Laura leaned back against her seat and closed her eyes. She and Remington were in the limo on their way back from Costa Mesa where they'd had an uneventful meeting with the Orange County potential daughter.
The woman had been willing to discuss her adoption which had given them hope, as it turned out she'd begun the search for her birth parents years earlier. The information she'd gotten had led to her father and they had begun to forge a relationship once they had proved that they were indeed father and daughter. He had given her the name of her mother though they had yet to find her, but Mrs. Riley was not the woman in question. Remington had left her with his card. Perhaps if it worked out with Mrs. Riley, they might find a new niche for the agency – reuniting families.
"Why don't you try to get a little nap?" he asked his obviously exhausted wife. "It will be quite a while before we get back to the office."
"What are we going to do?" she asked quietly.
"For Mrs. Riley? I suppose we're going to have to talk to the woman in New York."
"You're right," she said. "But I was referring to something a little closer to home. I'm due in three days and we still haven't found a nanny."
He let out a long sigh.
"Who knew the process would be so long and difficult, eh?"
"It's a big decision," she said, "choosing someone to entrust your child to."
"We'll find the right person," he said.
"When? Time is running out and we've already interviewed and rejected twenty candidates. Where is Julie Andrews when you need her? I'm beginning to think Mary Poppins doesn't exist."
"Walt Disney Pictures, 1964," Remington supplied. "We've got one more appointment this afternoon," he said. "Mildred seemed really excited about this one."
"Let's hope she's right."
"You look pooped, Hon," Mildred observed as she entered Laura's office. She knew Dr. Elliott had told Laura she could work right up until her water broke, and it shouldn't have surprised her that Laura was actually going to do it.
"Thanks," Laura said with a smile.
"Not that I meant…"
"Don't worry, Mildred. You're right, I am. And I'm ready to go home, but we've got that last nanny interview this afternoon. Believe me, as soon as it's over and we've added her to the rejected list, I'm going straight home and into a nice, warm bath."
"Why are you so sure you're going to reject this one?"
"Because we've rejected them all so far," she said with a sigh. "I didn't think it was going to be this hard. But it is. It is so difficult to find someone you would trust with the well-being of your child. Then, we have the added problem of finding someone who is willing to adapt to our crazy schedule…"
"Give this one a chance," Mildred said. "I think you might be surprised."
Mildred exited to her desk as Remington opened the connecting door.
"Hi," she said.
"How are you feeling?" he asked.
"Like a beached whale."
His heart lurched. He hated seeing her in such discomfort, knowing there was nothing he could do about it. He only hoped that the doctor's prediction of due date was correct and that she would deliver the baby within the week. He knew also, that she was under a lot of stress over finding a nanny. He hoped that would be resolved with their next appointment. Mildred seemed sure that this was the one. He'd always trusted her judgment in the past, and he hoped she was right this time.
"You're the most beautiful beached whale I've ever seen," he said, leaning in for a kiss.
"You have to say that," she said, her smile matching his. How did he always know the right thing to say?
"You're right," he said with a raise of his eyebrows. "But only because it's true. You know I'd never lie to you. Ready?"
"Meeting our Mary Poppins," he answered. "She should be here any minute."
"You, too?" she asked and sighed. "I just don't want to get my hopes up. Unlike you and Mildred, I'm beginning to think our nanny isn't out there. I've even contemplated begging my mother to take the job."
"Perish the thought," he said.
He reached out to help her out of the chair and she hated the fact that she actually NEEDED him to help her out of the chair.
"Let's go get settled in the conference area," he said. "I'll have Mildred bring in some tea."
He took her into his office and helped her settle into one of the club chairs across from the sofa since at this point, getting up and down from the sofa was almost impossible for her. He went out to ask Mildred to make the tea and when he came back to the office, Remington sat down in the chair next to Laura and took her hand. He could see that she was on the verge of tears.
"It's going to be all right, Laura."
"Are you sure?" she asked. "Because I'm beginning to wonder if I can do this."
"I'm sure of us," he said. "I'm sure of YOU. You can do anything… and when I'm with you, I think I can too. We're going to do just fine."
"We didn't have the greatest role models as parents."
"Maybe not," he said. "But we turned out all right, didn't we?"
She smiled and nodded.
They both looked up when the door opened and were surprised at who they saw there.
"What is wrong?" Remington asked, standing. "Is everything all right?"
"Maria," Laura said. "We have an appointment right now, but we'll be home right after…"
"Maria IS your appointment, Mrs. Steele," Mildred said from behind the woman.
"She is?" Laura asked.
"Si," Maria said. "Yes, Mrs. Steele."
"Come in," Remington said, guiding Maria over to the sofa in the conference area. His eyes met Mildred's and he saw wisdom in them. The woman was a genius.
Laura looked across at their housekeeper. All her standard interview questions flew out of her head. Her mind went blank just as she opened her mouth. Before she could find her voice, Maria spoke.
"Mrs. Steele," she said. "How long have I worked for you?"
"Since I bought my first house," Laura said, thinking. "Almost eight years?"
"Eight years," Maria confirmed. "And yet you don't trust me."
"Trust you?" Laura was dumfounded.
"Of course we do, Maria," Remington said.
"You must not, Señor," she said. "You see all these niñera, and the Señora, she just gets more upset when you don't find the right person…"
That was true, he thought. Without their even realizing it, Maria had been privy to the entire process.
"… Why don't you ever ask me to take care of the bebé?"
Remington and Laura looked at each other. Why hadn't they thought of that? They already knew and loved Maria. They trusted her. She knew their schedules better than anyone besides Mildred. She'd raised four children of her own. She was perfect. Remington nodded to Laura and then rose up from his chair to stand behind his wife.
"I honestly don't know, Maria," Laura said. "I suppose we never realized you'd be interested."
"You understand that it would mean full time, and many hours," Remington said. "Nights. Weekends. Our schedule is quite unpredictable."
"I do," she said. "Since you move to the beach, I'm with you almost full time already. I only have two other clients, and my cousin Inez can take them."
"Are you sure about this, Maria?" Laura asked as Remington squeezed her shoulder in support.
"Si," she said. "Yes, Mrs. Steele."
"Thank you," Laura said sincerely. "You're hired."
They'd found their "Maria" Poppins.
"What did you get?" Laura asked reaching for the video box as Remington set down a huge bowl of popcorn on the bed. "Ooh, this is one of my favorites!" she said.
"I know," he answered with a smile. "That's why I got it. Bringing Up Baby, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, RKO 1938."He popped the tape into the machine and climbed into bed next to Laura.
It was five days past her due date and Dr. Elliott had put her on bed rest. She'd taken it pretty well - for the most part because she didn't have a choice. She was miserable and had a hard time getting around. Remington stayed with her most of the time. Early in the week, Mildred had gone to Manhattan to interview the last possible daughter for Mrs. Riley and they closed the office so Remington could stay home with Laura. Remington was afraid Laura would put up a fight about closing up shop, but January was usually a slow time for them anyway. And truthfully, she wanted him with her. The longer she went past her due date and the closer she got to actually giving birth, the more scared she got.
Mildred had returned the day before and had pretty much taken over Mrs. Riley's case. She was running the office along with the temp secretary they'd hired. Everyone agreed it was best that Remington stay home until after the baby came.
Laura snuggled up close to Remington… that is, as close as she could get with her belly and the popcorn between them… and settled in to watch the movie.
About halfway through the movie, Laura awakened her husband who had been quietly snoring for a while.
"Wha--?" He shook his head to gain his bearings. "What is it?" he asked. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, but I think I have to go to the bathroom," she said. "Can you help me up?"
No sooner was she standing than she was doubled over in pain and felt a warm sensation on her leg.
"Laura?" Remington asked with alarm as he held her up.
Catching her breath, she looked him in the eye. "My water just broke," she said calmly.
"It's time?" he asked.
"It's time, Mr. Steele."
The scene that ensued was like something out of a fifties TV show. Laura sat calmly on the bed making phone calls while Remington scrambled around the house, frantically preparing to leave for the hospital. Finally, he ran back into the bedroom.
"We have to call the hospital," he said.
"I already did."
"Dr. Elliott…" he said.
"Mildred," he said. "I have to call Mildred. And your mother…. where's your bag?"
"Rem," she said, taking his hand. "My bag is in the car. I already called the hospital and they'll call Dr. Elliott. I called Mildred and you can call Mother and Frances when we get to the hospital. Right now, we just need to get there," she paused with a smile. "Do you think you can drive?"
"Yes," he said.
"Good," she said. "Let's go have a baby."
Remington didn't try to hold back his tears as he walked into the room and saw Laura holding their daughter in her arms.
He never thought he could love someone as much as he loved the two of them in that moment. He had long felt that Laura was the only family he needed, but now … now everything was different. They had a child. The three of them were a family. A real family.
The baby was gorgeous; she looked so much like Laura. She had a soft halo of brown hair, brown eyes and he was sure that he could see freckles on that beautiful pink skin.
"Hey," Laura said quietly, as she noticed him come in.
"Hey," he repeated, walking over to the side of the bed. He leaned over and softly kissed her forehead.
"Uh-uh," she said. "Come back here."
This time when he leaned in, she captured his lips with hers. They'd have to get used to kissing with the baby between them, she thought. She'd have to get used to doing a lot of things with the baby in her arms.
"She's beautiful, isn't she?" Laura said proudly.
"Just like you," he said, sliding into the bed next to her. He wrapped one arm around Laura and touched the baby's cheek with the other. "The family is out there," he said. "They're waiting to see her."
"They can wait a little longer," she said.
"Okay," he said.
He couldn't help staring at his daughter. He smiled. His daughter. He was really a father.
"Thank you," he said before leaning over to kiss his wife again.
"You're welcome," she said with a smile.
"How are you feeling?"
"Like I got run over by a truck," she told him. "But I've never felt better."
"God, I love you."
"I know," she said with a smile. "I love you, too."
She looked over at him; he was staring at the baby again. She was so happy that she had been the one to give him this incredible gift. Family. The three of them, they truly were a family.
"She needs a name," Laura said softly.
"Yes," he agreed. "That would be good. Any suggestions?"
"I thought about naming her after your father."
He liked that idea.
"Yes, Danielle," he said, trying it out. "That's nice."
"Can't do it," she said.
"Sweetheart," she said. "Have you been to a bookstore lately? Danielle Steel sells more romance novels than Charlotte Knight."
"Oh," he said. "No, that won't work."
"What about Kate?" Laura said. "After all, we were watching Hepburn when I went into labor…"
"Katharine?" he said. "I like that."
"Katharine it is," she said, smiling down at her daughter. "But what goes with it?"
"Well," he said. "We still want Mildred to be the godmother, right?"
"And I don't suppose that's going to go over too well with your mother."
"Why don't we honor Abigail by naming her after her?"
"Katharine Abigail?" Laura asked, crinkling her nose. "I don't like that."
"What about Abigail Katharine?" he suggested. "We could still call her Kate."
Laura looked down at the baby and gently stroked her cheek.
"What do you think Kate?" she said. "Are you an Abigail?"
Kate opened her eyes and Laura would have sworn she smiled.
"That's it," she said. "Remington Steele, may I present your daughter?"
She held the baby up a little so that Remington could take her.
"Abigail Katharine Steele," he said. "Welcome to the world."