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For Charity

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No one walks away from me. Yes, they certainly leave, but never willingly. The employees flee because I deem them unfit and incapable. Assistants are commanded to vacate. Stephen left just as the husband before him left; I pushed those marriages away because I chose my office over their bed sheets. People leave because I send them away with the icy sting of “that’s all.” Andrea Sachs was no exception.

A piercing sensation below my rib cage awoke me before I could dreamily ask her to come back.

Still unable to determine why someone hasn’t possessed the intelligence to create a bedside friendly coffee machine, I removed the Book from beneath my body, relieving my side of the protruding edge. Runway’s mock-up served as my bedfellow after editing deep into the night. Especially after perusing its contents the previous evening, the idea of discarding it in the trash seemed a significant improvement.

A small pressure curled against my shoulder, and hair brushed my cheek, stirring an odd sense of calm despite impeding my space. A whine sounded in my ear, upset with my commotion.

“Good morning,” I said tiredly, dark brown eyes turning sleepily to greet mine. A kiss quickly finds its way to my check.

“Patricia, we really should more carefully establish which side of the bed is in fact yours.”

A panted breathing answered back.

“If you refuse to cooperate, your banishment from my bedroom can be arranged,” I drawled with the arching of an eyebrow before another sloppy kiss greets my skin. A small smile managed to cross my tired features, and I gently stroked the white-haired animal.

“Now, now, you know I have to work. Perhaps you should do something more intellectually stimulating this afternoon than the typical lounging on the floor.”

I realized the absurdity of talking to one’s dog, but I supposed the emptiness of my household was beginning to take its toll. The girls had spent the past month of their winter vacation with their Bostonian father in an attempt to befriend his newest fiancée (I cannot recall if this was his third or fourth). Even the Ice Queen missed her little princesses.

The sound of coffee brewing seemed to excite Patricia as much as it did myself, but hers was most likely from the expectation of food that follows my first cup every morning. Such was our routine.

Andrea was there in the morning as frequently as my nightly dreams when I perused the morning paper. I subscribed to The New York Mirror roughly four months ago, and her budding success was something I had taken great care in supervising. I enjoyed telling myself it was simply to monitor her work for any articles hat might taint my reputation. However, lying to one’s self was a talent I had perfected long ago.

‘The Philanthropist Philosophy” by Andrea Sachs was a section of the paper that ran twice a week, highlighting the good deeds of celebrities and otherwise well-to-do New York residents. How the young woman attained such high profile interviews in the first place seemed questionable, but I suppose being my assistant had left her various contacts. The truly curious aspect was the fact Andrea did not just applaud the charitable acts of individuals, but she also publically humiliated others, an act that left me quite proud. Good insults take talent and it was that aspect that was most likely giving her such popularity. Just last week she had miraculously acquired an interview with an upcoming musician discussing her work with the LGBT community while simultaneously slamming a Brooklyn lawyer for laundering money through his various charities. The young woman who aspired to noteworthy journalism teeming with political and social importance was nothing better than a celebrity gossip. The Devil inside of me snarled with pleasure. The woman Andrea left behind felt enraged.

“What if I don’t want to live the way you live?”

The dreams had persisted for months now, and I kept my interest very much to myself. After all, what could I possibly want with that ridiculous Andrea Sachs? However, after reading the New York Mirror every morning, after a night of restless slumber, after a day filled with incompetent assistants, my resolve began to fracture like glass. Morning yoga helped. Meditation was an attempt to keep my boiling anger in check. However, it was the only time I, Miranda Priestly, could say it. I could admit it only in the center of this absolute nothingness. In the calm quiet of my conscious, with only my mind’s eye as the witness, I could willingly whisper it.

“I miss Andrea.”

With this admission, I could continue in pleasant, icy coldness for the remainder of the day.

 


 

“You were obviously only born with four senses; you lack taste.”

“Um, I, yes, Miranda.”

Is it really such an unrealistic goal to have staff that isn’t completely incompetent?

“Perhaps we could instead have the Almay shoot on the beach. The tropical hues will look-“

“Or perhaps you can just shoot the cover in Human Resources while you’re looking for your replacement.” Honestly. The beach for a summer line of makeup? My eleven-year-old daughters possess more originality in their manicured pinkies.

Silence punctuated the room and I tried not to smile at how delightful it was to see my staff shivering with awkward fright.

“We could do a futuristic, sci-fi twist,” piped the young man Nigel personally selected as his replacement. “The color pallet contains a lot of neon pigments. We could incorporate the leather line from DYNY, kill two birds with one stone.” I nodded. Once. He sat up a tad straighter, “It would flow nicely with the article on environmentally friendly synthetic materials.”

Hm. “Acceptable,” and a collective sigh filled the room. “Don’t disappoint me.”

At the close of the meeting, as the group herded out, I slowly licked my lips. The hunt wasn’t quite over.

“Samantha. Philippe,” I practically hummed, calmly removing my glasses and setting them on the table.

The two practically quivered before me. Ah, power. My work philosophy always revolved around pushing my staff to the brink of their abilities in order to surpass expectations…but that certainly didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy the process. I dropped the Book on the conference table with a firm “plop.”

“You most likely do not often peruse the dictionary given its limited amounts of pictures and copious big words, but I highly suggest you look up the meaning of “horrendous” before you dare place a proposal as atrocious as this before me ever again. Redo it. That’s all.”

 They left with their tails between their legs. I sighed into the quiet of the conference room. Where was the thrill of the chase anymore? The sound of a book manuscript plopping on a desk still seemed so fresh. The smug smirk of a confident, beautiful woman answering an impossible Harry Potter challenge still lingered in the office.

I miss Andrea.

Days crawled, and the dreams grew worse. Even Patricia no longer enjoyed sharing my bed with my rather fidgeting sleeping habits. So much for the notion of man’s best friend.

After a sleepless night, I had taken to coming to the office early and glancing at the New York Mirror before Emily’s arrival, if not for the peace and quiet, then just for the look on my assistant’s face when she believed she was late. One must enjoy the small things in life.

Jonah DeRouches. The hottest new designer with a passion for starting cancer research foundations. I personally found cancer cliché and unoriginal for a charitable cause, but I suppose lacking a soul, according to Page Six, made me somewhat biased. Either way, Andrea sang his praises before destroying the poor individuals on her naughty list. My mouth practically watered and a small smirk tugged at my lips. I would be aroused by insults with the rich vocabulary of a journalist. Her ferocity was not easy to forget.

“Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Darling, you have no idea.

Admittedly, some aspects of Andrea’s character seemed at least somewhat logical to miss. She had proven her capabilities and I had yet to find an assistant with her level of organization and intelligence. These were perfectly acceptable traits to yearn for in the office.

However, late nights at the office tugged at memories of the cheery brunette bearing gifts of coffee and smiles. Elevators and car rides were empty without the aroma of Andrea’s perfume to gently tease me. My gaze no longer met the safety of chocolate irises during disastrous shoots and meetings. The skin and bones of models lacked the body that could delightfully fill a couture piece. Yes, I missed Andrea for all her wit and humor, but I wasn’t so old not to miss those curves. I certainly wasn’t old and barren enough to resist desiring those delicious curves late at night. And that was the reason I pushed her away, wasn’t it? And yet I still ended up disappointed. I had dared to hope she wouldn’t be pushed away. She was disgusted by what I was.

You want this life, those choices are necessary.

But what if this isn’t what I want?

The echo in my mind made my blood boil. I didn’t realize the crumbling noise was the destruction of the paper article in my hand until it was falling to the floor.

She hadn’t left this life. Why?

Maybe this was her revenge. She would painstakingly point out every person in a position of power and what good doing they produced with it. Then she would rub my face in the socialite scum where I belonged. And yet she hadn’t done the one thing that would truly embarrass me.

Andrea mostly likely had multiple opportunities to put into words the monstrosity of my character. After all, who wouldn’t want to know the dirty secrets of the Dragon whose lair she had escaped unscathed? Why was she still dealing in a life she claimed to want nothing to do with?

I mean, what if I don’t want to live the way you live?

I made it so incredibly easy for her to walk away completely, including the reference to the New York Mirror. And yet here she was.

She can’t leave this life. My life.

The revelation brought a devilish smile that slowly curled onto my countenance. Oh, Andrea, you’re making this far too easy.

“Emily, pick up the piece of paper I just placed on the floor.”

 


 

 

“Now how on earth would such a new, young reporter gain access to New York’s most trending designer?”

Nigel’s eyes casually peered over his glasses to inspect the paper recently tossed on his desk. The brief flicker of his eyebrows was the only indicator I needed to confirm his role, but the seemingly innocent response came as, “I have no idea what you’re talking about. How long have you been reading the New York Mirror?”

“How long have you been chatting with her?”

“I don’t-“

“It seems highly improbable, even given her recent success, that a journalist with a public record of only four months could possibly attain an interview with Jonah DeRouches without a contact,” I said, glancing around the elegantly decorated office.

“Quite odd.” I instantly met his gaze with an icy stare.

“Jonah, half-brother to Edward Sanchez, the well-known photographer for another Elis Clark publication.”

“How peculiar.”

“Edward, your paramour.”

Nigel sighed before picking up the article and perusing the writing before him. A small smirk suddenly appeared on his lips. “And why do you care, exactly? I don’t work for you anymore.”

I felt my lips puckering in displeasure as I crossed my arms. “I don’t approve of such a close acquaintance being a possible informant to the media.”

“Oh my God. You totally like her. You want her.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Right. Ridiculous would be eight assistants in four months. Unfathomable,” said Nigel, voice dripping with sarcasm. Perhaps promoting him to the Editor in chief position of the new Men’s Runway could be reversed. “Just admit it. You want to sex Six.”

A glare. “You like her,” he softly amended.

Our eyes stood in a deadlock. He was certainly trustworthy, and his recent recognition as my technical, occupational equal ensured his honesty as a mutual friend. However, to speak it, to utter the words…

“There is the possibility she might still need something in this life,” I replied slowly, gesturing to the office around us, “If she’s still writing about it. And perhaps there is something here that might need her as well.”

His smile was genuine. “You’re both so stubborn. What are you going to do about it?”

“Well, I was considering a transformation to-,” I began before pausing. A snicker quickly followed, “Nigel, did you just state both of us?”

The momentary look of dread at having revealed Andrea’s hand was absolutely delightful. Really, darling, I expected more of a challenge.

“As I was saying, a change to more philanthropist oriented mindset could be a start, especially if you just confirmed her interest”

“The people she writes about are supposed to be nice,” he said with smirk. My returning glare was almost playful.

“I will simply demonstrate my dedication to charity surpasses that of the pretentious pansies Andrea has already interviewed in a manner that sends her a clear return signal of…interest.”

“’Interest?’ Is that what they’re calling it these days?” Nigel removed his glasses and carefully polished them with a tasteful silk handkerchief that matched the accents of his suit. Hm, acceptable.

“Miranda,” he said, “giving your assistants leftover samples does not count as donating to a cause.” I snorted in answer. Touché.

“I could consider embracing my humility a touch more.”

“You? Humble?”

He at least had the decency to look at the ground and succumb to my

responding glare.

“Who am I to stand in your way?” he says, holding up his hands in mock defense, “After all, every dollar counts for charity.”

Every dollar. Oh, yes.

“I really don’t like that smile.”

“Why ever not, Nigel?”

“Last time you smiled at me like that, we had to redo the entire November issue.”
“Then be very joyful in the knowledge you no longer work for me,” I mused,

turning on my heels with a new found fervor. I needed to acquire my checkbook.

“Sometimes I feel like I still do,” came the reply.

Chapter Text

The secret to fashion is in the manner of perception. If a designer claims he or she is an artist, then a portion of this precious secret eludes them. Fashion is a novel; the designer is an author.

When someone cracks open a book, they begin a journey. Models and characters display their strengths and weaknesses, putting on whatever fragments and pieces represent their personalities, and casting aside the stitches and scraps in a great purge of what they want to change. It is a reflection of self. The sleek dress suit is the cold dramatic enigma filled with archetypes, double entendre, and irony. The elegant evening gown is the romantic allusion teeming with foreshadowing and foreplay. Fashion is an endless stream of words in which the viewer learns some universal truth. It is a conversation between creator and viewer that allows the metaphorical reader to respond by donning one truth here and another moral there, constructing their own exquisitely unique story made from the tales of countless others. Certainly, fashion is art but not some empty, hollow beauty. It tells a tale. To dress a woman is to know her.

This…stuff?

“Stop.”

The photographer lowered his camera in defeat, knowing full well the shoot was less than perfect. Less than mediocre.

Young Nigel stepped forward and instructed the models to take a rest. Apparently the inability to perform one’s job was exhausting. I slowly walked towards the set, the click of a heel heavily punctuating each step. It was never the height of the Prada that mattered but the authority behind that delectable sound that I always admired.

The exposition was dynamic and acceptable; young Nigel had worked well with the other directors in producing a worthy futuristic and apocalyptic wasteland exposition. The motif of the science fiction battle seemed suitable. What was missing? Andrea would have looked stunning in the leather couture.

Andrea would have loved this shoot.

We had been crammed in an elevator on the way to meet a potential investor. She always seemed to have a predisposition to ramble nervously whenever I allowed her to join my presence in the mechanical box.

“We’re meeting in Suite R2, Room D2,” she said with a laugh, “Ha, R2D2, that’s awesome.”

I felt my eyebrow arch in amusement.

“You know, R2D2. From Star Wars…you probably haven’t seen Star Wars,” she mumbled, looking around the elevator. “I dressed as Princess Leia for Halloween once.”

Her fidgeting in the silence that followed was, for lack of a better word, incredibly adorable.

As the doors opened, I think I may have fried her pretty little head when I finally responded.

“I always had an admiration for Darth Vader, actually. Rather…awesome.”

I glanced over at the models daintily sipping from bottles of water.

Hire the smart, fat girl.

“Nigel.”

A tall head of raven hair appeared beside me.

“These models look unable to lift a gun, much less shoot one. Is it really so arduous a task to find me a model that has at least an ounce of muscle?”

 


 

“Operation Smile called. They want to issue a public statement in gratitude of your donation of five-thousand and one dollars.”

I swept past Emily’s desk without so much as a backwards glance.

“A representative from the AIDs foundation also wished to speak to you regarding the seventy-five hundred and one dollar gift,” Emily continued, following behind me into my office. An invisible smile touched my lips.

“The New York Times requested a comment regarding the four-thousand and one to Make-a-Wish, the ten-thousand and one to the SPCA, and the nine-hundred and eighty-one to,” Emily squinted at her notepad, “the Bug and Insect Life Appreciation Club of New York City.” An almost inaudible ‘bloody hell’ followed her final point.

I calmly sat behind my desk and slid on my reading glasses.

“Did you issue the same comment as the others?”

“Yes, Miranda.”

“Then why are you bothering me with this information?”

Emily’s impersonation of a deer in headlights was always my second favorite visual whilst at the Runway offices. Andrea in those Chanel boots had most certainly been my first.

“That’s all.”

It took approximately twelve minutes before I had come to the conclusion that reminiscing over a particular assistant in a very specific pair of tight, leather footwear was a dreadful mistake. I found her body a very distracting subject, and it had been even more unbearable when she was just outside my door. Or bending over to retrieve something off my desk…

In some twisted form of self-preservation, my train of thought quickly averted to the cold pragmatics of my situation, instantly relieving me of a newly acquired heat. Pondering the current track of my plan, the probability of her rejection was a little higher than I preferred. Statistically, my ability to woo was exceptional and almost always successful. Obviously my two marriages didn’t end well, but they fulfilled their purposes. Yet this was the first time I was so emotionally invested.

Somewhere between the heated eye contact during meetings, accidental hand grazes when exchanging coffee, revealing evening gowns, small jokes and smiles in the town car, and even the rare moments of weakness and comfort, Andrea had invaded my life. Somewhere between occasional compliments, spontaneous working dinners deep in the night, and lingering meetings after dropping off the Book, she invaded my heart too, or at least whatever rested where my heart should. I fell in love with Andrea Sachs, and I hated her for it.

I had no time to be nervous or uncertain. I, Miranda fucking Priestly, was going seduce this woman. The question of how was simply a creative work in progress.

Suddenly, the soft thud of glass doors shutting preluded an overly dulcet, falsely high-pitched voice.

“‘Has the Ice Queen’s heart finally melted? Fashion matriarch Miranda Priestly spotted dropping a few thousand on various charities this Tuesday. Probably a mere fraction of the hasty divorce settlement, the Devil herself has left huge money gifts to charities with all amounts ending in a single dollar. Quantities range from 501 to a whopping 50,0001. Is the funky number a witch’s curse? The only statement coming from the office of La Priestly: Every dollar counts. Is our naughty leader finally going nice?”

Nigel tossed the paper on to my desk. “Page Six doesn’t know what to do with you.”

“Even I am tiredly amazed with myself, Nigel. It’s quite exhausting being this impressive.”

“Careful. Wouldn’t want that humble pie spilling on your Armani jacket. Snaps on those power pinstripes by-the-by,” he replied, relaxing into the armchair before my desk.

“I am a prime example of humility,” I said, carefully brushing aside a front lock of hair and raising my chin.

“You’re outdoing every good-doer that was ever mentioned in Six’s column by one dollar to the exact same charities just to get her attention. The epitome of an angel,” Nigel smirked, removing a peppermint from his pocket.

“Merely the beginning,” I sighed nonchalantly, lightly repositioning my glasses.

“Oh?”

“Indeed,” I almost hissed.

Nigel glanced up from his methodic untying of plastic. “I see. You think I’m a double agent for Miss Sachs. No worries. I’m a vault.”

My lips pursed in response.

“Fine, fine. Tell me how my replacement, fair Jeremiah, is performing,” he said, popping the mint candy in his mouth.

I sat back in my chair and crossed my legs. It was unfortunate this was only the primary phase of my plan to seduce Andrea. The slit in this skirt would have been incredibly expedient.

“Hm. Petite Nigel is…manageable,” I said with a frown.

“In Miranda speak, that’s a raving review.” My smile turned almost evil.

“You could say I’ve been in a giving mood.”

 


 

“What is the way to a woman’s heart?”

Patricia cocked her head playfully.

“I am well aware pleasing you is immeasurably simple,” I state, continuing to rub my pet’s stomach, “I am more specifically referring to Andrea.”

The St. Bernard had sprawled herself on the floor of my office a few minutes ago, and I had honestly welcomed the distraction from the Book. I currently sat beside her with a glass of pinot noir.

“You bonded with her at some point I believe,” I muttered before taking a sip of wine, “Any insight to her personality would be helpful.”

The large ball of fur rolled over and placed her head on my lap.

“If you drool on my silk Versace lace-lined robe, I will personally ensure you never work in the household canine business ever again.”

My threat fell on deaf ears that I began to scratch. I often wondered if I would be considered nicer among human society if it was composed of people who maintained the personality of dogs. I would certainly be happier. All I ever demanded of my staff is that they pushed their limits to perform to the very apex of their abilities. A dog always obeyed simply to see their owner’s approval and did their absolute best in every instance. The typical human response was to suggest I was a complete and utter bitch. With people, there were hidden motives and cutting corners abound. Meanwhile, Patricia’s big, brown eyes were always open, honest, and ready to please.

I’ve only witnessed brown eyes like hers in one other face.

You are very fetching. So, go fetch.

“Well, I do believe I’ve had enough wine if I’m comparing my love interest to a dog,” I said, placing my empty glass on the table.

“Although, if all you require is to be fed and occasionally pet to be content with life, wooing Andrea can’t be that problematic.”

A small whine sounded from below.

“Oh, hush. You’ll still remain my favorite,” I state, standing up, “though, I’m rather certain ‘petting’ Andrea will be a completely different experience.”

I heard panting as I turned to leave the room.

“I’ll explain when you’re older. Come along, Patricia.”

Chapter Text

I did not expect Andrea Sachs to be standing in my office after only a week of attempting to dashingly court her.

I suppose I underestimated my abilities.

Friday began uneventfully. Andrea’s usual article revealed no knowledge of my humanitarian ventures. Someone in the hair department misplaced a shipment of L’Oreal products, nearly resulting in the loss of budget dollars I had to painstakingly remove from the pockets of Irv Ravitz. Needless to say, they were no longer employed with Runway. I sent Andrea a white rose, anonymously, of course.

Saturday went well considering the feature article on Calvin Klein only needed to be rewritten three times. It was pouring rain, and operating under the assumption Andrea was still considered new to the paper and expected to work on the weekend, I sent a town car to escort her home. This, again, was done anonymously with an independent service. A white rose was waiting in the backseat.

Sunday morning was delightful after receiving a call from my Bobbsies. I texted them daily, but I sorely missed their presence in the house and awaited their return within the next week. A bottle of wine, La Rose Blanche, was delivered to Andrea’s apartment.

By Tuesday, Patricia was getting nervous, or perhaps battling some minor indigestion. Assuring her Andrea would be unable to resist something edible, white chocolates from Dean & Deluca were speedily sent.

And then the monstrosity of Wednesday plopped onto my Valentino-clad lap.

Roy was late by a total of seven minutes, a nuisance that was worsened by the unexpected traffic resulting in a street closed for pothole repair. I simply didn’t understand why workers couldn’t build more solidly constructed roads in the first place so it wouldn’t require fixing. I should have run for mayor.

Upon arriving at Elis-Clark, I discovered the elevators were out of order.   The repairmen were not under my jurisdiction to fire, however, after a small chat, they quickly handed in their resignations. All this glorious effort brought me to the office of the ever-wonderful Irv Ravitz.

Then the true fun began.

“Hello, Miranda.”

“Irving,” I sincerely hope your enlarged gut is indicating a well-deserved heart attack on the way.

“Let’s dive right in, shall we?” he replied, motioning for the chair before his desk. I absolutely abhorred his office. The walls were painted a ghastly shade of puke green, accented with some type of yellow furniture that mimicked a spoiled egg. I tried desperately not to even glance at Irv’s attire for fear of my own cardiac arrest.

“Now, reviewing the budget proposal for Runway for the next quarter, I noticed you’re asking for about three thousand more than the previous quarter.”

“Considering nearly a thirty-six percent increase in our net profit, it doesn’t seem all that superfluous,” I said smoothly, knowing full well it would require roughly an hour of bickering until Irv finally gave me what I wanted. One would think over ten years of testing my patience, he would finally master the concept that I always win.

“Yes, but the whole point of making money is usually to keep it. So, what if we instead-“

The hour was tenaciously long.

 


 

I rounded the corner of the Runway offices already immensely irritated. By the time the desks of my two assistants came into view, and the new Emily was approaching me, I was less than willing to hear whatever drabble was about to spill forth from my idiot of a second assistant.

“Miranda, I tried to tell her she couldn’t go in but-“

I stopped and turned, baring my gaze threateningly into hers.

“What?” I asked sharply.

“A woman said she was a friend of Nigel’s and he must have let her in the building and she’s just in your office so-“

“Go do your job at your desk,” I said between clenched teeth, “and practice proper sentence structure.”

When I walked into my office, I was met with a female figure’s back. She turned to look at me from the window.

The light from the glass behind her provided a majestic glow. I had missed her presence so immensely; I didn’t quite know where my eyes should settle.

Her eyes were wide and alert but brimming with confidence. Her makeup wasn’t overbearing or really noticeable to any degree, but her pouty lips still looking tempting from across the room. Her long locks of chestnut hair looked tossed from the winter wind. A trendy, brown leather jacket tightly hugged her upper body, and skinny jeans cupped those tantalizing legs. By the time I reached the matching boots, a slow heat was brewing in my chest and my lower abdomen.

Our eyes met for the second time, and I distractedly closed the glass doors to my office.

Well? Commence wooing, Priestly.

“What a pleasant surprise,” I said, slowly stepping forward.

“Is it always ‘pleasant’ for you when ex-assistants come to visit?” Andrea replied with a small smirk. The new, mousy assistant in a cerulean sweater from almost a year ago was definitely gone. Mmm.

“I cannot properly make that assessment. None of them have ever been daring enough to return.”

“Until now.”

“Yes, well…you can do anything, right? I felt my lips curling upwards involuntarily, and her own smile grew marginally as well. There was now only a foot or two between us.

“I don’t know about that,” she mused, returning to looking out the window, “I’ve been having trouble figuring something out.”

I inched closer and also watched the New York streets. How many times in the past four months had I stared down wondering if she could possibly be in that massive wave of people?

“Trouble? For a smart girl such as yourself?”

“Not smart and fat?” she said glancing sideways in my direction.

I merely responded by slowly and blatantly trailing my gaze down her appetizing body for about the third time in less than a minute. She took a shaky breath and continued.

“I’ve been getting a lot of gifts lately. Flowers, wine, chocolate, car rides. Today I even received an adorable stuffed turtle,” she said with a smile, “wearing a pretty expensive silver Tiffany necklace,” she finished stiffly, raising an eyebrow and glaring in my direction.

I simply frowned and feigned my most innocent look. “How odd.”

“I know, right? Now, at first I was really confused,” she continued, walking towards the far side of the office. I glanced towards the doors to ensure we were maintaining some sense of privacy.

“This white rose was really the only consistent clue I had. The classic, regal rose. The crisp, powerful white. Sounded a little familiar, doesn’t it?”

I felt the corner of my mouth twitch.

“But the part where it gets really crazy, and I hope you’ll stay with me on this, is when a colleague showed me an issue of the New York Times. Have you seen Page Six recently?”

“I usually prefer something a little more intellectually engaging.”

“How silly of me. Then let me explain,” she said excitedly, “there’s this incredibly rich and influential celebrity that’s been donating to all the charities I’ve written about in my column. It’s been going on for almost a week now.”

“How noble.”

She gave me a pointed look before continuing, “So noble in fact, they’ve matched the exact amount the celebrities I interviewed donated, and then had the curtsy to add an entire dollar.”

“Impressive.”

“Very.”

She placed her hands on her hips, and I allowed myself a moment to admire her once again. I was deeply enjoying this confidence and air of defiance. It had certainly always been there under the surface, but bearing witness to its beauty full force was, quite honestly, tremendously arousing. My eyes were following her curvy thighs when she took a step forward.

“Why do you think they would do all of this?”

I took a calming breath and answered her step with a forward pace of my own.

“Assuming the gift giver and this charming, wonderfully charitable person are one in the same, they might be hoping to attract your attention.”

She took another step forward, standing mere inches away from myself. With her eyes bearing into mine, her hands slowly reached for the zipper of her leather jacket, which had remained closed for the duration of our conversation. She tugged down deliberately and leisurely until the zipper opened to reveal a simple V-neck.

And a silver necklace in the shape of a rose.

“They have it,” she whispered.

I gently reached towards the piece of jewelry and lightly traced my fingers over the fine metal. My eyes flickered to her chocolate depths as my fingers softly brushed her collarbone.

“Andrea-“

“Miranda, I have Patrick for your twelve o’clock meet-“

“Bullocks, Trisha, I told you not to go in there when the doors are closed,” hissed Emily, glaring at my second assistant with only a pathetic fraction of the absolute hatred I was currently channeling in her direction. That is, until the Brit noticed a rather familiar brunette lounging in my office. Then she simply gawked.

“Emily.”

Both of the intruders stared helplessly.

“Out. Now,” was all I could manage to snarl.

“Yes, Miranda.”

The doors shut and the room returned to a pregnant silence. Andrea and I must have jumped apart during the interruption as a good two feet now stood between us. I smoothed my hands down the front of my skirt.

“Any clue as to the going rates of hired murder these days?”

I was rewarded with a smile. “No clue, but I’d be willing to kill them for you.” I smirked in response.

“Perhaps we could meet at another opportunity to more deeply discuss this mysterious individual.”

“I’d really like that,” she replied, beaming. She took the two large steps towards me until we were again almost touching.

With a tantalizing slowness, she moved her lips to the side of my head, her nose grazing against my ear. Our cheeks brushed against each other. The scent of perfume I had been craving for months attacked my senses.

“You know how to reach me,” she whispered coyly, her breath tickling my skin.

Then she promptly walked past me and out the door.

I was smiling contentedly to myself in the middle of my office despite the hot ache between my legs when I stumbled upon a drastic revelation.

I, Miranda Priestly, was just blue-balled by Andrea Sachs.

Chapter Text

Coco Chanel once said, “A woman is closest to being naked when she is well dressed,” and I have found this advice sound in my work of perfecting the art of fabric that dons a woman’s body. However, I always believed the opposite of such a notion to ring even truer based on my own personal experiences.

A woman is closest to being well dressed when she is naked.

I suppose that’s the great irony my life and work. Everyday I tell the world what clothes make a woman beautiful. And yet, to me, no one could be more beautiful, more ravishing than a woman dressed in nothing than her own skin and wearing nothing than her own smile.

 

“I have a date with Andrea this evening,” I said casually, inspecting myself in the full-length mirror of my bedroom. The midnight blue Valentino seemed the perfect selection for the evening. Not quite ball gown, but certainly more than I would consider wearing to the office. Furthermore, if the curves this dress accentuated didn’t convince my ex-assistant I was the ideal suitor, I needed to seriously question my taste. In women, of course. My taste in fashion was flawless.

I lightly smoothed back a strand hair back into place. “I really should sleek my hair more often.”

Patricia’s head perked up excitedly from her place on the bed.

“You do propose a valid point. The wild forelock is more intimidating,” I reply with a sigh, “We’ll save the messy, sexy hairdo for the second date, hm?” I selected two silver rings from my jewelry box and placed them on my fingers.

“One should maintain class and etiquette on the first date.”

The mass of fur rolled onto her back and twisted her head on the comforter.

I smirked, walking over to the edge of the bed. “Yes, that means no guests tonight. Slobber freely as usual,” I stated, extending a manicured finger and barely scratching the exposed belly. Minimal contact insured no deadly dandruff on couture clothing.

I snatched my purse and placed my hand on the doorknob before turning around.

“Behave. Your food bowl is quite filled downstairs. No naughty poodle shows. Be in bed by ten.”

The St. Bernard alertly rolled onto her stomach and stared before beginning to pant.

“Goodnight, Patricia.”

 


 

 It was pleasantly odd following the familiar path in the town car to Andrea’s apartment. The act itself had occurred frequently once she had proven her competence. The primary reason was purely logical; we could run through the day’s itinerary before even entering the office. The secondary reason was for the small moments of privacy with the charming woman.

Images of the city outside the window fogged over as I recalled her sleepy ramblings, radiant smiles, and, quite honestly, her ability to simply energize the air around her. Even Roy seemed more content than usual in our venture to retrieve the girl. He had only smiled and nodded when I provided our destination. He knew not to ask questions.

When he parked outside on the curb, he promptly opened the door and operated under the past system of going to summon Andrea down.

“I’ll do it.”

I was somewhat impressed by his ability to hide the brief expression of shock on his face. He was back to the typical neutral expression when he opened my door.

I found it amusing whenever my employees seemed surprised I was capable of everyday activities. Then again, Page Six was currently operating under the assumption I had no childhood. I suppose in their idiotic realm of understanding, climbing three flights of stairs would be laborious.

I easily glided in past a man in a dreadful sweat suit ensemble leaving the building and found Andrea’s door after little effort.

I raised my hand to knock but momentarily paused. Smoothing back my hair with a minor brush of my fingers, I proceeded to curtly pound three times against the door.

When Andrea opened the door, despite all my reassurances to my dog, I couldn’t resist dragging my eyes greedily down the black dress that did wonderful things to an already very satisfactory chest. The dip of the bodice wasn’t vulgar but certainly suggestive. The delicious tightness of the fabric continued to mouth-watering thighs before draping loosely. The design wasn’t extremely current, but the wearer brought a refreshing energy, as she always did. This was no boring stick of a model but a woman of modest muscle and amble curves. My stomach swirled with sudden need.

I licked my lips before meeting her eyes. Her eyebrows seemed raised in a surprised manner.

“Good evening.”

“Hi.”

“You look stunning.”

“Oh. Thank you. You do too. I mean, you always do,” she said almost breathlessly, pausing briefly before continuing with a confused look, “Why are you standing outside my apartment?”

“I’m picking you up, of course,” I replied. Clearly her past suitors knew nothing of courting.

“You picked me up tons of times when I was your assistant. Roy buzzes me from downstairs. You never leave the car.”

“Yes, but circumstances have clearly changed. Social norms and proper chivalrous conduct indicates I escort you from the actual entrance of your abode.”

Shock registered on her face. “Oh my God, we don’t have an elevator. You used stairs.”

“Honestly, Andrea, how else would I ascend the building? Flying?”

Her eyes narrowed as she processed the information. I returned the stare with ease.

“Fine. But you’re not coming inside.”

“Why ever not?”

“Because I haven’t cleaned in days. One minute,” she said before retreating into the apartment, leaving the door slightly ajar. I slowly craned my head for a better visual before Andrea’s voice sounded from deep inside, “No peaking!”

I sighed and glared at the off-white wallpaper of the hallway. The odd geometrical pattern seemed to stare back. It was rather amusing. A dreadful attempt at interior decorating had more backbone than any employee at Runway. I nodded my approval.

Andrea appeared once again, shrugging into a jacket. The style and color matched the dress acceptably. She quickly ran her fingers through her bangs and grabbed the clutch secured under her arm. She looked up with a warm smile.

“Ready.”

I licked my lips again and smirked.

She took a step closer and playfully said, “Escort away.”

I cocked an eyebrow in response before gesturing dramatically to the staircase, “After you, Madame.”

‘Why thaaank you,” she replied with a histrionic, overly sophisticated air. I had not often deemed anything as cute, but she was becoming a fast exception. Before she could reach the first step, I gently grabbed her unoccupied hand and brought it before my lips. I placed a small kiss on her knuckles.

I was rewarded with a smile before she began descending the staircase.

Stunning. Cute. Sexy. What positive adjective didn’t physically describe Andrea Sachs?

 


 

“Wow.”

“Quite.”

A lively glare was my response.

“You really didn’t have to take me to such a fancy place. I don’t think I’ve even walked outside a place this upscale.”

“Nonsense,” I replied, unrolling the napkin and draping it across my lap. “They provided dinner one late evening at Runway. I believe you were rather enamored by their pommes duchesse.”

“Oh yeah. The eggy potatoes,” she said with a smile, “I had to get Rachel from the beauty department to help me order it for you. The menu was all in French. Thanks for ordering earlier, by the way.”

I merely nodded my head. “I was sure to ask for the finest ‘eggy potatoes’ they had,” I said with a smirk. My company rolled her eyes before looking towards me with a sincere gaze.

“I’m serious though, Miranda. You don’t have to do all this fancy stuff for me. The roses, the gifts, this,” she gestured around her, “I don’t need it. Don’t get me wrong; this wine rocks,” she said with a smile, holding up her glass, “I just want to spend time with you. Or at least figure out why you want to spend time with me.”

“I thought the answer was rather obvious.”

“Humor me,” she said with a cocked eyebrow. “I know you don’t usually explain yourself, but I think you owe me a little something here.”

I sighed before studying her deep, beautiful eyes. I took a small sip of wine and cleared my throat.

“Andrea, why didn’t you wear jeans this evening?”

Her expression turned quizzical before an amused smile slowly twitched onto her beautiful face. “You’re Miranda Priestly. It’s like Rule 23 in the handbook of What Not To Do.” I arched my eyebrow in response. “It’s right after no humming, singing, throaty laughing, or loud breathing,” she said with mock seriousness.

I rolled my eyes, but a smile emerged nonetheless. “I wouldn’t mind hearing the rest of this delightful read. But I digress,” I said, taking another sip of wine before continuing. A little liquid courage certainly couldn’t worsen things. Not that I needed it.

“Fashion is very much a system of selecting the proper garments to wear based on the particular situation,” I said, refolding the napkin on my lap. “You chose to wear a very lovely Christen Dior, admittedly last season, but still impeccable on your wonderful figure because jeans would not have properly matched this atmosphere.”

I glanced into still very curious, slightly amused eyes.

“Now, let us assume that, shockingly, I enjoy the comforts of fashion like most civilized people,” I noticed a visible twitch in Andrea’s lips, “Hypothetically speaking, of course,” I noted sarcastically. “My casual garments, adored and,” my eyes casually eyed the dip of Andrea’s gown where creamy skin was exposed, “much appreciated,” I purred slowly, “would be a favorite in the privacy of my own house. A very personal set of clothing for personal enjoyment.”

I saw small wheels turning behind dark eyes trying to process the direction of my metaphor.

“Just as you admitted jeans, though aesthetically pleasing on your body, I’m sure,” I added with a slight nod, ”would in fact not be appropriate for this restaurant, my personal comforts would not be appropriate for say,” I stared directly into her gaze, “the office.”

Recognition dawned, and a delightful smile reached all the way to Andrea’s eyes.

I continued softly, “and perhaps I’ve come to the conclusion that, while I cannot wear these garments in a professional setting, it is entirely my business if I wish to wear them elsewhere.”

“Are you saying I’m your pajamas? Hypothetically,” she amended teasingly.

“Hypothetically,” I confirmed, calmly placing my hand on the table.

“You know, that sounds like a pick up line. Like, ‘Are you a pair of pjs? ‘Cause I can totally see myself wearing you in bed,’” she concluded with a wiggle of her eyebrows.

Despite my desire to snort at such a face, I narrowed my eyes in feigned annoyance.

“Oh, stop. You thought it was funny.”

“And how on earth do you presume to know what I’m thinking?”

She leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms like a poker player calling a bluff. “You flare your nostrils when you think something’s funny, but you’re trying not to laugh.”

Oh my.

She continued, “The nods are a given when you like something. Everyone knows about the deadly pursed lips. When you’re ready to get down to work at your desk, you sort of stretch and wiggle your fingers. When you’re disappointed emotionally, you play with your belt or fiddle with a pen. You just lash out more if it’s professional disappointment. You want coffee when there’s an immediate emergency, but you prefer tea on late nights. If you have a headache, you pinch the bridge of your nose. You bite your cheek if it’s sore shoulders or back. When you hate someone at a formal event, your laugh is light and airy. When you actually think its funny, you sort of snort. It’s endearing,” she said gently.

I licked my lips as warmth spread across my body in response to her speech.

“Oh yes,” her eyes darting instantly to my mouth. “And you lick your lips when you’re, well…I really only noticed that one when you looked at me. I was a little hopeful that one was supposed to mean,” her voice deepened with suggestiveness, “excited.”

I felt rather stunned. Years of perfecting the ultimate mask were wasted as my cold guise had just been destroyed within a matter of seconds. I was suddenly overly aware of my facial expression, and tried to maintain something neutral. Attempting to process the simultaneous fluttering my chest and heat between my legs was proving a difficult task.

Andrea blushed slightly at what I assumed she rightfully interpreted as shock.

“I guess,” she said quietly, looking down at her lap, “you could say you weren’t the only one shopping for pajamas you couldn’t wear to work,” her eyes met mine with a small but confident smile.

I took a deep breath, and, without analyzing the risks or making the mental effort to control the emotions on my countenance, I genuinely smiled.

I reached for my wine glass and raised the goblet in a toast. “Perhaps we should stop discussing the logistics and simply enjoy the company.”

“Agreed,” she replied, clinking my glass with her own. We each took a sip before she placed her hand on top of my own and asked with a grin, “How are the girls doing?”

I felt my smile widen even more.

 


 

“So then he asked me to write his memoirs. A biography. I was so shocked and happy,” Andrea gushed, smile beaming in the city lights that occasionally reflected in the tinted windows of the town car. I had at first been somewhat concerned with the lack of privacy despite Roy’s seemingly oblivious persona, but, after grabbing my hand with ease, the beauty before me had, quite aptly, stolen my attention.

“That’s very impressive, especially so early in your career.”

“Just in the right place and the right time, I’m sure,” she replied casually. “Maybe he could tell I was really interested in his work with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Writing this book for him has been so easy. It’s a blast listening to these stories about people’s lives.”

“Will you still continue your career in journalism?” I asked, soaking in her raw excitement.

“As long as I need to, I guess. I thought it was always what I wanted to do, but,” she looked up almost shyly, “I don’t enjoy the part where I have to trash people just so someone will read about the charities.”

I sighed deeply and frowned. “Such a pity. I deeply enjoyed that part,” I sighed again but finished with a good-natured smirk.

She laughed brilliantly, cheeks flushed from the wine. “I was trying to channel my inner Miranda Priestly when I wrote the mean parts.”

I purposely pursed my lips before drawling, “Mean?”

Her fingers stroked the inside of my palm as she replied, “Yup.”

“How rude.”

“I’m sorry. Does ‘intimidating’ work better for you?”

“Possibly.”

“Now you’re pouting,” she said with a giggle.

“I am most certainly not,” I replied, trying to fight a grin from reaching my face.

“You know,” she almost cooed lacing our fingers back together, “Intimidating and sexy go hand in hand with you.”

I narrowly avoided licking my lips yet again by saying, “It’s the wild hair and forelock. I was just discussing this matter with Patricia.” Andrea’s hearty laugh pleasantly filled the backseat.

“You better mean your dog,” she chuckled, “or I’m going to get jealous.”

It seemed almost too soon when Roy parked in front of a certain apartment building for the second time that evening. After opening our doors, the driver politely cleared his throat.

“There is a drug store just up the corner. I will purchase myself some water and return momentarily,” he said with a small bow before walking off. I really owed that smart man a raise.

“Alone at last,” the woman beside me said with a mischievous but lighthearted look in her eyes. “Unless there’s a paparazzi hiding somewhere nearby,” she amended with a frown, taking a dramatic step away from me.

“No difference,” I said nonchalantly, taking the two paces slowly and leaving mere inches between her and myself. My hand sought hers, gripping tightly with firm resolve.

“I know we said no more logistics tonight, but there are some things we should probably talk about eventually,” she sighed, looking into the street. “Like this,” she said, swinging our hands lightly, “and, well,” she finished with a whisper, “Paris.”

“Of course, with time,” I mused softly, gently taking her chin and making her eyes meet mine.

Yet another glorious smile blossomed before me. “I had an amazing time tonight.”

“As did I,” my hand moving to brush her cheek with the pads of my fingers.

Her free hand moved upwards and cupped my own against her cheek.

“It’s like we were never apart.”

“No, no, you’ve certainly taken our time apart to grow much more confidant,” I said before huffing, “and so very rude.”

Her laughter warmed the cold air before a loud cough a small distance away served as a reminder it was time to leave.

She removed the hand from her face and peppered two kisses on my skin. Her lips were delicate but steady in their work. They possessed softness similar to the skin of her hands with which I had just so recently become familiarly acquainted.

“Goodnight, Miranda.”

“Good evening, Andrea.” And with a final smile, she turned around and entered her building.

Yes, I had experienced the penetrating burn of want and desire during my time with Andrea, but, in that moment, I bathed in a contented heat of happiness. I took every ounce of willpower acquired in my time as Editor to reduce my smile to at least an amused smirk before turning around and entering the car through the door Roy had opened.

As we drove back to the townhouse, I stared out the window, still basking in my good mood.

“Roy.”

“Yes, Miranda?”

“Am I mean?”

His small smile reflected in the rearview mirror.

“Miss Sachs is the professional opinion on your mannerisms. I respect her opinion entirely.” I snickered at his response.

“Remind me why I haven’t fired you within the past ten years.”

Checking the red light before him, Roy turned to the passenger seat and searched the plastic bag resting there. He produced a bottle of Pellegrino, twisting off the cap, and offering me the drink.

“Finding someone else to replace me would prove much too difficult.”

Chapter Text

The meaning of Romeo and Juliet appears much more enticing and complex when one takes a moment to analyze the most important aspect of the play. I am of course referring to the clothes.

Romeo and the Montagues traditionally wear tunics of blue and other dark, cool pigments in order to symbolize the night. The young man’s first love, Rosaline, is compared to Diana, the goddess of chastity and the moon. One would naturally expect a union between the evening and the pale orb that resides in that inky sky; however, I suppose the plot of that particular story falls rather flat. Juliet and the Capulets don dresses and cloth of red, orange, and warm hues thus representing the daytime hours. When the two first meet at the Capulet’s party, the riveted Romeo likens the unknown girl to a bright jewel, torch, and copious other objects thought to shine brightly in dark spaces. When Romeo spies the young woman on her balcony, he compares her to the sun, not only the centerpiece of the morning sky but also a direct opposite to Rosaline’s moon. On her wedding night, Juliet begs for her ‘love performing night,’ her Romeo. The viewer only sees the two interact in the wee hours of the morning when night and day mingle so briefly on the brink of sunrise.

Duality, oppositions. Night and day. Red and blue. Moon and star-crossed lovers.

If one had simply bothered to glance at the clothing, it would seem so incredibly obvious that this love was doomed to fail.

 

“And what is this evening’s dress code?”

An amused chuckle sounded in my ear.

“Miranda, we’re just having dinner at my place. Just wear jeans. Or whatever a fashion goddess considers comfortable.”

“Hm.”

“Or wear a ball gown. I don’t really care as long as it gets your ass over here.”

I reclined into my office chair and replied, “Is that particular part of my body crucial to your dinner plans?”

“Nothing dire. Just nice to look at.” One could almost hear the smirk across the phone. I glanced out the door of my office; Emily seemed preoccupied enough coordinating a run-through. I turned my chair to face the window.

“Quite the brazen statement from a girl who has proven too prude to even offer a kiss,” I said quietly.

“Why else do you think I want you to come alone to my private apartment tonight?” she said without the hint of humor at the end from before. Her voice was deep and seductive.

I instantly pictured her body in delectably tight jeans bending over an oven and licked my lips.

“Well, darling-“

A knock. I slowly turned my chair to glare at the intruder. Nigel leaned against the doorframe looking absolutely delighted. I did not claim to possess many relationships that surpassed the level of acquaintance, but I was deeply considering the pros and cons of eradicating the supposed friend before me. I pursed my lips.

“I need to go throttle someone.”

A bubbly laugh only marginally softened my anger towards the intruder. “Go get ‘em, Tiger. I’ll see you later.”

“Goodbye,” I said neutrally as not to further incite a snickering Nigel. The phone slammed shut in my hand as I continued to glower at the overly happy man entering my office.

“You’re much less frightening when I interrupt your romancing,” he said, helping himself to the seat in front of my desk.

“You’ll find it hysterical when I interrupt your breathing.”

“Tsk, tsk, we both know you’re not the violent type, Miranda,” he replied while brushing a piece of lint off a rather loud blazer seemingly inspired by Scottish kilts. An oddly daring but suitable fashion choice.

“Exceptions can be made.”

“Like Six?”

Friends may be priceless, but, at that moment, I was convinced any price would be worth Nigel’s head on a silver platter. He must have seen the murderous math in my eyes as he responded with a sigh.

“Okay, I’ll stop,” he said disappointedly, crossing his legs and relaxing into the chair. “She seemed very happy with your date the other night.”

“Lunch the following day and dinner tonight certainly suggests so.”

“You know what they say about the third date,” came the sing-song voice and suggestive implications.

I lowered my glasses down my nose and scowled. “I am incredibly busy editing these articles, I have an engagement this evening, and my daughters are finally returning home tomorrow. Your magazine must be a pathetic version of the original if you possess such little work and must interrupt mine.”

Men’s Runway is doing well, thank you,” Nigel said, brushing off my comment with an ease that annoyed me, “I was actually just returning to Elis Clark from a meeting with Ralph Lauren’s people when I noticed a familiar face leaving the elevator.”

I sent a scathing glance that informed the rambling man of what little patience I had left.

He leaned forward towards the desk and said, “Jacqueline Follet.”

It was becoming somewhat unhealthy how rapidly the list of people I desired dead was growing.

I leaned back in my chair very slowly, breathing deeply in an attempt to utilize what little relaxation techniques the past three months of yoga had taught me. Andrea’s laugh still echoed in my memory.

I cocked my head and brought a finger to my lips. Jacqueline’s presence was obviously suspicious.

“It sure was unlucky that her partnership with James Holt ended so quickly,” Nigel continued, looking around the office, “and so publically.”

“His business and designs were very similar to his collection we witnessed in the fall,” I said, sliding off my glasses, “an evident failure from the start. Hence the reason why Jacqueline was perfect for the job.”

My companion smirked knowingly before turning serious. “What are you going to do?” I suppose his loyalty saved him from my deadly sights. For now. I had much more meddlesome annoyances to eliminate.

Every dollar counts.

Now, reviewing the budget proposal for Runway for the next quarter…

Go get ‘em, Tiger.

I felt a demonic smile on my lips. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

 


 

Yoga pants.

It was as if the universe genuinely aspired me to seize Andrea Sachs without so much as a ‘hello.’ I began to seriously doubt the control I had accumulated in the past thirty years of my professional career. The silver rose hanging around her neck moved me just as greatly but for a completely different reason.

“Hey! Come in. Give me your jacket.”

“Hello, and thank you,” I said, shrugging off the jacket with her help.

“Wow, I think that’s the third time you’ve said ‘thank you’ to me. Ever,” she joked casually, walking away to drape my jacket across a chair. I proudly noted the care with which she treated the couture before staring at her backside, mesmerized with ingenuity of such tight material on such mouth-watering curves. Thank you.

“Will I induce some sort of attack if I apologize for my lateness?” I stepped towards her.

She turned around to face me, a thoughtful look on her face. “Possibly. Better not say anything and risk it. I understand things run late anyway,” she answered with a wink.

The only proper response I could deduce from the encounter was to grab her waist and promptly kiss her.

Soft, warm, minty. Her lips were tender, and, aside from a brief moment of shock, very responsive. Her hands instantly rested on my shoulders while I pulled her body closer. To some degree, it was not a perfect kiss. Our noses bumped with unfamiliarity. There was messiness in the form of smeared lip-gloss. However, coming to this understanding woman after an eternity at the office felt so incredibly perfect. Finally kissing her and nibbling her bottom lip after months and months of willpower and restraint was beyond perfection. It was worth more than all the Prada heels in the world. Thank you.

When we finally parted, she mumbled distractedly, “And you didn’t think that would make me pass out from swooning or something?”

“Honestly, I was tired of waiting; you know my opinion of glacial paces. I am very much not sorry.” I leaned forward to fully prove the extent of my impatience, when a loud beeping sounded from the kitchen.

“At least you don’t have to wait for dinner. Come on, let’s open some wine,” she said with a smirk, turning around and walking towards the kitchen. I wondered if the sway in her hips was intentional, and I simply came to the conclusion I did not care.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 


 

“Oh my god, what do you think she was doing there?”

“Most likely plotting her revenge with Mr. Ravitz.”

We both sat on the couch, enjoying the remainder of the second bottle of wine after a very pleasant dinner. I was growing fonder by the minute of Andrea’s sense of interior decorating; the warm browns and burgundy palette of the small room constructed a warm atmosphere that fit seamlessly with her personality. It was rather nice to know such a renovation had been completed upon the departure of her idiotic ex-boyfriend.

I felt at ease from the sips of wine and intermittent kisses sprinkled throughout our conversation. Andrea currently had her legs stretched out, resting on top of my own. The conversation had turned from her teasing my inability to change into jeans from my work slacks to this slightly dramatic highlight of my day.

“Seriously, Miranda, this is a big deal. What are you going to do?”

“Do not fret. I have a well-formulated plan in the works,” I said calmly, turning to the woman beside me, “As you suggested, I am ‘getting ‘em’ quite severely.” I received a small chuckle, but worry still ruled her features.

I continued despite her concerned expression, “Though I don’t find myself extremely comparable to a tiger. Orange in almost any shade is incredibly obnoxious and unsavory.”

Andrea’s throaty laugh brought a contented grin to my face, especially as she rested her head on my shoulder.

“Maybe a white tiger. You’re right though. You’re more of a cougar,” she giggled.

“Dare I ask why?” I drawled, resting my cheek atop her head. I couldn’t see her face, but this was certainly an acceptable substitution.

“You know, a cougar. That’s what they call older women that prey on young cubs like me.” I rolled my eyes but smiled nonetheless.

Despite all my usual composure, I nearly jumped off the couch when Andrea quickly jerked her head up, and our wide eyes met.

“I hope you know I’m kidding,” she worriedly gushed, clearly thinking my quiet response from before was a negative one, “I mean, it’s a fact you’re older, but it was joke. I don’t care about the age difference. You’re still the sexiest woman on the planet. Sexiest person. Organism,” she drifted off to a stop and looked down at her lap. My frown reflected the unhappiness festering in my chest at such a sight.

I grabbed her chin and forced her gaze to meet mine. The genuine honesty stirring in those chocolate eyes reminded me of the openness only my dog possessed.

“I believe you,” I said simply, “I once doubted that notion, and I pushed you away. I would not have sought you again if I had not come to terms with such a daft insecurity.”

My thumb lightly brushed her bottom lip before I continued with a whisper, “And you are much too intoxicating to be a scrawny cub.”

I pressed my lips firmly against hers in order to punctuate my point. Running my tongue gently over the path my finger had just taken was merely a personal added benefit. A soft moan was my answer, and I continued to stroke her luscious lips. Oh, yes, thank you.

I rested my forehead against hers and our noses brushed while I soaked in the sound and warmth of her somewhat flustered breathing. Admittedly, she was not the only one sounding a tad breathless. Hands tenderly pushed against my shoulders, producing enough distance between us for eye contact or perhaps a chance to cool down. She took a deep breath before opening her eyes and instantly locking with mine.

With a voice bearing nothing but delicate kindness and pure curiosity, Andrea asked, “Is that the only reason you pushed me away?”

I sat back a little more in an attempt to clear my head but not without securing the young woman’s hand with my own. I did not relish in the thought of explaining myself to someone. When her other hand locked onto mine as well, I sighed in the realization this was a stepping-stone to the end goal. I looked across the room and cleared my throat.

“I was a married woman with two children falling for her assistant. The fact you were a woman as well wasn’t exactly a surprise,” I admitted with a small nod directed at my companion’s raised eyebrows, “I suppose that explains part of the difficulty in maintaining my marriages. That is a much older story for a different time,” I said, my thumb stroked the smooth skin beneath it.

“However, the process of falling was, in fact, very surprising. Yes, on rare occasions, I could feel physical attraction to a passerby, but you brought something else. And I hated you for it,” I nearly hissed, taking a firmer grip of her hand, “I could ignore an ache between the legs but not the wanting ache from the chest. Every accidental brush, every elevator ride, every smile…the sanctuary of my work was becoming my own personal hell riddled with sexual tension and an even profounder thirst for companionship.”

I turned on the couch to more properly face the woman beside me, reaching deeply into my past experiences as Editor to sustain even the slightest pretense of composure.

“I almost gave in, that night in my hotel room. I wanted you, and you walked right into my sights,” I whispered, recalling the hurt of being rejected after years of struggling for normalcy in a half-hearted marriage. The raw, sexual energy that had brewed for months after a Harry Potter manuscript was slammed upon my desk. The loneliness of being Miranda Priestly, Editor-in-chief of Runway.

“Then the doubts came. Age, our working relationship, the media. I therefore proceeded to dish out the worst aspects of my character by rejecting Nigel to satisfy my own occupational needs. I still stand by what I had to do, Andrea, which I cannot even to this day change. However-“

“Miranda, it was never about Nigel,” she said, placing my hand against her cheek, “You did what you had to do, and you repaid him later. I knew you would. I left because I was falling for my married boss and I didn’t think a world could possibly exist where I could ever be your equal. Be your lover.”

I stroked her cheek with my fingers, my other hand going to her waist in a desperate need to touch this beautiful woman. All sense of composure was gone, and I felt tears threatening just as they had on that evening in Paris.

“So I left,” she said, her hands stroking my arms, “I left and I’ve grown and now I’m not your lowly assistant anymore. I’m Andy, plain and simple. I needed that space or else I would have been miserable.”

I struggled to clear my throat and uphold a level voice when I replied, “I too required the time apart. I went through countless assistants. My constant irritation boiled to such a degree, my own daughters asked me to try yoga. I talk to my dog as if she’s a therapist. It took this entire episode of madness for me to admit I missed you. After continuously reading your celebrity column, I realized there might still be hope you could want this life. My life. I refused to ignore a second chance.”

I sought her hands and brought them to my lips, showering her knuckles with kisses.

“The doubts are gone. I’ve changed. You care about your career and those charities and I will give amply to them. I will give you everything. I simply want you to be mine.”

“You don’t need to give me anything Miranda,” she said, her voice revealing her to be on the verge of tears, which broke and mended my heart all at once, “I’m already yours.”

With that, the cougar voraciously jumped its prey.

 


 

“Bed.”

I was extremely preoccupied with lavishing the perfect human example of a neck when the single word pulled me out of my heated trance.

“Pardon?”

“Bed,” repeated the hoarse, sensual voice, “Let’s go to the bedroom. You’re staying the night, right?”

It took me a moment to realize I was flush against the body that was speaking beneath me, pinning her down in what was, on any other night besides this one, an absolutely ideal position. I slowly sat up and noticed her shirt had risen considerably, revealing a beautiful expanse of creamy skin. I hazily remember hungry fingers pawing at said shirt.

I took a calming breath before I replied, “Perhaps I am somewhat old-fashioned, but I would prefer the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely morning with you after consummating our relationship,” I looked down again to the stomach and curvy hips, “all night. Repeatedly,” I finished with a growl.

My gaze flickered back to a confused countenance before realization struck. “The girls. I totally forgot.”

“I do want to stay.”

“No, no, they’re coming back early tomorrow. You need to be there,” she said, running her fingers through my hair, “and I think it’s romantic you want to wait for a better time.”

I rolled my eyes and, with as much self-control and grace as I could summon, proceeded to climb off the girl I had so greedily pounced and still wished to currently be ravishing. I offered my hand to help her stand.

“Well, if Cassidy or Caroline should ever claim to hate me, let it be known I resisted sex with one Andrea Sachs, just for them.” She snickered as I aided her rise from the couch.   I turned to walk and claim my jacket but the hand still holding mine tugged for my attention.

“Do you think maybe I’ll be able to see them again, as, well, not your assistant?” she asked shyly.

“Of course,” I said, surprised she would even doubt such an event, “as soon as they’re settled from their trip, I plan on broaching the subject.”

I kissed her hand. “I meant all my previous statements. I am immensely serious about integrating you into my life, and they are certainly one of the most important parts.”

As if the heat still residing between my legs was not enough, her smile burned deeply into my chest. I pulled her towards me and lightly kissed her.

Strong arms encircled my neck and pulled me into a tight embrace. I firmly wrapped my own limbs around Andrea’s waist.

I couldn’t even recall the last time I had hugged someone besides my own children.

“I can’t wait,” Andrea whispered into my ear, still clinging around my neck.

The simplicity of the act and the warm softness behind it seemed just as satisfying as the previous venture on the couch, if not more. I buried my face in dark locks and reaped the rewards of having finally let go of the past.

I now dared to hope the future could include a Miranda Priestly that was sincerely happy.

“Me too.”

Thank you.

 

Chapter Text

The train arriving from Boston was late.

I was often extremely comfortable appearing in public and not offering even a second glance to any individuals that felt the need to stare. However, after a month apart from my children, I simply desired a moment of privacy to welcome them home in anonymous seclusion. Despite all rumors in relation to my frigid personality, I was not terribly fond of the cold weather. Standing on the platform even in the heaviest of my jackets still did not deter the slicing wind. The winter morning sun was still brightly burning into my eyes despite the coverage of Chanel sunglasses. Furthermore, while the Hermes scarf smartly concealed my hair and reduced chances of recognition, my current lack of profile meant strangers felt perfectly comfortable impeding my personal space in the crowded area.

Honestly, did this young woman truly believe those horizontal stripes on her sweater were flattering? And how in the world did that man successfully smuggle a bowtie from the fifties? An uncontrollable shiver ripped through my body, resulting either from the cold or such sloppy fashion sense that surrounded me. The things I endured for my children.

“Your coffee, Miranda.”

My fingers relished in holding the heated cup even through the barrier of my gloves. I nodded my approval in Roy’s direction before turning to face the tracks. A woman of petite figure tapped a nail against the touch screen of her phone before pulling her trench coat around her body more tightly.

Andrea would look incredibly erotic in a trench coat.

A deep, dark red fabric would highlight the warm richness of her hair and eyes. A smoky eye to underline her usual confident, playful shimmer. Minimal makeup would be required for her lips; they were already so luscious without the added color. Perhaps a black pair of Louis Vuittons, a heel high enough to make her calves the envy of an ideal Greek statue. The slow parting of the jacket to reveal what clothing rested beneath. Or simply a black, lacy La Perla…

The roar of the train brought me back to the platform and icy weather that, due to a heat between my legs, was not quite as cold as it had been.

Once the metal giant came to a grinding halt, I set a fixed gaze at the compartment doors, and, just like awaiting a model to enter the runway, I was desperate to see my children walk down those steps.

A month was far too long.

I distractedly handed the cup of coffee back to Roy. The instant I saw heads of red hair, my heels quickly clicked towards the train’s exit, sorting through the flow of people. It was only a matter of seconds before two sets of arms were encircling my waist.

“Mom!”

“Hello, Bobbsies.”

I bent over and welcomed the tightened embrace. Cold cheeks brushed against my neck, but the warmth swimming through my chest more than compensated for any physical discomfort.

“Was the ride enjoyable?” Was your father’s fiancée acceptable? Did you take the initiative to read a novel? Dare I ask if you consumed the proper vegetable requirements?

“It was okay, I got pretty bored.” casually replied Cassidy, releasing her grip to adjust a small satchel that crossed her chest. Caroline’s hand quickly found my own. I responded with a firm squeeze.

“I read my book,” she said quietly, providing a small smile that made me realize the large shadow of loneliness of the townhouse in my daughters’ absence.

“Good girl,” I replied just as softly, leaning in to place a kiss atop her head.

I sought Cassidy’s hand, known for its restlessness, and secured it before walking off in the direction of the car. Roy was most likely acquiring their luggage given the past experience of the numerous times they had journeyed between parents via train.

When the concept of Harry Potter was first introduced to me, their amazement with the express by which the young wizard traveled had often left me somewhat disappointed. I had frowned at the thought they dreamt of a train that consisted of magic and hopeful destinations, therefore consequently resenting the tedious switching between mother and father.

Hogwarts or not, simply being in the presence of my two girls was certainly magical enough for me. As a mother, I dared to believe they were joyful as well.

“I beat the stewardess at a game of checkers,” Cassidy announced proudly, looking up with a toothy smile.

“Of course. You are a Priestly woman after all. Now, where should we dine for lunch?” I responded with a small smirk.

 


 

It had taken approximately five days to restore the balance to our household. Cassidy and Caroline successfully unpacked the entirety of their luggage. Patricia eventually stopped barking thunderously in excitement upon seeing the girls whenever they entered the room. They returned to school and I returned to work. I even managed to limit the overwhelming number of hugs I was keen on engaging with my children. However, despite all my happiness upon their return, there was a slight unease at the eventuality of broaching the subject of my other newfound happiness. Andrea.

She had assured me countless times on the phone to take my time, as if I had any to spare. How odd and interesting the way the equilibrium of the world lost balance so quickly. Just as soon as two of the most important pieces of my life returned, I began to sorely miss another fraction in a matter of days.

I never expected the conversation would begin by discussing my ex-husband’s current romantic interest.

“She’s kind of like how Stephen was. She drinks a lot and just ignores us.”

“I’m still very sorry I ever brought Stephen into this house, girls,” I said slowly, putting down the Book on the table beside the couch. Cassidy tapped away at some type of video game while Patricia lay beside her on the floor. Caroline viewed the comics section from the newspaper I studied earlier while sitting beside me.

“It’s okay, Mom. You didn’t know he would be a jerk and leave,” responded my oldest by four minutes, rolling over to rub the dog’s belly. If I knew any better, Patricia Priestly was the true queen of this household.

“Language, Cassidy,” I said sternly before amending softly, “He did choose to leave at a very bad time, but I shouldn’t have married him.”

“Why not?”

This seemed to be getting more and more challenging by the second.

“Well, why do you believe people get married?”

“Because they love each other,” Cassidy declared with a confident shake of the head.

“Very good answer. You see, I thought it would be pleasant to have a fatherly figure in the house, however, he didn’t turn out to be very agreeable, did he? He did not make me happy. I did not love him, and I should not have married him.”

“What about Dad?” Caroline asked, looking up from the large page in her tiny hands. Her sister too looked up from her device. Patricia simply looked disappointed from the lack of attention to her needs.

I turned and stroked freshly washed hair. “You know your father was and is a very nice man. We worked very well together raising you two. Just because we do not love each other doesn’t mean either of us loves you any less,” I said, kissing the top of Caroline’s head, “and I love you both infinitely.”

Cassidy clambered onto the couch while Caroline scooted closer. “Love you too, Mom.”

They both lowered their heads onto my shoulders, and a small contented sigh escaped me. Was it really so long ago that I had once held their small bodies in the crooks of my arms?

“Hey, Mom?”

“Yes, Bobbsey?”

“Next time you get married, it should be someone you love.”

My girls were the smartest people I knew.

“I agree, sweetheart. Actually, I’ve started seeing someone that makes me very happy,” I replied, rubbing their backs.

Both heads popped up.

“Who is it?”

“What’s he like?”

“You’ve actually met them before. Do you remember my assistant, Andrea?

I was met with two identically blank stares. How could they not honestly remember her?

Oh.

“You might recognize the name ‘Andy.’”

Light instantly dawned in Cassidy’s eyes before she declared, “Oh yeah, she was pretty cool. She got us the Harry Potter book and picked us up from school a lot with Roy.”

“I liked Andy,” an incredible review in Caroline’s terms. This might not be too problematic to explain.

“Your opinions are positive news considering I’ve been spending time with her,” I said with a steady voice.

“Does she work for you again?”

“No, darling. She’s the one I’ve been dating.”

A pause filled the room in which the only noise was our canine’s heavy panting. I looked to Cassidy, the ever more daring and talkative of my two angels, to speak first.

“But she’s a girl.”

Correction. This was going to be very problematic.

“Do you remember when you asked what ‘gay’ meant because you overheard the word used at school?”

I was greeted with enthusiastic nods.

“What did it mean?”

“You said it means some boys like Mr. Nigel like-like boys and some girls like-like girls,” replied Cassidy, with an air of impatience. She did not enjoy prolonging the main point or conclusion of a conversation. I had absolutely no idea where she learned such a trait.

“Yes, well, I like-like Andrea. Quite a lot. She makes me happy,” I attempted to explain as simply as possible.

Another pause filled the room, and I witnessed a briefly shared glance between the daughters. I suddenly felt as though I were on trial.

I, Miranda Priestly, was terrified of what my darlings could possibly think of me.

“Is that why you weren’t happy with Stephen? Because you like-like girls?” questioned Caroline, her intelligence helping with this process of connecting the dots.

“I think so, Bobbsie. He also wasn’t very nice,” I merely said with a small sigh. The great story and struggle of my sexuality could wait until they were older.

“Andy’s nice,” Caroline said simply.

Did I dare hope this could possibly work?

“She is very kind, I agree, sweetheart.”

“And she makes you happy?”

“Incredibly so. However, dating her would make me sad if it upset you two. I’d really like for all four of us to get along well together. Do you think it would be acceptable if I continue to spend time with her?”

I was met with nods and the sobering realization my daughters were willing to support their mother so long as she was happy. They certainly had their more spoiled moments, but their intelligence, kindness, and maturity always made me so incredibly proud to be their mother.

I instantly pulled them into a tight embrace. “Mommy loves you. You are both very good girls.”

“Love you.”

“Love you too, Mom.”

After a moment of listening to the relaxed breathing of my little wonders, I calmly said with a grin, “She’s immensely excited to see you two again.”

“Really?”

“Do you think you’d like to have her over for dinner?”

As Cassidy opened her mouth to respond, Patricia pounced onto the couch and proceeded to join the small pile, licking us each in full.

 


 

“Are you sure she’s not a vegetarian or something?”

I chuckled, recalling lunch earlier in the week in which Andrea had shamelessly inhaled a gourmet burger.

“She has a very healthy appetite, sweetheart. That includes animal and animal-based products.”

“But what if she doesn’t like chicken?” Cassidy continued while I slide the pan into the oven. I was always one to encourage academic curiosity in my children, but this knowledgeable pursuit was beginning to test my patience.

“She’s Mom’s girlfriend, Cass. Mom knows what she likes,” Caroline said, tossing the salad on the counter. The girls had been very avid about actually preparing dinner as a family. Introductory dinners with Stephen had often consisted of a quick hello and running upstairs while he and I consumed a catered meal. The different treatment for Andrea made me optimistic.

And then I realized the full extend of what Caroline had just said. Girlfriend. I tried to resist a smile as I closed the oven door.

“I was just wondering,” Cassidy countered, placing the silverware on the table. The two girls had battled through a tenacious game of rock-paper-scissors in order to determine who would perform which task. Cassidy had frowned at the thought of potentially getting salad dressing on her new pink shirt. Again, no idea from whom she ever inherited such a mannerism.

When the doorbell rang, Cassidy shouted, “I got it!” dashing out of the kitchen with Caroline hot on her heels while I remained, resting my elbows on the counter. And so it begins.

I heard the click of a knob and the opening of the front door.

“Hey, girls. How’s it going?” Andrea’s relaxed voice calmed and excited me all at once.

“Fine. What’s in the bag?”

“Well, I have a CD for you and some books for Caroline.” Interesting.

“I’m not Cassidy,” said a voice I knew was slightly too high-pitched to be Caroline.

“Nice try. Caroline hates pink. Plus, you always do all the talking.”

I smiled at the woman’s ease and skill in handling the young girl whose laugh echoed through the house. The rustling of a bag soon followed.

“It’s a blank CD?” Cassidy said with a heavy sense of dissatisfaction.

“I met a guy that’s working with Fall Out Boy on their new CD. It’s not supposed to be released for another few months.” Of course Andrea would have remembered my daughter’s favorite band.

“Oh my god, no way! Thank you!”

“You’re welcome. And Caroline,” here was another pause, “here’s your book back and my favorite Judy Blume. I think you’ll like it.”

“Thanks, Andy.” Caroline’s voice almost sounded like she was smiling.

“Come on, let’s go listen to my new CD,” Cassidy proposed before I saw my children’s forms pass the doorway to the kitchen and bound up the stairs.

I suppose the introductions went well.

I slowly turned through the doorway and admired the woman grinning in my foyer. Seeing her in my house, not nervously clinging to the Book but rather running her eyes up and down my body was incredibly stimulating in the most wonderful ways.

“Hello. I love the jeans.”

I stepped towards her and placed a kiss on her cheek. She smelled divine.

“Just for you, darling,” I purred in her ear before taking a step back, “May I take your coat?”

She placed a paper bag, most likely the carrier of the previously mentioned gifts, on the floor, and reached up to begin unbuttoning a lovely trench coat. Immediately remembering my past daydreams, which had admittedly made multiple appearances, I almost growled at the sight. I forcibly distracted myself with taking her jacket and placing it in the closet.

When I turned around, Andrea was holding up what appeared to be a golden colored rose.

“For you,” she murmured, taking a step closer. I held her gaze, always fixated on the way her eyes crinkled when she smiled.

“Yellow?” I asked, my fingers purposely brushing hers as the flower exchanged hands.

“You gave me white to represent you. I decided I was a yellow kind of girl.”

I smirked and leaned in closer. “I would verbally express my gratitude, but last time I attempted to do so, you were rather sarcastic.”

Her smile turned instantly from sweet to sexy. “You could just show me. Nonverbally.”

“I knew you were smart,” I muttered before claiming her lips as chastely as I could manage. Resisting devouring her always proved an arduous task.

The sound of nails clicking on the hard floor directed our attention to the large dog that had finally decided to investigate the commotion. She was somewhat lacking in the watchdog department.

Andrea immediately squatted and began to pet the St. Bernard. “Hiya, Patty! Do you remember me? Huh, pretty girl?”

I was unsure if the smirk that curled onto my face was due to the warm affection she showered upon my canine companion or the ridiculousness of her nickname. I smiled, nonetheless. Either way, Patricia eagerly licked the new source of much loved head-scratching.

“Don’t worry, I brought you a present too,” she continued to coo, before looking up and asking, “is that okay?”

“Of course.”

“Come on, Patty,” she exclaimed, walking to the paper bag in the corner of the foyer. I took the opportunity to return to the kitchen and retrieve a vase to display my flower. I typically didn’t find the use of bouquets extremely beneficial to the ritual of courting, but providing Andrea with a white rose had served as a symbol. I was giving her something I identified with myself.

Receiving one from her felt just as symbolic.

Patricia interrupted my musings when she trotted cheerfully through the kitchen with what appeared to be a large, fuzzy, brown object. The beautiful woman that followed her smiled at the displayed flower before meeting my gaze.

“A football?” I asked, my eyebrow instantly rising.

“Oh, yes. I found out she loved the sport when she interrupted a game in Central Park after running through a huge puddle,” she explained, walking towards me, “It was just after picking her up from a puppy pedicure too. It thought you were going to kill me.”

I stepped forward and placed my hands on her hips. “You’re much more useful to me alive, I assure you.”

She wrapped her arms around my neck and murmured, “Use me however you’d like.”

“Mmm, I amend my prior statement. Not merely smart but a genius.”

Her hands lightly combed the strands of hair just below my ear as I brushed my nose against hers. Her delicious hips pushed against my center and a heated sigh passed between us. I needed to have this woman.

The thunderous stampede coming down the stairs sent a clear signal it was time to pull apart.

I lightly pecked her lips before moving towards the counter to offer her a drink.

Caroline entered the kitchen carrying a thick hardback novel and walking up to Andrea.

“Andy, have you read the new Twilight yet?”

“No, I didn’t even know it was out already. I can’t believe I missed it.”

My daughter presented the book to which Andrea happily accepted and expressed her gratitude.

“Is there a hot commodity for young adult books on the black market and I was unaware?” I questioned with a playful smirk.

Caroline looked from myself to Andrea, who simply smiled and winked back. My daughter returned a slight smile.

“Me and Andy traded books a lot when she worked for you. Since she just gave me back my old one and a new one for me to read, I want her to read this one.”

“How intriguing,” I mused, looking back to brown eyes. She had done so much more than her job, and now she was so much more than my mere assistant. Her small smile briefly stopped my pouring of the wine. Cassidy further disrupted the process.

“Hey, Mom, Andy got me a new CD. It isn’t even out yet. Isn’t that cool?”

Placing down the bottle, I brushed my fingers through her wild hair as I responded, “She can do anything, can’t she?”

“Do you think she could get me Panic at the Disco too?” she asked, her eyes lighting up.

Andrea’s laugh filled the kitchen. “I’m not that powerful, kiddo.”

 

 


 

“That was delicious, you guys.”

“Thanks. Mom was right. You eat a lot.”

“Cassidy.”

“Sorry.”

Andrea’s throaty laugh quickly resolved the issue. “That’s totally fine. I do love to eat,” she chuckled, turning a playful glare in my direction.

I dabbed my lips with a napkin before responding, “I was merely explaining to Cassidy that you would find chicken a suitable dinner option.”

“She could have been a vegetarian,” exclaimed Cassidy, “but I guess she’s not mean enough to be one.”

“What on earth do you mean, sweetheart?”

“Kimberly Schmidt,” Caroline mumbled before stabbing her last piece of lettuce.

“She’s this girl at school that’s really annoying. She thinks she’s better at everything. And she’s a vegetarian.”

“Cassidy, just because this girl has a particular attitude issue does not mean it results from the fact she chooses not to consume meat,” I sighed, taking a sip of wine.

“The other day she called me Ginny Wesley.”

“Why did she say that?” Andrea asked, concern showing plainly on her face.

“Cassidy got her uniform dirty on the playground,” Caroline stated, setting down her fork and politely whipping her mouth with her napkin.

“She said I looked like a poor Wesley with my skirt and my hair. I wanted to give her one of these,” Cassidy rumbled, sitting up in her hair and throwing a punch in the air.

Oh no, not again.

“I do not wish to repeat myself about how we do not solve our problems with violent force. I allowed you to take lessons merely as physical exercise and a way of learning self-defense.”

“Yes, Mom.”

“Wait, you’re taking karate lessons?” Andrea asked eagerly.

“Taekwondo!”

“Very cool. Are you still doing that with piano and dancing?”

She truly did remember everything.

“We don’t dance anymore. I didn’t like playing piano either, so I’m going to try out for the soccer team in the spring.”

“I joined the school newspaper,” Caroline added in her own reserved but happy way.

“You two have been so busy!” the woman practically gushed, “You’ll have to let me come see a match or a game or whatever they call it.”

She then turned to Caroline, “And I would love to read some of your stuff. If you ever want to see what it’s like at a real paper, I’ll show you where I work.”

“Andrea is a journalist for the New York Mirror,” I added with a pleased smile.

“Sweet. I want to come see too,” Cassidy added. Even Caroline nodded enthusiastically before turning to me.

“Isn’t that the paper you read, Mom?”

“Why, yes, it is. Though I also enjoy flipping through the Dalton Diaries,” I responded with a proud smile. All motherly bias aside, Caroline certainly had a talent for the written word. Despite her public shyness, I knew the full potential of her intellect.

“So we can read Andy’s articles?”

I felt momentarily fazed at the realization my children liked her. How on earth could I have ever doubted this working?

“Of course, sweetheart. We’ll sit down and analyze every detail of her writing together,” I said, locking eyes with the divine woman across the table.

“Uh-oh, I’m in trouble now,” she chuckled, shaking her head.

“Do you read Mom’s magazine since she reads your paper?”

At this question, Andrea seemed to pause and look briefly in my direction before answering, “Yes, I do.  When I met your mother, she showed me some really neat things about all this fashion,” her eyes again flickered towards me, “stuff.”

My mouth watered at the daring smirk that glimmered momentarily before returning polite attention to my daughter.

“I like reading it too. Caroline doesn’t, but I like all the clothes. Mr. Nigel says I’ve got good fashion sense just like Mom.”

And then, with the ease and limited attention span only an eleven year-old could possess, Cassidy asked, “Hey, so are you gay like Mr. Nigel? I mean, you’re dating my Mom.”

I suppose I rejoiced in celebration of a successful evening too quickly.

“Cassidy, it is not polite to ask other people those types of questions. Apologize.”

“No, I think that’s a fair question. I’d like to answer it,” came the smooth, calm voice from the opposite end of the table. I directed my attention towards questioning brown eyes. I released a breath I hadn’t been entirely aware I was holding and nodded for her to continue.

“I think that if you really like somebody and want to do things like hold their hand or go on dates with them, then it doesn’t matter if they’re a boy or a girl. Once you grow up and you’re an adult, you should be allowed to do what makes you happy. And your mom makes me really happy. I really like her. She’s super smart, she makes me laugh, and she’s very pretty. So,” Andrea continued, leaning closer to my girls, “I was wondering if it’s okay with you guys if I date her. I promise I’ll try my best to make her happy too.”

I found myself desperately coveting either of my daughters’ seats in order to be within arms length of this woman that was slowly driving me mad with pure happiness. I wanted to touch her. I desired to hold her and share everything with her.

I aspired to love her.

“I think it’s okay,” Caroline mumbled before looking at her sister. I was touched; her speaking first and offering her personal opinion was a rarity.

Cassidy nodded before turning to Andrea, “Yeah, just don’t leave like Stephen did.”

Just like that, all three pieces were falling into place.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she responded firmly, focusing her piercing gaze on me in a binding promise with such ferocity I felt a shuddering breath escape me. Her eyes softened and a small smile trickled onto her beautiful face. Once again, her magic relaxed my control, and a matching grin appeared.

She then proceeded to turn to Cassidy and said theatrically, “And you can beat me up if I do.”

I was uncertain if my girls burst into giggles due to her comment or my ungracefully loud snort that followed.

 


 

“Goodnight, Andy.”

“Bye, Andy.”

“Sleep tight, girls,” Andrea mumbled as the two surrounded her in a hug. Apparently she had an incredible talent for charming any and all Priestly women.

Tiredness easily visible in their eyes, Caroline and Cassidy, already clad in their pajamas, turned towards me.

“’Night, Mom.”

“Good evening, Bobbsies,” I replied, embracing them both and sending them upstairs with a kiss.

Eventually the pitter-patter of their steps died down, leaving Andrea and myself in the quiet of the grand foyer.

“I am of the opinion they actually liked you,” I said, walking closer and brushing a lock of brunette hair behind her ear.

“Good. Because I really like them,” she responded, grabbing my other hand, “Their mom isn’t too bad on the eyes either.

“Hm. You’re only saying such pleasantries because I rewarded you with jeans.”

“Reward? Please. You’re killing me in those tight, True Religion pants.”

I feigned a small gasp. “You could identify the brand. How impressive.”

“I do read Runway, you know,” she drawled sarcastically with a histrionic toss of the hair.

“Ah, yes. That was an interesting development.”

She shrugged before muttering, “It was something small, but it kept me connected to you,” her arms wrapped around my neck, and her eyes glittered in the foyer lighting, “I couldn’t leave you, not completely.”

I rested my forehead against hers as my hands found her waist for the second time that evening, pulling her flush against me.

“And I’ll never be able to either or else Cassidy will kick my ass. I think you’re stuck with me,” she finished with barely a whisper.

“If you insist,” I breathed, skimming my lips across her mouth before placing a kiss on her jawline. A small purr sweetly escaped her.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood upright, and, just before descending onto her neck, I realized there was a disturbance.

“Bed. Now,” I commanded sternly, looking up into the three stories worth of staircases. Scampering steps were heard in the distance along with the shutting of two doors.

I sighed, resting my head on the other woman’s shoulder. I had decided not to wear heels for the evening, and Andrea’s true height of nearly a half a head taller than myself showed. Arms wrapped around my back, and I buried into the soft skin of the crook of her neck. Her sent was intoxicating.

“I suppose the interruption is for the best,” I mused, tracing the silver necklace that still rested against her collarbone, “or else I may have just started having my way with you.” I heard and felt the chuckle.

“As badly as I want you to, I don’t think it’ll be a good idea if your kids hear me screaming your name,” she mumbled, gently kissing the skin just below my ear. She certainly wasn’t aiding the process of keeping my libido in check.

I forced myself to retreat from the burning of her body and desperately tried to remember the familiar softness of witnessing her with my children, avoiding my much more scandalous and passionate thoughts concerning the woman before me. It was not simply a matter of having her but loving her.

That certainly didn’t mean I was unable to tease her.

I took her hand and planted a soft kiss before saying, “I can and will be patient. I have waited a very long time for someone like you. I fully intend to maintain some ounce of propriety until the correct moment; however,” I continued, bringing her hand again to my lips, “I am severely disappointed I cannot play with you this evening,”

I ran the tip of my tongue between two knuckles and almost hummed with pleasure at the heavy breath that left her gasping mouth.

“I’m not your toy, Miranda,” she almost growled, and my lust to have her returned instantly.

She took the step I had put between us and said seductively, “but I am yours.”

I licked my lips and desperately attempted to resist devouring her. Apparently my attempts at flirting were not as intimidating as I would have liked. Andrea Sachs was a force to reckoned with.

I allowed my eyes to travel downward before resigning with a sigh, “You’re quite the defiant little cub.”

At my small huff of defeat, she snickered playfully before kissing my cheek.

“Just enjoying the chase, Cougar.”

Chapter Text

The list.

It was composed of various names of Runway employees that vowed to find alternate forms of employment should a coup ever dethrone me from my position of Editor-in-Chief.

It didn’t exist.

There had always been the possibility that, among the models, photographers, writers, and designers, someone might actually demonstrate some act of resistance and leave. However, it was very unlikely that the followers and workers of the magazine would ever stand for me when I took special care to always push them down. Therefore, I lied to the oblivious and bumbling Mr. Ravitz, and he fully believed my bluff after only twenty minutes on a computer’s word document cross-referenced with a list of employed workers. The buffoon didn’t even bother double-checking my work.

Unfortunately, Jacqueline Follet hadn’t decided to go into hiding as per my plan. Failure with James Holt, the ultimate realization of absolute lack of talent, and the complete disappearance from society seemed like the only possible route after such a public embarrassment. I was not one to underestimate my opponents, but it seemed so obvious the only alternative would be her eradiation from the field altogether. A woman that truly thought hair mimicking a skunk was an educated fashion choice clearly didn’t deserve to be associated with the human race or, consequently, Runway.

There were whispers in the publishing circles Jacqueline was suddenly making more public appearances. In almost two weeks time, Elis-Clark would be hosting a dinner in which a ‘special announcement’ was to be made.

They were naïve to think I wouldn’t recognize the signs.

The board thought a younger leader would help sales. Irving wanted more money, and Jacqueline’s techniques whilst at French Runway, cheap and uninspiring, required little funding. Jacqueline desired fame, and the empire I built would provide such a pedestal. The revenge of toppling me over would certainly make them both ecstatic.

However, they lacked what I possessed. Of course, talent and drive were given.

My children were the loves of my life. Andrea was quickly slipping into the long forgotten corners of my heart. While my soul and body belonged elsewhere, my mind, intellectual thirst, and spirit had surrendered everything to this magazine. My magazine.

The only way to claim it securely was to have it placed into my hands freely.

Indeed, the master plan was to let them be happy. For a little while.

“Emily.”

When I felt the presence of a figure hovering in front of the desk, I looked up to address the veteran assistant.

“For the next week, you will be in charge of hiring and training your replacement. If you wish to promote,” I paused and simply gestured towards the two desks outside my office where the insignificant girl was sitting, “and replace the second assistant position, then do so. So long as I have two competent assistants, you are free to go.”

Eyes lurking in a dark green cloud of shadow stared wide and scarred. Her application of eye makeup always was interesting, but this literal popping of the eyes was becoming burdensome.

“There is currently an opening in the Beauty department. You will be filling it.”

Well-defined eyebrows crinkled before exploding upwards yet again.

Oh for the love of Chanel, stop gawking.

“Unless of course you do not wish to continue working here. In either case, leave. Now,” I instructed nonchalantly, looking down again to the photos from a shoot yesterday afternoon.

I heard the clearing of a throat before a muttered, “Thank you,” and the clicking of heels signaled the speaker’s exit.

I resisted a small smirk before calling, “Oh, and Emily?”

I continued looking down, though I could easily imagine the head of red hair that quickly whipped around to face me once more.

“Do not disappoint me. That’s all.”

 


 

 “I walked all the way to your office to find you missing. Must I do everything?”

Nigel turned away from the set of the photo shoot and smirked at my comment.

Some of us are trying to provide high-class fashion for the poor, tasteless souls in this cruel world,” he responded, turning with crossed arms back to the photographer attempting to rally the models.

“And some of us need not ‘try.’ We simply succeed,” I retorted before feeling a vibrating sensation in the pocket of my suit jacket. Andrea? Pulling out the silver device, I noticed Cassidy’s name flash briefly beside the image of a sealed letter.

“Your girlfriend perhaps? Rumors around Elis have it you look at your phone and smile. The horror.”

“Andrea tends to relax my usual unshakable control of my external reactions. It is becoming quite the problem,” I said, pocketing the phone once more and fixing my eyes on the shoot before us. Male models in business suits were being drenched in water. It appeared to be an advertisement focusing on the versatility of the couture for everyday wear, such as the rain. I felt myself nodding.

“You two text. How cute. Have you held hands? Had your first kiss? When do you take Six home to meet the parents?”

I rolled my eyes at the overly obnoxious tone before replying, “She has been over twice already for dinner with the girls. And kissing certainly isn’t an issue.”

“Oh my. Done the deed, have we?”

I pursed my lips and the unfortunate model in my line of sight almost tripped on the set.

“Silly me. Sorry for asking. Don’t smile like you’re in Singing in the Rain, for Pete’s sake,” Nigel shouted towards the set before turning in my direction, “To the point, to what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?”

My voice lowered to an almost inaudible level when I said, “Is there perhaps a position for Young Nigel somewhere in the ranks of Men’s Runway?”

“What do you mean?” He responded in a tone just as hushed.

“There might be a change in leadership. He has potential that should not be wasted. New leadership might wish to,” I spoke softly, glancing around at the surrounding chaos of the shoot, “make various personnel adjustments.”

His hand quickly went to his head and scratched the hairless skin; it was his tell when he was worried or in deep thought. I had witness the habit various times during troublesome shoots or run-through disasters. I desperately wished he would select a more sanitary practice by possibly using his handkerchief.

“Jeremiah’s thin enough to hide in the closet until the storm passes, I suppose,” he whispered, looking around the room, “Why didn’t we have this little chitchat in my office?”

“Because it would be expedient if people were under the impression I am worried, unprepared, and in desperate need of your advice for my inevitable downfall.”

“Are you?”

Honestly. I simply glared in response.

“Fine. What’s the plan?”

“Instruct that model to remove those leather shoes before they get ruined in the torrential downpour,” I stated sternly before turning on my heel and approaching the exit, “and you’ll simple have to see for yourself.”

It wasn’t until I reached the domain of my office that I opened my phone to peruse the message from my daughter.

‘Can sis & i stay ovr stephs 2nite & shop 2mrw w/ her mom?’

Primarily, I needed to have a serious discussion with my girls on the merits of proper English.

Secondly, I would be calling Stephanie’s mother in order to confirm the reality of such an event and secure proper contact information.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I did not have my children for the evening and tomorrow afternoon.

‘Yes. Text me Mrs. George’s number. Sending Roy to drive you. Be safe. Love you.’

After sending the first message and another to the driver, I clicked over to a familiar name with a recently familiar number and listened to the officious sound of ringing before a melodious voice drifted sweetly towards me.

“Hiya, Cougar.”

Perhaps not quite so melodious.

“Is there anything I can do in order to eliminate such a nickname?” I sighed with a hint of humor in my voice.

“Nope. It’s either that or I get to call you my ‘love muffin.’”

A small fluttering ensued in my chest simply at the mention of the word despite the ridiculousness of her name. Love. We certainly hadn’t made any declarations, nor did I feel it was exactly the right moment; however, admittedly, I was falling in love with her. I was keenly, precisely, and most ferociously realizing my inability to be without her. I covered my momentary lapse of thought with a thoughtful hum.

“Hm, at least the first sounds mildly intimidating.”

“I thought you’d see it my way. So what’s going on? Still at work?”

“Yes, though I do hope to leave within an hour or two,” I said, resting the phone between my shoulder and ear while reaching for a pen, “And yourself?”

“Just got home a while ago from some errands. I went out with Doug last night, so I think tonight’s just a wine and Friends reruns kind of night.”

“Would you care for some company?” I said casually, initialing the budget proposal for the Art department and giving my approval. Probably the last budget I would have the privilege of validating for some time.

“Sure! Bring the girls over and we can order pizza. Or salad since you’re crazy and think your hot body can’t handle some cheese,” she responded excitedly, and I unintentionally grinned at her warmth in embracing us as a family.

“The girls will be staying over a friend’s house for the evening and be otherwise preoccupied until late tomorrow afternoon,” I added smoothly, licking a finger to turn a page in my calendar.

“Oh?” came her reply, the inflection in her voice still holding the previous note of eagerness, though for a much different reason.

“Tomorrow just so happens to be Sunday, the one day of the week I do not go into the office, as you well know,” I continued, trying to keep my voice steady and seemingly nonchalant, “Therefore, if it wouldn’t terribly inconvenience you-“

“Miranda, go get your work done, then hurry up and come over,” she interrupted impatiently.

“My, my, is there a rush, darling cub?” I teased lightly, pleased with her apparent anticipation.

“If you really enjoy a ‘glacial pace’ as much as you say you do, we’ll need all the time we can get,” she said, her voice dripping with suggestive implications, “That’s all.”

The line went dead.

In that moment I was unsure if I was going to kill Andrea Sachs or make her howl in pleasure until she died of an overabundance of sexual gratification.

“Emily.”

A pair of legs soon entered my peripheral vision.

“If the Book is not here in half an hour to be delivered to me before I depart for the evening, the only pieces of literature any of the department staff will ever handle again are their severance checks,” I sneered bitterly before adding with dark fulfillment, “That’s all.”

 


 

What if it wasn’t satisfactory?

I typically operated by the rule that if I intended to do something, I would undoubtedly succeed. Goals required skill and confidence, two traits I strongly considered to be pivotal to my personality. However, sitting in the backseat of the town car, my mind stumbled upon the fact my last physical interaction involving another woman was approximately five years ago with a photographer I made quite clear I would never see again.

In terms of experience, there was no logical reasoning for this new wave of nervousness. I possessed knowledge from past (very distant past) encounters, and Andrea had admitted that she gave women the classic “college try” before entering a long-term relationship with Nathaniel. Statistically, the odds were in our favor for a positive evening.

I frowned with displeasure.

As to the question of whether we were personally compatible with one another, the answer was extremely obvious. Her sex appeal tortured me to no end, and I proudly recognized the signs of arousal in her eyes on multiple occasions. Between the back-and-forth of our conversations and the heated moments of affection on the couch after the girls had gone to bed, we were unquestionably sexually compatible.

I simply couldn’t identify the reason for my useless anxiousness. Even inevitably going through the motions of crawling into bed with the girls’ father or Stephen hadn’t carried this odd burden.

I peered outside the window to the sidewalk corner while the car remained stationary at a stoplight. A couple stood in the glow of a streetlight outside a building holding hands.

Oh.

“We’re here.”

Roy’s voice startled me out of my thoughts and I again focused on the outside image of Andrea’s apartment. Screw your courage to the sticking place, Priestly.

“Your services will not be needed for the rest of the evening,” I said sternly, and, before my confidence could waver, or I could see Roy’s knowing smirk in the rearview mirror, I left the safety of the town car and marched into the battlefield.

By the time I had ascended all forty-eight steps, my heart was pounding from a source other than physical exertion. I forced a steady hand through my hair as I stood outside her door and took a calming breath.

Victory will be mine.

I knocked firmly with the air of a queen announcing her war-like arrival onto soon-to-be conquered lands.

When the door opened to reveal a woman clad in a neckline determined to go southward, all my bloodlust drive died away instantly.

The Queen surrenders, I thought drily as I eyed the silver necklace sparkling on the brink of an ample chest. My sight was about to travel even lower when the clearing of a throat interrupted what must have been my very blatant scrutiny. I looked up to mirth-filled eyes.

“Good evening, “ I said, licking my lips. She smiled at the action and pushed against the door to further broaden the entrance.

“Come on in,” she replied, her voice caring an underlying richness that further flamed the fire growing between my legs.

I walked through the doorway slowly, stopping when a leg suddenly blocked my path. A very smooth, naked leg. With a pair of shorts barely covering said leg’s thigh. I followed the path up the woman’s torso, again meeting eyes smoldering like darkened wood.

This was going to be a slow death via torture.

“I don’t even get a kiss ‘hello?’” she quipped with a smirk.

“Pardon my manners,” I responded hazily, slowly leaning towards her smiling face. A mere second before I touched her tantalizing lips, I decidedly turned and planted a firm kiss on her cheek.

If she had the audacity to rudely torture a prisoner that had politely surrendered, I would not be going down without a fight.

A small laugh filled the room, and I felt some type of balance restored as I continued deeper into the abode. I heard the shutting of the door and minor clicking while I removed my coat.

“I’m sorry about before.”

I placed the garment on a nearby chair and turned around to face the speaker. The dark, romantic red of the shirt complimented her light skin quite wonderfully. Upon further examination, it seemed the maddening bottoms were nothing more than running shorts.

“Whatever for?” I finally questioned. Driving me crazy with something as unfashionable as athletic garb?

“I did hang up the phone on Miranda Priestly,” she explained with a small smile.

“I’ve accepted you’re rude and cheeky. Dealing with it is troublesome but hopefully doable,” was my playful response. She rolled her eyes as I walked towards her and I couldn’t help my returning grin.

“How was your day?” she asked, changing the subject, grabbing my hand, and leading me to the kitchen. A bottle of wine stood alone on the center of the clean counter, and I was contently distracted until I noticed the cracked door leading from the kitchen. The bedroom.

“Exhausting as usual,” I said, watching her reach up to a cabinet in order to retrieve wine glasses. Her shirt rose, revealing a small appetizer of a curvy hip. I cleared my throat before continuing, “I’d much rather hear about yours.”

“Not too much happened,” she replied, setting the glassware on the counter and pulling the bottle closer, “I really needed to get some groceries, and I worked a little bit on the biography. At least I tried to be productive,” she summarized with a chuckle, pulling out a drawer to claim the device to open the cork.

She tucked her hair behind her ear before screwing the twisted metal into the cork of the bottle. I took a moment to admire the brunette waves. In the past months, it had returned to the longer length from her earlier days at Runway. She had maintained the bangs, and it was clear she now diligently used more products; however, there was an added volume and fullness that had disappeared as she extended her stay at the magazine. I was unable to resist reaching out to run my fingers through the silky strands.

“I’m pleased you decided to grow your hair out again.”

“I thought it wasn’t stylish enough when it was like this,” she said with a smirk, looking up out of the corner of her eyes as she popped out the cork.

I took a small step back and admired her face momentarily, taking sanctuary in escaping my nerves and switching to the critique of an editor.

“It adds a sense of maturity that didn’t quite belong at Runway,” I pondered aloud, my critical eye softening at the flick of her eyebrow.

“Are you saying it makes me look old?” she crooned with mock hurt.

I resisted a smile before explaining, “Us fashionistas, we’re always clinging to what keeps us youthful. You took what you learned and fused it with the charming respectability your intelligence and charisma provides you. You’re not ‘stylish’ anymore,” I said softly, again running my fingers through her hair, “but rather you have embraced entirely this style that is uniquely you. You’ve become a wonderfully refined and mature woman, Andrea.”

She placed the bottle on the counter and started at me with a look of disbelief and a peculiar smile.

“How am I the only one that sees how big of a softie you are?”

I snorted, “Most likely because I am not.”

She shook her head and grabbed my hands before answering, “No, that’s not true. I’ve seen how passionate you get at work and how much you love your children. You treat your dog like royalty and protect your friends, like Nigel. You’re so sweet to me and kind enough to still be donating to all those charities,” she continued, her chocolate eyes refusing to leave mine, “Everything you do is one giant act of compassion, and no one seems to see it.”

Andrea.

“Because it is an act of selfishness,” I almost whispered.

“How?” she asked, reaching up to cup my face with her hand. The warmth was intoxicating, and I leaned into the source.

“My children, my dog, you…I need them.”

“Trying to be happy isn’t self-“ she paused before a small smile emerged on her face, “You need me?”

“Need. Want. I can no longer deduce the difference. I simply know you are becoming a mandatory presence in my life,” I murmured. Is this not the reason I had pursued her? For her to stay? Perhaps my nervousness from before was not so entirely related to a lack of physical contact in my recent years but more so because of the emotional emptiness. Tonight, this final step would solidify her place in my world. The taking and giving, the display of both strength and weakness. Yes, wanting or needing did not begin to define the desperation behind the final leap.

She loosely grabbed my hands and placed them on her waist before wrapping her own around my shoulders. Pressing our foreheads together, her lips touched a delicate but confident kiss on my own.

“This is needing someone. Do you need me?” she whispered against my mouth.

“Quite frantically.”

She took a step and I felt my back press against the kitchen counter. Her hips began to rock against my own, the pressure of her chest leaving mine breathless. Those tempting lips slid to my ear, lightly biting the lobe. I was losing my mind.

“And this,” she breathed hotly into my ear, “this is wanting someone. Do you want me, Miranda?”

“Most ardently,” I gasped.

‘Then how many times do I have to tell you I’m yours before you act on it?”

Victory.

The hands that rested uselessly on her hips suddenly snapped to life with the overwhelming desire to explore and possess.

I was only immediately aware of the heat and hunger that surrounded me and raged deep within my bones. Lips battled against mine with the same voracious ferocity my fingers clawed at the devious shirt that exposed only a small sample of what I craved. The other hand tangled into her hair, our legs tangled together as I pushed a knee to her center, and, after hearing her gasp with pleasure at the movement, I thrust her against the counter in an act of desperation for even more tangling and weaving and intertwining. The absolute ache for her body could not be lessened despite all my efforts, and I growled with impatience at the saccharine madness of having but not yet seizing.

She was panting between my body and the counter while I struggled to resist devouring her in the process of tasting her neck.   For all the refinement and gentleman attitude I had claimed to retain, I was withering away into nothing less than an animal.

Based on the way she was whining with every nibble and dart of my tongue, she didn’t seem terribly concerned.

I pressed my knee more deeply between the apex of her legs, and I was instantly rewarded with another moan. My mind was swirling in a humid fog, jolting to attention when hands roughly grabbed the collar of my button-down shirt.

“You are not taking me in the kitchen,” Andrea rasped, and, in this moment of clarity, I realized my hands had diligently pulled her shorts down to her upper thighs.

Our eyes locked, and the moisture pooled in my mouth and at my very core. I could hear the throbbing of my own heartbeat pulsating everywhere.

My hands slowly reached down and palmed the underwear-clad rear the lowered shorts had exposed.

“Andrea,” I whined or growled. I was beyond comprehending.

“Bed, bed, now,” was all I heard before being pushed backwards towards the final frontier of her apartment. I was quickly distracted by eager hands beginning to unfasten the buttons of my shirt. Suddenly the idea of removing our clothing entirely seemed the most revolutionary idea of the 21st Century.

My fingers hastened to the smooth belly peaking beneath a shirt I had long ago wrinkled. I lifted the fabric, and the fingers working my own garment left momentarily in order to expedite the process. I cast the red cloth somewhere behind me and immediately began to appreciate the new skin with the tip of my tongue. Straps slid off and shoulders were admired. A well-defined collarbone was deeply enjoyed with little bites as I pulled at fabric elsewhere. My lips rapidly memorized the splendid bosom that peeked over black lace, and I swiftly decided I needed more. Now.

It took a moment for me to apprehend the idea it would be difficult to remove her bra while I was on top of her, and, as I sat up to amend this little hitch, I realized the full implication.

I was on top of her? And when had my own shirt been removed?

I looked down at the woman I was straddling and witnessed a sight I had only dreamt about on the loneliest of evenings. Andrea’s cheeks were flushed and her eyes burned like blazing coal. Her hair was fanned chaotically atop the pillow, and her bra sloppily clung more to her upper ribcage than to her actual chest. I eyed the delightful torso and curvy hips and noticed that the dreadful shorts were gone; all that remained was a simple pair of black undergarments. The image cooled me slightly; this was a reminder she was to be enjoyed slowly.

Her eyes bore a note of curiosity when ours gazes met again. I bent over her body and delicately slid my hands under the small of her back, causing her to arch deliciously. Fingers followed a backbone until a clasp was reached.

The bra discarded, I again sat upright to admire the rare gift before me. I began to speak, but only a hoarse echo could escape. I cleared my throat before reaching out to cup her face.

“Andrea, I wish I possessed the words to do your beauty justice.”

A glowing smile appeared on her face before she sighed, “Then no words. Come here.”

Our lips met with an intensity that had not yet been considered. Before, there was nothing but fire and explosion. A deadly heat meant to consume everything in its path. However, as my hands spread to her body with the intent of memorizing and her tongue slowly mapped the contours of my mouth, there was no urgency. Not a burst of lava but rather the deliberate and gradual rolling of waves on the sand. There was the scent of salt and the sensation of angelic warmth that felt as if the dark bedroom was cast in sunlight. Her hands roamed down my abdomen, and I sighed into her mouth.

My sense of time grew lazy as I delicately sipped and nibbled on this woman, my only markers of progression being the inevitable removal of my slacks, Andrea’s increasing moans, and my eventual face-to-face encounter with her final article of clothing.

There was only a tiny hint of awkwardness that came with completely undressing her for the first time, and I knew it was to be expected. It would fade with time.

I tenderly grabbed her ankles, lifted her legs, and placed them on my shoulders. With a delicateness and shyness I had not seem from her in quite some time, Andrea turned her head and closed her eyes with a small whine of seeming embarrassment; it was another shade to her character I found absolutely delightful. I turned to my left and gently kissed her ankle until she turned to look at me once more.

“Are you comfortable, darling?” I whispered against her skin.

Her answer was a smile and a nod before I heard the mumbled, “Please.”

My lips descended down her leg, a trail of hot kisses leading to the apex under the knee. The tip of my tongue teased the sensitive nerves at the leg’s juncture, much to Andrea’s pleasure if her verbal outbursts were any indication, before switching to the limb on my right. My teeth and tongue worked the skin of her thigh, and the scent from before enveloped me as I inched closer. My mouth watered as I recalled her words from before.

She said she was mine, and, finally, I was to have her.

I tasted her slowly and savored the wonderful union of her flavor and the gasp that sounded above. As I continued with tantalizing deliberateness, her hips began to quiver and rock. Strong legs wrapped around my back, and thighs closed around my head, though I was still blessed to hear her muffled cries. Her fingers entangled themselves in my hair, and my own hands secured her suddenly very active hips. I gained momentum with every call of my name until my flickering tongue was pressing roughly against her and lapping greedily. She arched her body, and my own aching center nearly imploded at the sensation.

Much like the hot, heavy air the suddenly snaps and wanes after a storm, there was a slow cooling that overtook the bedroom. I slowly rose and admired the woman panting with her eyes blissfully closed. Remarkable.

I peppered kisses along her jawline, and her arms pulled me into a warm embrace. As I hovered above her, our bodies melded together, I realized I was hers more so than she was mine. I wanted to protect her and love her. I couldn’t be without her.

Hands pushed gentle against my shoulders, and I pulled back slightly to be met with a deeply concerned gaze.

“Miranda, you’re trembling,” she said worriedly, hands instantly moving to stroke my face. I shuddered as I realized she was right.

“You’re incredible,” was all I could breathe out while attempting to control my shivering.

“And you’re so beautiful,” she whispered, lightly pressing me onto my back. Her lips gently kissed my face, and I felt our bodies quickly entangling once more.

“So strong,” she hummed, her hands touching my arms, my legs, my stomach…she was everywhere.

“And so passionate,” she breathed against my neck, her fingers doing something torturous to my chest. A gasp that sounded vaguely like her name wrecked through my body.

Her lips pressed against mine once more before she said, “Please let me show you how much I need and want you too.” I could only find the strength to nod.

And then she proceeded to mark me as her own. I was finally satisfied.

 


 

“What’s your favorite color?”

I tightened my grip around her torso, pulling her back closer against my body. I paused from the process of lightly pecking her shoulder with my lips.

“Do you not know? I was under the assumption you knew everything about me.”

“Oh, shut up. I could never figure it out. It’s not like you had a favorite shirt or something.”

“Hm,” I brushed my lips against the crook of her neck in mock thought before answering, “Cerulean.”

“You’re just sooo funny,” she responded, turning her head to glare in my direction. Had I taught her such a scathing glance? No, this was clearly a look destined by the heavens to serve as a counter to the Priestly glower.

I kissed away the sarcastic scowl before amending, “I am fond of various blues. I’m sure you’ve noticed the color palette for the townhouse besides the bright foyer.”

She turned in my embrace and extended a hand to stroke my hip. Our noses brushed as she mumbled, “True, but I’m not really paying too much attention to the walls when I come over.”

“And after I worked so closely with the interior designer. Such a waste.”

“I was just distracted with the rest of the architecture,” she practically growled, her hand clawing at my rear friskily.

“I suppose I could forgive you. Possibly.”

Just as I finished drawling out my comment, Andrea was pushing me onto my back and pressing every inch of her glorious body against mine with delicious, seductive force.

“I’m really sorry,” she purred before nibbling my neck, “I’ll beg for forgiveness if I have to.”

“If you insist,” was all I could gasp while attempting to maintain a false air of playful disinterest. However, my hands quickly rejected the rouse and spread across the smooth field of skin on Andrea’s back. I hummed as a tongue danced just behind my ear and chuckle brought hot breath against my tingling skin.

“I love how the hair that meets your neck has this little bit of black,” she mumbled, her lips brushing against the very spot she was discussing.

“Black and white work well together when used appropriately,” I said, flipping through my mental catalogue of various designs and hairstyles, “Jacqueline, however, seems unaware that her current ratio produces the outrageous lookalike of a skunk.”

Another string of muffled giggles emerged from the woman buried in my neck, and I enveloped my arms around her in contented bliss.

Her head moved so it rested more solidly on my shoulder before she said softly, “I’m worried about this whole thing with Irv and Jacqueline trying to get rid of you.”

“You have no need to worry, I assure you.”

“I wish you would tell me what you’re thinking. Maybe there’s someway I could help?” she questioned, lifting her head slightly to look into my eyes. I too mimicked the action, lifting my head from the pillow. Her compassion brought a small but warm smile to my face. Couldn’t she see this was help enough?

“Why are you here in bed with me, Andrea?”

The brunette moved to rest on her arm and said with amusement, “That answer seems pretty obvious considering we had sex, and I told you the kitchen was a no-no.”

I rolled my eyes but pressed further, “Well, yes, but why did you select me as your sexual partner?”

“Because I care about you. And you’re smokin’ hot.” I snorted at the comment but eagerly accepted the hand that began tracing patterns on my stomach.

“And does your reasoning for caring about me have anything to do with the fact I am blessed with a sizeable income?” I continued, knowing full well her answer.

The hand stopped. “Of course not!”

“Or, alternatively, my position of power and career?”

She frowned before slowly answering, “I wouldn’t say I’m with you just because of your job. I just think being Editor says a lot about who you are, you know? You’re smart, powerful, and authoritative. You excel because that’s where you belong,” she mused, leaning forward and brushing a front lock of my hair away from my eyes, “I guess I’m just trying to say that I care about your job because you care about it. I’m not here because I need your job to further mine, Miranda.”

I kissed her to lessen the seriousness of her expression resulting from such a deep response. “You certainly don’t. You’re already very successful, and, quite soon, you will be the only one between the two of us that is gainfully employed.”

Her eyebrows crinkled in confusion, and I was touched at how quickly she became upset. “I thought you had a way to stop Irv. Miranda, what-“

“Darling, I’m almost disappointed. Do you honestly think I lack a plan?” I said impishly, lightly grabbing hold of the chin of the woman on top of me once more.

The brown eyes searched mine for a few moments before growing even more confused.

“…You want them to take Runway?” she guessed slowly.

“I am allowing them to borrow it, yes.”

“Why? Jacqueline will run it into the ground. She sucks.”

“Use that wonderfully big brain of yours,” I hummed, kissing her cheek.

A beat passed before she repeated almost breathlessly, “Jacqueline sucks.”

“Indeed.” Another kiss to the forehead.

“No one can do what you can do.”

“Obviously.” A peck on the nose.

“They’ll need you to save it.”

“Absolutely.” A final kiss on the lips.

Andrea blinked multiple times, as she did when she pondered something, and ultimately answered, “Miranda, I know you’re the best. They know you’re the best. But how can you be sure they’ll come back begging for you?”

With an evil smirk, I asked, “Tell me, do you often dabble in the stock market?”

“Oh, you know, just for fun here and there,” she responded sarcastically.

“Well, the bedroom certainly isn’t the place to discuss the finer details of such fiscal matters,” I stated matter-of-factly, turning her over and climbing atop the young woman, “In fact, I’m finished with all forms of discourse at the moment.”

“Really now?”

I proceeded to kiss her skin along the lines of her collarbone when I heard a weak voice mumble, “Are you really trying to distract me with sex?”

“You don’t seem opposed,” I purred, pinching her nipple.

Her answering moan was the only validation I required.

“Now, I do believe you mentioned begging before,” I murmured before descending her body.

Chapter Text

What is time? Most claim it is a measurement, a dimension within which occurrences begin and end. It is a unit of duration and pace that tick tocks along an endless circle. Time never ends, but life certainly does. The world keeps spinning without you.

Thus, time is a priceless currency. Your time is limited, and you must invest wisely. I find myself spending it profusely for the company of my daughters, a worthy exchange. I finance it as best I can to optimize my work at Runway, and no value is too high to spend my time on Andrea. However, I am fully aware that one day I will run out. Bankrupt of time and breaths and heartbeats. Therefore, any interruptions are not only a waste of my time but also a complete theft of my being.

And at this very moment Patricia’s tongue was interrupting an extremely erotic dream involving Andrea and hazelnut gelato.

When I felt the wet sensation slide against my neck a second time, I grumbly turned to the side without opening my eyes.

“Bad dog.”

I nearly jumped when an arm draped across my hip, and the tongue returned to again mark my skin.

“Guess again, Cougar,” said a delicious purr beside my ear.

I turned to admire my bedfellow. “Oh. You are undoubtedly not Patricia.”

“I’m glad we got that sorted out,” Andrea mused, reaching out to correct an unruly lock of hair. I was beginning to notice she had a particular attraction to it, which I enjoyed immensely.

“Good morning,” I replied, punctuating the greeting with a kiss. I rather enjoyed those as well.

“Good morning. Want some coffee?”

“That does sound lovely,” I responded and suddenly the warm form beside me was emerging from the covers and searching for something on the floor. Andrea looked over her shoulder and chuckled.

“If you want coffee, why are you pouting?” she laughed, stepping into a pair of undergarments I hazily remember removing from her body the previous evening.

“I am most certainly not pouting. I just stumbled up on the realization brewing coffee requires you to leave the bed.”

“That’s true. But just think of how great the view is,” she suggested with a wink before continuing her search, allowing for a detailed perusal of her slender back and delectable hips. I was only distracted from my admiration of her body when I noticed exactly what she was putting on said body.

“Are you aware that’s my shirt?”

“Yup,” she quipped, buttoning the final button on the white collared top and practically skipping out the bedroom door.

The nerve.

After sitting up and stretching satisfyingly sore muscles, I took time to inspect the room that I had ultimately ignored during the highlights of the evening. I was hesitant to describe the space as quaint given the negatively cheap connotation such a word possesses, but it was easy to understand how someone such as Andrea would inhabit this seemingly comfortable space. The décor in the outer rooms were warm and rich like her personality, but her bedroom seemed vastly less organized. Pictures and frames were scattered on the dressers and a number of books found refuge in various stacks on the windowsill and nightstand. Multiple articles of clothing were draped across a chair in the corner, and it was obvious all the furniture in the room had not been purchased together. The walls were painted a beige that somewhat matched the forest green bedding. Yes, the rest of her apartment, the part with which others interacted, was neat and inviting, a testament to her character. This bedroom, however, was the messy mind of a twenty-something journalist that didn’t care if the sheets matched or if there were clothes on the floor.

I rose from the bed and walked over the tall dresser that contained the most pictures, selecting one of a small child in the arms of a man who appeared to be her father. I felt myself smiling at the adorable, little Andrea and suddenly felt the importance of seeing this room besides satisfying our sexual appetites. We each carried memories, like these photographs, and had our perplexities, like the disorderly wardrobe; it would take a lifetime to learn all these intricacies, a price I was more than ready to pay.

My eyes fell on the chair donned with various jeans and shirts, spotting a weathered sweatshirt emblazoned with the name of Andrea’s alma mater, Northwestern. Ah, revenge.

“Oh,” Andrea almost squeaked when I strolled into the kitchen, pausing in the process of pouring the brown liquid, “That’s mine.”

“It seems a fair trade for that Kors top,” I replied walking towards the stunned woman, pulling up the exceedingly long sleeves.

“No, I mean like, that’s my sweater. I’ve had it for years. And you’re wearing it. It’s very…possessive.” There was a small growl at the end of her speech that made my mouth water.

“I hope that after last night you are very much conscious of the fact that, as viciously as you claim to be mine, I too belong rightfully to you,” I explained before placing a kiss on her cheek.

“I like it,” she simply smirked before continuing to pour the coffee.

“As do I. Caroline referred to you as my girlfriend the first evening you joined us for dinner. It was quite the pleasant epiphany.”

“I’ve been bragging about you. I hope that’s okay. Everyone knows to keep it a secret until you’re ready,” she said somewhat tentatively, handing me the coffee mug.

I frowned at this confession, not due to Andrea’s actions but rather her thought I would disprove of her freely sharing our association. I appreciated her concern, but the thought brought all the feelings of shame and embarrassment I promised myself would never taint our relationship.

I took a few steps towards the sitting room before responding, “It isn’t a matter of keeping it a secret, Andrea. However, with or without my approval, I fear the media will eventually find out.”

Sitting on the couch and taking a sip of the hot liquid with a contented nod, I asked casually, “Who have you told?”

“Well, you know Nigel knows. I’ve talked to Doug and Lily about it. I even told my parents,” she replied with an almost victorious smile while sitting beside me.

“Did they know beforehand of your sexual preferences?”

“Yeah, more or less. But there’s a big difference between taking a girl home and mentioning you’re seeing your ex-boss,” she paused to take a sip from her own mug, “They still took it very well though. Especially after I told them how our relationship now is totally different than how our working one ever was.”

Of course. I had naively forgotten Andrea would have most likely shared her work experiences with her parents. Coupled with my reputation, parental approval was not in my favor, and, while I could care less of their opinion of myself, I worried for Andrea’s sake.

She most likely saw the concern in my eyes and intertwined our hands before saying, “They’re good parents who will support me no matter I choose. And I made it pretty clear I’m choosing you.”

The tightening of her grip and the intensity of her eyes drove the implications of her speech deeply into my chest, and my heart hammered in response. Yes, this was the woman in whom I would invest a lifetime. I set my mug on the table and turned towards the young woman with my usual mask of seriousness.

“My dearest Andrea, may I have the honor of a dance?”

“What, right now?” she laughed mirthfully.

“In two weeks time at the charity banquet. One of Runway’s copious attempts at fundraising while simultaneously forcing us to network with some of our sister companies. I’m fairly sure they’ll make some type of announcement that involves Jacqueline joining the American ranks, allowing them another week or two to formulate a final plan for my ousting,“ I explained, brushing away her anxious gaze at the mention of the French weasel, “Either way, it’ll be quite the evening. I’d love for you to be my escort.”

There was only a brief pause before Andrea’s eyes practically popped in understanding.

“Oh my god, seriously? You’re sure? I mean everyone-“

“Exactly. Like you said before, I wish to happily announce my possession.”

“Wow.”

“Very,” I muttered in amusement.

The brunette paused again before suddenly asking in a voice of pure dread, “What the hell am I going to wear?”

I simply stared in order to communicate my thoughts on the subject. Honestly.

“Yeah, okay that was a stupid question. What do I say though? When it does get out, when people do start to ask…I’m your girlfriend?”

“Yes. And I trust your wits. Tell them whatever it is you wish to tell. I will warn you, however, the media has a way of picking apart whatever it is you tell them. Be careful when we come that point.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

I glared at the cheeky and ill-mannered girl with what threatening air I could manage, but she smiled and continued to explain her reasoning innocently.

“You look so regal wherever you are. The way you held your coffee earlier and now sitting on my couch looking like you own the place.”

I lifted my chin ceremoniously and sat up straighter before responding, “I haven’t the faintest idea what you could mean.”

She chuckled before shifting closer on the couch and asking in an overly sweet voice, “Permission to approach the throne?”

“We will allow it,” I drawled in the voice typically reserved for the office.

“I’ve brought an offering, Your Highness.”

“Yes, the coffee was mediocre.”

“I beg your pardon, my queen, but I mean to say I’ve brought another offering,” she practically purred, lifting her fingers to begin unbuttoning the shirt hugging her body, “Hopefully one more satisfying.”

“You may…impart your gift,” I muttered, unconcerned with how quickly I was seduced. Even after last night, a continuous, voracious desire raged within me unsatisfied until Andrea again called my name.

I was soon straddled good and proper on the couch and affectionately greeted with slow, tender kisses. My hands hungrily grabbed her hips, and, once remembering only her underwear stood in the way, my fingers eagerly dipped towards the soft skin of her rear. In the sudden heat, it was alarming when she gently pulled away and mumbled in a questioning tone, “Miranda?”

Not exactly what I had in mind when I yearned for her to say my name.

“Would you, I mean, if you’re sure you’re okay with us going out in public,” she muttered in the direction of her lap before turning more confident eyes towards my own, “Would you and the girls like to do something today? We could go to Central Park with Patricia and get dinner later.”

Admittedly, this was even better than the notion of sex. I couldn’t stop my smile and lightly reached out to stroke her face.

“You always wish to include the girls, all three of them. Thank you.”

“I love them,” she said simply, as if it were some universal truth, which surprised me.

“They love you as well.”

We love you as well. The admission danced fervently near my lips, but I swallowed it before it could make an appearance. I was not afraid, I was never afraid, but there was something to be said for the art of patience, a trait I actually possessed despite the thoughts of my employees.

“Now, where were we?”

Well, patient in some aspects.

 

 

 

“If you decide to run and interfere with those gentlemen lobbing about that football, we will certainly have some issues to deal with, Patricia.”

The St. Bernard turned towards me as if disappointed I had discovered her plot. She, however, remained sitting beside me on the ground near the bench, and I reached out to scratch her ears. She was most likely resting from all the previous games of tag with the girls, who had left in search of restrooms.

I looked towards the pathway and noticed the approach of the three girls in question carrying a bounty of Starbucks, much to my pleasure. Cassidy was rambling animatedly to Andrea, and Caroline appeared to be contently sipping from her own cup. The tall woman looked beautifully flushed from the cold and smiled at the ranting girl beside her.

My daughters sat down beside the furry mammoth on the ground while Andrea took her place beside me, offering me the coffee.

“For you.”

I took hold of the satisfyingly warm beverage before I grasped her hand and lightly pecked her knuckles.

“Thank you,” I muttered with a small smile, and I was rewarded with her own cheery grin.

“You know, it’s not so cold once you’ve been running around for awhile,” Cassidy observed.

“The hot chocolate helps too.”

“Do you think Patricia’s cold?”

“Nah, she’s got enough fur to cloth an army!” Andrea declared, speedily scratching the animal with both hands, much to the canine’s pleasure.

“That seems highly probable considering how much she sheds.”

“Aw, she can’t help it, can you Patty?” Caroline cooed, and my dog, the traitor that she was, responded in full to the ridiculous nickname by exposing her belly for rubbing.

I turned to Andrea with narrowed eyes and before grumbling, “You’ve corrupted my children with that silly name.”

“Forgive me?” she asked innocently and sweetly, her lip pouting and her eyelashes fluttering.

I could not control the rolling of my eyes in response, nor could I control my lips from seeking hers in accepting her forgiveness. Her smile swept the cold from my body, and there was warmth in my own smile as I turned to my girls lounging on the ground.

“Do you two know where you’d like to dine for dinner?”

Cassidy, after issuing a very vocal, ponderous hum, replied, “Can we go to that one place with the green chicken?”

“Pesto,” I stated softly in Andrea’s direction, to which her lips twitched with laughter. I turned again to the ground below us.

“Would that be amendable to you, Caroline?”

“Andy’s coming, right?”

If the question itself didn’t leave me blissfully optimistic for the future of my family, the act of Caroline leaning her head against Andrea’s legs from her position on the ground further solidified the happiness blooming wonderfully in my chest.

“Yes, of course, Bobbsey,” I said softly.

Andrea quickly captured the girl below her in her arms and playfully growled, “Why, tryin’ to get rid of me, huh?”

“No!” the young girl giggled in response as fingers began to tickle and poke her sides.

She scooped up my daughter and continued her assault, dragging her to the grass in fits of laughter, and before long Cassidy jumped Andrea with snickers and pokes to assist her sister. The three waged a war of epic proportions while tumbling on the ground, a sight I enjoyed from the safety of my bench.

“Mom! We need reinforcements!”

“I’m sorry, honey, grass stains do not suit these pants.”

By the time Patricia bounded over and climbed into the mix, I was laughing profusely at the antics of all my girls. All four of them.

Eventually my daughters exhausted their attack on Andrea, and she scooped them eagerly into her arms. Our eyes locked, and I was fairly certain our smiles matched.

She pulled Caroline and Cassidy closer against her and whispered something in their ears, and suddenly three pairs of eyes were on me.

Oh no.

“You will not tickle me,” I muttered as threateningly as possible. I saw a moment’s hesitation in the eyes of my daughters, but before I could contemplate further intimidations, Andrea was tugging me to the ground, and six hands were extracting my own laughter. It was a foreign sound, as if I had stored it away for some time, but in the madness of being attacked and the chaos of laughter around me, the dusty strangeness quickly melted away into something rather wonderful.

Sudden barks interrupted their antics, and I opened my eyes in time to see Caroline and Cassidy bounding after Patricia with shouts and giggles.

“Patricia!” I called sharply in their direction but without avail.

“Don’t worry, they’ll get her,” Andrea said with a breathless smile, lying down next to me on the ground.

“I told her not to attack the young men with the football,” I said just as breathlessly, catching my breath after the siege. Maybe it was time to step up the yoga regimen.

We stared at the sky contently, side by side with our fingers interlaced, until Andrea pointed to one particular cloud and said, “That one looks like a fish.”

“I think it mirrors a shoe.”

“You would,” she said with a jeering tone, looking in my direction with a smirk.

“Excuse me for not arising to the occasion to surprise you,” I replied before dramatically clearing my throat, “This particular cloud appears to be a platypus.”

Her laughter was delightful.

“Or maybe a cougar,” she purred against my cheek.

“Or a cub,” I whispered as our noses brushed and our lips met.

As we separated, Patricia’s bounding steps signaled the approach of the search party.

“What are you guys still doing on the ground?” Cassidy asked out of breath, clearly exhausted from chasing down the devious dog.

“Looking at the clouds. What do you guys think that one looks like?” Andrea replied, pointing to the object of our earlier examination.

“A shoe!” Cassidy exclaimed.

“A whale,” Caroline replied soundly, sitting on the ground.

“Similar to a fish,” I hummed, looking at Andrea, happy for whatever bond the two shared.

“It’s a mammal, Mom, not a fish.”

“Terribly sorry, darling.”

 

 

 

 

“You two must be tired.”

“No,” came the defiant mumble from my lap while the speaker’s eyes struggled to remain open. I was quite proud of my children even in their stubbornness; Priestly women fought until the end.

I stroked Cassidy’s head while she dozed on my thigh before looking over to Caroline, curled next to me on the couch, also struggling with sleep. She had been lying on top of Andrea who had stepped into the other room to field a phone call from Douglas. The two girls had barely managed to stay awake on the walk home from dinner, lamenting the entire way Roy did not work on Sundays.

The echo of small steps on the foyer’s hard floors alerted me to Andrea’s approach, and I turned to see her enter the doorway. The second she looked up from watching her own slow pace, I could sense her worry as easily as I could see it knitted in eyebrows. Her fingers appeared to have a death-like grip on her phone.

“What’s the matter, darling?” I felt my voice hitch slightly without intending to do so.

A full beat passed before she muttered, “We’re going to be on Entertainment Tonight. Doug just said they mentioned it in the commercial.”

“We’ve been on that show before. It’s not that big of a deal,” Cassidy mumbled, sitting up.

“Cassidy,” I reprimanded with a tone she knew very well before looking up to the woman returning to the couch, “are you alright, Andrea?”

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” she replied with a smirk I knew well. She had flashed it when I had first hired her, when I threw away the coffee she had provided or demanded she stay late. It was smile meant to hide her displeasure and hurt, and now it was my undoing.

“You privacy has been breached. Unfortunately, we’re accustomed to it,” I said looking down at my girls, “I recommend ignoring it, but if you’d like to turn on the television, you’re more than welcome.”

She looked up hesitantly from her lap before asking, “May I?”

“Girls, go get ready for bed. I’ll be up to say goodnight in a few moments,” I commanded firmly, and the girls slowly peeled themselves away from the couch.

“Andy, will you come say goodnight too?” Cassidy asked with Caroline anxiously looking up to hear the answer.

“You know it,” she said with a genuine grin, and, even if it wasn’t her usual beaming smile, I truly believed the girls knew the sincerity of the small act.

Once they bounded up the steps, Andrea sighed as I turned on the television, “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t. I should have suggested we take our ‘outing’ a little more slowly.”

“No, it’s not that. I guess I’m just afraid of causing you too much trouble. You don’t need all of this on top of the whole Jacqueline thing.”

“You underestimate my abilities,” I quipped playfully, “Actually, I’m interested in how monstrous they paint me for corrupting your youth.”

“Shut up,” she said with a dry chuckle. At least it was progress.

“I dare you to try,” I replied good-humoredly, reaching out to hold her hand.

A brief smile reached her eyes before the monotone of commercials suddenly changed to the voice of upbeat hosts.

 

 

“And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Miranda Priestly spotted at Central Park with the twins.”

“And not just the daughters, but it looks like the Ice Queen has melted under the touch of a new lover.”

“Let’s take a look.”

Andrea holding Caroline and Cassidy’s hands as the walked up to the bench. A close up of our cloud spotting positions. My own shoulders shaking with laughter as the three tickle each other and even myself being tackled to the ground. I pursed my lips as the images flashed across the screen.

I looked almost unfamiliar in these videos.

“This mystery woman has charmed the Dragon. We get not one, not two, but three kisses!”

As the played the various clips of our rather chaste pecks, I noticed exactly why my own reflection seemed so foreign. I was smiling; I was happy.

“Middle-aged crisis or finally coming out of the closet? What do you guys think about these love -“

Andrea ended the ramble with a click of the remote and returned the device to the table. I placed my hand on her knee and simply waited while her teeth lightly nibbled on her bottom lip.

Perhaps it had been a mistake. I trusted her to inform me when she was ready, and she seemed prepared when we discussed the issue this morning. Her silence was troubling. It was so early and yet if she was already this stressed…

“I can hear you thinking like crazy. I’m not going anywhere.”

“How can you tell?” I asked, amazed she had read my mind so easily.

“You’ve got a death grip on my leg.” Oh.

I gently released my hold and instead laced my fingers with hers. She looked down at our hands before sighing to the quiet room.

“I can handle this, I’m just a little upset they’re talking about us being in love when we haven’t even talked about that yet.”

“I didn’t want to overwhelm you so soon,” I replied simply.

“Miranda, I understand if you don’t feel the same way. I can wait,” Andrea explained enthusiastically, nodding her head to punctuate her point.

“Andrea-“

“I just can’t believe all of this happened. Last night was the one greatest nights of my life. I never thought I’d see you again much less be able to fall in love with you and I know it’ll take time for you to feel that way but I’m not sorry,” she ranted, looking to the ceiling in exasperation.

“Andrea, I-“

“And I don’t care what they think! I don’t care what anyone thinks! I promise I’m here to stay, just like I promised the girls. So you can just let me know when you feel-”

I did not take kindly to being consistently interrupted, and I demonstrated my frustration by gripping her chin and sealing her lips with a scorching kiss. My lips melted against hers in my mix of anger and passion, and, for all the acts of claiming committed last night, nothing said she was mine like the way I attempted to devour her mouth in that moment. I was met with little resistance.

When we separated, I noticed her parted lips and glazed eyes. I now held her attention, and only one thing permeated my mind to say. The very phrase that had been on the edge of my lips all afternoon.

So much for patience.

“I love you,” I barely whispered.

“You do?” she whispered.

“If an idiotic paparazzi reporter can see it, a smart girl like you should be able to determine that fact,” I muttered, brushing her lip with my thumb.

“You love me,” she sighed with a smile. I felt the corners of my own lips turn upward at her reaction.

“So much so, I will not roll my eyes at having to repeat myself,” I said with renewed confidence at not having been rejected, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” she practically laughed as her hands gripped the wrist of the hand that cupped her face.

A tamed dragon. A defrosted queen of ice. The media may have mocked me, but to be ruled by a woman that loved me, I was supremely content.

Our lips slowly met as we sighed against the other’s mouth. The feeling of warmth and contentment in her presence was slowly losing the foreign newness; yes, I was acquainted with again being happy.

I was going to fight to protect it.

“We need to be a united front,” I murmured against her cheek, our foreheads touching.

“We are. I promise.”

Chapter Text

“Oh the Alexander for sure. Darling, give us another spin.”

“Hm. I prefer the Valentino.”

“But the drapery here is just astonishing.”

“She should look mature, not matronly.”

“The cut on the Valentino isn’t exactly angelic and conservative. Very upscale hooker perhaps. How about the Dior?”

“The color was atrocious.”

“I found it rather modern.”

“Feel free to devastate the pages of your magazine with the modern repulsiveness of ‘Neon Urine,’” I drawled while turning to face my companion, “however, my escort will not being wearing it Monday evening.”

Nigel’s eyebrows skyrocketed across his bald head in mock hurt before muttering, “Feisty.”
I narrowed my eyes before responding, “Careful, you might hurt my feelings.”

“He just said I looked like a hooker. I think my ego is bruised more than yours,” Andrea sighed, reaching behind her back in search of a zipper, “Can we take a break?”

She stepped from the living room into the hallway to change in moderate privacy while Nigel and I glanced yet again to the moveable rack of gowns we had secured from the Closet. Her first appearance needed to be absolutely perfect, and every finite detail of her dress could help or hinder the public’s perception. While we agreed their opinion didn’t matter, it certainly didn’t hurt to try. While I had survived countless media assaults, and I was already planning for a temporary break, I was worried how one wrong turn could harm her newborn, tender career.

On the other hand, locking ourselves in the townhouse while the children were at their father’s for the past week had been extremely satisfying.

She returned to the room looking blissfully content in her torn jeans and Northwestern sweatshirt, her standard uniform around the house. The couture hung in her arms, already forgotten.

I was in love with a walking fashion disaster.

“Andy, dear, please tell me you didn’t wear that to work today,” Nigel winced after looking up from the selection of dresses and taking the gown from her hands.

“My boss said I should work from home for a week or two. The paparazzi hiding in the bushes outside the office put a damper on my work day,” she explained, running a hand through her hair and walking towards me.

“Such tremendous work being famous isn’t it?” I stated with a smirk. I was beginning to suspect she knew how sensual she looked even in worn department store jeans.

“So difficult. But totally worth it,” she smiled, placing a kiss on the corner of my mouth.

“Awwww.”

“Must you be so obnoxious?” I almost snarled, turning towards the culprit.

“It’s hard not to think I’m looking at the less evil twin loving on Six.”

“Nonsense, Nigel, the nice twin lives in Arkansas and prefers men for sexual partners.”

“Really?” Andrea peeped beside me, looking at me with widened eyes. I had to bite my tongue from laughing though Nigel’s own wheezing hackling quickly informed her.

“She seemed pretty believable,” she mumbled before an adorable pout appeared on her face.

Of course I felt obligated to kiss her. Before I had the chance to comment, however, the doorbell rang throughout the house.

“Oh, that’s Doug. Okay, honey, remember what I told you. Please go easy on him,” she said hurriedly before dashing in the direction of the foyer.

Honey. It had always been Miranda. Employees knew not to call me Ms. Priestly, just as my husbands had known any nicknames were completely prohibited. However, in the past two weeks after our confession on the couch, as well as the past week of dwelling together without the children, I was discovering the thrill of walking into a room and hearing something as mundane as “sweetie, where the hell is your wine corker?”

Wait, why would she assume I would be harsh on Douglas?

“It’s not as if he works for me,” I commented aloud to Nigel.

“Hasn’t stopped you before,” he murmured with an arched eyebrow full of accusation while sounds of excitement filtered from the foyer.

“I haven’t the faintest idea what you mean.”

“2001. I brought a date to the Christmas party. You told him you were surprised they sold couture for elves,” he responded with what was a poor attempt at pursing his lips.

I frowned before muttering, “Seems like a fair mistake if it was the holidays.”

Before he could disagree, Andrea’s voice grew louder before she emerged into the living room with a young man following her with a sheepish smile. His jacket and pants were by no means couture, but it seemed he was certainly able to navigate the store racks with a dedication and appreciation Andrea lacked.

“Doug, this is Miranda, my girlfriend.”

“Pleasure, Douglas,” I said with a small smile, extending my hand. I noticed his throat bulged as he swallowed.

“It’s wonderful to meet you, Miranda,” he said somewhat breathlessly, giving my hand a firm shake. I could sense a stiffness in Nigel as if he was guessing I would berate him for his nervousness.

Was it really so arduous to conceive I could be nice?

“We’re having a terrible time deciding Andrea’s wardrobe for a banquet next week. Perhaps you can assist us?” I said with a coolness typical of Runway functions, turning to gesture to the rack of gowns.

“Andy’s legs are causing some concentration issues for our little Mira here,” drawled the bald goblin beside me.

“Allow me to introduce Nigel. My ex-employee,” I practically snarled, glaring in his direction.

“We’re best friends, but she doesn’t want to admit it. How do you do?” he said with an over cheeriness, and I felt my eyes narrowing in response.

As Douglas accepted Nigel’s outstretched hand, he replied, “I’m sure you guys don’t need my help.”

“Come on, Doug, you always know what to grab when we go shopping,” Andrea said encouragingly, practically dragging him towards the wheeled rack in the corner.

Nigel slowly glanced in my direction before saying jeeringly, “Just don’t pick the yellow one or you’ll be kicked out.”

He was clearly testing his luck and my patience for the afternoon. Before I could respond, however, my pocket began buzzing and vibrating.

“Excuse me,” I muttered, sending a final glare before exiting into the kitchen.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Miranda. How the hell are you?”

He always was a tad too cheery.

“Good afternoon, Radcliff. Quite well. And yourself?”

“Pretty swell. Sorry I didn’t get back to you yesterday but Wednesdays are killer. So you’re looking to buy some stocks in Elias-Clark?”

“Yes, just like I’ve outlined in my email, I wish for them to purchased after I leave Runway,” I summarized, inspecting the tray of cooling cookies Andrea had decided to bake that morning. After a sniff, I felt my lips purse at the white chocolate and cherry morsels. They smelled delicious, tempting, and incredibly fattening.

“Whatever you say, boss. Though, as your stockbroker and advisor, I feel like I should tell you it’s not a smart investment. Sales are going to tank after you leave for sure.”

“Yes, I can assure you I’m well aware of what I’m doing,” I replied, spotting a broken piece at the corner of the foil and popping it into my mouth. I looked down to see Patricia watching me from her napping position on the threshold of the dining room.

“Alright. I’ll give you a call to confirm things sometime next week. Always nice doing business with you.”

“You as well. Good day,” I said before closing the phone and plucked a free baked cherry off the tray. The St. Bernard engulfed the scrap the second I dropped it before her.

“Our little secret, hm?”

With a contented smile, I returned to the living room where Nigel’s excited voice was echoing down the hall. Once I turned the corner, I saw why.

“Oh,” murmured from my throat as a breathless whisper before I could stop it.

Andrea turned towards me at the sound, and I was able to appreciate the full view of her body and the dress that had the honor of clinging to it. The bodice was firm and fitted, forming neatly to her slender build. There was an interesting and elegant embroidery of black floral that descended from the top to a fine vine that wrapped to the curve of her hip. The black was subtle against the dark burgundy fabric, and the deep red looked regal against her pale skin. Nigel and I had originally disregarded the gown for the bright red of the skirts trim, a daring color met with hesitation. But the fade of burgundy to that royal red was lovely on her tall frame, and the strength of her stance crushed the fear of wearing the suggestive color. I knew that type of skirt would glide and flow with her movements like fire; she wasn’t a blazing flame but a smoldering coal that demonstrated the solidity of maturity and the suggestion of burning. Our eyes met, and she smiled at my perusal, only adding to another heat and fire building my abdomen before Nigel’s voice cracked through my evaluation.

“I know we were afraid of the red and sleeveless looking too risqué, but I think it-“

“Perfect,” I cut him off, voice cracking slightly. I cleared my throat and kept my eyes trained on the glowing ember before me, focusing on the displayed collarbone I remember kissing only the night before. As I walked towards her, I focused on my silver rose rested against her chest.

“You have quite the taste, Douglas,” I muttered, reaching up to stroke the necklace and brush Andrea’s hair over her shoulder. She was so unbelievable beautiful.

“Donatella will be very happy to see you in her gown,” I whispered before kissing her forehead, “Go change before it gets wrinkled,” I added with a wink. Her smile was devious and thrilled as she walked away, and it was difficult to contain my own smile.

My walking fashion disaster was going to be the hit of the party.

I turned to a rather stunned Douglas and snickering Nigel and calmly asked, “Now that we’ve finished with business, may I offer you two a drink before dinner?”

 


 

“I’m surprised to see you so late at the office.”

“I’m always here late,” I retorted firmly, looking over my glasses at the intruder.

“Well, now that you have a lady waiting at home, I just thought you’d like to be leaving sooner,” said Irving Ravitz with a voice that made my blood start to boil.

I placed my pen on the desk with a forced steady hand. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit, Irving?”

“It was actually about this young lady. You know, Miranda, maybe it’s getting to that time when you should think about finally settling down,” he mused in an overly sweet, syrupy tone as he approached the chair before my desk, “Clearly you’re going though…something. You don’t need all of this and the weight of Runway on your shoulders. You’ve been carrying it too long.”

“Are you suggesting I take a vacation?”

“Something a little more permanent,” he said with mock innocence as he sat down and finally looked me in the eye, “Retirement.”

“Allow me to make this easier for you,” I stated icily, removing my glasses, “If you wish for me to leave, you are going to have to fire me. And quite frankly, I don’t think you have the balls to do so.”

His monstrosity of a wheezing laugh filled my office. “No, no, you’re right; I can’t fire you. You see, with your new friendship, it would look rather politically incorrect of me to release you, like I originally planned,” he smiled, leaning towards me, “Which is why you’re going to publically retire.”

This was seriously deviating from the plan of attack I expected of the pathetic urchin.

“And if I refuse?”

“I’ve been receiving quite the number of calls lately. The press is just riveted with, what’s her name? Andy?” he asked with a leer that grew at my glower, “The whole ex-assistant thing is super kinky.”

It took every ounce of self-control not to pierce his leg with my heel under the desk.

“It would be unfortunate if the media discovered she needed to leave Runway due to inappropriate behavior at the office with her boss.”

And for all the self-control I possessed, for all my power, influence, and control, he finally trumped me all with the threat of a simple lie. That’s all it would take, and we both knew it. The one weakness I had always feared and avoided finally manifested itself; I had fallen in love, and it would be my undoing.

“Nothing of the sort happened while she was employed.”

“As if the media will know what’s true or not. You know as well as I do that even if you deny it afterwards, they always just stick with whatever leaked first. I still can’t decide if I’ll tell them you approached another employee for a threesome or if the security guard discovered her bent over your desk,” he pondered aloud, leaning back in the chair, “Either way, I can only imagine how it’ll effect her career at that dinky little paper, or anywhere else for that matter.”

“No one can do what I can do with Runway,” I hissed in absolute anger and fury.

“Jacqueline will do it just fine and much more cheaply. You fashion bitches are always the same,” he said, standing up and fixing his suit with calmness that enraged me, “You think you’re something special, but it’s just an act. You put on the costume and perform just like everyone else. Your time on the stage is over.”

It was over.

As he walked out the door, he said over his shoulder, “I’ll understand if you find yourself feeling unwell and unable to attend the banquet. I know everyone will be sad to see you go. Goodnight, Miranda.”

It was over. It couldn’t be. Could it?

I realized I was shaking when the empty teacup on my desk began clinking from the vibrations. I stood up with a violent quickness, knocking into the desk and further upsetting the porcelain cup.

It was over.

I needed air.

I didn’t call Roy. I didn’t secure my purse. I didn’t even bother with the elevator. I acquired my jacket, and I ran into the cold like the dethroned Ice Queen I was. I watched my Pradas fly across the concrete of the sidewalk, lost in soundless, thoughtless mental chaos, until a pair of stationary feet abruptly halted my progress. Multiple pairs of feet and legs. I looked up to find myself surrounded by bodies.

I was enclosed by a group waiting at a crosswalk.

There was suddenly something so wonderful about the trivial need to cross the street. I found myself snorting with laughter at the thought of walking home from work in the first time in over fifteen years. It was mad, hysterical gasps, but I felt the cold of the night and the anonymity of the crowd relieving my blind rage and sadness.

When the light turned, and we trudged at uniform speed to the next block, I looked up to the buildings and the sky and remembered.

I had traveled the world and marveled at places with far richer histories than New York, but the city at night always welcomed me home. Even in the dark of night, the city breathed with light and life. No matter the magnitude of loneliness someone felt, the streets still teemed with that something special. A simultaneous sensation of insignificance coupled with destinies of grandeur. It was paradoxical and intoxicating, and I once depended on these sights and sounds every night like an addiction.

People seem to forget I too had to survive in the gloomy one bedroom apartment while I slowly climbed the ladder to the position I held. A scrawny little nobody that had somehow managed to scrounge enough to make it through art school. A woman that had to learn how to navigate man’s dominion of media and publishing. A starting assistant to an editor before she could move up in the world…

And now it was over.

But it was worth it, was it not? In the wreckage of my career, Andrea was waiting. Young, beautiful, and on the cusp of beginning her own journey. My own greed of clinging to a few more years at Runway could ruin her path before she even began to walk it, and that would truly be my ultimate failure.

I lost myself in those lights and sounds all over again, and I eventually found those lights growing fewer and fewer until I stood in a quaint neighborhood. I was standing in front of my own house, and this too was as amusing to me as the crosswalk. A sober smirk crossed my face when I tried the door handle and realized I had no key. I had barely knocked before the door erupted open to the flustered face of my Andrea.

“Where have you been? I was worried sick about you. You didn’t pick up at the office or your cell,” she exclaimed, staring wildly at me as I stepped into the townhouse, and I was a little surprised at how upset she was. Why were my feet suddenly so sore?

“What time is it?” I asked calmly, turning to wide, brown eyes.

“‘What time is it?’ What time—It’s almost one in the fucking morning. It’s officially Saturday.

Ah, that would explain it.

“You always call before you come home. What the hell happened?” she asked with an expression and tone of worry that broke my heart, and I was struck wide-awake at how idiotic and irrational I had been tonight.

She must have misunderstood my knitted eyebrows when she amended, “Or at least, you called everyday this week I’ve been staying over.”

“You are home, darling. Don’t doubt that,” I said softly, reaching up to cup her face.

It wasn’t over, not for her.

“What’s wrong?” she practically pleaded as she grabbed my hand.

“I underestimated Irving,” I sighed, patting her hand before I released it to remove my coat. The jacket suddenly felt heavy and burdensome.

I saw her quizzical expression and continued, “He is blackmailing me into retiring.”

“With what?”

I again reached to stroke her beautiful face before I answered, “False stories of our shared time at Runway.”

“We should have waited, Miranda,” she barely gasped, and I could see tears threatening her countenance. I forced the sad gaze into mine.

“No. My role as editor was going to end one day. However, my love for you and my children,” I said, whipping away a fallen tear, “that should be the focus of my life, as it will last until the day I die.”

“Can’t we do something? I mean he can’t just make stuff up about us,” she replied, suddenly showing her usual stubborn determination I loved.

“Irving was right, my dear. The media takes the first leak as the truth. Whoever attempts to deny it afterwards is always guilty. Falsely convicted criminals can never seem to clear their names. This is the superior alternative to your own conviction.”

She began to object, and I placed my finger over her lips.

“I will always put you before Runway, Andrea. I refuse to endanger your career anymore than the mere speculation surrounding our relationship may have already done. Irving has even more publishing connections than myself.”

It wasn’t over.

“You’ve only just begun in your work,” I whispered more to myself than to her. I paused at the closet to finally put away the coat I had been holding. After a second thought, however, I draped it unceremoniously on the table in the foyer before turning again to the upset woman.

“I have you and the girls. I am lucky to not require a job or source of income,” I said with some new air of freedom and finality, “I suppose if I get too bored I can judge Project Runway.”

A sad, small chuckle broke from her mouth, and, after a moment, she mumbled, “You shouldn’t have to do this for me.”

“But I’m going to. You’ll just have to deal with a restless cougar I suppose.”

I was rewarded with another slight smile.

“What about the banquet?”

“I will go with my head held high and a wonderful woman on my arm, and I will make my exit with as much grace as I can muster. And you will need to make sure I do not spend my newly acquired free time planning the murder of Irving Ravitz,” finally earning a note of true laughter.

“I love you,” she said with a genuine smile.

“And I you.”

It was never over.

 


 

“I think I’ve been blinded.”

“That’s unfortunate, though it might make future sexual intercourse more interesting.”

“I cannot believe you’re talking about sex right now,” Andrea whispered fiercely between the closed teeth of a smile she had been holding for the past ten minutes.

“I’m trying to help you relax, darling,” I murmured into her ear as we finally entered the grand ballroom.

The second we had exited the car, the world had turned into a sea of flashing lights, and Andrea had navigated the waters with an expertise I should have expected. She outshone the cameras and outwitted the interviewers with the very charm that had first made me fall for her. She was introduced as my girlfriend. When asked how she felt to be here, she politely described how humble she was to be supporting the charities of Elias-Clark, ones she could specifically name. And just when they thought they had bested her by asking what on earth she did in the name of charity, she casually discussed her countless articles of charity promotion in the New York Mirror. When they asked about me, about charming the dragon, she simply tightened her grip on my arm and said, “I love everything about her. Except that she snores. But even that is pretty adorable.”

I finalized every interview with a kiss to her cheek, and her smoky eyes always sparkled with a smile. It was hard to believe I was practically walking into my execution when I had a woman of such sheer magnificence on my arm.

“You did wonderfully. Just keep smiling and your chin up. If you walk with superiority, people will naturally assume you are in fact superior.”

“Or I’m dating Miranda Priestly,” she corrected, her smile gaining its usual air of playfulness.

“You should at least enjoy that privilege for the next hour before I’m retired,” I muttered with a smirk in her direction.

“My, my, what a fuss you two are causing,” and we looked up to see a very well dressed Nigel approach. Her took Andrea’s hand and politely pecked her knuckles.

“Everyone is dying to come up and get the dirt on Six here,” he said with his trademark smile and raised eyebrows.

“Then why aren’t they?” the brunette asked, curiously turning her head to the side.

“Well who the hell would want to be the first one?” he exclaimed, motioning towards me.

“You, apparently,” I muttered flatly, a small smirk curling on my face when Andrea laughed.

“Someone had to start the party,” he shrugged, “At least you’re going out with a bang.”

I was about to dish out an insult for the rude comment concerning my forced retirement, of which he knew all the details, but the look in his eyes was one of true concern. I nodded as we shared an unspoken understanding.

“Where’s your escort this evening?” I asked in attempt to return the mood to a state of lightness.

“Oh he’s already by the bar. Odd. I mentioned your name and he ran away.”

“How rude.”

“I don’t blame him. I better go find before he discovers their stash of champagne,” he said exasperatedly.

Before he turned to go, he looked to Andrea, saying, “Remember,” and awkwardly pointed his fingers away from his chest. With that final motion, he walked towards the bar.

“What on earth was that about?” I asked, turning the lady on my arm.

“Nigel’s advice to wearing contour is to make sure the girls are facing forward. That’s what he told me the first night I had to follow you around,” she said with an almost shy smile, and I suddenly felt obligated to admire the dress’s hold on her bosom.

“Ah. Well, the advice worked. You looked then and look now very stunning,” I mused with a smile before whispering, “including the girls.”

“No way you noticed or even remember that night,” she laughed, spiritedly slapping my hand.

“I had my eyes on you for a long time,” I said simply, admiring the way her eyes wrinkled the corners when she truly smiled.

We were again interrupted when a voice said, “Good evening, Miranda,” and I looked up to receive cheek kisses from a woman wearing an acceptable Valentino.

“You as well,” I responded with the airy voice that often floated to the surface at this types of functions, “Andrea, I would like you to meet—”

And then I realized I had not the slightest clue who had just greeted us.

“A wonderful friend,” I added slowly, buying time and searching my mind for her name.

It was destined to happen at the one banquet I hadn’t asked my assistant to join us.

“Oh, hello, Mrs. Richardson. I’ve heard so much about you. I must say I’m a fan of all your restoration work with the city’s museums.”

I stared at Andrea in wordless wonder.

“Well, thank you! Some people don’t seem to understand the value of history and art.”

“It’s what defines our culture. I was thrilled when your husband’s magazine did a series on New York’s individual style through the ages,” Andrea continued while I looked between them with what I hoped was a mask of interest and not the relief and shock I was feeling.

Mr. Richardson was the editor of Art Escape, one of Elias-Clark’s other publications.

“He would be very happy to hear that. Unfortunately, he was feeling ill this evening and was unable to attend.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Please give him our well wishes,” I responded, secretly satisfied with my ability to somehow contribute to the conversation as if I was child again listening to my parents' talk of a world beyond my knowledge.

“Thank you, Miranda. Always nice seeing you. And it was a pleasure to meet you, Andrea,” Mrs. Richardson said, again shaking my date’s hand with a nod that signaled approval for those that navigated the upper circles.

The young woman properly responded, “The pleasure was all mine.”

I simply gazed on as she smiled at the elder lady’s retreating form.

“Have I informed you of how much I love you within the last twenty-four hours?”

“Oh, it was nothing. My boss made me memorize almost all these people’s faces. I’m a pro,” she remarked with a wink, but the statement itself made me revisit some of my acts as editor.

“Andrea, I wish I could say I’m sorry—”

“It doesn’t fit your character. I’m not sorry. I’d change nothing. About you or the past,” was all she said before giving my arm a firm squeeze.

“I would. I should have prepared for Irving much sooner.”

“Miranda—”

“Come, I do believe you promised me a dance, darling.”

In a somewhat desperate attempt on my part to eliminate the thoughts and worries of the future announcement, I guided Andrea to the dance floor where a few couples leisurely spun, mostly while chatting. As I listened to the music and placed my partner’s hand on my shoulder, I identified the music as a slower variation of a waltz. I stared into eyes sparkling with amusement as we started to move.

“Where did you learn to lead?”

“How else was I to charm all the ladies?”

She laughed before teasing, “Were you a womanizer when you were younger?”

“I was much too focused on my studies to really pay too much attention to other pursuits,” I replied easily, pulling her a little closer against me. The proximity wasn’t very typical of this type of dance, but I was going to enjoy my retirement party, even if it wasn’t publically recognized as such.

Too much attention. As in you still spent a little time flirting with the girls?” she quizzed, eyes narrowing in mock jealousy.

“Why are you so interested?” I smirked.

“No reason. Just wanted to know exactly how many people I beat to win you,” was her casual reply with a smirk of confidence that was incredibly sensual.

I pretended to pause briefly and think before answering, “Roughly seven billion, if I had to guess.”

“The entire world population wanted you, huh?”

“I haven’t the faintest idea, but I can assure you I want no one in the world but you,” I whispered in her ear, and as the music ended, when she looked into my eyes, not even a crowded room was going to stop me from kissing her full on the lips.

We danced to another song before braving the waves of faces and bodies, all of which practically fed out of Andrea’s hand as they trembled to shake mine.

It wasn’t until the servants navigated the ballroom to direct everyone to the gallery that the pleasant dream finely cracked.

You time on the stage is over.

I kept my mask donned and continued forward in costume as the prominent queen of fashion enjoying an evening with her lover, which was not by any means a complete lie. The crack was small but growing with every step to the tables in the massive hall.

My whole world nearly splintered in two when Irving stood to address the room, though Mr. and Mrs. Oporto of the god-awful Autoverse to my left only saw a charming smile on my face.

“We here at Elias-Clark are so happy to be apart of the initiative to better our city, our community, and our world. We thank all the representatives from our charities.”

The gallery filled with polite applause of people with money that had simply showed. Andrea clapped like a child watching a zoo performance, and Mrs. Richardson beside her seem elated to have someone show some emotion.

Meanwhile, I felt a surge of dread engulf my chest, and the sting left me paralyzed with an expression of contented ignorance.

“We would also like to take this opportunity to make a special announcement regarding one of Elias-Clark’s very own publications, and leading magazine, Runway.”

Andrea’s hand found mine under the table, holding together what little parts of myself had felt like they were on the verge of shattering.

“For almost twenty-five years, Miranda Priestly has triumphantly led a talented team of writers, models, designers, and photographers to gain popularity and incredible respect in the publishing business. The fashion industry recognizes Miranda’s accomplishments as a staple and integral part of our culture and history. And on this night, I have the very humble and melancholy job of announcing her rein is finally, of her own decision, coming to an end.”

It was over, and the whispers filling the room barely covered the sound of a broken reputation falling to the floor.

“We at Elias-Clark, and myself personally, wish Miranda a happy retirement.”

It seemed only fitting my downfall would be to the echoes of applause. I don’t know who tightened her hold first, but Andrea and I shared a death life grip on each other’s hands.

I maintained that grasp as I, in some fit of delusional madness, found myself standing and turning to the gallery.

“I know many of us often feel as though we are slaves to our work and prisoners in our offices. However, Runway has and always will be a mode of freedom. Of expression. Of creativity. Of passion. Needless to say, I am terribly sad leave. However, the legacy of this magazine, this work of art, will always be with me, and I can now live my life with the freedom and passion I’ve savored in the halls of Elias-Clark,” I said, turning to face Andrea, my lifeline of the evening. Her smile strengthened what little resolve was left.

“I will never truly leave Runway,” I declared, glancing to Irving in some final act of defiance, “Thank you.”

The rest of my control was spent guiding my body to the chair, kissing Andrea’s hand, and hiding behind an empty smile as Irving cleared his throat for the guests to quiet down.

“On a happier note, I now have the pleasure of announcing that Runway will assume a new Editor-in-Chief, one of extreme talents and skills that will hopefully rival that of our beloved Miranda. Hailing from French Runway, allow me to welcome to the ranks of Elias-Clark, Jacqueline Follet.”

And then it really was over.

I had accepted it was going to end…just not so quickly.

Chapter Text

I distinctly remember the sensation of soaring. It was one of those miniscule splinters of a memory that is simply special because you felt the need to close your eyes the moment it was conceived. The summer air, usually sticky and burdensome, flew by in cool waves while an ABBA song played over the chatter of the car. When I did open my eyes, there was nothing but night sky and Sally Wilson with her confident smirk behind the wheel of her convertible, a vehicle I once might have appallingly deemed “groovy.”

I remember how that car flew for simply no reason, a recklessness my overly serious sixteen year-old self only accepted due to the prolonged exposure in the company of my friend. I still remember her laughter that always sounded like gasps and how she teased me relentlessly for the care I took in selecting my outfits. I remember the summer eves speeding along for the sheer joy of feeling that crisp air. I remember stopping near the park. I remember Sally Wilson’s lips.

My recollections are mere fragments, tricks of light and shadow from my past. I cannot possibly remember whatever came of Sally or her car. However, the sensations of those discoveries in the brief instances that car stood still have remained with me in the depths of my soul for my entire life. The profound joy of having finally found something worth treasuring and how it is absolutely life altering. The bliss of experiencing and satisfying the desire of touching someone for the first time. And the creeping, haunting whispers continuously informing of how immensely wrong you are.

I now wake up everyday to this feeling of profound love and crippling imperfection.

 

What ABBA song was released in the spring of 1974 that caused quite the ‘buzz?’”

“Honey, Honey,” I replied to the well-known voice sounding from the television.

“I don’t get it,” Cassidy said, slumping deeper into the couch, most likely disappointed from her inability to answer the Jeopardy question. Her competitive nature was hardly surprising for a Priestly.

“’Buzz’ is a clue for bees and therefore honey.”

“Is that what the song’s about?”

“No, it is referring to one’s darling or sweetheart,” I explained calmly, distant laughter of a memory ringing with the song in my mind. It was oddly comforting.

“I haven’t heard of it. It must be old.” And now the laughter was gone.

“Yes, Bobbsey. Quite old.”

Ah, the joys of parenthood.

After our exchange, Andrea marched into the living room from the office and sat on the arm of the sofa before cheerily announcing, “I’m pretty sure it’s bedtime.”

“Andy!”

“Come on, Munchkins, give your mom a kiss goodnight,” she responded easily with a smirk, placing her hand on my shoulder from her perch beside me.

I certainly wasn’t an advocate for maintaining society’s heteronormative expectation to keep women in the household, but Andrea’s domesticity and natural ease with the girls was astonishing.

I felt myself smile before affirming, “She’s quite right, dears. Come here.”

Young arms embraced me and adieus were muttered in my ears. My smirk grew marginally at the sleepy tones the twins struggled, and failed, to hide.

“G’night, Andy.”

“Love you, girls.”

The simplicity of their mumbled responses that they too loved her did not alter my grin. It was peculiar. Even I acknowledged my smile was growing sparse in my retirement, and yet my children telling Andrea they loved her as they went to bed offered a small warmth.

As they bounded up the stairs, I turned to the young woman and said, “Must I go to bed as well?”

“I guess I can let you stay up a bit longer,” she practically purred, moving to sit on my lap, her long legs stretching out on the couch beside me. My arms reflexively draped around her.

“Thank you for excelling as a parent. I didn’t even realize the time,” I said somewhat apologetically as I rested my head against her shoulder. Her Northwestern sweatshirt now smelled of a mixture of her and the house. Our house. There had never been an official move-in, as it were. She was just here, and I adored it.

“You know I love being apart of this family,” she responded firmly, resting her head against mine, “and I get you’ve been a little distracted.”

A silent moment passed while we contently held each other before she asked, “Guess what Caroline said to me today?”

I raised my head and peered into her eyes. Some of their previous mirth was gone. My eyebrow twitched with a questioning countenance.

“I asked her if she liked having you home more, and she said she loves spending time with you, but you seem sadder when you’re not working,” she explained calmly.

They saw. They knew. I was unable to be happy for my own children. I looked away and across the room.

“Cassidy said maybe you got excited and retired too early,” she said softly.

“Andrea,” I said with an angry bite I instantly regretted. I sighed and looked again to her face.

“Honey, we love you,” she said earnestly before I could apologize, her hands cupping my face, “Me and the girls love you so much. This is a really big change that is super hard,” she paused for a moment, stroking my cheek, “But it’s been a month. I know this isn’t what you wanted, but I thought you said you had accepted it before we marched into that charity ball.”

I failed her.

“Honey, Honey,” was all I could choke out.

“Yes?”

“No, the song, my dear,” I gloomily explained, “Honey, Honey.”

“Alright, I’ll bite. What about the song, Miranda?”

“That particular song was playing the first night I kissed Sally Wilson in the 10th grade,” I replied as if it was the most obviously relevant statement I had declared in the past few weeks, in not my entire existence.

“I’m not seeing what this has to do with you moping around the house,” Andrea said with a concerned smirk and genuine tone.

“It represents this perpetual paradox of having acquired everything I could possibly desire and yet remaining unsatisfied due to a personal flaw. My life is beyond brilliant, and I am incapable of embracing it due to this pervasive sensation of failure.”

I was wasting away the life I had long dreamt of for my children and my lover.

“You did not fail,” she asserted angrily, “That son of a bitch blackmailed you. With me. And if I thought you giving into him like this was going to hurt you this much, I never would have let you do it,” she finished, burning her gaze into mine with a loving ferocity that I suddenly realized I had been selfishly abusing.

It was just a job, was it not? This is what truly mattered. Our life together. What gave me the right to feel such grief over a job and ignore her and the girls?

“Andrea-”

“I know you love me. I know your girls are everything to you. But that still doesn’t change that some part of who you are is different now. Like, a lot different. I’m an idiot for not fighting for you as much as you fought for me.”

I did it for her. I couldn’t continue existing as this empty shell of a person. I had her. I had Cassidy and Caroline. I inhaled deeply to collect my thoughts.

“My dear, there was nothing you could do. Irving was right. If he had taken that opportunity to report some malicious rumor, the media would have exploded and refused to accept either of our defenses or objections. Either he struck first or we gave him no reason to,” I stated resolutely, knowing I did what had to be done to protect her.

“I still don’t like how you had to do this for me when it’s clearly still upsetting you,” she whispered sadly, brushing her nose against mine.

“Perhaps time will offer a remedy,” I said quietly, pressing my forehead against hers.

I knew it would not. However, for her, I could try.

My retirement insured that when Jacqueline failed, they could simply replace her with someone else. And when that individual failed, another, and another, until the regime I built finally coasted to a stop. The investors would sell and collect. It would be considered a pleasant little financial venture. Nothing more.

It was an ever-present cancer, and I lived with this knowledge some precious part of my existence, the fruit of my tremendous labor, was inevitably going to die.

I wished terribly for the ability to ignore it. Gazing into Andrea’s eyes offered one of my final sanctuaries from the dread of loss still lurking in the dark corners of my mind. My fight to protect her from Irving was over; now I needed to guard her from my own insecurities.

It was just a job.

“Are you ready to withdraw to bed, my love?” I asked with what I hoped did not appear as a fake smile. She knew me too well for me to attempt deception.

“I need to finish up some things for work tomorrow. I’ll come to bed soon okay?” she replied while standing up and offering me her hand.

“Isn’t your column running tomorrow, darling?”

“Yup. Gotta make sure my ‘Good Doer’ and ‘Bad Apple’ candidates are all ready.”

“I am so incredibly lucky my girlfriend is the talented writer behind ‘The Philanthropist Philosophy’ of the prestigious New York Mirror,” I hummed in an overly histrionic fashion, pulling her against me and kissing the corner of her mouth. I knew, in the very least, my smile then was genuine.

“You’re such a suck up,” she laughed, swatting at my hands.

“I do believe it’s working.”

And, as she leaned in for another kiss, I swore to myself these kisses would not be tainted like the ones of my past.

Here’s happiness, Priestly. Fight for it.

 


 

I woke up every morning at precisely 6:18 AM. Or at least I had for the past thirty years, excluding special circumstances, and I did not require an alarm. Even in my retirement, I arose at this particular hour each day. Coffee, yoga, sending the girls to school, breakfast, and a perusal of the morning paper all before the day began.

This morning was not like every morning for the past thirty years.

Perhaps it had been my inability to fall asleep as I pondered possible methods of improving my mood and waiting for Andrea to return from her work in the office. I did not recall her ever entering the bedroom, and I awoke to a still empty bed. However, as I stretched and noticed Patricia curled at my feet, I was content, and smiled at my girlfriend’s passion for her work that most likely kept her busy well into the night.

It was when I turned to face the clock I noticed the time was past noon.

For the love of God. Or Gucci.

Panic seized me, and I jumped so violently that Patricia instantly stood and stared with caution. I had certainly missed a meeting or a shoot or perhaps a cover proposal. Had I missed submitting a budget or approving an article? Did we lose investors because I missed a lunch date? Everything would have to be rescheduled and the sheer stupidity of being late for the first time in thirty years was horrific enough to—

Then I suddenly remembered I didn’t have to work. And it was as if a switch had finally been flicked. Yes, I had loved my job. However, when was the last time I had stopped working long enough to relax in bed for an entire morning?

“Patricia, it was exceedingly kind of you to allow me to sleep in this morning,” I drawled with a newfound energy that was slow and simmering.

The dog appeared to settle at the sound of my voice and happily pranced over to lick my face. My laughter filled the room, and I realized I had missed it of late.

My mood carried me out of the bed and into the shower. No longer did I feel the need to prepare myself, but instead I savored the indulgence of hot water cascading down my body. When I finished, I donned my silk robe and combed back my hair, refusing to submit my body to Oscar de la Renta or Versace or Chanel or anyone on this one day. Today, it was mine.

As I descended the stairs, small bumps and clinks of movement echoed from the kitchen, and I smiled at this as well. Andrea.

I turned the corner slowly and admired my girlfriend as she leaned against the counter in her standard uniform of sweatshirt and shorts. She bit her bottom lip as she read something before her, not noticing my examination. I practically growled. My prey was completely unaware.

She looked up when I properly entered the kitchen and instantly turned to greet me.

“Hello, sleepy head! How are you? Look, I have something-“

My mouth fell on hers not with desperation or need but with an absolute frenzy of pure, unadulterated desire. On this day that I claimed myself, I was to also claim the woman that was apart of me. I sucked that lip she had nibbled just seconds before, and my body pinned hers firmly against the counter. I felt her hands secure themselves on my waist as an act of acceptance for my advancements, and the moans I plucked from her mouth with my tongue were signs of submission. I drank. I poured my passion over her as my hands touched her wherever they chose to wander. We broke only when air became a necessity.

“Where did that come from?” she gasped, chest heaving against mine deliciously.

My hands slid over her hips and rested against her rear, cupping and massaging in slow circles. I only acknowledged her hazardous bun as a blessing for revealing her neck, an opportunity I quickly took by nipping on the exposed skin.

“I loved my job. But I’ve stumbled upon the glorious revelation that it was not perfect. For example, now there is sleeping in,” I muttered, licking below her ear, “taking a long, hot shower,” my leg slipped between hers, “learning my girlfriend remained home from work,” and I punctuated my thought by rubbing my thigh against her center, earning a whine.

“Take me to bed,” she sighed in my ear, her breath catching as I seized her neck with my teeth.

“No.”

“No?”

“No. Now.”

I never fully understood if Andrea had some form of intolerance for intercourse in the kitchen, but I was undeniably about to eradicate it.

Until the sound of the doorbell cracked through the house.

I despised interruptions. Someone was going to die.

Andrea’s hands pushed against my shoulders in an attempt to separate us, and I unwillingly acquiesced, questioning the meaning of such an intrusion with my eyes.

“I’m sorry, honey, I forgot,” my cub said with a sigh, quickly adjusting her shirt and rubbing her face before walking into the foyer.

Someone was absolutely going to die.

Rage plowed through my veins, and I savored the burn and sting. As I stalked towards the door, I felt an evil sneer cross my lips; I had missed this tantalizing sense of authority that had accompanied my anger, and I now I was reclaiming it.

Someone was going to die, and then Andrea would be enjoyed on the kitchen counter.

It was the door was opening I realized exactly what Andrea had muttered.

She was expecting company? What was she holding the paper that had been on the counter?

I was suddenly standing in my foyer in nothing more than my robe staring face to face at a wide-eyed Emily, a twitchy Nigel, and a rather neutral Roy. Andrea stood by the door with an almost apologetic smile.

My eyes narrowed as I again surveyed the current company of my home.

“There better be a phenomenal explanation for this.”

There was a pregnant pause at my stinging, icy tone before Emily looked exasperatedly at Andrea.

“You didn’t bloody tell her yet?” she practically screamed, her hands flying to her hips.

“I’m surprised she didn’t hear the entire city screeching it,” Nigel said with a roll of his eyes.

“Well, I was sort of working on it before you guys interrupted.”

“Six, you really should have just told her after a little tryst when she’s distracted,” replied the editor with his officious little smirk that irked me to no end.

Before Andrea could allude to the fact that very thing had almost happened, I barked, “If someone doesn’t inform me of exactly what is happening this very instant, all of you are going to learn precisely how close my contacts are with the fine New York mafia.”

Another pause filled the room before Nigel questioned with a look of absolute seriousness, “Do you mean the ones speculated by the New York Times or do we not-“

“Nigel! Look, Miranda, I, um,” Andrea hesitated before stepping forward, “You should read this morning’s New York Mirror.”

She extended her hand holding the sheets of paper like a child turning in an assignment to a feared teacher.

Her typical confidence seemed to return to her voice when I accepted the offering, “You know so many more people have been reading my column since they found out about us, my editor thought this should be published right away on our website. I printed it out for you though.”

I gave each individual in the room a final glare before I snatched my reading glasses from the pocket of my robe and began to read.

 

The Philanthropist Philosophy –A. Sachs

I’m a little proud of my girlfriend. She’s an amazing mother, she always knows the answers to Jeopardy, she comforts the dog during thunderstorms, and she manages to make me smile everyday. It just so happens, until recently, she was the head of the greatest fashion media empire in America, if not the world. So I might be a little biased, but I’ve picked Miranda Priestly as my “Good Doer” for the week because I’ve realized people don’t see how awesome she is behind the mask of the Ice Queen she used to run her business effectively.

The New York Times reported over three months ago about Miranda donating to various charities all over the city. For some random reason, the media found this as a total shock, but, the truth is, Miranda donates monthly, if not on a weekly basis. Charities that give clothes to homeless children. Organizations that get kids in poor areas involved in the arts. Projects to restore and preserve centuries old clothing. This woman genuinely loves fashion, and she doesn’t just throw money like other celebrities but actually gets involved, acting as a consultant and overseeing museum installations so everyone can learn to love fashion as much her. I used to be cynical, and I thought this fashion stuff was just a business. My girlfriend showed me it’s a lifestyle. It’s art.

The charities the New York Times listed will seem a little odd and out of place for her. Operation Smile, the AIDS Foundation, the Human Rights Campaign, Make-A-Wish, and the SPCA. In fact, the only common link between all of them is the fact I wrote articles on each and every one of them. While these are all immensely prestigious groups doing some amazing things in the world, I selfishly claim her denotations as a demonstration of her support for my work and career. She doesn’t need to buy me expensive things or take me out to fancy dinners; I wear my department store jeans that make her twitch, and we dine-in with her daughters. I never needed or wanted her wealth or influence to further my career, but she shows her love by giving to the charities I’ve spent so much time trying to promote and aid through this column. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for me, and for that she owns my heart.

This brings me to our “Bad Apple,” the Board Chairman of Elias-Clark, the company that publishes Runway. He’s basically the guy that makes all the cuts to budgets so company’s magazines struggle to produce quality work.

Here’s to you, Irv Ravtiz.

What followed was nothing short of incredible. Andrea presented a simplified but accurate statistical analysis of Runway’s profits and stock value for the past few years, information I had repeatedly showed the board in order to defend my requests for bigger budgets. The manner in which she painted it made it seem blatantly obvious giving Runway ample funding continuously led to increased readership and profits.

You got a little greedy, Irv. I don’t know if I can blame you too much for that one.

On the other hand, you better believe I’m going to slam you for blackmailing my girlfriend into retiring.

You threatened her with ruining my career. It was that simple, and you knew all it would it take was a made-up rumor or two about what happened while I worked at Runway. So I’m going to do you a favor and publically say exactly what I did while I was Miranda Priestly’s assistant:

My job.

I got coffee, I set up appoints, I made a lot of phone calls. And I had to redo it about three times per day because it was never perfect enough for the perfectionist I know have the pleasure of dating.

Go ahead, Irv. Try and take me down. I doubt you’ll manage to do it, but if you do, I could really care less. Miranda was willing to risk her career to protect mine, and now, I’m going to do the same.

And if this month’s issue of Runway is any indication, it looks like you’re going to be losing a lot of business under Jacqueline. Stocks are already down for Elias-Clark (ELSC) this morning at a record low.

You get what you pay for, pal.

 

I slowly lowered the paper and carefully removed my glasses. Irving’s taunting voice filled my head.

They always stick with whatever leaked first.

My lips twitched now at how his plan to use the media had been bested by one of its very members, and as I turned to my star journalist, my chest surged with warmth at everything she had done for me.

“I love you,” I choked, not realizing how overwhelmed I was until I was holding back tears. I refused to let the Three Stooges bear witness to my crying. It had only ever been Andrea that observed, and relieved, such an act.

She immediately embraced me and kissed my forehead.

“I once promised you we were a team. I’m sorry I didn’t do something about it until I wrote this last night.”

A few brief seconds ticked by as we held each other. I knew no words that could express my immense gratitude at her sacrifice. Was her career still safe?

“How has the public received this information?”

“Why don’t we turn to Page Six, shall we?” Nigel quipped near us, opening the paper he had carried into our home, “The charity groups you’ve been donating to issued statements saying just how darn caring you are, which made me personally gag,” he mused, flicking his mirth-filled eyes towards mine, “Various LGBT groups, especially the ones you donated to, made it very clear that if anyone touched a copy of Runway they were supporting the worst form bigotry. Telling gays not to read the fashion bible because the lesbian queen of fashion was wrongly dethroned,” he continued with a tisk-tisk, “My my, someone should make a reality show about this. Hm, Elias-Clark is losing so much money I might be fired any second now. Let’s see, oh, the city is announcing you and little Andrea here as the couple of the year. Your couple name is Mirandy. The press tried to get it to stick after the charity ball, but it’s on a roll now,” he finished with his classic, impish smirk, flashing the bold headline in my direction.

“Mirandy,” I repeated with hesitation, unable to decide if I found the ridiculous couple name endearing or simply ludicrous.

The other half of this duo stroked my arm and said soothingly, “Jacqueline’s publication was so bad, plus all of this, you might be able to get your job back, Miranda.”

“And it would be pretty dandy if you get back as soon as possible. Everyone seems to think boycotting Men’s Runway is going to help, and it’s making me look a bit bad,” Nigel pouted, crossing his arms.

“If they start making cuts in the beauty department I’m literally screwed since I’m the newest hire,” Emily ranted before amending her train of thought with one look at my face, “I mean, it’s all gone to hell with Jacqueline running everything.”

I slowly turned to the third member of the party who, throughout this whole process, had yet to speak.

“As for you, Roy?”

The man stood a little straighter and said with a smirk, “I’m here because I just really want to see you kick Irv’s ass.”

I nodded. He always was my best employee, second only to one valuable assistant that had someone how managed to save my heart and my career. Or at least tried.

“The only flaw is our inability to guarantee my return assuming Jacqueline’s inevitable failure,” I surmised, beginning to pace the foyer, “Before Irving’s unanticipated plan of attack, I planned to acquire a seat on the board of directors for Elias-Clark as insurance.”

“How did you plan to get on the board?” Nigel asked, cocking his head. Emily’s eyes narrowed in confusion.

“Buying enough stocks to earn a seat, of course.”

We all turned as Andrea beamed with confidence that made even her outfit of gym shorts rival a commanding suit and heels.

That’s my smart girl.

“She was planning for Jacqueline to suck, buy up everything when it was cheap after the announcement, then use her sway with the board to get her job back. And this time,” she continued, glancing at me with a hint of delightful deviousness, “Jacqueline wouldn’t be able to make a comeback much less show her face in public.”

Not only had she fully derived my plan, but she also highlighted the joys of my revenge. A woman after my heart.

“My forced retirement discontinued this plan,” I responded, sensing Andrea’s playful smirk was hiding something.

“Well, almost. Luckily for you, I still had your stockbroker’s contact information from when I was a kickass assistant and kindly forwarded the message you wished to continue with your purchases,” she said sweetly, smiling with that fake innocence that had once been worn with a pair of leather Chanel boots.

Oh my.

“I used your money and bought you part of a company, sweetie,” she explained as simply as she would the purchase of a birthday card. She stepped forward and pecked my lips.

My smile was malicious.

“Now go get ‘em, Tiger.”

Chapter Text

In 1913, the Prada business began in Milan, Italy, starting as a shop specializing in leather products. Mario and Martino, two brothers, were the founders of the company, and Mario specifically rejected the notion of allowing female family members to help run the business. However, when Mario’s son failed to rise to the occasion as Mario’s successor and takeover the company, Luisa Prada, Mario’s daughter, ran the company for twenty years. This legacy was then passed down to her daughter.

While asserting such feminist origins as the main reason behind my preference for Prada footwear would make an idealistic story, the simple truth was that I just genuinely admired the shoes. Andrea would claim I had an unhealthy addiction to what dons my feet. Prada was more than a pair of heels; it was a symbolic weapon.

I was the dark queen the struck fear with every move.

I was the embodiment of evil that clacked with a demonic stride.

I was the Devil in Prada.

Each step I took echoed with shadowy mirth that signaled my approach in the lobby of Elias-Clark. I observed behind my Gucci sunglasses that eyes shifted nervously as I passed, leaving dread in my wake. I kept the onlookers in the corner of my eye; my gaze was directed straight ahead as I marched forward. I loved the way in which the clicking of heels demanded attention in a crowded room; I did not need to avoid a sea of people, the sea easily parted for me. When I reached the security desk, I merely stared until access was granted. By now, my ascension to the board of directors was public knowledge, and, perhaps most importantly, I did not wear visitor tags. They clashed horribly with couture.

It wasn’t until I neared the elevator that I was close enough to inspect the looks of horror of the individuals seemingly frozen in place. However, as I stared deeply into the eyes of a young man rooted firmly beside the open, metal doors, I suddenly realized the lack of fear and anxiety. No, for him, and the two women I noticed beside him, as well as the mass of employees and interns I had passed upon my arrival, there was no fright.

It was respect.

I had finally gained admiration not from the threat of what I would do if someone crossed me but rather what I had done for those I loved.

Heads no longer bowed to hide; they sent me off with a smile to complete my revenge.

I had no idea what compelled me to do so, though I assume it was one of those brief, fleeting moments of emotion, and, as I stepped into the elevator and pressed the button that would bring me to the top floor, I nodded.

It was hard to resist a smile in the privacy of the elevator. It was as I was removing my glasses and slipping them into my purse that the moving box paused and the doors open.

And I was looking directly into the eyes of a fellow board member. My years of mingling sparked an immediate response, and a welcoming smirk curled onto my lips.

“Good morning, Miranda,” he kindly greeted, stepping in beside me while leaving a respectable distance, most likely knowing of my intolerance for companions in elevators.

“Hello, Mr. Richardson,” I replied as warmly as possible. After learning my lesson with his wife at the banquet, I was sure to prepare my own research in order to properly identify all my fellow board members.

“I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to see you around after I heard I’d missed the announcement of your retirement,” he stated politely, his eyes crinkling at the corners. Those were some of the few wrinkles on his face, and his strong jaw complimented his silver hair.

“Yes, it was quite sudden,” I responded nonchalantly, finding it unnecessary to rehash the drama concerning Irving the media had been continuously circulating for the past two weeks, “Your wife said you were feeling unwell. I hope all is better now?”

“It is, thank you. And yes, my wife was able to keep me updated on what I’d missed,” he said, finishing with a small pause before he continued, “She greatly enjoyed her time with Miss Sachs.”

My breath caught in my chest, but I forced my face to remain expressionless. I spoke with my eyes, catching his gaze and bearing intently in search of his meaning.

Even after all Andrea had done, was she also responsible for the formation of an alliance?

“I think she’d like it if the two of you joined us for dinner sometime,” Mr. Richardson concluded with his cheerful grin.

I managed to hide my sigh as I confirmed, “I believe Andrea would greatly enjoy it.”

He replied with a firm nod, and, as the elevator happily signaled our arrival to the top floor, he gestured forward.

“Shall we?”

Thus, my determined parade and victorious return continued down the hall with the inclusion of an ally. I had been to the great boardroom a handful of occasions, and I had certainly navigated the floor given it was home to Irving’s office. Framed editions of various Elias-Clark publications welcomed me with each step towards our destination. I felt myself smirk at the sight of Runway’s cover.

Mr. Richardson, ever the gentleman, insured his hand was ready to open the door to the boardroom before I could do it myself. I decided entering the space like a queen suited my mood much more precisely.

As we entered, three men in suits were already seated and appeared to be casually discussing something trivial. Based on the ill fit of the most robust of the group’s jacket, I doubted it was the latest trends in Armani’s warmer suit pallets.

The eldest of the group, who had applied considerably too much gel to his dark grey mane, stood from his seat and called, “Miranda Priestly. Sure is great to see you.”

“I assure, you the pleasure is all mine,” I smirk, strolling with steady strides around the table. I wished for the ideal position that would allow Irving to see me the moment he entered the room.

As we waited and the team assembled, so to speak, I basked in the attentions of those around me, businessmen young and old, one or two current or past editors of Elias-Clark’s creations, a good number merely men of money playing with stocks.

I internally frowned at the absence of a woman other than myself, something I had remembered finding unsatisfactory when educating myself about who would be in this room today.

Perhaps I was the first?

It was when Irving entered the door and refused to turn my way as he trudged towards his seat that I realized he too had most likely done his research. He knew I was coming, just as everyone else had.

I purred with evil delight.

As things started, to some degree, I missed the creative design meetings of Runway, challenging my staff to fearsomely spectacular new heights. The wide-eyed stares of distress and apprehension at my every intake of breath. The struggle and strife before something truly magnificent rose from the ashes of terminated ideas.

This manner in which this meeting began was incredibly and dreadfully boring.

Numbers, updates, and so on. It was as similar to those dreadful budget meetings with Irving yet on a grand scale that encompassed the entire company. The whole ordeal was incredibly platitudinous. My interest only peaked when a younger man of the original trio that had greeted me upon my entrance moved to the next item on the agenda.

Runway.

“As our leading publication, the fact sales are dropping so drastically is very problematic.”

“Maybe this has something to do with Miranda’s retirement,” Mr. Richardson offered smoothly, gesturing to me to which I politely bowed my head.

“Jacqueline has been performing just fine,” Irving said, trying to gather papers before him.

“Fine isn’t cutting it,” an old, bespectacled man declared firmly from the opposite end of the table.

“As someone who was heavily involved in the magazine, Miranda, what do you think?” said the gentleman with the atrocious hairstyle from when I first arrived. I was fairly certain his name was Mr. Florimo, but I lacked the time to properly analyze his face as I turned to the rest of the table to answer his question.

“The sales speak for themselves,” I replied assuredly, “Most publications see a peak in readership during a change of editors in the very least because the public is interested in the new leader’s work. To do so poorly even with this, shall we say, advantage is quite appalling,” I finished with a small bite in a voice and a smile in Irving’s direction, one I could see made him twitch.

There was a beat before the man in the hideous suit spoke up, “Looking at Miss Follet’s profits with French Runway, I’m surprised we decided to put her in charge.”

“I don’t think we ever had a conversation about putting her in charge. Mr. Ravitz made that choice on his own,” came the gruff bark from the old man. I was completely convinced this eldest member and I would be equally matched in a competition of sarcastic remarks and tones.

“She showed great promise given-“

“Let’s cut the crap. Irv, you made some changes that suck,” Mr. Florimo interrupted, his voice husky and confident, “So now we’re going to change them. Now, I don’t know much about fashion, so, Miranda, I’m going to ask you, who do you think is qualified to lead this magazine? Maybe someone already familiar with how Elias-Clark runs things?” he finished with a smirk in my direction.

There it was. Glittering and exquisite. My return to the throne. My ultimate revenge on those who had wronged me. My empire standing as strong as I had built it, and they were giving it to me on a silver platter.

I turned slowly to Irving’s position at the head of the table, and, as our gazes locked, I savored the look of perfect defeat in his eyes.

I had won.

“There is one individual I feel will be able to bounce back from this deficit and effectively rejuvenate and revolutionize Runway as a global leader,” I drawled slowly, keen to linger on each last syllable and the way it tasted in the sweetness of my vengeance.

The pause was ripe, the silence of the room was delicious as everyone prepared for my name to fall from my lips.

“Jeremiah Frost.”

Heads turned towards me with shock and fascination. Irving looked absolutely flabbergasted.

“He served much of his time with the Runway family in Britain as essentially the second-in-command to the editor there, a good friend and colleague of mine,” I explained simply and calmly, maintaining a mask of professionalism, “ For the past seven months, he has been here working with Runway as the head of the art and fashion departments, and I have been personally preparing him for an editorial role.”

My eyes swept past the room, assessing each individual before my eyes fell on my opponent seated at the head of his once secure table. Irving bore a face I had observed before, and I recognized it as his poor attempt at concealing defeat. His puppet could no longer successfully control Runway, and I was now a much more permanent and direct threat as a member of his board.

I was no longer avoiding and defending attacks. I felt a smirk carve into myself before I turned again to the other gentlemen and continued with my recommendation.

“He is young and intelligent. He will continue to improve this magazine. Well,” I said coyly, relaxing into my chair and tossing a lock of hair from my face, “If one could manage to improve something that was already quite perfect, if I do say so myself.”

A few chuckles welcomed my comment. Some nodded, such as the senior member, concerned only with my logical argument focusing on their investments. One or two, like Mr. Florimo, still appeared confounded as to why the Devil in Prada had refused an open invitation to return to her kingdom. They did not understand.

I could insure the safety and continuance of my work and investments. I had refused Irving’s terms. These were mine and mine alone.

But what if this isn't what I want? I mean what if I don't wanna live the way you live?

Oh, don't be ridiculous. Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us.

I had suddenly realized what it all meant.

My gaze fell on Mr. Richardson, and his soft features appeared to be asking me something. Did he wonder where the blizzard and cold sting of the Ice Queen could be? Or could he see the choice I had made to pursue a different life?

His smile and nod were not a validation I needed, but they were one I still respected and appreciated.

Mr. Richardson cleared his throat in his uniquely suave, comforting way before addressing the room.

“Shall we put it to a vote then?”

 


 

The soothing sounds of waves echoed melodiously through the air as I leaned against a wooden railing. The emerald waters ebbed and flowed across a grey backdrop; the forecast predicted rain for the afternoon, and lightening flashed miles away over the lightly tossing ocean. It was the idyllic set of a photo-shoot. Not for something obvious, like swimwear, but perhaps a nice spread of-

I snorted and shook my head before I was even able to complete the thought.

“Do you come here often?” called a teasing voice behind me that instantly brought a smile to my face.

“The balcony or the Florida coast?” I questioned knowing full well how my cub would respond.

“I was kidding,” Andrea growled in my ear as her arms wrapped around my waist, “Don’t you know that’s a pick up line?”

“Is that the best you can do? I’m incredibly disappointed,” I sighed histrionically, leaning into her touch.

“Hey, I already won you over,” she rebuffed, pressing me more tightly against her front, her face peering over my shoulder to offer a playful glare that instantly excited me despite my previously calm meditation.

“I believe it was I that wooed you,” I quipped, turning to brush my nose against her cheek.

“I’m pretty sure last night I’m the one that seduced you,” she muttered with a husky voice, kissing me lightly. It was arduous to ignore the way her hips pressed so wonderfully against my back.

“That bathing suit provided you with an extremely unfair advantage.”

She laughed, quickly kissing away my false pout.

“Don’t be a sore loser,” she whispered before turning me around in her arms and capturing my lips.

I was once deeply concerned with time. Appointments, meetings, and dates to keep. Now there was timelessness as my consciousness laid suspended in the sounds of waves drifting and mingling with the scent of saltwater and my Andrea. Her kisses, her hands, her body, and her delicious sighs were all I cared about in that one great ageless moment.

When she pulled away from me with a smile, I did not know how many seconds or minutes we had spent soaking in our love and the dim, cloudy light, and I truly did not care.

“Thank you, darling, for a wonderful vacation.”

“You know it. The girlfriend of a New York Times Bestseller gets whatever she wants,” she jokingly declared, placing her hands on my hips.

I knew this was a rarity only I was allowed. Andrea was nothing but humble, however, after the incredible success of the biography she authored, I was the first to declare her my talented genius. I knew she was proud of herself, and, behind her joking tone, we were both cherishing and celebrating her accomplishments.

We were reaching that point in our relationship in which we had begun discussing the pooling of our resources and incomes. Furniture from her apartment appeared in our home. Invitations to Elias-Clark events began arriving with the expectation of an escort. She was the official homework-checker for the girls. Therefore, while it seemed silly to claim this vacation as a personal expense for her in some regards, I understood her pride in wanting to be the true provider and adored it. She earned the resources, she planned the trip, and I had swooned into her arms.

It was all so terribly cliché how madly in love I was, I knew a younger Miranda Priestly was groaning at what she had become.

I was delighted as I submerged myself in the sensation of it all.

“I’m extremely flattered,” I purred, wrapping my arms around her neck.

“I like this whole breadwinner thing now that you’re only working part time.”

We both chuckled at her word choice, but, on the whole, it was accurate. As an acting board member, I generally went to the office once or twice a month for a meeting or so. I was a consultant for not just Runway but various other fashion ventures. I happily attended Dalton sporting events and music recitals. I picked up my daughters from school everyday, a simplicity I once could not afford.

It was all so priceless, and I was supremely content.

“I’m enjoying it myself,” I muttered with a small smile against her neck as my head rested upon her shoulder.

“Really?” she murmured, turning down to face me, her hand stroking my cheek, “You promise you’re happy?”

Her eyes spoke of endless promises and declarations. Possibility. I had seen it so long ago in that hotel room in Paris. I witnessed its wonder when I told her of my intentions the night before I marched into the boardroom to retire on my terms. I saw it everyday we sent my children, our girls, off to school. I saw it every night we walked the dog, we made dinner, and we recounted our days in each other’s arms in our bed.

My fingers outlined the silver metal resting against her chest. The white rose I had given her what seemed like ages ago. It was rather funny. Andrea had once analyzed the flower as a representation of myself. I had always freely given it to her, given myself to her. I was no Prada heel. I was no devil.

I was Andrea’s.

“Perfectly so.”

That was all.