The ruched button design blazer dress emphasized the curves of her torso. Miranda particularly enjoyed the contrast between the mulberry shade and two large brushed nickel buttons. Her accessories popped although not quite as flashy as some of her usual choices. Her day had started rather marvelously with a picture from Andrea. Or, more accurately, a part of Andrea. To be precise, of Andrea’s outer thigh and a dangling garter belt clip with her fingers slipping under the black silk stocking.
Dear god, she had been tempted to take her time getting out of bed. The last time she experienced such an encompassing infatuation had been decades ago, well before Le Priestly. Yet, there were some glaring differences. The object of her desire wasn’t a man this time and Miranda was far from the over-eager virgin she was that time. Andrea stirred the feral part of Miranda’s psyche, the one she never truly allowed to rule. Every time she was in the same room with the woman, a switch flipped and Miranda battled to remain aloof. With a well-placed look or word from Andrea, her restraint wobbled and then it was only a matter of time before Miranda wouldn’t be able to stop herself.
The realization was terrifying and divine.
For an instant, Miranda entertained the whim of flying to Paris. Logistically, it wasn’t impossible. If only it were just a matter of planning.
“Miranda, Emily’s here to see you.”
Abruptly snapped out of her thoughts, she put on her glasses and sat straighter in her chair.
“You’re not on my schedule.”
Emily nevertheless swanned into the room and sat down in the visitor’s chair. “I’ve come to warn you. Your nine o’clock is going to be absolutely shambolic.”
Miranda raised her eyebrows.
“I heard Lawrence having a right old chin wag at the water cooler, as it were. He can’t find the Dior advert pages.”
“What happened to the mock-up?”
“I didn’t hear that part.” she replied, brushing off her knee.
Although she approved of Emily’s new favorite designer, Miranda found herself missing the Westwood phase. Miranda pursed her lips then returned her attention to a magazine spread on her desk.
“Will you be attending this shambolic event?”
“I’m not about to miss it.”
Miranda didn’t look up but Emily departed, no doubt long ago accustomed to her boss’s non-verbal dismissals. She checked the time. In ten minutes she was going to fire that twit. From the beginning she learned to keep copies. All the department heads did, too, but she was the only one who maintained a copy of the entire magazine. Lawrence had been a recent hire from GQ, smartly dressed and talking the talk from what she remembered Vivian, his boss, had told her. Since Vivian was in Paris, the pleasure of firing one of her underlings went to Miranda.
By lunchtime she was...bored. Firing the twit had sustained her through the morning along with fixing his mess. Snapping at the Cerulean girl about salad from the place that served stewed mushrooms did little to improve her mood. She prowled around her office until she realized what she was doing and promptly stopped. Miranda Priestly did not pace.
At twelve-thirty, salad half-eaten, Miranda wanted to throw something. She shredded Vanessa about the mess of clothing left in her office. The Cerulean girl was out running errands but making her cry had lost its zing. Nothing felt right. Nothing was right since...Andrea left.
What in the hell was wrong with her? Pining away like some silly school girl who lost her playmate? She had half a mind to...
Her personal phone rang. When she snatched it up, Miranda forgot what she was mad about.
“Are you on your way to the Givenchy at Couvent des Cordeliers?”
“Actually, no. I’m on my way to Ferdi.”
Andrea’s playful tone teased down Miranda’s spine. She stepped over to the window, away from ringing phones and attuned ears.
“Mm, I vaguely recall something about that.”
“I called because...” Andrea remained silent for a few more seconds then finished, “I was wondering if you liked my picture.”
Miranda was sure that wasn’t what Andrea intended to say but she decided not to press the matter.
“I do. I spent quite some time looking at it this morning in bed.”
A muffled thud and expletive later, Andrea returned to the phone. “I...dropped...you looked at it?”
“I did. It...inspired me.”
“Oh, god, I think you just killed my brain.”
“Now you’re just being theatrical.” she teased. “Perhaps I’ll send you one of me before I go to bed.”
“Yes, send me one or a hundred. I would, uh, really like that.”
Miranda laughed quietly. Vanessa stepped into her peripheral vision.
“I’ve got to go.”
“It was great hearing your voice, Miranda.”
“Yes. I’m sure it was, cub.”
Clearly, there was no stopping it. With Nigel in another time zone and country, she didn’t have her usual sounding board and there was no one else she trusted except, perhaps, Anna of all people. Dear god, she really must be out of her mind if she was contemplating talking to Nuclear Wintour. No matter who she talked to Miranda knew she already made up her mind, had since the moment saw Andrea at Runway on a Saturday with Fen and Doug. She ignored it, of course. Fat lot of good it did her, too.
Bleeding hell, she just took a selfie, albeit not of her face. Precious few would be able to identify the bra-encased assets but that wouldn’t matter if someone got a hold of it to leak it to the press. Hurriedly she sent a text telling Andrea to delete it. Two minutes later, her phone lit up with a Skype notification.
She jumped into bed, arranged the covers then accepted the call. They were in their respective beds. Away from one another, thousands of miles apart, but, god, it felt intimate.
“Good morning.” Miranda greeted softly. “You’re up early.”
Andrea had her phone propped against something as she laid on her side with her head on a pillow and the sheet bunched across her chest. Shoulders bare, it was obvious she was at least shirtless underneath, perhaps completely nude and Miranda grew lightheaded.
“And you’re up a little late. How was your day?”
“I got to fire Lawrence.” she answered, trying not to sound so gleeful.
“Yes, Vivian was freaking out. I think she’s more afraid of what you’ll say when she gets back than the fact she’s short a team member.”
“As much as I admire the picture you sent, and, hopefully this morning before I get up I will get a chance to thoroughlyenjoy looking at it, nothing beats seeing you now.”
The compliment, uttered in confessional sincerity, incited Miranda’s heart to gallop. Andrea looked mussed, her natural beauty soft and warm in the dim lighting.
“This, between us, for so many reasons, should wait.”
Andrea reached over, forgetting the sheet, picked up the phone and rolled onto her back. Quickly she found the edge of the sheet and pulled it up higher but the damage was done. Miranda’s brain simply would not stop replaying the glimpse of smooth skin and rosy nipples.
“Don’t ask me that right now, not after that...display. I have them, too. Breasts. I’ve seen lots of them, but, yours...oh, god, I’m babbling.” Horrified, Miranda covered her eyes, shaking her head. “This is ridiculous.”
The sound coaxed Miranda from her embarrassment but she scowled anyway until Andrea sucked in her bottom lip then released it, the tip of her tongue running along its edge in a blatant invitation.
“Babbling Miranda is cute but pissed off Miranda, well, I hope she makes an appearance in the bedroom. You’re not making this easy.”
“How about hard?” Miranda asked hoarsely. “Would you like it harder?”
Briefly Andrea closed her eyes. When she opened them, they hid nothing. “And any way else you think up.”
Breathing through her nose, Miranda stared into the phone. “It’s going to take almost a year for the divorce to go through. I’m not going to be able to wait that long.”
“Oh, thank god.” Andrea’s brow wrinkled. “So, we...?”
“The girls are going to visit their father the Friday after you get back. They’ll be gone the weekend. Perhaps you could come to the townhouse?”
The remainder of the day Miranda’s nerves were ice-cold settled. She managed to leave the office in time to greet the children when Roy dropped them off from school.
“Cara, why don’t you go home early?”
“Don’t gotta tell me twice.” she responded as she finished folding the foil around the salmon. “Just put this in the oven at three-seventy-five for about fifteen to twenty minutes. I’ve prepped some fresh veggies so all you have to do is steam them.”
“I’ve cooked dinner before, you know.” Miranda dryly reminded.
Cara closed the refrigerator door. “Yes, that’s why I bought some fish sticks. They’re in the freezer.”
Miranda rolled her eyes. “One time I burned...”
“Mom, tone.” Caroline admonished, blue eyes alight with diabolical delight. “It’s okay. Just work on it.”
Cara quasi-coughed as she quickly turned around and acted busy.
Not as quick, Miranda laughed. Hoisting her daughter into the air, she teased, “Oh, my tiny terror, what’re you gonna do now?”
Caroline squealed which summoned Cassidy posthaste who started laughing and buzzing around the kitchen like a demented Tinkerbell.
“Color me gone.” Cara mock-groused, playfully swatting back Cassidy’s attempts to climb her.
Miranda twirled her daughter one last time then set her down as she said, “Let me call Roy. He shouldn’t be too far away.”
“I don’t feel bad about it either. I hate the subway. Besides, your car has heated seats.”
While the girls ambushed Cara, Miranda went into the hallway and made the call. Vivian had left a message, Nigel sent a text, and Vanessa confirmed lunch with her second ex-husband for the next day. Stephen wanted to talk about his sobriety which Miranda didn’t give a shit about but far be it for her to send him off the deep end again. For reasons that no longer held her, he couldn’t or wouldn’t let go of their brief marriage. The girls hadn’t seen or spoken to him since the divorce was final two years ago.
Through the grapevine of mutual acquaintances and business associates that couldn’t wait to pass along what they ‘heard’, Miranda learned he made a very public scene at an exclusive restaurant when the maître de called him Mr. Priestly. It was the day after he faxed her divorce papers in Paris. The stories more or less followed the same vein throughout the next year, escalating to the point Stephen, and by association Miranda, were featured on Page Six nearly every week. The girls went to therapy and she went to work and started cooking at home again.
Evidently Stephen grew tired of being gossip fodder because he disappeared from public view although, one of his colleagues at the investment firm laughingly told Miranda ‘It was either rehab or the unemployment line. The poor bastard.” She didn’t have any feelings about it which probably should concern someone who paid attention to such things. After three years with the man, Miranda had let him go without a backward glance. The first year had been fine. The second less so, and the last, well, it had been horrible, filled with his drunken scenes and her callous rejections.
She harbored no wish to revisit nor reminisce and was of half a mind to cancel. It wasn’t an option. He needed to do something, a step or other, for a program he was in which was crucial for his sobriety. It’s not as if she drove the man to drink. At least not intentionally. Lord knows she couldn’t keep him from drinking while they were together. It was beyond her how anyone expected she could help him do so now.
“I’m about to fall into bed but I wanted to let you know Alexis Mabille’s show had so much plaid I started looking around for the Brawny man.”
“You’ve always gravitated toward beard covered lumberjacks.”
“I do like them hairy.”
Miranda rolled her eyes. “I find that a bit scary.”
“And they think I’m the fairy.”
“I’ve missed you.”
Nigel yawned. “It’s not like you to be so sentimental. Tell Uncle Nigel what’s wrong.”
“No, I don’t think I will.”
“Oooh, now you must tell me. I heard you fired someone. That usually makes you happy for a day or so. Tell me. Tell me. Tell me.”
“Now you’ve gone and built it all up and it’s really rather inconsequential.”
“Then it won’t be hard to share.”
Miranda, on the cusp of diverting the topic with rhyming banter, hesitated. “I’m not asking for your approval, Nigel, nor do I care about your opinion.”
“Oh, my, I think I’m beginning to understand. The night of the charity ball you said you wanted to kiss Six.”
“I see you’ve finally caught up.” she said, her tone waspish.
Nigel made a noise. “I caught her staring at her phone and she had this look but I couldn’t place it until now.”
“Do tell. I’m on pins and needles.”
“Besotted, utterly besotted.”
His observation struck a warm and anxiety-filled note within her.
“Miranda, I’m going to point out the obvious because, dear god, it bears repeating. She is in the middle of a divorce, she has a toddler, and she works for you. If this isn’t love then you need to walk away.”
“Are you quite finished?” she asked with deadly softness.
“Before you try to fire me, allow me to remind you I have a contr...”
“No, no, no, I think you’ve said enough. Just because we’re friends, don’t presume to tell me how to live my life. The only reason there isn’t a dial tone in your ear is because, despite how inept you truly are, you only said those things because you care about her and about me.”
“That’s true. I am...sorry, if I went too far, Miranda. But you must know, even you can’t weather a sexual harassment scandal. No one will care if it was consensual.”
Miranda whispered, “I may lose it all.”
“How does she feel? Do you know?”
“Neither one of us can stop it.”
Nigel muttered something then said, “Okay, both of you need beards. Men whom you date to keep gossip at bay. I know some closeted gay men who would absolutely adore escorting you two around town.”
“I am not. I’ll set something up as soon as possible.”
“No.” Miranda protested, a bit alarmed, then she thought about it. “Just...not yet. Make some discreet inquiries. Christ, Nigel, I know I’m risking more than I’ve ever put on the line for anyone else. I know the consequences, the repercussions and rewards. The math doesn’t add up. I know all this and yet...”
“It’s okay. Even Miranda Priestly deserves la vida loca once.”
Cara was gone, the twins were in bed, and Miranda was off the phone. Andrea hadn’t contacted her which wasn’t surprising. They’d agreed on a time and place. Any further seductions verged on unnecessary cruelty. While getting ready for bed, she allowed her thoughts to wander. She sat in front of the mirror and massaged facial cream into her skin. The nighttime regime always gave Miranda a deep satisfaction. Perhaps it was the act of cleansing the day away or the strict adherence to a long time ritual. Finished with her face, Miranda opened another jar and began massaging lotion into her neck and bare shoulders. What would Andrea do if she were present? Would she watch or wait in the bed? Indulging herself, she imagined Andrea’s dark gaze staring at her mirror image, tracking Miranda’s hands across her skin. The economy of movement therefore lengthened, turning sensually slow.
Thoughts turning libidinous, her hands followed and cupped her breasts, all the while picturing dark brown eyes trained on her. Miranda’s own slid shut as her hands moved lower. She thought of the things she wanted to do to Andrea in bed, on the floor, in an alleyway, as strangers watched, on her hands and knees. The images shot through her brain and dictated what her hands did. The speed and heat of it drew forth soft gasps that punctuated the silence and spurred her on.
Within minutes, she came in a strangled moan, thighs slick and head thrown back. Slowly she opened her eyes then looked in the mirror. She rose from the chair and went to the sink then got her phone. Without thinking too hard about it, Miranda took a picture of her flushed face and dilatated eyes and sent it to Andrea with the text ‘thinking of you’.
She woke before the alarm which wasn’t unusual. Being relaxed and well rested, well, that wasn’t something to be squandered. Miranda stretched her entire body, twisting a little from side to side, curling her toes then splaying them outward. She hugged a pillow as she turned on her side, sighing in a purely feminine way.
Nigel’s words floated back into her consciousness, bits and pieces settling, but she didn’t try to arrange them into coherent sentences. Last night had almost been better than a day at the spa which led her into thinking of ways it could have been better. Miranda groaned as she rolled onto her back, stretching one last time before she rose.
Before slipping into the shower, she reached for her phone to turn off the alarm. Upon seeing Andrea’s alert, a ribbon of heat curled in her lower abdomen. She opened the text. It was a simple quote credited to Charles Bukowski:
“If something burns your soul with purpose and desire, it’s your duty to be reduced to ashes by it. Any other form of existence will be yet another dull book in the library of life.”