Title: Like Family
Archive: Sure, if you want it... just tell me where you put it
Rating - this one would probably be NC-17?.... not always.. but... just to be safe. LOL
Disclaimer- This is a fan fic, so I obviously don't own anything...except my deep and abiding love of the pair... oh.. and Pava... and Chad are my characters, ;)
A/N - This is the second story in the 'Like' series. It's not as much a 'story' as Like Andrea, just a continuation of that universe.
Part 1: Like Andrea
A/N - Thanks and everlasting gratitude to my all knowing Beta reader Kamouraskan. My stories are always better with Kam's input.
A/N - I took some liberties with this one. The biggest of which would be Macy's closing time. I have totally no idea what their store or corporate policy is on that... I think I've been in Macy's about 3 times in my life... just go with it okay? Thanks so much. :)
Andrea Sachs had been up for nearly thirty-six hours, working on a story that she'd just sent in barely ahead of the newspaper's deadline; along with a note saying she wouldn't be in tomorrow, or today…whatever. Now she groaned as she slid between the sheets and drifted down into the blissful darkness.
“Mmmm…” The brunette rolled over in the bed and tried to pull herself up from the edge of sleep. “Hmmm? Whaa...”
“Andy?” The small voice trembled a little. “I don't feel so good.”
Andrea was out of bed like a shot. “Caroline.” She reached the young girl and felt the heat. “Oh Sweetie, you're warm.” She scooped up the girl and carried her back to her room. Andy rummaged through the drawers in the bathroom attached to Caroline's bedroom and found a thermometer. When she checked the thermometer reading a few minutes later, Andy sighed. “One hundred point six,” she ran her fingers through the curly red hair. “You know your doctor won't see you unless it's a hundred and one or more.” Even if she lied and said it was higher, when the nurse checked and found it lower they'd just send her home. “Does your tummy hurt?” Her heart broke just a little as the girl nodded weakly. No fever medication by mouth then . She'd rather not have Caroline throwing up if the girl didn't have to and meds on an upset stomach always made Caroline sick.
After wetting a washcloth, Andy smiled encouragingly at her young charge. “C'mon.” She picked up the girl. It wasn't an easy feat, even though the twins were relatively small for their age, their limbs were long. Without the child holding them up around Andy's waist, the girl's legs dangled down making it a bit difficult to walk.
Andy made her way to the sunroom on the fourth floor. She zeroed in on the oversized recliner; it was the only chair in the house that rocked. Arranging the girl in the chair, Andy put the wet washcloth on Caroline's forehead. “You hold this right there for me. I'll be back in just a minute okay?” She tapped the child's flushed cheek and ruffled the red hair on her forehead slightly. “Hang in there.”
First thing Andy did was wash her hands, then she ran back downstairs and checked on Cassidy. Sleeping soundly and cool as a cucumber. Good! She went to the kitchen, checked the time and scribbled a note on the message board there. Then she put some ice in a plastic bag and wrapped it in a towel then grabbed a half-sized can of Sprite, a package of crackers, and went back up to the sunroom. “Here we go, Sweetie.” She put the items from the kitchen down on the small table next to the chair then shifted Caroline so they could both sit in the recliner, the girl pretty much sitting on her lap. She replaced the washcloth with the ice. “This'll cool ya off and in a little bit we'll see if you can eat a cracker and sip some Sprite.” Resting her cheek against the girl's soft curls, Andy closed her eyes. “We'll take your temp again when your Mom gets home, ‘kay?” She felt the small head under her cheek nod and wished with all her heart there was something more she could do. She knew, if she could, she'd gladly be the one to be sick; if it meant Caroline would feel better. For now, she held the ice to the child's head quietly singing a soothing tune as they rocked and looked up through the glass walls at the starry night sky.
Miranda almost hated to wake the sleeping woman, she looked so peaceful, but uncomfortable at the same time and that was something Miranda wouldn't tolerate. “Andrea… Why don't you go back to bed?” She indicated the girl. “I'll take Caroline.”
“s'late M'randa.” Andy looked down at the girl in her arms and leaned forward, pressing her lips against the small forehead. “Fever's down. I'll put her back to bed.”
Nodding, Miranda followed them downstairs and when Andrea had arranged the girl in her bed, the white-haired woman stepped forward. She sat on the edge of the bed and leaned over, kissed her daughter softly on the cheek and whispered, “Sweet dreams my darling.” She allowed another moment to gently arrange the girl's bangs off her face before she rose from the bed. Andrea stood back, waiting for Miranda to precede her out of the room.
They walked silently to their bedroom, but Andy could tell something was bothering Miranda; something more than just Caroline being sick. She dozed as she waited for Miranda's nighttime ablutions to be finished. When she felt Miranda snuggled in the bed against her, she, sleepily, brought up the subject. “Wh's'rong?”
Miranda spoke sharply, almost snapping. “Other than Caroline being ill?”
“Yes.” Andy said quietly, trying very hard to stay awake. “Other'n that.” An unnamed, familiar, fear crept up Andy's spine. Is this it? She thought clearly even though she could barely keep her eyes open. It was a common enough terror to run on its own once it started. Is tonight the night she's going to tell me all this has gone far enough? Please, please no. Vague shadows passed behind her closing eyes. Not yet… please not yet. Her breathing evened out as she heard Miranda's voice from far away.
With a deep breath, Miranda started slowly, regretfully. “Things are going to change, soon.” Her speech stopped at Andy's ragged sob. “Andrea?”
“No… Miranda, please… I'm sorry. Whatever I did, I'm sorry… please don't make me leave. I love you, I love the girls, I love it here…”
“Andrea?” Miranda looked down and saw Andrea's eyes closed. She's asleep . Miranda realized. She must be exhausted. Tracing the young woman's face with her fingertips, Miranda smiled as the worry lines smoothed out. “Shhhh… that's it. Sleep now.” Leaning forward, the older woman kissed the tip of Andrea's nose. “We'll talk about it in the morning.”
She rolled to her back and stared up at the ceiling. One tear escaping a watery blue eye. I don't want to lose this, this peace.
It wasn't something she liked to admit, but far more often than people might imagine, what Miranda wanted, and what she got, were two very different things.
“Ugh.” Andy stumbled into the kitchen, ruffling her fingers lightly through her bangs, still damp from her morning shower. She wondered why she even bothered to take a shower, knowing she was going for a run and would need another one when she got back anyway.
Peggy looked up from the tray she was assembling. The pleasantly plump woman smiled. “Good morning, Miss Andy.” She chuckled at the glare that got her. Andy hated that ‘Miss' thing. “Just kidding, Andy.” She indicated the tray. “Would you like something to eat? I was about to take this up to Miss Caroline.”
“I just checked on her, she's dozing but her fever's gone.” Andy shook her head at the offer. “Nothing to eat right now, thanks.” She grabbed a juice from the fridge. “I'm gonna take Patricia out for a run, clear my head…after that maybe. I might just wait for lunch, Miranda said she'd be here today.” She vaguely remembered that much as the soft lips had kissed her goodbye this morning.
“M… Miranda said she'd be home for lunch today?” The woman's thinning blonde hair shook slightly for a moment then she nodded once. “Good. It's kind of a shame she doesn't do that more often, but I suppose since you and the children aren't usually here there isn't much point for her to be here either.”
“I guess not.” Andy thought about that. It was rare for Miranda to come home for lunch, even when Andy or the girls were here. So why do it today? Maybe she just wants to check in on Caroline. They'd decided because it was such a late night last night that even though Caroline was feeling better she didn't have to go to school today. Well, Miranda decided, Andy shrugged to herself. I pretty much dozed and agreed to whatever she was saying. There was something weird about that, but Andy couldn't quite place what.
“Well, it's just almost eleven, so I should be able to get in my run and still have time to get home and wash the sweat off before Miranda gets here.” Andy grinned slyly at the smiling woman. “Can't let her see me all sweaty now, can I?”
Peggy knew that Miranda had seen Andy sweating. Peggy did the laundry, Peggy changed the sheets on the beds, and Peggy never once had to change the sheets in the guestrooms. One plump finger shook at the young woman, twinkling hazel eyes and a smile negated the words. “You're bad.” She grabbed the tray. “I'm taking this up to Miss Caroline.”
Andy finished her juice in silence, aside from her own chuckles and grabbed the leash from the drawer. A quick run to the park, she thought. Patricia loves the park.
Andy sat on the bench and watched Patricia bounding around in the wide open space. It was so peaceful, this domesticity, she really loved it. She thought about all the things she loved in her life, Miranda, the girls, her job, her parents. God, she thought. What are they going to say when they find out? She knew it would have to be soon; it was easier to hide from the press than it was to keep things from her parents. Every phone call was becoming more difficult to talk around what was essentially her life now. Still, revealing her relationship with Miranda to her parents was a scary thing to contemplate.
There had never been any very clear opinions stated in the house she grew up in. Often she never knew what her parents were thinking or how they would react to situations. They might welcome Miranda and the girls to the family, or they could just as likely disown me, Andy thought, but her more practical side took over. Probably something in between. She jumped when someone sat down next to her.
“Whoa!” The smiling, painfully thin, slightly awkward, boy held up his hands. “Didn't mean to scare you.”
She waved off the apology. “S'okay, I was just…thinking.”
“Ah.” He laughed nervously. “I…um…Haven't seen you around here before.”
Andy mentally rolled her eyes at the obvious pickup line. The only thing more cheesy would have been for him to ask which dog was hers. She responded, neutrally. “I'm usually here earlier.”
“Oh, early riser, eh?” His eyes strayed from her face and he tried to grin slyly. “Late night last night huh?”
“Mmmm… yeah. You could say that.” She checked her watch and gasped. “Speaking of late.” She stood quickly and he did too.
“Wait…” He sounded a little desperate as he looked around. “Which one is yours?”
This time Andy visibly rolled her eyes. “I'm sorry, but I really need to be going…”
He sighed. “… Listen, don't look, but some buddies of mine are over there by the fountain. They bet me I couldn't get your phone number.”
Andy's eyebrows rose. “Uh… you're kinda young aren't you?” Suddenly she thought she might have a vague notion of how Miranda felt, from time to time.
“I'm old enough.” He protested then rolled his eyes. “Okay, fine I'm fifteen, but I'll be sixteen next week.”
“Hmmm…” She didn't ask why he wasn't in school. She just shrugged. “Sorry, but I can't give you my number.”
“I knew it…” He sighed. “You're like a model or something right? You've probably got a huge muscled up boyfriend that would beat the crap out of me if he saw me speaking to you.”
Andy's lips twitched. “Something like that.” For half a second she wondered what Miranda would do to him then shook off that thought; much too chilling to contemplate. She remembered what it was like as a teen though, and grinned. “It's gonna be your birthday huh? Do you think it would tweak your friends if I gave you a hug?”
He laughed. “They'd die.”
“Okay then.” She stepped up to him and wrapped her arms around him. “Happy Birthday.” She used the hug to glance over at the fountain and chuckled at the slack jaw, gaping boys standing there. “Oh yeah… those guys are losing it.” She pulled away and winked. “Don't let ‘em push ya around.”
He smiled gratefully. “Thank you.”
Andy laughed. “No problem.” She turned to the playing dogs and whistled loudly. “Patricia!”
“Whoa!” The kid backed off when the large dog paced over to them. “That's…”
“Huge? Eyah…” Andy knelt to clip the leash back on the collar. “She's a St. Bernard, they are mostly this size.” Standing, she reached out and touched the boy's arm. “Nice to meet you.” She tugged on the leash. “C'mon Patricia, time to go home.”
He watched as Andy began to jog down the path, out of the park. It wasn't until that moment that he realized he had no clue what her name was, and that he'd never given her his either. With a shake of his head he went to join his buddies by the fountain, taking their good natured, slightly jealous, jostling with humor just because he could remember the feeling of the nice, beautiful woman's arms around him.
“You're late.” Miranda's fake office-voice floated playfully through the kitchen.
Andy smiled. “Yeah, sorry.”
“You went out wearing…that?!” Miranda's eyes raked over her young companion's form.
“Um…” Andy looked down at herself. “Yeah, I was running. It requires sneakers, the sweat pants are comfy, and the sweater…” She shrugged. “I'm just showing pride in my old school.” She rolled her eyes and went to the fridge for some water. “I'm not wearing haute couture and heels to go running in Miranda, besides… this was good enough for the kid to hit on me, so what's your problem?”
“Pardon?” Miranda tilted her head waiting for the explanation for that comment.
“She's upstairs with Caroline.” Miranda replied. “Now what's this about someone hitting on you?”
“Jealous much?” Andy just rolled her eyes and waved off Miranda's glare. “Oh… it was really kinda sweet.” Andy served their lunches as she told Miranda all about the encounter with the boy.
“You're such a slut .” Miranda chuckled.
“Hey!” Andy grinned and pointed her empty fork at her companion. “I'm your slut and don't you forget it.” Her grin faded as Miranda sighed and seemed to take on a more serious mood.
“We need to talk.”
The food Andy had already consumed turned to lead in her stomach. “Uh… now?”
The sooner the better. “I believe so.” Miranda placed her napkin precisely next to her half empty plate and stood. “In the study.” She turned and walked out of the kitchen, knowing Andrea would follow.
Andy silently followed Miranda into the study.
“Close the door please, Andrea.”
Andy pulled the door shut with a click and moved to sit when the older woman patted the space on the couch next to her.
“I tried to tell you this last night, but you were far too exhausted.” Miranda stopped to swallow against the lump in her throat. “First, thank you for taking care of Caroline.”
“Oh, god, of course…” Andy stopped at the look on Miranda's face, allowing the woman to continue.
“It's not fair to you, to continue in this way.” Miranda sighed. “It can't continue this way anyway. Things are going to change, Andrea. I'm not sure if you're ready for those changes, I'm not sure I'm ready either.”
Andy whispered. “Miranda, you're scaring me.”
“Oh, darling, I'm sorry.” Wrapping her arm around Andy, Miranda settled the girl's head on her shoulder. “This… will not change between us.” She kissed the brown head so near hers. “I love you Andrea, always.”
“Okay…” Andy nodded and breathed a sigh of relief. “I love you too.”
“Things are going to change though.” Miranda exhaled softly. They'd been together for quite a while now, and the months that they'd shared had been wonderful. She would never have imagined how much better her professional life could be with a stable life at home waiting for her. That stability was about to crumble. “Up until now, we've been able to keep…this… out of the tabloids.” She felt Andrea stiffen under her arm. “Yes, soon they are going to find out about us.”
“How?” Andy knew they'd been careful and that seemed to work so far. They never went out together. She always used the backdoor to go for runs and such. Miranda had even turned up on Page Six from time to time having been sighted with some designer or another over business dinners.
“I got a call from the District Attorney yesterday.” Miranda explained. “The federal court is finished with Judy. She is being returned here, to stand trial for her crimes against… us.”
Andrea shuddered. Judy was someone she'd tried very hard to push out of her mind and memory. The woman had been…was…is, deranged. Andy felt sick at the thought of someone watching her through the cameras that had been installed in her apartment, but the worst was that she'd drugged Miranda, and tried to kill the Editor before the police had arrested her. Judy had been in on a scam that the Federal authorities wanted her for, but now, if they were finished with her due process, New York 's District Attorney would have his turn prosecuting the woman for her crimes against Miranda. And me, she thought.
“When the paperwork is filed…” Now Andy understood. “Damn… things are going to change.” The trial was going to shine a glaring light on their lives. “What about the girls?”
Miranda's eyes closed. She wondered how she ever got lucky enough to find Andrea. “Thank you for thinking of them.” Miranda pursed her lips and her nostrils flared. “Unfortunately, as my daughters, they are well used to the spotlight. I'm sure they will take it in stride.” She looked down at the beautiful face turned up to hers. “They love you too.”
“What are we going to do?” Andy sat up, but maintained contact with Miranda's hands. “What can we do?”
Miranda let her head fall back on the couch. “I'm working on it.” She felt Andrea's warm lips on her neck and groaned, leaning into the gentle touch. “Mmmm… Andrea, we can't. I'll be late…”
“Shhh…” Andy kissed the soft skin once more before controlling herself and sitting back. “I know, but I saw my chance and took it.”
Andy didn't want to ask, but she needed to know. She didn't have any experience with gossip pages and tabloids. “How bad is it going to be?”
“They can be quite vicious at times.” Miranda sighed. “And I'm sure they will be this time.” The white-head shook. “They will most definitely mention our ages quite prominently.”
Andy snorted. “That's such crap.” Andy shrugged. “Besides… I'm catching up.”
“What?” Miranda clenched her teeth. “Andrea, you know that's not possible.”
“Sure it is… you just gotta do the math.” Andy spoke logically. “When I was twenty-five and you were fifty, I was half your age…”
“Andrea.” Miranda's voice lowered warningly.
“Shhhh.” Andy grinned and continued. “But, ten years after that, I'd be thirty-five and you'd be sixty… making me more than half your age.” She chuckled. “Another ten puts me at forty-five, and you at seventy, and now I'm way past half…” Kissing Miranda's cheek, Andy smiled. “By the time you're a hundred, I'll be three quarters your age. So you see…I'm catching up.” Andy's breath hitched as Miranda's gaze hit her and she whispered, “Just wait, you'll see.”
“You really believe that?” Miranda closed her eyes, breaking the intense contact they had. Andrea was talking about spending the rest of their lives with each other. No, not exactly true. She thought. She's talking about spending the rest of my life with me. God bless her. “We've only been together for a few months.”
“I believe it with all my heart.” The back of Andy's fingers caressed Miranda's cheek. Leaning in she kissed the older woman's lips lightly. “I believe it enough for both of us, if I have to.”
“Fine.” Miranda felt the flood of affection wash over her, the connection they shared that went beyond words. “I'll give you until I'm a hundred, then you're on your own.”
“Oh…” Andy moved away, chuckling. “I see how ya are… toss me aside like a pair of last season's shoes and replace me, eh?”
“You are so ridiculous.” Miranda reached out to draw the young woman back to her. Then changed her mind and moved to straddle Andy's legs, pinning the brunette to the couch. She looked down at the wide brown eyes and smirked. “I would never treat shoes in such a manner.”
Andy laughed. “No, I guess you wouldn't… bad example.” She pretended to think of another one, like she could think in this position, when Miranda growled.
“Andrea.” White hair brushed Andy's shoulder and mingled with the younger woman's long dark hair. Miranda's warm breath filled Andy's ear. “I don't want to talk anymore.”
The young woman feebly protested. “You'll be late getting back to work.”
“Mmmm…” Miranda began to unbutton her shirt. “What, oh what, will my Boss say…?” She changed her attention to Andy's sweater, lifting it up over the brunette's head. She traced her fingertips down the newly exposed skin and chuckled. “Oh, wait… I am the Boss…” Leaning in Miranda's lips followed the path her fingers had just taken. Her voice was low and heavily laden with desire. “It's good to be the Boss.”
“Uh…” That was all Andy could manage to verbalize as Miranda took control of the situation and made any further speech, or coherent thought for that matter, impossible.
The redhead picked up her notepad and scooted into the office immediately. “Yes Miranda?”
Miranda didn't look up from the photos she was examining. “I need you to cancel my schedule for the next two weeks and tell Nigel I would like to see him. That's all.”
“Can…um… Cancel?” First she's late coming back from lunch and now this? The assistant could feel her blood pressure rising.
“Yes, shift anything you can to Nigel, or Serena and put off everything else.” Miranda took her glasses off and glared at the girl. “Must I tell you every detail of your job?”
“Oh... right… of course not, Miranda. I'll start immediately.” She was confused, but orders were orders.
Miranda didn't look up as Nigel walked into her office. “Close the door.”
He did as he was told and stood in front of her desk, waiting; completely unprepared for Miranda's startling statement.
“I'm going to take a vacation.”
“Really? Wow.” Nigel was stunned. “I don't know what to say, I think that's wonderful.”
The Editor chuckled. “You might want to hold judgment on that for a minute.” She leaned back in her chair and chewed the arm tip of her glasses. “I've told Emily to cancel my schedule for the next two weeks, and shift everything she can to you, and Serena.”
“Uh… me?” Nigel's eyes grew very large. “I... um…”
“It has to be you Nigel, you're the only one I can trust to ‘hold down the fort' while I'm gone.” Miranda tossed her glasses on the desk. “And I really need to go, now.”
“Um…Well, thank you.” He hesitated. “Can I ask why? Why now?”
“It's a matter of timing.” Miranda shook her head. “I'm going to put this issue to bed tomorrow night, and then I'm leaving for two weeks.” She breathed deeply and confided. “I've been seeing someone, and that news is going to hit the papers soon. I want some time with them, private time.”
Miranda's been seeing someone? He was shocked. “Oh, well… Wow.” Again he hesitated. “Um… what about the girls?”
“They will be accompanying us.” Miranda mumbled, “It's going to be a family vacation.”
Family?! “So, this is really serious.” Nigel held up his hands. “Of course, it has to be or you wouldn't be taking time off.” Now he smiled at his boss, who was very nearly a friend. “I think it's great, and don't you worry about a thing. We'll take care of Runway while you're gone.”
“I know you will.” Miranda's voice was very soft, and very dangerous. “If you don't, heads will roll.” His smile disappeared and her smile matched her voice. “That's all.”
“Mom's not coming home for dinner?” Cassidy's tone carried all the worry the little girl was feeling.
“Not tonight, Sweetie.” Andy took a small roll and passed the bread to Caroline. “Print deadline is tomorrow, she's got a lot to do.”
“She still needs to eat.” Cassidy knew as well as they all did, that the editor often neglected to take care of herself when she was working too hard.
“C'mon Cass,” Caroline passed the bread on to her sister, without taking any. “Mother can take care of herself. If she's hungry she'll just send out for something.”
“No she won't.” Cassidy disagreed. “Don't you remember that one month a few years ago… when she was so busy, she lost like three sizes and almost had to go to the hospital!”
That bit of information was a little shocking to Andy. She reassured Cassidy. “We aren't going to let that happen again, ever.” She took a sip of her drink and winked at the girl. “I called Smith and Wollensky to send her dinner over.” She smiled at the stereo response.
“Yep.” Andy nodded, speared a bite of fish, and spoke solemnly. “I'm always going to take care of her.”
“You really love her don't you?” It was not really a question, Caroline already knew the answer. “Stephen would never have thought to do that for her.”
Cassidy huffed. “Stephen was a dick.”
“Cassidy! Language!” Andy was shocked. “Your mother would skin you alive if she heard you talking like that!”
“Sorry.” Cassidy sighed, not really repentant. “He was though… Dad might have thought of it… but he'd have been too scared of her to do it.”
“Mmmm…” Andy smiled at the girls. “I'm sure I'll hear about it when she gets home.” The young woman shrugged. “I just hope she takes the hint and actually eats.” Andy gestured for the girls to eat their meals as well. “You got all your homework done for today, maybe after dinner we can watch a movie. Since its Friday night we can stay up late and sleep in tomorrow.”
“Yeah!” Cassidy pumped her fist in the air. “Cool.”
“Caroline, you up for that?” Andy looked a little concerned for the girl. “Feeling better?”
“Yeah,” the curly red head nodded. “I've been sleeping most of the day. I'm still tired, but I think a movie would be great. Something fun… Wizard of Oz?”
“Excellent, Friday night movie with two of my favorite people.” Andy smiled at the girls. They finished eating their dinner over discussion of Cassidy's day at school and the extra homework Caroline was going to have to finish before she went back on Monday.
Andy turned in place and blinked at the clock on the nightstand. Wow, it's late . Miranda wasn't in bed and Andy wondered if the woman had fallen asleep on the couch in the study, again. She stood, stretched, adjusted her favorite two piece pajamas and ruffled her fingers through her hair as she made her way downstairs.
The study was dark but there was a faint, flickering, light coming from the kitchen. What the…? Andy found Miranda sitting at the table eating a small bowl of soup, by candlelight.
“I'm sorry, darling.” The editor stood to hug Andy. “Why don't you go back to bed? I'll be there shortly.”
Andy waved off that suggestion. “S'okay. I'll wait.” She sat at the table across from Miranda. “What's with the candle?”
Resuming her place, Miranda shrugged. “Mmm… eyestrain. Overhead lights hurt right now.” She ate a few more spoonfuls of soup before she could no longer concentrate on the food. She was completely absorbed in the vision before her. Andy's features were softened and highlighted with flickering shadows; dark eyes reflecting the candle's flame. My god, she's beautiful, Miranda thought. How could I have ever overlooked that?
Andy smiled and indicated the soup bowl. “You finished?”
Miranda nodded. “I think I'm too tired to eat.” She watched as Andy took the bowl to the sink, rinsed it out and put it in the dishwasher. Graceful doing even mundane things. Miranda felt the breath catch in her chest at the young woman's approach. She felt her eyes begin to water. I am tired .
Brown doe eyes looked down and caught liquid blue ones. Andy offered her arm to the older woman. “Shall we?”
With a grateful smile, Miranda stood and linked elbows with her love. She was almost in a daze as they walked up the stairs together. She automatically went through her nightly routine and it wasn't long before she found herself snuggled in bed next to the gorgeous brunette. In the calm, she found her voice. “Have lunch with me tomorrow.” She made a contented sound. “Just us.”
“What about the girls?” Andy draped her arm across Miranda's tummy.
“I spoke to J…their father today. He will be in town tomorrow. He's going to spend the day with them. He said something about the zoo, maybe a movie.” Miranda tried to calm her racing mind. There was still so much to do at Runway. It was kind of annoying.
“His name is James. You can say his name around me, you know? I'm glad he's going to be here. The girls love him.” Andy smiled at the thought of Cassidy and Caroline discussing their father, their voices never held anything but love for the man.
Miranda didn't want to bring up the subject, but… “You are really okay with…James?”
“Of course.” Andy chuckled. “I mean, sure there are surges of…I dunno, jealousy maybe. I used to dream about taking you away from him, from Stephen too, but I'm the one here with you now…so it's all good.”
“You… dreamed of…?” Miranda blinked. “I don't know what to say to that.”
Andy sighed. “Don't say anything. It's embarrassing to admit to begin with.” She buried her face in Miranda's shoulder. “I feel like some kind of cave dweller or something, trying to keep anyone else from touching you.”
“Now you know how I feel.” Miranda cursed herself. Shut up… just stop talking!
“About…Nate?” Andy shook her head. “He was…not nearly to me what James was to you.”
“And…” Miranda ground out the name through her clenched teeth. “…Christian.”
Andy exhaled slowly. “He was… just… a mistake.”
“So I will deal with my murderous thoughts of Nathan and Christian, and you will manage your issues with Stephen and James.” Miranda squeezed her eyes tightly closed telling herself firmly. Stop talking you foolish old woman, you're just messing things up.
“Miranda, I love you.” Andy pressed herself against the woman in front of her for a moment before pulling back slightly. “I don't have any problem with James.” She lifted her arm and waggled it inside the sleeve. “I'm wearing his pajamas for crying out loud, isn't that enough?”
“Huh?” The young woman nodded. “Oh, yeah. Well they're mine now… but…”
“No.” I'm much too tired , Miranda thought. I need to stop talking . “They were never his. They were never intended for him.” She kissed the soft lips in front of her lightly. “I'm sorry, Andrea, I lied to you when I told you they were his.”
“So… the girls didn't buy them for their dad?”
“When I returned from Paris , I contacted a tailor to make some pajamas for me.” She played with a bit of brown hair that had spilled over Andy's shoulder. “I had been with Stephen long enough that he'd seen me in everything I had…” She shook her head. “Stupid, I know, but I felt like I wanted a change from that, something new.”
“Not stupid.” Andy traced the face in front of her. “You're never stupid.”
“Anyway, the man apparently never read the papers or watched television because he asked me… if I wanted some made for my husband as well.”
“Ouch.” The young woman smiled. “I'm surprised you let him continue.”
Miranda had wondered about that herself, but then thought she knew why. “I think I let him continue for the same reason I hired you.” The older woman chuckled as Andy bristled. “No… not that. ” She continued. “I think it was precisely because he didn't know me, or my situation… he was just a tailor sewing what he was told to sew.”
“You like anonymity.” Andy knew it was true, she'd seen the expression on Miranda's face on the few occasions people would treat her as any other person. “It's odd for you, but you like it, because it's different.”
“I suppose so.” Miranda sighed. “When I gave you the pajama's that night, I told you the girls had bought them for their father. That was not true.” She closed her eyes and thought back to that time and how scared she was, being so out of control from the drugs she'd been given. She thought she was twice as scared right now, admitting lying to Andrea was not something she'd ever contemplated. “When the tailor asked me for my husband's measurements, to make a matching pair of pajamas for him... I… I gave him your measurements.”
“But… that was…” So long ago, and you were so angry at me for leaving, you had to be. Andy swallowed hard and then let it go. “That's amazing.” She ran her hand down the front of the pajama's in question, now fully repaired from Miranda's assault on the buttons that first night together. “When I first put them on I thought it felt like they were made just for me.”
Miranda nodded. “They were.” Blue eyes looked cautiously at her partner. “You aren't angry?”
“Nah.” Andy bent to capture Miranda's lips for a moment. “Thank you, for the pajamas, and for telling me.”
“I wouldn't have,” Miranda admitted. “If I hadn't been so tired tonight.”
“I know.” Andy shifted to wrap her arms around Miranda and chuckled. “It's okay. Little things like that… happen. Couples can't know every single little tiny detail about each other, what would be the fun in that?” Andy's tone turned serious. “It's the big things that we need to be honest about.”
“I agree.” Miranda relaxed into the embrace. “I'm so glad we agree on that.”
“Me too.” As long as we can agree on what the big things are.
Rolling to her back, Miranda closed her eyes. “Can we change the subject now?”
Andy laughed, hitching herself up to kiss the woman's cheek. “Sure.” She grinned. “The girls are gonna love the Zoo. Caroline will be glad to get out. I think she was going stir crazy after one day stuck inside.”
“Mmmm…” Miranda agreed. “You know she's not much for inactivity.”
“Yeah,” Andy rubbed the tummy under her hand gently. “Takes after someone else I know.” She chuckled at Miranda's self-depreciating snort. “So, when will you be home for lunch?”
“I won't.” Miranda brought Andy's hand to her lips and kissed the inside of her wrist. “I want you to meet me at the office.”
“Uh…” Andy's eyebrows rose significantly. “You sure that's a good idea?”
“No.” Miranda admitted. “But tomorrow is going to be a very long day, and I would like to be able to see you at some point.” Closing her eyes, Miranda felt herself begin to drift off. “Lunch seemed the logical choice.”
“You want me to bring food?” Andy grinned. “We can eat in the office.”
“Yes, that would be preferable.” The editor groaned. “I have a lot to do.”
“Okay then.” Andy yawned. “Any preferences?”
Miranda scoffed. “Smith and Wollensky seems to do your bidding well enough.”
Andy chuckled and kissed the shoulder under her cheek. “I wondered when that was going to come up.” The brunette looked up and placed another gentle kiss on Miranda's neck. “Did you eat it?”
“Yes,” Miranda admitted. Eventually. “Thank you.”
“You are very welcome.” Andy whispered. “I'll always take care of you, if you let me.”
“I'm going to hold you to that, you know.” Miranda chuckled remembering their previous conversation. “At least until I'm a hundred, then you're outta here.”
“Ha ha…” Andy cleared her throat. “May as well get started then.” She made a twirling gesture with her index finger. “Roll over.”
Miranda's eyebrows rose, but she complied, knowing the reason for the request. “Thank you, Andrea.”
“Of course.” Andy straddled her love's thighs and began to run her hands up and down the woman's back, slowly, gently, lovingly. “Wow, you're really tense.” Miranda's only reply was.
Andy kept up the massage for several minutes then slowed the strokes and finally stopped, knowing the older woman was sleeping comfortably. It was a rare treat to watch Miranda sleep, so Andy took the opportunity for quite a long time just watching the love of her life's unguarded expression, relaxed and beautiful.
Miranda sat at the table quietly waiting for the man's reaction. His first question was, predictable.
“Are you sure, Mira?” James was still trying to process the information he'd been given.
She swallowed her revulsion at the nickname and didn't dignify the question with an answer. If she hadn't been sure, she never would have told him.
“Do I…um… get to meet...” James stumbled over the pronoun. “…her?”
“She's gone for a morning run, with Patricia,” Miranda spoke quietly. “She'll be back soon.”
The girls noisily entered the kitchen and shouted with surprise. “Dad!” They ran to hug the man.
“Hello girls.” He returned the hugs. “I was in town and thought I might take you two to the zoo…” He smiled at their cheers then he turned his gaze to the young woman entering the kitchen.
The girls squealed and ran over to hug Andy. “Look Andy, Dad's here!” They hung on either side of her. “He's gonna take us to the zoo.”
“That's great!” She smiled at their enthusiasm. “Sounds like fun.” She gently patted their backs, nudging them back over to their dad, who she finally found the courage to look at. “Uh… hi.” Walking across the room, she put Patricia's leash back in its drawer. “Sorry to interrupt.” She turned to Miranda with a deep breath. “I let Patricia play in the park for a little while so she should be good for the day.”
James patted Cassidy on the shoulder. “Why don't you girls go upstairs and get ready, we can go have breakfast and then hit the zoo.”
Andy spoke without thinking about their visitor. “Don't forget your sunscreen.” Both girls rolled their eyes at the common reminder.
“Yeah, yeah,” they waved. “You always say that.” Then they were gone.
Miranda took advantage of the girls' absence. “James, this is Andrea.” The older woman reached out and took her lover's hand. “Andrea, this is James.”
“Hello.” He stood and offered his hand to shake. “Miranda has…told me, all about you.”
Andy's grip went lax in his hand. “Uh…” she glanced at Miranda, moving closer to the woman. “You…?”
“Yes.” Miranda reached out to take Andrea's hand. “He… more than anyone else, needed to be told.”
Andy nodded. Because of the girls . “So we're gonna start telling people, slowly?”
“Yes.” Miranda replied. “A trusted few at first.”
“I'm glad to be counted among those, Mira.” James blinked his gaze away from the women's joined hands.
The girls came barreling back into the kitchen. “Okay Dad, we're ready.”
Andy disengaged from Miranda, James or not she wasn't going to let the girls go out unprepared. She crossed her arms in front of her and narrowed her eyes at the children. “Did you put sunscreen on the backs of your ears?” That particular area had been burned before.
Both girls rolled their eyes and answered simultaneously. “Yes, Andy.”
“And the back of your neck?” Another problem area.
The girls dutifully answered. “Yes, Andy.”
“Well, okay then!” Andy dropped her arms and knelt down as the girls rushed her for another hug. “Have a great day!” She could feel James' eyes on her as she stood. She repeated her well wishes to the man. “Have a great day.”
His lips twitched in what could have been the beginning of a smile and he nodded once as he stood. “You too.” With a quick gesture he motioned the girls to follow him. “C'mon girls, let's go have some fun.”
After they were gone, Andy turned to Miranda. “So? What's the verdict?”
“Mmmm…” Miranda's eyes lingered on the doorway. “He's reserving judgment, but he likes you, and the way you interact with the girls.” She sighed and pushed herself up from the chair. “He'll put subtle questions to the girls all day and when he realizes they love you, he'll be fine with you.”
“And…” Andy swallowed hard. “…and if he wasn't… fine with me?”
“If his opinion was less than accepting, then that would be his problem to deal with.”
Andy chuckled and wrapped her arms around Miranda's waist. “You know Nigel told me something once when I worked at Runway. I think it applies here.”
“Really, and what pearl of wisdom did Nigel impart to you?”
“He informed me in no uncertain terms that your opinion…” she kissed the tip of Miranda's nose. “Is the only one that matters.”
Laughing at that, Miranda reached up to caress the young woman's cheek with the backs of her fingers. “Only at Runway darling, when we're here, it's a combined effort.”
Andy blinked at that surprising statement, but didn't reply; couldn't reply. Every single body part she needed for speech was already occupied with other much more pleasant duties than talking.
Andy took a deep breath as she watched the numbers on the elevator panel climb toward seventeen. Security hadn't stopped her but she wasn't looking forward to her next task, getting past Emily. When she stopped to sign in at the desk, she'd expected them to give her a temporary visitor's pass, instead she got a permanent one; no more stopping at the desk. Luckily, it also made her special request carry a little more weight and she was greatly relieved it would be permitted. Jeff is such a nice guy. Walking down the halls of Runway forced her to remember the last time she'd been here. That had been months ago when she and Miranda were going to face Judy; the crazy assistant who was trying to kill Miranda. That was also the last time she'd seen Emily. It was clear the current first assistant was not pleased to see her again.
“You?!” Emily glanced across the walkway to the second assistant, before turning back to Andy. She nearly hissed. “What are you doing here? Leave! Now!”
Shrugging, Andy adjusted her grip on the bag she carried. “Can't do that, Em.”
“Emily.” Miranda's voice floated out of the office, business-like and bored. “Emily.”
Seconds passed and both the real Emily and Andy looked to the newest assistant and as Emily raised her eyebrow, Andy spoke. “She means you.” Andy pressed her lips together as the girl scrambled around her desk to get to Miranda's office.
“New girl?” Even though most Runway business wasn't discussed at home, Andy knew full well the newest addition to Runway had been there for a week. Miranda had complained frequently and fluently in at least three languages regarding the woman's incompetence. Andy had, just three days ago, soothed Miranda's ire enough to keep the editor from firing the newbie.
The British woman rolled her eyes. “She's totally incompetent. I honestly don't know how she's lasted the week.” Emily ran her eyes down the line of Andy's dress, checking out her outfit. “At least she dresses better than you did, at first. Her eyes stopped at her former co-worker's booted feet then jumped back up to Andy's face. “Chanel?”
Grinning, Andy nodded. “Yep.” From head to toe.
They heard the girl stammering “Y..yes, M..Miranda” just before the second assistant returned to her desk, and Miranda's voice again floated out of the office. “Emily.” This time the inflection was not as bored, but still business-like. Andy grinned at the woman. “She means you this time.”
Rolling her eyes, Emily grabbed her notepad as she rounded her desk. “I know that.” She was standing in front of Miranda's desk within ten seconds.
“Yes, Miranda?” It was phrased as a question, but actually it was merely an inquiry regarding her orders.
“I am not to be disturbed during my lunch. Set up a meeting with Nigel and Serena in forty-five minutes. That's all.”
Emily nodded and glared as she walked past Andy. “You can't see her now. She's taking her lunch and doesn't want to be disturbed.”
“Emily.” Now the inflection of Miranda's voice was almost playful, but held an underlying tone of affection and smoky sex.
Andy grinned at the shocked look on both Emily's faces. “ That , would be me.”
“I'm hungry.” Miranda's low tone floated past the assistants' desks. “Are you ready?”
Both Emily's eyes widened as they heard Andy's amused reply echo the, playful, smoky tone their boss had used just seconds earlier. “Yes, Miranda.” They gaped as the office doors closed slowly and they both heard the snick of the lock. The new second assistant spoke quietly.
“ Who , was that?”
Scoffing, Emily closed her eyes. “Nobody.” She thought back to past events, and quickly put together a few things. Beginning with Andy storming into Miranda's office after the ‘brunette issue' was released months ago, finding the young woman in Miranda's house, wearing pajamas. Miranda's recent odd behavior added to the mix, along with arriving late from lunches at home, canceling her schedule for the next two weeks, and ending with the tone in Miranda's voice when she called Andy into the office just now.
“She sure seemed like somebody to Miranda.” The girl chuckled.
Emily glared at her new co-worker. “You listen to me, if you know what's good for you… you will do your job and keep your mouth shut.” She pointed to the office. “ No one just went in there. Do you understand me? If anyone asks, Miranda is having lunch alone.”
“Uh… sure Emily.” The blonde shook her head and held up her hands. “Just chill, okay?”
“No.” Emily turned to her computer, whirling the mouse with a bit too much force. “Shan't.”
Andy had barely set the food down before she found her arms full of Miranda. “Jesus, Miranda.” Andy found herself being kissed intently. Startled by the action, she barely had time to reciprocate before Miranda pulled away. “Why don't you just announce to the whole office we're together?”
Miranda scoffed. “The door is closed, Andrea.”
“Well, it wasn't when you used that tone to summon me.” Andy laughed at Miranda's confused expression. “Did you hear yourself?” Grinning, Andy leaned forward and traced the ear half hidden under white hair with her tongue. “The last time I heard that inflection in your voice we were very alone,” she whispered. “And very, very naked.”
“Andrea.” Miranda's breathing was occurring short and quick, through flared nostrils. The mental images she'd held in check all morning were now showing themselves front and center. She tried to back away from that; fight the almost primal urge she was feeling, with a little logic. “We are in my office!”
“Mmm….” Andy looked around and smiled, then moved, nibbling lower. Teeth gently scraped against smooth skin as Miranda tipped her head, almost automatically, granting better access. “We sure are.” Dark eyes twinkled. “Don't tell me you've never thought about it.”
Miranda lost the fight with herself and went on the offensive, finding Andy's ear, whispering. “I have thought about many things, Andrea.” She pushed the young woman backward until they encountered the desk. “I've often pictured you bent over this desk.” Miranda growled, low in her chest, feeling the need she could no longer deny. “Andrea, dear God… what you do to me.”
Andy smirked. “I haven't done anything, yet.”
“And you won't.” Miranda was fully the Goddess. “ I am in control here .” She stepped back slightly and spoke softly. “Turn around.”
Brown eyes held blue for a moment before Andy complied, slowly. “Yes, Miranda.” She felt Miranda's hand between her shoulders, pushing her down over the desk; the editor's Prada shoes touching the inside of her ankles.
“Miranda…I…um.. do you remem…”
“Shhh…I've been thinking about you all morning…” Miranda slid her hand up Andy's leg, continuing past the dress hem. Leaning down, she found Andy's ear. “If you wish me to stop, by all means tell me so.”
Closing her eyes as the long elegant fingers found their target; Andy whimpered and whispered urgently, “Please, Miranda… don't stop.” She reached up to hold the front edge of the desk, allowing Miranda to push up her dress, exposing the black lace underwear Miranda's hand was now beneath. Her body moved to the rhythm Miranda set and she had no clue how much time had passed but all the while she murmured quietly, “don't stop, God, please… don't stop.” The delicious heat of Miranda's body pressing her against the cold glass desk held her still as Miranda's hand continued its motion. Warm breath on her ear drew a whimper from Andy's throat and Miranda's whisper pushed her closer to the edge.
“Miranda… Miranda…please…” She was so close; she really needed to… her eyes fluttered as points of light began to flash behind them and Miranda's voice swirled in her ear.
“Andrea,” Miranda very softly, very quietly ordered, “Come for me.”
Miranda sighed contentedly as she felt Andrea shuddering beneath her, muscles clenching around her fingers for a long ecstatic moment. She waited for the young woman to relax, then kissed her cheek lightly and withdrew her hand, stepping back, allowing Andy room to stand and turn. Her hand went to her mouth and her eyes automatically closed.
“Where the H…” ell did that come from… Andy swallowed hard against her suddenly dry mouth. Her heart beat so hard she was sure it would burst through her chest. Backlit by the windows, Miranda was a vision. Andy's legs buckled and she dropped to her knees before the Goddess, awe tingeing her voice. “Miranda...”
“Andrea…” Blue eyes gazed lovingly down at the upturned face. She offered her hands to the young woman. “Please, stand up.”
Releasing the older woman's hands, Andy buried her fingers in the luscious white hair, pulling Miranda to her. She groaned as their lips met and she tasted herself there. Oh God. She thought and pulled back slightly. “How long do we have?”
Miranda smiled and brushed some dark brown hair away from Andy's face. “Not nearly long enough.” She kissed the young woman lightly. “Thank you.” Her eyes slid to the desk. “This was a lovely gift.”
“Lovely gift.” Andy repeated and shook her head. “Lovely?” Andy ruffled her fingers through her hair and gestured to the desk. “Jesus H… Miranda, that was fucking amazing.”
With a deep breath, Miranda nodded. “Yes, well.” The older woman smiled. “Then thank you, for the fucking amazing gift.”
“Uh…” Blinking at the curse falling from Miranda's lips, Andy collapsed into Miranda's desk chair and watched as her lover disappeared through the private restroom door.
When she returned, Andy stood shakily. “Me next, I guess.”
Miranda nodded and began to unpack to food Andy had brought for their lunch. When Andy returned, Miranda spoke quietly. “Not much time now. I have a meeting with Nigel and Serena, in…” she checked the time. “Twenty minutes.”
Andy nodded and sat at the small table. She stabbed a piece of chicken and in her peripheral vision she saw a small red light, blinking on. Well that was close , Andy thought.
Fifteen minutes later Miranda stuck her head out her door to find the second assistant's desk empty. She turned to the occupied desk. “Emily, call Nigel and tell him to bring a black Chanel dress, size four with him when he arrives for the meeting. Andrea seems to have dripped something on hers.”
Pursing her lips in disapproval of the girl's slobbish behavior in front of Miranda, Emily had picked up the phone and dialed the number before the possible double meaning of the words hit her. The British woman's knuckles went white around the phone handset, but she dutifully relayed the orders; minus the reason why. As she hung up the phone she tried to blank the insane, slightly nauseating, notion of Miranda and Andy… together… in Miranda's office, out of her mind with her favorite chant.
“I love my job, I love my job, I love my job…”
Nigel, Serena and the black Chanel dress arrived at Miranda's office exactly on time. Emily followed the people in with her notebook and their new schedules.
Miranda took the dress from the man and handed it through the door of the private bathroom then returned to her desk chair; obviously waiting for Andrea to finish changing.
They'd all heard Andy's quiet ‘thank you' and in a very short time the young woman emerged looking quite stylish.
“You look great, Six.” Nigel smiled at his former co-worker.
“Very nice.” Serena agreed.
Emily refrained from commenting. She did however focus on the dress Andy waved slightly in Miranda's direction.
“Do you think this will come out?” Andy was worried about ruining the dress, after being so careful during the encounter with Miranda she was upset that this had to happen.
“I'm sure they've seen it at the dry cleaners before.” Miranda wasn't worried about the dress at all.
Emily couldn't contain her curiosity. “What is it?”
Andy sighed and rolled her eyes. “Caesar dressing.”
Blinking, Emily's forehead wrinkled. “Huh?”
“Uh… Lunch?” Andy indicated the remains of the meal. She laughed at Emily's expression and decided to have some fun. “What did you think, Em?”
“I…I…” The assistant was flustered now, not knowing what to think and trying to pull her train of thought into a completely different station.
Blue eyes twinkled at her lunch companion for a long moment then Miranda redirected her gaze to the stammering assistant. “Yes, Emily, tell us, exactly what did you think was occurring in my private office.” The editor's voice was smooth. “Perhaps you thought I called Andrea in for nefarious reasons?”
“uh…” Emily now looked like a deer caught in headlights. She knew she should leave, she knew she was about to get hit by the car, but she couldn't move.
Andy took pity on the assistant, sort of. “C'mon Miranda, give her a break.” She grinned as Miranda made a little ‘humph' noise. “So she has an active imagination.”
“Is that true, Emily?” Miranda ignored Nigel and Serena's nervous shuffles as she continued to terrify her assistant. “Please enlighten us as to how active your imagination can be.”
Andy decided it was time to turn the tables on her lover. “Miranda.” Andy bit her upper lip to prevent herself from laughing. “It's not worth getting upset about.” She felt the laughter threatening to bubble up from her belly. “I mean, really, no matter what Emily imagined, it's not like it's going to happen.” She reached over and put her hand on Emily's shoulder, shaking the girl slightly. “So what if she imagined… oh… I dunno… us up against the wall, or up against the window, or maybe even one of us bent over your desk… She knows as well as anyone none of that would actually occur.” Andy shrugged, casually finding a Post-It, taking a pen from Miranda's desk to write on the small paper and gently reminded the Editor. “Not since security installed those cameras, after the Judy incident.” The older woman's intake of breath told Andy all she needed to know. After all the ranting Miranda had done at home against the installation, Andy hadn't believed it possible, but it was true.
Miranda had forgotten about the cameras.
The Editor's hand covered her mouth and her eyes instinctively searched the corners of the room for the offending technology, red ‘active' light glaring down at them. She thought her heart was going to stop. Oh dear god what have I done?!
Andy handed the Post-It to Miranda.
Miranda stared at the small square of paper and felt her heart continue to beat as she read the three hastily scrawled words. Cameras were off . She shot a startled, admonishing, glance at Andy who nodded reassurance. She was not quite over her shock and she knew Andy could tell by the coolness in her voice. “I believe you have errands to run, Andrea.” She raised her eyebrow. “You should be sure and tell the dry cleaner about the Caesar dressing.”
Oh god, I shouldn't have scared her like that. “Yes, Miranda.” Andy cleared the table quickly and tossed all the trash away. She grabbed the dress and headed for the door. “Nice to see you again Nigel, Serena.” She waved. “Talk to you later, Em.” I hope. “Maybe we can get together for lunch next week?”
Emily's eyes widened and was about to say something when Miranda cleared her throat and put a finger to her lips. The assistant blinked and remained silent as Andy left the office. Miranda excused herself for a moment and disappeared into the bathroom.
“Well, that was…” Nigel shook his head.
“Interesting.” Serena finished for him. She turned to Emily. “Are you okay, Emily?”
“Yes, of course.” The redhead's expression softened. “Thank you.”
Serena nodded, holding the British woman in her gaze slightly longer than was strictly necessary. “You're welcome.” Redirecting her gaze as Miranda returned, she inquired. “You wanted to see us?”
“Yes.” Miranda clenched her teeth and the note still in her hand. “I'm taking some time off. Emily has been very busy restructuring meetings for the next two weeks and she has your new schedules.” A wave of her hand put Emily in motion, the assistant handed Nigel and Serena pages with their new schedules printed on them. “As you can see, you will both be quite busy and what you can't handle, I'll take care of when I return.” She watched Serena's eyes widen behind her glasses, and she saw the question barely held in check behind Emily's lips. “I've already spoken to Nigel about this, but I felt it best to inform you all together about my absence so there would be no misunderstandings regarding who is in charge. I understand that this is quite sudden, Nigel knows my reasons and he can fill both of you in, if he wishes.”
Glancing over at the paper in the man's hands, Serena realized that his schedule and hers were completely different. Until this moment she had never actually thought about how incredibly busy Miranda was; it was taking two of them to cover part of what the Editor normally, seemingly effortlessly, handled.
In order to mask her anger at Andrea, Miranda put her glasses on and began to look at the layouts on her desk. She became very cool toward the trio, even though she knew none of them would notice any difference from her normal demeanor. “I expect you to deal with any problem that may occur in my absence.” She glanced at her assistant, and gestured. “If there is any question regarding anything, consult Emily.” She heard the gasp and caught the young woman's eyes momentarily. “You've been working for me long enough to know my tastes, trust that. I will not be pleased to return to a Westwood edition of Runway and no one will be pleased if the entire magazine has to be reshot in two weeks. And that, I can assure you will happen if things are not done to my satisfaction.” The Editor returned her gaze to Nigel and Serena. “I will only be a phone call away, but I don't expect it to ring, unless someone is dead.”
They all nodded in understanding. None of them would dare to call and interrupt Miranda's vacation not even if someone was dead. They sat there stunned for a few more moments until Miranda's ‘That's all' dismissal sent them scurrying from her office.
“That's all?” Emily hissed as soon as they were out of Miranda's earshot in the safety of Nigel's office. “That's bloody all? Just, I'm taking off and here you deal with it…” She turned to her companions. “Is someone drugging her again??”
Serena gently commanded Nigel. “Fill us in.”
“Not drugs.” Nigel licked his lips. “Miranda told me she's been seeing someone. She wants some time with them… and the girls… as a family... ”
“A family?” Serena was startled. “Who?!”
Emily snorted. “Are you blind? It's Andy Bloody Sachs.”
“They did seem to have a rapport just now in the office. But then they always did…” Loathing at first, and then something, more. Serena considered the option. “And we haven't seen her here in how long? She was making plans for next week though. She's obviously not going anywhere.”
“A few months…since we've seen Six around here…” Nigel nodded. “But that doesn't mean much. Andy not knowing about Miranda's vacation is odd, if they really are together, but the timing would be right.” He admitted. Emily wasn't the only one to notice a change in their illustrious leader's demeanor over the past several months.
None of them realized that Andy knowing about the security camera installation was as telling a clue they could get.
An exasperated sound escaped Emily and she threw her hands up in the air. “Oh, my Gawd…I don't have time to think about it now, even if I wanted to.” Her eyes widened. “We're actually going to have to run the magazine until Miranda gets back!”
Nigel and Serena looked at each other and in silent accord moved to either side of Emily, each taking an arm, just before the irate woman's knees buckled.
“Get her to the couch.” Nigel instructed.
“Send someone for some cheese.” Serena murmured.
Once prone, it didn't take long for Emily to regain consciousness. The same problem remained. “How are we going to do this?”
Nigel looked at Serena and shrugged. “The best we can.”
Andy was stepping onto the subway car heading to the dry cleaners when her cell phone vibrated against her leg. “Yes. Listen Miranda I'm…”
“Never do that to me again!”
“…I'm sorry.” She managed to say before the line went dead. She looked at the signal strength on the phone, four bars, so the call hadn't dropped. Oh God, she hung up on me, she's really mad. She quickly typed in a short text message and sent it before they hit the tunnel. She pressed the phone against her forehead, willing her thoughts to travel the same path as the text. Please Miranda… please don't be too mad…
I love you.
Miranda glanced at her phone screen. The three word text message caused her teeth to grind. Why is it so impossible to stay angry at Andrea? She could at least keep the girl in suspense for a while. Like those endless seconds when she thought their encounter had been caught on the security cameras, watched, oogled by the drooling guards. Like they didn't do that to Andrea anyway, the guards were notorious for leering at the gorgeous women passing through the lobby. And no one was more gorgeous than Andrea.
Setting her phone aside, Miranda returned her attention to the layouts. And even as she went over them she called out through her open door. “Emily.” The incompetent one eventually showed up in front of her desk. “Send a memo to Security and have the camera's removed from this office. That's all.” She didn't even bother looking up to see if the girl left, she knew she had, the odiferous perfume that the girl seemingly bathed in began to clear. That's another thing I love about Andrea, she always smells so wonderful, even after she's been running.
Miranda wanted to leave so badly she could taste it, but her wants were secondary to Runway's needs. It was unacceptable to sacrifice the quality her professionalism demanded, for a few extra hours with Andrea. It was, however, very, very tempting.
Yet another example of what Miranda wanted and what she got being two different things.
Andy worked on some articles for a while and then realized how late it was getting. She found James' number on the contact sheet on top of Miranda's desk and called him.
“Oh.” He said. “Yeah, I'm gonna take the girls to dinner and then to a late movie. It will probably be eleven or so before I get them back home.”
“Ah…” Andy wasn't sure she liked the girls staying out that late, but they were with their father and it wasn't a school night so there wasn't any reason to object. She could hear their excited voices in the background; they were debating on where to go to eat. “Okay then, I was just wondering about dinner really.”
To her surprise he sounded apologetic. “Yeah?”
“I should have called to let you know my plans. Sorry about that.”
“Uh… sure, no problem. I knew they were safe with you, I really was just wondering about dinner.” Andy was disconcerted by the man's tone. Like she was someone he would have to check with regarding the girls. Sometimes she felt like she was, but she wasn't sure she actually had the right to feel that way. They were Miranda, and James' children after all.
“I'll have them home later.”
“Sure.” Andy smiled into the phone. “Have fun.”
She ended the call and sent a quick text to Miranda.
The reply made her nervous.
Just ‘No', Andy thought. Okay, I can deal with this. She's still angry. That thought made her heart hurt a little. The idea of going back to Runway, to apologize, was quickly squashed. Miranda was busy, beyond busy, and going there would just make things worse.
She looked in the freezer and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. Peggy had left the usual dinners, family sized. On the weekends all they had to do was pop them in the oven and voila, they had a meal. But tonight it was just her, and Andy wasn't really in the mood for a giant serving of chicken and rice.
On a whim she picked up her phone and ran through her contact numbers. Pushing the connect button, Andy wondered if this was the right thing to do or not. “Jo? You up for a quick beer? I won't keep you late.”
“Yeah, I'm off tonight.”
Andy heard Jo's hand go over the phone for a second and a muffled conversation before the detective's voice returned. “Where do ya wanna meet?”
They agreed on one of their usual hang-out spots and Andy grabbed her coat as she headed out the backdoor.
Andy picked at her basket of fried delights.
“So, you gonna tell me what's buggin' ya?” Jo dredged a fry through a sea of ketchup.
“I did something I shouldn't have done.”
Jo nodded and swallowed her bite. “Ah… the old lady's mad at you then?”
Despite her mood, Andy smiled. Only Jo could call Miranda an ‘old lady' and not make it sound bad. “Actually, she's not mad….she's, angry.”
Wincing at that distinction the detective nodded again. “Ouch.”
“Yeah.” Andy tore some of the breading off a fat shrimp and bit into the crunchy texture, tossing the shrimp back into the basket. “No kidding.”
“I'm no shrink, but, you wanna tell me about it?”
Andy did want to tell Jo about it. That was why she'd called the detective instead of Lily. Jo was probably the closest thing in the world she had to a kindred spirit. Jo was a girl from the wrong side of the tracks that fell in love with a rich, powerful woman…well, they were kids at the time. But their dynamic was similar to her relationship with Miranda and Andy felt much better after she talked to Jo about things. She just wasn't sure she should talk about this . “I would like to tell you about it, but I'm not sure that I should. She might not like me discussing it with someone else…anyone else.”
“Ah... so sex is involved.”
Andy sat up straighter. “How did you know that?”
Jo laughed. “I've dealt with that kind of attitude before.” Brilliant blue eyes twinkled at her friend. “Blair hates it when I tell anyone anything about our sex life.”
Andy rolled her eyes and laughed. “But you tell me all about it all the time.”
Chuckling, Jo took a pull on her beer bottle. “Yeah, but Blair doesn't know that.” Jo took a stab at the problem. “So was it, bad or what?”
Andy shook her head and closed her eyes. “It's never bad! Good grief…”
“So it was good.”
Andy thought back to the desk, let a shudder pass through her and smiled. “It was fucking amazing.”
The detective's eyebrows rose significantly. “Okay… so what's the problem?”
“It was in her office.”
Grunting, Jo's lips twitched. “Someone catch you?”
“Oh God no! I'd have died of embarrassment if they had.” Andy sighed. “I was, um… bent over her desk.”
Jo bit her lips together to keep from laughing. When she managed to get herself under control, she nodded. “Well, I can tell you Blair's desk has seen some action too.”
Andy grinned at her friend. “I know. You told me.” She ran her fingers through her hair, ruffling her bangs. “The thing is, afterward, I reminded her of the security cameras that had been installed.” She watched as Jo's mouth dropped open. “Yeah, I think her heart nearly stopped… really Jo, I don't think anyone else noticed, but she was scared. I didn't let her hang too long, before I told her that they'd been disabled while I was there… but it really did scare her for a minute, and she hasn't really spoken to me since. At me…not to me.” Andy fished her phone out and explained. “I texted her about dinner.” She held up the phone. “This was the response.”
“No.” Jo hissed a breath through her teeth. “Double Ouch.”
“She'll be late tonight. I should wait up and talk to her, shouldn't I? Not just go on to bed and pretend like it didn't happen…. I need to talk to her… right?”
“Andy, I'm older than you are, but I'm not going to give you advice on this one. You know her better than I do, do what you think is right for you guys.” Jo finished her beer and pushed the basket of cold fries away from her. “Talking is usually best though.”
Taking a deep breath, Andy nodded. “Yeah, I know.” She also pushed her basket of too cold food away from her. She put a few bills on the table and reached for her jacket. “Thanks for the sympathetic ear.”
Jo shrugged. “What are friends for?” She was a bit concerned as Andy wobbled slightly when they stood. “You gonna be okay to get home?”
“Yeah,” Andy assured her. “I've only had two beers… it's the heels that make me wobbly.”
Jo laughed. “I don't know how you walk in those things.” Her thoughts turned to her wife. “Blair can practically run a marathon in them!” She glanced at her watch. “Speaking of which, I'm gonna be in trouble myself if I don't hurry.”
“Yeah… the girls will be getting home soon.” Andy smiled. “Hey, maybe I can convince…M…” She looked around. “…the old lady to have you guys over for dinner some evening.”
“Yeah?” Jo smiled. “Blair would love that, she's always wanted to meet, Her.”
“I'll try to set it up.”
“Hey girls, didja have fun?”
“It was great, Andy! You should have been there with us!”
“Nah…” Andy waved off that suggestion. “You needed to spend time with your Dad.” She ruffled their hair. “We can go another time.”
“We can?” Cassidy was amazed at that suggestion. “We never go anywhere.”
“That's not true,” Andy corrected. “We went to the park last weekend.”
“Yeah,” Caroline admitted that was true, but she agreed with her sister. “But we don't go together very often.”
Smiling a little sadly, Andy winked. “Well, we'll see what we can do to change that, eh?” If the paparazzi will let us . She gently urged them upstairs with a hand on each of their backs. “Go get ready for bed now… if you hurry maybe your Dad can tell you good night.”
Andy chuckled and spoke to James. “If they hurry they might be able to make it to bed before they fall asleep.”
James laughed and nodded. “Yeah, I had to wake Caroline up during the movie.” He handed her a shopping bag. “Here are all the souvenirs they got at the Zoo.” He hesitated, running his fingers through his salt and pepper hair. “I'm um… glad you're here for the girls. They seem to… like you a lot.”
“I love them.” Andy sat the sack down and steeled herself. “I love all of them.”
“Yeah, I get that.” James sighed. “I do too, you know?”
“I know.” The difference is, Andy thought. Miranda loves me back. I hope.
Voices from on high stopped the adults' conversation. “We're ready.”
Andy smiled and gestured for the man to follow her. “C'mon. Before they fall asleep.”
James nodded and followed the young, very young, woman upstairs. He hoped Miranda knew what she was doing because this, had a lot of potential for hurt. Miranda was a grown woman and could take care of herself, but he really wasn't sure what he would do if the situation began to hurt his children.
Miranda breathed a sigh of relief as the door to the townhouse closed behind her.
Another late night, but the magazine had gone to the printer's before the deadline and this month's issue would be in stores, and mailboxes, on time. Miranda climbed the stairs slowly, thinking about the past few months, and the young woman in their bed. As soon as the issue had been finalized, her thoughts had turned fully to Andrea and their life together, both past and future.
It hadn't taken very long to stop thinking of Andrea as a ‘girl' and think of her as a ‘young woman' most of the time, and almost everything was now ‘we' or ‘our' or ‘their' instead of ‘mine' or ‘my' in Miranda's mind. Andrea had been living at the townhouse long enough now for Miranda to know she didn't want that situation to change any time soon, if ever. It still amazed the Editor how quickly and well they had adapted to each other. Andrea also seemed quite at ease in their domestic situation. Miranda knew though that the young woman was becoming a little agitated at the secretive nature of the arrangement. Most notably, keeping this part of her life from her parents was beginning to wear on Andrea. She'd seen the look on her partner's face after a phone call from ‘home'.
Quietly entering the bedroom, Miranda slipped through the darkness into the bathroom. She wondered how the young woman's parents would take the news. It would hurt Andrea if their reaction was less than favorable. Sliding into bed, she smiled as a long lanky arm automatically curled around her. She whispered quietly, “Andrea, are you sleeping?” Soft lips kissed her shoulder.
“Mmmm…” Miranda shifted to a more comfortable position against the brunette.
“You still angry?” Andy had worried about it most of the evening.
“No,” Miranda admitted. “I was though, shocked at the thought at first, and then shocked that you would do that to me… scare me like that.”
“You know I'd never let anything like that happen if the cameras were on.” Andy shuddered. “There is already too much compromising footage of me. I'd never put you in that kind of situation.”
“How did you manage to have the cameras shut off?” Miranda had wondered about that for a while this afternoon. What was the point of having them if anyone could just walk in and ask for them to be disabled?
“I talked to Jeff.” She rolled her eyes when Miranda didn't seem to know who that was. “Jeff, is the head of security, he's been at Elias-Clarke for years. He's an ex-cop with a lot of buddies still on the force. He knew all about the Judy thing, and he knew from his police friends about the cameras in my apartment. I told him that it had really freaked me out and it felt really creepy to be in a room with cameras… so I asked him if he could shut the cameras off while I was in your office… I told him it wasn't like I was dangerous or anything… and I'd only need them off for the half hour or so we were going to be having lunch so he agreed to do it for me.”
“How… accommodating of him.” Miranda shook her head. “I knew you had some kind of magic.”
“It's not magic,” Andy snorted. “I just…”
“Bat your big brown eyes and smile…” Miranda spoke quietly. “Trust me Andrea, your eyes, your smile… are magic.”
Andy chuckled. “Sweet talker.”
“Shhh… that's a secret. Anyway what can I say, I just know those eyes.” Miranda peered through the darkness and swallowed hard as the big brown eyes in question took on a mischievous glint. “Uh… Andrea?”
“What can you say?” Andy shifted. “I know exactly what I want to hear.” Andy rolled and straddled her lover, looking down at the beautiful face framed with soft white hair. “Question is… how exactly am I going to get you to say it?”
She slowly unbuttoned the top of Miranda's pajamas. “I mean, I could…” Leaning down she ducked her head into the open shirt, warm mouth caressing the first breast she found there. “Or I could…” She moved slowly down the expanse of skin to kiss along the curve of ribs found there. “Or maybe…”
“Andrea!” Miranda lost all patience with the indecisive girl. “Shut up and kiss me!”
“What a great idea.” Andy grinned and slowly removed the bottom half of the pajamas Miranda wore. “I think I will do just that.” Shifting farther down the bed, Andy gently began kissing Miranda's toes. She looked up the length of Miranda's body at the blue eyes glaring at her. “Oh, don't be that way, Miranda.” Andy teased. “You know you love it when I move glacially.”
Laughing, Miranda's head hit the pillow. “Andrea.” She gasped as hot lips brushed the back of her knee. “This…this is fire, not ice.”
“Mmmm…” Andrea nodded, her brown hair brushing the inside of Miranda's thighs. “Lava then.” She smiled against the sensitive skin under her lips and tasted the heart of the volcano.
Miranda automatically reached up to the headboard and grasped the iron bars there tightly. “Andrea…” Her eyes closed as the feel of Andy's mouth on her and the sounds she was making overwhelmed her senses. “Andrea…” It was maddening, she knew what the girl wanted and clenched her teeth, unwilling to give her the satisfaction so soon.
Andy looked up, grinned and almost commanded. “Say it.” She watched Miranda's nostrils flare and the white head shook once. Shrugging, the dark head lowered; back to its task.
“Oh God… Andrea!” Miranda lifted off the bed trying to get closer, but the girl moved with her. “An…” Speech was lost to her for a moment.
Again, Andy looked up, desire shining in her darkened eyes. This time her words were not a command, they were more of a breathless sort of prayer. “Say it.” Her head bowed as her Goddess complied.
“Pl… Please.” Miranda surrendered. “Please, Andrea.” Hips rose and were steadied by Andrea's arms. “Oh, God… please.” It never failed to amaze her, the unbelievable need Andrea invoked in her. Miranda would never have thought it possible for someone to reduce her to begging. Andrea could though, with a look, a touch, a kiss, Miranda was lost, found, torn down and rebuilt all within the span of a heartbeat. Miranda gave in to it, reveled in it, for Andrea; only for Andrea. “Please.” The young woman didn't respond verbally, but her talented tongue swirled in a delicious pattern. Miranda gasped and, in a very few heartbeats, cried out as every muscle in her body clenched.
Andy eased Miranda back onto the bed, finishing her journey up the satiated body. She snuggled next to the older woman and sighed contentedly. “I love you, Miranda.”
“Mmmm…” Miranda concentrated on breathing. “It's times like this that the word love becomes woefully inadequate.”
“You say the sweetest things.”
“Shhh…” Miranda's lips twitched as the familiar protest escaped into the darkness. “That's a secret, remember?”
“Oh yeah.” Andy grinned. “So what's my punishment for spilling the secret?”
“Hmmmm….” Miranda laughed, shifting to straddle her young lover. “You know I'm just not sure. There are so many things I could do….” She slowly unbuttoned the top of Andrea's pajamas. “I mean, I could…” Leaning down she ducked her head into the open shirt, warm mouth caressing each breast there with loving care. “Or I could…” She moved slowly down the expanse of skin to kiss along the curve of ribs found there. “Or maybe…”
Andy realized that Miranda was mimicking her earlier moves and, between waves of desire, she congratulated herself. Damn, I'm evil. She felt soft hair brushing the inside of her thigh and her breath hitched. Evil is good. She thought and reached up to hold the iron bars on the headboard. Oh God, evil is So Good… The sensations traveling through her concentrated and built just below her navel. Unlike earlier in the office when she had to be quiet, Andy didn't restrain herself now. As the wave of pleasure hit and washed over her, she cried out.
The distinctive and familiar scent pulled Miranda from her, quite lovely, dream. She opened one blue eye to see a mug on the stand next to the bed; steam rising from the liquid inside. Without turning, an outstretched arm encountered no resistance and cool sheets confirmed she was alone. With a sigh she sat up, slowly got to her feet and taking the opportunity of privacy she stretched from side to side. The twinges from the more energetic sessions with Andrea were becoming annoying. It was a price she was willing to pay however, because the alternative was simply unacceptable. She had finished her stretches and taken a sip of coffee when Andrea returned.
“Good morning, Miranda.” The young woman smiled and kissed her partner lightly on the lips, licking her own afterward. “Mmmm.. coffee.” She laughed and indicated the bathroom. “I filled the tub for you.” Changing quickly into a pair of gray cotton shorts and a t-shirt that was obviously reclaimed from the rag pile, Andy sighed in contentment. “The girls decided they want brunch today, so we'll eat after you finish your soak.”
“Are you going to wear that all day?” Miranda happened to like that particular shirt, it covered Andrea enough to satisfy any decency laws, but the back was mostly holes, giving anyone who happened to look tantalizing glimpses of the smooth, muscular back underneath. Of course, she would never allow it to be worn in public.
“Nah… just while we're cooking. You know what a slob I am… this way no good clothes get ruined.”
Miranda laughed as she made her way to the bathroom. “You know they have this special thing called an apron…”
“Ha ha ha…” Andy waved her hand in the air as she walked back toward the door. “We'll be in the kitchen when you're ready.”
When Miranda arrived in the kitchen she, of course, looked perfect. The state she found Andrea and the girls, however, made her stop short, just inside the door. “What on Earth?”
Andy looked up and rolled her eyes. “There was an… incident, with the flour.”
“Obviously.” Miranda nodded. “Otherwise you three wouldn't be covered head to toe in it.”
“We cleaned it all up.” Cassidy said, indicating the kitchen curiously free of any trace of flour. “And the biscuits are baking.”
Caroline nodded. “After we go clean up it won't take very long to fix the rest of the food.” She pressed her hand against her audibly growling stomach. “We're hungry.”
Andy's eyes twinkled in mischief as she studied Miranda's perfect hair and outfit.
Miranda saw the gears turning in Andrea's head and gave her a ‘don't you dare' look. It promised dire consequences if even one speck of flour touched her.
Andy laughed. “C'mon girls.” She urged them toward the door. “Let's go hose off… the faster we get cleaned up, the quicker we can eat.”
Miranda watched them leave, then chuckled. “Hungry huh?” Tossing her jacket over the back of a chair, she rolled up her sleeves. “Can't have that now, can we?”
When Andy and the girls returned to the kitchen half an hour later they were amazed. The table was set and there were bowls of fresh cut fruit, along with a platter of bacon strips and gently steaming scrambled eggs. The biscuits they'd started cooking were piled in a small cloth-lined basket and there were carafes of milk and juice cold enough for condensation to be forming on them. The kitchen was spotless, and Miranda looked as perfect as ever, sitting at the table, thumbing through a rival magazine.
“Miranda? What happened here?” Andy took her usual seat and the girls also sat quickly, almost drooling at the meal.
Miranda looked up and feigned surprise at the table. Employing one of the girl's common phrases, Miranda shrugged, “No clue.” She spoke completely seriously. “Perhaps it was a Brunch Elf.”
Andy's forehead wrinkled and she reached over to Miranda, pushing the white hair away from the woman's face.
“Andrea!” Miranda moved away from the searching hand. “What are you doing?”
Speaking just a seriously as Miranda had earlier; Andy widened her eyes, “Looking for points on your ears.”
The girls burst out laughing drowning Miranda's snort of surprise.
Andy smiled and looked adoringly at Miranda. “Thank you.”
“Yeah…” The girl's chimed in. “Thanks!”
“The food is getting cold.” Miranda pointed out. “Caroline, would you please pass the jam?” She rolled her eyes at Andy's continued adoration and sighed. “This is just the beginning.” Reaching out she trailed her fingertips across Andrea's high cheekbone and down her jaw to her chin. “ This is the start of a four day celebration in your honor Andrea.”
“Tuesday is your birthday, darling.” Miranda smiled. “Of course, we're going to celebrate.”
Andy was caught mid-chew by that bit of information. “Uh…” she swallowed but didn't know what to say. She'd hesitated to bring up her birthday, knowing Miranda didn't care for her own.
“Cool…” Cassidy pumped her fist in the air. “What are we going to do to celebrate?”
“We're going on a vacation.” Miranda informed them. “So after we finish eating you need to go pack your bags.”
Caroline sighed to herself and thought sarcastically. Great, stuck at Dad's again.
Cassidy tilted her head slightly, thinking she heard something unusual in her mother's tone. “You mean… we're all going?” Cassidy's eyes narrowed and her shoulders tensed slightly, in case she was wrong.
“Yes,” Miranda said clarifying. “Just the four of us.” Her blue eyes twinkled. “A family vacation.”
Cassidy relaxed. “Yes!”
“A vacation? All of us? Seriously?” Caroline looked from her mother to Andy, confused. “What about Runway? What about school?”
“Now is the best time for me to go.” Miranda explained. “The last issued just went to print, so there is an entire month until the next print deadline. I can leave Nigel, Emily and Serena in charge for the next two weeks and then be back in time to fix anything they've had problems with.” She took a deep breath. “You'll just have to miss the next two weeks of school. They can send your assignments and you can work on them some while we are gone.”
“C'mon Caroline, it'll be fun.” Cassidy was excited, ready to go pack now.
“Where are we going?” Caroline was trying to hold judgment on the whole thing until she had a little more information, but the idea was exciting; vacation with her Mom…that was, hard to believe.
Miranda's lips twitched slightly, almost a smile. “It's a surprise.”
“Can we go pack now?” Cassidy couldn't wait any more. “I'm done.” She pointed to her empty plate, that hadn't been terribly full to begin with.
Miranda nodded compliance and again as Caroline asked to be dismissed. She watched them take their plates to the sink then go. When they had gone she turned to Andrea; who had been very quiet for most of the meal. “You have a question?”
“Where are we going?”
Miranda reached out and brushed some dark hair from the young woman's shoulder. “I thought since James is… aware of our arrangement, your parents should be informed as well. It doesn't seem to be the kind of thing you'd want to tell over the phone. So I realized a trip was in order.”
Andy pulled away slightly. “Um… you know my parents live in Cincinnati , right?”
Miranda snorted. “Of course I know that, Andrea. What does that have to do with anything?”
“You would go to Cincinnati ?”
Chuckling, Miranda smiled. “I would do anything for you, Andrea.” Leaning over she kissed the surprised lips lightly. “Even go to Cincinnati .”
“I was going to go in to work today.” Andy admitted. “I thought you might want to spend some time with the girls, you haven't seen much of them lately.”
“You can go for a while. We don't have to leave until later. We could wait to go until tomorrow if you wish…” Miranda began clearing off the table. “Whatever you want.”
“I'll go in and tell Greg that I'm taking some time off. I may still work on some articles while we are out, though.” Andy smiled softly. “You want me to be with my parents on my birthday.”
“That was the idea, yes.” Catching the young woman's eyes with her own, Miranda asked. “Is that acceptable?”
Pressing her lips together tightly, Andy nodded. “Yeah, I think so.” She wasn't hiding her worry very well though and Miranda picked up on it.
“I…um… am not sure how they are going to take the news…of… um...” She indicated the two of them. “… us.”
“Ah…” Miranda pinched the bridge of her nose. “Well if that's the case we can just spend a few days in Cincinnati , give them a chance to think about things and see you if they wish.”
“You would do that?”
“I want to see where you grew up.” Miranda said, matter-of-factly.
“Oh, you do huh?” Andy pushed the older woman back into her chair and straddled Miranda's lap, holding herself lightly above the woman's thighs. “And just when do I get to see where you grew up?”
Tipping her head back, Miranda's arms went around Andy's waist; her hands caressing the young woman's back. “Perhaps one day we can take a long weekend and go to London .” A ghost of a smile crossed Miranda's face. “The girls have visited there before. They can tell you about it.”
“Tell her about what?” Caroline walked back into the kitchen and saw the position the women were in, rolling her eyes at the sight. “Ugh… gross.”
Andy began to move away but Miranda held her for a series of quick kisses, before releasing her. “We were talking about London , Bobbsey…”
“Argh!... Muh…ommm… Please don't call me that.” Caroline sighed as she grabbed a juice bottle from the fridge. Her voice took on a distinctly snotty tenor. “It's not even accurate. They were fraternal, and mixed gender.”
“Caroline.” Andy dragged her eyes away from the hurt on Miranda's face and glared at the child. “Modify your tone.”
The girl blinked at the familiar command coming from such an unfamiliar source, then glanced at her mother only to find her heart dropping into her stomach. The hurt on Miranda's face was plain to see, even to an eleven-year old. “Oh… Mom… I'm sorry.” She rushed to hug the white-haired woman. “You can call me whatever you want.”
“I'll try to remember, my darling.” Miranda held the girl tightly and looked over the small shoulder to Andy. She wanted to tell the young woman thank you, and more, but didn't have to, her eyes said it all. Andy smiled her tiny smile, and nodded silent acknowledgement to the silent thanks.
“C'mon, Munchkin.” Andy held out her hand. “You need to pack and I need to get ready for work.”
“Munchkin?!” Caroline rolled her eyes. “That's worse than Bobbsey!”
Andy laughed. “Remember that.” Her brown eyes glittered. “It can always be worse.”
Miranda watched from the window as Andrea walked down the alley behind their house. When she'd first started living at the townhouse, the young woman had decided it was best if she continued to ride the subway to work. Miranda had, reluctantly, agreed. It seemed to be a good decision; the press so far had not connected Andrea to the Priestly family. Stupid press , Miranda thought. Andrea is not just connected to the family, she is family. With anticipation she hadn't felt in a very long time, Miranda dressed for travel. She loved her job, but the idea of a vacation had sent infectious excitement through them all. Her eyes fell on a pair of jeans, designer of course, and she laughed. Oh no, not yet. Something to pack though. She settled for one of her more comfortable pairs of shoes along with a favorite black power suit completed with a white button down shirt. Shocking how all she could think about was Andrea un -buttoning it.
She laughed to herself at the absurdity of it all. Andrea's youth, her age, the experiences that separated them, and despite it all there was unwavering love. Picking up her cell phone, Miranda dialed a number she'd memorized long ago. Two rings got an answer and Miranda only said five words before hanging up.
“I love you. That's all.”
A few people in the subway car glanced her way as Andy laughed and closed her phone. The odd looks didn't matter to her in the least, Miranda loved her and that was all that ever mattered. She smiled all the way to her stop.
“I need some time off, Greg.” Andy sat across from her editor's desk. “It's last minute I know… but I need it.”
“I can give you a few days.” He allowed. “Starting when?”
“This afternoon actually.” She tried to imagine herself as Miranda and took on a tone that wouldn't be denied. “And I need two weeks.”
“Two weeks?!” He laughed. “I don't think so.”
Andy watched him closely. “I can work on articles from the road, you have my email.” She smiled at his confused look. “I'm not asking you, Greg… I'm telling you… I'm taking two weeks.”
His eyebrows rose. “Telling me?”
“Listen to me, Greg.” Andy leaned forward. “I've been seeing someone, living with them actually ever since I changed my address to the P.O. Box… Now they want to take me on vacation and this person never takes vacations, do you understand? I'm taking two weeks. So, if, when I get back, there isn't a job for me here, that's fine, I'll just go work for someone else.”
The editor's eyes narrowed as he analyzed what Andy was saying, and what she wasn't. “You're dating, living with, someone famous.” He ran his tongue across his teeth. “I'll send you article assignments via email and you can have your two weeks, but…” He grinned, almost predatorily. “…The Mirror gets the exclusive on your relationship when you get back.” He didn't know who Andy was with, but it had to be someone big, or the girl wouldn't be so vehement about it. And if my hunch is right, the person is female, or Andy wouldn't be playing the pronoun game.
“Okay.” Andy agreed. She'd already begun to write her and Miranda's coming out article, and had planned to give it to Greg just before Judy's trial started. It would be nice to actually have the facts in print and not just a bunch of made up stuff the tabloids decided to run with. Of course, Miranda would look at it before Greg did. “Thanks, I'll see you when we get back.”
Andy smiled at the tiny little, easily overlooked things that told her Miranda was as excited to be taking this trip as the girls were; the smiles that were a little more frequent, the laugh that came just a bit easier, that little gleam in those fascinating blue eyes was shining a bit brighter.
The big things Miranda had done weren't so easy to miss. She had laughed as the white haired woman led her up the portable stairs to the door of Donnatella Versace's private plane, and shook her head when they entered the limousine waiting for them at the Cincinnati airport. Now she was just awestruck. She'd expected them to be checking into a nice hotel, although she wasn't sure any of the hotels in Cincinnati were nice enough for Miranda. She had not expected to be standing in front of a stately brick house with a wide wrap around porch and a cool view of the river.
“Miranda, this is great.”
The woman escorted her up the stairs, with the girls walking just behind them. They were met on the porch by a lovely older woman, tall and thin with short graying hair, a welcoming smile and laughing blue eyes. “Hello… you must be the Priestly's…I'm Mrs. King…” She gestured them inside. “I have your rooms all ready for you.” She walked to the stairs and began to climb. “Follow me.”
They followed the woman up and listened as she explained about the facilities. “These two rooms share a bathroom.” She motioned to the doors. “This room,” she opened the door and motioned them inside. “It has its own private bathroom.” She leaned against the sink. “These are the only three rooms on this floor, and there is only one room downstairs but it hasn't been rented… so you pretty much have the house to yourself.”
“Quite acceptable.” Miranda looked around approvingly. “Much better than a hotel.”
Andy agreed. “How long have you had this place, Mrs. King?”
“Oh, quite a few years now.” Mrs. King replied. “And call me Mary, we don't really do formal around here.”
“Mom, can we go out and look at the river?”
Miranda nodded. “Stay on the porch.” The adults followed the children downstairs and as the girls made their way outside, Miranda took a deep breath. “It's quite lovely here.”
Mary nodded. “We like it.”
Andy put her hand on Miranda's arm. “I'm going to go let the driver know where to put our luggage.” She smiled at the woman and with a deep breath leaned in to kiss Miranda's cheek. “Back in a bit.”
Miranda nodded, leaning into the kiss. “Thank you, darling.” She was aware of Mary's eyes on Andrea as the young woman left. “I believe we have some paperwork to complete?”
“Ah… yes.” Mary gestured Miranda to follow her into the sitting room of the house. “Just your signature and at the end of your stay we'll bill your credit card.”
“Of course.” Miranda signed the paper with a flourish. She knew the look and forced herself to meet the hostess' eyes. “You have a question?”
Mary shook her head. “No.” She smiled. “Our guest's lives are their own business.”
“Thank you.” Miranda was actually grateful for the answer, because nearly anything less would have sent them looking for a hotel and she wasn't terribly sure she'd find one.
Mary looked up as Andy entered the room and stood next to where Miranda sat. The young woman's hand dropped automatically to the seated woman's shoulder. What a striking couple. She smiled. “Breakfast is served until ten a.m. Just knock on the backdoor next door and let me know when you are ready for it. Drinks are available in the refrigerator.”
“Thank you.” Andy smiled and offered her hand to Miranda. “The kids are outside, you wanna go take a look at the view?”
“Whatever you want.” Miranda took the hand and rose from the chair. “Lead the way.”
“Did you see those boats? That one guy on the skidoo was crazy.” “Yeah, he was nearly swamped. What did you think Mom?” The girls were so excited their smiles and chatter were infectious.
Miranda shook her head at her children. “I think you are much too excited, I think the boats were nice and I think the man on the skidoo was quite insane and nearly got himself killed running in the barge's wake like that.” She felt a vague rumble in her stomach and grinned. “I also think it's nearly time for supper. Are you girls hungry?”
“Yes!” They both replied.
Andy laughed. “Me too, we haven't eaten since lunch in New York .”
“Do you know any good places to go, Andrea, or should we ask Mary for a recommendation?”
“You know what?” Andrea's eyes caught her partner's. “If you want the full Cincinnati experience we'll need to go for chili.” She watched Miranda's dubious expression and grinned. “You're gonna love it.”
The limousine looked terribly out of place in front of the little hole-in-the-wall dive Andrea had led them to. Miranda's voice was dryly sarcastic. “I'm going to love it.”
Andy nodded. “Yeah, this place is the best.” She linked arms with Miranda. “C'mon.” Ushering the girls ahead of them, Andy smiled as they entered the building. She inhaled deeply, the familiar scent from her childhood brought memories of good times with her family back to her. She thought about family dinners; not just the ones that included Cincinnati style chili either. Chad , for instance, always insisted on homemade pizza, when it was his turn to choose. Mom would cut up the veggies and he would always place the toppings just so on the crust before he would allow her to cook it. She always laughed because there were always bits of pizza toppings leftover and their Mom was forever trying to use them up.
Andy glanced at the woman next to her and looked across the table at the girls. She wondered if Miranda had memories like that of her family. She wanted Cassidy and Caroline to have those kinds of memories, memories of family. “I'll order for you.”
Miranda's eyes widened perceptibly when the plate was set in front of her. “Andrea, what, exactly, is this?”
“This…” She looked at her plate and licking her lips, smiled. “…is a plate of spaghetti served Cincinnati style. This particular dish is a three-way, spaghetti, meat topping and shredded cheddar cheese on top.” She placed a napkin in her lap and leaned over inhaling the scent rising from the gently steaming dish. “Mmmm… they have four and five ways too, with onions and beans, but I didn't think you were ready for that, yet.” Andy picked up a fork. “Don't twirl it like regular spaghetti. Cut it into bites…” Andy demonstrated. “This way you get the proper amount of noodles, meat sauce and cheese in the bite.”
Cassidy and Caroline took a tentative bite, then Cassidy proceeded to demolish her portion, while Caroline took small bites, not quite finishing what was on her plate.
Miranda was also bit more restrained only finishing half of the dish. “Quite good.”
Andy knew that Miranda was just being polite. She sighed to herself. Ahh well… we can't have the same taste for everything. Andy thought about those gross little tarts with the warm rhubarb compote that Miranda seemed to love and shuddered. She can have those all for herself. “Are we going to do anything tonight or should we just go back to the bed and breakfast and settle in?”
“Which do you prefer?” Miranda deferred the decision to Andy. “It's your birthday celebration Andrea… anything you want to do is fine.”
“I think,” she leaned back in her chair and patted her belly. “I think I'd like to go back to the rooms and just chill tonight. I still need to call my parents too.”
Miranda nodded. “Very well.” She signaled to the waitress to bring the check. “Are you ready girls?”
Cassidy and Caroline both nodded as Miranda looked over the check, handed the waitress a bill and told her to keep the change.
“Thank you, Ma'am.” She smiled at the quartet then spoke to the girls. “You like going out to eat with your grandma?”
Andy gasped and widened her eyes as Miranda's teeth ground together. “Miranda… don't.” The hard blue ice chips turned her way and Andy played the only card she thought might work. She softened her doe-brown-eyes and whispered, “Please.”
Caroline was amazed that Andy could calm her mother down so quickly, but when she thought about it she wasn't sure exactly why she was amazed. Maybe just because no one could do it, before… before Andy. She smiled at the adults at the table, knowing her mother was so much happier now than she'd ever been before.
Cassidy just laughed and actually spoke to the waitress. “Lady, you are so lucky our Andy was here.”
“Huh?” The waitress had already started clearing the plates. “What? Why?”
She snorted. “Mom would have taken your head off if she hadn't been.”
The woman's eyes widened. Mom? Now she actually saw the still slightly bristling woman and realized her mistake. “Oh… gosh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean… I mean… Uh…”
Andy stood and shook her head. “Don't bother, the damage is done.” She sighed to herself, knowing they'd never be back to this particular place. With a smile and tilt of the head, she offered her hand to Miranda. “Shall we?”
Miranda glared at the waitress for another few seconds then took Andy's hand and began to walk toward the exit. “You are much too forgiving, Andrea.”
Andy chuckled and held the door open for Miranda and the girls to walk through. “Yeah, I know but just where would we be if I weren't?”
With a deep breath, Miranda linked her elbow with Andy's. “I would be alone and miserable.”
Snorting at that, Andy shook her head and entered the limousine. “I doubt that.” She grinned as the girls settled into the seat followed by Miranda. She was totally unprepared for the older woman's next words.
After that they were all lost in their own thoughts, even the girls stayed quiet on the way back to the rooms.
They were sitting on a porch swing, watching the boats drift past on the water. Miranda was holding a sleeping Caroline on her lap, Andy had a drowsy Cassidy on hers. Andy shifted and spoke quietly. “Why don't we get these two to bed?”
Cassidy nodded and climbed up off Andy's lap. Caroline was fast asleep though and Miranda struggled a bit, unable to stand with the dead-weight of the sleeping child on top of her.
“Here, I'll take her.” Andy lifted the girl into her arms. “C'mon Cass, let's get you guys upstairs.”
Miranda followed slowly. Not wanting the events of the day to catch up to her, but knowing it was taking pretty much everything she had at the moment to make it up the stairs on her own.
They tucked the girls in, then went to their own room. The quietness of the house was the same as home, but different and Andy was keyed up at the difference. She wondered if Miranda was as well. Turning off all but one small lamp, Andy wrapped her arms around the thin waist. She smiled down at her love. “I'm still a little wired from the trip.”
“Oh?” Miranda watched Andy carefully. God knew she was completely in love with the young woman, but at this very moment she was, regretfully, entirely too tired to do anything about it.
“Yeah, and I think I know exactly what might help me relax.” Andy's eyes gleamed in the darkened room. “You know what I saw when I was in the bathroom earlier?”
Miranda lay her head on Andy's shoulder, returning the embrace as much to hold herself up as anything else. “Hmmm… what would that be?”
Andy whispered into a conveniently close ear. “A huge clawfoot bathtub. Definitely big enough for two.”
“Really?” Miranda thought about that. “A long soak in a hot bath would be quite relaxing, wouldn't it?”
Andy's smile lit up the room. “I do believe it would.”
Miranda smiled and nodded. She allowed herself to be led to the bathroom and hoped she didn't fall asleep in the tub. Her only comfort was that she knew if she did fall asleep; Andrea wouldn't let her drown.
Andy knocked on the back door of the house next to the bed and breakfast. It was early but Mary answered the door with a smile. “Good morning.” She gestured for the young woman to enter her home. “Are you ready for breakfast?”
“Um… yeah. I'm going out for a run.” Andy ran her fingers through her hair. “Miranda and the girls will be up in a little while.”
“What do you think they'd like?” Mary gestured for Andy to have a seat at the kitchen table. “I usually make pancakes, scrambled eggs, and sausage patties… but if there is something you have in mind I can see if I have the ingredients.”
“That sounds good for the girls… You'll have coffee right?”
Mary nodded. “Of course and orange juice or milk.”
“Oh good… You don't happen to have mushrooms, provolone cheese and fresh spinach do you?” Andy sighed as the woman shook her head. “It's Miranda's favorite omelet, whites only.”
“There is a new twenty-four hour market not too far from here.” Mary pointed down the road. “How fast and far can you run?”
Andy stood and smiled. “As fast and far as I need to.” She got directions from Mary on how to get to the market. “Do you need anything else while I'm there?”
“Nah,” the woman laughed and patted Andy on the back. “You don't need to be carrying a whole bunch of stuff on your way back. Just get what you need and I'll fix it up.” She stopped Andy from leaving with a hand on her arm. “Wait a minute.” Disappearing back into the house, Mary returned with a slip of paper, the items needed written on it. “Give this to the clerk and they'll put it on our account.”
“Thanks Mary,” Andy stepped out the door. “I'll be back in a flash.”
“Bring it to the kitchen next door, I'll go over in a little bit and get started on the pancakes.” Mary shook her head as she watched Andy take off running down the road.
Miranda woke to the sound of the shower being shut off. “Andrea?”
Andy poked her dripping head around the bathroom doorframe. “Who else?” She smiled. “Good morning.” Drying off quickly, Andy wrapped a towel around her and walked into the main part of the room. “What should I wear for breakfast today?”
“That depends…” Miranda chuckled at the expected response.
“Depends on what?” Andy ruffled her wet hair with a dry towel.
“On if you are going to eat breakfast, or if you are going to be breakfast.” Miranda's sat back against the headboard, her eyes lazily taking in the, long lanky legs and the curves that couldn't even be hidden by the oversized towel.
“Uh…” Andy wasn't sure she could form a response to that. Neither answer really seemed safe at the moment.
Miranda relented. “Jeans I think would do nicely and your horrible Northwestern sweater.”
“I should get you one.” Andy smiled at the thought of Miranda wearing a sweatshirt with her school logo on it.
“It will soon be too warm for sweatshirts.” Miranda smirked. “A t-shirt perhaps?”
Andy snorted at that, because she would never imagine Miranda wearing a t-shirt, not in a million years. She sighed. “I still need to call my parents.” It had been too late last night, and Miranda had been too tired to have this conversation. It was something she needed to say, before she spoke with her parents. Andy lay down on the bed next to Miranda. “But first, I need to talk to you about something… Um… tell you something.”
“Uh oh…” Miranda's tried to smile. “This sounds serious.”
“I…” Andy shook her head. “It's not a big deal to me. I want you to understand that right now. I'm telling you, it doesn't matter to me in the slightest. I love you, completely, and I always will.”
“Hmmm…” This is serious, she's really worried…no, she isn't… but she thinks I will be. “What is it, Andrea?”
“umm… my Mom… she,” Andy sighed. “She had me when she was… nineteen.”
Miranda raised her eyebrows and smiled. “You are upset because your mother was a teen mother?” She watched Andy's lips press together and realized…her smile disappeared. “Andrea… are you telling me…” Miranda's eyes closed. Oh God . It wasn't anything she'd expected but she was at least glad to know, before she met the woman. “Thank you, for letting me know.”
“I'm going to call them now, let them know we'll be at the house right around noon .” Andy traced the outside edge of Miranda's face. “I love you, Miranda.” She smiled and shifted up to kiss the nearest cheek. “Mary will have your breakfast done soon, maybe you should go get ready?”
Nodding Miranda rose from the bed and walked gracefully to the bathroom. She had no idea how she managed the feat since both her legs felt numb from the information she'd just received. She heard Andy talking on the phone with her mother and sighed as she looked in the mirror. How the hell are you going to face Andrea's mother, knowing she's younger than you are??
“Hi Ma.” Andy lay back on the bed and held the phone to her ear.
“Andy!” The woman was thrilled to hear from her daughter. “I was going to call you tomorrow.”
“Yeah, Ma...listen…” Andy grinned. “I um… thought I might come…” Not home… “…for a visit, for my birthday this year.”
“Oh, really?!” Mrs. Sachs squealed into the phone. “That's great!” She lowered her voice. “Listen… I have a friend from church who has a grandson that is in town this week… I think you went to high school with him.”
“Mom… no… Mom... listen…” Andy sighed. “Do NOT set me up with anyone okay? I'm already seeing someone.”
She sounds like I let all the air out of her. “Um…yeah.” Andy ran her fingers through her damp hair. “In fact, I'd like for you to meet.” The dead silence on the other end of the line didn't bode well. “Ma, you still there?”
“Yes, I'm here.” The woman was all business now. “Where did you meet? How long have you been seeing him? Does he have a good job?”
He… Andy sighed. “I'll answer all your questions, and more when I get there. We're about to eat breakfast, but we'll be at the house around noon okay?”
“Yeah, we're coming in a little early.” Andy smiled as Miranda exited the bathroom, her hair and makeup perfect. “We'll be there right around noon .”
“Okay dear, I'm looking forward to meeting your new beau. Oh… and Chad is here too.”
“Okay Mom…” Andy closed her eyes. “I'll see you then. It'll be nice to see my baby brother too.” She closed the phone and lay there with her eyes closed for a moment longer before groaning.
“Problem?” Miranda buttoned her shirt and pulled on a curve fitting skirt.
“Just that she immediately tried to set me up with someone from her church's grandson and when I told her I was seeing someone she asked if he had a good job and said she was looking forward to seeing my new beau. ”
“Ah…” Miranda picked up the jacket that matched the skirt. “So the concept will be new for her.”
“I honestly don't know how they are going to react.”
Miranda nodded. “We'll deal with it together.” She patted the young woman's thigh and grinned as the pat turned to a caress. “Now you better get dressed or we'll never make it to breakfast.”
Andy laughed. “You go on down, I'll be there in a minute.”
Andy joined her family at the dining room table. “Hey guys, how's breakfast?”
“Great!” Cassidy dug in to what was obviously her second helping of pancakes.
Caroline had eggs and one sausage patty on her plate, along with a banana. “It's really good Andy, the eggs are just right.”
Miranda looked up from her omelet with shining eyes. “It's delicious.” She hesitated then spoke softly. “Thank you, Andrea.”
Andy grimaced and shot a glare at Mary. “Did you tell her?”
The hostess smiled. “I had to. It was too beautiful not to.” Running all that way to the market for the ingredients to make her love's favorite breakfast . Mary sighed to herself. It wasn't often a person got to see real love these days.
“Hmmm…” Andy rolled her eyes at the girls and tried to lighten the mood. “Ewww… mushy stuff…”
Cassidy laughed, Caroline rolled her eyes and Miranda just gazed lovingly at Andy with a soft smile on her face.
With a small smile and a little nod of her head, Andy acknowledged the thank you even though it was completely unnecessary. “Lemme at those pancakes before Cass eats them all!”
“Are you sure Andrea?” Miranda was concerned. “I don't like the idea of you being alone.”
Andy nodded. “I know, but I think it's best this way.” She raked her fingers through her hair and ran her hands down her Chanel dress. “I'll go first, and…break the news to them…um… kinda gently?” She shrugged. “Then if they react okay, you can come to the house and meet them.”
Caroline watched Andy closely and spoke up. “They aren't going to be mean to you are they?”
Cassidy wanted to know too. “It sounds like you think they're going to be mean.”
Andy let out a slow breath. “I don't know what they are going to do. That's the point.” She smiled and bent slightly as the girls rushed to give her a hug.
“Don't go then!” Cassidy held on tightly.
Caroline agreed. “Yes, just stay with us here.”
“I love you guys so much.” Andy knelt to look the girls in the eyes. “But I love my parents too, and I want them to be happy for me because I've found such a great family. So I'm going to go first and tell them all about you. Then you guys can come and meet them, and we'll all have lunch together there,” she glanced at Miranda, then resumed her eye contact with the girls. “If they are mean to me after I tell them about you and your Mom…then I'll leave and we can go have lunch somewhere and decide what to do next.” She hugged them. “They may not be mean to me though, they might not be mean until you guys and your Mom get there. If that's the case, if they are mean to you… we leave immediately. Okay?”
“Okay Andy. We love you no matter what.” Cassidy knew Andy was worried. She could hear it in her voice. She wondered if she would be when she eventually brought the person she loved to meet Miranda and Andy. Somehow, she didn't think she would be.
Caroline smoothed out the lines on Andy's forehead with her small hand. “It's okay, Andy. We'll still be your family even if they don't want to be anymore.”
Andy hugged the girls tightly, then stood and faced Miranda; unshed tears in both their eyes.
“I'm beginning to think this wasn't such a good idea.” Miranda brushed Andy's bangs away from her forehead and placed a gentle kiss on the space she created. “You look lovely.”
With a deep breath Andy smiled at the compliment. “I'll call you when I know something.”
“Caroline is correct.” Miranda wrapped her arms around her young partner. “We will always be family, your family.”
Nodding, Andy held Miranda's cheek gently in her hand and leaned forward to press their lips together. It was meant to be a light pressure, but as soon as their lips touched it was electric, and she needed more. Deepening the kiss, Andy poured all she had into it, love, need, tenderness, passion, everything she was into that moment of contact as though there would never be another.
Miranda closed her eyes and realized what was happening. Andy was going to do something that would change her, in a fundamental way. No matter what happened at her parent's house, Andrea would be changed; much like a sword thrust into the coals, once tempered by fire it may harden under the smith's hammer, or shatter. Miranda hoped the parents would not break the heart she held so dear. “I'm only a phone call away.”
“I'll talk to you soon.” Andy kissed Miranda on the cheek and ruffled the girls' curly red hair on the way out the door. She looked back once at Miranda flanked by the girls, standing at the top of the steps leading to the porch. With a deep breath she turned, entered the car and gave the driver her parents' address. Closing her eyes she laid her head back on the seat, not wanting to look over her shoulder at the family she felt she was leaving behind.
“Something is wrong Richard.” The woman looked at the clock and wrung her hands together.
“Now Dottie, you're just worrying over nothing again.” He pushed some long graying hair away from her shoulder. “She said ‘around noon ' right?”
“Uh… Mom.” Chad moved away from his post at the front window. “I um… think she's here.”
They gathered on the porch and gaped at the long black car pulling up in front of their house. When the glamorous woman emerged from the limousine, they could only stare as she dismissed the car and walked up the sidewalk, heels clicking on the concrete.
“Holy shit, Sis!” Chad jumped down the steps and enveloped Andy in a hug. “You look awesome.” He gave her a comical leering grin. “If you weren't my sister, I'd totally hit on you.”
“Hey, little brother,” Andy laughed as she had to look up at him. “Like you'd have a chance with me.” They were so different, he with his light hair and sky blue eyes, her with her dark hair and dark brown eyes, but they were without a doubt, siblings. She gave him a narrow eyed look that morphed into a grin. “What are you doing home? Flunk out of college already?”
His grin widened and opened his arms in a gesture of freedom. “Spring break, Baby.”
She rolled her eyes. “Please don't call me Baby.” She shifted her attention to her parents and self-consciously pushed some hair behind her ear. “Um… hi.”
“Hi Darlin'.” Richard opened his arms as Andy climbed the steps to the porch. “You okay?”
Andy spent a moment in her father's embrace. “I'm fine, Daddy. Better than fine.” She moved away from the man when her mother spoke quietly.
“Hi Ma.” She hugged the woman. “It's good to see you.” They had talked on the phone at least once a week since she'd moved to New York , but they hadn't seen each other in nearly two years. She was a little surprised to see her mother's graying hair, and lined face, but the attitude was the same and she wasn't surprised when the woman squeezed her arms and admonished her. “You're so thin! Have you had lunch yet?”
“Dottie,” Richard warned.
“S'okay Dad.” Andy laughed, as if one meal was suddenly going to fatten her up to her mother's satisfaction. “No, no lunch yet. I thought we might talk a little first.”
“You said you wanted us to meet someone?” Dottie glanced back where the car had been. “He didn't come with you?”
“Let's go inside and sit.” Andy gestured them all into the house, grateful for her brother's arm around her waist as they walked inside her childhood home.
Once they were all seated, Andy took a deep breath, cleared her throat but really had no clue where to start. “I don't really know where to begin.”
Chad chimed in. “So your dude is rich and famous? The limo was kinda a gimme on that, Sis.”
Andy nodded. “Rich, yes. Famous, in some circles…” She hesitated then took the opportunity. “But, not…not a ‘dude'.”
“Of course not!” Dottie scolded her son. “Show some respect for the man, Chad , really!”
“Um… no Ma, that's not what I meant,” Andy forged ahead. “I mean…” She saw her Dad pale slightly and reach out to hold her Mom's hand. “I mean, I don't think she would appreciate being called ‘dude'.” Andy winced and thought, So much for breaking it to them gently.
“She?!” Chad 's eyes nearly fell out of his skull. A minute later he was barely stopping himself from falling out of his chair laughing. “Oh my God… you're with a woman?”
“ Chad !” Dottie was not laughing. “This is not funny at all.”
“Sure it is, Mom, it's hilarious.” He wiped the tears from his eyes and reached over to hug his sister. “I hope you guys are really happy.”
“Thanks.” She exhaled in relief. “We are… we really are.”
“Dottie…” Richard jumped as his wife stood up quickly and left the room as fast as she could. “Dottie!” He went after her to try and calm both himself and his wife down a bit, before they spoke to their daughter again.
He found her in the kitchen, sitting at the table with her head resting on the hard surface.
“Dot?” He put his hand on her back gently. “I…”
“It's so impossible,” Dottie whispered. “Our daughter…with a…”
“I know,” Richard felt his stomach churning, “unbelievable. I would have never imagine someone could twist her mind like that.”
“How could we have let this happen?” Dot was beside herself with worry. What if the people at church find out?
Richard nearly growled. “I just want to grab her and lock her in her room until she realizes what a mistake she's making! Maybe if she had time to think she'd come to her senses.”
“You can't do that, Dad.” Andy stood in the doorway, tears beginning to form in her eyes. She'd heard enough to know how disappointed her parents were, how ‘twisted' they thought she was and didn't want to hear any more. “You know as well as I do that is unlawful restraint.” She tried to smile at his shock. “I was accepted into Stanford Law school… remember?”
“I remember.” Richard sighed. “I was so proud… we could have opened a firm together.”
Dorothy was openly crying now. “This is such a huge mistake. Why, Andy? Why would you hurt us like this?”
“Hurt you?” Andy shook her head. “I'm in love. Don't you want me to be happy?”
“Of course we do!” Richard shuddered. “You just need to pick someone else to be happy with.”
“Someone else…” Andy clenched her jaw. “You mean someone male .”
“Of course that's what we mean!” Dottie raised her voice. “Someone appropriate!”
“Dot…” Richard began hoping to calm the woman down somewhat.
“There is no one else for me.” Andy replied to the previous comment and moved to pat the man on the shoulder. She knew how much he hated confrontations. It had always been Mom that dealt with conflicts in the family. “S'okay, Dad. Let me talk to her.” Andy smiled as her shocked father slowly left the kitchen.
“Andy…” Dottie wiped her eyes, shook her head and reached over a whole loaf of Italian bread to grab a package of regular white bread. She placed it on the counter and stared at it for several minutes. “I just don't understand this.”
Andy sat at the breakfast bar, across from the upset woman. She wanted to hug her, but knew from experience that was one thing her mother didn't like to do when she was upset. “I know. I don't understand it sometimes myself, but I love her, Ma.” Running her fingers through her hair she explained. “We wanted to tell you guys in person, because, very soon the press is going to get the story and have a feeding frenzy.”
“Is… she so newsworthy?” Dottie couldn't imagine who her daughter might be…with that would be so important.
“Some people think so.” Andy sighed. “It's going to be splashed all across the tabloids for sure, but before that I'm going to let The Mirror have the exclusive, I'm going to write the article myself to ensure that the information is correct, at least once.” She waited several minutes for her mother's response.
“Why?” She studied her daughter carefully. “Why would you put yourself through that?”
Andy shrugged. “She's worth it.”
“So are you going to tell me who she is?” Dottie continued to gather ingredients for lunch sandwiches.
“Yes.” Andy exhaled slowly. “It's Miranda…. Miranda Priestly.”
The jar of mayo slipped from her mother's fingers, bouncing on the floor along with the rest of the sandwich fillers.
Richard burst back into the kitchen, Chad on his heels. “What is going on in here?”
“Mom dropped some stuff.” Andy gestured to the mess she was helping pick up. “I should have waited to tell her a name until she put this all down.”
“A name?” Richard rubbed his shaky wife's back, wishing he didn't have to deal with this situation at all. “Are you okay?”
Dottie shook her head and glared at Andy. “Tell him.”
“The person I'm seeing… it's, Miranda. Miranda Priestly.”
“Oh my God… but she… you were…” Richard started to become angry. Anger was good; it meant he didn't have to think about his daughter and… “She treated you like dirt!”
“No… she didn't.” Andy knew she'd never be able to explain it to her parents, to anyone really. “Trust me, even though when I worked for her there were times she was cold… it was just…” Andy shrugged. “Just trust me…”
“Wow… way to go Anna Nicole, you got a rich one with one foot in the grave.”
Andy whirled on her brother. “Don't you EVER say that again.”
“Whoa,” he held up his hands in defense. “I was just joking.”
“That's not funny.” Andy shook her head against the very idea. “Besides, I wouldn't get anything, I don't want anything… I'm sure her daughters will split whatever she wants them to.”
Dottie held on to the edge of the counter. “Daughters?”
Andy nodded. “Caroline and Cassidy, twins.” Andy smiled as the image of the girls entered her mind. “They're great.”
Richard gritted his teeth and again reminded her of her days as an assistant; back when she was still the daughter he knew. “You said they were monsters.”
“They weren't very nice to me when I was an assistant… but they aren't nice to any of the assistants…” It was her turn to remind her parents that her job had changed. “But I haven't been Miranda's assistant for well over a year.”
“I want to meet her.” Dottie's tone left no room for argument.
“That was the plan.” Andy nodded and pulled the phone from the purse she hadn't bothered to take off of her shoulder. “But I'm telling you right now, if anything is said to upset Miranda or the children, we are leaving.” Silence greeted that statement and Andy took it as acceptance. She dialed the phone and only had to wait one ring before it was answered.
“Are you alright?” Miranda's voice was anxious although she was trying to mask it.
Andy smiled because she could almost picture Miranda's face as she heard the words in her ear. “Yes, I'm fine. I've broken the news to them, and now I think it's a good time for you to come on over.” She grinned into the phone. “Ma's going to make sandwiches for lunch.”
“We'll be there in ten minutes.”
“But it takes…” Andy laughed as she realized. “You're already on your way, aren't you?”
“Yes,” Miranda couldn't stop her voice from softening. “I thought it had been long enough, I didn't want you to be alone anymore.”
Andy closed her eyes, ignoring the fact that her parents and her brother were watching her. “I love you.”
Miranda chuckled. “Did your parents just hear you say that?”
“I love you too, Andrea.” Miranda winked at the girls sitting across from her, rolling their eyes. “We'll be there soon.”
“Okay, see ya then.” Andy reluctantly ended the call. “Bye.” She closed the phone after Miranda had also said goodbye. “They are on their way, it won't be long.”
“Great.” Dottie continued her lunch preparations, but knowing the others wouldn't be here for a while decided to just get the ingredients ready. She would actually assemble the sandwiches after this…woman, arrived and put the bread away until it was needed. “I have a few things to say to her.”
“I meant it when I said we'd leave.” Andy warned her mother. “I love you, but I love Miranda and the girls too.”
“You would choose them over us?” Dottie was certain that wasn't true until Andy's immediate and definite response.
Richard heard the response, but didn't believe it for a second. Andy is my daughter , he thought. My family.
Andy was waiting on the porch for Miranda's arrival. Her brother was sitting on the swing with her.
“You know Mom's just… being Mom… right?”
“Yeah, I guess so,” she pressed her lips together for a moment. “Dad's being kinda…quiet.”
“Yeah,” Chad nodded. “I noticed that.”
Andy shook her head. “One of the main reasons I was so scared to tell them was that I didn't know how they'd react.” She ran her fingers through her hair. “I never know how they are going to react, to anything.”
“Yeah, they can be weird.” Chad shrugged. “But they aren't usually psycho or anything.”
“Psycho like Dad saying he wanted to lock me in my room until I come to my senses?” Andy ran her fingers through her hair. “That sounds pretty psycho to me.”
“Uh…yeah.” Chad shook his head. “But he didn't do it…so that's a plus.”
“Is that why you want to be a psychiatrist? Because our parents are so weird?” Andy laughed at the logic of that.
“It's one reason.” He shrugged. “I have some of my own issues to deal with too.”
“Right…” She hugged herself and rubbed her arms with her hands. “Why do I feel like such a kid when I'm here?”
“That's natural.” He cleared his throat. “Um… speaking of feeling like a kid…” He looked at his sister. “Isn't Miranda kinda…”
“Don't say it.” She held up her hand. “I will forgive you the inappropriate joke when you first heard the news, but I'm not going to sit here and discuss your bias when it comes to older women.”
“But Andy, she could be…” He stopped at her upturned hand.
“…my mother?” Andy questioned, angrily. “Honestly? I don't care… you want the truth? She's actually older than Mom is… there are twenty-five years between our ages, and I don't care. I love her, Chad and she loves me. That is the only thing that matters to me.” She had become increasingly tense while speaking to her brother but then it all melted away as the long black car pulled up in front of the house. A smile lit Andy's face and she stood from the swing. “She's here!” Andy moved as fast as she could to get down the steps and sidewalk, to meet Miranda at the car.
Chad blinked at the smile. “Wow.” Then he was amazed as Andy offered her hand to a very elegant woman emerging from the car, she was…exquisite. “Double wow.” She's older than Mom? He watched as two children flanked the women and they all walked up the sidewalk together.
As the car pulled up in front of the house, Miranda reminded the children. “Remember what I told you. These people are Andrea's family. We must be nice to them for her sake.”
“We're her family.” Caroline pouted.
Miranda agreed. “Yes, we are, but so are they.”
“We can be nice,” Cassidy assured her Mother, to a point. “We'll be nice as long as they are.”
Miranda nodded at the girl and graced her with a small smile, and a wink. “That's my girl.”
The door to the car opened and Miranda saw Andrea standing there waiting. She took the offered hand with easy grace and when she was standing, leaned into her lover's lanky body. “Are you alright, Andrea?”
Andy's brilliant smile said it all. “I am now.” She wrapped an arm around Miranda's waist, squeezing slightly. Truth be told, she wanted to tackle the woman, toss her back in the car and drive away, but that wasn't going to happen. She found Cassidy at her side and saw Caroline leaning against her mother. “C'mon, I'll introduce you.”
Miranda was grateful for Andrea and Caroline's support, she couldn't help feeling she was being watched, and while she could usually dismiss it as paparazzi or a rival at some social event, this time it was different. This time she was being judged by people she very much wanted to get along with, for Andrea's sake. This time it was a very unpleasant sensation.
“Richard look, my god she's…” Dottie watched the scene at the end of her sidewalk and shook her head against the unmistakable connection between her daughter and this…woman. The smile on Andy's face was enough to make her heart clench. What can they possibly have in common? She thought. She's so much more… experienced than Andy. As the woman drew closer Dottie's eyes had a hard time reconciling what she thought she knew. The white hair seemed to indicate age even though there wasn't a strand out of place, but Miranda was very thin, her steps so…sure, her skin and face looked incredibly…smooth. Dottie's lined hand reached up to touch the wrinkles on her own cheeks and she knew her belly was larger than it ‘should' be.
“We'll just talk with her, Dot.” Richard wrapped his arm around his wife's shoulders. He gritted his teeth, pushing his own reservations down long enough to comfort his wife. “We might be able to make some sense of all this.” He leaned down and kissed Dottie's cheek gently. “C'mon.”
Topping the steps to the porch, Miranda found herself face to chest with Andy's brother. She tilted her head back to see the young man. “Gracious, they grow them tall in Ohio , don't they?”
“No.” Andy scoffed. “Just him… he's a freak. He's even taller than Dad.”
“Hey!” Chad grinned. “I resemble that remark!”
Andy smiled. “Miranda, Cassidy, Caroline… this is my little brother, Chad .” She looked up at her ‘little brother' with gleaming brown eyes. “ Chad , this is Miranda, Cassidy and Caroline.”
“Pleasure to meet you.” Chad bowed a half bow to the girls and a full one to Miranda. “Andy's told us pretty much nothing about you.”
Miranda smiled at the handsome young man's easy charm. “It's very nice to meet you as well.”
Caroline spoke. “You don't look like Andy.”
Andy snorted. “Thank god… can you imagine me with blonde hair and blue eyes?” There was a sort of gleam in Miranda's eyes. “What?”
Chuckling, Miranda shook her head and reached up to pat Andrea's cheek. “Nothing, I was just imagining a ‘blonde' issue of Runway.”
“I am not changing my hair color.”
“Of course not, Andrea.” Miranda spoke the sweet words in a matter-of-fact tone. “You're perfect the way you are.”
Rolling her eyes at that, Andy gestured for her brother to move out of the way. “Move, you big lug…”
Laughing, he moved to the door and held it open as the women entered the house.
END Part 1
Continued in Part 2
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