The Alternate Link of Steele
Part 3
By Adriana

Hotel España Madrid. 8:02 PM

His voice hanged in the night air for a few seconds, but finally Laura turned to face him.

"Who are you?" she had shouted in fear.

"Don't you know? " he had asked.

She looked into his eyes, unable to read them anymore. Was he angry? Was he amused with all this? Was he just plain tired as she was?

" No, I don't" she heard herself answer.

He had to look away. He didn't want to see the disappointment in her face; he didn't want to hear her hurting voice. He just wanted to crawl under some huge rock and never have to confront any of this again. To his own surprise, he started to laugh.

At first Laura thought he had gone mad, laughing like that, but she did not say a word. The fact was that she didn't know this man anymore. Maybe she had never known him at all. He had busted into her room, just like he had busted into her life years ago, without a warning, only to put everything upside down. She was seeing him in another light tough, for all she knew he was a criminal. He had taken part in the murder of at least four men, hadn't he? But Laura did not fear him. For once, she was unafraid.

"What are you laughing about?" she shouted in anger.

He was still laughing when he turned to face her again. His sad, bitter laugh echoed in the small dark room.

"I don't believe you, Laura," he chuckled without humour, "You just don't let it go, do you? You will never let it go."

She stared at him blankly. What was he talking about? But as she was about to speak again, he interrupted in a far more serious tone. All traces of laughter vanished.

"I don't fucking know who I am, so why should you?"

Again Laura was startled. Who was he kidding? He was whoever he wanted to be, whenever he wanted to, regardless of anybody else. However, he had sound sincere. Could it be he didn't really know?

"I don't care who you are, I just want to know why you're here right now," she said walking hastily past him and grabbing the closest item of clothing she could find. Once she was dressed, she turned to him again. "You have no right to be here."

He started moving towards her, in silence.

Laura started to back away. Out of sheer bravado, she somehow found the strength to continue: " what's more, I think you should leave before I call the police."

He was just inches away.

Shut up, he thought. Please let me look at you in silence. He narrowed his eyes trying to improve his sight; it was hard to see her in the darkness of the room. Her eyes, however, shone with a strange light, sparkling, glittering, and afraid. He hated himself for being the cause of it.

"Are you frightened of me?" He asked, his tone unbelieving "Are you scared of me Laura?"

"Of course I'm not." She took another pace backwards.

"Even if you don't know who I am?" He challenged, again approaching her.

She backed up again "No," she lied. She was terrified of him.

"Right" he said, not believing her for a minute. "Sorry to have disturbed you, Laura. You were right. I'd better go now." He turned around and started to leave.

Laura stood where she was, unable to speak or move, and saw him close the door behind him. The slam of the door finally brought her up from the dark place between fear and longing she had been lingering on for the past few minutes.

"So why did you bother to come?" she shouted to the wooden door. And suddenly her chest felt too tight, and her eyes too hot, and she couldn't stop the tears. She brought her head to her chest and started sobbing quietly. Her head was spinning. She felt angry, confused, and lonely. She didn't even hear the door opening again, or his heavy footsteps on the hardwood floor, or his painful sigh as he saw her agony.

He looked at her not knowing what to do. He only knew ha had to make it better, but he didn't know how. He should say something, but what was there to say? Maybe he should just hold her, or maybe he should just take that lovely face in his hands and-

He reached out to her, gently cupping her face between his hands and brushed her lips tenderly with his own. He tested her salty tears and then deepened his kiss, surprised that she didn't push him away, that she was returning his kiss, even if she was still crying. He felt her hands entwine in his hair, grazing his scalp, shaking with fear. This must be the biggest mistake of his life. But maybe, just maybe, this was the rightmost thing he could have ever done. Could this be any harder?

Laura, on the other hand, didn't want to think at all. She only wanted him to stay where he was, wanted the time to stand still. God, she had missed his lips! But as suddenly as he had returned, he was gone again, and she was forced to open her eyes, looking at him through the mist of her tears.

He was holding his hands in the air, building an invisible wall between them, and shaking his head in denial while intensely gazing into her dark eyes. His stare bid Laura a final goodbye, putting a definitive end to what they had once shared. It was the same look she had seen in his eyes when they had reencountered at the museum. And it was he who baked away into the shadows this time.

"I'm so sorry" he said, barely in a whisper.

She nodded and said nothing.

"I'm so sorry, Laura" he repeated. He knew he had heard him the first time, but he wanted her to know he had meant it.

"Just- Just go. Please."

"Yes, I have to go home, I-" his voice trailed into silence again. He shouldn't have come here in the first place.

All of a sudden Laura remembered Felicia, Freddy Hawks, the dead guards, Murphy lying in bed in the hospital, her closed detective agency, Mildred without a job: all because of him, this man standing in front of her. This man that she hated, this man that she loved.

"Need to go back to your wife, don't you?" she accused, and instantly wished she hadn't.

That drew a sad smile out of him. It was amazing that she knew. How did she do it? Nobody but Daniel and themselves had been notified, if he remembered correctly. But of course Laura Holt would find out. Nothing ever escapes Laura Holt, he thought without rancour. "How did you know?"

"Felicia paid me a visit this afternoon. Told me to leave you alone, since she had a prior and rightful claim on your life," she said nonchalantly. "I think you should consider making a hasty retreat from Madrid, seeing the both of you are accomplices of murder, thieves, and fugitives of the law. Not to mention Freddy Hawkes is after you because you have Don Quixote, and you betrayed him."

He narrowed his eyes. Those were angry words, bitter words, and truthful words. He couldn't deny any of them. But one thing he needed to maker her understand. "I didn't betray him." His own words stone cold. "Freddy shouldn't have killed those guards. It was a terrible thing to happen, but it wasn't my fault. Or Felicia's"

"You both are accomplices, whichever way you want to look at it."

He knew he was trapped. If that was how the ever-righteous Laura Holt preferred to look at it, there was little he could do to change her mind. Once more he looked into her eyes, hoping to find redemption, but found none.

It angered him. "Can you prove it?"

She felt silent, and gazed at him for a long time; both knowing no proof was necessary.

"No, I can't," she admitted.

He merely coked his head: there you go. "How's Murphy?"

It was Laura's turn to laugh bitterly now. "As if you care."

"I didn't want to see him hurt. I was an accident."

"No it wasn't!" she angrily replied, "Freddy shot him quite deliberately."

Tired of it all, he sighed deeply, and shook his head again. "He's not dead, is he?"

"No, he's in hospital now. He'll live; it was merely a flesh wound on his thigh. He should be up and about in a few days"

Laura actually saw his relief at her words.

"Good, good." He cast her a sad look, and started walking away once more. "Well, I guess I'll be going now. Goodbye, Laura."

"You won't get away with it that easily, you know. I'll have that book back whatever the cost."

He turned around briefly, with a cocky grin in his face.

"Oh, really?"

"You bet," she challenged, her face resolute and her eyes shinning.

He strode back to face her, smile still in place, and with deliberate strength he took possession of her lips. It was a long, lingering, passion filled kiss. Finally they both came up for air. Flushed, their hearts beating too fast.

"Whatever you say, Miss Holt," he whispered, and then, with a final goodbye, he disappeared behind the door.

End of the introduction.