This woman drives me insane. I mean, I work endless hours to accommodate every single one of her wishes, whims, wants, and, yes, her goddamn needs. Does she show any appreciation whatsoever? Of course not. Now, if I screw up, much like I did so often when I was completely green at this, then she notices, naturally. She doesn't read me the riot act anymore though, when that happens, but merely gives me that disappointed, exasperated look over the edge of her reading glasses.
So, I keep on trying to anticipate her next order, read her fucking mind, and it has almost become a record-setting contest with me as the only competitor. I have even started making notes about it on my phone. One day, last week, I managed to foresee what she wanted me to do eighteen times. I think I actually saw her pale and look a bit uneasy. Perhaps she thought I had developed some sort of clairvoyance.
Now I sit here at my desk, watching the new girl scurry in and out of the office while I am doing Miranda's receipts. She's been entertaining advertisers and designers as if the world is about to come to an end. The stack of receipts from her company credit card is long. Long enough to attract attention from Irv, the president of Elias-Clarke publishing. When Emily used to be the first assistant, Irv was in Miranda's office at least once a week, if not more, complaining about her spending. She hated that. Emily stressed over it and I think it was one of the reasons she ended her tenure sooner than expected and moved back to England. It broke Serena's big Brazilian heart. I played cupid after a while and bribed Emily to apply for a job at one of the up-and-coming designers residing in Brooklyn. She got the job and will return to the US in less than a week. Serena is my new fan, I can tell. After bringing the redheaded brit back, I can clearly walk on water. It would be good to have that ability now that I'm the first assistant. After four months doing that, I can safely say I'm prepared for most positions in the media world.
"Andrea." Miranda's voice floats toward me and I get goosebumps. I wrack my brain, trying to figure out if I have forgotten something. I can't think of a thing, but I'm not done with the receipts yet since there are so many.
"Yes, Miranda?" I ask mildly, as I hold on to my pen and a notepad.
"How does my expense account look this month?" Miranda asks, again glancing at me over the glasses. Holy shit. Is she trying to kill me? Not only do I have to confess that I'm not ready yet, but she looks sexy enough for my thighs to clench painfully.
"I'm not done yet." I know better than to apologize. It takes up too much time and shows weakness in the workplace, according to my boss. "There were a lot this month." I hesitate. "You've been busy." Damn, why did I say that? Now it sounded like I was criticizing Miranda. Blaming her.
"Yes," she surprises me by saying in a non-committal voice. "These last months have all felt endless, but this one…I don't know. Make me wonder if time really can stand still, despite everything."
I look at my feet. No sinkhole. No rabbit hole. No escape hatch. No sci fi transporter. Zilch. "I think so too," I say, forcing my voice not to tremble. Another clear sign of weakness. That can't be true. If it was, most of Miranda's subordinates would suffer from weakness. "I think it's been like this ever since Paris." Oh. No. No, no, no, no, no. I am clearly overworked and idiot to boot. I had to mention Paris. Four months ago, I had accompanied Miranda there, since Emily had been injured when a cab ran into her as she was crossing the street carrying enough Hermes scarves to make a dress for the statue of liberty. When in Paris, I chose a bad time to stand up to Miranda, criticize her, really, and I nearly walked out on her, then and there. Fortunately, I didn't, but I have always had the feeling she knew how close I came to stomp off in a huff and throw my work phone into the nearest fountain. Instead I braved the paparazzi and reporters crowding her, but I'll never forget the look she gave me once we got into the hotel. Her eyes were narrow slits and it was as if ice crystals hung from her lashes when she let her eyes scan me, my outfit, and, no doubt, my treacherous soul. I was sure she was going to fire me, but then she merely turned and walked toward the large ballroom where the next showing was. We never addressed it. Ever.
Now, Miranda's eyes look exactly the same as they did then. She clearly doesn't appreciate my comments. I jut my chin out, dead set on looking her in the eyes and not back down. Certainly not shed any tears. That never worked out well. Somehow, as much I can't see her trying to comfort any employees—I have no problems envisioning her consoling her twin girls. The eleven-year-old Cassidy and Caroline are tough little girls on the surface, but I bet they need some extra TLC now when Miranda is neck deep in her third divorce. The previous husband, the twins' father, was more the type that pulled out whenever Miranda's fame and circumstances became too much for him to handle. He often does it to this day.
One time, Cassidy called my phone, not the office phone to reach her mother, but my own, private cell. She was frantic as James, their father, was interrogating Caroline and used much too harsh a language, not to mention how he pinched her.
I feigned a non-existent migraine and borrowed Miranda's SUV. She owns two cars, the other is a sports car, a convertible, but I knew better than to try and swipe that one. I drove to James's house in the outskirts of the Hamptons. Cassidy was waiting for me by the curve and hauled me into the living room. There, James had stopped manhandling his daughter, but was pacing back and forth, muttering how that bitch always managed to destroy his life again. He was chased by reporter whenever he left his gated community in the Hamptons. All because Miranda had scared off yet another husband. He even pitied Stephen Tomlinson.
"That's so unfair," Cassidy hissed and held onto my hand.
"Hello, Mr. Crawford. I can see you have a lot on your mind. I'm going to take the girls back with me to Manhattan, to the townhouse." I spoke firmly and extended my free hand to Caroline. "Come on, Caro. Just walk over to me."
James stared at us with blood shot eyes. "Fine. Fine! They prefer their mother's company, such a s it is, over mine, which of course is unfathomable."
I nearly said that the girls would enjoy their stays at his house more if he kept Miranda out of the equation and maintained his fucking cool. I of course didn't. Instead I hurried the girls out into the car. "Why don't we surprise your mom at her office?" I had a plan by suggesting that as well. If I took the girls to the townhouse directly, Miranda might not catch on to what was going on, but merely call their housekeeper/nanny. If I delivered them to her directly, she would see the haunted expression in Caroline's eyes, and the fury in Cassidy's and take them home herself.
I was right. Of course, I was. Nothing magical about it either. I know Miranda and when she saw her sobbing girls, she threw her arms around them. "I don't care, Andrea, how you managed this, but I'm grateful."
This was the third time Miranda expressed being thankful for something I've done. What she didn't see was how it affected me. I often dream about the encounter with the hissing James, and each time the dreams have different outcomes.
"I want you to deliver the book tonight, Andrea. I have had enough of the new girl who seems afraid of her own shadow. It sets her up for failure when she's beyond terrified of me."
I know what she means. The very young and breathless blond I share an office with, is stunningly beautiful, and not stupid by any means, but she is straight out of a Suisse all-girl college where apparently all the young women came from incredibly wealthy families and were spoiled silly. Handling a job like Miranda's assistant was clearly not on her curriculum.
"No worries, Miranda. I'll take care of it." I will have to call Doug and cancel our dinner. He won't mind. He's the only one among my college friends who gets what working as a first assistant for Miranda is like. He admires my stamina. He told me this already when Lily, once my best friend, and Nate, my former boyfriend, berated me for it.
"Thank you." Miranda returns her focus to her laptop. "That's all."
I'm torn between wondering if I'm suffering from hallucination since I could have sworn I just heard Miranda say thank you. I murmur my customary "yes, Miranda" and return to my desk. Sitting down, I'm curious to spot tremors in my hands as I pulled the computer keyboard closer. How this woman, this…this gorgeous, totally-out-of-my-league, woman throws me with just a glance, or just a word… I can't understand how I've allowed Miranda to get under my skin over the last few months. Ever since Paris, even. There, I saw the woman behind the Snow Queen persona for the first time. Yes, I've glimpsed her before. That time, when her former husband Stephen showed up drunk at the Black and White Met ball, and I managed to divert Irv's attention comes to mind. As she pulled her husband out on the dancefloor, Miranda looked at me over his shoulder and mouthed "thank you." I would have been much more surprised by the unusual words coming form her if I hadn't felt entirely confused at the conflicting emotions of watching Miranda in Stephen's arms. Then, I didn't recognize the budding jealousy in me, of course. I shrugged it off, pushing it out of my mind as I thought of my boyfriend Nate who had a birthday that day and I was going to be far too late.
Miranda leaves the office at 8.12 pm this evening. She stops at my desk and turns her back at me and when I realize she wants me to assist her with her coat, I nearly lose my balance when I stand up. She never does that. Not once, have I ever witness her having anyone help her like this. But of course, I assist. A chance to step closer to Miranda than I can normally do, to stand well within her personal space…I put her bag on the desk and hold up the coat for her to stick her arms into the sleeves. Her perfume, something clean combined with surprisingly flowery and sweet notes, as well as musk-like undertones, wafts at me. I adjust her collar and sees that some of the darker hair at the back of her head is stuck between it and tangled in her Chanel statement necklace. Afraid that she will think me to forward, I try to casually push my fingers underneath and flick the offending locks over the cashmere collar.
Miranda shudders and slowly turns to look at me. This time, there are no imaginary icicles and her eyes are wider than I've ever seen. "Andrea?"
"Sorry. I, um, your hair…I mean, you want it perfect and, I…" I shrug, mortified and so sure she'll say something scathing, even mean, that I have to force myself not to recoil.
"Well, then. Thank you. Good to know that I have you looking out for my perceived perfection." Miranda pushes her bag into the crease of her arm and walks out of the outer office. The sound of her heels grows quieter as they carry her toward the elevator.
I stand there as if someone poured fast-hardening lead on me. My body is on fire, but I can't move. Relieved that I'm alone in the office, I slowly sit down behind my desk and finally manage to breathe again. The second thank you within a single workday. Unheard of. And what the hell was that look about? When had I ever seen Miranda's eyes grow large and change into dark-blue? Perhaps when she received that vintage Givenchy dress…or when the junior creative team came up with a series of articles directed toward Runway's younger demographic?
I consider it. No. Not entirely. At those occasions, her eyes had glittered with triumph and professional satisfaction, but just now, when she turned to look at me…her eyes had seemed dazed and shiny. Her pupils had dilated and when I thought about it, her lips had been barely parted—the image of someone experience utter shock, really.
That doesn't make any sense whatsoever. I shake my head at myself and how easy it is for me to read stuff into other what people do, look, or say, sometimes. I really need to get a grip and just get on with things. I look at the pile of receipts that I have yet to scan and enter into Miranda's expense account. Yeah. Get on with things like those. Ugh.
The townhouse nearly seems abandoned. Only when I open the front door and turn off the alarm do I see a faint light coming from upstairs. Does Miranda want me to announce my presence? Then again, I shouldn't have to. I know the alarm lets people on the other floors issues a soft alert if a person enters the house, whether it is engaged or not. First time I heard this, I was up in Caroline's room and fetched a book she forgot to bring to school. Roy, the driver, thought I was taking too long and stepped inside, which made a ghostly voice say "a person has entered the downstairs hallway via the front door". I nearly peed myself as I was sure I was hearing voices.
"Up here, Andrea. Bring the Book." Miranda's cool and distant voice carries easily down the stairs even if this woman never shouts. At least, I have never heard her raise her voice.
"Yes, Miranda." I scurry into the downstairs closet and hang the dry cleaning, making sure to space the hangers at least three, preferably four, inches. Uncertain if Miranda wants me to remove my coat, I then examine my ankle boots. I can't bear to walk on the beautiful white and blue carpet upstairs wearing them. Quickly I toe them off and then hang my coat on the railing. Grabbing the Book, I press it against me like an armor as I brave the stairs. Two steps up, I remember the alarm and hurry back to set it again, praying I remember the code for letting myself out later.
I find Miranda in her study. Not at her desk, which was where I thought she'd be, reading glasses on the tip of her nose, decaf latte next to her laptop, or perhaps a glass of red wine. As it turns out, I was right about the wine, but Miranda is on the love seat that is angled toward the gas fire. Dressed in a dove-grey leisure suit, she is sitting with her legs pulled up, running a fingertip along the rim of the wine glass, making it sing mutedly.
"Here you go, Miranda," I say and hold out the Book.
She turns her head, but doesn't seem interested in it. Instead she nods for me to place it on the coffee table. "Have a seat."
I swallow hard to keep my nerves at bay. Slowly, I sit down at the other end of the love seat and pressed my back against the armrest opposite of hers. "Yes?" I say, my voice barely audible.
"The house is so quiet." Miranda sips her wine and then places the glass between the bottle and the Book on the table. "Sometimes, when the girls are gone for a weekend, I can hear my heartbeat, even my breathing, echo in my head. A very odd sensation indeed."
My heart melts at how forlorn she sounds, whether she realizes or not. "You might want to try renting an apartment in my building. The walls are so thin, I could keep track of all my neighbors' breathing." Naturally, I speak before I think, and only Miranda's faint smile keeps me from tossing myself out the window.
"I can imagine. Believe me, Andrea, I wasn't raised within my current income bracket. I grew up in the East End of London, and we would no doubt have found your place quite luxurious." Miranda smooths out a crease on her pants. My eyes follow her movements until I realize I am blatantly staring at Miranda's thighs. Snapping them up, I see her smile knowingly and I want to hide myself behind one of the large, knitted pillows.
"How old were you when you came to the US?" I ask, knowing that it's against some silly rule, but wanting to deflect so badly, I risk it.
"Nineteen. I had worked hard, put myself through college, and managed to save enough for an airline ticket. I thought I had enough cash to stay in New York for a month. I was certain I would find a job before then, as I was ready to do just about anything." Miranda leans her head in her palm. "I got lucky. After only a week, my money was gone as it was much more expensive in this city than I had realized, but I managed to land two jobs. One as a waitress at a diner, and one as a dogwalker. I waited tables all day and some evenings, and on my breaks, I hurried around the blocks where I worked, collected the dogs and took them for walks." She smiles toward me and gives a little shrug. "I've always loved dogs." She turns her attention to the softly snoring Saint Bernard, Patricia, who is curled up in front of the gas fireplace.
"And now you have the sweetest one in all of New York," I say. I really love the goofy canine. At first, her sheer size intimidated me, but Patty's good-natured persona won me over within days.
"I do." Miranda sighs. "She's getting on though. Large dogs like her don't have a long life-expectancy. She's seven years old."
I listen, but the words barely register. The fact that Miranda is on the loveseat with me, chatting amicably as if we're…well, friends or something, makes my head spin and my body vibrate. "She's well-tended to and healthy," I manage to say, hoping that I don't sound as breathless as I feel.
"She is." Miranda reaches for her wine glass but stops half way. "Can I offer you some wine, Andrea? Or something else."
Oh, God, no. I will spill the blood-red beverage on the blue-white rug and ruin it, the way tremors travel from my hand and up my arms. "No, thank you. I've got to start heading home. It's late and the subway—"
"What?" Miranda goes rigid and her eyes go from soft to sharp in an instant. "Subway? You are joking."
"Wha—about the subway?" Confused, I try to backtrack and remember how I put it. What can I have said that made Miranda go "work-Miranda" on me like this?
"The subway at this hour on a Friday? Are you insane?" Her chin raised, Miranda glares at me. "You must at least take a cab. From a reputable company of course."
I return her glare now. In what world does she think I live in that I can afford going home from the Upper East side to my place in a cab—from any company? "It's the subway or walking." I mimic her and jut my chin out. "I can't afford anything else." Doesn't she know what her first and second assistants make? My annoyance escalates, but then I remind myself who I'm talking to. Miranda my stem from humble beginnings, but she's lived among the one percent for the last twenty-some years.
"I will pay for it," Miranda mutters. "I couldn't bare it if—" She presses her lips together.
"It's all right. I've gone home on the subway or walked ever since I started delivering the Book, Miranda. I'll be perfectly fine." I may have raised my voice to drown out my thundering heart. Had she been about to confess to actually liking me a little bit? I mean, there have been times when I've felt a tiny bit appreciated when I've gone above and beyond, but this…'I couldn't bare it if—' What was it she almost said? That she couldn't bare it if something happened to me? Granted, she would be out of her first assistant and the new girl wasn't even close to ready to step up if I was out of the picture.
"That may be," Miranda says and drags her right hand through her hair. She dishevels it, but it looks ten times better than before. "Still."
It's that last word that changes everything. I'm just about to smooth over he unexpected concern when the words disappear from my tongue. I see true concern on her face, in her eyes. She is trying to hide it. Recoiling, she pulls her shoulders back and looks away, feigning interest in the fireplace.
"All right," I say. "I'll take a cab this time." I'm stunned at how soft my voice is, and shocked at how much I want to slide over to her and reassure her. Preferably by wrapping my arms around her and hold her so very close.
"Good." Miranda's voice is still hollow. "Or…"
I suck my lower lip in between my teeth. She keeps me waiting for the continuation of the "Or…" for what has to be at least half a minute, but I know better than to prod or try to hurry her. On the inside, I am bouncing.
"Or…" Miranda repeats, turning her head to meet my gaze. "You could stay."
I close my eyes. I have to. If I look at her right now, I'll make a total fool of myself and she will regret every saying anything to me—ever. And she will never talk to me again. Don't ask me how I know—I just do.
"Andrea?" Miranda isn't above prodding and I realize I haven't said a word.
"Why?" I cringe at the word—the question, but it is infinitely better than the gut reaction I just averted by meditating super-fast. If my body and mind had been allowed to conspire, I would have thrown myself in her arms and—that wouldn't have been good.
Miranda colors faintly. "Would you take my word for it if I tell you that I'm not sure?" She moves her hands up to her chest as if she needs to fidget, but she's not wearing any of her long necklaces, there's nothing for her to grasp. It will be a frosty day in hell before Miranda Priestly resorts to wringing her hands.
"I mean," I continue, "is it about my safety, then a taxi would suffice, right? If you ask me to stay, that has to mean…more." My courage is only skin deep and I fully expect her to eviscerate said skin with a mere glance. She doesn't. Instead she covers her mouth with a slightly unsteady hand.
"You're being very blunt. Very forward." She sounds baffled.
I have to smile. That doesn't go down well.
"Are you laughing at me?" she asks, her voice hardening.
"Never." Not sure how I know I can make everything right. "I may be an annoyingly giggly person at times, even cackling, so I'm told, but I would never laugh at you or anyone. Especially not you, Miranda." I move without really planning for it and take her hand.
Soft. Smooth, soft, and strong. My brain stalls for a moment and I squeeze Miranda's well-manicured, massaged, hand gently.
"Andrea." Miranda speaks my name in that unique way and it's like a mere breath leaving her lips. "You're…I mean we, are playing with fire." She places her free hand under my chin and tips my head back. "You're very young, but you're not that inexperienced that you don't realize that, right?"
"I'm not afraid." I finally do slide closer to her. Our knees meet and I raise her hand to my lips and kiss the back. Inhaling that scent that nearly floored me when helped her on with her coat earlier, I can barely keep from moaning.
"You're so young," Miranda murmurs again, like a mantra.
"I don't care about your age, or my own," I say dreamily as I revel in the sensation of her sliding her hand from my chin to the back of my neck. "It's irrelevant."
"It's not. It really isn't." Miranda moves her fingertips under my hair. "And yet I find it damn near impossible to care. This is obviously your fault."
I blink. "My fault?"
"By being exactly what I need and so stunningly beautiful. By being brilliant and with an exciting future. Not at Runway, of course, but at Vanity Fair, Rolling Stones, or similar. You probably have no idea how enticing it is to imagine your future." Miranda shifts and suddenly she straddles me, pressing me against the backrest with both her arms loosely around my neck. "What is not fair, is that you can't regard me the same way. My career has plateaued by being editor-in-chief at Runway. I can maintain my position at best and even that is barely worth it with Irv and the board scrutinizing every bloody thing I do."
I wonder if she realizes she's squirming against me as she speaks. I want to push my hands under her shirt, fondle her, but know I have to speak my mind—first. "You're selling yourself much to short, Miranda," I say quietly, caressing her back. I don't want to seem presumptuous, but she really is wrong. "You have more left to give than most people. There is more to life, professionally speaking, than Runway. I will love watching you go from one success to another. Your finest hour is yet to come, Miranda Priestly." To drive my point home, and also because I can't stop myself anymore, I cup her cheeks and pull her in for a light kiss. There.
My heart damn near jumps out through my ribs when my lips meet Miranda's. If I thought her hands were soft, they're nothing like her lips. Without lipstick, they're like silk and I have to really remind myself that I can't deepen the kiss no matter how much I crave it.
As it turns out, Miranda assumes it is all right. Suddenly her tongue is in my mouth and I whimper, trembling all over. I meet her tongue with mine, caress it, taste her, and groan.
Miranda begins to undulate where she sits on my thighs, and I know I'll come right then and there if she doesn't ease up. I can't think clearly. "Miranda," I murmur against her lips. "You may get more than you bargained for."
"What?" Miranda pulled back. Her eyes were powder blue and unfocused.
"You have no idea how long I've fantasized about this…or something like this. Being in your arms…I feel like a runaway train." I hope she understands my cryptic words. My brain is fried and I can't think of the right words.
"Are you saying you're close already?" Miranda places a gentle hand on my left breast.
I cry out and arch. Flashes of light erupt on the inside of my eyelids. I have never been so close to coming without falling off the edge instantly. Perhaps there is something to hedging after all? That or I may perish from sheer arousal.
"Close. Practically there." I want to hide my face at her neck, but she looks at me with so many emotions flickering across her face that I can't. I don't want to miss a thing.
"For me?" Miranda looks apprehensive, but her eyes are still locked on mine.
"Only you. For months." I'll have no secrets left it this keeps up.
"Andrea…" Miranda pushes one hand down between us an in between my legs. I can't stop it anymore. I wail, arch again as the tension in my system builds and builds. And then I'm there. And it's like nothing I've ever felt. The searing pleasure is almost pain. I take her breasts in my hands and the feeling of Miranda's soft flesh behind the shirt is the last straw. I cry out and arch under her, effectively pressing her hand harder against me, and, I realize, against her.
Miranda breathes so fast now, I hope it means she's about to come to. Now that my first orgasm is fading, I can enjoy hers and like before, I'm greedy and want it all. To watch the woman I fell for months ago grind against her own hand, while straddling my thighs is mesmerizing. Fully dressed, she's flushed and her eyes are blazing.
"Come, Miranda," I whisper. If this is a onetime thing, I want her to give it her all. I want to absorb her energy, her orgasm, her beauty. "Come for me." I undulate against her, wanting to help her, wanting to be the one who gives her pleasure.
"Don't let me fall," Miranda whispers. "Andrea. Hold on to me."
I wrap my arms around her and she latches on with her lips against the skin on the side of my neck. A tiny orgasm erupts deep in between my legs. I groan.
Miranda cries out, not as loud as I was, but for her it is the equivalent of screaming at the top of her lungs. "Andrea!"
I melt. She yells my name. I'm the one on her mind as she lets herself go. I feel moisture on my cheeks and bury my face in her hair. "That's it. Give it to me. I want it so much…your pleasure, your body, you…you, Miranda. I want you."
Groaning again, now from stretching and moving half off me, Miranda still holds on hard to me. "You have me," she murmurs. "If you truly want me. You have me."
I drown in those words. I'm not stupid. I do realize the risk she's taking, how vulnerable she, in her position, is if I handle this badly…or treat her like her asshole former husbands. All three. Guess with her track record, she is entitled to be cautious.
I think about what I risk. If people knew, they could assume I was sleeping my way to a promotion or a glowing recommendation to add to my CV. That's one thing. Then there's the fact that she is enormously wealthy and I'm living paycheck to paycheck.
"I want you, Miranda. I can't remember not wanting you. It feels like forever since I realized how I truly feel about you." I feel tears pressing to free themselves and my eyes burn. "I never in a million years thought you might…see me this way. I had settled for being the best assistant you could ever dream up—to make your life a little easier." My turn to tremble.
"Darling." Pulling me with her, Miranda lies down on the couch. Tangling her legs with mine, she smiles gently—not that glowing 'look at me, I'm still in charge, bitches'—kind of smile that she offers people she wants something from at gatherings or at the office. No, this is a smile that resembles the one she gives her girls, but with completely different undertones. Nothing maternal in how her eyes devour me. Yes, there's tenderness there, but she also portrays a sexy predator. "You do make my life easier. The way you take care of my girls when I'm…otherwise engaged. That, to me, shows you are not just my assistant. You're so much more, Andrea."
And my entire soul screams that I want to be hers entirely.
I kiss Miranda's forehead, the tip of her iconic nose, and then her lips. She actually rolls her eyes, which also very much her style. I don't mind it. It's Miranda. I'm in her arms, where I feel unexpectedly safe, and she doesn't want me to go.
The couch is a little too short, but I don't care. Snuggling closer to Miranda, inhaling her scent, I know it won't be long before I dare tell her that I love her.