Lauryn Poynor


A dark and stormy night. In a world we think we know, but we see through a glass darkly -- an overpriced shot glass of twelve year old Scotch in a cross-time saloon; a world put through the spin cycle one too many times . . .


It's raining. It's pouring. Things are going bump in the night. Or perhaps, thump. Very loud thumps, in series. A fascinatin' rhythm. In 4/4 time. Or was it 5/4? He couldn't be sure. Steele, clad in his pajamas, opens up to find . . . a wolf at the door. A Miss Wolf, in Steele's parlance. Despite the Stain Guard water-repellent qualities of her stylish trench coat, she's drenched. Her eyes are bleary and red-rimmed. Her mascara is running for cover.

STEELE: [blinking in surprise] Miss Wolf.

MISS WOLF: [hands on hips] Brilliant deduction, Sherlock. Are you going to let me in or not?

STEELE: [eyes her warily, then steps back to let her enter] Normally I'm delighted to find a very wet female on my doorstep. But in your case, I'll make an exception.

MISS WOLF: The feeling's mutual. [looking around] Is Laura here?

STEELE: At this hour? [recollects himself] Not to imply that these luxurious surroundings -- warm, intimate fireside, art deco furnishings, splendid view of the city skyline, splendid view of my bedroom, haven't been the setting for many a late night tryst between us.

MISS WOLF: What is this? A rerun of `Fantasy Island'? I'll take that as a no.

STEELE: [unfazed] You're dripping on my plush carpeting.

MISS WOLF: Can't a wet femme get something to drink around here?

STEELE: [goes over to the bar area] What's your pleasure? And please try to narrow it down to one. I don't want to hear the details of your sordid love life.

at the words `love life' her diamond-hard façade crumbles; shattered, she sinks to the couch as the tears come

STEELE: [momentarily nonplussed at the sight of her weeping like an overflowing bathtub. He sets down the drink he's just poured and fetches her a washcloth from the kitchen] Here you are. Blow.

MISS WOLF: [blows very loudly into it. Hands it back] Thanks.

STEELE: [holds the cloth gingerly between two fingers] Don't mention it. [he pitches it on the coffee table]

MISS WOLF: Damn. [sniffles] I really need to talk to Laura.

STEELE: Well, I'm afraid she's not here. [hesitates uncomfortably, then continues] I trust you'll do the decent thing and never remind me I said it -- but if you need a shoulder to cry on -

MISS WOLF: [looks up in surprise] Yours?

STEELE: [with offhand gallantry] For the duration. Mind the mascara. These pajamas are made of the finest Sichuan silk and my Hong Kong tailor would be very -

MISS WOLF: [bristling] Never mind. You wouldn't understand. [she picks up the washcloth and wipes her eyes]

STEELE: Try me.

MISS WOLF: Not if you were the last man on earth and I'd just found the key to my chastity belt.

STEELE: [smiling roguishly at the image her words evoke] That's nice and clear.

MISS WOLF: [with sudden decision] I need a drink.

STEELE: [retrieves the Scotch, hands it to her] Don't stop on my account.

MISS WOLF: [she takes a gulp, then exclaims with feeling] MEN!

STEELE: [wincing at the noise level] Shouldn't you save your come-ons for your paying clientele. I'll have Fred drop you off on Sunset.


STEELE: [dryly] So you have a threesome in mind.

MISS WOLF: [wistfully, setting down her drink] I had something in mind for just one. Do you remember the hunk from Scowl, Furrow, and Crinkle?

STEELE: The law firm on the eighth floor?

MISS WOLF: [nods] He was so perfect. Like Robert Redford in "The Way We Were" but with a briefcase and wingtips.

STEELE: Ah. So you spent endless billable hours examining his legal briefs? [he pours himself a drink and sits down on the sofa next to her]

MISS WOLF: [takes another gulp of her Scotch] Not a peek. [unsteadily, she puts down her empty glass and peels out of her trench coat, laying it over the back of the sofa] We'd been dating for three weeks. At first I thought he was just shy. We barely even kissed.

STEELE: How novel for you.

MISS WOLF: It was kind of sweet. He said I was worth waiting for. His parents were heading back to the Hamptons after their lavish European vacation and he was dying for me to meet them. I thought, maybe just once, a girl like me and a guy like him... [sniffles, lays her soggy head on Steele's shoulder]

STEELE: [pats her arm] There, there. [His pajamas are getting very damp. He winces slightly]

MISS WOLF: A guy like him. [overcome, she bursts into tears. The memory is too fresh, too painful, but she has to tell someone] Gay! And married!

STEELE: [wryly amazed at her recital of disaster] Oh my.

MISS WOLF: [despondently] A double play. And I never even got to first base.

STEELE: Why, Miss Wolf. You've excelled yourself.

MISS WOLF: Best two out of two. [a cry to the heavens] What were the odds?

STEELE: Best not to dwell on that in your case.

MISS WOLF: You know what the real kick in the head is?

STEELE: [non committally] Hmm.

MISS WOLF: He was just using me. Mr. Big Shot rainmaker. Trying to score the agency as a client. If you'd really like to know, that's not all he was hoping to score.

STEELE: Come again?

MISS WOLF: He kept asking me stuff like who was your tailor, your hair stylist, where you liked to shop. I thought he was just, well [searching for the words] fashion forward.

STEELE: [preening] Some are born to lead, others to follow.

MISS WOLF: Yeah? Well I think he'd follow you anywhere. Tonight he popped the question. Asked if you were seeing anyone. And if you liked Barbra Streisand. I told him you were a big movie buff. I was a little slow on the uptake. It never occurred to me that -

STEELE: Wait a minute! Hang on. Barbra Streisand? You mean he thought I was -

MISS WOLF: [shoots an imaginary pistol at him] Bingo. Oh, I forgot. He wanted to know if you wore boxers or briefs.

STEELE: Good lord! Your love life is absolutely Byzantine. I think I've heard enough.

MISS WOLF: I wouldn't get in the elevator with him if I were you.

STEELE: [makes a mental note] Point taken.

MISS WOLF: Why is it always the gorgeous ones?

STEELE: [pats her hand reassuringly] Well, you've had a bit of a shock but it's all over now.

MISS WOLF: Yeah. Over. Kaput. Finito. No plain little band of gold. No cottage in the Hamptons. What a lying louse! His parents are probably from Fresno.

STEELE: Good riddance, eh?

MISS WOLF: Just when I thought a man might be interested in something besides my body -- I was --- right! [burying her head on Steele's shoulder, she bursts into a Niagara of tears]

STEELE: [her damp form is pressed tightly against him, blouse clinging to her breasts like a second skin. Steele can't help but feel a little -- moved] Well, it's a lovely body. Pity he can't appreciate it.

MISS WOLF: [brightens] You think so?

STEELE: [looks her over just to be sure] I'm a connoisseur of the female form, Miss Wolf. I can say without fear of contradiction that any man with 20/20 vision and a pulse would consider you X-rated. That is, any man of the right, um, persuasion.

MISS WOLF: [gives him a grateful smile] Thanks. I needed that. All those weeks waiting for more than just a peck on the cheek -- well a girl can't help but think that maybe she's not so irresistible after all.

STEELE: Nonsense, Miss Wolf. I think your entourage of satisfied customers is still in tow.

MISS WOLF: [sighs] You know, if this were the movies I'd have been able to reform him. With a kiss. You know. Like Marilyn Monroe did to Tony Curtis in "Some Like It Hot".

STEELE: Yes, well, Tony Curtis wasn't gay he was just wearing nylons. When he wasn't impersonating Cary Grant.

MISS WOLF: So, what do you think? [leans in to him, playfully seductive] Could a kiss from me reform a guy?

STEELE: Your question boggles the mind, Miss Wolf. But I don't need to be reformed.

MISS WOLF: [smugly] What a load of conceit! I never said I was going to kiss you!

STEELE: Then why were your lips pursed up in that funny way?

MISS WOLF: [puts a hand to her face to check] My lips? Ha! Wishful thinking!

STEELE: On your part, no doubt. Shall I dazzle you with the benefit of my expertise or should I withhold my affections and leave you to fantasize alone tonight?

MISS WOLF: Your expertise? Fasten your seatbelt, Cary. It's going to be a bumpy night! [she grabs him by the collar and kisses him. Ever so slowly, sensuously, shifting into passion's first gear. With a final flourish, she breaks contact] How was that?

STEELE: [eyes her innocently] How was what? Did something happen?

MISS WOLF: [makes a face] Well, considering what I had to work with I'd give myself an "A" for effort.

STEELE: You call that a kiss? Cary Grant could get better from his maiden aunt!

MISS WOLF: Says you! Anyway, that was just the windup.

STEELE: Ah. Baseball jargon again. You know, Marilyn Monroe was married to one of your baseball heroes. Joe Di Maggio, wasn't it?

MISS WOLF: [rolls her eyes] Yeah. I'll bet he didn't try to talk her to death when they were in a clinch. It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.

STEELE: That was Duke Ellington.

MISS WOLF: Whatever. Limeys! Jeez Louise. Cut to the chase. I could grow roots waiting for a fastball from you. Or a change-up.

STEELE: [smiling dangerously] Speaking of all talk and no action, when are you going to put those lips of yours to better use? Or is that the best you can do?

MISS WOLF: Those bimbos of yours can do better?

STEELE: Perceptibly. Their lips actually move.

MISS WOLF: Yeah. When they read big words.

STEELE: [yawns] Fire away. I'll tell you when my pulse gets above ninety.

MISS WOLF: Hold on to your heart rate, buster! [she kisses him again. It's a decadent, high calorie kiss, like a rich dessert with a warm center. Her tongue darts between Steele's lips. When he barely responds, she pulls back, annoyed] It's better when you help.

STEELE: [smirking] I'd be happy to oblige, Miss Wolf, but I'd hate to ruin it for you.

MISS WOLF: You already have. [the other shoe drops] Am I hearing things? The Casanova of con artists admitting he's a lousy kisser?

STEELE: On the contrary. I was merely giving you fair warning that a kiss from me and a woman is spoiled forever for the lesser charms of other men. That conga line of yours would seem like so many sloppy seconds. Or thirds. Etcetera, etcetera. [waves a hand airily]

MISS WOLF: Wanna bet? Put your mouth where your money is!

STEELE: [pricks up his ears] How much?

MISS WOLF: I've got a better idea. If this kiss of yours isn't an eleven on a scale of one to ten, you have to call me Miss Fox. For a week. In front of Murphy. And Laura. And all the agency's clients.

STEELE: Really, Miss Wolf. That's so petty. So childish. So -

MISS WOLF: Pucker up. I haven't got all night.

STEELE: Spoken like a true romantic. [eyeing her dispassionately] If pride and semantics weren't at stake here, it would hardly seem worth the effort.

MISS WOLF: [monumentally provoked] Worth the effort? Well here's some incentive, you dope! [she unbuttons her blouse and peels the sticky fabric off her body. Underneath she's wearing a lace trimmed bra in a fabric that's dangerous when wet. Dangerous enough to stop a man's heart at close range]

STEELE: [his gaze locks in on the target as if it was wire-guided; he forgets to breathe, brain losing cabin pressure as all the blood rushes below his waist] I think you just tipped the odds in my favor, Miss Wolf.

MISS WOLF: I should have quit while I was ahead. [sighs] Well, at least I haven't lost my touch. [her eyes are drawn to his crotch]

STEELE: [clears his throat] I think I need a moment alone.

MISS WOLF: Pulse rate above ninety, big boy?

STEELE: [preoccupied] I seem to have lost count.

MISS WOLF: Damn, I'm good. How about yourself? Ready to lock lips? A girl gets tired of sloppy seconds.

STEELE: [flashes her a lopsided grin] It's your lucky day, Miss Wolf. What say we cancel the bet. Ars gratia artis. Let's do it for art's sake, eh?

MISS WOLF: [challenging] You're on.

Steele gradually lowers his lips to hers. She lifts hers to his. It's the Guinness World's Record, the Mount Everest of kisses. Like duelists fighting for supremacy they crank it up to eleven and to the highest height to which mortal skill can aspire. It's everything one kiss can be, if art is the measure. They pull away from the contest, dazed and breathless; it's too close to call. It's a dead heat, a photo finish . . .

STEELE : [catching his breath, winks lewdly at her] A knee trembler, eh? How was that, luv?

MISS WOLF: [discreetly uncurling her toes] Awful! My chihuahua kisses better than you, and she's been fixed!

STEELE: Tsk. Tsk. A lesbian Chihuahua and a gay, married boyfriend from Fresno. What a menagerie!

MISS WOLF: [sighs] You can say that again. [She picks up her blouse from the back of the sofa and starts to slip it back on]

STEELE: Allow me. [unbuttoning, he offers her his only slightly damp pajama top]

She puts it on, eyeing his bare chest appraisingly; for an idle moment she wonders about what might have been, if it were just the two of them that day he walked through the doors of Suite 1157. Would she have invited Ben Pearson over for a spot of tea?

Watching her in turn, Steele is struck by an odd sensation that could pass for regret. Maybe, if their longitude and latitude had crossed in some exotic clime . . . of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world . . . his lips twitch in a smile as he discards the heretical notion; better to leave the stars in their courses, the opposite poles unaligned. The natural order of the universe was not to be trifled with.

STEELE: All things considered, Miss Wolf, you made a delightful Marilyn Monroe.

MISS WOLF: [grins at him in grudging appreciation]You're not a bad Cary Grant, either.

STEELE: [waggles his eyebrows] Want to have another healthy go at it?

MISS WOLF: Let's not, and say we did.

STEELE: Better safe than sorry, eh?

MISS WOLF: No more fuzzy end of the lollipop for me. I'm swearing off. [raises her right hand]

STEELE: Lollipops?


STEELE: You? Swearing off the opposite sex? Adding the word "no" to your vocabulary? [his brow furrows] I give it a week. Two at the outset.

MISS WOLF: Damn. I hate it when you're right. [thoughtfully] Do you think, if things had been different, a girl like me and a guy like you - [shakes her head] Nah. It could never happen.

STEELE: Don't be so hasty, Miss Wolf. You're wearing my silk pajama top. In parts of China that's the same as being married.

MISS WOLF: Throw in a house in the Hamptons and you have a deal.

STEELE: [grins smugly] Swearing off men, eh? I knew it wouldn't last.

MISS WOLF: Con man! Cheater!

STEELE: Such language! See if I kiss you again!

MISS WOLF: See if I kiss you!

STEELE: Being irresistible is such a chore.

MISS WOLF: Likewise. Now that you've been kissed by someone who knows how -

STEELE: Last Thursday, I believe. Gorgeous redhead. Delicious. Slight overbite, but such enthusiasm!

MISS WOLF: I think the word you're looking for is desperation.

STEELE: [calmly surveys his fingernails] She did get hysterical when we ran out of chapstick.

MISS WOLF: [crosses her arms] Admit it. I'm the best woman you'll never have.

STEELE: [sniffs] Finally something we agree on. Wouldn't have you on a platter! Wouldn't have you jumping naked out of a cake! Wouldn't have you rolling in hundred dollar bills with non consecutive serial numbers!

MISS WOLF: Fantasy will get you nowhere. [grins triumphantly] That kiss really did a number on you, Mister Ben Pearson. It was some of my best work.

STEELE: A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh, Miss Wolf.

MISS WOLF: [finding herself strangely relieved at his summation ] Thank God for that.

a silence falls, disturbed only by the metronomic pounding of the rain; she stares out the window at the watercolor skyline

MISS WOLF: Nice view. Shame I only have you to share it with. [weary sigh] Dropped like a hot pop tart by some jerk who just wanted to get into your pajamas!

STEELE: Be of good cheer, Miss Wolf. [grins salaciously] The view from my bedroom is even more splendid, to say nothing of the one in my pajamas.

MISS WOLF: Yeah. The less said the better.

STEELE: I'm sure I can provide you with a singularly inspiring conversation piece, given the right motivation.

MISS WOLF: [eyes him up and down] How do you want it?

STEELE: You Americans. So charmingly direct.

MISS WOLF: Laundered or dry cleaned?


MISS WOLF: Your pajamas. Wouldn't want to do anything to spoil the view.

STEELE: [breath teasing her ear in a languid caress] All the intimacies we could share and you opt for one hour martinizing.

MISS WOLF: [springs up from the sofa] It's the only way you'll ever steam up my sheets!

STEELE: Afraid I'll be disappointed, eh? [a keen and traitorous desire courses through him at the sight of her, hot and bothered, hands on hips, silk stretched wafer thin across her dangerous curves]

MISS WOLF: [tosses her hair] Disappointed? Only by your standards. I can't limbo that low.

STEELE: It might be fun to try. [gets up, almost lazily] Sheets are strictly optional. [inclines his head] We could just do it right here on the floor.

MISS WOLF: [glancing at the carpet and back] Not at all sure of yourself, are you?

STEELE: [his eyes lock with hers] Is that a no?

MISS WOLF: [stretching the syllable provocatively] No-o.

STEELE: [a bit unsettled] Let the chips fall, eh? Just when I hoped you'd convince me otherwise.

MISS WOLF: [her mouth lifts wryly at the corners] Don't get me wrong. In the hit parade of bad ideas this is top of the charts. With a bullet.

STEELE: [sardonically] Just so we understand each other.

MISS WOLF: [summoning her usual bravado] Sure you can keep up? Five minutes with me and getting horizontal with Miss Chapstick will seem like beginner's luck.

STEELE: [at close quarters] Well, then. Show me your best work and I'll [nibbles her shoulder] show you mine.

Aroused with curiosity they attract and combine like charged particles; his hands encircle her waist, gliding lower, pressing her against him; in seconds he's hard and ready. Swaying, she grasps his hips, prolonging the pleasure. Neither of them can wait to feel more. Hands team up to free her from the pajama top, half-shredding it as it falls in a heap to the carpet.

STEELE: Never liked the color, anyway. [unhooks her bra]

MISS WOLF: [a shudder as it slides off her shoulders. She places his hand on her right breast] You talk -- too much.

Steele doesn't answer. His lips are occupied with her left nipple; without breaking contact, she unzips her skirt and steps out of it, struggling with her hose and underwear; Steele assists, one-handed, their momentum backing them against the sofa. She slides his pajamas down over his hips; finally unencumbered, they stand apart for a moment, each taking the measure of the other. Eyes roam freely over the unfamiliar terrain of adjacent flesh, lingering on every detail. Neither is troubled by the other's directness; it serves to sharpen their appetite.

STEELE: You should be wearing a plain, brown wrapper. [quirks an eyebrow] Swearing off yet?

MISS WOLF: [blinks at him] What?

STEELE: The male sex.

MISS WOLF: [still a little distracted] In that order?

STEELE: That is your usual modus operandi.

MISS WOLF: [shrugs] Too bad you can't have one without the other. [on his raised eyebrow she hastily amends] Well, I can't. Don't worry. I don't need to be reformed.

STEELE: Then that makes two of us. Think you'll ever -- give it up?

MISS WOLF: To you? [his question is rhetorical, but she doesn't mind]

STEELE: [shifts his body forward until it rests lightly between her thighs] That was the idea, wasn't it?

MISS WOLF: [before covering his lips with hers] Ask me in the morning.


Her mouth is on him and the awakening is exquisite . . . Steele's moan goes unchecked as she slides back his foreskin, exploring his tip with her tongue; his eyes squeeze shut as she surrounds him, wetly rippling and teasing the sheath of flesh, back and forward; he loses all sense of time as her rhythm slows and quickens along his length, languorous, then demanding until each stroke is more irresistible than the last. Her skill suspends him at the apex of need until, control stretched as far as the laws of physics allow, he erupts in release, fingers twining roughly in her hair . . .

MISS WOLF: [watching with supreme self-satisfaction as Steele sprawls beside her, breath shallow, head thrown back, nerve endings firing, the skin of his cock still slick and wet. After admiring her handiwork for several minutes, she draws a lacquered fingernail along the curve of his hip] Admit it, Mr. Ben Pearson. You've wanted me to do that from the first time you set eyes on me.

STEELE: [ever so slowly recovering his wits. He sits up.] You've read my mind, Miss -- Whatever.

MISS WOLF: [with a smirk] That's not hard. It only runs on one track.

STEELE: [smiling blandly] From that first day at the office, I never got the one thing I expected.

MISS WOLF: Serves you right.

STEELE: If memory serves, I wasn't served at all. I've been waiting for that pot of tea for months now.

MISS WOLF: [thumps him in the chest] Pot of tea!

STEELE: Alas, a mere daydream! That heavenly brew, that delightful aroma.

MISS WOLF: It must be torture for you. Trying not to smell my perfume.

STEELE: [sniffs the air] Mmm. Nothing yet. [beat] Perhaps I need to get a bit -- closer.

Paying her back in kind, he charts his own insistent course between her thighs, fingers and tongue divining her pleasure zones, stroking, lapping, circling . . . each tactic urging her to yield. Unwilling to surrender without a fight, she moves restively in his orbit until, her body heavy with sensation, Steele pins her hard against the carpet. Finally, deliriously letting go, she crests, rising one last time against his lips.


STEELE: [unable to repress a grin at the sight of her spread eagled on the carpet, drained and limp as a plate of overcooked linguine. He leans over for a better view] The collars and cuffs match.

MISS WOLF: [body protesting the movement, she rolls over to lean on one elbow] My hairdresser knows for sure. It's "Constant Craving", if you must know.

STEELE: Can't get enough, eh? What a cross I bear for the sake of womankind!

MISS WOLF: [with mild exasperation] My perfume.

STEELE: [ignores her] Why bother to deny it? We'll file the evidence under the letter "o".

MISS WOLF: [with a smirk] Did something happen? How do you know I wasn't faking it?

STEELE: Trust me. I know.

MISS WOLF: That's what they all say. Wanna hear a newsflash? We women do that for a living.

STEELE: Oh, I'm sure you do. When you have a vested interest. But faking it for a man you swore would never cross your threshold, would never steam up your sheets? I'm touched by your concern, Miss Wolf. Completely unconvinced, but touched.

MISS WOLF: [twirls a strand of hair] You can't prove a thing.

STEELE: [smugly] No need. That imitation of a soft pretzel you were doing just moments ago is proof enough. [rubs his neck gingerly] I hope the agency has major medical.

MISS WOLF: Just keep talking. That's what you're good at.

STEELE: Speaking of my talents, care to double your pleasure? Or would you like a year off to recover?

MISS WOLF: [doesn't take too long to think about it] If you can stand it, I can.

STEELE: [with a wolfish grin] As Shakespeare put it, "the readiness is all."


MISS WOLF: [Pressed against the arm of the couch, she opens her thighs to him] That's what I said. Now!

STEELE: Really, Miss Wolf. It's like making love to a traffic warden. I was expecting you to flash your -- badge.

Arms encircling his neck, she wraps her legs around him. He enters her, sliding in just the tip.

MISS WOLF: [gripping his hips harder] Just do it!

STEELE: [living dangerously -- giving her a little more] That air of desperation rather becomes you.

MISS WOLF: All talk and no act -

She expels a hard breath as, standing, he slips in the rest of the way. She's wet, eager to take him, but his first stroke is slightly uncomfortable; another, slower pass and they both adjust; she feels his foreskin retract and then the welling up of heat as he begins to glide, sure and silken inside her . . .

Steele thrusts harder, deeper, the angle is delicious; she reaches under her thighs and finds the root of him, the thickness pressing against her fingers; curious, she rolls his balls in her hand; on each entry she squeezes him, her walls tightening, and he muffles a cry against her shoulder. In reaction his long fingers seek and find her swollen outer flesh. With one hand she holds him there, guiding the pleasure as their bodies move together in a heart-rhythm.

Employing the sofa for leverage, they drop to the floor, slowing the pace, then letting it build again, just for the rush. It's a high-wire act, a walk on the wild side, every fiber and organ aching for release. But not just yet. Not until they use each other up . . .

Through some strange portal they've entered the twilight zone and come face to face with their own sexual mirror image. Neither is inclined to take a good hard look; both dance around the notion like Fonteyn and Nureyev.

STEELE: [suppressing a moan as he sits up] Well, aside from the back problems I'm going to have, how was that for a tango? [regards her smugly as if applause is a foregone conclusion]

MISS WOLF: [viewing him with a determinedly jaundiced eye] Men! They always want a report card!

STEELE: Don't worry. I'll give you till the morning to come up with some superlatives.

MISS WOLF: I'll give you until next week. [seductively] I want a sonnet from here - to here. [she points from the top of her head to the tip of her painted toenails]

STEELE: [sidles closer, intrigued by the notion] I think I'll skip to the third stanza. [he weighs her left breast judiciously in his palm]


In the pre-dawn hours Steele rolls her underneath him. She tells him she's ready for more, to give it to her straight up, hard and fast. Inside her with one swift stroke, he hears a soft cry, feels her flinch. He shifts gears
with a gentleness that stops her breath, murmuring an apology against her lips. They make love in a long slow burn of passion, a crescendo that gradually ripens into something like bliss. After it's over they lie side by side, grateful for the darkness, not wanting to see the look in the other's eyes.


Clothes are strewn haphazardly on the carpet. Pajamas, a skirt, a blouse, underwear, nylons. Empty glasses are on the coffee table, one resting sideways. A bedsheet, borrowed sometime in the night, covers two barely sentient forms.

STEELE: [blinks awake, trying to get his bearings. He peers in confusion at the evidence of the skirmish from the night before. He lifts up the sheet. There's a body next to his. A splendid body. And a face that looks frighteningly familiar. He gapes in disbelief, thinking he must be dreaming.] Oh my. [The body stirs. Not wanting to face the music, Steele turns over and pretends to be asleep.]

MISS WOLF opens her eyes and sits up to find Cary Grant looking down at her, dimple in his chin seeming vaguely suspicious. "Notorious". Cary Grant. Ingrid Bergman. Claude Rains. And some other name she can't quite make out. It dawns on her she's looking at a poster. A poster on the wall. The wall of HIS apartment. As the cold gray light of morning filters through the room, she peeks undercover, finds STEELE and freezes-frames, hand to her mouth.

STEELE: Mmm. [rolls over, just to see if she'll jump. He's right. She does. He settles in, pretending to be asleep again.]

MISS WOLF: [lies there transfixed, hardly daring to breathe. After Steele doesn't move for several minutes she decides it's safe. Maybe she can slip out before he wakes up. Pulling back the sheet she's reminded that he's naked. Naked and inches away. Like a junkie in need of a fix she stops to peruse the goods, lingering on some parts more than others] Funny. I've often thought of groping you at the office. Just to give my imagination something to go on. [Did she say that? Out loud?]

STEELE: [opening one blue eye] One good grope deserves another.

MISS WOLF: It talks! [a moan of despair] Oh, God!

STEELE: [wide awake and grinning like a Cheshire cat] How's your imagination these days?

MISS WOLF: [does her best to ignore him] Thanks to you I've got carpet burns.

STEELE: Hello, nice little American shag! [he gives her a mock salute]

MISS WOLF: At least have the decency to shut up until I've had my morning coffee. [beat] On second thought, I'll take it to go.
STEELE: Leaving so soon? Breakfast in bed with me and a woman never wants to snack elsewhere.

MISS WOLF: I can see why. She'd have to diet for weeks to fit between you, the breakfast tray, and your ego.

STEELE: Where there's will, there's a way . . . I'm good at getting into -- tight spaces.

MISS WOLF: [she hasn't blushed like this since ninth grade. Suddenly she remembers how sore she is -- and why] Go away. I'm not in the mood. For you. Or anything with male hormones.

STEELE: Go where? It's my flat. And my plush carpeting we've been rolling around on for the past -- oh, eight hours.

MISS WOLF: Don't remind me. I have a low tolerance for morning afters.

STEELE: [shrugs] Now that you mention it, so do I.

MISS WOLF: Damn. I hate having something in common.

STEELE: [sits across from her, thinking it over] We could pretend it never happened, eh? For both our sakes.

MISS WOLF: You know, sometimes I think you're almost human.

STEELE: I was just going to say the same about you.

MISS WOLF: Then you spoil it of course, by being yourself.

STEELE: [a slow smile spreads across his lips] Speaking of being yourself there's a funny little sound you make just as you're about to -

MISS WOLF: [hands over her ears] I thought we were going to pretend this never happened!

STEELE: [delighting in her discomfort] I'd pegged you as a moaner. With hyperactive lungs. The sort of heavy goer one hears through the walls at a cheap motel.

MISS WOLF: You're not so quiet yourself. It was kind of novel hearing the words "don't stop" in a British accent.

STEELE: But I was wrong.

MISS WOLF: [brought up short] You were? [she can't help wondering where he's going with this]

STEELE: It's charming. Your sound. Sort of feline. A little growl in the throat.

MISS WOLF: A growl? Charming?

STEELE: Well, I thought so. At the time.

MISS WOLF: Well, don't get too used to it.

STEELE: The conga line forms here, eh? If you ever get tired of faking it, you know where you can find the real thing.

MISS WOLF: Why do I get the feeling that's as real as it gets with you?

STEELE: [warily] Isn't that enough? [by tacit agreement, neither brings up the bone of contention lying between them. Laura.]

MISS WOLF: I mean, now I know more than I want to know, but I still don't get what your game is. What you're really after. Though I gotta admit. I kind of like the way you go after it. [she grins in spite of herself]

STEELE: For what it's worth -- you got more from me than I bargained for.

MISS WOLF: [she runs a finger lightly down his chest] Same here.

STEELE: Of all the games two people can play, I suppose we've run the table, eh?

It had been no holds barred since the day they met -- and the night had been no different. All of the sparring, the rancor, the heat, had been the opening curtain to the main event. But for a stitch in time, in the darkness, heartbeat to heartbeat and skin to skin, a truce had been called and things would never be quite the same.

MISS WOLF: This is insane. We have to go back to the office on Monday.

STEELE: Courage, Miss Wolf. It won't be so bad. Just remember one thing.

MISS WOLF: What's that?

STEELE: [beat] I know what you look like naked.

MISS WOLF: [sticking a finger in his chest] You breathe a word of this -- one syllable, and you're history.

STEELE: My, you certainly got up on the wrong side of the floor this morning.

MISS WOLF: Remember that guy, Bruno? From "Waste Management, Inc."? The one you've been avoiding like a root canal? Well, he likes me. Says I remind him of his mother.

STEELE: [raises an eyebrow] His mum? How quaint.

MISS WOLF: Don't ask. Just do yourself a favor and keep mum about last night. One crook of my little finger in Bruno's direction and you'll be part of a landfill in Alameda.

STEELE: You might want to reconsider. You see, I know the location of that rather off color tattoo just above your -

MISS WOLF: [glares at him] I thought you Brits believed in fair play!

STEELE: I've picked up some bad habits in the colonies. Snapped a picture of it while you were asleep.

MISS WOLF: Hey, that tattoo's a souvenir!

STEELE: [smirking] And a delightful one, too!

MISS WOLF: Of my biker phase. When I was into leather.

STEELE: [brow furrows] Are you sure that's in the past tense?

MISS WOLF: [sultrily] When I was hot, horny, and liked to straddle something big, throbbing, and powerful.

STEELE: [with a grin] You must have been having flashbacks last night!

MISS WOLF: [she traces the dark line of hair down to his navel] It wasn't all bad, was it?

STEELE: No. [the memory quickens his pulse] It wasn't all bad. At all.

MISS WOLF: So. What do we do for an encore? This could get really complicated.

STEELE: We do what they do in the movies, Miss Wolf. Fade to black. [pulls the sheet over their heads]