Steele Upon a Mattress - Part Three
Date: Friday, February 21, 2003
Lauryn Poynor <>


by Lauryn Poynor

Rated "R" for sexual situations.

Steele stood under the caressing warmth of the shower spray, turning
slowly as the reviving force of the water massaged his body from every
angle. Fifteen minutes of absolute bliss, that was the ticket. He rinsed
the last vestiges of shampoo from his hair and reluctantly turned off
the water. He slid open the shower door, reaching blindly for a towel
while combing his hair back with his other hand.

Hope flickered in his chest that his fortunes were improving with a
certain lady detective, despite the restless night that had followed her

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 in mind.
She'd been rather mysterious about the whole thing, merely telling him
to pack a gym bag with a change of clothes and that she would pick him
up at lunchtime. He'd had to ask Fred what sort of attire was usual for
this sort of outing and undertake a last minute shopping trip to find
something to wear. Fred often observed the natives in their natural
habitat while dropping Laura off at the gym, so he had a good idea of
what was de rigueur.

Working out with Laura surely couldn't be boring, Steele decided. She'd
be with him every step of the way; keeping his spirits up, giving him
pep talks, urging him on to spectacular feats of athleticism. He
pictured their sweating bodies in rhythmic synchronization, heartbeats
accelerating as they stretched their endurance to the limit. What did
Americans call it? Going for the burn? Perhaps a steamy rendezvous in
the sauna would be part of the program. He sighed deeply as he imagined
his captivating partner clad only in a very small towel. His temperature
was rising already, and parts of his anatomy were following suit.

He toweled off his hair vigorously and padded out of the bathroom in a
pleasantly distracted fog. By the time he reached the bedroom, he was
fully erect and the part of his brain that wasn't otherwise engaged was
telling him he needed to get back in the shower and try that cold remedy
again, maybe with an ice bucket for extra insurance. Otherwise he'd have
to tell Laura that something had come up, not that that "something" was
necessarily a bad thing if she were in the vicinity, but he did have to
work on his timing.

He started in shocked surprise as an unseen hand reached around him and
between his legs, feminine fingers avidly exploring his length.

"Guess who?"

Steele didn't have to guess; he looked up to see her tanned and toned
reflection in the mirrored doors of the closet. The groper's name was
Amber and her face had graced the covers of every fashion magazine in
Los Angeles. Her body was the stuff dreams were made of; her honey
colored hair framed perfect cheekbones and full, flawless lips. She was
young and eager to make it in more ways than one. Her beauty was
somewhat spoiled by a perpetually slack-jawed expression, though the
handicap wasn't fatal. She could change it to a sensual, lover's pout at
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 even
minding the retaliatory horn blast from the sleek, black Mercedes she
cut off at the head of the lane. Her agile ragtop made it under the
yellow light with milliseconds to spare. She cranked up the radio and a
fizzy explosion of synth pop blared from the speakers as Olivia
Newton-John warbled "Lets Get Physical" to a procession of passing

A smile formed on her lips as she wondered what surprises were in store
once she crossed the threshold at Rossmore. Though the mental image of
Mr. Steele wearing form fitting workout attire had undeniable appeal,
Laura was still monumentally unsure if he would actually go through with
it. His usual reaction whenever she mentioned the gym was either a
stifled yawn or an eyebrow quirked in amusement at the American fetish
for fitness.

Ever since Steele had arrived on the scene she'd been kept off balance
by his unorthodox and irregular habits. Where the agency was concerned
she was on firm ground. It was entirely appropriate to lecture him over
noon arrivals, leisurely lunches, and calling it a day before the clock
struck three, but what he did on his off hours, especially his evenings,
was terra incognita and likely to remain so. She would rather walk
barefoot over hot coals than admit to her enigmatic partner that she was
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 her
imagination to idle restlessly. 1:35. Where was Mr. Steele? Clues would
surface in the expense accounts or from a tell tale sign in the limo the
next morning; a stray betting slip; a matchbook from an exclusive club;
a long blonde hair on the seat cushion; the scent of an expensive

Mr. Steele's amours were his own business, she supposed, though they
were hardly a secret. The women he went out with enjoyed the spotlight.
Still, he stubbornly cultivated an air of mystery. He delighted, it
seemed to Laura, in firing her curiosity about his love life and then
leaving her hanging. It was as if, deep down, all he really wanted to
make sure of was that she cared, at least a little.

She knew he liked the finer things: Savile Row tailoring, Italian shoes,
haute cuisine, and he loved old movies, but other, more intimate
knowledge was harder to come by. His newly acquired insomnia fell
squarely into the unknown category; she was afraid to delve too deep.
Despite picking up some of the lingo during her stint at the clinic, she
wasn't a doctor. Maybe the best she could do was to see that he complied
with his treatment - whether he liked it or not.

She harbored no illusions that his lifetime habit of indolence could be
reversed overnight, but Steele had been willing to follow doctor's
orders on his caffeine consumption, a sign he was taking his condition

Despite her natural skepticism she felt a small thrill of hope. Could
his insomnia be a blessing in disguise? Maybe -- just maybe -- it would
change things. Make it possible for him to change. To become more mature
and responsible. More self-disciplined. Less indulgent. You're dreaming,
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 a couple
of seconds Laura hit the horn, impatient to be on her way. "Hey it's not
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 of growing
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 to hide
her in the laundry hamper.

Amber eyed the sweat suit and the partially packed bag that lay on the
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, strapping on
his watch.

"Hobby? Who is she? And don't tell me Jane Fonda."

"It's not a social liaison. It's purely a professional relationship - a
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 hair on
his belly as she rained light kisses across his shoulders.

Steele pulled out of her determined embrace and rummaged in his top
drawer for a pair of briefs. "I'm working on a case. Undercover
operation. The subject, er, client, that is, is someone I'll be pumping
for information -- while pumping iron, as it were. As I said. Strictly

Amber kicked off her shoes and sat on the edge of the bed. She grinned
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 said that?
He couldn't have uttered anything so ridiculous -- or so boring.
Impossible. And if he had, how could she be so thoughtless as to remind
him of it? He had to admit, the night in question was a bit out of focus
now. Something involving a bottle of Dom Perignon, an overturned ice
bucket, and a very revealing fashion show.

"Must have been the champagne."

Amber peeled off her silky, camisole style top, revealing a pair of
perfect breasts. "I don't think so."

Steele was temporarily at a loss for words, distracted by the unexpected
sight of her shell-pink nipples.

She slapped a manicured hand to her forehead. "Jeez. I almost forgot.
I've got something to show you." She began to undo the button on her

"For heaven's sake, not now!" Steele glanced frantically at the clock on
his nightstand, sending up a silent prayer to the Almighty that Laura be
unavoidably detained by a flat tire, a minor earthquake, or a nice,
juicy triple homicide.

"You'll love this."

"Perhaps later."

"It can't wait."

"An admirable sentiment but under the circumstances -"

In a flash, Amber was out of her jeans and underwear. She held up her
panties as if they had a starring role in a lingerie commercial.


"Um, very nice. Calvin Klein?"

"They're autographed."

"Isn't everything these days?"

"Not by Simon Le Bon. Feast your eyes. He signed it right there, just
below the elastic."

"Simon who?"

Amber put down the panties and rolled her eyes in disbelief. "'Hungry
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 in
'Barbarella.' Jane Fonda, John Phillip Law. Paramount Pictures, 1968.
Directed by Roger Vadim. Incidentally Vadim was married to Jane Fonda at
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. For your
information, 'Hungry Like The Wolf' is a track from the 'Carnival' EP. I
got it last week. And these panties are signed by Simon Le Bon, their
hot lead singer.ö

"Oh. I take it that he's somewhat famous then?" Steele casually remarked
as he splashed on some cologne.

Amber watched him in the mirror as he turned his back to her. From her
vantage point she had an excellent view from both front and rear of his
half naked form. His tight-fitting briefs merely served to emphasize the
fact he was still partially erect. The sight of him standing there,
oblivious to the effect he was having on her, kicked her hormones into
overdrive. She came up behind him and nuzzled his neck. That scent he
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, like John
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 up
the panties and clutching them to her chest. "My brush with stardom,"
she recalled with a dreamy smile. "It all started when my agent got me
this 'new faces' photo session for 'ElleÆ, my first major shoot, you
know, on this luxury yacht. There was this totally rad party going on at
the same time for some department store heiress or whatever. I was
taking a ciggie break when I turned around and there he was! Simon Le
Bon -- in the flesh! I had multiple orgasms on the spot! Just melted
into a puddle all over his Gucci loafers . . ."

Repressing a shudder, Steele pulled on his sweat pants. He knew his bed
partners weren't exactly Mensa candidates, but were they all this
insipid? Don't answer that, mate, he told himself. What on earth was she
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 was
ticking and he was woefully ill prepared to play a game of truth or
consequences with Laura.

". . .Simon was there with this stuck up French model, tr_s Eurotrash,
you know the type, lots of underarm hair, but I would have committed
murder for her Alaia handbag. Anyway, I could tell Simon was checking me
out in my Calvin Kleins and I did the Brooke Shields thing, like, 'do
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, you
know, but that hairy matchstick wouldn't let him out of her sight. Simon
signed them anyway. Told her he was just having a laugh. I did, too. I
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 nearly died."

Amber's games of 'Simon says' were making his eyelids droop. Her chatter
would cure the most dedicated insomniac, Steele thought. At least she
was good for something. Cole Porter was right. It was the wrong time and
the wrong place, and her face was lovely, but it was the definitely the
wrong face. Despite the lyrics, Steele decided, if some night she were
free he'd be sure not to call. What had he been thinking that night in
front of the fire? Or more to the point, what had he been thinking with?

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 much."
She tossed the panties playfully in his direction.

Steele was beginning to feel slightly desperate. His knowledge of the
fair sex was encyclopedic but there were far more entries devoted to
getting women out of their clothes than back into them. Short of
physical force an effective strategy was proving maddeningly elusive.
Still, inspiration had never failed him before; surely an answer was out
there somewhere. If only he'd slept better last night maybe he could

"I said, I only wear them when I'm really, really -"

Her words fell on deaf ears as a blinding light switched on in Steele's
brain. The answer had been dropped, quite literally, in his lap. You're
slipping, mate, he admonished himself with a rueful grin. He snatched up
the panties and raced for the living room, a naked and bewildered Amber
trailing behind him.

"Hey, Remy, what are you doing? Wait for me! Do you have something
kinky in mind?" she called out as he hurdled the couch and sped through
the open French doors to the balcony. Steele stood teasingly out of
arms' reach, holding the panties high above his head.

"Sorry, love. I don't have time to play games. I have an urgent

Amber, half hidden behind the French doors, stretched out and made a
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 Understanding slowly
dawned in her underpowered brain. "You wouldn't dare -"

"Drop your treasured souvenir over the side?" Steele strolled casually
out to the edge of the balcony and leaned over the wall, panties in
hand. He feigned a sudden attack of dizziness. "Never was good with

"Remy, that's not funny."

"Don't you think you should put something on? From the looks of things
you're a bit chilly." He glanced pointedly at her breasts. "And the
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 ignoble fate
for your lingerie. Out there at the mercy of the elements, fair game for
any autograph hound or perhaps a passing pervert who wishes to while
away the lonely hours -"

"Oh my god! Don't drop -" she begged, signaling him to stop with a
frantic wave.

"Shall we reconvene here in say, about three minutes with you in your
Calvin Kleins?"

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 off

Steele shrugged philosophically. "Think of it as a learning experience.ö

Nose in the air, Amber flounced, if that particular attitude were
possible when naked, back to the bedroom to retrieve her clothes.


Despite a few misgivings Laura felt energized at the prospect of working
up a sweat with her recalcitrant, but tempting partner. She tapped her
fingers on the steering wheel to a phantom beat. Now that she'd heard
that song, she couldn't get it out of her head. She turned off the
ignition, and sat in the parked car, drumming and singing part of a
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 than a
little foolish at letting herself go. She checked her hair and make-up
in the rear view mirror and glanced down at the rest of her body. It was
encased, armor-like, in no-nonsense, heavyweight, gray sweats. The sight
made her heart sink more than a little and quickly doused her optimistic
mood. Still, it was too late for regrets now because gray was the result
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 shopping
spree the night before, they came in a range of fashion colors from rose
pink to metallic silver to leopard prints.

She'd even brought along the leotard in a thong style. Surveying herself
in the mirror, she was shocked and secretly pleased at how good it
looked on her. But, how could she ever dare to wear it? Not in front of

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 know what
you're doing. Skeezix sees you in that outfit and they'll have to roll
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 to the
imagination." Bernice looked her over, stopping at thong level. "This,
on the other hand -"

Laura bit her lip, panic setting in. "Ohhh. What was I thinking? I can't
wear this! You know what he's like. I can barely keep him in check when
I'm wearing wool suits and sensible shoes."

"Coward. Of course you can. Just think of the fun you'll have torturing
him. Bring along a can of mace for extra protection. Or better yet, some
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 libido as
she was his. Her vision last night of him, barely dressed, in the
doorway, had been catalogued and memorized for instant recall. His body
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 fitness
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 get him
started on a workout program. It's all about self-discipline. No
excuses. No distractions."

Bernice rolled her eyes. "A little distraction is the spice of life.
Admit it, Laura. You've been dying to get him to the gym so you can ogle
him in a pair of tight shorts or catch a glimpse of him wearing only a
towel. Then there's the pool. Will it be boxer-style swim trunks or
something closer to the Chippendales variety?"

Laura was helpless to deny it. "OK, I'm busted. The thought has crossed
my mind."

"How many times in the last half hour?"

"You really don't want to know."

They both laughed conspiratorially. "Remember, Laura. If it's
Chippendales, I want pictures."

Laura pulled a very skimpy flame red bikini from her shopping bag and
held it up for Bernice's inspection. "Love to, but where would I hide
the camera?"

It had been false bravado, and she knew it. As soon as Bernice closed
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 his own
good. He needed to take things seriously and that would never happen as
long as she was giving him a free floor show. She sneaked out of the
office with her gym bag, grateful to see that Bernice was on the phone
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 stride
that belied her inner anxiety, headed for the apartment elevators.


Steele stood shirtless out on the balcony, shivering a little in the
freshening breeze. He checked his watch for what seemed like the
hundredth time; Amber had one minute left but his nerves were on a
knife-edge. He found himself jumping at the slightest sound. Any moment
Laura would be ringing the doorbell, demanding an explanation in that
tone he knew so well, the one that said, in no uncertain terms, that
he'd lived down to her expectations yet again.

Panties stuffed into his waistband, he walked back through the French
doors, and made his way to the bedroom, ready to cajole, charm,
threaten, or bodily remove Amber from the scene of the crime before
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 and gave
him a toothy smile. "Remy, have you seen my other earring? Maybe it's
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 over
the bucket and then you did that thing with the ice cubes? I was so-o-o
turned on."

Steele ignored her and got down on his hands and knees to look under the
bed. There was some stray lint under there and last week's TV Guide but
no earring. He was just about to straighten up when Amber slid a
questing hand between his legs. He flinched and swore at the sudden
contact, then realized with a sinking feeling that she'd grabbed the
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 to
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." Steele zipped
her up, patted her rump and handed over her shoes all in one brisk

"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 into her

"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 in to
nibble his ear.

Steele extricated himself from her grasp and held her wrists, kissing
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, ice cubes,
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. "Until
then," he whispered against her lips, giving her a light farewell kiss.
The devastating display of charm had its intended effect. A weak-kneed
Amber slowly backed out as Steele smiled adoringly into her eyes, all
the while resisting the urge to slam the door firmly shut on her.

Bloody pain-in-the-neck. He vowed never, ever to let a model strutting
the catwalk in ultra tight Gloria Vanderbilt jeans hypnotize him. Simon
Le Bon indeed! Simon Le Idiot was more like it.


Laura stepped out of the elevator and walked down the corridor toward
Steele's apartment. Though her feet were taking her inexorably to her
destination, they seemed to be moving forward of their own volition.
Inside her head a seesaw battle was raging between anticipation and
dread, boldness and caution, with few stops in between.

It's strictly a business proposition - not a date, Laura kept repeating
to herself like a mantra. After all, what was more important than the
morale and physical well being of the man who was the very public face
of Remington Steele Investigations? Still, no matter how she fought to
maintain that focus her thoughts kept straying to more dangerous ground,
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 dipped
below the surface of the water, hands free to explore and caress.

Laura shook her head ruefully. Get a grip, she scolded herself. There
would probably be a crowd of people at the pool this time of day, she
thought. Bored housewives trying to tone and trim; harried,
over-achieving executives cooling off after a sweaty game of handball;
the usual assortment of beautiful people and body builders who never
seemed to go home. They would be lucky to get a toe in the water without
bumping into the lot of them.

Caught up in her thoughts, Laura almost didn't notice when she brushed
against someone in the corridor, but an awkward movement registered in
the corner of her eye. It was a slightly dizzy looking blonde, with
cover girl good looks, leaning over to pick up something off the carpet.
Laura blinked twice when she saw what the 'something' was.

The girl stuffed the panties in her purse with a nervous giggle and an
"oops!" and sauntered down the hall, leaving an elusive trace of cologne
in the air. Something about that cologne made the hair on the back of
Laura's neck stand straight up. It seemed strangely familiar but it
didn't go with the blonde. It was more like a men's cologne. A very
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 falling
bricks. The cologne. The underwear. The girl -- coming from the
direction of his apartment . . . That con artist! That -- that louse!!
She'd need an unabridged dictionary to find enough bad words to call
him. No wonder he couldn't sleep at night; preying on her sympathy, all
the while cavorting around on the mattress -- then throwing the bimbo
out in the hall half-dressed. The smug bastard was probably crowing with
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 front
door and started to punch the doorbell. A satisfying vision of
throttling him until he turned a violent shade of blue flashed in her
brain. On second thought it wasn't satisfying at all. It was far too
quick. How much sweeter it would be to catch him off his guard; to knock
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 getting his
exercise in the last few hours.

Last few hours, Laura thought with a grim smile. That had a nice ring to
it. If she killed him, the fact that he undoubtedly had enemies across
the globe meant there would be no shortage of suspects. Still, slow and
steady revenge was definitely the more attractive option. All that
remained was to find the right moment and the right plan.


What a morning! Steele expelled all the air in his lungs in a tremendous
sigh of relief. It could have been disastrous, not to mention fatal, but
for that combination of razor sharp instincts and superb timing that he
possessed in spades. You haven't lost a step, mate, he assured himself.
That escape plan was worthy of Houdini! Once again, victory had been
snatched from the jaws of defeat and Laura would never even know he
scored the winning goal.

Still, he mused reflectively, it almost seemed unsporting; Amber was
child's play. If it had been Felicia. Or Shannon. God forbid. Steele
felt a chill in the air and a sudden urge to bolt all the doors and

What a chore it could be juggling so many women, he sighed, running a
comb quickly through his hair. If it weren't for the fringe benefits he
could give serious thought to laying low for a while. If only he could
convince the tempting but charm resistant Miss Holt to join him. They
could frolic in some secluded Polynesian hideaway: sunbathing and
swimming in a picturesque lagoon, volcanic mountains peeking through the
morning haze. The thought of a topless Laura wearing a tight sarong
brought a slow smile to his lips. The sound of the waves . . . native
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. "Is
that why you're standing there, half-dressed?"

Steele raised an eyebrow. "What a question! Tsk, Tsk, Laura. So goal
oriented this early in the day. It does appear I have a head start."
His eyes roamed over her sweat-suited form. "No matter. We'll just
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? she
demanded, looking down at herself. "It's perfectly suitable for -"

"An Antarctic expedition? You're rather bundled up, aren't you? I was
expecting something a bit more stylish -- a bit more -- form fitting."

"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 interest
to me what you wear." She glared at him icily, studiously avoiding
looking at his bare chest. It was obvious from his amused regard he
didn't believe her for a minute.

"What a pity. I was counting on you to help me with my wardrobe choices.
Fred is a very observant chap and terribly helpful but I'm used to
trusting my own judgment. Workout chic is so exceedingly American. I'd
hate to put a foot wrong."

Why didn't you just ask the bimbo? Laura wanted to shout. She gritted
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 smaller.
Lead on, Mr. Steele," she said with a martyred air.

Laura followed him into the bedroom. She sat on the edge of the bed,
glancing pointedly at her watch while he pulled items from his gym bag
and from several closet hangers.

Steele displayed the various choices out on the bed. He suddenly seemed
reticent, almost shy, Laura thought; such a contrast from his usual
self-assurance where men's fashions were concerned. He looked a bit
lost. Rather appealing. Damn it.

He held up the first, a matching, long sleeved top to the sweat pants he
was wearing.

"Bor-ing," Laura pronounced.

"Are you sure? I thought perhaps simplicity was the best route -"

"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 in the
neck and back. "Fred assures me that this style is rather popular, but
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?" He looked
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 closer
look. That view of his chest hair was nice; no argument there. She liked
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 back, like
so many other guys at the gym. So rare to find a man with hair only in
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, please."

Another tank top, drab Army green in a revealing mesh fabric. She stared
at him for a long moment, poker-faced.

Steele winced. "Don't tell me you like it. I don't think it's me,

Laura was tempted. If she really wanted to have her revenge she would
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, hiding her
smile behind her hand.

Steele breathed a sigh of relief. "It is rather gung ho, isn't it?"

The next choice was a navy polo shirt. Nice. An expensive label. But
she'd seen him in those before. She wanted something different.

She picked up a cotton T-shirt from the bed, unable to resist rubbing
the smooth fabric between her fingers. It was so soft it almost felt
like cashmere and it was an absolutely gorgeous deep shade of slate

"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. She
tossed the garment nonchalantly in his direction. "Let's see what it
looks like."

He put it on and when Laura took in the sight, she almost had to remind
herself to breathe. It was form fitting, but not too tight, and the
color set off his dark hair and blue eyes to perfection. It was a match
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 gleam in
her eye. "Well, do I pass inspection?"

"You'll do, Mr. Steele," she said flatly. Despite her hormones' chorus
of approval she was still mad at him and unwilling to let anything slip
that resembled a compliment.

"You're sure?"

"I said so, didn't I?"

A bit stung by her outward lack of enthusiasm, Steele replied in clipped
tones, "I suppose I can put these back then." He started to gather up
the clothes.

"Can't you hurry?"

In his haste Steele knocked over a shopping bag that was nearby on the
floor. A single item of clothing spilled out.

Laura looked down at it and scooped it up with her foot. Her eyes
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 it up
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?"

Steele stared at the suddenly appearing garment and swallowed hard,
wracking his brain for a plausible explanation. "Oh, yes. Those are -
ah, they, um -- I picked up someone else's bag by mistake while I was
shopping this morning. Haven't had a chance to return it to the store."

"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
in these."

"Sorry to disappoint you, Miss Holt."

"Don't be too sure. Maybe you wouldn't disappoint me at all," Laura
teased, enjoying his discomfiture immensely. "Care to try them on?"

"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 snack in
the labyrinthine mall complex, Steele's attention had been drawn to some
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 really
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 fitting
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 head over
the partition. The clerk had an armful of the latest, priciest, and
briefest swim styles in tow and insisted that Steele give them a try.

Steele exited the fitting room without having tried them on and with no
intention of buying any of them. As he headed for the counter he fielded
several leading questions from the muscle man about where he 'worked
out' and when. Normally Steele took that sort of male flirtation in
stride and was rather adept at brushing it off. His equanimity was more
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 suits and
slapped down his credit card, eager to get out of there no matter what
the cost. He'd worry about the expense account later.

Fred launched into an apology as soon as he met Steele outside, saying
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_ of such
establishments. It was hardly likely given that his driver had to have
more than an inkling of what he and his dates got up to. Such evenings
were always marked by a request for a round trip to Santa Monica and an
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 . . . Besides,
some of the women were veritable contortionists.

Steele took the more sedate pair of swim trunks he'd bought that morning
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. He
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 keep."

"Sorry, Laura. I, um, missed my wake up call."

Don't worry, Mr. Steele, thought Laura. You'll get one soon. Although
she'd decided to hold her fire about his bedroom hijinks she couldn't
resist an early shot across the bow.

"And how did you spend your morning? Flat on your back in bed?"

"If only. I had the devil of a time finding just the right spot."

"Did you, really?" she replied, not bothering to keep the sarcasm out of
her tone.

"Makes it rather impossible to relax. I was hoping to conserve my

"How thoughtful."

"I'd hate not to live up to your expectations. My experience is rather
limited when it comes to exercise regimens. I was counting on you to
lead me, guide me, show me how it's done."

His appeal was all blue-eyed innocence but the hint of flirtation in his
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 moment."

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 go by

"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 running so
thin it was threadbare. As she leaned backward her elbow rested on the
open gym bag. She stared at it blankly for a moment; then a slow smile
spread across her face. Mr. Steele still had some more packing to do.

To Part 4