I hope everyone is enjoying
Mardi Gras or carnival or whatever the
version is in your town, and if you don't have a version, finding
things to celebrate anyway.
Speaking of which I have
Fred, the Steele Drivin' Man to thank for
inspiring me to write something, short and sweet though it is. I
thought the ending to SDM 22 was a lovely jumping off point for a
story, so I shook the rust off my pen and here are the results -- a
bit of a valentine to RS Season Two, known in some quarters as the
Love Bunny Season, LOL!
Thanks to Anne for her
usual astute editing and letting me borrow from
Fred's version of events. Nancy, you may archive.
Elementary Steele -- An Addition
By Lauryn Poynor
Nattily attired in a dark suit with
a crimson square in the pocket,
Remington Steele emerged from his office. Puzzling, he peered around
the reception area as if it had suddenly become larger than he remembered.
Not a client in sight, or even Mildred;
Laura was sweetening a cup of
coffee, pencil behind her ear.
He shot her a wary glance. "Laura,
do you ever get the feeling
something's -- missing?"
"Mr. Steele." She stood,
one hand on her hip. "You, of all people,
should know a man should never ask a woman an open question like that."
Steele thought a moment. "Point taken. Lord knows where it might lead."
Laura pinned him with a look. "To
the word 'commitment,' perhaps?" She
strode over to Mildred's desk and set down her coffee.
Steele loosened his collar and tie.
"Actually, Laura I was thinking of
something a touch more obvious than the minefield of male/female
relationships." He gestured around the room with a sweep of his hand.
"Where have all the flowers gone?"
Laura was matter-of-fact. "I
suspected it was an inside job. I wormed
the story out of Mildred before she went to lunch."
"And?" Steele prompted.
"I guess somehow she thought
I wouldn't notice, but she had Fred
deliver all the bouquets to some nursing homes in the area."
Steele sighed in mock irritation.
"Can't argue with the gesture, but I
wish they'd asked first." He waited a long, slow beat. "I've always
wanted to deflower you, Miss Holt, and now I've missed my chance."
Laura tried to repress a smile. "Why
do I suspect you started this
whole business just to be able to say that line?"
"I've always held to one very
firm belief in life: a day without a
spot of flirting is a day wasted."
"If that day ever comes when
I'm around you, Mr. Steele, remind me to
check your pulse."
Steele put his hand over his heart. "The kiss of life is all I require."
"I see. After all your flower
arranging, you still haven't learned
your lesson. Secret admirers are supposed to worship from afar."
Undaunted, Steele crossed swiftly
to her side. "Yes, but I was only
pretending to be your secret admirer. So much for the rulebook." He
grinned like a swashbuckling pirate and pulled her into an embrace.
Laura struggled, but only slightly. "You never give up, do you?"
"Well, not until my credit runs out."
Steele had unerringly struck a nerve.
Laura yanked herself away from
him. "Your credit!" she shrilled. "That's a fine way to put it!"
He recoiled from the reverberation,
backing up against Mildred's desk.
"Laura, could you shriek a little higher? So that only dogs can hear?
I still haven't recovered from Rocky Sullivan."
She shifted to a low growl. "How
on earth did you think you'd get away
with it? Charging it to the agency as if it were your own private bank
It was textbook Steele. His audacious
act embodied all that infuriated
her about him - yet attracted her, too - the volatile mixture of
double-dealing and supreme confidence, his keen ambition to play every
angle if she was the reward, his indifference to the standard rules of
engagement, his maddening certainty that once the ruse was discovered
(as he knew it would be) the romanticism of the gesture would yet win
him the game, set, and match. Laura dug in her heels, determined to
The grim resolve must have shown in
her _expression because Steele
gave a noticeable flinch. "I guess 'all's forgiven' is out."
"It's just like you to throw
the cost of your little deception in my
face after I've been chained to that ledger in there going over every
last expense --"
"Ah, making excellent progress,
then." In a spirit of
self-preservation, Steele deftly removed the sharpened pencil from
behind her ear.
"Only if we're trying to waste
more money than the Pentagon! Your
spending habits could clean out an armored Brinks truck!"
Steele cocked his head. "I've
never tried that gambit, actually. No
fortress is impregnable, you know." He perched with one leg on the
desk and sketched idly in the margin of Mildred's legal pad.
"Don't start with me!" She threw up her hands.
Laura wondered, scams aside, if the
man had ever owned a checkbook
before this, much less balanced one. Did he just shake off the dust of
each city and move on, ill gotten gains jingling in his pocket -- then
when things went bust, charm his way into the nearest four star hotel?
The bittersweet irony of it all was that no one knew better than she
at this very moment how surprisingly full the company coffers had
become. Since they'd re-made the agency in his image, they'd pulled in
clients like a supercharged magnet. So, if Steele spent with one hand
while raking it in with the other, as long as the balance tipped far
enough in the right direction, she'd be foolish to give him up. Thank
heaven that columns of figures made his eyes glaze over or he would
have caught on to this even more than he had. Not quite as vexed now
as before, upon reflection, she jerked a thumb toward Steele's office.
"While I slaved away like Bob Cratchit, what were you doing in there?"
"I'll show you." She followed
him into the room. "Catching up on
current events," he said breezily. Steele handed her a portion of the
"Another feature on you in the
Style section." Laura salted the
observation with sarcasm. "Must be a slow news day."
"As if you haven't read it yet," he said smugly, putting down the pencil.
Laura lifted her chin. "Why should I want to?"
"Laura." He gave her a sharp
look. "I thought you poured over every
column-inch of me."
A blush stole across her cheeks as
if she'd been caught unawares
reading a Charlotte Knight novel. Laura cleared her throat. "Any
clippings we've saved have been for agency archival purposes," she
offered primly. "There have been a number of people hiring our
services who've been rather easily impressed by that sort of thing."
"I've always liked that quality in a client."
He flicked a glance at his rather
dashing news photo. "There are times
I have to remind myself that I can scrub up nicely." Steele tugged at
his ear. "Adieu, Johnny Todd."
"Undercover work is hell. It's
a good thing I noticed you still had
that earring in when you came to work this morning."
"I'm eternally grateful, Miss
Holt. It doesn't really go with this
"I should have called the society
desk and given them a scoop." She
brightened at the thought. "I can see the headline now: 'Diamond Studs
Aren't a Guy's Best Friend.'"
Steele covered his mortification with
a hint of cloak and dagger. "It
wouldn't do to reveal our elements of disguise to the criminal
Laura's brows lifted. "They read the society pages?"
"You'd be surprised. As a famous
bank robber once said, 'that's where
the money is.'"
His partner hated being caught missing
the obvious, but she refused to
show it. "Thanks for the tip."
"Don't mention it. I guess I owe you one."
"More than just one, Mr. Steele.
I think you owe me a three, followed
by several zeros. The florist bills, remember? Time to pay the piper."
"A fine romance this is,"
Steele sniffed. He reached into his jacket
pocket. "Shame to waste all that hard work."
"Your elaborate ruse?"
Steele leaned on the desk, poised
over his checkbook. "Cold, hard cash
seems so impersonal." Straightening, he put down his pen and paused as
if weighing several more pleasant options. "Perhaps we could take it
out in trade," he said sultrily.
"Trade?" Their eyes locked
and Laura felt an exquisite heat course
through her veins. Maybe it was the still strong scent of the flowers
wafting in from the reception area, but she was suddenly finding it
hard to breathe. "What are you suggesting?"
He shook his head. "Your terms."
Then why did Laura feel like a girl
at an Arabian slave market who'd
just lost her seventh veil? "My terms? I think you mean yours." The
odd thing was that, as exposed as she felt under his gaze, she'd
always taken pleasure in it, too, and in the mambo they danced that
was all looks and words and going so far and no farther. But now that
they were seeing each other often outside of work, and in increasingly
romantic settings, it seemed more and more natural to take that next
step. So why couldn't she get off the dime? There was no denying that
their attraction had been instantaneous. So, what would have happened
if she taken Bernice's advice at the start? "He's here, you're here.
Go for it!" It might have been easier then, before their double lives
had become quite so inextricably linked. But there had to be a point
of no return somewhere. They'd either have to let things combust or
Despite the resistance in her words,
thought Steele, she seemed on the
verge of something. Something rash, an impulse. Perhaps, the impulse
he'd been anticipating since the day they met. Strange. One moment she
was dunning him good and proper, the next, her hormones were spiking
like a surge on Wall Street. Had his flower buying binge actually
worked? Admittedly, he'd chosen some of the varieties for their
reputed aphrodisiac effect. He sniffed the air.
"You know," Laura hesitated.
"On the stakeout, when you admitted you
were jealous of my 'secret admirer' "
"Yes?" Steele eyed her speculatively.
"You were terribly convincing."
She moved over to him slowly and slipped
an arm around his waist.
"Your ploy almost worked. If it hadn't been for the interruption of
the case "
"If you're trying to torture
me with might-have-beens now, I guess I
"Not entirely," Laura confessed.
"We were both trying to get the upper
hand. Me with my 'secret admirer' and you by playing jealous of your
own competition. Sometimes I wonder, Mr. Steele, in this relationship,
who's taking advantage of whom?"
"The eternal question, eh?"
She splayed a hand against his chest and
felt the beat of his heart increase its tempo. After one immeasurably
long and earth-moving kiss they were no closer to answering the
question than before, but damned if it really mattered.
Steele murmured against her ear. "It
was a rather tawdry trick to
pretend to be your secret admirer." He thought better of the term.
"Well, perhaps not tawdry - but probably desperate. Let me make it up
to you. No tricks," he promised.
"OK..." She would reserve
judgment, but she wasn't about to stop him
when he was this contrite.
"I could buy you your weight in chocolate."
Laura let out a breath and blinked. "You're a dangerous man, Mr. Steele."
With a flourish, Steele wrote out
an IOU to seal the bargain; ten
seconds ticked on the clock.
"Who knew candy and flowers had
such an effect?" Laura mused, still in
a bit of a trance.
"Couples across the globe, I'll
wager. Years of advanced science
behind it. Saint Valentine has a lot to answer for, and it's still
nine months from February."
Laura opened the desk drawer, removed
the phone book, and began
rifling through the yellow pages.
"Laura, what are you doing?"
"There you are, Mr. Steele. A
list of all the chocolate shops in the
city. One a month. That should keep you busy for a while."
"Just one question. How much do you weigh?"
She colored slightly and waved a hand
in the air. "Oh, ah, just round
it off to an even hundred pounds."
Circling the desk, Steele pinched
her side experimentally. "You mean
for now?" he teased.
She gave him a look that could freeze
mercury. "Remember what I said
about never asking women certain questions? You're zero for two."
"Ah." Steele folded his
arms. "Do you want change back from that
three-thousand dollars, or should we let bygones be bon-bons, eh?"
"Silly question. Zero for three."
At his crestfallen look, she relented.
"I'll consider it, Mr. Steele.
You get to keep the difference. On one condition."
She bit her lip. "You never mention any of this to Frances."
"And have two crazed chocoholic
women after me? Besides, Donald would
have my hide. Falling afoul of a dentist can be a frightful business.
Have you seen 'Marathon Man'?"
"No, but I have a feeling I'm
going to have to run one of those every
week. Chocolate goes straight to my hips."
"There are other ways to work those extra pounds off, you know."
"Why do I think that by tomorrow
you're going to hand me a book that's
a cross between a calorie counter and a sex manual?"
Steele considered the idea. "I'll
get to work on it straightaway. Now
then. Care to have a nice fat gourmet lunch?"
"You wouldn't be trying to take advantage of me, would you?"
"Nonsense. I'll pay the check this time."
"That wasn't quite what I meant."
He offered her his arm. "Shall we, Miss Holt?"
As they walked through the outer doors,
Steele hung a sign. "Out to
lunch. Back in one hour."
Laura smiled. "Better make that two."
Laura had circled the date on her
calendar, but it wasn't on her mind
as they walked up the stairs to the loft. The past eight hours had put
a strain on even her overactive work ethic. Keeping track of three
suspects in one day had been more than she bargained for.
"Tired?" Steele paused at the doorway.
"A little. I think I'll call
it a night." She thought of something.
"Wait. I'll get that movie book for you that I borrowed." They stepped
Laura rubbed her eyes. Either it was
a mirage or she was staring at a
bucket of champagne on ice and a candlelit table adorned by a large
exquisitely wrapped Godiva chocolate box.
"Have you forgotten what day it is? Your first installment."
"Oh, my! How did you arrange
this? I was just expecting the UPS guy at
"Well, we could invite him, too, but why have to split the booty?"
She gave him a warm smile. "It's
not so bad having someone to share it
"I was hoping you'd say that. I'll tell Fred I'll get a cab home."
Minutes later they decamped decadently
to the sofa, as a progression
of foil candy wrappers began to litter the coffee table like loose
Steele kissed the chocolate corner
of her mouth. "Hmm. I think that's
"Enrobed chocolate almond truffle."
Laura sighed and put down her
champagne flute. "I think I'm going to regret this. Why is it you
never gain an ounce?"
"Perhaps because you've been out-gorging me at a ratio of three to one."
"You're right. I'm incorrigible. But you still have an unfair metabolism."
"Luck of the draw, I suppose."
Laura was nagged by the notion she
had to get up and moving before
something settled permanently. She rose from the sofa. "I'll go put
"Laura, that's hardly in the
Godiva spirit, is it? After all, the lady
was known for riding through town in a state of -"
"I meant on the stereo. For us to dance to."
"Yes, of course. If you check
that diet book I gave you you'll find
that dancing burns off fewer calories than what's described in
chapters four, five, and six."
"I think those authors aren't
exactly Walter Cronkite when it comes to
objectivity. They run a sex institute."
"I knew it was something with
a lot of PHDs," Steele said airily. He
watched Laura place the needle on the record. "What's up?"
"The classics are always in fashion, eh?"
As the intro started, she led him
to the center of the room. "It's not
the Starlight Ballroom, but it'll have to do." Even though she'd
tested the proposition several times before, she still marveled at how
well they fit together on a dance floor. She leaned her cheek against
his shoulder. Life would still be a game of chance, Laura knew - with
Mr. Steele it could hardly be otherwise -- but by hook or by crook,
maybe someday they'd get to the payoff. "I think they're playing our
song, Mr. Steele."