The indignation was a good, healthy reaction in times of adversity; it was proper and civilized response to a perceived injustice. Instead of drowning the perpetrator, for example, it made you walk away and drown the phone, all the while smiling with smug satisfaction of a moral victor.
The raw anger though, the kind that would come afterwards was, oh, so much better. The righteous anger, Andy was discovering, was an incredibly potent emotion. It propelled Andy through the crowded streets, all the way to the Plaza Athenee, without even wobbling once on her three-inch heels. It took her through twenty-five minutes of throwing the clothes haphazardly in her bags. It carried her through scribbling a short resignation letter on a hotel memorandum, and slipping it under the door of Miranda's room. It even got her to a supposedly cozy hotel the taxi driver eagerly recommended.
The anger felt empowering. Therefore, with some assistance of cheap red wine, she fully unleashed it; she paced the damp, dark room, occasionally made a point waving her arms around, spilling the wine in process. She cursed Miranda; she cursed stinky freesias and hot Starbucks, she cursed bloody Paris the City of bloody lights, seasoned steaks, Anne Klein skirts and Christian Thompson for a good measure. She cursed her own stupidity for caring for a woman who ultimately did not care for anyone. She cursed at Miranda’s cold beauty that made Andy’s breath catch until almost hyperventilating. Most of all, she cursed the previous night (and Miranda’s bare, crumpled face) that made Andy realize just how much she really cared.
It was only when the rage abated, when all the adrenalin finally ran its course, when she stopped and slightly woozily posed that ultimate question - now, what? - that she realized the magnitude of what she had done.
She’d screwed up, big time. And she wasn’t even referring to her career. She’d given up on her right, however flimsy, to pose the questions and hear the answers. She had ruined something, probably irreparably and she wasn’t ready for it to be over.
So Andy decided to go back.
So, here she was once again, about to try the impossible. Andy shivered, dear Lord, even acquiring that unpublished manuscript was nothing compared to asking Miranda to take her back.
Well, she had to start somewhere… and that was why she was slipping through a certain fountain at 1 a.m., diving desperately for the damn phone. She couldn’t go back without it, could she?
Already, she had fished out 25 euros change, a glittering no-name sandal which, for a short but ecstatic moment, felt like a phone under her toes, a broken umbrella – did they not clean these things ever? She was cursing in panic, stumbling on the slimy fountain floor. And OK, that bottle of wine from earlier did not help her balance either. A crowd was assembling around the edges of the pool and she, briefly but fervently, wished she was in a City of a slightly less light.
It was awkward trying to rummage around, her left hand occupied with her Jimmy Choos – there was no way she was leaving them unattended - and at the same time trying to stop her own bag from strangling her. The early autumn nights were cool and the water was downright cold. Damn. No one ever bothered to mention the consequences of grand gestures.
Suddenly, she felt the familiar rectangular shape under her searching fingers.
She yelled in triumph and crowd cheered with her. Such lovely people, Andy thought hazily, loving the world all over again. There was even a steadying hand helping her out of the water.
It was only when she glanced at the polite gentleman that she noticed the uniform and a mighty frown.
“American. Naturellement.” Immediately, he pulled out a notebook and continued in stilted English, “The fine for swimming in the fountain is 50 euros. Passeport, s’il vous plait?”
“Wait a minute!” Andy said indignantly. “I was not swimming!”
He glanced down the dripping edge of her tunic and her soaked pants, an eyebrow disappearing under the blue cap.
“I was trying to find my phone! Look!” Andy waved it in his face.
“Bien sur. A phone that you dropped while swimming in the fountain.” The policeman helpfully supplied, swiping away the drops from his cheek.
“I. Was. Not. Swimming.” She said through clenched teeth. She welcomed the swell of familiar anger boiling in her stomach. Everything felt clearer when she was angry.
“And how did it end up in the water then?” The policeman asked smugly.
“I threw it in!” She said, triumphal. So there!
“Ah.” He nodded with understanding. “The fine for littering is 50 euros.”
“Aargh! Look, mister, I had a very, very bad day!” She got into policeman's face. “So don't give me that shi--”
“You are disturbing public order as well,” He carried on undaunted. “The fine for which is--”
“I don't care for the fine! I was not disturbing anyone! I was just trying--”
“And you are drunk.” He sniffed. “On cheap wine at that. I think, mademoiselle, you will come with me.”
The police officer in charge, a droopy man in his late fifties, reminded Andy of Patricia; large, good natured but unrelenting. Furthermore, just like Patricia, the man she dubbed Bernie in her mind was annoyingly impervious to Andy’s charm. He nodded sympathetically, albeit doubtfully to Andy’s account. He sat her in his tiny office, away from the rowdy drunks loitering in the corridors and pushed a much needed espresso in her hands. He even offered her a phone call, a blanket and a solitary bed for a night. And he was very, very insistent on her spending the night. Unless, of course, she paid the fine which by now amounted to 200 euros.
She didn’t have the money - even if she were counting her 25 euros catch. She had spent what she had on a taxi, on the quasi cozy hotel with very distrustful clerks, and a newly acquired plane ticket home.
Since she couldn't, wouldn't, call the first person that unexplainably came to mind, Andy did the only other thing she could think of – she called Nigel.
“Pick up, please pick up, please pick ... Nigel, oh, thank god!”
Andy promptly dropped the receiver. She jumped away as if bitten and stared at the phone as if it were a black mamba. Why did she answer? Where was Nigel?
She noticed Bernie eyeing her suspiciously so she tried for an innocent smile. Shrugging her shoulders, she settled gingerly back in her chair.
“Um, wrong numb--”
The phone rang.
“Don't answer that!” Andy shrieked. Watching her every move, the officer very carefully reached for the phone. She was definitely losing points with him.
„Commisariat. Oui, Mademoiselle Sachs est ici. Oui.” He stated cautiously, frowning at the phone. He continued the conversation in that melodious but incomprehensible language, mellowing out by a second. Fascinated against her will, Andy watched the transformation; it was like watching one those fast forward documentaries on life-cycle of a plant. In a quick succession, he was straightening up, fixing his uniform, fiddling with his tie, softening his voice, smiling boyishly. Bernie was smitten. Woof.
It was pathetic, what that woman could do to people, even over the phone.
Andy sank deeper into the plastic chair. That was it. Miranda was probably successfully arranging a deal to keep her imprisoned for the rest of her life.
After reluctantly ending the call and shooting a disapproving look at Andy, the officer scuttled out without an explanation. She slumped resignedly, watching a small puddle forming on the floor beneath her shoes. Cold was slowly seeping in. Partially it was the wet clothes, partially the exhaustion, but mostly it was the feeling of dread in her stomach. Well, at least it was sobering her up, and fast.
The station was quiet now, and silence felt oppressive. Bring the drunks back!, she wanted to yell. At least they’d fill her head with noise. The absurdly cheerful, yellow clock on the wall showed 3 a.m. How did she manage to screw her life so thoroughly in less than 24 hours? She put her head in her hands. She should have called the US Embassy instead of Nigel.
She wasn’t sure how long she sat there when a sound raised her from stupor; man’s boisterous laughter drifted from the hallway. However, it wasn’t the laughter that made the hair on her neck stand up. There was the familiar clicking of the heels; she’d know that measured, decisive gait anywhere. Andy sucked a shocked breath in. What the hell?
A moment later, Miranda was standing framed by the door looking impeccable, hell, making even the shabby door frame look impeccable. Every silver hair in place, immaculately made up face, long black Valentino coat draped seductively over her slender body. The freshly shaved officer – the bastard probably knew Miranda was arriving and never said a thing - was looming in the background, leaning in under excuse of explaining something, but basically panting in her ear. Judging by the way he was gazing at Miranda’s profile, Bernie was besotted. Love was truly blind, Andy thought: the man was completely oblivious of barely hidden annoyance on Miranda’s face. He must have outlived his usefulness, Andy appraised.
Miranda seemed to ignore him for a moment though, focusing rather on the more immediate victim. Her eyes quickly assessed Andy’s attire, lips pursed in annoyance. Wide eyed, Andy stared back.
“For heaven’s sake, she’s freezing. Are cryogenics an approved method of French penitentiary system?” Miranda threw sharply at the man behind her.
“Madame?” The policeman visibly deflated looking like a kicked puppy. There you go, Andy thought with grim satisfaction; fall for her at your own peril.
Miranda waved her hand dismissively, silencing the stuttering explanations. Andy would have been thrilled with Miranda’s concern; however, she suspected it was simply a way to put another minion in his deserved place. Apparently deciding she’d already lost enough of her precious time on the whole unfortunate event, Miranda sighed impatiently and nodded at Andy.
“Andrea,” she said, claiming her as if retrieving an umbrella from a Lost and found office. She marched out, ignoring the heartbroken officer, obviously expecting Andy to follow.
Don't make me go with her, she wanted to beg of the fellow victim but, of course, didn't. Meekly, she staggered up and followed.
Andy pressed herself to the far side of the car, trying to take up as little space as possible. The cold leather beneath her ass felt extremely uncomfortable but she was afraid to move. It would probably squeak traitorously and bring unwanted attention. She focused at the city lights streaming by, trying not to shake too much. She bit her lip and dared a glance to her side. Miranda was staring through the window, chin propped up on her fingers. Andy couldn’t see Miranda’s face, but there was tension written all over her body; her shoulders were stiff, a hand in her lap curled into a tight fist.
Andy desperately wanted to wave her dead phone at Miranda. Look, I got it back. I was trying to make it all right. Somehow, she doubted it would be appreciated. However, they needed to talk. Andy needed to explain.
She swallowed, twice, then bit the bullet.
“No.” Miranda’s head snapped back. She stared at Andy coldly. “No.” She repeated softly.
“You will not talk.” Miranda’s voice was precise and deadly. “You will, however, be in my suite at 7.30 tomorrow morning, clean, sober and properly attired. You will arrange for our flight back home as previously discussed. You will continue to fulfill your duties conscientiously for next two weeks, as any other marginally responsible adult. Then,” She turned back to the window, dismissing Andy from her thoughts and her life. “I want you gone.”
Each word felt like a slap on her face. The street lights blurred through the tears. She would not cry. She would not.
The car slid smoothly at the glittering entrance of the Plaza Athenee. Miranda glided out before the driver could even open his door. He scrambled quickly to Andy’s side, trying to attend to at least one of them. Andy automatically made to get out, when she remembered her hotel.
“Oh,” she slumped back, defeated. ”Actually, Pierre, if you could take me to--”
Miranda, who already took a step towards the entrance, turned and stared at her, disbelievingly.
Andy shrunk back.
“I checked out. I’m in another hotel… a.. a.. Bonne nuit, I think.”
The driver sniffed disparagingly; Miranda’s gestures seemed to be infectious.
“It is cozy,” she defended weakly.
One eyebrow raised, Miranda ran her eyes slowly over Andy’s bedraggled figure, the shivering shoulders, the black pants plastered to her shins. Without bothering to comment, Miranda jerked her chin in direction of the hotel.
The elevator ride took two painfully long, silent minutes. By the time they arrived to the top floor, even the liftboy was twitching with nerves.
In the suite, Miranda pointed her to the sofa and disappeared in the bedroom. Andy stood numbly, staring morosely at the golden cushions. She probably shouldn’t sit down, drenched as she was. Miranda reappeared, only to carelessly toss silk pajamas on the armchair. Departing again, she threw the instruction over her shoulder.
“Use the complimentary toiletries in the bathroom.”
“Miranda, I apologize for leaving like that,” Andy blurted desperately to her retreating back, but Miranda merely continued walking.
“That’s all,” she softly closed the door behind her.
Not caring about wet clothes anymore, Andy dropped down on the sofa, shaking from the cold but unable to move. She hugged herself tightly, feeling utterly alone. Everyone wants to be us. Us. The word was mocking her. There was no us. There was only her. Miranda drawing people in, Miranda kicking people out.
She could hear the clicking of the heels behind the door. Miranda was probably getting ready for bed. Miserably, Andy wished for her to come back. She stared intently at the doorknob, willing it to move. Even Miranda cutting at her viciously was better than this nuclear winter. Unfortunately, there was only silence, for, after some time, even the footsteps halted. A faint click and a strip of light under the bedroom door vanished. Miranda was in there, probably already sleeping serenely, snuggled under the covers, without a care in a world.
Anger - or was it desperation – surged through Andy. To hell with it. If she had to go down, she’ll go down in flames. She jumped from the sofa and, in three long steps, burst through the door.
“That’s not all, damn it!” For a bewildered second, she stared at the bed. It was empty. “Um.”
Miranda was standing in front of the window, still fully dressed, her silver hair shockingly bright against the backdrop of the night sky. She looked startled, then appalled by intrusion.
“Get. Out.” Miranda said grimly.
“No!” Andy realized she was, well, almost yelling and consciously tried to lower her voice. “You will listen to what I have to say.”
Calm, controlled anger; that was the ticket.
“How dare you--” Miranda started, taking a threatening step forward.
“What do I have to lose? We both know you’ll do all that you can to ruin me and we both know what you’re capable of,“ Andy blurted in one breath.
Miranda stilled for a moment, then leaned back on the window sill, dangerously calm.
“By all means, then,” she waved her hand imperiously. Andy recognized the M.O.; Miranda was passing her a silky rope to hang herself. She took a calming breath. It wouldn’t do to start screaming unintelligibly.
“Well?” Miranda prompted snidely. “Was that it? Unsurprising, really, you’ve never had that much to say.”
“In the car, you said you were impressed by my loyalty …” Ignoring the barb, Andy began slowly. She’ll stay calm. She will.
“How peculiar. Did I really say that?” Miranda shot back smoothly, inspecting her nails.
Blood rushed to Andy’s face. The woman possessed the infuriating ability to push the wrong buttons. Or the right ones, as it were… Fine then. Andy was sick of being ignored. Sick and tired and seriously pissed off.
“Do you even know the meaning of the word?” Andy asked hotly. Her voice was getting louder with each word, but she couldn’t control it anymore. “Damn it, Miranda! You tossed Nigel away like last season shoes.”
Miranda’s lips pressed together, her eyes narrowed. Two blotches of red appeared on her cheeks. She dropped the pretense of calm and stared at Andy furiously. Truth hurts? Andy thought, half terrified, half pleased with reaction.
“I do not care for your tone, Andrea.”
“Couldn’t you at least warn him? After everything he did--”
Miranda slapped her hand on the window sill.
“Don’t you dare pin your lack of professional ethics to that! My dealings with Nigel are between him and me.” Miranda continued vehemently. “And while you have forfeited your right to explanations or judgment this afternoon, I assure you his professional career will not suffer. As he is perfectly aware. I didn’t see him resigning today, did you?”
Ignoring a thinly veiled threat, Andy snorted derisively. Miranda continued, undeterred.
“In addition, unlike you, Nigel is a grown up. I expect my employees to do their jobs. This is not high school, I don’t care if they like me,” Miranda waved her hand at Andy “or despise me.”
“Despise? Despise?” Andy laughed suddenly and Miranda raised her eyebrows in surprise. Had anyone ever dared laugh at Miranda Priestly? Well, it was about time someone did. Andy could feel the tears of hysteria coming and pushed forward while she still could.
“Are you fucking blind? Or is that some perverse game for you? Making people fall for you, showing them tiny cracks in façade, making them feel special and precious, then throwing them away like rubbish? Just because you can.” Judging by the startled look on Miranda’s face, they had both realized she was not talking about Nigel anymore. Cards open, then. She swallowed hard and, finally, voiced her worst fear.
“Tell me, Miranda, how long before you dropped me?”
“Before I dropped you?” Miranda narrowed her eyes. “Do I need to remind you what happened this afternoon?”
“Yeah. Call it a preemptive strike. And I couldn’t even do that properly, could I?” Andy laughed bitterly. “Before the night was over, I was running back, like a lap dog that I am.”
A look of shock briefly passed over Miranda’s face, but disappeared quickly beyond the perfectly composed features.
“Before the night was over,” Miranda threw a fleeting, bored look at Andy’s wrinkled clothes, “you were drunk and arrested.”
“Details of your incompetence do not concern me.” Crossing her arms, Miranda relaxed on the sill, and stared blankly at Andy as if asking Why are you still here?
Andy deflated. Staring at Miranda’s distant expression, she simply lost the will to fight. Can you even fight with someone who doesn’t give a shit?
“This is pointless,” She realized, utterly defeated.
“Precisely.” Miranda turned back to the window. Andy gazed at the reflection of her unnaturally pale face coming in and out of focus with every car that passed by. Her eyes were closed, perhaps blocking the glare of the lights.
Andy rubbed at her forehead tiredly. “You don’t care. You don’t see me at all, do you? I’m an idiot…. Forget it.”
She closed the door softly, with best intentions of leaving the room and Miranda for good. Not running this time, just… leaving. Cutting her loses, while she still had a piece of sanity to lose.
The first sob escaped her while walking to sofa. The almost physical pain searing through her stomach caught her unaware. She muffled her next sob behind her palm and darted to the bathroom. Damn if she would give Miranda the satisfaction of hearing her fall apart. Urgently, she tore the clothes off and stumbled into shower.
She let the stream of searing water wash over her for a long time, holding onto the cold tiles and sobbing uncontrollably. After a while, the sobs dissipated and the water started to feel uncomfortably hot. She stumbled out feeling exhausted, completely washed out. Her eyelids felt like sandpaper. She’d sleep for an hour or two, she decided. Let her clothes dry a bit and sneak out before Miranda woke up.
Mechanically, she put on the complimentary bathrobe, staggered out of the bathroom and froze.
Miranda was sitting regally in the middle of the sofa; her legs were crossed decorously, silken pajama pants peaking out under her bathrobe.
Andy swallowed a gasp, and then looked longingly at her own pajamas, lying over the armchair where Miranda had thrown them ages ago. She tightened the bathrobe sash defensively. So, a round three, after all.
She was not in the mood anymore, though. There was nothing more to say, was there? She glanced at the elaborate, and probably not even a fake, antique clock; 4.30 a.m. It was far too late for anything at all. Andy opened her mouth to say so, and abruptly changed her mind. Miranda didn’t look much better than her, actually. She appeared tired, almost defeated, her face as pale as the upholstery. She was staring intently at the hands in her lap. She was silent for such a long time, Andy wondered if Miranda had even noticed she was here. Andy was contemplating a polite cough, when Miranda finally spoke.
“Why were you…” She searched for a word and finally gestured with her hand abstractedly, ”…splashing around in that fountain?”
“I was searching for my phone.” Caught off guard, Andy admitted nonsensically. Of all the questions...
At Miranda’s inquiring glance, she elaborated, shrugging her shoulders.
“I threw it away earlier.”
Miranda simply nodded and fell silent again. Andy was nonplussed; she expected at least one scathing remark on responsibility and company property. When none came, she bit her lip considering her options. So typical. Now, when she felt utterly drained, exhausted beyond reason, now Miranda suddenly decided she wanted to talk.
Andy wasn’t sure she had any energy left for explanations. She desperately wanted to lie down, close her eyes and, for a couple of blissful hours, forget about her fucked up life. However, with Miranda occupying her bed for the night, it didn’t seem an option anymore.
She reluctantly stepped forward. Miranda did not look homicidal at the moment so Andy sat gingerly on the edge of the sofa, as far away from Miranda as possible. Since the woman was perched right in the middle, it wasn’t that far at all.
Miranda didn’t stir, so Andy continued.
“For some reason, I decided I couldn’t come back without it.”
Andy played absently with the sash and admitted, “I was drunk. My brain was pressing the Undo button.”
“You can never go back.” Miranda said wearily, placing her hands on the seat, as if preparing to push herself up. Andy wondered what she meant. Go back in time like stepping in the same river twice or go back to Runway? In any case, her answer was the same.
“I don’t want to go back.” Andy whispered brokenly. She was taken aback by apprehensiveness in her own voice. Gird your loins, Six and grow up already. Andy turned decisively to face Miranda, and their fingers inadvertently brushed together. Miranda snatched her hand away as if burned.
“No? What do you want then? A promotion?” Miranda said derisively. To Andy’s experienced ears, her voice sounded more defensive than scornful.
“No.“ Andy stated, outwardly calm, refusing to elaborate. The tiredness was abating, washed away by suddenly erratic beating of her heart.
“A recommendation, perhaps?” Miranda mocked. She rounded in on Andy, one arm clutching the backrest. As if hypnotized, Andy stared at the piercing eyes which were anything but cold now. They were… challenging. It was as if she were goading Andy, trying to piss her off and place the interaction in familiar surroundings.
“Not that either.” Andy shook her head almost in afterthought, fascinated against her will. Was it the ire at Andy’s refusal to play the game or was it the fear making her eyes so dark?
“Ah. Let me guess. You’re crawling back to that cook of yours.”
“Because, let’s be honest,” Miranda drawled, “It is so much more rewarding to play a nice little wife than to debase your high moral grounds with real life.”
“Well, what do you want then?” Miranda’s eyes were burning with cold fire, her cheeks were flushed; she looked like Nemesis, the goddess of revenge. God help me, Andy thought, she is devastating.
A small part of Andy’s brain was stunned that Miranda even knew about Nate, not to mention their break up. But this was not the time to question that. Right now, there were far more important things to consider. Things like the silver lock of hair over Miranda’s smooth forehead, the barely visible crinkles in the corners of her eyes, that patrician, a tad too long nose, beautiful half opened lips… She swallowed and breathed out.
“I want you.”
Miranda froze. Her eyes wide, she stared at Andrea’s face, as if trying to decode hidden meanings. Andy gazed back boldly, calmly, surprised how good it felt to finally say it. Here it is, she thought defiantly, do with it what you will.
“I …” Miranda’s voice broke and she gave up on talking, shaking her head instead. Her eyes darted down to the sofa, back to Andy’s face, then to a spot behind her shoulder. With a slightly unsteady hand she moved the lock away from her forehead.
“You don’t know what you want, Andrea,” she said distantly.
Andy followed the path of the hand, from the forehead back to the sofa seat. She was immediately entranced by the unconscious pattern Miranda’s fingers were making on the upholstery.
Miranda’s narrow, graceful hand became a sole focus of Andy’s attention.
“Oh, yes, I do.” She whispered. As if hypnotized by long fingers, she reached out carefully. She moved her hand closer gradually, giving Miranda plenty of time to react. The fingers picking on the sofa suddenly stilled but did not retreat. Andy made contact cautiously, touching the thin golden wristwatch first, skimming her fingertip over the bend. When not pushed away immediately, she skipped lightly to the soft, warm skin of the wrist. Faintly, she heard Miranda’s breath hitching. Forgetting to breathe herself, she ran the tip of her finger down the pale blue vein following its trail over the smooth skin on the back of Miranda’s hand, to where it disappeared between the knuckles. Finally, she fluttered tenderly over the elegant digits, rubbing for a second at the faint mark on, now bare, ring finger. Heart thundering, Andy let her fingers fall between Miranda’s, pressing at the sensitive deltas at the base of the fingers.
She thought of another sensitive delta, and thick warmth spread through her stomach.
Perhaps having the similar thought, Miranda gasped, and suddenly, her hand was tightly grasping Andy’s. Andy took a shuddering breath, want and relief flushing through in a dizzying mix. This is insane, she thought giddily, just touching the woman’s hand felt hotter than any kiss she’d ever received. She risked a glance up, trying to meet Miranda’s eyes. She really, really wanted a kiss right now.
“Miranda?” Miranda’s head was lowered, focused as intently on their hands as Andy had been. She was breathing hard. A lock of silver hair fell rebelliously back down her forehead. As million times before, Andy yearned to touch that lock, pull at it gently. Well, she bit her lip, no time like now. She brought her other hand up and, again with tips of her fingers, brushed the lock away. Miranda looked up. She was wide eyed, cheeks flushed, resembling a cornered animal.
Andy tried to smile reassuringly.
Miranda kissed her.
Not hesitantly, nor cautiously; it was a grab-your-head-to-keep-it-in-place-while-I-feed kind of kiss. Miranda’s fingers painful in her hair, noses colliding, lips and teeth crushing together. It was pure force, no finesse about it. Of course, you idiot, Andy thought dizzily, opening her lips to Miranda’s tongue, it’s not a kitten you’re dealing with, but a tiger. She was stunned by the kiss; for a long moment she simply let Miranda take what she wanted, her hands resting uselessly on the sofa. No other parts of her existed but her lips, and teeth, and tongue, and tender hair at her temples Miranda was still insistently pulling at. Finally remembering her limbs, she slid a hand up Miranda’s arm, to the shoulder, then down to her collar bone. Dimly, she felt Miranda trying to disengage and, quick as lightning, pulled her forward by the lapel of that fancy robe. Andy kissed her back possessively, hungrily, putting in the kiss all of the frustrations of months of deprivation. There might have even been some anger in the bite she dealt to Miranda’s lower lip. Instantaneously, she was sorry so she licked at it. Miranda moaned. Andy moaned back. After a moment, she became aware of Miranda’s fingers pressing rhythmically at her shoulder blades, signaling her pleasure like a big cat. Reassured that Miranda wouldn’t withdraw, Andy gentled her touch.
It felt like they have been kissing for ages, when she felt Miranda pushing her gently away.
“Andrea,” she groaned against Andy’s lips.
Andy pretended not to hear, licking lightly at the corner of Miranda’s mouth instead.
“Andrea, stop.” Two fingers were suddenly resting against Andy’s lips.
Andy retreated reluctantly, fighting the need to suck the fingers in her mouth. When she was reasonably sure she wasn’t cross-eyed anymore, Andy opened her eyes. Miranda was breathing hard, her lips wet and swollen. Her robe was in disarray, wrinkled, half opened. Once again, she was leaning against the backrest with one arm. Only, right then it looked like that elbow was the only thing holding her up. Andy thought she never looked as beautiful as at that moment. Unfortunately, she also looked increasingly embarrassed by her loss of control.
“This is not going to happen tonight.” Miranda was obviously trying hard to sound composed.
“Um…It’s not?” Andy gulped much needed air and instead of letting herself feel crushed, focused hard on the “tonight” part.
“I refuse to have sex with someone who is probably still drunk or, at least, in hypothermic shock,” she continued and Andy was astounded with her ability to form a complete sentence, while Andy was reduced to thinking in most basic terms. Like tongue, and breast, and wet, and oh, fuck.
“I mean it, Andrea. Too many things are in flux. My divorce…” Miranda shook her head, obviously refusing to dwell on that. Her eyes narrowed. “Anyway, what about that fry cook of yours?”
Before Andy could answer, Miranda continued, her eyes flashing. “Besides, you left, for god’s sakes!”
“I apologized!” Andy said indignantly.
“You apologized for leaving me like that! What on earth is that supposed to mean? Would it feel right to you if you gave me a box of chocolate before leaving?”
Miranda was working herself in a major snit. She was sitting up, staring at Andy down her nose, her lip raised slightly in a sneer.
“Ok, stop it right now!” Andy intervened while she still could. “First of all, Nate left me. He felt he couldn’t compete.”
“With your job?” Miranda raised her eyebrow, apparently slightly mollified with the news.
“With you.” Andy admitted quietly, still feeling like a traitor about it. Miranda said nothing, so after a moment, Andy continued entreatingly.
“As for leaving you… I didn’t see any other solution at the moment. It was wrong, it was rash, but, damn it, I was angry and you didn’t seem to give a shit.”
They were staring at each others as combatants, a huge gulf between them. To anyone else, Miranda would have looked cold, unmoved by Andy’s admission, but Andy could detect little signs that pointed otherwise. Miranda, Andy realized, looked more, well, scared than angry. Provoking a fight was probably a natural instinct when dealing with stress. And there was her damned pride, as well. Andy swallowed and, once again, decided to act grown up. Someone had to. At this rate, she thought, we’ll be the same age by the time the night is over.
“Hey,” she said lightly trying to break the tension.
“Hey,” Miranda whispered coarsely, and then cleared her throat. She licked her lips and looked away, visibly trying to collect herself. Oh, no, Andy thought, no, you won’t. Refusing to let her go, she tugged lightly at Miranda’s fingers, and put her other arm over Miranda’s on top of the backrest, effectively holding her down.
“I’m sorry I left.” She whispered, leaning closer. She stroked her thumb soothingly over the back of Miranda’s hand. Ignoring the sudden tension, she rested her forehead on Miranda’s shoulder.
“As you should be,” came the grudging answer somewhere over her head.
For some reason, Andy thought back at that accusation, which now seemed ages ago, about returning to Nate.
“I even went diving into that fountain for you.” She mumbled into her silken bathrobe.
“You were so drunk you got arrested.” Miranda sniped, unsteadiness in her voice completely ruining the effect of the intended barb. In retaliation, Andy snuggled deeper into Miranda’s neck, inhaling the unique scent. She could feel Miranda’s erratic pulse on her temple.
“You see? I would do time for you.” Andy smiled into Miranda’s skin. Before Miranda could snort at her mushiness, she placed a tiny kiss on Miranda’s neck. Miranda’s breath caught, so she kissed her again. Miranda moaned softly.
All of a sudden, Miranda was hugging her tightly, clutching at her shoulders, her fingers pressing into Andy’s back.
“Damn you.” Miranda whispered harshly. “I’ll kill you if you leave me again.”
“I won’t,” Andy promised, squeezing Miranda back in reassurance.
Despite the awkward position on the sofa, they stayed locked together for long minutes, neither willing to let go. Andy felt herself relaxing in the soft body pressed closely to her own, the tension leaving her in waves. Miranda’s fingers were drawing nonsensical shapes on her back. Andy closed her eyes and soaked in the attention.
“Andrea.“ Miranda said and Andy started, shocked to realize she was drifting to sleep.
“We should go to sleep, it is awfully late.” Miranda squeezed her once more and disentangled herself. Before Andy could react, Miranda stood. She straightened up, and sucked a painful breath in, rubbing at her back.
“Yes, I guess so,” Andrea sighed unenthusiastically, and slumped down to the cushions. Her eyes forlornly followed Miranda who was already disappearing in direction of the bedroom. She felt bereft, suddenly deprived of Miranda’s arms around her. She looked at the sofa balefully.
Reaching the door, Miranda turned and looked at Andy, her eyebrows raised.
“Well? What are you waiting for?”
“Huh?” Andrea said eloquently and cringed. Miranda, quite benevolently, ignored her.
“You are not planning to sleep on that dreadful thing, are you?” Miranda massaged her back again. ”Come on.”
Andy almost scampered in the bedroom, following Miranda like a puppy. At the last moment, she remembered to change into the pajamas. While the mere idea of pressing her naked body to Miranda’s made her hyperventilate, she had a hunch that Miranda would want to move a tad slower. If they ever moved anywhere at all, she sighed. Though, that hand play earlier was pure sex. Not to mention the kiss. Andy felt a sudden pressure in her stomach, and resolutely buttoned up her pajamas. Decadently soft, smooth, Miranda’s pajamas. Her mind blanked out for a moment.
“Coming,” she mumbled hurrying in.
Miranda was in bed already, lying on her back and eying her sharply. Andy turned off the lights and quickly slid under the covers. Before she had a chance to hesitate, Miranda tugged at her arm and she ended up snuggled close, one hand draped over Miranda’s stomach. Miranda scratched at Andy’s shoulder blades and Andy almost purred with satisfaction. Only now, lying down, she realized how utterly exhausted she was.
“Are you warm?” Miranda whispered in Andrea’s ear. Despite exhaustion, Miranda’s voice was doing delicious things to Andy’s stomach. She pressed closer, pushing her head in soft, fragrant spot between Miranda’s neck and shoulder.
“Mhm,” Andy mumbled, perfectly content. Miranda scratched some more and Andrea’s eyelids dropped.
“I can’t believe they just let you sit there, drenched as you were.” Miranda said out of the blue, sounding scandalized all over again.
“M’ok.” Andy muttered, already half asleep.
“Well, if you as much as sniff tomorrow, I’m suing France.” Miranda huffed, closing her eyes.