VARIATION ON A STEELE: THE CALM BEFORE THE STEELE
By: Susannah 2K
Disclaimer: This "Remington Steele" story is not-for-profit and is purely for entertainment purposes. The author and this site do not own the characters and are in no way affiliated with "Remington Steele," the actors, their agents, the producers, MTM Productions, the NBC Television Network or any station or network carrying the show in syndication, or anyone in the industry.
Laura had long ago lost interest in the movie. Lying back in Steele’s arms, she let her mind wander until she finally dozed off altogether.
What brought her out of slumber had nothing to do with the TV. His hands were on her waist; slowly, methodically, he was tugging her blouse up out of her skirt.
“Awake?” he murmured.
“Mmm,” she replied, shifting slightly.
His fingers worked the buttons from the bottom up. When the shirt was completely open, he clasped his hands on her bare midsection and apparently returned his attention to the screen.
For a few minutes, Laura waited. Her bare skin pricked up into gooseflesh, but under his hands, she was nice and warm. After awhile, he walked the fingers of his right hand up to the clasp on her bra. His left followed, and there was a little click as the hook opened.
As he traced a line from her throat to her navel and back, he asked, “Not asleep, are you?”
Laura shook her head. The light touch of his fingertips along the nerve center of her body sent little tingling shivers in both directions.
When she moved to help him with the bra, he took hold of her hands, pressed them down to her sides and patted them as if to say, stay put. He wants to do all the work? she thought. Fine. She tried to get a look at him, but he still seemed to be watching the movie.
He was doing it all by touch. He’d fumbled with the clasp, fumbled her bra open, fumbled a grasp of her breasts all in an unhurried and unsystematic fashion. There was all the time in the world, it seemed, for whatever he was planning. Laura felt him rise against her back.
Her attention was drawn from him to her own sensations as he teased the delicate underside of her breasts. His fingers were feather-light as he stroked from her ribs to her nipples and around to the side and back again.
The fine hairs on her arms stood up, and the hair on the back of her neck, and as she took a breath it came in a shuddering gulp. Steele pushed his hands down over her sides to her hips. She reached under herself to unzip her skirt, her wrists grazing his erection through his slacks. Somehow, she managed to get the buttons undone and the zipper down, and he helped her slip it down over her feet.
As he returned the tender attentions of his right hand to her breasts, his left lay quietly and protectively over her pubic mound. She shifted slightly, pushing herself against him in what she thought was a subtle message; he cupped his hand so she could feel the pressure, but he made no move to stimulate her that way.
Instead, he brought his hand up to her belly again and, rolling the waistband of her pantyhose down a few inches — an awkward process, one-handed, but he declined her help, massaged a spiraling circle. Thinking she knew the direction he was headed in, Laura tried to settle herself down. With deliberation, she moved her mind from the goal to the process and began to take more pleasure from the journey. Being in a steady relationship with him had finally wrought a few changes in her response. She was able to enjoy everything about lovemaking now, noticing things about herself that she’d just about forgotten, learning things about him that she hadn’t wanted to know about anybody in a long, long time. The intense need to just feel something and quick! had been transformed into a calmer kind of impatience. She could trust him. He would get her there, eventually.
Just as she relaxed under these gentle caresses, Steele suddenly pinched her right nipple and pressed down hard on her navel. As his fingertip worked deeper into the little depression and his hand twisted her breast, a sensation like an electric shock traveled from under her belly button to her clitoris, and she jumped. She felt as if an orgasm had been short circuited and scattered and redirected to unexpected parts of her body.
Still, there was no release. The tension was only wound tighter, and Laura struggled up out of his embrace to strip off her pantyhose. Somehow, she got tangled up in them; Steele tried to steady her as she tugged them over one foot and then the other.
When she turned to face him, he was still lying on the couch, relaxed and smug. He lifted his hand casually and aimed the remote at the TV. Moving closer, Laura pushed her hips forward and grazed the end of the flat, plastic wand; she hoped he would take the hint.
He did. Tossing the remote to the floor, he beckoned her closer. Laura got up onto her knees on the couch and tried to straddle him; Steele pulled one of the cushions off to give her more room. She inched forward a little more.
When she was close enough, he reached up and pushed her blouse off her shoulders. It slid down her arms and fluttered off somewhere. Her bra, as well, he discarded. Then he hooked his elbows behind her thighs and, with his hands firmly on her buttocks, pulled her to him. She sighed in expectation as she felt his tongue.
Once, she’d turned off all the lights while he was in the shower and taped the switches so he couldn’t spoil her surprise. He’d come out into a pitch-black bedroom to hear her saying, “Don’t move, Mr. Steele. Stay right where you are.”
He’d obeyed her, turning to gooseflesh with anticipation as she backed him up against the wall and knelt at his feet. A minute or two later, he’d collapsed, just fell over, and Laura, in a panic, had scrambled for the switch, tearing the tape and a couple of fingernails in her haste. When she finally got the lights on, she found him lying on the rug, from which he smiled up at her and said, “Next time give me something to lean on.”
Now, Laura knew how he felt. She was shaking, and even with his hands on her, she didn’t have enough support. She put one foot on the floor to brace herself, but it wasn’t enough, and she tried to find something to grab onto.
There was an awkward scramble as Steele tried to reposition her, tried to reposition himself. Finally, he just shoved her out of the way, stood up and lifted her like a child. As he walked into the bedroom, she wrapped her legs around his waist and jogged herself against him.
“That was a perfectly good shirt,” he remarked.
“You should’ve thought of that,” she replied.
He slung her onto the bed and fell down beside her, slicking his fingers in her moisture until they were as wet as his tongue. They glided back and forth over her clitoris while she tried, distractedly, to get him out of his pants.
It was hopeless, of course. When she was this far gone, she couldn’t bear for him to stop, even for a moment, even to facilitate the process of getting naked with her. All her nice thoughts about enjoying the ride went for nothing; she became desperate to reach her climax, and she whimpered a little in frustration as the moment was delayed. She could do it herself — she would, too, if he didn’t hurry, despite her firm resolution. What was he waiting for? He knew what to do.
“There are laws … ” she murmured.
“ … against torture in this country.”
Steele raised his head and blew lightly on her breast. “Had enough, have you?” he wondered.
“Nowhere near enough,” Laura replied.
By now, he could read her mood; he knew that bringing this segment of the evening to a conclusion would hasten other delights. He slipped a couple of fingers in and pressed upwards while with his other hand he rubbed her clitoris and rubbed harder. Laura held her breath, and when she couldn’t hold it any more, she let go, gasping and sobbing. She was almost too breathless to return his kiss, but she managed anyway.
Maybe a minute went by before her head cleared and her hands began itching to return the favour. She smoothed and squeezed the cheeks of his ass — he really had such beautiful skin — before her left hand made its way down the crease and then between his thighs. Steele sprawled over her to give her more room, and she scratched lightly at his full, tight scrotum.
His penis had lost none of its hardness during the long interval while Steele made her come; she could feel it against her belly, pinned between them. Not one to let anything go to waste, Laura pushed him off her and took it in her hands.
At first, she stroked him slowly, like a sculptor molding a smooth column of flesh. Then, because this part of him never ceased to fascinate her, she worked his foreskin back and forth a little, keeping her fingers off the glans.
“Ready?” she asked, teasingly. She held his balls. “I want to feel these right up against me.”
He obliged her, was into her with one stroke. It always left her a little breathless, to have him suddenly a part of her that way. He withdrew, almost all the way, and she clamped down on him, hard; he pressed forward again, sighing, “Ah, Laura … ” It was weird, how much she loved that part, the way he said her name like that.
If she had no other clue at all, she thought this would convince her that this was love: It was never just sex, with him; it was connection. The sex was great, of course — conventional wisdom suggested that it was great because it was love — but it was more than that. More than their bodies were joined in these moments. Laura had never been particularly shy about her physical self — robust, rollicking sex was her favourite kind — but after college, after Wilson, she’d become much more guarded about her heart. No one had touched her there, except Steele, and it was a great relief to her, now, that she was no longer divided, no longer forced to pursue the one, without the other.
Remington awoke sometime later, cradled in Laura’s arms, half-dazed with pleasure, not quite sure where he was, except with her. He couldn’t remember at first whether they’d gone to her place or his, couldn’t remember quite how they wound up like this. The lights were on; he recognized his bedroom; he began to recall how an evening in front of the TV became a night of extended pleasure.
Shifting carefully, he got out of her embrace and put out the lights and adjusted the drapes. When he came out of the bathroom, he found her on her side, clutching a pillow.
He turned back the sheets. “Laura,” he said. “Come on, love. Time for bed.”
She smiled and opened her eyes. “Again? Already?”
Insatiable. That’s what she was. He’d been warned. He just hadn’t quite believed it.
* * * * * * * * * *
After three solid days on a case — and out all night, staking out their subject’s condominium — Laura was ready for a break. Gym night had come and gone too many nights in a row, and she absolutely insisted that Steele run their errands on his own while she tried to get back into her routine.
The blaring music came to an abrupt halt, much to the relief of many of the people in the room. Blotting perspiration from her face and neck, Laura stretched and left the aerobics workout behind.
The air in the hallway was a little cooler and a lot fresher. Pulling the sweatband off her hair, she went downstairs to her locker and dragged out her duffel bag and purse.
She paused in the lobby for a drink of water.
As she leaned over the fountain, someone snapped a towel at her. Her hand shot out reflexively to grab hold of it, and she gave it a jerk.
The guy on the other end was blond and laughing.
“Stu!” she exclaimed, recognizing the culprit.
“Hey, Laura. Thought that was you.”
“When’d you get back from Japan?”
“Guam,” he corrected. “Last month.”
“Win the case?”
“Oh, sure.” He looked her up and down. “Haven’t seen you since I’ve been back. I was wondering if you were still around.”
Glancing at her watch, she said, “I’m not, really. I’m late. I have to go.”
“Dinner sometime?” he suggested.
She shoved open the heavy glass door. Stu got his hand on it and held it for her and followed her out.
Coming to a halt, Laura turned and said, “Afraid not. I’m committed.”
“But thanks anyway.”
There was Steele, rolling up in the Auburn. Stu’s eyes went automatically to the flashy car.
“I’ve gotta go,” she told him. “It was nice seeing you.” With a wave, she skipped down the steps and threw her stuff in.
“Who was that, then?” Steele asked as she got in beside him.
“Huh?” She glanced back and saw Stuart still standing by the curb. “Oh, Stu. He’s a lawyer. We used to play racquetball sometimes.”
“I see.” The Auburn moved out into traffic. “Anything else?”
“Oh, for God’s sake.” She folded her arms on her chest and looked steadily at the passing scenery.
“Just forget it.”
They drove on in silence. Then Steele said, “Did you sleep with him?”
Flashing him a look, Laura replied, “I am not having this conversation with you.”
“We are not having this conversation, Remington!”
“It’s a simple question, Laura.”
They came to a red light. Laura glanced back, threw open the door and jumped out.
Jamming his foot more heavily on the brake, Remington reached across and grabbed for her arm and missed.
“Laura— what— ”
She was out of the car, darting between the Auburn and the station wagon in front of them and then across the street. The light turned green; cars were honking at him. Laura, meanwhile, had gained the sidewalk and was walking back the other way.
He put the car in gear. “Oh, bloody hell …. ” Then he swore more specifically. There was no way the Auburn could be persuaded into a U-turn, even on Olympic with three lanes of no oncoming traffic. He’d have to double back and hope she wouldn’t deliberately try to lose him.
The blocks were long; it seemed like forever until he got back to Olympic, but there she was. She’d managed to cover a lot of ground. As he pulled up alongside, she kept her eyes determinedly away from the street.
“Laura,” he called, looking for a place to pull over. He tapped the horn lightly. “Laura, get back in the car.”
“Thanks, I’ll walk.”
“Where? Where are you going?”
“I’ll be fine.”
What did she intend to do? Walk back to the office? Hail a cab? It wasn’t altogether impossible to find one around here, but he doubted the odds of her success in getting one to notice her. Not to mention her wallet was in her purse, which was still on the floor of the car.
There was some empty curb about half a block ahead of her; Remington aimed the Auburn toward it and parked not totally illegally. She didn’t deviate from her path as he blocked her on the sidewalk. She just came to a halt.
He handed her her purse. She took it and looked at him, finally, her expression narrow and tight.
“I’ll drive you home, eh?”
“The Rabbit’s at your place.”
“Well, then, I’ll take you there.”
Laura turned abruptly and got into the car. Remington carefully closed the door for her and went around to his side.
They drove in silence all the way to Hancock Park.
As he pulled into his parking space, before he’d even killed the engine, Laura threw the door open, grabbed her stuff, and unlocked the Rabbit.
“Damn it, Laura, do not start that car!” He scrambled out of the Auburn.
The Rabbit roared into life, and Laura twisted around to be sure she was clear to back out of the space.
He slammed his fist against the side of the car. “I said wait!” he bellowed.
The car kept moving; then she hit the brakes, and it rocked to a halt. He saw her face dimly through the window until she cranked it down.
“You think you can give me orders now?” she demanded. “Do you?”
“No, I don’t think I can give you orders. I just don’t want you to drive off, mad about nothing — ”
“Nothing? This is not nothing, Steele! This is something, and I’m not going to sit around while you — ”
“While I what? Eh? What the hell is it that you think I’m doing?”
Her mouth twitched, but she didn’t answer.
“Would you come upstairs?”
He put a hand on her shoulder, let his fingers move along her neck and under her hair. Against her will, Laura shivered at his touch.
She put both hands on the wheel. “I don’t want to be with someone who gets a charge out of yelling at me.”
“I wasn’t yelling at you.”
“Oh, yes, you were!”
Fine. Whatever. Shifting his feet, he replied, “I don’t get a charge out of yelling at you. I might get a charge out of being yelled at … ” He gazed at her, sheepishly, hopefully, and suddenly she threw the car into reverse.
He waited at the elevator while she parked the Rabbit again, gathered her belongings, and stomped over to him. The doors opened, and they got inside. He pushed the button.
“I wasn’t yelling,” he ventured.
“Oh, I’m a liar, now, too, I suppose.”
Her keys were in her hand; she unlocked the door to his apartment and went in. Remington caught the door before it slammed in his face.
Laura had gone on into the bedroom, stripping off her gym clothes as she went. The tank top and sports bra, still damp with perspiration, lay in a heap in the middle of the living room floor; the striped shorts, with her panties tangled inside, were in the doorway.
He had a glimpse of her, naked, bent over, pulling off her other shoe and sock, before she disappeared into the bathroom. The shower came on as he gathered her things and put them in the hamper.
After a while, he knocked on the door.
“What?” she said.
Since it wasn’t locked, he went in, put the lid down and sat and waited. Laura was in there a long time; he could see through the frosted glass that she was just standing there, letting the water run over her. Finally, she turned it off and, kicking the door open, wrung out her hair.
Remington handed her a towel, just handed it to her, wisely refraining from wrapping her up himself and enfolding her in a conciliatory embrace. He gave her another for her hair, which she wound into a turban. After checking herself in the mirror, she scowled at him.
“What?” she said again.
He didn’t have much of an answer to that. He couldn’t figure out where they were, or what was going on. She blew by him, and he could hear her rummaging in drawers and sliding the closet doors open and shut with successive bangs.
“I just don’t know what’s the matter with you,” she said, when he finally came out of the bathroom.
He glanced around, not entirely sure she was speaking to him.
Laura pulled the towel off her damp hair and struggled into a sweater. “You’re worried about all these guys— ”
“All,” he repeated, seizing an opening. “How many?”
“ — who meant nothing to me,” she went on, oblivious to his question. “I’ve really tried to make that very clear. But meanwhile, there are real women in your past, women you cared for, women who come back and— ”
What was she going on about? “Women?” he blinked. “What women?”
“Anna,” she said, stepping into a pair of beige slacks. “Felicia.”
Anna. Just like her to bring that up. That didn’t even warrant comment. Pointedly, he told her, “I’m finished with Felicia.”
With a superior kind of contempt, she asked, “Is she finished with you?”
Possibly she had a point there, but she was missing the main one. “We can handle Felicia,” he insisted, with a heavy emphasis on the “we.” Then a horrible thought struck him. “Shannon on the other hand — ”
He noticed that Laura, fully dressed now, seemed riveted. She was staring at him. “Shannon?” she repeated. “Who’s Shannon?”
A major misstep. Watch yourself, old boy, he thought. You’re getting careless.
He backpedaled rapidly. “Shannon? Nobody. Just a girl,” he stammered. “Bit of a nutter. Used to work with her. In Hong Kong.”
Remington recognized the look in her eye as she repeated, “Work?”, the look that meant Laura Holt thought she was onto something about Remington Steele.
“In a manner of speaking, yes.”
“In Hong Kong.” She seemed to be turning this over in her mind. “When was that?”
Better not to overload her with information. “Look, Laura, if Shannon ever comes here, we’ll just close the office for a couple of months. Lie low in Tucson, eh? Or Omaha,” he added desperately. “Or Fargo.”
She made up her mind and fortunately, for a change, she didn’t seem interested in pursuing his past. “All right. Fine. Felicia doesn’t matter anymore. Does she?”
“Well, then, neither does Stuart. Or Jeff. Or Whitney … ”
He stopped the litany right there. “You were dating a guy named Whitney?”
“No, I was fucking a guy named Whitney,” she yelled, “and it doesn’t matter!”
“Yes, all right, but what about— ”
“What about them?” she snapped. “Do you think any of them made me happy? No! Because if one of them had, I would’ve been thinking, maybe this guy and not Remington Steele!”
God, yes. That’s what he’d been afraid of, that some other man would somehow get in and make her happy before he’d ever had the chance to try.
Something must have shown in his face; she reached up to his cheek and caressed him tenderly before pacing away again. “It wasn’t like that. I never thought that,” she told him. “I only thought, one night. Get me through this one night, and maybe tomorrow, maybe Mr. Steele and I— ”
He could never decide which was worse: the idea that Laura, as she claimed, only saw these men as vehicles to physical release, or that their inability — his and Laura’s — to take a critical step in their relationship had led her to consider other options.
“If you thought I could make you happy, why didn’t you let me?”
“I’m not going to explain it again. If you don’t understand me by now … ” She slung her duffel over her shoulder and picked up her purse.
“That’s it?” he asked in amazement. “You come upstairs to shower and change your clothes, and now you’re going home?”
“That’s it. Good night, Mr. Steele.”
He followed her out into the hall. “Yes, well, good night to you, too, Miss Holt,” he shouted as she got into the elevator. Then he went back into his flat and slammed the door shut behind him. “Good night, Mr. bloody Steele,” he mimicked.
As she drove home, it occurred to Laura that Mr. Steele could dish it out, but he couldn’t take it. He could hide his past from her; he could let slip little tidbits and clues and then hush them up again; but when it was her past that was in question, he just couldn’t stand it.
He was stumbling from fantasy to fantasy. His variation of Sleeping Beauty — her sexuality dormant, her whole self waiting to be awakened by his kiss — probably wasn’t that unusual, was kind of sweet, actually. What had inspired her to hammer it that hard? To smash it to smithereens, to watch him fall apart and pull himself back together again under the idea that she’d never been waiting for him?
Whatever it was, the result, she’d decided, had been worth it. With his help, she’d been able to get past the fear and concern and into the reality of their love.
Now, she wasn’t so sure. If he was going to turn into a jerk and judge her past differently from his own, she didn’t know what she was going to do.
Remington made himself dinner, which he didn’t eat, and put on a movie, which he didn’t watch.
Way late in the night, Laura awoke from fitful sleep. The clock said two a.m.; she couldn’t believe she’d actually slept. What woke her up came again: someone knocking on the door.
Reaching for her dressing gown, she got up and padded down the steps.
“Who is it?” she asked.
“It’s me,” Steele said.
She unlocked the door and rolled it back.
Steele stood just beyond the threshold, leaning back against the wall. “Can I come in?”
Laura stepped aside.
“Couldn’t sleep,” he explained.
She shrugged. “Sure.”
“Ah,” he said again.
He put his hands in his pockets and paced around. Laura folded her arms and waited.
“Does it have to be so damned impossible for you to let me be a man once in a while?”
Taken aback, she replied, “What?”
“I mean, does it have to be so bloody hard for you to let me play the traditional role? Do we have to be equals every damned, bloody minute?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Take this bloke, this Stuart whatever his name is. Why do we have to get into a row over him? Why can’t you just be nice and reassuring and say ‘don’t worry, darling, he didn’t mean a thing to me’?”
“I did say that!”
“No, you didn’t.”
“I most certainly did. I said we played racquetball together. Big deal.”
“And when I said what else—a perfectly reasonable question—you jumped out of the car like I’d burned you.”
“Because when you said what else you meant— ”
“Of course I did! And that was your cue to say he meant nothing to you!”
“Let me get this straight. You insult me, and I’m supposed to reassure you.”
“Insult you? How was I doing that?”
“By asking me— ”
“By implying that I take you at your word? By implying that I realize you’re a grown up girl who led a life that I understand, even if I choose not to think about it?”
“Is it going to be that way with every guy who knows my name?” she demanded. “Are you going to wonder if he slept with me?”
“So you’re telling me you think I’m a slut!”
“What?” His eyes opened as if in surprise, as if he were genuinely shocked at the idea. “No! I’m telling you my blood boils whenever I see someone you might’ve slept with.”
“Then I guess you won’t be coming with me to my reunion at Stanford.”
Refusing to be cornered or derailed, he retorted, “What about you? Don’t tell me you don’t still wonder if every police chief we might run into doesn’t have my face on a wanted poster.”
“It’s hardly the same thing.”
“No! Not by a long shot!”
“Laura, I just want to know where I stand.”
“You know where you stand.”
“Pretend I don’t. Humour me.”
She stared at him, furious, unwilling to give up any ground.
His hands balled into fists, and he turned away.
Pressing her hands against her eyes, Laura tried to think. He was different. In so many ways he was different from every man she’d ever met. Combining the honest with the shady, the tender and sensitive with the manly and strong, he was someone she felt she’d never get to know, and yet she couldn’t give up trying to know him, all of him. No matter how far they traveled together, there was always another side of him, unexpected, infuriating, extraordinary, and sometimes he was beyond her; she just didn’t know what to do.
If that wasn’t the story of their lives: She didn’t know what to do, so she did nothing, or the wrong thing. He didn’t know what to do, either, and so often he chose the option guaranteed to infuriate her. Why was that? she wondered.
“Okay,” she said, grasping at straws. “You’re the first. There’s never been anyone but you.”
He snarled; his body tensed, went rigid. Laura knew fury when she saw it.
The wrong thing again. Guaranteed.
“I’m sorry,” she admitted. “That was stupid. I don’t know what to say.” Taking one step toward him, she added, “Tell me what to say.”
A little of the tension went away. “Oh, I don’t know,” he shrugged. He glanced at her, over his shoulder. “Something like — ” He seemed to choke up a little, to mutter something that sounded suspiciously like “you’re the first … ”
At least she wasn’t running forward, blindly, in the wrong groove again. Moving closer, Laura put a tentative hand on his arm. “I never wanted anyone but you,” she offered. “I just didn’t know how — how we could work it out — without losing what we already had. You showed me,” she added, slipping her arms around his waist. “It just took a while for me to realize we could still be friends. Partners. Whatever. I didn’t want to lose you,” she insisted.
Remington allowed himself to unwind very slowly. Was that how her mind worked? Was that the way she thought his mind worked? Was that what this was about? A slut – what a concept to try to apply to Laura Holt.
All he wanted was a little reassurance, that she was his now; for that matter, that he was hers. Friends, partners, like she said, and lovers. Everything at once, all of it. As long as they had that, he didn’t care about those other men.
Of course, Daniel always said you were in trouble when you started trying to con yourself.
Fine, then. He was still angry and disappointed that she’d taken from somebody else what he had wanted so desperately to give her. He imagined he would be angry and disappointed for some time to come, if he spent any time thinking about it. Essentially, though, they were past that, now. They were walking a new path, in a new world. As she said, she’d explained it as best she could; he had to accept her explanation or else knock his head against the wall forever.
“You know, you could come to the gym with me,” she was saying. “We could play some racquetball.”
“Thanks, no.” Remington knew how to keep himself in condition and did so, on his own; he didn’t need to visit some fitness factory packed to the rafters with silicone starlets and sweaty jocks. Frankly, he had no idea how Laura could stand it herself.
“Oh.” Her hold on him loosened slightly. “Okay. I just thought … ”
“I don’t have to prove myself,” he explained. “You don’t have to show me off.”
“I didn’t mean that. Exactly.” She sounded small and regretful.
“You handled Stuart quite well.”
“He got the picture.”
“Well, then,” he said, moving out of her embrace, “that’s the important thing.”
Laura went back to bed and tucked herself in. After a while, she said, “Mr. Steele?” When he didn’t answer, she thought maybe she’d dozed off, hadn’t heard him go out. Raising herself on one elbow, she called softly, “Remington?”
There was a long silence before he said, “What?”
“Come to bed.”
The only thing she could hear was her own heart beating. The clock blinked over one minute, then another. She lay back down and stared at the ceiling.
“Or else,” she added, “lock up when you go.”
After that, she heard him get up, heard the rattle of the door being checked and rechecked. The bathroom door clicked shut; water ran. Then he came up the steps; in the dark she could just barely make him out. There was a rustle of cloth as he got undressed, and then he was beside her in the bed, far away, not touching.
“There never was anyone but you,” she told him. “Not really. There’s never been anyone as important to my life, in every way, as you are. You know how much that scares me, to have one person be the whole world to me.”
“I’m the one who should be scared.”
She turned her head on the pillow. In the dim moonlight, she could see Steele smiling gently at her.
“All of Laura Holt’s life, in my hands. That’s a tremendous responsibility. Don’t think I don’t know it.”
“I can be upset about this and still love you, you know.”
“I know.” Without seeming to do so, she moved a little closer. He’d been waiting for some little sign because now he stretched his arm out across the pillow, and she snuggled up to him and let him hold her.
Laura intended to just go to sleep. She was glad that they’d gotten over this hurdle, although she had no doubt that sooner or later they would come up on another one. Somehow her mind wouldn’t shut off; she kept thinking and thinking, and she knew he was still awake. All that tension had to go somewhere; maybe she could relax if they …
Drawing her knee up, she pressed herself closer. One hand moved over his hip and down his thigh and back again, vaguely inquisitive.
“Laura,” he said.
She lifted her head from his chest. “What?”
“It’s late,” he told her. “We’re tired.”
“Too tired?” she asked. She put her head back down and listened to his heart beating. She could feel him coming erect against her thigh and shifted around to lie full length on top of him. If he didn’t want any, fine; his warmth and slow breathing might be enough to rock her to sleep.
Steele put his arms around her, hugged her to him, smoothed her hair. After what seemed like a long time, his hands wandered a bit lower, patted her ass before tugging her nightgown up to her waist. Then he rolled her over, pressed himself into her, and after only a few jerks of his hips, collapsed on her breast.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered against her hair. “That wasn’t much for you. Next time … ”
Cradling him in her arms, Laura closed her eyes and settled herself for sleep. “It’s all right,” she whispered in reply. “I’m just glad you’re here.”