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“Morning, sleepyhead,” said a voice very near Miranda’s ear.

 

Miranda groaned. “Don’t sound so chipper. It’s annoying.”

 

“You have to be at Café Luxembourg by 8:30 to see Diane.”

 

Though the curtains were drawn, there was enough light in the room to recognize Andrea crouched over her. “What time is it?”

 

“Almost 7.”

 

“All right. Don’t you have that--thing--wherever--”

 

“It’s an interview, and yes, I have to be in Washington Heights by 8.” Andrea leaned down now, nuzzling Miranda’s cheek with her nose. “Wanna fool around before I go?”

 

Miranda closed her eyes. She wanted to say yes, because fooling around with Andrea was one of her favorite pastimes. That said, she was crabby. And tired. “No. We don’t have time. And you know I like my coffee first.”

 

Andrea chuckled, the sound deep and seductive. “You know, sweetheart, one of the things I love best about you is that you’re so predictable.” Andrea slipped off the side of the bed, dipped out of sight, and reappeared with something in her hand. Something in the shape of a coffee cup. “Just how you like it.”

 

The scent wafted into her nose, and Miranda wondered how she’d missed it before. Just the promise of it made her feel better, and she reached out and took that first sip. Hot, so hot it almost hurt, it burned all the way down her throat and into her belly. Divine. She groaned. She took another sip. It burned again, and her head warmed while a chill slid through her body. Her nipples even perked up. After another swallow, she added, “We still don’t have much time.”

 

“We won’t need it.”

 

“Oh?” And then Miranda heard a buzzing sound, one that was becoming more familiar to her as the weeks passed. She nibbled her lip, intrigued. “Oh.”

 

“I’ll do all the work. You just lie back and think of England .”

 

Miranda laughed. She gulped down more coffee before setting the cup on the nightstand. That lovely, shadowed face was close to hers. “I taste like coffee.”

 

Andrea’s cool lips pressed against hers, and the contrast was wonderful. “Well I can never get enough coffee,” Andrea murmured against Miranda’s mouth.

 

Miranda hooked an arm around Andrea’s neck and pulled her down.

 

---

 

“So the samples were late, but I went through them last night and I think we’re in good shape. Did you say you wanted ten pieces to choose from?”

 

Miranda blinked. “Hmm?”

 

Nigel watched her. “The Azrouël samples. You wanted ten?”

 

“Oh.” Miranda waved her hand. “Fine.”

 

“Okaay. Is now a good time?”

 

“Yes, yes,” she said, leaning back in her chair and crossing her legs. Nigel vanished, and Miranda rubbed her calf against the opposite knee, enjoying the last vestiges of the memory. She felt warm, and content, and smug. Her morning had been stellar. She wondered how Nigel’s had been. Not as good. No one’s could have been as good as hers.

 

Even after months of, what would her mother call it? Canoodling, she thought. Six months of canoodling, etcetera, and things were going exceptionally well. The sex was fantastic, and frequent. Either Andrea’s entrance into her bedroom had delayed menopause, or Miranda wasn’t experiencing many symptoms of it, despite her doctor’s cheerfully dour warnings. Aside from the sex, Miranda was in love. Deeply. It felt like a first love, bright and hopeful and glowing. She’d chosen not to worry about consequences for once in her life, deciding that when the repercussions arrived, she would simply handle them as she handled every crisis. So she spent time at Andrea’s tiny, shabby apartment some weekends, but they stayed more often at Miranda’s townhouse. This was of course because of the girls, who were no longer as wary of Andrea’s presence. They’d grown to care for her very much, despite their initial reticence at welcoming another adult into their lives. Especially after Stephen’s abrupt departure.

 

But Andrea made everything easy for Miranda, even now. She’d been a spectacular assistant once she learned the ins and outs of the job, and as a lover, she was even better. It was somewhat shocking for Miranda, who did not expect to be as far gone at this stage in her life. Being the December half of the equation, she thought she would feel affection, even a gentle condescension, as she guided a youthful and inexperienced Andrea through their affair.

 

What a fool she’d been.

 

Andrea turned out to be quite experienced, thank you very much. And far more mature than Miranda in the practical part of relationships. Compromise was essential, according to her, though Miranda generally fought it tooth and nail. She’d come around though, even if it was sometimes unpleasant.

 

She genuinely loved Andrea, and had designs on her future. So what if she’d look like an old-fashioned Svengali? She deserved her share of pleasure. And it would add to her mystique. Or so she told herself.

 

Clasping her hands together, she relaxed in her chair and watched Nigel return with his rack of samples. She could tell immediately which pieces she wanted to use, but she allowed Nigel to walk her through his thought process, and made it seem as though he had final say. It was her routine these days, because Nigel needed an extra boost of confidence. She’d decided he would be leaving Runway soon. Miranda had stumbled upon something of interest that might suit him, but she wanted to build him up first. Besides, when he took the reins of Runway someday down the road, he’d need to make a lateral move for the board to accept him.

 

Somewhere deep down, Miranda thought Andrea’s influence was making her soft. She could not find it in herself to regret it.

 

As she shifted in her seat, one of her gluteal muscles complained. Thinking about her wake-up call, she couldn’t find it in herself to regret that either.

 

---

 

“Emily!” Miranda said a second time. This was getting ridiculous. She strode into the outer office. “Where is she?” she demanded.

 

“The bathroom?” Monique replied. Miranda thought the girl’s hands were quivering in terror.

 

“Again? Is she suffering from some sort of illness?”

 

“I’m not sure, ma’am. Miranda.”

 

“Well, tell her I need her. Now. If not sooner.”

 

“Yes, Miranda.”

 

Miranda returned to her desk. She looked at the clock. When five minutes passed, and Emily had not come in, she threw her pen down in frustration. Between her first assistant’s absence and the fact that Nigel was late for their 11:00 meeting, she was ready to explode. “Emily!” she shouted. Monique scurried in, pad in hand.

 

“You are not Emily. Where is Emily?”

 

“If you give me two minutes, I’ll get her.”

 

Not the bathroom then . “Go. And I’m coming with you.”

 

“Oh.” Monique swallowed. “You don’t have to. It will just take a second.”

 

Miranda inhaled, and flared her nostrils.

 

Monique quailed. “Um, I mean, okay.” The girl turned and clacked down the hall, and Miranda followed.

 

They went around the corner, and then another, to the main Runway boardroom. Monique pushed the door open, and Miranda realized that a quarter of her staff was there, watching what appeared to be a newscast on the large screen television. “Hello, former employees,” Miranda growled, and every head turned in her direction. They didn’t even appear panicked. “What is so important?”

 

Nigel leaned back in one of the chairs. “It’s a hostage thing. A guy with a gun has four people barricaded in a brownstone. We’re just… watching.” He glanced down at his watch. “Oh damn, I’m sorry. It’s just, you know, unfolding drama. I’m coming.”

 

Eyeing the group, she wondered if she was losing her touch. A year ago this never would have happened. The rest of her employees stood and skulked around Miranda one by one. “Outrageous,” she mumbled as they passed.

 

The reporter’s voice was loud in the silent room now. “Again, reports came in at 9:20 this morning that a hostage situation was in progress in Washington Heights, where a gunman stormed a home and is holding at least four people against their will.”

 

The reporter kept on talking, but Miranda’s brain had stalled. The words Washington Heights rang in her ears. But that was ridiculous. Washington Heights was an enormous neighborhood with thousands of residents. The likelihood of it being connected with Andrea was slim to none. Miranda would have heard something. She’d have gotten a phone call. Andrea was an intelligent woman. She would never get herself into a situation she couldn’t handle.

 

And besides, what were the chances?

 

Miranda blinked, eyes glued to the television.

 

That morning Andrea had said the woman she was scheduled to speak to had been a victim of domestic violence. If Miranda remembered correctly, she had recently filed a restraining order because her abusive ex had just been released from jail. And Andrea’s article was, in fact, about the uselessness of such restraining orders. At dinner only two nights before, she’d clearly stated that the 24 hours following the filing were the most dangerous.

 

“Miranda?” Nigel asked.

 

The reporter continued, “We believe the police have identified the hostages, but they are not releasing the names due to the ongoing nature of the investigation. There are also reports of shots fired, though we have no new information on the status of the hostages. Walter, I understand you have a report on recent gang violence in the area.”

 

Miranda looked at Nigel. “Give me your phone.”

 

He didn’t move for a moment, then reached into his jacket and handed it over. She dialed Andrea’s number from memory. She expected Andrea to pick up after two rings, as she always did when Miranda called. She expected Andrea to say that she was so sorry, but she was already back at the office covering the story of the hostage situation in Washington Heights, and could she call back later?

 

However, the phone did not ring. The call went straight to voicemail. Miranda listened to the cheerful message. “Hi, you’ve reached Andy Sachs of the New York Mirror. I’m not available, so please leave a message with your name and number, and I’ll be happy to return your call as soon as I can. Thanks, and have a great day!”

 

Miranda hung up, and dialed again. A second time it went to voicemail.

 

She called six times in a row with the same result. Finally, she left a message. “Call me back. Immediately.” She softened her voice, realizing she sounded terrified. “Please. Call me as soon as you can.” She hung up.

 

Glancing at the television, she realized they were repeating the same information over and over, the way they always did when they wanted to keep their audience but had nothing new to report. She dialed Emily’s extension.

 

“Nigel, are you trying to get me--”

 

“Emily,” Miranda barked. “I need two phone numbers. One: Detective Marcus Samuelson of the 22nd precinct. It’s in my database. Two: the phone number for the editor of the New York Mirror. I believe his name is Aaron Edmunds. Bring them to the conference room, as well as my Blackberry. I need these things immediately. Immediately. Is that clear?”

 

“Yes, Miranda.” Emily hung up.

 

Miranda did not move, reading the crawl that trudged slowly across the bottom of the television screen. It was the same information yet again.

 

Andrea was fine. Miranda was sure of it. She was worried for nothing.

 

She dialed Andrea’s number again, without success.

 

Nigel took a step toward Miranda. “The New York Mirror ?”

 

Miranda didn’t reply.

 

“I know someone who works there.” Miranda met his eyes, confused and uncertain. “You know someone who works there too.”

 

Emily appeared and nearly threw the Blackberry at Miranda. She handed over a post-it with both numbers on it. Miranda ignored her, and Emily vanished from whence she came. First, Aaron Edmunds. The number was busy. She tried again. Busy. She cursed. “Does no one work on Wednesdays?” She laughed, pretending there wasn’t a note of hysteria to the sound. Next, she tried Detective Samuelson.

 

“Samuelson,” saida gruff voice.

 

“Detective, this is Miranda Priestly. It’s imperative that we speak.”

 

“Hey, good to hear from you, Miranda. Your timing is rotten though--I’m in the middle of a situation--”

 

“Detective, I need the names of the hostages being held right now in Washington Heights.”

 

There was an extended period of silence. “I don’t see why you think I’d have that information, ma’am. It’s not my precinct.”

 

“I don’t really care about that, Detective. Every eye in the city is on this story right now and I’m certain if you don’t know the names, you can unearth them.”

 

“Miranda, no way. It’s against regulation.”

 

“I won’t accept that. I must have the names. Right now.”

 

The man sighed. “We’re not certain who’s in the house--”

 

“I can smell horseshit as well as you, Detective. I know you know.” She waited, but sensed he would not budge. “All right. How about this. How about I give you a name, and you say yes or no. That isn’t providing information. It’s just a word. Yes or no. All right?”

 

“Miranda--”

 

“Please, Marcus. Please.” Her voice was ragged, which was how she felt. Desperate. “I will owe you. And that means something, coming from me.”

 

Eyes closed, she held her breath. Finally, the man replied, “Go.”

 

Miranda glanced up at Nigel, and said, “Andrea Sachs.”

 

There was no reply. Miranda’s heart froze, and she thought the blood might be draining out of her body from some unknown location. A vein must have inconveniently opened up without her knowledge.

 

“She go by Andy?” Marcus said.

 

“Yes,” Miranda choked.

 

“Shit.”

 

The room tilted, and when she opened her eyes, Nigel was looking down at her. She realized she was in a chair, and the phone was still at her ear. “Miranda?” Marcus was saying.

 

“I’m here.”

 

“I can’t tell you any more.”

 

“Wait a second, wait,” Miranda said, and laid her hand on the conference table. She looked at it, and wondered at how steady it was. How it was still attached to her body at all. It felt odd. “Wait,” she repeated.

 

“I have to go--”

 

Unacceptable . Andrea was in danger. Miranda could not possibly lose focus now. “Detective, I’ll need you to pick me up outside the Elias-Clarke building in ten minutes.”

 

There was a stunned snort. “Miranda, I can’t do that. I’ve got other cases I’m--”

 

“If you don’t arrive within ten minutes to deliver me to the scene, I will call every single local station in the Tri-State area and tell them the reporter inside that house was covering a story about the inadequacies of the New York City police department’s restraining orders, as well as the ineffective protection of victims of domestic violence--”

 

“God-fucking-dammit, Miranda, you can’t do that--”

 

“Nine minutes, Detective. I’ll have reporters from across in the city on your doorstep asking questions if you don’t help me.”

 

“Fuck you, Priestly.”

 

“Fuck you, Samuelson.” There was a pause, and Miranda prayed that she had not blown her best chance to be close to the scene.

 

“Fuck. I’ll be there.”

 

Miranda hung up the phone. When she finally looked back at Nigel, now seated only a few inches away, he was staring at her.

 

“Well,” she said.

 

“Do you really want to go up there?” he asked.

 

Miranda watched him, and thought perhaps something unusual was happening to her sight, because his skin seemed off-color. Everything looked strange, in fact. Perhaps it was some sort of panic attack. “What?”

 

“Are you sure you want to get involved? And how do you even know what’s going on?”

 

Miranda shook her head in disbelief. “Andrea is my lover,” she said. “I’m involved whether I like it or not.”

 

“Your lover. Jesus Christ.” He sat back and put a hand to his forehead. “Jesus. You can’t go out there, Miranda.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Isn’t it obvious? You’ll be surrounded by press, and people asking questions, and you won’t be able to do anything anyway--“

 

“How do you know? And do you really think I care what anyone says about me?” She looked at him as though she’d never seen him before. “What would you do if someone you loved more than nearly anyone in the world were in danger? Would you be worried about your precious career? Would you give a flying fuck if you ended up on the cover of the Post every day for the rest of your life?” She stood, taking a moment to steady herself. “Because I don’t. I’m leaving. Handle everything today. I don’t care what you cancel. Do what you want.”

 

“When are you coming back?” he asked.

 

“I don’t know.” When Andrea is safe, she thought. Or not at all.

 

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