"Here's the paperwork on the Harrad case," Bernice Foxe said, walking in to Laura's office. "All wrapped up, just needs your signature." She stood looking at Laura, who seemed to be staring off into space. She hadn't even acknowledged the secretary's presence. "Earth to Laura," she said.
Laura looked up at her friend, "Oh, hi Bernice," she said. "What's up?"
"I just brought in the Harrad file," Bernice answered. "If you sign off on it, we can put this one to bed. Where were you?"
Laura let out a long sigh, "How do you do it, Bernice?"
"Let them down easy," Laura answered. "I've never had a problem breaking up with someone, but this is different."
Breaking up? Bernice thought. "Skeeziks?" she asked.
Laura shook her head and answered, "Murphy."
Bernice sat down in the chair opposite her friend. "You need to break up with Murphy?"
"No," Laura answered with a sigh. "He told me he cares for me… more than as a business associate, and more than a friend. He thinks we could have something special."
"But you're not interested," Bernice surmised. "Because of him?" she asked, nodding toward Steele's door.
"Partly," Laura admitted. "I mean, we do seem to be getting closer, but I've just never been attracted to Murphy in that way. He's my best friend, almost like a big brother."
"But he wants more, and thinks of our bogus Mr. Steele as competition."
"Right," Laura confirmed. "I told him it could never be, but he said he wouldn't give up. Now I don't know what to do."
"What can you do?" Bernice asked, "Except what you always do."
"What do I always do?" Laura asked.
"Ignore it," Bernice clarified.
"I don't do that," Laura protested.
Bernice fixed her with a don'tgive me that glare. "Laura," she said, "you do the best impression of an ostrich that I've ever seen."
"Seriously Bernice," Laura said, practically pouting. "I had no idea."
"You can try that with Murphy," Bernice said pointedly. "And he might even believe you. But you are a very intuitive woman--- and a great detective… and then there's the fact that he's not too subtle about it."
"You might not have WANTED to see it," Bernice allowed, "but you saw it."
"You're right," Laura agreed with a sigh. "So now, I can't pretend I don't know--- he laid it all out there."
"And you told him it wasn't happening," Bernice reminded her. "So just go on with your life. How are things with you-know-who? Valentine's Day is coming up."
"He's not really big on holidays, I've noticed," Laura replied absently.
"And you're avoiding my question," Bernice noted with a raise of her eyebrows. "How ARE things between you?"
"I don't know," Laura answered honestly. They'd shared a few dinners, had drinks in front of the fire at his place. They'd enjoyed a few kisses in stolen moments. In truth, she felt like a teenager reveling in the first feelings of young love, but Marty Klopman couldn't hold a candle to her Mr. Steele.
Laura paced her living room; maybe Bernice was right. Maybe she wouldn't have to DO anything. She'd already told Murphy that she wasn't interested in him romantically. She had been spending more time with their ersatz Mr. Steele, surely Murphy had seen that... not that she and Steele were in a relationship, per se, and they certainly weren't exclusive.
She plopped down on the sofa with an audible sigh as she thought about the women she'd seen with Mr. Steele. They were always the flashy type- beautiful, but in an obvious sort of way. And although she'd never actually conversed with any of them, she was fairly certain that they were as empty headed as they were gorgeous. They seemed so opposite from Laura herself. She began to wonder what it was about her that interested him. Was it more than the mere challenge of breaking her resolve?
Mr. Steele was reckless. He was dangerous. He was everything she had to guard against - this man, this beautiful enigma. He excited her. He fascinated her. She was more than a little flattered by his frequent attempts at seduction. She wanted him, of that she was certain--- but beyond that, what was there? He was a stranger, a con-man who barged into her life not five months ago. When had she come to the point that she thought of him as more than that? She felt something for her Remington Steele, and that thought scared her to death… or did it? Just a couple of days ago, on that stakeout at Morrie Singer's… Murph had talked of hope for the patient's recovery…meaning recovery from her feelings for Steele. Was she really that lovesick? And if so, did she really want to recover?
She got up and went to the kitchen. As she set about making coffee and putting together a salad for dinner, her thoughts turned to Murphy. Murph was the safe choice. Reliable, dependable, loyal to a fault--- that was Murphy. Ever since they'd met at Havenhurst, Murphy had been there for her. It was Murphy who'd helped her prove herself at the huge agency. It was Murphy who had listened as she ranted and raved about the men always getting credit for her work. It was Murphy who had held her hand and gotten her through the breakup with Wilson. Murphy helped her start the agency. He was her partner, her best friend. If she were smart, she'd take Murphy's offer and run with it. On paper, he was the perfect "catch." Good ol' reliable Murphy. Too bad the only love she felt for him, that she'd ever feel for him, was the brotherly kind.
"Morning, Partner," Murphy said, smiling as Laura walked through the doors of Suite 1157. He was sitting on the edge of Bernice's desk, but stood as Laura entered.
"Good morning, Murph," Laura answered. She turned to face her secretary, "Morning, Bernice. How's our day looking?"
"Fairly light," Bernice answered, handing Laura the day's mail. "You have a new client at ten. You're meeting with Mr. Hillenbrandt in his office at one, and He," she nodded toward Steele's office, "will be at the Mayor's Council on Crime Luncheon from 11:30 until 3:00."
"Is that all?" Murphy practically whined, "Can't you find someplace else to send him for the rest of the day?"
Bernice laughed at the question as Laura gave Murphy a disapproving glare that didn't quite cover the amusement in her eyes.
"Morning, morning, morning!"
Three surprised faces looked up to see Remington Steele entering the offices. Laura couldn't help but notice how devastatingly handsome he looked. He was always so "put together," and this morning was no exception.
"Close your mouth Murphy," he said. "You'll catch flies." He turned his attention to the women who were both shocked to see him in the office so early. "Miss Wolfe..."
"Foxe!" Bernice interrupted.
"Miss Wolfe," Steele repeated, "be a dear and fetch us some coffee. Miss Holt and I will be in her office."
Laura held back the urge to argue as Steele took her elbow and led her into her office.
"What was that all about?" Laura asked as he closed the door behind them.
"This," Steele answered, pulling her into his embrace. He kissed her fully.
She found herself involuntarily responding to his kiss, and quickly pushed herself from his embrace.
"Mr. Steele!" she said with a huff. "This is a place of business!"
He held back the laughter that threatened to spill forth. He loved it when he was able to fluster the unflappable Laura Holt.
"Sorry Laura," he said, his ocean blue eyes shining with sincerity, "but I've been waiting to do that all morning."
Laura really wanted to ask what brought it on, but she chose not to, she wouldn't give him the satisfaction. She couldn't let him see that she was still reeling from that kiss. He'd kissed her before, but there was something different in that kiss. It was stronger, deeper, more… what was the word? Proprietary. Remington Steele had just staked his claim. Part of her was thrilled, but another part was simply irritated, who did he think he was, anyway?
Steele watched her, waiting for her to ask the question that was so obviously on her lips. When she didn't, he continued.
"I also wanted to ask you to have dinner with me on Monday," he said. "I know how much you like to have advanced notice."
Before Laura could respond, Bernice walked in with two cups of coffee--- one in a mug and the other in a bone china cup with saucer. Steele took the cup and saucer and excused himself from the room.
"What was that about?" Bernice asked, handing Laura her coffee.
"I wish I knew," Laura responded. "First, he kissed me and then he asked me to dinner on Monday night. Monday," she repeated. "Who plans a date on a Monday?"
"Laura," Bernice said, "Monday is Valentine's Day."
Laura set the coffee mug down on her desk as she fell into her chair. Mr. Steele had made plans for Valentine's Day. With her.
"So, Laura," Murphy began as he watched Laura, who kept her eyes on the road. They were driving back from their meeting with Mr. Hillenbrandt. "Have you given any more thought to what I said the other day?" he asked. "About us?"
"No Murph," she lied. "I haven't. Not really. I told you then," she said with a sigh, "Nothing can happen between us." She turned to look at him briefly before turning her eyes back to the road. "You're my best friend, Murphy. And I love you," she said softly, "just not the way you want me to."
"It's because of HIM, isn't it?" Murphy sulked. "Laura, he's no good for you."
Laura gripped the steering wheel tightly. She should have known this wasn't going to be easy. Looking ahead, she noticed a small coffee shop coming up on the right. She pulled into the parking lot and put the Rabbit into a space before turning to Murphy.
"It's not about Mr. Steele, Murphy," she told him. "It's about me. And you. Murph," she said, "I care for you. And I appreciate everything you've done for me, but I just don't think of you," she paused, "romantically."
"Why not?" He hated himself for asking.
"Come on Murph," Laura said with another sigh. "You know as well as I do, if it isn't there, it isn't there. I don't want to hurt you," she said as gently as she could, "but I don't want you to go on thinking that this," she gestured between them, "can happen."
"I meant it when I told you I wasn't going to give up, Laura," Murphy stated firmly. "Give me one more chance. Monday is Valentine's Day. Have dinner with me."
Laura looked away. He almost didn't hear her when she said quietly, "I have plans."
Murphy shook his head and said with a rueful smile, "Steele."
"My god, Bernice," Laura said, looking around as she sipped her Chardonnay. "This place is a meat market."
"I know," Bernice replied with a smile and raised eyebrows, "isn't it great?"
Laura just laughed at her friend. It was nice to be out with Bernice. She always knew how to get Laura to open up and relax. She really needed to kick back and have a good time tonight.
"Do you really come here all the time?" Laura asked.
Bernice shrugged. "Hey, SOME of us don't have two gorgeous guys falling all over themselves to hook up with us."
"Oh, don't remind me," Laura said, covering her face with her hands.
"Really Laura, there are women who would KILL to be in your position."
"Would YOU?" Laura shot back.
"Well…" Bernice hedged. "Our Mr. Steele IS hot! I told you once before, he's here- you're here- go for it! And if I hadn't seen the way you looked at him that first day, I might have made a play for him myself."
"Might have?" Laura said with a laugh. "I'll put on some fresh water…" she said mockingly.
Bernice laughed with her friend as she rolled her eyes, "Touché. Seriously" she went on, "what are you going to do?"
"Take your advice, I guess," Laura answered. "I've told Murphy in no uncertain terms that WE aren't going to happen. I don't know what else TO do."
"Forget about Murphy!" Bernice said with a smile. "What about HIM?"
Laura's eyes lit up as she thought about Remington Steele, more specifically the kiss they'd shared just this morning. "Oh Bernice," she said with a dreamy sigh. "He's spectacular."
Bernice laughed out loud, and nearly spit out the sip she'd just taken of her martini. "Tell me something I didn't already know."
Laura rolled her eyes as a smile spread across her face. Had she said that out loud? As the two friends laughed, Laura spoke.
"He intrigues the hell out of me," she said frankly. "And he scares the hell out of me."
"Laura," Bernice replied, "I wouldn't call him scary. Annoying maybe, but not scary."
"It's not HIM that I'm afraid of, really," Laura admitted. "It's me. It's what I could become with him. Bernice, no man has ever affected me the way that he does. I can see myself getting totally wrapped up in him. Consumed by him. The way my mother was with my father. And then what? How long do you think he's really going to stick around?"
"I don't know, Laura," Bernice said before admitting grudgingly, "but I think you'd be surprised. I've seen the way he looks at you."
"With a lascivious glare?" Laura asked with a grin as she took another drink of her wine.
Bernice laughed. "Well, yes, there is that. But there's something else. Warmth. There's a kind of tenderness that he only displays toward you."
"Really?" Laura asked with genuine surprise.
Bernice nodded. "Mmm-hmm. He tries to hide it, but it's there."
"Bernice Foxe," Laura said, leaning back in her chair, "student of human nature. Who knew?"
"Nah," Bernice said, shaking her head with a smile. "Nothing so lofty, I just know men. And though he may not wear his heart on his sleeve like a certain sandy haired detective, Remington Steele is definitely "in" to you."
Laura sat back and considered what Bernice had to say. She wondered how much of it was real, how much was Bernice's romantic nature, and how much was just the martinis talking.
Monday morning, Laura arrived in the office early. She had a lot to accomplish today and wanted to be able to slip out a bit early to get ready for her dinner with Mr. Steele.
She took out the photo that she kept in the back of her desk drawer. Even in black and white, he was gorgeous. Though the photo couldn't do justice to the azure blue of his eyes, it was enough to get her heart racing. She let her thoughts wander to the evening ahead. She wondered where he would take her, what they would do. She imagined him in tuxedo and herself in the red dress she'd bought when she and Bernice had gone shopping on Saturday. It was Valentine's Day, was red too obvious? She'd also picked up a white strapless evening gown and a black cocktail dress…
"Focus, Laura," she said aloud. The whole point of coming in before everyone else was to get some work done. She opened the file that lay on the desk in front of her and began to write her report on the Hillenbrandt case. She was so intent on her work that she didn't notice the voices in the outer office or the opening of the door to hers.
"Oh my god, Laura!" Bernice shrieked, nearly dropping the huge bouquet of roses she was carrying. "What are you doing here?"
Also startled, but regaining her own composure, Laura looked up as Bernice set the vase down on her desk.
"The last time I checked Bernice," she said, "this was MY agency."
"Easy, Killer," Bernice said, holding up her hand.
"I'm sorry," Laura replied. "I'm just a little nervous, I guess. I came in early to try to get a little work done."
Bernice nodded toward the vase on the desk.
"If these are any indication, I don't think you've got a thing to worry about."
Laura smiled as Bernice handed her the card. Bernice stood, watching in anticipation as Laura opened the card. Satisfied, the secretary turned to leave as she saw a smile spread across her friend's face.
Laura leaned back in her chair and ran her fingers across the front of the card.
You never said "Yes."
Consider this a bribe.
Happy Valentine's Day,
She pulled out a blank sheet of paper and scribbled something on it. She picked up the paper and crossed the room to the door connecting her office to that of Remington Steele. She went into his office and placed the note on the desk. Smiling, she returned to her office.
"Good morning, Miss Wolfe," Remington Steele said with a smile as he walked into the offices.
"It's Foxe," Bernice corrected. "And it's afternoon."
"Minor detail, Miss Wolfe," he answered, turning toward Laura's office.
"She's not in," Bernice said, effectively stopping him in his tracks. "She and Murphy are out meeting with a client."
"Oh, well… carry on then," he replied and went into his own office.
He walked over behind the desk. A wide smile spread across his face as he picked up the sheet of paper. There, in Laura's unmistakably neat hand, was written one word, "Yes."
Laura checked her look in the mirror. He would be there any minute. She'd chosen the white dress. It was strapless and form-fitting. She laughed quietly as she took in her appearance. She'd been worried about the red dress being too obvious--- but this dress, with its fit and the slit up the side that nearly reached her mid-thigh, was far sexier. She'd put her hair up and was wearing silver drop earrings. She chosen not to wear a necklace; and the dramatic, smoky look of her eye make-up finished the polished look. She was pleased with the result and hoped that Mr. Steele would be, as well.
She found herself staring at the man who sat across the candlelit table in the darkened restaurant. Laura was enjoying the evening. The man she'd come to know as Remington Steele was more than just a charming con-man. He was articulate, very intelligent and highly engaging. The man was a born storyteller. For the past several months, Laura wanted nothing more than to know about his history. Now, here they were--- alone, no Bernice, no Murphy. He was regaling her with stories of his youth, and she could barely pay attention-- to the story that is, Mr. Steele had her undivided attention.
She watched him as he spoke. She already knew that he could charm the birds from the trees, but now she sensed something more--- a sincerity that she hadn't seen in him previously. She knew the story he was telling her was true. She could just picture a gangly little blue eyed urchin sneaking into the back of a darkened movie house to find not only shelter, but escape from the lonely and often dangerous world that was his real life.
Laura was surprised that Mr. Steele was opening up so much to her, and she could tell that he was surprised by that fact himself. Laura knew instinctively that her Mr. Steele was not normally so trusting. She again began to wonder if there was something to Bernice's theory that he actually had feelings for her.
They shared an easy camaraderie. She felt more comfortable with him than she had with anyone in a very long time.
After they'd finished eating, he stood and held out his hand to her.
"Laura," he said, pulling her from her thoughts of him. "Would you care to dance?"
"I'd love to, Mr. Steele."
Laura stood and placed her hand in his as Remington Steele led her onto the dance floor. The music was soft and lovely. He placed one hand on the small of her back, held her hand with his other, and pulled her close as they moved in time with the music.
She allowed herself to get lost in the moment, in the feeling of being in this man's arms. She was amazed at how well they fit together and right now, she couldn't imagine any place she'd rather be. He leaned down to place a soft kiss on her lips, and she didn't care that they were in the middle of a crowded dance floor.
Laura stood next to the car as Mr. Steele sent Fred home for the night. They walked to her front door, hand in hand, as Fred drove away.
"Thank you," he said, bringing her hand to his lips. "For a lovely evening."
"Shouldn't I be thanking you?" she asked.
He began to respond, but changed his mind when he saw her shiver. "Let's go inside, shall we?"
She nodded, and reached into her bag for the keys.
He followed her into her living room.
She went to turn on some lights…she considered making coffee… anything to keep busy. He was watching her. She was nervous. She was anxious. Itchy. Bernice's words ran through her head. "He's here, you're here… go for it." Would tonight be the night? She'd been dreaming of this chance for months. Why did she think of it as an opportunity? The possibility was always there, she knew that they could be together at any time; all she had to do was say the word. He'd been more than candid about his desire for her. Why couldn't she do the same?
Before she knew what was happening, she was in his arms.
He leaned in and placed a series of gentle kisses along her neck, making his way to her lips. He captured her mouth with his, and she opened herself to him… her hands winding their way up his strong back, over his shoulders and into his thick black hair.
"Don't think, Laura," she told herself. "Don't think. Don't think. Don't think…"
They both knew the instant they'd lost the moment. Laura knew it was because she let her mind take over, and Remington knew she wasn't ready.
He stepped back to look at her, and leaned in to drop a soft kiss on her forehead.
"Perhaps it's time I should be going," he said, his voice soft and low.
"Don't go," she replied, her own trembling voice betraying her.
"We have all the time in the world, Laura," he said, pulling her back into his arms. "When the time is right, it will happen. For now, I think I should call a taxi and we can enjoy the last few moments of a magical evening."
She wanted to kick herself. What is wrong with you, Laura? She was so close to having this man that she so desired, but she realized that what she would have with the man called Remington Steele was going to be much more than a wink and a tumble. He'd opened up to her tonight, and it had meant more than any physical intimacy could.
She knew they were destined for something incredible.
And given time, they would find out what that was … together. If he was willing to wait, so was she. She knew it would be worth waiting for.
"Happy Valentine's Day, Laura," he said quietly, as he pulled her in for another long, promise filled kiss.