A CHRISTMAS STEELE
First printed: More Red Holt Steele #13/14
Summary: It’s Christmas and Laura is forced into a family reunion at her mother’s house. But Remington makes an unannounced appearance.
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.
Writer’s note: Hey, let’s all just pretend “Bonds of Steele” and the entire fifth season never came about. Okay? Great. Now, let’s jump ahead exactly one year from “Dancer, Prancer, Donner and Steele.”
Laura’s plane landed, despite the falling snow. Knowing there could possibly be ice on the runway, Laura gripped the armrest a little tighter with her fingers. Though, sliding off the runway didn’t sound nearly as bad as what was waiting for her at the terminal. It was just after 6 p.m. on the day before Christmas Eve when the plane pulled into the gate at the Bradley International Airport in Connecticut.
The plane rolled to a stop and all the passengers immediately rose and started gathering carry-on luggage. All the passengers except Laura. She rubbed her forehead as she looked out the window. *Why did I agree to this?* she asked herself, resigned to the fact that the people had already started to get off the plane, and she would eventually have to disembark as well. *Because you fell for your mother’s bull about her getting old and needing her family close to her at Christmas, that’s why.*
She wanted to be in Los Angeles. She had business to attend to, damn it. Okay, so there wasn’t really any business. But she could certainly find something to do that didn’t involve visiting relatives.
Laura turned and looked at the seat next to her. It was empty now, but a man had sat there only minutes before. Unfortunately, it wasn’t Remington. It was just some business man happy to be back home in time for the holidays. Laura shook her head. *Home for the holidays,* she mused. *I should be home. I should be with Mr. Steele.*
She recalled the previous year’s Christmas. She spent that holiday with him; him, an office full of gun-toting Santas and a small group of hostages. A chill coursed through her as she realized just how close they all came to actually dying there. Dancer was such a loony. Thank God he had been put away for 25-50 years.
Laura looked back out at the snow gently falling on the tarmac. It had been 95 degrees on Christmas Eve last year. Much hotter than usual, that was certain, but not anything Laura wasn’t used to. Snow. Now, that was something she wasn’t used to. She had grown up in southern California. Whatever had possessed her mother, Frances and Donald to all pull up stakes and move to Connecticut was beyond her. At least Frances and Donald had enough sense to move back to the warm climate.
As Laura stared out at the snow, she felt a warmth pass through her. She recalled how she had spent the rest of Christmas last year. Immediately after the incident with the Santas, Laura and Remington felt a definite need to be together. There were no gifts exchanged that Christmas, no fancy dinner and no tree. Just the two of them eating Chinese take-out food at Remington’s apartment, enjoying each other’s company, relieved they were still alive.
Things had progressed that evening much like they had before for them. They shared dinner, some Champaign, soft music, a warm fire--which was rather pointless, since the air conditioner was also running, and some slow dancing. One thing had lead to another, as was often the case, ending them up on the sofa, wrapped in each other’s arms. They kissed leisurely, neither feeling any particular hurry. Nothing would come of the evening. Nothing ever came of any evening. But, that didn’t mean they wouldn’t enjoy the moment anyway.
Laura blinked and returned to the present. The plane was nearly empty. Sighing, she rose to her feet, grabbed her carry-on from the overhead compartment and trudged off the plane. She wanted to be with Remington. Instead, she was over across the country, visiting her mother. And there she would stay until New Year’s Day.
She was greeted by Donald, Danny and Laurie Beth Piper--much to her relief. She exhaled the breath she realized she had been holding.
“Hi, Laura,” Donald smiled. Danny put a fake smile on and waved a little bit when his father elbowed him.
“Hi, Donald,” she said, not too enthusiastically.
“I know...Frances felt the same way,” he said, taking her bag from her. “You got luggage?”
As they started for the baggage claim, Laurie Beth fell in step next to her namesake and took her hand. She gave a little tug. “Aunt Laura?”
Laura looked down at her niece, “Yes?”
“Did you bring Mr. Remington with you?”
Laura smiled. “No. I’m afraid...Mr. Remington...is still in Los Angeles. He’s watching over the agency while I’m on vacation.”
The girl’s expression sagged. “Oh.”
Laura nodded in agreement. *I feel the same way.*
Arriving at Abigail’s house, Laura was warmly greeted by her sister, mother and other niece, Mindy.
“Oh, Laura! I’m so glad you came. Now the whole family is together.” Abigail cooed, leading her up the hallway. “You can have your old room.”
Laura looked at her mother, puzzled. “I never lived here, Mother.”
“I know, Dear, but I’ve fixed your room up just like you had it.” She opened the door to the room at the end of the hall on the left.
Since Laura hadn’t lived with her mother since she left for college, Laura had no idea what to expect. She entered the room cautiously. Except for the Stanford pennant hanging on the wall above the bed, Laura couldn’t determine that anything was like what she had as a teen. She glanced at her mother, a half-wince on her face.
“Well,” Abigail began, “maybe it’s not exactly like what you had. But, it’s still your room.” She smiled at her daughter and gave her a quick hug and small kiss on her cheek. “Hungry? Dinner will be ready in a few minutes.” She turned and left.
Donald came up behind Laura and attempted to push past her, Laura’s suitcase and carry-on bag tucked under each arm. “Coming through!”
Laura stepped out of his way and back into the hall where she met Frances. She only looked at her sister.
“I don’t get it either,” Frances said. She waggled her thumb over her shoulder to the closed door across the hall from Laura’s room. “She did the same thing to ‘my room.’”
Both women shrugged simultaneously. They smiled together, too. Finally, after all their years of competition, they were starting to come together. It had helped having Frances live in the same state. They had gotten together several times over the past months, having actually started to bond soon after Frances and her brood and moved back to California.
It was wonderful to have a sister again, Laura decided. She had gotten to know her extended family quite well through her conversations with Frances. Raising a family didn’t sound so awful to her anymore. And Laura had some effect on Frances, too, encouraging her with her course work at college.
Frances put her arm around Laura’s shoulder and the two started for the kitchen. “We’re having spaghetti,” Frances said.
Laura winced. Frances had heard about the fiasco dinner the “babysitter” had prepared, and hadn’t let the joke die since then.
Frances patted Laura’s shoulder and chuckled. “It’s okay, Laura, you’ll get the hang of it someday.” As they approached the living room, Frances asked, “Mr. Steele couldn’t come, I take it?”
“Uh, no,” Laura responded. “He...well...there was a lot to do at the agency.” The truth was, Laura hadn’t asked him to join her. It was bad enough she had to be tortured by spending a week with her family. Why share the agony?
“Ah,” was all Frances said. Laura had never come right out and told her the gory details of her relationship with her boss, but Frances had gathered enough tid-bits to put together the general idea that they were both fairly involved with each other.
The sisters proceeded in silence into the kitchen to help Abigail put the finishing touches on dinner.
It was a little after 7:30 when Donald flipped the TV on with the remote control and slid himself back into the recliner in the corner of the living room. He kept the sound low, as it was fairly pointless to try to listen over the three women in the kitchen chatting away. The kids were all playing in the basement where he had set up their Nintendo system on the extra TV. Abigail was in the process of getting the basement refinished. It was partially done, and that was where the kids were bunking for the week.
Donald was busy pondering how he would re-do a basement, if he had one, when he heard a knock at the front door. He looked back at the kitchen to count the exact number of people. He knew all three kids were downstairs. Curious, he got out of the recliner and headed for the door.
Donald peeked through the peep-hole and broke into a grin. He immediately opened the door. Standing on the porch, in an inch of snow, was Remington.
“Mr. Steele!” Donald greeted, his hand extended to shake Remington’s. “Didn’t think you were coming.”
Remington smiled. “Wasn’t entirely sure I was invited,” he said, shaking Donald’s hand briefly.
Donald stepped back. “Of course you’re invited! Come on in!” He held the door open as Remington picked up his luggage and entered the house. “Have you eaten?”
Remington placed his bags in the entry-way. “Yes. At the airport. Such as it was.” He removed his gloves and coat. “Where’s Laura?”
Donald relieved him of his coat and gloves and pointed toward the kitchen. “She’s in there with Frances and Abigail.”
“Thanks.” Remington headed in that direction.
Abigail, who was sitting at the kitchen table, saw him first. She smiled broadly and drew in a breath as she prepared to speak. Remington brought a finger to his lips and shook his head. Abigail caught his meaning and continued to smile as Remington approached her daughter from behind.
Laura and Frances were standing side-by-side at the sink, talking about how Abigail should consider moving back to California. Laura was up to her elbows in soap suds and Frances was busy rinsing and arranging the dishes on the draining board. Neither heard Remington approach.
For just an instant, Laura thought she caught the whiff of a familiar smell. Before she could turn around, an arm came around her waist and pulled her backwards a few inches. Involuntarily, Laura yelped. Quite certain Donald had grabbed the wrong sister by mistake, Laura moved her soapy hands to the arm and tried to remove it. That was when she noticed Frances was snickering. Laura turned her head and came eye to eye with Remington.
The stalled expression on her face made Remington smile. He could tell she was glad to see him, even if she did want to kill him for showing up. “Surprise,” he said, giving her a little squeeze with his now-soapy arm.
Laura’s breath was caught in her throat. Never in a million years had she expected him to show up there. Her shock at seeing him faded quickly when she saw him smiling at her. It was contagious, especially since out of the corner of her eye she could see Frances simply beaming. Laura couldn’t help herself, she let out a little laugh and broke into a wide grin. “Hello,” she finally greeted.
Remington pulled on her waist, turning her to face him. He kissed her square on the lips, pressing himself to her.
Laura raised her hands, suds dripping from them, not sure where to put them. It was awkward. Her mother was watching. Frances was watching. Even Donald had made his way to the kitchen and was watching. *Oh, hell...* she thought as Remington worked his lower lip up and down over hers. It was too late to cover it. He had thrown an aspect of their relationship out for her entire family to ogle over. Finally, she gave in, it was, after all, too late to get out of it. Her hands clasped behind his neck, her arms wrapped around his shoulders.
Remington broke the kiss and looked into Laura’s eyes almost triumphantly. As was always the case, he had left her breathless, but Laura did everything she could to keep from breathing heavily in front of her family.
Still holding Laura in his arms, Remington turned his head to Frances. “Nice to see you again, Frances,” he said conversationally.
Frances, who was already grinning from ear to ear and practically shaking trying to keep her emotions contained, let loose. She burst out with a long bout of laughter. “Glad you could make it, Mr. Steele,” she said when she finally calmed down.
“Please,” he said, giving Laura a little hug, “call me Remington.”
Frances nodded, still tittering a bit. Laura rolled her eyes and lowered her head to Remington’s chest, where she shook her head in disbelief at the whole situation.
Remington had graciously accepted left-over spaghetti for a late supper. Between Abigail, Donald and Frances taking turns at talking with Remington, Laura spent most of the evening wondering exactly why he bothered to follow her to Connecticut. Though he was completely occupied with his conversations with Laura’s family, Remington would pass his glance to Laura quite often, resting his eyes on her for long moments before he was required to respond to someone’s questioning.
Soon after the adults retired to the living room, Laurie Beth made her way from the basement, tired of playing with her dolls and hearing her siblings bicker over the Nintendo. She saw Remington sitting on the sofa and her face lit up. “Mr. Remington!” she exploded, running to him and jumping on the sofa right next to him. She flung her arms around his neck and gave him a big hug.
“Thank you,” Remington said politely to the child, patting her back as she nearly strangled him.
“Laurie Beth...” her mother warned, “not so tight. Let Remington breathe.”
“MISTER Remington,” Laurie Beth corrected, letting loose of Remington’s neck and situating herself on his lap.
The conversation continued, as Laura recanted the story of how she and Remington had spent last Christmas. “So...” Laura restarted, trying to contain the smile she felt creeping over her lips as she watched Laurie Beth snuggle into Remington’s arms. “...Mildred had the gun pointed right at Dancer...”
Remington wasn’t listening to the story. He was still talking with Laurie Beth. “Actually,” he began in a hushed tone, “it’s Mr. Steele...or just Remington.”
The girl stared at him. “Oh.”
Remington leaned in and whispered in her ear. “But, you can call me Uncle Remington.”
Laurie Beth looked at him curiously. “I used to call you that,” she admitted, imitating his quiet tone. “But Mommy said you’re not really my uncle. Just Aunt Laura’s friend. ‘It would just confuse me,’” she quoted.
“Well. Can’t have you confused, can we?” Remington said, a false look of concentration on his face. “What should we do about it?”
“Don’t know,” Laurie Beth answered, shrugging.
Remington looked at Laura quickly and smiled. He turned his attention back to Laurie Beth. “Just call me Uncle Remington. I’ll take care of the rest. Deal?”
“Okay,” she said, resting her head on his shoulder.
“...At which point we found a tape recorder in her bag with Blitzen’s voice on it...”
Frances had removed a sleeping Laurie Beth from Remington’s arms shortly after midnight and taken her downstairs to put her to bed with her siblings. She returned to find the dwindling conversation had completely died.
Abigail stood up from her chair and stretched. “I really need to get to bed.” She looked at Remington. “Would you like me to get some bedclothes and make up the couch for you, Remington?”
He couldn’t tell for sure if she was asking his opinion or telling him what he was going to do. He could tell, though, that Frances, Donald, Abigail and Laura were all awaiting his response. Carefully, he passed a questioning look at Laura, who still sat across from him in a chair. Her answer was clear enough.
“Yes, Abigail,” he said, rising to his feet. “The couch will be perfect. But, I’ll make it up. You don’t have to do it.”
Abigail smiled and motioned for him to follow her. He obliged her and disappeared up the hallway.
Frances went over to Donald and took his hand, pulling him up from the couch. “Guess we need to get off of Remington’s bed.” She looked at her sister with a slightly raised eyebrow. “Have a good night, Laura.” She gave Laura a full-fledged grin, raised both eyebrows a couple times, then drug Donald off to their room.
Laura just sat, absorbing the look her sister had given her. She couldn’t help but chuckle about it.
“What’s funny?” Remington asked, returning with his arms full of sheets, pillows and blankets. He flipped the light switch in the hall off with his elbow, leaving only the multi-colored blinking lights of the Christmas tree illuminating the room.
Laura rose and approached him. “Just Frances.” She stared at him as he dropped his armload and proceeded to tuck a sheet over the sofa cushions. He looked particularly handsome in the soft lights of the tree. She picked up a pillow and half-heartedly started to put a pillow case on it, all the while watching him prepare his bed for the night.
“You probably want to know why I’m here,” Remington began.
“No,” Laura responded, honestly--for once.
Remington stopped tucking in the sheet and looked at her. He could hardly make out her features, as she was a silhouette against the Christmas tree. He raised his eyebrows, preparing to speak, but he couldn’t find the words.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Laura said. There was that honesty again. It felt good.
Finally, Remington smiled, relieved that she wasn’t going to read him the riot act for showing up unannounced and uninvited. “I’m glad to be here.”
Their eyes remained locked in the darkness for awhile longer. Something had happened, and neither knew exactly what it was.
Remington felt a familiar sensation overcome him. It started in his chest and worked its way out to all of his extremities. It sent a shiver through him. He wanted Laura so badly, he could barely look at her without fighting the urge of taking her where she stood.
Laura, too, was fighting for control. The sensation that tingled her body whenever Remington stared at her washed over her. Her heart pounded in her chest as she tried to keep from bolting. Nervously, she gripped the pillow in her hands, never taking her eyes off Remington.
Suddenly, he moved toward her until he was standing well in her personal space. She could feel his breath on her face, she could smell his cologne, his nearness was almost painful. Gently, he removed the pillow from her hands. She may as well have been stark naked for how she felt in front of him at that moment. She swallowed, her face flushed.
Remington stared at her. “Maybe...” he began, his lips inching toward hers, “...this was a bad idea.”
Laura nodded slightly, her eyes heavy. “Maybe,” she agreed, her lips voluntarily meeting his, her hands rising to rest on his chest.
The intensity of his kiss was reflected in Laura’s hands as she gripped his sweater. He pressed his lips over hers, sending flames throughout her body. He quickly took possession of her, and she more than allowed it, letting his tongue part her lips and make its way past her teeth. She sighed deeply as she opened her mouth to his, pressing herself back onto him.
“Good night, everyone!” Abigail called from her bedroom door.
Laura instantly shoved back from Remington.
The muffled sounds of “good night” were heard from Frances and Donald up the hall.
Remington stared directly at Laura, still holding her under his spell. “Good night, Abigail,” he responded.
Laura worked her jaw around a bit before she rediscovered how to speak. “Night, Mother,” she said, a much breathier sound to her voice than she wanted. She blinked, trying to find her control again. She heard her mother close the door to her bedroom. She was alone with Remington once again.
He made a move to reach for her hand. Laura stepped back. “I really should go to bed,” she said.
It was over. Remington lowered his eyes briefly, accepting the fact. “Right,” he said, but didn’t agree.
Laura’s stare softened. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, moving her face next to his. “I can’t do this here,” she said into his ear.
Remington nodded and turned his head to give her a light kiss on the cheek. “I understand.” In a way he did, too. After all, there were six other people in the house with them, and the living room didn’t even have a door he could close to keep the others out. He watched Laura walk up the hall and disappear into her room.
Laura was suspended somewhere in the haze just after REM sleep and just before waking. Her sub-conscious half-recognized the smell of bacon and eggs, but her fogged thought process told her she was wrong.
She could have sworn it was Remington whispering her name so close to her ear. That, too, seemed wrong. She was alone in her loft, no one was making breakfast, and Remington certainly hadn’t spent the night.
She felt a hand on her shoulder. Her eyes popped open. In a split-second, she got her bearings back. It wasn’t her loft. She was, in fact, at her mother’s house. Breakfast was cooking. And Remington had spent the night...only not with her. Blinking, Laura turned her head up out of her pillow to be greeted by Remington’s grin.
“I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said. He was squatted down next to her bed, eye-level with her.
Laura stared at him sleepily. “It’s okay.”
He tilted his head slightly and smiled at her. “I made breakfast for everyone,” he said, tracing a finger up her left cheek and over her ear, brushing back a few strands of hair.
Laura basked in his attention, realizing how wonderful it felt to awaken to him. Slowly, she snaked her left hand out from under the blanket, reaching for him. To her surprise, Remington laced his fingers with hers. She hadn’t really expected anything more than a little pat on the back of her hand, but his response caused Laura to suddenly lose all desire to go back to sleep.
Remington instantly realized just what impact his tiny gesture had on Laura. His smile widened as he wrapped his other hand around their entwined fingers. He carefully thought out what he would say next. Then, looking directly into her deep brown eyes, he asked, “Are you going to join us for breakfast, love?”
“Ye--” Laura started. She found herself at a loss as soon as his words actually hit her brain. She pushed herself up by her right elbow and stared at him for a moment. Remington continued to gaze at her, revealing nothing. She was tired. She was probably just hearing things. Pretending like she hadn’t heard it was most likely the best course of action. “Uh...yes. I’ll be out in a few minutes.”
His eyes sparkled as his lips turned up in a crooked grin. She had heard him. “I’ll keep your food warm,” he said, giving her hand a squeeze.
Laura’s mind was too busy mulling over the one little word he had slipped in the previous sentence. Had he done it on purpose? She felt her heart flutter at that thought. “Okay,” she heard herself respond.
Remington leaned in and lightly, lovingly met his lips to hers. As he pulled away, he passed her a look he hoped told her he had been serious.
Laura only swallowed, afraid he really was serious.
After contemplating the situation for a few minutes longer, Laura got out of bed. Remington had rejoined her family in the kitchen, and she was expected to show up fairly quickly.
What exactly was he up to? It was odd enough he had shown up more than half-way across the country, but what was his true game? He was testing her, that much she knew. Where he was leading...that she didn’t know. As was often the case, Remington seemed to have a plan, and she would have to play along to get some answers.
Laura threw on the same clothes she had on the night before and headed for the kitchen.
She found Donald seated at the far end of the kitchen table, with Frances to his immediate left, Abigail was next to her. All three kids sat along the opposite side of the table. Remington was sitting at the end of the table, his back to the kitchen’s entrance. The only remaining chair was between Abigail and Remington.
Donald was the first to see her. “Morning, Laura,” he said, waving his fork in the air a little.
She smiled. “Good morning.”
Remington’s head snapped around. He instantly stood up, smiling at her warmly. He pulled out the empty chair for her and bowed slightly.
Laura hesitated, checking everyone’s expressions. It was still very awkward trying to carry on her personal relationship with Remington in front of her family, instead of their professional relationship.
The kids were content to ignore her and Donald had returned to eating. Abigail smiled at her in a motherly way. Laura stiffened slightly as she noticed Frances’ eyes jumping between her and Remington. A smirk passed over Frances’ face as her examination came to an end. Frances licked her lips and lowered her head, obviously trying to concentrate on not staring at Laura and Remington.
Laura could feel her face get hot. Quickly, she took her seat, rattled by her sister’s “all knowing” glances. Damn, it was frustrating not knowing how to feel or act in front of these people.
Remington pushed her chair in for her as she sat. He then leaned over and kissed her lightly on the cheek. He lingered a second more than necessary.
Laura’s neck muscles tightened in apprehension. As much as she wanted to keep their relationship under wraps, Remington seemed equally determined to open it up for everyone to look at. She quickly forced a recovery, picking up her napkin and placing it on her lap. “Sorry I’m late,” she commented to no one in particular.
“That’s okay, dear,” Abigail said. “Remington volunteered to make us all this wonderful breakfast, and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to let someone else cook.” She simply beamed at Remington. Laura recognized the gleam in her mother’s eye. She was sizing the man up as a son-in-law.
Hoping Remington didn’t know what her mother’s twinkle meant, Laura picked up her fork and tried very hard to concentrate on eating.
Frances stole a look at her sister and just rolled her eyes. She had been in the exact same situation years before with Donald. Only, Frances was fairly sure she handled Mother’s probing better than Laura was.
“Oh, Laura,” Abigail continued. “Frances and I wanted to get some last-minute gifts at the mall. Would you like to come with us?”
Gifts? Laura had a sudden sinking feeling. While she had brought gifts for her entire family, Remington’s was sitting back in Los Angeles. “Yes, Mother, I’ve got a couple things to pick up, too.” She looked at Remington, who smiled back warmly. Almost too warmly.
“I’m taking the kids to the movies,” Donald said, swallowing the last of his orange juice. “Want to join us, Remington?”
Remington, who had been keeping a close eye on Laura since she sat down, tore his gaze from her. “Uh...” He would have preferred to stay at Laura’s side all day. But, it didn’t seem to be an option. “Certainly.”
“Great,” Donald said, rising to his feet. “I’ll grab the paper and see what’s playing.”
“Can I be excused?” Mindy asked her mother.
“Me, too,” Danny added.
“Take your plates to the sink,” Frances commented.
The two kids picked up their breakfast materials and deposited them in the sink. “I get to be Mario this time!” Mindy told her brother before taking off in a run to the basement.
“Hey! No! I get it!” Danny chased after her. The heavy foot-stomps rumbled through the house as the two raced for the basement. Muffled bickering soon followed.
“All right, you two! Keep it down!” Frances yelled. Eventually, the voices quieted.
Laura kept her attention on her food, but decided it was stuff like that which made her hesitant to contemplate a family of her own.
Laurie Beth, who had finished her breakfast, slipped over into Danny’s empty chair, next to Remington. She tugged the sleeve of his sweater. “Do you like cartoon movies, Uncle Remington?”
Before Remington could answer, all three women snapped their attention to the little girl. Remington carefully tried to gage the reaction of each from their faces. Abigail was smiling pleasantly, obviously thinking her granddaughter was terribly cute for saying such things. Frances looked completely embarrassed. Laura was simply mortified.
“Laurie Beth!” Frances scolded. “We talked about this. What do you call Mr. Steele?”
“But he said!” the girl protested.
Frances and Abigail looked at Remington for confirmation. Laura wanted to crawl under the table.
Remington shrugged, noting Laura’s discomfort. “I didn’t think it would hurt anything,” he said, flashing his most gorgeous grin at Frances. “It’s all right with me.”
Frances, who didn’t have any practice at not falling for Remington’s charm, immediately smiled. “Well. Okay. Since it’s all right with you.”
Abigail smiled wider. “I think it’s absolutely adorable.”
Laura didn’t like where things were leading. Remington was playing right into her mother’s hand. Laura felt a definite need to separate herself from the situation. “I think I’m finished,” she said, quickly getting up. “I...uh...I have to get a shower and...” She backed up a couple steps and looked at Remington. He had the same maddening look he’d had all morning...total adoration for her. “...uh...” Laura frowned slightly and turned to her mother. “...we’ll go after that.”
Knowing she’d made a complete fool of herself, Laura left the kitchen and went into her room. She wished there was a lock on the door.
Abigail passed a concerned glance between Frances and Remington. She stood up, her maternal instincts still in tact even after so many years, “I think...I’ll go see what’s bothering her.” She left the kitchen.
Frances stared at Remington. His eyes widened a little bit, then he looked away.
“Donald!” Frances called. “Will you take Laurie Beth downstairs and make sure she and Mindy and Danny start getting ready to leave?”
Donald reappeared in the kitchen, the entertainment section of the morning paper in one hand. “Sure thing.” He took Laurie Beth’s hand and the two headed for the basement.
Alone, Frances returned to studying Remington. He shifted in his seat uncomfortably, unable to finish his breakfast. He put his fork down and wiped his lips with his napkin before he agreed to make eye contact with Frances. When he finally did, she raised her eyebrows at him. He swallowed. So much for charm working on her.
“Well?” she stated.
“Well?” Remington repeated, hoping to act innocent.
Frances wasn’t buying it. She relaxed her shoulders and leaned forward on the table. Suddenly, Remington knew what it was like to have a mother. He didn’t know exactly how, but Frances had slipped into that motherly interrogation mode teen-agers so fear.
“What’s going on between you and Laura?”
At least she didn’t beat around the bush. Remington pondered his response. “Nothing,” he said, it sounding more like a question than he intended.
Frances frowned at him. “I don’t think so.”
“Why should anything be going on?”
That remark made Frances grunt in doubt. “Come on, Remington,” she started, “you’ve been working with Laura for five years.”
“It’s a professional relationship.”
“I do talk with my sister, you know.”
Remington was cornered. “Oh,” was all he could say. Knowing how thrilled Laura was when Frances moved back to Los Angeles, he had just assumed things hadn’t gotten much better between the two, since he hadn’t heard Laura talk of her sister much in the past few months. Apparently, he was wrong.
“I admit,” Frances continued, “I don’t know everything about your relationship with her, but I do know that she’s acting extremely odd today. And what’s with the ‘Uncle Remington’ bit? What’s going on that’s got Laura so flustered?”
Remington only looked at Frances in silence.
She leaned toward him, trying to keep her words hushed. “Did you propose to her or something?”
Remington tore his gaze away from Frances.
Frances scowled a little, pressing him again, a hint of a stern motherly warning in her voice. “Remington?”
He took quite awhile to raise his eyes back up to meet Frances’ stare. His face took on a slight wince. “Not yet.”
Stunned by his response, Frances sat back in her chair to absorb the admission for a few seconds. Then, a smile spread across her face, her eyes lighting up. “You’re going to?” she asked in a whisper, her excitement tweaking her words with a slightly higher pitch.
Still not looking at her, Remington pushed himself back in his seat and reached into his front jeans pocket. He extracted a small gold band with a blue stone on it.
Frances held her breath. Remington looked up at her sheepishly. She moved into Laura’s empty chair and looked at the ring in his fingers. She crinkled her brow as she examined the ring. “Sapphire?” she questioned, the disappointment obvious in her voice.
“Royal lavulite,” Remington answered, glancing at her reaction. He could tell Frances still wasn’t impressed. “Much rarer than diamonds,” he clarified. “It has special significance to Laura and me.”
“Ah,” Frances said, approving. She watched Remington slip the ring back into his pocket. The expression on his face saddened her. “So what’s the hang-up? Why aren’t we celebrating an engagement?”
Remington stared off, out the kitchen window, to nothingness. “I’ve got a problem with words.”
“Donald had that problem,” Frances offered. “He finally just blurted it out when he was giving me a root canal.”
Remington looked at Frances incredulously.
“I’m serious!” she said. “It was weird...but effective.”
Remington let that thought sink into his mind. Then, he patted Frances’ hand. “Thanks. But...” He couldn’t bring himself to explain that it wasn’t the proposal he was struggling with, but rather the three little words that should come long before a proposal. “...Laura...well, things with her are a little...different.”
“You’re telling me? I’m the one who lived with her for 18 years.”
Abigail tapped on the door to Laura’s room. There was no answer. “Laura?” she called. “It’s me. Can I come in?”
“What is it, Mother?” Laura responded. She desperately wanted Abigail to leave her alone. She didn’t want to try to explain things to her, especially since she didn’t know what was going on.
“Can I come in?”
Laura sighed. Typical. “Fine.”
Abigail opened the door and stepped in the room.
Laura was on the bed, flat on her back, staring at the ceiling.
Abigail shut the door and sat down on the edge of the bed. “Do you feel all right, Laura?”
“I’m fine,” she answered.
“Laura, you’ve been acting very strangely this morning.”
“I’m fine. Really...I just...” Laura caught herself. She had nearly started talking with her mother! She covered quickly. “I just don’t have anything for Mr. Steele for Christmas.” She sat up and swung her legs off of the bed, trying to look like she was all ready to get down to business. “That’s all.”
Abigail stared at her daughter.
Laura forced a smile to her face before she glanced at her mother, hoping she would soon go away.
Abigail frowned. “Can I ask you something, dear?”
Laura felt the muscles in her neck tense again. “What?”
“Why don’t you call him by his first name?”
“I...well...” Laura couldn’t help but laugh a little. “I have no idea. I guess, ‘Remington’ just sounds so...” She refused to admit to her mother that calling him ‘Mr. Steele’ helped to keep her insulated from him. “...I don’t know. Just an old habit, I guess.”
Abigail could tell when one of her offspring was feeding her a line. “It was Laurie Beth calling him Uncle Remington that did this to you, wasn’t it?”
Laura tried to look indigent at the comment. “Why would that possibly bother me?”
“Because,” Abigail began, “he isn’t her uncle.” She studied her daughter’s face, trying to decide how to phrase her next sentence. “And he should be.”
Laura winced, then immediately shook it off. “Don’t get your hopes up too high, Mother, because I seriously doubt anything of the sort will ever come to pass.”
Abigail shook her head, thrown off by Laura’s comment. She knew her daughter had been working with Remington for five years, and she knew what she had seen practically oozing from the man only minutes before. Abigail also knew, from the very first time she met him almost five years ago, Remington was quite attached to her daughter. “You’d turn him down?”
Laura very deliberately looked at her mother. “He’s never going to ask.”
Abigail pursed her lips.
“Honestly. He won’t.”
Not wanting to believe any of what Laura was saying, Abigail tried a different approach. “Then why don’t you ask him?”
Laura let out an exasperated grunt, then stood up. “Mother!” She walked away from the bed to the window. She crossed her arms over her chest and stood, staring out at the newly-fallen snow.
“Well, why not?” Abigail probed. “It might not be traditional, but it certainly has been done before.”
Laura turned her head back to look distastefully at her mother. She knew her mother was concerned with one thing...getting her married off to the biggest fish possible. “Mother,” she began, trying to remain neutral, “I realize you think I’ve landed ‘a big one,’ but the truth is...” She paused, not exactly sure what to say. “The truth is, I don’t think I have.”
“Oh,” Abigail said, digesting her words. “Well, in that case...maybe...” Abigail tried to pick her words carefully, “maybe you should start dating other people. I mean, it makes a great deal of difference if Remington isn’t what you want, if you don’t love him.”
Laura looked at her mother. “I didn’t say that.”
“No,” Laura began, then realized exactly what she was doing. She was explaining something personal to her mother. She let her thought verbalize itself, “Oh, hell.” She paused, obviously stuck in the moment. She forced herself to continue. “Mother, the man doesn’t love me!”
Abigail stared at her in disbelief for a moment. “You’re kidding,” she deadpanned.
Laura started to pace. “Well, maybe he does.” She threw her hands in the air. “I don’t know.”
“This is a joke, right?”
Stopping in front of her mother, Laura frowned. “I’m serious.”
Abigail had absolutely no idea what to say at that point. It all seemed totally ridiculous. “Surely, you’re mistaken. That man adores you. You can tell just by looking at him.”
“He’s never said anything,” Laura countered. “Five years...and he’s never said anything.” *Until this morning...* A tingle ran down Laura’s spine. *He hadn’t really meant that...had he? It was just a slip...*
Abigail pondered that tid-bit. “What have you told him?”
Laura closed her eyes against the answer. “Nothing.”
Sitting up straight, Abigail shook her head in disbelief. “No wonder you’re confused,” she sighed.
After the mid-afternoon showing of “The Princess Bride,” Donald agreed to let the kids spend a little time in the mall’s arcade. As Mindy, Danny and Laurie Beth gleefully plugged quarters into the various video games, Remington and Donald sat just outside the arcade, waiting for them to run out of change.
Donald was keeping a close eye on the entrance to the arcade, to be sure one of his kids didn’t sneak out without him noticing. Remington’s thoughts were miles away as he, too, stared toward the arcade.
“You look pretty far gone there, Remington,” Donald commented, turning his head slightly toward his companion. “Got jet-lag?”
“Hummm?” Remington blinked and shook his head slightly. “Oh, sorry, Donald. Uh...no, I don’t have jet-lag. Just a lot on my mind.”
Donald smiled. “Christmas can do that to a person.”
“It’s not really Christmas that’s...” Remington caught himself.
Donald immediately noticed the hesitance. He decided to change the subject. “So, I hadn’t really heard the full story about that hostage thing last year. Pretty scary, huh? I doubt I could have done half the things you and Laura did to save everyone. I would have folded under the pressure.” He laughed a little. “Kind of like when you made me play sitting-duck for that hit-man.”
Remington managed a small snicker at the memory.
“Yeah, I guess I’m just a big chicken when it comes right down to it,” Donald said. “Dentistry is definitely more my speed.”
“You’re not a chicken, Donald,” Remington said. He looked at him, “You’ve dedicated yourself to a family.”
Remington couldn’t believe he’d gone down that path again. It seemed inevitable when he was with Donald, they always talked about the same thing: how exciting Donald thought Remington’s life was, and how great Remington thought Donald was for having a family. He shook off the feeling of deja vu.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Donald agreed. “It takes a lot to give up a lifestyle...to make another person a part of your life permanently. Well, four other people...”
Remington smiled warmly. “Do you have any other family? I mean, besides Abigail and Laura.”
“Oh, sure. Scads of family. I have two sisters. One older, one younger. They’re both married with kids. My niece Carrie--that’s my sister’s oldest daughter--she’s got a new baby. My mom lives in Florida now. There are some cousins...but we don’t see them hardly at all.” He shrugged. “Of course, I don’t really get along with Tim or Ed...those are my brother-in-laws. Makes holidays a real bear. That’s why I wasn’t so upset that Abigail asked us here this Christmas.” He smiled at Remington. “I have a much better time visiting with you and Laura.” Donald noticed Remington’s face flush slightly. As a dentist, he was more than tuned into people’s silent reactions. He quickly tried to smooth the situation over. “Uh...not that I think of you as a brother-in-law...I mean, you and Laura are...” He winced. It wasn’t working. “Sorry, Remington.”
Realizing he’d made Donald extremely uncomfortable, Remington forced a grin. “That’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”
“I gotta learn to keep my mouth shut,” Donald said, shaking his head. He smiled. “Too many years with Frances...always jumping to conclusions about things.”
Remington eyed him curiously. “What sort of conclusions are you jumping to, Donald?”
“Huh? Oh...nothing. I mean, it’s certainly none of my business what you and Laura do or don’t do.”
Squinting slightly, Remington looked at Donald. “When did you first realize you loved Frances?”
“What?” Donald blinked, confused. “Frances?” He relaxed, realizing Remington changed the subject. “Well, that’s an easy one. I was in school doing my hands-on dentistry studies. Frances happened to come into the office where I was working to have her wisdom teeth pulled. They were impacted, but we decided to go ahead and to the procedure at the office. I did the work on her, and when she was coming out from under the anesthetic she said I was the cutest guy she’d ever seen.”
Remington smiled at that.
“Well, I knew she was just drugged, so I didn’t think anymore about it. Though, the entire office had a good laugh at my expense.” Donald gave a self-depreciating shrug. “It was when she came back to the office to look me up, I knew she meant business. I think I fell for her right then.”
“Frances chased YOU?”
“Absolutely,” Donald said. “Only don’t ever tell her I told you. She’d kill me. Heck, I don’t even think Laura knows exactly how Frances and I got together.”
Remington nodded. “And when did you tell Frances...” He stopped. “I’m sorry. This is none of my business.”
“I don’t mind,” Donald said with a grin. He had figured out what Remington was going after, and was more than willing to help him get whatever information he needed that might help. Besides, officially getting Remington as a brother-in-law would far out-weigh the torment of having to deal with Tim and Ed. “When did I tell Frances what? That I loved her?”
Remington shifted uneasily under Donald’s probing, enthusiastic stare.
“We’d been dating for a couple months, I think,” Donald continued, assuming what Remington wanted to hear about. “Telling her I loved her wasn’t any big deal for me. It’s what I felt. I never thought for one moment that she didn’t love me, too. I suppose that was rather foolish of me, but at the time, the thought never crossed my mind.” He smirked. “Now, the proposal...that was a completely different story.”
Remington couldn’t help but allow the smile to tug his lips upward. He already knew the punchline to this story. It struck him as funny that Donald and Frances’ relationship seemed to advance the most when she was sedated.
“I convinced Frances to go to the dental convention with me...without telling Abigail. Oh, Lord, let me tell you, those were the most nerve-wracking three days of my life.” He tapped his foot, the memories still making him uncomfortable. “We’d never gone away together before...and to do it behind Abigail’s back...” He shuddered a bit. “You know how old-fashioned Abigail is.” Remington nodded in agreement and Donald continued. “Anyway, I was going to propose to Frances over a nice, quiet dinner that weekend. I had the ring, I had the speech, I had Frances. The one thing I didn’t have was the guts.” He sighed. “Don’t get me wrong...we had a great time...if you know what I mean. I just couldn’t bring myself to face her possible rejection. I mean, who’d want to marry a funny-looking dental student who was shorter than she was?”
Remington was taking in every word Donald said. It was very much a relief to know he wasn’t the only man who was afraid of a woman’s rejection.
“I ended up waiting a couple more weeks. Frances needed a root canal...that woman has had more dental work than anyone I’ve known. I finally blurted it out, right there, the drill in my hand, the dental assistant running the little vacuum tube in Frances’ mouth.”
Donald smiled. “It makes for an interesting mental picture, huh?”
“What did Frances do?”
Donald shrugged. “She drooled on me.” On Remington’s raised eyebrows, Donald clarified. “She sat up and hugged me, saying yes as best she could. She couldn’t feel half her face...so she drooled on me.”
Remington shook his head. When Frances said Donald proposed to her during a root canal, he didn’t think she had meant it quite so literally.
“It makes for a very funny story,” Donald admitted. “However,” he looked directly at Remington. “I still regret not doing it right the first time.”
Suddenly, the ring tucked in Remington’s pocket seemed to get very heavy.
Laura stood over the case in the jewelry store. She passed right over the necklaces and pendants and moved on to the gold cuff-links. She’d already bought Remington a pair, but those were in L.A. She could always take the others back or keep them until next year or make up another birthday for him to celebrate.
“Why don’t you get him one of these?” Frances said, pointing down into a case a few feet from Laura, a smirk on her face.
“Money clip?” Laura questioned as she moved to join her sister. She felt more than a twinge of discomfort when she saw what was in the case. “Those are wedding bands, Frances. I don’t think I’ll be buying one of those for him, thank you.” She pointed back to the case she had been at previously. “Cuff-links. That’s more along the line of what I was thinking.” She proceeded to head back that way.
“Oh, come on, Laura,” Frances grumbled, moving next to her sister. “Don’t be so up-tight.”
“I’m not up-tight, Frances.”
The clerk came over and Laura pointed to a set of gold cuff-links with onyx faces and inset diamonds. As Laura examined the item, Frances turned to the clerk.
“Do you have anything with royal lavulite in it?”
Laura felt her entire body stiffen. The clerk’s eyes widened. “No, ma’am. That’s a little too far out of our league here. You might try contacting a gems dealer for royal lavulite.” Frances grinned. Remington had, indeed, outdone himself. The clerk pointed to the case on the other side of the room. “We’ve got sapphire. It’s not even close to what the lavulite is, but it is blue, if that’s what you’re going for.”
“I’ll take these,” Laura said, shoving the box with the cuff-links back at the clerk and tossing her credit card on the counter.
“Very good, ma’am. Would you like me to gift-wrap this?”
Laura nodded. The clerk disappeared. Laura instantly turned to Frances. “Just what was that about?”
“The royal lavulite.”
Frances smiled at her sister. “Nothing.”
“I saw a show that mentioned it,” Frances shrugged. “They said it was more valuable than diamonds. I just wanted to make sure.”
“I was just curious. That’s all.” Frances smiled and walked over to where Abigail stood, looking at the watches in another case across the room.
Laura ground her teeth together. She hated it when people didn’t give full explanations for their odd behavior. Of course, she ought to be used to it by now. She’d put up with Remington’s strange actions for over four years. It irritated her to think that somehow Frances was in league with Remington on some plot. Laura decided to against confronting her sister, instead settling for keeping an extra close eye on both of them.
Only seconds after the three women arrived home from the mall, the children and ran from the house and simultaneously dove into the deep snow in the front yard. Remington and Donald stepped out on the front porch.
Donald raised his hand to wave at Frances, but was smacked in the face with a cold ball of loosely-packed snow. Grinning, he immediately turned his attention to grabbing the first snow he could find and flinging it back at his son.
Remington hung back, watching both the flurry of snow in front of him and the women extracting themselves from Abigail’s car. He sighed raggedly, still unsure if he should have left the ring sitting in a wrapped box under the Christmas tree. Glancing back at the house, he pondered. Nobody had seen him sneak the package behind the others, he still had time to retrieve it before anyone noticed.
He forced his gaze back to Laura. His stomach knotted.
“He’s just one big kid,” Frances said of her husband as she dug through her purse. “Ah-ha!” She pulled out her point-and-shoot camera and handed her purse to Laura, immediately starting to snap pictures.
Abigail rounded the car and opened the trunk.
Remington shoved his hands deep into his coat pockets, screwed up his courage and descended the porch stairs to joined Abigail. He took note of the suspicious look Laura gave him as he passed. There was that crinkle...he could see her mind turning over the ideas. “Let me get those for you,” he offered Abigail.
The older Holt looked up from the myriad of bags and boxes in the trunk and sighed thankfully. “Gladly.” She grabbed a couple smaller boxes, but left the rest for Remington.
He hoisted the remaining bags into his arms and obediently followed Abigail toward the house. He made sure to smile warmly to Laura as he passed, a lazy look in his eye covering the sheer terror he felt knowing that her mind was already processing theories about his behavior.
She frowned after him, grinding her teeth again. *What is he up to? And why the hell did he have to do it here of all places?*
Laura made her way to the porch, kicking the snow in front of her as she stepped. She let out a long breath, noticing the white vapor that appeared in front of her face. Odd. Having been so wrapped up in analyzing Remington and Frances, she had actually forgotten it was below freezing.
She stopped, taking in a deep breath of frigid air. It stung her nose, throat and lungs. She exhaled another cloud of white. *Maybe I’m just thinking too much...*
Laura stepped up to the porch, but decided not to go inside just yet. Instead, she turned and placed her gloved hands on the railing, supporting herself as she leaned forward slightly. She watched her family’s activities, forcing her mind to clear of the clutter she’d filled it with over the past few hours.
Frances, standing dead-center in the battlefield, switched back and forth from aiming her camera at Donald and then the kids as the snowballs flew across the yard.
“Incoming!” Danny yelled, diving into a snowdrift just ahead an exceptionally large white sphere Mindy had chucked at him.
Laurie Beth, who hadn’t quite mastered packing the snow together, sat in a pile of snow, flinging it into the air toward her father. Frances laughed as Donald’s dark coat was covered in white flakes.
On the porch, Laura stood watching the proceedings. She lowered her elbows to the railing and half-crossed her arms in front of her, relaxing and enjoying the crispness of the air. She closed her eyes, listening to the children yelling, taking note of how the deep snow deadened the sounds.
She heard snow crunching behind her. The footfalls were too heavy to be her mother’s. She smiled, knowing it had to be Remington. Two arms came around from behind, wrapping around her waist. He tugged slightly and she slowly stood upright into his embrace. Remington held her close, pressing his cheek next to hers. They stood together for a very long time. Laura didn’t want to open her eyes for fear some magical spell would be broken and the moment of true peace she had found would vanish.
Remington turned his face slightly, lightly brushing his lips against her cheek. He worked his way back to her ear, where he stopped and hovered. His hot breath concentrated on that one small area was so dramatically contrasted by the chill in the air, Laura shivered.
It was barely above a whisper. And had her ear not been only a couple centimeters away from his lips, she would never have heard him.
“I love you, Laura.”
Her eyes opened. Not with a sudden jolt, but slowly, almost dreamily. She stared forward, seeing her family playing in the yard, but knowing nothing except the warmth of the man wrapped around her. She was trembling again, and this time it wasn’t from the temperature difference.
“Laura?” he whispered.
*No, don’t spoil it...* she mentally begged. It couldn’t possibly be real, but she wanted to let the dream linger as long as possible.
Remington’s arms tightened around her. He could feel her shaking.
“You do?” she heard herself breathe.
“Yes,” he responded, tickling her ear with his breath again.
Her heart pounded in her chest, affirming that she was most definitely not dreaming. She felt the smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. There was no need to try to contain it. *Mystery solved.*
Everyone made their way to the living room after supper. Actually, the adults made their way in, the three kids nearly killed each other racing for the Christmas tree.
“Just one!” Frances reminded them. “You only get one tonight. The rest are for morning.”
In contrast to the way the children arrived at the tree, they took an extremely long time fingering over the packages, trying to determine which one would be the best.
The three kids each finally selected a package and tore into them. There were gleeful cries of “yes” and “thanks, Grandma” in among the sounds of tearing of paper.
“What one do you want, Aunt Laura?” Mindy asked, after handing her parents and grandmother each a package.
“I think she wants the one right back there,” Remington answered for her, pointing to a medium-size box nestled next to the tree trunk.
Laura looked up at him. “I do?” she asked curiously.
Remington smiled and nodded as Mindy delivered the package to her aunt. He glanced to Frances, who had scooched forward on the couch and was trying desperately not to look overly giddy. She smirked at Remington, he nodded to her with a lop-sided smile.
Laura removed the wrapping paper painfully slowly, causing the kids to become terribly bored and Remington and Frances to both start to fidget. She finally got down to the box, and opened the lid. The box was stuffed with tissue paper. Laura fished through it until she felt something. She pulled out a small, velvet box.
Her first fleeting thought was “earrings.” It was instantly dismissed as she recalled Remington’s admission to her only minutes earlier and the more than obvious hints from Frances at the jewelry store. *Oh, Lord...* Since Remington was standing right next to her, she couldn’t see his expression. But the look on Frances’ face said it all. It most certainly wasn’t earrings. Without opening the small box, she turned her head upward to meet Remington’s gaze. He was watching her intently, a mix of love and apprehension in his features.
By this time, Abigail had leaned forward, holding her breath. Donald was grinning enthusiastically.
Exhaling a trembling breath, Laura turned her full attention to the tiny box. She opened the lid. The royal lavulite caught the lights from the Christmas tree and made the ring shimmer. Carefully, Laura took the ring out of it’s velvet rest. Once again, she looked up to Remington.
He stared at her for a moment before straightening his shoulders and clearing his throat. “Laura Holt,” he began, kneeling down before her and taking the ring from her hand, “would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” He held her left hand in his, the ring in his right hand, poised to slip it on her finger.
More than stunned by the turn of events, Laura couldn’t find any words. She stared at him, the look of shock still ingrained in her features. This was too much for one day.
Remington adjusted his hands, trying to keep them from shaking. He watched Laura for a reaction, but he only saw disbelief on her face. The weight of the stares from Laura’s family started to press on his shoulders. He could feel his body temperature rise as the seconds passed, as Laura’s expression didn’t change. Remington swallowed, trying to get some moisture in his mouth so he could speak again.
Laura finally spoke, shattering the silence of the filled room. “Are you serious?” she whispered. Immediately she realized that wasn’t what she intended to say. She frowned at herself and grunted, preparing to try a different approach.
“Good, God, Laura,” Remington began, trying to keep his voice low, even though everyone could easily hear him. “Yes, I’m serious!” He turned his head slightly to acknowledge the audience. “Do you think I’d make such a bloody fool of myself if I wasn’t?”
Laura suddenly felt a wave of guilt crash over her. She sighed, bowing her head slightly. “I’ve never even said I love you...”
“I know,” he said, gripping her hand a little tighter. He desperately needed something stable to cling to, but at the moment, he wasn’t sure it was Laura.
Laura raised her eyes to his. Remington noticed the unshed tears. “I do, though.”
Remington’s eyes shined. “I’d hoped so.” He smiled lovingly at her.
Laura grinned. “Yes,” she said definitively.
Remington returned her smile. “Yes,” he agreed. Suddenly, it hit him. He literally shook his head to register the response. “Yes?!” The smile that lit up his face made him look 10 years younger. Eagerly, he slid the ring onto her finger.
Laura didn’t even have a chance to look at the ring before she was in Remington’s tight embrace. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and hugged him tightly right back.
“Well, it took you long enough!” Frances said as the tears of joy escaped from her eyes.
Laura opened her moistened eyes to get a blurry view of her family over Remington’s shoulder. They were all smiling widely. Even the kids seemed to be enjoying the exchange. Laura turned her lips to Remington’s ear. The words were for him, even though the rest of the scene was going to be for public display. “I love you,” she breathed into his ear. She caught the look of extreme happiness on Remington’s face just before she pulled him in for a kiss...a kiss that Abigail would most definitely not have approved of if they weren’t engaged.