FAMILY STEELE, PART 7: INHERITANCE OF STEELE, PART 2
BY: Phaedra Phelan
SUMMARY: Remington and Laura discover what Daniel left them in the south of France and discover a mystery there as well.
DISCLAIMER: This "Remington Steele" story is not-for-profit and is purely for entertainment purposes. The author and this site do not own the characters and are in no way affiliated with "Remington Steele," the actors, their agents, the producers, MTM Productions, the NBC Television Network or any station or network carrying the show in syndication, or anyone in the industry.
The next morning Remington and Laura were on the four-hour flight to Marseille by 9:45. Both of them were quiet as they sat on the plane winging its way to the south of France. There was much to reflect upon in their relationship with each other, their feelings about their past before meeting.
Remington took Laura's hand without a word and held it, kissed the inside of her palm, and placed it back on her lap. Laura flushed slightly, the sight of her husband in a light blue shirt and burgundy tie paired with a flawlessly tailored tan tweed sports jacket and tan slacks would not let her forget how beautiful a man he was. He appeared relaxed, his passions calmed completely for the moment. She knew that she had taken good care of him, allayed the powerful lust that consumed him much of the time. And he had taken care of her as well. She had come to realize that her passions were altogether equal to his, and her hands trembled slightly when she remembered the sensation of clasping him deep inside her several hours before.
"Penny for your thoughts, Laura."
"I was thinking about us . . . wondering how we ever went abstinent for nearly four years . . . how it was possible."
"We were insane, weren't we? I only know that I lost desire for anyone else, and that the possibility of having you superseded everything else. It was the most agonizing experience of my life, wanting you, needing you, trying to prove that I was worthy of you. I sometimes think that I am still trying to prove that, Laura."
"You don't have to worry. I'm the one with the insecurities. I just have to get past them. I think that I am and then something happens . . . like seeing that woman that you slept with and I get so scared."
"I can't bear it when you cry and I know that it is somehow bound up in me, in things that I have done, things I cannot change."
Laura took his hand and held it between hers and then pressed it against the softness of her cheek. There was no need for more words.
It was nearly one in the afternoon when they landed at Marseille International Airport, quickly made their way through customs, and took a taxi to their hotel. It was the quaint, picturesque Residence Du Vieux in the heart of the old seaport district.
Remington checked them in and they were glad to find the comfort of the spacious airy room with its white bed linen and French Provincial furniture. Remington waited for the bellman to deposit their things and turned to Laura.
"So what do you imagine that we can do to occupy ourselves, in that Édouard is not scheduled to arrive till this evening?"
"I would like to do some shopping," Laura murmured as she walked toward him and into his arms. "I think I might like some French lingerie."
"I guess we both have the same idea, love," Remington said as he began to kiss her cheeks and her forehead
Just as their lips were about to meet, there was a knock on the door.
"I thought the days of our being interrupted when kissing were over," Laura said.
"I did too." Remington growled as he tried to quell his passions.
He opened the door, and much to his surprise Kadijah Kamisooka was standing there.
"Kadijah. Come in."
Kadijah came into the room, her presence filling it. Her plum-colored sable-trimmed leather jacket and slacks, her makeup, her impeccably manicured hands, everything about her, said 'money' pure and simple. It was easy to see how she had been able to use that façade to gain entry to the highest circles of European society.
"This is my wife, Laura. Laura, Kadijah Kammisooka."
Laura extended her hand and the two women carefully surveyed one another.
"And may I ask, first of all, how you knew we were here . . . at this hotel, and secondly why you are here if you know nothing about the jewels that are supposedly hidden in Les Baux-de-Provence?"
"You are not difficult to follow, Harry. I am here because I want to explain the danger of your situation to you."
"All right. Who has been looking for the . . . gems?" Remington asked.
"It is Ignacio. He was the man I . . . I worked with after Daniel. He knew about the agreement that Daniel and I had."
"What about the agreement, Kadijah? What happened?"
"Daniel never told you?"
"No, he did not."
"I became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy. He is nineteen years old. I left him with my sister in Chicago. She raised him for me."
"Did Daniel keep his part of the bargain?"
Kadijah laughed caustically. "Did you? Over the years he kept saying that it was just too difficult to fence the merchandise . . . one excuse after another."
"How did you know about this property?" Laura asked this question.
"I was the one who told him about it. I knew that my friends there wanted to sell it. Daniel told me that he wanted to buy the property and that some day he was going to retire there. Then I saw this piece in a French paper. It describes gems just like the ones I took that have been missing for nearly twenty years. A reward is offered for information etc. etc. It occurred to me that perhaps Daniel had never resolved the matter."
"So you told this Ignacio fellow what happened and he is determined to find the gems that you surmised that Daniel hid on this property in Provence."
"I had no idea he would try to find the gems. I told him that I did not know where Daniel was."
"What possessed you to bring someone else from the business into this?"
"He was curious about Bryce's parentage. Finally one day I just told him the story. I thought I could trust him. But he told me that he would tell my son what I really do for a living if I didn't give him all the information I had, Harry. My son . . . my son thinks that I am an executive with a fashion house in France. He is in his freshman year at Ohio State. A fine boy. I named him Bryce Daniel."
"Dear God, he would be my half brother." Remington could not continue momentarily as the impact of what Kadijah told him sank in.
"Yes, he would be. I see that your life has gone on quite well. You are even more handsome than you were as the young man that I remember. And you are with a woman who obviously fulfills your needs."
"Laura and I have twin girls. I run a private investigation business in Los Angeles with her. I have found my life with Laura." Remington put his arm around Laura's waist and drew her close and the look in his eyes made it clear that all memories of past liaisons had dimmed into insignificance since he found her.
"Laura, you are obviously what Harry needed. I am happy for you."
"All of that does not straighten out the mess that has developed around Daniel's unfinished business. Incidentally, what is the value of the gems we're talking about?"
"Probably five million dollars in uncut diamonds from a diamond cutter in Marseille who was part of a consortium of diamond dealers based here."
"A consortium or a gang, Kadijah? This is Marseille, remember?"
"Who asks questions if the merchandise is there. These people do business, a great deal of it. These stones were part of a consignment that they were working on for Harry Winston. I met the oldest son of the family through a mutual friend and engaged him to make up a couple special pieces for me. When he turned his back, I walked out with merchandise. He knew that I took them and sent the gendarmes after me where I was staying with friends in Les Baux-de-Provence. I hid the gems and just got out in time. The gendarmes never found anything on me. Daniel later bought the property when my friends sold it. They had no idea what was there."
"What do you want from us, Kadijah?" Laura wanted to know where this whole scenario was leading.
"I want to know what you do if you find the gems?"
"I am on the straight and narrow, Kadijah. I will return them to the rightful owners. At the going rate of ten percent, there should be a hefty finder's fee. I will see that you receive that for your son."
"Suppose that would not be acceptable?"
"I walk the straight and narrow these days, Kadijah. That is the only offer I can make. Interpol is already alerted that this cache of gems may be about to surface again and I am sure that they have notified La Sûreté. As a known private investigator I can get them returned and obtain the finders' fee for you. That is your only option."
"Ignacio and his gang are pretty nasty. I don't think they would take kindly to your solution."
"They . . . Ignacio's men are the ones that followed Édouard Présendieu to Los Angeles, I gather."
"Yes, they are."
"He found through a newspaper item that the gems have remained at large and that the owners are still wanting them back."
"And who might that be?"
"The diamond cutting family here in Marseille, the Pierre-Jules. I 'obtained' the diamonds from the oldest son of that family. It turned out that they were uninsured so it was pure loss. Ignacio wants to make his own deal with them for half current value. I don't think that he will take kindly to your giving them back for a standard finder's fee in the neighborhood of ten percent."
"Do you actually know where these gems are hidden, Kadijah?"
"No. I went to the place there several years ago to find them. They had been moved. I don't know where Daniel put them."
"Well, that is quite a problem," Laura said. "Has it occurred to you that Daniel may have disposed of the gems years ago?"
"Yes, but they have never shown up. In our circles we hear about these things. Daniel simply hid them again. He didn't need the money so he left it where it was."
"Where is Ignacio now?" Remington asked.
"I don't know. I slipped away from him in London to come here and warn you of what is going on. He probably has figured that I came here. I will not stay. I must go back to London tonight."
"My offer stands, Kadijah. The finder's fee to you for your son. Also the proceeds from the vineyard there are considerable according to Édouard Présendieu and I will see to it that appropriate disbursements are made to . . . to Bryce Daniel. Give me a U.S. address for him in the event there is need to contact him directly."
Kadijah hesitated for a moment.
"You have played this game for a long time, Kadijah. You know that nothing is guaranteed, not one moment, not even one hour of life in this business. Ignacio has no intention of giving you anything. My advice to you is to go back to Chicago and try to fade out of the picture there. I will contact you when this mess is over."
Kadijah was stunned at the realization that she had been double-conned at her own game and that she was in a situation where her life could be in some real danger.
"I guess that I'm getting too old for this business."
"Think seriously about giving it up. I hear that prison is a lonely place to spend your golden years."
Kadijah gave them her card with the necessary information and rose to leave.
"I am glad you have found someone to share your life, Harry. And I'm truly sorry to have put you or your family in any danger."
"I think that your connection with Daniel somehow makes you family too, doesn't it? Family is important. I appreciate that more than you could possibly realize at this point in my life."
Remington took her hands and kissed Kadijah gently on each cheek before she left their room.
Remington and Laura sat afterward trying to absorb what had happened.
"This thing is quite dangerous, darling. Are you sure that you want to stay here? I could put you on a flight back to London this evening. You could wait at Uncle David's till I get to the bottom of this."
"Not a chance. Do you think I'd leave you over here in the middle of this?"
"Can you imagine? I have a half-brother. God! Daniel was a cad, wasn't he? Made a bargain, used that woman to the full, and then didn't ante up with her money in the final analysis. And then had the nerve, the unmitigated gall, to die and leave the bloody mess unsettled like this!"
Remington paced back and forth in the room in complete exasperation at the circumstance they found themselves in.
"I think that you should call Uncle David and tell him what Ignacio is up to. His connections with Interpol and La Sûreté will prove useful here. And then we should perhaps find the Pierre-Jules diamond cutters and see whom we will be dealing with. I will call Mildred and Alessandra and have them try to find out something about them." Laura's keen mind was arranging and sorting the information that they had at hand.
"I'm going downstairs to look about a bit. I only trust Kadijah to a point, Laura. I will ask for the Pierre-Jules people as well. Along the way I'll pick up a nice bottle of Beaujolais and some cheese and bread for us. Darling, will you call David Chalmers and tell him what we're dealing with here."
"Sounds good to me," Laura said. She was already dialing the United States to get to Mildred or Alessandra as he left the room.
Remington walked about the section of Marseille with its cafés and shops. He always felt at home in France for some reason. Perhaps it was his comfortable use of the language, but it never seemed to be a strange place to him. There was no sign of Kadijah Kamisooka. The concierge had indicated that she left in a car that had waited for her so he was not surprised.
As Remington wandered into the small winding streets that were the quarter where the Pierre-Jules establishment was located, it was evident that this was, in fact, an upscale part of the old city that wore its aura of seediness as a sort of camouflage. As he walked casually past a heavy door with a brass plate that said simply "Pierre-Jules Bijoux, Ltd.," he became aware that someone was following him. Stepping quickly into a side court, he waited till the one behind him was even with him and caught him by the collar and yanked him into the courtyard with him.
"Diable! Vous voulez quelques-choses?" ("Devil! You want something!")
"Non, non, Monsieur! Je travaille pour Pierre-Jules." ("I work for Pierre-Jules.")
"Prendez moi a lui, maintenant!" ("Take me to him, now!")
The man led him back down the street and to the door that he had passed. It was not locked but upon entering inside it was very well fortified and it was quite evident that no one could get past the reception area without clearance.
A large gray-haired Frenchman came into the area and beckoned for Remington to follow him, which he did. They were in the world behind the scenes of a diamond-cutting establishment. When they arrived at his office, the man gestured for Remington to sit down opposite him.
"Quite an establishment, Mr. . . .?"
"Je suis Jean Pierre-Jules, Monsieur Remington Steele."
"C'est bien de faire votre connaissance. Evidemment vous me connaissez."
"You have something belonging to me, I believe."
"If I have something that belongs to you, sir, I will give it back to you."
"Je parle des bijoux, M. Steele. Kadijah, cette femme mechant, me volé et je pense que vous avez mes diamantes. J'ai attendu quelques années pour mes biens." (I speak of jewels, Mr. Steele. Kadijah, that wicked woman, robbed me, and I thing that you have my diamonds. I have waited some years for my goods.)
Remington did not miss the anger in Jean Pierre-Jules' voice when he spoke of Kadijah. He hoped that she had been able to get her flight back out of France.
"I know who you are and you know who I am. I go to Les Baux-de-Provence tomorrow. If I find what you are looking for, I am sure that you will hear about it. Of course you know that someone else is looking as well."
"Ignacio. Pas un probleme."
Remington rose from his seat.
"Now I must go. My wife will wonder where I am."
"Certainment. Elle est belle."
Remington knew now that Pierre-Jules had spotted them when they came into France and was watching their movements. He appeared unaffected as he prepared to leave.
"Then I am sure that you know everything else you want to know. I only warn you not to resort to anything illegal, mon ami. Interpol is watching as well." Remington nodded subtly to indicate a "heads up" to Jean Pierre-Jules and walked out of his office without looking back.
When he left the building, there was a black Citröen waiting.
"To take you to hotel, M. Steele," the man who had brought him into the establishment said.
Remington into the car and rode the few blocks back to his hotel, got out of the car and went along the street to shop, the picture of cool aplomb. He saw a boutique that he had spotted earlier, a place specializing in lingerie and went in. The lingerie shop had just the type of things that he had in mind for Laura and the plump middle-aged woman that waited on him was simply charming.
"Je voudrais quelque chose pour ma femme, quelque chose special, madame. . . brassieres, des calecons. Je pense que j'ai bésoin d'aide. Vous-êtes Therese?" (I want something for my wife, something special, madam. Brassieres, panties. I think that I need some help here. You are Therese?) He took note of her name on a badge pinned to her blouse.
"Oui, je m'appel Therese. Et, monsieur, quel sort de lingerie?"
"Un minimum, madame, de sois, et presque transparent." (Very little and very sheer . . . silk, madam.) Remington's mouth turned up at the corners as he deliberately teased the woman.
"Oo la, la, vous-êtes tres specifique, monsieur. J'ai quelques choses comme vous avez decrit." (You are very specific, monsieur. I do have some things that fit your description.)
She put several clear Lucite boxes on the counter full of filmy brassieres and panties.
Remington gravitated to sheer bikini panties and there were brassieres of the same shiny silk in matching colors.
"Et la taille, monsieur?" (And the size, sir?)
"Elle est petite modèle . . . les hanches, le cul, mais les seins sont formidable." (She is quite tiny, her hips, her bottom, but her breasts are quite amazing.) Remington gestured to illustrate the full-bosom of his wife. "Et je voudrais vois tout, Therese, le profil de le mamelon, le coleur de l'aréole. Je voudrais justement un peu de soutien parce que j'aime de regarder des seins bondent quand elle marche . . . comme ils sont completement libre. Ils sont si belle." (I want to see everything . . . I want just a little support because I love to see her breasts bounce when she walks . . . as if they are completely free. They are so lovely.)
"Mon cher, vous êtes vraiment méchant. Étes-vous certain que vous desirez que votre femme porte une brassiere. Peut-être vous preferez que elle ne porte pas quelque chose." (My dear, you are quite wicked. Are you sure that you wish your wife to wear a brassiere? Perhaps you would prefer that she go braless.)
"Oui, madame, c'est ma preference; mais ma femme est une peu timide." (Yes, madam, it is what I would prefer, but my wife is somewhat shy.) Remington's eyes twinkled as he enjoyed his répartée with the mature saleswoman.
"Je vois. C'est bien . . . un bon accommodement. Actuellement elle paraîtra presque nu avec des choses comme ça." (I see. These are nice, a good compromise. Actually she will look as if she is wearing practically nothing with these.)
"Ah, et je pense que je peut prendre des calecons là avec des autres choses." (I think I'll take these panties with the other things.) He gestured at the very briefest of panties that lay on the counter.
"Bien sûr, monsieur. C'est la dernière mode." (Of course. These are the latest fashion.)
He had picked out a dozen brassieres and panties for Laura and Theresa packaged everything in a lovely silver colored shopping bag for him. Then he left there and stopped at other shops for wine, bread, cheese, and olives before going into the hotel.
The fellow in the Citröen simply watched him.
When Remington came back into their hotel room, Laura was still on the phone with David Chalmers. She had shed her outer clothing and was sitting Indian fashion in the middle of the bed taking notes with her large horn-rimmed glasses on. Her long hair fell forward hiding part of her face, but she was clad only in her lacy camisole and panties as she concentrated totally on the matters at hand. Remington loved to see her like this.
"I'm glad you're back. David got some other information on the Pierre-Jules family. Why don't you speak with him since you're here now?"
Remington took the phone.
"It's Remington, Uncle David. Actually I just had an encounter with Jean Pierre-Jules. It was somewhat threatening but otherwise harmless. He let me know that they want their merchandise in no uncertain terms."
"Well, they aren't the cleanest chaps themselves by any means. They are known for getting their diamonds in somewhat unorthodox fashion. That's why the gems you are looking for weren't insured. It is believed that the diamonds were actually stolen from a very straightforward diamond-cutting establishment in Amsterdam. They have the paperwork, bills of sale, et cetera for gems matching this description. You will find that nothing of this sort is in the possession of Jean Pierre-Jules and his group."
"So the thieves have stolen from the thieves, eh? And now Ignacio proposes to be at least the fourth or fifth thief to come into the picture."
"Interpol is looking for Ignacio. There are outstanding warrants. Hopefully we can find him before he finds you, Remington. The Interpol net is quite effective."
"In the meantime, we wait for Édouard. He has yet to arrive. If he shows up tonight, it might be wise to leave Marseille under cover of darkness."
"This is true. Be very careful, son."
Remington finished the call and turned to Laura.
"It looks as if we have the makings of a full-fledged mystery here. A veritable flock of thieves."
"Mildred verifies the shady nature of the Pierre-Jules diamond-cutting operation. They have been known to operate to the left of the law for years. Your friend, Kadijah, probably felt like Robin Hood stealing from them."
Laura saw the packages that Remington had brought in.
"So what did you buy?"
"Wine, cheese, a baguette, and a little something for you, love."
Laura reached for the silvery shopping bag and was about to open it when she felt a twinge in her side. She winced slightly.
"What's the matter, darling?"
"Just a pain in my side . . . since this morning really."
Remington smiled and drew her into his arms.
Laura realized with surprise that he was probably right. She went to her cosmetic case to get a thermometer and took her temperature while Remington watched with amusement.
"So it is."
"Well, what are we going to do? This is not exactly the time . . ."
Remington removed her glasses and drew Laura into his arms, kissing her, his hands slipping under the camisole so that he could find her bare flesh.
"In reality it is exactly the time, darling."
"Rem, it is. Oh, my goodness! What about this case?"
"This case is not going anywhere till we resolve it. But we have only forty-eight to seventy-two hours to work on this project."
"Rem, Rem . . ." Laura sighed as her husband kissed her over and over.
"Nothing else matters, love. Nothing else."
"I . . . I know. I can't think about anything else when you hold me like this."
Laura helped Remington out of his clothes as he continued to kiss her all over her face and neck and breasts. Their room was shaded from the late afternoon sun as Remington knelt over her on the large iron bed dressed with white starched linen. They stared at each other, transfixed, and then Remington began to kiss Laura, the kisses quickly escalating in intensity till they were both consumed with the urge to copulate. When Remington came into her, it was as if their bodies locked in coitus, Laura's parts gripping his so tightly that he cried out in pleasurable agony.
"I love you, Laura. I love you! Do you know how much I love you?"
They sensed when they came together that afternoon in Marseille it was different, that their need to couple was a primitive basic one that transcended their love and passion for one another, that it was all about the business of procreating.
They lay together in that big iron bed the rest of the afternoon, loving, dozing, and then loving again till finally they fell fast asleep. When Remington finally awakened, the room was in semi-darkness and Laura was kissing him all over his face.
"Darling, what a lovely way to waken," he said sleepily.
"I love the lingerie. You are so bad!" Laura exclaimed. (She had forgotten to look into the contents of the silver shopping bag earlier and had gotten up and remembered to check it out.)
"That's what the saleslady said to me when I told her what I wanted."
"And these outrageous panties!"
"I thought they might be nice when I want to spank you a bit." Remington winked lasciviously and drew her into his arms and onto him so that he could squeeze her shapely hips.
"Remy!" Laura squealed with delight. "Remy . . . Remy. . .stop. . . stop. Let me go," she said, pretending to try to wiggle out of his arms.
"Only if you promise to model the lingerie for me, darling," Remington said teasingly.
Laura put on the lingerie her husband had bought for her and showed it off for him. Then she turned on the stereo in their room and using the iron bedpost as a prop, began an exotic dance for him.
"So I finally get to see that dance you did in Acapulco, darling. I can't imagine how anyone who was there could ever forget it."
"I will dance for you anytime you want. You've never asked."
The dance ended with her tossing the filmy bra aside and shaking her bare hips tantalizingly in the revealing panties.
Remington's blue eyes burned like fire as he lay watching his wife. This was a side of Laura that she had kept carefully hidden from him even in their most passionate moments.
"Come here, you lovely wench," he said, his voice hoarse with excitement. He was completely intoxicated at the sight of Laura like this. He felt arousal permeate every fiber of his being in a pure animal lust that blurred his vision and blocked out everything else. Grabbing Laura, he tossed her on the bed and fell upon her, impaling her with his flesh, growling and grunting like a wild man as he used her.
"Yes! Yes!" Laura gasped as he took her. "I think you need a wench tonight! Yes! Yes!"
"Yes! Love me, woman! Love me like this!"
It was another hour before they were finally able to drag themselves from the bed, shower, and try to start to dress for dinner.
"What did you say your name was? I don't think we have met," Remington teased.
"No, we haven't. I'm 'Lorelie' and your wife sent me to dance for you tonight."
"Tell my 'wife' that I approve wholeheartedly of her choice," Remington said, enjoying the passionate charade.
"She thought that you might be able to handle a little more spice in your life about now." Laura said, pushing him back onto the bed and climbing onto him again.
"If I'd known that new knickers would bring this on, I would have bought them much sooner," Remington quipped as Laura now took advantage of him, like a beautiful vixen on him, enjoying him, pleasuring him.
And Remington lost all sense of everything else but the sensation of absolute pleasure in the pit of his belly, finally pulling her down upon his chest so that he could drink kiss after kiss from her open mouth.
"Oh, God! Woman!" Remington cried out when Laura bit him near his collarbone. He smacked her hard upon her buttocks, and they saw stars as the climax rolled over them again.
It was all tenderness after the passionate storm had passed-gentle kisses, cuddling, Remington apologizing for the bruises that were already showing on Laura's torso from his tourbillion, Laura kissing the bleeding spot where she had bitten him like a wild woman. They lay quietly together whispering, calming themselves and recovering in the afterglow.
"Why don't we finish getting dressed and go find something to eat so that we will have the energy to fulfill all the rest of our fantasies, darling," Remington said softly as he held his wife in his arms.
They showered together and finally got dressed. Laura slipped on a simple bright blue long-sleeved dress of tissue-like silk that featured a wide bateau neckline. It skimmed her slender figure, the fabric clinging to her breasts just as Remington had wanted. She left her hair down on her shoulders like a shiny chestnut curtain.
"You look beautiful tonight."
"And you as well, darling." Laura adjusted Remington's tie and they went out.
As they walked through the street of restaurants and cafés, Remington kept his arm around her waist. They were still flushed, obviously caught up in one another from their passionate afternoon.
"Why is everyone looking at us?" Laura asked her husband.
"They sense what we are feeling. They know."
"And what do you suppose they know?"
"They're French, darling. They know all about matters of passion and of the heart. They sense that I am in love with you, that we have been . . . together. They know you've got me, woman, . . . hook, line, and sinker, as you Americans say. We both probably look quite satisfied about now."
"I am satisfied . . . completely." Laura turned to face her husband in the street as people continued to stroll by them. "I feel a fullness . . . inside me, a beautiful fullness."
They stared at each other and then they were in each others arms embracing, forgetting where they were for the moment, and then remembering.
"Darling, we are in the street," Laura protested weakly.
"What the hell," Remington murmured as he kissed her cheek and then her forehead. "We are in France, and we are having a most beautiful time. And I love you. I love you so much, Laura."
"Will we also lead those men who are following us to think that we are only here in Marseille to enjoy each other?"
"Umm, yes, hopefully." Remington kissed her lightly upon her mouth and they continued on their way.
They made their way into a restaurant where Remington first ordered a bucket of steamed mussels for them. They were ravenous and made short work of the mussels, dipping fresh crusty French bread into the tasty broth till every bit of it was gone.
"This is fantastic, Rem. I did not realize how hungry I was."
"Well, I hope that you have appetite . . . for food . . . left. I ordered the specialité of the house, the bouillabaise, darling. They invented it here in this city. The Marseillais are not just known for their cache of international criminals. They have a corner on the best bouillabaise in the world, and this very spot, Chez Anton, is known for its version."
At that point their waiter brought the steaming bowls of rich soup with croutons. The fish-chunks of monkfish, snapper, grouper and the required rascasse-was presented on a separate warmed platter.
"Show me how to eat this, darling."
Laura watched fascinated as her husband demonstrated how to smear the croutons of French bread with rich creamy garlicky rouille and take fish and potatoes from the warm platter to add to the broth.
"It's marvelous, isn't it?" Remington said. He always loved to watch Laura eat. She never pretended to be less hungry than she really was, but attacked a good meal with a gusto that matched his.
They were temporarily occupied with the meal and did not say much except an occasional 'ooh' or 'ah' as the flavors captured their senses. Finally they sat back, satisfied, and Remington surveyed Laura as he enjoyed another glass of the white wine, a Cassis, native to the area that he had chosen to accompany the food.
"I enjoyed this day so much, darling? Why have you hidden this side of you from me so carefully? Not to say that you are not always the most passionate lover I could ever imagine." The fire in his cobalt eyes was clearly visible to Laura even in the candlelight of the restaurant.
"I have always thought that you would think less of me if I showed you that side of me. Wilson . . . was shocked by it."
"Wilson could not have handled what I saw today, love."
"And you can?" Laura flirted with Remington over the top of her wine glass.
"It was a marvelous and beautiful gift. I shall never forget it as long as I live. I hope that 'Lorelie' will come to visit often. If I may ask, why did you decide to let me meet this side of you now?"
"I don't really know why. It just happened. Maybe I . . . love you and trust you so much that I'm not afraid any more. I know that I don't want you to ever feel that you have to look anywhere else for any umm . . . need that you may have."
"If I waited four long celibate years for you, why do you think that I would be tempted to want any other woman now. All the others, none of them compare to you. None of them could, because it is so much more than just your lovely arse that we are about."
"Well, you always seem to be very interested in my . . . behind. I just want to keep it that way."
"Touché!" Remington could not deny that statement. He mulled over that for a moment and then continued. "When we were over the edge today, I bruised you in my tourbillion. I never meant to hurt you, but I must admit that smacking your arse does give me great pleasure. It is something so basic, so primitive. I don't pretend that I understand it."
"I enjoy it when you do it," Laura said simply. "I never thought that I would ever say that, but it's true. Playing Tarzan and Jane was never in my plan, but I think I'm beginning to understand this man/woman thing on a whole different level."
"I think that we will never learn it all, Laura."
"I know that I never will. I don't even understand myself when I'm with you. I just know that I love you. I love you so much it hurts sometimes." Laura gripped her husband's hand and he felt the intensity of her passion for him.
"Dance with me, darling."
Remington held on to Laura's hand and led her onto the floor in the small restaurant and they moved slowly to the strains of Charles Aznavour singing "Embraceable You."
Un baiser, mon adorable poupée!
Un baiser, irrésistible beauté!
Un regard de toi peut faire chavirer mon coeur.
Je sais que toi seule peut faire mon bonheur!
J'aime tout ce qui me parle de toi . . .
"I love you, too, Laura. I love you so much . . . all of the many facets of who you are, all the mystery." Remington's face flushed and his finely sculptured nostrils quivered as he felt her body mold to his and his own flesh responded subtly in characteristic fashion.
"You're still surprised at me, aren't you?"
"I never would have dreamed that you would keep such a marvelous aspect of your . . . psyche secret for nearly ten years. What will the next ten years bring, darling?" Remington gazed down at her, the corners of his mouth turning upward in his most engaging manner, as he tried to suppress a full-fledged grin
Laura smiled, showing the dimples he loved so and simply shrugged her shoulders.
Ne sois pas si méchante,
Viens, mon chou-chou, viens, mon chou-chou, viens!
Mon adorable poupée.
Remington hugged Laura and then pursed his lips and dropped kisses on her forehead, on her cheeks, and then finally claimed her mouth as the Aznavour played on.
"Viens, mon chou-chou," Remington said to Laura, kissing her upon her hand. He paid the check and they made their way from the restaurant and back into the street.
It was late, but the avenue was full of activity . . . couples like themselves walking arm-in-arm, tourists taking in the sights of Marseille's somewhat seamy nightlife and harbor. Remington and Laura walked slowly back to their hotel, appearing to be totally caught up in one another, but Remington sensed that something was afoot. He saw the car easing upon them from the corner of his eye.
"We are going to really act like French lovers, Laura. Step away from the curb to the building here. I fear that we are about to be taken somewhere we don't want to go."
Remington and Laura moved close to the building and he pinned Laura against the wall, kissing her passionately over and over.
"It's hard to pretend with you," Laura whispered as the car that had been following them bumped the curb. The driver had to wrestle to gain control of the vehicle and lost sight of the Steeles for the moment. Two nearby gendarmes came forth immediately to investigate the problem.
At that moment there was a familiar voice from the narrow passageway between the buildings.
"M. Steele, venez, venez." It was Édouard Présendieu.
The Steeles eased into the alley and followed him to the back where an aging Peugeot was parked.
"I have trouble with car. I find you but you are enjoying . . . Marseille."
"We were being followed, Édouard."
"Je sais. Je pense que le conducteur était si interessé dans votre activité comme des amants que il a perdu le control de sa voiture." (I think the driver was so interested in your actions as lovers that he lost control of his car.) Édouard chuckled softly.
Remington and Laura got into the back of the car and Édouard was off.
"What about our things at the hotel?"
"I have. Mon cousin travaille là. Il a trouver votre baggage pour moi. Vous pouvez simplement telephoner demain et payer le note. Il soit tros dangereuse d'aller là maintenant, Monsieur." (My cousin works there. He retrieved your baggage for me. You simply may telephone and settle your bill tomorrow. It would be too dangerous to go there now.)
"Ah, vous-êtes tres efficace, Édouard." (You are quite efficient, Edouard.)
"Merci, M. Steele. Maintenant, nous allons a Les Baux. Vous pouvez reposez si vous voulez. J'ai une bonne route. Nous ne serons pas troublé par les gens dans le Citröen." (Thank you, Mr. Steele. Now we go to Les Baux. You may rest if you wish. I have a good route. We will not be troubled by the men in the Citröen.)
"Well, our man seems to have taken care of everything, love. We are quite under way. You have had quite a day. Why don't you just rest here in my arms? I fear that tomorrow will be no less rigorous."
"We have to figure out what those men wanted with us, why they were following us."
"Not now. We have a couple hours drive and I want you to rest, darling, because we are going to need that marvelous brain of yours working at top speed to solve this case, I fear."
There was a blanket on the seat and Remington wrapped it around Laura, drawing her close to his warmth against the cool night air and she fell asleep almost immediately. Remington did not sleep. Although he should have been exhausted from the passionate demands of the day, he was somehow energized at the prospect of solving the mystery around these activities of his late father.
Remington looked down at the woman who slept in his arms and he was overwhelmed with love for her. He smoothed her hair, kissed her forehead, drawing her even closer as she slumbered.
'God, I love this woman. She was unbelievable today-like I've never seen her. I thought I had seen all her sensual moods, but this was such an experience. I was overcome with lust, like a crazed man, falling upon her like that. I want so to make another baby with her. That urge is so strong in me. I should be exhausted but I am so intoxicated with her that I want her again already. Being inside her body, being in ecstasy with her, feeling her wanting me so, hearing her moaning and crying my name . . . Laura, my life!'
The drive through Provence by way of back roads took nearly two hours and it was after three a.m. when they reached Les Baux de Provence, the location of the property that Daniel had alluded to so often.
"Voila, M. Steele. Nous sommes ici!" Édouard exclaimed as they drove into a driveway that wound itself up and around till they were in front of a villa that was imposing even at night.
Laura had awakened and she and Remington were all eyes as the Peugeot came to a halt.
"I take you inside. Ma mere, she make things nice for you." He handed the keys to the house to Remington Steele.
Remington and Laura quickly came up the steps to the front door and used the keys to open the door as Édouard easily carried all their baggage up the steps and into the house and turned the lights on in the front foyer.
"My, my," Remington exclaimed, "Daniel was never one to do things in small terms, was he?"
"No, I guess he wasn't," Laura concurred as she looked around the entrance hall and wandered into the adjoining salon to the left and grand dining room to the right.
The furnishings were spare but well-chosen, French provincial pieces that were all aging quite well.
"I take you to master room. You like it."
They followed Édouard up a wide staircase that led into a hallway with what appeared to be at least half a dozen rooms off it. They passed all the other rooms and he opened the last door at the end of the hall and they were in a huge master bedroom decorated with an eclectic mix of French country and other light-colored furniture. The dominating feature was a huge four-poster bed dressed with pale blue starched linen. The fragrance of lavender seemed to overlay the room in what was almost a total seduction of the senses.
"It's beautiful, Édouard. Your mother, votre mere a fait ça?" (Your mother did this?) Laura's French was improving and Remington smiled proudly at her efforts.
"Oui, Madame. Merci beaucoup. Il y a cinq salle a coucher ici. You pouvez d'avoir bien des invitées. Durant l'été nous avons bien des visiteurs. M. Steele, ma petite maison est en bas. Si vous avez des besoins vous pouvez simplement signaller avec le cordon rouge là. Je serais ici toute suite." (Yes, madam. Thank you very much. There are five other bedrooms here. You may have many guests. Actually we have a full house often in summer. Mr. Steele, my little house is behind this one. If you need anything at all, just pull the red cord here."
Édouard withdrew to leave Remington and Laura somewhat stunned in the middle of the bedroom.
"I think that I will unpack our things while things are relatively quiet, Rem." Laura began to open their suitcases.
"Fine. I'm going to look around this house, familiarize myself with what we are dealing with here." Remington started to leave the room, but turned back for a moment. "And draw the curtains, darling. I don't want to advertise our presence here any sooner than it is necessary. Do you have your whistle?" He was referring to the police whistle that he had insisted Laura carry while working in settings strange to them so that she could blow it in case she found herself in danger.
"Yes, I have my whistle." Laura retrieved it from her purse. "And do you have yours?"
Remington pursed his lips and let out long low wolf whistle and caught Laura to him for a quick kiss before leaving the room.
Laura slipped out of the silk dress that she was wearing when they left Marseille and found comfortable sweat pants and a top in her suitcase. It would feet much better in the predawn chill of the old house. She briefly stared at herself in the nearly transparent lingerie her husband had bought her and shook her head as she removed the brassiere and stared at her breasts, supporting them in her hands. These were the breasts that were like those of a ballerina when she married but had become like two round lush melons as a result of nursing her twin girls.
'My goodness, what am I going to do with this man?' she softly asked herself and then she smiled, remembering, as she pulled her sweatshirt over her head.
Remington checked out all the five other bedrooms on the second floor and then went downstairs. It appeared that they were alone in the large house. He used a tiny flashlight so as not to alert anyone else that they had arrived. The stairs creaked rather loudly as he descended them and Remington tried to memorize the loudest places in case he needed that knowledge for future reference.
Édouard had told him that in the study he would find a ledger with all the information on wine production and other notes left for him by Daniel.
'There is saufe-garde but I do not use it. All money is in bank except pour entretien et petit salaire pour moi-même. M. Daniel say you will know how to open le saufe-garde.'
Remington smiled wryly as he looked at the antique safe in the study. He would check the ledger later. It was a simple task to open the safe. Inside there were just a few items. A large worn manila envelope contained some letters. A leather case held several newspaper clippings, a black and white school notebook, a photograph, apparently taken at a dance or some such affair, of Daniel with a beautiful dark-haired young woman, and another portrait-like eight by ten color photograph of the same woman in a silver frame. Remington turned it over and on the back was written simply, "From Margaret, with all my love. October, 1951."
Remington's eyes filled and the tears came uncontrollably as he realized that he was looking for the first time at a photograph of his mother. The startling blue of her eyes and the long black hair that fell in deep waves to her shoulders made it seem as if he were looking into the eyes of his twin sister Harriett as a very young woman. His hands shook so that he dropped the picture on the desk and dropped his head into his hands as he continued to cry.
Finally he regained a measure of composure and looked at the other material from the safe. One newspaper clipping was an announcement of David Chalmers' finishing Cambridge with honors. Another clipping was an obituary announcement from a County Cork, Ireland newspaper for his mother. The date was September 6, 1952. Remington set it aside. There was another clipping from a newspaper in Beaufort, South Carolina in the States, a birth announcement, a short paragraph in tiny print announcing the birth of a baby boy to Sarah Ellen Johnson of Frogmore, South Carolina in October of 1972. It was a chronicle of Daniel's life in a few pieces of paper.
Remington was reluctant to open the envelope when he saw that it was from Margaret O'Sullivan to Daniel Chalmers addressed to the prison where Daniel had been incarcerated when he was born. The letter was dated July, 10, 1952. He forced himself to go on.
My dearest Daniel, I hope that this letter finds you well in spite of the trials you are suffering. I want you to know that I have only the greatest confidence in your innocence of the things that you are charged with. I know that you will be exonerated in due time. Unfortunately, Daniel, I find myself in a situation. The weekend that we spent together in Dover has borne fruit and I am pregnant with your child. I wish that I could be unhappy but my love for you transcends any present difficulty that this presents. You took me as a virgin, Daniel, and I will forever be yours.
My family has exiled me to County Cork with relatives. Naturally my father could not have an unwed daughter in his house. I understand this and will fade into the woodwork as he and Mother insist. After the baby comes, I will make my way to Canada or America and make a life there while I wait for you.
I must tell you that your dear brother David offered to marry me and save me this predicament and embarrassment, but I could not in good faith marry him, knowing as I do that my passion is for you, my Daniel. I do know that he did offer himself for the purest of reasons though and I thanked him profusely.
At this point I am nearly five months pregnant and my belly is quite something. I wish that you were here to touch me and feel your little one growing inside me. Pray for me, Daniel, that I may be able to deliver our child successfully. I feel so all alone out here.
Yours forever, Margaret.
"God Almighty," Remington whispered as the import of the words of the letter sank in.
The other three letters were addressed to him, to Harriett and to Kadijah Kammisooka.
He opened his letter which was dated simply October, 1986.
My dear Harry, I know that if you are reading this letter, a certain series of events has already taken place. Please forgive me for all my lack as a father, all the foolish indiscretions of my youth that left you and your sister unprotected. If you are unable to forgive, please at least try to understand that more than anything I regret the matter of Margaret O'Sullivan and me. She was truly the love of my life, Harry.
I think that now that you are a man and have met lovely Laura, you are beginning to understand what it means to love a woman irrationally and without reservation. I have seen you fall in love with Laura and I am very happy that you have found her. Do whatever you can to be the man that she needs. And never be unfaithful to her, Harry. I hope that by the time you read this letter you and Laura will be married and starting your own family. Be the kind of father that I never was, Harry. Love your woman, love your children. Nothing else in life is more important than your family.
To my son who has become a better man than I ever hoped to be. Your father, Daniel.
Remington bit his lip as he found himself unable to hold back the tears again. He took the other letters and placed them in his jacket pocket, gathered up the other items and carried them back upstairs to show them to Laura.
Dawn was breaking as he came into the master bedroom and put the things from Daniel's study on the edge of the bed. Laura was on the phone with Mildred, updating her on the case, but when she saw Remington's glistening eyes, she immediately concluded the conversation and came to him.
"Remy, darling, what's wrong?"
"It's all here, Laura. It's all here. All about Daniel, my mother, her picture. Here is her picture. . . my mother's picture, letters from her, from Daniel. My God, my whole life is laid out here."
Laura quickly scanned the material that Remington had found, realized the import of it all and turned to her husband. He looked pathetic, dejected.
"It is all so sad. And coming now, after I have somehow come to an accommodation of Daniel's faults, it is as if the wound has been torn open again. He . . . he told me to love you, and be faithful to you. He knew how I felt about you, Laura. God, I miss him and yet I hate him so for what he did."
Laura took Remington in her arms and the man that she loved lay in her lap and cried like a little boy as she rocked him.
"My mother, my mother never held me like this, Laura. I miss it so. I just want a woman to hold me, and rock me like this and tell me she loves me. Oh, God, I never missed my mother more than at this moment. Was it seeing her picture? She was so beautiful, Laura."
"Yes, she was, darling. Here, here let me help you."
Laura lifted her sweatshirt and held Remington to her bosom and he suckled like he was one of her children as she stroked his dark hair, comforting him till he calmed and finally dozed off. Laura eased him back onto the pillows and covered him with the down-filled comforter as the morning sun came filtering through the closed velvet curtains.
Laura took the material that Remington had found and read it carefully, all of it. She sensed the impact of it all upon him, as she stared at the pictures of Margaret O'Sullivan.
"Well, our children will at least know what their grandmother looked like," she murmured to herself. Her heart welled up with feelings for her sensitive husband, the man who had wanted this information for so long and suddenly was assaulted with it so suddenly that he had been completely overwhelmed. Laura carefully slipped the material under their mattress for safekeeping and then lay down beside her emotionally exhausted husband.
The next thing Remington and Laura knew someone was knocking on their bedroom door. It was Édouard.
"M. Steele, le petit dejeuner est presque pret."
"Yes, yes, we will be right down . . . toute suite, Édouard."
Remington and Laura struggled back to consciousness and got out of bed.
"Thank you, Laura, for being here with me through all this, for being everything to me." Remington kissed his wife tenderly and they found their way into the shower and pulled themselves together for the day.
Édouard's mother, Annette, an ample strong-featured woman with a full head of long brown hair twisted into a neat bun, had made breakfast for them and served it in the spacious dining room at one end of the table . . . fresh croissants and jam, strong black coffee. She took an instant liking to the Steeles. They both were dressed rather casually like typical young Americans on this morning. Remington wore a comfortable soft linen shirt over a black turtle-necked polo shirt with jeans and Laura wore a long sleeved cream- colored cotton sweater with comfortable khaki slacks.
"Actually this a fabulous place, Rem. At least it's not a castle. You and Harriett might like to consider continuing its use as some sort of guest house since it has all those bedrooms."
"Good idea, Laura. I saw from Édouard's meticulous records that we are very much in the black as far as Beaujolais is concerned. The caves have nearly twenty thousand bottles on hand right now. At even the modest price of ten dollars per bottle, we are talking about something in the neighborhood of two hundred thousand dollars worth of wine, and all indications are that this wine is worth more than that."
"Well, Daniel appears to have left here what can be the college fund for all his grandchildren."
"This is true. I want to go into the caves and check things out down there. Come with me, darling."
Édouard showed them the way to the caves from the back of the house. They walked past the steep hillside carefully cultivated with grapevines. His six-year-old daughter, Angele, was following her father, with her Pomeranian puppy in tow.
"The soil here is so gray and chalky," Laura remarked as the gray powdery soil covered her shoes with a fine white dust.
"It is the secret of the wine grapes here, darling. This soil is key to the grapes produced here as much as that black soil in Kansas and Nebraska is key to the production of corn and wheat in the breadbasket of America."
The grapes had been harvested and the Beaujolais nouveau was in the vats already. The aroma of wine filled their nostrils as they followed Édoiard into the cellars.
"Oh, my, this aroma brings back memories, doesn't it?" Laura said as they walked between the huge wooden casks of fermenting wine.
"Yes, of you running from a bunch of inebriated bankers in your silk teddy, darling." Remington smiled down at his wife and patted her affectionately on her bottom.
A large fellow who looked very much like Édouard was working in the cellar.
"C'est mon frere, Lucien. Il travaille ici aussi. Nous faisons toute le travail." (This is my brother, Lucien. He works here also. We do all the work.)
"Enchanté, Lucien." Remington Steele shook the man's hand and spoke a few words to him before they moved on.
"This is quite an operation, Laura."
"It is, isn't it?"
"Georges Leboeuf, he have nothing better," Édouard offered.
"Georges Leboeuf?" Laura queried.
"One of the most well-known vintners in the south of France. He's located in Romaneche-Thorins, not far from here," Remington explained as they surveyed the rows and rows of bottles of wine. Édouard took a bottle from one of the racks, opened it and poured glasses for Laura and Remington and then went to check on some other matters in the cellar after he was satisfied that they were duly impressed.
"My, my, that is good," Laura exclaimed as the wine rolled about on her palate.
"Yes, it is, isn't it? We kissed in monks' robes in a place like this once upon a time, didn't we, darling?"
"Umm, and you were anything but 'monk-like' that day," Laura responded as her husband kissed her lightly upon her mouth
"Yes. That's the day I knew for sure that you wanted me as much as I wanted you. I will never forget that kiss as long as I live."
"What did Daniel name his wine?" Laura asked as Remington reluctantly released her from his embrace.
Remington picked up the bottle Édouard had poured from. It was labeled 'Sous Une Orchidée Noir, 1989.'
"Is this the name on all of the wines produced here, Édouard?" Remington called out to Édouard who was not far from them..
"Non, Monsieur, seulement certaines-les plus superieur. Les autres sont nommé simplement 'Les Éstates de Chalmers.' " (No, Mr. Steele, only certain ones, the very best vintage. The others are labeled simply "Chalmers Estate.")
"Are there any orchids growing here. . .on the property, Édouard?" Laura asked excitedly.
"Oui, il y a une serre. Monsieur Daniel a demandé pour ma mere de les cultiver. Elle a, how you say, 'green thumb.' " (Yes, there is a greenhouse. Monsieur Daniel asked my mother to take care of them.)
Remington looked at Laura and there was no need for words. They knew where to look.
As they emerged from the cellar, they saw the now familiar black Citröen pulling up in front of the house.
"I'm surprised that they are just arriving. Édouard, please call La Sûreté maintenant. Nous aurons des problemes ici, je pense." (I think that we are going to have problems here.)
Remington Steele and Laura walked straight up to the men emerging from the car. It was Pierre-Jules from Marseille and two of his men.
"I cannot say that I am surprised to see you, M. Pierre-Jules."
"I have come for le marchandise, M. Steele, for what is to me. I hope that we have no problems this morning. It is such a beautiful day."
"You realize that I have no diamonds."
"I do not believe you, M. Steele. Why are you here, if not for the gems?"
"I own this property. I am simply checking up on my latest Beaujolais vintage."
"Comedy does not become you, M. Steele." Pierre-Jules turned to one of his henchmen. "Take the woman. He seemed to be quite taken with her from what we saw last night."
"Elle est ma femme. If you have hope of ever finding those gems, I would advise you to tell your men to refrain from touching her." The coldness of Remington Steele's gaze left no doubt that Pierre-Jules should leave Laura alone if he wanted any cooperation from him.
"So, we leave her for now. We always have that option, don't we? A man with a weakness for a beautiful woman I understand. I had such a weakness. That is why we are here, is it not?"
"I know nothing about your personal life except what you yourself have told me."
The sound of another car arriving on the scene interrupted the altercation between Steele and Pierre-Jules. A shiny blue Mercedes with darkened windows pulled up and a man with decidedly Spanish features got out of the car pushing Kadijah Kamisooka in front of him.
"What is this, a damned convention of thieves?" Remington said. "Oh, yes, M. Pierre-Jules. I know that you stole the diamonds from a consortium of diamond merchants in Amsterdam. Hard to find an honest man among the Marseillais, isn't it? It has always been that way. Not much of real substance there except the cuisine. We did enjoy the bouillabaise though, didn't we, darling."
"It was magnifique," Laura said cynically.
Pierre-Jules was momentarily silenced, especially at the sight of the automatic weapon that Ignacio brandished.
"I think that you should leave, M. Pierre-Jules, while it is still possible. I have business here."
Pierre-Jules regarded Kadijah with disdain and spat in her direction before appearing to retreat in the face of stronger firepower.
"Now, Kadijah will show us where are the diamonds."
"I have told you that I do not know where they are."
Ignacia slapped her hard across her face and Remington involuntarily moved to protect her.
"You are interested in this one, M. Steele?'
"I am offended by violence against women no matter what the reason."
"Well, I must offend your sensibilities this day, Monsieur." He slapped Kadijah hard again and she fell to the ground."
"She doesn't know where the gems are!" Laura shouted. "The only one who knows where they are is dead. He's been dead and buried for nearly five years. Tear this place up if you want. Try to find them. We don't care. We just want you to all do whatever it is that you are going to do and get out of here."
"Your woman has much fire, M. Steele. I think that I would find such a woman quite interesting. After all, Kadijah here is getting quite old. She isn't nearly as exciting as she once was." Ignacio came close to Laura and stared down at her. He was not extremely tall but he was very muscular and he licked his full sensual lips with his tongue as if greedily anticipating physical contact with her.
Laura stared back at him as Remington tried with all his power to restrain himself from attempting to defend Laura. The sight of this man so close to Laura made him literally see red.
"Get out of my face, you creep. I'm pregnant and I'll just vomit all over you. Is that what you want?"
Ignacio stepped back at the mere thought and just then Édouard's daughter Angele ran from the back chasing her Pom-Pom who, though small, had recognized that these were intruders and was growling and barking furiously. Remington was momentarily stunned by Laura's declaration.
"Angele! Cherie!" Édouard called her back and Remington saw an opening and kicked Ignacio's gun out of his hand. His lieutenant reached for his gun but Édouard was on him in an instant and the shot went off the mark into the air. The sound caught the attention of Édouard's brother, Lucien, in the caves and he came running out, two by four in hand, and joined the fight. By this time Kadijah had recovered herself and seeing that Ignacio was about to grab Laura and threaten her with his knife, interposed her self between them. But Ignacio had drawn his stiletto and was already in motion and his knife found its mark under Kadijah's left breast.
"Mon Dieu, Kadijah, je regret. Oh, cherie!" Ignacio knelt to attend to Kadijah, stunned to see his woman fallen by his own hand.
The sound of sirens announced the arrival of La Sûreté. Ignacio and his man tried to escape, but they were quickly rounded up, and put into custody along with Pierre-Jules and his men who had attempted to enter the property again from the back way.
Laura was trying to help Kadijah but she appeared to be sinking fast.
"You should have gotten out of France, Kadijah," Remington said as he held her so that she could breathe.
"He . . . he would not have stopped . . . till he found them, Harry."
"I know where they are. He planted a black orchid plant where he buried them. I am sure of it."
"I . . . I am not going to . . . make it." Kadijah began to fade.
"I will see to it that your son is taken care of, old friend."
"You were . . . always . . . such . . . a beautiful . . . boy. Tell my . . . son it been a . . . car crash . . ." Kadijah died in Remington's arms as the medics arrived on the scene.
They all were stunned as the reality of Kadijah's death sank in. Help had arrived too late to save her, and they all watched quietly as Kadijah Kammisooka, a.k.a. Sarah Ellen Johson, was gently lifted into the ambulance. Remington made arrangements to send her remains home to America and she was carried away.
Remington turned to the man from La Sûreté, an Inspector Jean Marcelin who could have passed for a character from an Agatha Christie mystery. "I think that I know what they were looking for. Follow me. Take us to the greenhouse, Édouard. A la serre."
They followed Édouard behind the large house to a greenhouse attached to the back of the villa and they all went inside. There were a number of orchids growing in what was obviously an ideal environment for them there. At the back of the greenhouse in a corner stood a large orchid plant full of deep charcoal-colored blooms touched with scarlet.
"Liparis nigra, nommée Clare, je pense, . . . the black orchid. Édouard, demand pour votre mere de venir ici. Elle prends soin des plants, n'est ce pas?" (Ask your mother to come here. She does take care of the plants, you said?")
Édouard brought his mother, Annette, who by this time was quite rattled, wringing her hands, completely unnerved by the events of the day.
"Madame Présendieu, vous prendez soin des orchidées?"
"Oui, M. Steele."
"Avez vous jamais changez le pot ou c'est trouve ce plant?" (Have you ever changed this plant's pot?)
"Non, non. Il n'est pas necessaire jamais changer. Ce plant est si delicate et n'aime pas changement. Il est dans le même pot pour quelques années. M. Daniel a demandé de ne changer pas le pot ou la poussierre." (No, no! It is not necessary to ever change this one. The plant is so delicate and does not like change. It has been in the same pot for many years. Mr. Daniel told me to never change the pot or the soil.)
"Tres bien, Madame Présendieu. Laura, would you please assist us? I think that you know where the gems are."
Remington held the plant steady as Laura loosened the soil around it. Then Remington carefully lifted the soil ball from the pot as Annette in turn held the delicate upper portion of the plant steady so that Laura could reach to the bottom of the pot.
"Doucement, Annette, doucement maintenant." (Easy does it, Annette.)
Laura reached into the bottom of the huge clay pot and found a canvas pouch hidden there.
"It's here. Oh, my God, it's here."
Remington carefully placed the huge orchid plant securely back in its pot.
"Sorry, lovey. We won't disturb you again," Remington said respectfully to the exotic plant with the sensual looking charcoal and scarlet blooms.
"And here are your gems, Inspector Marcelin. You will find that these are gems stolen from the Wendt van Guttenberg consortium in Amsterdam more than nineteen years ago. The value should be in excess of five million dollars in today's market."
Remington eased the gems from the pouch and the diamonds sparkled in the noonday sun. There were easily a hundred diamonds of varying sizes in the lot.
"Mon Dieu!" Édouard let out a long low whistle. "Ils étant vraiment ici. Mon Dieu! Sous une orchidée comme dit le vin." (They were truly here. My God! Under an orchid, just like the wine said.)
Remington took the diamonds in his hand, slipped them back into the chamois pouch, and handed them over to Inspector Marcelin.
"Oui, Édouard, comme le vin a dit. Le nom du vin était l'indice que Daniel a laissé." (Yes, Édouard, like the wine. The name of the wine was the clue that Daniel left.) Remington turned to the inspector and his lieutenant. "I will contact the insurance company about the finder's fee."
Laura stared at the huge orchid plant that seemed to be in its own way settling back into its pot, like a beautiful woman who had been shaken up a bit and was pulling herself together again.
"It's almost like a person isn't it?" she said to Remington.
"Very much. It's the mystique of orchids. They always seem to remind me of the lovely parts of a very beautiful woman."
"She was very beautiful . . . Kadijah, wasn't she?"
"Yes, she was, darling. I can't imagine that she's gone." Remington shook his head in disbelief. "We will have to notify Bryce Daniel and Kadijah's sister."
"Are you going to honor her request? About not telling her son exactly what happened to her?"
"I have no choice. She is just as dead, no matter how it happened. It's a moot point now, isn't it? If . . . at some time in the future Bryce surmises the truth, I will not deny it. We can stop through Chicago on our way back to Los Angeles. I have to meet young Bryce. He will have come home from university at the news of the death of his mother. Do you mind the side trip, darling?"
"Of course not. Just let's spend a few more days here. I love this place somehow. I could stay here for an extended vacation if I didn't miss Chlöe and Cassie so much. I miss my babies, Rem."
"I miss them too. Sticky fingers and gooey kisses, . . . just hearing the word 'Daddy' first thing in the morning and last thing at night." Remington went quiet for a few moments, reflecting. "I want my little girls in my arms."
"Strange, how the case of the jewels hidden on the McCallum estate told us where the diamonds were when we got that clue. Just as in that case stolen gems only brought heartbreak."
"At the end of it Kadijah would have gladly given over the jewels to bring the matter to a conclusion. And yet it wasn't possible to work it out because there were two parties looking for her for the gems. The worst thing that can happen to you is to be caught between two sets of thieves, Laura. Daniel taught me that well. If one doesn't kill you, the other one surely will."
"And that is what happened. And yet, in his own way, Ignacio seemed to love her. I'm sure he never meant to kill her. I wonder if Daniel really loved her, Rem."
"He left a letter for her. I didn't read it. I was going to give it to her. Of course, now that she has passed away, I guess that it would be permissible. Would you read it with me, Laura?"
"Of course." Laura took his hand and they walked into the house and to the bedroom where they had left the materials that Remington had found earlier in the study.
Sitting down on the love seat in the afternoon sun, they read together. The letter was dated January, 1986.
'My dearest Kadijah, I am writing this letter to you at a time when I realize that my days in this world are truly numbered. I have been diagnosed with lung cancer. No, there is no cure for what they have found in my chest.
It is what is in my heart that I want to share with you. At the time that we made our pact back in 1972 I must tell you that I did not have deep feelings for you. I enjoyed you and you seemed to enjoy me and that was that. However when we spent that month together, I suddenly realized that I really wanted to impregnate you. And then when I saw you with your belly so beautifully full from our liaison, I realized that I had fallen in love with you. I was frightened, Kadijah. The only other woman that I loved had died giving birth to twins whom I have never owned as their father. I am such a miserable man. I have never been there for those who have needed me the most. You deserved much more than the likes of me to be the father of our son, Bryce.
I just want you to know that every moment of passion that we shared over the years is indelibly burned into my consciousness. I love you and I will never forget you, my darling Sarah Ellen. Yours always, Daniel'
"He truly loved her, and she never knew it. It's a shame." Laura swore quietly.
"I will pass this letter along to Bryce Daniel. He deserves to know that his father loved his mother." Remington dropped his head sadly. "Darling, what would have happened to me had I not met you? Would I have died a miserable lonely man like that? Just the thought of what might have happened scares the hell out of me."
"I love you so much, Rem. I love you so much."
Remington lay on Laura's lap and she kissed him tenderly on his mouth, caressing his face, smoothing his hair as he lifted his head to hungrily receive her kisses.
They hugged one another frantically, the warmth of their emotions bringing them to a point where they knew that they would have to lie down together to validate all that they were feeling.
Then there was a knock on the door.
"M. Steele. Ma mere a préparé le diner."
"I guess we have to go eat, darling."
"I think so."
Remington took another look at his wife.
"Were you bluffing when you told Ignacio you were pregnant?"
"No. I'm pregnant all right. I feel pregnant. It happened yesterday. I just threw in that part about nausea to put Ignacio off, but I am definitely pregnant."
Remington grinned and caught Laura up into his arms, jubilant at her news, not doubting the truthfulness of it for a moment.
"Come and eat, darling. We have to celebrate this."
They went downstairs to the dining room warmed by a fire that Édouard had laid in the fireplace. There was a fine meal that Annette had prepared for them . . . a marvelous ratatouille made with fresh leeks, tomatoes, and garlic along with medallions of lamb on a bed of rice seasoned with mint. A bottle of the "Sous Une Orchidée" Beaujolais was offered along with it. They ate the meal and sat back to enjoy the coffee that Annette brought.
Édouard brought his coffee into the dining room and sat down with them. It seemed that he wanted to tell them something.
"Qu'estce que c'est, Édouard. Vous voulez dire quelque chose?" (Edouard, what is it? You want to say something?)
"Oui. C'est concernant la femme que j'ai rencontré en Los Angeles. C'est concernant Alessandre." (It concerns the woman who I met in Los Angeles. This concerns Alessandre.) He hesitated before continuing. "We make love that day. It was like I know her forever and she know me forever. I tell her that I love her. It is true, M. Steele. Since my wife die, it is the first time I want a woman so much. I think she has feelings. I try to protect her when we are together, mais elle a jeté la protection. (but she threw it aside.) If there is baby, c'est a moi. Je voudrais cette femme avec toute mon coeur." (If there is a baby, it is mine. I want her with all my heart.)
Remington and Laura stared at Édouard and then at each other and smiled.
"Alessandra?" Remington asked.
"Oui, monsieur. Je regret mais d'entre nous il était formidable. Comprenez-vous?" (I regret what has happened but between us it was so strong.)
"Yes, I understand, Édouard," Remington said as his blue eyes focused completely on Laura. "C'est formidable vraiment. Nous esperons que tout va bien avec vous et Alessandre." (It truly is amazing. We hope that all goes well with you and Alessandra.)
"Merci, Monsieur, Monsieur . . Remington. Excuse-moi. Je doit telephoner Alessandre." (I must telephone Alessandra.)
Remington was quiet for a long moment after Édouard left the room.
"I think that we may have to think about replacing Alessandra," Remington said.
"What if she is really pregnant? Can you imagine . . . Alessandra? She always seemed so cool, calm, and collected."
"Well, I guess our Édouard somehow got to her. It doesn't take long to know when it's the right one, does it? I dare say you and I can vouch for that, darling, can't we?"
"Yes, when you know, you know. He is very appealing in a rugged sort of way. She didn't waste any time."
"And others wasted all their lives, didn't they, darling? I think of Daniel. From the letter he left it is evident that he had a real thing for Kadijah. And yet he never let her know. Their son is probably totally baffled. . . wondering what his mother was really about, trying to figure where he fitted in."
"Well, this is one time that you will claim your finder's fee. All of them, Pierre-Jules, Ignacio, Kadijah, were thieves in reality."
"And don't forget the Wendt van Guttenberg consortium. The deals those groups pull to get the diamonds out of South Africa or Sierra Leone are very dirty, and the poor blokes who work in the diamond mines are the real losers. It's all a matter of degree. I will be delighted to claim a finder's fee from them."
"I'm glad it's all over."
"It's as if we've finally really buried Daniel, eh?"
"Yes, it is." Laura reached to cover Remington's hand with hers. His head bent in sad contemplation and Laura reached to stroke his thick dark hair with her other hand.
"He was so flawed, Laura . . . but . . . I still loved him . . . in spite of everything." Remington's voice cracked as his emotions overcame him.
"Darling, your experience has taught me something about my own father. I have hated him, resented him for so long . . . because he left when I felt that I needed him the most. I think that finally I'm coming to terms with it. I had him for sixteen years. We were close, very close. I have to be thankful for that. Life is so complicated. It is never all black and white, is it?"
"No, it isn't." When Remington lifted his head, there was a new wisdom in his glistening blue eyes as tears slipped silently down his cheeks.
Remington squeezed Laura's hand tightly and leaned over to kiss her upon her lips and Laura kissed him back, his lips, his face, tasting his tears as her own spilled over and mingled with his.
"I think that I would like to turn in early. This has been quite a time. We've hardly slept, you know," she said, trying to wipe her own tears away.
"I know. Do you think that we are going to sleep now, chou-chou?"
Remington easily picked Laura up in his arms and headed for the stairs that led to the second floor and the master bedroom.
"You know I think that I love this house," Laura said as her husband carried her up the stairs, pursing his lips to kiss her tenderly as they went.
"Me too. Have to bring the children back here . . . maybe next year, after the new baby comes, um?"
"Um . . . that would be very nice."
* * * * * *
The next few days Remington and Laura really got to know Provence. They drove all over the region, exploring the small farms, going through Avignon, Aix-en-Provence. They searched out gifts from Provence in Les-Baux-de-Provence, the village that wound its way up the craggy hill on the highest elevation in the region. On the street called Place Louis Jou there were all sorts of interesting shops and cafés. Remington took care of the tax issues and set things up to continue to function smoothly at Sous une Orchidée. (That's what as the villa came to be called and Laura went on a shopping spree buying liberally the famed linens and special soaps and scents that the region was so well known for.
The flight home was a time of special closeness for Remington and Laura. Laura had taken a pregnancy test and confirmed that she was indeed carrying again. There was no need for a lot of talk. They were simply glad to conclude a very difficult chapter of Remington's life. The stop in Chicago was necessary, a part of the closure process. Bryce Daniel met them at O'Hare Airport, a tall handsome twenty-year-old with deep olive skin, thick black curly hair, and the blue eyes of his father, Daniel.
"I'm your brother, Remington Harrison Steele, Bryce."
They sat in a quiet corner of the Admiral's Club together. Strangely enough, it did not seem awkward at all. They all fitted somehow.
"My mother . . . did you know her?"
"Yes, I did . . . from before you were born, Bryce."
"She was a very beautiful woman who loved you very much, Bryce," Laura said gently.
"I saw so little of her, you know. She gave me everything . . . except herself. I know that she loved me. She wrote letters all the time, from those places she went with her work. I just wish that she had not had to be away so much. You were with her when she . . . died?"
"Yes, it was an accident. She stepped into harm's way to save someone else's life."
"You're my brother . . . my half-brother? Where is your mother?"
"I lost her the day I was born, son. Be thankful that you knew your mother, that you have memories. Someday I will share all that I know with you, but it doesn't have to be today. There is a whole family of us that you will get to know."
"You must come to California when you have holiday break. Our children will love you. We have four . . . a set of twins and two adopted children."
"And?" Remington smiled at Laura.
"And I'm expecting again." Laura patted her flat stomach.
Bryce laughed for the first time since they had met him. "Man, this is weird. This is really weird, you know. I always knew that my father was white, but I just never thought about having a bunch of white relatives. I mean . . . I'm all right with it, but it's weird."
"Actually we are all finding ourselves deep into the business of family, Bryce."
"I wish you would come home with me . . . for a while anyway. Do you have to fly on to Los Angeles this afternoon?"
Remington and Laura exchanged glances and they knew that they could not leave Bryce at that moment. They got into the aging Mercedes that had been Kadijah's and he took them to his mother's house, a quietly elegant home in suburban Maywood.
The house fitted Kadijah. Her sister, Lillian, lived there but the house was altogether 'Kadijah,' filled with art objects and memorabilia from her travels around the world. Fashion photos of her as a young woman adorned one whole wall. She had truly given Bryce everything except the gift of her constant companionship and of knowing his own father.
Remington sat down with Bryce after they had had supper and explained the financial arrangements that were going to be in place for him. He also gave him the letters from Daniel to Kadijah and to him, Bryce.
"Some of what you read you will only understand when you are a bit older, Bryce, and find the woman that you want to spend the rest of your life with. Our father, Daniel, made mistakes in connection with us. Try not to hate him."
"I . . . I don't know what to really call you. You seem old to be my brother and . . ."
"Call me Harry, short for Harrison. That's what our father called me."
"Harry, okay. Harry, one day will you tell me all that you know about my mother and my father? I feel somehow that there is something that I don't know."
"What concerns you?"
"Well, I want to show you something. My mother told me that if anything ever happened to her, I should open this cabinet in the basement. I opened it last week. I think that you should see what is there."
Remington and Laura followed Bryce down the cellar stairs and to a cabinet behind the furnace in the basement. It looked like an electrical utility box, but when Bryce unlocked it they were stunned at what they saw. It contained an exquisite collection of Fabergé eggs.
"I will say this, Bryce. These are absolutely too hot to handle, and I mean this in every sense of the word. Close the cabinet and leave it closed and locked. I will research this and let you know how to get these back to their rightful owner."
"She took them from someone, didn't she?"
"I promise you that I will tell you all that I can tell, Bryce, one of these days. Do we have a deal?"
Remington and Bryce shook hands warmly and Remington and Laura went off to bed to sleep off some of the jet lag they were experiencing.
Next morning Bryce hugged Remington and Laura warmly as he saw them off for the final leg of their flight home.
"I think we will be seeing a lot of that young man, darling," Laura said as they became airborne again.
"I dare say you are right."
"Amazing that he is studying to be a social worker. He wants to help troubled youth. Now I want to know. Are you ever going to tell him that his mother and his father were both jewel thieves?"
"I think that he is somehow aware that something was not exactly right. One day I will tell him everything he needs to know. Meanwhile, I have to figure how to get those Fabergé eggs back to the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg where they belong. I might have to enlist the services of our old friend Ivan Stranikov in Moscow."
"You aren't going to tell Bryce about your involvement with Kadijah, are you?"
"No. It meant nothing to her. I meant nothing to her. There is no need to complicate his psyche with that kind of thing. Do you think I would have gotten into that if I had known Daniel was my father? Even then I had some standards."
"That's just one of the many things I love about you."
"I love everything about you, too, chou-chou,"Remington said as he reached for Laura's hand and brought it to his lips.
Early June of 1991 found the Steeles anxiously awaiting the birth of their third child. Laura was quite huge at this point but since her first pregnancy had been the twins, this burden seemed relatively easy for her to carry. At least she was not totally immobilized as she had been in the late stages of her pregnancy with the twins.
Remington lay in their bed and watched with amusement as Laura tried to dress. It was Saturday but Bryce Daniel had come for a visit now that summer vacation from university had arrived and Laura wanted to make sure that everything was set up for an afternoon barbecue planned to introduce him to family and close friends.
"Darling, I would gladly help you."
"I am just fine, thank you," she said as she tried to put on her underwear.
"I just think that such a lovely lady should not have to struggle to get into her knickers," Remington said as he got up and came to her aid.
"Well, I don't feel very lovely today. I look like a beached whale," Laura said in frustration as she stared at herself in the full-length mirror behind her barre.
"You look beautiful, darling, beautiful . . . just very, very fertile." Remington kissed the side of her neck as he caressed first her huge freckled belly and then the bare swollen breasts. "I love just gazing at you when you are like this, knowing that our son is in your womb and so near to coming out to meet all of us. You appear very close, darling. After all, Alessandra gave birth in France just a week ago. You can't be far behind her."
"Do you think that's why I'm so restless today? Frances says that some women become very energetic when they are due."
"Well, Frances may be right for once. You certainly have been . . . energetic . . . the last few days, darling."
"You haven't seemed to mind at all," Laura quipped back as she enjoyed the attention of her amorous husband.
"I wish that we hadn't had this ambitious plan to have all these people over for a barbecue just now."
"But, darling, we have to do something for Bryce. He doesn't want to sit around here twiddling his thumbs. And he needs to meet the rest of the family, as well as our friends. Besides, Sandra and Ian are coming with their boys. If I go into labor, I will have plenty of help."
"I'm looking forward to seeing you with this little one. I mean it when I tell you how gorgeous you are like this." Remington rubbed her belly and then cupped her full breasts in his hands as he stood behind her.
"I . . . I think you'd better start the charcoal . . . for the barbecue, love."
Remington and Laura reluctantly drew apart and finished dressing.
By mid-afternoon the majority of their guests had arrived. Bryce had been an able assistant to Remington in making the barbecue. They were finding it very easy to adjust to their relationship, although Bryce seemed more comfortable thinking of Remington as uncle than brother.
Sandra Brathwaite took a close look at her friend as she busily served her family and friends. Laura, wearing a voluminous red tee shirt that was nearly as long as her white shorts, seemed somehow preoccupied. She'd felt a gentle twinge halfway through the party and she had ignored it, but she had not forgotten it.
Frances and Donald and their children were occupying themselves with Harriett and Peter and their children so the whole place was very active. They were all getting acquainted with "Uncle Bryce" and it was going well. If anything, it was Bryce who found the whole experience of the Steeles and their extended family and friends somewhat difficult to assimilate.
Ian Brathwaite took Bryce aside late in the afternoon and they walked out to the lawn where the panoramic view of Los Angeles lay below.
"How's it going, young man?"
"I . . . I guess it's okay. They are all . . . very nice. I just have to keep reminding myself that they are my relatives."
"They're first rate. One thing you learn in life . . . people are people. Don't ever forget that and you'll be just fine. We don't get to choose our relatives, laddie."
At that moment, Peter and Harriett's son, Sean ran out to them.
"Auntie Laura is having the baby! She's having it now!"
Laura had been standing by Remington when the first serious pain came and her knees buckled as the intense contraction caught her.
"Oh, my God! It's time!" Remington supported her as Sandra Brathwaite came immediately to her aid.
Frances followed them as they helped Laura into the house. Just as Remington helped her to their bed, her water broke.
"Oh, Remy, look! This is such a mess," she said as Remington helped her out of her shorts and underwear and into their bed.
"Not really, darling. It seems perfectly natural. Our little one has simply got to get out of there somehow or other. I'll get towels."
"Laura, I knew that you were going down soon with this baby. You need to be in hospital."
Dr. Ian Brathwaite came into the room and took stock of the situation.
"Do you think she will wait for the ambulance, Tabby? She was lively last time, you know."
Laura moaned in pain as the next contraction came. "I feel like it's coming, Sandra. I've . . . I've got to push." She lost all modesty at this point, threw back the sheet and held her own legs open, pushing to give birth.
"Well, there's your answer to that question, Ian. Maybe they'll be here by time she delivers. She's in full presentation now."
"Laura! My goodness! You're having the baby now!" Frances said in disbelief seeing her sister in the throes of labor.
"Oh, God!" Remington began to shake uncontrollably, his legs seeming to turn to water, so that he had to grip the bedpost for support.
"Take it easy, old man. Laura's in good hands," Ian Brathwaite assured him.
As Sandra Brathwaite attended Laura, she clasped her belly and tried to stifle a cry of pain. "Help me, Remy! Help me!"
Remington instinctively helped her Laura hold her legs open. She wailed softly as she felt her pelvis begin to open up to let the baby's head descend into the birth canal.
"It's all right, darling. It's going to be all right," Remington said.
Laura's eyes fixed on him for a moment as she tried to catch her breath. "I'm trying to be brave, Remy. I . . . I can't help crying."
"I know. It's okay to . . . cry. You're havin' a baby, love. I would that I could take the pain for you."
"Oh, God! It's too much."
She began to sweat profusely as the labor accelerated to the final stage so quickly that she could only gasp as pain after pain took her.
"Take it easy, mother. You're doin' fine." Sandra calmed Laura as her contractions came in quick succession.
"Rem, it's . . .it's hurting so!" Laura gasped for breath and reached for his hand.
"Hold on, darling. Hold on. Oh, God, Laura!"
Sandra Brathwaite carefully monitored Laura's blood pressure and pulse as her agitation increased. The delivery was coming so fast that there was no time to rest between contractions as her body rapidly pushed the baby toward delivery.
As Laura's dilated parts stretched around her baby's head, she finally could not hold back her cries any longer and screamed in pain as her baby's head came into view.
"He's crowning. Look, Daddy Steele, look at your baby comin' into the world."
"My God. Oh, my God," Remington said softly as his son, Michael David, was delivered from Laura and into his own waiting hands, squalling loudly. "My son, my son."
Sandra Brathwaite glanced at her watch. "A half hour's labor. Amazing! Laura, you are good, girl."
Laura sighed and collapsed, nearly fainting. "I couldn't . . . I couldn't hold him back. I'm sorry."
"You were fabulous, darling." Remington tenderly kissed his exhausted wife and smoothed her damp hair back from her face.
"I can't believe he's here," Laura said smiling weakly. "Give me my son."
Remington sat in disbelief watching Laura as she nursed their son for the first time, the intense pain of the delivery already forgotten. He was perfect, nearly eight pounds in weight, covered with freckles, a patch of chestnut hair on top of his head, his chubby genitalia proudly announcing to the world his gender.
"Next time don't bother to call ambulance for her, Remington. She will never make it."
"The ambulance is here now, Mr. Steele," Esperanza announced.
"I think I need to check her out. She should come home tomorrow," Dr. Sandra said. "I go with Laura and Remington, love," she said to her husband.
Ian nodded, "I'll take the boys home and see you later."
* * * * * *
Later that night Remington sat rocking their newborn son at Laura's bedside as he reviewed in detail the events of the day. Laura was quite exhausted from her ordeal and just smiled and listened.
"I wonder if Édouard and Alessandra are as happy as we are, darling."
"I hope so, Rem."
"You were quite the star of the show today, Laura."
"I tried to hold back the screams . . . because the family and friends were there, but I couldn't help it."
"You were giving birth. Everyone understood the situation. Even your sister Frances was astonished at you for a change. I think she has finally come to realize that her little sister is quite the pro in the mothering department."
Little Michael David began to fret in his father's arms.
"I think that he wants something that I do not have, darling," Remington said as he handed their son to Laura for his feeding. He latched on and nursed enthusiastically as Laura gazed in awe at the fat little baby at her breast.
"Thank you, darling."
"For what . . ?"
"For being the man that you are, for being my husband, for giving me my children . . . for everything. . . " Laura's voice trailed off as she fell asleep with her baby at her breast.
Remington Steele sat watching his wife doze till little Michael was finished nursing and had fallen asleep as well. Then he gently eased his son from Laura and took the warm solid bundle in his arms again. The little one, sensing the security of his father's arms and recognizing the heartbeat that he had felt so often throbbing close to his mother's during the months in utero, snuggled closer, and Remington kissed the top of his tiny head as tears of happiness spilled down his cheeks.