"Andy! Are you ready? Mom's here." Looking up from her laptop, Andy smiled brightly. Miranda had been gone for five days overseeing a photo shoot in San Diego. Although the editor had wanted Andy to accompany her, the successful journalist had chosen to save her vacation time for a less work-oriented trip. After some grumbling, Miranda had agreed. However, now she was back, and Andy had a surprise for her lover.

They had been together for three years. Although Andy could not claim the entire time was blissful, she could state with certainty that they had worked hard to strengthen their bond. Miranda had stretched, stepping outside of her comfort zone time and again to express her emotions and to affirm her love for Andy. In turn, Andy had matured, learning to compromise and to look behind the obvious to determine what drove them to act in certain ways. They were two strong, independent women with very different ways of viewing life. Sometimes communication broke down, and they had to work much harder to reconnect. Neither hesitated to reach out, even when anger drove them to voice hurtful words. It was this type of commitment that reassured the younger woman Miranda wanted to be with her as much as Andy desired to be with the fashion diva.

"I'll be right there," Andy said to an impatient twin. Cassidy ran back out to check that everything was ready. Andy and the girls had decided to have Miranda's favorite dinner waiting for her. In addition, they were planning to present Miranda with a gift Andy prayed she'd love.

Submitting her newest article to the Times, Andy shut down her computer for the night and left their den. Striding down the stairs, the excited woman heard her lover's voice mixing with her daughters' words as she reached the entranceway. As always, Andy felt overwhelmed by how strongly Miranda affected her. Their eyes met, and the world slowed down. For the first time since Miranda had left, Andy felt she was able to breathe deeply. Then she felt heavenly arms pulling her forward and lips melding with hers. Surprised by Miranda's willingness to embrace her in front of Caroline and Cassidy, Andy froze before giving into the moment fully. As if she could ever resist the alluring woman.

"Being separated from you becomes harder each time. I love you, Andrea," Miranda whispered.

Andy was deeply moved. Miranda didn't normally express herself quite so plainly. She felt a thrill shoot through her as the editor's declaration resounded through her soul. Hugging her lover tightly, Andy responded, "I missed you so much, Miranda. It was so hard not to hop on a plane to join you. I'm glad you're home." Stepping back, she held onto Miranda's hand as she brought her into the dining room.

"Sit," Andy commanded gently. The girls quickly served everyone the delicious meal and began peppering their mother with questions regarding the shoot. Andy listened quietly, content to gaze at her lover while she answered the twins' questions and they, in turn, told her about their week. The flow of conversation soothed Andy. She hadn't slept well without Miranda next to her. Instead, Andy had cranked out several articles, wandered the halls of the townhouse, and lain in bed hugging Miranda's pillow. It was all rather pathetic.

"Andy, it's time for dessert," Caroline said, stressing the last word as she stared at her pointedly.

"Oh!" Jumping up, Andy suggested, "Let's move this into the sitting room. Taking Miranda's hand again, Andy led her toward the room before saying, "Close your eyes."

"Did you hit your pretty little head?" Miranda asked, rolling her eyes.

"Come on, Mom. Please?" Cassidy asked.

"Oh, very well." The fashion editor made a great show of demonstrating that she was put out. Of course, everyone knew she was not seriously irritated.

Smiling, Andy opened the door to the sitting room and seated her partner in a wing chair. "Keep your eyes closed until we tell you," Andy warned. Miranda smirked.

Directing a nervous look toward the twins, she felt bolstered when she saw their supportive looks. Crossing the room, she turned on the picture lights and returned to Miranda's side. "Okay, open your eyes," Andy directed, her voice cracking a bit.

Watching Miranda closely, Andy saw a myriad of emotions cross the beautiful woman's face; Andy identified shock, wonder, admiration, and love among the stream of reactions. She observed the white-haired woman approach the painting slowly as the twins began to fill Miranda in on how they had arranged for it.

Several months ago the girls had approached Andy with the idea of having a family portrait created. Although they had envisioned including their Mom in the preparations so they could pose together, Andy had sold them on the idea that it would make a wonderful surprise. They had submitted several individual photographs to the painter so he could familiarize himself with their personalities as well as their looks. In addition, they had provided him with the picture they wished to have replicated. It had been taken at an outdoor wedding in the Hamptons. As they had crossed the grassy expanse with the ocean sparkling behind them, Miranda had looked up at Andy with obvious affection while the girls laughed at something the journalist had said. The captured moment was precious.

Andy saw tears brimming in Miranda's eyes as she whispered, "I love it. Thank you." She hugged her girls tightly before facing Andy. "I don't know what to say."

"Shh. You don't need to say anything. We love you. I love you. That's all." Andy flipped her wrist dramatically and grinned as she used Miranda's well-known catchphrase.

"Hmm," Miranda responded with a severe look on her face. It didn't last long. Her eyes softened as she gazed at her family. "Remind me why I love such a cheeky girl," she drawled.

"That may take some time. Perhaps we should get more comfortable," Andy answered while leaning her forehead against Miranda's.

She heard juvenile groans and quickly uttered good-nights as Miranda pulled Andy in for a heated kiss. "Yes. I think that is a smart idea. Come along, Andrea," Miranda purred as she left the room. From down the hall Andy heard, "By all means move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me." Andy chuckled as she jogged up the stairs to join her lover.

The End.