- Steele Upon a Mattress - Part
Date: Saturday, March 01, 2003
- Lauryn Poynor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
STEELE UPON A MATTRESS - PART FOUR
Special thanks to SJ for gym inspirations.
"Well, Miss Holt, are you finally going to reveal our destination
I have to wear a blindfold on the way?" Steele rolled down
window and propped his elbow up.
"You're awfully curious," said Laura as she pulled
out into traffic. "I
thought bench presses and barbells bored you."
"My mother, Mrs. Steele, always taught me to be prepared.
paratus.' Family motto."
"You don't say," Laura said dryly. "I thought
that was the Coast
Steele smiled blandly. "Latin. So versatile."
He leaned closer to Laura and spoke in a conspiratorial tone.
are we going? 'Hard Bodies'? 'The Slim Gym'? 'Fit Stop'? 'Muscles,
"I thought fitness was a dirty word where you come from.
How do you know
all those names?"
"One hears rumours," Steele replied with a mysterious
of gossip, what about 'Weights and Mates'?"
"'Weights and Mates'?" Laura sniffed. "That meat
"Meat market? How delightfully descriptive, your American
slang. Does it
mean what I think it -"
"You know perfectly well what it means, Mr. Steele. The
women flock there in droves is to pick up -"
"Free weights? Workout tips?"
"Men. Hulking, sweaty, spandex-clad men."
"Really? What a fascinating social ritual." Steele
looked down at his
attire in faint disappointment.
"It's nothing but a sleazy singles bar with leg warmers
"Your knowledge is encyclopedic, Miss Holt." His brow
you observed this phenomenon at close range?"
"You can put the brakes on that over-active imagination
of yours, Mr.
Steele." She turned the car onto a side street. "I've
never been there.
From what I hear it's rather, um, notorious."
"In a way that Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman never dreamed
"I suppose." Laura tossed her head. "Like I said,
I've never had the
"Relieved to hear it," Steele replied, running his
hands through his
hair. "Someone with your aversion to spandex would find
terribly distasteful, no doubt."
Despite her reassurances his imagination was left spinning in
He pictured Laura being fought over by hordes of suitors; grunting
dwellers with one track minds and hairy backs, eager to klonk
on the head and drag her off to the nearest exercise mat. He
trickle of sweat roll down his spine. His instincts were telling
gym subculture could be treacherous - even the more highly evolved
variety. He'd have to keep a very close eye on his lovely associate.
Very close indeed.
"Mr. Steele? Did you hear what I said?"
"'Personal Best.' Mariel Hemingway, Scott Glenn, Warner
he piped up automatically.
"It's not a movie. It's a gym. Our gym. Just ahead on the
drove the Rabbit up to the corner and turned in a driveway.
Steele smiled at her, all at once feeling a bit more cheerful.
the way she said that. "Our gym." So cozy. So intimate.
Just the two of
"As names go 'Personal Best' doesn't quite have the je ne
sais quoi of
'Weights and Mates' but one hopes the dress code for men is a
confining," he quipped.
"Relax, Mr. Steele. You'll do just fine."
That was an understatement she mused as she patted his shoulder.
sneaked a glance at him. Despite his casual attire he somehow
to look flawless, almost elegant. She'd long ago decided it was
No matter the circumstance, whether they were being chased, shot
manhandled he always looked the part of Remington Steele.
To the outside world it was a stainless steel persona, virtually
to the shocks that flesh was heir to. It was only since he'd
in to the office, weary and frazzled after three sleepless nights,
she'd been alert for incipient cracks in the facade. She searched
face. He looked more focused, more rested. Signs of strain were
visible, though less clearly marked than before. She almost convinced
herself not to go too hard on him until she remembered how eager
been to exert himself that morning. And with whom.
"Why are you stopping here? Don't we need to park?"
"They have valet parking. Musn't over exert oneself walking
parking lot to the advanced aerobics class."
"Somehow that logic escapes me."
"Just go with the flow, Mr. Steele."
"Only in LA, eh, Miss Holt?"
Steele signed in at the guest registry amidst much oohing and
from the relentlessly cheerful 'Personal Best' trainers. They
practically doing handsprings over the prospect of having such
esteemed pillar of the community, man about town, and walking
magnet join the ranks of the toned and trendy.
"You know, Laura, I'm forever amazed at how the fame of
has spread to all corners of the city. Astonishing, eh? In only
short months. A tribute, no doubt, to my larger than life persona,
savoir-vivre, my matchless profile, my keen intellect, my firm
"My tireless PR efforts," Laura amended, clenching
"Yes, well. Behind every great man there's someone with
book and a pencil."
Laura put a hand to her forehead in exasperation. "Remind
me again why I
created Remington Steele."
"I thought I just did." He flashed a camera-ready smile.
Laura walked over to a display of vitamin supplements and aimlessly
fingered the bottles. "Never an aspirin when you need one."
The cause of her tension headache regarded her curiously, arms
head cocked slightly to one side.
"There's a muscle in your left cheek that's twitching. Why
un-tense one another? See if our minds and bodies can reach nirvana
a standing start."
"Mr. Steele, this is hardly the time -"
"Then perhaps they have night classes."
"I don't need -" she began, feeling his eyes on her.
"We're not here to
- I'm perfectly relaxed."
Steele straightened from his casual stance and honed in on his
Expectantly, he took a step toward her, then another, until he
inches away. Laura lifted her chin and squared her shoulders.
"Try aerobics, Mr. Steele."
"Not dressed for it."
"A bit of a stretch."
"A tanning bed?"
"You're getting warmer. Keep trying."
"I'm not getting in the jacuzzi with you."
He gave her a look that was half pity, half regret.
"The road to nirvana and you veer left."
"Alright then," Laura replied in as peremptory a tone
as she could
muster. "Since you're so determined to get the grand tour,
we get started."
Steele sighed with resignation. "Love to. Just one question.
How am I
going to get the VIP treatment when you chased off all the hired
"Believe me, Mr. Steele, I did you a favor. Did you really
listen to their sales pitch for the next two hours?"
"They certainly know how to stroke one's ego, to roll out
carpet, so to speak. If you hadn't bared your fangs at them they
have thrown rose petals." Steele chuckled with delight.
"It's nauseating. All that bowing and scraping."
Laura's own ego was still smarting from the fact that she'd been
ignored on her first visit while some functionary from the mayor's
office was waited on hand and foot and given a complimentary
and massage. If it weren't for the fact that the facility was
away and their machines and amenities were top notch, she would
told them where they could stick their dumbbells and curl bars.
Steele nonchalantly surveyed his fingernails. "The adulation
masses can get wearying at times. Shall we, Miss Holt?"
They strolled down a neon-lit foyer toward the main exercise
walls were painted in deep blues and sea foam greens and decorated
life-size photographs of athletes captured at a moment of glory:
sprinter straining against the tape, a heavyweight boxer, one
aloft in victory, a gymnast vaulting through the air in perfect
Steele glanced at his reflection in a wall mirror and spotted
shaped man with a buzz cut making a beeline in their direction.
He gestured to Laura with his thumb. "Reinforcements have
turned just as the man extended his palm for a bone-crushing
"Mr. Steele. They told me you were here. I'm Jake Masters.
Lifestyles Manager. I'd like to welcome you to 'Personal Best.'"
"Delighted to be here, Mr. Masters. This is my associate,
She's forever singing the praises of your fine establishment."
managed to avoid wincing as Masters released his hand to shake
trifle more gently.
"Do you come here often, Miss Holt?" asked the hulk,
flexing his left
bicep in Laura's direction.
"Whenever my schedule allows, Mr. Masters. Usually several
week," she assured him.
"I wonder why I haven't seen you before? I have been kind
of busy with
personal training." He ran his eyes over her petite frame.
"One on one
instruction is my specialty."
"Sounds rewarding." Laura stared, perversely fascinated,
at the massive
pecs rippling under his tiny tank top.
"I think we would be great together. In fact, Laura, I'm
sure I could
unleash your potential." He flashed two gleaming rows of
teeth that were
a marvel of dentistry. "All you need is a few sessions a
week with 'The
"With who? Oh - Masters - the master, how, um - that's very
"Clever, huh? Glad you like it. It's important to have a
catchy name or
a hook that people can remember. The competition is fierce in
fitness environment. I majored in marketing at SC."
Correspondence school, more like, thought Steele uncharitably.
colossus was no Rhodes scholar. No doubt he was ingesting some
inflating substance that shrank one's brain down to the size
walnut. And other organs as well.
"Small world, Mr. Masters. I took some marketing classes
in college. I
was a math major. Graduated from Stanford."
"I won't hold that cardinal sin against you, Masters quipped
"Stanford Cardinal. Cardinal sin. Ha, ha," Laura laughed
"I didn't know you Trojans were so good at word play."
"You'll find we're good at a lot of things, Miss Holt."
Steele noticed a large blue vein pulsing in the muscleman's neck.
fellow, he mused. I hope that attempt at witty repartee didn't
anything. Why in blazes was Laura so enamored with him?
The Master swiveled his massive bulk in Steele's direction. "And
sure we could get you into crimefighting trim, Mr. Steele. Several
months of supervised weight training would do wonders. Reshape
in ways you never thought possible."
"I'm sure the possibilities are endless, Mr. Masters. I'm
a bit of a
traditionalist when it comes to these matters," replied
Steele in the
affable but vague tone he employed at Kiwanis Club luncheons
banquets. "I've always preferred a lean silhouette. And
tailor is rather excitable. Change distresses him."
Laura pinched his bicep experimentally. "It wouldn't hurt
for you to
bulk up a bit, Mr. Steele. I'm sure Gianni could let out your
"Would you excuse us a moment, Mr. Masters? I've just been
I'm flying out of the country tomorrow. Milan, actually. I must
an urgent matter of scheduling with my associate." He pulled
behind the vitamin display by her shirt sleeve.
"Whose side are you on, Laura?" Steele hissed in an
"Yours, Mr. Steele. Remember your doctor's orders. You have
to work off
that extra adrenaline."
"I can think of better ways." His eyes roved over her
swiftly, but with
a thoroughness born of practice.
"If you expended half the energy exercising that you do
trying to get me
into bed you'd be ready for the Olympic trials in less than a
"Excellent idea. I always was a quick study. I'll wager
you are, too.
Why don't we convene in say, half an hour and practice stroke
"Stroke techniques?" Laura could feel her cheeks growing
a little warm.
"I'm sure the pool is regulation size. What shall we try
"Just what are you suggesting?"
"The backstroke? he murmured silkily. "Or would you
prefer . . . the
His offer pulled at her like an irresistible tide. She could
the shock of the cold water, the tingling warmth of slender fingers
tracing wet skin.
Laura shook herself out of her reverie to find Steele's keen
to an area just south of her collarbone. An Esther Williams inspired
fantasy of Laura as a mermaid in a tiny seashell bra had his
"Sorry to dash your hopes, Mr. Steele, but they don't award
Steele's preoccupation with Laura's anatomy merely emboldened
attack. "Why, Laura, I'm surprised at your ignorance. In
track and field
the baton pass is an integral part of the 400 meter relay. An
event in which your American athletes excel."
"You know that's not what I -- what you meant," Laura
"Just imagine, Miss Holt. Hours of practice rewarded by
of perfect synchronization. A noble goal to keep in mind as we
forces, our two bodies striving for the ultimate moment of -"
"I think you're wandering a bit off track, Mr. Steele."
"Not at all. Nothing in life is worth doing unless it can
accomplished by -"
"A shortcut. Or an oblique angle," Laura said dryly.
"On the contrary. I was going to say one must always be
willing to be
bold, vigorous. To test one's limits, to -"
"Go the distance?" Laura queried.
"You do have a way of cutting to the chase, Miss Holt."
"But are you, really? Ready to go the distance, that is?"
Steele opened his mouth to reply but was distracted by Laura
teasing finger from his chest down to his waistband.
"All of those veiled hints about your prowess, your stamina
"Yes?" Steele breathed hopefully.
Laura tossed her head. "Forgive me if I'm not convinced."
"Not convinced?" Steele raised a shocked eyebrow at
"It sounds like typical locker room exaggeration to me."
Steele's ego was bruised but unbowed. He decided to seize the
"Why don't we settle the matter over dinner tonight? After
marveled at my culinary skills your lingering doubts can be swept
by an impressive demonstration of my . . . athleticism."
"A demonstration is a wonderful idea. But not over dinner.
Why not right
here, right now?"
Steele glanced around. "Behind a vitamin rack? It would
be a rather
unexpected pleasure but there does seem to be a lot of foot traffic."
"What I had in mind, Mr. Steele, was testing your limits
treadmill. The exercise bike. The weight bench. House rules,
All participants fully clothed, working individually -"
"Must you take the fun out of everything?"
"This isn't supposed to be fun. It's supposed to be good
for you. You
rarely do anything more strenuous at the office than lift an
maybe a pencil."
"Ever ready to jot down clues."
"Or the number of your bookie in the rolodex."
"Really, Laura. Must you use that tone? I was merely trying
Laura bristled at the memory. "Efficiency! You told me it
was the number
to the coroner's office. I called for the lab results on the
case and got post-time odds on a nag named 'Dead Ringer.'"
"Everything alright, Mr. Steele? Miss Holt?" Masters
poked his head
around the display rack.
"Forgive us for being so mysterious, Mr. Masters. My associate
were just, ah, discussing a delicate forensic matter."
"Post mortem evidence can be so crucial to the outcome of
a case," Laura
added without missing a beat.
"Sounds fascinating, Laura. You know, that show 'Quincy'
is one of my
Laura smiled apologetically at Masters. "I guess all of
this shop talk
sounds a little strange to you. In our line of work we often
-- in bodies."
"What a coincidence. So do we," joshed the hulk with
a smug grin.
"At least yours are alive and kicking," Laura laughed.
"Most of the time. We do save some body bags and toe tags
beginners. Take no prisoners. That's our motto."
Steele raised an apprehensive eyebrow.
"Don't worry, Mr. Steele. It's just a little workout humor.
I don't have
a zip bag with your name on it."
"How reassuring." Steele smiled wanly. This was not
going to be the
piece of cake he'd envisioned.
Steele was roused from his semi-somnambulant state by a decisive
the ribs from Laura's elbow.
"Sorry." Steele blinked fuzzily at Masters. "I
know it must appear
somewhat mystifying to the layman but I find meditation quite
when absorbing the salient facts of a case - or, as the case
your riveting summary of the benefits of - ah - " Steele's
motioned languidly as he struggled to fill in the blanks.
"Cardio-vascular conditioning," prompted the hulk,
demonstrating the concept on the exercise bike.
"Conditioning. Yes. I'm sure once I consider it - ponder
it - it will
seem positively Zen-like in its simplicity."
"You'll have to do more than exercise your mind, Mr. Steele,
admonished, sotto voce. "It may have escaped your notice,
when you're at the office, but the human body is composed of
"As you so ably demonstrate, Miss Holt. In fact, the way
your body moves
has inspired me on any number of occasions."
"This isn't about my body, "she fired back. "It's
about your -- body."
Her eyes couldn't resist the invitation to skim over the subject
"Did you have a particular moving part in mind?"
With an effort, Laura reined in her wayward imagination.
"Your big toe!" she snapped, daring him to contradict
"Really, Miss Holt. If only I'd worn sandals."
Laura glared a warning at him, indicating the hulk, who was well
earshot of their extra-curricular exchange.
Masters stopped cycling and got up from the bike. He looked a
uneasily from Steele to Laura. "Well, I guess I'll, um,
leave you to it.
Give me a buzz when you finish your cardio session. We'll hoist
He mimed a weight lifting motion to Steele, then flexed his pecs
"Wouldn't miss it." Steele smiled tightly, hands clasped
carefully avoiding a rematch in the handshaking contest.
"Really gives you a lift," Masters grinned, thumping
Steele on the back
like a bongo drum.
Steele rubbed his jaw. "I think he loosened a filling in
Laura straddled the bike. "I didn't know you were so fragile,
Steele. This twelve step program came in the nick of time."
"I'd live longer if we skipped the introductions."
They both adjusted
their machines and began to pedal.
Laura propped a magazine on the handlebars.
"Ah, the never ending quest for self improvement. What are
"'Physique - the Magazine for Women Who Work Hard and Play
"Favourite of yours?"
"Never heard of it," she replied with exaggerated casualness,
the bike's tension levels.
Glancing over, Steele read the contents aloud. "'1,001 Tights
Fitness Fetish,' 'To Thong Or Not to Thong?' 'I Hate My Thighs!
Laura shrugged. "Not exactly Pulitzer material."
"I don't suppose they have any reading matter of a more
"Help yourself, Mr. Steele." She waved a hand toward
a magazine rack.
"There's 'Ripped,' 'Pumped,' 'Power Lifter -'"
Steele winced. "So much for light reading."
"Then stop whining and watch the TV."
On the oversized screen a man with frizzy curls and tight pink
striped shorts was exhorting a lineup of plus-sized women. "C'mon,
girls!" he shouted as a disco beat pounded in the background.
tone to the bone! We're movin' and groovin'! 1, 2, to-the-beat!
Steele did a double take at this alien ritual. "Don't be
Holt, but I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."
"Los Angeles, last time I looked."
"I think I'd rather be in Cleveland. I sincerely hope that
contagious. How does one change the channel?"
"That's what we'd all like to know."
"Some sort of indoctrination, no doubt. Are you sure this
is good for my
Laura tried her best to look serious. "No pain, no gain,
There were times that Steele envied Laura her ability to focus
energies and tune out distractions. He watched her on the bike;
rhythmically, jaw set, chest rising and falling, eyes glued resolutely
to her glossy magazine. Several strands of hair had escaped from
ponytail and curled against her neck; she hadn't quite broken
but her skin gave off a warm glow even in the harsh lighting
of the gym.
"So," Steele said, after a moment. "Do you really
hate your thighs?"
Laura started with surprise in mid-paragraph. "What?"
"Like that woman in the article you're reading."
"I can't believe we're having this conversation." She
"I thought perhaps it might have something to do with why
Laura crossed her arms. "For your information, Mr. Steele,
in America hates her thighs. Cheryl Tiegs hates her thighs, Jessica
Lange hates her thighs, Goldie Hawn hates her thighs, for heaven's
"Really? I wasn't aware."
"Of course you weren't aware! You're a man. You have no
idea what women
go through to -- never mind." She suddenly realized that
level was climbing to Mount Everest. "I'd rather not discuss
ground out through clenched teeth, flipping furiously to the
The murderous look in her eyes sent a warm flash of desire straight
Steele's groin. Nothing was more stimulating than lighting that
fuse of hers and watching the fireworks go off. Well, almost
except perhaps the thought of her lovely thighs. He didn't have
them bare; he remembered every detail from one long afternoon,
guests milled on the lawn at Sheldon Quarry's wedding. Laura
the grass, flowing skirts revealing every inch of her glorious
wondered what it would feel like to have those thighs clasped
around him, pulling his hips closer, drawing him into her warmth
. . .
Laura watched him from the corner of her eye. Damn him for knowing
which buttons to push. If only she'd worn something more revealing.
that girl on the treadmill. She watched the two of them, blood
soaring. The bimbo certainly was his type, Laura fumed. Too dumb
a map or she wouldn't have gotten lost on the way to "Weights
Mates." Steele seemed hypnotized, like he was hanging on
artificially enhanced creature's every move.
The buzz of the cycle's timer interrupted Steele's erotic daydream
Laura and splendor in the grass. A busty redhead in a clinging
top swam into his field of vision. She bounced energetically
treadmill, smiling into his eyes. Lips forming a moue, she blew
air kiss and sucked her stomach in even flatter.
"Finished, Mr. Steele?" Laura asked. It was time to
get his mind off the
scenery and back to business.
Steele's mental fog cleared long enough for him to recall that
the timer back a third, hoping Laura would think he'd gone the
distance. He stopped pedaling and assumed an air of innocence,
she wouldn't look too closely at the mileage indicator. "Why,
yes. I do
believe I have."
"You did five miles, Mr. Steele? Not too shabby for a beginner."
"You've inspired me to great lengths, Miss Holt."
Laura's own timer went off two minutes later. She regarded him
quizzically. "How do you feel?"
Still dreaming of her thighs only, Steele pondered the question.
slight stiffness coming on."
"Really?" Laura companionably patted his arm. "Where?
I'll massage it
"No-no. It's fine," he insisted as he fought to dispel
the image her
words immediately inspired. "None the worse for wear. Shall
eh?" Steele motioned toward the treadmill.
It was odd. He felt a bit light-headed, but not at all tired.
reserves of energy seemed to radiate up from the balls of his
hadn't expected the first round to be so stimulating.
The red head was just stepping down from the treadmill as Steele
approached. Green eyes met blue ones for a moment - then green
roamed lower, and lower still, then back up to meet blue ones
Satisfied with her inspection the redhead put a little extra
movement into her sinuous glide toward the juice bar.
Laura examined the control panel. "Masters wasn't exaggerating.
new treadmills are state of the art. Adjustable speed, elevation,
distance levels. It even counts the calories you burn."
Steele watched the bimbo's progress from the corner of his eye.
"Marvelous equipment." He fiddled absently with the
"Do you know what you're doing?" Laura's expression
Steele quirked a smile at her. "Just, ah, adjusting my elevation."
"I wouldn't want you to strain yourself."
"All in a good cause."
"Timer set properly?"
Steele tried to read something from her look but Laura was stone
"Allow me, Mr. Steele."
"Shall we synchronize our watches?" Steele deadpanned.
Laura ignored him. "I hope you were listening to Masters'
"I knew I could count on you, Miss Holt."
"Remember to increase the speed and incline after the first
"That's what I love about you, Laura. You're always so tediously
"One of us has to be."
After twenty minutes of running Steele was more than ready to
pace down to a walk. His was feeling the burn in his calves and
Running was an incredibly boring activity, in his opinion, unless
was being chased, and he could think of better ways to get his
He glanced over at the still striding Laura who was mumbling
about calories as she checked her readout. She turned off the
and stepped down.
Steele followed suit. "All work and no play, Miss Holt."
He flashed her
a winning smile. "Why don't you rest those lovely bones
of yours and
join me in more pleasurable pursuits? They certainly don't skimp
amenities at this fitness factory. Manicures, pedicures, mineral
Full body massage."
Laura was tempted. She brushed two damp strands of hair from
forehead and considered her options.
"Tibetan actually. I checked." Steele eyed her for
Laura's eyes widened in surprise. "Tibetan massage?"
"Shame to let a complimentary session go begging."
"Complimentary? I don't remember getting any -"
"Just the first two sessions. The first ten if I offer a
testimonial for their newsletter."
"Testimonial? What newsletter?"
"You're not on the mailing list?" Steele replied innocently.
if you stop by reception -"
"I have no intention of - "
"No matter. I'm sure they have the agency's address."
"When did they ask you for a testimonial?"
"Shortly after we first arrived."
Laura drew a blank. She had to admit, she might have missed that
By the time they'd offered Steele the complimentary bathrobe
(monogramming optional) she was busy digging in her purse for
"Well, you can forget the endorsements. Massage is not the
sort of image
that Remington Steele should be -"
"And why not?" Steele's tone was righteously indignant.
"You see some
harm in a man having his chakras adjusted? There are seven major
centers and it takes years of practice, not to mention copious
of massage oil to achieve the perfect harmony of -"
Laura gaped at him. "You're not serious."
"On the contrary, Miss Holt." His eyes swept keenly
over her. "I could
tell you things right now about your chakras that would make
stand on end."
"Can you, really?" She decided to call his bluff. "For
"They're very out of balance, you know."
His gaze was suddenly so intent Laura felt uncomfortable. She
let out a
"Out of balance?"
"I can fix that."
Alarm bells were going off in her head. She lifted her chin defiantly.
"Oh, I suppose you're an expert."
"In some areas."
Laura could just imagine which areas those were. Why wouldn't
he play by
the rules? She was the doctor, he was the patient. Not the other
around. She stiffened her spine and assumed her sternest bedside
"Don't you think you're the one who needs adjusting, Mr.
"You're the one with the sleep problem."
"Touch_, Miss Holt. And what adjustments did you have in
His voice was calm, but she saw his equanimity waver for an instant.
Something flickered behind his eyelids. Anxiety? Annoyance? It
too quickly for her to say.
As the seconds ticked by Laura began to feel vaguely guilty,
she'd accused him of something. She tried to lighten the mood.
"We'll start with your aversion to legwork."
Steele rubbed his thighs and raised a sardonic eyebrow. "Miss
don't you think we've had enough legwork for one day?"
"Ah! I knew there was a reason I brought you here."
"You're terribly pleased with yourself, doctor."
"Shouldn't I be? You've made it through the warm-up without
"Laura," he continued in mock dismay, "if that
was the antipasto, what
did you have in mind for the main course? A triathlon, perhaps?"
"Really, Mr. Steele. That's what I had planned for next
"Almost there. Almost there. Don't stop, Mr. Steele."
"Laura, please. I'm only human."
She looked down at him: dark hair damp with sweat, muscles tensed,
glistening. At the touch of his warm skin her own pulse began
"You're heading into the backstretch."
"Very funny, Miss Holt," Steele replied, gasping for
"Fifteen more sit-ups should do it."
"Do what? Cause me permanent injury?"
Laura sighed in mock disappointment. "This wasn't the display
athleticism I'd hoped for."
"It wasn't precisely what I had in mind, either."
"Don't worry. You can redeem yourself on the chin up bar."
"There's no one else I'd rather have under me, Miss Holt."
Though she'd never stroke his ego by telling him, Steele hadn't
badly at this part of the program. Even if was on the lean side,
body seemed pretty flexible, which shouldn't have surprised her
the requirements of his larcenous past. Though her partner was
to feel the strain, he'd acquitted himself well through the varied
routine of leg and arm stretches and pull-ups. It pained her
it, but climbing through windows, scaling walls, and balancing
balconies had had a salutary effect on his physique.
After their last exercise, Masters reappeared like magic, as
if he had
been waiting in the wings for his cue.
"Ready to, ah, 'pick up' the tempo a little bit?" He
led Steele and
Laura to the weight training area.
Steele thought that if he heard another feeble joke about lifting,
be forced to kill Masters. Very slowly. With a couple of weights.
the irony. Like most overly muscle-bound men, he probably wasn't
strong as he looked.
"I'm more than ready to work out with very large dumbbells."
Steele watched his riposte sail over Masters' head, though he
saw Laura crack a tiny smile.
"First we need to determine your proper training load. If
you can do ten
to twelve reps without getting tired we need to add another five
pounds. Since you're a beginner we'll start you off with these.
on the rack according to weight, lightest ones at the top."
He handed Steele a pair of twenty-five pound dumbbells. Steele
over at Laura to find she was beginning a set of arm raises with
ten pounds less. His masculine pride was severely affronted.
"Isn't this a bit -- light?"
"That's for you to decide. If you experience muscle failure
by your last
rep then that's the really the perfect weight level."
"Muscle failure?" Steele sniffed. "I hardly think
"Relax, Mr. Steele. It doesn't mean a total collapse. It
just means that
you can't complete the repetition in good form."
"Rest assured Mr. Masters; Remington Steele's form is always
"That's good to hear, "Masters replied in the soothing,
neutral tone he
adopted for recalcitrant clients. "Just be careful not to
After doing fifteen raises with each arm, with Masters looking
Steele's wrists ached and his palms were beginning to sweat.
at Laura, wondering if she'd been watching him. He caught her
realized she had. For a fraction of a second he lost his concentration
and the weight slipped from his left hand. He managed to grab
it hit the floor.
"Whoops! You see what I mean, Mr. Steele, about muscle failure,"
said in an I-told-you-so tone. "Sometimes it hits you when
"But that wasn't - I wasn't - the weight was just a bit
all," Steele protested.
"Still, you held your form pretty good. That's probably
a safe level for
you right now."
Masters looked over at Laura with a gleam in his eye. "Your
Holt, couldn't be better."
Laura seemed pleased but not terribly surprised at the compliment.
"Thank you, Mr. Masters. I've done my share of heavy lifting,"
laughed. "You should see the files on my desk."
Steele managed to feign interest as the hulk demonstrated using
and fun things to do with weight benches. Like a pitchman at
fair or a chef uncovering the piece de resistance, Masters went
describe the advantages of each piece of machinery: "universal
weight stack machines, cable machines, and variable resistance
It was rather fascinating, thought Steele, to watch the complex
interplay of cables, pulleys, and variously shifting and clanking
of metal. It didn't look that difficult to set them in motion.
Masters walked them back to the weight stack machine. After doing
several lifts with much flexing and grunting he re-adjusted the
apparatus, then got up and invited Steele to try.
As Steele began his lift he thought something must be wrong.
barely move the stack at all. Face flushed and veins standing
whipcord, he tried again under Laura's appraising eye.
"Is there a problem?" Laura walked casually around
the machine while
Steele sweated and strained. She suddenly realized what had happened.
"Mr. Masters, I think you left your pin in. I don't think
Mr. Steele is
quite in your weight class."
"My pin? You're kidding? I couldn't have - whoa! Hold on,
Mr. Steele. I
think she's right." He leaned over for a closer look.
"Let me just take this baby out and set it under a weight
Masters made a great show of removing the pin and reinserting
it under a
much lighter stack of plates. "Sorry, about that. Even us
once in a while. You should always check the machine before you
Conan the Barbarian could have been using it before you did."
"Thanks for the lesson, Mr. Masters," Steele replied,
outwardly calm but
inwardly seething. Masters had played that little trick on purpose,
was sure of it. Steele felt almost as angry at himself. If he
been so intent on showing off for Laura he would have paid more
"Are you alright, Mr. Steele?" Laura asked, concern
"I'm fine, I'm fine." The last thing he wanted right
now was to be
Laura ran cool fingers across Steele's back and shoulders, exploring
massaging here and there. "Does that hurt? What about here?"
"No, Miss Holt. That feels -"he sighed as she hit precisely
spot - "much better. Oh, yes."
Being fussed over did have its compensations. Steele glanced
Masters who was looking rather unpleasantly surprised at Laura's
"You should be more careful," Laura lectured the hulk.
She turned back
to Steele. "At these prices you'd think the instructors
would know what
they were doing."
Before Masters could reply, Laura spun on her heel, and strode
away from the weight training area. "Come along, Mr. Steele.
I think the
experts have done enough damage for one day."
"Damage? Let's not overreact," said Steele, striding
to catch up with
"Laura, slow down. We're not competing in that triathlon
Steele pulled her to a skidding halt.
Laura stood there, breath coming in short, angry bursts. "I'm
overreacting. He switched that pin before you started your lift.
first looked it was on a much lighter weight level."
"Of course he switched it."
"Of course he -" she broke off, taken aback by his
air of unconcern.
"Aren't you the least bit upset?"
"What for? I should have expected it. The sort of tactic
that's right up
"You could have easily been hurt."
"Laura, I'm not as fragile as you think."
"Oh, so that's what this is all about? Your male ego! If
thumping your chest so loudly you'd realize how ridiculous you
"Last time I checked you weren't wearing a big red "S"
on your chest.
You know, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Even
knew better than to fall in love with his press clippings."
"So I'm not invulnerable. But I don't need rescuing. And
I don't need a
Laura threw up her hands. "Oh, I see. I should just let
"Laura, I may not have biceps the size of beach balls but
I can deal
with a man like Masters."
"Well, then, at least your death will be quick, if not necessarily
"We'll see about that."
"A word to the wise, Mr. Steele. I'm not letting this turn
Creighton Phillips situation."
"Creighton Phillips? I thought he was tucked safely behind
bars - though
they let him out for tennis now and again. Unusually civilized,
American prison system, provided one has the right connections."
Laura's curiosity was piqued. "Are you speaking from personal
"So many questions. You're beginning to sound like Murphy."
"That's another thing. You and Murphy. Ganging up on someone
because he had the audacity to ask me out on a date."
"Merely trying to avert disaster. Cotton candy is very bad
digestion. Did you know that across the pond, it's called 'candy
Separated by a common language, eh? "
"Stop changing the subject!" she cried.
"What subject?" he shrugged.
"Manufacturing evidence, breaking and entering. Murphy told
me you know
all about jumping telephone lines."
"How indiscreet of him."
"Not everyone feels the need to keep secrets."
"Murphy least of all, apparently," Steele replied with
"Are you two planning to send everyone I date to jail from
Laura began to pace distractedly.
"Only the guilty ones."
"Because a girl likes to be prepared. Maybe I should buy
a parking pass
to San Quentin."
"So you're thinking maximum security? I'm not so sure that's
a good -"
"No!" Laura slapped her forehead in frustration. "I'm
not thinking about
"No dates in the offing, then?"
"Will you stop talking about my dates!"
"Minimum security?" Steele's brow furrowed. "I
still think Murphy and I
should interview them first."
"You sound like my mother. I'd laugh, if I didn't think
"Where you're concerned? Terribly so."
"Men!" Laura exclaimed with feeling. "There's
so much free-floating
testosterone in the air I'm growing hair on my lungs. You and
incredible hulk. It's deja vu all over again."
"Hardly. Masters, the muscle bound miscreant is still at
large. Which is
more than I can say for your Mr. Phillips."
Laura stopped pacing, fingers twitching spasmodically. "He's
not my Mr.
"I hear he's dyed his hair. Some indeterminate colour. Once
twice shy, I suppose."
"Will you shut up and listen? I'm trying to get it through
skull of yours that I don't want this face off with the hulk
end up the
"Which way would that be? Masters floored by a tremendously
"No. You with your hand in a cast for six weeks."
Steele winced. That was a bit of a sore point in more ways than
countless street brawls and in months of boxing his way across
America, miraculously, he'd never broken his hand. Still, the
Phillips sent flying into the furniture almost made up for it.
"Along with the rest of your body. Though why I should care
to escape me."
Steele grinned smugly. "Why, indeed? Weeks with me unable
having to be waited on hand and foot by my wonderful, but overburdened
staff. Missed mayor's luncheons. Costly medical bills. Agency
dwindling by the hour."
"I knew you'd come up with a reason," said Laura, cracking
a smile. She
stared at him for a long moment, then slowly drew her fingers
right cheek. "I wish you'd listen for once. I wish you'd
"Stop what? Have I started something?" Steele asked
"Stop . . .trying to impress me. It doesn't impress me."
"Ah. That's clear as crystal."
"No. What I mean is, mostly it happens when I least expect
Steele regarded her with a curious frown. "What happens?"
"You do something that impress - well, surprises me, anyway.
"So surprising even I don't have a clue what it is."
"We've been exercising for almost two hours now," Laura
"And you only took one shortcut. Think about it. That must
be a record
for you, Mr. Steele."
"Why, Miss Holt. What sharp little eyes you have. What shortcut
"The one on the exercise bike."
"A minor diversion. Just wanted to see if you were paying
Actually, I'd hoped for better things."
The shortcut to your heart, perhaps? That's the fourth chakra
very key, spiritually speaking. Of course, number seven has always
lucky for me."
"What's number seven?"
"I'd love go over the finer points, Miss Holt, but it loses
so much in
the translation when one is fully clothed."
- To Part