Title: Home Alone
Pairing: Andy/Miranda, mention of Emily/Serena
Warning: Uhm, maybe a spoiler warning for Harry Potter 5 (Then again, who hasn't seen/read that one yet and would actually care? xD)
Disclaimer: I do not own the movie, nor the book of 'The Devil Wears Prada', I just play around in their universes. ^_^
Secret Santa: My Secret Santa fic for pure_ecstasy6 - Merry Christmas! :D
Summary: Set right after Paris Fashion Week. I'm going by some stills from the movie where it says 'Dec 3' on Andy's phone right before she throws it into the fountain. This story takes place around three weeks after.
Prompt: One of Miranda's daughters gets accidentally left home alone. With a photo shoot across the country Miranda cannot find anyone to take care of her girl and phones Andy for help.
A/N: Okay, so this piece of fiction has become much longer that I had anticipated. I guess if I don't delve into the emotions of the protagonists, I feel like I'm not telling the whole story. It feels incomplete... ^_^
A/N #2: Normally I would have left this story PG-13, however, seeing how it is a gift for pure_ecstasy6 , who has written some deliciously smutty stuff herself, I felt obligated to at least go a bit NC-17 in the end. To give back a little... ^_^
A/N #3: This hasn't been beta-read, and English still isn't my mother tongue. I hope it's bearable!
A/N #4: Yes I realise that Emily should probably still be in her cast, but I kind of forgot about that for a moment there, so for the sake of the story, let's just pretend she healed very fast! ;-D
by WrittenSword aka Kendokuschi
Andy Sachs sat by her desk at the Mirror assembling Mr. and Mrs. Potatohead as she attempted to personalise her new surroundings. Her two unshapely plastic companions had certainly not been allowed a place on her RUNWAY workspace, but Andy no longer worked at the fashion magazine.
She shuddered. The memory of walking out on her old job less than three weeks prior was still fresh on her mind, like a large wound, barely held together by two dozen stitches, tearing open every time she allowed an unexpected thought to trail in that direction. For more than three months RUNWAY had been her life. She had pulled eighty-hour-weeks, cynical at first, but more and more devoted with each passing day. Devoted to the magazine and devoted to her boss, the world-renowned, Queen of Fashion, editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly.
The job had impacted her profoundly, changing not only her perspective of the world, broadening her understanding of everything she had so arrogantly deemed below herself, but also changing the way she dressed and behaved. She had turned from a geeky wannabe journalist with a better-than-thou attitude, into an elegant, young woman who would strive to do anything for her job... and her boss.
The change had alienated her boyfriend and their mutual friends, the latter accusing her of having become a completely different person, whom they no longer recognized, nor liked. And Nate and her had broken up just shortly before she had left for Paris Fashion Week.
Ugh, she sighed, attaching the little feet to Mr. Potatohead. Paris. Remembering the cold day where she had stood on the 'Place de la Concorde' in her beautiful haute couture gown, staring down at the name flashing on the display of the phone in her hand, and making possibly the most moronic choice of her entire life.
No. She would not wallow and she would stop thinking about it. What's done is done.
She had surprisingly quickly found a new job and her and Nate had 'talked' about maybe working things out. He had considerably warmed up at the news of her having, literally, walked away from Miranda, the job and the woman, who had driven him and Andy apart.
In a way Andy missed her old, pre-RUNWAY self. The girl who'd slouch around the apartment in sweats, eating a huge tub of chocolate-chip-mint ice cream and watching 'The Empire Strikes Back' for the hundredth time. That old Andy had been surrounded by friends and warmth. Not like the new her, who had become a high-strung, constantly anxious, and deliriously loyal assistant, who had blown off the people close to her, for nothing but being a high-efficiency, miracle-working gopher.
Time to get the old Andy back, she thought to herself with determination as she attached the Darth Vader mask to Mrs. Potatohead with a click. She put the tater couple on the corner of her desk, placing Mrs. Potatohead higher, on top of a large pile of dictionaries.
How fitting. Of course the evil female leader needed to be above the Peasant Potatohead, so she could order him around like a servant and end every sentence with 'that's all!'
Yes, she snorted. There was still some old Andy left in her.
Andy spun around in her chair, nearly knocking over her water bottle. Greg Hill, her brand new boss and editor of the Mirror smiled at her warmly.
"Uhm, yeah... sorry... just setting up some inspiration," she gave a shy grin as she gestured toward the toys.
Greg walked over and leaned against the empty desk next to hers. "Listen, I know I told you Lynn would show you around the archives this afternoon, but I sent her home early to get ready for the Holidays. The news staff is fully prepped and busy for the Holidays so I don't really have anyone who can show you around or anything else you can do."
He crossed his arms but his eyes glowed warmly. "I know you've finished all of your assignments way ahead of time, so unless you wish to hang around and play with your two friends some more, I suggest you go home early."
"Oh... thanks, I guess." Andy chuckled softly.
"Well, don't get used to it." He said with a laugh of his own. "Once you work here for longer than just a week, I fully expect you to pull graveyard shifts and work over the Holidays."
"Aye-aye Sir," the brunette answered with a half salute.
"Go home. Go see your folks. I'm sure there was little to no time for that in your old job." His voice was kind and Andy knew that her reputation as 'the girl who survived Miranda' would remain with her for a while at the Mirror.
"Thanks Greg," she smiled sincerely and moved to grab her coat and bag. Of course he didn't need to know that she'd be all alone for the Holidays and had actually been looking forward to spending some of that time at the paper. He was right, though, at her old job there had been little to no time for anything. Maybe a little relaxation would actually do some good.
As she made her way out of the office her cell phone rang. Surprised at the familiar number, she hesitantly answered.
"Uhm... hi Lily."
"Andy! Girl! I heard you quit RUNWAY."
"Uhm. Yes, so it seems." She let her friend's choice of words echo in her mind. Yes, she had quit RUNWAY. She hadn't quit Miranda...
"So, Nate's leaving tomorrow and Doug and I are taking him out to dinner tonight, and we were wondering if you'd be there."
Andy thought about it for a while. She missed her friends and although she was pretty certain that her and Nate would not get back together, she still missed his friendship as well. So why the heck not?
"Yes, sure. Sounds like fun." She tried to sound a little enthusiastic.
"Alright. Can you meet us at Alonzo's for early drinks? At around six?"
"Yeah, sure. I'll see you there. Bye."
The brunette hung up the phone and continued down the block. As was now a daily routine, she walked past the building of Elias-Clark publishing, home of the RUNWAY offices and the very place she had seen Miranda again on the day of her Mirror interview.
She was tempted to stop and wait for a chance to spy Miranda storming out of the glass doors, striding to her waiting town car and rattling off instructions on the phone to her new 'Andy' at mind-numbing speeds, but then she remembered, having booked everything herself, that it was the twenty-third of December and Miranda would be in Canada for the February issue photo-shoot this week.
Shaking her head as she continued walking, she wondered if she'd ever be able to let go of her time at the magazine and by Miranda's side. She could deny it all she wanted, but she knew she missed the older woman.
Miranda Priestly was known far and wide as the boss from hell, but Andy had become quite attached to the silver-haired dragon lady and her scathing, but quick-witted remarks, her sharp eyes that never missed any detail, the elegant hands that tended to dance in the air, or tug at her impeccable clothing when she spoke. Or that voice, always so soft, yet capable of sending icy chills of terror down the backs of grown men. That voice, which always called her "Andréa" with that special little curl of the tongue.
Gah! Andy rammed her palms against her temples. Thoughts of Miranda would have to stop! The older woman had made very clear what she thought of Andy by openly ignoring her the other day. The fashionista had directly looked at her before turning a cold shoulder and stepping into her waiting car without the slightest acknowledgement. Andy had felt a fool for waving and grinning like a five-your-old.
Early drinks at Alonzo's. Yes, they were needed.
Seeing her friends again was a welcome distraction and Andy felt herself relax as soon as Lily wrapped her in a big hug. They had parted ways in an argument on the same night Nate and her had broken up. Lily had only tried to look out for her friends, Andy realised that now. Christian Thompson had kissed her cheek at Lily's gallery showing and her friend had deduced that Andy was having an affair with the golden-haired writer.
Well, Lily hadn't been too far off, Andy shuddered at the memory of getting drunk in Paris and ending up in bed with Christian. She could barely remember anything about that night, other than the reason why she had so readily drowned herself in champagne in the first place.
"You okay, Andy?" Doug asked as he saw her shake.
"Yes, I'm fine. It's just cold outside," she smiled weakly and moved in to hug him as well.
The three of them sat down and Andy shrugged off her coat.
"Nate not here yet?"
"No, he's still packing," Doug said and Andy remembered that after moving out of their mutual apartment, while she was in Paris, Nate had bunked up with Doug.
"So, new job, new beginnings?" Lily grinned at Andy.
"Yeah, something like that," the brunette grinned back. They ordered a round of drinks and quickly fell into their familiar and comfortable pace of ranting about work.
"I still can't believe you walked out on La Priestly and lived to tell the tale," Doug giggled as he took another sip from his Martini.
"I mean, you abandon the ship and its captain during the biggest fashion storm of the year... and she just lets you go... even gives you, by the Ice Queen's standards, a glowing recommendation."
"Yeah, thank you Doug, I need to be reminded of the moment I committed the biggest mistake of my life," she whined and dropped her head to the table.
"Your biggest mistake?" Lily asked, surprised. "Girl, I thought you were happy that you left. Now you can have a normal life again, with normal people in it!"
Douglas chuckled. "Well, I wouldn't call us 'normal'!"
Andy was thoughtful, though, and her friends eyed each other curiously.
"You can't be serious. You miss that place?" Lily put her hands in her hips. "You miss having the fancy clothes and the elitist treatments... being chauffeured around in fancy cars and attending balls in thousand dollar dresses?"
"Lily..." Andy tried, not really up for an argument.
"Girl, I thought the old Andy was back. I can't believe that after everything that place, and that woman, took from you, you still long to be back there." Lily was fuming and Doug held her back by the shoulders.
"Lily, it's not like that, I swear..."
"No? Then what is it, Andy? Huh? Explain it to me."
At that very moment her phone rang and out of habit Andy quickly looked at the display.
She would recognize that number anywhere. It didn't need to be programed into her address book to jolt her body into rigid shock and pull all the air from her lungs. She didn't understand how that number could call her though, she hadn't given out her new details to anyone except Greg, her family and her friends.
She looked from the ringing device in her hand to the other two.
"Andy?" Lily was still waiting for an answer and Doug was watching her with concern. She was sure her face had been drained of all colour, as most of her blood was rushing to her thunderous heart.
Her eyes travelled back to the number on the small screen and before she could stop herself, her thumb pressed the 'answer' button.
"Mi-Miranda?" She asked timidly, watching the immediately hostile reaction from Lily.
"Andréa." That voice. The voice she had missed so much over the past three weeks. The voice that would ghost through her dreams and even haunt her wakefulness.
An awkward silence followed, and standing between her brooding friend, who was threatening to strangle her any minute now and the fact that Miranda was calling her, on her private number, three weeks after Andy had turned her back and walked away from her, Andy was too terrified to form any coherent words.
"You knew it was me, but you picked up." The older woman stated, sounding surprised and Andy's heart clenched as she remembered how she had ignored five of Miranda's calls in Paris before tossing the phone into the fountain altogether.
"Y-yes?" Andy tried to get her breathing under control.
"Have your braincells already dissolved after working at that small, uninspired newspaper for only a week or why can you not talk coherently? You didn't hit your little head on the pavement again, did you?"
Andy felt her eyes tear up and Doug stepped closer in concern. She wasn't upset at Miranda's words, but rather overwhelmed by how much she had actually missed the older woman. It suddenly hit her with such force that she had to hold on to the table.
"No, uhm," she tried to collect herself. "What... what can I do for you, Miranda?"
There was another moment of silence and it seemed as if Miranda needed to remind herself as to the actual purpose of the phone call.
"It's Cassidy... My ex-husband was supposed to pick her up for the Holidays and notify me as soon as he had her, however I haven't heard from him at all and I can't reach Cara because she has her time off now and Caroline is in London. Nobody picks up the phone at home but Cassidy is supposed to be there after being dropped of by one of her friends."
It sounded a lot like the chain of tasks Miranda would normally rant off to her assistants, if it weren't for the underlying worry in her voice. Andy knew she was probably one of the few people who could pick it up and her heart ached even more because of losing the right to be around the editor.
"Miranda, it's going to be okay. I'll go check the townhouse to see if she's there. Where's Emily? Did she go with you?" Andy closed her eyes at the thought that if she hadn't left RUNWAY she'd be the one in the mountains with Miranda right now.
"How... yes, she's here with me. She's trying to get me a flight out as soon as possible, unless I can finally get a hold of my ex-husband to know that everything is alright." The older woman was clearly annoyed and Andy already rummaged through her agenda to find the hand-written, back-up list of all her Miranda-related contacts, which she had kept... for some reason.
"Don't worry, I will go over there right away and I will let you know as soon as I find out anything." It was suddenly very easy to get back into assistant mode. Miranda needed her and Andy always did her best when it came to the editor.
It was barely audible and Andy had expected Miranda to just hang up, or finish with her customary dismissal of 'that's all'. These simple two words were surprising, coming from the older woman and it was an indication of how worried she truly was.
"No problem, Miranda. Any time."
Then the editor did hang up and Andy was left facing a furious Lily and a puzzled-looking Doug.
"I'm sorry guys,..."
"I don't want to hear it," Lily put up her hand. "That old bitch phones and you come running like a loyal little puppy dog? Girl, you don't even work for her anymore!"
"Lily, it's not like that. You don't understand..." Andy pleaded.
"No. You're right. I don't understand." She sent a disgusted look in Andy's direction. "I don't understand who you are anymore, that you would pick the devil over us... over Nate."
"Just... go play fetch!"
The words stung in Andy's heart for more than just one reason and she mouthed a final 'sorry' to Doug before grabbing her coat and running out of the diner.
Once outside on the curb she immediately called Miranda's driver, Roy, on his cell phone, knowing that he always had a spare key to the town house, but he didn't answer. Searching through her contact list she found his home phone number and tried again. To her relief he picked up after just a few rings, very surprised to hear from Andy, since she no longer worked for Miranda, but as soon as she explained the situation he agreed to come and get her right away.
A mere thirty minutes later they stood on the steps to the townhouse and Andy rang the doorbell, once, twice, but without a response. After a third time she motioned for Roy to unlock the door and they stepped into the dark hallway.
It felt weird standing in Miranda's home, after three weeks of thinking she'd never have another reason to visit here again. The house was eerily quiet, not even the faint ticking of the radiators could be heard, and it was freezing. Makes sense, Andy thought. Nobody was supposed to be here over the holidays.
"Uhm, maybe we should call out?" The brunette whispered, instinctively remaining as quiet as possible, as she was used to from tiptoeing across the stone tiles to hang up Miranda's dry-cleaning and deliver The Book.
Roy cleared his throat and then raised his voice. "Hello? Anybody home?"
"Hmmm, I really don't feel like sneaking around Miranda's house. Maybe we should just call the police," Andy whispered again.
Roy nodded in agreement and they turned around to leave.
A sudden noise, faintly sounding like a sob, and barely audible, froze Andy in her tracks.
"What is it?" Roy asked concerned.
"Psst, I heard something," she whispered as quietly as possible. "Quick. Turn on the light."
Roy flipped the switch and Andy strained her ears to pinpoint the sound. There it was again! She looked around and hesitantly walked to the first of the two closets. Opening the white lacquered door she spied inside and found nothing. She left the door ajar to avoid any further noise and tiptoed to closet number two. Apart from a generous collection of designer winter coats, it was also empty.
Now the sound came from behind her and she spun around and stared at the large staircase. Where was it coming from? It sounded kind of like a sniffle. It could be somebody crying. But where?
Andy slowly traced every detail of her surroundings with hawk-like eyes. Where would she hide if she were a ten-year-old girl? What would be a safe place? Her mind raced as she tried to remember everything she could about Miranda's twins and she intently studied the wall under the stairs in front of her.
Harry Potter! Of course!
Dropping her purse on the nearby table, she swiftly moved to the wall and traced the paneling with her fingertips until she found a small indentation and pressed against it. The panel opened forward with a slight click and Andy shot a surprised look over at the equally perplexed driver. He helplessly shrugged his shoulders and indicated for her to continue, so Andy carefully pushed the secret door open and peered into the darkness.
"Cassidy? Sweetie, are you in here?"
Silence greeted her and she felt around for a light switch. She found a chord dangling from the low ceiling, gave it a firm tug and a single light bulb suddenly illuminated what seemed to be a modern day broom cupboard. Cowering on the floor in the far corner, staring back at her with terrified, tear-stained eyes, was Cassidy.
"A-Andy?" She whispered in disbelief.
"Cassidy, there you are," the brunette immediately dropped to her knees in front of the trembling girl. "Are you alright? Are you hurt?"
Fresh tears came spilling from Cassidy's eyes and she lunged forward to bury herself in Andy's arms.
"Andy..." she croaked between sobs.
Not knowing what else to do Andy just hugged the twin tightly and rocked her gently back and forth, rubbing soothing circles on the girl's back.
"Shh... everything is going to be okay."
She felt Cassidy's little hands grab at her shoulders, as if afraid that Andy would disappear.
"Cass, are you alright? Have you been hurt?" Andy tried again, concerned.
Slowly the girl pulled away and shook her head and the brunette reached up to wipe at her wet cheeks.
"Where's you father? Wasn't he supposed to pick you up?" she inquired, brushing some red strands away from Cassidy's face.
"I don't know," the girl answered sheepishly. "He never came."
"Hmmm, Roy could you hand me my phone?" She called behind her and saw Cassidy study the familiar driver shyly.
"I thought you were bad guys. Breaking in."
The brunette smiled as she took her offered cell. "Well, you did a good thing hiding, then. You're a very smart girl."
"But you still found me," the red-head stated.
"Well, that's because I know you," Andy winked at her as she keyed in the one phone number she would probably never forget.
After only one ring Miranda answered.
"Have you found her?"
"Yes. She's here with me, in the townhouse, safe and sound."
On the other end of the line she could hear Miranda exhale sharply in relief.
"It seems her father hasn't shown up, and she was too cautious, without adults around, to pick up the phone," Andy patted Cassidy's head as the girl sheepishly nodded.
"Thank god, I'm glad she's safe," the older woman sighed and Andy felt goosebumps ghost up her arms at the sound, and she wasn't quite sure what else to say.
"Would you like to speak with her?"
Andy handed the phone to Cassidy and then stood to talk to Miranda's driver.
"Thank you, Roy, I think I can take it from here. I know you have a week off, and I remember how rare that is under Miranda's employ."
"Are you sure you don't need anything else? I could drive you home," he offered.
"Nah, it's okay, I want to stay here until whoever Miranda will send over arrives. I can't leave Cassidy alone. I'll just call a cab when I go home," she smiled at him warmly.
"Thanks, Andy. You know, things just aren't the same around here without you," he said with a strange glimmer in his eyes.
"What do you mean, Roy?"
"She's not the same," he rephrased in a whisper. "Anyway. Call me if you need my help after all, okay?"
The brunette nodded, confused as to why Roy would say that Miranda was not the same anymore without her, surely he must mean that Miranda wasn't the same anymore without her husband around.
With a wave at Cassidy, who was animatedly talking on the phone, Roy turned and left for the door.
"Andy, mom wants to talk to you again," Cassidy said, holding out the phone to her.
"Andréa... would you... can you stay with Cassidy until Emily found someone else to come over?" It was so strange to hear Miranda actually ask her to do something instead of ordering it. It warmed Andy profoundly, but she knew that she'd probably still do anything for the older woman anyway.
"Of course, Miranda. Not a problem. I'll stay with Cassidy for as long as necessary."
"Good." The editor paused, seemingly contemplating whether to say something else. "Well, I have to get back to the shoot."
"Okay, I'll be right here," Andy said with a smile she was sure could be heard through her voice. "Oh, by the way, Miranda?"
Clearly on the verge of hanging up, the older woman sounded her usual annoyed self. "Yes?"
"Where are the central heating controls? It's freezing here."
"The main controls are on the ground floor in the cabinet next to the kitchen. Has... did Cassidy sit in a cold house this whole time?" Concern swam through her words and Andy felt bad that the only way she could keep Miranda on the phone a bit longer, was by upsetting her about her daughter.
"Yes, but she's alright now. I'll make sure she's warm and toasty in no time. Don't worry," Andy said as much to Miranda as to Cassidy, who had sat down on the bottom stair and looked at Andy with a hesitant smile on her lips.
"Good. Oh, and Andréa?"
"Feel free to use anything in the house while you're there." If the brunette hadn't known any better, she'd have thought that Miranda's voice sounded almost timid at extending such an invitation, but of course, when it came to her children, Miranda would always break her established set of rules.
"Just make sure my baby gets everything she needs."
"Got it," Andy gave a thumbs-up to Cassidy and heard the typical 'click' of Miranda finishing the conversation.
The brunette dropped the phone into her purse and held her hand out to Cassidy.
"Come on, let's turn on the heating and then raid the kitchen!"
By eight o'clock Cassidy and Andy were sitting next to each other at the large, oak kitchen table, drinking hot chocolate milk and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. The brunette had been surprised to find the ingredients for such a 'pedestrian' meal in the Priestly household and the young girl had admitted to never having tried a plain sandwich before.
"Oh wow, this is really good, Andy! No wonder mom doesn't let us eat this kind of stuff. I'd eat this every day if I could," Cassidy spoke as she chewed. "The sugar in this will make me jump around all night," she added with a giggle.
"Well, how about we just won't tell your mother?" Andy winked conspiratorially.
They ate in silence for a while and hungrily gulped down their hot cocoa. Cassidy kept looking at Andy and then dropping her gaze back at her cup, as if wanting to ask something but lacking the courage.
"What's up Cass?" Andy put a reassuring hand on the girl's shoulder.
"Uhm..." The young Priestly was hesitant.
"Whatever you say will remain strictly between us, okay? I promise I won't tell your mom, or anyone else, if that's what you're worried about."
"Uhm... okay... well..." Cassidy kept her eyes glued to her chocolate milk, refusing to look at Andy's face. "Did you and mom have a fight?"
"W-what makes you ask that?" The startled brunette heard herself stammer.
"You don't bring The Book anymore. And since mom got back from Paris she never talks about you anymore either." The girl now looked up at Andy with blue eyes that shimmered with confusion. "And she seems sad all the time."
Andy masked her inner turmoil at those questions and tried to reassure the girl with soothing rubs to her shoulder.
"Well, I don't work for your mom anymore, that's why I don't bring The Book."
"What?" The little redhead's eyes went wide. "Did mom fire you?"
"No, no," Andy said with a sad smile. "Actually, I quit."
"What? When?" Cassidy seemed truly shocked by the news and Andy wondered why the girls hadn't known that she no longer worked for Miranda. Maybe the editor just didn't share this kind of information with her daughters.
"In Paris," Andy answered truthfully. "As for your mom being sad, what makes you think it's because of me?" She wasn't sure how much the girls knew about their mother's impending divorce, although it had been dragged all over the gossip magazines. "Maybe there is another reason she's sad?"
Her heart ached at the memory of Miranda sitting in the French hotel room, stripped off her makeup and command mask, sitting in nothing but a thin bathrobe and opening up to Andy about her failed marriage, tears burning in her eyes at the mention of her girls.
Something seemed to click in Cassidy's head. "You quit? In Paris? What...? Did you just... leave?"
Andy nodded, shame colouring her cheeks. "Yes. And it was a very stupid thing to do."
"Well, duh!" The young redhead exclaimed, her hands waving in the air. "And of course you running off is the reason why she's sad! It's certainly not Stephen leaving! She's glad that he's gone, we talked about that last week. He only ever drank and yelled at her anyway."
The brunette stared at Cassidy in disbelief at the way she talked about her stepfather. Well... soon-to-be ex-stepfather.
"You know, that explains a lot! Caro and me were so confused about what was going on, but mom refused to speak about it." The young Priestly stared at the far wall as she recalled her mother's recent behavior. "Before Paris she would talk about you all the time." She looked back at Andy. "That's why Caro and I like you. You're important to mom... and well, you got us Harry Potter and didn't tell on us for tricking you that one time..."
Andy offered a sad smile and spoke gently. "I doubt I'm important to your mom. Well, maybe I was a good assistant, but I'm sure she's already replaced me. Anyone can go fetch coffee, you know?"
"Hmmm," Cassidy studied her thoughtfully but didn't say anything else. Andy wondered how a ten-year-old could look so intelligent and understanding, but she put it down to the deep blue eyes that were so much like the girl's mother's.
Her ringing cell phone interrupted her thoughts.
"Andréa. Everything is going well, I assume?" Small talk? Was Miranda making small talk?
"Everything's fine. We turned on the central heating, had something warm to drink and ate some dinner," Andy winked at the girl and Cassidy had to cover her mouth to not let a loud giggle escape.
"Hmmm. Good. I was contacted by the New York Police Department that the girls' father has been arresting earlier today for assaulting an officer. I don't know the details but he'll spend the holidays in custody." Disappointment and annoyance lay thick on Miranda's voice.
"Oh. Wow," was all Andy could manage. Well, what else could one say to a thing like that anyway?
"Emily has not been successful in finding another nanny service with anyone available, although why, is completely beyond me. I will not trust my child into the hands of a temp agency and all of Cassidy's friends have already left for the Holidays so she can't stay with them either. I..." the older woman's voice became softer. "I'd rather not ask Stephen to come, the girls always disliked him, and I'd feel uncomfortable knowing that he'd be back in the house..." the editor trailed off.
"Miranda, if..." Andy took a deep breath for extra courage. "If you want me to stay here with Cassidy, I'd be more than willing to..."
There was an audible sigh on the other end of the line. "You would do that?" Miranda sounded so unsure.
"Of course! Why wouldn't I?" Oh! Cassidy's earlier words came rushing back. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Andy chided herself.
"You tell me... Andréa." Her name was spoken extra slowly, causing Andy's abdomen to clench painfully.
"Miranda..." she wasn't sure what to say and they were silent for a few seconds before Miranda relented with another sigh.
"Andréa, If you could stay the night and watch Cassidy, I'd be very grateful." Gratitude was the last thing people expected from Miranda and Andy realised how extraordinary this situation was.
"As I said, I'd be glad to help. Don't worry, Miranda, I'll be here as long as I'm needed."
"Hmmm. Aren't you expected somewhere at some point? It is Christmas." Miranda said the last word with a bit of disdain.
"Uhm, no. My parents booked a trip down to Florida when I was still at... RUNWAY, thinking that I'd have to work this week anyway." She pictured herself in the Canadian Rockies by Miranda's side during the photo-shoot, and hurt and anger at herself welled up in the pit of her stomach. "So no, there is nowhere I have to be."
"Oh." Miranda seemed to have no answer to that. "Well... I'll be on the first flight out tomorrow morning. You may chose one of the guestrooms on the third floor. Make sure Cassidy goes to bed on time and doesn't watch any movies that scare or upset her."
"Will do." Andy looked over to the young girl who had been silently watching her the whole time. "Miranda, do you still want to speak to her?"
"Yes, of course."
"Okay, here she is." Andy handed the phone over and the twin gave her a pointed look before holding it to her ear.
"Mom, why did you not tell us that Andy left?" The brunette watched intently as a miniature version of Miranda's pursed lips appeared on Cassidy's mouth. "That's not an answer... but Mom..." The girl exhaled forcefully. "Fine. Yes... I will. Yes." She looked defeated. "I love you, too Mom. Bye."
"So, it looks like we two are having a slumber party," Andy tried to sound cheerful as she accepted her phone back.
Two hours later Andy found herself on the over-sized couch in the entertainment room, holding a teary-eyed little redhead as the ending credits rolled over the large plasma TV screen. Cassidy rubbed at her wet cheeks and sniffled for a while until she slowly disentangled herself from the brunette.
"Hey, are you okay, Sweetie?" Andy asked as she continued rubbing soothing circles across the girl's back.
"Yes... it's just always so sad..." She hiccuped. "Caro and I have watched 'The Order of the Phoenix' so often, but it still gets to me every time... Poor Sirius."
"Is he your favourite character?" The brunette was surprised as Cassidy nodded.
"It's because everybody hated him and called him names and the 'Daily Prophet' made up evil stories about him that weren't true, and all he wanted was to protect Harry and be a good godfather," the girl mumbled as she wiped at her cheeks with a handkerchief.
"Yeah, I understand. He has a big heart and is truly a kind person, but nobody seems to understand that," Andy was contemplative.
"He's a bit like mom." Cassidy stared apathetically at the last of the movie credits. "People don't know her and make up things to write in the papers..."
"Cassidy, is this because of what the papers are writing about your mom's divorce?" The brunette's hand stilled its movement on the twin's back and the girl nodded slowly.
"Come here, Sweetie." Andy pulled the girl back into her arms. "Sometimes people don't see further than their noses and come to the easiest, but wrong conclusions about others." She hugged Cassidy tightly. "Don't take what they write about your mom to heart. They don't understand what a wonderful person your mom really is."
"But you don't either," the girl mumbled into Andy's shoulder and the brunette jerked her head away, shocked.
"If you knew, you would not have left her," the redhead continued sheepishly, not daring to look Andy in the eye.
"Cassidy, I didn't leave your mom. I left a job that made me unhappy." She brushed a strand of hair from the girl's sad face, not wanting to go into the details of why.
"And I do know how wonderful your mom is. I've always known. You gotta trust me on that. Alright?" She placed her index finger gently against Cassidy's nose until the girl nodded her head and gave a tentative smile.
"Now. I think it's bedtime. Come on." She stood and held out her hand which was readily grasped by the young Priestly.
As they walked up the stairs to the next floor Andy sniffed. "And for the record, your mom is more like Snape! I mean, have you ever seen her stalk through the hallways of RUNWAY?"
Cassidy looked at her with a raised eyebrow, so much like Miranda's, and Andy had to chuckle.
"Snape's my favourite character," the brunette winked and saw Cassidy's expression soften.
"But mom doesn't have a cape," the girl grinned.
"No, but she totally should! " Andy replied and they both burst into giggles.
Andy woke to unfamiliar surroundings. She stretched her arms and legs under the softest sheets she had ever felt and looked around the room, which was bathed in a strange, subtle glow seeping from behind the curtains. Noticing the bright LED numbers of the alarm clock on the bedside table, she realised that it was only six in the morning.
She squinted her eyes at the ceiling while remembering the previous day's events. Right. She was in Miranda's townhouse. Miranda. The woman she had thought she would never get the chance to speak to again. The woman, whose employ she had so childishly left, by literally turning her back and walking away. All because she had been hurt by something so trivial as being asked to do her job.
Fate had certainly swung around and majorly kicked her in the butt. Andy knew that once Miranda came home they could no longer avoid what had happened three weeks ago. The only reason she was here now, inside the older woman's home, lying in one of the luscious guest beds, was because nobody else was around to take care of Cassidy.
The thought that the editor had only phoned her because of an emergency fired an uncomfortable pain through Andy's chest, but then she realised, that if Miranda truly hated her, she would have never asked for her help and trusted her with her daughter, emergency or not. That thought calmed her a bit and she snuggled her shoulders deeper into the soft mattress and relaxed.
She should probably get up and check on Cassidy. The young girl, too upset by the movie they had watched the previous night and the fact that she had been accidentally left alone by her family, had knocked on Andy's door three times in the course of the night, seeking confirmation that the brunette was indeed still around.
Pushing the covers off with a long sigh, Andy placed her bare feet onto the heated wooden floor and proceeded to pad toward the window. Her eyes went wide as she saw the reason for the unsettling glow that had emanated from the window. The entire street was covered in a thick layer of snow, and the thick, white blanket was reflecting the yellow street lights, tinging everything in an unusual, eerie colour.
Cassidy's room was located just across the hall, so it wasn't facing the street and the light wasn't likely to frighten the girl. Andy decided to take a shower instead of waking the young Priestly early. After turning on the ceiling lamp she gathered her clothes from the previous day with a wrinkle to her nose. She wasn't really looking forward to wearing the same clothes again. With a sigh she moved into the en-suite bathroom, her feet sliding over the smooth wooden boards, enjoying the luxurious floor heating.
The shower was perfect, hot and soothing, and the provided body-wash smelled heavenly and left her skin particularly smooth. She was rinsing the expensive shampoo from her hair when she heard the distinct sound of her cell phone ringing in the bedroom. Crap, she cursed internally and clambered out of the shower. Wrapping an incredibly soft towel around her soaking body she slid, rather than walked, to quickly grab her phone without looking at the display.
"... Andréa, is it too much to ask for you to answer your phone at a reasonable speed? Have you not only gotten slow in the head but also in your motoric functions?"
"Good morning Miranda," the brunette grinned as she rolled her eyes toward the ceiling, too happy to hear the editor's voice than to be upset by her choice of words.
"Well, that is debatable, since you people in New York thought it would be fun to block all air traffic with your ridiculous idea of a blizzard," the older woman scoffed.
"What? Oh right, it's snowing..." Andy said, turning to the window as she stood dripping water onto the shiny oak floor.
"Well aren't you sharp as a katana?" Miranda spat in annoyance and Andy knew that if the older woman was in such a mood, it usually meant bad news.
"So, I take it your flight has been cancelled? What time is it over there anyways?" She asked with a shiver. When you were soaking wet, even standing on a heated floor didn't really help to keep you warm.
"Of course it's been cancelled, Andréa, have you even watched the news? So unless you have a cervidae acquaintance with a shiny, red nose, who'd agree to pull our airplane through that little weather problem, I won't be flying into New York today."
Andy had to try really hard not to laugh. It was unnerving how much she found herself missing the older woman and the insulting but witty things she always said, which hinted at the intelligent and funny human being behind the ever-present mask of ice.
"And Andréa, why are you shivering? I thought you had fixed the heating."
"Oh, it's just because I'm dripping wet. You caught me in the shower..."
A strange, muffled sound came from the other end of the line and if Andy hadn't known any better, she could have sworn that Miranda had gasped.
"Uhm... well... and how is Cassidy?" Miranda asked, sounding a bit shaken.
"Oh, I was going to check on her as soon as I got dressed. She sneaked over several times throughout the night, but I tucked her back in, and she's been quiet since around two and I'm sure she's still sleeping now. I think she is still a bit shaken about being left alone," Andy said quietly.
"Yes, I can understand that. The girls are not really used to being apart. Caroline is in London with her theatre group and won't return until tomorrow. That is, if the flights are going. Their father was supposed to take them both over the holidays this year..."
Sitting down on the soft bed covers, Andy closed her eyes and listened to Miranda's voice. She enjoyed the familiar warmth that spread from her belly to the rest of her body at being spoken to by the editor as an adult and not merely an assistant. It was something that the older woman had started to do a few weeks before Paris, sharing minor details about her girls or give fashion-related insights that did not directly have to do with Andy's job.
Remembering that she had ruined it all by running away, Andy couldn't suppress a sad sigh. Now that she had to take care of Cassidy and was thousands of miles away, Miranda was being civil. But no doubt, as soon as the older woman set foot into New York again, she would rip her to shreds for her behavior in Paris, and then send Andy from her life forever.
"What is it, Emily?" She heard the older woman turn her head away from the phone and speak to someone in the background. Andy wondered how the British assistant was holding up. Having been in the position to try and get Miranda a flight back to New York through a hurricane, Andy knew how it felt to try but fail at accomplishing the impossible. The editor did not take kindly to 'incompetence', even if it meant that in order you fulfill some of the tasks you'd literally have to be Superman.
"Andréa, as my wonderful first assistant has just informed me," Miranda began in a slow, icy tone with which Andy could vividly imagine her starring down Emily, "that no flights are going to the East Coast until at least tomorrow evening."
"Miranda, it's alright. I don't mind staying with Cassidy. Don't worry, okay?" Andy reassured the older woman. "I won't leave her alone."
The editor exhaled a relieved sigh which travelled through the phone into Andy's ear and down her spine until it settled low in the brunette's abdomen with a faint tingle.
"Thank you, Andréa." She could certainly get used to Miranda thanking her. The older woman had once mouthed those two uncharacteristic words, but Andy had never actually heard them before yesterday.
"Oh, and I assume you don't have clean clothes with you..."
Andy confirmed with a simple "Uh-huh."
"On the second floor, next to my study, there's a closet full of samples I received but never used. Feel free to take whatever you need," Miranda spoke softly and Andy pictured her flicking a hand into the air in a gesture of dismissal.
"Okay, thank you, Miranda."
"Yes. Well... I will let you know if my situation here..." There was definitely a pursing of the lips, "... changes. Tell Cassidy that I'm trying very hard to get home to her."
"I will tell her... Bye, Miranda."
There was a pause before the older woman hung up and Andy stared at the phone in her hand for a while, unsure of why Miranda had sounded so... nice on the phone. Well not in the beginning, but just like on the previous day, the calls had started with Miranda being in an agitated and annoyed mood, and had ended in an almost mellow atmosphere. It felt as if the editor needed to talk to Andy in order to calm down.
Shaking her head at the silly thought, the brunette returned to the bathroom to dry herself and then padded out and down the stairs to find the aforementioned closet. It wasn't hard to spot and as soon as she had turned on the light, her jaw nearly dropped to the carpeted floor.
Bags upon bags of designer clothes were lined up on white shelves, still wrapped in their plastic covers, clearly never worn. Of course she should not be surprised, this was the home of the Queen of Fashion, and Miranda's own closet somewhere on the top floor, was probably even larger than this, but it still thrust Andy into a state of complete awe as she walked past the row of shoes.
She noticed that the items here were not Miranda's style, which would explain why the editor didn't wear or use them. Andy spotted a shiny La Perla bag and pulled out several pairs of subtle pink briefs with different lace patterns and matching push-up bras. She swallowed hard against the lump in her throat as her initial thought of why Miranda would choose not the wear them, turned into a picture of the older woman in nothing but the pink items, which Andy now clutched between her trembling fingers.
Uhm... She quickly grabbed a white blouse and a pair of black jeans from a True Religion pile and tried to avoid picturing Miranda's behind in those tight-fitted pants. Lalala!
Before Paris she had always found ways to distract herself when her mind was travelling into those particular regions, but now, inside Miranda's own home, it proved to be very difficult. There was no more Nate to smother because of her feeling guilty, no Christian to get drunk and nasty with and of course wherever she looked, she was reminded of the older woman.
"Okay, hold it together, Chickie," Andy chanted to herself. She needed to get dressed, and she needed to prepare breakfast and wake Cassidy.
Emily Charlton loved her job. Well, on most days she did - at least that's what she'd normally tell herself. Today however, she truly hated it. It was a pure catastrophe.
"No, you don't seem to understand," she barked at the tired-looking older lady behind the counter. "This is Miranda Priestly we're talking about. She must get on a flight to New York today! If not, she'll kill us both!" She nearly shrieked but the woman in the hideous airline uniform still seemed unimpressed.
"I'm sorry, Miss, but all flights to the U.S. East Coast are still cancelled. You will just have to find your boss a hotel room." She beckoned past Emily's shoulder to the next person in line. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave, Miss."
On the verge of tears Emily could barely manage to send an angry sneer at her and stomped away from the counter to return to the V.I.P. lounge empty-handed. Again.
She had never seen Miranda so unsettled by something that was obviously out of everybody's hands. It was understandable in a way, though, nothing in the world was as important to the editor as her two children.
Taking a steadying breath she flashed her pass to the security guard and pushed through the doors into the seated area. Her boss was sitting on one of the white leather sofas, and was staring out of the large window onto the tarmac below. Miranda appeared lost in thought, because she didn't bark at Emily the second the younger woman had entered, and the Brit was unsure as to how to approach the older woman.
It was a known fact that Miranda Priestly hated to be disturbed, especially with bad news, so the exhausted assistant just remained near the entrance and stood in silence.
"My god, Emily, you breathe as loud as a horse. Don't just stand there idly as if you have nothing to do," the white-haired editor cut harshly into the room without turning around.
"M-Miranda..." the redhead began timidly. "I... uhm. I tried everything... I bribed, I yelled, I threatened... just... nothing is flying out there. These people are just too daft to understand the importance..."
The older woman's hand shot up. "Details of your incompetence do not interest me."
Finally facing her assistant, Miranda sighed deeply through her nose and got up. "Clearly I'm just going to have to take matters into my own hands," she said icily as she swiftly passed by the younger woman and disappeared through the door.
Speechless, Emily walked over and lowered herself to the other sofa on shaky legs. Her world had been crashing lately.
First she hat gotten hit by a car and then bloody Andy "Ahn-dray-uh" Sachs had snatched away her spot by Miranda's side at Paris Fashion Week, the most important event of the year and the one Emily had been looking forward to for her entire time at RUNWAY. Not only had the stupid, doe-eyed brunette messed everything up by going AWOL in France, she had also left behind a horrendous chaos, proving to everyone how irreplaceable and competent she had actually been.
Clenching a hand around her skinny wrist, Emily felt like screaming at the injustice of it all. Miranda had been in a terrible mood since her return three weeks ago, and where everyone was convinced that it had to do with the editor's impending divorce or the coming and going of incompetent assistant candidates, Emily knew better. She had spent enough time around both Miranda and Andrea to see that something had grown between the two. She couldn't really say what that was, but the older woman had certainly given the brunette special treatment.
No other second assistant had ever been trusted so quickly with the townhouse keys and the delivery of The Book and nobody else had ever been permitted to share an elevator with the Fashion Queen. And there were other, more subtle, things that had caught Emily's attention as well. The way Miranda's gaze often lingered on the younger woman when Andrea was working, the new habit of the editor to spend long seconds every morning, assessing Andrea's attire, and the barely noticeable playfulness in their banter, all indicated that Miranda actually enjoyed having the brunette around. More so, than anyone else in the office.
The realisation had caused a torrent of jealousy to shake Emily and it had taken a lot out of her to not strangle Andrea. She had been Miranda's assistant for more than a year and had always worked hard and tried her very best, but it had never impressed the editor or elicited the kind of response she allowed for Andrea. Emily had despised the other assistant for whatever she possessed that was so unique, so special to Miranda.
However when Andrea had run off and the magazine editor was left mourning the loss, the redhead had felt a tinge of sympathy, for both Miranda and the brunette. She didn't know what had happened in Paris, but she understood that for some twisted reason the older woman needed Andrea. That had also become clear the previous day when the only thing calming down the frantic mother had been the opportunity to talk to the journalist.
It had taken Emily a frightening twenty minutes with Miranda staring her down before she had managed to retrieve Andrea's new contact information, and once the older woman had finally gotten hold of the brunette and had managed for her to stay on the line, the editor had visibly relaxed. Now 'Superhero Andy' was prancing around Miranda's multi-million dollar home, catering to one half of her demonic offspring, something Emily certainly wasn't jealous of.
Miranda's twins were little terrors that made the lives of all assistants pure hell. Looking out of the window at an aircraft being deiced the redhead sighed, wishing that at least Andrea would have a very difficult time with the little girl.
Happy laughter travelled from the kitchen through the vastness of the Priestly townhouse.
"Yay! Do it again, Andy!" Cassidy yelled while excitedly bouncing up and down next to the brunette.
"Alright, but I can't guarantee that it will work this time," Andy warned sweetly.
"Yeah, yeah, come on, just do it!"
With a practiced flip of her wrist Andy catapulted the bread into the air, were it somersaulted, and then skillfully caught it again with the frying pan, earning another round of applause from the young Priestly.
"That is so cool, who taught you how to do that?" Cassidy asked, her eyes still clinging to the french toast on the stove.
"Hmmm, my ex-boyfriend. He's a cook." Andy said sheepishly.
"You had a boyfriend?" The girl inquired thoughtfully.
"Uhm, yes. Had." The brunette flipped the two portions onto the waiting plates and poured generous amounts of vanilla sauce and cherries on top of both.
Cassidy sat down at the table and held her knife and fork at the ready. "Is that why you left mom?"
"Huh? What?" Her eyes pinned down the innocent-looking girl for a while. "No, Cassidy. Uhm, it was actually the other way around. My boyfriend left me because of your mom." She didn't enjoy thinking back at the night when Nate had held the fact that she always answered Miranda's phone calls, even while in a middle of an argument with him, against her.
"Oh," was the only response coming from the twin as she dug her fork into the sugar-loaded plate of goodness.
Andy watched Cassidy for a while until her growling stomach made her sit down to devour her own breakfast.
"So, anyway. What would you like to do today?" She asked, half chewing.
Cassidy seemed to think for a while and then pointed her fork at the hallway behind them. "We don't have a Christmas tree. Mom doesn't like them in the house when we're at dad's over the holidays."
"Oh, okay? So you want to get a tree?" The brunette tapped her fingers against her mouth as she swallowed another bite. Given the weather, any kind of excursion might become problematic.
A vigorous nod came from the girl, who continued, "And we need to put up the rest of the decorations as well. Now that dad is not coming and we're staying here, we need to make it all 'christmassy' and stuff. Caro comes back tomorrow and she won't like the house all empty like this."
Andy smiled at the young Priestly, watching as the girl's eyes lit up, much like Miranda's when the older woman discussed the newest PRADA collection or talked about her daughters' piano recitals.
"We can try and a look round the neighbourhood for a place that still sells trees," Andy smiled at Cassidy. "There is a chance that they're all closed in this weather, though, but at the very least we can have some fun in the snow."
"Alright!" The redhead was about to jump up.
"Cassidy, wait. Finish your orange juice, first. I won't have you getting sick." She tapped her fingers on the oak table.
Miranda walked off the airplane with determination. It was noon and they had just landed in Chicago, the eastern-most available airport she - not Emily - had managed to get them to. Her humbled assistant rushed behind her, trying to keep up with the editor's long strides.
"Don't just trail behind me like a puppy and get us a car," the editor said calmly as she clacked across the tiled floor while retrieving her phone. "Snow tires, four-wheel drive, extra gas tank... anything to get us to New York."
"Yes, Miranda." The redhead said as she hurriedly stormed by and into the direction of the car rentals.
"One of these days you're going to give her a heart attack."
"I beg your pardon?" Miranda spun on her heels and regarded the tall blonde icily at having the audacity of speaking without being spoken to.
"I'm just saying. If you want us driving you back to New York through this weather you might not wanna push Emily over the brink of a nervous breakdown."
The editor regarded the young woman, who worked for RUNWAYS's beauty department and had insisted on accompanying her and Emily on their quest to get back home. Apparently her and Emily were next to inseparable and the blonde had refused to let the redhead venture off to drive Miranda the remaining eight-hundred miles back to Manhattan by herself.
"Serena, if I wish to hear your opinion on how I treat my assistants I'll make sure to have Emily schedule an appointment."
She gave the tall beauty a long look which silenced her effectively, and then sat down in the car rental waiting area. Normally she'd refuse to travel by such pedestrian means, but this situation was unusual and called for extraordinary measures in order to make it back home to her baby as fast as possible.
The thought of Cassidy all by herself in a cold, dark house gripped at her chest. Of course the girls' father had disappointed again, no surprises there. Miranda knew she should have arranged for back-up to be in place in case of such an emergency, but it had slipped her mind because she had been distracted lately. Specifically during the past three weeks.
Subconsciously recrossing her legs she shuffled further back into the cold plastic chair with a sigh. She was tired and hungry and anxious to be on the road. There was no way of knowing if they'd even make it through to Ohio, let alone all the way to New York City. The latest news back in Canada had been that most roads were still blocked off.
She pinched the bridge of her nose as she tried to make sense of this pressing urge to get back to her daughter. She knew, rationally, that Cassidy could not be in any better hands. Andrea Sachs was one of the most efficient people she knew, and until three weeks ago she had been one of the most reliable as well.
A sliver of pain shot through her heart and travelled up her spine into her skull where it transformed into the beginnings of a headache. What had happened in Paris still remained a grey cloud of confusion to Miranda, an area that made it difficult to arrange her thoughts and left her unable to categorize her emotions, an ability she normally lived by.
This is ridiculous, she sighed inwardly and massaged the back of her neck with relentless pressure, attempting to rub some sense back into herself. She wanted to just get home and relieve Andrea of her guilt-ridden obligation to watch Cassidy, so the brunette could get back out of her life. Miranda still wasn't even sure why she had contacted the young woman after the way Andrea had removed herself from the editor's proximity so completely and abruptly.
Somehow, in her panic-ridden state, the only person her thoughts had consistently travelled to had been the brunette. And although she had first tried all other available options, in the end she had relented and ordered an already stressed Emily to get Andrea's new contact information by any means necessary.
There had been a frightening nagging in the back of her mind that her former assistant would not pick up the phone. It would have sealed the deal, confirmed once and for all that Andrea had truly walked away from her. But then the younger woman had answered the call. And she had dropped whatever she must have been doing to check on Miranda's daughter. And now, a day later, she was still around and taking care of Cassidy, and for a moment it felt as if everything was back to normal.
Just for a little while, the editor could pretend that Andrea was still working for her, still entirely at her beck and call, no matter the hour. But of course it was an illusion. As soon as Miranda were to set foot back into her house, Andrea would leave. For good this time.
Eyes losing focus on her reflection in the top-to-floor windows looking out onto the parking garage, she pressed her lips together to suppress the low hum in her bones that had been insistently growing stronger over the past twenty-one days. Like an awareness of impending doom it lurked in the corners of her consciousness, alerting her of its presence, but remaining still too weak to break into the open.
Miranda swallowed and took a deep breath that straighted her slumped shoulders and fully slid her command mask back into place. She would deal with seeing Andrea again when that moment arrived. Right now, she had to concentrate on getting home. With a final sigh she stood and stalked into the direction of where her assistant was frantically flailing her arms at the man behind the counter.
"Emily, what is taking so long? How hard can it be to get car keys, are you just completely incapable of doing anything?"
The snow crunched deliciously under their boots as Andy and Cassidy fought their way along the blanketed sidewalk. To the young girl's delight they had succeeded in still acquiring a decently-sized fir tree and were now lugging it through the dozen inches of thick powder back to the townhouse.
"Ugh, Andy, this is really heavy," the young Priestly whined from behind the brunette. "My arms are falling off and there's snow... like everywhere in my clothes. Why couldn't they just deliver it?"
Andy let the tree drop into the snow and stepped back toward the girl. "Look at the road, nothing can drive there. The tree would have never made it back to your house on time." She bent down to pat some snow from Cassidy's pants and readjust the redhead's scarf and hat. "Come on, just one more block and then we can do all the fun stuff, like decorating, and eating cookies."
Eyes slightly widening at the mention of fun and treats, Cassidy gripped the tip off the fir more tightly. "Well, what are we waiting for then? Let's go, let's go!" She stomped on the spot and Andy hurried back to the front to pick up the heavy side of the tree with a giggle. "Alright!"
Somehow they made it back to the house without taking another break and managed to drag their evergreen friend up the stone steps and through the door, into the hallway.
"So, where should it go?" Andy asked as she removed her hat and brushed the remaining snow from her shoes.
"Hmmm," Cassidy looked around the main entrance. "Well, normally we have a much larger tree standing right there, next to the stairs. But this one is tiny... and it's not really for other people."
"Other people?" Andy asked while hanging up their coats.
"Well, mom doesn't have any dinner parties this Christmas. Usually the big tree is here to impress the guests. But now... now I guess it's just for us," the girl continued thoughtfully, looking at the fir lying on the stone floor, still wrapped in its netting.
"How about we put it upstairs in the sitting room with the fireplace? That way Santa can see it when he comes by tonight," Andy offered.
"Andy, I know Santa isn't real." The redhead mockingly scoffed with a roll of her eyes. "But yes, I think the sitting room would be nice."
And so they proceeded to carry the tree two floors up and lugged it to its predestined location. Andy had to admit that it looked wonderful beside the marble fireplace and the large painting of Miranda and her two girls. A softly glowing warmth spread in her belly at the thought of Miranda coming home and seeing the decorated tree.
The brunette wondered about that for a while. Would Miranda really care? After all, she didn't seem to care much about anything other than her work, or anyone except her two daughters. The bitter flavor from Paris found its way back to Andy's tongue and she swallowed against it, trying to bury the feelings it stirred up.
Now wasn't the time to think about Miranda, the boss, who stepped over bodies for her career and who simply reduced everyone around her to mindless employees who weren't permitted to do anything but their job. The editor's words still stung.
It had been the moment where Andy had realised that her job didn't matter. It had never mattered. What had been driving her over the months of her employment had been the eagerness to please Miranda, to surprise the older woman and make her proud. Approval or contentment were things that Miranda didn't offer, however Andy had truly felt that something had been building between the two of them.
When the editor had opened up in her hotel room, inviting Andy to glimpse behind the business mask, to see Miranda, the woman, something had clicked inside the brunette. As if she had finally reached some kind of ultimate goal, having somehow earned the older woman's trust, witnessing Miranda's desperate tears at the mention of her daughters had filled Andy with a multicoloured turmoil of emotion.
Out of simple reflex she had reached out and asked whether she could do anything else for Miranda. And she had truly meant anything. Just to abruptly be shoved back into her state of being nothing but a gopher, to be reduced back to the silly, little assistant who should feel lucky, and overly privileged to be allowed to even breathe the same air as 'La Priestly'.
Watching Miranda completely shut her out again had truly hurt and after having stormed from the suite that evening, Andy had come to the realisation that she would never be allowed to do anything but her job for Miranda. That was all her boss would ever expect and want from her, and that thought had immediately crushed everything Andy had built up during her time at RUNWAY.
The brunette had never had aspirations to follow a career in fashion. It had only been the inexplicable need to understand Miranda Priestly, to find out what made her tick, and the quest to make the older woman's life easier wherever she could, that had propelled Andy forward. Only through Miranda had she come to appreciate the art of dressing people and without the editor, the world of fashion still held no real meaning for Andy.
Confused by her overwhelming stream of emotions that night, she had been drinking way too much and as means of consolation had thrown herself into the arms of the next best person who had actually wanted her. Nausea welled up in her as tiny flashes of her night with Christian returned to her memory. The roughness of his skin, the complete and utter loneliness she had felt despite his ministrations, the silent tears she had cried after he had rolled off her with a satisfied smirk.
It was then that she had understood that she could no longer stay by Miranda's side. That it would ultimately destroy her, more than breaking up with Nate or having an unsatisfactory one-night stand with a pushy and self-absorbed writer ever could. Miranda hadn't needed her compassion and empathy the night before and she hadn't needed her protection the day after, fully capable of stopping Irv's plan to dethrone her, all on her own. The Queen of Fashion needed no one.
Unwilling to put a name to the swirl of emotions, so thick and clearly orbiting the entity that was Miranda, Andy had been in such a daze after the luncheon, where the editor had killed Nigel's dream, that she hadn't even fully paid attention to what Miranda had been talking about in the car.
Now, that she recalled their conversation, Andy finally understood what the older woman had been trying to say, and she was painfully aware of how she had shot down Miranda's second, more controlled attempt at reaching out, and opening up. She had ruined it all but running away like a selfish, little brat.
Andy gazed at her distorted reflection in the shiny, red Christmas ball ornament. How ironic that she was now decorating Miranda's Christmas tree, together with one of the older woman's daughters. Flicking a finger against the delicate glass she watched herself grimace. Fate truly had a funny way of paying you back for the mistakes you made.
"Andy? Are you okay?" Cassidy's timid voice found its way to the brunette's brain.
"Oh, uhm, yeah. Yes of course." She gave the girl a half-hearted smile and reached up to hang the last red ball on a high up branch. They stepped away and regarded their masterpiece.
"You know what's missing?"
Cassidy questioningly turned to the brunette. "Presents?"
The girl was right. With all their Christmas gifts having already been delivered to their father's, there were no packages to be found anywhere in the house.
"Hmmm, well we can do something about that. But first, the missing thing I meant was... music!" Andy smiled and pulled out her iPod.
Finding the correct cables, she managed to hook the device up to the main stereo system and soon Brenda Lee's voice was heard echoing through the Priestly house and Andy grabbed Cassidy's hands. "Come on!"
They began dancing to the sounds of 'Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree' and soon all melancholy had dissipated from Andy's heart. The young redhead showed the brunette her best Elvis impression and soon they were hopping up and down on the sofa in a giggle fit. It had been a while since Andy had managed to let go and simply be her silly old self again. Working at RUNWAY had not allowed for being playful like this and she hadn't really been that close with Lily anymore since she had started dating Nate.
As her feet propelled her higher and higher toward the stuccoed ceiling of Miranda's sitting room, Andy decided that she'd just make the best of it. Cruel or not, fate had apparently decided to give her a final glimpse into the editor's life and she would cherish every last moment of it.
When the music switched to a slower song, Cassidy let herself fall down into the soft cushions with an exhausted sigh.
"Aw man, I wish Caro could be here. She would have loved this."
Andy stepped off the couch and sat down next to the girl. "Why is she in London anyway? This is the first time you two are apart?"
The young Priestly nodded. "The Dalton theatre group went to see Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre. They're coming back tomorrow evening, though, and Dad was supposed to pick Caro up from the airport."
The adrenaline of jumping on the furniture wearing off, Cassidy allowed a melancholy sigh.
"Hey," Andy put a hand on the girl's shoulder. "Your mom is trying her very best to get home to you, so you won't have to be alone at Christmas."
Blue eyes darted up to Andy's. "I'm not alone. You're here."
The soft, sad laugh escaped before the brunette could reign it in. "Well, yes, I'm here... but I don't count, do I?"
"Do you hate that you're here?" Cassidy asked quietly, her eyes shimmering.
"What? Oh no! God no! That's not what I meant," Andy gave her a quick hug. "I really like being here. I'm having a great time." She playfully thumped the girl into the arm and winked. "And you're really nice when you don't try to get me fired."
Smiling relieved Cassidy looked from Andy to the fully lit Christmas tree. "And you do count, Andy. You count for mom, and we like you, too."
Suppressing the urge to argue about her importance to Miranda, Andy just squeezed the girl's arm and whispered, "Thank you."
After a short moment of just listening to Frank Sinatra singing about the clear midnight in Bethlehem, Andy stood and straightened her blouse.
"Now, I remember promising you cookies. Seeing how this house has probably never seen anything sweet and baked, I suggest we make our way down to the kitchen and remedy that right away!"
For the fourth time Miranda's hand shot out to grab onto the handle above the door as the car came to another sliding stop at the side of the road.
"Emily, is it too much to ask for you to not kill me?" She barked at the redhead to mask her violently pounding heart. They had only been driving for two hours and already she was exhausted from the less than ideal conditions on the highway, and she wasn't even the one driving.
"I'm sorry Miranda... I just... I don't have enough strength left in my arms... to keep it steady," the young woman almost cried. From her position behind the front passenger seat, Miranda could see Emily's fingers trembling uncontrollably and watched as Serena reached out and took the assistant's hands in her own.
"Em, it's alright, calm down. Let me drive for a while," the blonde spoke soothingly and to the editor's surprise, the redhead visibly relaxed. Serena's thumbs were rubbing gentle circles on Emily's wrists and for a moment Miranda felt like an intruder, witnessing such a private moment between the two women. She leaned back in her seat and turned to look outside, uncomfortable with the rough scratching the scene before her caused inside her chest, as if her heart was slowly being squeezed by sandpaper.
She didn't like to admit it, but she secretly longed for such simple and true signs of affection. Especially in moments like this, when she was cold, tired and hungry, when there were seven-hundred-and-fifty miles still between her and home, and her heart hovered in a constant flux of confused agony. She felt incredibly lonely, more so, than at any other point of her life before, and it scared her.
It wasn't really the sudden absence of Stephen in her life. He'd already been more or less gone before he had even filed for divorce and the lack of their fighting was actually a welcome change in Miranda's life. And before Paris, she hadn't felt such emptiness, like she was missing an important piece of herself.
Intently watching her breath leaving a small patch of condensation on the car window she had to admit to herself that the reason for her recent, and confrontational loneliness was that Andrea had walked out of her life.
She missed Andrea.
She missed her intelligence, her humor, her often misdirected, but honest kindness, those large brown eyes that could read Miranda like an open book and those full lips that would carry the sweetest smiles, which succeeded in even breaking through the editor's thickest ice walls.
The reality of daydreaming about her beautiful ex-assistant suddenly hit her and she abruptly sat up straight and hardened her features in an attempt to also harden her heart. The absurdity of having some kind of... feelings for the brunette caused her 'Ice Queen' defenses to fully kick in and she stared herself down in the rear view mirror. Absolutely not!
"Miranda, are you ready to continue?" Serena asked as she fastened the belt of the driver's seat.
"I was ready yesterday," the editor barked, feeling like she was on the verge of loosing her mind.
As the blonde skillfully brought the Toyota Land Cruiser back onto the slippery road, Miranda took a deep breath and massaged her temples. She needed to rest. She hadn't slept in over a day and the worries about her daughter and the... emotional mess involving Andrea, were taking their toll.
The rich smell of gingerbread still hung in the air as a thoroughly nauseated pair of amateur bakers fell down on the sitting room sofa with synchronised groans.
"Ugh, Andy, I think I know why mom doesn't let us eat sweet things... ouch!" Cassidy whined as she sheepishly rubbed her stomach.
"Uhm, well... you're not supposed to eat so much in one go, Cass. Especially not before it's baked."
The girl rolled onto her side and burst into giggles. "But it was sooooo good!"
"Yeah!" Andy turned to face the little redhead. "So, how about a movie? I don't think I can do anything else for a while."
"Oh, I know the perfect one! Let's have a Home Alone marathon!" Cassidy grabbed the remote, scrolled through the menu on their entertainment system and pushed the play button without leaving room for debate.
Andy chuckled and poked the girl in the belly. "You realise that from now on I will call you Kevin, right?"
"Fine, then I'll just call you 'the creepy grandpa with the shovel!'" They giggled again and then snuggled into the sofa to watch the chaos unfold in the McCallister household.
It was two-forty in the morning on Christmas Day and Miranda drifted in and out of slumber on the large, leather backseat of the Land Cruiser. Although they had been making great progress, thanks to their winter tires, four-wheel drive and the fact that it had stopped snowing, they were still at least two-hundred miles away from New York City.
They had been on the road for nearly thirteen hours, with only three minor stops at gas stations for fuel and much needed coffee. Emily and Serena had been taking turns driving and after her disastrous first attempts the redhead had proven to be a rather skilled driver. Miranda suspected that a lot of mess-ups had to do with nerves, when it came to Emily, and the Briton's blonde friend seemed to have a very calming effect on her which in return made Emily behave more efficiently.
Keeping her eyes closed, the editor pulled her coat tighter and focused on evening out her breathing in order to find her way back into slumber.
"Hey, I think she's sleeping," she heard the distinct whisper of her assistant.
"Yeah, poor Miranda, she must be completely exhausted," came the soft reply from the blonde.
"PoorMiranda?" The redhead scoffed. "What about me? I haven't slept in two days, I'm completely wired from caffeine and on the verge of a heart attack."
"I know, babe." There was a pause and Miranda briefly opened her eyes to a small slit to see Serena raise her hand to softly stroke Emily's cheek.
"But put yourself in her position. Those girls mean everything to her. Everything. She's doing nothing that no other mother wouldn't also do."
"Yeah, I reckon." Emily sighed. "You know, Sachs might be a complete idiot but she isn't useless. She can take proper care of that little monster. There's no reason to risk our lives rushing over there over bloody icy roads in the middle of the night to get there a day or two early."
The editor clenched her fists under the protection of her coat at her assistant's designation for Andrea and Cassidy.
"Andy isn't an idiot, Em. She's just a bit too empathic for her own good. And the home-alone twin is definitely not the only reason we're trying to get there as fast as possible," Serena's calm voice floated through the confines of the SUV.
"What do you mean?"
Yes, Miranda thought, still acting out her rendition of 'Sleeping Beauty'. What do you mean, Serena?
"Oh come on, don't pretend like you haven't noticed. Miranda has been completely gone on Andy for a while now and she hasn't been the same ever since Paris."
Her heart skipping a beat nearly caused the editor to blow her cover, but she managed to keep her outer calm. What did Serena mean by 'gone on Andy'? Surely she wasn't insinuating that Miranda harboured feelings of a romantic nature for Andrea.
"You got to be bloody kidding me! Not you too, Serena," Emily hissed, still trying to whisper. "Nigel has been bugging me about this all week. He's convinced that Miranda has the hots for little Miss Sunshine and is acting so strange because she misses her. That stupid, hideous skirt wearing, doe-eyed dork. I mean, can you just imagine?"
The editor had to pull on every single bit of her decades of training to remain calm. She didn't want to alert them to her wakeful state because she knew that if she did, she would kick Emily out of the car and leave her to freeze to death in the middle of the forest. Blood and rage thumping loudly in her ears she nearly couldn't hear what Serena said in reply.
"Em, I can imagine. Andy is a beautiful, intelligent and kind-hearted young woman and if anyone has a shot at changing Miranda's life for the better, and truly make her happy, then it's her. There's always been something between them and I know it's one of the reasons why you don't like Andy."
Miranda made a mental note to be nicer to Serena in the future.
"Well, and because I still think Andy looked incredibly hot in the CHANEL boots," the blonde laughed.
What? Andrea had worn the CHANEL boots? Suddenly Miranda felt warmth spread from her abdomen at the image of the brunette wearing the thigh-high leather boots. When did she...? Wait... Serena had seen Andrea in the boots and she thought of her in terms of 'hot'. How dare she?
Miranda made another mental note to not be nicer to Serena in the future.
The Manhattan streets felt sleepy and alien to Miranda as she steered the SUV toward the Upper East Side. On the back seat Emily and Serena were sitting together, holding hands and they were sound asleep. A few hours ago she had relieved the two who had been near exhaustion, and had taken over the steering wheel. Her young employees had almost immediately succumbed to their tiredness and although she'd refuse to ever admit it, the image of them curled up together warmed the editor.
Miranda's thoughts trailed to Andrea and she wondered what the brunette would think of the fifty-year-old 'Ice Queen' daydreaming about curling up with her on the backseat. No doubt Andrea would run away all over again. She sighed audibly and pulled into her street.
The road was mostly empty and Miranda could park the car in front of her building. She turned off the engine and for a while she just sat in a state of complete and utter surrealism. She was in the middle of Manhattan and the only sounds surrounding her were the ticking of the engine cooling off and the soft pair of snores behind her. Granted, it was only eight o'clock on Christmas Morning, but still, this was New York and it was eerily quiet.
She leaned toward the door and glanced up at her home. Was that... holly... in the window? Miranda unfastened the seat belt and stepped out of the vehicle. The sidewalk in front of the townhouse, and the wide stone steps to its entrance had been cleared and she could walk up to the front door without hindrance.
Pushing her key into the lock she paused, realising that going inside meant she could wrap her daughter into her arms, but it also meant that Andrea would leave her, again. With a heavy heart she turned the key and stepped into the hallway. The house was just as quiet as the street outside and a sweet scent hung in the air.
Following the smell, Miranda was led into the kitchen and greeted by an entire counter full of baskets with Christmas-themed cookies. She stood in complete wonder, picking up a misshapen Christmas Tree with bright green glazing and turned it between her fingers. Had she walked into the wrong house?
She looked around the familiar room, but something had changed, it no longer felt the same. Was it the knowledge that Andrea had been in here, baking with Cassidy? The image of her ex-assistant, covered in flour, wearing a 'Kiss the cook' apron and helping the twins mix a bowl of dough, manifested itself in her mind and she had a hard time shaking it off. There was no trace of flour in the kitchen now, though. Of course they had cleaned up after themselves, Andrea had always been efficient.
Eyeing the bright green cookie in her hand, the editor slowly raised it to her lips and took a small bite. She had expected it to be sweeter but apparently Andrea had even taken care of that, knowing that Miranda didn't want her girls to eat too much sugar. Moving out of the kitchen she finished off the cookie as she climbed the stairs to check on her daughter.
To her surprise Cassidy's bed was empty but whereas she would have normally panicked, she now remained calm in the knowledge that Andrea was with the twin, wherever they may have wondered off to. Just to make sure, she also checked the guest bedroom and some of the brunette's clothes were still lying neatly piled on a chair by the window.
Hmmm, she wondered. Where could they be? She pursed her lips and walked down a flight of stairs, and opened the door to the sitting room. The scene that greeted her there made her heart stop and froze her to the spot.
On her favourite white sofa, wrapped in her finest cashmere blankets, was a curled up Cassidy with her head resting on Andrea's lap. Both were sound asleep and their chests were heaving in an even rhythm that lulled Miranda into a peaceful trance. Next to the window stood a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, its little lights illuminating the two sleeping forms.
Careful not to wake them, Miranda tiptoed closer and stopped right in front of the sofa. She knew this image would stay with her forever. Cassidy had wrapped an arm around Andrea's waist and the brunette held a protective hand to the girl's shoulder. The editor bent down to kiss her daughter's forehead and when she raised her head back up she hovered close to Andrea's face.
Miranda's heart was racing so fast, she was sure its thumping was visible through her coat. Andrea's long eyelashes cast multiple shadows across her silken cheeks and the editor was completely lost in the brunette's peaceful features. She was relaxed and beautiful and... sad. There was a slight frown on the younger woman's brows and Miranda felt the overwhelming urge to reach out and gently wipe it away.
She couldn't stop her hand and her fingers brushed slightly against Andrea's forehead. It wasn't the first time she had touched the younger woman, they worked together and there were accidental meetings of fingers and bumping of shoulders, however, now that she had become aware of her emotional attachment to the brunette, it caused a wave of tingles to travel up her arms and into her chest.
Andrea is really here! Talking on the phone and seeing... no, touching for herself, were two different things. It finally sunk in that the brunette had really somehow found her way back into Miranda's life, and the editor's hands began to tremble. She shakily brushed the bangs from the younger woman's forehead and was just about to stand back up when deep brown eyes fluttered open and pinned her down with a confused look.
They gazed at each other, speechless and rooted in their spots by the adrenaline exploding in their veins and Miranda saw the haziness in the brunette's eyes slowly change into recognition and then... panic.
"M-Miranda!" Andy whispered, eyes wide and her heart speeding from a relaxed sleep mode to a full one-eighty in less than a second.
The editor hovered merely a few inches above her, frozen in mid-air and looked at her with a vulnerable and soft expression. Unsure whether the white-haired apparition was real or not, Andy slowly raised her free hand to gently press the tips of her fingers to the smooth skin of Miranda's cheek. It was warm and soft, and it turned a rosy shade of pink under her touch.
"Are you real?" Andy asked timidly, afraid of getting a negative response and finding out it was just a dream.
"Andréa..." the Miranda apparition whispered and clasped a warm hand around Andy's inquisitive fingers. They remained like this, lost in each other's eyes, the moment too awkward and intimate to acknowledge it by being coy. The sensation of the older woman's warm hand, pressing Andy's finger against her face, rooted the brunette in a state of pure bliss and pure terror at the same time. It was as if she saw herself from the outside, looking down on her body and the alien actions it performed, in puzzlement and complete wonder.
The girl on her lap stirred and after a few sleepy seconds Cassidy's head shot up and she threw herself into her mother's arms, breaking the spell the two women had been under.
"Moooooooom!" The little redhead squealed. "You're home!"
Her eyes still locked to Andy's the editor squeezed her daughter tightly and managed to finally stand up straight.
"It appears that I am."
Cassidy showered her mother's cheeks with kisses and then pulled away to look at the brunette, still sitting on the sofa.
There was a sudden panic in the girl's eyes and she quickly grabbed the young journalist's hand. "Andy, please don't leave!"
"W-What? What makes you say that?" She squeezed Cassidy's hand reassuringly.
"Andréa won't go anywhere," Miranda spoke quietly, causing the other two to face her. "She is welcome to stay for breakfast."
There was hopeful sparkle in the editor's eyes and Andy lost some of her fear of the older woman kicking her out of the house.
"Oh, will you Andy? Please!" The little Priestly hopped on the spot and pulled at the brunette's arm.
"Uhm... yes, I guess I'll stay."
She quickly found her arms full of a happy twin and watched as relief seemed to flood Miranda's eyes. When the girl pulled away an awkward silence developed between the two adults and Cassidy kept glancing between her mother and Andy, as if expecting something to happen.
The brunette was completely at a loss as to what to do. Seeing Miranda again after three weeks of missing her, and believing that she would never get to be in her presence ever again, rendered the normally wordy young woman utterly speechless. She wasn't sure whether she should get up and pack her things, or make Miranda a coffee. Luckily, the older woman seemed to be in much the same predicament. She just kept looking at Andy, as if she wasn't entirely convinced that the brunette was real.
"Cassidy, would you do me a favour?" Miranda finally spoke to her daughter who listened expectantly. "Would you go and wake the two women in the big black car in front of the house and ask them to come inside for breakfast? I think we have enough Christmas cookies in the kitchen to feed an army."
"Yes, mom." The girl nodded with a grin and hurried through the door and down the stairs, leaving Andy and Miranda alone.
Exhaustion was clearly visible in the fine lines on the editor's face and her clothes were a tad wrinkled and her hair just a tiny bit deflated, but the brunette thought that Miranda had never looked more beautiful. As she looked up at the older woman, from her seated position on the couch, Andy slowly allowed her feelings to float to the surface. There it was. The heart-stopping longing to be close to the editor. It went beyond the wish to get to know Miranda, to understand and predict her.
As she watched a pink tongue dart out and wet the older woman's red lips, Andy's mind went blank and all she could think of was to taste the mouth that had verbally wounded her so many times in the past. The rush of moisture from her abdomen was mixed with adrenaline racing through her heart as she realised that she had been staring hungrily at Miranda's lips and she quickly stood to leave the room.
A sharp pain shot through her shoulder when she felt Miranda grab at her wrist and firmly pull her back.
"Oh no. You don't get to run off again, Andréa," the voice that could reduce powerful businessmen to quivering little puddles spoke icily and forced Andy to turn around. Little blue flames appeared to be dancing behind the powerful gaze the older woman directed at her. There was anger and possessiveness shining through the violent glimmer, and Andy's muscles refused to move.
"You can't leave. Not again... not when I just got you back," Miranda spoke more softly and the brunette watched as her eyes cleared and began to shine with hurt and fear.
What? She tried to collect her thoughts. The most prominent one was that Miranda did not want her to leave. Once that registered, it also abruptly sunk in that by leaving her in Paris, Andy must have really hurt the older woman's feelings. Her heart threatened to break as she searched the shiny blues.
"Miranda..." she spoke gently while stepping forward. Oh god! She watched in shock as two thick crystal drops ran down the editor's pale cheeks. Miranda was crying!
This time Andy did not pose the question of whether there was anything she could do, because she knew, she would not be able to deal with the rejection. Taking another step forward she gently snaked her arm around the older woman's waist and slowly pulled her into a careful embrace. At first the body in her arms remained rigid, their erratic heartbeats hammering together in a moment of indecisiveness. Then, hesitantly, Miranda slung her own arms around Andy's back in return and tightened her grip, to an almost painful level.
They melted into each other and the brunette rested her chin on the older woman's shoulder, deeply inhaling her familiar perfume and the scent of her shampoo. Miranda was still wearing her fur coat, and Andy briefly loosened her grip to sneak her fingers to the front and open the buttons, only to then boldly push her arms back into the coat and around the editor's soft waist.
Miranda pressed herself closer and buried her damp face in the crook of Andy's neck, never ceasing the pressure of her arms around the brunette. They stood, tightly slung around each other for several minutes, and Andy had begun to slowly rock the older woman from side to side, keeping them pressed together, the heat of their contact wrapped them in a soft cocoon under the thick layer of fur.
"Miranda..." Andy whispered sweetly, as she attempted to pull away. "You must be exhausted."
The arms around the brunette tightened and Andy began to soothingly rub up and down Miranda's back under the coat.
"Come on, you must eat something," she tried again, but the editor's hold on her remained as strong as ever, so she continued to sway Miranda in her arms, embracing her tightly while nuzzling her neck.
"Do you really hate me that much...?" The older woman mumbled, almost inaudibly.
"What?" Andy's hands stilled.
"Do you hate me so much that you feel the need to run away?" The timid, uncharacteristic voice stabbed painfully at Andy's heart and she firmly held the suddenly frail body to herself.
"Oh god, no! No, Miranda! I could never hate you!" She pressed her cheek against the older woman's and let her hand travel up to sweetly caress the back of Miranda's neck. "Why would you think that?"
"You walked away from me..." The whispered sentence stung in Andy's chest and froze her movements. All of the hurt and confusion from Paris rushed back and tears shot uncontrollably from her own eyes.
"You didn't need me..." The brunette nearly sobbed into Miranda's neck which caused the arms round her to give her another, almost suffocating squeeze.
"Oh but I do need you," the editor spoke softly, pressing the entire length of her body against Andy's.
"Well, yeah, as your assistant," the younger woman hiccuped. "You needed me to do my job."
At that Miranda pulled away and intently stared into Andy's eyes, as if searching for something. There was a question in her blue eyes, struggling to be asked through words, but being denied. Instead Miranda continued to peer into Andy's soul, the intense gaze stilling the journalist's tears and calming her breathing, until a spark in the older woman's eyes suddenly signalled that she had found what she had been looking for.
Miranda's hands reached up to cup the brunette's cheeks and with her typical, reassuring La Priestly determination in place, she slowly tilted up Andy's chin. Sapphire eyes briefly darted to pink lips and when Miranda's eyes found hers again, Andy saw something new flicker through them. It was alive and warm, and despite being completely alien, looked utterly beautiful on the older woman's face.
"I miss you," Miranda whispered against Andy's lips just before carefully touching her mouth to the brunette's.
Little shocks travelled through Andy's entire system and she finally had a clarity in her mind which allowed her to see that the many weeks of anguish and doubt, of heartache and longing, had all been building up to this very moment. Miranda's lips were soft and warm and they seemed to send a stream of light directly into her heart, washing out the sorrow and self-pity that had accumulated since Paris.
When she felt the older woman pull away, Andy realised that she hadn't responded at all and with a slight panic at possibly giving Miranda the wrong signals, she pulled at the editor's neck and reconnected them. This time they both began moving their lips, slowly at first and still clinging to each other, too worried that either would let go.
Kissing Miranda was as if a thick veil was being lifted from her world. All of a sudden everything seemed to make sense to Andy. Her fights with Nate, her estrangement with Lily and Doug, the urge to constantly receive the editor's approval, the hurt in Paris and the big mistake with Christian. Ugh.
Trying to banish thoughts of the self-obsessed, blond writer, Andy instinctively parted her lips to get a taste of the older woman and pressed her body into Miranda. When her tongue slid over Miranda's bottom lip the editor gave a soft moan, opening up for the young journalist, but just when Andy was about to deepen the kiss they heard Cassidy calling from downstairs.
"Mooooom! I don't know how to work the coffee maker!"
The two women broke apart and stared at each other, eyes dark and their hurried breaths mingling.
Keeping a firm grip on the brunette's arm, Miranda stepped toward the door. "We'll be right down."
She then turned back to Andy, eyes still glassy, lips parted, and entwined their fingers while giving the brunette a vulnerable, expectant look.
With the little Christmas tree lights reflecting in her deep, azure gaze, and her white lock curling just above the left brow, Miranda stood in front of her like a cold-hearted warrior goddess who had just turned gloriously and lovably human. Andy drank in the image of the editor, so open and raw, and pulled her closer. They embraced again, this time with less desperation and more as a confirmation of being in this - whatever it was - together.
"Miranda..." the younger woman whispered as she buried her face in Miranda's neck. "I miss you too..." Soft fingers trailed through her hair. "So very much..."
Sweet lips were pressed against her cheek and the older woman whispered, "Andréa, please stay... at least for the rest of today. We will figure something out after that... but for now... just stay." The pleading tone demolished any last doubt Andy felt and she pulled her head back just enough to lock eyes with Miranda.
Instead of using words, Andy replied by crushing her lips back against Miranda's, pulling the older woman closer and sneaking her hands back under her coat to gently rub at the warm waist, which caused the editor to moan into the kiss.
Firm hands pressed against her backside and forced their bodies even tighter together, their chests clashing deliciously.
"Andréa... we should... ugh..."
When she pushed her tongue into Miranda's mouth, the woman in her arms seemed to turn to jelly, which elicited another, deep moan from both of them, sending a new rush of moisture down between Andy's thighs.
Oh my god! She thought. It was so obvious. She wanted Miranda. She had wanted her all this time, but had not understood her feelings for what they were. Tasting her now, smelling her sweet scent and holding her soft, warm body so close, left no more room for doubt. The sudden clarity overwhelmed Andy and she slowly withdrew her tongue, only to have hot lips reclaim it and firm hands claw at her back.
"Hmmm... M-Miranda..." She could feel the older woman's strong heartbeat through where their chests pressed against each other.
"Moooom!" Came a second, much closer call from Cassidy and the editor broke the kiss and stepped backward with a startled look on her face.
The door was pushed open and her daughter's head peeked inside.
"Mom?" Cassidy furrowed her brows as she looked from Andrea to the editor. "Did you two have a fight?"
"Of course not, Sweetheart," Miranda said, still slightly out of breath. "We'll be right down, alright?"
The girl did not look convinced but she nodded and, with a final glance between the two women, disappeared again.
Miranda turned back to Andrea and the brunette looked at her with an intense gaze full of desire and affection, a shy smile gracing her slightly swollen lips.
"Come on, let's go downstairs. I learned how to work the coffee maker so I can take care of that, but you really must try one of our cookies." Andrea said sweetly as she offered a hand.
Charmed by the gesture Miranda entwined their fingers and they left the sitting room and walked down the stairs hand-in-hand. The editor felt silly, like a teenager holding hands with their first love, but she decidedly enjoyed the sensation. Never in a million years had she imagined that Andrea would return her feelings to even the slightest extend. Miranda had been convinced that the brunette hated her. And now their fingers were locked together and they were slowly walking down the steps of her home to a kitchen full of Christmas cookies.
The thought was so bizarre, yet so comforting that she gave Andrea's hand a squeeze and allowed a tiny grin. The younger woman returned a brilliant smile of her own and Miranda had a hard time containing the flush to her cheeks as they arrived in the ground floor hallway.
"Here, let me take your coat," Andrea offered.
"Oh you don't have to do that, Andréa, you're not my assistant anymore." The brunette's earlier words still echoed in her mind and she wanted to show Andrea that she saw her as an actual person instead of just an (ex-)employee.
"But I want to, just to be nice," the younger woman insisted and slowly ran her fingers along the collar of Miranda's coat. "Not that I don't enjoy you in your coat," she added sheepishly.
Before the sensation of Andrea's fingers brushing against her neck could inflame her cheeks any further, the editor turned around and allowed the brunette to slip the coat off her shoulders.
"Thank you," she spoke softly and Andrea hung the heavy garment in the closet and then joined the waiting editor to enter the kitchen.
Emily and Serena were seated next to each other by the large table, the blonde excitedly chewing away on one of the cookies and the redhead longingly watching every bite disappear. Cassidy was standing by the counter with an array of cups and pushing at random buttons of the frantically blinking coffee maker. The editor cleared her throat and three pairs of eyes darted her way.
"Miranda, thank you so much for inviting us inside." Serena spoke on behalf of a dumbstruck Emily who just looked from Miranda to Andrea and back with her mouth hanging slightly open, as if thoroughly amazed that neither was at the other's throat.
"Andréa, would you be so kind...?" The editor motioned toward the coffee maker and her daughter and the brunette nodded and stepped to Cassidy's aid.
"Wow, Andy, those pants look great on you!" Serena said with her eyes clued to Andrea's backside, and Miranda felt a surge of anger boil up in her, which was only dampened by the loud smack of Emily's hand connecting with the blonde's arm.
"Ouch! What? They do!" Serena whined at the redhead and rubbed the sore spot.
They do indeed look good on her, Miranda mused as she allowed her eyes to wander to Andrea's derriere in, what must have been the True Religion jeans from upstairs. She wondered if she'd be bold enough to run her hands across those curves, were they alone in the room. The thought of touching the brunette set her body ablaze again and suddenly her cashmere sweater was entirely too warm. Pulling at the collar she stepped toward the fridge to pull out a bottle of .
"Here, Mom, try a cookie! We baked them last night!" Cassidy stood beside her with a basket full of multicoloured Christmas shapes. "Take this one, it's an angel! The wings are lemon-flavoured!"
Smiling warmly at her excited daughter, Miranda accepted the offered cookie and took a tentative bite. Hmmm, this one was even better than the green one.
The sound of the coffee maker and the soft mumbles of Serena and Emily's bickering filled the kitchen and Miranda realised that for the first time in years, her house truly felt like a home. The only one missing was, of course, Caroline who was scheduled to land at JFK later that day. If the flight would actually go.
"What's the status of the airports?" Miranda asked in between bites and Emily spun around, eyes tired but wide.
"I... I left my phone in the car..." The redhead was about to get up and dash from the room, when Andrea put a calming hand on her shoulder and placed a cup of steaming coffee in Emily's hands.
"The last time I checked, they were expecting to open one runway at JFK today. Heathrow airport has no problems, so the plane should be leaving as planned in..." she looked at her wrist watch. "Ten minutes ago, actually. I will check and make sure it took off on time and will land as planned this afternoon."
Miranda could not suppress the tiny grin at Andrea's efficiency and Emily's dumbstruck face, so she turned around to face the window, gazing at the winter wonderland that was her garden, when a voice spoke softly beside her.
Andrea held out a large cup of latte, the aroma rising up along with the little swirls of its steam.
"Yes. Thank you, Andréa," the editor said sweetly as she reached for the cup, feeling the waves of shock emanating from the direction of her current first assistant at the unusual words coming from her lips. Miranda took a long sip from the steaming liquid while letting her eyes sparkle at the brunette, who answered with a raised eyebrow and an adorable smirk.
Their interaction didn't go unnoticed and Serena rose from her chair.
"Well, I guess we should get going and return the car and then go home. Thank you so much for your hospitality, Miranda."
"Nonsense," the editor turned to face the blonde. "You two are not going back on the road until you have gotten some sleep. You may use one of the guestrooms upstairs to rest." Eying a flustered Emily at the uncharacteristic offer, Miranda quickly added, "I may need you later. Leaving the photo shoot early means that we have an awful lot of work to do from here."
At the mention of work, the redhead looked a bit more relieved and Serena nodded.
"Yes, thank you. We'll go get some sleep then. Wake us whenever you need anything!" And with that she pulled Emily up, who hastily downed the last bit of her coffee, and the two of them left the room.
"They're totally BFFs!" Cassidy exclaimed before she began nibbling on another cookie.
"Yes, I guess you could call it that," Miranda mumbled, gazing lovingly at Andrea while patting her daughter's head.
"Now, I'm really tired myself and I desperately need a shower. Andréa, would you mind staying with Cassidy for a few more hours? I want to be awake and ready when Caroline gets home." She was a bit hesitant to ask Andrea to do so many things for her but the brunette just smiled and shook her head.
"No, I don't mind at all. Actually Cass and I still have some things to do..." the brunette sent a conspiratorially wink to the girl and they shared a grin.
"Alright. Well..." hesitant to touch Andrea in front of her daughter, Miranda just let her affection shine through her eyes. "I'll go upstairs then. Would you let me know if anything changes with Caroline's flight?"
Andrea nodded and accepted the empty coffee cup back from the editor.
"Thank you," she whispered and then turned around to leave the kitchen. Before she had moved beyond earshot, though, she heard Cassidy ask, "Why does Mom say 'thank you' to you, Andy? She usually never thanks anyone, except me and Caro."
"Well, I think your mom and I are starting to become BFFs as well, Cass." The brunette said warmly and Miranda began to climb the stairs with a smile as a final "Oh, I guess that makes sense..." travelled up from her daughter.
At three in the afternoon a decidedly more lively Serena and Emily made their way back to the kitchen, followed by a perfectly styled and beautifully dressed Miranda, that took Andy's breath away. The editor was wearing a dark grey, knee-length skirt and a blue silk blouse that brought out her eyes, with white gold hoop earrings delicately which matched her snowy locks. The fine lines around her eyes seemed more relaxed and Andy had to refrain from reaching out and running her fingers through the soft hair.
After another round of coffee, Miranda looked at the time and approached Emily and Serena.
"Caroline will land in an hour. I want you two to take Cassidy and drive to the airport to pick her up."
The present twin jumped down from where she had been sitting on the counter next to Andy, and ran to her mother.
"You're not coming?" She asked, reaching for the editor's arm.
Miranda sweetly hugged her daughter. "Darling, I still have a lot of work to do, so if I can finish it before Caroline gets home, I will have more time for you two for the rest of the day."
"Okay, I guess that make sense."
Serena was already pulling on her jacket. "We should leave now, the roads still aren't fully clear and four-wheel drive or not, I don't want to speed with such valuable cargo in the back of the car." She winked at Cassidy, who giggled and dashed into the hallway to get her own coat.
"Is there something I can do?" Andy said before she could stop herself.
Emily spoke before anyone else had the chance. "Don't sweat it, you're not her assistant anymore." The redhead crossed her arms smugly, no doubt waiting for Andy to be dismissed from the townhouse.
"Actually, Andréa, there was something I needed your help with upstairs," Miranda spoke with a low voice, startlingly laced with seductive undertones.
"Come on, Em, time to go." Serena quickly grabbed the gobsmacked redhead and they disappeared into the hallway.
"Wow," was all Andy managed to say as Miranda slowly stalked toward her with a look that rivaled her earlier tone. As soon as they heard the front door slam shut, the older woman pulled Andy closer and planted a sweet but promising kiss on the quivering, pink lips.
After pulling away, she continued seductively, "Let's go upstairs." The sound of her low voice, sending pangs of desire through Andy's body and the brunette could only nod.
Pulling her by the hand, Miranda guided them to the second floor and toward the door of her study, and Andy felt her muscles tense with anticipation.
The room was a lot more cozy than the editor's RUNWAY office. The walls were the same blue as the rest of the second floor, a dark oak desk stood by the window and matching bookshelves lined the space from one side of the study to the other. Opposite the desk was a large Chesterfield leather sofa, and three black-and-white, vintage fashion photos hung on the wall behind it.
The older woman closed and locked the door behind them and then turned toward Andy with a mixture of uncertainty and desire playing on her face. She reached for the brunette's other hand and then slowly pulled her closer, eyes searching Andy's.
The journalist was overcome with emotion and gently reached out to pull Miranda's face toward her. Their lips met, releasing a delicious shock wave of want into Andy's bloodstream, and she wrapped her arms tightly around the editor, pressing their bodies flush together. They moaned in unison and Andy realised that she would have a hard time stopping from here on out.
They had somehow moved across the fluffy carpet and now Miranda was leaning against the edge of the desk exploring Andy's mouth with a strong tongue and running her hands down the brunette's back. When the inquisitive hands sensually slid across her backside, Andy groaned and released the editor's lips.
"Miranda... didn't you need to work?" She knew that she wanted Miranda, all of her. And if they didn't stop right at this moment, she would have her, too.
"But I am working, Andréa..." the editor mumbled against Andy's neck before beginning to nibble her way down to the brunette's collar bone.
"Oh god..." Andy moaned again, pushing her groin into the older woman, as Miranda let her tongue dive into the hollow space above the younger woman's sternum and began trailing it back up the slender throat. "... Miranda... I want you. So much... I don't think I'll be able to..." another moan escaped her lips as warm fingers slid down the back of her thighs.
"... stop?" Miranda finished Andy's sentence. "Oh Andréa, I have no intention of stopping," she whispered in a low murmur that sent another ripple down Andy's spine and added to the molten mess between her thighs.
"But... but what about your girls... Caroline will be home soon..." The brunette tried, desperately trying to hold on to her sanity.
"The girls... will be much happier with a mother who can concentrate on being with them... rather than a distracted crazy woman, fighting months' worth of... pent-up desire," she hissed between kisses to Andy's jaw.
"Are you sure?" The brunette asked one last time, rather halfheartedly and enjoying Miranda's ministrations way too much to be able to stop.
The older woman pulled at Andy's chin and forced their eyes to lock. Sincerity and passion shone in her blues and Andy instinctively crushed their lips back together and quickly set to explore Miranda's mouth with her tongue.
"So... 'months' worth', huh?" She whispered after a while before moving up to gently suck on the editor's earlobe.
"Uh-uh..." Miranda sighed, clearly enjoying how Andy's tongue slowly trailed up behind her ear. "I think I've wanted you for... quite a while... hmmm..."
Andy had un-tucked the silken blouse and now began to softly run her fingers over Miranda's soft stomach. "Actually, I know... ah..." the editor trailed off as the brunette brushed against the bottom of her bra. Encouraged by Miranda's response, Andy moved her hand higher to gently cup one full breast.
Pulling her head away a few inches to watch Miranda's face mirror her state of bliss, Andy let her other hand join the first, pushing up the editor's blouse in the process. She felt the little peaks harden beneath her palms and allowed her two index fingers to slip over the top rim and below the fabric to simultaneously stroke both nipples, causing Miranda to lower her eyelids with a long moan.
"Andréa..." The hands on Andy's butt pulled her closer, rubbing in delicious circles and the brunette moved her head forward again to recapture the older woman's lips.
Moving Andy with her, Miranda managed to shimmy back to sit on the desk and the younger woman moved one hand to stroke up a stockinged thigh, pushing up the editor's skirt to allow for Miranda to open her legs and pull Andy between them. They both moaned into the kiss as their groins made contact and the older woman slipped one of her hands beneath the brunette's blouse and up her smooth back.
They breathed heavily through their noses, their tongues not relenting, their hands steadily exploring, until Miranda's fingers had somehow managed to unbutton Andy's jeans and were now tracing tiny circles through the silk of the lingerie, just below the navel.
The brunette broke the kiss with a loud groan and stepped away. The image of Miranda sitting on her desk - legs spread, one high-heeled shoe dangling from her toes, the other already having fallen to the floor, the expensive skirt bunched up around her middle and the buttons of her blouse half undone - sent a fire through Andy's limbs and she quickly unbuttoned her own blouse and dropped it to the floor.
Miranda watched with parted lips, sparkling eyes and a heaving chest as the brunette pushed down her pants and stepped out of them, dropping them next to the discarded blouse. Andy could feel the flames left in the path of the editor's intense gaze as Miranda evaluated her in the La Perla bra and briefs. Quickly the older woman opened the remaining buttons of her own blouse and allowed Andy to slip the thin garment off her shoulders.
The younger woman's breath hitched and she felt her mouth water as she took in the intricate, blue bra so delicately cupping the editor's supple chest. She reached out to stroke both breasts again and was rewarded by Miranda throwing her head back with another moan, exposing her soft, pale neck. Latching onto it with hungry lips, Andy stepped back between the older woman's legs and reached down with one hand to unzip her skirt.
When the editor slid off the desk to allow for Andy to slide down the garment, their breasts pressed firmly together and they both gasped. The feel of her own hand trapped between them nearly drove the brunette crazy and she hurried to rid Miranda of the skirt and then each thigh-high silk stocking, until they stood before each other in nothing but their lingerie.
She's absolutely beautiful, Andy thought as her heart hammered violently against her ribcage. The older woman's gentle curves seemed to call out to her and the brunette swiftly slid her arms around Miranda's waist and pulled her tight, her skin buzzing into a delicious hum where it touched the editor's.
Feeling as if a warm, fuzzy bubble was surrounding them, Andy nuzzled the Fashion Queen's neck and whispered sweetly, "You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."
Andrea's words ran down her spine and toward her groin like warm honey and Miranda snaked her own arms around the brunette to hold her tight. Her heart was racing, alive with long-forgotten feelings and full of desire. She wanted Andrea like she had never wanted anyone before. The fact might have explained her passionless marriages, but the editor was too focused on the soft body in her arms to allow for in-depth self-discovery.
She pulled the younger woman toward the sofa and sat down in the middle, urging Andrea to put one knee to either side and straddle her lap. Readily complying the brunette lowered herself and Miranda gasped as unmistakable heat was pressed against her abdomen.
Her eyes in a line with Andrea's chest, she reached up and quickly undid the clasp in front, which allowed the silk to snap open and reveal the younger woman's breasts. Without bothering to pull the garment fully off the brunette's shoulders Miranda darted forward and before she had time to second-guess her actions, she closed her lips around a hardened nipple, causing Andrea to arch into her with a long, guttural moan. She slowly, but firmly swirled her tongue and felt more moisture travel to the accumulated wetness between her thighs at the younger woman's continued moans.
She snaked her right hand across Andrea's abdomen and past her hips to smoothly slip under the silk to cup the soft flesh of the brunette's derriere. There was definitely moisture seeping through the younger woman's underwear now, beginning to coat her abdomen where Andrea ground against it as she pulled Miranda's head closer.
Releasing the nipple with a soft 'plop' Miranda eagerly moved to the other breast as she trailed her left hand over the front of Andrea's briefs and let it sneak beneath the fabric. She let it wander lower, stroking through the soft hair in anticipation until Andrea tilted her hips upward to allow the older woman to slide her fingers into hot wetness.
"Oh..." Andrea groaned as she undulated against Miranda's fingers, shaking off the mouth from her breast in the process. The editor was blinded by the intense need to feel the brunette and with a firm push she slipped one finger into Andrea's core, causing the younger woman to call out in surprise and pleasure. The sensation of being inside her Andrea, so warm and slick with desire for her and no-one else, robbed Miranda of all coherent thought and all that mattered at that moment was to completely fill the woman in her arms and guide her toward ecstasy.
Slightly withdrawing at first she added a second finger and pushed back inside, eliciting another delicious moan from the brunette and causing her to thrust harder against the editor. Overcome with a sense of possessiveness, Miranda curled up her fingers, feeling that if she thoroughly took Andrea, made the younger woman hers, the brunette would never leave her again. Driven by her basic instincts she let the fingers on Andrea's backside trail down and rhythmically press against the ripples around her other opening.
Another surge of wetness rushed past her fingers as the younger woman leaned over and pushed Miranda back against the couch with a nearly ecstatic moan and braced herself against the back rest, still steadily thrusting against the editor.
She felt the brunette's walls begin to grip at her and she knew Andrea was close. Thoroughly wet from the mess inside the younger woman's underwear, Miranda could push her right index finger slowly past the tightly muscled entrance and inside up to the second knuckle.
"Oh... god... yes... Miranda... Miranda... Miranda..." The name left Andrea's lips in tiny whimpers as the thrusts became more frantic and her thighs pressed against the editor almost painfully.
"My darling Andréa, you feel incredible..."
At those words, Miranda could feel the simultaneous tightening of the brunette's inner walls and the strong ring muscle until the body on top of her became rigid with ecstasy and Andrea let out a long moan, squeezing Miranda tightly.
She could feel the shockwaves ripple through the younger woman's body until they slowly subsided and Andrea became a limp mass in her arms, riddled with occasional aftershocks.
"Hmmm... Miranda..." the brunette sighed happily, pushing languidly against the editor one more time, before Miranda gently withdrew her fingers and pressed a tender kiss against Andrea's sticky chest. Being the cause of the younger woman's blissful state filled the editor with pride and a new sense of power. She hugged the brunette tightly against herself and deeply inhaled her scent.
"Hmmm, my Andréa, you're exquisite..."
Andy couldn't shake the silly grin off her face as she dressed in a new pair of jeans, dark blue ones this time, and then pulled on a red sweater and aligned the white collar of her blouse against the cashmere.
"You better be thinking about me with a face like that," Miranda's voice came from behind her and Andy watched via the mirror as the editor walked up in nothing but a crispy white towel and hugged her tightly from behind.
"Hmmm, of course. Only you, my queen," the brunette turned her head and kissed Miranda sweetly on the cheek. She could still taste the older woman's essence on her tongue and felt herself blush at the memory of going down on the editor just thirty minutes prior. She still wasn't entirely sure what had possessed her but it had felt so right and Miranda had certainly enjoyed every minute of it.
"And now you're blushing! That really better be me in that little head of yours!" Miranda gave her a fierce glare in the mirror and possessively pushed a hand between Andy's legs and the brunette threw her head back at watching the action in their reflection and feeling the wonderful sensation of Miranda touching her there. She knew she'd probably never tire of giving herself to the older woman.
"Hmmm... I can still taste you..." She whispered and this time it was Miranda's turn to blush and she quickly withdrew her hand, allowing the brunette to turn around.
Seeing Miranda's glazed eyes, Andy pressed a sweet, but brief kiss to the editor's lips and spoke softly, "We need to stop. We just showered and the girls are due back in just ten minutes. As much as I want you," she tenderly cupped the older woman's cheeks, "I think you should get dressed."
"You're right..." The editor nodded slowly and reached up to brush a lock of hair from Andy's eyes. "I want you, too."
They gazed at each other quietly and the editor stroked a thumb over Andy's cheek, seemingly pondering something.
"Andréa... I'm a complicated, old woman... in the middle of my third divorce and certainly not a... pleasant person to be around... but I want to be with you." She peered at the brunette through lowered lashes. "If you will have me."
Andy could not believe how in just a matter of days she had gone from mourning the loss of contact with Miranda, to being offered the most intimate of all relationships with the woman who had stolen her heart.
"Miranda, I would love to be with you!" She replied quickly, pressing sweet kisses to the older woman's cheeks and nose. "More than anything..."
"Good." Miranda smiled sweetly. "Now, I need to get dressed before I send the wrong kind of signal to my daughters!"
Cassidy leaned back into the couch as she watched her mom and sister unwrap the presents her and Andy had finished earlier that day. She had recounted every detail of the past three days to Caroline in the car on the ride from the airport, and the other twin had been rather jealous of the time Cassidy had spent with Andy. Only once she had informed her sister of the fact that Andy and their mom were now BFFs, which meant that Andy would spend more time at the townhouse, did Caroline calm down.
She smiled at her twin's excited squeal as Caroline pulled out her present.
"Wow, is this what I think it is?"
Andy leaned closer to Caroline and spoke with a grin, "If you think it's a hand-made paper replica of The Globe Theatre in London, then it is what you think it is."
"Wow! How did you get it?" Caroline seemed completely beside herself as she set up the round theatre on the coffee table and started pulling out the little Shakespearean actors.
"We didn't buy it. We made it, Caro!" Cassidy answered excitedly as she knelt down beside her sister. "With paperboard, paint and ice cream sticks."
Her sister's eyes became huge. "This is sooooo cool! Thanks, Andy! Thanks, Cass!" She stood to first hug Andy, and then her twin.
Cassidy smiled and then watched their mother's puzzled expression at the present in her own hands.
"It's a pop-up book, Mom. Andy and I made it!" Her mother's expression softened and she looked sweetly at Cassidy and then at Andy, with a different kind of sparkle in her eyes. Interesting, the young Priestly thought.
She stood and sat down on the armrest of the chair her mom was seated in.
"It's about this dragon... here... she can spit real fire, see?" Cassidy pulled at the little paper bit that conjured up a bright orange frame on the page.
"And look, many knights try to hunt and kill the dragon, but they all fail," she turned to the next page and pushed at the corner, which made a whole row of armored knights fall over in front of the dragon's den.
She then turned to the next page where she shuffled a young woman across the page, "But you see, the young maiden isn't out to hurt the dragon, she just wants to be friends..." She pointed at the figure and at the happy-looking dragon.
"But then this evil knight comes and he tries to get to the dragon by pretending to be interested in the young maiden." Cassidy pulled at another corner and a black rider on a dark horse moved across the page.
"The dragon wants to protect the young maiden and flies over to help but the knight surprises her and threatens to kill her." A wide paper sword waved across the page as Cassidy pulled and pushed at the corner.
"But then the young maiden throws herself between the sword and the dragon and offers to marry the knight if only he promises to not harm the dragon." The young paper maiden's arms flailed back and forth on the page.
"The knight, however, doesn't want a wife who'd pick a dragon over him, so he leaves and the maiden and the dragon stay together and live happily every after," she turned to the last page which had a drawing of the dragon and the young maiden curled up inside the dragon's den, and she pulled at the white corner to make the dragons belly gently rise and fall with each breath.
"The End." She said happily and looked up at her mother.
"Mom! Why are you crying? Don't you like it?" Both twins shot up worriedly and grabbed their mother's hands.
"No, oh no, Darling," their mother spoke while wiping the tears from her cheeks. "This is wonderful! I'm just very touched."
Cassidy tried to remember when her mother had ever been touched before. Sure she had enjoyed their piano recitals but she had never been so touched that she had cried. Then again, they had never made a gift by hand, but had always just used their allowance to buy gifts at Tiffany's.
"I'm glad you like it, Mom." She leaned down to hug her mother.
"Did you think of it by yourself, or did Andréa help you with the story?"
"I thought of the story myself, but Andy helped with cutting the shapes and drawing gluing everything together so it actually worked."
Her mother raised an eyebrow at Andy but the other woman just shrugged her shoulders and offered an innocent smile.
"Well, then let me thank Andréa for helping you build this wonderful book and Caroline's beautiful theatre," she gently pushed her daughter off and Cassidy knelt back beside Caroline.
Then their mother gestured for Andy to walk over, who complied and let herself get pulled sideways onto their mother's lap and wrapped into a firm hug.
Cassidy was certain, she had never seen their mom pull another adult onto her lap, not even Dad or Stephen and when she watched their mom lean forward and press a brief kiss to Andy's lips, Cassidy nodded to herself.
Yes, BFFs, for sure!