DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
FEEDBACK: All feedback can be sent to me at xenabard[at]hotmail.com. If you send me a comment and I don't respond, I never got it. I ALWAYS respond to comments.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was written for the charity auction to benefit the Queensland Australia Flood victims.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"Dammit..." Andy gripped the steering wheel tighter and tried to ignore the rhythm of the windshield wipers. The snow was beginning to mix with ice and was coming down even harder now. She could feel the tires starting to slip every so often. This drive had turned into a never ending thing, stretching far past its normal duration into the ridiculous. The storm had slowed her progress so much that darkness had fallen around her when she should have already been home.
Part of that extra time was the route she'd taken. Sighing to herself at her own stupidity, she concentrated on the road. The slick, black, road. She imagined this would be a beautiful drive, in the light of day, in good weather. It had been interesting when she had looked up the directions to and from the interview to see this road's name on her route. She knew that Miranda's family had an estate along this road somewhere, she couldn't remember the exact address she'd seen when she'd worked for the woman, but remembered the road name for sure. It didn't surprise her though, Miranda had great taste in homes and the huge estates along this stretch of road would be amazing all lit up. Now all the ones she could see through the snow and darkness had black windows and even the outside lights, that often spotlit and displayed houses of this size, were dark. "Of course," she muttered, "Why would the rich and infamous want to deal with this, kind of weather? They probably all heard the forecast and jumped on their private planes to Florida or Tahiti.. or the south of France..."
That thought made her sigh, as anything that reminded her of France always did. Her last time in Paris had ended unhappily with her walking away from a horrible job and the the most infuriating, most annoying, most fascinating, most ridiculously sexy, woman on the planet. "Get over it, Sachs..." she told herself, "That was over a year ago..." It was, in fact, approximately a year and a half ago. She knew that the January Fashion Week in Paris, to promote the Spring/Summer lines, had just ended a few days ago. So even if she'd been able to remember exactly where Miranda's house was, and was foolish enough to drive past for whatever weird reason her mind could come up with, Miranda wouldn't be there anyway. She was most likely ensconced in the Runway offices poring over all the photos and designs she'd discovered in Paris.
A flash of motion at the side of the road and two yellow eyes caught in the car's headlights made her gasp. She automatically hit the brakes and the car began to slide, gliding toward the trees lining the road. "Shit... shit.. shit.. shit..." The litany ended when the car slammed into a tree and the airbags deployed. The deer paused to look at the large object that had just careened past then continued on her way.
Andy groaned and absently wondered what her cheek was pressed against. She suddenly realized what it was and froze. Airbags. Oh... She remembered then about trying to avoid the deer. Moving slowly she assessed the damage to herself and cursed her luck. Wiggling her fingers worked painlessly and she thought she was moving her toes, hands, elbows, shoulders, so far so good. Her head still seemed attached to her body and her upper back only hurt a little, her chest hurt a little more. Slowly, she sat upright and gently tilted her head from side to side. "Okay," she told herself, "You're okay." Licking her lips, she tasted blood. "Whoops, what's up with that?" She picked the rear view mirror up off the seat next to her and looked at her mouth. "Busted lip..." She told herself as she gingerly touched the small cut on her lower lip. "Could have been a lot worse."
Unbuckling her seatbelt, Andy reached for the phone in her jacket pocket. She stared at the cracked, dark, screen for a moment before she carefully tucked it back into her pocket. "Okay, no phone. What now?"
The layer of snow that had accumulated on the car was worrisome. She hoped it was because the stuff was coming down so fast and not a sign that she'd been unconscious for very long. It was starting to get cold in the car though and she knew an important thing that she needed to do. "Gotta find someplace to warm up." She looked for her gloves but didn't see them anywhere.
Through the cracked windshield she saw an enormous house on the other side of the immaculately landscaped, football field sized, lawn that she'd ended up in. Most of the windows were dark, but there was flickering light in two of them, and more importantly, smoke rising from the chimney. Her teeth were beginning to chatter as she exited the car. She hoped someone was actually home. A brisk wind whipped her hair around, easily sending icy blasts through her long jacket and Andy knew that it wouldn't matter if anyone was home or not. She hunched over a bit, realizing that she'd rather be busted for breaking and entering than she would like to freeze to death. So, she tightened the hood around her head and shoved her hands deep into her pockets before she began trudging across the huge lawn, through the ever deepening snow.
Caroline watched her mother, resting in the overstuffed chair, for a long moment before she spoke. "Mom?" She touched her mother's hand to get her attention. When the familiar blue eyes opened and the calm gaze landed on her, Caroline's forehead wrinkled slightly, "Do we have enough supplies for the weekend? Before the power went off, the website said the roads might not be cleared until Monday..."
Miranda smiled and reached up to smooth the furrows from her oldest-by-minutes daughter's face. "Of course, Bobbsey, we are perfectly safe here. The kitchen is fully stocked. And even though the electricity is out you know the refrigerator will stay cold for some time. If the power has not been restored by morning, we will simply move the things that need to be kept cold, outside." She reassured the girl, "The water heater, furnace and stove are all gas powered, and although we have turned the temperature down somewhat to conserve power, you helped me start the generator in the basement that will allow the blower on the furnace to function. It will maintain the furnace for several days if necessary. Plus we have the fire in the fireplace to keep us warm and Arthur has stocked plenty of wood for us to burn." She hugged the worried girl. "We are safe and warm here. There is no reason to worry about anything."
Caroline nodded and sighed, "That's what Cassidy said." She hated it when her twin sister was right. "But what about the phones?"
That was a minor inconvenience that Miranda was actually fretting about, slightly, but she calmly reassured her daughter, "The phones, as with the power, will be restored very soon I'm sure." All three of them had been using their cell phones quite a bit today. The girls on the drive up here, and she after they'd arrived. Their intention was to put the devices on their respective chargers this evening. "It's no matter. We can survive without phones for a short while, yes?"
"Yeah," Caroline's eyes twinkled. "Can we make some hot chocolate and sit by the fire?"
"Of course," Miranda stood, picking up a flickering oil lamp to light her way through the house. "Go find Cassidy and meet me in the kitchen."
"Great!" Caroline ran out of the room then slowed down somewhat. She fished in her pocket for her little keychain flashlight and went up the stairs as fast as she could. Busting into Cassidy's room without even knocking, Caroline beamed. "C'mon Cass... Mom's gonna make us hot chocolate."
"Yeah?" Cassidy sat up on her bed. "How'd you manage that?"
Caroline shrugged, "I just asked." She grinned. "I think Mom is freaking out a little about not having a phone too."
Nodding at that, Cassidy added, "She usually freaks a little after the Paris trip anyway, at least, she has since..."
"Yeah... I know." Caroline sighed. They'd both seen a difference in their Mother since that Fashion Week when Stephen was too much of a coward to face her in person and faxed the divorce papers to her. They'd never been a real family anyway, and Caroline didn't know how Cassidy felt about it, but she was glad Stephen was gone. Caroline suspected that it wasn't Stephen's jerkiness that had upset their mother the most though. Something else had happened on that trip.
Miranda had dated a few people since the divorce, but no one seriously, no one Miranda seemed willing to let them be around. It was good in a way, they didn't want to get attached to anyone just to have them leave. But it was also kind of bad. They both loved their mother very much but just like their mother seemed to be missing something personally, the girls knew that deficiency caused them to be missing something in their lives as well. And Caroline knew exactly how Cassidy felt on that subject because they'd discussed it at length several times. Their family was incomplete and they both hoped that one day they'd figure out why. "C'mon... Mom's waiting."
Nodding, Cassidy closed her Nintendo DS. "Batteries are dying on my game anyway." She turned the knob on the side of the oil lamp next to her bed to extinguish it and grinned into the darkness. "Lead on, Sis."
The little flashlight gave them enough light to get down the stairs and they were walking past the living room door when they both heard a shuffle of footsteps on the porch then a soft knock from outside.
"Whoa!" Caroline turned her steps toward the door and looked through the glassed sections. "There's someone out there!"
"What?" Cassidy looked too then warned her sister. "Don't open the door."
"Stay here." Caroline resumed their trek toward the kitchen, "I'll go get Mom."
Cassidy nodded and watched as her sister disappeared into the darkness of the house then looked through the glass again. The hooded figure was shivering then it knocked again and spoke.
"H...h...ello? Is...ss..ss.. an...nn..nyone h...home?"
Cassidy recognized the voice as female and answered, through the door, before she thought about it. "Just wait there, my sister went to get our Mom." The figure's shoulders dipped a little and she heard the feminine voice again.
"Oh t.tt.thank God..." Andy's teeth chattered together. "Thank y...yo..ou!"
She sounded so pathetic that Cassidy laid her hand on the doorknob and was about to turn it when Caroline returned with Miranda.
"Cassidy!" Miranda admonished her daughter, "You do not open doors for strangers."
"I know," Cassidy backed away from the door and studied the floor, "I'm sorry, she just sounded so cold. I could hear her teeth chattering."
"Her?" Miranda opened the door and blinked at the vision standing there. Bedraggled and freezing, but still an apparition from her past. "You?"
"Oh!" Andy's dark eyes widened, "Mir...r...randa! I... I had n..nn... no id..dd.ea this was y..yo..your ho...om..mme."
"Come in." Miranda stepped aside as the young woman shakily entered the house then closed the door behind their unexpected guest quickly. "What are you doing here, Andrea?"
"Mmm..my c...car slid..dd.. off the rr...road.." Andy couldn't stop shivering.
"Enough." Miranda looked at Cassidy, "Take her into the living room so that she may warm up by the fire. Caroline, come with me."
Cassidy led their guest to the living room. "You should take off your jacket. It's all wet. Your pants are too." She watched as Andy threw back her hood and shrugged out of the coat. Their hands brushed when Andy handed it over. "Wow, you're hands are like ice. Where're your gloves?"
Andy sighed as the heat from the fire began to reach her. "They w..were in the passenger seat when I had the accident... I'm not sure where they are now." She smoothed her palms over her thighs, "My pants aren't too bad, the bottom of the coat protected everything above my knees and my boots kept a lot of my calves protected." She turned sideways on the hearth so that the fire could begin drying the small area of her pantlegs that were actually soaked.
"Oh." Cassidy thought the woman seemed familiar. "Mom knows you. She called you Andrea."
"Andy. I... was her assistant... year or so ago..." Andy didn't expect the girls to remember her.
"Oh..." Cassidy's eyes widened in recognition. "Oh, it's you!" She swallowed hard. "You got us the Harry Potter manuscript..." Cassidy never took her eyes off the brunette's nodding head and whispered, "You left Mom in Paris."
"That's..." Andy stared at the fire, "complicated."
Cassidy was about to say something else when Andy's attention was drawn from the fire to Caroline and Miranda entering the room, each carrying two mugs. Andy accepted a mug from Caroline and smiled at the girl. "Thank you, Caroline."
Miranda handed her second mug to Cassidy then settled into one of the comfy chairs in front of the fire. "Now, Andrea," Miranda took a sip of her hot chocolate and set it aside, focusing her attention on their unexpected guest. "Enlighten us as to how you've arrived on our doorstep."
Wrapping her hands around the warm mug, Andy gazed at the mini marshmallows floating on the creamy chocolate surface then began to speak. "I finished an interview with the architect and general contractor for the new resort going up. The weather was clear when I left but about half an hour into my trip back I ran into the storm. I thought I'd drive through it, but it just got worse and worse, until...I nearly hit a deer and slammed into a tree instead."
"And your car is currently on my front lawn?"
"Yes, Miranda." Andy shook her head, almost unable to believe the coincidence herself. "I knew your family home was along this road..."
Narrowing her eyes, Miranda's tone immediately became suspicious. "You knew? So you just decided to run your car into a tree on my front lawn."
"I only remembered the road name, not the actual address."
"Mmm... there is a reason for that." Miranda watched Andrea closely. "You most likely never heard the same string of numbers twice when associated with this address." She explained, "Very few people know the actual address of this house. All others are given decoy addresses' as I was advised to do by my security people, years ago."
"Ah... well..." Andy shook the mug in her hands and watched the small halo of white form around the floating marshmallows. "I don't believe the tree was damaged too much." She blew on her drink then took a sip, wincing. "Ow."
"Are you hurt?" Miranda sat forward, "Andrea?"
"No." Andy lied and ignored the ache in her chest as she shook her head, "I just forgot about my lip."
"No, nothing's broken." Andy assured her, "I just busted my lip. I'll most likely be sore tomorrow... and I'll probably bruise up." She rubbed her chest lightly, and reluctantly admitted, "I think the airbag got me, a little. But, I tend to sit back away from the steering wheel and the spin pushed me backward into the seat even more so that helped." She stretched and twisted slightly already feeling the twinges in her muscles, "I think I tensed up too much before the crash though... which is why I'm sure there will be aches to deal with later." Gesturing to the fire, she smiled and reassured all three of her hostess', "The heat helps."
"Mmmm..." Miranda studied their guest for a moment. "Cassidy, please escort our guest to the Blue Room." She sat back in her chair, "I believe it is stocked for guests and there should be a small candle with matches on the nightstand."
Caroline and Cassidy exchanged glances and then Cassidy shrugged and stood, "Okay." Cassidy fished a small keychain flashlight from her pocket and waited for Andy to stand. "Follow me."
"But," Andy was confused, "I just need to use the phone and call the tow truck."
"Andrea," Miranda's amused blue eyes met her former assistant's dark ones and she gestured toward the window. She saw Andrea's shock as the young woman realized that the storm was worse now than it had been ten minutes ago. "No one will come to get your car in this storm. The electricity is out so we cannot recharge our cell phones and the land lines are currently inoperable. It is nearly time for all of us to retire to our rooms as well." She tilted her head toward the stairs, "Go, take your shower, get some sleep. They should have the power back on by tomorrow, if not the phone lines as well. You may make arrangements for your car then."
"Oh!" Nodding, Andy blushed, "I didn't realize the phones were down or that the electric was out."
Miranda watched as their unexpected guest looked around the room, as if just realizing where she was. She had to admit that with the light from the fire and the several strategically placed oil lamps with their mirrored backs it was bright enough in this room to not miss the overhead lighting.
"Mmmm..." Miranda sniffed, "And where is your phone, Andrea?"
Andy pulled the item in question from her pocket and held it out, "It got broken in the crash. It was in my pocket and must have gotten caught between the seatbelt buckle and the middle console."
"I see." Miranda stared at the cracked phone for a moment then gestured to her daughter, "Cassidy?"
"Right." The girl fished her own little flashlight out of her pocket then took Andy's warmed hand. "This way."
Andy looked around the room Cassidy had led her to and tried to pay attention as the girl explained the amenities.
"This is the bathroom," Cassidy moved through a door on the other side of the room. Her voice echoed back into the main room, "It's all stocked with shampoo and soap and towels and stuff..." She walked back in to where Andy was waiting and informed their guest, "There's a new toothbrush and some toothpaste in the drawer next to the sink." Moving to a four drawer dresser, Cassidy opened the top drawer and nodded, "Pajamas are here, they aren't new, but they're clean."
"Oh!" Andy just realized, "I have an overnight bag...in the trunk of the car."
Cassidy pointed to the window, "Mom won't let you go back out in the storm to get it. Just wear the pajamas."
"Okay." Andy smiled at the girl, "Thank you, Cassidy." She saw the child's blue eyes light up for a moment.
"Oh," Cassidy laughed, "You heard Mom call me by name." She grinned, "For a second, I thought you might be able to tell me and Ro apart."
Andy chuckled, "What makes you think I can't?"
"Not many people can." Cassidy shrugged, "We can often switch on our teachers, and Stephen never could tell us apart."
"Well," Andy didn't want to think about Stephen. That only led to remembering the scene in Paris, with Miranda in her comfy robe, with no make-up, looking more beautiful than ever. "I guess your teachers don't pay close enough attention. Because you and Caroline aren't exactly identical," She reached out, but didn't touch her guide's face, "Your noses are slightly different, so are your eyes, and your lips." She winked at the girl's astonishment. "Thank you for showing me around."
Cassidy smiled and gestured wildly in the air around her, "Tomorrow when it's light, or if the power comes back on, I'll give you a tour of the whole house!"
"That sounds great." Andy laughed, "But I may not be here that long... I'll probably get my car towed and be on my way."
"Right." Nodding at those plans, Cassidy began to leave the room. "Good night then."
"Good night." Andy watched the girl leave and tried to shake the feeling that she'd disappointed Cassidy in some way when she realized that it was totally dark in the room. Andy recalled, Miranda saying something about a candle on the nightstand so she stumbled over to where she remembered the bed to be. With only a little bit of fumbling, she found the candle and matches and was able to get a bit of light into the room. Still trying to dispel that feeling that she'd disappointed Cassidy, Andy turned her attention to the bathroom door and mumbled to herself, "A hot shower does sound nice."
The fire downstairs had warmed her somewhat, but she could still feel a bit of cold that hadn't yet been chased from her bones. So she carried the candle into the bathroom and blinked, "Wow." It was beautifully decorated and spacious, a large shower with several water jets occupied what seemed like a fourth of the room.
Setting the candle in front of the huge mirrors that lined the wall behind the sink, Andy began to strip out of her damp clothes. She looked forward to the hot shower more and more and the idea of clean, dry pajamas didn't sound all that bad either.
Andy again sat on the brick hearth in front of the fire. She tilted her head toward the heat, shaking her hair slightly to evenly receive the flame's warmth and hoped it would dry soon. She couldn't believe she'd been dumb enough to do it, but it had been almost automatic when she'd gotten into the shower to begin the hair washing process. It wasn't until she shut off the water jets that she realized, without electricity, she wasn't going to be able to dry her hair in any reasonable amount of time. So she'd made her way back downstairs hoping the fire would still be going enough to evaporate the dampness that Miranda's extremely fluffy towels refused to absorb. A voice from the darkness made her jump a little.
"Oh," Andy shielded her eyes from the lamp Miranda held, "Miranda, I'm sorry... did I wake you?"
"No," Miranda set the lamp she carried on the end table and took a seat in the chair closest to Andrea, "I put the girls to bed and was doing a final check of the house before I retired myself."
"Ah," She shrugged, "I don't normally sleep all that well when I'm away from my own bed anyway." Andy admitted, "Plus... well, I was an idiot and washed my hair when I took my shower." She informed her former boss, "I can't go to sleep with wet hair, I'll wake up looking like I stuck my finger in a light socket." Grinning at Miranda's infectious chuckle, Andy insisted, "Really, Miranda, I can't wake up looking like that, I'll scare the girls!"
"Well we certainly wouldn't want that." Miranda watched her guest continue to dry her hair by the fire for several long moments before speaking again. "If you need to put more wood on to burn, in order to dry your hair, please do so, but I would request that you allow the biggest of the flames to die down, stir the coals somewhat and close the doors on the fireplace before you go to bed. We can rebuild the fire in the morning." Miranda gestured to the room in general, "I do not want to leave too large a flame unattended."
"Oh," Andy nodded, "Sure, I'll wait for it to die down before I go back up to sleep." She shrugged, "I am tired, but I don't think I can sleep right now anyway." She sighed, "Every time I close my eyes I feel like I'm back in the car, sliding toward the tree."
Miranda nodded, "Understandable." She reached for the lamp she'd arrived with, "Sleep yourself out, we normally rise late when on vacation, so there is no rush to wake."
Andy wanted to tell Miranda how grateful she was for her hospitality. She wanted to tell Miranda how sorry she was for leaving the way she did in Paris. She wanted to tell Miranda how relieved she was at the recommendation Miranda had given her while searching for a new job. But when Andy opened her mouth all that came out was, "Vacation? I would have thought you'd be busy at Runway with the Fashion Weeks having just ended."
"Mmm.. yes," Miranda sniffed slightly, "You wouldn't know, but after fashion week season, after Paris, I normally take a few days off to recoup."
"Oh," Andy nodded, agreeing softly, "I wouldn't know that."
Standing, Miranda nodded once and began to walk toward the door, "Good night, Andrea."
"Good night, Miranda." Andy called after her hostess, not knowing if the woman was already out of earshot to hear her next comment. "Sweet dreams."
Miranda had been exaggerating regarding the Priestly's sleeping habits, even during vacation. The girls were beginning to trend toward sleeping later in the morning, as teens did, but she always rose quite early and was often able to watch the sunrise in peaceful silence. This morning, however, after a restless night, she had slept past the sun's appearance and there was no silence. As she walked toward the kitchen in search of the first coffee of the day, Miranda heard a sound that was rather rare in their home. The girls were laughing, not mere chuckles, not forced laughter, and not even laughter because they were slightly amused at something. This was the deep kind of belly shaking laughter that brought tears to your eyes. Entering the kitchen, Miranda saw her children seated at the preparation island watching Andrea stir a batter mixture and comically imitate what was most likely a popular television personality. The show stopped when Andrea noticed Miranda watching and a million watt smile was turned on her host.
"Good morning, Miranda!" Andy sat down the bowl she'd been working on and wiped her hands on the dishrag next to her work station. "Coffee?"
Miranda took a moment to evaluate Andrea in the light of day. Last night, in front of the fire, the young woman had been beautiful enough to render her speechless for a moment, before she managed to address her guest. Miranda had put that off as an aberration. It had been a long day and she had been tired. Now, Miranda regarded her guest with rested eyes and could only come to the same conclusion she had last night. Dressed in the white, silky pajamas with her hair slightly mussed from sleep and her deep amber eyes shining with amusement, Andrea Sachs was a beautiful woman. Again Miranda found herself at a loss for words so she merely nodded her response and took a seat next to her children.
"Of course, Miranda," Andy's dark eyes glittered at her former boss, "Right away." She turned to the coffee maker and reached for one of the mugs she saw through the clear cabinet door above the machine.
"Andy's making us breakfast!" Caroline grinned, "Pancakes!"
"Yeah," Cassidy wiggled in her seat a bit, "And sausage links..."
"When I woke up this morning the clock next to the bed was flashing twelve, so I knew the power was back on. I picked up the phone receiver but there was no dial tone, yet. But I thought cooking breakfast was the least I could do for all your kindness." Smiling at the girls, Andy placed a steaming mug of coffee in front of Miranda, "Would you like some eggs this morning Miranda?"
A sip of the coffee loosened the lump in Miranda's throat and she managed to speak to their guest-turned-cook, "Actually, pancakes and sausage sounds quite nice."
Widening her smile, Andy nodded, "Comin' right up."
Miranda pushed her half eaten breakfast away from her and smiled at their guest. "I was unaware of your culinary abilities, Andrea."
Andy laughed, "It's just pancakes and sausage." Her eyes twinkled at the empty, or half empty, plates in front of the Priestly women. She knew her mother would be insulted that Miranda hadn't finished the entire portion, but Andy was thrilled that Miranda had eaten that much of the carb-loaded breakfast. "But I'm glad you enjoyed it." Gathering the plates, Andy began to rinse them and load them into the dishwasher.
"Will you make lunch for us too, Andy?" Caroline had loved watching Andy's antics while she was cooking breakfast.
Turning around to face the girl, Andy smiled and opened her mouth to answer yes, when Miranda interrupted.
"It is possible that Andrea won't be with us that long. She informed them, "I too woke to a flashing alarm clock, and my cell phone has been charging during breakfast. I'm sure there will be enough battery life for Andrea to make the calls she requires, to make arrangements for her car."
Andy was amazed to feel disappointed by the news that she was now able to do the very thing she wanted to do more than anything last night. Her smile faltered but she remained polite, "Thank you, Miranda." She saw that both girls looked disappointed at the news as well and tried to assure them, "It's possible they won't be able to get here by lunch time, so we'll see okay?"
Nodding, Caroline took a last sip of her milk and slid off her chair. "Yeah, right."
"Ro," Cassidy followed her sister quickly. "Ro..."
Andy turned to Miranda, "Did I say something wrong?"
Miranda shook her head slowly, "No, it was, in fact, me who misspoke, several times in the past." Although she wasn't sure why, she admitted to Andrea. "More often than not, when I have told the girls 'we'll see', the event in question, never happens."
"Oh!" Andy threaded her fingers through her hair at each temple, pulling it up slightly then letting it fall back to her head. "So, my big mouth gets me into trouble again..." She sighed and finished tidying up the kitchen before facing Miranda again. "I suppose I should make those calls now."
"Very well." Miranda stood and gestured to her guest. "Wait in the living room. I will bring the phone to you."
"Yes. Yes sir, I understand. That will be fine." Andy closed her eyes and nodded with the phone against her ear, "Thank you." Disconnecting the call, Andy sat in what she was beginning to think of as 'her' spot, on the hearth and began to flip through the yellow pages that Miranda had provided for her, just in case the repair shop Miranda recommended was unable to accommodate her.
"Yes, Miranda." Andy relayed the information the man on the phone had told her. "Tow trucks still aren't able to navigate the slick roads. And when they are able to get through there are several wrecks ahead of me on the schedule. He said he would get to it as soon as he could, but it will be at least tomorrow before anyone can come to get the car. And, it will be Monday before he can look at repairing the damage." She continued to flip through the pages until she arrived at the rental car companies. "Which means I need alternate transportation to get home. There's a rental car company in town right?" Andy was stunned when Miranda reached over and closed the book.
"That is a problem easily managed." Miranda plucked the phone from Andrea's hand. "Our plans included returning to New York on Sunday. You may accompany us. There is no need for you to rent a car." Miranda continued logically. "It is most likely that you would not be able to acquire one until Monday anyway, which would put you late for work."
"Um..." Andy swallowed hard and nodded. "Thank you, Miranda."
"You, are welcome." Miranda's lips twitched in what could be interpreted as the beginning of a smile. "You should inform the girls that you will be staying for the weekend, and perhaps, ask Caroline what she would prefer for lunch?"
Andy's mega-watt smile appeared, "That's a great idea!" She started out of the living room then stopped, "Um... where are their rooms?"
Miranda's blue eyes twinkled. "Their rooms are two doors down from yours, on the other side of the hall." She continued quickly before Andrea disappeared, "But I believe at the moment you will find them in the Entertainment room." Miranda pointed to a door that had been hidden in the shadows last night. "Through there."
With a jaunty bounce in her step, Andy moved toward the door, unaware that Miranda's thoughtful gaze followed her the entire way.
"Wow..." Andy looked around the large dining room. After a few rounds of video game madness, Cassidy had taken her on the promised tour of the huge house. It had been very thorough, and informative, detailing several things that would have escaped her notice or not have known otherwise. Such as, the chandelier hanging from the vaulted ceiling, it was very pretty, but Andy would never have guessed that each of the dangling crystal prisms had been handmade by Miranda's great-grandfather. The whole house was like that, small details that the man who built the home had seen to personally. His legacy to pass on to the future. Andy thought that trait had been passed on to Miranda, since that was the way she managed Runway as well. Each detail had to be approved by her before it appeared in the magazine. Andy suddenly understood that the magazine was like this house, it was Miranda's legacy that she built, month after month.
"So," Andy found herself being led back to the main family room and once again sat in 'her' spot on the hearth by the fire. "Your great-grandfather built this house?"
"Yes," Cassidy looked around, "It was pretty bleak back then though, nice but cold. I've seen pictures." She gestured to the room, "Grandfather and Grandmother redecorated most of it, and added a few amenities. Then when it passed to Mom, she also redecorated some of the rooms, and renovated the kitchen. She kept a lot of the big appliances gas powered and there were a few upgrades she made to the furnace as well. She said she was tired of dealing with power outages and gas was better for cooking anyway."
"It's a great kitchen." Andy smiled, thinking of how easy it was to find everything for breakfast. Her smile faded and she hesitated then asked, "So, Miranda's parents are..."
Cassidy and Andy turned to see Miranda standing in the doorway of the room. Andy stood quickly. "I'm sorry, Miranda, I didn't mean to ask such a personal question..." Her voice trailed off at Miranda's upheld hand.
"No doubt, Cassidy has given you more about my family history than you would have ever wanted to know." Miranda graced her daughter with a lopsided smile, "We are very proud of our grandparents' accomplishments, but we do not need to bore others with the details of their lives."
"Okay, Mom." Cassidy glanced out the window and licked her lips, "Can we go out and play in the snow?"
"Bundle up," Miranda warned the girl, "The thermometer in the kitchen that measures the outside temperature read thirty degrees earlier..."
"Sure, Mom!" Cassidy jumped up and stopping only to give Miranda a quick kiss on the cheek, the girl was out of the room and up the stairs. Both women could hear her yelling for her sister to stop playing her DS and get dressed.
Andy chuckled. "I remember going out to play in the snow with my sister..." She resumed her seat by the fire as Miranda took her customary chair as well. "Good times."
"It is vague, but I do recall cavorting on the snow with my brother, once or twice." Miranda saw the question poised on the tip of Andrea's tongue and with a deep breath satisfied the young woman's curiosity, "He was killed, in the same car accident that claimed our parent's lives."
"Oh, Miranda," Andy wasn't sure what to say to that, "I'm so sorry."
"It was many years ago, Andrea." Miranda nodded and acknowledged the need to express sympathy, "But thank you, for the sentiment."
Andy looked to the door of the room and laughed. The girls had taken Miranda's 'bundle up' order to heart. It was a wonder that they could even move.
"We're gonna go play, but," Cassidy looked at Andy, "We'll get your overnight bag out of your car if you want."
"No!" Andy stood quickly, "Absolutely not. You stay away from that car. It could be dangerous." She saw the shock in the girls' faces and a bit of defiance. "Promise me you won't go anywhere near the car." The girls were silent for a moment too long, "Promise me."
Holding up her hands, Caroline tried to calm Andy down, "Okay... okay, promise." It was a trick they'd used many times on their father. Caroline would promise and then Cassidy was free to do whatever it was, or vice versa. Their eyes widened as Andy nodded to Caroline and turned to Cassidy and repeated, "Promise me."
Cassidy sighed, "Yeah, okay, I promise."
Miranda chuckled, "Perhaps it would be wise for us to survey the damage, Andrea. You can retrieve your things and I can access the damage to the tree."
"Sure." Andy agreed, "I'll just go change." She looked at the girls and grinned, "Be back in a few minutes."
Miranda regarded her girls coolly, "You may go outside to play, but do not go near the wreck. Andrea is correct, it could be dangerous."
"Yes, Mom." Caroline gestured to Cassidy, "C'mon, let's go."
"Right." Cassidy grinned and waved at their mom, "Right behind ya, Sis."
Chuckling, Miranda rose from her seat and went to her room quickly to change into warmer clothing for the outing.
"Well, I don't smell any gasoline." Andy approached the car with caution. She was glad to note that there weren't any twin-sized footprints around the vehicle.
She laughed as she brushed the accumulated snow from around the door, grateful for the pair of gloves Miranda had loaned her, "I should have brought a broom." As it was, it took a good tug to open the door. She still didn't see her own pair of gloves anywhere. Andy pushed the button next to the driver's seat to pop the latch on the trunk and made her way around to the back of the car. This time she didn't bother to brush the snow away and just opened the truck. Pulling the bag from the cold compartment, Andy laughed again at the scandalized look on Miranda's face. "Sorry Miranda, I know it's shabby, but it's all I have."
The bag was serviceable and that was about all Andy could say it had going for it. She'd had it since college and never really traveled enough to think it was necessary to replace. The laptop case inside was neoprene so the computer was protected anyway. She started to step away from the car when she overbalanced the bag and lost her footing. Luckily, she fell toward the car and braced herself, still upright, against the hulk of metal. She saw Miranda begin to move forward and held up a hand to stop her, "No, Miranda... don't come over here. The car is filthy and the ground is uneven... I don't want you to fall and get your beautiful coat dirty." Andy watched as Miranda pulled the lovely fur tighter around her. "I'm okay."
Andy waited for Miranda to declare the damage to the tree, negligible, then carried her bag back to the house. Miranda had offered to give her a quick tour of the grounds, even though they were snow-covered, so Andy merely set the bag just inside the door. As she closed the door, she felt the impact of a snowball on her back. Turning quickly, expecting to find one of the girls grinning at her, Andy blinked to see the Miranda Priestly brushing some snow off her leather gloves. "Um... Miranda?" Andy hopped off the porch, pausing for a mere second when the motion jarred her chest, then approached the woman. "Did you just throw a snowball at me?"
"No, Andrea," Miranda smirked, "I hit you with a snowball."
Miranda shrugged, "I felt like throwing one, and the girls have gone off to the hill behind the house to sled... so you were my next logical target."
Andy licked her lips and looked around, the girls were nowhere to be seen. "You do understand the rules of engagement when it comes to snowballs, right?"
"It's been a long time." Miranda regarded Andrea coolly, "I don't believe I am familiar with the 'rules'."
"The rule is, that when a person, that would be me, is hit with a snowball, said person is well within their rights to retaliate in kind against the person that threw said ball, that would be you." Andy reached down and scooped up a handful of snow. She began to form it into a ball, her dark eyes twinkling as she informed her hostess. "This is when you should start running."
"Really, Andrea. I don't run..." Miranda's scoffing remark was stopped by a handful of snow landing directly on her shoulder. Shrapnel from the cold missile was already melting against the skin on her neck. She wiped it away, calmly and asked, as she bent down to scoop a handful of snow for herself, "What was that you were saying about running?"
"Ack!" Andy looked around, not sure where to run to, then took off. Two steps later she felt the impact of the snowball on the back of her head. Laughing loudly, she managed to grab some snow as she ran and circling back around to where Miranda had been. Andy looked for the older woman. Stopping dead in her tracks, Andy turned her head to see where Miranda had gone, then felt the impact of yet another snowball on her butt. "Argh!!" Andy yelled, "I'll get you!" She spun around and winged the snowball in her hand toward her assailant.
Miranda laughed and ducked behind a snow-covered hedge to dodge the missile, calling out to taunt her opponent, "Unlikely."
Andy pulled her arm back to hurl another snowball when she felt an impact on her back. "What the..." Turning, she saw the girls busily working as a team. They had turned their sleds on their sides to form their cover and Caroline was making the ammunition while Cassidy lobbed them as fast as her sister could supply them to her. "Uh oh." She pelted for Miranda's position and ducked behind the hedge just as a barrage of snowballs flew over her head. With a grin, Andy leaned backward against their cover and informed Miranda, as several snowballs landed a few feet away from them, "Our training exercise is over, we have incoming..."
"Feed me the snowballs as fast as you can." With three rounds of ammo in her left hand and one in her right, Miranda waited for the next barrage to fly overhead then stood. The snow in her right hand wasn't even halfway to its target before the others were singly transferred from left to right and let fly as well. "Andrea!"
Andy shook herself out of her stupor and quickly began to gather the ammunition they'd need. Miranda ducked down again as Cassidy found her stride. Andy merely collected the balls as they arrived and piled them up.
Miranda again took three in her left hand and one in her right, "Ready this time?"
Saluting, Andy grinned, "Yes, Genr'l."
Waiting for a lull in her daughter's assault, Miranda stood and began to throw everything they had at the girls with unerring accuracy.
Andy watched their ammunition pile dwindle. But when it was about three fourths of the way gone, the small voices broke through the distance.
"We give up!"
Miranda's blue eyes twinkled with mischief as she looked down at Andrea, "Victory is ours." She offered her gloved hand to help Andrea up from her position next to the small pile of snowballs. "Well done, Andrea."
"Thanks." Andy stood and released Miranda's hand quickly. No one touched Miranda, that was an unwritten, unspoken rule at Runway, but un- or not, Andy never had touched her boss in any fashion whatsoever. She wasn't sure how the rule applied to gloved hands after a snowball battle, but Andy thought it surely must be in the fine print somewhere.
However, bending unwritten rules seemed to be something she was good at, as far as Miranda was involved. Andy counted off the 'rules' she'd somehow circumvented with no consequences. She had ridden in the elevator with Miranda once, walked upstairs at Miranda's townhouse, saved Miranda from an ugly scene involving her drunk soon-to-be-ex husband and gotten a mouthed 'thank you' for her trouble. The biggest thing was that she had seen Miranda in an old ratty robe and no make-up. That had been a shock to say the least. Realizing that her cold, heartless boss was, in fact, human with a very vulnerable heart was an eye-opening experience. A gloved hand waving in front of her face and the sound of Miranda calling her name pulled Andy back from her trip down memory lane. "I'm sorry, Miranda... lost in thought for a moment."
"Mmmm..." Miranda gestured to the girls. "They are ready for lunch." Smirking at that, Miranda asked, "Any thoughts on that subject?"
Andy laughed and flashed her mega-watt smile. "Maybe, yeah."
They all changed out of their snowy, wet, clothes quickly and reconvened in the kitchen. Andy opted to wear a black turtleneck shirt with a pair of black slacks. She'd worn this when she conducted the interviews with the resort people, only then she'd also worn a jacket. The twins both wore sweaters and jeans, while Miranda was perfectly comfortable in a hip hugging gray skirt and a white, probably cashmere, sweater.
It only took Andy a minute or two to rummage through the kitchen pantry and supplies to find what she needed then asked her rapt audience, "How about tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches?"
"Yum!" The girls grinned as they seated themselves on the stools at the preparation island, just as they had done for breakfast. Miranda also found a seat, enthralled by the economy of motion Andrea displayed while cooking. She was slightly confused by the thickened 'New York' accent Andrea adopted, but according to the girls' reactions this was again a fairly popular television cook that Andrea had opted to spoof. She watched as Andrea drained the can of tomatoes, reserving the juice then spread the tomato bits on a cookie sheet. Miranda just watched enthralled and didn't even ask what E.V.O.O. stood for.
"And while that's cooking I'll just get the veggies peeled and chopped." Andy made quick work of the carrot, celery, onion and garlic, dumping them all into a saucepan to soften.
Miranda was fascinated with the process of making the soup and asked the young woman point blank. "Why are you going to all this trouble?" She knew full well the contents of her pantry. "I know there are cans of tomato soup in the pantry."
"Yes," Andy grinned and admitted, "I like that brand of soup too. But I also love to cook. You had all the ingredients I needed, so I figured you could save the cans for another time."
"And where did you learn your love of cooking?"
"Mom." Andy stood as far away from the stove as she could while she poured the juice from the can of tomatoes into the pan with the veggies and added the appropriate herbs and spices. "I learned from her first, as usual."
"Mmm..." Miranda gestured to the cabinets behind their guest-turned-cook, "There are aprons in the third drawer down, under the coffee machine."
"Oh, great!" Andy quickly opened the drawer and as she put the plain white apron on, continued to answer Miranda's question. "Also, my ex-boyfriend is a chef."
"Oh?" Miranda's lips twitched slightly.
"Yes," Andy nodded as she stirred some chicken broth into the pan, "He works at a place in Boston now." Rolling her eyes at the memory, she grinned at the girls, "He would go on and on about the things he had to do in culinary school. You have no idea how many different ways there are to cook potatoes. He would talk about cooking all the time, and watched the Food Network all the time." She shrugged, "I guess after a while it started to sink in for me that cooking really isn't that hard." Andy pulled the cookie sheet with the roasted tomatoes out of the oven and added them to the pan. "Now," She winked and grinned at the girls, "We can get started on those sandwiches while that simmers for a bit."
Andy sat, once again clad in her white silky pajamas, cross-legged on her bed typing quietly on her laptop. This had been such a weird and wild day, she was exhausted but couldn't sleep. She was also a bit sore. The snowball fight this morning was nothing compared to the sledding she and the girls had enjoyed this afternoon. All that had only compounded the stiffness she'd received from the car accident, so she wasn't moving very fast this evening. So much so that when a quiet knock sounded on her door, she didn't get up to answer it, she merely called out, "Come in." When Miranda walked into the room, Andy scrambled to get up.
"No..." Miranda held up her hand, "No no, don't get up." Settling on the edge of the bed, Miranda spoke quietly. "I would like to thank you, for today. It was the most pleasant day I can recall in a very long time."
Smiling at that, Andy asked, "How's that throwing arm?"
Chuckling at that, Miranda admitted, "Sore, but it was worth it." Miranda's intense blue eyes raked over Andrea's silk clad form, "You?" She had noticed Andrea's economy of motion while cooking the evening meal had been somewhat lacking.
Nodding, Andy answered truthfully, "Sore, but it was worth it." Exhaling softly, Andy kept her voice low. "Thank you, for everything you've done for me."
"Andrea, anyone would have..."
"No, Miranda..." Andy sighed, "I don't mean yesterday and today, I... I mean before, the way I, left... it was the most unprofessional thing I've ever done. You had every right to be angry with me, but instead you gave me a recommendation that practically assured me a job."
Miranda licked her lips, "Yes, well. I told you to make a choice, and you did. Although I was not happy with that decision... you had done what I told you to do." Miranda, suddenly, rose from the bed and moved back toward the door, "Sleep well, Andrea. We will leave for the city after lunch tomorrow, so we will not be on the roads after dark."
"Of course," Andy nodded, "Um.. Miranda?" She waited for her hostess to turn before asking, "What do I do with these?" She plucked the sleeves of her borrowed pajamas. "Should we do laundry tomorrow... or..."
With a hint of a smile, Miranda waved off the suggestion, "Keep them..." The trademarked evaluating gaze again rested on Andrea's beautiful form. "They suit you."
Andy blinked at that, but before she could open her mouth to respond, Miranda was gone.
Andy lay back against the headrest and watched the scenery speeding past. They had gotten a later start than they'd hoped. They had thought a morning sledding session had put them behind schedule, even with the quick meal Andy had prepared them for a late lunch. But then Miranda had insisted they stay until the tow truck came to get the car. Now Miranda seemed to be in a race with the sun to see who could get home first. She could see the New York skyline in the distance, but the sun was beginning to color the sky behind them, so at this point it was anyone's race. Both girls were engrossed in their video games and the headphones that Miranda requested they wear quieted any noises from that section of the car. Miranda had bet her softly that the girls would be asleep before they got very far down the road. Andy was content to just watch the world go past as Miranda drove the Porsche, toward home.
"You're very quiet, Andrea." Miranda only glanced over at her companion for a moment before returning her eyes to the road. "Something wrong?"
"No," Andy smiled and spoke quietly as she watched the deep reds begin to fill her view in the side mirror, "It's just a beautiful sunset."
"Ah," Miranda took off her glove and adjusted the rear view mirror before nodding in agreement, "So it is. I prefer sunrises."
They continued driving and Andy's eyes drifted closed for what she thought was a moment. She dreamed a butterfly had landed on her cheek. A moment later a gloved hand shook her shoulder gently. Miranda's soft voice woke her completely.
"Andrea." Miranda removed her hand from Andrea's shoulder. "I believe this is the address you gave me."
Blinking, Andy inhaled deeply and looked around. She rubbed her eyes and cleared her throat when she saw the tall apartment building she'd moved into six months ago, "Oh! Yeah, this is the place." Grabbing her shabby overnight bag from the floor between her feet, she shouldered her laptop case and started to get out of the car. She spoke quietly, so as not to wake the girls, "Thanks for the ride." She shut the door as easily as she could but had only taken three steps toward the building's front door when she heard the girls shouting.
Turning around Andy found herself enveloped in stereo hugs. "Hey! What's up with the octopus impression?"
"We're gonna miss you!" Caroline sighed. "We just wanted to say goodbye."
"Right. Why were you trying to sneak away?" Cassidy nodded, "I don't think we've ever had so much fun at the mountain house before." She scuffed her toe on the sidewalk, "So we just wanted to say, thanks, and... goodbye."
"Hey..." Tilting both girls' faces up to meet hers, Andy smiled, "I wasn't sneaking away. Why goodbye? We live in the same city, remember?" She produced two cards from her laptop case. "If you're ever in the mood for some tomato soup and grilled cheese... give me a call, okay?" She laughed as the girls took the cards, "But you may need to wait a few days. That's my cell phone number, and I don't know how quickly I can get my broken one replaced. The email address will still work though."
"Okay, Andy! Thanks!" Cassidy hugged her again and ran back to the car.
Caroline also started back to the car when Andy's hand on her shoulder stopped her progress.
"Hey," Andy met Caroline's eyes when the girl turned around, and she smiled, "If you, any of you, need, anything, give me a call."
"Yeah..." Smiling at that, Caroline agreed, "I will. Thanks, Andy."
She watched Caroline climb back into the car and waited for the Porsche to pull away from the curb before she walked into her apartment building. Her first step into her apartment was nice, she loved this place, she had loved it the first time she saw it. Andy went through her seldom used, after-travel, routine and unpacked her bag. Her fingers lingered over the silky pajamas Miranda had given her, then her eyes narrowed and she looked at the tag. "Dry clean only." Grinning at that, Andy rolled her eyes, "Only Miranda would have dry clean pajamas!" They were very nice though, and comfy so Andy supposed it wouldn't kill her to have them dry cleaned from time to time. She decided she might even wear them, every so often. Tonight though was a night for regular laundry. She changed quickly into her normal cotton plaid pajamas and gathered all the dirty clothes she needed to wash, plus the sheets from the bed. Even if her sheets weren't the bazillion thread count variety, they could at least be clean.
The memory of the past weekend kept a smile on her face all through her laborious chore of laundry. When her stomach growled she went into the kitchen to see what she had in the way of food. Sighing at the meager contents of her pantry, and the severe lack of anything besides cold air in her fridge, Andy pulled a can of soup from her dwindling supplies, vowing to go to the market soon. It didn't take long to heat up her supper and as she sat down at her small table, Andy wondered why something she'd been perfectly content to do, here and in her old apartment for over a year, now felt so, lonely.
This summons seemed appropriate somehow, yesterday had sucked all day too, but then Mondays usually did. "Uh oh...the perfect end to another perfectly crappy day." Andy mumbled under her breath as she stood and quickly walked toward her editor's office. The job had changed hands a few months after she'd been hired and this guy was almost the exact opposite of her former boss. He'd been mild mannered and soft spoken, this man was not. She'd worked for the scariest of all bosses though so he didn't actually intimidate her. It was something that she thought he perversely enjoyed. Although she was polite and professional around him, she didn't cower. "Yeah, Chief. What's up?"
"Repairs on the car you wrecked will be finished on Friday. I expect it to be parked, back with the others in the garage on Monday morning or the five hundred dollar deductible from the insurance claim will be taken out of your check!"
Opening her mouth to protest that unfairness, Andy thought about it for half a second and nodded, "Okay."
He grunted and held out his hand, "Give me your broken phone."
She handed over the broken Blackberry and was amazed when he gave her a brand new iPhone in exchange.
"It's the same number. I got a deal so we're all getting upgrades. Your contacts are in Outlook right?" He grunted again when she nodded, "Well just sync up your phone with that... iTunes will do it and I know you have that program on your computer."
"Yes, sir." He'd reprimanded her at least twice in the last six months for playing the music from her computer too loudly while working late in the evening. Even though there wasn't anyone else in the office but her and him and when his office door was closed he couldn't hear anything in the bullpen. "Thank you, sir."
"Bah..." He waved her out of his office. "Go... write something."
He called after her, "And cheer up! I haven't seen you smile in two days."
She absently wondered how she was going to get the car from the repair shop, but then thought maybe she could get Dougie to take a road trip with her. He was the only one of her old, pre-Runway, friends she really hung around with very much anymore. The others had all pretty much abandoned her, either during her time at Runway or just after she and Nate broke up. She guessed that happened, lives diverging, but it didn't make it hurt any less to lose people she had thought were friends. Dougie was fun to have around though, their interests were similar and if she rented a car to drive back to the mountains, they could see the winter scenery. Otherwise she'd try and work out a one-way rental and make the trip herself. A quick day trip. That would work, and the price of a day's rental for a car wouldn't set me back nearly as much as the five hundred it will cost me if I don't get the car back over the weekend.
The first thing she did was check her voicemail messages. There were a couple from contacts she'd wanted to set up interviews with, saying that they'd be available at the end of the week, and there was one from each of the girls.
Andy returned those immediately, knowing that school was out for the day and she wouldn't be interrupting their classes. Assuring them that she had a new phone now and that it was perfectly fine for them to call or email her, Andy told them to get their homework done and said her goodbyes. She hadn't gotten away without the girls extracting a promise from her to meet them in the park tomorrow.
She was playing around with the email and internet browser functions on her new phone when a message appeared from an oddly familiar address. Opening it quickly, Andy smiled, astonished at the content.
Grinning, Andy translated the Miranda!speak in a quiet murmur to herself, "How are you?" She grinned wider and began to tap out a response.
"How did you deal with her for so long?!"
Miranda's current First Assistant had burst into Emily's office only moments before her frantic question.
With a sigh, Emily put her pen down and rubbed her temples, "What is it now... Isabel?"
"She's totally insane. All day yesterday and now today," Isabel flailed her arms in exasperation. "Nothing is right, coffee is too cold, steak is too done, models are too thin, colors are too dull... there's no pleasing her!"
"And?" Emily couldn't fathom why this was her problem. She wasn't Miranda's assistant anymore, she had taken over Jocelyn's position when the woman had moved on and was now the Fashion Director at Runway. "You're talking about Miranda Priestly. You're her assistant. Deal with it!"
"I just don't know what to do! She's calling me Emily again!" Isabel wiped a tear from her eye, "I thought you of all people might be able to help me, might want to help me."
"Why on Earth would I want to do that?" Emily wanted to beat her head against the desk, or beat Isabel's head against the desk. "As I said, it's your job now."
"Well," Isabel sniffed, "I thought you might want her in a better mood, since you have a meeting with her in just under an hour."
"I..." Emily opened her mouth then closed it. Quickly checking her calendar, she turned on the tearful woman. "You lie!"
Nodding, Isabel wiped her eyes, "That's another reason I came to see you. Miranda wants the Production meeting moved up to this afternoon at four-thirty."
"Perfect..." Emily closed her eyes and began her mantra, "I love my job, I love my job..."
"So can you help me?" Isabel was hopeful that the redhead would be able to help her. Emily had been the longest lasting assistant during Miranda's entire tenure as Editor-in-Chief at Runway.
"No." Emily shook her head, "When she gets in a mood like this, when nothing pleases her, there is nothing you can do. You must simply make the best of it and hope it passes quickly." She winced at the not-so-lovely things she had to bring to the production meeting and prayed that Miranda's mood would not be terrible by that time. "Go, be there when she calls and make sure you perform every task to the letter!"
"Right." Isabel rolled her eyes, like she didn't always carry out every instruction exactly how Miranda ordered it done.
Emily watched Isabel scramble out of her office and sighed, "God, these people." Then she began to scramble herself. Production meeting in an hour, dammit. For half a second Emily wished for the good old days when she could blame Andrea for her problems. That thought stopped her short and she could almost smell that cheap perfume Andrea wore during their first meeting. Now why, she thought, does this feel like an Andrea problem to me?
Miranda watched her first assistant scurry off to complete her tasks and sighed to herself. She turned her chair to face the window. This is ridiculous, Miranda seethed at herself unable to fathom why she was so out of sorts today. Although yesterday had been tedious, the weekend had been very relaxing, despite the loss of power at the beginning and Andrea's unexpected arrival at the house. Suddenly Miranda had the urge to hear her children's voices and before she realized what she was doing, dialed Caroline's cell phone number. "Hello, Bobbsey."
"Mom?" Caroline sounded surprised. "What's up?"
"Is it a crime to want to hear my children's voices?" Miranda sounded petulant even to her own ears. "I'm sorry, Bobbsey. It has been a long day."
"Sorry to sound so surprised, Mom. For a second I thought you might be Andy calling back."
Sitting up a bit straighter, Miranda asked. "You've spoken with Andrea... today?"
"Yeah," Caroline explained, "We left her voicemail messages and when she got her new phone today she called us back, just a few minutes ago."
"How is she feeling?" Miranda was annoyed that the answer to her question was not forthcoming.
"She didn't say." Caroline's voice took on an odd tone. "You can ask her yourself." She began to obviously read Andy's contact information off the card the reporter had given her.
Miranda twirled in her chair and quickly jotted down the phone number and email address that Caroline was rattling off. Before she could thank the girl for the information Caroline spoke.
"Mom, I really need to get back to my homework." She asked, "Can we talk about this at home?"
"Yes, Bobbsey." Miranda didn't care what she had to do this evening, it would be canceled. "I will be home for supper."
"Great!" Caroline sounded like she was smiling. "See ya."
Miranda held the phone to her ear for a moment longer then lowered it, looking from the screen to Andrea's contact information, then gave in. Opening the device to reveal the keyboard, Miranda began to compose a message. It is only polite that I inquire about Andrea's state of health... right? She pressed the send button and assured herself. Right.
Oddly feeling better about things, Miranda set the phone aside and got back to work. It wasn't long before the small device jumped on the desk, indicating a text message had arrived. She picked up her phone to hold it the correct distance from her eyes to see.
"Emily." Miranda waited the few heartbeats it took for the girl to scramble to stand in front of her desk. "Cancel my schedule for this weekend, nothing after four on Friday."
"But..." Isabel blinked, "The charity benefit is..." She swallowed hard at the look Miranda leveled on her, but continued her thought in a whisper, "...Friday night."
Miranda's cool blue gaze leveled on her assistant, "It will go on without me, as this office will go on without you if you ever question my orders again."
Isabel nodded, "Yes, Miranda. Nothing after four on Friday."
Picking up her phone, Miranda looked over the top rim of her glasses and spoke softly, "That's all."
Isabel's quick departure was of no consequence, whether she canceled this weekend's schedule or not, Miranda knew she would not be there.
Miranda smirked at the image of Andrea's big brown eyes widening when she read the text. Then a soft smile graced her features at the thought of those dark eyes reflecting the firelight. Wiping the expression off her face, Miranda firmly berated herself, Impossible. I don't just take up with young women. Her Dragon persona fully set into place, she rose from her seat. Picking up her leather portfolio and her phone, Miranda stalked out of her office, issuing orders as she went, "No calls, I'll be in the Production meeting. Coffee when I return."
The fork, laden with a bit of vegetables, stopped halfway between the plate and Caroline's mouth. She lowered it back to the plate slowly. "What?"
Miranda was loathe to repeat herself to anyone, but as always the girls were the exception, "We are going back to the house this weekend. So be ready to leave Friday evening. I have cleared my schedule of everything after four."
Exchanging glances with her sister, Caroline continued her interrogation. "Why?"
"This week has been trying, and I anticipate the next two days will be very stressful as well." Miranda pushed her half full plate away. "I thought a day or so of relaxation would be pleasant, as last weekend was. And I believe it is time to introduce Taymor to the house."
"Last weekend was cool because Andy was there," Cassidy picked at her food grumbling a little. It was a nice enough house, but it was really boring in the wintertime. Having Tay there would help some though, so Cassidy resigned herself to the trip.
"Andrea will be there this weekend as well."
There was another exchange of glances but this time they spoke the question in unison, "What?"
"Good grief," Miranda huffed, "Do I need to make an appointment for you to get your hearing checked?" She tossed her napkin next to her plate, "I said, Andrea will be there this weekend as well."
"Buh..." Caroline blinked and shook her head, again asking, "Why?"
"When I inquired about her health earlier today, Andrea indicated that the car she wrecked would be repaired on Friday. She was planning on renting a car in order to retrieve the repaired vehicle from the garage. I informed her that we would be returning to the house on Friday and that there was no need for her to rent a car, that she could ride with us. We will pick her up at six pm." Miranda narrowed her eyes at the expressions on her children's faces. It was her turn to ask, "What?"
"Nothing." Caroline also pushed her plate away. "May I be excused?"
Cassidy wiped her mouth quickly, "Me too?"
Glancing at their plates, Miranda noted that slightly more than half of each girl's meal had been consumed. "Very well." A grunt of disapproval stopped them from leaving the table and both girls smiled sweetly at her.
Both girls picked up their respective plates and glasses, carrying them to the kitchen sink, before they pelted up the stairs to Caroline's room.
Cassidy settled cross-legged on her sister's bed and asked quietly, "What do you think it means?"
Caroline lay back in her big round, overstuffed-cushioned wicker chair and sighed, "I'm not sure..."
"But," Caroline continued, "I think it means she feels the same thing we do."
"That is so awesome." Cassidy lay back on the bed and laughed. "This is gonna be so awesome!"
"Not so fast, Sis..." Caroline sighed, "I think she feels it, but she doesn't know what it is."
"But..." Cassidy protested, "She has to know... Mom's not stupid."
"No, not stupid." Caroline licked her lips, "She's just not looking for it, not there. And, she may not want it to be there..."
Cassidy heard the particular tone in her sister's voice and asked, "What are you thinking, Ro?"
"I'm thinking..." With a deep breath, Caroline nodded to herself, "...we need to talk to Andy."
"Right," Cassidy hugged her sister's pillow, "We'll see her at the park tomorrow."
"Yeah." The wheels in Caroline's head began to turn, examining all the possibilities she could think of and projecting their outcomes, just like her mother would. Absently nodding, Caroline agreed, "Tomorrow."
Andy heard the frantic yells and looked up from her laptop to see a fluffy St. Bernard puppy running down the walkway toward her with two very familiar forms chasing after it. One of them recognized her and yelled. "Andy! Catch him!"
Setting aside her laptop, Andy waited until the last possible second then reached down and scooped up the running puppy. She felt him stiffen under her hand and was fully prepared to let him go if he even seemed to be thinking about biting her. The girls arrived quickly though and relieved her of the fuzzy bundle.
"Tay!" Cassidy sighed, "Bad boy!" She rolled her eyes as he lolled his tongue at her and looked up from his place in Caroline's arms with his big brown eyes. "Awww... Tay... you gotta stay with us..."
"He's a cutie." Andy grinned and reached out to pet the puppy on the head. She laughed as he moved into the touch, closing his eyes and looking for all the world like he was smiling.
"Yeah, he looks just like Patricia did, when she was a puppy." Caroline hugged the wiggling bundle a little tighter when unexpected tears sprung to her eyes.
"Um..." Andy hated to ask, because she thought she already knew the answer. "Where's Patricia?"
"She passed away," Cassidy frowned, "A few months after y... Stephen asked Mom for a divorce."
Caroline shrugged, "Nothing. Mom had gotten her a few years before we were born. St. Bernard's only usually live around eight to ten years... Patricia was with us for twelve years of our lives, and had been with Mom for three before that." Caroline saw that Andy was upset and she assured their new friend. "She didn't, like, suffer or anything. Patricia slept at the foot of Mom's bed. One morning Mom woke up and Patricia didn't."
Andy casually wiped a tear that had spilled down her cheek away. "I see." Breathing deeply, she smiled at the little puppy. "And where did this not-so-little guy come from?"
"He's Patricia's grandson." Cassidy grinned, "She was a pure blood St. Bernard, but Mom only allowed her to have two litters. Mom hates the puppy mill industry. She found a responsible breeder and Patricia had seven puppies in her first litter and five in her second." The girl rubbed the puppy's head, "He's the son of one of the females from the second litter."
Caroline was struggling to hold the wiggling puppy, because even though he was a puppy, he was a St. Bernard and as Andy had pointed out, he wasn't exactly small. "Can you hold him for a minute, Andy?" Caroline handed the furry bundle over to the reporter, "I just need to get his leash on. He jumped out of the carrier earlier before I could latch it."
Andy laughed as the pup looked up at her with his sad brown eyes when Caroline clicked the lead in place, "Awww... You don't like that leash do ya...?" She started to call him by name then asked the girls. "Tay?"
"Yeah," Cassidy elaborated, "Winston Taymor Priestly. We call him Tay."
"I see." Seeing that Caroline was ready to hold the leash and not let the dog get away, Andy set him down. He stayed right where she put him and she chuckled, patting him on the head. "Good boy, Tay!" She knew it wouldn't last though and the dog would want to be walking soon so she packed up her laptop. She slung the strap over her shoulder as they began to move. "So, you're just here walking Tay?" Andy narrowed her eyes at the girls, "Isn't that a little dangerous?"
Caroline rolled her eyes and pointed out a dark haired woman wearing a black tailored suit, following them at a discreet distance. "That's Sam, she's our babysitter."
"Ro!" Cassidy grimaced at the job description even though it was pretty much true. "She's our bodyguard. She drives us to school in the morning and picks us up after. She drives us pretty much anywhere we want... so long as Mom says it's okay."
Grumbling at that, Caroline mumbled, "Anytime we aren't with Mom, or Dad, Sam is there."
"Well," Andy glanced at the serious looking woman and asked the girls, "Is that so bad? I mean... I think it would be nice to have someone making sure I was okay."
"I guess," Cassidy thought about that and knew her sister was thinking about it too. "Sam's always..." Andy interrupted that statement.
"I wasn't talking about Sam." Andy heard Caroline's gasp.
"Mmmm hmmm..." Andy grinned and winked at the girls' astonishment. "I know for a fact that you two are the most important people in Miranda's life. Otherwise she wouldn't have had me, and her other assistants, do all the things we were required to do for you."
Caroline handed the leash to Cassidy and watched Andy as they walked, "You did a lot of stuff for us, more than most other assistants."
"Did I?" That was news to Andy. She had always assumed that all the assistants did all that kind of stuff.
"Yeah," Caroline blinked as if just realizing something herself, "You did."
"Are you really coming to the house with us again this weekend?" Cassidy rolled her eyes as Tay did his business. She handed the leash to Caroline and pulled a plastic baggie out of her pocket. "I hate this part."
Andy laughed, "Part of the job." She had walked Patricia enough times to speak from experience, "At least he's just a puppy."
"True." Cassidy wrinkled her nose as she picked up the yuck and turned the bag inside out, disposing of it quickly in the nearest trash can. She laughed and commented as she cleaned her hands with an antibacterial wipe, "Something to look forward to I suppose. More poop."
Without even thinking about it, Andy reached out and wrapped her arm around Cassidy's shoulder, jostling the girl slightly, "That's the spirit! And yeah, Miranda offered to give me a ride back to pick up the car after it's fixed. Although, I'm not sure she thought I'd be staying..."
Cassidy grinned and wrapped her arm around Andy's waist, leaning against the reporter's solid form. "Good. I liked having you there last weekend."
"You'll stay with us Friday at least," Caroline proclaimed then explained, "When we drive up in the evening we always stop to eat supper at a little French restaurant Mom likes. The garage will be closed by the time we get to the house." She shrugged, "So, you'll need to stay over Friday night at least."
"Oh," Andy absorbed that information. "French food? Fancy place?"
"Yeah, French food, but not fancy," Cassidy moved away from Andy. With a glance at her sister, they both understood what Andy's concern might be, "It's good and pretty casual, like a Bistro in Paris. There's even an outdoor patio room that we can take Tay into, they enclose it in the winter. We used to take Patricia all the time. All kinds of people that eat there, dressed in all different styles of clothes."
Caroline agreed, "Yeah, we normally just wear jeans and sweaters or a nice top." She tugged on Tay's leash and commanded, "Tay, sit!" She pulled a snausage from a bag in her jacket pocket and rewarded the puppy when he complied, "Good, boy!" She flashed an apologetic look at Andy, "We've gotta go. Tay's had enough of a walk today. We can't overexercise him. His bones are still growing." She grinned, "Plus, we have homework."
"Of course," Andy knelt down and ruffled the fur on the dog's neck, "Nice to meet you, Tay!" She hugged the girls, one arm around each girl's shoulder, careful not to hit Cassidy with her laptop case. "I'm glad we got together today. It was nice to see you." She reminded them, "Call or email me anytime okay?"
"Sure, Andy." Caroline grinned.
"Right." Cassidy smiled and rolled her eyes as Caroline handed her the lead again.
Andy watched as the girls walked back to where Sam was waiting to escort them back to the car. She smiled and waved as they both looked back before exiting the park, then Andy began walking toward the subway station. She needed to go home too, she had some more work to do on a couple of articles, and soon it would be time for supper. For a second she wondered what the girls were going to have to eat tonight, and if they were going to eat it alone. Andy knew that Miranda often worked late into the evening. Andy wondered if Miranda would object to the girls coming over to her apartment for supper sometimes. That would be fun, Andy thought, It's kinda boring just cooking for one person.
Many times she didn't even bother and when she did it wasn't much; a bowl of soup or cereal, maybe a frozen dinner if she remembered to put it in the oven in time to cook it before she got too hungry. Sometimes, on the weekends, Dougie might come over to veg out in front of old movies and mooch a well cooked meal from her, but those Saturday nights were few and far between these days. Doug had gotten a new job and a new boyfriend, both of which had taken up a great deal of his time for the last few months. That thought turned her mind to wondering what she was going to have for supper that night. With a sigh, Andy shrugged to herself and thought she might have a bag of microwave popcorn in the cabinet. She promised herself that she was going to go to the market soon.
Andy looked around her apartment again, feeling anxious about her upcoming trip. She laughed at herself as she wondered about how much milk she had left in the fridge. "You're only going to be gone until Sunday night, Sachs. Get a grip." She jumped when her phone buzzed in her hand and she looked down to read the incoming text. It was from Caroline.
Deleting the message, Andy picked up her scruffy overnight bag off the couch, grabbed her keys out of the small bowl on the stand next to the door and stepped into the hallway. She made triple sure the door locked behind her. Rushing down the stairs taking them three at a time in what was more of a controlled fall than anything else, she took a minute at the door to compose herself. She stood at the top of the stoop, leading to the apartment building before she realized that Miranda Priestly was behind the wheel of a very 'soccer-mom' looking SUV. She wondered why the front seat was not taken but with a deep breath just went with it and climbed in. "Hello Miranda." She dropped her bag at her feet and buckled in before turning in her seat to see behind her, "Hello, girls." She grinned as she saw the reason the girls were sitting in the back. The entire third row of seating had been removed, replaced with a large animal carrier, a box slightly bigger than that, and a smaller box nestled between the two. "Hello, Tay."
Miranda looked into the rear-view mirror and instructed, "Cassidy, please make sure Taymor can see either you or your sister during the drive. I do not want a repeat of the drive here."
"Right." Cassidy shifted the small box slightly so that she could turn the crate until she could see Tay peering out through the bars of the carrier's gate. "Got it, Mom."
"Are you ready, Andrea?"
"Yes, Miranda." Andy pulled on the seatbelt to establish that it was, in fact, buckled. "Whenever you are."
It was a pleasant drive and forty-five minutes after they left the city, Taymor had settled down to nap while the girls were both engrossed in their handheld video games, both wearing headphones as per Miranda's request. "Thank you again, Miranda, for giving me this ride. It's a very nice thing for you to do."
"Yes, well," Miranda grinned as she kept her eyes on the road, "Don't spread it around. I wouldn't want my employees to become complacent in the shadow of a 'very nice' boss."
Andy laughed, "No chance of that." She glanced over and rolled her eyes as the grin had disappeared from Miranda's face. "I mean, really Miranda, how many employees at Runway are going to crash their car on your lawn and get snowed in with you for the weekend? The odds of even one of them..." She'd started to say, "getting to know you" but changed it mid-speech, "...doing that is just, astronomical."
"True." Miranda's lips twitched slightly. "And even if they did, I do not believe I would have treated them as I did you."
"Oh?" Andy's eyes widened at that statement. "How so?"
"They most likely would have been given a room in the west wing of the house, and I doubt very much any of them would have even tried to cook meals for me." Miranda passed a slow moving car and glanced over at her guest. Mocking Andrea slightly, Miranda used the same phrasing and inflection the young woman had used earlier, "I mean really, Andrea, can you imagine anyone at Runway even considering for a moment that I eat pancakes and sausage for breakfast?"
A mega-watt smile crossed Andy's face as she recognized the playfulness in Miranda's voice, "No, I really can't imagine that, Miranda."
"Mmmm." Miranda shot a wry glance at her passenger and chuckled, "Neither can I."
"You know what else no one at Runway would ever imagine?" Andy took the raised eyebrow glance as permission to continue, "No one would ever believe you drive yourself anywhere, especially in a vehicle like this."
Miranda chuckled at that. "The drivers are employed by Elias-Clark and will ferry me around the city on business with no problem. I may also call upon them to transport me from my home to legitimate work or fashion related public functions, but this is personal time and I'm perfectly capable of driving myself and my children anywhere we wish to go."
Laughing softly at the slightly defensive tone Miranda had taken by the end of her speech, Andy just rolled her eyes, "Of course you are, Miranda. You're the most capable person I've ever met!"
Taymor whined from his cage and Miranda pressed her lips together before murmuring, "Of course." She took the next exit and pulled into a small rest stop. Theirs was the only vehicle there. By the time they had parked, the girls had their headphones off. Miranda spoke quickly, "Take Taymor out to stretch his legs... and do his business."
Caroline nodded and grabbed the leash from the top of the carrier, "C'mon, Tay... let's go for a walk."
Cassidy rolled her eyes and took a small biodegradable baggie from the small box of supplies they'd brought for the dog. "Back in a bit."
Andy wondered why Miranda hadn't gotten out yet. "Aren't you going to stretch your legs too, Miranda?" After she spoke, Andy noticed Miranda's white knuckle grip on the wheel. "Miranda? What's wrong?"
Licking her lips, Miranda shook her head and released her grip, "Nothing." She unbuckled quickly and opened her door, "Let's go."
Hastily unbuckling her seat belt, Andy quickly followed Miranda down a well lit path, to the grassy area that surrounded an obviously man-made pond. Miranda stood in a circle of light and leaned against the low wall that separated the picnic area from the water. Andy moved to stand beside her, "It's pretty here." She got her bearings and looked west, "I think the sunsets would be nice."
Miranda looked east, "I prefer sunrises." Reaching up, Miranda surreptitiously wiped off her cheek.
Andy saw a motion and realized that Miranda was crying. It was instinct more than anything else that prompted Andy to move closer and place her hand on Miranda's back. "Miranda?"
Holding back her tears by sheer will, Miranda allowed the comforting hand to remain on her back. "Patricia, loved this place." Miranda looked around and smiled as Taymor led the girls to every tree, bush and garbage can he could find to mark this as his territory. "Once I tried to drive straight through to the house and Patricia had a fit. I had to turn around to bring her back here for a little while." Miranda sniffed and wiped away the tears that had fallen at that memory. "This is the first time we have transported Taymor to the house, but..."
"Hey..." Andy assured Miranda, "It's just nature. His little doggie bladder was full." Andy glanced at the one concrete structure in the rest stop and smiled. "He may have had the right idea."
"Mmm..." Taking a deep breath, Miranda nodded. "Yes, go if you must. The restaurant is still an hour away."
"Are you okay?" Andy didn't want to leave if Miranda was still upset.
Turning to face Andrea, Miranda felt the young woman's hand fall away from her and she caught it, "Yes, Andrea. I'm fine." She squeezed the hand in hers, lightly. "Thank you."
With a flash of a toothy smile, Andy nodded, "Okay." She rubbed her thumb over the backs of Miranda's fingers, "You need to get back in the car. Your hands are freezing."
Miranda smiled, her eyes glittering with unshed tears as she playfully copied the younger woman's familiar tone, "Yes, Andrea."
Andy once again found herself, silk pajama clad, sitting in 'her' spot on the hearth by the fire, only this time she was playing with Tay and hadn't cooked the meal that she'd stuffed herself on earlier. "I think Tay should be the one exercising me." Andy laughed and patted her belly as she waited for Tay to bring the tennis ball back to her. "That food was delicious."
Miranda chuckled, "French food is deceptive in nature. It's the sauces that get you."
Taking the slobbery ball from Tay's mouth, Andy rolled it across the floor, again. "Oh, by the way, I contacted the garage here, before we left New York, they said they could bring it here for me. So you won't have to drive me to the shop to get it."
"It would be no trouble..."
"It would and you know it. You can't leave Tay here all by himself, so you'd have to crate him up... and all that. It's taken care of." Andy smiled at Miranda then looked to see where the puppy had gone. "But the offer is appreciated." She spotted Tay resting on his large bed in the corner, gnawing at the ball.
Nodding at that, Miranda looked at the large grandfather clock. "It's late and it has been a long day. Perhaps we should all try to get some sleep."
Cassidy seemed to vibrate in place as she asked, "Can Tay sleep in my room tonight, Mom?"
"Of course," Miranda held up her hand to stop Caroline's protest, "He may sleep in your room tonight Cassidy, and in Caroline's tomorrow night. Make sure he sleeps in his own bed, he needs to get used to that. That is why we brought them."
Andy hid a grin at the disappointed look on Cassidy's face. The beds in question were now scattered throughout the East wing of the house, unpacked from the large box that had been in the back of the van. There was practically one in each room, except the the bathrooms and guest rooms. Andy noticed that her room and Miranda's room had also been excluded from the dispersal. But, each of the girls had one of the large fluffy cushions in their room for the puppy to sleep on. Andy pressed her lips together to keep from smiling when Miranda relented.
"You can place it at the foot of your bed though, if you wish." She was very firm on her next point though, "He cannot run through the house unattended, so make sure your door is closed before you fall asleep."
"Right! Thanks Mom! Good night." Cassidy kissed Miranda's cheek then coaxed Tay up the stairs with her.
"G'night, Mom." Caroline also kissed Miranda's cheek. "See you in the morning."
Flattening her palms against the warm stone she sat on, Andy leaned back, supporting herself on straightened arms. She never would have imagined feeling so relaxed in Miranda's presence, but this Miranda was different from the one she'd known as her boss. She'd only had a few tiny glimpses of this one while she had worked at Runway.
The Runway Editor, the Dragon Lady, was harsh and often forced people into a downward spiral of unending despair. This Miranda was a loving mother who cried over lost pets and worried about her children constantly, because she loved them. Runway Miranda was never touched, but this one had held her hand and gotten kisses on the cheek from her children. Grinning impishly, Andy half-jokingly asked, "Should I give you a goodnight kiss on the cheek too?"
Rolling her eyes at that, Miranda chuckled as she stood, then called Andrea's bluff, tilting her cheek toward her guest, "If you must."
Andy sat up straight and then stood, "Um... I mean... Are you..."
Smirking at Andrea's befuddlement, Miranda waved off any further action and nodded, "Thought so..." She began to move toward the stairs, "Good night, Andrea. Sweet dreams."
With a glance at the dying fire, Andy called to Miranda, "Wait!" Andy caught up with her hostess and walked next to Miranda all the way to the door of her room. Andy looked into Miranda's eyes and remembered them, tear filled, from earlier. Leaning in, slowly, she gently kissed Miranda's cheek and whispered, "Sweet dreams, Miranda."
She escaped into her room quickly and leaned back against the door for a long moment, her heart threatening to pound its way out of her chest. Wow, that was totally stupid, Sachs... She hoped Miranda wasn't too upset with her. She hadn't been kicked out yet, so that was a good sign. Crawling into bed, Andy closed her eyes and tried to relax then sat straight up in the bed. "Holy shit, Miranda Priestly just let me kiss her!"
It took a while to get over that thought, but once Andy finally dozed off, Miranda's final words to her were realized. Andy had sweet dreams indeed.
Andy yawned and stretched, wincing a bit as the bruising on her chest ached at the motion. She heard noises and walked tentatively into the kitchen. She stopped just inside the door, lowering her arms slowly to her sides as she blinked at the scene before her. "Miranda?"
Looking up from her task of transferring eggs from the carton to the counter, Miranda smiled softly and spoke quietly, "Good morning, Andrea."
"Um.." Andy slid into a seat at the preparation island, "Good morning."
Andy looked behind her, then back at Miranda, "Uh... yeah..."
Nodding, Miranda placed the egg carton back in the fridge and reached for a coffee cup. She poured the mug half full, then scooped in some sugar and added some creamer before placing the cup in front of her guest.
"Thank you," It was too early in the morning for Andy to censor her words. "How long have you been up?"
Miranda licked her lips and took a sip of her own coffee. "It was a beautiful sunrise."
"What's all this?" Andy indicated the mixing bowl and measuring cups on the counter, not to mention the large number of eggs.
"Breakfast." Miranda laughed outright a the expression on the young woman's face. "Really Andrea, who do you think cooked for us when you weren't here?"
"I..." Andy shrugged, "I hadn't really thought about it, but I guess I just assumed..."
"That I have a personal chef?" Miranda nodded, "Much like you assumed that I have a chauffeur..."
"Something like that, yeah." Andy sipped her coffee and sighed, "Mmm... that's good."
"There is a woman who comes to the townhouse twice a week. She cooks meals suitable for freezing and cleans." Miranda actually hated that necessity, "I'm often held late at the office and have no time to cook the evening meal for the girls."
"Of course." Andy fully understood that. "That's the big reason Mom began to teach me, and my sister Jill, how to cook from a very young age. On the nights she had to work, or was too tired from work to cook, we would do it for her."
"What does your mother do?"
"Did," Andy smiled, "She's retired now... Middle school, English teacher."
"Ah," Miranda began to crack some of the eggs into a bowl, "So you come by your love of writing honestly."
Nodding, Andy agreed, "Something like that."
Miranda began to whisk the eggs together, "And your father?"
"He's a lawyer."
"Mmm..." Miranda continued her batter creation. "I see. No desire to go into that field I suppose."
"Actually, I did apply to Stanford's Law Program." Andy sipped her coffee.
"That is a tough program to qualify for," Miranda set aside the mixture she'd been working on, "They don't accept many."
"Oh," Andy smiled, "I got in. I just changed my mind regarding my career path. Northwestern's journalism track was a more appealing option for me."
"Interesting choice." Before Miranda could say more, Tay scrambled into the room followed by Cassidy and Caroline. "Good morning, my darlings."
Both girls eyes lit up when they saw the mixing bowl and they both spoke together, "Yay, crepes!"
"Yes," Miranda laughed, "Go get dressed and take Tay out for a quick business walk. By the time you get back the crepes will be done. We will show him the grounds later."
"Okay, Mom." Cassidy tugged on her sister's pajama sleeve, "C'mon, Ro."
"Yeah, yeah.. I'm comin'"
Andy laughed as Tay raised up to put his front paws on her legs. Miranda reprimanded him instantly.
" Patri..." With a quick exhale, Miranda corrected herself, "Taymor! Sit!" The puppy immediately obeyed and Miranda handed Andrea a small piece of bacon. "Give this to him."
Andy nodded, not commenting on the slip Miranda had made, and rewarded the puppy for sitting when told. She ruffled his neck fur after he took the treat, "Good boy."
"He cannot be allowed to jump up on people. He is too large a breed for that. He must be trained now, to curb that habit." She shook her head, "It's the one area of his obedience training that still needs work." Wiping her hands on a damp towel, Miranda pulled a large shallow skillet from the cabinet under the prep area and ladle after small ladle began to cook the crepes.
Andy stepped out of the garage and smiled at the man from the repair shop. "Thank you, so much..." she read the patch on his blue mechanic's shirt, "...Arthur."
He chuckled, "Junior... almost everyone calls me Junior." He pointed to the logo for Junior's Repair Shop on the right side of his shirt.
She grinned as she accepted the keys to the newly repaired car from him and hugged herself to stave off the cold. "You have no idea how much I appreciate this."
"No problem. When I recognized the address..." The corners of his eyes crinkled when the door that connected the garage to the house opened. "Hello, Miranda!" He looked down and asked, "And who's this?"
"Hello, Arthur. This is Taymor." Miranda gave Andrea an admonishing look before draping the extra coat she'd carried out over the young woman's shivering shoulders. The puppy pulled on the leash and Miranda gave it a light tug, "Taymor, sit!" The puppy did what he was told. Miranda fed the dog a snausage before addressing Arthur again. "I understand your business is booming these days."
"Yes, ma'am." He grinned, "But I always have time to tune up the Porsche." His eyes glittered, "It's about time for an oil change, right?"
Miranda chuckled, "The next time I drive it up, I will be sure to bring it to you."
"Excellent." He sighed, "I love working on that car." He glanced behind him as a tow truck began pulling up the long driveway. "There's my ride." He gestured with his thumb toward the car and told Andy, "Your boss called in a credit card number, so it's all paid for, the receipt's in the passenger seat."
"Thanks, Ar...er.. Junior."
Grinning at her near slip, he winked and moved toward the waiting tow truck. He pulled the door of the truck open and as he began to climb in he turned back to the women. "Oh yeah... Miranda. Dad says he'll come by sometime next week to restock the wood supply, and clear the debris from the snow storm. He wants to wait for the snow to melt before he does it, so he's sure to get everything."
"Thank you, Arthur," Miranda smiled, "Tell Arthur I appreciate the diligence."
He chuckled and shook his head. "Miranda, you are the only person I know that can say both my name and Dad's in the same sentence and the listener can still tell who you're talking about." He looked at Andy, "Nice to meet you."
"Likewise." The keys in Andy's hand jingled as she gave the man a little wave and a smile.
Miranda watched the tow truck move a safe distance away then allowed Taymor to begin walking. Andy moved up next to her, matching her stride.
"May I walk with you?"
Glancing at her guest, Miranda nodded, "If you wish."
"Where are the girls?" Andy had thought Tay's care was mostly their responsibility.
"They are engrossed in a movie on television." Miranda paused for yet another landmark to accept Taymor's mark. They walked in silence for short distance before Miranda spoke quietly. "He's married, you know." The confused look on Andrea's face prompted Miranda to elaborate, "Arthur. He's been married, happily, for five years and has three young children."
With a deep breath, Andy pressed her lips together for a long moment before answering, "He's not my type anyway."
"Oh," Miranda paused to allow Taymor to mark a small shrub, "You don't like handsome men? You would prefer a homely man instead?"
Andy laughed and studied the sky for a moment then admitted, "It's not the handsome part I have a problem with..." She shrugged, "It's the man aspect that bothers me."
"Ah," Miranda licked her lips and glanced at her companion, "I see." She tried to process that information, "I, wasn't aware..."
"Yeah," Andy shrugged, gathering warmth from the thick coat around her, "Not many people are..." She elaborated, "... aware. I know I certainly wasn't for... a long time."
Tugging on Taymor's leash, Miranda began to lead the young dog toward the edge of the semi-frozen pond.
"Miranda?" Andy worried at Miranda's silence. "Miranda, are you... um..." She asked her hostess quietly, "Would you like me to leave?"
"I suppose you may leave anytime you wish. You have a vehicle now." Miranda brushed a stone bench free of the last bits of snow still clinging to it, then sat. She let the leash out to its maximum length and attached it to the arm of the bench via a hook installed specifically for that purpose.
"So..." Andy sat next to her former boss. She knew it was time for her to go, but she was reluctant to do so. Andy admitted to herself that she like it here, with Miranda and the girls. It didn't seem right to leave. She didn't want to leave but she knew she would have to. Miranda wouldn't want her to hang around longer than necessary, would she? Andy leaned forward to pet Tay's head for a minute before he went to the end of his leash sniffing out some unknown scent. "What now?"
"I'm not sure what you're asking, Andrea." Miranda pulled her coat a bit tighter around her. The thought of what came next was doing something to her that no employee of Runway would believe possible. It was breaking her heart. Andrea had her car back and would soon exit her life, again. Miranda nearly cried at the thought. Even back, when Andrea had been her assistant, Miranda had come to rely on the young woman for a lot of things that she didn't usually ask assistants to do. She had given Andrea more access to her children and her personal life than she had ever given anyone, assistant or not. Miranda knew that was why it had hurt so badly when Andrea left the first time, in Paris. She wasn't sure she could take that kind of pain a second time. Keeping her distance was the only thing Miranda thought would safeguard her heart against the hurt that she could feel was approaching.
If Andrea was still an employee at Runway this situation would not be a problem. Miranda would have assisted her with her car and that would have been the end of it thus avoiding any sort of lawsuit an employee could come up with. But, Miranda had continued the contact with Andrea and Andrea was not an employee anymore. Unfortunately, Miranda vocalized her thoughts softly, as she often did when she was alone; here on the bench, looking out at the water. "I suppose you won't sue."
"Sue?" Andy was stunned by that comment, "Is that what all this has been about?" She stood and looked down at her expressionless former boss. "You thought I might sue you?" Andy shook her head, "Unbelievable..." She ran her fingers through her hair, pulling it slightly to focus her thoughts, "Well, you're right... I won't sue you, so you're safe and there's no reason for me to stick around anymore, right?" Growing angrier at how stupid she'd been to think that Miranda might actually be someone she wanted to get to know better, could get to know better. Andy knelt down next to the puppy and ruffled the fur on his neck. "You be good, Tay... be a good boy." Standing, Andy studied Miranda for a long moment, marveling at how the woman suddenly seemed to be an extension of the stone bench, "Goodbye, Miranda. Have a pleasant weekend."
Miranda didn't, couldn't, move as Andrea walked away, again. It was several minutes later when Taymor jumped up on the bench and began to lick the tears away from Miranda's cheek before she snapped out of it enough to move. Wrapping her arms around the puppy, Miranda wet his neck with her tears. She knew it would feel like this and wondered how her heart could feel so heavy when there was such a huge hole in it. But there was nothing she could do about it, there were too many complications. The most important concern being, what the girls would think of her foolishness. She looked into Taymor's big brown sad eyes and sighed, "It would just be, impossible."
Miranda was accosted by her children as soon as she entered the house.
"What have you done?" Caroline's tone was borderline venomous.
"To what are you referring?" Miranda removed her gloves, putting them in her coat pocket, then removed the coat and opened the closet door to hang it up. The coat she had loaned Andrea earlier was there.
"Andy!" Cassidy shook with a mixture of fear and anger. "She's gone!"
The muscle at Miranda's jaw jumped for a moment before she spoke. "She indicated that she was going to go home..." Caroline's next demand shocked Miranda speechless.
"Get her back!"
Cassidy agreed. "You need to get her back, Mom." Cassidy guided Miranda into the living room and settled her in her favorite chair. Tay immediately went to his bed and began to gnaw on his chew toy. "Ro didn't mean for it to sound like she was ordering you..."
Caroline scoffed, "The hell I didn't."
The mother in her prompted the automatic reprimand, "Language!" Miranda shook her head, "Andrea is a grown woman. She is not a prisoner here, she is allowed to leave whenever she wants."
"No!" Caroline stomped her foot and crossed her arms across her chest. "You don't understand!"
"Then explain it to me." Miranda held up her hand and ordered, "Count to ten. I am listening."
Caroline nodded and took the time to slowly count to ten, then began to speak. "For a long time now, Cassidy and I have known that something is wrong with our family." She held up her hand to stop Miranda from replying to that, "We know you love us and we know that Dad loves us. For some people that arrangement works perfectly well. But," She glanced at her sister who urged her to continue, "Cass and I agree that even though we are, somewhat happy with things the way they are, something is missing in our lives. You know it too. You tried to fill in the missing bit with Stephen, but he wasn't right... didn't fit. He wasn't the missing piece." Caroline took a deep breath and informed her mother calmly, "We think Andy is the missing piece. She makes you happy, Mom. We see it every time she's around you. You smile easier, you joke around..." Caroline continued ruthlessly, "Mom, when was the last time you participated in a snowball fight, before last weekend?" At Miranda's silence, Caroline admitted, "I know I'm only thirteen and you probably don't believe me. But that's why you need to get her back."
"Why?" Miranda loved her children very much, but she wasn't sure she could comply with this request. She wasn't sure she could put herself through the pain that the probable consequences of spending more time with Andrea would bring. "Why do you believe Andrea is 'the missing piece' to our family?"
The girls exchanged looks and they both shifted into action, laying in the floor as they normally did when they played their video games. Caroline looked back at Miranda, "Now, just be in the moment," Caroline instructed, "And just see what's missing..."
Miranda agreed with Caroline, this lecture coming from a thirteen year old was just ridiculous. She did, however, appreciate the lull in the chastisement. Leaning back in her chair, Miranda relaxed slightly listening to the small sounds in the quiet room, the fire popping, the girls speaking quietly to each other in their special twin language, Taymor's tiny growls as he chewed on his rubber toy. Miranda had never believed in ghosts, but as she looked into the fire, just for a moment, Andrea's outline appeared in 'her' spot on the hearth. It took a moment after the vision faded before Miranda could speak. "How?"
Caroline and Cassidy scrambled to their feet and moved to stand in front of their mother. Caroline continued to speak for both of them. "You have to apologize."
Immediately outraged at that, Miranda scoffed, "For what?!"
Cassidy rolled her eyes, "For whatever it was you did that made her leave."
"Cass," Caroline gave her sister a light shove, "Count to ten." She spoke to her mother again, "An apology would be a start..."
Miranda wasn't sure she liked the tone of where this was headed, "A start?"
Caroline nodded, "After you get her to accept your apology..." Caroline winced a little and kept going, "After she accepts, you need to spend more time with her."
There was that tone in Caroline's voice again and Miranda called the girl on it, "What are you saying?"
Caroline bit her lips together unwilling to elaborate. Cassidy wasn't so squeamish.
"You need to romance her." Cassidy grinned at her mother's astonished expression. "Send her flowers. Buy her dinner."
"Buy her coffee." Caroline nodded and suggested, "Take a sunset walk in the park."
"Write her a love letter," Cassidy grinned. "Do all the things the people do in the movies to win back their love's heart."
"Love?!" Miranda stood from her seat, "Now you listen to me and listen carefully. I don't know where this wild notion you have stuck in your heads has come from, but there is no chance that Andrea would ever want to be romantically involved with me."
"Why not?" Caroline listed off the qualities she thought Miranda had going for her, "You're smart, beautiful, powerful and rich... Why wouldn't she want to be involved with you?"
"I'm also twice her age." Miranda sat back down and sighed, "There is just no chance."
"She likes you." Caroline nodded at her mother's expression. "She wouldn't smile at you the way she does if she didn't. She smiled a lot when she was here, especially when she was interacting with you."
Cassidy narrowed her eyes, "Mom... why didn't you say it was because you're a woman?"
Miranda remained silent.
"Mom," Caroline knelt next to Miranda's chair, "We love you and want you to be happy." She paused for that to sink in then pressed her point, "Andy makes you happy. We've seen it and we love that, but if she is going to be part of our family, you have to win her heart."
"If you don't, if you just become friends with her then she might be around for a while," Cassidy knelt next to her sister and explained, "Until someone else captures her heart, and she goes off to be with them. Then our family will be missing a piece again." She repeated her sister's assertion. "You have to win her heart. You have to make her want to stay." Miranda's continued silence brought back the previous issue. "Just because you're both women doesn't mean you can't fall in love."
"I know, Bobbsey." Miranda reached down to pat Cassidy's cheek, "But she is so... young."
Caroline was a little angry at the defeatist attitude and knew where it came from. Standing to tower over her seated mother, Caroline growled, "This is Stephen's fault."
"What?" Miranda shook her head, "Why would you..."
"This is how you were with him." Caroline ranted and paced in front of the fire, "When you fought, when he was drunk out of his mind and raging about not wanting to be "Mr. Priestly", you would bow to him... you would tilt your head, make yourself smaller... bend to him... placate him..." She stopped and pointed an accusing finger at Miranda, "... you gave in to him. Just like you're giving up now."
Miranda swallowed hard, "I didn't know you saw..."
"Well, we did..." Caroline spat, "And I hated it."
Cassidy stopped hiding from her sister's outburst and also stood, offering some advice of her own. "You can't back down, Mom. We will have a happy life even if Andy isn't here with us, but, if she is with us... if you can make this happen, for you, for us..." The girl took a deep breath and proclaimed, "Our lives will be exponentially better."
Miranda thought the girls' suggestion was so out of the blue, it would take some time to wrap her mind around it. It did occur to her that she was fighting rather hard against doing something that she really, if she was honest with herself, wanted to do.
It was the hurt that was stopping her, there was such a huge potential for being hurt. It was one thing to say 'I hope I don't get hurt' when entering into a romantic relationship. This though was different, Miranda knew what it felt like when Andrea left her, and knew if she tried this, and failed, the thought made her shudder slightly. I might not survive it. She cleared her throat and spoke quietly, "I need to think about this for a while."
"Right." Cassidy tugged at her sister's sleeve, "C'mon, Ro... let's introduce Tay to the west wing of the house."
Caroline pulled her sleeve from her sister's hand and while Cassidy coaxed Tay from his comfy spot, Caroline spoke to Miranda again, quietly, calmly, "The pros outweigh the cons, Mom." Eerily similar gazes met and locked as Caroline said her final piece. "Just do it."
Miranda watched her teenaged girls leave the room and tried to reconcile the whirling thoughts in her head with the swirling emotions in her heart. Staring into the fire, Miranda began to go over all the possibilities in her head and projecting their possible outcomes. Many made her wince at the potential pain, those were the cons. Some made her shiver, those were the pros. The vision of Andrea sitting by the fire distracted her and Miranda decided this was not the place to contemplate the dilemma.
She walked slowly to her room, passing the open door of the room Andrea had used while she was here. A glance inside turned her footsteps. Before she knew it, Miranda was standing at the foot of the bed looking down at a pair of, neatly folded, white silk pajamas. She touched the fabric. It was cold against her fingertips. No, she thought, they're only thirteen... they don't understand what they're asking...
There was the very real potential for what she knew would be nearly unbearable pain if she failed. Not trying, was the only way to protect herself from that possibility. As she walked on to the master bedroom her hand idly trailed against the hardwood panels that lined the hall. Her grandfather had built his house, brick by brick, board by board, nail by nail. There had been setbacks, and pain, but he didn't stop trying, didn't quit. She closed her bedroom door behind her and lay back on her bed on top of the covers. Looking at the ceiling, that her grandfather had painted, her father had repainted, and she herself had painted again, Miranda whispered to the memory of her long dead grandfather, "There is a way, isn't there Papa? I don't have to not try. I don't have to quit in order to protect my heart." She understood what the house represented and nodded to herself, "I just can't fail."
Decision made, Miranda knew this was not the place she needed to be and stood. There were things to do and not a lot of time to do them.
Andy had seethed about the comment Miranda had made during her entire drive back to New York City. She'd taken the car back to the paper's garage, not wanting to take a chance on anything happening to it before her editor checked for it in the morning and eventually made her way back to her apartment. With her paycheck now safe from the threatened five hundred dollar deduction, Andy continued to stew about Miranda.
She paced her floors for hours until the ache in her legs and feet matched the one she felt from her chest. Even workouts in the gym didn't usually make her this sore. Wincing as she breathed deeply, Andy finally went into her bathroom and faced the mirror. Unbuttoning her shirt, she sighed as the bruise on her breastbone was larger and worse than before. She could press on it though, touch it, and it really didn't feel any worse than any other bad bruise she'd ever gotten, it was just much larger. Starting just below her collarbones it colored her skin down to and including some of her breast. It did ache a bit though when she tried to use her arms in any meaningful way. Holding on to the steering wheel of the car hadn't helped the situation at all. The airbag deployment had knocked her hands and arms away from the wheel quite effectively. She'd read up on possible injuries and counted herself incredibly lucky that she hadn't broken any fingers in the incident. She couldn't imagine not being able to type for however long that would have taken to heal. Continuing to strip off her clothes, Andy turned the shower controls to high.
It wasn't even close to the shower she used at Miranda's, but the water was warm and the pressure was decent. Andy stepped into the spray and tried to relax. She still couldn't believe Miranda thought that she would sue. They hadn't spent too much time together, but Andy had thought that they'd gotten a little closer. Miranda opening up about Patricia's death and her family's passing had seemed like a huge deal to Andy at the time. Miranda had even held her hand, no gloves, Andy shivered a bit at the memory. Her hands were so soft. Rolling her eyes, Andy murmured to herself, "Get a grip, Sachs..." But the memory of holding Miranda's soft hand faded into one of Miranda's blue eyes twinkling with mischief after they had won the snowball war. Growling at her reaction to that memory, Andy ruthlessly turned the controls to a cooler setting and stood under the chilly water until her body was under control.
The war between her mind and body; her physical reactions to Miranda and the memories of Miranda's ruthlessness had been going on for some time. Her mind knew that there was no way in hell that Miranda would ever want to be associated with her in any way. These last two weekends had proven that, hadn't they? The woman had taken her in, treated her with kindness and had almost convinced Andy that under the hard Dragon exterior there was a soft Miranda center. Then Andy found out the truth, once again, Miranda was just protecting herself. She was glad that the surreal-ness of it all had curbed her body's reactions to Miranda somewhat. Looking back, there were so many times that she could have wrapped her arms around Miranda, touched her, kissed her, just like in her dreams that Andy had to laugh. Like Miranda would ever allow that. The memory of that one kiss goodnight lingered though, the softness of Miranda's cheek against her lips was enough to fuel Andy's dreams for quite a while.
"I still can't believe she thought I was going to sue her." Andy rubbed her hair vigorously with her towel, acutely aware how thin and decidedly un-fluffy it was compared to the ones she had used at Miranda's. "Geez, Sachs, get a grip. You're a lowly reporter and she's the Editor-in-Chief of the number one fashion magazine in the world. Of course her stuff is nicer than yours." She looked around her apartment and nodded, "But it won't always be."
She'd already upgraded her living space. The apartment she'd shared with Nate was quaint and cozy, meaning it was cobbled together and something they could afford. Her job as reporter paid more than she made as Miranda's assistant though, and six months ago she'd gotten an increase in stories and a raise. It was bittersweet, because the reason for the increased work was that several of her co-workers had been let go. One of them had been hired just after she had been. It was a close thing and Andy felt sorry for them, but just kept her nose to the grindstone and continued to write. Focus, that is one lesson she'd taken, gladly, from her time as Miranda's assistant. The editor's unwavering focus on fashion and how it could benefit her magazine was the key to her own success and Andy knew it. I have to be focused on what I want and make the choices that will get me there. It was the last, most painful, lesson Miranda had taught her, before she'd walked away, in Paris. I have to make the choices that will get me there. Although, she still didn't believe she would be able to hurt a friend in the process at least, not consciously.
Shrugging on her luxuriously fluffy neon pink robe, a Christmas gift from her parents and probably one of the last, Andy padded barefoot through her apartment. This was only the first step in her career and her eye had already turned to the top job at the paper. When Greg left it was all Andy could do not to apply for the job. She didn't, because she knew that at the time she didn't have the experience needed to do it. The worst thing that could happen to her at this point in her career would be to gain a job that she would fail to execute properly. Even though she had been the editor of the paper in college, running this paper would require a lot more experience than she had then, or now for that matter. There were things she needed to learn first and then she would be in a position to take over the leadership position she wanted. Even that wasn't going to be enough though, printed news was not going to last forever. Not in this economy. Too many small papers had gone under already and even the large ones were struggling.
Scanning the meager contents of her fridge, Andy sighed and shut the door. She reached for the small pile of delivery menus on her table. "Let's see... what do we feel like splurging on tonight?"
Her phone buzzed, indicating she had a text message. Picking up the phone, her teeth ground together as her brain processed the familiar email address. Miranda. She almost, almost deleted it, then just pressed the button to read it instead. She was glad to have been standing next to a kitchen chair because her knees gave out as she read the two words comprising the main body of the text.
Andy stared at the message, then she felt her head to make sure she wasn't feverish. She read the message, again, then she shook the phone slightly, but the letters didn't change.
Food forgotten, Andy managed to formulate a response then began to type.
Miranda looked at the Book but didn't see it. She may as well have not told Isabel to have it waiting for her when they arrived home. She was too distracted by the text message she'd just sent Andrea. No, that wasn't right, distracted wasn't a strong enough word to describe what the anticipation was doing to her. She needed to think more about the situation, she needed to sort everything out in her head and would much rather have done that at the mountain home. Instead she found herself in her townhouse with the familiar Book, anxiously awaiting a response to a text she should not have sent so soon.
What she thought coming back to the city would accomplish, Miranda didn't know. The text could have been sent from anywhere but after the girls' little intervention with her, Miranda felt the need to at least be in the same city as Andrea.
"Hmmm?" Miranda closed the Book and turned her gaze to the girls. "Yes?"
"Tay needs a walk..."
"Absolutely not, it is too dark for that," Miranda gestured toward the kitchen, "Just take him out to his area in the back yard and keep him away from the greenhouse."
"Right," Cassidy patted her thigh lightly and made a little clicking noise with her tongue, "C'mon, Tay..."
With a small internal sigh, Miranda turned her full attention to Caroline. "Yes?"
"Are you... have you... decided?"
Exhaling softly, Miranda saw the nervousness in her daughter and nodded, gesturing to the phone laying on the arm of her chair, "The process has begun." Miranda felt a stab of guilt as Caroline's face lit up with a huge smile. Holding up her hand, Miranda cautioned the girl. "I cannot guarantee the outcome." She opened her arms and allowed the girl to sit in her lap.
Both of her children used to do this when they were younger, but now, they were getting to be too large for this particular comfort. However, on occasion, it was still nice and a necessary comfort sometimes, for them all.
"You'll find a way, Mom." Caroline assured her. "You always win."
Shaking her head, Miranda tried to make the girl understand, "This is not about winning. Andrea is a person, and she has just as much choice in the matter as I do. Moreso actually. I cannot change my nature any more than she can, any more than you can. Andrea, her heart, is not something that can be 'won', it is something that she must give, willingly."
Caroline nodded, "You'll convince her."
"It is not only that, Bobbsey." Miranda pressed her lips together for a moment, then explained quietly, "The kind of relationship you are talking about, takes two. I must not only convince Andrea to stay with us, with me. I must also convince myself to give my heart, to her." Miranda shook her head, "It is something I have never been able to do with a romantic partner before."
Caroline thought about that for a moment then hugged Miranda tightly, "I'm sorry, Mom. I didn't think about that... I didn't realize..."
Miranda returned the hug, speaking quietly, "You know why you didn't think of it, yes?"
It only took a moment of additional thinking before Caroline sighed, "Because I'm only thirteen and all I really know about romantic love I've either read in books or seen on screen." She exhaled loudly and continued at her mother's raised eyebrow prompt, "And almost all those are stories about the guy trying to win the girl's heart, without ever mentioning that the pursuer also has to give." She shook her head and slowly extricated herself from Miranda's lap. "You were right, Mom. I'm only thirteen and I had no clue what I was talking about when we confronted you earlier."
"I was only partially correct." Miranda smiled at the stunned expression on Caroline's face. "You knew what you were talking about, knew what you felt, you just weren't aware of the intricacies involved in carrying out your request." Miranda assured Caroline, "I am partially to blame for that lack of knowledge. I have not set the best example for you and you sister in regards to this type of relationship."
Caroline grinned and asked, "Do you think that's because you were always with the wrong person?"
"That is extremely possible."
"Mom," Caroline wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer, but asked anyway. "Did you love Dad?"
"I loved your father as much as I was capable of loving anyone at that time in my life." Miranda smiled a bit sadly, "Unfortunately that wasn't quite enough to sustain the relationship, even when you and your sister were born. There was always something..."
Caroline finished the thought for her mother, "Missing." She maintained her assertion that had prompted her initial outburst on the subject. "When Andy is with us, there won't be anything missing."
"How can you be so certain about that?" Miranda really didn't understand this sudden belief her children seemed to have in Andrea's ability to complete their family unit.
Caroline shrugged and smiled, "Maybe you haven't set as bad an example as you think." She locked her gaze with her mother and spoke quietly, "We haven't seen you give your whole heart to anyone, that is true. But you love us, unconditionally. So I know you can do it, Mom."
Any further conversation was halted when the phone next to Miranda beeped, indicating an incoming text. Picking up the phone, Miranda found the correct distance from her eyes to read the small screen and sighed.
"Problem?" Caroline wanted to see the message so badly she nearly strained the muscles in her neck trying to peek.
"Beginnings are difficult times." Miranda shook her head, "Especially when one, or both, of the parties in question are stubborn." Miranda read the message again.
Turning the phone to access the tiny keyboard, Miranda typed quickly and sent her response on its way through cyberspace.
Andy wrung her hands together and tried to calm down after sending her question response back to Miranda. What if she takes it the wrong way?
One second after the message was on its way, Andy had realized that the question could be viewed as snide or sarcastic, when in reality Andy just really wanted to know exactly what Miranda was apologizing for. Because of the way she'd treated Andy like a potential gold-digger, or because she'd slipped and Andy had found out the truth. Or it could be some totally random thing. She could almost hear Miranda's soft tones, "I apologize, Andrea for the lack of telephones when you first arrived. Perhaps if you could have called for help and left sooner none of this would have occurred."
"Ugh!" Threading her fingers through her hair, Andy tugged at the ends slightly and sighed, "Oh well, what's done is done." She again began looking through the take out menus, and settled on a pizza from a place just down the street from her apartment building. They were good and fast, plus the pizza was always hot when it arrived. She picked up the phone to call in the order, nearly dropping it when it buzzed. She blinked and read the incoming message.
"Sure, Miranda," Andy spoke to herself as she contemplated this latest message. "That pesky notion of making reservations is just for tourists. Let's just stroll right in to wherever you want and..." Andy swallowed hard as she realized that Miranda could probably do just that. Not bothering to return the text, Andy pressed the sequence of buttons needed to contact Miranda and held her breath for the two rings it took before Miranda's voice sounded in her ear.
Andy was dizzy that Miranda had actually answered and from lack of air, she exhaled softly as she asked, "Where?" Wincing at that abrupt question, Andy swallowed hard and backtracked a bit. "Hello." She hoped Miranda would ignore the breach of etiquette and elaborated on her first response. "Where would you like to meet for brunch, Miranda?"
"Ah.. I thought perhaps Pastis would be suitable."
"Pastis..." Andy rolled her eyes, "You know you need reservations to get a table there, right?"
"Of course, I have a standing reservation for Sunday brunch there."
Andy absently rubbed the bruise on her chest and nodded, "Of course you do..." It was an enticing offer. Pastis was supposed to have one of the best brunches in the city, but, "Are you sure you want to discuss this issue in public?" There was a long pause before Miranda spoke again.
"Here then? At my townhouse?"
"You're back in the city?" Andy had thought the reason Miranda suggested brunch was to give her time to get back from the mountain house.
Andy thought about that for a minute. For Miranda to be back in the city already, they had to have left soon after she did. The thought that Miranda had been chasing her sent a shiver down Andy's spine. The silence while she decided seemed to be too much for Miranda and the editor's soft voice again transferred through the phone.
"Taymor misses you."
A small smile touched Andy's lips, "Oh he does, huh?" She wasn't really comfortable going to Miranda's, but Andy recognized that Miranda was trying to make amends for something and that effort should be encouraged. "Okay, then the townhouse, tomorrow. What time should I be there?"
"Okay, I'll be there." Andy waited for a moment for the comment that ended almost all of Miranda's phone calls. Instead she was shocked speechless, when Miranda's smooth tones caressed her ear.
"Thank you, Andrea. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. Good night."
Andy glanced at the screen to make sure it was actually Miranda she had been talking to. The screen only showed the contact as she had entered it, MP. Call disconnected. "Brunch at Miranda's tomorrow," Andy gasped at the realization of that event, "What am I gonna wear?!"
Miranda smoothed her palms down the thighs of her slacks before she opened the door.
"Hello, Andrea," Stepping aside, Miranda motioned her guest inside. "Please, come in."
Wary at the use of please, Andy moved inside. Shrugging off her jacket, Andy inhaled deeply and smiled, "Hello, Miranda." Looking around, she asked, "Where are the girls?"
"Samantha has escorted them to Pastis."
"Ah," Andy shivered slightly at the knowledge she was alone in the house with Miranda. "And where's Tay?" She grinned, "You said he missed me."
"He is playing in the backyard at the moment." Miranda gestured toward the back of the house, "You may see him later."
"Are you hungry?" Miranda took the coat and couldn't help giving Andrea a quick once over. The cream colored oversized sweater over skinny jeans tucked into black leather ankle boots was only slightly out of date, but Andrea looked so good in the ensemble that Miranda unconsciously gave a little nod anyway. She found a hanger in the closet for Andrea's jacket then led the young woman down the hall to the kitchen.
"It smells wonderful." Andy blinked as she sat in the chair Miranda pulled away from the kitchen table for her. "Um... thank you."
"Um, sure." Surreptitiously pinching herself while Miranda busied herself pouring the coffee, Andy was amazed that she didn't wake up from this, obviously surreal, dream. The coffee her host sat in front of her certainly smelled real. "Thank you." Taking a sip, Andy smiled, "It's delicious, just like I like it, with sugar and milk."
"Thank you." Miranda poured her own coffee then sat across from Andrea at the small table. "We have a few minutes before the French Toast is ready..."
"You made French Toast?" Andy dropped her right hand under the table and pinched her thigh. No effect. "I wondered what the heavenly aroma was."
"Mmm..." Miranda licked her lips and repeated her first text to Andrea, "I apologize."
Andy followed suit by also voicing the same reply she had texted yesterday, "What exactly are you apologizing for?"
"For allowing you to misinterpret the comment you heard me say." Miranda wrapped her hands around the cup of coffee and stared into the dark liquid in front of her, "I knew it upset you, but I allowed you to continue in your belief that you knew the context of the comment."
"You mean... you didn't think I was going to sue you?"
"I did not." Miranda sighed and forged on, "I was thinking about how differently I had treated you as compared to anyone else that might have shown up at my door, including Runway employees. And how it would have been possible for a disgruntled employee to have made up a story that could have gotten very ugly very quickly from a legal standpoint. I normally go to that bench to think, and often speak out loud, to myself or to Patricia. Now I suppose Taymor will bear the burden of listening to my random thoughts.. Sometimes I just need to hear how ridiculous they are when they're voiced."
Nodding to accept the explanation for the comment, Andy completely understood the whole, talking to yourself thing. She did it all the time. There was another more interesting comment Miranda had made. "You've said that before, about treating me differently." Andy thought back to the first time Miranda had mentioned this subject. She'd said she would have put me in the West wing of the house. "What's the difference between the East and West wing of the mountain house?"
"The West wing is for guests." Miranda met Andrea's dark, surprised gaze as she voiced the corollary, "The East wing is for, family."
"Family..." Andy licked her lips and asked in a whisper, "Miranda, whose room was I in?"
Pressing her lips together for a moment, Miranda again looked into Andrea's eyes and answered softly, "Mine." The buzzer on the stove sounded, saving Miranda from any further discussion.
Andy watched Miranda take the large portions of French Toast out of the oven and plate them, then Miranda placed some banana slices on top and added a sprinkle of powdered sugar, along with a drizzle of thick maple syrup. When the plate was set in front of her, it was all Andy could do not to grab her fork and dig in. "This looks delicious!"
"Please," Miranda gestured, "Enjoy." She picked up her fork and set the example, taking a small bite. She smiled again as Andrea took her first bite. After realizing this was not mere French Toast, but was in fact the banana stuffed variety, Andrea proceeded to eat quickly. Not quite shoveling the food in, but eating quickly enough that discussion was impossible.
Andy scooped up the last of her syrup with the final bite of her bread. Pushing her plate away, Andy patted her belly, "That was great." She tried not to be embarrassed that she had finished the entire thing, while Miranda had barely eaten half of hers. When Miranda didn't seem inclined to actually eat any more, Andy sighed. "Miranda, what am I doing here?"
"Of course," Miranda nodded, "You deserve an explanation." Looking around, Miranda shifted her shoulders, "Let's move to the sitting area."
"Sure." Andy stood, automatically picking up her plate and Miranda's, carrying them to the sink. She rinsed them off, running the remains of Miranda's breakfast down the disposal, before loading them into the dishwasher. Wiping her hands on the dishtowel she found, Andy smiled and bowed slightly, "Lead on."
Andy settled into the loveseat and Miranda sat in the overstuffed chair at a right angle to it. Miranda cleared her throat and began. "When you were my assistant, I found myself relying on you more than I had any other Emily. You were, different, genuine. When you... left, after you left, I found myself, missing that genuine quality you brought to the job."
"You missed me?" Never in a million years would Andy have thought that was even possible.
"Yes." Miranda nodded, "but you were gone and there was nothing I could do about that. So I went on, as I always do."
"Okay," Andy was still confused, "And again, what am I doing here now?"
"Our recent interactions have made me come to realize," Miranda swallowed hard and wondered what Andrea's reaction would be to her next statement, "that I feel better when I'm around you, calmer, and I want... would like, to spend more time with you. Would like for you to spend more time with me, us."
Andy could feel her eyes getting wider as Miranda spoke, but she couldn't seem to stop that particular reaction. Interpreting the Miranda!speak, just so there wasn't another error in communication, Andy whispered, "You want to date me?"
Miranda nodded slowly, "I want to get to know you better. I want you to get to know us better. I want us to spend time together." Miranda sighed and agreed, "I would like very much to date you."
"I..." Andy tried to remember to breathe, "I don't even know what to say to that..."
Miranda reached out to hold Andrea's hand, trying to reassure her guest. "You don't have to say anything, Andrea. Just think about it."
"It's a lot to take in..." Andy tried to control her heart racing at the thought of dating Miranda. "Um..." She blinked at their joined hands, "Oh!" Pulling her hand away quickly, Andy shook her head, "I can't... I mean... I'm not supposed to..." She panicked, "No one's supposed to touch you, Miranda..."
"Andrea," Miranda smiled and retook the young woman's hand, "I assure you, I am very touchable, at least, for you. Holding hands is the first step in the dating process, yes?"
"You're hands are amazingly soft." Andy consciously stroked the hand in hers marveling at the texture and nodded, "Yes, holding hands is nice."
"Good." Miranda smiled and regretfully broke the contact. "I will be right back."
Andy watched Miranda walk back into the kitchen and suddenly an odd scratching sound made itself known. Miranda opened the back door and a bundle of furry energy sat on the patio outside. Miranda reached down, unclipping the lead from his collar and he immediately ran through the room straight to Andy, practically jumping into her lap. "Hello, Tay!" She ruffled his neck fur as he licked her face enthusiastically.
"Taymor!" Miranda was horrified at the puppy's behavior. "Get down!"
Andy looked up from petting the dog, who had immediately dropped to the floor at Miranda's reprimand. "You were right," Andy grinned, "Tay did miss me."
"We all did, but he cannot be allowed to jump up on people like that. He is bred from larger dogs and will most likely be close to two hundred and fifty pounds when he is an adult. If he doesn't learn not to do that now, he may accidentally hurt someone in the future." Despite the warning though, Miranda couldn't help but smile at the image of Andrea playing with the puppy. "Oh, he got a little..." Sitting down next to Andrea, Miranda opened a box of wet wipes that were next to the chairs and gently wiped the slobber off Andrea's cheek, then reached up to softly caress the spot.
Andy closed her eyes at the touch and then they flew open as she gasped, "You've done that before." Andy reached up to hold Miranda's hand in place, "In the car, when you gave me a ride home. I dreamed a butterfly had landed on my cheek, but it was you."
"Yes," Miranda admitted, "You looked so peaceful and so very beautiful, I couldn't stop myself."
"But, you..." Andy was having a hard time putting thoughts together, "You're so..."
"Old?" Miranda filled in the word, "I know I'm a great deal older than you Andrea, but..."
"No, Miranda," Andy waved off that argument, "Age isn't important. I just can't figure out why me. You are brilliant, and beautiful, and just about the most interestingly fascinating person I know. You can have anyone you want... so, why me? What makes me so special?"
Miranda's blue eyes glittered, "You think I'm beautiful?"
"I think, you are one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen." Andy rolled her eyes, "But my question remains. What makes me so special?"
Smiling, Miranda answered honestly, "I don't exactly know, but I would like the opportunity to find out."
"Do..." Andy shook her head and took a moment to force herself to ask Miranda Priestly a very personal question. "Do you... date, younger people... often?"
"Andrea...I have only dated one person younger than me in my entire life and that was in college. I have also never dated, a woman." Miranda licked her lips, "I haven't really dated anyone since the divorce. I've been seen with people, at events... but the person I truly wanted to be with was..." She looked into Andrea's brown doe-eyes and whispered, "...unavailable to me."
"Okay, this is all a little much for me." Andy stood, "Can I have some time to think about this and maybe call you later, or tomorrow?"
"Of course," Miranda had hoped to spend more time with Andrea today, but she took what she could get. She knew that moving slowly now would benefit her, later. "You have my numbers, call or text me anytime."
Nodding, Andy retrieved her jacket from the closet and was nearly to the front door when Miranda's hand on her elbow stopped her. Turning, Andy found one cheek cupped in Miranda's soft palm, while the other was pressed firmly against the older woman's. The texture changed as Miranda's lips brushed against her skin and Andy shivered as the soft tendril of a whisper found it's way into her ear.
"I will be waiting."
Gazing into Miranda's blue eyes, a grin tugged at Andy's lips. "You don't play fair."
A brilliant smile crossed Miranda's face and she laughed, "This is news to you?"
Andy's million watt smile made an appearance and she laughed as well, "No, I guess it isn't." Straightening her jacket, Andy shoved her hands into her pockets, "Thank you for the wonderful food." She became all business, except for the twinkle in her eyes, "I will get back to you on the matter we discussed."
"Of course." Miranda opened the door, "You are more than welcome, anytime."
Closing the door behind Andrea, Miranda sighed. Beating her forehead against the door lightly, she spoke to Taymor quietly, "Well, that could have gone better." She hadn't really expected Andrea to jump for joy at the prospect, but somehow Miranda had thought the young woman might at least seem a little interested at the idea, and possibly have set a date to see each other at another time. Instead, Andrea was walking away, again. Standing a bit straighter, Miranda bolstered her resolve and knew what she had to do.
Andy had barely sat down from a long day of looking through records at the court house when she heard the dulcet tones of her editor, wafting through the bullpen.
She sighed and dragged herself into the bellowing man's office, "Yes, Chief?" Andy grinned because she knew the man kind of liked the nickname. It was appropriate too, because Andy thought he was a perfect blend of the fictional editors Perry White, from Superman and J. Jonah Jameson from Spiderman.
She was exhausted and her eyes hurt from looking at microfiche records, plus she'd barely had any sleep last night. After leaving Miranda's yesterday she had walked around the city for hours, then spent most of the night thinking about all the possibilities of dating Miranda. Some of them were more pleasant than others but she still hadn't decided what to do about the astounding offer and so she hadn't phoned, emailed or texted Miranda since she'd left the townhouse yesterday. "What's up?" She noticed a single pink rose with streaks of red running through it, in a vase on his desk, and grinned, "Secret admirer?"
He grunted and barked at her, "You know that article you wrote about the resort..."
"Yeah, kinda hard to forget since I nearly killed myself after the interview, driving home on icy roads..."
"Well, it's crap." He leaned back and watched her, "It was so crappy I sent it to a friend of mine at another paper and he laughed so hard he sent it on to a friend of his at AP..." His eyes twinkled at her flaring nostrils, saw her hands beginning to become fists at her sides and softened his voice somewhat, "It's going on the front page tomorrow... and will be in my buddy's paper the next day and will probably be online via AP soon." He chuckled as he watched the wheels in Andy's head grind to a halt and her hands slowly relaxed. "So be expecting some checks in the mail." He cautioned, "but you still work here... so go.. write..."
Andy smiled and saluted, "You got it, Chief." She started to turn to leave when he grunted again.
Pointing to the flower, he told her, "That's for you."
Laughing, Andy picked up the bud vase, "Thanks, Chief... I didn't know you cared."
"Pffft," He growled, "It's not from me. It came while you were gone. I don't do that mushy junk..."
"How is it you're still single?" Andy grinned and sniffed the flower. She was a bit puzzled by the fragrance and tried, for a moment, to place the oddly familiar scent before looking at the card. Her grin morphed into a soft smile.
Andy carried the flower back to her desk and placed it next to her computer, so that she could see it easily while she worked. It was beautiful, but still had its thorns which was only right as far as Andy was concerned. Stripping a rose of its thorns was not as terrible as declawing a cat, but it was the same concept. People wanted the pretty, without the possibility of hurt. A rose with its thorns, was an apt metaphor for Miranda. But then, so was a cat with its claws. She was beautiful with the capability of hurting anyone trying to handle her. They all had to protect themselves somehow, right? With a long, long look at the rose, Andy examined the feeling she got when she looked at it and read the note, then decided. Pulling her cell phone from her pocket, Andy began to compose a message and smiled.
Isabel sat at her desk quietly contemplating which Miranda she was more afraid of, the one last week that raged against everything, or the one in Miranda's office right now. The Miranda today had barely said two words, the walk from the elevator to the office had been eerily quiet all day. The atmosphere in the office was one of, waiting. It was so quiet that Isabel heard Miranda's phone buzz but didn't hear her answer, so she decided it must have been a text message. Moments later Miranda was stalking out of her office.
The hapless second assistant scrambled to retrieve the items and Miranda turned to Isabel. "I am out of the office for the next two hours." Taking her coat and purse from the current Emily, Miranda continued out of the office, calling her final order over her shoulder, "Coffee when I return."
Isabel watched their boss leave and then relaxed slightly. Two hours without the tension of Miranda's presence was like a gift, even if it did mean a late night, and Isabel wasn't going to ignore it. Relaxing back into her seat, Isabel closed her eyes for just a moment.
"Where do you think she went?"
Opening her eyes, Isabel looked at the new Emily and shook her head. "None of our business, just be glad she's gone for a while." Gesturing toward the computer, she ordered the girl, "Watch the time. Miranda said she'd be back in two hours, so make sure you leave to get the coffee before that."
"Right," She set the alarm to warn her when it was time to go, "I'll leave twenty minutes before..."
"I heard there used to be an assistant who could get the coffee and get back in under nine minutes." Isabel grinned at the astonishment on her co-worker's face.
Shrugging, Isabel laughed, "I got it straight from Emily Charleton, she worked as Miranda's assistant at the time."
"Well how'd... she do it so fast?"
Isabel held up her hands, "Emily didn't know and the girl, Andrea, never said, but Emily clocked her one time... from the first step out the door to setting the coffee on Miranda's desk, eight minutes and forty-six seconds."
"Wow..." The current Emily sighed, "Andrea must be some kind of wonder woman."
At this moment, Andy would have laughed at the Emily's description of her because she felt like anything but a Wonder Woman. She was so nervous, she thought she was going to throw up. Her knee was shaking so bad she had to put her hand on it to stop the tremors. What if she doesn't show up... A bit of terror sped up her heart, What if Miranda thinks I was just being a smartass... Oh God, Andy rested her elbows on her knees, threaded her fingers through her hair and studied the concrete between her feet, I don't want her to think I was being a bitch... I was just playing along with the joke... She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't notice someone sitting next to her until they spoke.
"Taymor sends his regrets."
Andy gasped and sat up quickly, "Miranda!" Without thinking, Andy wrapped her arms around Miranda's shoulders and hugged the older woman tightly.
Miranda returned the embrace and chuckled, "I wasn't expecting such a dramatic welcome."
"Oh!" Andy backed off quickly, "Um.. Sorry, I just... um..." She sighed, "I was worried you might think I was being a smartass or something, with my reply..." Andy smiled. "Thank you... for the flower."
Slipping her hand into Andrea's, Miranda's lips formed a soft smile, "You are welcome, Andrea." She clasped the younger woman's hand between her own gloved ones, "Andrea, your hands are freezing... I can feel the cold through my gloves!" She was appalled at the oversight, "Where are your gloves?"
"I never could find them after the accident." Andy shrugged, "I haven't had a chance to get another pair, I just stick my hands in my pockets." Now that Miranda had said something though, Andy began to feel the cold. She shivered and instinctively moved closer to Miranda. "I like this bench."
"Why is that, Andrea?"
Pulling her other hand from her pocket, Andy pointed toward the sky, "Because of the sunsets."
Miranda looked to see that the sky had indeed turned from the winter blue it had been into several shades of orange and red. "Ah..." Miranda rubbed the hand in hers, "A good reason," She smirked, "If you like sunsets."
"Well I do." Andy watched the colors in the sky slowly shift but almost her entire concentration was focused on her hand in Miranda's. She shifted a tiny bit closer to the older woman and laughed, "And what would the Emily's say if they knew you'd left work to hold hands with me in the park?"
Miranda moved a bit closer, crossing their arms at the elbows as she continued to warm Andrea's hand in hers, "Andrea, when have the Emily's opinions of me ever mattered to me?"
"Never." Andy sighed, knowing that was true even when she had been an Emily. But suddenly that reality hit home. "Miranda, should we be doing this... in public I mean." Looking around, Andy didn't see anyone with cameras. "What if someone sees us and gets the wrong idea?"
"What idea would that be, Andrea?"
"That we are... you know... together." Andy sighed, "I mean... we might be, sometime in the future, but now... we are just... I dunno what, but..." The air left her lungs for a moment and she paused to catch her breath before asking, "Why are you smiling?"
"You think we might be together, in the future?" Miranda smiled wider, "You're going to give us a chance?"
Andy's breath caught in her throat and she was mesmerized. Licking her lips, Andy composed herself and spoke. "I want to tell you something, but I don't want you to take it the wrong way..." She felt a small stab of pain in her heart as Miranda's smile disappeared.
"Alright," Miranda steeled herself, lifting her chin slightly, "Go ahead."
Leaving her left hand where it was, firmly in Miranda's grasp, Andy pulled her right hand out of her pocket and gently cupped Miranda's cheek, brushing her thumb lightly across Miranda's lips, "You're beautiful when you smile, Miranda. You should do it more often."
Leaning into the touch, Miranda locked her gaze with Andrea's and smiled again, "I believe I might. So long as you are around to give me something to smile about." Pulling out of the touch, Miranda asked, "How could I take that the wrong way?"
Andy grinned, "I thought you might think I didn't find you beautiful when you weren't smiling. Because I do, and you are... but when you smile," Andy swallowed hard and admitted, "You take my breath away."
"Andrea..." Miranda felt herself moving closer, focusing on Andrea's lips, then Andrea shifted away.
Gazing toward the fading red sky, Andy spoke quietly, "I'm not going to kiss you." She smiled at the small sound Miranda made and turned to face the older woman, adding. "Not yet."
Nodding once, Miranda understood and murmured, "Too soon."
Andy did not confirm or deny that assessment. It was too soon, but that wasn't the only reason she was holding back. It was, however, the only reason she would admit to at the moment.
Miranda licked her lips, "Have dinner with me?"
Miranda just stopped herself from saying "Tonight.", instead she pretended to think about it and named the day and place. "Friday, at the townhouse." It was almost four days away, but Miranda was sure she could deal with that minor annoyance appropriately.
"I would love to." Andy squeezed the hand that had never left hers, "I'll see you on Friday then." She stood, bringing Miranda up with her. "Thank you, for meeting me here."
"Thank you, Andrea, for sharing the sunset with me." She looked to see that the sky had lost most of its color into the blackness of night. "They are fleeting things aren't they? I appreciate you spending this time with me, even though I..."
"Prefer sunrises," Andy finished the sentence and grinned, "I know."
With a step forward, Miranda could feel the heat from Andrea's body, "I am beginning to have a certain appreciation for sunsets." She didn't release their hands and asked, "Need a ride?"
"No," Andy gestured over her shoulder, "I'm going back to the office for a while. It's out of your way to go to the townhouse."
"Ah," Miranda laughed, "But I'm going back to Elias-Clark this evening as well." She grinned, "I left rather abruptly earlier. I must finish my work."
"What about the girls?" Andy was appalled that her impromptu meeting had taken Miranda's time away from her children.
"They are spending the evening at a friend's house. Samantha is with them." Miranda assured the younger woman, "I will be home to greet them when they return."
"You're a wonderful mother, Miranda. Half the time my mother never knew where we were or what we were doing..." Andy saw a tiny shift of Miranda's eyes as one of the automatic lights lining the pathway flickered on.
Suddenly a series of memories flashed through her head. Andy recalled the house, when the power was out, she hadn't realized it because the room Miranda was in was so brightly lit. She recalled the mad dash drive back to the city when it seemed as though Miranda was racing the sun. She realized that Miranda had been very tense on the drive back to the house the next weekend. Thinking about their one rest stop, she realized that Miranda had stayed well within the lit area's of the small park that Patricia had loved so much. Maybe the reason Miranda didn't care for sunsets was because afterward, it's dark.
The revelation hit Andy hard and it gave Miranda a humanity that many people didn't realize was even present, Miranda doesn't like the dark. She wouldn't go so far as to think that Miranda was afraid of the dark, but the woman definitely didn't like it.
"And since you're going that direction anyway, I would love a ride." Andy twisted slightly and wrapped her arm around Miranda's, linking their elbows as well as their hands. Andy knew that although there were street lights illuminating the pathways, there were surely patches of darkness between here and Miranda's car. Patches she was not about to let Miranda walk through, alone. "Shall we?"
"Of course," Miranda leaned against Andrea as they walked toward the Porsche, especially when they were out of the comforting circles of light.
Miranda looked up from her perusal of the Book as her children rushed into the room.
"Mom!" Caroline rushed to Miranda's side, "How'd it go?"
"Yeah," Cassidy was also curious, "What happened?"
"Hello to you too." Miranda looked past them to the diligent bodyguard, "Thank you, Samantha."
Bowing slightly, Sam grinned, "You're welcome." She waved at the girls, "See you tomorrow..."
They all heard the front door close and Miranda regarded her eager children thoughtfully, "I should never have told you that I was meeting Andrea this evening."
"What... but..." Caroline stopped her protest at Miranda's upraised hand.
"Your intervention has made me aware of the need to initiate a relationship with Andrea," Miranda pressed her lips into a tight line for a moment then shook her head, "But there are aspects of that relationship that must remain between Andrea and me..." She raised her eyebrow, "I did not keep you appraised of my activities with Stephen..."
Caroline started to protest, but Cassidy stopped her, "She's right, Ro." Cassidy shrugged, "It's none of our business."
"We are involved! Andy is going to be part of our family!" Caroline sighed as both her mother and sister gave her a look she knew all too well. Miranda's next statement helped alleviate some of the the tension Caroline was feeling.
"There will be times that Andrea will spend with us, as a family. But there will be other times when Andrea and I are alone. Those times are for us, the details of which will not be discussed."
"Right." Cassidy bumped her sister's shoulder with her own, "C'mon, Ro... Give Mom a chance to do what we asked."
"I..." Caroline realized what her sister was saying, "Okay... I get it."
Miranda relaxed slightly as the girls understood she would need time alone with Andrea. She also realized that they would want to know what was happening in her life. Details were not appropriate, but general plans could be divulged. "I will be having dinner with Andrea, Friday night."
"Yeah?" Caroline asked, "Where?"
"Here." Miranda cautioned. "I hope to be much further into the relationship before the press becomes part of the mix."
"Right." Cassidy and Caroline had discussed what a circus the Press would be for a long time before they'd even confronted their Mom with their idea. "C'mon, Ro. Let's go get ready for bed."
"Maybe, one night," Caroline suggested, "we could all have dinner together."
Nodding at that, Miranda smiled, "Excellent suggestion... I'm sure that can be arranged at some point. Andrea seemed amicable to spending time with all of us."
"Cool." Caroline kissed Miranda's cheek, "G'night, Mom."
Cassidy kissed Miranda's other cheek, "Sweet dreams, Mom."
"Good night, my Darlings..." Miranda watched them head up the stairs. "Sweet dreams." For a moment, Miranda wished that the girls were still young enough to tuck into bed. She still did, occasionally, and they always allowed it. But often, as they had done this evening, they said their goodnights down here and put themselves to bed.
They were growing so fast. Miranda took a deep breath as she realized why the girls were so adamant about she and Andrea getting together. They want a family, a real family, and they're running out of time to have one. She had meant to take things slowly, and would, but now understanding the time aspect of the undertaking, Miranda decided that a little pressure might not be such a bad thing.
Andy rushed around her apartment like a crazy woman. She had spent another sleepless night thinking about Miranda and had only managed to doze in the very early morning hours. Now she had to hurry or she was going to be late for work. She could just tell, this was going to be a sucky day. She was just pulling on her coat when the intercom buzzed. Pushing the button she responded, "Yes?"
"Yes?" Andy made sure she had her keys and her ID.
"Huh?" Rolling her eyes, she didn't have time to think about what someone might be delivering to her or who it may have been sent by. "Hold on.. I'll be right down."
The clean cut delivery man was waiting patiently for her when she exited the building. "You have a package for me?"
"Andrea Sachs?" He held a clipboard and a pen toward her when she nodded affirmatively. "Sign here."
She signed and accepted a smallish, box. "Thank you."
He touched the brim of his hat with his gloved fingertips and smiled, "Have a nice day."
Andy looked at the box as she walked. There was no return address, but she shrugged and opened it, laughing out loud at the contents. There was a note lying on top.
Although I am not adverse to holding your hands to warm them, perhaps these will do when I cannot be there?
Tucking the note into her pocket, Andy removed the soft leather gloves from the box and slid them onto her hands. They had a thin lining of soft fleece and were incredibly warm. She pulled her phone from her pocket and was amazed to find that the gloves fit well enough that she was able to type a text with them on. Sending the message quickly, Andy walked down the steps to the subway station with a slightly lighter attitude. This day wasn't going to be so bad after all.
"Where is that girl with my coffee? Is she growing the beans herself?"
Emily, the real Emily, smirked at the familiar complaint and strode past Isabel's desk. She laid a folder on Miranda's desk, "The designs you requested."
Miranda reached for them, "At least someone around here can do their job." She opened the file and began to peruse the contents.
Smiling at that, Emily actually asked, "Anything else I can do for you, Miranda?"
Before any kind of sarcastic response could be formulated, Miranda's phone indicated an incoming text message. She read the message and a small smile touched her lips as she absently answered Emily's question, "No, Emily. Thank you. That will be all." She knew Emily had left her office, but paid no attention, as she read the text again.
Nigel shook his head and then tilted it as if to hear a little better, "She said what?"
"Thank you!" Emily paced the Art Director's office, "And then... then she said... 'That will be all'." Emily suddenly stopped her forward motion and turned toward Nigel, "Do you think she's sick?"
"You say she was reading an email at the time?"
"A text on her phone."
Nigel pondered that and began to smile. "Not sick in the traditional sense."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"She's seeing someone." Nigel chuckled. He knew Miranda better than any of them; having worked with her for the better part of the last twenty years.
"No..." Emily couldn't imagine what Nigel was suggesting. Miranda Priestly was not some love-struck school girl, distracted by a note from her paramour, No... that's not possible. "You're mistaken."
He nodded, to appease her. "I could be, yes." But he thought back to Miranda's erratic behavior since her return from her normal respite after Paris and knew. She's met someone. Now, he thought, all I need to do is to ferret out, who.
"Delivery for Andrea Sachs..."
At the sound of her name, Andy looked up from the story she'd been engrossed in and smiled, this delivery was not a surprise in a box. "That's me." She indicated the flower on her desk that matched the one the delivery man held in his hand.
He grinned and handed her the flower, "Lucky guy."
Laughing at that, Andy winked and smiled at him as he turned to go, "Thanks." She took a moment to sniff the rose's delicate fragrance before placing it in the bud vase with the one from yesterday. Only when they were side by side did she realize that the new one was exactly the same shade of pink as the previous one with the red veins still running through the petals. It occurred to her that if this was going to keep up, she might have to get a larger vase at some point.
Andy took a picture of the flowers with her phone and sent it along with a text to Miranda then got back to work. She smiled as she looked up the statistics she needed for her article and glanced at her flowers often. It had been a long time since anyone had sent her flowers, and the fact that it was Miranda making the gesture was just amazing. She closed her eyes for a minute and pictured Miranda, smiling. She was smiling because I had agreed to give us a chance. But what have I done to contribute to that?
It was a good question, but she didn't have time to think about it now. She had a job to do and was determined to do it. Much later, but still early in the day, Andy left the Mirror offices and walked absently down the street thinking about everything, and nothing in particular. It wasn't until she looked up at the building looming over her that she realized where she was, the Elias-Clarke building. She had often walked this way when she first got the new job, on the off chance she could catch a glimpse of someone she knew. Sometimes she would see Nigel, or Serena, less often she'd seen her co-worker Emily entering the building, and rarest of all she would catch a glimpse of Miranda. She continued walking, past the familiar subway station and merely wandered for a while, losing herself in the throngs of people that gave the city its pulse, day or night.
When she happened on a news vendor stand and a postcard caught her eye, she was thrilled. Taking the card, Andy paid for it, a lottery ticket, because she was feeling rather lucky tonight, and a stamp, then asked the merchant if he had a pen she could borrow. Writing quickly, Andy smiled and, backtracking a bit, deposited the card into the dropbox of the post office that handled the letters to and from the mailroom of Elias-Clarke. She knew that the card would reach Miranda tomorrow. Feeling a bit better about the whole situation, Andy decided she needed a little fun. Maybe Dougie will be free for drinks... She tucked the lottery ticket deeper into her pocket then pulled out her phone to call, reminding herself not to say anything to him about Miranda. Not yet.
Miranda fretted a little, but it wasn't the duck and cover situation her assistants had grown used to lately. She had gotten the polite thank you Andrea had sent after her daily flower had arrived but the tone of it seemed off somehow. "Emily." Miranda waited interminable minutes for the new girl to arrive at the desk.
"Tell accounting I want the numbers I asked for two days ago to be on my desk within the next fifteen minutes or I will outsource their jobs to a firm that actually knows what they are doing. And tell Nigel I need those mock ups by the end of the day, and inform Emily that I will be accompanying her to the Mischka showing tomorrow. Also get some samples of accessories...bags.. handbags, overnight bags... that sort of thing..."
"Bore someone else with your questions..." Miranda sighed, "Also, contact that caterer I like and get some sample menus sent over and get me Patrick. Accounting now has thirteen minutes... and Emily..." She waited for the girl to stop writing and look up from the notepad in her hand, "Coffee. That's all." The Emily scurried away and Miranda was left alone with her thoughts again. She barely registered Isabel placing the mail on her desk and made no move to look at it until the woman hesitantly spoke.
Miranda saw Isabel flinch as her cool blue gaze landed on the assistant, but the woman spoke quietly anyway.
"I, um... thought you might want to see this."
Miranda looked down at the stack of mail as Isabel cut the envelopes like a deck of cards, revealing a post card. It was a gorgeous shot of a sunset, taken from a ship apparently, because New York's skyline was laid out under the rich red and orange sky. She turned over the card to see Andrea's handwriting.
Peripherally aware of Isabel still standing in front of her desk, Miranda never took her eyes off of the writing but spoke in her usual low tone. "Thank you, Isabel. That will be all."
Andy ignored the slight ache in her head and smiled as she read the text, again.
She tapped a quick response into her phone.
With a glance at her growing flower bouquet, Andy got back to work. When her phone rang she pulled herself out of her research enough to absently answer it. "Mirror, Andy Sachs speaking."
"Are you feeling alright?"
Sitting up straighter, Andy squeaked in surprise but kept her voice low, "Miranda?"
"Mmmm..." Miranda elaborated, "Your texts have been, terse, today and I wondered if everything was... okay."
"Oh..." Andy thought this call was even more touching than the flowers, or the gloves, Miranda had thought something was wrong and was worried about her. "Yeah, sorry. I just went out for drinks with a friend last night and I'm feeling it today. Everything's fine."
"A male friend?"
Chuckling at that, it was Andy's turn to elaborate. "Yes, I needed to kinda unwind a little, and he's currently between boyfriends, so we went out. He's a friend. We're going out to dinner tonight too, he needs some cheering up. This last breakup was unexpected and did not go well."
"Ah." Miranda acknowledged the fact that, of course, Andrea would have friends, "I'm sure your friend appreciates all you do for him."
Andy laughed at that, "Nah, he doesn't... but he's still a friend." She paused and changed the subject, "I wish it was Friday already."
"Do you?" Miranda's tone was only slightly sarcastic, "If it were Friday, then you would have two engagements booked for tonight. I wonder, which one would you choose to attend?"
"Back to choices am I?" Andy grinned into the phone at Miranda's silence. "Hmmm... let's see... a night out with one of my oldest and dearest friends, versus a dinner with my extremely new girlfriend. That's a no brainer." She chuckled, "My girlfriend wins, every time." The silence after that was long enough to just start to make Andy nervous, then Miranda's softest voice ever touched her ear.
"Is that what I am? Your girlfriend?"
"Yes, unless you don't like that term... would you prefer Darling? Honey? Babe?" Andy grinned knowing none of those would suit Miranda. She wasn't even going to mention the more age identifying term of 'lady friend'.
"No," The list of alternative monikers had apparently allowed Miranda to find her voice, " I suppose girlfriend will suffice."
Andy laughed at the long-suffering tone in Miranda's voice, "Don't worry, you won't be stuck with it forever. The terms change as the relationship grows."
"Girlfriend, sweetheart, lover, significant other, partner, life partner...." Andy's eyes had began to twinkle at the third term, "We'll figure it out as we go along."
Clearing her throat, Miranda contemplated the third level Andrea thought that their relationship might reach, "Of course." Miranda suddenly became all business and Andy heard her say, "Finally" to someone in the room with her. Back on the phone, Miranda said her goodbyes, "I'm sorry, I must get some of this done before I leave this evening."
"Sure," Andy agreed, "I have a bunch of things to finish up here too." Her voice gentled, "Thanks for calling. I'm glad you liked the sunset. See you Friday."
"Yes, I'm looking forward to that, very much." Miranda's soft voice again caressed Andy's ear, "Good bye for now."
"Good bye, sweet dreams."
The call was disconnected and Andy sat for a long moment imagining Miranda in her office, her glasses low on her nose, pen in hand striking through the items that were simply not worthy to grace the pages of her magazine. It was a glorious visual, one made even more vivid by actual memories of just that scene. She remembered watching Miranda, sometimes for hours on end, and wishing so hard that just once the woman would look up, notice her, just for a moment. Andy's million watt smile appeared when she realized exactly who it was she'd been imagining, and the descriptor attached to the vision. My girlfriend! She almost giggled with the joy of it. Holy shit, Miranda Priestly is my girlfriend!
"What should I do?" Isabel's hands trembled as she spoke to Emily, the real Emily.
"Honestly, Isabel," Emily put down her pen and looked at the shaking woman. "You've been Miranda's First Assistant for over seven months, through two fashion week seasons... why can't you deal with this?"
"I can deal with the Ice Queen," Isabel protested, "I can deal with the powerful editor who gets everything she demands... but this," Isabel shook her head, "This is different... this isn't any Miranda I've ever seen before." Lowering her voice to a whisper, Isabel confided, "She told me, 'Thank you'."
A shiver skittered down Emily's spine. "Yes, that is rather odd." Leaning back in her large leather chair, Emily asked. "Was she reading a text at the time?"
That caught Emily's attention, "Did you read it?" She was torn between throttling Isabel and feeling sorry for her when the terrified woman nodded affirmative. "What did it say?"
"Something about sharing sunsets...and that the image made the sender think of Miranda."
"And who sent it?" That was something Emily was keen to suss out.
Isabel shook her head, "No signature, just an initial... A."
"Well then, who has Miranda been seen out with lately?" Emily suddenly realized that their illustrious leader had not graced Page Six for quite some time. "Who did she have contact with in Paris, or the other fashion weeks?"
Isabel made a gesture of helplessness, "There wasn't anyone in particular. She attended several functions, luncheons, and runway shows, but it was always as a group." Isabel thought Emily should already know that. "You were there too. She didn't take any private time at all." Isabel sighed, "I suppose that's why she takes the days off afterward..."
"Mmm..." Emily recalled the Fashion Week season she had to deal with as First Assistant. "Probably so. Ah well, we'll know who the chap is soon enough."
"But," Isabel grimaced, "That's just it... the handwriting." She watched Emily's face go even paler than usual, "It looked really... feminine to me. Do you think Miranda is gay?"
Emily's pale skin flushed red with anger and she stood, leaning on her desk toward the woman much like a snake ready to strike, "Do not ever say that again."
"Why?" Isabel shook her head, "There's nothing wrong with..."
The knee-jerk reaction embarrassed Emily. "Of course there's nothing wrong with it, this is the fashion industry for Christ's sake... but you are to never speculate on that aspect of Miranda's personal life out loud." Emily didn't even want to think about some other woman being with Miranda. It was a strange conflict of emotions, because she loved and adored her partner of the last six months. But even with as much of her heart filled as it was by Serena, Emily knew that a small part of it would always belong to Miranda. To think that another woman had caught Miranda's eye was annoying, at best. She did not want to dwell on the half-second stab of murderous rage the thought had evoked. "You will be out of a job so fast your children's heads will spin if she ever hears you."
"Right." Isabel nodded, "I understand."
"Good." Emily licked her lips and sat back down, "Now... in the future, if any more postcards come. I want you to make a copy of them, the writing, before you pass it on to Miranda." She held up her hand to stop Isabel's protest. "I just want to see the writing. I'll shred it after I've had a look."
Nodding, Isabel agreed and started to leave. "I should be getting back."
Emily watched her go then thought. A female whose name begins with A. The obvious name popped into her head and she rejected it instantly, No, not her! Bloody size six cow... it can't possibly be her!
Shaking off that horrific thought, Emily picked up her pen and went back to work, trying not to think about how much this did indeed feel like an Andrea problem.
Andy walked to her bedroom quickly, stripping out of the clothes she'd worn all day at work and changing into something a little more fun for her dinner with Doug. It was simple, easy, strip out of your dirty clothes, put them in the hamper, pick something else off the hangar in the closet and go. Suddenly, she had a flash of trying to do this same, quick change for her dinner on Friday and her knees nearly buckled.
Before she'd met Miranda for Brunch, Andy had panicked about what to wear but that was nothing to the terror she felt now. This was an unforeseen complication in 'dating' Miranda Priestly. Looking forlornly at her meager closet, Andy's heart sank. She would never be able to dress the part of Miranda's girlfriend. "It's just dinner at her house." Andy told herself sternly, "And if Miranda really wants to 'get to know' the real you, you have to wear what you always wear." She picked out her favorite outfit, looked at it for half a second and tossed away, "Okay, maybe not."
She did have a few nice pieces of clothing. Over the last year and a half she had become a much savvier shopper. She had two or three dresses that would be suitable for almost any occasion she found herself in with Miranda, from going out to dinner to a gala ball. They were designer, but from a few seasons ago. It didn't hurt that her pay had increased somewhat but she still couldn't afford the current season's designs.
Dinner at Miranda's wasn't a super formal occasion. It was only going to be the two of them. She'd worn jeans to Brunch, but for the dinner Andy decided a bit more formality was in order. "Black slacks maybe," She murmured to herself as she rifled through her closet, "and, oh... this blouse." She held it up to herself and checked the mirror. It was longer than most which is why she liked it. With a wide belt at her waist, the dark blue blouse accentuated her figure. "Yeah..." Her eyes twinkled as her gaze tracked the neckline. It was lower than she normally wore, but wasn't so low as to be called indecent. "This will do, I guess." She set the outfit aside then left to meet Doug at the Pub.
"Okay, What's up?"
"Hmmm..." Andy looked up from watching her index finger absently trace around the edge of her glass. "What?"
Doug shook his head, "I've never seen you this distracted. What's going on?"
"Nothing Dougie... just stuff at work."
"Nope, that's not going to fly this time." Doug admonished his friend, "I haven't seen you this distracted since..." His eyes widened. "Who are you seeing?"
"No one." Andy waited through at least ten seconds of Doug's look before relenting, "Really... at least, not yet." She told him, "I'm going to have dinner with her on Friday."
"Ohhh... first date?"
"Something like that, yeah." Andy was just not going to go into who she was going to dinner with or their history. She hadn't even told him about the car accident she'd had or the way she'd spent her last few weekends. "Give me a little more time to get to know her..."
"Sure, Andy. I get it." He grinned, "But when the time comes... I want all the sordid details!"
Andy laughed, "I'm not telling you anything that you won't tell me about your boyfriends."
"Ah, but the difference there is you don't want to hear about my boyfriends." Doug grinned, "I want to hear all about this new gal of yours." His eyes glittered as Andy smiled, "How hot is she?"
"The hottest." Andy confided, "I'm trying to play it cool, Doug." She shook her head, "But I nearly kissed her yesterday."
"Before your first date?"
"It's complicated, but we know each other." Andy took a sip of her drink, trying to find a way out of this conversation.
"Yeah," Andy agreed, "Something like that."
"So," Doug smiled, "Why didn't you kiss her?"
"Dougie," Andy sighed, "If I start kissing her..." she took a deep breath and tried to imagine that event, "I don't know if I'll be able to stop."
Doug rested his chin on his fist and watched the dreamy look appear on Andy's face, "Wow."
Rolling her eyes at that, Andy picked up one of the ever-present menus on the table and started looking it over, "Let's eat."
Andy rested against the headboard of her bed and, crossing her sweat pant clad legs, grinned at the message then tapped out her response.
She giggled at the expression she could picture on Miranda's face at that.
"So polite." Andy grinned as she replied to the text.
She laughed as ten seconds after her last message was sent, the phone rang. Not bothering to look at the screen, Andy answered it. "Hello, Miranda."
The unfamiliar voice tensed Andy's whole frame when she recognized it, "Um... oh.. sorry, Mom... I... I thought you were someone else." She smacked herself in the forehead several times. "I... mean... I was dozing. I'm in bed." That much at least was true, "I guess I was flashing back to my Runway days." She sighed and just gave up on the subject. "Why are you calling?" It had been weeks since she'd spoken to either of her parents, since Christmas.
"Oh, well... Easter is coming up soon and I was wondering if you were going to be able to come home...you'll need to book your flights early to get the best rates."
"Even with the best rates, unless I win the lottery or something, I doubt I'll be there for Easter. I was just home for Christmas anyway." She paused for a moment thinking about the disaster that trip had been. She had thought enough time had passed from her shocking Thanksgiving 'coming-out' revelation that Christmas would at least be civil. That had turned out to be totally incorrect. "Is Daddy still angry at me?" Andy was not going to fly all the way to Ohio just to be yelled at, again. There was a long pause and then her mother began.
"That's a yes."
"Honey," Dorothy sighed, "He's just..."
"A homophobic, totally insane, incredibly insensitive..."
"Yes." Dorothy agreed, "But, he loves you. That's why he's so worried."
"He doesn't have to worry, Mom." Andy assured her. "I'm fine."
"We always wanted you to settle down and have a nice loving family to share your life with..."
"I can do that, Mom." Andy thought about the time she'd spent with the girls, cooking for them and the snowball fight they'd had. She also breathed deeply at the memory of sitting by the fire, just all being in the same room together, quietly. It all seemed so perfect. Andy's chest ached slightly and she wasn't sure if it was because of her bruise or because that was the family feeling she wanted. She wanted it so badly she could almost taste it. And, she realized, Miranda was offering it to her, even if it would take some work. Andy realized that Miranda would not have even brought up the subject of dating if she wasn't in it for the long term. That just wasn't who Miranda was, despite the relatively short marriages she'd suffered through. "I will have a family, Mom. It will just be with the people I want, and not the one Daddy does." The sudden eerie silence on the other end of the line could only mean one thing. "He's there, isn't he?" Her mother's no nonsense tone came through loud and clear.
It became abundantly clear to Andy that she was still on Richard Sachs' no call list when her mother continued cheerily.
"We will not be donating this year. Sorry."
Andy closed her eyes, and nodded. "I understand." She hit the disconnect button and wiped away the tears that had started when her mother felt the need to lie to her father instead of just telling him that they were talking.
The phone buzzed again and she automatically answered it, sniffling as she spoke, "Hello."
She wiped her tears away but couldn't help laughing at the irony. If only she'd gotten this call first. "Miranda..."
"Andrea, what's wrong?"
Andy cleared her throat and tried to speak normally, "Nothing."
"Andrea, you're crying." Miranda accused, "This is how you treat your girlfriends? You lie to them?"
"I..." Andy couldn't help blubbering again, "I'm sorry, Miranda... I just..." She stopped speaking as Miranda's no nonsense tone reached her ear.
"I'm coming over."
Andy blinked and looked at the screen, even through the blurring tears she saw the 'call disconnected' message. This was horrible. She was a mess, Miranda was coming over, the apartment was barely presentable to Doug, much less Miranda, and her father hated her. The last item on the list of why this night was full of suck caused a fresh wave of tears to flow.
Andy was sitting on the couch, her arms wrapped around her shins as she rested her forehead on her knees, when the intercom buzzed. She got up and pushed the button, allowing whoever it was outside the building to speak. Miranda's voice came through the intercom.
"Andrea...open the door."
She didn't answer, but she did push the button to let Miranda into the building, and opened her own apartment door so that the woman didn't have to knock after she made it upstairs. Returning to the couch, Andy resumed her tight upright curl, oblivious to how much or little time was passing.
Miranda sat down, wrapping a comforting arm around the crying woman, "Andrea, what is it? What has happened?"
"Nothing..." Andy shrugged and leaned into Miranda's warm solid form, "Absolutely nothing has changed." She whispered, "Daddy still hates me."
"Highly doubtful. Why would you even think that?" After several moments of continued silence from the young woman, Miranda threaded her fingers into Andrea's hair as she held the young woman's head against her shoulder, and spoke quietly, "I happen to know that you are quite difficult to hate."
Andy sniffled and looked up into Miranda's concerned blue eyes. "Really?"
"Oh yes," Miranda relaxed back onto the couch, taking Andrea with her, "I tried very hard not to like you... you were an assistant yes? It was unseemly to have feelings for an employee... an assistant. An ungrateful assistant who left me in the middle of Paris Fashion Week... mind you. I should have never wanted to see you again, right?"
"But you did.." Andy mumbled and tried not to notice the lovely expanse of Miranda's neck just inches away from her lips. The woman's subtle perfume was intoxicating, and Andy was feeling a bit dizzy from all the crying. It was so nice to be here, leaning against Miranda. Andy slid her arms around the older woman, shifting so that she could keep her head on that oh so comforting shoulder. "...want to see me again?"
"I very much wanted to see you again." Miranda smiled and brushed a bit of hair away from Andrea's forehead then kissed the cleared space, gently. She whispered softly, "I find myself wanting to kiss your lips."
"Miranda," Andy whispered, focusing on the lips that had just kissed her forehead
The corners of Miranda's eyes crinkled slightly as she smiled, "No. I know." When Andrea began to protest, Miranda pressed her fingers against the soft, plump, oh-so-kissable lips and explained, "You were correct, in the park, it is too soon for that... activity. We haven't even been on a first date yet."
"That's not why..." Andy shifted slightly to sit up and turned to face Miranda fully. "I didn't want to kiss you, in the park, because it was a public place... and I wasn't sure, once I started, if I would be able to stop."
"You now believe you can?"
"No," Andy corrected, "Now we're in my apartment, so I wouldn't have to." She began to lean in when Miranda's hand on her chest stopped her and pulled a yelp of pain from her.
"What..." Miranda's hand retracted instantly, "Andrea?"
With a sigh, Andy explained, "There's a bruise there, from the car accident." She assured Miranda, "It's healing up and doesn't usually hurt anymore, unless you push on it."
Unbuttoning the top three buttons of her pajama top, Andy opened the fabric, closing her eyes as Miranda gasped.
"Andrea, you need to see a doctor."
"No, it's really okay... it's healing just fine. I didn't actually do myself any favors by taking a hot shower right after the accident...but I think all the playing in the snow actually helped. It looks much better now than it did a week ago." Andy began to button the shirt again when Miranda stopped her. The older woman's fingers brushed over the bruised area lightly and Andy swallowed hard as her pulse increased. Her voice was barely a whisper when she was finally able to speak, "Miranda... don't."
"Am I hurting you?" Miranda was mesmerized by the smoothness of the discolored skin under her fingertips.
"God no," Andy closed her eyes and leaned back as Miranda continued the soft caress, "It feels good, too good."
"Andrea," Miranda sounded thoughtful. "We spent all weekend together, two weekends ago... went to eat at my favorite French restaurant last Friday, and spent nearly all day together on Saturday. We had brunch together on Sunday... and met in the park on Monday..." Miranda inched closer, "Don't you think all that qualifies as at least one date?"
The hand that had been caressing the injury slid upward to turn Andrea's face toward her. Miranda moved even closer, "Andrea..."
"Miranda," Reaching up, Andy stroked Miranda's cheek lightly, "God, I would love to kiss you right now, but... I don't know if I can." She quickly held Miranda in place when the older woman frowned and began to move away, "No... listen. I've had a chance to think about some things. I don't want to know what it's like to kiss you, until I'm sure that... this won't go away." Andy sighed, "You're Miranda Priestly... and I am a mere newspaper reporter..." Shaking her head, Andy tried to explain, "I don't even have the right clothes to wear to go to dinner with you at your house, much less to go 'out' to dinner with you..."
"Is that what this is all about?" Miranda shook her head, "Andrea, I will lay the fashion world at your feet if that is what you want."
"Why?" Andy did pull back a little, just a little. "Why this sudden interest in me?"
"It's not sudden." Miranda too moved away, slightly. "I told you I have had feelings for you, ever since you were my assistant. I could not act on them then, and by the time I could, you were..."
"Gone." Andy closed her eyes, "God that was so stupid."
"It was something you needed to do." Miranda wasn't going to lie, "It hurt, badly. Badly enough that I did not pursue any further contact with you." She moved away now, so that no part of her was touching Andrea, "What I told you is true though. When you appeared on my doorstep, all the feelings re-emerged, including the hurt."
Pressing her lips together for a long moment, Miranda remained silent then with a deep breath, told the truth, "The girls."
Miranda related to Andrea what happened after she had left the mountain house on Saturday. How the girls had confronted her and what they believed about Andrea being the missing piece in their lives.
"You're dating me because the girls told you to?" Shaking her head, Andy rose from the couch and paced toward the window. "That's..." Miranda finished the thought.
"Not entirely true." Also rising from the couch, Miranda crossed the room to wrap her arms around Andrea's solid form, "One of the reasons I did not pursue a relationship with you before was because of the girls. I didn't know how they would feel about it, didn't know how they would react even to the idea of it..." She turned the young woman in her arms so that they faced each other, "Once I knew they were okay with the idea..." Miranda held out her arm, "Look, no twist marks at all."
Andy laughed, "So I see."
"Ah..." Miranda's eyes twinkled with mischief, "There's that smile." Guiding, Andrea back to the couch, Miranda settled them both back into a comfortable embrace and spoke quietly, "Now, tell me why you were crying." She smiled as Andrea began to talk.
Miranda sat sideways on the couch, resting her head on the crook of her arm, while she listened to Andrea tell yet another lively story about her and her sister's adventures when they were younger. Once the story of how Andrea's coming out to her parents had not gone as well as the young woman had hoped, Andrea had regaled her new girlfriend with much happier family memories. Happier for Andrea, obviously not so much for the girl's parents. Miranda was horrified at some of the rather dangerous situations the rambunctious sisters had gotten into in their youth, but she also envied them. She had no memories of those sort of antics with her brother. The story ended with only minor scrapes and bruises to both children and Miranda yawned.
Andy laughed and unfolded her legs from under her, "More coffee?"
"Mmm... no." Miranda too stood and stretched, "I believe I need to be going."
"Oh..." Andy was really disappointed at that thought, "But it's only..." She looked around for a clock and gasped, "Oh my God..."
"Mmmm..." Smiling at that, Miranda nodded, "I need to get home and prepare for work. I cannot wear the same thing in to the office twice."
"I've kept you up almost all night." Andy was shocked, "Miranda... what about the girls?!"
Chuckling at that, Miranda waved off that worry, "They were asleep when I left them, and I will be home before they wake. Samantha is with them. There is a guest room for her to stay in on the odd nights she needs to be there."
Andy moved forward, taking Miranda's hand in hers, "Thank you, for coming, for staying with me..."
Miranda chuckled, "That is what girlfriends are for, yes?" Pulling Andy closer, Miranda hugged her. At one point during the night Andrea had changed her top, from the button down pajama shirt she'd been wearing at first, to a rather form fitting white tank top. Miranda's hands caressed the skin that the change revealed. "I'm very glad you're feeling better about things."
"I am," Andy held Miranda tightly, "Thank you so much, for everything."
"Whatever you need." Miranda sighed, "Time to say goodnight." She playfully tilted her head, giving Andrea full and clear access to her cheek.
Laughing, Andy kissed Miranda's cheek then copied the motion for Miranda to reciprocate.
With a chuckle, Miranda brushed her lips against Andrea's smooth skin and whispered, "Good night, Andrea."
Resting her forehead against Miranda's, Andy's low tones filled the space between them, "Stay for just a little longer and you could watch the sunrise..." She pointed to the large eastern facing window.
"No." Miranda reached up to caress the cheek she'd just kissed, "We will share a sunrise at some point, but not today."
"Okay." Andy got Miranda's coat for her, and admitted, "I don't want you to go..."
"I don't necessarily want to leave," Miranda sighed and put on her coat, "But, there are things to be done..."
"Miranda?" Andy asked, "Do you think, if we did give each other a proper kiss goodbye that we'd be able to..."
"No," Miranda shook her head, "I don't think that's a good idea right now." She smiled and took Andrea's hand in hers, squeezing it lightly in her gloved hand. "Friday... Tomorrow night, I look forward to it."
Nodding, Andy reluctantly opened the door for Miranda, "Me too. Good night, Miranda. Sweet dreams, in what little time there is left."
"Good night." Miranda nodded and slipped out the door.
The security guard looked up to see a young woman dressed in a florist's delivery uniform and nodded, "For who?"
"Um," Checking the card on the small bouquet flowers, the woman read the name, "Miranda Priestly." She almost laughed at the comical face the guard made at the name.
"Sure," He handed her a visitors badge and pointed toward the elevators, "Seventeenth floor, you'll have to ask someone there how to get to her office."
Nodding, she took the badge and headed toward the elevators. "Thanks."
She did not have to ask anyone for directions. As soon as she stepped off the elevator onto the Runway floor, she headed directly for Miranda's office. She slowed as she reached the large glass doors then with a deep breath, entered the Dragon's lair.
As expected, one of the women at the two desks out front stood to meet her.
"Can I help you?"
"Delivery for Miranda Priestly."
"Oh," Isabel's eyes widened at the rather small arrangement of flowers in the visitor's hand, "I'll take them."
"No." Pulling back slightly, she insisted, "My orders were to deliver these directly to Ms. Priestly." With only a bit of twinkle in her dark eyes, she informed the assistant, "My boss is very demanding, so if that's what he told me to do, then that's what I do."
"Your boss is demanding..." Isabel chuckled at that, "Lady, you have no idea..."
"Ohhh..." A million watt smile appeared on the delivery woman's face, "I think I do."
"What is going on out here... Isabel.. why are you not..." Miranda stopped in the doorway of her office and stared for a moment at the flowers then at the person delivering them, "You have business here?"
Licking her lips, Miranda nodded, "Well then deliver them and be on your way."
"Shall I put them on your desk?"
Stepping aside, leaning against the doorframe, Miranda gestured into her office. She watched as the flowers were set, very precisely on her desk. Then the delivery person pulled an envelope from her inner jacket pocket and propped it against the vase. Moving to stand in front of the editor, Andy smiled her million watt smile, her eyes flickered back to the flowers, "Lucky guy."
"You think so?" Miranda's lips twitched with the beginnings of a smile.
"Oh, I know so." Winking at her girlfriend, Andy gave each of the assistant's a nod and walked out of the office. Knowing Miranda's gaze was following her the entire way put a bit of extra sway in her hips.
"How odd," Isabel commented, "She didn't even hint at wanting a tip."
Miranda's gaze followed Andrea's form for as long as the clear doors and corridors allowed, "Oh," she spoke a little wistfully, "I'm sure she will receive ample reward for her work... eventually." Fussing with the edge of her belt, Miranda took a deep breath, "Inform Nigel that he has ten minutes to bring me the photos I requested." She looked at her second assistant, "Emily, coffee."
Returning to her desk, Miranda picked up her pen and, slipping her glasses on, resumed working for a moment. It was a farce though, her eyes continually darted to the envelope with her name inscribed in large flowing script. It only took two minutes for her to give in. She couldn't help the smile that shaped her lips as she read the flowing script on the heavy stationary.
Miranda slid the note back into its envelope then tucked it into her desk drawer just before Nigel entered her office.
"The pictures you wanted." He dropped the folder on her desk as he eyed the flowers, "Nice roses..."
"Yes," she agreed, "They are quite lovely."
He reached up and touched the small, heart shaped, typed card attached to the flowers, "Be mine." He raised his eyebrows in question. "Secret admirer?" Nigel grinned at his boss and long time friend.
Miranda reached for the folder, and looked at him over the tops of her glasses, "Not a secret, to me."
"Of course not." Nigel chuckled. "And how long before others begin to know this secret?"
Removing her glasses completely, Miranda turned her full Dragon Lady look on him, "Others, will be informed on a need to know basis." She exhaled softly, "This is a relationship I would like to nurture for as long as possible without the Press' interference."
The tone in Miranda's voice took Nigel back a step when he realized, "Is it that serious?"
Miranda only nodded.
"Well then I'll let you know that we had already deduced that you were seeing someone, and Emily, the real one, is trying very hard to suss out the lucky fellow's name." Nigel half turned away from the open door to Miranda's office and tilted his head toward Isabel's desk, "She has some help."
Licking her lips, Miranda leaned back and regarded her long time friend and colleague then spoke quietly, "They will not divine his name." Her mischievous eyes emphasized a slight smirk as Nigel caught and understood the emphasis on the pronoun. "Perhaps you could help them, Nigel... to deduce his name."
"Perhaps." He laughed and tapped the folder he'd just given her. "This is good work. We need to think about using this photographer again."
Miranda's smirk disappeared. "I will make that determination, after I study the photographs."
Nigel internally winced, realizing what his suggestion had sounded like. Miranda made all the decisions regarding the magazine. He tried to keep his tone matter-of-fact, "Of course, it is your decision after all."
Miranda slipped her glasses back on and opened the folder. Looking over the top rims of her glasses, Miranda raised her eyebrows, "That's all."
Andy grinned and shot a text back.
Working late tonight. May I call you when I get home?
She continued with her work. Taking the time to deliver the flowers wouldn't have made her too late, doing the whole uniform schtick was what cost her. She was going to have to stay until at least six tonight to make up the time and get her assignments done. Andy could not have cared less about Valentine's Day last year, but this year, she really would have liked to spend some time with her new girlfriend. Ah well, she thought, tomorrow... She smiled at the thought of seeing Miranda again.
How late are you working?
Andy's heart warmed at the thought of Miranda taking her call even if she was still at Runway. She texted a response.
Continuing to work as all the other reporters left the office one by one, Andy sighed. Snippets of conversations regarding Valentine's Day plans were not helping her concentration at all. Still, it was, as predicted, just before six when she finished up her work for the day and began to shut down her computer. Miranda's message saying she would take Andy's calls, if possible, called to her mind all sorts of scenarios. One in particular was intriguing. With a grin, Andy made the call.
Shouldering her phone, Andy chuckled, "Don't worry, I won't keep you long. I just wanted to get the visual of you at your desk talking to me on the phone."
"I was not worried," Miranda's voice held a hint of amusement, "And I am not at my desk."
"No?" Andy chuckled, "Where are you?"
"What?" Andy twirled in her chair to see Miranda taking the phone away from her ear as she walked into the Mirror office. "Miranda?!" Glancing around the empty office, Andy's eyes widened. "What are you doing here?"
"Coming to see you, of course."
"But... what if someone saw you here?" It was inevitable, but Andy didn't think they wanted the press involved in their relationship this soon.
Miranda looked around the empty office and raised her eyebrows, "Who?" She chuckled. "The Runway offices cleared out quickly this evening, I assumed this office would do the same. People rarely work when they have the chance to spend time with their... Sweethearts, is that the term?"
"Yeah," Andy smiled, "That's the term."
Nodding, Miranda held out her hand. "Ready?"
"Yeah..." Taking Miranda's hand, Andy took three steps with her girlfriend and stopped. "Where are the girls?"
"At home," Miranda said, "Waiting for us."
"Uh..." Andy blinked, "Was I supposed to be at your house tonight?"
Miranda smiled, "It's Valentine's Day, Andrea. Where else but your girlfriend's house should you be?"
With a million watt smile on her face, Andy laughed, "Nowhere else." Her phone buzzed with an incoming message. Puzzled, she checked it, her eyes lit up, "Oh!... but there is somewhere else!" She showed Miranda the Tweet. "One of my favorite local bands is going to have a flash concert in the park! Can the girls meet us there? I think they'll really like the music."
"I don't know." Miranda considered it, "It is a school night..."
Moving closer, Andy wrapped her arm around Miranda's waist, "Awww..." Pushing her bottom lip out slightly as she frowned, Andy turned her pleading eyes on her new girlfriend, "Please? For me?"
"Dear God," Miranda mumbled, "How long will it be before I can resist that?"
With a bright smile, Andy laughed, "Hopefully never, but I promise not to use it too often." She tilted her head in question. "So, may I forward them the information?"
"Yes." Miranda nodded, "Samantha will get them to the appropriate place at the appropriate time."
"Cool." Andy quickly sent messages to the girls. "But the time is now," she grabbed Miranda's hand and tugged her toward the door, "so let's go."
"You call this music?" Miranda frowned as Andrea grinned. It was Cassidy who answered the near complaint.
"C'mon, Mom... it's great!" There was quite a large crowd dancing and laughing, with camera's clicking pictures of the band and friends all having a good time. Cassidy and her sister were dancing with each other, if you could call jumping up and down in place, dancing.
Miranda relaxed slightly as the so-called song, ended. Glancing at her watch, she informed the girls, "You only have another fifteen minutes before Samantha will need to take you home."
"It is already late, on a school night and we have not eaten our evening meal yet." Miranda was very firm about all things involving their education. "Fifteen minutes."
Caroline nodded and grabbed her sister's hand. "C'mon, Cass... let's go get a better look."
Miranda watched as a slower song began and her girls made their way closer to the impromptu stage. Andrea's voice at her ear caused her eyelids to flutter.
"Do you want me to go with them?"
"No," Miranda automatically tangled her fingers with Andrea's, "Samantha is watching them." Turning her head to see Andrea's face so very close to hers, Miranda smiled, "You, stay with me."
Curling her arm around Miranda's, Andy laid her head on the older woman's shoulder, "My pleasure." She didn't even think anything about their position until the flash of a camera went off very close to them. "Oh... shit..." Andy pulled away quickly.
"Sorry, Miranda.. I just... I didn't realize what I was doing." She looked around to see if anyone actually had their camera's turned toward Miranda. "I forgot about cameras and all that... this band, they always tweet a reporter from the Post for their flash concerts. It's just the Entertainment section, not Page Six... but..." Continuing to look for any indication that anyone had taken their picture in such a compromising situation, Andy didn't notice Miranda smiling, or moving closer.
She reached up to cup the young woman's cheek in her gloved palm, forcing Andrea to look at her and her alone. "Calm down."
"It's not just the paper.." she pulled off her gloves tucking them into her coat pocket, "...they have a website Miranda..." Andy tried to explain, "If you and I were caught...like that, it will be up on the site, tonight!" She ran her fingers through her hair and tugged it slightly, "Hell, it might be up now!"
"Language!" Miranda's eyes twinkled, "Really Andrea, do you always curse so much? I'm not looking forward to that aspect of our relationship if that is the case."
Laughing at that, Andy shrugged, "When I'm upset..." her smile turned wicked, "or very excited about certain...things."
"Ah..." Miranda licked her lips, "Well then, perhaps I was mistaken." Wrapping her arms around Andrea's waist, Miranda found her girlfriend's ear and whispered, "Perhaps I'm looking forward to hearing you excited about...certain things after all."
Andy realized that they were swaying to the slow music playing. "Miranda..." Unable to help herself, Andy pulled the older woman closer, "Are you sure you want to dance with me in public?"
"That is what girlfriends do at a concert on Valentine's Day, is it not?" Miranda chuckled, chiding Andrea slightly, "Do you intend on keeping me as your dirty little secret?"
"Of course not..." Andy relaxed a bit into the embrace, "I just... don't want you to have more stress in your life than necessary."
"Andrea," Miranda reveled in the feel of Andrea's in her arms even though they both wore heavy coats and promised, "Although avoiding that aspect is preferable, having you in my life is worth any stress the press can deal out."
"But, what about Runway... Mr. Ravitz... won't he..."
"Shhh..." Miranda pressed her fingers against Andrea's lips for a moment before dropping them away, "I work in the fashion industry, think about that for a moment and then tell me how the so-called news that I have a girlfriend would be a shock to anyone." Miranda paused for a moment, "Do you believe this relationship will be detrimental to your career?"
"Not mine." Andy shrugged, "reporters aren't really newsworthy themselves, but you..."
"I... can weather whatever the press says, because I am me. That people find my life newsworthy is beyond my scope of understanding." Miranda exhaled softly, the small visible puff of breath filled the space between them, "I am a magazine editor and a mother... my personal life is as boring as it gets. The only part of Runway that is even remotely glamorous is the part that the general public sees, the other part, all the behind the scenes activity is just a lot of hard work, as you know. I would like to keep the press away for a while. The harsh spotlight of the media is not as fun as some people think, and I would like to become closer to you before it shines upon us. Therefore, I will not go out of my way to invite them into our lives." Miranda held Andrea in place as she continued to speak, "But I will not live my life in fear of the press. That way lies madness."
"But... Mr. Ravitz... He'll try to..."
"Mmmm..." Miranda smiled, "I'm sure he will try, but he will not succeed." She held Andrea tightly when the young woman again tried to move away, "There have been a lot of changes in the last year and a half, Andrea. I am prepared for Irving's next attempt to oust me, and I promise you, it will be his last."
Andy felt a shiver travel down her spine and whispered, "You are so damn sexy when you go all Dragon Lady."
"You think?" Miranda continued swaying in Andrea's arms, even when the music changed to a faster beat. "Come home with me, Andrea..." When the brunette hesitated, Miranda asked, "Have you eaten supper yet?"
"Miranda, I'm not..."
"Mom!" Cassidy ran to the couple, "Wasn't that last song fantastic?" The girl realized the position her mother and Andy were still in and stopped, taking a step backward, "Oh... sorry.. I didn't mean to interrupt." She had seen them dancing earlier but had thought they would break apart when the slow song was over.
"No worries, Bobbsey..." Miranda kept her hold on Andrea, "I was just asking Andrea to join us at home for supper."
"Yeah?" Cassidy turned hopefully to Andy, "Will you?"
"I..." Andy's forehead wrinkled and she glanced back at the crowd, "Where's Caroline?"
"Pfft..." Cassidy rolled her eyes, "She's over there dancing with some guy... she thinks he's cute. I think he's a dork and too old for her." She saw Andy and Miranda both scanning the dancers and assured them, "Sam is watching them like a hawk... I doubt he even puts a hand on Ro's shoulder before Sam intervenes."
"It makes no difference," Miranda looked at her watch, "It's time to leave anyway." She spotted her daughter dancing with a boy who was obviously much older than she was. He was not touching her, but Miranda did not like the signals he was sending via body language. She stalked over to her adventurous daughter.
"Caroline! Time to go."
The boy had been enjoying this concert and one look at the white haired woman made him laugh, "Chill out, Granny... we're having fun."
"C'mon, Baby..." He reached out to pull his dance partner away from the annoying woman. As Cassidy had predicted, his hands didn't get within two inches of Caroline when he felt himself being propelled backward. Confused, he looked at the women on either side of him. One was in a dark suit, her dark hair slicked back into a pony tail and she looked very serious, the other was just in jeans and a sweater under her jacket, but she looked mad as hell. Immediately his brain made a leap, It's her Mom! "Uh... sorry, sorry.. I didn't touch her!"
"That's the only thing saving your skinny ass right now." Andy practically growled at the kid as she and Sam propped him against a tree, "How old are you?"
"Well that girl you were dancing with isn't even fourteen yet." Andy saw his eyes widen, "Yeah... I think you might want to be a little more careful about who you dance with in the future."
"Yes.. I will. I'm sorry." He saw the anger still in her eyes and added, "Tell your daughter I'm sorry for the trouble..."
Andy's grip on his arm went slack as her brain shut down. She didn't even care that he wriggled away and ran from them. Looking at Sam, Andy asked, "Did he say daughter?"
Sam chuckled, "You were a pretty fierce mamma bear." She grinned as they began to walk, "Thanks for the help, by the way."
"Oh," Andy nodded, "Sure... I mean... He was going to..."
"No," Sam smiled at Andy's befuddlement, "I wouldn't have let that happen."
When they reached the spot where Miranda and the girls were standing, Andy managed to look Miranda in the eye. "I... um... Did you say something about supper?"
A soft smile crossed Miranda's face and she nodded, "Yes." She turned to Samantha, "I will take the girls from here. They have a regular schedule tomorrow, but will also need accompanied to the dance tomorrow night and then are to be taken to their father's for the weekend."
"Of course." Sam bowed slightly, "Have a nice evening."
The drive to the townhouse had been silent but as soon as they were inside, Miranda rounded on her daughter. "What were you thinking?"
Caroline rolled her eyes and threw her hands up in the air, "We were just dancing!"
"A complete stranger..."
"I'm sorry." Andy spoke up, for the first time since they left the park, "If I hadn't told you about the concert..."
Miranda's expression became unreadable as she turned to face Andrea, "This is not your fault in any way."
"Can we please discuss this after we eat?" Cassidy rubbed her stomach, "I'm hungry."
Andy caught a glance from Miranda and nodded almost imperceptibly, "C'mon, Cassidy. Let's go see what we can find for supper."
"Right." Cassidy only sent a quick sympathetic glance to her sister before she followed Andy into the kitchen. She asked Andy, "Are you going to cook?"
Andy nodded and scanned the contents of the fridge quickly, "If we can think of something easy. I'm really kinda wiped out." Just thinking about how long she'd been up, made Andy yawn mightily as she moved to the pantry. "Maybe just something light..."
"Hmmm..." Dark tired eyes looked over from the shelves and Andy saw concern in Cassidy's young face, "What is it, Sweetie?"
"Do you really want to date Mom?" Cassidy bit her lip and explained the question. "I, saw you.. dancing to that cool slow song... but..." She grimaced and continued, "Everyone else that danced to that song... kissed at the end. You and Mom, didn't."
"Well..." Andy began. "First of all, yes, I really want to date Miranda. She's brilliant, and beautiful, and I think she's completely fascinating." Holding up her hand to stop Cassidy from saying anything, Andy continued to answer the question, "But she's also quite well known and, as much as I want to kiss her, I don't want to cause her any problems with the press that that much of a public display of affection might bring."
"Oh..." Cassidy nodded. "Right, I guess that would be a problem." Cassidy mumbled, "We never thought about any of that..."
Andy felt a smile tug at her lips, "Things between your Mom and me are complicated, but we're dealing with the history as well as the possible future."
"History," Cassidy swallowed hard and whispered the secret she and her sister shared, "She's loved you for a long time."
"W...what?" Andy could feel her eyelids fluttering, "I... I don't think..."
It was Cassidy's turn to smile, "Yes, since that Paris that you left, she hasn't been the same, not until you came back into our lives. Ro and I could see it, the change in her... she was so much happier after you were back in our lives. That's why, when you left so suddenly... that's why we confronted her about it and told her to get you back."
"I'm the missing part of your family." Andy tilted her head as she studied the girl sitting at the preparation island, "That's what she said you told her."
Cassidy nodded, "You are. Ro and I both know it. But the reason you are, is because what's missing in our family is a piece of Mom's heart. That's the piece you fill, not us, not Runway, not Dad, not Stephen... you."
"Cassidy..." Andy sighed and began pulling a few things out of the pantry, "You haven't known me for that long..."
"No." The girl agreed. "But we've known Mom all our lives, and we know what we know about her." The girl smiled, "We couldn't just tell her that she loves you though... she is very stubborn about things like that sometimes. We're hoping that she'll be able to admit it to herself soon. And," Cassidy pressed her lips together before adding, "We were hoping you felt the same about her."
Andy chopped a few celery sticks into tiny bits, and peeled two carrots, grating them quickly. She filled a largish pan with the chicken broth she found in the pantry and added the celery and carrot, along with a small diced onion. The time she'd taken to prepare the veggies had also been used to think about what Cassidy had said. She didn't even want to let herself hope it was true, but Andy thought, What if it's true? What if Miranda, loves, me? What if she feels the same way I do about her?
She diced up a fully cooked chicken breast she'd found in the fridge and added it to the simmering liquid. "Now, " she looked at Cassidy, "in a little bit, we'll have soup." She grinned at the astonished look on the girl's face. "The big question is... do we put egg noodles in it or not?"
"Carbs?" Cassidy's nose wrinkled.
"That would be a, no." Andy laughed. "Okay then..." She set the lid on the pan, "Let's just let the carrots cook and the onions soften."
"So, what has she done so far?" Cassidy's eyes twinkled. "We told her to romance you..."
"She sends me a flower every day." Andy smiled, "And she replaced my gloves that I lost. We exchange texts..." She grinned at the scrunched look on Cassidy's face, "It's romantic enough, trust me..."
"Wait..." The girl's expression shifted to one of astonishment. "A flower? What kind of flower? A rose?"
"Yes, a rose."
"Pink?" Cassidy became excited and gestured with her hands as she described it, "Pink with little veins of red in it??"
"Um... yeah..." Andy wasn't sure why Cassidy was so excited about the flower, pink or not. "Why?"
Shaking her head, Cassidy smiled, "Nothing... Mom will tell you..." She slid off the stool and pointed her thumb toward the stairs, "I'm gonna go get cleaned up."
Nodding, Andy chuckled as she heard Cassidy squeal a bit on her trek up the stairs, then began to clean up the mess she'd made chopping the veggies. Hand washing the knife she'd used then wiping down the cutting board. Miranda was apparently still talking to Caroline, and Cassidy was upstairs, so Andy just leaned back against the counter and yawned as she watched the soup cook. She exhaled softly and murmured into the empty room, "Happy Valentine's Day to me." But Andy realized, it was actually one of the better Valentine's Day's she'd ever had. Just being here, in Miranda's house even though she was exhausted, and cooking dinner, it was nice.
She only spent a moment staring at the bubbling liquid in the pan before the tic tic tic of claws on the hardwood floor drew her attention. "Hey, Tay... You gonna keep me company until the others get here?"
The puppy went to the back door and put his paw up to it, then whined. His big brown eyes turned on her and he whined again.
"Awww..." Andy understood, "You need to go out?" She turned the heat down as low as it would go under the soup pan and opened the door, "Okay.. out we go..."
Miranda glared at her recalcitrant daughter who had fallen silent, again. This entire discussion had been punctuated with long stretches of silence from them both, but this time Miranda wasn't going to let it continue. "This sort of behavior will not be tolerated." As expected, Caroline retorted with the same statement she'd been making since the beginning.
"We were just dancing!"
"He was a complete stranger!" Miranda wasn't sure why Caroline was being so stubborn about this issue. "It was a very dangerous thing to do."
"Oh please," Waving off that argument, Caroline scoffed, "Like Sam wasn't right there watching me like a hawk. Nothing was going to happen to me, Mom. Sam was right there! So were you.. and so was Andy!"
Miranda's eyes softened at the memory of Andrea leaping to Caroline's defense. "The point is," Miranda shook her head, "We will not always be there to watch out for you. You must begin to think about your actions and their consequences." Miranda heard Caroline mumble something, "What?"
"I said I'm not like you, I won't live my life ruled by fear." Caroline pointed toward the kitchen, "How much happier would you have been if you had just gotten together with Andy before?" She smiled unaware of how similar the expression was to the one Runway employee's most feared from her mother. "We had to tell you to go after her, because you're too scared to..."
"Enough!" Miranda was furious, "You have no idea ..."
Caroline's eyes widened in surprise at Miranda's anger. She bit her lip when Miranda stopped talking mid-sentence and watched as her mother closed her eyes. She could see the woman's lips moving as she slowly counted to ten, then counted again in French and again in what seemed to be German.
Miranda calmed herself then opened her eyes. She caught her daughter's gaze and held it with her own, "There are benefits and drawbacks to every station in life. One of the drawbacks that you must deal with is that you must be on guard at all times." Even the thought of something happening to either of her children caused Miranda to begin trembling.
"Mom..." Caroline moved closer. "I'm fine. Sam was right there. I would never have taken the chance if she hadn't been." Wrapping her arms around the shaking woman, Caroline apologized, "I'm sorry, Mom. I really didn't mean to scare you. I knew you wouldn't let anything happen to me."
"I try...to protect you." Miranda whispered, as she returned the embrace. She knew the truth though, there were some things that were just out of her control. Things like other people's motives, and car accidents. "I try so hard."
"I know." Caroline promised, "I'll do better, Mom. Honest."
Closing her eyes again, Miranda concentrated on breathing and nodded, "Very well." She released the girl and tilted her head toward the kitchen. "I believe I smell chicken soup. Care for some?"
Miranda walked into the empty kitchen and paused, "Andrea?" She glanced at Caroline then picked up the large spoon next to the stove, stirring the soup. She pulled a spoon from the silverware holder on the preparation island and took a taste of the concoction directly from the pan, making sure to get a bit of each ingredient in the bite. She nodded as she evaluated the flavor. "Seems to be almost ready."
Mother and daughter looked toward the door as it opened. "Andrea? What were you doing outside? Where are your coat and gloves."
Miranda looked down to see Taymor following closely on Andrea's heels, "Oh..." she smiled. "Thank you for taking him out." Miranda eyed the puppy sternly, "He didn't go near the greenhouse did he?"
Andy felt sorry for the puppy as Tay seemed to shrink back a little under Miranda's glare and tone, much like Runway employees often did under the same scrutiny. She knelt down to pet the puppy, "No Miranda, he was a good boy and stayed in his own little area."
Cassidy finished her return trip down the stairs and had heard the last comment. Dropping to her knee she ruffled the fur on Tay's neck, "Good boy!"
"Very well." Miranda sniffed and pointed to the pan on the stove. "Your work?"
Laughing at that, Andy rolled her eyes, "No, Miranda." She was playfully sarcastic, "Tay did it!"
The girls laughed and Miranda grinned as her gaze remained on the puppy, "Well Taymor, it appears culinary school will be unnecessary for you after all."
Chuckling as she washed her hands, Andy stepped aside for Cassidy to take her turn at the sink. Andy grinned down at the puppy, "You don't want that boring old school anyway, right Tay?" She laughed as he answered with a quick bark and sneeze. "Exactly."
Miranda marveled at the, rightness, of the moment as the girls set the table and Andrea doled out soup for each of them. It felt right, good, and Miranda wondered how long it would take for her to mess it up. "This isn't right," Miranda declared, as Andrea slid into the seat next to her. Under the table, Miranda took Andrea's hand in her own, "You should not have had to cook for us this evening. I should have taken you out somewhere."
Andy gently squeezed the hand in hers and smiled, "No, I don't mind." She looked around the table and glanced at Tay in his bed in the corner, resting. "I think this is kinda perfect." She leaned over and boldly kissed Miranda's cheek, "It's the best Valentine's Day ever, thank you."
With a wry grin, Miranda filled her spoon with soup, blew on it gently and murmured, "It's not over yet."
Smiling at that, Andy stirred the soup in her bowl, hoping she didn't fall asleep before she was able to eat it. Tasting her handiwork, Andy forced her eyes to remain open but idly wondered if a person could actually drown by falling asleep face first into a bowl of soup.
"Good night, Mom." Caroline kissed her mother on the cheek and moved to stand in front of Andy, "Good night, Andy." On impulse the girl reached out and hugged her mother's girlfriend tightly, "Thanks for coming to my rescue tonight."
Andy wrapped her arms around the girl's shoulders and rested her cheek against the top of Caroline's head, "I was more than happy to help Sam out, Sweetie. Just don't make me do it too often, eh?"
"I won't." Caroline headed for the stairs and Cassidy took her place in front of Andy.
"Thanks for letting us know about the concert." She too hugged Andy, "I really did like some of the songs."
"I'm glad you enjoyed it." Andy returned the hug. "Maybe we can do it again sometime." She grinned and kissed Cassidy's forehead lightly, "Sweet dreams, Cass."
Miranda watched Cassidy follow her sister's footsteps up the stairs then slid her own arms around Andrea. "They adore you. I can tell."
Andy sighed at the comfort of the embrace and closed her eyes, leaning heavily on Miranda, "They're good kids, Miranda."
"Mmmm..." Miranda repeated a sentiment she had voiced earlier, "A lot has changed in the last year and a half."
Chuckling at that, Andy shook her head and tried to stand up straighter, "They were never really that bad. They just didn't like the assistants very much."
"I never understood that..." Miranda guided Andrea to her study.
"Oh, I did." Andy sighed as she leaned back against the comfortably padded couch and Miranda leaned against her. "I didn't like the students Mom taught either. I was jealous of them, getting all her attention."
"Oh... I know. It was just her job, like Runway is yours. But, young kids... they don't understand that." Andy raised her arm, with effort, to gesture toward the stairs, "They've grown up."
Miranda chuckled, "Not that much, not yet." She was a bit proud of her girls though, because she could see the potential in them. Andrea had a lot of potential as well. Miranda wondered if it was possible that what she felt for Andrea was more maternal than anything else.
Andy sighed, "Miranda, I hate to cut this evening short. But, can you call me a cab?"
Catching the young woman's eye, Miranda asked, "When was the last time you slept?"
Shaking her head, Andy's eyelids fluttered as she tried to keep them open, "Um... all night? I..." She tried to think.
"Um..." Andy braced for the response to her answer, "The mountain house, maybe?"
"Andrea..." Miranda sighed, "I will not put you in a cab in this condition." She stood and pulled the exhausted woman to her feet. "Come with me." She led Andrea upstairs without protest until they arrived at a bedroom.
As soon as they stepped inside and Andy saw the huge bed, beckoning to her, she began to stammer. "M...M... Miranda," Andy tried to pull her hand out of Miranda's. "I... I need to go home." She tried to think, "I don't have any of my pajamas here, or toothbrush or anything..."
"Of course you do." Miranda smiled and pointed to a black leather overnight bag resting in a chair in the corner. She assured the sleep-deprived woman, "Everything you need is in there." She smiled and caressed Andrea's cheek for a moment, "I need to make a phone call and will return momentarily to check on you."
"Okay." Andy watched Miranda leave then moved toward the overnight bag. "Everything I need, eh?"
Opening the bag, Andy smiled and lifted the pair of pajamas she'd left at the mountain house last weekend. Was it only last Saturday? Andy shook her head, it seems like forever ago. She glanced through the bag and couldn't help chuckling at Miranda's "everything you need" statement. She wasn't kidding. Andy could see several zippered kits of various sizes and could only imagine what Miranda deemed necessary for an overnight bag. She could see some folded clothing in the bottom of the bag as well. Right now though, she didn't have the energy to find out and she wanted nothing more than to fall into that huge comfortable looking bed.
When Miranda returned to the bedroom she stopped short just inside the door then, closing the door behind her, continued toward the bed.
Andrea was lying on the bed, on top of the covers, clad in the white silk pajamas, and looked like an angel sleeping. A glance around the room revealed evidence that the young woman had barely managed to change her clothes and as she moved closer, Miranda saw that, in fact, only two buttons on the pajama top were secured. Andrea shifted and one side of the shirt slid down, revealing an extremely enticing, more muscular than expected, stomach. Much like she had caressed Andrea's cheek when the young woman had fallen asleep in the car, Miranda couldn't stop herself from reaching out to lightly brush the skin revealed with her fingertips.
Dear God, Miranda was mesmerized by the supple, yet firm, texture and again the thought flashed through her mind, She is so young. Berating herself, Miranda pulled her hand away and gently fastened the remaining buttons. She was manipulating Andrea into a much more comfortable position, under the blankets, when the exhausted woman roused slightly.
"Mmmm..." Miranda smiled as she draped the blankets over Andrea. She leaned over and kissed the young woman's cheek, "Get some sleep."
"Miranda..." Andy reached out to hold Miranda's forearms, "Don't leave."
"Andrea, you need..."
"You." Andy pleaded, "Can't you just stay with me?" She turned her dark eyes on her girlfriend and wrapping her arms around Miranda's shoulders, Andy asked softly, "Please? Don't make me sleep alone on Valentine's Day."
She tried, she really did, to resist the plea and it took several heartbeats for the internal battle to be waged before she spoke. "Let me go prepare for bed," Miranda patted the hands holding her, "I will return shortly."
Nodding, Andy released Miranda and relaxed back into the pillow, "Thank you, Miranda." Andy closed her eyes while she waited for Miranda to come back.
Miranda scrubbed off her makeup and spoke harshly to the woman in the mirror, "You're an old fool." She watched her image tremble at the thought of merely lying next to Andrea in the bed. "She claims not to care about our age difference, but she is so very young..." The whispered thought filled the room and she continued to speak to herself as she moved to her closet and changed into one of her favorite spaghetti strap nightgowns, "Perhaps this will literally be the wake up call she needs to see the truth."
Her public persona was always very rigorously maintained, but Miranda knew the reality of it, she had just faced it in the mirror a few moments ago. "Stephen was correct." She studied her reflection in the full length mirror on her closet door closely, "Without my makeup and designer fashions, I am..." she couldn't bring herself to actually say the word, but her tired mind supplied it. Frumpy.
As exhausted as Andrea was, Miranda was also sleep deprived, and for much the same reasons. Work and worry about Andrea had topped her list of excuses for her latest bout with insomnia. She had hoped to get some sleep tonight, but now that didn't seem to be happening. Miranda had never been able to sleep well with someone else in the bed with her. Perhaps, she thought, I can just stay with Andrea for a little while, until I'm sure she's sleeping soundly, then return to my own room for the rest of the night.
She didn't want to lie to Andrea, and she had, vaguely, promised to stay with the young woman tonight. Thinking about how she would just stay with Andrea for a little while, Miranda went back to the guest room and, after only a moment's hesitation to look at Andrea's angelic face, slid under the covers with her very new girlfriend. I'll just stay for a little while... she thought, and closed her eyes.
It was an unfamiliar, yet not unpleasant, pressure on her hip that woke her. She could not see the clock from this side of the bed, but there was light filtering through the curtains and Miranda was amazed that she'd slept so long. She took a deep breath and had only tensed her muscles slightly in preparation to rise from the bed, when the pressure on her hip shifted. What had been Andrea's hand resting lightly on her hip, became the young woman's entire arm encircling Miranda's waist. Miranda was about to protest when she felt the solid warmth pressing against the length of her back. She felt more than heard a contented exhale that warmed her neck and her eyes closed of their own volition when soft lips pressed against the top of her spine.
Miranda gasped softly as a pleasant sizzle moved down her back, from the point of contact with Andrea's lips to settle in just below her navel. She knew in that moment that the feelings she was experiencing toward Andrea were in no way maternal. No one had ever evoked such a reaction in her, not once. Sadly, this was not the time, even if it was the place, to explore that reaction. Andrea's breathing had evened out again and Miranda slowly moved out from under the protective arm. A glance at the clock reassured Miranda that the young woman could sleep for a while longer. Gazing down for a long moment at the peaceful woman, Miranda smiled before she quietly left the room to start her day.
Andy woke slowly, inhaling deeply as she shifted and stretched in the bed. A familiar scent reached her and she blinked her eyes open. She was alone in the bed, although she distinctly remembered rousing earlier and wrapping her arm around Miranda. At least, she thought she remembered doing that. It was possible that she had been dreaming, as she often did. The pillow next to her was not empty though. Andy smiled as she picked up the rose from its resting place. It was pink with tiny veins of red streaking through the petals, just like all the others Andy had received from Miranda. This one, as with the others, had not been dethorned so she handled it carefully. Andy closed her eyes as she put her nose close to the bloom and inhaled deeply. Smiling at the gift and the thought behind it, Andy sat up and, flower in hand, began to get ready for work. The first step of which was to examine the fantastic overnight bag Miranda had shown her last night.
The clothes she'd seen folded under her pajamas turned out to be a pair of black True Religion jeans, an extremely soft, probably cashmere, sweater and a set of La Perla underthings. The thought of Miranda picking out a bra and underwear for her made Andy blush. Rolling her eyes at herself, Andy took the kit with the shampoo and body wash into the bathroom that was connected to the room. Chuckling at her silliness, Andy set the kit aside in lieu of the items already stocked in the room. She didn't realize until halfway through her shower that the shampoo, conditioner and body wash were all the brands that she normally used.
When did she... Andy thought back to the night before last, when Miranda had arrived at her apartment and they had stayed up all night talking. Andy nodded to herself, Miranda must have snooped in the bathroom while she was there. Normally that would be kind of creepy to her, but at the moment, Andy thought it was a very considerate thing for Miranda to do. She wasn't snooping for snooping's sake, she was finding out what brands I preferred to put in the overnight bag... That Miranda was taking that much of an interest in her was a little daunting, but also, kind of nice.
Andy knew that her attraction to Miranda had been mainly physical responses, at first. But then, she'd gotten to know her boss a little more and had been allowed to see Miranda's concern regarding her children. Just that little bit of humanity had touched Andy's heart like no one, and nothing, ever had before. Seeing Miranda so vulnerable, right after Stephen had asked for the divorce had been an eye opener. Miranda had been so upset at how the media coverage of the divorce would effect the girls, how they would suffer for her mistake with Stephen.
That is when Miranda had always gotten the most upset, Andy realized, when something effected the girls adversely in some way. People just didn't understand exactly how protective Miranda was of her family. Which is why Andy had never really come to terms with the actions Miranda had taken, hurting Nigel as she had done in Paris. Nigel was supposedly Miranda's friend. Andy knew that Nigel had worked with Miranda longer than anyone and they had at least seemed to have a sort of friendship.
Packing up the overnight bag, Andy went over those last few days in Paris, in her head, again. She'd obsessed about those events for almost six months before giving up trying to figure them out. Now with the passage of time and a couple of new insights into Miranda, her brain called up two snippets of conversation that, individually, seemed unrelated.
One comment, Andy had overheard when she was hyper-aware of everything going on around her, just after Miranda had ordered her to get the unpublished Harry Potter manuscript for the girls. One of them had called her, and Miranda had called her 'baby'.
The other comment that came to mind was also from Miranda, in the car after the James Holt luncheon in Paris somewhat explaining her actions. Andy's knees gave out and she was glad to have landed on the edge of the bed. It was something she hadn't really thought about before but now it was just amazing. "Miranda was explaining herself, her actions, to me." Pushing away that revelation, Andy focused on the words Miranda had said, "the magazine would suffer..." Andy blinked as that registered, "The magazine would suffer..." and, Andy knew, that was something Miranda would never allow. Because a fact that Andy already knew in the back of her mind suddenly became clear, the magazine, Runway, was just as much Miranda's baby as her children were. And that, was the key to understanding Miranda. Runway was Miranda's baby and nothing was going to effect it adversely, make it suffer, so long as Miranda had anything to say about it.
Andy quickly made the bed she'd slept in, and looked around the room again. She didn't want to leave the place in a mess. Leaving the overnight bag where it was, Andy picked up her rose and inhaled the delicate fragrance. She wondered where she ranked on Miranda's list of priorities. The girls were obviously first, then Runway, but she wondered how far down on the list she was, if she was even on it at all.
She pondered that question all the way downstairs, twirling the flower carefully in her fingertips the entire way.
Miranda looked up from her task as Andrea walked into the kitchen. She immediately and automatically gave Andrea a once over, even though she had picked out this outfit herself, "Good Morning, Andrea." She smiled, "You look lovely." Setting aside the bowl she was stirring, Miranda asked. "Coffee?"
"Um...Thank you for the clothes... and the flower," Andy smoothed one palm against her thigh, "and yeah, coffee sounds good." Andy grinned as Miranda took a coffee cup from the cabinet, and pulled a tall thin glass off the shelf as well.
Filling the glass half full of warm water, Miranda added a bit of sugar then set it on the counter front of where Andrea stood, "For the flower."
"Oh, thank you." Andy placed the flower in the makeshift vase and smiled then circled around the preparation island. She took the cup from Miranda's hands, setting it aside, and moved closer. "Was I just dreaming, or did I wake up beside you earlier?" Andy smiled at the slight blush that made it through Miranda's makeup. So it was real... Leaning in, Andy lightly brushed her cheek against Miranda's and whispered, "Best Valentine's Day, ever." Pulling away, Andy's lips ghosted over Miranda's cheek, "Thank you."
Miranda smirked, her eyes searching Andrea's for any sign of deception. Did Andrea truly like waking up to find an old woman in the bed next to her? Finding no trace of deceit in those huge dark eyes, Miranda admitted her own feelings on the subject, "Any time." And there it was again, the incredible urge to lean in and kiss Andrea's lips. She did actually sway forward slightly before she realized what she was doing. Clearing her throat, Miranda didn't miss the glint in Andrea's eyes and stepped back, reaching for the coffee carafe, "The girls should be down momentarily." She poured coffee into Andrea's cup and then some more into her own.
Andy chuckled and moved away, reaching for the cup Miranda had just filled for her as she mimicked Cassidy's favorite response, "Right."
It was, in fact, only a few moments later when Tay trotted down the stairs followed closely by Caroline and Cassidy.
"Mornin' Mom, Andy." Caroline grinned and headed directly for the pantry to grab a box of her favorite cereal.
"Hey Andy! Good morning, Mom." Cassidy smiled brightly and kissed her mother on the cheek, before also retrieving her favorite cereal from its shelf. She spoke as she poured the whole grain bits into her bowl. "I'm going to be so worthless at school today."
"Why's that?" Andy smiled and waited for a response as Cassidy was caught by the question mid-bite.
Caroline wasn't that patient. "There's a dance tonight, at school." Glancing at her sister, ignoring her mirror image's glare, Caroline continued. "She's hoping someone special is going to be there."
Swallowing quickly, Cassidy reached out to shove her sister, not too lightly and order, "Shut up!"
"Cassidy!" Miranda was appalled at her daughter's actions. "Do not shove your sister! Count to ten!"
Cassidy frowned but obediently began, "One... two..."
"In French." Miranda instructed.
Meeting her mother's gaze for a moment, Cassidy continued, "trois, quatre, cinq..."
Andy let the girl's voice move to the back of her consciousness as she contemplated the order she'd heard a few times already. Count to ten. It seemed like a well established rule in the Priestly household, when someone was upset or angry, counting to ten was a good way to help them take a step back and calm down. It seemed like such a good idea that Andy thought she might start doing that herself. Miranda's voice brought her out of her contemplations.
"Now," Miranda focused fully on her daughter, "Is there a special someone I should know about?"
"No!" Cassidy shook her head emphatically, "I just think it's going to be fun. Dancing with my friends... no one special!" Glaring at her sister's snort, Cassidy looked her mother directly in the eye, "Honest."
"Mmm..." Miranda sipped her coffee then moved back to the stove. "Scrambled eggs if you want some Andrea, or would you rather have an omelet?"
"Um... if you don't mind. I think I might just like a bowl of cereal..." Andy smiled tentatively when Miranda smiled and gestured toward the two boxes that were currently on the table then to the pantry door. "There are other choices if you wish."
"Thank you." Andy looked in the pantry for her other choices.
Miranda nodded and watched her very new girlfriend for a moment then smiled and made quick work of cooking her own breakfast.
She had barely sat down at her desk, returning from a long day of interviewing the city workers in charge of clearing the streets of snow, when her editor's mellifluous tones drifted through the bullpen.
Andy closed her eyes and groaned, muttering "Now what..." Pushing herself back to her feet, she made her way to the man's office. She was tired, though not physically; she'd actually slept very well last night at Miranda's. She almost wished she hadn't, because all she could remember from sleeping next to Miranda were those few moments when she roused up in the early morning to wrap her arms around her former boss' soft warmth. Her brain, however, was exhausted, every second she'd ever spent with Miranda had been going through the back of her head all day and she'd worried herself almost sick about the dinner tonight. She hoped the outfit she'd picked out would be acceptable. "Yeah, Chief?"
He pointed to two boxes sitting on the couch in his office. "Another delivery."
"Oh..." Andy looked at the packages and knew instinctively that one was a shoe box. "Wow..."
Clearing his throat drew Andy's attention back to him, "I don't know what you're getting into, Sachs..." He blushed slightly as he handed her the card that had arrived with the boxes. "But be careful."
Andy took the envelope from him and noticed that it was not sealed. She gave him a glare, "Did you read this?"
"Yes," He held up his hands to stop her protest, "And I know.. I shouldn't have." He scratched his head behind his ear, and mumbled, "And I'm sorry..."
Releasing a breath, Andy pulled the card out of the envelope. Her eyes widened as she read the instructions.
I will send a car for you at 7:00.
Unable to contain her curiosity for longer than it took to carry the boxes back to her desk, Andy peeked into the shoe box. She gasped quietly and pulled one of the red soled shoes out for a better look. The black leather was mirror-like. "My God."
"Ohhh..." Megan, the fashion critic at the paper saw the shoe, "Nice knock off Christian Lou's, Andy."
"What?" Glancing back at the shoe in her hand, Andy shook her head, "N...no... It's not." Miranda wouldn't send her faux shoes. Miranda despised the fashion counterfeiting industry. The poor quality of work often gave true fashion a bad reputation.
Rolling her eyes, Megan moved closer, "Sure it is... you can tell by the seams... see... they have to be..." She pointed to the seams at the back of the shoe and then gasped and snatched the item out of Andy's hands to examine it closely. "Oh my God!" She grabbed the other shoe out of the box and her eyes widened. "These are real!"
"Yeah..." Andy took the shoes out of Megan's numbed fingers, "They're a gift." She knew she was holding almost a full week's take-home pay in her hands.
"Some gift," Megan smiled slyly, "Damn, you must have had a helluva Valentine's Night!"
"Uh.. yeah." Andy carefully put the shoes away, "It was nice."
"Nice?" Megan laughed, "Nice gets you six hundred dollar shoes? Wonder what naughty will get you." Her eyes landed on the larger box. "And what do we have here?"
Andy shook off thoughts of being naughty with Miranda in time to stop Megan from opening the larger box. "Another gift... that I haven't opened yet and won't here." She shook her head, "I can't change properly here anyway." That was somewhat true, she needed the hair and makeup accessories she had at home. The real truth was that Andy was terrified of what she would find when she opened the box. There was no way she was going to do so in front of the curious woman.
"Well," Megan gestured toward the flowers, "I suppose expensive shoes and clothes are a great substitute for your daily flower."
"Oh," Andy smiled sweetly at the snarky comment, "I got my flower, this morning. I just left it at...home." Another lie, she hadn't been home today. She'd left the flower at Miranda's but Andy sidestepped that lie with the truth, "I'm going to take these with me tonight so they'll be all together."
"Your rich guy doesn't happen to have tickets to the museum gala on Saturday does he?" Megan was totally hyped for the event but was going to be relegated to the Press area. She would kill to have an inside advantage.
"Not that I'm aware of." Andy responded truthfully. "The subject hasn't come up."
"Figures..." Megan rolled her eyes and scoffed, "Men... he probably has season tickets to every game his favorite team plays, but couldn't care less about all the fantastic museums in the city." she chuckled, "But I guess I can't blame him on this one..." She started to walk away. "I mean, what straight man is really interested in fashion anyway?"
"What?" Andy reached out to stop Megan from leaving. "Fashion?"
"Oh yes... the gala is for the opening of an exhibit dedicated to the history of fashion." Megan grinned and pushed her short brown hair back from her face, "I would have thought you of all people would have kept up on stuff like that, having worked at Runway and all."
Nodding, Andy's over-tired brain tried to process this new information. Miranda would most definitely be attending this event, but would she want Andy to accompany her? That thought brought an even more interesting question to Andy's mind. Do I want to go?
Andy spoke to the driver as they made their way through the busy Friday night traffic. "I didn't realize she would send a limousine... or that you would be driving. Is it okay that I wanted to sit up front?"
Samantha glanced over at her passenger, "Fine by me. It was the most convenient way to get you to her house I'm sure. I was already picking up the car to drive the girls to their dance."
"Ah..." Andy nodded, "Right." She wondered how long the woman had worked for Miranda and then chuckled to herself as she asked, "How long have you been the girls' bodyguard?"
"A little over a year." Sam rolled to a stop as the light turned red. "I started working for Miranda while she and her husband were going through their divorce. That's why she hired me."
That sounded a little ominous to Andy, "um... to help out with the girls?"
"No," The light turned green and Sam began to drive, but continued the conversation, "I guess the guy... Stephen... made some not so thinly veiled threats toward the girls..."
"That bastard!" Andy ground her teeth together and began to count to ten.
Sam cleared her throat, "Yeah, he gave me that impression too." She shrugged, "Anyway, Miranda wanted to make sure that the girls were safe so they called the agency I work for and I got the assignment." She pulled the car up to the curb, "Here we are." Putting the car in park, Sam grinned. "Hang on and I'll open the door for you."
Andy snorted, "Don't bother." She got out of the car quickly and walked to the front door with Sam. They rang the bell and while they were waiting for the door to be opened, Andy fidgeted with her dress. The paper she'd wrapped around the flowers she'd brought, to put with the one from this morning, crinkled in her hand.
With a small grin, Sam assured Andy, "You look great." The blue dress with black accents really did look good on the young woman. "That color suits you. Don't worry so much."
Relaxing her arms down at her sides, Andy gave her free hand a little shake. "Sorry... old habit." The color of her dress was actually a little reassuring as much as it was daunting. Cerulean blue didn't exactly hold fond memories for her, because it was the subject of her very first taste of the Dragon's venom. But the fact that Miranda had sent it to her and specifically asked her to wear it meant that Miranda remembered that event too and was trying to make amends for it, maybe.
Caroline opened the door and blinked at Andy then shook her head, "Whoa! You look great."
Grinning at the girl's reaction, Andy relaxed a little. "Thanks." She looked at Caroline's dress and nodded, "So do you."
"Yeah?" Stepping aside so the women could enter, Caroline yelled up the stairs, "Cass! Sam's here!"
"Caroline!" Miranda appeared from the kitchen, "Modify your tone..." Any other comment Miranda had been about to make died on her lips as she caught sight of Andrea, instead she just smiled and nodded.
Caroline was smug and whispered to Andy, "Told ya... a smile is as good as a whoa." She closed the door behind Sam and Andy then looked back up the stairs. "Cass!?.. Ugh..." She shot an apologetic look at the waiting bodyguard. "I'll go get her. Be right back."
Sam bowed slightly and with only a glance at the intense look being exchanged by Miranda and Andy, called up the stairs, "Caroline." The girl had made it to the first landing and looked back. Sam indicated the two familiar overnight bags next to the door. "I'll just take these and wait for you in the car. I'm parked right out front."
"Sure Sam... we'll be right there." Caroline continued on to Cassidy's room.
Sam hefted the luggage and made a discreet exit.
Miranda moved closer, "You look lovely, Andrea."
"Thanks..." Andy smiled and allowed her eyes to roam down Miranda's form, taking in the slightly sexier-than-normal-for-work dress, for a brief second before locking her gaze back with Miranda's. "You look gorgeous, as always." She also moved closer and in a few more steps wrapped her arms around Miranda's waist, smiling as Miranda's arms circled her waist as well. "Hi..."
Miranda's lips quirked into a smile. "Hello."
"Thank you for the lovely clothes." Andy leaned in and kissed Miranda's cheek. "I left the ones from this morning at home. I'll clean them before I return them to you."
Blue eyes twinkled with mischief as Miranda spoke quietly, "You are welcome to keep them here, Andrea, but they, along with the overnight bag and all the rest of its contents are yours... as are the dress and shoes you are wearing now."
"There's more." Miranda brushed the backs of her fingers against Andrea's cheek, "Upstairs in your room there is a more... casual outfit, for later."
"Later." Andy narrowed her eyes and grinned playfully, "How long do you think I'm going to be staying?"
"That remains to be seen." Miranda's lips quirked again, "We have all weekend."
"Do we?" Andy heard the girls bickering as they took the stairs down and disengaged from her embrace with Miranda. "Wow, you both look great."
Cassidy saw Andy and her jaw dropped. "Whoa!"
Caroline laughed, "I too said, Whoa."
Andy chuckled at the girls' shock, "You two act like you've never seen a girl in a dress before."
"We haven't seen you in a dress before." Caroline informed her.
Cassidy modified that statement somewhat. "Right." She grinned, "At least, not one like that, not recently."
Miranda released her hold on Andrea and moved to hug her children, "Have fun at the dance and be good for your father."
That instruction got her two sets of eyes rolling and a simultaneous response. "Yes, mother."
Andy nodded, "Have a blast guys." She was a little surprised when Caroline and then Cassidy hugged her goodbye, but was shocked speechless when Cassidy whispered in her ear.
"Ask her about the roses."
There was a mischievous twinkled in the girl's eyes and Andy's trepidation about 'asking' Miranda anything resurfaced, but she nodded and waved as they watched the children walk down the walkway. She heard a small sigh from Miranda as the car drove away and Miranda closed the door.
"They are growing so fast."
Andy slid her arm around Miranda's waist. "Everyone grows up, Miranda."
"I know." She tried to smile. "Some faster than others though." Pushing those thoughts away, Miranda guided Andrea toward the kitchen. "Are you hungry?"
Chuckling at that, Andy tightened her hold slightly. "Yes." She figured she may as well admit it since her stomach had been on the verge of rumbling since she walked through the door. "I missed lunch today."
"Why would you do that?" Miranda pulled out a chair at the small table in the corner of the kitchen for Andrea to sit.
"I was busy conducting interviews." Andy smiled as she took in the table setting, fine china on a linen tablecloth, a candle, and a single rose. "Miranda, this is wonderful."
"Thank you." Miranda settled Andrea at the table then moved to the wine chiller. "We have time for a drink before I serve dinner." Choosing a bottle, Miranda opened it and returned to the table. There was an expression on Andrea's face that made her dubious and she paused before pouring, "You do drink, yes? I remember you saying you had gone with your friend... for drinks..."
"Oh!" Andy nodded, "Yes, I do. I... just..." With a deep breath, Andy admitted, "I have a low tolerance for wine, for some reason." Her expression morphed into a playful grin, "You wouldn't be trying to get me drunk by any chance, would you?"
"Mmmm..." Miranda's eyes reflected her mischievous thoughts, "Of course not." Tiny lines appeared at the corners of her eyes as she poured, "Half a glass for you, until we have food on our plates."
Laughing at that compromise, Andy slowly picked up her glass, "A toast then." She waited for Miranda to set the bottle aside and pick up her own drink, "To a glass half full." She touched her glass to Miranda's then took a sip of the white wine. "Ohhh... that's great!"
Miranda chuckled and made a toast of her own, "To sunrises..."
Andy's lips twitched as she countered the sentiment, "To sunsets..."
Miranda smiled, "To dinner with a beautiful woman."
Dark eyes never leaving Miranda's face, Andy tilted her glass to lightly tink against Miranda's, "Absolutely." She tasted the wine again. "This really is delicious. What kind is it?"
"Riesling." Miranda nodded as she took another sip, "It is quite good."
"German?" Andy had tasted Riesling wine before but she didn't remember it tasting like this.
"No, French." Miranda clarified, "From the Alsace region."
"Ah," Andy nodded, "Of course, you would know all the good French wines." Grinning at the beginnings of outrage in Miranda's expression, Andy asked, "Didn't you live in France for a while?"
"Mmm..." Miranda relaxed and nodded, "I was Editor-in-Chief of French Runway for three years." She considered that posting and admitted, "I was your age when I acquired that position." Any further comment was stalled by the timer beeping.
Andy watched Miranda gracefully plating the finished meals. Her eyes widened when she saw the final product. "Wow, Miranda, this looks awesome."
"Chicken Cordon Bleu, roasted baby potatoes and green beans..." Miranda placed a small woven basket on the table and opened the linen cloth it was lined with, "Roll?"
"It all looks delicious!" Andy picked up her fork and at Miranda's encouragement, took a bite of the chicken. She could barely wait to swallow it before speaking. "Oh my God, Miranda... that's great! Did you learn to cook like this in Paris?"
Nodding, Miranda smiled and loaded her own fork with a bit of potato. "Yes, there was a lovely woman there I took lessons from. Julia was her name."
Miranda swallowed her bite quickly to allow her to laugh and not choke, "Not that Julia! How old do you think I am?!"
Andy rolled her eyes, "Right... Sorry..." She grinned at her girlfriend, "Sometimes though, from the way you talk, you sound like you're a hundred... then your actions, especially the snowball fight... make you seem more like twenty-something... so I figure somewhere in between is fine." She was quiet for a moment as Miranda processed that then asked, "You said you were my age when you became editor in chief at French Runway. How old do you think I am?"
"You're twenty-six." Miranda now wished she had never made the comment. Bringing up age at this point wasn't really the best thing to do, it wasn't the most romantic of topics. But they needed to discuss it sometime, she supposed. "I am twenty years older than you."
Andy responded instantly. "Doesn't matter."
"How can you say..."
"Miranda," Andy put her fork down and focused her attention entirely on her very new girlfriend. "Your age, my age... the difference between them, doesn't matter. There are things you have done in your life that I haven't, and there are things I have done, that you have never experienced either. That's how it is, different people, different lives." She smiled at her former boss, "I'm looking forward to hearing about your life, since I talked your ear off about mine the other night."
"Andrea..." Miranda shook her head, "I don't often... speak, about my past." She admitted, "It's difficult for me..."
"Miranda..." Andy reached across the table to hold Miranda's hand, "I'll listen to anything you want to tell me and understand that there are things you won't."
"Thank you, Andrea." Miranda smiled and slid her hand out of the younger woman's. She picked up her fork, stabbing a small potato. "Please, eat, before it gets cold."
Andy nodded and took a sip of her wine before asking, "So, what's been going on at Runway lately?" She grinned at the small scoffing sound and her grin turned into a smile as Miranda began a tirade about the incompetence she was surrounded with on a daily basis. Taking a bite of her chicken, Andy chewed, listened and nodded at the appropriate times.
The food was delicious, if she did say so herself, but it was the company that had made this evening special. Before Miranda knew it, their plates only held the remains of their meals. "Would you like dessert?"
"Oh..." Andy placed her hand over her stomach, "Maybe later." She gestured to the table, "May I help you clean up?"
Miranda waved off that suggestion, "Not tonight." She indicated the rest of the kitchen, "I clean as I go, so this is all that's left. It won't take long." Miranda could tell that Andrea was upset about leaving the used plates on the table. "Andrea, will you stay to watch a movie with me tonight?"
"Dinner and a movie?" Andy grinned.
"Mmmm..." Miranda smirked, "That is the traditional, first date, activity, is it not?"
"I suppose it is." Andy nodded, "What movie are we going to watch?"
"While the girls often choose movies in the science fiction, fantasy genre, I prefer the classics." Miranda evaluated the dress she had sent for Andrea to wear. "Would you be adverse to changing your clothes?"
"Changing?" Andy smoothed her palm over her stomach, "Is there a problem with the dress?"
"No, no problem, "Miranda assured her guest, "As I said, you look lovely in it. It just doesn't seem to be...appropriate, for movie watching on the couch."
"Ah." Nodding at that, Andy shrugged, "Sure, I'll change." Dark eyes twinkled, recalling Miranda said there was another outfit for her upstairs.
"Very well." Smiling, Miranda gestured to the kitchen in general. "I will tidy up and change as well." She began gathering the plates from the table and leaned over slightly to blow out the candle.
"Okay." Andy pointed to the stairs, "I'll just go then?"
Miranda nodded, "I'll be up in a moment to show you where the entertainment room is."
Entertainment room... Andy blinked, "Right."
"No way." Andy stared at the 'more casual outfit' Miranda had laid out for her and shook her head. "No, friggin' way..." She looked at the sweat pants, white tank top and thick cushion-y, obviously brand new, socks and laughed. It was exactly the outfit she'd been wearing by the end of their night together at her apartment. "More casual indeed." It did look comfy though and Andy had enough formalities for one evening so she kicked off the amazing shoes and began to strip out of the stunning dress that Miranda had given her.
She had just sat down on the edge of the bed to pull on the socks when a small knock at the door drew her attention, "Yes, come in."
"Andrea..." Miranda opened the door, "I've cued up the movie." She watched her guest quickly don the socks and smiled as she nodded approval at the outfit, "You look lovely."
Laughing at that, Andy moved toward her host, "Thank you. It's sweat pants and a tank top, Miranda." Andy raked her eyes down and back up Miranda's form and gave a little nod of her own, "Which I must say, I never pictured you in, but they look great on you too."
"Thank you. You seemed so comfortable in them the other night, I thought I might try it."
"And?" Andy smiled. "Do they meet with your approval?"
Miranda smoothed the fabric over her flat stomach and nodded, "Quite comfortable indeed." She offered her arm to Andrea. "Shall we?"
Linking her arm in Miranda's, Andy felt the goosebumps rising on her bicep as their skin slid together. "What are we going to watch?"
"I am a great admirer of Audrey Hepburn's work." Miranda led Andrea to the Entertainment room and they settled on the couch in the middle of the room. "I thought we might watch one of my favorites." Picking up a large remote control, Miranda dimmed the lights and the movie began. It filled the nearly theater sized screen on the wall in front of them.
"Neat." Andy curbed her desire to snuggle in with Miranda and settled for leaving their arms touching, from shoulder to wrist, as she tangled her fingers with Miranda's. "Maybe next time we can watch one of my favorites?"
Blue eyes glittered in the dimmed lighting. "That would be acceptable."
They watched the entire movie in silence, just sitting side by side, holding hands. When it was over, Miranda brought the lights back up and asked, "What did you think?"
"I've always loved that movie." Andy smiled, "I even liked the remake with Harrison Ford. But Audrey always brought something special to the roles she played."
"Mmm... indeed." Miranda licked her lips and brushed the back of her fingers against Andrea's cheek. "You remind me of her. You have that same classic beauty."
"Um... wow." Andy swallowed hard at the comment and the look in Miranda's eye. "Thank you." Finding her confidence, Andy asked slyly, "So... does that make me Sabrina in this situation?"
Smiling, Miranda nodded, "I believe it does."
"Sooo... which are you," Andy turned slightly on the couch, it put a little distance between them, but she was facing Miranda more fully. "the playboy or the serious businessman?"
"Had my brother survived the car accident," Miranda also turned, her hand reached up to caress Andrea's shoulder, "He would have been the playboy."
"I see," Her heartrate increasing with every soft touch and every word uttered, Andy whispered, "I guess that means you're the one for me."
Miranda's gaze focused on Andrea's lips and she also whispered, "I suppose it does." Leaning in, Miranda continued to speak softly, "Andrea, I'm going to kiss you now."
Andy moved closer and nodded slightly just as Miranda's lips touched hers. She'd known it was coming and yet, the instant she felt Miranda's lips moving against her own, Andy's mind blanked out. For a long moment she didn't react, couldn't react. The sensations were too overwhelming, it was softness, heat, and electricity coursing through her. Before Andy could process anything else, the contact was broken and Miranda was moving away.
Miranda took a deep breath and nodded, "I see." A small smile of bitter understanding hardened the so recently pliable lips into a thin line.
Dismay and urgency mixed in the strangled sound Andy made as she reached for Miranda, "No, you don't." Pulling the woman back to her, Andy captured the hurt smile and proceeded to kiss it away. One hand found the back of Miranda's head, holding the older woman firmly in place, while the other explored the expanse of smooth shoulder exposed by the tank top. She was ecstatic to feel Miranda's fingers threading through her hair. The lightest of pressure deepened the kiss and as insistent tongues pressed into each other, Andy swallowed Miranda's soft moan.
Breaking the contact with Miranda's mouth, Andy trailed kisses down the side of Miranda's neck, smiling against the silken skin as Miranda's head tilted to allow her better access. The pulse point under her tongue fluttered rapidly and Andy broke the contact completely, moving back slightly. "Miranda, are you okay?"
Miranda shook her head slightly and tried to speak, only able to push a small whisper past her lips, "I didn't realize..."
"Miranda?" Andy now shifted closer to wrap her arms around Miranda's shoulders and felt the older woman trembling. "Sweetheart... please tell me what's wrong..."
Seizing on the term, Miranda recalled the stages that Andrea had listed for their relationship to follow and managed to speak, "Have we reached the 'Sweetheart' stage now?" Andy's million-watt smile lit the room.
"I believe we have." She lightly rubbed Miranda's arms, "You're still shaking."
Miranda took a deep shuddering breath, "You were correct when you refused to kiss me that day in the park."
Andy's smile disappeared, "Oh... s...so you didn't... um... like it?" She began to put some distance between them.
"Andrea," Miranda's voice alone stopped her girlfriend's motion, "If the experience then had been anything like we just had..." Miranda's darkened blue gaze met Andrea's large expressive eyes, "...I can only think that we would still be sitting on that bench, lost in a kiss."
"Miranda," Andy smiled, her dark eyes reflecting a mixture of desire and mischief, "Surely someone would have called the fire department, to hose us down..."
Reaching up to caress Andrea's cheek, Miranda shook her head, "It wouldn't have helped." She licked her lips and searched the young woman's face intently. "Will you kiss me again?"
"Miranda..." Andy shifted and pulled Miranda closer as she whispered, "I will kiss you forever."
Andy put her words into action and captured Miranda's mouth again, spending long, lovely moments exploring the new experience before stopping to catch her breath. Miranda too sucked great amounts of air into her lungs and spoke between panting breaths.
"Does that mean we won't reach the next level of our relationship? You intend on simply continuing to kiss me?"
"There is nothing simple about kissing you, Miranda." Andy smiled and traced the outer edge of Miranda's face, trailing her fingers along her jawline and down the smooth neck to the small hollow just at the base of Miranda's throat. "And I do indeed intend on kissing you again, and again and again... but I also intend to... as you say, take us to the next level at some point."
"I see." Swallowing hard, Miranda pulled herself away from Andrea and stood. She moved to a shuttered window and opened it to see a nice view of the rooftops and some of the cityscape. Warm arms slid around her waist and soft lips kissed the back of her neck, exactly where Andrea had kissed her this morning when she had awakened to find herself in bed with the young woman.
"Hey..." Andy rested her chin on Miranda's shoulder and assured her, "It's okay. If you don't want..."
Turning in Andrea's arms, Miranda's fingers pressed to the young woman's lips, stopping her speech. "I do want, Andrea. I more than want... I need..." She tried to organize her thoughts while Andrea's lovely dark eyes threatened to swallow her whole. "But what I need...is..." Miranda let her hand fall away and shook her head, "...complicated." How could she explain her desire for a relationship involving emotions that were deeper than mere sexual encounters?
Andy chuckled, "It's not that complicated, Miranda." She leaned forward and kissed Miranda's forehead, "You don't just want to have sex. I understand and I agree."
"Oh, but I..." Miranda blinked as Andrea's long fingers now stopped her speech.
"Listen to me." Caressing Miranda's lips as she lowered her hand, Andy smiled, "I do not want to have sex with you." She kissed Miranda gently and assured the older woman, "I do, however, very much want to make love with you. When we're both ready."
"Both..." Miranda tried to break the embrace, "Implying that you are ready now and are waiting on me."
"Implying..." Andy held fast, not allowing Miranda to put any distance between them, "that it is far too early in our relationship for declarations of love." She smiled as Miranda stopped trying to move away. "We send each other flowers and postcards, texts and emails. We have dinner and hold hands while watching movies, kiss on the couch, dance at concerts in the park and watch the sun set together. Those are all good things, Miranda. With better things yet to come."
"You forgot the gifts." Miranda laid her head on Andrea's shoulder, "We exchange small gifts..."
"No, Miranda." Andy chuckled, "You have given me gifts, and they aren't so small... I don't have any clue what the gloves cost, but the outfit you sent was probably a month's take-home pay, for me. The shoes would have been an entire week's pay. The overnight bag alone is almost as much as the Christian Lou's... and then the contents..." Andy shook her head, "I can't reciprocate that, Miranda, at least, not until I sell a few novels," she grinned, "or win the lottery. But I love spending time with you, in the park, with you here, with you and the girls... that's really all I need. Time with you."
"Spending time with you is lovely for me as well, Andrea." Miranda tilted her head and addressed Andrea's previous comment. "You want to be a novelist?" This was new information, "I was under the impression you were happy being a newspaper reporter."
"Mmm..." Andy released her hold, but remained in contact with Miranda through their hands. "Can we sit?"
They settled back onto the couch and Andy answered the implied question. "I do love being a reporter, writing articles that inform people of important things is fun and I feel as though I'm going some good. And I love editing, like I did in college. I will do that for as long as I can. But, you and I both know that newspapers are a dying breed. I need to find another way to use the skills I have, to support myself," Andy tilted her head to lightly touch Miranda's, "and my partner, in the manner to which we're accustomed."
"Partner?" Miranda smiled, "So we've just skipped the 'lover' level and gone directly to 'partner'?"
Laughing at that, Andy grinned, "We haven't skipped it, I was speaking in the future sense." Dark eyes twinkled with amusement, "After all, I haven't even submitted any of my finished novels to anyone, yet."
"Mmm..." Blue eyes crinkled around the edges, "Nor have you won the lottery, I assume."
"Nope, not yet." Andy chuckled, "I did buy a ticket the other day though, when I bought your postcard." She shrugged, "I was feeling kinda lucky."
"Were you?" Miranda was charmed by the sentiment.
"Yep..." Andy shifted closer. "Um.. Miranda... you know, just because we aren't going to..." she grinned, "doesn't mean we can't make out for a while..." Andy's eyebrows moved up and down a few times and she grinned as Miranda burst out laughing. "Right?"
"Oh, yes." Miranda pulled Andrea closer then lay back as the young woman shifted to press the length of their bodies together as their lips once again meshed. Thoughts of everything, except the immediate sensation of Andrea's warmth against her, were driven away and Miranda did something she very rarely allowed herself to do.
She became lost in the moment.
Andy reveled in the sensation of Miranda's lips moving against hers. Her hands caressed Miranda's curves, loving how her hand fit so perfectly in the dip between Miranda's ribs and hips. She alternated kissing Miranda's lips and her neck. It occurred to her that her lips were becoming a little tender and Andy wondered, for a brief second, just how long they had been laying on this couch kissing each other. Then Miranda's hand fit itself against the small of her back and Andy couldn't care less about the time. It couldn't have been that long anyway, right? With a deep breath, Andy pulled herself away from Miranda and looked around the room for a clock. The window caught her attention and Andy moved, reluctantly, to sit up, "Miranda..." Andy blinked at the light filtering through the window. "Miranda, it's morning!"
"What?" Miranda also struggled to sit up and looked toward the window. "But..."
Andy began to laugh, "We've been kissing all night!" From the expression on Miranda's face, Andy could tell it was just as much of a shock to Miranda as it was to her. "It seems like it hadn't been more than a few minutes."
"I have never been so... absorbed in someone before." Miranda sighed and leaned against her girlfriend, "We missed the sunrise."
Grinning at that, Andy spoke softly to the woman in her arms, "You know one of the things I do like about sunrises?"
"Hmmm?" Miranda was a little preoccupied with the idea of losing as much time as she had tonight. "What's that?"
Ignoring the tenderness of her lips, Andy pressed them quickly against Miranda's temple. "There is always another one, tomorrow."
Miranda grunted at that, "Well, Little Orphan Annie, would you care for something to eat? Some gruel perhaps?"
"Honestly?" Andy took a deep breath and let it out slowly, "I'm really rather tired. Do you think it would be alright if I napped for a while, before I head home?"
"Of course," Miranda smiled, "Stay as long as you like. The girls are at their father's this weekend, and I have no plans."
Andy licked her lips lightly, "What about the museum thing? The fashion exhibit opening... isn't that tonight?"
Nodding, Miranda exhaled noisily through her nose, since her mouth was busy turning downward in a frown, "I suppose I should attend for at least half an hour. It will be tedious at best." She bit out the truth, "They have a wax sculpture of me in the exhibit."
"What?" Andy was amazed that Miranda wasn't more excited about being immortalized in the museum.
"It's hideous." Miranda knew how the evening would go. "There will be hundreds of people there, telling me how the horrid thing looks 'just like me'." She looked at Andrea, "Would you like to attend? I have an extra invitation."
"You mean, just go, or go with you?" Andy wasn't sure either of them were ready for the press that would bring.
"Are you ready for that kind of publicity?" Miranda shook her head, "Too soon for that I think. But I would welcome your presence even at a distance."
"Okay then," Andy smiled, "Never let it be said I don't support my girlfriend..." she bumped her shoulder lightly against Miranda's, "even at a distance." Yawning, Andy stood and stretched, "Whoa... I'm gonna need some rest though, otherwise I'll be useless in a social situation."
"Mmm..." Miranda nodded. "I'm quite tired as well." Her blue eyes twinkled with barely contained amusement, "Mind if I join you?"
"Of course not..." Andy offered her hand to assist Miranda up from the couch, "You need your sleep too. We wouldn't want you to be cranky from no sleep now, would we?"
Running her tongue across her teeth, Miranda chuckled, "Not that anyone would know the difference, but no, we don't want that at all."
They walked arm in arm to the guest bedroom that Andrea used and settled in the bed. Miranda was amazed to find herself already drifting off to sleep, even with the young woman's lanky arms wrapped around her. She tried to think of the last time she had been so comfortable sleeping in the same bed with someone else then began to laugh.
"What?" Andy sleepily asked, "What's so funny?"
"The only other time I've felt this comfortable in bed was also with a female." Miranda grinned as the arms around her tightened and Andrea's voice was tinged with jealousy.
Twisting around to keep the arms around her, but enough to see Andrea, Miranda winked, "Patricia."
Rolling her eyes at that, Andy kissed Miranda's cheek. She settled her arm around Miranda and laid back down on her pillow. "Go to sleep, you're obviously delirious."
Miranda too resumed her comfortable position, comforted by Andrea's arm around her, and smirked as she closed her eyes, "Yes, Andrea."
Miranda was right, Andy thought as she stared at the wax figure, It is hideous. In the fifteen minutes she'd been standing here, staring at the wax likeness Andy had heard several comments, as Miranda had predicted, exclaiming how much the thing looked like Miranda. It was, Andy admitted a fairly decent likeness as far as the sculpture went but there was a plastic quality to the figure that was just entirely wrong. A decidedly British voice hissed low in her ear.
"What are you doing here?"
Andy smiled but never took her eyes off the wax statue's face, "Hello, Em."
"Don't 'Hello, Em' me!" Emily scoffed, "She will be here soon! Leave. Now!"
Turning to see Emily's face, Andy answered firmly, "No."
Emily's eyes hardened, "Well at least you're wearing something decent."
Andy grinned, "You look nice too, Em."
"Ladies," A cheery man with a slight accent stepped, not quite between them, "I see you are admiring my work."
Andy's nostrils flared as she turned her dark eyes on him, "You did this?" She gestured to the faux-Miranda.
"Indeed," He smiled proudly, "It is a good likeness, no?"
"No." Andy replied, watching his smile fade, "I think it's an abomination."
"Andrea! Really..." Emily's words didn't quite have the sting they would normally have though, because she too thought the wax figure was just, wrong, somehow.
"But..." The sculptor gestured to his work, "It is just as she is, in every picture I was given..."
That was it, Andy realized, at least one problem with the figure. It was so very still, Miranda, the real Miranda, was always in motion. "You've never actually met Miranda?"
"No..." He shook his head, "There wasn't time, her schedule is very exacting and they needed the piece for the exhibit!"
The air in the room shifted and Andy glanced toward the entrance of the display, "Well, now's your chance." She directed the artist's attention to the woman in question and leaned close to his ear, "Watch her for five minutes, then tell me that thing," she motioned toward the statue, "isn't hideous." She watched him being drawn closer to Miranda's circle of light then turned to Emily, "Nice to see you again, Em..." Her eyes shifted to Miranda's progress being hindered by well wishers. Isabel was half a step behind Miranda as her assistant should be. Andy wouldn't have minded speaking to Miranda in public but she had forgotten about Isabel's presence. Andy knew the assistant would recognize her as the flower delivery person. "Time for me to fly."
Emily released an exasperated breath, "I told you that earlier..."
Andy grinned, "Tell Nigel and Serena I said hi."
Ducking away, Andy avoided Isabel's roaming eyes but managed to give Miranda a small wink and nod, from a distance, before disappearing into the restroom. As soon as the bathroom door shut behind her, Andy checked her watch, in half an hour Miranda would be leaving. She looked around the empty room and nodded to herself in the mirror, "Ah well, you've spent longer amounts of time in worse places, Sachs..." Taking one of the surprisingly comfortable seats, Andy held her phone at the ready so in case someone walked in, she could pretend to be texting, or speaking to someone and settled in for the wait. She wasn't particularly worried about that happening. It was early in the evening and she didn't expect many people to be availing themselves of the facilities just yet. Plus, with Miranda's arrival, most people would want to be out there in Miranda's presence. Andy knew that her 'hiding' in the bathroom would make even more sense to anyone who knew Miranda that happened to come in. Because, no one would blame a former assistant, especially her, for ducking away from the gathering while Miranda was in attendance.
Andy had come to realize during her first few minutes there, that her dramatic departure in Paris was still spoken of in certain circles. Whether the comments were favorable or not depended entirely on the circle doing the speaking.
She'd slept quite well today, waking up very late in the day, with her arms around Miranda. That particular way of waking up was an experience Andy was sure she wanted to do as often as possible. They had cooked a light meal and, after eating and cleaning up the mess, Andy had gone back to her apartment to change while Miranda also prepared for the evening. Even with her hours of restful sleep next to Miranda, Andy tilted her head back against the seat and closed her eyes, just for a minute.
A warm breeze swayed the palm trees and touched Andy's face. The wooden lounge chair she was leaning against scratched her back slightly as she looked out over the ocean. There were a few surfers on the water and a vaguely familiar form watched over two of the smaller ones playing on Boogie boards at the edge of the water. The sun was just beginning to pink the sky. Tearing her eyes away from the beautiful sunrise, Andy looked to her right to see Miranda there with her. She knew that the sunset would be equally as beautiful and couldn't wait to share that with Miranda as well. A butterfly tickled her cheek and Andy waved it away. It landed on her shoulder, heavier now and although the Miranda next to her never said a word, the butterfly spoke with Miranda's quiet voice.
"Andrea, wake up."
"What?" Andy blinked her eyes open to see Miranda staring down at her. "Oh, Miranda... sorry." She winced and grabbed a tissue to wipe the small bit of drool that had escaped the corner of her mouth, "I fell asleep."
"Mmm..." The fashion icon nodded, "Obviously." Turning to the mirror, knowing they were alone in the room, Miranda spoke with just a hint of amusement. "You seemed very peaceful, sleeping there, without me." Her mirror image sprouted two extra arms as Andrea embraced her from behind. A light kiss, minimizing the chance of lipstick transfer, touched her shoulder.
"I was dreaming of you, does that count?"
"Were you?" Miranda was skeptical at that.
"Oh yes, we were on some tropical island, Hawaii maybe. Because we were watching the sunrise, and I was thinking that sharing the sunset with you later would also be great." Andy rested her chin on Miranda's shoulder and looked at their reflection in the mirror, promising, "One day, when I win the lottery, or sell my first novel, I'll take us there. Whaddaya say? Would you like a fantastical trip to a tropical island?"
"Just me and you?" Miranda watched Andrea's reflection closely.
"That would be nice, but no." Andy gently squeezed Miranda then began to release her hold. "The girls, Tay and Sam, would be there too." She winked at her girlfriend, "At least, they were there in the dream, playing on those Boogie boards you insisted I get for them, back when I was your assistant." Andy held her breath and used the 'F' word, "It would be a... family vacation."
Miranda smiled and reached up and back to hold Andrea's cheek in her palm for a brief second, "That sounds lovely."
Andy's mega-watt smile appeared and she kissed Miranda's palm. "Good! Still though, it's a ways off. I have to win the lottery...or sell my novel. Either way there's all that paperwork... "
"You've already written a novel?" Miranda was intrigued, "I want to read it..."
"It may not be your cup of tea, Miranda... it's kinda.. Princess, Dragon, fantasy stuff..."
Feeling the tension in Andrea's form, Miranda softened her tone, "Please?"
A deep breath filled Andy's nose with Miranda's signature fragrance and she nodded, "Let me spiff it up first."
Miranda chuckled, "Of course." With a deep breath, Miranda turned to look directly into Andrea's eyes, "Thank you, for being here."
"Of course," Andy brushed the ends of their noses together, "What else are girlfriends for if not to lend moral support for a poorly executed wax sculpture in a major museum exhibit opening?"
Chuckling at that, Miranda gave the impression of shrugging without actually moving, "I wouldn't have a clue." Reluctantly, she began to move away. "I must go. The car and driver will be waiting for me by now. Will you return to the townhouse tonight?"
"No." Andy stopped Miranda from moving away and pulled her back, holding the lengths of their bodies together. "Come and stay with me at my apartment tonight." She flashed a smile as Miranda pretended to think about it.
"Hmmm..." Blue eyes sparkled with amusement, "When?"
Checking the time on her cell phone, Andy calculated the subway travel time, "I should be home by ten."
With a nod and a final butterfly caress to Andrea's cheek, Miranda moved away. "I will be there."
Andy watched as the door closed behind Miranda, leaving her alone in the powder room again. She decided to wait another five minutes. That should be enough time for Miranda to get out the door.
The bathroom door opened and as though Miranda's departure had opened a gate, a steady stream of attendees paraded through the room for the next several minutes. Andy listened to the snarky comments being tossed around, grinning a little when the topic turned to Miranda. Most of the comments had to do with Miranda's legendary Dragon Lady status and how they would hate to be the person who created that wax figure. Andy eavesdropped, while she pretended to send texts and actually sent one before she rose and left the roomful of gossiping women.
Andy opened the door for Miranda to enter the apartment. "Hey," She kissed Miranda's cheek and asked, "Did you have any trouble finding the parking space?"
"No," Miranda set her overnight bag down next to the door in order to give Andrea a proper hug, "It was just where you described, clearly marked with your apartment number. It is, however, quite a distance from the door."
"A space came with the apartment, but I never expected to use it." Andy laughed, "I made a deal with the manager to take a space farther away, since I don't own a car anyway. I would never have expected a Porsche to be parked there."
"There isn't." Miranda smiled, "The Porsche is too flashy, visible, I drove the SUV tonight."
"Ah..." Nodding at that, Andy tried not to think about sneaking around and was just glad that Miranda was here with her, no matter how she got here. "Are you hungry? Thirsty?"
Miranda shook her head, "Tired." She glanced down Andrea's body, "I see you are ready for bed already."
Smoothing her pajama top across her stomach, Andy nodded, "Yeah, I pretty much change into an outfit similar to this as soon as I get home. It's a habit I've had since I was a kid." She continued speaking even as she let Miranda through the apartment to the bathroom. She spoke through the slight opening Miranda had left in the door. "We had uniforms for school, so as soon as I got home I changed as fast as I could."
"Uniforms?" Miranda reappeared, dressed in pajamas similar to the ones she had given Andrea that first weekend at the mountain house. "Did you attend a private school?"
"For a while, yes." Andy shivered at the memories, "I finally convinced Mom and Dad that Catholic school was not the place for me. But even when I was allowed to transfer, the school I went to also had a dress code, so I still had clothes for school and clothes for home." She snuggled under the covers, meeting Miranda in the middle of the bed, "In college I think I might have just worn this sort of outfit everywhere... dorm, classes... not when I went out though, or when I was working." Breathing deeply, Andy smiled at the lingering traces of Miranda's perfume, "God, you smell good."
Rolling her eyes at that, Miranda kissed Andrea's shoulder and spoke firmly, "Go to sleep, you are clearly delirious."
Smirking at that, Andy kissed Miranda's cheek softly and whispered, "Yes, Miranda."
They were both chuckling as they closed their eyes and drifted off to sleep quickly.
Rolling over, Andy's outstretched hand met with an empty space and cold sheets. Actually the space wasn't exactly empty, on the pillow where Miranda had been there were two pink roses with veins of red running through them. Andy blinked her eyes open and propped herself up on her elbow, "Miranda?" The response reached her quietly through the open bedroom door.
Inhaling deeply, Andy flopped back on the bed, threading her fingers through her hair, pulling slightly. The sensation helped her wake up and she called out, "What are you doing?" The deep breath she'd taken told her all she needed to know, but Miranda's voice from the doorway confirmed it.
"Making breakfast, of course." Miranda smiled, "Get up, Sleepyhead, the day has begun."
Andy shook her head as she grabbed the flowers and pulled herself out of bed, "Miranda... it's," she glanced at the clock and groaned, "seven-thirty on a Sunday morning..." Indicating the flowers, "Thank you, for these. How did you get them delivered so early on a Sunday?"
Winking, Miranda grinned. "I have my ways. Come on, breakfast is nearly ready."
"I can't believe you are making me get up so early... on a Sunday!"
Laughing at the petulant tone, Miranda grinned, "But this is not a vacation day, so there are things we must accomplish, before we go back to work."
Andy obediently followed Miranda into the kitchen and saw the very things she had smelled earlier, a freshly brewed pot of coffee, and a plate that held several slices of cooked bacon. There was also a small plate holding a few pieces of toast. "How did you..." Andy glanced around the room, "Miranda, where did this come from? I barely had cold air in my fridge last night." She hadn't had a chance to get to the grocery store, opting to just pick something up on the way home or order in. The last two nights she'd been at Miranda's for her meals. While Miranda explained, Andy added her two new flowers to the vase holding the ones she'd received last week.
"This is a wonderful neighborhood, Andrea. There is a deli and a bakery half a block away, and on the corner there is an excellent grocer." Miranda waved the spatula over the large skillet she had used for the bacon. "How do you like your eggs?"
"Scrambled is good." Andy knew that was how Miranda liked her eggs.
"Andrea," Miranda put down the spatula and moved closer to her girlfriend, "If you are saying that because you think that is the way I prefer my eggs you are mistaken. I prefer my eggs over easy, but no restaurant prepares them correctly, so I get scrambled."
"Oh," Andy had never once considered that Miranda had 'settled' for what she could get. "Over easy then, with a warm but runny yolk."
Nodding at that preference, Miranda cracked two eggs into the skillet, then two more. Andrea's next question caught her off guard.
"Miranda, you went walking around the neighborhood this morning? How did you get back in the apartment? The door locks when it closes."
"I..." Miranda concentrated on the eggs, watching the whites begin to solidify, "took your keys, from the bowl beside the door." She flashed a guilty look at Andrea, "I put them back."
Andy laughed, "Of course you did." She was thoughtful for a moment and asked, "Would you like a set of your own? I have spares..."
"Are you... sure?" Miranda wondered just what Andrea's intentions were at such a gesture. Was she required to hand over a key to the townhouse as well?
"Of course." Andy smiled, "If you ever want to come over you are more than welcome, even when I'm not here, or if I'm held up at the office or something... I don't want you to be standing outside." She accepted a plate with two perfectly cooked eggs on it then reached over to snag a few slices of bacon from the plate it was cooling on. Half a slice of toast and a cup of coffee balanced the meal. "I was thinking about giving the girls a set, just in case they were out somewhere and needed a place to stay."
Miranda assembled her own breakfast plate and couldn't help but smile at the kindness Andrea showed toward the girls. "That's very sweet of you. I think they would appreciate knowing they are welcome here." She nodded at the young woman across from her, "As do I."
"I'd like to have them over for dinner..." Andy added quickly, "You can come too, if you like, but maybe... if you are working late one night or something.. they can come here. Instead of eating dinner at home alone?"
"I think that's a lovely idea." Miranda smiled softly, "Thank you, Andrea." Miranda took a deep breath and informed the young woman of the twin's schedule. "They only have school for half a day on Tuesday, some sort of professional day for the instructors. They were going to a friend's house in the afternoon, but if you are willing, we can meet here that evening for a meal together."
"You're welcome and that sounds perfect." Andy smiled and dug into her breakfast with more enthusiasm than normal. The thought of Miranda and the girls being here with her for dinner made her incredibly happy.
They finished their breakfast and cleaned up the few dishes that Miranda had not washed up along the way. Andy reluctantly showed Miranda her home version of the workout routine she did three times a week at the gym, and Miranda demonstrated a real working knowledge of some Tai chi chuan forms. Miranda packed her things into her overnight bag. They relaxed for all of ten minutes with soft music and polite conversation before they found themselves on the couch kissing each other with total abandon.
"Miranda..." Andy whispered softly, "Say my name..."
"Andrea." Miranda's voice was thick and had deepened with arousal.
"Andrea..." Miranda smiled as the command repeated.
"Andrea..." Chuckling at the game, Miranda locked her lips with the younger woman's for a long moment before asking, "Why do you need me to say your name? Have you forgotten it?"
"Yes." Andy nipped at Miranda's earlobe, "I forget everything when I'm with you."
"I also forget almost everything." Miranda sighed, "There are, however, two things I always remember."
"The girls," Andy nodded and pulled herself away. Already missing the contact, Andy sat up straighter.
"Yes," Miranda took a deep breath to calm herself, "They will be home soon. I must be going."
"I will miss you, tonight."
Miranda smiled, "And I you." Miranda looked around the almost painfully neat room, in a habitual last look, to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything from when she'd packed her things earlier.
Andy grinned, "I suppose I could go back to the museum and stare at that wax figure some more..."
"Ugh..." Miranda automatically reached up to fluff her hair slightly, "That... thing... and that so-called artist responsible kept following me around all evening!"
"Oh..." Andy winced a little. "That might be my fault." She shrugged as Miranda's explain-yourself expression landed squarely on her. "I ripped into him for not getting the wax figure correct." She continued, "He did it from pictures Miranda. He'd never actually met you. Hopefully now that he's seen you in action he can correct his error." Andy licked her lips, "You are a vivacious woman, passionate about fashion, none of that was apparent in that...thing he created."
"Pictures..." She nodded, "That would explain the lack..."
"That's the weird thing... I've seen photographs of you Miranda, most of them are very well done and your vibrancy shines through, even in two dimensions..."
"That's not the lack I was speaking of." Miranda began to move toward the door. "It is a problem, for sure, but a large gaping hole in the display was that there were no assistants with me."
"You always have assistants!" Andy smiled. "Of course." The wax figure had been standing next to her desk in the reproduction of Miranda's office, alone. "There should have been an assistant taking down notes."
"I will speak to the new curator, Ms. Porter, regarding the exhibit, tomorrow." Picking up her Prada overnight bag, Miranda took a step toward the door. "Right now, I must go."
Andy moved closer and with a hand behind Miranda's head, held the woman in place for a long, deep, goodbye kiss. "Please don't stay away too long."
"I shall try not to." Miranda managed a butterfly caress on Andrea's cheek before slipping out the door.
Looking around the room, Andy sighed at how empty the place felt now. "Get a grip, Sachs," she told herself, "She's only been gone five seconds."
"Miranda Priestly's office." Isabel poised her pen over a yellow sticky note.
"Yes, May I speak to Ms. Priestly, please?"
"I'm sorry, Sir." Isabel informed the unfamiliar voice, "Miranda is in a meeting at the moment, can I take a message?"
"I suppose you can." He paused for a moment, realized that the woman didn't understand her grammatical error then continued, "Please ask her to call Arthur at the house. She'll know what it's regarding."
"Arthur..." Isabel's eyes widened as she looked at the first letter of the man's name. "Can I get your number?"
"She has it." He didn't want to drag this conversation out any longer. "Thank you."
Isabel hung up the phone, her eyes were twinkling at the name on the page. "Arthur..." She grinned, "Wait until Emily hears this!" Inter-department gossip would have to wait for a little while though, Miranda was in a Production meeting which meant the Emily she was so eager to talk to was also busy, but the schedule didn't have that meeting lasting too much longer. In fact, Ashley, aka Emily, was gone to get coffee for their boss's imminent return. Monday mornings were always so crazy around here, Isabel wished there were some way to diffuse the hectic-ness of the morning, disperse it throughout the week, or something.
Miranda's, even more mercurial that usual, moods weren't helping either.
Miranda looked around the table and waited for someone to answer her question. When no one was forthcoming with the information required, her lips began to tighten into the expression no one ever wanted to see.
They collectively held their breath when the phone lying next to Miranda's right hand buzzed. They watched as their unhappy boss casually placed her hand on the phone and tilted it slightly to see the screen. Jaws dropped as the dreaded expression slowly morphed into a small smile.
"Our allotted time is nearly up," Nigel ventured a suggestion, "Perhaps we should adjourn until that layout can be redone?"
Miranda locked eyes with her long time associate then gave a sharp nod, "Fine." Picking up her leather bound folder, and her phone, Miranda stood. "Tomorrow then," Her gaze swept around the table. The phone in her hand buzzed again and again a glance at the screen brought a small smile to Miranda's lips. Realizing what she was doing, Miranda glared at them all, "Do not disappoint me again." Stalking out of the room, Miranda left her astonished employees staring after her.
They all turned to look at Nigel and Emily. The relationship between Emily and Serena was the worst kept secret on the seventeeth floor and by mutual consent, Serena spoke for all of them when she asked, "What is the matter with Miranda?"
Serena watched as Emily and Nigel exchanged a look, then Nigel slowly informed the department heads. "We think, she's seeing someone." As expected a murmur of surprise swept through the room.
Again, Serena asked what the others were thinking. "Who?"
Emily admitted. "We don't know."
Nigel added, "I'm sure Miranda will tell us when she's ready for us to know." He gathered his own notes and stood, "Until then I believe we still have a job to do." He looked over his glasses at each of his colleagues, "So I suggest we focus on that." He subtly reminded them of Miranda's last comment, "While we still can."
Everyone murmured agreement as they also gathered their things and dispersed back to their individual departments.
Andy grinned as she put her phone down next to her computer. Her first text to Miranda today was merely to thank her for the daily flower. She hoped to eventually get a chance to ask Miranda about them, as Cassidy had suggested. So far, the topic hadn't seemed to come up, other than the question she'd asked and the 'I have my ways' response from Miranda. Andy was not going to push for any details, but she would get them. The reporter in her was on the job now.
Her second text of the day, was of a more personal nature. Andy got back to work even as she chuckled at herself for having the audacity to send a "I missed you last night." text to Miranda. Glancing down at her phone, Andy saw the incoming text message on the screen and barely felt the vibration of the tiny device through the wrist pad that she often rested her hands on while typing. She smiled as the body of the text appeared.
Andy had missed Miranda last night, so much so that she had spent most of the night going over her manuscript. She'd printed it out and now her hand rested on the fat envelope containing the 'spiffed up' version. She would drop it off at the security desk of Elias-Clark today at lunch and knew that she would spend the rest of the afternoon, evening and night wondering if Miranda had gotten a chance to read it. She was also pretty excited about seeing Miranda and the girls tomorrow night at dinner.
"Hey girls!" Andy grinned as she opened the door wider. She looked past them to the ever present bodyguard. "Hello, Sam."
Samantha nodded, "Good evening to you, Andy." She turned to the girls. "I'll be back later to pick you guys up."
"What?" Andy looked back and forth between the girls and the woman, "Won't Miranda be here to take them home?"
Cassidy's eyes widened. "Didn't she text you?"
"We exchanged our usual texts but I don't think..." Andy checked her phone and sure enough there was a message waiting there. "Oh!" She read the words and sighed, "I see." Last minute problems at work had Miranda held up there so she would not be joining them this evening. A check of the time stamp showed that the message had been sent early that afternoon. She gritted her teeth at her stupidity. They'd had a staff meeting and everyone had been required to turn off their phones. She dialed Miranda's number and waited for the connection to be made. She was surprised when the call went to voicemail. "Miranda, sorry I didn't get your message sooner. The girls are here and Sam will be back for them later. We'll miss you this evening. Hope things aren't too messed up at work." She disconnected the call and smiled at her guests. "Okay... who's hungry?"
Sam laughed and waved as she walked down the stairs. "Have fun."
"You sure you don't wanna stay?" Andy felt a little weird about Sam leaving, like she was sending the woman away or something. The bodyguard grinned and reassured her.
"Miranda has told me in no uncertain terms that you are safe to leave the girls with." Sam winked, "I have someone I'd like to spend a little time with this evening too... if you don't mind." With a grin at the expression on Andy's face, Sam chuckled, "Just give me a call when the girls are ready to leave. They have my number."
"Oh!" Andy blushed, both at Miranda's trust and Sam's hot date. "Sure... thanks." She closed the door and turned to the girls. "You girls like chicken right?" She smiled as they nodded. "I thought maybe we could just do a quick stir-fry and then watch a movie?"
"Cool!" The girls cheered. "Movie!"
Andy laughed, "Well I don't have quite the selection you guys have, but," She gestured to the few shelves of DVD's, "Pick one you like." She grinned as the girls rushed to the bookcase. "Whoa... take it easy. My downstairs neighbors will call animal control for the herd of elephants stomping on their ceiling!" The girls laughed and Cassidy apologized.
"Right." Cassidy grabbed one of her favorite movies, "Sorry, Andy."
"It's weird thinking about other people living around you." Caroline looked up at the ceiling, "There are people above and next to you too?"
Andy moved to the space on the breakfast counter that she always used for meal preparations. It faced the living room so she was able to carry on a conversation with her guests while she cooked. "Above, below and on one side. This is a corner apartment, so there is only one neighbor in that direction." She pointed to the appropriate wall with knife. "They're all pretty nice though. No one causes any trouble and we all mind our own business."
"Well, that's good." Caroline pressed her lips together then asked, "So, you don't have any of those neighbors like you see on TV... that watch everyone that comes and goes into everyone else's apartments?"
Andy chuckled, "No, no one saw Miranda here the other night."
Cassidy pushed her sister lightly, "Geez, Ro, you know they didn't... it would have been in the paper."
Caroline looked at Andy, "Are you going to tell her not to shove me?!"
Licking her lips, Andy looked at Cassidy and spoke matter-of-factly, "Don't shove your sister." Her gaze alternated between them, "Um.. Count to ten?" She grinned at the astonished looks, "Look, I know Miranda doesn't like it when you do that." Laughing, Andy winked at them. "But, you should have seen the knock down drag outs that my sister and I used to get into!"
Movie selection forgotten, both girls took a seat at the counter.
"You have a sister?"
"Tell us about her..."
Andy laughed. "I do indeed have a sister." She continued her chopping as she related some of her tamer childhood adventures.
"The girls had a wonderful time this evening, Andrea." Miranda leaned back against the headboard of her bed and plucked at the hem of her pajama top as she spoke into the phone. "Thank you."
"Oh, of course." Andy settled into her own bed. "It was really fun having them here. They're welcome any time."
"They enjoyed the movie." Miranda chuckled. "They have the sequel here, so be prepared to view it the next time you visit."
Andy laughed, "Okay. Cool." She hesitated, "Um... when would that be? My next visit I mean..."
"Whenever you wish." Miranda took a deep breath, "We haven't been... dating for very long, but these last few nights without you have been... difficult."
Smiling at that, Andy translated the Miranda-speak and replied softly, "I miss you too. I miss holding you while we sleep."
"I miss..." Miranda admitted, "...waking up in your arms."
"Mmmm..." There was just no other way to say it, she missed Andrea's presence. "Yes."
"So, I should plan a sleepover...soon?"
"Yes," Miranda confirmed, "As soon as we can manage it."
"That sounds great." Andy yawned. "Mmm.. sorry, Miranda... I'm kinda tired."
"Obviously." Chuckling at the thought of her younger girlfriend being tired before she was, Miranda conceded to the inevitable. "Get some sleep, Andrea. We will see each other, soon."
"Yeah..." Andy shifted down, laying on the phone while gathering the extra pillow and blankets in a pile to wrap her arms around. "Have a good night, Miranda. Sweet dreams."
"You too, Andrea." Miranda was oddly reluctant to hang up, but knew it was time. "Good night, Sweet dreams."
Andy pulled the phone from under her head and set it on the stand next to her bed. She really was exhausted, and with visions of Miranda dancing through her head she knew there would be sweet dreams, indeed.
"Ohhh... nice one, Andy." Megan eyed the large bouquet of pink roses that had been sent that morning.
"Yeah," Andy smiled softly at the gesture, "Thanks." She couldn't tell Megan that these were a congratulations of sorts. After Miranda had read the manuscript for her novel, Andy had gotten one of the most cherished reviews she knew she would ever receive. Miranda had proclaimed the book, "Excellent, as expected." Then she had gone on to say that there were some things that could be "polished somewhat." To that end, Andy had spent many a long evening, and weekend, as their schedules allowed, going over the passages. This bouquet was to mark the end of that process. The book was finished, ready, now all she needed to do was convince Miranda not to "help" her find a publisher. That part of the process, she needed to do, alone.
Andy watched Megan scurry away before she closed her eyes and shook her head. Quietly counting to ten, before rising from her desk, she walked into her bellowing editor's office. "Yeah, Chief?"
"Need you to do an interview."
"Um..." Andy shrugged, "Okay." She wasn't sure why she'd been summoned into his office for that, or why he hadn't mentioned it during the staff meeting this morning.
"You're gonna have to travel for this one." He watched her face fall and shook his head. "I know you don't like it... but that accident was months ago, Sachs." He wiped his face with his palm and tried again. "Look, it's nearly Thanksgiving, and I know you haven't been home to see your parents this year. So go, do the interview, stop in and see your folks, then come back and I'll make you work through Christmas, like a proper Scrooge."
"I'll do the assignment, Chief." Andy's eyes and voice hardened, "But there are reasons I haven't seen my parents..."
"Hmm... got anything to do with your flower guy?" He couldn't remember a single day without a delivery since the flowers had began arriving. Sometimes on particular days there would be more than one, but always, always one. Shaking his head, he held up his hand to stop her reply, "No, nevermind, none of my business."
Andy nodded and kept the topic work related, "So were am I going?"
"Chicago." He handed her an envelope, "There you go, plane tickets, hotel confirmation.. all that..." He shrugged at her astonished look. "If you didn't do it, someone else would have."
"Right," Andy nodded as she looked through the packet. The message was loud and clear, no matter how good you are, Sachs, you're replaceable. Someone else can do your job if I need them to. "Um.. Chief... this plane leaves in three hours."
"Yep... better get moving."
Andy sighed, "Yeah... okay." She walked out of the man's office to gather her things from her desk speaking over her shoulder as she went. "Thanks." She wasn't sure if she was being sarcastic or not. It was a good assignment. Most reporters here would love to get some travel time in, but Andy could only feel disappointed, she was supposed to go to the townhouse tonight for dinner with Miranda and the twins. It was her turn to pick the movie and she'd picked one of Miranda's favorites. "Dinner and a Movie Nights" were going so well that they had one nearly every week, usually alternating whose place they ended up at, and who got to choose the movie. The evening also normally ended with a long make-out session on the couch, after the twins went to bed. Often they ended up, as they had when they first started dating, curled together in bed, sleeping. It was nice, and comfortable. It was also something that Andy knew was going to change soon. It was becoming more and more difficult to stop at kissing, more and more difficult to hold back from what she wanted so badly. But, Miranda seemed content to keep things the way they were between them. Tonight's dinner was partially their normal routine, but also partially to celebrate the book being finished. Tonight she wasn't sure either of them would have held back anything from the other.
"Ah well," She slung the strap of her laptop case over her shoulder and sighed as she began to text her apologies to the trio. She wouldn't be gone long, and they could always reschedule the celebration for when she returned tomorrow. The food she could miss, she could eat a meal anywhere, but the company, and the kissing... Andy sighed, just the thought of the kissing made her warm and her hands twitched to fit themselves to Miranda's curves. That part of the evening, Andy knew, she was going to miss terribly.
A doubly huge bouquet of roses greeted her when Andy arrived at work. Having come straight from the airport back to the Mirror offices, Andy was amazed that the flowers had materialized so soon. She had only just texted Miranda as they walked down the gangway into the terminal. She gazed at the flowers and smiled as the scent enveloped her. She couldn't wait to see Miranda. Even though she'd only been gone one night, she hadn't actually seen Miranda in nearly four days. Just the thought of holding her beautiful girlfriend made her arms ache a little. Exhaling slowly, Andy sat down at her desk and got to work, typing up the results of her whirlwind Chicago trip.
She had nearly finished organizing her notes and was just contemplating what to do about lunch when one of her colleagues stopped at her desk.
"Hey, Sachs... you used to work for that big time fashion chick..right?"
Raising her eyebrows, Andy leaned back in her chair, "If you mean Miranda Priestly, yeah, I was her assistant about two years ago. Why, Dave?"
He pointed his thumb over his shoulder toward his office. Dave Peterson didn't have a desk like everyone else, because his job was to listen to the police scanners for anything interesting. It was too distracting to have the scanners constant chatter going on out here in the main offices. "Came over the scanner a few minutes ago. Lincoln Towncar registered to Miranda Priestly was involved in an accident."
Andy paled, "What?"
"Yeah," He nodded, "Weird thing though... they didn't mention her in the EMT conversation..."
"EMT?" Andy closed her laptop as she stood, "Who was hurt?"
"Took 'em all to the ER as far as I can tell...driver and two girls in the backseat." He shook his head, "Didn't sound good for the driver... the kids were unconscious."
"Oh, God." Andy gathered her things quickly, hating to take the time, but she needed her laptop and things with her. "Where were they taken?"
"Whoa!... Sachs.. calm down." He told her what he knew, "Presbyterian... the driver is on route to the Columbia University Medical Center. The kids are going to the Children's Hospital, on Broadway."
"Thanks, Dave." Andy rushed out the door without a backward glance.
He grunted when Andy disappeared from view before the door to the Mirror office had even closed, and shrugged, "You're welcome."
Andy tried to calm her heart during the agonizingly slow, although it was faster than the main elevators, freight elevator ride to the Runway floor. She had been torn between rushing to the hospital and going to Runway. If Miranda hadn't heard yet, then she would still be at work. If Miranda wasn't at the hospital, going there would be pointless, because no one would let Andy see the girls anyway and Andy knew it. So, she made a choice and ran all the way to the Elias-Clarke building from the Mirror offices and the quick intense conversation with the security guard on the loading dock had done nothing to slow her pounding heart. He had been there for a long time though, and knew her from her days as Miranda's assistant. She'd often used the loading dock and freight elevators to shave time off her Starbucks runs. He had benefited from that when she would also bring him a hot cup of coffee too. She didn't even look back as she exited the elevator, the guard had promised her that they would hold the elevator on seventeen until they pressed the button to return to the lobby. He also promised to get a taxi to wait for her return with Miranda. Andy grabbed the first lackey she saw by the collar and pointed to the open elevator. "Miranda is coming, do not let anyone else on that elevator. Do you understand?" When he nodded frantically, she released him and practically ran down the corridors to Miranda's office.
Her near run down the corridors didn't go unnoticed but only one person had any sort of stake in the strange woman heedlessly zipping through their workplace. Andy found herself blocked by a very determined redhead.
"Andrea," Emily held up her hands, "What is it you think you're doing?"
"Get out of my way, Em." Andy tried to push past, but Emily was just as determined to keep Andrea away from Miranda's office as Andy was to get there. "You don't understand."
"Explain it to me then."
"No time, Em..." Andy roughly pushed past, calling, "I'm sorry." over her shoulder as she continued on her way.
"Andrea! Wait!" Emily took off, hot on her former co-worker's heels.
Isabel was at her desk just beginning to work out Miranda's schedule for the week when a scruffily dressed woman burst into the office and issued orders to Ashley.
"Miranda's coat and purse...now!"
"Whoa!" Before Isabel could stop her, the vaguely familiar woman had walked quickly between the assistant's desk and into Miranda's office. Isabel rushed in a few seconds behind, apologizing profusely only vaguely aware that Emily, the real one, was now in the office too.
"Miranda.. I'm so sorry.. she burst right in..." The expression on Miranda's face stopped any further comment. Isabel didn't leave her boss's office, but she didn't say anything else and merely stood back to wait for Miranda to give this newcomer the famous Miranda Priestly dressing down. She glanced over to see a smirk on Emily's face as well.
"Andrea, what brings you here?"
"Miranda..." Andy paused to catch her breath, wondering how to break the news, that Miranda obviously hadn't heard yet, "I..." she shook her head, "I'm sorry, I know this is going to mess things up... but, the girls..."
"What about the girls?" Miranda stood quickly, leaving her desk as it was, "What has happened?"
Andy moved to embrace her girlfriend and spoke gently, "Miranda, there's been an accident."
Miranda's normally porcelain skin paled even further and she dropped back into her chair, "What? When?! What happened?"
"It came over the police scanner about ten minutes ago... I don't know how long ago the accident happened." Andy knelt next to Miranda's knee and continued, "The girls are being transported to Presbyterian Children's Hospital... " She urged Miranda to get up, "Sweetheart, we need to go."
"Yes..." Miranda nodded, "Of course."
Andy helped Miranda stand and slid her arm around the woman's slim waist to support her. "The elevator is waiting, and there's a car downstairs waiting." Andy couldn't stand it any more and kissed Miranda's temple, "C'mon Sweetheart, the girls need us."
Isabel was frozen to the spot, unable to comprehend the sudden transformation of her Snow Queen boss into an, almost broken, concerned mother. She heard Emily softly utter, "Bloody Hell." and understood that 'Arthur' was not who sent Miranda the romantic postcard, this 'Andrea' was obviously the sender. Now Isabel recognized the young woman as the flower delivery person and gasped as she realized who, exactly Andrea was. The Wonder Woman assistant!
But that was all beside the point now, Miranda's children had been hurt. Most people only knew the children to be holy terrors, but anyone who had ever been Miranda's assistant knew, Miranda loved her girls unconditionally. If something were to happen to them, the Dragon would wake and wreak havoc on everything in her path. Both Isabel and the 'real' Emily stood motionless as they watched Miranda, supported by the much younger woman, leave to go to the hospital.
Ashley, on the other hand, had simply done what she was told and had Miranda's coat and purse readily available as the brunette led Miranda out of her office. Miranda only blinked at the offered things so Andy took them. They continued to walk and Andy nodded at the girl calling over her shoulder. "Thanks."
The ride in the elevator and the drive to the hospital were quiet, Andy simply held Miranda's hand. She didn't really have much choice. She'd tried once as the elevator reached the loading dock to disconnect their hands and Miranda wouldn't let go. Now they were at the hospital and Miranda still didn't seem willing to release her hand. Andy led her to the information desk.
"Um... Caroline and Cassidy Priestly?"
The receptionist consulted her computer and shook her head, "I don't seem to find anyone by that name."
Miranda's hand tightened painfully around hers. Andy squeezed back slightly and asked again, "Um, they were just brought in... car accident. Twin girls..."
"Oh!" She reached for the phone and informed the person on the other end that the accident victims' mother had arrived. She nodded into the phone and spoke as she replaced the handset, "Someone will be with you in a moment."
Andy turned immediately to Miranda, this was the first time Miranda had spoken since they'd left her office. "Yes?"
"I need to sit down."
"Of course," Andy spotted a small waiting area surrounding a large aquarium and led Miranda there. They settled on the small couch as Andy scanned Miranda's face. "Would you like me to get you a drink or something... some water?"
"No!" Miranda reached out to hold Andy's hand with both of hers, "Don't leave me."
"Shhhh..." Shifting closer, Andy wrapped her free arm around Miranda's shoulders and assured her girlfriend, "I'm not going anywhere."
Miranda and Andy looked up to see a clean cut young man in a white lab coat. Miranda answered, "Yes?"
"Would you come with me, please?"
Standing, Miranda pulled Andrea up with her and began to follow the young man.
"Um just, family..."
Miranda cut him off, "Andrea is family." She glared at the boy and spoke in a tone that left no room for argument, "I wish to see my children, now."
Nodding, he backed up a few steps and gestured down the wide corridor, "This way."
Andy watched Miranda and knew that although she appeared to be almost calm, Miranda was a wreck on the inside. The steel grip on her hand was the proof, as well as the tell-tale shining in those awesome blue eyes. She wanted to reassure Miranda that everything would be fine, but held her tongue. There had most likely been more than one person telling Miranda that, 'everything would be fine' when her parents and brother were in the accident too.
They were led to a bed in the ER that held a long, but still small form. A nurse was checking the machines, and smiled when they arrived. She leaned down to speak to her patient, "Caroline... your Mom is here."
Miranda made a tiny noise and Andy knew why. She immediately corrected the nurse. "This is Cassidy."
"Oh!" The nurse was horrified, "We finally found their purses, but their ID pictures are so similar...and they're both unconscious..."
Releasing Andrea's hand for the first time since they'd been in her office, Miranda moved to Cassidy's side, sitting in a chair that had been positioned there. "How is she?"
Andy pinched her own lips together and willed herself not to cry as Miranda gently slid her hand under Cassidy's.
"I'd rather let the doctor talk to you about that, but x-rays showed no broken bones. She's unconscious, so she can't tell us if she has any pain at all. The MRI scans came back good though, no brain injuries and no sign of internal bleeding."
Miranda's impatience broke through her fear, "Then why are they still unconscious?"
"It happens sometimes. People black out from the trauma." The nurse took a deep breath, "They should wake up soon, but they probably won't remember the accident."
Miranda nodded, her eyes never leaving Cassidy's face. "Where is Caroline?"
"It's her turn with the MRI machine." The nurse indicated a fairly large empty space in the room, "They'll bring her back here. We thought it was best to keep them together."
"Thank you." Andy moved to stand next to Miranda. She rubbed the middle of Miranda's back gently. "Should we call their father?"
"Yes," Miranda nodded, "James' number is in my phone."
"Okay," Taking the purse, Andy found Miranda's phone and tentatively held it out, "Do you want to speak with him."
"No..." Frightened blue eyes looked up as Miranda nearly pleaded with her girlfriend, "Will you do it?"
"Of course," Andy stepped away so as not to disturb Miranda and Cassidy. With a deep breath, she went over the wording in her head and placed the call.
They had moved the girls to a regular room by the time James arrived. Neither one had woken up yet, but all their vital signs were good and they were breathing on their own. The doctor went through all the test results again. The MRI's hadn't shown any irregularities, no broken bones, only a few visible minor cuts and bruises. Now all they could do was wait for the twins to wake up.
Andy tried not to be jealous as James laid a supporting hand on Miranda's shoulder. When he had arrived she'd been sitting with Cassidy while Miranda had held Caroline's hand. As soon as James had entered the room, Andy had moved to the couch in the corner and pretended to work on her laptop, giving the girls' parents as much privacy as she could without actually leaving the room. She tried to keep from looking at the tall man, but as soon as she checked the monitor's numbers she would invariably find herself staring at James. This man, this graying at the temples, distinguished looking, handsome, well dressed man was a person Miranda had, lived with, been with, loved enough to create two beautiful children with. It was too much to take, too much to think about and Andy needed to get away, just for a little while. They had been at the hospital for four hours and since James was there, Andy decided it was time for her to take a break. She slowly moved to Miranda's side and kneeled down next to the chair, speaking quietly.
"Miranda, you've been here for hours... Can I get you something to eat or drink?"
"No." Miranda kept her eyes on Caroline's face. "I'm fine..."
Andy sighed, "Sweetheart, you need to eat...you missed lunch..." She saw Miranda's jaw set into a stubborn line and changed tactics, "Should I go get you some coffee?" That suggestion garnered a grateful glance and Andy nodded, "I'll bring you some coffee." She resisted the urge to kiss the top of Miranda's head and turned to James as she stood. "Can I bring you anything?"
"No." James tilted his head in a sort of grateful gesture as he evaluated the exchange he'd just witnessed, "Thanks."
"Okay..." Andy gently patted Miranda's back, "I'll be right back..." She could feel James' eyes on her as she left the room.
The room was silent, the only sounds were the rhythmic beeping from the machines. James brushed a bit of hair away from his daughter's shoulder then spoke quietly, "Mira..." He waited for his ex-wife to look at him, "Trade?"
Miranda glanced at Caroline, then nodded and wordlessly traded places with James. She slid her hand into Cassidy's and the silence resumed as he took his place next to Caroline. The peace only lasted a moment before he spoke again.
"Yes?" Miranda knew what he was about to ask.
"That girl..." He glanced toward the door, "She isn't your assistant, is she?"
"She's hardly a girl..." Miranda smiled softly, "and no, she is not my assistant."
"Do you love her?"
"Now is not the time for this discussion, James." Dropping her head to rest her cheek on Cassidy's hand, Miranda closed her eyes. The rhythmic beeping of the monitors was almost soothing and she spent a long time listening to the sound. Miranda finally sat up and she took a deep breath before speaking, almost in a whisper.
James looked up at his ex-wife, slightly confused. "What?"
Defiant blue eyes pinned him and Miranda spoke slightly louder, enunciating each word clearly, "I love her."
James knew his ex-wife quite well, from the interaction he'd seen and the tone of her voice now, the reluctance to admit her feelings. "You haven't told her that though..."
"No." Miranda's voice was a whisper almost taken by the beeping machines, "I haven't."
Nodding, he processed that information then glanced at their children. "Then tell her, because you never know what's going to happen." He met her eyes and repeated, "Tell her, before you miss your chance."
"James..." Miranda shook her head, "This is not the time."
"You aren't wrong very often, Mira." The corner of his mouth was pulled into a wry smile, "But when you are, it's certainly a doozy."
Andy walked down the hall and stopped short when it widened into a waiting area. It was full of people, but four of them were familiar to her. They all stood when they saw her.
"What's the word, Six?" Nigel saw how tense Andy was and braced for the worst.
"They're both unconscious, but the doctors can't seem to find anything wrong with them. No broken bones, no internal bleeding, no damage to their skulls." Andy sighed, "Now we just wait." She gestured behind her with her thumb, "Miranda and their father are with them."
Isabel stepped forward, "Um... is there... I mean, what should I... do?" This was outside her experience as assistant, this was firmly in the 'personal' category of Miranda's life. Andy's answer reassured her greatly.
"Your job." Andy glanced at Nigel, Emily and Serena, "Make sure Miranda isn't bothered with the tedium of the day. Send it to Nigel, or Em, or Serena when appropriate... I'm sure the girls are going to wake up soon and Miranda can get back to Runway after that, but for now... just handle things until she gets back."
"Of course," Emily nodded and leaned against Serena, "We can do that."
"Naturally," Serena nodded, "We will do anything it takes to help Miranda in this troubling time."
Andy smiled, "Thanks guys." Chuckling a bit at the irony of it, Andy motioned toward the elevators, "I'm just going to get some coffee..." She grinned a little wider at Emily's scoff. "Yeah, I know right? Still bringing her coffee."
"You get better benefits now." Serena smirked at the blush that crept up Andy's neck.
"Why you!?" Emily gritted her teeth, she had promised herself not to get into this, not here, but, she just couldn't help it, "You of all people!"
"Luck, Fate, Karma... I dunno, Em." Andy sighed and began to walk. She continued talking as the others followed her, "You would have to ask Miranda to know for sure." Andy knew full well that Emily wasn't going to ask Miranda anything.
They parted ways in front of the cafeteria. Nigel even gave her a hug telling her to assure Miranda that Runway was taken care of until her return. Isabel did not hug her, but Andy was fine with that, she didn't know the woman. Emily didn't hug her either which was actually expected, but still didn't make it hurt any less. Serena gave her a quick embrace, informing her that if she needed anything to merely call them and it would be there as soon as they could manage it.
James and Miranda had sat in silence for ten minutes or more before the door to the room opened to admit Andy. She was carrying enough coffee to last the rest of the night, along with two styrofoam boxes containing some edibles, for later.
"Thank you for calling, Mira." James reluctantly moved away from his unconscious daughter. "Please keep me informed of their condition."
"You're leaving?" Andy couldn't believe that a father would just leave his children in this condition.
"I have to." He glanced at his watch, "I have a plane to catch. I have to be in London tomorrow, later today for them."
"You can't postpone it?" Miranda wasn't surprised by his wish to leave. "They will ask for you when they wake."
"I would have been in the air now if the accident hadn't happened. My assistant switched my flight to the last one possible in order to get me there on time. Please just tell them I was here, and that I love them..." He ground his teeth together as he looked at his beautiful daughter, "If it were any other meeting I could cancel, but I've been working on this merger for months. I have to go." He knew the look of contempt Miranda was giving him and accused her of the same infraction, "If you had work to do, you would go too."
She opened her mouth to deny it, but Miranda knew, God help her, that it was most likely true. So instead of refuting the statement, Miranda exhaled noisily and nodded sharply, "Safe flight then."
Andy watched the man nod then he leaned down and kissed Caroline's forehead gently. He repeated the action with Cassidy and, unexpectedly, he hugged Miranda. Andy knew he'd whispered something in Miranda's ear, because she stiffened slightly in his arms then the embrace was over and he was out the door.
"I can't believe he's leaving..." Andy really couldn't believe it. Even her own father, who had barely spoken to her for over a year, who hated the very idea of her life and lifestyle, would not have left her unconscious in a hospital to go to a meeting.
"He has always been very... driven, when work is involved." Miranda sighed and resumed her position with Cassidy. "It was one of the things we always had in common."
"Miranda... you would never leave either of the girls in this condition, much less both of them!"
"Of course not," Miranda willed herself to believe that was true. "I am their mother." That both girls were injured was quite a quandary. She was the Miranda Priestly but even she couldn't be in two places at once. So, while she held one girl's hand, she worried about the other feeling alone. Peripherally aware of Andrea moving one of the rolling trays up next to her, Miranda just sat holding Cassidy's warm, but still, hand.
"Your coffee, Miranda." Andy sat the coffee within Miranda's reach then without a word moved to the other bed and gently slid her hand into Caroline's.
They sat for a long time, in silence, just listening to the muted sounds of the nurses going about their business outside the door. Once, the night nurse came in to check the girl's vial signs, once some maintenance guys moved two recliner chairs into the room and Miranda and Andy had each taken quick bathroom breaks from time to time. But they used the bathroom in the girls' room so they never went far. Andy and Miranda's phone buzzed from time to time. Miranda mainly ignored hers and although Andy had checked hers that evening, reading any text sent to her, she never actually answered any of the calls. Her battery died around eleven-thirty and Andy was glad for the respite.
Andy now sat in the recliner next to Cassidy's bed, her hand under the girl's, palm up, just maintaining light contact. She knew if she looked over at the other bed, Miranda would be in a similar position. Closing her eyes, Andy dozed as she knew Miranda was doing. It was much too late to be doing anything else. Even the sounds in the corridor had lessened in the late night, very early morning, hours and Andy drifted in a sea of thoughts and half formed dreams. A butterfly landed in her palm.
Eyes fluttering open, Andy looked into Cassidy's blue eyes and gasped, "Hello, Sweetie..." She sat up quickly, "How are you feeling?"
"Um..." Cassidy croaked past her dry throat, "Wha... happened?"
"You were in a car accident..." Andy stood, "Let me just go get someone and get you checked out okay? Hold on..." She gave the girl's hand a pat and moved toward the door, stopping next to Miranda as she went.
"Miranda..." Andy shook the sleeping woman's shoulder gently, "Miranda... Cassidy is awake. I'm going to go get the nurse."
Miranda's eyes flew open and with a glance at the still unconscious Caroline, nodded and moved quickly to Cassidy's side as Andy proceeded into the hallway.
"Hello Bobbsey..." Miranda brushed the girl's hair off her forehead. "You've given us quite a scare."
Miranda grabbed a cup of ice chips that they'd been keeping for when the girls regained consciousness and spooned some small bits into the girl's mouth. "I can't give you actual water until the doctor okays it."
"Ro..." Cassidy's eyes widened in fright, "Where's Ro..."
"Ssshhh..." Spooning another half scoop of ice chips into Cassidy's mouth, Miranda assured her daughter, "Caroline is right there, in the next bed." She informed the girl quietly, "She hasn't woken up yet." Smiling, Miranda winked, "Perhaps now that you are awake she will follow your example."
Rolling her eyes at that, Cassidy dealt with the cold bits in her mouth then asked, "How's Sam?"
Stunned, Miranda realized that she had never once thought about the stalwart bodyguard. "I'm not sure, we will find out after we make sure you are okay."
Andy returned with the nurse in tow. She gently pulled Miranda back so that the nurse could do her job.
"Andrea," Miranda whispered, "We need to ascertain Samantha's condition..."
"Shhh..." Andy assured her, "Sam came through her surgery just fine, she was moved from recovery into a regular room around ten o'clock, she has several pins in her leg and was still working through the general anesthetic. They don't expect her to be awake enough to talk about the accident until sometime later tomorrow afternoon." She thought about the time and corrected herself, "This afternoon."
"How do you..."
Hugging Miranda, Andy smiled, "I put in a call when I went to get coffee that first time and left my number for the information to be texted to me. The last text before my battery died was about moving her to a regular room. I.. um...claimed to be Sam's employer's assistant..." Andy winced at that slight lie, "But since I was passing it on to you, at some point, I didn't think that was too far off." She flinched back slightly, "Are you angry with me?"
Shaking her head, Miranda scoffed, "Of course not. How could I be angry at you for acquiring the information I need before I even know I need it?" Miranda smiled, the feeling swelling in her chest, "I love...that." Miranda berated herself for not being able to say what she wanted to say. "You did that when you really were my assistant too. It's why I allowed you to begin bringing the Book to the house." The nurse's voice pulled them from their conversation.
"Gonna have to get the doctor to check you out, but you seem to be a lucky girl..." The nurse winked at Cassidy and nodded to Miranda as she walked out, "I'll be right back with the doctor."
There was a flurry of activity when the doctor and two nurses returned to the room and put Cassidy through a series of pushes, pokes and prods, one nurse asked her question after question and the other switched out the nearly empty IV bag for another one. When they were finished, the doctor nodded and said they wanted to keep her there for another day at least for further observation. A quiet voice broke through during a lull in the hoopla.
"My turn next?"
Miranda gasped, "Caroline!!" She nearly dove for the bed. "How long have you been awake?! How are you feeling?"
"Mom..." she cleared her throat, "Thirsty..."
She scooped a few ice chips into Caroline's mouth then stepped aside for the doctor and nurses to do their poke and prod routine again. Miranda found herself leaning against Andrea's warmth almost giddy with relief. "They're awake, Andrea..."
"Yep..." Andy looked over Miranda's shoulder and winked at Cassidy, "They sure are."
The doctor moved to speak with Miranda. "They seem to just be shaken up. I want to keep them at least tonight. Because they were unconscious for so long we need to observe them to make sure there isn't anything we missed. Tomorrow we'll run them through some tests to make sure everything is as normal as it appears. But as it is I don't anticipate keeping them very long." He smiled at the girls, "You're going to be sore, but other than that you seem to be fine. You two are very lucky girls."
Miranda leaned heavily on Andrea but her daughter's concerns were paramount. "They are both very thirsty, may they drink water now?"
"It would be best to keep them on ice chips, but they can have as much as they want. We use the chips so they won't take in too much at once." He smiled, "By morning they should be able to have a light breakfast, then we'll see about getting them out of here."
Nodding, Miranda acknowledged the order. "Ice chips only until breakfast." She tried not to be too excited about the prospect of the girls coming home. "Thank you, doctor."
"Doctor?" Cassidy's voice carried through the room. "Is there any way you can make Mom go home? There's no way she can get any rest here."
Caroline agreed. "She needs to go home and get some rest."
The doctor saw Miranda bristle at the suggestion and opened his hands helplessly. "She isn't my patient, although rest would be a good idea."
"I won't leave my children in the hospital! Not like their father did!" She had been angry at James for leaving to go to work, there was no way she was going to leave just to go home and sleep.
"Mom." Cassidy rolled her eyes. "Dad needed to work. He's been talking about this trip to London for months. We aren't babies..." she lifted her arm and winced.
"What is it..." Miranda moved quickly to Cassidy's side, "Are you hurt?"
"Just sore, Mom." She shifted again and groaned, "Really sore."
Miranda turned to the doctor, "Can you do something about that?"
"I'll order a muscle relaxer, for both of them," he scribbled on each chart and gestured to the nurse who read the instructions and left quickly then the doctor grinned. "It will make them sleepy for about eight hours though, so you may as well go home."
Glaring at that, Miranda turned back to her daughter, "I won't leave you."
The doctor knew when to make a strategic retreat. "I will let you all decide among yourselves, but either way I will see you ladies in the morning." He gave them all a nod and escaped the room quickly.
Caroline sighed, "Andy, make her go home."
Andy laughed, "You're kidding right?" Dark eyes twinkled at her irate girlfriend, "I can't make her do anything!"
Cassidy sighed, "Right."
"Do you truly want me to leave, Bobbsey?" Miranda was conflicted. Knowing that the girls wanted her to leave was warring with her urge to stay with them, watch over them, keep them close. On the girls' side came the fact that she was, very tired.
Piping in with a logical argument, Caroline reminded their mother, "You don't watch us sleep at home." She grimaced comically, her eyes twinkled like Miranda's did when Miranda was teasing and asked in mock horror, "You don't watch us sleep do you?!"
"Well," Miranda returned the banter, "if I did, I certainly wouldn't tell you!"
Caroline chuckled, "Take her home, Andy... make sure she gets some rest."
"Caroline..." Miranda began only to be interrupted by her equally stubborn daughter.
"Sitting here in an uncomfortable chair, getting no rest while you're already exhausted and we're sleeping anyway, or going home, getting some real rest, being able to change and get cleaned up in the morning... The pros outweigh the cons, Mom." Caroline sent a flickering glance toward Andy she grinned, "Just do it."
Andy stepped forward, "Miranda?" She offered, "Maybe we can just stay until the meds take effect?"
"Right." Cassidy nodded, "Good idea, Andy." She squeezed the hand Miranda had slipped into hers, "We're fourteen years old, Mom. We'll be fine."
The nurse reappeared. "This should help with the soreness." She injected the ordered meds into the IV port on Cassidy's hand, then repeated the dosage for Caroline. "You'll be sleepy in a little while."
Caroline asked, "Can I have another cup of ice chips?"
"Me too," Cassidy reached for the cup that Miranda had fed her spoonfuls from earlier.
"Sure." The nurse left quickly.
"Here," Miranda took the cup from Cassidy and scooped a spoonful of ice shavings out of the water that had gathered in the cup.
Andy moved to help Caroline with her ice. "You guys sure you want us to leave?"
"Yeah," Caroline nodded, "Make sure she rests. Don't let her stay up for the rest of the night going over the Book."
"No chance of that." Andy grinned, "She called for the Book to be held tonight."
"She loves you guys, she's not going to be concerned about work when you're laying here unconscious..." Andy tweaked the girl's nose, "I'm awfully glad you're both okay and finally decided to wake up."
Caroline smiled and felt her eyelids drooping, "Oh wow..." She tried to blink her eyes open and looked over at Cassidy. "You feelin' this, Cass?"
Cassidy started to respond but only managed a huge yawn and nodded as she settled back on her pillow.
Andy set the ice cup aside and made sure the covers were securely around Caroline's feet. She kissed the girl's forehead and traded places with Miranda for a quick good night to Cassidy. When Miranda was finished fussing over Caroline, Andy gathered their things and offered her arm to her girlfriend, "Shall we?"
"I don't want to go, Andrea." Miranda sighed, "But the girls are correct. I need to be home for a little while."
Nodding, Andy led Miranda out of the room. "Home it is."
Andy saw the tremble in Miranda's hand when the older woman passed the cab driver the fare. It was even more visible when Miranda tried to unlock the door to the townhouse. "Allow me." Andy took the key from Miranda's hand and slid it into the lock, opening the door easily.
"Thank you, Andrea." Miranda accepted the key's return and dropped it into her purse.
"Do you want a drink before you go to bed?" Andy asked, "A glass of wine?"
"Perhaps half a glass."
"Why don't you go on up?" Andy offered, "I'll bring it to you."
Nodding, Miranda began to climb up the mountainous stairs toward her bedroom while Andrea proceeded into the kitchen. She was surprised to make the trip before Andrea joined her, but had managed to reach her room and change into her pajamas before Andrea arrived with the wine. She sat in the comfy chair she'd placed years ago in her dressing area and began to wind down from the day.
Miranda accepted the glass with a tired smile, "Thank you, my Darling."
Andy tilted her own glass toward Miranda and grinned, "You're welcome." She sat on the ottoman in front of Miranda and they quietly sipped their wine. It had been a long time since that first elevator ride she'd taken with Miranda, and during that time Andy had learned that some silence wasn't awkward.
When they were finished with their drinks, Andy set the glasses aside and assisted Miranda up from the chair, guiding her gently to the bed. "Get some sleep."
"Andrea..." Miranda held on to her solicitous girlfriend's hands, "Don't go." She pleaded as Andrea had pleaded with her on that Valentine's night months ago, "Don't make me sleep alone tonight." Then she added, "Don't leave me in an empty house all alone. Not tonight." Her eyes were already drooping, but she held the hands in hers tightly, "Please?"
"I don't have any pajamas here, Miranda..."
Relieved at the tone in Andrea's voice, Miranda released her hold and nodded, "Second drawer."
Moving to the directed drawer, Andy opened it and smiled. There were pajamas, underthings, and clothing for several days. It was basically an overnight bag, packed for a long weekend. She took the pair of pajamas off the top of the pile and went into the bathroom to change. When she returned, Andy saw that Miranda was already sleeping peacefully. She tidied up the room a bit and took the empty wine glasses back downstairs, loaded them in the dishwasher quickly then checked on Tay outside. His fenced area had a warm insulated house with a filled water bowl that was heated slightly to keep the water from freezing, even though it wasn't nearly cold enough to need that feature. She gave his neck hair a good ruffle and bid him goodnight before before returning to Miranda's room.
Andy knew that she would have to go back to her apartment in the morning, if for nothing else, to get her cell phone charger. That didn't matter at the moment though, it was almost two o'clock in the morning and she wouldn't have answered the phone anyway. The hospital had Miranda's home phone number to call if the girls needed them. She made one last trip to the bathroom then climbed into bed with Miranda.
Wrapping her arms around her exhausted girlfriend, Andy closed her eyes and joined Miranda in the land of dreams.
Miranda woke, as she normally did, far earlier in the morning than necessary. Often, the early morning wakeup was not exactly welcomed but was necessary in order to prepare for the day. This time she was grateful for the habit that had replaced a rather nightmarish sequence of mental images that included mangled cars and injured children. There was one good image however in the form of the very real presence of Andrea protectively holding her.
This feeling of total security was something that Miranda had never experienced with any of her other lovers. That term gave her pause. Lovers? She knew that although it had been used to describe her previous partners, none of them really qualified for that term. Love had never really been present during any of her previous liaisons. Andrea's breath warmed her shoulder and Miranda smiled. It was never something she could get used to with any of the men she'd slept with, even her husbands. Their breath on her had always made her skin crawl. Right now she did need to get up, but not because of Andrea or her proximity.
Easing out from under Andrea's arm, Miranda made her way to the bathroom. Once finished with her morning routine, she found herself standing next to the bed, watching Andrea sleep. Miranda stood for a long moment, clutching her robe tightly around her. Warring with herself, divided on the subject of taking the risk on a relationship with Andrea. As of right now, they could still call the whole thing off. As of right now, they had, still, not yet gone too far. As of right now, she could walk away, and it would hurt, badly, but it wouldn't kill her. She could still walk away if she didn't want to risk her heart any more. Bending over the bed, Miranda placed a gentle kiss on Andrea's forehead then swept out of the room.
Andy too was experiencing a series of nightmarish images, although they didn't seem so bad at first. She was just driving along a scenic road. Winter landscapes were passing by slowly when a deer jumped out in front of her car. She slammed on the brakes and skidded into a tree. Now she hurt all over and was cold. Closing her eyes tightly, she curled up into a ball and tried to get warm. Oh, there... warmth. Something solid under her. Opening her eyes, Andy saw the fireplace from the mountain house. She was sitting on her place on the hearth. This was good... Tay barked and wanted to go outside. She took him out and the Winter morphed into Spring... Tay bounded around chasing squirrels and Andy sat on the bench by the lake. Three butterflies, one larger one and two smaller ones, fluttered around her and Andy laughed as they landed on her forehead, cheeks and nose, touching down and flitting away quickly. Their legs tickled. It was wonderful, she was happy. Then the sky darkened and the wind became cold again as her Father appeared beside her on the bench.
"Nasty things," he said and raised his hand to shoo the insects away. "Stay away from my daughter."
"No!" Andy was appalled at the statement. "No Daddy... stop it!"
"No!" His eye shone with glee as one of the butterflies landed on the arm of the bench. He brought his hand down, smashing the colorful insect.
"No! Daddy!" Andy screamed and tears streamed down her face, "I love them!" She couldn't believe her father was acting like this, it wasn't him, he wouldn't be so mean. Her father wouldn't ever be so... monsterous. He loved her, Andy knew he did...
"You can't love them!" He sneered, "You don't!"
"I DO!" Andy gently picked up the smashed creature and, oblivious now to her nightmare-father's ranting, whispered to it, "I do love you." The fragile wings began to move and the butterfly stood, healthy and whole on her hand. It fluttered up to land very close to her ear and Andy thought she heard it say.
"I love you too."
Tay barked at her father and jumped up on the man, knocking him down into the mud at the lake's edge. Andy walked away slowly, carefully, because the butterfly and its two small companions had landed on the back of her hand and she didn't want to disturb them.
Tay barked again, and this time Andy felt the surface under her shift then heard Miranda's voice respond.
Rolling over, Andy breathed deeply and pushed her unruly hair out of her eyes. "Miranda? Wha... What time is it?"
"It's nearly five..." Miranda sat on the edge of the bed and traced Andrea's jawline with her fingertips, "Go back to sleep if you wish."
"Stay with me."
Miranda looked into Andrea's eyes for a long moment then relented. "One moment." She left the room and returned shortly with one of Taymor's large pillow beds. She placed it in the corner of the room and gestured to it. "Taymor, Bed!"
He obediently trotted over to the comfy spot and settled on it with a huff.
"Stay." Miranda told him sternly.
He yawned and put his head down on his paws, the warm familiar scents of this woman and the house comforted him.
Miranda detoured to the bathroom for a moment then joined Andrea on the bed. She carefully handed her girlfriend a single rose.
"Miranda..." Andy accepted the flower gingerly, the thorns were actually very sharp. "Thank you." She sniffed the flower wishing she could place the scent, then set it aside for a moment. "How do you do that?" She'd never managed to get a straight answer to that question. "Get them to deliver at this hour." When Miranda remained silent, Andy bit the bullet and brought the subject up. "Cassidy told me, a long time ago, that I should ask you about the flowers." Pulling Miranda close, Andy asked, "What is their significance to you?"
"They are a hybrid species..." Miranda closed her eyes to revel in the warmth of Andrea's embrace. "My mother... loved gardening. She spent hours in the rose garden tending the plants. She... created that flower."
"She created it?"
Nodding, Miranda continued, "Through selective cross breeding, she made a flower that reminded her of a sunrise." Shining blue eyes focused on the past, "Her favorite time of day." Pausing in the story, Miranda collected her thoughts and continued. "No one else grows them, or can grow them, they are mine, the last thing I have connecting me to my mother."
"You've taken Taymor outside before, you've seen the greenhouse."
"Miranda, are you telling me that you grow these yourself?" Andy looked at the flower again, slightly awed.
"I grow them, cut them, harvest them, in my free time."
"You're free time?" Andy knew that Miranda rarely had any free time.
"There is more than enough time to devote to my family and still tend the flowers. It doesn't take that long each week." Miranda sighed, "There have been several florists that have wanted to buy the rights from me. But I will not give them up."
"Of course not! My God.. Miranda... Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing them with me." A word in Miranda's tale struck her. "Harvest?"
Licking her lips, Miranda nodded, "The rose hips that grow on this particular plant," She exhaled softly as one of her major secrets passed her lips, "are the main ingredient in my signature perfume."
"Oh!" Andy suddenly realized why the flowers smelled so familiar. Pulling Miranda closer, Andy brought their lips together in a breathtaking kiss, her hands finding the curves that they fit so perfectly.
"Mmmm..." Miranda loved the feel of Andrea's hands on her, but there were more important things to concern her right now. "The girls..."
"They're going to be fine, Miranda." Andy reminded her. "The doctor said they would most likely be released tomorrow." She held Miranda closely, feeling the woman's spasms as Miranda began to cry.
"I was so scared. If anything ever happened to the girls..." Clinging to Andrea, Miranda confessed, "I would not have made it through this without you."
"Shhh... they're fine... they're going to be fine." Andy assured her, "I would never leave you to deal with anything like this alone. Never, Miranda. I'll always be here for you."
Miranda pulled away after a few minutes of self-indulgent wallowing in the comfort of Andrea's arms. She was breathing heavily, trying to sort out everything she was feeling and thinking. "Andrea... I..." James' voice echoed in her mind, Just tell her. Caroline's joined her father's, Just do it... She had been wrong earlier. She had thought that she could walk away and her heart would mend itself in time. That wasn't true, because it hadn't only been a few months that she had been loving Andrea. It had been longer, much longer than that. Wiping away the tears that streaked her cheeks, Miranda smiled, "Our anniversary is coming up."
"Anniversary? What do you want to do for our first year? I still owe you a tropical island trip."
Chuckling at that, Miranda smiled, "The trip is for when the book sells. And it won't be our first anniversary, Andrea."
Miranda nodded. "No. It will be our third." Smiling at the shock on Andrea's face, Miranda named the date, "March Thirteenth, Two Thousand and Six. The day you entered my life and changed it, forever."
"I can't believe you remember that."
"How could I forget, the day I met you?" Miranda brought their lips together gently, then with more pressure. Her hands found their way under Andrea's pajama top, caressing the smooth skin, stretching across the young woman's muscular stomach. "Andrea..." Just tell her. Just do it. "Andrea," she felt it, she did. It had been easy to whisper the words to a sleeping woman, but now Miranda had to force the words past her lips, "I love you."
"I love you too, Miranda." Andy sighed between kisses and writhed against Miranda's hand as it slid upward past her ribs. Unable to take the barriers between them Andy quickly shed her top and began working on the buttons holding Miranda's shirt together. When the fabric opened, Andy's eyes closed, momentarily overwhelmed by the sight. "You are so beautiful, Miranda." Her hand moved almost of its own accord and Andy loved the feel of Miranda's breast in her hand, the weight of it. The small pebbled flesh in the center hardened and pushed against her palm. "I've loved you for longer than I can say."
Laying Miranda back, Andy guided that taut bit of flesh into her mouth, smiling against it as Miranda arched and gasped.
Andy stopped for a moment in order to remove the last barriers of fabric between them. Sliding Miranda's pajama's down off her legs and kicking her own off quickly, before returning her attention to Miranda's exquisite breasts.
Since it only took one hand for the task, Andy's other hand began to explore expanses of skin. The ridged texture of Miranda's ribs, the soft curve at Miranda's waist, the gentle swell of her hip. The long line on the outside of Miranda's thigh, the hardness of her knee, and the long line back up the inside of Miranda's thigh. Even though Miranda's leg moved, opening to the pressure of Andy's light touch, Andy stopped her hand's motion and asked, "May I?"
"Yes." Darkened blue eyes closed as Andrea's fingers explored the warmth and wetness they found. "Oh.. yesss."
Not quite believing she'd been granted the honor, Andy delighted in the textures she found, the coarse hair, the smooth slick skin, the small nubbin protrusion. Each one evoking its own special sound from Miranda, a moan for this one, a gasp from that one. Each one given individual care, until only one unexplored area remained. Although she loved to see and taste Miranda's breasts, Andy redirected her gaze to Miranda's face. The sight of this gorgeous woman caught in the throes of passion made her gasp and she couldn't help freezing, an awed whisper escaped her throat, "God..."
Miranda opened her vivid blue eyes to meet Andy's dark brown gaze. They were poised on the edge. Andrea was about to become her lover in every sense of the word and Miranda wanted that, needed that. Keeping eye contact, Miranda canted her hips forward, pushing herself up off the bed slightly, impaling herself on Andrea's stilled fingers, giving herself over completely.
The sensation of being inside the woman she loved beyond all measure, the Miranda Priestly, broke Andy out of her paralysis. She met each thrust of Miranda's hips with her own and her thumb found the spot that made Miranda gasp so deliciously.
"Andrea!" Miranda cried out amazed that she was being so vocal. No one had ever brought that out in her. No one had ever made her feel like this, so alive and vibrating with need that built within her with every touch, until wave upon wave of pleasure crashed over her. Andrea held her as she recovered from the sensory overload. Breathing deeply, Miranda was aware of something that she had never experienced before. Her body was no longer her own, it was Andrea's to do with as she pleased, forever.
"Miranda," Andy found Miranda's ear and whispered, "I love you."
"I love you." Miranda smiled as the words slid off her tongue easily. She caressed Andrea's cheek then threaded her fingers through the waves of long dark hair surrounding Andrea's face. Raising up, Miranda captured the younger woman's lips then began to explore the leonine neck. She was intent on giving Andrea as much joy as she had just experienced.
Taking her time, Miranda began to learn Andrea's body, the curves, the sensitive spots, the places that made the young woman gasp. She had not thought it possible, but Miranda came to understand that as much as she enjoyed Andrea's attentions to her, she loved making love to Andrea just as much, if not more. She reveled in the sensation of making Andrea writhe under her with a mere touch. A slight shift would elicit a gasp from the already panting young woman and kissing the pulse point on Andrea's neck brought forth the most delicious moan imaginable. Kissing her way down Andrea's body, Miranda found herself looking up past the small expanse of skin to meet wide dark eyes, before lowering her lips to taste the one part of Andrea she had yet to sample.
"Oh..." Andy's hips bucked, "Oh, God... Miranda!" The deadly sharp tongue that could cut a designer to pieces with a few words, swirled deliciously. It was too much. Every muscle in Andy's body clenched and her eyes closed tightly as she collapsed back onto the bed. She tried to catch her breath, tried to form a coherent sentence. Nothing seemed to come to mind.
Pulling Miranda back up her completely satiated body, Andy kissed her lover, her partner, deeply, enjoying the taste of herself on Miranda's lips. "I love you."
"Mmmm..." Miranda snuggled down at Andrea's side, keeping as much skin contact as possible between them. "And I you."
They both dozed for a short time then Andy awoke to something tickling her foot. She moved it so it was back on the bed under the covers and looked to see Tay sitting near the edge of the bed. "Tay, that tickles."
Miranda roused at the rumbling words. "Hmm..." Sleep muddled, Miranda asked, "What?"
Andy laughed, "Taymor was licking my foot. It tickled."
"Mmm..." Settling back down, Miranda closed her eyes and mumbled, "Bad, Taymor..." She conceded that it was time to be getting up. "This is a lovely way to wake up, but we need to get cleaned up and get to the hospital."
Andy took a deep breath and agreed, "Yeah, but we have time. It's early. The girls will still be sleeping." She kissed Miranda temple and turned her lover slightly to see out of the room's large window. "Look," Andy smiled and pointed to the pinking clouds.
"It's a beautiful sunrise."
"Mmmm... it certainly is." Miranda smiled, "I told you we would share one, one day."
"More than one I hope." Andy squeezed the woman in her arms gently, "Maybe a few sunsets too?"
Miranda laughed, "Acceptable." She grinned wryly, "On a tropical island?"
"Of course." Andy laughed, "As soon as I win that lottery."
Patting the stomach under her hand, Miranda chuckled, "I think perhaps your aspirations as a novelist will pay off before the lottery idea pans out. You have sent the book to several publishers, yes?"
"Yes, but I'm not telling you which ones and you promised to stay out of that process."
"Yes, Andrea." Miranda spoke mockingly obedient, "I won't interfere. But I want my lawyer to look at any contract before you sign it."
"Of course, Miranda." Andy kissed the tip of Miranda's nose, "But lottery or book deal... so long as we get to be together, I'll be happy." She couldn't imagine a future for herself without Miranda and the girls in it. "C'mon... let's go check on the girls."
The ocean view from their patio was spectacular and had given them a wonderful perspective to watch the sunrise this morning. Now, Miranda and Andy watched the waves rolling toward the shore and grinned at the girls as they surfed the larger swells.
"So, this didn't take as long as I thought." Andy grinned. "The paperwork wasn't that bad."
Miranda laughed, "Keith has always known how to procure the best deals for his clients. He's a good lawyer."
"Well, I promised that when I sold my first book I'd take us all on a tropical island vacation... so," Andy gestured to the sand and ocean in front of them, along with the sky that was just turning from pink to blue, "here we are."
"Mmm... yes, well. They love the islands." Miranda grinned, "You will have to continue writing for years to come in order to satiate their need for the beach."
Laughing at that, Andy turned her head to look into her love's amused blue eyes. "I think I can manage that." The book's reviews were all amazing and it had been on the best seller's list for weeks. Although she didn't think it was going to be as huge as Harry Potter or Twilight, Andy knew that she had the potential for a popular series of books on her hands, or more accurately, in her head. Plus, there were a couple of stand alone novels she thought might make their way to the printed page, on occasion.
Miranda took a sip of her fruit juice concoction and asked, "When do you have to be at the bookstore, Andrea?"
"The signing doesn't start until ten." She laughed as Taymor romped at the edge of the rolling water sneezing when he poked his nose too far into the surf. "They'll send a car around nine-thirty I think." She asked, "Are you sure you don't want to join me?"
"Not today." Miranda shook her head. "I have a conference call to take at ten-thirty. We can still meet for lunch though, and take an excursion this afternoon to that cove we were told about."
"Excellent." Andy stood and stretched. "I'm gonna take a shower and get ready to meet my adoring fans."
"Mmm... need any help?" Miranda's blue eyes twinkled in the morning sun.
"Anytime." She offered her elbow as Miranda rose from her chair and spoke conversationally, "It was a lovely sunrise." She had grown to adore that time of morning spent quietly with Miranda.
"Mmm... yes," Miranda leaned into her partner's solid frame and grinned, "I would imagine the sunset will be spectacular as well." She had learned to love the multi-hued evening displays, especially when, at the end of them, she knew she would be spending the rest of the night in Andrea's arms.
Miranda chuckled at that and thought about how much things had changed since Andrea had re-entered her life. All too soon, Caroline and Cassidy would be going off to college and things would change again. But, she knew, one thing would never change, smiling at that thought Miranda spoke quietly. "I love you, Andrea."
Andy felt her breath catch as it always did, always had, when Miranda's smile appeared. "I love you too, Miranda."
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