Miranda froze. For a moment the wheels of her mind spun fruitlessly as she tried to think of something to say. Still smirking, Andrea leaned close. "You look like you could use a little Integrity." In a whisper, she added, "I suppose it would be pointless to ask what the hell you're doing here?"

"Yes, it would." Miranda croaked, feeling her face burn and praying the light in the club was dim enough to hide it.

"Are you still wondering how a nice girl like me ended up in a place like this?" Without ceremony, Andrea straddled the editor's lap and began the slow, sinuous movements that Miranda remembered only too well. "Or do you just like my dancing?"

"I'm making sure you don't get yourself into serious trouble!" Miranda hissed as Andrea leaned back against her shoulder and let her eyes flutter closed. "How thoughtful of you", she murmured. "I really had no idea you were so full of shit...ah-ah! Can't touch me, remember?"

Miranda lowered her hands, which had been dangerously close to grabbing the girl and shaking her until her teeth rattled. "What you are doing is dangerous and you know it."

"Of course I know it" Andrea turned and pressed her bare breasts uncomfortably close to Miranda's nose. "That's why one of the bouncers walks me to my car when my shift is finished. Or are you worried about what's going to happen when someone finds out that one of your writers is a stripper? That would be more in character for you."

Miranda cursed and Andrea laughed. "That's it, isn't it? And yet here you are in person. Curious indeed. Oh, and by the way, if you want to finish this conversation, you have to pay. Lap dances are twenty dollars each."

Miranda dug her wallet out of her coat pocket and put three twenties on the table. "The whole idea of you writing for us was to get you out of here!" she growled as soon as the music began to blare again and another girl came onstage.

"And why would you want to do that?"

"Because you are better than this!"

"I'm here by choice. Nobody's holding a gun to my head. And even if I wanted to quit, I couldn't. My savings are almost nil and my credit cards are getting uncomfortably overloaded. If you really want to give me money, I could take you to the VIP lounge...that's two hundred."

"Are you insane?!"

"No, I'm on the clock."

Miranda thought fast. "Is this VIP place private?"

"As private as it gets here. It's divided into four rooms, but each room is private and the waitresses are paid to mind their own business."

"All right. Maybe I'm insane, but all right."

Andrea grinned and grabbed the money from the table as she slid off Miranda's lap. Taking the editor's hand, Andrea led Miranda through a maze of crowded tables towards an archway on the left side of the club. Miranda had seen the girls going in and out of it with their...clients? Patrons? Benificiaries? Miranda shook her head, hard. She had to keep it together or she would end up throwing the girl over her shoulder and kidnapping her.

The VIP lounge was dark and smelled like new car. Andrea walked without stopping to a blue satin curtain. "In here."

The room was plain except for a white couch. At least it's clean, Miranda thought with a little grimace. "What do I do?"

"Nothing. I do all the work. Just sit down. Or lie down, if you'd rather. And take your coat off."

Awkwardly, Miranda removed her coat and perched on the couch. Andrea giggled. "You might want to uncross your legs."

Miranda did so, fighting the impulse to say something so withering the too-damn-lovely brunette in front of her would sink into the floor and vanish. Andrea knelt before her, her smile turning sensual as she gently pushed Miranda's knees apart. "Open for for me, baby. That's it."

Miranda heard herself choke. Andrea laid her head on the editor's knee, her shoulders shaking with silent laughter. "God, it's so cute how nervous you are! Look, if it helps you relax, the rules are the same as they are out there, more or less"

"As in?"

"You don't touch me. In theory."

"In theory. Is it differen't in practice?"

"Depends on the situation." Gently, Andrea placed her hands on Miranda's shoulders and pushed her back into the couch cushions. "I can do more of what I was doing out there, or if you lie down, I can bed dance. Either way, you're supposed to keep your hands to yourself but shit happens. Sometimes a touch, sometimes a kiss...like the first night you were here. Remember?"

Miranda nodded.

"Most girls don't mind a few extras here and there, as long as it doesn't go too far. It means they get tipped more." Andrea settled herself on her knees again, and began to gently trail her dark red nails up and down Miranda's thighs. The editor shuddered and bowed her head as Andrea began to move. Miranda thought that private or not, conversation was out of the question. She gripped the edge of the couch-which was soft and puffy and not at all easy to grip-and tried to keep her brain from imploding.

Andrea chuckled and picked up Miranda's legs, moving them onto the couch. Miranda stared at her through her shades and realized helplessly that she had already completely lost control. Her entire body was soft and loose and on fire at the core. If Andrea had wanted to cut her flesh with a rusty razor she wouldn't have been able to do a thing to save herself. Andrea climbed on top of her and bent down to whisper in her ear. "It seems you came for my dancing after all."

I could come from your dancing. Miranda squeezed her eyes shut and prayed that she hadn't just said those words out loud. In the next few moments, she discovered that a bed dance was like a full-body lap dance. Andrea moved over her in a silken wave, brushing her delectable body against the editor's just enough so the other woman could feel the warmth of her skin. She smelled like flowers and vanilla and Miranda felt her hips arch. Andrea threw her head back, her dark hair cascading almost to her waist. "Jesus God!" she breathed. "You are so hot!"

"Am I supposed to pay you for that observation?"

Andrea exploded in laughter. "It is customary to tip extra for a bed dance, but..." the editor gasped as the Andrea's smile turned evil and the girl's knee suddenly pressed hard against her dripping center. "Maybe we can work out a trade. I won't charge you more than the basic rate if you agree to leave quietly and don't come back. The girls have been asking me who my lady fan is. Your cover is going to be blown if you keep showing up here."

Miranda tried to glare, but it didn't quite work because her breathing had developed a definite hitch. Andrea was still grinding away, her knee wedged firmly between the editor's thighs, and Miranda found she could not stop her body from answering every move. "How about I send you a text directly when I get home? That way you won't have to worry." Andrea's voice was still soft, little more than a whisper. She sighed and abruptly stopped the dance. "Time's up, unless you want to shell out another two hundred bucks."

"N-no. I think I'll take your advice" Miranda took a deep breath and tried to sit up. She found that she couldn't.

"Just lie still" Andrea said in a gentler tone. "One of the waitresses will be by in a minute. You're supposed to buy me a drink. If you do, we can stay here a little longer."

She seated herself on the edge of the couch and sure enough, the blue curtains parted and a smiling girl with curly black hair stuck her head in. "Can I get you guys anything?"

"Gin and tonic with lemon and an apple martini" Andrea said with a smile. "Thanks."

"No problem" the waitress vanished, and Miranda struggled to regain control of herself. When the drinks arrived she had managed, with Andrea's help, to sit up, straighten her wig, and look relatively composed. "You remember my drink preferences?"

"Of course. Good cabernet or merlot when you can get it; gin and tonic when you can't, and never beer."

Miranda looked down into her glass. How she had missed this! Andrea's remarkable gifts of memory and anticipation, and her awareness of Miranda's every need! It occured to the editor that in some ways, her ex-assistant knew her better than any of her husbands ever had. Certainly better than Stephen.

"Miranda? Hey..." Andrea waved something white under ner nose. Miranda stared dumbly at it until she realized it was a handful of tissues and that her cheeks were wet. She took them and carefully blotted her face. "Goddamn it."

"It's okay. You can cry if you need to. Bed dances can be pretty intense things."

But Miranda was already on her feet, her drink forgotten. She tossed a wad of cash at Andrea and fled.