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Dark Secrets

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After two months she was still getting used to the loud music and the cacophony of people's voices. Looking for a job since she came from Ohio, she was more than relieved when her old friend Lily convinced the house's manager to give her a chance as a waitress. "Dark Secrets" was one of the most respected and exclusive night clubs in the city and Nigel, the manager, was very proud to have the most beautiful girls. Only select members of New York society were patrons of the club, so the employees were chosen very carefully to prevent any problems.

Looking back, Andy realized her job interview was similar to a police investigation, involving questions about her personal habits, relationships and interests. The only reason she got the chance, was Lily's insistent recommendation and the guarantee that she would never tell to a living soul anything she witnessed in the club. As she came to understand later, privacy was Nigel's number one priority, in order to guarantee that the famous and influential patrons wouldn't be involved in any scandals. Respectable men and women would have their fantasies satisfied, not worrying with potential public scandal.

Truth be told, she was not interested in any of it. It was only a job, an opportunity to make honest money. She was indifferent at who these people were, what they did for a living or if they cheated on their partners - they meant nothing to her. The waitress function was pretty generic, even considering the specific nature of Nigel's business, who explained the house rules to her diligently. Nigel did inquire about her interest in dancing or in attending the patrons. Despite the fear of losing the waitress opportunity, she politely refused his offer, even if the payment would be three times higher. She accepted the task of serving tables, period. She was just a girl with no special abilities, interested in finding a way to survive in New York and pay for her studies. After all, she was still her father's daughter and would starve before she expanded her job duties.

Just to make things clear, she had nothing against the services that were offered at Dark Secrets and would never judge the girls that were, after all, just working. Despite the initial weirdness of being in such a different reality, she found the job adequate and even fun most of the time. She still admired the girls' beauty - their graceful movements on the stage and their discrete profile. They were goddess on an untouchable fantasy world, providing unforgettable moments to the guests. In her modest opinion, they should be respected for it.

In just a few weeks she made good friends among the staff, especially because her function didn't compete for the patrons' attention or money. While working, she admired the girls' graceful movements and mischievous smiles as they walked between the tables. Dealing with the club members was still the hardest part of the job and she was still getting used to their ostentatious attire and the air of superiority stamped on their faces. Unfortunately, from time to time she had to explain to a guest that she was unavailable to provide certain services, even if their offer would pay her bills for a year. Often, a polite refusal would be enough; especially because the place was full of gorgeous women, they didn't have a problem choosing another one. Despite that, a couple of times she had to avoid unwelcome hands and insistent demands. To her relief, on those occasions, Nigel intervened before things went too far.

She looked around checking the tables. The doors would open in a few minutes and the decorations must be impeccable. The house occupied three floors of an unsuspicious building, located on a busy street. As a waitress, Andy was restricted to the main area, a large bar, surrounded by tables and three stages, where the girls would perform a variety of dance numbers. She was never allowed in the upper floors, frequented exclusively by the girls and the club members.

While she cleaned the tables she thought with sadness about her family, killed in a car crash just a year ago. She was completely alone now, with exception of Serena and Lily, her best friends and roommates. Her new job would be enough to honor the shared rent and to keep her solvent. Using the inheritance her father left, she would be able to pursue her dream career, journalism.

She was cleaning the balcony when she heard her name being called. Lily gave her an affectionate hug.

"God, this place is crowded tonight, there's a line in the reception area, can you believe it? I guess everybody is here tonight."

"Yeah, that's great, are you dancing later?"

"Yes, Nigel gave me a great number. That'll attract good customers. The house is full, so you don't need to wait for me. I hope to be very busy."

She laughed, hugged Andy again and left. Across the balcony she saw Doug, the bartender. The young man was one of her favorite colleagues with his positive attitude and funny comments. He greeted her smiling.

"Hey there gorgeous, ready to feed the wolves?"

Andy laughed at the daily joke, picking up one of the trays from the counter.

"Hi Doug, hope the wolves attack the right prey tonight."

"We always hope… if I was a straight wolf, you would be in trouble sexy lady."

Andy giggled. "Thanks for the compliment, gay wolf; maybe if I were straight you would have a chance."

Still smiling, she goes back to her cleaning routine while waiting for the guests. Lily was right, they would have a full house tonight and she could certainly hope for tips that would compensate her efforts. She was beyond tired due her strenuous routine of balancing work and college. Lately, she was able to sleep no more than four hours each night when she was really lucky, but when the house was full like tonight, she would probably have no more than an hour to take a shower and eat a snack before running to catch her first class. On Mondays Dark Secrets was closed, but unfortunately, the first day of the week was the most hectic of her college schedule. Considering all, she was convinced that resting would be a privilege to be achieved next semester.

With this crazy schedule her personal life was nonexistent. She left her last girlfriend heartbroken in Ohio, preferring to begin a new life in New York. A few colleagues had asked her out, but she couldn't see herself dating someone and sharing their attention with the patrons later. No, she was an hopeless romantic, dreaming of her soul mate and a love that would change her life, so the least she needed a relationship that was exclusive and was based in commitment.

The music announced the first show and she began to attend the tables. A little after midnight there were just a few seats available and the girls were making good money. In the dim lights she could discern the beautiful shapes of her best friends. She saw Lily talking with a handsome guy while Serena was performing a lovely number on the main stage, getting admiring glances and applause from almost every man and woman. Andy couldn't rest even for a minute and her feet were screaming in the high heels, but she was happy with the money in her back pocket. She made another round between the tables getting orders and collecting empty glasses, careless she turned abruptly in the direction of the bar. She felt her body hit another one and before she could apologize she lost her breath as the most beautiful pair of blue eyes looked directly into her own and a firm grip on her arm prevented her fall. Andy could feel the warmth from the woman's body pressed along her side and the soft arms holding her waist. Her scent was delicious, a delicate combination of floral and musk. Seconds passed between them as neither spoke, until Andy found her own voice.

"I'm so sorry for being so clumsy. Did I hurt you?"

The woman gave her a small smile, still holding around her waist.

"No, you didn't, but you should be more careful, you could hurt yourself carrying this heavy tray. I've never seen you here before, are you new?"

Andy took a step away from the woman, missing her soft touch immediately. Looking again at her face she politely answered.

"Yes, I've only been working here for two months."

Before Miranda could speak again a rude male voice could be heard behind them.

"Hey delicious thing, could you please stop chatting and bring my order?"

Miranda gave him a frosty glare but before she could put the man in his place Andy answered him politely. "I'm so sorry Sir; it will just be a minute."

Turning again to the woman she smiled apologetically. "Sorry, I need to go."

The silver haired woman gave her a final dumbfounded look, as the young woman turned away.

Miranda arrived right after midnight, acknowledgeing some familiar faces at the door. She was one of the longest-term patrons and never once had a problem. "Dark Secrets" was known for its discretion and new members had to meet all the requisites to be part of the exclusive club.

During the last two decades the night club became a refuge, a place to forget her problems and have fun. Fame could be a heavy burden, especially on these days, when loneliness became her most faithful companion. She missed the old times when she could just be herself without the daily preoccupation with measured words and actions. She forgot the last time she had the pleasure of good company without the need for constant vigilance against exploiters interested only in her money and social position. There were always calculating what she could give them.

Miranda could ask nothing more from her brilliant career. She was successful, rich and powerful, but on these days she truly missed intense passion and deep desire. She was feeling old and lonely. Her first marriage was a poor attempt to ignore her own deep feelings toward women and obviously had been wrecked on the lies and betrayals on both sides. From that union she had her two daughters, the real joys of her life and her only weakness. She would do anything for her two little monsters, even tolerate their father. After a few years, they were able to achieve a mature and civil friendship making things easier and healthier for the girls.

Her second marriage on the other hand was more similar to a business contract. She was old enough to know that sex with a man would be unbearable, so she carefully chose someone interested in her money to accept her terms. As an executive of a large company she had an image to maintain, an accordingly stable life. So Stephen provided the image of a devoted husband and adequate father figure. Unfortunately, he was not able to maintain the contract and once again she had to tolerate a media storm. Her girls, already so exposed to the press, were once more obligated to endure the humiliating scrutiny of those hyenas that called themselves reporters. Her guiding principle nowadays was trust no one and she had the good intention to guide her life with this simple rule.

Entering the night club she decided to leave her problems outside. The place was crowded and she was disoriented for a few minutes. After her eyes got used to the dim lights she made her way between the seats, looking for her customary reserved table. A blonde tall woman was dancing on the main stage as avid eyes followed her sensual movements. She kept pace between the tables, but her passage was blocked by a slender body crushing hard into her chest. Instinctively, she reached out to grab the woman that would certainly hit the ground if she didn't help. Before she could accuse the inept girl for being so careless, she lost her breath as sweet brown eyes looked timidly at her. She barely heard the girl's apology, mesmerized with her beautiful features. Their encounter was too brief, thanks to an idiot that interrupted them asking for his drink.

Before she could say anything the woman was gone and Nigel approached her with a warm welcome smile on his face. She air kissed the man, before he guided her to an available table and she lost sight of the girl. Turning her attention to her host she had already chosen her company for the night.

"Miranda, I'm so glad to see you again! It's been a while. Was that husband of yours keeping you locked up? What can I do for you tonight?"

"It's good to see you Nigel. As you can see, I'm back after a long absence. My sham marriage is finally over. The idiot failed in the only task I gave him; be circumspect. I just needed a husband figure and I would pay for his expensive habits. But the fool fell in love and forgot the main clause of our contract: discretion. So, I was obligated to send him back to no one's land. At least, the media problem was already contoured so I'm able to be back. I see you have a few new faces around."

"Indeed, there are a few beautiful ladies you never saw. The patrons are very satisfied. I had a hard time finding the right girls, you know how hard it is to keep problems away. I have maybe five or six girls you never saw and I'm sure you're going to love all of them."

He looked around as if searching for someone and pointed to a beautiful girl talking with a man.

"That's one for example, her name's Lily and she's a very free spirit, if you know what I mean."

"She's indeed very beautiful, who else?"

"Hum, let me see. I have Serena, over there on the stage. She's the favorite these days."

"Hum, no. I already decided. I want that one."

"I'm sorry, which one?"

She turned her head in the direction of the bar and Nigel closed her eyes praying to any gods that she was not pointing to Andy, but unfortunately, she was. Miranda was one of the longest-standing and wealthier patrons and he would do almost anything to attend her wishes. Despite that, Nigel had become very fond of Andy and was used to protecting her if a patron became too insisting. The girl was gorgeous, with voluptuous curves and innocent doe-like eyes. Considering Miranda was not the first client to ask about her, Nigel was lamentablely aware that he could make a lot of money with her, if the girl waswilling to work. He was the owner of Dark Secrets for twenty years, always faithful to his own principles: no woman would be obligated to attend clients in his house. They were very well compensated - enough to leave the job after a while to seek other opportunities.

"Oh, I'm sorry, that one is just a waitress, she doesn't attend clients Miranda, but you can choose any other girl and I can guarantee that you'll be satisfied."

Looking again, Miranda noted that even thought the girl had a polite beautiful smile on her face, she delicately avoided the patrons touches. She was walking gracefully between the tables, taking orders and delivering them to the bartender. Miranda's heart was beating unusually fast - she couldn't take her eyes off the girl. She was also sensing her competitive nature surface as the voluptuous prize was denied to her. She looked straight into Nigel's eyes, daring him to contradict her.

"Well, I'll wait until you talk to her. I'm willing to pay whatever she wishes. She's just waiting for an adequate offer. Just tell me the price."

"I'm sorry my friend. This will probably be a lot more difficult than you're predicting and you know the rules, they must be interested in the offer, I can't force them to take it."

"Of course I know the rules! In case you've forgotten, I was here when they were created. I would never force a woman, what's wrong with you? I'm just stating my interests, so I have to insist. Bring her to me, as I said, I can pay any amount she desires. I'm not used to be denied and I already looked around, I'm not interested in any of the others."

Nigel sighed heavily, giving her a pleading look, still trying to dissuade her from choosing Andy.

"Miranda, I almost didn't hire her exactly for this reason and believe me, I offered her a good salary. She has the perfect look: an alluring shyness, a gorgeous body and a brain, what we both know is a rare combination around here. Most of the girls are just interested in money or fancy clothes... She's certainly a jewel, but unfortunately, she's not interested in anything that anyone around here has to offer. At least, not in the terms you're putting it."

"Don't blame a woman for trying Nigel, who knows? Maybe your beautiful waitress will surprise us proving to be a good negotiator…"

Nigel was having a hard time hiding his worries for the young woman. He tried another tact.

"Emily is here tonight Miranda, you could have her or any other, you just have to say the word. Maybe you could have more than one, wouldn't you like that? My girls are always anxious to be at your service and you know it."

"No, thank you. I was bored with Emily two years ago, why would she be any different now? And the others… well, I'm tired of model aspirants. As I said I already chose one, could you please stop babbling and go bring her to me? You know how difficult I can be when I get impatient."

Nigel was used to insistence. That was one of the main reasons he used to avoid hiring someone who would not be able to do the entire job. He made an exception with Andy. The girl had survived a personal tragedy and worked hard since she has been hired. He already knew the answer, but decided to let Andy deal with Miranda's arrogance. It was one of her occupational hazards; she should learn how to deal with the patrons, even if they were insufferable or rude.

"Ok, Miranda, I'm going to get her, but I warned you, she will refuse the job."

She dismissed him with an annoyed hand gesture. "Just go and let me deal with her?"

"As you wish."

…..

Andy was still recovering from the early encounter with the gorgeous lady. They had exchanged just a few words, but she was already impressed. The woman seemed charming and sophisticated and so out of her reach. Doug brought a few orders over to her.

"So, I'm waiting to hear about the beautiful woman you'd attacked a few minutes ago. She looked… hum, what would be a good word to her… expensive…"

"Hey, I didn't attack anyone, it was an accident and I should thank her, because I would have fallen if she didn't catch me."

Doug laughed hard while putting the drinks on her tray.

"Well, I think that you should really thank her later and ask her out."

"Doug, I appreciate your concern about my life, but that one, as you said, is probably out of my league. I would never have the courage to even talk to her, not to mention asking her out…"

She smiled and winked at him.

"But, if she asks me out… well, that would be another story…"

They were still joking about the woman when Nigel approached the bar, smiling tenderly to Andy.

"Hi boss, do you need anything?"

"Unfortunately I do."

"What happened?"

"One of the clients insists on talking to you."

Andy rolled her eyes. Just when she was looking for the sexy lady.

"Didn't you tell him I'm not available?"

"It's not a he, it's a she."

Andy was amused now, it was the first time she received an offer from a woman. She laughed.

"Really... Well, that will be easier. At least I won't have the urge to laugh in the poor guy's face."

Nigel sighed.

"I wouldn't be relieved if I were you. This client is definitely one of the most difficult."

"What do you mean?"

"Andy, please be careful, she's rich and powerful and not used to having her wishes dismissed. So, it won't be easy, just hang on, okay? Go and talk to her, and I'll be here if you need me."

"Right, who is she?"

"Miranda Priestley, she's one of our oldest associates and she was very impressed with you."

He pointed in the woman's direction, but it took a while for her eyes to adjust to the low lights and discern the woman in the distance. When she recognized the silver hair beauty a cold feeling gripped her heart. She had admired her from afar, even hoped that maybe she could approach and initiate conversation. But reality came rushing toward her, dismissing her delusional innocent thoughts. She was just like the other powerful people that came here, seeing women like objects to be pursued and conquered. She looked at Nigel's eyes with a sad expression in her face.

"Don't worry, I'll be careful."

With that she walked in the woman's direction.

…..

"Nigel told me you wished to talk to me?"

"Hi, your name is?"

"My name's Andy. How can I help you?"

"Andy is a nickname, I asked your name."

Andy was a little surprised with the icy tone coming from the woman. Has she done anything to offend her? Who would understand these people? She decided to keep the conversation light.

"My name is Andrea Sachs, Mrs. Priestley. Do you want me to get you something from the bar?"

"No Andrea, I just want to talk to you, would you have a seat please?"

Andrea was worried. Every single time she was invited to someone's table she had to refuse an offer. She knew the routine: first they offer a seat, then a drink and soon they're telling you how sexy you are and how much they can pay for having you. This time, she was feeling worse, because the customer was very attractive. It was easy to refuse men, because she was just not interested in them in any way. But this beautiful woman in front of her was different. Her voice and her blue eyes were causing shivers to course through Andy's body. In other circumstances Andy would haveno problem in having her in her bed. But not this way, never in exchange of money. She was silent for a moment, waiting for the upcoming trouble. Looking to Nigel still at the bar counter, she was reassured by his smile.

Andrea looked at Miranda and smiled politely.

"Oh, I don't see why you need to talk to me, I'm just a waitress here, there are so many beautiful women around."

Miranda was looking at her body with narrowed eyes, as if evaluating her. Andy cheeks became pink under the scrutiny, but she held the other woman's stare. The older woman laughed before speaking in a condescending tone.

"Oh, she blushes, how adorable. Tell me Andrea, would you care for a drink?"

"No, thanks, I'm working."

"Yes, you certainly are working. I'm one of your patrons and I ask you to drink something in my company, how difficult it is to attend this simple task?"

"I appreciate your offer, but as I said I'm working now and entertaining the clients is not my job. You would be very disappointed with me if I tried to… entertain you."

Miranda was still smiling in a predatory way. Andy was feeling cheap under her gaze, she looked like one of the disgusting men that treated her like an object.

"I doubt I would be disappointed, you look very competent."

The words were voiced in the most ironic tone and Andy had to control herself to be polite.

"Thanks again for your offer, but I'm not interested."

"Well, I didn't make an offer yet. You don't know how much I'm willing to pay."

In the face of Miranda's insistence Andy fought to keep her smile in place.

"The value is irrelevant Mrs. Priestley, I just can't accept."

"Do you have any idea who I am?"

"An arrogant rich woman, who is not used to taking no for an answer?"

Miranda's temper raised.

"You're a silly girl! I can destroy your life for that impertinence!"

Andy looked at her with sad brown watering eyes.

"That wouldn't be the first time my life became difficult Mrs. Priestley. Believe me I'll survive again if I have to."

With that she turned away, heading to the bar.

From afar, Nigel had a hard time seeing the poor girl's fidget before the imperious woman. He had to deal with an annoyed Miranda once or twice in the last two decades and knew that it was not an easy task. Nigel could see Miranda was furious. He approached the table again sitting by her side.

"Miranda, I hope you understand I'm not firing her."

"Who asked you to fire her? I want her back here, I didn't dismiss her!"

"Miranda, please, I'm sure you don't want a scene. She already gave you her answer, she won't change her mind. I had powerful men offering me enough money to pay a year's rent and she refused without even flinching."

Miranda was intrigued and more interested than before.

"Tell me about her."

Nigel looked at her narrowed eyes.

"Seriously Miranda, just drop the subject, choose any girl and have a nice evening, please."

"No. I'm not going anywhere and you're going to tell me everything I need to know about her."

The earlier worry became a serious concern as he saw the distinctive trace of hurt pride crossing the older woman's face.

"Miranda, this is not a game; she's a young girl, with feelings."

"Oh my friend you're such a romantic. Everybody is interested in something, I just have to discover her price, don't you think?"

Nigel was irritated now. "No, I don't think so and I'm not helping you in this madness! If want to meet the girl, at least have the decency to ask her out or something! You know why I keep this place?"

She gave him a bored look but let him finish.

"I hope you're not giving me a sermon about virtues and sins."

"No Miranda, I don't intend to bore you with speeches. I just need you to understand that I keep this place because I really believe that dreams and wishes come true. We do this every single day here. This is a fantasy land and not a place to break people. That girl over there is probably the greatest dreamer I have around here and I would love if you just keep your distance from her."

Before Miranda could answer, he left her alone.

Chapter Text

Walking through the campus alleys, she smiled as the sun caressed her skin, a warm feeling of freedom and rightness filling her heart. She was incredibly tired but couldn't avoid the sense that, despite the difficulties, things were in the right place. After a long stressful night of hard work, her early classes were a good reminder of her choices and a hopeful glimpse of her future. She inhaled the morning air deeply and picked a small table to study during the break, hoping to put some class notes in order.

The first two classes were very interesting, but she was almost too tired to pay any attention, so she was at least, very accurate with her records, hoping to take a look at them later. Sipping from a coffee mug, she sat alone and opened a book, deliberately avoiding her classmates. She was usually very private about friends and relationships, mainly because her energies were drained by work, leading her to expend the remaining time focusing on her student needs. The other reason was more complicated, she simply didn't want her colleagues guessing the kind of work she did. She was not ashamed of her job, but those boys and girls were far from her reality and a bit immature.

She was not older than any of them, but the differences were huge and she found herself on more than one occasion bored to death around them. Their conversations were about lives so distant from her experiences. Comparing them with her work mates she could easily see the differences. The girls from Dark Secrets were also young but wiser and mature, most of them had stories so complicated as hers. They were her real friends, the ones with whom she could share her fears and desires.

A few guys and girls had tried to approach her in college, offering friendship or inviting her out. Her polite refusals were granting her a reputation as a remote, reserved person. That was better than being considered arrogant, but still she couldn't deny the fact that she'd been avoiding dating because she was terribly scared of developing deep relationships. How she would explain to a friend the nature of a job that she couldn't' speak about or to a girlfriend, that she would never be available to date at night, because she would be serving tables in a place that she couldn't talk about, at a secret address. She decided to keep things simple and focus on her goal: work and study.

She was so absorbed in her own work that she was startled when someone took a by her side. She raised her eyes from the book to be greeted by a good looking guy that vaguely reminded her of one of her classmates. He was smiling confidently as he started the conversation.

"Hi, you're Andy right? I'm Nate; we're in the same class on Wednesdays. Are you here alone?"

She thought his attempt of making light conversation was offensive, but didn't' want to be rude.

"Yes, I'm just reading my notes and studying."

"Is that your first semester?"

"Yes, I'm in New York just for a few months."

"Oh, that's why you don't have many friends around…."

She just nodded and turned her attention back to her notes, hoping the guy would find someone else to chat with. Unfortunately he was still seated after a minute, even if she didn't make any attempt at conversation."

"So Andy, I was thinking if you would like to go out sometime, we could dance or watch a movie, what do you say?"

"Well… I really appreciate your invitation, but I work at night, so it would be difficult to find time, I'm sorry."

He was surprised by her answer and it was amusing because he was not used to being refused. He was a handsome and smart guy, but definitely not her type. He insisted.

"But we could go before or after your work, or on the weekends."

She was getting uncomfortable with his insistence, because she knew that she would have to be more specific about her impediments if he kept trying, so, she stood from her place in the table, gathering her books and her purse.

"Look Nate, you're really a nice guy, but as I said before I'm not available. I appreciate your offer and I'm sorry, but I just… can't. If you excuse me I have a class in ten minutes."

She left the surprised guy behind her, heading to her class. He was really disappointed but she couldn't have encouraged his advances. She had many troubles and doubts about her life, but she was pretty certain about her sexual orientation - her feelings toward the silver-haired woman were a blunt proof of those inclinations. She sighed and rolled her eyes. She had tried hard to avoid any thoughts that would remind her about the previous night's incident. She was annoyed by her own reactions toward the insufferable woman and the uncomfortable situation. During their conversation, she had to deal with conflicted feelings, fighting the undeniable attraction as she made her position clear to the demanding patron. She was almost certain that the woman wouldn't give up so easily, considering the fierce expression on those blue eyes as they followed her every movement for a couple of hours following their brief encounter. They didn't talk anymore, but Miranda Priestley didn't accept other girls' company as would be expected. A few of Andy's friends had come to her table, only to be dismissed with an annoyed gesture and a roll of the eyes. The woman was obviously stubborn, but Andy knew her own conviction. Determination was second nature for Andy and if the wealthy patron continued her advances she would have a hard time facing Andy.

Miranda made a huge effort to concentrate on the last meeting of her schedule. Her staff should be offering solutions to the countless problems she identified during the week, although, in the last two hours she had to control her temper more than once, avoiding the urge to fire half of that bunch of fools. She was also feeling deadly tired, as the lack of sleep and worry about deadlines overwhelmed her.

She was trying hard, but her thoughts kept flowing wildly around a certain pair of innocent eyes. She lost track of time during the night, observing the young woman working, her elegant, delicate movements, brought a broad easy smile to her face. Nigel was right, she was definitely special and Miranda couldn't control her rising interest to know everything about her. She had somehow offended the girl, demanding too soon what she probably wasn't ready to accept. Andrea's refusal only ignited Miranda's curiosity and she couldn't wait to see the young woman again, although she was quite aware that she would need to change her strategy. She was shocked and delighted with Andrea's lack of fear, an unusual demeanor around her. She could say, without exaggerating, that the only persons completely comfortable in her presence were her two daughters. She hadn't had time yet to analyze her fascination with the young woman, but she knew that it would be imperative to see her again.

From afar she heard her assistant's voice, confirming her late dinner. She dismissed the girl, ordering her to clear her night schedule. Bringing her attention back to the meeting she sighed heavily, silently communicating her discontentment. Taking off her glasses, she massaged her temples in a desperate attempt to control the oncoming headache. Tired of her subordinate's incompetence she made an impatient dismissing gesture with her hands.

"Enough. I can't stand one more minute of your inability. I'm just asking you to do your job, am I reaching for the stars here? I want a meeting first thing in the morning and I really hope to see something acceptable or I'll be forced to find different talents. That's all."

She stood abruptly not waiting for explanations. Incompetence was an unacceptable word in her magazine and anyone who had serious professional pretensions would have to follow her orders. One of her great characteristics was a single minded inclination when pursuing an objective. Some people would consider her efforts a sign of a compulsive work behavior and evidence of obsessive motherhood. Thinking about her own actions she couldn't contradict them. To everything in her life, at least the important things, she acted with a firm purpose and conviction to success.

The only strange fact was that not even once did she feel that way about a romantic relationship. Once, in her youth she had nourished naïve expectations of finding a mate, a partner of body and soul, but the years had brought reality. She was not getting any younger despite her ageless beauty and an uncomfortable feeling of loneliness had been haunting her thoughts frequently. At the age of fifty two she was convinced that romantic love was nothing but a fairy tale and that everyone in this damn world wanted something from her.

Entering her office, she felt her phone vibrate. It was one of her girls, probably asking if she would be home to talk to them before sleep. She answered the phone, smiling at her daughter's voice.

"Hi Bobbsey, how was your day at school?"

She smiled tenderly as Caroline told her a few tales of her teachers and classmates before passing the phone to her sister who asked about her evening plans.

"Mommy is going to be late again tonight, but tomorrow I'll be home earlier and we'll spend the night together, ok?"

"Ok Mommy, when you get home, will you kiss us Goodnight?"

Miranda smiled at her child's voice, thinking that sometimes they sounded like her small babies, especially when they were sleepy. The girls already knew she had a business dinner that night, so she just informed them that she would not be home to put them in bed. Normally, she would make every effort to avoid being away from home, especially two days in the same week. Since her first divorce she has tried hard to coordinate her nights out with the ones the girls would spend with their father. The twins were at a very delicate age and she knew the importance of being present in their lives. She was aware that her work routine took away a lot of their precious time together, so she used every chance she had to reassure her precious girls that she was there for them no matter what.

"Of course, my angel, when I get home I'll see you ok? Love you."

"Bye mom, love you too."

Despite her tiredness and the great wish to be with her kids, she decided to go back to Dark Secrets. She had thought about Andrea all day. Her thoughts kept flowing between annoyance and excitement beyond just seeing her again, even though she couldn't yet understand the nature of her own feelings.

Andy was impressed with the second day of an almost full house. The new girls were having a great impact on the business and consequently in Andrea's earnings. She received more tips in the last couple of days than in an entire week in her first month working in Dark Secrets. Trying to find some space between tables and bodies, she got some orders, stopping briefly to watch her two best friends on the stage. Serena and Lily were beautiful, performing a new act they had rehearsed at their apartment, showing the first movements to Andy. She was very proud of her roommates, cheering heartily as they finished. Heading to the bar she waited as Doug prepared the drinks she would deliver. The place was so full of people that she didn't notice Miranda's approach.

"Good evening Andrea."

She froze recognizing the deep dulcet-tone of Miranda's voice as she felt a delicious shiver all over her body. Like the previous night, her body reactions betrayed her will and she had to control herself to hide her feelings, wearing a mask of serious indifference.

"Mrs. Priestley, how may I help you tonight?"

Miranda smiled, but to Andy's surprise, her expression was softer than the night before, the feral stares were gone, replaced by an almost sweet attitude. Their bodies were close due to the lack of space between the tables and Andrea smelled that delicious perfume again and felt the warmth coming from the other woman's body as their chests almost touched.

Miranda was looking intently into Andrea's eyes as if she was seeing them for the first time. Andrea tried to put some space between them, but the older woman held her arm in a soft but firm grip.

"I'd like to apologize for my behavior last night, the way I treated you was lamentable. You must know that I mistook you for one of Nigel's girls and I sincerely apologize."

Andrea would be less surprised if a second head popped out of the woman's neck. Considering her previous behavior, Andrea would have expected anything but an apology. The woman didn't seem to regret her actions last night, on the contrary, her eyes reflected rage and determination. Andy was still suspicious about this unpredictable turn of events, but decided to be diplomatic. She smiled softly.

"Don't worry, let's put this behind us. You're one of Dark Secrets most important patrons and I'm just a waitress, if that's settled I'm sure we won't have any future problems."

Miranda was holding her close, sheltering her body from the touches of other guests. If it wasn't for their misunderstanding, Andrea would have found her protective attire very sweet. The music was loud and Miranda leaned in to place her lips near Andrea's ears, in a slightly seductive gesture.

"Would you please come with me? I'd like to talk to you in private."

Andrea's head snapped back and she looked again at the older woman's eyes.

"I'm sorry, I'm only allowed on the main floor, I've never been and don't intend to be on the private upper floors. If you want to speak to me, you have to do it here, like the other guests."

Something undefined flashed through Miranda's eyes as she offered Andrea a fake smile, but her voice kept soft.

"I'm sure Nigel can make an exception if I ask him to. I really need to talk to you where I can hear my own thoughts. Don't worry, I won't bite."

Doug called Andrea to deliver her orders. She put them on the tray, ignoring Miranda.

"Wait please! You're not giving me a chance to explain my terms, last night I don't think I made myself clear."

"Your terms? Look, Mrs. Priestley…"

"Miranda, call me Miranda."

"Mrs. Priestley, as I already told you last night I'm not interested in any of your terms, as you put… I'm just working here and I have a lot to do. In case you haven't noticed, this place is crowded tonight. One of the waiters didn't come to work and I'm working for both… so, I'm sorry but I can't help you, excuse me."

Miranda held her arm firmly.

"Look, I understand you."

Andy blinked, looking confused.

"You think you do?"

Miranda smiled again, looking into Andrea's eyes. Her words and her tone were seductive.

"Of course. You want to be valued, I understand and respect that. You're not like the others, that's what you're trying to tell me…"

Andrea shivered at her tone, disconcerted for a second by Miranda's beauty. Then, as if waking from a dream she huffed with indignation. The woman was the most infuriating, stubborn person she has ever met, she just couldn't take a 'no' for an answer.

"I'm not trying to tell you anything more than what I already told you! You know what? Forget it! Just understand that I'm not available and we won't have problems."

She turned her back to the woman, intending to leave, but felt her arm being grabbed again.

"Why the hell are you always turning your back to me, I haven't finished yet. Didn't your mother teach you better manners?"

Andrea couldn't believe that line. What was this woman thinking? Apparently she was not satisfied with just insulting her, the lady would have to patronize her too. Her temper was rising pretty fast and she started to fear her own reactions.

"Leave my mother out of this conversation and talking about good manners… didn't your mother teach you that insistence can be very impolite? Look around you, this place is full of amazing women, you just have to choose one of them and leave me alone. Just let me go back to my work!"

She was getting annoyed by her own reactions toward the older woman. Miranda was able to do the impossible: infuriate her. Worst, her body that should be repulsed, was enjoying the feeling of those soft and warm hands. She was very attracted to Miranda, she couldn't deny it and if the older woman's insistence was a sign, she probably felt the same. The problem was that Andrea was having a hard time to separate the physical from the mental reactions. She was living an unusual contradiction: physical attraction against personality revulsion. Miranda's voice pulled her out of her thoughts again.

"Look, I know you're playing hard to get not saying what you want and I admire that. I'm also a negotiator and you must know that I'm willing to compensate you properly. If you agree I could be your exclusive patron and if you talk to Nigel he will inform you that's a very rentable arrangement."

Andrea closed her eyes and counted to ten to avoid slapping Miranda's face in front of everyone. She wanted to keep her job and that pampered woman didn't worth her future. So, she decided to refuse for the last time. She extracted her arm from Miranda's grip firmly, straightened her body and looked directly into those blue orbs.

"Mrs. Priestley your inconvenience is really bothering me, I don't want to make a scene or be rude, so please, I beg you, forget me, pretend that I don't exist. I know that it will be no problem for you, as you already told me more than once I'm an insignificant person. Besides, if your wealth is everything you have to offer to a woman, I'm sorry for you, because to me it's not enough. Now, if you will excuse me I really must go back to work."

With that, she turned on her heels, hoping at least to maintain her dignity.

Miranda was speechless, shocked even. Not just with the girl's blatant refusal, but for her last words, they hurt more than she could admit, especially because she knew that they were true. What did she have to offer to people? Her money and her position worked well until now. What does she mean when she says she's not interested in those things? Where is that girl was from, Jupiter?

Miranda was a good judge of character, that was one of the reasons for her success and she could almost swear that the other woman was attracted to her. Every time she came close to Andrea's body she felt delicate shivers in the young woman's body and one brief touch evoked a tiny gasp. It was a delicious sound and Miranda couldn't wait to hear it again. She would win this dispute, no matters how. Looking around she found Nigel, talking to one of the patrons. Moving between the patrons, she reached him, petulantly interrupting the conversation. She complimented the patron and excused herself, dragging Nigel with her. When they reached a tranquil corner, she pointed a finger at his face.

"I don't give a damn about your work ethics, your moral philosophy or that stupid conversation about a dream land! That girl is pushing her luck and if you don't help me I won't make things easy for you either!"

Nigel offered her a bored stare, looking absently at his hands while speaking.

"I presume we're talking about Andy…"

"Andrea, yes! What's the matter with her? Can you believe that I offered her an exclusive agreement and she refused? Look around! We're surrounded by girls that would kill for an opportunity like that and that brat dismissed me if I was an annoying…nobody!"

Nigel rolled his eyes dismissing her intimidations. He knew Miranda Priestley well, considering himself one of her only real friends. She could be very dangerous when thwarted, but he was confident that she would never cause him harm. Besides, he was getting curious about her unusual reactions toward Andy. In twenty years he never once witnessed anyone so obsessed. He could swear that a woman of her age, who never fell in love before, would be damned to sadness and loneliness, but looking at her eyes he saw a different light. Was that just an effect of the dispute, or could she be really interested in the young girl? His romantic side, that never once subsided, decided to investigate the issue.

"Well my friend, I understand your annoyance but there's nothing I can do to help you."

Miranda narrowed her eyes.

"What do you mean? Of course you can help me! I want to know everything about that girl, everything!"

Her words got his attention.

"And may I ask why you are so interested in her?"

Miranda seemed startled for a second as if she hadn't thought about her reasons for pursuing the girl.

"Well, I need to know her, because when you have a trouble, knowledge can be your best weapon."

"Hmm.., maybe in that magazine where you work, that's a good philosophy, but here…. I don't think so… you know, I don't like to hear you calling her a problem, because I don't see her like that. She's a beautiful, bright kid, who deserves the best from life and if you want to know the truth I'm really attached to her. I won't allow you to mistreat her."

"Nigel, you idiot, I don't want to mistreat her, I want…"

He looked directly in her eyes waiting for her next words.

"I want… shit, I don't know what I want…"

Nigel smiled tenderly, and patted her arm.

"Well, this is a rare occurrence, I suppose. Guess what? I like your answer, but I need to know your intentions better."

"Intentions? Who are you? A nineteenth century godfather?"

He ignored her remark waving to one of the girls.

"If you're still this amazed by Andy tomorrow, call me, we can have lunch while I consider these intentions..."

Chapter Text

It was Friday morning and she woke up startled. Her brain took a few seconds to remember that she would have an easy day, at least until later, when she would perform her routine activities at Dark Secrets. Free days were a rare indulgence lately and she stretched in bed welcoming the lethargy. She looked sadly at the picture of her family on the nightstand, remembering her parents' happiness when she told them she had been accepted to NYU -her father proud words of encouragement to his oldest daughter. They celebrated together in the backyard of their house in Cincinnati, her young sister running like crazy around her when she heard that Andy would move to a big city. Andy, who love children, had promised to bring the girl to see New York as soon as she was settled, but could never have imagined that it would be the last time she would see them alive. Only time would wash the pain away and she sighed as a single tear rolled down from the corner of her eye.

Leaving her painful memories, she heard music and her friends' giggles coming from the living room where they would probably be working on the weekend choreographies. She got up intending to shower and have a most needed coffee, thinking about the many little things she could do with her free time, like have a haircut or do laundry. Leaving her bedroom she leaned on the door frame, watching her two friends as they performed a series of complex dance moves, so engaged in their own choreography that they didn't realize they had an audience. They were so different from each other, Lily exquisite ebony skin contrasting with Serena's sensual blonde beauty. They were gorgeous dancing together and Andy knew they would break a few hearts in Dark Secrets. When the music stopped, Andy applauded her friends, crossing the room toward the kitchen.

"Good morning girls. You know, we should find a way to put a pole in the middle of the living room, this way you could practice all the moves."

Serena paused for a moment sitting on the kitchen counter, absently grabbing an apple from a basket.

"Well, we could also have some help. It would help a lot if we could perform the numbers with you dancing with us sometimes."

Andy was startled.

"Me? Are you crazy Serena?""

"Most of the dance numbers are performed by three or four girls, so, it would be a big help if you could pretend you're one of us. You have the body of a dancer; I bet you would be great if you tried!"

"I could never dance like you or Lily. Besides, I'm so clumsy I would probably cause an accident."

Lily also came to the kitchen.

"Oh C'mon! I know you would be perfect if you at least tried. Come here!"

Andy didn't move, feeling embarrassed.

"Really guys, forget it, I can't dance…"

Playful giggles joined the music as the girls pulled Andy to the center of the living room, inciting her to follow their moves. She mimicked some of their actions, enjoying the exercise, even trying a few new steps now and them, pleasing her friends. After a half hour she had forgotten completely her previous sadness and was laughing hard as her body flowed with the rhythm. They took a break, sitting on the floor as Serena poured them some coffee. They drank sipping slowly and quietly enjoying each others' company until Lily couldn't contain her curiosity anymore.

"So Andy, tell us about Miranda Priestley and you?"

Choking on her coffee, she couldn't hide her discomfort with her friend's question.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Serena joined Lily in the teasing.

"Are you sure? Because you ladies seemed very entranced with each other last night. What did she want with you? Emily was dying from jealous!"

Andy adopted what she believed would be a neutral expression, hiding her conflicting feelings toward the subject.

"Well, Mrs. Priestly misjudged my duties at Dark Secrets, but we already established a reasonable agreement."

Serena looked worried when she asked. "Wait a second. What do you mean?" Andy was annoyed for feeling so embarrassed about the topic.

"Two nights ago Mrs. Priestley made me an offer, because she had no idea about my real function at Dark Secrets, so we had a clarifying conversation and I believe we're settled now."

Two pairs of eyes narrowed in concerned disbelief and Serena said,

"You know, she is one of the most powerful patrons. I know you don't give a damn for famous people, but you should know that she's important… When she showed up last night, a lot of the girls were anxious to meet her. Nigel was really excited about her presence because apparently she has been absent for more than a year. From what I heard, she's a very generous patron. Emily told me that a couple of years ago she used to attend Mrs. Priestley, so, when she saw you talking to the woman, she was outraged."

They were comfortably lying on the living room floor as they spoke and Lily playfully slapped Andy's leg, laughing.

"Can you blame her? The woman is not just powerful, she's gorgeous. Who would imagine that our shy and discrete Andy would catch her attention?"

Andy couldn't disagree with the gorgeous part, but she would die before telling them about her attraction to the arrogant woman. She was also curious about Miranda and tried to appear indifferent when she asked.

"Why she is so famous? What does she do?"

Lily and Serena exchanged a surprised glance and Serena explained.

"She's the editor of Runaway, the fashion magazine…"

Looking at Andy perplexity she added.

"You have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?"

Andy never liked to be considered ignorant about something, but she would have to admit that she knew nothing about fashion, not to mention about a magazine editor. The girls seemed really upset about her lack of information and Lily was serious as she explained.

"Andy, every single girl at Dark Secrets would kill to have five minutes with her, just to convince Miranda that they could be super models. Do you understand Emily's reaction now?"

Andy made some sense of the information she gathered. The gorgeous lady was some kind of fashion celebrity… Andy was petulant when she answered.

"Good for her that she is so powerful, it doesn't make any difference to me. You can tell Emily that she doesn't need to be worried, because I'm not competing with her for Mrs. Priestly attention."

"Why not? I mean, you're lesbian and single… And she seemed very interested in you…"

Andy snorted and stood, intending to put an end to the awkward conversation.

"Look girls, I appreciate your concern, but would prefer if you drop the subject. I've got a lot of things to do before tonight! See you later!"

She didn't want to hurt her friends' feelings so she smiled, kissed their cheeks and went to her bedroom. In the shower she thought about Miranda's behavior, understanding now her presumptuous attitude and rude manners. Andy sighed, thinking that no one could be farther from her world.

Dressed in comfortable jeans and a T-shirt, she left her building and welcomed morning, thinking about Miranda Priestley all the way to the laundry.

...

One thing Miranda never learned in her life was a way to deal with frustration. She was not used to accepting failure in any form, currently reacting ungraciously when her wishes were not satisfied. In the last two days her frustration escalated to an almost unbearable level and the Runaway entire staff was having a hard time to please her even in the simplest tasks. Thoughts of Andrea were interrupting her concentration again and she checked her watch for the hundredth time, impatiently waiting for her lunch with Nigel.

She was perplexed with the flood of unwelcome emotions breaking through her well constructed barriers and her rational mind couldn't understand how two days could make such difference in someone's life. Andrea was filling an unknown empty space in her heart and Miranda, so used to her lonely journey, felt threatened before the perspective of losing control over her usual predictable and well-controlled feelings.

She left her office right before noon, heading to the restaurant where Nigel would be expecting her. When she reached their table, her old friend welcomed her with a large smile, standing up gallantly as she approached.

"Miranda, you look fabulous! Love is doing you good!"

She air kissed him and settled into her seat at the table, narrowing her eyes at his playful tone.

"Nigel, I must warn you that I'm not in the mood for foolishness and would be glad if you spare me of your wild imagination. Can we go straight to the point?"

"Of course Miranda, we're both very busy people. So tell me, what's your plan?"

She was surprised by his amusing tone.

"My plan? Nigel, I interrupted a very aggravating day of work, hoping you would help me find a way to convince your employee that her recent behavior is unwelcome."

"Miranda, Andy's actions are perfectly understandable given the circumstances of your previous encounters. She's doing what any woman would do if faced with an inappropriate proposal."

"An inappropriate proposal? I don't believe you! As one of the patrons I have the right to…"

He cut her off with a sharp gesture and his voice showed his irritation.

"We both know your patron's status and you definitely don't need to remind me of them. You're perfectly aware that the moment I told you she was just a waitress and you insisted on making her an offer, you would be talking to an unknown woman and not to one of my employees. She reacted like any woman would in those circumstances, so stop complaining."

She huffed, her indignation rising but didn't reply.

"Miranda, the only reason I'm here talking to you now, is because I believe that somewhere in your stubborn head you would admit that you crossed a line and that she deserves better than what you offered. So, please, tell me right now if you're going to reconsider this awful attitude and grab the chance to have a normal relationship, just for a change."

His boldness surprised them both. They had built an easy friendship in the last decade, so it would be expected that he felt comfortable talking to her, if she wasn't who she was. His self confidence was new, but not unwelcome, after all, she had no close friends to share her problems.

"Normal relationship... What are you implying Nigel?"

Nigel tasted his champagne, stretching the silence. Miranda looked at him with challenging sneer.

"Honestly Miranda, you must understand that Andy is not your usual companion. She's indeed working in my business, but she has nothing in common with any of my girls. If you really want to pursue her, the first thing you need to realize is that she's not going to accept any kind of compensation for her affection. You will need to approach her in the regular way. Forget the offers of exclusivity, money, gifts or model contracts, it won't work. You'll have to ask her out like a normal person would, enjoying her delightful company. From what I know, she's a very romantic person so I would suggest everything you have in your seducing repertoire: flowers, chocolate, dinner, everything. That's the only possible way."

"Nigel, your suggestion is ridiculous. I'm a very public person; I can't be seen in public with a girl half my age, the tabloid dogswould be delighted with my flesh. This is unbelievable!Do you really think that I'm going to romance her? What do you think I'm going to do next, propose to her? I called you here because I need to find a way to convince that proud and foolish girl that I could be her exclusive patron, that our connection will be very lucrative, could you please stop this insanity and focus on the main task?"

Nigel looked sympathetic at her and she could swear that something close to compassion crossed his features.

"Well my friend, in this case all I can tell you is good luck, because I'm pretty sure you're not getting what you want. She is an amazing young woman who will make someone very happy in the future, I'm so sorry you don't think she's worthy of you. Thanks for inviting me for lunch, see you at Dark Secrets."

He stood and laid the napkin on the table, surprising the older woman. In a swift movement she grabbed his wrist, her words almost inaudible.

"Wait! Just stay a little longer… I want to try."

Raising an inquisitive eyebrow he waited. She opened her mouth, closed and opened it again.

"Damn Nigel! Look, I don't know how to do it!"

Frowning, he sat again.

"Don't know how to do what?"

She made a dismissive impatient gesture with her right hand and he sat waiting. She seemed unsure for a brief moment and Nigel was really surprised. Never once had he seen Miranda Priestley disconcerted or admitting having problems to do anything.

"This romancing thing… I have no idea how to do it…"

He gasped and stared at her, his eyes widening in surprise.

"I don't understand Miranda. What do you mean when you say you don't know? You certainly must have at some point…"

She interrupted him once more.

"No, I never had… in any point. I'm not used to asking women or whoever out!"

"But Miranda, you were married, you certainly must know how to… you know…"

She looked around to be assured that no one would be listening to her words.

"Nigel, listen to me. I'm a very private person who never once gave any public indication of my sexual preferences. Why do you think I'm one of Dark Secrets Patrons? Do you really think I would pay for a woman's company if I had other options? I can't indulge in such foolishness and you must understand that I never had a romantic relationship with a woman."

"I can't believe it."

"You certainly realize that my career and my daughters are my priorities. I'm a very busy woman, I don't have time for this stupid romantic idea! I need to be practical about it, so naturally I…"

It was Nigel turn to interrupt her.

"My god, Miranda! You can't be serious about it! Personal life and love are crucial sources of happiness! I can't believe my ears! Haven't you ever fallen in love?"

"Nigel, I have neither time nor energy for infatuation!"

Nigel reached across the table taking her hand, looking deeply into her eyes. She flinched but didn't retreat.

"My friend, I'm not talking about crushes, I'm talking about the real thing: being head over heels about someone, loose your mind so badly that nothing would be more important, work, reputation, nothing, just because love has no price."

Miranda held his gaze, nodding seriously. She was not embarrassed for spending the last thirty years so involved with her career that nothing else seemed so important. Even motherhood, that had been a dream since her youth, had to wait almost until her biological clock announced her last chance to have a baby. It was inevitable, she simply had no time for emotional problems and she was proud to have been at peace with the lack of personal life until now. She couldn't remember a time when she had spent more than a minute desiring anyone, until this infuriating girl. In an unsteady tone, so unlike her, she shared her affliction.

"I can't stop thinking about her and I'm confused… it's never happened before and she's… well she's disturbing… since the first moment I saw her, those gorgeous eyes…I can't concentrate and that's unacceptable! I don't know what to do Nigel, I'm feeling lost and I don't know how to deal with that! She doesn't accept my offers and I just drove her away with my insistence…"

Nigel couldn't believe in his ears. Her annoyance about her own emotions would be amusing if it was not the expression of a lamentable difficulty in dealing with a basic human feelings. The woman was an artist, a genius who ruled an entire industry with her decisions, but was apparently incapable of recognizing the simple signs of passion and love.

Sighing he looked deeply in her beautiful blue eyes.

"In this case my friend, I believe we have two options: you can forget the issue, going on with your life and pretending she doesn't mean anything to you or…"

He hesitated testing his truculent patient.

"Nigel?"

"Or… you can give happiness a chance, winning Andy's heart."

Miranda's gaze showed a deep conviction as she looked at him.

"The later, will you help me?"

The poor man sincerely hoped he wouldn't regret this.

Nigel observed Andy from a distance, smiling at her incredible patience in dealing with Mr. Robert Walker. Like many others, the old patron came to Dark Secrets looking for more than the mere company of beautiful women. Loneliness, the need to talk and express their emotions, was very often the major reason that led them to the nightclub and the girls would need to develop, besides their seduction power, the ability to be good listeners. Andy was the owner of a fabulous attentive nature and a genuine curiosity about people's stories and that was one of the many reasons that would probably make her an incredible journalist. Holding an empty tray under her arm, she was listening to one of Robert's recurrent tales as if it was the first time, nodding and giving him some advice. Andy had become, without any effort, his favorite mediator.

Seated at her table, coincidentally close to Mr. Walker's, Miranda watched the girl's movements, rolling her eyes impatiently at every smile or comment directed to the old patron. Until that moment Andy didn't give any indication that she had noted Miranda's presence and Nigel could feel her irritation growing as the minutes passed. He smiled remembering their earlier conversation and Miranda's admission of her growing feelings for the girl, surprisingly accepting his guidance in her romancing plan. Nigel agreed to help her after the guarantee that she would face her in security and control her temper, respecting Andrea's wishes. Nigel, always observant, was certain about Andy's attraction to the older woman. It wouldn't be the first time he played the Cupid role, but he has never been so sure about his intuition – they were perfect for each other.

Nigel approached Miranda's table preventing her sharp tongue from delivering one of her customary acerbic remarks, embarrassing Mr. Walker and driving Andrea away. Her eyes were deep pools of disdain and rage. He sat at the table blatantly ignoring her frosty glare.

"So, are you having a nice evening my good friend?"

"You must be kidding me! She didn't even look at me when I arrived and that drooling old baboon has kept her attention for the last half hour! Honestly, Walker should be feeding some pigeons in a rest-house!"

Nigel couldn't hide his amusement at her jealously. Smiling, he tapped her shoulder.

"Good lord woman, calm down, the night has barely begun."

"That's the problem! I arrived early, hoping she would have some time for me before this place is full of people and now that imbecile is keeping her busy with his stupid exaggerated tales! And the most annoying is that she smiles at him all the time! That smile should be directed to me!"

Nigel looked again to Walker's table, noting that Andrea was indeed offering the man her full attention and her radiating beautiful smile.

"Miranda, learn the first lesson about your future… girlfriend… would be the term?"

She rolled her eyes at his words.

"Whatever, you need to understand that your future significant other is infuriatingly kind and considerate. Mr. Walker realized that she's the best listener I have around here, so he uses the same strategy when he wants to talk to her. He arrives before everyone, bringing her some small gift, like a chocolate or a single flower. Then, he asks about her week at college, listening patiently, while she shares some funny tales or her annoyance about classmates. After that, he will use the remaining time to talk to her about his problems concerning his wife and daughters, accepting her advice. If you keep watching you'll see that after she leaves to serve other tables, he'll have two shots of whiskey and leave with a smile on his face."

Miranda forgot completely about Walker and his stupid needs, realizing she knew nothing about the girl. Nigel was surprised by the pensive look in her eyes when she asked.

"She is in college?"

"Yes, last semester she was admitted in to NYU Journalism School, are you surprised?"

Miranda frowned, drinking her wine.

"Well, in fact I am. Can you blame me? This is not the usual profile for your employees…"

Nigel gave her a sympathetic smile.

"That's what I have tried to tell you since the beginning. She's a young girl like so many I have around, but her dreams and priorities are different. I believe the only reason she's still working here is because I pay three times more than she would receive as a waitress anywhere else and I bet she'll be leaving us as soon as she finds something more suitable."

They were facing Robert Walker's table as they spoke and Miranda's eyes were eagerly following Andy's moves. Behind them, the music became louder as the girls entered the stage for the first night show. As was expected, the first presentation brought the patrons to the stage area and soon all the tables were occupied, sending the waiters scurrying to keep everyone well served.

Nigel excused himself when a female patron approached, inquiring about one of the girls. Being left alone again, Miranda dedicated all her effort to evaluating Andrea's expressions and moods. The girl was indeed very polite and attentive, always answering the requests with soft words and a beautiful smile. Miranda called her twice, just to test her reactions, surprised that the girl's face didn't betray any emotions as she addressed Miranda, taking her orders. After the first two nights when the girl had dismissed her offers, Miranda decided to wait until the right time to begin a new development in their relationship.

Miranda was still recovering from the surprising effect Nigel's words had on her. He made her face the inconsistencies in her apparently happy life, forcing her to face the emptiness of the lonely path she chose.

One hour later she was still sitting quietly, sipping a glass of wine. Her reflections were interrupted by an unpleasant snort coming from a table next to her. A very drunk middle age man was making a fool of himself yelling at the girls on the stage. Due to the lack of space caused by the crowd, he was unfortunately very close to Miranda. She could see the moment his eyes found Andrea as she walked between tables, delivering a few orders. When she approached, the impolite man tried to grasp her waist, but she graciously avoided his touch, going straight to the bar. Miranda jumped when he shouted.

"Hey hot brunette! My glass is empty! Do something about it!"

A young waiter gave Andy a nod and answered the man's call.

"May I help you, sir? Do you need another drink?"

"No, you can't help me. Did you hear me calling you? I called that babe over there and I want to be served by her, not you, idiot!"

The waiter was dismissed, but Andy came to the table obediently. She was so close that Miranda could feel the warmth of her body. The man's face was a mixture of lust and disdain as he looked at the young girl, angering Miranda. The girl approached the table in her usual cordial way, smiling as she asked about his order.

"Is there something you need sir?"

The man gave a disdainful laugh, grabbing her delicate wrist in a tight grip. She was pushed forward and got unbalanced for a moment, almost falling in his lap. She pulled her arm, but he didn't release her, laughing harder.

"You know exactly what I need little bunny, so why don't you come here and do your job?"

Miranda knew that was exactly the kind of idiot they use to banish from the night club. She never saw him before, but considering her recent absence he could be one of the new ones. His clothes and his cheap manners indicated that he was probably one of the rare unauthorized persons that sometimes crossed the security barriers when the house was full. She looked around for Nigel, but he was not in sight, so she decided to intervene. There was no way she was letting that cave man distract Andrea. Making eye contact with one of the bouncers she stood, putting her body between the man and the girl. Andrea was flushed as the man took her arm in a rude grip and Miranda's heart clenched as she saw the vulnerable look in her eyes. Furious, she gave the man one of her best "lady dragon" stares.

"Is there any justification to this barbaric behavior? I demand you release her this moment!"

"Hey old lady, why don't you take care of your own business and leave us alone. I'm having a conversation with this beautiful naughty girl."

Miranda's eyes flashed and she had to contain the urge to remove those dirty hands from Andrea's arm.

"Perhaps you'd be surprised to know that this is in fact my business. So, I'm warning for the last time: take your hands out of her."

In his inebriated state he looked from one woman to another, but didn't release Andy.

"And who the hell are you?"

"I'm Miranda Priestley and one of the members of the board of this establishment. We have a very strict code of conduct and in the last five minutes you have violated half of the articles. There are plenty of cheaper places around New York, perfectly capable of attending to someone with your…needs."

Andy looked around noting that they garnered a lot of attention and that a few patrons were giving their silent support to Miranda's actions. The older woman's face was livid and Andy thought she would hate to have one of those stares directed to her. Seeing Miranda defend her with such passion made her previous resentment of the woman evaporated.

"It's plenty clear that you're not one of our associates and I'm wondering how you passed through security. You should be more discrete: if you look around you'll notice that no one here is screaming or offending our employees, so your inappropriate behavior is drawing a lot of attention."

Miranda made a subtle gesture and two huge bouncers were at the table in a blink of an eye. The man was grabbed by strong hands, a string of profanities leaving his mouth. Andy felt the tears coming, when Miranda's tender arms held her waist, her warm, soft body supporting her weight.

"Did he hurt you Andrea? Let me see your wrist."

Andy looked up to see a furious Nigel coming toward them.

"What the hell just happened here?"

One of the bouncers was coming back with the report.

"We're sorry sir, but the man was indeed an unauthorized person. Mrs. Priestley gave us the order to take him and we did. He's now in one of the offices upstairs waiting for your orders. Should I call the police?"

Nigel dismissed the suggestion.

"Forget the police, we don't need the scrutiny or the publicity around here. I'll go upstairs to take his statement about what happened, please ask Doug to keep an eye on everything while I'm out."

The bouncer left and Nigel turned his attention to Andy, who was still in Miranda's arms.

"Did that idiot hurt you Six?"

She smiled under the affectionate nickname and nodded.

"No, I'm fine. Mrs. Priestley intervened quickly."

Nigel raised an eyebrow, giving Miranda an approving smile. She was slightly embarrassed when she understood the implicit message in his eyes. Releasing Andy, she retorted.

"Nigel, Andrea had a hard time and I believe it would be better if you release her of her duties until tomorrow."

Andrea's head turned to her in surprise.

"Oh, no Mrs. Priestley! That won't be necessary, it's over now and he won't come back. I appreciate your concern."

Nigel took her hand, examining her wrist.

"He got you good, does it hurt?"

She hissed as he touched a tender, already bruised spot. He looked at her eyes and smiled.

"Andy, go home now, you're injured and shaky."

"But Nigel…"

Miranda interrupted her.

"In the name of God Andrea, you're shivering! Nigel can survive a night without you. Come, let me take you to your home."

Andy and Nigel looked at her in surprise and she added in an indifferent tone.

"What? I can't let her take a cab in this condition…"

Nigel kissed Andy's cheek and hugged her.

"Go please, accept Miranda's offer."

Andrea looked at Miranda seeing nothing more than concern in her eyes. She was indeed shivering and dizzy from the adrenaline rush. She smiled at the older woman.

"Thank you Mrs. Priestley, I'll accept your help."

Miranda gave her a beautiful smile, so different from the artificial ones she used to offer people.

"Well, in that case I'll be glad to take you home, but I'll need to ask you a favor in return."

Looking surprised, Andrea inquired, not able to think of anything she could do for the woman.

"What kind of favor?"

"Please, call me Miranda."

Chapter Text

Miranda gripped the wheel tighter as she drove along the empty streets of Andy's neighborhood, feeling ridiculously nervous beside the young girl and suffering from a rare lack of words. After the earlier incident at Dark Secrets, her mind was still dealing with a profusion of unrecognized emotions. Even though Andrea's attitude had changed completely in the last hour, probably due to Miranda's actions against the abusive guest, the older woman was still painful aware of her own guilt about her behavior in their previous encounters. After witnessing the man's lamentable display of rudeness insistence, she could understand better Andrea's reactions to her offers and her offended reluctance to accept Miranda's advances.

During her lunch with Nigel, she made the difficult, but permanent decision to open her heart and mind to her feelings, even if that meant to face the unknown. She was not a woman to retreat when facing a challenge, certain that only mediocre people would succumb beyond their own insecurities and fears. Facing the task of trying a relationship with the same passion she would have to solve a professional problem, made the decision easier. But now, when Andrea's soft body and delicious smell were just a few inches away, she doubted her own abilities to win the girl's heart.

She couldn't suspect the woman beside her was also struggling with her own thoughts, trying hard to understand the deepness of the feelings assaulting her mind and body. Andy could understand the undeniable attraction; after all, Miranda was a beautiful and elegant woman, that would turn male and female heads whatever she was. She could also name the intense pull to the strong personality, but those predicaments didn't explain why her heart was beating so fast and small shivers ran all over her body. She couldn't understand why, after a brief display of courtesy from Miranda, she was willing to forgive her previous insulting behavior. Andy was feeling a strange tenderness toward the woman, remembering the way her soft arms had seemed so protective around her waist, while they left the night club together.

Andy was lost in her thoughts as Miranda parked in front of her building, stopping the car engine. They faced each other and Andy blushed under Miranda's deep gaze, looking for the proper words to thank her. Smiling, the older woman extended a tentative hand toward Andy, afraid that the girl would misunderstand her actions. Andy let her take her wrist, swallowing hard when she felt the warm and smooth hands grasping her fingers with such tenderness.

"Look at your poor wrist, it must be painful… Are you sure you don't want to see a doctor? That could be easily arranged."

"That won't be necessary, I'm fine. It's a little swollen, but I'm sure it will be better tomorrow. I used to play soccer when I was young, so I'm really used to small injuries, I'll put some ice on it and avoid using my hand for a couple of days. Next week I won't even remember this happened."

"I'm really sorry about that. We have strict rules that normally keep idiots like that outside our doors, but unfortunately, sometimes, intruders are almost unavoidable, especially when the place is full. I'll have a serious conversation about security criteria with Nigel…"

"Oh, that's hardly his fault! Even with rules and heavy security it's almost impossible to control everyone in a place like that and alcohol doesn't make things easier! You know, when he hired me, I was warned about this kind of problem, mostly because I refused to work like the other girls… He didn't want to give me the job, but my friend Lily was persistent and I'm very grateful for the opportunity… You don't need to worry so much, because it was not the first time something like that happened… well, nothing exactly like that… it never got so bad."

Miranda was looking at their entwined hands, her face a hard mask. Andy watched her, imagining what was bothering the older woman. She delicately extracted her hands from the soft grip, missing the warm touch almost immediately.

"Miranda, what you did tonight was great. Thank you again for your help and for the ride, I won't forget it."

Miranda kept her eyes down, embarrassed with so many things left unsaid. She felt sorry about the man's behavior, to not have reacted faster, before he could injure the girl. She was also sorry to know that Andrea was obligated to face that kind of harassment frequently and her practical mind was already thinking of ways to safeguard her young companion. The protective feelings she was having toward the girl were amazing and foreign to her experience.

On the other hand, she was facing her own embarrassment and guilt, knowing that just a couple of nights ago, she had insistently tried to approach the girl. The thought that Andrea could even compare her to that man made her sick, because she never intended treating the girl, or any other woman like an object. She refused to consider her actions in the in the same way, after all, she cherished the feminine form every day, through her precious magazine, through her work.

Andy tilted her head looking directly at Miranda's eyes, as if trying to read her thoughts. Instead of feeling embarrassed under the deep gaze, the older woman felt comforted, unusually calm. The girl smiled tenderly and moved out of the car, before Miranda could say anything. Closing the door, she looked at Miranda across the window.

"I don't understand the meaning of the shadows I see in your eyes right now, but just for you to know, I don't think you're like him."

Not waiting for a reply she crossed the street jogging to the entrance to her building.

A distant ringing noise made him wake startled. Who the hell would be calling? Still dazed from sleep, he reached blindly for his phone, not even looking at the identification. In a shaky voice he just murmured. "Hello?"

"She can not work in Dark Secrets anymore! It's dangerous and I can't be there every night to protect her, I've got better things to do, I'm a very busy person!"

He couldn't believe in his ears. Looking at the bedside clock, Nigel could only conceive of just one infuriating person who would be calling him 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning after the night from hell. A muffled sound came from beside him and he got up to avoid awakening Doug.

"Miranda, for Christ Sake, I barely slept for an hour, can we talk later?"

He heard an ironical snort coming from the line and knew that she wouldn't leave him alone.

"Honestly Nigel, is it too much to ask people to be awake at a reasonable hour? The day has begun and you should be doing something more useful than sleeping. Now, seriously, I have an imperative issue to discuss with you."

He sighed and left the bedroom to give at least some peace to his slumber lover. In the kitchen he put up some coffee and sat at the counter, barely awake.

"Right, what's so important that couldn't wait until noon?"

He heard her impatient voice and the sound of paper rustling in the background.

"Are you deaf? Why must I always repeat myself? I already told you! I can't have Andrea working in such an inappropriate job. Did you see what that horrible man did to her? She was injured and that's unacceptable!"

"Miranda I already told you that I'm not firing her…"

"Firing her? Don't be ridiculous, if you fire her, I'll fire and blacklist you!"

He massaged his temples and rubbed his eyes, controlling a suddensuicidal impulse. That woman would be the death of him. He said in a barely contained voice.

"Sorry Miranda, but I have been awakened by a madwoman, after forty minutes of poor sleep! I'm not following you or your brilliant mind! So, would you please, be more specific and tell me why the hell you are calling me so early?"

A sound very close to a laugh could be heard and he looked at his phone.

"Nigel, you don't need to be aggravated, I just want to know how we are going to solve this particular problem of having my future girlfriend working in such terrible conditions."

Now he was offended.

"Miranda, her job is great and she's very well compensated, I can assure you!"

"Nigel, don't be obtuse, I'm not speaking against your business! I'm just stating that her position is beyond her abilities, she's going to be a journalist! Dark Secrets is not the right place for her and we both know that. She's so sweet and gentle… she can't defend herself from those barbarians!"

"Yes Miranda, I agree with you about her abilities and I certainly believe that she would be better in a place that would utilize her potential, but until she finds another opportunity, she will have to survive, so a job to pay her bills is indispensable."

Miranda sighed heavily.

"Of course, when the time comes, I'll be glad to assist her in everything she needs to pursue her career, but until then, we need to find her another position."

Even after two decades of experience in dealing with Miranda Priestley moods, he was surprised by her attitude sometimes. Now she was speaking to herself, ignoring him completely.

"But of course she won't accept my help so easily, I thought about giving her an opportunity at Runaway, but that would be a full time job and she can't jeopardize her studies, so we'll have to convince her to take another position, maybe a half time job at a newspaper… what do you say about that? They also need people working during the night so… I'll speak with a few friends and that will certainly open a few doors to her..."

Nigel rolled his eyes, interrupting her.

"Miranda, I'm really touched by your sudden interest in Andy's life, but I have to remind you that she is a person, with her own wishes, so it would be wise if we stop talking about her life as if she was our property."

She ignored his attempt to argue, continuing her monologue as if she had not been interrupted.

"Of course, she is a very independent young woman, so she won't take any kind of benefit she didn't earn and I respect that. She is easily offended as she showed me so clearly a few nights ago, so, we'll need to find a subtle way to protect her, until I find a way to convince the stubborn girl to accept my help."

"Miranda…"

"Nigel, you will double the salary of that huge bouncer, what's his name?"

"Miranda…"

"I want… no, I demand that one of your employees provides exclusive services to protect Andrea! I can pay whatever it's necessary to guarantee that no one touches her ever again! At least until I find her a new job."

"Miranda, I don't think a body guard could be considered a subtle action… although, I don't know exactly why I'm so surprised – subtlety never had been your way."

She ignored him again, seeming very pleased with her solution.

"That's settled then. Call me later when you made the necessary arrangements! Remember: money is not a problem… That's all."

The line went dead abruptly. Nigel's only reaction was to rest his forehead on the kitchen counter, asking for any deities to give him the strength to deal with a romantic Miranda.

….

Sunday morning found Andy's wrist painful swollen and bruised. She doubted she would be able to hold any trays at night, so she called one of her work partners to cover her shift and took the day off, even if that meant she would be missing the weekend tips. On Monday, Dark Secrets would be closed as always, giving her another day to rest and hopefully she would be fit to work again on Tuesday. The girls were still asleep after a long Saturday and normally she would be resting too. She went to bed unusually early for a Saturday night, so she woke up before eight o'clock in the morning. She found herself alone, with a free day ahead and no one to talk about her feelings, after a restless night full of thoughts and dreams of Miranda. She organized her bedroom, cleaned the dishes, but after an hour of domestic work, she was bored again. Doug called a little after 9:00 asking her about the wrist.

"Hi gorgeous, how are you this morning?"

"Hello Doug, I'm fine, but pissed off! I can't believe that idiot will cost me two whole nights of tips. I should send him a couple of my bills!"

"Yeah, I know, what a looser… but I have to say that I loved the way your silver-haired knight came to your rescue. Oh, she was so, so sexy last night… and I already know she gave you a ride, so don't hide anything from me!"

"Doug, please, don't be too excited about it, okay? She was actually very close to me the moment it happened, so I believe she felt compelled to help me. She's one of the founding patrons and it's her duty to assure the rules will be followed, it's simple like that."

Andy laid down on the couch, extended her legs, hoping Doug would drop the subject.

"Yeah, yeah, believe in that if you prefer… but I have information, from a very trustworthy source that totally contradicts your excuses."

Andy frowned, but maintained her skeptical attitude. She was aware of Doug and Nigel's relationship and wondered if they talked about Miranda. She used her best neutral tone on the pretense of a lack of interest, but she was dying of curiosity now.

"Doug, I don't know what kind of information you could have. I was there, do you remember? I know exactly what happened."

Doug laughed out loud.

"Oh baby, I was not talking about last night. I'm talking about a certain gorgeous female patron who seems to be head over heels in love with a young sexy waitress… even asking for advice to pursue her…"

Andy narrowed her eyes and sat on the couch breathless.

"Don't make jokes about it Doug, this is not funny."

Doug voice was serious as he retorted.

"Darling, I'm not joking, I'm very serious about it. Listen to me, according to Nigel, Miranda Priestley had been completely out of her mind about you, asking him for advice on how to approach you."

"Are you serious? I mean, she was really nice last night, but I thought she was maybe pitying me… Doug, are you sure she's not trying to find a way to make me agree with, you know…. Her offers?"

"No, that's not what it looks like. Listen, Nigel had lunch with her yesterday, but you can't tell him I told you this, or he's going to kill me!"

He made a dramatic pause, waiting for her promise.

"Okay, I promise I won't tell him, out with it you brat!"

"What, now you're interested?" He laughed and she snorted. "Okay, calm down… look, during the lunch she admitted she's very attracted to you and that she doesn't know how to… you know…"

Andy was confused for a moment, not understanding what he was implying.

"Doug, could you please be a little more specific about this conversation? She doesn't know how to….what"

"Andy, pay attention! The woman is the Queen of New York's closeted lesbians! She never had a real relationship with a woman and apparently that's exactly why she's at Dark Secret's so often!"

Andy's jaw dropped as her mind processed the information.

"Doug, are you telling me that she never… I mean, she never had a girlfriend or a lover or a partner or…"

Doug interrupted her abruptly.

"Yeah, yeah! That's exactly what I'm saying. Your sexy lady is clueless about how to act around you. Isn't that the sweetest thing?"

Andy was surprised for a moment and didn't reply immediately. As if sensing she needed some time to digest the information, Doug remained quiet, waiting.

"Doug, honestly, I don't know what to think about it! She always seemed so confident and in charge, that's hard to believe I'm more experienced than her in relationships. That's crazy!"

"I know! That's why I had to talk to you! I found that so sweet and romantic, that I just had to tell you! Oh my God! Nigel's coming, I've got to go! Love you!"

Doug made a strangled sound, before hanging up. Andy looked around her apartment and felt lost. Doug gave her a new perspective about Miranda actions and she knew she would have to think about it. She was attracted to the woman from the first moment, but their interactions in the beginning made it impossible to have any thoughts about a relationship. Knowing that the older woman had fragilities made her even more beautiful in Andy's eyes and she felt her caring nature surfacing. She was not yet ready to forget how she had felt offended by the older woman, but she could at least imagine Miranda's reasons to act the way she did. The woman probably was one of those persons so focused on their career that personal life was set aside, until life brought an unexpected change. Andy still doubted Doug's words, although she knew that he wouldn't lie to her. Maybe he misinterpreted the situation or his romantic side was exaggerating the facts. Andy couldn't understand why a woman like Miranda Priestley, that could have anyone she wanted, would be interested in simple girl like her. Andy was feeling the necessity to think about the last days and she suddenly felt trapped in the small apartment. Getting her keys and her jacket, she decided to take a walk to clear her mind.

….

Miranda cursed again after circling the block for the third time. She was definitely becoming an old fool, pursuing a girl she barely knew. She had cleaned her weekend schedule to be with the girls, but their infuriating father had asked to take them to celebrate their grandmother's birthday. The girls were excited about the weekend, so she let them go, but unfortunately that meant she found herself with available time for the first time in almost six months. She had no close friends or family around, so her mind took her back to Andrea. After leaving the girl last night, she had serious trouble sleeping, tossing around the bed until she gave up, heading to her studio to get some work done. Unfortunately, she had only a few emails to answer as the Book had already been reviewed for the weekend. There was nothing she could do to occupy her mind, so, as was the pattern in the last days, thoughts of Andrea came back in full force. At seven o'clock she was so frustrated that she decided to make someone else's life miserable and called Nigel. Their conversation ended too soon, so she again had nothing to do in a big, empty, boring house. How she ended up in front of Andrea's building, looking for the number of her apartment, was still a mystery to her – the girl seemed to cause foreign reactions in her brain. Just when she was rethinking her decision of standing like an idiot in front of Andrea's building, the front door opened, revealing the startled object of her affection.

"Miranda? Hi! What are you doing here? I mean… What a surprise!"

Miranda took a step back nervous, fighting her anxiety.

"Hello Andrea, I was in the neighborhood and I thought I would stop by, I mean actually, I wanted to know how your wrist was and I called Nigel to ask your phone number, but I couldn't reach him, can you believe he turned off his phone?" She rolled her eyes annoyed. "Anyway, I came here, but I didn't know the number of your apartment, so, to be honest I was thinking about what to do…"

Noting Miranda's uneasiness, Andrea interrupted her babbling.

"Oh, I'm glad you came by, but you didn't have to, I'm sure you are very busy."

"Well, normally yes, but today I'm free and considering that you were injured last night, I decided to come to see how you are doing."

Andy smile grew and she extended her arm to Miranda, showing her wrist.

"I'm feeling better now, see?"

Miranda eyes widened as she took Andy's hands, hissing as if she could feel her pain.

"Oh my god! Better? Your wrist is terribly bruised Andrea! You need a doctor! That looks painful!"

"It looks worst than it really is, I swear! It's just a little sore, but I called a colleague and ask him to cover for me tonight, so I'll be resting for two days."

Miranda nodded silently and looked around, feeling suddenly embarrassed.

"Oh, that's better than; I mean… you probably need to rest so I won't bother you any longer."

Before she gave another step back, Andrea touched her arm, stopping her.

"You're not bothering me, in fact I find you coming all the way to see me very sweet."

Miranda blushed and Andy found it adorable. After her previous conversation with Doug she was looking at the woman through different eyes. She was eager to talk and be around her for a while.

"Look, I was going to get a coffee, because apparently my day is, like yours, unusually free. There is a Starbucks just two blocks away from here, would you like to join me?"

Miranda looked at the girl, embarrassed by her annoying lack of experience in this flirting thing.

"Well, in that case… I mean, if I'm not intruding, I would love to go with you."

Looking at the girl again Miranda couldn't suppress a shiver when she was presented with a beautiful smile that never before had been directed to her.

Their walk to Starbucks was extremely pleasant. They talked about Dark Secrets and Andy was impressed to know that Miranda had been one of the club founders. Miranda's acute sense of humor was a nice surprise and Andy laughed hard as the older woman told her some funny tales about Nigel and the oldest patrons. For some unknown reason her comments were even more sarcastic when she was talking about Mr. Robert Walker, but Andy ignored the sharp remarks. Intending to learn a little more about Miranda, she approached personal topics.

"So… you told me earlier that your day was unusually free. Why is that?"

Miranda smiled at her, happy to realize that Andrea was asking about her life.

"Well, usually I would be working or spending some time with my daughters, but this weekend was an exception. They should be with me, so I cleared my schedule. Unfortunately their father asked to take them, so I don't have my girls at home now."

"Oh, you have children?"

Miranda's features softened as it always did when she talked about her girls. Andy, noting her tender expression, was even more attracted to the woman.

"Yes, I have twins, Cassidy and Caroline, the joys of my life - they're eleven years old."

Looking for Andrea to see how she would take the information, Miranda was surprised by the sadness in her eyes. Halting abruptly, Miranda took her hand.

"Andrea, what is the matter? Did I say something wrong?"

Andy nodded as the tears make their way down her cheeks. This weekend will be the one year anniversary of the accident and she was feeling very emotional about it. Miranda looked at her with concerned eyes.

"I'm sorry, it's just that my sister… my younger sister… she should be eleven now…"

They were standing in front of Starbucks, but neither made any move to enter the coffee shop. Miranda could feel that something was wrong, that Andrea was about to share something painful with her. The first time she saw Andrea at Dark Secrets, she remembered something Nigel had told her about the girl – that she had suffered some kind of loss. Andrea was obviously gathering strength to tell her something important, so she waited. After a few moments of deep silence, Andrea whispered.

"Almost a year ago my families' car was involved in an accident and…" She swallowed hard, as the tears fell. "My father, my mother and my younger sister were severely injured and unfortunately they didn't survived."

Miranda was shocked beyond belief. Andrea was so young to face this unbearable kind of pain – Miranda could still remember the devastation of losing her father when she was just fifteen years old. She reached to Andrea's cheeks, looking directly at her soulful eyes as she brushed away the tears with her thumbs.

"I'm so sorry, I had no idea… You said your family… Don't you have other relatives?"

Andrea nodded negatively, taking a deep breath.

"No, unfortunately, they were my entire family. My grandparents are also dead and I never had a close relationship with her uncles and aunts, so…"

After a pregnant silent, she shook her head as if to clear her thoughts, offering a hand to the older woman.

"I don't want to talk about it anymore, because we're having a wonderful morning and I'm happy. Come on, it's freezing and I really need a hot coffee."

Miranda took the smooth hand and they entered the coffee shop that was unusually empty for a Sunday morning. They ordered and sat at a corner table, in a silent companionship. Andy sipped from her mug watching as a myriad of emotions crossing Miranda's face. She was learning how to read the expressive features, even if the woman was still a mystery to be solved. Looking into her mug as if she could find some answers inside it, Miranda softly whispered.

"That man is going to pay for hurting you, you can be sure of it."

"Oh, I don't mind, he's not the first to react badly when I don't do what they expected…"

Miranda looked away embarrassed and Andy realized she had touched on a delicate topic. In the last hour their conversation was so easy, that she completely forgot that just a couple of days ago they had argued.

"Oh, I'm so sorry Miranda… I was not talking about you or our previous discussions."

Miranda's eyes were sad when she looked at Andy. In a very soft tone she added.

"Well, but you could, because I also reacted badly when you refused me, so, I don't see why you wouldn't compare me to him..."

"Yes, that's true… you didn't react gracefully when I told you no, but even so, you gave me the opportunity to say no. You never forced me."

Miranda took her hand across the table.

"I don't know if it makes any difference to you, but I'm truly sorry... Would you forgive me?"

Remembering Doug's words, Andy decided to take the initiative in this new stage of their relationship. She caressed the perfect skin of Miranda's hand, trying to reassure the older woman.

"I forgive your actions if you promise that we won't speak about that anymore and I'll promise you that I won't even think about that anymore. Do we have an agreement?"

Miranda smile brightened her face and Andy felt her heart beating faster. Miranda looked at their entwined hands and her face became suddenly serious.

"I could get used to that..."

Andy felt lost for a moment, immersed in those deep blue eyes. Before her rational mind interfered, she expressed her feelings.

"Would you like to have dinner with me sometime?"

Miranda was so surprised, that she almost drop her coffee mug, looking at Andrea with widened eyes.

"You're asking me out on a date?"

Andy felt suddenly shy for her boldness. She was certainly very used to inviting women out, but never before she had asked someone like Miranda. Looking to the older woman, she had some trouble understanding the puzzled look on her face. Her own voice faltered as she added nervously.

"Yes, but I'm usually busy nights as you already know, so, I would have to trade the night shift with a work partner… I mean… if you want to… but if you don't, it's okay…"

After her initial shock, Miranda gathered her scattered thoughts seeing insecurity in Andrea's eyes. If she didn't act quickly, the girl would think she didn't appreciate the invitation. She interrupted the struggling words.

"No, it's not that, I was just surprised! Dinner would be lovely. I'm also very busy a few nights of every week, with work or just with my girls. Wednesday, would that be a good day for you?"

Andy released the breath she was unconsciously holding.

"Wednesday is perfect…"

They smiled at each other again, completely oblivious to their surroundings, thinking that the wait until Wednesday would be a real challenge.

Chapter Text

Miranda arrived at the townhouse a little after seven, smiling at the sound of her children's voices coming from the kitchen. They seemed very happy, telling Mary, the housekeeper, some funny tales from the weekend. As soon as she crossed the threshold, she took off her coat and bag and walked silently through the hallway, intending to surprise them. She was feeling extremely tired after a frustrating day at work so she would dedicate a few hours to her family, until the Book was delivered. Mondays were currently the most demanding days, but her moments with her twins were always enough to buoy her mood, no matter how irritated she was.

In a rare moment of playfulness, she halted at the door quietly, winking at Mary, to prevent the woman from warning the girls of her presence. Cassidy was probably talking about Ellen, Miranda's former mother in law and declared enemy. Even when her relationship with the girl's father was peaceful, the woman proclaimed Miranda responsible for all world's misfortune, including plagues and wars. Miranda of course, never could play the role of victim, so she never once lost a chance to infuriate the woman. Despite their ongoing conflict, Miranda would have to admit that Ellen loved her grandchildren, there was no reason to keep them apart. The girls suffered from their grandma's absence and Miranda was willing to do anything for her two little treasures. Of course, no one needed to know about her intent to attend Ellen's funeral, when it occurred, just to be sure the old mummy wouldn't come back from her tomb to haunt her. Cassidy's voice brought her attention back when a disturbing phrase came out of her sweet daughter's mouth.

"So, as I was saying, I'm hoping to ask Mom about the meaning of this closet grandma was talking about… she was telling Aunt Nina that mommy should come out of that closet, but she missed us in the living room, so when I asked about that closet, her mouth gapped like a fish!"

Cassidy made what she thought was a good imitation of a fish and the girls burst into laughter. Mary's eyes were so wide that Miranda feared she would pass out from embarrassment. Now, it was Caroline relating the scene.

"I also asked her about it and we never saw Dad so angry with her! He told Grandma that mommy would kill her if she knew we were listening. So, they changed the subject and we pretended to forget it, because it was so obvious they were frustrated, but we want to ask Mom about it. I would like to know why they were so worried about this closet. Do you think we should ask her, Mary?"

Mary looked in Miranda's direction waiting for her to interrupt. The girls were at that age when they were sufficiently smart to talk about almost anything, but still too young to understand the deep meaning of some issues – so, sometimes they could be really challenging. Caroline was definitely more mature than Cassidy, always attentive to everything, including hidden meanings in adult conversations. Caroline was like Miranda, remote, centered and focused - she would never drop a subject until she had a good explanation about it. Miranda rolled her eyes and waved to Mary, clearly dismissing her, irritated with Ellen's lack of decorum. Miranda never paid attention to Ellen's sharp remarks about her sexual orientation, but that old snake would regret her careless remarks around the twins.

The girls welcomed their mother with warm smiles and affectionate kisses while Mary set the last dishes on the dinner table. As Miranda had predicted, as soon they were alone, Caroline's watchful blue eyes, so alike her own, looked at her with renewed purpose. The redhead girl fixed her silently gaze on her mother features during dinner, while Cassidy told Miranda how she had beaten all her cousins at video games. Knowing her two girls so well, she could tell Cassidy had already forgotten Ellen's comment, happy to have her mother's exclusive attention. At the age of eleven they were so different from each other – their personalities a good indication of the adults they would become. When the plates were empty, Miranda was exasperated by Caroline's silence. Tired of waiting and knowing that sooner or later she would have to confront the delicate matter, she decided to approach the problem. Narrowing her eyes she looked directly to Caroline.

"Darling, you were very quiet during dinner. Is there something bothering you?"

Cassidy widened her eyes with her mouth full of dessert, waiting for her sister's reply. Caroline's voice was firm, but her clasped hands indicated some hesitation.

"Mom, I believe Cassidy and I heard an adult conversation between Grandma, Aunt Nina and Dad and I'd like to ask you about something."

"Well, if you know that you were eavesdropping on something that was not to your ears, why are you asking me about it? How many times do I have to say that you're too young to understand the meaning of certain themes?"

Caroline tilted her head as if thinking about a good answer. Looking down at her own hands she insisted.

"But Mom, we didn't understand what they were talking about, but considering Dad's reaction, I had the impression Grandma was offending you and I wish to know if she did it. If it's the case, I would be very disappointed with her. Even knowing that you don't like each other, I'll be very sad if she says anything against you."

Signing deeply, Miranda considered her daughter's persuasive argument. Damn! She couldn't blame Caroline for being so like her. She was embarrassed about being forced to have this conversation with her, but deep inside she was very proud of Caroline's attitude. She chose her next words carefully.

"All right, no problem, Mom is going to explain the meaning of your Grandma's words, but you'll have to promise me that you won't, under any circumstances, bring back this subject back up with her."

She gave a final warning look to both girls and they nodded in agreement.

"So… Do you remember when you asked me about your classmate… I believe her name was Brittany…You couldn't understand why she had two mothers instead of a mom and a dad and that this fact spawned a long conversation about boys that like boys and girls that like girls?"

Both girls nodded, Cassidy was eager to show some knowledge about the issue.

"Brittany has two moms and Jeremy two dads and you told us about different types of families. Considering that Stephen is gone now, we're some kind of different too, aren't we mom?"

She looked to Miranda searching for reassurance and Miranda smiled tenderly, caressing her soft cheek.

"Yes my love, we're kind of different… Do you miss Stephen?"

Cassidy laughed and her eyes sparkled, as if Miranda's question was absurd.

"Of course not! He didn't pay any attention to us and he was always aggravating you when you came home, so we had less of your attention when he was around."

Miranda closed her eyes as a stab of guilty burned her heart, feeling bad for submitting her already so exposed girls to an unnecessary situation. She would never bring another adult into their lives, until she was absolutely sure that her decisions would make them happy. Andrea's sweet face came to her mind as she looked at her daughters and she couldn't avoid the thought that her girls would adore her easy smile and caring nature.

"I'm sorry sweetie; I promise that nothing like that will ever happen again."

Caroline was still waiting for her answer and Miranda could feel her Priestly impatience growing.

"Back to your question Caroline: do you remember I explained that your classmates shouldn't be ashamed because their families were different?"

Caroline narrowed her eyes, suspicious.

"Yes, you told us that we shouldn't judge people for their personal choices and only shallow individuals would be offended by another one's lifestyle."

"Exactly… well, the expression you heard from your grandmother's… what exactly did she say?"

The girl looked at the wall behind Miranda's shoulder, concentrated in remembering the exact words.

"She said something about Dad being a fool and that you should come out of the closet… first I thought she was talking about clothes, about Runway, but of course she wasn't they wouldn't be so embarrassed if it was something silly like that, don't you think?"

Miranda closed her eyes to control her rising temper, but her daughters, knowing her so well, noted her blushing. Caroline pointed a finger at her face.

"You see Cassidy, what have I told you? Grandma offended Mom and she's angry, look at her face!"

Before Cassidy's sensitive nature was affected by Miranda's obvious distress, she controlled her voice, answering in a calmer tone.

"Caroline, you're scaring your sister. I'm not distressed and I have no reason to be ashamed. I just hoped to have this conversation with you in another moment, but your grandmother stole my choice."

Deciding to be honest with her children and her principles, she looked in their eyes.

"Well, your grandmother meant that I am like your classmates' parents… She was telling your father that…"

Caroline interrupted her, as if she made a great discovery.

"That you like girls!"

Cassidy looked from one to another, waiting for Miranda's reply, but her mother's silence was full of meaning. Miranda nodded and waited for her daughter's conclusion.

This time, Cassidy was faster.

"That means, that Grandma is like these judgmental people you were talking about!"

Miranda smiled and looked at Caroline serious expression.

"That's why you never loved Dad and Stephen..."

The girls looked at each other in a particular way, indicated they were having the famous "twins silent talk". After a long minute of mute conversation, Cassidy surprised Miranda as she stood, walking around the table. Once in front her mother, she brought her hand to Miranda's face.

"Caro and I want you to know that we love you Mom and we don't agree with Grandma."

Miranda felt tears in her eyes as her sweet girl hugged her tight, kissing her cheek.

"Oh darling…"

Looking at Caroline, still sitting in her chair, she raised an inquisitive eyebrow.

"Caroline? Are you sure you're ok with this?"

Caroline raised her chin.

"Of course! It doesn't matter who you date, as long as we can also decide if you should marry or not. We hated Stephen!"

Miranda extended her arm to her demanding little girl. In a second, her arms were full of her wonderful children.

"Well, I accept your terms."

They looked up to her face with a surprised frown.

"Next time I meet someone, your opinion will be highly considered, have we settled this?"

Both girls nodded and hugged her again as she patted their backs. The sound of the door announced her assistant bringing the Book.

"All right. Now it's time for homework and then, bed for both of you, young ladies. Mommy is going to work now, but I'll tuck you in later."

The girls kissed her one last time and went upstairs, as a broad smile illuminated their mother's face.

….

Andy was having a strange Tuesday evening. She had barely entered the night club when a very worried Serena came to warn her that Emily was apparently furious, accusing Andy of stealing her patrons. If Emily's histrionic behavior wasn't enough, a concerned Nigel chose carefully the tables she would wait on during the night, keeping her away from the stage. She was working in the back, close to the bartenders, where the calmest guests would usually sit. Last of all, she was almost sure that a very tall bouncer named Tom was discretely following her all around the place. Spotting Doug in a corner she decided to share her worries. Leaning on the counter she whispered.

"Hey Doug, do you know that guy over there?"

Looking in the direction she was pointing, he asked: "Who, Tom? Oh, he's handsome don't you think? If I weren't totally faithful to my Nigel, he would be in trouble! He's gay you know?"

Andy frowned and looked again, noting that when she looked at him, he looked in another direction, pretending to be interested in something else.

"Good to know, because I'm having the strange feeling that he's stalking me…"

Doug looked horrified. "No way! He's very gay, I can assure you! Don't be impressed with his size - he's just a gentle giant."

Andy was not convinced, but she trusted Doug words "Well, maybe he likes my dress…"

Doug laughed and tapping her back. "I wouldn't doubt that!"

An attractive woman sitting alone at a corner table called her. She ordered a martini and in a very suggestive tone, asked if Andy could meet her later in one of the private rooms. With the same courtesy she used with all the patrons, she informed the lady that her functions were restricted to the bar. The woman took her hand in a chivalrous gesture, kissing her knuckles. Andy smiled again and turned away toward the bar, but her passage was blocked by Emily.

"You're unbelievable! Apparently you're not satisfied with Miranda Priestley but you're also attacking other patrons! You can't help yourself, can you?"

"Good evening for you too Emily, how are you doing?"

Emily offered her a feral sneer.

"You think you're so smart with this pathetic façade of naive girl, but I don't buy it! I know everything about women like you!"

Andy had nothing against the redhead, but her hostility was hard to ignore. Since her first night working at Dark Secrets, Emily seemed very disturbed around her, never losing a chance to make a demeaning comment about her body, her weight or her clothes. Lily once told her that Emily was probably jealous of her easy friendship with Serena, but Andy doubted that.

"Well, if you know everything, maybe you could inform me about my faults, just to make it easy for me."

To Andy indignation, Emily puts a finger in her face.

"You pretend that you're not interested in the patrons, faking an unapproachable profile, but as soon you saw Miranda Priestly entering Dark Secrets you threw yourself on her."

"Emily, I believe the stroboscopic lights above the stage are causing damage to your brain cells."

Emily took a step forward, invading Andy's personal space. In a low voice she added.

"You think you're so smart, don't you? Let me tell you one thing: I attended Miranda for two years and I know everything about her. She's a cold, remote and calculating bitch. She'll use you and throw you away like she did with me. It's just a matter of time, you'll see." Smiling again she gave one last menacing glare, turning on her heel.

Andy would be lying if she said Emily's words didn't affect her. Her heart was still recovering from what she believed was her first date with Miranda. Sunday morning had been perfect. They had talked and walked under the sun, sharing experiences and pains. In their walk back to Andy's building, where Miranda car was parked, the older woman seemed genuinely interested in her life, asking her interesting questions about journalism and her professional plans. She shared a few experiences of her own, giving Andy some precious advices. In contrast with their first encounters at Dark Secrets, Miranda had acted in a completely different way. Andy's heart was telling her that the woman who accepted her invitation to a coffee on a Sunday morning was the real one. Unfortunately, her suspicious mind and wounded spirit couldn't avoid the fear accompanying Emily's words.

...

On Wednesday morning Miranda was nervous. After accepting the girl's dinner invitation, they had agreed that Miranda would pick her up and chose the restaurant. She was worried about the amount of little things and details to consider.

Impatient to discover that she was having more doubts than she could tolerate, she texted Nigel, after all, this romancing thing was his idea and he would be definitely responsible if anything got out of hand.

"Lunch at noon, same place."

An hour later, she entered the restaurant to find a moody Nigel, sipping from a glass of wine. She sat and waved her hand toward his almost empty glass

"Don't you think it's too early for alcohol, Nigel?"

He snorted, rolling his eyes.

"Miranda, lately I've been considering the possibility of being continuously under the influence of alcohol until you solve your little problem with Andy. I don't think I can stand it any other way. What do you want now?"

Miranda would never admit it, but annoying Nigel was one of her preferred sports. Looking at the menu, she absently retorted.

"Are we irritable today? Tell me, that boy, your young protégée, what's his name?"

"Doug…"

Looking up and down the folder in her hands and barely containing a smile, she continued.

"You should have a serious conversation with Doug… because I'm feeling you are too tense these days... Maybe it would be recommendable to have a few hours of physical activities…"

He drunk the last wine in his glass and made a gesture to the waiter, asking for more.

"So, my dear, dear Miranda, would you mind telling me if these lunch appointments are becoming customary, because if it's the case, I'll have to reschedule my entire week."

"Nigel, you already know that I need your advice, beside this entire situation is your fault, so stop complaining like an old matron."

He pointed to his own chest indignant.

"My fault? So now it's my fault that you're an incompetent lover."

Miranda raised an eyebrow, answering in a cold tone.

"Nigel, incompetence it's not a word you can apply to me, under any circumstances. This is just a situation I'm not familiar with, so, until I achieve a competency in this new aspect of my personal life I will need your guide. I would be delighted if you spare me the complaint and we skip to the main topic."

The waiter approached the table and Nigel drank a little more as they ordered. When they were left alone again, she took off her sunglasses, looking directly at him.

"Well, I have a few questions about the appropriate moment to take the next steps."

Putting his hand on his mouth, he asked with a smirk.

"Oh my God! Please, tell me you're not asking me the right time to touch her boobs!"

Miranda narrowed her eyes dangerously, crossing her arms across her chest.

"Next time you talk about Andrea's breasts in these terms, you will regret it! What are you thinking, that I would be asking you for sexual advice? I don't need any help in that matter, thank you very much!"

Nigel smile broadened and he patted her arms.

"Relax, I'm just kidding. What are you talking about?"

Still suspicious, she kept her defensive posture.

"We will dine tonight and I need to know what would be appropriate for our first moment together."

"Yeah, I know about the dinner?"

"How do you know? I haven't told you about it."

"Well, my young boy Doug is a good friend of your Andrea, so that's how I know."

Miranda laid her elbows on the table, leaning forward.

"Did she tell him about it? What else did she say?"

Taking advantage of the moment, he smiled. "She told him about your first date… she was very impressed with you, congratulations!"

"First date? What are you talking about? Our first date will be tonight…" Realizing the young girl considered Sunday morning as a date, she smiled.

"Oh, she was talking about Sunday…"

"Exactly and apparently you impressed her… I believe she used the word incredible to define you, so keep doing whatever you did."

She thought for a moment, trying to discern what she did to impress the girl, but she couldn't figure anything out.

"Well, I don't know what I did. In fact, I don't remember a single time recently, when I was so much myself. I was not planning, I was… I guess the right word to define me while I was in her company would be relaxed, so I can't figure out what she considered so… incredible."

Nigel smiled tenderly at her confusion.

"Maybe, this is the key, don't you think?"

She looked again to him. "Key, what is your point?"

He rolled his eyes. "What I'm saying my friend is that maybe, the answer is so much simpler than you think. Maybe, the direct way to Andy's heart is a simple, relaxed, Miranda - the woman, not the fashion queen."

"So, a diamond necklace would be too much for tonight?"

His eyes widened in shock and he spilled part of the wine as he swallowed.

"What? Miranda, you barely know each other and you're planning on giving her jewelry that probably costs two years of her salary?"

Miranda looked puzzled as if the entire conversation was obvious.

"As a matter of fact, yes. I thought about giving her jewelry. Nigel, I intend to prove to that girl that I am an excellent choice for a permanent union."

Nigel jaw dropped in surprised.

"Permanent? Miranda, what is that suppose to mean? You've just met…"

At this moment, the waiter brought their salads and Nigel had to wait until the woman continued. She looked directly in his eyes.

"Nigel, how long have we known each other?"

He thought for a second.

"Twenty years I believe, maybe more. Why are you asking me that?"

She took the first bite of his salad, delaying her answer.

"So, after all this time you should know me better. Did you ever see me doing anything halfway?"

Realization came over him as he looked in her deep blue eyes. He nodded in silence and she tilted her head.

"So, dear Nigel, I came to the conclusion that I want Andrea in my future and I'm willing to do whatever is necessary to have her by my side permanently."

Nigel was surprised and worried at the same time. Indeed, he knew her very well and he was well aware of her obstinate demeanor. When he encouraged her to pursue the young woman, he was really interested in their happiness more than anything. Even though, the status of their relationship was changing fast and he feared the consequences of their union. Despite their endless arguing, over the last decades he learned to love and respect Miranda; whereas, Andy had won his heart in her first week at Dark Secrets.

"Miranda, are you thinking about the practical effects of this relationship? The media, your family, your position in Runaway…"

She dismissed his words with a sharp gesture.

"My only concern is my children, who have suffered enough in the past. Of course they will have to approve my union with Andrea…"

He smiled at the thought.

"Don't worry about it, Andy is crazy about kids, dogs, cats… anything she finds cute … but what about the rest? The Media, Runway?"

She sighed heavily, leaning back in the chair.

"The media will be a particular problem to solve, especially because Andrea is not used to that aspect of my life. She will probably be alarmed, but I believe that she will get used to it as I did. I don't have any concerns about my position, after all, I'm the editor of a fashion magazine… do you really think anybody cares about gay people? After the initial shock, I'll probably be even more interesting in everyone's eyes than I already am. What is bothering me most are the real challenges…"

He didn't understand and she continued.

"The real challenges, the facts that can jeopardize any chance I have with
Andrea: my temper, my obsession with my career and my lack of experience in long term relationships. These, my friend, are the main problems…"

Nigel smiled at the honest self-examination that only increased the admiration he already had for the woman. She was the bravest person he knew and he would do anything in his power to help her.

"You know what? You're right, I'm worried about trivial things and I'm sure you're going to find a way to solve all those problems! Now, let's talk about these important plans for dinner, shall we?"

...

Andy was almost running between her bedroom and the bathroom, under the amused gaze of her roommates. She knew nothing about fashion, so she accepted Serena's advice and borrowed a dress. Her wardrobe was definitely not enough to the fashion goddess, but Serena expensive taste for clothes would save the night. Of course, Andy had to choose something that would fit her body and personality. She tried a few dresses, just to discard a good number of them, for being too provocative. A low cut black dress was her choice for the night - it was sufficiently sexy to show her curves, but not too revealing. Leaving her hair down, she let Serena adjust the last details on her makeup. When her phone rang, her heart almost stopped in her chest. Her voice was amazingly controlled when she answered, but she could feel her pulse increase at the sound of Miranda's melodious voice. She hung up and looked at her friends one last time.

"Oh my God, she's waiting for me in the car! How do I look?

Lily stood, looking at her from head to toe and hugged her.

"Girl, that woman will have a fit when she sets eyes on you. You're gorgeous!"

Serena gave her a small wave toward the door.

"Go girl, don't make her wait for you."

"Okay, I'm going. Wish me luck. Love you!" She kissed the girls and left in a hurry. Opening the building door, she almost fainted, when she spotted Miranda leaning on a fancy car, waiting for her. The woman was a vision. She was wearing an elegant black dress, that accentuated her endless legs and matched Andy's. She smiled broadly as the young woman approached and they looked at each other for a long moment - no one breaking the silent deep gaze. Andy offered a hand that Miranda took and to Andy's surprise kissed it. Still looking deeply into her eyes, she gave the younger woman one of those rare smiles that she was finding hard to resist.

"You're beautiful Andrea…"

Andy came closer and pushing her luck, surprised Miranda, kissing her lightly on the cheek.

"You're the beautiful one Miranda."

Surprise and wonder were clearly stamped Miranda's features as she opened the passenger door of the car for Andy. Accepting the chivalrous gesture with a smile, she entered the car and smiled all the way to the restaurant.

Chapter Text

After their shared compliments, the ride to the restaurant was made in a comfortable silence, both women still getting comfortable with each other's presence. Since their first encounter, Andy was amazed at her body's reactions toward the other woman, a delightful mix of excitement and calmness. Even in the beginning, when Miranda's actions were not welcomed, she had been captivated by her powerful presence and elegance. She was definitely the most beautiful woman Andy had ever seen and now, that their relationship had achieved a new level, she was accepting the growing affection without resistance.

They entered the restaurant a little after 8, being led by a Maître de to a reserved area. Andy looked around, admired the intimate, romantic ambience, the room decorated in warm colors and soft lights. As they walked to their table, she was having a hard time concentrating on her thoughts, with Miranda's hand lying delicately on her back, the heat of her body so close to her own. The Maître de conduced them to a sheltered corner table that gave them privacy, but still a good view of the entire room and instead of sitting in the opposite chair, facing Miranda, Andy decided to sit by her side, needing their proximity. They talked about the wine choices and menu options, until they ordered, and as soon as they were alone, Miranda smiled warmly, taking Andy's hand in her own on top of the table.

"I waited anxiously for three long days to see you again and you should know that it's the first time in my life. I must be out of my mind, because I never felt this way, so, can you tell me why you have bewitched me in the last two weeks? Not even in my dreams am I safe from you."

Andy smiled at the unexpected light tone and entwined their fingers.

"Oh, I'm sorry about that, but you started it. Besides, it's hard to believe that's the first time you had expectations about a date. A beautiful woman like you should probably organize a specific schedule just to attend the uncountable suitors and I'm sure you could have anyone you want, male or female. So, the right question should be: why are you even wasting your time with me?"

Miranda shook her head, looking deeply into the young woman's eyes. Andrea was fascinating in so many ways – she had the refreshing light beauty of youth, but her eyes talked about an entrancing early maturity.

"Well, in my life I certainly had a great number of dinners or dates, but always with a specific purpose. Never like this."

By the look on Miranda's face, Andy could sense that the topic suddenly lost its flirty light tone. In a soft whisper she asked. "What do you mean?"

Miranda looked at her for a moment, still caressing the top of Andy's hand with tenderness. Her thoughts were running in two very different directions. On the one hand, she was asking herself if she had finally achieved the chance to be happy in her personal life. On the other, her mind kept saying that she was probably delusional, if she was imagining that a beautiful young woman with a whole life ahead of her would ever be truly interested in her.

"I have never been with anyone like you, sitting in a restaurant without a specific reason or hidden agenda, just because I can't stop thinking about it... My life was simple: when they were men, that's always been an exchange - I was a springboard to their career ambitions as they were a shelter to my image. With women, it never had been anything more than a calculated step to take them to bed."

She paused, smiling sadly. "Sometimes it's a challenge to be who I am."

They were sitting very close, leaning towards each other, and Andy didn't resist the pull to caress Miranda's face, touching the irresistible silver lock that absently rested on her forehead. The woman stiffened and closed her eyes, just to lean into the light touch a second later. The young woman was overwhelmed by emotions as she looked at Miranda's vulnerable features. If they weren't in a public place, she would give into the impulse of kissing those beautiful lips, expressing all she felt. Sighing, Andy ceased the light caress, looking intensely into Miranda's anguished face.

"I don't know if I understand the deep meaning of what you're telling me, because your eyes often show so much more than your words express but I can imagine that it must be hard to be under the media's scrutiny all the time, keeping up appearances at all cost. I don't know if I would be able to give up my privacy for fame."

Miranda watched her closely with a pensive look, but kept silent.

"You know Miranda, during my first week at Dark Secrets, I had a hard time to reconciling my personal values with practical needs of the job. I found myself surrounded by powerful people willing to spend an obscene amount of money for a night of pleasure and in the beginning, I couldn't understand them."

Miranda raised an inquisitive brow. "And now you do?"

Andy narrowed her eyes, thinking about everything she had seen, the people she had met in these two months and the changes she had experienced in her own life. Smiling, she tilted her head, grabbing Miranda's hands again.

"Do you know why I chose a journalism career? Because I love to watch people, to understand their point of view about life. I'm a story collector, an observer and I hope to be able to write about these stories one day. That's why I love to talk to the patrons. Most of the girls do the same - they listen to their stories for different purposes, but not because they are truly interested… I am always interested, how crazy is that?"

Not for the first time that night, Miranda wished they were alone and she could just hold the other woman. She squeezed the soft hand that felt so comfortable under her touch. "Not crazy - fascinating."

They held each other gazes for a long moment and Andrea continued. "That are many things I don't understand, but the stories they tell me are mostly about loneliness, they seem to be searching for something, waiting for a change... But I don't think that even they can tell what it would be…"

Miranda narrowed her eyes, thinking about Nigel's words. Andrea was indeed different from everyone she had met before and that was both enthralling and frightening. Leaning on the table, she came closer to the young woman, their faces just a few inches apart.

"So tell me Andrea, what have you guessed about me?"

The light flirtation was rewarded with a beautiful broad smile that made Miranda's heart skip a beat. Andy rested her elbow on the table, keeping their proximity. Leaning her chin on her left hand, she blinked her eyelashes in an amusing way, looking at Miranda's eyes and mouth.

"Hum, let me see… besides the fact that you're utterly sexy and breathtakingly beautiful?"

Miranda mirrored Andy's position, smiling at the compliment.

"Well, what do I know about you? You work too much to keep a difficult, but gratifying job that probably has been a faithful partner for the last twenty years. You see beyond most people's vision and your exceptional intelligence can be a blessing and a curse, especially when you're surrounded by short-sighted individuals. You love your children and worry about the way your image could affect them, so, even being utterly sexy and breathtakingly beautiful, you chose to remain alone. Dark Secrets is a good option for you, because there you feel safe from the press and from people's judgment."

Miranda wasn't smiling anymore, the surprise she couldn't hide stamped on her usually unreadable features. Before she could control her own words, her tumultuous thoughts were voiced in a whisper.

"You should be prudent around me Andrea, because I'm not gracious when I feel unsure or frightened."

Andy blinked her eyes in confusion, unable to understand what the older woman was saying.

"Are you afraid of me?"

"Terrified."

Miranda's tone was serious and cold and Andy felt the absence of their previous easy interaction. "Why? I don't understand? What did I do? I'm sorry if I offended you…"

The older woman nodded, closing her eyes in a hurt frown. "No, you have nothing to apologize for, you didn't offend me. Actually…"

She was quiet for a long moment and when she opened her eyes she felt guilty as she saw the concern in Andrea's eyes.

"Actually… I'm confused about my feelings right now and that's intimidating. As I said before, this is different; I don't know if I'm the person you deserve to be with. You're right about your assumptions, I never open myself to anyone… what does that fact tells you about me?"

Andy could perfectly understand Miranda's reluctance to admit her own vulnerability. Recognizing weakness could be terrifying, especially when you're surrounded by people that would certainly use this to crush you, if they had the chance. "Maybe that only means you never found anyone who deserved to be trusted…"

Miranda smiled again, but this time, sadness crossed her eyes. "Or that I am simply not good enough to be loved, that maybe I'm just unable to trust anyone…"

Andy opened her mouth to disagree, but was interrupted by the waiter, bringing their meals. They ate in silence for a few minutes communicating their emotions only by their glances. Andy could feel Miranda's mental struggle and couldn't bear the distance anymore. She could understand Miranda's need to put some distance between them to avoid getting hurt, but she also knew that if she let the older woman retreat now, her heart would be the one in the line of fire. Andy realized that it was already too late for both of them and that to go back was not an option.

"You believe you know everything, but this time you're wrong, Miranda."

Smiling mischievous, she playfully stole a piece of meat from Miranda's plate, laughing at her surprised frown.

"And you are infuriatingly stubborn sometimes, Andrea."

In mock defiance, Andy repeated the gesture and the older woman narrowed her eyes dangerously. "Would you please limit your moves to your section of the table?"

Andy smiled tenderly at her annoyance, but ignored her glare, eating again from Miranda's plate. "Speaking about trust… I don't trust anyone who doesn't let me taste their meal, you know. It's a personal rule that guides my life, so get used to it."

Miranda was once again amazed at Andrea's ability to improve her mood. A minute ago she was feeling lost and vulnerable, certain that she had ruined their night and her chances with the young woman. Now, looking at that beautiful smile, she was unable to resist the silliness of her actions.

"Let me see if I understand this Andrea, because, besides your convincing speech about my expanded vision, I'm feeling very confused now… you're saying that you will keep eating from my plate."

"Yes."

Raising a perfect eyebrow, she followed Andy's previous gesture, taking a good portion of vegetables from Andrea's plate. "And that you choose who you should trust, based on the action of exchanging a meal with them?"

Ignoring Andy's surprised gasp, she took another bite as Andy looked at her fork, stunned.

"Hey, you're eating all my vegetables, that's not fair…"

"If you can't accept a good challenge young lady, you should be more respectable. That's all."

Miranda's serious frown as she ate was priceless and the younger woman burst into laughter. As they finished their meal, both women were longing for more time together, even if they knew that it was still too early to express their deeper desires.

Leaving the restaurant, Andy's thoughts were back to their conversation and an upcoming need to reassure the other woman, who has been unusually quiet since dinner. Before she realized, they were again in front Andy's building and she looked around thinking about so many things she would like to say, even if her words faltered. It was still early to make assumptions about their relationship, but Andy felt from the bottom of her heart, that something very special was growing between them. She broke the silence, turning in her seat to face the older woman.

"I had a wonderful time, thanks for the dinner. I don't want to go, but I feel that is still too soon to stay."

Miranda turned in her seat, accepting Andrea's offered hand with a smile.

"It is too soon indeed Andrea, but I share the sentiment. Thanks for the pleasant company. I can't remember a time, recently, when I enjoyed myself that much."

Kissing Andy's hand, she added. "Don't worry, we'll have other opportunities."

"If that's true, why do I feel that I shouldn't leave you like this? You're worried, care to explain why?"

Miranda nodded, her lips pursed in a tense line. "I'm worried because I'm an old fool, who needs to be in control all the time."

Andy couldn't bear the rising apprehension in those usually so determined features and before she could stop herself she was grabbing Miranda's head in her hands, kissing the lips that challenged her self-control during the entire dinner. The kiss was tentative at first, a light brush of lips and noses, but soon became more, when Miranda grabbed Andrea's waist and pulled the young woman into her lap, with surprising strength.

Miranda's obvious desire inflamed Andy and she deepened the kiss, her tongue invading the older woman's mouth without ceremony, while her hips moved of their own volition against Miranda's lap. Andy lost track of her thoughts as her body was invaded by warm sensations evoked by Miranda's delicious moans. The older woman's body was sensuously undulating under her ministrations as they explored the melting heat of each other's mouth. Andy pulled away, needing some air, looking deeply in the eyes of the panting woman. She rested her forehead on Miranda's, trying to regain her breath, shocked by the intensity of their connection. They were breathless and trembling, but Andy kept the light tone as she caressed the other woman's face.

"You know Miranda, I'm responsible for our first and second dates, besides our first kiss, so you should stop playing hard to get and do something about it on our next date, okay?"

Miranda's smile was unexpectedly bright and Andy felt her heart melt a little more for the older woman, if that was even possible. "Well, I was responsible for our first fight, so I think my effort should also be considered in this relationship."

They both smiled tenderly at each other and Andy gave her a last deep kiss, whispering against her lips.

"I should go now."

Miranda held her waist a little longer, smiling up at her, "Yes, you should…"

Andy gave her a last peck on the lips and left on trembling legs. As she climbed the stairs to her apartment, all she could think about was her inability to resist Miranda Priestly.

….

Looking again at the poor excuse for a front cover lying on her desk, she thought about Andrea for what seemed like the hundredth time that day - her lack of concentration easily explained by a restless night that followed the heated kissing session in her car. It was official: the unprecedented feelings for the young woman were completely out of her realm of experience and control and she would have to do something about it soon. Miranda couldn't remember a single moment in her life when her ability to work was compromised, so even though her rational mind would keep telling her to put an end to this potential hurtful experience; her body and heart were not obeying, demanding Andrea at all cost.

Her cell phone rang and she jumped in her chair, when she read Andrea's name on the screen. Taking a deep breath, she answered the phone with an amazingly controlled voice.

"Andrea…"

"Good morning gorgeous, how is your day going? I'm calling to tell you that mine is wonderful just because I can't stop thinking about you."

Miranda couldn't contain a silly grin that should never be seen with in Elias Clark walls. Turning in her chair, she faced the large window of her office.

"Deplorable, until this precise minute. I believe I need to hire your 'increasing mood' daily services. Are you interested in the job?"

Andrea deep laugh was muffled by background noise.

"Andrea, I'm not hearing you well, where are you?"

"I'm between classes, walking across the campus. I just called to hear your voice."

"I'm glad you did. Will you be working later?"

"Yes, I'll be at Dark Secrets tonight."

Miranda felt the increasingly familiar stab of jealously, accompanying the mention of Andrea's job.

"I wish I could come later, but I have to stay with the girls tonight."

"Of course, I understand."

Miranda thought a long moment about her next actions. She was already missing the young woman terribly, but their schedules wouldn't probably allow a lot of contact in the next days. She was also worried about her girls' reactions concerning Andrea, now that their relationship was deepening. She closed her eyes, taking a deep calming breath.

"Andrea, I was wondering… if you would like to come to Central Park Sunday… I'll be there with the girls and, well, it would be a good opportunity to you to meet them… unless you have something else to do, and…"

Andy interrupted her attempted invitation.

"Oh, that would be wonderful! Would you mind if I take a ball to play with them?"

Miranda smiled in relief, listening to Andrea's excited answer.

"Of course not, but be prepared, they have energy for an entire team."

Andrea laugh echoed through the phone. "Energy it's not a problem, I assure you… thanks for inviting me, it's a date."

"You're welcome. According to you, I need to contribute to the relationship, so… I'll call you tomorrow to confirm."

"Great! I got to go now because I dropped half of my books while distracted by your voice and people are staring... I'll be waiting for your call sweetie, bye."

Miranda looked at her phone, surprised by the abrupt disconnect and the automatic endearment coming from Andreas mouth. She couldn't wait for Sunday.

The day passed faster after Andrea's call. A little after seven, when she was done at the office, Caroline called her asking permission to sleep over at a friend's house, in order to finish a group school project. Imagining how it would be to stay alone in an empty house, with thoughts about Andrea invading her mind, she grabbed her car keys and left, arriving at Dark Secrets while the club was still empty. She took just five seconds to locate Andrea standing between the tables, but her brain needed an entire minute to understand the unexpected sight.

Miranda felt a rush of adrenaline and anger invade her body as she saw the hands of Barbara Riley lying on Andrea's upper arm. At age forty five, Barbara was one of the most powerful women on the New York's stock market and one of the longest-term patrons. The two women always nurtured a veiled dispute about their courting skills, feeding their mutual boredom and vanity with small bets involving Dark Secrets girls. Frequently, during the last years, they had challenged each other with seducing tests, conceding to the winner small gifts, like expensive beverages or travel tickets. They were both unusually competitive, so the disputes were always extremely fun. Miranda's rival was beautiful, despite her age. Barbara was tall and slim, her body strong but feminine and a pretty ageless face capped by long blonde hair and piercing blue eyes.

She knew everything about Barbara, including the predatory stare she was directing at Andrea at that moment. Andrea had the customary polite smile on her face, but her body betrayed her uneasiness as Barbara invaded her personal space, whispering something in her ear. Miranda was so absorbed in the vision of her beloved being accosted by another woman, that she didn't note Nigel approaching.

"You should be more circumspect Miranda, your eyes are betraying your emotions."

"Nigel, could you please tell me why am I seeing Barbara Riley touching my Andrea?"

Nigel looked in Andrea's direction, noting that she was cordially avoiding Barbara advances, however, knowing the older woman as he knew her, he could tell she wouldn't give up easily. Actually, the patron had been visiting Dark Secrets more often in the last two weeks, spending a good part of the night looking for excuses to call the waitress to her table.

"Your Andrea? I had no idea the status of your relationship had changed. I'm afraid to tell you that Barbara has been here daily, asking about Andy as soon as she enters the house. I believe you're not the only one interested in my virtuous waitress."

"And may I ask why I haven't been informed of her sudden interest in my companion?"

Nigel looked at Miranda with a surprised frown, but she didn't turn to look at his eyes. Her face was a hard mask of barely contained possessiveness. Now, when he thought things would be easier between his two friends, Barbara Riley would put an end to his hopes that Miranda would leave him alone.

"Miranda, I understand your indignation, but Andy is a beautiful woman. Are you surprised?"

"Nigel, the word beautiful does not do justice to Andrea's, as we both know it and the last person I want to see around her it's that female pig!"

"Calm down Miranda. It's just a harmless conversation. What are you worried about?"

"A harmless conversation? She is looking at Andrea as if she was a piece of meat and she is touching her! That's unacceptable and that's exactly why I need Andrea out of this place! What does that woman think she is doing, I'll put her in her place!"

Miranda moved forward in their direction, but Nigel stopped her, holding her arm. He was frozen in place by the frosty glare directed to where his hands were touching her, but didn't let go.

"Miranda, I won't let you make a fool of yourself. Please, stop staring and calm down, you can talk to Andy later."

She didn't seem to listen to him. "Nigel, if you are so worried about a scene, go over there immediately and solve this problem."

"What do you want me to do, Miranda? Hit Barbara on the head? Andy is a big girl, perfectly capable of defending herself from unwelcome advances, as she already proved to you."

Miranda narrowed her eyes dangerously.

"I don't care what you do: shoot her or take your clothes off, whatever… just. Get. That. . !"

"Okay, you stay right here and don't do anything stupid, please."

Miranda waited impatiently while Nigel approached the women, whispering something in Andy's ear. The young woman left with a last amiable smile, walking in the direction of the bar. As soon as she saw Miranda, her face changed from the usual professional neutral glare to a bright smile. She approached Miranda's table, smiling warmly and, as had been happening so often lately, the older woman's heart melted.

"Hi gorgeous, I wasn't expecting you tonight. I thought you would be with the girls."

Miranda stood and took one of Andy hands, pulling her closer and kissing her right cheek. Andy kissed her back, caressing her face delicately, while Miranda looked at Barbara who, despite being still engaged in some conversation with Nigel, was following Andrea with her eyes.

"They're spending the night at a class mate's house and I couldn't resist the urge to see you. Are you having a good evening, darling?"

Andy smiled at the endearment, not believing in the luck of having the exclusive attention of such a beautiful woman.

"Yes, the place is exceptionally calm for a Thursday, so I believe I will leave early. Do you think you could wait for me or do you have to wake up early in the morning?"

Miranda was surprised by Andrea's request and even if she didn't sleep a minute during the night she would never refuse such an adorable request.

"I'll wait for you, darling, don't worry. I'll entertain myself taking care of Barbara Riley while you work, just to make sure she keeps her hands to herself."

Andrea looked embarrassed at her words.

"Oh, you saw that… I'm so sorry… I don't know what to do. She is quite insistent, but she's so polite, that I'm having a hard time avoiding her. I believe she will drop the subject as soon as she sees I am not worth the effort."

Miranda approached the girl, adding in a seductive tone.

"Hmmm, but you are worth the effort my dear and she would have to be blind not to see it."

Andrea shivered under Miranda's touch, locking her eyes with Miranda. "But there's just one woman I want."

They were very close to each other, but Miranda resisted the desire to kiss the young woman in front of an audience. Andrea was exclusively for her eyes only.

"In this case, I'll have to put her in her place, don't you think?"

"Miranda, please, don't waste your time with this. She's just like the others and I'm just not interested."

Andy smiled again and kissed Miranda's cheek one last time. "I have a few orders to take, but as soon as I have a break I'll come back to you.

Miranda nodded and Andrea left. Looking around, she noted that Barbara was approaching her table.

"Miranda darling, it's been a long time. How have you been?"

"Barbara… It's been a long time indeed. I'm surprised to see you around; I heard you were settled with a young stunning model…"

"You heard correct, I've been out of the market for a while. But monogamy is definitely not my strong suite, so I'm back."

Barbara smiled dangerously, tilting her head in the bar direction.

"Look at that delicious little thing... That's exactly why I have come here twice this week; I can't help myself."

Miranda didn't need to look to know that Barbara was talking about Andrea.

"I was utterly devastated to know she's not available for private encounters. I would pay anything for her, but she graciously refused my offers… I'm not surprised to see that you're also interested, you can't keep your eyes off her."

"Barbara, I'm sorry, but I have no interest in discussing my relationship with Andrea at a bar table."

"Oh, don't tell me that the old Ice Queen is melting under a pair of long legs? That would be hilarious; Miranda Priestly falls for an escort."

Miranda turned in her chair, her eyes narrowing dangerously.

"You should choose your words carefully Barbara, you know that I can be a dangerous person when offended. You also know that Andrea is not an escort and you can correct me if my assumptions are wrong, but I believe I just watched her dismissing your proposal."

The woman's laugh was sarcastic when she answered.

"Oh, C'mon Miranda. You certainly have meet this sort of girl a thousand times in your life. She's just playing hard to get what she wants and I don't believe you're so naïve thinking that she doesn't know exactly what she's doing. Be careful my friend, life is full of fortune hunters, waiting for easy prey."

Miranda was not surprised by Barbara assumptions. That speech could have come from her own mouth a few weeks ago, before she had her life turned upside down by the young woman. Watching Andrea's moves around the tables, she smiled, thinking about fate opportunities and life changes. Barbara Riley was a reflection of her own behavior before meeting Andrea and Miranda couldn't feel anything more than sorry for a woman that would probably never feel the way Miranda was feeling at that moment.

"Barbara, I don't blame you for thinking that way. Normally you would be right: there are a great number of exploiters waiting for an opportunity, but that's not the case. She is not like that and I would appreciate your respect, considering that we are starting a relationship."

"You're not serious, are you?"

"I am."

"Miranda, this girl is fooling you! Look, we can change the game rules for our benefit. This woman is using you and we can teach her a lesson."

Miranda couldn't believe her ears. "What are you saying?"

"Well, you know, I never lose an opportunity to have some fun and I'm sure this infatuation will pass."

Miranda rolled her eyes, but Barbara continued.

"She is playing hard to get, so we can go along with this game. The first to take her to the bedroom wins. What do you say?"

Miranda was feeling tired of this absurd conversation about Andrea, but she knew Barbara well. The other woman was competitive and would only be encouraged by Miranda's refusal.

"Thank you very much, but this time I will have to decline your offer andI would be rightly disappointed if you persist in this subject. That's all."

Barbara raised an inquisitive eye brow but didn't push it. Hidden in a dark corner, Emily's mischievous grin illuminated her face.

Chapter Text

Andy was feeling completely happy for the first time in months and the reason was a silver-haired beauty with a sharp temper and sinful mouth. Since the accident she had learned how to live with a constant heavy constricting feeling in her chest that accompanied her every moment. Now, beyond the perspective of living a new experience with Miranda, she almost forgot the sadness and the feeling of being completely alone in the world. The morning sun caressed her skin as she walked along the wooded path in Central Park, welcoming the delicious heat that accompanied springtime. On her shoulder she had a backpack, containing what she believed, would be the basic kit to spend a healthy morning with the twins.

In the last days her relationship with the older woman had developed fast and they were creating a routine as a couple, with quick calls during the day, when they would reconnect even without seeing each other. The last time they were together was two nights ago, when Miranda gave her a ride home after her shift at Dark Secrets. They made plans to spend more time together and the older woman confirmed their Sunday date with the girls. Andy could say, from the tone in Miranda's voice that she was anxious to see how Andy would get along with the girls, probably because her last relationship had been, according to her "a lamentable disappointment". Andy loved children and missed them terribly since her sister's death - so developing a good relationship with the twins, would be not just something she would do to please Miranda, but also herself.

Right before they said goodbye to each other, in front of Andy's building, she felt something was bothering the older woman, despite her affectionate and attentive behavior. Asking about it, Andy discovered that Miranda was unhappy with the way Barbara Riley approached Andy during the week. Usually, the young woman would be aggravated at such possessive manners coming from a girlfriend, but Miranda was so incredibly sweet and delicate how she put the matter that she didn't feel offended. Miranda was an observant woman and she already learned what everyone in Andy's life knew: that an easy way to break Andy's resistance was showing concern instead of demands.

The path she was following made a curve and she heard dog barking and a child laughing. Following the sound, she saw a beautiful redhead girl running besides a huge Saint Bernard and under a tree, just a few steps away, there was Miranda talking with another girl, oblivious to Andy's presence. Andy's heart ached at the sight of the beautiful family having fun on such a wonderful day. What the young woman missed the most since the accident was that uncompromised happiness, provided by simple actions such as a ride in the park beside the one that you love. The girl was laughing and running, followed by the dog who concentrated on pursuing a small ball. Andy smiled as the small pack approached, looking at her with curiosity.

"Hey there! She's incredible fast for a Saint Bernard, how old is she?"

The girl halted, looking attentive at Andy. "She's four years old, but she's used to playing with us, so I think she is fast indeed."

Andy called the dog who accepted a light scratch on her head. Extending her other hand, she smiled warmly to the girl.

"Hi, I'm Andy. I'm your mother's friend."

"Hi, we were waiting for you. I'm Caroline and this is Patricia."

The girl shook her hand with some hesitation, looking in Miranda's direction. The silver-hair woman was relaxed, seated under a tree, so absorbed in conversation with the other girl that she didn't note Andy's presence. The young woman took advantage of the moment, observing Miranda's relaxed pose. She was bare foot, lying with her back comfortablely against a tree and her legs stretched out in front of her. She was stunning in black slacks and white blouse, looking at her daughter as if she was the most precious being in the word.

Under the tree, just a few minutes before Andy arrival, Miranda had been reading a book, her thoughts anywhere but on the lines under her eyes. She chose a perfect quiet spot that gave her a full view of her surroundings, allowing her to observe her children, note any unwelcome people or the arrival of her very welcomed darling Andrea. Miranda lifted her eyes from the book she was reading, surprised to see that Cassidy had sat by her side.

"Mom, is she beautiful?"

"What are you talking about darling?"

"Your girlfriend, is she? Is she beautiful? Does she like dogs? Do you think she's going to like us?"

"Calm down darling, I already told you that she's coming soon, so you will have the opportunity to see for yourself."

Cassidy was quiet for a long moment and Miranda sensed that something was worrying her daughter. Miranda was suddenly concerned that her girls were not as calm about the "closet talk" as she had guessed. During the week, she had asked them if they would like to meet her new "girlfriend" and their reaction to the idea was surprisingly good – Cassidy, as was expected, more excited than her sister, who would probably reserve judgment until she met Andrea.

"Darling, could you please explain to mommy why you are so anxious about this meeting?"

The girl looked around nervously, folding her small hands in her lap."You know, Dad's girlfriends, they never like us... I mean they never really like us, they just pretend to be interested because they want to please Dad. So, I was thinking that maybe your girlfriend... She could be different, I mean, not like Stephen or like blonde number 5."

"Who?"

"Blonde number 5 Mom, that's Dad's new girlfriend..."

"Darling, I don't like hearing you talk about your father's companion in that tone. You can't put numbers to people!"

"Mom, we don't call her that in front of anyone and Dad never heard us talking this way. This is between Caro and I and if she knows that I let you hear it, she will kill me. The last 5 girlfriends were so similar to each other that one day I told Caro that I was confused ... She considered this funny, then she began to call them by numbers. We have done that since blonde number 3..."

Miranda rolled her eyes, holding her tongue. Her ex-husband was a pathetic, irresponsible old idiot, who never once thought about the way his choices affected the twins.

"Darling, I haven't forgotten my promise to you. I'll never make a decision about a permanent relationship without considering you and your sister's wishes, so you have no reason to be nervous about meeting Andrea."

"Thanks Mom, but don't worry, we already talked about it, Caro and I."

"Yes? And may I ask what you decided about this matter?"

Cassidy looked at her again with her characteristic unguarded expression."We think that it would be cool if we had two mommies, I mean… if it makes you happy."

Miranda hugged her daughter fiercely, kissing her head, as a single happy tear infuriatingly escaped from her eyelashes."Thank you Bobbsey. It means a lot to me."

Looking in the Caroline's direction, she was startled to see the girl already engaged in a conversation with Andrea. The young brunette raised her head and Miranda felt a delicious anticipation when their eyes met. Andrea was dressed in black sweat pants, a light blue sweater and tennis shoes. Miranda never thought she would consider that kind of outfit sexy, but, again, her brain was having behaving strangely around Andrea. She stood, smiling warmly at the young woman.

"Andrea, welcome, I'm glad you could come. These are my girls, Caroline and Cassidy. Girls, this is my friend, Andrea."

Caroline rolled her eyes impatiently, so alike her mother. "Oh, C'mon Mom! She's your girlfriend, we know that, we're not kids anymore!"

Miranda blushed and Andy smiled at the girls that were covering their mouths to hide their giggles. Cassidy looked at Andy, extending her hand politely.

"Nice to meet you Andy… Caroline and I want you to know that we're being supportive of Mom, about her decision to have a girlfriend, because our teacher explained everything about diversity."

Andy suppressed a giggle, watching Miranda's face reddening. "Really? And may I ask what did you learn about it?"

"According to her, it should prevent prejudical behavior between the students, but I'm not entirely convinced of that."

Cassidy didn't notice her mother's embarrassment, prolonging her explanation. "Our family, for example, we are a mono... Monopa..."

Caroline rolled her eyes, correcting her. "A monoparental family, Cas!"

"Yes! That's it! We are a monoparental family and in case you don't know what it is, it's when the kids have just one parent. There are also families with two moms and with two dads and our teacher insisted that we should be respectable of all types of families. What do you think about it, Andy?"

Andy was charmed by the girl's sweet demeanor and innocent eyes. Her speech about families was just adorable - her serious frown as she remembered the concepts made Andy want to squeeze her cheeks. She never agreed with the way some adults treated children with fake smiles or infantilization, Andy preferred to consider them small people, with wishes, ideas and personality, so she tried to be respectable. "Well, I'm not sure. You seem to know everything about it!"

Cassidy laughed at that and Miranda rolled her eyes amused as Andy added. "Well, I know nothing about monoparental families but I totally agree with your teacher about the importance of respect, that's really most important, no matter what kind of family people have, don't you think?"

The girls nodded and Andy made mental notes about the almost imperceptible differences between them. When she was a kid, her best friends were twins, so she understood the need to be unique, despite their similarities or love for each other. Andy's eyes looked intensely at Cassidy as she spoke, registering the slightest difference between the two girls. Caroline had a more mature attitude and all her gestures, reminded her of Miranda. Cassidy was more sweet and sparkling, with an easy smile and open eyes that reminded Andy of her beloved sister. Andy was already falling in love with both of them.

"Tell me one thing: Do you guys like soccer?"

Both girls nodded enthusiastically and Caroline answered.

"We play at school."

Andy rested her hands in the hips. "You know, I would like to ask you a favor..."

The girls were looking attentively at her now, her eyes so similar to Miranda's."I'm from Cincinnati and back home I had my sister to play with me on the weekends. Unfortunately, since I moved to New York I don't have anyone to play with, so, I was thinking….If you would like to play soccer."

Cassidy extended her hands, palms in the air."But we don't have a ball..."

Andy grabbed her backpack, grinning. "Actually, we do."

Both girls smiled broadly when they saw the offered ball and Cassidy took it from Andy's hands. "Are you playing with us?"

Andy looked at Miranda, who sat quietly with a barely contained grin."That's the idea."

"That's awesome! Do you think Patricia can play with us too?"

Andy laid her backpack besides Miranda, winking at her. "Of course she can, but I don't know if she will learn the moves I will teach you."

The girls giggled picking up the ball and ran off with Patricia. Andy turned in Miranda's direction again, offering her a chivalrous bow. "Excuse me beautiful lady, I would love to sit here and talk to you, but I found these wonderful soccer partners and I have a game to play…"

Miranda smiled broadly, sitting back down on the blanket again. "Please, tell me why on earth I was worried about you and the girls? You have the 'Priestly womans melting hearts code' haven't you?"

Andy smiled, already running in the girls direction. "I don't know about that, but I certainly have a tendency to fall in love with Priestly women, at any age…"

Miranda was dumbfounded, trying hard to name the amount of amazing new feelings assaulting her mind, as she watched her twins playing with Andrea. The girls were running and kicking the ball to their new friend as Patricia tried to follow - their laughs and excited squeals echoing from a distance. Her children were the easiest and straightest way to Miranda's heart and her previous lovers or partners never had the ability to understand that. What pleased her most watching her twins interaction with the young woman was the evidence that Andrea didn't seem to be faking her attention, smiling to the kids with great tenderness. The young woman was glowing as she ran after the twins, who were obviously loving all the fun. Stephen never cared for the girls and was so obviously bothered by them, that after a while she ceased insisting that he would play a father's role. Miranda was mesmerized by a different smile on Andrea's features – one that had never been offered to her. She looked at Patricia who was coming closer and sitting down in the shadow provided by the tree.

"Do you like her Patricia? Good, apparently everybody does…She doesn't know yet, but I'm marrying her."

They spent a couple of hours in the park, until they decided it was time to walk back to the townhouse. The twins and the dog were walking ahead, followed by Miranda and Andy. The younger woman broke the silence.

"I have missed this."

Miranda was so absorbed in her own thoughts about Andrea, that she was surprised by the statement.

"What?"

"This. Kids, dogs, easy laughture...A family… Cassidy… she reminds me of my little sister."

Miranda saw the sad look in Andy's eyes.

"I'm sorry about your family."

"Oh, don't worry, I'm fine... Evelin... When she was conceived, my mother wasn't expecting any more children, because she had tried a few times when I was maybe three or four years old, but she couldn't get pregnant... Ten years later, when she got the confirmation, she was surprisingly happy. I was thirteen when Eve was born, so I never suffered from jealously or those kind of things that so often happens between siblings. She was like a little doll that I loved to pamper! At that time, mother used to work as a teacher, so I used to spend a lot of time taking care of her."

"Her absence must be hard for you."

"Yes, thank you so much for letting me spend some time with the girls. It means a lot to me."

Miranda laughed, taking Andy's hands. The girls, seeing the caring gesture widened their eyes, smiling and whispering to each other.

"Really Andrea, this is not the first time I'm wondering if you came from another planet..."

Andy looked at her with curious eyes, frowning.

"Why? Because I like children?"

Miranda nodded, still smiling.

"Andrea, I'm 52 years old, divorced twice and mother of twins. Do you realize that potential suitors run away as fast as they can from someone with this profile? You could have anyone you want, some beautiful and sweet young woman, crazy to start a family, to have a life with you and here you are, thanking me for allowing you to spend some time with my children. I should be the one to thank you for being so incredibly kind to them."

"Miranda, I don't know what you are thinking when you say I could have anyone, but I have the same feelings about you. Look at me, I'm just a girl from Ohio, who hasn't completed college yet, who doesn't have money or position. What on earth does a woman like you want from someone like me? I still don't believe we're really dating... And about the girls, anyone who doesn't see how bright and perfect they are is an idiot. Anyone should be proud to have a chance to be their step parent."

Miranda rare smile widened and she brought Andrea's hand to her lips, in a sweet way that was becoming familiar with the couple. "Join us for lunch at the townhouse?"

Noting the girls were paying attention to their conversation, she winked at Miranda, raising her voice.

"Only if I'm invited."

Cassidy reached back and surrounded Andy, taking her other hand enthusiastically. "Oh, please Andy, have lunch with us and I can show you our new video games, would you like to play with us?"

Andy's heart melted at the sweet plea in those beautiful blue eyes, so identical to Miranda's.

"Of course sweetie, I'd love to see your video games."

Cassidy didn't let go of her hand, happy to have Andy's attention again. "And it would be great if you came to dinner with us! Do you like pizza?"

Andy hugged the girl, smiling to Miranda. "Miranda Priestly, I must say that Cassidy is so much better than you at this dating thing. We just met and she already invited me to dinner!"

Turning her head in Cassidy's direction, she added. "Of course I would like to have pizza with you, sweetie. I'll give you my phone number and you can call me whenever you want."

"Really?"

Andy nodded and Cassidy looked at Miranda. "You see Mom, we're dating Andy too!"

Miranda narrowed her eyes as both girls ran giggling down the street, followed by Patricia. Taking Andy's hand again she whispered, smiling.

"Are you sure you want to spend more time with those two little monsters?"

Andy delicately released the offered hand, passing her arm around Miranda's shoulder, in a tender hug.

"No doubt about that."

...

A pleasant walk through New York streets led the five tired and hungry females to the townhouse. As they crossed the threshold, Miranda was fighting to control an overwhelming desire to kiss the young woman. The wonderful day with the twins and the so natural way Andy had charmed the girls were just an addition to her already increased libido. The young woman was wakening desires long forgotten and every new encounter was a delightful discovery about her body and emotions. Needing a moment alone with the young woman, she patted the twins backs, pushing them toward the stairs.

"Showers for both of you."

Cassidy, who was still holding Andy's hand, huffed. "Oh Mom, but we want to show our video games to Andy!"

Andy smiled at Miranda and squeezed the girl's hand. "Don't worry sweetie, I'll still be here when you come back. You need to take a shower so we can have lunch, okay?"

As the girls climbed the stairs to their respective bedrooms, Miranda silently pulled Andy by the hand to set of double doors down the hall. Before the young woman could understand what was happening, the doors were locked and her arms were full of Miranda and her lips were taken in a heated kiss. Her brain had just a second to consider that they were not alone in the house, before her body was completely overwhelmed by the feelings evoked by Miranda's warm body pressed along her own and the warm tongue invading her mouth.

"Sweetheart, the girls... Upstairs..."

The older woman ignored her weak protest and rational thought became impossible as Miranda's hands gripped her hip, bringing the length of their bodiesclose together. Andy made a last attempt to bring Miranda back from her heated torpor.

"Miranda... we shouldn't... I'm all sweaty... you don't..."

"Shh darling, let me kiss you... you smell delicious... I can't get enough of you."

The blatant arousal in Miranda's tone broke Andy's last resistance and her arms tightened around the woman's neck. The young woman held Miranda's head in place with her left hand, deepening the kiss while her other hand slid down Miranda's back and under her blouse. Miranda moaned aloud, tightened her grip on Andrea's waist, nibbling her jaw and neck sensually. Andrea's hand roamed all over Miranda's upper body as their mouths met again, tongues dueling for dominance. One of Andy's hands found Miranda's breast and it was the young woman's turn to moan when she found how hard the nipples wereunder her palms. At this moment, when Andy was casting prudence to hell, Miranda's stopped her moves, hugging Andy tightly as she rested her head in the curve of the younger woman's neck.

"Dear Lord, what you do to me..."

"Me? Jesus Miranda, do you want to give me a heart attack?"

They ceased their caresses, shuddering, arms tight around each other while their breathing became less labored.

"Miranda, may I ask what prompt this?"

Miranda stood back, holding her at arm's length.

"Just you darling, everything about you makes me crazy and I lose control, I just want you so much..."

Andy hugged her again, inhaling deeply of her sweet scent. "I feel the same sweetheart. Since the beginning, I tried everything, pretending you didn't affect me, but you did. I know we talked about going slow, but things are getting difficult for me too."

She could sense Miranda's smile on her neck, her muffled words and hot breath making her crazy. "I'm sorry Andrea, but being apart from you is proving to be a challenge to my patience, or impatience according to everyone around me."

Raising her head, she looked deeply into Andy's eyes, her hands caressing her face.

"How long can you stay with us? I know you're working later…"

Andy smiled tenderly at the look of desolation in Miranda's eyes. "Oh, don't look at me like that honey, I won't disappear. I'll be just at Dark Secrets, like everyday…"

Miranda's features clouded for a brief moment. "Promise?"

Andy didn't understand her worry. "What do you need me to promise?"

Miranda looked away embarrassed and then intoher eyes again, their faces close, their breaths caressing each others face. "Promise we will make it real – us. Promise you won't leave me."

Andy thought about time and life choices, abouther tenderheart so used to loneliness that had become afraid of love. A single tear escaped her eyes as she kissed those beautiful lips. "I promise."

…..

"Serena arrived at Dark Secrets earlier than usual, wishing to have some time to experiment few new moves she had created with Lily on the main stage. Doug and Nigel were already there, checking the drinking supplies and organizing security. The manager lifted his eyes from a checklist, looking at her over his glasses.

"Serena darling, you're quiet early tonight."

She kissed him on the cheek and winked at Doug.

"Hi Boss, do you mind if I occupy the stage?"

"Not at all. Go ahead, but I should warn you that 'Miss Congeniality' is behind the stage dressing to do the same thing."

"Who?"

"Miss 'always in bad mood' Emily. Honestly darling, you're the only one that can tolerate her remarks and we both know why, don't we?"

Serena blushed, offering him an embarrassed grin.

"Am I that obvious?"

Nigel patted her back.

"Yes, you are that obvious, but you know what? I would love to see you breaking that cold British facade. I always wondered if a real relationship would be enough to melt her heart and turn her into a real human being. Her attitude towards Andy is really annoying me lately."

"Yeah, everybody is noting that and Andy is so sweet..."

Doug came closer, adding his opinion in the matter.

"But that's the entire problem. She can't stand that Andy has more friends than anyone here, after just two months of employment and of course, she's dying of jealousy that Miranda Priestly is courting our sweet brunett."

Serena sighed, holding the bag on her shoulder even tighter.

"I wish she would give life a chance sometimes..."

Doug gave her a friendly hug and kissed her cheek.

"Maybe she just needs a gorgeous blonde to change her mind, don't you think."

Serena made her way backstage just to find Emily already dressed for the night. She was beautiful and the tall blonde felt butterflies in her stomach at the sight. She would love to have a chance with the was sure that Emily considered her attractive, butEmily was usually so remote, that she never had the courage to approach her. The woman was in front of the mirror, speaking to her own reflection. Serena couldn't discern the entire comment, but she heard the last words.

"… stupid Sachs, always so full of herself. I will love to see her fall."

Serena came closer, standing behind the woman. Watching her eyes in the mirror, she asked.

"What do you mean Emily, you're speaking about Andy?"

Emily smiled, but that was no kindness in her eyes. "Oh, haven't you heard the rumors yet?"

"What rumors?"

The woman stood, applying the last touches to her makeup.

" Well, if you don't know, maybe is better we not discuss this. It's kind of embarrassing."

Serena's eyebrows drew together and she stepped even closer to the other woman. "Emily, if you know something that could hurt Andy I ask you to please, just once in your life, don't be selfish. She's one of my best friends and a very sweet person, she doesn't deserve to suffer."

Emily looked at her, barely hiding her dislike of Andy. "Your little naive friend is falling in love with that snake, Miranda Priestly. That stupid girl believes she is being courted, when she is being used, like I was in the past."

Serena interrupted her abruptly, annoyed and jealous that the other woman fought so hard for Miranda's attention. Deep inside, she was sure that Emily's attitude was more about pride, than affection for the patron, but even so, it was hard to see her so moved by Miranda's interest in Andy.

"Get a grip Emily, this is ridiculous. Can't you just drop the subject? The Miranda is not interested in you anymore and for what I heard she never was. You work here, you were never used! She paid for your services and you weren't forced to do anything… She's in love with Andy, accept it and live your life!"

Emily raised a defiant eyebrow, smiling ruefully. She was aware of the truth, but she was so damn tired of Andy getting so much attention... She wasn't even a dancer! She was a simple waitress, having an opportunity that every girl would kill for. That was unfair and she would do anything to make things difficult for that opportunist, even lying if it was necessary. She had already spread the rumor about the bet, hoping that the power of suggestion and the girl's vivid imagination would increase the problem, diverting the focus from Emily's actions.

"You're such an idiot! Miranda Priestly is playing with her, as she did so with so many others around here! Two nights ago she made a bet with Barbara Riley concerning your stupid friend, everybody knows that!"

Serena felt cold grip her heart at hearing those words. Andy was falling hard and fast for the older woman and she couldn't even contemplate the possibility that Emily's words were truth. Andy would be devastated.

"Emily, that is not funny! Don't play with people's feelings like that!"

By the look in Serena's eyes and the tone of her voice, Emily knew she already believed in her words.

"Serena, we're nothing to the patrons. That's no romantic side to this job, don't be delusional. They were playing with her like the players they are. They will get what they want and leave her to bleed and lick her wounds."

Serena approached her, a feral expression in her features. "This bet you're talking about, what exactly were the terms?"

Emily smiled in triumph."Barbara Riley challenged Miranda Priestly about getting Andy to bed."

"Emily, this is very serious. What about Nigel, does he know about it?"

Fearing that Serena would start some kind of investigation, she tried to sound casual."Of course not! They never tell him about their bets, only the girls are aware of it."

Serena grabbed Emily's arm, bringing her heads very close. Looking directly into the red head's eyes, she cast in a menacing tone.

"Emily, I hope you're absolutely sure about this, because if I break my best friend's heart for one of your games, you'll regret it."

Emily's jaw dropped at Serena's fierce protective tone, fearing for the first time that the game she started would have unexpected consequences.

Chapter Text

When Andy got to her apartment, she had to hurry to get ready to work, Lily and Serena were already gone, so she called Doug to warn him she would arrive late. The day she spent with Miranda and the twins had been so surprisingly wonderful she lost track of time. Parte superior do fgrewTheir relationship was evolving quickly and Andy was sure, for the first time in her life, that her feelings were more than mere infatuation or result of loneliness. She kept telling herself that it was still too early to admit deeper feelings, but, if she was honest about it, she would eventually have to face the fact that she was completely in love.

Unfortunately, sometimes her insecurities would surface, convincing her that she was unworthy of Miranda and that a great distance separated her experiences from the beautiful and sophisticated woman. On the other hand, she could sense that she was not the only one impressed with their deepening connection. Andy was in love like she never was before and she was planning on showing the extent of her feelings for the other woman soon. Even if the words were not spoken yet, she knew, from Miranda's actions, that she was bringing a new perspective about love and life to her as well. At some moments during their time together, Miranda seemed as shy and insecure as Andy, as if the experience was also new to her. It was hard to believe that a woman so beautiful and special had not yet found a great true love, but Andy felt that this was probably the case. The growing sentiment between them was something new for both, so they would learn together.

She arrived at Dark Secrets a little after the doors opened, picking up her tray to start taking the patrons' orders. Everything was running great - the girls were beautiful on the stage, making the patrons happy and satisfied patrons left good tips to the waiters. After almost two hours of work, she needed a break to drink some water and use the bathroom. On her way to the backstage, she was intercepted by Serena, still flushed from her last presentation. She looked worried and hesitant as she spoke.

"Andy, I have something I would like to talk to you about, do you have a minute?"

Sensing her friend's concern, she nodded. "Of course, is there a problem?"

Serena grabbed her arm, pulling her to a quiet corner behind the stage. "Look Andy, I have a delicate matter to discuss with you. I tried to reach you earlier, but you didn't pick up my calls."

"Oh, sorry about that. I spent the day with Miranda and her children, so I probably missed your call. What's wrong?"

Serena looked around, obviously uncomfortable. "Andy, I am really just going to say this because you're my friend, I love you and I don't want to see you getting hurt."

Andy looked at her friend, frowning at Serena's tense posture. "Serena, we're friends, you can trust me, what's wrong?"

Serena took a deep breath, grabbed Andy's hands and told her what she heard from Emily. Andy narrowed her eyes while her friend was speaking, but didn't interrupt her speech. When Serena's finished, Andy had a perplexed expression on her face.

"I don't know Serena… I understand why you're telling me this, but Emily hates me and she would make up anything to get what she wants, don't you think?"

Serena nodded. "Yeah, I agree with you, so after I talked to her, I asked the other girls and everyone confirmed the story."

This information got Andy's attention. "What? But how? I mean, who told them?"

"I don't know what to think about it Andy. I have no idea if this is even true, but I needed to tell you before someone else does. Besides, you need to be warned, just in case..."

Andy nodded to her friend, swallowing hard. Things were doing so great with Miranda that she almost forgot that she could be hurt again. Now she felt as if the ground had been ripped from under her feet as her mind tried to reconcile her moments with Miranda with the new information she was receiving. At first, she thought Serena should be wrong, that Miranda would never do such a thing. Moments later though, she was not so sure.

"Serena, I really appreciate your concern. Thank you for telling me. I'll investigate this information."

Serena hugged and kissed her cheek. "That's all I ask. I know your relationship with Miranda is developing in a good way, but I think you should slow things down. Her reputation is not trustworthy, you know. The dancers are always saying that she is cold and manipulative… I don't want to see you hurt… but maybe… I could be wrong and this is just a misunderstanding."

Andy nodded, but her mind wasn't focused on Serena's voice anymore. The pain she was feeling was devastating. She went to the bathroom, closed the door behind her and headed to the sink, washing her flushed face. Looking at her reflection, she took deep calming breaths, putting her thoughts in order. If Serena's words were true, she would be devastated.

Returning to the stage area, Andy spotted Barbara Riley at one of the tables close to the stage. She approached, resolute.

"Excuse me Mrs. Riley, may I have a word with you?"

Barbara Riley smiled and nodded, taking a good look at Andy's body. "Of course, Andy. Is there anything you want to discuss with me? Have you rethought my offer?"

"No, actually, I need to talk to you about a private matter, would you mind if I sit for a moment?"

Barbara raised an eyebrow, pointing to the chair across the table. "Take a seat please. I would be crazy to refuse such a gorgeous woman at my table."

Andy felt her angry growing as the woman flirted with her. She was respectful, but in Andy state of mind, the words sounded offensive. "Mrs. Riley, I won't take your time, I just need to ask you something and I would appreciate if you're honest."

Barbara tilted her head wondering what information she could have that would be interesting to the girl. She was really attracted to the brunette, so any chances she had to approach or to keep her attention would be welcomed. "What do you want to know, darling?"

Taking a deep breath, Andy looked into the other woman's face, studying her features.

"A couple of nights ago you met Mrs. Priestly here, at Dark Secrets. Is that right?"

Barbara widened her eyes, feeling the hesitation in the girl's tone. She could tell from the Andy's rigid posture that whatever she would ask, was important. "That's correct; we talked for almost an hour."

Andy stiffened in her seat, looking directly at Barbara's eyes. "I need to ask you something and I need a straight answer, even if it will hurt my feelings. I won't ask for details, I won't make a scene. I just need for you to confirm or deny. It's just very important, for reasons I couldn't explain right now."

Barbara was worried now. The young brunette seemed quite upset about something and she couldn't understand where the conversation was going. She was being confronted, in a very direct way, about her conversation with Miranda Priestly and she knew Runway editor's well enough, to be afraid of some indiscretion. Her mind worked fast, trying to decipher Andrea's concerns.

"Mrs. Riley, one of the girls overheard part of your conversation with Mrs. Priestly and told me that you were talking about a bet that directly involved me. Is that true?"

The woman hesitated. "You're telling me that someone overheard a private conversation… this is extremely inconvenient, I don't see why I should answer this to you, especially because there was another person involved…"

"Mrs. Riley, I won't involve you in this, I just need to know the truth. Did you talk to Miranda about a bet?"

Andy took a deep breath, preparing her heart to receive Barbara's answer.

...

Miranda was worried. In the last couple of days she hadn't heard a word from Andrea, who was clearly ignoring her calls. She had even called her roommates, in hope to somehow get to the girl, just to be informed that Andrea was not available to speak to her. She couldn't understand what was happening. They had spent a wonderful day together. The twins, they were one of Miranda's greatest concerns in entering into a new relationship, had loved Andrea, asking Miranda all the time when they could see her again. Their last moments together at the townhouse were sweet and intimate and Andrea hadn't given any indications that she was upset or uncomfortable about their relationship.

Miranda had the feeling that something very wrong happened during their time apart, so, after two days of frustrated attempts at contact, she decided to act. When Dark Secrets doors closed behind her, her eyes scanned the crowd in search of Andrea, but she was nowhere to be seen. She walked past the seating area, heading to the bar, where she hoped to get some information about the young woman. A young brunette bartender informed her that Andy was in Nigel's office on the second floor, but she would come back soon. Miranda waited for almost twenty minutes, before she caught a glimpse of dark hair coming from one of the elevators. As soon as Andy looked at her, Miranda was sure that something was very, very wrong. The girl looked at her for a moment with a sad expression in her eyes. She came to the bar to pick up her tray, blatantly avoiding Miranda's eyes as she spoke to the bartender. Confused, Miranda approached her, only to be greeted by Andy's harsh words.

"Good evening Mrs. Priestly, what can I do for you tonight?"

Miranda frowned at Andrea's cold tone. The warm brown eyes, capable of reading Miranda's soul, were looking around, avoiding Miranda's glare. Miranda touched Andy's arm, but the young girl stiffened, pulling back from Miranda's hand. The older woman was confused.

"Darling, Are you all right? Why haven't you answered my calls? I was worried! I left my girls with their father, so I could come to see you. Could you please tell me what's going on?"

Andy looked in her eyes for the first time, puzzled by the worry stamped on Miranda's face. Andy considered the older woman a fantastic actress, pretending to be so concerned about her. Andy felt hurt and exposed, convinced of the fact that the wealthy woman would do anything to get what she wanted, including pretending to be an affectionate partner. For a few moments Andy wished she was wrong, that this nightmare was a mistake - that somehow, the older woman could really harbor deep feelings for her. Unfortunately, the truth stung, but she wouldn't avoid it.

"Mrs. Priestly, I'm sorry, but I'm really busy right now, I have no time to talk to you."

"Alright … I can see you're working, but may I ask you a question, why are you not answering my calls? What happened? Is there something wrong? I'll wait for you, so we can talk."

Andy looked at her eyes for the first time, her face hard and unreadable. Miranda was feeling confused at Andy's words. "Look Mrs. Priestly, I'll have to ask you to forget me. I appreciate the moments we spent together, but that's it, I can't go out with you anymore, I'm sorry."

Andy walked between the tables, collecting empty glasses as Miranda followed her closely.

"You're sorry? What are you talking about Andrea? You can't just dismiss me like that, without giving me an explanation! I opened my life to you; we were dating and getting to know each other better… I thought you were enjoying our time together and with the girls and now you tell me that you don't want to see me anymore, what is this? I demand an explanation."

"I know I'm nothing to people like you or Barbara Riley, but at least you could respect my wish to not speak to you anymore."

The mention of Barbara Riley's name worried Miranda. She took a deep breath, calming her temper. She was not used to being treated like that or to have her wishes denied, but Andrea was infuriatingly good in the art of frustrating Miranda Priestly.

"Look Andrea, I have never respected a living soul the way I respect you, so, would you please tell me why you are acting like an insane woman?"

Andy's eyes were full of tears now. "I thought you were falling for me the way I was for you. How stupid I am, what was I thinking? A woman like you would never look for a girl like me… I thought we could be together, make each other happy. In my mind it was so simple… but reality finally took me away from my naive dreams."

Seeing Andrea's tears and broken expression, Miranda got even more confused. The girl was acting as if something terrible had happened. Miranda held Andrea's arms, forcing her to look at her eyes. "Darling, don't cry… I don't know what you talking about. All I know is that we had an amazing day together, that my children are crazy about you and I am completely and undeniably in love with you. So, at least, give me a chance to understand why you're acting as if I have done something unforgivable."

Miranda looked around realizing they were attracting unwelcome attention. The last thing she wanted was discussing her personal life in a public place, so she grabbed Andy's hand, pulling her toward the elevators. "Come, I don't want to have this conversation here."

The young woman felt so drained she didn't complain, even when she understood where Miranda was taking her. She didn't care anymore. She would face the woman, confront her about the bet and leave, even if that meant she would lose her job. Actually, at that moment, she doubted she would be able to work at Dark Secrets anymore, looking at Miranda without feeling like her heart was being ripped out of her chest.

Miranda didn't let go of her hand, when they entered the elevator, needing the closeness. Andrea was tense by her side, her face swollen and red from crying. The image of her suffering was hurting Miranda, more than she could admit. The girl was quickly staking an irrevocable claim on the older woman's heart.

The elevator door opened revealing a fancy hallway, delicately illuminated. The place was silent, but Andy could hear some voices coming from a living room on the right, where she could spot a few dancers talking with some patrons. On the left, another hallway led to the doors of the private rooms. Despite her numbness, Andrea's curious mind registered all the details – the elegant decoration and the intimate atmosphere. Miranda didn't stop in the common area, leading the young woman toward one of the suites.

"We can have some privacy here. As a famous person I must be careful about public displays. I hope you don't mind."

"Not at all, what I have to say won't take long and I don't care where we are, as long as we can put an end to it."

"I don't understand why you're acting like this, Andrea. What have I done to deserve this?"

Andy pointed an accusing finger at her. "I was wrong about you, I thought you respected me… I even thought that maybe you could harbor the same feelings I have for you, but you don't."

Miranda looked at her with astonished eyes. "What are you talking about?"

Andy paced nervously in the room. "I'm nothing more than an object of conquest to you. Of course, what was I thinking when I thought that someone like you could love someone like me?"

Miranda tilted her head at Andy's self depreciating snort as she continued. "Two nights ago you talked with Barbara Riley about me. She challenged you to take me to bed as you did many times before with other girls."

Miranda narrowed her eyes, finally understanding the meaning of Andrea's distress. Fear overtook her senses as she tried to explain the situation. "Andrea, I don't know what you heard or what Barbara told you, but it didn't happen that way."

Andy approached, looking into Miranda's eyes with a firm resolve. "Do you deny that you talked about a bet with Barbara Riley?"

Looking straight in to the young woman's eyes, Miranda whispered. "No, I won't deny it. We had this conversation indeed, but I never made a bet about you and honestly I'm insulted that you think I would."

"Insulted? I was informed that you make bets about the girls all the time, as if they were objects and you're insulted? You're unbelievable."

"Andrea, the girls that work in this place, as you well know, have their personal reasons to be here. You talk as if they were victims in Nigel's hands."

"No, they are not victims, just the opposite! They're wonderful women who deserve respect and not be treated like cows in a sale!

Andy was crying hard now and Miranda finally realized that her past choices formed the basis for Andrea's judgment. She was losing the woman she loved, not exactly because of her actions regarding the bet, but for her own acts on so many prior occasions. She still tried to argue.

"Andrea, listen to me, please. At the beginning, when we first met, I wanted you like I never wanted anything in my life and I was inconsolable when you denied my feelings. Even though I never forced you to do anything that made you uncomfortable. We are together now, because I pursued you, because we decided together to explore our feelings, not because you were forced. Don't you think that my actions prove that I respect you? Can't you believe me when I say that I didn't do what I'm being accused of?"

Andy nodded her head vehemently. "First of all, I never implied that I was forced. What I'm saying is that I don't agree with your behavior, that I don't appreciate being treated as an object. I trusted you as I never trusted anyone and you hurt me. Now, I just don't believe a single word coming from your mouth. You created a web of lies and manipulations to get what you want, apparently as you always did. I'm not creating this Miranda, everyone in this place warned me about you, but I didn't listen to them! I was lucky that at least, someone heard this conversation or you would break me without mercy! Don't you see, that I can't bare to suffer anymore? How could you do this to me, even after I told you about my life? Don't you have at least a little compassion?"

Miranda was still fighting against the idea of loosing Andrea because of what she considered a silly conversation, even though she couldn't blame the young woman for her reactions. She was feeling powerless before Andrea's vehemency, but she would find a way to bolster Andrea's confidence again. The young woman was following the directions of her wounded soul. Miranda could understand it since her own soul carried so many scars. In a last attempt to amend the facts, she tried to blame someone, "Andrea, who told you about this ridiculous conversation?"

Andy took a step back, putting some distance between their bodies. "One of the girls heard you talking with Mrs. Riley."

"Care to tell me who?"

"Emily. She heard and told the story to a good friend of mine. My friend warned me, knowing very well that I was falling hard for you. She just did it because she doesn't want to see me getting hurt."

Miranda smirked in frustration. "Even if your friend's reasons are noble, you're telling me that the source of this information was that redheaded snake?"

"Yes."

"Andrea, that girl was very eager to be around me every time I came into the club. Don't you see that she's probably bothered by the fact that I'm not paying for her services anymore? Don't you realize that she is probably furious because you don't have to make any effort to have my exclusive attention?"

Andy was furious when she retorted. "Is that supposed to make any difference?"

Miranda took a step forward, her eyes shining with emotion. "Don't you see that I'm completely in love with you, your silly woman? I love you! That makes a difference!"

Andy's tears fell freely at Miranda's words. Her mind was racing as she looked for any signs of deception in the other woman's face, but she was certain that everything between them was nothing more than a game, even if her heart rebelled against the idea. Now, seeing Miranda's wounded features, as she declared her love, her resolve weakened, but her heart was still resolute. "Miranda, have some mercy and leave me alone, please… I won't survive if I discover that I was nothing more than a conquest in your life. It will break me. I'm sorry, but I don't trust you anymore."

Andy's words cracked Miranda's self control and she grabbed the other woman by the arms, bringing their bodies dangerously close. Her eyes were deep pools of rage and frustration as she spoke.

"Don't you dare question my feelings for you! I can be difficult and rude and arrogant, but I have never done anything wrong in our relationship. You talk to me as if I am a criminal, because I pay for services that are freely offered to me. You have worked here long enough to know that everything around this place is about money and power. In Dark Secrets, money is power and sex is power, Andrea! You must be delusional if you think differently. What we lived in the last two weeks was not a lie, but you choose to believe in other peoples opinion and not in your experience with me! We are not a lie!"

Miranda breathed deeply, realizing that she was yelling at Andrea. She closed her eyes and pinched her nose, trying to regain her composure. The young woman was apparently the only person in the world capable of destroying her wall of indifference, making her lose her temper. They were facing each other and both of them had tears in their eyes.

Andy felt tired and drained, needing desperately some time to think about the storm of emotions darkening her heart. "I don't want to make things even worse than they already are. I'm leaving now. If you really respect me as you say, I hope you honor my wish, staying away from me. I'm done with people like you and Barbara Riley."

Andy left and the room was suddenly cold. With shaking hands, Miranda swiped the tears from her eyes.

….

"What have you done now?"

Miranda found Nigel still in the office, working at his table. His tone of voice was lenient, but his features couldn't hide his annoyance. She already knew what he was going to say and he would be right if weren't for the fact that this time, she didn't do what she was being accused of. She sat heavily in a chair across from the bald man, feeling defeated.

"Nigel, I'm not in the mood for your speech…"

"You're not in the mood? I hope you're happy, because she quit her job!"

Turning her head in a sharp movement, she asked in a cold tone. "What do you mean?"

"Andy came here half an hour ago and she quit, against my will or advice. What I don't understand Miranda is why you didn't leave her alone. I warned you, I begged you to act differently this time, but you didn't. I'll have her for two weeks and then she is gone because of this situation which is the consequence of your pride and stubbornness!"

Miranda closed her eyes, absorbing the information as her focused mind thought of ways to resolve the situation. "Nigel, I know it's hard to believe, but these events are not my responsibility."

"Are you sure about it? Because, after Andy left, I asked around and I was surprised to discover a disturbing rumor about a supposed bet. Do you know about it?"

She rolled her eyes, barely containing her annoyance, but perfectly aware that he was probably the only person in a position to help her with Andy. "That's a lamentable misunderstanding."

Nigel raised his eyebrows, taking his glasses off. "Betting about my girls is a lamentable misunderstanding? What were you thinking? Do you realize that we could get into serious trouble?"

She waved her hand. "It's an innocuous game between Barbara and me and no one should know about it. We have never caused any prejudice."

Nigel stood, resting his hands on the table as he looked in her eyes. "Look, I won't even tell you how annoyed I am with this, because I doubt that would make any difference to you, but I need you to know that you pushed your boundaries with Andy. You told me that she was different and I believed you! To even think that I helped you with it…"

Nigel's words were stopped by the tears falling from Miranda's eyes. He sat again, tilting his head in amazement. Her defeated expression and her silent tears, scared him more than anything. "Miranda, could please tell me what the hell happened between you two?"

After a long pause, the older woman did what she so rarely did – she explained herself.

Chapter Text

Nigel sat quietly in his office, remembering Miranda's surprising actions. The night seemed perfectly normal, until his work sanctuary was invaded by a personal drama that caused the resignation of a dedicated employee and the loss of one of the most important patrons. As Miranda cried, declaring her feelings for Andy to the astonished manager, he tried to understand the detaild of this intriguing story involving a supposed bet and the following rumor caused by a certain dancer. As soon as he understood that Miranda was not directly responsible for Andy's broken heart, he felt a genuine wish to help the couple, but even his best efforts to manage the situation and formulate a plan of action were ignored by the determined woman.

"Nigel? Do as I say and bring me the contract immediately."

"You can't be serious, Miranda!"

"Don't waste my precious time! I'm a woman of decisions. You know that once I make up my mind I rarely reconsider my positions."

"What is that supposed to mean? Will you give up your place on the board, because of a fling?"

"I can assure you Nigel, this is not a fling. I'm pathetically and irrevocably in love for the first time in my life and the object of my affections despises me. How do you think I´m going to feel every time I cross that front door and see her?"

Nigel was speechless as Miranda paced frantically around the office. "In a certain way, my life was so much easier before I met Andrea. I never opened myself to these sort of feelings, because somehow I always knew that once I fell in love there would be no return and I would be vulnerable."

Nigel opened his mouth and closed it again, thinking about a way to convince her. Miranda´s eyes were distant and she smiled sadly. "A good friend once told me that occasionally, ignorance could be a blessing and I believe I finally understood his words. I had no idea that love could be like this, that I would be defeated by my own feelings for a woman half my age! This is ridiculous and at right this moment I have no parameters to base my decisions, so, don't you dare question my actions, bring me the papers immediately!"

He flinched under her commanding tone, but insisted. "Miranda, we'll solve this problem; you must give me some time to discover what happened and I swear to you that I´ll do everything in my power to ensure that this terrible misunderstanding…"

She interrupted his words with a vehement nod. "I don't believe you understand, Nigel. She made it clear that she repudiate my behavior; that she doesn't want to be with someone like me. I tried to explain, but she had already formed opinion about my character. I could see in her eyes the inner conflict – the battle between her feelings for me and her beliefs."

"Miranda, I´m sorry, but I have to insist, because I´m sure that when she knows the whole truth, she´s going to regret this. You must understand that Andy is a wounded girl completely alone in the world and that she´s been under a lot of pressure lately. That lovely young woman stopped believing that happiness is even possible, that something good could actually happen to her. Don´t you see? She believes that you were using her, because that´s exactly what she expects from life! You must prove her wrong! "

The woman closed her eyes as a single tear escaped her eyelashes. "This is so frustrating Nigel… I don't know what to do with my emotions and knowing she feels the same, just make it even worse. You should have seen her face when we broke up. She was so sad and disappointed, but what should I say? That I'm not a manipulative person? That I don't treat people as objects? That would be a lie! I never did anything to her, but she judges me, based on my decisions and past choices regarding other people. She believes I will hurt her by being who I am and that´s nothing you or I can do about it."

Miranda extended her hand without looking directly at his eyes. After a long pause Nigel stood, opening one of the cabinets. Coming around the desk , he gave her the black folder containing her contract and waited in silence.

She took the document, looking for the last page. Nigel widened his eyes in shock, when she graciously signed the last clause, ending her contract with Dark Secrets. Her teeth were clenched, but the pens' movements denoted resolution.

"Miranda, are you sure about this? Maybe you should think more about it, before you make a permanent decision."

She didn't answer as she stood up, her face sad and defeated as she left. "There´s nothing for me here anymore, but I wish you luck in the business."

Even after an hour of deep reflection the whole story was still obscure. He was perplexed by Miranda's last actions and determined to gather information that could clarify the situation. Apparently, a lamentable misunderstanding was the source of the problem, aggravated by Andy's insecurities and Miranda's bad record. Nevertheless, those facts alone shouldn't be enough to cause such damage and he guessed the last piece of the puzzle would be revealed by one of the girls. He would speak with all of them and he wouldn't rest until he found the one responsible for this mess. A soft knock on the door took him out of his meanderings. Looking at the door, he gave a predatory smile to his first and main suspect.

"Emily, come in, please. We need to talk."

….

Andy left the subway, she walked quickly on the empty streets. It was past two in the morning, but she wouldn´t wait until morning to voice the apologies she felt Miranda deserved. When she left Nigel´s office, she hadn´t thought twice, grabbing her belongs and running to Miranda´s townhouse, while her mind found no words to describe the relief she felt knowing that Emily created a situation to make her believe that the editor was only using her. She knew she would be very angry later and probably want to confront the redhead as soon as the situation with Miranda was settled - assuming that she would be able to fix things between them.

She wouldn´t be surprised if it was Miranda´s turn to reject her feelings. She had been judged without the benefit of the doubt and Andy was deeply ashamed of her own behavior. She had enough time to analyze her reactions while Nigel forced Emily to explain the entire situation, even the smallest details, to an astonished Andy. In addition, Andy´s doubts completely vanished when Nigel told her Miranda gave up her contract with Dark Secrets.

After Emily left the office, her good friend and manager sat beside her, took both of her hands and made her realize that Miranda's´ actions concerning the other girls never were sustained by the lack of character, but simply in her prerogatives as a patron. The bets, that were in Andy´s eyes overran indicator of a selfish personality, were always made in open ground, with the consent of the dancers involved in the games. Despite his passionate defense of Miranda´s actions, he never once patronized the editor or underestimated her difficult personality. In fact, he emphasized that Andy would face an incredible challenging relationship, for so many reasons, but never for lack of love. As she walked toward Miranda´s townhouse, she realized that she never been scared by the older woman´s public persona, or her difficult temper, or even the twins. Her personal apprehensiveness was always based on her fear of rejection, on the perspective of not having her feelings returned.

The second part of her exchange with Nigel was arduous, considering she had to deal with her "inner monsters". In a very delicate but firm way, her friend led her to confront her embarrassing insecurities about life and recognize the depth of her feelings for Miranda. She cried a lot, confessing that from the very first moment she had felt unworthy, which made her easily believe in Emily´s scheme. Andy felt deeply touched by Nigel´s actions, after all, he had investigated the situation in person, when he could choose not to get involved. When asked about it, he only told her that Andy and Miranda were good friends that deserved to be happy together, confessing that for some reason his romantic soul believed they were right for each other.

As she mentally reviewed a way to explain to the older woman why she had felt so insecure about their relationship, she turned the last corner and approached the house, her heart beating faster from the physical effort and anxiety. Andy would have to admit to the other woman that her lack of experience in relationships and her prejudices about the Dark Secrets patrons led her to conclude that she would be an object in Miranda´s hands. After Emily´s revelations, she reflected that Miranda´s actions in the last weeks should have been enough to convince her of Miranda´s intentions, after all, Miranda had offered Andy her life, her house, and her children, while could only mean that she truly cared.

In front of the townhouse, she mentally organized her simple speech: she would admit her mistake, apologize and accept the consequences of her actions, fighting for Miranda as the other woman had fought for her. Raising her head, she approached Miranda´s front door and knocked, hoping Miranda would answer it and praying for her luck.

…..

The house was empty and silent without the girls, but Miranda was restless. She knew he should try to get some sleep, but Andy´s face as she said "I don't trust you…" wouldn´t leave her mind. The words stung, because Miranda always has been the object of everyone's mistrust - her employees, her former husbands even her close friends and family. For some blissful days she believed to have found a real chance of connection and love, but her hopes had been buried.

Now, pacing in her lonely house, she doubted her heart would be able to forget the young woman, but she would act like she always did when she felt lost - she would work even harder to forget the pain. She turned off the lights on the first floor heading for the stairs, but a soft knock at the front door and the unmistakable shape of a woman through the glass caught her attention. Opening the door, she found a clearly anxious Andrea standing on the other side.

"Andrea, what a surprise. I thought you made it clear you wish to never see me again."

Andy lifted her head and smiled sadly. "I´d would like to talk to you. Sorry about the hour, but it´s important, may I come in?"

Miranda´s face was unreadable as she took a step back. Andy crossed the threshold following the silent woman upstairs, to her study. Her rigid posture and the immaculate manners put a painful distance between them, increasing Andy´s concern about her chances to fix the situation. Entering the study, Miranda pointed to a couch, inviting the young woman to sit, but not following her. "Make yourself comfortable Andrea, would you like something to drink?"

"No, thank you. Could you please sit here, by my side?"

Andy patted the couch beside her and Miranda´s eyes turned inquisitive, her voice cold. "Andrea, it´s late and I´m tired. I believe we told each other everything we needed to a couple of hours ago. If you came to continue our discussion, I´ll have to refuse the offer, I have had enough of your false accusations for a night."

Andy pursed her lips, holding the tears that threatened to fall. "I certainly deserve this treatment, for the way I acted, but could you please sit down for a minute? I have a few things to tell you and I want to look straight into your eyes while I do it. After I finish, if you ask me to leave, I will and never bother you again."

The older woman tilted her head as if considering the situation, but after a brief moment of hesitation, sat on the couch. Andy hated the fact that she was directly responsible for the distant look in Miranda´s eyes. Taking a deep breath, the young woman tried to put her feelings into words.

"You know Miranda… never, even in my wildest dreams did I believe that something like this… like what we have… could ever happen to me. I'm so in love and my heart is so full for you that I'm afraid every time I awake, I´ll discover that I just have been dreaming, because this feeling… " She made a gesture with her hands, pointing to the space between them. "What we have, is too wonderful to be true."

She smiled between tears. "My life had been so difficult lately, that sometimes I forget that good things can happen, that maybe, one day, happiness could be mine. I lost everyone I loved and left my secure and predictable life behind to come to New York. This wonderful city can be very intimidating for a simple girl like me, especially if this same girl finds a job in a place where nobody acts without a purpose. My father´s words came to my mind every single time I crossed Dark Secrets doors, warning me about all the dangers I would face and the ways I would get hurt by people like you."

Andy closed her eyes and inhaled deep. "I had all those beliefs and prejudices screaming at me that I shouldn´t trust you, because you would hurt me the first chance no matter what, so when the story about a supposed bet came to me, told by a concerned and trusted friend, all I could think about were ways to protect myself, so I acted the way I did and I hurt you. Maybe it´s too late and you´ll tell me to leave you alone, but… there´s no other way to say that I was wrong and I´m truly sorry."

Miranda stood, needing to put some space between them, as her mind processed Andy´s words. Relief and hope took place in her heart again, as she contemplated the possibility of having a second chance with the younger woman, but the need to safeguard her own feelings and to understand Andy´s actions before she opened herself again, prevailed.

"You know Andrea, I'm tired of it. I'm tired of always being judged. People judge me for the way I do my work, for my temper, for my choices, for the way I raised my children, for my failed marriages, but no one knows what it cost me to be where I am, to be who I am!"

Miranda turned to face the young woman, with blue eyes full of tears. "You… I thought what we had was different, but it isn't, I realized you're like everyone else, always expecting the worse from me. That's the reason I keep everyone at arm's length, to avoid the pain of being judged and abandoned. Do you even realize how difficult it is for me to trust you? You do believe that I could take advantage of you, but you should consider that I always have the same fear. I´m always asking myself what people want from me when they approach, what kind of advantage they are seeking."

Andy nodded and stood, approaching the older woman with tears in her eyes. "I understand that perfectly and I´m sorry for the way I acted. I let my insecurities overwhelm my feelings. I should have believed your words and trusted you with my heart and I'm so sorry I haven´t. Do you think you would be able to forgive me, sweetheart?"

The older woman looked at Andy´s soft eyes and came closer, touching her face in a light caress. The young woman released a relieved breath and closed her eyes, savoring the soft feeling of fingertips tracing the lines of her face and lips. She opened her eyes again, finding Miranda´s blue orbs looking tenderly at her and she couldn´t contain her desire anymore. She took Miranda's lips with her own, kissing her fiercely, as a strangled cry left her throat followed by tears. The older woman moaned, deepening the kiss, while her arms held Andy's waist as the young woman´s body was shaken by heavy sobs.

Miranda tightened the hold on the body in her arms, inhaling the sweet scent, as the young woman cried, hiding her face in Miranda's neck. Andy's words, whispered in her ear, were like a balm to her hurt soul. "I'm so sorry Miranda, could you please forgive me, my love?"

Miranda caressed the young woman's face, as her own tears fell. "Oh darling, I was so scared that you wouldn't believe me, that I wouldn't be able to convince you. I don't know what I was going to do if you decided we were over…"

Andy hugged her again, kissing Miranda's neck. "God! I'm so embarrassed about the way I acted. I wouldn't be surprised if you were the one to break up with me this time. "

Miranda laughed sadly. "Don't worry darling, I'm very aware of my past and my temper and I know that my actions toward other people work against me. I was hurt by your assumptions, but not exactly surprised."

Andy looked intently at her, as Miranda continued. "I'm not exactly a good person Andrea. I have crashed and hurt more souls than I can count, especially in my work, but I'm faithful as a lioness when it comes to protecting the ones I love. If you let me love you, I'll never hurt you on purpose darling, you can trust me."

Andy hugged her again, sighing in contentment. "I believe you my love, I really do. But you didn´t answer me. Do you forgive me?"

Miranda tightened her arms, whispering. "That´s nothing to forgive, neither of us was responsible for that mess. Let´s put this behind us, shall we?"

They stood in each other's arms for a few minutes before Miranda broke the silence. She took a step back, holding Andy´s hands. "Andrea, stay with me tonight? I don't want to spend the night alone in this empty house. We don´t need to…"

Miranda cleaned her throat embarrassed. "We don´t need to do anything, I just want to hold you, while we sleep…"

Andy blinked her eyes, amazed at Miranda's soft tone. She finally smiled and her heart was sure about the answer. Grabbing Miranda around the neck with a swift motion she whispered. "Are you kidding me? That´s no way I´ll have you beside me during the whole night and lose our precious time by just holding you. Come here gorgeous, I missed you so damn much!"

Miranda was delighted with the turn of events. She couldn't believe that only a few minutes ago she was feeling lonely and miserable, certain that she would never touch her sweet Andrea again. She was thinking of ways to reward Nigel's friendship, when Andy´s lips found her own in a heated kiss, assaulting her body and mind with a flood of sensations. She revealed in Andrea´s touch allowing the young woman to claim her body, in a rare display of love and trust. Miranda was not used to abdicating the control over any situations or to let her body respond without restrains to the touch of a lover. Andy's hands roamed all over her body as rational thoughts left Miranda's mind - the intoxicating kisses awakening a myriad of responses never before experienced by the older woman.

The young woman broke the kiss, breathing hard. "The girls… are they home?"

Miranda took Andy's head in her hands again, tangling her fingers in the silk strands. Between frantic kisses, she murmured. "The girls… are with their father… we´re alone…"

The knowledge that the house was empty released Andy´s last restrains and her hands found their way beneath Miranda´s blouse. She caressed the smooth skin of Miranda´s shoulders before her hands traced a heated path over the other woman´s back, finding Miranda´s soft ass. Bringing their bodies flush together, Andy deepened the kiss, hungrily. Releasing a low moan, Miranda kissed the elegant jaw and neck offered to her, until she felt the young woman´s body melting under her ministrations.

"God Miranda, you´re driving me crazy! I can´t wait anymore, please take me to bed baby, hurry!"

The older woman took Andy´s hands, pulling her out of her study, in the direction of the bedroom. "Don´t worry, the sentiment is mutual darling. Come with me."

Once behind closed doors, the couple found each other´s mouths again, in a deep kiss. Miranda´s hands trembled as she took Andy´s cotton top and pulled it up, over the young woman´s head, smiling tenderly as a soft pink tone colored her soon to be lover´s face. She helped the young woman out of her skirt, her eyes memorizing Andy´s soft curves and flawless skin. Sliding her arms around her soon to be lover´s waist, Miranda closed her eyes as their warm bodies came flush together. "You´re beautiful darling and you feel so good in my arms…"

Andy smiled between kisses, feeling confident seeing nothing but love in the other woman´s eyes. "You know, it´s hard to believe that you would find me beautiful. I´m not one of Runway models or Dark Secrets dancers..."

The older woman halted her caresses for a moment, taking Andy´s head between her hands, until their eyes were perfectly locked. "No, you are not and they could never be perfect and beautiful to me as you are now. I love you Andrea Sachs, I´ve been looking for you my entire life and now that I found you I don´t intend to let you go."

Miranda held Andy´s head carefully and kissed her again slowly, tracing the soft and wet lips with her tongue, to show to the young woman how cherished and loved she was. "Help me off with my clothes darling, I can´t wait to feel your body against mine."

Trembling hands took off the remaining clothes and Miranda kneeled on the bed, pulling Andy toward her. Miranda thought that for a woman of her age, it should be at least embarrassing to be so nervous before such a young lover, but couldn´t care less about her previous experiences. Their love was new for both of them and they would learn together how to be a lover to one another.

Andy approached tentatively, kneeling in front of her magnificent lover, that seemed so lost about what to do. Andy recognized the hesitation in the other woman´s eyes, because she felt the same. Extending her arms, she entwined their fingers and nuzzled Miranda´s jaw and neck, feeling the delicious heat coming from Miranda´s soft breasts. "I need you Miranda, kiss me, please."

Miranda didn´t need to think twice to accept the sweet invitation. Her lips found Andy´s full ones again and the crush of their bodies dropped them onto the soft sheets. Miranda rolled them over, as Andy reached blindly for her, wrapping her arms and legs around her lover, that was now so absorbed in kissing and sucking Andy´s full breasts. Miranda used her fingers and lips to bring her already aroused lover to the limit, caressing, sucking and nibbling.

"Miranda, please…"

"Please what, Andrea?"

Andy felt as if her body was breaking apart as Miranda´s fingers found the so desired destination. "Yes, baby, right there, don´t stop."

Watching Andrea´s flushed face, Miranda offered her a mischievous smile. "I wouldn´t stop even if a FBI team breaks through that door right now."

Miranda´s lips replaced her fingers on Andrea´s hot center. The young woman´s hips jumped at the contact. "Oh, God! I´m coming baby!"

"Yes! Come to me, my love!"

Andy shivered and moaned loudly, as her hips bucked against Miranda´s hot mouth. Miranda waited until the last waves of pleasure subsided and moved up, holding the young woman and kissing the soft skin at her hairline, tasting the sweetness of Andy´s skin. The young woman was breathless and she kissed Miranda with passion, as her hands roamed hungrily over Miranda´s skin.

"I love you, I´m crazy about you Miranda, tell me, what do you need?"

"Your fingers darling, deep inside me, I´m so close, I won´t last."

Andy grabbed her trembling partner firmly, pushing two fingers inside her. Miranda closed her eyes, not able to hold any longer. "You´re going to make me come…" Her body exploded in sensations as she trembled violently, surrounded by her lover.

They stayed entwined for a long moment, caressing each other´s body. Andy kissed Miranda´s forehead one last time, marveled when she realized the older woman had already fallen asleep, exhausted, with a sweet smile on her lips.

…..

Miranda woke slowly, feeling a languid warmth all over her body, deliciously enveloped in Andy's arms. She was lying on her side with half of her body above a smooth expanse of sinful skin. Smiling, she nuzzled Andy's neck, inhaling the comforting sweet scent that was becoming so familiar and necessary. The first light of dawn shining through the curtains were illuminating her lover's innocent and unguarded features, causing in Miranda a protective reaction. Remembering the last two days, her heart ached thinking about the pain caused by their near separation. The young woman lying in her arms was so beautiful and vulnerable in her sleep, that Miranda found herself making a silent vow to honor and protect that gift.

Andy moved in her sleep and sighed contently, bringing Miranda's body even closer. Miranda relaxed even more and held her head in her right hand, watching Andrea's features closely, while her fingertips caressed the young woman's face and neck. When her fingers traced the rich lips, a light kiss was placed on her digit and the beautiful doe-eyes found her blue ones. A beautiful smile sent an uncontrollable shiver all over Miranda's body and she couldn't control the arousal in her belly. They had made love the entire night, sleeping briefly between the heated lovemaking sessions. Their bodies seemed to be gravitating toward each other constantly and Miranda lost count of the many times she came. It was incredible that even so, she felt aroused, needing her lover again.

"Sorry to wake you, my love. It`s still early in the morning, go back to sleep."

Andy stretched languidly and Miranda´s eyes roamed over her breasts. "Hmm, I don´t think so… sleep would be such a waste, when I have you naked in a bed…"

The young woman´s soft lips found Miranda´s in an intimate kiss, their bodies now used to each other´s touch. Miranda gave a laugh full of joy.

"Really? So come here young lady and don´t make me wait anymore…"

Andy gave her a bright smile, practically jumping over Miranda´s form, but the older woman rolled them over, holding Andy´s hands above her head.

"I remember that last night a very mean girl made me come over and over again… hmm, you´re so hot, darling."

Andy raised an eyebrow faking innocence, but tilted her head to give Miranda better access. "Well, I believe that another very mean girl just loved to be ravished merciless. Tell me, am I wrong to assume that you really enjoyed yourself very much last night, Miranda?"

Still holding Andy´s hands, Miranda kissed her neck, covering the younger woman´s shoulder with soft love bites. "Who told you I´m complaining? I loved every single touch and you´re welcome to repeat it any time. I´m just informing you that I plan to do the same to you, now that I have you, so helpless…"

Andy closed her eyes revelling in the warm sensation of Miranda´s lips on her breast. "Darling?"

Miranda stopped her ministrations and looked up, to hear from her very flushed partner a sweet command. "Shut up and take me."

Chapter Text

It is amazing how a year can make a difference in someone's life.

Andy climbed the steps to the front door, but didn't knock, using her own keys to open it. The house was surprisingly silent considering the hour, indicating the girls were probably upstairs, occupied with homework or video games, what would hopefully give Andy some time to work. The new arrangement made her access to the house easier, especially after Miranda had practically announced their relationship at a function, introducing Andy as her "significant other" to half of New York Society. The young woman had been touched and even more in love, admiring the courage to come out to such a field, since she was perfectly aware that Miranda was the one that could lose something when their relationship became official. Despite that, Miranda´s only reaction about their announcement was to say, in her usual superior way, that no one would tell her how to live her life or whom she should sleep with. To Andy that was definitely a good definition of happiness.

At least, when the reporters started their usual scrutiny into Andy´s life, she wasn´t working at Dark Secrets anymore, but as an editor's assistant, at The Mirror. Consequently, when their relationship was splashed across on Page Six, the only information they could divulge was that Miranda was in love with a young future journalist. What amazed Andy the most, were the unexpected favorable commentaries about Miranda´s good taste to come out of the closet beside such a beautiful and promising young woman.

For obvious reasons, the press have been avidly looking for Andy's attention for a couple of weeks and after a few embarrassed events involving paparazzi, the family agreed that there was no reason for Andy to stay at the door like a stranger would, every time she came to the house.

So, just like that and with no further discussion, Andy gained free access to the townhouse and consequently to the family. Andy knew the keys were nothing more than a symbolic object, considering that lately she has been in the Priestly's house more, than in her own apartment. The girls were already used to her presence, calling her a hundred times if eventually she didn't come "home" to spend the night with them. Their mother, for her part, would make Andy´s life a circus if for any reason they didn´t sleep together, calling Andy in the morning just to share her cranky mood and sharp remarks. Miranda wouldn´t be satisfied until she complained at least ten times about Andy´s lack of worry about her health, severely compromised by the lack of sleep caused by her lover´s absence.

Andy climbed the stairs to the second floor, heading to Miranda´s study and to what became "her work desk", to enjoy the rare silence and finish a college assignment. After a half hour of editing and scribing a text she should deliver to her teacher next morning, the door opened to reveal a distressed red hair girl, holding a crumpled sheet of paper. Caroline ran to her, hugging her tight. "Hey, Andy, you´re home!"

"Of course I am, we are having popcorn-games night aren´t we?"

"Well, we are if I ever finish this math homework. Cassidy finished her's an hour ago and is playing guitar hero! That sucks!"

Andy laughed and made a small gesture for the girl to approach and sit on her lap. "Come here babe, let me see it. Why hasn't Cassidy helped you with homework?"

Caroline ruffled, resting her chin on her right hand. "Mom forbade her from helping me, after she found out that I was not learning math. Now, I have to do this crap all by myself, but I can´t understand, you see… I´m dumb!"

Andy smiled again, kissing the soft hair. "Hey, you´re not dumb! You´re just having a temporary difficulty and we´re going to work this out. Come, sit here by my side and let me see it. I´m going to help you, but you must understand that I won´t do it for you, okay?"

Caroline opened her mouth to complain, but Andy cut her off. "No arguing young lady, you must learn it. Unfortunately, that´s how it works: in life, sometimes you need to deal with difficult things and learn how to manage them to get what you want. And in this case, you want to pass math. Go ahead, show me."

They worked together for almost an hour as Andy showed the girl how to solve most of the problems. That was how Miranda found them, discussing a problem and laughing when Caroline found the result of an equation. The older woman leaned on the door jamb, impressed by Andy´s amazing ability to deal with Caroline´s difficult temper. The young girl had a hard personality, so like Miranda's and even her father had problems breaking her strong will and stubbornness. Miranda smiled and nodded, thinking about that beautiful easy smile that melted any Priestly´s heart, regardless of age.

Oblivious to Miranda´s presence, Andy hugged the girl affectionately. "Congratulations Caroline! You did it, you see?"

The girl had a genuine smile on her face as she hugged the young woman back. "Thanks Andy, that was awesome! I´m going to tell Cass I´m not dumb."

"Oh sweetheart, of course you´re not dumb, you just have a hard time with abstract concepts, with is perfectly normal at your age. I used to have the same problem when I was a child and believe me, it will pass if you insist on learning and don´t create a mental block."

"Right, no mental block… I get it! Thank´s Andy. Can we have pizza now?"

Andy kissed the girl´s cheeks and turned her chair, smiling warmly as she noted Miranda´s presence for the first time. Following Andy´s gaze, Caroline saw her mother at the door, running to her, with open arms. "Mom, you´re home early!"

Miranda enveloped Caroline in a tight hug, looking directly at Andy above the girl´s head. "Yes darling. How is your homework going?"

Caroline smiled and hugged her mother back. "I did it! Andy just gave me some instructions and I did it, all by myself! She´s a genius! Can I call Cass to help us with the pizzas? I believe I deserve it!"

Miranda nodded and kissed her daughter's head. "Of course, darling. Andrea and I will join you in the kitchen in a minute."

The adults laughed, as the girl ran to the third floor, calling for her sister. Miranda presented Andy with a meaningful look and a rye smile as she closed the door behind her. "So, besides your mathematical abilities, what could you offer to a tired, lonely woman, that could only think about her beautiful young lover, all day?"

Andy stood, covering the space between them in three large steps, just to be enveloped in a passionate embrace, as Miranda´s warm lips found hers. They kissed for a long moment, enjoying the simple pleasure of being together. Andy nuzzled Miranda´s cheek, giving soft pecks all over her lovely features. "Oh my poor, dramatic baby, what can I do for you? What about a hot bath and a massage?"

Smiling, Miranda again took those luscious lips that drove her crazy, night after night. "A massage is definitely a good start, but hardly enough. You´re staying tonight, darling?"

Andy frowned. "Honey, I´ve stayed for the last two months, why should I go home tonight?"

Miranda placed an open mouth kiss on Andy´s neck, sucking a spot she knew would drive her young love crazy. Andy hissed and hugged her closer. "Miranda, we can´t do that now, the girls…"

"I know…. I´m just punishing you for calling that horrible place you share with your friends "home" instead of here, where your family lives."

Andy was pleasantly surprised by Miranda´s words, even thought her heart recognized the growing feeling of belonging. "My family, you and the girls? I really love the sound of that…"

"You look surprised, why is that? You are perfectly aware that I wish that you would come live with us. A year has gone by and I don´t know what you are waiting for! I love you, my daughters love you. Sometimes I think that you are not sure about us…"

Andy held the older woman face between her hands, forcing Miranda to look directly in her eyes. "Miranda, this is absurd! How can you even think that I don´t want to be with you? I´m sorry, it is just… Are you sure about it, my love? Don´t you think it is too soon? I would be devastated if we took this large step before it was the right time, and you regret it."

Miranda smiled, grabbing her lover´s waist more firmly. "No, I don´t think it´s too soon. On the contrary, my darling … In my opinion it´s not soon enough. Fifty two years is a long time waiting for the love of my life, don´t you agree? We are just postponing happiness and that´s unacceptable! "

Nodding in wonder, Andy kissed Miranda´s soft lips, holding her tightly to her chest. "We are not postponing happiness! We are already happy and you´re right, nothing would make me more happy than to come live with you."

They shared a comforting embrace and Andy sighed. "God, sometimes it´s hard to believe we´re celebrating a year tomorrow night, time flies…"

Miranda looked at her suspiciously. "So… About our date tomorrow… Could you at least tell me where are we going and what´s that surprised you have for me?"

Andy hugged her again, nibbling her ears, as she whispered. "No, I won't! You can wait for a day Priestly, don´t be so impatient. Tomorrow, we´ll have a very special celebration but you must wait! Believe me you will like it."

Miranda sighed, but didn´t insist. "If you say so…."

"Andy smiled against Miranda´s neck. "Tomorrow I´m all yours and you´re going to love every minute of it, I promise."

"Yes, you´re definitely mine, darling and I have no intention of letting you go."

"Well, that sounds pretty fine to me, because I have no intention of leaving you, ever…"

They kissed again, only to be interrupted by an impatient knock on the door. "Mom! Andy! We´re hungry, C´mon!"

...

"Good evening Roy, you know the address."

The driver only nodded and smiled, as they entered the car, sitting comfortably close to each other. Andy smiled at Miranda, taking her right hand and kissing her knuckles. "Are you ready to go, my love?"

Miranda smiled back and nodded, mesmerized by Andy´s beauty. The young woman was stunning – her dress and make up impeccable. She was wearing a beautiful black short dress that emphasized her curves and legs - a present from Miranda who was clearly thinking about a special occasion when she chose it.

Andy took a black silk scarf from her purse and Miranda opened her mouth to protest, just to be cut off. "Honey, we had this discussion ten times last week, if you don't want to come, just let me know and we're going back home, but if you do, you must put this blindfold on. That´s not negotiable."

Miranda looked directly into her eyes, with that frosty glare that would melt men and women everywhere. Unfortunately, her famous stare never worked with her young lover who would find it amusing or even "cute" - to Miranda's utter despair, of course.

"C'mon, Miranda. I'm starting to wonder if you don't trust me."

"This is a low blow. Of course I trust you, with my life."

"I have to use all the weapons I have, because I'm determined to make our anniversary a perfect night, so could you please stop complaining and just relax for twenty minutes?"

Despite the annoyed words, Andy smiled again and tied the scarf around Miranda´s eyes. The older woman complied under protest, holding Andrea's hands all the way to the mysterious place, where they would have some kind of celebration. Miranda had also intended to celebrate the date, but her purpose was more specific and her gift was resting in her purse. After exactly twenty minutes the car stopped and she heard Andy opening the door. "Come sweetheart, give me your hand."

Miranda extended her arm and accepted the help, feeling the ground under her feet unsteady as Andy strong grip enveloped her waist. A shiver took her body as Andrea's lips, almost touching her ear, whispered softly. "Come with me my love, your anniversary gift is waiting for you."

Miranda let the young woman guide her steps, through what seemed a back door and stairs. Her temporary blindness somehow attuned her other senses more keenly and she was certain that she could recognize a few sounds and scents. "Darling, this place sounds and smells familiar, are we at…"

Andy kissed Miranda´s lips, interrupting her words. Miranda heard the sound of keys and a door being unlocked. "Be patient my love, you won´t regret it."

A minute later Miranda was sitting on a soft surface, maybe a couch or a bed, while she heard her lover moves around her. Just when she would ask again where they were, Andy´s gentle fingers took her blindfold away and Miranda blinked slowly, adapting her eyes to the low lights. She gasped at the sight of her lover, not dressed in black dress anymore, but in a red semi-transparent corset, matching panties and garter. Looking around, she finally understood they would celebrate where everything began: Dark Secrets.

The bedroom was familiar to her, since it was the most opulent in the house. It was not just richly decorated, but had a small stage and a pole, that allowed private dances for the patrons.

The young woman looked at her intensely, maybe waiting for her reaction. Miranda was torn between the image her Andrea presented and the need to understand the meaning of what she was seeing. Her words were confused. "Darling…. This is… I mean, you are…"

Andy interrupted her with a nod. "My love, tonight is our first anniversary and I thought we could celebrate here, where everything began."

She came closer, taking one of Miranda´s hands and bring it to her lips. "You know, I remember that first night perfectly, the moment you came to me… I felt so offended by your offer, but at the same time, excited by your beauty and arrogant confidence. It took me only a minute to fall in love with you. Since then, so much has happened and you became my life, my everything. I love you with all my heart and now, I can give you, freely, what you asked me that first moment."

Miranda had tears in her eyes, at the wonderful feeling of being cherished and loved. "Darling, I don´t know what to say, you are… God! I've never seen anything so beautiful in my life. Are you dancing for me?"

Andy nodded, biting her bottom lip to avoid the nervous giggle that threatened to burst forth. Miranda´s face was priceless, shocked even.

"A year ago you asked me for a private encounter. Well, I accept your offer now, Mrs. Priestly."

Miranda was looking from her face to her body, drinking in the alluring image of Andrea´s body and attitude. Her sweet and tender lover seemed an entirely different woman, looking at Miranda in a sexy and almost dangerous way.

"Well Miranda love, I know you have a lot of experience at this, so I don't need to tell you the most important rule, do I?"

Miranda's brain was in a fog, fighting hard to process any thoughts beyond the vision that was her lover. "Ah... rule? What rule?"

Andy gave a mischievous smile and approached, resting her hands on Miranda´s thighs while she placed a light, almost imperceptive peck on Miranda's lips. "The most important rule on the stage, while the girls are dancing you can look, but you can't touch."

An outraged gasp left Miranda's lips, as her eyes narrowed. "What?" She blinked several times, gathering her thoughts. "Let me see if I understand this, because my reasoning is considerably slowed right now... Are you saying that you dressed like that for me and that I'm having a lap dance and a striptease, but I can't touch you? Honestly darling, is this a present or a punishment for something I did?"

Andy took two steps back, stretching her arms above her head, holding the pole. "Yes, that's my gift for you and you must receive it the way I planned. That's all." Miranda gave her a predatory glare, that alone, was enough to arouse Andy more than anything, but she made an effort not to demonstrate. "So, what is going to be, Miranda? Do you want your gift, or not?"

Miranda snorted in frustration, holding the edge of the bed with both hands. Her voice was hoarse as she mumbled. "Oh, God, are you sure about this rule, because if I faint from frustration, you're going to be so embarrassed to receive the medical team dressed like... like this…"

Andy approached the bed, traced Miranda's features with one finger and kissed her lips. "I really intend to make you faint from pleasure, but you have to wait darling, I´m sorry."

Andy turned away and pressed a button on a small device, which brought a soft beat to the room. The music was sensual and slow, comforting and arousing at the same time. Andy was feeling nervous and slightly embarrassed because it was the first time she tried to please a lover like this.

Even thought she was confident that she would be able to perform the moves she learned from Serena - who have been thrilled to help, giving her valuable advice on how to arouse a partner - she was still uncertain if she would succeed in bringing Miranda the pleasure she intended.

Andy covered the distance separating her from the small stage and closed her eyes, becoming aware of the sensual rhythm, as her body begun to move around the pole. She grabbed it with a hand, softly undulating her hips from side to side and her right leg made a fluid arch around the pole and she tilted her head back, offering her lover a good view of her neck and cleavage. She opened her eyes and locked them with Miranda´s, noting the woman swallowing hard as her knuckles became white, holding the sheets. Andy touched her own body, caressing her breasts and belly as she danced, slowly approaching the bed. Miranda´s eyes roamed hungrily over her body, which gave Andy a new sense of confidence and courage to continue.

Still moving with the music, Andy lifted one leg, placing it besides her flushed lover. Even in the low lights, with her body in that position, she would offer her lover a good view of her breasts and sex, barely covered by tiny silk underwear. Calculating her movies, she touched Miranda´s legs, before straddling her lap, as her lips and tongue found their way to Miranda´s neck and ears.

Miranda´s was visibly panting, her eyes deep pools of desire as she tried to take Andy´s lips. "Let me kiss you darling, you´re so hot dancing for me. I know you want me to take you, you are crazy about it, aren´t you? Let me please you."

Andy smiled mischievous, but kept silent, slowly bringing her hands to the first button of her red corset, intended to reveal a little more of her breasts. She kept up her sweet torture, licking and nibbling Miranda´s neck and chest, touching freely the body she'd grown to cherish in the last twelve months. "Yes, I want you to take me, more than anything, but you won´t until I say so."

Andy moved from the older woman´s lap, but not completely, keeping the proximity, but dancing out of her mouth´s reach. She was feeling bold and powerful, but she couldn´t trust her own conviction, if Miranda´s touched her. Despite her display of controlled sensuality, she was aroused like never before. When her fingers touched the second button, that would finally reveal her breasts, Miranda groaned in frustration.

"Oh God, I'll marry you, give you half of my fortune and my immortal soul if you let me touch you!"

Andy nodded and returned to Miranda´s lap, nibbling her lover's ear. "No way, sweetheart. There's nothing you can give me that will make me stop what I planned, so, stop fussing and enjoy."

Miranda frowned and stopped, looking at Andy with a hurt expression on her features. "Darling, are you saying you don't want to marry me?"

Andy stopped her ministrations and stood from Miranda's lap, resting her hands on the hips in an annoyed attire. "Honey, are you serious that you want to discuss this right now? We're having a moment here, would it be too much to ask you to shut up and..."

"But, darling, I just asked you to marry me and you just… refused."

Andy narrowed her eyes and tilted her head, not understanding a single word coming from Miranda´s lips. She was so engaged in her performance that she barely heard what the other woman had said. "What are you talking about, I did no such thing? Are you serious about it? Are you proposing now?"

"Well... yes, I am." Miranda looked embarrassed, averting her gaze, which Andy found absolutely adorable. All her irritation vanished and she giggled, straddling Miranda's hips again and holding her neck, until her lips were almost touching.

"Oh, my love, why on earth, after a year with you, would I think I could control a situation or predict your actions?"

Andy kissed her lover with abandon and Miranda reciprocate, but after a moment the young woman realized Miranda's arms were not holding her as it should be expected. She stopped the kiss and looked at the older woman. "Is there something wrong sweetheart?"

Miranda raised a perfect eyebrow in challenging. "What are you talking about, darling?"

Andy looked at Miranda's hands, still obediently holding the bed. "Honey, I was supposed to dance, strip and make sweet love to you, but you ruined my intentions. Now, I´m in need and trying to seduce you in a more traditional way, but for some unknown reason you´re not touching me. Along with that, your body is stiff as a board."

"Well, you haven´t mentioned the "not touch clause" was revoked. Besides, we were having an important conversation and you still haven´t answered if I´m making love to my girlfriend or my fiancé. "

The young woman closed her eyes and a bright smile covered her face. "Yes."

Miranda kissed her softly, nuzzling her nose and cheek. "Yes? For the touch clause, or to the proposal?"

Soft arms held Miranda´s closer as brown doe eyes looked directly at her. "Yes, for everything. Yes, I love you; Yes, you´re free to touch me, Yes, I´ll marry you, crazy woman! Now, please, for God sake, shut up and make love to me!"

Miranda kissed her deep and carefully changed their positions, sitting Andy at the end of the bed. Miranda stood, but before Andy could protest, the older woman retrieved something from her purse. Kneeling in front of her young lover, she took a deep breath, holding in her pale hands a small, black velvet box. Andy gasped, shocked.

"Andrea, the last twelve months were the happiest of my life and today I can't imagine my life without you. You match my passion, my temper, my life. You complete me and I love you from the bottom of my heart."

She opened the little box and took an elegant diamond ring from it. "I would be honored if you'd agree to be my wife. This ring is mostly an anniversary present for you, but if you accept my proposal, it will represent my love and commitment to you. Be mine forever darling, make a life with me?"

Andy was flabbergasted, looking from Miranda's face, to her hands. "Oh, my God, you are seriously proposing."

Andy had tears in her eyes as she looked at the older woman, with a lack of words. Suddenly, Miranda was knocked onto the floor under Andy's weight, as the young woman kissed her mouth passionately. "Yes, yes! I want to marry you, be yours, share a life with you! I love you!"

Andy's laughs of joy warmed Miranda´s heart and she pulled Andrea off the floor and along with her to the bed, before sliding the ring on her finger. The young woman straddled her hips again, but this time, Miranda had no restraints and she turned them, keeping Andrea captive under her body. Andy held Miranda´s head for a moment, smiling tenderly.

"You know Miranda, if you weren´t so adorable, proposing in the middle of my dance I would kill you for ruining my plans for the night."

Miranda smiled back, tracing a wet trail of kisses between Andy´s breasts and neck.

"Darling, as much as I loved the dance and the prospect of an exclusive striptease, take off your clothes - especially in such a beautiful underwear - is really one of my greatest pleasures and definitely something I would like to do for myself."

Andy relaxed under Miranda´s kisses and caresses, giving up all the control over her body or the situation. "Hmm, don´t expect the same courtesy from me, my love. If you ever strip for me, I won´t be satisfied until the last piece of clothing is flying across the room."

They laughed together and Miranda raised a perfect eyebrow. "Would you like that? A strip, from me? Seriously, darling?"

Andy offered her the most beautiful smile she had ever seen. "I´m totally serious, that´s fantasy material baby, you have no idea… I would marry you, give you my immortal soul and fortune, if I had one to offer."

Miranda nodded, but smiled, capturing Andy lips again. "Well, in this case I must prepare something really special for our honeymoon don´t you think?"

THE END