STEELE ON THE PROWL
Summary: After Laura's dalliance with Butch Beemis, an angry Steele sets out to prove a point. Takes place after "Let's Steele a Plot." (Why do I keep picking the worst episodes!?!?)
He gave it a week.
Then a month.
Followed by another.
Yet she stuck to her word. They didn't see each other outside of work. Sure, he'd gotten in a few kisses. Hell, she seemed almost willing to take a literal roll in the hay when he'd lost his memory. But none of that mattered because they'd been at an emotional standstill since Cannes.
It was almost like the early days. Except in the early days, she was at least willing to admit their mutual attraction, acknowledge the potential. Back then, he could maneuver her into what Maxie Delano had so aptly described two days earlier: a clinch.
No, worse than nothing. She'd cut herself off from her feelings. Everything was business. Overly polite. Cold.
She'd never been an easy one to loosen up, but his suaveness, politeness, debonairness...his dammed culturedness over the past two years warmed her to him. He knew under her restraint was passion just waiting to be released. Since her decision to not mix business with pleasure any longer, he'd gotten little tenderness from her. The Cary Grant act wasn't getting him anywhere anymore and it grated on his manly pride that he could no longer break past her barriers.
And then what should come along to further dent his already bruised male ego?
The crudest excuse for a man Steele had ever met -- and he'd met quite a few less-than-optimal people in his life.
And what did Laura do?
She fell for Beemis. Hard. Fast. Openly.
Oh, she "saw the error of her ways" quickly enough and called it off.
Steele, however, wasn't happy. Not in the least little bit. She'd spent a couple hours with Beemis and had probably gone to bed with him, if her breathless words and dazed expressions were any indication. A couple hours! Steele had spent more than a couple years in pursuit of Laura's affections, only to have her select the polar opposite of himself.
What irked him the most wasn't just the sex. It hadn't been merely about sex between him and Laura for a long, long time. He wanted more from her. He couldn't pinpoint when his desires changed from simply wanting to bed her to wanting a solid, life-long relationship with her, but that was what he wanted.
Unfortunately, Beemis had intruded on his fantasy.
So it was with malice aforethought that Steele went on the prowl, something he'd not done since his first few months after arriving in Los Angeles.
The bar was filled with the Friday-after-work crowd. She was with a group of friends when he spotted her. The perfect woman. Like Beemis was to him, this woman was to Laura. She had shocking red hair, stood only five-foot-two, had a toothy grin, was loud, and it was obvious as he eavesdropped on her conversation that Stanford -- or any other university -- was nowhere in her past. But despite her shortcomings, she was still pretty in an "I don't have to be drunk to approach her" way and she was clearly friendly and happy.
Steele signaled the waitress, ordered his mark a glass of red wine and tipped the waitress an extra five to direct the woman his way. He watched as the waitress interrupted the redhead's conversation and presented her with the drink, nodding toward Steele. The redhead looked at him, her eyes widened, her face colored to match her pouffy hair, and she turned back to her friends -- all of whom were staring open-mouthed in his direction.
Steele stood and strode confidently to her table.
The women chattered and giggled excitedly as he approached, but fell silent when he arrived.
"Ladies," he greeted, making eye contact with each one. He looked at the redhead last. "I see you received the drink."
"Yes. Thank you." She picked up the wine and took a sip. "Oooo...that's good." She slid the glass toward her friends, who each took turns tasting it.
Without raising the eyebrow that desperately wanted to visit his hairline, Steele watched the group approve of his choice in beverages. "You're welcome." He extended his hand. "I'm Remington."
Her friends giggled again, one repeated his name in a sigh.
"I'm Monica." Her sweaty hand clasped his and shook. "God, I love your accent. Where are you from?"
"Around," he responded casually. "Monica, my dear, could I interest you in joining me for some private conversation?"
Monica's eyes bulged. "Oh, wow." She turned to her friends who nodded enthusiastically. Monica's head started bobbing in time with theirs. "Sure." She looked back up at him with a big smile. "Yes. That'd be great."
"Wonderful." Steele helped her to her feet and escorted her back to his table.
The conversation was superficial. He asked open ended questions and allowed her to do most of the talking. He kept a close eye on how much she drank and was absolutely certain she was stone-cold sober when he proposed going back to her place for some coffee.
At his suggestion, her breath caught in a loud gasp. She glanced over to the table that still contained her friends, all of whom had been giving them not-so-subtle glances the entire time.
"Excuse me, will you, Remy?" She extracted herself from the booth, gathered all her friends and they trekked off to the restroom.
What was it that made women call him "Remy"? He never gave any indication that it would be appropriate or acceptable to shorten his name in such a manner, yet nearly every woman he dated -- Monica having picked up the habit a lot faster than most -- ended up calling him "Remy." Every woman but Laura. He tried, but couldn't imagine her ever using that name for him. She never used his first name at all, so why would she shorten it to some juvenile nickname?
Steele leaned back and surveyed the room. If Monica's committee turned down his request, the night was still young and there were plenty of other women available.
"I'm back," Monica announced, scooting into the booth next to him, instead of returning to her seat across the table. She leaned in close to his ear. "Let's go to the hotel up the street. It's within walking distance. And there's a drug store on the way."
The gravity of what he was about to do pulled his stomach down. Outwardly, he smiled. "Excellent, my dear."
Monica tittered then scooted out of the booth.
Steele slid out, crooked his arm, she hooked hers through, and they left the bar together.
They walked a short way up the street to the drug store. Finding the proper aisle, they stood in front of the assortment of packages.
"I've never done this before," Monica admitted.
Steele's head snapped around.
"I mean, I've done that, " she waved toward the condom boxes, "but I've never picked up a guy at a bar for a one night stand."
"This is a one night stand, right?"
Steele sighed inwardly, for the first time doubting his goal. Or at least doubting that he picked the right person. He looked down at Monica, who stared up at him with innocent clear blue eyes and a hopeful-yet-tentative smile.
"Yes," he said, "it's a one night stand."
She let out a breath. "Thank God. I didn't want to get all tangled up in some messy long-term relationship again."
Yes, Monica was the right woman and his goal was within reach. If Butch Beemis could crush Steele's dreams, then by God, Monica What's-her-name could crush Laura's. Assuming, of course, Laura still harbored any feelings for him.
Steele smiled. "Then this would be a...what do you call it...rebound experience for you?"
"You got it," Monica laughed, the relief obvious in her voice. "These." She reached out and picked a six-pack of ribbed.
Steele swallowed, hoping she didn't expect too much out of a single night. He made the purchase then they continued to the hotel.
"You haven't really told me much about yourself," Monica said. "Don't think I didn't notice how you let me go on and on at the bar."
"Not much to tell, really."
"Oh, I bet. A guy like you doesn't just go to a bar and pick out a random girl for a night. You're probably married. Either to your work or to some woman who treats you bad."
Steele checked them in as Monica kept talking.
"I don't see a ring, so it's probably work that you spend all your time doing and you needed a break."
They went to their room. Monica flung her purse on the dresser and slipped out of her heels, which made her two inches shorter.
She tucked herself into Steele's arms, started undoing his shirt, nuzzled his chest. "Lord, you smell good."
It was then Steele realized all he could smell was Aquanet. The delicate perfume he was used to wasn't there. He shook his head, determined to overcome nostalgia. He buried his nose in her red hair, trying not to notice how much further he had to bend his neck to accomplish the task, and inhaled, imprinting her on the forefront of his mind.
"You okay, Remy?" Monica asked as she opened his belt.
"You don't seem okay." Monica's fingers probed lower. Steele flinched as she made contact with her goal. "How about now?"
"I...uh..." She squeezed. "Oh, my."
"Oh, my, is right," she agreed, working her hand more.
Laura never did this. He wanted her to do it, but she didn't. Well, she did do it once, that evening after Anna had passed through his life for a second time. But that was through his trousers and it wasn't to climax.
"You need to quit thinking so much, Remy," Monica said, "because we've got nothing happening down here. And you are allowed to touch me, you know."
Steele slid his hands from her shoulders to her elbows, where his fingers rubbed in small circles.
Monica pulled back, her hand still down his pants, a frown on her face. "It's not your job. And it's not a wife. But it is another woman."
"Oh, come on. I've read my share of Harlequin novels. I know the signs. You're on the rebound, too, but you're still hung-up on this lady."
She extracted her hand. "What happened?"
"I'd really rather not..."
"Just tell me. Because we're not getting anything accomplished with your mind out of the game like it is."
Steele's shoulders sagged and he dropped his hands from her elbows. "She slept with some caveman."
"Wait. She had you, Mr. Gorgeous Sophistication, but hopped in the sack with some Neanderthal? Sounds kinda strange that she'd fall for two guys that are that different. I mean, there's usually some consistency. Are you sure they did it?"
"Am I sure? Of course I'm sure!" Steele sat on the edge of the bed. "Well, I'm pretty sure."
"And you're willing to throw away whatever you had with her based on 'pretty sure'?"
Steele looked up at Monica who, for the first time all evening, bore some resemblance to Laura. She stood in front of him, hand on hips, with a "what kind of an idiot are you?" expression.
"I didn't think a one night stand entailed discussions of past relationships," said Steele.
"I don't think it normally would," Monica agreed. "Thing is, your relationship with this woman isn't in the past." She sat down next to him. "I may be easy, but I'm not a home wrecker."
"We aren't married."
"Semantics. You're here, I'm here, and at least one of us probably shouldn't be."
Monica took Steele's hand, stood up and pulled him to his feet. She began redoing his pants and rebuttoning his shirt. "Here's the deal. You go take a walk. I'll give you a half hour to think things over. If you come knocking on my door before your time is up, then we continue where we left off with no more talk. If you're not back in 30 minutes, I leave, you pretend this evening never happened and I brag to all my friends how wonderful you thought I was in the sack."
Steele tucked in his shirt. Monica gave him a shove toward the door.
"My libido hopes to hell you get back here five minutes," she told him.
Twenty-eight minutes later, after much soul-searching, Steele knocked.
The door opened, but before she could respond to his presence, Steele lunged forward, took her face in his hands and kissed her hard. No more hesitation, no more doubt, he knew what he was doing and he'd do it without regret.
Though his unexpected move clearly caught her by surprise, she responded to him, opening her lips to the press of his tongue, gripping his shoulders, his back, his butt, as he pulled her tight against him.
He came up for air and she asked, "What was that for?"
"Because I needed to find out something."
"We have an agreement about not mixing business and pleasure, Mr. Steele."
"You're right, Laura, we do." He released her. "I'll let you get back to your evening." He turned to leave.
"As long as you're here, Bringing Up Baby is on TV now. Care to join me?"
"Absolutely, Miss Holt. Absolutely."
Steele entered her loft, satisfied that Laura did still have feelings for him, and any infatuation she'd had with Butch Beemis was exactly that -- an infatuation. He sat on the sofa next to her, thankful for the slapstick comedy to keep them laughing, thankful for the opportunity to spend time with her and, above all, thankful to Monica What's-her-name for having far more sense than himself.
"Oh, my God, you didn't!"
"Yes, I did," Monica confirmed.
Her friends sat around the table staring at her in disbelief. Her tale was too wild to be believed. She let him go? But there she was, back at the bar not forty-five minutes after she'd left with the most gorgeous guy they'd ever seen.
"You're such a hopeless romantic," one friend said.
"Hopeful romantic," Monica countered.
"You've seen Romancing the Stone too many times," another friend said.
The entire group laughed.
Monica supplied, "Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas, Twentieth Century Fox, 1984."