DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Endless thanks to Xander, as usual, who serves as effervescent cheerleader and beta, and always makes writing in a vacuum easier. And more thanks to our awesome community of writers, for keeping the dream alive.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"I don't want anything expensive," Andy said.
Miranda frowned. She'd already purchased a new Marc Jacobs handbag, a vintage evening dress, two pairs of Christian Louboutins and two pairs of Yves Saint Laurent shoes, a Cartier necklace and earrings and a new laptop.
It wasn't much; she'd been conservative. She didn't get the Audi, after all. She decided instead to buy it for herself, and would ask Andrea to drive it when they visited the Hamptons this summer. Then Andrea might be willing to use the car in the city, though she rarely needed to drive. She would become the owner by default. Miranda congratulated herself in advance on the strategy.
Miranda imagined sitting next to Andrea as they made the trip to the country house. She pictured Andrea in large sunglasses, a scarf around her glorious hair, and a smile on her face as she shifted gears and sped them away from New York. It was a fantasy that she would make real.
Envisioning it was the key. This was how she had achieved all the greatest goals in her life. That included winning Andrea's heart.
When she had first known Andrea, she did not spend any time thinking about her at all. Beyond looking down her nose at her atrocious fashion sense, and questioning her own sanity for hiring her, that is. And one day, Miranda noticed a well-put-together ensemble, topped off by elegant Chanel boots. Shortly thereafter, she realized that Andrea was more than simply intelligent. She was street-smart, and had a common sense that so many people in the city seemed to lack.
It appealed to her. Not too much, but enough to draw her attention.
And on one of the worst nights of Miranda's life, she understood that Andrea was far more than just smart and pretty. She offered honest compassion to Miranda in a way that no one else had for many, many years. Stephen had abandoned her, Irv was trying to force her out of Runway, and Miranda had been completely isolated. But Andrea was fearless in her sympathy and asked for nothing in return. Not shoes, or skirts, or the best wine or a seat in first class.
Andrea was kind. And remarkably beautiful, Miranda noticed. Dark eyes, so open and warm, pierced her that night; she saw beneath Miranda's façade, and did not turn away.
And the very next day, Andrea left without looking back.
Miranda had a single dream about her, a few nights after returning from Paris. In it, they made love on the floor of her hotel suite, and the escapade seemed to last for days. The flesh that had seemed so excessive compared to waif thin models was suddenly a banquet of delight under Miranda's dreaming mouth. The sweep of soft hair, the curve of her waist, the heat of her skin was vividly real.
When Miranda awoke, she was mortified. It was disgusting, really, to lust after an ungrateful, irresponsible ex-employee. A female one, at that. But the dream had been intense, and it unfortunately made her wonder if there was far more to know about Andrea Sachs than she'd bothered to explore.
The idea embarrassed her so deeply that Miranda ignored it, and pretended she'd never had a single untoward thought about her former assistant. This will not do, she told herself.
So, the months passed, and she saw a number of eligible men for drinks, and a dinner or two. Nothing more, though. Miranda was not interested in sex with them. The onset of menopause a few years before had not changed her habits much, other than the fact that she occasionally had night sweats. And if her moods swung higher or lower, no one said a word. But never had she believed that her sex drive was impacted by age, or anything else, until the months following Andrea's departure. It was an unpleasant scare.
And then one day, as she walked past a newsstand near Ralph Lauren on Madison, she saw a copy of The Mirror, resting limply next to The Daily News, and The Times. Instead of passing by and getting into the car, she stopped to purchase one.
On page three, a single byline stood out.
Miranda immediately subscribed. For home delivery, of course. No one at the office must know, especially Emily. She read every article Andrea (why on earth she insisted on using the provincial Andy, Miranda would never understand) wrote. One hot summer day, she read the first in a series of articles about New Jersey's Child Protective Services, and Miranda knew Andrea had turned a corner.
She quietly forwarded the series to a longtime acquaintance, Shannon Bartholemew, at the Livingston Foundation. Miranda had been asked to join that year's panel six months prior, and had no intention of participating beyond reading entries and making selections. But this time, she made an exception.
Eventually, they met again, at the banquet. The way Miranda's heart raced within her chest when she saw her former assistant for the first time that night had awakened Miranda to many truths.
One, she was apparently attracted to women.
Two, she was particularly attracted to Andrea. How she had not noticed this fact during the course of an entire year of working with her was astonishing.
Three, she was going to have this girl. Because when Miranda set her mind to something, nothing could stop her.
Miranda's sex drive came roaring back. But she would not rush; nor would she demand anything Andrea did not want to offer. She found she felt tender toward her. She wanted to give her things; beautiful, small gifts that others might not appreciate.
And when it started between them, Miranda was swept away by the passion, and surprising sweetness, of their affair. Only one thing unnerved her: that she loved the girl, far more than she'd expected to. More than was seemly. More than was safe. But in this single area of her life, she did not have a choice. Andrea had gained the upper hand without even trying, and Miranda did not realize the truth until it was too late.
Some days, she questioned whether she would have pursued the fantasy had she known Andrea would invade her so completely. But those days were rare. The reality of Andrea, who unerringly gave far more than she took, was enough for Miranda to sacrifice some modicum of control.
But in the case of Andrea's birthday, Miranda wanted to be in charge.
She would not return the gifts, or keep them for another time. Andrea would accept them, and make Miranda promise to spend less next time. Which would not happen, of course.
"I didn't get much," Miranda said. Nine things are not a lot. "But there's something I've been thinking of that would be a gift for the both of us." She held her breath.
Andrea could hide little from Miranda; her eyes spoke eloquently of her curiosity. "Oh?"
"I want a portrait of you."
Andrea was surprised. "A portrait?"
Andrea considered the idea, her mouth twisting. "Okay, I guess. That might be fun."
Miranda held back a laugh. Fun. "Good."
"When? And what sort of portrait?"
"I've asked Alfonso when he's free next week."
Dark brown eyes popped open. "Alfonso?" she squeaked. "Alfonso Huayna Vargas?"
"Oh my god!" Andrea was beside herself, and Miranda enjoyed the moment. Even Andrea could not be immune to the attraction of being photographed by one of the most successful, brilliant artists in the world. But soon, her glee faded, replaced by a look of apprehension. "But, uh, isn't he, sort of, um... Doesn't he know everybody?"
In other words, Won't he tell the world that Miranda Priestly has commissioned a portrait of her much younger, female lover? "He owes me a favor." Or a thousand, Miranda thought. "He'll be discreet." Miranda was also not as concerned as she once had been about their relationship coming to light. She was committed to Andrea, who had installed herself quite firmly in their family. The girls were mad for her, and the feeling appeared to be mutual. "He can come to the townhouse and shoot wherever you like."
"Wow." She blinked. "Wow."
"Think it over. We still have time." Miranda would not push. It was just a picture, one she couldn't display on her desk at the office anyway. But she wanted it regardless. Perhaps for the staircase, or their bedroom. Something beautiful, and sensual, like Andrea. Alfonso would do her justice.
"No, I want to." Andrea's eyes narrowed. "But I want something in return. My half of the gift."
"I want you to pose with me. For at least part of it."
Miranda closed her mouth. "No."
"Come on, it will be great! I won't do it otherwise."
"You've already agreed. You can't renege." Miranda wanted to bite her tongue. She sounded like a petulant child.
"I only will if you will," Andrea said firmly. "That's the deal."
Miranda pursed her lips, but Andrea's expression did not change.
For a moment, she had one of those pangs of regret. Being unable to control this girl was a problem.
"Fine," she said.
Andrea tackled her to the couch, and smothered her with kisses. Her regret was instantly forgotten.
Andy eyed the empty glass of wine on the side table, and wondered how much she would have to ply Miranda with to get her to join her. Later, she thought, and tilted her head back as Alfonso moved above her.
"Beautiful," he said softly, his Peruvian accent faint and charming. He really was the sweetest man. Something about him relaxed her almost instantly. The glass of wine she'd had before his arrival had helped, as did the one she'd just finished. But Alfonso was the key to the whole thing. Somehow, she wound up wearing far less than she'd started with. And she had made the decision herself to strip down to her underwear.
It didn't hurt that she'd spent the day before perusing Alfonso's past work. He made every woman he photographed look beautiful, clothed or not. Soon after they'd begun, he'd told Andy, "Think of Miranda as you look into the camera. See her."
Not fifteen minutes later, she offered to pose in the first pair of underwear Miranda ever bought her. Her brain couldn't quite come to terms with the fact that she was now lying on the floor of the townhouse, lights illuminating her from multiple directions, posing for an image that her parents would blush to see. She wasn't showing anything too dramatic, carefully blocking her bare breasts with one arm. But aside from the strip of lace and silk covering her other essentials, she was naked. And enjoying every second of it.
She stroked her neck and thought of Miranda, and Alfonso cooed. "Oh, yes," he said. "Miranda will be very pleased."
Andy smiled into the lens as he snapped another picture.
An hour later, Andy was redressed and ready for Miranda's arrival. She'd insisted that she first work with Alfonso alone, ignoring Miranda's vociferous protestations. It was her birthday, after all, and she was going to make this as stress-free as possible for herself. Which meant no Miranda.
She heard the key in the lock and leapt up from the sofa in the study, which had been converted into a studio. She had chosen the location herself, with Alfonso's approval. As much as she'd wanted to pose on the rug, he did take over the art direction, draping the entire space in white. It was unrecognizable now, but Andy knew the significance. So would Miranda.
Alfonso nodded, and the makeup artist cleared her throat. Andy had warned her that Miranda might be in a sour mood, or would resist attention. And when Miranda met Andy in the foyer, there was a storm across her face that made Andy's heart fall. "Let's make this quick," she said brusquely, tossing her bag and coat in the direction of the closet. They landed on the floor.
"Wait," Andy said. "Come with me." She grabbed Miranda's arm and dragged her into the kitchen. Before Miranda could complain, Andy stuck a glass of red wine in her hand. "Drink." Miranda's mouth tightened. "Please," Andy said desperately. Miranda complied. Next was an hors d'oeuvre, held directly in front of her mouth. "Eat this."
Miranda shook her head. "Andrea, I really don't have time--"
"This is my birthday present. You could at least pretend to enjoy yourself. For me."
Andy had prepared that line far in advance, anticipating Miranda's unhappiness. It would be the one thing that might turn the tide in her favor. And slowly, the frown line across Miranda's forehead became less pronounced, and Miranda opened her mouth. Andy grinned as she fed her the caviar and toast, and exhaled. She fed Miranda two more delicious canapés left by Carina just for this event, and got a half glass of wine down her throat before moving in for a brief kiss. Miranda blanched at first, unwilling to indulge with people so nearby.
"They know, Miranda, and no one looked at me sideways. They're in fashion. Besides, they're all gay anyway."
That much was true. The makeup artist and the two lighting assistants were obviously queer, and they seemed overwhelmed by the idea of being in Miranda Priestly's house. And they'd noisily conveyed their admiration for Andy's photos. Andy had not looked at them yet. She didn't want to know what she looked like, instead imagining herself as a brunette Marilyn Monroe. Regardless, she was certain Alfonso would retouch everything nicely.
Miranda sighed through her nose. "All right. But I can't stay all afternoon. I'm seeing the team from Armani for dinner at La Cirque."
"It won't take an hour. You'll be back at the office by 4."
Miranda sighed again. "Fine."
She'd kept Alfonso waiting ten minutes, which was only half the time she'd guessed it would take. Alfonso embraced Miranda, who gave a small smile and only looked uncomfortable rather than completely miserable.
Giving Gina the eye, she motioned with her head toward her lover. Gina stood, holding her case of makeup and supplies, and Miranda held one eyebrow aloft. "You have five minutes," she said regally.
Gina glowed, and Alfonso nodded in approval. He caught Andy's eye. Maybe he was surprised by Miranda's pliancy, but Andy had thought out every contingency in advance. Miranda refusing to pose. Miranda rejecting the art direction. Miranda storming out of the house, or rolling calls before, during and after the shoot. She decided her best defense would be a good offense, which included wine, food and kisses. Thank god it worked.
Andy waited patiently beside Joe, the lighting designer. He nudged her with one leg. She looked at him from the corner of her eye, suppressing a laugh. He was nearly vibrating with excitement. He and Andy had made fast friends, especially after his first comment at her disrobing. "Damn girl, why do you even get dressed in the mornings? You should go to work just like that. You'd make the whole world a better place."
More than five minutes passed as Gina worked her magic, but Miranda seemed to have developed an atypical level of patience. Andy decided it was her choice of music for the second half of the afternoon: an iTunes mix of Rachmaninoff, Beethoven and Bach. Miranda looked almost relaxed when Gina finished. Perhaps she enjoyed being pampered as much as Andy had.
"Don't touch the hair," Alfonso insisted, when Denise, the stylist, moved close. "It's perfect."
Miranda preened, and Andy hid her grin.
Andy seated herself next to Miranda on the sofa, uncertain where to begin. But as he had before, Alfonso did all the work. His direction was clear and precise. "Tilt your head. Andy, move in, yes, like that." They shifted position repeatedly, in small increments, with Andy close enough to kiss Miranda's pale throat if she wanted. She didn't though.
Miranda was stiff for a while. She "hmmed" in dissatisfaction for the first few minutes, but Andy was patient. She focused on the lens, expressing everything she felt for Miranda. As Miranda's gentle perfume surrounded her, love filled her heart, so much so that it hurt. She dipped her head, tucking into Miranda's neck without direction.
Alfonso whispered, "Yes, lovely." She nuzzled warm skin, and felt Miranda's hand come to rest on the back of her head. Finally, Miranda was with her, present in both body and spirit. She looked at the camera, and gave her most blissful smile.
Miranda watched the back of Roy's neck with impatience. Alfonso was waiting for her; he had the contact sheets, and Miranda could simply not wait to get her hands on them. "Can't you email them?" she'd asked him.
"No. Come here. Besides, you may not want some of these to leave my studio."
She had no idea why. And the not knowing flared her impatience.
"What is the delay? Has there been some devastating traffic incident? Because that's the only excuse I'll accept."
"We'll be there in five minutes, Ms. Priestly. Not to worry."
Ridiculous, Miranda thought. As though he had any idea what she worried about.
Finally, they pulled up, and Miranda was out of the car and in Alfonso's office in a flash. "Hello, darling," she said to him as they kissed cheeks.
"Wonderful to see you again. I won't make you wait any longer," Alfonso said, ushering her into his office. "They're here."
The lightbox was on, and the magnifying glass was ready for Miranda. She sat on the stool and steadied herself in anticipation before leaning over. The first page was of Andy, alone, in a medium close-up. Her shoulders were smooth, and her skin as pale and pristine as snow. But in almost every shot, her doe eyes drew Miranda in. They were a deep well from which Miranda could find no escape. Not that she wanted to.
"My," she breathed. Each shot seemed more beautiful than the last. "You are a genius, my friend."
"I had a generous canvas to shoot, Miranda." He paused, gazing at her. "I liked Andrea when we met, and I believed she cared for you. But when I took her photograph, she came alive. Do you know I told her to think of you when she looked into the camera?"
Miranda swallowed. "No," she said, trailing off.
"It's true. That awakened everything." He slid another contact sheet onto the light box.
Miranda leaned over, and her mouth dropped open.
On this sheet, Andrea was clothed in nothing but La Perla panties. And Miranda knew exactly which pair they were. Andrea's breasts were covered for the most part, but the generous curves could not be denied. Her expression, so openly sensual, stole Miranda's breath. "What is this?" she whispered.
"It was her suggestion," Alfonso said, and Miranda sat up.
"You're not serious."
"Absolutely. You know as well as I that we did not intend to shoot anything other than the first set, and the set of the two of you. But Andrea was adamant, and who was I to deny her?"
"I find it hard to believe that she stripped down to her underwear of her own volition."
"Then perhaps you do not know her as well as you thought."
Miranda considered it. The girl was unpredictable; often Miranda would anticipate one reaction, but would be completely off base. As much as it sent her off balance, it kept her interested. Fascinated, even. And this well, this fascinated her. She took the glass again and hovered over the images, some innocent, others blatantly sexual. There were a hundred images, and Miranda was going to have an incredibly difficult time choosing. But after a few minutes, she circled her three favorites. In one, Andrea was laughing; it reminded Miranda of their lovemaking. Her lighthearted manner during sex had once concerned Miranda, though she'd grown used to it. But in a Pavlovian reaction, that same laugh had begun to engender a sexual response during some extremely inopportune moments.
The second image was simpler, with Andrea gazing lovingly into the camera, her body supple and beautiful in the soft light. But the third was the one Miranda was most pleased with. Andrea had turned over, with only her back and her hair visible. The muscles and sinews seemed to move, stretching luxuriously across the floor. The sweet indentations at the base of her spine were in the shot, and Miranda recalled nuzzling that most erogenous zone only a few days before.
"And this one," she said finally. "Black and white?" she asked.
"Mm, yes. You can put it anywhere," Alfonso said approvingly.
Miranda had already decided exactly where to hang it in her office.
Andy was on her own tonight; Miranda had plans with a new designer uptown, and the girls were both working on projects. Without Andy's help. She no longer served as tutor, and this would be no exception. Miranda's decision to have the girls handle their own homework had settled in, and Andy was relieved.
Originally, she'd planned on a night alone at her apartment, but a phone call from Nigel had changed her tune.
"Hey kid, want to come out to Brite with me tonight? Facebook told me it's almost your birthday. You'll be surrounded by gorgeous young men, so there will be plenty of eye candy, not to mention my sparkling wit to keep you entertained. What do you say?"
"Sure, I'd love it!" She so rarely went out to bars anymore, and certainly wasn't frequenting gay hangouts in her down time.
"We'll be there at 9:30. Look hot."
"'We'?" Andy teased.
"Yes, James will be there. Don't even say it."
"Can I bring someone?"
"A boyfriend?" Nigel asked.
"A boy who's a friend. A gay boy who's single."
"Oh. Well then, yes, of course."
Doug was on his way to her apartment to pick her up, and they were going to take the train to Chelsea. She wondered how it would be to see Nigel again. They'd emailed sporadically after the incident at James' home, which had inadvertently spurred on her and Miranda's first kiss. For that, she was thankful, but Nigel's attitude about Miranda irritated her after the fact.
She knew she should be more understanding; Miranda had betrayed their friendship, which still grated on Andy. But Miranda had quietly assisted in correcting the situation (something Andy learned from Miranda in confidence,) and Nigel didn't know it. Nor would he ever. But it still surprised her that Nigel had been so certain about Miranda's inability to love. It made her wonder how much of Nigel's affection for Miranda was just for show.
The doorbell rang, and Andy grabbed her tiny Vuitton bag, a two-month anniversary gift from Miranda. She had her phone, lipstick, keys and cash. That should do it.
"Hey gorgeous," she said when she saw Doug. "You clean up good!"
"Thanks. You too. Who are you wearing tonight?"
"Chloe. Do you think it's too much? I don't want to raise any red flags." Miranda had been supplementing her wardrobe, not that she had anywhere to wear the pieces. They were not at the "dining publicly" stage. Yet.
"I hope Nigel doesn't ask how I can afford it."
"Who cares? He won't guess. If he bugs you about it, tell him you went on some wild spending spree for your birthday."
The train ride was quick, and the bar already had the requisite line out front when they arrived. She approached the velvet rope and batted her eyes. "I think we're on the list?"
"Andy Sachs, here with James Holt."
"Of course. Come right in."
She grinned back at Doug, who was holding in his mirth. "I love that you know people," he muttered quietly.
"It's the good life," she replied.
Nigel and James were holding court, surrounded by handsome men and impossibly beautiful women. "Hey, wow, that's some dress," Nigel said as he stood, admiring the cut of the shiny garment. "Nice choice. Chloe?"
"Right, as always."
Before Nigel could ask anything else, Doug said, "Andy was depressed about her birthday. We went shopping over the weekend, and this thing just threw itself at her."
"It suits you. Really well. I'm impressed."
"Thanks," Andy said cheerily, relieved at Doug's forethought. He was the only one who knew about Miranda, and he'd sworn to take it to the grave. Their friendship had deepened immeasurably since she'd told him about the affair, and she trusted him implicitly. And though he and Miranda had yet to meet, Doug was coming for dinner next week. She hoped beyond belief that it went well. "Hi James. This is Doug, my best mate."
Doug introduced himself, while James waved over a waiter. They both ordered fruity martinis and joined the conversation sporadically. There was much fashion talk, and Andy enjoyed hearing about it from a perspective other than Miranda's. She also found out that Nigel and James were moving forward with their first menswear designs, and planning to show at Bryant Park.
"I'm terrified, but thrilled," James said. "Nigel has been just the right addition, after last year."
"Oh yeah? What happened?" Doug asked.
"Well, let's just say that Jacqueline Follet and I didn't get along as well as I'd hoped."
Andy knew that. She also knew that Miranda had systematically pushed Irv to the brink over the course of the year to send Jacqueline back to Europe. "The list" Miranda began when she'd first discovered the plan to oust her as the editor of Runway had grown in length and influence. Irv was enraged, but his hands were tied. So he'd thrown a pile of money at Jacqueline to take over Runway Italia, and though she had balked, he'd insisted, threatening the future of Holt's company if she did not relent.
Andy was worried that Miranda had gone too far, putting herself and her career in danger. Especially now. If Irv found out about the two of them, there would be hell to pay.
But not tonight, Andy thought as she sipped her pomegranate martini.
When she finished her first drink, Nigel sidled up to her. "So, how's life, Andy? It's been a while since I saw you."
She shrugged. "I can't complain. The job's good. I've been helping Dixon a lot in editorial, and I think he may be considering making me a department editor."
"After only a year? That's great."
"Thanks. It's not a done deal, but I like him a lot. He's been a real mentor to me, which was exactly what I needed."
"Unlike me," he said, frowning. "I'm wounded."
"Very funny," she said. "You know you saved my life at Runway. I never would have survived. You were my Henry Higgins."
"And you've taken my lessons to heart, even now. I feel like a proud father. I mean brother." He sat back against the leather seat. "But how's the rest of it?"
Andy took a calming breath. "Good. I'm uh, seeing someone."
"Oh really? Do tell."
"Not much to tell. Someone I've worked with for a while." Keep it vague.
"What's his name?"
"Oh Nigel, I don't kiss and tell."
He leaned closer. "You know last time we spoke About Miranda, I mean." Andy nodded. "I felt terrible afterwards. I just didn't want to see you get your heart broken. Better to nip it in the bud before you got your ass handed to you. I hope you know that."
"I do." And I know how wrong you were. "You were only looking out for me. And believe me, what you said helped tremendously." It sent me right into Miranda's arms, she thought. She smiled inadvertently, recalling that first, luscious kiss against the door at the newsroom. Even the memory gave her goosebumps.
"Well, you look happy now, which is exactly what I wanted. Will I get to meet him soon?"
"I hope so," she said.
"He's always welcome. Please bring him next time."
"I'll think about it."
Just then, her cell vibrated in her purse. When she checked the caller ID, a tiny image of Humphrey Bogart appeared on the display. Nigel looked over her shoulder and laughed. "Handsome bloke," he said.
She opened the phone. "Hi Steve," Andy said. She'd stolen the name from a Bogart film for whenever Miranda called while she was in public. Miranda professed to hate it, but Andy was convinced otherwise.
"Don't call me that."
"That's what you always say. What's up?"
"I just left a dinner during which I had to listen to the inane chattering of Harris Brinkman's wife for 45 minutes. Honestly, do these women take classes on how to bore the general populace? Perhaps they could achieve fulfilling careers in curing insomnia for the afflicted."
Andy snickered. "That sucks."
"It does. Where are you?"
"It's called Brite, in Chelsea."
"Yeah, I brought Doug out to see some friends from my old job You know, from when I worked at the magazine?"
"Mm. And who, pray tell, are these friends?"
"Nigel and James."
"Ah," Miranda said, and Andy was reminded that Miranda still smarted at Nigel's comments. Andy had not told her everything he'd said about her, but she'd gotten the gist. "And how is Nigel?"
"Very well It's been nice."
"But not too nice."
Andy grinned. "Nope." Not without you.
"Andrea," Miranda began, before hesitating. "I visited our friend Alfonso this afternoon. He showed me some photographs that interested me greatly."
Standing up, Andy pointed to a corner of the bar near the bathroom that wasn't so populated and moved toward it. Nigel waved her away. "Oh really," she said slyly.
"Whatever possessed you to drop trou?"
Andy's happiness wilted. "Didn't you like the pictures?"
There was a long pause. "That's not what I said. I merely asked what possessed you."
All of a sudden Andy questioned her decision. "I don't know I was thinking about you, and Alfonso was so nice, and I remembered seeing that gallery he took of Catherine Zeta-Jones, and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I hoped you'd be pleased."
Andy heard Miranda sigh into the phone. "I am well pleased, Andrea. In fact, I very much regret the fact that you are spending tonight at your own apartment."
Andy's breath caught. "If I leave right now I can be there in half an hour."
"No, no," Miranda said quickly. "But as of tomorrow night, you're mine for the weekend. I'll expect you at 6. Sharp." There was a click, and the line went dead.
Swallowing, Andy waited for the waves of heat that coursed down her thighs to recede. Sometimes it frightened her how much Miranda turned her on. It was like the flick of a switch. Andy licked her lips. Approaching the bar, she ordered another drink, as well as some water. She drained the water quickly and pressed the icy glass to the side of her neck. Finally, she returned to her seat.
"So it's pretty hot and heavy then?" Nigel smirked.
Andy looked at him, confused.
Nigel laughed. "If you could see your face, you'd know what I mean." He waited, staring at her. "Lust, Andy. Get it?"
Andy chuckled weakly. "Yeah. You could say that."
She took a generous slug of the martini.
Miranda watched the clock from the study. She left the office early for a Friday, at 4:45, to check on the arrangements for Andrea's birthday. All of which she made herself.
When she'd first phoned Smith and Wollensky early in the week, they'd hung up on her. "No, this is the Miranda Priestly," she'd said when she'd called back. "No, this is not a prank. Yes, I'm calling on my own behalf. Would it be preferable if I misrepresented myself as Emily?" That got their attention. "No, not my regular order. I want the split pea soup, lobster cocktail, mixed greens for two, Cajun filet mignon, the wasabi lime wild salmon, a lemon pepper chicken, steamed vegetables, and," Miranda heaved a sigh, "the truffled macaroni and cheese." Andrea would eat the entire portion of that, which was fine with her. How she could endure the stuff, Miranda could not discern.
"Very well. What time shall we have it ready for you?"
"7:30pm Friday evening, at my home."
There was a pause, and a shuffle of paper on the other end of the line. "Of course Ms. Priestly, we'd be delighted to deliver."
Carina would cook for the four of them Saturday, but tonight, the house would be empty. The girls were going to a sleepover in Tribeca, and Miranda had insisted if they needed to come home that they call at least thirty minutes ahead.
"Gross, Mom," Cassidy had said. "Like we wouldn't anyhow."
Her children were growing up far too quickly for her comfort. "Don't take that tone with me, young lady."
She ignored the inference that Cassidy knew exactly why she wanted to be warned. They'd discussed sex in the past, out of necessity, but Miranda hadn't had the "big talk" yet. She wondered if Andrea would take over that job. Perhaps she could engineer that somehow. Yes, that was definitely an option. Andrea would do a far better job of it, and the twins would probably be grateful till the end of time.
But no matter. It had been three long days since Andrea spent the night, and Miranda planned to make the most of her evening. The presents were wrapped and hidden around the house in special locations, so all Miranda had to do was wait for Andrea to arrive.
And Miranda hated waiting. She rarely waited for anything, or anyone. It was unpleasant. She'd had enough anticipation. She wanted Andrea to come home, now.
She considered calling Andrea and demanding that she leave work early. But Andrea would never agree to that. She imagined showing up at the newsroom and demanding that Andrea cover something related to Runway. No, too bizarre. She thought about sending a messenger to retrieve her. Andrea might see that as romantic, but by the time someone got there, it would probably be a moot point.
As she sat, Miranda wondered. Would Andrea arrive on time? At one point in their relationship, she would have done so without a doubt. When Miranda wanted something, Andrea had jumped for it, no matter how high. But that was before this thing between them. Back then, Andrea had been paid, not very handsomely, to do exactly what Miranda demanded.
Now, Andrea was under no obligation to do Miranda's bidding. She did as she pleased; she was her own woman. And even though almost all the time, she also did as Miranda wanted, there was the chance that she would refuse. Miranda was so careful, trying not to ask too much. Like with Alfonso. Did Miranda request that she pose au natural? No. Well, not that she didn't enjoy the result, but that was beside the point. She would never have asked for something such as that. Because to be turned down by Andrea would be too much. To be disappointed, denied Even the thought of it sent Miranda's mood spiraling downward.
She glanced at the clock. 5:43.
She drifted into an unpleasant daydream, one in which she waited, and waited, and waited. The food would arrive, but Andrea would not. It would grow cold, and Miranda would throw the lot of it out into the street, because what else would she do with it? She would never eat at Smith and Wollensky again.
When she refocused, the clock read 5:55.
The doorbell did not ring. No key turned in the lock.
Andrea had yet to disappoint her, but this would be the first time. Her heart began to hammer within her chest. Things would fall apart, surely; they always did. Miranda could plan ahead, be so sure about it all, schedule her life into oblivion, but she could not really control anything. Especially not Andrea. Andrea, who would one day leave. They always did. Even before Jeremy, she'd been left by men, and women, friends, who eventually grew tired of her brusque manner, her imperfections. Miranda could not change; she had tried, and failed. And now, Andrea would be the latest in a long line of loved ones to walk out the door. Why on earth did Miranda insist on opening herself up to feel this way?
6:03. As she stared at the phone, sitting only inches from her hand on the desk, it rang. She grabbed it. "Yes," she said flatly.
"Heyare you okay?" It was Andrea.
"Where are you?"
"I'm running late--"
Miranda clapped the phone shut. I knew it.
Seconds later, it rang again. She turned off the ringer, and shut the phone down.
She climbed the stairs and stood in her bedroom for a few minutes, a well of misery growing deeper with every moment. Finally she sat on the bed and gazed at the wall. She suddenly understood how Stephen had felt, all those nights, waiting for someone who would never arrive.
Some time later, heavy footsteps pounded on the stairs. Andrea burst into the room. "Miranda!" she yelped. "Are you all right?"
Miranda looked at her uncertainly. She was confused. Andrea had said she was going to be late, hadn't she? That's what she said over the phone. But the clock on the bedside table read 6:12. "What?" she said, her throat scratchy.
Andrea fell to her knees next to the bed, right at Miranda's feet. "My god, you sounded so upset, and then the line went dead and it kept going straight to voicemail. I was scared. What's happening?"
She stared into Andrea's eyes, so filled with concern and unhappiness, and shook her head. "I don't know."
"Miranda, please. Start at the beginning. I called you. Did you hang up?"
"You said you were going to be late, and I told you to be here at 6. On the dot."
"Ten minutes! You were upset about ten minutes?"
"I thought " Miranda began, but found herself unable to continue. Her throat was closing. "I thought perhaps you wouldn't come."
"You mean tonight?"
"Why on earth would you think that?"
Miranda wouldn't tell her. She couldn't. I know you'll leave me one day. Why not today?
Andy climbed onto the bed next to her. Her lips trembled in a way that told Miranda that tears were not far behind. "I can't stand not knowing what's wrong." She took Miranda's hand. "Please talk to me."
Miranda finally found enough breath to speak. "This can't last," she said. It felt as though the words were torn from her chest.
"What?" Andy cried. "How did you go from ten minutes late to breaking up?"
Miranda lifted her shoulders in defeat. "It's inevitable."
Andy looked away, staring at the floor. "Okay, we need to rewind, right fucking now." She turned to Miranda. "Where is this coming from? Because last night, I was ready to come over here and make love to you till the sun rose, but instead, I went home and slept in my lonely little bed, tossing and turning and dreaming about you. I told myself that anticipation was good, that waiting would make it better. Because that's what you wanted, Miranda. You said, 'Be here at 6, sharp.' But on my way here, the stupid train stopped in the middle of the tunnel, and then the lights went out, so my plan to get here 15 minutes early was blown. I didn't have reception till I got out of the tunnel, and I called you right from the stairs. And then, bam, you hung up.
"I ran here, Miranda. I didn't know what happened to you, and I was afraid. And now you're saying, 'This can't last.'" Her devastation was readily apparent. "I don't understand. Everything's been so good. Wonderful, even. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me. Why are you so convinced it has to end?"
Miranda realized at that moment that she had sabotaged herself, quite plainly. She'd derailed an unbelievably successful romance in fifteen unhappy minutes, for absolutely no reason at all. Her former therapist would be shaking her head in disapproval.
There had to be a way to fix it. And she had no idea how.
She heaved forward, grabbing at Andrea in desperation. To her immense relief, Andrea's arms came around her waist, so tightly that Miranda felt short of breath. She would not cry, she told herself, crushing her eyes shut. Her body shook uncontrollably as she pulled Andrea near. Closer, come closer, she thought, don't leave me. She pushed her nose against Andrea's neck, inhaling her scent, and gasped at the want that swept over her. Her mouth opened and she bit down, hard, reveling in the jolt it caused in her lover. She turned it to a kiss, soothing, laving at the red mark, but she did it again, this time on the muscle bunched at her shoulder. She wanted to devour Andrea, tear her apart and put her back together again, making it so she could never walk away.
Blindly she ripped at Andrea's blouse, needing to feel her, feel the young heart pounding inside her chest. And her heart was pounding; Miranda could see the pulse fluttering wildly at her throat. Her cheeks were flushed, and dark eyes were already darker with desire. In a flash she joined in Miranda's efforts, wrestling with her trousers and underwear as Miranda pulled her own blouse off, to be joined on the floor by the rest of her clothes in only seconds. Then she was on Andrea, groaning in pleasure at the feeling of that scalding flesh under hers. Though she tried to gentle her touch, it was so, so difficult not to dig her fingernails in. She bit once more, sucking Andrea's breast deep into her mouth, thrilling at Andrea's harsh cry. This was ecstasy, this girl in her arms, forever. How could she live without it, now that she'd tasted, and touched so much goodness?
She pressed two fingers inside her, and then three, listening to the moans and whimpers that left Andrea's throat. The sounds drove her on until finally Andrea emitted an unmistakable shriek that matched the throbbing grip of Andrea's body around her fingers. It was so tight it almost hurt, and Miranda reveled in it.
As Miranda watched, Andrea's eyes flew open, and she shifted until she could reach between Miranda's legs to find her center, flowing with liquid and heat. Fingers shoved into her unmercifully, and Miranda bucked against them. She covered that hand with her own, pressing down as she jerked and thrust. It was over in seconds, and she saw colors behind her eyes when she came, crying out in pain and rapture as her body shuddered violently.
She collapsed atop Andrea, shivering and exhausted. There was no way to know how long she lay there, and eventually she lifted her head. Only then did she realize her face was damp with tears. She touched her own cheek and looked at Andrea, who had tears leaking from the corners of her eyes as well. "Miranda," she said, seeking an answer.
Miranda swallowed. "Andrea," she said, her voice still rough. "I love you so much it terrifies me."
Andrea sobbed, and pulled Miranda down into her arms. She cried in earnest then, and Miranda heard her whisper, "God, I love you, Miranda. I love you too."
Andy held Miranda for a while, allowing Miranda to cling to her blindly. Nothing like this had happened before; Miranda had never been so wild, so completely unlike herself. Soon Andy turned on her side and slid behind Miranda, pressing her breasts against the damp skin of her back. She nuzzled behind one ear, and kissed her neck, tasting salt.
Miranda loved her. She'd known, or hoped, but hearing it was reassuring. But the sudden burst of honesty was itching at Andy. How long would she have to wait to discover the rest?
She cupped Miranda's breast in one hand, smiling when it pebbled beneath her palm. Her body was so beautiful, so responsive. Miranda was not as free about sex as Andy was, but she was loosening up. Andy had plans to help her along, one of which she'd decided to put into effect this weekend. There was a box in her backpack that she'd been saving, but it might have to wait. She sighed. There were more important things at hand.
"Miranda," she whispered. "Are you all right?"
Miranda turned back toward her. She nodded. Her eyes were a little bloodshot, and the contrast made the blue stand out vibrantly.
"Something's been on your mind," Andy said. "About us. Right?"
Miranda sighed, but she did not respond.
"You're worried I'll leave," Andy prodded.
The tilt of Miranda's head confirmed nothing.
After a swallow that looked as though it took quite a bit of effort, Miranda said, "You've left me before."
Andy blinked. "When?"
"In Paris, of course."
"But we weren't together then."
One eyebrow arched in disbelief. "What does that have to do with anything?"
Oh boy. "Miranda, I worked for you. And it's a good thing I left when I did, because I'd have ended up either hating you or going off the deep end. And besides, we wouldn't be together if I was still at Runway."
"I don't think it's smart to be involved with someone from the work place."
Miranda shifted and rested her head on a pillow. "I suppose." Andy waited. "You still left."
"And look what happened?" Andy said. "I came back. I'm here right now. And I don't have any intention of leaving again."
"Today, you don't. But you will."
Andy's frustrations were escalating. "Why?" she repeated.
"Because--" The words seemed to catch in Miranda's throat. "Because that's what happens." And then in a quieter voice, "I drive people away. You must know that by now.
Andy thought that over, trying to be honest with herself. She could not reassure Miranda that they would stay together forever; the age difference was daunting, and the whole "coming out" thing was still in front of them. God knew how they, not to mention Cassidy and Caroline, would deal with the aftermath of that. But she loved Miranda. She loved her eyes, and her mouth, her soft voice and softer skin. She loved her romantic streak, and the way her face changed when Andy came in the room. But there was more to it than that. Miranda touched something inside her, somewhere deeper than her heart. Andy yearned to put a name to it, believing that would make it more real, but the word remained elusive.
She decided to start with the practical, since Miranda had to listen to reason. She hoped. "Well, I've seen you at your worst. And I'm still here."
Miranda snorted. "My worst? Oh Andrea, you have no idea."
Andy had at least a little ammunition to back that one up. "Uh, remember Florida? And the hurricane, and you ruining a night with my dad because you just had to get back to New York to see some show or another that you wouldn't remember even if you'd been there?"
Silence. "Hmm," Miranda said.
"That may not have been your worst, but you made me cry. I was humiliated. But I still came back for more. Besides, I have two words for you: Harry Potter. And that whole thing wasn't even my fault." The twins were going to pay for that someday. Andy was waiting till just the right moment to spring it on them.
"Hmm," Miranda said again.
"I never knew anyone so vindictive. But who got you the manuscript? Who took every bit of punishment you dished out? Me. You tortured me, Miranda. You called me fat. You took over my life. And you know what's really pathetic?" Miranda shook her head. "Look at me," Andy said, and Miranda glanced over her shoulder once more. "I loved it. You got so far under my skin I couldn't even think straight. If you'd been someone else, anyone else, I'd have walked after a month. But there was just something inescapable about you. I couldn't stop myself." Miranda blinked at her, and Andy thought she might be getting through. "We've talked about when I left in Paris. But if you want the truth, I'm glad I did it. Because the path I took led right back to you." Andy stroked the side of Miranda's face, brushing the pale white hair at her temple. "And now I'm here, in your bed. In your life. And it's amazing." She smiled. "You might be difficult, Miranda, but I'm up for the challenge. I always was. But unlike before, now I get to enjoy the spoils of war."
That drew a snort from Miranda. "Spoils of war?"
"Uh huh." She leaned down and kissed Miranda, searching out her tongue gently. Miranda opened to her, accepting everything she gave and asking for more. It went on, soft and tender, far different from the frantic kisses they'd shared earlier. Murmuring against Miranda's mouth, she said the words again, those she'd longed to say. "I love you."
Miranda exhaled warm breath onto Andy's cheek. "I want to believe you."
"Don't worry. I'll convince you. We have lots of time." Andy backed away briefly, wanting to make one other thing clear. "But listen, if I'm late, it's got nothing to do with love. Okay?"
Miranda pursed her lips.
"Seriously. Sometimes stuff's going to go wrong. You know that as well as I do. I don't care if you complain about it, but for both our sakes, let's not do this again. If you're worried, tell me. I can promise you, I will always, always tell you the truth." That was a vow she didn't expect Miranda to return; as much as she knew about her, Miranda was still half hidden in shadow. She was a mystery Andy would never unravel, even over a lifetime.
And that was fine with her.
"So you'll talk to me next time you get this way?" Miranda nodded. "Promise," Andy demanded.
Miranda rolled her eyes. "Fine," she said. Andy lifted an eyebrow. With a sigh, Miranda added, "I promise."
Andy was satisfied with that. "Good." They kissed, and Miranda rolled them over so she could be on top. When Andy's shoulder hit the duvet, she hissed in pain.
"What?" Miranda said, looking for the source. "Oh god," she said, touching Andy's shoulder gently. "I'm so sorry."
Andy couldn't see the mark. "You got me good. The skin's not broken, is it?"
Miranda shook her head, but her face was still and frightened.
"You're freaking out," Andy said.
"I injured you."
Andy shrugged. "It didn't bother me at the time." Miranda's eyes searched hers for any trace of a lie. Andy relived the memory, and the thrill it brought. Yes, it had hurt, but the other pleasures, tinged with the fears Miranda's behavior had brought out, mixed everything up in her mind. She rubbed her sticky thighs together. Sex with Miranda in all its forms she couldn't seem to get enough. "I swear," she said, embarrassed at the tone her voice took on. Her breasts ached to be touched; she wondered if Miranda would be alarmed. "Maybe we could, uh, have another go?" Andy said, trying not to cringe.
Miranda didn't seem to comprehend her. "What?"
"It's okay if you don't want to," Andy said, wiggling a little. "I understand."
"You want to make love again?"
Miranda's head dropped forward, and she rested on Andy's sternum. That lasted only for a second, until she lifted up and kissed Andy voraciously. A thigh landed between Andy's legs, and she jerked at the sensation. Round two, Andy thought. Goody.
Miranda came up for air from between Andrea's legs, wiping her chin. Her tongue was strangely numb, but Andrea was right on the edge, and she would finish what she started. Miranda was nothing if not thorough. She pushed her fingers inside once more, stretching Andrea wide. "Oh god, Miranda," Andrea begged. Miranda had drawn it out for a long time, making her wait, and wait, to the point of desperation.
Miranda's heart had settled down as they'd made love; she was no longer afraid. Andrea's words had soothed her, not entirely, but enough. Andrea loved her. She would stay. And Miranda would reward her affection. "Tell me what you want," Miranda ordered.
Andrea hummed in frustration.
"Tell me," Miranda said again, more softly this time.
"I want you to fuck me, fuck me please," she finally whimpered, and Miranda complied. She thrust hard with her hand, working her thumb on Andrea's clit purposefully. No more teasing. This would end it, and it would be delicious.
Only a few seconds later, Andrea sat up, her stomach muscles bunching as her mouth opened in a silent "O." The throb was strong, crushing, and Miranda lit up inside as Andrea wailed her pleasure. Her body thrashed uncontrollably on the bed, and it lasted far longer than usual. Miranda flushed with pride and arousal, ready to allow herself a similar release, until she caught a glimpse of the clock.
It read 7:28. She looked at it in disbelief.
A moment later, the doorbell rang.
"Well, hmm," she said, and grabbed her trousers from the floor.
Andrea watched her in horror. "You're expecting someone?"
Miranda's blouse was somewhere across the room, rumpled beyond recognition. Andrea's, also on the floor, was missing buttons, so she simply pulled on her suit jacket and buttoned it. Brushing her hair back, she was mortified to realize that it was more than damp with sweat. "How do I look?" Miranda asked, adjusting the jacket and slipping on her shoes.
"Like you've just been fucked within an inch of your life," Andrea replied, laughing. "And I think there's a hickey on your neck."
Perfect. The delivery people would be getting an extra large tip this evening. "Don't come downstairs under any circumstances."
As she left the room, Andrea called out, "Keep that top button fastened or you'll give whoever it is a free show."
At the bottom of the steps, she raised her voice toward the door. "I'll be right there." When she turned on the light, she was unhappy to realize Andrea had not lied in her assessment. Her eyes were fever-bright, and her cheeks were still pink, though the color wasn't as obvious as it might have been. Upon closer inspection, the hickey was actually a set of scratch marks. She sighed as she retrieved a hundred dollar bill from the hall table drawer.
"Come in," she said as she opened the door. Two men nodded at her, and they appeared focused on hauling in the load of food, all housed in portable ovens. She pointed to the dining room, and they plated and covered everything in a whirlwind of activity. The taller one's eyes widened when he caught sight of the deep vee at Miranda's breast, and she felt a twinge of pride when he stole a quick second glance. When they were finished, they both snapped to attention.
"Thank you. That's all," she said, and handed the first server the cash.
"Thank you very much, Ms. Priestly. Enjoy your evening."
"I will," she said under her breath, relieved when the door closed behind them.
She looked over the spread with approval and retrieved the bottle of wine she'd bought for this occasion. It was a 1981 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignon, and although Miranda had blanched when the year of Andrea's birth smacked her in the face, she'd purchased an entire case regardless. She did not reflect too much on the fact that she'd bought so many bottles, and surreptitiously stashed the rest in the basement wine cellar. No one had to know.
"Andrea," she called, and waited.
A minute later Andrea crept down the steps. "Is the coast clear?"
"Come down here," Miranda said, eyes widening when she noticed Andrea's ensemble. It was a little burgundy silk top and boy shorts, lacy and clingy. "That's new," she croaked, recalling what she'd been up to before the doorbell rang.
"Happy birthday to me," Andrea said cheerily. "You like it?"
Miranda wiped at her mouth unconsciously. "Yes," she said, eyes never straying from Andrea's body even as she came closer.
"Lose the shoes," she said, yanking Miranda by the pants and pushing her against the foyer wall.
"Pardon?" said Miranda, kicking off the heels without a second thought.
"The coat can stay," Andrea said. "Very sexy," she said as she unbuttoned it. "You should wear this at the office." Her pants hit the floor soon after, and Andrea's hand buried itself between Miranda's legs. "This should work just fine."
Miranda hunched forward, and the line she'd been walking for the past half hour came surging back. She was at the edge very quickly, dripping down her thighs, and she welcomed Andrea's long fingers inside. They seemed to gravitate toward her very root with unerring ease, caressing in a way that made Miranda lose track of time, and herself. Good, she thought, unable to form another coherent word. So good.
She moved her hips in counterpoint to the rhythm, as Andrea searched out her mouth with her own. They kissed, until Miranda started to feel dizzy as her orgasm approached. She pulled back, holding onto Andrea's shoulders when the wave began, and she moaned noisily as it crashed over her. The sound echoed in the hall, inordinately loud in her ears. Andrea drew it out, buried deep until Miranda sagged against the wall and let out a breath of satisfaction.
"Oh boy," Andrea said. She slowly removed her hand, and through narrowed eyes Miranda watched her lick her fingers carefully. Six months ago, it would not have occurred to Miranda that such an act would drive her to instigate a kiss, but she did. It was intimate, and strange. But she enjoyed it, and Andrea responded enthusiastically. She felt Andrea's arms slide around her back, down to cup her rear where it rested against the wall. "That was fun," she said with glee. "But I smell food. What'd you get?"
If Miranda hadn't been starving as well, she'd have been insulted. "Dinner. A lot of it."
"Come on then," Andrea insisted, pulling Miranda by the lapel. Miranda felt foolish walking around her home in a Versace suit jacket and nothing else, but if it made Andrea happy, she would do it. I'll just keep it buttoned, she thought. And never wear it in public again.
"Wow!" Andrea said as she lifted the first silver cover. At the second, she squealed. "Oh my god, is that the mac and cheese I tried last month?"
They spent the better part of an hour devouring various dishes, and Miranda even tried Andrea's favorite part of the meal. It was edible, but she could not comprehend the draw of elbow macaroni and cheese, even with the truffle oil. The wine was delicious, and Andrea got tears in her eyes when she saw the vintage. "I love it," she said, and hugged Miranda close. "God, Miranda, if anyone else knew the real you, I'd be fighting them off with a stick."
The real me, thought Miranda. Maybe this was real. Maybe they deserved each other, and to be happy for as long as they could.
She held on a little tighter, inhaling the sweet scent of Andrea's hair.
Andy traced shapes on Miranda's back with one hand as they lay in bed. It was only seven in the morning, but she was wide awake. She licked raspberry jam out of the center of a very large donut, and hummed in delirious contentment. Everyone should start their birthday with a donut, Andy thought.
The night had corrected itself rather admirably, once they'd gotten past the hard part. Though the breakdown was a unique event thus far, she was well acquainted with Miranda's moods. Andy had learned not to react; if there was no mirror to reflect the irritation back at her, Miranda evened out. Only once had Andy responded negatively, and it had resulted in the mother of all arguments. Andy had stormed out of the townhouse in tears, and two hours later had accepted Miranda's apologetic phone call while waiting, bereft but hopeful, in a café only four blocks away. She'd prayed that night that they would work it out. When they had, she decided to try some tactics that she'd adopted when working for Miranda. Thing one: never look nervous. Thing two: act as if everything would be fine, no matter what.
The next time Miranda cast horrible, unwarranted glances in Andy's direction after a long day at the office, Andy had simply smiled and ignored her. Less than an hour later, Miranda had expended all her misery, and she'd joined Andy on the study sofa for a fantastic make-out session. Andy had learned her lesson.
Miranda was a moody woman; not at all a surprise. That she was also fearful and uncertain was something Andy would have to get used to. But she could manage.
From her cushioned position on the bed, she admired her feet, cradled in the loveliest Louboutins of the season. They really were spectacular, even if she had no place to wear them. They matched her new silky lingerie, and Miranda was sure to approve when she awoke and saw them.
Andy wasn't surprised she was still asleep. They'd made love again after dinner, and ended the evening half-watching an old movie in the twins' Lair, finishing up the bottle of red Miranda had so slyly presented. Even now Andy's toes curled at the thought of the vintage. "I am so lucky," she murmured, and Miranda stirred under her touch.
The sleek back stretched, arching luxuriously. Andy admired the lines of her body, kept toned by pilates and yoga. Andy didn't know where she found the time, but then again, Miranda made her own hours. If she disappeared three times a week for sessions, she had no one to answer to but herself. The magazine certainly didn't suffer for it.
Finally, Miranda's head lifted and blue-grey eyes opened blearily. For some reason, the sight of Miranda's pale lashes, cleansed of mascara, made Andy's heart clench painfully within her chest. She looked so vulnerable in the mornings, and Andy loved it. Grinning blissfully, she ate another bite of her donut.
Miranda blinked as though she could not quite comprehend what she saw. "What is that?" she said, her voice rough with sleep.
"What does it look like?" Andy replied, enjoying the way the flaky sugar melted in her mouth.
Pursing her lips, Miranda lifted her head and scooted up. "Not a jelly donut," she groaned.
"It's jam. And I'm allowed. No fat comments from the peanut gallery, please."
At that, Miranda looked surprised. "Fat," Miranda retorted. "I think we've both come to realize that I see a woman's body in a slightly different light than I did some time ago, Andrea." A hand landed on Andy's hip, traveling to the slope of her belly.
Andy stopped, donut halfway to her mouth. "Are you saying that you don't think I'm fat?"
Now Miranda appeared fully awake. "No, I don't think you're fat," she said firmly. "You're the way you should be. The way I like you."
The donut hovered near Andrea's lips. "So I shouldn't drop a few pounds?"
"If you lose a single ounce, I will be very, very disappointed, Andrea," Miranda said. "And you know how I hate to be disappointed." Miranda coiled her way up Andy's body like a snake. Her hot mouth covered Andy's.
"Breakfast of champions," Andy mumbled, nibbling Miranda's upper lip.
"Raspberry filling?" Miranda asked.
"I'm impressed," Andy replied with a nod. "I thought I'd make a Starbucks run before the girls come home so we can be ready for anything."
"That would be lovely," Miranda said. Glancing down, she added, "Don't wear those shoes though. Is that your ensemble for the day?"
Andy grinned. "It might be."
Miranda leaned her head on one hand. "I hope the girls slept. For a few hours at least."
"I never did," Andy said. "Maybe they'll take a nap later."
"And maybe the moon is made of green cheese," Miranda said. "You are going to eat something other than that for breakfast, aren't you?"
"I suppose. Is there mac and cheese left?"
Miranda groaned again.
Soon Andy trailed around the house, searching out anything suspicious from the previous evening. As she passed through the foyer, she exhaled in relief after finding Miranda's trousers in a pile next to the hall table. Between herself, Miranda and the two girls, she couldn't decide who would have been more mortified. The empty bottle of wine stood on the kitchen counter, and Andy took it, wanting to bring it home. She was not one to hang on to inanimate objects for sentimental reasons, but this one felt special. She adored her shoes, and the bag, and of course the new Mac, but this was more. It felt like love, made real in her hands. After rinsing it out, she ferreted it away in her overnight bag, wrapped protectively in an extra pair of jeans.
"Andrea," Miranda called from the bathroom. "Would you bring me the dry cleaning? Emily left it in the closet."
"Sure." She clambered down the steps and opened the door, only to find what appeared to be a wrapped present suspended on a hanger. "Oh, no," Andy whined. "I thought I was done!"
"Your birthday's only just begun, darling," Miranda said, watching from above with arms resting on the banister.
"I told you--nothing expensive."
Miranda descended the stairs, her eyes never leaving Andy. "Andrea, please let me do this," she said. "It's what I want. I never give out of a sense of obligation." She came closer, but didn't touch. "Allow me to use the means at my disposal to offer beautiful things to the one I love."
Andy felt a flutter in her chest. "Cheater," she whispered.
"You could say that," Miranda said, her mouth crooking upward in a half smile. "Open it."
Andy pulled the hanger out of the closet, and after a deep breath, she tore down the gold paper. Underneath it was a stunning, full length black gown, and she found herself speechless.
"Put it on," Miranda said, taking the dress from her hands. She unbuttoned the dozen or more buttons and carefully helped Andy maneuver into it. The complex design made it difficult, but once she'd fastened everything, she faced the hall mirror. Andy gaped at herself as Miranda stood behind her. The heavy fabric clung in all the right places, and the strapless cut was faultless. "I knew it," Miranda said. "It was made for you."
"Who is it?" Andy asked, shocked at the fit. "I didn't see a tag."
"Dior. 1950." Andy's mouth dropped open. "He would have adored your figure."
"Miranda," Andy breathed. "This is "
"Something special," Miranda finished for her. She watched Andy in the mirror and leaned in, pressing her lips to Andy's ear. "You'll wear it one day, Andrea, and the world will fall at your feet."
Andy blinked at her reflection, not recognizing herself. It was perfect. She hoped the day she wore it that Miranda would be by her side.
And judging by the look on her face, Miranda felt the same way.
Miranda watched as the girls hovered around Andrea, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over her pile of gifts. They had each purchased a few small things they thought she might like; CDs, books, and for some reason Miranda could not fathom, the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD. Andrea had never expressed any interest in science fiction, but her children's choices were so often a mystery to her. Andrea seemed thrilled with it all, including the films, and said they would watch at least one of them tonight, to much cheering. Miranda simply sat quietly. If Andrea wanted to watch it, she would indulge her. This time.
Tucked upstairs under Andrea's pillow was the last of the gifts. Miranda's pulse thrummed at the thought of them there, and she enjoyed the anticipation, tinged with nervous energy. Jewelry had been on her list of items to purchase, but for almost two weeks she searched without success. Tiffany had an assortment of lovely things, all of which would have been acceptable, as did Harry Winston. But in Cartier, her choice crystallized in an instant.
As she'd laid down her credit card, Miranda had suddenly felt reticent. Was she revealing too much in the gift? Was she laying her heart too bare?
Would Andrea even see the meaning?
Miranda had pushed those thoughts down then, as she did now. She would have to trust, something that did not come naturally. But Miranda would not make the same error in judgment as she had the night before.
She would make this work. If she was lucky, Andrea would remain here, with her, indefinitely. And if it ended, then she would deal with it. She had lots of practice.
Miranda made a mental note to get back in touch with Dr. Golden. His referral for someone to work with the girls had certainly turned out well. Therapy again, she thought with a sigh. Oh well.
But Miranda had another, more immediate concern, one she wasn't sure would go over well with her young lover. She had been considering a celebratory dinner, not at home, but out in public. One with the four of them in attendance.
They had enjoyed their little insular life for quite a while, but Miranda thought perhaps it was time to branch out. See the world. And let the world see them, and believe what it would. Better to reveal one's self than have Rupert Murdoch's lackeys take the reins. It would happen, Miranda knew. Someone would observe Andrea using her townhouse key late on a Friday night, or notice one too many phone calls exchanged. She was actually surprised that Emily had not mentioned a single word since she and Andrea had become involved. Jocelyn had been back at work for almost 8 weeks now. Surely she would realize that Miranda was not grooming Andrea for anything related to Runway. Emily could be slow, but she wasn't that thick.
No matter. This could be a first step, a nudge out of a closet Miranda was surprised to find herself in. She had never lived privately, nor would she continue to do so. But a conversation with Andrea to set some ground rules and expectations might be in order.
"Girls," Miranda said, and they instantly recognized her tone. "See what Carina left you for lunch."
Cassidy rolled her eyes, and in the expression, Miranda saw herself. She briefly sympathized with her mother, as she had so often in the past dozen years.
"Don't touch the mac and cheese in the fridge," Andrea added as they scuttled from the room.
"I'm amazed there's any left," Miranda said. "How many meals do you plan on making of it?"
"At least one more midnight snack," Andrea replied with a smile. "What's up?"
Miranda inhaled. "I had planned to have your birthday supper here, with the girls."
"Okay," Andrea said, waiting.
"But I thought perhaps an evening out would be nice."
Andrea's eyebrow perked up. "Out?" she said.
Andrea narrowed her eyes. "Really?"
"If you approve."
At that, Andrea stood from the couch, and walked to the window to gaze at the small, enclosed back yard. She had put her fingerprint on the formerly plain rock garden, planting flowers and shrubs that would thrive in the winter. Miranda had never bothered much with it before that, preferring to let gardeners handle everything, but she enjoyed seeing the green flourish in the otherwise unexceptional space.
Finally, Andrea turned to her. "People might talk," she said. "They might get the wrong idea. Or rather, the right idea. I don't know. Maybe they'll think I'm just a friend." She pursed her lips. "Are you okay with that?"
"Thinking you're just a friend, or otherwise?"
"Yes," Andrea replied, to Miranda's amusement.
"I believe I am," Miranda replied.
"You're okay with people getting the right idea, you mean," Andrea said. It was not a question.
"Um, wow. Seriously?"
"Yes," Miranda repeated.
Andrea seated herself once more at the other end of the sofa. "I don't know why I'm so surprised."
"I understand if you're not prepared," Miranda said, entirely ready to put an end to the discussion.
"No, that's not it. I am prepared. I just didn't think you were."
"Yeah." Crossing her legs, Andrea leaned against the arm of the couch. "I'd be proud to be seen on your arm, Miranda. Gay, dyke, lesbian, whatever they call me. Whatever I call myself. I love you." She laughed. "My god, I'll be the envy of the entire industry."
"I wouldn't go that far," Miranda said imperiously. The idea was ridiculous.
"Come on. Gay men and straight women everywhere lust after you, Miranda. You've got something that everyone loves, or wants to emulate."
"And you? Is that what you want?"
"Hell no," Andrea said with a grin. "If we were more alike I think we'd kill each other."
"But you know that I see parts of myself in you, Andrea. I still do."
"Sure you do. Ambition. Curiosity. Intelligence. A stunning, rare beauty," Andrea added cheekily. "But in other areas, we are complete opposites, and I like it that way. We're like two pieces of a puzzle that fit together. Light and dark. Yin and yang."
"Don't get too metaphysical, darling," Miranda said, her heart warming at Andrea's assessment. She didn't want to get too ahead of herself. "The point is I don't know what the point is." Flustered, irritation flared up inside Miranda. "What do you want to do?"
"Go out." Andrea smiled widely. "Absolutely."
With a great sigh, Miranda felt both relieved and anxious. One step forward; now, another. "Where?"
They spent a good bit of time discussing options, including where to go and the implications of each, and nixed them all. Eventually they called Caroline and Cassidy back and asked their opinions.
"Serafina," Caroline declared with gusto.
"Yes!" Cassidy echoed. "We should go there."
"Never been," Andrea said.
"It's Italian. And Georgette saw Vanessa Hudgens there last week. We have to go." Caroline was adamant.
So, the decision was made, and Miranda accepted it. She met Andy's eyes, and watched her shrug amiably. "Sounds good to me."
"I'll make the reservation," Cassidy said, and hurried out of the room. Caroline followed, squealing.
Andrea sat back. "So I guess they're not worried," she said.
"No," Miranda said. This would impact them, if anyone assumed that she and Andrea were together. But Miranda had become aware, over the past few weeks, that the girls were growing impatient with her secrecy. They had asked more than once when they could say something to Jeremy, but Miranda was hesitant. As smoothly as her relationship was going with her ex-husband, Miranda was concerned that Andrea was about to become a giant wrench in the machinery.
"Are you? Worried, I mean."
Miranda waved a hand. "Of course. But I've been through worse." Probably. This couldn't rival the first divorce. Could it?
"I might, uh, have to make a phone call today though. Just in case the story gets picked up."
"Your parents," Miranda said.
Miranda glanced out the window. "I suppose I should contact my mother as well. In case."
At that, Andrea began to giggle, then to laugh outright. She tipped herself back over the arm of the sofa, and actually fell backward over it.
Miranda rolled her eyes.
Andy paced the bedroom, cellphone in hand. She was surprised that she hadn't had a call from her folks yet, but she assumed they were letting her celebrate her birthday on her own time.
A few minutes passed, and as she was about to dial, the phone vibrated in her hand.
"Hello?" she shouted into the handset.
"Happy birthday, baby girl!" her mom shouted across the line, followed by a dual rendition of "Happy Birthday," sung by both mother and father.
Andy laughed uneasily, waiting until they finished. "Thanks guys. That was stellar, as usual."
"How's your birthday so far?" her mother asked.
"It's great," she replied. The best ever. "Really fun."
"You're not at work, are you?"
"Not a chance. I told Dixon I was off no matter what till Monday morning."
"Way to lay down the law, Andy," her father added. "What are you up to?"
Andy quailed. She didn't really have to say anything if she didn't want to. The whole thing was a non-story; Miranda Priestly and ex-assistant have dinner with two adorable children. Full stop. There would be no hand-holding, no hugging, no anything. Not much of a headline. Lindsay and Paris's antics were far more drool-worthy. "Oh, you know. This and that."
"Andy," her mother said. "I think you're old enough to tell us the truth now."
"'This and that,'" she repeated. "Be honest. What are you doing for your birthday?"
"Um," Andy said.
"It's okay, honey," said her dad.
Andy's heart was about to pound out of her chest. "Well I guess I'm having dinner with my girlfriend." Her legs went numb.
There was a brief pause, and she heard her mother let out a raucous whoop. "I told you, Richard! You're cooking for the next week."
"Damn, Andy, I thought you were dating some famous movie star or something, the way you clammed up a few months ago."
Andy was struck dumb. "What?"
"Your mother figured it out first," Dad said.
Her mom clucked her tongue. "A mother knows her child, honey. I could just tell. And you know you have nothing to be ashamed of. Your aunt Judy will be overjoyed to have another lesbian in the family."
Well, this wasn't really what I expected. "That's nice. I think." Maybe I've entered some bizarre alternate universe. "Um. So, you're not angry?"
"How could we be angry with you, sweetheart? You're following your dream, and it sounds like you're happier than ever. Is that about right?" said her mom.
"Well, yeah. I thought you might be at least a little weirded out."
"As long as you're happy, we're happy," her father replied.
"Well, that's great!" Andy said, feeling far more chipper. "I don't know what to say, other than thank you," she said, meaning it. Almost six months of loving Miranda had pushed this scenario into her mind more than once, but her imaginings had not led in this direction. Her fantasies included much hand-wringing, and a few arguments, and various pleas to change her mind. But never this complete acceptance, and almost pleasure at the revelation. It was plain odd. "I love you guys so much. I really am happy. God, I'm so relieved!"
Her folks laughed, and Andy settled on the bed. "So, tell us about her," her mom said.
Andy steeled herself; the ordeal was only half over. "Well," Andy said, hesitantly. "You sort of know her."
A few seconds passed. "Lily?" her father asked.
"No," Andy replied. "Remember when I won that award a while back?"
"Sure," they said simultaneously.
"I, uh, saw an old friend at the party." Andy's stomach twisted unpleasantly. "Miranda. You know, Miranda Priestly, from Runway."
"Okay," her dad said. "And she introduced you to someone?"
"Well, no," Andy said. "It's actually Miranda."
A stunned silence met her ears. "Miranda Priestly?" her father asked, emphasizing the last name as though calling out the anti-Christ.
"Yes?" Andy said uncertainly.
"What?" her mother shrieked. "Oh my god!" There was another shout of dismay, and her parents started talking so quickly to each other that Andy couldn't even discern what they were saying. She did pick up, "She's twice your age!" and "She made your life a living hell!", and Andy's personal favorite, "She's a raving lunatic!"
She realized she'd have to wait for them to calm down before she could explain anything. So she did, and after about five minutes, they did too. Her father was the first to speak. "Andy, come on. Couldn't you have gone with someone, I don't know, smaller?" he pleaded.
"I would have, Dad, but I just couldn't help it. I'm nuts about her. She's wonderful."
"That's not what you said last year," muttered her father.
"Honey, are you sure this is a good idea?" her mother asked.
Andy snorted. "I have no clue. But it's too late now." Andy peeked at her overnight bag, and the jeans that cradled the wine bottle peeked out just over the lip. "I'm in love."
There was a sigh from both parents. "Last time I knew you spoke to her was in Paris, and that was ages ago," her mother finally said. "What happened since then?"
"Well, like I told you," Andy began, "There was this event. And while I was there, I saw Miranda."
Miranda flipped to another page of the book, marking corrections and changes with a ruthless vigor. She'd been so focused on Andrea's birthday that she'd let a few things slip, and now that the day was almost over, more issues revealed themselves. She'd made a good dent, since her phone conversation with her mother had been remarkably short.
She had known for months, and never said a word. Cassidy and Caroline were the culprits, apparently fawning over Andrea continuously during each weekend spent upstate. Though they hadn't spelled it out, it was clear enough.
It made Miranda wonder who else knew.
Regardless, her mother hadn't been affected beyond making sure that Andrea was not out for her money, and that she would not try to destroy Miranda's career. Miranda had laughed at that idea; Andrea had had plenty of opportunity to do so long before they became involved.
"Warn me if you're going to run off to Massachusetts, boopsie," her mother had said.
"I don't think that will happen anytime soon, Mother."
"Miranda, I've learned never to assume anything where you're concerned. Bring her one weekend. She must be quite something."
But Miranda was not ready for that yet. Her mother was challenging. Miranda's own behavior was not entirely innate, a fact of which she was well aware.
Nearly an hour had passed since Andrea had disappeared upstairs, and Miranda felt impatient. But it was not her place to rush things; she had not made the kindest impression on Mr. and Mrs. Sachs the first time around. Miranda felt slighted, and righteously so, since they had not even met her in person. But Andrea had apparently complained so vociferously and for so long that the name "Priestly" inspired vitriol even at this distance.
She went back to the Book, selecting a bright fuchsia sticky tab to indicate that this page would have to be entirely rethought.
Some time later, Andrea came downstairs, deflated but alive. Miranda closed the Book.
"Hey," Andrea said, her face pale.
That does not bode well. Miranda left her chair and joined Andrea on the sofa. "How are you?"
"Okay, I think. They came around, but they were a little miffed."
Andrea turned away.
"Me, I take it," Miranda finished. She had realized, long ago, how it would be. Andrea's parents would likely not understand, and Miranda didn't fault them for it. They were good people, and Miranda was not, nor would she ever be, like them. "It's all right," she said, placing what she hoped was a comforting hand on her thigh.
"No, they got it. Pretty much. I guess I wish they had been happier about it. They didn't seem to care about the woman thing."
"What did they care about?"
"You, mostly. Because of how it was when I worked for you."
"And did you explain that you do not, in fact, still work for me, and therefore our relationship has altered dramatically?"
Andrea smiled, and some of her sadness fell away. "You always put things so gracefully, Miranda."
"Yeah, I told them, but they were thrown by the age thing too. Then I reminded them of my great uncle, who had twenty one years on his second wife. It's not unheard of in the family."
"Andrea," Miranda said, suddenly regretful that this issue had surfaced on what she had constructed to be one of the happier days of Andrea's life. "I'm sorry that you had to go through this today, of all days."
"Are you kidding? This has been the perfect day. It's a new year for me. Change is good." She looked up at Miranda, eyes still bright and hopeful. "Right?"
Miranda nodded; any words she might have spoken caught in her throat.
"And now I have one less thing to worry about. Next stop: the whole world."
"Are you concerned about what people will say?"
Andrea cocked her head. "People, as in my friends, or people I don't know?"
"My friends will probably be shocked, except Doug, of course. Lily God knows what she'll say. It doesn't really matter." Andrea's gaze turned inward. "If Nate hears, he'll be humiliated, but not surprised."
"Why do you say that?"
"I think he may have known there was more between us, at least on my end. He said something once, about me always taking your calls, and never anyone else's. I don't think he meant more than that, but he was right. Even then."
"I paid you to take my calls," Miranda reasoned. "It was a professional relationship."
"Miranda, most of the people I know who are in professional relationships aren't in touch 24 hours a day. How many conversations did we have at 2 in the morning? Or 4? Or during breakfast, and lunch, and dinner, and twice after that?"
Miranda thought back. "Quite a few."
"And how often do you speak with Emily after hours? Or Jane, more importantly?"
Narrowing her eyes, she began to see the point. "Not as often."
Andrea looked far too pleased with herself. "See?" She threw up her hands. "Anyway, my friends will be fine eventually, even though they think you're named 'Steve.'"
With all her might, Miranda pursed her lips. "That has got to end."
"It would be cute if you could call me 'Slim.' Don't you think so?"
"No," Miranda said. She would not budge on this one. Cute movie names were not an option.
"Spoilsport." She stroked the top of Miranda's hand. "As for everyone else, I'm not sure. I've never been much in the public eye, except when standing behind you at events, or in Paris. I'll just have to get used to it. Do you really think people will be so awful?"
Miranda had much experience with the press, having gone through two bitter, public feuds splashed across the Post and the rest of the New York rags. She would survive. But if they came after Andrea, she might cause the kind of mayhem and destruction that would not go over well with a caring, sensitive lover. "Yes." She did not lie.
Andrea exhaled haughtily. "I can't stand that this is a part of us. That people we don't even know get to judge us, and talk about us, and affect the way we live."
For a single instant, Miranda regretted her success. She'd worked so, so hard to get to the top and stay there, but for that moment, she would have given it all up. For Andrea. She shook her head, wondering how this beautiful, innocent girl had slipped past her defenses. "They can say what they like. But I love you, and I won't give you up. We'll just have to hope for the best."
But expect the worst.
Though Cassidy and Caroline were both excited to visit Serafina, they had picked up on their mother's anxiety and were sufficiently subdued. Andy was nervous too; as they came closer, her mouth grew dry. Miranda held her hand tightly, and Andy gripped it back.
"It will be fun, Andy," Cassidy said. "You'll see. They have awesome dessert."
"Cool." She licked her lips, searching for moisture. She should have brought a bottle of water.
Conversation halted, and Roy pulled up to the curb. A valet hurried to open the door, and Miranda stepped out in typically regal fashion. Andy would follow her example, head held high and shoulders thrown back. She was with the most beautiful, powerful woman in New York, and she should be proud of that fact. The press could stomp on her, grind both herself and Miranda into the dirt, but she had already won the prize. She would not let it go.
The girls led the way to their table, both periscoping their little heads around in search of famousity. So far, they were out of luck, a fact which Andy was not saddened by. Perhaps they would squeak by tonight, unnoticed. Miranda commanded attention, as she always did, but no one seemed to even notice Andy.
Miranda ordered a dirty martini, an atypical choice, and Andy ordered the same. Might take the edge off, she thought. She listened attentively as Cassidy and Caroline recounted each element of their slumber party, including the midnight viewing of "Carrie," which caused Caroline to have nightmares and Cassidy to go into fits of hysterical laughter. Miranda did not approve. Andy was amazed that "light as a feather, stiff as a board," was still part of the slumber party lexicon, even in the wealthiest sectors of New York. The classics never died, she supposed. "You should watch "Xanadu" next time," Andy suggested.
"I saw that on Broadway. It was pretty cool. Is it a movie too?"
Andy sighed, and felt old. Miranda smirked above her martini.
They made it to their second course before a ripple of excitement seemed to race over the dinner crowd, and Andy looked over to see a young face that looked familiar. Cassidy squeaked, grabbing Caroline's arm. "It's Zac Efron!"
Miranda watched the young, innocuously handsome man. He brightened when he saw them, so Miranda stood and held out a hand as he approached. "Zac," she said, with a pasted on smile.
"Ms. Priestly, it's nice to see you."
"And you. You're sitting down with Giovanni next week, I believe."
"Yes. I'm looking forward to it, and the photo shoot. Thanks so much for featuring me."
"Of course," she said, waving a hand. "Meet my daughters, Cassidy and Caroline."
The two girls were trembling with excitement, and both shook his hand without uttering a word. "Nice to meet you," he said.
Andy wondered if she would be left out or forgotten, but Miranda turned to her. "And this is Andrea," she said simply, with a look that melted her heart.
Andy shook the boy's hand, barely able to concentrate. Her heart pounded, and moments later, Miranda greeted Zac's agent, manager, and other members of his entourage. They briefly discussed the upcoming Young Hollywood shoot, and Andy checked out. She downed the last of her drink, and shortly thereafter, another arrived at her elbow. She accepted it gratefully.
When Miranda sat once more, Cassidy and Caroline could barely contain themselves. "Mom!" Cassidy exclaimed. "We met Zac Efron! He touched my hand! I am never showering again."
Miranda gave the girls an indulgent grin before turning to Andrea. "All right?" she asked.
Andy bobbed her head. "You?"
Miranda mirrored her nod.
"Think anything will come of it?"
Looking around at the staff, she said, "Depends who's working tonight."
"I think people will be way more interested in the fact that Zac Efron was here tonight than you two," Cassidy assured them. "You're so boring. Zac is like, famous."
Andy held up her martini. "I'll drink to that."
Miranda clinked their glasses together.
They made it through the meal without any further disturbances, and Andy indulged in dessert number 2 of the day: a tiny birthday cake, covered with lit candles that Miranda had ordered without her knowledge. All four of them had a piece, which pleased Andy far more than reasonable. It felt good to share something so simple with them, and between her affection for the girls, her love for Miranda, and the two martinis in her system, she felt suffused with love and happiness.
On the ride home she dozed against Miranda's shoulder, and once inside, she kissed the girls as they went to bed. "Happy birthday," Caroline whispered to her with a hug. "I'm glad you're here."
"Me too," she said.
"You make Mom happy," the girl added, her pale blue eyes, so like Miranda's, staring up at her.
"Thanks, kiddo," she said, feeling quite choked up.
Upstairs, Andy donned her new lingerie. Miranda wore her blue nightgown, and she brushed her hair out before joining Andy in the bed. Her seductive smile lured Andy close, and she rolled on top of Miranda and held herself above her. Slowly they kissed, not rushing, but enjoying the contact. Andy fitted her pelvis to Miranda's, wriggling to get comfortable, and as she stretched her arms out, her right hand encountered something under the pillow. Frowning, she glanced up to see a wide, flat present wrapped in silver paper.
She broke the kiss. "I think the tooth fairy left me a gift," she said. "But I haven't lost any teeth for a while. Know anything about that?"
Miranda inhaled deeply. "Perhaps," she said.
"This looks expensive, Miranda," she said.
"You don't even know what it is." Miranda's steely eyes clouded. Was she nervous, Andy wondered? "Open it."
Andy sat up, settling on Miranda's thighs. Quickly she dispatched the paper, and her blood thrummed noisily in her ears at the sight of the red velvet box. Slowly she opened it.
On a bed of black satin lay earrings and a necklace, surely made of platinum. The necklace was two tiered, each layer with a small, drop pendant that matched the earrings. Upon closer inspection, Andy recognized them. "Orchids," she whispered.
Miranda licked her lips and nodded.
Andy touched them reverently. She didn't even know what to say; they were exquisite. Tears flooded her eyes and fell at an alarming pace down her cheeks, and Miranda sat up quickly. "If you don't like them--"
"Oh no," Andy managed. "They're orchids," she repeated. She thought of the flower that sat on Miranda's desk, still thriving in the bright light. "Like the one " she began, trailing off.
"Yes," Miranda said, her eyes warming. "It was a very thoughtful gift."
And the best hundred dollars Andy had ever spent.
She wrapped her arms around Miranda's neck, overwhelmed. She clung tightly and inhaled Miranda's unique mix of lotion, perfume and skin. For a moment she imagined she felt something like what Miranda had the night before; an intense desperation to hang on to what they had for as long as possible. "I love them," she said, rocking in Miranda's embrace, her free hand gripping the silk of the blue nightgown tightly. Heat flooded Andy's thighs, and she stiffened when Miranda's hard nipples brushed her own.
"Will you try them on?" Miranda asked softly.
Andy trembled, and placed the box on the night table over her shoulder. "Later," she said, and slid her tongue along the edge of Miranda's ear.
The answering groan was all Andy needed. She pushed Miranda down and dragged her hand along the inside of a smooth thigh, easing up the blue gown in the process. Andy's face was still damp with tears, and she tasted salt on her own lips. But for some reason, she couldn't help the bubble of laughter that burst from her chest; it was the purest expression of the happiness she felt at being here, in Miranda's arms. The next day might bring stress, or bad news, or disaster, but right now, joy filled her to overflowing.
Miranda smiled, tracing an elegant finger down Andy's cheek before cupping her jaw. She pulled at Andy, who pressed her mouth to the one that beckoned like a siren's song. Silk and lace was pushed aside, but not removed; to lose even a moment was a waste of precious time. Andy shivered when elegant fingers found their way between her legs, and she mirrored the touch for Miranda. Their moans and cries were quiet tonight, thoughtfully held at bay. But staying silent only made the rest of it stronger, and her head spun as Miranda pushed inside her. Andy lost her rhythm as she moved inexorably toward orgasm, but Miranda appeared to be right with her, watching her face intently and panting through her nose. When Andy came, she thrust with her hand one last time, and the feel of silken walls that clutched at her fingers seemed to multiply her own pleasure. She held herself still, gasping for air as her heart threatened to pound out of her chest. Miranda's mouth opened, but no sound emerged as she followed Andy over, arching sensually and baring her throat.
Andy dropped forward, pressing her hot cheek to Miranda's. "God," muttered Miranda, breathing erratically next to her ear. "Happy birthday, Andrea."
Andy pressed her face into the mattress to keep from disturbing the girls with her laughter.
On Monday morning, Miranda flipped through the Post and wondered if she'd become passé.
Nothing had appeared in the Sunday edition about their Saturday evening, and Monday, there was only a small item on Page Six.
Sightings: Saturday, Nicole Kidman at the Angelika for a double feature, Zac Efron crossing paths with Miranda Priestly at Serafina Fabulous, Ashley Olsen nearly causing a riot at the Union Square Trader Joe's. Sunday
She was relieved, and laughed at herself for assuming the world would be able to tell just by looking at them. How often did she have lunch or dinner with Jocelyn, or Rita, or Evelyn, one on one? Women had meals together all over the city every night, and rarely did they land in Cindy Adams' column. She had plenty of time. She and Andrea would ease their way out, and in a few months, it would all blow over.
First thing this morning, she called the publicist she kept on retainer and told her the situation. Leslie had left the business the year before to move to London, and she'd given this new firm a solid recommendation. Diana had been stunned, and was oddly sweet about the whole thing, which only served to irritate Miranda. She did not pay Diana to approve of her behavior; she paid her for spin control. She'd also set an appointment with her lawyers for Wednesday afternoon regarding rights and protections of gay and lesbian employees. When word did get out, she would be prepared for anything Irv threw her way.
Nigel was her lunch date for the day; perhaps she would speak to him about the situation. He might offer a new perspective.
Hours later, she strolled into Le Bernardin, feeling energized and pleased with herself. The spring air was affecting her strangely, she thought. It was difficult to describe; she could only say she felt awake. As though the sky were bluer, the air crisper. Even the clack of her heels on the sidewalk sounded like music.
Nigel waited at their table, and as he stood, his eyes widened. "Well don't you look like a million bucks," he said, kissing both her cheeks.
"As though I don't always," Miranda purred, nodding at the maître d' as he pushed her chair in for her.
"True, but oh my. You're practically glowing."
Serenely, Miranda smiled. "Thank you," she said.
"Did you do anything fun this weekend?" he asked cheekily.
"Many things," Miranda replied.
"Anything I should know about? Or rather, anyone?"
"Perhaps," she said. A vision of Andrea lying on her stomach, ass in the air, begging for it, came over Miranda with a suddenness that shocked her. She swallowed and hoped the powder she'd applied in the car hid the blush.
Nigel had not been so suggestive when he had worked for Miranda, but their professional separation allowed a familiarity that she would have rejected before. Even now, it grated, especially knowing that Nigel did not believe Miranda to be capable of honest affection. It put an unpleasant distance between them.
"Are you seeing someone?" he asked.
The clear surprise on his face annoyed Miranda. "Is that so hard to imagine?"
"No, no, of course not. Who is he?"
At the word "he," Miranda changed her mind. Something about the way Nigel was looking at her, a hunger in his gaze, told her not to.
"There is no 'he,'" she said honestly. "But is it true that you and James are mixing business with pleasure?"
It was easy to shift Nigel's attention, since he was clearly dying to share. James was incredible, James was a genius, James left his towels on the floor, and didn't take out the trash, and always wanted to eat at the same four restaurants. Nigel was still in love, but the illusion of perfection was wearing off. That said, Miranda suspected he might try to make this one long term.
Eventually, conversation turned to work, and Runway. Miranda complained about the wake of incompetence left after Nigel's departure, and he looked appropriately contrite. "Any protégés on the roster that you're going to move up the line?"
"Not at the moment."
"Not even Andy Sachs?"
Miranda was careful not to spill her cappuccino. "No."
"That will be a shock to Emily. She's sure that Andy's ready to transfer back to Runway any second. I didn't believe it though. You know I saw her last week. We met for a drink in Chelsea."
Miranda remembered. "You saw Emily?"
"No Andy, and she looks great. I think her current boyfriend must be pretty wealthy, because the girl is dressing even better than she did after I knocked some sense into her."
Suppressing a smug grin, Miranda looked seriously at Nigel and nodded. "How nice."
"I was thrilled to hear she'd found a new guy, because " Something made Nigel hesitate. "I guess it doesn't matter now. It's not like she's going to start up at Runway. But she had a pretty big crush on you a while back."
"Ah," Miranda said, very curious as to what she would hear next.
"It happens to everyone, that sort of hero worship that sometimes feels like more. It was adorable. We talked about it, and she let the idea go."
Miranda remembered that too.
"Can you imagine Andy actually thinking she'd deserve a woman like you? Not to mention the fact that you're straight. Talk about oil and water. She'd never be good enough, of course," Nigel assured her.
Miranda's face heated. "Really."
"She's got something special, don't get me wrong. But my god, she's from Cincinnati."
Miranda remained still, resisting the urge to strike Nigel across the face. She had felt that way once about Andrea too, hadn't she? In the beginning. Miranda recalled that ridiculous cerulean sweater. But that was long ago, and Andrea was so much more now, so much more everything. And Nigel would never, ever understand.
She'd gotten her new perspective. Too bad it wasn't the one she wanted.
Her phone rang shortly thereafter, when Emily reminded her of an upcoming meeting with Patrick. She left Nigel at the sidewalk, exchanged her air kisses with him, and wished she had never left the office.
It was almost ten before Andy left work that night; she considered heading to her place, but Miranda had seen Nigel for lunch that day. She had not said much about what happened, but Andy was certain it had not gone well. Besides, so many of her clothes were at Miranda's now that she didn't need to bother stopping at home. Carina had taken to doing Andy's laundry too, despite her protests, so she was all set.
Dixon actually left before she did tonight, and he'd stopped at her desk to exchange a few pleasantries. She enjoyed talking with him, and hearing about his family. Often she had asked how it was to live as a journalist with children and a wife at home who he sometimes didn't see for days on end. It's a negotiation, he'd explained. "Some days you stay late, but the work is really never done. So on other days, you make yourself leave, and start again in the morning. It seems so obvious to an outsider, but in the newsroom, the drive can take over." She'd nodded in understanding. "Don't go there, Andy. Have a life, and keep it."
Ten o'clock wasn't the latest she'd ever stayed, but tomorrow, she would leave by eight. No matter what.
When she rolled into the townhouse, Miranda was scribbling furiously in the study, and the girls were already in bed, murmuring to each other in a twinspeak that Andy rarely overheard. She stopped in to say hi, and talked to them for a few minutes about their day.
In the kitchen, she inhaled a bowl of cold tortellini and Italian bread that Carina had left for her. Finally, she felt human.
Standing in the doorway to the study, she watched Miranda. "Hey," she said, in search of a little attention. "Almost done?"
Miranda watched her over her glasses. "Fifteen minutes?"
"I'll be upstairs."
Andy undressed and slid into the bed, soothed by the cool sheets. The day had been a good one, and she looked forward to holding Miranda, burrowing against her skin, hearing the strong heartbeat under her ear.
She fell asleep.
In the dim light of dawn, Miranda observed Andrea tenderly. Her heart wanted to break at the quiet beauty of her face, of her lithe limbs. Her smile filled Miranda's thoughts.
How she regretted setting an early breakfast meeting with Patrick now. They hadn't had a chance to speak beyond mumbled good nights, but she clearly remembered Andrea's, "Love you," just before she flung an arm about her waist and returned to snoring.
Miranda did not turn on the light. She dressed quickly in the closet, and after slipping on her shoes, she leaned down to press her lips to Andrea's temple. "Mm," Andrea said. "Miranda?"
"Sleep, darling. I'll see you tonight."
"Kiss me goodbye," Andrea asked softly.
Miranda did once, and then again. "I love you," she whispered. The words were so easy to say now; it amazed her that she had hesitated even for a moment.
"Love you too," Andrea replied serenely.
Before she left, Miranda kissed her children, and smiled all the way to work.
Andy was late; somehow she'd slept through the 8:30 alarm and would never make it in by 10. She tried calling Dixon, but strangely, the connection was busy. Considering he had four lines, she assumed something was going on. Whatever. She'd find out soon enough.
Four spoonfuls of cereal and half a cup of coffee later, she grabbed the bag sitting in the foyer and threw the front door open.
And was summarily swarmed by what felt like a hundred photographers, all shouting at her simultaneously. She couldn't understand what any of them were saying, and was terrified that something had happened to Miranda. "Wait!" she shouted. "What is this?"
One voice rang out amongst the others. "Is it true you're living with Miranda Priestly as her lesbian lover?" Another: "Aren't you half her age?" And yet another: "Did you start your affair before her last divorce?" "Are you planning to adopt Miranda's twins?" "Who pays the rent on your place downtown?"
And finally, "How did you tame the Dragon Lady?"
Andy was speechless. Her heart raced, and she mumbled, "No comment," and locked the townhouse door blindly.
"Come on, Andy, what's the story," a red-headed young man next to her said, jostling her as she tried to make her way down the sidewalk. "You're a reporter, you know how it is." God, she wished she'd called Roy for a ride. She couldn't now, but hopefully a cab would appear magically in the next twenty seconds. Because that was how long it was going to take for her to push through the throng of hot, frantic bodies crowding around her.
"'Scuse me," she said, keeping her head down. Almost there, she thought.
"What's it like, fucking the ice queen?" another man said, and Andy looked up at him. His face was eager, eyes flashing greed and a disgusting desperation. Her heart stopped, and rage unlike anything she'd ever felt flooded her veins.
She smiled viciously. "You'd be jealous if you knew," she growled.
There was an explosion of sound--voices and flashbulbs screamed in her ears. She shoved her way through to the street as the tempest swirled about her, and she threw her arm in the air. A yellow cab screeching down the block stopped, and she thanked heaven she had an emergency fifty in her bag. This guy was going to get a fantastic tip.
Once the door shut behind her, and the blinding lights faded, Andy noticed she was shaking. "Fuck," she said to no one.
"Are you all right?" the driver asked, scratching his sideburns. "They looked like wild dogs."
"I'm okay." I think. Quickly she opened her cell and punched Miranda's speed dial. It went straight to voicemail. She checked her watch; goddamn it, she was in the weekly rundown. She punched the next speed dial, and Emily answered.
"Miranda Priestly's off--"
"Em, get me Miranda, right now."
"Who is this?"
"Emily!" Andy shouted. "It's Andy Sachs. And if you don't get me Miranda right, fucking, now, you're not only going to get fired, but I will flay the skin from your body and hang you from the top of the Elias-Clarke building myself. Now go get Miranda!" Andy was shrieking, but there was no choice. This could not wait.
Silence met her ears, but she heard the telltale signs of the call transferring, probably to a cell. "Hold for Miranda," Emily said.
Andy held her breath.
Miranda was just going through June's eveningwear layout when Emily opened the door to the conference room. She was ghostly white. "Miranda," she managed, "there's a call for you."
Miranda tilted her head. "I am in a meeting, Emily," she said quietly.
"I believe it's an emergency," Emily said, glancing around the room.
After a quick glance skyward, Miranda held out a hand. Emily scurried in and gave her the phone. "Yes?" she said in a low voice.
"Miranda!" Andrea shouted, her voice hysterical. "Miranda!"
She remained outwardly calm. "What is it?"
"I just got attacked by fifty paparazzi in front of the townhouse. We've been outed."
Miranda's arm jerked, spilling a full venti latte all over the layout. Her entire body went hot, then cold. "Pardon?"
"Fuck, Miranda, we're screwed. What the hell happened to easing our way out?"
"Hold on." Miranda glanced up at the room. "I'm calling a company-wide meeting for 10:15 this morning. Have every member of every department in the main conference room, and if they're not present or on the phone, they're fired, effective immediately. Clear?"
The room nodded en masse.
"Excuse me." She stood from her seat on legs that felt weak, but she managed to get all the way back to her office before collapsing into her chair. "Andrea," she finally said. "Tell me exactly what happened."
"I left at 9:40, and I was late, obviously, and the second I walked out the door there were tons of cameras in my face. And they knew, Miranda. They asked about the age difference, they asked about my apartment, they asked about the girls. And I have no idea who talked. It makes no sense. If any of Alfonso's people had said something, it would have been weeks ago."
Miranda knew, at that instant, from whence the leak had sprung. Not only was she going to fire Diane, but she was going to dismantle her entire PR firm, piece by piece. "Andrea, listen to me. There are going to be photographers and reporters waiting for you at The Mirror, and some of your own colleagues are going to prod you for information. Are you comfortable saying nothing to them of our relationship?"
"Of course!" Andy shouted. "I know the deal. But uh, I kind of already said one thing. I don't know what came over me."
Miranda sighed. "Tell me."
"Well, oh, Miranda, it was terrible, and I just got so angry--"
"Please," Miranda asked, closing her eyes.
"Well, this one guy was such a dick He asked what it was like to fuck the ice queen."
Miranda put her head in her hand. She was never going to shake that one. "And you said "
"That he'd be jealous if he knew."
Miranda blinked. As much as she wanted to rail at Andrea for saying a single word to those vultures, she could not find it in her heart to be angry. Or even the least bit upset. In fact, she wanted to laugh, so she did. Andrea sputtered on the other end of the line. "Are you laughing?"
"No point in worrying about it now," she said. "What's done is done. Now go to work, and if you can't take the attention, go home. Everyone will be watching, and keep in mind that envy makes people cruel. But remember who you are, and who I am. Because everyone wants to be us. That's why they care, Andrea. It's the only reason."
The words seemed to calm Andrea. "What will you do?"
"I'm about to threaten death and destruction to anyone who opens their mouths to the press. They've all signed NDAs, so if one word comes out of a single employee of Elias-Clarke, I'll know. And take my pound of flesh in return."
"Stop it, Miranda, you're turning me on."
Miranda chuckled again, enjoying her last moments of tranquility for probably the rest of the day, if not month. "Good luck."
Miranda sat at her desk and glanced around the room, eyes stopping at the photo of Andrea she'd hung in her office only days before. The black and white image, so anonymous to a casual observer, kept her focused on the goal: not just survival, but triumph. She would win, with Andrea at her side. Even if she had to kill every bastard who stood in her way.
At 10:15, she stood in front of the dozens of Runway employees present. Her head was held high, chin jutting forward. Without preamble, she began. "Today a story has broken in the gossip columns about a personal relationship I've been involved in for some time."
No one moved, or even breathed. She was curious to know if any of them had suspected that she was seeing someone, or if they assumed she'd been burned one too many times.
"Simply put, if any of you, or your friends, or your family members, speak to the press about my private life, I will have you fired and blackballed from every publication, both print and online, on both coasts. You are welcome to discuss your opinions of my professional capacity, both positive and negative, as you have always been." They paid close attention, but curiosity was mounting on the faces of many of her more loyal minions. She curled her fingers into her palms, and took the leap.
"The bottom line is that Andrea Sachs and I have been romantically involved for the past six months. Some of you will remember her from her tenure here as my assistant." She heard a cry of astonishment, instantly aware that it was Emily. She did not look to her for confirmation. "We were in the process of revealing our relationship on our own time, but that luxury has unfortunately been taken out of our hands.
"Keep any comments you make to the press on a professional level. But be warned," Miranda said, taking a step forward. "If anyone in this room utters a single word that casts a negative light on Andrea Sachs, that individual will be very, very sorry."
Miranda sniffed and did her damndest to look bored. "That's all."
No one moved a muscle.
Narrowing her eyes to slits, she repeated herself. "That's all."
The door swung open, and the room emptied in less than 60 seconds. Miranda strutted back to her office, stopping between her assistants' desks. She did not look at Emily, instead turning to Jane. "How many calls have you had so far?"
"Eleven," Jane replied, wide-eyed.
"Refer the rest to Runway's publicity department. They're about to earn their salaries. And get me Jacob."
Almost immediately, Jane called out that Jacob was on the line. "Miranda, I think I know why you wanted to meet with me tomorrow," he said.
"Yes. Can we move things up to this afternoon?"
"Of course. But you're protected, 100%. Ravitz can do nothing. And neither can Stephen, or Jeremy for that matter."
She sighed, and made herself believe he was right. "I have another issue at hand. It involves my personal publicist. I need you to do some digging."
"Just say the word," Jacob replied, and Miranda licked her lips. There was blood in the water, and she would find the source.
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