Beginning during Steeled With A Kiss Part II, Holting Steele is part I in a two part series. Picking up at Daniel's death, Holting Steele takes us through "when the lights went out" as our favorite couple begin their journey towards a future.
Standard disclaimers apply: I neither own nor profit from the characters or show.
My enthusiastic thank you goes out to my editor/beta reader and fellow Steele Watcher. It takes a determined person with a true love of the characters to forget through nearly 80,000 words while offering guidance on how to keep the characters true.
For the most enjoyment of stories, be certain to read them in order, as past stories are weaved into future ones. The order, as of now, is as follows:
Steele Torn & Trying to Holt On
Cannes Steele be Trusted (co-written with the super-talented SuzySteele)
Steele Working out the Details
Steele Settling In
Steele Finding Comfort
Steele Holting on To Christmas
Steele Holting on To The Holidays
Holting on to the Moments
Steele Cold Relief
Steele Hurdling Obstacles
Steeling the Big Apple
Steele Dying to Get it Right
Holting Steele - (Part 1 of Be Steele My Heart)
Be Steele My Heart (Book 1)
I hope you enjoy. Please do leave feedback. Often my stories are spurred by suggestions by readers :)
Chapter 1: Endings
To say things had been, well… rickety… between Laura and Remington since their marriage on the tuna boat would be quite the understatement. They'd managed to survive Keyes's frame up of Remington for murder, as well as the introduction of one suspicious man of in the form of Anthony Roselli into their lives while in Las Haddas. Through a great deal of dialogue, they'd managed to put that mess behind them, until, of course, they returned to LA where they had every intention of finally crossing that line into the bedroom. But where their relationship pre-tuna boat had seemed to be marked by interruptions in the form of unwelcome visitors, bullets flying and untimely phone calls, post-tuna boat it seemed to be defined by roadblocks in the form of frame-ups, espionage, attempts on their lives, and, of course, a little bit of blackmail.
They'd had their evening all planned out when they arrived at LAX: Wine and dine the representative from the INS, then be done with the whole sordid mess by use of considerable charm. Then, once the investigator was shown the door, a night of long awaited love making – perhaps not in the worthy setting Remington had always imagined, yet the flat in which the majority of their non-traditional romance had taken place was, in both their eyes, a nearly perfect setting anyway. It was there, over the years, that they'd become friends; that he had wined, dined and tempted her; it was there that they had spent many a night by a fire, talking, drinking wine, weaving their presence throughout each other's lives; and it was here that they'd worn down the carpet in places, from nights of simply enjoying dancing in one another's arms.
That, of course, was not meant to be. The introduction of one persnickety and unpleasant INS investigator in the form of Gladys Lynch, one ex-lover with an agenda in the form of Shannon Wayne, and one snake in the grass, wanna-be wife stealer in the form of Anthony Roselli, and Remington had watched as an evening of romance went up in flames. The night had ended with Laura believing he had stashed a woman in his place, and him watching the woman that had stolen his heart years before kissing Roselli hard and deep. By night's end, both believed they had been betrayed by the other, and both were left feeling as though their worlds had imploded.
It was not until the air was cleared between them on the flight of London, that the world that had been tilting on its axis suddenly righted itself again. Over the last year, Laura and Remington had committed themselves with communicating more, hiding less. So, as the couple was barely holding on to the threads of the ties had bound them together across the years, he had taken a chance and warily approached her, in a desperate attempt to clear the air and hold on to what they had both clung to across the years. Only after assuring Laura that nothing had taken place between he and Shannon for years and that he had no desire to ever see the woman again, did she make some admissions of her own: Nothing had happened between her and Roselli on the beach, for no other reason that she didn't want it to. His relief at her words was palpable, and, as the world righted itself once more, they committed to wrapping up their case in London quickly so that they could finally enjoy their long awaited honeymoon.
But, of course, that, too, was not meant to be. In the spirit of their post-tuna boat wedding, blackmail was the call of the day. Roselli, who now revealed his ties to the INS, blackmailed Remington: either act as a mole in Roselli's little espionage game or be deported, while leaving the field clear for Roselli with Laura. Shannon Wayne was not passive in her own right, blackmailing Laura as well: she'd make a hasty exit from her and Remington's lives only if Laura would help her recover some pictures taken of her during a theft. Any idea of honeymooning tabled again combined with not seeing one another since they'd landed at Heathrow had once again taken a hard knock at the couple's now fragile trust in one another. Only after a rather… interesting… discourse on the dance floor at the Flamingo Club, combined with saving Remington's hide at Paddington Station were Remington and Laura able to once again right themselves. Then, when a solicitor had dropped by the hotel to announce Remington had inherited a castle in Ireland from the Earl of Claridge, it seemed fate had finally fallen in their favor. Neither could imagine a more worthy setting in which to finally consummate their relationship and they eagerly boarded a train, that would whisk them away to the port where a ship would take them to Ireland.
Had Laura had her way, that worthy setting would have quickly changed to the private cabin on the train. But once more, fate was fickle, and Remington watched her plans go by the wayside as his new bridge kissed the nefarious Roselli far too ardently, in his opinion, in order to save Roselli from the clutches of the Bobbies who were seeking to arrest him for espionage. Once more, the couple were swept up into a mess not of their own making, and once more, Remington had to stand by and watch as the once archaeologist then INS investigator now MI5 agent attempted to lure his wife away. Left with no choice but to help Roselli if he wished he and Laura to ever be rid of the snake-in-the-grass, Remington set about trying to clear Roselli of the charges against him.
Laura, in the meantime, was distracted by Daniel Chalmer's arrival at Ashford Castle and quickly found her hands full, as unwanted as that might be. Unwittingly, she had unearthed the secret that Daniel was Remington's long-lost father, the secret she now carried leaving her angst ridden as Daniel continually tried to avoid telling his son the truth. At the same time, she found herself in a position of having to fend off Roselli's continual advances.
It seemed to Remington that since the arrival of the INS in their lives, he and Laura had been living out one of those awful made-for-television mini-series that Laura was so fond off or, even worse, one of those bloody soap operas Mildred adored. For more than a month, now, their lives had been dictated by one outlandish plot after another, and he was getting damned tired of it at all. He wanted nothing more to settle back into the tranquility he and Laura had found in the last year – with the exception of a couple blips along the way. He needed the friendship they had always shared, missed the partnership that had forged who they'd become together. He longed for a night by the fire, wine glasses in hand, where they would talk about everything and nothing at all, laughing often and sharing heart-stopping kisses here and there. For a man that once enjoyed living on the edge nearly all the time, now he craved those periods of stillness, where peace reigned and the only adrenaline that flowed was due to his wife's effect upon his person.
Laura was equally fed up, certain that she and Remington had somehow been yanked into a triple feature of some of the awful B-rated movies he enjoyed in which the plot was never quite clear but the main character faced one surreal challenge after another. Whatever it was, she was equally as exhausted as her husband. Daniel's secret weighed heavily on her shoulders, and with each passing hour she felt more and more like she was betraying Remington by not telling him. She was tired of Roselli's dogged pursuit of her and his attempts to sway her from her loyalty to Remington. She was tired of forces over which neither she nor Remington had any control dictating their lives from one minute to the next. She missed her partner, her best friend. She missed their quiet nights together. She missed their lives back home in LA, and wanted nothing more than to return to the peace they'd found in one another before the INS had arrived.
Both of their heartfelt wishes would come true, but in a way neither of them would ever be able to predict.
Laura returned from Galway with Roselli teetering on the edge of exhaustion. A night spent following Daniel, trying to find out what, precisely, the man was up to at the Soviet Embassy had meant not a bit of sleep. Having to fend off yet another kiss by Roselli then deal with his adolescent attempts at trying to convince her how much he cared about her, only served to fray her nerves. She'd handled it poorly, allowing the man to believe at one time he might have had a chance with her. She shook her head, irritated with herself over the whole debacle. She'd been ping-ponging between fury with her Mr. Steele for the way he'd handled the INS affair to nursing a broken heart that he hadn't come to her to wanting nothing more than to finally make love to the man that had held her heart for so long to simply missing his presence. The more her emotions spun out of control, the more he spiraled with her, never knowing from moment-to-moment which Laura to expect. Right now, what she wanted more than anything was to go up to their room, shower, pull on one of his shirts and curl up in his arms and sleep for days.
But, Daniel's secret kept her from allowing herself even that little comfort. The guilt of keeping it from Remington was slowly eating away at her and she'd begun avoiding him, afraid that he would take one look at her and know she was keeping something from him. That he would assume it was something of significance had happened between she and Roselli, she didn't doubt for a minute. He'd have absolutely no reason to suspect she was complicit in something with Daniel, but after the way she'd behaved in Mexico, LA and later on the train to port, he'd have every reason to believe that of she and Roselli.
She regretted, deeply, her words to Daniel at the Embassy.
"I think you've made the right one. I'm glad you haven't told Mr. Steele the truth. He's better off imagining the strong father he deserves than finding out he's the son of a cowardly con artist. Rest in peace."
She'd been cruel, there was no other way to put it. The words had been born of exhaustion and frustration. She felt like Daniel had finally accomplished what he'd been trying to do for years: Firmly putting an insurmountable wall between she and Remington. She knew her friend and partner well enough to know he'd see each second that ticked by without her revealing what she knew would be seen as one betrayal after another piled on top of each other. While she had spent years struggling to trust him, he'd given her his trust from nearly the first day, except when it has really mattered, she reminded herself now. She shook off the thought. As my mother has always told me, two wrongs don't make a right. My keeping this from him now can't be justified by the things he's kept from me in the past.
She needed to see him, to simply be near him, no matter the risks of her revealing too much. The lack of time with him these last weeks was drawing on her, she could admit that. It had been utterly confusing to be so angry at him, so hurt by him, but wishing she could just sit down and talk to her closest friend. She knew he saw her as his anchor, that in times of turmoil if he stood steady with her they'd come out on top. What he didn't know, and she certainly hated to admit to herself, he was her anchor as well. His good humor, his natural optimism buoyed her; his ability to suddenly become the calm, rational one when she went a little wild, provided her a balance she hadn't realized she'd needed; his simple presence by her side brought her peace, calming the troubled waters of her mind. If someone had told her four years ago that he would become her safe haven, she would have laughed. But, at the end of the day, that is what he was to her now: her sanctuary.
She parted Roselli's company at the front doors of Ashford Castle without a word or a glance. She knew he'd tried to draw her into conversation several times on their trip back, but she had simply tuned him out. As far as she was concerned, there was little left to say after she'd said what she needed in the streets of Galway. She slowly, wearily trudged up the stairs towards the master bedroom, hoping that Remington would be there.
The room, of course, was empty. Her shoulders drooped as she crossed the room to sit on the couch. She curled up into a corner, dozing in and out for several minutes, before she gave her head a hard shake. Shower, then a nap, she commanded herself. Wearily, she leaned down to untie a shoe.
The bedroom door behind her flew open, slapping against the wall behind it. Somewhere in her mind she'd expected it to be Remington, and her face fell when she saw it was only Mildred. She sighed deeply in disappointment.
"Oh, Mrs. Steele," Mildred lamented somewhat frantically, as she hustled across the room towards Laura. "I've been looking for you for almost an hour. Where have you been?" Laura gave a weary shake of her head.
"In Galway, trying to find out what Chalmers is up to this time," she answered tiredly. She didn't even bother to wonder why Mildred was looking at her, confused. "What is it Mildred?"
"It's the Boss. Oh, Miss Holt… I mean Mrs. Holt-Steele, I tried to help but I don't know if I did. I don't think I've ever seen him this upset!" Mildred pressed her hands to her face, then dropped them. Laura stood and walked over to the older woman and grasped her upper arms lightly.
"Mildred, what is wrong with Mr. Steele?" she asked as calmly as she could as Mildred prepared to go off on another rant.
"It's Chalmers. He just told the Boss he's his father! The Boss isn't taking it well at all. Who would after being lied to for twenty years? He trusted…" Laura squeezed Mildred's arms lightly, trying to catch her attention.
"Mildred! Where is Mr. Steele?" she asked emphatically.
"With Chalmers, at least I think he is. He was at the lake, then came back inside after we talked. But he could have gone anywhere. You know how…" Mildred trailed off when she realized she was speaking to an empty room.
Laura moved swiftly, navigating from the wing of the castle in which she and Remington resided to the other wing of the house where Mildred, Daniel and Roselli had been provided rooms for the stay. She instinctively knew the second she viewed Remington from beyond the threshold of Daniel's room. Remington's drawn, shell-shocked visage as he sat on the bed holding two glasses of port said it all: Daniel had died. His head lifted, and the pain reflected in his eyes when he looked at her nearly knocked the wind from her. She'd only once before such a look of complete desolation on his face – the night she'd ended them before he'd fled for London. Her ability to find words of comfort for her husband fled on fleet foot, leaving her with only her presence to try to comfort him. Sitting on the bed next to him, she placed a hand on his shoulder. He barely moved, gave her no real acknowledgement, only sitting there with that look of utter devastation on his face, holding tight to those glasses.
At the touch of Laura's hand, Remington felt a quiver pass through his body. Numb from shock and grief, and weary after weeks of strain between the two of them, he felt as though he were frozen in place. He wanted nothing more than to drop the glasses he held and turn into her to so that he could find some slight solace in her embrace, yet was unable to. His mind, however, shouted it relief silently. She's here. Somehow, as always seems to be the case, she's here when I need her most. Ah, Laura, what am I to do now? A dozen things he wanted to say and he couldn't force a word past his lips. But he didn't need to with her. He took comfort in the fact that she read him so well, knew how he was feeling without a single word. He'd only moved nearly infinitesimally towards her when Mickeline barged into the room.
"Sorry t'barge in on your Lordship, and I wouldn't 'ave intruded unless it was important- but there's a man deliverin' caskets downstairs."
Remington could only turn his eyes towards Daniel's body.
"Caskets?" Laura asked.
"By the hundreds!" Mickeline declared excitedly.
"We'll be right there," she told the butler wearily, then waited until the man departed the room before turning to Remington. Taking the glasses from his hands, she set them on the floor. Returning to him, she smoothed back his hair, then drew him into her arms. "We'll get through this together, Mr. Steele," she told him and felt a tremor run through his body at her words. "I promise, Remington. We will." At her last words his body to sink into hers as his arms wrapped around her and pulled her tightly against him with a desperation foreign to her. Her hand found the back of his head, and pressed his head to her shoulder. With a deep inhale that left him in a violent shudder, he forced himself together. Pulling away from her, he touched his fingers to a cheek, then closing his eyes, drew from a place from deep within and stood.
"Let's go find out what this is about, shall we?" he asked, his voice dull. He held out a hand to her, and she knew without him asking that he was seeking the comfort of her contact. She took his hand and rose
"Let's get this over with," she agreed.
Kemadov, Marissa, Mickeline, Mildred, Laura and Remington stood around the three caskets sitting in the middle of the anteroom, perplexed, at first, by what Daniel had in mind when ordering them. Marissa had tried her best to fill in the holes but had little to offer other than the plan involved a body and a plan to smuggle her father out of Moscow when he was found. That plan, of course, was now moot, as Daniel and she had been unable to find her father before Daniel's death, and now the much larger picture loomed: Roselli falsely accused of espionage; Fitch guilty of said espionage; a Russian in the form of Kemadov, who now had no choice but to defect to America; and, of course, the local gendarme out in force searching for Roselli. What, then, was the purpose of the three caskets standing before them now?
Laura watched with undiluted pride as Remington put it all together, figuring out what Daniel had been up to when he'd ordered the caskets. With a clap of his hands, he told the others of Daniel's plan, leaving the group, except Laura, confounded by his ability to figure out the intricate ruse.
The delivery man looked askance at Remington, while addressing no one in particular, "How did he figure that out?"
"Like father like son," Laura smiled towards Remington, realizing too late her gaffe. Damn, please don't let him have heard. What were you thinking, blurting it out like that? She eyed him speculatively, seeing no signs that he'd heard, least of all had absorbed her words, during the excitement of planning the elaborate con that was about to unfold. She forced down her sigh of relief before she drew attention to herself once again, instead saying a prayer of silent thanksgiving.
Beside her, even as Remington continued to lay out the plan on how they could simultaneously reveal a spy while clearing Roselli, he valiantly forced back the tidal wave of betrayal that had submerged his being, left him feeling as though he was floundering alone in a sea of mourning and anger. Like father, like son? Laura had missed the slight narrowing of his eyes, the way his fingers had clenched the sides of the casket upon which they were resting when she had spoken. Failed to notice that from that point on he could no longer look at her, make eye contact with her. Instead, he looked around her to Mildred whenever Laura posed a question or made a comment to which she expected a response.
Things unfolded rapidly and only minutes later Roselli was in police custody, and the plan was underway. Remington quickly outlined Daniel's intentions on how they would get Kemadov to the States while returning Fitch to the British authorities for prosecution for espionage, an unfortunate side effect being that of clearing Roselli. While he'd honor his word to the man, Remington could not quell his instincts which continued to warn him that he'd be best served if Roselli was behind bars and out of his life for good. Yet another unfortunate by-product of my relationship with Laura, he thought to himself now. This unquenchable need to honor my word.
The plan laid out, everything in motion, Remington turned on his heel and left the room without a look back.