Holt Under Wraps
Her throat was dry and scratchy and felt as if it had been crushed. Oddly, though, she welcomed the discomfort. As awful as she felt, at least Laura knew she was still alive. She wondered how long she had laid there. Then, her thoughts turned to how she got there to begin with. She should have known she was walking into a trap. A seasoned professional such as herself, should have known better. What’s the old saying about teaching an old dog and new tricks? Or maybe the one about a leopard and his unchanging spots was more appropriate. That rat bastard must have put something in her tea. Laura slowly sat up. The blanket that covered her, loosely fell to her lap. A sudden, overwhelming chill wracked her body. It took every ounce of effort to pull it up and wrap it around her body. A plan of escape was needed, but coherent thoughts of any kind were difficult in her current condition. Barely conscious, with even the simple of turning her head unexpectedly difficult and exhausting, she succumbed to her body’s insistence that she lay back down. She vowed to confront her captor later.
Laura could faintly hear the soft rustle of his fabric when he came into the room.
The bed moved very little from his weight when he sat next to her. His left hand reached out to her neck, lightly pressing beneath her jaw then moving to her forehead.
“What are you doing?” Laura moaned.
“Checking for fever. I was hoping the diaphoretic tea would have worked its magic by now.” Remington explained.
“I knew you put something in my tea.”
“Only natural healing elements to correct an imbalance and restore your ‘chi’”
“Chi, meaning your verve, your get up and go, your. . . Your inherent energy as it were. All a part of Chinese medicine, practiced for thousands of years. All about balancing opposing forces, cold and heat, dark and light and such. You have had an invasion of cold wind where the prescriptive cure is to drive away cold wind with qui-zhi-tang.”
“Cinnamon twig tea.” Remington translated.
“What movie did you learn that from?” Laura hoarsely asked.
He shook his head, “Spent a bit of time in Hong Kong.”
“The Chinese certainly have an interesting way of explaining the flu.” Laura shuddered and clutched the blanket tighter, “Besides I don’t think your Qui-. . . Qui-whatzit . . . Cinnamon-whatever worked anyway.”
He clapped and rubbed his hands together, “Well, I suppose we’ll have to try another remedy then, eh? One herbal bath, laden with eucalyptus and thyme coming right up.”
Remington disappeared into the adjoining bathroom ignoring Laura‘s anemic objection. He closed the drain to the tub and started the water running. Laura swung her legs over the side of the bed. A simple act that drained what little energy she had. Remington rushed over to the side of the bed to help her up. With his arm supporting her waist , he took one step in the direction of the bathroom while she took a step in the opposite direction, trying to leave.
“I’m going home.” Laura grumbled.
Knowing that she was in no condition to go anywhere and more importantly, knowing she couldn’t put up much of a fight, he clutched her firmly and hauled her into the bathroom. “I’m certain I’m going to catch hell for this later, my dear, but at least if you have the strength to kill me, I’ll know that you are feeling better.”
Remington put down the seat on the commode and set Laura there while he tested the temperature of the water. He briefly checked on Laura who remained a lifeless, pallor fraction of her usual feisty self. Satisfied that she wasn’t about to slump to the cold tile, Remington dashed out and quickly returned with another mug of tea in one hand. In the other hand he held a small sauce pan seeping a combination of holistic herbs. He placed the tea at the edge of the black tub and turned off the faucet . Remington then opened the shower door, set the sauce pan in the center and turned the valve all the way to hot explaining, “We’ll add a bit of therapeutic steam in here to clear the sinuses.” He returned to Laura and removed the blanket from around her. Remington was reluctant to disrobe her any further. Until now his actions approached that line, may have even bent that line, but taking off her clothes definitely crossed that line. “Do you think you can make it all right from here to the tub?” He asked with genuine concern. “I’ll check on you in a little while.” He kissed her forehead.
Laura shuffled over and sat on the edge of the tub. A minty vapor swelled from the shower stall. She held the mug of tea with both hands and took a sip to alleviate her sore throat. She reasoned that the warm water certainly couldn’t hurt. Slowly, she removed her clothes and descended into the tub.
After a while, Remington heard the shower valve go off and the water draining from the tub. He poked his head in, but kept turned away from Laura, “Here are some pajamas.” He extended a folded pair.
“I really would prefer to go home.” Laura clutched the towel closed with one hand but took the pajamas anyway.
“Nonsense Laura, we must quarantine those germs. We can’t have you out there infecting an unsuspecting public now, can we?”
“I thought my chi was out of whack.” Laura sardonically reminded him.
He smiled to himself that Laura appeared to already be on the mend. Laura came out a few minutes later. She had cuffed up the bottoms of the pants and sleeves. Remington threw back the corner of the spread covering the bed indicating for her to lay down. Once she complied, he covered her back up. He kissed her again on the forehead. “Sleep well, Laura.”
The calming influence of the herbs combined with the symptomatic fatigue, soon transported Laura into a deep sleep. She woke early in the morning. The pajamas were saturated and her hair was damp around her brow. Still a bit stuffy, her mouth was unusually dry. She encountered a sleeping Mr. Steele on the sofa on her way to the kitchen in search of juice. Laura stopped. She brushed aside a wayward lock of his hair. Kissing the tips of two fingers, she conveyed a subtle thank you pressing them to his forehead. She made her way back into the bathroom, this time to take a cool shower to wash away the sweat from the passing of her fever. She returned to bed, wearing a pair of his boxer shorts and a sweat shirt. Indeed she felt a lot better.
The next morning, he found Laura still in bed but on the opposite side from where he left hours before. The pajamas she had worn were draped at the foot of the bed. Remington cautiously peeked underneath the covers. He was somewhat relieved to find her in his sweatshirt. Remington always imagined Laura naked in his bed under different circumstances. That fantasy would somehow be ruined if his first glimpse came as a result of the something almost medical, rather than romantic. He once again sat at the edge and placed a hand to her forehead. She opened her eyes and smiled at him. A warm, engaging smile accentuated by the sparkle of her eyes.
“Good morning, Mr. Steele.”
“Good morning, indeed. You look better.”
She sighed and stretched. “I’m getting there. About 75 percent I'd guess."
“Ahh see,” He waggled his finger at her, “Never question the Chinese when it comes to healing or fireworks.”
“I’m sorry. At first I thought that whole Chinese ‘chi’ business was just you and your usual manipulation of a situation, but it really seems to have done the trick.”
“You know the whole philosophy of maintaining nature’s harmony and balance in one’s life doesn’t just apply to healing.” This time he brushed her auburn hair from her forehead.
“Is that why you stay around? Are you my opposing forces of nature to balance me, maintain my chi?.”
"Something like that, Laura, something like that." He bent to kiss her, this time on the lips.