"Laura, are you listening to me?" Remington asked her, breaking into her reverie.
"Of course," Laura answered, her eyes wide and innocent. Had she really just agreed to go away with him, just the two of them, no work, no Mildred, no interruptions?
Every nerve ending buzzed at the idea, and her stomach was somewhere in the vicinity of her throat, doing strange little flip flops, but Laura had to admit that it was about time.
They had been closer than ever these past few weeks, but swamped with cases. Perhaps all they needed was some R&R, some time alone together, and they could finally take their relationship to another level.
Laura's body tingled. Not with fear,
or even nervousness, but with
excitement and anticipation. In fact, she was downright impatient.
She took a sip of wine and focused her gaze across the table. Why was he looking at her like that? Was she supposed to say something?
"I'm sorry..." she stammered absently, "What?"
Remington shook his head with a smile as he stood and began clearing away the dishes from their meal, "You didn't hear a word I said," he accused gently, "Where were you? Sailing somewhere without me?"
"Not quite," Laura answered with a guilty smile, rising to give him a hand.
"I said, where would you like to go?" he repeated as they walked into the kitchen, "There's a multitude of places we've intended to go to but never quite made it. Or we can go somewhere else entirely if you prefer. Take your pick, Catalina, Hawaii, Venice, Paris, Tahiti, the Fiji Islands, Australia?"
Laura laughed, "Do you think you could pick a destination further away from home?" she teased.
"Well, I'm sure I could try," he joked, flashing her an endearing, lopsided grin, as they finished stacking the plates and returned to the living room to finish their wine, "Besides, I thought the point was to get away from home."
"You know I can't relax when I'm too far from the agency," she reasoned, "What if something happens?"
Remington shot Laura a look that said it all. He was challenging her; he didn't think she really wanted to go. She surprised him though.
"What about Acapulco?" she suggested.
"Really Laura," he said, "I would have thought you'd be a little more adventurous."
Laura swirled the remains of her wine round in the glass before she swallowed the last gulp, wondering briefly how much they'd had. They'd opened a second bottle. Was she starting to feel a little tipsy?
Whatever it was, she couldn't help but laugh at his comment, "*More* adventurous?" she repeated, with a suggestive quirk of her eyebrow.
"Ah, yes," Remington remembered, "The infamous fan dance on the bar that sent your banker boyfriend running."
"Oh, it wasn't the dance that sent Wilson running," Laura announced openly.
"It wasn't?" Remington shot her a surprised look as he left the couch, retrieving their bottle of wine from the coffee table and refilling their glasses.
"Nope. It was finding out that it wasn't the ffirst time I'd done something like that," she explained.
"It wasn't?" His voice went up an octave as he tried hard not to choke on his mouthful of wine. He turned away, ostensibly to adjust the fire, but Laura heard the muffled cough and smiled.
"No," she answered. Laura wondered how far she should take this, how he would react if he knew what had really sent Wilson packing. She remembered how Remington's eyes had lit up at the first mention of her fan dance. He'd even wanted to see it. So he probably wouldn't be phased by what she was about to confess. Hell, she'd pretty much hinted at it anyway, and wouldn't it be better to tell him than to let him imagine all sorts of lewd things? Might as well tell him the rest, no holds barred.
"I...uh..." she faltered, still talking to his back, "I...made a little money from...um...dancing...just after college."
Laura tried to gauge his reaction but it was difficult. She couldn't see his face from this angle.
"You what?" His shoulders were shaking. Oh God! He was furious.
When Laura would have bristled and asserted that he had no right to judge her, he turned to face her and threw back his head with laughter.
"You were a dancer?" he asked, "What kind of dancing?"
"What do you mean, what kind of dancing?" she snapped, not sure what to make of his amusement, "What kind do you think? Table dancing, like in a club. Remember San Francisco?"
Suddenly it dawned on Remington. A mental picture formed and a flash of protectiveness washed over him. He sobered instantly.
"You were a stripper?" It was part question, part wounded accusation.
"I was NOT a stripper," she defended frantically, indignant as only Laura knew how to be, "There was no nudity. I was an entertainer, an exotic dancer."
"Why?" he asked tenderly, genuinely curious, as he returned to sit beside her on the sofa.
"Why not?" Laura responded flippantly, "I was much more of a free spirit then, remember?" She wasn't about to justify her past, to him of all people, but something in his eyes, in the way he was looking at her, made her change her mind.
"You know I went to Stanford on a math scholarship, right?" Laura began gently, "Well, when I graduated, Mother was already safely ensconced back East, and I was a California girl who was NOT about to give up her independence. Unfortunately, the scholarship paid for my education and that was it. Suddenly I had to find a place to live, pay the rent, pay for food and pay the bills."
"Didn't you go straight to work for Havenhurst?" Remington asked.
"Sure," Laura answered, "But even that wasn't enough for all the up-front costs I was facing, especially not when I was making half of what my male counterparts were. Actually, it was thanks to the guys that I found my dancing job. Because there were so few females, there was this kind of hazing ritual where one of the guys organized a "night out", to get to know one another, and they made it into this huge, bucks night, boys club affair, to try and intimidate the female operatives."
"But it didn't work on you," Remington concluded warily, "In fact quite the opposite."
Laura wasn't sure she appreciated his tone, but she went on, "They took us to this club and I happened to recognise one of the dancers. She was someone I knew growing up, and suddenly I thought to myself, 'Hey, I can do this. All those years of dance classes and gymnastics had to be worth something.' So I spoke to my friend after the show, made sure the club was OK, and applied for a job."
She stood up and moved to stand by the fire, uncomfortable under his gaze and curious about his silence, "Didn't you ever wonder how I could afford that house?" she asked, "Before it got blown up that is."
"No," he admitted, "I just assumed your agency was rather successful, that you were getting the recognition and remuneration you always deserved."
Laura laughed, "If only you knew," she said, "That case of Gordon Hunter's, with the Royal Lavulite, was the first time the books were in the black. Why do you think I was so frantic to try and rein you in and make sure everything ran smoothly once you had assumed the mantle of Remington Steele?"
"I don't suppose I ever gave it much thought," Remington mused absently, shifting to face her.
"What's wrong? Why are you looking at me like that?" Laura asked, as he gazed at her, looking her up and down with careful scrutiny.
"I'm sorry," he said, shaking his head. He couldn't contain his smile, "But I can't quite picture you as an exotic dancer. You look so..."
"So what?" she interrupted, "So innocent?"
"Well, in a word," Remington agreed.
Laura rolled her eyes, but grinned nonetheless. She was having fun with this, it wasn't often she got to shock him, usually it was the other way around.
"Believe it or not," she explained, "That actually worked to my advantage. My act had a school girl theme. It was called Lessons With Laura."
"Really?" he responded with an almost lascivious smile.
"Would you please stop looking at me like that?" Laura demanded, her confidence exhausted. She was suddenly acutely aware of where this little confession might lead and she wasn't quite ready just yet, "Let's get back to the business at hand." Yes, getting back to a safer topic was definitely appealing.
"Of course," Remington said hurriedly, but the smile lingered on his lips and there was a mischievous gleam in his eyes, "We were deciding where to go on our vacation."
"I thought we decided on Acapulco," Laura cut in.
"No, you decided," he amended, "Really, Laura -"
"Well, all right, if you don't want to see it, then," Laura interrupted, "That's fine."
"See what?" Remington was confused for a moment, "Laura, you're not making sense."
"Oh, nothing. I just thought that, being a connoisseur of exotic dancing, you might like to see that fan dance of mine, but if you'd rather...." she trailed off as she went to walk past him to refill her glass.
"Ah, Miss Holt," Remington grabbed her wrist and tugged so that she fell across his lap, "Perhaps I was a little hasty..."
Laura laughed softly, "I thought as much," she murmured before their lips met.
Remington grinned at her, "Acapulco it is then."