"So the actual Alexandra Saxton is coming here?" questioned Cassidy for the tenth time since she had been picked up from the train station.
"Yes" Miranda said, completely ignoring how many times her daughter had made her repeat herself in favor of enjoying her time with Cassidy. She came to realize how empty her figurative nest actually was once her youngest's bubbly presence was felt once again, a sharp contrast to Caroline's moods. She was grateful to have her back, even if only for a little while.
"Cool" Cassidy quipped with raised eyebrows as she slowly made her way up the stairs. "And my pantsuit..."
"Will be worn with something underneath it." Miranda threatened.
Cassidy grinned widely. "Pasties count as something."
Miranda rolled her eyes. "They do not count as anything substantial."
"Sure, sure." Her daughter said, and Miranda knew she was being waved off by her own spawn, but there was no time to drive her point home – she heard the commotion from reporters outside, coupled with the furious flutter of camera shutters snapping thousands of pictures of Alexandra Saxton's entourage, which was undoubtedly pulling up.
Miranda enjoyed her privacy, but there were times when concessions had to be made. Were her daughters any younger, she absolutely would not be willing to let reporters follow a designer all the way to her home. Here, at the very least, she had some control over the number of reporters allowed to camp out by her porch, and for how long – it was preferable to having a completely incontrollable throng following them through the city.
She personally went to the door to greet Andrea and her small entourage of assistants, which followed close behind her and Claire. The cameras went crazy for a few seconds, during which both Miranda and Andrea turned around and posed briefly for publicity's sake – giving them their pictures now ensured a modicum of privacy later on.
"Welcome." Miranda said in her most professionally disinterested tone, keeping in mind the presence of so many other people. She spared Andrea an appraising look – the brunette now wore a jet-black pencil skirt and a forest green blouse that had a crisscrossing silver thread pattern. Now that was a new design.
"Miranda, good evening." Andrea replied politely, though Miranda could plainly see the mirth in her eyes. She allowed the designer's team to pass them while they regaled the photographers a little more, until the last person – Claire – had made their way into her foyer.
The door clicked shut behind Miranda, and she had to take a sharp intake of breath in preparation. Andrea had met the twins after her reveal, but only in passing. She sent a prayer to the heavens for her girls to be in their best behavior.
"Where should we set up?" Claire asked politely, business as usual.
"My study," Miranda replied. "Second door to your left – you should find everything you need there. The girls will be coming down shortly" Miranda tinged the last part with a subtle warning – she could already see Cassidy's sneakers peeking from the landing. They disappeared at her tone.
Claire expertly guided the team into the study with a flurry of orders; they followed like well-trained dogs, and Miranda was alone with Andrea for a moment. Or, as alone as she could be with the twins lurking by the stairs.
"Hi there," Andrea quipped, her tone playful, but not enough to be considered unprofessional. It was such a small thing, but Miranda could appreciate the deliberate discretion. "Long time no see."
"Indeed" Miranda made a big show out of looking at her watch. "Six whole hours without seeing you; I'm afraid I don't know what to do with myself."
Andrea rolled her eyes good-naturedly. "Enough chit-chat, Priestly. Show me to the Devil's Lair."
Miranda acted scandalized. "I thought we were past the name-calling stage."
"I'm not talking about you" Andrea said with a comical waggle of her brows that had no place with her severe Alexandra persona – it made Miranda laugh. "I'm talking about Thing One and Thing Two. Go ahead, run me through the gauntlet."
Miranda hooked Andrea's elbow as she led her through the foyer. "You asked for it," she warned, before turning to the staircase. "Girls? Come say hello to Alexandra Saxton."
Cassidy bounded down the steps like a tap-dancing rhinoceros, making the entire house shake with her energy. Caroline came shortly after, taking small, deliberate steps like a haughty ballerina. Miranda could almost swear she saw her daughter on demi-pointe.
"Yo!" Cassidy called, spinning on the banister and drawing a pointed glare from her mother. "So... what do we call you? Andy, Alexandra? Ahn-dray-uh?"
"Whichever you like, Cassidy" Andrea replied in good humor, thoroughly enjoying the youngest twin's antics. "But I suggest you pick one and stick with it, or I'll get confused. I'm just one gal."
Caroline regarded Andrea without a word for a long moment before speaking, brow quirked only slightly, just like one of Miranda's practiced nonchalant expressions. "Since you're here to do our fittings, I suppose I'll call you Alexandra." She said, trying a little too hard to look disinterested. Miranda could tell Andrea noticed just how much Caroline was trying to emulate her mother – the brunette sent a discreet look her way that made Miranda want to audibly groan.
"That works for me if it works for you, Caroline." Andrea replied tactfully, clearly a little amused at how Caroline was trying to size her up.
"Don't mind Cruella deVil over here," Cassidy quipped, mussing Caroline's hair. Miranda wanted to scold her, and by the look in her eye, Caroline wanted to murder her. Cassidy was unfazed, gesturing between her mother and sister as Caroline made a big show of putting everything back in place. "If you can deal with this Priestly over here, you can deal with this one."
"Hm, but can I deal with two—nay, three Priestlys all at once? That remains to be seen."
Miranda wanted to roll her eyes—Caroline did roll her eyes, but Cassidy's grin went from ear to ear. She winked at her mother and bumped Andrea's arm with her elbow.
"This one," she said, pointing dramatically at Andrea. "I like this one."
"No, Percy, the other left. Yes. Where are my pins? Am I reaching for the stars when I ask for enough pins to be available to me?"
There was the scuttle of an assistant or three, all scrambling to get Alexandra Saxton some more pins. Miranda hid a little laugh behind the Book as she watched from the couch in her studio.
"Wow." Cassidy exclaimed, looking at herself in the mirror and striking a pose on the stepstool she occupied. "Look at this suit! Holy shit, I look incredible."
"I'm glad you like it," Andrea said brightly, repositioning a few pins here and there to make the suit fit better at the girl's slim shoulders. Cassidy's smile was blinding.
"Cassidy, language, please." Miranda muttered from her corner, a little too happy at the scene before her to really put any bite in her tone.
"I'm going to be the life of the party in this outfit." Cassidy laughed, striking several poses and making the stepstool tilt rather dangerously as she moved, absolutely carefree. "Look, the fabric changes color in the light!"
"It does, but try not to fall on the floor while you're a human pincushion," Andrea chided slightly before Miranda could, brows furrowing in concentration as she rearranged a few spots on the burgundy, nearly reflective fabric as Cassidy refused to sit still. "The blood won't show on the fabric and won't realize you need help until it is far too late. And thus dies Cassidy Priestly, victim of her own dance moves."
Miranda's eyes widened as Cassidy snorted a laugh. Caroline scrunched up her nose, standing ramrod straight on the stepstool next to her sister's. "That's horribly morbid," she commented, trying to ignore her sister's laughter.
"I think it's hilarious!" Cassidy interjected with a smile. At least, Miranda was relieved to note, she took Andrea's warning in stride, ceasing her jerky dance movements upon such a precarious surface.
"Alright, Cassidy. You're all done." Andrea said. "Go get changed and hand this over to Percy- it'll be ready by tomorrow and I'll have it delivered to your mother's office."
Andrea turned to Caroline as Cassidy scampered off to the makeshift changing room in Miranda's study. The younger twin kept an impassive expression as she stood as still as possible upon her own little platform. "How about you, Caroline? How are you feeling?"
"I'm perfectly fine." Caroline drawled.
"Are you? You don't have to go full Michael Jackson dance party like your sister, but you can move around a little. I'm dressing a human, not a mannequin."
Caroline shot Andrea a glare, and Miranda nearly bit her tongue. Andrea just grinned, keeping her lips tugged into a wide smile for a deliberately long time, just until Caroline relented with her petty glare. The young girl made a slow, petulant turn, raising her arms only slightly.
"Is this sufficient?" she droned flatly.
"Caroline," Miranda murmured, gritting her teeth. "Watch your tone."
Andrea shrugged, clearly unfazed by Caroline's attitude as she rearranged a few pins on the girl's dress—a violet-tinted mass of fabric that looked like flowing water. It was nicer than anything Caroline currently owned, and that was saying something, Miranda thought.
"If you think so. Don't you want to try raising your hands above your head or anything?"
Miranda could see how much her daughter struggled not to roll her eyes. "I don't expect I'll be doing much more than walking," Caroline said.
"Hm, so no raising your hands in the air like you just don't care, huh?"
Miranda held back a snort of laughter with the way Caroline's eyes bugged out. She could practically see the gears turning in her youngest's head – was the famed Alexandra Saxton really so annoying in real life?
She, for one, greatly appreciated Andrea's humor. Maybe it was one of those things one came to appreciate with time.
Caroline's fitting took a lot less time than Cassidy's, and Miranda had to privately admit it was greatly amusing to see Caroline expecting to go toe-to-toe with the great Alexandra Saxton only to have the wind taken out of her little irritable sails by Andrea's goofiness.
"We're all done here," Andrea announced, dismissing another one of her assistants with Caroline's adjusted gown. The dress was quickly hanged and covered, then wheeled away on a rack with the rest of the samples her team had brought. Cassidy sat with Miranda, playing a game on her phone, as Caroline quietly emerged from the changing room. Andrea turned to the three Priestly women with a smile. "Everything will be ready tomorrow. I'll personally see to it that they are delivered on time."
"Thank you, Ms. Saxton." Caroline spoke, so much like Miranda. "It was a pleasure. Have a good evening."
Cassidy gestured to her sister as she stood to leave as well. "Don't mind her—she always talks like that. She thinks it's fancy. It was nice seeing you again, Andy. Thanks for the suit! It's amazing!"
"You're welcome," Andrea said with a wave as Cassidy left the room. Miranda was still seated, with a little smirk on her face. Andrea quirked a brow. "What?"
Miranda gestured vaguely. "You're so good with them. Even with Caroline—goodness, I am so sorry about her attitude. She takes a little too much after me."
Andrea merely shrugged. "I've dealt with worse. And she's just a teenager—I was also moody and bitchy at her age." She backtracked. "Not that I'm calling your daughter bitchy."
Miranda laughed. "No, you're right. She's rather bitchy. Fitting, since her mother is known as the Bitch in Heels, no?"
The brunette frowned. "Hey, I thought I was the Bitch in Heels now!" She protested dramatically.
Their exchange was interrupted by a polite knock on the door. Miranda turned to see Claire, with her perpetual clipboard in hand, motioning to the front door.
"Alexandra, the outfits are packed and ready. I'll send the rest of the team back to the hotel to start alterations. Is there anything else?"
Andrea shook her head. "No, Claire. Thank you."
The brunette turned back to Miranda as soon as the door was clicked shut. Her smile was just as wide and genuine as it had been before, but there was a softness there that Miranda recognized as special—it was just for her.
God lord, she had turned into a pile of sap.
"Alone at last." Andrea quipped, and the Editor could not help but laugh as Andrea slumped into the couch with a deep exhale.
"Not quite," she said. "There are still two teenage girls in this house... plus God-knows how many paparazzo outside, waiting for you to come out of the Dragon's Den alive."
"Hm," Andrea considered it for a moment, stretching out. "What are the chances of that happening?" She asked with a waggle of her brows. The message was loud and clear.
Oh, what the hell, Miranda thought, leaning towards her with a smile. "Slim to none, if the dragon has her way."