DISCLAIMER: The Devil Wears Prada and its characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a femslash story... there aren't any graphic love scenes though (sorry) so I think it should be rated at least PG-13. I really am terrible at rating these things though. Many thanks to my myriad of beta readers, the all-knowing Kam, Quiethearted, ryoshu, shesgottaread, and Jazwriter... at least I think Jazzy read it... maybe, sigh I'm getting old and my mind is going.. ;) Anyway, I tweaked it after they read it... so any mistakes you find are mine, don't blame them. ;) Now, on with the story.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To xenabard[at]hotmail.com
"Da Plane! Da Plane!"
Fluffy white clouds floated through the brilliant blue sky. Mr. Roarke squinted up through the window at the sound of the bell in the tower signaling the seaplane's approach. He finished the form he was working on then left his office. Exiting the building at a leisurely pace, he smiled as his assistant joined him in front of the main house.
"Good morning, Boss."
"Good morning, Tattoo."
They climbed into the safari style, covered but open-sided, vehicle popular on the island and began the drive toward the dock. They arrived just as the hydroplane touched down on the water. As it taxied to the dock, the tall, gray haired man adjusted his black tie slightly then gestured to the gathered people. "Smiles, everyone... smiles!" He gestured for the musicians to begin, and buttoned the jacket on his white suit then waited for the first of the passengers to disembark. He grinned when his diminutive friend began the inevitable questions.
"I'm seeing double. Who are they, Boss? They look very young."
"That they are, my friend."
Tattoo continued watching the passengers emerge from the plane, "Is that their mother? The fashion lady?"
"It is indeed the, ah... fashion lady." He smiled at his small friend's term. "Her name, is Miranda Priestly. The twin girls are her sixteen year old daughters, Caroline and Cassidy. It is their fantasies that we have contracted to fulfill." He studied the trio carefully; the girls were taking in the sights as was Miranda. Miranda, however, was scanning the area while also speaking on the phone. Tattoo's comment was expected.
"What is their fantasy?"
"They each wish for different but similar things, the bulk of each girl's fantasy will require their mother to... relax and be... happy, for at least a little while." He studied the trio closely.
"That is easy, Boss. Who wouldn't relax and be happy spending time with their family here on the island?"
"That is true, but it will require more than that, and it is not as easy as it seems. Happiness can be found in all sorts of places, Tattoo. But you must be willing to accept it," His voice took on an introspective tone, "... or, risk it walking away." He caught Miranda's eye and gave her a chiding look. After only a few moments, she concluded her call and tucked her phone away in her purse. "It was the daughters who made arrangements for this trip and it will be more than just a weekend. Ms. Priestly and her daughters will be staying with us all next week, which is why we set up an office for Miranda's use. For any business that might need attended to while she is here on the island."
"What? The daughters arranged it? No, Boss... please tell me they didn't pay with their piggy banks. I have to balance the books you know? Paying more out than we bring in is..."
"Shhh..." Mr. Roarke smiled. "Calm yourself, my friend, they do not have piggy banks, they have trust funds. Both of their parents are quite wealthy and have provided ample finances for their daughters' futures. We have been well compensated for their stay. Your accounting books will reflect that soon."
After a slightly derisive, but tolerant, glance at Tattoo, Mr. Roarke turned his attention to the new arrivals. He accepted a glass of champagne from a waitress, as Miranda, Caroline and Cassidy also accepted their drinks. Champagne for Miranda, grape juice for the girls. "My dear guests, I am Mr. Roarke, your host." He held up his glass in a toast to them, "Welcome, to Fantasy Island."
Stopping mid-step up to his house, Mr. Roarke turned to see one of his newest arrivals. "Yes, Ms. Priestly? Do your accommodations meet your approval?"
"Miranda, please, and yes, the suite is acceptable." She stepped up one step, to be eye level with the gray haired man, "I'm told you have an office set up for me. I would like to see it now."
"Oh." His smile faltered. "I had assumed after your journey here you would take the rest of the evening to settle in. With all the arrangements finalized this afternoon, I gave your assistant the rest of the day off." He gestured back down the steps. "This way," He guided her to a small hard packed dirt path, "I will show you the space myself."
"Very well." Miranda followed his lead to a small hut, secluded in a grove of trees. Once inside, Mr. Roarke demonstrated how the windowed doors on one entire wall folded open for a completely unimpeded view of the beach. Miranda was surprised, but didn't show it. "You believe this is an appropriate office?"
"It was the best we could do in the time we had." He indicated the desk and the computer setting on it. "All the equipment is state of the art, I assure you." He gestured toward the open wall, "and this way you can see your daughters on the beach. The doors, once closed, cannot be opened from the outside. It's all perfectly secure, no one will enter this room without your express authorization." His eyes crinkled at the edges when Miranda's gaze followed his hand and held on a figure walking toward them, across the sand. His lips twitched slightly even as Miranda's jaw went momentarily slack. "Ah, yes... the assistant I procured for you. I believe you are acquainted with her." His calculating eyes took in every tiny reaction on Miranda's face, as the young woman walked toward the hut.
Miranda blinked, and blinked again, but the vision refused to clear. Her mouth snapped closed then she licked her lips and barely whispered the name, "Andrea." It had been almost four years since she'd seen Andrea, walking down the sidewalk after waving awkwardly. Miranda drank in the sight of her. Andrea had always been quite tall but now seemed thinner than Miranda remembered. The outfit might have something to do with dispelling the illusion of weight. The wraparound skirt was low on her hips, well below her navel. The gap in the skirt gave tantalizing glimpses of a long length of tan, barefoot, leg as Andrea walked toward her. The bikini top was enough to cover the essentials, but far less than most bras would. Miranda's eyes were drawn to Andrea's face; tan and healthy, contrasting beautifully with her wavy dark hair. Bright white teeth appeared when Andrea smiled, the expression touching her eyes. Those eyes, Miranda's heart thumped painfully in her chest, dear God, those eyes. They haunted her dreams. Andrea moved closer and spoke, softly, almost bowing.
"Hello, Miranda." She stood, confident before her former boss. "I was walking on the beach and saw you here. Is there something I can do for you?"
"No." Miranda swallowed against the dryness of her throat and took a deep breath, "No, I simply wanted to inspect the facilities."
Mr. Roarke spoke up, "I trust everything meets with your approval."
"Yes..." Miranda didn't shift her gaze from Andrea's eyes, "It will do."
"Andrea was instrumental in the organization and layout of the office." Mr. Roarke smiled at the young woman, "She was quite insistent on... certain things."
Miranda was mesmerized by Andrea's laughter. It moved through her like a warm breeze, clearing away the cobwebs and filling spaces within her that had long been empty.
"The only thing I really insisted on was a coffee machine that made a decent brew." Andy smiled again, at Miranda. "Did you need me this weekend? Or shall I just meet you here on Monday morning?"
She didn't need to be here tomorrow, but found herself making arrangements to meet Andrea in the temporary office in the afternoon. For an hour or so, she had said, just to make sure things were going well back in New York. Andrea had almost bowed as she agreed, using the words that Miranda had only heard in her dreams for so long.
"Yes, Miranda." She tilted her head in a sort of goodbye gesture, "Mr. Roarke." Andy encompassed both people in her farewell. "Have a nice evening." Without another word, she turned and left the way she had arrived, walking barefoot across the sand.
Miranda watched Andrea walking away. As dumbfounded this time as she was that day in Paris, Miranda could only watch the young woman leave. The wrap-around skirt swayed gracefully as Andrea left. This time, however, Andrea would return. Tomorrow afternoon, Miranda would see the young woman again. At that time, Miranda thought as anger began to burn through the shock of seeing Andrea again, she will answer for her actions. Miranda's blood nearly boiled at the memory of that day on the steps in Paris. She will pay for leaving me.
After a fitful night's sleep, Miranda spent the morning distracted beyond all reason. Breakfast was a blur but she somewhat remembered a few bites of fruit and a lovely juice concoction. She had watched and even laughed at the girls' antics while they were playing in the ocean and surfing a little. She had been appropriately attentive to any and all of their requests, but the upcoming meeting with Andrea dominated the thoughts in the back of her mind. Lunch was another meal that she deemed delicious but ate only a few bites of, while nodding at the twins' animated renditions of their adventures on the beach that morning, recounting some of the little things they'd seen that Miranda, sitting in her beach chair, had been too far away to share.
When lunch was over, the girls wanted a lesson in hula dancing. Miranda had watched the dancers for a moment, then went to her temporary office. She walked through the door exactly fifteen minutes prior to the meeting time she had told Andrea. She stopped just inside when the spectacular view of the ocean and a familiar voice greeted her.
"Good afternoon, Miranda."
Focusing on the young woman, Miranda was again nearly speechless. Andrea's hair was pulled into a tight bun instead of the waves it had been allowed yesterday and the island garb was gone, replaced with very conservative business attire. It was a cream-colored power suit, with a knee-length skirt though, not slacks. The color and light fabric were both appropriate for the island conditions. A matching pair of pumps enveloped Andrea's feet.
The flash of anger she had experienced yesterday dissipated quickly. She'd never had any intention of punishing Andrea for her decision so long ago in Paris. Miranda had long since forgiven that choice. She had given her a recommendation that assured Andrea a job after all. Recalling all the sordid details of that time, Miranda knew that Andrea's walking away had as much to do with her own actions as it did with Andrea's growing sense of self. Miranda had given the young woman a choice. That was the way it was with choices. Once the decision was made, she had to live with it.
Miranda had learned not to give people choices unless she could live with all the possible outcomes. That was the main problem. The outcome of Andrea's choice, of Andrea walking away, was that Miranda no longer interacted with the brilliant, beautiful, engaging woman on a daily basis. The reaction to that consequence had surprised and dismayed her for a long time. Miranda found herself returning the smile Andrea graced her with and wondered how she had lived these past few years without seeing that every day. More than that, Miranda fleetingly wondered how she would live without it after this trip was over. "Good afternoon, Andrea." She went into semi-Dragon Lady mode. "Do you have reports from New York?"
"Yes," Andy moved to meet Miranda in the middle of the room and handed her a folder she'd been holding. "Nigel says everything is going smoothly there."
"Hmmm..." Miranda had her doubts about that assessment. She slid her glasses into place as she flipped open the folder and moved to her temporary desk. As she sat, Andrea moved to stand in the doorway connecting the small room with a tiny kitchenette space.
"Miranda?" Andy smiled as her boss looked up over the top of her glasses. "Coffee?"
Nodding at that, Miranda resumed her perusal of the folder and its contents. Amazingly, Nigel's assessment of the office status was correct, things were going smoothly there. Of course it was Saturday, they would have to wait and see what Monday brought for a true glimpse of Runway's operational status. "Did Nigel send the pictures from the latest shoot?"
"Yes, Miranda." Andy carried a fresh coffee from the kitchenette, setting it on the desk in front of Miranda, then retrieved the pictures in question. "He sent a note with his thoughts on each model's suitability..."
"Mmm..." Miranda opened the folder containing the pictures. Nigel's note was set aside immediately. "I will look them over myself first. Then I shall see what Nigel's recommendations entail."
"Of course, Miranda." Andy returned to her small desk and waited for Miranda's next order.
Miranda looked at the same page of photos for ten full minutes. The silence in the room was only broken by the occasional ocean wave breaking against the rocks a hundred or so yards away. It was not awkward, or uncomfortable but finally, Miranda broke the silence.
Dispensing with the pretense of looking at the Runway items, Miranda focused on Andrea. "Why are you here?"
Taking a deep breath, Andy licked her lips and nodded, as if she had known the question was coming. "I'm here, because Mr. Roarke said you needed me."
"Mmm..." Andy smiled, "He explained that you would be here on the island for a week and would need a temporary assistant. He didn't feel that any of his own people knew you and Runway protocols well enough nor did he believe that any of your other former assistants were appropriate, because you had fired them, or because you had promoted them and they were currently busy."
"And you weren't... busy?" Miranda had kept tabs on Andrea, for a while. The young woman's work at the Mirror had improved steadily until the paper had folded three years ago. "Did you not find other employment after the Mirror closed its doors?"
"I did." Andy nodded, "But the nature of my current job doesn't involve schedules so much as it does deadlines." She shrugged, "I don't have any deadlines looming, not like you have with Runway."
"Well," Miranda chewed on that information, "Aren't I the lucky one then?" Her breath caught as Andrea's smile widened.
"I'm glad you think so, Miranda." Andy looked as though she was about to say more when a motion outside caught her attention. She stood quickly when a figure began walking up from the beach toward the office. "Excuse me for a moment, Miranda." She didn't wait for Miranda's nod and walked toward the new arrival.
Miranda watched as Andrea approached the woman nearing the open side of the office. For half a moment she thought the woman might be Andrea's mother. The wavy salt and pepper hair cascading around her shoulders indicated an older woman even though the body attached seemed very fit, encased in a one piece swimsuit, under a flimsy wrap. A former model perhaps, Miranda thought. They exchanged words and then it quickly became apparent that the woman was not Andrea's mother. The embrace they shared and the kiss the woman bestowed on Andrea's lips was anything but maternal, that Andrea seemed to return the gesture whole-heartedly confirmed the conclusion. Unbidden, a wave of profound sadness swept through Miranda. There was no time to think about it though, as Andrea returned to the office.
"I apologize, Miranda. She won't come here again."
Unable to form a complete thought, Miranda merely nodded and returned her attention to the file in front of her. She wasn't concentrating on the pictures at all, instead, her mind continued to replay the memory of Andrea and the unnamed woman's parting kiss. Why would Andrea allow that, participate in that? Why would she associate romantically with someone obviously so much older? Andrea is young and beautiful. She could have her pick of anyone. Miranda was certain no one would be able to refuse her ex-assistant if Andrea wanted to be with them. Closing the file, Miranda cleared her throat. "This is interrupting your plans."
"No, Miranda. It's fine." Andy smiled, "Susan knew I would probably have to work while she was here."
The phrasing didn't register as Miranda was stuck on the name, "Susan."
"Yes, Miranda." Andy only elaborated slightly, "She made dinner reservations for us this evening, at a highly recommended restaurant then she wants to go dancing. Working this afternoon will not interrupt those plans in the least."
"Dinner and dancing." Miranda inexplicably felt warm all over. "How romantic."
The beautiful smile Andrea flashed made Miranda jealous even though she wasn't sure exactly what she was jealous of; the idea of having a romantic partner in general, or the idea of Andrea being that person. Ambiguous emotions didn't set well with Miranda and she'd had her fill of that for today. She needed to leave, be with her girls, regain a semblance of decorum. Setting the file aside, Miranda stood, heading for the door, calling over her shoulder as she left. "Monday at eight. That's all."
Sad dark eyes watched Miranda leave and Andy bit her lip slightly as she sighed, "Yes, Miranda."
"C'mon, Mom." Caroline tempted her mother in a sing-song voice, "They're supposed to have great steaks...."
"Oh?" Miranda was unmoved, continuing to read the book of poetry she'd discovered on the bookcase in the living area of their suite. "And to which young island worker's opinion am I trusting my dining experience this evening?"
Cassidy laughed at her sister's frustrated expression, "Ha! She got you, Ro!" She punched her sister in the arm lightly and shrugged toward their mother, "I doubted the guy Ro was flirting with so I asked around. Everyone said the restaurant was new but wonderful, so I made late reservations for us. It's nearly time to go." She saw that her mother was still wearing the outfit she'd put on for her time at the office. "Would you like to change?"
"Mmmm... yes." Miranda closed the book and headed toward her bedroom, "I won't be a moment."
Unsure why she was doing it, Miranda changed into a less formal dress. It was not often that she was allowed the opportunity to dance, and it was not something that would likely occur this evening, but she knew that this dress would be lovely for dancing. The backless design would allow her dance partner unprecedented contact with her, if she were to have a partner. The hem nearly reached her ankles and she knew, if she were to dance, the skirt would flow beautifully with the motion and not catch on her heels.
"Wow, Mom! You look great." Cassidy grinned and gave her mother a quick hug. "Ready?"
"Mmm..." Miranda eyed the dresses her daughters had chosen for this evening and tried not to be critical of their length. They ended just above the girl's knees but were, technically, still cocktail dress length, so she remained silent on the subject. The girls were sixteen now and perfectly capable of dressing themselves appropriately. They were also, Miranda admitted to herself, quite beautiful and were at the age that they wanted to showcase their beauty. It was her influence that allowed that display to be done tastefully. She didn't miss the exchanged grin between the girls and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Shall we go?"
The steak was wonderful, Miranda admitted to herself. The restaurant was also very nice, rivaling anything New York, or anywhere else in the world she had been, had to offer. Apparently the help was quite engaging as well. Miranda watched as Caroline caught the eye of yet another busboy. "Bobbsey, you shouldn't distract the young man while he's working."
Cassidy giggled. "Really Ro, geez give it a rest."
"I wasn't doing anything!" She sighed and pushed her chair away from the table, "C'mon, Cass... let's go freshen up."
Shooting a glancing grin at their mother, Cassidy obediently rose to follow her sister to the rest room.
Miranda continued with her meal, almost finishing it before pushing the plate slightly away. A motion to her left caught her attention. She turned to see their host standing next to the table. He bowed slightly.
"Hello, Ms. Priestly. I trust you are enjoying your stay here on the island."
"Miranda, please and yes, Mr. Roarke," Miranda nodded, "it's quite lovely here."
Miranda turned to see her daughters walking quickly to the table.
"Mom... there's going to be a party on the beach. Can we go?" In a move that was surely rehearsed, and perfected over time, both girls turned on the puppy dog eyes and chorused, "Please."
At Miranda's sigh, Mr. Roarke chuckled. "That plea would be a difficult thing to resist."
Mumbling, "You have no idea." Miranda interrogated the girls. "Where is this party to be held, and who is going to be there?" At the girls silence, Miranda took a guess, "The cute busboy who noticed you earlier, Caroline?"
Suppressing a grin, Mr. Roarke spoke up again, "Many of the younger people gather at the beach in the evening for music and dancing. It's all in good fun and they are all well-behaved. There are often several adults there as well. The majority of the usual crowd should be assembled by now. I shall accompany you to the site if you wish to see for yourself." He offered his hand to assist Miranda out of her seat.
Standing without his assistance, Miranda took his hand and nodded. "Acceptable." She tried not to sigh as the girls ran on ahead.
The bonfire illuminated the beach. Its red glow cast flickering shadows on the surrounding area. Miranda stumbled slightly as her heels sank into the sand as she walked onto the beach. Without missing a beat, she walked out of the pumps. She stopped momentarily to pick them up before continuing on toward the celebration.
There were musicians playing, although a large electronic system stood by for when they took breaks. A long table was laid out with several different snack type foods and a variety of drinks, none of which seemed to be alcoholic in nature. What fascinated Miranda the most was a large wooden platform that had been set up for dancing. All the dancers flowed to the music gracefully, not like the jumping atrocity people often called dancing these days. Her eye caught sight of Caroline already dancing with a smiling young man. Cassidy stood on the sidelines laughing but shaking her head at her sister's antics.
"As you can see," Mr. Roarke's accented tone cut smoothly through the revelry, "It is all in good fun." A man dressed in the uniform of the island workers approached them. Mr. Roarke accepted a slip of paper the aide handed him and sighed as he read it. "My apologies, Miranda. There is a matter I must attend to."
"Mmmm..." Miranda barely acknowledged her host's departure as she watched the young man twirl Caroline around. Then there was a gap in the dancers and Miranda could see through to the middle of the dance area. Her heart skipped a beat when she realized what she was seeing; Andrea, dancing with that woman. She watched the couple gliding around the dance area until the song began to fade. Andrea looked wonderful, so smooth and assured, she had matured quite a bit since her tenure at Runway. For some reason, it endeared the young woman to her, even more that she already was. It was an admission she rarely made, even to herself. Despite Andrea's reassurances regarding her employment after the Mirror closed its doors, Miranda knew it could not have been easy. Surviving in New York was a daunting prospect, without a job it was even more so. To come through that hardship with as much poise and grace as Andrea had exhibited here on the island was enough to impress Miranda beyond words. Miranda saw Andrea glance in her direction and speak quickly to her dance partner before moving across the space to stand before her.
"Miranda," Andy bowed slightly at the waist. "Is there something I can do for you?" She indicated the refreshment table, "It's a warm night...a drink perhaps?"
Licking her lips, Miranda could only nod as an answer. Up close, Andrea was even more beautiful now than Miranda had ever seen her. It was the glow on her skin from the slight perspiration and the light from the moon and bonfire that made all the difference. She followed Andrea's graceful motion toward the table, not realizing another person had moved closer as well. When Andrea returned with her drink, Miranda was shocked to feel the young woman's fingertips brush hers as the cup was passed over. Andrea's hands were warm and soft. She sipped the offering and nodded, "Thank you, Andrea. This is delicious."
"You're welcome." Andy stepped away, almost automatically wrapping her arm around Susan's waist. "If you need anything else, Miranda, just let me know."
Miranda nodded and narrowed her eyes as Andrea's companion spoke for the first time within her hearing.
"Come on, Petal. Dance with me..."
Watching Andrea being led back to the dance floor, Miranda replayed the English accented phrase in her head and murmured to herself. "Manchester..." The music changed to an old-fashioned type dance, one Miranda knew. Walking forward, she grabbed Cassidy by the hand and put her shoes back on the second she stepped onto the wooden platform. The girls had taken enough dance lessons for Miranda to know for certain Cassidy knew this one too.
Judging the space, Miranda insinuated them into the moving mass of swirling dancers and returned her daughter's grin as they fell into step with the music. The complicated steps had the dancers weaving through each other, often switching partners for a time, before moving on. That was how, every so often, Miranda found herself dancing with Andrea. During the dance there was no time to think about the softness of Andrea's hands, or the warmth in her eyes. But at the end of the dance, there were at least thirty seconds that she was able to look into Andrea's dark eyes and feel Andrea's soft hand in hers. When the music ended, Miranda basked in the warmth of Andrea's sun-bright smile.
"You're a wonderful dancer, Miranda."
"You aren't so bad yourself." Miranda's smile, while not as brilliant as Andrea's, was genuine. The music started again, a slower song for couples only. For a moment, she thought how incredible it would be to dance this dance with Andrea as well. For a moment, it was all Miranda wanted in the world. For a moment she had the distinct impression Andrea felt the same way. Instead, they walked to the sidelines. Cassidy met them at the edge of the platform.
"Wow, that was fun." She looked at Andy and blinked. "I know you."
Smiling, Andy nodded and laughed. "Yes, I used to be your mother's assistant."
"You are my assistant now." Miranda corrected. "And there is something I would like you to do for me."
"Of course, Miranda." Andy barely glanced at the dancers. Susan had found another partner for this song. "What is it?"
"I find myself quite tired, but I'm sure the girls would like to stay for a while." Miranda grinned as Cassidy groaned. "Make sure they stay out of trouble, and that they get back to our bungalow by midnight?"
Also chuckling at Cassidy's subvocal protests, Andy never took her eyes off Miranda. "Of course. Whatever you need." She spoke quickly as Miranda turned to leave. "I will require additional payment for this service, however, because it doesn't fall within my normal duties as assistant."
Slowly turning back to focus on the young woman, Miranda raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Indeed? What is the going rate for childcare, Andrea?"
Licking her lips, Andy's eyes twinkled with mischief, "One dance."
"Don't you already have a dance partner?"
"She is... occupied." Andy gestured to the woman in question who was clearly happily dancing with a tall handsome man.
Miranda considered the terms as she tried to control her heart rate. Dancing with Andrea... dare I? The current song was nearly over and the next song would invariably be one with a faster tempo. With a quick nod, Miranda agreed. "Acceptable." She allowed Andrea to take her hand, leading her back out onto the dance platform just as the last of this song faded.
To Miranda's surprise the music that began after the short pause was just as slow or slower than the one that had just ended. Her brain began to buzz as Andrea's long arms wrapped around her. The young woman's soft hands made contact with the small of her back. Stifling a gasp at the electric sizzle running up her spine, Miranda allowed herself to be drawn closer, allowed her arms to wrap around Andrea's waist, allowed her cheek to rest against Andrea's shoulder. This wasn't a dance in the truest sense of the word, this was merely swaying together to the music. What they had done before was a dance, this, was not. Miranda closed her eyes and savored the feel of Andrea's warmth pressing against her, the sensation causing heat to concentrate just below her navel. No, this was not a dance, Miranda knew, this was the best foreplay she'd ever experienced. The shame of it was that wouldn't go any farther than this but at this moment, she wished it could last forever.
The idea of being with a woman was not exactly foreign to her, she worked in the fashion industry after all, but she was certain Andrea would never want that type of relationship with her. Would she? Andrea obviously has no problem with women, even older women. The problem was that she, Miranda, wasn't just any older woman. She was Andrea's former boss. One that had treated Andrea abysmally when the young woman had worked for her. It did, however, feel very good to be in Andrea's arms. Miranda chided herself, Best not go there... just take what you can get. Savoring the moment, Miranda tried to memorize every detail of the dance. The way Andrea's warm body pressed against hers, the way the arms around her made her feel safe, the way Andrea's hair brushed against her cheek, every detail up to and including the young woman's incredible scent, the one that made Miranda want to breathe deeply and never let go, were burned into Miranda's memory. Turning her head, Miranda only just stopped herself from kissing Andrea's long, luscious neck. Shocked by the urge to place that kiss, Miranda only barely managed to continue swaying to the music.
All too soon the music faded and Andrea moved away. Miranda felt the loss immediately and imagined that Andrea had hesitated before breaking their contact. Wishful thinking, she told herself, Just because you want to continue the contact doesn't mean Andrea does. As if Andrea could hear her thoughts, Miranda erased them by clearing her throat and stepping away as well. "Yes, well... now that your fee is paid. I will be going." She couldn't look into those huge dark eyes, but knew they were watching her as she slipped off her shoes and made her way across the sand. Andrea's acknowledgment followed Miranda off the dance floor.
Andy watched Miranda step off the wooden area and in barely a whisper, added, "Sweet dreams."
On the slow walk back to the bungalow, Miranda convinced herself that she did not hear a tinge of sadness in Andrea's voice as she left the party, nor did she hear Andrea wish her "sweet dreams". No, she was certain that little bit of valediction had to have been her imagination. As she went through her nightly routine, Miranda couldn't help but wonder what exactly Andrea was doing at that moment. Dancing with that Susan person most likely. Shaking off thoughts of what the two might be doing later that night, Miranda curled around her pillow and closed her eyes. It was much better to focus on pleasant thoughts. She recalled how Andrea's arms felt as they slid around her and tried not to dwell on the fact that she would probably never feel that sensation again.
Miranda sat on the balcony of their bungalow sipping her first coffee of the day. It wasn't a balcony in the strictest sense, the platform her chair rested on was only a few feet off the ground, but the drop off to the landscaped area below made it seem much higher. The sunrise was gorgeous and almost enough to keep her thoughts from turning to the previous evening and to Andrea. Almost but not quite. The memory of Andrea's arms around her sent an echo of the electric sizzle down her back. She had never in her life reacted to anyone the way she reacted to Andrea. The physical reactions were understandable, Andrea was a beautiful woman. It was the mental, emotional, responses the young woman drew from her were just unfathomable to Miranda. Never in her life had she obsessed over someone the way she seemed to be doing with Andrea. She knew she should end her contact with Andrea, Miranda sipped her coffee and nodded to herself. Yes, she decided, Cutting all contact with Andrea was the thing to do. It would be difficult, but doable, after all she had not heard anything about her former assistant in nearly three years. How hard could it be?
Miranda tried to imagine not seeing Andrea again and began to shake. She put her coffee down and clasped her hands together. "Impossible." she muttered, "She's only been back in my life for two days... it's ridiculous to think she'll remain after this week is over." The door dividing the balcony from the rest of the living quarters opened and Miranda tried to compose herself. "Good morning, Bobbseys.."
"Morning, Mom." Cassidy grabbed a slice of fruit off the tray on the table next to Miranda. "We're going surfing, okay?"
Caroline also snagged a slice of melon, "Yeah, there were some surfers at the party last night. They said to meet them in the cove this morning."
Miranda narrowed her eyes at her flirtatious daughter, "More busboys?"
"No Mom, just surfers... really." Caroline rolled her eyes. "No flirting. You know we love the water."
Cassidy was with her sister on this one. "We've taken lessons... we know what we're doing."
"You can stay here and rest," Caroline suggested then reminded her mother, "This is supposed to be a vacation."
"Mmmm..." Miranda nodded, "Very well. Just be careful!" She grinned as both the girls bent down to kiss her cheek.
"Thank you, Mother." "Thanks, Mom."
Miranda watched them leave and sighed. They were growing so fast. She looked out at the bluing sky and took a deep breath as she listened to the waves pounding against the shore. They would be gone soon, off to college, soon after that they would be off to live their own lives and then there was her retirement to consider. Why was it that retirement coincided with children being all grown up? What will I be left with, after I retire, after the girls move away? Miranda reached out for her coffee, now cold. She took a sip anyway. Cold coffee, and silence. It left a bitter taste in the back of her throat. Maybe, she thought as she wiped away a tear that had found its way down her cheek, maybe that's all I deserve.
Miranda walked down the path toward her temporary office. She was slightly distracted by many things, but she slowed her pace as her main distraction came into view. Andrea walked, hand in hand, with a nice looking young man up to the door of the office, smiled at him and then, much to Miranda's surprise, kissed him directly on the lips. Stopping her trek, Miranda watched the display for several seconds, then continued on, determined to work for a while at least. Breaking up the young people was only a benefit and she smirked as the boy jumped away from Andrea at her approach. Infuriatingly, Andrea didn't even have the decency to look ashamed and merely turned on her sun-bright smile.
"Good Morning, Miranda."
Miranda glanced at the young man's retreating form and raised an eyebrow, "Apparently, a better morning for some more than others." Turning to unlock the door, with the key Mr. Roarke had given her, Miranda ground her teeth together as Andrea's musical laugh cut through the morning air.
"That is often the case, Miranda."
"Mmmm..." It had meant to be a thoughtful sound, but even to her own ears Miranda knew it seemed disapproving. She didn't want to look at Andrea's face, knowing that the smile would now be wiped from Andrea's beautiful lips. "Let us get to work, shall we?"
Andy followed Miranda into the office. "Yes, Miranda." While Miranda settled herself at her desk, Andy opened the far wall for the ocean view, then went into the small attached kitchenette to start the coffee brewing. She heard the familiar tones of Miranda's computer starting up. The sound of tapping keys continued until the coffee was finished. She carried the steaming mug out to Miranda's desk and her soft smile returned at the sound of frustration Miranda made. "Problem?"
"This system is uncooperative." Miranda gestured to the unfamiliar screen, "I wish to check my messages."
"Ah." Andy set the drink on the desk then leaned down to look over Miranda's shoulder, "Let me have a look." Although she was dressed appropriately for the office, as she had been on Saturday, today she had left her hair down. Now as she leaned forward it fell softly against Miranda's shoulder. "Oh," Andy heard Miranda's soft gasp as the hair brushed against her, "Sorry." She absently moved her wayward hair to the side away from Miranda and reached forward to the mouse. "You're connected to the island's server, but now you need to click here." She moved the pointer to the small Elias-Clarke logo in the lower left corner. "This will connect you to the Runway system."
"I see. Thank you, Andrea." Miranda shivered slightly as Andrea's low tones caressed her ear.
"You're welcome, Miranda." Andy pulled away slightly, but remained close. "Anything else you need?"
Turning, Miranda saw the large expanse of leonine neck very close to her, so close she could see the steady pulse beating there, could feel the heat radiating from Andrea. Swallowing against her suddenly dry mouth, Miranda shook her head and managed a soft, "That's all." She barely pulled her gaze from those, maddening, beautiful eyes, but glanced at full red lips as they formed a gentle smile.
Andy moved back to her desk and started her own computer on its way to connecting to the systems she needed.
Miranda blinked once as she watched Andrea's efficient motions then, realizing what she was doing, staring at her assistant, she turned to examine the large amount of new messages inhabiting her inbox. So much for a relaxing vacation. She thought and reached for the mouse to open the first message marked Urgent.
After several hours of answering emails and phone calls, one of which actually turned out to be important, Miranda now sat at her desk silently looking over several layout proposals that Nigel had sent for her approval. She hadn't realized how engrossed she'd become in the photographs until Andrea's clearing throat caused her to look up from the page. She blinked because she had not noticed the young woman moving from her desk, "Yes?"
"I was wondering if it would be possible to leave for lunch slightly early today."
"Oh?" Putting down her red pencil, Miranda looked over the top of her glasses. "For what reason?"
Pressing her lips together for a moment, Andy took a deep breath and then explained, "Susan is leaving today. I had hoped to see her off."
"Leaving?" Miranda took her glasses off, tossing them on top of the photos she'd just been examining and leaned back in her chair to observe Andrea. "Problem?"
"Not in the least." Andy smiled, "She's a friend that I would like to wish a safe journey."
"And the young man this morning, is he also a friend?" Miranda knew the question sounded a bit churlish, but she couldn't help it.
"No, Miranda. He was only a passing acquaintance. I met him yesterday. Did you enjoy your day off?"
Not as much as you apparently. "Do you always kiss, passing acquaintances, like that?" Now she sounded positively jealous and again, couldn't help it. The lack of control was infuriating as was Andrea's wide smile as she answered.
"Yes, actually." Andy's eyes held a hint of amusement, "I was always taught to obey my elders."
Elegant eyebrows raised in reaction to that statement, "Indeed. Your "elders" told you to kiss every person you meet?"
"No, Miranda." Andy grinned, "Only one elder, my Grandmother. She told me that I should kiss anyone I had the opportunity to, and when I kissed the "right one" I would know it." Smiling at her slightly slack-jawed boss, Andy continued. "Then, Grandma said, I wouldn't ever want to kiss anyone else." She shrugged, "Except... you know, on the cheek as greeting or something... She and my grandfather were happily married for fifty years, so I figured she knew what she was talking about."
"Mmm..." Miranda was obviously thinking about that advice. "So, I take it you haven't found "the one" yet..."
"No, Miranda." Andy licked her lips and shrugged, "Not yet."
"It must be such a burden," Miranda spoke sarcastically, unable to help reverting to her Dragon persona, "kissing all those people, all the time..." Her biting comment trailed off at the sadness in those huge dark eyes.
"It's lonelier than you might think."
"Did you kiss people at Runway?" A horrible thought crossed Miranda's mind. "Did you kiss Emily?"
Laughing at that, Andy shook her head, "Nooo... no no no... there was never any doubt as to my relationship with Emily." She smiled, "I did kiss Serena once though, I think."
Miranda's eyebrows raised. "You think?"
"Mmm..." Andy shrugged, "James Holt's punch." She laughed again at Miranda's look of understanding. Andy continued answering the question. "I didn't need to kiss most of them, I knew they weren't the one just by looking. There were only a few I considered possibilities and, well, there just wasn't ever the right opportunity for... them." Andy glanced down into the mug on Miranda's desk and noticed it was empty. "More coffee?" She took the mug even before Miranda nodded and moved into the kitchenette quickly.
Even standing with her back to the door, Andy knew when Miranda appeared there, the air in the room changed. It seemed to vanish completely when Miranda spoke quietly.
"You haven't kissed me."
Turning to face her boss, Andy took a deep breath and agreed, "No, I haven't."
"You had opportunity," Miranda took a step closer, "when we danced...."
"I..." Andy swallowed and gripped the counter behind her tightly as she leaned back against it. "I didn't think you would appreciate the gesture."
"Mmm..." Taking another step forward, almost unable to believe what she was doing, Miranda's eyes never left Andrea's, "I don't believe you should ignore your grandmother's advice."
Another step put Miranda directly in front of Andrea, "No."
"Well then..." Andy pushed away from the counter to stand up straight, "I suppose, if you feel that way about it..." Displaying more confidence than she actually felt, Andy reached up with a surprisingly steady hand, to cup Miranda's jaw lightly. She moved closer, stopping millimeters from touching Miranda's lips with her own. "Are you sure?"
Miranda rolled her eyes in exasperation, "Oh for goodness sake, Andrea just..." Any further comment was lost as Andrea's lips pressed against hers, moving softly as the pressure increased. Miranda had never felt anything like it. Andrea's lips were so soft, so warm, Miranda's mind blanked for a long moment forgetting everything but the sensations she was experiencing. She was totally taken by surprise at the electric sizzle the contact brought with it. The feeling was similar but much, much more intense than when they had danced. She automatically wrapped her arms around Andrea's slender waist, pulling her closer, needing her closer. The sensuality of Andrea's fingers that had been gently cupping her jaw, now sliding through her hair, was indescribable. The hand pressed on the back of her head, firmly held them together even as Andrea's tongue flicked out in silent request, one Miranda was quick to grant. It wasn't a battle for domination, as so many other kisses Miranda had received had been. This was gentle exploration. They swallowed each others moans as they continued the kiss until air became an issue. Even then, they parted reluctantly and both were trying to catch their breath as they looked at each other with what could only be described as awe.
Miranda watched as Andrea reached up to touch her own lips. The young woman's voice was strained, "Miranda... I..."
"You should go..." Stepping back, controlling her reactions, Miranda took a deep shaky breath. "See your friend safely to the plane."
"Miranda..." Andy searched Miranda's face trying to see past the mask that had slammed into place after she'd stepped back. "Come with me."
"I'm not sure that would be a good idea." Miranda smoothed the lines of her jacket across her abdomen.
"Miranda..." Andy licked her lips and seemed to only barely stop herself from stepping forward to claim another kiss. Instead, she whispered, "Please."
Forcing herself not to lick her lips, Miranda stood a bit straighter and nodded, "Very well."
Andy quickly shut the office down and they left, walking down the path side by side to the pier where the seaplane waited to take guests back to the mainland. Miranda wasn't exactly sure why she was there, she didn't know this Susan person at all. So she hung back, standing next to Mr. Roarke, as Andrea moved to speak to her friend. It was only when Andrea knelt next to the seated woman that Miranda realized something important.
"Why is she in a wheelchair?"
Mr. Roarke smiled a bit sadly before he answered. His accent gave his words extra weight, "Ms. Susan Bennett is paralyzed from the waist down. The result of an unfortunate automobile accident."
"But," Miranda protested, "I saw her, walking... dancing..."
"Mmm.. yes." He nodded at both the activities, "There are certain properties, here, on the island, that... alleviated her condition, for a time. This is Fantasy Island after all."
Shaking her head, Miranda tried to wrap her mind around what the man was saying. "My daughters were going on about "having a fantasy granted"." She looked at the man beside her intently, "Are you trying to tell me that is true?"
With a nod and a smile, Mr. Roarke spoke, his accent again intensifying the almost wistful tone, "It was her dream to dance, once more, with the man she had thought forever out of her life, her first love."
Miranda followed their host's eyeline to see the tall, handsome, gentleman that Susan had been dancing with on Saturday night, walk up and put his hands on the handles of the chair. "She was here, for him?"
"Indeed." Mr. Roarke risked a sideways glance at Miranda and quickly covered his smirk at her tone. "One of the conditions Ms. Sachs had on accepting this job was that... Ms. Bennett's fantasy be fulfilled."
"Does Andrea want nothing?" Miranda was outraged at the thought, "Why does Andrea not get a fantasy as well!?"
"Ms. Sachs assured me that being allowed to work for you, for a week, would be more than enough compensation for her. It would not be appropriate to share any other requests she made." Mr. Roarke now smiled at his stunned guest, "She apparently felt very embarrassed about how she left things with you in Paris and decided she owed you a week. It was, I believe, one of the main reasons she accepted my offer."
Miranda watched as Andrea spoke to the woman then leaned in for a goodbye hug. "She owes me nothing." She watched, the moment she had dreaded, as Susan also moved to kiss Andrea's lips, as she had done previously when they parted. A spark of joy settled in Miranda's chest as Andrea held her fingers up to stop the contact, then shifted to kiss Susan on the cheek. Miranda was surprised when the seated woman smiled widely and pulled Andrea into another hug. Andrea laughed at something the woman had said into her ear and nodded. Miranda tried not to read too much into the kiss on the cheek though, since the man Susan apparently loved was standing right next to them. It would hardly be appropriate for Andrea to kiss the woman in that situation. Susan's reaction to the farewell was probably just her elation at finding her long lost love. When Andrea stood she shook hands with the man before he began to push the chair toward the plane. Andrea walked slowly back to where Miranda and Mr. Roarke stood.
"Thank you, Mr. Roarke." Andy's smile was solely for him. "She's so happy now."
"You are very welcome, Ms. Sachs." He watched as the plane taxied away from the pier then bowed to the women. "If you will excuse me, I have other guests to attend."
Miranda nodded, "Of course." She barely waited for him to leave before turning to Andrea. "I believe you have a story to tell me."
"I do?" Andy smiled at Miranda's narrowed eyes and relented. "Yes, I suppose I do." She offered her arm to her temporary boss, "Shall we discuss it over lunch?"
Taking the offered elbow, Miranda wished she had the nerve to slide her arm around Andrea's waist and they began to walk. "That sounds lovely." She was rewarded with a sun-bright smile and they quickly made their way to a cozy little cafe not too far off the water.
They had been seated and their orders were being prepared before Andy began to speak. Her first sentence made Miranda bristle slightly.
"I've been living with Susan for the last six months." She ignored the uncomfortable shift of Miranda's shoulders and continued. "When the Mirror closed its doors, before that actually, my editor had put me in touch with a friend of his. She is a publisher. They do mostly non-fiction, biographies, autobiographies and things like that. One of her clients was writing their autobiography, but writing was not one of their many gifts." Andy took a sip of her water and shrugged. "I helped."
"Ghost writer." Miranda nodded. It made sense now, how Andrea had seemed to drop off of the face of the Earth so long ago. "Is that what you've been doing for the past four years?"
"Three and a half, yes." Pausing to allow the waiter to set their food in front of them, Andy smiled at the man and murmured her thanks before turning her attention back to Miranda. "The lease on the apartment my boyfriend had signed over to me was up, so I packed the things I needed, sold the rest and as a condition of my working with the prospective authors, I lived in their homes with them." She grinned as Miranda again shifted in annoyance and added, "In their guest rooms." Andy loaded her fork with some salad and shrugged again, "I had a place to live and a small income, they got the book they wanted... everyone was happy."
Miranda cut into her steak and questioned, "So, this Susan woman... she is someone of note? Someone who needs a biography written about them?"
"This was a bit of a different assignment. Susan was a championship ballroom dancer in her youth as well as a fairly respected choreographer in the theater. The biography wasn't on her though, not really. It was focused more on her mother's career, a very well respected choreographer in the theater industry. She had worked with a lot of very famous actors and actress', legends."
"Ah..." Miranda chewed her bite of steak thoughtfully, "A tell all..."
"Something like that." Andy laughed, "There were a lot of facts that I had to track down and verify, which is why I had been there for so long. We were just finishing the manuscript when Mr. Roarke's offer arrived."
"Are you..." Miranda hesitated, then asked, "Are you, happy, with the life you lead?"
"It gives me a place to live, and pays the bills... what more could I possibly want?"
"You have obviously been searching for something, kissing all these random people has to mean something." Miranda cut another bite of her steak before slowly voicing her thought, "I couldn't help notice that you did not kiss your friend goodbye."
Andy smiled, "My days of kissing random people are over, Miranda."
Miranda worked very hard to keep her heart from racing as Andrea's smile appeared. "You said you hadn't found the person you were looking for yet."
"And then I kissed you."
"So you now believe that I am "the right one" for you?" Miranda raised her eyebrows at the immediate response.
"I know you are."
"And if I don't believe that?" Miranda studied the woman across from her closely as Andrea spoke. It surprised Miranda to notice that there was no hint of insincerity in Andrea's voice or demeanor.
"Then our first kiss, will have been my last."
Miranda's response was lost as two familiar voices rang through the cafe.
Both women looked up as the twins made their way through the tables to where their mother was sitting. Miranda smiled at the girls' enthusiasm. "Girls, what is it?"
"There's a surfing competition this afternoon. Can you come watch?" Cassidy seemed to be vibrating in place. "We're entered and if this morning was any indication, we actually have a shot at winning!"
Caroline was only half paying attention to her mother's answer, she was too interested in the person sitting at the same table. She knew it was Andy they needed to consult regarding their mother's schedule. It was always the assistants that they needed to talk to for that. "Can you reschedule Mother's afternoon?"
Andy smiled. "Yes, I believe so, Caroline. There are no meetings today." Her smile widened when Cassidy spoke up.
"Can you come watch us too, Andy?"
"That would be up to Miranda." Andy turned to get Miranda's reaction to the question, well aware that the twins were also looking to their mother for a response.
"It is a free beach, Andrea. I'm sure the competitors will enjoy many spectators."
"Great!" Cassidy clapped her hands together in front of her, "We'll see you there. We've gotta go get ready!"
"You need to eat first!" Miranda was appalled that her daughters would skip lunch. They were far too thin as it was and she knew they had barely eaten any breakfast.
"Awww.. we don't have time!" Cassidy almost whined. "The competition starts soon."
"I don't want to be really heavy feeling right before we go out, Mom." Caroline assured her mother, "We'll be fine. Honest."
Andy shook her head, "Your mother's right. You need nutrients before going into a sports competition." She stood and almost bowed. "Wait right here..."
They watched as Andy walked to the bar and spoke to the bartender quickly. He nodded and in short order two tall glasses were being set on the bar, then filled with a thick, creamy, bluish colored liquid. Andy carried the drinks back to the waiting girls. "Here, drink these."
"Are you kidding?" Cassidy eyed the concoction suspiciously.
"No," Andy handed one to each girl. "They're protein shakes, and I drink one every morning before my run. Trust me."
"What's in them?" Caroline, the practical one, also didn't like the look of the mixture.
"Nothing you're allergic to." Andy smiled at their shocked looks, "I remember from when you were younger." She listed off the ingredients that included yogurt, banana, and several other tropical fruits, none of which had been on the "allergy list" when she worked for Miranda.
"Okay." Cassidy thought, from the way Andy described it, that it might taste decent. "We've both grown out of our allergies though. We can eat pretty much anything now."
Both girls tentatively tasted the smoothies and then proceeded to almost chug them down. "Thanks Andy..." They looked at their mother expectantly, "May we go now?"
Miranda licked her lips and nodded once. There was no time to continue the motion, because the girls were gone. She chuckled and turned her attention back to Andrea. "Thank you. They are forever skipping meals."
"My pleasure." Andy smiled, "They're good girls."
"I, um, never thanked you for going above and beyond the way you did, acquiring the Harry Potter manuscript for them." Memorizing the list of their allergies...
"It's not necessary, Miranda." Andy smiled at the memory, "You didn't thank me, but they did." She saw a wrinkle peek out from behind the swoop of hair that fell across Miranda's forehead and elaborated. "At the train station, that day."
"I often wish I could take more credit for their upbringing. Leaving them in the care of a Nanny, no matter how competent, really isn't a good alternative to their actual mother being there for them."
"You were always there for them, Miranda." Andy laughed, "I think you brought the hurricane with you from Florida when you couldn't get back for their recital."
"That was... an over-reaction on my part." Miranda recalled the incident. "The shoot had gone horribly wrong, because of the weather and had to be completely redone from a lovely outdoor layout to an indoor thing."
Andy grinned, "As I recall the photos turned out to be spectacular."
"There was a hotel nearby with an arboretum that suited our needs."
"Which you recognized and salvaged the shoot, despite the weather trouble." Andy wondered aloud, "Did Mr. Ravitz ever find out how much you saved by doing that, instead of scrapping the whole thing and trying again when the weather cleared, as the photographer wanted to do?"
"He did not." Miranda sniffed haughtily. "Irv has no need to know the everyday workings of Runway. All he need see is the bottom line, which, for as long as I have been Editor-in-Chief, has been black."
Andy smirked a bit, "Yes, Miranda." The smirk turned into a smile as Miranda rolled her eyes at that. They both took several bites of their meal in companionable silence. Until Miranda again spoke quietly.
"You have changed." Miranda caught Andrea's startled eyes, "You no longer feel the need to blather on about inconsequential things. And," Miranda took a sip of her wine, "I notice you no longer stutter."
"I've found that quiet times are good for internal contemplation." Andy tilted her head in acknowledgment of the implied compliment. Miranda had never tolerated idle chit chat. "And as for the stuttering, that is a result of a few months of intense," She straightened her spine slightly and spoke in what Lily would have called her "High Society Voice", "lessons in diction and elocution." Relaxing a bit, Andy shrugged, "Courtesy of one of my early clients. I only stutter now when I'm extremely nervous or upset."
"Mmmm..." Andy laughed and admitted, "That, and a few years of therapy to work on my self esteem issues. It seems I'm always attracted to people who treat me badly."
"Oh." Suddenly Miranda began to think about all the times she had treated Andrea unkindly.
"For example," Andy went on, oblivious to Miranda's thoughts. "When I got the job at Runway. My boyfriend was shocked that I'd gotten a job at a fashion magazine, and in front of our best friends asked me if it had been a phone interview."
"And you tolerated this behavior?"
"I tolerated Nate, just as you tolerated Stephen." Andy watched Miranda closely, "Until the situation became intolerable. My separation was infinitely less complicated than yours though. Mine merely required him getting a job in another city." She noticed that Miranda was no longer eating and gestured to the half empty plate. "Finished?"
"Mmmm..." Looking down at the steak, which had been delicious, but was now cold, Miranda nodded. "Yes."
"Great." Andy signaled for the check and when the waiter promptly brought it, signed the receipt to her bungalow number. "Let's go watch the girls surf!"
"Andrea, I could have..." Stopping the protest, Miranda stood and linked arms with her beautiful assistant, "Thank you, for lunch."
Andy patted the arm around hers and winked. "You're welcome, Miranda."
Unlike most surfing competitions where there were long lulls to accommodate calm seas, the odd tides and island configuration allowed surfable waves to be nearly continuous. Still, there were nearly fifty people signed up so the contest lasted late into the afternoon. The sun was about to set when the final rounds got underway.
Andy carried a tray to the umbrella covered table she had procured for Miranda. "Here we go." She smiled at Miranda and Caroline. Caroline's position in the standings had already been set. Eighth wasn't bad out of a field of almost fifty. Cassidy's final position was still in question. The scoring on this next session would settle the top five. "I thought we might have some snackies until the finals were over." She set a small bowl of guacamole dip and a basket of chips off the tray as well as drinks for them all. "I gave Cassidy another smoothie and wished her some good waves."
"Thank you." Miranda sipped the fruit concoction Andrea had brought her.
"Yeah," Caroline agreed, "Thanks!" She dug into the chips.
Chuckling at that, Andy informed her, "Take it easy." She smiled as Caroline looked up at her, "I've made reservations for you three at that restaurant you like. The one you told me about Saturday night."
"Change them." Miranda met Andrea's questioning eyes. "There will be four of us, dining together tonight."
"Oh." Andy licked her lips, "Are you expecting a guest, Miranda?" At Miranda's glare, Andy smiled softly and tilted her head to acknowledge the change. "I'll change it, right away." Andy moved away to make the call to the restaurant without disturbing the other tables around them.
"You like her." Caroline smiled at her mother and watched, incredulous, as the woman blushed slightly. "Mom..." She waited for piercing blue eyes, so much like her own to look up. "I think that's great."
"You do?" Miranda wasn't sure the girl really understood the ramifications of that simple statement.
"I, we both, want you to be happy." Caroline admitted. "Cass and I have both seen you just kinda stop smiling, even at home with us, for the last few years." Caroline sighed, "We want you back, back the way you were, before..."
Caroline nodded, "I had thought that meant before Stephen... from the way you were acting, I had the feeling he had," She paused and swallowed hard, "had... done, something, to you... to make you sad." She continued speaking quickly. "But now, now that Andy is here... I realize, that "before" means, before Andy left."
"That's mostly what this trip was for," Caroline admitted, "for you, to be... happy again."
Before Miranda could respond to that, Andy returned. "All set." She smiled and looked between mother and daughter. "What'd I miss?"
Miranda glanced at Caroline and spoke quietly. "I believe it was I who was missing something, for quite a while, but now, with the help of my meddling daughters," Miranda smiled at Caroline, affection evident, "I seem to have found it again."
Miranda gestured for the confused young woman to sit. "I believe Cassidy is lining up for her run next."
Caroline grinned at her mother then watched as the guy next to Cassidy took the wave and sighed, "This dude is really good. He's from Vanuatu and all he does is surf."
"Um..." Andy could usually follow the gist of the surfing lingo, but this was a new one on her. "Vanuatu?"
"It's a small island... they have great waves, almost all the time." Caroline watched the young man perform some really nice maneuvers. "He said he's been surfing practically all his life."
"Ah..." Andy glanced at Miranda, "tough competition."
"Mmmm..." Miranda watched intently as the current boy finished his run and Cassidy began hers. "Does this wave look bigger than the last one?"
"Oh yeah," Caroline smiled, "Cass got a good one!"
They all watched and cheered, even Miranda clapped enthusiastically, when Cassidy finished each of her rides to shore.
When all was said and done, Cassidy ended up placing fourth in the competition. Miranda hugged both the girls and told them how proud she was of them.
"But I didn't win." Cassidy shrugged, "Fourth..."
"Fourth is great!" Andy took the chance and hugged the girl too. "You did great. That was tough competition and you hung in there." She glanced at Caroline, "You both did wonderfully."
Caroline waved off the compliment, "Yeah, I've never been as good at it as Cass, but I love it. I just liked having the chance to compete against such good riders."
"It was fun." Cassidy admitted. "I thought I had a shot at third until I hit the soup on my final run."
"Mmm..." Andy pretended to drift off. "Soup..." She grinned at the girls' giggles. "Who's ready to eat? Reservations are forty five minutes away..."
"Me!" Covering her belly with her hand, Cassidy laughed, "I've only had two smoothies since breakfast, and surfing makes ya hungry."
"Me too. Even though I did have some chips while we waited for you to finish." Caroline agreed and added, "I hope I don't fall asleep in the middle of dinner. I'm exhausted."
Miranda stood, "Well then, we should probably return to our suite and dress for dinner." She looked over at her assistant, "You should meet us at the restaurant, Andrea."
"Okay." Andy waved as the trio walked away, then slumped back into her chair, "Okay... calm down..." She told herself, "No big deal... you just going to have a dinner with Miranda Priestly." Oh God, I'm going to have a dinner with Miranda! The thought panicked her until she realized. The girls will be there, it will be fine. She did need to get dressed though, so she quickly cleaned up the remains of their snack and headed back to her own room to change. Now a different thought panicked her. What am I gonna wear?! Most of her clothing was either island casual, or for working in the office. She had only brought one dress suitable for dancing, and Miranda had already seen her in that. A deeply accented voice stopped her musings.
"Ms. Sachs, a moment please."
Andy stopped her quick walk down the path and turned to see Mr. Roarke approaching. "Yes?"
"I just wanted to inform you that your wardrobe has been delivered to your room, as per Ms. Bennett's instructions."
"I'm sorry... my... wardrobe?"
Mr. Roarke hesitated, "Uh, yes. She said that the evening gowns she had brought were too good to waste and since," he spoke slowly, "she said she would not be needing most of them again, she wished for you to have them."
"Oh," Sudden relief flooded through her, "Oh thank you!" Susan's wardrobe was awesome and Andy knew even Miranda wouldn't find fault with any of it. She nearly ran down the path, calling over her shoulder, "Thank you so much!"
"You're quite welcome..." Mr. Roarke called after the retreating figure. His mouth worked as if tasting something sweet then he nodded and smiled, "Quite welcome indeed."
Miranda glanced at the entrance to the restaurant, again.
"Mom." Cassidy sighed, "She'll be here in a few minutes. We were early!" She had been amazed and a little confused at the urgency Miranda had shown while they were getting ready to go to dinner. Cassidy had also wondered about her mother's choice of a rather slinky black dress. Although most people her age shouldn't wear anything quite so sexy, both girls had to admit that Miranda wore it very well. Cassidy just wasn't sure why Miranda was bothering.
Miranda had sped up the process so much that they were even earlier than the normal fifteen minutes that their mother was famous for. Even so, they had been seated immediately at a quiet table nestled in one of the nooks built into the wall of the restaurant. During her comments to her mother, neither Cassidy or Miranda had been watching the door. Caroline, however, had not been distracted in the slightest and now murmured softly.
Miranda's head snapped up to see what could only be described as a vision approaching their table. The blue, one shoulder, dress Andrea wore hugged her figure in all the right places. The lower half flowed easily, it was a perfect dress for dancing. Miranda couldn't help but nod in approval of Andrea's choice of dress, and hairstyle. She very much liked it when Andrea's deep brown hair was left to fall in waves around her shoulders. The memory of a bit of that hair brushing against her sent tiny jolts of energy through Miranda. "Andrea," Smiling at the new arrival, Miranda gestured for the young woman to take the seat across from her. "You look... stunning."
Andy's sun-bright smile appeared, "Thank you, Miranda. You look amazing, as always." She grinned at the girls. "You two clean up nice as well."
Caroline snorted and rolled her eyes, but grinned. Cassidy laughed out loud and smiled brightly. "Thanks!"
Miranda gestured for the waiter even as she asked her dining companions. "Shall we order?"
They had a pleasant meal, and light conversation. Both Miranda and Andy let the girls chatter about the surfing competition and listened intently as Cassidy described her last run down the waves.
"That's why I got fourth, I'm sure." Cassidy shrugged, "I just couldn't veer over enough to avoid getting caught in the soup." The white foam from the breaking waves had been choppy enough to cause Cassidy to fall from her board. She took the last bite of her chicken. "Ah well, I guess these things happen." She swallowed her bite and yawned mightily. "Gosh, I really am tired."
"Yeah," Caroline too displayed a jaw-popping yawn. "We should go get some rest."
"Oh!" Andy stood quickly. "Can you wait, just a minute?"
Cassidy blinked, "Um.. sure." She glanced at Caroline who was also nodding.
"Great!" Andy smiled and held her hands out in front of her, "Wait right here... I'll be right back."
"What's she doing?" Caroline asked what they were all thinking as they watched Andy speaking to a man in a very sharply tailored suit. When the exchange was over, he bowed and left quickly while she returned to the table.
"Just a few more minutes, okay?"
As promised, a moment later the waiter approached the table carrying a rather large ice cream sundae, in an ornate tulip style glass and four spoons. He set the dessert in the middle of the table and asked Andy, "Will there be anything else?"
"No, thank you." She graced him with a smile, "This looks wonderful."
He nodded and backed off. "Enjoy."
"What is that?" Caroline eyed the dessert suspiciously. "It looks like chocolate."
"That," Andy handed the girl a spoon. "Is the most delicious, most decadent, most amazingly fantastic, hot fudge sundae on the face of this planet." She handed Cassidy a spoon and then offered one to Miranda. "I had one the first night I arrived on the island."
Cassidy was incredulous, "You ate an entire one of these all by yourself?"
"Yep," Andy confirmed, "The whole thing..." She laughed, "I ran double miles the next morning too."
"How far is that?" Miranda asked, curious even as she accepted the spoon. This was the second time Andrea had mentioned running in the mornings.
"I normally do anywhere from five to seven miles each morning." Andy grinned, "After I ate this monstrosity, I ran five that evening then ten the next morning."
Miranda allowed her eyes to travel down as far as the table allowed and smirked, "I suppose the occasional splurge hasn't hurt you any." Suddenly Miranda wondered if she should begin wearing her sunglasses when she was around Andrea, to protect her eyes from the blinding smiles the woman often displayed.
"Thank you, Miranda..." Andy picked up her own spoon. "I thought this would be a good way to celebrate how great you guys did in the competition..." She loaded her spoon with a good sized bite of ice cream and warm syrup. "You should eat it while the fudge sauce is still warm." She took a bite and moaned softly.
With great difficulty, Miranda ignored her body's reactions to the sound Andrea made and instead reached out to gather a bite of her own on her spoon. Her eyes widened as she tasted the dish.
Andy laughed at the expression, "I know, right?"
Seeing their mother reach for another bite, Caroline and Cassidy both dug into the treat. It didn't take long for the dessert to be demolished. Then Cassidy yawned again.
"That was great, but I really need to get some sleep."
"Yeah," Caroline again agreed. "I'm really tired too." Both she and her sister stood, but Caroline continued speaking, "We'll see you in the morning Mom." She turned to Andy, "Thanks," she glanced at the empty dessert glass, "it was really nice of you to do that."
"You're welcome." Andy winked at them and added. "Good night." The girls walked away and Andy focused on Miranda, "So," she smiled, "alone at last."
"Caroline was correct." Miranda licked her lips and gestured to the decimated ice cream container on the table. "That was very thoughtful of you."
Andy blushed at the compliment, "Thanks, but... I did have an ulterior motive."
"Mmmm Hmmm..." Andy grinned. "I had hoped to give you enough of a sugar rush to agree to go dancing with me, tonight."
A glint of amusement appeared in Miranda's vivid blue eyes, "You seem so innocent, Andrea. I had no idea you could be so... diabolical."
"I'm full of surprises." Andy stood and offered her hand to Miranda. "Shall we go?"
Miranda stood, not taking Andrea's hand until she had walked around the table. "I don't recall accepting your offer."
Tightening her hand slightly around the one in hers, Andy leaned over and whispered, "I don't recall you refusing."
They walked out of the restaurant and down the path toward the beach, and the beach party area. "I suppose dancing would be a good idea, to burn off some of that hideously carb loaded dessert."
Andy laughed, "Now you sound like Emily."
Miranda barely contained her snort of laughter, "Emily Charlton would have run screaming from the restaurant had that mixture of ice cream and hot fudge even passed her table." Putting her frighteningly thin assistant out of her mind, Miranda informed Andrea seriously. "You realize, of course, that I will require a fee. Dancing with you is not part of my normal duties, as your boss."
"Oh really?" Andy laughed again, "And what is the going rate for dancing the night away with the famous, or should I say infamous, Miranda Priestly. I know what it's worth... but what will it actually cost me?"
Curious, Miranda asked. "What do you think it's worth, Andrea?"
Stopping suddenly, Andy turned to look deeply into Miranda's eyes and barely managed the whispered response. "Everything."
"Andrea..." Miranda reached up brushing the back of her fingers against Andrea's cheek, "for you, I only require a kiss." She pulled back slightly as Andrea automatically leaned in, "Payable at a later time."
Recalling Miranda's agreement to her terms for babysitting fee, Andy smiled and nodded, "Acceptable."
When they reached the beach, Miranda was surprised to find the area empty. "Where is everyone?"
"Oh," Andy shrugged, "I'm sure they'll be along later. It's still fairly early and a Monday."
Miranda did recall that it had been several hours later than this when they'd arrived at the party on Saturday. "I see."
Andy turned on the electronic equipment at the edge of the dancing platform and found a radio station playing some lovely slow dance music. Sweeping Miranda into the middle of the wooden space, Andy held Miranda close and began to sway to the rhythm.
They remained gloriously close for three entire songs before Miranda began to speak, her breath warming the side of Andy's neck.
Andy's strangled voice stopped her comment. "Don't..." Pulling away to look into Miranda's eyes, Andy pleaded, "Please, don't, Miranda." After a deep breath, Andy continued, "I don't want to hear about how this can never work, how different we are, how much older you are or younger I am... I don't want to hear about how they will skewer you in the press when we get back to the mainland... please..." Andy's voice broke as she leaned her forehead against Miranda's, "not tonight."
"Please Miranda?" Andy pulled even farther away and begged, "Just dance with me." She nearly cried when, without a word, Miranda stepped back into her arms and they began to move to the music again. She didn't want to think about the future, right now was too wonderful to ever want anything more.
They had enjoyed several dances in silence before a large number of people began to congregate in the area. Someone changed the music to loud thumping rap style music and by mutual consent they had walked hand in hand back toward Miranda's suite.
Miranda looked at the door to her bungalow then back to Andrea. "Thank you, for a lovely evening."
"Thank you." Andy smiled softly and sighed, "I should be going. I have to work in the morning... I wouldn't want to be late."
"Mmm..." Pressing closer, Miranda chuckled, "I think your boss will be okay with it..."
"Yeah?" Andy sounded dubious, "I dunno.. she's kind of, particular when it comes to punctuality." Andy sighed again, "And she has a video conference call set up in the morning with her associates back in New York."
"Ah," Miranda nodded and controlling the ridiculous urges she was experiencing, stepped back. Andrea was doing everything she could think of to get away as quickly as possible, Miranda wasn't about to make a fool of herself by throwing herself at the young woman. "Of course." She willed herself to hold her ground as Andrea moved away, "Good night, Andrea."
"Good night, Miranda." Andy backed a little farther away. "Sweet dreams."
Opening the door, Miranda glanced back before she stepped across the threshold, "Sweet dreams to you as well."
Andy watched the door close slowly and took a deep breath, reminding herself. You'll see her tomorrow. It had taken every ounce of willpower she had to distance herself from Miranda, but she wasn't about to ruin things by moving too quickly now. Small steps were called for in this situation and Andy knew both of them needed time to think about, everything.
Andy concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. Even the beautiful sunrise didn't distract her and Andy just ran. It was the only way she'd found to keep thoughts of Miranda from overwhelming her. It was really why she'd started running again. After her treacherous exit in Paris, running was the only thing she found that helped her push aside the feelings she had for Miranda. Those feelings often kept her awake, so running also helped exhaust her enough to sleep, however restlessly. The memory of finding Miranda, almost broken one evening in a Paris hotel room was most often replayed on those restless nights. The sheer humanity the so-called Dragon Lady had displayed had been heartbreaking.
Andy concentrated so fully on her running that she nearly passed the woman leaning against a tree just off the path. But, no matter how distracted she was, there was no way possible to ignore Miranda Priestly.
Slowing to a stop, Andy stood just out of arms reach. "Miranda, I... didn't think we were due in the office until eight. How did you find me?"
"We're not." Taking a step forward, Miranda licked her lips, "I asked Mr. Roarke if he knew where you normally ran in the morning."
"You need something?" Andy stepped back, maintaining the distance between them.
"Yes." Miranda nodded and took another step forward, "I do."
"Oh, well," Andy gestured to her sweaty body, "Let me just go clean up and change..."
"No," Miranda took another quick step forward and reached out to stop Andrea from moving away. "That is not necessary. I merely require the payment you owe me for last night."
"You said I could pay it later..."
" Andrea," Miranda smiled, pulling the younger woman closer. "That was last night... this is later."
"Last night, you insisted that I not speak what was on my mind." Miranda shook her head, "I believe you will soon find that to have been a mistake. But, as you pointed out, time is slipping away and we are due at the office later this morning. It is time to pay me what you owe me, Andrea. Then we may continue with our day."
"I owe you so much..." Andy gently cupped Miranda's jaw in her hand and pressed closer, trying to forget how sweaty her run had made her. "How can I ever repay..."
"A kiss, Andrea." Miranda's hands found their way to Andrea's hips, resting there lightly, "After a long night of reading romantic, and oddly sensual, poetry, a kiss, is all I require."
Leaning in, Andy stopped millimeters before she touched their lips together. "I always pay my debts, Miranda." Closing the minimal space between them softly at first then with increasing pressure, Andrea paid this particular debt with abandon. She was surprised at the urgency in Miranda's response, once the initial contact had been made, but then nothing mattered except the feel of Miranda in her arms and the heat filling her veins. This was even better than their first kiss. She loved the amazing softness of Miranda's mouth. Pressing the older woman back against the tree, Andy redirected her hands from exploring Miranda's curves to curling around the back of Miranda's neck. Becoming closer to Miranda was becoming an imperative. She slid her thigh between Miranda's legs and felt a surge of lust when Miranda whimpered in response.
It was intoxicating, feeling Miranda in her arms. No one would believe just how soft and warm Miranda Priestly could be. There was nothing in this life she wanted more at this moment than to have the woman in her arms. Her searching hands found their way under Miranda's shirt. At the first touch of her hand to the smooth skin on Miranda's stomach, Miranda gasped. Andy pulled away, backing farther away when she saw Miranda. The iconic white hair was mussed, her shirt was untucked from her rumpled skirt and several of the buttons were undone. It was the look on Miranda's face that completely broke the moment. The shock on Miranda's face was so out of place, Andy knew she'd overstepped. She only said a kiss. Oh God... What have I done? "M..Miranda, I..." She looked into Miranda's vivid blue eyes and Andy's stomach clenched at the confusion and hurt there. "I'm s...sorry... I..." Shaking her head, Andy backed away, "I d...didn't m...mean..." Unable to articulate what she wanted to say, Andy gave up and just, ran.
Miranda arrived at the office uncharacteristically late. Andy only barely had time to nod affirmative to the tersely asked, "Is the conference call ready?" question before Miranda was fully engaged in discussion with Nigel regarding several issues back in New York. Shaking off the tension she felt at the Dragon Lady's abrupt demeanor, Andy sat quietly at her desk and waited for Miranda to finish the business at hand. Andy knew that when the conference call was over, Miranda would say whatever it was she needed to say about this morning's incident. It will most likely be something like, "I no longer require your services." Andy though sadly. Or maybe even just... "Get out." She could barely stand the thought of that, much less the reality of it happening.
It had been a total bluff when she told Miranda that she would back off, that "their first kiss would be her last" if Miranda didn't want a relationship. That would be too unbearable. She had managed to continue her life since that fateful Paris but Andy knew, being without Miranda now would kill her.
She knew what she had to do. Andy waited for the right moment, but when it came, she would apologize, she would throw herself at Miranda's feet, beg her for another chance. This time I won't mess it up. She swore to herself. This time I won't take more than Miranda is ready to give me...
Andy couldn't help remembering the disheveled look Miranda had when they broke off what Andy could only describe in her mind as an attack on the woman. Even the thought of it was enough to make her heart pound. I almost... She had a hard time even thinking the word... fucked, Miranda Priestly right up against a tree, in broad daylight, on a public path... God, what was I thinking?? But that had been the problem. She hadn't been thinking, at all, only feeling. A wash of warmth swept through her, It felt so good. Thinking back to that kiss, Andy remembered the incident vividly. A hand on her shoulder made her jump as she was brought suddenly back to the present. She looked up into Miranda's, angry, vivid blue eyes.
"You walk, you run, you zone out while sitting at your desk." Miranda raised her eyebrows high, "It seems you have perfected all manner of ways to leave me."
"I..." All the bravado Andy had worked up in her head earlier dissipated under Miranda's baleful gaze. There was only one answer to that, the only answer Miranda ever wanted to hear. "Yes, Miranda." Andy saw a tinge of hurt flicker behind the anger and hope flared in her chest. "I mean.. no..."
"No?" Miranda laughed at that, the evil cruel kind that made Runway employees tremble. "You mean you weren't just staring off into space so that even after calling your name three times I had to actually touch you to get your attention?" Miranda again laughed, but not quite so cruelly, "Are you going to sit there and try to tell me you didn't leave me, half ravished, against a tree this morning?!" Whirling away, Miranda stood at the edge of the room, gazing out at the ocean, her voice choked, "Are you actually going to try and tell me you didn't walk away from me in P... Paris?"
Andy slowly approached her angry boss. "I won't tell you that, Miranda." Unable to stop herself, Andy slid her arms around Miranda's waist. She kept the hold as Miranda tensed. Andy breathed a bit easier when Miranda relaxed back against her. "I have many regrets about Paris. The main one being, I didn't get to see you on a daily basis anymore."
"And this morning..." Miranda remained in Andrea's arms, but kept very still. "Do you regret that as well?"
"Yes, Miranda." Andy again felt the tension singing through Miranda's form and held the woman tightly as she continued to answer. "I completely regret leaving you half-ravished against that tree..." Turning Miranda in her arms, Andy locked their gazes together. "I didn't know I had the strength to walk away from such a beautiful sight." She could see the doubt in Miranda's eyes, the hurt she'd caused. A thrill raced down Andy's spine as she realized that the hurt hadn't come from the action, it had come from the leaving. She wanted me to... "Miranda, I regret this morning because... I shouldn't have escalated the kiss in such a manner."
"Of course." Miranda dropped her head, eyes now studying the bit of floor between them even as Andrea continued speaking.
"I shouldn't have left you half-ravished against that tree..." Andy shifted to reach up and gently lift Miranda's face to meet her gaze again. "I've always been told to finish what I start."
Silence reigned for a long moment, only ragged breaths between them, then Miranda asked quietly. "What are you starting, Andrea?"
Andy smiled and softly, chastely, pressed her lips to Miranda's in a long, loving, gesture before answering. "Something wonderful."
"Are you sure, Andrea?"
"Yes." Licking her lips, Andy pulled back to gaze into Miranda's vivid blue eyes and quoted a line of poetry. "Because love has your face and body....and your hands are tender and your mouth is sweet...and God has made no other eyes like yours."
It took Miranda a moment to recall where she'd heard those words before. "That's a line from a poem in the book I was reading last night." Miranda was amazed. That very line had caught her attention, because of the mention of eyes. It had reminded her of Andrea's haunting eyes. "How did you..."
"Walter Benton...he's been a favorite of mine for a while." Andy nodded. "I saw his book in Susan's suite and it was in mine too so I thought perhaps it was in yours as well. You said you spent last night reading poetry."
"You actually remember me saying that?" Miranda laughed softly, "I barely remember saying that."
"I remember a lot of things, Miranda." Andy's fingertips trailed down Miranda's arm. "I remember that there is something I left...half finished... this morning."
"Perhaps you should...correct that oversight..." Miranda pressed closer, finding Andrea's ear to whisper, "As soon as possible."
"I agree." Andy tilted her head to give Miranda better access to her neck. "When would that be?"
"Hmmm..." Miranda nibbled Andrea's earlobe and sighed, "I must meet the girls for lunch soon..."
"Indeed." Miranda pulled away and smiled, "Join us."
"Yeah?" Andy asked carefully, "Are you sure?"
"Absolutely." Miranda nodded, "If we are going to start this... wonderful thing. The girls will be a part of it. They are the most important people in my life and..."
"Shhh.." Andy captured Miranda's lips for a long luxurious moment, "I understand. You love them."
"I..." Miranda caught the words in her throat and changed what she had been about to say, "...do love them."
"You should." Andy smiled a bit sadly, "Parents should love their children, unconditionally."
Miranda detected a hint of hurt in Andrea's tone, but didn't inquire about it. There would be time for that, she hoped, another day. "Shall we shut everything down then?"
Andy smirked as Miranda rolled her eyes at the standard response. "Yes, Miranda."
"Are you serious?" Cassidy couldn't believe what she was hearing. Well she could, but she couldn't. It was amazing to her that it seemed so... done. Any time she had seen her mother interacting with Andy they seemed to get along very well, and Cassidy had entertained the hope that Andy might be just what her mother needed. The fact that Miranda had accepted that was astonishing. Cassidy had figured her mother would resist the idea for a long time before giving in. "You and Andy??" She looked at Andy, "You and Mom?"
"Um.. Y..yeah... is th..that okay with you?" Andy knew her breath was coming faster than it should, but this was important. If either one of the girls didn't approve of the relationship, that would be it, finished before it was even started, and Andy knew it.
Cassidy's face nearly split in two with a smile, "I think it's fantastic!" Now she understood Caroline's excitement, and reluctance to talk, this morning. They'd barely made it back to their beds last night, but when they'd woken up this morning, Caroline had watched their mother carefully all through breakfast. When Cassidy had asked her about it, Caroline seemed on the verge of spilling the biggest secret in the world. Now Cassidy turned to her sister accusingly, "You knew!"
"I wasn't sure." Caroline held up her hands to fend off her sister's wrath. "I didn't want to say anything in case I was wrong." She'd known though, after Miranda's comments at the surfing competition, what her mother's feelings were. What she didn't know is how Andy felt about it. She was also slightly amazed that Miranda wasn't protesting the relationship more. It was not in her mother's nature to allow herself indulgence of any sort, and Andy was the biggest indulgence there was.
Caroline had another reason for not telling her sister. The drama and romance of the moment as it was revealed to Cassidy was what Caroline wanted to see. They had spent all their lives learning how to get what they wanted from their mother, to get their way, but now as Caroline watched her mother looking at Andy, she wondered what would have happened if either of them had objected to the budding relationship. Miranda was not tense at all, not the way Andy was, visibly and audibly. Caroline realized that on this, single issue, their mother had no intention, at this point, of backing down. Had either of them protested Andy's presence in their lives, Caroline knew. We'd have been S.O.L. and told to deal with it.
Caroline grinned, "I guess now would be a good time to bring this up..." She produced a brochure from her purse and handed it over to Miranda. "Cass and I both want to do that."
Miranda glanced at the glossy text and read the blurb, printed in large letters, on the front before questioning her daughter, "Excursion?"
Nodding, Caroline gestured to the folded piece of paper. "Yes, to the other side of the island. There's a beach there with great waves. Some of the other surfers were talking about it. They have little huts there so we can stay right on the beach."
Cassidy took up the spiel. "There are adults that will accompany the party, there are also medical personnel on site on the off chance there's an accident." Her eyes shone as she announced their final point, the one that had been a reason Miranda would have kept them here, but now, may be the best reason for them to go. "We would leave in the morning and be gone the rest of our trip here."
Nodding and trying not to grin too widely, Caroline spoke, "We would, of course, be back in time to meet the plane for our flight home." She could almost see the wheels in her mother's mind turning and wasn't surprised at the quiet comment slipping from Miranda's lips.
Mischievous eyes glanced from Andy to Miranda and Cassidy added, "And nights..." She grinned as a discernible blush colored her mother's cheeks. Andy's gaze dropped to the table, but Cassidy could tell that the brunette was very excited about the prospect of spending that much time alone with their mom.
Miranda licked her lips and took a deep breath, "I will meet the people in charge of this, excursion, before I will leave you in their care."
"Of course." Caroline nodded and pointed to the brochure, "They will be available for a full two hours before the scheduled departure time, so that everyone can meet them."
Nodding, Miranda's eyes met Andrea's. "You will need to reschedule my second conference call with Nigel. I had told him I would speak with him again, tomorrow. I believe now that meeting can be pushed back until my return to New York."
Andy bit her lower lip and almost shyly, responded, "Yes, Miranda."
The waiter delivered their orders and as he was setting the plates on the table, Cassidy and Caroline shared a smile.
When lunch was over, Andy excused herself to go to the office changing the schedule meant sending out emails and she could inform Nigel of the meeting change via the face to face chat program.
Miranda watched Andrea leave and sighed. It was going to be another long evening and night.
"You really like her." Cassidy was thrilled to see what she termed to be "her mother" back with them again. For the last few years "her mother" only made rare appearances, even in the privacy of their own home. "The Editor", what most people called, "The Dragon" was there in her mother's place. This trip was turning out even better than Cassidy had expected and she assured Miranda again. "I think it's great."
"Me too." Caroline yawned and pushed away from the table, stretching her arms over her head. "Gosh, surfing makes me tired... I think I'll go take a nap." She looked at Cassidy significantly and grinned as her sister jumped a little and not-so-subtly took the hint.
"Oh!" Cassidy fake yawned, "Me too... I'm beat..."
Miranda couldn't help chuckling at the girls obvious subterfuge and loved them just a little more for it. "Bobbseys..." She waited for their, "uh oh, we're busted" looks to be turned toward her and smiled, "Thank you."
They both relaxed and flanked Miranda, leaning down to kiss each of her cheeks. Caroline pressed her forehead lightly into Miranda's temple and whispered, "We love you, Mom."
Cassidy stood and grinned down at their mom then winked, "Have fun." She giggled and dodged the napkin Miranda threw at her, but was charmed by the pink tingeing Miranda's porcelain cheeks. As she and Caroline walked out of the restaurant, Cassidy knew she would never forget the sight of her mother, in love.
"Did she say why?"
Andy rolled her eyes and spoke sarcastically, "Yes, Nigel. She explained every detail of her decision making process to me." She sat back in the office chair and shrugged as casually as she could. "How am I supposed to know? Maybe she just decided she actually wants a vacation..."
"Well then, aren't you lucky..." Nigel smiled at his former co-worker, "... a trip to a tropical island and not having to work with Miranda." He grinned, "Although, if I remember correctly you did have a severe case of hero worship there for a while." He chuckled when Andy's blush came through on the webcam picture. "Ah... I see... still crushing on the ex-boss..." He shook his head sadly, "Do try and get over that dear... it's been too long..."
"Nigel..." Andy tried to warn him against saying anything else, but he continued his comment.
"She's not likely to melt any time soon, you know? Lately she's been colder than ever."
Dark eyes looked past the computer screen and Andy nearly melted herself at the flash of hurt on Miranda's face. Then the expression turned devious and Andy gasped as Miranda rounded the desk.
Without a word to Nigel, Miranda leaned down and wrapped her arms around Andrea's shoulders. She kissed Andrea's cheek. "Are you ready to leave, my darling?"
Andy laughed softly and turned her head to reciprocate the kiss then nodded, "Yes, Miranda." She looked back to the screen and smiled at the shocked man pictured there. "Gotta go."
"Nigel." Miranda also looked into the camera and assured him, "I will be back in the office, in all my frozen glory, next week. You might want to be ready for that..."
Reaching forward, Miranda cut the connection even while Nigel was still nodding slowly.
"That was... surprising." Andy turned to see Miranda better. "I didn't imagine you would be so... open about... us."
"You would rather be my dirty little secret?" Miranda stood and moved away. "Or perhaps you would rather keep your association with me quiet."
"No," Catching up to Miranda quickly, Andy reassured her. "If it were up to me I'd take out an ad in the Times to announce how happy I am." She wrapped her arms around Miranda and smiled as the woman melted into her. "It's just very early in our relationship..." A thought struck her and Andy blinked, pulling away from Miranda. "I... if this is the beginning of a relationship." As Miranda turned to face her, Andy asked quietly, "Is it? or... is this j.. just a w...weekend fling for you?"
"Andrea," Miranda shook her head, "This is not merely a weekend fling for me." She smiled and assured Andrea, "I have complete confidence in Nigel's discretion. He will not tell anyone about us until we are ready for that information to be public." If we ever are. After a moment of silence, Miranda admitted, "I just wanted to give him a little payback for his intensely personal, slightly hurtful, comments." She sighed, "He has worked with me for a very long time and thinks he knows me, but he does not."
"Is it true?" Andy rested her head on Miranda's shoulder, burying her face in the crook of Miranda's neck, "Have you been colder than ever lately?"
Miranda tilted her head, encouraging exploring lips and spoke through the emotions Andrea was evoking in her, "I believe it is." Miranda shuddered as Andrea's warm breath caressed her skin.
"Why?" Andy murmured.
"I have always had to give up a great deal, in order to live the life I do." Miranda pulled away slightly, "I gave the care of my children over to strangers... I gave up my privacy... I gave up many things in order to succeed in my chosen profession..." She paused for a deep breath, "I was nearly forced to give up my position at Runway, in Paris. Instead I lost something of far greater value that day... you. And for a while I managed to cope with that loss, but the girls have informed me that I've begun to withdraw. Caroline says I don't smile anymore, even when I am home with them. She had worried that... that Stephen had... done, something to hurt me, to cause my sadness." Pressing her fingers against Andrea's lips to stop any response from the woman, Miranda smiled and reassured her. "He did not. I now understand, as Caroline surmised after seeing us together, that I was simply missing, you. Nigel's assertion that I've grown colder than ever is most likely true..." She licked her lips and continued, "That is why it really doesn't matter if Nigel knows or not, when I return, everyone will know that something has changed anyway."
"Oh?" Andy wasn't sure how that was possible.
"Mmmm..." She paraphrased another line from another poem in the book she'd been reading, close enough for Andrea to know where it came from. "For I have looked too long upon you, and with so much love that strangers can see you in my face, as the sun and vivid colors leave an after image in the eyes..." Miranda brushed the back of her fingers against Andrea's cheek, "You are my sun, Andrea."
"Miranda..." Leaning into the touch, Andy closed her eyes to savor the sensation.
"You brought up some very valid points the other evening when we were dancing." Miranda smiled as Andrea's dark eyes flew open. "We should discuss those matters before we take this, relationship, to the next level of intimacy."
Andy sighed, "Yes, I suppose we should."
Nodding, Miranda stepped back slightly. "Come to our bungalow this evening for dinner. The girls will most likely surf for a while this afternoon, after they wake from their nap. They will be excited about their excursion tomorrow, but will retire early to be rested for the trip. We can discuss, things, after they are asleep."
"Okay..." Andy moved slowly, shutting down the office. When she was finished, she spoke quietly. "Have a nice afternoon."
"I don't see how that's possible," Miranda reached out to take Andrea's hand, "so long as you are not near me."
Andy nodded, "I'll miss you too." Giving in to the slight pressure on her hand, Andy moved closer then leaned in, pressing her lips against Miranda's. The instant heat created in her veins pulled a low moan from her. She reached up with her free hand, the impossibly soft hair sliding between her fingers drew another moan from her throat. When they parted, Andy's fingers stayed threaded in Miranda's iconic silver hair. "I will see you this evening, around seven?"
Miranda corrected instantly, "Six, so that we may all have some time together before dinner. I'll put a call in for the meal to be delivered at seven. What would you like for your entree?"
Licking her lips, Andy nodded, "Okay, six and, a fish course will be fine for me." Lifting the hand that was still in hers, Andy turned it over and kissed the soft skin on the inside of Miranda's wrist. "Until then."
"Mom!" Cassidy glanced up from the game of Scrabble she was playing with Caroline and shook her head as Miranda continued pacing. "She'll be here."
"But it's..." Miranda gestured to the clock. Caroline finished the sentence.
"Not even a quarter 'til yet." Caroline, played her final tiles then repeated her sister's reassurance, "She'll be here." Caroline sighed and rose from her seat to stop their mother from opening the door, again. She guided Miranda to a chair. "Please, try to chill out for a minute."
"This is so important..." Miranda sighed and did actually lean back in the chair. "You don't understand."
Caroline smiled, "I understand that you like her, and that she likes you... what more is there to know?"
A sound of frustration escaped Miranda's throat and she was up again, pacing. "There is so much more. So many issues Andrea and I must discuss... clarify... decide on... agree upon." She didn't want to voice her true fear to her children. She had to make sure that this was real for Andrea and that the girl wasn't going to just cut and run as was her usual modus operandi.
"Mom!" This time Cassidy stopped their mother and led her back to the seat she'd just vacated. She smiled at her worried mother, leaned in and kissed her cheek, and said, "Just kiss the girl."
Miranda buried her face in her hands, her elbows resting on her knees. "I already have." She looked up into her daughter's smiling face and clarified one point, "But that is the problem isn't it? You said "Kiss the girl". She is so... young."
"Ugh," Cassidy rolled her eyes, "Mom, that's just the saying. Andy's nearly thirty, plenty old enough for anything."
"She's closer to your age than mine." Miranda wondered at the sincerity in Cassidy's voice, "Don't you worry about what the press will say? I'm sure at least one will accuse me of dating one of your friends..."
Caroline ground her teeth together, "The press can just fuck off!"
"Language!" Miranda's immediate reprimand wasn't as heartfelt as usual. It was a sentiment she shared with her daughter, although she wished it would be voiced a little less crudely. There were very few topics that caused her or her daughter's to curse; the press was one of them.
"Sorry," Caroline visibly calmed herself, "You know I hate them."
"I used to be one of them, you know?"
Three sets of piercing blue eyes shifted to the doorway and the lanky figure leaning against the frame.
"Sorry to startle you," Andy smiled. "The door was open. I thought you might have left it that way because you were out on the balcony or something. I didn't mean to intrude..."
"No..." Miranda was up and to their visitor quickly. "Come in... please." It was only after Andrea took a step over the threshold that Miranda registered what the woman was wearing. "You look lovely." The floral print dress left both Andrea's shoulders bare, but covered the rest of Andrea's long body down to her ankles. Simple sandals finished the outfit perfectly.
"You look amazing, as always." The business suit Miranda had chosen for the evening was perfect for the discussion they were going to have and the decisions that were going to be made. Apparently Miranda was going to go about it with her normal business acumen. Andy smiled and handed over the chilled bottle of wine she'd brought. She also presented Miranda with a tropical flower. "For you."
"Thank you." Miranda inhaled the delicate scent, "It's lovely." She gestured to the room in general, "Come in, please. I'll just go put this in some water, and get the wine back into a chiller."
Cassidy spoke up, "We just finished a game of Scrabble. Do you wanna play?"
"You sure?" Andy grinned, "I am a writer..." she warned, "I know a lot of words."
Caroline waved off that warning, "You still have to get the right tiles. It's all luck really."
"Okay," Andy nodded and took a seat at the small table. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
Laughing at that, Cassidy took her seat then looked up from the blank board when Miranda reentered the room. "You wanna play, Mom?"
Miranda watched Andrea's eyebrows raise in challenge and barely suppressed a smirk, "Very well. I suppose we must do something while waiting for our meals to be delivered."
Andy saw Caroline's eyes roll and she smiled as the girl half-heartedly complained.
"If you think writers know a lot of words, just imagine how many of them an editor knows!" It was Caroline's turn to issue a warning, "Mom always skunks us." She mixed up the tiles and they all began drawing their beginning letters.
Miranda calmly drew her letters and set them on the small stand in front of her. Andy just smiled and waited for the first word to be placed on the board. "Well then, this should be an interesting game."
Clear blue eyes gazed across the table and Miranda smiled. "Indeed."
"Qiviut?" Cassidy shook her head, "No way, Mom... that's not a word."
Andy sighed as she looked at the E's lined up in front of her. "Yes it is, Cass." Andy's dark eyes held just a hint of amusement, while Miranda simply smirked. "It's Inuit... a type of wool. Very expensive, much sought after." Andy chuckled at the incredulous expression on both girls' faces, but spoke to Miranda. "It doesn't surprise me you know that one."
"It does surprise me that you do know it, Andrea."
Andy shrugged, "I did a biography for a couple of survivalists in Alaska, two years ago. One of the ways they made a little money for the supplies they needed, that they couldn't make themselves, was to gather the wool from the molting animals and sell it. It was interesting to me. I actually have a scarf and hat set they gave me as a gift when the book was finished."
"Nice gift." Miranda commented, "I have a scarf, but not a matched set."
Andy smiled and made a mental note to herself to contact the Alaskan couple for a scarf/hat set as a gift for Miranda at some later date. "It is nice, very warm." She gestured to the board, "Are we finished then? Because all I have left are vowels and there is no way any of us can catch up after that..." Her deep brown eyes crinkled at the corners at Miranda's smirk, "Triple word score."
"Yeah," Cassidy patted her belly, "I'm kinda hungry too."
"Did you guys go surfing this afternoon?" Andy helped pick up the board and put the tiles away.
"Yeah," Caroline laughed, "We'll have to come back here sometime, just for the surfing."
"That is nearly all you've done this time." It only sounded a tiny bit petulant. Miranda was well aware that the girls were growing up and wanted to be off doing their own 'things' as often as possible.
"If you will excuse me, just need to use the loo." Andy chuckled at her choice of words and spoke as she left the room. "I've lived in England too long."
"We don't have to go, Mom." Caroline spoke quietly as she put the game box back on the shelf where they'd found it and assured her mother, "But we love surfing and thought you and Andy might want some time alone."
"I know how much you enjoy the sport," Miranda nodded and smiled at the girls, "Both of you. And I do appreciate your thoughtfulness when it comes to Andrea."
"We love you, Mom." Cassidy hugged Miranda's shoulders. Any other comment was lost as a knock sounded at the door.
Miranda patted the arms around her for release, "Our meal has arrived."
"More wine?" Andy held up the bottle in question and smiled as Miranda nodded. She filled both their glasses and returned the empty bottle to the chiller. "Thank you for the lovely meal."
"Mmm..." The girls had returned their plates to the service cart before heading to their rooms for some much needed sleep but Miranda glanced at the remains of the steak on her plate, then the bits of salmon on Andrea's. "Was that enough for you?"
"Oh yes," Andy patted her tummy, "It was plenty."
"In the meals we've shared, you've always chosen fish as an entree. Is that because of our location?" Miranda had not been surprised when Andrea voiced her preference earlier.
"No, actually." Andy grinned, "You've sussed out my pescatarian ways."
"That is the second time this evening you've used a decidedly "English" term." Miranda tilted her head slightly to study her companion. "I don't recall you doing that at the office. Is that normal for you?"
Laughing at that, Andy ran her fingers through her hair as she nodded, "Yeah, actually. As I told you, I've lived with Susan for the last six months, but I had been there for nearly six months prior to that working with other clients, so basically for the last year I've been living in England, immersed in the language. I'd been working to regain my "American" accent for a few weeks prior to my arrival here and thought I'd managed it fairly well."
"You did..." Miranda nodded, "So, why are you now slipping?"
"I had quite a lot of time this afternoon, to meditate and relax." Andy sighed and gestured to her glass, "The wine is probably a large factor as well."
"You... relaxed, this afternoon?" Miranda found that slightly disturbing. She had become more and more tense as the time had passed. Anticipating the upcoming meeting with Andrea was not conducive to relaxation on her part. The decision she had come to after their lunch had left Miranda saddened to the point of near despair. How Andrea, as intelligent as she was, didn't come to the same conclusion, regarding this thing between them, was astounding. The fact that Andrea had been able to relax was ample proof that she had not arrived at the same logical conclusion that Miranda had. Obviously Andrea was still under the impression that a relationship between them would work.
"Yes, after a few hours of meditation I managed to accomplish that goal." Andy sipped her wine and licked her lips as she set her glass down, "I suppose we are going to have that talk now."
"I believe that would be wise." Miranda gestured to the living area of the bungalow and frowned when Andrea shook her head. "No?"
"No," Andy stood and extended her hand to Miranda, "Let's go out on the balcony."
"Alright," Miranda stood and took Andrea's hand as the young woman led her outside. Andrea settled herself on one of the chairs around the small table and cradled her head on her fingertips, elbow on the table.
"Okay, I'm listening. What was it you needed to talk about?"
"What I needed to talk about?" Miranda blinked, stressed the pronoun. She was baffled at the phrasing of that statement. "Andrea, we need to discuss this." Taking the young woman's nod as a prompt, Miranda launched into the speech she'd been rehearsing in her mind most of the afternoon. It detailed all the drawbacks to this arrangement, the difference in their ages, the reaction in both of their professional lives and the scrutiny of the media. Despite her daughters' encouragement just prior to Andrea's arrival, the conclusion she had formed while they'd been gone surfing remained and now Miranda began to spell it out to her would-be romantic partner.
Miranda paced the short length of the balcony as she spoke, knowing Andrea's eyes were trained on her. Back and forth she went, laying out every reason she could think of not to continue, not to proceed with this, affair. She had come to the devastating realization, that it would simply hurt too much to lose Andrea when they tried this and it failed. Her lovers always left, for one reason or another, she saw nothing to indicate Andrea would be any different. In fact, the young woman had left her once already. The most logical thing, to Miranda's mind, was to stop this, now, before they got in any deeper. Andrea's continual nods at key points in the speech only confirmed Miranda's conclusion in her head, which is why she was left breathless when her speech was over and Andrea broke the silence stretching between them.
"I want to make love to you."
"What?!" Miranda shivered at the thought of Andrea's hands on her. It almost melted her where she stood, but logic took over. "Have you not been listening?"
"Yes." Andy stood and moved to intercept Miranda as the older woman began pacing again. "I've listened to the words and I've heard the arguments. I can also hear the tone in your voice. The "I've thought about this and made my decision" tone that no one disagrees with, but, I knew you would do this, knew you would try and tell me why we should not do this and I am saying, "No"."
"No, Miranda." Andy continued as if Miranda had not interrupted, "I have heard and I understand every one of your so-called reasons," Locking her gaze with Miranda's, Andy clearly enunciated every word, "and I still want to try." She smiled at the flicker of hope she saw spark in Miranda's eyes, "I think you're worth the effort, that we are worth the effort." She took Miranda's hand in hers and smiled as Miranda's blue eyes tracked their joined hands up to Andy's lips. Kissing the inside of Miranda's wrist, Andy smiled, "I want to show you what I'm fighting for," Deep brown eyes held Miranda's for a heartbeat, "I want to make love to you."
"This situation is not going to be resolved with sex."
"I'm not talking about sex, Miranda." Andy smiled and reached up with her free hand to thread her fingers through Miranda's hair, "You and I both have plenty of opportunity for that, whenever we want." Pressing her lips against Miranda's temple, Andy murmured. "I want to make love to you, Miranda."
"I..." Miranda shivered as Andrea's lips brushed along her jaw, "Oh, Andrea... I..."
"Shhh..." Andy covered Miranda's lips with hers and all speech stopped for several moments before Andy broke the kiss. She rested her forehead against Miranda's. "You don't have to answer now. I will go back to my suite and I promise to give all your words the consideration they deserve. All I ask is that you do the same to my proposal." Andy's fingertips brushed down the side of Miranda's neck as she moved away, "I will be back, tomorrow, after the girls leave."
Miranda watched as Andrea walked back into the suite and out through the bungalow's front door. Her skin tingled where Andrea had touched her, and ached where she wanted Andrea to touch her, but all she could think about was that Andrea was gone, again.
Andy walked up to Miranda's bungalow, hesitating when she saw the door had been left open slightly. She recalled her comment from yesterday about thinking Miranda was on the balcony and so she let herself in, quietly then moved through the suite to the outdoor space. Sure enough, Miranda sat on one of the recliners there, staring out over the ocean.
"I have a problem, Andrea."
"What's wrong, Miranda?" Andy quickly moved to Miranda's side, kneeling next to the chair, "What can I do to help?"
An ironic laugh escaped Miranda's lips, "You are the problem..." The silver head shifted, and Miranda's vivid blue gaze locked on Andrea's deep brown eyes. "...and the solution."
"I don't understand." Andy took Miranda's hand and kissed the soft skin on the inside of Miranda's wrist, "What do you mean?"
Gently extricating her hand from Andrea's, Miranda refocused her attention on the horizon. "When I am alone, everything seems so clear. This, relationship between us, is madness. It will never work... it can't possibly work... there are so many issues stacked against it, the chances of success are infinitesimal."
"No... it's true, and you know it... but let me finish." Miranda took a deep breath, "As I said, that is how I feel, when I'm alone. The knowledge that this will never work between us, and that we should not even begin to try for a relationship saddens me, but that is how things are in life sometimes." Licking her lips, Miranda continued speaking, "But when I'm with you, in your presence, I dare to hope. The issues don't seem so daunting, and I actually begin to believe that a partnership between us could work."
"What's wrong with that?" Andy laid her head on Miranda's lap, looking up at the introspective woman. "What's wrong with hope? I thought you lived on it?"
"I cannot deal with these dual feelings. They are tearing me apart after only a few days. Being without you, is a pain to me, but I cannot be with you all the time." She could feel her tears beginning to form, again. "When I'm alone, I have such doubts about us that... all I can think of is that we should not be doing this, I should not be with you. You should not tie yourself to me in this manner. But when we are together, I cannot help but feel drawn to you. I have missed you so much these last few years. The need to touch you is often overwhelming," She looked down at Andrea's concerned brown eyes and noticed that her own hand was running through Andrea's long silky hair. "You see, I didn't even know I was doing that..." She pulled her hand away.
"Miranda." Andy shifted, stretching out next to the older woman on the lounge chair. She wrapped her arms around Miranda. "We can deal with this, one day at a time."
"This is what I mean," Miranda also shifted slightly and turned to make room for Andrea's thin frame to fit next to her and it did fit, perfectly. "This feels so good, and so right...and if anyone asked me, right at this moment how I pictured my future, I could not picture it without you in it." Miranda rested her head on Andrea's shoulder. If they'd been standing it would have looked like they were dancing. "But then you are going to go, leave for one reason or another... last night you left to go back to your own room, and when you do, the future no longer looks as certain."
"I won't leave, Miranda." Andy assured the woman in her arms. "I'm right here."
"I hate this." Miranda belied her words as she snuggled closer, then elaborated, "I hate this... neediness. I don't cling, Andrea... not ever."
Andy smiled, found Miranda's ear and whispered, "I want to make love to you, Miranda."
Miranda shivered as Andrea's breath warmed her skin then soft lips and velvety tongue explored the outer edge of her ear. Goosebumps raised everywhere on her and Miranda moaned slightly when Andrea's teeth bit down lightly on her earlobe. The low whisper shot electric waves of desire through her. Like the ocean not so far away constantly crashing to shore, wave after wave of pleasure washed through her and crashed in her middle, just below her navel. "Stop..." Miranda barely had the strength to push Andrea away, "Please stop..."
"What's wrong, Miranda?"
"I cannot... I do not want..." Miranda tried to form a coherent thought and catch her breath at the same time.
"Oh..." Andy nodded obviously disappointed at Miranda's comments. "I see."
"No... you don't." Miranda took a deep breath and stood, offering her hand to Andrea, "One of these days we're going to have to talk about your unfortunate habit of second guessing me." She smiled as Andrea took her hand and spoke as they walked into the bungalow. "I do not want our first time to be on a lounge chair where any passerby on the beach might see us."
"Oh," Andy followed Miranda into the bedroom and teased, "Keeping me as your dirty little secret now?"
"Mmm... Not exactly." Miranda released Andrea's hand and turned to face her soon-to-be lover. "There is one thing I must do, before we... proceed."
Andy grinned, "Oh?"
"Yes," Miranda took a deep breath and wondered if this would really effect anything, but in her own mind it was the right thing to do. "I can not do this, if you are my employee."
"You're fired." Miranda blinked as Andrea's grin widened to the sun-rivaling smile she was known for. "Why are you smiling, Andrea? I just fired you!"
"No, you didn't. You can't." Andy's smile morphed into a smirk. "You don't have the authority."
"I don't have..." Miranda glared at Andrea, "Of course I... Why are you shaking your head?"
"I don't work for you, Miranda. I haven't worked for you in four years. I was assigned to be your assistant, yes... but I haven't worked for you while we've been here..." Andy stepped forward and kissed Miranda's lips gently, then spoke with a smile, "Mr. Roarke was my employer."
"And before you ask me to be re-assigned, I spoke to him after I left last night. We agreed that the terms of my contract, while my 'fantasy' was not completely fulfilled, the majority of my demands have been satisfactorily met. I'm just a guest here now, the same as you." Andy moved closer still and seemed fascinated by the texture of Miranda's cheek against her fingertips. "I'll leave for the mainland on the same plane as you and the girls, on Sunday evening."
"Good." Miranda moved into the touch, closing her eyes to savor the sensation, "I was dreading the thought of leaving you here..."
"Were you?" Andy sighed, "It would serve me right..." She looked directly into Miranda's darkened blue eyes and shrugged, "Paybacks." Andy lowered her eyes, unable to look at Miranda and think about that day in Paris at the same time.
"Andrea... that was a long time ago." With gentle fingers under Andrea's chin, Miranda angled the sad brown eyes up. "Let it go."
"Yes..." Placing a light kiss on Andrea's cheek, tasting the one salty tear that had escaped Andrea's eye, Miranda reassured the young woman, "Yes, I forgave you for that, a long time ago." The random flashes of anger that consumed her regarding that event never lasted long. The memory of the betrayal had long since been overwhelmed by the loneliness Andrea's absence had caused.
"Miranda," Andy let her tears fall as she threaded her fingers through Miranda's soft white hair and leaned in. With her lips, millimeters from Miranda's she whispered, "I want to make love to you."
"No one is stopping you, Andrea...." Miranda found her arms automatically wrapping around Andrea's lean form as they descended to the bed. Her last coherent thought was of how perfect it felt to be in Andrea's arms, and then there was nothing but gentle kisses and soft caresses. Andrea's hands on her evoked sensations that Miranda had never experienced in her entire life, not once, not with anyone. The feeling of Andrea around her, inside her, was incredible, indescribable. She thought she was going to go mad from Andrea holding her, just on the edge of release. It was brilliant, and perfect, it seemed endless and she never wanted it to end, but at the same time Miranda needed, just a little bit more... just a little... "Andrea... please..." Full, luscious lips found her ear.
"Shhh..." Andy whispered and smiled against Miranda's soft skin. "Come for me, Miranda."
That was it, all it took. Not an order, but a gentle request that Miranda could not help but grant. Great waves of pleasure broke over her as Andrea held her steady. "Andrea! Andrea... I... Oh God..."
"Shhh... I'm here... I've got you..." Peppering Miranda's face and neck with soft kisses, Andy waited for Miranda to completely relax before she shifted to allow her lover's head to rest on her, just above her breast. She smiled as Miranda sighed in obvious contentment. Andy arranged the sheet around them and closed her eyes, drifting off in a haze of happiness.
Andy floated blissfully on a cloud. She loved this part of the morning, before she totally woke up, before her dreams disappeared into the harsh light of day and the sensation of Miranda in her arms gave way to reality.
This morning was different though, this morning the normal sounds of traffic outside her window was replaced with the constant whoosh of the ocean waves beating against the sand. Light filtered through her eyelids and a shadow crossed her face. "Wha.." Blinking her eyes open, Andy found herself looking directly into Miranda's vivid blue eyes, "Miranda..." Suddenly, Andy remembered where she was, in Miranda's bed, and smiled. This wasn't a dream, she wouldn't wake up to find it gone, she was really here. "How long have you been awake?"
"Not long," Miranda shifted and traced the line of Andrea's jaw and neck, running her fingertips across the prominent collarbone. "Breakfast was delivered a few moments ago, if you're hungry."
"If I'm..." Andy laughed and pulled Miranda down to her, "After my workout last night... I'm starving." Rolling, she pinned Miranda under her and pressed their lips together. She had intended on it being a quick kiss, but the moment she felt Miranda's soft lips moving against hers, Andy moaned and deepened the kiss. Andy knew she could spend the rest of her life just like this, kissing and tasting Miranda. Releasing the older woman's mouth, Andy began trailing kisses down Miranda's neck. She moved lower, placing light kisses on the soft exposed skin just above Miranda's breast and began to pull up the nightgown Miranda was wearing.
"I thought you were hungry."
Chuckling at that, Andy kissed the skin she'd just exposed and agreed, "Oh yes... very hungry..."
Miranda drew in a deep breath and shifted to allow for better access, even as she spoke, "Your breakfast is getting cold, Andrea..."
"I don't think so..." Andy licked her lips, "I think my breakfast is getting hotter by the moment." Lowering her head, Andy smiled against the smooth skin as she kissed her way up Miranda's thigh. She loved the gasp caused by the first flick of her tongue and decided she was going to do everything in her power to draw that sound from Miranda as many times as possible.
"How can you possibly eat that?"
Andy looked up and grinned as she tore another bite off of the cold pancake, "I'm starving..." She dredged the bite through the pool of syrup on the plate and shifted it to her mouth, not allowing a drop of the syrup to touch the silk robe she wore. Politely holding her hand up in front of her mouth as she spoke around the bite, Andy laughed, "It's delicious."
Rolling her eyes at that, Miranda reached for a bowl of cut fruit. "At least this is supposed to be cold." The icy bed the bowl had been sitting on, before she had transferred it to the table, had kept the bits nicely chilled. "Do you want some?"
"No," Andy continued eating the cold pancakes. "I had my smoothie..." she pointed to the empty glass next to her plate. The container it had been delivered in had also been on ice. "So, what are we going to do today?"
Miranda's vivid blue eyes raked over her tablemate with obvious intentions.
"We can't stay here all day..." Andy laughed, "We have to get out, walk on the beach..."
Miranda shook her head.
"... watch the birds... "
"feel the sun on our faces..."
"Uh uh..." Miranda put down her bowl and moved to sit on Andrea's lap, the silk of their robes sliding together easily. "We are staying right here..."
Andy pressed her lips together then with deliberate intent, ran her finger through the syrup on the plate in front of them. Raising the finger to Miranda's lips she painted them, and was surprised when Miranda captured the digit in her mouth. Shivering at the sensation of Miranda's tongue swirling around her fingertip, Andy allowed the treatment to continue for a heartbeat then moved her obstructing hand and began to slowly lick away the sweetness she'd placed there. "Miranda," Andy mumbled against her lover's lips, "Let's go back to bed."
"No," With a lazy swipe of her arm, the remains of their breakfast fell to the floor. Miranda stood, bringing Andrea up with her then turned and sat the younger woman on the edge of the table. Looking directly into Andrea's deep brown eyes, Miranda grinned, "I haven't finished my breakfast yet."
Andy shivered as Miranda tugged on the belt to the robe she wore and it fell open. As Miranda began to kiss her way down the length of her body, Andy sighed and murmured, "I guess this is Fantasy Island after all." The gentle caresses stopped abruptly and Miranda whispered.
"You know... Mr. Roarke is supposed to grant people their fantasies. Like he did with Susan. I still have no idea how he managed to let her walk again." Andy smiled at the memory then her forehead wrinkled as Miranda moved away, "What? What's the matter.... Miranda?"
"Is that what this is?" Miranda held her emotions in check as she turned her back to Andrea, "Am I your "fantasy"?"
Smiling at that, Andy hopped off the table and took the three steps necessary to reach Miranda, not bothering to tie her robe back together, and turned the woman to her, "Of course you are... anyone that ever meets you fantasizes about you in one way or another." When Miranda tried to pull away, Andy held firm, "But if you mean, this..." Andy gestured to the table, "Yes, I did have that particular day dream a time or two..." Andy grinned as a tinge of pink dusted Miranda's cheeks and confided, "...it was usually your desk though." She lifted Miranda's chin to hold those vivid blue eyes in her gaze and gestured between them, "But this... you and me... Miranda, this is no mere fantasy, this is beyond my wildest dreams."
"You said before that your fantasy had not been fulfilled." Miranda stopped resisting the hold Andrea had on her, "What..." she started to ask, but was afraid of the answer.
Andy completed the question. "What was my fantasy?" She smiled as Miranda nodded, "Well... it did have to do with you."
"Mmm... it came true, so it doesn't matter now..." Andy saw the hesitance in Miranda's eyes and sighed, "I didn't lie to you. When I told you that my fantasy had not been fulfilled, it hadn't been, not then, not yet."
"So you did want to make love with me..."
"Oh yes, very much so..." Andy smiled as she lightly traced the side of Miranda's face, "I want to do that many, many times. But as much as that was a beautiful dream, it was not my fantasy." Andy's hand found its way down the side of Miranda's neck, across her collarbone, down the side of her breast, and over her ribs to circle Miranda's waist. She pulled Miranda closer, loving the feel of their bare skin mingling with the silk of the robes. "My, fantasy, Miranda was that you would forgive me, for leaving you in Paris."
Melting into the embrace, Miranda sighed, "You're wrong... you didn't need me to forgive you." She looked up into eyes she knew she could drown in and smiled, "You just needed to forgive yourself."
Andy shook her head, "I n..needed y..you, t..to t..tell me it was okay to f..forgive myself."
"Andrea... " Miranda smiled and spoke in the low sexy way that made others listen just a little bit more, "I want to make love to you."
With a tiny smile, Andy took a deep calming breath and asked, "Do you really think sex is going to make me all better?"
Miranda's eyes narrowed slightly as she smirked and answered, "Oh, absolutely."
The seaplane's engine rumbled as it floated next to the dock. Island workers were busy loading the guests' luggage into the cargo area and a small quartet of musicians played a soft island song.
Miranda walked toward the dock, with her arm around Andrea's waist, the girls on either side of them. They stopped where Mr. Roarke stood to see his guests safely to the plane.
"Thank you, Mr. Roarke," Miranda held out her hand for him to shake, "for the loveliest vacation I can remember." She hesitated then added, "I didn't know about all this 'fantasy' business, but," she tightened her arm around Andy's waist, "this would have been it."
The man's brown eyes narrowed slightly as the corners of them crinkled with his knowing smile, "You are quite welcome, Ms. Pr... er..." He bowed over the hand in his and kissed the knuckles lightly, "Miranda..." He released her hand and turned slightly toward Andy. "And you, Ms. Sachs, I trust your short vacation was also satisfactory?"
"Very much so, Mr. Roarke." Andy smiled at the man, "As you, most likely, already know." Her dark eyes twinkled as he fought a smile trying to shape his lips. "Thank you."
He didn't speak, but nodded to acknowledge the gratitude.
Andy grinned, "I'll have to come back some day and write your biography. You must have a lot of stories to tell, from working here for so long."
"Oh, Ms. Sachs... you have no idea how true that statement actually is." He chuckled, "There are probably several dozen books you could write from my experiences here."
"Excellent," Andy smiled as she rested her head against Miranda's, "They'll have to wait though, I have another bio to write..."
"Memoirs, my darling... we are going to write my memoirs."
Rolling her eyes at that, Andy chuckled and informed Mr. Roarke dryly, "...it could take a while."
"I look forward to reading it"
When Miranda and Andrea stepped away, the twins moved closer together and spoke to the older man.
"Thank you, Mr. Roarke..." Caroline glanced at her mother laughing and smiling in Andy's arms, "I don't know how you did it... but thank you."
"I did nothing, Caroline..." His dark eyes crinkled and the right one winked, "I only gave your mother the opportunity... she is the one who took it."
"But how did you know?" Cassidy asked, "That Andy would be the one to..."
"Your fantasy was for your mother to find the missing part of her heart..." Mr. Roarke smiled, "Caroline's was for your mother to find someone to be with, someone to love after you leave home, someone to love her." He opened his hands in a grand gesture, "To find that one person in all the world is a very difficult thing, but from what you and Caroline told me, I surmised that Miranda had found it and then lost it. Your descriptions of your mother's state after Paris four years ago led me to believe that was where the loss occurred."
"But why wouldn't you think it was the loss of Stephen...?" Caroline asked and Cassidy chimed in, "They got divorced around that time too."
"Oh yes, divorced.. and a very messy one at that," Mr. Roarke glanced at Miranda and Andy, accepting drinks from a server, "Miranda made him pay dearly for hurting her... for hurting you..."
"Oh yeah..." Cassidy grimaced. "That's for sure."
"So?" Caroline wasn't following the man's logic.
"When Andrea, an assistant, walked away from Miranda during one of the most important fashion weeks of the year... what did Miranda do?" His eyebrows raised as Caroline gasped.
"She did," he nodded and emphasized the last word, "in fact, do something. She helped Andrea get another job, a job Andrea wanted..."
"Mom loved her, even back then!" Cassidy was amazed. "Wow."
Caroline shook her head, "Then why didn't she do something about it then?"
"Oh c'mon, Ro..." Cassidy sighed, "She was going through a divorce.. if she had done anything, anything at all with Andy, Stephen would have weaseled out of his penance and the press would have skewered her even more than usual... female assistant.. half her age? They'd have had a field day."
"Yeah... I guess so."
"Are you two ready to go?" Miranda moved closer to her daughters, "I believe the plane is ready to leave."
"Yeah," Caroline nodded and linked arms with Cassidy, "We're ready."
"Thanks again, Mr. Roarke." Cassidy grinned, "For everything."
Mr. Roarke and Tattoo watched the four walk down the dock to the waiting plane.
"They make a lovely family, Boss."
Nodding at that, the corners of Mr. Roarke's deep brown eyes again crinkled with a smile, "That they do, my friend, that they do."
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