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More of a Fair Fight

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Miranda walked through the doors of Runway at precisely two-fifteen in the afternoon. Without breaking her stride, she covered the crowded expanse of the bullpen, tuning out the startled apologies and frightened exclamations. With any luck Andrea would have returned from the shoot. She flung her coat and dropped her purse on Vanessa’s desk as she entered her office, telling the assistant to ‘fetch Andrea’.

She checked the folder containing the altered photos and grinned. One was still missing. The longer it remained so, the more anxious the thief would become to return it before Miranda discovered the theft. She lived on hope. A dozen or so phone messages were neatly stacked on her desk. Skimming through them as she walked to the window and stood in a slanted rectangle of sunshine, Miranda breathed through the impatience squeezing her ribs. Of all the days to keep her waiting, Andrea chose today.

“Vanessa said you wanted to see me.”

Miranda said, “Shut the door.”

Andrea instantly obeyed, her expression when she looked at Miranda rather blank. She joined her, stopping a few feet away.

“Any problems with the shoot?”

“No, went off without a hitch. You’ll be pleased.” Andrea smiled wryly. “Amber was useless.”

Glancing out the window, Miranda said, “We will discuss things at length when you drop off the Book tonight. For now, I want you to leave Runway at three.” She looked at Andrea and smirked. “Go get one of those bagels you’re so fond of at that place around the corner. Roy will pick you up at three-twenty then we’ll take a little drive.”

Andrea nodded.

“Did you get the data?”

“Yes but I need to filter it and check for...”

“Fine. Have it ready tonight or perhaps we’ll work on it then.”

Looking at her with a smile, Andrea asked, “Is there anything else I can do?”

Miranda’s gaze flicked toward the door, satisfied it remained closed, then said in a low voice, “Take off your undergarments before we leave Runway.”

The blush on her face, how she appeared a little dumbstruck and the way her dark eyes flashed with hunger hit exactly the right spot.

“I can do that.” Andrea whispered and stepped into Miranda’s personal space without touching her. “Fast and dirty then?”

“To start.”

Andrea’s feral smile slowly appeared as her eyes made promises. “I can do that, too.”

Coolly admiring Andrea’s confidence, Miranda nudged, “Are you sure?”

With a slight nod, Andrea took a careful step back. “The question is whether or not you’ll be able to take what I’m going to do to you. Isn’t it?”

Miranda watched the sway of Andrea’s hips as she walked away.

The woman was going to be the death of her.

XxXxXxXxXxXx

Roy cut into the flow of traffic from the Elias-Clarke curb. The tinted partition slid into place. Her earlier thoughts teased the back of her head, buzzing like so many tiny insects. She gauged the backseat, pleased by the roominess but unconvinced by the opaque divider’s ability to shield them from prying eyes. Having never sat in the front seat, Miranda hardly knew how effective it was, but, then, Roy proved his loyalty every day unlike her ex-husbands. It struck her then, the uncomfortable prickle between her shoulder blades.

Fucking Andrea in the back of the town car seemed a bit tawdry when she stopped to think about it. The needs must explanation held true, but, didn’t Andrea deserve better? Miranda frowned, forcing out an annoyed breath through the sudden tightness in her chest. Her brain rumbled to life, spewing ideas like coal fueled locomotives ejecting black cumulus clouds. Perhaps amid the current conditions Miranda could turn tawdry into romance. She loved Andrea with a boundless wonder but it as rather difficult to be romantic in a car, even if it had heated leather seats, darkened windows and a driver. Miranda flared her nostrils and looked out the window.

Roy slowed down as he pulled up along the curb. The driver’s door opened but Andrea, more impatient than he, hopped in before he had a chance to open the rear passenger side. Miranda played with her glasses, opening and closing them, then shoved them into her purse, obviously keyed up.

“Hi.” Andrea said, smiling as she hooked the seatbelt closed and leaned forward to kiss Miranda on the cheek. “You look edible.”

“I’m...petulant.”

The dark twin wings of Andrea’s eyebrows climbed then dived. “What’s the matter, baby?”

“I want to romance you.”

Andrea started laughing then quickly stopped when Miranda leveled an icy blue gaze at her. “I know you love me, Miranda. We’ll have time to for romance.” Sucking in her upper lip, she reached across the seat and placed her hand on Miranda’s thigh. “I guess I’ve just pushed everything back until the end of the year. You know what I mean?”

Miranda placed her hand over Andrea’s and squeezed. “I do but it doesn’t mean...well, I just want...” No longer hiding behind her editor’s veneer, she continued, “...more. For us.”

Andrea disengaged the seatbelt and moved over until their shoulders touched then she inched closer, hand gently cupping Miranda’s cheek to look into her eyes.

“We will have it.” she said, staring into Miranda’s dark blue eyes. “But right now, I am happily going to take whatever I can and I’m not going to question it.” Andrea nodded then returned to her side of the seat. “Now, put your big girl pants on.”

Miranda simply narrowed her eyes at Andrea.

They drove in silence until Roy slowed the vehicle a few minutes later then stopped. The rush of chilly wind swept into the heated vehicle as Andrea exited and stood off to the side to allow the private investigator to enter with Andrea right behind her.

“Q, this is Andrea Sachs.”

The diminutive woman remained silent but nodded as she pulled a sealed brown envelope from inside her coat. Andrea snatched the folder from Q’s hand. The investigator startled but didn’t try to take it back.

Miranda scowled, imperiously extending her hand across Q’s lap but Andrea tucked the dossier into her purse on the floor by her feet.

“Well, so, good doin’ business.” Q muttered, giving Andrea a side glance.

It was a shock, Andrea’s high-jacking but whatever information Q had obtained was about Andrea’s parents.

“Yes.” Miranda replied. “Any particular corner you wish to be dropped off at?”

“Suppose closer the better.”

Miranda pressed a button and said, “Roy, pull over when it’s convenient.” She then handed over an envelope which Q quickly accepted before sliding it somewhere inside her coat.

As soon as Q scrambled out and Andrea slid back in Miranda asked, “Do you want to tell me what that was all about?”

“I want to give my mother time to adjust to the changes. I trust my dad, Miranda. He’s never broken his word to me, okay?”

“I suggest you keep it locked up only because it likely contains sensitive information. I also want to point out that if you’re wrong, we will have lost any advantage that may be in the dossier. There won’t be another opportunity.” Miranda held up her hand, stalling Andrea’s objection. “It’s your decision to make, of course.”

“Duly noted.” Andrea met Miranda’s gaze, her dark brown eyes unwavering. “If it all goes to hell, you’ll still be Runway’s editor and I can get a position somewhere else.”

“Andrea...”

“Miranda, you know it’s true, but that’s a...” Andrea stopped, obviously thinking of how to finish her thought. “...worst case scenario!”

“Hardly. You could lose custody of Fen.” Miranda rubbed her temple then rounded on Andrea. “We will discuss this tonight. Roy will drop me off at Runway then take you home. Perhaps you should make the girl bring the Book that way you can have more time with Fen?”

“What if she decides to snoop around?”

Half-smiling with her lips closed, Miranda’s forelock gently fell forward, not quite shielding one eye. “If she’s that foolhardy...”

Then Miranda chuckled, a very wicked, faint sound, which obviously affected Andrea considering the burst of heat in her gaze.

Andrea’s top half leaned toward Miranda, chin extended and her expression caused Miranda’s heartrate to inch higher.

“If I’m going to have a chance in hell of fooling people that I just didn’t take off my panties simply because you wanted me to, then can you just, like please, tone down La Priestly?”

Indignant, Miranda retorted, “Then stop devouring me with your eyes.”

Miranda fluttered a dismissive hand in Andrea’s direction then faced the window. The timing was incredibly inconvenient, but then, the chemistry between them didn’t care. It was aggravating. People muttered “ice queen”, “frigid bitch”, and other insults behind her back yet that didn’t mean they never reached her ears. Of all the times to struggle with control, when the stakes were the highest, left her insanely at odds with herself. She just knew Andrea’s thighs were slick.

“I have tried.”

The almost meek pitch of Andrea’s voice pushed at Miranda, reminding her that while Andrea was a formidable person, she possessed vulnerabilities like everyone else.

“I know, darling.” she sighed and reached over to hold Andrea’s hand. “I should not have lashed out at you.”

As quick as Andrea’s temper rose, it ebbed. For that and many other things,  Miranda’s gratitude doubled.

“I think it’s understandable, don’t you?” Andrea’s fingers tangled with Miranda’s as she smiled. “You basically just have to breathe and I get turned on but tonight we’ll talk first.”

The car slowed. Gradually Andrea’s fingers flexed as they freed themselves from Miranda’s.

“I’ll send Roy to collect you around seven-thirty.”

Roy stopped and hurriedly exited the vehicle. Miranda unbuckled her seat belt.

“Sounds good.”

She smirked as the door swung open. “I’ll see you tonight.”

XxXxXxXxXxXx

The sun was setting through the gaps between the buildings. She listened to Malcolm request her presence at a client dinner as she loosened the belt on her coat then instructed him to hold on.

“Too hot.” she said to Roy then leaned back in the seat and told Malcolm to continue.

Traffic was light as they drove through an intersection but pedestrians crowded the sidewalks up Sixth Avenue. A red light at Fifty-Ninth Street kept them from taking a right at East Fifty-Seventh. She disliked the human congestion around Central Park that ballooned the twenty minute ride home into nearly thirty. Even so she’d make dinner with the twins.

Malcolm’s tone sharpened. It took her a few seconds to realize he was trying to get her attention.

“It’s not rocket science. I’ve been married twice, you know.”

“That’s not the type of wit I was alluding to, Miranda.”

She tsked into the receiver. “And they say I’m the diva.”

“This dinner is very important to me.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

Miranda put her phone away then started toying with her glasses as she thought about Andrea’s birthday which was coming up next week. It was frustrating not to be able to do what she wanted and take an extended weekend to Nigel’s cabin by Hunter Mountain in the Catskills. She thought of teaching Fen how to ski on the “bunny slope”, watching the twins fly down the blue runs, and drinking wine by the fireplace with Andrea. Or perhaps hop on a plane to Ottawa and go ice skating on the Rideau Canal or lazily browse the ByWard Market.

The car slowed once again and parked in front of the town house. Miranda gathered her purse and braced herself against the cold air when Roy opened the door.

“Andrea’s expecting you at seven-thirty to bring her back to the town house.” she said, handing him a folded hundred dollar bill.

“Of course, Miranda.”

As soon as she entered the house she was besieged by two little terrors even before she set her purse down. Cara took her coat once Miranda shrugged out of it. She slipped out of her heels and flexed her toes, enjoying the floor’s cool, flat surface against the soles of her feet. Perhaps after dinner there would be enough time to soak in the tub with a glass of wine.

“Can you sign our permission slips?” Cassidy groaned, hanging onto Miranda’s forearm.

Before being allowed to clarify, Caroline supplied, “The Food Bank on West 116th.”

“Yeah. We’re gonna learn how to sort food and put it away.” Cassidy finally explained as she performed a drunken pirouette.

“Cassidy, do be careful.” Miranda scolded in a mild tone, setting the heels on the bottom step of the stair to carry up later. “Leave it on the kitchen table and I’ll sign it before bed.”

“Dinner’s almost ready and the table’s set.” Cara said as she blocked Cassidy from twirling near the flower vase again then ushered the twins on ahead. “Wash your hands.”

“I’m sure Derby’s waiting.”

“Don’t gotta tell me twice.”

“Before you go...” Miranda glanced toward the kitchen then ducked low to say, “...have the girls said anything about Andrea and I?”

Cara’s grin arrived slowly with a hint of gloating. She shrugged and said, “Cassidy has math homework.”

Miranda raised her eyebrows as Cara gather her coat then followed the girls down the hallway.

As she opened the door, Cara’s amused voice reached Miranda. “And she brought back a pet.”

When she reached the kitchen, the girls were wiping their hands on a dish towel.

“Cara mentioned you brought home a pet, Cassidy.” Miranda slightly narrowed her eyes at the unrepentant terror. “Care to explain?”

“Harriet had babies. Like a lot of them and Spaghetti was being mean so Mrs. Nelson separated them.”

Miranda pulled down two cups from the cabinet. “I don’t believe I know a Harriet, darling, and spaghetti is pasta. I suppose I should be thankful I know Mrs. Nelson is one of your teachers.”

“They’re hamsters, mom.” Cassidy groaned and gave her an exasperated look.

“I didn’t give my permission for a sleepover with your school pets.” Miranda sternly said as she withdrew the water pitcher from the refrigerator.

“Cara did.” Caroline supplied then accepted a cup.

Miranda pursed her lips and thought of suitable retributions. “Go sit down at the table.”

“Can I have iced tea? Cara made some when we got home.”

“Drink your water first. At the table, Cassidy.

When the twins were finally seated, she retrieved more plastic cups and the pitcher of tea then set everything down on the table. She cut into the veggie lasagna. Cara used long thin strips of zucchini instead of pasta per Miranda’s instructions, however, the girls were less than enthused.

Finally sitting down, Miranda scraped off the top layer of cheese which was merely a thin dusting of parmesan in anticipation of Cara’s heavy hand with the ricotta layers.

“Now, about your school pets.”

Each girl cringed a little, keeping their eyes on the plates in front of them. Miranda sipped some water then started cutting into the lasagna. She waited and watched Cassidy give her sister a side-eyed glance, raising an eyebrow, to which Caroline responded with a brief nod.

“We’re getting extra credit which will help our grades so we can get into a good college.” Caroline carefully enunciated.

“I see.” Miranda stared at her daughters but neither blinked. She gave them credit for clever manipulation but declined to voice it.

To prolong their anxiety just a bit, she slowly chewed her food then took a long sip of water.

Mom!” Cassidy whined, kicking her feet.

“We’re learning about reproduction and how hamsters care for their young.”

Cassidy silently encouraged her sister. Then, as if inspired, thoughtfully added, “Yeah, the babies are bald. There’s like ten of them. Mrs. Nelson says human moms can’t have that many babies at once without the help of doctors. It would be soooo cool if you could get us like ten baby sisters at once, Mom. For reals.”

Miranda stabbed her food and scoffed quietly.

“We have an assignment, too.” Caroline informed her, nearly knocking down her tea.

Gently repositioning the glass away from active elbows, Miranda said, “Which is?”

“To observe and keep a...log?” Caroline nodded at her word choice then scratched her cheek. “I don’t know for how long.”

“Thirty minutes.” Cassidy answered before shoveling too much food into her mouth.

Pinning Cassidy with a hard stare and a shake of her head, Miranda waited until her daughter bit off a manageable portion, leaving the rest on the fork.

“Can we use your phone to take pictures?”

“Finish your dinner first and I mean all of it.”

XxXxXxXxXxXx

While Cassidy worked on math and Caroline hunkered down on the couch in the playroom to read, Miranda soaked in the hottest water possible. She finished off the merlot from the previous night and set the glass on wide ledge of the oval tub then expelled a long breath, closing her eyes. The milky, lavender scented water lapped against an exposed knee. Water swirls caressed her skin as she slid further into the tub. The gurgling sounds each time she moved softly reverberated in the steamy room. Miranda glided her palms across the slickness of her skin, evoking an erotic ripple from her head to her toes as she arched into the sensation.

“MOM!”

The girls burst through the bathroom door, hysterical as they begged her to hurry and follow them. Bath water sloshed against the tub as she got out and grabbed the silk robe draped over the closed toilet seat. Heart hammering in her chest, she followed them to the playroom.

Caroline’s face was horrified as she pointed to the hamster cage, tears streaking down her face.

“She ATE THEM!” Cassidy yelled, her bottom lip trembling.

Miranda leaned forward, one arm wrapped around her middle while she pressed her fingers to her lips, not quite wanting to get a ‘good view’ of the carnage. The twins crowded the table where the small habitat loomed like a plastic castle of death.

“Mom, look! She got another one.” Cassidy cried out, pointing and stomping.

Her stomach tensed when she beheld a voracious Harriet stuffing her cheeks with squirming pink young.

“Perhaps she’s...I’m sure she’s just protecting...”

“Well, they’re not coming out!” Cassidy exclaimed, so waspish it almost made Miranda laugh. “You gotta stop her.”

“There’s only three left! Do something, mommy!” Caroline cried yanking on her hand and pulling her toward the table.

“I’ll take care of this...you just leave. Mommy’s going to...”

They wailed in unison, skin splotchy and tiny chests heaving. She sucked in a breath then approached the cage, vaguely queasy by Harriet’s apparent appetite. Beady little black eyes glanced up at her as she opened the top of the cage. Miranda reached in, mashing down on her bottom lip with her teeth, and went to grab the cannibal but Harriet went on the offensive. The orange spawn of Satan dropped a baby then sank her teeth into Miranda’s finger.

“You ungrateful son of a bitch!” she shrieked, pulling out her hand.

Blood dripped from the side of her index finger, down to the knuckle then off her wrist. She tried to quiet the girls while making the choice to sacrifice the robe instead of the carpet. Their cries lowered to a less dramatic level while Miranda wrapped the mid-length sleeve around her hand, yanking down the neckline to reach it.

“Shh, shh, mommy’s okay. It’s just a tiny bite.”

She went to show them but as soon as the pressure on the wound eased, it bled.

The girls followed Miranda to the hall bathroom where she patiently allowed Caroline to wash her finger and pat it dry. Cassidy tore off a piece of toilet paper and held it against her mother’s skin while Caroline got the first aid kit from underneath the sink. The twins took turns taking care of it as Miranda docilely obeyed their instructions. When first Cassidy then Caroline kissed the band-aid, she gathered her girls, hugging them and kissing their heads.

“Harriet!” Cassidy suddenly whispered then took off, Caroline right behind her.

Miranda groaned. She supposed she could try to spray salt water on it, let it sit then rinse it out to see if the blood stains vanished. Then she thought of Cara and smirked. By the time she returned to the playroom, the girls stood in front of the cage with their heads down, sniffling.

“She ate them all.” Cassidy informed her, shaking her head. “Man, hamsters are medieval.”

Lips twitching, Miranda opted to bite her lip rather than comment.

Caroline grabbed the side of her robe. “What’re we gonna tell Mrs. Nelson?”

Miranda put the top back on the cage as she replied, “I’ll take care of it.”

“Oh, crap.” Cassidy gasped. “Are you gonna get rabies?”

The thought made her stomach twist. She made a mental note to Google it. “No, bobbsies, of course not. Now, I need to clean up...”

“Somebody’s at the door.” Cassidy stated the obvious given the doorbell then took off, joined by Caroline. “I’ll answer it.”

Miranda muttered an expletive then hurried behind them, tying the robe closed. “Wait for mommy.”

They peered through the long narrow windows on either side of the door.

“It’s Andy!” they announced with excitement.

It was later than she realized. Miranda opened the door and pulled her inside from the cold night. Her nose and cheeks were tinted a lovely shade of pink.

Andrea pulled off her beret as the girls chirped around her like little chickens. Miranda shut the door and set the alarm. Chilled from the thin, damp material that uncomfortably stuck to her skin, she attempted to pluck it loose as she stood off to the side.

“Andy, guess what...”

“Cassidy, let’s allow Andrea a minute to take off her coat, shall we, before regaling her with the savage details?”

“Are you hurt?” Andrea tugged on Miranda’s wrist then eased her grasp as she looked at her hand.

Shaking her head, she answered, “I need to change...”

“Don’t on my account.” Andrea whispered, staring at the slight gape of material exposing Miranda’s cleavage.

Rolling her eyes, Miranda adjusted the robe and gave Andrea a hard look before saying, “If you’re hungry, we left a plate for you in the fridge. I’ll just be a minute.”

“Come on, Andy.” Caroline ordered, taking her hand as Cassidy ran ahead to the kitchen. “It’s veggie lasagna and it’s good, kinda, I guess, but it doesn’t have pasta.”

Andrea looked back over her shoulder and smiled wickedly as she gave her the once-over.

Miranda more or less hustled up to her room and surveyed the damage in the bathroom mirror. Hair curling around her face, damper on the nape of her neck, she carefully arranged her bangs until the forelock looked sexily tousled. After allowing the robe to slip down her arms to the floor, she applied the lightest touch of mascara and lip gloss then picked up the robe and slung it over the hamper. Quickly she put on the Monrow vintage crew shirt made of a cotton-modal blend that brushed down her skin like a sigh. The old, frayed jeans were loose but tight enough across the ass that she couldn’t bear to part with them. She seemed to recall Andrea harbored a particular fondness for them as well. All the better. Barefooted and expectant, Miranda took the stairs almost with a girlish eagerness.

At the island on a high stool, Andrea sat between two little red heads and ate. Hanging back, Miranda enjoyed the view for a moment then sauntered in.

Andrea, holding the back of her hand against her mouth to keep the food inside when Cassidy said something funny, looked equal parts amused and appalled.

“Did you finish your math homework?” Miranda pointedly questioned on her way to the refrigerator.

“Yup.” she said, leaning against Andrea’s arm.

“How’s Fen? When can we see her?” Caroline chimed in, tugging Andrea’s elbow.

“Let me talk to your mom about our schedules but, to answer your first question, she’s doing well and learning a new French song just for you two.”

The uprising of questions drowned out all else. Miranda smirked at Andrea, arching her eyebrows as she drank a glass of water. For the most part, she allowed the conversation to be directed by the twins, only nudging them here and there.

“Can we show her now, Mom?” Cassidy asked, hopping off the stool albeit with a touch of difficulty.

Andrea’s brow crinkled but she gamely followed the Priestly females up the stairs and to the playroom. As if drawn to the plastic habitat, Andrea headed straight toward it, cooing over Harriet’s cute little face. Miranda stayed in the background to the side and waited.

“Okay, so, here’s what happened...” Cassidy launched into the why and how of Harriet’s temporary lodging at the Priestly abode.

“Can I hold her?” Andrea asked.

“Umm, it’d be better if you watched this first.” Caroline replied, holding up Miranda’s phone. “We took a video to, uh, show our teacher cause we’re getting extra credit for taking Harriet home.”

Caroline’s eyes grew round. “I wonder how much now. Oh, wow, we might never have to take a test again, Sid.”

Miranda hushed them.

Andrea, slightly perplexed, said, “Uh, okay. Must be pretty good to get even more extra credit.”

“Just press play.” Cassidy said, handing her the phone.

A few minutes later Andrea breathed, “Oh, my god. What the...”

Then they started shouting, the girls hovering around and offering Andrea their thoughts, while Miranda covered her mouth and bit the inside of her cheek. The way Andrea and the girls interacted, equally mortified by Harriet’s behavior, showed they were three peas in a pod. They took turns trying to come up with a reason why which splintered into several more questions and the speculation went wild.

“Okay, girls, calm down and tell her the rest of the story, hm?” Miranda cut in then motioned for Andrea to follow her to the couch.

Much to her chagrin, the girls flanked Andrea and Miranda was regulated to a chair.

Andrea’s eyes promised, the glint of affection immediately settling Miranda’s annoyance at being outmaneuvered by her offspring.

“Mom was taking a bath.” Cassidy said then leaned close. “It helps her relax. Remember that.”

Andrea slyly looked at Miranda who tried to keep a blush from showing.

“I was doing math and Ro was reading here on the couch.” Then whispered, “She’s really good at it but I’m not.”

“It cause you don’t like it.” Caroline offered, taking Andrea’s hand. “Sid is way smart.”

Miranda sank into endless tenderness she felt when watching her bobbsies support one another.

“So, I checked on Harriet cause, well, I needed a break. We got mom’s phone.” Cassidy said.

Caroline explained, “We ate all our veggie lasagna even though it didn’t have pasta in it.”

Cassidy frowned, then made a gagging noise. “She just started eatin’ her babies. I was so freaked out. For reals.”

“I started to cry.” Caroline confessed, sweetly patting Andrea on the shoulder. “We totally freaked out.”

“I would have, too.” Andrea rejoined, squeezing the little girl. “Then what happened?”

“We got mommy.” Cassidy answered as if it were the most obvious answer in the world.

Andrea nodded with solemn understanding. “She’s really good in a freak out. Trust me, I know.”

Unable to help herself, Miranda closed in on the little group and nudged Cassidy away from Andrea then sat down.

“Hi.” Andrea pressed her side against Miranda’s.

Angling in, Miranda kissed Andrea’s temple and murmured, “Hi.”

“It’s okay.” Caroline said at Andrea’s wide-eyed expression. “We know you and Mom are girlfriends, not like girls that are friends...”

“Like romantic friends.” Cassidy supplied, grinning.

“Mommy says we are private people in public lives.” Caroline intoned, nodding her head.

“Yeah. We just don’t tell our business.” Cassidy confirmed but a crease formed between her eyes. “Be nice to her.”

Miranda hugged Cassidy and reached across Andrea’s lap to squeeze Caroline’s knee.

Andrea crossed her heart then kissed her index finger and pressed it to Cassidy’s lips. “I promise to be nice and not tell anybody’s business.”

“Promise me, too.” Caroline said, puckering her lips to receive Andrea’s promise. “And you gotta talk to her, okay? Mom says people aren’t mind-readers.”

Looking at Miranda, Andrea’s dark eyes shone with emotion.

“I will.” she said.

Miranda stood, extending her hand to Andrea who eagerly grasped it.

“Hey.” she said, holding up their clasped hands. “What’s with the band aid?”

“Harriet bit her when she tried to stop her!” Caroline answered, putting her head against her mother’s hip. “Me and Sid made it better though.”

“I’m glad she had you two here to take care of her.” Andrea said, smoothing down Cassidy’s hair. “Harriet has...issues.”

Cassidy scrunched up her face then said, “She’s an ungrateful son of a bitch.”