The dull clink of a bottle against glass was the only sound in the otherwise quiet room. The silence was deafening. Interesting thought. An oxymoron, yes, but a most telling one. Thin, pink lips twisted as an elegant hand lifted the now full glass to them. They parted, allowing the flow of fiery liquid to pass. The long column of pale throat moved as the whiskey was swallowed. After the glass was lowered, a sculpted nail tapped against the rim, the faint ping, ping sounding bell-like. Dull grayish-blue eyes narrowed as thoughts moved with lightning speed through what was fast becoming an inebriated mind.
The name brought a flood of memories. Large, limpid brown eyes that darkened to almost black when the mood for love struck; full, red pouty lips that struck heat in Miranda's belly when they came close to her skin and her body; that long, lushly curved body. Miranda shuddered at just the thought of feeling Andréa's body against hers, on hers. Even now she felt the liquid tightness in her loins that thoughts of Andréa always brought.
She's a drug and I the addict. A much preferable drug to this. Miranda glared harshly at the cut crystal glass in her hand. She would much prefer the taste of Andréa on her tongue to the 15-year old Van Winkle bourbon. The liquor had been a rather pointed gift from Irv on her fiftieth birthday. At the speed at which bourbon aged, fifteen years was ancient and would no longer have the characteristics it had begun with. She had shoved it into the back of her liquor cabinet incensed at what the gift implied. What better occasion to drink it than now. Like Rip Van Winkle, she felt as if she were waking from a long sleep leaving behind the vestiges of a dream that she would have given her very life to go back to.
One could never go backwards. A truth Miranda adhered to and in the moment despised because she did want to go back, back to the moment before she picked up the phone extension in her study, before she had heard the words that brought the life she had come to need to an end. If she had only taken a moment to realize the phone was in use, that instead of the family line Andréa had used Miranda's personal one. A dead cell phone had caused all this. Why couldn't Andréa have remembered to charge the stupid thing? Then I would not have known. I could have remained blissfully ignorant and this, this affair might have passed unknown. Swallowing the remaining contents of her glass in one large gulp, Miranda painstakingly refilled it. Her movements slow and controlled, as controlled as the icy calm she fought desperately to maintain.
How unalike they were, Andréa and Stephen. Beyond question of gender, their temperaments were so different. Yin and Yang. Stephen had resented her power, her ambition, while Andréa had seemed to revel in it, to admire all Miranda had accomplished. Stephen had wanted the reflected glory, but at the same time wanted her to be Mrs. Tomlinson, secondary to himself in all things. Andréa had appeared content to stay a step behind, letting Miranda Priestly have the stage to herself and had sought equality only in their private lives. Whereas knowing others desired Miranda had inflated Stephen's ego, his sense of ownership, Andréa had shown true jealousy when someone else crossed the line and invaded Miranda's personal space. Stephen's jealousy of who Miranda was outside their marriage had resulted in his becoming drunk and insulting her employers in a highly public manner. Andréa's had been based purely on her love and desire for Miranda as a person. In those rare instances, Andréa had simply stepped forward and linked hands with Miranda or rested her hand on Miranda's lower back, quietly showcasing her right to touch Miranda as she pleased with a gracious smile. The warning had been just as clear and much more tastefully done. Instead of the dread that Stephen's actions would elicit, Miranda had felt protected, loved, and slightly amused by the gestures. The other party always retreated from Andréa's clearly drawn lines.
Her lips curled in a slight smile, Miranda remembered the one instance when that boundary had not been respected. It had been at a charity function hosted by the board of the Met. The man, a wealthy dilettante who aimlessly moved through life collecting conquests among accomplished women, had aggressively ignored Andréa's subtle signals by moving in closer to Miranda, convinced he had more to offer a woman of Miranda's stature than the young reporter, no matter how beautiful she might be. Miranda had felt Andréa's body tensing and for a moment feared a scene such as had been Stephen's specialty. She should have realized such an action was not an option for Andréa.
Her lover had stepped boldly forward and spoken quietly into the man's ear for several moments. Miranda had watched fascinated as his face became progressively redder before the color suddenly receded leaving him a ghastly shade of white. Andréa stepped back and struck a pose worthy of the most seasoned supermodel as her tongue slipped out to wet already moist lips. Miranda had never seen her lover place her body on display in quite so blatant a manner. He had quickly turned and left not only their presence but the event itself. With a smug expression, Andréa returned to her place at Miranda's side apparently quite satisfied with herself.
A quick succession of well wishers followed, but Miranda returned to the previous incident the moment they were left alone again.
"What did you say to him, Andréa? I've never seen Elliot quite so flustered."
She could still remember the blush that had tinged Andréa's cheeks as she looked everywhere but at Miranda.
"Well, I simply said that as he didn't seem inclined to accept that you were already involved with me, we could settle things the old fashioned way with a competition," Andréa had admitted.
"A competition? Really, Andréa, pistols at dawn?" Miranda had been incensed to think her lover would participate in something so barbaric.
"Umm, no, no pistols. I just told him to go find the last woman he'd given continuing orgasms to for three solid hours and we'd let you and her judge who you'd rather have topless in a thong ready to provide the next three hours worth." Andréa's blush had rivaled Elliot's at that moment.
Miranda hadn't been able to contain either her laughter or the rush of desire that overtook her as her mind formed the image Andréa had suggested. She had practically dragged Andréa from the event and unable to wait until they were back at Andréa's apartment, Miranda attacked her in the back of the Mercedes. The three hours Andréa had proposed stretched throughout the night while Andréa's thong had only made it through the first two before Miranda had shredded it.
She only wished she could laugh as easily now. Because somewhere tonight her lover was providing that to someone else. It was the only similarity Miranda had ever found between Andréa and Stephen and the last one she would have expected.
She rested her head against the back of the chair in which she sat. What was it about her that caused all her lovers to seek the company of others? In the past perhaps she hadn't been as attentive to the other person's needs as she could have been, but she had tried to rectify that with Andréa. She had made a point of being home for dinner three nights a week and of always keeping her Sundays, if not the entire weekend, free. In the past she had viewed sex as a somewhat pleasant obligation she was required to perform to maintain the appearance of a happy marriage. With Andréa, Miranda needed to mentally restrain herself from touching her lover at every opportunity no matter how inappropriate the setting. Quite literally, she craved Andréa, the taste of her, the smell of her, the sound of her.
Had she not known, had she only suspected that Andréa was having an affair, Miranda would have pretended ignorance. Keeping Andréa in her life, in her bed, was far more important than some vague possibility of sharing her with a nameless, faceless other. While she might still be faceless, the other woman was not nameless. Andréa had spoken her name just that night in a quiet tone of affection over Miranda's phone as they had made plans to meet. She could still hear their voices echoing in the quiet of her home.
"My dear Andy, does she know about the affair?" The voice had been quiet and cultured, reflecting a lifetime of breeding. The tone and timbre spoke of a woman around Miranda's age which added insult to the injury Miranda felt. She couldn't quite believe what she'd just heard until Andréa replied.
"No, she doesn't, and I have no intention of Miranda knowing until I've made up my mind. This isn't like deciding what's for dinner or which shoes to wear with which dress."
Of course, not, Miranda had thought. The girls decide on dinner and I match her shoes and clothes.
"I know you'll make the right choice. I'll expect you in about an hour then. How long will you be able to stay this evening?" the voice had continued.
"About three hours, then I really have to get some sleep. I have an early appointment tomorrow."
"I had hoped for longer, Andy. Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing you again."
"Me too, Clarisse."
The call had ended shortly, and Miranda had placed the receiver back in place gently, afraid that if she didn't take care she would start to scream and never stop. She felt that urge again now. She wanted to shout and cry and throw things. Instead, she sat quietly, knees crossed and slowly sipped her drink. She wanted only to drink herself into oblivion and escape far from the pain she held tightly sealed deep inside. She had tried to appear normal as Andréa took her leave, not wanting her lover to know that she was aware of where Andréa was going, what she would be doing this evening.
This Clarisse person knew about Miranda. That was obvious. Was she even now convincing Andréa to leave Miranda? Would it really even be leaving? After all, she and Andréa didn't live together though Miranda dearly wanted them to. She had been ready for Andréa to move in from that first night when she faced her feelings for Andréa. Even now, she had trouble believing Andréa had found the nerve to call after her interview at the Mirror. Miranda had known the time of the appointment and had pointedly snubbed Andréa on the street afterward. Yet, the determined woman had called that night expressing her appreciation and desire to take Miranda to dinner to show her thanks. Miranda still wasn't sure why she'd accepted.
The evening hadn't been anything like Miranda had expected. She'd had visions of eating street food on a cold bench in the park somewhere. Instead, they had had a delicious meal in an unassuming but quietly elegant restaurant near Andréa's apartment. Miranda had been surprised to find herself actually talking to her ex-assistant and listening when the young woman spoke. They had discussed literature, art, music and a variety of other things that Miranda was amazed to find Andréa interested in. They had not mentioned Paris or Runway. Miranda had found something that night she wasn't expecting, an intelligent, educated young woman who was thoughtful and though- provoking. She had found the beginnings of a friendship, if she were to allow it. Another sip of bourbon brought her thoughts around to why she had allowed it.
She had never found an acceptable answer other than that she enjoyed Andréa's company until one night as she stepped into the shower to prepare for yet another outing, this one to the theater. She had smiled to herself over some small joke Andréa had made during their phone conversation earlier that day and thought fleetingly, I do love her so. The world had frozen in that moment. Afraid to breathe, Miranda stared at the tiles around her, oblivious to the water beating down on her. I love her. How did that even happen? The water became icy pins against her skin before she was again aware of it. She had quickly stepped from the spray, dragged a robe onto her wet body and called to cancel the evening.
"Miranda, hey. I'm…"
"I'm not able to attend, Andréa. Perhaps another time," Miranda clipped each word with a finality that was hard to ignore.
"Wait a minute! Why not? "Andy shot back.
Miranda's mind raced seeking a plausible explanation.
"The girls. They're sick, terribly sick. I can not possibly go out tonight." She hated using her girls that way but at the moment, Miranda was desperate to have a reason Andréa couldn't argue with.
"I see. What's wrong with them?" Andréa's tone held more than slight disbelief.
"Terrible colds, and a high fever. I really must get back to them. Good night, Andréa." She hung up the phone quickly before Andréa could ask anything else. Tossing the phone on the bed, she hurried to let the nanny know she wouldn't be needed for the night. With her gone, Miranda would be unable to change her mind and call Andréa back. She stopped at the top of the stairs and stared down at the three people looking up at her from the bottom. Andréa stood, sleek and tall, in a black Armani suit between her daughters with an arm around each.
"They look amazing considering they're at death's door, don't they?" Andréa teased." Now you want to tell me what's really going on?"
"I don't…I can't…" Miranda suddenly realized she was standing there with a wet robe plastered to her body and rivulets running down her neck and chest from her sopping hair. Could she have possibly looked worse? "I choose not to go out tonight," she snapped and escaped to the safety of her room, thinking no one would dare follow her.
Once again, she had underestimated Andréa Sachs. A fact she only realized when the door swung open and she spun around to find Andréa leaning against the jamb, arms crossed over her chest, studying her.
"I think I deserve a little more than that, don't you?" Andréa asked, as her eyes made a lazy perusal of Miranda's body.
"I'm not dressed," Miranda stated the obvious.
"I've seen you in that robe before, though I have to admit it wasn't quite as…form-fitting previously," Andréa allowed seemingly unable to stop looking at the way the gray material adhered to Miranda's skin. It was the first time Andréa had looked at her in quite that way. Oh, her glances had always been admiring, but they had never previously contained the same degree of heat. "Still waiting, Miranda," Andréa encouraged.
"I can no longer continue to see you," Miranda stated. It was apparent to her that the only solution was to cut Andréa out of her life. She was not at all the type to do unrequited love well. Hell, she couldn't even manage requited love with any constancy.
Andréa straightened, her hands going to her hips. She stared at Miranda in exasperation.
"Why the hell not? What did I do?"
"You didn't do anything. I simply cannot continue to partake in a friendship with my ex-assistant in such a manner. It's highly unethical, not to mention what the papers would make of it. Nor can I put this type of ammunition in the hands of Irv and the other board members who want me out." Miranda began to pace, unaware she was rambling and that none of her reasons applied to maintaining a friendship with Andréa. But then, friends was not how Miranda now realized she thought of her. She fixed Andréa with an icy glare that should have sent the young woman scrambling for escape. "It was entirely ridiculous to think that you and I could continue in such a manner. I have a great deal invested in my reputation and being seen together is nothing short of damaging. I would much prefer you to leave my home and not contact me again in the future. We cannot continue to date, I mean, spend time together in this manner." Miranda drew herself up looking as disdainful as her wet hair and damp body would allow.
Andréa continued to stand in the doorway, hands on hips, head cocked slightly to the side as she studied Miranda.
"Yes, I kinda thought it felt like we were dating, too," was the response she gave at last ignoring all that Miranda had said except the one word that seemed to mean something to her. "I don't agree that we should stop though." She lifted one arm to glance at the watch she wore. "We'll never make it to the theater now, so that's out. We can go to dinner or we can just stand here while I watch you drip dry."
Miranda stared at her, mouth agape. Was Andréa not listening? "D-dating?" she sputtered. "We were never dating."
"Then it's high time we started," Andréa shot back. "So, are you getting dressed, or do you want me to help with that?"
Miranda could feel the flush that burned her face at the thought of Andréa helping her to dress. She clutched at the front of her robe holding it in place.
"You wouldn't dare!"
Andréa laughed, throwing back her head.
"I didn't say I was going to tear the robe off you. Though now that you mention it…" Andréa grinned and took a step forward.
Miranda backed up quickly, dropping onto the bed when she felt it behind her knees, only to bounce right back up afraid Andréa would take it as an invitation to join her. This was, by far, not the timid young woman who had first walked into her office over a year ago. No, this was the one that had stood up to her demanding a chance before walking out of that same office. Now, as then, she found that Andréa Sachs was both intriguing and attractive.
"Give me fifteen minutes," Miranda conceded.
"All right, I'll be downstairs," Andréa stepped into the hallway, closing the door behind her.
Miranda poured the amber liquid from bottle to glass once again. She noticed that perhaps a fourth of the contents was gone. And more will vanish before the night is over. She took a sip and turned once again to her musings.
It had been over thirty minutes before Miranda descended the stairs. The extra fifteen spent in trying to decide what to wear on what would now be their first official date. She had always taken care with her appearance when she was spending the evening with Andréa, but truly no more than she normally would to appear in public. That night was different, though, Miranda felt as if what she wore would send a message about what she wanted them to be in the future so she chose with that thought in mind, considering and discarding several outfits before she arrived at one she thought would be acceptable. It was flattering, only mildly revealing and a perfect complement to the suit Andréa wore. A perfect first date outfit in Miranda's opinion. That Andréa agreed was clear in the warmth of her dark eyes as she watched Miranda descend the stairs to stand before her.
They had returned to the same restaurant where they had shared their first meal at. It seemed to Miranda that Andréa was starting again. Only this time her intentions were made clear throughout the evening. They repeated many of their previous outings, and each time Andréa added just a little something to make Miranda aware they were actually on a date this time around. Something as simple as a single rose lying across her plate when they were seated for dinner or Andréa offering her arm as they walked let Miranda know she was being courted in a very old fashioned manner.
Caroline and Cassidy had not been at all happy about it when they first realized their mother was becoming serious about the tall, dark haired woman she spent so much time with. Their mother having a friend was wonderful. Her dating a young, beautiful woman wasn't ideal, though they could accept it as long as Miranda was happy. Mom becoming serious enough about this woman to bring up their possibly living together was going too far. They had both let Miranda know that in no uncertain terms. Andréa as a potential "father figure" was out, and sleepovers were just…ewwwww. If Miranda wanted to see Andréa "like that," she would have to do so at the other woman's apartment.
Luckily, Andréa had been accepting of the situation, behaving appropriately when she spent time at Miranda's home and the girls were there. She hadn't pushed, hadn't asked for anything Miranda was not ready to give voluntarily. They had gone on several dates before Miranda allowed her to kiss her goodnight, and it was weeks later before she let things go any further. It wasn't that she didn't want Andréa, didn't desire her with a hunger that kept her awake long after they parted each time. She simply could not afford to make a mistake, not with Irv breathing down her neck more determined than ever to oust her from Runway.
That she and Andréa were involved was an open secret. No one, not even the press, commented on it although Miranda was never really sure why. In the beginning she had expected their relationship to be splashed across Page Six at any time. It was possible that it had all simply come about amidst enough real scandals that it wasn't considered news worthy, not without a fiery public argument, drunkenness or other licentious behavior. Two women having dinner or walking in the park just wasn't high enough on the sensation meter to warrant notice. They had simply gone about their relationship in a quiet manner, letting it slowly develop into what it now was.
Perhaps that had been her mistake. Instead of letting them drift into a comfortable state, which is where she thought Andréa had wanted to go, Miranda should have pushed harder. She should have made a blatant, public commitment and insisted the twins accept it. She had moved too slowly, too timidly, wanting to win their acceptance and had lost Andréa in the process. If she had, indeed, lost Andréa, though, the earlier conversation she'd inadvertently eavesdropped on made it seem Andréa hadn't made a final decision on whom to be with. Did that mean Miranda could win her back? Did she want to or should she salvage what dignity she had left by ending things herself? For once, she could be the one to leave.
Not that it matters, she admitted with a healthy swig of bourbon to wash the thought down. Whoever made the first move, Miranda had nothing left. Irv had finally succeeded. As of Monday's board meeting she would be out. He had managed at long last to stack the board with his cronies, people willing to vote however he told them and willing to believe whatever lies he crafted. They were all now convinced that a different editor would generate the same sales with lower overhead, thereby increasing the profits. He had been more than pleased to tell her as much earlier that day. He no longer cared about her list, his vendetta against her had eaten away what was left of his good sense.
She had intercepted that phone call before she had been able to tell Andréa. Afterwards, there seemed little point in doing so. Her lover was in a clear hurry to get to her "appointment" and only listened with half a mind to the conversation at dinner. She had left shortly thereafter. The girls were off to their father's for the weekend. Miranda had retrieved the bottle of bourbon and settled in her favorite chair after everyone left. She was easily a third of the way through the bottle now. She did have to hand it to Irv on this one count. The bourbon was silky smooth. How like to him to provide such a good taste in such bad taste. She laughed mirthlessly sure that the thought made sense to no one except herself, but then who did she really have to share it with?
She loved her daughters. She truly did, but like all teenagers, they were too involved with their own happiness to care about anyone else's. Both Runway and Andréa would be gone soon enough. Then there would just be Miranda and whatever bottle might come her way next. The doorbell peeled interrupting her thoughts. Frowning, Miranda hefted herself from the chair and weaved her way downstairs to the front door. She peered blearily through the peephole. Someone really should produce these with prescription lenses. Biting back a laugh as she recognized her visitor, Miranda threw open the door.
"Sylvia. How appropriately inappropriate," she toasted the other woman before draining her glass. "Do come in." She headed back up the stairs for a refill leaving the other woman to follow or not. She dropped back into her chair and topped off her glass not at all curious as to why Andréa's mother was at her door. Perhaps Andréa sent her to break up with me in her stead. How deliciously Machiavellian. Or perhaps not. At the moment she was none too clear on what Machiavellian meant, but she was sure it fit the situation and its participants somehow. If not Andréa, then surely it applied to Irv.
"Miranda, I went by Andy's apartment and she wasn't in, I thought she might be here. She's not answering her cell," Sylvia offered as she followed Miranda into her study.
Then her mother doesn't know. Deciding she would be magnanimous and fill Sylvia in on her daughter's wandering ways, Miranda waved her glass. "Do have a drink. I have no idea where Andréa is, other than with whatever harlot she has deemed appropriate to grace with her favors this evening. As for her cell, it seems the wicked thing won't hold a charge whereas its owner will hold anything or anyone she can get her hands on."
To say that Sylvia appeared shocked, would be equivalent of saying Irv had a mild dislike for Miranda.
"Miranda, how much have you had to drink?" Sylvia asked, her concern apparent.
"About half as much as I will have before I'm through," Miranda responded with an attempt at a pleasant smile that leaned too much towards evil to be mistaken. "Please join me. There are glasses over there somewhere." She slung a good amount of bourbon across the room as she gestured.
Sylvia rushed to take the glass from her before even more alcohol came her way.
"How about I make us both a cup of coffee, and you tell me what's going on?" she offered.
"I have no desire to become sober, Sylvia. My life is sobering enough on its own. Let's not help it to be more so." Really, an alcoholic haze could only improve the viewing of her life in Miranda's opinion. "You will have to seek Andréa elsewhere, perhaps with her new lover."
"New…" Sylvia looked puzzled. "Andy didn't say anything to me about the two of you breaking up when I talked to her earlier today."
"She hasn't said anything about it to me either. I had thought she'd sent you to do the dirty deed for her," Miranda reached again for the bottle only to discover the hand that had held her glass all evening was now empty. She looked over both sides of her chair but couldn't locate the insufferable piece of crystal. With a shrug, she turned the bottle up and took a healthy pull on it, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand.
"Okay, I don't think this is helping coherence any," Sylvia remarked as she reached for the bottle.
Miranda pulled it back against her chest and narrowed her gaze.
"Just because I put various parts of your daughter's anatomy in my mouth does not indicate I'm willing to let you drink from the same bottle. Get a glass," she growled.
Holding up Miranda's glass which she still held, Sylvia encouraged her to hand over the bottle.
She carefully checked out the label surprised that over half the contents still remained.
"What is this stuff? Two hundred proof? Maybe I should drink some, then neither of us will remember tomorrow what you just said," she sat glass and bottle down out of Miranda's reach. "Your enunciation is as impeccable as always, Miranda. Your coherence leaves much to be desired however. Now, would you like to start at the beginning and tell me where Andy is and what's going on?" She sat on the stool in front of Miranda's chair to wait…and wait...and wait.
Miranda simply sat and glared. She had been perfectly clear the first time. What was it with these Sachs women that they seemed to insist on Miranda restating the obvious? Fine, they would just sit there then.
The sound of the front door opening and footsteps crossing the hall brought Sylvia to the top of the stairs hoping that it was Andy. She'd settle for anyone who could end this stalemate. She watched as a young redhead hung plastic-covered clothes in a closet and then set a thick binder on one of the tables.
"Hello? Who are you?" Sylvia called down.
The young woman jumped and spun in place, looking up at her with wide eyes while holding one hand to her chest.
"E-emily," she gasped. "I'm Miranda's assistant."
"Oh, good. Then maybe you can help me make sense of what she's saying." At this point any help would be appreciated.
"I beg your pardon?" The woman glanced fearfully towards the den. "What who's saying?"
Then again, maybe not.
"Oh, just come up here and help me," Sylvia snapped. She turned back to the den hearing the clack of heels crossing the hall. Clackers. Andy was right. She rolled her eyes at discovering Miranda had retrieved both bottle and glass. Well, she'd just have to steal them back. She waved Emily in and pointed to where Miranda sat sipping. "I need to find Andy, and Her Highness is being no help. Maybe if you ask her."
"Me?" It came out as more of a squeak than a word. "You want me to ask Miranda Priestly where Andy is?"
"I would have thought you'd be brighter what with being Miranda's assistant and all," Sylvia observed.
"Finally, something we agree upon," Miranda sniped between drinks.
Noticing the flare of anger in Emily's eyes, Sylvia decided to try again.
"I'm Sylvia Sachs, Andy's mother. She was expecting me tomorrow, but I managed to finish my business sooner than I expected and got an earlier flight. When I went to her apartment, she wasn't home, and I came here figuring she'd be at Miranda's which I now find is not the case. Miranda, however, seems in no condition to give a straight answer to a straight question," Sylvia explained.
"That explains it all, you know," Miranda mumbled. "I should have remained straight, men are much easier. Flash your boobs and they fall over themselves to produce a ring. At least they do until a better pair flashes by. That's what happened, Andréa's been flashed by a better pair."
Emily stared at her boss openmouthed while Sylvia pinched the bridge of her nose.
"You can see what I'm up against, Emily," Sylvia advised.
"What the bloody hell is she drinking? And how much has she had?"
"Almost half a bottle of Van Winkle bourbon. I offered to make coffee. It wasn't pretty. Any suggestions?" Sylvia really did want help at this point even if Emily didn't seem too quick on the uptake.
"Did you try to take it away from her?" Emily asked though it was clear she'd never try it. She seemed to think Andrea's mother might be exempt from drawing and quartering.
"Yes and you don't want to know what she said. Any other ideas?"
"Perhaps," Emily said pulling out her cell and flipping it open before addressing her boss. "Miranda, I have Patrick. Let me take that so you can talk to him."
Miranda handed the bottle to Emily and took the phone.
"Hello? Hello? He hung up on me! Emily, he will never work for Runway again."Miranda huffed, tossing the phone onto the stool in front of her.
Turning from where she was secreting the bottle behind the couch, Emily clasped her hands in front of her.
"Yes, Miranda," she responded respectfully.
"You're good," Sylvia complimented her.
"Yes, well, let's hope she doesn't remember this tomorrow. Patrick will never forgive me," Emily replied. "Miranda, Andrea asked me to call and remind her of your dinner tomorrow night, but I've been unable to reach her."
Miranda waved vaguely.
"Her cell is dead. There's no need to remind her, Emily. She'll undoubtedly be with her new lover tomorrow as she is tonight. You can cancel whatever reservations she had made. At least she won't use those for her harlot. Send Emily to get the skirts I wanted and move the run through up an hour, but don't tell them until ninety minutes before. It had better be perfect. Jocelyn does not want to drag a rehash of last season in front of me today," Miranda snarled and then sighed. "Not that it matters. I won't be here much longer if Irv has his way."
Emily turned to Andy's mother, her complexion even paler.
"It appears your daughter has a new love interest, and Mr. Ravitz has made good on his threat to fire Miranda. Is there anything else you'd like to know?"
"Have you considered moving to Cincinnati?" Sylvia couldn't help asking. She could use someone like Emily in her office.
The Brit looked at her askance.
"Oh, well," Sylvia sighed. "It never hurts to ask."
"Couldn't't hurt whom?" Emily replied at her snootiest. It was apparent she couldn't imagine anyone voluntarily moving to Cincinnati, and to suggest that Emily might have thought of such a thing was highly insulting.
"None of this tells me where Andy is, though," Sylvia decided to return to the original subject.
Retrieving her phone, Emily placed a quick call.
"Roy? Did you drop Andrea off anywhere tonight? You did. Yes, I'll be out shortly." She flipped the phone shut with a smirk. "Andrea's at the Ritz-Carlton."
"The Ritz? Why- Oh!" Sylvia suddenly realized what was going on. Pulling her own phone out, she made a call. "Hello? Yes, Sylvia Sachs calling for Andy Sachs. …Thank you." She paced as she waited. "Andy? It's Mom. …I'm at Miranda's. ...Yes, well, I came early. Listen, sweetie, you need to get over here right away. …Well, in a nutshell, she's drunk. …Why? Because you broke up with her, of course. ...Yes, that's what I thought. Now get over here." Snapping the phone shut, she dropped down on the couch with a sigh. "Emily, my dear, we need coffee and lot's of it. Your lovely employer here is a right wanker, to borrow your vernacular. We need to sober her up fast."
Emily glanced at Miranda who had been staring dejectedly into space throughout. With a quick nod she headed towards the kitchen. "I just hope I'm not signing my own death warrant by helping you," she murmured.
Emily was on her way back up the stairs with a laden tray when the front door flew open to admit a breathless Andy Sachs.
"Em! Where's Miranda?"
She nodded towards the den and continued on her way. Setting the tray on a low table, she fixed a cup for Miranda and handed it to her boss, who stared first at the cup and then at her.
"I don't recall asking for this," Miranda hissed. "I believe I have repeatedly asked for a certain bottle to be returned to me. I can only assume you have suffered a psychotic break as you have yet to do so, Emily."
"Miranda, quit picking at Emily."
Miranda's gaze swiveled to the doorway only to narrow further.
"What could you possibly want here?" She glared at Andréa.
Andy crossed the room and settled on the stool in front of her lover.
"You're here, baby. That's all the reason I need."
Miranda looked into earnest brown eyes trying to find the deceit she thought would be there. She had always been able to tell when Stephen was lying. She should be able to do the same with Andréa, but she saw only honesty and love reflected back at her.
"Who is she, Andréa?" Miranda demanded. "Is she younger than me? More beautiful?" She would not ask if the woman had more money as she knew Andréa didn't care about such things. "Does she have better boobs? Did she flash you?"
"Flash me? Miranda, what are you talking about? Mom's right. You've had way too much to drink, baby." Andy reached out to cup Miranda's cheek in one palm. "There's no one but you, Miranda. I promise. "
"Don't lie to me." The quiet tone was roughened with suppressed tears. "I heard you. On the phone with her. She asked you if I knew about the affair and you told her no, not until you made a decision. There's no decision, Andréa. I want you gone." The finality in her voice left no room for misunderstanding.
Andy smiled. "You do, huh? Even if you're the only woman, the only person in my life. You heard half a conversation, Miranda. The last half. The "affair" was a reference to a social engagement. The decision I have to make is concerning an honor someone wants to bestow on me that I'm not sure I want. Now drink your coffee."
Miranda dutifully sipped the searing brew. If she was to believe her, then Andréa wasn't having an affair. She narrowed her eyes as another question occurred to her.
"Who is Clarisse?"
Sylvia chuckled and provided the answer.
"That would be Clarisse Renaldi, Dowager Queen of Genovia."
"What would a Dowager Queen want with you?" Emily had to ask. It was just too preposterous.
Andy blushed. "It wasn't actually Clarisse. It was Mia, her granddaughter, the actual Queen. "
"There's a Queen Mia," Emily scoffed.
"Well, no," Andy admitted. "There's a Queen Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi. Mia's her nickname. She's my cousin."
"You're related to a queen," Miranda stated as if it was perfectly understandable and the most logical thing in the world to find out her lover had a royal cousin.
"Well, yeah. Anyway, Mia wants to give me this title thing, like a knighthood or something," Andy continued to explain.
"She wants to make you a Dame," Miranda clarified.
"Just because you're related?" Emily was clearly having a hard time with this.
"Damn, Em, you've got a Queen. They don't do it just because you're related. I kinda saved Mia's life the last time I was there. I really didn't do anything. Some idiot tried to take a shot at her and I pushed her down is all. Clarisse keeps calling it a 'Service to the Throne of Genovia,' So now Mia's all wound up about clunking me with this sword. If you knew Mia, you'd know how scary that thought is because she can be a real klutz sometimes. I could lose an ear or something."
Miranda finally leaned forward and kissed Andréa to stop her rambling. She might be sobering up quickly but not enough to keep listening to that.
"I don't understand why you didn't tell me sooner, darling," she questioned.
"You know I don't like being in the spotlight," Andy sighed. "Things have been so quiet for us. I'm not sure I want to stir up the press with a sword clunking ceremony. It's a little more complicated than you're thinking. Clarisse was just starting to explain exactly what it would all mean when Mom called."
"I think it's a lovely idea, Andréa, but it's up to you." She knew there was more to the story of Andréa saving Mia's life. She was sure she would hear it later just as she would have to share her news with Andréa, but first she needed to reassure her lover. "If you are concerned about the press, don't be. There is little they can do to harm either of us at this point."
"But what about Irv? Wouldn't a lot of bad publicity give him something to use against you?" Andy frowned.
"Irving already has all he needs, Andréa. As of Monday, I'll be out," Miranda hadn't wanted to tell her this way, but there was no need for Andréa to assume false information when making her decision.
"Oh, really. How did he manage that?"
Miranda sighed and rubbed her temples to ward off the nagging headache that was beginning to form.
"There are two vacant positions on the board. He's moving to fill them with friends who will vote his way. That will give him the majority."
"Talk about your wankers, He can't be allowed to do this, Miranda. You are Runway," Emily broke in.
"Be that as it may, he's doing so," Miranda replied, warmed by Emily's defense of her. "While you are deciding on accepting your title, I need to decide whether to accept retirement or begin a new career."
"And you thought I was fooling around on you on top of that," Andy managed a sad smile. "Oh, baby, you've had the night from hell."
"It would be preferable not to repeat it any time soon," Miranda conceded.
"I think it's time I took you to bed," Andy stood and pulled Miranda up by her hand.
"Sylvia, you're welcome to a guest room," Miranda offered.
"No, I think I'll go back to Andy's. My luggage is already there. I promised Clarisse and Mia I'd have breakfast with them and the arrangements are to pick me up at Andy's." Sylvia explained.
"Roy can drop you after he drives Emily home. I believe I'll go prepare for bed. Andréa can see you out." She swept from the room. A hot shower sounded wonderful and would undoubtedly help with her head.
In the privacy of her bedroom, Miranda sought out and swallowed tablets for her headache before stripping and stepping under the steaming spray. She leaned her forehead against the tile, letting the water beat down on her neck and shoulders. She didn't move as she felt a chill from the shower door opening and closing behind her. At the feel of a warm body pressing against her back, she relaxed into Andréa's arms, resting her head on a strong shoulder.
"What will I do, Andréa?" Miranda voiced the fear that had haunted her throughout the day. Though it now had a single rather than a dual cause, it was no less frightening to consider.
"The same thing you've always done. Meet it head on. But that's for tomorrow. Tonight, you're just going to let me take care of you."
The soft, warm tones feathered across Miranda's ear relaxing her even as the lips that tasted her neck heated her desire. The hands that roamed over her body spoke of love and need. The arms that held her gave reassurance that they would be there to hold her long into the future. Her own arms lifted, fingers burying themselves in long, wet hair. Her breasts lifted, an offering to the hands that caressed her.
"Take me to bed, Andréa." She turned to face her lover and pulled the full, pouting lips to her own. "Make love with me. Live with me. Never leave me," she murmured between kisses that plundered her soul.
Moments later she found herself across the bed, the coolness of the room raising goose bumps on her wet skin just before she was covered with a long, hot body that warmed and thrilled her. She lost herself in the touch of Andréa and when at last those sweet lips pressed to her core, she screamed her fulfillment into the night. They spent hours loving and as she finally drifted into sleep Miranda was wrapped tightly around the woman she loved.
The weekend passed quickly. Andy spending much of Saturday meeting with her cousin before returning to Miranda's in the evening. Miranda had lunched and shopped with Sylvia, pretending ignorance of many of the things she had said while in her inebriated state. That night she once again filled her mouth with various parts of Andréa's anatomy and was thrilled to do so. Sunday she sat her daughters down and informed them Andréa would be moving in. It was not left open for discussion. This was how Miranda wanted it and how it would be. While their mother loved them, she was not willing to live without Andréa and made that very clear. Cassidy proved to be more accepting than Miranda had feared while Caroline promptly threatened to go live with her father. At least she did until Cassidy pointed out that Andy was actually nice whereas their father's girlfriend was a royal bitch and would undoubtedly pack her off to boarding school at the first opportunity. Caroline quickly rethought her position. They simply asked not to be confronted with anything too explicit in nature. Miranda rolled her eyes at that. As if she would do so. Really, had the girls forgotten who she was entirely?
The biggest surprise of the evening came when Andy's cousin and her grandmother arrived for dinner on Sunday. Caroline and Cassidy kept gaping from Andréa to Mia and back. Miranda found that she had a difficult time not staring as well. After dinner, Sylvia followed the twins upstairs to check out their newest interests and the remaining four settled into the den with coffee.
"Quite a remarkable resemblance, don't you think?" Clarisse asked Miranda.
"Yes," Miranda agreed. "It's uncanny, though I can see differences."
"With your relationship with Andy, I'd be very surprised if you couldn't," Clarisse commented. "The average person, however, cannot and that's to our advantage."
"How so?" Miranda asked, intrigued by the statement.
Andy laughed, her eyes gleaming with the joy of a secret she was about to share.
"Would it interest you to know that prior to her marriage to the crown prince of Genovia, Clarisse's last name was Clarke?"
Miranda turned to Clarisse seeking conformation.
"My father was William Clarke. As surviving partner, he inherited my Uncle Jacob's shares at his death and I, in turn, inherited both sets of shares. I believe at last count it came to just over 51%," Clarisse's smile was reminiscent of a certain canary-munching cat as Miranda's eyes widened. "I brought Mia with me to New York to attend a certain meeting tomorrow. As my heir, I wish for her to take a more immediate interest in my personal business affairs. I'm afraid the concerns of Genovia had required that I place the running of some enterprises into the hands of people I thought I could trust."
"And now?" Miranda prodded.
"Now, I realize that trust may have been misplaced. I intend to rectify that," Clarisse stated flatly.
The similarities between the Queen of Fashion and the Dowager Queen of Genovia when both were bent on destruction sent shivers down the spines of the younger women.
"Andy will be attending with us," Mia added with a grin for her cousin.
"Oh, yeah." Andy's grin held a strong hint of wickedness. "Irv Ravitz isn't going to know what hit him."
"Irv has met Andrea. He knows what she looks like."
"We're counting on it, Miranda," Mia giggled.
"You obviously have a plan, but I'm afraid I'm missing something." A feeling Miranda was not at all happy with.
Clarisse assured her that they did indeed have a plan.
"You know Irv Ravitz well, Miranda. Tell me, what do you think his reaction would be if Andy entered the meeting with you and began to tell him what he could and could not do?" Clarisse asked.
"The explosion would be of apocalyptic proportions," was Miranda's conclusion.
"And if I walked in with you and began to do the same?" Mia asked, grinning.
Miranda's eyes began to glow.
Monday morning found Miranda arriving at Runway with one guest in tow. They had barely an hour before the board was scheduled to meet. Miranda began her dictation to Emily as soon as she stepped off the elevator, providing her with a list that would keep both assistants occupied until well after lunch. The tall brunette that was shadowing her nodded in response to Emily's greeting before the two women disappeared behind the closed door of Miranda's office.
As soon as they were alone, Miranda turned to the other woman.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Mia?" she asked.
"Miranda, if half of what Andy has told me is true, the man needs to go. He's willing to sacrifice the good of the company and who knows how many jobs on a personal vendetta. That isn't good business. My grandmother was horrified when she found out what he's been up to," Mia assured her.
Settling behind her desk, Miranda tapped at the glass surface with a single nail.
"He is right in that Runway is very expensive to produce," Miranda conceded.
"It also turns a significant profit. I've read the fiscal reports, Miranda. Runway carries several of the smaller magazines. It makes no sense to alter an equation that's working. Bu,t Mr. Ravitz has made an even bigger mistake," Mia concluded.
"My cousin adores you, Miranda. You're family now. The Thermopolises protect their own."
"I hadn't realized Andréa was Greek. It does explain her coloring," Miranda smiled at the thought of her lover. She rose from behind her desk. "I suppose we should get to this meeting."
She led the way as they headed to the conference room on the top floor. It was the policy at Elias-Clarke for all the top shareholders to attend when the board voted in new members. Both William Clarke and Jacob Elias had felt it ensured fair and honest practices to have the primary stockholders present to participate in the voting. Irv was already in his place at the head of the table with the eight current members ranging around it. Another dozen or so individuals sat around the periphery of the room. Miranda looked neither left nor right as she strode to two open chairs and settled herself into one, crossing her legs at the knees. She held just enough stock for her presence to be assured but not to be able to change the outcome Irv was planning. There were still two vacant seats when Irv called the meeting to order.
A number of routine items were handled, though nothing could be voted on with two positions vacant. There were actually three vacant chairs at the table, one for each of the two empty positions and a third for the primary shareholder who truly owned Elias-Clarke. No one present could ever remember that chair being filled since the death of William Clarke almost a decade before.
"We all know why we're here," Irv finally got down to business. "We need to fill the two vacant positions on the board. You each have a copy of the agenda giving the names of the proposed new members. At this time, I'd like to ask that all visitors leave the room so we can get on with the voting." At this he paused and looked pointedly at the young woman sitting beside Miranda. His expression reflected his irritation when neither woman made any effort to move. "Miranda, I appreciate that you feel the need for moral support, but I'm afraid your girlfriend has to leave." He gave the word "girlfriend" a decidedly nasty twist.
Miranda neither spoke nor moved, her expression chilly enough to frost over the floor to ceiling windows that surrounded two sides of the room.
"I said, get out!" Irv snapped, his temper beginning to get the better of him.
"Mr. Ravitz, you don't have the authority to request I leave," Mia responded calmly, placing a hand on Miranda's arm.
"I don't what! Oh, I think you'll find that I have all the authority I need to do just that. Now either get out or I'll have security remove you," he threatened before turning his irate gaze on Miranda. "You can attempt to disrupt these proceedings all you wish, Miranda. It won't change the outcome one bit. As of today, you are out. You might as well leave now and take that little tramp you're screwing with you." So intent was Irv on tearing into Miranda that he didn't notice the door opening.
"Mr. Ravitz, I can assure you that my granddaughter is not sleeping with Miranda Priestly," Clarisse Renaldi's voice echoed with icy clarity through the room.
Miranda's smile was deadly as she spoke.
"Irving, I don't believe you have met my friend. Allow me to present Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi, Queen of Genovia. I believe you already know her grandmother, the Dowager Queen."
Clarisse moved further into the room to take her position at the far end of the table from Irv with Andy close behind her. Andy assisted Clarisse with the chair before moving to stand beside Miranda.
"While we're conducting introductions, I believe you have already met Andrea Sachs, the Duchess Renaldi and Mia's heir apparent. Now I believe you spoke of a vote."
Miranda stared up at her lover who flashed a huge grin and mouthed, "Surprise."
"Clarisse," Irv began.
"Your Majesty will do, Mr. Ravitz," Clarisse responded coldly.
"Yes, of course." Irv pulled a large white handkerchief from an inside pocket to wipe at the sweat that had popped out on his forehead. "As I was saying-"
"Before or after you referred to the Duchess Renaldi as a tramp?" Mia chimed in.
"Uh, I, ah, what I mean is…" The handkerchief seemed to wave like a flag of surrender and he mopped furiously at his dripping face.
"Or were you referring to the reigning Queen with that?" Andy offered helpfully. "Though I can assure you Miranda is quite monogamous and in no way involved with my cousin."
"Your cousin," Irv mumbled.
Miranda was starting to become concerned about the man. His color was rapidly going from a fiery red to ghastly white and back.
"I propose to call for a vote of my own," Clarisse stated in a flat voice. "I propose that the current Chair of Elias-Clarke be requested to hand in his resignation within the hour. Do I have a second?"
"Wait!" Irv yelled. "I'm chairing this meeting. You're out of order."
"Check the by-laws again, Mr. Ravitz. The moment I walked in the room I became the Chair of the meeting," Clarisse informed him. "Do I have a second?"
"I second," Miranda backed her.
"All in favor signify by saying aye," Clarisse continued.
Miranda, Clarisse and a few token others spoke up.
"A nay vote will not be necessary as the ayes represent in excess of 60% of the voting shares. Mr. Ravitz, you may start writing." Clarisse shoved a notepad the length of the long table before continuing. "Mia, Andy, as owner of the company with the controlling block of shares, I appoint you to fill the vacant board seats. Please join me. You are now voting members of this board." Once the two young women flanked her at the table, Clarisse returned to business and the part of the plan no one had filled Miranda in on. "The position of Chairman of Elias-Clarke is now vacant. I propose Miranda Priestly to fill the vacancy. Do I have a second?"
"Seconded!" Andy and Mia spoke together.
"All in favor signify by saying aye," Clarisse sent a harsh glare around the table daring anyone to vote otherwise. A chorus of aye's followed. "Motion carries." She spun towards Miranda and relaxed back into her chair for the first time since entering. "Congratulations, Miranda."
Miranda simply sat and stared at her. She understood getting Irv out, but she hadn't at all planned on taking his place.
"What the hell are you people thinking!" Irv screamed into the silence. "You can't put that…that bitch in control!"
Andy was on her feet in a blink. "Be very careful who you're calling a bitch, Irv," she warned. "Since I have every intention of marrying Miranda, if she'll have me, you are very close to a diplomatic incident. Way closer than just calling me a tramp would get you. I couldn't give a damn what you say about me, but you will not speak ill of Miranda in my presence. Now, unless you want the State Department looking into your finances with the Hubble Telescope, you'll apologize to her."
"I'll do no such thing," he snarled. "The government could care less about a two-bit kingdom like Genovia."
A dark suited gentleman who had presented a proxy voting letter from a absent shareholder and had quietly been observing the proceedings up to now rose to step forward.
"That's where you're wrong, Mr. Ravitz. Michael Johnson, State Department. The United States government has a vested interest in all its allies, and since Queen Amelia signed a trade agreement with the President three days ago, Genovia is definitely an ally. Why don't we take a walk downstairs, and we can talk about those finances of yours while you're cleaning out your office?"
Irv's mouth opened and closed several times without a sound issuing forth. Furious at being bested by Miranda yet again, he went for the only thing he knew might hurt her. He threw himself on the table in a rage, scrambling to get at Andy.
"Joseph!" Clarisse snapped. A man in a black leather coat who had followed the two women into the room and remained standing at the door, raced across the room and pulled Irv from the table, pinning him to the floor. Calmly, Joseph leaned forward and whispered in Irv's ear. Security officers rushed in, and when they dragged Irv to his feet there was a noticeable stain on the front of his trousers. A chuckle ran around the room as the four woman looked away to keep from laughing.
"Joseph, what did you say to him?" Mia asked as Irv was frog marched from the room, followed by Mr. Johnson.
"I simply pointed out that the Genovian Secret Service takes a dim view of threats against the Royal Family," Joseph responded quietly. At Mia's pointed look, he continued. "I might have suggested various forms the punishment for doing so might take."
"I can always count on you, Joseph," Mia laughed.
"Yes, you can," he replied with a tiny smile.
"Well, if there's nothing else, this meeting is adjourned," Clarisse declared.
The four with Joseph shadowing them made their way down to Miranda's office. He took up a stance just outside the door oblivious to the heated glares directed at him by Emily.
"Would someone like to explain this Duchess Renaldi business to me and how I ended up as Chair?" Miranda dropped into her desk chair looking pointedly at Andy who occupied the chair in front of her desk.
"My mother gave up rights to the throne when she divorced my father," Mia spoke up. "As my next nearest blood relative, Andy is my heir until such time as I have children. The moment I assumed the throne, she became the Duchess Renaldi according to the Genovia constitution. Should it be proven I can't bear children, she'll then become the Princess of Genovia."
"Luckily for me, Mia is quite capable of having children," Andy laughed. "Though I'm stuck with this Duchess business whatever happens. Replacing Irv with you was Clarisse's idea."
"You've done an excellent job with Runway over the years, Miranda. It's time your talents were put to better use. You've more than proven yourself capable. I can't think of anyone I'd rather having protecting my interests here." Clarisse smiled and rose. "Now if you'll excuse us, Mia and I have a State dinner to prepare for. You'll need to do the same, Andy. As will you, Miranda. That is if you really are planning to marry the Duchess Renaldi. It's legal in Genovia you know. Mia signed it into law before we left home."
Andy watched the two leave accompanied by Joseph. Turning back to Miranda, she reached in a pocket and pulled out a small velvet box. "I had hoped for a more romantic setting, but things have been moving pretty fast today and as I'd like you to accompany me to the dinner…"
Opening the box, she set it on the desk in front of Miranda who stared at the twinkling diamond-surrounded sapphire solitaire. Andy walked around the desk and sat on the edge beside the ring.
"In a way it's kind of fitting to do this in the first place I ever met you. Will you marry me, Miranda? I doubt I'll ever be able to make you the queen of anything except my heart, but you'll always be that."
"Yes," Miranda smiled and rose to step into Andréa's arms bringing their lips together. She thought fleetingly of her comparisons three days earlier. No, Andréa was nothing like Stephen and for that she was eternally grateful.