FAMILY STEELE: 2001 - A STEELE ODYSSEY (PART 12A)

By: Phaedra Phelan

E Mail: PrissyBNY@aol.com

Summary: World events have a traumatic effect on the Steele family-a tribute to those who lost their lives in the September 11, 2001 tragedy at New York's World Trade Twin Towers.

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.

* * * * * *

It was September 9, 2001 and Laura was helping her husband, Remington, pack for a business trip to New York. They had recently had their first book published on industrial security and suddenly they were in demand everywhere for lectures on the subject. Remington had generally limited this activity to one-day trips where he and Laura could fly in and fly out on the same day they did their presentation. Laura was usually able to accompany him but sometimes they were not both able to go due to the needs of their children and this was one of those times.

Remington just did not like to travel without Laura with him-and this for a number of reasons. First all he did not like to have to fend of all the unwanted female attention he always seemed to generate. It was not a difficult on a personal basis for him to rebuff this sort of thing as he was totally caught up and absorbed in his marriage, but it still was an annoyance that often had to be handled with the greatest of discretion. Secondly, he missed his children when he was away from them-and they missed him. And thirdly, he did not like to spend even one night away from Laura.

This time the situation was somewhat special. He was to teach a two-day seminar at the World Trade Center in Manhattan to a group of CEO's who were interested in protecting their respective companies from the industrial espionage that seemed to be rampant in the business community. Laura had planned to accompany him on the trip with their eight-month-old twin boys, Rhett and Reade, but then, just the day before he was to leave, Cassie and Chl÷e, their thirteen- year-olds, both came down with measles. They were in such a state with rash and fever that Laura could not leave them and so she persuaded Remington to go on without her.

As Remington started to pack on Sunday morning, he stopped and stared at Laura. Having just come out of the shower, his thick black hair was tousled and dripping wet and he was wearing only his terry robe.

"I just don't want to go without you along. I will have to sleep two nights without you in a blasted hotel."

"Well, the Millenium Hotel sounds like a great place. You'll be comfortable there."

"You realize that I will be a virtual prisoner in my room evenings. It's amazing that women just don't want to accept the fact that a lone man in a hotel may not want company. I get so tired of fending off the unwanted attention. I had hoped that these few strands of gray in my hair would take the edge off and I could begin to sort of blend in with the woodwork, so to speak."

"You won't blend into the woodwork when you are eighty, love. Some men just are beautiful no matter how old they are. Look at Paul Newman. He's in his seventies but Lord knows he's still fabulous to look at. There's just something about blue-eyed men." Laura smiled up at him and Remington grinned engagingly, involuntarily preening in that manner that she always found so irresistible.

"Laura, I wish that either you were coming with me or that I weren't going anywhere. I think that we could enjoy this day in our own special way-send the well children to the park, look in on the sick children from time to time, put the babies to sleep. . ." Remington spoke softly, taking Laura's hand, kissing it and drawing it against his bare breast in a gesture so sensual that Laura suddenly saw nothing but the blue eyes of her needy husband as her fingertips felt the beating of his heart through the thick hair on his chest. The surge of warmth in the pit of her stomach told her that she was going to have to stop what she was doing and attend to the passionate needs of both of them.

"You-you know that I will miss you, but I can't leave these children in this state. Esperanza could not handle them and the other children as well. Besides, if any complications develop, I will need to be here. And I think that taking Jonathan along in my place is a great idea. You and he can do some of that father-son bonding they talk about so much. At seventeen-he, he needs all the help-he can get." Laura spoke brightly, trying to concentrate on helping him pack but Remington had completely distracted her.

"You are right as always, but that doesn't make me feel any better about leaving this here," Remington said, patting her affectionately on her bottom and then catching her around her waist, pulling her up close to him.

Laura wound her arms around her husband's neck, unable to resist the powerful attraction between them a moment longer.

"This will all be here when you get home, love," Laura said, kissing him on his mouth. Remington held her up close to him and continued the kiss, his hands wandering over her body in a fashion that made Laura's knees weaken just as much as the first time he ever held her close to him.

"Laura! Please don't be coquette with me today. Be that earthy passionate woman that needs me as badly as I need her. I know that you are not going to send me off aching for you like this."

"Last night . . . didn't we?" Laura said, feigning ignorance of the needs of her amorous husband. She did want to play the coquette this day either.

"That was last night, Kitten." Remington's face flushed with desire. "I want you now. I need you now. Do I have to beg you for this?" He caressed her hips. "I'll gladly beg today, love."

"Well, your begging can be quite interesting." Laura said, still toying with her husband.

"Darling . . ." Remington Steele implored, mock suffering registered in his blue eyes.

"Well, maybe not today," Laura said as she took him by the hand and led him to their bed and drew him down on it with her.

Remington smiled rakishly at her. "This is the only part of good-bye that I enjoy," he said as he claimed her lips again. He yielded to the heat of his passion for her, deftly unfastening the waist of the khaki slacks Laura was wearing, slipping them off her and tossing them on the floor beside their bed. Then he gave his attention to the breasts that nursed his children and that gave him such pleasure, cupping them in his hands, kissing them over and over.

"It's the only worthwhile part," Laura sighed as she helped her husband shed his damp terry robe and gathered him into her arms.

They came together quickly, finding the rhythm that they knew so well. After fourteen years of marriage, there was never any hesitation. The response of their bodies to one another was lightning fast. They were so tuned in to each other this warm late summer morning that when their eyes met, the electricity passing between them sent Laura completely over the brink into rapture. Remington's gaze riveted on Laura as the convulsions of the acme seized her and held her captive again and again before releasing her, as they continued to give themselves to one another.

"I don't want to be away from you-not for a moment, Laura. God help me! I can't do without you, woman."

Remington snorted and gasped as he lost himself completely. His ecstatic cries of pleasure as he reduced Laura to near insanity were wrung from his very soul and when they finally came to climax together, it was as if they were projected into their own private universe of bright flashing lights exploding one after another in their brains.

"I love you, Laura," he murmured as he lay in her arms.

"You-you just get yourself back here on Tuesday night, love," Laura whispered smoothing his damp hair back from his perspiring forehead, kissing him tenderly on his cheeks and lips.

"I can't let you go yet, babe. I just can't let you go." Remington groaned as he succumbed to the pleasure of connection with Laura once again, and Laura gave herself generously to him, altogether as unwilling to separate from him as he was to separate from her.

When they finally dragged themselves away from each other, there was just time to shower again, dress and go to LAX to catch American Airlines 3:30 p.m. flight to New York's JFK.

Jonathan was on top of the world as he accompanied his adoptive father on this trip, his ruddy good looks only enhanced by his youthful enthusiasm for the trip. He wore an olive green sports jacket and deep blue button-down shirt with a burgundy tie and his beloved khaki pants and presented quite a dapper appearance. He constantly tried to emulate the impeccable haberdashery of his father and was becoming quite good at it. As Jonathan walked along with Remington who wore his traditional navy Armani suit, light blue shirt and striped burgundy tie and Laura, who had donned a pale peach colored long silk skirt and matching shirt, the three made a handsome family group.

"I'll see you Tuesday night, Mom," Jonathan said as he kissed his mother at the gate.

"Have fun, Johnny," Laura said as she kissed him good-bye. "Love you."

Remington embraced his wife and kissed her hard, feeling no embarrassment at being observed by the other passengers waiting at the gate. "I will miss you, woman," he whispered into her ear, his eyes pensive as he contemplated the next few days without her.

"I'll miss you too," Laura said, giving him a final hug before he walked away from her to board the plane.

Laura's eyes filled when she got back into the Passat and turned the key to start the car to return home. Her heart ached for her husband already. The basic human urges that drove both of them could only be handled in one way and that would have to be postponed for the next few days. Laura was satisfied in her flesh after the passionate morning they had spent together, but the emotional need she had for constant contact with Remington Steele was never satisfied unless she was close enough to him to touch him. He was her husband, the man who made love to her every morning and every night, the man who had given her seven children in fifteen years, the centerpiece of her life.

Laura arrived home to find her household in such a state that she was able to forget for a few hours that Remington was away. The twins were in such misery itching and feverish with measles that she had to immediately put everything aside and attend to them. Normally Cassie and Chl÷e were extremely self-sufficient and even helpful with the younger children, so this was quite a role reversal for them. Joanna was there at her side and for this she was thankful as they put fresh sheets on the twins' beds for the second time within a few hours.

Little Tabby followed her around from room to room and finally Laura just put her onto her lap and rocked her for a while.

"Where's Daddy?"

"Daddy's gone on a trip, sweetheart. He'll be home in a few days."

"Where's Jonathan?"

"He's with Daddy."

Laura smiled wistfully and silently prayed that Tabby not come down with measles right away. It had started with the boys and seemed to be working its way through the family. She was very glad that her breastfeeding would protect the nine-month old baby boys.

When Tabby finally nodded off to sleep, she carried her into her bedroom and put her into her bed. The twins were beginning to fume and fuss a bit and she knew that they were hungry. Reade Ryan Holt and Rhett Rowan Holt Steele were crawling everywhere now, pulling up on furniture and she expected them to begin to walk any day. But now they just wanted to nurse and she lifted them up onto her bed, propped herself up on her pillows and let them nurse together. The active little boys were freckled and with thick thatches of chestnut hair but they had their father's intense blue eyes. The only difference between them at this early stage of life was a mass of freckles on the back of Rhett's little right hand that was on the back of Reade's left hand and the developing differences in personality. Rhett, the firstborn seemed to be the natural leader of the two. He was always hungry first; he cried first at discomfort; and he seemed as if he were going to walk first.

Laura gazed at the robust babies nursing at her breasts and then up at the large photograph on the wall near her bed of Remington and her when she was six months pregnant with the twins taken for an exhibit of well-known expectant couples at Cedars-Sinai. Her friend, Sandra Brathwaite, had encouraged them to participate and because it had been for the worthy cause of cancer research, they had decided to do it. It was a stunning portrait of them-Remington in black slacks and black turtleneck his hands embracing Laura's belly as she sat between his legs in front of him. Laura was photographed in a black cropped sweater and black dancers' leotards revealing all her glorious expanse of freckled belly. When In Style magazine published a spread on the exhibit in April, 2001, showing celebrity couples from the city, it had created even more interest in the Los Angeles community. Remington and Laura had been quite surprised at the positive comments they received for sharing such a special time of their lives.

As Laura looked at the picture, at the happiness in their faces, she recalled what a time of joy this pregnancy had been for them. Shortly after coming home from the black pearl case in French Polynesia, Laura had sensed that she was probably carrying twins again when she suddenly began to grow quite fast and this Dr. Sandra confirmed this in late September when they saw the first sonogram.

"You two are really doing this one. Would you look at your sonogram? You are having twins again, Laura!" Sandra smiled as Remington and Laura stared in awe at the screen and then at each other.

"I think I leave you two alone for a few minutes-to digest this news." Sandra took her leave from the examination room.

"Darling, look at our twins." Remington gently rubbed Laura's belly.

"Remy, I am so happy. Are you as happy as I am right now."

Remington answered by kissing her tenderly upon her lips and then several times upon her distended belly as Laura broke down and cried for joy, her hands in his dark hair.

Remington's eyes were also bright with tears as he lifted his head to meet Laura's eyes again.

"I love the children, Laura. I would love you just as much if we had never had a child together. My feelings for you do not in any way depend upon your fecundity. That having been said, I love every moment of being a father-from the moment that we've known that you to be pregnant through the pregnancy to the birth and then every moment of the life of every child that we have. I love it all, Laura."

"I know that you do. That's why I love you so." Laura held her arms open for Remington as he leaned over her to kiss her tenderly.

The pregnancy had gone well. At five months Dr. Sandra told them that Laura was carrying boy babies this time. Laura was growing so fast that she could feel her uterus stretching as she lay in bed at night. Remington marveled at how she was so in tune with the goings on in her body.

"I think that these little boys are going to weigh more than the girls, Rem," she said as she lay in his arms one night in mid-November, 2000.

"I dare say that they will, love. You are already somewhat larger than you were at this stage with the girls." Remington patted her growing belly.

"This pregnancy is so different. The first twins-everything was so new. My body wasn't adapted to childbearing." Laura giggled girlishly. "This may sound silly but it's like when you're a child and blow up a balloon for the first time. It is so hard to do it. The balloon is so resistant. But then when you let the air out and blow up the balloon the second or third time, it blows right up-no resistance at all. That's how my body feels-no resistance-just ready to nurture these babies inside me and to keep on stretching so that they have plenty of room-till, till it's time to come out . . ."

When Laura's voice broke with emotion, Remington drew the covers up over them and told her all the reasons that he loved her and then made love to her till far into the night.

As she neared the end of the pregnancy-in her eighth month, Laura became so very large that she finally had to just stay at home and wait for the babies to come. Remington took over completely at the office and home as well, her older children just watching in amazement as she seemed to grow right before their eyes.

"I am so huge, Sandra," Laura had complained as she sat propping herself up on the examining table in Dr. Brathwaite's office. "I can hardly walk these days. How much longer do you think it will be?"

"It's hard to say. Most women would have delivered already, but your body seems to adapt very well to the stresses of this kind of pregnancy. There's no indication that you are ready to deliver yet. Those little boys are very comfortable in there. You just keep giving them room and they don't want to go anywhere." She turned to Remington who was standing by Laura and smiled. "And you, Remington Steele, don't you be harassing this woman in this condition. Do I make myself clear?"

Remington threw up his hands in gesture of mock innocence.

"Sandra, you must talk to your patient. Actually, I must tell you that she is the one harassing me."

"Remington Steele!" Laura swatted at him indignantly, flushing because she knew that what he said was true.

"Well, actually, Sandra, we are harassing each other," Remington said gallantly. "I find her absolutely irresistible when she looks like this. We do avoid the marathons and gymnastics are out of the question certainly." Remington smiled mischievously at Laura now and caught her hand in his.

"Watch her carefully. Any sign of anything and I want her here in hospital. I don't want her dropping these twins like she dropped TabbyAbby-on the beach, for goodness sake!"

Laura remembered that day well, the day TabbyAbby was born. She had insisted that she felt well enough to go to the beach with the family. She even waddled around the kitchen making sandwiches for them before they had all headed out to Santa Monica pier. It was a warm July day and she and Remington lay on the sand under a big umbrella watching their children play in the surf. Laura wasn't going in because she was so far along so she had worn a brightly checked blue and white sundress with a stretchy top for her heavy bosom and that had plenty of room for her full term belly. Remington stripped down to his swim trunks when they got settled, so that he could aid his children in the event one of them got into trouble in the water. Laura recalled how handsome he looked, the slender physique-the dark hair that adorned his body.

"You are quiet today, love," Remington said, patting her belly gently. "Are you sure that you should have come to the beach. This sun is pretty hot out here."

Laura was perspiring in the dry summer heat and Remington sensed that she may have pushed herself too much in this instance.

"I'm all right. I think that I just have to go to the bathroom, Remy," Laura said. "Help me up. I'll walk over there to where they have the toilets."

"I'll go with you. You don't need to be by yourself in your condition-and definitely not in a public toilet."

Remington got up to help Laura up from the beach chair where she was sitting, but when she stood up, her water broke suddenly and began running down her legs.

"Oh, Rem, look at me!" Laura gripped her belly as the pains came immediately upon her. "It's the baby!"

"God! I dare say that it is, Laura! I'll get the children out of the water and go get help."

"There's no time. Don't leave me!" Laura lay back down in the beach chair holding her belly.

Remington called to the people on the beach near them. "My wife is in labor. Please go get us help. And look out for my children in the water, please."

Laura was grunting now as the pains came again. "Give me the towels, Rem," she gasped as she attempted to catch her breath before the next contraction.

Remington got the stack of towels they had brought for the children to dry with and Laura tried to put one under her. Remington saw what she was doing and helped her.

"Oh, Rem, it's coming fast. I don't have much time," Laura cried out."

A young man came up-one of the lifeguards. "I'm a paramedic, sir."

"Thank God!" Remington said as Laura started panting with the next onslaught of pain."

Another lifeguard kept a crowd from gathering and still another went to gather the Steele children out of the water.

"Do you want your children around now, sir?"

Remington hesitated and Laura spoke up.

"Let them stay. I need them with me." And with her next breath, "Oh, God, I'm in pain, Remy."

Joanna and Jonathan, who were twelve and fourteen respectively at the time, watched anxiously and Cassie and Chl÷e, who were ten, stared in amazement, while the two younger boys who were four and six at the time, were just dazed, trying to absorb what was happening.

"Hold your mother's hands, Johnny and Joanna. She needs you to hold on to," Remington said. His blue eyes registered all his concern for Laura as she lost all modesty, pulled up her skirt and stretched her legs open to give birth.

"God, she's gonna have it here, sir," the young lifeguard said. "She's not gonna make it to the hospital."

"Yes! Yes! I'm having it now, for God's sake!" Laura shouted as the hardest pains came.

Laura was sweating profusely as she pushed now, oblivious to anything else except giving birth. She held on to her childrens' hands and cried as Remington and the lifeguard held her legs steady so that she could push.

"Darling, it's coming. Oh, my God, Laura!"

When Remington saw his baby crowning, Laura saw his face and all the pain was worth what she saw in his eyes at that moment when Tabitha Abigail came into the world.

"The baby's here! The baby's here!" Chl÷e and Cassie had jumped up and down excitedly just as the ambulance finally pulled up to take Laura to the hospital.

Now as she sat in Dr. Sandra's office, past due with twins, she knew that there was a strong probability that she would have very little warning of the twins' birth. She would have to just be ready. Suddenly the thought of giving birth at a moment's notice overwhelmed her and tears flooded her eyes.

"I'm don't know why the babies come so fast. I don't mean for it to happen, Rem." Laura was crying and Remington was holding her, as he and Sandra both tried to console her.

"She will be fine, Remington. This is normal at this stage of the game. Laura, please try to just relax. A woman who gives birth like you do is truly gifted. We just have to be prepared. Have the necessary things put together-at home, in your car, in the office. I don't want you stressing yourself when you are this pregnant, girl."

"I know, Sandra. I just feel so weepy-and so huge! Look at him, and look at me!" she said, pointing at Remington.

"I see a beautiful pregnant woman, Laura. What do you see, Remington?"

"I see the woman I love so gloriously pregnant that she takes my breath away when I look at her. I see the two of us together inside you, love. I don't care where you are when you give birth. I intend to be right there with you. Now let's put your things on so I can take you home."

Laura had cried all the way home that afternoon, her emotions completely jangled by the advanced state of her pregnancy. Remington had put her to bed and brought her supper and then massaged her feet and legs till she finally fell asleep.

As Remington and Jonathan settled into the business class cabin of the plane, Jonathan was having the time of his life.

"You can visit some of the interesting sights while I am teaching the class. There is a great science high school near the World Trade Center, Stuyvesant High. You might like to visit there and see what a first class New York City high school is like-make some comparisons with where you are at Hollywood High. Your mother has made some arrangements with a former schoolmate from Stanford to show you around." Remington smiled at him. "We've got tickets for "Lion King" for Monday night. And there is always shopping, Laddie."

That was a passion that they both shared and Jonathan looked forward to that.

Remington fell silent and contemplative.

"You miss Mom already, don't you?"

"Yes, my boy, I do. And that is as it should be. But not to worry, Son. I always miss her when she's not by my side. We will be home Tuesday night."

Remington did already miss Laura. His thoughts turned to her as the plane sped on its way cross country. It still amazed him that he felt so at a loss when he and Laura were apart. He would have never imagined living his life as a loner throughout his teens and twenties that he would ever be so united in spirit with another human that separation for even a few days would be so painful, but this was how it was with Laura and him.

Remington let his seat recline, closed his eyes and saw Laura. Carrying the twins in her mid-forties seemed to only have enhanced her beauty to him. When she was ready to deliver the twins, she was so full, so voluptuously beautiful-Remington could still see her in his mind-he finally just stayed at home with her, letting Mildred and Alessandra run the office while he took care of Laura's emotional needs. During the last weeks their children were marvelous, hovering over them, waiting for the babies to make their entrance, feeling Laura's belly every day, fascinated by the movements of the active little ones inside her.

The day the twins were born Remington had awakened first. He lay for a long time against Laura's back as she lay on her side, his arm around her embracing her belly, his legs entwined with hers. Though at this stage of things Remington made no demands upon Laura, it was not because he was not attracted to her in this state. On the contrary, close contact with her like this aroused him greatly and he craved these moments of affectionate cuddling. They had been intimate during the night. They had awakened and come together easily and enjoyed the pleasures of kareeza till their need for one another had been satisfied. Remington Steele's flesh quickened as he remembered Laura's soft moans as he had cared for her passionate needs.

Laura stirred, sensing Remington's excitement.

"Um, darling, you're-you're awake," she murmured.

"Don't mind me, love. My flesh is simply betraying my thoughts, my memories of last night."

"Help me turn onto my back so that I can look at you." Laura stared at her husband of nearly fifteen years. "I really love you. Do you know that?"

"Yes, I know it." He bent to gently nuzzle her breasts. The only time Laura liked to sleep au naturel was when she was very pregnant and Remington enjoyed these times to the full. "You seemed unusually-tumescent when we came together last night, Laura. I think you are coming down to the wire with this." He rubbed her belly.

"Look at me and see if I'm dilating."

Remington checked her and tried not to show his alarm when he saw that she was completely dilated.

"So . . .what does 'Dr.' Steele see?"

"I see a woman who is going to have a baby very, very soon. Why don't I help you get up and get dressed? I think we'd better call Dr. Sandra."

"Can't I just lie here with you for a while? I'm still so tired."

"I should not have let you tire yourself last night. Forgive me, darling."

Laura put her hands on her belly where her babies were very active at that moment.

"I'm going to miss this-having them inside me like this. In spite of all the discomfort, the awkwardness I have enjoyed every minute of it. I'm even proud of this belly." Laura patted her huge freckled belly with its outturned navel and evident stretch marks.

"You have taken wonderful care of them in there, darling, but they are ready to come out and meet us face-to-face. You are so full, so ripe, so lovely and you have that special look you have when you are ready to deliver."

"What look do I have?" Laura smiled, amazed.

"Do you think that I have been with you through five pregnancies without observing every nuance of change it brings about in you?"

"And this nuance has not escaped you?" Laura teased him, but she was fascinated.

"Not at all." Remington caressed her, kissing her belly that was so full now. "When you are like this, there is a look of contentment, a look of peace, satisfaction that I see at no other time. You are satisfied in a peculiar way by childbearing, aren't you, Laura?"

"At this stage of it, when I know that my babies are fine, when they are constantly moving inside me, I think of it as my 'Cheshire cat phase,' fat as I can be and just sitting and purring all day."

"That's beautiful." Remington paused for a long moment before he spoke again. "You know, Laura, I think that we are going to have to think about whether we want to have more children. Our-fertility as a couple has been somewhat astounding I would say, wouldn't you?"

"Yes, I would say so." Laura smiled almost shyly.

"I must remind you that you are forty-six years old and I am forty-nine. I will soon be fifty years old. When these little ones are twenty, I will be nearly seventy. As it is, I am going to be hard-pressed to play sports with these laddies."

"I will be closer to fifty when these stop nursing. Why don't we have this conversation again when these babies are two years old?"

"You don't wish to discuss this now?"

"No, love, I don't wish to."

"I'm willing to have a vasectomy." Remington plunged on. "I just don't know whether I want us to continue to rely on the LAM method at this stage of the game." (He used the acronym for Lactation Amenorrhea Method, the form of family planning that they had basically used since the birth of Cassie and Chl÷e.)

"No vasectomy! No vasectomy! Do you hear me?" Laura was upset at the mere suggestion and beginning to be visibly agitated.

"All right, darling. Please, please don't think about it? I-just love you and our children so much and I want you to be healthy." Remington kissed Laura's cheek and then her hands, both of them endeavoring to calm her.

"I'm sorry, Rem." Laura kissed his hands that held hers. "I guess that this is just not the time for me to think about family planning."

"I guess it is rather late in the game, love." Remington shook his head and sighed as he contemplated their family situation.

At that moment, Laura winced in pain. Remington saw it and they both knew that the babies were on their way.

"Let me get into the shower and get ready. Help me, Rem."

They got into the shower together and Remington dried her off and was helping her put on one of her voluminous cotton maternity nightgowns when water started flowing down her legs.

"Darling, it's happening now, isn't it?"

"Yes. I feel such pressure, Remington. I'm accelerating." Laura felt another definite contraction, her legs weakening.

Remington Steele picked up his wife and carried her to their bed.

"Do you want to have this baby in our bed or in the car on the way to Cedars?"

"I don't want to have this baby in the car. Call for the hospital and call Sandra. And get the children. I want them here."

"Are you sure I can leave you for a moment?"

Laura nodded. "Just don't dawdle, Mr. Steele."

Remington wakened his children and they all quickly came into their parents' bedroom where they found their mother writhing in pain.

"Sandra is coming and the ambulance is coming. Oh darling, you're under way." Remington had not had time to even put his shirt on or his shoes. He got onto the bed with her clad in only a pair of faded jeans.

"I-I can't hold the babies back. Oh, God!" Laura was in hard labor, holding her twin girls' hands while Joanna wiped her face. It had just been half an hour since she felt the first contraction.

"Help your mother, lads," Remington said to Michael and Harry. "Talk to her and keep her calm. Johnny, help me hold her legs so she can push." Remington and Jonathan were both up on the bed as Laura pulled the long gown up above her knees.

"Oh, Rem, there's no one here! I'm hurting!" She writhed in pain as a more intense contraction came, trying to do the breathing exercises she knew so well.

"Where the deuce is that ambulance?" Remington swore as Laura bore down now.

At that moment Esperanza arrived and, hearing the commotion, came into the bedroom.

"Oh, mios Dios, Se˝ora Laura!" She clapped her hands to her cheeks.

"Come here and help me, Esperanza. She's delivering."

"I can't, I-I know nothing!" Esperanza was stunned into inaction at the sight of Laura Steele, all modesty gone, bearing down in hard labor with her husband and son holding her open thighs.

"Damn it, Esperanza, venga aqui-ahora! Bring towels! She's having the babies!"

"Si, si, Se˝or Steele." Esperanza came to herself and ran to get towels and receiving blankets from the nursery.

At that moment Laura gasped and groaned, catching her lip in her teeth as the worst contractions opened her pelvis and forced the first baby's head into the birth canal. Laura felt a sensation like a painful yawn in her body as it gave in and dilated completely, letting her push her son into the world.

"Oh, God! God!" She could not hold back her cries any longer.

"Laura, he's coming out. Oh, God, help us!" Remington received his son into his hands. He was a big baby for a twin and he squalled loudly as his father held him for the first time. "Welcome to the world, little one," Remington said softly and handed him to Esperanza.

The next baby was coming quickly following the other. Laura was confident now bearing down, grunting triumphantly as she felt her body now completely opening up and stretching so that she could push him out. He was fussing and began sucking his thumb as soon as Remington received him into his hands. Remington just gazed at his son in his two hands, overcome with awe, and then held him to his bare chest, as the one placenta that the twins had shared slipped easily out of Laura.

"You did it, Mom!" Michael said excitedly. "Just like on the Discovery Channel."

Remington looked up to see Dr. Sandra coming into the room, followed by the paramedics with the ambulance.

"Mommy had the babies, Aunt Sandra," little Tabby said to Dr. Brathwaite looking up at her wide-eyed with excitement.

"My God, Laura, you have done it, girl! And Daddy Steele, you brought your own babies into the world. Look at you!"

Dr. Sandra Brathwaite took control of the situation, deftly tying off and severing the umbilical cords that had attached the twins to the placenta so that she could give Laura her babies to nurse. The children were fully involved emotionally, amazed at the event that they had witnessed. Remington stood up to go find a shirt and that was the last thing he remembered. The next thing he was conscious of was Dr. Sandra bending over him and his children all around.

"What-what happened?" Remington looked up into the concerned faces of his children.

"You fainted, Remington. It was the stress of the whole thing-just a bit too much. You will be just fine, but I still want you to go get checked out this week. Your blood pressure is quite low. Probably it was elevated when you were helping Laura and then when it all came out just fine, your blood pressure dropped too rapidly and you fainted when you stood up. And perhaps you were just overcome with the stress of the moment. You're no baby yourself, you know." She smiled wisely as she and Jonathan helped him up and onto the side of the bed.

"Darling, you're all right?" Laura was nursing the twins but her eyes registered only her concern for her husband.

"I'm sick, Sandra," Remington said, reaching for a towel to vomit into as a wave of nausea swept over him.

Sandra and Jonathan helped him to the bathroom and Remington fell upon his knees and continued to gag and vomit into the toilet till the episode passed.

Dr. Sandra checked his pulse and other vitals as he sat on the edge of the bathtub.

"You look like bloody hell, but you should be fine. I don't think delivering babies exactly agrees with you. I suggest you keep your day job," Sandra Brathwaite quipped.

"There was no one to help. This is the first time there was no one to help, Sandra. When I realized that something could have happened to take my wife from me, I was terrified. Even Esperanza-she acted like a crazy woman, like Butterfly McQueen."

"Butterfly McQueen?"

"Prissy, Scarlett O'Hara's maid in 'Gone With the Wind,' Metro-Goldwin-Mayer, 1939. Scarlett is trying to help her sister give birth and enlists Prissy's help. Prissy, who has assured Scarlett that she knows all about 'birthin' babies' when confronted with the reality says 'I don't know nothin' about birthin' babies! Esperanza kept saying 'I know nothing!' " Remington imitated Esperanza's heavy Spanish accent. "I think I finally understood why Scarlet hit Prissy in that scene. I swore at Esperanza and she came round. I feel terrible about it now."

Sandra Brathwaite chuckled softly. "Well, it all ended just fine. Be thankful that your woman is the woman she is."

"She hardly cried out till the end, Sandra. She just bore down and grunted and pushed them out. It was amazin.' "

"Well, women generally don't get so hysterical when their children are around them. And she's-she's blessed to be able to give birth so easily." Sandra patted Remington's hand and got up to leave him in the bathroom.

"Thank you, Sandra. You're going to take her to hospital?"

"No, I don't think so. She had the twins in a clean environment. I will check her now-and the babies. I will be back here every day for the next week as well. If anything seems awry, just call me and I will be here. And as for you, I want you to get to your physician and get checked out as well."

Now as Remington Steele remembered that eventful day, he could only smile. The twins had been monozygotes, identical, and weighed in at a staggering seven pounds, ten ounces, and seven pounds, twelve ounces. They were healthy and good-natured and Laura took it all in stride. She quickly lost the weight gained in pregnancy in spite of eating the high calorie lactation diet and regained for the most part the slender figure that entranced Remington so. She was as beautiful in his eyes as he could ever remember. The fullness of her breasts and slight roundness of her abdomen were just reminders to him of the gifts she had brought to him of their beautiful children.

The flight was uneventful, and by Sunday night Remington and Jonathan were checked into their room in the beautiful Millenium Hotel located in the shadow of the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Remington ordered a huge late night snack for them from room service and they watched soccer together on ESPN. Remington was trying to teach Jonathan the fine points of the game of his favorite team Manchester United and they enjoyed the match till Jonathan finally wound himself down and fell asleep. Remington lay in bed, listening to his son softly snore, and missed being in his own bed at home with Laura.

It was nearly one a.m. in New York but only eleven p.m. in Los Angeles as Remington picked up the phone by the bed to call Laura.

"Hello, love."

"Um, I thought that would be you. You got there safe and sound-no delays, no problems?"

"No problems. It was an uneventful flight. Seemed to take forever. Of course Jonathan enjoyed it. He had a great time on that flight-first time in business class and all that. How are my girls?"

"They're still miserable. I slathered them again with calamine lotion a little while ago."

"Tabby come down with them yet?"

"No, but I'm waiting," Laura chuckled softly. "I hope she can miss this one. She's such a tiny thing and I'm afraid she will be a handful with measles."

"Well, you can handle whatever comes up. I just wish that I were there to help. You have enough dealing with the big twins and the little twins." Remington and Laura both fell silent.

"I miss you, darling," Remington said softly. "This morning was wonderful-the Clouds and the Rain."

"Yes, it was, love. I miss you too," Laura responded with a sigh.

Remington sighed in response. "Laura." He simply said her name.

"Yes, Remy. I'm here-just thinking."

"About the Clouds and the Rain, eh?"

"Umm."

They both fell silent again, communing mostly without words till finally they were able to say good night.

* * * * * *

The next morning Remington was up early preparing to go over to Tower Number Two for the seminar. He took Jonathan downstairs to the lobby where Laura's friend who taught chemistry at nearby Stuyvesant High School had arranged to meet Jonathan and take him with him for the day.

"I'm Myron Mosky. Laura and I went to Stanford together. Nice meeting you, Remington." Myron was Jewish, obviously more at home in a lab than anywhere else but quite affable none the less.

"It's a pleasure, Myron. This is our son, Jonathan. He's looking to follow in Laura's footsteps at Stanford one of these days."

"We'll be glad to have Jonathan with us for the day. He'll be in good hands." He looked at Remington, sizing him up through his rimless glasses. "Laura did quite well for herself. She told me that you folks have seven children together. I find that hard to believe. Laura with seven kids!"

"Well, there are actually nine children in our household. Jonathan and his sister Joanna are our oldest. We adopted them when they were quite young." Remington pulled out his wallet with photographs of his family and proudly showed them to Myron. "This is Jonathan's sister Joanna. Then we have our twin girls, Cassie and Chl÷e. They are thirteen now. Here are our boys-Michael, ten and Harrison, eight. Here is our four-year-old, Tabitha Abigail. And now we have twin boys, Rhett and Reade, eight months old. And of course this is, is Laura." Remington paused as an involuntary twinge of longing for her swept over him for a moment.

"Are you sure you're not Hasidic?" Myron grinned, referring to his own ultra orthodox Jewish heritage where such large families were quite typical.

"No, but we do love our children." They two men fell into an easy camaraderie despite the difference in their backgrounds and by the time Myron and Jonathan separated from Remington to walk to Stuyvesant High School, they were altogether comfortable with one another.

Remington Steele made his way to Tower Two, the South Tower of the World Trade Center and up to a conference room on the sixtieth floor where he was to preside over the seminar. There were gathered there about forty representatives from an assortment of companies who wanted to hear what he had to say about security and privacy in the twenty-first century. Remington was at home in this environment-and not because he had the extensive academic credentials of the people in his audience. He possessed a thorough knowledge of his subject and could project it in such a way that no one would think of asking him what university was his alma mater.

The morning session went well, and, aside from trying to evade the attentions of a statuesque blonde woman manager from a Wall Street law firm, he was comfortable.

"You fascinate me, Mr. Steele. You seem to be such a man of mystery." Vivian Winter said as she corralled him during a coffee break.

"Perhaps it is because I am such, Miss. . . ."

"Vivian, Vivian Winter." The woman met his gaze at eye level, not unlike Felicia, and she was not unlike Felicia in her bold approach. "I love mysteries-and I am very good at solving them, Mr. Steele. Why don't we start on this one during lunch?"

"You are quite lovely, Miss Winter, and in different times and under other circumstances I may have delighted to take you up on your offer."

"But?"

"I am very much married and quite in love with my wife, who is presently at home in Los Angeles with eight of our nine children. The oldest is with me and would definitely not approve of what you are suggesting. I promised him that I would pick him up from Stuyvesant High School for lunch and bring him back here to sit in on the afternoon session. He is seventeen."

"Oh, I see. Well, you can't blame a woman for trying when she sees what she wants. I would have never figured you for the family man. You remind me more of the bored and indolent aristocrat type-like Thomas Crown-from the movie?"

"Yes, I know the movie and the character well. And I may have been like him in some ways in another time and place. Now I find that teaching seminars on security and solving puzzling cases is quite enough to occupy my time and I find all the mystery that I need back home in Los Angeles."

"I think that I would like to meet the woman that tamed you."

"I'm sure that you would, Miss Winter." Remington smiled obliquely at her and moved on as Vivian Winter stood watching him somewhat dumfounded. The impeccable Mr. Steele had stunned and yet intrigued her with his gentle yet firm rebuff.

Remington Steele took the high-speed elevators from the sixtieth floor down to the concourse of the building to meet Jonathan for lunch on the concourse.

"So how was the morning, Son?"

"It was great, Dad. I love this place. You can walk everywhere. You don't even need a car. Do you know that the kids at Stuyvesant don't have cars? They take the subway to school. I think that's cool, don't you?"

Young Jonathan was so excited that he barely paused for breath as he exclaimed over the things he had learned about New York.

"Yes, that is rather . . . cool, I'd say," Remington answered.

"And the girls here-the New York girls! They're the most beautiful girls I've ever seen. I met this girl named Ileana! She is so pretty. She took me on a tour of the school, you know. She had black hair curled all over her head and-and she was tall-almost as tall as me-with green eyes. I told her that I would meet her at Border's after school. She works there every afternoon till six. Can we go by there when we leave the seminar today? She's brilliant, Dad. She's in line for a science scholarship to Brown next fall."

Remington Steele smiled at his son's obvious infatuation. He thought back to himself at the age of seventeen-randy beyond belief-unable to think about anything except that distracting sensual hunger in the pit of his stomach and he felt sympathy for Jonathan.

"Sure, we can go by there. We can stop by before we go to see 'Lion King.' Now what do you want to eat? There's everything here."

"They say the New York pizza is great. We can have pizza and then can we go up to the observation deck. I want to see the city from the top of this thing."

Remington and Jonathan found their way through the heavy noontime crowds and got their pizza. Loaded with fresh mozzerella and pepperoni, it was exceptional as they expected. Then they joined the queue waiting to board the high-speed elevators up to the observation deck to view the city from the 104th floor. It was a clear September day and the view of New York was unobstructed for more than fifteen miles. Remington had never been to the top of the Twin Towers himself, and Jonathan's youthful exuberance made it a memorable experience for the both of them.

"It's like being on the very top of the world, Dad-the very top of the world!"

"Yes, it is, isn't it? Everything is beautiful from up here. The poverty, the dirty crime-infested streets, the broken families, the lonely people-you can't see any of that from here. It all looks beautiful."

The two of them stood and absorbed the view of the city sprawling in every direction below them.

Finally Remington spoke. "I'm going back down to the seminar, Son. Stay as long as you like up here and then join me at the seminar later."

"No, I'll come now. I don't know exactly where you're going so I'd better stick with you."

Remington and Jonathan arrived at the meeting about twenty minutes later and Remington prepared to go up to address the group again.

"Security, ladies and gentlemen, is a matter of knowing strengths and weaknesses. A company, a building, a house, an automobile, a computer network-all of these have areas of strength and areas of weakness. The business of security consists of knowing not only the areas of strength, but more importantly the areas of weakness. These areas of weakness are what the criminal mine focuses on.

"Interviews with some of the world's most renowned burglars of museums and places of that sort reveal that these individuals are not primarily concerned with the strengths of the building they are intending to breach. They want to know where the weaknesses are.

"Take the magnificent structures where we find ourselves today. Do you know the strengths of the building we are in? Perhaps you do. But more importantly, do you know the weaknesses? Have you thought of what you would do in case of fire, or other danger? Doubtlessly you have. But have you studied these buildings? If you visit here only occasionally, this might seem unnecessary, but if you work in these buildings every day, you would be well advised to do the research and equip yourself with this information. You may ask why. The answer is quite simple-the law of probability, the law of averages. You are playing certain odds and these odds are affected by the passage of time.

"Now I would be happy to entertain some ideas from you on this question that I have raised. Who has a thought?"

The afternoon session ended at four o'clock. Vivian Winter came up to Remington and Jonathan.

"This is your son I gather. I'm Vivian Winter." She held her hand out to Jonathan.

"I'm Jonathan Steele, ma'am. Pleased to meet you."

"Your father is quite a communicator."

"Yeah, he's pretty good. This was the first time I ever heard him speak-like this. That was really cool, Dad."

"Thanks, Son. And thank you, Miss Winter."

"Those points about these buildings struck home. I was here when the bomb was detonated in the basement of the tower in 1993. I'll never forget that day. I have never been able to say that I feel truly safe here since then. I thought that perhaps I was worrying unnecessarily. But after your lecture this afternoon, I think that perhaps my concerns were well founded."

"My purpose was not to alarm anyone unduly, Miss Winter, but you will note from our book that this is a test that should be applied to any structure that we find ourselves entering on a regular basis. Unfortunately the idea of history repeating itself is based on solid mathematical projection."

"Fascinating, Mr. Steele."

"And what would you do, Miss Winter, were there a problem in this building?"

"What would you do-based on what you have observed?" She countered.

"I would take seriously any alarm, anything whatsoever that seemed awry and immediately evacuate. I would have a small flashlight with extra batteries in my briefcase at all times. I would familiarize myself with all exit routes and review them on a regular basis having alternate routes in case the easiest or most obvious one were blocked or inaccessible. I would not hesitate to leave at the slightest hint of danger. The weakness in this building is the difficulty of evacuation in the event of a problem. This is what a person with criminal intent would observe very readily."

A heavy-set middle-aged executive, Arnold Rosenberg, approached Remington Steele.

"You know your stuff, Steele. I'm glad that we arranged to have you out here. Your book is going to be required reading for all our management staff."

"Thank you, Mr. Rosenberg. I wish that my wife and associate were here to contribute her thoughts. This is my oldest son, Jonathan."

They greeted one another.

"Your dad is first rate, Jonathan. I hope you're having a nice time here in the Big Apple."

"Oh, yes sir! I love it here."

"Steele, could you step here a moment," Rosenberg said, drawing him aside. "I hope you have everything you need. I'd be glad to take you to some of the interesting digs uptown tonight. There's a lot more to this city than what you see here, if you know what I mean." He winked significantly.

"I'm sure there is, sport, but I promised to take my son to 'Lion King' tonight and I'm not one for the night life-especially when my wife is not with me. I've been in some of the most famous nightspots and casinos in the cities all over the world. I lived that life and loved it, but that part of my life has been over for a long time, mate. Fourteen years of marriage, seven natural children and two adopted children later, I'm completely faithful. Thanks for the invitation though."

"You're a straight shooter, Steele. I like a family man. Let me know if you need anything at all. You've got your theatre tickets?"

"Oh, yes."

"Well, if you didn't, I have corporate tickets. Let me know the next time you're in town and you can bring the rest of the family to the show."

"Thanks, Rosenberg. That's very kind of you."

"See you in the morning, Steele."

Remington Steele and Jonathan left the World Trade Center and walked along Vesey Street to Borders Book Store.

"Do you really think there is danger in those buildings, Dad?"

"Unfortunately, yes. There is always danger, Son. It's simply a question of the odds. Does the probability of danger outweigh the security precautions taken? We flew out here on an airplane-three thousand miles. Was there a probability of danger? There is always a possibility-but not always a probability. Here again what about the odds? Was it safer than driving a car cross country? Absolutely. That's what comes into the picture as a decision-maker. Yes, there is need for concern. Those towers are like a beautiful woman, Son. Their beauty and unique design makes them vulnerable."

Remington and Jonathan had reached Border's and on going in, Jonathan headed straight onto the escalator to find the coffee shop on the second floor.

"You seem to know where you're going, Son," Remington said smiling.

"Well, I kind of scoped it out." Jonathan shrugged and blushed.

There was a tall shapely black-haired girl with distinctly Asian features and dark olive skin working behind the coffee counter.

"Hi, Ileana."

"Oh, hello, Jonathan." The girl smiled shyly and Remington knew what had attracted his son.

"This is my dad, Remington Steele. Dad, this is Ileana Stephenson. We met at the school today."

Remington shook Ileana's hand.

"I'm going to browse a bit, Jonathan. Then I'm going to head back to the Millenium. Remember to come in time to leave for the theatre." He smiled at Ileana. "Help him to remember, Ileana. He is easily distracted. We leave at six-thirty."

Remington left Jonathan at Borders. Jonathan didn't need him there and this part of life was something that he was going to have to experience for himself.

Jonathan sat at the counter of the coffee shop in Borders just watching Ileana work, entranced with her. When she finally had a break, they walked around for a few minutes in the store. Jonathan reached for her hand and she let him take it. When they were in one of the tall stacks of books, Jonathan drew her into his arms and the next thing he knew they were kissing one another, at first tentatively and then very passionately, if somewhat awkwardly. At first Ileana's lips were primly closed, but then her mouth opened under his and Jonathan was overwhelmed as he tasted the sweet essence of her mouth for the first time.

Jonathan stepped back, stunned by the power of what he felt.

"I'm sorry, Ileana. I got carried away."

"It's all right, Jonathan. I think that I got carried away too. Maybe I'd better go back to work now."

"Yes, I guess so." Jonathan held onto her hand as they made their way back to her post.

They were both rattled as they sat staring at each other across the counter for a long time till finally Jonathan spoke.

"Do you believe that people can just-fall in love-just like that, Ileana?"

"I wonder. They say it's not real love when it happens like that-that it's infatuation."

"If I write you, Ileana, will you write to me?"

"Yes, I'll write you, Jonathan Steele."

"Do you have-a boyfriend or anything?"

"Nope, no boyfriend, no anybody. All I have is school and work. My parents-they want me to be successful. I want to teach chemistry in a college someday or work in pharmaceuticals. My father is a doctor and my mother also."

"But you work after school."

"My parents don't want me to be spoiled. That's why I work. My mom was a waitress when she was in college. Simple work is honorable and good, you know. Her parents had a restaurant in Chinatown-just off Canal Street. My dad worked his way through school after he came home from Viet Nam. It's not easy being the only daughter of both a black intellectual and a Chinese overachiever, Jonathan."

"My parents died when I was four and then I was adopted."

"So Mr. Steele isn't your real dad?"

"Oh, he's my real dad all right-and she-Mama Laura-is my real mom. Now those are two people that really love each other."

"How do you know for sure? I sometimes wonder if my parents still love each other. Sometimes it seems like they've really separated and just haven't told me. He has his work and she has hers. I wonder if they would love me if I weren't-smart, you know."

"Well, my parents are really-uh, how can I say this-groovy. They try to keep it from us kids but they-you know-they do 'it' all the time."

"You're kidding!" Ileana laughed shyly.

"My mom just had twins the first of this year. They are soon going to be nine months old. With my sister and me that makes nine kids in the house! Our house is this really crazy fun place, Ileana. I'm going to hate to leave to go away to school. I still think I might go to UCLA and stay at home-at least for the first two years. I don't want to miss my little brothers' growing up."

"I sometimes wonder if sex is all it's cracked up to be," Ileana mused.

"You've never done it, have you?" Jonathan said gently.

"Nope. Not yet. Most of the kids at school have though. Is it that way at your school in California?"

"Yeah. Most of them say they have. I haven't yet. My-my body has wanted to, but my mind always has won out. My dad told me that when you meet that special someone, you have to be willing to forego the sex part-to protect that one. You have to be responsible. If you heard the lectures he has given me about unprotected premarital sex-you wouldn't believe it." Jonathan shook his head as the realization of the truth of what Remington had told him so many times came home to him.

"Your dad talks to you about those things?"

Jonathan nodded.

"I wish my mom or dad would talk to me. I think that they think I'm smarter than I really am-that I should be able to figure out what to do."

They looked at the clock and realized that it was almost six o'clock.

"Say, I gotta go. I have to meet Dad to go to the show."

"I wish I could see you again."

"I'm going to shop in the morning while Dad finishes the seminar. I want to check out Century 21 over there."

"They have really cool stuff. You'll like it." She paused for a moment. "You know for the first time in my life I feel like cutting school tomorrow. I have a cousin that works at Windows on the World. She's an apprentice chef. We could go up there while we're waiting for the store to open. The view is fabulous in the morning."

"We could meet for breakfast in the concourse at say eight-thirty. Do you want to?"

"Yes." Her answer was simple and to the point.

"My dad's seminar ends at noon tomorrow and then we leave on a seven o'clock flight back to Los Angeles. We need time together. I don't know when I'll see you again." Jonathan paused for a long moment and flushed darkly. "I think that I love you."

"I think-I think that I love you too," Ileana said simply. She picked up her back pack and they walked out of the book store together.

They walked to the Millenium hotel and parted there, but not before Jonathan Steele kissed her hard upon the mouth and Ileana responded to his kiss flinging her arms around him, oblivious to all the passersby on either side of them as the kiss went on and on.

"Oh my God, Ileana, I know that I love you," he whispered into her ear, hugging her tightly.

"I'll see you tomorrow, Jonathan," Ileana said. And they reluctantly parted.

* * * * * *

Jonathan was quiet in the taxi as he and Remington headed to the theatre. Remington sensed that Ileana had had a profound effect upon his son but he wanted to let him bring up the subject. He was hoping that the theatre would take his own mind off how much he missed his wife and his other children.

The show was just as entertaining as it had been promised to be. Remington and Jonathan both realized just how much the rest of the family would have enjoyed it. After the show Remington took Jonathan to Gallagher's Steak House on 52nd Street west of Broadway for a hearty after-theatre dinner. They sat quietly eating for a while and then Jonathan just started talking to his father.

"Dad, I am attracted to Ileana. I mean really attracted."

"I discerned that, Johnny. It seemed rather obvious when I saw you together this afternoon."

"I kissed her. I kissed her hard. I felt it, Dad, down in the pit of my stomach."

"Yes, Son, I know where you felt it. That's where you usually feel it when you kiss a woman you are attracted to."

"Is it possible for us to be in love-so soon?"

"I don't know what's possible and impossible on that score. I only know what happened to me and your mother. I fell in love with her the first day I met her and I know that she was affected the same way."

"How did you know it was the real thing?"

"I didn't want anyone else-pure and simple. The focus of all my sensual urges became one person. That's how you know, Son. To put it more succinctly, she's going to be only one woman that makes every other woman's arse invisible to you."

Jonathan chuckled softly at his father's graphic comment.

"That's really true. I am so-so affected by her, Dad."

"I see that it didn't keep you from eating your steak," Remington smiled at him.

"Well, I'm still a growing boy. I'll be glad when I get old enough to drink in public. I just feel like I want to tonight."

"Well, you just have to wait a few more years. You will have to learn more about how alcohol affects you. And then you can bring Ileana back to this place and the two of you can share a fine glass or two of wine together."

Remington and Jonathan caught a taxi back to the Millenium Hotel at nearly one a.m. and got to bed well after two.

Jonathan was exhausted emotionally and despite his youth fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Remington, on the other hand, lay awake and finally after three o'clock picked up the phone to call Laura.

"Darling, I miss you so," he whispered. "I cannot wait to get home to you. Somehow I have no enthusiasm for this seminar. I just don't like to do this kind of thing without you."

"Well, I hope that I can come the next time. I have been so busy with the girls. Cassie and Chl÷e seem to have turned the corner but TabbyAbby came down with measles today. She's running such a temp, Rem. I've been bathing her with alcohol every other hour since this afternoon."

"I wish I were there to help."

"I wish that you were here. Oh, Rem, I am so tired in a sense, but my body is so alive-really alive. You know?"

"Yes, love, I know all too well." Remington paused before he spoke again. "Where are Rhett and Reade?"

"I have them in bed with me. They're off schedule too-wide awake, playing with each other. Maybe if they nurse, that'll knock them out."

"Kiss them for me, darling."

"I will. I love you."

"I love you so. Goodnight, Laura."

* * * * * *

Remington finally fell asleep but when he awakened early on September eleventh, he was tired. He forced himself out of bed and wakened Jonathan so that he would be ready to leave the hotel with him.

"If you're planning to meet your girl friend at 8:30, you'd better hurry, Laddie. You're going where?"

"We're going to grab a bagel on the Concourse at WTC and Ileana has a cousin that works at Windows on the World in the North Tower. She said that we can come up and see her-and the view, of course. We're supposed to meet her before nine o'clock. Then we're going shopping at Century 21 after that. I told her that I want to take the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty too. I'll be back here at the hotel by three p.m. at the latest."

"Sounds like you two have quite a day planned. Just be careful, Son. You have my cell phone number and I have yours in the event of any change in plans."

Remington adjusted his son's tie and jacket, smiling at him as he flushed helplessly at the mere thought of the girl he had taken a tumble for so quickly.

"Thanks, Dad. I'll be careful. I think that this is going to be one of the days of my life that I will never forget."

"I dare say that it will, Johnny."

As Remington left the hotel and made his way to Tower Two at eight o'clock, he noted how perfectly clear the New York weather was and wished again that Laura was with him to enjoy it. He normally liked to get to the seminar location ahead of the participants and focus on what the program for the day would consist of. There would be coffee and pastry of some sort so he wasn't concerned about breakfast.

Remington Steele went into the South Tower and up to the sixtieth floor where the meeting was being held. All was very routine with thousands of working New Yorkers coming and going in the concourse as he approached the elevator bank, and by eight fifteen Remington Steele was in the conference room on the sixtieth floor.

After Steele had been alone for a few minutes, some of the attendees began to filter in. Vivian Winter came over and sat next to him. She was dressed in a snug-fitting bright navy suit with a rather short skirt that made her tall shapely figure hard to ignore, but Remington glanced at her and then glanced away.

"Well, this has been a most interesting meeting, Mr. Steele, and you have been a most interesting teacher-in more ways than one."

"I am glad that you have found it-illuminating, let us say."

"I guess the most interesting lesson you have taught me is fidelity. I hope that I will find a man like you one of these days. I thought they didn't exist anymore."

"I hope you find your man, Miss Winter."

Remington called the seminar to order at eight thirty and began a summation of the material covered the previous day, letting the participants fill in the answers to his questions.

Meanwhile Jonathan and Ileana met at the bagel shop on the Concourse and sat quietly staring at one another at one of the tiny tables.

"I'm sure glad to see you, Ileana." He took note of Ileana's slender bare arms in the white tank top she had worn with black denim pants that hugged her slim hips. He felt somehow overdressed and removed his tie and put it in his jacket's vest pocket.

"Why are you taking off your tie. I like that."

"Well, I always heard that New Yorkers dress up a lot more than people from L.A. but I feel overdressed. I think you look great. You're really pretty-no really beautiful."

"Thank you, and I'm so glad to see you too, Jonathan. I wrote out my own excuse from school today. I feel so reckless. Have you ever cut school?"

"Not lately. I tried it once when I was in middle school-eighth grade-to go to a party with some kids from class. My mom picked that day to visit my teacher. For the rest, you can fill in the blanks."

"My parents are out of town. Dad is at a medical seminar in Pittsburgh for two days and my mom is in Hong Kong visiting my grandmother. They trust me and I've never done anything to make them feel otherwise. They leave a housekeeper to look out for me."

"I guess that I should feel honored that you cut school the first time to be with me."

"Maybe. I never wanted to be with anyone as much as I wanted to be with you today, Jonathan."

Ileana looked directly into Jonathan's eyes and Jonathan blushed, reached for her hand and held it for just a moment, unable to continue holding it because the pleasure of physical contact with Ileana was so intense.

"I don't want to go nowhere, Ileana. I could sit here with you in this snack bar all morning, just lookin' in your beautiful eyes." He reached out to touch Ileana's hair, a lovely mop top of thick black ringlets all over her head. "And touching your hair."

Ileana was shy in the face of Jonathan's admiration, unable to speak. Then she glanced at her watch.

"Oops, Jonathan, it's nearly a quarter of nine. My cousin starts work at nine. We have to get up there now."

"Okay, let's head on up." Jonathan took Ileana's hand.

They left the restaurant and caught the elevator in the North Tower at eight forty-five a.m. The high speed lift took them to the seventy-eighth floor where they exited to an elevator lobby to wait for the elevator that would take them to the one hundred seventh floor and Windows on the World. As they stood with the crowd of WTC employees who were still on their way to work, the building suddenly shook and then shook again.

"What happened, Ileana?"

"I don't know. Could something have hit the building?"

Everyone started to become excited-some frantically pushing, calling the elevators, others seemingly frozen into place. The 'down' elevator came and people began to crowd onto it when suddenly the whole elevator shaft began to vibrate wildly. Some few got off the elevator. The car was clanging and the people inside were screaming in pain as flaming jet fuel poured down the elevator shaft. Then the cables snapped, plunging the elevator like a bomb to the bottom of the shaft as a curtain of huge teardrop-shaped blue flames, some at least a foot in diameter, began falling into the elevator lobby. The noise in the structure of the building was deafening.

"Let's get out of here. Take the stairs!" Ileana could only read Jonathan's lips because of the noise.

Jonathan grabbed Ileana's hand and pulled her toward the exit to the stairs. Just at that moment a flaming glob brushed her, catching her thick curly hair afire.

Ileana screamed, "I'm on fire."

"Stop, drop, and roll!" Jonathan repeated the mantra that had been drilled into them since elementary school and pushed her down using his bare hands to swat out the flames in her hair. A fiery substance was burning, running along the floor now and Ileana inadvertently rolled into it burning her bare arm and back.

"Oh, God!" Jonathan fell onto her smothering the flames then pulled her up and toward the door. The path to it was clear for just a moment and they both made for it.

The stairwell was already filling with people making their way down the stairs. Everyone was in a state of near shock, but adrenaline seemed to be pushing them onward and downward.

"Something hit the building. I think it was a plane," someone said behind them on the stairs.

"My arm and back are burning, Jonathan. It hurts so bad."

"Can you walk, Ileana? That's all that's important right now. Walk for me. Walk for us, girl." Jonathan knew that his hands were both burned but refused to think about it.

"What happened?"

"Don't waste energy. Just let's get out of here."

"What about my cousin on top, in the restaurant?"

"Don't waste energy."

They walked down a stairway lit by emergency lights. They could smell some smoke and hear people screaming in the background. The sprinklers had come on automatically and water was on the steps, making them very slippery.

In the South Tower Remington Steele and his class saw an object fall past a window at about eight fifty a.m. and then another.

"The North Tower is on fire, Steele," Arnold Rosenberg said quietly. "People appear to be-I think people are falling-jumping."

"Then we know what to do, ladies and gentlemen. We are evacuating immediately. Line up everyone and follow Mr. Rosenberg to the nearest stairs. Leave everything here-unless you have one of those tiny flashlights in your bag or you have tennis shoes to put on. Remember what we have talked about in our sessions."

Vivian Winter stood terrified, unable to move.

"Miss Winter, you must evacuate immediately or I will be forced to slap you out of that state of shock you are in. I cannot leave you here and I have a family that I dearly want to see again in this life."

Vivian Winter pulled herself together and left the room as Steele looked around one last time. He quickly dialed the code to Jonathan's cell phone. There was no answer but he left a message anyway.

"This is your father. I'm leaving Tower Two at approximately eight fifty-five, Jonathan. I will try to meet you at-at some point. I will look for you-uptown, away from here."

Then Remington dialed the code for home and Laura. There was no answer there either. He left a message just before entering the stairwell after the others.

"I love you, Laura. Dear God, there's no time to say anything else. We're trying to get out of here. Look after our children if-if I don't see you again. I love every one of you."

The stairwell was filling with people evacuating the tower.

"Just keep calm everybody and we will get out of here. The objective is evacuation. Believe me, we are in imminent danger if we do not clear this building."

They had reached the fiftieth floor when they felt the impact of the second plane ripping into the South Tower just past nine o'clock. Women screamed and men swore softly as the noise of the effects of the crash resounded through the building. The noise of the elevators plummeting to the bottom was the most chilling sound anyone had ever heard.

"Keep walking, people. Keep walking," Remington Steele spoke calmly. "We have to get down."

When they got down to the thirtieth floor, the women began to give out-their knees and ankles unable to withstand the pain of the descent. Vivian Winter sat down on the steps.

"I can't go on. I can't."

"You must get up. The building has been hit. You will die in here."

"I don't care. I can't do it."

Steele pulled her up and made her continue to descend the steps. She went a few more floors but began to fall behind and at the twenty-second floor Steele threw her over his shoulder and continued the descent with her for several floors till they met firemen coming into the building up the stairs.

"Mate, can you take this woman down. She's out of it."

"Sure." The fireman, a big red-faced Irish type, took her without a word and headed down the stairs with her."

Steele now helped another woman from the class, Myra Wong, a tiny Asian woman. It was relatively easy to carry her after the statuesque Miss Winter and he moved on down.

It was nearly nine fifty-five when they finally emerged from the building. It had taken a full hour to descend the stairs from the sixtieth floor. Remington Steele gently deposited Mrs. Wong on her feet and she bowed graciously to thank him.

"We have to get out of here. Just walk north."

He looked around to verify that all in his group had indeed cleared the building. Rosenberg gave him a "thumbs up," he replied in kind, and the group headed up West Broadway.

Flaming debris and people were falling all around them. There were body parts, limbs, entrails, chunks of shredded bloody flesh that defied description littering the street. They were walking in blood. Steele heard screams and saw a falling sheet of glass shear a man completely in half. Firemen were still running into the building with their lifesaving equipment. He saw a man who he would later learn was the chaplain of the fire department of New York remove his hat to administer last rites to a dying firefighter on the ground. A body fell from above struck him and killed him instantly.

As Steele walked away, a piece of concrete falling from above struck the tiny woman that he had carried down the stairs. Myra Wong never knew what hit her. She was dead on the spot. Remington had just closed her eyes when he heard an ominous rumble above him. He knew what that sound portended. He did not dare look upward but literally began to run for his life northward as the South Tower crumpled in upon itself and a huge tidal wave of dust and debris chased them all down the street. A piece of metal struck Steele broadside as he ran, knocking him to the ground. He felt the numbness in his right arm and shoulder and knew that they were both broken. His right leg had been hit as well but didn't seem to be broken, although it was bleeding profusely. He dragged himself to the curb as thick darkness enveloped him, and, feeling the door of a small shop, pushed it open, rolled inside and passed out.

Jonathan and Ileana had just gotten out of the North Tower at ten fifteen and as they ran, stumbling over the blood and gore and body parts in the street, the North Tower succumbed as well and they just kept running. They were covered with the gray dust of the buildings, obviously dazed and injured. EMS workers saw them and pulled them aside and into a makeshift triage emergency depot.

When Jonathan tried to release Ileana's hand, they both cried out in pain. Their burned and oozing hands were stuck together. The EMS paramedics poured sterile water on their hands until that they could separate them. They were both sobbing hysterically as the skin pulled away from both their hands.

The paramedics called for an ambulance to come for Jonathan and Ileana. The back of Ileana's blouse was burned off and she was wearing only her bra and black slacks Her back and arms were seriously burned, so much so that her blackened skin simply cracked and peeled away when they touched it. The synthetic material of her brassiere had melted and stuck to her burned back and exacerbated the severity of the burns. Jonathan's hands were both burned and beginning to swell already. He was also burned all across his chest from falling upon Ileana to put out the flames that had set her afire and that skin was peeling away from his flesh over one breast and across part of his rib cage.

Back in Los Angeles Laura had awakened early to attend to the twins. At five o'clock she let them nurse as she lay in bed with them. This was the time of day that Remington always brought the babies to their bed for their early morning feeding. They were very active these days, just about ready to walk, and they would take the initiative to suckle on their own, each finding his own comfortable spot to cuddle and nurse to his hearts content.

After they finished, the twins fell into a deep sleep again and Laura knew that she had a few hours to attend to other matters. Normally this was time she spent with Remington, their special time before the day got started and the other children wakened. Then Remington would get up and they would have a quiet breakfast together before going to the office with the twins in tow. Today, she got up to take a leisurely shower. The boys, Harry and Michael, were the only ones well enough to go to school so the morning would not be as hectic as normal. While she was showering, she heard the phone ring at approximately six o'clock Pacific Standard time. She wondered if it were Remington but he usually did not call this early, and she was unable to reach the phone before the answering machine picked it up.

Laura Steele wrapped herself in her husband's soft terry robe. She felt a need to be close to Remington and the robe smelling of sandalwood cologne and his personal scent comforted her. She walked back into the bedroom, flipped on the television to get the early morning weather and news report, and there they were, the Twin Trade Towers in New York-smoke and flames rising from the top floors of the North Tower-reporters talking about something having struck the building.

Laura sank down on the edge of her bed horrorstruck, her mind racing. Just at that moment the South Tower was struck by an airplane and a cry escaped her lips as her mind came to the inevitable conclusion. She knew that Remington was there. There was no question at all. He was there and she could lose him.

"Oh, my God!" she whispered. "Oh, my God!"

At that moment her girls came running into the room. They had forgotten about the rash that covered them.

"Mom, there was a crash in New York-where Daddy is!" Chl÷e was trying to be calm, but her voice was trembling.

"Is that where he is for sure, Mom?" Cassie asked in a tone that begged her mother to say that the information that she had was incorrect.

"Yes, that's where he is." Laura wiped her eyes and tried to hold herself together. "Go get your little sister, Tabby, and bring her in here, please."

"But, Mom, what are we going to do?" Chl÷e asked. Her blue eyes were full of tears.

"We have to wait. We have to find out what's going on, children."

At this point Harry and Michael bounded into the bedroom, followed by Joanna. The children were all talking at the same time, asking the same questions. Then Laura remembered the phone call earlier.

"Hush, now. Joanna, pick up the last message on the phone. It rang while I was in the shower. It-it may have been your father calling."

The children fell silent as Joanna played the message-Remington from his cell phone telling them that he was trying to get out of the building-that he loved them all. Then they all just sat on the bed together, holding each other, crying quietly.

"Where's Daddy, Mommy?" Tabby asked as she heard her father's familiar voice. "Is Daddy okay?"

"I don't know, sweetheart. We have to wait and see." Laura rocked her sick little girl in her arms. She felt hot and feverish, still running a temp and Laura knew that she needed to give her more Tylenol.

Esperanza came into the bedroom where Laura and all of her children were on the bed together weeping.

"Oh mios Dios, Se˝ora Laura, what can we do?" She was crying too.

"We just have to watch this and see what is happening, Esperanza. Harry and Michael, why don't you children get dressed? Then Esperanza can give you breakfast. Cassie and Chl÷e, I think that you can get dressed but I don't want you out of this house. Just make yourselves presentable in something loose and comfortable-in case people come over. Joanna, please watch the little ones for me while I get dressed." Laura tried to organize her household in the midst of this evident crisis.

At that moment, they heard an exclamation from the reporter on television and they saw the South Tower implode upon itself in a huge black cloud of smoke. The children all screamed and Laura just reeled as if she herself had been struck and began to shake uncontrollably and sob, her heart pounding in her chest.

Esperanza took Tabby from Laura and Laura held onto her girls-all of them sobbing and shaking. Harry and Michael sat stunned-unable to speak at what they had seen.

"I'm sick, Mommy," Harry said and ran into the bathroom to throw up, leaving Michael sitting on the floor beside the bed his eyes full of tears.

"Is Jonathan with Daddy?" Michael asked.

"I don't know. I just don't know," Laura said shaking her head in despair.

The twins had awakened in the confusion and they were fretting now, sensing the anxiety in all of them. Cassie and Chl÷e each picked up one of them and began rocking them.

Harry came out of the bathroom, pale and weak, and lay down on the bed in the spot where his father normally lay trying in some way to touch the father he adored so.

"Did-did we just see Daddy-die, Mommy?" Cassie asked, her voice trembling.

"We don't know. Your father is very brave and very smart. We will just have to hope and pray that he got out and that he and Jonathan are safe. We can't give up hope."

Laura got up, picked up a pair of slacks and a tee shirt and went into her bathroom and closed the door behind her. She turned the faucets on to muffle the sound and cried and cried. Then she sat on the toilet and her whole digestive system just emptied like water as her body registered the shock that she had experienced. She felt so completely lost at that moment that she just could not bear her children to see her. Finally, spent, she put her clothes on and came back into the bedroom.

"The other tower just fell, Mom," Michael said. He ran to Laura and they hugged each other tightly. "I'm scared for Dad and Jonathan."

"We have to keep hoping, Michael," Laura said as she kissed his freckled cheeks and smoothed the chestnut hair that was so like her own.

Michael got up and went out of the bedroom into the living room and Laura soon heard him playing the melancholy strains of the Chopin Nocturne that he had recently learned, seeking comfort in the music that he loved.

Each of the children was attempting to cope with the incredible stress of what the tragic event on the other side of the country had brought into their young lives. Joanna tried over and over to reach her father or Jonathan on their cell phones, only to hear again and again the message "all circuits are busy." Cassie and Chl÷e still were not well at all from their bout with measles and lay huddled together on their parents' bed trying to absorb the reality of what had seemed so unreal as they observed it on television. Tabby was still quite sick, feverish and unable to understand why everyone was in such a state. Harry kept following Laura around, a faithful shadow in her tracks.

When the little twins, Rhett and Reade, became fretful, Laura realized the depth of the shock the news she had received. For the first time ever, her milk production had completely stopped. Even the cries of her babies did not bring it down. It was as if her body had just come to a halt and she just cried as little Reade looked puzzled and unhappy, unable to understand what had happened. Laura was very thankful for the frozen supply that she kept on hand and was forced to have Esperanza turn to it now.

By nine o'clock Pacific time Mildred, Alessandra, and Hector had come to the house in the Hollywood Hills to be with Laura and the children. They were the only ones who knew the details of Remington and Jonathan's trip to New York and the implications of the tragedy at the Trade Towers. They said very little, simply making their concerns known by their presence. David Chalmers and his wife Jacqueline were in town for a visit to get to know the newest little additions to the Steele clan and were ensconced in the apartment on Rossmore. Laura knew that they would soon arrive and she was right.

"Laura, we must not give up hope," David Chalmers said, as she went tearfully into his embrace. "You know that if there is anyone who will find a way out of that hell, he will do it. You do know that, don't you?"

Laura nodded, trying to keep herself together. "I just don't know what to do." She played the tape from the answering machine containing Remington's last message to her and David Chalmers listened somberly without commenting as Jacqueline hugged her.

As David and Jacqueline Chalmers approached their late seventies, the deep love and physical attraction they felt for each other was such a powerful and almost tangible thing that it made them a solid center to the whole family. Laura was very thankful that they were there with her on this day.

"We pray for your man to come home, cherie. We pray for that. During Resistance many we thought lost we found. Come now, I think that you should lie down here in your bed. You must rest because this day will be a long one for all of us. David, cher, help me with Laura."

Laura was sobbing hysterically now, finally just giving way to her anxiety now that David and Jacqueline were there to lean upon.

"I'm so scared, Jacqueline. I can't even nurse my babies. I may have lost him. Oh, Jacqueline, do you know how much I love him?" Laura fell upon Jacqueline now overwhelmed.

"Cherie, I know how much you love him. And I know how much he loves you. Remember nearly fourteen years ago-we just met. And Remington nearly lost you. But you lived. And you have lovely family together. You must keep hope-l'espoir that you will have your beautiful man back."

Jacqueline looked up at her husband whose eyes were brimming and extended her hand to him. David gripped it and shaking his head in despair, sat down on the bed beside her and put his head into Jacqueline's arms as his own tears flowed silently. Strangely this tiny woman whose delicate beauty was undiminished by her seventy years became a source of strength to Laura and to David Chalmers in this difficult time.

By noon everyone was there-Daniel and Frances, Peter and Harriett. Mildred and Alessandra took the situation in hand with the guests and Maria and Esperanza handled the children's special needs. Laura lay in her darkened bedroom, her head pounding, trying to cope with the anxiety of not knowing and yet sensing that a terrible, terrible thing had affected her family, unable to watch the televised destruction of the buildings being replayed over and over again.

At shortly past one o'clock Dr. Sandra Brathwaite came to the house. She had heard and she wanted to check on the whole family. She came into the bedroom where Laura was lying.

"How are you, my friend?"

Laura rolled over to face her, her face tear-stained, her eyes swollen.

"It's terrible, Sandra. I haven't heard anything from them. Remington-Jonathan, I don't know if they are alive. Did you see the towers fall?"

"Yes, I saw it.. But you do not know what happened to them. They may still be alive-somewhere. They may be in hospital there. All the communication is down. All transportation-everything. We must just wait. I want to give you something to help you relax."

"I don't want drugs, Sandra."

"This may go on for while. You have your children to think about. You have to calm down."

"My milk won't come down. It just stopped-just like that-when I saw it happen."

"Let the babies suckle just the same. It will soon come back. Remember though-ovulation may kick in with a break in lactation. All bets are off with the LAM method when this happens."

Laura smiled weakly. "You're worrying about Remington getting me pregnant again and we don't know if he is alive or dead." Her tears flowed again.

"It's my job to worry about things like that. I'm your obstetrician."

Finally Laura sat up on the side of her bed and tried to smile.

"All right, give me something to help me get through this thing. I'm glad that you came. You're a real friend, Sandra."

"I know. Here is a mild tranquilizer. It won't affect your milk but it will help you calm down a bit. I'm going to check on the girls. Those measles can have complications in teenagers at puberty-and they're under the same stress."

"Look at Tabby, Sandra. She is a mess with fever and rash."

"I tell Esperanza what to do for her. You lie here and wait for news of your Remington and Jonathan."

END OF PART A