Andrea gave Miranda an encouraging look as her hand crept down Miranda’s arm then entwined their fingers. She led the way to the small sofa but Miranda didn’t sit down. It was odd to be sitting on the edge of the cushion while Miranda stood before her, odder still when Miranda started to pace. Andrea tried to convey patience but in reality she preferred Miranda simply blurt out whatever she wanted.
“You...know how I feel.”
Miranda wrung her hands. Had she not witnessed it for herself, Andrea wouldn’t have believed the woman before her ever suffered from nerves. It was so incredibly adorable, Andrea struggled not to smile or tease her. Best to wait it out behind a appearance of calm.
Miranda toyed with her earring then ran her fingers through her hair. Preoccupied with the hint of skin just above the low waist of Miranda’s jeans that was revealed by her fidgeting, Andrea almost missed her words.
“I want to talk. About our feelings.”
Miranda scowled. “Can’t you think of another endearment more suitable?”
“Well, Fen calls you ‘M’ and it doesn’t bother you so...” Andrea shrugged. “I should get a pass, too, don’t you think?”
“No, I do not.” Miranda huffed then sat down next to her. “As my...significant other, however, you are entitled to employ certain...expressions. Sparingly, I might add.”
Compelled, Andrea moved a bit closer and gently stroked the side of Miranda’s face with the back of her fingers.
“Yes, my love.”
Miranda’s shoulders relaxed as she ducked her chin a little and closed her eyes.
Andrea’s knuckles grazed the proud jawline, making their way to her sharp chin. When Andrea lightly pressed her thumb across her bottom lip, Miranda opened her eyes. The deep blue hue invited Andrea in. Private things glistened in their depths, daring Andrea to capture them. The wonderful details of Miranda’s face blurred the longer she focused on those bioluminescent secrets. To be so connected wasn’t an ordinary experience for her. The tingling sensation filling her chest and the way her racing blood brought everything to the surface affected her how standing in a middle of the first snow in a cedar grove or the first time she rode a rollercoaster ride just before the first steep descent did. Slowly Andrea came back to herself and blinked. The connection they’d just forged was yet another that bound them together.
“We have a long road ahead of us, darling, in respects to how we navigate working and being together, for one thing.” Miranda placed her hand in Andrea’s. “What are your thoughts?”
“Work is work.” Andrea smiled to lighten her succinct reply. “I think we’re mature and reasonable enough to not take things personally.” She looked down abruptly and frowned until she continued, “After my divorce is final, I will be free to go public but as long as we’re working together, we’ll never be. I think you have something up your sleeve about that and I’m not going to press you. Either way, I’m committed to you, Miranda.”
“Thank you.” Miranda leaned forward and planted a relatively chaste kiss on the corner of Andrea’s mouth. “Now, the children. I think we should do things together but be...circumspect around them.”
“I agree. If Fen walked in on something, I wouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed, at all, but I’d rather not have her repeat or say something to Nate until we’re divorced.”
“I completely understand.” Miranda shifted on the couch. “Nigel offered to find us ‘beards’. Are you familiar with the term? I find it rather odd.”
“Uh, I know what it is.”
Grimacing, Miranda released Andrea’s hand then turned more fully toward her. “He knows discreet gay male acquaintances who regularly go out with beards for professional reasons. I told him to look into it, perhaps have a list of suitable candidates. He’s attending New York Fashion week so, if you’re in agreement, I can tell him to set something up for us.”
“Oh, wow, I’m...impressed and a bit afraid you’ve provided for that contingency.” Andrea grinned. Unable to restrain herself, she kissed Miranda and when her mouth opened, she groaned, feeling a flare of heat between her legs.
Miranda pulled away, whispering, “Christ, you’re good at that, but you need to stop distracting me.”
But Andrea didn’t want to talk anymore. Fingers on Miranda’s belt buckle, she deftly undid it while tasting the skin of Miranda’s neck, descending to her bare shoulder.
“Andrea.” Miranda stopped her hands, holding them in her own and pulling slightly away. “Not here. Let’s go...upstairs.”
Not having to be told twice, she sprang up from the couch. “Okay, let’s go.”
“Ever the eager cub.” Miranda playfully goaded.
As they walked to the door, Andrea replied, “Why wouldn’t I be?”
The tips of Andrea’s ears infused with warmth. Her heartbeat matched the staccato notes of a violin as they climbed the stairs. Andrea, a step below, was close enough to inhale the smell of the house and Miranda’s perfume, the combination of hearth and heart enough to tether her to the present. Taking her sweet time as she swished up the stairs, hips moving from side to side hypnotically, Miranda’s backside was an endless source of fascination. The defined calves and heart-shaped ass, her small waist and straight back deserved Andrea’s continuous appreciation. So much so, Andrea inadvertently tripped up the damn steps. On the landing, Miranda looked back, the amused sneer inspiring various ways of retribution in Andrea’s head.
“Do try to be quiet.” Miranda admonished in a bout of playfulness.
Andrea opened the bedroom door. “Payback’s a bitch. Priestly.”
“I’m counting on it.”
In the room the only thing Andrea heard was the rapid sound of her breath. Miranda stood by the closed door, arms crossed, one foot slightly in front as she put most of her weight on the other. She looked predatory, but, then, Miranda always looked so. Her eyes gave her away, as always, communicating a depth of emotion that balanced the carnal. Andrea trembled. Fully invested in all areas, a first for her, she knew she would follow wherever Miranda led.
“Don’t make me wait any longer.” she whispered. “Please.”
Miranda strode across the short expanse between them and carefully cradled Andrea’s face within her palms.
“I don’t want to rush.” she whispered before kissing her then sucking in Andrea’s lower lip and promptly releasing. “I want to worship you.”
Andrea, not long for the coherent world, could only whimper. She hungered to be possessed and claimed by the love so visible in Miranda’s expression, words, and actions. As Miranda’s open-mouth kisses left a trail down her throat, Andrea abandoned any pretense of control. Directing her to lay down on the bed, Andrea obeyed, bereft of Miranda’s touch. Her chest rose and fell as she waited in painful anticipation.
Miranda shucked her clothes without posturing and still managed to intoxicate Andrea. Clothed and untouched, she’d never been so turned on. Miranda’s body, despite its slender contour, sheathed a massive impetus which was solely concentrated upon Andrea.
“Jesus.” she whispered and started to undress but Miranda stayed her hands.
“I want you to lay back.” she said, placing Andrea’s hands on either side of her head. Slowly, she straddled her thighs and started unbuttoning Andrea’s shirt. “Taking your clothes off is highly erotic for me.”
The simple statement, said with such directness, provoked a contraction between Andrea’s legs. She moaned, arching her back, silently begging for more.
Miranda opened Andrea’s blouse and urged her to sit up in order to remove it. Andrea obeyed. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered except the progress of Miranda’s fingers. Dear god, the adroit seduction, how she slid the material from her body leaving a wake of pebbled skin, made clear Andrea’s enjoyment. She moved her shoulders and hips in a vain attempt to create friction between them but Miranda denied her. From under a pillow she withdrew a white scarf and held it up for Andrea to see.
“Do you remember this, my cub?”
Staring at it, Andrea swallowed.
Miranda sat back a little on Andrea’s thighs and draped the scarf around her neck.
“How does it look?” she purred, tilting her chin up as she slowly pulled the scarf down her naked chest. “It still smells like you.” Miranda started rocking her hips and caressing her breasts with Andrea’s scarf. “See what it does to me.”
The pale pink of Miranda’s nipples changed to a darker shade as they tightened. Andrea’s breath stuttered. Draping the scarf over her own breasts, Miranda kneaded them, her expression a blend of wanton tenderness. Andrea moved her arms then placed her hands on the tops of Miranda’s thighs. Miranda flexed her hips forward, spreading her knees farther apart and Andrea sucked in the heady, rich scent of Miranda’s arousal. She slid her thumbs along the insides of Miranda’s thighs, the smooth, damp skin causing Andrea to undulate.
“You’re being disobedient.” Miranda scolded then lifted herself away from Andrea’s naughty hands. “I think it’s time to restrain you, darling.”
Andrea flopped back onto the bed, frustrated by the slow pace Miranda set and highly turned on by watching her. After being struck by lightning, the phenomenon of a tree burning from the inside out aptly described the sensations that caused her to writhe upon the mattress. Andrea fisted the comforter, grasping for control as she squeezed her eyes shut.
Cool fingers surrounded her wrist. “I can’t have you ruining my pleasure now can I, cub?”
Andrea issued forth a guttural moan as she opened her eyes to glare at Miranda who stood by the side of the bed with another scarf.
“Just do it.”
Miranda tut-tutted as she secured one of Andrea’s wrists to the headboard. She walked around the bed and quickly fastened the other. Her expression grew solemn.
“Do you trust me, Andrea?”
Squinting up at Miranda, she moved her lips although no sound came forth. She tried again to speak and managed an empathetic if creaky “I do.”
Miranda’s wicked approval held sway over her features. She opened the nightstand’s drawer and removed a pair of scissors. Andrea froze and her skin started to cool, eyes darting from the glint of metal to Miranda’s enigmatic stare. A second of confusion clouded her mind until she realized Miranda’s intentions. The heat rushed back into her body and Andrea gasped.
Setting them aside, Miranda sat on the bed then leaned down. She brushed her lips against Andrea’s, then she cooed, “I’m happy you understand. You won’t regret it.”
With infinite care Miranda unlaced and removed Andrea’s shoes then socks. Stealing up a pantleg, her hand followed the hard ridge of bone almost to Andrea’s knee then she dragged her nails lightly back down. Andrea pushed her hips into the mattress, bending her knees slightly as her legs fell apart.
“Please.” she croaked, tightening her grip on the scarves.
“At my leisure and not before.”
Andrea’s entire being throbbed.
Miranda flattened her palm against Andrea’s trembling stomach. She spread her fingers. “Your skin is very warm.” She started moving her hand, fingertips grazing the edge of Andrea’s bra. “I love it when you sweat.” Miranda confessed in a hiss.
The torture was real. Andrea’s muscles tensed in response, grasping at nothing until Miranda decreed so which wouldn’t be fast enough for her. She thought of how Miranda might end it and Andrea’s legs spread wider apart.
“Your reactions intoxicate me.” she said thickly which made Andrea wetter.
Try as she might, Andrea couldn’t quell the sounds she made. She forced her body to relax and closed her eyes, concentrating on Miranda’s calm touch instead of her body’s reaction to it.
“Blindfold me.” she said, startling herself with the abrupt request.
Miranda lips opened slightly allowing for the tip of her tongue to wet them. “Excellent idea.”
Yet another scarf was wrapped around a part of her body. Although not physically helpless, Andrea surrendered her will. Without the inner struggle there was room to permit herself to enjoy the experience of Miranda’s worship. She didn’t question the evolution of their lovemaking. Wherever it took them, Andrea was open in mind, body and spirit.
“Lift your hips up.” Miranda softly directed, fingers grasping either side of Andrea’s pantlegs.
Cool air brushed against the tiny hairs covering her skin once released from the garment’s confines.
“Perfect.” she murmured against Andrea’s inner knee then licked the damp skin.
The sweep of a soft forelock along her thigh sent a tremor across her flesh. Miranda’s mouth moved a bit higher as she settled on the mattress. Andrea shifted her hips, digging her heels in as she opened her legs as far as possible. Heated breath rippled across the wet silk of Andrea’s underwear and she moaned through clamped lips.
“I could breathe you in every day and never tire of it.” Miranda admitted then plucked the material from Andrea’s wet center with her teeth.
Andrea tugged on the scarves tied to the headboard to keep from lifting her hips in a demand. The soft contact of Miranda’s tongue against the silk plastered to Andrea’s lower lips made her gasp an obscenity. When she felt the scrape of Miranda’s teeth along the soaked material, Andrea jerked, biting down hard on her lip to keep from crying out. Tears slid from the corners of her eyes. The sharp edge of ecstasy cut the line between pain and pleasure. Andrea embraced the effects of the two melding together, the ascensional experience strangely intertwining her body and spirit.
Miranda withdrew and Andrea tried to breathe again, holding the delirium at bay once more. She tried to calm herself and she tried to survive long enough to orgasm. Random twitches invaded her muscles. Labia heavy and clit distended, Andrea’s need was on display which, unfortunately, increased her excitement. She almost jumped in surprise when a cold, pointed object pressed into her hip.
“It won’t be long.” Miranda sighed, dragging the closed scissors across the flesh above the waistband of Andrea’s panties. “It’s a pity I’m going to ruin the lingerie set you’re wearing.” Miranda leaned in, her soft skin sliding against Andrea’s. “I’ll buy you more.”
Andrea panted, holding her teeth together. Miranda gently moved the scissors between her underwear and skin. In suspense, she held her breath and held still. After a change of pressure and the press of Miranda’s knuckles, the dry scrape of metal sounded, releasing the material from her hip. Miranda made a low, appreciative noise.
“Just four more cuts.”
The deep and hushed quality of Miranda’s voice seeped into Andrea’s mind. It soothed and ignited, holding the promise of pleasure.
Surprisingly, Andrea arrived at Runway before Miranda. The twins were still abed when she and Fen had crept through the house. At the door, Miranda kissed both their cheeks good-bye and waited to close it until they were ensconced within the taxi. Demetria took over Fen’s care while Andrea brewed a very strong pot of coffee. Then it was just a matter of getting ready for her day.
Wired but tired, she crossed the bullpen and went up the stairs to Miranda’s office but learned from Vanessa she wasn’t in yet. Andrea looked at the empty desk opposite the first assistant.
“She’s on a coffee run. I could text her if you want something? She just left.”
“No thanks. Please tell me Amber hasn’t gone back to wearing her own clothes.”
Vanessa frowned, staring at her computer, but answered, “She’s mixing and matching.”
“Gucci and Kmart?” Andrea hissed, horrified at the image in her head.
Laughing, Vanessa looked away from the screen. “Not that bad. More like vintage and The Closet.”
“Will I pass out from the sight or just...scowl?” When the first assistant smirked, Andrea rolled her eyes. “I received a very frantic call from Montrose on Sunday morning. Apparently he’s cancelling the shoot. Not gonna make Miranda happy. Enjoy your day.”
The satisfaction for getting Vanessa back was short-lived, of course. Despite a long telephone discussion with the photographer, he remained obstinate, and when Miranda found out, things were going to get interesting to say the least. After settling in and getting comfortable, Andrea decided to try Montrose one more time. She did accomplish getting two other prominent photographers on standby who specialized in working with animals but Miranda had made her preference known quite distinctly.
“I am out of the animal business, Andrea. Don’t call back!” He snapped and hung up.
Well, that answered that. She called up her first pick, cemented him down for the ten o’clock shoot today and warned him not to be late. Glancing at the time, Andrea sighed and got to work.
The nine o’clock Department meeting started normally enough but Andrea felt a ‘disturbance in the force’. Miranda sat where she usually did, commented with her usual unimpressed air, and scribbled with a Mont Blanc pen but she never once looked at Andrea. Although they’d agreed to maintain a professional distance, she worried, if Miranda kept it up, someone was certainly going to notice.
“Is everything ready for the shoot at Central Park?”
“We have the correct permits, security with tranq-guns, and Mackie’s at the venue now, setting up the tents and heaters and helping the animal trainers set up. I’ve confirmed with the caterers...”
Andrea paled when Miranda’s cold blue eyes lasered her from across the table. Her low tone held a deadly note and it was all Andrea needed to hear to realize Miranda knew.
“He doesn’t work with animals anymore, but...”
Miranda tsked and took off her glasses. “It is beyond my understanding that my directives are not followed. Before approving this shoot, I clearly stated it was contingent upon Montrose being the photographer.” Miranda closed the glasses with a snap. “Your incompetence is surprising, Andrea.”
“And I’m surprised he backed out at the last minute. Looks like neither one of us got what we wanted but I have another...”
“Bore someone else with your excuses.” Miranda flicked open her glasses and smoothly put them on. “You have forty-three minutes to get Montrose at the venue or else I will be very disappointed.”
Andrea placed her hands palm down on the table and rose. Anger too close to the surface, she didn’t look at Miranda on her way out but sensed the relieved and sympathetic glances cast her way. She marched up to Amber’s desk.
“Get me the address for Montrose.” she demanded, teeth grinding as she waited for the girl to respond.
“Is that a first or last name?”
Vanessa mumbled, “For the love of...Andrea, I sent it to your phone.”
Andrea hurried out, calling Roy. “Are you busy?”
“No, I guess...”
“Meet outside Elias-Clarke as soon as you can. Drive on the sidewalks, whatever it takes.”
Ending the call, she immediately called another person.
“Well, if it isn’t my erstwhile assistant. I don’t have all day.”
Andrea jumped into the empty elevator. “Former assistant. Montrose, the animal photographer. I have a half hour at best to convince him to come back. Any ideas?”
“Darling, I’m not sure you know how this ‘former’ thing works. There’s nothing in it for me.”
Andrea sighed. “Christ, okay, fine, I’ll owe you but it can’t involve Runway or Miranda. I’m not kidding, Anna. I swear if you don’t agree I’ll tell Miranda about the Crisco Incident.”
“Is that what she’s teaching you over there at that overpriced National Enquirer of the fashion industry? Blackmail, Andrea? Really...”
“I need this.”
Anna sighed. “Alright but make no mistake, you will owe me a very large favor. I’ll put in a call. Where are you?”
“On my way to his apartment.”
“Aren’t you the eager beaver?”
“You have no idea.” she said then hung up.
Her nerves diminished. The last person in the world Anna wanted to know about the ‘Crisco Incident’ was Miranda. Although it was a lurid tale, Andrea heard worse. Anna, however, said once that Miranda Priestly was merciless. She assumed it meant professionally. Miranda’s reputation was well-known. Maybe, given the context of their secret friendship, it meant something else. After all, being loved by Miranda opened up many more facets of her personality for Andrea and it wasn’t such a leap to surmise her close friends saw things regular people didn’t.
What would Miranda do if she learned about the Crisco Incident? No doubt make fun of Anna with relentless glee. She’d make sure Anna never forgot about it.
“Hey, what’s the rush?” Someone called out, waving to her.
Andrea turned to her left and spotted Roy standing next to the town car that was sandwiched between two other cars.
“I’ve got less than ten minutes to get to midtown, sixth and forty-third street to pick up a photographer and get him to the Central Park shoot.” Andrea answered, breathlessly, yanking open the front passenger’s seat.
Roy, bless him, got in a few seconds after her.
“Oh, and you have to hustle back to pick up Miranda.”
“That’s like fucking impossible.”
“Shit.” Andrea snapped then directed, “Okay, just drop me off. I’ll figure something out. If you can, please, please take your time driving her to the shoot?”
Roy maneuvered out of being boxed in which impressed the hell out of her but she needed to make a call.
“Yes, again. Yes, I need a favor.” Andrea, aware of Roy’s proximity, tried to speak in a normal voice. “I know. I need a ride. No! I don’t have time to flag down a cab.” She waited while Anna derided her lack of planning but eventually agreed to send her driver. “Sixth and forty-third street.”
“Okay, we caught a break. I’ll have you there in five.” Roy said.
Andrea crossed her legs and stared out the window, too keyed up to make small talk. She texted the other photographer and told him it was off and prayed Anna got through to Montrose.
When he slowed down, Andrea hopped out onto the sidewalk, effusively thanking Roy before shutting the door. She ran to the nearest crosswalk and jammed the button several times, hoping the light would hurry up and turn green. When it did, she wove through the throng of people coming at her using her elbows. Andrea looked back and noticed Roy had taken off, much to her relief.
Montrose stepped out of the building just as she was about to enter. Andrea almost broke a heel stopping so quickly.
Man, she really owed Anna.
“I am not to speak of how you ‘changed’ my mind.” Montrose informed her airily on the trip to Central Park. “My marker has been paid in full after this little detail then I’m a free man. You, I suspect, have something monstrous over ‘she who be not named’. Or you’re in deeper than I ever was.”
Andrea’s eyebrows arched. Montrose was fishing or making assumptions. Anna wouldn’t have revealed anything.
“Care to share?” he asked with a touch of slyness. When Andrea merely smiled, he huffed. “Fine.”
“I am curious how she convinced you.” Andrea tilted her head. “You hung up on me.”
“I’ll tell you mine if you tell me hers.”
“Nothing to tell, Montrose.”
The driver pulled over at their destination then got out and opened Andrea’s door. Montrose followed her.
“Thanks for the lift and carrying the bags.” Andrea said to the driver as he pulled another case out of the trunk.
She looked around but didn’t see Miranda’s town car. A wave of gratitude washed over her. Calling to one of Mackie’s assistants, she pointed to Montrose’s camera bags.
“My assistants should be here momentarily with the lighting equipment.” Montrose said, then started walking toward the tents. “I’m going to talk to the trainer while you do whatever it is you do.”
Andrea refrained from sniping back. The little side trip cost her valuable time. She checked in with Mackie first and was immediately reassured by his report.
“Please tell me Serena’s here.”
“Yeah, can’t miss that one, you know what I mean? Anyways, she with the models in the big tent.”
“Where’s Corina, the designer?”
“I dunno but I set up her tent over there.”
Andrea looked and the tent seemed ominously uninhabited. She half-ran toward it, pulling out her phone then someone yelled out “She’s here!” Andrea turned around and saw Miranda climbing out of the town car.
“Fuck.” She ducked into the tent, nerves strung out when it was empty. “Sonofabitch.”
She dialed Corina’s number but it went to voicemail after two rings.
Ringing her again, Andrea willed the woman to pick up but she didn’t. “This is bullshit.”
“Your language is appalling.” Miranda said, looking around. “And where are the clothes?”
“I don’t know.” she confessed, ready to get upbraided for failing in her responsibility to keep the shoot on track. “I’ve called the designer but it goes to voicemail.”
“You don’t know.” Miranda repeated.
Hit by a sudden inspiration, Andrea said, “I’ll take a cab over to her studio and drag her back here.”
“You better do something.”
Andrea’s hackles raised at the warning in Miranda’s voice. “I’m not sure I like your tone.”
“You’ll like being unemployed even less if you don’t fix this.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“Did I stutter?” Miranda scorned, hands on her hips as she got into Andrea’s personal space. “Do you not comprehend simple orders? Do I need to talk slower so your little brain can catch up?”
“Oh, I’m going to fix it. You just sit back on your ass and order someone to get you a coffee.” Andrea sniped then started to walk away.
Miranda didn’t let her get far. Her hand snatched Andrea’s arm and swung her around. They bumped up against each other and stayed. Miranda was livid, nose pinched and breathing through her mouth.
The mouth that a few hours ago kissed her good-bye.
Andrea’s anger started to lose steam. As much as she wanted to be angry, she knew she dropped the ball this time. Although she didn’t deserve the acidic insults, she did deserve Miranda’s ire. The budget was tight with less wiggle room than normal. Miranda would be the one answering for the delay, for the overage costs and she wouldn’t use her Fashion Director’s failure as an excuse or explanation. No, Miranda would accept the responsibility, of that Andrea had little doubt.
“I’m going to fix this.” Andrea said, pulled her arm free from Miranda’s grasp and left.
Mackie jogged up to her but she waved him off. “Whatever it is, handle it. I’ve got to find the designer. Is Serena still with the models?”
Andrea burst into the tent and said, “We don’t have...what’s this?”
Serena smiled. “There you are, my friend. They look good, huh?”
“Yeah. Uh, where’s Corina?” Struck dumb by her luck, Andrea longed to faint.
“Oh, she had a family emergency but her assistants got here with the clothes about forty minutes ago.”
“Why weren’t they in the designer’s tent?”
Serena snapped her fingers at a young man standing in the corner. “Get an ice pack for Gianna.” Sighing she turned her attention back to Andrea. “She jammed her finger or something. Anyway, sorry. To answer your question, Mackie didn’t have it up when they arrived. I just told them to come in here so they could get right to it.”
“Well, that’s good.” Andrea smile was wide. “I gotta go. I’ll see you later.”