By Lauryn Poynor
to Anne, my editor, for having an eye for this sort of thing, and thanks
to Ace for the brilliant title, and encouraging me to take it further.
The intruder’s soft-soled shoes found easy purchase on the window ledge. It was close to midnight and the evening was quiet and still. With a sure hand she jimmied open the casement windows, parting them with fairly noiseless efficiency. Still clinging to a knotted length of silk rope, she swung through the window opening to the carpet below.
A slight breeze now began stirring, but not enough to chill the air. The black-clad woman drew back the curtains, bathing the room in soft moonlight. She pulled in the free end of the dangling rope, slowly unknotting and unraveling it until she had removed four equal lengths of fabric, letting them run smoothly through her hands. She smiled, and on a playful impulse, lifted one square to veil her face, undulating her body beneath it like a dark-eyed dancer from a sultan’s palace of delights.
Not bothering with any other object in the room, she moved swiftly to the bed, her eyes fixed on the supine male form that lay under the covers, tousled head against the soft down of the pillow. The woman lay down the lengths of silk and unzipped her jacket pocket. She removed a small torch, its beam barely brighter than a pen-light. With infinite care she slowly drew back the bed covers, shining the pale glow on the figure beneath.
He was entirely naked, which pleased her -- and in the depths of sleep, which pleased her more. She placed the torch on the nightstand, pointing it toward the bed and removed a dark stocking cap, the action spilling her blonde hair in soft waves across her shoulders.
The man shifted his limbs underneath him and she was afraid he would awaken, but he merely turned over and settled into the mattress, and now, face to face, was exposed even more completely to her view.
Her eyes roamed over each secret line and angle of his form, the persistence of memory being half the diversion. He was just as perfect, perhaps even more maturely so, as when they had met, though his skin was a bit pale. A week on the beaches of the Costa del Sol would do him good.
“Michael, how I’ve missed you, “she murmured. “All of you. Little Lisa does keep you up past bedtime doesn’t she?”
She’d rather counted on that, though she hated to admit the girl had done her a favor. The man had to be fairly exhausted after stealing a painting that was decidedly unlucky and being trussed up in a warehouse for his pains. It was strange how, in the aftermath, certain fantasies had leapt to mind. That was the problem with being cursed with an imagination. On the other hand, perhaps it was kismet.
The man who now called himself Remington Steele rolled over, turning to rest momentarily on his back. After a long, lean stretch his arms and legs were spread almost equidistantly apart.
Felicia arched an eyebrow at him. “Why aren’t you always this accommodating, my love?” She began to wind the first length of silk around his left wrist, knotting it, but not too tightly. When he didn’t protest, she carefully moved to the other side of the bed to perform the identical operation on his right hand. That part of the preparations finished, she did the same to both feet with the other lengths of fabric she’d retrieved from the rope. She’d never been religious, but she sent up a prayer to whatever deity might be listening that her quarry should remain blissfully unaware of the proceedings. It seemed to take an eternity to secure the four loose ends to the bed frame and leave some play in each line of silk, but finally the job was done.
Her heart beat uncommonly quickly. It was a rather delicious irony that this man, whom she had no doubt could escape the finest jails in Europe, was now in this state of rather close confinement, and hers to do with absolutely as she wished. She’d never been shy about anything she wanted from him, no matter how daring or unconventional, and having made it quite obvious in this case, would hardly stop now.
After all, she calmly reasoned, he owed her. She’d saved his skin from that nasty Gutman character and his trigger happy henchman. And despite his protestations, life as Remington Steele could hardly suit him. Soon the novelty of being a famous sleuth would wear off and who better than she to remind him of all the fun he’d been missing? She would be there to pluck him from clutches of conformity, out of the limelight into the shadows, and their world would soon return to its proper, more elliptical orbit.
Her hands were slightly cool so she slipped them under the covers, then back again outside them as, with rounded motions, she gently began to massage her captive’s exposed left thigh. Luxuriating in the exercise, inch by inch she circled inward, moving squarely between his legs, covering, and then coaxing his manhood with her warm avid palms. She concentrated her efforts in that vicinity, hoping the stimulation, though it might prove to wake him, would distract him from immediately discovering his bonds.
She felt like gloating at the speed of the result. He’d come erect in mere seconds. She gazed upon him in the half-light, wanting to prolong her forbidden enjoyment. She feared his eyes would open in a sea of startling blue, but he merely shifted his hips and exhaled contentedly.
Poor Michael, she nearly exclaimed. His body was so frightfully eager. No matter what she had believed about his associate, he must be living like a monk. Or perhaps Linda was just hopeless in the bedroom. This last thought gave her comfort as she admired and refined her work.
The memory of his flesh never failed to stir her blood. She stroked the upright length of him with the same sense of discovery she had felt on their first time together. His cock was well-shaped and elegant, hard and smooth to the touch, and divinely thick. That she knew intimately what Michael could do with it only spurred her appetite.
She wondered if he thought of her, dreamed of her. It had stung, how clearly she had been rebuffed, how distant Michael had been at his flat and how he’d slapped her hands away when she tried to undress him. In their history together he’d only done this at times when he was all business, when they were on a job, or planning one, or when she had made him angry or jealous. Even then it had never had an air of finality, as if his life was something she could no longer be a part of. If these days he thought of her as expendable then perhaps she could give him cause to regret it. Or more happily, rekindle the flame.
Felicia brushed the tip of his erection with her tongue, finding a succession of secret places where she knew he was highly responsive. She wasn’t wrong, as he gave a moan in his throat and then instinctively began to thrust in reaction. Pressing this advantage, she took him tightly in her mouth, her movements expert and precise, the sense of mastery building, knowing he had no power to resist, drawing him fast into her web.
The moan became a single word – “Laura” -- and Felicia eyes flashed with sudden enmity. She stopped, still bent over him, posture rigid with anger, her breath coming in hard gasps. Felicia examined the object of her ire and lust as he thrashed against the pillow and in confusion, cried out once more. Michael was a fool, she thought coldly. Throwing away his happiness and the life he was made for – all for a chit of a girl who would never know him and would never understand him.
His face and body tensed as he stirred again, dark lashes under his brows, cheeks warm and flushed. She lowered her eyes to his cock, watching it quicken as a ripple of desire moved under the velvet skin. Felicia thought of Michael’s present state and her teeth showed in a predatory smile. It would serve him right if she were to go, leave him like this, in the throes of a passion she refused to fulfill. But she soon realized, what better than her original plan? To take him, from unawareness to a final capitulation, would be the greatest and sweetest reward. It was time to put thought into action, while jealousy and need still flared, bright and diamond hard in her chest. When she was finished the man she called Michael O’Leary would have no doubt of the identity of his phantom lover. From this moment he was hers, no matter whom he called to in the night.
Felicia unzipped her leather jacket and slipped it off shoulders that were richly tanned from the sun. Underneath the jacket a black camisole clung tightly to her breasts and she removed it, pulling the thin fabric free from her body and discarding it on the floor. Shoes, socks, and dark trousers soon followed, until she was as naked as her prey.
Without her nearness and touch Michael had grown more restive, though he was still asleep and aroused and dreaming. Felicia went back to the bed, checking each fastening of silk to make sure each still held him. Refreshing his erection briefly with one hand, she leaned over and started to kiss him, her tongue darting out against skin. Reacquainting herself with his body she began a long, slow, intimate progress from groin to thigh to navel to chest to shoulders until her lips clashed warmly with his.
As she nipped with her teeth his eyes blinked open and his lips parted in surprise. She kissed his mouth with a fire no dream could match and his thoughts began a long unwinding, as if she’d pulled at them like a skein of thread. Perceptions eventually become real, though the details were more than a bit fuzzy around the edges.
The first thing he became clearly aware of was her perfume. She’d always liked to wear it for him, a scent of her very own. It was quite Parisian and expensive, made for her by a long discarded lover, the heir of a perfume house with a tradition of rather baroque luxury and opulence. For a disconcerting moment he wondered where he was. A silvery voice, bright with merriment, but in native English instead of French, chimed in his ear.
“Aren’t you going to kiss me back? Or are you swearing off that these days?”
“Felicia!” His eyes were fully open now, if not entirely accustomed to the semi-darkness, and they opened even further when he realized she wasn’t wearing a stitch. It took him a beat to recover his usual sang froid. “You haven’t exactly taken the veil, yourself.”
Felicia smiled, thinking of her silken squares of rope. “That’s where you’re wrong, Michael. Though apparently, you’re the last to know.”
Steele’s brow furrowed. If there was anything that made even less sense to him than Felicia it was the way he was feeling now. His limbs seemed weirdly disconnected. There was a tingling sensation in his hands and feet – and in other parts as well.
Impossible. He hadn’t gone to bed like this. His eyes traveled warily below his waist. Felicia’s hands were busy doing some sort of calisthenics. Or maybe a form of Tibetan massage because he was mysteriously sporting an erection that rivaled Mount Everest. Steele moved to push her hand away because something told him this was a time he needed to think clearly. But he couldn’t. Move, just yet, and, though awareness had dawned too slowly, an inventory of his tingling extremities finally showed him the reason why.
Felicia stopped her stroking of him to savor the moment, a serene smile playing across her lips.
Steele struggled, testing each of his bonds in turn, but it soon grew apparent that resistance was virtually useless. His expression grew annoyed, then murderous. “Alright, Felicia. What are you playing at?”
She gazed down at him indulgently. “Oh, Michael, this brings back memories.”
Steele eyed her quizzically. “It does?”
“The skylight. The harness. The Metropolitan Museum.”
“I didn’t know you were such a sentimentalist.”
She arched an eyebrow. “You know me. Anything for old times’ sake.”
“I don’t think this qualifies,” Steele opined dubiously. “You seem to have picked up some interesting hobbies since we last met.”
“Well, darling. One would hardly expect me to stay home and knit.”
“I think you must mean knot.”
“How charming of you to notice. Do you think I did a good job?”
“Astoundingly good. Would you mind doing it in reverse?”
Felicia waved a hand airily. “Oh, I probably will. Eventually.”
“I didn’t know you went in for this sort of thing.”
“I think it’s quite artistic.”
“That’s not the word that leaps to mind.”
She regarded her own composition -- his form, naked, arms and legs stretched out at all points. “You look rather like that famous Da Vinci sketch. The male figure, extremities apart, inscribed in both a circle and a square –“
“Very anatomically correct.”
“Normally I’d love to discuss art history with you, Felicia, but I seem to be rather distracted. Can’t imagine why.”
“You disappoint me, Michael. I always thought you did your best thinking lying down. But if you’re not in the market for conversation…” Felicia returned her attention to other things. Sadly, his erection had waned, but that was easily fixed. Without preamble, she took his length firmly in hand.
“Felicia, I’m in no mood –“ Steele protested.
“I wouldn’t go banco on that, darling. Just moments ago you were saluting me rather smartly.” Almost magically, she stroked him to readiness again. “There we are. You can’t tell me you haven’t missed this.”
“I hate to spoil your enthusiasm, but there are times when a slight breeze can do the trick.”
Felicia laughed. “But not half so well.”
“I don’t suppose it would occur to you to ask first.”
“Darling, I always know best. And you exhibit all the signs of a man who needs a good, hard, shag. And from someone who knows how. That drab little secretary of yours will be the ruin of you.”
Steele’s temper flared. “Miss Holt is my associate. And she has nothing to do with my sex life!”
“Things are that bad, are they?”
“That’s not what I meant!”
Felicia slowly began to wonder if there was less to that relationship than met the eye. “You can’t seriously be suggesting that your Miss Bolt is as virginal as she looks.” Felicia sighed. “If so, how wretched for the both of you.”
“I’ll trouble you to leave Laura out of this -”
“Are you sure?” teased Felicia, looking down at the bed. “My hopes aren’t high, but if she could be persuaded, three isn’t always a crowd.”
Steele looked daggers in her direction.
“I’m only trying to help, my sweet.”
“And Machiavelli was only trying to give innocent advice.” Her hands were getting quite busy again. “Would you stop!”
“Why should I when I’m getting such interesting results?”
He tried to avert his gaze from the body lying next to him, a body that was as lushly proportioned as he remembered. He knew as well as she its effect on him and he began to feel slightly desperate. “Look, Felicia. You’ve had your fun. If you’d be so good as to untie me, put your kit back on, and pop back through the window we can forget this ever happened –“
“But, Michael, be honest. You really don’t want to forget, do you? Not everything.”
Perhaps it was another trick, but her plea seemed almost in earnest. Steele blew out his breath in a sigh. “Perhaps you’re not the only sentimentalist.”
“Careful, my love,” she said. “You’re sounding terribly sincere.”
“The gods broke the mold when they made you, Felicia, and I admit, we’ve had our moments. Actually, more than most. And if it all comes down to this – a wild finish on a moonlit night, the two of us, a bit of knot tying, and a bed frame – well I’m not entirely sure I’d regret it.”
She smiled fondly down at him. “That was a very pretty speech, Michael.”
Steele winced. “Tell me you didn’t believe a word of it.”
“Whatever you say, darling.” Her face, in the shadows, was enigmatic. They had lived careless, glittering lives on the surface, with hearts that neither had wanted to be touched, yet he had made her feel more than any other man, though she could never put a name to the emotion. Not a satisfactory one, at any rate. Love, she highly suspected, was far too conventional, but she had grown irresistibly fond of him, and she knew he was fond of her, too. Hers were the arms he always came back to, when he needed a friend, a refuge, or a lover. “We haven’t had much use for regrets, have we?”
“No, I suppose we haven’t.”
Felicia slid close to him and ran a finger down his chest. “Do you remember when we rescued the Vermeer from that pile of Roman ruins along the Cap D’Antibes?”
Steele gazed meditatively up at the ceiling. “It was the height of criminality --”
Felicia looked puzzled. That was rather true of all of their exploits.
“--Leaving that painting out in the elements,” Steele continued.
“Ah, but the men involved were frightful amateurs.”
“But good enough to chase us halfway to Nice.”
“Lucky that cigarette boat was handy,” remarked Felicia.
“The salt spray didn’t do the Vermeer any good.”
“Well, at least we got it into the hands of an owner who was, shall we say, dedicated to its restoration.”
Steele gave a half-smile. “That we did.”
Felicia stroked a round scar on the curve of his shoulder. “Our pursuers may not have known much about painting but they were very good shots.”
Steele’s brow furrowed. “Why is it that my life with you has been one hair-raising escape after another?”
Felicia glanced up at his bonds and flashed him a gleaming smile. “But not this time, darling. Not this time.” She lowered her body onto his.
“So it appears,” Steele said warily.
“I suspect every woman who’s ever known you has wished she could tie you down.” In the moonlight her skin had a bewitching amber glow. “But I’m the only one to manage it.”
“I imagine my luck had to run out sometime.”
Felicia replied philosophically, “Well, Michael, I suspect it’s your own grievous fault. Remember, you’ve now brought the curse of ‘The Five Nudes of Cairo’ down upon your head.”
She watched the light in his eyes grow distant and she roundly cursed her own folly. Felicia knew Michael was thinking of the girl Lisa – the one he’d stolen the painting with, the one who had so unaccountably supplanted her rightful place at his side. Well, Felicia thought fiercely, that would be true no longer. Her lithe nude form rose over him and she pressed him hard against the bed. She kissed him as if by right of possession, a cold fire going through her as she forced him to respond.
When they broke apart they were staggered and gasping. Steele collapsed on the pillow, trying to stop, trying to think, to follow this chain of events to some apparent consequence, but the world of his recent past, so new, seemed to drift away.
Felicia leveraged herself from his body, offering up her breasts, dying for him to touch them with his lips and tongue. Her nearness was too much. Steele tasted her, suckled her, breathing in her scent, feeling an urge that was achingly familiar, yet strangely compelling. Their association had always been illicit, like a secret pact, with both stealing every pleasure where they could. There would be other horizons, other times apart, but it seemed certain that the pattern would never change.
His mouth soon tasted other parts of her as well but he was taking her to the brink so far, so fast, that she had to pull away, to prolong this night, to find herself again. “You’re mine, Michael. You always come back.” Felicia slid down his form, feeling his erection press against her belly. She closed her eyes and straddled him, wanting him the way she had from the beginning, mixing both memory and desire. He filled her and she exhaled in contentment, deep and sighing, cradling him inside her, rocking him.
This was their only physical connection and Steele aided her rhythm as she glided from root to tip. Though the concentrated sensation overwhelmed him he longed to touch her skin, to taste her again, to bury his head against her shoulder. Felicia’s neck arched and on her descending stroke he felt a rush of heat and he knew it would be surprisingly quick. She shuddered, squeezing him fitfully, crying out in pleasure as she came.
They parted and she fell against him, cheek on his chest, and he could feel her hard breath and the wild beat of her heart. She began to recover and kissed him, trailing warmly from mouth to earlobe, her fingers tangling in his hair.
“You’ve been too long away from me, my love. I got there before you did.”
“Don’t apologize. You think I don’t enjoy driving you insane with lust? But if you insist on making it up to me…”
“You’re certainly ready. I’ll see what I can do to make the wait worthwhile.”
Steele started to urge her to turn him loose from his bonds, but there was an odd exhilaration to seeing her naked form inching down his body, slowly and inevitably, taking him in hand while he was utterly unable to resist. He shut his eyes, waiting, and her mouth surrounded him, and despite readying himself for the moment his hips jerked forward in surprise.
Tasting herself on his skin, with light tongue strokes Felicia explored the head of his shaft, delighting in the almost intuitive way she could drive him to near bliss. She found one spot that elicited an especially potent reaction and stopped and said playfully, “You know, I think you’ve become even more sensitive. Or perhaps my absence has made this part of you grow fonder.” She sighed. “You’re so perfect in the ways that matter, my love.”
Still insinuating with her tongue she stroked and massaged the rest of his length with her palm and fingers, her cadence leisurely at first, then more urgent, taking him deep in her throat as he found his final release. She reveled in the sight and sound as he gave himself up to this new rite of sensuality, his dark head thrown back, limbs taut and shaking, tensing and flexing against his bonds.
Felicia pulled herself up to the head of the bed, feeling heavy, but sated, from his consummation and her own. Steele’s arms and legs had now relaxed, but his breathing was still ragged in his chest. She stroked his ribs and held herself against him while his body began to come down from its peak. Nerves still leapt under his skin, sending out rogue sparks of sensation as she soothed and calmed him.
After what seemed like a suitable interval had passed she turned to him and said, “Aren’t you glad I didn’t release you, darling? We should try this more often.”
“Well, you did say we should brush up on our Bacchanalian whirl. But I never expected your plan to take quite this form.”
“Did I impress you?”
“In every possible way. But then, you always do.” He gestured to his bonds, shifting his body a bit uncomfortably. “Being in this form of traction may have its rewards -- I expect I’ll be taller in the morning.”
“Your tailor may not be pleased. Certainly not as pleased as I am at the moment.” If she had sensed one thing from Michael’s body it was that, no matter what she had feared before, her rival hadn’t possessed him yet, though she couldn’t imagine what she was waiting for. “I’ll bet your little Lisa won’t give you opportunities like this. Perhaps I should give her a few suggestions.”
“I shudder to think.”
“I’m not so bad at sorting things out. Perhaps I could write an agony column.”
Steele began to roar.
“What are you laughing at?”
“At you. Giving advice to the lovelorn and lonely pensioners with cats.”
Felicia leapt to her feet in a passion. “I should leave you just as you are -- and let you explain to your lovely associate how you just happened to end up tied hand and foot and naked right in the middle of your own bed.” She crossed her chest with her arms in satisfaction. “Is that a fair summation?”
“Fair to whom?” said Steele, wrinkling his nose in annoyance.
“I’d do it, you know,” she said emphatically. ”Just to see how you’d manage to talk your way out of it.”
“Well, it’s nice to see you have faith in me.”
Her voice softened. “I do, darling. Implicitly. When you trip, and you will, on the straight and narrow, I’ll be there to catch your fall.” She knelt beside him.
”Well, not to be a pest, but in the meantime, could you play Girl Guide and untie these knots? I’ll award you a special merit badge.”
“Michael, you’re full of surprises! Playing Girl Guide. Rather kinky.”
“Just don’t show up on my doorstep with a box of cookies.”
With an air of leave taking, she began to release him from his separate bonds. When she finished and he was free, she got up and got dressed. “I have a flight to catch in the morning. I’ll be wintering in Marbella. Will you visit me there?” Felicia queried.
“As soon as feeling returns to my limbs, I’ll consider it. Just don’t stake me out naked on the sand.”
Felicia raised her right palm. “On my honour as a Girl Guide.”
“There’s a comfort.”
”I’ll behave all too sensibly, I promise.” A thought in that line occurred to her. “Just to get in practice, I’ll leave tonight by the front door.”
“Let’s not get too traditional, eh? Neither of us have a flair for it.”
“I shan’t forget this evening. It’s been fun. I’ve never ravished a famous detective before.”
Steele sat up. “I suspect Nero Wolfe is probably grateful.”
“What about your Remington Steele?”
Steele wasn’t quite sure what to say to that.
“He’s a bad influence on you, you know.”
“I do wish you were more fond of him.”
“Maybe that will come, in time. But I’d rather have Michael O’Leary.” Felicia moved to recline beside him and handed him one of the lengths of silk. “A souvenir.” She stroked his cheek. “A parting kiss from him to seal the memory, my love?”
He took her face in his hands
and put his lips to hers. The kiss was tender, and eternal, in a way that
only the two of them could know. She thought fleetingly of a line from
Shakespeare – “journeys end in lovers meeting” – and wondered when she
would find him again. “Take care, Michael. Take care.”
[ Steele A State Of Mind ]