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Miranda gulped at the lukewarm brew, wishing she could spit it out. But she needed the caffeine. God knew how the police department could manage living on such swill. She kept her eye on Samuelson, who had apparently been reamed out for bringing a civilian past the yellow tape, but whatever he’d answered with had been enough to keep Miranda close. There were two barriers to the house where Andrea was, one for the public and the press, another for the police. The entire block was empty of passers-by, and residents had been cleared from nearby homes.

 

Otherwise, everything looked perfectly fine.

 

She knew no more than what she initially had about Andrea’s situation. But she was here, and she trusted Marcus to tell her what she needed to know. And if he didn’t, at this point she didn’t really care. She cared about nothing but seeing Andrea safe.

 

The fear of losing her was paralyzing.

 

Miranda had experienced a number of traumas in her life; the death of her father, the dissolution of two marriages, Cassidy’s bout with respiratory illness as a newborn preemie. Of all that she’d gone through, only the last reminded her of the feeling she had today. Helpless. Inadequate. And worst, the knowledge that for all her power and wealth, she could do literally nothing to help the one she loved.

 

She could stand by, and drink bad coffee, and wring her hands. But if it all went to hell, Andrea would have to rely on others. They looked competent, with their bulletproof vests and SWAT jackets. And guns. Typically Miranda had an aversion to guns and violence of any kind. But she thought she could very easily kill the man who held Andrea captive if she had the opportunity. In fact, she visualized just that. Walking into the house with a gun and shooting him, repeatedly. She wouldn’t feel guilty for taking a human life. Not that she’d ever pondered the idea of murder in the past, but on this day, she wouldn’t mind holding a piece of cold, solid steel in her hand and firing a bullet into a man’s head.

 

Shaking herself out of her vision, she looked around. There was nowhere to sit. She leaned on the hood of a car and drank her coffee.

 

Ten minutes later, Marcus returned. “Hey,” he said.

 

“Well?”

 

“No news. They’re calling the house. So far they’ve made contact once but the guy won’t talk yet. I’ve seen this stuff before. He’s in trouble; he’s thinking about what he wants, what he can ask for. He’s dumb, like they always are. They believe they can walk out and the police will honor their promises.”

 

“Promises?”

 

“You know. ‘If you don’t harm the hostages, we’ll talk things out. We’ll only charge you with reckless endangerment. We’ll put you in a car and drive you to the airport and you can leave the country. Trust us.’ Shit like that.”

 

“Surely people aren’t so stupid?”

 

“You’d be amazed. These are crimes of passion. Guys lose their marbles and freak out, and then their reason comes back but it’s too late. Sometimes, they know what’s coming and they can’t take it. They walk out of the house aiming a gun. Suicide by cop.”

 

Miranda looked out across the street and exhaled, watching the fog her breath made. “Do they usually kill the hostages?”

 

Samuelson shrugged. “Sometimes. The fact that they’re not dead yet is a good sign. Maybe.” He looked at Miranda. “No promises, okay? Cops tell families they’ll do everything they can. And they will. But I won’t lie to you. It’s a crapshoot.”

 

She nodded, keeping her mouth closed. Saliva gathered in her mouth, and she thought she might vomit.

 

“Sorry,” Marcus said, finally. “This is one of the worst days of your life. Hers too. I’m not being very nice. But you put me in a shitty position. I hate being manipulated.”

 

Miranda swallowed down bile and breathed through her nose. “We do what we must, Detective. This is where I need to be. I’d have gotten here with or without your help, eventually.”

 

To Miranda’s surprise, Marcus chuckled. “You know, Priestly, I like you. I don’t know anybody else who could say that and make me believe it. But you I buy.” He reached into his pocket and produced a pack of Marlboro Lights. He lit one before glancing over at Miranda. “Want one?”

 

Without hesitation, she said, “Yes.” She put the cigarette between her lips and held still as Marcus lit it. After seventeen years without, she could take up smoking for a few minutes. It tasted terrible, but it was familiar, and good.

 

They smoked in silence, until Marcus asked, “You wanna talk about her?”

 

“I don’t know.” Miranda inspected the tip of the burning cigarette.

 

Next to her, he leaned against the car. “Start simple. What’s she like?”

 

She thought about Andrea, and the words left her mouth before she could call them back. “She’s like the sun.”

 

---

 

When Miranda opened the door at 5:23 on Saturday, Andrea’s smile was radiant. Miranda had to close her eyes for a moment against the brilliance, which made her feel raw and a little uncomfortable. She was unused to so much emotion so close to the surface. When she opened her eyes, she noticed how Andrea’s skin shone against the gray humidity of an Indian summer evening. A storm was coming. Rain seemed suspended above the city, and she waved Andrea inside.

 

“Come in, it’s hot,” she said.

 

“I know. Hi,” Andrea replied, and wrapped her arms around Miranda’s neck without hesitation.

 

Miranda nearly pulled away, but instead put her hands on Andrea’s hips. “Hello.”

 

Andrea read her uncertainty, and her face lost some of its shine. “Is it… is this okay?”

 

“Yes, yes, of course.” She had, after all, been thinking of holding Andrea in her arms since the moment they’d parted on Thursday. It was silly to suddenly feel, of all things, nervous.

 

Andrea narrowed her eyes. “Hmm,” she said with a tilt of her head. “So it looks like I have two choices. Back off some, and give you space. That’s probably what I would have done a while ago.” But Andrea did not back off. She stepped closer, and Miranda inhaled the intense peppermint scent of her breath. “Or, I could skip the whole space thing altogether, and do what I want.” Miranda’s eyelids drooped when she felt Andrea’s breasts shift against her own. “What do you think, Miranda?”

 

Somewhere along the line, Miranda had lost control of the situation. She had planned out the whole evening; a selection of divine little appetizers awaited them in the dining room. She’d poured wine. She’d arranged flowers. Dinner waited in the oven, dessert chilled in the refrigerator. But none of those things seemed very important. “I--I don’t--”

 

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. I’ll do the thinking for both of us. And I want to get started right now.”

 

“What do--” But Miranda did not finish, since Andrea’s mouth was on hers. They kissed, and it was so good, and fresh, and tingly, because apparently Andrea had eaten an entire tin of mints before her arrival. Miranda wanted more of that taste, and she sucked Andrea’s lower lip, full and soft, into her mouth.

 

Andrea gasped, and the sound raced Miranda’s heart. There was a tugging at her blouse, and nimble fingers freed most of the tiny buttons quickly. Miranda threw her head back and felt a tongue lick the base of her throat, until it traveled a wet path around to the nape of her neck. From behind, Andrea opened the blouse and slid it down, exposing Miranda’s shoulder blades. Unsteady on her feet, Miranda looked for something to cling to, and staggered toward the hall table. Andrea followed closely, mouth never leaving her skin. Miranda leaned all her weight on her arms, because her legs were hot, like liquid about to reach the boiling point. In the mirror above the table, Miranda saw herself, unrecognizable, lipstick kissed off, bra exposed, as two hands explored her body.

 

It turned her on immensely. She groaned, low and rough. Unashamed.

 

Andrea responded, meeting Miranda’s eyes in the glass, echoing the sound. The secondary stimulation of watching Andrea devour her flesh, teeth raking at her shoulders, made Miranda burn between her legs. She would not be able to wait much longer, especially when Andrea’s hands found her breasts, delving beneath her bra. “Oh god,” Miranda murmured, and found herself doing something she rarely did during sex. Or ever. “Please,” she said, again and again, until Andrea loomed over her shoulder and unzipped her skirt. She looked her straight in the eye.

 

“All right,” Andrea said, before sliding the tip of her tongue along the edge of Miranda’s ear. The skirt dropped to the floor. Andrea’s hands finished unbuttoning Miranda’s blouse without bothering to pull it all the way off. “You’re beautiful. So beautiful,” she said quietly, before returning to Miranda’s breasts, holding them, flicking her nipples. One hand abandoned its pursuit for another, moving down between Miranda’s trembling thighs. She did not wait, or tease, slipping beneath the lace and diving into the wet. Miranda’s hips bucked of their own volition, and she nearly fell backwards, but Andrea was there to steady her. She rubbed, and whispered, and kissed, and within moments, Miranda stumbled to the edge of an orgasm so sharp and bright she felt as though every cell gathered itself up and exploded outward. A noise left her throat as the wave rolled over her, and all the while Andrea stroked her through it, coaxing out more pleasure and moaning her own.

 

Miranda drifted in the haze for a while, until she could lift her head and gaze once more into Andrea’s eyes. Normally wide and curious, they were at only half-mast. Her plush lips curled into a seductive smile, until she removed her hand from between Miranda’s legs and lifted it to her mouth. Andrea inhaled, and Miranda felt her knees go weak when that talented tongue flicked out for a taste. “Hmm,” Andrea said, “Interesting.”

 

Miranda couldn’t mask the chuckle that escaped. “Oh?”

 

“Wouldn’t mind some more,” she said.

 

At that, Miranda found the strength to turn in Andrea’s arms. “Later,” she replied. “You’ve distracted me quite enough.”

 

“You mean that wasn’t on your mind when you asked me over?” Andrea questioned.

 

“I didn’t say that,” Miranda assured her. “But you weren’t what I expected. At all.”

 

“What did you expect?”

 

Miranda trailed her index finger down a smooth cheek, and across lips that shaped themselves into a kiss. “Nothing so… exceptional.”

 

“You know how I like to be the exception to your rules.”

 

“Oh, I do indeed,” Miranda said, recalling that first day Andrea set foot in her office. “What a lucky thing.”

 

At that, Miranda took Andrea’s hand, ignoring the slickness on her fingers, and led her through the house toward the dining room. She felt silly with her blouse still down around her wrists, so she pulled it back on. Though she was only missing her skirt, she felt naked. She even wore her shoes, for god’s sake, and Andrea was fully clothed. But she didn’t mind any of that when she saw the look of utter wonder on Andrea’s face at the set up on the dining room table.

 

“Oh my gosh,” she gasped. “Am I the only one invited?”

 

Miranda cleared her throat, amused. “Yes.

 

“There’s a lot of food!”

 

“You only eat salad when we have lunch. I didn’t know what you like, so I just got… everything.”

 

Andrea glanced at Miranda, suddenly shy. “I--well. I didn’t want you to think I ate too much.” She cringed.

 

Miranda hadn’t suspected that fact, even though it made complete sense now as she looked back. Andrea had always picked at her food, barely finishing, but taking a long time before she put down her fork. “Perhaps you’ll think differently now,” Miranda said, anxious to correct the erroneous assumption.

 

“I guess,” Andrea said.

 

As Andrea surveyed the table, Miranda considered her own options. She wanted Andrea’s little black dress--was that Stella McCartney?--off. The dining room chairs were not going to help her achieve her goal, either; too uncomfortable. She had inconveniently covered the entire table with various culinary delights, but she was nothing if not persistent. “Let me see.” She moved the quiches to the side; they’d be fine for a while longer. She handed a truffle-oil drizzled mushroom crostini to Andrea, who groaned when she took a first bite. The serving tray was moved to the banquette just behind the table. The fruit followed, as well as the dishes, leaving a person-sized space in the middle of the arrangement. “Perfect.”

 

“Absolutely,” Andrea said, popping the last of the treat into her mouth. She was oblivious to what Miranda was doing. “Hey, I want another one of those.” She reached out and took one, and was halfway through it when Miranda handed over a glass of chilled white wine. “Mm, thanks. Hey, aren’t you having anything?”

 

 

“Oh yes,” Miranda said, and reached behind Andrea to unzip her dress in one smooth motion. She took the glass out of Andrea’s hand and set it on the table before grasping the straps of the silky garment and dragging it down. Her breath caught. Miranda had her suspicions that there was a fine figure beneath Andrea’s clothes, but in general the young woman dressed conservatively. Her legs were long and lean, reminding Miranda of the difference in their heights. Slim hips curved gently at the waist, leading up to breasts that begged to be held and touched and tasted. “I see something I’d like to have, very much.” With that, she pushed against Andrea’s chest, nudging her onto the table. “If you don’t mind.”

 

“Uh,” Andrea said, “Okay.”

 

Miranda surveyed the body before her, considering where to start. When she glanced up, she realized Andrea looked uncomfortable, almost recoiling under the intense gaze. “What are you thinking?”

 

“Nothing.” Andrea gulped her wine.

 

“You just ravished me in my foyer after being in my home all of thirty seconds. Now you look worried. Why?”

 

Shifting one arm around her stomach, Andrea shrugged. “I know I’m not a model or anything…”

 

Miranda inhaled sharply. For all Andrea’s apparent self-confidence, insecurity lurked just beneath the surface. “I have worked in fashion for decades, Andrea. You realize that if I chose to, I could have anyone I wanted.” She raised an eyebrow. “I always get what I want.”

 

“Yeah,” Andrea said with a nod.

 

“Then you must realize that I want you, in particular.” Reaching out, she ran a finger down the side of Andrea’s neck, between her breasts, veering off to caress one responsive nipple. She heard a gasp, and saw Andrea swallow. “Only you.” Licking her lips, she stepped forward between Andrea’s thighs. “My hesitation is not criticism. I’m simply… enjoying the view. The anticipation.” Gently, so gently, she trailed her fingertips along one leg, smiling when she saw Andrea shiver. “I want this to last. I want to remember every moment.”

 

“Oh,” Andrea said. It was barely a whisper.

 

Finally, she leaned down and pressed her lips to Andrea’s once again, gratified when they opened beneath hers. The kiss was long, and deep, and delicious, and it ended only when Miranda could not resist the call of other pleasures that awaited. And so she traveled carefully down Andrea’s body, worshipping her skin, soft as a baby’s and barely touched by the sun. Bra and underwear were discarded quickly, the mewling whimpers urging her on. “You are exquisite,” she said, unable to imagine a more appropriate word. “Lovely.”

 

“Am I?” Andrea managed to say.

 

“Like ivory,” Miranda purred, inhaling one pale pink nipple while Andrea writhed beneath her. As quickly as Andrea had made love to her, Miranda wanted to draw things out. It was wonderful, everything Miranda had hoped, and when she finally put her hand between Andrea’s thighs, the reaction was a revelation. Andrea emitted a desperate wail of need and grabbed at Miranda’s head, practically hyperventilating. There was a constant stream of sound in her ears, only some of which made sense, and Andrea’s legs wrapped around her hips. Miranda pushed inside, her palm slipping easily in the wetness. Andrea arched then and stilled, crying out, and Miranda felt the unmistakable pressure of an orgasm around her fingers.

 

The vision of Andrea coming down from it, porcelain skin flushed, was incredibly satisfying. She panted, she trembled, she gasped for air, and she looked up at Miranda as though stunned by it all.

 

“All right?” Miranda said softly.

 

“Uh huh.” Andrea licked her lips, eyes wide.

 

Bending down, she kissed Andrea’s cheek and rubbed her nose into her hair. Already Miranda was aroused again; the scent of Andrea’s body was intoxicating.

 

“We’re on our own for the whole evening, aren’t we?” Andrea whispered.

 

Miranda nodded.

 

“Good.” She looked over her shoulder at the plates, some of which had jostled and fallen over from their frantic motion. “I’m glad you planned ahead with so much food, because it’s going to be a long night.” She reached out and snagged a lonely strawberry from the table, offering it to Miranda.

 

Miranda smiled and bit into the fruit, enjoying the thrill that slithered up her spine.

 

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