Mother of Steele

Laura Steele looked down at the tiny bundle she held in her arms. Her four month old daughter was still a constant source of amazement. Her life was a constant source of amazement. Had it really been three years since she'd married her Remington Steele on that smelly tuna boat? Her husband had settled into married life with so much ease that it scared her. She'd taken a little longer, okay… a lot longer. Even now, sitting in the rocking chair in Kate's nursery and looking out over the Pacific, it all seemed more than a little surreal.

He stood in the doorway looking at them—the two most important people in his life, his beautiful girls. Laura had no idea what a good mother she was, and he couldn't imagine loving her more than he did at that moment. So much had changed in the past six years. Had it really been almost seven years ago when he'd first come to Los Angeles in pursuit of the gems of Royal Lavulite? When he'd first laid eyes on the beautiful woman sitting before him, he had known she was special. He had known he wanted her. What he hadn't known was the extent to which she would change his life. He was truly Remington Steele now and he strived every day to live up to the name—not just for Laura, but for little Katharine, too.

He walked up behind them and leaned in to kiss his wife. Then he walked around to face her and reached down to pick up his daughter. Murmuring softly, he held the baby to his chest. Laura stood and followed as he carried Kate over and laid her down in her crib. Remington turned his attention to his wife and pulled her into his arms as they stood watching their baby girl fall asleep.

Remington leaned in and kissed Laura as he reached into the pocket of his robe and pulled out a light blue rectangular velvet box.

"Happy Mother's Day, Mrs. Steele," he said softly. He handed her the box and then placed another gentle kiss on her lips.

"Oh," Laura said quietly, her eyes growing wide as she looked up into the beautiful blue eyes of the man who had captured her heart. "You shouldn't have done this. You already gave me those gorgeous flowers."

"Ah, but my darling, " he said with another soft kiss as he led her out of their sleeping daughter's nursery, "Mother's Day is quite a momentous occasion and we must commemorate it accordingly. But I didn't do this."

"You didn't?" she asked, confused.

"No," he shook his head, taking her by the hand and leading her into their bedroom. "This is from Katharine. Picked it out all by herself."

"Oh, she did, did she?" Laura asked her eyes sparkling as confusion turned to merriment.

"Oh, yes," her husband went on. "She insisted we buy it." Remington smiled, recalling taking his daughter on her first trip to Tiffany & Company.

"Of course she did," Laura said with a nod as she sat down on their bed.

"You doubt my veracity, Mrs. Steele?" he asked, as he sat down next to her. "I'm wounded."

"I'm sure you are, Mr. Steele," Laura said, laughing as she took his hand in hers.

"Are you going to open it?" he asked.

"Shouldn't I wait until Kate wakes up?" Laura answered his question with one of her own. "After all, she went to such trouble picking it out for me."

"I don't think she'd mind," Remington answered, leaning in for a kiss. "Besides," he said, "it didn't take too long for her to choose. Like her father, our little girl is drawn to shiny objects."

Laura rolled her eyes and laughed. She loved this man so much more than she ever thought possible—and she was beginning to believe that he loved her just as much.

He couldn't wait any longer. "Open it, Laura."

She looked into his eyes and then down at the box in her hand. She lifted the lid to reveal a gorgeous sterling silver locket. It was heart shaped and had a small deep red stone set in the front.

"Ruby?" she asked.

He shook his head. "Garnet," he answered. "Your birthstone."

"And Kate's," she responded, finishing the thought. "It's beautiful," she told him, leaning in for a kiss. "Thank you."

He pulled her into his arms and as their kiss grew in intensity, Remington had to force himself to pull away from his wife.

"As much as I'd like to let you thank me properly, Mrs. Steele," he said to her, "your family will be here any minute."

"My fam--- brunch!" Laura exclaimed, as realization dawned. Remington had invited her family to brunch to celebrate Mother's Day.

"Yes, love," he replied with a quick kiss. "We'd better get dressed."

---

Abigail Holt smiled as she leaned in to smell the huge bouquet of flowers that sat on the table behind the Steeles' sofa.

"These are lovely," she said.

"They are, aren't they?" Laura said with a smile. "They were a Mother's Day gift from Remington."

"But they're not nearly as lovely as my beautiful wife," Remington said, walking into the room. He wrapped his arm around Laura's waist and held her to him.

It was nice to see Laura and her mother getting along. When the baby was born, Abigail had decided to move back to California to be closer to her girls and her grandchildren. Laura had been apprehensive, to say the least, about having her mother so close. She'd had visions of Abigail second guessing her every move and criticizing her efforts at motherhood. Everyone had been pleasantly surprised, however, to find Abigail to be mostly supportive. It might have been because she was so pleased that Laura had married her Mr. Steele, or maybe Abigail had realized what a wonderful mother Laura was turning out to be. In either case, it had been nice for Laura to have her mother around.

The three of them stood talking, while Laura kept an eye toward the other room where her brother-in- law Donald was in deep conversation with Roger Winters, the new man in Abigail's life. Frances was entering from the kitchen where her three children were eating their meal. They were more interested in playing on the beach than having brunch with the adults.

They looked up when the doorbell rang.

"That will be Mildred," Remington said. "I'll get it."

"Mildred?" Abigail asked indignantly. "I thought this was a family gathering."

"Hush, Mother," Laura admonished. "Mildred IS family. She's the closest thing to a mother Remington has ever had and it's only right that she share Mother's Day with us. Besides, she IS Kate's godmother."

"Don't remind me," Abigail said, under her breath.

"I heard that," Laura told her, following her husband to the front door to greet the woman who was really like a mother to both of them.

It was a beautiful afternoon in mid-May, so the Steeles served brunch on the deck overlooking the ocean. The adults sat where they could see the children on the beach below, and enjoyed the gourmet feast that Remington had prepared.

"This is wonderful, Remington," Abigail raved to her son-in-law.

"Absolutely," Frances agreed. "This hollandaise is amazing. You're going to have to show me how you do it."

Laura smiled as her husband preened. He did love attention, and her mother and sister were definitely lavishing him with it. They always did. At first she'd found it annoying, but soon realized she should consider it a compliment. Her husband WAS wonderful, and she was happy that her family realized it.

"I'd be happy to share my secrets with you, Frances," Remington said between mouthfuls. "But not today. Since it is Mother's Day, you lovely ladies will not be doing any work. Especially not in my kitchen."

"Laura, you are so lucky," Frances gushed to her little sister. "Remington is such a wonderful cook. My Donald, dear as he is," she went on, patting her husband's hand on the table, "is a disaster in the kitchen."

"I am lucky, Frances," Laura said, looking over at her handsome husband. "And it has very little to do with my husband's gourmet gifts." She gave Remington a wink before speaking to him. "They're right, Sweetheart, the meal was incredible. Thank you."

Laura caught the smirk on Roger's face at the mention of Remington's culinary skills.

"I'm going to go and check on the baby," she said, placing her napkin on the table. "Excuse me."

"I'll join you," Frances said, anxious to see her niece.

Remington and Donald stood as their wives got up from the table. The fact that Roger rolled his eyes wasn't lost on Remington.

"I think I'll begin to clear the table," Remington announced. "Donald, care to give me hand?"

"Sure thing," Donald answered, and began picking up dishes.

"I'll help, Chief," Mildred offered.

"Nonsense, Mildred," Remington answered. "I told you that you ladies would not be doing any work today."

"But," Mildred insisted, "I'm not a mother…"

"You are to me," Remington said softly, leaning over to kiss the cheek of the woman he'd come to care so much about.

As tears filled her eyes, Mildred looked at Remington, pleading. She did not want to be left alone with Abigail and Roger, and Remington caught her meaning.

"Why don't you come and keep Donald and me company?" he suggested. "But no work. I mean it."

Mildred got up and followed Remington and Donald into the kitchen. Remington poured her a mimosa and showed her to a counter stool. She sat back and enjoyed the easy camaraderie that had developed between Remington and his brother-in-law.

---

In the nursery, Laura looked down at her daughter. Kate cooed when she saw her mommy.

"She's such a happy baby," Frances noted as she watched her sister with her child.

"Too happy, sometimes," Laura said. When Frances looked at her curiously, Laura went on. "She needs changing," Laura told her sister. "You'd never know it, would you? The only time she really gets fussy is when she's not feeling well."

Frances was amazed at how well Laura had taken to motherhood. She'd always thought that would be the one thing she had on her sister. Although it seemed that Laura excelled at everything she attempted, Frances was always the exemplary wife and mother. Watching her little sister now, Frances didn't feel the pang of jealousy she expected to feel. She was proud of Laura and thrilled that she and her sister had become much closer over the past year.

"So," Laura said as she worked to change Kate's diaper. "What do you think of Roger?"

"Mother seems to really like him," Frances said, busying herself by picking up and refolding Kate's outfit that Laura had laid out on the changing table.

"That's not what I asked," Laura replied as she looked at her sister pointedly.

"He seems nice enough," Frances hedged.

"Come on, Frances," Laura glanced up at her while she dressed the baby. "He's a pig."

Frances sighed. She'd noticed the way the man had conducted himself. He had practically ridiculed Donald and Remington when they'd behaved like the gentlemen that they were. If she were to be honest, she really didn't know what her mother saw in him. But at the same time, it had been a long while since she'd seen Abigail so happy.

"She's always had such terrible taste in men," Laura said, more to herself than to her sister.

"What do you mean?" Frances asked.

"Well, obviously Daddy was no prize," Laura stated, matter of factly. She looked up at her sister, "Did she ever tell you about Harvey Fennerman?"

---

After putting Kate down for the night, Laura collapsed into her bed.

Remington, who had been sitting in bed reading a file, looked over at her. "Long day, Mrs. Steele?"

Laura nodded, and turned to curl up next to him. "I'm exhausted." She noticed his reading material. "What's that?"

"I was just going over the Curtis case," he told her, setting the file down on the bedside table before pulling her into his embrace.

Laura just smiled and laid her head down on his chest.

"It's the weekend, and you're reading case files," she said, looking up at him with a face full of amusement. "And in bed, no less."

"Nasty habit," he said with a grin, leaning in to kiss her.

"Seriously," Laura said, pulling herself up to sit next to him. "You've really stepped up. Paperwork, legwork… what happened to the man I married?" she asked with a grin.

"He became a father," Remington answered, seriously. "Laura, for as long as I've known you, you have carried the brunt of the responsibility in our relationship. One day last year, I was sitting at my desk, watching you. There you were, as always. You were pacing the office going through the information on a case, and I realized… you were carrying our child. I mean, I KNEW that you were carrying our child, but it struck me that you shouldn't have to do everything. I can't carry our children, but I can certainly help ease your burden at the office."

"Thank you," she said, resting against him. "But I don't do everything. We've been partners in every sense of the word for a very long time. As far as the office is concerned, you've become more than I ever imagined when I thought up my masculine superior. In fact, most of the time I forget that there was a time when there wasn't a Remington Steele. He's very real—he's a wonderful, strong, brave, kind and loving man who has made my life complete." She stopped speaking for a moment and looked into his face; it echoed all the love she knew was showing in hers. "I love you."

"And I you, Laura," he said, his throat catching with emotion. "So much."

"We're lucky," she said quietly. "Frances and I, I mean… we didn't have the best example of a happy marriage to look up to, but we both did pretty well for ourselves." She smiled, and kissed him. As the kiss ended, she continued her thought. "I feel so badly for Mother," she said with a sigh. "Here Frances and I are, both happy with wonderful husbands…"

"And she's got Roger," Remington finished the thought. Laura didn't miss the note of disdain in his voice.

"You got that feeling, too, huh?"

"Laura, the man is a Neanderthal. Certainly Abigail could do much better."

"I know," Laura answered with a sigh. "She just has bad taste in men. Makes me sorry that I tried to keep her from Daniel all those years ago."

A rueful smile spread across her husband's face at the mention of his father.

"Well," he said. "They did have that holiday in the south of France."

Laura nodded.

"It wouldn't have worked," Remington stated. "At that time, Daniel wasn't ready to settle down or give up the life, no matter what he said. And he wouldn't have hurt you by hurting your mother. He was very fond of you," he said, placing a kiss against her temple as he pulled her closer to him, "even then."

"Right," Laura said with a smile.

"No, really," Remington insisted. "If he hadn't been, he wouldn't have given you such a hard time. And all that talk about taking me back to Europe, it was just that—talk. He knew I'd never leave you. I think he was testing me and my resolve more than yours. But he did enjoy sparring with you."

"I wish he could have met Kate," Laura said quietly.

"Me too," he answered. "But we'll make sure she knows about her Granddad Daniel." Remington looked over at her as Laura giggled softly beside him. "What?"

"I was just thinking," she said. "When you walked into my office all those years ago, did you ever imagine we'd end up like this?"

"Never in a million years, Laura," he told her honestly. "But I can't imagine a life that could be better. Thank you."

"For what?"

"Everything," he told her. "For giving me a life, I suppose. But it is Mother's Day… so thank you for giving me our beautiful little girl."

"For that," she said, "I should be thanking you. And if I recall correctly, I have some proper thanking to do for my beautiful Tiffany necklace," she said, fingering the locket that hung around her neck.

"Ah yes," he said, kissing her. His kiss left no doubt as to what the rest of the night would hold, and Laura was looking forward to showing her husband just how much she loved him.

"Happy Mother's Day, Mrs. Steele."

---

"Mildred, did you get that information on Roger Winters I asked for?" Laura asked as she walked out of her office. She was looking down at the file she was reading and didn't notice her husband standing next to Mildred's desk.

"Investigating your mother's paramour, Laura?" he asked.

"There's something about him," Laura answered, and then realized what Remington had said. "And he's not her paramour," she insisted with a shudder. "Eeew."

Remington bit back a chuckle at Laura's reaction.

"It's not funny," Laura practically pouted. "I can't put my finger on it, but there's just something about him. It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up."

Remington and Mildred exchanged looks. They had both known Laura long enough to know that wasn't a good sign. They trusted Laura's intuition.

"I haven't found anything yet, Hon," Mildred told her. "But I'll let you know as soon as I do."

Remington was concerned as he looked at his wife. He turned to Mildred as he led Laura into his office. "Hold all our calls, Mildred."

"Sure thing, Chief," Mildred replied as she set to work digging up information on Roger Winters.

Remington sat down at his desk as Laura paced the room. She tucked the file folder she was carrying under her arm, leaving her hands free for gesturing as she continued to pace.

"I could deal with him being a chauvinist pig," she said. "I wouldn't like it, but I could deal with it." She walked over to the desk and set the file down. "I know you think I'm overreacting," she said with a sigh. "But Mother's been through so much…" She let her thought trail off as she walked around behind the desk and leaned against it.

Remington reached out to take her hand. "Not at all, Laura," he said. "I trust those infallible instincts of yours. I'm sure Mildred will find something," he said, pulling her to him. "But now, Mrs. Steele," he went on, leaning in for a gentle kiss. "We've got work to do. We have to meet with Mr. Curtis in less than an hour."

Laura looked at her watch and realized Remington was right. They did need to be going if they were going to make their meeting on time. "Let's go," she said, walking over toward her office to get her purse. "We'll take the limo. I want to phone Maria and check on Kate. We can do it on the way."

---

"How'd the meeting go?"Mildred asked as Remington and Laura entered the offices.

"Great," Laura answered. "Mr. Curtis loved Mr. Steele's plans for securing his collection. He's going to recommend the Remington Steele agency to all his friends."

"That should keep us busy for a while," Mildred responded.

"Right," Laura responded. "Which reminds me… have you contacted the temp agency to start looking for a new receptionist? You're going to be getting your license any day now, and we'll need someone to man the phones."

"Laura, do you really want to use the temp agency? Remember who they sent us the last time Mildred was away," Remington began, but was interrupted by Mildred.

"Not to worry, Chief," she said. "We're just interviewing some of the girls at the temp agency who are looking for something full time. If that doesn't pan out, then we'll advertise. And it's a two step interview process. First they go through me and if I think they might work out, then they get a second interview with Mrs. Steele."

"Sounds like you girls have everything well in hand," Remington said, easing his way toward his office.

"Anything on Roger Winters, Mildred?" Laura asked.

"OH!" Mildred exclaimed retrieving the file she'd created. "You're not gonna believe this. This guy's got more aliases than Mr. Steele."

Remington gave Mildred a pained look. "Mildred, I'll have you know that, other than in the line of duty, I haven't used a name other than Remington Steele going on seven years."

Laura gave her husband a consoling look and patted him on the arm. "What else have you got, Mildred?" she asked.

"Well, under a couple of the names, he's got priors. Nothing major- petty theft, forgery. He seems to have been lying low for a while. The last arrest I could find was about five years ago in Denver."

"Denver?" Laura asked with interest.

"Laura," Remington intoned, holding out the last syllable of her name.

"Mildred," Laura said, "Get me Murphy Michaels on the phone."

---

"Thanks, Murph," Laura said into the phone with a smile as she looked up to see her husband walking in to her office. She waved him in. "Uh-huh, right," she said into the phone. "You, too. Okay. Bye, Murphy." She looked up at Remington as she hung up.

"How is Murphy?" he asked. "Well?"

"He's fine," she answered. "And he had some great information."

"Oh?" Remington said with the quirk of an eyebrow. "Did Roger swindle someone at the Coroner's office?"

"Not funny," she said flatly.

"Really?" he asked with a grin.

"Will you just let it go?" she asked, trying to remain annoyed but melting slightly at his charm.

"Whatever do you mean, Darling?" he asked, his blue eyes sparkling.

"Remington," she said, standing up and walking toward him. "You know Murphy is a good guy," she reached up for a kiss, wrapping her arms around his waist.

"Mmm-hmm," he muttered in agreement, enfolding her in his embrace.

"And he's always been a good friend," she reminded him, before kissing him again.

"Mmm-hmm."

"And he's one hell of a detective," she went on, and then kissed him.

"Mmm-hmm."

"And you won," she said as she stepped out of his embrace.

"Won, Laura?" Remington asked, feigning confusion.

"You know what I mean," she told him more forcefully than she'd intended. "I don't want to see any of that old, petty competition when he gets here."

"Gets here?" Remington asked. "Murphy is coming to Los Angeles?"

"Yes," Laura answered. "He'll be here the day after tomorrow."

"Why?"

"Because he's had dealings with some of Roger's cronies," she told him. "You and Mildred are going to be busy with Mr. Curtis' collection. I'm going to need some help on this one."

He and Mildred were going to be busy? Remington felt his heart sink in his chest. He tried not to let his disappointment show as he backed away from Laura and made his way toward the connecting door to his office.

"I want to go over the plans for Mr. Curtis' security system one more time before I meet with the installation team," he said. "I'll meet you at home, later," he added quietly.

"Damn," Laura muttered to herself as her husband closed the door between them. It had been a long time since she'd seen that look on his face. He'd worn it a lot when they first got together. She'd seen it every time she'd purposely put him in his place, reminding him just exactly who it was that was in charge at Remington Steele Investigations. But it had been years since she'd done that. She truly considered him her partner, completely. She certainly hadn't expected that reaction to asking him to be nice to Murphy.

---

Remington reached the chair behind his desk and sat down with a thud. He wasn't sure what had just happened, but he knew he didn't like it. He didn't like the idea of Murphy Michaels coming back to town, but it had very little to do with their ancient rivalry. Laura was right about that. He, Remington Steele, was the clear victor. He'd won Laura's heart and her hand, she had given him a beautiful daughter and together they had created the family he'd always dreamed of.

The disappointment he felt was more professional in nature. It hurt him to hear Laura say that Murphy was winging his way to Los Angeles because she needed help. That was his job. Remington and Laura Steele were partners. He was her back-up, not Murphy Michaels.

He looked down at his desk. There was more paperwork on it than there would have been in the past, but it was still as neat as a pin. He picked up the frame that set on the corner of the desk and looked down at the photo. It was one of his favorites: Laura holding a sleeping Kate in her arms. She'd been so wrapped up in her daughter that she hadn't noticed him taking the picture. "This is what it's all about old boy," he said to himself, out loud.

---

Laura was surprised to see her mother in the kitchen with Kate when she arrived at home. This would put a damper on all of her plans for the evening—both discussing the Roger Winters case and making up with her husband.

"Mother," Laura said, walking up to greet Abigail who was standing next to Kate's high chair. "So nice to see you," she added with a plastered on smile.

"Hello, Dear," Abigail returned her daughter's greeting. "I'm sorry to just drop by unannounced. But as I was telling Remington, my bridge club cancelled and Roger had to go out of town on business, so I found myself at a loose end. I thought I'd stop in and see my granddaughter, maybe offer to babysit so you and Remington could go out to dinner, but he was already cooking when I arrived."

"Fresh salmon steaks with wild rice and a Caesar salad," Remington said, walking in from the barbeque grill on the deck. He set the plate of fish down on the counter.

"My favorite," Laura said, walking up to step into his arms.

He leaned in for a quick kiss and noticed the small pink shopping bag she was holding discreetly behind her briefcase. "Do a little shopping, Laura?" he whispered in her ear, causing her to tremble.

"Later, Mr. Steele," she whispered back with promise, kissing him soundly. She stepped out of his embrace and walked over to Kate, who cooed happily to see Mommy.

"Hi, Baby," Laura said, leaning down to kiss the baby's forehead. "Have you been a good girl for Daddy and Grandma? You keep them company while Mommy goes to change." She looked past the baby to Remington with her last words and winked at him before leaving the room.

Remington opened the door and stepped out on the balcony outside their bedroom. Laura was leaning on the railing and looking out over the moonlit ocean. He stepped up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist.

"You've been driving me to distraction all night," he said softly, the heat of his breath against her neck causing her to tremble slightly.

"Did you get Kate down all right?" she asked. She felt him nod.

"I've been lost, wondering what you've got on under those jeans," he said softly into her ear. "And could you have found a bigger or more ill-fitting sweatshirt?"

She turned in his arms and looked up into his deep blue eyes.

"Patience is a virtue, Mr. Steele," she told him as she leaned in to press an inviting kiss to his lips.

"One that I've become all too familiar with over the years, my love," he answered.

"I know," she said, taking his hand in hers and leading him back into their bedroom. "And you're about to be rewarded."

---

Mildred looked up from her desk as the glass doors opened to find an attractive sandy haired man with a duffle bag over his shoulder and another in his hand.

"May I help you?" she asked.

"I'm here to see Laura," the young man answered.

"Mrs. Steele is in conference," Mildred told him as the door to Mr. Steele's office opened.

"Murphy!" Laura exclaimed as she walked over to her old friend, her husband close behind.

"Hey Partner," Murphy said. Setting his bag down, he opened his arms to receive Laura into a welcoming hug. When she'd stepped out of his embrace, he offered his hand to Remington.

"Steele," Murphy greeted him.

"Murphy," Remington answered.

"Why didn't you call?" Laura asked, stepping into her place beside her husband. "We would have picked you up at the airport."

"No problem," Murphy answered. "I know how busy you've been. And I needed to rent a car, anyway—it wasn't a big deal getting here," he said with a wink in Laura's direction. "I still know the way."

Remington noted Murphy's bags and asked, "No time to stop by your hotel on the way?"

Murphy looked at Laura and her eyes grew wide. She turned to Remington.

"I forgot to tell you," she said. "I offered him the condo."

Murphy watched the interaction with interest, and Remington noticed his scrutiny.

"That's a wonderful idea, Darling," Remington said, putting an arm around Laura's waist. "Since Abigail has gotten settled into her own place, it's just been sitting empty. And after all, Murphy is here to lend us a hand, no need to bother with paying for a hotel." He reached into his pocket and took out his keys. He pulled a key off the ring and handed it to Murphy. "I hope you'll be as comfortable there as I was."

"Murph," Laura said, "why don't you go on over there and drop off your things, get settled in? We've got a meeting this afternoon, and then we can get together afterward."

"Why don't we have dinner?" Remington offered. "At our house."

"That's a great idea," Laura agreed, walking with Murphy to the door. "You have the address, say seven o'clock? Call if you need anything."

When Murphy had gone, Laura turned back to Remington and an amused Mildred.

"Laying it on a bit thick weren't you?" she said to her husband.

"I was simply being nice to the man, Laura," he replied. "At your request, I might add."

Laura rolled her eyes in response.

"C'mon," she said. "We have a meeting with Mrs. Hale at the Marina."

---

Murphy shook his head as he looked at the picture across from him. Laura was sitting on the sofa holding her baby in her lap. Remington Steele sat next to her with his arm around them both. This was something he never thought he'd see. If he were honest with himself, he'd admit that it was his greatest fear when he left a little over five years before. He knew then that Laura was falling for Steele, but he never expected the man to stick around. He looked at them now, they were really a family and it was obvious that Laura was happy.

"This is a great place," he said.

"Thank you," Remington answered. "We're still making it our own, but it's home."

"Mr. Steele is being modest," Laura added. "He's been working on this place for the past year, putting our personal stamp on it, you might say."

"I have to admit," Murphy said, "I'm impressed."

"You should see my studio," Laura told her friend. "Remington had one of the rooms downstairs turned into a dance studio. I was feeling a little blue right before Kate was born… worried that I'd never lose all the weight I gained… typically hormonal stuff," she said with a laugh. "And one day, he brought me down and showed me what he'd done with the room, it was amazing," she said, looking up at her husband with eyes full of love.

"And of course, his screening room is right across the hall," Laura went on.

Once again, Murphy just shook his head. "I never thought I'd see this day."

"Neither did I, Murph," Laura said, lifting the sleeping baby up to kiss her forehead.

"Why don't I take her up to bed?" Remington offered. "Give you and Murphy a chance to catch up."

"Thank you," Laura said, as Remington stood and took Kate from her. She kissed the baby once more, "Sleep well, my angel."

When Remington had gone, Murphy spoke up.

"You're really happy, aren't you?" he asked.

"Yes," Laura answered simply. "I am, Murph. Happier than I ever thought I would be. Our life is good," she said with a laugh before going on. "I mean, we still bicker all the time," she paused and bit her bottom lip. Looking up at Murphy through her eyelashes, she continued, "But making up is so much more fun."

"Laura!" Murphy exclaimed.

"Sorry Murph," she said amid her own laughter.

"Well," he said, "I'm glad I was wrong. I was sure he was gonna break your heart."

"And you'd come in and pick up the pieces?" she asked quietly.

"Something like that," he admitted.

"What about you, Murph?" she asked. "It's been a while since we really got a chance to talk. Have you found someone special?"

He couldn't admit to her his broken engagement or that he'd never been able to fully commit to another woman because deep in his heart, he'd been waiting for her. Now, he knew for certain that she was truly lost to him forever, and what a fool he'd been. Maybe now he was ready to move on.

"No," he answered, "not really. You know how it is, trying to run an agency… working all hours of the day and night. My life isn't really conducive to home and hearth. "He looked at her, and around at the home she'd built. "I guess it can be done, though. You and Steele seemed to have made it work."

"It's hard," Laura admitted. "We have to work at it every day, but it's worth it. He's become everything the public expects from Remington Steele, Murphy," she said, answering the question she knew he wouldn't ask. "And he's even more than I could have asked for…" she paused as Murphy opened his mouth to interrupt, but she held up her hand to stop him. "He's not perfect," she went on, shaking her head. "But neither am I. I know I'm no picnic to live with, but my Mr. Steele—he always tries to make me feel like a queen. He's good for me, Murphy. Good TO me, probably more so than I deserve. I put him through a lot."

"He deserved it," Murphy quipped, as he stood and began walking around the room.

"Maybe," Laura answered. "Maybe not. But in any case, he took it. He stuck around and took everything I dished out. He's pretty good at shoveling it back, but the point is that he's still here. We're making it work, both professionally and personally."

"Kate is really beautiful," Murphy said as he picked up a photo of the baby from a table.

"Thank you," Laura said her smile full of all the pride of a new mother. "She's amazing."

"I can't believe you're a mom," Murphy said.

"I know," she answered, "neither can I sometimes. I have to tell you, my mother is THRILLED. I think she finally understands what Remington and I do; she hasn't suggested I quit work to stay home with the baby once. She does tell me frequently that our work is far too dangerous."

"She's right," he answered. "It was one thing for us to risk life and limb as single people, but you and Steele are married, you've got that beautiful little girl upstairs depending on you."

"Yes, we do," she said. "But if we gave up our work, then we would be giving up a big part of who we are, and wouldn't that be doing her a disservice, too?"

"I guess so," Murphy said with a nod, understanding where she was going with the thought.

"We've just decided to be more careful," Laura stated. "We're taking fewer investigative cases, avoiding the ones that are blatantly dangerous. We're doing a lot more security work, and when we can avoid it, we don't take chances. It's working so far," she said. "But then again, Kate's only four months old."

An idea started to form in Murphy's head. He'd have to take some time to really work it out, to weigh the pros and cons, before he brought it to Laura. But it might just work out for all of them.

"If anyone deserves to have it all Laura," he said, "it's you."

"Thanks, Murph."

---

Remington Steele paused as he opened the glass doors to Remington Steele Investigations. The office was a flurry of activity. Workmen were busy turning the storage room back into an office in preparation for Mildred's promotion to full operative. Laura was packing up her necessities and taking them into Remington's office. Murphy had wandered out of Laura's office, notebook in hand. Remington rushed across the office to aide his wife as the stack of files that were piled high in front of her face were about to slide from her grasp.

"Allow me, Mrs. Steele," Remington said, taking the files from her.

"Oh," she replied with a start, "hi." She leaned in for a quick kiss as he took the files from her. "When did you get here?"

"Just now," he answered, ushering her into his office. He walked across the office to set the files on his desk as she closed the door behind them. "What the bloody hell is going on around here?" he asked with a puzzled grin.

"Just a bit of shuffling," she said, moving past him to begin emptying the box that set next to the files.

Remington watched with interest as she continued to answer. She was speaking very quickly and didn't look at him. That was never a good sign.

"The maintenance men came today to convert the storage room back into an office for Mildred," she went on. "Murphy needed a place to work, so he's using my office…" she hedged, as she kept moving.

Realization began to dawn on him.

"So you're moving in here," he said, finishing her statement.

She turned to look at him.

"Just where am I supposed to go?" Remington asked, his voice low.

"Nowhere," Laura answered, reaching out to take his hand in hers. "Can't we share?" She took his other hand and stepped closer to him.

"Of course we can, Laura," he said, letting go of her hands and walking to the window. "There's no one I'd rather share space with than you. But I must admit to having a rather nasty feeling of déjà vu lately," he said, looking out the window with his back to her.

"What are you talking about?" Laura asked.

"There has been a sudden shift in the dynamics around here, Laura. I thought we were partners."

"We are," she replied, mild annoyance showing in her voice. What is he getting at?

"Are we really, Mrs. Steele?" he asked, his tone matching hers. "First you send me off to work on a security contract with Mildred. Then you bring Murphy in to work with you in my absence. Now you're taking over my office. Oh yes, and I don't even have a say in hiring Mildred's replacement. Can a return functioning best in an advisory capacity be far behind?" He turned to face her as he spoke, his voice slightly rising with each statement.

"You're being ridiculous!" Laura replied, her own voice raised.

---

Outside the office, Murphy looked up when he noticed the raised voices. He grinned as he turned to Mildred.

"It's nice to know that the more things change, the more they stay the same," he quipped.

Mildred returned his grin and nodded.

"They haven't gone at it like that in a long time," she told him. "It's probably about time."

---

"Ridiculous?" he shouted. "I'M being ridiculous? Laura, you've practically shut me out of everything having to do with this case!"

"CASE?" Laura shouted back. "We don't even have a case! I'm just looking out for my mother," she said, her voice softening. "My family."

"That's right, Laura," he said quietly. "OUR family. So why am I running around testing alarms while Murphy is closing in on Abigail's con-man?"

Laura closed her eyes and sighed. He was jealous—but there was more to it. He sounded hurt. Was he right? Had she really been shutting him out? Maybe she had. After all, thinking her mother had fallen for a con-man hit a little too close to home. She liked to forget about that part of her husband's past. And someone had to deal with the actual clients, right? No, she hadn't done anything wrong—had she?

Her silence was all the answer he needed.

"I'm obviously not needed here," he said as he headed toward the door. "I'll be at home if anyone insists on speaking to Remington Steele."

He didn't look back as he walked out of the office, through the outer office and out the door.

"What was that all about, Hon?" Mildred asked.

"I wish I knew," Laura answered quietly.

---

Remington had calmed down considerably by the time he reached the house. The drive from Century City to Malibu gave him the chance to clear his head.

"Senor Steele!" Maria exclaimed as he walked into the kitchen. The startled housekeeper leaned against the counter. She always reverted to Spanish when she was excited.

"I'm sorry Maria," Remington said. "I didn't mean to frighten you. I decided I'd come home early to spend some time with little Katharine. Where is she?"

"Sleeping," Maria answered. "She will wake soon," she said, looking at the clock. "It's almost time for her bottle."

"I'll take care of her, Maria," Remington told her. "Why don't you take the rest of the day off?"

"Oh, Mr. Steele," Maria began, "I have to…"

Remington held up his hand to stop her.

"Whatever needs to be done around here can wait," he said. "I can take care of the baby, and I'll handle dinner as well."

When she would have protested, he continued.

"Maria, you do such a wonderful job, and we appreciate you very much. But you deserve a break. And to be very honest, I'd like some time to myself."

"Si, Senor Steele," Maria said, nodding. She seemed to understand his need for solitude. She knew from past experience that he often found solace in his kitchen and she didn't want to be under foot. She had wanted to visit her son Hector and his new bride Isabela, anyway. "I will see you tomorrow, Mr. Steele," she said.

"Hasta mañana, Maria," Remington said as she gathered her things and left.

He went about preparing Kate's bottle and took it up to the nursery. The baby was still sleeping, so he set the bottle down and went to the window.

"Oh Little One," he said quietly. "What are we going to do about your mommy?" He knew that he was probably overreacting, but that did nothing to squelch the fear that sank to the bottom of his stomach—the fear that Laura was slipping away from him.

---

"Okay," Murphy said with a mouth full of Mushu Pork. "What have we got?"

"Roger visited a pawnbroker downtown," Laura said.

"And he stopped off at the track," Murphy continued. "But there's nothing illegal with that. His associations are a little unsavory, but that could be said of a lot of people."

"We need to find out what he was doing when he was out of town last week," Laura told him.

"Did your mother ever say anything about what he does for a living?" he asked.

"Not really," Laura answered. "She's only said that he's in acquisitions. Whatever that means."

"Sounds a little shady to me," Murphy said, offering her a paper carton.

"Thanks," she said, accepting the box. She smiled. "You know who it sounds like?" Her smile quickly faded as she made a realization. "Oh good lord," she said. "What time is it?"

"A little after eight, I think," Murphy answered.

"I have to go!" she exclaimed, jumping up from her seat behind Remington's desk.

"But we're just getting somewhere," Murphy said.

"Sorry Murph," Laura replied, gathering her things. "I've gotta go. Remington and I had a huge fight this morning. I haven't talked to him all day and now I'm late," she told him. "He's gonna kill me," she muttered, more to herself than to Murphy. "What was I thinking?"

"Laura…"

"See you tomorrow, Murph," she said on her way out the door. "Wish me luck."

---

The house was quiet when Laura arrived at home. She'd expected to find her husband in the kitchen or sitting out on the deck, but he wasn't in either place. She went up to check on the baby, who was sleeping peacefully. Laura was beginning to wonder where Remington could be. Surely he knew she was home by now. Even if he hadn't before, he would have heard her on the baby monitor. She went into the bedroom, and again he wasn't there. She changed into jeans and a t-shirt and headed downstairs. She stopped outside the door to his screening room. She'd been home nearly twenty minutes and he'd yet to acknowledge her presence.

She knew he was angry, but she was beginning to realize that his outburst at the office had been more about hurt and fear than real anger; she should have recognized the feeling as she knew it well. She had been running his words through her head all the way home. She couldn't get the look on his face out of her mind. Why hadn't she seen it before? She quietly opened the door. He was sitting on the leather sofa with his back to her. She recognized the movie right away; it was one of his favorites.

"Notorious. Cary Grant, Claude Rains, Ingrid Bergman. RKO, 1946," she said quietly as she walked over to the television. Stepping in front of it, she reached over to hit the pause button on the VCR. "Can we talk?" she asked.

He gestured for her to sit, but remained silent.

"I'm sorry," she offered, sitting down beside him on the sofa.

"For what?" he asked.

"Coming home late," she said her voice low. "For starters."

"Duty calls, Laura," Remington replied dryly.

"Don't do that," she said.

"What?" he asked.

"Hide behind flip answers. You're angry with me," she stated.

"You're damned right I'm angry," he told her. "I'm angry because I'm scared. I don't like this feeling, Laura."

"Scared of what?" she asked, reaching out for his hand.

"What's happening between us?" he answered her question with one of his own.

"We had a fight," she said. "Big deal. We fight all the time. It leads to making up, remember?" she said with a smile.

"It's not a joke, Laura. I know things happened fast… completing our obligations for the INS, the pregnancy, buying this house…then Kate came along. Our lives have been changed forever. There's no going back."

"Do you want to?" Laura asked, suddenly afraid herself. Was he telling her that he wanted to leave? No, she thought. She looked up, realizing he was watching her.

"Do you?" he replied. "Laura, I feel like our relationship has regressed six years in as many days. If I didn't wake up with you by my side every morning and know that we have that beautiful little girl upstairs, I would swear it was 1983."

When she didn't respond, he continued.

"You're shutting me out, whether intentionally or not. We spent the last six years, six years Laura… we spent the last six years building something together. A partnership, not just here but professionally as well. Now, I'm not an insecure man, but we've been working together less and less lately." He looked directly into her warm brown eyes. "Maybe I'm being foolish, but I miss my partner, Laura."

"I love you," Laura said softly. "And you ARE being foolish. I guess the shoe is on the other foot," she said with a smile. "How many times over the years have I forced you to say 'I'm not going anywhere Laura? Well, my darling Mr. Steele," she went on, "I'm not going anywhere." She leaned in to kiss him.

The kiss was gentle at first, meant to be reassuring. But it soon escalated as fear gave way to longing and longing to passion.

Reluctantly, Laura pulled herself from her husband's embrace but she knew there were things that still needed to be said. "I'm sorry you felt like I was pushing you away. It wasn't intentional," she said, reaching up to smooth a lock of black hair off of his forehead.

"I'm sorry I overreacted," he said, pulling her close.

"I missed you too, you know," she said, snuggling up against him. "It's been fun working with Murphy again," she admitted. "But it isn't the same. It just worked out that he happened to be available when I needed help. And since he had some knowledge about Roger's past, it just made sense," she paused as she saw the dark cloud that passed behind his eyes. "I…" she said as she reached up to touch his face. "I only sent you to work with Mildred because one of us had to be dealing with the paying client. And you ARE the agency's security expert. We couldn't very well send Mildred out to set up a security system, now could we?"

"I suppose not," he agreed, leaning in for another kiss.

---

"Rachel? It's Murphy," he said into the phone. "No, I'm in LA. For a while, I think. I'm staying at a friend's place on Rossmore. Look, I was a jerk. I know that now, and I'd really like to see you…"

---

"That was really interesting, Chief," Mildred said as she and Remington walked into the offices of Remington Steele Investigations. "I've been writing up those security contracts for years, but I had no idea just how much it takes to put them into practice."

"There's really not that much to it," Remington told her. "Once you get the hang of it, it's all pretty routine."

They both looked up as Laura came bursting out of the office she was currently sharing with her husband.

"Great!" she exclaimed. "You're here. How'd it go with Mr. Curtis?"

"Terrific!" Mildred answered.

"Very well, actually," Remington added. "The system is up and functioning properly. Mildred did a splendid job of handling things."

"That's wonderful, Mildred," Laura told her. "We've come up with something on Roger, and I could use you both," she said, turning toward the office. "Mildred, Murphy's out for the afternoon. I need you to look into those aliases again. According to Mother, Roger went on a buying trip to Chicago last week… coincidentally, the Chicago PD are looking for a Rudolph Wilcox for questioning in an art theft."

"Rudolph Wilcox?" Remington asked his face pale.

"I think that WAS one of the aliases, Chief," Mildred offered.

"Can you go and check on that, Mildred?" Remington asked.

"Okay…" Mildred agreed as she was being rushed out the door.

"What?" Laura asked as Remington closed the door behind Mildred.

"Rudolph Wilcox," he repeated. "You're sure?"

"Yes," Laura answered. "Does that mean something to you?"

Remington rubbed his chin as he began to pace the room.

"Bloody hell," he muttered. "Why didn't I see it?"

"See what?" Laura prodded.

Remington raised his hands to cover his face and sighed.

"I can't believe I was so blind," he said.

"What are you talking about?" Laura asked, losing patience.

"Laura," he said, turning to her. "I know Roger Winters."

"Of course you do," she replied, exasperated. "He's dating my mother. He's been to our house!" She looked at him intently. "Are you feeling all right?"

"I'm fine Laura," he said. "Or I will be. What I mean to say is I KNOW Roger Winters, or more accurately… I know, or used to know Rudolph Wilcox."

---

Murphy looked nervously across the restaurant. His heart began pounding in his chest when he saw the raven haired beauty sitting alone at a table in the back. He took a deep breath and strode purposefully toward her. She looked up as he approached the table. She smiled at him through sad eyes.

"Hi, Murphy," she said softly.

"Hi, Rachel," he answered. "Thank you for seeing me."

She gestured for him to sit down as the waiter approached the table. When they'd given their drink orders and the waiter had gone again Murphy began to speak.

"How's the job going?" he asked tentatively.

"Very well," she told him. "I really like Cedars. It's so different from Denver…" she let her thought trail off, unsure as to how deeply she wanted to get into this conversation. She still didn't know why they were here. Murphy had broken things off with her when she'd moved to Los Angeles a year before. Why was he here now?

"Yeah," he smiled, remembering the culture shock when he'd first come to LA after college. "But at least the weather's great, huh?"

"I don't want to be rude, Murphy," she said. "But I'm not really up for small talk. Why are you here?"

"I came to LA to help a friend," he said. "With a case."

"Laura," she scoffed. She'd asked around about Laura Steele when she'd first come to town. Laura and her husband were both well-known and well liked. She'd even encountered them personally at the hospital. It was hard not to like them. She could see why Murphy had harbored feelings for his former partner. But she could also see that Laura Steele only had eyes for her husband. It hurt that Murphy had thrown away everything they had for something that could obviously never be.

"Yes," he answered. "But it's not what you think," he said, knowing how lame that sounded. "She asked for help on a case because I'd dealt with the guy in Denver…"

"So, for Laura," Rachel interrupted, "you can drop everything and rush to Los Angeles, but for me…"

Murphy shook his head. Rachel had every right to be hurt and angry. When she'd been offered the job at Cedars-Sinai, she'd asked him to move to LA with her… after all, they were engaged to be married. But Murphy balked, he couldn't face the idea of being so close to Laura… so close and still so far. When he'd said he couldn't go with her, Rachel had broken their engagement.

"Rach," he said softly. "I was an idiot in so many ways. I'm sorry I hurt you and I'm sorry I let you go. If you'll have me, I'd like to give us another shot."

"That will be kind of difficult with you living in Denver," she said.

"I know," he answered. "I'm thinking about talking to Laura and Steele about coming back to work with them."

"Do you really think that's a good idea?" Rachel asked.

"Yes," he said, reaching across the table to take her and. He was encouraged when she didn't pull away. "It's a great idea if it means I can be close to you."

"Can you really work that closely with Laura?"

"I'll be working with Laura and her HUSBAND," he answered. "And I'm not in love with Laura Steele. I'm in love with you, Dr. Marquez."

"Not so fast," Rachel said, slowly drawing her hand from his. "I hope you don't think that a after a whole year that I'm just going to fall into your arms like nothing ever happened."

Murphy felt a lump forming in his throat. He'd never considered the thought that she might be seeing anyone. "Is there someone else?" he asked, once again taking her hand.

"No," she answered honestly. "But we can't just pick up where we left off. We're going to have to take it slow," she said as she stood from the table. "Call me."

---

"Wait a minute," Laura said, pacing the office as Remington stood in front of the window. "Are you seriously telling me that my mother is seeing one of Daniel's cronies?"

He looked at her and nodded.

"Be careful what you wish for, eh?" he said softly as he smiled at her.

"What?" she asked. She stood still and turned her whole attention to him.

"Well," he said, tugging on his ear. "Just a couple of weeks ago, you told me you regretted keeping Abigail away from Daniel."

She let out a long sigh.

"That was BECAUSE of Roger," she said. "He's nothing like Daniel. Daniel Chalmers was a lot of things," she went on. "But he was always a gentleman."

A wide smile spread across Remington's face.

"Not always, Laura," he said. "And I can remember a time when you wouldn't have thought of him so highly."

"I know," she said, walking over to join him at the window. "So, tell me about Rudolph Wilcox—and just what my mother's gotten herself into."

"I honestly don't know much about him. He was working with Daniel during the period of time that I was running around the Caribbean with Monroe. From what I recall, he was small time. Never really reached Daniel's caliber."

"But what's his angle with my mother?"

"That's what we're going to find out," he told her. "Feel up to hosting a little dinner party, Mrs. Steele?"

"Dinner was delicious, Remington," Abigail said, folding her napkin and placing it in the table.

"Thank you, Abigail," Remington answered. "Would anyone care for coffee?"

"That would be nice," Abigail answered.

"I'd like some, too," Laura replied. "But first, I'm going to go check on Kate. Mother, would you care to join me?"

"I'd love to Dear," Abigail said, standing to follow her daughter upstairs. "It will give Remington and Roger a chance to get to know one another a little better."

"It certainly will," Laura agreed, her eyes meeting her husband's. "We won't be long."

"Don't rush, Darling," Remington said as the ladies left the dining room. "I'm sure Roger and I will find plenty to talk about."

Once Abigail and Laura were out of sight, Remington excused himself to get the coffee. "I'll be right back."

When he returned, he handed Roger a cup and settled back into his seat at the head of the table.

"So," Remington began, coolly. "What are you up to, Rudy?"

A wide grin spread across the other man's face.

"Took you long enough, Harry," he said. "You're slipping. And to think Daniel used to love to brag about his protégé, the great Remington Steele."

"I'll ask again, Rudy," Remington said as he fixed an icy blue gaze on the other man. "What kind of game are you playing with Abigail?"

---

"Mother," Laura began casually as she changed the baby's diaper. "How well do you know Roger?"

"As well as anyone, I suppose," Abigail answered. "Why do you ask?"

"Oh, curiosity," Laura said. "Call it a professional hazard. I mean, you've been seeing him for a while now and Frances and I barely know anything about him."

"I didn't think you were interested, Dear," Abigail replied. "What do you want to know?"

"Oh, I don't know." Laura strained to remain casual. "How did you meet?"

"Oh," Abigail answered her tone even more casual than Laura's. "Daniel introduced us."

---

"No game, Harry," Roger answered. "Or should I say, Remington?"

"You should," Remington said. "Look mate, Abigail is family. She's my wife's mother. I can't sit by and see her being taken advantage of."

"Abby said you'd think that," Roger said.

"Think what?"

"That I was running a con," Roger answered.

"And just why would she think that, Rudy? How much does she know about you?"

"Pretty much, everything."

---

"DANIEL introduced you?" Laura asked as she laid her daughter back down into her crib. She didn't trust herself to remain standing at this point, much less hold on to Kate.

"Yes, Dear," Abigail answered. "We met in Monte Carlo when I was visiting Daniel."

"But that was more than five years ago," Laura said, her confusion more than evident.

"Really, Laura. I'm disappointed."

"You're disappointed? You've been carrying on a clandestine affair for over five years and YOU'RE disappointed?"

"I haven't been carrying on anything. Honestly, Laura. I thought you were supposed to be a hot shot detective."

---

"Abby and I met a while back when she was visiting Daniel at the villa," Roger told Remington. "Daniel said she was off limits—in every way. I thought it was because he wanted her for himself, but pretty soon it was obvious that they weren't going anywhere, if you know what I mean."

"So you decided to go after her, then?" Remington surmised.

"No, are you kidding? Daniel would have killed any of us if Abby had gotten hurt; he was very protective of her. I never saw her again… until a few months ago. I ran into her when I was checking out the winter lines down at the Mart."

"Winter lines?" Remington asked.

"Yeah," Roger answered, handing him a business card. "I'm a buyer for Barney's. Strictly legit. After Marty Cohen bought the farm last year, I realized life is too short to be living from con to con. Besides, I was never really good at it. So, I got to thinking, next to art…what do I know best?" he asked the rhetorical question. "That's right, clothes. I'm bringing class to the masses, Harry."

---

"I was surprised that Remington didn't remember Roger," Abigail went on, "being that he and Daniel were so close."

"Remington was living abroad when Roger and Daniel knew each other, apparently," Laura offered.

"So you did know," Abigail said.

"Well I am a hotshot detective, remember?" Laura was slightly annoyed. "I don't believe you knew all along."

"Knew what, Dear?" Abigail asked innocently.

"Mother, the man behaved like a boor. I couldn't imagine what you saw in him… I was worried about you. I even brought Murphy out here to help me investigate, for goodness sake. And you knew about him from the beginning."

"All you had to do was ask, Laura," Abigail told her sweetly.

---

"Class to the masses, eh?" Remington said. "So what was up with that chauvinist pig routine?"

"Oh, "Roger replied. "That was Abby's idea. She knew it would get your wife's ire up."

"And why would she want to do that?"

"I don't know, really," Roger answered. "Something about seeing if Laura would come to her and ask her about me…"

"Or just go out and get the answers on her own," Remington finished the thought. "So this whole bloody thing was a test. Unbelievable."

---

"You were testing me?" Laura asked, incredulous. "Unbelievable."

---

"So your mother knew all about Winters' past," Murphy said, pausing to look at Remington. "It IS his past, right?"

Remington nodded, "Strictly on the straight and narrow, or so he says."

Turning his attention back to Laura, Murphy went on. "She knew about his past and didn't tell you, why?"

"We're still trying to figure that one out, Murph," Laura admitted. "I think part of her wanted to see if I trusted her enough to just ask her about Roger. But what she doesn't understand is that I didn't think to ask her because I honestly didn't think she knew. I thought she was being duped."

"I feel Daniel's hand in all of this," Remington said, walking over to wrap his arms around Laura's waist. "I mean, I know he's been gone for years now," he went on. "But doesn't this little test feel more like something HE would do?"

Laura smiled, he was right… she'd been thinking about Daniel and his endless tests of Remington's resolve and her mettle.

"Well, whatever the reason," Laura said, "everything worked out for the best. Mother reminded me not to take her for granted, and she's actually shown some respect for what we do."

"One thing, though," Murphy asked. "What about the Chicago PD?"

"That was for real," Remington supplied. "One of his old buddies had seen Roger in the area and gave up his name to save his own skin. But the kicker was that even though the heist was actually very similar to those Rudy Wilcox had executed in the past, Roger had nothing to do with it. He really was in Chicago on a buying trip for Barney's."

"I'm glad you decided to stay, Murph," Laura said, changing the subject.

"Me too," he answered. "I think the three of us will work really well together."

"Four," Remington corrected, "Don't forget Mildred."

"Right," Murphy said. "Speaking of, I need to see her. She's the one who handles the payroll and employment records, right? I need some paperwork to turn in with my loan application if I'm going to take over the mortgage on the condo."

Laura nodded, "There's no rush on that you know."

"I do, Laura, and thanks," Murphy replied, "but it's time to move into my new life, and I want to do things right this time."

"Makes sense," she said as Murphy left the office and left her alone with her husband. "I hate to think about moving," she said, quietly leaning against him. "We have so many great memories here."

"Moving? Laura, what are you talking about?" Remington asked.

"Well, there's not room for everyone here," she said with a smile. "Our family is growing."

"So it is, Mrs. Steele," he said, pulling her into his embrace. "So it is. But let's not think of moving just yet. I'm sure we can come up with some way to accommodate our growing pains and still remain here."

All thoughts and worries disappeared as he leaned in to kiss her. When she was in his arms, all was right with the world. And all WAS right with their world. She was married to the love of her life, and they had a beautiful little girl. She had her family close by and her best friend back in town. Laura Steele was a very lucky woman, and she knew it. Once again, her good fortune amazed her.

The End