Vailed Steele
Date: Monday, November 12, 2001
Nancy Eddy <>

Rating: R


"Well, this is *another* fine mess you've gotten us into!"

"Me?" Remington questioned as he tried yet again to push the door open- with
the same results- it was hopelessly blocked by snow. "*I* didn't start the
bloody avalanche!" he reminded her.

"Are you saying that *I* did?" Laura asked, shivering the cold darkness of the
tiny cabin they'd found just before the mountain had collapsed on top of them.

Remington gave up on the door with a sigh. "No. Of course I'm not. There's
no telling what caused it." He looked at the hearth before the fire and
watched Laura, rubbing her arms and blowing on her hands to instill some
warmth. Somewhere in their mad dash to escape the on-rushing wall of snow,
she'd lost her gloves. She shifted position, and winced, reaching down to rub
her right ankle.

"Let me look at that," he said, moving to kneel before her and take her booted
foot in his hands.

"It's okay," Laura insisted. "I just twisted it when my skis came off."

"Let's have a look anyway, hmm? Humor me." He carefully unlaced the boot and
opened the fastenings, wincing sympathetically as he heard her gasp. "Sorry,"
he apologized. "Sorry." Two pairs of socks later, he was inspecting her bare
foot and the pain-looking swollen ankle above it. "Can you move it at all?" he

Laura carefully flexed her foot, "Damn. Barely."

"It's not broken, I don't think. Just a bad sprain." He unwrapped the wool
scarf from around his neck and turned it into a temporary bandage. "There you
go. Better?" he asked, tucking the end inside to secure it.

"A little," she told him through chattering teeth. "It's so cold," she said.

"I don't doubt it. After that tumble, you've probably got snow inside your
jacket." He pushed aside the memory of the fear he'd felt when she had fallen
in their escape from the avalanche. "Just minute," he said, moving past her to
inspect the dark fireplace at her back. Digging through layers of clothing,
he found his cigarette lighter and flicked it, holding it below the flue.

"What are you doing?" Laura asked, watching him.

"Seeing if there's an airflow up the chimney," he explained, noting that the
flame grew larger. "It's open."

"What are you going to use for wood?" she asked.

Remington looked around and smiled. "That little problem is easily resolved,
if I'm mistaken."

"What do you mean?"

He left her on the hearth to go across to a spot beside the wall where there
was a wooden box and pile of something covered with what looked to be a
blanket. Remington drew the blanket off of the pile to reveal a stack of
firewood waiting to be used. "Voila!" he exclaimed, feeling rather like a
magician. "Apparently," he told her, turning his attention to the box and
opening the lid, "this cabin is kept stocked for emergencies just such as the
one we're facing." He pulled out several items, giving a running commentary.
"More blankets, a lantern," he shook a box of something. "Matches. Water-" He
frowned. "No wine. They could learn a thing or two from the Swiss," he

"Stop kibitzing and start the fire," Laura said, hobbling over to join him
beside the box to take over. "I'll see what else is in here. Maybe there's a
radio or something so we can call for help."

Remington carried some of the kindling to the fireplace, and within a few
minutes had a blazing fire started. "There we go," he told Laura, removing his
gloves to warm his hands before the fire. "Find anything interesting?" he
asked, joining her.

"Some emergency rations," Laura told him, handing him some tins and a can
opener. "A first aid kit, a flare gun, but no radio."

"Probably worried that the batteries wouldn't stay up," Remington surmised,
helping Laura to the narrow cot that was the room's only furniture. "At least
we'll be warm until they find us," he said.

"As long as the wood holds out," Laura agreed, eyeing the pile nervously as
she held her hands toward the fire and tried to find a comfortable position
that didn't hurt her ankle.

"I'll bank it up later," he assured her, eyeing the cans of food. "Hungry?" he
questioned, not at all certain that he wanted to open either tin.

"Not right now," Laura told him. "I'm still trying to get warm."

"Here," he told her, grabbing one of the blankets and tucking it around her.
"There you go." She was still shivering. "I hate to suggest this, Laura,
because I know you're going to take this the wrong way, but- you really need
to get out of those damp things."

He was surprised when she nodded in agreement. "You're right, Mr. Steele," she
said, and he heard the zipper of her jacket slide downward. "No sense in my
getting pneumonia as well as being unable to walk, is there?"

"Uh, yes," Remington agreed, then shook his head as she pulled the blanket
over her head to hide her actions. With nothing else to do, Remington went to
place another log on the fire. The room was already warming nicely, he
thought as his gaze moved back to the blanket-covered lump on the bed. "You,
uh- you mentioned a First Aid kit?"

"In the box," she told him.

"Let's see what's inside, shall we?" he said, going to the supplies box and
digging around. "Well, well," he mused, coming up with both the metal box with
the required Red Cross on it and a small metal flask. He opened the flask and
took a sniff of the contents, then tipped it to his lips. "Seems I gave the
rescue people the short end of the stick." Laura's head reappeared, and she
sat there, wrapped in the blanket, her damp clothes in a pile before her.
Seeing her curious expression, he held up the flask. "Brandy." He picked up
the clothes and gave her the flask. "Take a drink. It will help warm you.
Might even make the pain in your ankle easier to handle."

She eyed him suspiciously. "You wouldn't be trying to get me drunk, would

"Furthest thing from my mind, Laura, I assure you," he promised, turning to
lay her damp clothes before the fireplace. "Just trying to get you warmed

She nodded, then opened the flask and took a drink. She gasped as the liquor
burned a warming path to her stomach.

He returned to open the first aid kit. "I think we can replace that scarf with
this," he told her, lifting a roll of gauze bandage out of the kit to show
her. Let me see your ankle." She moved until just her ankle and foot were
out of the blanket, taking another drink from the flask as he jostled the
swollen joint while removing the scarf.

Once that was done, he slipped behind her, letting her lay back against his
chest, then took the flask from her and had a sip of the fiery drink as well.
It wasn't French, but it would do in a pinch. He'd had worse.

Laura nodded, her eyes on the fire. "How long do you think it will take for
them to find us?" She took the flask from him and drank again.

"Hard to say. Once it's stable enough outside, and they start searching,
they'll see the smoke from the chimney and know someone's here."

"Will they? What if they don't?" Laura speculated. "What if they miss it
somehow and don't find us in time? There's not much in the way of food- and
once the wood is gone, we'll freeze to death."

"We'll generate our own heat then," Remington told her, pulling her closer,
trying to reassure her. It wasn't like Laura to be so pessimistic about a

"It could happen," she insisted, and Remington was surprised to hear an edge
of hysteria in her normally placid voice. "We could die out here- alone."

Remington rested his cheek against her temple. "We're not going to die,
Laura," he said in a firm tone.

"If I hadn't hurt my ankle, I'd suggest that we dig our way out. But I'd only
slow you up-"

"I'm not going anywhere without you," Remington told her, cutting off her
suggestion before she could make it. "We're in this together. For good or

She turned in his arms and looked at him for a long moment, then suddenly her
arms were around his neck and her lips were on his. The blanket slipped from
her shoulders, and the fire bathed her freckled skin in a rosy glow.

"Laura?" Remington asked softly when the kiss ended. He didn't want to
question the invitation that he saw in her eyes. But he was hesitant to take
advantage of the situation. She was afraid; she was slightly tipsy from cheap
brandy on an empty stomach- "I don't think-"

"Don't think," Laura whispered. "Don't talk. We've wasted too much time
thinking and talking the last four years. It's time to stop thinking and
talking and just- do what we've both wanted to do since the first time we

"And what about-" he stopped, her words sinking in. "Really? Since we first

Laura's lips were on his chin, her fingers on the tab of his jacket zipper,
moving it downward. "If Ben Pearson had pressed his advantage, he might have
gotten lucky," she admitted.

"The magnum of champagne worked, eh?" he questioned with a small grin.

She returned the smile as she tried to slide his jacket from his shoulders.
"Like a charm. You have no idea how hard I had to fight myself to keep from
throwing myself at you."

"You did a very good job of hiding it," he told her, removing the jacket.
Laura grabbed his sweater and pulled it over his head. "I mean, I knew that
you were attracted to me, but-"

"Even when I found out that you were just after the jewels-"

"It stopped being 'just the jewels' the moment I met you, Laura," he told her,
"but I'm still not convinced that we should-" His objections were silenced by
another kiss that left him too breathless for any further protest. "I just
hope you don't regret this in the morning," he murmured as her hand slid down
his chest toward his stomach and points further south. A brief flash of sanity
brought a dampening thought. "Laura, we can't."

"Why not?" she asked. "There's nothing between us-" she grinned, "or there
won't be soon, anyway. And no one's going to interrupt us," she told him,
laying feather kisses along the line from his chest to his stomach. "Not a
case," another kiss, "not the telephone," and another, closer to the waistband
of his pants, "not-" her hand found its target, "Mildred."

"I didn't bring any- protection with me," he told her, trying not to react
audibly to the feel of her hand on him. "I mean, I brought it- just in case,
but - but it's back at the lodge."

"It's okay," Laura assured him.

"I don't think we want to risk-"

"I'm on the pill," she told him.

"You are?" He couldn't help but wonder why, since to his knowledge, she hadn't
been with another man since they'd met. But he didn't ask the question,
because he couldn't put it into coherent words with Laura touching him the way
she was. "Oh, God, Laura. That feels-"

"Shh," Laura reminded him, placing her other hand over his lips. "No talking,
remember? Just feel . . . "


The cabin was dark, and cold when Remington woke. The only warmth came from
Laura's naked body twined with his in the cocoon they'd made of the blanket.
Knowing that he had to start the fire going again, Remington carefully
released his side of the blanket and slid out from beside Laura, into the cold
air. HE felt the gooseflesh immediately, and grabbed the second blanket to
wrap around himself before tiptoeing across the floor to the woodpile and then
the fireplace. He worked quietly, falling back on his training as a burglar
and thief, not wanting to disturb Laura. In the flickering light of the fire,
he checked his watch. It was nearly six am. They'd been in the cabin for
over twelve hours. It would dawn soon, and the search parties would take to
the mountain, looking for the lucky ones who had survived the avalanche.

As the cabin warmed, he returned to the bed, standing, watching Laura sleep.
He was hesitant to wake her, fearful that she would regret what happened
between them during the night just passed. The idea of seeing that in her
eyes was something that Remington feared more than anything at the moment.
She would go all cold, and angry, and defensive - and she'd blame him.

And rightfully so, perhaps. He should have been stronger, should have refused
to take advantage of the situation. But he hadn't. And this morning might
just be the last one he would ever have to wake at Laura's side, to feel her
there, close to him. She stirred; lifting a hand to brush the hair out of her
eyes as she blinked up at him. "Good morning," she said, and Remington
thought she looked more than a little uncertain. He braced himself for her
tirade as he knelt beside the bed.

"Good morning yourself. How's the ankle?"

He saw the blanket move in that area as she tested it. "It aches a little.
But not too bad. What time is it?"

"Nearly six. They should be here to rescue us before long."

"How long, do you think?"

"An hour, perhaps. Could be longer, depending on how many others they find
along the way. And how soon they see the smoke from the chimney-"

"You're nervous," she said suddenly.


"I didn't think you would be. I thought you'd be an old hand at 'morning

He shook his head. "Not this morning after. It's far too important for me to
ever take it lightly. After all, I've waited four years for it to happen.
Are you- nervous?"

She nodded. "I almost expected you not to be here when I woke up. Daniel

"Forget what Daniel said. That wasn't the reason I've stuck around all this
time. If it was, we'd have become lovers a long time before last night."

Laura smiled, and Remington felt that all might turn out right after all. "We
are, aren't we? Lovers, I mean." She moved over in the narrow bed and lifted
the blanket. "Come back to bed, Mr. Steele. Maybe we'll get lucky and they
won't find us until this afternoon."

Remington grinned, letting his blanket slide to the floor before eagerly
joining Laura. They were in each other's arms, lips together, when she
suddenly looked up and frowned. "What was that?" she asked.

He listened. "I didn't hear anything."

"Sounded like-"

"Hello in the cabin!" a deep male voice called out. "Can you hear me?"

"I suppose we have to answer, don't we?" Remington said with a sigh.

"I suppose so," Laura agreed regretfully as Remington grabbed her clothes from
the floor and tossed them in her direction.

"We're here!" Remington replied loudly to the rescuer.

"We should have you out in a few minutes!" the man called back. "Just stay

"And were would we go?" Laura wondered, easing a sock onto her sprained ankle
as Remington began putting is clothes on as well.

"I know where I'd like to go," he told her, pausing to give her a quick kiss.
"What do you say to closing the agency up for a few days, and you and I going
someplace warm? Like Fiji? Or Hawaii?"

"What about Mildred?" Laura asked, seeming to consider the idea.

"Laura, as much as I adore the woman, do you really think we still need a
chaperone?" he asked, moving to help her finish dressing once he was
presentable again.

"Almost there!" the disembodied voice rang out, sounding less muffled by snow

Remington grabbed Laura's arm. "Laura, when that door opens, its not going
change, is it? You're not going to regret what happened between us?"

She smiled. "Never. I could never regret making love with you. It was-
incredible. And if we had time, I'd show you how incredible."

Remington couldn't help but smile at her words. "Incredible, eh?" he leaned
in, intending to give her a kiss, but the door was pulled open, sending
brilliant sunlight onto the two of them. He sighed in resignation. "The real
world intrudes again," he muttered.

"But we're still facing it together, Mr. Steele," she reminded him.

He smiled again and lifted her into his arms to carry her toward the light.
"That we are, Miss Holt. That we are."

The End