- Steele Upon a Mattress - Part
Date: Friday, February 21, 2003
- Lauryn Poynor <email@example.com>
STEELE UPON A MATTRESS - PART THREE
by Lauryn Poynor
Rated "R" for sexual situations.
Steele stood under the caressing warmth of the shower spray,
slowly as the reviving force of the water massaged his body from
angle. Fifteen minutes of absolute bliss, that was the ticket.
the last vestiges of shampoo from his hair and reluctantly turned
the water. He slid open the shower door, reaching blindly for
while combing his hair back with his other hand.
Hope flickered in his chest that his fortunes were improving
certain lady detective, despite the restless night that had followed
Even the prospect of a morning constitutional / exercise regimen
health club workout didn't seem such a bad idea, with a spandex-clad
Laura by his side. He wasn't quite sure what his partner had
She'd been rather mysterious about the whole thing, merely telling
to pack a gym bag with a change of clothes and that she would
up at lunchtime. He'd had to ask Fred what sort of attire was
this sort of outing and undertake a last minute shopping trip
something to wear. Fred often observed the natives in their natural
habitat while dropping Laura off at the gym, so he had a good
what was de rigueur.
Working out with Laura surely couldn't be boring, Steele decided.
be with him every step of the way; keeping his spirits up, giving
pep talks, urging him on to spectacular feats of athleticism.
pictured their sweating bodies in rhythmic synchronization, heartbeats
accelerating as they stretched their endurance to the limit.
Americans call it? Going for the burn? Perhaps a steamy rendezvous
the sauna would be part of the program. He sighed deeply as he
his captivating partner clad only in a very small towel. His
was rising already, and parts of his anatomy were following suit.
He toweled off his hair vigorously and padded out of the bathroom
pleasantly distracted fog. By the time he reached the bedroom,
fully erect and the part of his brain that wasn't otherwise engaged
telling him he needed to get back in the shower and try that
again, maybe with an ice bucket for extra insurance. Otherwise
to tell Laura that something had come up, not that that "something"
necessarily a bad thing if she were in the vicinity, but he did
work on his timing.
He started in shocked surprise as an unseen hand reached around
between his legs, feminine fingers avidly exploring his length.
Steele didn't have to guess; he looked up to see her tanned and
reflection in the mirrored doors of the closet. The groper's
Amber and her face had graced the covers of every fashion magazine
Los Angeles. Her body was the stuff dreams were made of; her
colored hair framed perfect cheekbones and full, flawless lips.
young and eager to make it in more ways than one. Her beauty
somewhat spoiled by a perpetually slack-jawed expression, though
handicap wasn't fatal. She could change it to a sensual, lover's
the click of a shutter.
"Something on your mind?" She giggled and reached for
him again. "Remy,
you have such a gorgeous -"
He carefully pried her hand loose. "Don't -- call me Remy."
"Whatever you say, lover."
Laura maneuvered the Rabbit briskly through the traffic, not
minding the retaliatory horn blast from the sleek, black Mercedes
cut off at the head of the lane. Her agile ragtop made it under
yellow light with milliseconds to spare. She cranked up the radio
fizzy explosion of synth pop blared from the speakers as Olivia
Newton-John warbled "Lets Get Physical" to a procession
A smile formed on her lips as she wondered what surprises were
once she crossed the threshold at Rossmore. Though the mental
Mr. Steele wearing form fitting workout attire had undeniable
Laura was still monumentally unsure if he would actually go through
it. His usual reaction whenever she mentioned the gym was either
stifled yawn or an eyebrow quirked in amusement at the American
Ever since Steele had arrived on the scene she'd been kept off
by his unorthodox and irregular habits. Where the agency was
she was on firm ground. It was entirely appropriate to lecture
noon arrivals, leisurely lunches, and calling it a day before
struck three, but what he did on his off hours, especially his
was terra incognita and likely to remain so. She would rather
barefoot over hot coals than admit to her enigmatic partner that
consumed with curiosity about his social calendar or his
ever-so-mysterious late night wanderings.
Sometimes she would lie awake, a glance at the clock causing
imagination to idle restlessly. 1:35. Where was Mr. Steele? Clues
surface in the expense accounts or from a tell tale sign in the
next morning; a stray betting slip; a matchbook from an exclusive
a long blonde hair on the seat cushion; the scent of an expensive
Mr. Steele's amours were his own business, she supposed, though
were hardly a secret. The women he went out with enjoyed the
Still, he stubbornly cultivated an air of mystery. He delighted,
seemed to Laura, in firing her curiosity about his love life
leaving her hanging. It was as if, deep down, all he really wanted
make sure of was that she cared, at least a little.
She knew he liked the finer things: Savile Row tailoring, Italian
haute cuisine, and he loved old movies, but other, more intimate
knowledge was harder to come by. His newly acquired insomnia
squarely into the unknown category; she was afraid to delve too
Despite picking up some of the lingo during her stint at the
wasn't a doctor. Maybe the best she could do was to see that
with his treatment - whether he liked it or not.
She harbored no illusions that his lifetime habit of indolence
reversed overnight, but Steele had been willing to follow doctor's
orders on his caffeine consumption, a sign he was taking his
Despite her natural skepticism she felt a small thrill of hope.
his insomnia be a blessing in disguise? Maybe -- just maybe --
change things. Make it possible for him to change. To become
and responsible. More self-disciplined. Less indulgent. You're
Laura, she told herself as she sat waiting at the stoplight;
but it was
a pleasant fantasy all the same.
The station wagon in front remained stubbornly immobile. After
of seconds Laura hit the horn, impatient to be on her way. "Hey
going to get any greener. Move it! Some of us are in a hurry!"
"How did you get in?" Steele said to Amber in a tone
annoyance. "I don't recall giving you a key."
"The apartment manager let me in. He'll do anything I ask
him. I told
him you were expecting me."
"Seems I'm always the last to know," he said coolly.
Inwardly he was
cursing his luck. If he couldn't get rid of her soon he'd have
her in the laundry hamper.
Amber eyed the sweat suit and the partially packed bag that lay
bed. "You're going to the gym? Since when? I thought you
hated the gym."
"I've taken up a new hobby," Steele replied nonchalantly,
"Hobby? Who is she? And don't tell me Jane Fonda."
"It's not a social liaison. It's purely a professional relationship
client." There was an almost imperceptible hesitation on
the last word.
"A client? Uh-huh. What's so important about a client? You
never take me
to the gym. And I look great in spandex."
Her arms encircled his waist, hands lightly stroking the dark
his belly as she rained light kisses across his shoulders.
Steele pulled out of her determined embrace and rummaged in his
drawer for a pair of briefs. "I'm working on a case. Undercover
operation. The subject, er, client, that is, is someone I'll
for information -- while pumping iron, as it were. As I said.
Amber kicked off her shoes and sat on the edge of the bed. She
shamelessly up at him. "I can take care of business, too.
You won't need
those." She tugged at his underwear.
"Normally I'm delighted by spontaneous displays of affection
but as the
song goes, 'it's the wrong time, and the wrong place.'"
"C'mon, Remy. You know you want to. Remember that night
in front of the
fireplace? You said it yourself. We're made for each other."
Steele gaped at her as if she were speaking in Hindustani. He
He couldn't have uttered anything so ridiculous -- or so boring.
Impossible. And if he had, how could she be so thoughtless as
him of it? He had to admit, the night in question was a bit out
now. Something involving a bottle of Dom Perignon, an overturned
bucket, and a very revealing fashion show.
"Must have been the champagne."
Amber peeled off her silky, camisole style top, revealing a pair
perfect breasts. "I don't think so."
Steele was temporarily at a loss for words, distracted by the
sight of her shell-pink nipples.
She slapped a manicured hand to her forehead. "Jeez. I almost
I've got something to show you." She began to undo the button
"For heaven's sake, not now!" Steele glanced frantically
at the clock on
his nightstand, sending up a silent prayer to the Almighty that
unavoidably detained by a flat tire, a minor earthquake, or a
juicy triple homicide.
"You'll love this."
"It can't wait."
"An admirable sentiment but under the circumstances -"
In a flash, Amber was out of her jeans and underwear. She held
panties as if they had a starring role in a lingerie commercial.
"Um, very nice. Calvin Klein?"
"Isn't everything these days?"
"Not by Simon Le Bon. Feast your eyes. He signed it right
below the elastic."
Amber put down the panties and rolled her eyes in disbelief.
Like The WolfÆ?"
"Sorry, love." Steele squinted nervously at his watch.
"I don't have the
time or the inclination."
"Have you been living on the planet Mongo? You've never
heard of Duran
"Of course I have! He's the character played by Milo O'Shea
'Barbarella.' Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law. Paramount Pictures,
Directed by Roger Vadim. Incidentally Vadim was married to Jane
the time, but before that his claim to fame was being Mr. Brigitte
Bardot and -"
"Puh-leeze." Amber yawned. "Snooze-o-rama! Like
a dumb Jane Fonda movie
could ever compare to a totally awesome band like Duran Duran.
information, 'Hungry Like The Wolf' is a track from the 'Carnival'
got it last week. And these panties are signed by Simon Le Bon,
hot lead singer.ö
"Oh. I take it that he's somewhat famous then?" Steele
as he splashed on some cologne.
Amber watched him in the mirror as he turned his back to her.
vantage point she had an excellent view from both front and rear
half naked form. His tight-fitting briefs merely served to emphasize
fact he was still partially erect. The sight of him standing
oblivious to the effect he was having on her, kicked her hormones
overdrive. She came up behind him and nuzzled his neck. That
was wearing was definitely a turn-on.
"Hello, gorgeous," she breathed into his ear.
"'Funny Girl.' Barbara Streisand, Omar Sharif û"
"Omar who? Don't you know anybody that's like, really famous,
Taylor or Nick Rhodes?" Amber sighed, playing a videotape
in her head of
Simon's cutest band mates in all their glam, synthetic glory.
She walked back to the bed and stretched out languorously, picking
the panties and clutching them to her chest. "My brush with
she recalled with a dreamy smile. "It all started when my
agent got me
this 'new faces' photo session for 'ElleÆ, my first major
know, on this luxury yacht. There was this totally rad party
going on at
the same time for some department store heiress or whatever.
taking a ciggie break when I turned around and there he was!
Bon -- in the flesh! I had multiple orgasms on the spot! Just
into a puddle all over his Gucci loafers . . ."
Repressing a shudder, Steele pulled on his sweat pants. He knew
partners weren't exactly Mensa candidates, but were they all
insipid? Don't answer that, mate, he told himself. What on earth
rattling on about? He'd known French poodles with more wit. Cocker
spaniels, even. He had to get rid of her, and quickly. The clock
ticking and he was woefully ill prepared to play a game of truth
consequences with Laura.
". . .Simon was there with this stuck up French model, tr_s
you know the type, lots of underarm hair, but I would have committed
murder for her Alaia handbag. Anyway, I could tell Simon was
out in my Calvin Kleins and I did the Brooke Shields thing, like,
you wanna know what comes between me and my Calvins?Æ.
"Brooke Shields. 'Pretty Baby,' Susan Sarandon, Keith Carradine,
Paramount, 1978," Steele said to no one in particular.
". . . then I showed him. I could tell he was really interested,
know, but that hairy matchstick wouldn't let him out of her sight.
signed them anyway. Told her he was just having a laugh. I did,
mean, I really did. You know how ticklish I am." She giggled
as if to
illustrate the point. "He is just, like, so -- wicked. I
Amber's games of 'Simon says' were making his eyelids droop.
would cure the most dedicated insomniac, Steele thought. At least
was good for something. Cole Porter was right. It was the wrong
the wrong place, and her face was lovely, but it was the definitely
wrong face. Despite the lyrics, Steele decided, if some night
free he'd be sure not to call. What had he been thinking that
front of the fire? Or more to the point, what had he been thinking
Amber bounced lightly on the edge of the bed. "I only wear
them when I'm
really, really, in the mood for love, you know. I owe Simon that
She tossed the panties playfully in his direction.
Steele was beginning to feel slightly desperate. His knowledge
fair sex was encyclopedic but there were far more entries devoted
getting women out of their clothes than back into them. Short
physical force an effective strategy was proving maddeningly
Still, inspiration had never failed him before; surely an answer
there somewhere. If only he'd slept better last night maybe he
"I said, I only wear them when I'm really, really -"
Her words fell on deaf ears as a blinding light switched on in
brain. The answer had been dropped, quite literally, in his lap.
slipping, mate, he admonished himself with a rueful grin. He
the panties and raced for the living room, a naked and bewildered
trailing behind him.
"Hey, Remy, what are you doing? Wait for me! Do you have
kinky in mind?" she called out as he hurdled the couch and
the open French doors to the balcony. Steele stood teasingly
arms' reach, holding the panties high above his head.
"Sorry, love. I don't have time to play games. I have an
Amber, half hidden behind the French doors, stretched out and
desperate but awkward lunge in Steele's direction.
"Ah, ah. Simon says take two steps back."
"Be careful with those, she whined. "You could -ô
dawned in her underpowered brain. "You wouldn't dare -"
"Drop your treasured souvenir over the side?" Steele
out to the edge of the balcony and leaned over the wall, panties
hand. He feigned a sudden attack of dizziness. "Never was
"Remy, that's not funny."
"Don't you think you should put something on? From the looks
you're a bit chilly." He glanced pointedly at her breasts.
rental agreement on these flats prohibits frolicking on the balcony
al fresco, as it were."
"Ooh, when I get my clothes on -"
"Promises, promises." Steele glanced speculatively
over the balcony,
dangling the panties precariously on one finger. "What an
for your lingerie. Out there at the mercy of the elements, fair
any autograph hound or perhaps a passing pervert who wishes to
away the lonely hours -"
"Oh my god! Don't drop -" she begged, signaling him
to stop with a
"Shall we reconvene here in say, about three minutes with
you in your
Amber bit her lip. "You win," she huffed prettily.
"Funny. I thought I
understood men. I've never had to work this hard to keep my clothes
Steele shrugged philosophically. "Think of it as a learning
Nose in the air, Amber flounced, if that particular attitude
possible when naked, back to the bedroom to retrieve her clothes.
Despite a few misgivings Laura felt energized at the prospect
up a sweat with her recalcitrant, but tempting partner. She tapped
fingers on the steering wheel to a phantom beat. Now that she'd
that song, she couldn't get it out of her head. She turned off
ignition, and sat in the parked car, drumming and singing part
verse and chorus.
...There's nothing left to talk about
Unless it's horizontally.
Let's get physical, physical
I wanna get physical
Let's get into physical
Let me hear your body talk, your body talk..
An odd look from a passerby made her stop short, feeling more
little foolish at letting herself go. She checked her hair and
in the rear view mirror and glanced down at the rest of her body.
encased, armor-like, in no-nonsense, heavyweight, gray sweats.
made her heart sink more than a little and quickly doused her
mood. Still, it was too late for regrets now because gray was
of a whole morning spent at the office agonizing over what to
wear. . .
ôThis? Or the blue one with the matching headband?ö
Laura said aloud to
herself as she stood in Steele's office bathroom modeling a succession
of tights and spandex leotard combinations. The bounty of a mad
spree the night before, they came in a range of fashion colors
pink to metallic silver to leopard prints.
She'd even brought along the leotard in a thong style. Surveying
in the mirror, she was shocked and secretly pleased at how good
looked on her. But, how could she ever dare to wear it? Not in
She jumped at a sudden rap on the door. "Laura, are you
still in there?
There's a photographer here from 'Sports IllustratedÆ.
You know, the
Swimsuit Issue? Are you ready for your close-up?"
Laura opened the door a crack. "Very funny, Bernice."
Bernice stood in the doorway, her eyes widening in surprise.
She gave a
low whistle. "Yowza! I think they just found their next
centerfold -- or
is this for his eyes only?"
"Just trying to keep up with the latest fashions,"
Laura said casually,
adjusting the clinging fabric in the mirror.
Bernice crossed her arms skeptically. "Uh-huh. I hope you
you're doing. Skeezix sees you in that outfit and they'll have
his tongue back up like a Persian rug."
"You think it's a little too, um, provocative?" Laura
could feel a warm
flash spreading all over her body.
"Provocative? Are you kidding? Provocative leaves something
imagination." Bernice looked her over, stopping at thong
on the other hand -"
Laura bit her lip, panic setting in. "Ohhh. What was I thinking?
wear this! You know what he's like. I can barely keep him in
I'm wearing wool suits and sensible shoes."
"Coward. Of course you can. Just think of the fun you'll
him. Bring along a can of mace for extra protection. Or better
brass knuckles. And aim low."
"Bernice, if I spend the whole time fending him off we'll
never get any
exercise. I mean, real exercise."
Laura hated to admit it, but she was as worried about her own
she was his. Her vision last night of him, barely dressed, in
doorway, had been catalogued and memorized for instant recall.
had been on her mind all morning; the same body that was going
to be a
mere arms' length away from hers for the next two hours.
"Just think of it as resistance training," Bernice
smirked. "He pushes.
You push back. Back and forth, back and forth. Pretty soon you're
working all of the most important muscle groups."
"I know what you're thinking but that's not what this is
all about. This
is part of Mr. Steele's treatment. A doctor recommended, daily
regimen, not an orgy."
"I don't know about doctor's orders but one look at you
in that outfit
he'll be dying to fill your prescription, if you get my drift."
"You're impossible. Both of you. That's just it. I don't
want him to get
the wrong idea. This trip is going to be strictly business. To
started on a workout program. It's all about self-discipline.
excuses. No distractions."
Bernice rolled her eyes. "A little distraction is the spice
Admit it, Laura. You've been dying to get him to the gym so you
him in a pair of tight shorts or catch a glimpse of him wearing
towel. Then there's the pool. Will it be boxer-style swim trunks
something closer to the Chippendales variety?"
Laura was helpless to deny it. "OK, I'm busted. The thought
"How many times in the last half hour?"
"You really don't want to know."
They both laughed conspiratorially. "Remember, Laura. If
Chippendales, I want pictures."
Laura pulled a very skimpy flame red bikini from her shopping
held it up for Bernice's inspection. "Love to, but where
would I hide
It had been false bravado, and she knew it. As soon as Bernice
the door Laura was out of the spandex and into a pair of heavy,
shapeless sweats. She told herself that she was doing it for
good. He needed to take things seriously and that would never
long as she was giving him a free floor show. She sneaked out
office with her gym bag, grateful to see that Bernice was on
and she could escape being cross-examined. However, it had been
impossible for Laura to miss her friend's headshake of disappointment.
Laura sighed regretfully at the memory and cranked up the convertible
top. She got out of the car and locked it, and with a confident
that belied her inner anxiety, headed for the apartment elevators.
Steele stood shirtless out on the balcony, shivering a little
freshening breeze. He checked his watch for what seemed like
hundredth time; Amber had one minute left but his nerves were
knife-edge. He found himself jumping at the slightest sound.
Laura would be ringing the doorbell, demanding an explanation
tone he knew so well, the one that said, in no uncertain terms,
he'd lived down to her expectations yet again.
Panties stuffed into his waistband, he walked back through the
doors, and made his way to the bedroom, ready to cajole, charm,
threaten, or bodily remove Amber from the scene of the crime
Laura could pick up the scent.
"Simon says, time's up, love."
Amber, wearing only her blouse, was painstakingly applying a
new coat of
'Pink Vibrations' lipstick. She put the tube back in her purse
him a toothy smile. "Remy, have you seen my other earring?
under the bed."
"Why don't you slip back into these while I check, eh?"
He held up her
jeans and sandals.
"If you don't find it now, maybe you could bring it over
to my place
later, along with a bottle of champagne. Remember when I knocked
the bucket and then you did that thing with the ice cubes? I
Steele ignored her and got down on his hands and knees to look
bed. There was some stray lint under there and last week's TV
no earring. He was just about to straighten up when Amber slid
questing hand between his legs. He flinched and swore at the
contact, then realized with a sinking feeling that she'd grabbed
panties as well.
"Do I have to handcuff you to the bed to get you to beha
-" he started
to say. He realized the error of his ways too late. She was bound
take that as a form of foreplay.
"I thought you'd never ask." She trailed a finger down
his left thigh.
"Can I do you first?"
"That's ever-so-tempting -- but I'm afraid I'll have to
take a rain
Amber slipped into her Calvins without a peep of protest. "Just
remember, lover. It's a date. And bring the ice cubes."
her up, patted her rump and handed over her shoes all in one
"I'll make a to-do list."
She eyed the panties and gave him a wink. "Maybe we can
play some more
games with these later." She put them in her purse and shuffled
"Perhaps not," Steele quipped. "Simon sounds like
the jealous type."
Amber put a finger to her lips. "I'll never tell."
She slung her purse
over her shoulder and wrapped her arms around his waist, leaning
nibble his ear.
Steele extricated himself from her grasp and held her wrists,
them lightly. "On second thought, why don't you go back
to your flat and
make that list straightaway? Let's see . . .Dom Perignon '76,
hand cuffs, intimate lingerie -"
"That's a lot to remember."
"I'll leave a note under your pillow," Steele murmured,
lifting her chin
so that she got the full force of his seductive blue gaze.
Amber, half-mesmerized, allowed him to lead her to the door.
then," he whispered against her lips, giving her a light
The devastating display of charm had its intended effect. A weak-kneed
Amber slowly backed out as Steele smiled adoringly into her eyes,
the while resisting the urge to slam the door firmly shut on
Bloody pain-in-the-neck. He vowed never, ever to let a model
the catwalk in ultra tight Gloria Vanderbilt jeans hypnotize
Le Bon indeed! Simon Le Idiot was more like it.
Laura stepped out of the elevator and walked down the corridor
Steele's apartment. Though her feet were taking her inexorably
destination, they seemed to be moving forward of their own volition.
Inside her head a seesaw battle was raging between anticipation
dread, boldness and caution, with few stops in between.
It's strictly a business proposition - not a date, Laura kept
to herself like a mantra. After all, what was more important
morale and physical well being of the man who was the very public
of Remington Steele Investigations? Still, no matter how she
maintain that focus her thoughts kept straying to more dangerous
to visions of Steele lounging in the sauna, towel loosely fastened
around his waist, or the two of them at the pool, mentally undressing
each other, until, unable to resist the temptation, their bodies
below the surface of the water, hands free to explore and caress.
Laura shook her head ruefully. Get a grip, she scolded herself.
would probably be a crowd of people at the pool this time of
thought. Bored housewives trying to tone and trim; harried,
over-achieving executives cooling off after a sweaty game of
the usual assortment of beautiful people and body builders who
seemed to go home. They would be lucky to get a toe in the water
bumping into the lot of them.
Caught up in her thoughts, Laura almost didn't notice when she
against someone in the corridor, but an awkward movement registered
the corner of her eye. It was a slightly dizzy looking blonde,
cover girl good looks, leaning over to pick up something off
Laura blinked twice when she saw what the 'something' was.
The girl stuffed the panties in her purse with a nervous giggle
"oops!" and sauntered down the hall, leaving an elusive
trace of cologne
in the air. Something about that cologne made the hair on the
Laura's neck stand straight up. It seemed strangely familiar
didn't go with the blonde. It was more like a men's cologne.
exclusive scent, too. What was it? Where had she smelled it before?
Her hand went to her mouth as the answer hit her like a ton of
bricks. The cologne. The underwear. The girl -- coming from the
direction of his apartment . . . That con artist! That -- that
She'd need an unabridged dictionary to find enough bad words
him. No wonder he couldn't sleep at night; preying on her sympathy,
the while cavorting around on the mattress -- then throwing the
out in the hall half-dressed. The smug bastard was probably crowing
triumph, congratulating himself on having gotten rid of the 'evidence'
in the nick of time. Well, he was about to have a very rude awakening.
Blood boiling, Laura strode the remaining distance to Steele's
door and started to punch the doorbell. A satisfying vision of
throttling him until he turned a violent shade of blue flashed
brain. On second thought it wasn't satisfying at all. It was
quick. How much sweeter it would be to catch him off his guard;
that smug smile off his face when he least expected it. She willed
herself to be calm, to seem utterly unaware of how he'd been
exercise in the last few hours.
Last few hours, Laura thought with a grim smile. That had a nice
it. If she killed him, the fact that he undoubtedly had enemies
the globe meant there would be no shortage of suspects. Still,
steady revenge was definitely the more attractive option. All
remained was to find the right moment and the right plan.
What a morning! Steele expelled all the air in his lungs in a
sigh of relief. It could have been disastrous, not to mention
for that combination of razor sharp instincts and superb timing
possessed in spades. You haven't lost a step, mate, he assured
That escape plan was worthy of Houdini! Once again, victory had
snatched from the jaws of defeat and Laura would never even know
scored the winning goal.
Still, he mused reflectively, it almost seemed unsporting; Amber
child's play. If it had been Felicia. Or Shannon. God forbid.
felt a chill in the air and a sudden urge to bolt all the doors
What a chore it could be juggling so many women, he sighed, running
comb quickly through his hair. If it weren't for the fringe benefits
could give serious thought to laying low for a while. If only
convince the tempting but charm resistant Miss Holt to join him.
could frolic in some secluded Polynesian hideaway: sunbathing
swimming in a picturesque lagoon, volcanic mountains peeking
morning haze. The thought of a topless Laura wearing a tight
brought a slow smile to his lips. The sound of the waves . .
drums . . .
The mechanical sound of the door buzzer signaled the end of island
"Laura. At last. I thought you'd never get here."
The smile Laura had managed to paste on vanished almost immediately.
that why you're standing there, half-dressed?"
Steele raised an eyebrow. "What a question! Tsk, Tsk, Laura.
oriented this early in the day. It does appear I have a head
His eyes roamed over her sweat-suited form. "No matter.
remove a few of your layers." He gave her a second look.
"Well, in your
case, more than a few."
Steele had hit a nerve. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing?
demanded, looking down at herself. "It's perfectly suitable
"An Antarctic expedition? You're rather bundled up, aren't
you? I was
expecting something a bit more stylish -- a bit more -- form
"You're wearing sweats!"
"Really, Laura. You don't expect me to prance around in
spandex, do you?
Like some Chippendales disco dancer?"
Laura flushed with embarrassment. The man's instincts were uncanny.
"The thought never crossed my mind. It isn't of the slightest
to me what you wear." She glared at him icily, studiously
looking at his bare chest. It was obvious from his amused regard
didn't believe her for a minute.
"What a pity. I was counting on you to help me with my wardrobe
Fred is a very observant chap and terribly helpful but I'm used
trusting my own judgment. Workout chic is so exceedingly American.
hate to put a foot wrong."
Why didn't you just ask the bimbo? Laura wanted to shout. She
her teeth and forced out a more neutral reply. "Anything
to speed this
along. That mountain of paperwork on my desk isn't getting any
Lead on, Mr. Steele," she said with a martyred air.
Laura followed him into the bedroom. She sat on the edge of the
glancing pointedly at her watch while he pulled items from his
and from several closet hangers.
Steele displayed the various choices out on the bed. He suddenly
reticent, almost shy, Laura thought; such a contrast from his
self-assurance where men's fashions were concerned. He looked
lost. Rather appealing. Damn it.
He held up the first, a matching, long sleeved top to the sweat
"Bor-ing," Laura pronounced.
"Are you sure? I thought perhaps simplicity was the best
"You asked my opinion."
"So I did. Shall we continue?"
Laura gestured impatiently for him to get on with it.
He picked up the next item: a sleeveless black tank top cut low
neck and back. "Fred assures me that this style is rather
it seems a bit, ah, non traditional for Remington Steele."
"I'll be the judge of that. Try it on."
"OK." Steele stood up and pulled the tank top on over
his head, then
quickly tucked the hemmed shirttail into his pants. "Well?"
over at her, brow furrowed uncertainly.
Laura surveyed him with an air of frankness that was a bit unsettling.
"Turn around, Mr. Steele."
Hmm. Not bad, actually, Laura decided. She stood up to get a
look. That view of his chest hair was nice; no argument there.
the way the style emphasized his posture. She indulged in a long,
lingering look from the rear. At least he didn't have a hairy
so many other guys at the gym. So rare to find a man with hair
the right places.
Feeling a bit uncomfortable at her rather close inspection, Steele
turned around. "Laura?"
Laura snapped back to attention, seemingly all business. "Next,
Another tank top, drab Army green in a revealing mesh fabric.
at him for a long moment, poker-faced.
Steele winced. "Don't tell me you like it. I don't think
Laura was tempted. If she really wanted to have her revenge she
tell him she loved it but she didn't want to have to look at
it for the
next two hours. "You're right. Too military," she agreed,
smile behind her hand.
Steele breathed a sigh of relief. "It is rather gung ho,
The next choice was a navy polo shirt. Nice. An expensive label.
she'd seen him in those before. She wanted something different.
She picked up a cotton T-shirt from the bed, unable to resist
the smooth fabric between her fingers. It was so soft it almost
like cashmere and it was an absolutely gorgeous deep shade of
"Actually, that one's been in my closet for a while. Just
never had an
occasion to wear it. I rather liked the colour."
Her Mr. Steele still had good instincts. It just might do. Nicely.
tossed the garment nonchalantly in his direction. "Let's
see what it
He put it on and when Laura took in the sight, she almost had
herself to breathe. It was form fitting, but not too tight, and
color set off his dark hair and blue eyes to perfection. It was
made in heaven. She'd never thought that a man who was so at
home in a
suit would look this good in a T-shirt and sweat pants.
She assumed a casual air but Steele had caught the appreciative
her eye. "Well, do I pass inspection?"
"You'll do, Mr. Steele," she said flatly. Despite her
of approval she was still mad at him and unwilling to let anything
that resembled a compliment.
"I said so, didn't I?"
A bit stung by her outward lack of enthusiasm, Steele replied
tones, "I suppose I can put these back then." He started
to gather up
"Can't you hurry?"
In his haste Steele knocked over a shopping bag that was nearby
floor. A single item of clothing spilled out.
Laura looked down at it and scooped it up with her foot. Her
widened. It was a very brief, bikini-style swim suit in a clinging
fabric so neon bright it probably glowed in the dark. She snatched
with two fingers and stared at it from every angle. A wide grin
threatened to split her face in two.
"So you're not going to prance around in spandex, eh, Mr.
Steele stared at the suddenly appearing garment and swallowed
wracking his brain for a plausible explanation. "Oh, yes.
Those are -
ah, they, um -- I picked up someone else's bag by mistake while
shopping this morning. Haven't had a chance to return it to the
"Really?" Laura said archly. "What a shame. I
thought I'd discovered a
hidden side of you." She stifled a laugh. "Not that
you could hide much
"Sorry to disappoint you, Miss Holt."
"Don't be too sure. Maybe you wouldn't disappoint me at
teased, enjoying his discomfiture immensely. "Care to try
"That would be rather impolite. I do have to return them."
"Oh, of course," Laura smirked.
Actually, there had been a slight shopping mishap but it was
not a tale
he was eager to share. While Fred had gone off to get a quick
the labyrinthine mall complex, Steele's attention had been drawn
attractive displays of swimsuits in a trendy sportswear shop.
He was so
intent on hurrying before Fred got back and missed him he hadn't
noticed that the place had a decidedly gay vibe and rather overly
attentive sales people.
Steele took several pairs of boxer style swim trunks into the
room. He had barely gotten the first pair pulled on over his
hips when a
muscular blonde sales clerk with spiky, moussed hair poked his
the partition. The clerk had an armful of the latest, priciest,
briefest swim styles in tow and insisted that Steele give them
Steele exited the fitting room without having tried them on and
intention of buying any of them. As he headed for the counter
several leading questions from the muscle man about where he
out' and when. Normally Steele took that sort of male flirtation
stride and was rather adept at brushing it off. His equanimity
than a little upset, however, when he looked up to see Fred standing
outside the shop giving him a very odd look.
He grabbed up a boxer style pair and one of the flashy spandex
slapped down his credit card, eager to get out of there no matter
the cost. He'd worry about the expense account later.
Fred launched into an apology as soon as he met Steele outside,
he would have warned him "The Locker Room" was one
of "those places" but
he hadn't seen him go in there.
Steele was relieved that Fred hadn't assumed he was an habitu_
establishments. It was hardly likely given that his driver had
more than an inkling of what he and his dates got up to. Such
were always marked by a request for a round trip to Santa Monica
instruction to raise the privacy window.
Admittedly, the venue wasn't a preferred one for seductions but
invariably, there was a will. And where there's a will . . .
some of the women were veritable contortionists.
Steele took the more sedate pair of swim trunks he'd bought that
out of a drawer and stuffed them in his gym bag, also packing
a pair of
jeans, some underwear, and a casual sweater for a change of clothes.
pulled on a pair of socks and laced up his sneakers.
"Mr. Steele, I know that your bio-rhythms are still on idle
this time of
day but could you get it in gear? Some of us have schedules to
"Sorry, Laura. I, um, missed my wake up call."
Don't worry, Mr. Steele, thought Laura. You'll get one soon.
she'd decided to hold her fire about his bedroom hijinks she
resist an early shot across the bow.
"And how did you spend your morning? Flat on your back in
"If only. I had the devil of a time finding just the right
"Did you, really?" she replied, not bothering to keep
the sarcasm out of
"Makes it rather impossible to relax. I was hoping to conserve
"I'd hate not to live up to your expectations. My experience
limited when it comes to exercise regimens. I was counting on
lead me, guide me, show me how it's done."
His appeal was all blue-eyed innocence but the hint of flirtation
tone wasn't lost on her.
"Show you how it's done?" she echoed, torn between
wanting to jump his
bones and wanting to lead him, guide him off the nearest cliff.
"Looking forward to it," Steele replied, not giving
her a chance to
refuse. "Do you mind if I have a quick shave? Won't be a
Laura threw up her hands. "Why don't you get a hair cut,
a manicure, and
a Swedish massage while you're at it? Maybe we'll be ready to
"Close shaves are a trademark of Remington Steele."
This morning was the
proof, he mused, wincing at his turn of phrase. "Must be
mindful of the
image, Laura." He scratched the side of his chin.
"If you must. Three minutes."
"More than adequate." He vanished into the bathroom.
Laura reclined on the bed, trying to relax. Her patience was
thin it was threadbare. As she leaned backward her elbow rested
open gym bag. She stared at it blankly for a moment; then a slow
spread across her face. Mr. Steele still had some more packing
- To Part