Miranda stepped inside the townhouse, followed closely by Emily. They both stopped short just inside the door as the sound of what could only be described as wailing.
“What on Earth?” Miranda led the way to the study to find Andy and Serena sitting on the couch one arm around each others shoulders, leaning against each other, their free hand each held a glass that had obviously been filled and emptied several times. “Andrea, what is the meaning of this? Where are the girls? Wasn't Terry and Ms. Bax supposed to be here this evening?”
Andy disentangled herself from Serena and both stood shakily. “How come you call Terry, Terry and you won't call me Andy??” She weaved through the furniture to stand in front of Miranda barely registering Serena moving to face Emily. “Why's that?”
Miranda reached out to steady the young woman, “That's because her name is Terry, and your name is Andrea.”
“Oh.” Andy smiled as she gazed into Miranda's eyes, “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Miranda repeated herself, “Where are the girls?”
“Upstairs,” Andy leaned against the editor and rested her head on the older woman's shoulder. “Watching TV.”
“Okay...” Miranda prompted for her other question, “And Terry, and Ms. Bax?”
“Terry fixed Nora's hair... but they had to leave.” Andy sighed and nuzzled against Miranda's neck.
“I thought you were going to speak to Terry about your wedding hair style...” Miranda guided her inebriated fiancee to the couch and sat next to her. “Andrea, your hair?”
“Oh... um... she wanted me to pick my dress first, then we'll see...” Andy recalled a bit of her discussion with the stylist. Reaching up she bunched her hair up on the top of her head, “Terry thinks maybe up? You like my hair up right?”
Miranda reached out and traced the line of Andrea's now exposed neck, “I love your hair up or down and you know it.” Glancing at their guests still standing by the door, talking, Miranda pressed her lips together in a frown. “Why are you drunk, Andrea?”
Andy giggled, “I guess because I had too much to drink...” She frowned and reached up to trace the downward curved lips. “Awww... don't be a sad panda, Miranda...” Laughing at that, Andy rephrased it, “Please don't be a sad Miranda panda....”
“Okay... that's enough of that.” Miranda tried to stand only to be stopped by Andy's lanky arms.
“Where ya goin'?”
Patting the arms around her reassuringly, Miranda spoke gently, “I'm going to the kitchen to make you some coffee...” She glanced at Serena still on her feet, but only just and only with Emily's support, “It looks to me as if you both could use some.”
Andy's forehead furrowed in thought, “N...no, y.. your not posa make the coffee... s'my job.”
“No,” Miranda smiled at her very drunk fiancee, “It's not your job anymore, remember?” She patted the arms around her again. “Let me up, I will start the coffee brewing and return.” The long arms went lax around her and Miranda stood taking a moment to look down on the woman now curled up on the corner of the sofa. “We will discuss this later.”
Nodding, Andy closed her eyes, “You're a good panda Miranda...” Then she giggled. “My Miranda Panda.”
Rolling her eyes at that, Miranda stood and walked over to where Serena and Emily were standing.
“What do you think you are playing at?!” Emily was furious at her friend. Running with Andy in the morning was one thing but getting drunk with her?
“Are you angry with me?” Serena's bowed her head to hide the sorrow in her eyes, “I don't want you to be angry with me.”
That surprised Emily, “Why do you care what I think?”
“I care...” Serena sighed, “I'm sorry...” Wrapping her long arms around the English woman, Serena continued to murmur, “Don't be mad at me...please please... don't be mad...”
Emily looked over as Miranda approached them.
“Sit her down, I'm making coffee.”
“Right.” Emily guided her tall friend to one of the overstuffed chairs in the room. Much to her surprise, Serena pulled her down into the chair as well. “Serena, what do you think you're doing?”
“Don't want to let you go...” The Brazilian held tighter as Emily seemed like she was going to try and get up.
“I'm going to crush you!”
“Never,” Serena rested her forehead on Emily's shoulder, “You weigh practically nothing.”
There was only a moment longer that Emily half-heartedly tried to escape from Serena's arms before Miranda was back. The older woman touched Emily's upper arm lightly and ordered, “Leave it.” Taking her place back on the sofa, Miranda proceeded to speak to Emily as if her assistant was not sitting on a living, intoxicated, chair. “You have the tasting schedule?”
“Uh...” Emily blinked and went with it, shifting to retrieve the requested information from her bag. “Yes, I scheduled them all for Saturday since Andy said her mother and grandmother would be arriving tomorrow.” She passed the paper with the locations printed on it.
“We are expected to go to all these places?” Miranda looked at the paper with raised eyebrows.
“Oh! No.. sorry.” She spoke as she handed Miranda another sheet. “Those are the addresses of the businesses, this is the schedule of when they are supposed to be here. You never have to leave the house.”
“Excellent,” Miranda looked at the paper, “This is to be an all day affair I see.”
“There are several to choose from,” Emily relaxed back into Serena's arms, “I tried to alternate the caterers and bakers and put at least a half hour between the tastings.” The assistant immediately tensed and stiffened as Miranda's housekeeper entered the room carrying a tray with a coffee carafe and four mugs on it.
As she placed the tray on the coffee table, Peggy spoke to Miranda, “I can make dinner now if you like?”
“I didn't realize you were still here.” Miranda looked confused, then Andrea made a noise and Miranda wondered if Peggy had stayed simply because she felt Andrea was unable to take care of the girls in her current state. The girls didn't need that though, they were nearly twelve and could take care of each other just fine, “Is there a reason you stayed late?”
“Yes, I was preparing the spare rooms for your guests tomorrow.” She gestured upstairs, “I just finished the final details in the bathrooms.” And Andy was slowly getting drunk... Peggy smiled. “I cut the vegetables and meat for stir fry but was going to wait until you called for it. It doesn't take long to finish. There is brown rice in the cooker, it's done. I turned it to the 'keep warm' setting ten minutes ago.”
Miranda nodded, “Thank you, Peggy, we can handle it from here if you want to go.”
With a quick glance at what looked like a peacefully sleeping Andy, Peggy nodded, “Okay, thank you.” With a bit of a wave, Peggy left quickly not really wanting to see how Miranda dealt with an inebriated Andy.
Pouring two mugs half full, Miranda took one and gestured to the other one as she spoke to Emily. “Try and get her to drink it.” Dismissing the other couple from her mind, Miranda turned and shook her fiancee gently, “Come now, Andrea... drink some of this for me.”
“Andrea,” Miranda spoke slightly sterner, “You will drink this.” She took a deep breath and informed her fiancee of her feelings on this matter. “You are intoxicated with the girls in the house, I'm very disappointed in that.” Andrea's reaction to that shocked Miranda nearly speechless. The young woman's features became a study in sorrow tinged with terror.
“I'm sorry Miranda... don't be disappointed in me... don't make me leave... I'm sorry, it will never happen again... I promise... don't make me leave.” Andy reached for the coffee, “I'll drink it... anything you want...”
Miranda closed her eyes as Andrea took the mug, My god she still thinks I'm going to make her leave... Opening her eyes Miranda studied the young woman's wide, terrified brown eyes looking over the rim of the mug. She wondered how she was going to convince Andrea otherwise. I wonder if that is why she's having nightmares? Miranda took the mug back from Andrea and gathered the young woman into her arms. “I will not send you away, Andrea... ever.”
Andy nuzzled into Miranda's neck, murmuring, “I love you, Miranda.”
“And I you, my darling.” Miranda patted the arms around her for release. She poured another mug of coffee and handed it back to the young woman, “Drink this, slowly, and I will go prepare dinner. The girls must be hungry by now.”
“The girls are hungry?” Andy didn't take the mug. Her eyes glistened with tears, “I let the girls be hungry?”
“Shhh... I'm sure they aren't that hungry. I will prepare dinner and you will feel much better once you've eaten something...” Miranda patted Andrea's hand and placed the coffee mug in it firmly. “Drink. I will be back in a moment.”
“Shall I help you?” Emily tried to extricate herself from Serena's grasp to follow Miranda into the kitchen.
“No,” Miranda gestured for the redhead to stay where she was. “I need you to stay with them and make sure coffee is the only thing they drink.”
“Of course.” Emily wasn't actually that upset about being ordered to remain in Serena's arms. It would be a lot more enjoyable if Serena wasn't so pissed out of her mind. Emily thought then tried not to think about it. Because if Serena wasn't so plastered, Emily was sure the woman's arms would never be around her like this.
Miranda gathered the ingredients from the refrigerator, set a large wok shaped skillet on the stove and pulled a wooden spatula from a drawer. Motion from the corner of her eye caught her attention and she spoke quietly, “You can come in.”
Caroline and Cassidy finished coming down the stairs into the kitchen. They stayed close together as if to comfort each other against something terrible that was about to happen. “Is Andy... um... okay?”
“Andrea...” Miranda pressed her lips together, stopping herself from covering for the young woman's inebriated state. She did somewhat excuse it though, “Andrea has had too much to drink on an empty stomach.”
Cassidy restated the Miranda-speak, “Andy's drunk.”
Caroline sighed, “Like Stephen.”
Miranda slammed the spatula down on the counter, the loud crack it made against the granite caused the girls to jump. Their Mother's sharp voice made them shiver. “That is the one and only time I ever want to hear you speak of Andrea and Stephen in the same breath, do you understand me?” With visible effort, Miranda controlled herself but still spoke with intensity, “There is no comparison between the two, Stephen is nothing!”
“Yeah...” Cassidy couldn't help asking. “But if he's nothing, what's Andy?”
Miranda took a deep breath, Andrea's lapse in judgment was not the girls' fault and she refused to take her annoyance out on her children. She knew the answer to Cassidy's question though and it escaped her lips quietly, What is Andrea? Besides quite annoying at times... “Everything.”
Caroline and Cassidy remained silent but nodded in agreement as they watched their mother cooking dinner.
There was silence as Miranda and Andy went through their nightly ritual. Andy glanced at Miranda in the mirror three times before she began to speak.
“Don't say it.” Miranda put her hand over Andrea's lips, “You said you were sorry at least fifty times during dinner. I don't want to hear it again.” She removed her hand.
Replacing her hand over Andrea's mouth, Miranda sighed, “I'm going to take my hand away, do not speak. Understand?” She waited for Andrea to nod and slowly removed her hand, nodding as the young woman remained quiet. “Now listen to me. We all make mistakes Andrea, you're human, it happens. I was not thrilled to find you drunk with the girls in your care, but you were not negligent, Peggy was here and you knew that. At no time were the girls endangered.”
“You were disappointed in me.” Andy felt the muscles in her stomach tightening at the thought of that. “That kills me Miranda, I hate it when I disappoint you.”
“We are just at the beginning of our relationship. There will be many times that we disappoint each other I'm sure.” Holding her hand up as Andrea began to speak, Miranda shook her head and repeated, “I'm sure there are many times we will disappoint each other, but that doesn't mean we don't love each other. So long as the love is there, we will get through whatever crisis it is.” Moving forward, Miranda wrapped her arms around Andrea's waist, “And I'm telling you, promising you, that the love will always, always be there. Do you understand?”
Andy looked into Miranda's blue eyes and lost herself for a long moment. “I understand.” Wrapping her arms around the older woman's shoulders, Andy rested her forehead against Miranda's, “I love you.”
“And I you.” Miranda kissed the young woman's cheek lightly, “always.”
“Are you finished in here?” Andy took Miranda's hand to pull her toward the bedroom.
“In a minute...”
Nodding, Andy released their hands, “I'm just gonna check my email.”
Miranda exited the bathroom a few moments later to find Andrea sitting on the bed. The young woman had her back to the headboard and her laptop resting across her legs. That was not an unusual pose, it was the look on her face that caused concern for Miranda. “Andrea? What's wrong?”
“Something in your email?” Miranda hurried to the bed.
“No,” Andy swallowed hard, “I didn't have any new messages... so I .. um...”
Miranda looked at the laptops screen and sighed, the Forbes.com logo was prominently displayed across the top of the webpage. “You looked up that damned list.”
Andy blinked at the curse, it was not something Miranda did very often. “Yeah, I did.. and.. um...”
Crawling into the bed, Miranda sat next to Andrea and reached for her glasses on the nightstand, then for the laptop. “Let's see what they have to say then.”
Numbly, Andy watched as Miranda transferred the computer to her own lap and reviewed the information. “One thousand one hundred and fifty... Mmm... pretty close.”
“Miranda,” Andy whispered, “That's measured in millions...”
Andy swallowed hard and managed to push the words out, “One thousand million, Miranda... that is a billion, with a B.”
“But... I... I knew you were.. but I didn't realize...” Andy's heart was pounding, “How...”
Removing her glasses, Miranda pinched the bridge of her nose, “Andrea, I've been editor in chief of one Runway magazine or another since I was twenty two years old... and for the last thirty years I have made a minimum income of seven figures, the first of which has not been a one, in decades. That is not counting stock options which frankly were worth more than that.” She smiled at the widening brown eyes, “Do you think I just stuff it in my mattress?”
“I have a genius money manager. Archie saw me through the dot com years with phenomenal success, and now with this whole stock market crisis during the last few years he's been a guardian angel. Many people have lost millions, Andrea. I have not. I didn't gain, but I didn't lose. Much of that has to do with my efforts to keep Elias-Clarke stock healthy via Runway.” Sliding her glasses back in place, Miranda turned back to the computer, “This is not a cash amount. It's not as if I can pull out a check book and write a check for a billion dollars. This is all our assets, the stocks, the properties, the artwork...” she cleared her throat, “...the jewelery.” Tapping the keys in the correct sequence, Miranda nodded as a picture appeared on the screen, “I assume that would be the next thing you look up.” She handed the computer back to Andrea.
Andy looked at the screen and gasped. “My necklace.” Then she blinked and read the description, Oh my god... I had... “Miranda... I had a million dollars around my neck?”
“More or less,” Blue eyes twinkled, reflecting the light from the computer screen, “some of it was on your ears, and you weren't wearing the bracelet that goes with the set.”
“Brace...” Andy looked at the screen again, “Where is the bracelet?”
“Oh, it's in the box, with the rest of the set, in the safe...” Miranda negligently waved toward the closet. Since its return from the police evidence locker, she hadn't had the chance to return it to the bank vault, “...but the bracelet didn't go with the dress, only the earrings and necklace accentuated that.”
“Ah.. of course.” Andy didn't know whether to laugh or cry. “I won't be able to wear it now, knowing how much it cost...”
Shaking her head, Miranda sighed again, “Andrea, the cost isn't the issue. I wanted you to have it, not because of the cost. As we have established, I could buy you whatever outrageously priced bauble I want. When this came up for sale I purchased it because, one, it would be perfect for you, and two, it... meant something to me, because of its pedigree.”
“Pedi...” Andy shook her head and looked back at the screen. Her jaw dropped slightly, “Coco Chanel?””
“Mmm...she didn't usually care if her jewelry was 'real' or not, so long as they accentuated the designs, but she did have a few pieces that were genuine.” Miranda smiled, “When Karl told me that it was coming up for sale I watched closely. She was an incredible lady.”
Something in the tone of Miranda's voice caught Andy's attention. “You met her.” It wasn't a question but Miranda nodded and answered anyway.
“Once. About a year or so before she died.” The editor's blue eyes twinkled at the memory, “She was really a force of nature.”
Setting the computer aside, Andy slid down to lay on her side, pulling Miranda down with her, “Tell me about it.”
Resting her head on the pillow, Miranda savored the feel of Andrea's arm across her stomach. “I met Coco Chanel when I worked in the dress shop. Daniella was always going on about the Chanel designs and we sold a lot of them. I used to just think it was because she was French. I didn't realize that they were friends until one day she, Coco, came into the shop, Daniella introduced us and I was allowed to shake her hand.”
“Sounds like you had a little hero worship going on there.” Andy smiled at Miranda's self-depreciating grin and wasn't surprised at the admission.
“More than a little,” Miranda smiled softly at the memory, “Coco and Daniella spent the afternoon going over some new jacket designs and I was privileged to have witnessed it.” Shifting slightly, Miranda snuggled close to Andrea, “She was an incredible woman who changed the fashion industry forever.” With a sly grin, Miranda slowly explored the curve of Andrea's hip, “She created that little black dress you look so good in.”
“I was wearing Chanel the first time you noticed me, after the makeover Nigel gave me.” Andy mused, “You were on the phone and when you saw me you stopped short and did that little grin you do when you don't want anyone knowing you're grinning...” Andy looked down at the woman in her arms, “You checked out my butt when I walked out of your office, didn't you?”
“Oh,” Miranda nodded seriously, “Most definitely.”
“Turnabout is fair play I suppose,” Andy grinned, “I checked out your butt every time you walked out of the office.”
Miranda laughed, “You are so ridiculous sometimes.”
“No, really,” Reaching around, Andy caressed the butt in question. “It's really quite nice...”
“Mmm...” Miranda pressed closer, “So are we finished talking?”
“I suppose so,” Andy grinned and captured Miranda's lips with her own, “You'll probably have to talk me through it all again when it really sinks in.” She chuckled, “I thought your family was clueless about how rich you really were... turns out I was too!”
“Does it bother you?” Miranda sighed, she had hoped to have this conversation sometime after the wedding.
“It doesn't bother me, Miranda, because none of it is mine. I don't want your money, no matter how much of it you have.” Andy traced her fingertips down Miranda's arm, “That's why I want the pre-nup... to show people that I don't want your money. I want it to say that I don't get anything... that it will all go to the girls.”
“I am marrying you.” Miranda threaded her fingers through Andrea's dark hair, “That means sharing, what's mine is yours.” When Andrea opened her mouth to protest, Miranda covered it with her own for a long moment. “I don't want to argue about this tonight.”
“Oh?” Andy grinned at the phrasing, “What do you want to argue about?” As she had hoped, that question pulled a genuine laugh from the older woman.
“Andrea, I want to argue about who loves who more.”
“Oh, well that's easy,” Andy grinned, “No one can love anyone as much as I love you, so obviously, I win.”
“Ah, but therein lies the problem,” Miranda began to explore Andy's exposed skin, “I believe that no one could possibly love anyone as deeply as I love you, so it seems we are at an impasse.”
“It's no problem.” Andy slid the strap of Miranda's nightgown off her shoulder and kissed the now uninterrupted curve of skin. “This is easily solved.”
“Mmm...” Miranda pressed into the younger woman's body. “How's that?”
“We simply agree to disagree,” Andy continued kissing the soft skin all the way to Miranda's neck, nibbling at the pulse point there as she murmured, “And realize that we both win.”
“It certainly feels like I'm winning right now...” Miranda arched into Andrea's lips and could feel them smiling against her.
“That's funny,” Andy murmured, “It feels to me like I am the one who's winning...” She stopped her explorations for a moment, “Can we meet you for lunch somewhere tomorrow?”
“Mmm... No,” Miranda sighed in contentment and resignation as she informed her partner, “I have meetings tomorrow all day.”
“Oh?” Andy pulled away to look Miranda in the eye. “Something major?”
“Just things I need to clear up before the wedding. Being gone for two weeks creates a bit of a strain on the staff.” Miranda smiled, “I should be home in time for dinner.”
“Okay,” Andy resumed her gentle exploration, “I'll just keep our guests busy tomorrow...”
“If I could put off the meetings I would...” Miranda gasped as Andrea raked her teeth across a particularly sensitive spot.
“I know.” Andy dismissed the issue from her mind, she had far more important things to think about, such as making Miranda gasp like that again.
To be continued