." Remington choked out the last few words. Pulling him close, Laura simply held him as waves of emotions rippled through his frame. He accepted her offer of support, his chin tucked onto her shoulder. After a few minutes, he realized they were becoming a spectacle. It was a quieter street, but there were still some people around.
He stepped back and smoothed his sweater before turning away again, leading them to rejoin Shaftesbury Avenue, the busy road they had travelled earlier. Slowly, they made their way up the elegant street and Laura admired the store fronts and splendid old buildings they passed along the way.
Where Shaftesbury Avenue ended, surrounded by a busy tangle of streets intersecting, arose a fountain, topped with the statue of a winged figure. Remington and Laura crossed the road and joined the other tourists who were relaxing on the steps that encircled the splendid fountain.
"This," Remington announced, "is Picadilly Circus."
Laura looked a little surprised, and said, "This doesn't look anything like a circus. But it is lovely." She inhaled the charming atmosphere as her eyes drank in the magnificance of the fountain before them.
"Circus is actually Latin for circle and, in the case of Picadilly Circus, the term is used to refer to the circular shape of this road junction." Remington informed her. "I guess all those lessons in Philosophy and the Classics paid off, eh?" He grinned at Laura, who shook her head at him affectionately. Changing the subject, Remington said, "It's a fine day. Why don't we sit for a while?" He gestured for Laura to sit down and she did so, closing her eyes to the warm sun.
Suddenly she opened her eyes and said, "Oh! I almost forgot! I got you something." She pulled out a large padfolio made from a soft, supple leather and handed it to Remington, who accepted it, opening it to reveal a sketchpad. "Here you go...oh wait!...there's more." She reached back into the bag pulling out the tin of pencils he had been handling back at the bookstore, and continued, "I thought you should renew your passion for drawing...after all, a person should have a little something to fall back on..." she added with quirk of her eyebrows.
Remington looked at the the sketchbook and pencils in his hands, stunned, "Oh Laura...I'm touched!" He leaned over to kiss her lips. Laying the pencil tin down next to him on the step, his hands trembling slightly, he flipped the top of the sketchpad to open it, smoothing his hand across the surface, and seemed to wade into the possibilities of the blank page.
"Do you like it?" Laura asked.
Remington was startled out of his brief reverie, but quickly recovered, smirking, and quipped, "Well, it sure beats running shoes."
They laughed together and Remington picked out a pencil saying, "And I know exactly who my first subject should be!"
"Who?" asked Laura.
"You!" replied Remington.
"Oh no, Rem, no!"
Remington interrupted her, "Now Laura, I insist. I can't think of an artist who did not depict the love of his life on the canvas..."
Laura stilled at that, blushing furiously. Then, shaking her head she said, "That's preposterous. Those are depictions of nudes."
Remington grinned at that, his eyebrows working, and countered suggestively, "We'll save that for later, what do you say?" Laura's face had already fallen when she realized what she'd said, and opened her mouth to continue her protests, but Remington begged her to agree, adding, "Look, Laura, we have some time before we have to move on to our next stop, so let's relax here for awhile; you can read and I can sketch." So, Laura relented, trying not to be self-conscious while Remington sketched her.
After an hour or so, Remington stood, and helped Laura to her feet. He descended the steps, but before doing so herself, Laura leaned forward, to press her lips to his forehead in a sweet kiss. "Where to now, my dear Mr. Steele?" she asked.
"A little shopping, Mrs. Steele, at some of the finest haberdasheries in London!" he exclaimed.
Laura rolled her eyes at the mere thought of shopping, but, nevertheless, slipped her hand in his arm declaring, "Lead the way, Mr. Steele."
Remington led Laura around the other side of the fountain onto Regent Street Saint James's and, soon after, turning right on the next block onto Jermyn Street, which boasted several small gentlemen's outfitters and tailors that ran along its entire length. Remington commented on each of them as they passed by, pointing out which tailor was best for different suits and shirts. He stopped in front of Turnbull and Asser, ushering Laura inside. Immediately an older gentleman called out to him, "Mr. Steele! I didn't expect to see you today?"
"Ah Luca! So nice to see you!" Remington shook the man's hand before introducing him to Laura. "Laura, I'd like you to meet one of the finest tailors in London, if not the world, Luca Giordano. Luca, my wife, Laura."
Taking Laura by the shoulders he immediately kissed both of her cheeks before declaring, "Mr. Steele, she is quite the catch, no?"
Blushing, Laura released the older gentleman as Remington smiled from ear to ear. "Luca, you haven't had a chance to finish that order I sent you a few weeks back, have you?" he asked.
"Oh, Mr. Steele, had I but known you would be in our fine shop today I would have prepared it for you. We are still working on the shirts you requested," Luca replied.
"And the smoking jacket?" Remington inquired.
"Ah, yes, the jacket just needs a fitting and it is done," the tailor answered with a smile.
Remington looked at his watch, then said, "No time like the present… we have an hour or two before we must head back to the hotel. Laura, why don't you make yourself comfortable. This should only take a few minutes."
Looking around, Laura spotted a few overstuffed chairs nearby. Curling her legs underneath her, she sat and watched as Luca marked and pinned the jacket for the perfect fit. The longer she watched, the more appreciative she became of her husband's lean torso and long limbs. Luca had him try on several of the shirts he had ordered for a nip here, a tuck there, exposing his chest more than a few times. Biting her bottom lip, Laura couldn't help the rush of desire she felt as she watched him slowly strip out of one shirt and into another.
Remington smirked as he observed Laura watching him, her amber eyes darkening, her skin pink, her hands twitching. Catching her eye, he raised his eyebrows and puckered his lips. Laura blushed again, this time fanning herself with her hand to tamp down her desire.
"Laura, are you in need of a glass of water perhaps? You appear a bit flushed as the moment," Remington teased.
Laura looked away, embarrassed, but looked back and replied, "Are you almost done, dear? We have more to see, don't we? After all, you did promise me a full tour."
Remington narrowed his eyes as he smiled, contemplating what she was thinking. "Luca, what do you think? Are we about finished?"
The tailor nodded and winked at Remington, "For your lovely wife, we are finished. I'll have these completed in just a day or two. Still shipping the items to Los Angeles?"
"Yes, please, Luca. No rush. We won't be returning for another few weeks," Remington assured Luca as he slowly pulled his shirt and sweater back on, watching the older gentleman collect the adjusted garments, pass them to one of his assistants with the pertinent instructions and finally, leave the room to attend to another customer.
Laura rose as Remington approached her and turned to leave, but he snatched her to him mid step, his arm firmly around her waist, enthralling her with the hot blue spark in his eyes that quickly dropped to gaze at her lips, "Did you enjoy the show, Mrs. Steele?"
"Not as much as I'm going to enjoy your company later," Laura returned with a sultry voice, leaning up to kiss him, a soft lingering kiss with a couple of fleeting flicks of the tongue, which caused Remington's fingers to twitch at her waist. Meanwhile she snuck her hand under his sweater to run her hands along the plains of his chest which she had been admiring during the last half hour.
"Laura, ehem, if you don't stop your ministrations, we may not leave here any time soon, love," Remington stated quietly, glancing downward.
Stepping back, she released him, straightening his sweater. "Where to now, Mr. Steele?" she asked, stepping back and smoothing her own clothes as Luca stepped back into the room.
"Harrods I think. However I think we'll make better time on the tube. Luca, thank you again. Mrs. Steele and I are going to take our leave and I'll look forward to your package when we return to Los Angeles," Remington stated as he clasped his hands together.
As they made their way to the nearest subway station, Laura asked Remington a question about his past that had been nagging her. "Rem? Where did Daniel bring you to…to…outfit you, I guess you could say? You obviously have a preference for fine clothes which I'm sure Daniel is responsible for. Luca called you Mr. Steele so not there, but where?"
"As always, nothing escapes you, Laura. No, not Luca but another tailor up on Savile Row. He owed Daniel a few favors so one of my lessons was to learn how to dress impeccably, how to identify material, fabric, tailoring quality. Pierre wasn't as forgiving as Daniel, I can tell you that! His sharp tongue wasn't nearly as sharp as the pins he would intentionally stick me with should I misbehave or failed in my studies." Remington explained as they walked.
Entering the station that was crawling with throngs of commuters, Remington and Laura linked their fingers together to avoid getting separated and quickly found the correct platform. The train ride was bumpy but not without it's rewards as they had to huddle close in the crowded train, Remington grinning widely and Laura rolling her eyes at him. Within minutes they disembarked the train and left the station, walking the short distance to Harrod's in Knightsbridge.
Once inside the store, Remington stopped and asked the first employee he saw where they could find Laura ladies' apparel. Laura took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. Shopping was not her favorite activity and in stores such as Harrods she could easily feel overwhelmed.
Noticing her ire, Remington, slipped his arm around her shoulder, pulling her close with a kiss on her temple, "Relax Laura, this might be fun."
"Fun? Shopping isn't fun, Mr. Steele. Running, now that's fun. A good mystery…that's fun. Even an afternoon with Frances is more enjoyable than shopping!" she complained, her hands like knives, chopping the air in front of her this way and that.
"All right then, how about a small fashion show, just for me? A little tit for tat for earlier, eh?" Remington smiled a lopsided grin at her.
This gave her an idea, but she did not reveal that to Remington. Instead, she made much ado of her disapproval of the circumstances, rolling her eyes as she capitulated amongst much moaning and groaning, "O-o-ka-a-y. If you insist..."
Still grinning like a devil, Remington found a seat near the fitting room, and made himself comfortable, his lanky legs crossed, as he watched Laura pick up several items from nearby racks. When she made her choices, she gave him a dirty look, then she disappeared into the dressing room.
Inside, Laura put on her first outfit, a simple white sweater top and black skirt combo that fit her slim figure perfectly. She was drawn into the experience of feeling brand new, fine materials caress her skin and she began to look forward, with anticipation, to the effect she could have on Remington if she really put her mind to it. She looked at herself in the mirror, turning this way and that, running her hands down her sides, feeling the snug fit and admiring the fine tailoring that had the ability to enhance the human form so effectively. When she finished admiring the clothes, with her chin high, she gave herself a self-empowering smirk and turned around to show Remington her outfit.
When she emerged from the dressing room, she walked to the center of the space, one hand on her hip.
Remington had been speaking with the shop lady, an impeccably dressed attractive young woman who clearly had designs on him. He, while unreceptive to her advances, never saw any harm in a bit of harmless flirtation. When Laura emerged from the fitting room, he glanced at her as he spoke, looking back to the girl, but immediately did a double take, recognizing the glow emanating from Laura. He stood immediately and went to her, circling around in mock inspection of her outfit.
The young woman only noticed Laura when she had recognized the unmistakable adoration in Remington's eyes upon his double take. She looked up with an air of disdain and, as Remington circled Laura, his attention patently undivided, she turned up her nose and left the room.
Laura had given the woman an amused smirk and, although she was aware of Remington's proximity to her, she did not look at him immediately, her eyes lingering at the empty doorway. He came around her saying, "Well, Mrs. Steele no one can quite pull off understated sexy business attire quite like you." Now he stood in front of her, his eyes raking their way up, from her stockinged toes, admiring the way the pencil skirt flirted subtly at her knees, then hugged her thighs, disappearing under the softness of the sweater, leaving the cinching of her tiny waist to the imagination. From there his gaze slowed as the sweater hazily defined her delectable midriff, lingered at her ribcage, then came to a stand still at her chest. At that point he looked like he might drool, but he wisely kept his mouth closed...for the moment. His eyes finally reached her face after admiring her regal neck above the wide neck of the cashmere sweater. His eyes met hers with a twinkle and he grinned widely, saying, "You know, Laura, you'd make a wonderful secretary."
At that, Laura's eyes shot daggers at Remington and she stomped a foot, her arms rigid, her hands clenched, and she spun on her heal, returning to the change room in a huff. Remington laughed quietly, shaking his head and murmuring to himself, "Ah-ha-ha, it never fails..."
Back in the dressing room Laura had to count to ten before she stopped seeing red. Her eyes had been blindly staring at her clothing selections hanging on the hooks. She had picked out a bustier and panties set, steel gray satin with midnight blue lace trim, thinking she would just try it on without showing it, perhaps buying it on the sly to surprise Remington later, but now she had a better idea. One of the other selections she had made was a rather dull wrap around dress, taupe made from poplin like you'd see in a safari shirt. She had picked that one out as a gag, knowing full well it was not what Remington had in mind for this little "fashion show" of his. As she formulated her plan, she thought to herself, So, Remington thinks any woman demonstrating that she possesses more than half a brain should be reduced to support staff status. Well, I'll would show him who is boss!
Remington was once again seated in the chair, patiently waiting for Laura to emerge from the dressing room, when, suddenly, the door swung open with vigor, causing him to jump and sit up a bit straighter, and Laura floated out as if she were the Queen.
Taking in the plain, boxy, ill-fitting dress, Remington grimaced, searching for something good to say, as Laura did a little spin before him, saying, "Well, what do you think?"
"Well, it's, uh...it's..."
"You don't like it!" Laura spoke for him, feigning disappointment.
Remington returned, "It's not that I don't like it, it's that it's...well, it's..."
"Alright," Laura interrupted, "I'll take it off..."
Remington gave a sigh of relief at being so easily let off the hook, but his expression of alarm returned when, instead of going back into the dressing room, Laura came to stand before him, barely a foot away, just between his knees. Before he knew it, she unwrapped the dress to reveal the blue and grey lingerie set she had picked out. She let the dress slip just off her shoulders and gave him a seductive look saying, "Do you still want me to take it off, Mr. Steele?"
Remington, trying to ignore his physical response to her, looked around to make sure no one was around, and said, "Laura!...um, are you sure you should be wearing that...those...um...?"
Laura gave him a withering look, "Are you saying you want me to take them OFF?!"
Remington was already shaking his head, his lips forming a "no!" in objection and his hands before him, fingers splayed, shaking back and forth, "NO! Not here!" Then pointing at the dressing room, "In there. Yes, please take it off." And when she had disappeared once again behind the door, he slumped into the chair. Behind the closed door, Laura was in a fit of giggles, trying not to make a sound, then proceeded to put on the final number she had selected, a shimmering silvery one-shouldered evening gown, in two or three layers of varying shades of blue-grey, cut from the sheerest, barely there chiffon, silver strands of tiny crystals in random sizes strung intermittently and delicately between the layers. The whole dress seemed to have been spun directly from a misty spring night. The undergarments she was wearing were needed underneath the dress to cover things up, otherwise all would be revealed, but she thought now that she would really pull out all the stops, "Well, he DID say I should take them off...".
When she was ready, her hair pinned up in a haphazard upsweep, she gave herself another smirk in the mirror as she pulled at some of the random wisps of material that lended themselves to the ethereal quality of the dress, "Hm! This should silence you for a bit, Mr. Steele!"
As Laura stepped out of the dressing room, she was rewarded with Remington's gorgeous smile as he admired her with such adoration, that she was almost sorry to be teasing him so mercilessly, but then, he knew how much she hated shopping...So, she proceeded with her plan and walked slowly towards him, her eyes glued to his, inscrutable smile in place.
Remington sat back and took in the vision before him, thinking, Wow! Quite a lady! It wasn't until she was closer to him that he realized that the material was completely sheer. He could see right through it, her charms prominent, clearly defined through translucent fabric. Looking around, he cleared his throat, uncrossed his legs to reposition himself on the chair.
"Laura, I think you need to…" Remington began.
Leaning forward, her hands on his knees, she asked innocently, "Need to what, Mr. Steele?"
Remington's gaze fell lower as he had an unencumbered view down the front of the dress. "Laura? Are you… missing something perhaps?" he asked as he ran his hand up her ribs, stopping only when she raised an eyebrow.
"Missing anything? No… I don't think so. But I do need something, Mr. Steele," she stood slowly, his hand falling away slowly.
"Anything for you, Mrs. Steele," he replied breathlessly.
"I have a sudden urge to bring this little shopping trip to an end and return, with all haste, to our hotel," she answered with her own lopsided grin and a suggestive twitch of the eyebrows.
Remington gulped and pulled at his collar, saying, "I'll have the cabbie waiting for us by the time you have changed back into your regular clothes," he said.
Laura didn't say a word, but nodded a satisfied smile with an affirmative, "Mmm...", and turned gracefully, lifting her skirts as she glided back into the dressing room, the delicate material of her dress flouncing with the swaying of her hips.
"Oh Laura?", Remington called to her.
Laura looked at him over her shoulder, "Hmm?"
"Find anything that tickled your fancy?" he asked, his blue eyes sparkling with desire.
Laura thought for a moment, then replied, "Not here, Mr. Steele, but I believe there was a little something that… tickled my fancy… back at the hotel."
"Little something… Laura, really... " he said, affronted, but she merely threw her head back in a giggle that sounded like the tinkling of a bell and did nothing to diminish Remington's desire for her.
As soon as she disappeared, the tinkling fading away, Remington stood and swiftly went in search of the shop girl. When he found her, she gave him a wide alluring smile, "Yes sir, I'd be delighted to service you in any way that you desire."
Remington laughed a little at her obvious overture and said, "Yes, I'm Remington Steele and I would like for you to order a cab immediately for Mrs. Steele and I. And after she has finished changing I'd like you to arrange to have the clothing in the dressing room wrapped and sent to the Penthouse Suite at the St. John Hotel. Everything, that is, aside from the taupe poplin wrap around dress...it was...uh, out shone...by the other selections. After you call the cabbie, I will make the arrangements for payment of your fine merchandise, but now, we are in a hurry to return to the hotel, so, if you would be so kind..." and, with that , he gave her a pointed look.
From the moment he had said, "Mrs. Steele", the young lady's face fell, and she merely nodded politely and carried out his instructions without delay. After all the arrangements were made, he thanked the girl and went back to wait for Laura, patiently, but with a fair amount of fidgeting.
Finally she appeared at his side, sliding her hand into the crook of his elbow, murmuring in his ear, "Ready, Mr. Steele?"
Remington turned and smiled down at her, "More than ready,...Mrs. Steele." Patting her hand, they walked out of the store, and into the waiting cab.
The quick three mile drive took less than fifteen minutes and the pair couldn't exit the vehicle fast enough. They had spent the ride cuddled together, kissing and stroking, teasing each other not just physically but with a banter that felt as familiar as the morning sun. When they arrived at the hotel, it was Laura who climbed out of the vehicle first, looking around warily for any uninvited guests while Remington paid the driver.
Within a few minutes, they had hastily retrieved their room key, checked for messages, and were making their way through the hotel lobby, which was abuzz with the comings and goings of guests. Inside the elevator, Remington pressed the button for their floor repeatedly in the hopes that the doors would shut in time to keep out a small, but noisy, group of tourists. Laura was standing just behind him, her hands clenching his arm, urging him to push harder, or faster, or both, when a foot appeared between the doors just in time for them to re-open. The group bustled in, separating Laura and Remington by their sheer volume squeezing into the confined space. The pair did not have much time to mourn yet another missed opportunity to be alone, as the loudest of the group, an excitable middle-aged woman with a thick accent, ended up between them, carelessly spilling her coffee, first on Remington's sleeve, then on Laura's pant leg, as she gesticulated to her friends. When they were finally left alone in the elevator, Remington and Laura looked at each other and at themselves surveying the havoc left behind by the boisterous crowd.
Remington pulled a hankerchief from his pocket, and crouched down in front of Laura to mop up the excess liquid dripping from Laura's trousers. As he raised his head to look up at her, his eyes froze, mesmerized, memories of the lingerie, the dress, the soft white sweater, flooding his consciousness. Laura smirked at him affectionately, scrubbing her hands through his hair, and said, "Lose something, Mr. Steele?" He came back to earth and looked up at her, grinning. "No. I found something, though..." he said, as he stood, placing his hands on her hips, and leaning in for a kiss. But before his lips reached hers, the elevator bell dinged, announcing their arrival.
Remington pulled back at the intrusive sound, frowning, but Laura let out a guttural snicker and grabbed his hand, pulling him out the doors before they had even finished opening all the way, "Come on, Rem! I know where we won't be disturbed!".
Remington fumbled in his pocket for the key. With difficulty, as Laura was showering his whole head with kisses. The key finally in hand, he blindly tried to unlock the door, reaching around the squirming Laura, who, by now had forcefully commandeered his lips with hers. "mmph...mmLaura.. mm...", pulling away with a pop, he continued to speak breathlessly, "As delicious as it is to drink from your sweet lips, is there any way we could hold off long enough to get into the roOO...?!" At that very moment, the lock gave way. Between their collective weight pressing against it, his hand already pushing down on the handle, effectively unlatching it, the door flew open and they fell into the room, almost right to the ground. But they caught each other just in time to stay upright. Without disentangling themselves, their lips still busy, they wriggled in far enough to get behind the door at which point Remington took control. Having tossed the keys unceremoniously on the floor, he pushed Laura up against the door with his body as he closed it, trapping her and kissing her thoroughly at last, until she had to tear her mouth away, gasping, "Oh Mr. Steele!" He continued kissing her, trying to nuzzle in between her sweater's turtleneck collar and her neck, his hands splayed against the door pinning her in place, his hips twitching back and forth. Laura continued kissing wherever she could reach, but also, trying to move things to the next step, she said, "...this coffee...mm...smell...mmmh..is really...uh...bothering me..."
"Yes...mmmm...unless we want to smell like baristas for the remainder of our day ...mm... it appears we are both in need of a shower."
Laura froze at that, smiling, dimples flashing, and said, " Excellent point..." interrupting herself to join him in a slow seductive kiss, then continuing, "...mmm...Sir..." her hands beginning to lift his sweater. But Remington swiftly grabbed her wrists, and held them up against the wall, kissing her deeply, his hips still twitching uncontrollably, finally breaking away to say,
"Allow me, Mrs. Steele."
Sweeping her off her feet before she could say another word, Remington carried her to the large bathroom, sitting her on the vanity. He reached into the shower and turned the tap to hot before returning to her, stepping in close, between her legs.
Slowly he pulled her sweater over her head, carefully avoiding her stitches. With his hands on either side of her hips, he leaned forward to kiss her, his hips now swaying from side to side. They continued kissing, Laura tugging upward on the hem of his sweater, stopping only long enough for her to pull it over his head, then, as they kissed again, their tongues tangling, she deftly unbuttoned his shirt, ghosting her hands under the open shirt, whispering them up over his chest and onto his shoulders, brushing her thumbs across his collarbones with the gentlest of touches.
Remington moaned, his eyes closed and head back, as she nudged the shirt off his body, his hips still twitching of their own volition, as Laura leaned in, breathing him in deeply. Opening his eyes, he took her face in his hands to kiss her again, his thumbs caressing her cheekbones. After brushing away his shirt and tossing on the floor to join the growing pile of discarded clothing, Laura snaked her hands along his ribs and to his back, her feather-like touch igniting a burning path up and down his spine and along the waistline of his jeans. They continued to kiss languorously as her fingers found the button and zipper of his jeans, which she gripped firmly to open, stilling his hips in the process. Finally, after peeling away the rigid material and pushing it off his hips, Laura cupped his hardening erection, eliciting from him a sudden jerk of his hips, as both of them moaned at the convincing evidence of his arousal. Never breaking the kiss, Remington's hands went straight to Laura's breasts, his thumbs teasing her nipples through the lacy fabric. The kiss finally ended when Laura threw her head back in ecstasy and Remington's lips dropped to replace a thumb, his free hand now reaching around to support her back while she leaned back to give him better access. Remington's lips closed over her taut nipple and he drew it fully into his mouth, laving it with his tongue, soaking the material. Laura writhed beneath him when he took her aching nipple between his teeth, his thumb pinching the other one, the movements matching, rolling back and forth ever so gently. Her response was anything but, as she cried out, her hips now twitching and rolling. Remington's supporting hand fumbled to find the clasp of her bra, another article of clothing flying through the air, as he now feasted directly on her bare breasts, one after another.
As her hands settled on his nape, she pulled him up and slid off the vanity, their lips meeting for another impassioned kiss. Remington reached for Laura's waist now, wanting, needing to test her readiness, but she pushed him back gently as she removed her own jeans, kicking them off to the side, no longer caring if they landed on the pile with all the others. Meanwhile Remington finished removing his own in the same manner and before he had completed the task, he found himself with an armful of Laura as she pressed her body against his, chest to hip, leaning her head back to look at him, his blue eyes bright, his pupils almost fully dilated, making his eyes appear a midnight blue. Reaching her arms around his neck, she fingered the soft hair at the base of his neck, speaking softly, "Rem, it's getting a little… steamy… in here."
Remington hooked his fingers into the waistband of her satin briefs, pushing the smooth material down as he kneaded the soft skin underneath. "It's going to get hotter… and wetter…. soon enough," he replied.
Laura moaned into his mouth as he kissed her again, his tongue teasing hers, as he caressed her bare back. Instinctively she arched against him, a gasp escaping her lips. As he brought his hands up to her face once again, she stepped back enough to carefully drop to her knees, sliding her hands down his chest and abdomen, catching the waistband of his briefs, slowly dragging them down his legs. She wrapped her hand around his manhood, gently coaxing the foreskin off the swollen head, exposing the pink sensitive skin beneath. With just the tip of her tongue, she licked a slow circle, the sound of his gasps of pleasure music to her ears.
"Laura…" he breathed her name, drawing a smile to her lips as she took him into her mouth, alternating between sucking and stroking him. She released him with a long lick of her tongue, leaned forward, kissing the twitching muscles on his stomach. Remington sighed her name once more as he dropped his head back in pleasure. Smiling again, Laura stroked him slowly, taking him into her mouth again. With his eyes closed, he reached down to bury his hand in her hair, inadvertently pressing on the line of stitches well hidden amongst her curls.
"Ow… Rem... " she exclaimed pulling back at the sudden pain on her head, sitting back on her heels, covering the area with her hand.
Remington suddenly panicked, "Laura? What happened, love? What did I…" He stopped when it dawned on him. "Bloody hell… Laura… I'm so sorry. Here, let me look." Kneeling down, he leaned forward to push her hair out of the way so he could get a better look. Not seeing any fresh blood or any other indications he caused any kind of damage, he took her face in his hands. "I'm sorry, love… I was so caught up in the moment I forgot…"
Covering his hands with hers, she kissed him before saying, "It's okay. I'm okay. It just took me by surprise, that's all. No harm done."
"No harm? Laura, in my own carelessness, I hurt you," Remington replied, his eyes scanning her face for any sign she was still in pain.
Standing slowly, she held his hands together in front of her chest, "I'm glad you lost yourself in the moment...that was the idea..." she assured him with an inviting smile as she leaned forward kissing him again.
Remington brushed his finger tips across her jawline again, pulling her closer, pressing her lips tightly to his.
Taking two steps forward, Laura backed him against the cool glass wall of the shower enclosure, the kiss taking on a raw edge to it. Reaching to the side next to them, she opened the steam covered glass door , taking his hand and, pulling him inside. Laura started to kneel down to resume their previous activities, but Remington grasped her hips, pressing her body against one of the glass walls, assaulting her mouth with wet kisses. Laura clung to his body now damp from both the water and the steam , kissing him back fervently. As water sluiced its way down her body, Remington followed the rivulets downward, pausing to suckle first one, then the other nipple, squeezing her breasts as he did so. Laura was lost in her own pleasure, moaning loudly, her hand once again in his hair. Remington glanced upward meeting her sultry gaze with his own ardent one.
Lowering himself to one knee, Remington caressed, kissed, licked and nibbled the freckles on Laura's sternum and abdomen as she squirmed against the glass in pleasure. He stroked the muscles on her right leg, kneading her hip with his fingers before lifting her leg over his shoulder, allowing him access to her center. Laura cried out when his tongue enfolded the tight bundle of nerves, swollen and aching with need. As Remington rolled his tongue along her sensitive skin he felt her legs begin to tremble, her fingers entwining his hair, tugging, lost in pure ecstasy. He teased her entrance, slipping a long digit inside her tight passage. As he stroked her, Laura panted, begging for release, her body quivering uncontrollably. He established a rhythm of stroking and suckling, pushing Laura closer and closer to the edge until she cried out and collapsed against him. Remington simply held her tight until her breathing evened off and she released her tight grip on his shoulders.
Kissing and nipping her flushed, freckled skin, Remington stood slowly, still holding her leg as he pushed her body upward, her arms around his neck. He wrapped her other leg around his waist balancing her against his body. Laura held him tightly, her heart still racing. Spying the corner of the enclosure, Remington carefully moved their entwined bodies against the tiled wall where he found leverage. As Laura clutched at his body, he slowly entered her passage, drawing a gasp from her lips. Buried deeply within her, she held fast to him as he slowly made love to her, rolling his hips with each upward thrust, the hot water and steam only serving to tease and caress their bodies.
Laura fastened her lips to his jawline as the fingers of one hand dug into his scalp, the other wrapped around his neck. She locked her heels behind him, finding leverage of her own. With every thrust, she pulled him closer, using her strong thighs to prolong each stroke. Her own pleasure building, Laura whimpered as she arched her back and dropped her head against the tile behind her, pulling his head to her chest, her fingers holding tightly to his thick dark hair. Remington was delighted at the sounds of pleasure Laura was emitting as he continued to pump and roll his hips, faster now, his own release not far behind.
As the first explosive thrust occured, he braced himself with one hand on the wall, holding tightly to Laura as she wrapped her legs firmly around him, her hips matching his thrusts, her cries echoing his. Still holding her, he turned and slowly slid down the wall, their bodies still entwined, as the last vestiges of their combined pleasure left them. Together as one, they held tightly to one another before Remington finally shifted, separating their bodies. Kissing her forehead, he gently brushed her damp hair off her face before saying, "Laura, not to be practical after a wonderful moment, but, we need to be careful of your injury, love. I don't want to have to explain to the good doctor why it didn't heal as it should have."
"Always so practical, Mr. Steele?" Laura asked as she stood slowly, offering her hand to him to stand.
"No, but we do need to meet with the solicitor later so we should attempt to shower, strictly for hygienic purposes, mind you. I could wash your back for you, perhaps..." he suggested, but Laura grasped his shoulders and turned him around, nudging him out of the shower enclosure. "Oh no, if you start washing my back, we'll never get out of here. Instead, why don't you call room service and order us some tea and sandwiches and I'll do my best to not wet my entire head. Oh and can you pick our clothes up and have them sent to the hotel laundry?"
Remington stopped and raised an eyebrow as she laughed in response.
Within the hour, Laura and Remington sat at the elegant little table by the windows in their room, enjoying a British afternoon tea of dainty sandwiches and little cakes on tiered plates. Laura, ravenous, wolfed down 2 sandwiches and a fruit tart as Remington eyed her, saying, "Easy there, Laura, easy. There's plenty to go around." Laura looked at him sheepishly, her right cheek bulging and dropped her lashes. After chewing daintily and swallowing, she wiped the corners of her mouth with her napkin and said, "Well, a girl's bound to build up an appetite after engaging in vigorous activ-..."
Understanding dawning, Remington raised his eyebrows with a half smile and nodded, "Oh..."
"... ity for the better part of the day, AND I was talking about all that WALKING, Mr. Steele!" Laura hastily finished her sentence and amended it, giving Remington a pointed glare. Lifting her chin haughtily, she snapped her napkin with a huff, smoothing it back on her lap, but could not repress the smile twitching on her lips.
They continued their small repast in companionable silence, but as the minutes ticked by, Remington's rising tension did not go unnoticed by Laura. He had not eaten very much and, while his casual stance belied his anxiety as he sat back in his seat with his lanky legs crossed, his frequent glances at his watch and the tapping of his fingers on the table broadcast it.
Laura took a sip of her tea, the chink of cup on saucer rousing Remington from his ruminations, and said, casually, "You know, I often wondered how Humphrey Bogart became a hero of sorts for you." She was hoping to lift his spirits a bit.
He smiled weakly but did not look at her, instead he brushed some invisible crumbs from his lap, saying, "He was an actor who broke his own mold, and rose above playing outlaws ." His blue eyes peered out the window, a spark of light ready to take flight, before the weight of his brow smothered it again. "I was hoping that I had finally done the same, but it appears Daniel will have the last word, and he seemed perfectly happy with his lot and having me carry on in the same line." With a heavy sigh, he leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, his head drooping between his shoulders.
Laura leaned forward as well and reached for his hands, clasping them together between hers, "Rem! Daniel cannot undo what you have built, what we have built together."
Remington's anxiety over the unknown specifics of Daniel's will, caused his insecurities to sprout up and crowd his thoughts."No, Laura, it was you. It was you who changed me. I don't know if I did enough to leave my past behind."
Laura looked at his bowed head, shaking her head with a mixture of affection and empathy, and said, "I only changed your name. It was you who chose to stay. You had plenty of opportunity to disappear into the night, never to be found, but you didn't, did you? You have made choices all along the way that, when all was said and done, benefited our agency."
Remington looked up at her with a wan smile. "I did it all for for you, Laura. Much as I appreciate what we do, the security and sense of purpose it offers, you have been my greatest inspiration." He drooped his head again in defeat.
"I don't believe that. You are good. You're good with people and with cases. You are a caring, loyal friend who cares about justice. We could not have achieved so much if it hadn't been for you."
Remington looked up at Laura, the strain apparent in his eyes. Despite that, he managed a heavy-hearted smile and shifted his hands under hers to bring her fingers up to brush his lips across them as he said, "I just don't want anything that is in Daniel's will to take away our happy ending."
Smiling, Laura covered his hands again with hers, patting gently. Then, turning his wrist towards her to read his watch, she said, "I think it's time for us to get ready, Mr. Steele. We have less than two hours to get to the lawyer's office."
They both stood and Laura put a reassuring hand on Remington's arm and watched him as he turned and silently entered the bathroom, closing the door behind him.
Behind the closed the door Remington went about gathering his shaving implements and stopped in front of the mirror, propping himself up on the vanity as he looked at his reflection .
Damn! he thought to himself. Just when Laura and he were well and truly making progress in their personal lives, he found himself terrified of losing it all. He'd barely begun to scratch the surface of what he and Laura could be to each other, and once again, he found himself face to face with the ugly beast that was his past, threatening to destroy everything he held dear.
It hadn't escaped his notice that Laura had referred to the Agency as "ours". At that moment, he had felt a pang in his gut, a double-edged blade of raw emotion threatening to cut him apart. On the one side, utter joy at Laura's relinquishing, at least figuratively, what she had always deemed as the dearest thing in her life to their joint ownership, on the other, a powerful urge to run and solve this problem on his own, to protect her and everything she held dear, as he had always done in the past.
The announcement of Daniel's will had come as a shock to him, and, as such, he had no idea what to expect. And that terrified him. The overwhelming desire to flee was blinding him as he looked in the mirror, trying to grasp what was truly important. His idea of that concept had shifted dramatically within the last 5 years and he found himself amidst a fierce inner battle between his deeply entrenched instincts and what was in his heart and his mind.
Finally, he snapped out of it, realizing time was slipping away. He shelved his inner turmoil, thinking to himself, Who knows, perhaps a shave and a shower will clear out the cobwebs, and he proceeded, albeit without his usual rapidity, the weightiness of his thoughts proving to be very distracting.
Meanwhile, Laura sat back down to finish her tea, wondering what she could to do to set Remington's mind at ease. She couldn't really understand his concerns. She felt that together they could conquer anything and things were going really well on that front. Her cheeks warmed as remembered the lovely day they had just spent together. She became lost in thought, reliving some things from those moments. At length, she became aware of the passage of time and became somewhat impatient. There had been nothing but silence from the bathroom for at least five minutes after he had gone in, at which point the sink tap had started running, and that seemed to be taking an interminable amount of time. That man! Doesn't he think I might need to brush my teeth, so forth before we leave? She stalked up to the bathroom door and, taking a deep breath, knocked gently. Even though she did not understand why he was upset, she didn't want to exacerbate his anxiety.
"Rem?" she called. The door opened and there he stood, bare chested with a towel slung over his shoulder, shaving cream on half his face still. "Are you…." she started but he stopped her when he held up his hand.
"I'm fine, Laura. I'd like to finish shaving so I can shower," he said, gesturing with the razor in his hand.
"Well, ok… I just wanted to make sure…" Laura stuttered, avoiding eye contact, unable, in fact, to remove her eyes from his bare chest.
Remington smirked at her, his concerns forgotten for the moment, "I would prefer to arrive at the office on time for once, not fashionably late," he said with a teasing tone, a toothy grin and a twinkle in his eye.
His mocking tone registered with Laura and she snapped out of it, thinking to herself again, That man!, but she was smirking herself and leaned forward kissing him lightly on the lips and, swiping a fingertip across his cheek, dotted his nose with shaving cream. "Just try leaving enough time and water for me to brush my teeth, okay, dear?" she said with excessive sweetness.
Closing the door, Remington turned back to the mirror, his smirk fading away as his concerns closed in on him. He sighed and said quietly, "Damn you, Daniel, if there are any unpleasant surprises tonight…."
At precisely six o'clock, the Steeles arrived at the offices of Carter, Faulker, Judge, Taylor and White. James Cartwright, the solicitor they had met in Ireland was waiting and greeted them when they entered the foyer. "Mr. and Mrs. Steele, how nice to see you again. Mr. Taylor will see you now. Follow me, please."
He ushered the pair into a large conference room, a long table with a dozen black leather seats the main focus of the room. At one end sat an older gentleman who, albeit small in stature, commanded a grand presence in the way that he sat, not hastening to stand and greet them, but waiting for them to reach him, at which point he indicated a pair of chairs for them. A green file folder lay on the table before him along with a small bulky envelope.
"Remington and Laura Steele, I presume? I am Joseph Taylor, one of the partners here at Carter, Faulker, Judge, Taylor and White. Daniel Chalmers was not a client of this firm, but rather, a personal client of mine," he informed them.
Remington mumbled an adequate, "Good day," as he leaned over to shake the gentleman's hand, Laura doing the same, before they both seated themselves. So far, nothing about this appointment had set Remington's mind at ease. It would all come down to the contents of the package and folder sitting on the table before them. Sensing his discomfort, Laura patted his leg under the table.
"Now, would you kindly confirm that you understand that Daniel Chalmers has appointed you the executor of his estate?" Mr. Taylor asked.
"I understand." Remington replied.
Mr. Taylor opened the file folder before him, saying, "If you would allow me to dispense with the formality of reading the entire will, I can make this quite simple. Daniel has named you, Mr. Remington Steele, the sole heir to his estate. When last I met with Daniel to draw up his final will and testament, he stated, and I quote, 'Only my son could understand the importance of what must be done.' Perhaps you can divine a meaning from that, Mr. Steele?"
Remington shifted in his chair, clearing his throat, saying evenly, "Mr. Taylor, Daniel was not in the habit of informing me of all of his private business dealings." Reaching under the table, he found Laura's hand and squeezed it. Things appeared to be going from bad to worse.
Mr. Taylor peered at Remington over his glasses for a moment, then finally said, "I see. However, you should know that there is nothing in these documents or that envelope that give any clarity to that statement." Remington's expression did not change as Mr. Taylor shuffled through the papers, pausing periodically to read, his bespectacled eyes darting rapidly from left to right like a typewriter. At length he continued, "I was informed by Mr. Chalmers himself prior to his demise that, besides him, no one but you can know the address of his most recent dwelling. You know it's location, I presume?" Mr. Taylor asked.
"Circumstances being precisely as I described a moment ago would indicate otherwise." Remington returned smoothly. Mr. Taylor smiled knowingly, his expression devoid of surprise. Laura gave Remington a side-long look thinking, Wow! And I used to think he was giving ME the run-around!
Mr. Taylor continued, "The property and everything contained within is all that the estate entails, Mr. Steele. I have here the deed to the property which has already been changed to your name. Mr. Chalmers took care of that four months ago."
"Four months ago?" Laura interjected, "You mean, he transferred the property into my husband's name without his knowledge?"
Both Remington and Mr. Taylor looked at Laura with surprise. Mr. Taylor then said, "Forgive me, madam, but are you the former Miss Holt?"
"She is Miss Holt or rather was Miss Holt. We were recently married in Los Angeles." Remington answered, frowning slightly.
Mr. Taylor, still fixated on Laura, continued, "It may interest you to know that Mr. Chalmers did have a small stipulation in his will that if Mr. Steele was not present that you would know what to do in his absence. I believe he had great faith in your...partnership." He concluded with a smile. "I can't say I had the impression that he expected a matrimonial arrangement, but such obligations were perhaps beyond his understanding. But if I may be so bold as to say, I think Mr. Steele has exquisite taste."
"Thank you Mr. Taylor." Remington grinned widely and Laura blushed slightly, but continued. "But a couple of things do not add up."
"Well then, let me explain. Mr. Chalmers had been well aware of his medical condition for some time and wanted to be sure some provisions were in place should he not have contact with Mr. Steele, his only son. He named you, Miss Holt as was, now Mrs. Steele, as the alternative executor should he not be found. All that I can impart to you is what he revealed to me. He owns a property here in London. All his banks accounts have been closed. As far as liquid assets are concerned, I did ask him if there were any he wanted to leave with me for safe-keeping, but he insisted on looking after that himself. That is all I know on the matter." Mr. Taylor finished, but when he noticed a puzzled look on Laura's face, he asked her. "You seem troubled by something, Mrs. Steele"
"Well, it's just that, we were under the impression that Daniel had purchased a villa in the French Riviera."
"Ah yes, the property in the South of France was sold over a year ago. Daniel used the proceeds to purchase the new property here in London outright so there is no mortgage on the property in question. The address is listed on Mr. Steele's copy of the will. There is nothing more. Now, I have another client to attend to, so, Mr. Steele, if there are no other questions…" Mr. Taylor pushed a document and a pen in Remington's direction. Remington had remained silent during the conversation between Laura and Mr. Taylor, and now, taking the document in shaky hands, he skimmed it before signing the indicated lines and handing the document back to Mr. Taylor. Once he was satisfied everything was in order he extracted a large envelope from the folder and handed everything to Remington as he said, "I'm sorry for the loss of your father, Mr. Steele. I have been Daniel's lawyer for many years and I considered him a friend. I hope you find the answers to unanswered questions, and I wish you and Mrs. Steele happiness."
"Thank you." Remington shook his hand as the gentleman took his leave. Laura leaned up placing her hand on his arm and whispered into Remington's ear. "You were a trifle uncooperative, weren't you?" Without missing a beat, Remington nodded, patting her hand, as he called after the Mr. Taylor, taking two or three strides to catch up to him before he disappeared through the door. "Uh, ? May we call on you whenever we are in town?" Remington asked.
"I would be honoured to help you in any way that I can. Good day to you. Oh, and Mr. Cartwright will show you out," Mr. Taylor replied as the younger man appeared at the door.
As the two gentlemen exchanged a few words, Laura took Remington's arm and they approached the door. Turning towards them, Mr. Taylor was about say his adieus when Remington asked one final question, "Mr. Taylor… How well did you know Daniel?" He was stunned by the response he got.
"Well enough to know you mattered more to him than you will ever understand, son."
Remington pondered Mr. Taylor's last words as the cabby whisked him and Laura towards the address provided by the deed he held in his hands. A deed that was in his name. As far as he knew, he didn't really have a name. How could any ONE property be in his name, let alone TWO? They both sat in silent apprehension of what they might find there. Daniel's cryptic statements that Mr. Taylor had passed along had left them both feeling uneasy, so they had taken a few minutes at the offices of Mr. Taylor's firm to read over Daniel's will, but it only left them feeling just as mystified, if not more so, as before. Aside from the formalities one would expect in a will, there were further cryptic statements, such as, "All that glitters is not gold, for there is nothing hidden, that cannot be found." They were quite a pair to behold, the crinkle of her brow showing and him scowling, both weighed down by their thoughts. Within minutes, the taxi came to a halt and the driver announced their arrival.
Remington and Laura emerged from the vehicle and all traces of crinkles and scowls vanished as eyebrows went up in awe. As the taxi pulled away, they were left standing there, looking up at an elegant building before them, with a marble face on the first floor and yellow brick for the remaining top four floors, boasting eight-foot windows trimmed with tasteful neoclassical ornamentation. Remington looked back and forth between the deed in his hands, the street sign and the number on the building.
"Same street and number... This appears to be it." Remington said. He looked back up at the building, adding, "Impressive edifice!"
"I take it there is a key in the items Mr. Taylor gave you?" Laura pointed at the bundle Remington was carrying.
"Yes. Let's have a look here. Hold this will you please, Laura?" Remington handed her the files and documents and tore open the small, bulky envelope. Remington shook the package and a keychain holding two keys and a plastic key fob tumbled out into his hand. "Hello! What's this?" Remington mused. Laura took them from his hand and squeezed the fob, pointing it to his palm where a small circle of light appeared. "It's a flashlight," she said matter-of-factly and smiled. Remington looked at her, and back at the nifty device, saying cheekily, "Oh, very handy. Between the compass on your keychain and Daniel's flashlight, we'll never be lost." Laura shrugged, still smiling, and toyed with the flashlight as they walked up the steps.
Gaining entry to the building with one of the two keys on the ring, Remington, followed closely by Laura, stepped into the entryway of the building. The space was lit dimly by an overhead light and led to the main foyer. Similarly, dim wall sconces illuminated a staircase to the left and a long hall of closed doors to the right. Laura stepped into the space behind Remington and looked around. "Awfully quiet for an apartment building."
Remington's scowl had returned as he tried to make sense of their surroundings. He stared at the stairs for a minute then looked down the hallway to the right. Turning his head on its side slightly, he walked down the hall a little ways, surveying the floor, then stood, one arm crossed over his chest, while the hand of his other arm propped up his chin pensively. Laura followed, also looking around, sizing things up. "Doesn't look like anyone lives down this hallway."
"No. The dust is extensive. I believe I see some relatives of the dust bunnies from under your bed. Distant cousins perhaps," he emphasized his statement with a scattering gesture of the hand, feigning a serious groundbreaking deduction.
Laura looked at him, her hands on her hips now, and asked, "When did you look under my bed?"
Remington answered, "It was nothing remotely tainted, I assure you. It was the time when I looked for things that go bump in the night...You know, just after you found that strange man in your bedroom...uh, Cosgrove was his name." He stood there his hands in his pockets, rocking on his feet, looking very satisfied with himself, but Laura's look of doubt persisted, as she continued to glare at him.
Her flimsy indignation swiftly gave way to out-and-out surprise as Remington stepped to her in a flash, deftly pulling her to him, saying, "Well, I had thought of hiding under there many times myself..." he said, illustrating his point with a sweet kiss... After lingering for a few seconds, Laura leaned back, looking up at Remington and smiled softly, saying, "I'll forgive you, Mr. Steele."
Stepping away from him, Laura looked up towards the second floor. "Shall we check and see if Daniel's flat is upstairs? Was there any indication in the documents of an apartment number?"
Remington shook his head, holding up the keys and examining the one they had not used yet. "No, but I noticed that the stairs are practically free of dust, unlike the hall here." He walked over to them and pointed to the stairs. "If these apartments on the first floor are vacant, perhaps the dust-free stairs indicate some occupied ones upstairs."
Together they followed the steps up to the second floor and, at the top, Remington lead them on a similar path to a door, a forlorn pair of overshoes on a doormat indicating occupancy.
Inserting the key into the lock, Remington turned the knob with ease. "Bingo!"
"Oh, Mr. Steele, I get a little thrill of pride every time you use a key to gain entry through a doorway!" Laura goaded Remington, her hand clutching his arm, as she looked over his shoulder. Now it was his turn to be indignant and he turned to give her a withering look as she grinned.
"Really, Laura, I thought we established earlier that I was the sole architect of the change in my life," he quipped. Laura pouted, then tenderly kissed his cheek while palming the other and said, her voice dripping with honey, "But, Mr. Steele, won't you give me any of the credit?"
Remington feigned a blow to his pride with a dismissive, "Hm!" and added, "Only if I'm desperate." And with that, he turned his attention back to the door and pushed it open.
The evening light filtered in through a set of tall double windows. It was a large room - a sizeable kitchenette occupying the corner to their left, the two walls lined with cabinets and the necessary appliances, and a large island ahead of which was arranged an elegant breakfast table complete with a small, but pretty chandelier. The opposite corner, to the right of windows, a sitting area consisting of a settee and two chairs arranged around a coffee table. A couple of lamps and some artwork on the walls around the sitting area warmed the room. On the wall to their right was an ornate fireplace, flanked by two built-in alcoves with several shelves on which stood a few books, interspersed with a collection of porcelain figurines.
Remington wandered slowly into the room, his eyes passing over everything, never lingering on any one item very long. Laura closed the door behind her and, in doing so, discovered a door which opened to a small closet containing two coats, several empty hangers, and a broom and dustpan leaning against the wall.
They both continued their perusal, Remington looking around the kitchenette, which was situated on the other end of the room. It ran along a wall that only spanned half the width of the room. On the counter were canisters for dry staples and the cupboards were bare save for several jars of herbs and spices.
A quick reconnaissance by both Laura and Remington behind the partial wall revealed a bedroom with a bed and night table, and one other door that led to a full bathroom. They returned to the main room and both stood in the middle of it, looking at one other, eyebrows arched and shoulders shrugging in bewilderment.
"Not much to it. I would have expected more than a simple bedsit considering Daniel's penchant for living high on the hog. Couldn't the proceeds from the sale of the French villa have bought him more than this?" He let out a bemused huff, and added, as he began loosening his tie. "It's refreshing anyway. I was expecting to walk into an extravagant pad and to be overwhelmed with a sense of guilt over the likely method of his acquiring such surroundings! No, I must say, Daniel, old boy. Perfectly humble indeed!"
"And devoid of any refinement..." Laura mused. She had approached the sitting area and was looking at the artwork hanging on the walls. Now she turned to see the look of surprise on Remington's face, his hands slowing, as he continued to remove his tie. He crossed the room and joined Laura at her side to look as well. "Daniel's decorator leaves much to be desired, wouldn't you say?" Laura wondered out loud.
"Good God!" Remington uttered, as he saw what Laura had been looking at.
A velvet copy of the infamous Dogs Playing Poker. Remington's gaze moved to the other two pieces hanging on the wall, the first, a very shiny Madonna with Child, and a very faded Queen Elizabeth II wearing a white gown with a blue shoulder sash. Remington absently finished removing his tie as he considered these. "Not terribly auspicious. This is undoubtedly a reproduction...Daniel and I stole the original and submitted it for a handsome finder's fee some years ago." He said this waving towards the first and grinning slightly. Laura rolled her eyes at him before walking over to the array of figurines and collection of books on the shelf, scanning the titles.
Remington cleared his throat and pulled on his collar, unbuttoning two down and stuffing his tie in his pocket. He then continued, standing in front of the second, "And these are a dime a dozen. Ones like it hang in every church, school and public building of the British Empire in every corner of the globe."
Laura turned toward him, eyebrows raised in mild surprise, "..Really...?" she murmured as she turned her attention back to the books, craning her neck suddenly at one of them and removing it hastily, "Charlotte Knight's Twice Nightly?!" she snorted, stifling a giggle, at the unlikeliness of Daniel reading a tawdry sex thriller.
Remington grimaced, much like a teenager, embarrassed at having discovered his parents' in an intimate embrace would, saying, "Come now, Laura. I really don't need to know Daniel's extracurricular reading preferences!"
Laura, laughing quietly, put the book back and picked up one of the figurines. "These leave much to be desired in the style department as well." Remington joined her in examining them. Gaudy pastel colored cherubic shepherds and shepherdesses with their sheep, satyrs with umbrellas, fancy ladies in frilly dresses.
"Where did Daniel find this, this...this trash?!" In saying this he turned the figurine over to look for any possible distinctive branding. The bottom of the statuette, presumably having been hollow, seemed to have been plastered over the hole. "Oh, that's odd..."
"What is it?" Laura joined him to see what he was looking at and immediately seized his arm in a vice-like grip. Remington jumped, startled by her sudden change in demeanor, almost dropping the ornament.
Remington pinned Laura with a hard glare, saying, "Would you mind telling me what the devil has gotten into you?!"
Remington's perturbed outburst did nothing to dull Laura's excitement as her mouth opened in delight, an effervescent smile spreading across her face. Remington looked at her warily, in the way that he did whenever Laura's wild side surfaced. Admittedly, he had a healthy level of respect for Laura's flights of frivolity. Usually, it was his instincts and her logic that would bring a case to a satisfactory conclusion, but occasionally, a side of Laura would emerge that inspired highly unorthodox and radical stunts that were spectacular, if, by the same token, extremely distressing to watch. Right now, they were on a tight schedule, their return trip imminent, and, as yet, no progress in understanding Daniel's vague communiqués. So, at the moment, he wasn't in the mood for the unpredictable nature of wild and crazy Laura!
"Child of Glass!...", she cried effusively, Remington interjecting, "My nerves are about to shatter like glass..."
"Wonderful World of Disney, 1977!", Laura flashed her dimples at Remington.
"Oh no, not television again!" he groaned.
"I was visiting Frances and watched it with the kids one night when Donald took her to dinner." Now she had Remington's undivided attention.
"You looked after the children? Where was I?"
Laura ignored him and continued, pacing back and forth excitedly,. "The ghost of a murdered child appears to a boy, looking for the glass doll that she had lost when she was pushed into a well. Her murderous uncle, a greedy river pirate who had sought a treasure of which the girl knew the location, had placed a curse on her in death that could only be broken if her spirit would be united with her porcelain doll. The boy finds the doll in the well, with the help of his friend, and they return it to the tomb of the little girl so that her spirit may rest in peace."
Laura stilled and gestured slowly as she remembered the dramatic scene, holding up her hand and drawing it slowly across in front of her. "Just as they are about to leave the mausoleum, the doll floats out of the casket to hover before the two friends and suddenly falls to the ground, shattering, revealing a wealth of diamonds!" Laura positively bubbled on the last word.
"Are you suggesting that there are diamonds hidden in..." Laura nodded silently at Remington's word, her eyes alight, as she saw understanding wash over his face. "Of course!", he exclaimed with a snap of his fingers, "Daniel's will…. "For there is nothing hidden that cannot be found"…He's hidden something in plain sight!"
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Laura took the statuette from Remington, holding it up high in front of her as if to drop it.
Remington lunged forward to grab it before it fell, "Uuuuh, Laura! Let's not be so hasty. Surely there must be a better way. You could damage the floor. How about you look for a hammer or something in the kitchen and I'll look for something in which to contain the destruction."
"A hammer, Mr. Steele?", Laura asked in bewilderment, her enthusiasm dulled for just a moment.
"Think like the strongman in your beloved circus. The heavier the hammer fall, the bigger the prize," he replied smiling.
Laura dashed off towards the kitchen in a flurry, Remington hard on her heels, also checking drawers for some kind of bag. Not finding anything there he moved toward the bathroom but stopped short as he walked by the bedroom. Seeing the pillows on the bed, he quickly stripped off a pillowcase, pausing for a moment when he heard Laura cry out, uncontainable exhilaration adding a touch of raspiness to her voice, "I found something!"
They both returned to the shelves to place all the knick-knacks inside. Once she laid them on the settee, Laura made short work of smashing the figurines to smithereens. Remington shook off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves, then turned his attention back to Laura, eyeing her warily and finally, halted her assault, saying, "Okay, strongman, you dinged the bell! You win the teddy bear!"
They carefully brought the pillowcase to the island and within minutes, they were sorting through the shards, pulling out gems of all sizes and colors. Remington shook his head in awe, fingering the gems lightly, and said, "Well, no diamonds, as in your TV movie, but a healthy stash all the same!"
Laura, dazzled by the gems, "Ooed!" and "Aahed!" as she held up this gem or that to the light, their sparkle dancing in her eyes.
Remington became quiet, drumming his fingers on the counter in front of him. When Laura stopped gushing long enough to notice his lack of enthusiasm, her eyes followed his seemingly sightless gaze to land on the artwork hanging on the wall. Remington finally spoke, "Figuring how Daniel hid the gems, what do you say the chances are of him using a few worthless pieces of art to hide something of value?"
"And Rena Casalles's paintings under the crossed palms. Once again, hidden right in front of your nose, where you'd never see them."
Remington found a knife in the kitchen drawers and they proceeded to remove the art from the walls to test their theory. His labors were rewarded with a bounty, this time in the form of American green lining the back of the frame of the first painting. While Remington got to work on the other pieces of faux art, Laura started suddenly and hastened over to the bookshelf.
Remington said, "See something of interest there?"
"Just a theory...", Laura replied. She pulled out the Charlotte Knight book and flipped through it. Several banknotes fluttered to the floor from amongst its pages, earning her a "Well done, Laura!" as she went through the rest of the books. "Why stop here?" Laura said as she collected the scattered money from the floor. "I'm going to search the rest!" Laura bounded across the room towards the bathroom and bedroom, her search of those proving to be fruitless, however, her search of the kitchen revealed more paper money hidden within the dried goods in the canisters and spice jars.
Remington joined Laura and turned on the lights in the kitchen and over the island as they set about sorting and counting their finds.
"Well, Daniel did quite well for himself, it appears," Remington spoke when they had finished. The debris cleared away, and money and gems sorted, he tallied what they had in front of them, "Five thousand in American dollars, another eighty thousand pounds and these..." he said picking up a large sapphire and examining it. "On the open market there's no telling how much they could fetch," he held up the gem towards the chandelier over the dining table, watching the light streak this way and that as Laura watched him expertly assess the treasures.
Laura noticed his attention waiver from the sapphire as he slowly lowered it, but kept his focus on the chandelier. She said, "What is it, Rem."
"Family Plot," Remington said, his eyes still focused ahead.
"Plot? As in gravesite? Aren't we on a somber bent tonight!" Laura pouted.
"That's just one of the themes, but the title had a double meaning. On the one hand, the names on the family plot lead to the killer who, on the other hand, devised a dastardly plot against his own family, adopting a new identity in order to conceal his crime. Certainly, it is a dark comedy. Alfred Hitchcock's final film, as a matter of fact. 1976, to be exact.." Remington rattled off as he rounded the island to approach the table, his eyes on the chandelier.
"The material point is that a priceless diamond is hidden, quite literally in plain sight, in a chandelier." Remington reached up and pried something away from the cut glass pieces. He turned around and held up a very large diamond to Laura, who had come to stand beside him already.
"How did you spot that?" Laura asked, taking the diamond from him and holding it up to the light.
"Inconsistencies in the patterns of the glass pieces. There may be more. Help me." Amid the tinkling of the chandelier, they extracted several more diamonds that they added to the other valuables on the island.
"I'd say we have a veritable treasure trove before us, Laura."
The spark in Laura's eyes danced gleefully. Her heart was pounding with adrenaline. "I don't know what's come over me tonight. I'm tingling all over."
"Yes, well, try to contain your glee, Lorelei. I have no idea if any of this was procured legally."
Laura had laid a hand across her sternum, taking some deep breaths. Now she looked at Remington, her eyebrows furrowing, "Lorelei?" She asked. Remington handed her the diamond and she accepted it in her palm, delicately picking it up with her other hand to admire it.
"Lorelei Lee, played by Marilyn Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", 20th Century Fox, 19.. uuh...53. Made famous by Marilyn's scintillating rendition of Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend."
"Oh. Well, at least we've left the gravesite behind." said Laura, "But do you think that's everything?" She said waving her free hand at all the riches laid out on the island. "I searched every room. Some tangible communication from Daniel would have been helpful. What are we supposed to make of those cryptic messages?" Laura asked, rolling the diamond between fingers, holding it up to the light and gasping at its brilliance.
Dropping her hands in frustration, she continued, "Do you really think that is all Daniel wished to communicate to you? That your "the only one who will understand the importance of what needs to be done?" Laura gave a backward swipe of her hand for emphasis as she quoted Mr. Taylor's words.
Remington shook his head helplessly, then he sighed, saying, "Let's take a breather shall we?" Taking Laura's arm, he gestured for her to move to the sitting area.
They sat down together, Laura reclining fully, head back against the settee, absently admiring the ornamental details in the ceiling and elaborate crown molding, Remington sitting on its edge, his elbows denting his knees as he rubbed his forehead with a thumb and two fingers.
After a few moments, Laura lifted her head, her attention drawn to Remington's tense shoulder's silently shifting under his shirt as he now worried his mouth against his clasped hands.
She reached out to rub his shoulders, saying, "Don't worry. We'll figure this out."
Remington just shook his head silently, questions in his brain clambering for answers. All the treasure in the world could not remove the lump of fear in his gut. The fear that, even after death, Daniel's influence could threaten everything he held dear. Everything in this apartment carried with it the potential to do just that. He felt as though he was battling a dark cloud, unable to see what exactly was the threat.
Laura's shoulder massage had graduated to neck rub as her fingers applied pressure up and down along the tense sinews from between Remington's shoulders up to the silken hairs at his nape.
A mischievous smile pulled at the corners of her mouth. She was still tingling from the excitement of the unexpected treasure hunt, and she figured she knew exactly how to soothe Remington's frayed nerves. She lowered her massaging hands and snuck them around his ribcage, smoothing all way, feeling his muscles ripple to attention. Leaning in close to his ear, she dropped a couple of soft kisses on that patch of skin that she had always suspected, but the other night had confirmed, if kissed, would set him on fire. Inhaling deeply, she murmured, feeling him relax under her touch. "Mm...I know a great way to take a breather...".
Remington closed his eyes tightly, trying to stay focused even as her touch and attention were irresistibly soothing. "Laura-a... I don't believe now is the best time for this...", but he felt himself surrendering to her as two unerring fingers pulled his chin around to face her.
He closed his eyes, expecting to feel her lips on his, and when that didn't happen, he opened them to find her looking at him, scanning his features, her eyes laced with concern. She leaned in and he was surprised by the tenderness of the kiss, not pushing, or pulling, but giving him all the choice to do one or the other. He decided right there and then that he would do anything in his power to protect what they had together. And with that thought, he reached up and grasped her face, pulling her the rest of the way for a deep and searching kiss. Laura let out a startled squeak and stifled a giggle when she thought she sensed a hint of something which she could not quite put her finger on.
They leaned back together against the settee without breaking apart, their arms encircling each other. They kissed selfishly and unselfishly, giving and taking, tasting, savoring for a period of time that was difficult to determine.
Suddenly a loud snapping bang ended the kiss as they turned cheek to cheek towards the sound, eyes struggling to focus on the offending intrusion.
The closet door stood open, the broom having pushed it as it toppled to the hardwood floor. They looked at it, then each other breathlessly, then back at the broom, trying to gather their senses.
Remington sat up disentangling himself from Laura and offering a hand to help her up. "Uh, Laura, do you remember our little trip...to San Francisco? The one with the Trapman?", he asked, resting a finger on his lips.
Laura, now sitting up as well, smoothing her suit, answered, "Umm, Fred Melnick...what about him?"
Remington continued, "He said something about the mob….…. That they didn't care much for Swiss bank accounts or safe deposit boxes…. That they would want to get their mitts on their money quickly."
Laura, seeing where he was going, countered, "But I searched everywhere.…." her voice trailed off and she looked at Remington.
He was nodding his head at her and completed her thought, "Everywhere except the closet!"
They both scrambled to their feet, crossing the room swiftly. Remington pulled the two coats aside and crouched, reaching in to tap the walls inside, searching for a false panel. One small section of the wall sounded hollow so slowly and carefully, he ran his fingers along the corners, searching for any anomaly. Finding a small tear in the wallpaper, he pulled it revealing a notch just big enough for him to grip with one finger.
Remington craned his head back, looking at Laura as he gently tugged at the hidden panel. Feeling it give under his fingers, he grinned as he heard the sound of tearing wallpaper. Turning his head back to see, he removed a section of plasterboard from the interior of the closet. He pulled it out and handed it to Laura, adding, "I need some light. I can't see a bloody thing in here. Leave it to Daniel to find the one place…Can you find me something… a flashlight, lighter, anything?"
Laura started towards the kitchen, but stopping short, exclaimed, "Mr. Steele! A flashlight!" Remington sat up giving Laura an exasperated look, "Yes, Laura, a flashlight! And I'd appreciate a certain degree of urgency while you're at it!"
Laura put out her hands, shaking her head, "No, no. Don't you see? A flashlight....on a keychain perhaps?..."
Remington dropped his head in amusement, then looked straight up, saying, "Daniel, you've outdone yourself again!"
Laura was on her way, laughing with him, and was back in a flash, the keychain with the two keys and mini flashlight they had entered with in hand.
She handed it to Remington who was now laying on the floor, his head and shoulders buried in the bottom of the closet.
Finding the position awkward, Remington placed the key fob in his mouth, closing over it to light the space in the corner of the closet. Wiggling his body forward, he stretched deeper into the closet, to grip the corner edge of a metal container with his fingertips.
Laura leaned in over Remington's outstretched legs and peered into the closet, trying to see his progress. "Any luck?" she said.
" 'usht a sh'ec," Remington uttered around the key fob lodged between his teeth.
Laura heard the sound of metal scraping against wood, then nothing but silence.