Andrea was in a great mood despite the spate of shit storms during the first week back from vacation. Miranda had been out of the office for the majority of it, taking care of the ‘big picture’. They were a great team and professionally she couldn’t complain. It was in the personal realm Andrea wished for more. The only time she’d seen Miranda had been at work. Longing from afar sucked. She needed to lay hands on the woman. How was she supposed to remain apart from Miranda for the next eight months?
Dwelling on it wasn’t going to improve Andrea’s situation. Her future was Miranda Priestly and all that came with her. Eight months was a small price to pay and it wasn’t as if they wouldn’t find...time. Andrea grinned as the elevator doors opened on Runway’s floor. There was bound to be an empty room, closet, or dark balcony somewhere at the charity event. Occupied with ways to ambush Miranda later that night, Andrea decided to stop in and say good morning.
“She’s on a conference call, Andrea.” the woman behind the second assistant’s desk said without a trace of her rambling southern accent.
Eyes narrowing, she took in the Chanel skirt and Gucci blouse Amber wore. The skirt’s pattern and stitching were unfamiliar, the material an unusual choice, and nothing she’d seen stateside.
“You look good.”
Amber smirked. “Of course I do.”
Andrea gave her outfit another once over. “Alright then. I’ll just wait in her office.”
Scrambling from behind the counter, Amber stayed Andrea with a hand around her arm. “She’s not to be disturbed.”
Andrea stared into Amber’s eyes and very slowly lifted her eyebrows. When it didn’t work, she lifted her arm out of the assistant’s grasp.
“How interesting.” She smiled, aiming for shark-like. Amber swallowed then tugged at a shirtsleeve. “Amber, I’d like a caramel macchiato. Now.’
The assistant scrounged up enough intelligence that it wasn’t a request and Andrea was higher up in the food chain but she stood frozen, mouth agape.
“Y-you’re not my boss.”
Andrea leaned against the desk and crossed her arms, pretending to think as she stared at the floor. “Well, I hadn’t thought of getting an assistant but...” She unfolded her arms and placed them behind her on the desk then gracefully hoisted herself up, crossing her ankles. “I’ll ask Miranda when I get a chance.” Andrea gripped the edge of the desk with both hands and proffered a sinister grin. “There’s so much I can teach you, Amber.”
“Oh, uh, I’m happy where I’m at, Andrea. M-M-Miranda is a great mentor.”
Tilting her head slightly, Andrea started swinging her legs just a bit and regarded the other woman, enjoying the way Amber squirmed under her silent perusal.
“Andrea.” The soft command floated into the receptionist area.
“I’d like an extra expresso shot in my macchiato.”
She hopped off the desk, smoothed the front of her dress, then sauntered into Miranda’s office, closing the door behind her.
Behind the desk, Miranda sat with her legs crossed, biting one of the temple tips of her half-unfolded eyeglasses. The open collar of her crisp white button-up revealed pale skin Andrea yearned to turn pinkish-red.
“Eyes up, cub.” Miranda whispered mildly, snapping her glasses closed and setting on the desk.
Andrea blushed then took a seat.
“Is Meisel still at Runway Italia? He assured me...”
“As far as I know he’s on a plane to New York. That’s not why I’m here.”
“I have absolutely nothing better to do than wait for you to get on with it, Andrea.”
“I intended to pop in just to say good morning but Amber, well, she blocked me from entering.”
Miranda grinned, the devil in her eyes. “You’ve noticed my second assistant’s metamorphosis since Monday, I take it. Do I have you to thank for that?”
“Actually, no, but I did think about taking her under my wing on my first day.” Andrea shrugged. “Things got busy and I forgot. If I had to guess, though, I’d say it’s not someone here.”
The blue in Miranda’s eyes darkened as she said, “I noticed that, too. A few of the items she wore haven’t been released to stateside markets yet. Rather interesting. I’d like to know who is giving fashion tips to my second assistant.”
Andrea grinned and rubbed her palms together. “I love a mystery. Let me take care of it.”
Leaning forward and picking up her pen, Miranda glanced down at the pile of papers on her desk. “If that’s all...”
“I may have subtly threatened your second assistant with reassignment...to me. She refused to allow me to enter your lair. Told me you weren’t to be disturbed.”
Miranda chuckled under her breath then scribbled something down. “Well, that was true, darling.”
“She said I’m not her boss.”
“Again, that’s true.”
“Will you assign her to me next week? Just until I can solve a mystery and, well, mentor her, of course.”
“As long as it doesn’t bury Vanessa under a mountain of work.” Miranda muttered as she signed a piece of paper then turned it over and began signing another.
Taking that as a dismissal, Andrea stood.
Before she reached the door, however, Miranda quietly ordered, “Starting next week, I expect you to bring the book to me on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.”
“Of course, Miranda.” Andrea murmured, wiping the grin off her face as she left.
“Vanessa, you have a second?”
“Yes but I have to stay at my desk.” she replied, clicking the computer mouse and staring at the screen.
“How inconvenient would it be if I took Amber next week?”
Slowly Vanessa looked up, frowning. “You know she’s useless, right?”
“And I know you heard us talking before Miranda called me into her office.” Andrea tilted her head and stared at her.
Vanessa’s frown turned into a gradual smirk. “I’ll need her for a few errands every day and to deliver the book.”
Exhaling, Andrea wore a look of irritation, hiding her glee. “Miranda decreed I’m to deliver the damn thing.”
“You must have pissed her off.”
“Well, I did get what I wanted.” Andrea murmured then walked away, saying over her shoulder, “Send me an email of the stuff you need her to do next week.”
“Who’s gonna tell her?”
At the stairs, Andrea turned with one hand on the railing. “I prefer you tell her Monday morning when she gets in.”
Andrea took her time getting ready. Luckily, Warren was in town after playing in a few spring training games in Tampa, Florida and was available Friday to escort her. She arranged for a limo to pick him up first then take them to The Met which was hosting a retrospective of Edith Head’s illustrations from her entire career. The highlight of the event, a silent auction of a private sketchbook along with other items, was scheduled at the end with all proceeds going to the MPN Research Foundation. The event wasn’t a major draw on the stage of philanthropy. Edith Head, although arguably the GOAT of costume designers, having garnered eight Oscars during her career, was from a bygone era. Anyone studying fashion design, however, studied Edith. The Bloombergs and Soros’s of New York would not be in attendance which made room for midlevel donators.
Pirouetting in front of the three-panel mirror, Andrea felt whimsical. She wore a replica of Edith Head’s black gown which Audrey Hepburn wore in ‘Breakfast with Tiffany’, complete with long gloves and cigarette holder. The costume jewelry and hair weren’t exact but close enough to be recognizable. Hardly waif-thin, Andrea’s body still did justice to the drape and length of the gown. She couldn’t wait for Miranda to see her in it.
On Warren’s bulging arm, Andrea walked into the small ballroom, pausing by a backdrop for the event’s photographer. Several men vied for her date’s attention. His large hand spread across her lower back as he leaned in.
“Can I get you a drink or do you want to wait for one of those very handsome servers with trays?”
Andrea spotted Anna then Miranda and Malcolm, her beard. “I think a lemon vodka martini with a twist, please. Meet me over there.” She gestured with her chin.
“Will do, boss. You really do look elegant tonight.”
He kissed her hand and left before she could yank her attention away from Miranda and thank him.
Slowly, she approached, eyes zeroed in on Miranda’s flawless figure encased in thin, clingy deep blue material. The gown’s side slit revealed the taut line of Miranda’s leg when she shifted and Andrea nearly stumbled. Heat filled her face and her thoughts turned lascivious, reminding her of the very public venue. She inhaled deeply and measured the exhale as she broadened her gaze to include the group. Anna was the first to notice her, lowering her jaw and peering over the rims of her glasses.
Keeping her eyes on Anna, she replied, “High praise coming from you.”
“Miranda, have you seen your Fashion Director, darling?”
Andrea turned into Miranda’s gaze and froze. Over the course of their relationship she had grown accustomed to the sizzling looks Miranda directed her way, always thrilling and appreciated. But, jesus, Andrea had never been a recipient of the current scrutiny aimed at her. The intensity stung somewhere between pleasure and pain. Skin suddenly sensitized, Andrea fought not to smooth down the tiny bumps along her shoulders and upper arms as she hovered at the edge of the people surrounding Miranda.
“Andrea.” she murmured, eyes half-hooded and red lips curved in sinful appreciation.
Incapable of speech, she remained spellbound. On some level she realized she and Miranda weren’t alone, heard the chatter and sensed movement all around her but Andrea simply didn’t care about all that.
“Lemon vodka martini, as requested.” Warren announced, abruptly at her side, hovering close.
Miranda’s eyebrow twitched ever so slightly then she turned her head, speaking to Malcolm, and the connection dimmed but didn’t break.
Winging it until her blood cooled, Andrea smiled up at Warren as she took the glass. She sucked down more than half her drink which made it easier to decide to finish it.
“Well, okay then. You alright there, tiger?”
She handed him the empty glass. “It hit the spot.” Fortified by the alcohol, she felt ready to face Anna. “Hello, Anna.”
“You’ve changed but I can’t quite put my finger on it.” Anna purred. “Miranda, have you noticed something different about Andrea?”
Hand resting on the lapel of Malcolm’s jacket, Miranda turned her head away from him and answered, “No.”
The perfunctory answer and the way Miranda held possessively onto her date lit a fuse in Andrea. Rationale slinked back in the corner of her mind. She looked at Miranda and waited, ignoring Warren and Anna’s distractions. Nothing was going to satisfy her until Miranda writhed underneath her. Finally, blue eyes met hers and widened. Andrea raised the corner of her mouth and let her eyes speak.
Without warning, Anna moved between them, cutting off Andrea’s view of Miranda. Warren held her elbow and firmly guided her away. A minute later Andrea pulled her elbow out of his grasp and glared at him.
“Calm down.” He softly said in her ear. “You two were seconds from pouncing on each other, Andrea.”
Clenching her jaw, she stared at the crowd and said, “Fine. Whatever. Just keep me away from her because I...” Andrea glanced at him, comforted by the gentle understanding expression on his face. “I’m out of control.”
“I know. I’m so gay but you two...well, I had to button up my jacket.” At her look, Warren blushed. “I’m only human, damn.”
Andrea snorted, covering her mouth and nose with a gloved hand then she quieted. “Do you have...someone?”
Abruptly the congenial look on his face slid off. Andrea patted his arm. “I’m sorry. It’s none of my...”
“No, it’s okay.” Warren sipped his drink, shrugging. “Once I’m out of baseball, I’ll have a life, Andrea.”
“I want to apologize for treating you like a ‘service’ I bought. I didn’t really think about your situation and I’m sorry.”
“We’re helping each other out which reminds me of something I want to ask you. But...” Warren pointed to her empty glass. “Let me get you another one unless you’re gonna go all vida loca then I’m getting you juice or something.”
“A water would be great but let me get it. You want another martini?”
Warren grinned, holding out his empty glass. “If you don’t mind.”
“Gotta take care of my man.” she remarked flippantly as she plucked the glass from his fingers and walked away.
So focused on her own situation, Andrea hadn’t spared a thought for Warren’s and she felt ashamed. A gay male in fashion was a hell of a lot less threatening to straight males and Christians than a baseball future Hall of Famer. Although she didn’t know much about the sport other than what Nate shared the one time they went to a game, the experience hadn’t hooked her. Besides how expensive it’d been, the experience dragged on for hours and the people surrounding them were obnoxious. No amount of beer insulated her from six hours in the ‘cheap’ seats watching the Red Sox and Yankees battle for the most foul balls and pop-ups. Nate vowed to never go with her again, especially to a rivalry game for which they’d been lucky enough to get tickets. It didn’t hurt her feelings.
An advantage of having a famous beard Andrea hadn’t thought of was the pictures in the papers and magazines. Although Nate probably realized not to put any stock in believing it was real between she and Warren, she knew that his inner sports fan would be all kinds of pissed off if he stumbled upon a picture or article. While the idea amused her, Andrea let it go, the petty reaction beneath her.
“Well, do you want to tell me what that was all about, Andrea?” Anna demanded in a droll tone underlined with spikes.
Andrea smiled for anyone looking at them, but she leaned in and replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Where’s Bee? I haven’t seen her.”
“That’s because she’s not here. For some reason she’s off with friends in Barcelona, I believe, which is very inconvenient. Now, dearest, explain yourself.”
Pulling back as if giving her former boss a once-over, Andrea asked, “Has anyone told you that you bare an uncanny resemblance to Edna Mode from the movie ‘The Incredibles’?”
Anna’s brows rose above the rims of her glasses. “Funny coming from a poor man’s version of Mia Thermopolis in ‘Princess Diaries’. You share those woolly mammoth eyebrows.”
Andrea smiled into her hand then pointed her cigarette holder at Anna. “Where’s your champagne?”
Huffing in a softly annoyed way, Anna scanned the crowd behind Andrea. “You may do the honors, I suppose, since Bee has abandoned me. I once heard you were quite fetching. So go do what you do best, darling.”
She acquiesced despite a flare of irritation. In a bid to avoid the crush of people waiting for the retrospective to begin as they stood around, she kept to the outskirts. Regardless of how successful she’d been shoving thoughts of Miranda aside, her body still tingled as if blood finally flowed through it after having clamps removed. No longer under watchful eyes, the rush of excitement took over like she was an escaped convict.
Miranda, however, was nowhere Andrea looked. Nearing the bar, she saw Warren talking to someone while they waited in line.
“Hey.” she said, sliding her hand around his arm. “I’m sorry to interrupt but I thought it was my turn to bring the drinks.”
“I got antsy.” Warren murmured into her ear then kissed her temple.
They hadn’t talked about the level of affection they showed in public and though it was innocent, Andrea caught herself before recoiling.
“Hi, my name’s John.”
Pulling her close to his side, Warren finished the introduction.
“John is a writer for Sports Illustrated, babe.”
Andrea played nice, spending a minute to make small talk and gushing over Warren. When the conversation lulled, she asked, “Now that you’re here I can excuse myself to use the ladies room. Would you mind getting my water and a champagne for Anna?”
Warren sighed. “I suppose so. I’ll do the heavy lifting now and you can do it...later.”
John joined him in smiling like little dirty-minded boys. Andrea patted Warren’s shoulder.
“Sure thing, big guy.” she teased then excused herself.
The preview of how things were going to go down whenever they ran into anyone from Warren’s ‘world’, while not surprising, filled Andrea with dread. Obviously, she needed to establish a few ground rules. As she stood in line at the ladies restroom, she looked over her shoulder and surveyed the crowd for a glimpse of blue or white, smiling fleetingly at the woman who just came up behind her. Annoyed she couldn’t locate Miranda, Andrea looked to her right, taking a step forward as the line moved, then stopped. Speak of the devil. Quitting the queue, she walked toward Miranda with a roll in her hips.
“Can I tempt you away?” she whispered, standing a bit close to Miranda.
“I wish you wouldn’t.” The strength ebbed from Miranda’s voice but her features remained haughty as her sharp blue gaze pointed in every direction except Andrea’s.
“It’s been four days since I put my hands on you.” Excited by the pink hue spreading across Miranda’s chest, Andrea clenched her hands, wrenching her gaze away.
Although she remained close, Miranda repositioned her body away from Andrea. “Don’t.”
The curt response didn’t affect her in the predictable way. Whatever Miranda’s intention, the sharp ache between Andrea’s legs took precedence over any short-lived hurt feelings. Mustering the dregs of her control, Andrea uncurled her fingers and forced her muscles to release some tension.
“Have you spoken to Nigel lately?”
“He found out Jacqueline’s benefactor.” Miranda glanced at her then quickly away.
Andrea frowned. “It wasn’t Robert?”
“He’s a spineless twit.” Miranda rebuked in a low, icy voice. “Jacqueline contacted Mitchell Langley who’s on the board of directors. It was merely a rumor Nigel passed along which I, in turn, gave to Adele. She told me Langley has been trying to unseat her since she ousted Irv.” Shrugging lightly, Miranda sighed then looked at Andrea. “Adele made a few calls. Robert and Jacqueline have been to several Runway events. She was at Runway while we were away.”
“Shit. She got to Amber, right? I mean, I asked around discreetly about that Chanel skirt she wore. It won’t be eligible for export for at least another year, maybe two. It’s not a coincidence. You need to fire her ass.”
Miranda’s malevolent smile caused a shiver down Andrea’s spine. “I dropped some bread crumbs, darling, and Amber has been following them. I suspect sometime next week it Adele and I will have all the proof we need.”
“Will reassigning her to me interfere?”
“Actually, it’s quite perfect, darling. Restricting her access to me may force her to act recklessly.” Miranda’s blue eyes glowed as they swept down Andrea’s body.
Andrea squeezed her thighs together. “I know it’s wrong but when you act like this I get so turned on.”
The sensuous laughter from Miranda swirled around Andrea. She felt lightheaded. Placing a palm on her forehead, she breathed evenly.
“It’s so hot in here.”
“Your date is wondering where you are.” Anna cooed, lifting an empty champagne glass. “And, really darling, I have only so much to say to a man who thinks Liberace is a better pianist than Martha Argerich.”
Andrea frowned. “Warren likes Liberace?”
Anna’s eyebrows arched. “I was talking about Malcolm.”
Miranda muttered something then gracefully started to move away. After a few steps she twisted slightly, frowning at Anna, then stalked back.
“Come by the townhouse Sunday.”
Anna’s smirked. “We’ll make some sort of arrangements, darling.”
Watching Miranda stroll away, Andrea said, “Why isn’t Warren with you?”
Lips turned downward, Anna made a display of cradling her empty champagne glass. “I sent him on another run.”
“Put that down.” Andrea hissed, snatching the glass from her former boss. “What’s the matter with you?”
“You were much more pleasant when you worked for me, darling.” Anna sniffed, then waved good bye. “Come along. The retrospective is about to start.”
“You are impossible.”
Anna abruptly faced her. “And you’re sleeping with Miranda.”