DISCLAIMER: Iíll claim these characters as my own if I want them by god, but since I donít make any money off Ďem, then who cares? Honestly, some people!
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Inspired by a discussion started by grdnofevrythng and written for the dvlwears_prada community. This story takes place not long after Miranda had a very successful conclusion to her Paris trip. In other words, Andy didnít quit. Can you guess why?
DEDICATION: This story would not have been possible without the endless assistance of mercurychkita. She was invaluable and from the wonderful banner to the beta, she did it all. This story is hers as much as it's mine. Thanks, dude!
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.


By Susan L. Carr

 

Part 1

Andy struggled to keep up with Miranda's rapid-fire instructions as the editor paced around the office reviewing the run-through. Jocelyn struggled to pay attention while trying to dress a model in something that wouldn't completely offend Miranda's sensibilities. The model standing in the center of the room watched everything with a stunned look as Jocelyn adjusted the hem on the sweater she was displaying for the fifth time. Only Nigel serenely observed the chaotic scene. Andy was glad that at least she only had to think about fifteen things at once instead of having to do fifteen things at once on top of the thinking.

"Andrea, call Martinique and tell her I need those production samples immediately if she expects them to be featured in next spring's layout. Really, is it too much to ask for a small amount of lead time? Can't she find a suitable sweatshop somewhere that can get them done in a timely manner? Jocelyn, do you really expect me to admire that sweater much less keep my lunch? Have you lost your eyesight? Do something else. Andrea, go with Nigel to James Holt's studio today and harass that inept assistant of his until she gives you the reports I asked for last week. If she doesn't, then tell James to fire her."

She paused and then looked pointedly at Jocelyn. "Well?" she asked in her coldest voice.

Jocelyn looked panicked for a moment until finally Nigel pulled something from the rack. He motioned to the model to remove the offensive sweater and then he draped a sheer black silk wrap over her shoulders, accentuating the low-cut ivory blouse. Andy noted that the new combination gave the model wearing it a luminous glow. Miranda narrowed her eyes as she looked.

"Fine," she said curtly. "That's all."

Andy grumbled when Jocelyn and the model fled the office, leaving her to wheel the rack back to production while Nigel headed to his office. By the time she had returned, Emily was with Miranda receiving a new set of instructions. Nigel poked his head through the door and said, "Come on."

Andy stuffed her notebook and phone into her bag and grabbed her coat as she rushed to follow the fashion director. They got into the elevator and it paused a few floors down to allow the Elias-Clarke chairman in.

"Irv," Nigel murmured.

"Mr. Ravitz," Andy said politely.

"Nigel," Irv greeted and then looked at Andy. "How's life with Miranda, Andy?"

Andy gave him her sweetest smile. "Interesting," she answered and out of the corner of her eye she noticed Nigel smirking. "Definitely interesting."

"I'll bet," he said and turned to Nigel. "Are you looking forward to next week?"

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," Nigel said and gave the smaller man a thin smile. "I simply adore Spanish culture."

Irv turned to Andy. "What about you, young lady," he asked. "Are you interested in Spanish culture?"

Andy goggled at him a moment, wishing she knew what he was talking about. "Um, yes," she finally answered. "I uh…I spent three months in Seville before my senior year studying there."

Irv looked pleased and the small smile on his face grew wider. "Excellent," he said as they all stepped out. He pointed a finger at Andy. "I'll have my girl drop by with an invitation. I'll look forward to seeing you." He paused and turned. "Later, Nigel."

"Irv," Nigel nodded back. "Enjoy the rest of your day."

Nigel grabbed Andy's elbow and quickly led her to the town car waiting for them at the curb. As the driver pulled away, Andy turned to Nigel. "Invitation?"

Nigel didn't turn to Andy, instead he watched the pedestrians – okay, men really – on the sidewalk as they drove by. "Every year Irv throws a big masquerade." Andy smiled at his exaggerated air quotes. Nigel continued, "Each has its own theme. This year's is 18th century Spanish Culture."

Andy felt her mouth curling into a wry grin. "And let me guess, we're talking about the culture among the Spanish aristocracy and not the Spanish people."

"Of course," Nigel chuckled with a shrug. "What fun is having a party honoring the seething masses? Regardless, you'll enjoy yourself all the same. Some interesting people will be there for you to meet."

"Will Miranda be there?" Andy asked.

"Are you serious?" Nigel was obviously enjoying himself. "Miranda makes it a point every year to be conveniently out of town during Irv's events. That gives her a good excuse not to go. Besides, Miranda would rather wear baggy jeans with her boxer shorts showing than attend a costume party, no matter who's giving it."

"Costume party?" Andy squeaked. "I have to wear a costume?"

Nigel finally turned to her with a big smirk on his face. "Don't worry, darling. Your fairy godmother will make sure you're the belle of the ball."

"Oh boy," Andy breathed out.

Later that afternoon when Andy returned from her errand and gave Miranda the requested reports, she found a linen envelope on her desk with her name elegantly handwritten on the front. Emily glared at her as she opened it and Andy concluded that Emily did not get an invitation.

Inside was another handwritten card requesting her presence at the Fifth Avenue home of Mr. and Mrs. Irving Ravitz. Andy gulped. The Ravitzes didn't live in a house, they lived in a mansion. Well, Nigel had promised to help her so hopefully she wouldn't embarrass herself too much.

The card also invited her to bring along a companion and Andy gave a bitter chuckle at that. Even if Nate were still in town, he wouldn't go anywhere near this kind of society event. As it was, she had no intention of calling him in Boston to see if he was even interested. Their attempt at a long distance romance was a dismal failure.

Andy glanced up and saw Emily eyeing her again. She smiled. "So Em…this is for that Spanish thing Irv's throwing," she started.

"I know," Emily replied with a sniff. "Tranquility told me when she dropped it off."

"Wanna go?" Andy asked waving the invitation. "It says I can bring a date."

"Go with you?" Emily said scornfully. "Andrea, you are deluded. I hear those things are terribly boring. And besides, I already have a date for the theatre that night. Not that that's any of your business."

"Anyone I know?" Andy said and playfully wagged her eyebrows just to see Emily roll her eyes.

Miranda's voice floated out of the office. "Andrea."

"Oh well," she said. "Maybe next time." Emily glared at her and Andy smiled sweetly as she put her invitation away and then got back to work.

Later that night, after Miranda had left for dinner and Andy was waiting for the book, Nigel popped into the office and laid a long garment bag over her desk. Andy nearly squealed in delight as she unzipped the cover and spread the flaps.

"Oh, Nigel!" she breathed looking at the gown. It was dark charcoal with subtle floral highlights. Both sleeves were ruffled, leaving a wide expanse of bare chest in between. The midriff was cut in a slenderizing hour-glass design leading again to ruffles layering their way down and around the skirt. Pink and white pleated bows sat low at the hips, accentuating the full-length slit.

"Like it, do you?" he asked with a smile as he glanced fondly at the dress. "I knew you would."

"Like it?" Andy said. "I love it! They had gowns like this on display at the Flamenco museum in Cadiz. I never thought I'd ever wear one."

"Well, try it on then," he urged. "I'm sure it'll fit quite well, but I need to see if we have to do any nipping and tucking."

Andy picked up the gown and started for the restroom, but Nigel stopped her. "Use the kitchen, it's easier and no one will see," he said.

"What about you?"

"I promise to discretely hide my eyes," he said and made a dramatic show of turning his back. Andy slipped into the kitchen and started to undress. "So tell me about Spain," he said over his shoulder. "Feel free to discuss all your sordid intimate moments with any hot Latin lovers."

"Not a single one, I'm afraid," Andy said. "I was very devoted to Nate at the time."

Nigel made a dismissive noise in his throat and asked sarcastically, "Any word from the Boston Baster?"

Andy smiled. Nigel enjoyed making subtle jibes at her ex-boyfriend and made no effort to hide his contempt for the way Nate had up and left her. At moments when she was missing Nate, she'd think of Nigel and feel a little better. Fortunately her days were so full and busy with Miranda, she was missing him a lot less. Almost not at all, if she wanted to admit it to herself. Someone else was occupying her thoughts.

"Not a peep," Andy said. "Doug's been dropping hints that Nate might be seeing someone."

"And how do we feel about that?" Nigel asked. Andy smiled at his cautious tone.

"Fine, actually. In fact, so fine I think I might be over him," she said and reached around to zip up the gown. Fortunately the back was low-cut. She ran her hands down the sides of her torso, loving the way the fabric clung to her like it was a part of her skin. The dress felt wonderful and for the first time she was looking forward to Irv's party.

"Well, glory hallelujah and it's about time, sweetheart. There's a whole city full of men and women more worthy of your affections. You don't need anyone who threw yours…" Nigel turned around and then stopped in his tracks as Andy stepped out of the kitchen. He stared for a long moment and said, "Wow."

"Yeah?" Andy asked. "Really? I mean Chanel is one thing, but this is…" Andy trailed off.

"Perfect, my dear," he said twirling her around. He handed her a pair of Christian Lou's Mata Orlatos, the red soles contrasting wonderfully with the dark fabric. Andy slipped them on and loved the way they made her legs look and feel as they peeked through the slit of the dress. Wow, sexy.

"Can you dance?" Nigel asked.

"Dance?" Andy's eyes widened as she looked back at him, thrown by the out-of-nowhere question.

"Yes, you know that activity where people move their bodies to the rhythm of musical instruments…in this case plenty of castanets, guitars and tambourines."

Andy glared. "I am familiar with Spanish music."

"But can you dance?"

Andy looked at the floor and scowled at the plush carpet. She thought a moment and then grabbed Nigel's hand and pulled him out of the office and into the reception area. She let go of him and moved to the center of the area. Nigel looked intrigued as he leaned against the reception desk. Andy closed her eyes.

It had been a while so it took her a moment to recall her favorite palo, but the rhythm came back easily into her mind and she willed her breathing to match. A moment later she began snapping her fingers and a moment after that her feet started tapping out the percussion. Andy wryly thought that clacking had never sounded so good in the halls of Runway.

As she began to quicken the baile, she glanced at the astonished Nigel and smiled inwardly. She loved it when she was able to knock his cynical self off of its perch. Closing her eyes again, this time seeing the room's contents clearly in her mind, she started to enjoy herself as she spun and twirled. Even though it was only for Nigel, it had been a long time since she had danced this way. It was wonderful to just move to the rhythm in her head with her body expressing the passion of the dance. Andy realized how much she had missed it. Nate hated to dance, and he hated this style of dancing even more. To hell with him. Andy vowed to go dancing more often.

After a couple of minutes, she came to a spinning stop with a final stomp in front of Nigel. She opened her eyes and laughingly cried, "¡Olé!"

Nigel returned the laugh and clapped his hands. "Belle of the ball, indeed," he drawled. "Your talents far exceed my expectations and you are truly worthy of that gown." Then he looked over Andy's shoulder with a raised eyebrow and asked, "Wouldn't you agree?"

Andy spun around. To her horror she saw Miranda standing in the entrance to the offices and looking at her with narrowed eyes. Her mouth dropped open as Miranda slowly scanned her from head to toe and back again and then moved behind Andy to repeat the inspection. Andy was used to Miranda's critical examinations, but this seemed to last longer than usual and she realized the pounding in her chest had nothing to do with her recent exertions. She closed her mouth with a snap and unsuccessfully tried not to blush under the scrutiny.

"Mmm," Miranda said at last, still looking. "When dressing as a flamenco dancer, one should do it well. You'll include the proper accessories?"

Andy started to answer then realized Miranda was speaking to Nigel.

"Of course," Nigel said. "Valentino has a wonderful fringed shawl from last season that's perfect for the dress."

"Yes, I remember – the carnelian one," Miranda drawled. Andy rolled her eyes. Yeah, as if Miranda ever forgot anything, much less something made by Valentino. Miranda continued to stare. "I have a fan that'll do nicely. I'll send it over. That's all."

Andy started to sputter her indignation at being treated like nothing more than a Runway model, but Miranda forestalled that. "Andrea, I have a few calls to Tokyo to make so don't disturb me. Go home." With that, she disappeared down the hall.

"What the hell was that?" Andy said, turning to Nigel.

He looked amused, but simply shrugged at her question. "Who can guess what goes through that woman's mind? The true Miranda Priestly lies hidden beneath many layers no one dares reveal. In any case, at least you don't have to wait for the book tonight," he said and led the way back to the office. Andy noted that Miranda had shut the door behind her. "The fit is good," he said once again examining the gown and then waved her toward the kitchen.

Andy changed back into her clothing and replaced the gown in its bag. When she rejoined Nigel she asked, "Are you going with anyone?"

He scoffed. "No, but after going to all this trouble to make you look good, I might as well be your escort. That is, unless you have someone else in mind?"

"Nah, you kidding? I'd love to go with you," she said. "You'll be the best date I've had in a long time."

"I would take that as a compliment except I know your last date was with that odious Christian Thompson," he said dryly. "Come on, we'll share a car. I want to make sure that treasure gets home in one piece."

Andy gathered up her belongings, slung the heavy garment bag over her arm to keep it from dragging on the ground and, with a final look at Miranda's closed door, followed Nigel out of the office.

 

Part 2

Andy was checking her make-up one final time when she heard the buzzer for her apartment. She rushed into the living room and stuck her head out of the window. Standing on the sidewalk in front of her door was a Spanish matador dressed in a skintight gold and white lamé costume complete with red sash and black sequined hat.

"Nigel?" she laughed down at the figure.

Nigel looked up and scowled. "Please let me in before I attract a hoard of kinky admirers. In this neighborhood, it'll happen any moment now."

Andy was still chuckling as a minute later he swept into her apartment with a flourish of his classic rose cape.

"You look wonderful," she exclaimed. She did a Miranda and gave him the once over. "I like the stockings – they show off your legs nicely."

"Of course," he said. "Contrary to popular belief, I do have some sex appeal." He paused and tilted his head to look at her.

"Very nice," he said approvingly. He handed her a Coach shopping bag. Inside she found a gossamer shawl, a fan and a brocade reticule.

"Thanks," she exclaimed draping the shawl over her shoulders. "This is great."

"I know," he replied.

Andy picked up the fan and with a practiced flick, snapped it open and waved it daintily in front of her face while he laughed. "This is Miranda's?" she asked as she looked in the mirror.

"Mmm," Nigel agreed, standing behind her. Andy just loved the picture they made. "She received it as a gift from Carmen Sevilla, so I suggest you take care of it."

"No shit?" Andy said looking at the fan. "Maybe I shouldn't –"

"You must," Nigel interrupted. "Miranda will know if you don't use it."

"She left for Los Angeles this morning," Andy said. Nigel knew that.

"Do you really think that matters?" he said giving her a penetrating scowl.

Andy sighed. "You're right. She'd find out."

"Exactly," Nigel said. "In any case, you are lovely, my dear. The epitome of a Spanish gentlewoman."

"And you, sir," Andy said with a smile. "You make a wonderful matador."

"You don't think it's…I don't know, too swishy?"

Andy stared. "You do know that matador means 'killer,' don't you? And that matadors are so butch that even Ernest Hemingway wanted to be one?"

"Really?" he asked. "Hmmm, I didn't know that. I just thought that if I'm going to grab the bull by the horns I might as well look the part."

"Well, let's go find you a nice horny bull," Andy said and took his arm. "Shall we?"

The drive to the Ravitz home didn't take very long and when the car pulled up to the curb Andy noticed the paparazzi being held back by a red velvet rope.

"I didn't know this would be a red carpet event," Andy commented as the driver got out to open their door. Nigel exited the car first and then held out a hand to help Andy.

"Well, it's good PR for Elias-Clarke," he said as they made their way to the front door. Andy blinked, blinded by the flashing cameras. "Plus he can use it as a tax write off since it'll show up on Page Six tomorrow."

"Oh boy," Andy whispered.

"Do try to behave yourself," Nigel smirked.

In the foyer, a liveried butler took Andy's wrap and another led them up a grand staircase to the ballroom. Andy looked around in astonishment. Since coming to Runway, she had grown somewhat used to attending high society events, but always as Miranda's assistant, never as a guest. Still, she was delighted with the way the immense room had been transformed into a showcase. She could swear she was in one of the museum palaces she visited in Spain.

"Wow!" she whispered in awe. The room was filled with guests as equally decked out in period costumes and Andy could tell that many of them had spent thousands of dollars just for this occasion. For the first time she wondered where Nigel had gotten the gown for tonight since it was obviously not something he'd just picked out of the Closet.

"Ah," Nigel said and pointed at a group of people clustered nearby. "There are our hosts."

Andy bit back a burst of laughter as she noted Irv Ravitz dressed as Ferdinand VI of Spain. Before they reached the group she whispered to Nigel, "Do you think Irv knows Ferdinand was more French than Spanish?"

"Shhh," Nigel hissed back. "I think he's trying to piss off his wife."

"What?" Andy said looking around. "He wouldn't!"

"Oh yes he would," Nigel said sourly and indicated a portly woman standing next to Irv. Andy recognized Mrs. Ravitz and just as Irv was the king, so his wife was dressed as his queen, the homely Bárbara of Portugal who in her day was the butt of the day's society jokes, even as far as Ferdinand's relatives among the Bourbons in France.

Andy plastered a fake smile on her face as they finally reached the group.

"Irv," Nigel said, giving a short bow. "Or should I say…your majesty?"

Irv guffawed. "Let's save that for the next budget meeting, shall we?"

"Splendid idea," Nigel agreed.

Irv turned to Andy and kissed her hand. "My dear, you are exquisite."

"Thank you, Mr. Ravitz," Andy replied.

"Please…Irv," he said. "No need for formalities outside of work. Allow me to introduce my wife. Marie, this is Miranda's most accomplished second assistant, Andrea Sachs. She's been practically running Miranda's office for almost a year now."

Andy turned to the woman and made a small curtsey. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Mrs. Ravitz."

"How charming," she replied. "Your costume is lovely."

"Thank you," Andy said with a warm smile. "As is yours."

"Really?" Mrs. Ravitz said doubtfully.

"Absolutely…the attention to its historical accuracy is what really makes it shine," Andy said. "You know, I've always admired Princess Maria Bárbara. She was an accomplished keyboardist, the best of her time some say. As a young girl she studied under Scarlatti and later was his patron."

"I did not know that," Mrs. Ravitz said, glancing at Irv. Andy guessed he had only shared Ferdinand's wife's more humiliating aspects.

"Scarlatti's most famous sonatas were written especially for her to play at court. Ferdinand was totally smitten with her, of course. It was said that his heart broke the day she died and his passion for music went with her."

Nigel had a stunned look on his face and Andy noted Irv's glower. She turned back to Mrs. Ravitz who said, "Well, I can certainly see why you've survived Miranda this long, Andrea. You'll do well at Elias-Clarke."

Andy tried not to gloat at Irv as Mrs. Ravitz tapped a tall and dark man on the shoulder who was chatting with someone else. He turned around and Andy's eyes widened.

"Joaquín," she said. "May I present Andrea Sachs from Runway magazine? And of course you already know Nigel Kipling."

Andy managed to get the idiotic look on her face under control by the time the man had taken her hand and kissed it. "A pleasure, señorita," he said.

"Oh, no," Andy breathed. "El gusto es mío."

"Your accent is beautiful," he replied, also in Spanish. "You are not Spanish?"

"No, but I studied the language and spent some time there," Andy continued in Spanish. "Wonderful country."

"Andy is also a dancer, Joaquín," Nigel said in English. "Flamenco as well. I was quite surprised at her skill."

"Amazing," Joaquín said, glancing at Andy with bright eyes. "Irving has asked me to perform, but afterward perhaps you would honor me with a dance?"

"It would be my honor," she answered.

"I shall look forward to it," he said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I must get ready."

Andy and Nigel watched as he walked off. When he finally disappeared in the crowd Andy glanced at Nigel and laughed at his expression. "Naomi Campbell," she said.

He narrowed his eyes at her. "Giorgio Armani," he shot back.

"Mira Sorvino!"

"Oh please, is that the best you can do?"

"Well, regardless of his sexual preferences, he is nice to look at," she admitted wistfully.

"That he is," Nigel said. Andy noted that the Ravitzes were busy greeting other guests and Nigel started to lead them toward the open bar. "He is also older than you, my dear."

"What does that have to do with anything?" she asked, accepting the glass of champagne from the bartender.

"Not much," he admitted with a shrug, sipping at his own flute. "If you're just planning on a little fun. Are you?"

"With Joaquín?" Andy asked with a wry laugh. "Hardly. He's way too high profile for me."

"That he is," he agreed. "Then again, that has hardly stopped you from setting your sights on other high profile personalities."

All of the moisture in Andy's mouth suddenly dried up as she looked closely at Nigel. He was casually scanning the ballroom as if he had not said anything untoward.

"What…" She winced at the hoarseness in her voice and cleared her throat. "What are you talking about, Nigel?

"I know why you didn't quit Runway after Paris, Andy," he said and gave her a loaded look. Andy blushed and turned away to scan the party guests.

"Somebody has to watch your back," she finally answered, not looking at him.

"Please," he said. "It had nothing to do with me. In fact, I was surprised when you did stay, but then I figured out why."

"So why bring it up now?" she asked, turning toward him.

"You, too, need to grab some bulls, Andy. I don't want you to do what I did and let Runway and Miranda dominate your life. It's time you had some fun. I've watched you waste your time trying to salvage that sinking ship with your ex. I'm glad you're moving on, but I don't want you pining for someone who in all likelihood will never even notice you back," he said kindly.

Andy bit her lip. "You sound pretty certain about that."

"Not absolutely certain," Nigel said with a sigh. Andy felt a spark of hope. He obviously noticed it. "I will admit that she treats you differently than any other assistant she's had. And you didn't see her face when you gave your little flamenco performance that night."

"What?" she asked breathlessly.

He rolled his eyes. "There was a…small flicker of interest, but that's all it was, Andy. All it ever can be."

"Why?"

"Why?" he asked incredulously. "There are a lot of reasons why she wouldn't get involved with you, Andy. And lest your poor ego takes a dump, none of them have anything to do with you. The least of which is she's your boss for christ's sake."

"Maybe I should have quit," Andy mumbled.

"And risk ruining your career?" Nigel scoffed. "Stick it out, Six. Get your dream job and then – if you're still out of your mind – you can go after Miranda."

"You'll help?" she asked with a smirk.

"Don't I always?" he said, pointedly looking at her up and down.

"Where did you find this dress?" she asked.

"Special section of the Closet," he answered. "Where we keep garments of historical or special significance. I'm surprised you don't recognize it."

Andy looked down at the dress again. "Well, it kinda looks like a dress Julie Andrews wore in that drag queen movie." When Nigel didn't say anything she looked up to see him grinning. "Oh no! Really? Nigel!"

"A shame Julie didn't win the Oscar for that," he commented, ignoring her agitation. "Oh well, the competition was tough. Anyway, please take care of it, especially if you do decide to have a little fun with Joaquín."

"I won't…with Joaquín, I mean," she said. "I will take care of the dress."

"And why not?" he asked.

Andy shrugged. "Not really my style, you know?" she asked. "Hooking up with a guy when thinking about someone else?"

"Umm yes…like hooking up with Christian when you were pining for Nate?"

"Nigel!" God, was she ever going to be allowed to live that down?

He rolled his eyes again and looked up for heavenly assistance. "Then find a gorgeous woman," he said. "Pretend she's Miranda even, but for god's sake Andy, enjoy yourself."

"You gonna take your own advice?" she asked.

Nigel put down his glass and gestured toward the other end of the ballroom where the orchestra was sounding the first notes of the overture. "Well, if you're not going to take advantage of Joaquín, then maybe I will."

"Let's go watch him dance at least," Andy said and they followed the music.

"He is divine," Nigel breathed and Andy laughed.

 

Part 3

Andy was mesmerized as she watched Joaquín perform. He had disdained the period dress code and was wearing his signature black skin tight leggings, black heels and full-length black coat, open to reveal his naked torso underneath. Halfway through his baile he tossed his coat to the side of the dance floor and Andy heard Nigel let out a sigh beside her. She glanced at him and smiled at his enraptured expression. As the performance came to an end, she leaned over and whispered in his ear over the sound of the applause, "Don't you just love that hot gypsy blood?"

Nigel didn't reply as he watched the dancer take his bows and then leave the dance floor. Andy noticed the discarded coat lying nearby and she snatched it up and handed it to him. "Here, why don't you go give him his coat back?"

Nigel looked at her. "And what will you do?"

"Mingle," she said. When he didn't move or reply, she rolled her eyes. "I promise you, I'm having a great time. Go."

He took the coat and draped it over his arm and after bowing gallantly to her, headed off in the direction Joaquín had disappeared. She smiled and wished him luck and then grabbed another flute of champagne from a passing waiter.

Andy watched as Irv's next performer took the stage. By now she wasn't surprised to see another famous artist, this one a classical guitarist. Andy listened for a few minutes until she noticed someone looking at her from across the room. Not just any look, but a heated look she could feel run through her body just from its intensity.

At first she thought it was a man, but a moment later Andy noticed the feminine curves of a woman. She was simply dressed in black slacks, vest and cape. A white shirt and a red sash added color, as did the flash of gold decorating the four-inch heels on a mouth-watering pair of Jimmy Choo boots. She couldn't make out any details of the woman's face from this distance, especially with the disguising mask, but from what Andy could tell, she was very attractive. Andy grinned. Judging from the way the woman was looking at her, she found Andy just as attractive.

Andy was starting to feel a little warm under the gaze. Glancing around, she noticed that the ballroom opened out onto a balcony. She caught the woman's eyes again and gave her a slow smile before turning and heading for the balcony. With a thrill, she wondered if the woman would follow her. Andy felt like she was making the opening move in some kind of game. She didn't look back to see if the woman would play along.

Andy was enchanted by the view from the balcony, which opened out onto Central Park. The balcony was dark, but the lights from the city gave it a romantic glow. It was a beautiful New York evening and although she couldn't see any stars, the sky was clear and the air warm despite it being mid-autumn. She hadn't lived in New York long enough to know for sure, but she guessed evenings this perfect were rare.

As she leaned against the stone balustrade, she heard the sound of footsteps behind her. She smiled and slowly turned around. When she saw the figure there, she gasped in surprise.

"Expecting someone else, my dear?" Irv Ravitz asked as he joined her at the railing.

"Mr. Ravitz, yes…I mean…"

"Please, Andy. I said Irv," he said.

"All right," Andy said and glanced toward the balcony doors, disappointed that the strange woman hadn't joined her.

"Are you enjoying yourself?" he asked.

"Yes, thank you for inviting me," Andy said.

"It was my pleasure, my dear," he said with a shark-like smile. Andy started to get a really bad feeling. "Marie was impressed with your historical knowledge. So was I."

"Oh well, that was nothing," Andy said. "It's funny how you remember things from those courses you have to take rather than want to take. Stuff just kinda sticks whether you mean it to or not." She glanced at the open doorway and wondered how quickly she could get away before either of them embarrassed themselves.

"Oh yes," he said. He moved closer and put a hand on her arm. Apparently she hadn't gotten away quickly enough, Andy thought as she moved her arm. "Still, you're pretty sharp…a lot sharper than most of Miranda's girls. Maybe I can help you move up that ladder? There's a lot I can do for you, Andy."

Okay seriously, was that the best he could do? Andy had professors in college who made better passes. She wanted to laugh at him, but decided on discretion. "That's a kind offer, Mr. Rav…I mean Irv," Andy said. "I'm very happy with Miranda, but I'll get in touch with you if I ever need a letter of recommendation or something."

"There's a lot more I can do for you than just a letter, Andy," he said.

Andy decided it was time to end this. "I'm sure, but let's talk about it later. Right now I'm here with someone and I really should go find them."

Irv gave that hearty laugh that Andy was quickly coming to despise. "Yes, sweet Nigel," he said. "Don't worry about him, my dear. I'm sure he doesn't need you, you're not his type. You have certain…assets…he doesn't appreciate like I do."

"No, really," Andy insisted and contemplated whether to lie to him or smack him. She decided a fib would at least save her job for the moment. "I'm meeting someone here…a date. Your invitation did say I could bring one."

Irv's eyes narrowed in displeasure. "Yes, that it did. However, for some reason I don't believe you, my dear."

Andy decided she didn't care if this rich and powerful asshole who signed her paychecks could get her blackballed from every publication in New York, she wasn't going to take this crap from anyone and she opened her mouth to let him know that when she heard the noise of someone clearing their throat.

Both of them turned and Andy's heart jumped to see the mysterious woman in black standing in the doorway looking at her.

"Lo siento que soy atrasado, mi amor," the woman said softly and then added in heavily accented English. "You will forgive me, por favor?"

"Of course," Andy replied. "You can't help that you're late. I'm glad you're here now."

Irv's eyes narrowed as he looked at the woman in the dim light of the balcony. By then she had joined Andy at the railing and taken her arm in a possessive manner. Andy's heart thrilled at the touch.

"Señor Ravitz," the woman said. "Thank you for inviting us to your home. It was most generous of you."

"Not at all, Señora…"

"Máscara," she replied. Andy just barely repressed a bark of laughter. She doubted Irv knew the name simply meant 'mask' in Spanish. She glanced at the woman out of the side of her eyes and realized with a thrill that the other was indeed playing along – not only in their ruse to circumvent Irv, but also as a part of their own private game.

"Señora Máscara," Irv said. "A pleasure, I'm sure. You know Andy from her time in Spain?"

"Indeed," she replied and didn't elaborate further.

Andy bit back a smirk as Irv seemed out of sorts. He simply stood there in his ridiculous costume and then finally shrugged. "Well, I should go find Marie. Enjoy your evening, ladies."

"We will," Andy promised and breathed a sigh of relief as he finally left. She turned to the woman and said, "Thanks for the save. I was about to belt him."

"I would not have blamed you in the least," she replied.

Andy tried to get a closer look, but the darkness hid the woman's features well. "Máscara?" she asked. "Is that really your name or did you say that just because you're wearing one?"

"Does it matter?" the woman asked.

Andy shrugged. "I suppose not. At least, not tonight."

"No," Máscara said softly. "Tonight is for pleasure and the enjoyment of beauty."

"All right," Andy agreed and took Máscara's hand in hers. It was smooth and warm, but Andy could tell it was the hand of an older woman. "You remind me of someone."

"Who?"

Andy shrugged. "Someone I work with. Someone I'd like to be closer to, but can't."

"Why not?" Máscara asked.

Letting go of Máscara's hand, Andy turned to look at the park. "It's someone I work for," she emphasized, a blush rising in her face. "It's not a good idea to get involved with professional superiors, especially her."

"You care for her?"

Andy nodded. "Yes, I…I do, more than I should." She turned and looked at Máscara and tried to make out her features in the dim light. With the mask and the hat, the only thing she could see were the bright blue eyes shining at her. Andy couldn't read the expression in Máscara's eyes, but they intrigued her with their familiarity. "In any case, she's not here and it'll never happen anyway. She'd never want me and even if she did, it couldn't happen because of work." Andy paused. "I'm sorry, that's probably not something you want to hear."

"It doesn't matter," Máscara said, waving off the apology. "What if tonight – just for tonight – you forget about work? You can be the beautiful Spanish señorita and I can be the gallant caballera who has admired you from afar for a long time." Andy felt herself being turned around and then enveloped in Máscara's arms. Andy's heart thumped pleasantly in her chest. "Tonight, I give you permission to forget who I am." Andy tried to grasp on to that last bit because she was pretty sure she was missing something there, but the feel of Máscara's lips on hers made all rational thought crash to a halt.

Andy's heart pounded as Máscara's kiss sent jolts through her body, the other woman's tongue exploring her mouth like she was a treasure found. Andy's hands wandered upward until they were cupping Máscara's neck. Andy loved the feel of the woman's hair tickling her fingers. After endless moments she pulled away with a gasp. "Not…not here," she breathed, pushing away from the other woman on weak legs. Wow, what a kiss!

Máscara looked confused.

"Not here in Irv Ravitz's house," Andy chuckled. "Where I was sexually harassed not more than ten minutes ago."

The woman nodded and Andy was thrilled to see that she was as flustered as Andy was. "I…um, I have a driver, do you want to…?" She pulled her cell from the reticule.

Máscara silently nodded again and Andy made a quick call to Roy. Máscara led the way through the darkened ballroom – Andy noted that the dancing had begun – and by the time Andy had collected her Valentino wrap the car was waiting for them. Máscara guided Andy swiftly past the waiting paparazzi and into the car. With her heart pounding in her chest, she asked Roy to take them to her apartment.

Fidgeting and trying to look anywhere other than at Máscara, a nervous Andy tried to make small talk. "I like the accent," she said. "Andalusian?" She glanced quickly at the other woman.

Máscara's lip curled up in amusement. "Sí," she murmured drolly.

"Great, that's really…" Andy tapered off, feeling like an idiot. She looked out the window. What the hell was she doing, inviting a stranger home? A stranger so much like the one she really wanted, but couldn't have. Would it be so wrong to do as Nigel and even Máscara said and live for the now?

Andy looked at Máscara. As their eyes met, Andy opened her mouth to say this was maybe a bad idea. Before she could speak, Máscara slid across the seat and kissed her again. Andy gave a passing thought to what Roy might think, but once again gave up rational thought when she felt Máscara's tongue against her own.

The trip to Andy's apartment went by quickly in an endless succession of kisses. By then, Andy's hands were trying to make their way under Máscara's blouse, but her efforts were hampered by the sash. She was about to rip it off in her frustration when she heard Roy clear his throat and she looked up in confusion, suddenly remembering where they were. Máscara quickly got out of the car. Andy opened her door, but paused and said to Roy, "Um, Nigel's still at the party…at least I think he is, can you…"

"Got it covered," he said, his eyes sparkling in the mirror. "Enjoy your evening, Andy."

"Uh, yeah…thanks," she said and Máscara practically yanked her out of the car. "G'night!" she squeaked. Máscara slammed the car door shut and waited while Andy fumbled with the keys to the building's front door. Upstairs she embraced Andy from behind and nibbled on her neck. Andy tried but couldn't manage to fit the key into the lock, not with Máscara's hot tongue trailing wetly along her neck. She could feel her nipples contracting at the touch of Máscara's hot breath on her skin and that caused her to nearly drop them altogether.

Máscara finally grabbed the key ring from Andy's hand and jammed the key into the lock with impeccable accuracy. "Not so difficult, is it?"

"God!" Andy giggled. "Impatient?"

"Yes!" Máscara growled, her voice hoarse with lust. She made an approving sound as Andy swung the door open.

Máscara followed Andy into the dark apartment and the moment Andy had the door locked, she had Andy pressed up against it. Andy felt the heat of Máscara's body through the fabric of their clothing and that served to remind her of Nigel's admonition.

"Wait," she cried, pulling back.

Máscara rumbled deep in her throat and in the darkness Andy saw her eyes flare in frustration.

"Sorry, but this dress…it's special, I can't…I don't want to ruin it."

Máscara ran her hands over the snug midriff of the dress, her fingers nearly brushing Andy's sensitive breasts. Máscara leaned in for another passionate kiss and pressed in even closer, crushing the frills and ruffles of the heirloom dress between them, and as Andy clutched harder to Máscara, she forgot about everything except this incredible woman. When Máscara finally pulled her lips away, Andy looked at her shadowy form in confusion.

"What?" she rasped.

"¿La cama, mí amor?" Máscara whispered and Andy thought she might swoon. God, put her in a period dress and she turns into a simpering fool. However, with Máscara nibbling again at her neck she really didn't care at this moment so she took Máscara's hand and led her to the bed, kicking off her heels as she went.

Andy pushed Máscara's hat and mask off, wishing she had left a light on so she could finally see the other woman's face, but decided in that moment she didn't want to ruin the fantasy. Besides, with Máscara's hands working at the dress's fastenings and Máscara's breath brushing hotly against her skin, she really didn't want to take the time to turn a light on. Not when Máscara was pushing the dress from her shoulders and Máscara's hot mouth was moving wetly from one breast to the other and she was pressing her long firm body against Andy's as her dress fell to a pool on the floor.

"Oh yes," Andy whispered, clutching to Máscara as they embraced. "Please, I want to…I want…"

"Yes," Máscara murmured. Finally given permission, Andy clawed at the sash until it unraveled to the floor and then hurriedly undid the ivory buttons on Máscara's shirt. She slipped the garment off of Máscara's shoulders and her hands trembled as she finally felt the warm flesh underneath. Andy ran her hands up Máscara's sides until she felt the silky lace of her bra. She cupped Máscara's breasts through the thin fabric and nearly swooned again at the sound of Máscara's gasp.

"Oh that's…that's perfect," Andy whispered. "You're perfect." She found her own undergarments quickly stripped by Máscara's nimble fingers and she grabbed at Máscara's clothing. "Off. Now, please."

"Who's impatient now?" Máscara chuckled. Andy didn't argue since she was too busy unfastening Máscara's trousers. She pushed until Máscara sat on the bed and then she quickly kneeled to strip Máscara's legs. She struggled briefly with the Jimmy Choos and reflected that Máscara certainly was fashionable at least, not that Andy cared about that right at this moment, not when the smooth and warm calves hidden under the boots felt so divine under her hands.

When she joined Máscara on the bed, she was delighted at the feel of hot naked flesh against her own. She moaned and rolled them both over until she was lying on top. Máscara reached for Andy, but Andy pulled away and, rising up on her arms, looked down at the shadowy figure beneath her. In the darkness, she could almost believe it was Miranda with her.

"What is it?" Máscara whispered caressing Andy's face.

"You feel so beautiful," Andy said. Then she leaned down to kiss the amazing woman in her bed.

It had been a while since she had made love with someone, and even longer since she had been with a woman. Andy was nearly overwhelmed at the passion Máscara made her feel. The other woman touched her so tenderly that Andy felt like her body was on fire. She worshipped Máscara's breasts with her mouth and when Máscara's legs parted enough for Andy to slip her thigh between them, she thought she would burn with the heat emanating from where they met. Andy returned to Máscara's lips, feeling as if she could spend the rest of her life kissing this woman.

Andy felt the sweat between them start to build which eased the way as Máscara started to rock her hips against Andy's upper thigh. Andy kept kissing Máscara, her tongue exploring the other woman's depths. Máscara's hands moved down Andy's back until they were cupping the cheeks of her ass. She shifted them both until her own thigh was pressed up against Andy and then they were moving together.

Andy mouthed over Máscara's face, tasting her skin. "Oh god, that feels so good," she breathed into Máscara's ear. "You feel so good."

"Yes," Máscara whispered back, clutching to Andy even harder. "Faster!"

"God, bossy much?" Andy whispered.

Máscara turned her head and grabbed Andy's earlobe between her teeth, giving it a painful bite before letting go. "I said, faster!"

Andy moved against Máscara, rebelliously refusing to comply with the demand. "You're not my boss," she said. Her body did not agree with that since it had wholeheartedly bought into the illusion that she was with Miranda. "You don't get to tell me what to do."

"Oh no?" Máscara whispered. "And if your superior were here, would you do what she told you?"

"No," Andy said and ground herself harder against Máscara. Oh god, that felt good. "Not…not here. Not in bed." She nearly choked out the last.

"Then what would you want to do with her?"

Andy recognized something in Máscara's tone. God, she even sounded like Miranda. The wetness flowing from her onto Máscara's thigh increased and she slid more easily. "God, everything. I'd do everything I've ever fantasized about."

"Tell me," Máscara demanded. "Tell me what you would do."

"Everything," Andy said uselessly again. She didn't want this to end so soon even though it felt so incredibly wonderful and she could tell that Máscara was close too. She stopped moving. "But first…first I'd want to taste you."

"Do it," Máscara ordered. "Taste me."

Andy returned to Máscara's lips and passionately kissed her, wishing for just a moment that she was kissing Miranda instead.

"Okay." Andy grinned against Máscara's mouth. "But only because you asked so nicely." She moved her way down the wonderful body underneath her and placed a kiss on Máscara's firm stomach.

Máscara's legs opened for her and when Andy reached the soft hair, she nuzzled with her nose, enjoying the smell. God, she had missed this. As she moved her tongue along Máscara's damp slit, she felt Máscara arch into her. With a groan, Andy dove in head first and found herself drowning.

Máscara's thighs tightened against Andy and she let out a long and drawn out "Ohhh!"

Andy pressed closer and using her hands, she spread Máscara wider so she could slip two fingers inside. Máscara moaned again and, encouraged, Andy began to move them in and out until she matched their rhythm with that of her tongue against Máscara's body. Andy slowly increased the rhythm until she felt Máscara begin to shudder around her. She wrapped her lips around Máscara's clit and sucked hard while Máscara arched off the bed and came with a hoarse cry.

Andy gently licked Máscara's now swollen skin while the other woman got her breath under control. Finally she sat up and pulled Andy into her lap. Andy wrapped her legs around Máscara and thrilled as their breasts pressed together and then their lips in a heated kiss.

"So beautiful," Máscara whispered. "Quiero hacerte el amor."

"God, yes," Andy whispered. "I want you to."

"Yes," Máscara echoed and moved her hand between Andy's legs.

At Máscara's first touch against her wet center, Andy cried out. Máscara seemed to know just what to do and although Andy wanted to prolong the pleasure, she felt herself rushing quickly toward orgasm. She gripped Máscara harder as she tipped over the edge with a ragged cry.

"Don't stop," she growled and reached her hand to touch Máscara just like she was touching Andy. Máscara groaned at the contact and Andy was careful to keep her fingers to the side of Máscara's tender clit as she rubbed. Máscara used her free hand to pull Andy into a scorching kiss, their panting breaths mixing together. Andy felt her body again speeding to completion and she cried in Máscara's ear, "Come with me…come with me, now."

The words seemed to trigger Máscara and a second later Andy felt them both coming together. She squeezed her legs tighter around Máscara's waist and held on as they both rode out the experience.

"Oh god," Andy whispered. "Oh god, that's…so so good."

"Mmm," Máscara agreed.

Andy cupped Máscara's face and kissed her again and again with a series of light exploratory kisses. She moved from Máscara's mouth to her cheeks and finally made her way up Máscara's nose, pressing a delicate kiss on the small bump she discovered there. Andy smiled; Miranda has a bump on her nose just like that. It was a slight imperfection that only served to heighten Miranda's perfection.

Andy paused. What?

Máscara hugged Andy closer and sighed a single word, "Andrea."

Andy froze. There was only one person who ever said her name that way. Oh god.

"Miranda?" she whispered.

"Mmm?"

"Oh god."

Máscara…er, Miranda leaned back. "What's wrong?"

"Oh god." Andy knew she really should say something else, but she couldn't think of anything else. She leaned to the side of the bed and flipped on the nightstand lamp. Miranda blinked her eyes at the light and looked at Andy.

"What's wrong with you?" she asked.

"Miranda?" Andy said again stupidly.

"Of course…wait. What?" Miranda said, the confusion on her face turning to astonishment. "You didn't know it was me?"

"Uh…" Andy tried to move off of Miranda's lap, but found herself trapped by surprisingly strong arms. "Um…maybe?"

"Maybe?" Miranda asked, appalled. "Maybe? How could you not know it was me?"

"Well, you were all with the costume and the mystery and the perfect accent," Andy defended.

"I am perfect in many things," Miranda said and with the pleasure from Miranda's touch still throbbing between her legs, Andy had to agree with her. "Tell me Andrea, do you often make love to strange women?"

"No," Andy said. "Never, but…"

"But what?"

Andy stopped and looked at Miranda as she tried to control her thoughts. Miranda had never looked more beautiful than she did at this moment, even though she looked ready to tear Andy's head off. Andy knew she had to tread carefully because she didn't want a simple misunderstanding to put a stop to what they had started. Not when she finally had a taste of what she'd wanted for so long.

She pushed back a lock of the wonderful silver hair she had always admired and now thrilled at its softness. "No, I don't," she said. "But I've wanted you for such a long time and tonight, at the masquerade, you reminded me so much of you that I just wanted to…I guess I wanted to make that fantasy a little real. In my mind I wasn't making love to a stranger, I was making love to you."

Miranda looked as if she was struggling to keep hold of her anger. "Well?" Miranda finally asked. "Did reality match your fantasy?"

Andy shook her head and Miranda glared. "No," she whispered, leaning closer. "It far exceeded my expectations." Andy bent in for another kiss and this time, now that she knew she was kissing Miranda and not just a substitute for Miranda, she reveled in it. Apparently Miranda did too because when Andy finally let her go, she had a dazed look on her face. When their eyes met, Andy knew she had been forgiven.

"What are you doing here?" Andy asked, wonderingly. "You're in Los Angeles."

"Does this look like L.A. to you?" Miranda retorted.

Andy rolled her eyes. "And Nigel said you wouldn't be caught dead at a costume party."

"Normally, I would never attend one," Miranda sniffed and then added, "I made an exception."

"You attended an event you hate just to be with me?" Andy asked feeling smug.

"I am finding it hard to remember exactly why I did if you insist on being so infuriating." Before Miranda could continue, Andy stopped her with another kiss. It worked again and Andy thrilled at finally discovering a surefire method of shutting Miranda up.

"So," Andy whispered when they came up for air. "Does this mean you like me as much as I like you?"

"I am naked in your bed in a tiny railroad flat in the Lower East Side," Miranda said. "What do you think?"

"Uh, maybe?"

"Your cognitive process in the afterglow is fascinating," Miranda said and Andy could see the amusement in Miranda's eyes.

"Will you stay the night?" Andy asked.

"Yes," Miranda replied simply. "I'm in L.A., remember? We have the entire weekend."

Andy thrilled at the idea, but then she bit her lip as something occurred to her. "What about work? I mean…" she broke off. She didn't want to ruin the moment, but she worried anyway.

"We'll figure something out," Miranda said. "It's time you moved on anyway."

"You're firing me?" Andy asked, aghast.

"Of course not," Miranda said, rolling her eyes. "But you're right in that we cannot keep working together. That is, if you wish to continue to be lovers." Miranda quirked an eyebrow at her.

"Oh yes," she breathed and tightened her embrace. "Now that I've got you, I'm not letting you go anytime soon, lady."

"Indeed," Miranda said. "Well, I certainly have always admired your determination. In any case, we'll figure something out."

"All right," Andy agreed. She paused and looked intently into Miranda's eyes.

"What is it?" Miranda asked softly.

"You're a wonder, Miranda Priestly," she answered. "And now that you've taken the mask off, I'm going to enjoy discovering the real woman underneath."

Miranda tilted her head as she examined Andy's face. "I assure you I'll keep you on your toes, Andrea Sachs."

"I know you will," Andy replied with a laugh. "That's part of the fun. And I'm going to love every minute of it."

Miranda's answering smile melted Andy's heart so she did the only thing she could think of. She kissed the beautiful unmasked woman she had finally captured.

The End

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