TDWP: The Devil's Run Pt. 7 (End)

"Where have you been?" Miranda took off the glasses she did not need and folded them one handed. She set them on her desk and looked up at the latest intruder to her office. It had been that kind of day.

"Been? Been? I have been all over God's green earth trying to find you!" Nan exclaimed, her hands waving excitedly.

"Nan, didn't you get the invitation?"

"You know my minions handle that. What invitation?"

"The birthday soiree, at the Preserve?"

"The Preserve, why would..." Nan moved to the couch and abruptly sat down on its edge. "Oh. No. I was not informed. Though I should have been. I do have a present for you." She dropped her purse on the floor by the couch and then looked around, her expression puzzled. "Dear, your office has accumulated plants."

"I'm told plants are good for offices. It supposedly freshens the air, or some such. Nan, why were you looking for me?" Miranda sat back in her chair and swiveled for a better look at her friend, who though she was coiffed and spectacularly well preserved, had a tired set to her shoulders. "Have you slept at all?"

"To warn you, of course. And, not for a day or two, but I'll catch up. I have something to tell you and you need to sit down."

Miranda did not point out that she already was. "Alright," she said evenly.

"I was given the heads up that a certain person of our common acquaintance, interested in rising to greater heights, decided it might be a good idea to attempt to somehow get into your good graces."

"I dread to know the details, but do continue."

"This person learned of a certain other person, whose name you insist I not use, so he didn't get it from me."

"Ah, a he."

"Or so they tell us." Nan sighed. She put a hand to her face and said, "Oh, I'm tired. Why did you have to remind me. I had myself convinced I was doing fine."

"Slip of the tongue. What did he do?"

"He had her delivered to certain of your People."

"I see. And?"

"That's it. I have no idea where she went after that. He is in his usual location." Nan lifted a hand and pointed at the ceiling, which caused Miranda's eyes to look up.

"Well, you have answered a question that has been bothering me." Miranda's lips curled in distaste. "Rats in the house." In this case, a form of literalism. Irv's rivalry spanned not just their professional lives, but territory. Rival packs weren't always of the same kind and territories did sometimes cross, and when rival packs worked in the same field, clashes were inevitable, and usually memorable.

"No thanks necessary. This couch doesn't happen to be a pull out?"

"It is, but you'd have much more rest at my place. The guest room is made up." Miranda stood and exhaled a soft call, "Emily."

The newest Emily skittered into the office, looking like deer before the wolf. She was still learning to adapt.

"Call Roy. Nan will meet him downstairs when she is ready. That's all." The young woman backed out quickly, grateful the task was simple.

"And I am ready now, I'm afraid, though I did intend to linger, should you need me."

"I will now know where to find you. Next time, please call."

"I did. But all your numbers have been changed."

"Darling, I think you need to check for rats in your own house. My numbers are quite the same."

"They are? Oh!" Nan's exhale had a touch of flame to it, but she covered it well. She stood up, not wobbly at all, but obviously feeling the burn of too many second winds. "That may also explain my 'lost' invitation, since my people know to deliver correspondence regarding you immediately. I shall see you at the townhouse?"

"You may count on it." Miranda's hand lifted and a set of keys sailed through the air to be caught one-handed by her friend; who then turned and started down the long central corridor which lead to Miranda's office.

She was about half-way to the elevator when the bell chimed. The doors swished open, revealing light and the very subject of the intrigue she had uncovered, who then stepped out. The younger woman's outfit was the essence of simplicity, a cream above the knee dress, belted with what looked like a wrap-around of ivy leaves. Her accents were all similarly flavored, from the four-inch heels to her emerald earrings.

Nan paused and exhaled, feeling a profound relief. As the younger woman drew closer, she said, "Ah. Ms. Sachs. I see Miranda caught up with you. I enjoyed your most recent article."

Andrea's smile seemed to brighten the hall. "Thank you. And yes, she did." She reached out, taking one of Nan's hands. "You look lovely as ever."

The young woman's eyes flashed, turning a near gold, which faded into their usual brown. She squeezed Nan's hand gently, before letting go.

"I... Thank you." Nan looked back at Miranda's office and then at the writer. Suddenly she felt much less tired. "I think I might stop for a bite to eat before visiting the townhouse. Will you..."

"I'll see you there."

This time it was Nan's smile that shone. "Brilliant. I want to hear all about it."

Andrea nodded her head, all graciousness, and they separated, with Nan taking the empty elevator and herself heading to Miranda's office.

"Don't disturb us," Andrea said in passing, hardly looking at either Emily, both of whom she knew barely. She entered the office without asking or announcing herself. Then shut the door behind her and slid a deadbolt into place.

"Andrea." Her name was said in long, slow syllables. The brunette smiled, as she kicked off her heels with practiced ease and then paced, barefoot, toward Miranda.

Miranda swiveled around in her chair, at first intending to stand, but she was beat to the punch when Andy pushed her back down and then straddled her lap. The brunette took her face in her hands, then gently, insistently, she began to kiss her mate. It was a good minute before she pulled away with a smile reminiscent of the cat that ate the canary. "Hi."

If Miranda had an intention to warn of time or business, that intention faded with each sultry taste. By the time Andrea pulled back, work was far from her mind. She managed a pleasantry, which came out raspy and hot. "Hello."

"I have news." Andrea's hands dropped from Miranda's face, and dropped to her waist. Her smile was easy, anticipatory.

"Do tell."

"We're fine."

Miranda let go a breath she did not know she'd been holding. She closed her eyes and felt something settle. She had not wanted Andrea to go alone, but it had been necessary and they had compromised. The young woman had gone to see Miranda's physician, a specialist who worked with the People and understood the complications, few as they might be, that happened with shifters. The physician had been made aware of the circumstances, relating to Andrea's previous condition and the hunt, and the mating. While Miranda had still been able to scent the changes in Andrea's body, there had been a subtle alteration and she had needed, no, wanted, professional reassurance.

It is similar to the reason why she chose to avoid putting Andrea through a second gauntlet of meeting her People after the Hunt. Until she, Miranda, knew all was well, she had no desire to add to the pressure that Andrea had already experienced. Nor did she want her People to know of her anger just yet. Thus, when they had finished their time at the waterfall, she'd summoned a door and had taken Andrea home, to the townhouse, to rest.

As much as they were able, considering. Today's distance from each other, necessary as it was, had been trying for Miranda and staff at Runway had suffered the consequences.

"I'd have brought a picture, but there is nothing to see yet. Just... we're fine."

Miranda opened her eyes and laid her hand on Andrea's belly. "Good." Her smile was spare, filled with relief and genuine. Then, because she could and it was true. She growled softly, pressing so very lightly, but enough that Andrea could feel it. "Mine."

Andrea leaned forward, smile on her lips. "Always." She kissed Miranda again, this time giving in to the warm abandon. Around them, underneath Miranda's feet, throughout her office, the greening rose and bloomed and the air, indeed, freshened.