By Gin (akasarahsmom)
“She’s gone insane.” Lisa’s eyes glittered. “She’s finally, totally, gone off the deep end.”
Andy dragged her eyes from her computer screen and looked up at her co-worker, puzzled; the woman’s words only now sinking into Andy’s brain. “What? Who?”
Lisa laughed. “Your infuriating, Prada wearing, devil of an ex-boss, Miranda Priestly. She’s gone nuts.”
Now Andy’s full attention was on the laughing woman. The last time she’d seen Miranda, in real life, was at a charity function six-months ago and even then they hadn’t spoken; she doubted the woman had even seen her there. Andy had sat in the back with the press while Miranda had a seat at the head table. That was the last event she had attended before The Mirror hired Lisa to be their full time Fashion columnist. It was only just last night, however, that the intriguing woman had made yet another appearance in her dreams. Shivering at the pleasant memory, Andy’s eyes narrowed and her voice lowered without her conscious thought. “Why would you say that?”
No more laughter from Lisa, but still a smile, as she tossed the newest issue of Runway magazine onto Andy’s desk. “See for yourself.”
Looking down at the cover of the magazine, Andy didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. The emaciated brunette’s brown doe-eyes staring back at her were oddly familiar, but otherwise it was just another Runway cover. She glanced back at her co-worker who gestured back to the magazine.
“Go on… open it.”
Andy shrugged and lifted the cover, a wrinkle appeared between her eyebrows and she turned the page, eyes widening, page after page, one layout after another. Oh dear God, Miranda, she thought as she turned another page. What are you doing? When she reached the end, she closed the magazine and her eyes, pressing the palms of her hands reverently against the slick paper. Even her thought sounded breathless in her head.
Miranda, what have you done?
“I’m sorry Miss.” The security guard at Elias-Clarke shook his head. “I can’t let you go up.”
“I’ve got to go… please… you don’t understand!” Andy had become more and more upset as she’d made her way there from The Mirror. She had no clue what was going through Miranda’s head, but as she walked she had managed to look around and see that there were far more brunette’s with very familiar hairstyles than she was ever aware of before. It took three blocks before the reality hit her and she couldn’t decide if she should be incredibly pissed off or deeply touched. Now this asshole was stopping her from talking to the one person that could tip the scales of her decision.
Even her editor at the paper had seen how important this was and had given her the rest of the day, and by extension the weekend, off. He’d just looked at her and said, “See you Monday.” It seemed like a huge deal even if it was only a couple of well deserved hours.
Andy tried to keep her volume low, but remained emphatic. “I’ve got to go up!”
The guard shrugged. “You and every other beautiful brunette in the city. You all think you can be models now.”
Andy growled and then her brain suddenly kicked in. She grabbed her cell phone. It only took two rings. “Nigel! Thank God… come down here and get me past security. I’ve got to talk to Miranda.”
There were five stunned seconds of silence before the man’s clipped tones responded. “Be right there.”
She barely waited for the elevator doors to close before she went off on Nigel.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Andy shook her head. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I couldn’t. You know that.”
Andy took a deep breath and nodded. They’d all had non-disclosure clauses in their contracts. Anyone discussing the magazine’s contents before it was issued could, and probably would, be fired. It wasn’t like they had actually kept in close touch since she’d left either. “Why didn’t you stop her?”
Nigel’s eyes widened. “You want to actually listen to that question and remember who the ‘her’ is?”
Andy rolled her eyes. Of course, no one stopped Miranda from doing anything she actually wanted to do. “Sorry. I just don’t understand why.”
“You don’t? Really?” Nigel shook his head. “I was sure you were smarter than that.”
“But… the only three things I could possibly think of are just… well, one is… totally unthinkable, and the other two are just so…insane, I can’t imagine even thinking them!”
Three? “And those are?” Nigel prompted.
“Drugs?” Andy ventured a guess; the most logical, however improbable it was.
Nigel snorted. “Miranda doesn’t do drugs, alcohol occasionally, but drugs, no. You’re right, Miranda doing drugs is an insane idea.” Knowing eyes held hers. “Guess again.”
He thought they both knew full well why this had happened. It was obvious to him that Miranda, for some odd reason was infatuated with the girl, but unlike Nigel, the young woman was still in denial. The reason he was thinking of was conveyed quite nicely through his gaze.
Andy ran her fingers through her hair. “That can’t be it…” She swallowed hard as Nigel just raised his eyebrows. She ground her teeth together as she glared at the numbers showing their slow ascent and repeated forcefully. “It can’t be!”
He held up his hands in surrender. “Whatever you say.”
“So those were the insane ideas.” Nigel studied the elevator’s control panel. “What’s the unthinkable one?”
“Do I really have to say it?” The prospect chilled Andy to the bone. She knew Miranda was older, and she knew all too well certain dangers that accompanied that condition. She knew it affected some people younger than others. She managed to whisper her fear. “Alzheimer’s.”
Nigel remained silent for the rest of the ride, quietly agreeing with Andy; that was unthinkable.
The elevator doors opened and as Andy stepped out she felt like she’d entered the Twilight Zone. “Oh you have got to be kidding me.” With a glance at Nigel, she shook her head and pushed forward through the sea of brunettes. Miranda’s door was open so she wasn’t in a meeting and Andy didn’t even stop as she moved between her old desk, empty at the moment, and Emily’s. An upraised hand halted any comment the once-red-headed, now faux-brunette woman, was about to make. “Not now, Emily.”
Miranda looked up when she heard the long absent voice and for a brief instant the magazine editor’s face reflected pure joy. Then she realized what she was doing and took a sip of her appallingly cold coffee before she schooled her expression into its normal superior, slightly bored look. She hoped the butterflies in her stomach didn’t betray her and was pleased that her voice held steady. “Andrea, so nice to see you.” She was however unable to keep her hungry eyes from feasting on the sight before her.
The sound of Miranda’s voice made Andy’s heart flutter for a moment, the eyes on her made everything else quiver. She was proud of herself though because when she spoke, eternal seconds later, her voice was clear and unwavering. “What is this?” She tossed the magazine onto Miranda’s desk barely missing the Starbucks coffee cup sitting there.
Blinking, Miranda mentally cursed the familiar, fuzzy, feeling in her head. Not again. Not now, she thought, please. Sitting quite still, the older woman produced a thin smile and raised her eyebrows. “I believe it’s the current issue of Runway. Are you a subscriber now?”
“You know what I’m talking about!” Andy sighed and looked directly into Miranda’s eyes. “Talk to me.” She saw the subtle motions in her former boss’ facial muscles and even after a year of being gone, she could read reluctance in the older woman. So she did the only thing she thought might possibly work. She let a bit of concern show in her eyes and softly said the magic word, “Please.”
With a small sigh of acceptance, Miranda nodded once. “Close the door, Andrea.”
Emily watched as the door to Miranda’s office swung closed and she looked at Nigel. “Bloody hell.”
The man nodded once as he turned to leave. “That, sounds about right.”
Andy took the seat in front of Miranda’s desk and waited for the editor to speak.
“How have you been, Andrea?”
Andy blinked. “Really? That’s what you’re going to start with, small talk?” She raised her eyebrows and shrugged slightly. “Okay, if you insist.” Andy forced herself to relax and answered the question with as much false cheerfulness she could muster. “I’m fine Miranda, thanks for asking and yourself?”
“Apparently not so well as you.” Miranda gestured to the magazine in front of her. “I find I’m missing something…”
“Missing something?!” Andy jumped up from her seat. “Like a few million brain cells maybe? Jesus H. Christ, Miranda, what the hell were you thinking?”
“Why, I believe it is obvious what I was thinking.” The white haired woman actually sighed. “I was thinking of you.” Cloudy ice blue eyes gazed at her visitor. “You’re all I can seem to think about lately.”
Andy had trouble catching her breath and sank back down into the chair. She stared at her former boss long enough to make the older woman shift uncomfortably in her chair then finally spoke, her voice intensifying the longer she talked. “Why didn’t you call? Why didn’t you have Emily call? Send flowers or an email, write a letter, let a damn messenger pigeon loose for God’s sake… not.. not…” She waved in the general direction of the magazine unable to continue.
“You wouldn’t have taken my call. You would have returned flowers, not answered emails or letters.”
“You know that for sure? You knew what I would or wouldn’t do and just decided to…to…”
Miranda filled in the blank for her. “Commit professional suicide?”
“Why?” Andy slumped down in the chair, knowing it would annoy Miranda, wanting to annoy her as much as she was annoyed herself right now. “Even Irv is going to realize that all those models look the same.”
“Irv is an idiot and I don’t care what he thinks. I wanted to talk to you, see you.” Then Miranda gently corrected her. “And they don’t all look the same.”
Throwing her hands in the air, Andy jumped up and began pacing in front of the desk. “Every one of those models has brown hair and brown eyes… brown hair just exactly the shade my hair is Miranda… brown eyes... just like me… how can you possibly say they don’t look the same. You made them all look the same! You made them look like me!”
“Andrea.” Miranda’s voice seemed small but still firm as she drummed her fingers on the issue on her desk yet kept her eyes on her pacing visitor. “You… are more beautiful than all these models put together.”
Andy stopped in her tracks, stopped pacing, stopped breathing, she thought her heart actually stopped for a second before she turned to fully face the seated woman. “Oh. My. God. Lisa was right. You have gone insane.” Her eyes widened as Miranda’s voice lowered to a dangerous tone.
“The fashion columnist at The Mirror.”
“Ah.” Miranda took on a superior note, tinged with something else. “So her opinion is one I should value, as you value it, I suppose.”
Andy tilted her head and smiled. “You sound almost jealous.”
Miranda mumbled something and Andy called her on it. “What?”
“I said, ‘no almost about it.’” Now piercing blue eyes raked over the younger woman. “I remember the privilege of spending the greater part of the day with you. I envy anyone who gets to do it now.”
Andy shook her head. “Where’s this coming from?” She ran her fingers through her hair, exasperated. “You never once…ever, indicated anything like…” She fell back on her first theory. “Say… you haven’t by chance been going home at night and doing a big ole bunch of drugs have you?”
“Of course I haven’t!” Miranda’s eyes widened at the volume of her voice then modulated it down somewhat. “And don’t be ridiculous, of course I didn’t say anything…You were my assistant and I was married, it would have been…inappropriate and unacceptable.”
Both Andy’s eyebrows rose and she gestured toward the magazine. “And this is acceptable?!” She began pacing again. “You’ve created an army of… me’s!”
“They don’t know it.” Miranda’s smile lacked any humor. “But they all want to be you. They all want to be like Andrea and not one of them is even half the woman you are.” She watched the tall woman stop pacing and turn toward her slowly. “You looked lovely at the charity ball six months ago.”
“You saw me there?”
Miranda admitted. “I continually sent invitations to The Mirror, hoping you would attend the events.”
Nodding, Andy laughed helplessly. “I was too scared to talk to you. And after so many invitations kept showing up, Greg hired Lisa to cover them.”
“Ah…” Miranda sighed, massaging the bridge of her nose lightly. “Shot myself in the foot with that one then, hmmm…?”
“Why didn’t you just call me?” Now Andy circled around the desk to stand next to Miranda’s chair. “You could have just called.”
The editor insisted. “You would have hung up.”
“Oh for the love of…” Andy dropped to her knees next to Miranda’s chair, laying her hands gently on the armrest. She was very careful not to touch Miranda in any way. She would not be the one to initiate anything like that. “You are the most infuriating, stubborn woman I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.” Brown doe eyes locked on Miranda’s face. “Please tell me next month’s issue isn’t all brunettes again.” She watched as the older woman’s eyes glazed over slightly. “Miranda, tell me you haven’t chosen all brunettes again.”
“Oh yes.” Miranda responded and let her hand float up to gently stroke the silky brown hair next to her. “Every one of them, trying so very hard to be like my Andrea.”
Oh God. Andy instinctively moved into the touch. “Tell me there’s time to change it.” Reaching up she caught the wandering, distracting, hand and held it firmly in her own. “Please Miranda, will you change it, for me?”
“For you?” Miranda smiled and drawled, “I can change the world for you.”
Damn, she does sound like she’s on drugs. But that was good; it meant the unthinkable could be dismissed, right?
“You did.” Andy squeezed the hand in hers for emphasis. “You did change the world for me, but now, now I need you to change it back.”
“Yes,” lost in Andrea’s deep brown eyes, Miranda spoke almost in a haze. “Yes, of course.” She held the hand in hers tightly not wanting to let go just yet. “You must do something for me though.”
“What is it?” It must be something huge. She thought. What would Miranda risk Runway’s reputation for?
“Have dinner with me.”
“What?” Andy was sure she hadn’t heard correctly. “Have…”
“Dinner with me,” Miranda repeated and continued. “Tonight, at the townhouse. The girls are at their father’s this weekend, we can talk.”
“Dinner,” Andy repeated then asked logically, “But this is Friday, don’t you have some important event to attend?”
Miranda’s eyes softened. “Nothing is more important than you.”
Despite herself, Andy smiled at the words, even if she didn’t believe the person speaking them knew exactly what she was saying. “Okay,” she agreed. “What time?”
“Hmm…” Miranda didn’t want to push her luck. “Eight?”
Bolder about touching now, Andy pressed the back of the hand in hers against her cheek and countered, “How about seven thirty?”
“Even better.” The older woman exhaled in relief. “The car will pick you up at seven.”
“I’ll be ready,” Andy promised.
“I’ll see you then? You won’t cancel?”
Andy’s heart clenched at the uncharacteristic insecurity in the questions and she stood slowly pulling her hand away from Miranda’s, reassuring her, “I’ll be there.” She looked directly into Miranda’s eyes. “Just change it back, okay?”
Miranda nodded. “Yes, I will.”
“Until tonight then.” Andy picked up her magazine and, out of habit, the half empty, cold, coffee container before she crossed the room and opened the door, stopping at Miranda’s voice.
Purposely not looking back, Andy kept her eyes on Emily as she answered. “Yes Miranda?” She barely contained her laughter at the British woman’s jaw dropping as Miranda’s voice floated out the door.
Andy glanced back over her shoulder and winked at her ex-boss before continuing out the door and toward the elevator. She heard Miranda behind her issuing orders to a stunned Emily
“Cancel my dinner reservations…Someone bring me some hot coffee…Emily, take off that ridiculous wig…and for God’s sake someone find me some blonde models!”
Andy chuckled and murmured to herself as the empty elevator car descended. “Now that’s the Miranda I know.” Her mind finished the thought silently. And love.
Andy questioned that thought all the way back to her apartment. She hadn’t actually let herself think about that particular option before; never seriously thought beyond enjoying the dreams she had experienced. Fascination, yes. Lust, certainly. Love? It didn’t seem possible. However, try as she might, Andy just couldn’t come up with any other word that described how she felt about her, utterly fascinating, strikingly beautiful ex-boss. Not now, not after seeing her so vulnerable.
That worried her more than she thought possible; the glazed look in the blue eyes, the drawling words. Miranda had scoffed at the idea of drugs, but after talking to Miranda it seemed to be more and more likely. Which was also quite heartbreaking, because it meant she didn’t really mean what she’d said, about…everything. About me. The older woman’s voice floated through her head, two words that grabbed her guts and twisted. My Andrea.
She shook her head and entered her apartment, only now realizing she still carried the half full cup of coffee. She started to throw it away and then reconsidered. Her job at the paper paid enough, but she was well aware of certain economic realities. “Why waste it?” She asked herself, and stuck it in the fridge. “I can heat it up tomorrow morning with breakfast.”
She glanced at the clock. The slow walk home had taken quite some time and now, if she was indeed going to be ready to have dinner with Miranda... Oh God. The thought struck her. I’m going to have dinner with Miranda! Her heart beat faster and she began to frantically prepare. A bath would have made her feel so much cleaner, but a long decently hot shower was going to have to do. The minutes quickly ticked by and when she was finally clean and dry, the arduous task of choosing what to wear began. “What the hell am I supposed to wear to have dinner with Miranda, the person who decides what fashion is…at her own house!?”
The impossible decision was made even more difficult due to her choices. If she’d had only one or two dresses to choose from it would have been much easier, but she had several very nice pieces leftover from her Runway days and a few she’d acquired since then.
The running discussion with herself about which outfit to choose and the almost frantic search through her closet had yielded some progress. It was, finally, down to two choices. “She said I looked lovely at the thing six months ago…” Eyeing that dress, she sighed. “It is nice, but more for a big event…not an intimate dinner in someone’s home.” She closed her eyes and swallowed hard. “Oh God, did I just say ‘intimate’?” She shook her head and hugged herself. “Okay… none of that…not intimate… control yourself.” Closing her eyes, Andy let herself remember the feeling of Miranda’s hand gently touching her hair, then shook herself out of it and glanced at the clock. “No time for this!” Without any further monologue, Andy grabbed the more casual of the two dresses, basic black, and quickly prepared to meet the car downstairs. She left her hair minimally styled, just falling to her shoulders in soft waves.
Andy checked the contents of her small clutch purse. Not that she’d need anything tonight but her apartment key, but it made her feel better to have a few dollars, her ID and if she had a tube of the lipstick Miranda approved of too, that was just a coincidence, right? Then the distinctive horn of Miranda’s car sent her nearly flying out the door and down the stairs. For a moment she had the oddest ‘Cinderella’ sensation. Roy waiting next to the car, opening the door for her when she arrived again made her feel a bit like royalty. Miranda does this all the time. She thought. It kind of explained the attitude Miranda had, at least Andy thought so. How could someone be treated like royalty all the time and not begin to believe they are?
I am not royalty, she thought and spoke casually when the car began to move.
“Roy, it’s good to see you.”
“It’s good to see you too Andy.” He kept his eyes on the road ahead for quite a while, then spoke quietly. “Can you help her?”
“God, I hope so.” Andy felt her chest nearly cave in, realizing this was someone she could talk to. “What’s been happening?”
“It’s just so strange. It wasn’t so regular at first, I barely noticed a difference, I just thought she was working too hard. But now… She’s usually fine in the morning, especially so on Mondays.” Roy started slowly. “Some days at lunch she seems kind of out of it…nearly always by the time she heads home. It’s like she can’t focus, can’t… think…”
Andy interrupted. “Have you ever seen her… taking anything?”
“Drugs?” Roy gripped the wheel tighter. “No way!” The man’s voice cracked. “I’ve been her driver for a long time… and I’ve never…She would never take drugs…”
Andy sighed and nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I know, I’m just grasping at straws I guess.” Drugs were just so much better than the alternative, the unthinkable, and Roy’s next words chilled her.
“She’s just not, herself.”
Andy leaned forward in the seat. “How was she tonight, when you took her home?”
“Bad.” Roy admitted. “As bad as I’ve seen so far.” He reached down to the seat next to him and lifted the current ‘brunette’ issue of Runway into view. “This is a cry for help.” He said and glanced up into the mirror. “Help her Andy.”
“I will,” Andy vowed to him, to herself and then to an absent Miranda. “I will.”
Her heart was beating franticly as Roy escorted her to the door of the townhouse. She reached for the doorbell with a trembling hand and thought she was going to faint when the door opened.
“Good evening, Ms. Priestly.” Roy bowed slightly at the waist. “What time should I come ‘round to take the young lady home?”
Lazy blue eyes moved up and down Andrea’s body. “We may be late, talking.” Miranda involuntarily licked her lips. “I’ll just call a cab when she’s ready to leave. I don’t have any meetings this weekend either, so I’ll see you on Monday.”
“Very well, but call me if you need me.” He tilted his head at them. “Good night ladies.” And was gone.
“Andrea.” Miranda’s smoky voice curled around her. “Come in.”
Said the spider to the fly. Andy thought and stepped over the threshold. If she thought she’d stepped into the Twilight Zone exiting the elevator at Elias-Clarke earlier today, the door closing behind her pushed her into a whole new level of weird. Something she wasn’t sure she could even begin to describe. Miranda’s home. Andy tried to stay calm and reminded herself. I’m standing in Miranda’s home, as a guest, not delivering the Book. That thought did absolutely nothing to calm her pounding heart. Oh God.
“Andrea.” Miranda looped her arm around her guest’s, linking their elbows. “You look lovely tonight.”
Andy automatically patted the hand curled around her forearm. “Thank you. You look amazing yourself.” She had always thought Miranda looked good in this particular shade of green. Of course, she thought Miranda looked good in anything she wore. Daring to look closely into the older woman’s eyes, Andy’s heart fluttered slightly with despair. The slightly glazed look she’d seen earlier was still there, maybe even a little more unfocused than before. Roy was right, this is bad. She allowed herself to be guided into the kitchen, where a fully set table greeted her.
“I didn’t want to use the formal dining room for just the two of us.”
Andy thought Miranda seemed almost apologetic. Which was totally out of character and just so wrong it was indescribable.
“Of course not.” Andy smiled down at the anxious woman and assured her. “This is perfect.” She accepted the chair offered and watched carefully as Miranda sat opposite her then turned her attention to the plate in front of her. Lifting the cover from the plate, Andy inhaled deeply. “Mmmm… it smells wonderful.” It was also quite warm and she cautiously asked. “Miranda, did you cook this?” She wasn’t sure using the stove was a good idea for the woman given her state of mind.
“No.” Miranda bowed her head. “Smith and Wollensky delivered it a few minutes before you got here.”
“Oh, good.” Andy smiled as Miranda’s head snapped up and she explained quickly. “I wouldn’t want you to slave over a hot stove just for me.”
“I would.” Miranda vowed and reached toward her guest. “I would cook for you, anything you want.”
Andy caught the hand and gently pressed the back of it against her cheek, as she had done in the office earlier. “I know you would, but I’m glad you didn’t because now we can enjoy our meal without you being exhausted or stressed from preparing it.” Slowly releasing the hand in hers, Andy picked up a fork. She had actually taken a bite before she realized what she was eating. “Miranda, is this chicken marsala?” Her host’s eyes widened.
“Yes, don’t you like it? I can send it back…”
“No… no, it’s delicious.” Andy assured her. “I just… I don’t remember it being on their menu.”
“It isn’t.” Miranda anxiously watched her guest’s expression. “Victor made it, special for you.”
Andy forced herself to breathe. “Um… thank you?” It seemed like an inadequate thing to say for such a wonderful gesture. “But… why…um… how did you know I like it?”
“I worked with you for nearly a year Andrea, one hears things.” Miranda swallowed against her dry mouth and took a sip of her wine. “I remember you told Emily that the boy you were…” Her eyes fluttered momentarily. “… living with at the time had made it for you. You said it was your favorite. Is it not anymore?”
Andy looked at the woman across from her with unabashed awe. “You are amazing. I barely remember having that conversation. How do you remember it?” Especially now.
“I remember things that are important to me.”
Andy was skeptical. “My favorite food is important to you?”
“Everything about you is important to me Andrea.” Miranda’s nostrils flared as she speared a small bite of her own meal. Everything.
Unable to respond to that statement, Andy concentrated on eating her delicious meal and drinking the wine that complimented the food perfectly. Before she knew it they were finished and Miranda cleared the plates, quickly replacing the main course with a tiny, but deliciously decadent, dessert. “Oh, this looks wonderful.” Also not on the menu, Andy knew.
“Enjoy it, please.” Miranda took her seat.
“Aren’t you having any?” She scooped a spoonful of chocolaty goodness but paused with the spoon just in front of her lips. “It makes me feel funny to eat dessert without you.”
“No. Please.” Miranda rested her chin on her closed fist. “Continue.”
Andy, unable to keep her eyes off Miranda, slowly sucked the fluffy chocolate off the spoon, moaning in appreciation at the taste. She savored the flavor for a long moment then smiled at her dining partner. “You have got to try this.” Gathering a small bite onto the spoon, Andy held it out for Miranda to take. “Please, it’s so good!” She waved the spoon close to the older woman’s mouth. “C’mon… one bite. It’s mostly air anyway.”
Leaning forward Miranda opened her mouth and took the bite Andrea offered her. The chocolate explosion in her mouth drew a pleased sound from her as well. “You’re right, it is delicious.” Miranda licked her lips and gazed at Andrea. “Perhaps I should give in to temptation more often.”
Suddenly Andy knew how to describe the feeling she’d experienced when she arrived. “I am so not in Kansas anymore.” She didn’t realize she’d even spoken out loud. The older woman stiffened her spine and spoke almost coldly.
“I suppose that makes me the wicked witch?” Pushing away from the table quickly, she walked out of the room, unaware that Andy had just as quickly followed her.
“No.” Andy caught up with her hostess in the parlor. Miranda was looking out the window into her backyard garden. “No.” She repeated then gently placed a hand on the upset woman’s shoulder, turning her so they faced each other. “That isn’t what I meant.”
“Then…what?” Miranda was shaking.
“I just meant, this is all so…different from what I’m used to, it’s like Oz, colorful and wonderful, but very, very different from my normal life.” Cupping the older woman’s face in one of what to her had always felt like abnormally large hands, Andy urged Miranda’s head up so their eyes could meet. “You are absolutely not the wicked witch.” She slid her hand lightly down the side of the green dress Miranda wore so gracefully. “You are obviously the Queen of Emerald City.”
Miranda was breathless. “Andrea.” Her mind cleared for a moment and her blue eyes focused on the younger woman. She wrapped her arms around Andy’s waist and felt the girl move into the embrace, lanky arms circling her shoulders. Miranda nearly sobbed at the overwhelming comfort of the gesture. “Andrea, I’m…frightened.”
“Shhh…” Andy tucked the white head under her chin, thankful that she was wearing heels and Miranda wasn’t. She slowly stroked the woman’s back. “It’s going to be okay. You’re going to be okay.” Her arms tightened around Miranda. “I’ll help you.” She loosened the embrace and led Miranda by the hand to the sofa. They sat and when Miranda seemed unwilling to let go Andy wrapped one arm around the older woman, allowing the white head to rest on her shoulder. As Miranda snuggled in as close as she could, Andy couldn’t help but smile. Miranda, a snuggler, who would have thought? The problem was no one would have, because it was totally out of character for the Miranda anyone knew to be acting this way. Andy needed to find out why. “Miranda, can you tell me what’s been happening with you lately?”
If a finished issue of Runway had been produced, whatever was going on with Miranda had been going on for several months at least. “How’ve you been feeling?” It took a minute, but Miranda finally responded.
Andy closed her eyes at the vulnerability that word conveyed. It was not an admission anyone expected from the publishing titan. Squeezing the shoulders under her arm, Andy laid her cheek on the white head so near hers and whispered. “You aren’t lost. You’re safe right here with me.” She waited for the return squeeze and prompted for more. “How long have you been feeling this way?” The answer wasn’t entirely unexpected.
“I think it started a little more than three months ago.”
Andy nodded. The timing would be right for the issue of Runway to be finished now. “What does it feel like?” She held her breath and waited, not wanting to hear the classic symptoms of the unthinkable falling from Miranda’s lips.
“Things were very stressful at the office. Emily had hired a girl that gave new meaning to the word incompetent. The layouts for every account were all wrong.” She gave Andy a detailed description of the sets, models, fashions and even makeup artist’s total lack of professionalism before she took a deep breath and added, “And to top it all off…” She looked up and traced Andrea’s cheekbone with her fingertip. “I hadn’t laid eyes on you in nearly three months.”
Closing her eyes, Andy partially focused on the caress, but mostly gave her thanks to whatever powers may be that the unthinkable was now dismissed. If Miranda remembered all those recent events in so much detail, the unthinkable was out of the picture. “So what changed?”
“Nothing.” Miranda sighed. “Everything.” It was clear she didn’t have an explanation for it. “Just one day I looked around and was, calm.”
Andy’s eyes widened. “Calm?”
Miranda nodded. “Very calm. Too calm. Fuzzy, dizzy, unfocused, drifting, sleepy… calm.” Her voice took on an odd tone. “I didn’t really care about anything, I was just drifting along, lost in daydreams…” of you.
“Did you go to the doctor?” Andy chuckled to herself and answered her own question. “Of course you didn’t. Sorry.” She removed the hand still wandering the planes of her face and held it firmly. “What did you do?”
Miranda shrugged. “Ordered more coffee and continued to work.” She thought back to those weird times. “I knew I was making strange decisions, I slowly began to choose brunette models over all others. I knew people were beginning to talk about it, but I couldn’t bring myself to care.” She started to become angry. “Why didn’t anyone say anything to me? Why didn’t they at least try to stop me? They had time; it takes months to produce an issue.”
“That’s easy.” Andy was good with questions that had simple answers. “You would have fired them.”
“Of course.” The woman nodded, the friction of her cheek against Andy’s shoulder causing a thrill through her. “But once I came to my senses I’d have rehired them.”
Andy laughed. “Do you know the meaning of that word, rehire? It means you’d have to take back someone you’d fired. You’d basically have to admit you were wrong to fire them; that you had made a mistake.” Andy rubbed the shoulder under her hand. “I don’t think anyone at Runway believes you would do that.”
“Admit to being wrong?”
“No.” Andy chuckled. “Make a mistake.”
Miranda snorted. “I’ve made plenty of mistakes Andrea. The divorces prove that.”
“That’s personal, I mean professionally.” She smiled. “Pretty much everyone who works at Runway considers you the Goddess of Fashion, infallible as far as the fashion world is concerned.”
Miranda sat up, moving back slightly to see Andy’s face. “Is that how you saw me? When you worked there?”
Bowing her head, to avoid looking Miranda in the eye, Andy nodded. “Yes, of course.” Then she added, “For a while.”
“Is that why you left?” Miranda shifted, a few inches farther away. “You had a crisis of faith in your ‘Goddess’ and decided walking away was the best solution?”
Andy thought about it. “Yeah, kinda. By then I didn’t see you as only the Goddess anymore… I’d seen, glimpses, of the ‘real’ you.”
“Ah.” Now Miranda thought she understood. “Scary.”
“No,” Andy protested. “That’s not it.” She tried to organize her thoughts. “As much as I loved being in the presence of the Goddess… it was too hard to know there was a real person inside that I was being kept away from. I wanted to know her, you, the real you. Understanding that want and knowing it would never be allowed was too much. I had to leave. Staying would have broken me.” Miranda had shifted again, and was now sitting next to the arm of the sofa, as far away from Andy as she could get and still be on the same piece of furniture.
“So instead, you broke me.” Miranda stood, needing to move, she paced back to the window.
“I didn’t mean to, I didn’t know it was even possible.” Andy’s voice quavered a little. “I hope it’s not the real you that’s moving away from me now.”
“Because I may never get to touch the Goddess, but I really enjoy holding the real you.” Andy smiled as the white head whipped around to look at her. “And I was hoping it meant you’d forgiven me… taken me back.”
“Andrea.” Miranda moved back to the sofa and resumed her position with her head on the younger woman’s shoulder. “Is that what you want… to be taken back?”
“Not to Runway.” Andy made that clear. “I have a job that I love.” Closing her eyes she savored the feel of Miranda in her arms. “I would like to be okay with you though, personally.”
Miranda laughed, a full joyous laugh. “Andrea… how many people do you think exist on this planet that can storm into my office, yell at me, basically tell me I’m insane, accuse me of doing drugs and then end up at my house that evening for dinner, feed me dessert, and…then…” She wiggled a little. “…whatever this is.”
“Um… is this a trick question?”
Grunting at that, Miranda shook her head. “No trick. It’s a simple answer, exactly one person in all the world could ever get away with all that, and that, my dear, is you.” She spoke smugly. “I think it’s safe to say you are ‘okay’ with me, personally.”
“Why?” Andy found herself playing absently with the white locks under her fingers. “Why me?”
“When you first saw the issue, what did you think? What did you feel?”
Andy admitted. “I was worried about you.”
“You’re the only one, the only one to stand up to me, to challenge my decisions. Everyone else simply dismissed me as being a lunatic or went along with me no matter how crazy they thought I was.” Miranda swallowed hard. “You cared.” She pulled her head back a little, to see the face above her. “Why is that Andrea?” She pushed the subject. “Why do you care?”
“You fascinate me.” Andy looked down into curious blue eyes. She inhaled deeply; the woman’s unique scent was, intoxicating. She wanted so badly to shift, just slightly, and kiss her, but the memory of the glazed look held her back. She would not initiate anything like that while Miranda was still, not Miranda. Andy couldn’t help shake the feeling that drugs were involved somehow. “You’re smart, and funny, and oh so beautiful.” She smiled. “Unbeknownst to most people, you are kind, and compassionate.” She grinned at the scoff and tapped the woman’s nose. “I’ve seen you with the girls and I know about the charities.” Andy nodded as a faint blush colored Miranda’s porcelain cheeks. “What’s not to care about?”
“Funny.” The older woman rubbed Andy’s stomach, feeling the flutter there. “Those are almost the same reasons I could give you for why you can get away with challenging me.” Shifting impossibly closer, Miranda yawned, closed her eyes and murmured, “Sleepy.”
“Mmmm…” Andy shook her companion gently. “I’ll call a cab. You need to sleep.” She was surprised at the strength in the arms immediately tightening around her.
“No.” Miranda took a deep breath. “Don’t go. Please.” The look in her eyes made it very clear she wasn’t just asking for a few more minutes.
Oh God. Andy closed her eyes, logic first. “Miranda, I can’t sleep in this.” She indicated her dress.
“S’okay. I have something you can wear.”
“Miranda, I’m not sure my staying is such a good idea.” Andy swallowed hard at the hurt crossing the older woman’s face. She spoke gently and truthfully. “There is something going on with you Miranda, something’s wrong and you know it. I don’t want to…take advantage of that. I don’t want you to do anything that you might have…regrets about, later… when you’re better.”
“Then you must stay.”
Shifting and standing, Miranda held out her hand to her guest. “Because I will certainly regret it, if I let you leave.” With barely a twinge of embarrassment, she admitted, “I don’t want to be alone in the house tonight.” Sensing the girl’s reluctance, she conditionally agreed. “I have guest rooms.” That almost had Andrea where she wanted and Miranda played her ace, letting the lost feelings she’d had for the last several weeks seep into her eyes and voice, “Please, don’t leave me alone tonight.”
Andy melted. “Okay.” She took the offered hand and followed the older woman upstairs. Guest rooms she thought I can deal with that, I think. It obviously wasn’t a guest room they entered though and Andy voiced that as she looked around. “Miranda, this is not a guest room.”
The white head shook. “No, it’s my bedroom. Wait here.” She walked through a door on the other side of the room and returned after a few moments. “The girls bought these for their father for some occasion or another.” She lied and handed Andy the pajamas. “He never liked them.”
Accepting the clothes, Andy looked back toward the door to the hall. “Where can I change?”
Miranda pointed to another door across the room. “Bathroom.” She saw the look and flared her nostrils. “Andrea, don’t argue with me. I need you to stay with me, at least until I fall asleep. That’s all.”
“Until you fall asleep?”
“Yes.” Miranda nodded. “After that, if you must, you can go, pick a room. There are several to choose from.”
“I’ll stay in a guest room.” Andy wanted to be clear about that.
Miranda agreed, reluctantly. “If you must.”
Nodding, the girl smiled slightly. “Okay. Be right back,” and then exited through the bathroom door.
Andy looked around the huge bathroom and exhaled in a slow low whistle. “Wow.” The room was probably larger than the living room in her apartment. She didn’t want to waste a whole lot of time looking around, but she quickly scanned the room taking in the double vanity sink, the deep Jacuzzi tub, and the huge shower stall before she checked all the cabinets and drawers. Not that she didn’t trust Miranda’s word about the drug issue but if that was the cause, the woman would hardly be truthful about it now, would she? It was a huge relief when all Andy found were a few cough drops.
Changing quickly into the soft pajamas, she snorted in surprise at the fit. It was almost like they were made for her, then she remembered whose they were, who they’d been meant for and closed her eyes at the thought. Miranda’s ex-husband, someone Miranda had children with, someone Miranda had loved, touched…. Andy shook herself out of that line of thinking. That way leads to madness.
Andy walked out of the bathroom to find that Miranda had already changed into her night clothes; a two piece pair of pajamas very similar to the ones she wore herself.
“You haven’t taken off your makeup yet Andrea.” Miranda reluctantly moved toward the bathroom and literally pushed the younger woman back inside. They stood in front of the double sink as Miranda spoke coolly. “You must do that, every night. Your skin will thank you when you are older.” She handed her guest a washcloth and casually continued, even though her insides were twisting with fear. “I assume you didn’t find the drugs you were looking for in here.” Miranda trained her blue eyes on the mirror’s reflection of her companion. “You are more than welcome to search the rest of the house.”
“No.” Andy finished washing her face. “It was a crazy idea anyway, you don’t do drugs and wouldn’t with the girls in the house.” Now that she said it out loud, Andy realized something. “Oh.”
Miranda blinked. “Oh?”
“I mean… when the thought of drugs popped in my head earlier I was thinking that you were the one taking them…I mean… on purpose.”
Laughing, Miranda continued to remove her makeup, slowly. “You think I accidentally took drugs?”
Andy’s dark head shook. “No, not accidentally… unknowingly.”
Now Miranda’s eyes widened. “You think someone is drugging me?!” She shook her head. “That’s….that’s…ridiculous. Why would anyone do that?” It did make sense though, with the way she had been feeling.
“To ruin the magazine? To ruin you?” Andy asked the first question the police always asked in the movies. “Who would have a grudge against you?”
“Ha!” Miranda actually laughed as she scrubbed around her nose. “Are you kidding?”
Andy rolled her eyes. “Right... sorry.” She rinsed out the washcloth and murmured. “Forgot who I was talking to for a minute.” This new line of thinking had her excited though, she felt close to solving the puzzle. “I need some paper and a pen… or even better, access to a spreadsheet program.”
Miranda finished her task and nodded, keeping her eyes on the sink. “Yes, in the study. My laptop is on the desk.”
“Great.” She started toward the door and the stopped. “Um… where is that?”
“Downstairs, it’s the door across from the table where you put the Book.” Miranda took a deep breath, to steel herself for the shocked reaction. She knew without makeup she looked quite different. Her husbands had always complained about it, Stephen even called her ‘frumpy’ without the face paint. Resigned to the inevitable, Miranda looked up at her guest. “How long will you be?”
Andy shrugged. “Dunno. Shouldn’t take too long though.” She brushed some white hair away from Miranda’s forehead and kissed the space created. “Get some sleep. We can go over my theory tomorrow.” Andy began to walk out of the room.
No reaction at all. Miranda swallowed hard against the lump in her throat. Wrong, there was a reaction, she kissed you. She wondered if there was an imprint of the girl’s lips on her forehead; she felt branded. Not in a bad way though; in a good way, a very, very good way.
“Andrea,” she waited for her guest to pause. “You’ll need the password. It’s written on a post-it in the right hand drawer.”
Smiling, Andy nodded. “Thank you.” Then she was out the door.
Miranda closed her eyes for a long moment. “No.” She wiped away a tear that had escaped its prison and whispered, “Thank you.”
Andy found the study easily and was so focused on her task that she’d sat down in the chair and powered up the computer before she realized exactly where she was and what she was doing. My God I’m in Miranda’s study, sitting in her chair, getting ready to use her computer. The screen prompted her for the password and she took a deep breath, opening the drawer to find the post-it. Her forehead wrinkled and it took her a minute of looking at her own name written on the little yellow paper to understand its significance. No way. Thinking it was a joke she typed Andy Sachs into the password window and blinked as the machine obediently continued with its startup routine. Oz for sure. She thought and clicked on the Excel icon.
Using her knowledge of Miranda’s usual day, Andy quickly set up the spreadsheet. Mostly to organize her thoughts, trying to do it in her head was just too hard to keep everything straight. What she was looking for was the opportunity someone would have to get close enough to Miranda to administer the drug. It would have to be something in her food. No one touches her, and she would obviously notice if someone was giving her a shot. Roy said she wasn’t as bad in the mornings…but sometimes out of it by noon…
Andy concentrated on the morning schedule she remembered and knew there was only one possibility. How stupid are you? She berated herself for not seeing the obvious, sooner. Staring at the screen, clicking the mouse and typing on the keyboard to organize the information, she didn’t notice the front door opening, or the click of high heels on the hall floor. The closet door closing broke through her focus. Oh no! The Book! She thought and looked up at the open door to the study to see a familiar outline. Emily.
“What do you think you are doing?!” The English woman’s temper snapped and she hissed, “You can’t be here!” She reached for her phone. “I’m calling the police!”
Without thinking, Andy stood and walked around the desk toward the irate woman. She held out her hands to calm her down. “No, it’s okay, really.”
Emily’s mouth fell open and the phone fell to the floor. “You’re wearing pajamas!” Her eyes narrowed. “What are you playing at?”
Andy sighed. “Emily, I’ll explain everything to you, but not now okay?”
She wasn’t convinced and reached down to retrieve her phone. “I’m calling the police.” Her fingers once again went numb as a voice floated down from the stairs.
Swallowing hard, the red-head tilted up, scanning the darkened staircase, very much like she was praying to an unseen God or in this case, Goddess. “Yes, Miranda?” There was a seemingly long pause.
Andy shrugged and spoke softly. “I’ll talk to you Monday.”
Huffing her dismay at the situation, the only thing that kept Emily from stomping back out the door was that she didn’t want to damage Miranda’s hardwood floors with her heels. She did manage to control herself enough not to slam the door behind her.
Shaking her head sadly, Andy watched her go and sighed. She hoped she could smooth this over with the woman somehow. Miranda’s voice pulled her from that train of thought.
Andy looked up at the dark staircase, even though there was no way she’d be able to see Miranda standing there, any more than Emily could have seen the woman. Andy knew that she was the one who now looked like she was praying. “Yes Miranda?”
“Are you nearly finished?”
“Yes Miranda. I just need to shut everything down.” Andy smiled at the response.
It didn’t take long to shut down the computer and flip off the lights. Aware that she had promised Miranda to stay with her until she fell asleep, and knowing that Miranda was not yet asleep, Andy returned to the master bedroom. The room was already dark, and through the dim light from the window she could see Miranda’s form in the bed. Crossing the room, she sat on top of the covers with her back against the headboard. “So…” She absently began playing with the intriguing white hair under her hand. “Emily.”
“Hmmm…” Rolling to face the other woman in her bed, Miranda tucked the pillow under her head and looked up at the brunette sleepily. “Indeed. You’d think after four months that girl she hired would be delivering it.”
“What?” She touched Miranda’s shoulder and shook it slightly. “What?”
“That girl, the incompetent one, you’d think she’d be delivering the Book by now.” Miranda grinned at the memory playing itself behind her closed eyes. “Even you were delivering it by now.”
Against her better judgment, Andy slid down on the bed and lay on her side, facing Miranda. She gently traced the contours of her companion’s face. “I know how they’ve been drugging you, and now I think I know who…” She smiled into, now open, blue eyes. “What I don’t know yet is why.”
Miranda took the information well. The widened blue eyes slowly closed and she murmured, “I knew you’d make everything okay.” The older woman’s breath evened out as she drifted off to sleep, unable to fight the crash from whatever drugs had been snuck into her system. “My Andrea.”
Andy rested her head on her hand and watched the sleeping woman for a long moment. She thought about the last comment and whispered softly. “You bet I am.”
Miranda woke slowly, blinking against the light filtering in through the window. She took a deep breath and shifted, then froze as the lanky arm around her waist tightened and pulled her back against a soft, warm form. After a second of surprised tension, she relaxed into the embrace and drifted back into sweet oblivion. Andrea was with her; everything was okay.
The next time she woke the arm was not around her but the woman next to her spoke quietly.
“Mmmm…” Turning to face the young woman in her bed, Miranda chuckled. “Indeed.” She raised her eyebrows in wry question. “What happened to finding a guest room after I fell asleep?”
Andy laughed a deep joyous laugh. “You said ‘if I must’.” Gazing at the woman of her dreams, Andy shrugged. “Turns out… it wasn’t necessary.”
Smiling at the laughter, and the sentiment, Miranda sighed. “I’m glad. I rather liked waking up in your arms this morning.”
Nodding, the older woman confirmed. “Yes. Very much so.”
“Yes?” Clear blue eyes glittered in the morning light.
Andy shook her head. “What are we doing?”
Miranda mirrored Andy’s motion and reached up, pressing her palm into the young woman’s cheek. “I haven’t got a clue,” she admitted. “Let’s just continue on and see what happens.”
Andy leaned into the touch and considered the words for a moment. “Okay, I think I can live with that.” She grinned. “First things first though, coffee?”
“Finally,” Miranda breathed. “Someone with their priorities straight.”
After the briefest stop in the bathroom, that they oddly took turns in instead of just going to separate rooms, they found themselves in the kitchen. Both women were quietly surprised at the easy camaraderie they seemed to have. Together they made quick work of breakfast preparation and they were soon sipping coffee. Andy was also amazed to find herself actually eating a breakfast Miranda had cooked. Something she had never imagined her ex-boss ever doing. She had assumed the only reason the woman had ever even ordered breakfast at the office was to make things difficult for her assistants.
“This is delicious.” Andy stabbed another bite of the egg white omelet.
“Mmmm…” Miranda nodded and scooped another bite for herself. “It’s one of my favorite breakfasts.” She shrugged. “I don’t get to eat it very often. The girls don’t like it.” She leaned toward Andy and whispered, “It has spinach in it.” She grinned indulgently. “Although, I would like them to eat it for the healthy aspects, they avidly avoid all things spinach.”
“I see.” Andy laughed. “I’ll try to remember that.” In the future. She blinked and shook off that thought quickly. That way also leads to madness. No thoughts of the future Andy, not until Miranda says so. Right now, just concentrate on the task at hand.
“It’s in the coffee.”
Miranda blinked and tipped the cup in her hand to look inside. “What?”
“Not that coffee.” Andy rolled her eyes. “The coffee at work, the Starbuck’s the incompetent one brings you.” Running her fingers through her hair, Andy sat back in her chair. “I don’t know yet if whatshername…er… What is her name anyway?”
Miranda thought for a moment. “Judy, I think.”
Nodding, Andy continued. “I don’t know if Judy is putting it there, or if it’s someone at Starbucks, but that is the only way, the only opportunity, anyone could be feeding you the drugs.”
“How do you know it is her? Emily has access to my coffee as well.”
Rolling her eyes, Andy snorted. “Give me a break, Miranda. She’s the Goddess’ most devoted disciple. Emily would rather eat carbs and gain ten pounds than do anything to hurt, or embarrass you. It has to be Judy, or someone at Starbucks who knows Judy works for you.”
“I agree.” The question about Emily wasn’t really serious, the girl was totally loyal. Miranda did wonder why the Judy-drug connection didn’t occur to her sooner, it was so obvious. Of course, there was the slight issue of the drugs being dispersed throughout her body, slightly impairing her thought process. That in itself was a rather disconcerting concept.
There were also still unanswered questions, and there was the pesky detail of proof that clearly needed to be dealt with. She sat back in her chair and regarded her companion steadily. “You have a plan?”
Andy spoke slowly. “You need to go see a doctor tomorrow, or Monday morning, to get blood drawn.” She swallowed hard. “Then again Monday night, and maybe wait until Wednesday to draw some more.”
“To show the progression…while I continue to take the drugs.” Miranda stood and cleared the plates from the table. “That is a good idea. We have to catch the culprit in the act.”
“I have half a cup of your coffee in my fridge at home.” She saw Miranda’s startled look and laughed. “When I was in your office yesterday, when I was leaving, I picked it up off your desk. Funny to still have that habit after being gone for a year, but whatever. I nearly trashed it when I got home, but then decided to keep it. I’m glad I did now, we can have it analyzed. It’ll be nice to know what exactly you’re up against.”
“What we are up against.” Miranda corrected then asked. “Why keep it?”
“I was going to warm it up, with my breakfast this morning.” Andy shrugged. “I had planned on going home last night.”
Miranda sniffed. “Funny, that was never my plan at all.”
“Ohhh.. you wicked woman.” Andy shook her finger at Miranda and laughed. “You just wanted to lure me over here and seduce me, is that it?”
Miranda winked at the girl. “Yes, you caught me.” Crossing over to stand next to her guest, she ran her fingers through the wavy brown hair. “My evil plan to rob the cradle has been totally foiled.”
“Cradle?” Andy snorted and leaned into the touch. “Hardly.”
“You’re half my age, Andrea.” Miranda lost herself looking down into those deep brown eyes. “Sometimes that seems…inappropriate.” It was better not to think about the fact that Andrea was closer to her children’s age than she was to her own. “The crash from the damn drugs spoiled things quite effectively.”
“Really?” Andy looked disappointed and now had another reason to nail the person responsible for drugging Miranda. “No Plan B? You always have a Plan B, don’t you?”
“Contrary to Emily’s theory that I only ever have a Plan A. Oh yes, there’s a Plan B.” Miranda assured her, only just stopping herself from leaning down to capture those full red lips. “But I have to make sure you’re ready for it.”
“Hmmm…” A shiver of anticipation danced down Andy’s spine and she grinned. “…that sounds…terrifying.” Her eyes widened at Miranda’s response.
Miranda’s clear blue eyes twinkled with all sorts of hidden plans and future promises. Oh, Andrea, you have no idea.
“Okay… Thanks Doctor… Yeah that would be great.” Andy hung up the phone and stood up from the desk. She joined Miranda, who was once again standing at the window, enjoying the view of the backyard garden as it was cast in shadows by the lowering sun. “It’s all set. She’ll meet us at her office tomorrow morning at ten.”
“And how exactly do you know this…person?”
Andy took a deep breath. “I met Doctor Dawson when I did an article for the Mirror and required some medical advice. She’s been my ‘go-to-gal’ for medical stuff ever since.” Brown eyes studied the older woman and, hearing the twinge of jealousy in her voice, couldn’t help teasing her, just a little. “She’s cute, but too young for me.”
Miranda’s eyebrows rose. “Too young?”
“Mmmm…” Lounging around in her pajamas at Miranda’s house all day left Andy feeling quite bold. Leaning close to Miranda’s ear she whispered. “Yeah, she’s only just turned forty.”
Clenching her teeth, Miranda growled. “Andrea, it’s not nice to tease me.”
Moving away slightly, Andy grinned and continued on conversationally. “Who’s teasing? Really, Miranda… the woman is only just starting have some gray at her temples.” She pretended to be picturing something. “Although…if her hair was totally white…”
For some reason an old cartoon popped into Andy’s head and she began speaking. “Shut u-up? Why certainly! You don't think I'm the type that would keep on blabbin'? Some people never know when to stop. When I'm told to shut up, I shut up...”
“Andrea!” Miranda chuckled she obviously knew the cartoon as well and took on a ‘thug’ accent. “Shut up, shuttin’ up.”
“Oh my god, Miranda Priestly can quote classic Bugs Bunny cartoons!” Andy laughed and impulsively hugged the woman. “That is awesome.”
Miranda winced slightly at the ‘classic’ comment and her voice was muffled on Andy’s shoulder. “I do have eleven year old children. I’m not totally oblivious.” She sighed though, knowing the truth. She’d watched those cartoons when she was little, when they were nearly new. Then suddenly that didn’t matter and she relaxed into the embrace. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
Andy took a deep breath, clearing the last of the laughter away and held Miranda firmly in place with one hand around the slim waist and the other one pressing against white silky hair. “I am too.” She absorbed the moment, relishing the feel of Miranda in her arms. God I wish this wasn’t just because of the drugs. This has been such a great day. The thought that this would be denied her when Miranda was no longer experiencing the effects of whatever she’d been given was enough to bring a lump to her throat. The idea of Miranda being hurt, manipulated by the substances given to her, made Andy angry. Clenching her teeth for a moment, Andy spoke quietly. “They won’t get away with it, Miranda. We’ll catch them.” She shook the woman in her arms for emphasis. “We will.”
“I like the sound of that.” Miranda looked up into her companion’s face and smiled. “We.”
Nodding, Andy loosened her grip on the older woman and put a little space between them, not much, just enough to loosely lock her hands around the back of Miranda’s neck and lean down to touch their foreheads together. It was becoming harder and harder not to give in to the desire to kiss the older woman. Right now it would be so easy to just tip her head back and bring their lips together. Just once Andy thought. Before this is over and Miranda is out of my life again. Practicality asserted itself before desire could take over.
“We’re going to need help.” Andy bit her bottom lip and obliquely asked, “I think I need to call my contact on the police force…and there’s an assistant district attorney I know that could probably give us some advice.”
“Yes,” Miranda agreed. “As soon as we know what drugs are being used, we can contact the police.”
Andy nodded, amazed she got that concession. “Thanks…” She hesitated, but then forged ahead. “I’d like to talk to Emily; tell her what’s going on.”
“No.” The editor was firm on this point. “She doesn’t need to know, yet.”
“Can I ask why?” Andy wondered. “You don’t really think she has anything to do with it do you?”
“No, she’s innocent, I’m sure.” Miranda pursed her lips together. “But while you were correct when you said she was totally loyal, she’s also protective, and I can’t be sure what her reaction will be when she hears.”
“Ah.” Andy considered the words and the concept. “Okay, I can live with that.” She slid her hands down Miranda’s arms and held her hand, leading her to the sofa. “I’d like to talk to you about a few things, if that’s okay.”
“Mmmm…” Miranda tried to control her racing heart. “I suppose we should.” There was a long list of things they really should discuss. the difference in our ages, the fact I have two children, the difference in our social standings, the difference in our backgrounds, the difference in our educations…how a relationship between us could never work because you are so young and beautiful and I’m just a foolish old woman chasing a dream… She settled on the cushion next to Andy. “What would you like to talk about first?”
“Your computer password.”
Miranda blinked, totally thrown out of her thoughts. “Uh…what?”
“You used my name as the password on your computer Miranda. My name.” The reporter fell back on a standard question. “Why?”
Taking a moment to organize her answer, Miranda let out a sigh and asked, “Do you want the practical answer, or the romantic one?”
Romantic? Whoa, not ready for that I don’t think. Andy responded, “Practical.”
“Passwords are supposed to be something you won’t forget and no one would ever guess. It was the safest one I could think of.” Miranda shrugged. “Andrea, who would ever think my password would be your name?”
Andy’s forehead wrinkled in thought. Well that’s true. Especially since she used Andy, instead of Andrea. No one would ever guess it. Curiosity got the better of her. “And the romantic answer?”
Miranda traced Andy’s smooth jaw with her fingertips and repeated softly. “It was the safest one I could think of, one I would never forget.” She smiled and distractedly watched her own fingers sliding against the young woman’s silky skin. She could feel the warmth gathering just below her navel. “For some reason it’s easier to type than the previous one.”
“Cerulean Blue.” Dropping her hand from the girl’s face, Miranda stood. “Be right back.”
Momentarily stunned by the previous password, Andy shivered slightly. To her, it represented a moment between them when Miranda had totally humiliated her in front of a roomful of her co-workers, offering a scathing review of the sweater Andy was wearing and a history of said sweater’s specific color, Cerulean Blue. Why would she use that?
Andy leaned back on the sofa and thought about that time and then the events of the last twenty four hours or so. Miranda’s attitude toward her was so different now and she couldn’t help think that it was due to the drugs. She felt as though she’d been caught in a whirlwind ever since she saw the ‘brunette’ issue of Runway and she was sure things weren’t going to ease up any time soon. Then again, nothing short of a whirlwind could get her to the Land of Oz, could it? Today had been the eye of the storm, she guessed.
They had simply been together all day, talking about what to do tomorrow. Miranda had worked on the Book for a while, Andy had worked on a filler article she’d been assigned last week, they’d had a light lunch and even watched a movie double-play in the twin’s home-theater playroom. It was nice, just a nice day spent in each other’s presence. She was beginning to have a hard time stopping herself from touching the older woman though, brushing against her, rubbing her back or shoulders. Andy felt warm all over at the thought of the hugs they had shared and wished today could go on forever. It couldn’t though, it was almost over and Andy knew she should be going home soon. Turning her head she watched Miranda re-enter the room, holding two mugs.
“Coffee.” She handed one over.
“Ah.” Accepting the drink, Andy took several large drinks and set her, half empty, mug aside. “Mmm… thanks.”
Miranda nodded and resumed her seat. “So, what else do you want to talk about?” She focused on the dark liquid in her mug. She didn’t want to look at Andrea, knowing her resolve, her control, was all but gone. There had been too much touching, too many embraces throughout the day. Waking up in Andrea’s arms this morning had just literally been the beginning, now she knew any little action would undo her. Getting the drinks had just been an excuse to get away for a moment to try and collect herself. It was also unsettling to know there were so many issues between them, and that she didn’t really care about any of them. She knew they’d have to be dealt with, eventually, but right now it was taking everything she had not to give in to her most basic desire. She wanted to kiss Andrea and more than that, she wanted Andrea to kiss her. She wanted it so badly, it was making her tremble.
Realizing there was something bothering her companion; Andy took the mug from Miranda’s fingers and sat it on the low table in front of them. “Why don’t you pick the next topic?”
“Andrea.” Her fingers tingled where Andrea’s had brushed them taking the mug away. She looked directly into the young woman’s eyes, aware her voice was lower than normal. “I don’t want to talk anymore.”
The tone in the older woman’s voice caused Andy’s heart to pound and the look made her warm all over. She stood quickly. “I think it’s time for me to go.”
“No!” Miranda was on her feet, reaching for Andy. “Don’t… please.”
“Miranda, I can’t!” Whirling to face the older woman, Andy automatically reached for an embrace and then stopped herself, holding her arms stiffly at her sides. “I can’t do this…whatever this is.”
Dropping her eyes to the floor, Andy spoke quietly. “You know why.”
“You don’t trust your feelings for me.” Miranda could feel her heart begin to break. “You don’t…”
“No!” Andy actually stomped her foot like a child. “I know what I’m feeling! What I can’t…trust, is your feelings.” She couldn’t help looking up, anguished brown eyes locking with blue desire. “How do I know it’s not the drugs?! How do I know this is how you really feel?” She slumped boneless into a plush chair. “I have to know Miranda, because…if it’s not…” She folded; resting her cheek on her knees and spoke quietly. “If it’s not, I won’t be able to come back from that.”
Dropping to her knees in front of Andy, Miranda gently stroked the young woman’s soft brown hair. “Andrea, listen to me.” She tilted her head to catch the girl’s eyes, heart clenching at the pain she found there. “I can, one hundred percent assure you that what I feel for you has nothing whatsoever to do with any drug I have unknowingly taken in the last three months, and I can prove it.” Holding Andy’s chin with her thumb and index finger knuckle, Miranda made sure the girl was paying attention. “What I feel for you, has been there for a long time, a long time…do you hear me?” She waited for a slight nod. “All the drugs did was to allow me to act on those feelings in an astoundingly blatant way.” She continued with a smile. “I certainly didn’t send all those invitations to that dreadful paper you work for because I didn’t want to see you again.”
“But that was…” Andy’s eyes widened, thinking back to how long that had been going on; ever since she worked there. “How long, exactly, have you…”
Miranda’s eyes never left Andy’s, but her lips twitched, and her nostrils flared as the two word response took form. “Cerulean blue.” That had been the moment that solidified what she was feeling. She’d totally humiliated her new assistant, and one second after she’d done it, the look on Andrea’s face made her stomach flip. All she’d wanted to do at that moment was take the girl in her arms and apologize. She had never felt like that before, ever.
A laugh of relief bubbled its way to the surface. It wasn’t just one of the three options that had caused the brunette issue; not just the drugs. It had been infatuation as well. She’d never considered a combination of reasons. Andy groaned, suddenly realizing. “All that time!?”
Miranda shrugged and admitted. “The offer to go to Paris was…genuine, but not entirely…appropriate on my part.”
Andy slid off the chair so she was now knee to knee with Miranda and she was no longer interested in the discussion. With one hand on either side of the woman’s head, fingers moving in the soft white hair, Andy slowly caressed the soft skin on Miranda’s cheeks, jaw and lips with her thumbs. After several moments she could feel the older woman trembling beneath her fingertips, but still she couldn’t stop the gentle tracing. She thought about all the time she’d spent with Miranda during her time as the woman’s assistant, and about all the time she’d spent away from her mercurial ex-boss. All that time…without her. God, I’ve missed her.
When Miranda took a breath and her lips moved to speak, Andy moved her thumbs to stop the sound, shaking her head. “Shhhh…”
With a hard swallow, Miranda dipped her head slightly, once, never taking her eyes off Andy’s face. Needing some form of contact, Miranda’s hands moved to Andrea’s waist, almost losing control at the girl’s sharp intake of breath. Stilling her hands she kept them resting there, waiting, and thought she was going to faint when Andy leaned close and whispered.
“I’ve… missed you.”
Andy watched Miranda’s eyes close, and again stopped the woman from speaking before moving closer. “I’ve missed you so much.”
The feel of Miranda’s hands caressing the length of her back was amazing. Andy heard a whimper as their bodies pressed together and Miranda’s arms tightened around her. She wasn’t sure who had made the sound but she liked it, and wanted to hear it again. Miranda fit against her so perfectly, just as the woman always had, in her dreams. The arms around her trembled and Andy couldn’t stand it. She touched her forehead against Miranda’s, breathing the same air for a brief moment before tipping her head back to brush their lips together, barely touching the skin there, not even sure they were touching. She heard the whimper again and this time Andy knew that she had made the sound. Something inside her melted and she breathed one word against Miranda’s lips.
Their lips found each other’s again, heat against heat, for a long moment. Andy broke the kiss to gasp for air and moan, “More.” Another breathtaking kiss, tongues searching. “..more…” She couldn’t possibly get enough of Miranda. It was no longer a want, it was a need; she needed Miranda as surely as she needed to breathe.
“Andrea.” Miranda’s chest heaved as she took great gasps of air. “Bed.”
“No.” Andy shifted and only took the time to help Miranda to the sofa before pressing the woman back into the plush cushions. Now she, slowly, languorously kissed Miranda’s lips, tasting the softness smiling against it. “I always knew your kisses would taste like coffee.” A large hand found its way under the top of Miranda’s pajamas and Andy moaned at the silky texture of the skin she found there. She could feel the muscles just under the velvety covering, flexing with each heaving breath they shared. Andy growled with frustration as the confines of the sofa restricted her movement. “Miranda.” Hot breath warmed the velvet skin of Miranda’s neck as Andy murmured. “Bed or floor?”
“Bed,” she gasped, as Andy’s lips found her pulse point and pulled the warmth there to the surface.
“Mmmm…” Rising from the sofa, Andy felt so energized and alive she thought she could pick up Miranda and carry her to the bedroom. She wished she could, that way Miranda would never be out of her arms. Taking the woman’s hand, Andy pulled her toward the stairs. “C’mon.”
Miranda followed her young lover up to the bedroom and found herself standing next to the bed. Overwhelmed with desire, she trembled as the darkened brown eyes bore into hers and the long nimble fingers began to unbutton the shirt she wore. New insecurity fought with her desire and trembles turned to shakes as she waited for Andrea’s reaction to the first sight of her bare breasts. She knew reality was often a far cry from the illusion designer clothing provided. When the shirt was opened, long silence from the girl prompted Miranda to speak. “Not exactly what you expected.”
Andrea’s head shook negative and Miranda’s eyes closed of their own volition, then blazed open again as the girl spoke, awe in her voice.
“Andrea, you don’t have to…” Miranda took a shuddering breath as Andy’s fingertips hesitantly brushed the ivory flesh offered, knowing the dark centers tightened instantly at the touch. When Andy dropped to her knees and pulled her closer, kissing her exposed stomach, reverently, Miranda was sure it would be the death of her. Oh God. Dropping her hands to the soft brown hair, she curled around the girl as she felt herself pushed back onto the bed. “Andrea…” Miranda truly felt like she was on drugs now. Andy’s skin was so intoxicating… she wanted more; the other woman’s pajama top had to go, soon. “Andrea…”
Stretching out their full lengths, Andy found Miranda’s neck and nuzzled the skin there as she whispered. “Yes Miranda?” A large hand slid up past ribs to cup the breast it found, squeezing gently, groaning when the weight of it pressed taut flesh into her palm.
Miranda cried out and arched against Andrea’s hand. With deliberate and determined purpose, the older woman rolled so she could reach up and take a firm grip on either side of the buttons on Andy’s shirt. No longer willing to be denied, Miranda pulled it apart with a strength she would not have thought she possessed. The young woman’s gasp echoed her own as Andrea’s body hovered over her. There was so much, more, than what Miranda was used to seeing. Models at Runway changing their clothes for the photo shoots were skeletons compared to Andrea. Miranda’s eyes took it in and smiled. “Beautiful.” There was a look in those soulful brown eyes that doubted the appraisal, but Miranda would have none of that, she was finished talking at least for a while and reaching up she pulled the very willing woman down to her, pressing bare flesh to bare flesh, both women appreciating the feeling with soft moans and delightful motion.
Andrea lost herself in Miranda, letting the world slip away. It had never been like this with anyone else, never so overwhelming. She kissed her way to a delicate ear and whispered. “Maybe you are a witch after all.” Tugging gently on the earlobe with her teeth, Andy sighed. “You’ve put a spell on me.”
Miranda laughed a full, rich laugh of pure joy. “Andrea, shut up and kiss me.”
With a wicked grin, Andy nodded her head once. “Yes, Miranda.” She slid down the entire length of the older woman’s body, taking the rest of Miranda’s pajamas with her; dropping them negligently to the floor. Andy’s eyes twinkled and kissed one perfectly groomed toe.
Raising up on her elbows, Miranda looked at the girl and grinned. “I meant…”
Nodding, the girl grinned back. “I know what you meant...” Andy continued kissing each of Miranda’s toes in turn, then alternated between feet, then her ankles and assured the woman. “I’ll get there…”
Oh God. Miranda collapsed back on the bed and gasped as Andy kissed a particularly sensitive spot. “You’re going to be the death of me.” But she knew the opposite was true, she already felt more alive than she had in a very, very long time. Each kiss Andrea placed during her slow ascent totally enthralled Miranda, and the older woman nearly growled, “I hope you know your turn is next.”
Andy nipped at the soft skin behind Miranda’s knee and chuckled, low and deep. “Oh, I’m counting on it.” But she wasn’t really; there was no thought of anything at the moment except the unbearable need to kiss every inch of Miranda. Nothing else really mattered at all.
“Andrea, it’s time to wake up.”
Andy groaned and snaked an arm around the woman next to her. “Don’t wanna.” She kept her eyes closed and snuggled closer.
Miranda sighed. “Honestly, I don’t either, but we must go meet your young doctor friend.” Blue eyes twinkled at the one bleary brown eye that now opened to regard her.
“Did you just make a joke, about age?”
Blinking, Miranda managed to shrug, even wrapped in the snuggle Andy had managed. “I think I did. Age does have its privileges.”
Andy laughed. “Good God woman, I’m sore in places I never even knew I had and you...” Now using both eyes to study Miranda’s relaxed face, the girl smiled. “You’re amazing.”
“Flattery, Andrea, really?” The haughty tone only had a trace of amusement. “You expect that to work on me?”
“Yes.” Andy grinned.
Miranda laughed. “You’re right! Unfortunately we don’t have time to laze in bed this morning.” Steady blue eyes traced the line of Andy’s neck. “Before we go meet your vampire friend we must go to your apartment to get the coffee you have there.”
“She’s not a vampire, you’re just getting blood drawn.” Andy slowly moved away from Miranda’s warm form. “I should grab a quick shower.” Rising from the bed, Andy grabbed the pajama shirt from where it had fallen to the floor, where Miranda had thrown it, some time during the night. No buttons had survived so skin was exposed all the way down to her front. It did, however, stay closed enough to cover the two main things it was supposed to.
Miranda rolled to watch her lover pull on the matching pants. “My God you’re sexy.”
Andy stopped and turned to look at the older woman. “You think?” She rolled her eyes. “I’m kinda...” She wasn’t sure what, but when she thought of herself, ‘sexy’ was not a word that came to mind; gawky, awkward maybe, although admittedly not as much now as a year or so ago. She swallowed hard as Miranda nodded.
“Oh yes. I think.” She hugged a pillow to her and took a deep breath. “I most definitely think.”
Smiling wryly, Andy chuckled. “Miranda, only you could make me envy a pillow.” She held up her hands quickly to fend off said pillow as it flew toward her face. “Hey!” While dealing with the soft missile, she didn’t realize the other woman had moved and Andy suddenly found her arms full.
“So.” Miranda tilted her head slightly in question as her hands slipped inside the tattered shirt Andy wore. “Shower?”
Andy licked her lips. “Oh yeah.”
Andy watched herself in the mirror, applying some mascara carefully. Finished, she glanced over at a quieter than usual Miranda. Usual being what she’d experienced with the woman for the past day or so.
It didn’t seem like a strange scene; two women standing at a double vanity putting on makeup, but Andy felt the weirdness and tried to recall when it started. The day you were hired at Runway? She conceded that thought was true. But for the answer she really wanted, she thought back through the past half hour or so; since they’d gotten out of the shower.
She couldn’t think about the shower itself or her instincts would get the better of her and she’d just end up ravishing Miranda, again; right up against the sink. The older woman gave no indication whatsoever that anyone else was in the room with her and Andy took a deep breath, returning her gaze back to her own reflection. When had this…distance, started? This maddening internalization was too much and Andy gave in. “What’s wrong?”
Cool blue eyes flicked a glance at the girl and Andy recalled Emily hissing, ‘You don’t ask Miranda anything!’ This isn’t the Miranda Emily knows though, this Miranda is mine. She caught her lower lip in her teeth. “Miranda, did I do something wrong?”
Miranda stood up straight and regarded her reflection in the mirror. Satisfied, she gave herself one nod and placed the tube of lipstick she was holding precisely back in the makeup case. “Nothing I wasn’t expecting.” With a lift of her head, Miranda’s eyes raked over Andy with grudging approval and walked out of the bathroom. “Shall we go?”
“No.” Andy was hurt, and her face showed it as she trailed the older woman back into the bedroom. “What do you mean ‘nothing I wasn’t expecting’?” She flailed her arms, gesturing toward the bed. “That is something I wasn’t expecting. This is all something I wasn’t expecting!” Closing the physical distance between them Andy took Miranda’s hands and held them between them. “Tell me what’s wrong.” Then pulled her Ace, a pout she was certain if patented would make her a mint from Runway employees alone. “Please.”
Sighing, Miranda shook her head. “It’s nothing really.”
“It’s bothering you so it’s not nothing.” Andy pulled Miranda to sit on the edge of the bed. “Talk to me.” Everything had been fine until they’d gotten all dried off and began the makeup process. ‘Time to slap on the spackle eh?’ She’d joked and that, she realized, was when Miranda’s demeanor had changed and suddenly she thought she knew why.
“Miranda, are you mad because I called makeup spackle?” She forged on. “I’m sorry, I know its part of your work…”
“Andrea.” Shaking her head sadly, Miranda pulled her hands free and patted the girl on the thigh. She began to get up from the bed. “We really don’t have time for this.”
“No.” Andy grabbed the older woman’s shoulders and pulled her back to the bed. “We have plenty of time. Talk to me.”
“It was the word spackle that caught my attention.” Miranda began slowly. “I understand that is the substance workers use to fill cracks in walls in homes, yes? So, it is I suppose appropriate to fill…” Her voice broke.
Oh God. Andy understood. She thinks I meant wrinkles, she thinks… “Okay, Miranda, listen to me.” She waited for liquid eyes to meet hers. “We are getting ready to walk outside the front door and meet a person you’ve never met before. If you want to scrub every bit of that stuff off your face and go, I’ll be right next to you.” She let those words soak in before confessing. “I wouldn’t be very happy about it though.”
“Of course you wouldn’t.” Miranda studied the weave of the sheet she was sitting on. “Stephen…” She sighed. “Stephen said I was ‘frumpy’ without makeup.”
“Stephen,” Andy gave the impression of spitting when she said his name. “…is an idiot.” Andy smiled sadly at the raised eyebrows and pressed the back of Miranda’s hand against her cheek. “This weekend has been wonderful, hanging out here with you…” Her eyes slid to the bed. “…being with you. It’s better than anything I have ever dreamed.”
“It has been very nice.” Miranda conceded and admitted. “Better than I dreamed as well.”
With a deep breath Andy continued. “This…” She used her fingers to brush close, but not touch, Miranda’s face; now covered with a total makeup mask. “…this is the face you show the world, the Goddess, and I understand I’m… required, to share that.” Her heart was pounding so hard, that she thought it would burst out of her chest at any moment but she spoke firmly. “But you, without makeup…you’re mine Miranda.” She smiled at the shock on Miranda’s face. “So I’ll always remind you to put on makeup when we go out, because ‘they’ can bask in the Goddess, from afar, but as long as I have anything to say about it, they can’t have you.” Lowering her voice, Andy nearly growled, “I…don’t…share.”
Overwhelmed, Miranda sat for a moment staring at Andy. When the girl had spoken of dreams, her heart had began to pound wildly and then, the possessive declaration… the implication that this, whatever this was, could actually…last. It was more than Miranda had ever hoped for, even in her dreams, drug induced or not. She covered her hope with a chuckle. “Cheeky thing.” Standing from the bed, she pulled the girl up with her and tilted her head in question. She’d heard the twins speaking with each other, recalling one of their favorite phrases and grinned. “Possessive much?”
Andrea rolled her eyes, relieved Miranda didn’t make a big deal about her declaration. She was, lighter somehow, just knowing that Miranda knew how she felt and Andy laughed. “So much for pouring my heart out.” She headed for the door only to be stopped by Miranda holding her hand.
“Andrea.” Waiting for Andy to turn around and face her, Miranda locked her eyes with her oh so beautiful lover. She spent several heartbeats looking into the young woman’s eyes before she spoke, wanting to reciprocate all that the girl had told her, and more, but instead simply spoke quietly. “Thank you.”
With a little timid smile, Andy tugged the hand in hers. “C’mon.”
Miranda stood in the living room, looked around the apartment and blinked. “How…quaint.”
Laughing, Andy called from the bedroom. “I told you, you didn’t have to come up.” She changed into a pair of jeans, and grinned as she pulled on a sweater, the sweater. “I just need to grab the coffee and we can go.” She walked through the living room toward the kitchen and pressed her lips together, knowing Miranda was giving her the once over. Returning to the living room, Andy raised her eyebrows. “Problem?”
Sniffing once, Miranda absently turned to look around the room again. “I had assumed you’d thrown that…thing, away.”
“Never assume.” Andy now bit her lips together to prevent the laughter that threatened.
“You’re assuming quite a lot if you think I’m going to be seen in public with you while you’re wearing that monstrosity.” Miranda’s nostrils flared. “Take it off this instant!”
Shrugging, Andy sat the coffee down and took off the shirt. Now she stood, in front of Miranda, her upper half only clad in her bra. “Now what?”
“Put something else on, of course.”
Andy spoke logically. “I like this sweater Miranda, it’s warm and comfortable, and best of all…clean.” Pointing to the overflowing laundry hamper, Andy explained, “I usually do laundry on Saturday, but I spent all day yesterday at your house so nothing got done.” She waved the sweater in her hand at the older woman. “So it’s this, or nothing.”
Miranda nodded once. “Nothing then.”
“Okay.” Andy tossed the sweater on the couch, grabbed the coffee and walked to the front door. Opening it she gestured for Miranda to go first. “After you.”
“Andrea!” With a small sound of dismay, Miranda scooped up the shirt and replaced the coffee in Andy’s hand with it. “Put your clothes on.” She sighed and walked out the door, whispering.
“I don’t share either.”
“Isabella Dawson.” Andy gestured to each woman as she made the introductions. “Miranda Priestly.”
“It’s an honor to meet you, Ms. Priestly.” Dr. Dawson shook her hand gently, but firmly.
“The pleasure is mine. Andrea seems to think very highly of you.” Miranda regarded the woman thoughtfully. The ubiquitous white lab coat hid most of the actual clothing the woman wore, but she recognized the lines of a Vera Wang dress, and was not oblivious to the Prada shoes on the woman’s feet. She also had to admit, the bit of grey at her temples made the doctor seem trustworthy for some reason, probably a great help in her profession. “I appreciate you taking the time out of your weekend to assist us with this matter, discretely.”
“Of course…” Dr. Dawson smiled indulgently at her friend. “Andy explained the situation to me.”
“Yes, I heard that end of the conversation.” Miranda seated herself on a chair that seemed to be specifically designed for bloodletting. She laid her arm on the rest, exposing the juncture of her elbow to the needle in Dr. Dawson’s hand. “The less publicity the better.” She paled a bit and shut her eyes as the woman closed in with the sharp steel.
“Make a fist,” The Doctor instructed.
Suddenly Miranda felt Andrea’s warm presence beside her, and was amazed at the comfort she felt when Andy’s hand slid into her own unoccupied one; not the one attached to the arm that was about to be skewered. Looking up from the warm hand in hers, Miranda found herself lost in deep brown eyes. She blinked when Dr. Dawson spoke.
“Okay, all done.”
“What?” Miranda looked down at the arm lying there with a cotton ball taped to her skin. Her eyes widened. “Well done, Doctor.”
Isabella grinned and winked. “It helps if you have a distraction.”
Miranda’s lips twitched, but she said nothing. She was grateful when Andrea filled the silence.
“Call us when you know what we’re dealing with.”
“Of course.” Isabella meticulously labeled the samples. “I’ll start the tests right now. Some of them take a couple of hours, so I’ll call when all the results are back.”
“Okay.” Andy rubbed Miranda’s shoulder. “You okay?” Concern tinged the girl’s question. “Sometimes giving blood makes me dizzy.”
Miranda patted the hand on her shoulder. “I’m fine, Andrea.” She stood and faced the doctor. “Thank you Doctor.”
“Happy to help, Ms. Priestly.”
“Should I drop Andy back at her apartment before we go to the train station to pick up the girls?” Roy looked expectantly at the reflections in the rear view mirror.
Miranda turned to the young woman next to her, leaving the decision up to her. “Andrea?”
“I…um…” God, she wanted to stay with Miranda so much, but she decided to do the grown up thing. “I have a lot of stuff to do at the apartment, laundry and things.” She saw the disappointment in Miranda’s eyes. “I’m sure you want some quality time with the girls.”
Miranda turned to watch the passing scenery. “I suppose.”
Andy took Miranda’s hand. “How about, I go home now…and then maybe, go back to your house for dinner tonight?”
“You would spend the evening with us?” Miranda continued to stare out the window but felt the tension in her shoulders ease.
“Of course.” Andy twined her fingers with Miranda’s. “Anytime you’ll allow it.”
Miranda kept her attention on the world passing by but closed her fingers around Andy’s. “This evening would be acceptable.” She gave Roy the instructions.
Andy just smiled and savored the warm feeling holding Miranda’s hand gave her.
Folding the last of her laundry, Andy glanced at the clock. Almost time. She left the folded clothes in the basket and began to get ready to go to Miranda’s. She wasn’t going to get away with wearing the sweater tonight, Miranda’s warning as she’d exited the car was clear. Andrea, I expect you to be dressed appropriately this evening. Which meant no cerulean blue sweater. She’d been doing laundry all afternoon so she couldn’t use the ‘it’s the only thing clean’ excuse either. She wasn’t going to dress up though, slacks and a blouse with a jacket would have to do. She didn’t want to be too uncomfortable when she met the girls. She’d seen them a few times during her time as Miranda’s assistant, but those had been few and far between, and it was almost always trouble when she did see them.
It was six on the dot when Roy honked the horn and she was ready, heading down the stairs before the echo of the sound died away.
“Hi Roy.” She settled in the back of the car. “Thanks for coming to get me.”
“No problem.” And it wasn’t, Miranda often called him for last minute runs to wherever, this pickup he’d known about since this morning. He’d actually had the entire day off yesterday which was rare. He checked the mirrors and pulled away from the curb. “Did you get things sorted out? Is she okay?”
Andy smiled. “She will be.” She has to be.
“Great!” He glanced at her in the mirror. “You okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.” She closed her eyes for a moment. “Roy? Have you ever driven Judy anywhere?”
“Umm… Miranda’s new second assistant? I think she’s been working there a few months.”
“Not that I recall.” He shrugged. “I take Emily on errands sometimes, but I really rarely take the second assistant anywhere.”
Andy reminded him. “You drove me all over the place.”
“True.” He replied. “But I never really knew why. You’re really the only second that Miranda ever spent a whole lot of time with. Before that it was just Emily with the other gal manning the phones.” He grinned at her in the mirror. “Guess you were just special.”
“Guess so.” Andy hugged herself. I knew that. Even back then. She cleared her throat. “I’m going to meet the twins tonight.” She looked hopeful. “Any advice?”
“They aren’t exactly identical.” Roy changed lanes and continued. “In looks yes, but one of them is more like Miranda - in attitude - than the other, that’s Caroline.” He pulled up in front of the townhouse and exited the car to open the door for her. “Learn how to tell them apart and they’ll warm up to you.”
“A little Miranda?” She was sure that was one of the most terrifying things she’d ever heard, and kinda sweet. “Thanks Roy.”
“Anytime Andy.” He winked. “Have a good night.”
She grinned and took the steps up to the door two at a time. It was a daunting thought, she was going to meet Miranda’s children, but her hand was steady as she rang the bell. There was only time for one deep breath before Miranda opened the door.
“Andrea.” Blue eyes raked down the simple but designer outfit Andy was wearing and Miranda’s lips twitched slightly. “It’s so nice to see you.” Leaning forward, she placed a kiss on her guest’s cheek as she ushered Andy into the house. “Girls, this is Andrea. She’s …a friend.”
Andy almost laughed as both twins’ eyes grew identically larger. Thanks to Roy’s advice though, Andy saw a little bit of Miranda in one set of eyes and nodded. “Hello Caroline.” Then she turned to the other girl giving her a nod as well. “Cassidy.” It was cool to see them blink, disconcerted that she had gotten their names right, but the topper was Miranda. Andy saw a glistening of liquid in the woman’s eyes. All I did was say hi. She thought. Why would that be a big deal? Cassidy’s piping voice answered everything.
“Wow!” She went to Andy’s side and took her hand. “Stephen never could tell us apart.”
With a startled glance at Miranda, Andy smiled down at the girl and automatically stroked the child’s reddish hair. “Your Mom already knows how I feel about Stephen.” She heard a tiny ‘hmph’ sound and watched as Caroline turned on her heel nearly stomping down the hallway toward the kitchen.
Cassidy rolled her eyes. “Don’t mind her, she’s a grump today.”
Andy winked. “Okay, thanks.” Her eyes followed the girl as she went after her sister, then turned to Miranda. They went into the parlor and sat, staring at each other for a few moments. Andy finally asked. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, Andrea.” She drummed her fingers on the arm of the chair she was in. “Your young doctor friend hasn’t called yet.”
“She will.” Andy assured her, then asked hesitantly, knowing the question would have double meaning and wondered which one Miranda would answer. “Have you told…um… the girls anything?” She smiled as Miranda moved to sit next to her on the couch.
“Not yet.” Miranda’s fingers tangled themselves with Andy’s. “I’m waiting for the doctor’s call and I was hoping you’d be here when I talked to them.”
Great…she answered both meanings at the same time…I think. “Good idea.” She squeezed the hand in hers, reciprocating the duel answer. “Better to wait.” Andy felt dizzy. Having two conversations at once was kind of disturbing.
“Indeed.” Miranda stood, pulling her guest up with her and locking elbows. “Shall we?”
Andy patted the arm around hers and then disengaged, moving slightly away from her host as they entered the kitchen.
Cassidy caught up with her sister and hissed. “What is wrong with you?”
Caroline rolled her eyes. “Please, I may be eleven but I’m not stupid.”
“Are you calling me stupid?”
The girl shook her head. “Of course not…you just don’t see what I do.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“The assistant? Mom’s…” She did air quotes with her fingers. “Friend.”
“Mom can have friends!” Cassidy wasn’t sure what her sister was implying and was even more confused when her mirror image’s head shook.
“No, she can’t, she doesn’t. Mom has co-workers, Mom has acquaintances. Mom has business partners. Mom has ex-husbands. Mom has people who want something from her and pretend to be her friend. Mom does not have friends.”
Cassidy’s heart sank at her sister’s words, knowing it was true. “Maybe Andy’s different?”
“Oh she’s different all right.” Caroline’s teeth ground together.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, she’s good.” The girl thought quickly. “No one knows how to tell us apart except Mom. We can even fool Dad sometimes. I don’t know how Andrea did it, maybe she just got lucky.” She gestured to her sister. “Quick, change shirts with me.”
“C’mon! Hurry.” Caroline stripped off her shirt and put on the one Cassidy handed her. “Okay. Now we’ll see, and so will Mom.”
“See what?!” Cassidy looked at her sister like she was crazy. “Caroline, you aren’t making any sense.”
The girl shook her head and shushed her sister. “No time.”
Both girls looked up and Caroline smiled as their Mother and her ‘friend’ walked into the kitchen.
Miranda took one look at her daughters and knew exactly what had happened. She glanced over at Andrea but decided not to say anything, just to see how the young woman would handle the twins. It had been a shock when Andy had gotten the girl’s names correct, but Miranda admitted that it could have just been luck. It was a fifty-fifty chance after all. No matter what happened though, Andrea was not the one who would take the fallout for this little prank. Caroline was busted; she just didn’t know it yet. Clearing her throat, Miranda spoke quietly. “Dinner should be ready soon.” She indicated the timer on the oven that was near zero.
“May I help set the table?” Andy smiled at the twins. “Can you two show me where you keep the plates and stuff?”
Nodding, both girls showed Andy around the kitchen and they set the table just as the timer on the oven began to buzz.
Miranda retrieved the roast, Andy and the girls got the side dishes from the warming tray to the table. When they were all seated and served, Andy pressed her lips together for a moment, then with only the slightest glance at Miranda looked across the table at the girls. “Can I ask you girls a question?” When they both shrugged, Andy speared a baby carrot with her fork and looked at Caroline.
“Did you really think changing shirts would confuse me, Caroline?” Popping the carrot in her mouth, she began to chew the vegetable and raised her eyebrows, waiting for the answer. She couldn’t help the twinkle in her eye as Miranda and Cassidy burst out laughing.
“She got you!” Cassidy punched her sister in the arm.
Caroline was transfixed on her mother though, her mother, laughing, laughing loudly. Her mother laughing, out loud. It was wonderful, and it made her angry, she stood and pointed at Miranda but yelled at Andy. “What have you done to her?!”
All laughter stopped and Miranda blinked. “Caroline. Modify your tone this instant!”
“NO!” The girl was nearly in tears now. “She’s done something to you, you’re all different!” Caroline bolted from the table.
“Caroline…CAROLINE!” Miranda surprised herself at the volume she managed. It was very rare for her to raise her voice. The door slamming upstairs made her sigh and she stood. “I’m going to talk to her, make her understand…” She hesitated. “…tell her.” With a glance at Cassidy, Miranda asked Andrea. “Can you handle this?”
Andy smiled weakly, but nodded. “No more waiting?”
“No.” Miranda glanced at Cassidy and gave Andy a crooked grin. “No more waiting, for anything.” Leaning down she placed a gentle kiss on Andy’s cheek then walked out of the kitchen, steeling herself for the discussion she was about to have with Caroline, heart melting a little for the discussion she was leaving Andy to have with Cassidy. They would all discuss things together, later, but it seemed the initial news would be broken, separately.
Cassidy swallowed hard as she watched her mother walk out of the room. She turned to Andy with fear in her eyes. “Is Mom going to die?”
“What?!” Andy paled at the thought. “Oh, no!... no, nothing like that.” I hope. They still didn’t know what drugs had been administered or their long term effects on Miranda’s system.
“There is a problem though.” Andy spoke gently. “You’ve probably noticed that your Mom hasn’t really been…herself lately?” Cassidy nodded and Andy mirrored it. “Yeah, well, we think someone has been giving her…something… that makes her act like that.”
“Drugs?” Cassidy blinked, that had been the first thing she’d thought of weeks ago when her Mom had begun acting strangely. “Are you serious? Who?”
“Very serious.” Andy took a deep breath. “We’re waiting for the doctor to call and let us know what kind.” She saw the girl’s bottom lip quiver and smiled encouragingly. “We don’t know exactly who yet, or why, for sure… but we’re gonna catch who’s doing this. We’re going to stop them.” Andy’s voice intensified.” “I won’t let anyone hurt her. She’ll be okay.” She has to be.
Cassidy studied the woman in front of her and agreed with Caroline’s earlier statement. I don’t always see the same things Caroline sees. She considered Andy’s words. But I hear more than Caroline does. “You care about Mom.” It wasn’t a question. The tone in Andy’s voice said it all, but Andy answered anyway.
“Yes, I do.” Andy sighed. “More than I can tell you.”
“Caroline. Unlock the door this instant.” Miranda heard the click of the lock turning, and pushed the door slowly open. “Darling, why are you so upset?”
The girl sat on her bed, hugging her knees. “I don’t even know you anymore.”
“I know I’ve been acting quite odd lately.” Miranda admitted as she sat on the edge of the bed and regarded her oldest-by-six-minutes daughter. “But I’m still your Mother, and I will always love you.”
“Why?” Caroline wiped a tear off her cheek. “Why have you been acting odd?”
With a deep breath, Miranda began slowly. “We believe that someone has been…giving me…something, to… encourage that.”
“Poison?” Caroline was appalled and gasped her first thought. “Andy…”
“NO!” Miranda blinked at the unexpected vehemence and modified it. “No. Andrea would never hurt me.”
The girl let out a bark of sarcastic laughter. “She already has!” Rolling her eyes, in a very familiar gesture, Caroline looked at her mother. “I know who she is mother, it’s her, the assistant, the one that left you in Paris.” Caroline accused. “You were devastated when she left.”
Miranda didn’t question how Caroline knew that. She had been devastated, obviously so, but the divorce with Stephen was going on at the same time. She wondered why the child wouldn’t hold Stephen’s departure from her life as the cause of her devastation instead of Andrea’s. Caroline’s next action answered the question quite nicely.
Reaching under her pillow the girl pulled out the current edition of Runway and waved it at her mom.
“Where did you get that?” Miranda leaned back to avoid collision with Caroline’s flailing hand and magazine.
“At the train station news stand.” Caroline shook her head. “Who cares? The point is, every girl in here looks like Andy!” She tossed it aside. “Now you are inviting her to dinner and acting all casual with her, laughing with her, and then you tell me you’re being poisoned. What am I supposed to think?!”
“Not poisoned, drugged.” Miranda corrected. “We are currently waiting for test results determining exactly what type.” She wiped some moisture off her daughter’s cheek. “We were going to tell you later, after we knew what we were dealing with.”
Narrowing her eyes, Caroline watched her mother closely. “What’s all this ‘we’ stuff?”
“We, means Andrea and I.” Miranda made sure Caroline was listening. “Andrea is not who’s hurting me.” Her voice softened. “She’s… making it better.”
“You like her.” Caroline was amazed.
“Yes I do, very much so.” Miranda smiled at her speechless daughter and decided a longer silence was in order. “More than I can tell you.”
Andy and Cassidy looked up from their plates as a contrite Caroline and her mother entered the room and took their places back at the table. Andy glanced at Miranda and winked, receiving a nod in return.
Miranda leveled her gaze at Caroline. “You have something to say?”
“I’m sorry for yelling at you,” Caroline grumbled.
Andy smiled at the girl. “It’s okay Caroline. I’d be upset too if my Mom was acting all weird.”
Miranda cleared her throat. “Weird, Andrea, really…” She addressed the girls. “I am sorry for my disturbing behavior lately.” She smiled at her daughters. “As smart and perceptive as you two are, I should have known you’d realize something was wrong.”
Cassidy snorted. “It’s not your fault, Mom!”
Caroline agreed. “Of course not.”
Miranda thought it was one of the most adorable things she’d ever seen when both girls turned to Andrea and asked in unison. “What’s your plan?” Andrea’s deer-in-headlights look was heart softening as well.
“What?” She would have blinked if she could have. “Uh.. My plan?”
“Mother said you were going to make things better.” Caroline leveled oddly familiar eyes at Andy. “So, how are you going to do it?”
Andy noticed that Cassidy was following the conversation closely, and although the girl was still eating slowly, she was listening to everything very intently. “I’m going to call a police officer friend of mine and tomorrow, we are going to watch everything Miranda does very carefully. We’re gonna make sure no one gets close enough to hurt her.” She had been thinking about letting Miranda continue to take the drugs; liking that option less and less with every second. “We have to catch the person responsible.” She hesitated and glanced at Miranda, who gave her a slight nod. “…so we have to pretend we don’t know what’s happening, while we are watching for the culprit.”
Caroline looked confused, but Cassidy shot a worried look at her mom and groaned. “You’re gonna keep taking them?”
“What?!” Caroline jumped to her feet again and glared at Andy. “How can you let her…”
Miranda held up her hand to stop the tirade. “Caroline!” She waited for the child to sit back down before she spoke. “In order to catch the person, we can’t scare them.” She decided to trust the girls with a little more information. “When Judy brings me coffee in the morning, I will drink it. Because that is the normal thing for me to do.”
“Judy!” Both girls cried out. “I never liked her!”
Andy’s phone rang and she checked the ID. “It’s the doctor.” Answering it, she put on a smile, for the girls. “Hey…” She glanced at Miranda and winked. “What’s up Doc?”
Neither girl missed the soft smile her mother gave their guest.
“Uh huh… yes.” Andy’s smile faltered slightly. “Yes, of course.” She swallowed hard and knew her face was pale, she could feel the blood draining from it. “Yes, thank you, it’s best to be sure.” She closed the phone and pressed her lips together before turning to Miranda. “We need to talk.”
Miranda placed her fork precisely on her plate. “You may speak in front of the girls.”
Andy opened her mouth to protest, then closed it and nodded. “Okay.” Organizing the information, in her head, she started with the least distressing. “It took this long for her to call because she was running all the tests again, to be sure of the results.”
Glancing at her nodding girls, Miranda was relieved they seemed okay with that. The news disturbed her greatly though, because it meant the original findings were troubling enough to the doctor she wanted to make sure there was no mistake.
Andy continued slowly. “We were right about the coffee, there were several non-coffee substances in it. She gave me a bunch of technical names, but basically it’s a mixture of muscle relaxers and sedatives.” She took a breath. “They wear off fairly quickly; the blood she tested only had slight traces of all the chemicals in it.”
“So you’re gonna be okay?” Caroline waited for her Mother to confirm the statement.
Miranda looked into Andy’s sad doe-eyes for a moment and knew there was something she wasn’t telling the children. With a smile, Miranda forced a laugh. “Of course I will.”
Andy watched both girls wince at the forced laugh, and knew she had flinched at the sound as well.
“I think…” Miranda caught each of their eyes for a moment. “We need a movie night.” She winked at the girls and asked them. “Would you please go choose a movie? Andrea and I will be up in a moment.” She watched the girls leave and turned to her companion.
Andy’s eyes teared up but she managed to push out a whisper. “It’s not good, Miranda. It’s possibly very, very bad.”
Nodding at that, Miranda reached out and held the dark head tightly. She buried her face in the soft brown hair and murmured into the ear so close to her lips. “It will be okay, Andrea.” She smiled sadly, even though Andy couldn’t see it. “I’m going to be fine.” Pulling away slightly, she cupped the upset woman’s cheek in her hand and leaned in to place their foreheads together. “I have to be, for the girls…” Shifting slightly she pressed their lips together briefly. “…for you.”
Neither woman was aware of the twin sets of eyes watching them through the gap in the door.
Caroline gasped softly when she saw her mother kiss Andy. It was unexpected, and…not. She’d seen the glances and the smiles between them. It was the embrace that was worrisome. Though Caroline couldn’t hear the words spoken, the way the women held each other, the shaking arms and muscle spasms that couldn’t be anything except crying, was bad. She glanced at Cassidy who nodded.
“C’mon.” Tugging her sister’s sleeve, they went upstairs to the playroom, like they were supposed to do in the first place. Cassidy didn’t mind the kiss at all. She kinda liked Andy, and it wasn’t like it was unexpected, she’d heard the tone in both women’s voices when they spoke to or about each other. Her mom’s voice in particular when she said ‘Andrea’ just screamed affection, maybe even love. But you had to actually be listening to hear it. She was worried though, because while she couldn’t hear the words, the tones that carried to the door sounded bad.
“So what movie do we want to see?” Cassidy looked over their collection.
“A romantic comedy.” Caroline declared. “It’s too sad here now.”
Cassidy agreed and chose one, not a huge mainstream hit and not exactly a comedy but it had funny moments. She wasn’t sure her mother even knew they had this one, but it was one of her favorites and given what they’d just seen in the kitchen, appropriate.
Caroline saw the cover and nodded, it wasn’t one of her very favorites, but it was a good movie and it was actually... “Perfect.” Really perfect. She thought.
They got everything ready to go and then sat on the couch, waiting for the older women in the house to arrive.
“Better?” Miranda brushed some hair away from Andy’s forehead.
Nodding, Andy straightened up a bit and took a deep breath. “One of the drugs is a sedative, a powerful one. They use it as pre-medication for people going into surgery.” Andy swallowed hard. “In high doses, it can cause kidney failure and heart failure. Mixed with all the other junk that was thrown in there, there’s no telling what effects it will have on your system.” She concentrated on breathing. “It’s not meant to be given over a long period of time.” She finally met Miranda’s eyes. “The levels she found in the coffee were eight times the normal dosage.” Andy remembered to breathe. “Doctor Dawson wants to do more tests, to make sure you’re okay.”
Two words of Andy’s news caught her attention and Miranda pressed her lips together. “Kidney failure…” That was not out of the question, she had noticed just this past week that her trips to the restroom were fewer than normal and the ache in her lower back had become increasingly annoying.
“I told her you’d come in tomorrow morning and get more blood drawn.” Andy took Miranda’s hand. “I wish we could do that tonight.”
Pulling the hand in hers up, Miranda kissed it. “No, not tonight.” She stood and pulled Andrea with her. “Tonight I have declared family movie night.”
“Oh, well.” Andy sniffed away the last of her misgivings, for the moment. “If you’ve declared it…”
“Mmmm… exactly.” Miranda chuckled. “C’mon, the girls are waiting.”
One and a half hours later, Andy found herself sitting between Miranda and Cassidy, watching the end of what she thought was quite possibly the most romantic movie she’d ever seen. It was only when she reached up to wipe the tears of happiness from her face did she realize she was holding Miranda’s hand. Looking over at the older woman, she saw some suspicious streaks down her face as well. “Miranda?”
The white head tilted toward her for a moment. “Quite acceptable. Good choice girls.”
“It’s not my favorite,” Caroline admitted. “But it is Cass’, and it seemed…” She glanced at her mother and Andy. “…appropriate.”
“It was perfect.” Andy nudged Cassidy with her shoulder. “Thanks.”
“I believe it’s close to your bedtime now.” Miranda smiled indulgently at the girls. “Run along and change into your pajamas, get your teeth brushed and all that. I’ll be in to say goodnight shortly.”
“Can Andy come and say goodnight too?” Cassidy’s hopeful look pinned her Mom, and then hit Andy full force.
“Andrea?” Miranda left the decision up to Andy, letting her know just from the tone and inflection that it was fine with Miranda either way.
“Sure.” She tapped Cassidy on the nose. “I’ll tell ya g’night.” Steeling herself, she turned to Caroline. “You too?”
“Eh…” The girl shrugged. “If you must.”
Andy chuckled. “Okay then, I’ll see you in a bit.” She watched the girls leave and heard them moving down the hall to their own rooms.
“They’re something else.” She wrapped her arm around Miranda’s shoulder and squeezed her gently. “You did good.”
“I’m not finished yet, Andrea.” She rested her head on the convenient shoulder. “I still have a lot left to teach them.”
“Of course you do.” Andy leaned over and pressed her cheek against soft white hair. “And you will.” With a deep breath, Andy gestured to the screen they’d been watching. “I guess the girls are okay with…us?”
Miranda grunted a little ‘hmph’ sound. “I suppose so.” She thought about it carefully. “Caroline is reserving judgment.”
“Eyah…I caught that.” Andy rolled her eyes and produced a weak smile.
“That movie was an eye-opener for me.” Miranda chuckled and wondered what other movies the girls had in their collection that she knew nothing about.
Andy let her head fall back to rest on the back of the couch. “When Rachel told Luce, ‘I can’t do this.’ I kinda freaked…that’s pretty much what I told you.”
“Yes.” Miranda smiled. “That is when you started holding my hand.”
“Is it?” Andy thought back. “Wow.”
Miranda laughed. “C’mon. Let’s go tell the girls goodnight.” She pulled Andy up from the sofa and reminded her. “You still have your police officer friend to call.”
“Detective.” Andy corrected. “And yeah,” they walked down the hall. “She works night shift, so she’ll be up by now.”
“She?” Miranda narrowed her eyes.
Rolling her eyes, Andy grinned. “Geez Miranda, jealous much?”
Pushing Andy against the wall of the stairs landing, Miranda startled her lover with a crushing kiss. It only took a moment for Andy to wrap her arms around Miranda’s slim waist and pull the woman closer, reciprocating with more fervor than either of them had expected. Then Miranda pulled away. “I don’t share, remember?”
You’ll never have to. Andy traced the woman’s cheek lightly. “I remember.” She smiled. “But you have nothing to worry about, Jo’s married.”
“Mmm…” Miranda began to slowly continue their trek to the girl’s rooms. “That didn’t stop the girl in the movie.” It didn’t stop me from falling in love with you either.
“That’s different. Jo is totally devoted to the love of her life. I’ll tell you that story sometime.” Andy assured her. “In the movie, Rachel just hadn’t found her true love yet. She settled.”
Like I did, twice. Miranda knocked on a door lightly and waited for the faint ‘come-in’ before pushing it open. She sat on the edge of the bed, with Andy standing behind her. “Good night, my darling.” Miranda leaned over and kissed the girl lightly on the cheek. “Sweet dreams.”
“Good night, Mom.” Cassidy’s eyes gleamed in the darkness. “Good night Andy.”
“G’night kiddo.” Andy smiled as Cassidy giggled.
They repeated the ritual in Caroline’s room, but without the giggles.
Miranda shut the door to the study and sank to the sofa waiting for Andy to get off the phone with her police detective friend. While she waited, she had time to think; about a lot of things. The girls, Andrea, Runway, what will happen to them…? The drug’s side effects rolled through her mind. Kidney failure, heart failure, she knew for a fact one night she’d been lying in bed and had to literally remember to breathe. I could have died that night. If I had, I never would have gotten the chance to…be with Andrea. It took several moments to get over the pain that thought caused.
Andrea said there had been eight times the normal dose in my coffee. I might still die. She closed her eyes at the thought. And there are so many things still left to do. She knew death was inevitable though and therefore… Preparations must be attended to.
She heard the door open but kept her eyes closed as Andrea settled next to her. “Is your detective friend going to help us?”
“Of course.” Andy slid down and settled herself so her head was resting on Miranda’s shoulder, much like Miranda’s usually did on hers. It was an odd transposition, but kind of nice. She liked hearing Miranda’s heart beating and she liked Miranda’s hand gently playing with her hair. “She wants to come over and talk to us, is that okay?”
“Tonight?” It wasn’t really that late, but Miranda was tired. “I suppose it would be best.”
Andy flipped open her phone and it took less than a minute to tell Jo it was fine to meet tonight and not to ring the doorbell because the girls were already in bed. “Okay, she’ll be over in about an hour.”
“An hour?” Miranda looked down at Andy. “How far away does she work?”
Andy grinned. “Not that far, but she has to go home and change.” Laughing, Andy straightened up and draped her arm over the back of the couch. “She said her wife would kill her if she met the Miranda Priestly wearing what she was wearing now.”
“Mmm…” Miranda rolled her eyes. “My reputation… sometimes can be quite annoying.” A thought struck her. “The Miranda Priestly eh? Does she really want to meet her?” Now Miranda stood, and walked to the window. “Because if that is the case.” The older woman’s expression became slightly bored and righteously superior. “I can certainly oblige.”
Andy blinked as Miranda changed, right before her eyes, from the woman she’d come to know over the last few days, to the ex-boss she remembered quite vividly. Only the knowledge that this was still the real Miranda, the woman she loved, gave Andy the courage to speak. “Miranda, be nice.” Andy chided. “She’s helping us.”
Returning to her seat, Miranda smiled and nodded. “Of course.” She tilted her head and regarded Andy thoughtfully, suddenly no longer tired. She traced her index finger over the young woman’s cheek, down her neck, and lower. “So… an hour eh?”
Andy caught the hand before it went too low. She’d been aroused since, well since she’d been hired at Runway if she was honest about it, but definitely since the kiss on the stair landing. “Don’t start anything you can’t finish.”
Miranda grinned wickedly. “Oh I never start anything I can’t finish.”
“Miranda…” Andy backed off a little bit and tried a different tactic. “It will mess up your makeup.”
“So I’ll have to be creative and finish… in time to suitably reapply my makeup.” Moving in she captured the lips she’d been mesmerized by with her own.
“Mmmm…” Andy groaned barely able to pull away. “What about the girls?”
“They never get out of bed.” Miranda trailed tiny kisses to Andrea’s neck. “We could take this to the bedroom though.” She pulled back slightly; smiling at Andy’s flushed cheeks and darkened eyes. “I’d be closer to my makeup that way.”
“Logical.” Andy stood, pulling Miranda up with her. “Shouldn’t we wait though? I mean… with the girls in the house… and they don’t know me very well…”
“Andrea.” Miranda cradled the young woman’s cheek in her hand. “For the last few months someone has been feeding me drugs that could be shutting down my systems. Waiting is something I’m not prepared to do right now.” She took a deep breath and tried to lighten the mood somewhat. “Besides, I’ve never been a patient person.”
Andy laughed quietly. “You always did hate to wait.”
Pulling the dark head down to hers, Miranda nodded. “Exactly.”
Fifty-five minutes later, the ringing of Andy’s phone sent her scrambling downstairs to get the door and Miranda to the bathroom for some major makeup touchups.
“Hey, Jo.” Andy opened the door wider and stepped back so the detective could enter. “Thanks for coming over.”
“Sure.” Jo tilted her head and looked Andy up and down. It didn’t take a detective to know what the woman had been doing in the recent past, not if they noticed the red mark on her neck and realized the girl’s hair wasn’t usually that mussed up. Smothering, covering, a laugh by rubbing her nose, Jo scanned the house quickly. “Nice place.”
“Miranda’s.” Andy grinned at her friend, gesturing to the outfit she wore. “She’s gonna love that. You did good.”
“Oh…” Jo’s knees buckled slightly in relief. “…great. This is the fanciest suit I have that’s still appropriate for work.” It really wasn’t though, appropriate for work, she knew she’d have to run home and change before heading back to the precinct. “So what’s the story?”
Andy led Jo to the study and they both sat, Jo in the chair and Andy on the couch. “I’d rather wait for Miranda to join us.”
“Sure.” Jo slouched back in the chair and blinked at Andy’s widening eyes. “What?”
“Um… when Miranda gets here…can you…” She gestured with her hands.
Jo rolled her eyes. “Sit up straight?” She waved the suggestion away. “Yeah, I can do that. Despite repeated accusations, I’m not a total barbarian.”
Andy let out a quiet breath, relieved. “It’s just she’s….so….” A shadow crossed the door, and Andy finished her thought while jumping to her feet and greeting the woman at the same time. “…Miranda.”
Jo stood quickly and turned to meet the woman her wife had always spoken of in a breathless sort of awe. As she watched the woman walk across the room, Jo realized, her wife might be a Princess…but this woman, she was Queen. “Hello, Ms. Priestly, nice to meet you.”
Miranda smiled her fake polite smile and assessed the woman in front of her. Not as tall as Andrea, but just as lean and lanky, long jet black hair, blue eyes, well dressed, Armani? nice, with Jimmy Choo shoes.
Andy suppressed a surge of jealousy at the look Miranda was giving her friend. She knew it didn’t mean anything. It was just the same look Miranda always gave everyone when she was giving them the once over assessment. If this didn’t go well, anyone who wanted to talk to Miranda found themselves summarily dismissed. Doctor Dawson got a pass with her Vera Wang dress but if I’m reading the signs correctly… Yes! A nod! Excellent. She decided to take the lead. “Shall we sit?”
Jo returned to the chair but waited for Miranda to settle herself next to Andy before she sat. “Maybe it would be best to start from the beginning.”
Andy nodded and took a deep breath, then told Jo all about Miranda’s behavior, the drugs in the coffee and the theory about Judy. At that point she stopped the story and gave Jo all the information she had on Judy; everything she could access from Miranda’s connection to the Elias-Clark computer network. Then Andy began to layout what they had planned for tomorrow. Andy was no longer comfortable with that plan though and described some modifications she wanted to make. “Since Miranda will be going in later than planned tomorrow, her coffee will already be cold. She’ll ask…”
Miranda snorted and mumbled. “Demand, you mean.”
Andy grinned and continued. “More coffee will be brought, so we can watch when that happens. The thing is I don’t want Miranda to drink any of that stuff, not even a sip.”
“Andrea.” Miranda had let Andy do most of the talking up until now. “We’ve discussed this.”
“No.” Andy turned to face the older woman. “It’s dangerous Miranda, you could die.”
“Whoa…” Jo held up her hand. “Die?”
“The high dosage and the buildup of drugs could be dangerous, shutting down her systems.” Andy forced herself to breathe. “We are going to have more tests run tomorrow morning. That’s why she’ll be late going into the office.”
“You said the sample they tested had eight times the normal dosage in it…” Jo thought about that. “I wonder why so high?”
Andy hadn’t thought about it before, but the answer, to her, was obvious. “Well, Miranda doesn’t drink coffee…she sips it, and only when it’s hot. So maybe they thought to get enough of the stuff in her to have any effect at all they had to put high doses in.” She’d barely finished speaking when Miranda gasped.
“Andrea! You were going to drink it!” Miranda was having trouble controlling her heartbeat and grasped Andy’s hand. “You don’t sip, you drink… dear God… that would have killed you.” Miranda’s face went paler than usual and only iron will kept her from passing out.
“It wouldn’t have killed me. I’d have probably been knocked out though.” Andy tried to shrug off the concern. “Please, I’m fine, Miranda. Don’t worry.”
“You don’t understand.” White hair was shaking. “I only drink a small amount of each container. You would have finished the whole thing.” Miranda knew. “It would have knocked you out. You would have stopped breathing…”
Andy’s heart pounded. “Miranda, did that happen to you?”
She nodded. “Yes, once…after a long week and a lot of coffee… I came home and that night I had to force myself to remember to breathe. It was a Friday and the girls had gone to their father’s so I was alone in the house. I recall laying in the bed thinking, stay awake…breathe in… stay awake…breathe out… breathe in…stay awake… breathe out… if I wasn’t thinking about it, I didn’t do it.”
Andy closed her eyes. Oh God, I could have lost her! Without thinking, she wrapped her arms around the older woman. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Forgetting about the detective, Miranda relaxed into the embrace. “It was a while ago, and I didn’t want to worry you.”
“Okay…” Jo spoke quietly. “We’re going to have to catch her putting the stuff in the coffee and giving it to you, Ms Priestly.” She held up a hand to stop Andy’s protest. “But you shouldn’t have to drink it.” Jo seemed thoughtful. “As soon as she sets it on your desk or puts it in your hand, we know it was intended for you.”
“So I will call for new coffee… Judy will make the run and someone will be at Starbucks watching her to see if she puts anything in it.” Miranda watched as the detective’s dark head nodded.
“That’s basically it.” Jo continued. “We’ll have someone watching her all the way from Starbucks to your office.”
“You detective?” Miranda asked and commented. “Dressed like that you could go anywhere you wanted in Runway and no one would say anything. They’d look twice, but they wouldn’t stop you.”
“I’m afraid it won’t be me, Ms. Priestly.” Jo grinned. “But thanks for the compliment.” She stood. “I think I have enough information. We’ll have someone stationed at the Starbucks in the morning, and I’ll run some background checks on this Judy person. It’s late so I’ll let you get some sleep.” She turned to Andy. “You need a lift home?”
Andy glanced at the almost terrified look in Miranda’s eyes and shook her head. “Nah, I’ll get a cab later, or Roy will drive me.” She did move to walk the detective to the door. “Thanks for everything.”
“S’okay Andy.” Jo wrapped an arm around her friend’s shoulder and squeezed lightly. “We’ll catch her.”
Nodding, Andy opened the door. “Thanks.” Jo stepped outside the door and Andy stopped her. “Oh, Jo… When you tell your wife that you met Miranda… tell her, you wore the Armani, and that Miranda gave you a nod. You got that? A Nod. It’s very important.”
“What’s so important about it?”
Andy grinned. “It’s going to get you so laid.” She laughed at the look on Jo’s face. “Trust me.”
Andy walked back into the study to find Miranda exactly where they left her on the couch. Settling in, shoulder to shoulder next to the older woman, Andy twined their fingers together. She was silent for a moment then decided it was far too tense. “So… which month have you decided to do a feature on New York’s finest detectives?”
With a bark of laughter, Miranda turned her twinkling eyes toward Andy. “July.”
Chuckling at that, Andy shifted to drape one arm around Miranda’s middle, placing her head on the older woman’s chest. The heart beating under her ear soothed her, and she realized this moment might not have ever happened. “You could have died.”
“Shhh….” Elegant fingers tangled themselves in Andy’s soft brown hair. “None of that now.”
“Andrea.” Miranda closed her eyes, savoring the moment before admitting. “I can’t talk about it right now.” Bending her neck she kissed the head on her chest and sighed. “You are going to leave…”
Andy heard the rhythm under her ear increase.
“…go, home. Back to your apartment.” Miranda took a deep breath and continued. “And I will be left here to sleep alone.” She kissed Andy’s head again. “That is going to be hard enough to deal with, don’t make me talk about death too.”
“You know I have to go.”
Miranda sighed. “I am aware of the realities.”
Rubbing the tummy under her hand, Andy turned her head and kissed the chest under her head. “C’mon. Let’s get you to bed.” She led the way to Miranda’s bedroom, gently urged her to the bathroom and managed a little humor in her tone. “You must take off your makeup every night, your skin will thank you when you’re older.”
“Miranda, I’m not going to argue with you.” Andy was firm as she held out a washcloth. “You are going to take off that makeup, put on your pajamas, and I’m going to stay with you until you fall asleep!” She paused and grinned. “That’s all.”
It’s not enough, the voice in Miranda’s head wailed then mentally sighed. But it will have to do, for now. She took the washcloth and ran her tongue over her teeth. “You are far too cheeky for your own good.”
Andy chuckled and walked out of the bathroom, calling back over her shoulder, “I learned from the best.”
It was early, but Andy couldn’t sleep so she decided to go ahead and get ready for the day. Her hair was still damp from her shower, but she had just finished tucking a white silk blouse into her black jeans when she heard a knock on her door. A look through the peephole revealed Jo standing in the hall. Her hands flew over the locks and she flung the door open. “Jo, what’s going on? Is Miranda okay?!”
“Whoa!” Jo held up her hands, palms out. “Andy, calm down…” The detective reassured her friend. “We have someone watching Miranda’s house, as far as I know she’s fine.”
“So..what…” Relieved, Andy sank to the couch. “What are you doing here?”
Pressing her lips together, Jo exhaled slowly and began. “When I ran a check on Judy, it hit some flags in the FBI database. We got a search warrant for her storage facility and, her apartment.” Jo watched Andy carefully. “It’s upstairs.”
Brown eyes widened. “She lives in this building?”
“Umm… more than that.” Jo ran her fingers through her hair. “She lives directly above you.”
“Ooookaaaay…what does that mean?”
“Well… um… I think there is something you should see.” Jo held out her hand to Andy. “Come with me.”
They walked up the stairs and Andy blinked at the activity going on only one floor up from her. “Wow.”
Jo gestured to the door. “Go on in.”
Andy stepped into the apartment not surprised to find it was the exact same layout as her own. There was hardly any furniture though, no tv, no couch, nothing. A glimpse into the kitchen showed a tech going over a nearly empty refrigerator and any cabinet door that was open showed nothing was behind them. She looked back at Jo. “What am I supposed to be looking at?”
Andy crossed over and walked into the room Jo directed her to, stopping suddenly just inside the doorway. “What is all this?”
Jo walked up behind her and spoke softly. “Surveillance equipment.”
Blinking, Andy looked at the picture on the monitor hooked to all the flashing lights and a wrinkle appeared between her eyes. “Is that…. my…?”
Nodding, Jo ran her fingers through her hair. “Your apartment, yes.” Jo sighed and opened a small cabinet filled with labeled hard drives. Tapping one of the dates written there, Jo swallowed hard. “She’s apparently been watching you for a while.”
Andy looked at the dates and realized. “Since I moved in?!” It was really creeping Andy out, knowing someone had been watching her all this time, seen things she’d done when she thought she, or, Andy closed her eyes, she and Nate, thought they’d been alone. She was going to be sick. All those nights I cried myself to sleep, someone was watching me.
“Ma’am.” A uniformed officer attracted Jo’s attention. “You better see this.”
Andy followed Jo back into the living room and she realized that in her apartment there was a coat closet. In this apartment it looked like a wall, but the officer reached down and pulled on a specific spot, opening the disguised door.
“Oh, My God.” Andy was horrified. There were hundreds, thousands of pictures of her on the walls of the small…shrine; because that is the only word she could think of that fit. Most of them looked like still images from the equipment they’d found in the bedroom, but some of them were newspaper pictures from her time as Miranda’s assistant, and some of them were actual photos that this woman had apparently taken. The far more disturbing thing was the pictures of Miranda. All of them had been crossed out in red marker. Then she remembered something that terrified her beyond belief. “Oh God, Jo, Miranda was here, at my apartment yesterday. Judy would have seen…” Andy began to shake. “I have to get to Miranda before she does.”
Jo whistled softly and immediately began to call for Judy to be apprehended.
“No!” Andy begged. “Take her if you can, but don’t make a big scene. The paparazzi will go nuts, we’re trying to keep this as low key as possible, for the girls.” She glanced at the pictures and calmed herself. “She has some kind of thing for me. I’ll go, stall her, get her alone, away from Miranda.” That was the important thing. Keep her away from Miranda.
“No way.” Jo shook her head. “Too dangerous.”
“Jo, I can’t let her hurt Miranda.” Andy bolted out the door and took the stairs down in more of a controlled fall than anything else. She called back over her shoulder. “I’ll keep her busy until you can get an arrest warrant.” She only stopped at her apartment long enough to grab her jacket before she was down the stairs and out of the building.
“Dammit!” Jo pointed to the nearest plain clothed officer. “You, Elias-Clarke building, now.” She grabbed a radio from one of the uniformed officers and got things rolling for the arrest warrant. She had just finished her end of that process when her cell phone rang.
“Talk to me.”
“Ma’am, I think you better see this.”
Jo closed her eyes. What now?
As she ran, Andy only kept one thought in her mind. Please let Miranda be okay.
She passed a store that displayed the time on a digital sign in the window and realized it was still early. Miranda was supposed to go back to Dr. Dawson’s office and she pulled the cell phone out of her pocket. “Roy! Where are you? Have you picked up Miranda yet?”
“Andy?” The driver was confused. “Uh... no. I just dropped the girls off at school.” He paused. “Are you okay?”
“No, I’m not okay at all,” she admitted. “Where are you?”
She sighed in relief when he told her. “That’s only a few blocks away from me now.” Then she thought quickly and told him a place to pick her up. “I want to be there when you get Miranda. I don’t want her out of my sight.”
“Sure Andy.” Roy gently tried to calm the girl. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Closing her phone, Andy headed for the meeting place and when she got there reopened the cell. She dialed Jo’s number quickly. “Jo…” She waited for the spate of cursing and admonishments before she spoke. “Yes, I know it was stupid. Listen, I’m going to meet Miranda’s driver and he’s going to take me to get Miranda. I’ll stay with her… yes… I know. I understand she’s dangerous that’s why I panicked.”
“Don’t scare this woman, Andy.” Jo’s eyes scanned the storage unit. “She’s more than dangerous.”
“Why?” Andy calmed slightly as Roy pulled up to the curb and she climbed into the almost familiar car. “What do you mean?”
“I’m standing in her storage facility.” Jo said. “It looks like a pharmacy, Andy, she’s got shelves and shelves of everything you could think of, and some things you probably couldn’t...”
The reporter prompted. “And.”
“And she keeps records. We know what she took out of here early this morning. Our coroner verified that the stuff she has with her now, will kill anyone who takes it.”
Andy could feel the blood draining from her face. It took a long moment of dizziness and tunnel vision to recover from that. “Get her Jo, don’t let her hurt Miranda.”
“We’ll get Judy.” Jo promised. “You just concentrate on taking care of Miranda.” The detective ended the call.
Andy leaned back in the seat. “It’s all my fault.” She whispered, mostly to herself. Wrapping her arms around her waist, Andy squeezed, trying to keep her heart from breaking. “It’s all my fault, Miranda’s going to hate me.”
Somehow, the man highly doubted that statement, but he felt terrible for the girl, because he knew, she believed it.
Miranda entered the car, startled to find Andrea there. “Was there some part of the plan I missed last night?” She opened her arms to embrace her lover and was shocked when Andy pulled away.
“Yes.” Andy took a shuddering breath and nodded. God I just want to hold her. She wrapped her arms around herself. “You missed the part where Judy is like some kind of stalker and is out to kill you now.”
With tears in her eyes Andy told Miranda everything that had happened that morning. Discovering Judy lived in the apartment above her, the surveillance equipment, the shrine, the drugs in the storage facility…all of it. When she stopped talking, Andy waited for Miranda’s anger to be unleashed. Why would the woman ever want to see her again, knowing this whole mess was her fault? If it wasn’t for Andy, Miranda would never have been drugged, never have put Runway at risk with the whole ‘brunette’ fiasco, and she wouldn’t be in danger now. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, Andy whispered. “I’m sorry.” She didn’t see the look of shock on Miranda’s face. “It’s all my fault, I’m so sorry.”
“Andrea.” The editor’s voice broke. “Don’t be ridiculous. None of this is your fault.”
“It’s because of me that she’s…”
“Yes… SHE is doing this.” Miranda was growing angry now and some of it was directed toward Andrea, just for being so hard on herself. “Did you know she lived above you?” She waited for her companion to shake her head negative. “Did you know she was watching you?” Another shake. “Have you ever even spoken to her?”
Andy sighed. “I don’t even know what she looks like. I don’t think I’ve ever met her.” That made Miranda blink and Andy continued. “She wasn’t at her desk when I was there on Friday.”
“Andrea,” Miranda opened her arms and gestured. “Come here.” She breathed deeply as the girl moved quickly to snuggle into the embrace. “It is not your fault that this woman is a lunatic.” When Andy started to speak, Miranda shushed her. “Unless you are about to say, ‘You’re absolutely right Miranda.’ Don’t speak.” She looked down into liquid brown eyes and sighed, knowing the girl was still blaming herself. “We’ll get through it.”
Nodding, Andy snuggled deeper into Miranda’s arms and closed her eyes. Holding on to that thought, that word; we.
Miranda carefully peeled the tape and absorbent cotton off her arm as they pulled up in front of the Elias-Clarke building. Dr. Dawson had assured them that she would run the tests herself as soon as possible. That wasn’t the most pressing problem though. Andy had talked to her friend Jo and things had been happening very quickly. Jo had assigned a plain clothed officer to the Starbucks in time for the initial coffee order. They were still waiting on the arrest warrant.
“You don’t have to come up with me.” Miranda spoke reasonably. “I would rather not put you in danger.”
“You’re the one in danger Miranda!” Andy shook her head. “I’m not leaving you.”
Miranda’s expression softened for a brief moment, then she was, fully, the Miranda Priestly. “Shall we?”
For half a second the look in Miranda’s eye made Andy wonder who needed protection from whom.
The guard didn’t stop Andy this time as she walked into the building along side Miranda. She thought the looks she received when she stepped into the elevator with the Editor were funny and would have laughed if the situation hadn’t been so serious.
“Are you ready, Andrea?”
Andy nodded and just for a moment reached out to hold Miranda’s hand. “Yes.”
Squeezing the fingers in hers, a smile ghosted across the older woman’s lips. She watched the numbers on the control panel and reluctantly released the hand in hers. “Here we go.”
They walked off the elevator and Miranda was every inch her devil-in-heels self. Tossing her jacket and purse on Judy’s desk, ignoring the stunned blonde woman sitting there, she handed, almost tossed, the Book into Emily’s hands and began spouting orders as if Andy wasn’t shadowing her; as if her second assistant wasn’t staring at Andrea. “Emily, call Donatella and cancel our lunch, reschedule whenever it’s convenient for me, schedule an art department meeting for later today, Get Patrick on the phone, and where are my eggs? Can anyone do anything on their own around here?” They made it to the office and Miranda sat at her desk, eyed the innocent container of coffee sitting there, and glanced at Andrea now standing to the left of the door unobtrusively. “Close the door please Andrea.” She looked at her assistant. “Emily, have a seat.”
The British woman was stunned enough by that order to sit, she complied before she realized what she was doing. “Uh…”
“I’m going to fire Judy.”
Emily let out a relieved breath and spoke unconsciously, “About bloody time.”
“Indeed.” Miranda glanced at Andrea, then spoke to Emily quietly. “I suppose you’ve noticed my odd behavior in the past few months.”
Her initial reaction was to protest, but the look in Miranda’s eye gave her pause. “Um… yes actually.”
“Apparently Human Resources background checks leave much to be desired.” Miranda pushed the coffee a little farther away from her. “It seems Judy has been…drugging me.”
Miranda indicated the coffee. “However, from what the police tell me, she is tired of simply impairing my judgment and now wishes me dead.”
The urge to walk out of the office and thrash Judy was almost overwhelming. Emily began to shake as she glared at the coffee. “You mean all this time she’s been doing that right under my nose?!” Standing, the red-head whirled to face Andy. “I suppose this is entirely your fault?”
Andy’s head dropped but Miranda spoke with more intensity than Emily had ever heard. “If you ever say anything like that again, you can say it on your way out and not bother coming back.” The editor glared at Emily. “I trust Andrea implicitly.”
“Em,” Andy sighed. “I’m…”
“Don’t you start again,” Miranda ordered and Andrea remained silent. Shaking off that whole line of discussion, she continued speaking to Emily. “There are three things I want you to do, before you do anything else this morning. First, do not, under any circumstances let Judy know you suspect her of anything. Second, send her in here.”
Emily nodded. “Third?”
Miranda hesitated and Andy chuckled. “Third, she wants you to go to Starbucks and get her a drug-free coffee.” Kind brown eyes twinkled at the beginnings of outrage in her former co-worker. “She trusts you Em, even when we didn’t know who was doing this to her, we both knew, without a doubt, it wasn’t you.”
“Yes, well… quite right.” Emily turned a startled look at Miranda. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, Emily.” Miranda’s lips twitched. “Don’t worry though, this sentimentality will most likely disappear as the drugs are flushed from my system.”
“Right.” Emily nodded once. “Coffee then?” With a deep breath she turned to Andrea. “Anything for you Andy?”
Blinking at the question, Andy shook her head. “No, thanks. Just take care of Miranda.”
“I will.” Nodding, Emily moved toward the door, and Andy, placing a hand on her former co-worker’s forearm. “You too.”
Smiling, Andy nodded. “You bet.”
With that Emily flung the door open, informed Judy that Miranda wanted to see her, slammed her notebook down on her desk and stomped to the elevator. Only Andy saw the worried look the woman shot back at the office before the elevator doors closed.
Judy entered the office slowly. “You, um.. wanted to see me?”
Miranda noticed the woman’s eyes glance at the coffee container and she let a flare of annoyance tinge her voice. “Yes, by all means move glacially, you know how much that thrills me.”
The woman quickly moved to stand in front of Miranda’s desk, knowing better than to sit.
“Have a seat.” Miranda’s fingers flicked to the chair Emily had just recently vacated.
Judy swallowed hard and felt her heart sink as she heard the door click closed behind her.
Andy made sure Judy thought the door was closed, but left it open slightly. The police would only have to push it slightly to swing it silently open.
“I would like some answers.” Miranda raised her eyebrows. “Would you like to tell me why?”
Judy knew she was caught, but then it didn’t really matter now anyway. Miranda was going to die. Andy was going to be saved. “You wouldn’t understand.”
“Explain it to me then!” Andy circled around the desk to stand next to Miranda her hand automatically finding Miranda’s shoulder. “Because I’m really having some problems with all this.”
“Andrea,” Miranda warned and patted the hand on her shoulder, finding her fingers tangled in the girl’s. This is what she was afraid of. Andy’s temper was a rather large hindrance when trying to keep a crazed killer calm. However, Judy seemed to be mesmerized by Andy; something which Miranda could hardly blame the woman for.
Judy focused on the women’s linked hands and remembered the scene she’d seen yesterday on the monitors. “How could you?” She accused Andy. “With her?! She ruined your life! She made you miserable. Nate left you because of her!” The crazed woman pointed at the object of her obsession. “Don’t shake your head. You cried yourself to sleep every night after he left!”
Andy felt the fingers twined in hers begin to release and she held them tight. “Yes, I cried, but not for him.” Needing to see Miranda’s eyes, Andy looked down into the concerned blue orbs. “When I got back from Paris, he was gone and I was glad I didn’t have to deal with him.” Her thumb caressed Miranda’s hand. “I was crying for you, knowing I’d never see you again.”
“You can’t be with her!” Judy jumped to her feet and wailed. “She’s old enough to be your mother! I’m a much better match for you.”
Andy eased herself between Miranda and the woman. “She’s not old and she is not my mother.” She felt herself tensing to block an attack. “She’s smart, funny, caring and loving, and she’s beautiful and I can’t possibly imagine loving anyone else.” Andy didn’t notice the look Miranda gave her as anger flashed in her eyes and she continued her tirade. “You? I don’t even know you… I don’t remember ever even seeing you in the building. After more than two years you never even spoke to me?? Then you get all pissed because I actually have a life? Why do you even care? I mean… why me?”
“You’re kidding, right?” Judy locked her eyes on Andy, amazed at the vivid brown she found there. Much better than pictures. “You are the kindest person I’ve ever known. You treat everyone around you with decency and respect.” Judy was shaking now. “You are perfect, God... the first time I saw you undress…”
Andy’s teeth ground together. I hate this. Where the hell are the police? You told me you’d get her, Jo. I need to get her away from Miranda. “Let’s go somewhere and talk.”
Judy’s laugh grated in her ears. “I don’t think so.”
Andrea tried to make sense of what she was seeing even as Miranda made a small sound of dismay. Then she realized she was looking down the barrel of a gun. Oh God, please don’t let Miranda get hurt, her kids need her. “Judy, what’s this going to get you? C’mon. Put that away.”
Looking past Andy, Judy sneered at Miranda. “Drink the coffee.”
“Don’t do it Miranda.” Andy held out her hand to prevent the older woman from reaching the container.
“Do it!” Judy waved the gun and pointed it at Andy. “Do it or I’ll shoot her.” Judy knew she wouldn’t really shoot Andy, but Miranda didn’t know that and from what she saw the threat would be enough to make the woman drink the drugged coffee. Once the bitch drank the coffee, Andy would be free.
“Don’t do it!” Andy was panicked now; her heart was beating so fast. “It will kill you. Please, Miranda… think of the girls.”
“Andrea…” She saw Andy glance her way and anguish showed in the Editor’s blue eyes. “I can’t lose you, not now.”
“Awww…that’s so sweet.” Judy waved the gun. “Drink up.”
Miranda exhaled slowly and looked at the coffee container on her desk. “One thing first.” She stood and tangled her fingers in Andy’s long brown hair, turning the girl to her, pulling the dark head down so their eyes were even. “I love you too, Andrea.” She captured the warm luscious lips with her own, lightly at first then, deepening, crushing the girl to her. Trying to press all the feeling she had into this one all too short contact. Tasting the sudden tears; not knowing if they were hers or Andrea’s. Tearing herself away, Miranda hugged the dark head to her shoulder and whispered, “Don’t interfere.”
Releasing the girl, she took the time to gently wipe a tear from the young cheek with her thumb before returning her glare to Judy and picking up the coffee. “I’m not sure what you expect to accomplish with this.” Miranda lifted the cup to her lips and tipped the container up. The warm liquid rushing over her tongue forced her eyes closed. The sound of dismay from Andrea kept them that way for a long moment.
Judy watched closely and smiled with a sort of insane glee when she saw a convulsive swallow at her ex-boss’ throat. “It doesn’t matter now, does it? You’re dead.” She wasn’t surprised when Miranda said nothing, just staring at her with that oh so superior look. “I would have killed you just for being a bitch, but you hurt Andy, ruined her life, drove her boyfriend away, so I wanted you to suffer too. That last issue of Runway is what you will be remembered for, the issue that killed Miranda Priestly, the proof she went totally nuts.”
Miranda just continued to stare, her eyes not even looking up as the door swung silently open. Jo quietly walked up behind Judy, gun drawn and pressed between the woman’s slim shoulders before she spoke. “Drop it.” She took the gun from the insane woman, handing it back to one of the officers that had followed her in. She cuffed Judy, reciting the standard ‘You have the right to remain silent’ speech. Jo thought it might just be the height of irony that they were called Miranda Rights.
Judy confirmed she did indeed understand the rights as they had been explained to her, but it was obvious that either she didn’t or she just didn’t care since she immediately turned to Miranda and laughed. “It doesn’t matter anyway, you’re still dead.”
“Ambulance is on its way.” Jo turned to the Editor and gestured to the coffee container in her hand. “I’ll take that.”
Miranda looked down at the cup in her hand and nodded. Walking toward the detective and the woman in cuffs, Miranda stopped within arm’s length, then held her assailant’s gaze as she calmly took the top off the cup and spit the contents of her mouth, the entire drink she’d taken earlier, back into it. “Thank you, Detective.”
“Sorry it took so long.” Jo handed the woman off to one of the uniformed officers. “Take her to the station. I’ll stay and get statements from these two.”
“Miranda?” Andy’s voice sounded small.
The Editor’s heart broke a little at the quiet question, but she held up one elegant finger. “Hold on.” Walking to the bathroom she quickly swished her mouth out, spitting any remaining traces of the drug-laced coffee down the sink with a healthy amount of mouthwash. She gracefully wiped her mouth with a tissue, very lady-like as she walked back into the main part of the office. “Sorry.”
Jo looked behind her to see a very redheaded woman holding a cup of coffee. She held up her hand. “Whoa. Who are you?”
“Emily,” Miranda answered. “Finally.” She reached for the cup and immediately took a sip. “Mmmm… Thank you, Emily. If I wasn’t already taken I think I’d marry you.”
Emily gasped. “That’s it! This nonsense has got to stop right now!” She glared at Jo. “I told your…” She wiggled her fingers distastefully. “…people… to take the freight elevator. There is a coven of Paparazzi out front. Did you have to use sirens to get here?” She turned on Andy. “And you…” She pointed at Miranda. “Put her back the way you found her right this minute!”
“Emily!” Miranda slid on the Goddess mask. “Modify your tone.” Her eyes bore into her assistant for a long moment. She realized that balancing the woman she was with Andrea, and the leader she needed to be at Runway was going to be harder than she anticipated. I’ll never be able to stop being the bitch boss, she thought sadly. Taking one deep breath she was fully the Miranda Priestly. “Call Donatella and cancel our lunch, reschedule whenever it’s convenient for her, schedule an art department meeting for tomorrow morning, cancel any appointment I have after two today reschedule or not I don’t care, Get Patrick on the phone, call my lawyer and set up a meeting with them tomorrow or Wednesday at the latest, I will also want to speak with Laurie in Public Relations at some point before the print deadline and tell HR that you are going to need a replacement for Judy.” She blinked. “That’s all.”
Emily breathed a sigh. “Oh, thank God.” Things were back to normal. She left quickly to perform her tasks.
Miranda spoke to Jo. “You should take Andrea’s statement first.”
“Why’s that?” Jo grinned at the woman.
“Because…” She gestured to the door just as Emily called.
“I have Patrick.”
Miranda smirked. “I have a phone call to take.”
“Lady, you’re somethin’ else, you know that?” Jo’s admiration rose to the point she was beginning to think about Miranda with almost as much awe as her own wife did.
“So I’ve been told.” Blue eyes twinkled as Miranda picked up the phone. “The question is…what?” Holding the phone to her ear, the editor got down to business. “Yes, Patrick, I need you to find a good location for a shoot in July…something, patriotic... I’m not interested in excuses…”
Jo let the phone conversation move to the background and turned her attention to Andy. “You okay?”
“I…” Andy felt her insides shaking. “I don’t think so.”
Jo led her to the chair. “S’okay, deep breaths.” She gripped her friend’s shoulder. “We got her, she won’t hurt you anymore.”
Andy nodded. “Thank you.” Judy was not really what was freaking her out though. She couldn’t stop thinking about Miranda’s words. I love you too she’d said. I love you too? Too? When did I…I never… Then it hit her when she was ranting at Judy. I told her I couldn’t imagine loving anyone else. She hugged herself and looked up at Miranda on the phone. The older woman caught her eye and as she was discussing the current photo shoot details, she winked. Andy felt her heart speed up, I could have lost her. I can’t lose her.
“Miranda sent Emily for coffee and called Judy in…” Andy began. She told Jo everything and by the time she was finished, Miranda was standing next to her, rubbing her back lightly.
“Andy.” The detective spoke softly. “You need to rest for a while. Do you have somewhere to go?”
The question made her realize a sad fact and Andy looked horrified. “I have to find another place to live.”
“You have a place to live.” Miranda spoke firmly. “When will we be allowed to gather her things from the apartment?”
“Shouldn’t take too long,” Jo assured her. “It’s not Andy’s apartment that we’re really interested in, only the one Judy stayed in.”
“You want me to stay with you?” Andrea was sure this was a dream and closed her eyes, only to see the image of Miranda lifting the poison coffee to her lips. She gasped and her eyes flew open.
Miranda’s fingers brushed through Andrea’s long brown hair. “You can stay with us at the townhouse for as long as you need, as long as you want.” She hugged the head to her and kissed the top of it gently. “You need my statement now, Detective?”
Jo swallowed hard and nodded. “Yeah, it would be good to get it now.”
Miranda spoke quickly and quietly, giving Jo the bare facts, which corresponded to Andy’s story.
“Thank you, Ms. Priestly.” Jo grinned and tilted her head at the woman. “You’ve been very helpful.”
“Don’t tell anyone that,” Miranda warned the woman. “They’ll think you’re crazy.”
Andy snorted back a laugh.
“Ahhh…” Miranda smiled down at the young woman. “No laughing at the old lady.”
Rolling her eyes at that, Andy stood and hugged Miranda tightly and whispered, “I’m so glad you’re okay.”
“I’m fine, Andrea.” Miranda returned the embrace, resting her head on Andy’s shoulder for a long moment. She looked over at Jo. “Will you escort Andrea home, Detective?”
“Sure.” Jo gestured to her friend. “I’ll give you a lift.”
Andy continued to hold Miranda. “I don’t want to leave.”
“I’ll be home early.” Miranda’s eyes twinkled. “I’m going to finish up here and I’ve already told Emily to cancel my afternoon. I’ll be home before the girls are and we can talk to them together.” She gently disengaged from Andy’s iron grip, and retrieved a spare key from her desk drawer, handing it over to Andy. “You go and get some rest. I’ll be there soon.”
“C’mon.” Jo took Andy by the arm. “Let’s get you home.”
Miranda watched them walking to the elevator, each step Andy took away was a pain to her. I’ll be home soon, love, she thought. Then took a deep breath and got to work.
“Emily.” The girl was not going to be happy or, Miranda laughed to herself, maybe she was. The ‘old Miranda’ was about to reappear with a vengeance.
The ride was silent all the way to the townhouse and Jo walked Andy to the door. “You gonna be okay?”
Nodding, Andy used the key and opened the door. “Yeah, I’ll be fine.” She sighed. “This is all just so weird.”
Jo nodded. “I’m sure it is.” She shuffled from foot to foot for a minute. “Do you want me to drop by your work and let your boss know you won’t be in for a few days?”
“Oh god, Work. I totally forgot.” Andy’s knees buckled and Jo caught her.
“C’mon.” She hauled her friend into the house and settled her on the couch in the study. “Get some rest okay?”
Nodding Andy heard the front door close as Jo left. She curled up on the soft cushions, remembering pressing Miranda back into them. Closing her eyes, she saw the white haired woman lifting the poison coffee to her lips. Gasping, her eyes flew open. I could have lost her. Uncomfortable on the couch, Andy found she needed to be close to Miranda and made her way upstairs. Stretching out on the bed, Andy curled around the very same pillow Miranda had curled around. She could smell Miranda on the pillow and sheets. It was too much and once the tears started, she couldn’t stop them.
“Andrea.” Miranda spoke softly. “Andrea, you need to wake up. The girls will be home soon.”
“Did I fall asleep?” Andy raked her fingers through her hair.
Miranda traced the girl’s cheekbone and smiled. “For a little while.” She leaned down to kiss the tearstained cheek. “You rested now?”
“Better.” Andy pulled the older woman down to her, holding her close. “You were going to… I could have lost you.”
“Shhh…” Miranda stroked the girl’s back. “I’m right here, and I’m fine. The ambulance people stayed with me for three hours before they finally agreed I hadn’t ingested any of the drugs.” She smiled at the concern in Andrea’s eyes. “Doctor Dawson called, she said things look okay. I’ll have more tests done in a few weeks to make sure.”
“Oh!” Andy held Miranda tightly. “That’s great!”
“I told you I would be fine.” Her head tilted in question. “You doubted me?”
Andy was mesmerized by the porcelain skin on Miranda’s cheek. She reached up and traced the shadows there. “No, not for a minute.” She couldn’t stop herself from moving to capture the woman’s lips, whimpering at the contact. “I need you.” She nuzzled the woman’s neck, nipping at the softness.
“Andrea.” Miranda tipped her head back automatically, giving Andy better access. “We can’t do this now.” She smiled as the girl pulled back. “The twins will be home soon.”
“You think they’ll be okay with me staying here?”
Grinning at that, Miranda sat up and nodded. “Yes, since the first question out of their mouth’s this morning at breakfast was ‘Where’s Andy’, I think they’ll be fine.”
Andy laughed. “Okay.” She lay back on the bed. “So which guestroom do I get?”
Miranda’s eyebrows rose significantly. “You want a guestroom?”
Biting her lips together, Andy shook her head. “Umm... no, not really.”
“Oh, thank God.” Miranda’s shoulders dropped in relief and she moved to lay next to the girl.
“I totally blew off work today.” Andy admitted. “And I’m not sure I care at the moment.”
“Your detective friend called.” Miranda smiled as Andy snuggled close. “She said Judy was wanted by the FBI. She was an accomplice with a scam artist that went in to small town hospitals in the Midwest. They’d take over the operations and then run them into the ground. That’s how she got all the drugs. She had almost graduated from pharmaceutical school in St. Louis so she knew which ones to give me and the dosages that would probably do what she wanted.”
Andy lay with her head on Miranda’s chest, listening to the woman’s heart beating strong and steady. “Did they say why she fixated on me?”
Miranda absently stroked Andy’s arm. “She was on the run from the FBI and paranoid. When she moved into the apartment, the other units around her were all well established, but she worried about agents doing surveillance on her. So, she set up cameras in the empty apartment below her and watched the new tenants to make sure she was safe. She explained the rest in the office about why you.”
“She watched me undress.” A shudder went through Andy. “That really creeps me out.”
“It’s not an entirely fun prospect for me either.” Miranda buried her fingers in the girl’s hair, tilting her head back. “I don’t like to share.”
“Yeah, um… about that.” Andy bit her bottom lip. “There are um… a couple of girls you will have to share with.”
“What?!” Miranda’s eyes narrowed at the tiny grin on her lover’s face and she realized who they were talking about. “Andrea, don’t scare me like that.” She chuckled. “Caroline and Cassidy don’t count for sharing. They’re family, that’s different.”
“Are we seriously doing this?” Andy asked in awe. “We are going to live together, be a couple… go out?”
Miranda nodded. “I would like that very much.” She sighed. “It’s going to cause a stir though, you’ll have to get used to appearing in the gossip rags…are you ready for that?”
“I was ready to be shot for you earlier today.” Andy blinked as she thought about the incident and didn’t curl up in mind-numbing fear. “I think having my picture in a few papers won’t be too hard.”
Sighing, Miranda felt sick knowing Andrea had been in mortal danger. “It’s more annoying than you might think, but it’s bearable, especially if I get to be with you at the end of the day.”
“Always,” Andy promised and began to laugh.
“What’s so funny?”
“When I confronted you about the ‘brunette’ issue, you told me that all the models wanted to be like me.” Andy laughed at the memory. “But if…when… our relationship hits the gossip pages, everyone is going to want to be like me!”
“Ha! Doubtful anyone would want to put up with me.”
Andy rolled and propped her head up on one fist, the other hand moving in small circles on Miranda’s stomach. “They would if they knew anything about the real you.” She felt the tummy under her hand rumble. “Movie night tonight? Can we order pizza and pig out?”
“Hmmm… not sure about pigging out, but a movie would be nice.” Miranda shifted and gave her partner a light kiss that quickly deepened, leaving both women breathless when they finally broke away. Miranda panted, “I guess one slice of pizza wouldn’t hurt.”
“Ha!” Andy laughed. “You’re so easy.”
“Shhh…” Miranda quirked her lips. “That, is a secret.”
Andy grinned and Miranda took a deep breath when they heard the front door slam. “The girls are home.”
“Well then, let’s go tell ‘em what’s going on.”
Two hours later Andy and Miranda found themselves stuffed with pizza, sitting on the couch in the theater-playroom laughing at the ending of a comedy, because that is what Caroline declared they needed tonight. Something funny to ease the tension. As relaxed as they were, they all still jumped when the doorbell rang.
Andy patted Miranda’s knee and stood. “I’ll get it.” She dropped down the stairs, sliding her hand along the banister and realized. I live here now. She wasn’t sure how she got so lucky.
She peeked out the small window by the door and saw a deliveryman with a large bouquet of flowers. She opened the door. “Can I help you?”
“Uh… yeah that’s me.”
“Delivery for you.” He handed over the flowers and held out a clipboard. “Sign on the last line please.”
Andy signed the form and looked at the colorful arrangement. “Thanks.”
“Have a nice evening ma’am.”
Andy closed the door and fished the card from its holder and laughed loudly.
Nods are awesome!
“Andrea?” Miranda’s voice floated down the staircase. “Who was at the door?”
“Flower delivery, from Jo.”
“Ah. That’s nice.” Miranda hesitated. “It’s the girl’s bedtime, Andrea. They expect you to tell them good night.”
From the tone in Miranda’s voice Andy understood that the older woman also expected it. “I’ll be up in a minute.”
Andy took the flowers into the kitchen and set them on the table. She looked around and thought about how only three nights ago she was scared out of her mind to be here having dinner with Miranda, sitting at this very table. Scared because the only Miranda she’d really known was the Goddess, the bitch boss who terrorized Runway in order to get the magazine exactly how she wanted it. Only the few short glimpses of the woman under the mask had caught her attention making it impossible for her to stay away. And now…
Andy shook her head in wonder. Now I know the true Miranda, the Goddess, the bitch, the loving mom, the caring woman all in one package. As she made her way back up the stairs, humming Somewhere over the Rainbow. Andy knew for certain, if they only knew the real Miranda…my Miranda...
Everyone would want to be like me.