DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story contains discussion of sexual assault and trauma, though not explicit.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To emeraldorchids[at]outlook.com

By emeraldorchids



Miranda woke with a scream and frantically pushed herself up off the ground. The events of the past few hours flashed through her mind and she prayed that it was only a dream. Looking around, however, proved otherwise. It was very real. She couldn't bring herself to say the word aloud, let alone think it, but it happened. Her eyes traveled from the emptied drawers to the torn vintage Dior gown to the shattered mirror that used to hang over the fireplace to her pale skin, covered in scratches, bruises, and dried blood.

"Stephen?" she called out. Her eyes focused on the clock—it was just past midnight. Where had he gone? They had that interview with The Hollywood Reporter in the morning, and it was taking place in their suite, so that meant she would need to clean everything up. No one could know what had happened. Though her first instinct was to call her assistant back in New York, she knew that Emily couldn't help. Taking a deep breath and channeling the unfeeling redhead, she pulled herself to her feet and shakily made her way to the bathroom. Before anything, she desperately needed to brush her teeth.

She and Stephen flew out to Los Angeles at the last minute Friday afternoon. His trip to San Francisco to meet with the owners of the Trellis vineyard was cancelled, which suddenly freed him up to attend the Edith Head Retrospective opening gala. Miranda actually wanted to attend—in fact, she begged him to go with her. Stephen knew she was only asking because Nigel was unavailable that weekend, but he didn't mind. He and Miranda were at their best when they were each overwhelmingly busy with their own careers and only spent a few hours together here and there. So naturally, when his business trip was cancelled, he surprised Miranda with two tickets to Los Angeles, a suite at the Beverly Hills Hilton, and a vintage Dior gown she'd been eyeing at Christie's for the past two weeks. Nigel had it tailored, and Emily ensured it was waiting for them in their suite at the Hilton.

They spent their Saturday in Santa Monica at the beach, promising each other to take a forty-eight-hour break from work—including their Blackberrys. It was nice, Miranda thought as she walked along the sand, carrying her espadrilles in one hand and trying to hold her maxi dress in the other. It didn't matter, really. The bottom was already wet from the ocean. They ate lunch at a small beachfront cafe and sipped on Corona with lime. It was all very…California.

That evening, seeing Miranda's face light up at the wonderful exhibit curated by Richard Palmer at the J. Paul Getty Museum, that's when Stephen knew he would always be second in the fashion editor's life. Sure, they could spend a relaxing afternoon together every now and then, but her eyes would never light up for him like they did for a well-made dress or finely woven fabric. No, her heart could never burn for him like it did for that pastime she called a career. She was so enraptured by the gowns on display, she didn't even notice that he was making his way over to the bar where he saw a few other men he knew.

Miranda remembered Gloria offering her a ride back to the hotel several hours later. She didn't know where Stephen was—honestly, she hadn't seen him since they arrived. Between the Coronas at lunch and the champagne cocktails that evening on an empty stomach, she really felt she ought to turn in, even though it was only 11 o'clock. So, she took the woman up on her offer.

"Oghh," Miranda gasped, covering her mouth as she remembered what happened next. She leaned over the toilet and emptied whatever was left in her stomach. She flushed and took a hotel robe off the back of the door. She had no idea what time Stephen would return, and if she wanted to clean up the room, she would need to hurry.

Over the next thirty minutes, she neatly re-folded clothes and stacked them in the drawers or suitcases. She carefully picked up the shattered glass in front of the fireplace and threw it in the wastebasket, then rearranged the furniture just a little bit so the couch was positioned over the two unsightly stains in the pristine carpet. She hung the dress and fought back tears. It was a shame to see such a beautiful, vintage couture gown damaged beyond repair. But at least no one would notice if she hung it back inside its garment bag. Once everything was back in place and the bed was made, she returned to the bathroom and stepped into the shower.

The hot water always had a calming effect on the editor, and tonight was no different. She scrubbed her skin with a loofah harder than was healthy, telling herself she needed to exfoliate. She kept her eyes looking upward at the shower head as she scrubbed between her thighs—if she didn't look down, she wouldn't have to see the red-tinged water swirling down the drain.

Despite the soothing water, her entire body ached. When she stepped out of the shower, she wrapped her hair up in a towel and dried herself, purposely not looking in the mirror. Seeing the physical evidence would make it real, and she couldn't do real right now. She put on a clean pair of underwear and a camisole, and wrapped herself up in her favorite grey robe, which, thankfully, was left untouched. She took some ibuprofen, brushed her teeth, and applied some face cream, then crawled into bed.

There was nothing wrong. This was exactly like any other night.

As she tried to fall asleep, she thought of things like the beach, a cloudless sky, her daughters' smiling faces. Basically, anything that she could focus on long enough to rest. Just as she was starting to fall asleep, she heard someone using the keycard and entering the suite. She froze, closing her eyes and tugging the covers tighter around her neck, praying that he hadn't returned.

"Miranda," Stephen whispered. She let out the breath she was holding when she heard the familiar voice. "Did you enjoy the exhibit tonight? I met up with Don there and he stole me away to watch the last half of the Clippers game—court side seats. I swung by the Getty on the way back, but they said you'd left. Miranda?"

"I'm tired. Don't forget we have that interview in the morning," she said. Her voice was hoarse and she could feel her throat burning as she spoke. At least it's not like she was expected to be chatty for the THR interview.

"Okay, I'm going to take a quick shower," he said, slipping into the bathroom and shutting the door.

Panic began to rise up in the woman's chest. She didn't want to tell Stephen. She didn't want to tell anyone. Saying it aloud—well, she still wasn't ready to do that. Hopefully Stephen wouldn't ask. They could do the interview, then catch their flight back to New York and she could forget about all of this.

When he climbed into bed, she felt the mattress dip and held her breath. She kept her eyes closed, hoping he wouldn't say anything more, but she soon felt him moving closer to her. He always was incapable of staying on his own side of the bed.

"I really had fun with you today," he said, softly placing his hand on her shoulder. "I'm glad we did this. You were so relaxed at the beach without your Blackberry—reminds me why I first fell in love with you," he whispered into her ear. He gently kissed her neck as his arm slid around her. Miranda quickly twisted away. "Oh, come on, Miranda. You were so sexy in your bare feet on the sand," he said, reaching for her shoulders as he was about to straddle her under the sheets.

"No! Stop!" Miranda cried, pushing and kicking him away. "Stop! Stop! Stop!" She quickly jumped from the bed and sat on the sofa along the wall.

Stephen sat back as he watched his wife pull her knees to her chest. He reached over to turn on the bedside lamp. "What's wr—my god, what happened?" he said. The way she was sitting caused her robe to shift, revealing bruises on her wrists, shoulder, and legs. He stood and approached her, but paused before taking her into his arms.

"Don't—don't touch me. Please," she begged.

"Miranda, you need to see a doctor. We need to call the police. Did this happen at the party?"

"No." She shook her head. "Here. There was someone…here…when I returned. He was looking for something…jewelry, maybe," she said. So much for not telling him. "If I had only stayed at the party a little longer…"

"Or if I had come back with you," he said, running his fingers through his hair. "Did you already clean everything up?"

Miranda nodded. "The interview tomorrow…"

"Fuck the interview. Beckman can fill the pages with another advertising spread. I'm calling the police," he said, grabbing the phone and dialing down to the front desk. "Are you hurt badly?" he asked, covering up the mouthpiece.

"I don't think so," she said.

"Hi, I need you to phone the police immediately. There was an intruder in our room and my wife has been…assaulted," he said.

"Mr. Tomlinson, is it? We will make the call right away and the police will arrive discreetly and I will have our manager escort them to your suite. Is there anything I can do at this time?"

"No. Just tell them to hurry. Thank you." Stephen hung up the phone and threw on a t-shirt and his workout shorts. It broke his heart to see Miranda flinch as he sat near her on the sofa. "They are on their way, Miranda," he said quietly. "I know you don't want me to touch you, but I really would like to hold your hand right now. Would that be okay?"

She nodded and uncrossed her arms, but as soon as she felt the strong grip of his larger, rougher hand, she pulled her hand back. "No—I can't."

He sighed and decided to take a different approach, realizing she wouldn't allow him to comfort her. "Do you remember anything about him? What he looked like? How he got away?"

Miranda's head snapped up. "Got away?" she hissed. "I'm sorry that when I was unconscious I let him get away!"

"No, no, I didn't mean it like that. Come on, you know what I meant. You are the one who got away and I'm so grateful, but I want to make him pay for what he did to you. I want to catch him and make sure he's put behind bars."

"I can't do this right now. I can't—go wait in the other room," she said. Her stomach still felt a little unsettled and Stephen's presence was only making things worse.

Several minutes later, she heard some commotion in the other room. Knowing they would soon be entering the bedroom, she adjusted her robe and sat up a little bit.

"Excuse me, Ms. Priestly?" he said, knocking on the doorframe and quietly approaching. "I'm Sergeant Taylor, LAPD. We're going to do everything we can to find this person, but we're going to need a little help from you, okay?"

Miranda nodded ever-so-slightly. In fact, there's a good chance Sgt. Taylor missed it.

"We're having our crime scene unit go through the wastebaskets and dust for fingerprints. I'm going to have Det. Andy Sachs come in and ask you about some of the details, but can you tell me if he was in the bedroom or bathroom at all?"

Miranda fought the urge to roll her eyes. She did not wish to speak with any Detective Andy whats-his-name. "During the time I was here and awake, he did not leave the outer sitting room," she said, "but some of the drawers here in the bedroom were opened."

"Thank you," he said. Miranda lowered her eyes to the ground, signaling the end of the conversation. As soon as he left the room, it appeared another man walked in. He was wearing black Doc Martens and his pants were cut a little slimmer than the sergeant's.

"Ms. Priestly," a soft voice said.

Miranda blinked a few times. The voice did not match the shoes she was looking at. The figure squatted in front of her to meet her eyes.

"Ms. Priestly," the voice repeated. "I'm Detective Andy Sachs. I'd like to ask you a few questions."

"You—you're the detective?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Miranda wrinkled her nose. "Miranda. Call me Miranda."

"Of course…Miranda," she said with a smile.

"But—you're a woman."


"What kind of woman uses the name 'Andy?' Certainly you have a proper name."

"Actually, I think my name is just—" she stopped herself mid-sentence when she saw the look in Miranda's eyes. Wasn't she supposed to be the one asking questions? "My given name is Andrea Margaret Sachs, but everyone calls me Andy."

Miranda pressed her lips together and regarded the young woman for a moment. It wasn't until she heard someone shouting from the other room that she remembered why they were there. "Very well, Andrea."

"Can you tell me what you remember upon entering the hotel tonight?"

"Excuse me—" Sgt. Taylor said, interrupting their conversation. "Ms. Priestly, they need to remove some sections of the carpet for analysis, and the hotel has offered you a different room since you'll need to leave this one."

Before Miranda could open her mouth to reply, Andy stood. "It's alright. We were just finishing up here. I am going to accompany Miranda to the hospital, so we'll be out of your hair."

"Great. There's a town car out back for you," he said, ducking into the other room.

"I am not going to the hospital," Miranda said through clenched teeth. She just recounted the events of the past few hours in great detail to a perfect stranger. She wasn't even dressed.

"We need to make sure there is no internal damage, and give you some medication as a precaution against sexually-transmitted diseases. And then there's the morning after pill, HIV tests, and anti-retrovirals. I know you already showered, but they still might be able to find some DNA," Andy explained.

Miranda rolled her eyes. "Do I have a choice?"

"Of course. You always have a choice."

"But you'll come with me?"

"I'll be right next to you the entire time."

"And the press—this won't be on Page Six tomorrow morning?"

"I can't make any promises, but you must realize that both the Beverly Hilton and Cedar-Sinai are well-versed in discretion for the rich and famous," Andy said.

Miranda nodded. "My daughters can't find out about this."

"Miranda, we're going to do everything we can," she said. She moved towards the suitcase and pulled out a white blouse, bra, underwear, and black capris. "We should bring some clothes for you to change into after your exam."

"I can't go like this," she said, looking down at her robe.

"It's better that you don't change. Do you have a long trench?"

She shook her head. "Stephen does, though."

Andy nodded. Miranda stood and made her way towards the door. She felt Andrea's hand on the small of her back, and for some reason, it was okay. She didn't mind it. Wrapping herself in the khaki trench, she let Andrea lead her down the back elevator and to the waiting car.

In the backseat, Andy could see that Miranda was breathing in short gasps. "I get panic attacks, too," she said quietly, hoping to distract the older woman. "You mentioned your daughters—how old are they?" When she didn't answer, Andy covered Miranda's hand on the seat, causing the woman to turn and look her in the eye.

"Is this okay?" Andy asked, softly brushing the back of her hand with her thumb.

Miranda thought about it for a moment. When Stephen tried to do the same thing, she flinched and pulled away. But now, something about Andy's hand felt different. It was warm and soft, and more importantly, it felt safe. She quickly flipped her hand and laced her fingers with the young detective's.

Andy watched as the emotions battled within the traumatized woman. She knew from dealing with victims in cases like this that it was often difficult for them to accept any sort of comfort, even from their family or friends. She held the woman's hand firmly.

"How much further is it?" Miranda asked quietly.

"Well, it's only a few miles, but the driver's taking an alternate route so as not to attract attention. We should be there in ten minutes," Andy explained. "Are you doing okay?"

Miranda shook her head and tried to cover her face with her other hand as she began sobbing again. Andy squeezed her hand a little tighter.

"I'm going to put my hand on your shoulder, okay?" Andy explained. She didn't want to startle the woman or cause her any additional anxiety, so she narrated all her motions. "There, is that okay?" Miranda nodded. "Good. Now, I'm going to move a little closer to you, and I'm going to move my hand to the center of your back. If you want, you can rest your head on my shoulder," she added. "You're safe here. I won't let anyone touch you."

Miranda sniffled and laid her head on the young woman's shoulder, just like she directed. She smelled sweet and a little exotic, but entirely feminine. "Thank you," she whispered. Something about the young woman's embrace did, indeed make her feel safe.

If Miranda had been paying more attention, she would have been impressed with Cedars-Sinai's facilities. She was immediately whisked off into a private room with doors that were accessible by keycard only. All staff wore a lanyard with their identification badge, which included a large photo for verification purposes. She could have done a mental comparison between Cedars and Presbyterian, except she couldn't focus on anything other than her girls and how badly she didn't want them to find out about what happened.

She had just been stripped of her clothes, had every inch of her body photographed, then had her fingernails cleaned and cut. All the while, Andy stood there next to her, holding her hand, offering strength and reassurance. Now, she was laying on her back on a table with her feet up in stirrups while a doctor performed a vaginal exam.

"Miranda, did you wash yourself internally after the assault? And do you remember whether he wore a condom?" the doctor calmly asked.

Miranda squeezed Andy's hand and shook her head. "No. She doesn't know if he used protection, and she didn't douche," Andy said, blushing slightly.

The doctor made a note on the chart. "I think the evidence I am seeing points to either a latex condom or some sort of sleeve, possibly a penile enhancer. There is a small, first-degree tear in the fourchette that will heal on its own, as well as some dermatitis, which commonly results from the friction of a plastic against dry skin." She stepped away from the table and helped Miranda to lower her feet from the stirrups. "There is significant bruising, both internally and along the inner thighs, which is all consistent with forced sexual trauma. I'll give you a dose of ibuprofen now to help reduce swelling, and you can continue to take over-the-counter Motrin or Advil as needed. Now, was there anal penetration also?"

Andy squeezed Miranda's hand and softly laid her other hand on the woman's shoulder. "Yes," the detective said.

Miranda never thought herself the type of person to allow others to speak for her; in truth, she wasn't. But in the face of such utter humiliation, she was grateful for the young brunette's presence—for her warmth, her generosity, and her uncanny ability to know exactly what Miranda needed.

"Okay, I'll need you to turn over on your stomach for a few minutes," the doctor said.

Miranda closed her eyes and pursed her lips as she turned to her side. The doctor quickly grabbed the emesis basin and held it out just as Miranda began vomiting. Andy cringed when she saw the doctor carry it to the small desk on the other side of the room and bag it as evidence. Miranda wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and turned to lay on her stomach, squeezing her eyes tightly shut as if to keep the tears from flowing.

"Hey," Andy said, squatting down so she was eye-level with Miranda. "Can you open your eyes and look at me?" The woman turned her head in the other direction. "Miranda, please. Open your eyes. Look me in the eye."

Slowly, the editor opened her eyes, one at a time, blinking to clear the tears. "What?" she whispered.

"You are strong. You are a survivor, Miranda," she said. When the woman started to close her eyes again, Andy softly brushed her nose with her index finger. "You are, Miranda."

Back at the hotel, Stephen tried to assist the forensic team as best he could as they painstakingly sorted through the suite. Between the Dior gown and the patches of carpet, they were confident they had enough evidence to find a DNA match if the suspect was in the system, so they rushed the items back to their crime lab for DNA and fiber analysis.

After the doctor concluded the exam, bloodwork, and medication, Miranda was able to shower. Not surprisingly, she refused to return to the Beverly Hilton, so Andy arranged for a suite at the nearby Fairmont (with two bedrooms), and waited with her until Stephen could get there.

"Miranda," the detective said, taking her hands gently, "this was not your fault. You know that, right?"

Miranda shook her head. "It—it…if I hadn't had all that champagne, or if I waited for Stephen to pick me up, or if I hadn't been wearing that dress, maybe I could have—"

"Stop right there," Andy said, cutting her off. "You are not to blame for wearing a beautiful dress or having a few drinks at a party. That does not give someone the right to violate you. No one ever has the right to touch you—or do anything to you—without your permission. Do you understand that?"

Miranda shrugged.

"What he did to you was wrong. He forced you to do something you didn't want to do. Look at me," she said, gently tilting Miranda's chin up. "Repeat after me: This was not my fault." When Miranda rolled her eyes, Andrea squeezed her hand tighter. "I'm serious, look at me and repeat. This was not my fault."

"This was not my fault," Miranda said quietly.

"I am strong." Andrea paused for a second. "Repeat. I am strong."

"I am strong."

"I am beautiful."

"I am beautiful," Miranda repeated with tears in her eyes.

"No one has the right to touch me."

Miranda chuckled. "No one has the right to touch me," she said. She couldn't help but think of Runway and how Emily explains that very concept to every new hire on the floor.

"Miranda, it's the truth," Andy said.

"You just made me think of my assistant at work," Miranda explained. "She is tasked with training all of our new hires, and one of the first things she tells them is 'You do not, under any circumstances, touch Miranda,'" she said, mocking Emily's British accent.

"Well," Andy smiled, "she's right." She tried to imagine just what kind of thing Miranda did for a living if her assistant told people that on their first day.

"I know," she said. "I do, really. I just need to convince myself to believe it."

Andy looked up into the woman's eyes, and before she could say anything else, there was a light knock on the door and the sound of a keycard.

Miranda held her breath. Andy moved her hand to her hip, her fingertips dancing along her holster.

"Hi, it's just me," Stephen said, poking his head through the door. The women took a deep breath, obviously relieved that it wasn't an intruder. "I brought some of our stuff," he added once he set their bags down. He had known Miranda long enough to know that she despised questions with obvious answers, so he took a minute to think before he spoke again. "Were you injured badly?"

Miranda looked down at her hands in her lap and shook her head. She tugged her sleeves down to cover the bruises that were now purpling on her wrists. "No. The doctor said it will heal on its own…eventually," she said.

Andy took this as her cue to leave. "Well, Miranda, I should probably get going so you can have something to eat and hopefully get some rest. I know it's been a long night," she said. Her own stomach was growling since she'd gone the past twelve hours without so much as a french fry.

Miranda's eyes widened and she approached the young woman. Amidst everything, it hadn't occurred to her that she would be getting on a plane and traveling three thousand miles across the continent later that day. She rather uncharacteristically threw her arms around Andy's shoulders and hugged her. The young woman eagerly returned the embrace.

"Take care of yourself, Miranda," Andy said. "I've already given you my card—please, call me if you think of anything else that can help us, or even if you just need to talk. I promise I will always answer—unless it's Wednesday night when I'm coaching my niece's softball team," she added with a smile. "I really think it will help to talk to a counselor or even just attend a support group when you get back to New York. It will seem too easy to just get back to your life as if nothing happened, but this will never disappear. Trust me, I know."

Miranda pulled back and looked into the young woman's eyes, which were suddenly clouded with an emotion she couldn't quite pinpoint. "Andrea," Miranda said, "thank you for everything."

"Of course," she said, stepping away towards the door. She nodded to Stephen. "Have a safe flight back to New York." When she shut the door behind her, something inside told her this was not goodbye.

"Miranda," Stephen said. She had been staring blankly at the back of the door for several minutes. "Miranda," he repeated, walking around her and standing in her line of vision.

She blinked a few times, then crawled back onto the bed and curled up against the pillow.

"Honey, what can I get you to eat?" Stephen asked. "Would you like eggs? A steak? Cheesecake with raspberries? I know that's your favorite."

"I'm not hungry," she said. "Look, I'm sorry. I just don't feel like— I'm sorry."

"Please don't apologize, Miranda. I'm the one who should be apologizing. I don't know what I can do to make it better."

"Just get me home. We've already missed our flight."

"I can do that," he said. He turned to walk out of the room, but quickly returned, pressing a feather-light kiss to her forehead before heading back to the sitting area.

Andrea spent the rest of her Sunday afternoon thinking about the beautiful woman she had just met. Of course, Miranda was married to a man and had just been through a horrific experience, but it didn't stop Andrea from noticing her. Or the way her body responded to older woman. She shook her head before it began to fill with inappropriate thoughts about a victim on one of her cases.

"Miranda," Stephen said, softly nudging her upper arm. She took a deep breath and stretched out her legs. He couldn't tell if her eyes were open because she was wearing her oversized sunglasses, despite the fact that the sun had already set hours ago. "We're home," he said.

She pushed herself up into a sitting position and readjusted her scarf. Thankfully, there were no photographers outside the townhouse. Roy opened the car door and led her up the front steps while Stephen unloaded their luggage from the trunk.

Once inside the house, Stephen set their bags down on the foyer floor and cautiously approached his wife who was standing at the foot of the stairs.

Miranda looked at the bags, then back to the stairs. She removed her sunglasses and sighed. "Stephen, I can't—" she said, choking back tears as she she saw the pity in his eyes.

"Hey, don't worry. I understand," he said.

She nodded and flexed her fingers on the banister. "I want a divorce."

"What?" He couldn't believe what he just heard. "No, you don't mean that. It hasn't even been twenty-four hours. Get some rest, and take a few days to think about it," he said.

"Exactly sixteen days ago, you had divorce papers drawn up and sent to my hotel while I was in Dubai for a shoot," she said quietly. "When I returned, you apologized and said you wanted to try and work things out. Well, it hasn't been working out, and I don't think it's ever going to." She paused for a moment and looked him in the eye. "You will stay in the guest room, but by this time next week, I want your things out of here."

He ran his fingers through his hair as he sighed.

"This is not up for discussion," she quickly said before he could speak. "This is my life, don't you get it?"

"Of course. It's always about you," he said, rolling his eyes.

"Go to hell," she hissed before turning and marching up the stairs. He muttered something under his breath, but she was sure she didn't want to know what it was.

Once in her bedroom, she plugged her phone into the charger on her nightstand. For half a second, she wondered if she had been to quick to end her relationship with Stephen. He wasn't a terrible husband. He just wasn't… Her thoughts drifted to the young detective in Los Angeles, to the woman's warm, caring touch. Part of her wanted to call her to tell her she arrived home—it was three hours earlier on the west coast, so she was probably still awake—but Miranda figured Andrea was young and surely had enough going on in her own life. She didn't want to take up any more of her time this weekend than she already had.

Shaking her head, she went to the bathroom to wash her face and prepare for bed. Once the makeup was off, she took a few Advil and returned to her bedroom. She was already planning on calling in sick to work tomorrow—in the past eight hours, the bruising on her arms and legs had only darkened in color. If it was fall or winter, she could wear a turtleneck and opaque black tights and no one would be the wiser. Unfortunately, it was the middle of April, and she didn't want to show up in funeral attire. The bruises were so dark against her pale skin, they would surely even be visible as shadows under her white linen pants.

She turned out the light on her nightstand and sat at the edge of the bed while she set the alarm clock so she could send Emily and Nigel an email in the morning. Checking her phone one last time before crawling between the sheets, she saw a missed text message. Hi, it's Andy Sachs. Did you get home okay?

Miranda smiled. It was very sweet of her to send a note, and Miranda was relieved that she wouldn't have to be the first to reach out. Even after such a short time, she already missed the young woman's presence. She sent a quick reply. Yes, thank you. A very long day. Goodnight. -MP

After she set the phone back on the nightstand, it vibrated again, and she saw the detective's reply: Goodnight. Sleep well. x

She sank into the pillows and tugged the comforter around her neck as she hoped for a good night's sleep.


"Mom!!!" Caroline cried, tossing her school bag to the floor and running to meet Miranda on the stairs. "I didn't think you'd be home!" she said, hugging her tightly.

"Did you have a good trip?" Cassidy asked, joining her sister on the stairs with their mother.

Miranda hugged her girls tightly and smiled. "Yes, Bobbsey. The Edith Head exhibit was simply wonderful. Did you have a nice weekend with your father?"

"Yeah. Dad took us to see Wicked on Saturday, then we went to the public library yesterday to work on our research papers," Caroline said. "Weren't you busy at work today?"

Miranda turned to her daughter and frowned. "Why would you ask that?"

"It's obvious," Cassidy said. "You're home at 3:45 when we get home."

"Is it so unbelievable that I missed you two so much I couldn't wait to see you?"

Cassidy put her hands on her hips. "You always say that there's 'so much to be done,' if you take a day off."

Miranda smiled. "You girls just know me too well, I guess. I didn't go into the office at all. I just did a little work from home," she explained.

"Did you have a headache?" Caroline asked.

"Yes, Bobbsey, just a little. It's almost gone now. Why don't you unpack your bags and get started on your homework. If you finish early, maybe we can watch something on television together later," Miranda said.

While the girls were taking their seats at the kitchen table, Miranda's mind drifted to the young detective's words. It will seem too easy to get back to your life as if nothing happened. Is that what was happening? Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, she walked into the kitchen to begin warming up the dinner Cara had prepared.

For the next three days, Miranda fought the urge to text Andrea—partly because she doesn't want to admit that she might need someone else, and partly because if she's not talking to either her or Stephen, she can pretend it never happened.

Wednesday night, Miranda and Stephen sat the girls down and told them that he would be moving to a new house by himself. They were relatively unaffected, since they were really never close with him in the first place. After Stephen went upstairs to finish packing, Caroline leaned over and whispered in Miranda's ear, telling her that if she was lonely at night, she could come sleep in her bed. That warmed the editor's heart to no end, though she hoped she wouldn't need to take her daughter up on that offer.

The following week, the bruises faded significantly and everything was back to normal at Runway. That is, no one had any idea of the editor's emotional state. Most days, even Miranda herself felt distanced from her own life. Having her daughters around was helpful, but she was seriously beginning to regret kicking Stephen out. At least it was another adult to talk to, regardless of the tone of conversation.

But everything changed on Tuesday morning. Miranda and the team were meeting in the conference room to brainstorm and begin planning the September issue. It came out of nowhere, like a tidal wave in a dried-up basin. One minute, she was nodding as Nigel scribbled potential locations on the whiteboard, and the next, tears were pouring from the editor's eyes.

Deeply embarrassed, she pushed her chair back and grabbed her notepad and her phone, running from the room and heading down the hallway. She needed to get away. She frantically looked for an exit or closet, then spotted the stairwell. She pushed through the door and sprinted down three flights of stairs, until she could no longer stand. Her legs were shaking as she slid down to the floor at the landing. She looked up—no one was chasing her. But still, her heart was racing. Without a second thought, she pulled out her phone and called Andrea Sachs.

"Good morning, Miranda," the young detective answered after the first ring. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

Miranda held her hand against her mouth as she struggled to contain her sobs.

"Oh no," the detective said quietly. She would never tell the editor, but she had been expecting her to break down sooner or later, and was actually surprised the woman had made it this far. "Miranda, take a deep breath. Sit down and rest your head against the chair. I wish I was there to hold your hand," she said.

"M—me too," the editor whispered.

"I'll stay on the phone as long as you need," Andy reassured. "Take your time." They sat on the phone in silence for several minutes. When she finally heard the woman's breathing begin to calm down, she spoke again. "Miranda, are you okay?"

"I don't know," she said. "I—I don't know what happened. I'm sorry I called. I just—oh god, it's not even seven o'clock. I must have woken—"

"Miranda, it's okay. I was awake. In fact, I was sitting down to read the paper with a cup of coffee," she said. "You know, I'm glad you called me. I've been thinking about you all week," she added.

"You have?"

"Yeah. But I didn't want to bother you, and I just figured you would call if you needed something."

Miranda pursed her lips. She didn't want to need anything.

"And I know you're all independent and everything," Andy quickly added as if she saw Miranda's reaction. "I know you're capable of handling this on your own. I'm just, well, I'm just glad you called."

She took a deep breath. "I am too."

"Are you at work?" Andy asked.

"Yes. I was in a meeting when I… I had to leave. I just ran, and now I'm," she paused to look around, "apparently in the stairwell. Oh god, I can't—"

Andy could hear the panic rising in the woman's voice. "Have you ever done a stair climb for charity?"


"Oh, well we did one here a few months ago—me and a few guys from the force. We went up something like three thousand stairs. I mean, it was for a great cause, but I can't say that stairwells are very interesting," she said, trying to distract the woman.

"No, I would agree that they lack…windows."

Andrea laughed, and she was relieved when she heard the older woman chuckle on the other end of the line. "So, I've been with the LAPD for five years now—straight from college—but I think I'm finally ready to call it quits," Andy said.

"Really? So, you're only…twenty-seven?"

"Actually, twenty-five. I'll be twenty-six at the end of July. I skipped first grade."

"Oh, I see," Miranda said. "Why are you leaving?"

"I know it's going to sound stupid, but I never wanted to be a cop. I wanted to be a writer. I studied journalism at Cornell, but during my last year, well, I just wasn't ready to write the news. I needed to be doing something, making a difference, you know."

"Andrea, I would argue that writing is doing something…"

"I know that now. At the time, I wouldn't have made it. I needed to fight the bad guys. But now, I've had enough and I'm ready for the challenge."

"Well, that's wonderful," Miranda said. She sighed and relaxed against the cinder block wall. "I know it's not easy to change careers. If you would like, I could probably help you get some freelance assignments, or maybe some interviews in New York."

"Oh, I appreciate that, Miranda, but I'm not into clothes and stuff. I was going to try and find some local paper, or maybe a magazine. Ideally, I'd like to focus on global social issues."

Miranda rolls her eyes. "Well it's obvious you're not interested in fashion, although, the 1994 limited edition Doc Martens did give me pause."

"What? Wait, how do you know about 1994 Doc Martens? They don't seem your style," Andy said.

Miranda chuckled. "Do you know who I am?"

"Uh," she paused. "Is this a trick question? You said your name was Miranda Priestly."

"Yes, that is correct. And do you have any idea who Miranda Priestly is?"

"Umm," Andy was starting to get uncomfortable. "No…should I?"

Miranda shook her head in disbelief. The young woman had no idea who she was or what sort of power and influence she had. That would certainly explain why she wasn't afraid of her, why their interaction felt so genuine. Suddenly, Miranda worried that the girl would want nothing to do with her once she learned the truth.


"I'm sorry. I need to get back to work," she said.

Andy was confused. They were having a nice conversation, and all of a sudden, she felt like she was talking to a different person. "Are you feeling better?" she asked.

"Of course," Miranda said. Andy could practically see her rolling her eyes.

"Look, I realize I must've said something wrong," Andy admitted. "I didn't intend to upset you. I'll let you get back to work, but first, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't remind you that you should speak with a counselor—at least once."

"By all means, I wouldn't want to keep you from your job," the editor snapped.

"Wait, Miranda, that's not what I meant. Please."

"I have to go before they start looking for me. Goodbye," Miranda said, ending the call abruptly. She took a deep breath and pulled herself to her feet as she smoothed out her skirt. She knew she was rebuilding her walls to protect herself, just like she knew that once Andrea found out just who she was, everything would change.

Miranda climbed the stairs back up to Runway's floor and marched down the hallway to her office. "Emily, where are we with the September issue? Get me Nigel. Call Leslee and push our meeting back ninety minutes. Get me the number of a reputable florist in Los Angeles, and where is my coffee?"

And just like that, all was right in the world. That is, until she was in the town car on her way home.

She just ordered flowers, belatedly, for Richard, congratulating him on the remarkable Edith Head exhibit. When she glanced at her phone, she saw a text message from Andrea.

Miranda— Again, I apologize for upsetting you earlier. This afternoon, I searched your name on the internet, and, wow. I feel like an ass for talking to you the way I did. I guess I just thought that maybe you needed to talk to me, but I guess you have more than enough minions around. I'll leave you alone, but I just needed to make sure you knew that it's not my job to accompany victims to the hospital, to sit with them and hold their hand until their spouse arrives, to text them and see how they're doing. It's my job to analyze the evidence and find and apprehend criminals. If you care to know, he was apprehended this afternoon and is in custody. I guess that concludes my job, so, take care. -Andy

Miranda read and re-read the message several times. There was so much, and it was a little overwhelming. Not to mention, she hadn't thought about the hospital or her attacker since leaving Los Angeles. She mentally ran through the rest of her day. The girls wouldn't be home—they were spending the night at a friend's and had a field trip for school the following day. There was nothing else. She would truly be alone for the first time since leaving Los Angeles.

She shook her head and redialed the florist's number.

"Yes, this is Miranda Priestly again. I need to send a second arrangement, small. Spring flowers—tulips, hydrangeas; no roses or lilies," Miranda said.

"Delivery address?" the florist asked.

"I'm not sure. The Los Angeles Police Department, for a Detective Andrea Sachs."

"Is there a message?" he asked.

"Thank you," she said. "And—please forgive me."

"How would you like it signed?"


"Charge to the same card as before?"

"Yes. Will you be able to deliver it today?" Miranda asked.

"We can. Both or just this one to the LAPD?"

"Just this one. The other can go out later this week."

"Okay, this is all set. Can we take care of anything else for you?" he asked.

"Would you happen to know of a good pastry shop or something in the area?"

"Everyone raves about the macaroons at Bottega Louie, and that's just around the corner from the Police Department," he said.

"Oh, that would be perfect. Do you happen to know whether they will deliver?"

"I know for a fact they don't," he said, "but if you'd like, I can stop there on my way. Is this also for the detective?"

"Yes, it is," Miranda said, blushing, though there was no one to see it. "I was hoping to send three or four dozen—enough to share around. Of course, if it's a small shop—"

"Ms. Priestly, four dozen will not be a problem."

"Oh. Perfect. I appreciate it."

"Of course. Both will be delivered this afternoon."

Miranda thanked the young man again and ended the call. She wasn't quite ready to talk to Andrea, but she knew she needed to acknowledge the text message in some way, and everyone appreciates flowers and macaroons.

When Miranda got home, she went up to her second-floor study and opened the door to the small balcony overlooking her 200-sqft backyard. The sun was setting, and there was a warm spring breeze. She hadn't realized how exhausted she was until she walked in the door to her empty house. With the girls at their friend's house, she poured herself a glass of wine and curled up in the armchair, gazing out at the city skyline.

Several hours later, she woke with the ding of an incoming text message. She quickly turned on a lamp and shut the door, then poured herself another glass of wine before looking at her phone: All is forgiven. These macaroons are my favorite, and the flowers are beautiful. x

This was the second time Andrea ended a text message with an "x" and Miranda was beginning to question its meaning. Was the "x" the hug or the kiss? As she pondered the unfamiliar signature, another message appeared, and this one was a photo Andrea took of herself with the flowers.

Miranda smiled as a feeling of relief washed over her. She finished her glass of wine, then decided to call Andrea.



"Thank you again for the flowers and cookies. You know, a simple apology would have sufficed," Andy said. "Or wait, I think I read that you never apologize. Am I supposed to be grateful?" While she wasn't all that upset with the fashion editor, she had a rough day and didn't want to deal with a snobby celebrity. That wasn't the woman she met a few weeks ago.

"Andrea, I know I was awful to you on the phone earlier today. I ended the conversation on a sour note, and I shouldn't have," Miranda said. "You're right, I'm not very good with apologies. However, I am acutely aware of when I make a mistake."

"I get it, it's okay."

"I don't know what I would have done earlier today. You had no idea who I was, and you were kind to me. You weren't looking to profit or to use me—you were genuine. You must understand that I see that so rarely, the only way I know how to react is to protect myself."

"So that's what the Ice Queen thing is all about? Protecting yourself?"

"Yes…though by now some of it is just a reputation I must live up to."

"Gotcha," Andy said.

Miranda waited for her to continue, but she left it at that. "Andrea, if you're still upset, tell me."

"I'm not upset. I'm driving. I can't talk and merge at the same time," she said.

"Is that safe—talking on the phone while you drive?" Miranda asked.

Andrea laughed. "You don't drive much, do you? Seems like everyone is on their cell phones, but no, it's not very safe. I actually have you on speakerphone," she said. "It's just me in the car—don't worry," she added.

"Oh, well, we can talk later if it's a problem."

"No. I'm two minutes from my apartment," Andy said. "Back to our conversation. So you froze up on me earlier today when I mentioned my job."

"That is not what we were talking about," Miranda said.

Andrea smirked as she pulled into her parking garage. "No? Oh. I thought it was. You did freeze up when I said that, though, right?"



Miranda rolled her eyes. "An employee performs her job because she has to. If she doesn't, she could be fired or penalized in some other way. Employees generally grow to hate what they're doing for the mere fact that someone else is telling them what to do, that there is no choice involved in the matter," Miranda explained. "I misunderstood you earlier. I heard what I was expecting to hear—that you were just doing your job."

"Okay, good. So, that's why it was important that I cleared that up in my text message, telling you that it actually wasn't my job to do what I did."


"And you were expecting to hear that because…?" Andy asked. "Oh wait. I forgot. I also read online that no one is allowed to ask you any questions. Is that true? I mean, um, so that's true," she said.

Miranda chuckled. "You seem to be my exception, Andrea. Yes, that's generally true at work, but it's because I've worked with some idiotic people who ask questions with obvious answers, and frankly, it's a waste of breath and energy."

"So efficiency is a big thing for you."

"Was that a question?"

"No?" Andy was confused. Was Miranda playing games with her?

"It wasn't?" Miranda asked.

"Yes? Geez, I don't know!"

"Andrea, you really must relax. You can't believe everything you read in the papers."

"Oh god, the press. Of course! I said I wanted to go into journalism," Andrea said. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean that kind of journalism."

"Celebrity sighting and global social issues are not typically covered by the same reporter," Miranda said. An awkward silence fell upon them. "So, I meant what I said before, about helping you to find some freelance work, or even getting you some interviews in New York if you're interested. I mean, you do realize the influence I have in publishing, right?"

"Yes, of course. I mean, I'd be honored. You don't have to do that for me, though," Andy said. "I don't even know if I'm ready to come back to the east coast."

"How about this? Send me some samples of your work. I will review them, and only if I think they're good, will I pass them along. If you get an interview, well, at that point you can make a decision about heading out east. That seems fair, does it not?"

"Absolutely," Andy said.

"Good. I will text you my email, and I'll look forward to perusing whatever you send," Miranda said.

"Great. I really appreciate this."

"Oh, I should probably warn you that my assistants sort through my email inbox, so—"

"You don't even have to say it," Andy interrupted. "My email will be ultra-concise, and I will not bring up how we know each other or any of that."

"Thank you," Miranda said. She wasn't sure what else to say after that, but she didn't want the conversation to end completely. Maybe it was the fact that Andrea was one of a handful of people in the entire world who knew about what happened in Los Angeles. Andrea, it seemed, was thinking the same thing.

"Miranda, have you told anyone?" she asked quietly.

"No." She could hear the young woman sigh on the other line. "I don't exactly have anyone to tell. My daughters are eleven years old. I don't have many…many friends."

"Well at least your husband knows. I know it's not my place, but… He's being supportive, isn't he?" Andy asked.

Miranda took a deep breath. "I asked him to move out. We are filing for divorce. But to answer your question, yes, he was supportive."

"Divorce? Because of what happened?"

"Heavens no! It started long before. He sent me divorce papers a month ago, but we were trying to work on it. I finally signed them last week. It hasn't hit the press yet, so please, don't share that detail."

"Okay, first, I would never say anything about what you share with me," Andy said. She was a little miffed that the other woman felt the need to remind her. "But, are you sure this is a good time to make that decision?"

"Now you sound like Stephen," Miranda chuckled. "Just because of what happened doesn't mean I am incapable of seeing clearly. He and I never fit together well. I can hardly believe we managed to stay together for three years. I never…well, let's just say I'm not an ideal wife. And after what happened, it's not like the situation was going to improve."

Andy paused for a moment. Was Miranda talking about her sex life? "He didn't try to—or anything? Did he?" Andy asked.

"No, no, no. He was very sweet about it all. I just couldn't stand to have him touch me."

"Oh, I see."

Miranda thought about how different Andrea's hands felt. They were small and soft, and though her nails were blunt, they didn't feel…


She cleared her throat as she came back to the present. "Yes?"

"Where did you go for a minute there?" Andy asked. She was concerned the woman may have been having some sort of flashback after talking about her husband's touch.

"Nowhere. I'm just tired and starting to fall asleep. That's all," she said.

"Oh gosh, I forgot all about the time difference! It's almost midnight in New York!"

"Yes, but remember I was the one who called you," Miranda said. "I really should be getting to sleep, though. I will send my email address in the morning and I'll look forward to receiving your work."

"Okay. Um, Miranda?"


"This was nice. Today, tonight. Talking."

"It was."

"Umm, okay. Have a good night, then. Get some sleep."

"I will. Goodnight, Andrea."


The next day, Miranda made an appointment to see her therapist after work. She spent some time thinking more about Andrea, and about how easily she was able to open up to her. If she could talk to Andrea, she should be able to talk to someone else, too. She didn't want her assistants to speculate, so she booked it herself for 6 PM.

The first appointment with Gwendolyn was always the worst. Miranda hated the older woman's desire to be "filled in" on everything that had transpired in Miranda's life since the last time they spoke. Considering she hadn't spoken to Dr. Gwendolyn Harris in eleven years, summarizing her daughters' entire lives was simply exhausting. She was impatient and wanted to get to the point of why she scheduled the appointment, but of course, their hour was up before Miranda could even mention Los Angeles.

"Gwendolyn, I'm glad we were able to catch up, but I was really hoping that we could actually talk about the reason I called you," Miranda said.

"Oh, right. Time just goes so quickly. I can fit you in for a half hour tomorrow morning before my first appointment. Would that work?" she asked.

"Yes," Miranda said, standing up. "I will see you then."

On her way home, she couldn't help but wonder if Gwendolyn was that way with any of her other patients—or if it was reserved exclusively for her. Considering how well the older woman knew her, and how long since she'd first started seeing her, Miranda knew that now was not the time to begin questioning Gwendolyn's methods.

When she returned to the townhouse, she was greeted with two overly-sugared eleven-year-olds. They showed her pictures from their trip to the zoo, told her all about the cupcakes they made with Olivia's mother last night, and begged to watch a movie with Miranda before bed. Knowing they would fall asleep quickly, she agreed on the condition that they could all curl up in Cassidy's bed and watch it on her DVD player.

As expected, her daughters were asleep within ten minutes, and she was able to quietly turn off the television monitor and leave them to sleep. It wasn't until the house was quiet and she had retreated to her room that she began to feel out of sorts.

It was becoming quite a habit, crawling into bed and calling Andrea. Except tonight, the detective didn't answer. Miranda didn't leave a voicemail, but before her mind began creating excuses for the young woman, she received a text: Softball tonight. Can I call you back or is it urgent? x

Miranda forgot that it was Wednesday, the one night of the week she said she would be unavailable. She quickly replied. Later is fine—even tomorrow. Not urgent. -MP

About three hours later, Miranda's phone rang. She had fallen asleep reviewing the Book in bed, and quickly answered the phone before the sound woke her daughters. "Hello?"

"I woke you up, didn't I?"

"No, no, I—" Miranda laughed. "Okay, fine. You did. I fell asleep with my glasses on, doing work in bed."

"Well, I won't keep you then. I just…I wanted to return your call," Andy said. In truth, she was a little concerned and needed to hear the woman's voice for reassurance, but she would never admit that.

"I called earlier because I wanted to tell you that I visited my therapist today."

"Miranda, that's great," Andy said. "I'm sure it was difficult for you to make that call. I'm proud of you."

Miranda smiled and thought for a minute about the last time someone said they were proud of her. Maybe her first husband on the day her daughters were born, then before that, maybe her mother on the day of her high school graduation.

"Is everything okay?" Andy asked.

"Yes, sorry. I was just thinking. How did softball go? It's your niece, right?"

"Yes, my niece Alexis. She's seven years old, and I coach her team for the park district. It was just practice tonight, but then after everyone went home, I took her for ice cream, then back to my brother-in-law's," Andy said.

"Oh, how nice. So Alexis is your sister's daughter?" Miranda asked.

"Yes. Umm, my sister Katie died when Alexis was two."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," Miranda said. "I—I didn't mean to bring that up."

"It's okay. Alexis doesn't really remember her, and it's probably better that way. I moved out to California five years ago to help out Dave—that's my brother-in-law—and to be here for Alexis. I have my own apartment, but I still see her a few times a week. Less so now that Dave's getting remarried, but still."

"She sounds like a very special little girl," Miranda said.

"Yeah, she is."

"And you, my dear, have an enormous heart. When Alexis is older, I'm sure she will be very grateful for your presence in her life."

"You're making me cry," Andy said as she sniffled and wiped her eye.

Miranda didn't want to admit that she, too, had a tear in her eye. "Well, it's getting late. I would like to hear more about your sister and your niece sometime, if you feel up to sharing," she added.

"Sure, maybe some other time," Andy said. "Are you sure there wasn't more you wanted to talk about?"

"No." Miranda certainly wasn't ready to admit that she just wanted to hear the young woman's voice tonight.

"Okay, then, goodnight."


Miranda took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. As she set the Book on the nightstand, she heard a knock at her door that could only belong to one of her daughters. "Come in," she called.

A sleepy redhead emerged from the hallway and carefully approached her bed. "I heard talking," she said. "Who were you talking to?"

"Come here," Miranda said, patting the mattress next to her. The young girl climbed up into bed next to her mother. "Caroline, I'm sorry I woke you up. I was talking to my friend Andrea."

"Do I know her?"

"No, sweetheart. She's a new friend I met in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. But she's looking for a new job as a journalist, so she might be coming to New York in the near future. I'm sure she'd love to meet you."

"Did you tell her about me?"

"Just a little. Caroline, darling, it's very late. You have school in the morning, and you need to get your rest."

"Can I stay here with you, Mom?"

"Of course, baby," Miranda said, kissing her forehead. She leaned over and turned out the light, then pulled the covers up over herself and Caroline. Even though she was eleven years old, she would always be Miranda's baby. "Sweet dreams," she whispered, kissing her again, this time on the cheek.

For the next few weeks, Miranda called Andrea every night before bed. Mostly, they would just talk about their day or something neutral like the weather. A few times, they even talked about the writing samples Andy had sent over, which had really impressed the editor—though she still didn't understand why someone would make the jump from law enforcement to editorial. Regardless, their brief conversations helped Miranda to fall asleep just a little bit easier each night. She was coming to rely on them.

Miranda had been scheduling regular, thirty-minute appointments with her therapist four times a week: Monday before work, Tuesday after work, Thursday before work, and Friday after work. As much as she didn't want to think about what happened in Los Angeles, she knew now that talking about it was part of the healing process. Though they didn't often discuss the incident itself, it helped knowing there was someone else she didn't have to hide it from.

At her therapist's encouragement, Miranda took her nightly conversation with Andrea in a different direction entirely one night. "Did they ever catch the man who assaulted me?" she asked out of the blue.

"Yes," Andrea said quietly, debating how much to reveal. "He was sentenced to fifteen years." She paused for a moment. "Do you want to know more?"

"I think so," Miranda said.

"Okay. So, we discovered that the night of the assault, he gained entry to your room by posing as hotel staff. We were also able to link him to at least twelve burglaries in the area within the past five years," Andy said.

"There's something you aren't telling me," Miranda said. After speaking with Andy on a daily basis, she was quick to notice when the young woman was hiding something.

"What? I'm telling you the truth."

"I believe you are, just not the whole truth. I appreciate you trying to protect me, but I need to know this."

Andy sighed and explained to Miranda how the LAPD's cyber team traced a photo from social media back to his location. The photo had nothing identifiable to the average user, but the LAPD recognized a piece of evidence from one of the other local burglaries and was able to connect the dots.

"Did he steal something from me?" Miranda asked.

Andrea took another deep breath and explained that initially, they didn't think so, but when they arrested him and got a search warrant for his home, they found a pair of underwear that matched Miranda's DNA.

"Oh my," Miranda said. After a few moments, she continued. "Did he—did he rape any of the others?"

"We don't think so. To our knowledge, you were the only one to ever interrupt him," Andy said. "Wait—I didn't mean it like that. We wouldn't have caught him if it wasn't for you. It's just that he was gone before they returned in the other cases. That's not to say that there hasn't been an unreported case." She bit her lip and mentally chastised herself. Way to blame the victim, Andy. For several seconds, Miranda did not respond. "Miranda—are you okay?"

"Why me? Why couldn't he have just taken those—and—and—"

"I don't think we'll ever know. He probably panicked when you walked in," Andy said.

"Then why didn't he hit me over the head and run out the door?"

"Miranda, I'm sorry. You know I would do anything to erase what happened…"

"Let's change the subject," Miranda said. "Have you heard back from any of your applications?"

Andy sighed. "Yes, actually. The San Francisco Chronicle, Indianapolis Star Tribune, and an independent local Los Angeles paper all want to setup interviews. The Chronicle said they would be willing to do a phone interview if I couldn't make the trip, so that helps, but I still don't know if it's worth the trip out to Indianapolis."

"Ah, well the fact that they've offered you an interview is wonderful. For the record, I had nothing to do with anything outside New York. This is all you, my dear," Miranda said. "Have you thought about how you would feel moving away from your niece and brother-in-law?"

Andy sighed. "How do you think Caroline would feel if you moved to a different state."

"Oh, Andrea, that's not the same. Caroline has been living under my roof since the day she was born. I tease her that her clinginess started in the womb. She never wanted to leave me."

"I haven't even told Dave that I'm looking. He and Lea are getting married in September, and she has a really big family here in southern California, so maybe it will work out alright. Alexis is already attached to Lea, and I think they all kind of want a fresh start," Andy said. "I don't see myself fitting into their family anymore."

"Oh, you can't mean that," Miranda said. "Your niece adores you."

"I don't know. She adores everyone. Miranda, I really don't want to talk about that now. I'm sorry."

"It's okay, I understand," Miranda said quietly. "The girls' last day of school is on Tuesday."

"Oh, really?" Andrea asked. "Did you decide whether you're going to take them to Niagara Falls next weekend?"

"I've decided I shouldn't deprive my daughters the experience simply because I loathe tourists, so we're taking a day trip," Miranda said.

"Oh, I will need to see photos of that," Andrea said with a chuckle.

"I will be happy to send you a photo of the girls in their ponchos, but I will be the one behind the camera, thank you."

"Aw, come on. No one there will know you. Just do a selfie of the three of you. Please? For me?"

Miranda smiled. "Well, when you put it like that, I can hardly resist. We'll see. Perhaps I will just blend into the mist."

"Ha! I can hardly wait to see that. Look, I've got a little bit of work left to do. Do you mind if we cut it short tonight?"

"No, of course not. Have a good day tomorrow," Miranda said.

"Thanks, you, too. Bye."


The next day, as Miranda was returning to her office after a meeting, she overheard Jocelyn telling Emily about the custody arrangement she had with the father of her two-year-old son, who had just gotten remarried. She didn't catch the whole story, because naturally Jocelyn stopped talking the minute she realized Miranda was within earshot. Miranda quickly walked past her assistant's desk and entered her office, closing the door behind her. She walked over to the window and dialed a number on her cell phone.

"Detective Sachs."

"Andrea, it's me."

"Oh, Miranda, hi. Is everything okay?" she asked. "You never call during the day."

"Yes…well, no, actually, it's not. I was just thinking about you, and—why don't you ever call me?"

"Huh? Umm, well I just don't want to bother you or anything I guess. You're busy and you have an important job and then there's your daughters. But for the record, I have called you before."

"Only to return my calls."

"Okay. What's this about?"

"Andrea, I want you to know you can call me. Whenever. I can't promise that I will always be able to answer, but it certainly won't be a bother," Miranda said.

"Um, okay," she said with a chuckle.

"I'm being serious!"

"Okay! I am, too!" Andy replied. "Hang up so I can call you."


"Hang up."


"Just do it, okay?" Before the editor could reply, Andy ended the call. Two seconds later, Miranda's phone was ringing.


"Hi," Andy said. "I was just thinking of you, so I thought I'd give you a call."

Miranda smirked, and she knew that even though Andrea was three thousand miles away, she could see it. "Oh, honestly. I don't have time for this childish—"

"Hey, I gotta run. I'll call you later. Promise," Andy said, quickly ending the call.

Miranda stared at the phone in her hand and couldn't help but smile. There was something special about that young woman.



The next few weeks passed much the same, except with Andy making the phone calls every now and then. Andy's phone interviews with the publications in San Francisco and Indianapolis didn't pan out, and the independent LA paper she interview with just couldn't seem to get past the fact that she was willing to take a pay cut from her swanky government job.

By August, Andy had three interviews scheduled in New York, all back-to-back on a Friday, which she suspected Miranda had something to do with. She took a long weekend off work, and made arrangements to fly out Thursday morning. That way, she would have time to get settled before her early morning interview on Friday.

Of course, when Miranda learned of her plans, she insisted she stay the weekend with her at the townhouse. It simply wasn't up for discussion. Miranda would not let her spend her money on a hotel when she had four perfectly suitable spare bedrooms. It was the girls' week with their father, so they wouldn't even be home until Sunday evening when Andy would be on her flight back to Los Angeles.

Miranda took Thursday afternoon off and arranged to work from home on Friday (and Saturday, if needed). In all honesty, she was looking forward to spending time face-to-face with the young woman, but wanted to keep "work" as a back-up in the event that Andy had other plans, or if it was just too much, seeing her in person.

She called her several times Thursday morning, reminding her that she would have her car and driver waiting at the airport. Miranda debated whether or not to ride to LaGuardia with Roy, and finally decided to instead wait for Andy at the townhouse.

It was a good decision—taking the afternoon off. Even though Andy's flight wasn't scheduled to land until early evening, the editor spent the afternoon nervously pacing the hallways, checking that everything was set in the guest room, that her refrigerator was well-stocked, and that she had some extra clothes in the young woman's size just in case. That was actually easier to fulfill than she had expected. It seems there weren't many young women on her staff fighting over the size four or six clothes, especially the classic, simple wardrobe staples she knew the detective to favor.

Promptly, at 6:35 PM, Andy called Miranda to tell her that she was safely tucked into the backseat of the town car and would be arriving shortly. She was starving, and if it wasn't for Miranda's text message from earlier, promising lasagna and garlic bread, she would have been asking Roy to stop at the nearest McDonald's. She hoped Miranda wasn't the type to put a giant plate in front of her with some fancy presentation and like two square inches of food. She would certainly need more nourishment before her interviews.

Back at the townhouse, Miranda was anxiously waiting in the foyer, peering out the window. Her palms were sweaty and she knew there was nothing she could do to slow the beating of her heart. She was nervous, plain and simple. She checked and triple-checked herself in the mirror. She was wearing a cobalt blue knit summer dress and her pearl necklace, paired with casual white heeled sandals. Hair and makeup were impeccable—she went for understated, with a little lighter eye makeup than her usual evening look.

Today would be the first time Andy truly saw Miranda Priestly. The first time she saw her with makeup, with her hair styled, with fitted clothing, without bruises, and without tear-stained cheeks and puffy red eyes. Miranda took a deep breath and forced herself to exhale through her mouth. She was worried that she wouldn't live up to the image the young woman had of her.

Before she could let her mind wander down that road, she heard a car door close out front. She took a deep breath and slowly cracked the door open.

"Thanks, Roy, I've got it," Andy said, taking her small travel suitcase that he had just lifted out of the trunk. "Am I supposed to ring the doorbell?"

"No need. She's there. The door's open," he said.

Andy looked up the stairs, then back at Roy. It didn't look like the door was open.

"She doesn't bite—especially not you," Roy said with a chuckle. "Go on. She's been waiting for you all afternoon."

With that, Andy smiled and made her way up the steps. Sure enough, when she reached the top, the door cracked open before she could even lift her hand to knock. She carefully stepped inside and set her luggage down gently on the hardwood floor. "Hello?" she called.

Miranda slowly pushed the door shut and stood inches away from the young woman.

"Oh, hi," Andy said, smiling brightly and looking around the foyer.

"Andrea," Miranda said, reaching her hand out and touching the young woman's arm. Their eyes met for a split second, and Miranda immediately threw her arms around the woman's shoulders, burying her face in her neck as she squeezed her tight.

"You're really here, aren't you?" she whispered.

Andy felt the woman's breath against her neck and gently pushed her away just far enough so she could look in her eyes. "Yes, I'm really here, Miranda," she said.

"Oh god, I must look like a mess," Miranda said, turning and lifting her hand in front of her face. She blinked several times and looked up to the ceiling in an attempt to keep from crying.

"No, no. It's fine," she said, reaching down and taking Miranda's hands. "You look beautiful."

Miranda softly bit her lip as she blushed at the unexpected compliment.

Andy's stomach growled loudly, punctuating the awkward silence. "So, what's this you say about lasagna and garlic bread?" she asked.

Miranda smiled again and looked up at the young woman. "In the kitchen—follow me," she said.

Dinner was quiet and just a little bit tense as the two women were reacquainted under much different circumstances. Andy was a little hesitant to bring up anything remotely related to the assault, while Miranda was more than content just sitting in silence.

Almost immediately after dinner, Andy politely excused herself to take a shower and do a little bit more preparation for her interviews. She was nervous, especially since she was meeting with three prominent publications: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist.

Just before midnight, Miranda turned out the lights in her study and made her way to her bedroom, stopping briefly outside the guest bedroom. A sliver of light was creeping out beneath the door, and she could hear the detective practicing some interview questions aloud. She quietly stepped away from the door, then headed downstairs and made a cup of decaffeinated peppermint tea to bring upstairs to her guest.

"Andrea?" she called quietly as she knocked on the door. There was no response, so she gently pushed the door open and peered inside. The young woman was standing in front of the full-length mirror with her eyes closed, reciting something. "Andrea," she repeated, knocking on the doorframe again.

"Oh! Sorry, was I keeping you up?" Andy asked apologetically.

"No, not at all," Miranda said. "I was just turning in and noticed your light was on, so I thought I would bring some tea to help you sleep."

"Miranda, I don't feel at all prepared for these interviews tomorrow," Andy said, sitting indian-style on the bed and accepting the cup of tea from the older woman.

"I'm sure you'll be fine. At this point, sleep is probably more important than anything else."

Andy took a few sips of the hot tea and shrugged.

"Can I help you prepare in any way?" Miranda asked. She hesitated a little with that offer; she wasn't ready to reveal the Dragon Lady side of her quite so soon.

Andy took another long sip of tea, then set the cup and saucer down on the nightstand. "I think I need your advice. I keep getting stuck on the 'Why are you leaving law enforcement' question, and I think it's just obvious that I'm not even convinced by my answer," she said.

"Do you mind?" Miranda said, pointing to the bed. Andy shook her head, and Miranda took a seat, tucking one of her legs underneath her. "I can tell you that from the perspective of a hiring manager, that question is important because it reveals your motivation—not just for the position to which you've applied, but also in a more general sense," Miranda explained. "I could tell you I want to leave my job at a department store and become an editor of a fashion magazine because I love fashion. It's true. But if I said I was leaving the department store because I possess this unquenchable thirst for change and newness, and that I want to be the one defining the trends, not selling them two years later, well, then you would know a little more about how my brain works, what type of person I am."

"Yep, that makes sense," Andy said. "It's just more difficult for me to put it into words."

"Well, you probably don't want to say that, considering your primary job function would be putting things into words."

Andy smiled and shook her head. "So I told you how I moved out to L.A. after Katie died, right?"

"Yes. You were finishing your degree at Cornell, and went to be with Dave and Alexis."

"Right. Well, it was a little more complicated than that. I had a job offer with the newspaper in Buffalo. Two weeks after graduation, I would have my own desk and my own local news assignments. It was what I had been working towards for the past four years. Then my mother called me one night and told me my sister was missing. She couldn't fly out to California because she was taking care of my grandpa, so I went, without question," she said. She leaned back against the headboard before continuing.

"They thought it might have been a kidnapping, but there was no ransom note or call. After the first week, they basically gave up and told us she probably ran away to start a new life. I knew my sister, and I knew she would never do that—not to her two-year-old daughter. I pressed the police for the next week, and that's when they found her body. The police seemed to have given up on the case, and the local newspaper published a story about a woman who was attacked and killed when all she wanted to do was escape her life. It made me sick that they could write those things about my sister, and that no one cared to find out what really happened. One of the detectives on the case told me that if I wanted to find the guy so bad, I should apply to the police academy and at least get paid for looking. So, that's what I did."

Miranda reached out her hand and gently set it on Andy's knee. "Oh, sweetheart, I'm so sorry. That sounds like an incredibly painful experience—I can see why you didn't want to talk about it before. Can I ask, did you ever find who did it?"

"We did," Andy said. "It took a few years, but he's in jail and he's never getting out. But getting back to my dilemma…"

"Oh, right. The interviews," Miranda said. "Why do you want to leave law enforcement and go back to journalism? Just between us?"

"I'm ready to move on. I've matured. I've been disillusioned. The news is filled with awful stories, and it's a reporter's job to report the facts, and not to extrapolate. And also, everyone in the LAPD knows me as the girl whose sister was murdered. They were all supportive when we finally did catch the guy—and that was great, don't get me wrong—but they still look at me with pity. I don't want to be that person anymore. I don't want Katie's death to define me."

Miranda reached out and took Andy's hand. "Tomorrow, I think you need to tell them what you just told me. Not all the details, but enough that they get the point. That is powerful, my dear. Thank you for sharing that with me."

"I've never even told it to anyone—not like that," she said, wrapping her arms around herself.

Miranda stood from the bed and lifted the covers for Andy to crawl underneath. "You're shivering," she said as she retrieved an extra quilt from the hope chest at the end of the bed. "Try and get some rest tonight, okay? I'm sure tomorrow will go well. Do you need me to wake you? Roy will give you a ride wherever you need to go."

Andy tucked the covers under her chin. "No, I've got my alarm set. My first interview is at 9:30, so I'll leave around 8:45 if that's okay."

"Yes, of course. I'll give you a spare key, too, just in case. I'll let Roy know the plan, and then I guess I'll see you in the morning. Also, help yourself to anything you need here. My home is your home."

"Thanks, I appreciate it. You know what? This was just like one of our phone calls, but in person," Andy said with a smile.

"So it was."

"Goodnight, Miranda."

"Goodnight, Andrea," she said, turning out the light and exiting the room.

On Friday morning, Andy hardly spoke. Miranda could only hope it was a combination of her anxiety about the interviews and not being properly caffeinated. She sent the young woman a text message around noon, when she knew she had a break between interviews, just to say she was thinking of her, but received no response. In fact, she didn't hear from Andy all day until she walked through the front door at 5:30 PM.

Miranda was upstairs in her study, and as soon as she heard the door, she hurried down the stairs to meet her. "Hi," Miranda said, walking into the den and seeing Andy slouched against the couch cushions. "Rough day?"

"Oh, shit," she said, quickly sitting up straight. "I'm sorry—I didn't realize you were home."

"I worked from my home office today," she said. "You can go back to laying how you were. I don't mind, and you looked fairly comfortable. Do you mind if I join you?" she asked. Andy's eyes widened, and Miranda quickly clarified, "Here, in the den, I mean. May I sit here?" she said, pointing to the armchair in the corner.

"Of course," Andy said, taking a deep breath. "Look, I know you want to hear all about the interviews—and they were fine, really—I just need a few minutes."

"I understand. While you're resting, can I order something for dinner? It's my housekeeper's weekend off since Caroline and Cassidy are with their father, and I'm afraid I was actually quite busy today and didn't have a chance to cook. Or, if you prefer, we can go out to eat," she said.

"No. Let's order something. I'll eat anything—except strawberries in a savory dish," Andy said.

"Well, that is specific. I'll call an order into Smith & Wollensky then," she said, getting up and ordering their dinner. Andy fell asleep until the doorbell rang, then quickly headed upstairs to wash up while Miranda set the table in the dining room.

Dinner conversation was light and Miranda was relieved. Andy told her all about the interviews, and Miranda bemoaned working with Lucas, one of Patrick's newest assistants. They shared two bottles of wine, and then took their conversation to the upstairs den, where Andy wanted to watch the new episode of Shark Tank.

As the night—and their conversation—wore on, they drifted closer to one another on the couch until their legs were touching. Andy draped her arm over the woman's shoulders, and she laid her head on Andy's chest.

"Why is there a tenth inning?" Miranda asked as she looked at the television screen. It seemed like they were watching the Mets-Dodgers game all night.

"A game has nine innings. If it's tied, it goes into extra innings, and they play until there's an unanswered run," Andy said.

Miranda shrugged. "Baseball is confusing."

Andy laughed and sat up, stretching. "It's almost one in the morning," she said. "I need to go to bed." For a split second, she thought she saw a pout on the older woman's face. "Are you still watching this?" she asked, pointing the remote control at the screen.

"No, I'm going to bed, too," Miranda said, sitting up and yawning. Andy turned off the television and made her way to the door. "I'm getting spoiled having you here," Miranda said. "What would you like to do tomorrow?"

Andy gently bit her lower lip, a gesture Miranda recognized to be something she did when she was feeling guilty. "Actually, I have plans to visit my mom tomorrow. I was hoping to catch the Metro North up to Poughkeepsie by 10:00, spend the afternoon with her, and then head back here after dinner."

"Oh, well…I guess you already have your plans."

Andy's heart sank at the disappointment in Miranda's voice. She should have realized the woman was looking forward to spending the day with her.

"Well, I need to go to bed," Miranda said.

"Wait," Andrea said, grabbing her arm before she walked out of the room.

"What?" Miranda hissed.

"Come with me."


"Come with me," Andy repeated. "To Poug. We can walk around a little, have lunch, then I'll go visit my mom and take her to an early dinner, then we can do whatever you want all evening. How does that sound?"

"Why would you have lunch with me and an early dinner with her?" Miranda asked.

Andy rolled her eyes. "Seriously? You've known me for how long and you still don't know that my stomach is a bottomless pit?"

Miranda's lips curled upwards as she tried—and failed—to hide her smirk.

"So, would you want to join me? I promise I won't make you visit with my mother."

"How do you know I don't want to meet her?" Miranda asked.

"Well, for one, she would ask how we met." Andy paused for a few seconds. "And she has some early-onset dementia. I talked to my step-dad last week and he said the medication she's been taking is helping, but I knew he was trying to prepare me. I honestly don't know what to expect—and I would never want to drag you or anyone else into that situation."

"Oh, I'm sorry—I didn't know."

"It's okay. I know you didn't know, because I didn't tell you," Andy said, smiling. She reached down and took Miranda's hand. "Will you come, then?"

"Yes, but only if you let Roy drive us," Miranda said. "Acceptable?"


"Good. You just get some sleep, and I'll wake you up in the morning with something to fill that bottomless pit of yours," she added with a wink.

When she was settled in her own bedroom, she instantly missed the young woman's presence. She knew better than to let herself get too attached—especially since Andrea was leaving on Sunday—but she couldn't help enjoying the company.

Miranda quickly sent an email off to Nigel and Emily, informing them she would be taking Saturday off, and she told Emily to make sure Roy was available at the townhouse at ten o'clock.

As she crawled into bed, she couldn't help but think about the young woman in the room at the other end of the hall. Four months ago, Andy was the one helping her through one of the most difficult times of her life. She was gentle and genuinely kind, and it was something Miranda hadn't experienced from another human being in a very long time. But now, in just twenty-four hours, the young woman revealed a surprising depth—that wasn't to say Miranda thought her shallow, she was simply so focused on herself for those months that it didn't occur to her that the young woman may have faced more than her share of disappointment in life.

Something about that made Miranda see the young woman differently, as more of an equal. She possessed a maturity that was entirely based on experience, not age. And to Miranda, that was a breath of fresh air.

The ride out to Poughkeepsie was uneventful. Andy wasn't a morning person, and despite the delicious banana pancakes Miranda prepared for breakfast, she still wasn't feeling very talkative in the car.

Regardless, the two women quietly enjoyed each other's presence as Andy gently leaned against Miranda for most of the way.

Once they arrived, both women took the opportunity to get out and stretch a little, taking a short walk along the Hudson River. They walked through town a bit, then stopped for lunch at a small bistro.

"Andrea, are you okay?" Miranda finally asked as she was finishing her chicken wrap.

"What? Sure. I'm fine."

"Can I ask you something without you getting upset?"

Andy shrugged and continued eating her club sandwich.

"You're nervous to see your mother, I can tell. Why?"

Andy looked up at her. "Seriously? Why? My mom is crazy. She isn't herself—she's not the woman who raised me. And…and dementia like that is genetic."

Miranda reached out and grabbed Andy's hand. "Darling, I'm so sorry. What can I do?" she asked.

Andy shrugged again. "Nothing. I don't know. I mean, I have no idea what to expect."

"Well, try to think positive," Miranda said. "And if it's too much, the car will be just around the corner." Miranda's phone buzzed, and after a quick glance, she tossed it back into her purse.

Andy looked at the phone, then back up at Miranda. "You can answer that."

"No. I just needed to make sure it wasn't my daughters or their father. Whatever crisis is going on at work, I will handle it later," she said.

"I shouldn't have brought you here. I'm sorry," Andy said, pushing her plate away.

"Nonsense." Miranda took the young woman's plate and carried them to the bin in the corner by the counter. She returned to the table to retrieve her purse. "Why don't we stop at that little florist's shop around the corner and you can bring some flowers to your mother?"

"She's not really a flower person," Andy said.

"Andrea, I also doubt you're a 'flower person,' but everyone appreciates the gesture."

Twenty minutes later, Andy was walking up the driveway of the home she grew up in, carrying a bouquet of tulips. Miranda instructed Roy to park on the street around the corner from her mother's home, as she didn't want to attract any undue attention. Miranda reluctantly pulled out her phone to deal with whatever was happening at Runway.

"Nigel, bring me up to speed," Miranda said.

"We've narrowed down a list for the 'Behind the Scenes' feature—it's gotta be either Stefano & Domenico or Donatella again. We don't have time to rework the 'Italian Inspiration' pages, and at this point, the colors are set, so—"

"Nigel," Miranda interrupted. "Remind me why we are replacing Vittorio's interview?"

"Oh god, you didn't get my messages."

"I received your messages, but I thought this would be quicker. Apparently I was wrong."

"Sorry. Um, he's missing. The plane vanished off the grid. Angela seems to think he's been kidnapped, but…well…regardless, he didn't make it to New York."

Miranda sighed. "Have Emily message me Angela's number. I'll call you back in a few minutes to talk about our options, as I'd rather not re-use Donatella." She ended the call and dialed Vittorio's sister. This was going to be a long afternoon.

Several hours later, Miranda was once again on the phone with Nigel. Her eyes were closed as she leaned back against the headrest, so she didn't notice Andy until she opened the car door.

"—Nigel, I have to go. Email me an update by 10:00 PM. That's all." She quickly ended the call and turned towards the young woman who was staring out the window and biting her thumbnail. Roy started the car, and Miranda watched as tears streamed down the young woman's cheeks. "Oh, sweetheart," she said, softly rubbing the girl's arm. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Andy swallowed and ran her fingers through her hair. "She thought I was Katie. She sat there and told me how disappointed she was in Andy, how something's not right with her and she wishes she would snap out of it."

Miranda's eyes widened and she bit her lip. A disapproving mother, she understood. Dementia, not so much. Regardless, she knew there wasn't much she could say or do to fix this situation. "I'm so sorry, Andrea," she said. As the young woman began to cry, Miranda wrapped her arm around her and hugged her tightly, letting her cry against her shoulder.

After an hour of Miranda's quiet reassurance and gentle embrace, Andy sat up and wiped her eyes, pushing herself away from the older woman.

"Why are you doing this?" she asked.

"What?" Miranda said. "I'm sorry, I don't understand."

"Why are you being so nice to me? Driving me in your car, putting me up in your house? I don't get it."

"Andrea, after everything you did for me, it's the least I could do."

"Great, you're just paying me back," she said, rolling her eyes. "I think I should stay in a hotel tonight."

"No. That's not what I meant! Andrea, I care about you. A lot, in fact," Miranda said. More than you know.

"But I'm just a nobody. I'm a cop in Los Angeles, living in a 600-square-foot studio, with student loans and a rent I can hardly pay. I'm a disappointment to my own mother, and I'm just going to go crazy like her anyway. In fact, maybe I already am."

"Andrea, please look at me. I will only say this once," Miranda said. When the young woman turned her head and looked up, she continued. "Yes, I am privileged. I have more money than I know what to do with, even after putting aside small fortunes for each of my daughters. I sometimes feel like I have the world at my fingertips. There are hundreds of people in my social circles that I could choose to befriend—and sometimes, for business-related reasons, I do. But for all the money in the world, I couldn't find someone like you, Andrea. You're intelligent and generous and beautiful and compassionate. I am genuinely enchanted by your personality, and I would be honored to have you as a friend."

Andy sat quietly for a few minutes, studying her fingernails. "That was a nice speech, Miranda, but you don't want me as your friend," she said.

"Honey, I know you just had a difficult visit with your mother. I don't know exactly what she said, but I can tell it upset you. Please," she said, squeezing Andy's hand, "don't stay in a hotel tonight. I'll leave you alone if that's what you want, but—"

"No. It's not what I want," she said. "I'm sorry. I'm not thinking straight. You've been so…it's just difficult to process. I'm sorry."

"It's okay. I seem to remember someone once saying 'all is forgiven,'" she said with a smile. She leaned back against the corner of the backseat and softly tugged Andy's hand. "Come here. We'll be home in about thirty minutes, so let's just relax."

Andy laid her head on Miranda's chest. "I'm really sorry," she said.

"Shh, none of that," Miranda said.

Later that night, after Andy insisted on a New York-style pizza much to Miranda's chagrin, the two women spent some time apart. Miranda was still dealing with the crisis over next month's feature in the magazine, and Andy was a taking a nice hot bath after a stressful day.

At 11:30 PM, Miranda closed her computer and decided to turn in. As she walked past the guest room, since the door was cracked, she peered in to see if the young woman might like some company, but what she saw practically took her breath away. Andy was standing next to the bed, wearing a pair of tiny boxer shorts and trying to wrangle a ribbed tank top over her head. The tank top appeared to be stuck on the towel she had wrapped around her hair, but that wasn't what Miranda noticed. It was her skin, the two dimples in her lower back that she couldn't take her eyes away from. She felt a flutter in her abdomen and a slight tightening between her legs. Before she startled the young woman, she silently darted down the hall to her bedroom.

She looked at herself in the bathroom mirror and decided she was losing her mind. Just a few months ago, she was assaulted. Sex was the last thing on her mind, and her body agreed. Except just now, when she walked past a half-naked Andrea. Her body reacted involuntarily to the young woman, and she was unsure what to make of it, not to mention the fact that Andy was, well, a woman. Somehow, that seemed to be the least of her concerns. Before she could let her mind wander any further, there was a knock at her door.

"Miranda? Can I come in?"

"Uhh, I was just going to jump into the shower," she called, changing into her bathrobe. She opened the door and greeted the young woman, silently congratulating her for untangling the tank top. "Yes?"

"So, my flight leaves at two tomorrow, and I was thinking on heading to the airport around 11:30 or so. Did you want to do anything in the morning?" she asked. "I mean, if you're busy, that's fine, I just thought…"

"I'm not busy. I usually spend my Sunday mornings in bed reading the papers and working the crossword. You're welcome to join me," she said. "Oh!" she blushed and bit her lip. "I mean, on the couch or at the kitchen table or something."

Andy chuckled. "Great. What time do your Sundays usually begin?"

"Let's say 8:30. Does that work?"

"Yes. I'll see you then. Oh, and Miranda?" she said, "Thank you again for everything today. I'm sorry I let my insecurities show, and, well, just thank you for being so kind. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Andrea."

Miranda closed the door and made her way to the bathroom. Whatever was going on, it was happening entirely too quickly. She took a deep breath and locked her bathroom door before stepping out of her robe. "This will go away," she said to herself. "She's leaving tomorrow, and things will go back to normal."

Except, the minute she spoke those words, she was almost certain 'normal' would never be the same.


The following morning was relaxed, but comfortable as the women passed different sections of the paper back and forth. They were sitting in the armchairs on her second-floor study, and the patio doors were open, letting a slightly warm breeze fill the room. Miranda woke early that morning and dressed—jeans and a loose, summery blouse. She wasn't about to let things get any more complicated. She needed things to change direction.

Andy, she learned, was a walking encyclopedia. So many facets of one's knowledge never have a chance to surface during casual conversation, but crossword puzzles—now, that was something else entirely. Andy possessed an incredible wealth of knowledge over practically every subject. In Jeopardy! terms—and this only came to mind because 29-across was "Alex of game show fame"—she would have been completely comfortable with the first three answers in any category. She seemed to know more detail about history, but all in all, it was quite remarkable. Miranda was relieved that she would have more to discuss with the young woman on the phone, now. (And also, opportunities to change the direction of the conversation if it should get off track.)

Promptly at 11:25, Andy came downstairs and set her bag and suitcase in the foyer. Miranda was sitting at the kitchen counter, reading a text message from her ex-husband explaining that they were back in the city, but she quickly set the phone down when the young woman cleared her throat.

"All set?"

"Yes, thank you again for your hospitality," Andy said, walking over to the kitchen. "I apologize that my own troubles spilled over into your weekend. I'd prefer we didn't talk about me anymore."

Miranda looked at her with an expression the young woman could not read. She nodded once. "You will let me know when you hear back about the interviews?" she asked, standing from the stool.

"Yes, yes. Of course," she said. She reached over and hugged Miranda.

"Take care of yourself, Andrea," she said, returning the embrace. "You are a remarkable young woman," she said. She kissed her softly on her temple as she pulled away.

"Stop," Andrea said, pushing back and looking away. "Miranda, you can't do this to me. You can't tease me like that. Jesus."

"What?" she asked, completely confused.

"Kissing my cheek. I'm attracted to women. You can't just do that to me and not expect a response. It's just not fair."

Miranda softly chewed her lower lip. She was trying not to smile, but something about knowing the young woman's preferences relieved her. "I didn't know. It was not my intent to make you uncomfortable," she said. "It's a habit. Whenever my daughters leave for school or their father's, I hug them and kiss them like that. Please don't look into it," she added for safe measure.

Andy opened her mouth to say something else, but the shrill ring of Miranda's cell phone—a tone signaling a call from one of her daughters—interrupted them entirely. She motioned towards Andy and excused herself to take the call in the other room, returning seconds later.

"Cassidy has asked me to come pick them up im-meeeee-diately," she said, imitating her eleven-year-old daughter's voice. "Do you mind if I ride with you to the airport? That way I can just head right over to James' house."

"Oh, I can take a cab—I don't want to interfere," Andy said.

"No, it's alright. James lives in Queens, so it's on the way. And Cassidy is exaggerating. She's upset because he asked her and Caroline to help him water flowers and pull weeds in the garden," Miranda said with a chuckle.

In the car, Andy asked more about Miranda's girls. She knew a little about them from their nightly conversations, but Miranda always seemed reluctant to provide too much information. Today, though, talking about her daughters seemed like the best idea in the world. Kids were always a safe subject.

Before long, Roy pulled up to Andy's terminal and stepped out to get her bag from the trunk and set it on the sidewalk.

"Miranda, thank you again for everything," she said. "Tell them I'm sorry I missed them," she said.

"I will. Text me when you land, okay?"

"I will. Bye," Andy said, stepping out of the car and closing the door. A second later, she opened the door again and moved back inside, placing one knee on the seat as she moved closer to Miranda. Before the woman could react, Andy cupped her cheek and kissed her softly on the cheek. "Take care of yourself," she said, slipping out and shutting the door behind her.

Miranda sat ramrod straight in the backseat as her heart raced. She reached up and ghosted her fingertips over her cheek and she could still feel the outline of the young woman's lips. They were soft and smooth and gentle and—no. This could not be happening. She simply was not falling for Andrea Sachs.

"Where's Andrea? Did we miss her?" Cassidy said, climbing into the backseat next to Miranda.

Miranda pulled her hand from her cheek and turned to her daughters.

"See, Cass, I told you that it wasn't her," Caroline said.

"Girls, what is going on?"

"We wanted to meet your friend Andrea—the one you always talk to on the phone."

"Dad said someone from LA was staying with you and we were hoping it was Andrea," Cassidy explained. "Who was it?"

"I see I need to speak with your father about privacy," Miranda said.

"Does that mean you didn't want anyone to know? Like a secret?" Caroline asked.

Miranda's eyes widened. Admitting that would certainly be like admitting she was embarrassed by or ashamed of Andy, which she absolutely was not. "No, Bobbsey. I just meant that I would prefer he doesn't tell you things that it's my place to tell you." She took a deep breath and stared at twin sets of blue eyes. "Okay, yes, I did have someone from Los Angeles staying at our house this weekend, and yes, it was my friend Andrea. Remember I told you she was trying to get a job as a journalist? She had some interviews on Friday, and since I knew our house would be practically empty, I offered her the guest room so she could save money on a hotel."

"What did you guys do? Did you go out to dinner?"

"Did you watch any movies?"

"Did you make her breakfast?"

"My darlings, she was here on business, so no, we did not go for dinner or watch movies. I did make breakfast for her, though, because when you have a guest staying with you, that is what you do." Miranda wanted to remove any implications of a relationship from the girls' minds, since she herself wasn't sure what was going on.

"What did you make her?"

"Banana pancakes, and then french toast."

Caroline's jaw dropped. "Mom, you only ever make those for us!"

"Darling, I hate to inform you, but I don't know how to make too many breakfast foods. I'm not a chef. And also, since we gave Cara the week off, the refrigerator was pretty empty."

"Oh," Caroline said. "Uh, do you still have enough bananas and stuff to make more for us?"

"It's noon—didn't you eat at your father's?"

"Yeah, but, um, he doesn't cook at all. We had cereal."

Miranda smiled. Despite her lack of cooking skills, she would always be better than James in the kitchen. And her girls knew it. "How about we have pancakes tomorrow? Cereal is a perfectly healthy breakfast," she said.

Roy pulled the car to a stop outside the house. "Okay, help Roy bring your bags inside. And I want everything in the laundry hamper—don't even think about putting it back in your closet!" she called after them.

Later that afternoon, Caroline was reading a book on the couch while Cassidy was playing on her iPad. Miranda, too, was reviewing the Book since Emily dropped it off earlier that day with the revision to the designer feature.

"Mom, how did you and Andy meet?" Cassidy asked.

"Darling, I told you. I met her when I was in LA for the Edith Head exhibit at the Getty Museum."

"I know, but I mean, she's a detective, right? Why was she there?"

Miranda could feel the panic rising in her throat. With the choice between lying to her daughters and telling them she was raped, well, there really was no choice. "She was working security for the event," she said. Looking up at Cassidy, she could see that she wasn't buying that answer. "And," Miranda said with a sigh, "she had on these horrific Doc Martens from 1997. I may have commented on them."

"Mom! Those are classic Docs. You can't just walk up to people and tell them you don't like their shoes!" Caroline said, joining the conversation.

"You can't. But, as Editor-in-Chief of the top fashion magazine in the United States, I can," she said with a smile.

"Remind me never to bring any boyfriends home. Ever," Caroline said, digging back into her book.

"What made you ask that, honey?" Miranda asked Cassidy.

"I was reading something online and saw a bunch of pictures from the Getty. I saw you and Stephen, but didn't see Andrea anywhere."

"Sweetheart, we've talked about this. I don't want you looking at these photos online. I know it's hard. I don't mind if you read an article about Selena Gomez or whichever celebrity you like, but we do not read the stories about the people in this house. Got it?"

Cassidy rolled her eyes. "Yeah, I remember. We're not the Kardashians," she said.

"You two look tired. Why don't you go upstairs and get cleaned up, then maybe we can watch a movie in bed," Miranda said.

"I call bathtub!" Cassidy shouted, tossing her iPad on the sofa and sprinting up the stairs.

"Not fair! I got stuck with the shower last time!" Caroline groaned.

"Bobbsey, come here," Miranda said, setting the Book on the ground. She hugged her daughter and kissed her on the cheek. "I missed you and your sister while you were with Dad. It was lonely here."

Caroline hugged her tightly and kissed her back on the cheek.

"Baby, you can use my bathtub if you'd like," Miranda said, pressing a soft kiss to her daughter's hair. "And you can use my bubble bath and shampoo, too."

"Aw, yes! You're the best, Mom!" she said, hugging her tightly then running upstairs.

Miranda made her way into the kitchen for a glass of wine. There was nothing open, and she didn't want to bother with a corkscrew, so she returned to the den and poured herself a glass of bourbon. She sat staring at the wall, where a replica of one of her favorite Klimt pieces hung.

Her thoughts drifted back to the young woman and the feel of her lips against her skin. It was such an unfamiliar feeling, she couldn't determine whether or not it really felt good. It was something she would certainly need to feel again to be sure. She blushed at the thought and pressed her lips again to her glass, allowing the liquid to seep down her throat, leaving a warm, tingling sensation in its wake.

The sound of Caroline's voice quietly reverberated throughout the den, which was directly below the master bath. The young girl was singing, and it brought a smile to Miranda's lips.

Her phone buzzed with an incoming text: Back in LA. Thanks again, talk soon. x

Miranda smiled and quickly wrote back: Thanks for letting me know. By the way, what does 'x' mean? -MP

She received an immediate response: x = kiss, o = hug. -A xox

Miranda's face flushed as the thought of kissing Andrea seeped into her mind. No, not just kissing. A hug sandwiched between two kisses…

"No," she said aloud, standing from the couch. She carried her glass to the kitchen and poured the remaining amber liquid down the drain. It was clearly affecting her better judgment. She took a few deep breaths and decided that she, too was tired and should go check on the girls.

Cassidy was finished with her bath and dressed in her nightgown with her hair in a towel as she brushed her teeth.

"Sweetie, would you like me to dry your hair?" Miranda asked. She desperately needed the distraction, and was not often able to spend time like this with her daughter one-on-one.

"Sure," she said. She took the towel off her hair and hung it on the rack to dry, then sat indian-style on the floor. Miranda kneeled behind her and pulled the dryer out of the basket under the sink. She pulled the top half of Cassidy's hair up in a clip and began combing through the bottom half.

"Want me to blow it straight?"

"Yes, please."

Miranda nodded and started the dryer. Both her girls had long, curly hair, but Cassidy always wanted hers straight. Miranda remembered that as a child, she wanted just the opposite. Her hair was straight, and she always loved when her mother would put it up in curlers the night before a special occasion. As she continued drying, she thought about her mother. When she was a little girl, her mother always seemed so much older and she wished for something like an older sister—even an aunt or a cousin. Was that how Caroline and Cassidy looked at her now? She wanted to think they didn't, but she could only imagine what the girls' friends said about her. Some of their mothers were in their early thirties. She could practically be their grandmother.

"Ow!" Cassidy said, jerking her head away. "Mom, that was burning me."

"Oh, sweetie, I'm so sorry," she said, switching the dryer to 'cool' and blowing on her scalp. "I'm almost finished. Can you reach the dry oil?"

Cassidy pulled the Aveda Dry Oil from the cabinet. "Tell me when you're ready," she said.

Miranda turned off the dryer. "All set," she said, holding her hand out. Cassidy squirted some oil into Miranda's hand and Miranda softly ran it through her daughter's hair. "So beautiful, my baby," she said when she finished.

Cassidy stood and faced the mirror while Miranda used the vanity to help pull herself to her feet. Her knees were killing her, but she didn't want Cassidy to feel bad.

"Mom, I'm almost as tall as you," she said. "With my hair poofy like this, I'm as tall as your shoulders!"

"It's volume, darling, not 'poofy,' and I don't want you growing up so fast." She wrapped her arms around her from behind and kissed her on the cheek.

Cassidy rolled her eyes. "We'll always be your babies, Mom," she said, turning around and hugging her. "Thanks for doing my hair."

"You're welcome, darling. Did you still want to watch a movie?"

"No, I think I'm just going to play on my iPad for a while then go to bed. Is that okay?"

"Of course. I think I hear your sister in her room already. Goodnight, Cassidy. I love you."

"Goodnight, Mom. Love you, too," she said, crawling into bed. Miranda shut the door quietly, then walked through the bathroom to her other daughter's room. "Caroline?"

"Hi Mom," she said. "Are we still going to watch a movie?"

"Maybe tomorrow. Your sister is tired, and I have to go in early tomorrow morning," she said, remembering her 6:30 AM appointment with Gwendolyn. "Sweet dreams, darling," she said, kissing Caroline on the forehead. "I'll come say bye before I leave for work."

As she closed Caroline's door and made her way to her bedroom, she felt utterly exhausted, despite not doing much at all during the day. She proceeded to pick up the towels that Caroline left on her bathroom floor, then washed her face and crawled into bed, knowing her alarm would go off at 4:45 AM.

She drifted to sleep thinking of the young detective in Los Angeles—of her lips, her hands, her arms, and what it would feel like to have her arms around her while she slept…

"No! STOP!" she screamed, jumping up into a sitting position.

She quickly turned on her bedside lamp and reached for her phone. Her heart was beating a mile a minute, and there were tears streaming down her eyes, though she didn't remember crying. Just…

"Miranda? What's wrong?" Andy answered on the second ring.

"I—I—he was—" she hiccuped from crying so hard.

"It's okay, Miranda, it was just a dream," Andy said reassuringly. Her voice sounded lower, and Miranda realized she must have woke her up. "Take a deep breath, and turn a light on. It was just a dream."

"Okay," she said, "okay, I'm breathing."

"Do you want to talk about it?" Andy asked.

"He was—he pushed my dress up and over my face. I was trapped. I couldn't see anything or move my arms, and I—"


Miranda froze and turned to the young girl standing at the foot of her bed.

"Are you okay, Mom? I heard a scream."

"Andrea, I'm sorry, I have to go," Miranda said.

"Wait—can I talk to her?" Caroline asked.

Miranda just shrugged and handed over the phone. She was still so shaken from her nightmare, she couldn't fully process everything around her.

"Hi Andrea? This is Caroline."

"Oh, hi, Caroline. Call me Andy. Your mom has told me a lot about you," she said.

"Okay, Andy. Really? Like what?"

"Well, now's not the time," Andy said. "Your mom just had a really bad dream, and she's pretty scared. Have you ever had a bad dream?"

"Yeah, once—it was bad."

"Okay. Well your mom needs you to help her feel safe, okay? Just like she probably made you feel safe after your dream, right?"


"Okay, can you do something for me, Caroline? Hug her and kiss her and tell her it was just a dream. Tell her you love her and that the bad guys aren't there anymore. Will you do that?"

"Yep, will do."

"Okay, kiddo. Maybe we can talk again later, but I think your mom needs you now."

"'Kay. Thanks Andy," Caroline said, ending the call and putting the phone back on the table. "Move over," she said to Miranda.

"What?" Miranda asked as she slid over towards the center of the bed.

"I'm going to sleep with you tonight just like you did when I had that bad dream," Caroline said proudly. "It was just a dream, Mom," she said as she crawled into bed and hugged her tightly. "There are no bad guys here. Just me. I'll protect you," she said, kissing Miranda softly on the cheek.

"Oh, baby, I love you so much," Miranda gushed. "I'm sorry that I woke you up. It was a really bad dream."

"It's okay," Caroline said with a shrug. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Miranda hugged her daughter just a little bit tighter. "Not really. There was a man and he was trying to hurt me, and then I woke up," she said.

"Like I said, no bad guys here. Just go back to sleep, and I'll keep you safe, okay?"

"Anything you say, darling," she said, pressing a kiss to her daughter's soft hair.

That morning, when Miranda's alarm went off, she practically carried her still-sleeping daughter into her bedroom and tucked her into bed, reassuring her that everything was okay and she was getting ready to head to work. She scribbled a note to each of her daughters, telling them to have a good day with Cara and that she would be home for dinner, and above all else, telling them how much she loved them.

Unfortunately, she knew she needed this meeting with her therapist more than ever today, so she sent Emily a note that she would be in later this morning than expected.

Her thirty-minute session turned into a ninety-minute session, and even then, Gwendolyn only had to cut it short because she had other patients waiting. "Miranda, I really think you should consider talking to your daughters. They're going to be teenagers soon, and sadly, I'm sure they already know a little bit about sex and rape. It's everywhere on television and in the media, no matter how you protect them. Regardless, whatever you're doing now isn't working, so you have to change something."

"How can I ask my girls to do that for me? They're so young and innocent. They should be relying on me, not the other way around," Miranda said.

"It sounds like Caroline at least wants to be there for you, too. Mother-daughter relationships are complicated. When they're children, they rely on you for everything, when they're adults, you rely on them. It's a spectrum, and there's no right or wrong. Without another parent in the household, you're all sort of a team, helping each other with whatever," she said.

"But James is an active part of their lives—"

"But not yours, Miranda," she said. "Who do you have?"

"Andrea," Miranda said without a second thought. "But she's three thousand miles away."

"Well, then you have a choice: find a way to be closer to Andrea so you don't need to rely on the girls, or let the girls help you out in Andrea's absence."

"It sounds so simple when you say it."

"Nothing ever is, Miranda. You know that. Now, I'm sorry, but I really do have to go. Our next appointment is tomorrow afternoon. Do you need to see me again before that?"

"No," Miranda said. "I'll be fine. Thank you."

"Good. I have every confidence that you have an incredible support system, Miranda, if you'll just let others know what you're feeling. Don't be afraid to let others in, and don't presume that because they're your family, they already know."

Miranda nodded and walked out of the room.

Her day at Runway was busy, considering she'd taken some time away from the magazine over the weekend. Once the meetings were through, she called for her coat and bag. There were no deadlines that night, and whatever was on her desk could wait until tomorrow.

In the car, she fought the urge to call Andy. The young woman messaged her earlier in the day with a simple smiley face and she hadn't responded. She was grateful for the young woman, but after talking through things this morning, she was beginning to think her conflicted feelings for the young woman are what brought about the nightmare in the first place. Plus, Andy had enough to deal with between her mother and her niece. She decided she would sit down with her girls this afternoon and have a little talk.

When she returned to the townhouse, the girls each had left notes for her. Cassidy's explained that they were going to the park with Cara, and that they might met up with their friends, but would be home for dinner at 6:30. Caroline's said she hoped she had a good day at work and was looking forward to dinner—Cara was marinating kebabs, and she knew it was her favorite.

Miranda shook her head at the thoughtful notes from her daughters. Since they likely wouldn't be home for another forty-five minutes, she kicked off her shoes, tossed her suit jacket on the armchair, and untucked her blouse, curling up on the couch for a quick nap.

And it was a very quick nap. Her eyes had only been closed for fifteen minutes when she gasped and bolted up. It was the same dream, only this time, she woke the minute she realized she was pinned down. Out of instinct, she reached for her phone and called Andrea.

"Hey, Miranda, what's up?" she answered.

"I hate these fucking nightmares," Miranda said. "When are they going to stop?"

"Oh, wow. Another one?" Andy said. She could hear the frustration in her voice.

"Yes. It was the same. I—I can't even close my eyes."

"Did you get to talk with Gwen this morning?" Andy asked.

"Yes. She wants me to tell the girls about the rape. I think I'm going to. That's why I came home early, actually."

"Oh, wow. Well, from what I can tell, I think Caroline will be okay. She wants to help you, and she'll take it seriously."

"I know. My Cassidy, though, she's not as mature as her sister."

"Have you thought about telling anyone else? Like that Nigel guy you work with? Or even your assistant?" Andy asked.

"I will absolutely not say anything to Emily. But Nigel, well, we were friends long ago. There have been some, uh, business decisions I've had to make in recent years that seem to have driven us apart."

"Well, if he cared about you once, he probably still does."

"Do you, Andrea? Care about me, that is?" Miranda asked. "Because obviously I shouldn't be pushing all this on you."

"Yes, of course I care about you! How could you ask that? I thought we already had this conversation. I wasn't just doing my job, I really do care. And after yesterday morning, I mean, I thought…"

Before Miranda could answer, her daughters burst through the front door, running into the kitchen.

"I've got to go. The girls are home," she said.

"Okay. Take care. I'll keep my fingers crossed everything goes well," Andy said.

Miranda ended the call and got up to join her daughters who were getting some water from the refrigerator. "Did you have a good day, my darlings?" she asked. "Can we go sit in the living room? There's something I want to talk to you about."

Both girls nodded and followed Miranda, taking up a seat on the couch. "What is it, Mom?" Caroline asked with concern in her eyes.

Miranda smiled and took each of her girls' hands, sitting on the ottoman across from them. "My darlings, I love you and will always support you, no matter what poor decisions you make or what questionable situations you find yourselves involved in. We're a family, and that's what we do for each other. Got it?"

Both girls nodded, unsure of what Miranda was about to say.

"Okay," Miranda said, taking a deep breath. "So remember when I went to Los Angeles with Stephen?"

"Yeah, when you met Andy," Caroline said.

"Yes. Well, when I got back to my hotel room after the party at the Getty, there was—" she paused and took a deep breath. "There was a burglar in the room, and he attacked me. He—he made it so I couldn't move my arms or see anything. He hurt me, but I—I'm okay. I'm here."

Cassidy started crying, so Miranda moved onto the couch and took her in her arms. "Sweetheart, why are you crying? I'm okay. Look at me," she said, tilting her eldest daughter's chin upwards. "It's okay," she said.

"What if he would have hurt you really bad?" Cassidy said. "You could have died."

"None of these what-ifs," Miranda said. "Now, I met Andrea once Stephen called the police. She was one of the officers that came to the hotel, and she went with me to the hospital and held my hand while the doctors did tests to make sure I was okay."

"You were in the hospital and didn't tell us?" Caroline said. "Mom!"

"Sweetheart, I'm sorry. I didn't want to talk about it to anyone. Andrea already knew, so that's how I started talking to her so much. Also, you two are only eleven years old. I didn't want to burden you with my troubles."

"Is this what the nightmare was about?" Caroline asked.

Miranda nodded.

"What nightmare?" Cassidy said.

"Last night, I woke up screaming from a nightmare. Your sister woke up, and came to sleep with me and make me feel better," Miranda said, hugging Caroline.

"Mom, I would have done that. I didn't hear you," Cassidy said.

"I know you would have, sweetheart. This isn't even about that. I just wanted you girls to know a little about what happened so we can all be honest with each other. It's just us three, and we have to be there for one another," she said, hugging them both.

"Are you going to get married again?" Cassidy asked.

"Probably not," Miranda said, "but I can't answer that with certainty. Even if I do bring someone else into our lives, we will still be here for each other, okay? It might be four someday, but it will always be the three of us."

Later that week, Caroline and Cassidy were sitting on Miranda's bed, watching a movie while Miranda reviewed the Book. Miranda rarely used the television in her room, but when the girls asked to join her, she couldn't say no. Ever since she told them about the assault, one or both of them had been asking to sleep with her at night. Secretly, she loved having them with her. The nightmares were far more infrequent, and Caroline was good about waking her up before it got too intense. They would be starting school again at the end of the month, and Miranda knew this couldn't continue through the school year.

Just as she closed the Book and set it on her nightstand, her phone rang.


"Hi, can you talk?" Andy asked.

"Not really. The girls are with me," Miranda said, looking over at two sleep redheads.

"Is that Andy?" Caroline asked, sitting up.

"Yes, I'll be off the phone in a minute," Miranda said, covering the mouthpiece.

"Can we talk to her?"

"Oh, I don't think tonight's a good night."

"Miranda, put me on speaker," Andy said.


"Yeah. Actually, are you on your new iPhone?" Andy asked.


"Okay. Cool. I'm going to hang up and call you back. Give me a second."

Miranda ended the call and stared at the device in her hand for a few seconds until it started ringing again. She answered and pulled the phone to her ear. "Hello?"

"Hi Miranda, hi Caroline and Cassidy. Miranda, hold the phone in front of you."

Miranda pulled the phone away and gasped. "Oh my god, Andrea! Can you see me, too?"

Andy giggled, as did Caroline and Cassidy. "Well, look up at that little box in the corner. That's all I can see right now."

"Here," Cassidy said, taking the phone. "Hi Andy. Mom has never used FaceTime before, obviously. See, she's here," she said, turning the device so Andy could see Miranda.

"Hey Andy," Caroline said, leaning over and getting in the picture. "What's up?"

"Well," Andy said, "I was calling to tell your mom that I have a job offer—for a small newspaper here in Burbank."

"Oh, cool," Caroline said. "I thought you were going to work in New York?"

"Well, the papers in New York are looking for someone with more experience than I have. So, I figure I can write for this little paper here, then maybe I can get a better job, huh?"

"Andrea," Miranda said, leaning over into the screen. "You never told me you heard back—and so soon at that. Did anyone give a reason?"

She shrugged. "They all said I didn't have enough experience. The recruiter for the Times suggested I start with copyediting, but geez, that's such a pay cut, and then with moving across the country—I don't think I could afford that."

"Sweetheart," Miranda said. Caroline and Cassidy exchanged glances at hearing their mother speak so affectionately to Andy. "If it's what you want, you could find a way to make it work. There are affordable places to live here, especially if you're willing to take a roommate. Student loan payments can be negotiated. And after a few months, surely you'd be eligible for a raise or even a promotion," she said.

Andy shrugged again. "I was hoping you'd be excited that I found a job, not trying to talk me out of it."

Miranda frowned and bit her lip. "I'm sorry. I just think you can do better than some 'small newspaper in Burbank.'"

Cassidy said, "I agree with Mom. You could live in our guest room for a while if you wanted to save more money, right, Mom?"

Miranda's eyes widened, but thankfully, Andy couldn't see. "Of course, whatever she needs."

"Yeah! You could be like our big sister," Cassidy said.

"Whoa, let's not get ahead of ourselves," Andy said. "It's not like I even have a job offer for a copyeditor in New York. I still have to think about everything, but thanks for the offer."

"Girls, it's getting late, why don't you say goodnight, then go brush your teeth."

"'Night, Andy!"

"Goodnight! Hope you decide to come to New York!"

"Alright, teeth, now," Miranda said. Once the girls left her room, she shook her head and rolled her eyes. "I'm sorry about that. I'll talk to them."

"It's okay. Don't worry, I don't expect you to put me up again."

"It's not like that," Miranda said. "You're always welcome to stay here. I just—the girls—"

"I know, that big sister thing."

"Yes," Miranda admitted.

"But at least they like me," she said. "Are they still sleeping with you?"

"Yes. I know I shouldn't let them. When school starts and they start sleeping in their own beds, I just…I know the nightmares will come back."

"I wish I could be there for you," Andy said.

"I do, too," Miranda whispered. Her eyes quickly turned to her daughters, crawling back into her bed. "I'll talk to you tomorrow?"

"Yep. Goodnight," she said.

"Goodnight," Miranda said, ending the call. She leaned over and kissed each of her daughters on the forehead, then drifted off to sleep.

The following day, she spoke with the editor of the New York Times about Andrea's interview. He explained that he really just needed someone with more experience in a newsroom, and he agreed that copyediting would be the perfect entry to that.

"What would the salary look like?" Miranda asked.

"Our staff copyeditors are paid $15 hourly. There are two senior copyeditors who are paid $20 per hour, but they have the added responsibility of training and managing all the others."

"How long do you expect someone would be a copyeditor before they could apply for another position?" Miranda asked.

"Six months. There's a lot of turnaround," he said. "If she wants it, we'll hire her as a copyeditor. She's fully qualified. I was just under the impression that she was looking for something else."

"I'll speak with her," Miranda said. "Can you have someone call her with an offer? I also think she would be looking to start in the late fall, but you'd have to confirm that."

"Of course. Apologies for any miscommunication on that. I've gotta run to a meeting, but let me know if there's anything else."

"Of course, thank you," Miranda said. She hung up her desk phone and glanced at her schedule. She had the next ninety minutes free. She stood, told Emily to hold her calls, and shut her office door. She picked up her cell phone and moved to the sofa in the corner of her office, sending Andrea a quick text: Can you talk? -MP

Two minutes later, her phone rang.

"Hello, Andrea."

"Hey, what's up?"

"A few things," Miranda said. "Do you have a minute?"

"Sure. I'm all yours."

"Okay, first, I really think you should reconsider copyediting. It would be a great opportunity to get the experience these top publications are saying you need. Also, I imagine it would ease you into a different career. You'd have time to get settled in a new city."

"I know. I thought about it more last night, too. I talked to Dave, and as it turns out, they're moving to Chula Vista, so I can't say I want to stay in LA because of Alexis anymore," she said.

"Oh, but that's not very far, is it?"

"Three hours," Andy said. "Far enough that I would only see her once a month, if that. I also got the impression that he wants to start over with Lea and not have all these reminders of Katie, which just really sucks. She's my niece, but without my sister there, Dave isn't obligated to let me see her. Whatever."

"Oh, I'm so sorry, that's awful."

"Yeah, but maybe when Alexis is older, I can reconnect with her and tell her all about how awesome her mom was and how much she loved her," she said. "So, yeah, New York is sounding better and better. I also talked to a friend of mine from Cornell. He's living in Brooklyn and is willing to put me up on his couch, so I won't be homeless."

"Darling, I told you—you are always welcome in my home."

"Thanks, but I don't think you really mean that. It was weird when I left, and then you didn't want to talk about it. I get it. I made you uncomfortable. That's my bad."

"Andrea, that was the other item I was hoping to discuss with you. This week has been all over the place, and I would apologize for taking this long to say something, but I think I actually needed the past six days to figure out what was going on in my head."

Andy didn't reply. She wasn't exactly sure she wanted to know what was inside Miranda's head. After that conversation with her brother-in-law last night, she wasn't sure she could handle anymore bad news.

"I have been struggling with conflicting emotions for a while now—partly because it's just so damn difficult for me to let anyone in, but partly because I wasn't thinking clearly after everything that's happened. In trying to block all those memories of the assault, it's like I turned off all thoughts of intimacy or romance whatsoever."

"Miranda, that's not—" Andy tried to interrupt.

"Let me finish," she said. "It never occurred to me that you could be anything other than a friend—until this past weekend. You affected me. You—I can still feel your lips on my skin. I wasn't teasing you. I wasn't ready to handle those feelings just yet."

"Oh, wow. I, um, don't know what to say."

"It's okay. I don't need a response. I simply wanted to tell you that I've sort of figured out what was bothering me. It feels better just telling you, so thank you for listening," Miranda said.

"Well, I will repeat what I said the other night. I wish I could be there for you—now, last night, tomorrow."

"I think I would like that, Andrea."

"So, this copyediting job," she said. "You wouldn't happen to have anything to do with this offer letter from the Times that just landed in my inbox, would you?"

"Wow, that was fast. I'll admit, I called over there," she said. "They thought you weren't interested in it, so they didn't even offer, and they apologized for any miscommunication."

"Yeah, that's what the letter says, too."

"So, will you accept?" Miranda asked. "I know it's selfish of me to want you nearby, but you know it will be better for your resume to have worked at the New York Times instead of that Burbank paper."

"Yes, but Burbank would pay me enough money that I wouldn't have to worry about making ends meet."

"I can give you an interest-free loan if that helps. Until we have a chance to figure things out."

"You mean, you're taking back your offer of letting me move in with you?"

"No," Miranda said. "If you want that, we can figure it out. I just thought, if we're going to try something, well, it's probably best if we have our space. I can't promise that this will work."

Andrea smiled. "The fact that there even is a 'this' to discuss makes me want to fly out to New York right now."

Miranda smiled. "Did the email say when the position would begin?"

"No. It says 'negotiable,' so I'll have to call. I need to give my captain at least two weeks' notice. I'm on a month-to-month lease now, so that won't be a problem. Dave and Lea are moving the last weekend in September, so hopefully I could start around October first or something," Andy said. "Wow, that seems like so far off."

"Would you like me to look into some apartments for you?"

"Not yet. Let me talk to Doug. I have the feeling he's looking to buy a place—a two-bedroom. If it works out, I can just pay him rent. I'll talk to him."


"Miranda, sorry, I've gotta go. Talk more tonight?"

"Of course. Have a good afternoon."

"Thanks! You, too. Bye."


Miranda sat and stared out the window for several minutes. Last year, if you would have told her she was about to embark on a relationship with a woman half her age, she would have laughed at the ludicrous idea. But now, it felt different. Not just her relationship with the young woman, but every single facet of her life. She sat, eyes transfixed on the city skyline until Emily gently knocked and announced that Nigel was ready for their meeting.

Over the next two months, Miranda felt her fears slowly subside. Andy accepted the position at the Times, and would be moving to New York at the beginning of October, living with her friend Douglas. Caroline and Cassidy just turned twelve and were now in the sixth grade. Miranda was able to cut back on her appointments with Gwendolyn, and in the extra ninety minutes each week, she began practicing yoga and meditation. No, it wasn't a replacement for therapy, but it helped her to keep her life in balance and to take that much-needed break from the world around her. The only other opportunity she had to do that was when she was on the phone with Andy, and even then, Caroline and Cassidy were always trying to take the phone from her.

All in all, life was good.

On Friday, September 30, Andy arrived in New York. Miranda wanted to be there at the airport, but she couldn't miss the yearly Board of Directors meeting for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It just so happened that this year was Miranda's turn to lead the meeting, and this was something that even she could not reschedule.

She did, however, send Roy to gather the young woman at the airport and help deliver her things to Douglas's new condo in Brooklyn. She imagined it was an exhausting day for the young woman, so she didn't want to bother her—or look too desperate. Deciding to let Andy make the decision, she sent a quick text message: Glad you arrived safely, and hope you're getting settled at Douglas's place. I would love to see you whenever you're free and rested. You're welcome at the townhouse anytime. -MP x

Miranda smiled and headed off to yoga. She knew Andy never returned the key, and she trusted that the she would see the young woman when the time was right. She did, after all, move to New York primarily for a job, Miranda reminded herself.

Once her board meeting came to a close, Miranda returned to the townhouse. Caroline and Cassidy eagerly came running to the door when she entered, and she couldn't help but notice the look of disappointment on their faces when they saw she wasn't Andy. Their father would be coming to pick them up that evening, and she knew they didn't want to miss her.

Miranda had no missed messages on her phone, which could only mean that Andy was busy getting settled. Ushering the girls into the kitchen, she got out some mixing bowls and the three Priestly women whipped up a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies, with the promise that they could take some to their father's with them.

When the cookies were finished and cooling, James sent a text that he would be over to pick their daughters up within the hour. Cassidy begged not to go, and while Miranda was hoping they would get to meet Andy, she selfishly wanted time alone with her tonight. Even if it was just an hour.

"Bobbsey, Andrea has moved to New York permanently. She's very busy today and I promise you'll get to see her sometime soon," Miranda said in that motherly reassuring voice.

"Can you at least text her?" Caroline said.

"Fine," Miranda said. Her phone was already in her hand—she didn't want to miss any calls or texts—so she typed out another one: Not to bother you, but do you think you'll be able to stop by tonight? James is picking C & C up shortly and they do not want to miss you. x

"Done. See?" Miranda said, showing her daughter the message.

"Why'd you put an 'x' after it?"

Miranda blushed furiously. "What? Oh," she said, tugging the phone away and slipping it into her pocket. "That was just a typo."

Caroline smirked and locked eyes with her sister. "Whatever," she said.

"Girls, why don't you bring your weekend bags downstairs. Your father will be here soon," Miranda said.

As soon as they were upstairs, there was a gentle knock on the door—so faint, if she hadn't been standing six feet from the door she would have never heard it. She quickly opened it and couldn't hide her smile.

"May I come in?" Andy said.

Miranda nodded, and closed the door behind her. Just when she opened her mouth to speak, two twelve-year-olds came barreling down the stairs, throwing their bags against the closet and running to hug their guest.


"Hey Cassidy, hey Caroline," she said, hugging them.

"Mom didn't know if you'd come over tonight," Cassidy said.

"Well, I was pretty tired from flying and unpacking, but as soon as I saw her text that you were going to be going to your dad's, I came over here right away," she said. "You two are even prettier in person, did you know that?"

Cassidy blushed. Caroline smiled and added, "So are you."

A horn sounded out front, signaling their father's arrival. Miranda rolled her eyes. James knew how she hated him honking the horn in her neighborhood, and she was certain he did it just to irritate her.

"Girls, your father is waiting. Please, let's not make him honk twice," Miranda said.

"Oh, Mom, can't we stay a little longer? And you can take us to Dad's tomorrow?"

"No. Honey, Andrea will be here again. Maybe we can have her over for dinner this week or something."

"Yeah, your mom is right," Andy said, nudging them towards the door. "Go have fun at your dad's and I'll see you next week—or maybe even Sunday night," she said, looking over at Miranda who nodded.

"Okay, I'll go tell Dad we're coming," Cassidy said. She quickly hugged Andy and her mother, then took her bag out the front door and waved to her dad. "Caro, are you coming?" she called back to the house.

"I gotta go. Thanks for coming over, Andy. Oh, and we made you cookies, too," she said, hugging her.

Miranda was waiting for her at the door with her bag. She hugged her daughter and kissed her on the temple. "Have a good weekend, sweetheart. I love you."

"Love you too, Mom!" she called as she made her way to the car. Miranda leaned against the doorframe and waved at the car until James pulled out into traffic.

"You didn't really come here because of them, did you?" Miranda asked, closing the door.

"No. I was already on my way when I got your text," she said, smiling.

Miranda walked closer, and Andy gently wrapped her arms around her. Miranda mirrored the gesture and rested her head on Andy's shoulder. Even in heels she didn't come close to Andy's 5' 10" height, but that made her shoulder at perfect height.

She sighed gently as she held the other woman close. "I've missed you," she whispered. At any other moment, she would have been completely comfortable in the other woman's arms like that. But tonight, after they had shared so many words over the phone about their feelings for each other, she was torn between wanting to kiss the young woman and wanting Andrea to kiss her first.

Andy must have picked up on that, because a few seconds later, she traced her hand up the older woman's arm and slipped her finger under her chin, tilting it up so they were looking at one another in the eye. "I've been wanting to do this for nearly six months," she whispered. Her fingertips outlined her chin, then traced her cheekbone until her entire palm was against Miranda's cheek.

Miranda was speechless, and she struggled to keep her eyes open. She felt a little like a baby robin, arching her neck upwards and parting her lips, waiting for something delicious.

The young woman slipped her other hand against Miranda's other cheek, and this time, she couldn't keep her eyes open. A faint whimper escaped her throat and her lower lip trembled.

"Open your eyes," Andy whispered. Miranda could feel her warm breath against her lips, and she opened her eyes. At this point, she would probably do anything Andy asked of her.

Andy pressed her lips to the corner of the woman's mouth, and Miranda gasped.

"Miranda," she said, pressing her lips fully against Miranda's, "I love you."

Miranda whimpered, louder this time, and slid her hand around to the back of Andrea's neck, holding her close and deepening the kiss.

They kissed, there, in the foyer, for what seemed like an eternity. The way Miranda would whimper "ohh," or "Andrea," or sometimes even, "oh, Andrea," was driving the young woman wild.

Somehow, they had made their way over towards the infamous closet, and Miranda was pushed up against the door. She broke the kiss first, panting, and pushing Andrea away gently. "I—I can't breathe," she said, leaning back against the door as she tried to take some deep breaths. "Just—give me a second."

Andy nodded and gently pressed a few kisses to the woman's collarbone. She was wearing a plum bateau neck dress, and as Andy nuzzled her neck, she whispered, "You look amazing today."

Miranda took a deep breath and brought her fingertips up to her lips, which were now swollen and slightly chapped. They still tingled from their searing kiss.

"Hey, let's go get something to drink, okay?" Andy said. "We're in no hurry."

Miranda nodded and pushed away from the door, careful not to look the young woman in the eye, because she knew she wouldn't be able to resist another kiss.

"Mind if I have an apple?" Andy asked, setting two glasses of iced tea on the counter.

"Of course not, help yourself," Miranda said. She leaned against the counter and took a sip of the cold beverage. "Did you eat dinner?"

"I had a late lunch. I'm still trying to adjust to the time change. I can't believe it's almost ten o'clock—wait, I'm not keeping you up or anything am I?"

Miranda smiled and shook her head. "Thank you for coming over tonight," she said quietly. "I know you were traveling all morning and hardly even had time to get settled, but—"

Andy walked up behind Miranda and wrapped her arms around her.

"—I'm just so glad you're here," she said, closing her eyes. After a few seconds, she reached up and wiped the tears from her cheek.

"Are you crying? What's wrong?" Andy asked, turning her around. She set her half-eaten apple down on the counter. "Miranda, what is it?"

"It's just—it's been so difficult these past few months," she said, looking anywhere around the room but in Andy's eyes. "After I told the girls, I had to keep it together. I had to—to make them think that I was strong, but I'm not," she cried. "I don't know how much longer I can keep this up."

The young woman could see that she was upset—so much so that she was physically shaking. "Why don't we go upstairs? You can relax and take a nice hot shower, and I'll have a cup of tea ready for you when you're finished," Andy said.

"Won't Douglas wonder where you've gone?" Miranda asked.

"No. I'm paying him rent, and I can come and go as I please. The back door actually leads directly to my room. Anyway, I already told him I would be staying here tonight," she said. "If that's alright, of course. I just thought it would be easier."

Miranda sighed in relief. "A hot shower does sound good. I think I'll go upstairs. You know where everything is here, so..."

"Yep," she said, finishing Miranda's thought. "I'll bring your tea up shortly." As she released her from her arms, she gently took her hand and pressed a kiss to it. "Miranda, remember, there's no rush. I'll still be here tomorrow and the next day and the next. Okay?"

She nodded, then headed upstairs to the bedroom while Andy turned on the tea kettle.

A short while later, Miranda emerged from the bathroom in a somewhat modest cap-sleeve silk nightgown. There was a slight chill in the air, and the steaming cup of tea on her nightstand was just the thing to warm her up.

Andy, it appeared, fell asleep on the bed while she was waiting, so once Miranda finished her tea, she covered her with a blanket and crawled into bed herself. For a few minutes, she laid there, staring up at the ceiling. Her mind was telling her to take a step back and to take things slowly with the young woman. It had only been six months since the assault, and there were still times when she felt fragile, like she could shatter into pieces with the blink of an eye. Anyone would agree that entering into an intimate relationship right now was a terrible idea, but wouldn't it be different with Andy? Wasn't she different?

Miranda certainly thought so. Going against her better judgment, she moved closer to the young woman and laid her head on her shoulder.

"Miranda? Sorry," she said, pausing to yawn.

"Shh, go back to sleep."

"Let me at least get my jeans off—they're uncomfortable to sleep in," she said.

"The top right dresser drawer has some sleep garments if you'd like. I think there's a satin nightshirt towards the back," Miranda said.

"Got it. Thanks." She quickly changed into the nightshirt and returned to the bed. "Mind if I get underneath the covers?"

"Of course not."

Andy slipped between the covers and inched over until she was directly next to the other woman, obviously trying to respect the other woman's space. "Miranda?" she whispered.


Andy turned to her side and propped herself up on her elbow. She softly laid her other hand on Miranda's shoulder nearest her. "You are strong, Miranda," she whispered. "You are strong and courageous, and I know it doesn't feel like it—I know on the inside, you're still hurting, but…. I wish I could make things better."

"Oh darling, you do make things better. Don't you see?" she said. "Answering my calls. Making sense of the nonsense I utter when I'm crying so hard I can't speak. Reminding me of all the good things in my life. I couldn't do this without you."

Andy leaned closer and grasped Miranda's hand. "Can I kiss you?" she whispered.

Miranda nodded and closed her eyes, and the young woman tenderly kissed her lips. As they kissed, Miranda's hand explored the young woman's upper body—her muscular back, her strong, lean arms, her small, firm breasts.

Andy moaned into the woman's mouth as her fingertips moved across the silk shirt. When they broke for air, she sat up a little and repositioned herself, sweeping her long brown hair across her right shoulder. She captured Miranda's lips once again and deepened the kiss. Miranda responded with a slight arch of her back as she trailed her hands down to the younger woman's hips, guiding them closer.

Smiling against her lips, Andy straddled the woman's petite frame and slowly let her weight sink against her. As soon as her pelvis made contact, though, Miranda's hands were frantically pushing her away.

"No! Stop! Please!" she cried, shaking her head side to side as she squirmed away from Andy.

Andy immediately pulled back and turned on the bedside lamp. "Miranda, I am so sorry," she said. The other woman was crying into her pillow, facing the opposite direction. "I'm going to put my hand on your shoulder," Andy said before gently placing her hand there. "Talk to me. Tell me what's going on."

Miranda took a deep breath and shook her head while Andy gently rubbed her upper arm. "I told you—I can't do this. I can't keep pretending—" her voice trailed off as she turned and pressed her lips to the back of Andy's hand.

The young woman laid next to her and wrapped her arms around her. "You don't have to pretend anything, certainly not with me, okay. I'm so sorry for pushing you. I—"

Miranda turned and looked up at her. "You didn't push me. I—I wanted that. I wanted to feel your body against mine, I just—look at me. I'm damaged goods, Andrea. You don't want this," she said.

"You're not," Andy said, gently kissing her neck, "and I do." She trailed kisses down her arm. "Wrong on both counts. Miranda, you're beautiful, and I'm not just saying that because I'm lying here next to you. Your eyes, your lips, your hair, your nose, your body, my god, you're the most magnificent creature on this earth, and I can't think of anything I've ever wanted more," she said.

Miranda swallowed the tears that were forming in her throat.

"And if this," Andy continued, gesturing between them, "if this doesn't happen, well, that doesn't change how I feel about you."

"I'm sorry," Miranda said, her cheeks blushing. "I guess we should just try and get some rest."

"I actually think I have an idea," she said. "Kiss me."


"You kiss me," Andy repeated, turning and laying on her back.

Miranda's eyes lit up as she realized what the young woman was suggesting. She felt a little ridiculous that she didn't think of it earlier, but all thoughts fell by the wayside the second she straddled the young woman.

Andy slid her hands up and down Miranda's ribcage, gently brushing the underside of her breasts. Miranda bent forward, kissing Andy's lips slowly and thoroughly as she gently rocked against her body. Andy's fingers began kneading the woman's breasts, and she could tell from her movements that her arousal was building. She gently bent her left leg so her foot was flat on the mattress and untangled her right foot so Miranda was straddling her leg. Careful not to place her hands on her hips or thighs, Andy maneuvered her back and tugged her own nightshirt up until she felt a moist heat against her upper thigh.

Miranda's eyes opened and she pulled away from the kiss, her mouth open, panting as she rocked against her thigh. After a few short gasps, she broke eye contact and dropped her head down as her orgasm rippled through her body and she fell forward against Andy's chest.

"Mmm, you're incredible," Andy whispered, trailing her fingers up and down the silk covering her back. "You're so beautiful." She pressed a few kisses to the soft white hair on the top of her head and gently cupped her cheek.

Miranda rolled onto her side and softly ran her fingers through Andy's hair. "I can't believe I just did that," she said breathlessly. "But, thank you, for always taking care of me." She leaned over and kissed her, then settled in against her chest. "And from now on," she added, "we take care of each other. If that means trips out to Poughkeepsie or Chula Vista or god knows where, we'll do it together, okay?"

Andy nodded and wrapped her arm around Miranda's shoulder.

Miranda stretched her neck so she could look the young woman in the eye. "Andrea—I love you," she said.

"I love you, too," Andy whispered. "Now, let's get some sleep."

The End

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