What Steele Comes After
He woke with a smile on his face. Last night was all he always knew it would be---and more. He reached for her, but found nothing more than a cold pillow. He opened his eyes. She wasn't there. He sat up and called out to her.
There was no reply.
He pulled on his robe and headed toward the bathroom. Something stopped him and he went to the window instead. He saw her and his heart dropped. She was crying. This wasn't the way this day was supposed to start. This was their day---their new beginning. It was supposed to be joyous and full of fun… and love. He was going to wake up with her in his arms, tell her he loved her and spend the rest of the day showing her just how much.
Fate had another plan.
He woke up alone and she was in the courtyard crying. As he quickly dressed, he wracked his brain trying to figure out what it was he'd done to cause her pain. He grabbed her sweater from the armoire and left the room. He ran down the stairs and out the front door. He turned up his collar and stuffed his hands in his pockets to ward off the chill of the early morning air. He slowed his pace as he neared to where she was sitting.
She felt him before she saw him.
Wiping the tears from her eyes, she took in a deep breath. She didn't look up or turn to face him as she spoke.
"Good morning, Mr. Steele," she said softly.
"Is it?" he asked. "This isn't exactly how I expected to find you this morning."
"I know," she said. "I couldn't sleep. I thought I'd go for a walk, and I ended up here."
He could see that she was shivering. He walked up behind her and placed the sweater across her shoulders, letting his hands linger. She reached up and covered his right hand with her left.
"Laura," he said. "What is it?"
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"You've been crying," he said, moving around to sit next to her. He took her hand in his, lacing their fingers. "Why?"
She laughed softly, sniffing back her remaining tears.
"I don't know," she said, glancing at her feet. "Today should be one of the happiest days of my life, but I woke up with this overwhelming melancholy."
"That's Ireland," he said with a smile.
"I guess now we know what comes after."
"Do we?" he asked.
His question was met with silence.
"You're freezing," he said. "Let's get you inside."
She nodded and they stood together. They walked silently, but hand in hand through the garden and into the castle. She followed without protest as he went for the stairs. They reached the master bedroom and he closed the door behind them. She sat on the bed as he continued on toward the bathroom. She listened as he turned on the faucet.
"Let's get you into a hot bath, eh?" He walked toward her, reaching out for her hand. "You'll feel better," he promised, turning her toward the bath and beginning to go the other way.
"You're not coming?" she asked, and he was heartened by her genuine surprise.
"No," he said. "Tempting as that sounds, you go on. I'll see to breakfast and after your soak, we'll talk."
"Okay," she said softly as the door closed behind him.
She went over to the armoire and took out the silk nightgown and matching robe that she'd planned to be wearing today. She went into the bathroom and turned off the water. He'd drawn the bath with the lavender bath oil she'd brought with her. It had been a gift from him on her last birthday. She smiled at the thought that he was forever trying to get her to pamper herself, or to let him do it.
She sank down into the tub and the hot water felt amazing. As the water enveloped her body, the fragrance captured her soul. She immediately began to relax as she leaned back against the tub and closed her eyes. She tried to clear her mind, but one thought kept coming back. She hadn't been completely truthful with him. She did know the source of her sadness. Should she tell him about her dream? After all, it was only a dream. Why was it affecting her so much? Maybe it would help to talk about it.
But what if it wasn't just a dream?
Stop it, Laura.
Maybe it was a premonition. After all, it was Daniel who told her he was only sticking around until the magic moment… and Daniel knew him better than anyone. He was his father for goodness sake.
Stop it, Laura.
It WAS just a dream. He's still here. So what if he can't say the words? It's not like you've said them, either. He's still here. You're the one who snuck out of bed in the middle of the night. You're the one who's running. Give him a chance.
He's still here.
When Remington returned to the bedroom, he found her sitting in front of the fire. She was a vision in soft blue silk. He thought briefly of forgoing the planned conversation and carrying her back to bed. It was only a brief thought. As incredible as making love with Laura had been, and as much as he was looking forward to doing it again, it wouldn't solve their problem. Hell, he didn't even know what their problem was.
"Better?" he asked tentatively.
"Much," she answered semi-truthfully.
"Mikeline will be bringing breakfast up shortly," he said. "Mind if I take a quick shower?"
"No," she said, grateful for a few more minutes respite from the inevitable conversation. "Go on."
"Care to join me?" he asked with a smile and a wiggle of his eyebrows.
"Not this time, Big Fella," she said with a smile of her own.
As tempting as it was, falling into bed with him wasn't going to solve anything. But it might give her another lovely memory for when he was gone…
She sat staring into the fire. She thought of the past four years and everything that had led them to this moment in time. She thought about that first magnum of champagne, those incredible blue eyes, that dazzling smile, and last night---the way he touched her, the way he made her feel. No other man had ever come close, no other man ever would.
She was pulled from her reverie by a knock at the door. She tightened the belt on her robe and went to answer it.
"Good morning, your ladyship."
"Good morning, Mikeline."
"His lordship asked me to bring this up myself," he said as he pushed the breakfast cart into the room. "And I'm t'see that ya not be disturbed."
"Thank you," she said.
"Will that be all m'am?"
She glanced down at the spread on the cart. He'd thought of everything.
"Yes Mikeline," she said. "That will be all, thank you."
As Mikeline left the room, she poured herself a cup of coffee and sat back down next to the fireplace.
"Ah, I see Mikeline has come through again."
She looked up when she heard his voice to see Remington emerge from the bathroom. He was wearing a pair of black silk pajama bottoms, his robe was hanging open and he had a towel around his neck. Why did he have to be so damned gorgeous? It made letting go that much harder.
"Yes," she said. "It looks like you thought of everything."
"Yes, well…" He paused, suddenly self conscious. "I wasn't sure how hungry you would be."
Very, she thought, but not for anything that was on the cart.
He set the towel down on the foot of the bed and went to sit in the chair across from her. He poured himself a cup of tea. They made small talk as they nibbled on fruit and scones, both of them staying away from heavier fare---both in food and conversation.
It was Remington who turned that corner first. Try as he might, he couldn't get the image of Laura sitting on that bench in the courtyard out of his mind. He had to know what had hurt her.
"Laura," he said.
"Are you ready to talk about it?"
"About what?" she asked.
"This morning," he said. "You left our bed and I found you outside, crying."
Our bed, she thought. She smiled a rueful smile.
"It all goes back to that age old question," she said.
"What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?" he asked with a grin.
She couldn't help but smile back at him.
"What happens now?"
"I thought we might finally have a honeymoon," he said. "There's some business to be done---transfer of ownership of the castle and settling Daniel's estate…"
Is he being deliberately obtuse?
"And then we go home and get on with our lives."
Just like that?
"As the happiest married couple in America," she said with just a hint of sarcasm.
"As the happiest married couple in America," he repeated, without the sarcasm.
"For the next two years," she said.
"If that's what you want," he said, hoping it wasn't.
She couldn't take it anymore. He WAS being intentionally obtuse. She stood and began pacing. She exploded. She turned to him.
"But what do YOU want?" she shouted. "Do you even know?"
Instantly, he was on his feet and looking her square in the eye. He grabbed her hand and pulled her to him.
"You!" he said. "Damn it, Laura. I want you. What do I have to do to make you believe that?"
"Stay," she said quietly, turning away from him.
He closed his eyes and sighed. So that's it.
"Laura," he said softly.
She didn't turn around.
"Laura, look at me."
As she turned around, he took her other hand in his. He waited until she looked up to meet his eyes before continuing.
"I'm not going anywhere, Laura," he said. "How could you think I could ever leave you?"
"Everyone leaves," she said.
His heart was breaking at the pain and fear he saw in her eyes.
"I'm here," he said, as he had the night her house was blown up. He pulled her into his embrace.
"The man with no name," she said, recalling the same night.
"Ah," he said, "Not true. I have a name, it's Remington Steele… and you are my wife."
"For two years," she said.
"Forever," he corrected.
She stepped back and looked at him with genuine surprise.
"Really?" she asked.
"Yes, really," he said. "Laura, I don't understand how you could think that I could ever leave you. Especially after last night…"
"Oh Laura," he said. "If he wasn't already gone, I'd kill Daniel for putting that doubt in your head. He told you I was just sticking around until I got what I wanted."
She nodded, sniffing back the tears that threatened to fall.
"Think about that," he said. "If all I wanted was a wink and a tumble, as you once put it, I'd have had you in my bed years ago. But what we have is so much more than that. I had hoped that last night would have shown you that."
"Last night was amazing," she said.
"Yes, it was," he agreed. "No one has ever made me feel that way, Laura. No one else ever could."
Say it, say it, she thought.
"I love you, Laura."
"Are you sure?" she asked.
He laughed. What other response could he have expected?
"Yes, Mrs. Steele," he said. "I'm sure."
She looked into his beautiful blue eyes and saw the love he'd professed looking back at her.
"I love you," she said, and paused a moment before choosing her next word carefully, "Remington."
He pulled her close and held her like he would never let her go. Calling him by what he considered his given name meant almost as much as hearing that she loved him.
Much later, they lay wrapped in each other's arms, each lost in their own thoughts. They'd gotten past the biggest hurdle, but they still had such a long way to go.
"What are you thinking about?" Laura asked, softly running her finger across his chest.
"You," he said, drawing circles on her shoulder with his finger. "Us."
"Mostly," he admitted. "I just can't believe we finally got out of our own way."
She smiled. He was right; they themselves had always been the biggest obstacle to their happiness.
"It wasn't just us," she observed. "I could've done without Felicia, or Anna, or Shannon…"
"Touché," he said. "But I wasn't the one panting after Butch Beemis, or William Westfield… or Roselli…"
She pulled herself up his body and turned to look him in the eye.
"Okay," she said. "I may have been attracted to Butch Beemis, and William Westfield, and even Tony…" She paused, making certain that he really heard what she was saying. "…But I never WANTED any of them. Only you, Mr. Steele."
"What happened to 'Remington'?" he asked.
"Habit," she said, reaching up for a quick kiss. "Give me time. It will come easier. But you'll always be my Mr. Steele."