Dressed in casual attire, Andrea scaled the last few steps from the subway station early Saturday morning. Just four days after a windy snowstorm with the temperature in the low teens, the weather markedly improved. The forecast reported the high could reach the low seventies. Andrea avoided a patch of icy slush against the curb as she crossed the avenue in a herd of pedestrians. The Elias-Clarke building loomed before her and she experienced a flutter of excitement. Traffic inside was sparse which was to be expected on Saturday morning at the ass crack of dawn. An uptick in occupants wouldn’t make their way in earlier than ten am, but few among them would be from Runway. Other publications, of course, but not Runway unless a catastrophe occurred. Since Andrea didn’t make any calls to rally the troops, she looked forward to getting some paperwork done in solitude.
As she crossed the bullpen, she glanced up at Miranda’s office door and, of course, it was closed. It wasn’t just the sex she missed. Every night they talked on the phone, mostly quick updates. Twice Fen insisted on speaking with her maman, not understanding why Miranda wasn’t around after spending a long weekend together. In a husky voice of reassurance Miranda had promised they would all do something together soon.
Turning the corner she almost ran into Amber of all people.
“What are you doing here?” Andrea asked, too surprised to be polite.
“Returning a blouse to the Closet.”
Andrea nodded, making a note to submit a door scan to security for the last month and to check the log for sign-outs and returns.
Wearing True Religion jeans and a cashmere sweater, Amber obviously left behind cerulean polyester blends and knee-highs.
“How’s your sister, um, Tick, right?”
“Pearl, actually. She’s doing well, thank you.”
The hillbilly Eliza Doolittle was now a ‘Fair Lady’, a fact Andrea rather mourned.
“Well, your transformation is pretty impressive. Did this all by yourself, huh?”
Amber eyes turned hard. “You’re not the only one who knows people, Andrea.”
“Is that so?” Andrea stepped closer, on the cusp of the assistant’s personal space. “Who’s your new advisor? Someone I know?”
“That’s so. I got prospects, you know. I’m not just some fetch-and-carry girl.”
Backing down with her hands up, Andrea smiled, unwilling to totally alienate the girl. “Okay, okay. You must know of a consignment or second-hand store I don’t know about and I’m always looking for a good bargain.” Andrea shrugged
But Amber wasn’t having it.
The resentment in the girl’s tone and the phrases she used simply weren’t Amber. Uttered by her, yes, but Andrea suspected a certain someone supplied those words or used them to manipulate Amber’s insecurities. Jaqueline Follet’s influence, no doubt. Vanessa, urban smart and a few months shy of promotion with nothing to gain, would have seen through Jaqueline’s ruse. Who else better to convert than a naïve second assistant with direct access to the EIC?
Andrea pushed aside the urge to save the young woman which doubled the guilt. Amber was a pawn, gullible and desperate to be a success, but she should have chosen loyalty. She didn’t know Amber, what her life was like, where she came from, or what happened to her. All those factors influenced Amber’s decision to betray Miranda. Had Andrea just taken the girl under her wing, maybe things would have turned out differently but Miranda’s plan was already in motion and it was too late to play the hero. Nothing good could be gained from torturing her conscience. With reluctance, Andrea let herself off the hook.
“I hope you know your role at Runway is important, Amber. I didn’t mean otherwise.” She waited for her words to sink in but it didn’t seem as if the second assistant believed it. “Well, I better get to it. The sooner I finish, the sooner I can go home, right?”
For a brief second, Amber looked a bit lost, her eyes searching Andrea’s, but then she straightened her shoulders.
“That makes two of us. Enjoy the rest of your day.”
Not bothering to watch the young woman leave, Andrea headed to her office. When she fished out her key to unlock the door she noticed it wasn’t properly shut. Andrea’s stomach twisted. She looked over her shoulder behind her but the hallway was clear. A number of plausible explanations zipped through her mind except she knew she checked the self-locking mechanism whenever she secured her office for the day. While onsite during normal business hours she left her office open as she went to various meetings or on quick errands.
Andrea sat down in her chair and tried to discern if anything was amiss. Two very good reasons why there was no need to panic weren’t enough to erase the vulnerable feelings of having her privacy violated. The only things Amber could have uncovered were business related, things only a competitor...she didn’t complete the thought. The assistant knew enough on her own to make things difficult for Runway and essentially Miranda. Andrea’s heartbeat sped up. If sabotage was Jacqueline’s goal, there was enough sensitive information password protected on the share drive under Andrea’s name to create several shitstorms.
Placing a call to the IT division, she abruptly hung up. How to get around the corporate bureaucracy required more juice than Andrea possessed. If she alerted the possible breach via required channels, she would be locked out and subject to investigation which could take several days. Best to speak with Miranda before launching something that could do more harm than good. The Closet, however, was directly under her scope of responsibilities. Because of broad access to the room was required, periodic security sweeps were commonplace. All she had to say was she wanted to conduct an inventory assessment and match it against the removed and returned logs. Nigel had assured her he verified the Closet’s contents last November. Andrea called security and requested a data pull of the Closet door starting November of last year until now.
“I’d like a printout of the data.”
There was a pause on the other end of the line then he sighed. “That’s gonna take some time, ma’am.”
“And I’d like it by Monday afternoon.” She caught the low sound of protest. “I know I’m asking a lot but I should have made the request at the first of the year when I took over. You’d really be doing me a solid. If anything went missing over the holidays you know Miranda...”
“Yeah, I know Miranda. Okay, I’ll get it to you by then. Since it’s a print out, do you want it sorted by employee or time-stamp or two separate spread sheets?”
“A spreadsheet for each.” Andrea cringed.
Andrea hurriedly scribbled his name down, thanked him again then hung up. She looked up his employee data and noted to whom he reported. Sending an email of praise to Tomas’s supervisor after he delivered the printouts was a step in showing her appreciation. She set her laptop into the dock station then logged in. After a few minutes of clicking and verification codes she initiated the program to pull the remove and return data from the Closet’s inventory database. The comprehensive SQL query ran in the background as she started to work on the pivot charts she needed for Monday’s division meeting.
Within the hour, she finished, saving her work then checking email. She shot off a reply to the art department about scene props for a photo shoot, quickly edited a short piece for the next issue from a new contributor and approved it after sending a copy to the layout team. Finally, she saved the data from the query on a USB drive and pocketed it. Left with little else to tie up, Andrea prepared to leave.
“Aren’t you industrious.” Miranda softly commented as she leaned against the doorjamb.
Startled by the pleasant surprise, Andrea smiled then immediately eyed the Derek Lam fatigue cargo pants accentuating Miranda’s small waist and slender thighs. The black Gucci scoop-neck top made her size B cup suddenly morph into a very delectable C and Andrea’s gaze lingered. When Miranda crossed her arms over her breasts Andrea redirected her gaze but was unable to keep her lustful thoughts hidden.
“Shut the door and I’ll give you a demonstration.” Slowly Andrea stood and placed her fingertips on the top of the desk.
A hint of a smile showed in the corner of Miranda’s mouth as she appraised Andrea. “Do you think that’s wise?” she asked breathily, the large silver hoops in her ears shimmering under the office lights.
Andrea palmed the flat expanse of her own stomach, the tip of her thumb skimming just under her breast. “I can be quiet.”
Not taking her eyes off of Andrea’s torso, Miranda shoved off the doorjamb, crossed the threshold then closed the door behind her.
Andrea’s blood raced but she remained motionless and watched, waiting.
Trailing her fingers down the side of her neck, over a sharp clavicle only to toy with the heavy silver chain dangling from her neck, Miranda taunted Andrea. Her closed mouth smile sent shivers across Andrea’s skin.
“So confident.” Miranda murmured, then leaned back against the door.
By the time Andrea rounded the desk and stood in front of her, Miranda had unfastened the button of her pants and partially unzipped them. With a provocative look, she goaded in her silky voice, “Time to prove it.”
Groaning, Andrea swooped in, one hand clasping Miranda’s nape as she kissed her indolently while her other hand slid past Miranda’s panties.
“Oh, fuck...you’ve been...” Andrea bracketed Miranda’s clit between two of her fingers and pressed, swallowing Miranda’s guttural moan. “...thinking about this, haven’t you?”
Body arching tightly, Miranda broke off the kiss, bit her lip and squeezed her eyes shut. “Yes.” she gasped, then pulled her closer by wrapping her arms around Andrea’s slim waist and grinding against her.
Andrea sped up her fingers, slid the tips in and out of Miranda’s ravenous cunt. It bloomed and wept and the urge to finish her, to mark this woman as hers in some physical way, shook Andrea’s control. Miranda’s taut and trembling body signaled surrender but Andrea, in spite of everything, pulled back, grabbing the sides of Miranda’s head.
“Tell me now.” she managed to say through the tightness of her throat.
Miranda loved to be teased and Andrea’s sole purpose was to give Miranda what she wanted if at all possible even at the cost of her own welfare. After a mere week of abstinence, teasing her felt more like cruelty to the both of them. Yet, she would deny them both if Miranda decreed.
Hazy and dark blue eyes fixed on her through somnolent lashes. She hissed through gnashed teeth, “Stop dawdling, damnit.”
Andrea dropped to her knees, taking the rest of Miranda’s pants down with her. Fingers fumbling, she accomplished removing one of Miranda’s boots then flung Miranda’s freed leg over her shoulder. Half-crazed by the scent, Andrea used her mouth and fingers, moaning into Miranda’s wet heat. Scattered images flashed through her mind of Miranda’s legs wrapped around her waist, of her hips flexing as her body shoved Miranda against the door. Driven by instinct, Andrea added another finger and latched onto Miranda’s clit. Clenched fingers dug into her hair and a heel into her back, pulling her in tight. Nearly dislodging Andrea, Miranda’s hips snapped forward as she let out a wisp of sound and a flood of fluid. Legs giving out, Miranda began to slump. Although sluggish, Andrea’s reflexes responded enough to keep them from crashing painfully to the floor.
The effort to breathe, compounded by Miranda’s inert body, was less worrisome than the euphoric sensation buzzing throughout her body. Her hands lethargically skimmed across Miranda’s back and into her damp hair. Floating in a stream of dopamine, Andrea knew they needed to get up but she couldn’t summon the will power. A clear indication of sleep, Miranda breathed with shallow contentment. The warm exhales stole across Andrea’s skin. Bringing Miranda to climax wasn’t always a trigger for reciprocation. Contentment spread through her. Basking in it on the office floor, however, wasn’t an option. She roused herself, tenderly taking stock of Miranda’s body as far as her hands could reach.
“Baby.” she sighed, stroking the length of Miranda’s back. “We gotta get up.”
The feline way Miranda stretched on top of her and the low hum reverberating against Andrea’s chest nearly toppled her best intentions.
Andrea kissed the top of her head. “Come on, sleepyhead.”
Positioning herself, Miranda crooked her naked leg around Andrea’s thighs, tucking her foot under Andrea’s denim clad calf.
“You’re still dressed.” Miranda grumbled into Andrea’s neck then sucked the skin into her mouth. Her hand softly squeezed Andrea’s breast, tweaking the nipple before moving lower.
When Miranda’s fingers moved past her waistband, Andrea grabbed them. “We’re on the floor of my office.”
Miranda pushed herself up on her elbow.
Andrea brushed back the white forelock then rubbed her thumb against the slight crease in Miranda’s forehead. “Mmm, got carried away in the afterglow, huh?”
Leaning down, Miranda lightly bit Andrea’s lower lip and growled, “Don’t think you’ve tamed the beast, cub.”
With a fluidity belying their enthusiastic activity, Miranda rose and started making herself presentable. Grinning madly, Andrea got up and grabbed the errant boot. She knelt before Miranda.
“Thy slipper, m’lady.”
Narrowing her gaze, Miranda lifted her leg and slid her foot into the boot. “Thank you.”
“My pleasure.” Still on her knee, Andrea nuzzled Miranda’s crotch. “Jesus, you’re addicting.”
Miranda threaded her fingers through Andrea’s hair then tugged her head back as she said, “While I do love you on your knees, this isn’t appropriate at work.”
Standing, she exhaled loudly, brushing back her tangled hair. “Okay, back to business. There’s...”
“Darling, you must know how much I want to touch you.” Miranda interrupted then kissed her gently. “We’ll have more time and privacy Monday, I promise.”
“I know.” As Andrea’s mind turned over several possibilities she smiled wickedly until her memory kicked in. “That’s not why I’m being serious though. I saw Amber when I came in this morning.”
Pulling a long sleeve taut then the other, Miranda smiled and asked, “Do you think she picked up a breadcrumb?”
“Did you leave any in my office?”
Immediately she stopped fussing with her clothes and frowned at Andrea. “I suppose I should have thought of that.”
Andrea related the morning’s events as Miranda leaned against the desk, listening to her intently without interruption. She marveled at Miranda’s calm and her respect for the editor grew. One of Andrea’s weaknesses was maintaining a long term strategy, a characteristic Miranda owned. Andrea knew her emotions would break the surface long before fruition.
Miranda tapped her closed mouth with an index finger, staring at Andrea but not really seeing her.
“Let me know what you’ve uncovered Monday when you bring the Book unless it’s something better handled earlier. I’ll make a request to IT through a back channel for the appropriate scans and give you a hardcopy.”
“Jesus, you’re so patient and all I wanna do is rip someone’s head off.”
“Once the trap’s sprung, my love, by all means, take over.” Miranda’s smile showed a vengeful relish and Andrea bit off a curse.
When her evil side came out to play, Miranda’s sex appeal naturally followed and struck Andrea right between the legs every time. Evidently she developed a sexual kink for Le Priestly. What other surprises awaited Andrea? Maybe it was sex with a woman or the chemistry between she and Miranda, but whatever it was, the pleasure was absolute.
Smiling with insider knowledge, Andrea took Miranda’s hand and kissed the fingertip of her middle finger, her gaze never leaving Miranda’s. She parted her lips then slowly drew the finger into her mouth, curling her tongue around it, gently scraping her upper teeth over the knuckles then releasing it.
“You play a dangerous game, cub.”
The promise of retribution in Miranda’s gaze burned through Andrea, forcing her to look away.
“You think you can handle me?”
Miranda released a short breath, a look of cool indifference on her face. “Is that suddenly a challenge?”
“Let the games begin.”
“I’m so sorry I’m late.” Andrea called out as she entered the apartment and tossed her keys on the nearby table.
From the kitchen Fen barreled through the living room and launched herself at Andrea who almost missed catching her.
“How’s my little baby?” Andrea cooed, then pressed several kisses across her daughter’s face.
“Mommy, stop!” Fen giggled, clutching her mother’s hair and jacket.
“I saw Maman at work today and look what she gave you.”
Andrea held up a beautifully wrapped present and waved it in front of her daughter’s face. Fen overreached but Andrea adapted, admonishing her in a gentle voice.
“Mummers, I want. Please.”
“Hey, Andrea, I’m gonna head out.” Demetria said from the hallway then appeared in the living room.
“I hope you’re not too late.”
“It’s no problem, really.” The nanny hefted the gym bag onto her shoulder. “I’ll be back either late Sunday or when Fen wakes up Monday to get her ready for school.”
“Look, DeeDee, I got a present.” Fen announced as Andrea lowered her to the floor.
“Sweetie, you can show her...”
“Wow, you’re a lucky girl.” Demetria cut in, squatting down and taking the book-shaped present from her. “What do you think it is?”
Eyes wide, Fen lifted her palms and shoulders and said, “I don’t know.”
Demetria kissed her on the head then stood, handing back the present. “You’ll have to tell me all about when I get back, okay? See yah later, smalls, I gotta get gone.”
“Bye.” Fen called out, already running toward Andrea.
“C’mon, sweetie, let’s get something to eat then take a nap before we go to the puppet show, okay?”
Fen took off, calling out for her stuffed sloth with an ear-piercing shriek that made Andrea wince.
She grabbed the universal controller and turned on the surround-sound stereo. Fen, waving Lou in the air, ran into the kitchen where Andrea dug through the fridge to make something to eat for Fen. When an old pop song played, one Fen loved, Andrea paused to watch her crazy progeny bounce to the beat. Phone camera at the ready, she recorded Fen’s crinkled brow and puffy cheeks as she planted her feet, clenched her hands, and shook her little behind. Thirty seconds of adorableness later, Andrea sent the clip to Miranda.
While cutting Fen’s baloney and cheese sandwich into nine tiny squares, Nate’s ringtone chirped from her phone.
“Uh, hi, you have a minute? I need to tell you something.”
“Hold on.” Andrea lifted Fen up and put her in the booster seat, buckled her in then set down the cut-up sandwich on the plastic tray in front of her. “Okay, I’m back. What’s up?”
“Lily left. Left me, I mean.” Nate cleared his throat. “She went back to live with her parents in Easton. Her dad’s raising money for the restoration of some of the houses in the Hill Community and he offered her a job.”
“Uh, okay, Nate.”
“I’m in a big ass hole here, Andy, and it’s too damn deep for me to get out of on my own.” He hesitated, made a disgruntled noise, then continued, “I need your help to get back on my feet.”
“No.” Andrea picked up a gummy wad of bread from the floor that Fen dropped. “Why can’t your parents help you out?”
“Fuck, Andy, just...c’mon.”
Watching Fen try to feed Lou, she counted to ten in her head. She stepped a few feet away from her daughter. In a low tone, she hissed, “You are not my problem anymore.”
Nate alternated between yelling and begging with seconds of calm rationality in between.
When he seemed to pause, Andrea said, “You’re a grown man, Nate. Deal with it.”
Regret already pinging lightly in the back of her mind, she hung up.
For the last four years she had been the designated bread winner while Nate looked after Fen. She worked overtime, pumped her breasts in between meetings, cleaned the apartment every Saturday as Fen napped and got out of bed in the middle of the night to feed and change their daughter. Obviously she didn’t need Nate but her daughter did.
Or did she?