Steele Upon a Mattress - Part One
Date: Tuesday, February 11, 2003
Lauryn Poynor <>


By Lauryn Poynor

I am indebted to my editors, Anne and MJ, for their tireless energy,
attentiveness, and enthusiasm. What started as a simple add-on to an
episode soon became an extended engagement, and I'm dead certain they were
as surprised as I was. Next time I'm sure they'll read the fine print on
the contract.

Permission to archive.


"So you do get up. I was beginning to think you worked in bed like Marcel
Proust," purred a sultry feminine voice.

"Who's he?"

"You wouldn't know him. A French writer."

"Come into my boudoir."

There was a soft click -- then silence enveloped the dark room like a heavy
curtain. It was no good, Steele thought. He tossed the TV remote to the
floor and rubbed his temples. Perhaps watching "The Big Sleep" in his
current condition was akin to tempting fate.

Raymond Chandler had something more final and deadly in mind when he penned
his noir classic than a good night's rest, but that hardly mattered to
Steele as he tossed and turned, hoping against hope he could finally nod
off to sleep. He recalled reading somewhere that Chandler was known to be
a hopeless insomniac, but now that Steele had joined the club he was in no
mood to appreciate the irony.

He glanced at the clock and whacked his pillow in frustration. Four a.m.
Not a good sign. "Better lay off the round-the-clock movies, mate," he
chided himself, "or before you know it you'll be seeing a lot of shows that
aren't listed in the 'TV Guide.'" All the hours he'd spent watching credits
roll were beginning to worry him.


"Morning, Mr. Steele," Laura greeted him, barely glancing up from her case
file as he strode through the suite's doors.

"Morning? I suppose it is. Never sure these days." The attempt at levity
couldn't disguise the weariness under the surface.

Startled at his tone, Laura put down the file and looked at him. Really
looked at him. She blinked twice and managed to sputter, "Mr. Steele. You
look... like hell."

"Thank you for the diagnosis, Dr. Holt." Steele ran his hands absently
through his hair and adjusted his tie. His clothes were as immaculate as
ever but Laura noticed he disdained his usual French cuffs, and there was a
patch of stubble on the side of his jaw the razor had missed. His skin was
abnormally pale and signs of exhaustion were clear on his face.

"Diagnosis? Are you sure you don't need one? You look like you've just
spent the night in intensive care. Or in jail. Um, you haven't spent the
night in jail have you?" Laura asked, only half-joking.

Curiosity piqued at the word "jail", Murphy poked his head out of Laura's
office. He walked over to Steele and stared at him in morbid fascination.
"Someone named Bruno or Guido after you in a cement truck? Or maybe it's a
jealous husband this time." He warmed to the theory. "Let me guess. He
came home early and you spent the weekend hiding in the closet. I hope you
had a good book to read."

Steele's single-minded pursuit of sleep had no time to spare for the
niceties, nor the usual games of one-upmanship.

"Tell me, Miss Holt. What's on my schedule for the day? The usual or the

"What do you mean, Mr. Steele?"

"By this afternoon I want it wall to wall. Chock full of the usual humdrum
routine. Chamber of Commerce luncheons. Rotarians. Shriners.
Politicians. Blue-haired women. Insurance salesmen."

"What?" Laura gaped at him as if he'd taken leave of his senses.

"Tedium, Miss Holt. That's all I ask for. Dullness. Boredom. Monotony."

"I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth, Mr. Steele, but just a few
months ago you were saying you'd run out of doodles."

"I'll stock up on pencils. Murphy. Do you have any autopsy reports I can
peruse? Something with loads of medical jargon. Or the same in Latin? Greek

Murphy looked Steele up and down as if mentally measuring him for a
straitjacket. "I'm fresh out."

"Surely you have -" Steele paused as if struck by a sudden thought.
"Where's your baseball almanac, Murphy?"

Bernice's jaw went slack, her filing forgotten. "Laura, I think he's
finally cracked. Hold up two fingers and see if he can guess how many, or
better yet, ask him his real name. If he says it's Dr. Quincy, though, I'd
start worrying."

Laura's brow furrowed. "Mr. Steele, are you alright?" She put a hand to
his forehead. "You feel a little warm. Maybe you should lie down."

"No, I don't think that would help, at least it hasn't for some time.
Perhaps some desk work is called for." Steele blinked hard and looked
around in confusion. "Desk work. Through here isn't it?" He began to walk
unsteadily toward Laura's office.

"We'll use your office." Laura guided him by the arm. "Don't want to
overload you with paperwork."

Laura pulled him inside and shut the door. She led him to his chair and
pushed him firmly into it. "Sit. I'm going to get you some coffee."

"Laura, I don't think coffee -"

"Don't move. I'll be right back."

Laura returned, closing the door behind her. She handed Steele a steaming
mug, then sat down on the edge of his desk. A worried frown creased her
brow. "I thought maybe you should drink it black."

Steele shrugged resignedly. "Anything for you, Miss Holt."

"Now give. What's happened to you in the last seventy-two hours, Mr.
Steele? And don't tell me you've discovered a sudden affinity for autopsy

Steele sighed and eased back gratefully into his chair. "Well, it's all a
bit fuzzy around the edges but I think I can recapitulate the major points
of interest. Let's see. Roughly eighteen hours of staring at my bedroom
ceiling, six hours of solitaire, an Erich von Stroheim film festival, four
long walks, ten crossword puzzles, a Bogart marathon -"

"Crossword puzzles?"

"Am I going too fast for you, Miss Holt?"

"I thought you didn't like crossword puzzles."

"Bore me to tears. Getting the picture?"

"I think so. But what about the Bogart marathon?"

"A man has to keep his spirits up somehow, Laura."

"And this all adds up to..?"

"No sleep. Not forty winks, not four. I think I may have hit two and a half
in the shower this morning, or perhaps while I was shaving."

"You haven't slept in nearly three days?"

"Not that I've noticed. Not since we left the hospital after the Lindstrom

"Good lord! I know you mentioned insomnia but I thought it was just
temporary. Brought on by the stress of the case, of pretending to have a
sleep disorder."

"I played my role a lick too well, Laura." He sipped his coffee absently.
"Funny, I never thought of myself as a method actor."

"But you were in such good spirits after we invited Ivan and Dr. Lindstrom
for dinner."

"Entirely due to your expert ministrations, Dr. Holt."

Laura thought about the kisses they had shared in the kitchen and felt a
faint shiver go through her. Steele had certainly seemed wide awake at the

"Speaking of your healing touch, Laura, where were you the next day?"

"Next day?"

"The day after the case. You told me to spend the whole day in bed. Where
were you?"

"Mr. Steele, I never said - you didn't think I would -," she broke off,
flustered. "I was busy."

"Too busy to check on the patient? I called the office on the hour. Believe
me, I've been watching the clock these days. Your Miss Wolf did a bang up
job guarding the drawbridge."

"You needed your sleep, Mr. Steele."

"You know what I needed, doctor. Physical therapy. Your lilting voice."

"You know full well that if I, um, we, ended up -"

"Playing doctor?"

"In your bedroom -- you'd have spent the whole time trying to -"

Steele rose to his feet, meeting Laura's gaze with sudden alertness. His
eyes raked over her.

"You know exactly what -" Laura fiddled nervously with the open collar of
her blouse. "The patient would never have gotten to bed - um, er, to sleep."

"No matter, Laura. The floor would have been fine. We could've nicked the
bedcovers in a pinch."

"You're dreaming, Mr. Steele."

"On the contrary, we were wide awake when you agreed to my course of

"A neck rub, wasn't it?" Laura sniffed. "Nothing more."

"We both know it went further than that."

Laura's cheeks flushed at the memory. She knew exactly what he referred to.
She just didn't know what to do about it. She hadn't expected Steele's
physical therapy to become . . . so physical.

They had worked closely on the case, just the two of them, sharing
evidence, sharing confidences, sleeping together but not "sleeping
together." It was new and unexpectedly seductive terrain. Afterward, at
his apartment, they'd lingered in the kitchen, their defenses down, hands
wandering, limbs entwined, tongues exploring, temperatures rising.

When they broke away, they were breathless and clearly aroused. Only the
sound of laughter from the other room as Ivan told a joke had reminded them
that they had dinner guests. Laura bolted from the room carrying the
dessert tray and Steele managed to compose himself and play the gracious
host. As the guests were leaving, Laura contrived to slip out with them,
despite Steele's protestations, saying she wanted to be sure he had time to
recover from the demands of the case.

"I don't think what you have in mind is a medically accepted treatment for
insomnia," Laura said defensively.

"You can't deny the results were promising in the early stages, doctor."

"I thought we were talking about sleep."

"I believe the sleep phase comes later. Once we're nestled in each other's
arms, spent but outrageously fulfilled from a spirited round of testing out
the mattress."

"You're a medical marvel, Mr. Steele. Seventy-two hours without sleep and
all you can think about is -"

"Bed, Laura. Is that so surprising?"

"Look, this isn't getting us anywhere. Maybe you need to see a doctor. I
can't have a sleep-deprived Remington Steele falling face down in the
chicken a la king at the mayor's luncheon or the policeman's ball."

"Ah, so your concern is strictly professional." Sulking, Steele returned to
his chair and sank into it with a slump of his shoulders.

"Well," Laura hedged. "Not . . . strictly. Part of me feels responsible
for your condition."

Steele leaned forward, voice lowering to a seductive whisper. "Well, then.
If you'd care to make amends, perhaps tonight you could . . . tuck me in.
After we've given the mattress a stress test we could check the sturdiness
of the pillows, the couch, the coffee table -"

Laura tried to ignore the torrid images his less than innocent inferences
were conjuring in her mind. Slapping her hand to her forehead, she sighed,
"Why can't you behave?"

"Kiss me Kate."

"Kate? Mr. Steele! You said you had insomnia, not amnesia!"

"'Why Can't You Behave'? From 'Kiss Me Kate'?" At her puzzled frown, he
continued. "It's a movie, Miss Holt. A musical. Howard Keel and Kathryn
Grayson? MGM, 1953? Surely you remember that one! Cole Porter songs,
Shakespeare and glorious Technicolor? A beautiful woman, a charming man. A
battle of wills but all's well that ends well."

The odd thing was, now she did remember it. She just didn't have Steele's
lightning quick cinematic reflexes. She hastened to correct him. "I do
remember it, Mr. Steele. I don't need to brush up my Shakespeare."

"Wunderbar, Miss Holt. Glad to hear it."

The man masquerading as Remington Steele was a mystery she despaired of
ever solving. "You associate everything with the movies, don't you?"
Despite herself, Laura was impressed. "How do you do it?"

"Come round tonight and I'll reveal all," he invited with a waggle of his

"You sound better already." Laura crossed her arms. "I thought you weren't
trying to sleep with me."

Steele smiled at the memory. "Back then, I wasn't trying to sleep with you.
But now I'm trying to sleep with you."

"I must have been crazy to involve you in the case," Laura moaned in

"No offense, Laura, but I knew it would turn out badly when you cancelled
my 'canard au vin rouge.'"

"I didn't think the sleep clinic would have such a lasting effect on you."

"Not to worry, Miss Holt. My skills as a cruciverbalist have improved


"A creator or solver of crossword puzzles. Can't recall now if that word
was down or across."

"This isn't a joking matter. I'm calling Dr. Lindstrom and getting you
booked into the sleep clinic."

"But Laura, I'd get far more benefit out of your personal touch. I won't
take up much of your time. A man in my condition exhausts easily. Later
when we're rested -"

"No 'buts' Mr. Steele. I'm sure Dr. Lindstrom would be glad to help. You're
the savior of his clinic - and his most famous patient."

"Perhaps we should get a second opinion. Make sure I'm in safe hands.
'First do no harm' is the physician's creed, their Hippocratic oath if I'm
not mistaken. Surely being poked and prodded by Nurse Blackell contravenes
that noble sentiment. Even prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention
have certain inalienable rights -"

"The patient will survive, I'm sure."

"That may be, but it's hardly my idea of a relaxing evening. Why, the
costly and intensive therapy I'd warrant afterwards could bankrupt the
agency, not to mention put me out of action for months."

"For months? You think so?" Laura smiled sweetly. "Maybe Murphy and I can
finally get some work done."

"Drudgery loves company, I suppose. That wasn't the action I had in mind."

"Spare me the details, Mr. Steele. Whom you invite to test out your
mattress is no concern of mine. I'm sure they do their best work flat on
their backs. Just make sure they don't get lipstick on the designer sheets."

"Actually, I was thinking of the kitchen, not the bedroom. We could pick up
where we left off. Just before dessert, wasn't it?"

"I don't think that's such a good..." Laura moved back slightly out of
arms' reach. Steele rose from his chair and inched nearer.

"...idea. Mr. Steele."

As he closed the space between them she felt oddly detached, somnambulant,
as though she were watching them both from a distance. Steele lifted her
chin, his eyes locked with hers. She felt his fingers skim her jaw line and
trail warmly down her neck to the top of her blouse, raising goose bumps on
her exposed skin.

His touch roused her, whetted her appetite for more. Every rational impulse
she possessed was warning her to stop, but now she knew how good it would
feel, how good he would feel. She could stop whenever she wanted, she told
herself. Just not yet.

He leaned down to kiss her, softly at first, attuned to the cues of her
response, then with more insistence, his hand slipping to the back of her
head. Laura shuddered involuntarily as he buried his fingers in her hair.
At the mounting pressure of his lips on hers, she slipped from the desk to
stand upright and facing him.

Her forearm brushed the rough stubble on his cheek as her arms went around
his neck. Laura could feel the cool surface of the desk against the backs
of her thighs as his body leaned into her embrace. Her mouth opened to him
and she heard him moan in response when she pressed her tongue against his
teeth. He let her explore at will until they were tongue tip to tongue tip.

Laura's fingers slid under his collar, teasing the fine hairs on the back
of his neck. She felt him flinch slightly. Maybe he was ticklish there, she
thought. She applied more pressure. Abruptly, Steele squirmed away from
her as if he'd been branded.

"Mr. Steele." Laura exhaled in a rush. "What's the matter? Don't like my

"Perish the thought, Miss Holt. You're indescribably good, believe me. It's
not that at all. "

"Then what -"

"Damn!" Steele exclaimed in frustration. "It's my neck, Laura. It feels
like something just went awry, a muscle or a tendon perhaps."

"Can you turn your head?"

"Just barely." Steele winced with the effort.

"Let me see."

Laura attempted to rub the area but Steele's collar was in the way. She
unknotted his tie and slid it free and began to unbutton his shirt. She
stopped short after the third button, shocked into inaction as she realized
too late that she was actually undressing him.

Her throat felt dry as she stared at his chest, his open shirt revealing
the dark, silken hair she'd just grazed with a fingertip seconds before.
Suddenly unsure what to do with her hands, she froze. Steele quickly
captured them with his own.

"Laura. You were doing so well." He kissed her palms. "Why stop there?"

Laura jerked her hands away, fighting to regain her composure. "I thought
your neck was the affected area, Mr. Steele," she said with what she hoped
was a convincingly clinical tone.

"Well, mainly, yes. I didn't think it fair to overburden you with my
various other bodily aches and pains. I'm sure if you start at the top and
work your way down I'll feel much better in the morning."

"Try an aspirin."

"Never touch the stuff. Hate pills."

"An aspirin a day keeps the doctor away, Mr. Steele."

"Is that what you're trying to do, doctor? Stay away?" An edge of weariness
and irritation crept into his voice.

"N-no...of course not," Laura stammered. Caught off guard, a feeling of
guilt swept over her. "Maybe you don't believe me, but I am concerned about
all this -"

"Perhaps it's churlish of me to notice," Steele sniffed. "But your concern
was conspicuously absent two days ago."

"You're right, Mr. Steele."

"I am?"

"It's churlish of you to notice." Hurt and angry, she spun away from him.

Steele barely managed to catch her at the corner of his desk, and get
between her and the door. "Laura, I -"

"You don't want concern," Laura spat. "You want someone to fall at your
feet. To indulge your every whim. Well, consider me unavailable, Mr. Steele."

Steele had been prepared to apologize but her accusation struck a nerve.

"My whims are easy to satisfy, Miss Holt. The sound of your voice on the
other end of the phone would have done for a start."

"Why so starved for company? Lose your little black book? Couldn't find a
bouncing blonde to re-enact your production of 'Once Upon a Mattress'?"

Did she really think his standards were that uncompromisingly low? He
salved the wound with a quip. "Really, Laura. I give you Cole Porter; you
give me dinner theatre. It's hardly an even trade...ohhh!" Steele tried
unsuccessfully to suppress a moan as a sharp pain traveled from his neck to
his shoulder.

It wasn't fair, Laura thought as she surveyed the man facing her. Running
on empty, hair disheveled, shirt hanging open. She couldn't
--wouldn't--feel sorry for him. Her mind flashed back to that night at the
clinic when desperate for sleep, he'd slipped under the covers with her.
That moment seemed charmingly innocent now, though her thoughts at the time
certainly weren't. How she'd hated to kick him out. While he'd been
counting sheep, she'd been counting the buttons on his pajamas and
wondering just how quickly she could unfasten them.

"Look, Laura..."

His voice shook her out of her reverie. "Mr. Steele?"

"I didn't mean what I said. Well, surely not the way it came out. It's just
thatà" Steele sighed, too tired to dissemble anymore. "I missed you."

She was too surprised at his confession to form any argument. "Missed me?"

"Terribly, as a matter of fact. Your neck rubs. Your lilting voice. Who
could ask for anything more?"

Laura still clung to a healthy strand of skepticism. "You could. Several
times in the last ten minutes."

"I'm only human, Laura. I'd hoped for more. But failing that penultimate
demonstration of your devotion you could at least have helped me with my
crossword puzzles. I gave up on the 'London Times' after the word 'acrostic'."

"The right words would have convinced you, Mr. Steele?"

"From you, Miss Holt? Absolutely. Of course actions speak louder, they
say." He considered his options. "You could convince me by -- starting
right here." Steele rubbed his neck gingerly.

Laura smiled in spite of herself. "You always know where to start, Mr.
Steele. Just not where to stop."

"Perhaps we could meet halfway." He managed a lopsided grin.

Laura wagged a finger at him. "No halfway measures allowed. Wouldn't want
to aggravate your other aches and pains."

"Why do doctors always think they know what's good for you?"

"Dr. Holt knows exactly what you need. This for example." She began to
massage his neck with slow, circular motions.

Steele could feel his entire body begin to relax. He closed his eyes and
sighed luxuriously, "Oh. Yes, that's incrediblyà therapeutic, doctor.
You're right. I don't think we need a second opinion."

"I'm glad."

"Are you sure there's not something about your past you haven't told me?"
Steele murmured against her cheek.

"My past?"

"Stanford graduate. Mathematics major. Massage minor."

Laura laughed. "Sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Steele but my scholarship
didn't cover it. Massage, that is."

"Pity not to nourish such a natural talent.

"It was the 70's, though," she mused, smiling. "Must have been an elective
course." She continued to massage his neck area, working her fingers up
gradually under his hair to the base of his skull.

"Well, if you ever decide to matriculate, Miss Holt, let me offer my
services as your most willing class project." His head fell forward to
rest on her shoulder.

"Are you sure you'll make the grade, Mr. Steele?"

"Mmmmh. Grade? Sure..."

Steele's breath warmed the skin of her throat; his dark hair was thick and
soft under her fingers. She felt his body shifting as he leaned more
heavily against her. After a minute passed she found her limbs buckling
suddenly under his weight. He'd fallen fast asleep and was close to
toppling over.

Maybe she could get him to his chair or to the couch, Laura thought. She
managed to pull his desk chair closer and maneuver him into it but Steele
was jostled awake by the procedure.

"Miss Holt? Did I -" Steele blinked at her, a lock of hair dangling
comically over one eye. Laura smoothed it back.

"Just for a moment. I was trying to get you comfortable."

"You're a nice"

"Speaking of doctors, I'm calling Lindstrom. You've got to get treatment.
Unless you want to learn to do it standing up."

"Any position you choose, Laura. I'm flexible. At least I used to be."

"I'm relieved you're such a willing subject, because like it or not you are
going to the sleep clinic."

"Must you be so concerned for my well being?"

"I'm afraid so."

Steele stretched his limbs and gave a sigh of resignation. "I'll expect
daily visits from Dr. Holt to check my vital functions. Fluff my pillows,
sing me lullabies, give me sponge baths."

"Sorry, Mr. Steele. I've turned in my stethoscope."

"What a pity. I had visions of the two of us hooked up in the sleep
station, listening to the beating of each other's hearts."

Laura's pulse rate accelerated to fast forward. "I don't think Nurse
Blackell would approve," she replied, feeling a blush steal across her
cheek. "She'd never be able to explain the readout."

"There's no one I'd rather make medical history with than you, Miss Holt."


"Mr. Steele." Laura shook him gently by the arm.

"Very odd," he mumbled sleepily. "Why is the bed moving?"

"We're in the limo." She smiled down at him. The morning ride to the clinic
was turning out to be an oddly pleasurable experience. Steele had drifted
to sleep almost as soon as Fred turned the ignition. He'd snuggled against
Laura's shoulder, oblivious, as her fingers, unable to resist the
temptation entirely, ran lightly through his hair.

Steele yawned, stretched his legs, and hazily surveyed his surroundings.
"So we are." He rolled down the window and sucked in a bracing breath of air.

"I'm feeling better already. Slept like a baby. I do believe I've hit on
the cure. I've always said this car had an excellent suspension. Fred could
simply cruise the streets every evening with me in the limo until I doze
off, eh?"

"Fred has more important things to do than have you drive him around in
circles. Not that he isn't used to it."

"The simplest remedies are often the best, I find. Why must the layman's
method always take a back seat to medical science? Hospitals, doctors,
pills by the lorry load. What use are -" Steele stopped, entranced by his
own flow of words. "Yes. Take a back seat...that's very clever. Remind me
of that later, Laura."

"I don't think your automotive argument is going to hold much sway with Dr.
Lindstrom. You agreed to let him treat you by more accepted measures,

"How could I forget, with his parting remarks over the phone still ringing
in my ears: 'we'll make a sleeper out of you yet, Mr. Steele.'" Steele
stared sullenly out the window. "So much false cheer can't be good for a
patient's morale. At least Lindstrom's colleague Dr. Wicker had the good
grace to expire before becoming unbearably tedious. Well, almost before."

"Are you always this grumpy in the morning?"

"'Sleeper.' Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, United Artists, 1973. A man wakes up
in hospital two hundred years in the future after a routine ulcer
operation. Slept for two centuries. Routine ulcer operation! Imagine what
could happen if they're trying to put me to sleep. The same thing in
reverse. The wrong symbol on a chart somewhere and I could wake up minus an
organ or two. I have several I'm rather fond of."

"You survived the clinic before, Mr. Steele. Don't be such a worry wart."

"It's my m_tier, Miss Holt. I'm an insomniac."

"Worry is the interest paid on trouble before it's due. So they say."

"Good lord. You sound like a greeting card. Or a slogan for T-shirts,
perhaps. Why do Americans always assume strangers want to converse with
their clothing?"

Laura's brows knitted together in a frown. "Good question."

"Speaking of which, whatever happened to 'Bankers Do It With Interest'? Did
you palm off that sartorial embarrassment on some myopic denizen of skid
row? I daresay if he were sober he'd turn up his nose at the white belt."

"It's none of your affair, Mr. Steele," Laura shot back imperiously.

"Quite right. Your affairs are your own, Miss Holt. Unless, of course, you
choose to advertise them."

"Advertise them? What on earth is that supposed to mean?"

"Come now, Laura. Surely you knew that one day I'd come across those items
in your closet."

"Are you seriously suggesting I left them there for you to find? Of all the
delusional, conceited -"

"What better way to stir my jealousy?" Silence hung in the air as he noted
her flushed cheeks with satisfaction. "And what surer route to bring our
emotions to the surface? Awaken our hidden desires, our lurking...
passions." His words teased feather-light against her ear.

Laura leaned toward the opposite window, trying vainly to resist the spell
of his proximity. "You know perfectly well they were found by accident."

"An excellent plan but rather flawed in its execution."

She turned back to face him, seething. "Execution? There's a thought. I'd
buy tickets to yours."

"To expect me to be jealous of a man so lacking in the barest rudiments of
good taste."

"I'll donate your wardrobe to the needy. A condemned man doesn't need a two
thousand dollar suit."

Steele held up his hand in a conciliatory gesture. "I'll gladly forgo the
mysteries of your closet if you'll allow me to explore the remainder of
your bedroom. I'll have to admit, Laura, your wardrobe has me curious." He
lounged against the seat cushions, appraising her frankly. " For instance.
What did you wear to bed last night? That gossamer nightgown of azure blue,
ever so transparent..."

Had he been spying on her? Imagination overthrew logic for a brief moment,
then the pendulum swung back to reality. "I don't have a blue nightgown!"
she exclaimed in exasperation.

"What a pity. Your closet needs filling Miss Holt, and I'm just the one to -"

"That's it." Avoiding his keen gaze, Laura punched the controls for the
privacy screen and watched with satisfaction as it slowly rose into place.
"I've had enough innuendos to last me a lifetime. I'm not going to sit
here and discuss my -- nightgowns with a thief and a conman who's shopped
around with half the female population of Los Angeles."

Steele's calm was maddening. "Well, then. If nightwear is verboten, we
could always dispense with it."

"That's not what -" Laura floundered. "I meant nightgowns are off lim -
never mind. End of discussion. I'm not sleeping with you, Mr. Steele."

"Laura! I was merely discussing the state of your closet. Was ever an
insomniac so misunderstood?" Steele's expression of wounded innocence
threatened to break out into an insouciant grin.

Laura's hands clenched and unclenched feverishly as she absorbed this
latest round of infuriating, yet tantalizing proposals. Determined to
ignore him, she stared ahead with fierce concentration at an imaginary mid
point in the glass partition.

Her visible discomfort only incited Steele to further mischief. He flashed
Laura a disarming smile and rolled down the privacy screen. "Fred, can you
locate a promising detour on the way to Sleep Central? One that leads to
San Francisco, perhaps?"

"Too late, Mr. Steele." Laura said smugly. "The clinic is just ahead on the

Steele's smile turned to a grimace. "Fred, do I have to remind you again
whose name is on your checks."

"Miss Holt's."

"Miss Holt's, eh?" Steele shrugged philosophically. "Just wanted to make
sure you were on your toes."

Steele fidgeted nervously with his tie as Fred pulled into the parking lot.
"That sleep case has become very inconvenient. I'd have much preferred to
use an alias during my stay as an actual patient. Now the whole staff
knows who I am."

"A blown cover is a risk we detectives have to take. What alias would you
have used? Rip Van Winkle?"

"I'm an insomniac, not a narcoleptic, doctor."

"Just trying a little reverse psychology. I'm not your doctor, you know.
I'm just here to make sure you and Fred don't take any side trips."

"In that case you'd better call Marty's, Fred, and cancel my reservation."

"Wait a minute! You made a reservation at Marty's? Marty's Restaurant in
San Francisco?"

"With the snooze patrol breathing down my neck? Really, Laura. Would I do
such an irresponsible, frivolous -"

"I've always wanted to go there."

"Reckless, profligate, impetuous, foolhardy -" Steele stopped abruptly,
wondering if he were dreaming or if he were still awake. "What did you say?"

"Marty's. I've always wanted to go there. I've heard so much about it. I
have this unfulfilled fantasy running in my head about the perfect evening
for two. Drinks at the Top of the Mark. Spectacular views. A candlelight
dinner. Dancing."

"Have you read my mind, Miss Holt or have I read yours?"

Each stared at the other as if they'd just seen a conjuring trick. "I was
going to ask you the same thing, Mr. Steele. You didn't really make a
reservation, did you?"

"Sadly, no, but we could pick up the phone and -"

"First things first," said Laura. "I want you following doctor's orders
from now on. I wouldn't want you to fall asleep before dessert."

"Laura Holt, a closet romantic. Boggles the mind. Now all I have to do is
stay awake long enough to reap the benefits - or should that be go to sleep?"

"A 'closet' romantic? If that's meant to be a joke -"

"Inadvertent, I assure you, Miss Holt. I take any romantic impulse of yours
quite seriously."

"If I've learned anything about you, Mr. Steele, it's that you're never
quite serious."

Steele put his hand to his heart in mock distress. "Cruelly misinterpreted,
yet again. Will science ever find a cure?"

To Part 2