- Vailed Steele
Date: Monday, November 12, 2001
- Nancy Eddy <email@example.com>
"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
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
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.
go. Better?" he asked, tucking the end inside to secure
"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
he found his cigarette lighter and flicked it, holding it below
"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
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
"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
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,"
helping Laura to the narrow cot that was the room's only furniture.
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
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
"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
place another log on the fire. The room was already warming nicely,
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
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
swollen joint while removing the scarf.
Once that was done, he slipped behind her, letting her lay back
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
"Hard to say. Once it's stable enough outside, and they
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
"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
arms were around his neck and her lips were on his. The blanket
her shoulders, and the fire bathed her freckled skin in a rosy
"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
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
talking and just- do what we've both wanted to do since the first
"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
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
"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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
As the cabin warmed, he returned to the bed, standing, watching
He was hesitant to wake her, fearful that she would regret what
between them during the night just passed. The idea of seeing
that in her
eyes was something that Remington feared more than anything at
She would go all cold, and angry, and defensive - and she'd blame
And rightfully so, perhaps. He should have been stronger, should
to take advantage of the situation. But he hadn't. And this morning
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
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
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
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
joining Laura. They were in each other's arms, lips together,
suddenly looked up and frowned. "What was that?" she
He listened. "I didn't hear anything."
"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
"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
"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
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,
brilliant sunlight onto the two of them. He sighed in resignation.
world intrudes again," he muttered.
"But we're still facing it together, Mr. Steele," she
He smiled again and lifted her into his arms to carry her toward
"That we are, Miss Holt. That we are."