Rating: Mature (NC17)
Genre: A tiny bit of angst and a HUGE load of fluff. There may be smut also. *shifty eyes*
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. I just take our two favourite ladies and play around with them. I make no money from this whatsoever.
A/N:I want to thank my friends who kept encouraging me to finally finish another story. Most of all I want to thank my dear Jiggles who has slaved over this story for many hours to bridle my crazy use of commas and some mutated grammar situations! Thank you, Boo!
Red as Blood, White as Snow
Elevators are such sneaky death traps, thought Andy Sachs as she squared her shoulders and looked up at the flickering ceiling light.
It was not because of the fact that people placed themselves in metal cages that were suspended at frightening heights by steel cables, often swaying in sharp gusts of wind that stole into the concrete shafts. And it was not about the almost sentient sliding doors either, despite their uncanny desire to chop occupants in half whenever the cabin was not boarded or vacated in a timely manner.
No. It was all down to the confined space and the fact that Andy had somehow gotten the privilege bestowed upon her to share said space with Miranda Priestly, editor-in-chief of the fashion magazine Runway. As a first assistant riding elevators with your boss on the way to a meeting was not an uncommon thing. However, Miranda Priestly was neither a woman who tolerated just anyone intruding in her personal space, nor was she the kind of person most people would willingly be left alone with.
Above all else, what made elevator journeys with Miranda Priestly so torturous for Andy, was the blinding, at times almost heart-stopping attraction she held for her boss. When they accidentally brushed shoulders or it happened to be a long, uninterrupted trip all the way to the lobby and Miranda's subtle perfume took the opportunity to completely ensnare her, Andy always feared, if not for her life, for her sanity.
Today was one of those latter occasions. And while the cabin descended through the Elias-Clarke building at what seemed like an exceptionally slow and teasing speed, Andy fought hard against the heavy pounding in her chest. It became more unbearable the longer she stood, rigid and with clammy hands, next to the object of her desire.
The chime which heralded the end of their journey felt like salvation to Andy, and when the doors opened and Miranda glided out of the elevator and into the marble lobby, Andy stayed back for a moment and took a deep breath to calm herself.
Yet another possible death averted, she thought, relieved.
Like a hypersensitive hydraulics system, the adrenaline in her blood snapped her body into action and she hurried to Miranda's side before the impatient glare of her boss could skewer her.
"Sorry," she mumbled as they made their way towards the revolving glass doors.
The sidewalk beckoned with its thick layer of snow and the promise of chilly winds that would cool Andy off. She knew she couldn't afford to get sick, but she was glad that she was wearing a thin, white trench coat that wasn't exactly meant to be worn in winter.
As she followed Miranda outside her eyes lingered on the back of that elegant neck and how beautifully it was framed by the soft charcoal collar of Miranda's fur coat. She knew she had it bad when instead of revolting her the fact that her boss was wearing fur did fuzzy things to her stomach.
Andy was glad that they'd be in the car soon. The presence of the driver always helped her relax after getting so worked up. And although she would essentially share just as small a space in the Mercedes, it lacked the almost electric tension she felt when standing next to Miranda in a narrow elevator cabin.
Confident that she'd get herself under control soon enough, Andy straightened her spine and searched for Roy within the line of idling cars. That was when she spotted the gun.
Andy's gaze tracked the black van as it sped past them, her eyes never leaving the barrel that was pointing in her direction. She did not have time to think nor to plan a proper course of action. All she was aware of was her arm as it pulled Miranda behind her. Then she heard shots, and she felt something push against her chest. It caused her to stagger, and as her knees gave way she fell back into softness.
Somebody screamed, and suddenly there was a lot of commotion. Andy's head pounded and her limbs felt leaden as she was lowered onto the pavement.
A man shouted, but when Andy looked up all she saw was Miranda's face. She loved looking at Miranda's face, especially when those stormy grey eyes were shining with bridled emotions. Often it was anger, sometimes hidden sadness or disappointment. Now it was something else.
The creamy cheeks Andy had many times imagined kissing blanched to an altogether ghostly shade and Miranda's lips almost disappeared as they pressed into a thin line. It took a lot of effort, but Andy carefully raised her fingers, fascinated by the intensity with which the older woman stared down at her.
"Miranda," Andy said, and she was surprised by how strange and detached her own voice sounded.
A hand reached up and gripped hers firmly. Before Andy could fully comprehend that Miranda was actually touching her, she spotted the red splatters on the sleeve of Miranda's coat.
"Miranda! You're bleeding!"
She wanted to get up, but sharp pain caused her to sink back with a wince.
"Ma'am. You need to remain still. You've been shot," the male voice said.
She turned her head, and as her initial shock wore off and made way for panic, she gazed down at herself and saw nothing but blood. The man, one of Elias-Clarke's security guards, rolled up his jacket and placed it under her head. Sirens in the distance caused her to finally become aware of the situation, and suddenly fear, like a cold, heavy liquid, crawled over her chest, weighing her down.
Andy looked at Miranda, who was breathing in quick succession, her nostrils flaring and her shoulders heaving as she stared back at Andy with wide eyes, her grasp on Andy's hand tightening.
This time all that came out was a croak, and Andy swallowed hard against the lump in her throat. Was this it? Had she just spent the entire morning afraid of dying of a heart attack caused by this magnificent, yet unattainable woman, only to bleed to death on the dirty sidewalk outside their office building?
It didn't feel like she was dying. Then again, maybe her body was still in shock. Maybe fate had decided to make her end as painless as possible. After all, Miranda was by her side, holding her hand and looking at her with those beautiful eyes that Andy knew she would never forget. Her thumb tenderly brushed over Miranda's fingers and she pulled the older woman closer.
"Miranda," she whispered, her voice weak from the emotions that now welled up unstoppably, causing her head to spin and her restraints to slip.
"I love you."
As soon as she had said it, her eyes fluttered closed in embarrassment, too scared to look at Miranda after the confession. And yet, the vice grip around her hand did not loosen.
As the sirens drew closer Andy felt the belt of her coat slowly being untied, the careful movement nonetheless causing discomfort.
"I will try to stop the bleeding," the security guard said, which roused a stifled sob from Miranda. Worried, Andy opened her eyes again, and her heart broke when she saw Miranda's eyes brimming with tears. The older woman's free hand clamped over her mouth and her gaze locked onto Andy's bloody chest.
The fabric, heavy with soaked up blood, was lifted away, and Andy bit her bottom lip, expecting more sharp pain. When all she experienced was a dull ache, she dipped her chin and looked down at herself in confusion.
"Huh?" The security guard stared at her blouse. Her almost impeccably white blouse.
There were a few small stains where blood had seeped through the trench coat, but otherwise it appeared untouched.
He looked at the coat fabric again, but there appeared to be no holes, and Andy turned to Miranda, unsure about what was going on.
Miranda's hands fell away, and suddenly life flooded back into her features. Leaning forward, she ripped away Andy's silk blouse almost frantically, her cold palms sliding against the slightly reddened, but very intact skin just below Andy's bra.
Andy hissed in protest, but then Miranda turned her head and looked at her with such fire that any remaining pain was quickly forgotten.
Yup. This one is definitely anger, Andy conceded.
She knew she should be frightened, because this expression on Miranda's face usually meant someone would get fired, or at least verbally eviscerated. Miranda's hands, however, were still touching Andy's exposed skin, and the colour which rapidly covered the older woman's cheeks, anger or not, was much lovelier than the previous shade of white.
"You're not hurt?" She asked, the urgency in her voice snapping Andy's mind out of the surreal, bewildered trance and back to the present.
A hesitant glance down her exposed upper body confirmed that there were no bullet holes, and that revelation made for an entirely different level of embarrassment. Here she lay in the snow on a Manhattan sidewalk with all kinds of strangers staring down at her while her boss, a woman whom she had just professed her love to, was touching her almost naked chest.
"No. I don't think... ouch!"
Just when Miranda abruptly pulled away her hands as if they had gotten burned, the sharp pain returned to Andy's chest, and her sudden intake of breath transformed into an unpleasant coughing fit.
"Ouch," she whimpered.
With the help of the security guard she sat up and sheepishly pulled her blouse back together as she avoided Miranda's gaze.
"You are hurt," the man said.
"I think I'll live," Andy tried to joke, but Miranda's sniff wasn't exactly coloured with laughter.
Suddenly Andy felt very cold. The shock had fully worn off by now and she finally allowed herself to acknowledge what had just happened. Or what hadn't happened, for that matter. Her head became light and everything around her started to spin. The approaching paramedics were blurry, and even the hand that reconnected with hers could not keep Andy from finally losing consciousness.
And back in the elevator we are, Andy thought as the door closed in front of them, shutting out a large crowd of concerned, and mostly curious faces.
Her knees were still weak and she had a difficult time staying upright. The fact that Miranda was standing beside her silently brooding, completely ignoring her and yet seemingly acutely aware of every move Andy made, was incredibly unnerving.
After the emergency services had checked Andy and had cleared her from major injuries, Miranda had notified the police that they would be available for questioning inside the office. She had then proceeded to glare Andy into following her back into the building, visibly flinching every time Andy swayed as they walked.
In a way Andy was grateful to escape the many gawking sensationalists that had flocked to the scene of the not-quite-drive-by-shooting. Returning to the office for a change of clothes and a cup of coffee was probably the best course of action. If only she hadn't blurted out her biggest secret to the one person who could entirely destroy her in every possible way.
Miranda had said absolutely nothing the entire time Andy had sat in the back of the ambulance, and an ominous rigidity had settled over her body. As Andy counted the floors on their ride up, she thought she could hear Miranda's jaw crack from the tension.
Andy's mind was racing. She cursed herself for whatever braincell had come up with the idea to confess her love to Miranda.
Stupid, stupid, stupid!
There was no way Miranda would forgive and forget that little episode, and as the elevator opened its doors to their floor, and Miranda strode into Runway with hasty steps, a part of Andy wished that whoever had shot fake blood at her had instead used proper bullets.
Solemnly she followed her boss down the hallways, avoiding eye contact with the bewildered magazine staff and keeping her head low, ready for the scolding of a lifetime. Even Emily, always so ready to comment on any unfortunate situation Andy would find herself in, remained silent as Andy trudged after Miranda, hands holding onto the scruffy grey blanket with trepidation.
"Close the door," Miranda said, her voice soft, but vibrating dangerously.
For a while they simply stood in silence in the bright office. Miranda's shoulders heaved as she gazed out of the window, and Andy tried very hard not to breathe at all. When Miranda moved towards her desk, Andy twitched, but instead of addressing Andy and freeing her from apprehension, Miranda picked up the phone.
"Nigel," she addressed the Fashion Director. "Bring some clothes for Andrea from the Closet." She paused before adding, "No reds."
Those last words hung in the room, adding to the weight that pulled at the air between the two women. Andy's fingers curled tightly into the blanket, and she pulled it closer around herself, feeling colder now than she had outside in the snow.
The hands that a mere half hour ago had been touching Andy's skin were now propped on the glass surface, fingers stiff, as Miranda leaned her hips against the edge of her desk. She closed her eyes, and it almost looked as if she was trying to meditate. Andy watched how the chest she so often admired rose and fell. Miranda breathed through her nose, frowning when instead of calming down she appeared to become more agitated.
Oh god. She is going to fire me, Andy realised.
She had crossed a line with her confession, and now she would have to pay.
"Miranda... I...," she said, attempting to bring her voice above a whisper. Miranda's eyes snapped open, and her glare cut into Andy like a laser that was meant to melt steel.
"I'm sorry. I... I should not have done that," Andy stammered, and she hated how timid she sounded.
"That's right," Miranda said through clenched teeth, almost panting now. Andy shuddered.
"Of all the foolish, moronic, ludicrous scenarios your silly little head could have come up with, this was by far the most unintelligent thing you could have possibly done!" Miranda was livid. Her cheeks had flushed a vibrant pink, and her eyes, usually only a window that revealed but a glimpse of the abundant emotions behind a practised facade, now acted as a gateway, letting Andy see exactly how upset the older woman was.
With a few strides Miranda moved around the desk and chairs until she stood in front of Andy, who could practically feel Miranda's body pulse with fury. The thought that being loved by an insignificant girl like herself would unsettle Miranda so much hurt Andy a lot more than her two bruised ribs. Tears welled up, and she could not suppress a sob.
"Don't you dare," Miranda gripped her by the shoulders, her thumbs digging painfully into Andy's skin, "to ever scare me like that again." Her eyes were glassy and she continued in a whisper, her whole body shaking, "I thought I had lost you."
"What?" Andy managed, barely audible.
Her ribs hurt when Miranda shoved her back against the door, but the yelp of pain was stolen from her lips when Miranda suddenly kissed her. Hard.
Andy felt frozen, and for a moment she saw herself from above as if she had floated out of her own body. Maybe she had died after all and this was a clumsy manifestation of her dreams coming true in the afterlife. But then Miranda's fingers dug into her arms, and her jaw started to hurt from the pressure.
She dropped the blanket and grabbed Miranda by the elbows. This caused the older woman to tremble, and she released Andy's mouth with a gasp. The warm breath against Andy's lips felt real and beautiful, and before Miranda could fully pull away, Andy kissed her back.
They did not move. Their bodies stood rigid, but their lips gradually softened as they remained pressed together. Breaths were shared through noses that touched almost tenderly, and after a while Miranda finally loosened her grip on Andy's arms.
A thousand different thoughts were trying to fight through the fog in Andy's brain, but all she could focus on was Miranda's scent and how perfect that body felt against her own. She was not ready to step away, or face the immediate consequences of the kiss. So she stood and held on, communicating through her still lips that she was here, and that Miranda had not lost her at all.
It was Nigel, and the two women abruptly moved away from the door, eyes darting anywhere but to each other. The Fashion Director walked into the office with an armful of clothes, and concern rattled his usually sarcasm-laden voice.
"Is it true?" He looked at Miranda over the rim of his spectacles. "Did some maniac really try to assault you, and then Andy threw herself in front of you?"
"Yes," Miranda croaked, and the sound startled her enough to draw her fingers to her lips while she stared at Nigel as if he had just announced an affinity for polyester blend knitwear.
"Wow," Nigel turned to Andy and put a warm hand on her shoulder. "Six to the rescue." He smiled, clearly relieved that she was okay.
Andy's gaze briefly flickered to Miranda. Their eyes met, causing a burn that spread through Andy's entire body, and she quickly reached for the clothes, mumbling, "uhm, yes," before turning on her heel and disappearing into Miranda's private bathroom.
Her chest hurt so very much as she bent over the sink, one hand clamping onto the cool porcelain, the other pressing against her heart, feeling the powerful beat against her achy ribs. The way this day was going, cardiac arrest was certainly still an option. She looked up at her reflection in disbelief.
Miranda had just kissed her after thoroughly freaking out. Not about the fact that Andy loved her, but because she had honestly feared for Andy's life.
Andy's ears pounded wildly along with her pulse, and she felt light-headed. Her skin was flushed and some splatters of fake blood still adorned her throat. Her hair was a mess, and the blouse was a total loss, thanks to Miranda ripping it open on the street.
"Oh god...," Andy slumped forward and buried her face in her palms. What was she supposed to do now? It was likely that the kiss had happened out of a moment of shock, and the awkwardness that was no doubt about to ensue could very well cost Andy her job.
"Andrea," Miranda called softly from the other side of the door. "The police are here."
"Yes. Okay," Andy hastily replied. "I'll be right out."
She took a deep breath and began cleaning the fake blood off her skin. Of course she would have preferred a hot shower, but now was not the time. Nigel had brought her a black lace camisole and a jade green cashmere sweater, and as Andy pulled them on she remembered Miranda's earlier words. No reds.
Knowing the reason for Miranda's anger now, the significance struck Andy, and she could not help feeling a little guilty, even if it wasn't her fault at all that some random person had picked today as the day to go berserk.
After rearranging her hair into a more or less acceptable state, she exhaled sharply against her bangs and reached for the door.
Miranda indicated for her to sit on the couch, and Andy readily complied, happy with whatever comfort she could get as the two police officers began to interview her.
"Did you notice any details about the car, or whoever was inside the vehicle?" The younger of the two men asked.
"Uhm, no. Sorry," Andy fidgeted with the hem of her skirt. "It all happened so fast. One minute I was walking and the next I was on the ground."
Her eyes flickered to Miranda who hovered next to the officers, arms crossed in front of her chest, and her lips pursed as she intently studied the carpet.
"All I can tell you is that it was a black van," Andy continued. "The passenger side window was halfway down, and I saw... what I believed to be a real gun." She felt incredibly silly, ears burning from what she knew would probably be a tremendous blush.
"It was a paintball gun," the older cop explained while the younger one scribbled down notes. "We've recovered a letter that links the attack to an animal rights group who targets prominent fur-wearing individuals."
This caused Miranda to snort. "That's preposterous!" She put her hands on her hips and glared at the policemen as if they were somehow responsible. "I haven't worn real fur in years."
"Well," the older officer replied, "violent activists seldom do research, ma'am."
Andy was stunned at how she hadn't realised that the fluffy coats Miranda liked to wear were actually made from fake fur. That makes me love her even more, she thought, looking up at Miranda with wonder while savouring the still lingering tingle on her lips.
"That was a brave thing to do, you know?" The young policeman addressed Andy, making her snap out of her admiration.
"Uhm, sorry, what?"
"Throwing yourself between your boss and what you thought was a real gun," he elaborated with a grin. "That was pretty gutsy."
"Uhm... well, it wasn't like I had time to think it through," she replied, uncomfortably shifting in her seat and scratching the back of her head as his gaze lingered a bit too long on her legs. "It was instinct."
"It was reckless," Miranda said, still agitated, and for the first time since their kiss they fully looked at each other. The intensity grounded Andy, and although it was still hard to believe, Andy understood the sentiment and she slowly nodded, watching as Miranda's eyes softened.
"All right," the older policeman spoke. "If we have any more questions we will contact you." He nodded to each of them and left the office. The younger cop winked at Andy and tipped his hat before following his partner out the door.
The sleeves of her sweater seemed suddenly very interesting, and Andy nervously fiddled with the expensive wool until Miranda broke the silence.
"Go home, Andrea."
Panic fluttered up in her throat, forcing Andy to sit up straight, which in turn caused her ribs to hurt. She whimpered. Was she fired?
"Home?" She squeaked.
"Yes. Home, Andrea," Miranda said in a tone that left absolutely no room for negotiation. "I won't have you running around Manhattan with two bruised ribs. So. Go."
Andy felt rejected, but she honestly hadn't known what else to expect.
"I can answer the phone," she tried, still in the dark about whether Miranda was sending her away for the day or for good.
"Andrea, you've been assaulted less than an hour ago. How can I expect you to recover quickly and come back on Monday, properly healed if you won't rest?" Miranda's voice was strained and Andy recognised slivers of the agony from before. She wanted nothing more than to draw Miranda into her arms at that moment, remembering their kiss. However she had no idea whether that had been a fluke or a promise.
"Okay. I will talk to Nigel," Andy said softly as she stood.
"Nigel? What does Nigel have to do with this?" Miranda narrowed her eyes and squared her jaw; anger being her way of obscuring puzzlement.
"Uhm, well. I'm sort of living on his couch," Andy explained with a grimace.
Miranda regarded her silently, the play of her lips betraying to Andy how her mind raced, grabbing at and discarding one option after another until seemingly arriving at a conclusion.
"Emily, coats," she commanded before reaching for her bag and nodding for Andy to follow her into the outer office. The other assistant rushed to the wall closet and returned with two of Miranda's many 'emergency' coats. One for Andy, and one for Miranda, since the fake fur one from earlier had been confiscated as evidence.
"Cancel my dinner, move the meeting with Irv to next week, and deliver the Book as soon as it's finished tonight," she instructed, and Andy felt guilty that Emily would now need to spend her Friday evening waiting for the magazine's mock-up in her stead.
Miranda pushed through the glass doors, and with an apologetic shrug at her disgruntled co-worker, Andy hurried to keep up with her. As they waited for the elevator Miranda pursed her lips and looked pointedly at Andy.
"Nigel doesn't even have a bathtub, Andrea," she said, as if the sanitary installations at Nigel's apartment had somehow personally insulted her. "Honestly, how on earth would you be able to get any rest at that place? A couch is no bed."
"Uhm," Andy answered sheepishly. "It's been okay for the past few weeks."
The elevator arrived and they stepped into the cabin together for the third time that day. Andy chanced another look at Miranda, sensing the questions swirling within the other woman as they fought against the walls of stubbornness, longing to be asked. Miranda remained silent, though; her jaw working, nostrils moving, and the tension in her body almost setting the air in the small space on fire.
"I got kicked out of my apartment. I could not longer afford it on my own."
She was not proud of her situation, but the way Miranda seemed to relax at the words 'on my own', helped Andy to not feel like a complete failure.
"So, Nigel is helping me out until I've saved up enough for the down payment of a cheaper place."
"Hmmm," was all Miranda said in reply while looking straight ahead. Andy spent the rest of the ride to the lobby attempting not to stare at the spot on Miranda's throat where her heartbeat pulsed rapidly against satin skin.
By the time Andy had finally found the courage to ask where they were going, she already recognised the neighbourhood they were driving through. She had been too distracted by the eager press and the chalk outline of herself on the cleared pavement to pay attention to what Miranda had said to the driver once they had safely made it into the car.
They hadn't spoken since they had left Runway, but the air around Miranda no longer vibrated from constrained emotions. A stillness had settled over her when they had walked past the police tape, and Andy, no longer daunted by the possibility of losing her job, actually grew concerned. From the corner of her eye she studied the older woman and watched as her typically steely gaze became distant and her proud shoulders slumped, if only a little.
It almost seemed as if Miranda was surrendering, but to whom or what, Andy couldn't say. She had gathered by now that she wasn't fired, and Miranda had shown rather unexpected concern for her. It was likely that they were going to the townhouse to have a talk and figure out a way forward after the crazy events of the day.
As the car slowed, Andy pondered whether she was ready for such a talk. Everything inside her prepared for an adult conversation that would end in rejection. She kept repeating over and over in her head that she would be okay if Miranda never kissed her again, that she would somehow survive. However, sensing the unease in the woman next to her and not being able to reach out and offer comfort crushed her entirely.
When they stopped Miranda wordlessly slipped from the car. Andy followed her up the steps, and as Miranda unlocked the door, Andy took the moment to try and compose herself.
The house was quiet and the sound of their high heels on the varnished parquet floor reverberated deep within Andy's bones. They walked into the downstairs sitting room where Miranda paused for a moment, eyeing the comfortable armchairs before deciding to continue on and into the kitchen.
Watching Miranda drop her coat and bag onto the kitchen island roused tenderness in Andy, the domesticity of the action calming her nerves. It was a simple gesture, but it revealed that Miranda was willing to let down some of her walls.
"Would you like some water?" Miranda asked, and the utterly alien question startled Andy's gaze away from the discarded coat and bag. How bizarre to have Miranda offer a drink when it was part of Andy's job to always promptly provide just that for Miranda.
"Yes, please," she managed.
The opened fridge buzzed through the silence when Miranda retrieved two small bottles, and Andy stood rooted to her spot on the floor tiles, unsure of what she was supposed to do.
"Sit," Miranda said, and it wasn't her usual, commanding tone. It almost sounded like a request.
Andy took off the trench coat, folding it neatly and placing it next to Miranda's on the island counter, before pulling out one of the bar stools and sitting down. A glass was set before her, and she couldn't help the twitch when Miranda reached out, her arm a mere few inches away from Andy's chest, as she poured the S. Pellegrino.
They sipped the water, each holding onto their glass tightly. Miranda had opted to remain standing, and she leaned her back against the kitchen island, intently staring at her drink.
"So. What happened to the cook?"
Andy had been drinking, and the sudden direct question caused her to nearly choke, her eyes tearing as the carbonated water burned inside her nose.
"Uhm," she wheezed, "what?"
Miranda turned her face to look directly at Andy.
"The cook. I was under the impression that you were living with... someone."
"Oh, uhm," Andy mumbled dumbly, her knuckles white as she squeezed the glass in her hands. "He moved out last November, while we were in Paris." She exhaled heavily, not thrilled by the memories of her ex. "We had broken up before already, but once I came back from France he had left for good."
She wasn't sure how she felt about Miranda having been aware of Nate, or about the fact that until now Miranda had believed she was still in a relationship. There was no way Andy could have stayed with someone else while having all these feelings for her boss. After all, her growing attraction had been the very reason why she and Nate had broken up in the first place.
"I see," Miranda said softly, her eyes locking onto Andy's fingers as they curled stiffly around her glass.
Again, silence spread between them, but now it held less of the unsettling intensity that had been weighing it down before. It mellowed Andy, easing away her anxiety with its odd feeling of comfort.
"You kissed me." The words wandered freely past her lips, but despite the fact that she wasn't afraid to utter such a statement, Andy still couldn't quite bring herself to look Miranda in the eye. Would Miranda deny it? Would she put it down to an error in judgement or a panic reaction?
"Yes." Miranda simply answered. "I did."
No excuses came. No explanation.
Andy dared to look up.
Miranda's gaze moved to Andy's lips and then back to her eyes.
"Because I needed to."
The breath caught in Andy's throat at the vulnerability that flickered across Miranda's face. It clawed at Andy's heart and confirmed that the affection she felt for Miranda wasn't misplaced at all. That pain she had seen when she had looked up from the concrete sidewalk now returned to Miranda's eyes, wetness clinging to her lashes.
"Hey," Andy set down her glass and turned on the bar stool to fully face the other woman. "I'm okay." Tentatively she reached out to touch her fingertips to Miranda's arm. "Nothing happened."
"Don't lie, Andrea," Miranda said in almost a whisper. "Something did happen."
It sounded like an accusation, but Andy wasn't sure whether Miranda wanted confirmation, or whether she was expecting an apology for stepping out of line.
"You said something," Miranda continued and her fingers closed around Andy's hand. "I need to know... whether you meant it."
Completely entranced by the turmoil in Miranda's eyes, irises swirling in a tempestuous grey, it took Andy a few beats before she could find her voice.
"Yes," she swallowed hard. "I did mean it."
A single tear rolled down Miranda's cheek as she closed her eyes and inhaled deeply through her nose. Andy didn't know if that was a good or a bad sign, but she conceded that Miranda looked absolutely beautiful. The fingers around hers squeezed tightly and Miranda opened her eyes to look up at the ceiling before finally gazing back at Andy. There was pain when Andy's chest contracted at the sight, but it was easily ignored because Miranda was smiling. A warm, timid smile full of relief.
Miranda took Andy's hand and threaded their fingers together, letting her thumb draw gentle patterns over the inside of Andy's palm.
"Good," she said softly. "I had hope."
Mouth slackened by the overwhelming fire the caress caused inside of her belly, Andy could only whisper.
"What does this mean?"
"I don't know yet," Miranda said, looking down onto their joined fingers. "Today's events... they changed everything."
She sniffed in amusement and gazed back up at Andy through still lowered lashes. "I'm not oblivious, Andrea. I have been aware of your... attraction for quite some time."
Andy's cheeks hummed with the sudden rush of blood to her face.
"But that's all I thought it was." Miranda grew contemplative, her head tilting forward and her lips pursing. "I allowed myself to indulge in that feeling... of being admired, knowing that nothing would ever come of it. You're beautiful, young, and naive," Andy frowned at that, but Miranda gave her hand another squeeze before continuing with a smirk, "or so I thought." Then her expression softened, turning almost shy. "It was the perfect excuse for me to not acknowledge my own... fondness."
"Oh," Andy gasped. What was Miranda saying?
"I didn't think it was serious. Nothing but a physical response that would pass with time." Miranda took a deep breath and exhaled slowly through her nose, relaxing her shoulders as she gently ran her fingertips over Andy's knuckles.
"I was going through a divorce, and I thought you were with someone else."
Andy sat absolutely rigid, her heart, however, pumped at frightening speeds. Her eyes were glued to Miranda's lips, hanging onto every word.
"If I found myself looking forward to riding elevators with you just a bit too much, I would tell myself that I was merely reacting to menopausal hormones. That after my failed marriages I deserved to bask in that delicious tension, the warmth of feeling your eyes on me, of hearing your breath catch when I leaned too close."
To demonstrate, Miranda did just that and Andy's breath did catch, causing the older woman to smile.
And then Miranda's free hand moved up, fingers touching Andy's chin, tenderly drawing a line up her jaw and falling still against her cheek.
"This morning, when I thought you were dying in my arms," Miranda paused, swallowing back the painful memories, "I realised that it hadn't been enough." The hand that cupped Andy's cheek trembled. "That I wanted so much more. That I... needed you by my side." She sniffled against fresh tears. "And that revelation terrified me. It still does."
Unsure about what she could do to ease Miranda's fears, Andy remained quiet and simply held onto the fingers that gripped hers tightly.
"I do not need people, Andrea," Miranda stepped closer, her hips touching Andy's knees and her face just inches away from Andy's.
"Miranda," Andy whispered, torn between crying for the anguish in Miranda's voice and smiling because of the direction in which Miranda's confession was going.
"I took your presence in my life for granted," Miranda whispered with a shudder. She finally closed the distance and leaned her forehead against Andy's. Encouraged by the move, Andy slid from her chair and curled her free hand around Miranda's waist, pulling the shaking body against her.
"I love you too, Andrea," Miranda whispered onto Andy's lips. "And I don't know what that means. God knows we have a lot to figure out." Andy nodded and lightly brushed their noses together. "But I know that I wish to be closer to you. And now that I understand the depth of your emotions, and I am aware of the fact that you are... unattached," she breathed hotly, her shiny eyes almost crossing as she stared intently at Andy's mouth, "I can no longer come up with excuses not to try this." She paused, looking back into Andy's eyes before adding, "if you are willing."
Andy wanted to scream. All the feelings she had pushed back down in order to protect herself, the hope held at bay by rational thinking and the real possibility of getting her heart broken, now all came bubbling up like scorching lava from within a volcano. It was utterly overwhelming, and all she could do was hook her chin over Miranda's shoulder and wrap her into the fiercest of hugs.
"Yes. Yes. Yes," she whispered into the crook of Miranda's neck, squeezing the soft body tightly and deeply inhaling the wonderful scent she had grown so addicted to. Miranda curled her arms around Andy's middle, holding her just as firmly and nuzzling the side of Andy's throat.
"Ouch!" Andy winced, but when Miranda tried to pull away, Andy kept her close, mumbling, "it's okay. It's worth the pain. Ugh. Ouch."
"You silly creature," Miranda scolded playfully, succeeding in moving away a step. She gazed at her with so much affection that Andy could barely breathe from the intensity. "We will have plenty of time." She squeezed Andy's hands for emphasis. "I want you to stay here tonight. My guestrooms have beds that are a thousand times more comfortable than Nigel's couch." Andy giggled at that.
"Go upstairs and have a bath, Andrea," Miranda continued softly, and her fingers stroked over Andy's cheek again. "You will feel a lot better afterwards, I promise."
Andy had to admit that she was aching all over and a bath did sound wonderful.
"Okay," she said, feeling a bit shy. She really wanted to kiss Miranda again, properly this time, but although they had just established how much they cared for one another, making the first step was still daunting.
"I'm going to kiss you now."
Miranda smirked, causing butterflies to race through Andy's stomach, but before they had the chance to lean in they heard a key in the front door.
"The girls," Miranda said, looking into the direction of the hallway.
Andy exhaled forcibly, thinking that now she would get sent away after all. However, Miranda snaked a hand behind her neck and pulled her in for a lingering peck before stepping away and nodding at the back stairs.
"On the third floor, the second door on the left. Use anything you like. I will brief the girls, and when you come back down we can all have dinner together."
The kiss had been brief, but Andy's lips burned nonetheless. Elation washed over her, and she rocked on her heels, speechless.
"Go!" Miranda whispered with raised eyebrows as the front door opened, her hands pushing gently against Andy's hips.
Courage suddenly soaring, Andy hugged Miranda again and planted a kiss on her cheek before hurrying around the kitchen island. When she had one foot on the bottom step she turned around and gazed back, finding the sweetest smile play across Miranda's lips.
"Mooom!" One of the girls called from the hallway, having spotted their mother in the kitchen. "You're home!"
"We saw you on TV!" The other yelled as their little feet hurried through the house.
With a final look down at Miranda who enveloped her twin girls into a crushing hug, Andy continued up the stairs.
"Are you okay, Mommy?"
"Is An-dray-uhh okay? We saw her lying on the ground."
Andy paused on the second floor landing. How did the girls even know her name?
"We're both okay, Bobbsey." Miranda's voice carried up and straight into Andy's heart. "We're both okay."
Every single muscle in her body succumbed to the seductive heat of the bath water, banning all remaining tension and creating a luscious buzzing through Andy's limbs. She grinned lazily, sinking lower until her chin touched the water surface.
Just this morning she had been on the verge of hyperventilation, barely able to keep her hormones in check while in the elevator with Miranda, convinced that nothing would ever come of her feelings for the older woman. And now, after an absolutely crazy and emotional day, she was luxuriating in a homey guest bathroom in Miranda's townhouse, still sensing the softness of Miranda's lips on hers. It was pure magic.
She made good use of the provided soaps and shampoos, washing herself thoroughly from her ears down to her toes. Hoping to get rid of any remaining fake blood, she rinsed her hair three times, and when she worked in the conditioner, she realised it smelled of Miranda. Her eyes fell closed and she instinctively rolled her hips in the water.
How long until she would be alone with Miranda again? Would there be more kissing? Touching?
Andy arched her back and felt cool air greet her breasts as they rose from the water. Quickly her palms shot out to brush over her nipples, and she began rubbing against them in soft circles while remembering the feel of Miranda in her arms.
"Hmmm," she moaned, hoping that Miranda would be caressing her breasts just like this very soon.
Lost in her fantasy, she forgot about her bruised ribs and accidentally squeezed too hard. She hissed.
"Andrea?" Miranda called from outside the room, and Andy immediately sat up straight in the bath, water splashing to all sides as she stared at the door like a child caught with its hand in the cookie jar.
"Uhm, yes?" She squeaked.
"Try not to drown," Miranda said with mirth. Andy felt busted.
"Will do," she replied sheepishly, her cheeks burning.
"I put some clothes on the bed for you. Dinner will arrive in twenty minutes."
She held her breath until the clacking of Miranda's heels had moved away and down the hall.
Shaking her head, Andy grinned into her palms. Her fingers had wrinkled in the water and after taking a few giggly moments to collect herself, she stood and clambered out of the bath. She looked at herself in the mirror, taking in the huge bruise that had formed just below her left breast. Despite knowing that she should be angry at whoever had shot at her, staring at the blue and purple swelling filled her with happiness. What was a bit of pain when she had gotten Miranda in return?
She dried herself carefully before wrapping a fluffy towel around her torso and opening the door to the guest bedroom. There was no sign of Miranda, but Andy still peeked around the corner, just to make sure. On the bed she found a neatly folded stack of clothes and a tube of Arnica gel, that caused Andy to smile. Having Miranda take care of her like this was certainly something she could get used to.
After she had dried her hair and gotten dressed Andy quietly left the room, and she idled at the top of the stairs for a while, listening. As good as they felt on her body, wearing a lose pair of casual slacks and an incredibly soft, seamless cotton sweatshirt around Miranda was still a bit daunting. Going downstairs to have dinner with Miranda's daughters was scary on a whole different level.
With a determined sigh, she opted to lean over the banister and look down. At the same time a little face appeared below, eyes sneaking up and freezing as soon as they spotted Andy. Quickly, the little face disappeared, and after a few hushed whispers it returned with its curious twin. Andy waved, causing both faces to pull away again in a burst of giggles.
Bizarre how things can change, thought Andy, remembering an evening, more than six months ago, when it had been her looking up at the twins, right before they had lured her into a sneaky trap which had nearly cost her her job.
She made her way downstairs, hand gliding along the polished railing. Odd as it was, the townhouse did not feel threatening or cold as one would expect the 'lair' of the ominous Queen of Fashion to be. Instead it simply felt like a loving, if posh, home. Of course she had been on the first floor countless of times, but the two upper levels were intriguing and new to Andy, as they held a lot more of Miranda's personal charm. Andy passed by family photographs and tastefully chosen art that blended beautifully with the homey interior without being ostentatious. Miranda had impeccable taste, that much was obvious.
Nearing the ground floor, Andy's footsteps slowed as she suddenly felt unsure of where exactly in Miranda's fabulous, flawless world she would fit in. She didn't exactly feel 'glamorous', or as perfectly groomed as everyone else in Miranda's life. Suddenly feeling anxious, she chewed on her lips.
However, as fast as they had appeared, her doubts dissipated when Andy spotted Patricia waiting at the bottom of the stairs. The Saint Bernard wagged its tail and helped her realise that despite all her riches and the upper class lifestyle, Miranda still made room for a large, drooling, goofy dog. Caring for eternally geeky assistants with an atrocious fashion sense, who aspired to become writers, wasn't that far off.
"Hey Patty," Andy greeted the cheerful canine with a gentle pat on the head. It had been part of her job to regularly pick up Patricia from the groomer's, until a few months ago, out of nowhere, Miranda had decided to pass that responsibility to her daughters. Nonetheless, the dog still recognised her, and Andy lovingly scratched her behind the ears.
"Shall we go to the kitchen?"
Patricia gave her palm a good, sloppy lick and made a confirmatory huffing noise, before padding down the hallway and leading the way toward the back of the house. The two little faces that had been spying earlier now peeked at Andy from behind the kitchen island, paying very close attention to her as she approached. When Andy arrived at the doorway and gave another friendly wiggle of her fingers, the girls giggled again, trying to muffle the sounds with they hands.
Miranda, who was busy pulling plates from a cupboard, turned around.
"Girls, stop being silly and help set the table." She then noticed Andy and smiled. "And say hello to Andrea, Mommy's assistant."
"Mooom," one of the twins said, slightly annoyed as she walked over and took the dishes from her mother. "We know who she is."
"Cassidy, that is no reason to forgo saying hello," Miranda chided, pressing a finger to her daughter's nose. Andy's heart fluttered at the gesture. She had already known that despite time restrictions and the high priority of the magazine, Miranda was still a very loving mother. Watching the little family interact, however, made her fall for the older woman even more.
As she clutched the heavy plates tightly with her small hands, Cassidy looked back at Andy with a smirk and said, "hi An-dray-uh."
There was something adorable and rather telling about the teasing way the girl pronounced her name. As if she had heard it uttered a few too many times by her mother.
"Please, call me Andy."
"Andy is a boy's name," Cassidy scrunched up her nose and walked off into the dining room while Miranda gave Andy a look that said, 'See? Even my children find that designation ridiculous.'
Andy felt the urge to stick out her tongue at Miranda, but she had to concede that hearing Miranda say her full name, and pronouncing it so differently than anyone else ever had, was one of her absolutely favourite things.
The other twin, Caroline, had kept looking at Andy the whole time and only when her mother handed her a pile of cutlery did she speak up.
"Is it true that you got shot trying to save our mom?"
The question startled Andy. Put like that it sounded like she had committed some kind of a heroic deed.
"Well," she began, but Miranda interrupted.
"Bobbsey, there was no real gun." She stroked the girl's cheek. "Neither one of us has been in real danger today, okay?"
"But there was blood on TV," Caroline said quietly, eyes darting between her mother and Andy while her hands curled tightly into Patricia's fur. "And we saw an ambulance."
"Hey," Andy walked over and squatted down next to Miranda, looking up at the distraught girl. "That was paint. I'm really okay. And your mom would have been even more okay because her coat was a lot thicker than mine. I just got a little bruised, that's all."
She smiled at the girl, hoping to reassure her.
"See," Miranda spoke softly, brushing a few red strands of hair behind Caroline's ear. "We really are fine. Okay?"
Her hand found the back of Andy's neck where she gently stroked along the edge of the sweatshirt as if to reassure herself that Andy was indeed alive and well.
Caroline looked down at Patricia and played with the dog's big, floppy ears, before shrugging and saying, "yeah, okay."
Miranda cupped her daughter's cheek and smiled.
"Now go help your sister, and then listen for the door bell. The food should be here any minute now."
"Yes, Mom," the girl complied, her tone a lot less mopey than Cassidy's had been. "Come on, Patty."
Andy stood and watched the redhead and Patricia leave the kitchen before she turned to Miranda.
"Can I help with anything?" She asked, urged by a need to belong and to feel less like a guest in the Priestly house, come what may.
"Yes," Miranda whispered, as the door bell rang and excited little feet hurried down the hall. She passed Andy a bottle of wine and then reached for two wine glasses. With a meaningful look that bore deeply into Andy, she then linked their free hands, and said, "stay close."
Dinner was quickly added to the lengthy list of crazy things that this peculiar day was throwing at Andy. Of all the different, fancy meals she had pictured the Priestly women to share on a Friday evening, pizza had never even entered her mind. Granted it was not the typical filled-crust type that dripped of processed cheese and meats, which Andy used to order in her college days, but pizza it was nonetheless.
The base was made from organic whole-wheat flour, as Cassidy proudly explained after Caroline had placed the two boxes in the middle of the dining table. One was a tomato and mozzarella pizza with rucola leaves and oregano, and the other was topped with Parma ham, goats cheese, and what looked like little mandarin slices.
Before Andy could even raise an eyebrow the twins lunged forward and divided the mandarin pizza between their two plates.
"It's their favourite," Miranda said, gazing at her daughters with a mixture of repulsion and endearment.
"Do you often have pizza?" Andy asked, holding out her plate as Miranda used a cake spatula to lift a mozzarella pizza slice from the box.
"Once or twice a month," she answered, while sliding the piece onto Andy's plate with her fingers. "That way we keep it special."
Andy nearly dropped her plate when she saw Miranda casually lick tomato sauce off her thumb while reaching for a slice of her own.
"I introduced this little treat in exchange for the girls doing their own homework now, and for doing so well in school." She smirked at Andy, who, until last autumn, had spent whole nights working on science projects and essays for the twins. "Not that your work wasn't appreciated. Isn't that right, girls?"
"Uh-uh. Thank you for helping us, Andy," Caroline said with a smile.
"Yeah. Thanks," Cassidy mumbled around a mouthful of pizza.
"You're welcome," Andy replied sweetly.
She wanted to add that it had been nothing, but then she realised that it had been quite an extravagant thing to do. All of Miranda's previous assistants had been saddled with tasks that reached far beyond those of an office help, bordering on housekeeping and nanny services. And yet for some reason those tasks which had initially been part of her workload had been gradually taken off Andy's shoulders.
"So, how do you guys like picking up Patty?" She asked, curious, but too cautious to outright question the changes in the twins' lives.
"It's okay, I guess," Cassidy said, shoving another pizza slice into her mouth.
Caroline looked at Andy excitedly and swallowed her food in one big gulp before saying, "Have you met her boyfriend? He's so cute!"
"Whose boyfriend?" Miranda said with raised eyebrows and that tilt of her head that Andy found very charming.
"Patricia's!" Cassidy elaborated for her mother, clearly more animated now. "He's this little Scottish terrier named 'Brian'. They're in the same playgroup and practically inseparable."
"Yeah, I've met him," Andy said with a grin. "Charming little fella. And with the coolest moustache." She held her knuckles to her chin and wiggled her fingers which caused the twins to giggle. Andy half expected Miranda to reprimand them and call for proper dining table etiquette, but when she looked over at the older woman a warm gaze met hers and Miranda smiled.
The remainder of dinner was sprinkled with light conversation and more laughter, and by the time the pizza was gone Andy had to concede that it had been far too long since she had enjoyed herself this much during a shared meal. She felt sadness and a bit of guilt as she thought of her friends who, since Nate's departure, had contacted her a lot less frequently. And the last time she'd had a nice dinner with her parents had been more than a year ago.
"Andrea!" Miranda exclaimed, likely appalled by the sudden swearing. The twins giggled.
"I'm sorry." Andy slapped her palm to her forehand and grimaced. "I just remembered my parents. I didn't call them yet, and I don't want them to watch the news and start to worry."
"Phone them now," Miranda said concerned. "The girls need to go do their homework and I'm expecting the Book, so you may take your time."
"Hey Andy." Despite her snark, Cassidy had quickly taken to the short version of her name. "Now that you're here, you can help us with our paper."
"Yeah, when you're done talking to your parents you should come to our room," Caroline added with enthusiasm.
"Girls, Andrea will do no such thing," Miranda intervened. "You will write that paper by yourself, or I will be forced to rethink pizza night."
"But Mom!" The twins whined in unison.
"Hey, what if I read your papers when you're finished, and then I'll give you a few pointers?" Andy glanced at Miranda, searching for approval. "That way you'll do all the work, but I can still help."
Miranda gave her a smile which implied that Andy had done the right thing, and before the pleasant tingle in her belly at the look in Miranda's eyes could overwhelm her, Andy pushed away from the table and stood.
"All right. If you'll excuse me, I'll go get my phone."
She walked into the study, snuggled into one of the blue arm chairs and dialled her parents' number.
"Dad," Andy chuckled. "You make it sound like you're royalty or something."
"Hey! Andy! What's up? It's not even eight yet. Shouldn't you still be at work?" He teased.
Andy's parents hated her job and how demanding it was. Over the recent months, however, they had finally begun to accept that it was her choice to stay at Runway, and that she actually enjoyed what she was doing. Of course they did not know that most of her motivation was caused by her feelings for Miranda. They already blamed the editor-in-chief for most, if not all the changes in Andy's life, and the initial complaining Andy had done in the beginning of her employment certainly hadn't helped.
"Well, something happened," she said cautiously, not entirely sure how to broach the subject of not quite being shot on the street. "Could you put me on speaker so mom can hear me?"
"Are you okay?" He sounded worried.
"Yeah, Dad. I'm fine. There was an animal rights group involved, and some red paint." She downplayed the incident, trying not to worry her parents. "And now I have two bruised ribs and a few ruined clothes."
"What?" Her mother screeched in the background.
"It's okay, Mom. I really am fine. I just wanted to tell you in case it makes the national news."
"Why would it be on the national news? " Her dad asked. "I love you to bits, Pumpkin, but you don't exactly make interesting TV to the rest of the country."
"Thanks Dad," she stuck out her tongue, aware that he could probably picture it. "The thing is, the attack was meant for Miranda, and there was a lot of press."
"Attack?" Her mother repeated, her voice still rather hysterical.
"So, what? You threw yourself in front of her?" Her dad joked.
"It wouldn't surprise me if that is part of her contract," her mother added.
"Mom!" Andy fought to keep her voice down. "Of course that isn't in my contract."
Sighing deeply, she leaned her head back onto the edge of the arm chair and stared up at the ceiling.
"I don't really know how it happened. One moment I see a van drive by with what was apparently a paintball gun aimed at me, and the next thing I know I'm lying on the pavement with all this red stuff on me and people are freaking out." It was still unsettling to think about it, even if in the end she was okay.
"Oh baby," her mom said softly, in that motherly way that always managed to break all the dams. Andy felt tears spring from her eyes and she forced her lids shut, pressing her thumb and index finger against them.
"It was really scary for a moment, because nobody knew at first that it was just paint."
"And what did Miranda do?" Her dad interjected, clearly distraught by the idea of his daughter lying on a New York street in a puddle of blood-like paint. "Did she stomp her foot and demand you get up and fetch coffee?"
"Dad! No. Miranda was great." Warmth flooded Andy, surrounding her shoulders and sweeping down her spine. "First she caught me and then she held my hand all the way through." Andy smiled. "She didn't leave my side for a second, Dad."
"Well," her mom said. "At least she has some manners after all."
"It's not about manners, Mom. Miranda is a good person." She thought back at the agony in Miranda's eyes, and the memory caused the love inside her to roar up, the sensations almost overwhelming her.
"If you say so," her dad mumbled.
"I do. Trust me on this, Dad."
They were quiet for a while, each lost in their own thoughts, until Andy's mom asked, "so, are you back at your friend's place now?"
Andy had told them about losing her apartment after Nate had left. Of course her dad had offered money right away, but Andy had refused. She had wanted to find a place to live that she could afford by herself, something that would be hers and hers alone. Her parents knew that she was staying with a friend. They were not aware, however, that the only friend she had left was Nigel, a fellow colleague at Runway.
"No, Mom. I'm staying somewhere else tonight."
She just couldn't keep information from her parents, could she?
"I'm at Miranda's. She offered me one of her guestrooms and we just had dinner with her girls," Andy explained, and it was difficult to keep the smile out of her voice.
"Hmmm, do you think that's a good idea?" Her mom sounded anxious. "Are you sure she isn't just being nice so you won't sue her?"
"Why would I sue her, Mom?" Andy snorted. "What happened wasn't her fault. And she is taking really good care of me." Her mind deviated to their kisses and she couldn't fight the lazy grin that formed on her lips.
"Well, if you're sure," her Dad said. "Just don't sign anything."
"Phone us if you need anything, okay?" Her mom offered.
"I will. Don't worry about me. I'll be fine."
"All right, Pumpkin. Goodnight then."
She ended the call and exhaled slowly, remaining in her spot for a while and listening to the noises of the townhouse. It felt so homey, so comfortable to be here. A few months ago Andy would have laughed at such a thought.
The cosy Dragon's Lair. She giggled.
"What are you smirking about?" Miranda asked from the doorway to the kitchen. Andy could only answer with a grin, and Miranda took that as in invitation to come closer. "I take it your phone call went well."
"Yes. My parents were worried, of course, but I think I convinced them that I'm okay."
"Are you, though?" Miranda stopped in front of her, frowning. "Okay?"
Andy reached out and grabbed Miranda's hand.
"I am now."
Sleep completely eluded Andy that night. She was certainly tired enough and the mattress was a dream against her aching body. Her mind, however, kept racing unstoppably and she could not calm down, regardless of what she tried. The sheep she counted in her head quickly turned into little Mirandas that were jumping elegantly over white picket fences while gazing at Andy with those eyes that made the insides of her belly boil.
And when she tried to meditate, to let her limbs sink into the bedsheets, heavy and completely still, ready to succumb to slumber, she always jerked right back into consciousness, the feeling of falling too familiar and too daunting still.
The idea of working off some steam by touching herself was completely out of the question. It wouldn't be fair, even if it had been Miranda's idea to 'take things slow'.
Andy groaned and pulled the blanket over her head.
After an hour or so of quietly sitting together in the upstairs living room with Miranda going over the Book and Andy proof reading the twins' essays, Miranda had poured them both a glass of wine, and then they had talked. There were a lot of things to consider, not least of which was Andy's future at Runway. As sad as it made her feel, Andy had been forced to agree with Miranda that a work relationship as intense and demanding as theirs would not be beneficial to a possible romantic liaison. A liaison they had both quickly determined they definitely wanted. The plan was for Andy to hand in her notice on Monday, and work out her two weeks by choosing and training a replacement. Miranda would find her a position in an editorial department, within Runway or any other of the Elias-Clarke publications, which according to her, Andy had more than proven herself worthy of.
Until then, as Miranda had so eloquently put it, they would simply have to wait.
Wait with what? Andy thought glumly into the night.
How could she possibly wait when Miranda had touched her cheek so tenderly and chastely kissed her goodnight on the lips with such a searing expression on her face, only to send Andy off to sleep on her own? That was just cruel.
The need to breathe had her stick her face back out of the blanket, and she snuggled into her pillow with a sigh. At least she was really comfortable. Only now did she realise how horrid Nigel's couch really was. She should not be ungrateful, after all Nigel had taken her in with open arms and he truly was a great host. However, nothing could compare to a Hästens covered in the finest sheets that smelled vaguely of Miranda. If she had to wait before she could snuggle into the older woman's arms, at least this was the next best thing.
A noise in the hallway startled Andy. It was the creaking of floorboards, and for a moment she felt the flutter of that panic that was common at night time in unfamiliar houses with unfamiliar sounds. She heard the door knob turn, and although she internally scolded herself for being silly, she still grabbed the edge of the covers tightly. The door opened about half way, and for a while Andy saw nothing but the pitch black hallway. At least her bedroom was partially illuminated by the street lights outside, so whoever was idling on the threshold, if they decided to step from the shadows Andy would be able to get a better glimpse. The spook moved and Andy held her breath.
Miranda stepped into the room, her silver hair the first thing Andy saw, and the sight immediately turned Andy's anxiety into giddiness. Was Miranda checking up on her? Remaining perfectly still, Andy watched as Miranda carefully walked closer, attempting to be as quiet as possible. Andy realised that Miranda thought she was asleep.
"Hey," she whispered, and the Miranda spook froze.
"I'm sorry," the older woman murmured. "Did I wake you?"
"No. I couldn't sleep," Andy quickly explained.
After a pause Miranda admitted, "neither could I."
They were silent after that, staring at each other in the obscurity of the night.
A car drove by outside, the glare from its headlights brushing through the darkness and temporarily letting Andy see her spook in its entirety. Miranda was wearing an opened dressing gown over what appeared to be silk pyjamas, but her feet were bare. Her hair was mussed, and her eyes were shiny. Had she been crying? Andy quaked at the picture. She lifted the corner of the bed covers and whispered, voice hoarse from emotions, "come 'ere."
Miranda hesitated, and then moved back toward the hallway. Before Andy's heart could break, however, the door was closed and Miranda hurried to the other side of the bed and shed her robe. The dipping of the mattress was almost surreal, but then Miranda's scent surrounded her and Andy let the cover fall over them, trapping them together in wonderful warmth. Miranda settled so close that Andy could feel her breath. She could not stop grinning, but still felt too insecure to reach out and pull the older woman toward her.
The first body part of Miranda's that made contact with Andy's skin was an icy toe.
"Jesus!" Andy hissed. "Miranda, can't you afford some fluffy designer slippers or something?"
"What?" Came the overly innocent reply, right as Miranda wiggled more of her cold toes against the insides of Andy's toasty feet.
"Ugh," Andy huffed. "The things I do for you. Sharing my body heat, getting shot at by maniacs..." she trailed off when she felt Miranda stiffen.
Then a cold hand grabbed her, and Miranda shuffled closer and pushed her face against Andy's neck. The tip of her nose was cold, but Miranda's lips were warm where they pressed against her skin. Andy wrapped her arms around Miranda's waist and pulled their bodies flush together. She nuzzled an elegant cheekbone and planted tiny kisses on Miranda's forehead. It caused the older woman to sigh and tighten her hold so much that Andy's sore ribs burned.
"Andrea," she whispered. "I lied. I cannot do this." Her nails dug into Andy's sides, and Andy shuddered, suddenly very worried.
"Waiting is no longer an option," Miranda continued, her voice breaking. "I need you," she almost sobbed. "Now."
Something inside Andy snapped, and she slipped her palm behind Miranda's neck and pressed their lips together. The kiss ignited a tempestuous fire inside of her, which instead of being calmed by the mouth upon hers, kept being fed through the shudders of the beautifully responsive body in her arms. Miranda moaned and panted through her nose as their tongues slid together for the first time, and Andy had a hard time keeping up with her own breathing. Hands wound into her hair, fingers scraped over her scalp, and it felt as if Miranda was truly devouring her.
When one of Miranda's hands left her hair and, without stopping anywhere else, moved straight down to stroke over the waistband of her panties, Andy knew she would likely hyperventilate and pass out from lack of oxygen.
"Ugh," she pulled her mouth away with a groan and rolled onto her back.
"Andrea," Miranda whispered, worry lacing her otherwise husky voice. "Darling, am I hurting you?"
"No," Andy said quickly and kissed her again to cover the fact that she was indeed very sore. "I just can't... breathe."
"Shhh," Miranda replied while brushing a few strands of hair away from Andy's face. "It's all right. I'll go slowly."
She kissed below Andy's ear, nuzzling the earlobe as her hand continued to languidly brush over Andy's belly. Her fingers occasionally fluttered beneath the fabric of Andy's underwear, just barely, but the teasing touch made Andy urgently roll her hips.
"Miranda..." she pleaded into the darkness.
"Andrea, may I touch you?" The older woman asked, her voice thick with desire. "Please let me touch you."
Andy trembled all over. "Yes..."
And then fingers slipped under her panties and through coarse hair. Her legs fell open on instinct when she experienced the overwhelming sensation of Miranda stroking through her folds, so slowly and so carefully. Lips fell against her throat, placing tender kisses to help anchor her, and Andy thought she would be incinerated by her own heat any second now.
"Darling, you feel incredible," Miranda murmured between licks and kisses. "So soft and wet." She kept stroking languidly, spreading moisture around and caressing every sensitive inch between Andy's thighs. "So hot," she husked, and Andy panted, everything inside her burning for Miranda.
And with that Miranda pushed inside her, slow and deep, and all Andy could do was whimper and hold on to Miranda's shoulder as the feeling of being filled so perfectly by the woman she loved threatened to derail her completely. She feared she would pass out.
"Miranda..." she breathed, pleading, grasping for more.
The fingers withdrew slightly, before pushing back and stretching her deliciously as a slick tongue found its way back into her mouth. Careful to not put any weight on Andy's chest, Miranda angled her leg and pushed her knee against the back of her hand, hardening her slow yet steady thrusts.
Andy felt possessed, exposed and worshipped. Her hips rose to the rhythm set by Miranda, meeting every stroke in a silent conversation. She felt safe and sheltered, and when Miranda curled up her fingers and began to rub against that area below her belly button, Andy knew she had come home.
Shudders jolted through her like white hot lightning, and she felt her inner muscles grip those perfect fingers tightly. Miranda moaned against her lips, and she sped up her movement, pushing into Andy harder still. Andy tensed her thigh muscles and trapped Miranda snugly within herself. She braced for the wave of tremors that was inevitable. It swept her up, and she faintly felt her ribs complain as her stomach muscles contracted and Miranda pushed her higher and higher into ecstasy.
For a while all Andy could do was pant. Her body tingled all over and she was vaguely aware of Miranda withdrawing her hand and resting her head on Andy's naked stomach. Of course that did not make breathing any easier, but Andy was endeared, and through her haze she reached down and tenderly threaded her fingers into Miranda's silken hair. Arms wrapped tightly around her middle, squeezing her hips and buttocks almost painfully, and then Andy felt hot tears spill onto her exposed skin.
"Hey," she whispered concerned. "Miranda, are you okay?"
Miranda sniffled and pressed her face into the softness of Andy's belly. Continuing her caresses, Andy tried to figure out if she had done something to upset her lover, but she came up blank.
"Miranda, please talk to me. What's wrong?"
"Every time I closed my eyes," Miranda finally spoke, the words hard to decipher through her sobs, "I saw you lying on the pavement. Bleeding... Dying..."
Andy shivered. She suddenly felt incredibly cold. "Miranda," she said, reaching for the bedside table lamp and turning on the light. "Come here. Please."
Miranda reluctantly lifted her head, and Andy saw red-rimmed eyes full of fear and love. Opening her arms she welcomed Miranda into her embrace, and despite her painful ribs she held her tight and kissed her wet cheeks over and over.
"I'm here. I'm okay, see?" She whispered into Miranda's hair, drawing circles over Miranda's back.
The arms around her tightened, and Andy couldn't suppress a painful gasp.
"Oh god, I am hurting you," Miranda moved away and glared at Andy accusingly. The combination of anger and tears that had fallen because Miranda cared so much for her, the silly assistant girl, was the most beautiful thing Andy had ever seen. She wiped at the wetness tenderly with her thumb and then cupped Miranda's cheek.
"It's all right, Miranda. They're only bruises." She smiled at the skeptical pursing of Miranda's lips. "A bit of pain is nothing if it means that I can hold you."
Miranda rolled her eyes, but Andy pulled her back down and hugged her fiercely. She only groaned a little at the discomfort, but Miranda lifted her head nonetheless. She studied Andy for a while, biting her lower lip.
"May I see?" She asked.
"Yes," Miranda sounded almost timid.
Andy responded by moving her arms and lifting the borrowed sweatshirt she had been wearing as a nightgown. Miranda's mouth fell open, and Andy was uncertain whether that had to do with the actual bruising, or with her exposed chest. Soon Miranda's eyes softened, and she trailed her hand carefully along Andy's ribcage, avoiding the bruised areas, but making no effort to miss the soft swells of Andy's breasts. It was a sweet caress, not meant to arouse but to soothe, and as Andy watched Miranda tenderly mapping every inch of her intact skin, she understood that she had never been this in love before.
"Hey," she whispered, causing Miranda to look up with a face so youthful and full of wonder. "I want to see you too, Miranda."
For emphasis, Andy gently ran her hands up and down Miranda's side, pulling at the silk fabric of Miranda's pyjamas.
Miranda pushed herself up until she sat straddling Andy's middle, and with a vulnerable and at the same time challenging look in her eyes, she slowly unbuttoned her top. When she finally parted the fabric, revealing her chest, Andy felt lightheaded. How often had she dreamed of this moment? How many elevator rides had she suffered through, trying to discretely stare at Miranda's cleavage, hoping to catch a glimpse of more? And now here she was, looking at the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, in all her glory.
She sat up, feeling the heat from Miranda's skin against her cheeks as she leaned forward and pressed a kiss full of love and admiration onto Miranda's sternum. The older woman sighed and reached up to loosely cradle Andy's head, and in response Andy lifted a hand and very gently cupped Miranda's right breast. It felt heavy, soft and supple in her palm. She brushed her nose against the satiny skin and inhaled deeply before tenderly kissing the sloping swell. Miranda shivered, and Andy stuck out her tongue, tasting salt and sweetness. She licked her way to the areola as the fingers that tangled tightly in her hair sent goosebumps down Andy's spine.
"Andrea..." Miranda sighed quietly.
Encouraged, Andy closed her lips around the nipple, carefully pushing the breast up with her palm while her thumb caressed the soft underside. She licked the stiff bud, revelling in the almost electric current she felt course through Miranda at the touch. Giving shape to countless of her fantasies, she slowly began to suck, keeping it light, and listening for Miranda's responses.
Nails dug hard into her scalp, and Andy exhaled hotly through her nose. She managed to keep up a steady rhythm, hollowing her cheeks before relenting and soothing the skin with another swipe of her tongue. Miranda was already panting, and she pressed Andy against herself almost desperately. Andy released the nipple, but kept her hand where it was as she slowly licked her way across to the other breast. She could feel Miranda sway.
Andy found herself flood with renewed desire at the sounds Miranda was making. The gasps and the stifled groans that fought to escape through clenched teeth and bitten lips did delicious things to Andy's body. When she positioned her mouth around Miranda's other nipple and gave a careful suck that gradually grew in intensity, the unbridled moan that sprung from Miranda's throat drove Andy to the brink.
She wrapped her arms tightly around her lover and swung her to the side, lowering her onto the mattress so quickly that Miranda had no time to react. The older woman looked up at Andy, eyes shining with lust and surprise.
"What you do to me, Miranda," Andy whispered as she climbed on top of her.
Miranda was flustered, her chest heaved with every laboured breath she took, and the pyjama top had slipped down her back, trapping her arms where it bunched up at the crooks of her elbows. Andy trembled. For a split second she considered keeping Miranda like that, exposed and at her mercy, but then she realised that she wanted to feel Miranda's arms around her, her hands in her hair.
"Could you lean up?" She asked sweetly, taking Miranda's hand and placing a brief kiss on her knuckles.
Miranda arched her back and rose off the bed, and Andy pulled the silk garment down her arms in one swift motion. She pressed her palm flat against Miranda's chest, intent on pushing her back, but Miranda stopped her, wagging a finger.
"Oh no, no!" The sudden slip back into an authoritative tone rendered Andy speechless.
"Not so fast," Miranda continued, her voice more gentle now, and she took Andy's arms, raised them over her head, and proceeded to pull up Andy's sweatshirt.
"That's better," she smirked once the garment was shed, and she finally lay back down, resting her head smugly against the pillow as she made no attempt to hide her blatant ogling of Andy's chest.
Bruised ribs be damned! Andy thought. The internalised shout, much like a Viking's war cry, spurred her into action. She lunged forward, and barely catching her own weight on her arms before she fell on top of her lover, she kissed Miranda feverishly. Hands roamed over her back and pulled her down, connecting their naked torsoes for the first time. The pressure on her chest almost caused her to cough, but Andy did not relent. She plundered Miranda's mouth, licked the inside of her lips and cheeks, and firmly caressed Miranda's tongue with her own.
They panted heavily through their noses, breasts pushing together with each gulp of air that made it into their starved lungs. Miranda hummed into the kiss, her hands sliding down Andy's spine and over her buttocks. She grabbed them firmly, and Andy thought her head would explode. When Miranda's fingers slipped under the fabric and Andy felt her ass being palmed possessively, cheeks kneaded and pulled as Miranda slowly took control of their kiss, she finally had to break away and gasp for oxygen.
She rested her face in the crook of Miranda's neck, exhaling hotly against the flushed skin as she tried to calm her breathing. Somehow she had known that it would be this way. She had felt it within the tension of their shared elevator rides. And now that she was aware of how her attraction, her desires, had not been one-sided at all, Andy conceded that it was very possible that spending time in the confined cabins together was so intense precisely because they had wanted each other equally as much. The thought made her hold onto her lover tightly, her lips pressing against Miranda's throat.
"I'm here," she whispered between kisses. "I'm alive."
The back of her fingernails trailed over Miranda's collar bones, drawing tiny shapes on the damp skin before moving lower. Her palm closed warmly around Miranda's left breast where she rubbed the hardened nipple with the base of her thumb.
"Can you feel me, Miranda?"
"Hmmm," came a shaky reply.
The hands on her butt stilled, but they remained hot against her skin, keeping her in place. Andy kissed Miranda's ear and licked the outer shell, committing the scent of skin and silken hair to memory as her fingers tenderly stroked down Miranda's almost vibrating ribcage.
"Miranda," Andy whispered once her knuckles brushed against the fabric of the pyjama bottoms. "May I take off your pants?"
The older woman inhaled sharply through her nose and closed her eyes, before raising her eyebrows and waving her hand in a detached manner before whispering, "if you must." The tremble of her shoulders and the adorable way she bit her bottom lip, however, betrayed how much she wanted to be touched.
With shaking fingers Andy pulled at the silk, carefully moving it down readily lifted hips, over thighs of satin, beautiful knees and past feet that were certainly no longer icy lumps. She tossed the pyjamas to the floor and returned to cover Miranda's body with her own, only to have skillful hands grab her by the sides and tear at her panties.
"Off!" Miranda husked.
Andy fumbled for a moment, but managed to remove the last piece of clothing before Miranda could impatiently rip it into bits. Then Andy stilled, kneeling next to her lover and taking her sweet time looking at Miranda's body. Words like 'inviting' and 'luscious' ran through her mind, and she knew she wanted to bury herself in Miranda completely. Determined, she ran her right hand from Miranda's ankles up her leg, carefully sliding over a shin until she reached her knee. There Andy slipped in between, and whilst gazing into suddenly bashful blue eyes, she gently pried Miranda's legs apart as her hand continued its journey upward.
Miranda's thighs were smooth, supple and heavenly, and when her fingers were about half way, and the muscles beneath began to quiver, Andy clambered over and slid her body in between. As slowly as she could manage she lowered herself onto Miranda, gasping as her belly came into contact with soft curls. Miranda reached for Andy, wrapping her arms and legs around her and kissing her sweetly on the lips. They held each other tightly, brushing their noses together and revelling in the feel of each other. The sensation of Miranda's creamy thighs sliding against her waist was the most glorious thing Andy had ever felt.
She extended her tongue and proceeded to make love to Miranda's mouth, coaxing more moans from her and focusing on the slickness she felt against her abdomen with each push of Miranda's groin. Tenderly she ran her fingers under Miranda's left knee and helped her bend the leg. Miranda was entirely exposed now, her wetness coating much of Andy's abdomen, her softness deliciously brushing against burning skin.
"You feel incredible," Andy whispered between licks and kisses, and Miranda rubbed against her some more for emphasis.
"Andrea," she almost sobbed, her voice trembling. "I need you. Now." She panted. "Please."
Andy kissed her cheekbone and smoothed over the tense frown just above perfectly sculpted brows. Tilting her hips she managed to straddle the thigh of Miranda's outstretched leg, and holding her breath, she finally allowed her hand to drift down to Miranda's centre.
Miranda hissed and arched her back, which gave Andy the opportunity to recapture a nipple between her lips and gently lick in time with the tentative strokes of her hand.
"Oh," Miranda breathed. Her head rolled back and she closed her eyes as she held on to Andy's head and shoulder.
This is paradise, Andy thought as she lost herself in her lover. The body beneath hers writhed, rolling against her in waves as nails dug into her skin. Carefully pulling the nipple into her mouth, Andy placed her middle and ring finger at Miranda's entrance. She pushed her fingers inside as deep as they could go while sucking hard on the breast, and Miranda came undone.
"Uhhh," she groaned through clenched teeth, her hips meeting the welcome penetration with a sensual thrust. Andy felt the slick labia brush against her knuckles as she carefully withdrew, only to plunge back in, causing Miranda's entire body to shudder.
"Yes," Miranda hissed, and she hooked the foot of her bent leg over Andy's back and pressed down hard.
They found a rhythm. Slow at first, while Andy kept licking and sucking at Miranda's breasts, matching the strokes of her tongue with the thrusts of her hand. But soon Miranda's hips rose off the mattress, seeking more friction and speed. Andy placed a final, soothing kiss on Miranda's chest and then lifted her head to look up at her beautiful face. Sweat coated Miranda's forehead, and that particularly rebellious lock of hair that had often teased Andy in the past, was now stuck to glistening skin. Miranda's eyes had darkened with lust as she looked at Andy pleadingly and with immoderate hunger.
"Miranda," Andy whispered in awe, the name falling from her lips like an invocation, a prayer to her love.
Keeping her gaze on Miranda's face, she pressed down her palm and curled up her fingers. She could feel the rough spot inside Miranda and stroked it hard in quick succession. The muscles around her tightened. Fingers grabbed her painfully, pain shot through her chest from the heel and arm that pulled her down so tightly, and her hand ached as it continued the onslaught deep within her lover.
Then Miranda began to jerk her hips, and both her arms hooked behind Andy's neck, pulling her close as voiceless gasps filled the room. Andy felt her fingers being squeezed, almost devoured, and she tried to keep up the pace, holding Miranda high up on the crest of this towering wave of bliss. The thigh beneath her flexed, driving up harshly against her clit, and before Andy realised what was happening she followed Miranda into a shattering orgasm.
Tightly slung around each other they rode out their tremors together, hips tilting in languid unison until they finally stilled, leaving the two women panting, buzzing and sated. Andy's ears were pounding, blood racing through her body, pumped by a heart she was surprised to find still functioning. Very carefully she extracted her fingers, enjoying the way Miranda clung to her, and with a sigh she closed her eyes and snuggled against her lover's chest.
"I can feel your pulse," Miranda whispered, and she moved her thigh to indicate where exactly she could feel it.
"Ugh," Andy groaned and buried her face against Miranda's slick neck.
"Darling," the older woman spoke softly into her hair. "It's nothing to feel shy about." Her fingers began to sweetly caress Andy's back, and her foot slid down over Andy's buttocks, over the back of her thighs, until it came to rest between Andy's ankles.
"It's beautiful." Miranda murmured gently. "You are beautiful."
"I love you," she breathed against Miranda's skin, pressing as much of herself against the older woman's body as possible, the painful ribs long forgotten.
"I love you too," came the husky reply, and Andy was vaguely aware of covers being lifted over them as she snuggled deeply into sticky happiness and finally succumbed to slumber.
A fresh layer of snow covered the sidewalk as Andy followed Miranda up to the Elias-Clarke building on Saturday morning. It had been less than a day, yet she could not say for sure any more where she had fallen to the ground. All the evidence lay hidden beneath the white blanket.
"Don't dawdle, Andrea," Miranda called from the revolving glass doors, her bearing as regal as ever.
"Sorry, Miranda." She hurried to catch up.
When they stepped into the elevator together, Andy could barely cover a lighthearted giggle with her hand. Miranda looked at her with raised eyebrows.
The doors closed, and Andy discretely took Miranda's hand, aware of the security cameras.
"Yesterday I stood here, fearing for my heart thanks to your proximity," she said quietly, her index finger stroking lovingly over Miranda's knuckles. "But today I know," she grinned, "that I can handle you just fine."
Miranda smirked. "Is that so?"
"Uh-uh," Andy nodded vigorously, biting her bottom lip.
For the first time since being allowed into elevators with Miranda Priestly, Andy was not nervous. She was still excited, of course, but the warmth of Miranda's thumb sweetly caressing her palm put her at ease.
The cabin arrived at their floor, and Miranda smirked at her one more time, that loving, crooked smirk, before the doors slid open and they stepped into the hallway and into their future.