She had no choice really but to arrange things and advise Miranda that she would meet them at Teterboro. She'd had so much to do in such a short time, but luckily Nigel had been there to help her. He truly was her fairy Godfather
Nate had stormed out two days before, literally leaving her holding the baby. His claims that he wasn't and would never be her baby's father had stung her for a moment, but he was right, and she had told him so.
Nate's lack of support over the last year of her life had shown her how little he thought of her, and before that, he often took great pleasure in throwing it in her face how much she was reliant on him. He'd looked at her before he left for Lily's like she was a stranger to him rather than the person who had been by his side for the last three years, since...
She couldn't let herself think about that time of her life right now. It would just make her fall back into the depression she had found herself in all those years before. It wouldn't change anything.
Looking down, she met the dark eyes of her little companion. They were almost a mirror image of her own. She couldn't stop her smile, although if she was honest, and she always tried to be, she was somewhat worried. She ran her hand absentmindedly through the light type three curls, much like her own, on the head resting against her chest in an attempt to soothe herself.
She hoped Nigel had managed to keep his promise to ease the way for her but knew it may be a futile hope, depending on Miranda's mood. The fact was there were just two things that could happen today, she could be fired or she could travel to Paris and do her job, as she had been for the last nine months.
She entered the townhouse, her heels clicking on the wooden floor as she put the drycleaning away in its usual closet. When she went to put the book down on the table, Andy heard the demanding voice of her boss.
Looking towards where the voice had come from, her eyes widened. Surely Miranda didn't mean for her to step deeper into her private dominion?
With a sigh, she moved further into the foyer and scrambled to take her check newsboy cap off and ran her fingers through her she stepped into the room, Miranda spoke once more.
"Do you have the book?" She held her hand out for it imperiously and Andy turned to give it to her, watching as Miranda started flicking through the page. "Paris is the most important week of my entire year. I need the best possible team with me." Miranda glanced up and her blue eyes pierced her for a moment before she returned her focus onto the mock-up of Runway. "That no longer includes Emily."
Andy was dumbstruck. "W...wait...you want me to.." She stuttered. "N...n...n..." She wanted to refuse but how could she? "Miranda, Emily would die. Her whole life is about Paris, she hasn't eaten in weeks. I...I can't..." Her voice trailed off before she found the words. "...do that, Miranda. I...I cant."
"If you don't go, I'll assume you are not serious about your future." Miranda glanced at her. "At Runway or any other publication," Miranda stated softly. "The decision is yours. That's all." She turned back to the book dismissively, leaving feeling as if she'd been blindsided.
What the hell was she going to do? No, never mind that. How the hell was she meant to explain this to Nate?
Miranda paced the private-jet terminal of Teterboro Airport, waiting for the arrival of her very capable assistant. She had brushed Nigel away, unwilling to hear whatever drivel that was sure to come out of his mouth, demanding he go away and leave her alone for at least the next eight hours.
She had managed to acquire the company Gulfstream G550 jet for the flight to Paris Fashion Week, and she was grateful. She could have six uninterrupted hours with her assistant's soothing presence by her side.
The brunette was still such an enigma, Miranda decided.
After those initial months, Andréa had changed, gaining confidence with her makeover and she had found herself becoming increasingly captivated by the woman's easy smile and innate warmth. It was disconcerting, but it had pushed her to replace Emily, forcing Andréa's arm, up her back, so she had no choice but to comply with her demand that she attend Fashion Week.
She watched as the pilot, co-pilot and cabin crew made their way into out onto the tarmac to board the plane and felt her brows crinkling into a frown.
Where was that infuriating girl?
She needed to have one of those wide, beguiling smiles bestowed upon her. She needed to feel the usual efficiency, she knew it would provide comfort and ensure her week ran smoothly.
Professionally, she knew she had trials to endure which would no doubt come to a head as the week progressed. Personally too, her marriage was skating on thin ice, with Stephen having threatened divorce the night before. Her whole life had the potential to turn to shit. Frankly, she wasn't concerned about Stephen threats except by how it would affect her Bobbsey's and with that in mind, she had taken them aside that morning before they left for their fathers and told them that she had asked Stephen to leave. That week, she knew she would do what was needed so she didn't lose Runway.
They were called to climb aboard the jet and she saw Nigel glancing between her and the doors nervously before joining the rest of the Runway conglomerate to board the aircraft.
She turned and walked a few steps to make her way towards the plane when she heard the clattering of feet rushing towards her. Spinning on her heel, she caught sight of something that made her mouth fall open and her eyes widen in disbelief.
The words formed before she could stop them. "Andréa, what is the meaning of this?"
Rather than her usual quiet, cold tone, her voice was loud and showed her surprise at the sight of her assistant shouldering a large carry-on bag and with a small child in her arms.
Andy put the child in her arms onto her feet and taking the little girls small hand in hers, and walked towards Miranda.
The editor's loud words to her clearly showed Nigel had been unsuccessful in warning the older woman. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and steeled herself for whatever was to come.
"Andréa, I.." Miranda trailed off and bit her lip.
Andy squared her shoulders. "You deserve answers, Miranda and I will provide them in due course. Right now though, you have two options. You can fire me or allow me to bring this child with me to Paris." At the coldness in Miranda's eyes, she continued to speak. "Honestly, I couldn't give a flying f..."
Miranda held her hand up. "Do not contemplate finishing that sentence, Andréa." She warned. "Little ears." She hissed.
Andy couldn't stop the bubble of laughter that erupted, even if she had wanted to. After a moment it tapered off and she swiped at her eyes with her free hand. "She's heard worse lately." She admitted quietly. "I don't have a choice but to bring her. Where I go, she has to go. There's no one else." The quiet admission had tears pooling in her eyes. Andy looked up to catch Miranda gazing at the child and was happy to see her aiming a soft smile at the little one as her eyes roamed over the little Versace dress she wore thanks to Nigel, who had contacted various fashion houses and called in a few favours.
Miranda knelt on the carpet and Andy caught Nigel's surprised gasp. "What's your name, little one?" She asked coaxingly.
Andy was surprised when the toddler didn't hide herself against her legs, she was often wary of strangers, but Miranda used the same gentle tone she had for her children, soft and patient, with a hint of warmth.
"Gen." The little girl declared with a wide smile.
Andy only just stopped herself from laughing outright at her daughter's use of one of her nicknames. Miranda looked up at her, her eyes narrowing in displeasure. She wanted to know her daughter's full given name. "Miranda, I would like to introduce you to my daughter, Imogen Cait Sachs." She looked down at the little girl. "Immie, this is Miranda."
At that, Imogen threw herself towards Miranda, who caught her easily and swung her up into her arms as she stood gracefully. It was clear that was a move that had been accomplished before.
Miranda smirked as Andy gaped at her. "Try that with two exuberant girls." She winked. "Come along, we have a schedule to keep and I suppose we now have a nanny service to organise."
As Miranda stepped away, carrying her daughter, Andy caught her child's whispered words. "You mommy's M'anda?"
"Yes, I believe I am," Miranda stated softly.
Mm, you smell good, M'anda." Imogen told the editor, humming in delight as she buried her face in the crook of Miranda's neck.
For a brief moment, Andy felt a surge of jealousy but pushed it down. Instead, she told herself her daughter was blessed with immense luck.
Miranda settled the toddler on her hip, marvelling how right it felt to once again have a child small enough to carry in this way. If she had one regret, it was not being able to have more children. Having had her Bobbsey's so late in life, meant it had been a high-risk pregnancy and not only due to her age, but also due to the fact she was carrying multiples. Over the years she had learned to be grateful for the two healthy little monsters she had carried and nurtured, lavishing them with all the love she held in her heart.
Stepping onto the plane, she saw Nigel, Serena, Jocelyn and Paul were settling into the four single leather seats of the first living area, angling their chairs towards each other. Miranda rolled her eyes, understanding it was the area closest to the galley and the flowing alcohol. She continued to move through the plane and caught sight of two members of the editorial team settling at the four-seat conference table.
The aft of the plane had been partitioned with a bulkhead and light wood-panelled sliding door. The area included two single seats and a divan that pulled out to make a single bed. It could comfortably seat six, but Miranda always kept it to herself. Putting the little girl down in one of the cream leather chairs and taking care to fasten the belt, she offered a small warning not to unfasten it. She handed Imogen a lollypop from her pocket and sat down opposite, watching as the toddler tore at the wrapper before sucking it into her mouth.
Andréa dropped her bag and knelt to rifle through it. She brought out a worn stuffed elephant and some white and pink headphones with unicorns on the earpieces. She placed the soft toy onto the little girl's lap. She glanced at the child as the earphones were hooked up to an iPad and a movie set running. Andréa brushed a light kiss on Imogen's head before curling up in the corner of the four-seater divan and fastening the belt around her waist.
Pulling the lever at the side of the chair, Miranda angled it to face the brunette and for the first time let herself notice how tired she seemed. The question tripped off her tongue before she could stop it. "How on Earth have you managed to maintain everything over the last nine months?"
Andy was surprised by the question and looking into Miranda's eyes saw nothing but curiosity. She was happy there was no censure in her eyes. She started to speak but the roar of the engines forced her to stop. Miranda would simply have to wait for answers. As the plane taxied down the Runway, she watched as Miranda popped a hard candy into her mouth and sucked at it demurely.
The minutes passed achingly slowly and Andy used the time to gather her whirling thoughts. As soon as they were in the air she heard a crunch as Miranda's teeth pulverised the candy and it broke her focus on the past. She glanced at the older woman and saw the impatience. Sighing, Andy began to speak. "I'm sorry for being late today."
"You were right on time," Miranda smirked.
"I wasn't the usual fifteen minutes early, which makes me late, but I appreciate the sentiment." Andy closed her eyes. "Have you ever been in a situation where nothing you do is right?" Miranda hummed and Andy took it as a yes. "That's been my life for the last three years since..." She shuddered. "...since Cait passed."
Miranda unfastened her seatbelt and opening a hidden compartment holding a fridge, took out two bottles of water. She made the four steps to sit beside Andy, sitting sideways with one leg tucked under her. Her eyes were gentle. "Who's Cait?"
"Cait was Imogen's other mother." Andy swallowed hard and tried to bring moisture back to her dry throat. Miranda handed her one of the bottles and she sipped it gratefully. "We met while I was in my freshman year at Stanford where I was studying law. We fell totally and madly in love." Andy smiled softly. "She was a force of nature and so ridiculously clever. She was a professor of theoretical astrophysics."
Miranda's surprise was clear. "So she was older?"
"You could say that, yes. She was thirty-seven when we met, thirty-eight before she gave me a chance to love her after months of pursuing her." Andy bit her lip. "She fought hard against her growing feelings for me, after all, I was a student at the university, but as you've probably realised I can be a little tenacious."
Miranda snorted outa a small bark of laughter and rolled her eyes. "Quite." She murmured.
"Anyway, I was unhappy at Stanford, but I would have seen my studies out if it meant I could continue to see Cait. She understood law wasn't my passion, and she pushed me into applying at Northwestern and following my dreams. When I said goodbye, she was adamant it wasn't a forever goodbye, just a see you later. When I returned to Ohio and started preparations to move to Illinois, little did I know she would also be there, having organised to transfer to the Northwestern Physics department."
"Oh wow." Miranda breathed. She seemed captivated by the tale.
"Yeah, wow is right. She was waiting for me after my first lecture." Andy grinned at her memories. "She swept me away and we spent the afternoon in bed together." Andy saw the blush rising along Miranda's face and neck. "I don't know why I told you that." She whispered, suddenly embarrassed.
"Tell me about Imogen?" Miranda asked.
"Cait felt she was too old to carry a child, but she wanted one desperately. I wanted her to be happy and knew she would be an excellent mom, so I agreed to carry our child and organised to take a year off. We planned everything and I got pregnant on the first insemination attempt, but then three months before Imogen's birth, Cait died from anaphylaxis. She had a bad chest infection and was given some antibiotics which caused the allergic reaction and although I called an ambulance, there was a snowstorm and it didn't reach us in time. She died in my arms."
"Oh, Andréa. I am truly sorry." Miranda breathed.
"I think she would have liked you, Miranda. She always appreciated a strong woman. We made plans and she spoke of moving to New York or L.A after I finished my studies. With having the year off during my pregnancy and the early months of Immie's life, that was a little later than originally planned."
"So, if Cait was Imogen's other mother, how on earth did you end up with that boy you live with?" Miranda raised an eyebrow.
"Nate?" Andy winced. "That has ended up being one of the things I did that was in no way right."
Miranda let out a breath at Andréa's admission but decided not to interrupt with more questions. Instead, she allowed the young woman to speak, wanting to learn all she could about the younger woman.
"After Cait died, my parents finally found out about the relationship and my pregnancy and insisted I return to Cincinnati until I was ready to resume my studies. To say they were disappointed in the choices I had made was an understatement and they were particularly vicious about Cait, claiming it was her fault I'd given up my Juris Doctor. They thought I had followed her rather than the other way around. When I denied it, they asked why a successful, professional woman would give up a position teaching at an elite school for me."
Miranda continued to listen carefully as Andréa described her grief over the loss of the woman she loved as her parents continued to disparage their relationship.
"When I returned home, I found I couldn't bear to remain in my childhood home. I reconnected with a few high school friends, including Nate." Andréa frowned at the mention of his name. "We had dated for a little while I was in my junior year and he was a senior but I ended things once I realised he was a bit of a selfish asshole."
Miranda gasped causing Andréa to chuckle. Their eyes fell onto the small child who was rubbing her fists against her eyes as they stared at the iPad intently. "She is very much like you, Andréa, although fairer. She has your eyes and smile. You picked the perfect name for her. Imogen, the image of her mother." Miranda stated.
"You know the meaning?" Andréa asked, amazed.
Miranda found herself smiling. "Yes, it was a name I considered when I was pregnant with the twins."
"I fell in love with it after reading Cymbeline."
Miranda snorted. "A tragic romance with a happy ending in true Shakespearean style, The twists and turns in that play were nothing short of exhausting." She stated firmly.
"No! How can you say that about the Bard?" Andréa whispered, aghast.
She provided the young woman with a devilish smirk. "Oh, do behave, Andréa. Surely, someone as intelligent as you are can see Shakespeare was a man that preferred quantity over quality. He is vastly overrated. There are just six or seven plays out of the thirty-seven worth watching or reading, and don't get me started on his sonnets."
The fire in Andréa's eyes amused her. "You're a philistine, Miranda Priestly."
Miranda's smile widened imperceptibly as Andréa waxed poetic about Shakespeare and their conversation turned from her personal life to classic literature. The change of topic was not because she did not want to learn about the younger woman's life, but she had caught a glimpse of Nigel hovering by the door and she did not want the tale of Andréa's life bandied around the office, fodder for water-cooler gossip.
The hours passed quickly and they fell from one topic to another easily. Andy found herself enthralled by Miranda's openness as they discussed literature, music and art. Eventually falling silent, Andy glanced at her sleeping daughter, who had finally lost her battle with the sandman after having lunch. She stood and stretched, aware of Miranda's eyes surveying her as her shirt stretched over her breasts and rode up. She may have dressed Imogen beautifully for the occasion, but in a pair of skinny jeans, a shirt and ballet flats, she had dressed for comfort.
She moved out from the aft of the plane and made her way to the galley, passing Nigel and his sleeping companions. Waving their flight attendant away, she prepared two steaming cups of coffee easily and as she turned with the mugs clutched firmly in hand, stalled at the sight of the Creative Director. "Jeez, Nigel. You scared the hell out of me." Andy exclaimed.
"You and the Dragon Lady seemed friendly earlier. Everyone heard you laughing together." Nigel eyed her curiously.
"We were talking about how I chose Immie's name and the conversation turned to literature." Andy could feel herself blushing.
"If you say so, Six." Nigel wiggled his eyebrows comically and brushing past her, started fixing himself a drink. "I think she likes you." He mused. "I have known her for fifteen years and we are friends of a sort, yet she's never been that free with me."
Andy didn't know what to say and was saved from trying by Miranda's voice. "Oh, there you are, Andréa," She said coldly. "I thought for a moment you must have been trying to get the pilot to fly us to Columbia so you could harvest the beans yourself."
The cold tone hit Andy like a bucket of iced water and she shuddered. "I'm sorry, Miranda. Nigel was just querying the schedule for tomorrow. I told him it is breakfast with Lagerfeld followed by the Lanvin show." She lied easily, not wanting Nigel to face her displeasure too.
Miranda's eyes searched hers for a moment before she nodded. "Come along. I believe the child may be stirring and I believe she may react poorly if she does not see someone familiar."
Andy smiled. She knew there was nothing that could wake her daughter from her current dead sleep and she certainly wasn't one of those children that suffered from severe separation anxiety. "Of course, Miranda. Excuse me." She stepped easily down the aisle and slipped into the aft. She was stunned to find the divan had been transformed into a single bed and her daughter lay sleeping peacefully, curled around her favourite plushie with a fleece throw covering her.
Placing the coffee on the table between the two chairs, she knelt beside her daughter and buried her face down onto the cushion beside her. She found herself surrounded by Miranda's signature scent. "I'm so sorry, Immie. Believe me, I wanted better for you than the shit that will be our life for the next little while." Tears sprang into her eyes and she let them fall. "You were meant to have two mommies to love you and protect you and when that could no longer happen, I tried to find you a daddy, but now there's just me and..."
"And you are doing an admirable job." Miranda's warm hand came to rest between her shoulder blades as she spoke and Andy had been so wrapped up within the moment she had failed to sense the editor's presence.
Andy jumped and swiped at her eyes. She saw the door had been shut and was grateful. "I'm sorry…"
"No apologies, Andréa. There is no shame in wishing things had been different, although it doesn't change anything." Miranda helped her off her knees and leaned in to brush a loose strand of chestnut hair from her face in a gentle stroke. Andy closed her eyes and parted her lips slightly, waiting for what she felt was a surefire kiss that didn't come. Instead, Miranda took her elbow and led her to the chair her daughter had so recently been sleeping in. "Imogen will learn from you what it takes to be a strong and independent woman, I'm sure."
Andy watched as Miranda settled opposite, shuffling as she tried to get comfortable. They sat in silence just looking at each other for a few moments as Andy tried to calm herself and Miranda sipped her coffee. "Thank you, Miranda."
"I know how you feel right now," Miranda admitted. "It was the same for me around five years ago."
"Stephen?" Andy queried. Miranda hummed but said nothing further until she set her empty cup down. Andy noticed she looked torn. "You don't have to explain." She reassured.
"Why did you end up with the cook if he was such a selfish person in high school?" Miranda asked unexpectedly.
Andy let her thoughts filter back to the moment Nate returned to her life, like a knight in shining armour. "He seemed to be nice, it was like he'd grown up quite a bit as he finished working his way through culinary school." She told Miranda "He accepted the fact I was pregnant when others, including my own family, struggled and he supported me throughout those final months, never demanding anything from me. Then when Imogen was four months old and I was about to head back to Northwestern for my final year, he asked me to consider having a relationship with him." She sighed. "Within six months he was working in Chicago and when I finished college, we stayed for a few more months before moving to New York."
Miranda sighed. "Do you love him?"
"There were certain things I loved about him, but no. I'm not in love with him. I loved the idea of him as a father figure for my little girl." Andy felt relief at finally admitting that. "I've only been in love twice, and neither time was him. When I told him I needed to come to Paris, he said…"
"Yes?" Miranda leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table.
Andy picked up her mug of coffee and drank the rapidly cooling liquid. She couldn't tell Miranda everything, it would spoil the moment. "He said...he said he shouldn't be the one left holding my baby because she would never be his. He admitted he only put up with her because it meant he had me."
"Why do you think that was important to him?" Miranda sat back, staring at her contemplatively.
"Because I was the one that got away all those years ago," Andy spoke haltingly. "He wanted me when we were in high school so no one else could have me. He coveted me because it made him feel better about himself. He became the big man who took me away and supported me and my child, a baby that wasn't his but who was created from within an unhealthy same-sex relationship." She scoffed. "I heard him say that once to someone in his family. It was as if he believed it made him look good."
"He supported you?" Miranda queried.
"For those few months in Chicago and then in New York, before I got the job at Runway." Andy felt ashamed. "He wouldn't let me use any of the money Cait left me and Immie and I didn't want to hurt his pride. It made me feel useless though, but then, when I got this job and I settled in, I realised I didn't need him and I think he saw that too. While I've been working he's managed to convince everyone we know that I've changed for the worse. Before he left, he insisted my child will grow to hate me for never being there for her."
"He's wrong." Miranda was insistent. "You have changed, but for the better. You are more confident than before in your abilities and better still you got rid of that ginormous chip on your shoulder." She smiled across at Andy.
"That last one is purely thanks to you and that Cerulean smack-down. God, it was so well deserved." Andy grinned.
Miranda chuckled lightly. "Perhaps. As for the rest of what that boy said, Imogen will always love you. She will look up to you as her mother. I am sure she will never doubt the level of love you have for her."
"You think so?" Andy breathed.
"I know so," Miranda whispered. "From experience."
Andy watched as Miranda's eyes fell closed and she relaxed into the back of her chair. For now, the conversation was over.
Their arrival at the Hotel Plaza Athénée was proceeded by a flurry of activity that saw Miranda reeling off instructions to every one of her staff with only one exception.
The final part of the plane journey had seen her falling into a deep sleep and her dreams had taken her somewhere unexpected. She had found herself in Andréa's arms, basking in her warmth as she was teased mercilessly by that smart, beautifully full mouth.
The dreaming of Andréa was nothing new. It had been something that had been happening with growing frequency since her benefit at the Museum of Natural History. But what had thrown her, was waking with Andréa's name, tumbling breathlessly from her lips as her eyes opened and she stared across into the deep pools of chocolate that were Andréa's eyes. She had seemed so close yet the distance between then was too vast to navigate. They were different people, from different walks of life, and she was, for all intents, married. She recognised there was something between them, a commonality she found disconcerting.
To cover her tracks, she demanded coffee and watched as the brunette rushed away only to catch the eyes of the little girl who was grinning up at her. She marvelled at the uncanny likeness to her assistant. Imogen's smile was like sunshine and she found her heart clenching almost painfully upon realising that the little girl could easily wrap her around her little finger.
Moving towards her suite, as she made to open the door with two bellhops following with her luggage, she saw Andréa step towards her rooms and nodded once. "You shall have the night to settle Imogen. If I need anything, I shall text you."
"Yes, Miranda." The agreement tripped easily from Andréa's lips.
Miranda sighed and turning away, stepped into the room, allowing the bellhops to leave her luggage in the main sitting area. Waving them away, she gave them a tip before closing the door with a soft click. Pulling her clothes free, she decided she would take the time before dinner to rid herself of the ridiculous longing for her assistant. Right now, having an ice-cold shower seemed imperative.
The week passed quickly but true to her word, Miranda organised a nanny service for Imogen.
Andy hated leaving the little girl each morning, but Miranda ensured she was free to have dinner with the little one when lunch wasn't possible. In the moments she was shooed away, Jocelyn stepped in adeptly enough to cause Nigel to quip that she could easily step into a full-time position as Miranda's assistant.
Miranda had turned distant after their flight to Paris and Andy was curious as to why. She wondered if she had perhaps made Miranda uncomfortable when speaking of Cait and Nate. Maybe she had shared too much of her personal life. The distance hurt Andy but she continued to do what was needed to ensure Miranda's week ran smoothly and it was with this in mind, she left her suite with Imogen and stepped into Miranda's to drop off the following day's schedule and the seating chart for the upcoming luncheon.
Imogen's small exclamation had her looking up from where she was rooting in her bag and she saw Miranda, her eyes red-rimmed and wearing a grey robe. She pulled her hand free from her bag and scooped the child up into her arm ready to leave.
"Oh, there you are," Miranda stated cooly. She cleared her throat. "We need to go over the seating...uh...chart for the luncheon."
Andy was surprised by the rawness of Miranda's voice. "Okay. Um, yeah sure. I have it right here." She sat Imogen down on the chair with a low warning to behave and started rummaging in her bag again.
Miranda held her hand out. "By all means, move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me." She uttered scathingly, settling her hand back into her lap.
Andy finally got her hands on the seating chart and held out placatingly. They stared at one another for a moment before Miranda grabbed it and her eyes skirted away, focussing on the file in her hands.
"Okay. So..first of all, we need to move Snoop Dogg to my table." Miranda said.
"But your tables full." Andy reminded her nervously, scribbling down notes as she perched on the arm of the chair next to Imogen.
"Stephen isn't coming." Miranda husked.
"Oh, Stephen isn't..." Andy pulled out her planner and frowned. " So, I don't need to fetch Stephen from the airport tomorrow?" She asked.
"Well, if you speak to him and he decides to rethink the divorce then yes, fetch away..." Miranda whispered. "..you're very fetching so, go, fetch." The sudden silence was deafening as Miranda licked her lips. "And when we get back to New York we need to contact..." Miranda wracked her brain. "...um...Leslie to see what she can do to minimise the press on all this." She exhaled sharply. "Another divorce splashed across Page Six. I can just imagine what they're going to write about me. The Dragon Lady, career-obsessed. Snow Queen drives away another Mr Priestly. Rupert Murdoch should cut me a cheque for all the papers I sell for him."
Andy didn't know what to say as tears sparkled in Miranda's eyes. She felt Imogen squirm in her seat and placed a hand lightly on her shoulder.
"Anyway, I don't...I don't really care what anybody writes about me." Miranda's voice broke. "But my...my girls, I just...it's just so unfair to the girls. It's just...another disappointment, another letdown, another father, figure." She snorted but a single tear ran down her cheek. "Gone." Miranda sniffed. "Anyway, the point is..." She looked down at the chart again and surreptitiously swiped at the tear. "...the point is..." she took a staggered breath. "...the point is we really need to figure out where to place Donatella because she's barely speaking to anyone." Miranda looked off into space.
"I'm so sorry, Miranda," Andy spoke gently. "If you want me to cancel your evening, I can."
"Don't be ridiculous, why would we do that?" Miranda asked coldly. It was as if it was the most absurd idea ever spoken. Her blue eyes flashed dangerously.
Andy was hurt but knew Miranda would bare her claws if she felt cornered. "Um, is...is there anything else I can do?" She asked.
Miranda nodded emphatically. "Your job." She handed Andy the seating plan. "That's all."
Andy knew the score. She stood quickly and as she was shoving everything back into her bag, she caught the flash of movement. Her head snapped to the side and she watched as Imogen climbed up onto the sofa beside Miranda and wrapped her small chubby arms around the older woman.
"Don't cry, M'anda. Me an' mommy love you." Imogen stated bravely.
Andy's eyes closed when Miranda buried her face in Imogen's hair and her shoulders shook as she let her tears fall.
Miranda was astonished to find Imogen sitting in her lap and clinging to her in such a manner. When the floodgates opened, she hid her face in the child's thick hair. Feeling the sofa dip on the other side of her, she felt Andréa's warmth and turned to bury her face in the long, swan-like neck. The comfort found when Andréa wrapped them both up in her arms was a blessed relief and she was grateful for the moment.
She allowed her tears to ease before pulling away. And when Andréa held a tissue out to her, she blew her nose before taking another and wiping her stinging eyes. "Forgive me." She whispered brokenly.
"None of that." Andréa admonished gently. "I am not at all surprised that you would be hurt by this, Miranda. Enough that my mini-me noticed. I read recently that although Immie may not have the words for such feelings, she knows expressing them is normal." Her eyes held sadness. "She's starting to understand how her behaviour affects me and how my behaviour affects her."
"You want Elly?" Imogen asked softly. "Feel better."
Miranda looked down at the child uncomprehendingly until Andréa answered for her. "No, baby. Miranda doesn't want your Elly." She glanced at Miranda and mouthed, "her elephant."
Miranda bent and brushed her lips against the head resting against her breast. "Thank you, darling. No, I do not need your Elly." She smiled softly, noticing for the first time what the little girl was wearing. "Now, that is a pretty dress."
"It purpa." Imogen grinned.
"Purple," Miranda said the word slowly but with gentleness.
"puh-pl," Imogen said trying to copy Miranda's slight accent.
Miranda chuckled and looking towards her assistant, saw her gentle smile. "She's smart."
"Yes, sometimes too smart," Andréa responded. "Give her another year or two and she'll be running rings around me."
"I do not doubt that." Miranda secretly hoped she would get to see it. Since hearing about Andréas past with Cait, she hed felt equal moments of fleeting hope and despair.
She stood and moving towards the window, took her cell up and connected to it. "Nigel, I need you to cover for me this evening at the Dior party. Send my apologies...Yes, a change of plans. I shall be having a tea-party with Ms Imogen Sachs to and then, depending on the time, we shall play dress-up. That's all." She turned and bestowed the two younger women a small smile. "Will you do me the honour of joining me this evening?"
Andréa glanced at Imogen and saw the excitement lighting up her eyes and Miranda knew it would be a struggle for the brunette to deny the child.
"How about it, Immie? Would you like to spend the evening with Miranda?" Andréa asked.
"A party?" Imogen asked, clapping her hands. "Like mommy, Gen and Elly?"
"Yes, baby," Andréa said, her eyes twinkling with merriment. "Exactly like the ones you have with mommy and Elly."
Imogen's eyes widened. "But no Cas and Car."
"Not this time, Immie. But when we go home, we'll have another tea party with Cassi and Caro." Andréa bit her lip, glancing at the editor nervously.
Miranda was stunned, but pleased. She had known her daughters had been impressed by Andréa after receiving an A for their last science project but hadn't realised their relationship had deepened further. It was so typical of Andréa to have somehow, unknowingly, wound herself around the hearts of the three Priestly's. "If you give me a few moments I shall prepare. Would you call the driver?" Miranda asked.
"Oh, of course, Miranda." Andréa stuttered, clearly stunned by the turn of events. "Um, where are we going?"
Miranda smiled. "Ladurée"
They had all enjoyed their casual tea party at the Ladurée tearoom on the Champs Elysées and Andy had found herself indulging in pistachio pain au chocolat and delicate macarons with her tea while Imogen enjoyed Hot Chocolate and French-style lollipops. It was a unique experience to be sat in 19th century-style elegance but what made it perfect was Miranda's presence.
She hadn't lied when she'd told Miranda she'd been in love twice. What she had held off from saying was that it was the editor herself who had taken a place in her heart. It had been a gradual realisation, but it wasn't something she couldn't deny. Even Nate had realised. He'd thrown the fact she always dropped everything for Miranda and her daughters into her face on multiple occasions and his final words to her, that the person whose calls she took was the relationship she was in, made her sit back and consider everything.
What had hurt the most about the ending of her relationship with Nate was his claim the week before she did not care for her daughter the same way as she did the Priestly's. It was true she cared for them, but Imogen would always come first.
Miranda had spent the evening with them seemingly amused by Imogen's independent streak which showed when she insisted she could feed herself and then wash her face and hands but
Andy had been a little embarrassed by the mess surrounding her daughter after eating her pain au chocolat but knew letting her do things for herself would allow her to build confidence. She already insisted on helping with the household chores, taking pride in being a good helper and Andy heaped praise on her easily.
Miranda treated her child with the utmost patience, only occasionally reminding her to use her manners. She talked to the toddler throughout the journey back to the hotel about her work and all the wonderful fabrics and colours she had seen that week and now, as she watched the editor helping her daughter with some finger painting, she felt even more fuzzy-hearted. Miranda gave meaning to Imogen's incessant babbling by listening and talking back to her, reassuring Imogen that she was listening.
When Imogen began yawning and rubbing her eyes, Andy started to run a bath and prodded Imogen into the bathroom. She knew her two and a half-year-old was overtired after a busy day and evening and she knew the best place for her would be her bed. She started removing shoes and socks.
"Me do it!" Imogen insisted.
Andy watched as she struggled with her dress, trying to pull it over her head without unfastening it until it got stuck. Deciding it was better to try to stave off the oncoming tantrum as her stubborn daughter's frustration mounted to epic heights, Andy attempted to coax her into allowing her to help. "Let me help."
"No, me do it!" Imogen hollered.
Shaking her head, Andy caught her daughter in her arms and freed her from the confines of the dress only for Imogen to pull away and streak through the sitting room in nothing but her pull-up pants.
Miranda's laughter was loud and uncensored as Andy stood leaning against the door of the bathroom, her arms folded against her chest. "Imogen Cait. Come here and take your bath." Andy stated.
"No. Shan't" Imogen declared haughtily.
Miranda continued to laugh at the uncanny impression of her first assistant. Andy pushed herself away from the door frame and glanced around the editor where Imogen was wrapped around her knees giggling. Whispering a brief apology, she manhandled Miranda by gripping her hips and spinning her around. She grasped the almost naked toddler, slinging the child over one shoulder and striding into the bathroom. Within twenty minutes Imogen was in bed with her elephant and fast asleep.
Andy made her way back into the sitting room and saw Miranda hovering nervously. She gazed at the editor and watched as she had some internal battle before making her excuses and leaving.
Alone, she sat on the sofa and the sudden loneliness was almost overwhelming. Picking up her diary, her eyes scanned through the list of things she had to do and frowned down at one specific entry. Flipping back through the pages, she felt sudden panic and closed slammed the book shut quickly.
Miranda stepped fitfully knowing the following day would bring everything she had been planning to fruition. She would have to do something that would dash the hopes of her dearest colleague and sometime friend. She contemplated taking Nigel to one side and explaining but looking at the clock, pushed the idea to one side. He would understand, she was sure of it.
Readying for the day, Miranda moved sluggishly and considered all that had happened the evening before. She had allowed Andréa to see the real her and had been so close to baring her heart to the younger woman, but once Imogen was sleeping, her fear that her vulnerability would be used against her had gotten the better of her and she had fled to her rooms.
As she passed the suite of rooms next to her own, she caught the sound of a child's laughter and her lips twitched. Imogen was such a beautiful child.
Moving her way into the foyer, she spoke to the concierge and collected her messages. There was one from Stephen demanding she sign the divorce papers immediately. Frowning, she made her way across the lobby and caught sight of Andréa on her knees, scrabbling to put varying items back into her purse. Miranda's frown deepened as she took in the scene with Andréa on her knees, dressed in the previous night's clothes, with that rat, Christian Thompson, leering down upon her. She had no idea what the slimy bastard was saying but the look on Andréa's face was a mixture of pure embarrassment and a little hatred.
Deciding, to stay out of whatever was happening, Miranda moved stealthily back towards the elevator bank and entering the elegant wood-panelled space, she pressed the button for the presidential suite.
It was time to deal with Irving and if everything worked out as she planned the CEO would be stepping down instead of her.
Andy had barely slept, and rather than lying down only to stare at the ceiling, she paced the sitting room of her suite, occasionally running her fingers through her bangs as she contemplated what she would do next.
What she understood was that remaining at Runway was an impossibility.
As soon as the clock struck 6 am, she called down to the desk, requesting for them to send up one of their nanny' and within fifteen minutes she was rushing out of the hotel.
When she re-entered the hotel lobby thirty minutes later, she was in such a rush to get back to her room that she failed to notice she was heading straight towards Christian Thompson and when they collided the contents of her purse went scattered across the marble floor haphazardly. Andy felt like crying and falling to her knees, she scrambled around for the loose coins and makeup and her diary. Letting her eyes scan the floor for forgotten objects, her eyes settled on the white paper bag containing the pregnancy kit she'd just purchased. Pulling it towards her, she caught Christians low laughter and glared up at him. Andy reached for a folder that lay between them and gasped when she saw the mockup of Runway. "What the hell is this?" She demanded.
"What does it look like?" Christian smirked. "It's a mockup."
"Of?" Andy asked, feeling dread creeping through her.
"Of what American Runway will look like once Jacqueline Follet is the new editor-in-chief." Christian gloated. "She's bringing me in to run all the editorial content." He grinned. "Are you really surprised? Jacqueline's a lot younger than Miranda, she has a fresher take on things."
"I have to go." Andy stuttered, standing quickly.
"Andy, it's done." Christian gripped her arm as she tried to brush past him. "Baby, it's done."
Andy was furious and pulled herself free. "I'm not your baby." She hissed.
Christian gripped her arm once more and leaned closer and she gagged at the smell of stale alcohol wafting from him. "Do you know why I haven't tried to fuck you, Andy?" He murmured so no one could overhear his words. "It would have been far too easy and I enjoy a challenge. And frankly, I'm not one to play daddy to someone else's brat."
Andy inhaled sharply and shook herself free. "I wouldn't have touched you if you were the last man on Earth, Christian." She spat. "I played nice to get that manuscript from you, but other than that you were and will continue to be beneath my notice. You're vastly overrated as a writer and a shit human and there are far more talented people in the world than you."
Leaving the man gaping after her, she rushed to the elevators and stabbed at the button for the penthouse.
She needed to warn Miranda before she lost everything.
Miranda was euphoric, having won the battle against Irving. It hadn't taken her long to get the board onside, especially after providing them with her list and Irv had made enemies by trying to oust her from her position. She understood both Andréa and Nigel had been hurt that day, for different reasons and she swore she would make it up to them, starting with Andréa.
Turning her face towards the scenery, she spoke softly. "You thought I didn't know?" She asked. Andréa looked at her and shrugged before nodding. "I've known what was happening for quite some time. It just took me a little time to find a suitable alternative for Jacqueline, and that James Holt job was just so absurdly overpaid, that, of course, she jumped at it." Miranda let herself chuckle. "So I just had to tell Irv that Jacqueline was unavailable. Truth is, there is no one who can do what I do, including her. Any of the other choices would find the job impossible and the magazine would have suffered." She inhaled. "Especially because of the list." Miranda saw Andréas confusion and explained with a soft smile. "The list of designers, photographers, editors, writers, model, all of whom were found by me, nurtured by me and have promised me they will follow me, whenever or if ever I choose to leave Runway." She chuckled darkly. "So he reconsidered." She could see Andréa considering all she was saying and couldn't help but show her appreciation. "But I was very, very impressed though, with how intently you tried to warn me." She allowed her eyes to rove over Andréa appreciatively. "I never thought I would say this, Andréa, but I really..." She paused, searching for the words. "I see a great deal of myself in you. You can see beyond what people want and what they need and you can choose for yourself."
Andréa looked at her, her shock clear in her expressive eyes. "I don't think I'm like that. I...I couldn't do what you did to Nigel Miranda, I couldn't do something like that." She stated.
"Mm, you already did..." Miranda found herself reminding her. "...to Emily." She whispered.
"That's not what I..." Andréa stammered. "No...no..that was...that was different. I didn't have a choice." She whispered brokenly.
"Oh no, you chose." Miranda interrupted. "You chose to get ahead. You want this life, those choices are necessary." Miranda told her.
"But what if this isn't what I want? I...I mean, what if I don't want to live the way you live?" Andréa pleaded.
Miranda rolled her eyes and scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous Andréa, everybody wants this." Miranda let her voice gain some warmth and smiled. "Everyone wants to be us."
The car came to a halt and Miranda placed her sunglasses on her face. As she slid from the car, she heard the chiming of Andréa's cell. Taking three steps, she hit the stairs of the Petit Palais and the roar of the press was almost deafening. Unable to feel Andréa's warmth, she turned her head and saw her assistant glancing worriedly down at her phone. Gesturing for the young woman to follow she watched as Andréa shook her head and mouthed "sorry" before rushing away in the opposite direction.
She couldn't quite believe it. Hadn't she just given the young woman the greatest compliment?
Andy's two-year-old daughter was sobbing and cowering in pain when she rushed into the American Hospital of Paris and she fell onto her knees in front of her and pulled her into her arms, cradling her against her chest gently. She glared at the young woman who had been looking after Imogen that morning and growled at her. "What the hell happened?" The woman rattled off in French quickly and Andy ground her teeth trying to decipher the words. "In English." She barked.
Tears sprang into the nanny's eyes. "I swear. I only took my eyes off her for a moment."
Andy tried to get her swirling panic under control. "Get out." She hissed and watched as the young woman ran from the E.R sobbing, no doubt worrying for her future. They all knew who Andy worked for, and La Grande Dame was not one to be trifled with.
Miranda had tried to call her multiple times in between leaving her at the steps of the Petite Palais and reaching the hospital, and needing time to process all that happened that day, with Miranda's cool aloofness followed by her warmth confusing her, plus Imogen's accident and a possible pregnancy, had seen her switching her cell off and tossing it into her purse. The last thing she felt like doing was explaining to the mercurial older woman.
Andy stood when Imogen's name was called and carried her baby towards the waiting doctor. "Hi, I'm Doctor Phillipe Olivier, head of Pediatrics. The manager of the Hotel Plaza Athénée called ahead."
He led them to a cubical and pointed to the gurney and when Andy sat her down, she saw how Imogen was clutching her arm and she saw her wrist was swollen and turning a dark purple. Her sobbing hiccups were dying off and her eyes pleaded with Andy to fix her. The doctor turned and holding a small cup of clear liquid. "Drink this, ma petite." He urged. "It will help." He glanced at Andy. "It's only Doliprane. Similar to your American Tylenol. I would suggest ibuprofène though. You ask the pharmacy for it."
Andy watched as Imogen grimaced but swallowed the pain medicine. She wished she could take her little girls pain away. It was the first time that her baby had been seriously hurt and she hadn't been there. She'd been too busy trying to warn Miranda of the plot against her. The guilt was overwhelming and she prayed fervently that she did not have a broken bone that would make flying home the following day an impossibility.
She had watched Imogen's growing realisation of her body raptly, from her playing with her fingers and toes, until she realised they belonged to her. She had taken advantage of the miraculous tear-stopping powers of band-aids for the small scrapes, stubbed toes and even hangnails, but the injury now was not something a band-aid could fix.
The doctor eyed Andy warily. "Your daughter will need an x-ray, Madamoiselle Sachs." His softly accented English was soothing. "We would prefer you to be there to keep Imogen calm, however..."
"No, I can't," Andy whispered. "There is a possibility I'm pregnant."
"Okay. You realise, even if her arm or wrist is broken, it is a common injury, a third of little girls will have at least one fracture during childhood," he said with a reassuring smile. "Now, we shall take good care of your little one. I promise."
The doctor picked up Imogen and whispered in her ear, making her giggle as they exited the room and Andy felt relieved. Rummaging in her purse, she pulled out the pregnancy test and moved to the bathroom. The sooner she knew what her future held beyond today, the better.
Miranda was talking to Donatella and Valentino when her cell chimed. Her companions smiled indulgently as she excused herself and pulling her cell from her clutch. She frowned down at the screen and jabbed it to answer. "Irving?"
The voice in her ear was low and she stepped away to listen intently to the words. "I don't like you, and I know you have little time for me but you need to know that your Andy didn't abandon you today. She spent the afternoon at the hospital with her child and returned to the hotel about an hour ago."
"The hospital?" Miranda whispered aghast.
"The little girl had a fall and broke her wrist. I did some investigating upon being advised of the accident and found their insurance didn't cover the medical expenses. I spoke to the hotel management and they are covering the hospital bill after being threatened with a lawsuit. After-all this happened on their watch. I mean, seriously, what kind of nanny service leaves a small toddler alone, for even a moment?" Irving's voice was incredulous.
Miranda was surprised Irving had gone in to bat for Andréa. "You said she returned to the hotel?"
"Yes, they're currently in the Grande Salon. Your Andy is keeping the guest and the kid entertained with the piano. Such a talented young woman and smart too." Irving mused. "So, what are you waiting for?" He demanded.
"I have no idea what you are suggesting," Miranda stated coldly. "As you know, I have events to attend."
"You know she won't wait for you forever, Miranda. Your indecisiveness will push her away and you will lose her." Irving told her. "If you are worried about that soon-to-be-ex-husband of yours, don't be. Frankly, I have it on good authority that he keeps a mistress over in Greenwich Village."
Miranda made a mental note to have her P.I investigate. "Goodbye, Irving." She disconnected the call and thrust her cell back in her clutch and turned back to her companions, plastering a forced smile onto her face. Donatella tilted her head and gazed at her while Valentino frowned. "What?" She asked, feeling exasperated.
"You should go," Donatella stated as Valentino nodded his agreement.
"'Tella is correct, Miranda." Valentino smiles sadly. "You've missed your Emily this afternoon, no?"
The emphasis on Emily had Miranda rolling her eyes and remembering how she had introduced Andréa to her friend. She doubted the younger woman was aware just how reverently her name was spoken in the fashion world by designers and assistants alike. "Not you too, Valentino?" She asked. Valentino simply shrugged and nodded. She looked around and caught Serena's eye and gestured her over. As the Brazillian stepped beside her, she turned her head. "Where's Nigel?" She demanded.
"He returned to the hotel thirty minutes ago." Serena wouldn't meet her gaze and she understood the news that had broken at the luncheon had sent shockwaves through her staff.
"Fine." She breathed. Turning to Jocelyn, she was stunned to see the woman look away pointedly. "Call my driver."
"Yes, Miranda." Joelyn agreed, stepping away to make the call. Retuning to hover two steps behind her, Miranda waited. "He'll be here in five minutes."
Miranda bid her friends goodbye before turning to Serena and Jocelyn. "Are you coming with, or not?" She asked imperiously.
Andy was enjoying having an opportunity to play the baby grand piano and was oblivious to the chatter of those who had followed the music and stood in the Grande Salon listening as they enjoyed cocktails before dinner as she played song after song, sometimes singing softly to the little girl sat cuddled on her lap, soothed by the melodies.
As Andy finished one song, to blend into Sara Bareilles She Used To Be Mine the room became deathly quiet and she looked up into the turbulent blue eyes of her boss. She couldn't work out what emotions she could see in depths of the editor's eyes and at a loss, she tore her eyes away to for glance at the ivory keys under her fingertips.
"Sing, mommy," Imogen whispered.
Andy bent and brushed a kiss on Imogen's head and continued to play, humming along, hoping it would be enough.
"Me want you to sing," Imogen asserted, wriggling around on her lap.
Andy could hear the pout in her daughter's voice and knew the only way to stave off tears would be to comply. Sighing she started to sing softly.
"It's not what I asked for
Sometimes life just slips in through a back door
And carves out a person and makes you believe it's all true
And now I've got you."
The song seemed to fit with her life, and tears welled in her eyes as she continued to sing.
"Who'll be reckless, just enough
Who'll get hurt, but who learns how to toughen up
When she's bruised and gets used by a man who can't love
And then she'll get stuck
And be scared of the life that's inside her
Growing stronger each day 'til it finally reminds her
To fight just a little, to bring back the fire in her eyes
That's been gone, but used to be mine
Used to be mine."
She stopped singing but finished playing the song with her tears suddenly free-flowing and blurring the piano keys. The song had hit home, she no longer recognised herself and doubted if she could find the old her, even if she tried. There were so many things that she would change if only she could. Miranda was right though, she chose for herself, and now, with her personal life in ruins, she had no idea what to do.
People moving away from the Grande Salon, had Andy finally turning Imogen around to face her and standing. She used her free hand to swipe at her tears. Making to move from the room, she stalled as she came abreast Miranda. Looking down, she mumbled an apology and felt Imogen being taken out of her arms.
"Come, Andréa. I believe its time we talked and I do not believe this is a suitable place for honest discourse." Miranda's voice was gentle.
Andy sniffed and smiled tremulously. "Yes, Miranda."
By the time they arrived at her suite of rooms, Imogen was sleeping peacefully in her arms and Miranda kicked her pumps free before stepping into the bedroom and placing the child down on her bed. She pulled the toddler's shoes and socks off before checking around the openings of the bright purple cast for signs it was too tight.
In the car, as they navigated the busy Parisian traffic, she had placed a call to her family physician who told her to call a doctor if there was any sign of increased pain or if the fingers started to discolour or turned cold, or if Imogen couldn't move them. She had also been warned that they should not fly for more than 2 hours within the first 24 and 48 hours of the breaking a bone. Miranda was willing to do what was needed and had organised for Cara to fetch the twins. She had spoken to the board and had been granted a two-week leave of absence and had sent messages to Emily to have the house in London prepared for them all.
Moving to her bedside table, she scrawled her signature on the divorce papers. She then placed them into an envelope along with a letter advising her legal team of her wish for her marriage to be dissolved as quickly as possible. She outlined Stephen's infidelity, which meant that he had broken multiple clauses in their prenuptial agreement and expected him to leave their marriage with what he brought to it. She hoped Stephen would be grateful that she was willing to leave his fortune intact rather than taking him to the cleaners. But if he decided to argue, she had enough evidence, thanks to her Private Investigator, to prove her point and she wouldn't be scared to use it in her favour should the need arise.
Glancing at the sleeping child once more, Miranda saw she had settled on her back, her arm in its cast outstretched. She was tempted to crawl into bed beside her, instead, she had to deal with whatever was going on with Andréa. She would need to proceed carefully, the last thing she wanted to do was to offend the woman.
Taking some deep breaths, Miranda gave herself a few moments to gather her thoughts before turning back towards the sitting room where the night before she had bared her soul to the woman waiting for her. Entering the room, she saw Andréa was curled up on the chair. Moving towards the small mini bar she poured two fingers of scotch into a glass and knocked it back. "Would you like scotch, Andréa?" She asked, keeping her back to the woman.
"No, thank you. I...I can't." Andréa stuttered and her voice broke.
Miranda spun on her heel and stalked forward. Reaching Anréa, she crouched down. "Why can't you have a drink with me? Am I so despicable to you now, after..." She trailed off. "...after what I did today?"
Andréas head lifted and her eyes blazed. "No, Miranda." Her voice was firm."Never that. I...I...just...I can't say it. If I do, it will make it real."
Miranda was concerned. Andréa always seemed so fearless but right now she seemed petrified. Her eyes held hopelessness and anxiety that hadn't been there the day before. She thought back to that afternoon without the beautiful woman. Sure, she had missed Andréa's calming presence but it was more than that, she was terrified that she had somehow ruined things with the woman.
Miranda knew what she wanted now. She wanted Andréa and that little girl sprawled on her bed. She wanted to know them intimately, to have them both in her life, always.
"When I got the text from the hotel earlier, I panicked. I had to leave you and didn't have time to explain. I needed to be there for my baby." Andréa said. "She was my only thought. So I switched my cell off, knowing if I answered you, I would break down." She sniffed back her tears. "I couldn't do that. I realise how much you hate to be on the receiving end of what you see as unnecessary displays of emotion..."
"What in Earth?" Miranda was stunned.
"...I was so close to breaking yet another rule." Andréa continued as if she hadn't heard her disbelief. "I embraced you last night, I questioned you, I ignored your dismissal. I couldn't let myself cry in front of you too. I've never let you see me cry..." She choked back a sob. "...until today."
"Andréa, do you think I am so heartless? I have children of my own for God's sake." Miranda was stunned. Did Andréa honestly believe she was such a monster as to ignore a mother's pain over her child being hurt? She understood how guilty Andréa would be feeling. She had entrusted her baby to strangers and the child had been hurt. She had felt the same multiple times over the last ten years, especially before Cara had come along. It was hard being a mother and having little ones reliant on you for everything. "Darling, look at me," Miranda demanded, the endearment slipping from her lips easily.
When Andréa looked at her, she saw her wretchedness and let her knees fall to the floor before stretching up and wrapping her arms around the younger woman. Pulling her close to offer the same comfort she had received the evening before, she felt the hand between them and saw the other woman was clutching her stomach. The words of the song she'd heard her singing as she stepped into the Grande Salon filtered through her mind and realisation hit her full force. Pulling Andréa's hand free, she replaced it with her own and caressed the soft swell of the woman's stomach. She removed her hand and pressed closer, trying to find the words to make everything better. But for once, she couldn't think of one thing to say.
"What am I going to do, Miranda?" Andréa pulled back and pulling a tissue out, wiped her eyes, smudging her eyeliner and mascara further.
Miranda decided she had never looked more beautiful. Shifting uncomfortably, she finally spoke. "Have you told the cook?"
Andréa nodded. "I called him and explained things. He told me he didn't want anything to do with it or me. He's already left for Boston." She exhaled. "I'm alone and I'm scared."
Miranda growled and standing up, started to pace, muttering under her breath how he would be lucky to flip burgers when she was done with him. "You do not have to do this alone." Miranda decided. "I would be there for the three of you, given the chance." She was shocked that she had blundered into Andréa's life in such a manner. So much for her decision to tread lightly. "I...well, I..." She stuttered momentarily, before squaring her shoulders. "You're fired."
Andy's anger got the better of her and she glared at the editor. "What?" She saw Miranda about to speak and held her hand up. "You know what, you can't fire me, I fucking quit."
"Andréa..." Miranda pleaded.
"You tell me you want to be there for me and my children and then fire me. That's some fucked up shit." Andy hissed.
"Andréa..." Miranda tried again.
"I thought I'd see out my year and then I could move on and we could be friends or something. How stupid am I?" Andy continued to rant.
She saw Miranda bristle and her eyes narrowed. "Andréa, are you quite finished?" Her voice was deadly.
Andy ground her teeth to stop any more words spewing forth. There was no way she was saying another word. The other woman was unbelievable. After everything she'd done, every impossible task completed, everything she had given up for the woman, only to be told she was being let go.
As if sensing she was going to get nothing further from her, Miranda spoke, her voice softening. "If you quit, you cannot get assistance for three months and you may be forced into going back to Ohio."
"You would blacklist me too?" Andy's mind jumped to the only reason she would consider going back to her parents.
"No, I...no, Andréa do not be stupid. You are the best assistant I have ever had. But surely you can see how difficult it would be for you to get another position while pregnant?" Miranda sighed and ran her hand through her hair in frustration. "You would not be entitled to paid maternity leave and possibly wouldn't have the insurance to cover the costs involved."
"I have money, Miranda." Andy seethed.
"Enough for the three of you to live comfortably for a time?" Miranda asked gently.
Andy thought about her finances and knew, other than the money set aside for Imogen's education, she had enough to be comfortable for six months maximum and it certainly wouldn't cover what was needed for a newborn baby.
As if sensing it, Miranda spoke. "Why can't you see why this is for the best? You cannot be my assistant while I want so much more. More than friendship even" She admitted.
Andy gaped. She knew it wouldn't be an attractive look, but what else could she do? Her brain had simply fried at the gentle contact.
Miranda chuckled and moved closer to press her fingers against Andy's chin, closing her mouth and she cast her eyes down and caught Miranda's blazing baby blues. "I see you have found the fire in your eyes as your song proclaimed you would. I'm glad." Miranda breathed. "I have seen glimpses of your inner fire at times but usually, your eyes are tender...doe-like..." The words were uttered almost shyly like she was embarrassed by them. "I think it was your eyes that I fell in love...hmm..."
The words were cut off by Andy's lips. She'd not been able to stop herself from diving into those lips that had been calling out to her for the last nine months and seventeen days.
The kiss started a little uncertain, their lips meeting and parting slightly before Andy pulled away. Miranda stepped closer and when their lips met once again, Andy pressed against her, parting her lips and slipping her tongue inside. Miranda was scorchingly hot, drawing her in and welcoming her with a low moan as she trembled against her, her hands rising to tangle into her hair and pull her forward as she stepped back until she hit the sofa and her knees buckled and she fell back with Andy following.
Miranda immediately broke the kiss and took in a long, shuddering breath of air, "Fuck, where did you learn to kiss like that?"
Andy was surprised by the cussing, but looking down at Miranda, swollen lipped, flushed and breathing heavily, she couldn't help but be a little proud. "Instinct." Her tongue darted out and quickly licked Miranda's earlobe before nipping it.
Miranda pulled Andy in tightly for another kiss and it was all she could do to not to come undone, just from that. Miranda was so sexy and intriguing, all she could do was let the feelings the editor coaxed out of her wash over her. She could hear the little muffled noises between their kisses. It was like Miranda couldn't decide if she wanted to moan or continue to kiss her.
Eventually, they broke for air and Andy nuzzled in close, her forehead touching Miranda's. With their eyes barely inches apart, Miranda spoke breathlessly. "I could drown in your eyes." She leaned up and the kiss Andy received was the most tender she had ever experienced, soft and affectionate, and hinting at the more Miranda claimed she wanted.
Andy caught the sound of Imogen moving in the bedroom and pulled away reluctantly to move to the corner of the sofa, inhaling to get her wildly hammering heart back under control.
Miranda exhaled and sat up just in time as Imogen stood in the door rubbing her eyes with her fist. "Mommy, me sore."
As Andréa sprang into action, grabbing her purse and pulling out the box of AdvilMed. She saw Imogen grimace and gestured her over to sit beside her and still rubbing her eyes, the toddler moved slowly before holding out her arms for Miranda to pick her up. Miranda leaned forward and taking the little girl under her arms, lifted her easily onto her lap. Imogen snuggled in but whimpered. "Ssh," Miranda comforted. "Your mommy will have your medicine soon."
They both watched as Andréa fulled the syringe that came with the medicine to 5ml and grabbing one of the bottles of water the fridge in her room always held, stepped towards them. She knelt in front of them and Miranda noticed how her lipstick had smudged. Andréa was a beautiful mess.
"Baby, you won't like the strawberry flavour but look, I have one of Miranda's posh bottles of water to wash it down." Andréa's eyes crinkled in amusement as Miranda rolled her eyes.
"Me wants grape." Imogen's chin wobbled.
"I know baby, but this is all we could get here. I have your grape Tylenol, but it won't take away the soreness as well as this strawberry one, and mommy and Miranda don't want you to hurt any more." Andréa glanced up at Miranda. her eyes begging for help.
"Your mommy is correct. We do not want you to hurt. But, I shall make you a promise, if you take your medicine, I shall get you a present." Miranda smiled as the little girl's eyes widened. "Anything you want."
"Promise?" Imogen asked plaintively.
"Of course. I always keep my word." Miranda smiled down at the toddler on her lap.
Andréa groaned and her eyes closed. "Oh boy. Now you've done it." She mumbled.
"An alien kitty." Imogen squealed as she slid from her lap and stood in front of Andréa, her mouth open as she waited for the medicine.
"An alien kitty?" Miranda asked as Andréa plunged the syringe into Imogen's mouth, rubbing her back as she gagged a little. She opened the water and handed it to the little girl. "Explain?" She demanded as Imogen swallowed the water and stood there between her and Andréa, making ack noises with her tongue hanging out.
"I believe you may have just promised my daughter a hairless kitten," Andréa stated, shaking her head.
"A Sphynx?" Miranda was amused. "Well, it seems your daughter has expensive tastes, Andréa."
"If you insist on keeping your promise, go to a shelter rather than a breeder." Andréa urged. "Please, Miranda."
"I will keep my word. And I will consider your request for a rescue kitten, however, should the need arise, I will find a reputable breeder, darling." Miranda stated. "How do you think I ended up with Patricia?" Her smile was wide at the remembrance of her panic in the face of Bobbsey's refusal to have their 2nd round of booster shots for measles, mumps, and rubella a few years before. "Now, how about some dinner? Why don't we all choose something from room service?"
Andréa looked up from her position on the floor. "Um, maybe I should..." She waved her hand airily in the direction of the dor. "It's Imogen's bedtime soon and I have to try and bath her."
Miranda felt uneasy about Andréa disappearing so quickly. What if she had second thoughts? "I assume you have to keep the cast clean and dry?" She stated. Andréa nodded. "You know there are special casts that can be worn in the shower or even the ocean. Why didn't you get one of those?" Miranda frowned.
"It seemed like an unnecessary cost. I didn't know at that time the hotel was covering Imogen's medical expenses." Andréa admitted, turning away as her face flushed with embarrassment.
"I'm sure we can find a plastic bag that can go over her cast." Miranda stood and picking Imogen up sat her on the sofa and handed her the tv remote. "But my ensuite is larger than yours, so I believe it may be best for her to bathe here."
"Miranda, I...I..." Andréa stuttered.
"No, no. That wasn't a question." Miranda smiled and held out her hand and when it was grasped warmly, she pulled Andréa to her feet. "Stay." She pleaded. "Both of you, stay close to me tonight."
Andréa's warm hand cupped her face and she leaned in to place a chaste kiss on Miranda's lips that had Imogen giggling. "Will you sit with Imogen while I get our pyjama's?"
"I'll order us some food. What would you like?" Miranda replied happily.
"Surprise me," Andréa winked cheekily. "I'll be right back."
Searching through their luggage for clean pyjamas, Andy's focus was taken from the pile of clothes by a knock at the door.
Standing, she took the few steps to the door and opened it to find Nigel. He brushed passed her. Andy glanced down at her watch as Nigel swayed on the spot and she realised he was drunk.
"She fucked me over," Nigel muttered darkly. "I thought you had taken a stand on my behalf and left, yet here you are."
"I had to leave Miranda today. Imogen had a fall and broke her wrist." Andy coaxed him into the sofa. "And Miranda did what she needed to, to ensure her position remained intact." Andy sat on the coffee table opposite. "Imagine Runway under Jacqueline Follett, with Christian Thompson running the editorial content and people other than you, Jocelyn, Lucia, Serena and Paul running the art department?"
"Chaos." Nigel grinned. "Incompetence. Destruction."
"Exactly. Do you think any of our jobs would be safe under Jacqueline?" Andy asked. "We are all too loyal to Miranda to be of use to her. Emily would have to return to England, Serena may have to take up modelling again. Paul, Lucia and Jocelyn may have to go and work for Vogue, Elle or Allure. The greatness that is Runway now would disappear into the aether."
Nigel stiffened. "But what about me?" He demanded selfishly.
"You are one person, and I don't have a single doubt that Miranda has a plan for you," Andy said. "You said yourself, she would repay you." She reminded him.
Nigel seemed to shake himself. "Immie was hurt?" He queried as if just processing her words.
"A broken wrist," Andy repeated. "It means we can't fly tomorrow, which I suppose I'll have to raise with Miranda." She smiled at the thought soft all she could now to soothe the editor's ruffled feathers. "She has a bright purple cast on. She chose it herself." Her smile widened. "And I thought I could organise some autographs on it."
"Good luck with getting the Dragon Lady to play nice, she never autographs anything," Nigel muttered bitterly.
Andy ignored the jibe. "You realise I'll be leaving Runway?" She asked.
"What?" Nigel was flabbergasted. "You quit?"
"I tried, but Miranda fired me instead." Andy grinned ruefully.
"No?" Nigel whimpered. "Miranda will be virtually impossible to handle without you." He sighed. "There was a reason she brought you here over Emily. Don't think we can't see she's soothed by your presence." He looked at her, his eyes wide. "Did you know she warned me about discussing what I may have heard on the flight?"
"What? You were there?" Andy was shocked. Nigel was the biggest gossip and now it was only a matter of time before the whole world knew about her past. "For how long?"
"I didn't mean to eavesdrop. I came to see if you wanted to play cards with us." Nigel held his hands up, backtracking quickly. "And the door was open." He tried to explain. "All I heard was you telling her how you dated Nate in highschool bit finished things when it became obvious he was a bit of an ass. I swear."
Andy felt the relief wash over her. She remembered that being the moment Miranda had changed the subject.
"Andréa, what is taking...oh..." Miranda entered the room and caught sight of them. "... Nigel." She nodded at the man. "Imogen is being rather cantankerous, Andréa. I believe she may want her dinner, pyjamas and bed, in that order."
Nigel looked between the two women, his brow scrunched in confusion. "I'll just..." He stood and swayed a little. "...whoa, head rush." He chuckled. "I was just checking to see if our six was still alive."
"Nige..." Andy's tone held a warning.
"Nigel. I believe you should return to your rooms and sleep whatever you have imbibed off." Miranda eyed him coldly. "We have things to discuss in the morning, and I need you sober to hear them."
Nigel looked away, cowed by the expression in Miranda's eyes. "Of course, Miranda." He stumbled a little as he rushed away, knocking into a side table and upending a vase in his haste.
Andy sighed and spoke softly. "He's hurting."
"I know, but not for long. Better things are coming his way if he can prove himself." Miranda told her. "Better than anything James Holt could have provided."
"Oh good." Andy found herself pleased and just hoped he was up for whatever was next. "I'll just grab those pyjamas. I swear I had my hands on them before Nigel barged in here."
"Acceptable." Miranda sashayed away, stopping to pick up the vase before sweeping from the room.
Miranda woke up to a soft voice and a baby's giggling and looking beside her, marvelled at the sight of Imogen cuddled up with her mother, her head resting on Andréa as the younger woman sat hunched over her arm with the cast drawing intently with one of her black fine-tip markers. Looking at the arm, Miranda saw the once blank canvas now held a multitude of cartoon animals and she knew the younger woman must have been working at it for quite a while. It was truly a work of art.
Holding her hand out for one of the pens and when it was handed over she scrawled a large autograph on the edge of the cast at Imogen's upper forearm, smirking at the clear disbelief in Andréa's eyes. She offered a genuine smile as Andréa finished her drawing and peered up to meet her eyes but blushed a little remembering the events that had seen her pulling Andréa into the bedroom and taking turns to prepare for sleep before joining her in the large bed, with Imogen sprawled between them.
One thing Andréa had claimed to notice that week was her daughter becoming overwhelmed by the whirlwind of activity surrounding Paris Fashion Week. It was making her cling to the familiar, refusing the eat the grilled cheese she had ordered for her simply because it wasn't cut in the usual precise triangles. Andréa's attempts at coaxing her into eating the sandwich had come to nothing.
Knowing things couldn't get any worse, she picked up the little girl and asked how her sandwich was usually made and nodding her understanding, she called down to the desk, demanding another grilled cheese, fried golden brown and cut diagonally into quarters rather than in small squares. When the sandwich finally arrived, Miranda was eating her dinner one-handed with the toddler in her lap, drinking warm milk from a bright green sippy cup.
Imogen finally fell asleep, having become cranky beforehand and Miranda was relieved that she now had a chance at a few moments peace. She had forgotten how much work was involved in having a small child.
When she'd heard Andréa muttering about her daughter's neurotic behaviour, Miranda found herself chuckling. "She's out of her depth and trying to find a modicum of control." She told the brunette lightly. "Paris at the best of times would be too much to absorb for most two-year-olds, add the madness of Fashion Week and her behaviour is understandable. Frankly, there have been a few time I wished I was free to throw a fit."
Andréa nodded. "I just want her to feel safe as she navigates the world. I know she's out of her routine. The only thing she can choose right now is to wear nothing but purple..." Andréa sighed. "...or only drink from her green cup rather than the red one."
"If it helps to curb any anxiety she may have, there can be no harm in accommodating her," Miranda stated.
"Won't she come to believe I am only there to cater to every one of her whims?" Andréa asked. "I don't want to ruin her."
"I'm sure allowing her to choose the colour of the cup or dress she prefers won't spoil her too much." Miranda yawned loudly into the back of her hand and felt her eyes drooping. "And by allowing these things, you are not giving up any control, you are simply giving her greater independence. But she will feel secure in the knowledge her mother is still in charge." She yawned again.
"Come on, I'll get Immie and let you settle." Andréa grinned at her pout. "We'll settle on the couch, it won't be the first time."
Miranda pursed her lips. "You'll do no such thing. You will come to bed with me now and tomorrow..."
"And tomorrow?" Andréa asked hopefully.
"Well, we'll just have to see." Miranda stood and pulled Andy to her feet. "Come along, darling. Tomorrow is a new day."
Andy wondered what Miranda was playing at, she'd spent her morning at the final shows and then sequestered herself in her room with Nigel for almost two hours.
When they came down to the dining room to join everyone for a late lunch, they were laughing together and Miranda caught her eyes, offering a small smile as she sat on the other side of Imogen, who squealed when she realised who was sitting next to her and launched herself onto Miranda's lap.
Nigel sat opposite as Miranda inched into the seat that Imogen had vacated, and leaned in to help herself to a few french fries. Andy couldn't help but grin as Miranda's eyes closed and she all but inhaled the deep-fried treat.
"I think you are going to be very good at being very bad for me," Miranda whispered hotly.
Andy licked her lips, unable to formulate words and just nodded as Miranda's hand slid into hers under the table. They sat shoulder-to-shoulder, and Andy breathed deeply, willing herself not to turn and embarrass them both by snogging Miranda's face off.
"So, Six. Miranda tells me you will be leaving us once we return to New York." Nigel called out.
Everyone seemed to turn towards her at once. "Yes," Andy admitted. Miranda squeezed her hand under the table reassuringly. "Hopefully, I'll find another job quickly."
"You'll have a job." Nigel grinned. "I'm going to need a trustworthy junior editor at Men's Runway."
Andy couldn't stop her surprise."Really?" She breathed. "Even though you know I was fired?"
"Even though I know that, and much more." Nigel looked at her pointedly as everyone stared between them in confusion.
Joint squeals erupted from the doorway of the restaurant causing Andy to spin in her seat, only just stopping herself from being bowled over by Miranda's daughters as her arms came up to hold them securely against her chest. "Cassi, Caro...what on Earth?
Miranda sat back with a pleased smirk. "Bobbsey's, I do believe I advised you I would meet you in London."
Caroline rolled her eyes in a solid imitation of her mom. "You may have, however, we decided that we would meet you here instead."
"And two votes to one wins." Cassidy grinned up at Miranda from her place in Andy's arms. "Plus, we didn't believe you would tell Andy and then she and Immie would be in Paris on their own."
"Tell Andy what?" Andy asked.
"That you're coming to London with us," Caroline explained, giving her a glare that told her she was being dumb.
"You want me to go to London with you?" Andy spun to face Miranda, searching her eyes.
"This is not the place to discuss this," Miranda stated coldly, her shoulders and back stiffening.
Andy saw the slight fear in her eyes and leaned closer so only Miranda, Imogen and the twins would hear. "I would have said yes." She stated. "I will always say yes, Miranda."
Miranda breathed a sigh of satisfaction and her shoulders relaxed as she brushed a kiss against Imogen's head. "We have much to discuss yet, Andréa." She advised.
"Like?" Andy queried.
Miranda glanced at her staff, all listening intently before turning to Andy and shrugging. "Just..." She seemed to search for the word she wanted to use. "...stuff."
Andy couldn't stop her laughter and inclining her head whispered; "You're something else, lady."
Miranda's eyes twinkled brightly as Andy lifted the twins so they were sat on either knee and they began to whisper to her.
"Stuff like where you'll live." Cassidy breathed, helping herself to the basket of fries in front of them.
"And if your baby will be a Priestly, like us," Caroline muttered.
"And if we can adopt Immie." Cassidy continued.
"And if you'll become our second mom," Caroline mumbled around a mouthful of burger off Andy's plate.
"Okay, okay. I get it." Andy promised them. "So much stuff." She muttered half-heartedly.
She knew, no matter how hard it was though, she would discuss everything Miranda wanted with an open mind and heart. And hopefully, if she was lucky, she'd be able to spend some more time making out with the silver-haired beauty holding her daughter as if she was the most precious thing on Earth.