By: Phaedra Phelan

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Summary: Remington and Laura are still in love and solving cases in their fourteenth year of marriage as their family continues to grow.

Disclaimer: This " Remington Steele" story is not for profit and is for entertainment purposes only. 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, and any station or network carrying the show in syndication or anyone else in the industry.

* * * * * *

It was late May of the year 2000 and Remington and Laura Steele were busily involved in their work as parents and their work as partner/owners of Remington Steele Investigations. As the children grew, their emotional needs intensified and Laura and Remington's work as parents only became more complicated and challenging. Cassie and Chlöe were now both twelve years old and fast turning into young ladies. They were lovely girls-obviously developing in the likeness of their Aunt Harriett with the same jet black hair and blue eyes, their pubescent bodies just beginning to shed every trace of baby fat on their way to becoming the long-stemmed beauties they were genetically destined to be. Laura and Remington just stared at them, amazed as they saw them change every day before their eyes.

Laura had just been able to completely wean her youngest little girl, Tabitha Abigail, affectionately called 'TabbyAbby,' and was not lactating for the first time in nearly three years. TabbyAbby had been the most difficult to wean and begged to nurse at nighttime till she was nearly three. As she approached her forty-fifth year, Laura really felt that her childbearing days were over. She looked fabulous, her figure still svelte after five children, the only real evidence of her maternity the stunning bosom that she now permanently carried, which only served to delight Remington to no end. There were just the tiny worrisome laugh lines around her eyes and a few broken veins from pregnancy in her shapely legs and the long gray hairs that regularly appeared in her shoulder-length chestnut hair to remind her that she was in her mid-forties.

Their two boys, Michael David, born in 1991, and Daniel Harrison, born in 1994, were in school and growing by leaps and bounds it seemed. Michael David was freckled and had Laura's same thick chestnut hair. He was the mischievous one. Daniel Harrison was somewhere between Remington and Laura in his physical characteristics. Actually he looked remarkably like pictures of Daniel and David Chalmers as youngsters-dark haired and reflective in personality, following hard on Remington's heels whenever he could.

And then there were Johnny and Joanna, the orphaned children that they had adopted after the birth of the twins. Johnny was sixteen and his sister Joanna was now fourteen, both of them in the throes of adolescence. They had begged to become "Steeles," and finally after Remington and Laura were certain that the children understood all the ramifications of giving up their family name, they had legally adopted them. None of their family that had ever surfaced to claim any ties to them and Remington and Laura loved them as dearly as their natural children. Johnny was tall and handsome and red-haired, trying to fend off the attentions of the girls who were drawn to his ruddy good looks. Joanna was still it seemed waiting to bloom, a quiet thin introverted child whose most outstanding feature till now was a thick head of naturally curly brown hair. She was extremely attached to Laura, perhaps never forgetting that it was Laura's breasts that had comforted her when she lost her own mother at the age of two.

The Steele family had just gotten home from a family vacation in Yellowstone National Park, something that they had planned for a long time and finally been able to accomplish over the course of the Memorial Day holiday. They loaded the family and paraphernalia into the two family cars, a 2000 Mercedes SUV and a 2000 VW Passat wagon, and all of them had stayed in two adjoining cabins in the park for a week. This was the nearest thing to camping that Remington would submit to, and this not without numerous complaints. The youngsters had enjoyed the whole thing tremendously, but Laura and Remington had come back exhausted. They also came back starved for one another, the lack of privacy bringing their very active love life to a screeching halt for a solid week so that they were frantic for time alone.

Remington stood in the kitchen after they arrived and gave the orders. He was as incredibly handsome as ever-new character lines in his face and a few strands of silver in his thick black hair only adding to his striking masculine beauty as he approached his forty-seventh year. His slender physique was only slightly thickened with the approach of middle age, his muscular hips having acquired a slightly fleshy character that only tantalized Laura making her want to pinch him whenever she got the chance.

"Now listen, kids, we have had a great time at Yellowstone, haven't we, getting our summer vacation off to a great start?"

They all acknowledged such somewhat reluctantly, knowing that an edict was to follow.

"I suggest that we now unload the trucks, unpack, and try to get back to normal here. Personally I think that we should do this right away. Johnny, you can take the lead. All the camping stuff into the garage, all the dirty clothes in the laundry room. Wash the cars. Get all that mud from the park off. Cassie and Chlöe, you can take charge of the dirty laundry. Joanna will take care of little Tabby for us while you younger boys will help wherever needed." He drew Laura close and kissed her cheek, his hand squeezing her bare midriff gently. "Your parents are very tired now. As you realize, we have quite literally slept with you children for the past week and, for a change, I want to sleep with your mother this afternoon. We are going to go into our bedroom and lock the door. Unless the house is burning down or someone is trying to kill you, do not knock on that door. Do we all understand one another?"

The older children all rolled their eyes in characteristic teen-age fashion.

"I think Daddy just wants to kiss on Mommy," young Harry, the seven-year-old, said.

"No, they do that all the time. They're kissin' now. They probably want to have sex," Michael, who was nine, said sagely.

Remington and Laura looked at one another in disbelief-unable to decide how to handle this as they heard their own children discuss them in the third person in their presence.

Finally Remington spoke. "Perhaps your parents do want to have marital relations. We have discussed that this as a normal part of family life between married people. And your father and mother are very normal. Now please take care of your chores and we can discuss this in more detail later."

"Can we ask questions later, Dad?" Michael asked, referring to their family custom of having open discussions about sensitive matters.

"Yes, you may ask questions-later."

"Johnny, after everything is put away, why don't you take them all to a movie," Laura suggested. "Use the Passat-and don't forget to put Tabby in her car seat."

"Sure, Mom," Johnny said. He grabbed his little brothers Michael and Harry and tousled their hair affectionately. "You guys!"

"Well, if they put that loud Rachmaninov concerto on the stereo, I know they're having sex, I mean 'mar-i-tal relations,' " the irrepressible Michael said, as his stepbrother pushed him out of the kitchen toward the garage. He had inherited the musical gift in the family, was attending the LA Music School Settlement, studying with Jean McFarland, and was already quite good at both the piano and violin.

"I think that Dad's favorite is Tina Turner. She is really cool, specially the way she sings in that movie, 'Goldeneye.' Of course Mom likes that guy that plays '007.' She thinks he looks like Dad." Young Michael danced his way toward the garage

Laura turned to go to their bedroom and Remington followed her, closed the door behind them and locked it.

"I think that our children are way ahead of us, Rem. What are we going to do with them? They are so extremely precocious."

"It's good that they know that we are-like we are. It's just one of life's lessons, and we are giving it to them by example. Don't be embarrassed at this stage of the game, love. Just be ready to help answer all the questions in our next family session."

"They know we have sex. They know we turn on the stereo when we have sex. They even know what music gets us going. They know almost everything, and they are children. Michael is just nine years old for God's sake!"

"Well, kids know quite a lot when they are nine no matter how much you try to shield them from. As long as they are learning that sex is something between just two people who are committed, who love each other very much, I think that we should be satisfied with that. And, speaking of music, I think that Miss Turner's rendition of 'Never In My Wildest Dreams' does quite aptly sum up where we are in this marriage, don't you?"

Remington intense blue eyes focused on Laura. He had already put his children out of his mind and all he saw was the woman whose comfort he so direly needed on this warm California afternoon. Remington drew Laura into his arms and pulled out the combs that held her hair in a convenient topknot, so that her long chestnut locks tumbled down onto her shoulders.

"I think that you know that I have been wanting to do that all day. You know that I love you to let your hair down." Remington smiled, the corners of his mouth turning up in the charming way that Laura still found irresistible as he tilted her chin up so that his eyes could completely absorb her features.

Remington kissed her soundly, his mouth exploring hers, and Laura responded so passionately that he stopped for a minute and stepped back to look at her.

"I think that you are in very special need of me today, aren't you?" Remington had gone back to his habit of calculating Laura's ovulatory cycles now that she was having periods again.

"Maybe. But I think that I'm finished having babies. I am nearly forty-five, for goodness sake. I've been having my period for six months now and nothing has happened. And besides with all the heavy bleeding I've been having, Sandra says that I might be heading into um, something they call it-peri-menopause."

"Well, we've just had this period of enforced abstinence. You know how we go at it all the time. The vacation at Yellowstone-sleeping with the children-all my guns are shooting bullets, love. Are you sure that you want to take a chance? Hmm?" Remington Steele smiled seductively at his wife of fourteen years and shook his head. "You feel very fertile today. You act very fertile. It's the fifteenth day of your cycle and we've been climbing the walls for a week."

"Well, we're not going to be climbing any walls today, Rem," Laura said, walking away from him. Remington caught her by her wrist, drew her back to him, and wound his arms around her.

"Are you telling me that you want to carry again, woman?"

"Maybe . . ." Laura clung to Remington, acutely aware of the excitement in his flesh as he held her so tightly to him. Well into his forty-seventh year, his sensual reflexes had not changed at all and Laura was never left wondering as to his intentions.

"And when the morning sickness comes, you will not hate me for doing this to you?"

"I promise, Rem, at least not for long." Laura smiled, recalling the debilitating morning sickness that had plagued her with her previous four pregnancies. "I have loved bearing children. I'm healthy. And I wouldn't be devastated if it happened again."

"You amaze me, Laura."

"I know that I do." Laura pulled Remington's head down to her to kiss his mouth and he simply growled softly and stared into her eyes as her lips claimed his.

"I watched you prance around all week up there at Yellowstone in shorts and those devilish halter tops with all this glorious soft cleavage floating up out of them, not being able to have my way with you. You enjoyed tempting me, didn't you?"

"Yes, I enjoyed tempting you," Laura said seductively. "And besides, you were the one letting your beard grow out and wearing those tight cropped jeans. You know how irresistible I find you like that."

"Lord, woman, it doesn't get any easier for me to do without you even after all these years. Does it get easier for you or are you as hung up on me as I am upon you?"

"I wanted you at night when it got so cold and we were all trying to keep warm. Tabby was putting her cold little feet on my back and the big girls were fighting over the covers. I will never understand why Yellowstone can be so warm during the day and freezing at night. I just wanted to have you wrapped around me."

"And that first night when we didn't really believe that it would get that cold and hadn't figured out how to turn on those heaters! Three o'clock in the morning trying to figure out that blasted system and calm all those cold children." Remington chuckled, remembering.

"I think that we need to go on another vacation-without the children, don't you think?" Remington rubbed noses with Laura and sighed, "Lord, I want you as much today as the day I first met you." His nostrils flared as his desire for Laura surged in him. "Do you recall the night I bought you that champagne?"

"You mean that magnum of champagne?' Laura added, remembering how affected she had been by Remington from the start even when she thought he was Ben Pearson. "I knew there was some terrific chemistry that I had never felt with anyone in my life. In the pit of my stomach . . ."

"I know. My desire for you came from that same place in my belly. It was a lust so hot and powerful that it frightened me. You were wearing that terribly sensible gray wool tweed suit and looked like a grammar school teacher, but I was completely stung by you-your hair, your eyes, the way you moved and, God, those dimples! A nun's habit could not have hidden your allure from me."

"Perhaps a monk's robes?" Laura interjected, recalling the case of the marvelous vintage produced by the monks of St. Costello, the case when she had finally found closure as far as Wilson Jeffreys was concerned.

Remington shook his head 'no' and smiled, remembering the kiss they shared in the monks' wine cellar.

"When we got into the limo together that night and I caught the scent of you-that Rive Gauche perfume mingled with the marvelous scent that is you, Laura, I was a goner. Even now after all these years, when I am close to you and my nostrils fill with the scent of you, when I open your closet and I smell your clothes, it excites me, arouses me and I am helpless. You have such power over me."

"Strange about scents, isn't it? The fragrance of sandalwood makes me think only of you." Laura buried her face in the thick hair covering Remington's chest, inhaling deeply the scent of her husband. Then he lifted her face up to his and they kissed again, this time more passionately than before, a mouth-watering kiss in which they claimed one another, tasting one another, totally vulnerable, totally exposed emotionally to each other.

"I ached for you this week, Laura? It has been a long time since I have suffered with my passions like that."

"Yes, but the children were there. I knew we would just drive ourselves silly if I came over there where you were."

Laura drew Remington down onto their bed.

"Laura," Remington groaned, lying in her embrace, thoroughly intoxicated with the softness of her bosom. "What happened to that small-breasted ingenue that I married, eh?"

"She nursed five babies and now she has droopy middle-aged breasts." Laura said. She had long since overcome any self-consciousness about the changes nursing had brought about in her breasts.

"Mamelue, love. You are mamelue."


"A French word that describes a full-breasted woman. A beautiful word really. When I first met you, I was amazed that a small bosomed woman could have such an effect upon me. But the powerful chemistry between us-made me forget, made it completely unimportant. When I first touched your breasts, I was excited by the daintiness, the delicate beauty of them."

"And then the babies came-all the years of nursing," Laura said, cupping her hands under her breasts.

"Your breasts are now lush ripe fruit, proclaiming your womanhood to the whole world. Lovely nipples-completely developed, surrounded by areolae like crinkled pink satin, offering and inviting the purest pleasure. No stiff implants, nothing artificial, just the badge of a beautiful and generous woman whose breasts have nourished her children and are sheer delight to her grateful husband. And I am truly grateful to you, Laura-for the countless hours of pleasure, for our children. Lord, where would I be if I had not found you."

"I don't know, Rem. I know that I would have been a crazy neurotic woman-miserable, making other people miserable. You made me fall in love with you and then you taught me to trust again," Laura whispered as they gazed into each other's eyes.

"I worked four long years for your trust, woman. I paid for your trust with night after celibate night. I would never risk losing you for anything or anyone."

"I know that you've been tested on that score. They never stop trying, do they? That woman in the cabin next to us at Yellowstone-she paraded in front of you all week in those skimpy shorts trying to get your attention. The fact that you had a tribe of children didn't discourage her in the least."

"I noticed her. But I wanted the dimpled woman running around after all those children, the one with those marvelous freckles all over her knock-out legs."

Remington skillfully wooed Laura, pursing his lips to drop kiss after delicate kiss upon her shoulders, neck and breasts, his features flushing as his passions burned so hot that he lost all awareness of anything except Laura in his arms. He reached for the button that turned on the stereo system and as the voices of Tina Turner and Barry White singing "Never in My Wildest Dreams" began, Remington and Laura were overwhelmed with one another. They would not remember who possessed whom on this day. A powerful moment of intense rapture first held them captive as they came together and then cast them into a rhythmic sea of pleasure. Their eyes locked passionately, absorbing every nuance of response from the other in the subdued light of their shaded room. Remington brought his wife of fourteen years to ecstasy again and again, loving her, loving to watch her flutter helplessly in his embrace as again and again it became so intense for her that she lost all control. Then the powerful pelvic contractions that they both knew so well seized them both simultaneously and all else was eclipsed as the climax and capitulation thundered over them, Remington's seed coming in spurt after spurt of potent ejaculate. Laura shook in his arms, her teeth rattling uncontrollably, and Remington cried out to his Maker, both of them finally blinded by stars that seemed to be bursting right before their eyes.

"Hold me, Rem. Hold me so I don't lose any of it," Laura begged as the afterglow fell up on them and they started to return to their senses.

And Remington took her up onto him, into his arms, rocking her, kissing her tenderly, smoothing her hair, as she held her thighs together so that she would not lose a drop of his semen.

"Laura, I love you. I love you so," he whispered, cherishing her in his arms.

"Remington! Oh, dear God!" Laura gasped, caught her hand to her lower abdomen, her eyes filling with tears.

"What's the matter, love? Tell me what's wrong." Remington's blue eyes registered his concern.

"I felt it. I felt it. I know that you won't believe it, but I felt it-the strangest sensation in my uterus. I am so pregnant, Rem. I know it."

Remington did not doubt her for a moment. He had come to know that this keenly sensitive and intelligent woman that he had married was seldom wrong on things like this, or anything else for that matter.

Laura clung to him, her eyes full of her love for him. She touched him all over his face, feeling his brow, his cheeks and caressing his finely sculptured mouth with her fingertips as if she could hardly believe that this man that she loved so much had sired life in her once again.

"Remington," she whispered softly, in awe of what she felt in her body. "I think we did it, love."

"My brilliant, quirky, analytical, sexy Laura . . ." Remington rubbed her belly and then bowed and kissed it almost reverently as Laura ran her fingers through his dark hair. "Laura," Remington murmured hoarsely, overcome once more by the powerful procreative urges running at full tilt in his flesh.

* * * * * *

It was evening when Remington finally got up, showered and put on an old comfortable pair of khaki pants and a soft black polo shirt. He left Laura in bed sound asleep, totally exhausted, and this in itself was very unlike her. Normally her energy never seemed to flag, even after their most intensely passionate sessions-unless she was pregnant. Now she barely awakened when he roused her and put a nightgown on her so that she would be clothed when her children came looking for her. He could almost sense her body at work dividing and building, going through all the processes that would change her life and his for the next nine months.

As Remington looked at Laura-her long chestnut hair strewn over her pillow, her cheeks still flushed from their afternoon of lovemaking, her breasts nearly escaping from the opening of her prim cotton gown-his eyes brimmed with tears. The longer that they were married, the more profound it became between them. As mature lovers, each dedicated to the pleasure of the other, neither of them ever left the other unfulfilled, ungratified. Remington was still as intrigued by Laura as the first day they met. Despite going through the rigors of childbirth with the twins and their three other children, her body was as responsive as at the beginning of their coming together sexually and her libido easily kept pace with his huge appetite for physical connection.

Remington sensed the calming of his flesh that always came after being with Laura, and gratitude overwhelmed him. Laura was the only woman he had ever been intimate with who could completely calm his powerful urges and he always thanked God for the peace she brought to his flesh after they had been together. Even Felicia had never been able to completely satisfy his sensual appetite so that he could go on with other matters of life undistracted by that nagging heat in his loins. He felt as if his heart would burst with the emotions that swept over him as he contemplated the very real possibility that Laura might carry still another child for him. Walking out outside their bedroom onto the terrace that overlooked the city of Los Angeles, he rested his hands on the railings, hung his head, and cried like a little boy.

After some time had passed, Remington went inside and collected himself. His children would be home soon from the movies-full of questions-and he would answer them. He went to his bedroom door and opened it, leaving the door ajar so that the children would feel free to come in when they came home.

The Steele children found their father making grilled cheese sandwiches in the kitchen. There was a big stack of them along with tomato soup waiting. Remington also had a bowl of chicken liver pâté along with everything else on the table. The children had learned to love it smeared on their grilled cheese sandwiches. Remington was constantly working on developing their palates to appreciate varied and interesting fare.

"Wow, Dad, I knew there would be a great snack in the works. These guys wanted to stop at McDonald's on the way back home," Jonathan, or Johnny as he was called said.

"Well, there is a time for McDonald's I guess, but it needn't have been this evening."

"Hi, Dad," Joanna said, and began to set the plates and bowls on the table for their snack.

"Hello, Joanna. Did you enjoy the film?" He leaned down and kissed Joanna lightly on her cheek.

"It was funny . . . I liked it. We saw 'Toy Story' again. Where's Mom?"

"She is still resting for a while."

The twins and the younger boys were suddenly in the kitchen and it was full. They found their places around the table."

"Where is Tabby?" Remington asked for his youngest. She looked so much like Laura with her freckles and long chestnut hair but she had his blue eyes and she amused him so because she was such a wise little child.

"She fell asleep in the car, Dad," Chlöe said.

"So we put her to bed." Cassie finished her twin sister's sentence.

"Actually she slept through half of the movie," Chlöe explained. "I think she was still tired from the trip back from Yellowstone."

"I put her pajamas on. She is so totally out of it." Cassie continued without missing a beat.

"Where's Mom?" Harry asked. "She might want a snack too." Harry was the child that was always the first to go looking for his mother, and this day was no exception to that.

"Why don't you see if she has awakened, Harry?" Remington suggested.

"Okay, but don't eat up everything," he demanded as he left the table, " and don't answer any questions till I get back."

Remington sighed, "So we do have questions?"

"Yep, Dad," Michael said as Harry ran back to the table and slid into his seat. "It's about this sex thing. You tell us that only grown-ups are supposed to have sex, but there are kids at school who do it."

"Ten year olds?" Remington tried not to let his surprise show and was happy to see Laura coming to join them.

"Yep. They asked me to do it."

"Who asked you to do it?" Cassie asked in disbelief.

"That girl in my class, Shawna."

"And?" Remington was almost afraid to ask, but pressed on.

"I didn't want to. It sounds yucky anyway!" Michael shivered in revulsion at the thought of the connection that had been described to him.

"Well, you won't think it's so awful when you are my age," Johnny said.

"Have you done it, Johnny?" The twins were not at all shy about demanding full disclosure from their older 'brother' and both asked the question at the same time.

"No, I haven't done it, but I know why people want to. I don't think it's 'yucky' anymore."

"Well, I hope that none of you have gotten actively involved sexually with anyone. Johnny, you and I will talk more later. Suffice it to say that having sex is one thing that can change your life forever-for better or worse. Sex is not a recreational activity for children, despite what your classmates may tell you. All of you are here because the conscious decision was made to bring you into the world, but it could have been very different."

"But you and Mom have sex all the time. So it's not just to have babies, is it?" Michael asked.

Joanna blushed and shoved him with her elbow. She was the most shy of the children in these discussions.

"How do you know they have sex all the time?" Harry asked his older sibling.

"It's obvious, Harry. When they go into their room and shut the door and play that loud music, that's what they're doing?"

"Why do they play music loud then, Michael?" Harry asked the question quite innocently, as if it had just occurred to him to wonder such a thing.

"Because your mother is ticklish and-and her laughter might disturb you children." Remington plucked the answer right out of the air in sheer desperation, not daring to even look at Laura sitting in the chair next to him, and who was doing all that she could to maintain her composure.

"Do you think that we engage in this activity too frequently?" Remington waded on, ignoring Michael's analysis of their sexual habits.

"No, Dad," Chlöe said. "We think it's cool that you and Mom are so-so groovy."

"Groovy, eh?" It was Remington's turn to try to suppress a smile at his teenage daughter's description of Laura's and his passion for one another.

"You know that your father and I were in our thirties when we got married and we-we loved each other very much for a long time before we actually got together; but we didn't have sex relations." Laura said.

"Your mother is absolutely correct. It wasn't easy to do it but that is the way it was with us. And we have been incredibly happy together. Your mother and I share something very special when we embrace each other in that special way."

Remington reached over, took Laura's hand and put it upon his thigh. He looked at her, saw the memory of the afternoon in her eyes and completely lost his thought. Laura picked up the conversation.

"Your father and I know that you are bombarded with a lot of sexual stuff at school and we just want you to come to us if a problem comes up. We will tell all that we can." Laura smiled brightly at the sight of the young faces of their children around their table and then she thought about the strong possibility that they might bring still another child into the world. Her eyes filled suddenly when little Tabby toddled out in her pajamas and climbed up onto her father's lap.

"Mom, are you okay?" young Harry asked when he saw the tears flood his mother's eyes.

"Yes . . . I-I just thought about how much I love your father." She looked at Remington and further words were unnecessary.

"And I love you." Remington kissed Laura lightly upon her forehead and cleared his throat, nearly overcome with emotion himself.

"Are you sure you're okay, Mom?" Cassie asked. "You and Dad are acting pretty weird."

"You both really are totally kind of 'out there' today," Chlöe added.

Laura felt compelled to seize the moment.

"Well, I don't know. I-I feel like I might be pregnant again. It's just a special feeling that I have-and the thought that your father and I might have made another baby-just touches me when I see all of you-our children. It makes me very-very happy."

"Are you serious? Is she serious, Dad?" Johnny asked.

"You know better than to ask that question, Son," Remington replied. "Your mother is dead serious about matters such as this."

"I think it's wonderful," Joanna said softly, "just wonderful."

"And you did it, Dad." Michael said it in awe.

"I dare say, Son-if in fact it is done."

"You put your semen into her-just like they show on the "Discovery" channel?" Harry said excitedly.

"Well, yes-somewhat like they show on the "Discovery" channel." Remington hugged little Tabby, kissed her and hugged Laura and winked at her.

The children suddenly were all around them, hugging them both and kissing them till they were all laughing and crying together.

"All right, all right, family-children, why don't we finish eating. Since it looks like this pregnancy, if it truly is such, will be a family affair, we are going to have a lot of discussions like this. Let's have a toast-to our family, and to your mother, to Laura." Remington held up his glass of Cabernet and the children held up their glasses of milk and soda in a toast to Laura.

Later that evening Johnny came to Remington as he sat in quiet reflection on the front balcony of the house.

"Dad, I do need to talk to you, I think."

"What's on your mind, Son?"

Johnny sat down beside his 'father' and talked and Remington just listened for a long while.

"Dad, I just have to tell you what a hard time I'm having with this sex thing. I know that you explained to me all about wet dreams and erections a few years ago. It all sounded pretty simple then. But now I-I think about it all the time. I dream about it almost every night. It sometimes happens without warning. Is this what it's like being a man?"

"Son, you are experiencing a very normal part of growing up. You have all the accoutrements of an adult man but you lack the maturity to control them."

"It's so difficult. Sometimes I just want to-to relieve myself. Is that wrong?"

"I don't want to make that decision for you, but I will tell you that that does not really solve the problem. It often only increases the anxiety and tension. On the other hand, if you seek relief with a young woman, I must demand that you protect yourselves from each other. We know what that entails. We have discussed it. When I was your age, I was wild, totally undisciplined, and your grandfather Daniel took me in hand. The only time he ever threatened to do me bodily harm was when he found out that I had brought a girl home and had unprotected sex with her. I obeyed him. I never had unprotected sex with any woman again until Laura. But I will tell you something, laddie. I never found complete satisfaction with any of those couple hundred women I had before your mother. Physical release, yes, but hardly more than that."

"Why was that?"

"I never realized till I met Laura that a true sexual connection with a woman must be based on an emotional and mental connection. It must all be there or you will become bored with the person and move on. But where that complete connection exists, the mystery is always there."

"I-I heard you crying out one night, Dad. I got up to get a glass of milk and I guess you and Mom were like that. I heard you cry out Mom's name, and then you just said 'Oh, God! Oh, God!' I ran to your door cause I thought someone was sick." Johnny blushed. "Then I heard Mom calling your name and kind of moaning. I realized-that you were all right. I ran right back to my room and jumped into bed and pulled the covers over my head."

"We were in ecstasy, Son-the most private time between a man and a woman-the moment when he shares his ejaculation with her, a glorious moment of temporary insanity. That moment is God's gift and you know that it is from God when you receive it. You give something to her-a part of you really-and, if she is the right one, she gives something to you that is almost indescribable."

"What does she give, Dad?"

"She gives herself, Johnny. And when I say 'herself,' I don't speak simply of her body, her flesh. She gives something that is quite intangible-her inmost self. When you get that, you will know it. She becomes completely vulnerable emotionally-holding nothing back-and you know, laddie."

"What do you know?"

"You know that she is altogether yours, that she has given you everything-beyond her flesh even. Her flesh is just the, the gateway to her psyche, her spirit, her soul. You will never find that with a prostitute, or a girl you meet in a casual encounter."

"I really appreciate you telling me these things. I need to know. I'm just so confused sometimes."

Remington leaned toward Johnny and spoke to him with deep emotion.

"Johnny, my mother died giving birth to me and your Aunt Harriett. She was out in the country in County Cork, Ireland-without suitable medical care, without her family, banished because she was pregnant by a young man who had gotten himself locked up in prison. She did not even know that there were twins in her belly. That young man never knew that she gave birth to twins till the end of his life. He was irresponsible. She died because he was unable or unwilling to exercise the restraint needed over his passions. Sex is not fun and games, Johnny. Never forget that unprotected, irresponsible sex can kill you.

"There are words that I know that you have heard at school, uncouth and common words for the sex connection. Such base and mechanical words really well describe the mindless sex of people who have only connected on one level, but they are not suitable to describe what I hope that you will one day find with your true soul mate."

"But how do I know when I find her, Dad?"

"She's out there, Johnny. You just have to be willing to wait for her. When I met Laura, I knew that she was the one. Before then I had never been with a woman that I could not walk away from. But I couldn't walk away from Laura. And as for sex, as they say in the parlance, 'she wasn't having it.' I waited nearly four years for her and every minute was worth it."

"Was it hard-not having sex for all that time, I mean?"

"It was very difficult, Laddie. I suffered many nights for the need of a woman while I waited for Laura to make up her mind about me, but I never sought relief with another woman. I knew by then that that would have been unfair to Laura and to whatever woman I used that way. It was a most difficult time for me but in the final analysis I learned self-control. I have never wanted anyone else but your mother since the first day I met her. She knows that I waited for her, that I wanted her, that I will never want anyone else but her."

"I'm going to always remember this conversation. Thanks, Dad, for being here for me."

The two embraced warmly and Remington kissed Johnny on his cheek before sending him off to bed.

* * * * * *

Remington had indeed impregnated Laura for the fifth time on that late spring afternoon and within a couple of weeks the onset of morning sickness that lasted most of the day confirmed it. Remington was properly contrite and solicitous through all of this, taking over the Laura's caseload at the office and handling the needs of their household of growing youngsters. For two months she was laid completely low, barely able to get out of bed in the morning before the vomiting started, losing weight, totally drained, as her body exacted its price for handling this additional burden.

Dr. Sandra Brathwaite smiled at her longtime friend and patient as she sat with Laura and Remington in her office in West Hollywood near the beginning of August.

"Well, you two do not want to stop, do you? Laura, I thought you finished with this. Remington, you are a dangerous man. You got this forty-five year old woman pregnant again. I assume that this was a conscious decision by you two."

"Guilty as charged, Sandra." Remington feigned regret but his lips kept curving upward in the boyish smile that gave away the fact the he was very proud to be an expectant father again.

"You are in your third month, Laura. I know that you waited two months to come. And you knew that you were carrying." Sandra chastised her friend. "I should have been suspicious when Ian and I did not hear from you folks."

"I was too sick to come, Sandra. I have been so sick. It was the worst ever."

"Well, nowadays they tell us that the women with morning sickness have the healthy babies, so we won't worry about that. You have lost more than fifteen pounds though. That puts you well under one hundred pounds, Laura."

Sandra stood back and took a good long look at her thin pallid friend.

"We are going to have to monitor this one very carefully. I want you to start eating again so that you can stop losing weight. It's been almost four years since you carried Tabby. It doesn't get easier when you get this far into your forties, Laura."

Sandra Brathwaite prescribed the necessary vitamins and then sat back and smiled. "I'm happy for both of you-truly happy. You have quite a woman here, Remington. Four successful pregnancies with no complications, unusually short labor, great lactation. Your uterus is very strong, Laura. You should be able to successfully carry whatever the Lord is sending."

On the way home from Dr. Brathwaite's Laura asked Remington to stop at the See's Candy Factory Store on their route. She had a sudden urge for her favorite pecan turtles, a delicious confection of pecans and nougat dipped in rich milk chocolate, and she came out with a five-pound box, which she opened immediately when she got into the Auburn. (They had kept the car and still drove it when it just the two of them were tooling around the city.)

"Are you sure that you dare to delve into that?" Remington asked, reminding her of her chocolate addiction.

"Well, you know I never feel the addiction when I'm pregnant. I just satisfy the craving and it's over. Here, have one." Laura offered one of the confections to Remington, which he reluctantly allowed her to stuff into his mouth.

"Of course, you know that I have a confection much more delightful in mind, now that you seem to be feeling better," Remington said, his words muffled by the chocolate.

"Oh, you have been so good, Rem, so patient. I feel terrible when I'm unable to take care of you." Laura's eyes revealed her anxiety for her husband whose passionate needs she knew all too well.

"Darling, I am patient. We did this together. We can suffer together."

Laura smiled, remembering how Remington held her in his arms night after night making no demands upon her. He followed her dutifully to the bathroom every time she gagged and vomited to hold her, apply cold compresses to her face, and then clean up the mess when she was just too nauseous to do anything except crawl back into their bed.

"Well, you know what phase comes next?" Laura teased.

"The one where you are absolutely insatiable. I think that I can handle that one quite well, Mrs. Steele." Remington leaned over and kissed Laura tenderly. "Umm, you taste of chocolate."

"You do too. It's nice," Laura said as they kissed again.

"Did you buy some of that marvelous See's chocolate syrup that we like to play with?" Remington asked, his eyes twinkling in anticipation.

"We will just have to see, won't we?" Laura's tone gave him her answer.

"Well, I guess the morning sickness has officially come to an end, love."

"Yes, I hope so."

"And so I am taking you out to dinner."

"Great, because I am so hungry."

Remington was irresistible and impeccable in a dark navy Armani suit and Laura, his pale but lovely consort this day in a finely tailored olive silk Versace pants suit that complemented her brown eyes and luxuriant chestnut hair.

"What about the children?"

"Esperanza is taking care of them this evening. It's all arranged. We are just all happy that you are feeling better, love."

They drove to Marina del Rey and ate in one of their favorite haunts, a seafood restaurant overlooking the Pacific. Laura was truly hungry for the first time in weeks and Remington enjoyed watching her devour the broiled lobster they ordered as they sat at an outside table in the bright summer afternoon.

"Laura, I've been thinking about these next months ahead of us and I think that we should take some time away-before the new baby comes and you're tied to those lovely maternal responsibilities."

"Just what do you have in mind, love?"

"Actually it relates to a case, Laura. A few of weeks ago when you were still quite ill a prospective client came to see us. He is a black pearl merchant from French Polynesia-Tahiti. He wanted us to investigate some problems down there for him."

"At any rate, I told him that I couldn't accept the case because my-umm, 'partner and principal operative' was quite ill." Remington winked at Laura. "This morning he called for another appointment. I sense that he is going to ask us again for help. Do you think that you want to go to Tahiti? The timing is perfect."

"Do I want to go? I would love it!" Laura was thrilled at the idea.

"I was just waiting for you to feel better. I want nothing more than to be on a black sand beach with you under the stars of the Southern Hemisphere."

"You mean you don't want to bring our bairnteam along." Laura teased him, caressing his thigh under the table.

"No bairnteam this trip, love. We'll make it up to them." Remington's finely shaped nostrils flared as he reached for Laura's hand and brought it up to his lips in his inimitable fashion. "But if you touch me like that again, I won't be able to get up from this table, Laura. Why don't we drive on down to San Diego and spend the night at the Coronado-to celebrate your return to health."

"You have a reservation at the Coronado?" Laura was completely surprised-and pleased.

"Yes, darling, I have a reservation," Remington said simply, his eyes absorbing his wife's beauty with such intensity that she dropped her eyes, blushing.

"You still blush before me sometimes, Laura, after all these years-all we have shared together." Remington's gaze did not swerve from Laura's face.

"I know. You still affect me so. After five children, I am certainly no blushing bride. But when you look at me-like you are staring at me now, it's as if I am suddenly naked for the first time before you and you are knowing that I love you-even though I have not yet said the words."

Remington swallowed before he spoke-unable to respond for the moment.

"Lord, it is so strong between us. Sometimes I still can't fathom it, Laura."

Remington took her hand and kissed it, on its back and then on her palm, as Laura caressed his cheek with her other hand. They sat like that for a long moment in the fresh salty air with the sea gulls flying around them before finally Laura was able to speak again.

"I imagine that you have arranged everything for the children this evening, love?"

"I have. Esperanza is spending the night with them. She might as well get used to living with us full time again with the new baby coming." Remington just smiled a very self-satisfied smile and continued to hold Laura's hand. "Mr. Chang, the prospective client, lives in San Diego and I arranged to meet him down there at the Coronado. It seemed a great time to have a bit of a get-away to ourselves as well, since you seem to be feeling better."

"Well, it sounds like a great evening. I didn't bring anything for overnight though."

"I took care of it. Everything is in the boot of the car, love." Remington kissed Laura's hand again and then leaned forward and kissed her lips tenderly. "Let's go to San Diego."

Remington and Laura enjoyed the leisurely drive south to San Diego and arrived at the Coronado at a little past seven. They were checking in when they saw John Chang coming into the hotel lobby.

"Take our things up to our room and we will take care of our appointment here, our good man." Remington spoke to the bellman privately for a moment longer and tipped him generously before they headed into the handsome lounge to talk with Mr. Chang.

"Most happy to meet you personally, Mr. Remington Steele. I have heard so many good things about your work."

"It's a pleasure, Mr. Chang. And may I present my wife and partner, Laura Steele-John Chang."

Laura bowed graciously as she greeted Mr. Chang, who bowed very respectfully.

"And I hope that you are feeling much better, Mrs. Steele. I have heard that you had been ill."

"Yes, thank you, I am much better, Mr. Chang."

"Well, I wish to tell you simply about problem that we have out in Tahiti. I represent consortium of Tahitian Chinese businessmen who have black pearl interests in Tahiti. Actually our pearl beds are in the Tuamotos, a group of islands about four hours by light plane from Tahiti. We have been doing very well until recently when someone has begun to steal the largest and best pearls of our harvest. You must understand that it takes at least two years under most ideal conditions to bring pearl of five or more millimeters to harvest, so that it is a considerable loss that we have suffered. When we threaten to bring in French authorities, we receive note through Internet. This is E-mail we receive, Mr. Steele." Mr. Chang handed a folded sheet of paper to Remington Steele.

"Essayez de nous empêcher et nous détruiserons des huîtrières." (Try to stop us and we will destroy the pearl beds.)

"Short and to the point," Remington said.

"We cannot risk damage to valuable pearl beds, Mr. and Mrs. Steele."

"It would take very little to destroy many years work. The black-lipped oyster is very sensitive to changes in temperature as well as susceptible to disease from what I understand."

"Very true, Mr. Steele. In spite of size, which may be up to foot in diameter, the pinctada margaritifera oyster is quite delicate," Mr. Chang added. For many years Japanese interests control black pearl industry in Tahiti but in 1987 French government pass law which prohibits foreigner owning pearl beds in French Polynesia. Then again in 1989 French government pass law that foreigners may not own any interest at all in pearl beds in all of French Polynesia. We who are of Chinese-Tahitian background have been able to take ownership of pearl beds. But we still need Japanese technicians to do delicate implantation. For many generations-since days of Kokichi Mikimoto, Japanese have been foremost in art of pearl culture. They do not share secrets. In spite of much, let us say 'anti-emotion' between our countries due to past history, we are forced to work together to produce very best pearls in world. This relationship between Chinese Tahitians and Japanese has been useful for very long time. We think someone else now try to break into black pearl business-someone from outside our culture."

"What would you like us to do?" Laura asked.

"Go to Tahiti as wealthy American couple interested in obtaining a source of black pearls for jewelry business. That way you could investigate our group there, see where is the problem, the thief. When you make known that you buy pearls from anyone doing business, perhaps you will be approached."

"So we will advertise what we want. But why would someone want to deal with us when they already have an outlet?" Remington queried.

"We deal with greedy individuals here, Mr. Steele. We will see that you offer enough money to make fish bite, let us say? To make deal with you, this one must steal pearls from us. I rather see pearls stolen than destroyed, but neither option good for us. You offer money-high price-draw out problem."

"Ah, yes, the old green-eyed monster, eh?"

"I have home in Tahiti and another in the Tuamotus on the island of Hao. I promise that you will find Tahiti and the Tuamotus unforgettable. Of course you must start out in Le Meridien Hotel, very nice luxury hotel on beach in Punaauia. I cannot emphasize how much we need your help. Time is of essence."

Remington looked at Laura whose expression told him that she was very interested in this case.

"Mr. Chang, we would like to take this case. However we have a family-seven children actually and we would have to arrange a few things before leaving the country for any period of time." Remington spoke proudly of his brood of children.

Mr. Chang's face registered his surprise.

"Heaven has blessed you with many offspring, Mr. Steele. My congratulations to you and your wife. You are lovely lady-no one have idea that you have seven children, Mrs. Steele."

"Actually two of our children are adopted; the other five are our natural children."

"And, in fact, we anticipate an addition to our family in the February. Laura is expecting again."

"Special congratulations in order! In Hong Kong some men take concubine to stimulate flagging libido. I see you have no need of concubine with such beautiful and fruitful wife, Mr. Steele." Mr. Chang regarded Laura with the utmost appreciation. He was a handsome man, tall and well built with just a few silver streaks in his straight black hair.

"She is just coming off quite a jag of morning sickness, Mr. Chang. Normally she is very healthy and we do not anticipate any problems if we take this case now. How long do you think we need to get ready, Laura?"

"We need a week or two, Remington. We should be ready then. That would give us time to set up a dummy company and inform ourselves on the black pearl business as well." Laura turned to Remington. "Would you excuse me?" She headed to the ladies room.

"Your wife is lovely woman, family still growing. You have very good joss, Mr. Steele. The yang is strong, eeyah!"

"I would say so," Remington answered, pursing his lips slightly and chuckling as he heard the familiar Cantonese exclamation. He had forgotten how directly the Chinese would speak of sexual matters. "But the yang must be cared for, and my wife does that very well."

"You marry very wise woman," Mr. Steele.

"Yes, she is very wise-and many other things as well." Remington smiled as he thought of Laura.

"I find western marriages very interesting-how man continue to find happiness-pleasure-with same woman many, many years. I have my tai-tai, but I find that I have other needs, now that yin is growing older. You seem to understand Asian culture, very well, Mr. Steele. You must understand what I speak of."

"I lived in Hong Kong for a few years when I was a young man. I learned some things. But I married for love-a somewhat western affectation perhaps-but it found me at a time when I least expected it and I embraced it. I had always thought that it was just a question of satisfying the yang. Then I met Laura and realized that the right woman fulfills an emotional need that transcends the simple calming of what you Chinese refer to as 'steaming stalk.' No, Mr. Chang, I have no need of a concubine. My tai-tai is my concubine."

"We must talk one day for long time-about life and family. I think that we could talk about many things."

"I am sure. I found Hong Kong a beautiful place." Remington looked up to see Laura approaching them and was completely distracted from the conversation as the sight of her mature radiant beauty.

"Well, did I miss anything?" Laura said brightly.

"Only your dear husband telling me how very devoted he is to you." John Chang smiled, amused and intrigued by Remington Steele's evident passion for his wife.

"Mr. Chang and I were just discussing how very wise you are, darling." Remington winked at Laura.

"We are settled then. Make your arrangements and I will take care of matters in Tahiti. Here is my card, Mr. Steele. I have utmost confidence in you and in your ability. And now, if you will please excuse me . . . I understand you have plans for the evening, Mr. Steele." He smiled graciously as he stood to leave. "Very happy to have met you and you, Mrs. Steele. I wish you success and happy life with all your children. I hope to meet them some day after case is finished."

Remington stood as well as Mr. Chang took his leave and then sat back down with Laura.

"Well, what do you think?"

"Mr. Chang is very suave, very interesting. I like him. I want to find out about this black pearl business. I am sure that you know all about it."

"I do have some information. We can bone up on it-after we go back to Los Angeles. I want to spend the rest of this evening completely away from business. By the way, Mr. Chang was quite impressed with you." Remington lifted his glass of wine and clicked it against the glass of Perigrinno that Laura was drinking.

"So that is why you seemed to be preening when I came back?"

"Well, he was just praising the strength of the 'yang,' you know-the male force of life. . ."

"I know what the yang is, darling."

"Fine, I would have thought that you would. And I simply said that you, my lovely one, are the one that has cared for the yang . . . and you have."

Laura blushed slightly and forced herself to meet her husband's penetrating gaze as he stared at her with undisguised adoration.

"Umm . . . Your time in Hong Kong should stand us in good stead. You understand some Cantonese and with your French we should be able to handle ourselves pretty well in Tahiti." Laura was ready to tackle the case, already planning a strategy.

Remington reached across the table and covered her hand with his. "Remember, we want to spend the rest of this evening away from business, love."

* * * * * *

Remington Steele took Laura up to their rooms on the topmost floor of the hotel-a suite of beautiful rooms decorated with impeccable taste. A huge bouquet of long-stemmed red roses sat on an antique table. There was a light meal laid out-smoked salmon, several varieties of French cheese, fresh fruits and raw vegetables all arranged as if a work of art.

Laura turned to her husband and hugged him-enthralled with it all. Remington never ceased to amaze her with his ability to surprise her. And Remington accepted her expressions, a faint smile turning up the corners of his lips.

Laura went to the roses and inhaled the fragrance of them before picking up the white envelope next to the vase. The words on the card brought tears to her eyes.

'To Laura, my wife, and the mother of our beautiful children-I try to tell you every day how much I truly love you and yet I feel somehow that the words will never be enough. Every fiber of my being cries out for you in longing every night and every morning of my life. I will never stop thanking God for you, Laura.'

Laura came close to Remington and looked up at him. No words were needed as they kissed tenderly and then more passionately and finally Remington possessed Laura's mouth in a kiss that left her knees so weak that she melted against him.

"Laura . . ." Remington led Laura to the huge bed that was turned back invitingly. A new black silk peignoir and filmy nightgown were laid out on the bed alongside Remington's burgundy silk robe. "It's not exactly what you usually wear, but I liked it. We can get comfortable, have something to eat, and then . . ." he kissed her temple gently. "Let's see about the Clouds and the Rain."

"Clouds and the Rain?"

"The way the Chinese describe that marvelous ride with the blue and white shooting stars that we have taken together so many times. The expression came back to mind when I was talking to Mr. Chang." Remington smiled and kissed her lips again.

"No need for a concubine? No problem with-what did Mr. Chang say-a flagging libido?"

Laura already knew the answers to her rhetorical questions as Remington shook his head and gathered her into his arms.

* * * * * *

It was a two weeks later in the middle of August, 2000, when Remington and Laura boarded their flight to Papeete, Tahiti. Their children were all at LAX to bid them farewell. It was a very emotional time for them all with many hugs and kisses all around. Little Tabby cried when she saw her parents walking away from her and even Joanna and the twins could not calm her. Mildred, Alessandra and Hector were on hand as well.

"Hold down the fort, Mildred," Laura said. "Be ready for E-mail transmissions once we get there." Laura pointed at the laptop computer that Remington was carrying over his shoulder. He was his usual dapper self in a dark navy blazer paired with dark olive linen trousers, cream colored silk shirt and a burgundy silk tie. Laura was clad in an classic silk knit two piece dress in a periwinkle shade that complemented her chestnut hair and clear complexion, a bright red shawl of softest cashmere and silk was knotted and tossed around her shoulders. With her shapely legs bare and her beautifully manicured feet in expensive Italian high-heeled sandals in the latest fashion mode, they were the image of the wealthy and cultured American upper class. Even the entourage of handsome children accompanying them only added to their status as those who had no limits placed upon them, those who could afford as many children as they chose to have and had chosen to have many.

"Are you two sure that you don't want me to come along now? You know how these cases always end up being so complicated that I end up coming anyway."

"Mildred, do not come to Tahiti. I repeat . . . do not come to Tahiti," Remington said emphatically. In an aside to Laura, "I might as well be telling her to come with us now. You know that, don't you?"

Laura nodded in agreement. She looked at her youngest little girl who had barely quieted to a whimper now and, in spite of being very torn within herself, forced herself to keep walking.

"God, it's hard to leave the children behind, isn't it?" Remington said as they finally got into their luxurious leather seats in the first class section of the Quantas Boeing 747 that would take them to Papeeté in twelve hours.

Laura bit her lip, trying to hold back her emotions, thankful that Remington was having his own pangs of longing for the children, holding his hand and wishing that the wide space that precluded her putting her head on his shoulder was not between them.

"You look fantastic, Laura. I'm glad you wore that blue number." He was referring to the silk knit sweater and skirt that she was wearing that clung to the faint beginnings of her pregnant belly. "You know why I especially like it, don't you?"

"Yes, I do," Laura said smiling. "You like me showing."

"I love you showing, darling." Remington winked at Laura, taking her hand and kissing it.

Soon the flight attendant was bringing the dinner service and Remington and Laura enjoyed the excellent gourmet meal and sat back to enjoy the rest of the flight.

"Remington, I wish that I were over there with you," Laura said, when the plane was finally darkened after nightfall and most passengers had fallen asleep.

Remington reached over, unfastened her seat belt, drew her over and onto his lap in the soft darkness and then covered the both of them with the generous blankets provided in the first class cabin.

"Is this where you wanted to be, Mrs. Steele?" he whispered.

"Yes, it is. Am I silly to want to be on your lap?"

"Not at all, darling. I was thinking of the same thing." The knee-length knitted skirt that Laura wore slipped upward on her shapely thighs and Remington caressed her bare legs with his slender fingers.

"You are driving me crazy, Mr. Steele. I am not behaving like a proper middle-aged matron, am I?"

"No, you aren't. Our fellow passengers probably think we are lovers slipping away on a secret getaway holiday. They would be surprised to know that we're old married folk with a bairnteam back home."

"Maybe they saw us with our bairnteam at LAX."

"Then I dare say they could easily conclude from our behavior why we have so many children, love." Remington kissed his wife tenderly. When he held her on his lap, he was always amazed at what a light armful she was. And on this night as they sped through the atmosphere at an altitude of more than forty thousand feet, he felt the same need that she did to touch and connect somehow.

As Laura melted in his arms, Remington's hand slipped his hand under the soft sweater that she wore and found the fastener at the front of her brassiere, releasing her breasts. Laura trembled as he touched her. Remington knew her so well after all the years they had been together, understanding exactly what her body was doing when she quivered in his embrace that way, and that very awareness overwhelmed him with desire for her. Remington's breath came in ragged gasps as he became excited, fondling and caressing Laura, feeling her surrender to him so profoundly that he bit his lip to keep from groaning her name out loud as his own flesh responded powerfully to hers.

"Laura, we must positively-positively-try to contain ourselves if we don't plan to play out our own version of "The High and the Mighty" in this airline seat. We have at least eight more hours to fly."

" 'The High and the Mighty?' " Laura asked.

"Yes, 'The High and the Mighty,' Robert Stack, Claire Trevor, Warner Brothers, 1954," Remington said. "A honeymooning couple manage to consummate their marriage in a coach seat on what they believe to be a doomed airplane."

"Sounds interesting, Rem," Laura murmured.

Remington patted her gently in an effort to calm her and kissed her again. "I'm sorry for exciting you so when we are not in position to fulfill the needs we have awakened. Forgive me my lack of restraint but having you on my lap so stimulates the yang that I don't quite know what to do with myself."

At that Laura pulled Remington's shirt out of his trousers so that she could touch his bare flesh and kissed him passionately. The next thing Remington knew his clothes were undone, Laura's short skirt was pushed up around her waist, and they had somehow come together with jolting perfection.

"Oh, God, woman," Remington murmured. "You're ravishing me."

"Just a little karezza, Rem please," Laura begged as she tried to remain completely still.

Remington prayed for the strength to restrain himself as the subtle pleasures of kareeza swept over both of them till they came in a climax so quiet, but so intense that they gripped one another in silent ecstasy as the final spasms seized them just before soothing release came.

"You are quite a woman, Laura Steele," Remington whispered before finally releasing his wife and helping her back into her own seat.

The effort required to restrain themselves had completely exhausted them, leaving them with only enough energy to pull their clothes back together and finally fall into a deep sleep as the huge plane hurtled them through the dark sky.

When Remington awakened, he saw Laura in the bright morning light that now flooded the plane. She had refreshed herself completely and sat, legs crossed, her skirt primly pulled down to her knees, reading a book on pearl culturing through her horn-rimmed glasses.

"Morning, love," Laura said, smiling the dimpled smile he loved so. "We just passed the International Date Line and we are back in yesterday."

Remington smiled. "I think I'd better shave and clean myself up. Are you all right, babe?" he said, his voice especially tender, his mind recalling the events of the previous evening as he leaned over to kiss his wife "good morning" before he got up to attend to his toilet.

"Be sure to put your shirt tail in, love," Laura said sweetly as he passed by her.

Four hours later they were landing at Faaa International Airport in Papeete, Tahiti. The hot balmy weather told them that they were in the tropics and the singing of the Polynesians that welcomed them and the sign that said "No tipping anywhere in Tahiti" told them that they were in a totally different part of the world.

As Remington and Laura Steele were shuttled to the Meridien Hotel, they were entranced with the beauty of the island. Tahiti was lush and green with no evidence of heavy industry.

Laura was like a little girl, looking in every direction, absorbing all that she saw.

"It's beautiful here-just like they always said."

"Yes, a veritable paradise, darling," Remington said.

When they arrived at the hotel, a local group in colorful Tahitian clothing met them, flowers in their hair, singing and playing traditional Tahitian music.

They were finally situated in their luxury accommodations, and Laura smiled at Remington.

"Fabulous, eh?"

"I'll say. Now I know why you were always talking about Tahiti. I can't believe this place." Laura was looking down at the fish in the ocean through a glass portion of floor.

"There's much more to see, love. We're just nibbling at the edges here," Remington said as he took her hand and drew her close. "Before we do anything else, Mrs. Steele, I think we need to try to handle some of the jet lag by resting up a bit. And then there is the matter of a very passionate display while we were en route here."

"Why, whatever are you speaking about, Mr. Steele?" Laura smiled the same dimpled smile that had melted his heart more than fifteen years previously.

Remington grinned at her, his blue eyes dancing as he held her tightly, his arms wrapped around her.

"Was I dreaming, or was I practically ravished by a woman on the plane last night? Um?"

Laura blushed slightly.

"I can't imagine what came over that woman except to say that she must have completely lost control of herself to be so bold."

Remington kissed her, her forehead, her temple, nibbled her ear lobe.

"I think it's time for me to think about doing a bit of ravishing myself, Madam," Remington whispered, as he continued to kiss Laura-her neck, the freckled cleavage that so distracted him.

"Remington," Laura said breathlessly, "you, you-please-please don't stop."

A soft growl rumbled in his throat as his lips searched for Laura's, and then finding them, opened her mouth to his, exploring it so thoroughly that Laura melted helplessly against him. Remington Steele picked her up in his arms, kissing her all the while as he carried her to bed.

It was several hours later and night had fallen, when Remington and Laura awakened in their hotel room to the sounds of the Pacific surf outside their windows. Moonlight was streaming into their room and onto the bed where they lay entwined.

"What time is it, Rem. I've lost track."

"Tonight time is not important, love. This is our time. The only thing important is you and me, here together on the same planet. I see you bathed in moonlight, your hair all over your pillow, and I am so in love with you, woman." Remington rubbed and patted her belly protectively.

"Love, it's three and a half months now. This is what we did that afternoon in May."

"And you knew. It amazed me that you sensed it happening to you."

"That was the first time I experienced anything like that-just feeling my body change-shift gears like that."

"What did our all-wise Dr. Sandra say about that?"

"She's quite philosophical about things like that. She said many would say that that was not possible but that she realizes that some women have heightened sensitivity to things like this."

"A reasonable conclusion I would think."

"And speaking of sensitivity-I am so wide awake and so hungry right now."

"You're eating for two again, love. I think we'd better get up and search out the restaurant or either think about room service."

"How about room service. I don't want to leave this lovely room until we have to," Laura said, as she nestled close to Remington.

* * * * * *

The next morning Remington and Laura were up midmorning to meet John Chang and meet some of the other members of the consortium, known as South Sea Pearls, Inc. at a breakfast gathering in the hotel. There was Henry Ota from Nagoya, Japan. He was himself a descendent of Kokichi Mikimoto and had been brought up with all the secrets of pearl culture and harvest. And there was Émile Fong, a third generation Tahitian of Chinese lineage who was the manager of the whole operation in Tahiti. His assistant was Timo Yoruchi, an extremely quiet Japanese, a relative of Henry Ota. Jean-Pierre Fleury, a suave blond Frenchman, was vice-president of the company and completed the circle of members. He was a man in his early sixties but quite fastidious in manner and well preserved.

They all sat down to a delicious breakfast of sweet papaya, passion fruit, and mangoes, and pineapple along with freshly baked baguettes of French bread, slathered with creamy butter and jams and marmalades imported from France. Then came omelets prepared to order stuffed with crabmeat and bacon and an assortment of sausages served along with that. The most delicious coffee served in small drinking bowls accompanied all of this.

"Mr. and Mrs. Steele, we welcome you to our lovely island. Hope that you have had pleasant rest after long trip." John Chang was especially gracious as he introduced Remington and Laura to the others."

"It is very lovely here," Laura said as they began to relax around the table. "This fruit is unbelievable. The pineapple . . ."

"That is the famous Moorea pineapple-the best in whole world, Madame Steele. It is grown nearby on island of Moorea and is not exported outside of French Polynesia-a true specialité," Jean-Pierre Fleury explained in his heavily accented English.. "Some say beautiful complexion of Tahitian women is because they eat beautiful fruits of island in great quantity. Of course you have no need of such assistance."

"Why thank you, Monsieur Fleury," Laura said, graciously accepting his compliment. She was quite chic in a loose fitting white linen jumpsuit that just hinted at her pregnant state, her thick hair down on her shoulders.

"No, my wife needs no such assistance. She is altogether beautiful," Remington said, smiling at Laura.

"Mr. and Mrs. Steele are expecting their sixth child, mes amies. We are very happy to congratulate you and wish you and your family all blessings," John Chang announced to the others.

"And, Mr. Steele, you have jewelry business in Los Angeles?" Mr. Ota verified.

"Yes, and we are in the process of expansion. Here is my card." Remington tossed his card onto the table. It read "Michael Harrison Steele, Fine Jewelry, Specializing in Pearls" and listed an address near Rodeo Drive in Hollywood as well as a web site. "We recently bought this location from the gentleman who recommended you to us. I believe you know Monsieur Robert, jewelry designer out there."

"You see, we have a clientele for whom money is no object. They think nothing of spending a couple hundred thousand for a piece of lovely jewelry, and we want to bring them the best," Laura said.

"Our problem has been getting what we want and enough of what we want. That is why we decided to come-to the 'horses mouth,' as it were-to resolve this." Remington spoke with casual assurance and his appearance in a finely tailored pale white linen suit and black silk shirt only emphasized this. "We need a supplier, a supplier who can furnish us with all the high quality black pearls that we want."

"What kind of financial limitations might you have, Monsieur Steele?" Mr. Fleury asked.

"There are no limitations, Monsieur," Remington responded. "My financial backing is in silver. My family has had mines in western Canada for a generation-the Chalmers Silver Company, Alberta, Manitoba. You get me the source for the pearls that we want and we will have a deal. I am not alone in this venture. There are other-let us say-silent partners who are as interested as I am. Nous ne sont pas limité par l'argent, Monsieur Fleury. Nous sommes limité seulement par notre imagination." (We are not limited by money, Mr. Fleury. We are limited only by our imagination.)

"Ah, je vois que vous parlez bien la français, Monsieur Steele. C'est bien. " (I see that you speak French well, Mr. Steele. That is good.)

"Merci, Monsieur Fleury. Et vous, vous-êtes résponsable en matières de finance de la compagnie? Nous voudrions examiner la stabilité votre compagnie aussi. Vous comprenez pourquoi? " (Thank you, Mr. Fleury. And you, you handle the finances of this company? We want to examine the financial stability of your company also. You understand why.)

"Certainment, M. Steele. " Jean-Pierre Fleury was slightly unbalanced by the straightforwardness of Michael Harrison Steele. He had not expected him to match wits with him so easily.

Remington Steele's mind, on the other hand, went into high gear as well. Fleury reminded him of someone he had met somewhere before.

"Ah, Monsieur Steele est tres practique aussi, " Émile Fong said, turning to his collegues at the table with them. "Is he always so practical, Madame Steele?" (So Mr. Steele is very practical also.)

"Most of the time, Mr. Fong," Laura answered simply.

Breakfast concluded and all shook hands together while John Chang and Émile Fong arranged to take them to see the black pearl operation as the next order of the day's business.

"Mr. Steele, we are going to fly to island of Hao in the Tuamotus to see black pearl plant first thing tomorrow morning. I have home there where you and Madame Steele will stay as it will not be possible to come back to Tahiti for few days at least. It is not sumptuous as Hôtel Meridien but I promise that you will spend memorable time there. Unfortunately my wife must stay in Papeete caring for visiting aged relative, but we have servants there who will take care of every need of guests." John Chang was being quite modest in his description of his home in Hao as he described it to the Steeles.

"Sounds good, Mr. Chang. I think that Laura and I could use this time to try to shake the jet lag from the long flight. We should be in good shape by tomorrow morning."

Remington and Laura went back to their suite to sort out the events that had taken place and plan for Hao.

"So what assessment do you have of our group from the first encounter, Laura?"

"I don't know. I wonder about that Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Fleury. He seemed to be rather cagey to me. I keep feeling that I have seen him somewhere before.. Of course there is Mr. Yoruchi and his uncle, Mr. Ota-I think that we should call Mildred and have her run those two by our friends, Mr. Harimoto, Mr. Itasuro and Mr. Takahamo at their agency in Tokyo."

"I agree. Those two had very little to say. And Fong simply seemed to relish my répartée with Jean-Pierre Fleury. Get Mildred on that and tell her that we will contact her after we get to Hao."

Remington turned his attention to some serious reflection on the group they had met at breakfast while Laura called Mildred. In a few minutes Laura had made contact with her and described the kind of information they were in need of.

"We're all set, Remington. It was nearly midnight there but I was able to wake her up. You'll never believe what she said."


"Where the heck is Hao?"

"That's a good question. Have you ever heard of Hao?" Remington was teasing her now.

"Now I'm not going to play that game." Laura laughed. "But this is going to be pretty interesting."

"We will have to be very careful, Laura. I trust Mr. Chang implicitly but I feel a bit of anxiety about going to a remote island with this bunch. You're pregnant. We have a houseful of children in Los Angeles and we're about to get on a prop plane to go island-hopping in the south Pacific to a place we've never heard of."

"Well, I read about the Tuamotus in that research on black pearl culture. That's where the pearl beds are. We can't pull out now."

"All right, but let's agree that we will capitulate if there is the slightest downward turn and this does not prove to be an altogether straightforward operation. Do we have a deal, Laura?"

"Yes, we have a deal, mon petit chou, " Laura said, borrowing the pet name that Remington's uncle David Chalmers' wife, Jacqueline, used frequently.

"And since when did you begin to want to call me your 'little cabbage,' darling?" Remington winked at Laura, the corners of his mouth turning upward involuntarily in a smile.

"Since you made me remember how tantalizing you look in white linen slacks."

Laura pinched his firm muscular buttock.

"Darling, what you are doing is incredibly distracting. Please, Laura!"

"How about us taking advantage of this time to um, recharge our batteries, so to speak," Laura said as she wrapped her arms around her husband's waist.

Remington kissed Laura tenderly as they gave in to the peculiar allure of French Polynesia.

* * * * * *

John Chang was in his chauffeur-driven Mercedes, waiting for them as they left the hotel on the following morning. They retraced their way to Faaa Airport and boarded the consortium's private twin engine prop plane to take them to Hao.

The flight took nearly four hours at an altitude of ten thousand feet over the open blue Pacific. The whirr of the plane's engines and tropical heat lulled Laura to sleep as she sat in Remington's embrace, her head resting on his chest on their way to the Tuamotus. Remington gently wakened her as they began their descent to the tiny island of Hao shortly after twelve o'clock.

Hao was quiet and very green. As they drove from the small airstrip, John Chang pointed out the buildings housing the operations of the South Sea Pearls, Inc. It was all very unobtrusive and low-key in appearance, faded clapboard buildings with galvanized tin roofs. There were local young folk walking along the road wearing the traditional pareu wrap around their waists, some of them pairing their pareu with western style tee shirts, garlands of flowers wrapped around their heads.

"They are beautiful in such an unselfconscious, unpretentious way, aren't they?" Laura remarked.

"You and Mrs. Steele will find traditional pareu in your rooms. It is most comfortable style of dress for climate here."

"Merci, Mr. Chang. We will certainly try them out." He smiled at Laura.

"I imagine that you expected much more here, Mr. Steele, but we find that low key, low profile operation does not attract attention. Most people have no idea of sort of pearls we cultivate here and we like that. I will get you settled at the house and then we come back here after we have light meal. My people at house have everything ready for you."

The Chang beach house was an interesting affair-a traditional Polynesian house with thatched roof consisting of a series of rooms built along a catwalk-all of them opening to the sea. There were no glass windows-only shutters that could be used in case of tropical rains or storms, but there was every modern convenience and electronic device in the charming home.

A stunning middle-aged Tuamotan woman, Denise, came to meet them. She was tall and full-figured, her feminine charms covered somewhat but by no means hidden by one pareu wrapped around her full breasts and another wrapped around her waist, her long hair twisted into a tidy bun at the nape of her neck. She was the housekeeper and her husband was the private chef for John Chang. She and her husband, Yves, as the caretakers of the home were there to see after every possible need that the Steeles might have.

"Bienvenue, Monsieur et Madame Steele. Nous sommes si content de vous avoir avec nous. " (Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Steele. We are so happy to have you with us.) She showed them where to leave their shoes just inside the door and then led them to their rooms.

A handsome young man clad in the traditional pareu and tee shirt took care of their bags, bringing them along to their quarters. This was André, the son of Yves and Denise Dorville.

The house sparkled, the beautifully finished pieces of teak furniture and hardwood floors an excellent setting for the numerous pieces of Polynesian artwork throughout the house. Remington and Laura were put up in their own suite. There was a bed draped in mosquito netting and dressed in the traditional quilts sans batting that the missionaries had taught the Polynesian people to make in the nineteenth century. The chairs were overstuffed and covered in cotton in shades of rose and pale green. In an adjoining sitting room were a sofa, more chairs, a desk with computer, additional chairs and state of the art stereophonic music equipment as well as a television. There was a beautiful teak dining table and chairs as well.

"Si vous voulez, vous pouvez prendre le petit dejeuner ici, Madame Steele ou sur la véranda ou sur la plaie. "

Laura looked at Remington for a translation.

"We may have breakfast here, darling, or on the veranda, or even on the beach." Remington smiled, knowing that Laura was delighted with these unusual accommodations.

"Merci beaucoup, Denise," Laura replied graciously.

"Et nous serverons le diner dans une heure, Monsieur Steele. "(And we will serve dinner in one hour, Mr. Steele.)

Denise retired after showing them their private bathroom, and their own fully stocked refrigerator and bar as well.

"Well, Laura, I dare say that what we have here could be described as South Seas living taken to its ultimate."

"It's lovely-breathtaking really." Laura walked to the side of the room that had the view of the ocean. "Look, at the beautiful black sand beach. There is the surf and over there a quiet sheltered cove."

"And there appears to be a still pool of water on the other side-apparently coming off the mountains behind us. We will have to go exploring. I wish our children could see this place."

"Perhaps we will be able to bring them here one day. I miss them, you know."

"I do-and I don't," Remington stated truthfully. I love having you all to myself for a few days." He drew his arm around her waist. "Although I must admit that I miss TabbyAbby climbin' up onto my lap."

"You are very fond of her, aren't you."

"I love all of our children so much and all for different reasons in addition to the fact that we made them-with God's help. But she reminds me so of what you must have been like as a little tyke. And she knows just how to get next to me-like you. Don't let her ever know how vulnerable I am to her, because she will certainly take advantage of me."

"I was Daddy's little girl. I only wish I'd had a father like you. Maybe I wouldn't have had such a hard time letting myself love you like I do." Laura's eyes filled as she remembered her own father and the void he left in her life when she needed him the most. "We will have to call them tonight. With the difference in time it is difficult to connect when they aren't supposed to be sleeping."

"We'll get up tonight and call them. In the meantime let's take a walk on the beach before dinner, Laura. I think that we have time."

Remington and Laura stepped out onto the soft black sand of the beach and Laura sighed happily at the sensuous pleasure of the sand around her bare feet. They walked across the beach through the tall coconut palms that dotted the sand and, sure enough, there was a crystal clear natural pool in the other side.

"It's fresh water," Remington said, as he knelt to draw his hand through the cold water-a natural pond formed by the watershed from those mountains in the center of the island."

"I wish that we weren't on this case. I could enjoy just being in this place-soaking in all this beauty."

She looked up at him, at the blue of the ocean reflected in his eyes, and caught his hand in hers. Remington brought her hand up to his lips and kissed it tenderly and then bent to kiss her mouth.

"Yes, there is so much to soak in here, isn't there?"

Remington and Laura walked slowly back through the sand to the house.

John Chang presided over a light meal of grouper ceviche seasoned with lemon and fresh tomatoes and a marvelous cheese souffle served in the open-air dining room of the house. At the end of it André brought the coffee in the bowls again, this time lightened with an unfamiliar sort of cream.

"Qu'est'ce que c'est, John Chang?" Remington asked.

"It is cream of coconut, Monsieur Steele. André made it this morning from coconuts here. A Polynesian specialty. I trust that you enjoy it."

"Magnifique, John Chang. Magnifique."

"I trust you both find accommodations to your liking, Mr. and Mrs. Steele."

"It is very beautiful here. It's rather difficult to keep ones mind on business in this setting."

"My wife loves this house very much-even more than our home in Papeété. She is from country and this house is very much country house. I hope that you will enjoy the beach while you are here. No one else-here, only us and Denise and Yves and André. If you wish to use beach au naturel, c'est bien. We Asians do not have puritanical Western view of body without clothing."

Remington smiled at Laura who met his affectionate gaze and neither of them commented, simply absorbing John Chang's invitation.

John Chang regarded them benevolently, amused and intrigued with his American guests.

"I think now that we will all enjoy to rest for a while. It is the custom of islands of South Seas. No benefit to be gained working in heat of day. We meet at four o'clock to visit pearl facility."

Remington and Laura were glad to retire to their rooms and the comfort of a afternoon nap, as the effects of jet lag combined with the languor of the tropics settled down upon them. They felt much refreshed and ready for their tour of the nearby headquarters of South Sea Pearls when John Chang came for them. They were quite fascinated by the whole operation. The pearl beds were well off shore and were carefully tended by young native Haoans who raised or lowered the baskets of oysters according to the temperature of the salty water, according to the strength of the currents and all other sorts of variables. This was a full time job requiring constant monitoring to avoid making the oysters ill or even causing their death.

They stood on John Chang's yacht and he explained the details of pearl culture to them.

"After implantation everything must be watched very carefully-just like the aging of fine wine, Mr. Steele."

"And it is the Japanese technicians who do the implantation?" Remington confirmed again what John Chang had told him previously.

"Yes, they are masters-patient, able to push all other thoughts out of mind and concentrate on work. Our Polynesians-Haoans, Tahitians are much too emotional to do implantation. If they are unhappy, have fight with wife or fiancée, they implant badly and we lose oysters. I say this with respect to Japanese, Mr. Steele. You understand."

"Tell us," Laura said, "how do the Japanese feel about being taken out of the ownership part of this business-since they know so much about it?"

"That very hard to say, Mrs. Steele. They are paid well for what they do."

"But they could easily feel that they deserve a bigger piece of the pie, couldn't they? Could one of these disgruntled ones be the ones threatening your business?" Laura's keen mind was back with the group that they had met that morning.

"It is possible, Mrs. Steele. For while there were many acts of theft and what might be called piracy against pearl industry in French Polynesia, but Since French government has taken hard line, these acts have nearly vanished. That is why recent threats were so disturbing. But Japanese have such regard-adoration for pearls. I do not think that they would threaten to destroy pearl beds. These huge oysters become almost like pets to them. The relationship is very special between technician and oyster. Some even say that they think oysters sense feeling of technician when he opens shell and does implantation. You understand that the technician must cut tiny piece of mantle of oyster to give dark color to pearl. If not done correctly, oysters will die."

"Kind of like people who talk to their plants, eh?"

"Bonne analogie, Monsieur Steele."

"The technician sounds like a gynecologist nursing a two year long pregnancy," Laura said only to Remington with a wry smile.

"A pregnancy with a gorgeous million dollar payoff every time," Remington responded, putting his arm around her, "just like someone else that I know very well."

The boat headed back to shore and the dock at the main building as the sunset in the western sky turned brilliant yellows and oranges on the ocean.

Laura and Remington stood on the brow of the yacht, in awe of the beauty before them.

"Remington, I was thinking that Mr. Ota and Mr. Yoruchi-as the Japanese in the mix-should be on the top of our list of suspects here. But after what John Chang said-about the attitude of the Japanese toward the pearls, I think that we can cross them off our list."

"Perhaps you are right. Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Now Jean-Pierre Fleury just gave me a feeling this morning-a certain intuition, if you will. There is just a question mark there in my mind. I just feel that I know him from somewhere. And then there is Fong. But he has nothing to be gained. He is Tahitian. There is no embargo on his financial forays into the black pearl industry," Remington stated matter-of-factly.

When they got back to the shore, John Chang took them into the office and showroom. Henry Ota was there and Jean-Pierry Fleury as well.

"Well, you chaps decided to fly down today as well," Remington said smiling.

"Yes, we spend several days each week here on Hao taking care that all work on pinctadas goes well," Mr. Ota said. "We have some very beautiful pearls from recent harvest. Perhaps Mrs. Steele would especially appreciate seeing these. John Chang will show you."

"Yes, come this way, please," John Chang said.

Laura and Remington followed John Chang into his inner office, an unpretentious place with a simple teak desk and a few file cabinets. There was a computer with a large thin-line computer on a table beside the desk. John Chang pushed a hidden button and a rolltop door retracted to reveal a state of the art safe. Chang deftly worked the combination and opened the safe.

"Now this is what all the excitement is about, Eeyah!" He opened a flat black velvet box to reveal perhaps a hundred black pearls all of them five millimeters to seven millimeters in size.

Remington whistled softly and Laura just stared at the beautiful jewels, transfixed by their beauty.

"Smallest size worth one thousand dollars a piece. Larger-much more. See this." He held up a lustrous perfectly symmetrical gray green pearl the size of a robin's egg. "This one worth one hundred thousand dollars-so rare, so very perfect. Magnifique!"

"Magnifique is rather understating what we have here." Remington said.

"They are so-unusual, so mysterious in a strange sort of way," Laura said, touching the pearls with just the very tips of her fingers.

"We were hit for this many pearls just two months ago. A million dollars worth of pearls gone."

"Were they in this safe, Mr. Chang?" Remington asked.

John Chang went to the office door and closed it gently.

"Yes, the pearls were in this safe. No evidence that it had been broken into. We were all here on Hao-all officers of company-celebrating fine pearl harvest. Two years of intense delicate work, Mr. Steele, to give us such perfect pearls. We have special dinner when we harvest pearls. When I come back here at end of evening, safe is open and pearls gone. This is latest model Diebold safe, Mr. Steele. Émile Fong only other person to know combination of safe. We change combination every month for security reasons."

Laura could sense the wheels turning in Remington's brain.

"No one left for any reason? The amount of time necessary to effect a job like this is not long for a professional. I must tell you, Chang, that this safe is not secure for what you have in it. But that is another discussion. We need to reconstruct the evening this happened."

"We plan another celebration tomorrow evening. All principals are here."

"Then we set it up and see what happens." Remington said. "Everybody knows that these pearls are here. Peut-être nous pouvons dresser un piege pour le voleur. (Perhaps we can set a trap for the thief.) Where is the celebration planned?"

"It's traditional French Polynesian fête held out on beach here. L'agneau roti in pit, all Polynesian specialités. Les femmes dansent. Les hommes dansent. Nous tous chantons. C'est un bon temp pour toute le monde. C'est arrangé pour demain soir ici sur le plaie. " (The women dance. The men dance. We all sing. It's a good time for everyone. It's arranged for tomorrow evening here on the beach.)

"Have someone here this evening to guard this safe, John Chang." Remington said the words loudly enough for anyone in the vicinity of the office to hear. "I don't want to lose my investment before the deal is done."

"Certainement, Monsieur Steele," Chang responded.

Remington continued in a much lower tone of voice to John Chang, "A smart thief will not do exactly the same thing twice-even if it seems to be the same. He will vary his modus operandi. We must believe that we are dealing with a very smart fellow here. Think of someplace else that you can put these pearls, John Chang, someplace that no one would think of. It must be done or we could lose this lot as well."

John Chang nodded his head almost imperceptibly.

"I am tired, Remington. I think the jet lag and the baby have done me in for this day," Laura seemed to be fading in the warmth of the tropical evening.

"I think that everyone is ready to go home for the night. Surely Madame Steele is tres fatigué, n'est'ce pas vrai?"

"Je crois que oui. Avec sa grossesse viens la fatigue frequemment. " (I believe so. With her pregnancy fatigue comes more frequently.)

"Eh bien, Yves a preparé un bon repas pour vous et apres çela vous pouvez reposez tres bien, mes amies. " (Yves has prepared a fine meal for you and after that you will rest very well, my friends.)

"Merci, John Chang," Remington said. The two men exchanged a significant glance in regard to the pearls and Remington spoke to him briefly before he and Laura left the plant.

Andre was waiting to drive them back to the Chang house by the beach. Just before pulling off one of the young technicians came to the car and handed a large gunnysack full of passion fruit and pineapples to Andre.

"Donnez-le a votre mere, Andre, a Denise. C'est quel-que chose pour la fête demain soir. Elle peut le mettre dans la place normal. " (Give this to your mother, Andre. It's something for the party tomorrow evening. She can put it in the regular place.)

Andre tossed the sack into the boot of the car and then they were off.

Remington looked at Laura who was very interested in these goings on. She had that 'bird dog on the hunt look' in her eye and he knew that she realized what was happening.

"You fox, you!" she said softly. "Just like the first case we ever did together-the Royal Lavulite."

"Exactement, cherie. " Remington kissed her cheek playfully. "I hope you are not too tired for what may prove to be an eventful evening here on Hao."

They were back at the Chang house in about fifteen minutes and Remington and Laura got out the Jeep and went in to their quarters to get ready for a late supper..

"I'm going to check the computer to see what Mildred and Alessandra may have found out. That was brilliant having Chang relocate the . . ."

Remington lowered his mouth to meet Laura's, effectively ending her sentence.

"Um, Laura, I've been wanting to do that for quite a wee while, and I also don't want anyone to know our strategy, love."

Remington's sculptured nostrils flared wide as he inhaled the scent of Laura and the Rive Gauche perfume that was her signature fragrance as he left one kiss after another upon her neck and her shoulders. Her skin was slightly moist in the tropical heat making the scent of her bloom in a way that assaulted his olfactory senses so powerfully that he was helpless to resist.

"Rem, we have only an hour before André will be knocking with dinner. If you keep this up, neither of us will be in any condition to answer the door."

"I know, but I am a man captivated by the scent of my woman. Do you realize the effect you have on me, Laura? Oh, my God," he murmured as he gripped both Laura's hips with his hands drawing her up close to his needy flesh in the way that she knew so well. "I love the way your beautiful arse feels when you're pregnant."

"There's just more of it, love," Laura sighed, melting into her husband's embrace in the shadows of the tropical evening. The room was full of the scent of the tropical flowers, frangipani and hibiscus, and the whole combined to create a mood that seduced them both completely.

"Let's see," Remington said as he started to help Laura slip out of her things, kissing her all the while. "I think we have time to, um-chouchouter un peu. (cuddle a little)

"I see why people don't get anything done in this climate," Laura said softly. She did not need a translation of Remington's words.

"Oh, cherie, they get a lot done," Remington whispered between kisses.

Laura swept her hands across his back. His shoulders were damp with perspiration as Remington picked her up and carried her to the huge teak bed swathed with mosquito netting where soon they both were drenched, sweating profusely as they gave themselves to one another in the heat of the tropical evening.

* * * * * *

Remington was just coming out of the shower when André knocked discreetly an hour later to let them know that supper was served on the veranda alongside their quarters. He wrapped a traditional pareu of orange and blue tie-dyed cotton around his bare muscular hips and answered the door.

"Ah, Monsieur Steele, vous parissez comme un polynesien ce soir. Mes compliments. Le diner is pret pour vous sur le verande. Je serai tout pres sur le plaie pour vous servir. " (Well, Mr. Steele, you look like a Polynesian this evening. My compliments. Dinner is ready for you on the veranda. I will be nearby on the beach to serve you.)

"Merci, André. Ma femme est fatigué un peut mais nous serons la bientot. " (Thank you, André. My wife is rather tired but we will be there shortly.)

Remington went to the bed and sat near Laura who lay still somewhat dazed after their amorous interlude.

"Laura, babe."

"Um, yes. I'm just still kind of floating here. You know I'm getting old for these quick recoveries, lover."

"I'm sorry. I fear that I have overtaxed you."

"You didn't overtax me, Remy. You just didn't stay with me long enough. You've spoiled me, you know. I-I love you. God knows I love you so much."

Remington turned on the lamp beside the bed so that he could see his wife. Laura lay partially covered by the sheets, her hair strewn about, her breasts nestled together like plump ripe fruit, her face still flushed, her eyes languid as she stared at him.

Remington leaned over and kissed her tenderly upon her mouth, smoothing her hair out of her face. Her skin was still damp with perspiration.

"I don't think I'll ever get used to the scent of me on your breath, love. Darling, this place-the atmosphere-seems to heighten everything, doesn't it? Beyond-beyond our wildest dreams."

"Don't stop," Laura said teasing him with the lyrics of his current favorite Tina Turner number.

They both began to laugh softly and then they were in each others arms again kissing playfully now, Remington nuzzling her soft breasts as Laura caught her hands in his hair still damp from the shower.

"I see you decided to try the pareu on for size. God, you look gorgeous in that!" Laura traced her fingers across the thick mat of hair that adorned his chest.

"Well, darling, when you put yours on, then I will be equally challenged, won't I?" Remington said grinning, his blue eyes twinkling.

"Love, I'd better get up or we'll never get to that meal-and all of this activity has made me hungry."

"Well, I don't think our circumstance is lost on André. He gave me a rather knowing look when I answered the door. You know the Polynesians are very up front about human sexuality. All the missionaries in the world haven't changed some things here."

"Well, perhaps he may have heard you, um, expressing yourself, in the throes of ecstasy. That may have just tipped him off." Laura said smiling up at him.

"And you, my lady, were quite 'overcome,' let us say." Remington kissed Laura again, teasing her about her own passionate response. "I know that your teeth weren't chattering from the cold."

He lay back on the bed as Laura got up. Her slightly rounding belly combined with her pregnant breasts and slightly fleshier hips to give her an altogether lush and fertile sensuality that Remington found impossible to ignore.

"You're starting to look pregnant, love, and very beautiful."

Laura turned to regard him, her hands upon her belly. She had after fourteen years of marriage finally become totally unselfconscious in her nakedness before this man that she loved so much. Even the scars on her chest and back left by the gunshot wound early in their married that had almost killed her were no longer a concern of hers. She knew that Remington Steele loved to look at her and she gave him plenty of opportunity to gaze at her au naturel.

"Thank you, darling."

"When you put on that pareu, wear it sarong style like the fabulous Dorothy Lamour in all those 'Road' movies with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby."

"Well, how am I supposed to do that?"

"I'll show you when you come out of the shower." Remington winked at her.

"I won't be able to concentrate on a thing about this case looking at you with that thing wrapped around your hips. Do you have on anything under that?"

"Darling, what do the Scots wear under their kilts?"

The sight of Remington in the pareu, bare to the waist, lounging on the bed, his only adornment the hair on his body and the silver medallion around his neck stunned Laura. Remington knew that the comfortable piece of island clothing was not uncomplimentary at all, but he had no idea of the effect all of this had upon Laura, the distracting sensual thoughts that it engendered in her. For all their years of marriage they were both just as excited physically by one another as at the very beginning.

In a few minutes Laura stepped out of the shower. Remington was waiting with a large Turkish towel to dry her. Then he proceeded to wrap the pareu around her over her bosom letting it drape attractively hanging just to mid-thigh. The brilliant greens of the cotton were a lovely compliment to Laura's freckled complexion and chestnut hair. She pulled her wet hair into an attractive topknot and put a hibicus blossom behind her ear.

"I feel practically naked."

"You are. That is the way this is worn. Is it comfortable?"

"Yes, it is. Am I decent?"

"You're in Hao. It's lovely, darling," Remington said. "We'll have to take this look back home to California, don't you think?"

"Our children will be shocked."

"No they won't, love." Remington said taking her by the hand. "Let's have supper."

André had laid out the candlelit supper on the veranda. There were huge prawns on ice served with a type of mango chutney to begin with. It was accompanied with a fine French chardonnay and warm brioche from Yves' kitchen.

"This is fabulous, isn't it?" Laura exclaimed as she and Remington fed each other the shrimp.

"Magnifique! Magnifique! " He raised his glass in a salute to André. "I wish that you were able to drink this wine, darling."

Laura accepted just a sip from his glass, relishing it as it merged with the other flavors in her mouth.

"Merci, Monsieur, " André said as he took their first plates away and went to bring the next course.

"Laura, I hate to bring up the case but I believe that tonight we may break it open. What was the message from home on our principals?"

Laura had the printout from the computer in their rooms at hand. Putting on her glasses, she read it over.

"Well, this is interesting. Mr. Ota and Mr. Yoruchi both are squeaky clean according to our friends in Tokyo. They are interested in pearls and pearls only. They both come from families that are related to the Mikimoto pearl people by blood or marriage and they have worked in pearls all their lives. Mr. Fong's money comes from real estate. His mother was French French and her family had extensive property holdings in Tahiti and Bora-Bora dating back into the forties. Apparently when Bora-Bora became a famous tourist stop, they sold property to the French Sofitel Hotel chain and made millions in the deal. Then Mr. Fong got into the black pearl business. He had the advantage of being a native born Tahitian, freedom to do business legally in black pearls just as John Chang."

At this point André arrived with the main course-a red snapper broiled to perfection with an accompaniment of green papaya prepared au gratin and tiny crab cakes accompanied with a marvelous Lyonnaise sauce.

"Oh, my goodness, do you believe this? André, this is-c'est magnifique! "

"Merci, madame, et vous-êtes vraimant belle ce soir. Vous portez bien le pareu. " (Thank you, madam, and you look very lovely this evening. You wear the pareu well.)

"Merci, André, " Laura smiled graciously, accepting the compliment of the young man. "You realize that I am old enough to be his mother, Rem."

"Age doesn't matter in the terms he's talking, darling. You have 'it' and he wants to let you know that you have 'it.' Your are a beautiful mature woman in full bloom. You have something that no woman his own age can even understand, much less emulate."

"Why, thank you, darling."

"I mean it. You are the most completely sensual woman that I have ever known, Laura." His blue eyes widened as he stared at her with all his passion in his gaze.

Laura smiled at him, the remembrance of their earlier moments together reflected in her own eyes.

"I have had a wonderful teacher, Mr. Steele."

"And there are things that you have taught me, darling, and I am not speaking about the private detective business."

Remington took Laura's hand and kissed it before they turned their attention again to the meal before them.

The food was fantastic and they attacked it with gusto.

"What is this sauce called, love?" Laura asked, savoring the sauce accompanying the tiny crab cakes.

"It's a Lyonnaise sauce, named for Lyon the city in France where it originated. And this is an exceptional one. I must compliment Yves on his talents. The summer I spent at Chez Paul I learned this sauce." Remington stopped, fork in midair. "Wait! Wait a minute? This sauce has jogged my memory. Yes! Oh, yes! That's where I remember Fleury from-only he wasn't Fleury then. I knew that I had seen him somewhere before. He accompanied Daniel on that job in the south of France. I was too inexperienced-just eighteen years old. He was with Daniel the day that they left. He's . . ."

"What you were once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away," Laura said gently, reaching out to touch his hand with her fingertips.

"What did Mildred and Alessandra find out about him?" Remington's senses were completely stimulated by this information.

"From Interpol-five passports, five aliases. Shady enterprises under these names in different parts of Europe before coming out here ten years ago. He claimed that his money came from family holdings."

"He probably made a big score and decided to retire to the South Seas and invest his fortune in the black pearl business. You know Daniel always lived with that fantasy. And we know that he finally did achieve his goal." Remington referred to the villa in Aix-en-Provence that Daniel had left him at his death.

"Why do you think a man who has decided to leave the business would get into it again?" Laura wondered aloud.

"Perhaps he was bored. You know the old adage about why people climb mountains-because they're there. Then again someone may have found out about his background and may be blackmailing him, forcing him to participate in this caper. That Diebold safe would present no challenge to a man of his experience. And then he may have been seduced-by the beauty of the black pearls themselves."

"Is the allure that powerful, Rem?"

"Almost as powerful as the sexual allure of a beautiful woman. Very difficult to resist unless there is some other overriding passion to put in its place. Did you see those pearls today? They have a mystique, a beauty that is so very compelling."

"You've often said that some people want things of such beauty even if no one else knows about it."

"This is true, Laura. I wonder what is making Monsieur Fleury tick."

"I'm glad that the pearls have been removed. If he is our adversary, he could prove to be a formidable one."

Laura raised her glass of mineral water to click it against Remington's glass of wine in a congratulatory gesture as André came forward to clear the table and bring a dessert of crème brulée garnished with sweet tropical fruits and coffee laced again with the marvelous coconut cream.

"Vous avez bien mangé, Monsieur et Madame Steele? " (You have dined well, Mr. and Mrs. Steele?)

"Oui, toute était magnifique, parfait, André, " Remington exclaimed. (Yes, everything was marvelous, André.

"Merci, André, le diner était fantastique," Laura said. (Thank you, André, the dinner was just great.)

"Pas de quoi, Madame. Et votre française est tres bien ce soir. " (You are welcome, Madam. And your French is very good this evening.)

"Oui, magnifique, cherie, " Remington said, proud of her increasing use of French. (Yes, wonderful, darling.)

"I'm following your advice. Remember 'Be bold, etcetera, etcetera?' "

Remington caught her hand in his and kissed it as André discreetly retired for the evening.

"Let's go for a walk on the beach, darling," Remington suggested.

"Yes, let's. I see that André has built a small bonfire"

Remington and Laura walked hand in hand in the velvety soft, black sand till they got to the surf. The tide was coming in and they stood ankle deep in the warm water.

"I can't describe the beauty of this place, can you?"

"No, I can't," Remington said softly. "The position of the moon, the constellations that are visible-everything is different down here. Look up there-the South Star right out there, and then over here the Southern Cross. See it, darling?"

"Oh, my goodness, it's beautiful. You know all of them, don't you?"

"Well, most of them. If you sailed with Marcos Androkos, you'd better know the name of every constellation in the sky-no matter where you happened to be."

"That's fascinating. Will I ever learn everything there is to learn about you?"

"I thought that you knew everything. I feel like you know everything. It's you that I still find so mysterious, darling."

The sound of the surf in their ears seemed to mesmerize them as they stood at the water's edge and let the waves lap about their feet."

Suddenly they heard the sound of arguing from the house and two men came running toward them across the beach.

"I hope that I am not going to regret having on nothing more than this piece of cloth in this situation," Remington said somewhat wryly.

"They don't see us," Laura said. "Let's get under the shadow of that bush over there."

They eased under a sea grape tree that sprawled on the beach near where they could observe.

"I want to know what is going on" Jean-Pierre Fleury demanded from John Chang.

"Vous savez toute, mon ami," John Chang responded. "Quel est le problem? Nous avons eue un bon recolte des perles grises. Nous sommes content, n'estce que pas? " (You know everything, my friend. What is the problem? We've had a fine harvest of black pearls. We are happy, aren't we?)

"Ou sont des perles, Jean Chang?" Fleury was shouting. (Where are the pearls, John Chang?)

"Moment of truth, Laura. Moment of truth." Remington whispered.

"Pourquoi vous me demandez pour les perles. Vous savez ou sont-ils. Ils sont dans le coffre fort dans mon bureau. " (Why are you asking me for the pearls? You know where they are. They are in the safe in my office.)

Fleury stepped closer to John Chang.

"Vous devez venir avec moi maintenant. Et des visiteurs, les Steeles, ou sont-ils? " (You must come with me-now. And the visitors, the Steeles, where are they?)

"Pourquoi vous cherchez les Steeles? " (Why are you looking for Steeles?)

"Peut-être vous avez fait votres propres affaires avec eux. " (Maybe you cut your own deal with Steele.)

"That would certainly be a case of the veritable pot calling the kettle black," Laura injected to Steele.

"Absolutely," Remington agreed.

At that moment they realized that someone else was with them under the sea grape tree. It was André.

"Monsieur et Madame Steele, venez avec moi, s'il vous plait. Nous avons un petit problem ici." (Mr. and Mrs. Steele, come with me, please. We are having a little problem here.)

"Des problems sont ma specialité, André. Vous, cherchez des gendarmes toute suite. " (Problems are my specialty, André. You, find the police right away.)

"Les gendarmes sont un peut difficile a trouver ici sur Hao, Monsieur Steele. Nous n'avons pas souvent des problems avec la criminalité. " (Police are rather difficult to find here in Hao, Mr. Steele. We seldom have crime here.)

"Trouvez quel-qu'un, maintenant! " Remington Steele whispered firmly. "Je pense que Monsieur Fleury a un fusil! " (Find someone now! I think that Mr. Fleury has a gun.)

And to Laura, "Laura, stay here. I don't want you in any more danger than you already are. This could get violent."

Remington kissed Laura quickly and eased from under the tree so that he could circle around and approach the group from the other side while André left to get help. Laura was alone now under the sprawling branches of the sea grape tree frustrated by her inability to do anything about the situation.

Remington circled and approached Chang and Fleury from the side opposite to where Laura had concealed herself. Fleury was obviously surprised to see Steele-and wearing traditional Polynesian garb at that.

"So, gentlemen, a late night meeting on the beach, eh?"

"This is not your concern, Monsieur Steele, just a simple matter between friends."

"I think that John Chang and I are friends, Monsieur Jean-Pierre Fleury, or is it Jean Florant, or Jacques Foch," Remington said coolly. "Yes, you were Jacques Foch in the summer of '70 when you and Daniel Chalmers pulled that big jewel heist in Marseille. Jacques Foch, the man whose aliases all have the same initials-so that he can wear the same monogram on his expensive luggage and hand-tailored shirts."

Fleury's face dropped. "Who are you? Really who are you?"

"It's not important who I am-other than the fact that I have already contacted Interpol as to your whereabouts and the nefarious activity that you have been involved in. I have also dispatched André for the local gendarmerie. Now we can all be gentlemen about this and you can realize that you have been caught or it can get very nasty right here on this beach. As a first step I suggest that you put the gun away."

"Ou sont des perles, Jean Chang?" (Where are the pearls, John Chang?)

"Ils sont dans le coffre fort, Jean-Pierre. Pourquoi me demandez-vous encore? " (They are in the safe. Why are you asking me again?)

"Fermez! Ne mentez pas a moi! " Fleury struck John Chang's face hard with the back of his hand. (Shut up! Do not lie to me!)

"Voila, votre voleur, John. " Remington observed André and his father Yves approaching in the darkness along with a huge Samoan fellow that worked as a guard at the pearl factory. (Here is your thief, John.)

"Je sait que les perles ne sont pas dans le coffre fort! Ou sont des perles! " Fleury growled as he menaced John Chang with the gun. (I know that the pearls are not in the safe. Where are they?"

At the moment the Samoan guard moved to tackle Fleury another figure appeared from the shadows-also holding a gun. It was Denise Dorville.

"Cessez. N'avancez pas. " (Stop. Don't come farther.)

Fleury smiled and turned to greet Denise. "Ah, cherie, tu est là. Viens. " (Darling, you're there. Come.)

"Maman! Qu'est-ce que tu a fait? Papa? " André's face revealed his profound shock and disappointment at this turn of events. (Mother! What have you done? Father!)

Yves Dorville simply dropped his head in disbelief.

"Elle est une complice tres efficace et aimant aussi, " Fleury said, pulling Denise up close to him. "Vous avez negligé votre femme, Yves, et j'ai recolté les bienfaits. Vous de polynesie n'ont pas compris des passions et des besoins d'une femme mur, épanouissement. " (She is a very efficient accomplice and loving too. You have neglected your wife, Yves, and I have reaped the benefits. You in Polynesia have not understood the passions and the needs of the mature woman in full bloom.)

"Madame Dorville, Monsieur Fleury a vous utilisée. Vous êtes charmant et belle et evidemment moi-même, j'ai plus de l'égard pour des charmes de la belle femme mur, mais il a vous utilisée, Madame. Après il a des perles, c'est tout. Il sera fini avec vous. " Remington's words were stated as fact-without emotion. (Madam Dorville, Monsieur Fleury has used you. You are charming and beautiful and I myself obviously highly esteem the charms of the mature beautiful woman, but he has used you. After he has the pearls he will be finished with you.")

"Fermez, Steele! Fermez!" Fleury shouted. (Shut up, Steele! Shut up!)

"Dites-elle, Fleury. Dites-elle que elle partera avec vous quand vous partez. " (Tell her, Fleury. Tell her that she will go with you when you leave.)

"Jean-Pierre?" Denise was confused now. Her hand that held the gun faltered and Fleury grabbed the gun, pulling her in front of him, but Denise twisted in his grasp and suddenly the gun was between them discharging between Denise's full breasts. As Jean-Pierre Fleury stood stunned momentarily, the big Samoan guard tackled him and easily subdued him, handcuffing him and dragging him away.

Yves fell to his knees beside Denise who lay near death on the sand.

"Je t'aime, Yves. Je t'aime, " she whispered. (I love you, Yves. I love you.)

"Maman, Maman, " André held his mother's hand.

"Mon cher fils, je t'aime, " Denise gripped her son's hand and then released it as she died in her husband's arms. (My darling boy, I love you.)

Laura ran to them from where she had been concealed and Remington drew her close to him.

"She's gone, Laura. She's gone. A very sad and complicated story in this beautiful place."

John Chang turned to Remington Steele and shook his head. "No hope when such things happen here. Nearest trauma center is on next island. We have many things here-doctors, a clinic, but nothing for this kind of thing."

John Chang started to walk the Steele's back up the beach to their rooms as they left Yves and André to grieve for Denise by the bonfire on the beach. Others of the small nearby community were coming quietly to assist the family.

John Chang walked in silence at first but then he began to speak.

"In the past, when she was younger, Denise and I-she was my servant. She served me-in many ways. I had neglected her lately as well-thinking her too old to meet my needs. Please do not judge us by Western standards. I tell you this because I need understanding."

"Did Yves know-and understand?"

"He was my servant, Monsieur Steele. He understood her generosity. She was a woman of such intense passions." He turned to Laura. "Madame Steele, I wish that I could be like your husband, Remington Steele. You both have wonderful gift together. I am truly sorry that your visit to my home has seen this terrible event."

"The case is solved, John Chang. Moving the pearls drew out the thief. That was the plan and it worked. When Fleury cracked the safe and the pearls were gone, he lost it. He violated a couple of rules that thieves of his ilk generally follow. He did not drop the job when it became apparent that someone was on to him. If he had not come here tonight, we would not have been able to confirm our suspicions."

"You did suspect him?"

"We had gotten information from Interpol that pointed to him," Laura said.

"And Remington Steele, you remembered him," John Chang said.

"Yes," Steele answered simply.

"And what was other mistake?"

"He used firearms. Whenever guns are used, people get hurt-like Denise Dorville."

"Thank you, Mr. Steele. I think now I go help Yves attend to his loss. I will see you in the morning."

They shook hands and Remington and Laura went into the house to their rooms. They were both quite pensive as they sat down and assimilated what had happened.

"A strange ending, eh?"

"I never would have figured that Denise was involved in it."

"Or that Denise was involved with John Chang, for that matter," Remington said.

"Poor woman. She was looking for a man to give all of that voluptas and they all thought that she was past her prime and went looking elsewhere."

"Unfortunately Fleury came along just at that time and 'played her' so to speak."

"Played her completely? You seemed very certain he did not seriously care for her?"

"When I met Fleury as a young man, he was quite obviously homosexual. Daniel warned me about him. At the very least he was bisexual. His interest in Denise was motivated by greed. He needed an accomplice here on Hao. He probably used Denise to move the pearls after he got them. Amazing, he comes here like a madman looking for the pearls and they were in the kitchen in a gunny sack full of pineapple and papaya all the time."

"What do you think drew Fleury back into that shady life?"

"I would guess it was the beauty of the pearls themselves. The seduction of such beauty is very well known. He may have underestimated the draw of the black pearl."

Remington drew Laura into his arms and she nestled comfortably against his bare chest.

"I love you wearing this thing," Laura said as her hands wandered over his muscled back and down to his hips that were swathed in the pareu.

"Laura, when that gun went off, I was terrified for a moment that you may have somehow been in the path of a ricocheted bullet. I didn't know exactly where you were."

"I know how to stay out of the way of danger after all these years. We have too many children for me to do anything foolish. I stayed under that sea grape tree till I saw the 'all clear.' Of course I was worried about you when Fleury began brandishing that gun."

"Well, the case is over. Now we have a few days to just enjoy this place, Laura."

"I thought that we had been enjoying it quite a bit, love," Laura said smiling up at her husband. "Do you realize that it is nearly four in the morning? We have been up all night with this case?"

"How about finishing that walk on the beach that we started several hours ago. Are you completely exhausted? I want you to see the southern sky after the moon has gone down."

Remington and Laura stepped off the veranda outside their rooms and walked out onto the deserted beach. The soft black sand was like velvet under their feet and millions of stars were visible in the black moonless sky.

"It's gorgeous-unfathomable, isn't it-like it all is closing in on you and yet moving away from you at the same time," Laura said in awe.

"When I first saw this sky, I was on that bloody tanker with Marcos Androkos. Seeing this was what convinced me of the existence of God-the order, harmony, predictability of it all."

"Oh, now I recognize the Southern Cross. There it is! It's like knowing where to find the Big Dipper."

"Ah, yes, Ursa Major," Remington gently gave the correct astronomical name.

"Excuse me, love. Ursa Major," Laura said softly.

"And look, the two brightest stars of the cross-Alpha and Beta Centauri were considered brothers. The other points are called Delta Crucis and Gamma Crucis. The Australian Aborigines called this constellation Mirrabooka. And over there, the constellation Triangulum Australe."

"Marcos Androkos was an excellent teacher." Laura was impressed with Remington's detailed knowledge of astronomy.

"Yes, he was," Remington said somewhat wistfully as he remembered those years with Marcos Androkos on that tanker.

They stood gazing into the heavens for a long time and then they turned to one another.

"Laura, how about a pre-dawn dip before we turn in?"

Laura nodded.

They both shed their pareus and got into the surf together, letting the pleasantly cool salt water wash over them. Finally they came out of the water and spread out their pareus and lay on them on the beach near the sea grape tree where they had taken refuge earlier.

"Laura," Remington whispered as he touched her breasts with his lips.

"Yes!" Laura cried, welcoming him, opening her arms to him.

The sound of the incoming surf muffled their cries of ecstasy as they made love on the deserted beach and when the climax came for them, it was literally all stars of the Southern Hemisphere that Laura saw swirling before her eyes.

"I love you, Laura Holt Steele. God knows I love you," Remington declared as they lay joined together in the afterglow.

"I finally understand what you always were after, love." Laura said.

"What, darling?"

"You know. About getting me on a moonlit beach in Maui. I know why you wanted this."

"This is 'beyond Maui," darling, beyond my wildest dreams."

"It is, isn't it?"

Remington nodded as his lips covered Laura's once again.

* * * * * *

It was a week later that Remington and Laura Steele boarded John Chang's private prop plane on Hao to start the long trip back to Los Angeles. The days of rest and relaxation at John Chang's private retreat were days and nights that they would never forget-time that they needed to devote themselves to one another without concern for the office or children or anything else. They shared some meals with John Chang but most of the time he left them to themselves, letting his household staff attend to their every need.

"I hate to leave this place, don't you?" Laura snuggled close to Remington as the plane lifted off the tiny airstrip on Hao. "If I didn't miss my children so much, I would love to stay another week."

"My feelings exactly, Laura." Remington kissed her cheek tenderly. "Sun-drenched days and moonlit nights. Let's plan to come back when we have our twenty-fifth anniversary."

"I just don't want to ever forget this place." Her brown eyes filled as they became airborne in John Chang's private plane.

"Perhaps this will help you remember, darling." Remington reached into his shirt pocket, drew out something, opened Laura's hand and put it in it. It was a small silk jewel case.

"Remington Steele, you-you," Laura opened the silk packet and an exquisite pendant, a perfect seven millimeter gray green pearl in an eighteen karat gold mounting embedded with diamond chips dropped into her hand. "Darling-it's . . ." She was stunned at the beauty of the piece, speechless.

"It is still not as beautiful as you are, Laura." He took the pendant and fastened it around her neck. "Yes, that's just right. John Chang had an artisan in Papeeté make it up for me. You seemed to be partial to the gray green pearls and this color brings out the greenish undertones in your eyes."

"Oh, Rem, you shouldn't have."

Smiling his slightly lopsided smile, his fingertips lightly caressing her cheek, he lifted his sunglasses so that he could have an unobstructed view of the woman he loved. The sun in his blue eyes revealed the intensity of his emotions as he leaned over to gently kiss her between her collarbones where the pendant lay, and then upon her waiting lips.

They landed in Papeeté in a few hours, stayed overnight in the Meridien Hotel again and the next day they were winging their way back to Los Angeles and home.