The Vietnamese food delivery suited them all but Fen who scrunched up her nose at the fresh spring rolls. She proclaimed them ‘yucky’ and proceeded to dip her finger into the peanut sauce.
“Is it alright if I check out what’s in your refrigerator?” Andrea asked, halfway to standing.
“I’ll show you.” Cassidy piped up, already scooting her chair back.
Miranda made a disapproving sound.
“Um, may I be excused?” she asked, the smile on her face not quite contrite.
Nodding, she watched her daughter take Andrea’s hand. Cassidy chattered on, a characteristic Miranda adored in her child most of the time. Andrea patted her shoulder as she walked by, pausing long enough to squeeze it affectionately, all the while paying close attention to Cassidy.
“M, what’s that?”
Attention redirected, Miranda turned away from watching Andrea and Cassidy depart. “Quoi?”
Fen tilted her head then laughed. “Excusez-moi?”
It took a few seconds to comprehend what Fen asked then Miranda smiled.
“Maman, tu es heureuse.” Caroline commented. “C’est bien.”
The three of them carried on a simple conversation. Miranda gently corrected the girls’ pronunciation. Fen knew the French words for common objects like chair or table and a few colors as well. After only two formal lessons, her mon chou showed so much promise. Back when the twins attended the institute, Caroline had doggedly tried but Cassidy had shown little interest, at least, Miranda had thought so, until Fen. Then her children pulled out phrases she believed they all but forgotten as they talked to toddler. Pride in her bobbsies inundated her. There was no mistake they could be tiny terrors, but they were also kind and patient and perceptive.
“Here you go, sweetie.” Andrea announced as she put a plate in front of her daughter.
“You can’t go wrong with a Hot Pocket.” Cassidy stated. “Remember when that’s all I would eat, Mom?”
“I sure do.” Caroline grumbled as she primly cut into a spring roll.
Andrea smiled as she patted Caroline’s shoulder. “Not a fan, huh?”
“They make her fart.”
Fen started to giggle.
“Beans, beans, good for your heart, the more you eat ‘em, the more you fart.” Cassidy taunted in a singsong voice.
Caroline glowered, on the verge of lashing out.
“Girls, let’s just eat, shall we?”
“Caroline, I was thinking about enrolling Fen in Dalton next year. Do you think she’d like it there?”
Miranda glanced at Andrea and winked. The most becoming pale blush infused Andrea’s cheeks. Miranda cut up Fen’s Hot Pocket as she listened to her daughter extol the virtues of Dalton. Although she made many mistakes, Miranda counted herself fortunate in insisting the girls attend the school against her first husband’s objections. He had argued they needed some sort of normalcy what with their rock-star father and fashion queen mother. Possessing the means to carry it out, she was damned if she were going to trust her daughter’s intellectual advancement to public education. As long as she could provide ‘the best’, that’s what she wanted for her daughters.
Andrea and Cassidy had found a dinner substitute for Fen. Andrea solicited Caroline’s opinion on Fen’s possible Dalton enrollment. Miranda cut up Fen’s food. For her part, she’d acted without thought, old habits rising to the forefront but she couldn’t deny, in a small way, she felt almost like a parent to Fen. They were interacting as a family. The thought gave birth to several others, Miranda’s imagination in control, until the scenarios became outlandish.
Good lord, get a grip, she thought. Children were involved and she couldn’t afford to get carried away. Even so, she wanted something substantial with Andrea and Fen.
“Have you finished your homework, bobbsies?”
“I did!” Fen chortled then popped a piece of Hot Pocket into her mouth.
“C’est génial, mon chou.”
“I finished mine on Friday.” Caroline answered, eyeing Fen’s crumb-smeared chin as she held out a utensil. “Fourchette.”
Fen took the fork and held it like a drumstick then tried to shovel up a piece of food. “For shit.”
Cassidy snorted. “You gonna get consequences for that, Fen.”
“No, no.” Caroline said. “Look at me, Fen. Fourchette. Just like that.”
“For shit!” she dutifully repeated.
Andrea, fighting against a smile, cut in, “That’s probably enough lessons for now.”
“Mummers, you have it.” Fen complained as she handed over the fork.
Taking it from her daughter, Andrea said, “We’ve been working with plastic ones. She’s still getting the hang of it.”
Caroline jumped up, muttering an excuse as she fled the room.
“She’s doing wonderfully. I remember when the girls were that age. Cassidy in particular was very stubborn, weren’t you?” Miranda cupped the back her daughter’s head.
“I don’t remember.”
“Here.” Caroline announced, holding a plastic fork in front of Fen. “It came with our food.”
“We tell them we don’t need it but sometimes they forget, I guess.” Cassidy explained.
Cheeks filled, Fen chewed but it proved to be too much and worried Miranda. She rose at the same time Andrea did and they met where Fen sat between the twins. Caroline and Cassidy stood, pulling back their chairs which allowed the adults to bracket Fen.
“Fen, spit it out.” Andrea said firmly while keeping her hand below her daughter’s mouth.
Miranda instructed a fidgeting Cassidy to get a juice box.
Dutifully Fen spat out the food, missing Andrea’s hand, then looked up at her mother. “How come, mummers?”
“Sweetie, little bites, remember?” Andrea answered as she took the juice box from Cassidy. “And you need to chew really good before you swallow, okay?”
Miranda scooped up the gunky mass as she kissed Fen’s head. “Are you still hungry?”
Shaking her head, she struggled off stacked pillows, in lieu of a booster seat, that helped her reach the tabletop. Unfortunately, Fen clutched Miranda’s pantleg to steady herself with hands sullied by the remnants of a Pizza Hot Pocket.
“Oh, I will definitely pay to get them cleaned or replaced.” Andrea said as she picked up Fen. “As for you, it’s clean-up time.”
“I’m going upstairs to change. If you’re finished eating, clear your plates, please.” Miranda instructed as she dumped the clotted food on her plate.
Cassidy stuffed half of spring roll into her mouth, grabbed her plate and took off whereas Caroline still worked on her Vegan Pho.
Upstairs, Miranda shucked the soiled pants and went to the bathroom sink to run cold water over the small spots. It was unlikely they could be saved.
“Oh, Priestly, you really should know better than to parade around in front of me half-naked.”
Miranda didn’t look away from her task but smirked as she replied, “Do not start something we can’t finish. Where are the girls?”
“Cassidy and Fen are in the playroom setting up the PlayStation and Caroline was rinsing her bowl in the kitchen.” Andrea stepped farther inside, leaning against the counter next to Miranda. “I’m very much a fan of those panties. They felt so soft against my knuckles when my fingers were inside you.”
Miranda’s stomach tightened.
“You know,” Andrea said conversationally as she maneuvered behind Miranda and placed her hands on Miranda’s hips. “I just realized you came and you weren’t supposed to, Miranda.”
The pants slipped from her hands. She looked at their reflection, found Andrea’s dark gaze and shivered.
“Yes, well, we need to get back to the children.” Miranda turned off the faucet. Instead of leaving, however, she placed her palms down on the countertop.
Andrea moved her hands up Miranda’s stomach underneath the sweater then pushed her fingertips past the barrier of her bra and tweaked her nipples. Hips jerking, Miranda bowed her head.
“You like it rough and fast sometimes, don’t you, baby?”
Determined not to give Andrea the satisfaction, she bit down on her lips to keep from moaning. So ready again, or, more than likely always ready for Andrea, the heavy blooming between her legs urged her to push back. Instantly, one of Andrea’s hands pulled away and held her around her waist as she lightly pressed her pelvis against Miranda’s ass.
“I bet you if I touched your pussy right now it’d be so wet, wouldn’t it? Waiting just for me.” Andrea whispered, rubbing her breasts into Miranda’s back. “God, it turns me on when you get a little wild.” Andrea sucked on the taut line of Miranda’s neck. “Come on, show me how ready you are.”
Miranda’s spine arched. Desperation bubbled below the surface.
“You want it so much you’d let me fuck you anywhere, wouldn’t you?”
She would! She would!
Miranda backed up against her, an image of Andrea standing behind her as she pushed her fingers into her cunt in front of people nearly giving her an orgasm.
“That’s right.” Andrea whispered against her ear, her heated voice intimate. “Rub yourself against me like a bitch in heat.” She dug her fingers into the flesh of Miranda’s hips, pulling them closer. “I’ll give you what you want. You can see it, can’t you? Let me, oh, please, let me, baby.”
Oh, god, anything!
The more Miranda tried to suppress her moans, the more they scraped up and down her throat. Andrea moved the arm around her waist then thrust her hand inside Miranda’s panties. Andrea moaned and Miranda lost her voice. Overly stimulated, she needed it hard, something with a sting to counterbalance the enormous greed between her legs.
Andrea’s hand simply cupped her as she whispered, “I will finish this tonight, my love.”
Then she left.
Half-crazed and throbbing, Miranda clutched the edge of the counter and tried to breathe through it. The obvious resolution thudded in her ears. It wouldn’t take long and perhaps would even take the edge off until Andrea took her again. Thoughts of the vibrator in the nightstand nearly did Miranda in. Then, thoughts of Andrea using the vibrator on her dampened her inner thighs. Close to sobbing, she gritted her teeth and snatched a wash cloth from the closet then turned on the cold tap. Her hands shook and her nipples ached but it was nothing compared to the unchecked wantonness below her waist. Still, she managed to wipe herself relatively clean, wash up and switch trousers in a short amount of time despite the jerkiness of her hands.
Andrea’s dastardly turn of play stunned her. And it was perfect.
When Miranda came down, everyone was assembled in the playroom. Andrea sat on the couch cheering the girls on as they started a racing game with flying fruit and aliens. Miranda stood in the doorway and waited for Andrea to notice her.
Two seconds later, she did, smiling at her with dark eyes. Not about to raise her voice over the girlish shrieks, she lifted her chin, signaling toward the hallway.
“Take it easy on my baby.” Andrea teased, careful not to get in between the girls and the television. “I’ll be right back.”
Andrea leaned against the doorjamb with her back to the room.
“I thought we could take them to playground before dinner or to that restaurant that has video games?”
“I think Fen would love it but...” Andrea cleared her throat. “it’s not exactly low key.”
Miranda’s neck grew hot. “We’re just two women out with our children, like a playdate.”
Folding her arms, Andrea whispered, “They’re just kids and don’t understand the way I can’t help looking at you right now but people will notice.”
“Oh, Andrea, really...” Abruptly she stopped scoffing as she stared into Andrea’s eyes. “Stop, right this instant. I can’t...the children...”
“Now you understand we cannot go out together tonight, right?”
Miranda inhaled deeply then shook out her hands as she exhaled. “Fine.”
“Besides, I still have a lot of teasing left to do whenever I find you alone between now and bedtime.”
“Well, then, cub, let’s play.”
Not often did she miscalculate her self-control.
During the first divorce, the father of her children tried to paint her as an unfit mother but she persevered and won sole custody, never once giving voice to the vitriol flooding her mouth.
When she became EIC of Runway, she gutted the magazine’s staffing by nearly half, fought off budget cuts and Irv Ravitz’s boardroom tactics.
She beat back her loathing for Irv in order to coolly replace him.
An alcoholic second husband, with his public scenes and self-absorption, hadn’t even register on her Richter scale.
But, dear god, Andrea Sachs lit her up.
There was no escaping the woman. When Miranda took a phone call and excused herself, Andrea showed up minutes later in the study. Vanessa’s voice rattled on in her ear, relaying only-god-knows-what, as Andrea lavished Miranda’s neck with attention from her lips and tongue. The next time occurred when Miranda put Fen down for a nap. Upon exiting the bedroom, she watched as Andrea leaned against the wall across from Miranda’s door. Thumbs hooked in the front pockets of her jeans, Andrea’s tapered fingers were on display. Mesmerized by the way they brushed across the denim perilously close to where Miranda longed to be, she scowled before fleeing like some brainless twit.
By dinnertime, Miranda was unraveling until it occurred to her, almost too late, that she hadn’t retaliated. Not once. Well, that would not do, not at all. It was time to assert her unquestionable authority. Andrea, busy with prepping vegetables, didn’t notice as Miranda left the kitchen. She swept into her bedroom, locked the door, and went directly to the closet. The change in clothing would make the cub whimper only because Miranda knew what triggered her. Best of all, none of the children would think twice about the change of clothes.
Feeling so much better now that payback was on the menu, Miranda walked down the stairs. As if looking for her, Andrea appeared as Miranda reached the last step.
“Oh, man.” Andrea sighed, staring at the sliver of skin between Miranda’s shirt hem and low-rise jeans. “You, uh...oh, man.”
She hadn’t worn them since the late nineties but they fit the same. Pairing them with a loose, thin sweatshirt that lacked a definitive neckline and hem, Miranda knew her selection was exactly right given Andrea’s shellshocked reaction. The sleeves were pushed up halfway between her elbow and wrist, bringing attention to the woven leather wristband.
“That belt is...looks really...” Andrea looked up. “You’re wearing hoop earrings, too. Oh, god, I give up.”
Miranda laughed quietly then purred, “So easily conquered, my cub. It’s just a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.”
“You are fucking gorgeous.” she whispered, reaching out her fingertips to softly touch the belt buckle above Miranda’s mons. “I mean it. You win. I’ll do whatever you want, only, please let me take this off of you later.”
Miranda played with the edge of her shirt, lifting it slightly to expose more skin as she cocked her head a little to the side, watching Andrea’s mouth part open.
“No more ambushes?”
Andrea shook her head.
“No more stolen kisses?”
Taking the last step, Miranda invaded Andrea’s personal space. “Excuse me, cub.”
Andrea shook her head then stepped back. “You’ve ruined me for anyone else so I hope you’re okay with being stuck with me.”
“Mmm, good to know.” Miranda replied.
Andrea followed behind her and Miranda was pretty sure her eyes were glued to her ass.
Upon entering the kitchen, she noticed Andrea finished the prep, the cut-up vegetables in bowls on the counter. Miranda opened the fridge and leaned in, biting her lip to keep from laughing when she heard a muttered ‘son of a bitch’. She took out the beef tenderloin.
“Would you mind getting the kitchen twine from the drawer by the oven?”
“Uh, yeah, I can do that.”
Miranda closed the refrigerator door and started preparing the meat. She bent down to get a roasting pan and a cast iron skillet. Andrea made a tortured noise. Composing her devilish glee, Miranda turned to her with eyebrows raised.
“I’m gonna...hang out with the kids.” Andrea said, holding out the spool of twine. “Or jump into the Artic Ocean. I’m not sure which right now. You are killing me with that outfit, Priestly.”
“And why is that, Andrea?” she asked softly, taking the spool then leaning against the counter.
Andrea closed her eyes and shook her head. “You’re always so put together. Don’t get me wrong.” She motioned toward Miranda, biting her lip. “You are now, too, but...differently. There’s so many sides to you. I’m...dazzled, beyond thrilled I get to see them. You’re a constant surprise and I adore that.”
Miranda played with the spool, absently staring at it while mastering her emotions. She swallowed then looked up. “I love you, you know.”
Andrea’s smile took over her face. She wrapped her arms around herself. “I know.”
They remained silent, connected by an understanding and acceptance. Eventually Andrea relaxed and pointed a thumb over her shoulder.
“I should join the girls.”
She turned around and promptly walked into the kitchen island, laughed then backed out of the room. Miranda, happy and hopeful, went to work on dinner, humming a tune. Within minutes she was done dressing the meat and searing it in the skillet. After she set it in the roasting pan and put it in the oven, she had thirty minutes to kill. Of course, she joined the children and Andrea.
“Oh, my.” she exhaled upon entering the playroom.
Andrea, laying on her stomach in front of the television, clutched a controller, fingers pressing in dizzying combinations as she and Caroline battled it out. Fen straddled her wearing a pink ballcap turned backwards and giving her mother instructions. Cassidy had her legs over the couch armrest, bare feet lightly bouncing while sipping on a juice box keenly interested in the battle.
“Not this time, Ro. You’re gonna eat my dust.” Andrea taunted.
Fen barked, “Go, Ro!”
“My own flesh and blood!”
“You’re going down, Andy.” Caroline boasted as she scrambled to her knees. “I’ve got you now.”
Miranda slowly took her phone out then snapped a picture.
“Mom, Andy’s about to get her butt kicked.” Cassidy greeted. “Come watch.”
Just as she stepped into the room, Andrea glanced up and hesitated, grinning up at Miranda. Apparently, Andrea was incapable of doing two things at once; her brief inattention caused her the game. Caroline stood up and danced around, rubbing it in a bit. Fen and Cassidy joined in while Andrea, her poor little cub, planted her face in the carpet.
“Come on, Mom, it’s your turn.” Caroline sang out, offering the controller.
“Yeah, you can beat up on Andy, too.”
Miranda smiled as Fen ran toward her then heaved her up. “Hello, mon chou, did you beat up on your mommy, too?”
Fen nodded, patting Miranda’s cheeks. “Sidi worked the thing and I told her what to do.”
Miranda blew a soft raspberry on Fen’s cheek and made exaggerated chomping noises while the little girl shrieked.
The cavalry, of course, came to Fen’s rescue. The twins crowded her making weird noises and faces like cute little monsters but it was the two hands steady on her waist that stilled her movements to get away.
“Stop hiding behind my offspring and face your consequences!” Andrea mock-growled.
“Oooo, Mom has consequences!” Cassidy crowed, releasing Miranda’s leg.
Gently, she set Fen down as Andrea released her. She looked over her shoulder at Andrea whose gaze swept down and up Miranda’s body. Their eyes connected as they were wont to do and a small frisson raced down her spine.
“Alright, you gremlins, settle down.” Andrea said, hugging Caroline to her side. “Let’s set the table.”
“Cassidy.” Miranda warned in a clipped tone. “Wherever you’re getting your recent vocabulary, I’d advise you to stop. I won’t warn you again.”
“Uh, I’m sorry, but that one was me.” Andrea confessed guiltily. “I may have said it once...”
“Like three times.” Caroline provided.
“Or three times. I got caught up in the game.” She looked at Cassidy. “I was wrong to say that.”
“Alright, the table isn’t going to set itself, girls. Let’s go.” Miranda said. As she passed Andrea, she whispered, “I’ll punish you later.”
“Can’t wait.” Andrea sassed.
Andrea cut up Fen’s slice of meat then worked on the steamed vegetables while Miranda saw to the twins. When she set down Andrea’s plate, Miranda trailed her hand across her shoulder then took her seat.
“This is great. Thanks for cooking, Miranda.” Andrea beamed, fork poised over the plate.
“Yeah, thanks, Mom.”
“It’s grrrrreat, M!”
Miranda placed her napkin in her lap and murmured, “You’re welcome.”
Over the din of young voices and the clatter of silverware, Miranda and Andrea shared a long look.
“Can we watch a movie after dinner?” Caroline asked then took a sip of water.
“Everyone has to finish their vegetables otherwise I don’t see why not.”
Cassidy made a face. “What do vegetables have to do with a movie?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all, bobbsies.”
“Yes, Cassidy?” Miranda forked a wedge of yellow squash.
“Can I go over Frieda’s tomorrow after school? We need to finish a history project.”
“I’ll tell Roy to drop you off and we’ll collect you on my way home.”
“Yes, mon chou?”
“Can you ask mummers about the train?”
Andrea looked up from her conversation with Caroline. “What’s this?”
Miranda set down her fork then drank from a glass. “I’m sorry, Fen, I’d forgotten about our talk. The day I took Fen to the Institute she asked me if the girls had a father. I told her yes, that they took a train to see him. She was very excited. I told her I’d ask you about perhaps taking a train at some point in time.”
“Miranda and I will have to talk about it more, sweetie. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s decided, okay?”
“Okay. Everybody come?”
Fen looked to her left then patted Caroline’s arm. “Ro, sing me my song.”
Miranda’s attention sharpened in surprise at the somewhat sheepish looks the twins gave.
“It’s just something we made up.” Caroline explained then started to giggle.
Cassidy revealed, “It goes like the ‘Three Blind Mice’ rhyme but we changed the words.”
Andrea, grinning, put her elbows on the table and said “I have to hear this.”
“As do I.” Miranda said then prompted, “Go on.”
Fen giggled madly and bounced a little on her pillows. “Sing it! Sing my song.”
Together, the twins sang, “Cabbage is here, Cabbage is here. See how she looks, see how she looks! And we love our baby mon chou, if you mess with her we’ll mess with you, cause we hold her so dear.”
Miranda, stifling her laughter, covered her face with a hand. “You clever girls!”
They preened a little under the praise.
“Why ‘cabbage’?” Andrea asked.
Caroline laughed then explained, “Mon chou means ‘sweetie’ but it also means cabbage.”
Fen looked at her mother, bouncing a little. “Cab-bitch is here!”
Twenty minutes into the movie, Fen fell asleep, crashed out on top of her and Andrea’s legs. It was torture being so close to Andrea, their sides pressing together as they made room for the twins on the couch. Yet, there was nothing like the presence of children to temper lust. By the time the film finished, Cassidy had to be woken up and Caroline kept yawning.
“Where are your bags?” Miranda asked from the stairs as she ushered her children to bed.
“First room on the right.”
“Go change and get ready for bed. I’ll check on you in a minute.” she directed the twins.
She met Andrea and Fen in the hallway about to enter the guest room.
“Do you need additional linen?” Miranda asked in a quiet voice.
“We’re fine. I’ll meet you down in the study?”
Miranda’s skin grew warm. “Fine.”
She knocked on Caroline’s door and was bade to enter.
“Is my little terror ready for sleep? Did you brush your teeth?”
Miranda gently brushed back Caroline’s bangs. “You’ll need a haircut soon.”
“I want to grow it out.”
“We’ll see. Let me tuck you in.”
Although she complied, Miranda saw the slight indignant spark in those familiar blue eyes. “Sleep well, my darling.”
Miranda pulled out the school uniform from the closet and draped it across the chair by the door.
When she knocked on Cassidy’s door there wasn’t an answer. Miranda quietly let herself in and wasn’t surprised Cassidy was fast asleep, curled around several stuffed animals. She didn’t bother picking up the mess of toys and discarded clothes on the floor but went straight to the closet, taking out the uniform. Cara, bless her, would sort it all out tomorrow. Miranda kissed Cassidy good night then left, shutting the door behind her. Tempted to peek in on Fen, she didn’t for fear of interrupting Andrea’s time with her daughter. Miranda ducked into her room and went into the bathroom to freshen up.
“Oh, come here. I need to touch you.” Andrea entreated as she crowded Miranda against the door.
“Just a minute. We need to talk.”