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Escorting Your Heart

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Chapter 1

  

Miranda turned the cut glass in her hand, the amber liquid and ice moving gently inside it as she looked out over the Manhattan skyline. She’d checked into the suite and had swiftly poured herself a whiskey, needing the burn in her throat and the heat on her tongue.

The night was fresh, the breeze ruffling her coifed hair as she gripped the balcony and allowed herself to enjoy the moment of calm after the hectic week she had barely managed to survive, the March issue finally going to print.

She had almost cancelled her evening, the sliver of pointlessness edging in at the corners of her mind as she recalled how completely unsuccessful her previous attempts had been, but she couldn’t bring herself to do so as her finger had hovered over the number.

“This is ridiculous.” She hissed, sighing deeply before stepping back inside and sliding the door closed.

Hitting a button on the room remote saw two thick curtains roll into position, concealing her from the world beyond.

Sitting on the end of the bed her hand instinctively went to her throat and the necklace she wore; fingers running across it as her mind started to imagine what she could be experiencing if only she were to finally open herself up to new possibilities.

Miranda had always been a risk taker, never afraid of pushing against the status quo and breaking down barriers. She had established the way the world of fashion worked, so much so that it now revolved around her, everyone else lucky to even be in her orbit.

There was nothing she could not achieve when she set her mind to it. She was brilliant. No one could do what she does and everyone knew it, even Irv with his blatant hatred of her had found himself ousted from his position after his failed attempt to replace her during Paris fashion week the previous year.

No. Miranda Priestley was not replaceable, at least not in fashion. In her private life however it was a completely different matter.

Her first husband had been a match because she had wanted children; because he was available and too interested in his own business to put expectations on her to be home early and keep the home fires burning. That changed the moment her twins were born, where she was made to feel more inadequate as a mother with each passing day. She had returned to Runway despite James making no effort to fulfil his role as a father. She was not at all interested in him fulfilling his position as husband either, so when he announced he was leaving her for his thirty-year-old secretary she barely batted an eyelid. He batted more than that when he realised he would get nothing in the divorce, including the two-year-old twins whom he was more than happy to leave behind.

And then came Stephen, their divorce finalised a little over a month ago. Another person that had tried valiantly to bring her down during her time in Paris. She’d almost considered the possibility that he had coordinated the timing with Irv, but Stephen was way too stupid to have engineered anything so clever. No. He had just been a coward instead.

Their marriage had been about status for him and her attempt at securing a male role model for her seven-year-old daughters. It had lasted less than a year and had remained unconsummated, a fact that he had been made aware of before they had even walked down the aisle. She had it annulled of course, to speed up proceedings, wanting to be rid of the horrible man once and for all.

Now, at forty-nine, Miranda had made the horrifying discovery that she was lonely. Not just lonely but touch starved.

She’d heard the whispers at work. Knew ‘the rules’ that were passed from assistant to assistant in regard to their interactions with her. Not that it would be at all appropriate for her to entertain such contact with them, although she had wondered on more than one occasion how far Emily’s hero worship ran.

She shuddered at the thought and suppressed a nervous laugh choosing instead to take a slow sip of her drink.

Miranda recognised the emotion, albeit it was one she had rarely experienced in her life. She was nervous. She felt a little hotter, aware of the warmth beneath her blouse and the slight tremor in her fingers. Her breathing was shorter too; fine puffs of air slipping over her lips faster than normal. ‘Yes. This is definitely a bad idea.’ She mused, walking to the dining area and setting her glass down.

The knock on the door startled her despite the fact she knew it was coming. A quick glance at her watch alerted her to the pleasing fact that they were on time; fifteen minutes early, a fact that had the corner of her mouth twitching upwards. Maybe this time it might be different. ‘You old fool.’

Miranda made her way to the door, the sound of her heels muffled by the luxurious pile of the carpet. She hovered in front of it, resisting the urge to look through the peephole and get a sneak preview. The last time she had done that she’d refused to answer the door altogether.

She swallowed the nerves into the pit of her stomach and chased them down with a glass of her ice-cold moniker and slid the chain free before opening the door.

What she noticed first were her eyes. Big and wide. Deep brown and doe eyed. Full of life and amazement, without a dash of jaded hope or bitter disappointment; two things she knew her own held several times a day.

As she dropped her vision a little lower, she was met with the broadest of smiles and a set of perfect teeth that certainly indicated that she took care of herself.

Her makeup was flawless. Her long chestnut brown hair glossy and loose, gently cascading over her shoulders.

“Hi.”

The sound of her voice was rich and warm, the timbre of it even in a single short word, was enough to make her pulse start to hum in her ears. She was aware of her fingers wrapping around the edge of the door a little tighter and her lips parting in preparation to speak and yet nothing came out.

“Shall I er…come in?” The woman said, with a tiny chuckle peppering her request, that had Miranda feeling a stir in her belly.

Shaking herself free of whatever nonsense was happening she nodded sharply and stepped back allowing her to enter, a heady scent of musk and jasmine invading her nostrils as she did so.

Miranda fell back against the door as she closed it to, her hand fumbling for the lock as she continued to appraise the woman who was now doffing her coat over the back of an armchair as she cast her gaze around the room.

She was magnificent. There was no denying it. And it was unexpected. Not that a couple of past experiences hadn’t ticked the attractive box for her because they had, but this one was something else altogether. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to reach for her or run from her.

‘Don’t do that again. Give this…her a chance.’ She schooled herself.

But she hadn’t run before, not really. She’d just been careful, guarded, practical. Had assessed the situation and made a snap decision exactly as she would about a line of clothing, a colour choice for a page or a suitable candidate for a role. Miranda Priestly made tough decisions for a living, and she was not a time waster, so why would those encounters have been any different?

“This is a beautiful suite.” The woman said, and she realised she had spoken three times and Miranda was yet to utter a word. She’d better make it count.

“I’m sure you see plenty of nice rooms.”

She mentally cringed at how acerbic she sounded. Surprised when she heard that warm chuckle again and brown eyes looking at her still stood against the door.

“Are you going to remain by the emergency exit, or should I pour you a glass of champagne?”

Miranda processed the question, her eyebrow quirking a little at how unfazed this interloper appeared to be at her sharpness. That was altogether…unnervingly refreshing? No. Not that. Disturbing? After all her blood seemed to be rushing faster and her breathing was a little erratic.

Deciding not to think about what it was, she nodded and made a slow procession back to the lounge watching carefully as the woman lifted the bottle from its icy confines and started to cut and unwrap the top, twisting the metal restraint before turning and popping the cork.

The sound reverberated in the suite and by the time Miranda was standing across the table from her, she had eloquently poured two glasses, pushing one over to her with a coy smile.

She picked up the glass and took a sip, savouring the expensive vintage she had taken the liberty of having delivered on her arrival earlier in the evening. She was also pleased it gave her something else to focus on other than the confidence radiating at her from the woman, and her own shaky breath.

She watched plump lips wrap around the lip of the glass in her hand and the bob of her throat as she swallowed and couldn’t look away from the long swanlike neck that was suddenly on display for her hungry eyes.

“I don’t believe I’ve tasted better.” The woman said with a grin wider than the Cheshire Cat. ‘Maybe I’m Alice, lost down a damn rabbit hole.’ Miranda thought, as she twirled the stem between her fingers.

“Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame.”

“I’m beginning to see you appreciate fine things.” The woman replied, her eyes scanning around the room once again. “I imagine the view is rather spectacular too.”

“Hmm.”

“So…”

And Miranda was back in the moment, with chocolate brown eyes looking deeply into her own. “…Miranda. Are you comfortable with that name or is there another name you’d prefer I call you?”

She narrowed her eyes, suspicion rolling in her gut like a wave.

Open features recoiled a notch, a small crinkle appearing between perfectly curved eyebrows and the wide smile drooped just a little at the corners. Miranda felt elated she had rattled this overconfident youth; fast approaching full recovery from the so far disarming quality of this mysterious creature.

“So Miranda is your real name then? Ok.” The woman continued gently, placing her drink down on the table.

Confusion started to edge in at the sides of Miranda’s mind and she felt the pinch of a headache forming, bouncing in her left temple. She pressed her pointer and middle finger against it for a moment as she answered.

“You know who I am already.” She glowered; her voice low, quiet. The one she used with her assistants that had them scurrying away like rats.

Deep eyes held her gaze, clearly unfettered. “It may come as a surprise to you, but I really don’t know who you are.”

Miranda huffed, ire chasing her patience away at an alarming speed.

“And you expect me to believe that when you’re dressed like…like that?” She spat.

The woman glanced down at herself; a hand with its long fingers brushing at a hip and then flattening against her waistband for a moment before retrieving her drink and taking her time to savour it. When darkened eyes met her own once more Miranda felt her breath hitch as she stammered to continue, not remembering the last time she had ever stuttered.

“D…don’t lie to me, or you can leave.”

The woman was grating on her last nerve.

“Why do you assume I’m lying?”

“From the way you’re dressed. Head to toe in this seasons Chanel including the bag and coat and Manolo Blahniks size eight and half in midnight blue and featured in Runways latest edition. Your makeup and hair are…acceptable.” She conceded.

“O…kay.” The woman said with a raised eyebrow and a wry smile. “Spot on with the shoe size by the way.”

“You know fashion, needless to say you must know me.” Miranda declared, lifting her chin a little and staring down the brunette whose bright disposition seemed unfazed by her icy glower.

“I’m afraid I don’t. Listen. Cards on the table here.” The woman said with a soft sigh and a husk that Miranda felt touch her in a place she refused to acknowledge. “The company has a department who does…all this.” She continued, gesturing to her outfit. “I’m usually rather ordinary. I wear jeans and sneakers. I have more hoodies and tees than I know what to do with. And don’t even get me started on sportswear.”

The laughter that rumbled from her chest made Miranda think the woman was anything but ordinary. Yet another thing she was not ready to admit. Everything seemed so casually easy to her. She was unflappable it appeared, unafraid of her blue-eyed disapproval or her caustic tone. It was…

‘Arousing’.

She shook her head in an attempt to dismiss the thought that had tumbled so easily into the forefront of her mind, her chest heaving a little as she tried to clear it away.

“I do own a few summer dresses too.” The woman continued to explain, and Miranda’s eyes seemed unable to blink as she continued to glare away her burgeoning flights of fancy. “I don’t pay attention to fashion. If I like it, I buy it.”

Miranda watched her shrug nonchalantly and tried to swallow the sudden distaste on her tongue at how casually dismissive the upstart in front of her was being; how easily she could discount her life’s work and purpose.

“You expect me to believe that?” She countered, taking a step closer to the table, the tops of her thighs pressing against the edge of it like a barrier.

“You can believe what you want, but I’m not a liar. I can promise that during our time together, I won’t do that to you.”

Miranda laughed. It was the laugh that was rolled out just before someone was either escorted from her sight or left her presence with their tail between their legs. It was a sound, short and clipped, immediately followed with a deathly silence and a flaring of nostrils; lips in a perfect line as her eyes ran cooler than snow.

The woman stood stock still and waited, clearly believing her own words as if she had uttered them a thousand times before. Maybe she had. It was her job after all to make people feel like they could trust her as she lured them into believing her falsehoods for the night. And for what? Company? Sex? Someone to make them feel wanted?

‘It’s why you booked her.’ Her inner voice whispered.

“Preposterous.”

“Why? Because of my job or because you’ve dated liars and cheats and had a lifetime of people telling you what they thought you wanted to hear?”                                                                               

Miranda felt the white-hot prickle of rage sliding through her head as her mouth pursed shut, fingers tightening on the pearls of her necklace as the woman walked boldly around the table and brought her hand to cover the one she had pressed against it.

Her eyelids fluttered at the contact, a judder of her digits that were warming under the soft skin caressing her own like a promise.

The dichotomy between her brain and her body was a dizzying combination she had never experienced before. On the one hand she was desperate to dismiss her and demand her money back for the company sending her someone so utterly disrespectful and on the other, she felt herself melting under the delicate touch, wondering what it would feel like for those graceful fingers to slide up her wrist and dance over her pulse; a pulse she could feel thrumming with erratic purpose.

“Miranda. I’m sorry if that’s been the case, but you don’t know me. Yet, at least, but I don’t say things I don’t mean.” The woman said kindly, her smile so enchanting, wide eyes so alive with warmth that she had to look away, her gaze falling to their hands feeling it could well be her undoing.

A rush of uncharacteristic uncertainty hits her, not at the words spoken to her, or the woman herself but at her own behaviour.

“Very well.” She managed to say, although the words felt tight as they left her dry mouth. “If I choose to believe you, is everything on your resume the truth also?”

She flicked her eyes upwards and waited in the silence as the woman shook her head.

“Everything but my name. They don’t allow us to use our real one.”

“I see.”

It was understandable. Miranda was a businesswoman and if this were her empire, she would not allow her employees to open themselves up to being located outside of their working life.

The woman leaned back a little, reaching with her free hand for her champagne before taking another sip of it, her eyes seeming to search her blue ones for something. Of what, she was unsure, although the appraisal was unobtrusive and tender.

She heard the glass against the wood as it was carefully placed back down, never breaking eye contact as she did so, or the connection of their fingers that had somehow become a little interlaced, the skin on the inside of her forefinger being brushed lightly.

“It’s Andy. My real name is Andy.”

Miranda swallowed past the lump in her throat and finally relinquished the grip on her necklace, her hand resting idly by her side.

“Why did you…?” She started, surprisingly unannoyed when she was interrupted.

“I don’t know.” The woman; Andy, all but whispered. “Something tells me that if this is going to work for you, then you need full disclosure from me, and for some reason I’m ok with that.”

“Andy?” She rolled the name round her mouth, uncomfortable with the masculinity of it.

“Yes.”

“I can’t imagine that any mother would christen their beautiful baby girl Andy.” Miranda stated with a lifted brow and a quirk of her top lip that seemed to make the brunette smile broadly.

“It’s short for Andrea.”

“Andrea.” She took her time with the word, enunciating every part of it slowly, letting it melt on her tongue before it slid past her lips.

“Uh huh, but no one calls me that.” Andrea murmured, brown eyes darkening Miranda noticed, as they hazarded a glance at her mouth.

“Andrea.” Miranda purred, watching the slight tremor rumble through the woman’s body as she said it. ‘Interesting.’ “I believe I will call you it. I don’t appreciate nicknames of any variety.”

“I er, I like the way you say it.”

“Do you.” A fact, not a question; one that had her wetting her lips with her tongue before smiling in amusement, feeling her confidence return.

“I do. Very much so.”

“Then we are agreed.”

Andrea grinned, her eyes shining with something akin to happiness and Miranda wondered if she might drown in them, much like writers often suggested in hapless romantic novels. Idealistic notions of love had always been a fallacy in her book and yet here she was staring back into chocolate pools that she could swim lengths in for days and never tire. No. That wouldn’t do at all.

Miranda let out a small cough and retrieved her hand, now warm and tingling with the barest of attentions it had received. She smoothed her palm down an invisible crease on her tailored Dior skirt.

“We might be comfier on the settee perhaps?” Andrea suggested, strolling towards it before placing her glass down on the coffee table in front of it.

She stood beside it and waited, so open and inviting that Miranda found herself following without preamble wondering, as she sank back against the cushions of the two-seater, how in fact she had even arrived there.

When she turned her inscrutable gaze to the young woman beside her, she wasn’t surprised to be greeted by a warm smile and kind eyes. Was this creature incapable of looking sad? It was a thought that made her want to wipe that look off her beautiful face for daring to unsettle her equilibrium.

She was also painfully reminded by the sharp pang in her chest that she was lying to herself. She remained quiet and nursed the drink in her hand, her attention momentarily distracted by the popping of bubbles on the side of the glass.

“I won’t run through the usual spiel if that’s alright with you, unless you have any questions?” Andrea asked, angling her body to face her, her pant-clad knee barely an inch away from making contact with her thigh. Miranda wondered if she should shift a little closer before she mentally scolded herself and remained rigidly fixed in her corner.

“No.” She replied simply, her features betraying nothing of the anxiety that had slowly started to creep up her spine.

“I notice you have used our services before?”

She nodded curtly, wondering why it had been asked as a question when the woman already knew the damn answer.

“I also know that no one has lasted past the first twenty minutes.”

Miranda took a slow sip of champagne and stared, wondering if Andrea would detect the thunderous roll of storm clouds in her eyes, like her scrambling assistants did.

“As number six, I’d really like to understand what it is I can do for you so I can stay.”

The seductive note to her voice made Miranda’s stomach clench, despite the ice of her gaze and her fixed posture. She was surprised with her own body’s reactions to the brunette and how capable she seemed to be at looking past the walls and the carefully erected persona she had worked tirelessly to create. The names the press had called her over the years added to her armour and she wore them like badges of pride wherever she went, watching as the seas parted around her and lesser mortals fawned at her feet.

But in private, when she allowed the shields to lower, when it was just her in the sanctuary of her home, stripped of all artifice and glamour then who was she? Certainly not the Miriam of her younger years who had clawed and climbed her way up from the gutter to achieve her life’s ambition. And achieve it she had, ten times over, and more than her teenage dreams could ever have imagined.

Here, in this over-priced suite with a woman she’d bet her last dime on being almost half her age, and everything was starting to slip away like molasses; slow and temporal it may be, but still it was happening.

She needed to find her feet. This was a transaction like any other. So what if this particular woman, the sixth one, seemed to be seeping into every pore. It was a trade; an exchange of money for services she had requested. And if this one, this Andrea person just so happened to be making her tingle, then maybe, finally, she could get what she had wanted, despite it not being real. Temporary it may be, but surely she could allow herself to take, to want; to need.

“Isn’t that supposed to be your job?” Miranda replied after moments of silence had settled over them.

“In part, but you are the only client I am aware of who has made more than one rejection without reason.”

“I wasn’t aware that I had to declare my objections.”

She could feel her ire heating up her blood, hoping the champagne would cool her down just enough to allow whatever this was to continue a little longer.

“Miranda, I just want to help you get the most out of this experience, if you’ll let me.”

And there were the doe eyes again looking at her as if she were the moon in human form, waiting for her to cast her silvery light upon her and acquiesce. Her hand shook a little as she took another sip of the golden liquid, the fizz tickling the inside of her mouth as swallowed.

“One of them was very rude.” She stated, gasping at how the words had fallen so easily from her treacherous lips.

Andrea seemed to notice, a frown appearing as some of the light disappeared from her chocolate orbs.

“I’m really sorry to hear that. That’s the sort of thing you should report.”

Miranda a waved a hand dismissively between them as if shooing the air.

“I may have commented on her lack of style.”

She was rewarded with a hearty chuckle and found that the corners of her mouth were unable to remain in line formation at the sound of it.

“Dare I ask about the others?” Andrea probed lightly, with a delicate lift of her right eyebrow, that Miranda was finding both endearing and delightfully challenging.

“Two of them were far too interested in trying to get me to hire them as models. Sycophantic to the point of immense irritation. If I wanted that in the workplace, I need look no further than my first assistant.”

“Your first assistant?”

She squinted a little. “Yes. I have two.”

“Right.” Andrea replied, seemingly unsurprised by that discovery.

“Then there was the little blonde waif who I viewed for a good minute through the peephole before deciding I wasn’t about to let her in. It would have simply been a waste of my time.”

“And your money too, it would seem.”

Miranda appraised her at the response, her pulse humming as she watched irises seem to darken a little. She’d expected a snippier tone, or a look that indicated how she could clearly afford to throw away thousands of pounds by not opening a door.

She placed her empty glass down on the small table and before it had barely left her fingertips, Andrea had wrapped hers around the stem and was carrying it back towards the dining table and the bottle on ice. Miranda watched her, her eyes greedily feasting on the long lines and soft curves of number six as she poured her a fresh glass of champagne before returning it to her and sitting confidently back down.

“And the last one?”

Miranda chewed on that for a moment wondering what she should say before deciding she had already divulged more than enough anyway. ‘In for a penny.’ She mused.

“Well, I…I had wanted to book you, but when it came to doing so you were no longer available. I picked someone similar, but…”

“But she wasn’t me.” Andrea husked, resting her cheek on her fist as she leant her arm against the back of the sofa and simply looked at her.

“No.”

“At least I have that in my favour then; the fact that I’m me.”

Again that uncomplicated smile and Miranda could feel it in her bones.

“Yes…you do.” She conceded, shifting her position so she faced the brunette more, relishing the slide of her knee against a trousered-thigh.

“So…” Andrea started, moving her hand carefully, the tips of her fingers glancing over the silk of her stockings at the hem of her skirt.

She felt her breath stutter and her eyelids blinking in slow repetition as her synapses flashed to life. It was a simple, casual movement that had her trying to net butterflies, her mind rebelling at such a childish thought.

“…would you like to tell me a little about yourself?”

“Such as?” Miranda answered, her fingers reaching for her necklace again.

“Well, you obviously have a very important job, one that keeps you very busy no doubt, but what do you enjoy when you’re not doing that? What makes your heart sing?”

Of all the questions that Miranda could remember being asked, it was this one that had her completely off kilter. Runway was her life. There was nothing else that gave her those feelings of complete fulfilment, where she felt at her absolute best. No one could be her, though many wished they could.

She adored her twin girls, her Bobbseys were also her world, but she knew that she squeezed in time with them in between the pages of her magazine. Being a mother had always been part of her dream. It was why she had even remotely entertained the idea of being with James to begin with, but whether she was good one, was a thought she barely tried to wrestle with. She knew she would come up short, and failure was not a word Miranda Priestly had any time for, let alone acknowledge as a possible flaw.

“Have I broken you?”

Her blue eyes focused on brown again, not having left them, simply zoning out as she’d assessed the question and floundered with it. It unsettled her immensely.

“Would it help if I told you mine?” Andrea offered kindly, her sweet caress still a blissful torment.

Miranda nodded.

“I write. I enjoy the smell of fresh ink on quality paper and the scratch of the nib against the grain. Typing is quicker of course, but I try and find the time to use a pen every day.”

“I prefer to make handwritten notes rather than digital edits.” She added, somehow comforted by such a simple thing, not expecting it to have been an answer. She had expected a vacuous reply; a vapid description of socialising and dancing in sweaty nightclubs with the rest of the youth she tried so hard to avoid, dreading the day when her girls would be doing just that.

But no. Andrea seemed different and different was dangerous.

“You appreciate stationary and the need for a quality pen?”

“I do.”

“Then I believe we will get along great.” Andrea said, with a toothy grin.

“You are easily pleased.”

“Oh. Maybe? I don’t know. I just try to appreciate the little things in life I guess.”

“How refreshing.”

She had meant the comment as dismissive when it had entered her head, and yet, as the two words left her mouth Miranda meant them. The girl seemed to possess no artifice at all and it was beguiling.

“It’s sad if you think so.”

“Why?” She found herself asking, interested in this stranger’s opinion. Quite a discombobulating realisation.

She reached across for her champagne, her skirt riding up a little higher as she did so. Fingers rode the journey upwards and Miranda had to keep a tighter grip on her glass. Placing it down was just as much of a challenge.

Miranda didn’t readjust her clothing as she sat back against the cushions and fixed her gaze on Andrea again, waiting to see what observations she could provide.

“Because if you spend your life waiting or looking for the big things to happen, you’ll miss all the small ones. All the little occurrences. All the ones that happened in between may well be the ones you look back on in life.”

“Are you usually this…profound?”

Andrea laughed. “Not always, no. I just seem to have a lot of optimism despite…well, the difficulties the world throws at you I suppose.”

“I like to live on hope.”

Long, capable fingers halted for a moment, a warm palm cupping her knee.

“That…that was something my mother would always say to me growing up.”

Miranda noted the past tense and wondered if it meant what she thought it did.

“A wise lady.” She murmured, her eyes widening to take in more of Andrea’s features as the woman seemed to be replaying something in her mind.

“She, er…I guess.”

The stroking started again, digits turning to brush the fold at the back of her knee. She could no more prevent the goosebumps erupting on her skin than she could stop the sun rising in the east.

She wasn’t sure if she should ask. Andrea was not a friend and Miranda wasn’t certain she would even ask if she was one. She had never been one for platitudes or idle conversation. Maybe that was why she was paying an exorbitant fee for company because she didn’t have anyone else she could spend her time with without it being a work connection or something related to the girls.

“I enjoy listening to classical music.” She almost whispered, a warm brown gaze flicking up to her own for a brief moment before returning to the place their bodies were connected; where she was being touched with a reverence she could not seem to justify. She hadn’t asked to be touched, so used to being untouchable and here was Andrea simply defying an unspoken barrier.

“And I imagine you are the art gallery type? Museums too I expect?”

“Yes.”

“Have you seen Zhang Enli’s collection called ‘Looking Outwards’ at Hauser & Wirth? It totally blew my mind with his choices of line and colour.”

“No. I have yet to have found the time.”

She felt the hand leave her knee, missing the contact instantly, before her own was grasped lightly and cradled on top of Andrea’s palm, the fingers of her other running circles on her own. The sensation was dizzying.

“Sometimes when we can’t find time for something you have to make it for yourself.”

“Enlighten me.” Miranda replied, feeling a sliver of ice glide perfectly back into place at the sound of feeling challenged.

“I don’t know what it is you do, but it keeps you wrapped up till all hours I bet. You are clearly the mistress of your own ship, so give yourself time away to enjoy those little things. Book an hour away from the daily grind to explore it. I have a feeling you’ll love it.”

“Ah.” She said, her hand tensing under the gentle ministrations being administered to it. She hadn’t pulled it away however, and that thought was very vexing indeed. “You think you know me enough to discern that after half an hour?”

“No, but I’ll send you an open ticket to see it and if you don’t enjoy it then it’ll have cost you nothing.”

“Except my precious time.”

“If you hate it, I’ll buy you dinner.” Andrea said, dragging her bottom lip between her teeth.

Miranda licked her lips in response and watched as darkened eyes flicked to the movement.

“If I do not like this…exhibition?”

“Uh huh.”

“You’re overly confident it would appear, if you’re prepared to gamble your free time on whether or not I would approve of your taste in something as subjective as art.”

“I’m kind of hoping you hate it.” Andrea said with a smirk and a press of her thumb against the pulse in her wrist that Miranda was certain was beating too quickly.

She noted the lower timbre of her reply and the heady feeling of attraction start to tug on her tightly sewn seams. There was a fine line between arrogance and confidence and Andrea seemed to walk it like a seasoned tightrope walker.

“Are you…flirting with me?”

“Is it working?”

“I suppose it’s what I have paid for. Your company, you attention, your…flattery.”

“You’re making my job very easy for me Miranda.” Andrea grinned, looking up at her from under thick lashes as she laced their fingers together.

Miranda wondered if her smile could light up Broadway, never mind a room, feeling a blush rising up her neck. She couldn’t recall the last time something or someone had caused that reaction.

“And how long have you been working at this…job?”

Andrea looked away for a moment and Miranda wondered as her eyes darted to pillowy lips, what the woman would do if she pressed hers against them. It would break one of the rules on the agreement she had signed, but it didn’t prohibit her imagining how soft they would feel or how her mouth would taste laced with the finest champagne.

Instead she swallowed and moisturised her lips with a lick of her tongue and met the brunette’s gaze.

“Almost four years. Longer than I expected to be.”

“I see.” Miranda replied, imagining just how many women had been in this position before her.

Her hand juddered beneath the one holding it and she felt a strange burning at the base of her throat as wild images of naked bodies panting, sweating and writhing against Andrea burst unbidden in her mind and refused to leave.

She felt sick with it and tugged herself free, reaching with an unsteady grasp for her drink, the taste of it sour and bitter on her tongue. This was a mistake. A ridiculously expensive mistake that she had kept repeating. Wasn’t that the very definition of madness; doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting a different result?

It was official. Miranda Priestly was certifiable. She would have laughed had she not been completely convinced she may vomit.

“Miranda?”

Her name spoken with such delicate earnest made her heart ache.

“You…you have rather a lot of experience then?” She managed to ask, again scrambling over her own words and feeling how unsafe the conversation was when she was not in charge of it, controlling from the helm.

“I…I suppose I do, yes.”

Her reply seemed to hold a tinge of regret and Miranda tried to keep hold of its frayed edges.

“And have all your…interactions been like this?” She asked, feeling her cheeks pinching.

“I guess it depends on how you would define ‘this’.” Andrea stated, her brave fingers tracing along her knee, seemingly at home there. She wished she wasn’t wearing stockings. “Honestly?”

Miranda thought whether the truth on this occasion should be avoided at all costs, given the nausea that had taken hold of her stomach, but she nodded anyway and stared pointedly at the woman.

“Ok. Mostly it’s the same. Women needing company. Someone to share their day with over a meal and fine wine. The girlfriend experience if you will. Touch is almost always requested but as you already know, the instigation of sexual acts is down to choice. My choice.”

“Hmm. And how often do you choose Andrea? What makes you decide to offer yourself up in this way?”

She watched as brown eyes lost their sparkle and lips flattened out. The crinkle above her nose reappeared and the touch against her leg held still. Was there a level of anger bubbling to the surface of this seemingly impenetrable woman? Was she finally starting to feel as shaken as she had made Miranda? The thought made the tension in her shoulders disappear and she waited in her small victory.

It didn’t last.

“Not as often as you are no doubt imagining.”

And she had. She had more than imagined it and it had affected her on a level she would not dare admit to. Still she fixed her with her icy blue eyes and remained silent.

“I have to feel comfortable enough I suppose. Attracted on some level and if I’m being direct, which I promised you I would be, I had to want that sexual contact to meet my own needs.”

“You must have someone outside the confines of these…arrangements that can give that to you?”

“Must I?” Andrea smirked but Miranda noticed it didn’t reach her eyes. “I’m not sure a girlfriend would like how I make money.”

“I see.”

And she did. If Andrea were hers, she would never allow her to continue in such pursuits. The proprietary thought burned a hole in her chest and she winced at it; pleased that brown orbs seemed to be more interested in the fingers that were teasing her hemline and dipping underneath it with each passing glance. It made her breath catch.

“No one has actually asked me that before you know; what makes me decide? Women have propositioned me and if I’ve declined, they have not pressed me. Maybe we don’t feel as entitled to things in life as men do. We accept what we are given.”

“I don’t. I never settle.” Miranda sneered, raising her chin.

“In work or in life? The two are very different.”

“Are they?”

“Infinitely so. Relationships are challenging and people, in spite of themselves, need human connection. Touch, taste, the intimacies another woman can bring to you. Pleasure. Desire.”

Miranda said nothing but could feel the thrum of her pulse between her thighs at the sound of the low gravelly husk of Andreas voice.

‘Would she sleep with me if I asked her? Would I dare to?’

She would never ask, even if her La Perla’s were drenched with need. It was tantamount to begging; a word reserved for lesser people, not the likes of the Devil in Prada. She took, she demanded, she had people ready to bend to her every whim and she was more than delighted with that. This ridiculous predicament she had found herself in was an abomination. The heat in her core simply an undigestible side effect of champagne and a smile that should be illegal.

“You’re beautiful, do you know that?”

The compliment came out of nowhere as still reeled in her inner denial. It stunned her into a continuation of silence. She felt her knee twitch as fingers moved up the inside of her thigh and she was only mildly aware of her legs parting to accommodate them.

“You must know that surely?” Andrea continued, a furrow appearing in her brow. “Someone must have told you?”

She sighed shakily, not liking the feelings of insecurity and the memories of hurtful words simply because she was unwilling to give herself as part of a marital bargaining chip.

“Not for a long time.”

She felt her hand being lifted and the soft press of lips to her skin as a kiss was bestowed upon it; a warm wet slide against the raised veins on the back of it that showed her age.

“You’re beautiful.” The words glancing over her skin like a benediction.

Miranda caught the look in Andrea’s eyes expecting to see an onerous display of flattery, but instead was surprised to see nothing but honesty, an admission of truth given freely without a request for something in return; something her previous partners had been all too happy to take.

What did this creature want from her? Surely it couldn’t be as simple as intimacy and a simple desire to tell her the unguarded truth that lay in her heart?

She turned away, biting the inside of her cheek until she felt a palm cup it gently.

“Hey. Where did you go?”

She shook her head, her eyes lost to the cornices around the ceiling of the hotel room; anything to occupy them rather than stare into the chocolate pools that she could feel caressing her face.

“You’re paid to tell me these things. At least I know your princely fee garners me such praise.”

Andrea’s hand fell from her face and resumed their ministrations between her parted thighs, tracing the seam of her stocking.

“I told you I wouldn’t lie.”

Miranda could feel the trickle of ire start to make its way down her spine and it rankled her. She wanted to resist it, push it away and allow herself to open up even more than she had, to succumb to this woman, but it was starting to feel unsafe. Unchartered waters in a territory that could only lead to personal ridicule if she entertained this for a moment longer.

She waited and allowed it to pass further, trailing its way down towards the small of her back as she began to straighten her posture and lift her chin.

“It’s what I’m paying for.”

“Your fee pays for my company, not for the things I mean.”

“Is it not the same?”

“No and you’re deflecting.”

“Excuse me?”

“When you feel vulnerable you sidestep.”

Miranda pursed her lips, her nostrils flaring.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Why are you here Miranda? What is it you have come here for every time looking to find?”

The softness of Andrea’s gaze coupled with the languid stroke of her fingers just beneath her skirt sent her mind reeling as her ire finally pressed home and imbedded itself in the dip of her back. She felt burned by it; scorched, as if her skin was peeling back, allowing Andrea to read her like a book. Vulnerable, yes. Exposed. Raw. And angry because of it. How dare this woman do this to her?

“I’d like you to leave.” She stated, her voice dripping with disdain.

“I’m sorry?”

“You heard me.” She whispered, her tone low and deadly. The one that could verbally eviscerate and leave a lasting impression.

She took hold of Andrea’s wrist and dragged it away from her leg, practically throwing it onto the woman’s lap before standing and making her way to the large windows, wishing she had not obstructed the view as she gazed at the weave of the heavy drapes imagining the feel of it beneath her fingers, rather than the skin she so desperately wanted to touch instead.

She shook her head and squared her shoulders, aware of movement behind her. She couldn’t suppress a shiver as goosebumps danced across the nape of her neck, almost imagining the softest glance of warm breath as Andrea spoke, close but not touching.

Her body felt magnetised as if pulled by the invisible force stood behind her, but she resisted the tug of it even as her heart screamed for her not to. It was an organ she rarely paid attention to, and she wasn’t about to start now. It was ridiculous, really.

“I apologise if I overstepped.” Andrea stated, with a delicate confidence that was utterly confusing. “I…I shouldn’t have presumed to know you that well.”

“You don’t know me at all.” Miranda countered, as the word liar crashed into her mouth and she had to bite her lip to stop it slipping free; the truth clambering to be heard.

“I wish you’d let me.”

And there it was. One simple statement that ghosted into the air of a Manhattan hotel suite like a promise. And she believed it; believed that this gorgeous twenty-something woman whose name she already knew she would cry aloud each and every time she touched herself, meant what she had so ardently proclaimed in the softest of whispers.

She shuddered, a sigh falling past open lips and she expected to feel the press of pert breasts against her when her body leaned back as it swayed in dizzying arousal and want. But the touch never came and when Miranda craned her head round to look, Andrea was already donning her coat and collecting her bag.

She blinked several times, wondering how the moment had ended so abruptly and cursing herself for yet another failed attempt at human connection. She wanted to scream, to ask her to stay, to walk over and grab her by the lapels of her perfectly tailored Chanel and kiss her in spite of everything.

But Miranda Priestly never gave in to moments of repugnant weakness and she wasn’t about to start now.

Andrea’s hand reached the doorknob and Miranda simply stared at her, her features fixed as if carved in marble. Her fingers had reached for her necklace again, the feel of it rolling between her fingers; a comfort when big brown eyes met her gaze and a resigned smile looked back at her.

“I’ll leave that ticket for you at Hauser & Wirth. Just ask for Lily and tell her I sent you.”

Miranda’s hands trembled, her eyelids flickering briefly as she sucked in a breath and held it tightly, enjoying the burn in her lungs more than she cared to admit as little fissures of pain started to erupt in her head.

“Well, I guess I outlasted the others and despite how this has ended I genuinely hope I see you again.”

Andrea opened the door and then paused in the doorway for a moment, her hand squeezing the handle her back to her. Miranda’s heartbeat pounded in her ears, waiting on the precipice of silence for what the woman was clearly thinking to say.

But when Andrea turned, her feet firmly in the hallway she simply smiled brightly and pulled the door closed.

Miranda was unsure how long she stood and stared at the closed painted wooden barrier that had shut her away from the world once more and the woman who had started to show it to her. When she finally sat down on the settee, her champagne long forgotten, her breathing hard and painful, she felt something slide hotly down her cheek.

She licked it into her mouth and swallowed it down along with the rest of her feelings.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

 

Andy had kept checking the bookings over the past four weeks, wanting to see Miranda’s name on the schedule. And she had. Twice in fact, but neither had been with her.

She had tried not to question the gnawing feeling in her gut or the way her breathing had bottomed out. Instead, she had attempted to shrug it off and plough her energies into her writing and the women who had decided to spend their time and money on her. She hadn’t slept with any of them despite the itch she felt and the overwhelming need to feel a naked body beneath her that craved her touch.

She’d tried not to question that either.

When she had caught up with the two girls who Miranda had booked, purely by accident of course, she couldn’t keep the feeling of relief at bay as she’d discovered that yet again, the exacting woman had refused to proceed with either of them. Andy had still lasted the longest and it made her chest swell with a mixture of pride, but also sorrow for the silver haired lady who had haunted her both day and night, wondering if she’d given her even a passing thought.

Andy had tried to push Miranda back to the darkest recesses of her mind with little success. There had been a client once, in the early days of working for the company, who had made her think about her more than she’d cared to have admitted. They’d had sex a handful of times and she’d known that had they of met in a social setting, then she may have tried to pursue something.

Interestingly, after meeting Miranda, she already had the feeling she wanted more, and they had barely touched; hadn’t even spent an hour together, but when Andy thought of her, she felt everything.

Maybe she should stop. Maybe now she had saved up enough capital and her first novel had been published with two more commissioned, she should retire from it and seek her human contact in the real world rather than hiding behind the confines of her job.

Andy had finished her second lap of the Reservoir, her muscles burned deliciously. She felt invigorated, energised by her run and the feeling of the breeze through her hair.

She dropped down East Drive before cutting through the side paths heading for Conservatory Pond. For a mild spring she was surprised at how empty the park felt, except for dog walkers and joggers such as herself, the green space was usually peppered with people, but she wasn’t about to complain. Quiet moments in the city were like gold dust and she let herself breathe it all in, relishing the sound of birdsong and the feel of the sun against her already heated skin.

As she headed past Kerbs Boathouse, her gait slowing as she spotted the nearest free bench, her eyes were drawn to two girls, their auburn hair illuminated by the rays of the sun. One of them had hold of two ice creams, the other tugging at her elbow as they stepped away from the seller towards the edge of the path.

She was within meters of them as she watched in horror as a shoe caught on the edge of the curb and the girl toppled over onto the grass, ice creams flying in the air.

Retrieving her pace Andy ran over and dropped to her knees beside the child, who was valiantly holding back tears whilst the other, her twin sister, she now realised judging by how identical they were, knelt on the other side holding her hand.

“Hey. Are you alright? Did you bang your head?”

The girl shook her head as her lip trembled.

“I don’t think she did. She tripped. It’s my fault for trying to grab my ice cream.” The sister said, her voice shaking with concern.

"I’m Andy. Do you think you can sit up if I help you?”

“I…I think so.”

She placed an arm behind the girl’s shoulders as she started to lift her upper body and between the three of them, she was sat on the grass looking slightly sorry for herself.

“Can you tell me your names and show me where your Mommy or Daddy is?”

“I’m Cassidy.” The uninjured girl declared brightly, and this is my sister Caroline, but I call her Caro. Mom hates that.” She sniggered.

Andy grinned.

“And how do you feel? Can you move everything?” She asked Caroline, noticing she had more freckles across her nose than her sister and her Cupid’s bow was a little less pronounced.

Caroline ran her hand over the back of her head and seemed pleased to discover she wasn’t in pain, but on starting to stand she winced and plopped back down, tears brimming in her bright blue eyes as she clutched her left ankle.

Andy reached for it and tenderly wrapped her fingers round it as she started to roll it gently.

“Does that hurt?”

“A…a little bit.”

“I bet she has a sprain. You got one of those last year playing hockey Caro, remember?”

Caroline nodded in acknowledgement but held Andy’s gaze.

“Was it the same ankle?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“It definitely was. You had to wear that weird sock thing round it that I drew a dinosaur on, but all the colours ran together, and Mom said it looked more like a Kandinsky.”

Andy looked at Cassidy wide eyed. This twin was definitely the talkative one. ‘Kandinsky? Really?’

“I lost our ice creams.” Caroline said dejectedly staring at the two blobs of vanilla that were slowly melting into the grass with their cones pointing skyward.

“Hey. Hey. Don’t cry. It’s just ice cream. You guys wait right here, and I’ll go grab you some more, ok? Then we can find your Mom.”

“Ok.” Cassidy said beaming. “I’ll stay with Caro and hold her hand.”

“I think you might very well be the best of sisters.” She smiled down at them, reaching to grab hold of the cones and depositing them in the trash as she stepped over to the vendor.

She purchased two fresh cones and made her way back to the twins who seemed to be attempting to stand with Cassidy’s assistance, her arm around Caroline’s waist as she tried to bounce on one leg, fearful to step on her left foot.

“Hey. You should have waited for help.” Andy said, as she reached them. “Can you take both of these Cassidy and point us in the direction of your Mom?”

Cassidy nodded enthusiastically. “You can call me Cass.” She said with a smile that made Andy’s heart soar as she handed over the ice cream and Andy took possession of Caroline instead. “She’s over there on a bench under the trees.”

Andy looked over the girl’s shoulder and could make out the back of a woman perched under a blossom tree.

“Ok. Caro, do you think you can walk?”

She watched as the girl carefully tried to press her foot down but wobbled unsteadily as Andy’s hand tightened round her waist.

“No.” She almost whispered, her voice so mournful Andy felt it in her gut.

“Hey. Not to worry. I got you. I can carry you back to your Mom if you’d like, then we can take it from there. How does that sound? Or I can go grab her instead?”

Cassidy burst out laughing and Andy looked at her in confusion before seeing Caroline’s face light up with a toothy grin. She waited for an explanation and a green light in the short moment of silence.

“Er, Mom isn’t that type of Mom.” Cassidy said between giggles. “She’d be calling 911 or her driver to come fetch us.”

“Right, well I guess I’ll be acting the part of emergency services then.” Andy said with a wry smile, as two sets of eyes looked at her like she was a hero as she scooped Caroline into her arms, holding her against her side as you would an oversized toddler.

Cassidy walked ahead of them and peeped round every so often with a big grin and Andy felt Caroline relax into her, her hands clasped tightly around her neck as they approached the woman beneath the tree.

As they got a few feet away, she saw the back of her more closely. Silvery coifed hair sitting atop the collar of a chequered trench coat and something about her, even from that angle gave her cause to pause and stop dead in her tracks behind the bench.

“Mom! Mom!” Cassidy cried in bubbled over excitement as she rounded the bench and stood in front of her mother holding two ice creams that were now starting to melt; long drips of vanilla sliding down the waffle cones.

“What is it Bobbsey? Where’s your sister?”

‘That voice. That…voice. Oh god. It’s her.’ Andy realised, her hold on Caroline suddenly feeling like her only anchor to reality.

“We were coming back with ice creams…” Cassidy continued, “…when Caro fell over and splat! The ice cream went everywhere and then Andy came and helped us. She bought us new ones and even carried Caro all the way here because her ankle hurts.”

Andy watched the woman’s shoulders twitch, tension evident in her body as she slowly rose from her seat and turned to face her.

It was as if time slowed altogether; everything except for her heartbeat that was pounding hard against her ribs as her breath caught in her lungs. She watched, captivated as Miranda’s steely blue gaze found hers.

The woman was impeccably dressed, a visual onslaught to Andy’s eyes as she tried to avail herself unsuccessfully as she drank her in. Her coat was open, a baby blue cashmere sweater with a cowled neckline on display. It revealed a hint of a sharp collar bone that Andy wanted to lick. Dark navy fitted jeans shaped her figure beautifully with a pair of black heels completing the look.

Miranda was as breathtakingly beautiful as ever, the breeze whipping through her coifed hair, the mid-afternoon sun warming her silhouette giving her an ethereal glow.

Andy knew she was staring, her eyes felt wide, and she couldn’t help the smile that spread across her lips as they looked at one another.

But then the panic set in. She saw it play out like a horror show as Miranda seemed to flounder, her mouth opening then closing, her hand twitching by her side.

And she understood instantly. They weren’t meant to know one another. Their paths shouldn’t have crossed, especially not here and now with her family unit, as they enjoyed their time together in the park.

No. This was all wrong.

Her smile faltered for a moment before she pulled herself together.

“Hi. I’m Andy. Andy Sachs.” She volunteered, hoping that Miranda would take the bait and reel in alongside her.

Blue eyes lost a little of their intensity before thin lips finally parted.

“Miranda.”

Andy watched her swallow thickly; gaze still fixed and staring at her.

“Hey Caro. Why don’t we pop you down on the bench so you can enjoy your ice cream, ok?” She said, as she attempted to contain the situation.

“Ok.”

She walked past Miranda and helped Caroline settle onto the bench, Cassidy hopping up beside her and handing her a cone, both happily tucking into their sweet treats.

Andy turned back to face Miranda whose eyes were still watching her like a hawk, despite her demeanour implying she was anything but a predator, looking as if Andy would strike her down any moment and was simply waiting for it to happen.

These were dangerous waters Andy realised, but she could not help but be utterly entranced by the woman she had not stopped thinking about since their brief night together.

Maybe she should have walked away, left the little family unit and not looked back, but everything screamed for her to stay, so she did. She wasn’t in work now, and she tried to imagine that this was their first meeting and if it were, how would she behave in this present situation. Andy wanted to know Miranda better and she was no coward. Today she would simply be herself and see what happened.

“Try not to worry.” She started, watching Miranda’s eyes widen. “It’s a sprain at worst. I think it just twisted a little when she fell. Cassidy mentioned a hockey injury last year, so it’s probably just put a little pressure on that. If she’s still struggling tomorrow, I’d get it checked out.”

“You’re a doctor too then are you?” Miranda hissed, unkindly.

Andy tried not to let it bother her. The woman was used to being acerbic that much she had already gathered from their past encounter. It was evident that she had a position that allowed her to speak unkindly and without complaint, exacting supreme control and calculated decision making no doubt. Those traits worked in a man’s world, and she wondered if Miranda was unfairly judged for displaying them.

She loved the power the woman held in her body. The way her words were so carefully selected. She suspected she had a Rolodex of choice phrases and cursive put downs that could shatter the strongest of men and it aroused her greatly. It made her want to push every button and watch the effect it had. She wanted to know what it would feel like for such an independently fierce woman to fall apart in her arms. To cum with Andy’s name on her lips.

“No.” She replied with a chuckle. “But I played enough sports to know the basics.”

She watched as Miranda’s eyes raked over her body from her running shoes, up her naked legs to her Lycra mid-thigh shorts, up past the tight vest that stretched over her abs, stopping for a lingering moment on her chest before meeting her gaze once more.

“I run too.” She volunteered, with a grin and a cocked eyebrow that indicated she had acknowledged that she had just been appraised.

“I can see that.” Miranda replied, her volume low; a flush of pink rising up her neck.

“Would you like an ice cream? My treat?” Andy asked, fully expecting a refusal.

“Mom doesn’t eat carbs.” Cassidy replied before Miranda’s mouth had even moved.

“Oh really?” She replied, glancing over at the red head who was now devouring the top section of cone.

“Nope. Not often anyway.”

“And er, is this one of the times where you might be tempted by something sweet?” She asked, licking her lips and watching as blue eyes tracked the movement, the pulse in her neck bouncing, making Andy want to lean in and press her mouth to it.

“No. No I…no thank you.” Miranda replied politely.

“Alright then.” She replied with a shrug, glancing over at the twins who were staring at her as they finished up their treat.

“We used to come here with Patricia.” Caroline said.

Andy noted the sadness in her tone as she chewed the end of her cone and watched it disappear in a flurry of crunches.

“And who might be Patricia be?” She asked, trying not to sound too interested.

She hadn’t stopped to question if Miranda was in a relationship. It wasn’t something she did with clients anyway. She was present and complicit during their paid engagements but surmising over the statuses of their private lives was a no-go area, partly because it was inappropriate to judge, but mainly because she’d never cared enough.

If she was being honest with herself, which she usually was, it had crossed her mind several times after leaving Miranda’s suite that night. Was the woman involved with someone? Married? Engaged? In a loveless, sexless partnership that no longer held the excitement and bite that she needed in her day-to-day life?

Now, stood in Central Park looking down at the faces of two of the most adorable children she had ever met, Andy felt her heart start to drop through her chest wondering if Patricia was a love interest, and it rankled her.

“She was our dog, but she died.” Cassidy said bluntly. “She was a Saint Bernard.”

“Oh. Your dog? Well, I’m so sorry to hear she passed away. It’s always difficult when we lose a loved one.”

The girls nodded in agreement and Andy felt a massive wave of relief crash over her before a chaser of guilt slapped her cheek hard.

“She was…” Miranda began, Andy’s gaze drawn to her at the sound of her delicate voice. “…she was very special to the girls and I.”

“I wish I could have met her if she was important to you.”

Andrea found herself blushing at the admission, realising how overly familiar it sounded and how twin sets of eyes were narrowed in her direction.

“Do you work with Mom?” Cassidy asked first, looking between her and Miranda who seemed to have suddenly caught on to the ambush that had just started.

“Er, no. No, I don’t.”

‘Not a lie.’ She mused, trying to right herself as she felt herself being outmanoeuvred by a pair of minors.

They now had Miranda in their sights and her answer was just as vague. Evasive at best.

"We have just met Andrea in the park Bobbseys.”

‘Not a lie either, although she didn’t deny us meeting before, under entirely different circumstances that would certainly not be age appropriate.’

“You called her Andrea when she told us she’s called Andy.” Caroline stated, raising an eyebrow at her mother that had Andy sucking her bottom lip into her mouth to prevent herself from chuckling at the astuteness of the young redhead.

“Well, I consider that anyone evidently using a nickname would have parents who were sensible enough to christen their child with an actual name.” Miranda replied, interlocking her hands together in front of her waist.

“Good point.” Cassidy nodded. “Wait. Do you not know who Mom is? I mean usually everyone does, but you don’t seem to be phased by meeting her.”

There was a pride in the way Cassidy asked her question that had Andrea smiling.

“Er, no. Sorry.”

She looked at Miranda, hoping that her eyes could convey that they she had respected her boundaries despite the burning desire she had felt to Google ‘Miranda fashion New York City’. She had felt it keenly, on several occasions, but had told herself her search would be fruitless, trying to refocus her attention on research for her novel instead.

How much longer she could have sustained that willpower for she was not certain. It had definitely helped when Lily had called from the gallery, and she had rushed to the coffee shop across the street in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the mysterious woman who haunted her waking thoughts and her nightly visions.

She had watched her from a bar stool in the window, her hands nursing a latte, fingers rubbing over the ridged material of the cup as her eyes fixed on the doorway waiting for Miranda to exit.

Andy had not been disappointed, when minutes later she had stepped out of the gallery and onto the sidewalk outside, pulling at her coat and tying the belt around it a little tighter.

Andy had almost choked on her coffee at the sight of her, quite unprepared for just how beautiful this creature was; her dreams and fantasies since, somehow not quite capturing the true magnitude of how impressive a woman Miranda truly was.

Her brown eyes had widened as Miranda seemed to peer over the top of her oversized sunglasses, staring in her general direction before slipping them back up her nose and disappearing inside a sleek black town car that indicated, pulling away into New York traffic.

“Mom is Miranda Priestly, Editor in Chief of Runway magazine.” Caroline replied proudly.

“Yeah, she’s basically the queen of fashion. Everyone in New York knows who she is.” Cassidy supplied with a grin, kneeling on the bench and holding her sticky fingers out in front of her.

She watched as Miranda retrieved a packet of wet wipes from her bag and handed one to each of the girls who proceeded to clean their hands, Cassidy disposing of them in the bin beside them.

“Well, it’s incredibly nice to meet you officially Miranda.” She beamed, extending out her hand in greeting.

Miranda seemed to watch her movement like a hawk; lost in staring at her appendage as if it were a foreign object.

Andy cleared her throat and the sound seemed to do the trick as the older woman relented and slipped her hand into the proffered one.

The feel of it was entrancing, and Andy was powerless to resist the shudder that rumbled up her body at the contact.

Her skin was as soft as she had remembered, and she marvelled at the way their fingers seemed to seamlessly fit together as if carved from the same block of marble before the sculptor had parted them. She brushed her thumb over her knuckles and swallowed a sigh.

She held on for longer than she should have, and she knew it, but it hadn’t helped that Miranda’s eyes had changed to a darker blue, like the sky before a rainstorm, turbulent and unpredictable but beautiful in its wake. All she could do was hold her gaze and savour the seconds she had left of holding something so precious it made her breath catch in her throat.

When she reluctantly let go, she watched carefully as Miranda looked unsteady, her fingers finding her necklace, something they had done in the hotel suite that Andy had suspected was a nervous habit or a way to regain her grounding. She noted the way her pulse had quickened and the tremor in her hand that now lay twitching by her side.

Andy realised she wouldn’t ever stop wanting to notice everything.

“Likewise.” Miranda answered, stepping away as if she’d been burned.

She heard the sound of giggling and looked over to the twins who were staring at her, grins as wide as their faces and mischief in their eyes.

She knew she was blushing but couldn’t prevent it, instead opting to return their smiles with a warm chuckle.

“How are you feeling now my darling?” Miranda cooed, running her hand affectionately over the redhead’s hair before brushing her cheek with the back of her fingers.

Caroline shrugged before slipping lower on the bench and delicately placing her feet on the grass as she tried to stand.

There was a wince and a wobble before she sat back down, looking rather sad with herself.

“Ah.” Miranda said in response, kneeling in front of her and placing her palms on the tops of her daughter’s knees. “I can call Roy. He can collect us at the entrance of the park.”

“I don’t think I can walk that far. Can Andy not just carry me home?”

Blue eyes flicked up to her own brown ones and Andy’s mouth opened as if to speak until she recoiled at the flurry of snow she saw dancing in them. She snapped her lips shut.

“No Bobbsey. We can’t expect Andrea to do that after she’s already helped so much. It wouldn’t be fair.”

“It’s only a few blocks Mom and she’s super strong.”

“Yeah, like Wonder Woman or something.” Cassidy said beaming, bouncing on the bench and flexing her arms like a muscle man.

Andy couldn’t help but laugh and was relieved to see that even Miranda’s mouth was powerless against the humour of her children, a corner twitching upwards.

“I really don’t mind.” Andy said with quiet assurance, willing the woman to agree. She wasn’t ready to leave their company and return to her apartment. Its walls lacked the warmth and comfort she was absorbing from the three Priestly women.

Granted, there hadn’t been a whole lot of warmth emanating from Miranda, but the silent storm she had seen warring in her, had led her to believe it wasn’t just the surprise of seeing her in the park that had caused it. She affected her, even after these weeks had passed.

“Please Mom? Please?” Caroline begged and Andy thought if maybe she was playing up her injury just a little, as Cassidy joined in the chorus.

“Are you…” Miranda began, her gaze softening as she looked into Andy’s eyes.

“I’m certain, yes.” Andy continued with a smile she hoped would soothe any lingering doubts.

“Right. Well then.”

With a small nod towards Miranda, she switched places with her, kneeling on the ground at Caroline’s feet.

“So, am I going to carry you upside down over my shoulder like a firewoman?”

“No!” Caroline squealed playfully.

“Hm. Well I guess it’s either clinging to my side like a monkey or climbing on my back. What do you think?”

“A piggyback!”

“No problem. Are we all ready to go before I hoist this young lady into the air?” She asked glancing between Cassidy and Miranda.

There was an excited ‘yes’ and a more subdued one from Cassidy’s counterpart, before she turned her body round and indicated for Caroline to clamber onto her back.

The redhead got into position and wrapped her arms around her neck, clasping her tiny fingers together at the front as Andy hooked her hands under Caroline’s knees.

“Ready? Hang on tight, ok?”

“Ready.”

She rose to her feet effortlessly and watched as Miranda’s expression seemed to glaze over as she watched her lift her child into the air.

Cassidy had jumped down from the bench and was looking up at her mother who seemed to have forgotten that there was anything else to look at except for her, and Andy felt it in her stomach; a slow uncoiling heat spreading lower with each passing second.

It wasn’t a look she had witnessed before, but it seemed to have a gravitational pull as she found herself coming to stand directly in front of Miranda and watching as her blue eyes seemed to be taking in everything her face had to offer.

“Miranda?” She breathed, feeling the name fall from her lips like a benediction.

“Pardon?” Came a rather dazed response.

“Are you ready for home?”

‘Home.’

Oh, how Andy’s heart ached at the slip, once again thinking of her empty apartment and how it had been her sanctuary, her retreat, her nest and yes her home. Until Miranda. Until the space had been filled with silence, it’s empty corners like bleak reminders of how she had never allowed anyone that close, never breaching the carefully constructed walls or glancing their fingertips across her worldly possessions.

Miranda had changed that.

She had whispered her name, cried it aloud late at night as her fingers had slid through her wet heat. She had never expected a reply in the past, had never wanted an answer to speak to her from the shadows and fill her heart and her home with a tangible presence.

That was a home.

That is what she now yearned for and feeling Caroline’s tiny body on her back and seeing Cassidy’s bright blue eyes looking up at her in awe, she ached for it, daring to imagine the four of them were in fact returning home as a family.

“I…yes.” Miranda answered, seeming to suddenly remember where she was and pulling her bag onto her shoulder before clasping Cassidy’s hand in her own.

They walked together towards the park’s exit, Andy listening to the birds in the sky, the wind blowing gently through the trees and the sounds of the twins giggling as they talked to one another.

She hazarded a glance across at Miranda as they hit the sidewalk of Central Park East and waited for the walk sign to illuminate.

Her profile was striking. A straight nose, thin lips and a strong jawline. All quite sharp to look at as separate entities, yet together they seemed to be graceful and elegant. Like a nineteen fifties movie icon, a picture of perfection.

The light went green, and they crossed over, cutting up East 73rd Street towards the row of brownstones that paved the way ahead of them.

Caroline was barely a weight on her back even when she squealed at something Cassidy mentioned and Miranda asked them both to calm down and behave with a ‘modicum of politeness’. The only thing that weighed heavy, was the burden in her chest; the ache that was increasing with each step closer they got to their destination. She wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Wasn’t prepared for what it meant especially if it could be the last time she’d ever see her again.

She bit her lip, dropping her eyes to the pavement and counting the lines in it as if they were paces being taken before a duel, where she’d turn, a pistol ending her life with a single bullet through the heart.

Andy snorted at how pathetic she sounded, her inner writer cursing her bad use of analogy and overly romanticised musings.

“We’re this one.” The voice in her ear announced.

She felt her stomach lurch, hanging back at the bottom step, her eyes studying Miranda as she ascended the short climb, slipped the key in the lock and opened the door, silencing the alarm on the wall.

Cassidy sidled up behind her and Andy froze as both of them stared down at her, Miranda’s eyebrow quirked in question.

She shook herself out of her funk and took the steps carefully, partly not to jolt the young girl that was still clutched to her back, but mainly to drag out each precious second and prolong the agony of her imminent departure.

Andy took in the hallway with its mahogany woodwork and high ceiling and heard the door close soundly behind her. The smell of fresh gardenias clung to the air and something uniquely Miranda that she suspected belonged to the very fabric of the building. It invaded her senses like a virus, clinging to her cells and altering her make up entirely as she sucked it in hungrily.

She was lost but found. Broken and rebuilt in a New York moment, her wide eyes looking around the space with wonder.

This was going to hurt.

“Bobbsey, do you think that Andrea can put you down now?” Miranda asked; her gentle tone sliding over Andy like silk and drawing her full attention.

“Could she take me up to the den so we can watch a movie?” Caroline replied, her words laced with hope.

“I don’t mind.” Andy murmured, looking at Miranda for reassurance.

“Thank you.” Miranda said softly, with a nod.

"It’s upstairs on the next floor.” Caroline said, pointing with her right index finger that she could just make out in her peripheral vision.

“No problem. Are you going to count the steps for me?”

And she did, the staircase turning before they reached the next level, where she was guided to a large room with two large settees a fireplace and a very large entertainment system.

“Right. I’m going to kneel and you’re going to slide down onto the sofa, ok?”

“Ok.”

She dipped down, her knees pressing into the thick shag of the rug that graced the centre of the room and felt Caroline let go of her with a soft pop onto the cushions behind her.

“All set?”

“Yep.” Caroline grinned. “Are you going to stay for the film?”

“I…er…I…I’m not sure I can.”

“Oh.” Came the dejected response and Andy felt a sliver of pain lance her heart at disappointing the girl.

“Let me go see where your Mom and Cass went ok, and then I’ll pop back up before I go, alright?”

Caroline nodded, her fingers already reaching for the remote, her attention refocusing.

Andy slipped out of the room and returned downstairs finding the entranceway devoid of life. Hearing voices in the distance beyond she followed them, finding herself in a spacious kitchen, Cassidy half on half off a bar stool whilst Miranda seemed to be busy retrieving items from her purse that she’d dropped on the island.

The sound of her sneakers on the tiled floor must have alerted them to her presence and two pairs of eyes were suddenly turned on her, Cassidy grinning at her.

“Caroline is safely on the settee. I think she’s finding something to watch.”

Cassidy hopped down and came over to her.

“Will you carry me upstairs too?” She asked hopefully.

“I’m sure your own legs will suffice. We have already taken up too much of Andrea’s time.” Miranda chimed in.

“Please? It’s only one floor.” Cassidy added, this time turning her plea on her mother who let out a long breath and looked over at Andrea with some hesitance.

Andy lifted her up under her arms and held her to her side as the red head gripped onto her vest.

“Come on then my little monkey. Let’s get you upstairs before your sister chooses a movie you don’t want to watch.”

“Ugh. You’re right. We best be quick!”

She jogged back out into the hallway with Cassidy laughing happily in her arms before bounding up the stairs and back into the den.

“I got a lift too!” She cried to Caroline who was now laying in the middle of the floor on her front with her ankles crossed.

She heard movement behind her and turned to see Miranda standing in the doorway leaning against the jamb.

Andy gulped, stooping down so that Cassidy could drop down easily, her eyes never leaving the blue ones that were fixed on her.

“Thanks Andy.” Cassidy said with a toothy smile before hopping over to Caroline and sitting down beside her on the rug.

The girls seemed to busy themselves with channel hopping, Andy’s ears detecting the switches as she found herself unable to break out of Miranda’s visual hold.

It made it worse that she had somehow walked a few paces closer to the woman, watching as long fingers began to trace the chain around her neck as they had done previously.

She felt her mouth go dry, her lungs somehow unable to formulate deep enough breaths and the air trapped inside her throat started to burn. No one had ever had such a visceral effect on her before and it was both exhilarating and horrifying all at once.

“So, I…” Andy began, barely managing to croak out two words before her brain shut off and she had to close mouth.

“Yes.” Miranda all but sighed; the sound of it punching Andy between the legs with a moist throb.

Her chocolate orbs dropped and took in the sight of lips being licked; a strong tongue flitting out briefly to perform its role before disappearing out of sight.

She bit the inside of her mouth to stop herself from moaning obscenely, or foolishly pulling Miranda into a passionate embrace in the same room as her children. No. That wouldn’t be a smart move at all.

She wanted to ask if she could see her again. Wanted to offer to buy her dinner or take her to the theatre at a time that would suit her busy schedule, but nothing seemed quite right as her mind stumbled over the right words to express her wishes.

Andy wasn’t sure Miranda would even say yes. It felt safer to exist in the bubble of make believe; returning to her apartment with her memory of the little family intact, she was beginning to l…

No. Definitely not that.

She shook her head and that seemed to disconnect her from her trance, as she observed Miranda looking past her, crooking a perfectly manicured eyebrow in the air as she pursed her lips.

Andy turned and followed her line of sight, her mouth falling open as she took in the sight of Caroline and Cassidy both dancing to Katy Perry’s latest hit, seemingly unperturbed by a troublesome ankle.

“Bobbseys.” Miranda stated coolly but calmly, and unsurprisingly both red heads turned to face their mother, Caroline looking rather sheepish as her eyes darted between her blue eyes and her own.

Andy bit back a smirk.

“Caroline, your ankle seems to have miraculously healed?”

Caroline blushed and looked down at the floor, her previously injured foot coming to rest across the top of her other one.

“Erm, yeah. I guess.” She all but whispered.

“Hmm. We will talk about this later.” Miranda said sharply, as Caroline’s cheeks reddened.

“Will we see you next Sunday in the park?” Cassidy asked, looking at her hopefully.

Andy opened her mouth to say something, wondering what her brain would’ve come out with had Miranda not spoken before she’d managed to articulate a thought.

“Andrea is a young, busy person. Now say goodbye so she can be on her way. We’ve kept her long enough.”

Andy felt the pang in her chest at being so readily dismissed, her timer finally running out. Inhaling deeply, she sucked in the air whose scent filled her with contentment and knelt in front of the twins.

“You may see me around. I jog every day unless the weather is too bad.” She smiled fondly.

“Like when it rains?” Caroline asked.

“Only if it rains on a biblical level. I’m talking floods and ‘Noah out in the park building an ark’ type of weather.”

The girls giggled; their little faces full of hope, a hope she knew she also had that this would not indeed be the last time she encountered them all.

“Here.” She said, reaching into the small zip pocket of her shorts. “It’s my card. If you ever need me to carry either of you out of a green space again, you give me a call, ok?”

“Kay.” They replied in unison, Caroline’s fingers pinching the card from her own before they both reached for her.

Andy pulled them into a tight hug and the sound of their laughter was like music to her ears.

With one last look at them, she turned to face Miranda whose expression was one neutrality. Andy decided that that was by far the worst look she had seen grace the older woman’s face. Unreadable and clearly dangerous, she was shocked into a subdued silence as she brushed past her and took the business card from Caroline’s hand before the girl had had chance to look at it.

“I’ll keep this safe for you Bobbsey.” Miranda proposed tight lipped, before strolling out of the room and leaving Andy to do nothing but go after her, a sense of unease and confusion painting her insides.

“Bye girls.” She said with a little wave.

“Bye Andy.” They chorused.

She followed Miranda downstairs trying not to trip, her eyes caught between watching the sway of her hips and the backs of her toned calves.

Miranda was already stood by the door when she came back into view, her gaze focused on the business card, studying it, rolling it over as if looking for something.

Andy furrowed her brow before something clicked in her head.

“I’m a writer.” She murmured as she got closer.

Cold, studious eyes flicked up at her with laser precision and she felt as if she were stripped bare on a petrie dish under a microscope, ready to be studied and exposed.

“Of course you are.” Miranda all but spat.

She sighed and bravely took a step closer so she could speak without the risk of her voice being carried back to the floor above.

“You thought I’d handed…” She began, a little annoyed by the horrible assumption the woman had made. “…that I’d carry a card with that job on and give it to a child?”

Miranda maintained her ground and her stare, seemingly unsure of how to proceed, so Andy continued.

“I’m going to assume that you panicked when you all but snatched that from Caroline’s fingers.” She stated with a quick glance at the innocuous object. “After all, you weren’t to know I had another profession, but I wouldn’t place a child in a situation like that.”

Some of the tension seemed to shift from Miranda’s shoulders, her jaw relaxing its grip. Andy wondered if it was due to her words or the firm tone she had employed to deliver them.

"And before you ask, I’m not a journalist looking for their next expose. I’m not looking for anything from you Miranda.”

It wasn’t a complete lie, but as the words were spoken between them, Andy knew that it was only in a professional capacity that she had meant them. She had wanted to reassure the woman, who would undoubtedly have had people clamouring for her support and favour, that she was not like them. She wasn’t looking to use her. She recalled Miranda telling her when they’d met previously, that two of the girls had tried to get a position with her.

But there was something she wanted from her. Something greater and more valuable than what Miranda could offer her professionally, and it was clawing her insides to be heard.

She swallowed it down hard.

“Looks like I got totally played by Caroline.” Andy chuckled, wanting to soothe that guarded, painful expression and replace it with something lighter; warmer.

There was a moment of calm and softening in the once hardened expression before Andy finally got a reply.

“Yes. I believe that maybe we both did.” Miranda answered in earnest, her blue eyes sparkling in the porch light.

“I didn’t mind at all you know, so don’t be hard on them.”

Thunder clouds rolled in as quickly as they had appeared, and Andy wished she could’ve gotten out of the way.

“Don’t you dare tell me how to deal with my children!” Miranda hissed, jabbing her pointer finger at Andy’s person but not making contact.

She balked, completely unprepared for the complete one eighty she had just encountered in the fraction of a second.

“I would never do that.” She replied fiercely, staring back at the mercurial woman with a confidence that was filling up her stomach, unsure of where it was coming from but grateful for its arrival. “They’re great kids Miranda and I’m just so thankful I got to spend time with you all today.”

Andy stood her ground and smiled, hoping her open gesture would help calm the tempest that was still swirling in blue irises.

A minute passed, dragging by, and her pulse was aching in her neck. Somewhere during that suspended moment, she had moved closer, could now smell the alluring scent of Miranda’s skin that made her salivate and hear the slow exhales of breath that she was puffing out through parted lips.

Gravity was pulling them together and her fingers found Miranda’s, the pads of them gliding down the length of her digits.

Andy let out a deep sigh of contentment the sound of which seemed to darken the blue gaze like a storm on the sea. She felt like a castaway stranded on the waves, powerless and in the hands of the mighty waters she was caught in to see her to shore safely.

“Miranda.” She breathed, the name whispering into the air around them and crackling to life.

A sharp intake of breath; chest erratically rising and falling, Miranda’s cleavage tantalising against the cut of her blouse had Andy’s arousal spiking.

“Andrea.” Miranda purred when Andy raised her free hand to her face and ran her knuckles along her jawline before her thumb dipped to brush her chin.

Andy had never wanted to kiss someone as much as she wanted to kiss Miranda Priestly. Every synapse and nerve ending sparking to attention and blossoming with hope as she leaned in just a touch.

“Mom! Are you coming?”

The shout from the floor above them seemed to snap her out of the trajectory toward Miranda’s mouth and the woman jumped back as if scolded, their hands still joined as if temporarily forgotten.

“You should go.”

The dismissal was quiet and resolute, but Andy also noticed a hint of disappointed resignation. It gave her hope.

Without a thought, she drew the hand in her care up to her face and held it there, suspended between them like a promise as her eyes found Miranda’s.

She pressed her open mouth to the top of it, feeling the tremble beneath her lips as she kissed the soft skin on the back of it. She resisted the desire to turn it over and lave her palm or lick the pulse that was thundering in her thin wrist.

Trying to quell the wild beating in her chest, she let go of Miranda in favour of opening the door, the afternoon breeze rolling up the steps and cooling her naked legs as she stepped out onto the top step.

She suppressed a shiver and turned back to look at Miranda framed in the doorway, her freshly kissed hand resting over her heart as she gazed back at her.

The wind caught Andy’s hair and she swept it clear from her face looking back at Miranda with eyes that she hoped conveyed open honesty. As much as she could muster without fracturing her own hope at least.

“I run in the park every day, usually in the morning but always at the same time on a Sunday.” She declared, quietly enough so as not to announce her habits or Miranda’s business to the neighbours.

“Why would you…?” Miranda’s question falling short of completion as she realised exactly what Andy was implying with her statement.

“And you have my card. I hope I’ll see you around Miranda Priestly.”

She skipped down the stone steps turning as her sneakers hit the sidewalk and caught one last glance of Miranda who was watching her.

Andy grinned and began her jog back home, trying to retain the joy in her heart before her doubt could replace it. At least she now knew who the woman was that had somehow seeped into her veins and ran amok in her head.

Maybe Miranda would book her again. Maybe she would be waiting on that same bench next Sunday hoping she would jog by. Maybe she would message her later thanking her again for her help with Caroline, so Andy could offer to take her dinner and ask her all about the art exhibition.

There were a lot of ‘maybes’ that swam through her mind on her way back through the park, but if there was one thing Andy Sachs tried to live on, it was hope.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

 

Spring in New York could mean many things. Left over flurries of snow, winds that could tear through avenues and rip down alleyways, along with unexpected heatwaves and torrential rain. But it also brought with it the need for growth and renewal.

It always made Miranda uneasy; an unsettling desire to re-evaluate everything around her. The need would creep up on her as winter melted away, despite trying to bask in its icy thrall and cling to the vestiges of cool hard clarity.

Spring brought warmth and with it rebirth. She had decided years ago, before her twins were born, that when it arrived, she would change her moniker from ice queen to dragon lady and burn away the frost with fire, as she seemed unable to shake free of the strange hold the seasonal change had over her.

And so it began, as her nails tapped against the armrests of her chair, the skyline laid out in front of her from her floor to ceiling windows, like a magazine spread waiting for her approval.

But this year was different.

She swallowed the cotton in her throat, her mouth dry as she pursed her lips and tried to draw her thoughts away from the brunette that had crawled inside her bloodstream like a virus.

Miranda Priestly did not do distractions, neither did she do twenty-something year old women.

She huffed and rolled back in her chair, her hand pressing the intercom button.

“Emily.” She said, quietly, her tone low and commanding.

She heard the door click open behind her, but she did not turn, merely leaned back to push a business card across the glass table in her assistant’s general direction.

“Find out who Andy Sachs is. She says she’s a writer. That’s all.”

“Yes of course Miranda. I’ll do it right away.”

She heard a scurry of heels and her door swinging closed once again with a satisfying sound.

She sighed, running her finger along her necklace as she stared at the skyscrapers glimmering in the sunshine, as the city toiled its way to greatness just as Elias-Clarke had done, with her magazine leading the way for the rest of them to follow.

Miranda’s mind switched back to Andrea as it was apt to do since that night, but after seeing her that day in the park, it had become almost obsessional and seemed to show no signs of easing up. Her mind was as full at home; home with mentions of Andy by her daughters, who seemed just as fixated on the brunette as she was, for entirely different reasons. They had referred to her as ‘cool’, remarking on how strong she was and had pondered what ice cream flavour was her favourite and if she enjoyed watching Disney movies and if so, what princess she would be.

Andrea had had no idea who Caroline and Cassidy were, and yet she had bonded with them better than their own father. And as for feckless Stephen, well, he’d simply never bothered to try.

When the following Sunday had rolled round and both twins had begged and pleaded with her to see if Andy could meet them in the park, she had almost given in; the look in their eyes that could make her do anything, give anything.

Almost.

And so they had remained home, Caroline sulking with a book refusing to speak and Cassidy choosing a particularly loud dance game for her console, probably knowing that the constant thudding of her feet would drive Miranda insane. It certainly had.

Her house, her home was now being occupied by the ghost of a woman she barely knew and yet there she was, firmly in residence. It was displayed on the scowl on Caroline’s face, the frantic steps of Cassidy’s dancing and the ache in her own body for Andrea’s touch.

When Andrea had asked if she was ready for home that day in the park, with one of her children wrapped around her, the other staring up at her in awe, Miranda had felt immobilised by the scene that had presented itself to her. They had looked like a family. A modern family, yes, but the ease in which it had seemed to happen had shook her more than anything had before it. Caroline, her usually quiet and more reserved child, had opened up like a flower and had blossomed under the affectionate glow and care of the young woman.

Wasn’t that what she’d strived for all those years ago when she’d had her children? Hadn’t she wanted that companion, that steadfast person by her side to complete the picture? And look who she had chosen. A man who had tired of her the moment she’d fallen pregnant, and another she’d selected for show; the picture postcard of the perfect American family. Both so laughable when she thought about it. And all for what? Denial. A forced down suppressed and clinically miserable version of who she had dreamed of becoming.

Sentiment and emotion crawled up her throat like a monstrous abomination; a pool of warmth starting to settle in her stomach, growing deeper drop by drop whenever she thought of Andrea.

No, this wouldn’t do at all. She would have to call the agency again.

A sound between a sob and a laugh broke free, cutting through the silence of her office and threatening to knock on the glass before her and crack it in two, splintering and fracturing for the world to see.

The fact was she had already called them. Twice in fact, each time selecting a woman who was decidedly not Andrea in every way that mattered. Failure. Yet again she had wasted her time and her money and had been left with a simmering rage that had taken days to temper. Even Nigel had avoided her like the plague, as everyone allowed into her lair during the week that followed, had left with their egos dashed and their hope crushed under the toes of her Prada heels.

That was before the incident in the park that had seen the doe eyed beauty standing in her home no less, making her children giggle and smile. Making her own heart tremble at the sound of it.

No. She would have to call them again and this time go through with it long enough to feel the touch of a woman’s skin against her own. Long enough to erase the need for it to be Andrea.

Andrea. Even her name sounded like a sigh of adulation. She had cried it into the darkness of her bedroom more times than she could recall, always waking in the night to find her thighs still sticky from her release and her sheets too cold for comfort.

She still remembered the brushes of contact they had had, her hand, her cheek, the inside of her knee with fingers stretching up her thigh.

There had been no preamble. Andrea had just gotten on with it. Fearless in her pursuit to touch her even in a small way, and Miranda’s skin burned with the memory of it.

Miranda winced, a sharp pain lancing through her chest. She clasped a hand over her heart and tried to control her breathing as her ears filled with the sound of her pulse thrumming in her neck as if it might break through the surface. She thought her ribs might crack open at the feel of her organs working, hyper aware that she was heading for a panic attack.

She dropped her head low and pressed her forehead to the tops of her knees, clutching her legs with her hands. Eyes squeezed shut, she started to count backwards from one hundred trying to focus on each number and not let her mind wander. She was concerned her phone might ring, or one of her hapless assistants would knock on the door and see her in a state of distress.

No. No. This would absolutely not do at all.

Inhaling through her nose sharply she sat back up and rolled her neck, the wave of dizziness hitting her as she grabbed the armrests and held firm, exhaling long and slow before calmly breathing in again until her lungs seemed to burn.

The white sparks behind her eyes started to give way and thoughts of the afternoon shoot replaced them, as she mentally sorted through racks of clothing that she had already selected for it.

This was what Miranda did. This was who Miranda was. She had no time for pretty brunette girls half her age with kind eyes and soft confident hands.

No.

Emily would find out who she was and then that would be an end to it all. It was simply for the best and Miranda only ever entertained the best.

If her heart continued to ache for something she didn’t have a name for, then she would simply ignore it completely.

**********************************************************************************

By the end of the same week Miranda had not managed to ignore anything at all. In fact she had spiralled further, called the agency and spent an hour with a woman over a meal in her suite. She’d watched the undeniably attractive blonde discuss the merits and virtues of organic food whilst she had tried not to stare at the piece of spinach that had wedged itself between two of her front teeth.

She hadn’t let her stay for dessert, dismissing the girl and thanking her for a ‘memorable meal.’

Emily had of course been successful in her quest to uncover more information about Andrea ‘Andy’ Sachs, discovering a degree from Northwestern in English Literature, along with several freelance articles she had published over the past few years as well as an almost abandoned Facebook profile that stated she was born in Avon, Connecticut, her religious views and sexual preference had been left blank.

Emily had made contact with her publisher, however. Her first novel that had garnered a lot of attention and had won accolades across the pond also, topping The Times best sellers list for several weeks.

Miranda had bought a copy of course, ordering it herself like a dirty little secret and had read it before bed each night, finding the thriller itself very tense and arguably well written; its main character a rather reckless detective in her late twenties who seemed to place herself in harm’s way more often than not. Yet there was a charm about her in the pages that reminded Miranda of the author. A plucky confidence and intelligence that flowed through the story and kept her attention more than most books she had read in the past year.

But it had grated on her too.

Clearly Andrea was a capable writer. Emily had mentioned that two more books had already been commissioned and the publisher had been more than happy to disclose this information, once her assistant had informed her of who she worked for.

‘So why do anything else? Why escort at all now her future seemed certain in print?’ She mused in annoyance.

It was bothering her greatly, causing lapses in concentration that Nigel had started noticing much to her chagrin. He’d enquired if she’d been feeling well, had asked after the twins and if anything was troubling her. She’d gracelessly dismissed him, knowing she had smarted his ego as he’d disappeared from the conference room, taking the layouts with him.

No. It needed to stop. All of it and quickly, she realised with a deep sigh, her knuckle glancing over her bottom lip.

‘But how?’

The following week she’d relented and booked Andrea for the Friday evening. The girls were having a sleepover at a friend’s house, so it was the perfect excuse to indulge.

‘Indulge.’ What a notion she thought, as she once again stood in the centre of the suite watching the moonlight fall over the city, dressed in a forest green Oscar de la Renta dress, the hemline ending just below the knee. Would she? Could she even bring herself to do that, even once? It was madness to assume that this…dalliance would help her put aside these feelings of clawing desperation.

They had always been there of course, hidden beneath the veil of her well-constructed life. She was the mistress of her own lies and she had woven them so carefully there was never a thread left to pull on. Nothing that could unravel what she had so carefully crafted.

But loneliness was a far greater foe than she had thought and with it had come the painful realisation that she needed a connection greater than that of her beloved children or magazine.

And then came Andrea.

She took a sip of champagne and marvelled at how nervous she felt. Miranda Priestly didn’t do nervousness. It was an emotion she incited in others. But that was what it was. Pure and simple. She could feel it welling up in her stomach like a pit of snakes, hissing and spitting and biting inside of her.

Miranda had experienced a fraction of it when she had decided to show up at Hauser & Wirth and see what Andrea’s view on art was really like. Of course she had told herself it was simply a wilful act of taking control; of spending her time away from the office.

It was decent advice that Andrea had provided, and if her psychologist had suggested it, she may very well have relented and scheduled some free time to explore something different. But then she had fired her last therapist for believing that she needed to try harder at listening to what her body desired; having the gall to suggest she be more receptive to dating.

The gallery had been a refreshing experience; the girl at the reception very knowledgeable about the exhibits as she’d handed her a brochure and pointed her in the direction of the Zhang Enli collection.

She couldn’t recall if the woman, Lily, as her name badge had indicated, was the friend Andrea had mentioned or not, but she had been courteous and given no cause for her to feel as though her attendance was a bad idea.

The truth of the matter of course, which Miranda had only admitted to herself during the early hours of that night, after several glasses of wine and an orgasm that had her biting the back of her hand, was that she had hoped Andrea would have somehow been there. That she’d have appeared from behind a white-washed wall, brochure in hand as she too explored the art on display.

She’d wanted it so badly, nervous disappointment crushing her as she’d finally swept from the gallery and onto the street, before dipping her head and getting into her town car and returning to her office.

And now here she was waiting for that knock on the door that would inevitably mean seeing her again.

Miranda finished her glass and poured a second one, her hands shaking a little as she did so, the fizz rising to the top so fast it almost frothed over the sides.

What would Andrea make of her decision to book her again? She would no doubt be aware of the previous ones, as she had been originally.

She grimaced, thinking of Andrea’s face and how she would react; if she’d tease her or judge her or not bring it up at all. Should she do so? Cut her off at the pass and make the first strike?

She rolled her eyes and walked back to the window staring through her reflection to the lights of the city and the world of judgement that resided in it.

And it would judge her, as it always had.

She’d not been fortunate enough to swerve its petty jealousies and scathing commentaries. What would it make of an almost fifty-year old mother of two creeping out of the couture closet? It was laughable.

She sneered and huffed, the sound of light rapping on the door jolting her out of her thoughts and back into the moment; the visceral reality of the here and now.

Placing her glass down, she walked slowly to the door, her palms running down her dress to ensure it hung perfectly on her delicate frame, pleased she had opted for an extra inch on her heels.

Her hand reached the handle and her fingers seemed to lock up, her arm shaking. With a long sigh and a sharp intake of breath she pressed down and pulled the door open.

Andrea was a vision yet again, her long chestnut hair cascading down her back in a low wave ponytail. She was dressed in a biscuit-coloured Burberry trench coat, suit trousers and black suede Stuart Weitzman heels. Five inches by Miranda’s reckoning.

“Miranda.” Andrea said, the sound of her name like a breath of air whispered on the breeze.

Miranda’s pulse quickened. She nodded once and stepped aside to let her enter the suite.

Door locked and chain in place, she watched as Andrea removed her coat, draping it over a chair just as she had done the first time. It was only then that Miranda got the full picture of Andrea’s attire. An Alexander McQueen plaid trouser suit; the warm charcoal greys and subtle walnut tones threaded into the fabric that made her want to trace every line and crisscross. But it was the top section of the suit that really drew her eye. Andrea had chosen to forgo a jacket or indeed a shirt; the matching waistcoat fitting snugly to her curves and bosom, her toned arms on display, all muscle and sinew as she stood proudly facing her.

Miranda licked her lips subconsciously, her eyes trailing along Andrea’s torso as she admired both the suit and the woman that was wearing it so deliciously.

It was only when Andrea’s soft chuckle reached her ears that she snapped out of her gaze and met chocolate brown eyes filled with darkening mirth.

“Would you mind if I poured myself a glass?” Andrea asked, her thumb pointing towards the bottle of champagne on ice.

She shook her head and basked in the warmth of the girl’s smile for the briefest of moments before her attention was turned to the drink and the empty cut crystal glass on the table.

Andrea poured her own before proceeding to top up Miranda’s, striding towards her and holding it out for her to take. She wordlessly did so, immediately having a sip, finding it didn’t remove the dryness in her mouth as she met Andrea’s eyes, momentarily losing herself in them as her brain seemed to slow to minimal function.

She felt a gentle tug on her left hand; fingers threading through her own before she was being guided away from the door towards the bed. She allowed it, her body completely under the control of the brunette as her senses became alight with heat, tingling through every cell.

They stood together beside it, and Andrea took a sip of champagne. Miranda mirrored her, their gaze unfaltering before the glass was removed from her hand and they were set down on the bedside table next to one other.

The room was dimmed, the lights from the city and their reflections painted on the glass windows that led out onto the balcony.

Andrea reached for her hand again as they sat down on the edge of the bed, seeming to angle her body to face Miranda’s side, her knee and lower leg on the covers, that she could feel against her thigh.

She swallowed hard, her throat as arid as her mouth as she stared at them both in the window, watching Andrea looking at her, her hand on top of her own on her dress covered knee.

She knew she was breathing too quickly. She could see it; could see the rise and fall of her chest and the laboured heave of her rib cage as her lungs worked overtime. The effect the girl was having on her was ludicrous. She felt lightheaded; queasy, as if she might be sick at any moment, yet her stomach wasn’t churning. It was the heat below it that fluttered and burned.

Miranda felt that damnable hand glide along the length of her thigh and she trembled with want. How dare this brazen girl cause such detestable feelings in her.

She felt her heart squeeze in her chest as she thought it, knowing it was a lie. Knowing that she had never felt such a rush of sensation as she did when Andrea looked at her. When she touched her. And it made her question everything.

“I’m glad you finally called, although I’d hoped it would have been under different circumstances.”

Miranda’s eyes flicked up and met Andrea’s in the window. Somehow the reflection was easier; a disembodiment of what was happening. It made her feel safer, stronger; more like herself and the woman the world knew her to be.

She jutted her chin and raised an eyebrow. “And what pray tell were you hoping for?” She asked, already knowing the answer.

“That you’d call my cell. That we could meet without all this…this staging.”

“That’s rather presumptuous of you.”

“Maybe, but regardless of what I’ve wished for, I’m glad I’m somewhere with you.”

Miranda’s mind reeled. This was the Andrea from the park. From her house, with her children. A softer less assertive version, her vulnerability on display for her to take and trample and ruin.

There was a part of her that wanted to desperately do just that, for daring to presume and to touch her with such confident care.

“Although I’m also surprised you bothered to hire other women again.”

And there was the woman from their first encounter, hot on her own tails and clearly comfortable in pressing home her thoughts, as the girl’s hand purposefully stroked her leg.

“Are you?” Miranda managed to state, before the need to moisten her lips became unbearable.

“We have a connection, so whatever it is you wish to explore, or that keeps you rebooking the service, I’m certain I can fulfil it for you.”

“You’re abhorrently arrogant.”

“Am I? I’d prefer to call it ingrained cockiness.” Andrea answered, with a laugh that tickled the inside of Miranda’s ears. “Women usually find that very attractive.”

“Do they now.” She stated, phrasing it without question.

“In my experience, yes. It makes them know they’re safe with me. That I can be whomever they desire.”

“And tell me, Andrea, what do I desire?” She replied, meeting Andrea’s actual eyes and watching every nuance pass across those youthful features, looking for anything that might repulse her; release her from this grip she was under.

“Many things I imagine.” A genuine smile on her plump lips and those damnable fingers still teasing dizzying circles on her dress clad thigh. “There are the big ones of course. The safety and happiness of your children primarily. The success of your magazine. To the outside world I imagine it must look like you have it all. After all, the papers love to tear apart strong women, especially those who succeed without riding the coattails of a man. Your image is very important to you, so you have in turn neglected, and I suspect, have buried your true self.”

“My true self?”

“Yes.” Andrea nodded, her soft brown eyes seeming to warm the ice in her own. “That part of you that wants things you’ve told yourself you cannot have. Shouldn’t want or need. That’s why you’re using this service. It’s safe. It’s built its mighty reputation on the ability to keep secrets. You crave the touch of a woman, but are afraid to ask for it. That’s what you desire Miranda.”

“I’m afraid of nothing.” She replied a little too quickly for it to be truthful, and they both knew it.

She swept her gaze back towards the patio glass, unable to do anything but cast it over Andrea’s profile, touched by how gently she was appraising her.

Before Andrea could challenge her statement, Miranda found her mouth opening; words tumbling free.

“So, you know who I am then?” She bit coolly, her fingers threading through her necklace as Andrea’s became bolder on her thigh.

“Only who the internet thinks you are. I imagine there’s a difference.”

“Page six might disagree.”

“Page six can go fuck themselves Miranda. They don’t know you. They have no right to you, or to…to print things that hurtful.”

Miranda gazed longingly at the girl’s reflection; watched the anger dance across hardened features that matched the vitriol in her voice.

And then there was a hand beneath her own. She’d reached for Andrea’s and pulled it into her lap, lacing their fingers together as she clung tightly to it.

She was soft. Softer than she should be. Softer than she had any right to be, and Miranda’s heart was racing.

She could have cried when other digits dragged languidly up her spine before cupping the back of her neck, teasing the hairs at the nape of it with light scratches that had her biting her lip to trap the keening sound inside her mouth.

She prided herself on being a woman of power; always in control, never wavering and certainly not someone who could be so easily seduced.

Is that what this was? Just a beautiful fantasy, one not too dissimilar to the kinds she’d had throughout her adult years. She had become untouchable over the arc of time, but here, now, there seemed to be no boundaries. No fear or hesitation at all as she succumbed to a woman who touched her without asking.

“My god, you’re so beautiful.”

Andrea’s words were like silk next to her ear, as wicked fingers continued to play with her senses and bedazzle her mind.

Her eyes fluttered shut and she listened to the girl’s breathing and basked in the warmth of it as it glanced across her cheek. She recalled those words being uttered the first night they had met, but this time Miranda’s heart seemed to want to believe them as it pounded wildly within its boned prison. But her mind, well, that was a different organ altogether.

“I’m sure you don’t need to tell me that.” She countered.

“It’s the truth. You are magnificent.”

Miranda snorted, a little alarmed at the sudden noise that tore past her lips.

She released Andrea’s hand and threaded her own fingers together instead, squeezing them tightly as she stared back out into the darkness.

“I’m old. Tired; double your age and bearing every mark of every year, as well as childbirth.”

“I’m aware of your age and your daughters are two wonderful little girls who bring light and a little mischief to your world. Those marks are ones to be proud of.”

“I have the scar to show for them.”

“Your battle wound. Your victory and your two rewards.” Andrea said, her nose nuzzling against the top of her jawline.

Miranda felt her thighs slicken, even as her bitterness clamoured up the ribbed ladder in her chest and joined forces with her disbelief.

“You know nothing of it. How could you, one so young and naive.” She practically spat as she wrenched herself away completely and came to stand by the glass, her eyes looking through herself to the shining lights of Manhattan as her breathing stung her throat and nose.

There was a deathly silence as her eyes focused though the reflections of the room to the city outside; it’s never sleeping energy glowing out at her, glaring and daring her to surrender.

‘No one would know.’  

The whisper in her mind curled into every corner like smoke filling a room on fire. All she could do was watch it burn inside her, flames licking up the walls and singeing her sanity.

“I’m young but I’m not naive.”

Andrea’s voice finally rang in her ears, the bite of ire so very prevalent and yet it did nothing to dismiss or discourage her self doubts.

She chewed her lip, a habit she had long abandoned in favour of rubbing her knuckle against it instead, rather than creating little knots of skin that begged to be peeled back by insistent teeth.

The glass felt cool against her hands, and she pressed against it, needing to ground herself, as she closed her eyes and counted to twenty, making sure to inhale and exhale properly to keep her heart rate under control. If the girl did not speak by the time she was through, she would cast her out for failing the test.

Test?’

The word didn’t feel right. It didn’t sit well in her mouth as she almost said it aloud, and yet there was nothing else she could think of to switch it for. She needed Andrea to know. Needed her to get inside her head and do what was necessary.

Miranda shuddered at the thought. She was not easy to know at the best of times let alone to a relatively unknown entity. She was expecting too much, but when had that ever stopped the great La Priestly demanding it anyway?

“I’m not going anywhere.” Andrea stated calmly, breaking through the silence.

She sucked in a breath too sharply; number sixteen of her inhalations burning her nostrils as she did so.

Her pulse beat a little quicker in her ears as she tried not to acknowledge the relief she felt at hearing Andrea’s voice. But despite that, she couldn’t keep the bile from the back of her throat.

“Sadly not.”

Her heart clenched and she winced at the feel of it crying inside her chest for the girl who dared.

“Sadly? Hmm. Something tells me you don’t really mean that. You order people around for a living. If you wanted me gone, you’d have instructed me to leave.”

‘Clever thing.’

She bit a little harder on her lip and opened her eyes, her pupils finding Andy’s reflection again, noticing the pull of a smirk tugging at the corners of her lips.

“Don’t you have all the answers tonight.” She stated coolly, feeling a twinge of guilt at her own admonishment.

“No, but I do know what I’m thinking.” Andrea replied with a voice laced with desire.

Miranda’s sex pulsed as her veins started to pump faster; her blood molten and heating her from the inside.

“Oh? And what might that be?” She managed to reply, her fingers sliding a little on the glass as her focus faltered.

She watched with rapt attention, wantonly scanning Andrea’s body, as she rose from the bed and stepped into the space behind her.

Their eyes met more fiercely now, and even in the mirrored version, Andrea’s stare was electrifying. It penetrated Miranda’s brain, starting to fry her synapses. It was nerve-racking, exhilarating and she was completely caught off centre by it.

“All I can think about is touching you Miranda.” Andrea sighed, almost breathlessly. “I think about it all the time.”

Miranda felt her knees tremble and her hands seemed to suction themselves to the window in a bid to stay upright, and not fall into the arms of the young woman behind her.

Her words. Those words. Honest. Without prejudice. Just truth and blind faith that speaking them aloud would be enough.

And it had been. She felt the knots start to slip; the threads and strands of her own well-crafted self, fraying and unravelling. The tether to herself; to the knowledge of who she was, was coming undone.

Drifting. Falling. Swaying precariously on the edge of ruin.

When had everything she’d ever worked for stopped being enough? When had success, money and fame finished eating her alive and left this husk behind; empty and miserable? She could no longer unsee the lonely woman that stared back at her; a reflection of the truth she had buried, hoping she could be sated again by the next gala or record selling issue. But the cold blue eyes staring back at her as Andrea’s mouth dragged against her neck with long, languid strokes, could no longer contain her need.

She groaned, the sound deep and rich; a sound that had only previously been freed in the privacy of her own bedroom. It was positively sinful.

“Fuck you smell so good.” Andy growled, flicking her tongue out to taste her throbbing pulse.

Gently so gently, Miranda thought she might fracture losing splinters of herself she may never get back, as her skin was licked and tasted.

The girl’s scent was making her want like never before, and she breathed in every winding tendril of it, letting it slide into her lungs and take root there.

She wanted to speak. Wanted to admit the same; that her perfume was her new favourite scent, one that she knew she would locate and spray on her pillows that would create havoc with her libido as well as her sensibilities.

“Miranda.” Andrea husked, taking her right earlobe between her lips and sucking it.

A moan slid from her treacherous throat, and she clamped her mouth shut trying not to listen to Andrea’s erratic breathing; her mind desperately attempting to not misread this; to not think of it as more than a transaction.

‘But it is.’

She shook her head, the movement causing her ear to be released with a plop before firm, yet soft kisses, descended her neck and the side of her jaw as her head lolled backwards.

“So in control, always thinking, always studying, always trying to figure out the answers. It must be exhausting to be what people expect of you. To put on that facade all the time and wear it without shame. You must be desperate to just…let it all go."

Miranda’s lip curled upwards, her ire prickling to the surface at how distasteful Andrea’s analysis sounded, and the absolute impudence to say it to her face. She had abandoned acquaintances for less, fired staff who had dared to give her even a hint of an opinion, but as Andrea’s hardened nipples pressed against her back, it seemed she didn’t care enough to refute it, let alone stop their…interaction.

“I’m betting you’ve never given your body up to a woman before either.”

“I…I…”

“No. That wasn’t a question.”

Miranda’s mind spun as she heard the words she had delivered acerbically more times than she could recall, breathed against her neck, before teeth nipped at the pale skin that had been bitten before, tugging slightly, almost reverently now as if Andrea knew not to mark her in a place it could be seen.

But oh, how she wanted to be, if the wetness in her underwear was anything to go by. The thought of being claimed and branded by the goddess pressed behind her was definitely something she craved, imagining crossing her legs at her desk, thighs bruised and deliciously sore.

“You like control. You need it. You live and breathe it. It’s what makes you exceptional in the world. But you’re not in the world when you’re here with me.”

Andrea’s fingers grasped the hem of her dress and started to peel it upwards, her knuckles dragging against her stockings.

“You’re a perfectionist. You like order and control. Everything in its place, in order for it to make sense to you.” Andrea said, with a smile against her skin, that told Miranda she knew she was right.

She felt rankled, but also terribly aroused by how accurate this perceptive creature was; the dichotomy of that was not lost on her as her body reacted unbidden, without question, seemingly only listening to one Andrea Sachs for permission.

“Life isn’t like that.” Andrea continued, her hands touching her more intensely. “It’s messy and chaotic, unwaveringly unapologetic about it. And what you need more than anything, is to embrace it.”

“I…I do, do I?” Miranda managed to reply; barely recognising the sound of her own voice.

“If your desire to feel wanton pleasure is the thing driving you to keep returning to this suite, then yes.”

She felt feral; her lips rolling backwards as she bared her teeth like an animal, as Andrea scraped the corded muscle of her neck with her teeth; her hot breath and voice caressing her heated skin. She wanted to be greedy, to take everything she could; take the kindness and words that seemed to be heartfelt, but she’d never been shown that tenderness in a partner, not that she’d wanted it.

Miranda strained and struggled against her own defences, too guarded and proud, too independently righteous to succumb to the doe eyed goddess asking her to. She had never had an issue with self-control. She was the master of it.

Until now.

Until Andrea.

She understood she was a capricious creature, but the introduction of Andrea’s fingers to her skin had her burning with a hot rage, as well as a wave of scorching arousal searing through her veins. Her mind and body reeled with them both, all fire and fury.

Did she want to be possessed? To be taken?

Hands insistent and strong, were still teasing the sides of her thighs; thumbs stroking unrelentingly as her dress rose a little higher and higher.

Miranda pushed herself backwards, pressing her backside against Andrea’s crotch with a slow roll of her hips, almost subconsciously in response.

“Ah, ah, ah.” Andrea chided. “You don’t get to take what you want without telling me what you need.” Miranda felt the tender kiss to her nape; the soft grey hairs there seeming to stand to attention. “Those are the rules.”

She clenched with want, the emptiness between her thighs desperate to be filled. To be fucked.

The threads were tearing free, ripping away from one another as her seams were fraying, unravelling, beneath Andrea’s hot mouth and capable fingers.

Her mouth opened, the need to inhale a deeper intake of air now desperate. She panted, legs trembling, her hands balled into fists against the window; the numbness in them almost pleasurable as prickles of white light started to dance behind her eyelids.

“Tell me what you need Miranda.”

Andrea’s words were direct, authoritative; a tone that Miranda recognised all to well. She had always admired, even been attracted to strong women who knew their own minds and chased down every opportunity and took it for themselves without reserve or regret. And in those hours of the night, after she’d edited the book and had retired to her bed, she always submitted to the woman she had imagined for years. Dark and mysterious. Lean and toned. Assured and unapologetic. A woman who would have Miranda begging and gasping to cum.

“I…I…ne…I” She replied, stammering into the thin sliver of air between them, Andrea’s mouth so close to her own as it laved under her jaw towards her chin.

Miranda’s back arched, offering more of herself, willing the girl to understand her request. Words were her ally, her strength and comfort, and yet here in this moment they were failing her, vanishing like breath in winter.

“My editor is struggling to tell me, hmm?”

The chuckle against her throat tickled, but not enough that Miranda missed the possessive nature of the question, or the fresh flood of arousal that pooled in her core as her legs floundered; twitching and trembling as she locked her knees to remain upright.

Fingers grasped her dress more firmly, starting to hike it up, inching it to the top of her stockings and the clips holding them in place. She wondered if the girl liked what was being exposed to her; admired the creamy pallor of her skin and the natural tone of her thighs, or if she would be disappointed by the passage of time and the lack of a youthful glow.

“Andrea.” She sighed; her name flowing past her parted lips like a prayer of devotion. The only word she felt equipped to say. The only one that felt like it mattered.

“Maybe I already know. Maybe I should put you out of your misery. Tell you what you need instead, if you’ve lost your voice.”

Miranda mewled, trying to trap the sound of it in her mouth, but failing; the echo of it rumbling free.

She could feel the heat rise in her cheeks, a blush no doubt evident on her pale skin, but she refused to open her eyes and look; to be a witness to her own landslide and libido as she hurtled towards the inevitable.

“With me you’re not the mother, the icon, the fashionista, the Devil in Prada.” Andrea continued, licking a slow path back towards her ear. “With me you’re just Miranda. And right now you’re mine, aren’t you, every delicious last inch of you.”

Andrea took her lobe in her mouth again and sucked it lightly, her warm breath filtering in her ear, sending a shot of lust straight to her core.

“Mmmm.” She managed to reply, the sound of affirmation warring at the base of her skull with her logic.

‘It’s a transaction. It’s not real. Don’t…don’t fall. Just take. Use. Sate.’  

Again she shook her head, trying to clear the thoughts as neatly as she could as her synapses continued to fire red hot.

She was losing herself bit by bit, watching as she drifted out to sea alone and unprotected. This would destroy it. It would ruin everything.

Then thumbs brushed the supple skin above her stockings and her thoughts were now the ones left in open waters for the sharks to feast upon.

“Everyone always bends to your will, don’t they Miranda? Pandering to your every whim, and fawning all over you to get your attention. I won’t give you that. Do you want to know why?”

“W…why?” Miranda breathed, her body trembling with ethereal bliss as she tried to push her doubts away

Andrea's hands fisted the fabric of her dress roughly, bunching it up around her waist. She wondered if she had temporarily lost the ability to breathe, as her lungs suddenly sucked in desperate mouthfuls of air.

She could feel the cooler temperature of the room hit the sodden heat of her underwear; the black lace offering little protection against the elements and the seduction she was experiencing.

“Because I will give you something you’ve never had before but have always craved. Something you’ve never spoken of, yet it lives in the darkest recesses of your mind begging to be set free from the manacles you have shackled to it.”

“What…what is it?”

She knew the answer. Her blood burned with the truth of it. She could feel the thing inside her unfurl, setting itself free and howling in her head till it was all she could hear thundering in her ears.

Andrea's hands slid back to her thighs, fingers pulling them apart as she pulsed and trembled beneath her touch.

She parted herself willingly as digits laced through her suspenders, thumbs maddeningly close to where she needed them the most as her hips canted to their own rhythm.

“I’m going to take your control away.” Andrea whispered hotly in her ear, as she stroked the crease between Miranda’s torso and legs.

Miranda keened, her fingers scrambling against the glass as her body felt the full effect of the girl’s words spoken to her like a secret truth.

‘How did she know? How could she know?’ Her mind screamed, as her heart pumped more quickly.

“You might have thought you’d relinquished it before, but you haven’t, have you Miranda? First was for duty, the performance of a lifetime I’d imagine, to play the part and get your beautiful twins. The next, well…something tells me you never allowed him close enough to try.”

And it was true of course. All of it. But Andrea had no reason to know it was. Page six had alluded to it of course and thanks to Stephen, her Ice Maiden moniker was now also linked to her frigidity.

‘Cold hearted in the boardroom and the bedroom. Will the next Mr Priestly fare any better? We doubt it. We pity the fool who’d try.’

She opened her eyes, squinting for a moment as she adjusted to the dim lighting; the memorised words lancing her chest as sharp as a blade, leaving her raw and exposed. The headline had stayed with her, had crawled onto her skin and stayed there, emblazoned like a tattoo; indelible and permanent. Nothing and no one had been able to remove it, and whilst every insult she had weathered over the years had become a badge of honour to build her armour and line her fortress, that one had created a chink; her own fingers picking and clawing at it until it had a gaping maw had formed.

Miranda tried to focus, tried valiantly to shut herself back down, but she was already too far gone. It was close. She was close. And Andrea hadn’t even touched her there.

Her eyes lazily appraised the brunette’s reflection as her attention seemed fixed on what her hands were doing, but it only made her feel hotter. Closer.

And then it was too late. Brown eyes flicked up and met her gaze. Heavy and dilated. Full of fire and passion, as if they wanted to tear her apart and devour every last piece of her.

And oh, how she’d let her, her body screamed, pushing back against Andrea’s crotch and eliciting a groan of her own.

“But…but they never saw you. Never got this privilege.” Andrea pressed on, albeit more openly affected, Miranda noted; pleasure untangling in her stomach at the fact. “And my god what a privilege it is to have you like this. To see just a glimpse of what you are.”

And here, now, it was Andrea’s fingers in that chink; that open maw. She was working inside it, and Miranda could feel her reaching deep within, sliding into the pulp and tissue, digits bloody but decisive as they filled her. As they made her begin to feel anything but icy and cold.

But she wasn’t in there to make the wound wider; to hurt her further. There was no malice. No ripping or tearing. No pain to speak of, only a need to be inside her figuratively.

No. No. The girl was seeing everything. Feeling…everything. Filling and taking and healing and…

Miranda shivered, goosebumps erupting along her exposed skin, her thighs feeling the brunt of it as Andrea’s grip tightened almost imperceptibly as eager fingertips stroked and teased.

“Give in to me. Let go and let me give you something you need. Something you crave. Something that you ache for.”

“Oh god.” She panted; their gaze unwavering.

She should have looked away. Should have shut her eyes and let herself be taken to that place that only her own hand had managed to take her to. But she was powerless under the watchful, lustful eye of this creature who had stalked into her life and simply would not leave.

Her hips were rocking uncontrollably, guided by the hands that held her open, thumbs rubbing against the hem of her La Perla’s as she tried to ease them against her fully.

“It’s futile to resist. You don’t even want to. You want to open up to me like the good girl I know you are.”

It shouldn’t have worked, she thought, shaking her head in disbelief at the flood of arousal that soaked her panties at the uttered words, groaning despite herself, her core sending a wave up through her stomach and out into her chest, cresting in her throat with an audible moan.

She had never been a vocal person, preferring to keep her sighs to an absolute minimum, even restraining herself during her own solo activities. Her husband had called her frigid as she had lain on her back and waited for it to end and Stephen had never been given the chance to find out. Miranda had never imagined she would find words murmured against her skin like a lover’s caress as arousing as she did, or that the sound of a voice could have her on the brink of her own damnation.

Her control was slipping, passing through her fingers like melted butter under Andrea’s verbal and physical onslaught and somehow it no longer seemed to matter. Nothing mattered but this moment.

She could feel the arousal leaking out of her as she started to barrel towards her own release at an alarming rate, fear and adrenaline coursing through her blood stream at an unstoppable speed.

“God Miranda.” Andrea purred, fingers clutching and tightening at the apex of her thighs, brown eyes wide and unblinking. Animalistic. Her own darkened to a tempestuous blue, eyelashes fluttering as everything in her body headed south.

Her hips bucked and she heard herself speak, as if she were talking in another room; her ears full of white noise.

“P…please.” She murmured breathlessly into the ether, unrecognisable in her desperation.

“Fuck.” Andrea growled, low and deep; her cheek pressed against her own, her stare unwavering. Hungry. “Cum for me.”

And there it was.

Her climax slammed into her full force. Heat bloomed between her legs as she came, twitching and writhing against the woman pressed to her back, whose fingers were no doubt white from the force she was gripping her with. They would no doubt leave a mark. A mark that already burned and branded her.

Breathing laboured, her chest rising and falling as she took in long deep gasps of air as Andrea’s hands respectfully left their position and eased her dress back into place reverently, before wrapping around her waist in a lovers embrace.

Miranda’s slipped from the glass of the window and instinctively came to rest on top of them and she watched as Andrea dipped her head and peppered kisses along her neck before nuzzling behind her ear affectionately, a contented expression on her young, open features.

The sound in her head started to slip away and she became aware of the weighted silence and the gravity of the moment that was starting to sink rather quickly to the pit of her stomach.

She shivered, goosebumps rising on her flesh as her hands trembled against the ones beneath her own that moved swiftly, palms rubbing and soothing the cooling skin of her arms.

It was intimate. Unfamiliar. Something she had done with her children at the beach or beside the pool as she’d wrapped them up in an oversized towel to get them dry and raise their body temperature.

But this? This was…it was…

“You’re shaking. Let me get you warm.” Andrea said attentively, continuing her ministrations, reaching for her upper arms.

And then it hit Miranda, full force, with a brutality she wasn’t expecting.

This girl had taken something from her. Had taken it without ever truly touching her; without reaching inside her with those maddeningly long fingers and working for it.

No.

She had stolen it. Stolen it from Miranda like a thief in the night.

‘No. You gave it to her. She asked and you gave it to her willingly.’ Her heart chastised her, feeling the organ betraying her at every possible turn.

She felt breathless. Helpless. So far adrift now that she had no means of reaching the shore, her tether severed; her threads tangled and disorderly.

Miranda extricated herself from Andrea’s warm embrace and the dizzying safety it had provided. She grabbed her glass of champagne from the bedside unit and stalked towards the lounge area, perching on the arm of the sofa as she took a few unsteady sips, savouring the bubbles on her tongue and the heady flavour in her mouth.

No. This wouldn’t do at all. No one could see her like this. Especially as she had no point of reference for it. Nothing to fall back on and draw on from a wealth of experience.

No. This needed to end and she…she needed to go.

She squeezed her eyes shut and inhaled through her nose, trapping it inside until it burned before letting it slide between her parted lips.

“Miranda?”

She turned her head and met Andrea’s concerned gaze, noted the vulnerability dancing in it, honest and raw; open and ripe for Miranda to pluck off the vine and trample on. And trample she must.

She stared at her, channelling the ice into her blue orbs until she could see the visible signs of defeat looking back at her; shoulders drooping, happiness slipping away into the cracks that were rapidly forming between them.

Rising from her position she walked past Andrea and deposited her glass on the table before retrieving her coat from the closet beside the bed, aware that the girl was following her movements, but keeping a respectable distance away.

Easing her arms into her tailored Holland Cooper Merino sheared lambswool coat, she wrapped the belt tightly around her middle; her mind already recalling the feel of Andrea’s arms around her instead, and how for a moment frozen in time, she had never felt as safe.

She sneered, shaking her head, using her pointer and middle finger to push her silver forelock back from her face before returning to the lounge and snatching up her handbag, clutching it tightly to her side.

“Miranda.” Andrea repeated, this time without the inflection of a question.

She spun on her heel and steeled her gaze, tilting her chin up in defiance at the girl who dared. The girl that took. The girl that had single handedly claimed parts of her that no other living soul had ever done.

And she waited. She stared down the doe-eyed beauty who moved to stand before her, and whilst outwardly she was certain she was a pillar of indifference, inside was a very different picture indeed as the storms raged and ravaged.

“Don’t go.” Andrea all but whispered. “Please.”

Miranda swallowed thickly, her mouth already dry, guilt and anguish lining her oesophagus as her hand quivered in her pocket.

She held her bag more tightly as if it were an anchor.

“I…I don’t understand what’s happening.”

Again, the unfiltered honesty being levelled at her had her on the backfoot and Miranda took an imbalanced step backwards, swallowing the vapid reply that had almost passed her lips.

“I…I thought…I felt like we were connecting, that you…that you were opening up to me.”

She looked away, rolling her upper lip up into a sneer as she mindlessly searched through her handbag as if it held something of immediate importance. Anything to distract herself from the words and the woman before her.

After several moments of painfully awkward silence, Miranda’s fingers stilled inside the bag and she retrieved them, snapping the clasp shut, hoping that would be an end to things as she turned back towards the door.

Andrea’s hand fell on her shoulder, and she visibly tensed; hackles rising, even as it was swiftly pulled away as quickly as it had landed.

“Miranda please. Please talk to me.”

“There’s nothing I have to say.” She replied, tossing the answer behind her and walking to the door, heeled footsteps close behind her.

As her hand reached the handle, Andrea’s pressed against the wooden structure blocking her retreat. And that was exactly what it was. She was running away. Showing weakness; an emotion she had always despised.

‘But better that than the alternative.’  

“I’m not letting you go until you speak to me.”

She turned the full force of her ire on the girl, her eyes leaving no doubt as to the anger raging inside her head, as her heart and body still reacted to their close proximity, wanting to reclaim and retract her grand exit.

Miranda stood firm.

“You dare to keep me here against my will Andrea?” She spat, looking her up and down with disdain.

“No. I dare you to talk to me. To tell me the truth about…about this.” Andrea answered hotly, gesturing between them and the door.

She gulped down the bile rising up her throat, panic knocking on her chest, the ache of it against every rib.

“I do not have to tell you anything of the kind. This is the transaction that I paid for. It is now terminated, and I wish to leave.”

Andrea huffed, a half snort, half laugh tumbling from her lips in response. “Right. Of course it is. How stupid of me to forget.”

Miranda felt her step away, a wave of nausea flooding her stomach in response.

She flicked the chain free and unlocked the door, her hand unsteady as it gripped the round handle, inertia holding her still as she battled herself once more.

“Miranda.”

Her name whispered behind her, she could almost feel the warm breath of it against her skin, but it was muscle memory, nothing more and yet the sound of it gave her room to pause; to wait.

And then she did feel something. The press of Andrea’s forehead against the nape of her neck that sent an unwanted shiver of arousal down her spine.

“God I…fuck.”

The eloquent and expressive writer at a loss for words, clamouring for sense and reason from a woman who had never explained or understood emotions like the rest of the world. It was laughable really if Miranda had had the desire to rise to such mirth.

“I…I don’t know what to say to make you stay. There’s probably nothing, but…”

Warm hands slid around her middle again and it was all Miranda could do, not to lean back, undo her coat and let herself be drawn back into the room, maybe into the bed that had felt so soft when they had sat on it earlier in the evening.

Instead, she stared at the handle in her tight-fisted grip and bit her lip. Hard.

“…but I need you to know that what happened tonight, to…to have you that way, was…fuck…it wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough, but thank you. Thank you for trusting yourself with me.”

She snorted, the sound arrogant and full of hate even as her mouth trembled, and tears started to brim against her lashes.

Andrea stepped away and Miranda was once again in the shadow of her own self-made misery.

“Well…you have my number Miranda.”

She pulled the door open swiftly, the cool air flooding against her front as the real world with its orange and beige insipid carpet stared back at her; everything looking uglier than it had done before. A little blurry too now.

“Nothing is a lie. Please…if nothing else, remember that.”

Her head nodded once in recognition, as if her heart had taken control of her temporarily, before she walked away; every step heavier than the last against the poor shagpile offering of the corridor, whose elevators seemed too far away.

She listened for the click of the door closing behind her, but it never came, the knowledge of that filling her ears again with an unwanted humming as her limbs started to tingle.

When she finally arrived, she punched the buttons for all three lifts, staring up at the numbers, trying to predict which one would come to her rescue. She fumbled for her phone and sent a message to Roy asking him to meet her with the car before slipping it back into her bag.

The ding brought her focus back and she watched the metal doors slide open to reveal an empty elevator ready for her to step into.

One perfect heel placed inside it, she couldn’t stop her head from turning and casting her eyes back along the corridor to the room she had fled from.

Andrea was watching her, her lithe form propping the door open, her expression not discernible from that distance, but a voice in Miranda’s head told her what it would be showing; the emotions the girl would so openly be displaying for her. It whispered them as clear as day and her heart repeated them with every beat it took, sending heat through her body like wildfire.

Genuine affection. Care. Attraction and…

She ripped her gaze away, letting the elevator doors close behind her, before the first tear fell.