Steeling Hearts

He shook his head as they walked across the green. It drove him crazy that she always felt the need to "instruct" him, especially now. They'd spent a leisurely morning together at his apartment. He'd served her breakfast in bed even as she gave him the rules for this afternoon's assignment, and now she was laying out the rules yet again.

"Now remember, whatever happens it's imperative that we stay together," she said.

"Peppler," he complained. "Peppler. Bob and Judy Peppler?"

"What's the matter with Bob and Judy Peppler?"

"I'm sorry, but it's bad enough to be asked to be a 'Bob,' but to add insult to injury with Peppler…"

"It's too late," she said. "Malcolm Marcall is one of the most famous divorce attorneys in the country and he's expecting Pepplers. Married ones. Besides, there's nothing wrong with it. I'm a Peppler. She's a Peppler. We're a Peppler. They're a Peppler. Wouldn't ya like to be a Peppler, too? Oh come on…. Where's your sense of humor?"

"I'm wearing it. Must one truly parade around in loud pants to play this game?"

She smiled at his frustration.

"Wouldn't want anybody to mistake you for a tree, now would we?"

"Ho-ho-ho," annoyed, he feigned laughter.

"Malcolm!" she called out as she saw their client.

"Judy!" Malcolm Marcall greeted as he approached them. "Bob. My wife, Loretta. This is Bob and Judy Peppler, the couple I told you about."

"Oh not you, two" Mrs. Marcall said to them. "You're not really considering divorce, are you?"

Malcolm laughed nervously. "Now Retta, we're here to play golf."


Laura was livid that Remington had agreed to "play through" with the client, leaving her behind with Mrs. Marcall. By the time the four of them met up at the clubhouse, she was silently fuming but she wouldn't show it. She'd let her "partner" have it later but for now, she plastered on a smile and followed Loretta into the bar.

"Did it," Mrs. Marcall said as she approached her husband. "Broke one-fifty."

"That's my girl," Malcolm said.

"How did you do, dear," Laura asked, wrapping her arm around Remington's waist.

"Oh, just peachy, darling," he answered.

"Oh, I can't wait to hear all about it."


"Really Laura," Remington called out from the living room. "Either you trust me or you don't."

"What is THAT supposed to mean?"

She appeared in the bedroom doorway, pulling a sweater over her head. She really didn't want to repeat their shouting match from the country club parking lot. She was hoping to enjoy the rest of the weekend. She'd really begun looking forward to the weekends. Ever since she and her Mr. Steele had become intimate---after their case at the sleep clinic---they had quietly spent their weekends together. She tried to keep work out of their relationship, just as she tried to keep their relationship out of work. Murphy and Bernice were still in the dark about this aspect of their relationship and she meant to keep it that way.

"You let me go undercover with you, but then you get angry when I get involved with the case," he said with a raised voice.

"Investigating is not your job!" she shouted back.

"Then why take me on assignment?"

"I'm sorry," she said sarcastically. "It's Saturday and I had to meet with a client. I didn't want to let work ruin our weekend. Would you rather Murphy pose as my husband?"

"Of course not," he answered, his voice softening. He reached out to pull her to him and kissed her deeply. "It just gets rather confusing. Am I on the case? Am I not on the case?" He kissed her again. "You trust me with your body, you're beginning to trust me with your heart, but you can't trust me with your business?"

He was right. It was something she'd been struggling with these last several weeks. She didn't regret crossing the imaginary line she'd drawn at the bedroom door. After they'd sent Ivan and Dr. Lindstrom on their way that night, they'd enjoyed a brandy in front of the fireplace as they had so many times before, but it felt different. It felt warmer, his kisses were sweeter. He looked so vulnerable in his sleepy state that when he said "Stay with me, Laura," she couldn't resist. She didn't want to. Things had been going well since then. She loved being with him. She enjoyed the feeling of falling in love---and that IS what she was doing. She hadn't told Murphy and Bernice. She liked that she and Remington had their own little secret. She tried to include him more at work. But he was right, she didn't really let him work on their cases and she wasn't sure she wanted to. But when she needed to go undercover with a husband or a lover, it was always Mr. Steele by her side much to Murphy's chagrin.

"I don't want to talk about Malcolm Marcall," she said. "We have all night…" She kissed him. "…And all day tomorrow before we put your plan into action."

"I can't argue with that logic, Miss Holt," he said, pulling her close. His mouth claimed hers in a long, promise-filled kiss and soon all thoughts of the case were quickly forgotten.


Remington pondered the situation as Fred pulled the limo up in front of Laura's house. He couldn't leave her alone in this condition, but there was no way Murphy was going to leave him alone with her.

"Thank you, Fred," he said to the driver. "We'll be right back."

Holding Laura up between them, he and Murphy made their way to the front door. Remington nearly reached into his pocket for the key, but thought better of it when he saw Murphy looking at him.

"Where is her bag?" he asked.

"It must be in the car," Murphy said, "I'll go get it."

He returned with her purse and fished out her keys, which Remington used to open the door and then dropped in his pocket.

Once inside the house, Remington and Murphy carried Laura back to her bedroom and laid her down on the bed. Murphy sat down beside her and began taking off her shoes while Remington picked up the throw blanket from the rocking chair by the door.

"What are you doing?" Remington asked.

"Taking off her shoes," Murphy said. "She can't sleep in them."

He was right, but Murphy wouldn't be helping her off with anything else. Remington had a strange feeling that could best be called jealousy. He didn't like seeing Murphy undress her; even it was only her shoes.

"Here we go," Remington said, pushing Murphy aside as he covered her with the blanket. He'd wake her and make sure she was comfortable after he got rid of Murphy.

"I don't like leaving her like this," Murphy said as Remington ushered him out of the bedroom and closed the door.

"She'll be fine," Remington said. "She'll have a nasty headache in the morning, but she'll be fine."

Murphy watched as Remington locked the front door with Laura's keys and again dropped them in his pocket. Seeing Murphy's look, he said, "I'll drive her car home from the office and come pick her up in the morning."

Murphy nodded. He didn't like it, but it made sense.

After Fred dropped them off at the office, Remington picked up his dry cleaning from his office and made sure Murphy had gone before taking the Rabbit back to Laura's house.

Quietly, he unlocked the door, went in and locked it back again before making his way to the bedroom. As he was hanging his suit on the closet door, Laura began to stir.

"Mr. Steele?" she said softly.

"Yes, Laura," he said, brushing the hair back from her face as he sat down beside her.

"I don't feel so good."

"I know, love," he soothed.

He helped her get up and change into her nightclothes and put her back to bed. He climbed into bed beside her and she snuggled up to him as they both fell asleep.


In the morning, Laura was cranky and irritable and she had a splitting headache.

"Why didn't you give me any aspirin?" she said as she sat at the table and he set down a cup of coffee in front of her.

"I'm sorry," he said as he went about making Daniel's patented hangover remedy. "I was concerned with getting Murphy out of here so I could get you comfortable."

"Murphy was here?" she exclaimed with wide eyes and then drew her hand to her head. "Ow."

He explained to her how she showed up at the office three sheets to the wind and Murphy refused to allow him to accompany her home.

"So what did you do?" she asked as he handed her his thick green concoction. "What IS this?"

"The cure for what ails you," he said. "Drink. I went back to the office with Murphy, picked up my suit and your car and came back here."

"And put me to bed properly," she said with a smile.

"As properly as possible with someone in your condition," he answered.

"Thank you," she said. She kissed his cheek as she got up from the table, and he was happy that her mood seemed to be improving.

They were back to square one as soon as she got outside in the sunlight. Her head was still pounding and she grumbled as she climbed into the passenger's seat of her car.


"Wine?" he asked as he sat down at the dinner table.

"None for me thanks," she said. "I think I had enough at lunch today. I don't know how those ladies do it."

"Do what?" he asked. "Drink like fishes?"

"No," she said with a smile, "but that, too. I just don't know how they go on. They're all so bitter…" she let her thought hang there. She did know how they carried on. She'd been through it herself. Her thoughts drifted to Wilson and how she'd felt when he left. Bitter didn't begin to cover it. But there WAS one thing she didn't understand. "But they blame Malcolm for everything."

"Which is quite a shame," he said. "Marcall really is a rather nice chap. And the irony of it is that he hates divorce law. He's ready to retire; he's even bought a place in the desert."

"Really?" she asked, taking a bite of her dessert. "That's interesting. How did you know that?"

"He told me."


"Monday," he answered. "At the courthouse… right after you took a swing at us."

"And you didn't tell me?"

"Laura," he said. "I can't possibly be expected to remember to tell you every little thing."

"Yes…you…can…" she said deliberately, trying very hard to restrain her anger. "Especially if it's relevant to the case. THIS is why you don't work cases!"

"So we're back to that again, eh?"

"I guess so," she said, setting her fork down. She stood up, dropped her napkin on the table and walked over to the sofa to pick up her purse and jacket.

"So I guess this means you're not spending the night," he said, attempting to coax a smile.

He was rewarded instead with a glare.

"I'm going to the hospital to see Mrs. Marcall in the morning," she said. "I'll see you at the office."


"Oh, I did it again, didn't I Murph?" she said.

"What's that?"

"I came down on him a bit hard."

"You're asking me, Laura?" Murphy said. "I'm one of those people who believe with all my heart that you can't be too rich, you can't be too thin and you just can't come down too hard on that guy… but yeah, I think you did."

Laura winced. If Murphy felt that way, then it was probably worse than she thought. Why did she always let her mouth get away from her like that?

Sure she was still angry with him for not telling her about his conversation with Marcall, but he was right about getting involved with their cases. She couldn't have it both ways.

She'd make it up to him this weekend.


When they left the Marcalls' Laura managed with some difficulty to get Remington up to his apartment.

She took him into his room and helped him change into his pajamas, also with some difficulty as he was more interested in getting her out of her clothes than in getting in to his.

She kept thinking of him earlier that night in the office.

"I rather enjoyed being a Peppler… shame about the divorce …. They're so good together, those two…"

"We are," she said to herself.

She went to get him a glass of water and some aspirin. When she returned to the bedroom, he was out cold. Smiling, she leaned over to kiss his forehead. She set the glass of water on his nightstand along with the aspirin. She pulled the covers up around him and leaned in again. This time, she placed a gentle kiss against his lips.

She wanted to stay and take care of him as he had when she was in much the same condition, but she couldn't. Not until she'd made things right between them.

Leaving the room, she paused in the doorway.

"Goodnight, Mr. Steele," she said as she turned out the light and closed the door behind her.


"Handsome shot, Mrs. Peppler."

She looked up at him and smiled. She rather enjoyed being a Peppler, too.

"What do you say we get out of here?" Laura suggested.

"Why Laura, what have you got in mind?"

"I don't know," she said coyly. "Something a little less … public?"

"I like the way you think, Mrs. Peppler."

She rolled her eyes.

"Come on."


"You know," Laura said, tracing lazy circles on his chest. "That was a really good idea you had to go to each of our suspects with that wine."

"For all the good it did," he said as he pulled her close to him. His kissed her temple.

Try as she might to keep business out of their personal life and especially out of the bedroom, she couldn't get this case out of her head.

"I'm sorry I've been so dismissive of you in the office," she said. "I think we need to seriously look at giving you some more responsibility…"

He stopped her with a kiss. As much as he wanted her to take him more seriously at work, she was lying in his arms….naked, in his bed and business was the last thing on his mind.

"We'll talk about it Monday," he said. "Let's just enjoy the weekend."

The End