Rejoined Steele, Part Deux
AN- Have you ever read
a great piece of fanfic and wanted to know what
happens next? It happened to me when I read Nancy's wonderful "Rejoined
Steele." She had some great elements and developed "Laura" and "Harry" into
different, older more mature characters. She introduced the element of
"Harry" being a "retriever," which really intrigued me. I wanted to know
what came next... so I decided to find out. I set out to write a followup to
Though this story can
stand on it's own, I highly recommend that you first
re-read Nancy's great story. It can be found on Nancy's Casebook site under
multipart stories. ( http://steeleinlove.com/rejoinedsteele.html )
So without further ado...
thanks to Brenda for her insight and input. Thanks
to Lea for beta reading... and special thanks to Nancy for allowing me to
use her characters and her story as a jumping off point. And of course
thanks Michael Gleason, MTM et al. for their amazing characters .. I don't
own, I just love 'em.
Mildred Krebs looked up as she entered the offices of Laura Holt Investigations. She smiled at the handsome blue-eyed man who was on his way out.
"Afternoon Mildred," he said as he kissed her cheek. Harry Chalmers was all smiles as he exited the office.
"He looked happy," Mildred said to the young receptionist.
"He and Miss Holt were out most of the morning," Clarice answered. "She wants to see you."
Mildred knocked softly before opening the door to the office that had once belonged to Remington Steele.
"You wanted to see me, Hon?" she said to the younger woman who was busy at the computer terminal behind her desk.
"Mildred," Laura said, looking up with a smile. "I've just been going over our caseload. There doesn't seem to be anything really pressing at the moment. Do you think you could hold down the fort for a little while?"
Mildred knew where this was going, but thought she might have a little fun with the woman she thought of like a daughter. She acted hesitant.
"Oh, I don't know," she said with wide eyes. "How long?"
"About a week," Laura answered. "Maybe, two."
Inside, Mildred was thrilled. She'd been trying to get Laura to take a vacation for the longest time. She hoped that this meant Laura was planning to go away with Harry. Mildred wanted to play the game a little longer, but couldn't as a smile spread across her face.
"Clarice and I can handle things," she said. "Where will you be?"
"Ireland," Laura answered. "I'm going to go with Harry to help get everything together to move back to Los Angeles."
Laura's face lit up as a wide smile crossed her face. She and Harry hadn't told Mildred that he was coming home to stay.
"The Boss is coming back?" Mildred asked with wide eyes. "It will be just like the old days."
"Not exactly, Mildred," Laura told her. "Harry is moving back to Los Angeles, but it's not going to be like before. There is no more Remington Steele. You and I will go on here like we always have, and Harry will be running his own business."
Laura laughed as her associate pouted.
"Don't worry Mildred," she said. "He'll be around." After twelve years apart and the past few days together, Laura was reluctant to let Harry out of her sight. When they talked about getting the new HC Retrievals headquarters set up in Los Angeles, Harry's first thought was to look for offices in the Twin Century buildings. Laura knew that he didn't want to spend any more time apart than they had to, either.
"No Remington Steele?" Mildred asked.
"No," Laura answered. "We don't need him. Our business is thriving and Harry Chalmers is doing quite well, himself."
"But what are we going to tell people?"
"Nothing," Laura answered. They shouldn't have to if Harry's plan worked. "Read tomorrow morning's Trib, Mildred. All will be made clear."
Laura sighed with a smile as she pulled her Miata into her driveway and parked it alongside the Auburn. Harry was home and all was right with the world.
With the exception of being kidnapped by Lucas Hepplewhite, the past few days had been idyllic. She and Harry had reveled and luxuriated in each other. They had professed their love and begun planning for the future. Picking up where they had left off had been easy. Too easy, as a matter of fact. She knew Harry was right when he said that they'd needed some time apart to find themselves. They'd both changed and matured over their time apart, and they both knew that they belonged together--but they still had yet to deal with Harry's leaving all those years ago.
She grabbed her briefcase and walked the sidewalk leading to the front door of her modest house. Business had been good, and she could have afforded something bigger in a more glamorous neighborhood--but when she'd decided to move out of the condo she had wanted to get as far away from Remington Steele, and her memories of him, as possible. She thought a quiet existence in the Valley was just the way to do that. She had loved the house from the first time she'd seen it. It reminded her a little of her first house, the one she'd lost in an explosion so many years ago. She was happy here and could only hope that Harry would be, too.
She opened the front door and was greeted by the most intoxicating aroma. Harry was in the kitchen. She'd have to get used to his cooking again. If she wasn't careful, she could end up getting very fat. Fat and happy, she thought with a smile.
"Honey, I'm home!" she called out with a grin.
Harry came out of the kitchen, wiping his hands on a towel that he tossed across his shoulder. He took her briefcase and set it on the floor before taking her in his arms. Soon his lips were covering hers. The kiss seemed to go on forever and both were breathless when they parted.
"I could get used to this," she said, looking up at him as he held her close.
"God, I've missed you," he said, looking down and dropping another gentle kiss on her lips.
Breaking the kiss, she took his hand and led him into the kitchen. "What smells so good?" she asked.
"Canard au vin rouge," he said with a grin, thinking back so many years to the first time he'd attempted to cook for her. That meal had been interrupted by a case--this one would not. "Did you talk to Mildred?" he asked.
"Mmm-hmm," Laura nodded, snatching a crouton from the salad bowl on the counter. "She's in. We can go whenever you're ready. Did you talk to Mr. Bailey?"
"I did," he answered. "He was a bit confused by the name change, and then he thought you wanted to move. But once we got that straightened out, he was more than eager to find a place for us."
"So he found one, I take it?" she asked, leaning against the counter, watching as he steamed broccoli.
"He did, indeed," Harry said with a smile. "It seems Lombardi, Cohen and Klein have decided not to renew their lease."
"The penthouse?" Laura asked, wide eyed, as Harry nodded. "I'm jealous."
"Jealous, Laura?" Harry feigned incredulity. "You've never been about flashy real estate. You lived in a bloody warehouse," he said with a wink, turning back to the vegetables on the stove.
"Oh really?" Laura replied with just a hint of sarcasm. "Who was it that chose the towers in the first place? I think it was me and where were you?" she went on with a smile as she walked up behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist. "Oh yeah, you were somewhere in Europe scamming little old ladies out of their pensions."
"Laura, you cut me to the quick," he said, turning in her arms to pull her into his embrace. "I NEVER scammed little old ladies." He leaned in for a kiss.
They continued to laugh and enjoy each other as they finished preparing and then eating the meal. Harry leaned back in his chair and watched Laura. He couldn't believe his good fortune. When he'd left Los Angeles all those years ago, he never expected to see Laura again. He hadn't been prepared for that. Before Laura, he'd never let anyone get that close and had no idea how empty he would feel without her.
He had gone through the motions. He'd gone about trying to live his life. There had even been other women, but no one could fill the void in his life caused by the absence of Laura Holt. When he'd decided to come to Los Angeles, he convinced himself that it was for the Lavulite--that he couldn't trust its return to anyone else. But he knew that wasn't true. Jackie and any number of his operatives were more than capable of handling the delicate job. He came to Los Angeles to see Laura. He'd convinced himself that he would be content to just see her from afar. He should have known that couldn't be enough. Then he set up that meeting at the diner. Neutral territory. He hadn't trusted himself to be alone with her--with good reason. She hadn't shown up at the diner like he'd hoped she would and he was disappointed, but he wanted to believe it was for the best. He never expected her to show up in his hotel room. They had fallen into bed that night, and had been together ever since. He was waiting for the fallout.
They had both grown up a lot in the years that they were apart, but they hadn't changed that much. As wonderful as the past few days had been, and as happy as he was that Laura had welcomed him back, they still had the onus of his leaving and the past twelve years between them. And although he would be happy to just push it aside and move forward, if he knew Laura Holt at all, she was itching to talk about it. Harry's dilemma was whether to bring it up and get it over with or to wait for Laura to say something.
They were sitting together on the sofa after dinner, both lost in their thoughts. As always, they were on the same wavelength. As Harry would have opened his mouth to speak, he heard Laura's words. Her voice was soft and quiet.
"You broke your promise," she said.
"Laura," he said, holding her close. "You were so unhappy. You needed to get out of the shadow of Remington Steele "
"I get it," she said, stopping him. "But we could have worked it out. You're right, I needed to find myself again," she went on, turning in his arms to face him, "but I also needed you. Harry, you promised you'd never leave me for my own good."
"I remember," he said. "I just didn't know what else to do. You seemed so lost."
"Stay and fight!" she said, her voice raised. "We had been through so much-and we'd made it. We could have survived this, too."
"And we have, haven't we?" he said gently, pulling her in for a kiss.
"Don't," she said, pushing out of his embrace. "Harry, I love you. But if we have any hope of a real future together, we need to deal with this. You were right when you said we needed to find ourselves, but you really hurt me. You left. How many times did you say, 'I'm not going anywhere, Laura'? And then you left." Laura wanted to be angry, to pound her fists against his chest but all she felt was fear, and vulnerability. And she hated it.
"I'm sorry," Harry said, "and I know it doesn't make it better, but I regretted it every day. Laura, in my entire life, I never let myself need anyone. But I needed you. Like the air I breathe. You don't know how many times I thought about coming back here."
"Then why didn't you?"
"Fear," he answered. "I was afraid you wouldn't take me back. And there was the agency. You were doing so well-I was afraid of coming back and putting you right back in the position you were in when I left. I couldn't do that to you. As miserable as I was without you, it was more important to know that you were happy."
"What makes you think I was happy?" Laura laughed softly at the irony of what she was about to say. "The agency. I spent so many years telling you how important the agency was-then you were gone, and I realized how little it really mattered. It didn't matter, and yet it was all that I had. I thought about going to look for you, but then I thought I'd be damned if I was going to chase after you again. So, I threw myself into the agency. Business was great, but I was never happy. Not really."
"Oh Laura," Harry said, taking her into his arms again. "We've lost so much. Can we get it back?"
"No," she answered as Harry sat up in surprise. "We can't get it back, but we can go on. I think we both know that we should be together. And we missed so much because we're both so stubborn " she let the thought trail off as she turned to him. "It's never been easy for us, has it?"
"Nothing worth having ever is, Love," Harry responded, pulling her in to a kiss.
Laura leaned back against Harry in the back seat of the taxi as they as they drove down a quiet lane. When Harry had told her he was living in Dublin, she had pictured a flat or an upscale townhouse in the city. She didn't expect a country manor house. She was admiring the stone wall that ran along the lane as they turned onto a drive that led to a beautiful house. The house was built of the same stone as the wall, and it was much bigger than she'd have expected. Although the house was large, it wasn't imposing. Even from the outside, it seemed warm and inviting. It brought her to mind of the man that Harry had become: relaxed, easy-going and comfortable in his own skin.
"This is beautiful," she said, looking up at the house as Harry helped her out of the car.
"I hoped you'd like it," Harry answered, taking their bags from the driver. "It's not Ashford Castle, but it's home." He threw his bag over his shoulder and placed his free hand on the small of her back, leading Laura up to the front door.
Harry opened the door to a large foyer. As rustic as the house was on the outside, it was as modern on the inside. She could see a little more of "Remington Steele" here, but it was still as casual as Harry himself.
After a quick tour of the house, Harry took Laura upstairs to get settled in.
She leaned back on the bed as he made room for her things in the closet. She smiled when she noticed the photo of herself on his bedside table. It reminded her of the one she kept of him in the same place.
"This place is incredible," Laura said quietly. "Are you sure you're going to be happy in my house?"
"Laura," Harry answered, "I really like your house and I'd be happy in a cardboard box under the freeway if it meant being with you," he added with a grin. His look went serious when he turned to face her. "What is it?"
"I'm scared," she admitted with a ragged breath. "This is all happening so quickly. We haven't even been back together two weeks-are you really prepared to leave," she paused, gesturing to the rest of the room, "all of this?"
He sat down next to her and took her hands in his. He made certain she was looking directly in his eyes when he spoke.
"Yes," he said. "Laura, I love you. I've always loved you. This," he went on, mimicking her gesture, "is all just dressing. An attempt to fill an otherwise empty life. You know I've always had a taste for the finer things. I surrounded myself with them and it still wasn't enough. I'm looking forward to our life together in a little house in the Valley. But," he paused, that familiar lopsided grin returning to his face, "There IS one thing for you to be afraid of."
"What's that?" she asked warily.
"Jeannie," he answered. "She's not at all happy about this move. But I'm certain she's going to love you and you her."
"I'm looking forward to meeting her," Laura replied.
"Tomorrow," Harry answered, taking her into his arms and laying them both down on the bed, with a kiss.
Laura looked in the mirror as she dried her hair. Two weeks ago she was in Los Angeles, trying to avoid the Royal Lavulite and considering giving in to Tony Roselli's advances. There had been other men since Remington Steele walked out on her, but for some reason she'd never been able to give herself completely to Tony; it always seemed like some kind of betrayal.
Now, here she was-in Ireland, wrapped in a towel in Harry Chalmers' bathroom. Harry had gone in to the office early that morning, and they had made plans to meet at lunch time. Between the sound of the hair dryer and being lost in her thoughts, Laura didn't hear the front door opening or the voice calling out from downstairs.
She let herself in the front door.
"Harry?" the woman called out. "Why didn't you tell me you were home?" She set her purse down on the table in the foyer and smiled as she heard the sound of the hair dryer. She climbed the stairs and made her way to the bedroom.
"Harry?" she called out again.
Turning off the hair dryer, Laura thought she heard the bedroom door. She smiled, thinking that Harry missed her as much as she'd missed him this morning. She opened the door to make her way into the bedroom
"Couldn't wait until lunch, huh?" she said, walking out of the bathroom. She was greeted, not by Harry, but by the startled exclamation of another woman.
"Oh my " the woman said, regaining her breath.
Laura looked at her. She was beautiful, blonde, probably about 35. She wasn't particularly tall, or buxom. She had a professional look about her. Harry had told her about the lawyer that he had dated. What was her name? Mandy? Margaret? Meghan.
The blonde woman seemed to be gathering her composure, and she looked at Laura with a spark of recognition.
"You're Laura," she said. "Laura Holt."
"Yes," Laura nodded, surprised. Had Harry talked about her to this other woman? "And you're?"
"Meghan," the woman answered, offering her hand to shake. "Meghan Lennox. I guess this is why he didn't call," she said with a warm smile. "I'm sorry to disturb you," she said, turning to leave.
"Wait," Laura said, and then realized she didn't know what to say.
"I know," Meghan said, with that same warm smile she'd displayed before. "I want to talk to you, too." She took notice of Laura's lack of attire, and it dawned on her that they were standing in Harry's bedroom. "I'll leave you to get dressed," she said. "And I'll wait in the library. We'll have a chat."
"Okay," Laura nodded, curiosity getting the best of her. "I'll be down in a few minutes."
Laura entered the library to find that Meghan had prepared tea, further evidence of how at home she was in Harry's house. She'd let herself in, apparently with her own key, since Laura knew she'd locked the door after Harry had gone earlier in the morning.
She sat down in the chair opposite the one Meghan was sitting in, as the other woman leaned forward to hand her a cup. Laura took it, conspicuously silent. It was unusual for Laura Holt to be at a loss for words, but what do you say to the woman who had been sharing the life of the man you love?
"This is awkward," Meghan said, breaking the silence.
"You could say that," Laura answered, with a sardonic grin.
"I'm glad he finally came to his senses," Meghan said, after another lengthy silence.
"You are?" Laura said reflexively, and then looked down into her teacup.
Meghan nodded. "Yes," she said. "I'm sure you know that Harry and I," she paused, searching for the right word, "dated. But it was never really serious," she said. "It couldn't be. I wasn't you." Megan watched as Laura's surprised gaze moved from her and back to the cup in her hand. "Not that I didn't try," she said with a laugh. "I pressed him for a commitment once," she admitted.
"Oh?" Laura tried to sound less interested than she really was.
"He told me that he'd committed himself to one woman," Meghan watched Laura's eyes, wide with recognition, as she spoke, "and that he was still in love with her. He told me that we could be friends, have fun. We could enjoy each other's company, but if I needed more I should probably look elsewhere."
"But you stayed," Laura said.
"I stayed," Meghan answered, truthfully. "At first I thought I could change his mind. And then he told me all about the American detective who had stolen his heart. I told him he was a bloody idiot and he should jump on the next flight to California and beg you to take him back."
With that, Laura relaxed a little. She found herself liking this woman. She was happy that Harry had found someone who truly cared for him, and happier still that Meghan seemed to understand Laura's place in both Harry's heart and his life.
The two women chatted for a little while. Laura could see that even though Meghan was clearly in love with Harry, she was comfortable in the role of being his friend. And strangely, she could see the two of them becoming friends as well.
"Oh, look at the time," Meghan said, glancing at her watch. "Didn't you say you were meeting Harry for lunch?"
"Oh great," Laura said, looking at her own watch. "He was worried about my meeting him, as if I couldn't find my way or something," she said with a laugh. "And now I'm going to be late. I haven't even called for the car yet."
"I could give drive you," Meghan offered. "I have to go into the city anyway. And I'd like to say hello to Harry."
Jeannie McNamara looked up from her desk as the outer door opened. She was surprised to see Meghan Lennox and was quickly trying to come up with something to say to the young woman when she realized she wasn't alone. Meghan was laughing and talking with another woman. Jeannie found herself looking into a face she'd only seen in photographs, but one she would recognize anywhere. Laura Holt.
"Meghan," Jeannie said, "I don't think Harry was expecting you."
"I dare say he wasn't," Meghan agreed with a laugh. "Where is Harry, anyway? I believe he should be the one to make the introductions."
"I think it's a little late for that, isn't it Meghan?" Laura said.
"Not with Jeannie," Meghan reasoned.
Laura nodded, just as Harry came from what must have been his office.
"Did I hear the ." Harry stopped speaking, his face blanched white as he looked from Meghan to Laura and back again.
Laura bit her bottom lip to keep from laughing and it was Meghan who spoke first.
"Harry," she said with a laugh. "Close your mouth, you'll draw flies."
With that, Harry did close his mouth and he walked over to the women where Laura easily stepped into his embrace.
"I see you two have met," he said, leaning down to kiss Laura softly.
"We have indeed," Laura answered. "And we've had a lovely chat." She looked up at him with a smile so devilish he wasn't sure he wanted to know what the two women had discussed.
The three looked over to see Jeannie clearing her throat, obviously waiting to be introduced.
"Oh!" Harry exclaimed, "Where are my manners?" He turned to face Jeannie, his arm still wrapped protectively around Laura's waist. "Jeannie McNamara, may I present Laura Holt? Laura. Jeannie."
"It's nice to meet you," Laura said, stepping from Harry's embrace and offering her hand. "Harry's told me so much about you."
"And I you," Jeannie told her.
"I hope we'll get the chance to get to know each other," Laura responded to the older woman.
"I feel as if I know you already," Jeannie said. Despite herself, she did like the younger woman. She hated the idea of Harry moving back to the States, but she had to admit that she'd never seen him happier.
"Well," Meghan said, turning to Harry. "I think I'll be going. I know you and Laura have plans for lunch." She stepped up to kiss him on the cheek. "Harry, it's wonderful to see you so happy," she glanced over at Laura and back to Harry before continuing, "Take care of her Harry," she said. "Don't let her get away again."
Laura smiled as she unconsciously tightened her arms around Harry's.
"You should join us, Meghan," she offered.
"Oh no," Meghan said, shaking her head with a smile. "I think that three is a crowd."
"It was lovely meeting you," Laura said, reaching out to shake Meghan's hand. She was surprised at how much she'd meant it.
"You too, Laura," Meghan agreed. "Take care."
Harry and Laura stood together in front of Jeannie's desk as the three of them watched Meghan leave. He placed his hand on Laura's shoulder turning her toward his office.
"We'll be in the office for a bit, Jeannie," Harry said. "I'm expecting a call from Hastings before we leave for lunch."
He closed the door behind them as they entered the office.
"Am I early?" Laura asked as Harry took her into his arms.
"Early?" he asked, leaning in to place a gentle kiss on her lips.
"I thought we were going to lunch," she answered.
"We are," Harry told her, pulling her close. "I just have to take this call first."
"My solicitor. We're just finalizing the opening of the new office and the moving of the day to day operations." He punctuated his statement with a long, deep kiss.
Laura jumped back as they heard a knock at the door. She didn't miss the twinkle in Harry's eye as Jeannie poked her head into the office.
"Sorry to interrupt," she said, "but there's a call on line two."
Harry reached for the phone.
"It's for Miss Holt," Jeannie told him.
"Laura," Laura corrected her. "Please. Call me Laura."
Jeannie nodded. "It's a Miss Krebs."
"Thank you, Jeannie," Harry said as his secretary backed out of the room.
"Mildred?" Laura questioned as she looked at her watch. "It's the middle of the night back there."
"Some things never change, Love," Harry said, giving her a quick kiss as he handed her the receiver.
"What about your call?" she asked.
"I'll take it in the other room," he said as she took the phone from him and opened the line.
"Mildred?" Laura asked into the phone.
"I'm sorry to bother you, Hon," Mildred said knowingly. The agitation in Laura's voice indicated that once again Mildred had interrupted something.
"Bother? Mildred, it's not even four A.M. in Los Angeles. What could be so important?"
"A new client," Mildred answered.
"A client?" Laura repeated. "You're calling me at this hour to talk about a client? What's going on?"
"This one is right up the Boss--- uh, Mr. St--- Harry's alley. I thought you might want to team up on it."
"Just a minute, Mildred," Laura said. Placing her hand over the mouthpiece, she told Harry to put the phone on speaker.
"Good morning, Mildred," Harry said, sitting down on the edge of the desk.
"Hey Harry," Mildred answered.
"Okay Mildred," Laura said. "We're both here. Now, what's going on?"
After finishing up the call with Mildred and taking the call from his solicitor, Harry and Laura left the office.
"Jeannie," he said to his secretary. "Find out what you can on Reginald Carstairs, specifically anything having to do with a necklace called The Rose of Avon. All the regular details," he told her. "Its history, value, what's been offered as a finder's fee, and why he would hire an American detective agency to look for the necklace in England."
"You'll have it, Harry," the woman answered as Harry led Laura out of the office.
On the way down in the elevator, Laura watched Harry. His wheels were definitely spinning.
"You have a theory," she stated.
"Maybe," he offered, nodding.
"Nothing I'm ready to share at the moment, Laura," he said.
"Oh?" she asked her irritation evident. "Need I remind you, Harry, that this is MY case?"
"Not at all my darling," he answered, pulling her close. "But I must admit that is precisely what is bothering me about all this."
"It was YOUR idea that we work together," she pouted.
"Yes," he said, "and I still believe that it's a good idea. But what bothers me, is why did Carstairs hire you?"
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," she said, rolling her eyes and stepping from his embrace as the elevator doors opened.
"That's not what I mean, Laura," he said, his exasperation beginning to show. "As good as you are, and you ARE good why would he go to the trouble of hiring a detective from the States and the expense of flying you over here when he could have just hired someone in London?" he asked as they walked up to his car.
He opened the passenger door for her, and she paused before getting in. Looking up at him, she said, "You may have a point there."
"I just want to see what his game is," Harry offered, walking around to get in on the driver's side.
"I really hadn't expected this to be a working vacation," Laura said, as she sat down on the sofa next to Harry. They'd just finished dinner and he was going over the files of information that Jeannie and Mildred had dug up on Reginald Carstairs and his necklace.
"I know, Love," he said. "Disappointed?"
"Not really," she admitted. "It feels right." She reached over to pick up one of the files. "I suppose this will be what it's like when we get home." She paused when he looked over at her. "Our evenings spent poring over case files after dinner "
"Sounds positively domestic, Laura," he said.
"Disappointed?" she asked.
"Not in the least, my love. Not in the least," he said, backing up his statement with a full, deep kiss.
It was quite some time later when Laura and Harry returned to their research. She was reading the file that Mildred had faxed over.
"This is interesting," she said.
"What?" Harry replied, setting down the file he had been reading.
"It says here that The Rose of Avon was once part of the Davidson Collection. We did security for Olivier Davidson when he brought the collection to LA about six years ago. I don't remember the necklace being included then."
"Do you think there's a connection?" he asked.
"I don't know," she answered. "Could be, I guess. Maybe our experience with the collection is why he chose to hire the agency."
"Perhaps," Harry said.
"You don't sound convinced," Laura stated.
"Because I'm not," he told her. "But I suppose we'll have more information after you meet with him. "I have just about everything wrapped up here," he went on. "I thought maybe after your meeting, we could spend a few days in London."
"That sounds wonderful," she agreed.
"I was hoping you'd think so," he said, pulling her into his arms. "I had Jeannie book us into the St. John's Hotel." He watched her face carefully. Returning to the location of their first honeymoon in London could either be terribly romantic or it could be a disaster waiting to happen. He relaxed as he saw the smile spread across her face. It still amazed him how much he loved seeing her smile. He'd missed those dimples.
"Ah, Mr. Chalmers," she said, "you do think of everything." She leaned up to place a kiss on his lips.
As the kiss ended Harry stood, holding his hand out to Laura. "It's getting late," he said. "And our flight to London leaves fairly early."
"Well then," she answered, standing to join him. "There's only one thing to do, isn't there? Take me to bed, Harry."
Reginald Carstairs was a wiry little man with slicked back hair, a pencil thin mustache and a nervous habit of drumming his fingers on the desk. Laura disliked him on sight. There was something oily about him.
"The Rose is the center of my collection, Miss Holt," he told her. "I simply must have it back."
"Of course, Mr. Carstairs," Laura said. "I can understand that. And of course, my agency will do everything within its power to find the necklace. But I must ask you," she went on, "why us? Certainly there are many qualified detectives here in England."
"Honestly, Miss Holt?"
"That would be nice," Laura said.
"No one would take my case."
"Why not?" she asked.
"The necklace," Carstairs went on, "there's a curse on the bloody thing."
"A curse?" Laura repeated.
"Yes, Miss Holt," Carstairs said. "The Rose was originally owned by the Rutherford family in the 1700s. Lucien Rutherford commissioned it as a wedding gift for his wife. She was murdered on their wedding night. The killer was never found, and old Lucien went 'round the bend. The necklace was sold with the Rutherford estate, but eventually it was parted from the original collection. It's been passed on from collector to collector," he told her, "but everyone who has possessed it has befallen some sort of calamity."
"And you knew this when you acquired it?" Laura asked.
"Of course," he answered. "But I didn't believe it. I mean really, a curse? The piece had such history and it was being sold at far below its actual worth, I couldn't pass it up. You will find it for me, won't you Miss Holt? I mean, you do have experience with this sort of thing."
"Yes, you don't think I just went out willy nilly and chose an investigator from America, do you? I did my research, Miss Holt. When you were with the Remington Steele agency, you worked with The Five Nudes of Cairo. The curse on that bloody painting is much worse than my necklace."
"I'll do my best, Mr. Carstairs," she told him, standing.
"Thank you, Miss Holt," he said, shaking her hand. "You will be handsomely rewarded. I'll pay your standard fee and all expenses, as Miss Krebs and I agreed. There is also a finder's fee. The necklace was most recently appraised at $3.2 million. I believe the standard rate for recovery is ten percent, I'll have to verify with my insurance company," he said, "but that would be "
" Three hundred twenty thousand dollars," Laura finished. No wonder Harry was doing so well.
"Well, at least we know why he came to the agency," Laura said, between bites.
"The curse," Harry repeated what she had told him earlier before taking a sip of his wine.
"Right," Laura went on. "Basically because of you, and your handling of that fiasco with The Five Nudes, Mr. Carstairs felt that I had the experience to handle the task. That and the fact that no investigator in England would take his case."
"Unbelievable," he said. "But Jeannie called about the finder's fee."
"Three hundred twenty thousand," Laura said, interrupting him.
"Right," he said, with a questioning look.
"Carstairs told me," she answered his unspoken question. "He said he'd pay my standard fee plus expenses and that I would be able to collect the finder's fee."
"This could be quite a lucrative case for you, Laura," he said.
"Provided that we actually find the necklace," Laura agreed. "I'll take my fee and let Mr. Carstairs pay our expenses, but we'll split the finder's fee."
"Nonsense Laura," Harry told her. "It IS your case, remember."
"I do," she said with a smile, "but we ARE using your resources."
"And yours," he said. "After all, most of the research came from Mildred."
"True," she answered, her smile widening.
Harry just laughed. It was good to be with Laura again, it was good to be happy.
They spent the rest of the afternoon running down leads on the history of The Rose of Avon. They'd visited several historical societies, the Gemological Institute, and a few libraries. They tracked down most of its previous owners, and Harry had come up with a line or two on those who had shown an interest in acquiring it.
They were sitting together on the sofa in their hotel suite, Laura reading over Harry's shoulder, when something caught their attention.
"I don't believe it," Laura said with a gasp.
"Nor do I," Harry replied.
"You don't think " Laura let her thought drift off as she took the paper from Harry's hand.
"It makes sense, Laura," Harry said. "All those references to The Five Nudes "
Taking her hand, he thought about the former adversary who appeared to be seeking his revenge. Once again, he was glad that they were together, but this time it was because of Laura's safety. He would hate for her to take on an adversary like this alone, although he knew she would have. Even after all these years, Laura still had to prove she could take care of herself. She didn't NEED anyone. Much of that was his doing, and he would kick himself for it later. Right now, he had to find a way to stop Felix Guttmann once and for all, and to keep both Laura and himself alive in the process.
"Guttmann was released from prison years ago," Laura said, "why come after us now? You don't suppose he knows we're back together?"
"I don't know how he could," Harry reasoned. "It's only been a short while, and he only knew me as Remington Steele."
"At least we know Felicia's not helping him this time," Laura said without thinking, and then winced at Harry's pained expression.
"No," Harry said softly.
"I'm sorry," she said, leaning against him. "I know she was important to you."
"Yes," he said quietly, turning to kiss her gently. "But never as important as you. Now, let's find a way to get ourselves out of this."
After having gone through the list of previous owners and learning of their experiences with the necklace, Laura was beginning to believe in the curse. Three murders, two kidnappings and innumerable monetary losses all pointed to the reality of it. The necklace was missing and she was charged with finding it. She and Harry had assumed that Felix Guttmann was behind it, but they hadn't found anything to prove their theory. As it stood, Laura was responsible for finding the necklace for her client, and the owner of record, Reginald Carstairs.
After having discovered that Guttmann had been circling the piece since his release from a California prison, they were certain that he was luring them toward it in an effort to exact revenge for having him arrested for trying to steal The Five Nudes of Cairo and complicity in the death of Achmed Khalil.
"I wonder if we aren't jumping the gun," she said as Harry came in from the bedroom.
"How so?" he asked.
"Well," she went on, "what if Guttmann isn't involved? I mean, what if it really is a coincidence that Guttmann is after the Rose? Look at it this way, Carstairs IS the owner of record. He hired me to find the necklace. IF Guttmann had stolen it, why would he have Carstairs hire us to find it?"
"To lure us into his trap," Harry answered.
"That doesn't make sense," Laura said, shaking her head. "You said it yourself; Guttmann wouldn't associate YOU with Remington Steele. And why come after me? I was merely your associate. Little more than a secretary, to a man like Guttmann."
"So you think it's just coincidence?"
"More than likely," she answered. "You and I have a habit of finding murder and mayhem wherever we go. What if, because of our own history, we just automatically suspected that this was about Guttmann's revenge, but that's not it at all? I think maybe we shouldn't concentrate so much on Guttmann and we should just get out there and find the necklace. Although it would seem that Guttmann is a logical place to start, let's find out if he's still in London. Maybe he did steal it."
"Maybe, but I think it's time we took a closer look at our client, Laura."
"You mean find out why Carstairs really chose Laura Holt Investigations."
"That's him," Laura whispered as Harry aimed the camera in the direction she was looking. For two days, they had been staking out the Kensington flat that Guttmann was supposedly residing in and had yet to catch a glimpse of the man himself.
"You're right," Harry answered, looking through the telephoto lens. "A bit older, perhaps. But I'd recognize those beady eyes anywhere."
"Let's move in for a closer look," Laura suggested.
"Not yet," Harry responded, holding her back. "A rat like Guttmann doesn't change his habits. He never travels without muscle," he reminded her. "Let's be sure we're alone out here first."
"Good idea," she said, and pointed out a rather large man leaning against a tree just to the left of the front door of the flat.
"Come on," he said, leading her back in the opposite direction.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
"Back to the hotel," he answered. When she would have protested, he continued. "We're not going to get in there right now. My contacts said that he frequents a private gaming club in King's Cross. When he's there tonight, we'll explore the flat."
"How will we make sure he's there and stays there?" Laura asked as they neared their rental car.
"Leave that to me, my Love."
Felix Guttmann sat at the Baccarat table, drinking scotch and smoking a Cuban cigar. He smiled at the young woman draped on his arm as he raked in another stack of chips.
"You are quite a remarkable good luck charm, Christy," he said to her. "I'm certainly glad to have made your acquaintance."
The young woman blushed slightly and smiled demurely back at him. "I'm glad, too, Felix. I'm sure that the night will be memorable, for both of us."
"Are you sure this is going to work?" Laura asked as she and Harry neared Guttmann's flat.
"Of course," he told her. "Miranda is one of my best operatives. She'll keep Guttmann busy as long as we need her to. Now, once we get out of the car, no talking until we get inside. And stick close to me; I'm still not sure Guttmann doesn't have someone watching the place." He leaned over for a quick kiss before reaching to open the door.
"I can take care of myself, Harry," Laura told him.
"Yes, I know that but you don't have to anymore," he reminded her.
They stayed down and close the wall that ran down the side of the building. They stopped outside the door at the rear and Harry pulled out his lock picks. He had the door open in moments and they were inside. They made their way to the second floor and Guttmann's flat. Again, Harry took out his picks and they were inside within a minute.
The place appeared to be empty, and they were relieved to be able to speak as they made their way through the apartment.
Laura found the office and called Harry into the room. There was a large painting hanging above the desk. Laura tugged lightly at the frame and it swung away from the wall revealing a rather large wall safe.
"You don't think he'd be that predicable, do you?" she whispered.
"Only one way to find out," he responded before going to work on the safe combination.
"You're having a good night, Mr. Guttmann," the casino host said, noting the stack of chips in front of the man.
"So I am," Guttmann replied, pulling Christy to his side, "thanks to this lovely lady, it would appear."
Miranda blushed, and giggled quietly as Guttmann softly slapped her bottom.
"Perhaps we should try our hand blackjack," Guttmann went on. "What do you think, my dear?"
"I think that sounds like a wonderful idea, Felix," Miranda told him, as Guttmann instructed the dealer to cash him out.
Harry opened the safe with ease, but found no trace of the necklace.
"Well?" Laura asked.
"No sign of the necklace," Harry said, but paused as something caught his eye. "Oh," he said. "Come to papa, my lovely."
"Harry," Laura admonished as he held out a small jade figurine. "We're here for the necklace."
"Yes, my love," he responded, "but this " He stopped talking as he took a cloth out of his knapsack and began wrapping the statue in it. He carefully slipped the bundle into his bag.
"Ahem," Laura cleared her throat to reclaim his attention. "We're here to reclaim The Rose of Avon," she said. "Not to steal from the man."
"Laura," Harry told her, "we're not stealing, we're retrieving."
Laura rolled her eyes, still having trouble with the distinction.
"This little baby," he went on, patting his knapsack, "is on every retriever's top ten list. It was stolen from a private museum in Italy about four years ago. And it's worth more than your Rose of Avon."
Laura just shook her head at the gleam she saw in his eyes. He always was very big on finder's fees, she thought. She supposed she would have to get used to this aspect of their work if the agency and HCR were going to be working together.
"I don't think he has it," Harry said, as he sat down on the sofa and began to open his pack.
"I think you're right," Laura answered, sitting down next to him. "But that leaves us without a suspect. Where do we go from here?"
"I still think that Carstairs is the key," Harry told her, leaning in for a quick kiss that became anything but quick. He pulled away from her reluctantly and groaned as the telephone rang.
Laura bit back a laugh as Harry answered the phone, the more things changed the more they stayed the same.
"Chalmers," he said. "No, we didn't find anything. Thanks, Miranda. No I don't think so. In fact, it might be a good idea for you to get away for a while. Call Jeannie and have her get in touch with Marco, he's finishing up something in Hong Kong. And I might need someone to make a trip to Rome "
Laura sat back in awe, listening as Harry directed his operative. He handled things with such authority; she was enjoying watching him in his element.
"What?" he asked, pulling her close as he hung up the phone.
"Nothing," she answered, melting into his embrace.
He kissed her temple before leaning forward to pick up the figurine he'd taken out of his pack. "I've got to make one phone call. And then I'm all yours," he told her with a wink. "I'm sure we can think of some way to spend the rest of the evening."
"I'm sure we can," Laura replied, with a grin and a raise of her eyebrows. "I think I'll go and uh, slip into something more comfortable, while you make your call."
"I won't be long," he said.
Laura disappeared into the bedroom while Harry picked up the phone and dialed.
"Jeannie," he said, "it's me. No, no luck with the necklace. But see if you can get in touch with Gianni Mascari. I may not have found The Star of Avon," he said, a smile spreading across his face, "but I've got the Mascari Jade."
In the morning, Laura awoke to the ringing of the telephone. She reached across Harry's chest to grab the offending instrument before it woke him, as well.
"Hello," she said quietly.
"Miss Holt," said the woman on the other end of the line. "This is Miriam Sunderland from the Lansdowne Historical Society. I'm sorry to ring you so early, but my assistant curator just returned from holiday. She told me that a young woman was here about three weeks ago and she was extraordinarily interested in The Rose of Avon."
"Really?" Laura said, sitting up in bed, causing Harry to stir beside her.
"Yes," Mrs. Sunderland went on, "and apparently it wasn't her first visit. She said she was researching the Rutherford family for a school project but Regina wasn't sure she believed the young woman. She did get her contact information, however."
"That's wonderful, Mrs. Sunderland," Laura replied. "Would Regina be available to meet with me today?"
"I believe we could arrange that," the woman answered. "Just stop by my office this afternoon."
"Thank you," Laura said. "I'll be there." She said her goodbyes and reached across Harry to hang up the phone. He grabbed her and pulled her to him before she even realized that he was awake.
She laughed as he drew her into a good morning kiss.
"Morning," she said as their lips parted from one another. "I'm sorry if I woke you."
"I'm not," he answered, pulling her close for another kiss. "Who was on the phone?" he asked after the kiss ended.
"Mrs. Sunderland from the historical society," she replied. "She wanted to tell me about a young woman who has been asking a lot of questions about the Rose."
"Oh?" he asked.
"I'm going to go down there and meet with the assistant curator," she told him. "Maybe this young woman will turn out to be the lead we're looking for. I thought maybe you could follow up on your theory and check out Carstairs while I'm gone."
"Sounds like a plan, Love," he said, climbing out of the bed. "I need to take a shower. Care to join me?"
"Miss Woolsey," Laura said, smiling at the woman's name. Woolsey was a favorite alias of Harry's when he wanted to sound decidedly British. "Thank you for seeing me."
"Certainly, Miss Holt," the woman replied. "And please, call me Regina."
"And I'm Laura," Laura replied, shaking the woman's hand. "Mrs. Sunderland tells me that you met a young woman with an ardent interest in The Rose of Avon."
"Yes," Regina answered. "She said she was studying the Rutherford family for a school project, but most histories of the family tend to gloss over the Rose. The curse and all. The necklace isn't something that comes up a lot."
"Are you saying that the piece isn't particularly famous or historically significant?" Laura asked.
"No, no, Miss Holt. Not at all. The necklace definitely has historical significance," Regina told her. "But most people who ask about it are more interested in the curse than in the original owners. It carries a sort of macabre fascination."
"That's understandable, I suppose," Laura said. "What can you tell me about this young woman?"
"Oh, of course." Regina took a notebook from a stack on the desk and began to flip through it. "Her name is Susanna Ford. Here is her address and phone." She handed a sheet of paper to Laura. They talked for a bit longer and Regina gave Laura a description of the young woman.
"Thank you, Regina," Laura said, reaching out to shake the woman's hand. "You've been a huge help."
Harry checked his watch as he left Reginald Carstairs' office. He hadn't heard from Laura since they'd left the hotel that morning. Her meeting with the assistant curator at the historical society should have been over long before now.
He was beginning to worry. After having spoken to Carstairs himself, he believed the man to be on the up and up. He was a little nervous, and as Laura had described him, a bit "oily," but Harry could see no reason not to believe his story.
That meant that the woman from the historical society was their only lead, and he wasn't sure he liked the idea of Laura running all over London after her on her own. He was certain he didn't like her being out of touch. He decided he was getting her a cell phone as soon as they got back to Los Angeles.
The address that Regina Woolsey had given her was for an upscale flat in Knightsbridge. Laura sat outside the building and watched for someone fitting the description Regina had given her. After a while, a young woman whom Laura thought could be Susanna Ford got out of a taxi and entered the building. Laura followed her inside and found that the woman did indeed go into Susanna Ford's apartment. She waited a moment and then went back down to her position in the park across the street to watch for Susanna to leave again.
When evening came and he still hadn't heard from Laura, Harry began to worry. Knowing only that she'd gone to meet with the assistant curator at the historical society, he decided to start there. He phoned the office, only to be told that they were closing and Mrs. Sunderland had already gone for the evening. He decided to go there anyway; maybe he could trace Laura's steps. He left a note for her on the desk, along with a message at the front desk asking her to call his cell phone.
Laura followed Susanna from the apartment building to a pub downtown. She watched as the young woman slid into a booth at the back. Laura sat at the end of the bar and ordered a pint. She watched as Susanna removed a velvet pouch from her bag and handed it to the man seated across from her. At least Laura thought it was a man, she could only see his hands. His face was hidden in the shadows. He took the necklace out of the bag, and seemed to be examining it. Laura began to worry that now she'd have to follow this man, since he had the necklace and she had no idea who he was.
Night had fallen and she hadn't spoken to Harry all day. She knew he must be worried, and she couldn't go off and meet this mystery man without backup. The pub wasn't far from the hotel. If she could get in touch with Harry and have him meet her before the man left with the necklace
She began looking around the pub for a payphone, careful not to look away from Susanna and the mystery man for more than a few moments at a time. She was about to walk over to the phone at the other end of the bar when she noticed the man hand the pouch back to Susanna. The young woman slipped the pouch back into her bag and got up to leave the pub. Laura followed her outside, where she hailed a taxi. Laura heard Susanna give the address to her flat and she breathed a sigh of relief. Hopefully Susanna was going home for the night. She waited for the cab to pull away and hailed another to take her back to the hotel.
Harry hung up the phone as the door to the suite was opened. He jumped up from the desk chair and made his way to the woman standing in the doorway. He was torn between joy and intense relief that she was safe, and anger and frustration at the worry over where she'd been. He pulled her into his arms and held her close. After a kiss that assured him that she was indeed all right, he stepped back to look at her.
"My god, Laura," he said, more sharply than he'd intended. "Where the bloody hell have you been?"
She'd expected him to be worried, but something in Laura snapped at the accusatory tone in his voice.
"Out!" she answered through clenched teeth as she pushed her way past him and into the bedroom. He turned to follow her, only to have the door slam in his face.
"This seems familiar," he muttered to himself. "Laura!" he called out to her as he reached to open the door, pausing as he heard the soft click of the lock sliding into place. "Open the door," he said more softly, resting his forehead against the doorframe. "Laura," he said with a sigh, "We need to talk and I don't relish the idea of doing it through this door."
Where did that come from? She sat down on the end of the bed. She hadn't meant to go on the defense with Harry, but it seemed instinctual. She had been taking care of herself for a very long time, but there was more to her outburst than that. She had allowed herself to depend on him once she had been so wrapped up in him that she was totally distraught when he'd left. She couldn't let that happen again. She wouldn't let that happen again. She loved him. She wanted to be with him. She trusted him, didn't she?
With another long sigh, Harry made his way to the bar and poured himself a drink. He sat down on the sofa and closed his eyes as he leaned his head back. He didn't move when he heard the door open.
"I'm sorry for overreacting," Laura said in a quiet voice. "But I've been taking care of myself for a long time. I'm not used to having to answer to anyone."
"Come here," he said, opening his arms to her. When she was seated and leaning into his embrace, he went on. "I know you can take care of yourself," he said softly, brushing her hair back from her face. "I probably know that better than anyone. But you're in an unfamiliar city, chasing down a necklace with a bloody curse on it. I was worried," he told her. "That's all. I don't expect you to answer to me-or to anyone else."
"I know," she said, turning in his arms to face him. "I knew you'd be worried that I hadn't called, but there just wasn't time. I found the necklace." She reached up to place a long, hard kiss on his lips.
"You FOUND the necklace?" he asked, regaining his breath.
"Yes," she said in her most businesslike manner. "And we'd better get going if we're going to retrieve it."
As they changed into their "work clothes," Laura recounted her day and her surveillance of Susanna Ford for Harry. She told him about her meeting with Regina Woolsey and watching Susanna's apartment.
"You should have phoned BEFORE you went down there," Harry admonished. He held up a hand to stop her as she would have protested. "Backup, Laura," he told her. "You're the one who taught ME never to go into an unknown situation without backup."
"You're right," she answered. "I'm sorry. I was just so excited to get a real lead there wasn't time to stop and call. Then, when I got to Susanna's apartment, there wasn't a payphone anywhere."
"We're getting you a cell phone as soon as we get home," he told her as they drove toward Susanna's apartment.
"Mildred's been after me about upgrading our pagers to cell phones."
"Mildred is a very smart woman," he said. When she would have said something, he went on. "It really is a good idea, Laura. For safety," he told her. "You'll never be forced to be out of touch as you were today." Still sensing her hesitancy, he continued. "AND it's tax deductible. A business expense."
Laura smiled at his appeal to her frugality. This man really did know her better than anyone else.
"There she is!" Laura pointed out the young woman who was leaving the apartment building as they approached it. "See that pouch? She's got the necklace. Follow her!"
Harry slowed the car and pulled over to the curb as they waited for Susanna to get into her car.
They followed the young woman as she drove out of the city proper and into the dark English countryside. On the deserted county roads it was difficult to remain unobtrusive, but it didn't seem that Susanna realized she was being followed. After they'd been driving for what seemed a very long time, the young woman pulled into the drive of a rundown manor house.
Harry stopped the car outside the open gate and they got out. Even in the moonlight, it was obvious that the once grand estate had fallen into a state of disrepair and neglect. Laura noticed the keystone at the end of the gate.
"Rutherford," she said quietly.
Susanna went to the front of the house and easily opened a window, climbing in. Harry took Laura's hand and led her to the side of the house. Looking through the window, they could easily follow the path of Susanna's flashlight. Seeing that the young woman had gone upstairs, they moved to the front porch and entered the same way that Susanna had.
As quietly as they could, Laura and Harry made their way up the creaking staircase. Slowly, they checked each of the rooms. It had been some time and they found no sign of Susanna. They were at a loss until they heard the sound of music above them.
"Did you hear that?" Laura whispered.
Harry nodded and pointed upward.
"The attic," Laura agreed.
"Come on," Harry said as Laura followed him out of the room and into the long hallway. At the end of the hall, they found an open door that led to the attic. The music was louder her, it was definitely coming from the attic. As they began to climb the stairs not knowing what they would find at the top, Harry leaned in to place a quick but reassuring kiss on Laura's lips.
She let him lead the way, but neither of them was prepared for the sight that they found at the top of the stairs. Susanna stood, bathed in candlelight in front of a large, dusty mirror. She was wearing a faded wedding gown and humming along to the music playing on an old victrola in the corner. The young woman was attempting to fasten the necklace around her neck as Laura approached her from behind.
"I don't think so, Susanna," Laura said, reaching out to grab the young woman's arm. "Let me have the necklace."
Before Laura realized what was happening, Susanna spun around and shoved her into Harry. Susanna ran to the open window at the far end of the attic and climbed up into the open window frame.
"You can't have it," she said in voice so soft it sent shivers down Laura's spine. "It's mine. The Rose belongs to me. Why do you think trouble has befallen everyone else who's possessed it?"
As Susanna talked she focused on Laura, giving Harry a chance to make his way over to the side of the open window.
"They weren't worthy," Susanna went on. "None of those others were worthy of something as magnificent as the Rose of Avon. It's mine," she said. "Lucien bought it for me."
At that moment, Harry reached out and pulled Susanna down from the window ledge. He subdued her while Laura retrieved the necklace.
A few days later in an office at Scotland Yard, Laura and Harry listened as Chief Inspector Henry Collins recounted the events leading up to their capture of Susanna Ford.
" Miss Ford is a direct descendant of Lucien Rutherford. She knew about the Rose of Avon from family folklore, but she seemed to have had a break with reality while studying her ancestry for a course at university. She truly believed that the necklace was rightfully hers."
"The curse," Laura said softly. "That poor girl."
"At least she's getting the help she needs," Harry replied.
"And your client got his necklace back," Collins supplied.
"For all the good it's going to do him," Laura lamented. She looked up when both men looked at her. "What?" she asked. "He's afraid to do anything with it, and he can't sell it."
"I'm sure Mr. Carstairs can find a buyer, Laura," Harry said, standing. He turned to the Inspector as Laura stood to join him. "Thank you, Inspector Collins," he said. "We should be going."
"Of course," Collins replied, shaking Harry's outstretched hand. "By the way," he said, "I hear you're moving to America."
"That's right," Harry answered, wrapping his arm around Laura's shoulders.
"Good luck to you, then."
"Thanks," Harry replied, leading Laura out of the station.
"What was that all about?" Laura asked as they got into the car.
"Don't nothing me, Harry Chalmers. Inspector Collins seemed rather pleased that you were going back to the States."
"Let's just say we have a history."
"Don't tell me "
"Not to worry Laura," he said, tugging at his ear. "It's just that though they tend to look the other way, Scotland Yard hasn't always been uh, appreciative of our methods."
"I wonder what the LAPD is going to think of them," she said with a smile.
"Are you sure I can't talk you into a weekend in New York before we go on to Los Angeles?" Harry asked, taking Laura's hand as they leaned back in their seats in the First Class cabin, settled in for their transatlantic flight.
"I've been away from the office so long already," Laura answered, shaking her head. "But I was thinking of a slight detour."
"Oh?" he asked, his curiosity piqued. "Where might that be?"
"Las Vegas," she answered.
"Las Vegas?" he asked. "Laura, you hate Las Vegas. Why on earth would you want " he stopped, as her meaning began to dawn on him. "Laura?"
She smiled that bright, dimpled smile that always took his breath away. "Yes, Harry?"
"Are you sure?" he asked. "I mean, I thought we'd do it up right this time. Our last wedding wasn't exactly-traditional."
"Neither are we," she said, leaning in for a kiss. "I told you before; we're too old for orange blossoms. I don't need a big fancy wedding with all the trimmings, I just need you." She smiled realizing that it was true.
"Oh Laura," Harry said, choking back the tears that threatened to fall. He had never in his wildest dreams imagined that he could have Laura back in his life. Not only were they back together, but she wanted to be his wife. He pulled her close for a long kiss. When it ended he asked, "What about your mother?"
"Do you want to marry her?" Laura teased.
"One Holt woman is enough for me, my love," he said. "But she was quite upset about not being included in our first wedding, and I dare say I'm not exactly her favorite person right now."
"I don't care," Laura said, for the first time in her life realizing it was true. "I don't care what my mother or anyone else thinks, Harry. I want to do this. I want it for us."
"Then so it shall be," he answered, pulling her close for a long and promise filled kiss.