He was reclining
on the sofa watching her meticulously thread a needle in the adjacent
chair. He was playfully tossing popcorn at her. " You're
not being very helpful, Mr. Steele," she scolded.
"Explain to me again why people put popcorn on a Christmas tree?"
"It's something called tradition.... You know how I am about Christmas." Laura replied as she started to string the pieces on the thread.
"It just seems like a lot of trouble to go through for one day of the year."
"You are not going to ruin my mood, Ebenezer," she quipped. "I thought that we might even get a tree for your apartment, it's never too late to start your own traditions, you know" She rose from the chair to place the strand on the tree. She was humming a Christmas tune partially just to annoy him. She was standing on a chair to reach the top of the tree when the phone rang. "Will you get that please?"
"Hello...Why, Abigail..." he said with extra sweetness and a payback look at Laura. In that moment she froze *God, now this will certainly ruin my mood.* She quickly got down from the chair and darted across the room to get to the phone before he would say too much to her mother. Remington continued, "Happy Holidays to you too... yes... yes..." Laura was futilely trying to wrestle the phone from his hand. "Yes Laura is here, we are..." In that moment Laura shook her head with a desperate look on her face and he finished his sentence "working on a case". She was relieved. He said his goodbye and handed her the phone.
"Hello? Mother..." Remington was standing behind her. He swept her hair to the side as planted soft kisses to the back of her neck and nibbled behind her ear. He knew this would her drive her to distraction. She was trying to hold a conversation with her mother. "Christmas Day?" Under the best circumstances, she could never really talk to her mother. Laura stepped out of his reach and motioned to him to try to shoo him away. This just made him more determined to tease her. Her defenses were down. Laura was losing her composure as she stammered into the receiver "Oh sure.... I suppose I could..." Remington was curious to see how far he could go. He reached out and pulled her back into him. His hands slid up underneath the Stanford sweatshirt she was wearing. Laura fumbled with the phone in one hand while trying to wrestle away with the other. With Abigail yammering on the other end Laura tried her best to maintain the conversation, "Mr. Steele... Oh mom, I ... I don't know if that would be appropriate... he is my boss," she said rolling her eyes. When Remington began caressing her midsection and then tracing the outline of her bra, she turned and gave him a look that could kill. He smiled smugly at the thought he had won and returned to the sofa. She resumed her conversation. "No, I don't think he's seeing anyone. (Again more exasperated eye rolling)... OKAY, okay, I'll ask him.... Sure, Sure I'll call when I know my flight details... Bye."
She turned towards him, "You are going to pay for that."
"Pay for what?", he replied feigning innocence.
"I would have never agreed to spend Christmas with my mother if you weren't ... (she was searching for the word).... assaulting me." She walked over to him, climbing on top of his body, put her hands around his neck in a mock strangle. He grabbed her wrists and pulled her hands at their sides. This caused her body to lower where she was now lying on his chest and their faces were just inches apart. "You're invited too...." she reminded him, then added, "...and you're going." At that point she lowered her lips on his. They broke the kiss and she started to climb off when he wrapped his arms around her to keep her there.
"Why do I have to go?" he inquired.
"Because you poor thing, you're all alone, with no family," She started sarcastically then became more serious, "Besides, I need you there to keep my mother from driving me crazy. She'll behave with you there. She won't want to make a scene ".
"Why don't you just tell her about us?"
"I would rather have my mother be endlessly disappointed in me for not having prince charming and the fairytale marriage, than for her to be ashamed of me for banging my boss."
"You certainly wouldn't word it like that, would you?" he mused.
"No, but that's the way she'll take it. You should be grateful that I'm not taking you down with me. She adores you. She would be crushed to find out the fact that you are taking sexual advantage of her little girl." Laura replied returning again to a sarcastic tone.
"You are on top of me... who is taking advantage of whom?" She bent her head down to meet his lips. He moved his hands over her whole body causing her to moan slightly. He continued to kiss her as one hand rested on her rear and the other traveled down the back of her thigh.
"Mr. Steele, I still have decorating to do"
"Decorating can wait, my dear" with that he kissed her again.
On the airplane, Laura was noticeably
nervous. She fidgeted in her seat and tried unsuccessfully to
get through a crossword puzzle. Normally she could whiz right
through, doing it in pen. But instead, her pen was doodling endless
circles on the page as she gazed out the window.. He could sense
her uneasiness. He reached over, took the pen away and held her
left hand as he spoke, "Laura?"
"I don't think this is such a good idea," she said as she turned her head to look at him.
"Well, it a little late to change your mind now."
"I know, it's just that my mother makes me so... so..." she couldn't find the word but continued, "and now I can't even tell her that for once in my life, I'm happy."
A slight grin emerged on his face, as he thought about her statement. Neither of them had the courage to say what they felt to each other. So many times he wanted to, and could sense that she wanted to tell him also, but it always eluded them.
"Laura, it won't be that bad." he patted her hand assuring her.
"At least you get to escape to back to your hotel room every night...."
"What do you mean my hotel room, where will you be?"
"Mother insisted I stay with her at the house."
"Laura, I thought we would keep up a just-friends, professional front around your family then get to be together, alone later. Now your telling me I can't.... We can't... for three days?"
"You still think it won't be so bad?" she replied mockingly.
He looked at his watch, and leaned in suggestively, "Then I propose we make the best our remaining one hour and forty-five minutes."
"Mr. Steele," she scolded, "We're on a commercial airline during the busiest travel period. What do you have in mind?"
He flashed a devilish smile, got up from his seat and walked towards a flight attendant. She could see him turn on the charm as he sauntered towards her to request an unusual favor. Laura was torn between being excited and embarrassed by whatever he was up to. He returned to the aisle next to their seats and offer his hand to her, "Come on."
"What are you up to?"
"Just come with me, you'll find out."
He led her through a small service area and down a narrow stairwell to what appeared to be the inside of an ambulance. She looked around the small room and exclaimed, "What is all this?"
"Some airplanes are equipped for medical transports," he put his arms around her, "I guess this is our lucky day." Remington bent his head down to capture her lips. She obliged, opening her mouth to accommodate his probing tongue. Soon they were lying on the gurney removing each other's clothing in haste to satisfy more physical urges. Their lovemaking was always so varied, not just regarding location and positions. On occasion, it was primal and urgent. Most times it was slow and savoring. Laura pleasantly surprised Remington. She truly was the "absurdly passionate woman" Wilson once described, but she was also the most vulnerable, giving and loving person he had ever been with. There was a complexity to her, a mystery that he had to investigate. The other women in his life were so transparent, wanting something from him, not having anything to give him.
They returned to their seats just as the plane was preparing to land. He reached over, kissed her on the brow and whispered, "I guess we're in the mile high club now."
"You were already a member weren't you?"
"No. Believe it or not, Miss Holt, I have had a multitude of firsts with you."
At that remark she giggled and reached over to put her seat belt on.
"Merry Christmas, Laura...
Mr. Steele," Abigail Holt greeted as she opened the front
door. Laura gave her a strained hug.
Remington kissed her cheek. "Please, please Abigail, call me Remington".
In an attempt to be pleasant, Laura started, "Mother, the house looks lovely," They both stepped inside and took off their coats.
"Here let me take those", Abigail offered but Remington intervened taking their coats and bags to follow Abigail to another room. Laura surveyed the room. Nothing much has changed since the last time she visited. Same furniture, same decor, same pictures or more accurately "shrine" to Frances and her family. *Would it kill her to acknowledge that she has another daughter?* she thought. She knew they were at odds over petty things, but the underlying reason was she reminded her of him. She has his eyes, his smile and his fierce determination. When he left suddenly all those years ago, she could never forgive him, and Laura, who was so much like her father, was left to weather the storm.
"You have a charming home, Abigail. Thank you for inviting me." Remington said as they reentered the living room. "Please allow me to take you all to dinner tonight."
"No, Mr.- Remington, you are my guest." Abigail smiled. "Laura and I will make dinner for you. She's a wonderful cook. Make yourself at home, we'll run to the market."
In the car, Laura felt the need to put an abrupt stop to her mother's embarrassing attempt. "Mom, what are you doing, he knows I can't cook."
"Honey, I'm not doing anything, I just thought it would be nice to let your Mr. Steele relax and treat him to a little family atmosphere."
*Family, what a joke* she thought. She pushed that to the back of her mind, determined not to let her mother get to her. Her mind drifted back to airplane. Those wicked thoughts of the two of them in that small medical compartment would keep her sustained for the next few days.
The dinner and evening were surprisingly pleasant. After dinner they shared wine while they played cards. That was probably the only thing she and her mother had in common. The clock above the mantel chimed eleven and Remington stretched, rubbed his eyes and spoke, "Well ladies if you will both excuse me, I should go check into the hotel. Abigail, would you allow your lovely daughter to drive me?"
She was delighted at the prospect that he thought Laura was lovely, "Certainly, Remington, I get the keys."
While she was away, Laura got up to put the wineglasses in the kitchen. Remington followed her with his glass and the empty bottle. After setting them on the counter, he craned his neck to check around the corner, then quickly kissed her.
"You promised you were going to be on your best behavior," Laura rasped. Abigail emerged from the bedroom with their coats and his suitcase.
"Thank you for a wonderful evening, Abigail," he said as he kissed her on the cheek. "Now I see where Laura gets her charm".
As they got into the car, Laura seemed a little annoyed, "Why couldn't you just stick to the script?"
"Whatever do you mean?" he replied innocently.
Laura mockingly responded "your lovely daughter... now I see where Laura gets her charm." In a more stern voice, she scolded, "We are supposed to be platonic co-workers, and you're giving my mother all the ammunition she needs to think that there is a chance for us to be a couple."
Remington laughed at the absurdity of her statement then offered, "Why would it be so terrible for your mother to know that we ARE a couple?"
"She will either assume I am a slut and I threw myself at you, or she'll want to know when's the wedding.... Either way I'm in hell."
"So when are you planning to tell her?"
"I dunno... sometime.... Maybe".
Remington smiled, amused that Laura Holt, Miss Take-On-The-World, would be afraid to tell her mother something pleasant. They pulled up to the entrance to the hotel. When the valet ran out to park the car, Laura motioned that wasn't necessary. She popped the trunk and left the car running. Remington pulled his bag out of the trunk, "Why don't you come to my room and help me settle in." he said with a wink.
"I can't... I'm sorry. I'll pick you up in the morning". She kissed him briefly on the cheek and returned to the driver's door. He smiled smugly, knowing he still had an ace up his sleeve.
As Laura reentered her mother's garage
entry door, she heard her talking on the phone, "Sure thing,
Remington.... (pause)no..No that would be no trouble at all."
She hung up the phone.
"What would be no trouble?" Laura asked warily.
"Remington needs his wallet," Abigail stated matter of factly.
"I'm sure he does, mother."
"Well, you have it."
"But, I don't..." Laura muttered
"It's in your purse, remember, he asked you to hold on to it on the plane."
"Oh, yes... the plane" Laura responded as if she knew what her mother was talking about. She took her purse off her shoulder and reached in. Sure enough, his wallet was THERE. *He is Unbelievable.* she laughed to herself.
He opened the door to her standing
against the jamb. She stood there holding his wallet tapping
it against her opposite hand. She decided turn about is fair
play, " Why Mr. Steele, I do believe I found your wallet,
but there doesn't seem to be anything in it." She opened
the wallet and dumped it upside down to illustrate her point.
Knowing he had been beat at his own game he gracefully bowed and conceded,
"Touché, Miss Holt "
She walked passed him into his room threw his empty wallet onto the dresser, reached into her pocket and tossed an assortment of credit cards and cash on top of it. She then exhaustedly flopped on the bed with a heavy sigh. He took this as an invitation to join her. Remington crawled next to her. He draped his right leg over hers to prevent her from getting up. She wasn't trying yet. In a bolder move he started laying a trail of kisses on her brow, cheek, chin, neck....
Although she wasn't putting up any kind of resistance, she did interrupt, "You know I can't stay...(more kisses even lower on her body)... very.... (Undoing a few buttons of her blouse)... long."
"I can always call you're mother and ask if you can sleep over."
"We've already been over that" She put her hand over his stopping his progress.
"Maybe you have car trouble," he resumed kissing her this time making his way back up her body. He met her lips in a passionate, prolonged kiss.
Caving in, she panted, "I think I just got a flat tire".
She quietly entered her mother's
house, hoping not to wake her. She felt like she was in high school
again sneaking in after curfew. Abigail was still up. "Laura?
It's almost 2:30! Where have you been?"
"Your car had a flat, I waited for the auto club at the hotel."
"Laura, have you ever heard of the telephone?"
Now she really felt like she was a teenager again, "I know... I know... I should have called I'm sorry I didn't think you would still be up, I AM an adult, mother."
"Well when are you going to start ACTING like one?"
"What do you mean by that?" Laura responded knowing damn well that this was leading to the why-aren't-you-married-and-settled-down speech. A small part of her wanted her mom to start her usual tirade on the subject so she could trump her with the truth of her involvement with Mr. Steele. But the truth was it was just an involvement, she wasn't sure it even qualified as a relationship, which was a far cry from married and settled down.
Abigail simply responded "I am your mother and I will always worry about you"
Laura sighed to herself relieved that the whole subject was about to drop, when Abigail turned in the hallway and added, "I doubt you'll ever have children of your own, to know how I feel."
Laura nodded her head, muttered goodnight and retired to the guestroom.
The next morning, Christmas Eve,
Abigail was busy in the kitchen. She loved to entertain, making
fancy hors-d'oeuvres and desserts. Laura offered to help, but
everything she did resulted in a "Laura, dear, it's better
to do it this way..." Thankfully, when Frances and her family
arrived, she became a shadow in the background. Laura excused
herself to pick up Mr. Steele from the hotel. She called him
from the lobby phone, the temptation would have been too great
to go to his room and seduce him this time and not return to her
mother's at all. When he emerge from the elevator, he was carrying
several wrapped packages for Laura's family. Sensing Laura's poor
mood, he dropped them at his feet and pulled Laura into his arms.
He whispered a good morning and bent his neck to tenderly kiss
her. His hands gently ran up and down her back as the kiss deepened.
When Laura seemed unmoved he let go, backed away and lightly
suggested, "I know how to get a smile on your face, but I
hardly think the management will condone that in the lobby. Now
is your disposition going to improve or am I going to have to
carry you back to my room and for an attitude adjustment?"
Laura finally grinned and replied, "You know I had a very similar fantasy going on in my head on the drive over. I doubt that my mother will miss me at all." The last part of her statement brought back her somber mood. She grabbed one of the bags containing packages and finished, "C'mon, I'm double parked out front."
The day passed in a pleasant blur. Frances and the kids seemed to keep Abigail occupied and out of Laura's business. After dinner they opened presents. Most of the gifts were for the children. Remington's bag of gifts were very tasteful; Waterford candlesticks for Abigail, Disney video library for the Pipers, and a very unromantic Franklin Day Planner for Laura. Remington had intended for the day planner to be somewhat of a private joke referencing Laura's perpetual compulsion to "organize."
As they were picking up the discarded wrapping paper, Remington whispered to Laura, "Unzip it and look what I have planned for the next year." He disappeared into the garage with the trash as Laura warily opened her portfolio. Sure enough, on various dates throughout the year, under "special projects", "notes" and even "things to do" he penciled in an extensive variety of very graphic appointments for him and Laura. She only flipped through the first few weeks, when she felt a heated blush emerging and felt it was best to put her book away. The kids went off to play with their new toys, Donald and Danny started to put together a model and Frances was in the kitchen with Abigail. . Laura tried to maintain an interest in the domestic topic, but when Remington announced that he "was going to take a bit of a walk", Laura graciously offered to accompany him. They put on their coats and headed up the sidewalk. Light snow gently fell around them when Laura finally spoke, "Thank you for my gift, it looks like I'm going to have a very busy year ahead."
You're welcome, Laura, but I certainly don't expect you to do all those things by yourself."
"I don't think it physically possible to do those things by myself," Laura replied with a giggle.
Remington stopped in his tracks and pulled on Laura's sleeve, "Do you think we are far enough away?"
"Far enough?" she questioned, "For wh-."
Before she could finish, he pulled her into an embrace and kissed her soundly. When their lips parted, Remington spoke, " I do have another gift for you," he then corrected himself, "a real gift". He reached into the inside pocket of his coat and retrieved a small box. Laura froze in place as he extended his hand out. Without opening it, she knew and started shaking her head in disbelief, "you didn't... this isn't..." She looked up, but his stone-faced expression gave her no clue.
He simply said, "Just open it." With a sly smile he took the diamond solitaire and placed it on her ring finger and added, "I happen to notice that you have a few open dates in your calendar next year."