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Two Holts for the Price of One

Chapter Text

Two Holts for the Price of Steele


Buried in paperwork, Remington fumed as he signed contracts, made notes on others and wrote
case notes for Mildred to input into the computer.  Five days after returning from Ireland, Laura was
nowhere to be found and Remington was covering for her pretty little bum in the office.

Last night she was distracted; he could hardly keep her attention on the dinner he had lovingly
prepared for her.  This morning she had rolled out of their bed and was out the door without a
word.  What was the problem with her? He arrived at the office just in time for her to brush a kiss
on his cheek and wave on her way out the door.  She mentioned something that sounded like “see
you tonight,” but the door slammed on the last word.

He started to go after her, but Mildred reminded him of the ten-thirty appointment waiting in his
office.  For the remainder of the day, each time he hoped to get free, Krebs stuck another file under
his nose or sent a client into his office.  He would accuse her of colluding with his wife, except that
he knew that most of this paperwork and half of these clients were Laura’s.  He was merely
cleaning up the mess she’d left when she bolted out of there.

At five o’clock, Mildred popped into his office with a reminder about the dinner he was to attend for
the Society of the Spotted Owl.   He nearly skipped it before remembering that he was the keynote
speaker.  Great.  An hour-and-a-half of small talk and bad chicken Marsala so that he could speak
for twenty minutes.  Maybe he could make it make it ten and be out of there by nine-thirty.

At ten-fifteen, he poked his head in his empty flat.  No Laura.  He stepped inside and telephoned
her loft, but only got a busy signal.   He took three minutes to strip out of his suit and change into
jeans and a sweater before diving into the Auburn parked in the garage.  Where the hell is she?   He
thought they were past all this secretive nonsense after they had declared themselves in Ireland.

Twenty minutes later he parked in the street below her loft and sprinted up the three flights of
stairs.  He had noticed the lights blazing from her windows and the sounds of raucous music
blasting.  He touched the door, only to have it slide away unhindered.

Whatever Remington was expecting to see, this wasn’t it.  He took in the scene with shock.

Remains of champagne and margaritas were everywhere.  The empty bottle of his favorite Dom
Perignon he had stashed in Laura’s loft and an equally depleted margarita pitcher sat side-by-side on
the coffee table.  Flutes and glasses were strewn around on tables and tumbled about on the floor.

And dear God, Laura was sprawled half-naked across Murphy on the sofa.  The blond man was
shirtless, and she was clad only in a bra and tiny shorts, with a stunning brilliant-cut engagement ring
adorning her limp hand.

Furious, he nearly shut the door and walked out.  First Tony, now Murphy? Why the hell did he
bother staying around at all?

His hand touched the door again when his anger flashed into a blinding rage.  Who was she to push
him away, now after all they had been through? Pivoting, he rounded the coffee table to yank Laura
off Murphy and land a good one on the sleeping man.  He pulled up short when he nearly stepped
on ... Laura?  He eyeballed the woman sleeping on the floor.  Her hand was still holding the receiver
of the phone by her side.  His eyes nearly crossed as he took in the lovely lithe brunette curled up in
Murphy’s lap along with the identical one passed out on the floor.  Only, the one on the floor was
wearing her pretty platinum and diamond wedding band and was fully dressed.

Twins?

Remington sat down abruptly on the coffee table, staring at his wife while his thoughts stuttered
along in disbelief.   Absently, he picked up a stray margarita glass and downed the remainder.  He
grimaced; the stuff was practically pure tequila.   If they had been drinking like this all day, no
wonder they were all three sheets to the wind by ten-thirty.  He quirked a brow at his snoring wife.  
Good Lord, she had some explaining to do.

He turned off the music and turned down the lights.  He puttered around the loft, washing dishes
and tossing out lukewarm foodstuffs before pouring himself a decent glass of wine and sitting down
to watch the trio sleep.  It wasn’t long before the twin on the floor stirred.  She stared at the receiver
in her hand for a long time, as if trying to remember what it was for.  She winced as she put it to her
ear and punched the buttons.

“Answer the phone, Mr. Steele,” she mumbled, only to hear the phone ring again and again.  “What
time is it anyway?” She leveraged herself up on one arm to peer at the clock on the wall when she
saw Remington sitting in the chair, waiting patiently.  She winced again as she dropped the receiver
onto the handset with a clatter.  She tried to stagger upright, but settled instead for crawling to
Remington and settling in his lap.  “You’re here.”  Whatever else she muttered was lost as she
began to snore.

Steele chuckled at his drunken wife while he carried her to her bed.  He kicked off his shoes and
pulled his sweater over his head before crawling in beside her for the night.  Tomorrow would be
time enough for answers.


* * * * *

The next morning, Kathleen nearly devoured Murphy on the sofa before she realized they weren’t
alone.  She peered over the back of the sofa and saw Remington winking at her from Laura’s bed.  
“Good morning,” he called out.

Oh God, what must he be thinking.  Kathleen knew that Laura wanted to have a private reunion
before she introduced Steele to her sister.  Or rather, reintroduced them.  But Murphy had surprised
them both at the loft and promptly dropped to one knee and proposed to Kathleen.  Of course they
had to celebrate with champagne.  And when they ran out of that, Kathleen had mixed a pitcher of
margaritas.  She remembered interrupting her sister a half a dozen times while Laura tried to dial
Remington’s number, before her sister gave up and shimmied with her on the coffee table, dancing
and gyrating about in her inebriation.  Murphy called them the ‘Doublemint’ twins and
appreciatively wolf-whistled at the show while Kathleen attempted to strip off her clothes.

Kathleen crawled off her fiancé and stumbled to the bathroom as Steele pretended not to notice.
Deprived of her warmth, Murphy stirred as well, looking about in bleary-eyed confusion.

Laura rolled over to stare at the clock as she took in the noise of the shower and someone making a
pot of coffee.  Who was here?  Why was she dressed in yesterday’s clothes? Why was her head
screaming for mercy? She collapsed onto her pillow, only to notice an arm wrapped around her
waist.  Remington?  She rolled over again, briefly closing her eyes against the throbbing pain, only to
open them to laughing blue ones.  Definitely Remington.

“Good morning, love.  Sleep well?” he couldn’t help teasing her as he pressed a kiss to her temple.  
She winced and rolled out of bed, looking for the coffee that she could smell in the kitchen.

“Murphy!”  She stopped abruptly at the sight of her old partner in her kitchen.  He handed her a
steaming cup and a pair of aspirin that he had found in the cabinet, which she gratefully downed.  
Kathleen snuck up behind her and hugged her back, wet hair and all.  Laura turned to embrace her
sister while Remington and Murphy looked on from opposite sides of the kitchen.  The girls giggled
as they remembered the night before and bumped hips in memory of their outrageous dance before
their sore heads insisted that additional jarring was not necessary.  Giggling turned into outright
laughter and the two men couldn’t help smiling along with the girls in their delight.

Remington hesitated to intrude on the family scene, so he slipped into the shower while it was free.  
When he turned the water off, Laura was brushing her teeth at the tiny sink.  She smiled in the
mirror as she tapped out the brush.  “You look wonderful.  Can I ask you a favor while I get clean
and then I promise we will tell you everything?”

“What do you want me to do?”

“Make breakfast.”

Slightly irked, Remington frowned at her.  “This better be good.”  He dropped a kiss on her
shoulder anyway.  Too many freckles beckoned to be tasted for him to ignore them.

Laura sighed in relief as he dressed and left her bathroom.   All her careful plans for yesterday were
tossed out the window when Murphy showed.  She felt awful that she had forgotten all about the
banquet last night.  She had planned to tell Remington before the dinner and introduce him to her
sister afterward.

Seconds after Laura had opened the door to the bathroom, Murphy ducked in and could be heard
complaining loudly about the lack of hot water.  She and Kathleen exchanged identical shrugs.  The
poor water heater just wasn’t up to four adults in one morning.   Laura made toast and poured
orange juice for everyone while her husband sautéed vegetables for the omelettes he had in mind.

Kathleen set the table and all of them finished their various tasks as Murphy strolled out of the
bathroom.

“Nice of you to join us,” Steele rumbled.

“Hey, I made coffee!”  Murphy shot back.

“Thank God!” the girls chorused, collapsing into giggles again.

“I take it breakfast won’t be needed then?” Remington sounded like an uptight butler.

“Don’t threaten us like that!” squealed Kathleen.  “Your cooking is incredible!”

Remington slowly turned around, his face absolutely unreadable. “And how, may I ask, would you
know?” He set the plates on the table.

Laura laid a hand on his cheek and looked him straight in the eyes. “Because a year-and-a-half ago,
she took my place at the agency for nearly three months.”

It only took him a moment. “The agreement at Cannes?” He pulled out a chair at the table.

“The agreement at Cannes.” Laura nodded as she sat next to him.  “Just after you had joined the
agency, the CIA contacted Murphy and me about a case.  It involved one of the biggest banks in LA
and a scheme for enticing young newlyweds to smuggle counterfeit money into the U.S.   It took
them years to collect the evidence that they needed.  We were one of several teams that infiltrated
the network and helped break it from the inside.” Laura took a bite of her omelette.

Murphy put down his fork and picked up the story.  “The CIA needed more young women capable
of going under cover, and they contacted several detective agencies to find them.  Obviously, Laura
was one, and at that time, I was to go under with her whenever they were ready.”

Laura continued explaining, “Originally we were going to have two detectives, friends of ours at
Havenhurst, do some moonlighting to keep the agency covered.  But when you came along, we
decided that if Kathleen was willing, it was possible we could pull this off.”

“I thought it was a lark and a nice break from playing in the dirt all day,” Kathleen put in.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Remington asked softly.

Laura cocked her head at him. “Is there any way you would have let me go to Rio de Janeiro under
cover for three solid months and not insisted on going with me?“

“No,” he admitted.

“And I didn’t want the CIA getting too close to your shady background, nor was I in a position to
change partners at that point in the case anyway.”

“Besides,” Murphy put in, “I trusted you to protect someone else.” He shot Steele a hard look.

“It was Kathleen I caught you kissing in Laura’s office that day, not Laura,” Remington said in
surprise.

“Yes.  We had been testing Kathleen to see if she could pull off the detective bit, especially with
you.”

“Why did you really leave the agency, Murphy?  I always thought it was because of Laura and me.”

“No, Kate’s got a professorship in Denver now.  I wanted a head start on getting my agency up
running before she finished with her dig.”

Remington looked at Kathleen, “A professor?  What do you do?”

“I’m an archeologist.  I’ve been working on a dig in Thailand on and off for the past three years.  I
was on hiatus when Laura has asked me to double for her while she went undercover.  I just got
back yesterday.  We wrapped up the dig and now I’m home for good.  Well, to Denver anyway.”
She smiled at Murphy.  “He waited almost two years for me to finish.”  She waggled her ring.  “I
guess it’s safe to say he missed me.”

Remington muttered something sarcastic about Holt women leaving their men hanging about for
years on end.    

Laura patted his hand and picked up the story again, “We were notified the day that we left for
Cannes that it was time for us to go undercover.  I didn’t want Kate to be put in a difficult situation
with you, so--” She hesitated.

“You came up with the Cannes agreement so that we wouldn’t mix business with our personal lives.”

“Yes.  And since 'we' weren’t ‘dating’, it gave Murphy and me time to coach Kathleen from the
phone whenever we could.  The CIA helped her as well, but honestly, you and Mildred were much
better than any of us could have expected.”

Kathleen spoke up, “I knew that Laura really liked you, so I was trying to walk a fine line between
not encouraging you and putting myself in a compromising position, and not discouraging you so
that Laura could have a chance when she got back.  You cooked me dinner a time or two.”

“But what about the fire in the loft? Malta? And Ireland?”

“I left the day after the fire.  Kate went to Malta both times and to England.  We all held our breath
but either Daniel didn’t catch on or he kept his mouth shut.  I wouldn’t dare make a guess either
way.  I did break cover long enough to fly to Ireland with you.  I knew what it meant to you and felt
I had to be there.  Murphy told everyone my grandmother was on her deathbed,” Laura admitted.

“I had fun in Malta though.  I will say, Remington, I was happy that you and Mildred were there.  I
couldn’t admit to being completely in over my head at the time,” Kathleen added.

“How long were you back at the agency after we had broken the agreement?” Remington asked
Laura.

“A week?  Two, tops.  I couldn’t keep my hands off you.” Laura admitted.  “I scared myself when
I realized how much I missed you.”

Steele leaned back.  “So let me get this straight.  You,” he jabbed a fork in Murphy’s direction,
“You didn’t have a crush on Laura; you loved Kathleen.  You really did think of Laura as a little
sister.”

Murphy nodded.

“You,” he jabbed his fork at Laura, “You didn’t trust me enough to tell me the truth.  Instead you
ran this enormous deception on me for three months.”

“Love, I trusted you with my agency.  Can I say more than that?”

“Why didn’t you tell me the truth afterwards?”

“How?  I didn’t want to make you angry.  We were just getting our footing back when we had the
whole mess with losing the license and you going to England.”

Remington stood and paced across the apartment.  “So you waited until we were married to fill me
in?  Does Mildred know?”

“Yes, I waited and no, Mildred doesn’t know.  I wanted to tell you first.”

“So let me get this straight.  You, your sister, Murphy and even the rest of your family who kept
Kathleen a secret, have scammed me for nearly four years.  I can’t believe your mother was in on
this too--I remember her commenting once about you being a middle child, but she never mentioned
anyone other than Frances after that.   And you accuse me of being a con artist?”  Remington
sounded furious and stalked to the front door.

The twins ran after him.  Kate blocked the door while Laura ducked between them and slipped her
arms around him. “Please don't go, Remington.  I didn’t know how to tell you.  Not with everything
else ... I’m sorry.”  He froze, and Laura cautiously peeked up through her lashes to gauge his
reaction.

He couldn’t help it.  A broad grin lit up his face.  He shifted Laura to one side and pulled Kate into
their embrace.  He kissed each of them on the forehead, and Laura on the lips.  “I think Daniel
would have been terribly proud of both of you.”


* * * * *


Later Remington dragged the two girls into the morning sunlight by the window.

Laura and Kate were identical in every way.   The similarities didn’t stop with their looks.  Every
gesture, every quirk of their mouths, even their wry sense of humor was the same.  They both wore
their hair long and wavy today.  If not for their rings, an outsider would never tell them apart.  But
Remington could.  He couldn’t explain it, but he knew he could pick out Laura blindfolded.  With a
single finger, he brushed her hair back.

“Good Lord, even your freckles are the same.  Murphy, we could have a field day with these ladies
in my old line of work.”  Kate and Laura laughed.  The idle thought crossed Remington’s mind that
he had never seen Laura look quite so ... free.    He glanced up at Murphy.  “What’s with these
Holt girls that a pair of nice Irish lads like us can’t keep their hands off them?”

Murphy let out a snort and headed for the refrigerator.   Despite the morning hour, he rooted around
for a moment before coming up with two bottles of Guinness that Remington kept in there.  
Frowning at the bottles, he popped off the tops and handed one over. “What I can’t figure is how I
ended up with you as a brother-in-law.  Or will anyway.”

Before Steele could think of a retort, the doorbell rang.  Laura opened the door.  Abigail and
Frances both shrieked and made straight for Kate, while the children and Donald brought up the
rear.  Frances’ two girls joined in with their own high-pitched giggles as they ooh’ed and aah’ed over
the twins’ rings.

Donald sidestepped all of them as he spied the bottles of beer.  “Got another one of those?” His son
shot the girls a dirty glance, hunkered in a corner with his handheld video game and ignored the lot.

Murphy passed out another beer, and the three men propped up the counter companionably in the
kitchen while they watched the show in the living room.   “That’s a Holt lot of women,” remarked
Steele.  Then he winced at the identical elbow jabs from the men beside him.

Abigail fluttered around her three girls, admonishing Kathleen not to deprive her of a wedding as
Laura had.  Laura winced and muttered something about “Mom getting her due, anyway,” while
Kate rolled her eyes.  Frances admired both rings and shot a raised brow at Donald.

“Crap.  You two are going to cost me a fortune.  Our anniversary is coming up and now I have to
get her something that looks at least as good as what the twins have.”  Donald poked at Remington’s
shoulder with a finger.

“Perhaps I can get you a good deal somewhere,” Steele said absently. He didn’t hear Murphy’s
remark about making sure they were bought and paid for because a funny warm feeling was
spreading inside him as he realized he was flanked by his new brothers and surrounded by family.  It
expanded when his nieces finally made it to the kitchen and hugged “Unca Murphy” and “Unca
Remy.”  Lord knew the girls were the only ones who could get away with that appellation.

He excused himself and rummaged around Laura’s nightstand for a sketchbook he had left there
several months ago.  The image of Laura and her twin that he had in his head begged to be put to
paper.  He resumed his spot between his brothers.  With pencil in hand, his fingers flew across the
notebook and in no time at all, Remington produced two sketches--one of the happy girl party in the
living room and one of Laura and Kate.

Murphy brushed his fingers over the last sketch.  “I don’t know how you did it.  Those girls are
perfect twins ... but,” he pointed to each in turn, “that’s Kate and that’s Laura.”

Remington tilted the picture to Donald, who agreed.

Steele nodded.  “How did you know?”

Both men shook their heads.  Whatever it was, Remington had managed to capture it on paper, and
even he didn’t have an answer.  He stared at it for a moment longer and then realized that there was
someone missing from their little celebration.

Remington found the telephone.  “Mildred?  Can you come to Laura’s?  Yes, yes, her family is
here.  There’s someone she wants you to meet.  Can you come?”

Thirty minutes later, Mildred shrieked, “Twins??”


 

Chapter Text

Two Holts: Sisters of Steele


Laura, Kate and Frances sprawled on Laura’s bed in her loft.  Frances wore both of her sisters’ new
rings, trying to decide which one suited her better.  Kate and Laura were sampling from a box of
chocolate Murphy had so thoughtfully provided them.  Remington had contributed a bottle of
champagne and the girls were getting rather silly.

Grateful for the fact that her mother offered to put her kids to bed and stay with them for the night,
Frances sipped from her glass and rolled over, still wearing a ring on each hand.  “How did you get
Remington to agree to put up with Murphy and Donald for the evening?” she wanted to know.  “I
thought he and Murphy hated each other.”

“I told him to make nice with his future brother-in-law.  Besides, Donald is there to referee.”

“Like that’s going to work,” Kate said wryly.  “Those two get along like oil and water.  Donald is
going to have to break up at least one fistfight tonight.”  She had listened to her fiancé complain
again and again about Steele over the years.

“Well, I also threatened to make him sleep on the sofa if he didn’t play nice.”

“Laura!  First you make the poor guy wait four years, then you indulge him for three solid weeks,
and now you suggest cutting him off again?”  Frances' voice rose.  “That’s awful.”

“Entirely uncalled for!” Kate seconded.

“No--just trying to give myself a night to recover.”  Both of her sisters shrieked with laughter and
Laura flushed with a smile on her face.

“So tell me, Laura, how is it?”  Kate had to know.

“Uh uh.  Not telling.”  She giggled as both her sisters began tickling her mercilessly.

“One thing, Laura--at least give us one thing!” Kate insisted as she twisted Laura’s arm behind her
back.

“Nope.”

Frances reached over and snatched the box of chocolates away.  “No more for you until you 'fess
up.”

Laura tried to give her sister the slip and grab for the box.  “Give me those.”

“Uh uh.”  She held the box out of Laura’s reach while Kate continued to tickle her.

“Okay, okay, okay--one thing!”  

Frances held the box under her nose as Kate rolled off her.  Laura fished out an almond nougat and
stuck it in her mouth, chewing thoughtfully in silence.

“Laura,” Kate warned.

“I’m thinking, I’m thinking.  There’s so much to choose from--“  She tried to duck, but Kate hit her
square in the face with a pillow.  Frances giggled as she drank from her champagne glass again.

“Okay, here goes.”  Laura took a deep breath.  “The first time?  And it was absolutely perfect.  The
candles, the moonlight, the fire in the fireplace--he completely swept me off my feet.”

“Nice setting, but you’re evading the question.”  Kate wasn’t letting her twin off with a dreamy
description.

“I’m getting there.”  She worked up her nerve and blurted out, “You know how most guys think a
couple of swipes with the tongue are fair repayment for a blow job?”

Kate giggled.  “Yes--but I’ll go ahead and defend my fiancé in this category.”  

“Oh, God, I can’t believe I’m telling you this,” Laura moaned in embarrassment.

“Whom else are you going to tell?” Frances asked matter-of-factly.  “You have to share with
someone.”

“Okay, okay--let’s just say that I’m convinced I’m an all-night buffet.”

“Laura!!!”  Frances and Kate gasped in unison.

Dreamily, she sucked on another piece of candy.  “Mmm--it was absolutely decadent.  And that
night wasn’t the only time he did it either.  I rather get the feeling that he thinks I’m a perfectly
acceptable substitute for dessert.”

Frances crawled in between the twins and brought the box of chocolate with her.  “Mmm, Donald’s
pretty good in that field too.

“I gotta say Murphy is rather talented in that area himself.”

“Oh, I didn’t need to know that, Kate!  I worked with the man for years.”  Laura rubbed her eyes
as if to scrub away that image from her head.

Frances fanned herself while Kate laughed outright.  “You know, there’s bound to be a way we can
get some one-upmanship going on amongst our men in this arena, but I can’t for the life of me
figure out how to get it started,” Kate mused.

“Kate!”  Now Laura and Frances shrieked in disbelief at her comment.

Laura stuffed a pillow over her face to hide her blush.  “Oh, my God.  I canNOT believe we are
having this conversation!”

“You started it,” said Kate.

“You ASKED me about ONE thing!”

“Okay, I’ll ask you another.  How many times?” Kate asked.

“For me or for him?”

“Both,” Frances said as she dug for another chocolate.

“Me?  I lost count before midnight,” Laura said to her sisters’ shrieks of laughter.

“And him?”  Kate couldn’t resist.

Laura rolled over and buried her face in the bedspread, shaking her head.  Frances pulled off   
Laura’s wedding ring and held it up.  “Either you tell us how many times or you have to explain
why ‘Fan Dance’ is engraved on your wedding ring.”

“Fan Dance?  Oh, Laura, not again!” Kate moaned.

“Again?  Wait--what’d I miss the first time?” Frances complained and bopped her middle sister on
the back of the head.  “You never tell me anything.”

“She never told you about Acapulco?  And Wilson?”

“No!”  She snatched the box of chocolates away again and set them on the floor.

“Well, apparently our sister got very inebriated during one of Wilson’s banker conventions and did
her rendition of a very exotic dance on the bar.  With very small fans.”  Kate leaned over the bed
and dug a piece of chocolate out of the box.  Lying on her back then, she continued, “Wilson  
couldn’t handle it.  She was too outrageous for him.”

Now she eyed Laura, who still had her face buried in the bedcovers.  “If I were to guess, Remington
found out about it somehow and obviously didn’t have the same reaction.  So tell us, Laura, what
did he think of your dancing skills?”

She rolled over and propped her head on her hand.  “I haven’t danced for him at all.”

“Then why the engraving?” Frances asked again.

“Because he said it's to remind me of who I am and that he loves me for all of it.  He likes the
passionate, impulsive, silly girl I used to be just as much as he does the straight-laced, logical and
serious Laura.”

Frances downed the rest of her champagne.  “God, that’s romantic.  I don’t think Donald would
ever think of something like that.”

“No?  What about the time he rented a boat for the weekend and sent the kids to Mom’s?  You
were sunburned in places I don’t want to even think about,” Laura retorted with a grin.

Frances flushed beat red in memory and cocked her head with her own dreamy smile.  “Oh, yeah.  
Mmm, that was a fabulous weekend.  I think the only time we had clothes on was while we were
tacking in and out of the marina.  He did this thing with his tongue--oh my!”  Laura and Kate giggled
hysterically at their sister’s expression.

Now Laura turned the tables on her twin.  “Okay--your turn.  Murphy.  One thing about Murphy.”

“Might I remind you that last night I was drunk and slept virtuously on your sofa?  It’s been nearly a
year!  I assure you, when the boys come back, I want both of you out of this loft in less than thirty
seconds or you are going to get much more of an education from your little sister than either of you
want!”

“Itchy are we?”  Laura bit her lip with a smile.

“Some of us haven’t been getting regular lube jobs!”

“Hey--I waited for over four years and had to look at Mr. Steele nearly every day!  Talk about
getting itchy!”

“And whose fault was that?”

“Who knows?  Who cares?  That part is sooo over!”  Laura moaned dramatically and wiggled in
memory.  Kate caught her square in the face with another pillow.  Shoving it off, Laura scrambled
over Frances and pinned her twin to the bed.  “Katy!  One thing!”

Kate flushed, making every spot on her face pop.  “Well, he seems to have a thing about freckles.  
One night, he played connect-the-dots with a paint brush and a glass of wine.  He found a few I
didn’t know I had.  And then what he did with that brush afterwards, well, let’s just say that I have
a new appreciation for art.”  She smiled in memory.

Laura snorted.  “So if I give him a complete set of watercolor brushes for Christmas, he’ll know
what to do with them?”

“You wouldn’t!”

“I might!”

Kate wacked her sister with a pillow again and Laura retaliated with her own.  While they pummeled
each other on the bed, Frances leaned over and picked up the sketchbook lying on the side table.  
She admired Remington’s sketch of her twin sisters and flipped over to the next page to see the
other drawing he had made of the three sisters, her two daughters and her mother.  She wondered
how she could get Laura to give it to her.

Idly, she paged through the rest of the book.  Remington had covered most of them with portraits of
Laura, some finished, some not.  And then she turned to the last page.

“Laura Elizabeth Holt!”

“What?”  She and Kate stopped in mid-swing.

Frances turned the sketchbook to her.  “I thought you said you didn’t dance for him?”

Laura’s jaw dropped.  There on the paper was an image of her doing a fan dance, with two not-so-
well-placed fans.  They were beautifully decorated in pearls, sequins and feathers, and Laura had a
daring smile on her face.

Kate peered over her shoulder.  “You know, I think he even got your freckles in the right places.”

“I didn’t know he drew this!  Or when.”

Frances looked carefully and found the date on the bottom of the page.  “When did you guys get
back from London last year?”

“In September, why?’

“This is dated in October.”  Laura took the sketchbook from her and looked closely at the portrait.  
Kate was correct; he did have her freckles in the right places.  How did he know?

She noticed something else and flipped through the other pages just to make sure.  Several of the
early sketches were obviously finished and had a date hidden somewhere in the margin.  But starting
with the one of the fan dance, all the others completed since then had an addition.  He had signed
the first exotic portrait “Steele 6-Oct-85.”  With a secret smile, she knew then that her husband
really did think of himself as “Remington Steele.”

“Who knows?  Maybe I got drunk and danced it for him.  It certainly wouldn’t be the oddest thing
we’ve done in our relationship,” she quipped.  Rising from the bed, she folded up the sketchbook
and descended the stairs to drop it by her purse.

* * * * *

Remington, Murphy and Donald were holed up in a little bar not too far from Laura’s loft.  Steele
was banished from playing another round of pool after beating the other two handily and was stuck
propping up the wall while they battled it out for the title of second-best.  The conversation had
been stilted as the former co-workers slung insults at each other.  Donald finally had had enough
when he sank his last shot to win the game, and Steele made a pithy comment about Murphy’s lack
of balls.

“You two--at the table--opposite corners.”  He suddenly felt as if he was dealing with Mindy and
Daniel, his two pre-teen kids that drove him batty half the time with their constant sniping.  Murphy
and Steele reluctantly took their seats.  “Now what in the blue blazes is going on between you two?  
Murphy, in case you haven’t noticed, Steele has stuck around for more than four years and married
Laura three weeks ago.  She’s happy, in case you haven’t noticed that either.  Happier than I’ve
ever seen her.”  Laura’s former partner ducked his head and swallowed some more beer.

“Remington, Murphy is Laura’s friend and helped her at a time when she needed it.  Murphy is
absolutely silly about Kate.  You have absolutely no reason to be jealous.”  Steele scratched the
back of his neck and tried to look nonchalant.

But Donald wasn’t finished.  “Now the three of us are going to be stuck with each other for a very
long time, and you two can either get whatever it is out of your system and learn to be friends, or
this is going to be a very miserable family before long.  You can’t ask those girls to choose between
their relationship with each other and the ones they have with you.”

Both of the men fidgeted, drank beer and fidgeted some more.  Slowly, the two men reached out
their hands and shook.  “Truce?” Murphy asked.

“Truce,” echoed Steele.

“Now, since neither of you can be trusted, we’re going to lay some ground rules.”  Remington
raised an eyebrow at Donald.  His past dealings with Laura’s brother-in-law had revealed that he
was a good man, but he’d not suspected that he had a serious backbone.  Then again, the man was
used to dealing with Frances and Abigail.

“One, deal with the fact that you two are married--or will be married--to twins.  As close as they are
to Frances, anything that comes between them will rip their heart out.  You two had better accept
that fact.  Remington, Kate has been gone for a great deal of the past five years and buried so deep
in the deserts of Mongolia and the jungles of Thailand doing graduate work that she and Laura
haven’t been able to keep in touch very well.  I suspect that half the problems you two have had can
be traced back to Laura’s instability without her sister.  As strong as your wife is, Kate’s the
dominant twin.  Had Kate been around, she might have knocked some sense into Laura’s head a lot
sooner.”

“Two, I don’t care what kind of insults you sling or punches you throw as long as you realize that
the other man isn’t going to go away.  And if you say anything that pisses off the other twin, you’re
going to have to be the one to deal with both of them.”

“Three, Abigail is now officially your problem, not mine.  I’ve been dealing with her for a decade
and I get the next two off.  Capice?”

Surprised and a little flabbergasted at his tirade, both men nodded at Donald.

“Good, now I’m tired of being the Dad, and I’m ready to enjoy the fact I have a couple of brothers
to help me deal with the Holt women.  So get your heads on straight and buy me another round of
beer.”

* * * * *

Kate and Laura had pried their rings away from Frances, and the three girls had made it to the
kitchen to rummage for food and something else to drink.  Kate commented, “I think I’m done with
the alcoholic portion of this evening.  A buzz is nice, but after last night, I really want to be awake
when Murphy comes back.”

“Yes, you are the one with big plans for the night,” Frances grumbled.

“I don’t think she’s the only one,” Laura commented.  “I heard Donald say something to Mom
about a hotel for the two of you.”

“You did?”  She sat straight up.  “Oh, crap!  I didn’t bring anything sexy to wear.”

“Who said you needed to wear anything at all?” Laura asked.

“Says the woman whose new husband just bought her an entire wardrobe of lingerie,” Kate said
drolly.  Laura hid her face again and turned back to the refrigerator.  She found a bowl of fruit that
Remington must have stuck in there and came out with it.

“Really?  What can I borrow?” Frances wanted to know.

“Ooooh, me too.”

Laura just stood in her kitchen with her mouth open.  Who knew her sisters were so uninhibited?  
She waved in the vague direction of her closet, and both sisters scrambled to see who got there
first.  In seconds, lace and silk were scattered across her bed.  Kate pounced on a delicious little red
outfit that accentuated her tan.  Frances uncovered a sweet number in black that would barely cover
her fanny.  Kate went back to digging in the closet and came up with a scrap of ivory lace.  “Oh, my
God, this is gorgeous.”

Reaching over her shoulder, Laura slipped it out of her hands.  “Nope, mine.  I wore that on our
wedding night.  Our real wedding night.  You don’t get that one.”

“Put it on.  I want to see,” Kate insisted.  Laura shrugged and stripped out of her clothes.  She had
to wiggle and her sisters laughed while she pulled the form fitting outfit over her hips.  She dug in
her drawer and added the thigh-high stockings.  She twirled to Kate’s wolf-whistle, then picked up
the red lace and shoved it at her sister.

“Your turn.”  Handing the black babydoll top to Frances, Laura said, “You too.  If I’m showing off,
then so are you.”  With much giggling, the other two sisters stripped as well and slipped on their
own lingerie.  While they were dressing, Laura dug through her music collection.  She stuck in a
tape and turned up ABBA’s “Honey, Honey.”

Honey, honey, how you thrill me, uh huh … honey, honey.

* * * * *

The three men good-naturedly complained about the stairs in Laura’s building as they climbed the
three flights.  “No question as to why you two are staying at your place, Steele,” Donald said as he
huffed up the steps.

“No kidding.  I’ve never been able to figure out why she took to this one.  There was even a
perfectly reasonable flat available in my building, and she wouldn’t even look at it.  Had to have this
place instead.”

“What’s that?”  Murphy cocked his head as they reached the third floor.  They could hear music
coming from the loft.

“Sounds like ABBA.”  Remington snorted, “I caught Laura singing ‘Mamma Mia’ the day--“   He
cut himself off.

But Murphy wasn’t about to let it slide.  “The day what?”

“Ah, nothing, nothing at all.”

The blond stepped in front of Laura’s door and blocked it.  “Nope.  I gotta know this one.”  
Remington scratched his neck and looked to Donald for support and found none as his brother-in-
law leaned against the door as well.

“Ah, well.  Hmm.  It was the day we, ahh, well, you know.”  He shrugged and stuffed his hands in
his pockets.  “She was in the shower getting ready.  I snuck in and put a glass of wine in the
bathroom.  She was singing.”

Murphy thought about that one for a minute.  “That must have driven her nuts, knowing you caught
her.”  He caught Remington’s half-smile.  “Not bad, Steele.  Not bad at all.”  He pushed off the
door and stepped aside so Steele could unlock it with his key.  

But before he could open it, Murphy stopped them both.  “Um, exactly what do I have to do to get
both of you to take your wives out of here in the next three minutes?”

Donald grinned and Remington matched it.  “You know, mate, I think we’ll both give you a free
pass on this one.  We’ll just hold it for a future favor on down the line.”

“Piss off, Steele.”

“Gladly.  Do you want my key?”

Murphy nodded and Donald ventured to say, “Can I borrow the Rabbit?  Abigail took our car.  I
saw you have the Auburn here and it would save us having to get a taxi.”

Remington slid open the door just then.  And for the second night in a row, he--along with his two
brothers this time--took in the scene in shock.

I'd heard about you before--I wanted to know some more--And now I know what they mean--you're
a love machine--Oh, you make me dizzy!

Frances, Laura and Kate were singing at the top of their lungs and dancing on Laura’s bed wearing
only little scraps of lace that hardly covered anything at all.  The three men looked at each other
with identical expressions.  Silently, Remington pulled the key to the loft off his keychain and
handed it to Murphy.  He pulled the one for the Rabbit off and handed it to Donald.  Then the trio
began edging toward the bedroom.  They nearly made it to the stairs before Frances noticed them
and screamed.

It was comical to watch the girls freeze in embarrassment.  But then they all noticed the identical
expressions of lust on their men’s faces and they strutted to the railing in challenge.

Remington was the first to move.  He dashed up the stairs and scooped Laura up in his arms, barely
pausing long enough to let her grab a blanket off the sofa as he walked out the door.

Donald silently handed Frances her coat and purse and drew her down the stairs and out of the loft.

Murphy closed in on Kate, pulling her to him and capturing her mouth for a scorching hot kiss.

* * * * *

At Sunday brunch, the three couples arrived, some later than others.  Abigail and her grandchildren
were already at the restaurant, and the kids were bouncing up and down to see their aunts and
uncles.  The three men managed to sit across from one another at one end of the long table.  
Frances abandoned her husband with a smile to sit between her sisters and the kids at the other end.

Kate and Laura had remembered to bring the gifts they had each acquired on their travels and
several minutes were taken up with a flurry of wrapping paper and ooh’s and aah’s for the small
trinkets and bits of artwork from Thailand and Ireland.

Donald leaned over to Remington and nodded to Murphy in the process.  Very quietly he said,
“Must say, Steele, you’ve got excellent taste in women’s clothing.”

Murphy nearly choked on his water as he remembered the little scrap of nothing Kate had worn.  
“You picked that out?”  Steele scratched his nose and nodded once.  “Son of a bitch.  I’m going to
owe you another one for that.”

Remington straightened his coat sleeve and sat up straight.  He flashed Murphy that arrogant grin,
making the other man grit his teeth.  “Well now, I must say I’m beginning to like this brotherhood
thing.  Two up and the games have hardly begun.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Two Holts: Steele Filling in the Blanks


When the Holt sisters said their good-byes after brunch, it was a long drawn-out process that took
nearly half an hour.  It ended only when Donald rolled his eyes and began herding the children, his
wife and his mother-in-law into the car.  Muttering something about his new brothers having a lot to
learn, he stepped into the car and drove away with alacrity.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, trying to separate Kate and Laura was like prying chocolate from
their hands.  Remington and Murphy finally had to muddle through a poor version of Donald’s
expert demonstration to get the girls into their own cars.

Laura looked wan in the passenger seat of the Auburn as they drove home.  She had her eyes closed
and her forehead was crinkled.  In between shifting gears, Remington held her hand.   He didn’t
think she was that upset over leaving her sister, but she was unusually quiet during the short drive
home.  

“You’ll see them all in just a couple of weeks, love.”  She smiled and squeezed his hand before
closing her eyes again.

Murphy and Kate weren’t wasting any time saying their vows.  They had already been planning
their wedding while she was wrapping up her dig in Thailand.  Kate had spent hours writing out long
lists of what she wanted and mailing them to her fiancé to figure out.  Murphy had spent a good part
of the Sunday brunch moaning about having to pick out flowers and dinner menus according to her
instructions.  The only thing she had refused to discuss with him was her wedding dress, which she
had brought back with her from overseas.

Laura have given him more details about her sister’s relationship with Murphy last night.   
Apparently, proposing to Kate had been a mere formality after all the rare long distance phone calls,
frequent letters and occasional visits over the years, but Murphy had a hidden romantic streak that
wouldn’t allow him to skip it.  He’d nearly had a heart attack when Laura didn’t get back from
Ireland until five days before Kate arrived in L.A.  But Laura returned in time and had been a willing
co-conspirator--arranging for Fred to pick him up from the airport and letting him into her loft.  It
had been Laura’s job to get her twin from the same airport an hour later and keep her lips zipped
during the trip so that Murphy could pop the question to Kate in the first moments after she walked
through the door.

Remington realized this morning that he had never formally asked for Laura’s hand in marriage.  
They had worked out a hasty agreement to marry on the tuna boat, and she’d actually been the one
to suggest getting married in Ireland.  He wondered if that bothered her.

At the loft, Laura dropped her purse on the side-table and headed straight for the bathroom.  He
followed and watched her swallow two ibuprofen tablets.  He thought that was odd.  Sometimes
Laura could be as hard-headed as he about taking medicine, but she didn’t even hesitate this time.  
He came up behind her and started massaging her neck.  “Headache?”   

“Um, no, actually.”  She leaned into his hands.  “Do you mind if I lie down for a while?”

“Of course not.”  Laura?  Taking a nap in the middle of the day?  I didn’t keep her up THAT late
last night.  
Before he let her go, he turned her in his arms.  “Laura?  If you don’t have a headache,
then why are you taking medication?”

She sighed and looked at him.  “It’s not a head thing, Remington; it’s a girl thing.”  He arched a
brow at her and she chuckled weakly.  “I have cramps.  Really awful ones.  I always do the first
day.”

“The first day of what?”

Laura rolled her eyes at him.  “Are you really going to make me spell it out for you?”

Remington replayed the clues she left him: girl thing--cramps--first day--oh, bugger it, she’s got her
period.
 He bopped his own head comically.  “Sorry, love.  What can I do?”

He could see her adjusting her thinking.  Very hesitantly, she ventured, “Would you rub my back?”

“Sure.”

Laura stretched out on the bed and Remington sat next to her.  Not knowing what hurt, he started at
the base of her neck and worked his way down.  When he reached the small of her back, he could
feel the tension concentrated there.  After several long minutes of massaging the area, he felt it give
way.

“Laura?”  There was no response.  He brushed back her hair and saw that she had fallen asleep.  
He couldn’t resist dropping a kiss on her head before covering her with a blanket.

For an hour, Remington quietly moved around the flat, putting away the clutter and marinating the
chicken he planned to cook for their dinner.  Alone with his thoughts, he reflected on the changes of
the past week.  Things had certainly been different with Laura living with him.

Hardly two months ago, they were bumping along and making slow-but-steady progress in their
relationship.  He’d had it in the back of his mind that they would share a bed long before they
started cohabiting.  He’d half expected that it would take another four years before they made it to
the point of actually sharing quarters.  Now in the rush of just a few weeks, they were married and
living together at his place, albeit temporarily.  They had spent a couple of nights at her loft this past
week, but mostly so she could begin the process of packing it up and cleaning it in preparation for
moving to their new penthouse next week.

Remington wasn’t certain how he felt about all of it yet.  For the past two months, they had been
like whirling dervishes, flying all over the world and trying to resolve a dozen personal issues at
once.  Now they were home and it was blessedly quiet.  They had spent their first week in L.A.
reconciling themselves to the changes in their relationship.  For the most part, Laura made a
wonderful roommate.  He liked her company and always had.  She was completely uninhibited in
bed--something that he’d suspected, but nevertheless was delighted to confirm--and he adored
falling asleep with her at night.

He was still surprised and flattered that Laura readily agreed to move with him to the penthouse on
the other end of the building.  When he’d first seen the place two years ago, his only thought had
been for Laura.  He easily envisioned them living in the spacious flat.  Decorated in pure creams for
her and elegant blacks for him, it was a perfect blend of their styles.  He couldn’t wait to see her
playing the piano in front of the wide bank of windows.

But it had all happened so fast.

Other than a few short years with Daniel, he had only shared the occasional hotel room with a
woman or perhaps crashed on a sofa at a friend’s house.  In any case, the only “sharing” of the
bathroom might have involved the use of the shower or bathroom counter for a lusty assignation.

The flat had been the first real place he considered “home” and he rather enjoyed having his own
space and privacy.  Now that he was keeping company with Laura on a full-time basis, he was
discovering things about her on a whole new level that made the definition of intimacy entirely
different--this latest situation being a classic case-in-point.  Granted, they had been thrown together
in enough odd situations over the years that they had seen each other at their worst, but knowing
she could hear him pee through the bathroom door hadn’t fit into his past perception of
cohabitation.  It completely decimated the image of cool confidence he tried hard to project.

Then again, Laura had grown up with sisters, had any number of college roommates and had
already lived with one man, so these things didn’t appear to bother her in the slightest.  He frowned
as he thought of Wilson.  What a bloody idiot!  The bloke hadn’t a clue as to what a prize he’d lost.

He prepared a cup of tea and took it out on the terrace while he continued to think.  With no small
amount of chagrin, he realized that he was on sexual hiatus for the next few days.  That thought led
him to realize that he had no idea about this thing with Laura.  If she ever complained at the office,
it wasn’t to him.  He couldn’t remember a single time where she made any kind of declaration at all
about her personal issues.  Obviously, she had her fair share of problems if she was incapacitated
like this every month, but in classic Laura Holt fashion, she had kept it to herself.

He realized now that she must have had her cycle at some point in Ireland, probably around the time
Daniel passed away, but she’d never let on.  That notion led to another one--had it really only been
a month since that terrible day?  Daniel, I’m certain you’d be laughing at me if you could see me
now.  Bloody hell, you are laughing at me.  I know it.

“Remington?”  Laura peeked out the door.

He turned around and was glad to see a little color in her cheeks.  “Hello, love.  How are you
feeling?”

“I’m okay.  Sorry about that.  I forgot it was Sunday.”

“Sunday?  What does that have to do with anything?”

Laura flushed, the color making her freckles stand out.  “Just exactly how detailed of an explanation
do you want?  I can make it simple and tell you that this happens every fourth Sunday.”

“How about just a few more clues than that?  I rather confess I’m a bit in the dark about all this.”

Laura heaved a sigh and leaned against the rail next to him.  “All right, the first day of my period is
usually a hard one.  I always get cramps, sleep a lot and generally feel awful for most of the day.  If
I remember to take ibuprofen in the morning, it helps a great deal, but if I forget--as I did today--it
can hurt quite a bit.  I’ve been on the Pill for years so I can at least make sure the first day falls on a
Sunday where it won’t interfere with work or mess up the weekend.”

Ah, that answered one question I had.  “That’s a good start.  Now, what exactly am I supposed to
do on these days?  Pamper you?  Stay out of the way?  Duck?”  He mimed throwing his hands in
the air as if he were dodging a bullet.

She laughed.  “Usually I curl up with a book and a heating pad while I hide out for the day, so your
guess is as good as mine.”

“Heating pad?  What for?”

“When there isn’t someone as lovely as you available for a massage, a heating pad is the next best
thing.  Kate and I used to rub each other’s backs.  Like anything else, it helps for a while.”

“And how long does all this usually last?”

“Oh, the worst of it is over by the evening and I’m fine on Monday.”  Now Laura blushed for real.  
“Don’t worry, I’m only out of commission for three or four days and,” she drew her hand down his
shirt, “I’m sure I can assist you with any ‘problems’ you might have dealing with the ‘deprivation’
in the meantime.

He caught her fingers and kissed them.  “Good Lord, Laura, do you really think I’d be that
inconsiderate?”

“No.  But I might not be able to keep my hands off you for that length of time.”  She grinned at him
and bit her lip.  “I like you, Mr. Steele, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“Well then, Mrs. Steele, I think we’ll manage just fine.  Now,” he turned her around and pushed her
toward the terrace door, “do you think you can trade the book for a movie and I’ll rub your back
while we watch it?”

“Sounds perfect.”  She stopped and captured his face for a sweet kiss.



During the movie, Laura discovered that Remington made an excellent heating pad as she curled up
with him on the sofa.  And this one had a special built-in massage feature that just couldn’t be beat.  
She felt better in record time.

Remington decided that perhaps this new level of intimacy was a good thing.  He rather liked
discovering that there were parts of Laura she simply hadn’t shared, even with him, until now.

 

 

Chapter Text

Two Holts: No Holts Barred


Laura made it to Thursday morning.  For eleven days--nearly two weeks after Remington and she
returned from their honeymoon--she let herself believe they could be happy together.  For eleven
days they had worked, lived and loved together.  It was very nearly perfection.  

But Laura didn’t believe in perfection, and on the twelfth day, as she sat alone in her loft packing up
the last of her books and clothes, she gave in to all the doubts and fears she had firmly squashed and
placed in the back of her mind since she found out about Remington and the INS.

Remington had a meeting this morning about a security system for the home of one of the wealthiest
couples in the LA area.  It would be quite a coup and required his charm and finesse to close the
deal.

She crawled onto her mattress and reached for the telephone.  While she waited for someone to
answer, she threw her arm across her eyes and tried not to cry.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Kate.”

“Laura!  Why are you calling me on a Thursday?  I’m tickled, but since when do you play hooky in
the middle of the week?”

“Since I’m packing up my things so that tomorrow I can move into Mr. Steele’s penthouse  for
good.”

“Uh oh.  And let me guess--you can’t figure out how you ended up married and living with this
guy.”             

“Exactly!” Laura wailed.

“Lay it on me, Twin.  All of it.”

Laura sniffled back her tears and started talking, “Kate, just a few months ago we were tiptoeing
around simply sleeping together.  Now, I’m … I’m married!  To HIM!  He didn’t even propose to
me!  We just … just agreed to that lousy little charade to get INS off his back.  I don’t know what I
was thinking when I suggested that we get married for real in Ireland!  And we did!  And now I’m
packing up my loft.  I love this place.  I wasn’t finished living here yet!  And my name?  I’m not
Laura Holt anymore!  I’m Laura Steele--and I don’t know who she is.  Why did I give up my
name?  I could have been Laura Holt-Steele.  Hell, he probably wouldn’t have cared if I just kept
my own name!  I could have been Laura Holt forever.”  She fell silent, a little embarrassed by her
outburst.

“Are you finished?”

“I think so.”

“Laura, tell me straight.  Do you love him?”

There was a long silence before she answered, “Yes.”

“Does he love you?”

Laura closed her eyes and a hundred images of Remington flashed in her head.  “Yes.”

“Then the rest are just details, Laura.”

“But--“

“Shut up, sis.  I know you like facts, so we’re going to do this your way.  First, do you think
Remington would have ever proposed to you?”

“He couldn’t.”

“Why not?”

Laura didn’t want to tell even Kate about his birth certificate.  “I can’t tell you why.  But I know for
a fact that until Daniel died, it was impossible for him to ask me to marry him legally.”

“What changed?”

“I made it change.  I helped him fix it.  And he did it because … I told him I wanted to marry him.”

“Would he have done it otherwise?”

“I don’t know.  Probably not.”

“So you’re telling me you loved him enough to ask him to marry you, and he loved you enough to
fix the problem so he could?”

“I guess so.”

“Laura, come clean with me.  Why hadn’t you slept with him before now?  You didn’t have a
problem crawling into bed with half a dozen guys in college and another half a dozen afterwards.”

“Kate, don’t make me answer that question.”

“Too late.  And don’t give me that bullshit about Dad's leaving.  That never stopped you before.  
And I know for a fact you went to bed with a least one other guy after Wilson left and before
Remington showed up.  Why did you make him wait?”

“I love him, Kate.  I fell in love over a magnum of champagne in 1982.  I didn’t know what else to
do to make him stay.  I drove both of us crazy.  And I will give you that bullshit about Dad.  
Between him and Wilson waltzing out the door, I couldn’t stand the idea of another man I loved just
taking off out of the blue.”

“You can be a calculating, conniving little sneak, Laura.”

“Yeah, I know, but it was for a really good cause.  Besides, how do you con a con man, Kate?”

“By running a better con.”

“Exactly.”

“So what’s got your knickers in a twist?  You’ve got a ring on your finger and the man himself in
your bed.  And I know from the gleam in your eye last Sunday that he is all man, and you are
entirely too smug for the sex to be anything less than fabulous.”

“I don’t know, Kate.  I just feel as if I’m losing myself.  It’s kind of like when my house blew up.  
You were gone, Murphy and Bernice were gone, and all my things were gone.  All I had was my
agency and Remington.  Now it seems as if all those are gone again, and I still have only the agency
and Remington.  But this time, I don’t even have me.  Laura Holt is gone now, and it’s just Laura
Steele sitting in her place.”

“Sorry to burst your bubble, sis, but I don’t care how or when you get married, that’s just part of
the package.  You want the man?  You have to take the whole package, warts and all.  Now here’s
a guy that has been sitting on a penthouse for two years, just because he thought your piano would
be perfect in the window.  You drew a line at the bed and he respected that.  You drew a line in the
agency and he respected that.  Now he’s done something for you so that you two can have a life
together and you’re questioning it?”

“But--“

“Shut up; I’m not done yet.  Did you hear what you just told me?  Two major upheavals in your life
in the last four years and there is one person who has been there for both of them.  And how many
times have you been there for him?  More than will fit on one hand I’m sure.  Now, I get the part
about changing your name, sis.  You’ve been Laura Holt for thirty years and you know who she is.  
Laura Steele has a husband and is sharing more than just her agency with him.  But Laura, you’re
only doing this because you made it happen.

“Kate, I called you because I wanted sympathy, not a kick in the ass.”

“Fresh out of sympathy, Laura.  Besides, I’m getting married in nine days, and I’m having my own
personal issues about name changes and moving in with a man I haven’t seen in nearly a year.  And
yeah, I know, I’m doing this because I love him and want to be with him every single day.”

“And because you want to wake up with him in the morning.”

“And because I don’t want to waste a single minute wondering what might have been.”

“God, you’re good, Kate.”

“I know.  That’s why you love me.”

“I do.”

“I love you too, Laura.  Now go pack the rest of your crap so you can move with that handsome
stud into that gorgeous flat.”

“I will.  How did my little sister get so smart?”

“Because there’s nothing to do on a dig except chip away at dirt and think.  I’m ready to stop
thinking for a while and start living.”

“Hope Murphy can handle you.”

“He can’t, but he’ll have fun trying.”

“Sounds like a challenge.  Maybe I’ll clue him in.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I might.  Thanks, Kate.  I’ll see you next week.”

“Same time, next week, in person.”

Laura said good-bye and hung up the phone.  She lay there for a minute, then rolled off the bed and
packed up the rest of her things, singing.

 

 

Chapter Text

Two Holts: Steele Coming Together


Remington still slept when Laura slipped out of bed on Sunday morning.  She paused while she
wrapped her robe around her.  It was impossible not to admire his still form for a moment.

He wasn’t a restless bed partner.  Most of the time, he changed positions only once or twice a night
and often not at all.  But no matter what he did, he kept one hand on her in some form or fashion.  
She was still adjusting to the whole situation and liked it for the most part--except when he fell
asleep on “her” side of the bed.  Remington seemed to have a complete disregard for things like
that.  He crawled in on the left side of the bed just as often as he did the right--which drove her
nutty.  She had always slept on the left side.  When she off-handedly mentioned it one night, he just
smiled and told her to be flexible.  Now it was yet another game they played with Laura determined
to get to that side of the bed before he did--or at least end up there after their nightly assignation--
and Remington just as equally resolute to keep her off-balance.

As frustrating as he could be, Laura was smart enough to recognize that the reason she liked him so
much was that he wasn’t afraid to stand up to her.  It seemed as if every other man she’d dated had
ultimately caved in to her driven personality.  Even in the early days when she thought she was
pulling all the strings, Remington managed to dance only to the ones he liked and left the rest
blowing in the breeze.  He spoiled her often but never put her on a pedestal.  In fact, he treated her
more like a real person than anyone else had in her life.

In the quiet dawn, she wandered around her new home.  It was strange, really.  She hadn’t truly
shared a space with anyone since college--and a dorm room was more of a storage locker with a bed
than a real home.  At her little house, Wilson had moved in with her, only to move his bare few
possessions out again when he left.  He didn’t make a mark when he arrived and left little evidence
of his departure, just a few odds and ends that were easily eliminated or ignored.

This place--this beautiful cream and black penthouse--wasn’t hers nor wholly Remington’s--
although he had purchased it a couple of years before.  The décor still looked a little odd to her,
seeing her familiar things blended with his in a new setting.  Still others were new, purchased as the
couple filled in gaps and furnished their space to their liking.  The past week had certainly seen the
two of them wrangling over furniture arrangements and closet space.

Laura stepped into the kitchen and began heating water in the teapot.  That was definitely
Remington’s influence.  Before she met him, she didn’t breathe in the mornings without her cup of
coffee.  Now there was an even chance she would start her day with tea.

He had absolutely forbidden her to step foot in the kitchen until he had it arranged the way he
wanted.  But she had watched him unpack boxes and slot dishes and pans in the cabinets from
across the island, sitting on one of the new black barstools they had brought home last Friday.  It
was kind of fun, actually.  Remington had confessed that this was the first time in his life he had
moved more than just clothes and a few personal items from one place to the next.  But in the past
four years, he had managed to add to the things she had originally purchased for his condo--art,
cookware, wine glasses, and a few electronics that all men seem to require.  She had found it
entertaining that the only kitchen items of hers he insisted on keeping were the ones he had
purchased for her over that same time frame.  Interesting how they blend so nicely, she thought
with amusement.  I probably should have hurt feelings, but really, why argue with a man willing
to do all the cooking?

She sipped her tea as she leaned against the island and looked into the living room.  The glass and
wood foyer on her left opened up into an enormous space, big enough for the new cream-colored
leather sofa and chairs in the center and her baby grand on the other side near the windows.  She’d
had the idea to put red throw pillows on the sofas and to add little touches of the same in the accent
pieces around the room.  The color scheme was reminiscent of the 1940’s and Remington had been
delighted with the outcome.

The left side of the room housed his big screen television and the right had an almost freestanding
fireplace framed out in black tile.  On one side of it she could see into the dining room and the other
her home office.  Immediately behind it was a relatively open space that Remington was angling to
put a pool table in.  Yeah, we’ll see about that one.

Laura established the study as her own territory, and yesterday afternoon her husband had helped
her to unload all her books onto the shelves, running his hands along the titles as he handed them to
her.  One or two of them found their way to the table next to their bed.  She had been thrilled to
find a wide, two-sided desk that they could both use, although she had been ready to strangle her
husband as he dawdled over picking out a chair for his side.  There was more she needed to do to
truly turn the space into a functional home office, but the computer and file cabinets could wait a
few weeks until she determined what was essential.  In the meantime, Remington had hung quite a
few of her family pictures on the one vacant wall, knowing she would enjoy seeing them as she
worked.

Just outside her office, a pretty French door opened to the terrace.  At the moment the space outside
was empty, but the pair had entertained seating and dining ideas as they shopped.  Big enough for a
nice-sized grill, she had thoughts about surprising Remington with one.  She’d seen him casually
peeking into several of them while they hunted for light bulbs at the hardware store.

At that, she laughed quietly.  It was so terribly domesticated for both of them.  Kitchens, baths, new
towels, furniture.  And now she considered buying a grill for her husband.  How traditional can I
get?
 On the other hand, it was something he certainly would have purchased for himself if he’d had
the space before--and he might beat her to it if she wasn’t quick enough.

She walked softly across the plush living room carpet.  Remington’s cinematic artwork hung on the
wall over the television, and bookcases straddled both sides.  Two bedrooms and a bath were off to
the left, down a short hallway, and the enormous master bedroom and bath were on the right.

Laura’s bed, a chair from her loft and a dresser turned one of the bedrooms into a guest room and
the other--well, that had been Remington’s latest surprise.  Knowing how much she liked to keep in
shape, he’d had full-length mirrors installed along one wall and a ballet barre on another.  He’d even
had black walnut wooden floors put in just for her, ones that matched the floors in the foyer,
kitchen and her office.

They had kept Remington’s bedroom furniture for their suite.  His bed was bigger and Laura liked
the elegant lines of the room, although the bedspread was new.  They had found one nearly solid
black with tiny pinstripes of cream and red.  More red pillows on the bed punched up the whole
look.  She did, however, get rid of the generic picture that had hung over his bed in the old place
and replaced it with a number of black framed photographs and sketches Remington had done over
the years, including the fan dance drawing of her that Frances had discovered last weekend.  I still
haven’t gotten a good explanation for that one,
she thought.

Her little glass trinkets made a nice contrast and softened the space.  The hazy ivory fabric of the
floor-length curtains she'd hung on either side of the bedroom fireplace helped out there too, and the
geometric design woven into the material made it all blend together.  Those same drapes hung
throughout the penthouse, filtering the light and softening the elegant lines of the décor.  Last night,
they had left the windows open and watched the fabric dance in the cool breeze.

As she looked around at their new home, she thought of the possibilities: romantic interludes, quiet
dinners together, lively parties and even Christmas.  She smiled and set down her empty teacup.

Maybe it's time to wake up Xenos.

 

 

Chapter Text

Two Holts:  I Steele Do


Laura rested her head on Remington’s shoulder.  He tilted their seats back until they were
comfortable, closed his own eyes and tried to doze.  The flight to Denver would be just two hours,
but it was a late one.

Even though it was only Thursday, the Steeles had already had a long week.  After spending the
weekend settling into their penthouse, they both put in nearly fifteen hours at work each day getting
the agency back on track after their frequent absences.  They’d also had a final meeting that went
late into the previous night with the architect about the new office plans.  If all went well,
construction would begin over the weekend, and there would be something to see by the time they
returned to the office on Monday.

Remington had sketched out a new office design and security system for it.  Laura liked the layout,
only requesting a couple of changes, and left the security entirely up to him.  The confidence she
had in him was gratifying and a little unnerving.  She hadn’t said a word about the features of the
small “file room” that fit between their new offices.  After Major Descoine’s antics and the
nightmare last Christmas, he was determined to provide a safe room for his wife--one that would be
nearly impregnable from the outside.  It would have its own phone system, electrical panel and air
conditioning unit, complete with special filters capable of cleaning most chemicals from the air.  
Steel panels would line the studs and the door would be deceptively strong--capable of standing up
against all handguns and any number of automatic weapons.  She said nothing of it, only pointing
out the need for a break room in their growing agency.  

He hoped Ian Connelly would be able to cope with the office well enough for Laura to relax at her    
sister’s wedding.  The new secretary had been there for two weeks now and seemed to be
comfortable managing the variety of phone calls that came through.  Friendly and professional
seemed to be the best description for Ian.  Very little seemed to annoy him and he always had a
ready smile on his face.  His coffee needed a little work though.

That was his last thought for a while as the plane winged its way into the heart of the Rocky
Mountains.



Laura sat up in her seat and stretched, rather glad that her husband had insisted on booking first
class seats.  The flight attendant saw her movement and offered drinks.  While Laura requested tea
for both of them instead, the young woman’s eyes lingered on the gorgeous man sleeping next to her
for a moment, but she maintained her professional demeanor and moved on with efficiency.

The detective smiled.  She certainly couldn’t blame the other woman.  Bernice had referred to him
as “eye-candy” more than once, and knowing her, probably in his hearing just so she could annoy
him.  The former secretary had been smug when Laura showed up with Remington in tow for a
quick weekend in New York for the ceremony, and it had only taken moments before the two were
sparring as if the years between had never happened.  Laura shook her head.  That was when they
came home to find they were “dead.”  So much had happened since then.

Perhaps sensing his wife’s movement, Remington opened his blue eyes and smiled when he saw she
was awake.  He rubbed at his face for a minute, and then he sat up and straightened his shirt and tie
as the attendant returned with their tea.  There was another brief glance and a pause before she
moved on to the next passenger.

“Does that ever bother you?” Laura wondered.

“What’s that?”

“Having women look at you all the time as if they want you for a snack?”

Remington grinned.  “Should it?”

“No, I was just curious.”

“Not really.  It’s flattering, but I can’t help the way I look.  Do you mind when men think you’re a
tasty little morsel that needs to be devoured?”

“Only when it’s patently obvious they think I don’t have a brain.”

“Well, then, you understand.  Give me a gorgeous brunette with dark cocoa eyes that sees me for
what I am and lusts after me anyway.”

“That I do, Mr. Steele.”



Ninety minutes later the Steeles were sound asleep in their hotel room after a brief call to reassure
Kate they had made it to Denver.

At eight-thirty in the morning, loud banging on their door woke them, and Laura staggered to the
door where her twin blew in with Murphy only a few steps behind.  Remington was still in bed but
leaned up on an elbow at the interruption.

Kate and Laura shrieked as they hugged, to the men’s mutual winces.  Remington shook his head.  
His wife was normally quite reserved, but when it came to Kate, she had no inhibitions whatsoever.

“Morning, Steele.”

“Michaels.”  Their truce was still very new, and the two men were a little unsure of how to act
without all the animosity that normally marked their exchanges.

The blonde shrugged a shoulder.  “Sorry about the early morning--Hurricane Kate’s got an agenda a
mile long today.”

“Not a problem.”  He knew how Laura could get when she was on a mission.

Kate dug in her tiny purse with her free hand and gave Laura an itinerary for the weekend.  “Here’s
the schedule.  We’re all staying here in the hotel.  I have the suite and Murphy is sharing a room
with his frat brother--Steve Diametto--for now.

A schedule? Remington thought.  He shot a glance at Murphy, who shrugged and shook his head,
saying, “Don’t ask.  I’m just along for the ride.”

Kate continued, “We have breakfast with Mom in an hour and lunch with Murphy’s parents.  
Tonight is the rehearsal dinner and afterward, we’ll go out for our stag parties.”  She pinned
Remington with an icy look, which was rather impressive coming from warm brown eyes.  “You are
in charge of making sure he’s not so plastered tomorrow that he is miserable and has a headache.  
Do what you want, but keep the drinking reasonable.”

Remington gave her a comical salute.  “Aye, aye, Captain.”

“Saturday, of course, is the wedding, so I’ll need all hands on deck starting at nine.  Bridal pictures
at the church are at one and the wedding is at three, with pictures of everyone immediately
following.  The reception is here and starts at six.  And then on Sunday, I don’t care what you do
because Murphy and I will be on a cruise ship to the Caribbean.  Grab your stuff and come get
ready in my suite.  I'll fill you in on the rest of it.”

Laura shot Remington a helpless glance.  He shrugged with a smile and waved her off.  She barely
had time to give him a swift kiss and grab a robe and her bag before Kate dragged her out the door.

“Is she always like this?” Steele asked Murphy, with a healthy dose of humor in his voice.  It was
completely rare to see Laura bowled over by anyone other than her mother.

“Not at all.  Sometimes she’s worse.  Laura calls her ‘Steamroller.’  What else would you expect of
a woman capable of organizing a wedding from half a world away?” Murphy retorted with a smile
before he collapsed into the lone chair in the room.

“And you’re volunteering to marry her?”

Murph shrugged and clicked on the television with the remote.  “You picked Laura--stubborn,
neurotic to her toes, brilliant and passionate to the core.”

Remington raised his eyebrows and nodded.  “True.”  It was a good description.

“Take the first, third and fourth; add in rock solid confidence, and they all add up to Kate.”

“How did Kathleen get the confidence and Laura the neuroses?”

Murphy looked askance at him.  “You really don’t know?”  Steele raised a brow and shook his
head.  “Go take your shower and I’ll tell you while you get your crap together.  Kate will kick my
ass if we’re not at breakfast on time.”

“Is that why you’re here?”

“Yep.  She’s heard too many stories about the great Remington Steele strolling in two hours after
the party starts, so I’m stuck babysitting you this morning.  Besides, I’m not interested in
entertaining Abigail by myself.”

“In Europe, it’s called ‘being fashionably late.’ ”

“Yeah, well, call it whatever you want, but I’m marrying her tomorrow and have zero interest in
pissing her off today.  My job is to follow orders and stay out of the way for the next thirty hours.”

They exchanged grins of understanding and Remington ducked into the shower.  When he was out
and wearing a pair of slacks, he opened the door and quirked a brow.  Murphy was staring at
ESPN.  “Perhaps you can interrupt your reverie for a moment and continue our previous
conversation?”

With a snort, Murphy looked up, “Never can say it with three words when thirty will do, Steele?”

“Bugger off, Michaels.”

“Same to you, Steele.”  But the blonde shifted around and frowned.  “Frances was Abigail’s favorite
and Laura was entirely her father’s child.  Kate muddled through by herself.  From what I
understand, she learned to be fairly independent at an early age--and liked it that way.  She tells me
stories of the competition in the house between Laura and Frances.  The more Frances walked the
straight and narrow for Abigail, the wilder Laura got to impress her father.  And when he left, Laura
fell completely apart.  She became entirely dependent on Kate for the last two years of high school.”

“My best guess is that Laura was clinically depressed then.  When Kate headed for Stanford, so did
Laura, but Katy’d had the sense to insist they not live together.  I think she was a little desperate to
have some kind of normal life away from her family.  Whatever it was, it worked.  Laura buried
herself in coursework and graduated in a little over three years.  Kate was a semester or so behind
her and deliberately took a master’s project in Peru to give them even more space.”

Murphy hooked his thumbs through his belt loops.  “It was the best thing that could have happened
for both of them.  Laura had gained a lot of confidence by the time she started at Havenhurst.  You
didn’t know her then, but I did.  She was--and still is--extraordinarily brilliant.  You could see
flashes of that wild child coming out, especially when she went under cover.  She wasn’t afraid of
anything.”

Remington had been shaving during the recitation and dried his face with a towel.  “What
happened?”  He was sure he knew the answer already.

“Wilson.  I know you don’t want to hear this, but Laura fell hard for him.  He was stable, boring
and an absolute wimp, but she was convinced he was exactly what she needed.  In some ways, I
pitied him at first because he had no hope of keeping up with her.  But instead of letting her go, he
fucked with her head, telling her she was too passionate and daring--that she needed to settle down
and be more respectable, more responsible.  He wanted to chip away at the best parts of her and
make her fit into his tiny little corner of the world.  I was glad when he left, but he couldn’t have
picked a worse way to do it to her.  I still occasionally get the urge to beat the living hell out of him.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Laura, in those ever so polite tones of hers, asked me not to.  She blamed herself for the whole
debacle.  And quite frankly, I was too busy keeping an eye on her to go chase down his scrawny
little butt.”  Sighing, he went on, “Kate had warned me about Laura's depression, so I watched out
for her, listened a lot and did my best to let her work through it.  She had to fight for it, but she
pulled herself up by her bootstraps and kept it together.  Let me tell you, it was something a little
creepy to watch.  Nearly overnight Laura transformed into the woman you first met--still brilliant,
scared of nothing except her own feelings, and so tightly controlled you could bounce a quarter off
her bed sheets.  The few men she dated after that didn’t have a chance.”

“No wonder I scared the hell out of her,” Remington murmured.

“Pretty much, Steele.”

“It does explain why you are so protective of her.”

“Yeah.”

“I may yet learn to like you, Michaels.”  Remington gave his tie one last tug and squared himself.  
He held out his hand.  “I think I might have to spot you one on this.”

Murphy took it.  “Just deal with their mother today and we’ll call it even.”

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”  He wiggled his eyebrows.  “Humphrey
Bogart to Claude Raines, Casablanca, Warner Bros., 1942.”

“Don’t push it, Steele.  You were on a roll.”





Breakfast was pure Abigail.  She spent the hour scolding her girls for various shortcomings, which
weren’t really deficiencies at all but merely misunderstandings of her daughters’ characters.  At one
point all three sisters were fuming, and Donald crossed his arms, shooting a dark look at both
Murphy and Remington--reminding them of their previous conversation two Sundays ago.

Heaving a sigh, Steele turned to Abigail and began quizzing her on the preparations she was making
for their own reception, deflecting her admonishments about the way Katy had planned everything.  
Laura shot him a grateful smile and slid her hand into his under the table.



Lunch with Murphy’s parents went much better.  Married for nearly forty years, they were casual
and comfortable, much like their son.  His much younger sister, Jena, at only twenty-one, was in her
third year at the University of Colorado in Boulder.  Bright, with the same sandy blonde hair as her
brother, she had a wicked sense of humor and got along just fine with Kate.

The dinner that night was terrific.  Murphy and Kate had kept the wedding party to mostly family
and a very close couple of friends.  The intimate evening was full of laughter, funny and warm
toasts to the couple and lots of well-meaning and frank advice for their coming wedding night.

Afterward, Donald rounded up the men--and Laura the women--and each group disappeared into
the night.  The boys headed for an upscale strip bar and proceeded to spend the next several hours
getting Murphy intoxicated.  For the most part they kept him out of any compromising positions, but
they had great fun bribing the girls.  Murphy blanched a little whiter and drank a little more each
time another scantily-clad curvaceous brunette approached and introduced herself as “Kate.”

Remington did find out that night exactly how the two met.  In an alcoholic daze, his soon-to-be-
brother-in-law recounted that he had a crush on Laura when she began working at the Havenhurst
Detective Agency.  When he entered her office one Monday morning and found her dressed in a
pair of khaki shorts and a white t-shirt, with her field boots propped up on the desk, he couldn’t help
staring.  Only this time, she gave him a thorough perusal and met his gaze straight on.  He had
rounded the desk and muttered apologies while pulling her to her feet for a lusty kiss.  A kiss she
didn’t resist in the slightest.

While they were locking lips, Laura had appeared in the doorway and sharply called both their
names.  Murphy smiled in memory as he remembered looking first at Kate, then at Laura, and back
at Kate, who had a wide grin on her face.  “Twins.  Well, I almost had it right the first time.  But I
definitely have it the second.”

Kate had laughed and tucked her arm through his.  “You must be Murphy.  Why don’t you take me
to lunch?”

Steele asked about Sherry, the last woman he remembered Murphy dating before he left the
agency.  The blonde man drank deeply of his scotch and said, “Sherry was incredible.  She was the
one who told me that Kate was worth the wait.  If you’ll remember, she was a psychologist and had
me figured cold after a week.  We’re still friends.  She married at cop, of all people, a couple of
years ago, and they're expecting their first any day now.”

“So how did you two make it all these years?”

“Long letters, the occasional phone call, and visits whenever possible.  She got home two or three
times a year, and I went to see her at least once a year.  We did, unlike you and Laura who saw
each other nearly every day, spend a great deal of time in bed.”  He gave Steele a knowing smirk.

“I’d suggest something about quality over quantity,” Remington retorted with a grin, “but then I’ll
acknowledge that there’s never too much quantity in this category.  But the quality is sure to be
better, regardless.”

Murphy rolled his eyes and elbowed Donald.  “Does this fall under the terms of the truce?”

Donald sipped his beer and answered, “We’re at a strip bar for your bachelor party, Murph.  All
bets are off.  Besides, I think you owe him a couple of cheap shots right now.  Wasn’t Kate wearing
red?”  Remington saluted Donald with his glass while the groom swore and turned his back on them
in favor of discussing the results of the NFL draft with his fraternity brother.



The three Holt sisters, Jena and two of Kate’s friends from college all found themselves wedged into
a single booth at a little bar not too far from the hotel.  A very loud, slightly off-key band played in
the corner, and the slightly scruffy waiter flirted with Jena as he served the bride and her friends.

Laura appointed herself the designated driver and had fun watching her twin down a number of
drinks with astonishingly inappropriate names.  The sisters had had their own private reunion nearly
two weeks ago, so tonight was all about enjoying each other’s company and having fun with new
friends.  Oh, and watching the normally-oh-so-controlled-Kate get absolutely plastered for the
second time in two weeks.  

After her fourth sex-on-the-beach-orgasm-in-a-glass or whatever she was drinking, Kate put her
head on the table amid the phallic balloons and equally inappropriate pieces of chocolate Jena had
discovered in a novelty shop.

“No more.  I have to be sober tomorrow.”  Her tiara slipped sideways and the strip of condoms she
wore as a sash teetered on the edge of her shoulder.  She blearily looked at Laura.  “Why am I
marrying him?”

“Somebody has to.”

“Oh, yeah.  And he’s hot too.  Yummy kisses.  Broad shoulders.  Really nice ass.  And he
understands football.  I miss football.  There’s no football in Thailand.  Did you know Murphy used
to play football?  As a tight end.  He has a very nice tight end.”  While Laura pulled her still-babbling
twin out of the booth, Jena shoved and Frances was there to catch as she nearly sat on the floor.

“Come on, Steamroller.  We have a big day tomorrow.”

“Sure thing, Lunatic.  You know, I gotta find more of that red stuff tha’ Rem’ton got you.  Murph
kind of liked it.  Think we can get some?”  Laura and Frances supported her as she staggered out of
the bar and collapsed into Jena’s little car.

“I imagine we can work something out.”



They sent her off to bed.  Laura happily crawled between her own sheets and was asleep in
moments.  An hour later, Remington found her sprawled out in the middle after he and Donald
dumped Murphy on the extra bed in Steve’s room.  They had stuck him in a cold shower long
enough to partially sober him up before abandoning him to his friend.  The streak of blue curses still
echoed in the hallways.

Today had certainly been enlightening for him, not only of his wife’s psyche, but of the whole
American wedding tradition.  He realized just how much Laura had missed and felt no small amount
of guilt over it.  She deserved so much more than what he’d given her.  In fact, the more he thought
of it, the more he realized that there had been very little romance involved in the whole process.  
From the tuna boat to her proposal, and his subsequent descent into his own private little drunken
spree, to the civil wedding ceremony, there wasn’t much tenderness on his part outside of the
bedroom.

He hadn’t given a single thought to her family and how they might have wanted to participate, or if
Laura even wanted them involved.  He hoped that perhaps the reception Abigail was planning would
alleviate some of his guilt, but it would never make up for not having a proper wedding in the first
place, nor for the fact that he hadn't given her a real proposal.

That was his last thought before he tumbled into bed next to his wife.



The phone rang at eight sharp in the morning.  Laura fumbled for it, dropped it, and had to search,
half-hanging off the bed, for the receiver.  She was still upside-down and had one hand on the floor
when she put it to her ear.  “ ‘Lo?”

“Laura?  Wake up.  It’s my wedding day!”

“It is?  Really?”  Remington reached for her waist and hauled her back on the bed.  Lying this
closely to her, he could hear Kate as well.  He started kissing his wife’s freckles.

“Laura!  I’m bouncing off the walls.  When are you going to get here?”

Laura looked at the clock and was quiet for a moment.  “Forty-five minutes.”

“Thirty.”

“Nope.  I get twenty with Mr. Steele, fifteen for the shower and ten to get my stuff and get over
there.”

“Thirty and you take your shower over here.”

“Forty-five and you cope for the extra fifteen.  Love you, sis.  Bye.”  Laura hung the phone up and
disconnected the cord.

Remington smiled.  It was the first time he’d heard her stand up to her sister.  “Just twenty
minutes?”

She rolled over to face him.  “I know we haven’t had much time this week.  I like waking up with
you in the mornings and I got cheated out of it entirely yesterday.”

“Then, Mrs. Steele, it appears we have to make up for it today.”



The wedding day was fun.  The bride wore a red silk Thai wedding dress that hugged her small
frame with a sash thrown over one shoulder, leaving the other completely bare.  Heavy gold
embroidery danced across the hemline, around the wide belt at her waist and over the sash.  The
attendants--Laura, Frances and Jena--wore simple columns of gold and carried a single red rose.  
Murphy was dressed in black with a red vest and matching embroidery.  Steve, Donald and
Remington stood up for him.  The last had come as a surprise to the Steeles, but Kate had insisted
on his inclusion from the moment she’d heard her sister had wed in Ireland.  

Vows were said and kisses exchanged before hundreds of pictures were taken, and then the whole
wedding party caravanned from the church to the reception by limousine, courtesy of Remington
Steele Investigations.  More toasts were made at the reception, followed by dances by the happy
newlyweds.  It seemed like hours had passed before Remington finally got his arms around Laura
once more.

She bubbled with joy and was light on her feet while they danced.  He couldn’t help kissing her on
the dance floor.  Ever sensitive to his moods, she crinkled her forehead.

“What’s wrong?”

He thought about prevaricating, but decided she’d see through that right away.  “I think I want to
apologize.”

“For what?”

“Because I didn’t give you the chance to have this.”  He waved a hand around the ballroom.

“A wedding?  I think I had two, maybe.”

“No, not that.  The whole thing.  The family, the parties, the proposal.  I didn’t give you any of it at
all.”

She cocked her head and smiled.  “Want to make it up to me?”

“Of course.”

“There’s only one thing I wish I could have.”

“A proposal?”

“I think it’s a little late for that, besides, you got one.  Although come to think of it, I never got an
answer.  No, what I want is a picture.”

“A picture?  Of what?”

“Of us.  On our wedding day.  I want you to draw me a picture of our wedding.  And I want to
hang it with your other sketches on our wall in our bedroom so I can look at it and remember that it
was a perfect day.”

He pulled her a little closer.  “You think our wedding day was perfect?”  Joy replaced guilt and
wound its way through his heart.

“I do.”

“Without all this?”

“I’m sure we’ll get plenty of it at Mother’s reception.  She can have her day.  I’ve had mine.”

Swiftly, Remington pulled her into a tight hug on the dance floor.  “I love you, Laura Steele.”

She tilted her head back and let her brown eyes shine on him.  “I love you, Remington Steele.”


* * * * *


It took him nearly the rest of the spring season, working late at night after Laura had gone to bed or
on weekends while she was occupied.  It wasn’t easy hiding it from her.  But in the end, he created
a sixteen by twenty portrait of Laura, exquisite in her ivory dress with Irish lace at the wrist and
hem, and himself, wearing his black tuxedo and ivory cravat.  He caught forever the moment they
held hands and their lips touched after saying the vows that would bind them for a lifetime.

At the bottom he signed it “Steele 2-Jun-86” and inscribed the title next to his signature.  He named
the portrait “Yes.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Two Holts: Steele Treading Water


Remington stirred the sauce once more and listened to Laura work out a particular phrase in the
piano piece she was studying.  He thought it was a difficult one because she’d been playing it again
and again for the last twenty minutes.  This last time had gone rather smoothly, but she flipped the
page back to the beginning of the section and started over anyway.

He hoped the process would help ease whatever was eating at her.  He’d endured her snippy little
comments at the office and put up with her outright ignoring him at home.  Yesterday she’d bolted
from the office at five and had not come home for nearly two hours.  Since she was covered in
sweat and wearing workout clothes, it was dead obvious where she’d been, but her mood hadn’t
changed in the slightest.

Surprisingly, she hadn’t frozen him out in bed.  As Remington reached to douse the light last night,
Laura had fastened her lips to his shoulder and worked her way down.  She’d evoked exquisite
pleasure in his body before taking her own and then had fallen asleep sprawled across his chest
before he’d even quit shuddering.  Such a complicated woman, he thought, not for the first time.

Laura closed the keyboard and turned to watch her new husband set plates on the island, along with
silverware, napkins and goblets.  She admired the way he moved about with an efficiency of motion
and grace that belied his wiry strength.  Regretfully, she realized that she had apologies to make.  
Why is this so hard sometimes?  Gathering her courage, she rose and crossed the living room to the
island.  Remington had pulled a chilled bottle of pinot grigio from the wine safe.  Laura opened it
and filled the goblets while he looked on with an arched brow.

“Salad?” she ventured.

“Ah, I haven’t gotten to it yet.”

“I’ll do it.”  Laura made herself busy retrieving lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers from the
refrigerator.  Side-by-side they worked.  He plated the fettuccini as she used tongs to toss the salad
and dish it up into wooden bowls.  They sat at the island and ate dinner in awkward silence.

When they were done, out of sheer frustration, Remington shoved everything into the sink and
grabbed his keys off the counter.

“Where are you going?” Laura asked in surprise.

“Out.”   

“But--“

“But what, Laura?  When I get back, I need you to have figured out whatever is rattling around in
your head and share it with me.”  Open-mouthed, she watched from her barstool as he firmly shut
the foyer door in annoyance and jabbed at the elevator buttons.  The doors slid open and he shot
her one last irritated look before they closed again.

It took only a few minutes to clean up the kitchen.  Remington wasn’t a messy cook.  He preferred
to wash his prep tools as he went and it rarely took Laura more than ten or fifteen minutes to finish
the dishes and wipe down the countertops.  She wasn’t much of a chef, but she could scrub with the
best of them and at least it made her feel better about splitting chores with him.

She took her glass of wine out to the terrace and gazed into the darkness.  Why does he have to be
so damned competent?
 There didn’t seem to be anything he couldn’t do.  Oh, there were dozens of
things he didn’t like to do and he was rather vocal about all of them--paperwork and dusting seemed
to be at the top of the list.  But he dealt with the former and had hired a maid service for the latter.

At the office, Mildred was in Europe checking out the properties and investments that Remington
inherited from Daniel, leaving the new secretary--a young man by the name of Ian Connelly--to
cope in her absence.  Ian seemed to have a firm understanding that Laura was the owner and
manager of the agency.  He came to her first whenever he had a question.  But several times this
week, she had been on the phone or with a client and Ian had gone to Mr. Steele with his inquiries.  
What irritated her was that Remington had given all the right answers.

That’s not fair, Laura.  You’d be annoyed if he gave the wrong ones too.  Smug and superior, but
annoyed.  Frustrated, she drank from her glass and stared into the night.  It wasn’t long after that
when she noticed the Auburn turning into the parking garage down below.

She walked back into the kitchen and washed out her goblet before taking a careful seat on the edge
of the sofa.  The elevator doors slid open and Remington had his eyes on her as he walked through
the entry way.  She noted that he didn’t sit beside her, but he didn’t sit across from her either.  The
first would have been submissive, the second, confrontational.  Rather, he took the chair to her right
and copied her posture.

For a minute she opened her mouth, but no words came out.  Then, “I’m not used to thinking of
you as an equal partner.”  She saw a myriad of expressions cross his face, from quizzical to
annoyed to carefully neutral.  “You’re more confident than you were before … all the mess prior to
our wedding.”

Remington had noted already that the only wedding she counted was the one in Ireland.  It was
completely irrelevant to her whether or not the tuna boat fiasco was legal.  “In what way?”  He was
curious about her perception of him.

She leaned back against the sofa and stared at the coffee table as she tried to put it into words.  
“Please don’t take this wrong, but you’re not arrogant anymore.  You’re just … you.  I’m used to
that when it’s just the two of us, but not at the office.  Oh, what am I saying-- I’m not even used to
it here.”  She jumped up and started pacing.  “When we were alone before, there was always a line
we wouldn’t cross, and     I’m not just talking physically.  You wouldn’t talk about anything before
we met and I didn’t talk about much other than work.  Now, I ask a question and I get an answer--
or at least some sort of answer.  I don’t feel as if you’re hiding from me.”  She crossed her arms
and kept walking.

“I go to the office and I keep expecting to have to head you off from some hare-brained scheme.  
Instead, I get intelligent, well-thought-out ideas.  And I have to confess--I thought I’d spend all day
fending you off from wanting to have sex in the office.”  She blushed.  “I find I’m the one enticing
you behind closed doors more than half the time.”

“Thank God,” rumbled her husband.

She threw her hands up in the air and then leaned on the back of the sofa.  “If I thought I was
confused before, you’ve got me tied up in knots now.”

He propped his foot on the table and leaned back in his own chair.  “So let me get this straight.   
You’ve been snippety with me because I haven’t been acting like a conceited, foolish ass who can’t
keep his hands off you?”

Laura looked at him in astonishment and began to laugh.  “Apparently--yes.”

In response, Remington laid his head on the back of the sofa, closed his eyes and rubbed his
temples.  “I have a headache.”

She rounded the sofa and skirted the table so she could sit on it in front of him.  “Suddenly, I’m
living with the man every single day that I’ve only seen during our occasional nighttime excursions--
the jewel and art thief who is confident, intelligent, infinitely patient and aware of every single detail
of his environment.  It’s a little intimidating.”

“Intimidating?” he repeated.  “To you?”

“I’m used to having the upper hand with you--at least sometimes, Mr. Steele.  But I think I lost it
somewhere around Ashford Castle.”

He reflected for a moment before tracing a finger down the side of her face.  “Perhaps, I didn’t
realize that I was using different personas with you.  Habit, I suppose.  One Remington Steele at the
office, another in private with you, and still another on those little escapades.  And now I find I   
don’t need them at all.”

“And the art thief is the real you?”

“I think so.  With a healthy dash of the man you knew in private.”

“No wonder you’re so good at everything.”

“You flatter me, Laura.  Unfairly.”

“No, I don’t think so at all.  But it is disconcerting to find I’m still discovering the real you.  And the
more I know, the more I like.  You’re eminently capable of a great many things.”

“That bothers you?”

“Only in that I don’t like feeling second rate.”

Remington stared at Laura in disbelief.  “You’re joking with me, right?”  When she looked down at
her hands, he frowned.  “I’ve never known anyone so terrifically successful who has a streak of
insecurity as wide and as long as yours, Laura.”  He tangled his hands in her hair and played with
the strands.  “I’ve always known the value of nearly everything--including people.  You are
infinitely precious to me, love.  I knew when I met you that I had met my match.  No one else has
kept up with me, loved me, or had as much faith in me as you do.  Now if you could only have as
much faith in yourself.”

“I’ll work on it.”

“Do that.”  He pulled her into his lap.  “So what are you going to do to make up for all the snippy
little comments I’ve had to ignore these last two days?”

“Besides the obvious?”

“Besides the obvious.”

“Hmm.  What do you want?”

He nuzzled her throat.  “No more blocking me out--especially for days on end.”  She pulled back to
look at him.  “I’m quite serious, Laura.  I don’t know much about marriage, but I do know that we
can’t hide things from each other.”

“Agreed.”

“Just like that?”

“Yes.”

“Then perhaps we can work on the obvious.”  Laura smiled as he touched his lips to her throat
again.



He had to eat his own words days later.

While Laura was at the courthouse providing testimony for a case, he’d received a phone call at the
office.  Ian had buzzed his line.  “A Mr. Sandoval on the line for you, sir.  Says he’s an old friend
from Monaco.”

What’s he calling me here for?  “Sure, put him through.”  Ian competently transferred the call and
seconds later Steele’s line lit up.  “Carlos, amigo, how are you?”  He rocked back in his chair and
propped his feet on his desk.

“Very well, gracias, Mr. Steele.  I’m delighted to speak with you again after all these years.”

“Hmm, particularly since you didn’t know me as ‘Steele.’  How did you track me down?”

“Ahh, amigo, I only had to open the paper to see my very good acquaintance is now a famous
detective in Los Angeles.  Must be very good pickings, no?”

Steele frowned.  “Carlos, I’m a legitimate businessman now and I don’t dabble in the past.”

Si, si, that’s good.  I’m in need of a legitimate businessman.  I have an idea for you.  May I buy
you lunch?  Casa Sanchez on Centinela at noon.”

He looked at his watch.  Laura was due back at one for their next client.  He had time.  “Of course.  
I’ll meet you there.”

Gracias, amigo, I look forward to our discussion.”

“Yes, of course, Carlos.  I do as well.”  Steele hung up the phone.  The last time he had done
business with Sandoval, the man had wanted him to steal a small painting from a well-protected
museum in Portugal.  They had both come away pleased with the transaction and their paths had
never crossed again although Sandoval had referred others to him for similar operations.  If it wasn’t
for that, Remington would have passed on the lunch.  But conscious of the fact that he owed it to
the man to at least listen to his proposition, he agreed.

He buttoned his coat and stopped at Mildred’s old desk on the way out the door.  “Ian, I’ll be out to
lunch with Mr. Sandoval.  I shouldn’t be long.”

“Okay.”  The young man made a note on the calendar.  “Is there a place I can reach you?”  Both
Mr. and Mrs. Steele had made it clear to him that he was in charge of keeping track of who was
where.  It was a handy way of keeping tabs on each other without actually having to check in with
the other spouse.

Casa Sanchez.  I’ll be back around two.”

“Sounds good.  Bring me leftovers.”  Steele chuckled as he walked out.  Connelly had a good sense
of humor.



Laura returned to the agency just before her one o’clock appointment.  “Hi, Ian.  Any messages?”

“Three.  Two new prospects and your mom.”

Laura wrinkled her nose.  “Is Mr. Steele in his office?”

“No.  He’s out to lunch with a Carlos Sandoval.  He called here this morning and said he was an old
friend from Monaco.  Mr. Steele said he’d be back by two.”

An old friend from Monaco?  That could be … interesting.  Laura flipped over her wrist to glance at
her watch.  “Thanks, Ian.  Send Mr. Dial into my office when he comes in.  I’m ready for him.”

“Will do.”  The blonde wrote neat notes in his book and resumed work on the skip-traces Laura had
assigned to him earlier.



Steele leaned against his chair and looked across his enchiladas at Carlos.  The years had been good
to the man.  Swarthy, with a broad face and brown eyes that lit up at the pretty waitress, Sandoval   
hadn’t lost an ounce of the charm that helped him to build his construction business from a one-man
operation into a multi-million-dollar affair in Monaco.  He spoke of retiring and passing the reins to
his sons.

“I must say, my friend, that ‘Remington Steele’ appears to fit you much better than ‘Michael         
O’Leary.’ “   Remington flashed him a smile and sipped his water.  “I understand you are a
detective now, a private investigator.”  Steele met his gaze steadily.  “And newly married.”  The
smile appeared again, this time less charming and more genuine.  “Ah, she is lovely, no?”

“Quite so.”

“Hopefully you have found a good match--passionate, intelligent, lovely?”

“All that with a healthy dose of stubbornness that I can’t seem to resist,” Remington said wryly.

Carlos threw his head back and laughed.  “Those are the ones that steal our hearts and leave our
brains lying on the sidewalk wondering where we went wrong.”

“Yes, yes.  I see you have one too.”

“For nearly forty years my Maria has led me a wonderful dance.  Without her?  I would be less of a
man.”  Carlos leaned forward and put his hands on the table.  “Which leads me to this.  I have a
small problem and I think you might be able to help.”

“What kind of problem?”

“It seems that, over the years, I’ve acquired any number of small but valuable objects--one in
particular you might even remember.”  Sandoval drank deeply from his glass of cool Mexican beer.  
“It’s time I let some of my pretties go.  Don’t get me wrong; I’m not planning to move on to the
next life anytime soon, but I’d rather not have my wife and children dealing with questionable
possessions after I’m gone.  That’s a part of my life I don’t mind their knowing, but I’m not
interesting in leaving them ‘problems’ they’ll have a hard time clearing up.”

“Mr. Sandoval, I’m not in the fencing business.”

“I understand that.  We all grow older, find a good woman, have a family and leave those foibles of
our younger years in the past.  But I think you might be just the man.  I think, perhaps, that we can
arrange for you to ‘find’ any number of these little problems.  You can legitimately turn them in to
the correct authorities.  Conceivably, there will even be rewards for some of them.”

Steele quirked up a corner of his mouth.  “Ah, the finder’s fees.  Yes, I’ve had my obsession with
those from time to time.  I get it now.  You’ve discovered that these little darlings are wasted sitting
in your house or a lockbox somewhere.  But if you could find a way to get them back to the proper
authorities without suspicion, you could collect quite nicely on your largesse--and keep yourself out
of the black market business in the process.”

“I’ve always thought you were an intelligent man, Steele.”

Remington shifted in his chair and crossed his arms.  “But you don’t have a method of passing them
on without drawing suspicion to yourself.”

“Precisely, amigo.”

“But if I ‘found’ them during a case, I could turn them over without undue regard.  I assume I’m to
split any finder’s fees with you?”

“If you would be so kind.”

He mused.  “There’s going to be difficulty with that.  I can’t be caught kicking back part of the fees
to another party or the whole charade will be over.  How many pieces are we talking about?”

“Not too many.  Four of the most valuable ones.  The rest I can move on my own through other
contacts.  I know some art dealers that aren’t too picky about where their merchandise comes from.”

“Don’t we all?”  Both men chuckled.  “Let me ponder this one for a few days, Carlos.  Where can I
reach you?”

Sandoval pulled out a business card and wrote a number on the back.  “I’ll be here through the
week, wrapping up a deal with a new supplier.  I’d like your answer by Friday.”

Remington nodded and stood.  “That I can do.  You have an interesting proposition, Mr. Sandoval.  
You always do.”

Carlos rose as well and held out a hand.  “Bah--I’m just doing what is best for my familia.  My
sons and daughters deserve the best.”

Steele shook it and nodded once.  “I’ll be in touch.”



As Remington drove back to the office, dodging traffic and the LA freeway system, he reflected on
Sandoval’s proposition.  It was an interesting one and if he took it, he had no doubts that Carlos
would refer other like-minded associates with similar merchandise to “return.”

He wondered how Laura would take this.  Without a doubt, if she wasn’t involved, he would leap
on the prospect.  He already knew how he could shift the cash to avoid even Mildred’s discerning
eye.  It was an easy source of legitimate income with minimal risk--and it would only enhance the
“Remington Steele” reputation.

But Laura’s ethics might get in the way.  Oh, he thought he could work around the initial part with
her--returning the objects and even collecting the finder’s fees.  But he didn’t think she would
extend her moral principles enough to reward those who stole them in the first place--or contracted
to have them stolen.  He frowned.  Would she even have to know?  If he could hide the transaction
from Mildred, concealing it from Laura would be even easier.  All she would ever see is the
income.  He’d never disclosed to anyone that he had an account in the Bahamas.  Not too many
places in this world would take gold bullion without asking questions--especially not after the heist
made the news all over the globe.

He was still thoughtful as he walked into the office and dropped a bag of tacos on Ian’s desk.  The
secretary handed him two messages and mentioned that Laura was behind closed doors with a
client.  The phone calls were easy--one to reassure a nervous museum director over the security
features attached to a certain exhibit and the other to transfer information to the LAPD regarding a
case they had closed last week.

He also made a mental note to check in with the construction upstairs.  Mildred was due back in two
weeks, and he knew Laura wanted to move in to the new offices shortly thereafter.  With Ian at her
desk, Mildred would be stuck in Murphy’s old space with the coffee pot and supplies until the move.

Laura knocked on their connecting door and popped her head in.  “Hey, you’re back.”

“For a while now.  How was your meeting?”  He hoped to distract her with another question.

She sauntered to his desk and perched on the edge.  “Oh, that.  It’s a new attorney wanting to put
us on retainer for skip-traces.  He’s already got a situation where the beneficiary of an estate can’t
be found.”

“Excellent.  Just the kind of easy work we like.”

“Boring though.  I’m ready for something nice and juicy.  Give me a murder any day.  Seems as if
we have our hands full of security contracts, tracing money and tracking down relatives.”

“True.  But at the moment it’s probably for the best with the new office and Mildred out of the
country.”

“Oh, you’re probably right.  So what are you going to do to keep me entertained in the meantime?”  
Her voice dropped, becoming low and husky.  He quirked an eyebrow at her.

“Perhaps we should go home early?”

“I wish.  But I’ve got a four o’clock to give Mrs. Jones the bad news about her philandering
husband.   He’ll get what’s coming.  She’s already got Josie Alvarez for a divorce attorney.  He  
won’t know what hit him.”

“Remind me to never be a philandering husband.”

“Do I need to?”  She lightly drew her finger across the soft skin just under his ear.

Closing his eyes at the desire she immediately evoked, he took her hand and kissed her fingertips.  
“Not if you keep that up.”  His blue eyes deepened as he opened them again.



Thirty minutes later, Remington stood behind Laura in the bathroom off his office, refastening his
cuff links and straightening his tie.  He zipped her skirt and tried not to think about the thigh-high
stockings she now exclusively wore.  Not a single pair of pantyhose remained in her lingerie drawer.  
He knew-- he’d checked.  Laura smiled at him in the mirror and pinned up her hair again.

“Keep that look on your face, love, and everyone will know what we’ve been doing for the last half-
hour,” he chastised her with a grin.

“Maybe they’ll be jealous,” she quipped.  He dropped a kiss on her neck, deliberately lingering long
enough that she swayed against him.  “Not fair.  That’s not helping at all.”

“Good.  Now have fun at your four o’clock.  I’m going upstairs to check on the new office.  If you’
ll remember, I’m to be at the fencing academy for a while.  Andreas is in town and I’d like the
practice.  I should be home around seven.  Do you want me to pick up dinner, pick you up for
dinner or meet you somewhere?”

“None of the above, I’ll take care of it.  If you’re going to the academy, I’m going to the gym, and I
can pick up Chinese on my way home.”

“Perfect, then.  I’ll see you tonight.”  He kissed her on the cheek and left.

Remington’s fencing sessions were one thing that had come as a surprise after they married.  She  
hadn’t known that he kept fit by fencing in one of the elite academies in LA and boxing in a dingy
dive belonging to an old friend.  The unusual combination explained his lightning quick reactions,
excellent balance and wiry strength.

Now if she could drag him out of bed in the mornings for a run, it would be nice, but he much
preferred waiting until she returned so he could ambush her in the shower.  She smiled.  It’s a trade-
off; he has me in the mornings, and I get him in the office nearly an hour earlier in the day.
 With
a last tug of her skirt, Laura reentered her office and organized the paperwork for her appointment.



Laura beat him home by only twenty minutes.  Her workout felt good, and she had sweat drying on
her forehead as she drove the Rabbit home.  After Mexico, London and Ireland, followed by
moving into their new home, she had missed working out on a regular basis for nearly three solid
months.  Only in the past week or so had she been able to resume any kind of routine, and it
seemed that Remington had been just as eager.  He had dropped by the boxing gym nearly every
other day for an hour or so after work.

She barely had time to shower and change clothes before Remington came through the door and
took his turn getting clean.  Over dinner he seemed distracted, but congenial, and talked her into
watching one of his favorite films on television afterwards.

As she fell asleep that night, she realized he hadn’t mentioned his lunch with his friend.



The next day was jammed solid as the pair covered for Mildred and continued to play catch up after
their lengthy absence.  Remington had an early morning meeting with the Chamber of Commerce,
followed by a spot check at the museum exhibit and another luncheon with the LAPD brass.  He
then spent the afternoon conducting surveillance for a client.  Laura used her morning pulling up
information from the computer about the current assets for an attorney’s divorce case and the
afternoon in wall-to-wall client meetings.

At the end of the day, she smiled when she saw their case load.  Another week like this and they
would be back on track.  It was a testament to the agency and to Mildred that it had survived
despite the  Steele’s lengthy absences.  

She had her things packed up when her husband popped his head in and reminded her of the
meeting with the builder.  Oh, darn it!  She had completely forgotten about it.  They headed
upstairs to take a good look at the new office.

The framing was completed and the security system was being installed along with the electrical and
plumbing lines.  Remington looked it over with a critical eye.  The safe room was coming along and
the other features he’d added appeared to be on track.  Tomorrow he would come in and personally
make a few adjustments known only to Laura and him.  When he was done, the office would be as
secure as their home.

It took nearly an hour before they finished with the builder, and it was seven-thirty before the
Steeles headed for home in separate cars.

She collapsed on the sofa and kicked off her heels.  She had forgotten what it was to work an
eleven-hour day, and she had another one coming up tomorrow.  Remington sat beside her,
mimicking her pose.  “Laura, remind me again why we are working this hard?”

“Because Mildred is gone and we are making up for having a honeymoon.”

“When she gets back, remind me to book a weekend in Catalina.”

“You’ve got a deal, Mr. Steele.”

Remington rose and lit the fireplace before pouring a brandy for each of them.  He tugged her to the
floor and rolled to face her.  “Now that, love, is wonderfully different.  No hesitation, no questions,
no snide remarks about my getting you into bed--just a simple agreement about going away with me
for a weekend.”  He gave her a delighted grin before sipping his drink.

Laura rolled her eyes.  “How long am I going to have to pay for that?”  She took a small drink as
well.

“Oh, at least four years--with interest.”  He kissed her with relish and then rolled to his back, rested
his glass on his chest and pillowed his head on a hand.  “Laura, what are your plans for the agency?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you’ve promoted Mildred and hired a secretary, but the new office will have room for at
least three more people.

“Well, once we get settled again, I’d like to hire an intern and start training him or her on some of
the basics.  Whomever we get can shadow us for a while, and then we can turn over surveillance
and the skip-traces to that person.  Eventually, I would like to have three or four detectives in the
agency so that you and I can cherry-pick when and how we want to work.”

She didn’t mention the idea of starting a family one day--not now, but somewhere down the road.  
They were still adjusting to marriage, and she didn’t think this was the time to bring it up, but she
did have hopes that the safe room Remington was adamant about having in the new office suite
meant that he was open to the idea of turning it into a temporary nursery eventually.  It was ideally
situated between their offices and big enough to house a crib, a changing table and a rocking chair--
all things Frances insisted were dire necessities for babies.

“Hmm.  Do you mind if I talk to Monroe?  I think he has someone who would be an excellent fit for
that role.”

“Sure.”  That was a surprise to Laura.  She had no idea he was thinking in those terms as well.  But
then again she’d discovered over time that he had a tendency to give others a hand up when he
could.

“Good Lord, it feels good to lie here and do nothing.”  Remington closed his eyes.

Laura moved his glass off his chest to the table and put hers beside it.  He opened his eyes and
watched as she put her head on his shoulder and draped her arm across his waist.  They dozed for a
while that way until the intercom buzzed.

She jerked in surprise and he tightened his arm around her.  “Dinner, darling.  It’s just dinner.  I
called it in late this afternoon.”

“Next time warn me or something so I don’t have a heart attack.”  She was laughing as she rolled
away from him.

“Can’t surprise you that way if I do.”  He got to his feet and slipped through the foyer into the
elevator.  Laura took advantage of his absence and disappeared into her closet to change into a pair
of jeans and a sleeveless sweater.  Moments later he returned with the aroma of something Italian
wafting through the air.

He did a double-take at her attire.  “Jeans, Laura?”  He put the sack containing lasagna, garlic bread
and salad on the counter before taking a slow stroll around his wife.  She had a small half-smile on
her face while he perused her figure.  “Gorgeous.  Just begs to have my hands on your … pockets.”

“Later.  You can feel my pockets all you want after I’ve eaten.”  She ducked away from him and
rounded the island to retrieve dishes from the cabinet.  “Go change.  I’ll put this on the table.”

“Of course, Mrs. Steele.”

He returned to find Laura placing two plates on the dining room table amid the candles she had lit.  
Looking up, she smiled at the well-fitting jeans he wore and the button-down shirt that picked up the
darker tones of the top she had on.  “Do you do that on purpose?”

“What’s that?”

“Dress so that we match.”

He looked down at himself and grinned as he pulled out her chair.  “Not anymore.  I think it’s a
habit by now.  Does it bother you?”

“Not at all.  Why did you start in the first place?”

He tried to say it with a straight face, but he couldn’t.  “Because it made us look like a couple, even
when we weren’t, officially.  Nice, subtle way to warn the other blokes off.”  He sat as well.

“I thought so.”  Each of them took a few bites before Laura carefully asked in a neutral voice,
“How was your lunch yesterday with Mr. Sandoval?”

“Hmm?”

“Carlos?  Your friend from Monaco?  Ian told me.”

“Ahh, yes.  Good, good.  Haven’t seen him in a while.  Good man, has a fine construction
business.  Thinking of retiring and handing it off to his sons.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Remington, didn’t we have a conversation just two days ago about not hiding things from each
other?”

“Ah, yes, we did,” he replied with chagrin.

“So--what kind of proposition did he have for you?  I’m quite certain it’s something to do with your
past and is at least somewhat irregular.”

“Didn’t I say something about your being the only woman able to keep up with me?”

“You did.  Now what’s going on?”  With a rueful expression, Remington laid out Sandoval’s
proposal.  Laura leaned back in her chair and contemplated it.  “You know, I don’t actually have a
problem returning the items.”

“It’s the finder’s fees.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”  He was curious to see how closely he had assessed her reaction.

“Because we aren’t really earning them, Remington.  Oh, I imagine we could justify a certain profit
and covering our expenses, but we both know rewards can be generous.”  She laughed.  “I do find it
rather ironic that Carlos paid you for stealing the painting and now you would be paid essentially for
putting it back.”

He shrugged.  “If you look at it in a certain light, I was only a very expensive courier service.”  
Laura tossed her hair over her shoulder and laughed again.  He smiled at her response.  “What about
the second part?  Carlos wants a split of the rewards, if there are any.”

Laura took a deep breath.  “Remington, you know we can’t kick back that much money without
bringing an investigation down on us.  All it would take is a smart cop or even Interpol to trace the
money.  Besides, we don’t want to become a funnel for purloined items.”

Remington leaned on the table and played with the stem of his wine glass.  “What if I told you I
could do it?  That I have a way of getting Carlos his money without its having any connection with
the agency?”

She crossed her arms and eyeballed him while thinking about the portfolio she saw not too many
days ago.  “You have an account somewhere.  Not here and not under your name.”  She held up a
hand.  “Don’t confirm or deny it.  I don’t want to know.”  He quirked a brow at her but didn’t say
anything.

Looking at her nails, she thought out loud while he continued to eat his lasagna.  “The money is
tempting, I’ll admit.  But I don’t like the idea of taking money for handing over stolen goods that
someone is suddenly uncomfortable having around--especially since he stole or contracted to have
them stolen in the first place.  Nor can I see giving him part of the reward for it.  But--what if we
gave the money to charity?”

Remington quipped, “You seem to like giving our reward money away, Laura.”

“It’s not our money, is it?  Not really.  Look at it this way: your clients avoid embarrassing questions
or possible prosecution, the museum gets its prize back and some charity gets the spoils.  We gain
by improving our reputation as an agency and for our philanthropy.”  She ate another bite while she
thought a little more.  “Three or four good 'finds' of this nature and we might get real contracts to
find other pieces--and that is legitimate money that we would earn.”

Now she gave him a challenge.  “This will be entirely in your hands.  It will be your job to keep me
from figuring out which cases, beyond the first one, are legitimate.  You’ll have to document every
detail so that it will pass muster with me.  If I catch you, I’ll help you close it and that will be last
time.  I don’t want to know how, if, or when money gets kicked back, and you have to promise me
that you won’t allow us to become a conduit for turning over recently stolen merchandise.  But if
you discretely and occasionally help a businessman disperse his ‘problems’ back to the proper
authorities, I’m good with that.”

His jaw dropped in astonishment.  “Are you compromising your principles for me?”

“We walk the edge of the law most of the time as private investigators.  How is this any different
from breaking into the Federal Reserve and putting back millions of dollars so that a client won’t get
prosecuted for theft?  Our job is to help the client that hires us.”

“However,” she paused and jabbed the air with her fork for emphasis, “we don’t have the attorney-
client privilege that keeps us from having to turn our files over to the police--unless we’ve been
contracted by an attorney to investigate on his or her behalf.  So that’s why the case files have to
pass muster.  You have to automatically assume that every single 'find' will be thoroughly
investigated to determine if we had any involvement beyond the actual recovery.  The interesting
part for you will be to manufacture a reason why we recovered a particular item when we haven’t
been contracted for it.”  She leaned back, daring him with her posture.  “Think you can do it?”

He grinned, realizing she’d given him a clue where to start.  “Now you’ve thrown down the
gauntlet.”  Raising his glass in a toast, he offered, “Let the games begin.”  She tapped her goblet to
his and smiled.

* * * * *

Over the ensuing years, any number of orphanages, boys’ and girls’ homes, homeless shelters and
programs for at-risk kids were the recipients of donations from Remington Steele Investigations.  
They also received money from an unknown benefactor from time to time.

The only comment Laura ever made to Remington was the observation that there must be an
account with a very healthy balance somewhere in the world.

 

 

Chapter Text

Two Holts: Steeling a Bride


Remington drew Laura from the brand new deep blue limousine he’d surprised her with earlier in
the day.  She wore her wedding dress, a simple ivory creation with a touch of Irish lace at her wrist
and hem.  For a moment, she was backed by the sleek dark car and lit by the streetlights overhead.  
He thought she looked exquisite.

She was thinking much the same thing about him as her dark eyes wandered across his elegant
form, clad in a black tuxedo and ivory cravat.  She bit her lip in anticipation of the night ahead and
took the long fingertips he held out to her.  On the sidewalk, she couldn’t help touching his cheek
and pulling his head to hers for a lingering kiss before they continued into the lobby of their
apartment building.

At the elevator, with a sly smile, Remington slipped a length of cloth from his pocket and placed it
over Laura’s eyes.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I want to surprise you.  I’ve discovered that it’s much harder to do that when you actually live with
someone.”

“Oh.”  Laura bit her lip while he securely tied the blindfold.  While the elevator car rose to the fifth
floor, Remington drew his thumb across her lips.  She kissed it and captured his hand with hers.  
When the doors opened, he lifted her into his arms.

“What are you doing?”

“Carrying my bride across the threshold.  I want credit for doing at least one thing properly.”  She
laughed and leaned her head against his shoulder as he walked across the living room to deposit her
on the piano bench.  He stopped her from taking off the blindfold.  “Play for me, Laura.  Please?”

With a soft smile, she turned and placed her fingers on the keys.  She’d discovered that Remington
enjoyed hearing her play in the evenings, especially while he prepared dinner.  From Bach to
Gershwin, he seemed to like it all.  While they ate, he frequently questioned her about the artists, the
musical style or the historical context of the pieces she had picked out.  Just once, nearly two
months ago, he had casually asked if she knew anything from the movies.  She’d laughed and
played “Also Sprach Zarathustra” from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It hadn’t been easy, but Laura had been working on several of his favorites in secret while he was at
the boxing gym or the market.  She’d even manufactured a handful of midday “appointments”
where she could come home and work on them for a while.  It was her hope to surprise him
sometime tomorrow, but now seemed the opportune moment instead.  In retrospect, she wondered
why Remington had never asked her to play before they were married.  She would ask.  Later.  For
now, she opened with the theme to Gone With the Wind.

Remington paused in the middle of the living room and let the sound wash over him.  It never
ceased to impress him that Laura could create such beautiful music with nothing more than her
hands and a single instrument.  He moved around the flat, setting out dozens of thick candles on the
island, the coffee table, throughout the bedroom, and even on the piano as she was playing.  He
wanted to recreate a small touch of their first night together nearly three months ago.

From the refrigerator he retrieved the strawberries and freshly whipped cream he’d hidden earlier
and placed them in the bedroom next to the bottle of champagne he’d already placed in the ice
bucket.  He frowned, wondering if this was too stereotypical, but decided it couldn’t hurt.  And it
would be fun.  He still had a few hundred fantasies to play out with her.

Laura segued into To Catch a Thief.  Yes, she certainly had.  He realized at that moment that he
hadn’t heard her play either of the tunes before.  When did she have time to practice?  And well
enough to play blindfolded?  He stopped for another moment to listen before lighting the dozens of
wicks.

The scent of beeswax began to fill the air.  Laura could feel the sultry heat from the candles and
memories of Ireland unfolded in her mind.  Her fingers nearly missed the key change to From
Russia with Love
.   

Remington retrieved his gift for her from the spare bedroom and placed it on their bed before
pouring each of them a glass of champagne.  He smiled as Laura began playing "As Time Goes
By."  They’d danced to it at their reception just an hour ago.  The notes faded into the night when
she finished.

She reached up hesitantly and pulled the fabric away to find him leaning against the piano, watching
her play.

He held out a hand and she took it as she stood.  With a very European bow, he kissed her hand.  
“Thank you.”  Her gift to him was humbling.  That she would take the time to do this for him meant
a great deal.

“You’re welcome.”  Still holding his hand, she turned to look at the living room filled with dancing
candles and couldn’t resist breathing in the aroma.  “I will never forget that night.  This is
incredible.  Beautiful.”

He handed her the flute of champagne.  “I have something for you as well.  A wedding gift, if you
like.”  He drew her into the bedroom where a silver and white wrapped gift sat in the middle of the
bed.  She noted the champagne bucket and strawberries before sitting next to the box.

She bit her lip to hold back a smile and meticulously unwrapped the present.  She watched
Remington out of the corner of her eye and could tell he was uncharacteristically nervous.  Twice he
had to stop himself from nibbling on a thumbnail, opting instead for a sip from his glass.  Eventually,
he caught on that she was stretching the process out unnecessarily.

“Laura,” he scolded lightly.

She loved hearing him say her name.  Not even her mother had so many variations of it to indicate
her feelings.  “Patience, love--isn’t that what you are always telling me?” she chided him.  But she
unwrapped the last of the tissue paper and what was revealed stunned her into silence.

Just a few weeks ago, she’d asked Remington to draw a portrait of their wedding day in Ireland.  
What he produced was meticulous in detail and exquisite in execution.  She looked down at the lace
of the dress she wore, and sure enough, he’d reproduced it in the drawing.  Laura remembered the
way he looked that day.  His eyes had a light in them she’d never seen before.  How did he capture
his own expression so accurately?  Her own face was luminescent with love and--determination?  
She looked up at Remington in awe.

“I knew you were talented, but I had no idea you could create something like this.”

“You like it?”  In his nervousness, he’d taken off his tuxedo jacket, pulled his neckcloth free and
unbuttoned his shirt at the throat.

“I do.”  She looked down at his bold signature.  The title written next to it sent a thrill up her spine
and warmed her heart.  Rising from the bed, she propped the framed drawing on the dresser before
winding her arms around his neck.  “We’ll hang it tomorrow.  Thank you, Remington.  It’s perfect.”

“Thank God.”  He buried his face in her hair and held her that way for a long while.

“Remington?”  She pulled back enough to see his face.  “Are you okay?”  He touched her cheek
and then drew a lock of her hair to the side.

“Sometimes, Laura, I wake and I wonder if the past three months have been a fantastic dream.  
And then I see you sleeping beside me and I know that this is real.”  He bit his bottom lip.  “I know
I’m not always good with the words. …”  He fell silent.

“You’re doing fine.”  But he shook his head, unable to say more.

Instead, he showed her.  He turned her so that her back was facing him and he kissed the line of her
neck.  With great care, he drew the zipper down on her dress and eased it from her shoulders,
nibbling on the exposed skin as the material puddled on the floor.  Underneath she wore a silky one
piece teddy that hugged her figure and snapped between her legs.  He wasn’t interested in resisting
the urge to slide his hands over those curves.  Laura leaned against him as his fingers drifted and
stroked.  He knelt down to draw the stockings from her legs and nipped her bottom through the silk
before standing behind her again and suckling the spot where her neck met her collarbone.

He seemed content to stay there, but she turned and deftly unfastened his buttons and shoved his
shirt off his shoulders.  His hands were caught in the shirt cuffs, and she took advantage by stroking
his neck and chest.  The hollow of his throat begged to be kissed, and she complied before her
mouth scorched a trail to each flat nipple and taunted it until it puckered.

Remington tried to shake off at least one of his cuffs while Laura unbuckled his belt and released the
button and zipper to his pants.  They fell to the floor and, for a moment, he was trapped by his own
clothes.  She laughed at his predicament.  He flashed a smile and lightly shoved her backwards onto
the bed where she sprawled in a pretty pose.

“So that’s how we’re playing it today?”  He stepped out of the pile of clothes, leaving his shoes and
socks in the middle, but he was still stuck in his shirt sleeves.  “Mind helping me out here?”

“I don’t know.  This could be fun,” she teased.

Shrugging the shirt back on, he rapidly unhooked his cufflinks and dropped them and the shirt to the
floor.  “I’ll remember that for next time.”  His briefs hit the floor as well, and a very nude
Remington crawled across Laura and fastened his lips to her throat.  “This time,” he murmured
between kisses, “I have something else planned.”

She flushed and immediately felt a little like one of Pavlov’s dogs.  The mere mention that he had
plans had desire streaking through her.  Remington’s campaigns always involved a great deal of
creativity and a whole lot of gratification.  It was a testament to how distracted Laura had been that
she only now noticed that he had placed his old bedspread on top of their new one.  She started to
ask him about it, but lost her train of thought as he busied himself with stripping the teddy from her
body, stopping along the way to tease her breasts and her belly button with his middle finger.  When
he had her naked, he froze.

Knowing how much he liked to play, Laura had visited a spa early this morning, and they had given
her a serious bikini wax.  Oh, she had always kept things neat and tidy, but now she was almost
bare.  The expression on her lover’s face had been worth every second of indignation.  “Surprise.”  

“You’re going to kill me, Laura--in a truly excellent way.”  If he wasn’t completely erect before, his
friend stood now at full attention and twitched in anticipation.

She could see the indecision in his eyes and waited.  I’ll lay a dollar he can’t resist, no matter what
plans he has in mind.

“Damn.”  He shook his head and stroked the edges of her sex with his finger before giving into
temptation and tasting.  His tongue danced around the smooth skin for a moment before sliding up
the middle and setting her on fire.

I win.  I definitely win.

His eyes flicked up and he saw the laughter in her eyes.  “How much did I lose?”

“Only a dollar.”

“Letting me off easy?”

“This time, Mr. Steele.”

Reeling in his suddenly lascivious thoughts, he stretched out on the bed near the strawberries and
champagne, settling two pillows behind him so he was sitting up with his knees bent.

“Come here, Mrs. Steele.”  He helped her straddle him so that she settled exactly where his erection
would press against her apex and then promptly had to suck in his breath as her newly bare skin
made the whole scenario much more sensuous than he anticipated.  She rocked.  He grasped her
hips to make her stop.  “Mmm.  Not yet.”

“Strawberries and champagne, Remington?”

“Yes, I know it’s probably overdone, but there’s a reason it works; so hush and let me play.”  He
raised a brow at her with a grin.

Handing her a glass of champagne, he took a small sip from his own.  After dipping his fingers into
the cool liquid, he began tracing lines down her body.  The room had become warm from the heat
of the candles and the abrupt contrast made Laura shiver, more so when he blew across the wet
streaks.  Another sip, this time held in his mouth, and he suckled her nipple, letting the bubbles pop
and dance before he swallowed and continued the tickling sensation with his tongue.  Repeating the
whole sequence on the other breast made her forget to breathe.

Sparks danced behind her eyes before she remembered to inhale.  She set down the glass and tried
to rock against Remington again, but he stopped her and his eyes lit up at her frustration.  “Not
yet.”  He continued to stroke her skin, running quick fingers from knee to hip to shoulders and back
again.  With one hand, he reached for a strawberry and dipped it into the cream.  He gave Laura a
bite and watched her eyes nearly cross in delight.

Before he educated her palate, Laura had assumed whipped cream came in an aerosol can.  Now
she knew the difference between that and the real thing.  A perfect balance of sweet and lush
swirling with the juiciness of the strawberry exploded in her mouth.  A little drip ran down her chin,
and Remington made sure he caught every last bit with his tongue before he claimed her mouth for
his own.  In the process, he lifted her enough to begin the slow slide into her softness and then ran
his thumb along that bared skin.

Laura was beginning to drown in sensation.  Her body was wet and edgy from Remington’s teasing.  
His mouth was on hers, savoring the flavors of berries and sweetened cream, and now he was filling
her deliberately until he was fully seated in her.  She wanted to move, but his hands on her hips kept
her firmly planted while his thumb teased and tormented her little knot of nerves that suddenly
seemed to be in control of her brain.

She had nowhere to put her hands to give herself support while he played with her, so she rested
them on his stomach and let her fingers tangle in his hair.  He pressed her backwards until she was
leaning against his thighs.  In this position, he was pressing hard inside her and a few flicks of his
thumb on her knot had her squirming.  When he heard her breathing speed up, he pulled his hand
away and waited for her body to still.

“What are you doing?” she panted in annoyance.  By her count, this was the second time he’d
started her down the road to the finish line and abruptly stopped the car a few feet short of it.

“We haven’t finished our champagne.”  He handed the glass back to her and when she took a drink,
he nudged it upwards with a grin so that the liquid spilled down her chin and throat.  Taking the hint,
she tilted the goblet over his chest and watched the champagne run down his stomach and pool in
his belly button.  He couldn’t help twitching at the cool slide of fluid.  A little more direct pouring
resulted in cool liquid and bubbles dancing where they were joined together.

Remington sucked in his stomach at the sensation and used his thumb to circle her nub again.  Laura
trembled with need, more so when she felt him jerk inside of her.  This time, he took her to the very
edge before he stopped and held her hips still again.

Now she swore, muttering indignities under her breath and pinning him with hard brown eyes.  “I’m
not going to beg.”

He openly chuckled.  “You might.”  A finger’s worth of cream landed on her breast, and he
devoured it and her taut peak in the process.  A strawberry was squeezed across the other one and
Remington consumed it in the same way.  “Mmm, my favorite.”

He had her exactly where he wanted her.  Every part of her was screaming for release, but he kept
her there, vibrating on the edge, while he toyed with her body.  Her whole core was open and
burning with need.  Inadvertently, she’d only heightened the sensations with her trip to the spa and
for that Remington was grateful as he stroked and played with the smooth, wet skin that surrounded
his arousal.

Abruptly, he lifted her up so that he could glide in and out of her.  It only took a handful of strokes
before she screamed and her body contracted around his.  A brush of his thumb at the right moment
had her peaking again and again, and she brought her hands down to grip his wrists for support.  
When her legs began to relax, he plucked at her knot and sent her up again.  This time her whole
body convulsed and she caught his hands.

“No more.  No more.”

“See?  You’re begging.  And there’s a great deal more.”

Laura wanted to strangle him, but her body was too sensitive to do any more to hold still.  She could
tell he wasn’t too far from his own climax; he had a way of thickening at the last moment and she
imagined she could even feel the veins popping out.

But he didn’t move, and when the flush of heat finally ebbed from her face, he began again with the
champagne, dipping his fingers in and brushing them in long cool strokes along her body.  Laura
leaned forward this time and propped her forearms on his chest, giving her enough leverage to move
her hips.  His eyes closed again as she began driving him toward his own release.  He wrapped one
arm around her and used the other to support himself as need took over and he thrust into her.  

She wasn’t expecting the last orgasm, but it rose up as his body filled hers again and again, and then
she could hardly breathe because Remington tightened his arm and groaned her name.  He dropped
his head back and Laura could see he was lost in the moment, in her, and her body contracted with
his as they soared together.



Twenty minutes and a light doze later, they dragged their sticky bodies to the black Jacuzzi in the
bathroom.  Laura ran the water as hot as she could stand as Remington stripped the champagne-
soaked spread from the bed.

“Nice foresight,” she complimented as she sat on the edge of the tub while it filled.

“If you’re going to play with food in bed, you have to be prepared for the consequences.”  He set
down a small plate of strawberries and a tiny dab of cream for them to nibble on.  He offered her
the champagne.

“I think I’ve had enough for one night.  Between here and the reception, I’ve had more than my
share today.”

“Actually, and don’t ever quote me in public or to Murphy, I’d have to agree.  Want a glass of
water?”

“I’d love one.”

By the time he returned, the tub was nearly full and Laura sank into it, humming with bliss, while
she popped another strawberry into her mouth.

“Is there room for me?”

“Of course.”

He sat across from her and drew her feet to his chest.  Without thinking, he began massaging them
and laid his head on the edge of the whirlpool with his eyes closed.

“Remington?”

“Hmmm?”

“Why do you do that?”

“Do what?”

“You’ve just finished making love with me, you get me water and now you’re massaging my feet.  
Quite frankly, you are spoiling me--and l love it--but I don’t understand why you do it.”

“You’re not serious.”

“I am.”

“Laura, how many hours did you spend on the music you played earlier?”

“I hadn’t thought about it.”

He opened his eyes and slanted a quizzical look at her.  “You did it for me.”

“It’s no different from the drawing you did.  You did that for me.”

“That was something that you asked me to do.  And before you berate yourself for asking,” he
splashed her with his toes as she held up her hands to block the water, “I’m flattered that you
wanted it, and it brought me a great deal of pleasure to draw it for you.”  He let go of her foot and
drew her across the tub, turning her so that her back was against his chest and her head rested on
his shoulder.

“Where I come from, no one does anything for free.  If you want something, you either pay for it or
know that someone will expect a favor in return.”  He stroked her damp hair, letting the curls catch
on his fingers before he untangled them and smoothed them out.  “It gets wearying after a while.  I
like doing things for you, Laura.  It feels good to me.  Just as I like the things you do for me.

He lifted her hands.  “Your music is perhaps the most private part of you, and yet you are willing to
share it with me--and even to indulge me with my movies.”

“Hey, I’m happy being Sam to your Rick as long as you cook dinner.”

“See?  It works for both of us.  Besides, you wash my dishes.”

“I knew dirty dishes would be in there somewhere, along with picking up your socks.”

“Mmm, the last is a bonus.  Never knew how nice it would be to have someone else throw them in
the hamper.”  He turned her around so that she straddled his lap again.  “In my opinion, Mrs.
Steele, you haven’t been spoiled enough by the right man.”

“And you think you’re that man?”  She tilted her head and arched her brow comically at him.

He tightened his arms around her in response.  “Well, now that you mention it, I do.”

Laura reached for the soap and began sliding it over his skin.  “Good, because I think so too.  Now,
it seems that you made a promise.”

“What was that?”

“That there would be a great deal more.”

“Ah, but there might be begging involved.  Are you sure?”

“You can beg all you want, love.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Two Holts: Steele Unexpected


Laura cornered Remington in his office late one October afternoon, six months after they had wed
in Ireland.  Her slightly shady husband had been elusive for the past two weeks and downright
irritable for the last three days.

He’d managed to avoid her by spending a great deal of time with their new intern, Kaleb Carter.  
Monroe had recommended the young man, and so far he was coming along nicely.  Laura enjoyed
teaching him the ropes, and he had a knack for asking good questions.  Remington took him on his
first stakeout this past weekend, leaving Laura to her own devices.  For his sake, it probably wasn’t
a good thing because it gave her time to think about his odd behavior.

Last night had been the final straw.  She had caught him merely going through the motions of
making love to her, and she’d stormed out of the room with her pillow and slept on the couch.  
When she woke in the morning, he’d already slipped out.  Only because he had a meeting with his
security team near the end of the day was she able to fence him in as the crew filtered out of the
office.  She was waiting by the front door and blocked it when he tried to leave.

“Mr. Steele, I believe we have a few things to discuss in your office.”

“Of course, Mrs. Steele.”  He pivoted and followed her inside.  He stood by the windows while she
perched on his desk.

“What exactly is going on here, Remington?”

“I thought you didn’t like airing our personal issues at the office?”

“I’ve been trying to talk to you since Monday, but you’ve had a nasty habit of falling asleep or
disappearing on me at home.  And last night--last night was an insult.  Don’t ever do that to me
again.”  He stood motionless while her anger lashed through him.

Eventually, he turned to her.  “I need to leave for a while, Laura.”

Her spine stiffened.  “Why?”

“I can’t tell you why.  I promise you it’s not a con and it’s not illegal.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know.  A few days.  A couple of weeks.  I don’t know how long it will take.”

“Where are you going?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“When are you going?”

“Tonight.”

“Why?”

“I need to find someone.  I can’t tell you anymore than that.”  Remington looked haggard and
miserable as he turned to her.  Capturing her face, he kissed her with no little desperation.  “I’m
sorry, Laura.  I hope I can explain it all later.”

He bolted from the office and was gone, leaving Laura stunned with disbelief, but not too stunned to
know her next move.  She pressed a button on the phone.  “Kaleb?  Follow Mr. Steele and let me
know where he goes.  Do not let him see you and call me every chance you get.  This is your test to
see how well you’ve been paying attention about following a suspect.”  Seconds later she heard the
front door slam as Kaleb ran down the corridor.

Next, she buzzed the secretary.  “Ian, what does Mr. Steele’s schedule look like for the next two
weeks?”

“He had me clear it this morning.  I’ve got nothing on the books for him.”

“Clear mine as well.  We’ve had something major come up.”

Lastly, she headed for Mildred’s office and popped her head inside.  “Got a minute?”

“Well, of course.  Want to tell me what’s going on with you two?”

Laura looked like a sulky teen-ager, but with good reason.  “He’s up to something.  I need your help
finding out what.”

Mildred got that disappointed frown on her face that she wore whenever one of her “kids” upset
her.  “Fire away.”  The younger woman laid out a brief synopsis of the last week, skipping the part
about last night, and recounted the conversation they’d just had.

“I need to figure out where he’s going.”

“How much money did he take with him?”

“Good question.  He won’t use credit cards; he knows I’ll look for them.”

Mildred pulled up the Steeles' personal financials on her computer and made a few inquiries.  She
still did all of their bookkeeping.  “Mr. Steele pulled $5,000 from one of his accounts this morning.  
Not your joint account, but the other cash account he keeps on the side.”  That didn’t surprise
Laura.  She already knew he had it, ostensibly so that he could surprise her with a gift or trip
somewhere.  But he had pulled personal funds, not agency funds, so this had nothing to do with
business.

“I’m going home; I need to see if his passport is still there and what else he might have packed.”

But his passport was still sitting in his desk at home and as far as Laura could tell, he’d only taken
the bare necessities with him--which meant he was either planning to purchase everything when he
got wherever he was going, or he wasn’t planning to be gone long.

The phone rang.

“Mrs. Steele?  Kaleb.  I’m gonna make this quick ‘cause I’m still on his tail.  We’re on I-15 heading
for Las Vegas.”

“Has he made you?”

“Hasn’t given me the slip yet, but I’ve been real careful.  I called a buddy of mine and he caught up
with me just outside of L.A.  We dropped back a bit and swapped cars at a stop light.”

“Excellent thinking.  What’s Mr. Steele driving?”

“A black Porsche 964 Carrera Speedster.  It’s a sweet ride, Mrs. Steele.”

“You’re doing great, Kaleb.  Keep tabs on him.  Call me on the Rabbit’s car phone.  I’ll be out and
about.”

“Yes, ma’am.  Gotta go.”  He clicked off.

Laura threw the rest of her things into a single bag and headed for the door.



When the Angeles National Forest gave way to the California desert, Remington opened up the
Porsche and let the car fly.  The remaining three-hour trip turned into two as he punched the speed
up to over one hundred miles per hour and kept it there.

Kaleb threw in the towel nearly an hour into the trip and called in his failure to Mrs. Steele.

“Don’t worry.  You’ve done great so far.  What do you think you should do next?”

“I imagine I could head to Vegas and look for his car.  I might get lucky.”

“That’s an excellent plan.  Call me when you get there.”

“Sure thing, Mrs. Steele.”



He did.  He’d seen the car briefly near the north end of the Strip and then promptly lost it.  He met
Laura sometime later at a street corner, and she sent him home with a smile.  Taking her chances,
she headed for the plushest five-star hotel in the area, Caesars Palace, and left the Rabbit at the very
top and rear of the parking garage.  She figured she could start by canvassing the major casinos.  
But she got lucky too.  She found the Porsche parked on the bottom floor.  

She ducked into the first bathroom she found in the hotel and donned a blonde wig and a pair of
brown sunglasses from her bag after changing into a blue sundress with criss-crossing straps that
accentuated her bust line.  White heels and chunky jewelry completed her ensemble.

Checking in under the name “Ilsa Blaine,” she casually asked if “Remington Steele” had registered
yet.  The older man behind the counter was very polite.  “I’m sorry, ma’am.  We do not have a
guest by that name.”  Laura tried “Michael O’Leary,” “Paul Fabrini,” and struck paydirt with
“Richard Blaine.”  Thanking the man, she tipped him and headed to her room to dump the few
things she'd brought with her.  A quick glance at her watch verified that it was nearly 10 p.m. and
the casinos would be heating up to a fever pitch.  She began a discrete, methodical search for her
husband.



The first thing Remington did after stashing the car at the hotel was to find himself a pack of
cigarettes.  It took three deep drags to steady his nerves long enough to check in and change clothes
in his room.  Six months of marriage had him jumpy and irritable.  He knew it wasn’t Laura’s fault,
or not directly anyway.  She tried to give him as much room as he needed, but lately, it hadn’t
seemed to be enough and he wasn’t sure why.

The casino was redolent with rich red carpeting and gold accents everywhere.  Smoke drifted like
fog through the room, and the noise level was just under deafening with all the sirens, whistles,
clinking chips and loud conversation.  An occasional shriek from a happy winner split the air.  He
settled himself at a blackjack table and let the game play distract him.

It wasn’t long before a hard-eyed brunette pegged him as being rich and alone, although not
necessarily single, judging by the wedding ring on his left hand.  She settled in beside him and tried
to flirt.  Instead, he completely ignored her and focused on his cards.  Three hands later, she gave
up and moved to another table.

Somewhere around two in the morning, Remington raked in his chips and cashed in for the night.  
He tumbled into his bed and slept restlessly, wondering why he was so discontented.



Laura had fruitlessly searched the huge casino and gave up in the wee hours of the morning to get
some fitful sleep.  



By noon the next day, Remington was back at the tables, letting the cards keep part of his brain
occupied while he sorted out his unhappiness.  So far he hadn’t been able to pinpoint the problem.  
All he knew is that he was taking it out on Laura in the meantime.  Now, old chap, why in the hell
couldn’t you have told her the truth?  Instead, she’s probably scared to death you’ve abandoned
her.
 But he had no idea what he could possibly give as an explanation at this point.

Around three, he began to have the uncomfortable sensation of being watched.  A quick scan of the
room revealed no one in particular, but he noted faces and postures automatically.  Several women
at the bar noticed his sweep and straightened up as they tried to catch his eye.  The blonde with
great legs ignored him though and that was fine by him.  He was irritable, not stupid.  A pretty
waitress interrupted him with another glass of club soda and he went back to his game.



Laura held on to her spot at the bar and finally gave in to the urge that she’d had since she found
Remington at the blackjack table two hours ago.  A ten-dollar bill slipped to the bartender resulted in
her own pack of cigarettes without having to move.  She tapped one out and the barman pulled out
his own lighter for her.  Blowing out a stream of smoke, she winced.  It had been nearly ten years
since her last one.  For two years in college, she’d become hooked on them, but after graduation,
she had decided they weren’t good for her image or her health and had given them up.  It was very
rare for her to even have the urge for a cigarette now, but the atmosphere here seemed to call for it.  
She waited another hour and alternated sipping Perrier with smoking.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Remington rise from the table and cash in.  She gave him a
short lead and then followed him to a quiet restaurant.  The hostess led him to a table in the corner,
and Laura slipped to the far side of the bar where she could see him in the mirrors and ordered her
own meal.



Remington wondered about the blonde again once he noticed her as he ate.  He wasn’t sure if she’d
followed him or not, but she was enough of a looker to attract plenty of attention--all of which she
waved off.  From this distance, he couldn’t see her face, only the wavy hair and sexy legs.  As he
placed his napkin on the table, he realized that if it wasn’t for the cigarette the woman was smoking,
he’d have thought she was Laura in disguise.  His wife had a habit of sitting straight up in a chair
and could hold the pose for hours.  Dismissing her, he went back to the casino and found a higher
stakes blackjack table and settled in to play.

It didn’t go unnoticed by him that the woman found her way to the far side of the room where she
had a decent vantage point again, and after a couple of hours more, she hadn’t moved.



What are you up to, love?  Gambling.  Smoking.  No drinking.  No girls.  She shook her head.  He
wasn’t making trouble for himself and he wasn’t playing to make money, although he had a steadily
growing pile of chips in front of him.  Distracting himself? she wondered.  She looked down long
enough to slide another cigarette out of the pack.  A man’s hand came around her and held a match.

“May I?” he said.  Laura smiled.  He’d noticed.

“Of course.”  She took a deep drag before turning to face him fully.  “Hello, Richard.”

“Ah, Laura--“

“Ilsa,” she insisted.  “Come, sit, have a drink with me.”  She kept her composure cool.  She could
tell she’d surprised him.  He eased onto the barstool next to her.  To the bartender, “Gin and tonic
for my friend, a glass of white wine for me.”

Remington was completely baffled.  He’d finally given in to his curiosity about the blonde and had
been pole-axed to discover she was Laura.  Smoking in a casino, of all things.  All he’d intended to
do was to figure out if the woman had been following him or if it was a strange coincidence.

“So tell me about yourself.”

He gave her an odd look.

"You’re married.”  She indicated the ring he wore.  “Happily?”

“Generally speaking,” he said hesitantly.  What’s she up to?

“When did you get hitched?”  Casually, she inhaled from the cigarette again.

“Ah, almost six months ago, six months tomorrow, in fact.”  Good timing, old chap.

“What brings you to Vegas?”

He gave her a searching look before answering.  “I don’t know.  I’m comfortable here, I suppose.”

“Rather noisy for comfort.”

“I can tune it out.  Good food, good hotel and I can make a few quid here and there.”

“Takes a real gambler to be able to say that.  Especially with the room rates this place charges.”

“Perhaps.”  He gave in to temptation and lit his own cigarette.  Waving out the match, he
paraphrased, “Ilsa, of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, why are you in mine?”

“I was looking for some answers, but I haven’t found any yet.”  They were both quiet for several
minutes before she commented, “You know, I haven’t been married all that long either.”  She
inhaled and blew out a stream of smoke.  “It’s harder than I thought it would be.”

“How so?”  

“Lack of privacy, always having to check in with someone else.  That one is really hard for me.      
I’m thirty years old, and it’s the first time since I moved out at eighteen that I have to let someone
know where I am all the time. … I work with my husband too.  That’s not easy.”

He frowned.  “Go on.”

“See, we worked together for a long time before we got married--and we only had one other person
in the office at that time.  Oh, we argued and stole kisses, but for the most part, everything was
above board.  Now, if we’re at odds with each other, it inevitably spills over into the office and
everyone there knows we’ve been arguing.  If we’re in a good mood, everyone assumes we’ve been
having great sex.”

“And have you?”

She flashed a smile at him.  “Of course.  No problems in that area.  But I’m a private person and I
don’t like having my personal issues waved around in the office, even if it is my office.”

“Your office?”

“Mostly.”  She shrugged and flicked the ashes into the ashtray in front of her.  “I own the business,
but it’s as much his by now as it is mine, much as I hate to admit it.”

“Why is that?”

“Because as time goes by, there isn’t a lot left that belongs just to me.  I started the agency, but he’s
helped me make it what it is today.  Now we share a home, bank accounts and the business.  I gave
up my apartment.  I even gave up my name.”  She drank her wine.  “The name change is the
hardest for me,” she admitted.

“Your name?”

“Well, I was Ilsa Lund for thirty years.  I knew who she was and what made her tick.  And I liked
her.  Oh, there were things about her that drove me crazy, but I was comfortable with her.  Now     
I’m Ilsa Blaine, and she’s a whole new person with a whole new life.  I like her, but I’m still figuring
out who she is--and it’s not always very comfortable.  At least as Ilsa Lund, I had my own identity
separate from anyone else.  Now, I’m a permanent part of a partnership, both at home and in the
office, and sometimes I feel a little lost in it.”

“Do you resent it?”  Her disclosure surprised Remington.  He hadn’t realized that changing her last
name bothered her.  Then again, he’d only had a name for six months and look how attached he’d
become to it.  Who would I be if I couldn’t be Remington Steele anymore?

“Sometimes it makes me sad and a little resentful, but then I see all I’ve gained and I’m thrilled to
be Ilsa Blaine.  Ilsa Blaine has a whole future ahead of her that Ilsa Lund never had.  But she also
has a whole new set of problems that Ilsa Lund never had to deal with, and it’s a little daunting
sometimes.

“Such as?”

She took a last drag and crushed out the cigarette.  “My husband is unhappy.  And I want to make it
better, but I’m not sure how.”

“What if you can’t fix it?  What if he doesn’t know what is wrong?”  He had a little bit of
desperation in his voice.

“I have to try.  I think I might already know, but he won’t talk to me long enough for me to find
out.”

Remington was quiet and took a couple of drinks while he thought.  “What would you tell your
husband?”

“For starters, I would tell him that we are working far too hard.  We’ve only had one short weekend
in Catalina since our honeymoon.  And let me tell you, his allergy to work is legendary.  I’ve never
seen him put so much time into the business.  We haven’t sneaked away even once this month to go
see a movie in the middle of the day.  I think we both need a vacation--and a lot less time in the
office.  But if anyone ever tells him I admitted that last part, I will deny it completely.”

He smiled a little at that.  “Where do you want to go?”

“I’d leave that up to him.  He’s seen so much more of the world than I have that he’s pretty good at
picking places to go.”

“What else would you tell him?”

“That I understand how hard it is to reconcile the person he used to be with the one he is now.  I
don’t expect him to become yet another person entirely just because he’s my husband.  There’s a
reason he stole my heart, and it’s not because he’s always walked the straight and narrow.  I don’t
want a domesticated husband anymore than I want to be a domesticated housewife.”

“Your husband is a lucky man.”

“I’m the lucky one.  Out of the dozens of women he’s known, he picked me.  He brings out the
best part of me and I love that.”

“I could say the same about my wife.”

“That’s a nice thing to hear.”  She stepped down from the bar stool and laid money on the counter
for the drinks.  “If you love your wife anywhere nearly as much as I love my husband, I imagine
she’ll understand better than you think about the things that are troubling you.  And if she doesn’t,
she’s going to try anyway.  Good luck, Mr. Blaine.”  She kissed his cheek and adroitly slipped a key
into his pocket before walking out the casino door.

Bemused by the whole scenario, Remington nursed the rest of his drink for an hour before he rose
from the bar, leaving his cigarettes with “Ilsa’s” on the countertop.  He fished for a toothpick out of
his coat pocket and came up with a key instead.  He shook his head at her audacity and headed for
the florist.

Laura paced in her small room, hoping she’d made the right moves.  Sometimes she could see right
through Remington, but at other times he was as opaque as the La Brea Tar Pits.  This was one of
those times she struggled.  The knock on her door brought a smile to her face.

Remington had a rose in his hand and gave it to her.  “May I come in?”  She opened the door wide.  
“I am grateful for your conversation downstairs.  I--“

“You what?”

He captured her face in his hands and turned out the lights.  “For tonight, there isn’t anyone but
us.”  In the darkness, clothes rustled and frantic kisses were exchanged along with moans of
pleasure.  When he breathed a name in her ear, it wasn’t “Ilsa.”  She smiled and lost herself in the
moment.



Remington woke the next morning from the first decent night’s sleep he’d had in days, and it took
him a few minutes to recognize the hotel room.  He stumbled into the bathroom, frowning when he
didn’t see Laura.  None of her things were there, and he found only a note left propped against the
alarm clock.

Dear Mr. Blaine,

I hope you find yourself in Las Vegas.  It’s obvious how much you love your wife, and it would be
a shame if you didn’t give the two of you a chance to work things out.  If she loves you anywhere
nearly as much as I love my husband, she’ll be waiting for you when you get home.

Sincerely,  

Ilsa

P.S.  Last night … last night will stay in my memory.



The Porsche might have had wings as it zipped across the desert in record time.  During the trip he
had plenty of time to think through the things Laura had told him.  By the time he hit LA traffic, his
head was clear once again.  He opened the door to the penthouse to find Laura asleep on the sofa.  
Setting his keys on the island, he crossed to her.  She must have sensed him standing there because
her eyes drifted open and her mouth curved up.

“Are you okay?” she asked in a drowsy voice.  She’d left the hotel after he’d fallen asleep, and the
Rabbit wasn’t anywhere nearly as fast as the Porsche.  The sun was easing over the horizon by the
time she’d pulled the Rabbit into the garage.

“More than okay, love.  I’m sorry.”  He sat on the edge of the sofa and took her hand.

Her other hand came up to cup his cheek and caress it with her thumb.  “It’s all right.  I love you.”  
She sat up then and blinked the sleep from her eyes.  “Did you find whom you were looking for?”

“I did.  Funny, though, he wasn’t interested in staying lost for very long.  A very nice lady talked to
him for a while and helped him think through a few things.  Last time I checked, he went home to
his wife.”

“What about you?  You’ve been edgy for a few days.”

He looked at her with a smile.  “I think I need a vacation, Laura.  I’m not the workaholic you are,
and spending this much time at the agency is affecting my ability to be irresponsible.  How does
Venice sound?”

“Venice?  As in Venice, Italy?  Can we ride the gondolas?”

“Do you honestly think I’d miss out on taking in the most romantic part of that city with you?”

“When do we leave?”

“Is tomorrow soon enough, Mrs. Steele?”

“Since we’ve cleared our schedules for the next two weeks, I think we can make it work.  We can
always get called away for a major case that takes us overseas.”

“Nonsense.  It’s your agency, Laura.  I do think I need to educate you on how this ‘owning your
own business’ thing works.  Really, aren’t you supposed to be able to pick and choose what you
want to do?  And by that, I mean telling the staff that today is our six-month anniversary, and we’re
going away to celebrate in style.”

It was her first real smile in two weeks.  “That sounds wonderful, Mr. Steele.”


* * * * *

It wouldn’t be the only time Richard and Ilsa helped each other work through their marital problems,
but they didn’t always need to meet in Las Vegas.  Sometimes the bar at the end of the block
worked just fine.

 

 

Chapter Text

Two Holts:  A Steele Halloween


“No.  I’m not wearing breeches and hose.”

“Please, Remington?’

“Not even for you, Laura.”

“But you’ll be gorgeous as Mr. Darcy, and I can be Elizabeth Bennett.”

“No.  Not ever.  Pick anyone else, ah, post-Regency England.  What about Sherlock Holmes?”

“You did that already, and I’m not dressing like a rabbit again.”

“Then pick something else.”  

“What about a disco king and queen?”

“Me?  In spandex and platform shoes?  Laura!  What have you been tippling lately?”  

“Then I suppose you’ll have to wear this.”

“A fedora and a trenchcoat?  What are you wear--oh, my, my, my.  Do you know how much you
look like Ingrid Bergman just now?  

“I know, Rick.  Come, buy me a drink and we’ll dance until dawn.”

“ ‘Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she has to walk into mine.’  All right, Miss
Lund.  Let’s go see Paris.”  

 

 

Chapter Text

Two Holts:  Happy Birthday, Mr. Steele!


Sunday, 2 November 1986 (A weekly conversation)

“How are the babies?”

“What happened to ‘How are you, Kate?' ”

“Because all you do is complain.  I want to know how my nieces or nephews are coming along.”

“If they squabble as much after they are born as they seem to be doing now, I’m in a world of
trouble.  Murphy had his hand on my belly last night, and one of them kicked so hard his hand slid
off.”

Laura had to laugh at that one.  “You only have ten weeks to go.”

“Evil witch.  When it’s your turn, you’ll understand that you’re not helping at all.  I’m putting a lot
of trust in my doctor when she tells me that twins usually come early.”

“Early?  Around Christmas?”

“Or New Year's Day.”

“What do you want to do about the holidays then?”

“I won’t be able to travel by Christmas, so everyone can come here if Remington promises to make
dinner.”

“I think it’s safe to say he’ll go for that.  Mom has already asked him to do the turkey for
Thanksgiving, and I’ll bet he ends up cooking everything.  Will you be able to come for that?”

“Probably.  I’ll clear it with my doctor.  I know Mom wants to host now that all her girls are
married.  I think she wants to be the matriarch of the Holt clan for the day.”

“Do you think we’ll survive?”

“It’s three against one.  We don’t have a chance.”



Sunday, 9 November 1986 (The knee)

“How are you doing, Laura?”

“I’ve had better days.”

“Remington called us Wednesday and told us what happened.”

“He’s been a godsend this week.  Did he tell you I’m having surgery on Monday?”

“Not yet.  He said your knee was pretty torn up.”

“Yeah.  The doctor wanted to wait for some of the swelling to go down before he operated.”

“Are you okay with that?”

“Hey, I’m strung out on painkillers.  Nothing bothers me at the moment.”

“How’s Remington doing with all this?”

“You know him.  Any time there’s a disaster, he steps up to the plate.  He didn’t panic, hasn’t
bitched about having to rearrange everyone’s duties at the office and doesn’t get annoyed at me
when I’m in a crappy mood--he just deals with it.  I’m going to owe him half my soul by the time
this is over.”

“How’s the hovering?”

“Tolerable.  Actually, I’d have been in a lot of trouble without him.  It’s kind of nice knowing he’s
here.”

“Check your forehead; you might be running a fever.  Laura?  Letting someone else help her?”

“Hey, the nurses at the hospital don’t look anywhere nearly as good as he does.  And he sounds
better too.”



Sunday, 16 November 1986 (Birthday plans)

“Hey, twin, how’s the gimpy knee?”

“I hate this, Kate.”

“Sure you do.  What’s the doc say?”

“If I’m lucky, I’ll be on crutches by next week.  Right now, I have to use a wheelchair.  A
wheelchair!  As if I’m a bloody invalid or something?”

“ ‘Bloody invalid’?  You sound like Remington.”

“Don’t threaten me like that.”

“Pissy, aren’t we?”

Laura sighed.  “I’m sorry.  This is more annoying than I thought it would be.  I’ve been so grouchy
this week that I’m surprised Remington hasn’t dropped me over the edge of the terrace.  Can we
change the subject?”

“Sure.  I can complain about being a million months pregnant or we can talk about Thanksgiving at
Mom’s house.”

“May I ask your advice on something else?”

“Sure.”

“Remington’s birthday is coming up.  We’ve never celebrated it before, and I don’t know what to
do for him.”

“What do you mean you haven’t celebrated it before?”

“Until a few days before we got married, I never knew the date.”

“When is it?”

“December first.”

“Oh, yay!  That means we can have a party for him at Thanksgiving!  That will keep Mom from
driving me bonkers about the babies.”

“Uh … do you think that’s a good idea?  I don’t know if he should be subjected to one of Mom’s
cakes.”

“Hey, we all survived and he’s part of the family.  Even Murphy had to eat one this year.”

“True.  If he complains, I’m sure Murphy will remind him.”



Sunday, 23 November 1986 (Tile floors)

“I’m going to kill Murphy.”

“What’d he do this time?”

“He’s decided that our bathroom and kitchen need new tile, and he has already ripped out half of it.”

“So what’s wrong with that?”

“Because I know damned well he’s going to get stuck on a case, and it will be Christmas and I won’
t have any floors.  And the babies will be here after that, and according to Frances, we won’t get
anything done for a year.”

“Come on, Kate.  Murphy’s good at finishing what he starts.”

“Sure he is, Laura, but you haven’t seen him when he gets that little home improvement gleam in
his eye.  He starts playing with his toolbelt and firing up his toys in the garage.”

“Didn’t you say the nursery is beautiful?”

“It’s gorgeous.  But it took him four solid months, and now he thinks he’s going to get the tile floors
done in three weeks?”

“Hmmm.  Good luck with that.  Don’t let him answer the office phone.”

“Yeah, right.”

“So when are you two coming?”

“Wednesday.  You’re not changing your mind about letting us stay with you?”

“Not at all.  Remington will probably be glad for the company.  I haven’t been very sociable this
week.”

“Good.  Mom and I would kill each other if I had to stay with her for four days.”

“I can’t wait to see you, Katy.”

“Me too, Laura.”



Thursday, 27 November 1986 (Thanksgiving Day)

Exasperated, Remington pointed to the door.  “Out.  All of you.  If anyone who is or was ever
named “Holt” walks into this kitchen during the next half hour, she isn’t getting dinner.”

Four identical expressions of mutiny faced him--three with their arms crossed and one holding onto
her crutches--before they edged out one by one.  Laura left last.  “I can’t believe you are doing this
to me.”

“Laura, I’m cooking dinner for ten and I don’t even get to use my own kitchen.”  He walked to her
and kissed her well enough to distract her from her pout.  “I can’t play referee and do this too.  
Sorry, love, you’re on your own for a bit.”

She gave him a shy half-smile.  “Serves me right for getting used to your handling my mother.    
You’re wonderful with her.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere right now, but everywhere later,” he retorted with a grin.

“Promise?”

“Always.  Now go entertain your sister long enough for me to get things done around here.”

“Okay, Mom,” Laura shot back sarcastically as she hobbled out of the kitchen.

“Will you do me a favor?”

“Maybe.”

“Send Donald and Murphy in here.”

“No.  You boys are not hiding out in here.  But I’ll send Mindy and Danny in to help.”

Murphy strolled in anyway, having seen the gaggle of women spilling out.  “Short help’s better than
no help.”  He stepped out of Laura’s way as she left.

“What does that make you?”

“I don’t know.  But I do know that you are making Donald and me look very bad at the moment.  
Our wives are wondering why we can’t pull off Thanksgiving dinner like you.”

“Just a little hobby I picked up somewhere along the way.”

“Whatever.  Do you need help?”

Remington eyed him for a minute.  “How are you at sautéing sweet potatoes?”

“You’re kidding me, right?  I was thinking more like setting the table or slicing bread.”

“Abigail has already set the table, so you can slice the bread and butter it.”  He set a French loaf in
front of Murphy with a small bowl of honey butter he’d mixed up earlier.  For a few minutes, only
the sounds of Remington putting the last touches on dinner could be heard as he dished up food and
added the final garnishes to his serving dishes.

“Steele, may I make an observation?”  Murphy sounded quite serious.

“Ah, all right.”

“You make a better wife than Laura.”  A dishtowel smacked him in the face.



The Holt-Piper-Steele-Michaels family crammed together at Abigail’s dining room table, and very
little conversation was heard while they collectively stuffed their faces with Remington’s creations.  
When they were done, the sad turkey carcass was flanked by empty dishes with only the occasional
spoonful of food left inside.  The children bolted outside to play on the swing set their grandma had
put in for them, leaving the adults to groan in misery.

Remington by virtue of being the chef, Laura on her crutches and Kate at nearly eight months
pregnant abstained from doing dishes and disappeared into the living room.  Murphy, Frances and
Donald admirably managed cleanup while Abigail reset the table.  In true Holt tradition, she retrieved
the balloons, candles and cake from the laundry room and placed them on it.  Gifts brought in secret
and stashed there by the family were retrieved and piled in the center.

By the time the cleanup crew finished, Laura was asleep in her husband’s lap on the sofa and Kate
dozed in the chair beside them.  Remington was trailing his hand through Laura’s hair and watching
Kate sleep.  Several times during the day, he’d had to swallow hard at Kate’s round belly and to
lock away the desire to see Laura’s curve in the same fashion.  Not yet, mate, he told himself.      
We’ve still got quite a long way to go.

Murphy wandered in first and actually caught the naked longing in his brother-in-law’s eyes for a
split second before they changed to simple amusement at the water splashed over his shirt.  For
once, he didn’t tease Steele.  Instead, he gently roused Kate and pulled her to her feet while
Remington did the same for Laura.

Kate rubbed her face and eyed her sister.  “I’m manufacturing a couple of million cells an hour.  
What’s your excuse for sleeping in the middle of the afternoon?”

“Tryptophan poisoning,” Laura retorted to Remington’s chuckle.

Abigail sashayed into the living room.  “All right, dears, I think we’re ready.  Donald, will you get
the children?  We’ll have dessert in the dining room.”  Six groans immediately sounded out in
chorus, punctuated by three shrieks of delight from the kids dashing through the house.

“Cake!  Ice Cream!  Grandma?  Grandma?  Whose birthday is it?”  The last was from Laurie Beth.

Everyone else crowded around the table again.  The Steeles had just stepped inside when Abigail
said, “Why, it’s Remington’s, of course!  Well, not today exactly, but on Tuesday;    it’s so close
we’ll celebrate today, Laurie Beth.”

Steele immediately flashed a wide grin and sat on the chair Abigail indicated at the head of the table.  
Only Laura noted his shoulders were suddenly tense.  After a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday,”
nine sets of eyes watched him take a bite of cake--one with happy anticipation and eight others with
barely concealed amusement.

But he ate it without flinching, forcing the others to do the same although even the kids knew to
soak the cake in melted ice cream first.  Afterward, the presents were piled in front of him, and
Laurie Beth insisted on sitting in his lap to help him open them.

Laura could see the slightest tremble in his hands as he reached for the gift the little girl passed to
him.

“This one’s from us, Unca Remy--me, Danny and Mindy.  Open it first,” she insisted.

“Why, thank you, Miss Piper.”  She giggled and laid her head against his shoulder as she watched
him open the box.  Inside was a collection of trinkets the children had picked out for him: a Slinky
from Laurie Beth, a box of colored pencils from Mindy and a model car kit from Danny.  The little
girl carefully explained.  “You like old cars, so Danny picked that.  Auntie Laura says you draw
really nice, so Mindy got pencils, and I think everyone should have a Slinky.  They’re really cool.”

Remington had to fight hard to keep his composure and thank the children.  He started to pull the
Slinky out of the box, but Laurie Beth stopped him.  “No, Unca Remy.  You have to open
everything and thank everybody before you can play with your toys,” she said seriously.

He gave her shoulders a squeeze, and she handed him another box out of the little pile on the table.  
“Of course, Miss Piper.  We must do it properly.”

A few minutes later, Remington had a stack of gifts he’d unwrapped.  Abigail gave him two shirts
and a tie.  Kate found for him a VHS tape of Shadow of a Doubt (Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten,
Universal, 1943).  Murphy gave him a football and laughed at Steele’s horrified expression.  Donald
and Frances gifted him with a crepe pan from Williams-Sonoma, a copy of The Joy of Cooking and
a request that he assume responsibility for the turkey at Thanksgiving every year.

Overwhelmed by it all, he hugged Laurie Beth again and asked permission to open his Slinky.  
“Okay, Unca Remy.  I’ll show you how it works.  We have to go use the stairs on the porch.”  All
three kids led him outside and spent the next half hour instructing him on the intricacies of getting a
Slinky to “walk” down the stairs.

Kate sidled up to Laura.  “Not bad, Lunatic.  He didn’t even flinch at Mom’s cake.”

“No, he wouldn’t.  Especially since this was his first birthday party … with the family,” she added
to cover her slip.

“What did you decide to do for him?”

The edge of Laura’s mouth turned up.  “I have a few surprises in store for Tuesday.”



That evening at Abigail’s, the family told funny stories on each other in the living room.  Murphy
and Laura played card games with Danny and Laurie Beth on the floor while Remington sat with
Mindy on the sofa and drew pictures with her.  He showed her how to create simple shadows and
highlights with the pencils and sketched a quick picture of her that he tore out and handed to her
with a kiss to her forehead.

Afterward, he and Danny spread the model car kit across the newspaper-covered dining room table.  
It wasn’t long before Donald and Murphy sat down to help assemble and glue the little Corvette
together.  It was nearly midnight when they finished, and Donald had to shake his son awake to see
the finished model before towing him out to the real car to go home.  Frances nudged Mindy along
and Remington carried a sleeping Laurie Beth.  She woke long enough while he fastened her seat
belt to mumble, “Happy Birthday, Unca Remy.”

“Thank you, Miss Piper.  It’s been a lovely day.”

“You talk funny.  But I like it.”

He ruffled the hair on her head.  “I’m glad you do, sweetheart.  Now go back to sleep for the drive
home.”



After Murphy and Kate turned in for the night at the penthouse, Remington sat cross-legged on the
bed and played with his Slinky.  Laura could see that he was lost in thought.  She sat next to him
and brushed his lock of hair out of his eyes.  “Remington?”

“Hmm?”  He was bemused by the toy.

“Sorry about Mom’s cake.  Even Murphy got initiated with it this year.”

“Well, that’s something.  I can’t complain though.  It was my first real birthday cake and it was
definitely … memorable.”

“Daniel never did anything for you?”

“No.  Oh, at some point in the year, he would take me somewhere and call it my birthday, but it
was never the same day or even the same month.  Somewhere along the way, I just added a year to
my age in January.”  He sprawled backwards on the bed and propped up on his elbow.  “It’s been a
little disconcerting to know I’m nearly a full year younger than          I’ve touted for most of my
adult life.  I’m only now turning thirty-four.”

“Only three years older than I.  That’s an interesting perspective.”

“How so?”

“That you’ve done so much more than I’ve even contemplated.”

“High school, college, an apprenticeship, and starting not one, but two agencies isn’t enough?”

“But it’s mostly been right here in Los Angeles.  You’ve seen the world.”

“Laura, if you really want to see it, I’ll take you to the better parts of it.  I wouldn’t wish some of
the places I’ve been on anyone.”  Remington rolled off the bed, set the Slinky on the dresser and
pulled back the covers.  “Come, love; this is getting a bit too philosophical for two in the morning.”  
She eased under the covers and settled into his embrace, resting her head in the hollow of his
shoulder.  He brought his arm around her slim waist.  Closing his eyes, he decided that this had been
one of the better days of his existence.



Friday, 28 November 1986 (An interlude with Murphy)

Murphy spent part of the afternoon teaching Remington to throw a football in between games on the
television.  They’d left the twins propped up on the sofa and headed for a narrow park behind the
apartment building.   

“Why are we doing this?”  Steele attempted to launch the ball in a poor imitation of Murphy’s
demonstration and succeeded in bouncing it off a nearby tree.

“Because you’re an American citizen now, and you can’t be a man in America and not get football.”

“Can’t I scream at the telly a bit and mutter obscenities under my breath like you and call it a day?”

“You could, if you had any idea what you were screaming and muttering about.  The way you do it,
you change sides like a four-year-old.”

“Bugger off.”

“Sure.  Look--”  He walked the ball to Steele.  “Choke up and put your fingers on the laces.  Even
Frances throws better than you do, and you're the one with the magic fingers.”   

Annoyed, Remington bit off a curse of frustration.  He looked at the ball again and tossed it to
Murphy.  “Let me see you throw it.  I’ll go chase the damned thing down, but let me see you do it
instead of watching it come after me like a bullet.”

Murphy gave him an odd look and launched the ball into the air.  When it landed, Steele jogged over
to it, set his fingers to the laces and threw it in a wobbly spiral to his brother-in-law who caught it
neatly with a whoop.  He zinged it hard back to Remington who ducked and let it fly over his head.

“Damn it, Michaels, I am not your bloody target!”

Murphy doubled over with laughter and had his hands on his knees while he gasped for breath.  
Irritated to no end, Steele lifted the ball and set his fingers on the laces again.  This time he zipped it
across the lawn, and Murphy barely got his hands up in time to catch it and fall over backward, still
chuckling.

“All right, all right, that last one was uncalled for, but you look so good when you duck!”  He
sobered up somewhat, but a grin still played around on his face.  “Look.  Okay, I think you’re
getting the throwing part down.  To catch the football, you’ve got to hold your ground and put both
your hands up.  No flinching.”

Steele raised an eyebrow.  “Michaels, my whole bloody life--if anything comes at me--my job has
been to get out of the way.”

“Yeah, well, now you’re about to learn something new.  Come on; I’ll give you an easy lob and we’
ll work up to a decent pass.”

At the end of another hour, Steele was catching the balls a healthy percentage of the time and getting
them back to Murphy.  When they were covered in sweat and called it quits, they grinned at each
other.

“Well, Steele, there’s hope for you yet.”

“Next time we’ll go to the boxing ring, Michaels, and we’ll see who ducks.”

“Now, that has some real possibilities.”   



Tuesday, 2 December 1986 (Happy Birthday, Mr. Steele!)

Remington’s hopes for sleeping late and taking in an afternoon movie crumbled when Ian called mid-
morning.

“Mr. Steele, my apologies, sir, but Mildred is going home to deal with a water leak at her house.  
Her neighbor called just a few minutes ago.  Mrs. Steele is out with Kaleb, and someone needs to
meet with Mr. O’Dell about the skip-trace we’ve been working for him.  He’s due in court first
thing in the morning and needs an update.  Mildred left all the data here.”

Heaving a reluctant sigh, Remington asked, “What time is the appointment?”

“Two-thirty, sir.”

“I’ll be there.”  What happened to being irresponsible?  

“Thank you, sir.  And my apologies again for disturbing you on your birthday.”

He arrived at the office with a few minutes to spare and took the time to familiarize himself with the
data.  O’Dell was nice enough, just long-winded, probably an excellent characteristic for an
attorney.  Mildred returned to the office just as he was finishing up at four and managed to occupy
him with other questions until nearly five, ensuring that he was caught in afternoon traffic all the
way home.

Whatever irritation he had about the afternoon’s interruptions evaporated when he pushed open the
foyer door.  Laura was meticulously putting the final touches on dinner, and rich aromas wafted
through the flat.

“Good Lord, Laura, you’ve been cooking!”  Suddenly, he grinned.  “So that’s the reason behind
Mildred’s little emergency.  Cleverly done, love.”

Laura gave him a wry smile.  “I think I remember your saying something about its being difficult to
surprise someone when you live with him.  I promise we’ll go to the cinema tomorrow to make up
for today.”  Anxiously, she wiped her hands on her apron and shifted on her crutches.  “You have a
few minutes if you want to change clothes.”

Taking the hint, he shrugged off his jacket and carried it in one hand.  “I’ll do that.  But I want this
first.”  He indulged in a long kiss with her, and ironically, it settled her nervous tension, and she felt
her shoulders relax a fraction.

While he was changing, Laura poured wine, retrieved the salad from the refrigerator and placed the
warm bread on the counter.  As he crossed the living room, she plated the fettuccine as she’d seen
him do dozens of times and set it on the island.  “Putting everything on the dining room table was a
little beyond what I could do with crutches, so I hope the kitchen is okay for tonight.”

“Laura, this looks wonderful.”  She’d placed candles all around and had soft music playing in the
background.  He assisted her onto the bar stool before taking his own.

“I wanted to do something special for you on your birthday.”  She apprehensively watched him take
a bite of his pasta.  Fettuccine Alfredo was one of his favorite dishes, and she’d had Frances on the
phone the whole time she made the sauce.  She thought it tasted okay, but. …

Remington closed his eyes to savor the flavor.  “You made this--it’s not from a jar.”

“No.  It’s not.”

“Laura, I think I’m putting you on kitchen duty at least once a week from now on.”

Relieved, the tension left her shoulders and she laughed.  “You might not want to count on it, but it
is a testament to your teaching abilities and Frances’ patience that I made that.”

“Thank you, Laura.  It’s good.  Better than good.”  He took her hand and kissed it.  “No one has
ever made me dinner for my birthday.”


After dinner was cleared, Laura admitted that baking a cake was beyond her abilities and brought
out a delicate confection from Che’ Rive.  “Anything I make might rival Mother’s, so I picked this
up this afternoon,” she told him.

They settled in front of the fire afterward and Laura brought out a large bag abundantly filled with
gifts, all of which were beautifully wrapped with Remington’s name on the tags.  He was a little
astounded by the size of the stack, but it took him only seconds to realize what she’d done.

“Thirty-four?  Isn’t that a bit excessive?”

“Probably.”  She handed him a package.  “Start with this one.  Don’t worry; I cheated a little bit.”

He grinned when he saw what she’d done.  The first nine gifts proved to be a professional set of
cutlery from Germany, rounding out Remington’s collection of kitchen knives.

“Ah, trying to make sure I do the cooking for a while yet.”

“Of course.  A woman has to know what her talents are.  One of mine is making sure the chef is
happy.”

The next eight were season tickets to the Pantages Theater for the upcoming run of Broadway
shows.  Additional packages revealed a set of drawing pencils and paper, a small box of oil pastels
that he’d mentioned wanting to try and a wooden art box in which to keep everything.  Gifts twenty-
two and twenty-three were a pair of cufflinks, twenty-four was a black sweater with thin blue
stripes, and twenty-five stumped him completely.

“Socks?”

Laura laughed at his expression of disbelief.  “Everyone gets at least one gift that makes him wonder
what the other person was thinking.  I’m making sure you get one.”

“Actually, I think Murphy covered it with that football.  Be sure to tell him I said that.”

“I will.  And I’ll need your help for the next one.  It’s in the spare bedroom behind the bed.”  
Remington found the large wrapped box and carried it to their place in front of the fire.  “A compact
disc player?  Laura--“

“You’ll need these as well.”  Gifts twenty-seven through thirty-three proved to be CD versions of
his favorite music.

Lastly, Laura handed him a small box.  He unwrapped it and stared at the disc inside.  It was in a
simple clear case, and the cover had “Happy Birthday, Remington” written on it.  “What is this?”

“I found a recording studio.”  She hesitated.  “And I made a CD of music for you.”

Remington turned the case over and read the listing of tunes.  All of them were ones that Laura had
played for him over the past several months--ones that he had commented that he liked.  He pulled
at his ear, trying to understand.  Then he got it.  “A recording studio?  This is you playing?”

She nodded.  “I had most of it done before I hurt my knee, and it was interesting finishing out the
last few songs.  I had to schedule a few ‘extra’ appointments with the ‘physical therapist’ in the last
two weeks to get it completed.  Murphy and Kate picked it up on Wednesday before they came
over.”

He sat cross-legged, holding the CD and staring dumbfounded at her.  “You did this for me?”

“I did.”

“Laura, I--I’m touched.”  He leaned across and pressed his lips to hers.   

They spent the next hour setting up his new compact disc player in the living room.  And then they
spent the rest of the night listening to the crisp, clear sounds soaring through the flat.



Wednesday, 3 December 1986 (Another day at the office before slipping out to the cinema)

“So, Chief, what’d you get for your birthday?”   

“A compact disc player, a CD from my favorite artist, a Corvette, some pencils and a Slinky.  Oh,
and a football.”

“Sounds like a perfectly good birthday to me.”

Remington put the toy Corvette on the shelf in his office where he could see it from his desk.  The
Slinky and the pencils stayed in his top right drawer--ideal for doodling and thinking or just spending
a few minutes being the child he never was.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Two Holts: Steele Paying the Price


Sunday, 14 December 1986 (Tile floors & Christmas)

“Laura, I’m going to kill him.”

“Why?”

“Because Christmas is a week and half away, and I still don’t have floors in the kitchen or the
bathroom.  Murphy’s been on a case nearly day and night since Thanksgiving.  How am I supposed
to host Christmas when I don’t have a house?”

“It’s that time of year, Katy.  For some reason, that makes everyone nervous.  Things will settle
down after Christmas Day.  We don’t mind the fact you don’t have floors.”

“Laura!  I mind!  I can’t wait until after the holidays for floors.  I’m carrying twins, remember?  
The doctor thinks I won’t make it until January at this rate.  I knew this would happen.  I’m going
to have concrete floors, new babies and no husband in sight.”

“Have you thought of hiring someone?”

“Laura--no matter how annoyed I am, the insult of calling a contractor at this point might irreparably
damage our marriage.  Never come between a man and his projects.  It’s like a war zone and there’s
no such thing as friendly fire.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“Throw myself on your mercy.”

“Mine?”

“I’ve already talked to Donald, and he’s willing to come up on the Saturday before Christmas and
help Murphy finish the job before Mom, Frances and the kids come in on Tuesday.  But he said
Remington has to help if it’s going to get done in a weekend.”   

“Remington?  Tiling floors?  You’re kidding me, right?”

“Please, Laura?  I need your help on this one.”

“You might be causing irreparable harm to my marriage, Katy.”

“He’s good with his hands, right?”

“I’ll be sure to tell him that while I explain how you talked me into this, Steamroller.”


* * * * *

“I’m in.”

“What?  No arguments, no remarks about Remington Steele not getting his hands dirty?”

“No.  Should there be?”

“Hmm.  Well, no.  I’ll change our flights then.”

“Besides, Murphy will owe me for this.”

“And therein lies the answer.”

* * * * *


As the Steeles and Donald walked in from the jetway, Murphy took in Remington’s casual elegance,
even while wearing a denim shirt, boots and jeans.  He shook his head as he caught Laura by the
waist for a quick squeeze and kiss on the temple.  “Steele, you’re going to get dirty today.  I’m sure
it’s going to cramp your style.  Donald, good to see you.  Thanks for coming.”  He’d learned by
now that the best way to get a dig into Remington was to talk fast and keep the conversation going.

Laura helped by asking, “Where’s Katy?”

“At home and annoyed that she won’t fit in the car with the three of you and the luggage.”  At the
baggage carousel, Murphy winced as the trio began pulling off boxes and suitcases.  “How long are
you guys planning to stay?”

Donald shot him a hard look.  “My wife insisted that if she has to bring Abigail and the kids by
herself, I had to bring all the gifts.”  Wisely, the blonde said nothing, merely nodded in
understanding.

“Murphy, I hear your bride is rather disgruntled at the moment.”  Steele arched his brow at him.

“Tell me about it.  She’s been giving me hell since I chipped out the first tile.”

“Perhaps.  I must say, your timing couldn’t be more perfect for home renovation.  It’s the holidays
and your wife is ready to give birth--what a wonderful time to upgrade the kitchen!”

“Steele, in this instance, there isn’t anything you can say to me that Kate hasn't already expounded
on in extraordinary detail.”

“Well, then, I’ll consider the topic properly covered.”



The three men spent Saturday afternoon and evening clearing out the last of the kitchen and the
bathroom while the twins began giving the house a thorough cleaning.  Despite the frequent breaks
for Kate to rest and put her feet up, they made good progress on the upstairs.  Murphy’s sister,
Jena, on break from college, showed up with pizza for dinner and spent the rest of the evening
working with the two sisters.

By nightfall, Laura knew exactly why Remington had readily volunteered for the weekend.  It was
nearly midnight when they snuggled on the double bed in the nursery, enjoying the privacy they
would have until Abigail arrived and they were bumped to the sleeper sofa in the living room.  She
yawned and turned in his arms, finding the hollow of his shoulder where she liked to rest her head.  
Automatically, his arm came around to anchor her in place while their legs intertwined.

“How’s the knee?”  He massaged it gently, knowing that she’d graduated from a full leg brace to an
elastic one earlier in the week.

“Not bad.  It aches, but I think it’s from all the exercise, not because the ligaments are pulling.  It’s
probably a good thing that Kate needs a break every half hour.  I can stop when I need and not feel
guilty.  Well, almost--Jena’s making us look like slackers.”

“The boundless energy of youth.”  He slid his hand around to her backside and stroked the flesh
there.

Laura shivered and fit her body closer to his.  “I do hope you are not implying that I’m anything
other than young and energetic.”

“Perhaps you should prove it to me.  I’ve been--how do you say it--male bonding over tools and
dirt.  I could use some female companionship to balance my day.”

“I’ve got a question first.”

Remington shifted so that he could place his lips along her neck.  He brushed her hair back with one
hand.  “What is it?”

“I knew you had a thing for old ladies, but I didn’t realize it was for pregnant women too.  Or is it
just Kate?”  She felt him freeze for a moment and then relax again.

“A bit of both, perhaps.  A woman ripening with child is beautiful in any case.  But Kate--Good
Lord, Laura, she’s your identical twin.  I can’t help looking at her and thinking of you.  Murphy’s
already bopped me on the head for staring at his wife.  It was rather embarrassing.”

“He didn’t tell me that.”

“No, he wouldn’t.  But he did tell me to go get my own wife pregnant if I wanted one that much.”

Laura smiled into his hair.  “Do you want one?”

He froze again and pulled away to look at her face.  “What are you saying?”

She laughed.  “Not that.  No, I’m not pregnant.  I’m asking if you want a child--someday.”

“I do, Laura.  But not yet, I think.”  His hand resumed its stroking and she shivered again.

“Why?”

“You are full of questions tonight.”

“You’re rarely in the mood to answer them.”

“You know me too well, love.  Perhaps that’s it then.  I’m still enjoying being with you.  And
perhaps it’s selfish, but I’m not quite ready to share.”

“I don’t think it’s selfish at all.  I think it’s sensible.  After all the time we spent getting here, it’s nice
being here.”

“That it is, love.”  His tone changed from serious to seductive.  “There are definitely places I like
being.  For example--“

Laura’s breath caught.  “I like you there too.”



Early Sunday morning, Murphy knocked on the door and laughed when he heard creative swearing
from the other side.  Happily, he headed downstairs to start a pot of coffee and to fine tune the plan
for laying tile that day.

Laura leaned on her elbow and poked her comatose husband whose face was buried in his pillow.  
When nudging and prodding failed to rouse him, she dove into her morning arsenal and pulled out
the heavy weaponry.  Straddling him, she began trailing her tongue around his shoulder blade and
then worked her way down his spine.  In under a minute, Remington groaned and rolled to pin
Laura to the bed.  Unfortunately for him, his wife was a tad faster than he in the mornings and
eluded his grasp, taking the sheets and coverlet with her.

“Laura,” he complained.

“Up, Mr. Steele.  You promised.”

He squinted at the clock dotted with sailboats and ducks and then at his wife wrapped in the
bedcovers.  “It’s seven in the morning,” he muttered.  “I didn’t volunteer for this, Laura.”

“You did.  Come on--the kitchen awaits your presence.”

He leaned up on an elbow and ran his free hand through his hair.  “Do I get a cup of tea first?”

She leaned over and kissed his cheek.  “I’ll even make it for you.”  She didn’t miss the gleam in his
eye and his hands snaking under the sheets she wore.  When he made his move, she stepped
backward, pulling him from the bed to land on the floor with a thud.

“Damn it, Laura.”  He rubbed his elbow and then scratched his morning beard.  “There are more
pleasant ways to wake a body.”

“It’s not my fault I’ve had to perfect a number of ways for getting you out of the bed in the
morning.  And besides, all your pleasant ways usually result in both of us going back to bed for a
couple of hours because you leave me too exhausted to get up.”  It was a lesson she’d learned after
their wedding.  After being humiliatingly late a number of times to the office those first few weeks,
Laura began a campaign to discover the quickest way to get her husband out of bed.  Unfortunately,
the one that works the best can make me just as late as staying in bed in the first place, she thought.

Remington grinned.  “I fail to see the problem, Mrs. Steele.”

“You wouldn’t.  However,” she let the coverlets drop to the floor, “if you hurry, you can join me in
the shower.”



Donald had tiled his own kitchen a few years earlier and acted as foreman on the project.  Having
seniority in the marriage department and being considered the resident expert on tile, he enjoyed
bossing his brothers-in-law around for the next two days.

His first executive decision came after Murphy cracked four porcelain tiles in a row with the wet
saw.  He’d made Remington try his hand at the equipment, and the man’s patience and eye for
detail came in handy.  It wasn’t long before Steele handed a curved tile over and found himself
officially in charge of cutting tiles out in the garage for the rest of the day while the other two men
laid them in the kitchen and then the bathroom.

Donald considered it a bonus that the twins’ husbands were separated, keeping rivalry and short
tempers to a minimum.  Maybe I’m not being fair.  So far he’d been surprised by Remington’s
good-natured attitude about the whole thing.  Murphy was stressed and irritable, more so when one
of the inevitable problems cropped up during the project.  Donald had been hard-pressed to stay
unflappable so as not to cause the impending father any more distress.  Perhaps Steele was
following his lead.

Monday was spent grouting the tile.  After a short lesson, Remington tackled the bathroom while
Donald and Murphy finished the kitchen.  The twins spent the day running errands for Kate and
doing last minute Christmas shopping.  Well after Kate went to bed that night, the three men
reinstalled the kitchen appliances and Laura wiped down the counters one last time.

Murphy was elated as he stood on the newly tiled floors and leaned against the counter.  He thought
the kitchen looked incredible.  Wearily, he took a swig from his bottle of beer.  “Thanks.  All of
you.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.”

Grunting their assents, Remington and Donald flanked him as they drank from their own bottles and
surveyed their handiwork while Laura loaded the refrigerator with the groceries they’d stored in
coolers.  “Kate’s going to be pleased,” she commented.

“And that’s all that matters at this point,” affirmed Murphy.

Laura grinned as she dumped the produce into a drawer.  “Not really, but it’s nice that you think
that.  I think we’re all here just as much for you as we are for Kate--maybe more so.”

“Don’t tell him that, love; he’ll think we like him or some such nonsense.  And please, handle the
tomatoes with a little more care.  We’re eating those tomorrow.”

With an arch to her brow, she stepped back from the refrigerator.  “By all means, Mr. Steele, if you
don’t like the way I’m doing it, feel free.”

He strolled over, caught her by the waist and pulled her in for a kiss to a duet of groans from the
other men.  “Of course, Mrs. Steele.  Go admire my work in the bathroom and I’ll finish here.”  
She rolled her eyes and headed for the bathroom with Donald and Murphy in tow.

By the time they returned, Remington had arranged the fridge the way he wanted it and written out
a neat list of groceries.  With the kitchen in disarray, the Michaels had only stocked the bare
minimum of foodstuffs.  The work crew had been living on cold sandwiches and takeout.  “We’ll
get these tomorrow along with anything else you need in the meantime.”

Murphy frowned.  “I don’t expect you to do all the cooking between now and Christmas, Steele.”

Remington shot him a grin.  “Last time I checked, if it doesn’t involve a grill or calling out for pizza,
you and Donald are rather useless in the kitchen.  Your wife can hardly reach the stove, and Laura’s
idea of dinner is salad and yogurt--which is perfectly fine if you want a light repast, but hardly
adequate for a healthy appetite.”  His wife wrinkled her nose at him but didn’t argue.  “Besides, you’
ll be picking up Frances, Abigail and the children tomorrow afternoon.

“I hate knowing you’re one up on me, Steele.  I’m going to owe you big before this is all over.”

“’Tis called comhair, Murphy Michaels.”  Irish rolled through Remington’s voice.  “It’s different.  
You needed help; we gave it.  We’ll have need one day and you’ll come.”



* * * * *

Christmas Eve was pure, happy chaos.  While Kate and Murphy picked out a Christmas tree, Laura,
Remington, Frances and Jena spent most of the day in the kitchen stuffing the freezer with food for
after the twins’ birth.  Abigail claimed a foot of counter space to make her sugar cookies.  After she
shooed the rest of the family away from the cooling confections, Remington taught his nieces and
nephews how to nick the cookies from under her nose while she was decorating them.  Laurie Beth
proved to be the best at distracting Grandma while Mindy and Danny filched three each and split the
take with their younger sister.  Abigail frowned at her remaining stock.  Remington flashed his own
charming grin and purloined two more right in front of her.

Making his escape before he was caught with the goods, he joined the family in the living room
where Donald was helping Murphy anchor the freshly cut Christmas tree in its base.  The aroma of
pine dancing in and out of the scent of sugar cookies was heavenly.  He leaned against the doorway
and bit into his prize while watching the children dive into the buckets of decorations under Kate’s
supervision.

Murphy frowned at him from across the room.  “How’d you get a cookie?  Abigail chased me
away.”

“She likes me better than you.”

“Yeah, tell us something we don’t know,” Donald muttered from under the tree.  “Okay, how does
that look?”

Remington stared for a minute and then walked to the other side.  “Looks straight to me.”

“I’ll look.  Steele wouldn’t know a straight line if it were handed to him.  See?  Tilt it to the left an
inch, Donald.”

“Now you’ve got it all crooked, Michaels.  Come over here and see what you did.”

Murphy crossed his arms and held his ground.  Steele held up the second cookie.  “Bet me.”

“Shit.  Kate, come tell me if the tree is straight.”

She rose heavily, with Danny and Mindy giving her a push to get vertical.  “It’s too far to the left.”  
Murphy pouted and Kate grinned as she nipped the cookie from Remington and took a bite.

“Hey--“

“Going to deny your pregnant sister-in-law food?”

“Ah, no.”

With a smirk, Kate turned back to the tree as Donald stood up.  He eyeballed his three kids and then
shot a look to Remington.  “I see cookie crumbs.  Did you snitch for them too?”  Steele kept an
innocent expression on his face and shrugged.

“No, Daddy.  Uncle Remy taught us how to sneak them from Grandma.”  Mindy was earnest as
she explained how the three of them set up their grandmother and walked away with the goodies.

“Steele, if I have to get them out of jail one night, I’m coming to you for bail money.”

“And I’ll happily pay it.  But they won’t get caught if I have anything to do with it,” Steele retorted
before escaping, sans loot, back to the kitchen.

Donald shook his head and retrieved the lights from the bucket so that he and Murphy could string
them.  He’d perceived over Thanksgiving that Remington hadn’t always walked the straight and
narrow.  In fact, he was fairly certain his brother-in-law barely toed the line now.  With a little snort,
he understood why Laura had fallen for him.

It seemed the two were just alike.  Donald had seen Laura con her mother and sisters more than
once--and with an ease that was a little unnerving.  She had a knack for getting in and out of trouble
with nary a scrape.  Since she'd lived with that jerk, Wilson, for a year, Laura had appeared--on the
surface anyway--to become more reserved and restrained, but he’d noted a gleam in her eye from
time to time that let him know she hadn’t really changed.  Underlying all of that was a capacity for
loyalty and a capability for love that ran deep and true.

Unlike any other man she’d dated, Remington wasn’t afraid of her.  In fact, he seemed to relish
every aspect of her personality.  A subtle current flowed between them, and it had taken him a while
to understand what it was.  Frances had clued him in one day not too long ago.  The pair constantly
challenged each other--both physically and intellectually.

Whereas Kate and Murphy had solidarity of purpose and soldiered after their wants and desires with
determination, Laura and Remington danced down the path, wandering off and coming back as their
wishes took them.  It was a measure of their love and trust that they allowed each other the freedom
to find their own way within the relationship.

Donald doubted they would ever be a conventional couple.  Already he could see the traditional
husband and wife roles were hopelessly tangled.  Laura was a workaholic, played the piano with
flair and had an eye for making a house a home.  Remington worked more frequently than he liked,
cooked like a gourmet chef and had an ability to play that rivaled any child’s.  Ironically, they
managed their finances together--she had a knack for the day-to-day dealings and he had an eye for
investments.  Laura had even talked him and Murphy into putting money in one of her husband’s
pet projects, and it was paying off nicely for all of them.

He grinned to himself as he surveyed the family assembling in the living room to decorate the
Christmas tree.  Frances was lovely, as always, and she gave him that small secret smile he adored.  
How three sisters could be so different was a wonder.  How all three of them found happiness was a
miracle.


* * * * *

Laura missed a Midnight Mass at Christmas only once--last year--and it wasn’t by choice.  As a
child, she remembered dressing in her pajamas just as Laurie Beth was, opening a single gift from
her parents before getting into the car, and listening in wonder to the beautiful carols in the hour
before Mass.  None of that had changed in the ensuing years.  Frances had carried on the traditions
for another generation, and the consistency comforted and thrilled Laura.

The whispers and chuckles among her family hadn’t changed either.  They all laughed as one of the
unborn twins got hiccups, and Kathleen’s tummy bounced every few seconds for nearly twenty
minutes.  When the rest of the family quit laughing, the baby would hiccup again, her belly would
jump and someone would get the giggles again, setting everyone off once more.

Laura tangled her fingers with Remington’s and rested her head on his shoulder.  He shifted until his
arm was around her and dropped a kiss in her hair.



Remington sat quietly in the pew and took in his relatives with no little awe.  Regardless of her
faults, Abigail had raised three daughters who understood the value of family.  He  hadn’t realized
that Laura had these kinds of connections when he’d married her.  Oh, he’d met all of her family at
one time or another, but it was only at Thanksgiving that he’d realized how attached they were.  In
spite of their differences, each of the women still reached out to one another.

Laurie Beth crawled into his lap and fell asleep shortly before midnight.  As he wrapped his arm
securely around her, the familiar smell of frankincense filled the air as the priest made his blessings.  
While Remington recited the prayers and sang hymns he’d learned long ago, the rhythm of the
Mass--nearly unchanged for centuries--brought him an odd comfort he hadn’t anticipated.  The
priest reminded them of the miracle at hand and the new beginnings to come.  He couldn’t help
looking over at Kate’s belly and then to Laura.  Her smile filled him with warmth and he could only
wonder, what have I done to deserve this?  For the rest of Mass, only one short prayer kept circling
in his head:  Thank you, God.



The next morning, shrieks of delight punctuated the air as the three children scampered into the
living room, waking Laura and Remington from a dead sleep on the pull-out sofa in the living room.  
Having been warned by Frances, they’d both taken the precaution of wearing pajamas the night
before.

Remington tried unsuccessfully to bury his head under the pillow as the rest of the adults wandered
into the room, but Danny pulled it away and began poking at him to get up.  “Come ON, Uncle
Remy.  It’s Christmas and your bed is in the way.  UP!”

Reluctantly, he rolled off the bed and grabbed for his dressing gown.  He arched a brow at Laura.  
“I don’t suppose I get tea, do I?”

“Not yet.”  She grinned and kissed him on the cheek before picking up the pillows so that Murphy
could shove the bed back into the sofa.  Remington stole one away from her and tried to go back to
sleep on one of the armchairs, but Laura directed the children’s attention to him.

They pounced.  “Unca Remy, Unca Remy, it’s Christmas!  Wake up!” Laurie Beth yelled, making
him wince at the volume.  He sat up and scrubbed his face as his wife sat between his feet on the
floor in front of him.  He looked around and noted Frances sitting with Donald and Murphy rubbing
Kate’s back.  Abigail was on the floor with the children and helped them pass out presents.

A sheer flurry of paper and ribbons later, the kids sprawled out on the floor with their new toys.  
Laura noted that Remington was still a little dumb-founded by the whole gift-giving process.  She
wasn’t sure which surprised him more--the apparent glee the family had for the sketches he’d done
for each of them and she had framed or the stack of gifts he had in his lap that reflected his own
interests and wishes.

She meticulously opened her own gift from him to find a unique bracelet of three wide strands of
platinum set with rubies and diamonds across the top.  On the back he’d had engraved, To LS from
RS, First Christmas 1986.

Kate’s jaw dropped.  “Where did you find something like that, Remington?”

He shrugged and tugged at his ear.  “I had an artist make it up from some sketches I jotted down.”

Laura bit her lip while he leaned over and fastened it across her wrist.  “It’s beautiful,” she said
softly.  

He stroked her hair once.  “Only for you, love.”  He leaned back and looked inside the package she’
d given him.  A framed, black-and-white photograph lay nestled in the tissue paper.  The young
woman in the picture was impossibly beautiful, with long dark hair and light eyes.  Her elegant
fingers were clasped in front of her, and her face was lit up as she smiled at the photographer.

Remington stared for a long time before dipping his fingers inside and retrieving the photo.  He
slipped it from the frame and turned it over.  He recognized Daniel’s calligraphy, Mary Claire--1952.

“How--“ he nearly whispered the word in awe as he took another look.

Laura answered in similar tones. “I contacted some of Daniel’s friends to see if he left anything with
them.  One of them, a Bill Jones, found this photograph and sent it to me.  He said Daniel left it
with him before he was sent up in 1953 and never asked for it back.  He'd stashed it in a box and
forgotten about it until I called.”

“Jonesy.  I remember we stayed with him from time to time when I was younger.”

“He remembered you.  Said you were ‘slick, too good-looking and wild as a March hare.’"

“He’d know.”

Abigail spoke up then.  “What did you get from Laura, Remington dear?”

“A photograph.  Of … of my mother.”

“May I see it?”

“Of course.”  Slowly, he handed it to her.

Abigail looked it over and then glanced at Remington.  “She’s lovely and you look just like her.  
After I learned Daniel was your father, I never could see you in him.  Now I know why.”

Kate interjected, “You knew his dad?”

Her mother blushed and simpered.  “I did.  Such a charming man.  And his villa in the south of
France is lovely.”

All three of her daughters wore identical expressions of shock although Laura looked a little green as
well.  Frances recovered first.  “You … and Remington’s father?”

“Well, we met through Laura and Remington, of course.  They weren’t even dating then.  Oh, close
your mouths, girls.  It was just a summer thing.  We had our fun and went our separate ways.  I had
you girls here and Daniel wanted to stay in Europe.  He didn’t want Remington to feel torn between
him and Laura.”  She leaned over to give the photograph back to him.

Now Remington was surprised as well as he took it from her.  “Daniel said that?”

“He thought Laura was the best thing that had happened to you, dear.  She went toe to toe with him
over you and he was delighted.”

Laura’s eyes narrowed at her husband.  “You knew about them,” she accused in a harsh whisper.

In a low voice he answered, “Ah.  Hmm.  I did.  I didn’t think you really wanted to know.”  He
pulled her into his lap and kissed her neck.

She tried to dodge his lips.  “Are you trying to distract me again?”

“Is it working?”

She turned to him.  “Of course.  Merry Christmas, Remington.”

“Happy Christmas, Mrs. Steele.”  He lowered his mouth to hers but not before taking another long
look at his mother.  “Thank you, Laura.”


* * * * *

They flew home with Abigail on the twenty-seventh after Kate’s doctor assured her she was still at
least a week away from delivering the babies.  The Pipers planned to stay for one more day.

* * * * *

Remington dropped the luggage on the floor of their foyer.  Laura had already ditched her share in
the living room and collapsed on the creamy leather sofa.  He stretched out, laying his head in her
lap.

“Laura, I think you’ve accomplished something unique, something I never thought possible.”  He
closed his eyes.

“What’s that?”

“I have absolutely no desire to cook dinner, watch a movie, or even nibble on your toes, delightful
though they may be.”

“What is it you want to do?”

“Stay right here and sleep for a day or two.  Possibly three.”  

“Wish granted.  As long as you promise not to move.”  She tilted her head against the sofa and
closed her eyes.  She loved her family; she really did.  But dealing with them for nearly a week was
exhausting.  Remington had his hands full with Abigail most of the last three days as he kept her
occupied and not annoying her daughters.  Laura had borne the brunt of Kate’s frustration with her
final weeks of pregnancy.

Of course, the phone rang.

Laura slid out from under Remington and fumbled for the phone on the side table.  “Murphy? …
She’s what? … I thought she had another week to go?  … Yeah, what do doctors know anyway?  
Let me think for a minute.  It’s four o’clock now; we can probably get a flight this evening and be
there late tonight.  Will you be at the house or the hospital by then? … I can do that.  No, don’t
worry about picking us up.  We’ll rent a car at the airport or catch a taxi.  Can I talk to her?”

Laura didn’t sound worried, so Remington kept his eyes closed.

“Hi, Kate.”  He could hear the smile in her voice.  “Sure, we just got back. … No, no problem at
all.  I told Murphy we’ll be there tonight.  Think you can hold out that long? … Did you call Mom?
… Hmmm, maybe I’ll ask Remington to talk to her.  I think she likes him better than the rest of us
anyway. … Okay, let me off the phone so I can get a flight booked. … I know, sis.  I won’t miss
it.  Love you, Kate.”  She hung up the phone.  “How does spending the night in Denver sound?”

“Like a bad western movie.”

“Kate’s in labor and wants us there.  We have to go back.”  She started punching buttons on the
phone.  It said something about their lives that they had two different airlines on speed dial.

“Ah, Laura, don’t you think I should stay here and take care of the agency while you are gone?”  
Remington scratched his nose.  “It’s been a whole week.  I mean, there’s paperwork to tend to, skip-
traces to run.”

She looked at him quizzically.  “Are you serious?  For one, it’s after Christmas and the office will be
dead as a doornail.  Two, it's Kate and Murphy--they’re having the twins, and three, I need you to
handle Mother.”

At that moment, Remington regretted being the only male in the family that seemed to be able to
charm Abigail Holt.  “I’ll call her from here.  She’ll feel better about not being there if I’m not there
either.”

Incredulous, Laura laid down the telephone.  “You don’t want to go?”

“I’ll just be in the way of the happy family.  You need to be with Kate.  I’m certain Murphy would
prefer that I stay here.”  He shrugged his shoulder in discomfort.

Stunned, Laura could only gape at him across the living room.  “What has gotten into you?  They’re
having the babies and they’ve asked us to come.”

“No, Laura.  They asked you to come.  Kate wants you there.  Go.  I’ll be here when you get
back.”  He dropped a kiss on her temple and carried his luggage to the bedroom.  Dazed and too
pressed for time to deal with her husband, she dialed the phone and booked a flight for one to
Denver before frantically repacking her bag and calling for a taxi.



In her fatigue, anger and worry, Laura promptly fell asleep on the plane.  Three hours later, the
plane touched down in Denver where she flagged a cab and arrived at the hospital in forty minutes.  
She dashed through the doors of Labor and Delivery to find her sister slowly pacing the floor with
Murphy holding her hand.

“Excellent timing, Kate,” Laura said from the doorway as she set her carry-on bag on the chair.

“My apologies.  Apparently, the babies didn’t know what the doctor was talking about.  The
contractions started about thirty minutes after you guys left for the airport.  Frances is holding down
the fort and will be here in the morning.  She walked with me all day.”

Laura hugged her sister and kissed her on the cheek.  “Details, Katy.  Give me details,” she ordered.

“I’m only at four centimeters dilated and around fifty percent effaced, but since I’m lugging around
two of these little hitchhikers, they want me to stick around.  They tell me it’s going to be a long
night.”  She rubbed the small of her back as another contraction started.

“Where’s your lesser half?” asked Murphy.  He brushed away Kate’s hands and placed pressure on
the area.

“Home.”  Laura kept her eyes on Kate as she breathed through another contraction.

“But surely--“  Murphy was startled to see the faint sheen of water in his old partner’s eyes.  She
waved him off with a slight shake of her head.  Not here.  Not in front of Kate.  Murphy nodded
and didn’t ask.

“Tell me what I’m looking at, Murphy.”  Laura pointed to the machines hooked up to her sister.  
Murphy gave her a quick hug and a succinct explanation of the charts and graphs on the machines
as the contraction receded.

Kate took Laura’s hand.  “I’m glad you’re here.”  The identical twins exchanged tremulous smiles.



Remington poked aimlessly at his kung pao chicken that night, wondering what the hell he was
thinking.  Why didn’t I just get on the plane and go?



Throughout the long night, Kate tried to sleep in snatches between increasingly frequent
contractions.  Murphy and Laura took turns sleeping in the rock hard chair and rubbing her back.  
Laura’s own back ached with sympathetic pains, a phenomenon that had occurred from time to time
when the twins were younger, but she ignored them.



Remington paced as he worked out in his head the reason for his panic upon hearing Kate was in
labor.  It certainly was not a surprise she wanted her twin sister by her side, and Laura had
discussed the logistics with him more than once.  He wished that, just one time, he had someone he
could call for advice.  And then he realized that he did.  He punched the numbers into the phone.

“Mildred?”

“Chief?  Is everything okay?  It’s midnight.  Is Laura okay?” she babbled as Remington realized he
woke her from a sound sleep.

“Ah, I’m sorry, Mildred.  I shouldn’t have called.  I’ll speak with you tomorrow, eh?”

Her voice became firm as she detected the hesitation in his tone.  “Mr. Steele, it must have been
important for you to pick up the phone.  Spill it, bub.”

“Ah, Laura won’t be in tomorrow.  Her sister, Kate, went into labor and she flew out to Denver a
few hours ago.  I thought you might need to know--in case I’m not perfectly on time in the
morning.”  Remington tried to be lighthearted, hoping to play it off.

But Mildred poked her needle sharp wit into that fantasy.  “Why aren’t you with her, Boss?”

“It’s a family thing, Mildred.  Laura doesn’t need me there.  I’ll just … be in the way.  You know,
babies, hospitals, family … that sort of thing.”  He shrugged even though Mildred couldn’t see the
movement.

“Mr. Steele, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, you are Laura’s family now.”  Remington stood
with his mouth open, trying to think up a reply that made sense.  Even one that didn’t make sense.  
Mildred heard the silence.  “Go get on that plane, Boss.  I’ll bet Laura didn’t think twice about
whether or not you were going.  So go.”

Remington held the phone for the longest time.  In the end he said simply, "Thank you, Mildred.  I’
ll see you in a few days.”   



Not wanting to disturb Fred at this late hour, Remington called a cab as well.  The minutes flew by
while he carefully repacked his luggage.  Damn.  He forgot to call Abigail.  He saw from his watch
that it was nearly one in the morning.  Well, this just happens to be the night for phone calls.



By seven in the morning, Kate was irritable, sweaty and ready to personally pull the little tykes from
her body if they didn’t make their appearance soon.  Murphy and Laura were very careful not to
make any comments about their own weariness from the long night.  Kate might kill them both.

After the obstetrician took a quick peek at her progress and came up with eight and fully effaced,
Laura borrowed Murphy’s car to make a fast breakfast run.  Eggs and bacon on a dry biscuit would
have to do this morning.  Remington would be appalled.  Thinking of him, she scrubbed at her face,
trying not to let the weariness of the night and her anger at him overwhelm her.  Today is a happy
day and the only tears allowed are tears of joy
, she told herself as she started the car and hunted
for the nearest fast food restaurant.

By the time she returned, Kate was pissy about being denied food.  Laura handed Murphy his
breakfast and shooed him out of the room.  “I’m the one doing all the work here.  Why can’t I have
food?” Kathleen snapped.

“I don’t think the babies need anything extra to impede their progress.”  Laura was used to her sister’
s waspish remarks by now.

“Who cares what they think?  This whole pregnancy has been about them.  I need food, now!  Oh,
oh, damn … here comes another one.”  Kate squeezed her eyes shut and grabbed Laura’s hand.  
She went somewhere deep inside herself for a couple of minutes before opening her eyes and giving
her twin a half-smile.  “Thank you, Laura.  I wanted you to be here for this.  Do you remember
when we used to plan double graduations, double weddings and double pregnancies when we were
teen-agers?”

“Things didn’t quite work out that way, did they,” Laura reflected.

“Well, we both graduated from Stanford anyway.  And got married only a couple of months apart.  
Hold on--” she shut her eyes again while Laura breathed with her.  “I’m going to regret saying this,”
she added when the contraction passed, “but I wish Mom was here too.”

“I’ll never tell,” Laura promised.  She looked up at the monitor.  “Kate?  These are coming close
together.  I’m going to buzz the nurse.”

“Okay.”  She started to pant again.

Moments later the nurse flipped the sheets back to check her progress.  “All done.  It’s time to push,
Mrs. Michaels.”  Laura went to the door and yelled for Murphy.  He jogged down the corridor
behind the doctor and took his place by Kate’s head.  He winked at Laura.  She shot him a quizzical
look as she got in position to help Kate as the doctor instructed.

“Mom!” Laura gasped when Abigail popped her head into the room.

“Hello, darlings--no, you stay there, Laura.  Your sister needs you right now.”

“How did you get here?”  She held Kate’s straining body, supporting her leg.

“Well, didn’t you send Remington to come get me?  He said you flew right out the door and told
him to wait for me.  That was sweet, dear.  How are you, Kate?”

“A little … busy … Mom,” she panted in between the contractions.

“That’s good, dear.  I’ll be waiting outside with Remington.  Laura, you’ll come get me if you need
anything?”

“Remington’s here?”  

“Yes, dear.  Didn’t you hear me say he came to get me?”

“Mom, Laura--I’m having a couple of babies here!”  Pure sarcasm dripped in Kate’s voice.

“Sorry, Katy.”  Laura was instantly contrite.  Abigail patted her youngest daughter on the head and
disappeared out the door.

An hour and a half later, Kate was yelling at Murphy and cursing him for touching her in the first
place.  He was growing paler by the moment.  It was harder than he thought to watch his adorable
wife labor through transition.  He kissed her hand.  “Just a few more pushes and the first one will be
here, Katy.”

“I don’t want to push.  I’m done.  You do this.”  She gave Murphy a hard look and noted the
glazed eyes.  Then she yelled at Laura.  “Where’s Mom?  I want Mom here.  Is this supposed to be
happening?  Mom!” she screamed.

Abigail popped her head inside the door.  “Yes, Katy-dear?”

“Hold my hand, Mom,” she ordered.  “Murphy, out.  If you pass out on me right now, I am going
to be seriously pissed.  Go.”

Murphy figured he’d better listen to his wife; he was feeling rather lightheaded.  He shot the doctor
a nervous look.  She held up three fingers and mouthed "three minutes" at him.  He nodded and
stepped outside the hospital room.

Remington was pacing the floor, trying his best to listen/not listen to what was happening inside the
room.  Every time Kate yelled, he winced.  He whirled around when the door opened.  Murphy
sagged against the door frame, taking deep breaths.  He staggered slightly and Remington shoved
him into a chair and forced his head between his legs.  “Breathe, mate.  Now’s not the time to cut
and run.”

“Not planning on it.  Kate threw me out.  Said she didn’t want me to pass out on her.  I’ve got two-
and-a-half minutes.”

“Smart girl.”  Remington eyed the minute hand revolving around his watch.  Sixty seconds later, he
yanked Murphy up.  “Time to go in, old chap.”  He shoved Murphy through the door and then had
to catch his brother-in-law as he nearly swooned.  Remington bopped him on the back of the head.  
“It’s not your turn.  Go to Kate.”  Murphy stood up and took a deep breath before clapping
Remington on the shoulder in thanks.  He moved to Kate’s side to help support her straining body.

Remington suddenly had an unimpeded view; transfixed, he froze by the door.  Laura sat behind
Kate, supporting her as she pushed the first of the babies from her womb.  Murphy and Abigail
stood on either side, helping her by holding her legs in the process.  With a determined groan, Kate
leaned forward and the baby slid into the doctor’s waiting hands.

“We have a boy!”  The doctor swabbed the tiny infant’s face and clamped the umbilical cord before
laying the baby on his mother’s chest.  “Dad, care to do the honors?”  He held out a pair of scissors
as Kate stroked her newborn son.

Murphy's eyes glistened as he snipped the cord.  The nurse swiftly wrapped the infant in a blanket
and handed him to the new father to hold.  Kate wanted to reach for her son, but another
contraction gripped her and Laura leaned in for support.  Murphy looked at his baby and his wife,
confused as to which one to attend first.

He looked around, not wanting to relinquish the newborn to the hospital staff.  Irrationally, he feared
the nurses would take him away before Kate had a chance to hold him.  When Kate bore down
again, he glanced around wildly in confusion--Laura and Abigail were helping Kate, and Remington
was still frozen by the door.  He crossed to his brother-in-law and placed the babe in his arms.  
“Don’t drop him.  And don’t let anyone have him yet,” he ordered before going back to his wife’s
side.

Remington stared down at the tiny little boy, still damp from birth and beginning to fuss at all the
confusion.  “Shh, shh, little one.  Mum and Da will be here soon.”  He swayed with the child,
mesmerized by the squinty bluish eyes and red face.  He murmured more nonsense and his nephew
stared at him, calmed by the cadence of his voice.  Out of the corner of his eye, he realized Kate
was pushing another child into the world.  In what seemed like seconds, Murphy was snipping the
cord and holding his second son.

Quietly, Laura eased out from behind her sister and took her mother’s hand while Remington
regained enough sense to deposit his precious cargo into Kate’s arms.  The three retreated to the
hallway to give the new parents a few minutes alone with their twin boys.

Abigail hugged Laura and kissed Remington on the cheek.  “Thank you for bringing me.  It was a
very sweet thing to do.  Coffee, anyone?  No?  I’ll be back in a few minutes then.”

Remington wiped away the tears from Laura’s cheeks, then realized his own were damp as well.   
“I’m sorry, Laura.  I don’t know what I was thinking.”

She nodded and leaned against him in a tight hug.  “Thank you for being here … and for bringing
Mom.  But I’ll never admit I said that.  She’s Kate’s problem now.”  She wiped away her remaining
tears and chuckled.  “You looked as if someone hit you over the head with a brick when you
walked into the room.”

“I’ll never be able to look at Kate the same way again.  Ah, love, don’t remind Murphy.  He might
pop me a good one just for the pleasure of it.”

“Maybe, maybe not.  You realize how much trust he showed you, giving you his son?”

Remington quipped, “He knew I would be too terrified to run.  There are some chairs at the end of
the hallway.  Care to sit for a few minutes?”  She nodded and Remington pulled her into his lap.  
They watched the doctors and nurses pile out of the room, pushing equipment in front of them.  
Laura snuggled her head into her husband’s shoulder, breathing in his cologne mixed with his own
clean scent.  Thankful for his presence, she began to doze lightly in his arms.  

Uncomfortable in the hard chair, Remington considered it part of his penance for his transgression.  
The rest would involve explanations to his wife.  Explanations he still didn’t quite have.  He closed
his own eyes and rested his head against the wall.

Murphy found them that way an hour later.  The nurses were moving Kate into a new room, and he
was to follow the babies to the nursery.  He stood a few feet away, not sure if he should wake
them, when Remington opened his eyes.  “An heir and a spare.  Not bad, Michaels, not bad at all.”

He grinned.  “Want to see them?”

Remington glanced down at Laura, who was stirring from her nap.  “I think I know the answer to
that.”

“To what?” she said sleepily.

“To whether or not you want to see the babies.”

Her eyes popped open, registering her brother-in-law.  “We can see them?  Oh!”  She stepped into
his embrace and hugged him hard.  “Congratulations, Murphy.  Where are they?”

Both men chuckled.  “This way.”  The proud new father indicated the nursery.



Laura pressed her nose to the glass.  “They’re perfect.  I can’t wait to hold them.”  Murphy was
inside, assisting the nurse with changing the boys’ diapers and taking measurements.  He had the
silliest look of satisfaction on his face.  Remington watched with his hands jammed in his pockets.  
He eventually pulled out a toothpick and chewed on it.

Her mother stepped in between them.  “They look just like your grandpa, Laura.”  Laura frowned.  
She thought they looked like little miniature Murphys with their blond hair, dark blue eyes
notwithstanding.  They had the same slant to their brows and cleft in their chin as their dad.  “Yes,
that little cleft is straight from my father.  He would be quite proud.”  Abigail sounded quite certain
of herself.

“He would, wouldn’t he?”  Remington pressed a kiss to Abigail’s cheek.  He winked at Laura.

“Mom, is Kate settled yet?”

“Yes, dear.  She’s in room 212.”

Laura found her sister’s room while Remington and her mom continued to watch the boys and
Murphy through the nursery window.  Kate smiled, her whole face lighting up as Laura came in.  
She opened her arms and Laura crawled onto the bed next to her.  They stayed that way, forehead
to forehead, until Murphy and Remington arrived, each pushing a bassinet.  Abigail and the Piper
family came in after them, and there was much shuffling as the family carved out personal space in
the tiny room.

Murphy handed the babies to the twins, introducing them to Laura in turn.  “The heir is Aiden
Murphy Michaels; the spare is Ian Sean Michaels.”  He nudged Remington with a wink.

“Hi, guys.”  Laura took Ian and kissed him on the forehead.  His sweet baby scent filled her with
contentment as she snuggled him closer.  She and Kate unwrapped the boys, comparing feet and
hands.  “They’re identical,” she announced.

“That’s what the doctor said,” Kate agreed.  “See?  They both have the same birthmark on their
thighs.”  While the twins admired the twins, Abigail pulled a small camera out of her purse and
snapped their picture.  The two men couldn’t help sidling up to their wives and peeking at the boys.  
She took that picture too.

When Frances absconded with Aiden, Laura glanced up at Remington and smiled.  “Do you want to
hold him?”

“Ah, Laura.”  He tried to warn her off.

“Come on, you’ve already had a crack at Aiden.  Here, have Ian.”  She put the tiny bundle into
Remington’s arms.  He sat with the child in the armchair next to Kate’s bed, taking in the red,
scrunched-up face and the slightly gaping mouth as the child slept.  The newborn was hard to hold
as he rolled up like a pill bug, and it took some shifting on Steele’s part to get the infant settled
against his chest where he could cradle the boy’s tiny body in his long hands.

The rest of the Holt clan chattered in the hospital room, with Abigail and Frances exchanging war
stories and advice.  From her perch near Kate, only Laura noted Remington’s stricken countenance
as he gently patted Ian’s bottom.  She eased off the bed and sat on the arm of his chair, letting her
body block her family’s view of him.  In a low voice, she called his name.  Her heart clenched at the
sheen in his blue eyes when he looked up.

“Why, Laura?” he croaked.

“Why what?”

“There isn’t a child in this room that I wouldn’t take in and care for as my own.  I’d be a terrible
father, but at least I would give a damn.”  His voice was sharper than he intended, and the rest of
the family looked over in surprise.  Not seeing their reaction, he scooted Ian nearer to his shoulder
and stroked the boy’s back.  The infant heaved a sigh and jammed his eyes more firmly shut--if
such a thing were possible.  Remington dropped his voice, but not low enough for the clan to miss
his words in the ensuing quiet.  “Not one, Laura.  Not a single one of those bloody cousins of mine
cared for anything more than the few pounds the government gave them for keeping me.”  She
touched his brow and drew the lock of hair away from his face before dropping her hand down to
caress his cheek.  “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, Laura, much less a child who only wants to know
where he belongs.  All for being born on the wrong side of the blankets.”

Abigail surprised them by speaking up.  “Remington, dear, some people only know one way to live.  
In order to be happy, they have to live by certain rules, and their lives can only go down one narrow
path.  And because those kinds of people never break the rules, they don’t understand that
happiness and love can happen anyway, and perhaps, in a better way.  It’s not your failing; it’s
theirs.  But perhaps they can be pitied, for they miss out on a large part of life.”

Laura turned around in shock.  “You dare say those things, Mother?  When I’ve lived my whole life
knowing I didn’t fit into your mold, into your narrow path of what you think a woman should be?”

“Oh, Laura, use that brain of yours.  Trying to get you to do things my way had nothing to do with
forcing you into a different life and everything to keep you from making the same mistakes your
father made.”

“His mistakes?” she echoed faintly.

Abigail glanced around and pointedly noted the three bright-eyed children behind her.  Taking the
hint, Donald immediately handed Mindy a few dollars from his wallet.  “Kids, you can get a snack
from the vending machine in the waiting room.  Laurie Beth, listen to your sister, and all of you
come right back.”  A chorus of whoops and giggles accompanied the children out the door.

She continued, “Dear, no one was harder on himself that he.  I fell in love with him because he was
so terribly bright and passionate; he insisted on forging his own path in everything.  But he
demanded too much of himself and held himself to a standard of perfection that no human could
attain.  He constantly disappointed himself.”  She gave a brief sigh.  “There came a day that he
finally threw everything away because he thought he was a complete failure.  He did it by doing the
one thing I wouldn’t tolerate--he had an affair.”

Abigail rose and took Aiden from Frances.  Very matter-of-factly, she said, “Laura, if you want to
know what will make Remington leave you, it’s your going to bed with another man.  It’s the only
thing he won’t forgive.”  He nodded involuntarily when her eyes met his.  She moved to stand near
him and laid a hand on his shoulder.  “I’m sorry your family   wasn’t made up of more
broadminded people.  You’re a welcome addition to our family, and I’m happy to know that Laura
has someone who loves her.”

She turned to her middle daughter.  “Laura, dear, all those years I saw you following in your    
father’s footsteps and becoming just as miserable as he.  Since Frances was so happy, I thought
perhaps if you were more like her, you would find a way to be content too.”

With another sigh, Abigail reflected, “I always thought if I loved your father enough that he would
learn to be happy with himself.  But my love wasn’t enough.  In his mind, happiness could only be
had one way--and life isn’t like that.  Like your family, Remington, it’s his failing.  And see all he
lost out on in the end?”  She waved a hand around to indicate her three daughters and the children
tumbling back into the room.

“We can’t change our past, Remington.  But we can be thankful that we know it’s not the only way
to live life, and we can choose differently for our future.  Each of my girls took a different path, and
each of them has found someone who respects and loves her.  And they all seem to be quite
content.”  She cooed at the baby in her arms.  “Really, that’s all any parent can hope for.  Daniel
certainly wanted it for you.  Now pass the baby around, dear.  Frances hasn’t had a chance to hold
him yet.”



Later that day, the Steeles found a nearby hotel where they could get a decent night’s sleep before
having one last visit with the new family and heading home the following afternoon.  Not caring that
it was only four-fifteen, Laura stripped out of her clothes, showered and crawled into bed.  
Remington followed suit, but she was sound asleep by the time he joined her.

Somewhere around midnight, she woke first.  Without moving, she watched her husband slumber
while she reflected on her mother’s assertions.  Her mom wasn’t wrong about any of it although the
fact that she’d pegged a couple of points about Remington that Laura had missed annoyed her.

Or maybe she hadn’t.  Somehow Laura had always known, even when she and Remington weren’t
“committed,” that if she crossed the line and slept with someone else, he would have been gone.  
His possessiveness was a very real thing that she contended with often enough.  He wasn’t jealous
exactly, just afraid of not having her.

More than ever, she was grateful for Remington’s constant challenges to her psyche.  He never let
her stand on principle unless she could firmly defend her stance.  There was no getting away with
arbitrary decisions, just because that was the way "things were supposed to be."  Each time she fell
short of her own standards, he took it in stride and showed her how she was a better person because
of it.  He used her own logic to make her see other possibilities--something her mother hadn’t been
able to do with her father.

Laura understood that he was able to do these things because he had so few absolutes in his own
life.  He knew far better than most that everything from personality to moral standards was
negotiable, depending on the circumstances.  The principles he did have were grounded only in his
own experience and choices, certainly not his upbringing.  In fact, perhaps the only constants in his
life so far had been Daniel and herself.  It was no wonder he had a tendency to panic whenever he
thought he was losing her--the time in London after losing the agency license, the whole INS fiasco,
and now this.  Thank heavens, this time it was on a much smaller scale.

She wondered if he understood that, while she loved her mother and sisters deeply, her first loyalty
was to him.  Unconsciously, she sighed and Remington woke to the soft sound.

As usual, he snapped awake.  When he saw Laura lying next to him, he groaned and rolled to his
back, covering his face with his hands.

She leaned up on an elbow.  “That’s not your usual reaction to me when you wake up.  Was it
something I said?”

He snorted with laughter and scrubbed at his face before pulling his hands away.  “Laura.”  He
turned his head and furrowed his brow at her, taking in the warmth in her brown eyes.  “You’re not
angry with me.”

“I never am when I understand the problem, Mr. Steele.”

With two fingers, he reached over and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear.  “Why is it that
sometimes I have the feeling that you know me better than I do?”

Catching his fingers before he could draw them away, she kissed the tips.  “You usually give me a
fair number of clues to follow.”

He shook his head as he held her hand.  “Only you would say that, love.”  He’d built a life out of
keeping himself elusive and unreadable, letting others see only what they expected.  Yet Laura could
reach deep into his mind and pick out the very details that unraveled the mystery of him.  And no
matter what she found, she accepted him with aplomb.

The sheets rustled as he shifted to her side, connecting his body to hers from shoulder to toes.  
Without a word he buried his face in her hair, needing her in a most fundamental way.  And when
he pulled back to look at her face, he brushed her cheek with his thumb.  “I know I don’t tell you
this very often, Laura.  Not nearly often enough.  I love you.”

With the sly smile he adored, she slid across his body until she straddled him.  Lacing her hands
with his, she said, “I know you love me.  You tell me every," she kissed his forehead, "single," his
cheek, "day,” and captured his lips with her own.