Chapter 6

The bride wore a white sheath, with a modified bustle that billowed in the light breeze; the groom the navy blue pinstripe his bride-to-be favored on him. Mildred stood up for Remington, Frances for Laura and Donald gave Laura away. Abigail made no attempt to conceal her tears as her daughter, at last, exchanged vows with the man before her.

Remington's thumb stroked the hand he held in his.

"Remington, if you'll repeat after me," the officiant requested. "I, Remington…"

"…Take thee, Laura," he repeated solemnly, his eyes holding fast with hers, "To be my wedded wife. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish, till death us do part." The officiant turned to Laura.

"If you'll repeat after me…"

"I, Laura, take thee, Remington, to be my wedded husband. To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer…"

"In sickness and in health…" relayed the officiant.

"In sickness and in health," she repeated.

"To love, cherish and obey, till death us do part..." A dimpled smile appeared on her face, and her eyes danced with humor up at Remington.

"Nice try," she commented, in a droll undertone, then said aloud, "To love and to cherish, until death do us part." He couldn't help the crooked smile that graced his face.

"A man has to try to get a hand up where he can," he noted with a wag of his brows.

"A man may still find himself sleeping on that honeymoon couch," she deadpanned, humor still glinting in her eyes.

Which is why bride and groom were laughing, as they walked down the pier hand-in-hand after being pronounced husband and wife.

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That night, Laura and Remington made love, then collapsed in a tangle of arms and legs. Reaching down, he tugged at the sheet until it covered their midsections, leaving their legs bare. She swirled her fingers throughout his dampened chest hair then pressed a lingering kiss against his salty neck before rolling to her side, he following and wrapping his lean frame around hers. Holding her left hand in her right, she stroked a thumb over the pair of rings on her finger, studying them at length, as she did a mental assessment.

Did she feel any differently? No, she still felt like Laura Holt, and surprisingly, unlike her days with Wilson, she felt no compulsion to change. She laughed softly to herself, as she acknowledged the truth of the matter: Of course, she didn't feel the need to change. From the very start Remington had been trying to coax all of her to the surface, those parts of herself she'd hidden away when their cost had been her relationship with the man she'd loved. He wished her to be no one other than who she was, and loved her, despite her faults… maybe in part because of them.

Remington was equally enthralled by the ring on his finger, although much better at concealing it, thumbing the backside of the ring, unseen. He considered the weight of the ring – and the weightiness of the commitment it symbolized, searching his psyche for any signs of panic. For the man who'd never stayed anywhere for more than a few months at a time, to tie himself for life to one person, one place… there was a certain logic that said some small portion of himself would already be seeking the way out. But the only thing he found was… peace. He'd spent the entirety of his childhood wishing for a home, a place to belong, but it hadn't been until decades later – long after he'd dismissed the notion as so much foolishness – that he'd unwittingly found it… the day he walked into the offices of the Remington Steele Agency and met Laura Holt.

"Laura?" She dropped the hand she'd been studying, as though embarrassed by the thought of being caught.

"Hmmm?" He reached for that hand she'd been considering and weaved his fingers with hers.

"Have you given any thought to your name?" he wondered aloud. She pursed her lips, remaining quiet for long seconds.

"I have," she finally answered.

"And? What's it to be?" She turned to her back and threaded her fingers through his hair.

"It's Steele. Laura Steele," she answered with a quiet confidence, that left his heart pounding, for in choosing that name, she'd irrevocably claimed him as hers, in a way even their marriage had not. She'd finally accepted that he was the man he'd striven to be for years, who he wished to be, who he saw himself as: Remington Steele. He was now a man with not only a home, but an identity all his own. There could be no more perfect gift.

"Then Happy Christmas, Mrs. Steele," he told her in voice grown gruff with emotion, as he brushed her hair back over her shoulder and cupped her cheek in his hand. A pair of glimmering brown eyes met his.

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Steele."