Part 1 of the Holt Tight, My Love series.
Picks up at the conclusion of Steele Pursued.
For the most effective reading, my work should be read in chronological order as many of my one off's are spun into the history of the characters later on down the line. The chronological order of what I've written to date are 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 the Be Steele My Heart series
Be Steele My Heart – Part 2 of the Be Steele My Heart series
Steele Pursued – Part 1 of the Steele Tested series
Steele Tested – Part 2 of the Steele Tested series
Standard Disclaimers apply: I hold no ownership or rights to the series or characters. I simply choose to borrow the characters I love to write.
Friday October 17, 1986
The first seven days of the month had been… trying… to say the least. So much so, that when life returned to normal it seemed almost dull by comparison. Well, in Laura's estimation, anyway. After all, her get up and go had gotten up and went about the same time the boot on her foot made its appearance. True, the orthopedist at the emergency room had referred to it as a 'walking boot' but in her opinion he'd never tried to lug around the thing all day. It was fine for every day walking – get ready for work, get in the car, drive to work, drive home, get ready for bed. But to do leg work in? After a couple hours it began to feel like someone had tied a fifty-pound weight to the bottom of her leg.
Then, of course, there were the looks. After years of ramming her head against the wall to be seen as a professional first, and woman second, this little… inconvenience… had set all that work back nearly a decade. As soon as the boot was spied, people would all but pat her on the head in sympathy. Who was the cold, cruel man who sent the injured little woman out to do his work for him? She vowed to herself that the next person who tsk-ed their tongue at her would end up finding that boot on their toes.
Most of the legwork had ended up being handed over to Remington, given both of 'his' employees were hobbled up at the moment. Mildred still faced a little over three more weeks in her cast after being injured by a hit-and-run driver. As for Laura? Three days. Three days, three days, three days, three days, she mentally chanted. Alright, two and half. Because that boot is not going out with Bernice and I tonight.
For the first few days that she'd handed off the legwork to Remington, she'd spent a great deal of time snickering over it. Yet, despite the number of times she'd needled him about having an 'allergy' to legwork, he'd always been quite adept at it when the occasion called on him. Over the past nine days, he'd proven that once more and she'd stopped laughing by day three. Between checking up on prior security installations and recommending improvements, overseeing new installations, working on new security layouts for new contracts, doing the Agency's legwork and still being on hand for when the infamous Remington Steele needed to make an appearance, not to mention his weekly rounds to check on Veronica and Maxie and business meetings with Monroe over their plans to extend that business into the home theater arena, her husband was burning the candle at both ends and then some.
Still, without fail, he made dinner each evening and breakfast Sunday morning, refusing to allow their personal lives to be impacted by the professional. Including – no, especially – in the bedroom, where he'd insisted there would never come a day that he'd be too tired to make love with her. It taken all of the tricks she held up her sleeve to send him to sleep without any… amorous activity… the night prior. A long hot bath with her hands soothing him, followed by a massage and quiet words, and he'd dozed off not waking until the morning.
She leaned back in her desk chair and laughed. Tonight, he won't be so lucky, she thought to herself, mimicking his infamous brow waggle. As much as she enjoyed teasing him that he always had only one thing on his mind, she'd been positively itchy all day. Since that afternoon at Ashford Castle, they'd gone without making love for twenty-four hours only a handful of times, if one didn't count the times they couldn't, and each of those times had been during their stay in Greece. But forty-eight hours? It's driving me mad, she admitted.
Standing, she clomped, as gracefully as she could, towards his office door.
In his office, Remington scrubbed at his face. Between system updates and new installations, he'd reviewed so many sets of blueprints in the past week and a half that they were all becoming a singular blur. It didn't help, of course, that he'd been living in a state of perpetual panic the past three days at the thought he'd miss something and the Agency would suffer for it. That worry had him reviewing schematics three and four times when normally he'd go over them once and could visualize immediately precisely what needed to be done.
He dropped his head into his hands in frustration. It wasn't easy holding the weight of your wife's hopes and dreams upon your shoulders, especially when what one wanted most – to make her happy – was at risk as well if one failed. Therefore, failing was simply not an option.
Of all the barbs Laura had slung at him over the years, that was the one that had dug the deepest.
"That's what I love about you, Mr. Steele. Always here when I need you."
Determined that he would not fail this time, he reminded himself that in only a few more short days, all would return to normal. In the meantime, he'd do whatever it took to see that the Agency didn't suffer for the injuries Mildred and Laura had sustained.
Laura. My God, do I miss our time together, he mourned. Their nightly ritual of stretching out on the bed and talking had taken a hike some six days back. His habit of savoring the feel of her lovely, lithe frame slung over his after she'd fallen asleep had taken flight somewhere near day four as well. They'd made love nightly, except last night, but even he had to acknowledge that the last few times had been lacking the feeling that they had all night in which to express, physically, what they meant to one another. It had been her stroking his body into sleep each evening, instead of the other way around. The way it should be, the way she deserved. Bloody hell, he chastised himself.
He was so caught up in self-castigation and self-doubt, that he didn't even realize that the shared door between his office and Laura's had swung open some minutes ago or that the wife occupying his thoughts was watching him right now.
Laura's heart thumped achingly in her chest at the sight of him. Frustration had him strung tight as a bow and his tension could be seen in his shoulders, around his eyes, his mouth. That he was doing this to himself for her, and she didn't deny that fact, made it all the more difficult to see. She wanted nothing more than to see those blue eyes twinkling at her teasingly, to see that single brow lifted playfully, to see those lips quirk upwards in humor. She hadn't seen any of those things, those things that made him so uniquely Remington, in at least two days now. Enough is enough, she commanded herself. Three days will not make or break the Agency, but it may him if he keeps up this pace.
Decision made, she worked her way across the room to him and lay a hand on his shoulder.
"Mr. Steele." Remington jerked his head up and quickly pasted a smile on his face.
"Ah, Miss Holt," he greeted far too jovially, "Do you have a lead for me to chase down, a report to pick up, a meeting requiring my personal attention?" She leaned her bottom against the edge of his desk, bracing her hands against it.
"None of the above, although I do have a rather crucial matter that needs to be attended to at once," she answered solemnly. His eyes flicked towards the blue prints on his desk then back at her while he tried to mask the weary look that crossed his face for a split second.
"All you have to do is ask, and I'll be at your humble service," he joked, though the teasing light in his eyes normally present was conspicuously absent. With a slight shake of her head, she slipped into his lap and threaded her fingers through his hair. Unconsciously, his head leaned into one of her hands.
"Mrs. Steele would very much like for her husband to take her home." Glancing at his watch, he looked at her in surprise.
"It's barely the noon hour, Laura," he pointed out. She nodded.
"That's very true," she agreed, slipping an arm behind him to stroke the back of his neck. "And the Agency can do without us for half a day and still survive. You, on the other hand, have been carrying most of the load for the both of us for the last week and a half, and as much as I have appreciated that, and I have, it's time to take a break." She touched her lips to his. "I miss my husband, Mr. Steele. It's time for my partner to go on hiatus until Monday." Closing his eyes, he leaned his forehead against hers and let out a deep, stuttering breath.
"I've missed my wife as well, Mrs. Steele. Have missed our time together, more than you can possibly know."
"That's good to know. It makes me believe you might be in agreement that an afternoon stretched out on the couch, watching a couple of movies while picking at a cheese and fruit plate is exactly what both of us need." His hand reached up to stroke her neck.
"Saving me from myself, are you?" She pursed her lips and rolled the idea around in her mind before shaking her head in the negative.
"Saving you for myself, I think. I happen to like my husband, Mr. Steele, and he's taken on far too much lately, trying to make up for the other two people in this office being unable to carry their fair share of the load." His hand stilled and his brow furrowed, unseen.
"I haven't minded." Her lips lifted upwards in a quick smile, before she turned to press them against a cheek.
"I know. And I don't think there are words enough to express how much that means to me." She leaned back to look at him, fingertips grazing against a cheek. She played the ace up her sleeve. "Take me home, sweetheart." He gathered her close at the words, his heart turning to mush at the endearment as it always did, as she knew it always did. He held her for several long minutes, before finally answering.
"Let's go home, love."
As the saying goes, 'good intentions often go awry' and they certainly did that afternoon in the Steele household. Laura's plan of couch, movies and snack took a hike somewhere around fifteen minutes into Rope (James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger, Warner Bros., 1948). Remington's noticeable lack of commentary, failure to say Stewart's lines before Stewart himself ever spoke them, gave voice to exactly how off-kilter the last week had set him.
Lifting the hand lying against her stomach, she toyed with his ring. This, she realized, was one of the more difficult nuances of marriage. The demand, almost, to self-sacrifice in order to give your spouse what they needed. She let out a little puff of quiet laughter. Of partnerships, as well, she acknowledged. Their partnership had worked so well across the years because of their differences. Ironically, all their troubles arose from those same differences. While she was of the mindset of all work with a small bit of play scattered in here and there, he was of the mindset of do no more work than necessary but play as often as possible.
That difference between their work ethics was exemplified by their individual pasts. She'd had to work hard, very hard, in order to perpetuate the existence of the imaginary Remington Steele while at the same time keeping her nose to the grindstone to solve case-after-case, in order to establish the Agency's reputation. The cases, no matter how prestigious, did not carry large dollar signs, which in turn demanded a large volume of work to pay the bills. In Remington's prior life, however, while the planning for various heists would require a considerable amount of time and attention to detail, one evening of work would net substantial rewards, financially. As she'd learned in Theoule-Sur-Mer, a single job could net a veritable financial windfall, enough to support the average man, quite lavishly, for years on end. Simply by its nature, that life allowed an inordinate amount of time for play, suiting Remington's motto of living life to its fullest to perfection.
In the days after he'd first arrived at the Agency, Remington was rarely found actually at the Agency. Oh, he'd make the command appearances assigned to him by Laura, however, reluctantly, but other than that he played hard and worked little. In a short order of time, however, his agile mind had been drawn in by the lure of the mysteries and soon he was spending more and more time at the office – on his own terms of course. On days when the mundane ruled – skip traces, paperwork, etc – he'd arrive late and leave early, but was still in the office enough to lend his presence. When he'd made the move from figurehead to her partner, his hours had extended even more, though certainly still on his own terms. Since returning from London the year before that was less and less the case. More often than not, he'd arrive close to the nine o'clock hour and stay well after the Agency had shut its doors for the day, having realized that the more he took off of her shoulders, the more time she would have to play – with him.
She'd only seen him in the state he was currently in once before: When she disappeared for weeks to train from the triathlon, dropping the running of the Agency squarely into his lap. She'd been torn between amusement and, well, shock, at the time. The former because he was clearly, thoroughly put out that she'd seemingly bailed without a single explanation, leaving him no choice but to pick up the sword and foray on, or watch the Agency suffer for it. The latter because he had so willingly done exactly that. But, rising to the challenge had taken its toll. He'd become tense and edgy, allowed his imagination to run away with him, to the point he'd wondered if Laura was dallying with another man, despite their commitment to one another.
Touching his ring to her lips, she nodded her head. The fact was, her Mr. Steele could work hard, as long as he had time enough to play as well – most notably, play with her. She held no illusions that Agency was fully her own dream, and that long ago he'd resolved he'd do whatever was necessary to make that dream a reality for her. Oh, he enjoyed most facets of their work and even the parts that he considered a mere necessity he was almost annoyingly proficient at. But, this, right now, was his dream. Hearth and home, intimacy… family. She snorted softly. Who'd have ever thought domesticity would be the dream of the most flagrant Lothario I'd ever seen? But amusement aside, it was precisely that. The nights they lay before the fire, danced here in this living room, lay on their bed and talked before they went to sleep each evening – this was everything he wanted. For ten days it had been all but cast aside in order to keep the Agency running at optimal efficiency. She shook her head, wondering if they'd ever find that perfect balance between work and home.
Wiggling herself around to face him, she ran her fingertips down a cheek then along a jawline. A pair of strained, blue eyes met hers.
"'The trouble is, with me laid up like this, you haven't had enough to do.'" A smile twitched at the corner of his lips.
"Rebecca. Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Selznick International, 1940," he cited automatically. He sobered, picking up a strand of her hair and rubbing it between his fingers. "Look, Laura, if I've let you down—" She quickly pressed her lips to his, silencing his words.
"That's not at all what I meant," she corrected. "If anyone has let someone down around here, it's been me, you." He looked at her shocked.
"You? You can hardly help that you're injured, Laura," he disagreed.
"No, I can't. But that's not what I mean either. Our focus has been on keeping the Agency running smoothly, so much so that we've taken hardly any time at all for us. This… us… needs to be held in equal, if not more, importance." For the second time, in as many minutes, she astounded him.
"You're admitting to that?" Her hand smoothed across his shoulder, down his arm.
"I happen to like my husband, Mr. Steele. I enjoy our time alone together." She flashed her dimples at him. "I might even go so far as to admit that marrying you may have been one of my better ideas." Remington quirked a brow at her.
"Unless my memory fails me, Mrs. Steele, it was I to suggest we wed."
"Only after I made it clear that I was amenable to the idea."
"But only one of us had been… bouncing around… the idea of nuptials for some time." Now it was her time raise a brow.
"Oh, and who exactly would that be?" He nudged her, until she turned back to her side. He spooned his body to hers, then reached for her left hand. Holding it up, he thumbed her engagement ring.
"That answer, love, would seem fairly clear to me, hmmmm?" Laura chewed on her lip for a minute, wondering if she might finally lure the answer from him that she'd pondered many times since he'd presented her with the ring.
"How long had you been 'bouncing around' the idea, again?" He laughed quietly and nuzzled his cheek against her head.
"Ah, as I've said before, to know that might give you the upper hand. Can't have that, now can we?" He snuggled into her warm body a little more tightly.
"I'll get it out of you one of these days," she muttered under her breath.
"Perhaps I'll consider sharing that little tidbit of information with you on our silver anniversary." He yawned deeply as his fingers tangled with hers. She snorted lightly.
"Oh, I'll get it out of you before that," she mumbled to herself this time.
"You might," he answered just as quietly some seconds later, startling her as she thought he'd fallen asleep. "But then again, you might not…"