As she dropped into her seat in the first-class section, Caroline Priestly rubbed long fingers over her burning eyes. Less than four hours before she had finally finished the last of her thesis work. Now it was just a matter of waiting for the final word on whether it had been accepted. She didn't expect a rejection and would, in fact, be shocked into speechlessness if she were to receive one. No, for once, she'd followed to the letter the advice her advisor and Andy had given her. She was tired of school and all it entailed. She was ready to start living her life on her own terms, and if her mom didn't wake up to reality soon, Miranda Priestly might just get one hell of a shock as to what those terms included.
Caroline had waited five long years for her mother to act on her feelings for Andy Sachs, but if what Cassidy had written in her latest email was true, Miranda was even further from doing so than ever. It seemed the little nudges from her children hadn't been enough, so Caroline was prepared to give one last hard shove. If her mom still wouldn't do anything then it was Caroline's turn. She knew her sister was dead-set against Caroline acting on her own feelings toward Andy, but there was no sense in everyone being miserable. Maybe she wouldn't have a chance, but Caroline intended to find out one way or the other.
Settling back, she closed her eyes and allowed her mind to drift back over the past decade. It had been two years after the events in Paris when Andy had drifted back into their lives. Caroline often wondered whether Cassidy would have made such an effort to reconnect their mother with the young reporter if she'd had the benefit of knowing the future, because it had all, quite literally, started with Cassidy.
The semester had not been going well for Cassidy. A gifted student, she had been well on her way to turning in another all-A's year when her grades had begun to slip. Not a great deal, but enough to set off warning bells in her journalism instructor's mind. Cassidy was an effortless writer, words seeming to flow from her fingertips with the ease of turning on a faucet. Lately, her work seemed tight and stilted, something Sherry Chambers wasn't used to receiving from her most promising student. While the work was more than acceptable under normal terms, it wasn't up to Cassidy's usual standards. Efforts to bring the situation to the attention of Cassidy's mother had proven fruitless, as the girl's grades were still within an acceptable range, just a low A instead of a high one. Sherry had learned from Page Six that the twin's father had recently remarried. She'd also overheard the twins talking about their mother dating "yet another Big L," (evidently, Caroline's designation for loser) and how things hadn't been the same since Miranda's assistant had walked away in Paris. Sherry couldn't quite understand how that last piece of information seemed to take precedence over their mother's divorce, but she figured the twins knew their mother better than anyone and so trusted their judgment. With a little research, Sherry was able to fill in the details.
Since a student's school work was often a direct reflection of her home life, Sherry was inclined to credit Cassidy's problems to that. Still, she wasn't comfortable with waiting for things to slip far enough for anyone else to become alarmed. With that in mind, she drew a large, red "B" on the top of Cassidy's most recent assignment with only the tiniest twinge of conscience and prepared to drop a bomb in the next day's class.
Sherry was careful to keep her face expressionless as she handed back the assignments, though she took care to note Cassidy's response. The utter shock was almost laughable, but Sherry bit her lip to forestall the inclination. In Cassidy's world, that B was the equivalent of a C to most people. Time for phase two, Sherry thought as she took her place at the front of the class.
"Since we're just over halfway through the semester, I thought I'd change things up a bit. When you access the link for your homework assignment, you'll find a list of names of local journalists who have won some pretty prestigious awards. I'm willing to give extra credit to anyone who can bring one of those journalists in to talk to our class." A murmur ran though the students as Sherry was famous, or infamous, for never giving extra credit. "Quiet down. I know some of you have parents that could make this happen easily, so to level the field a bit, you can't use them as a resource or anyone else in their employ. You make the contact and extend the offer. Do it entirely on your own, and I'll give you enough credit to raise one assignment a full letter grade." Again Sherry almost laughed as a fire seemed to kindle in Cassidy's eyes. Nothing like a good challenge to wake someone up. "Ok, on page 310, can anyone tell me what impact internet-based news outlets are having on print media?"
Later that afternoon in the Mirror offices, Andy Sachs leaned back in her chair and rubbed her tired eyes. Long hours of staring at a computer screen had her once again thinking she might want to invest in glasses or at least some quality eye drops. Her musings were interrupted by the pinging of her email server, and she switched over to that window only to stare open-mouthed at the sender. CPriestly1? Who the hell—Opening the message, she scanned through it quickly. Cassidy. Slowly, Andy began to read it again.
Dear Ms. Sachs,
You probably don't remember me.
"Right. After you almost got me fired," Andy huffed.
My name is Cassidy Priestly, and you once worked for my mother, Miranda Priestly, at Runway. As you may know, I attend the Dalton School. My journalism instructor has assigned us to invite award-winning journalists to speak to our class, and I was hoping that you would be available sometime this month to do so. Please contact me with your response or if you have any questions. I wait to hear from you.
She has got to be kidding! And since when do Miranda's kids do anything on their own? Andy stared at the email, eyes narrowed. There was a trap in here somewhere; she just couldn't see it at the moment. Finger tapping the keyboard, she read the message yet again, looking for the hook, the part where Miranda could tear her to shreds. As many times as she read it, though, Andy couldn't seem to find one. Still, her reporter's instincts told her there was more to it than appeared on the surface. Decision made, Andy typed a fast reply.
Meanwhile, Cassidy was pacing her bedroom waiting on a response from the email she had sent. She had to get Andy Sachs to speak to her class. There was no way she was sticking that last assignment under her mom's nose for a signature. It was a stupid policy anyway. Whoever it was at Dalton that decided that whenever a student received a grade below her general average the assignment had to be signed by a parent should be shot and…and…forced to wear Wal-Mart knockoffs to a Runway benefit. There, that would teach them, she decided with a nod. Let them be subjected to the La Priestly glare; Cassidy wanted no part of it.
She hurried to her computer when an email beeped in.
Dear Ms. Priestly,
I do indeed remember you, though I'm not quite sure you remember me. I regret that I will not be able to assist you. I have not spoken to your mother since our working relationship was severed, but I doubt that she would encourage contact between myself and her children. I believe it best for all concerned to maintain the status quo. Perhaps there is someone else you can get. I'm sure Miranda has a number of contacts who will be more than willing to assist you.
"Urghhhhhhhhhhh!" Cassidy roared, flinging a pencil across her room. Jumping up from the chair, she began to stalk back and forth, flinging her arms about and releasing a string of vitriol against B grades, unfair assignments, journalists as a whole and Andy Sachs in particular. She also got a few good shots in against her mother just on principle, though it made her feel more than slightly guilty doing it. She was so furious that she didn't notice Caroline standing in the doorway staring at her wide-eyed.
"What the hell is your problem?" Caroline snapped, finally tired of watching her sister's meltdown.
"Andy Sachs!" Cassidy hissed in fury.
"Where do I know that name from?" Caroline's eyes grew impossibly wider. "Mom's assistant! The one who left in Paris! What's going on, Cass?"
Still furious, Cassidy explained the entire situation to her sister, ending with, "So, do you have any ideas?"
"Yeah, forget the whole thing," Caroline advised. "You'll never get her to agree."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, sis," Cassidy groused.
Caroline rolled her eyes, grabbed her sister's hand, and pulled her over to the bed to sit down.
"You seem to have forgotten something important, Cass."
"Such as?" Cassidy tugged at her hand but couldn't get loose.
"Huh?" Cassidy frowned, trying to figure out what Caroline was talking about.
"The Harry Potter manuscript. The one Mom got us by threatening the assistant we tricked into going upstairs during her fight with Stephen." Caroline's look entreated her sister to remember.
"Yeah, ok, so what…Oh, shit!" Cassidy yelled and fell back on the bed, hands over her face.
"Yep. That assistant was Andy Sachs. I doubt the woman has fond memories of us," Caroline grinned. That had been one of their evilest and best pranks to date.
"Great," Cassidy moaned through her hands. "I'm doomed."
"Maybe not," Caroline disagreed. "Maybe if you just tell her the truth. She's been on the receiving end of Mom's crap enough to sympathize. It might work in your favor. Though if it was me, I'd find someone else entirely."
"No, it has to be Andy Sachs." Cassidy rose and headed for her computer, determination in every step. "Anyone else would just be responding because of Mom's name. If I can get Andy, it'll be in spite of it."
Sitting down, her fingers began to fly over the keyboard.
Just as she was pulling her purse from her desk drawer, Andy received another email from Cassidy Priestly. Girl gives up just about as easily as her mother, Andy thought with a grimace. Opening the email, she sat back, mentally forming another rejection as she began to read.
Ms. Sachs, Andy,
I do remember you, and I guess I should have started with an apology. My sister and I played a very mean trick on you that night, and in our defense I can only say we'd have done just about anything to stop that argument, including throwing an unsuspecting assistant to the wolves. I am sorry though that it had been you. I'm aware of just how my mom can be, and I regret we exposed you to that, which brings me to why I'm once again attempting to persuade you to speak to my class.
This is an extra credit assignment, and I need that credit or face Mom myself. I received a less than stellar grade on an assignment and…well, let's just say she won't be pleased. The credit I would receive if you speak to our class will make that grade go away. So you see, though I really have no right to ask, I really do need your help.
Mom is…I'm not sure how to put it except to say she's changed. She did so two years ago and is now much less tolerant, even of Caroline and me. If there's any way you can help me, I'd really appreciate it.
Andy stared at the words for a moment, reading the last paragraph over and over. Miranda…less tolerant. Oh, sweet God in heaven. There has to be bodies stuffed in every closet and cupboard at Elias-Clarke. What the twins had done to Andy hadn't been fair, but was it any fairer to subject one of them to an even less tolerant Miranda? While Andy doubted Miranda would become one of those mammals that ate their young, she might chew on them a little. Did Andy really want that on her conscience? She reached for her keyboard with a sigh. One little talk couldn't hurt anything.
Actually, it could. Andy found that out when she showed up at Dalton to give that "little talk." Seated at the back of the class in all her imposing glory was none other than Miranda Priestly. What the hell is she doing here? Andy wondered, unaware Cassidy had let slip at last night's dinner that Andy would be speaking to her class the next day.
Reasoning that if Miranda had intended to kill and/or blacklist her she would have done it long ago, Andy started her talk, speaking about her investigative work that had led to the series of stories for which she'd been awarded. As she spoke, Andy began to relax and enjoy interacting with the students. Some of the anecdotes she related were funny, some a bit scary, and several showed how boring her day-to-day job could be. She felt it was a good talk. She noticed how Miranda be listened intently the entire time, eyes never straying from Andy's figure at the front of the room. Although confused as to why Miranda had deigned to sit in on her presentation, Andy continued to pretend nothing was out fo the ordinary. When they reached the question and answer portion of the presentation, several hands shot up with the usual questions about where she got her information, who tipped her off, etc. Andy answered them all good naturedly.
Before she realized it, the hour was up, and the bell rang to send the students scurrying off to their next class. Cassidy stayed behind for a moment and threw her arms around Andy for a hug.
"Thank you so much," Cassidy said. "I really appreciate it, and if I can ever pay you back, let me know."
"Perhaps, Andréa would not be averse to having dinner with us tonight," Miranda spoke for the first time. Both Andy and Cassidy stiffened at her words and stepped apart.
"Um, that's not necessary, Miranda. I was glad to do it, sorta," Andy said reaching for her bag. She turned to each of them in turn as she said her good-byes. "Ms. Chambers, thank you for having me today. I really enjoyed it. Cass, keep up the good work, and I'll be reading your by-line one day. Miranda, it was nice seeing you again. I really need to get back to work." With a nod, Andy slipped out of the room and hurried down the corridor. The last thing she wanted was to spend any more time around anyone named Priestly. She'd had enough trouble getting over Miranda after Paris; she didn't want to go through it all over again.
She could still remember the almost overwhelming urge to kiss the woman as they'd sat in that car together. It was that, as much as anything, which had caused her to run from Miranda in Paris. She had some semblance of peace in her life now, and she intended for it to stay that way. Head down, Andy didn't realize she was about to barrel into someone until she found herself with her arms filled while attempting to keep them both upright. She looked up into the eyes of Miranda Priestly and almost hit the ground, anyway.
"Miranda! How…?" Andy gasped, shocked that Miranda could be in two places at once.
"There's a shorter way out, if one knows the school well, Andréa," Miranda murmured.
She made no move to step out of Andy's embrace which only served to make Andy more aware of their bodies pressed tightly together. With a gasp Andy released her and stepped away.
"I'm sorry," Andy apologized. "I didn't see you."
"No, you were too intent on your escape," Miranda's voice was low and even, betraying no clue as to her thoughts outside of her words. "But then running away is a talent of yours, I believe."
Andy stiffened, her ire coming swiftly to the fore.
"Now, wait just a minute, Miranda," she started.
"I don't dare, Andréa," Miranda interrupted. "It takes you less time than that to disappear."
With a sigh, Andy deflated. "I suppose you're right. What do you want, Miranda?"
"Why for you to come to dinner, of course. I thought I made that clear in the classroom." Miranda was giving nothing away.
"What point is there in my coming to dinner?" Andy asked.
"Must there always be a point?" Miranda parried.
"With you? Yes. And usually an unpleasant one," Andy snapped. Honestly, what did Miranda expect? Hearts and flowers? Well, she wasn't getting them.
A sadness, not unlike the one Andy had seen in Paris, invaded Miranda's eyes for a moment, but the blank shade dropped over them again.
"If I were to promise you no unpleasantness, would you come then?" Miranda asked to Andy's shock.
"I—yes, I suppose so," Andy agreed at last, though she'd known all along Miranda would win; she always did.
"Wonderful. I'll have Roy pick you up at your apartment. Say 7:00?" It looked like Miranda was holding back a smile. Or was it just a trick of the light? Andy wasn't sure.
"Well, if I'm going to make it for seven, I need to get back to work."
"I could drop you," Miranda offered.
Eyes wide at the idea of being alone with Miranda in a car again after all this time, Andy scrambled to come up with an out.
"I'm heading the other way. An interview I need to do." She hurried away before Miranda attempted to change her mind.
Caroline sat forward and signaling to the flight attendant asked for a cup of coffee. She wasn't yet ready to sleep. That could wait until she was home and in her own bed. Accepting the coffee, she ignored the flirtatious glances of the man seated across the aisle and let her mind drift back to that first dinner.
It hadn't been an auspicious beginning. In fact, Caroline and Cassidy had both wondered afterward what their mother had been thinking by inviting her ex-assistant to dinner. Andy had seemed nervous and spoke little. Their mother had acted graciously but remained quiet. It had been a nerve-racking, uncomfortable meal for all of them, and Caroline, for one, had been glad when it had ended. What had proven to this day to be the most shocking thing of all was that it wasn't the last meal they all shared. Andy Sachs had come to dinner the next week and the one after that and each week thereafter for the next ten years.
It was a good six weeks after that first dinner before Caroline found out her mom had followed that first dinner with a series of emails and texts, stubbornly maintaining contact with a reticent Andy. It was a story Andy had told her five years into Andy's friendship with Miranda.
Andy had gone to work the next day unable to believe she'd actually shared a meal with Miranda Priestly, a nauseatingly nerve-racking meal, but a meal all the same. At least it was over, and she wouldn't have to go through that again. Whatever small debt Miranda had imagined she owed because of Andy's speaking to Cassidy's class, it was paid, and everyone could move on. Dropping into her chair, she stowed her bag in a drawer and booted up her computer. Opening her email, she felt her heart drop when she saw the first message was from MPriestly .
Just fucking great. She's like the undead, popping up just when you think the movie's over. With a sigh, she opened the email and read.
I thoroughly enjoyed dinner last night. Perhaps we could do it again. Say Friday night?
What the fuck? Enjoyed dinner? You've got one sick idea of what a pleasant evening is, lady, Andy groused to herself. There was no way in hell she was going through that again and the sooner Miranda understood that, the better.
I'm sorry, but did you have a second dinner after I left? Because the one I was at was a disaster.
There, that ought to do it. Maybe Miranda would just leave her alone now. Hitting the enter key, Andy began work on her next story, pushing thoughts of Miranda Priestly far to the back of her mind. That is, until her email pinged with a new message.
Whatever do you mean? I promised to be pleasant and I was, was I not?
Andy had to admit Miranda had been pleasant, so pleasant in fact Andy was on pins and needles waiting for the explosion to come. The truth was Andy just hadn't been willing to trust Miranda to keep her word, but could she really be blamed for having her doubts? After all, Miranda hadn't kept it with Nigel, and they'd been colleagues and friends for decades.
Why are you doing this? What do you want?
Maybe no one at Runway asked Miranda questions, but Andy was no longer working there and asking questions was her job now. Miranda would just have to deal.
Or maybe not, Andy thought several hours later when she finished her second story of the day and sent it to the queue to be proofed. It seemed Miranda didn't explain herself to anyone. With an amused shake of her head, Andy grabbed her bag and headed out, intent on grabbing some lunch before her appointment to interview an alderman. With luck, she could file her third story today and be a couple of days ahead on her deadlines. She always got her best stories when she was free to be sent out on breaking news.
Smiling to herself while pushing her way through the front door of the building, it faded as quickly as her steps when she caught sight of the silver Mercedes that idled at the curb. Roy came around and opened the door to reveal Miranda, who leaned forward and slid off her sunglasses.
"Do get in, Andréa. We'll be late for our reservations," Miranda commanded before slipping her glasses back on and leaning back.
Roy looked at Andy and shrugged as if to say, "What can you do?" Shaking her head, Andy chuckled and walked around the car with him to enter through the other side. Once in the car, she leaned back against the door as the vehicle pulled smoothly into traffic.
"To what do I owe this pleasure?" Andy asked with a resigned grin.
"You appeared to have questions. I thought we might best discuss them over lunch," Miranda said.
"I can see where you might think that," Andy agreed, sarcasm dripping from her tone. "After all, our last meal together went so well."
"I do not understand why you continue to say such things." If it was possible, Miranda's tone seemed to convey hurt. "I agreed to be pleasant, and I was. I kept my word. Was it truly so terrible?"
Andy sighed and sat back on the seat to face ahead.
"No, it wasn't terrible. Just really uncomfortable."
"Why?"Miranda twisted her hands in her lap. "I did as I said. What went wrong?"
Andy shook her head, unable to believe they were having this conversation. "What was wrong was that it was entirely fake, Miranda. Yes, you were pleasant, the same kind of pleasant you use for the fat heads at galas and benefits. Not for one moment were you real."
"I see," Miranda sighed. "I am not good at this."
"What this?" Andy asked, more lost than ever. "What is it you want exactly?"
"Things have not been the same since…since you left. I find that I'm—I'm having difficulties. I thought that perhaps if we had dinner now and then, things might revert to more of a normal state." Miranda looked out the window on her side of the car, seeming to wait for a response.
Andy ran what Miranda had said through her mind several times trying to make sense of it. Except that it made no sense whatsoever unless…
"You miss me." Andy gasped, shocked at the thought. "You actually miss me."
"Really, Andréa, don't be ridiculous," Miranda sniffed, seemingly offended by the idea.
"Roy, pull over," Andy called to him. As the car slowed to a stop, Andy opened the door and made to get out.
"Where are you going?" Miranda snapped, suddenly agitated.
"I'm getting out, Miranda. I don't like being lied to or played with. You want to be… friends, fine. I can do that, but on my terms." Andy swung a foot out the door only to find a hand on her shoulder pulling her back in.
"All right! I missed you. Now stop being so melodramatic, and close the door," Miranda hissed.
With a grin, Andy did just that.
"So, dinner on Friday, huh? Let's see how lunch goes, and I'll let you know afterward."
Lunch had evidently gone well because Andy had shown up for dinner the following Friday. Over a decade of friendship had followed. Caroline shook her head at the amount of wasted time that represented. She'd been thirteen the first time Andy had come to dinner and eighteen when she had realized why. Andy Sachs was in love with her mother and probably always had been. Yet, Andy never said or did anything to reveal that fact to Miranda.
They had each dated separately off and on during that time, but only once had one of their relationships come anywhere near being serious, and it was Andy's. They had all long known that Andy was a lesbian by that point, and all her relationships had been with women since she had come out. Cassidy often expressed to her sister that in her opinion Andy was looking for another Miranda, one who could love her as more than a friend. That one time it had appeared Andy had found her.
It had become something of a tradition for Andy and Miranda to bring their love interest of the moment to dinner. Cass called it "getting the stamp of approval." Caroline had always thought it was a rubber stamp moment since none of the relationships lasted much beyond those dinners. But this time was different. The woman Andy brought over that night was different, like no one Andy had ever dated before. For starters, Peggy Peabody was a year older than Miranda: an elegant, reserved, powerful woman who had turned over the managing of the family holdings to her daughter, Helena.
Since doing so, Peggy had made her home in New York for much of the year, and Andy had met her when she was sent to interview Peggy about an exhibit of her personal art collection being showcased at the Met. The interview had become dinner, then a string of dinners, and now Andy was bringing her to meet her best friend.
Miranda appeared to like the woman immediately, seemed to come to respect her over their dinner conversation and to think this woman might be right for Andréa. Yet Caroline could see that deep within her heart, her mother loathed the woman for that very reason. She could even remember the exact second Miranda's opinion had turned from liking and respecting to disdain.
The three older women had adjourned to the living room for cognac and coffee. Caroline had entered to remind her mother of an appointment with her teacher the next day. She'd stood in the doorway and watched as Andy had laughed at a comment Peggy had made and unconsciously laid a hand on Peggy's thigh. It wasn't obvious or lascivious, but very much something one would do with her lover. Caroline's eyes had shifted instantly to her mother, registering the frozen look of distaste and something more…hurt. It was gone in flash, and Miranda had remained gracious for the rest of the evening. As Andy had pointed out once before, though, it was no longer real, and Andy knew the difference.
Any subsequent invitations from Andy that included Peggy were turned down, Miranda always citing work issues as an excuse. It was subtle but clear. Andy had to choose, and Andy always chose Miranda. Just once, though, Caroline wished she wouldn't. Then maybe her mom would be forced to admit the truth, that she was in love with Andy Sachs.
Caroline and Cassidy had both tried to subtly nudge their mother in that direction over the last five years. Hinting that they wouldn't mind Andy for a step-parent, boldly stating how much more pleasant everyone's life was with Andy in it, and otherwise letting their mom know that they realized how much she needed Andy. That turned out to be the problem. In a moment of weakness, Miranda had confessed to her daughters that she wasn't good at relationships and would never risk her friendship with Andréa since she was bound to fail through her own inability to be what her partner needed. So the status quo remained.
Andy practically had lived in the Priestly's home, coming over every night Miranda or she didn't have a work function. The four took their vacations together as a family. Andy went to all the girls' recitals, school functions, and sporting events. Within the first year, the guest room nearest their mother's had become known as Andy's room with half her wardrobe hanging in the closet. Miranda was forever bringing home new things from Runway to hang in there as well. Thanks to Miranda's generosity, Andy was one of the best-dressed women in New York. Hell, in the world, Caroline thought cynically. Her mom gave Andy everything one would give a lover except her heart and her body. That wasn't true, Caroline realized. Andy had her mom's heart from the beginning. It was what had driven Miranda to make contact in the first place. Miranda simply held back the words that would have made it official.
For the most part, Andy seemed okay with it all, except for the last couple of years Caroline had noticed a slight tightening around Andy's eyes and a stiffer smile when Miranda introduced her latest gentleman friend. With this newest one, Phillip, Andy seemed almost chilly. Her usually warm smile didn't seem quite so honest to Caroline. Was Andy afraid that Miranda had at last found someone she could tolerate for more than a few months? He'd already hung in for six and didn't seem inclined to go anywhere.
It was times like these Caroline hated going to school on the West Coast. She should have been in New York where she could see these things for herself. She'd pushed herself as hard as she could to shorten the time, finishing seven years of school in just slightly more than five, but it might already be too late. She wanted her mother to be happy, she did, but that time away had taught Caroline something. Miranda wasn't the only Priestly in love with Andy Sachs. There was another Priestly who loved her just as much. Caroline loved her enough to want only what was best for Andy, so Caroline was determined to make one last attempt to shake her mother awake. If Miranda still refused to act… well, then, it was any woman's game, and Caroline was taking her turn at bat.
It was nearly three AM when Caroline let herself into the townhouse. She knew her mom was at the Hamptons for the weekend, Cassidy's email had told her that much, and she knew her sister would still be asleep, preferring to get up early to greet the sun. Caroline was the night owl of the group, something she had in common with Andy. They had often stayed up into the early hours talking after the other two had gone to sleep.
It was during those wee hours that Caroline was convinced she had fallen in love with Andy. They had talked about anything and everything. As far back as she could remember, where Cassidy had turned to their mother, Andy had been Caroline's sounding board. It was Andy she'd told first when she began to suspect she preferred women to men, and it was Andy she'd blushingly confessed the loss of her virginity. Andy's was the shoulder she cried on when that first lover had broken her heart. Solid and strong, Andy had always been there for her.
Caroline carried her suitcase and carry on up the stairs to her room. Dropping them just inside the door, she collapsed on the bed and was immediately asleep. What felt like moments later she was shaken awake.
"Wake. Up. Caro," Cassidy urged as she shook her sister.
"Wha? K. O-ok, I'm awake," Caroline struggled to sit up. "What time is it?" She looked over at the clock and groaned scrubbing her face with both hands. "If you weren't my sister, I'd toss you out a window."
"What time did you get in?"
"Three, which makes you waking me at six a crime against sisterhood," Caroline snarled.
Cassidy laughed at her sister's grumpy face.
"Wash your face. It'll help you wake up. I'll be down in the kitchen making coffee. You're going to need it."
Before Caroline could ask what she meant, Cassidy was gone. With a sigh, Caroline dragged herself off the bed and into the bathroom. A shower and fresh clothes were more in line with what she needed. Cassidy would have to wait at least that long. A short time later she joined her sister in the kitchen, much more comfortable in yoga pants and a hoodie, a gift from Andy and concession by their mother.
"Ok, what gives?" she asked after taking a bracing sip.
"Put the cup down first," Cassidy cautioned and waited until her sister did, as if afraid to end up with a face full of hot coffee when Caroline heard the news. "Phillip proposed to Mom Thursday night. She went to the Hamptons to make up her mind."
"Does Andy know?" Caroline asked.
Cassidy shook her head. "No, Mom didn't want to tell her until she knew what her answer would be."
"Grab your bag," Caroline said as she rose to go retrieve her own.
"Where are we going?"
"To fucking tell Andy, and you're driving," Caroline snapped, wishing she'd slept on the plane after all.
Cassidy didn't move, her worry apparent.
"I promised Mom I wouldn't say anything."
"Then don't. Sit in the car and wait for all I care. I didn't promise a damned thing to anyone," Caroline growled. Realizing that Cassidy had flinched at the tone, she softened. "We can't let Andy be blindsided by this. We owe her, Cass. I owe her. She deserves better than to let Mom hit her with this out of the blue."
Andy stood with her back to the two girls, the two women now, that she'd come to love as her own.
"Thank you for telling me," her voice was gruff with suppressed emotions. She'd hoped that Miranda would eventually acknowledge how they felt about each other. The years had been good, though her bed had been very lonely for most of them. If Miranda needed to get away and think about accepting Phillip's proposal that meant she was seriously considering accepting. Over the years she had learned to accept Miranda's various flings, but a husband was an entirely different subject.
"Andy, are you okay?" Caroline's voice was soft with concern.
Andy nodded abruptly before taking a deep breath and turning to face them.
"Yeah, I'll be fine. I guess this is a good time to tell you I've been offered a job in London," her lips twisted in rueful smile. "This all just helps me decide."
"London!" Cassidy gasped and dropped onto the couch behind her. It was the first word she said since her greeting when they'd first arrived. "But why?"
"It's time," Andy admitted, aware that both girls knew how she felt about their mother. "I don't want to spend my life alone and continuing to wait. Whether Miranda marries Phillip or not, the situation between Miranda and me isn't going to change. You girls are grown now, starting your own lives. It's time I moved on, too."
"So when did this happen?" Caroline asked, twisting the strap of her bag between agitated fingers.
"The offer came two weeks ago, and I asked for some time to think about it. They said they'd hold it for a month. They're evidently pretty interested in having me. Peggy…you remember Peggy?" She waited for both twins to nod that they remembered her before continuing. "Well, she lives there now. We've kept in touch over the years. It'll be nice to have a friend there already."
Andy watched compassionately as Cassidy wiped tears from her face.
"You'd really leave us?" she asked.
Andy crossed the room in long strides and pulled her up and in to a hug.
"No, baby. I'd never leave you. I'll always be there for you, but there's just some things I can't sit around and watch. It-it would kill me, Cass, you know?" Andy's own tears flowed into the red hair of the head resting on her shoulder. "I need a chance to get over it and move on. London will give me that chance."
"Mom goes to London for Fashion Week," Caroline pointed out.
"I'll be traveling a lot, Caro. Just like I do now. I'll just be based in London instead of Manhattan."
"Andy Sachs, roving reporter," Caroline gave the words a cynical twist.
Andy laughed, and letting go of Cassidy, patted her on the back.
"Yeah, something like that. We'll keep in touch, and you'll come visit me."
"For how long?" Cassidy asked. "How long's the contract for?"
"A minimum of two years, but probably more like five," Andy admitted.
"Shit!" Caroline yelled.
"Language, Caro," Andy and Cassidy chorused, then looked at each other and chuckled.
"Are you at least going to talk to Mom first?" Caroline asked.
Andy shook her head.
"No, there's no point. I need to do this, and she'll just try to talk me out of it. Miranda doesn't want me but for whatever reason she doesn't want anyone else to have me either." Andy snorted. "That used to give me hope, which is probably the stupidest thing I've let happen so far. She told me once I have a talent for running. I think it's time I put that talent to good use."
Caroline looked at her watch.
"We need to get back. Mom will be home soon, and she doesn't need to know we were over here so early. We'll see you before you go, right?"
"Of course," Andy grinned. "How about we have dinner Tuesday night? Miranda has one of her things, so it'll just be the three of us."
With a time arranged, the twins took their leave, and Andy reached for her phone. It would just be early evening in London. She looked at it for a moment, wondering idly why she wasn't crying. Maybe it just wasn't real enough for her yet, or maybe she had cried once too often over Miranda Priestly, and there were no tears left in that particular well. With a sigh, she placed the call.
"Hey, Peggy? It's Andy…Good. I'm good. Listen, you still interested in writing your memoirs?...Yes? Well, I think I've found a writer for you…Yes, you'll like her. I promise."
The call ended a short time later, and Andy returned to looking out the window of her apartment. She had a lot to do in the next couple of weeks, the hardest of which would be avoiding Miranda. There was no way Andy could make it through that conversation, no matter what Miranda's ultimate decision was. It was enough to know that she had thought for even a moment of accepting the proposal. If Miranda did love Andy, she'd have rejected Phillip in the first moments. With a sigh, she turned from the window and booted up her laptop. She needed to schedule a flight, find a tenant for the apartment, pack the things she was taking, and arrange to have the rest put in to storage. It was going to be a long two weeks.
Miranda let herself into the townhouse and rather than go in search of her girls first thing, she paused in her study to pour a drink. She sipped it as she stared out the window. Caroline should be home by now. Miranda wished she had been home to greet her, but Phillip's proposal had been quite unexpected, and she'd needed some time to herself to consider it. She was over sixty now and had no desire to spend the rest of her life alone. The friendship she had with Andréa was wonderful, but it was no substitute for arms to hold her as she slept. She wished she'd had the courage to risk what they had back when the choice had been there, but she'd been too afraid of losing it all. Now that time had passed, and she had learned to accept it.
Phillip was a good man, acceptable. Perhaps Miranda didn't feel the breathless passion in his arms that she'd felt when Andréa had held her outside of Dalton, but those things faded with time. Her previous marriages had proven that, though admittedly the passion hadn't been quite that breathless even in the beginning with her ex-husbands. Phillip was a good man. They could have a good, comfortable life together. He accepted her for who she was. He was deeply involved with his business and sought a wife with similar distractions. With the exception that he would no longer go home at night to sleep, he saw no reason for their relationship to change beyond its current parameters. It was in many ways a business merger. They were sexually compatible, though a bit uninspired. He had no objection to her friendship with Andréa. Indeed, he encouraged her to continue it. He had grown children who lived outside the home, and her girls would soon be moving on as well. There was no reason for either of them to live alone. It was a quite acceptable arrangement, so why did Miranda feel such hesitation about accepting the proposal?
For two days she had paced her home in the Hamptons, going over and over this same argument. Yet, she couldn't shake the feeling she would lose something very important if she agreed to his proposal. The girls wouldn't object. They seemed to like Phillip well enough. Her friendship with Andréa was solid enough after a somewhat rocky start. Andréa. Was that the problem, her reason for hesitating? Her feelings for the other woman were complex and complicated by the fact that neither of them had entered into a long-term relationship since they had become friends. Oh, Andréa had come close once, but had had the good sense to realize Peggy Peabody was not right for her.
Miranda snorted at the very idea. Peggy Peabody had nothing to offer Andréa. She lived alone and flitted all over the world on a whim, not at all the sort of life that Andréa would flourish in. She needed stability and family, all the things that her relationship with Miranda provided. It was just as well that Peggy had moved on.
With a sigh, Miranda finished the rest of her drink. She would need to talk to Andréa, explain her reasoning. She could not accept Phillip's proposal until she was sure doing so would not cause her to lose Andréa. Their friendship was the rock her life rested on now; she would do nothing to de-stabilize it. It was Andréa's support that had made it possible for her to oust Irv and take the helm of Elias-Clarke. An investigative reporter was able to find information, no matter how deeply hidden, and Andréa had unearthed information that had made Irv's tenure come to an end and brought in a separation of the positions of CEO and Chairman. Miranda found it quite manageable to serve as both Chairperson and editor of Runway with a more empathic CEO in place. Emily had stayed on with her after Miranda had offered a much elevated title and salary at Andréa's suggestion. Emily now handled much of the day-to-day running of Runway with Miranda serving in a more advisory position. Miranda's first official act had been to launch the male equivalent of Runway with Nigel as head, again Andréa's idea. Indeed, her best friend had proven to have a knack for recognizing what Miranda needed and then steering her gently in that direction. Miranda had been surprised to find she did not resent Andréa's interferences since she so obviously had her best interests at heart. It was the type of assistance Miranda would have expected from a spouse.
Miranda turned to face Caroline who stood hesitantly in the doorway.
"Hello, Bobbsey. Welcome home," Miranda opened her arms for the expected hug and was surprised, unpleasantly, when it did not come. "Is there something wrong?"
"Are you going to marry him?" Caroline asked by way of answering.
"Yes. Yes, I think I am," Miranda admitted, only just now deciding. She still wouldn't tell Phillip until she had spoken with Andréa.
Caroline nodded and took a shuddering breath.
"Then, I'm too late."
"Too late for what, darling?" Miranda asked, confused by her daughter's behavior. Caroline had always been more difficult to understand, her temperament much like Andréa's who, thankfully, had been willing to act as interpreter between mother and daughter on several occasions. Without her, Miranda wasn't sure the parent/child relationship would have survived as healthily as it had.
"Nothing," Caroline at last came forward and hugged her mother. "I hope your choice makes you happy."
Miranda frowned at the strange phrasing even as she accepted the hug. "Th-thank you, Caroline."
"There's something I need to do. I'll send Cass down so you can tell her." Turning, she left the room quickly. She had a phone call to make.
For the past week, Miranda had deflected Phillip while trying to get in touch with Andréa. She knew that the girls had had dinner with her on Tuesday, and Miranda had expected her to be at the townhouse when she had returned that night. Evidently, Andréa had had other plans, as she had every other night that week. She had even left a message with Emily begging off their weekly dinner while Miranda was tied up in a board meeting, a meeting Andréa knew the time of. Miranda found that with each day's passing her irritation grew and her temper shortened. She had even gone by Andréa's apartment twice after notifying the girls that she would be late for dinner, but no one was home. Since Andréa had made the switch to freelance several years before, there wasn't even an office or a secretary through which Miranda could track her. The situation was becoming unbearable. Miranda refused to give Phillip an answer until she spoke with Andréa who was not at all cooperating.
She made several more attempts over the next few days with email and voice mail, even sending repeated texts with no response other than vague references to work keeping Andréa too busy to accept any of her invitations. They had never gone this long without speaking, not even when Andréa or she had traveled out of the country on business. They had spoken daily, if only for a short time. Something was dreadfully wrong, but Miranda couldn't imagine what it was. She sat now in her study trying to reason the situation out. Andréa couldn't know about Phillip's proposal. No one knew but Cassidy and Caroline. Miranda had extracted a promise from Cassidy not to tell, to let Miranda do so herself…and that was when Miranda realized her mistake. Cassidy had promised; Caroline had not.
A sudden feeling of panic choked the breath from her lungs, and Miranda grabbed at the arms of her chair to still the room's spinning. Andréa knew. She knew, and she was withdrawing from Miranda's life.
"No," Miranda gasped in a strangled voice as she labored to breathe. "No!" She couldn't lose Andréa. The room darkened, and she slipped from the chair.
The ringing of her phone roused Andy from a fitful sleep. In the dark, she hunted for it on the box that now served as her bedside table, cursing herself for sending the lamp along with it instead of waiting for the second round when the movers would take the bed as well. Finally locating it, she checked the caller ID before answering. Caroline.
"Hey, Caroline. What's up?" she rasped in a sleep-filled voice.
"Andy, come quick! Something's wrong with Mom!" The young woman's voice sounded much as it had during her childhood when waking from a bad dream.
"What's wrong with your mom?" Andy asked as she leapt from the bed and began to throw on clothes, not hesitating to go if Miranda needed her.
"I don't know. We found her on the floor of her study unconscious. Now she's hyperventilating and won't stop crying. You've got to come! I sent Roy. He should be there any minute." Caroline started to cry.
"I'm coming, baby. I'll be there soon. Just hang on," Andy promised as she jabbed at the button for the elevator. It opened a moment later, and Andy leapt in smashing the button that would take her to street level. Hang on, Miranda. I'm coming, baby, she chanted over and over in her mind and under her breath. Flying through the lobby, she shoved open the door and raced across the sidewalk, flinging open the car door and diving in. "Go, Roy, go!" she urged before she'd even secured the door. He peeled away from the curb with a scream of tires, Andy hanging over the back of the seat beside him.
"What's going on?" he risked asking, eyes trained on the road while watching for any advantageous opening that would shave a few seconds off their trip.
"I don't know. Caroline called me in tears. Something's wrong with Miranda. All I know is the girls found her unconscious," she gasped out, close to panic herself.
Roy nodded. "Sit back and fasten your seatbelt. Close your eyes if you're squeamish. This won't be pretty."
She clicked her seatbelt in place and kept her eyes glued to the road as Roy broke every traffic law she knew and made up a few violations of his own. It was a miracle they weren't pulled over by the cops, but a miracle is what Andy needed. Somehow, Roy was able to provide it. Within minutes, they skidded to a stop in front of the townhouse. Andy tore up the steps, key at the ready, only to find she didn't need it as Caroline threw open the door.
"Where is she?" Andy gasped.
"Study," Caroline managed before Andy streaked for the stairs leaving her to catch up as best she could.
Andy tripped coming through the door and ended up on her knees beside the couch where Miranda lay with her head in Cassidy's lap as her daughter tried without effect to calm her.
"Miranda! Miranda, baby, what's wrong? Talk to me, honey," Andy pleaded, gathering Miranda into her arms.
"Andréa," Miranda cried, sobbing against her chest. "Don't leave me. Please don't leave me. I won't marry him. I won't. Just don't leave."
"You know about that?" Andy asked, looking first at Cassidy then at Caroline, who both shook their heads to indicate they hadn't said anything.
"You won't take my calls. Why won't you take my calls?" Miranda pushed her away in sudden fury. "It isn't acceptable for you to not take my calls."
"Whoa, settle down. How did you know I'm leaving?" Andy asked again.
"You're leaving! To go where?" Miranda turned, her tone indicating her shock.
"To London. I'm moving to London, but how did you know?"
Miranda stared at her aghast. "You're moving! Why would you do such a ridiculous thing? You cannot possibly move to London! I forbid it!"
"You forbi—what the fuck?" Andy glared at the woman she'd been so concerned about moments before. "What right do you have to forbid anything? Your ass is getting married!"
"Language, Andréa," Miranda hissed.
"Fuck language. Caroline says worse on a daily basis." Andy ignored the muttered "Thanks, Andy" that came from behind her. "And Cassidy is too old to faint over a few swear words."
"I will not be cursed in my own home," Miranda directed in chilly tones.
"You know what? You're right. I'm out of here," Andy scrambled to her feet and strode towards the door.
"Oh, the fuck, no," Caroline snapped, barring the door with her body.
"Language, Caroline," Miranda gasped with an accusing look at Andy.
"I'm not swearing at you, Mom. I'm swearing at Andy," Caroline shot back, turning her mother's argument back at her.
"You will not curse in this house at all. If you feel you must do so then please go outside," Miranda decreed.
"Right," Caroline said rolling her eyes. "I'm the only thing standing between Andy and the front door. Do you honestly want me to leave first?"
Miranda did a remarkably apt imitation of a guppy as she tried to decide how to answer. Yes meant nothing between Andy and walking out. No meant possibly having to listen to more profanity spilling from both lovely mouths. Was there really even a choice?
"Could we not discuss this in a civilized manner?" Miranda tried for middle ground.
"Oh, yeah," Andy snapped. "Right after you explain who you are to fucking forbid me anything!"
Miranda took a deep breath, holding onto her temper with both hands.
"I was perhaps hasty in my choice of words. I apologize," she spoke through clenched teeth. "However, in that same vein, there are certain words that belong in the privacy of one's bedroom. That is one of them."
"Well, as this is as close as I'm ever going to get to your damned bedroom, you better enjoy it now." Andy crossed her arms over her chest and glared.
For the second time that day, Miranda felt as if, were she to look up, she'd see a light bulb hanging over her head. She caught Cassidy's eye and inclined her head to indicate the girls should leave. When they were on the other side of the closed door, Miranda turned her attention to a clearly angry Andréa.
"Is that why you've been avoiding me, Andréa? Because someone else will have the right to be in my bed?" Miranda took a cautious step forward, afraid any sudden move would spook Andréa and send her running.
Instead of answering, Andy tightened her arms and glared all the harder.
"Is that why you're going to London? So you won't have to be here to see me with someone else, to see me married to someone else?" Miranda rested gentle hands on tense arms. Still not receiving an answer, Miranda took her courage in hand. She was losing Andréa anyway so what was there left to risk? "Do you want to be that person? If I told you I wanted it to be you, would you take up residence in my bed, would you be my lover?"
"No!" Andy snapped at last, too angry to see Miranda's heartbreak at her answer. "I'd fucking marry your ass," Andy snarled and hauled Miranda into her arms, clamping her lips over Miranda's in a punishing kiss.
Miranda squeaked at the brute force directed at her before gathering her wits and sliding her arms around Andy's neck. She met the harsh pressure with gentle caresses, little by little coaxing out the response she wanted until Andy began to make love to her with her mouth, moving from lips to neck and back. The need to breathe eventually drove them apart.
"You will not move to London," Miranda decreed imperiously. She watched Andréa stiffen as her ire rose for a moment before adding softly, "I can't possibly plan a wedding with you on the other side of the Atlantic. Someone has to keep Emily from committing hari-kari. She will definitely see our marriage as a personal dishonor, as she barely has tolerated our friendship."
Andy laughed, relaxing.
"You'd really marry me?" She asked in amazement.
"Why ever wouldn't I? I've waited ten years for you to ask, after all." Miranda sniffed, looking extremely put upon. "Though, come to think of it, I don't recall you asking, yet."
"Will you marry me, Miranda? Live with me, make love with me, and spend the rest of your life with me?" Andy asked.
"I'm more than willing to marry you, Andréa, though to plan a wedding properly will take months. I'm not as willing to wait for the other three to start until after the vows are said," Miranda cautioned with a smile. Sobering she added, "Are you sure? I don't want to lose what we have. It would be enough to know you loved me. I promise you there will never be anyone else again."
"I do love you, Miranda. I always have, but I'm not willing to settle for less than everything you have to give." She slid her arms back around Miranda's waist and pulled her close. "I want you, baby, starting tonight. I'm not issuing an ultimatum, please understand that, but I can't keep living the way we have. Not now. If you don't want it all, tell me and let me go."
"I do want it all. I have from the beginning," Miranda confessed. "Why do you think I pursued you so relentlessly that day at Dalton and afterward? You just seemed so adamant that you were offering friendship only. I thought I had to settle for that or lose you entirely, which I was not willing to do."
Andy began to laugh, dropping to the couch and holding her sides until tears streaked her face.
"Oh, my… you mean to tell me we waited ten years because I chose the wrong word? Oh, Miranda, that is priceless!" Andy dissolved into laughter again.
Miranda stood over her, hands on her hips, staring at Andy who continued to giggle and chortle.
"Yes," Miranda agreed, "that's exactly what it means. It also means you owe me for ten years of needless waiting. I would suggest you get control of yourself and start paying your debts."
"Show me your bedroom, and I will." Andy flashed a lascivious grin.
"You've seen my bedroom, Andréa. Many times. "
Andy rose and move towards her, a sultry loose-limbed sway to her hips.
"I've never seen you in it…naked. Why don't you show me, and I'll show you what I've dreamed of doing to you in it," Andy purred.
Miranda opened her mouth to say something, closed it, grabbed Andy's hand, and pulled her along until they were inside her room with the door locked behind them. Miranda dropped her hand and moved to stand beside the bed while Andy leaned back against the door grinning.
"Okay, let's hear it," Andy said.
Miranda frowned in confusion.
"Whatever are you speaking of?"
"You said some words were meant for the privacy of the bedroom," Andy clarified. "This is your bedroom, and the door is locked. Both requirements are satisfied, so let's hear it."
Miranda couldn't help chuckling. She never grew tired of the way Andy's agile mind leapt around. It was a constant source of amazement to her. She crossed the room and leaned in until there was barely a breath between their bodies.
Placing her lips against Andy's ear, she whispered, "Fuck me, Andréa." Miranda had to bite her lip to keep from laughing as Andy shivered and growled low in her chest. If she'd known it was this easy, Miranda would have used those three little words years ago. She found herself quickly claimed by lithe arms and soft lips.
Miranda wasn't even aware they had moved until she felt the cool comfort of a mattress beneath her. The heated softness above her created an inviting contrast, and Miranda arched into it. Andréa's mouth and hands seemed to be everywhere at once; Miranda's clothing proving to be more suggestion than impediment. In moments her blouse and slacks were on the floor, and Andy was mouthing a nipple through a shield of black lace.
"An-Andréa, oh!" Miranda gasped, pressing her breast more fully into the moist heat.
A sudden knock at the door pulled Andy away and across the room. Miranda curled into a ball, hands pressed to her stomach to still the ache Andy's sudden absence left.
"Y-yes?" Miranda managed at last.
After leaving the study, Caroline and Cassidy had retreated to the former's room.
"You gonna be all right?" Cassidy asked.
"Yeah," Caroline dropped on her bed with a sigh. "I love Andy, but Mom…well, she adores her in a way I've never seen. She's never looked at anyone that way. I think—I think she needs Andy to survive. That sounds pretty melodramatic, doesn't it?"
"No, I know what you mean. From that first day at Dalton, Mom's been different. She's happy, happier than I can ever remember. I just hate you having to be sad because of it." Cassidy sat beside her sister and draped an arm around her shoulders.
Caroline bumped her with a shoulder. "That's just it. I'm not. I thought I would be, but…I don't know. I think maybe…I've never loved anyone but you, Mom and Dad. What I feel for Andy is like that and at the same time different. I think I just convinced myself it was romantic because I want so much to love someone like that, someone like Andy, you know?"
Cassidy nodded her agreement. "I know Mom has felt that way all along, but do you think Andy's been in love with Mom all this time?"
"Could you imagine anyone putting up with Mom who wasn't?" Caroline teased with a giggle. "Seriously, Cass, you didn't see Andy when she came through the front door night. She'll never love anyone the way she does Mom, and I want a woman who'll love me that way. I think it's time I moved on and found her."
Cassidy's eyes grew large as something occurred to her.
"Um…do you think they're gonna….you know?" she asked, concerned for how her sister would feel.
Caroline fell back on the bed laughing.
"Oh, Cass," she said between laughs, "I think they're gonna 'you know' all night long."
"Are you okay with that?" Cassidy wanted to know.
"Mom's a grownup. She knows where babies come from. We're the proof," Caroline teased with a wink. "I doubt there'll be any accidents."
"I meant with them being together like that," Cassidy rolled her eyes in a perfect imitation of their mother.
"Yeah, surprisingly, I'm okay with that, too," Caroline reassured her. "Though come to think of it, I'd rather not be here to hear it, and I somehow don't think those two are going to be exactly quiet after waiting all this time."
Cassidy thought about it for a moment and realized she wasn't all that thrilled about hearing her mom having sex either. Even being in the same house and knowing it was going on was kinda….ewwwww.
"We could go to Andy's," she suggested. "Her bed's still there, I think."
"Good idea," Caroline agreed. "Grab your sleeping bag just in case, and let's get out of here. I'll call Roy."
Grabbing what they needed, they headed downstairs, pausing while Caroline rapped on their mother's door.
"Y-yes?" they heard, and both grinned at the roughened sound of their mother's voice.
"Mom, we're gonna spend the night at Andy's," Cassidy called through the door.
"Enjoy your honeymoon," Caroline added laughing.
"Caroline!" Miranda squawked.
They raced down the stairs and out the door to jump in the waiting car.
Andy was lying on the floor where she'd collapsed laughing at Caroline's parting comment.
"Really, Andréa, I don't at all see what's so funny. My children know what we're doing," Miranda snapped.
"Miranda, your children are older than I was when I first met you. Of course they know what two people in love do behind closed doors. I was there when you explained it to them, remember? You insisted."
"I explained human reproduction, not this." Miranda waved her hand back and forth between them.
"Sweetie, Caroline likes women. I'm sure she's quite familiar with this." Andy repeated Miranda's gesture. "At least in principle," she added when Miranda looked none too pleased at the idea of her daughter engaging in physical relations with some unknown female.
"She cares for you. I would not want our relationship to hurt her." Miranda admitted what had her concerned at last.
"Miranda, I wouldn't worry," Andy began before rushing to add. "Which is a dumb thing to say to a mother, I know. But she was laughing when she said it. I don't think she's all that hurt. It's more likely the two of them just want to give us some privacy tonight. They have a key to my place; they'll be fine."
Miranda smiled. "I feel better knowing they'll have everything they need."
Andy looked down blushing. "Well, about that…they'll have a bed, anyway."
"Is there a problem with your apartment?" Miranda frowned.
"Besides the fact that it's basically empty?" Andy shrugged helplessly.
"Empty? But why…" Miranda realized what Andy was saying. "Oh. Your move."
"Yeah, yes. I had sublet the apartment and put most of my stuff in storage, except a few things the movers would have come back for the day before I was scheduled to leave," Andy explained.
"But surely you would have shipped your things," Miranda questioned.
Andy sat up and stretched her legs out in front of her, crossing them at the ankles. Leaning back against the dresser, she prepared to make a full confession.
"No, I wasn't going to need them. I have…had a place to stay. I just needed my clothes and things."
"You rented a furnished flat," Miranda assumed. "I'm sure we can get your deposit back."
"No, Miranda. I didn't rent a flat. I was going to be staying with someone," Andy looked down at her clasped hands. Miranda was not going to like this at all.
"Andréa, what are you not telling me?" Andy knew she couldn't hide the truth, nor did she intend to. Miranda had known Andy far too long not to know when she was avoiding saying something.
Andy sighed and ruffled her bangs, agitated at how Miranda would react.
"Peggy lives in London now. I was going to be staying with her. In fact, that's the job. Ghost writing her memoirs," Andy spilled all at once.
Miranda froze, her face expressionless. As if she had suddenly become aware that she'd been sitting in her lingerie for the entire conversation, she rose and grabbed her grey robe from the closet. Andy watched her put it on and belt it tightly.
"I was unaware that you were still seeing Peggy Peabody." Miranda spoke through clenched teeth. "How long has this been going on?"
Andy sighed. "Nothing has been going on, Miranda. Peggy and I have stayed in contact, mostly by exchanging emails. She contacted me a month ago to ask if I could recommend someone to ghost write for her. When Caroline told me about Phillip's proposal, I knew I couldn't stay here, so I offered Peggy my services."
"And just what services did you offer?" Miranda asked her tone as icy as any Andy had ever heard her use.
Andy thumped her head against the dresser behind her. She had known Miranda would be like this. It's why she'd avoided telling her. Miranda seemed to have a pathological dislike for Peggy Peabody.
"Not the kind you're thinking. I don't know why…" but then suddenly she did, she knew exactly why Miranda didn't like Peggy. "You're jealous," she accused with a growing smile. "You've been jealous of Peggy all along."
"Don't be ridiculous," Miranda sniffed. "And stop hitting your head on my dresser. You'll damage it, just as you have obviously already damaged your mind."
Andy rose and crossed to where Miranda stood near the closet.
"I'm not back with Peggy. We're just friends," Andy assured, standing so close a deep breath would have caused their breasts to touch.
"Like you and I are friends?" Miranda couldn't help asking.
"No. There's one big difference. I'm not in love with Peggy." Andy reached to cup Miranda's cheek. "I never was."
"You could have been," Miranda whispered.
"No, that's where you're wrong," Andy disagreed. "I was already so much in love with you there was no room for anyone else."
Miranda looked at her, a hint of vulnerability in her eyes.
"You could have loved her." Miranda said, hurt radiating through her words. "I liked her. I could see in her the things you did. When you…when you touched her, I knew that you were lovers, and I hated her for it. She had what I wanted and couldn't have."
Andy smiled and kissed her softly.
"You could have had me any time you wanted. I was always yours. Peggy saw that; it's why she ended it. She told me that after she met you, saw us together, she felt like she was sleeping with another woman's wife, and that just wasn't who she was. That's also why there wouldn't have been anything between us in London either," Andy spoke earnestly.
"You are another woman's wife," Miranda stated. "Mine." She joined their lips together putting all she felt for Andy, had felt over the years, into the kiss. "It's time you pay your debts," she murmured against soft lips as she backed them towards the bed. Her robe slid to floor, followed by her lingerie and Andy's clothes. Miranda lost count of the kisses they exchanged as Andy's hands roamed over her back and hips. It wasn't a night for knowing quantity, but for accepting Andréa into her bed, and her body, for indulging the desires she had suppressed for over a decade.
Andy couldn't stop her hands from trembling as she caressed the silken expanses of skin that were revealed to her at last. Miranda. For as long as she could remember, Andy had loved her and finally she would be able to express that love.
Ending their kiss, she pushed Miranda gently back onto the bed, following to straddle her thighs. She looked down at the woman she loved, gliding her fingertips down over soft shoulders, along Miranda's sides to caress her rounded hips. Andy marveled at how slight her love was. Miranda always seemed larger than life to her, but she was in fact a very slender woman, delicate, almost fragile in her build.
Andy drew a single finger down the center of Miranda's body watching as the pristine skin shivered in its wake, and Miranda gasped at the sensation.
"You're exquisite," she murmured, lost in the examination of her soon to be lover's body.
"Andréa," Miranda breathed in a reverent tone as her own eyes skimmed over Andy's body.
"I've wanted to do this for so long," Andy confessed before leaning over to lick lightly at one nipple. She smiled as it tightened further, shrinking the areola to half its normal size as Miranda moaned. "So responsive."
"Andréa, play with me another time," Miranda gasped, her voice taking on a warning tone.
Andy laughed softly. "Oh, baby, I plan to play with you all the time." She took the nipple into her mouth, sucking and working it with her lips and tongue as slender fingers slid into her hair and pulled her closer.
"Yes!" Miranda groaned, her voice louder than Andy had ever heard it.
Switching to the other nipple, Andy repeated the licking and sucking, not wanting it to feel left out. She shivered as Miranda almost bowed her body, trying to simultaneously press her breast further into Andy's mouth and make contact with Andy's abdomen with her center. As that wet heat hit her skin, Andy groaned and released the nipple she was laving.
"I've got to taste you," she growled, sliding down Miranda's body and leaving a trail of wet kisses as she moved. Miranda's thighs splayed open to welcome her, the white-haired head lifting to allow blazing blue eyes to watch her intently. Andy spread the delicately furred lips and swiped her tongue the length of Miranda's core pulling the copious fluid into her mouth and humming in pleasure at her first taste of her lover. "You're fucking delicious. I'm gonna spend the rest of my life sucking you dry, Miranda."
Hips flexed up into Andy's mouth as Miranda screamed in her first release, and Andy wrapped her arms around flailing hips to latch on to a stiffened clit, sucking hard to drive Miranda into another orgasm. Before her lover could recover, Andy followed it with two fingers pushed deep into Miranda's vagina.
"You asked to be fucked, and I'm gonna fuck you forever, baby," she mumbled around the clit she was licking with broad strokes. A sudden gush of liquid over her chin and two hands pulling tightly on her hair was the only response Andy got as Miranda's body tensed so strongly only her head and heels remained in contact with the mattress. Miranda remained poised in that position for timeless moments and then collapsed to the bed, her shallow breathing and occasional quaking the only signs of life.
Andy wiped her chin with her hand and moved up to cradle her lover's limp body.
"I've got you, baby. I'm right here," she whispered into a delicately shaped ear. Pulling the covers up over them, she relaxed against the body she held so tenderly and waited for Miranda to recover. Andy had ten years of not having Miranda in her arms and in her bed to make up for. It was going to be a wonderfully long night.