Disclaimer: These characters belong to Lauren Weisberger and 20th Century Fox and were brought to life by the incredible talents of Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. No infringement is intended or profit made from this work. I'm just borrowing them for a bit and I promise to put them back when I'm finished. Whether or not they'll ever be the same again is anybody's guess.
If you have a problem with two adult women in a committed, loving relationship then this is where you need to find something else to read.
Distribution: Do not archive without author's permission.
Feedback: As always, constructive criticism and comments are welcome.
Summary: Nigel works his usual fashion magic and tries his hand at matchmaking to boot.
A/N: Please excuse mon petit hommage to Telanu's Truth and Measure. I simply couldn't resist!
A/N: I suppose I should acknowledge that kids will always know more about dinosaurs than grownups, so I must give a tip of the pen and a 'thank you' to lumazi and her 9 year old nephew who informed her that "...carnivores are more awesome than herbivores" and that there was no way a Stegosaurus could compete with a T-Rex. Four hours later I had exhausted my Google, Wikipedia and Britannica Online resources and knew far more about the Cretaceous Period than a woman my age ought. I had also rewritten the opening of Basic Black. I can only hope it now meets with his approval.
As always, my constant thanks to Susan Thompson, the world's greatest beta reader. She deletes thousands of extraneous commas, rescues my story arc when it wanders far afield and saves me from my worst instincts.
Monk, you are a wonder!
It was spring in New York and the entire city was abuzz over the new acquisition of the Museum of Natural History. A complete fossilized skeleton named not for the purple dinosaur of children's books but for Fred Flintstone's best bud Barney Rubble, the fossil had been acquired in a bidding war at Sotheby's. The AMNH trustees had been suffering from an inferiority complex since Chicago's Field Museum had outbid them for the T-Rex fossil 'Sue' in '97. The entire process of shipping, uncrating and assembling the T-Rex had not only won the hearts of the entire city of Chicago but generated millions in new endowments for the Museum as well. Now it was the Big Apple's turn.
Barney had been discovered in Alberta, Canada in 1998 by a team sponsored by the Explorers Club. The expedition had been a summer grant program for college students to work at a permanent dig site in the Horseshoe Canyon formation. The group had been painstakingly uncovering various marine and plant fossils in a small cave when a beat-up, rusted pickup truck had rolled into the middle of their camp and a weather-roughened rancher had stepped out of it.
"You them dinosaur folks?" The site supervisor had greeted him and acknowledged that they were.
"Had a gas exploration team on my land lookin' to blow a coupla test holes. Got more than they bargained for. You all might want to have a look."
It was a long shot but things had been slow lately and the site supervisor had agreed to send a graduate student back with the man. Forty minutes later the satellite phone in the admin tent rang, and when the site supervisor answered he was nearly deafened by the shouting of the grad student. Three hours after that the phone rang in the Explorers Club headquarters in New York. And twenty four hours after that the news media descended en masse on the quiet Canadian town.
It was a completely intact Giganotosaurus carolinii skeleton. The huge theropod had flourished twenty-five million years before its better known and smaller kin, . Before the Horseshoe Canyon find, the only other partial skeleton had been discovered in 1993 in Patagonia, Argentina. This was history come to life. This was news that would set the world of paleontology on its ear.
The rancher on whose land it had been found followed the example set the previous year and put the fossil up for auction. The bidding was fierce, but this time, New York's American Museum of Natural History won and the skeleton was trucked in crates to Central Park West.
For the past three years paleontologists and curators had been painstakingly re-assembling the fossil in preparation for its gala unveiling. After countless news articles, documentaries, videographies, talk shows, lectures, newsletters and press conferences Barney would take his place of honor in the Roosevelt Memorial Hall in a month's time. The gala unveiling promised to be one of the biggest events of the year and the glittering party arranged for that night would certainly attract all the movers and shakers of New York and Washington. There was even a rumor circulating that the President would be putting in an appearance.
Andy Sachs had been surprised but not shocked when the New York Mirror's editor, Greg Hill, had called her into his office and informed her she'd be covering both the unveiling and the gala. She'd been his go-to reporter for the past six months of her eighteen-month tenure at the paper. A real talent for writing and a reputation for fairness and journalistic integrity got her entrée into many venues other reporters could only glimpse from the parking lot and her winning smile and genuinely pleasant personality had won her interviews with people who normally avoided the press like the plague. Still, Barney's official introduction to New York was big and a relatively new reporter being assigned to cover it raised a few eyebrows in the pressroom.
She returned to her cubicle and brought up some background material to familiarize herself with the events. Already deciding that she'd emphasize kids and their on-going fascination with dinosaurs, she began to block out a feature story heavy on interviews and sit-downs with the children in attendance at the unveiling. Juxtaposing their unbridled enthusiasm against the glitter and glitz of their elders at the gala later that night would provide terrific copy not to mention some fantastic photo ops.
She was happily immersed in the details of Barney's discovery and excavation when her phone rang.
"Hello, darling, it's Nigel. I've got a proposition for you."
"Oooh, Nigel! That's wonderful; I haven't been propositioned in ages!"
"Relax; it's not that kind of proposition. What are you doing tomorrow night?"
"I have exciting plans involving a long hot bath, a bottle of merlot and the latest Patricia Cornwell novel. Why?"
"I've got to stand in for Miranda at Michael Kors' party and I refuse to go alone. Emily has the flu or some other viral plague and apparently Serena is required to nurse her back to health. So I'm stuck without a Runway walker. Help me out, Six. I'll open The Closet for you if you say yes."
Andy's laugh rang musically over the telephone line. "There's no need to risk unemployment on my account. I've got clothes that won't embarrass you. What time and where shall I meet you?"
"I'm on Runway's dime so I've got a town car. The party's upstairs at Le Cirque. Things won't get jumping until around 10:00 pm, but if I show up at 9:00 pm can you scrounge up some decent wine to offer me?"
"I can do better than that. Doug declared the state of my liquor cabinet 'utterly deplorable' and brought over a fairly good selection of decent booze. If you can mix your own you can probably have your cocktail of choice."
"In that case I'll see you around 8:00 pm for drinks and girl talk."
"Are you going to have time for dinner before you come? If not, I can probably pick up a couple of seafood salads from the Oyster Bar on the way home."
"That clinches it. I'll be there at 8:00 pm. We can eat, dish and then lay 'em in the aisles at the party."
"It'll be good to see you again, Nigel. It seems like we've only been able to manage phone calls for like forever."
"I know. I miss the sight of your immense caboose."
"Talk like that will not get you a bowl of the clam chowder for which you constantly lust."
"Did I say immense? I meant minuscule. It's an easy mistake – anyone could have made it. For clam chowder I'll positively fawn over you."
Andy laughed again. "Okay, okay. You are officially forgiven. 8:00 pm; I'll have chowder and salads. You bring the gossip."
"Right you are! See you tomorrow."
The next day Andy finished the article she was currently working on and filed it for editing by mid-afternoon. She packed her laptop in her messenger bag, grabbed her vintage leather bomber jacket and headed into the canyons of midtown to pick up dinner.
March had been a real monster, dumping not one but two late-season blizzards on the winter-weary city. But now, in its last week, spring had finally arrived and taken up residence. Balmy temperatures and clear skies had caused the city to bloom. Spring flowers filled all the parks and the flowering shrubs and trees were awash in color. Manhattanites, eager to feel the sun on their faces again, were out in full force. It would be a pleasant walk to pick up her order.
Andy had utilized one of her business contacts for dinner. Several months earlier she'd done a special on the icons of Manhattan eateries and had highlighted the Grand Central Oyster Bar. Her article was a rave and had been so popular that the Oyster Bar staff had virtually adopted her. A quick call to the kitchen and her dinner order was put together and packed to travel. By the time she'd walked the ten blocks to the giant terminal, full instructions for re-assembling the meal were packed with it.
She planted a kiss on the maître-d's cheek as she paid and grabbed her box. Since she was out and about earlier than usual she had no problem snagging a cab. Climbing into the back with her box and bag, she gave the driver her address idly wondering when it would stop seeming vaguely strange to her.
Early last August her friend Lily had arrived unannounced on her doorstep very early one Saturday morning demanding that she rise, dress and come uptown with her immediately. Long used to insane demands from her best friend, Andy complied without comment. On the subway heading toward Central Park West Lily finally explained what was going on.
The day before Lily had been on the Upper West Side to push, prod and cajole an insecure artist into meeting his agreed-upon deadline for a show at the gallery she managed. As she was walking to the subway stop at 96th and Central Park West she happened on an elderly woman who had been taken ill, apparently by the heat. Lily got her off her feet in some shade and ran into a nearby convenience store for a chilled bottle of water. The cool water and shade did the trick and the woman recovered fairly quickly.
Lily offered to see her safely her home and the woman gratefully agreed, introducing herself as Ruth Goldberg. She told Lily she lived fairly close and they began to stroll to the woman's residence with Lily watching her companion closely in case she felt weak again. Fifteen minutes later they arrived on the front stoop of the Goldberg residence and Lily's jaw dropped in amazement.
Mrs. Goldberg owned a very large three-story town home. The word 'mansion' leapt to Lily's mind, but Mrs. Goldberg referred to it simply as 'my house'. She was invited in for a glass of iced tea and eagerly accepted. As they sat in the kitchen, Ruth told Lily that her husband had passed away the year before shortly after beginning the renovation of the upper two floors of the house. Ruth had realized that the home was simply too large for her by herself, and so sat down with their architect and changed the plans to convert the upper floors into two apartments and the first floor into her residence. Ruth and her husband had both come from humble beginnings and felt strongly that decent housing should be affordable to everyone and so Ruth registered her apartments with the Rent Control Authority. She had been advised by the family attorneys to be very cautious in accepting tenants for not only her financial but physical well-being.
Ruth had interviewed ten prospective tenants and rejected all of them. Most had lied on their applications and the others had criminal records they had neglected to disclose. The home was next to a small, mid-block park and the luxuriously appointed apartments with controlled rent had brought an avalanche of inquires every time Ruth had listed them. She was discouraged at the results of her efforts to date and told Lily so. Lily agreed that it must be difficult but sided with the lawyers about caution and offered several suggestions on screening prospective tenants in addition to what Ruth was already doing. Ruth thanked her for the suggestions and asked if she would like to see one of the apartments. Lily accepted with delight.
The second floor unit took her breath away. Each floor had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, hardwood floors, living room, dining room, den, wood-burning fireplace and a covered deck overlooking the park off the back of the apartment. The eat-in kitchen sported the most up-to-date appliances available and granite countertops. Lily was thunderstruck; they even had washer and dryer hookups.
Back downstairs in Ruth's apartment, Lily tried to explain to the older woman what rent on luxury apartments like hers should be. But Ruth was adamant that her husband would have wanted the rents to be reasonable to attract 'good, solid people'. Then, with a twinkle in her eye, she calmly asked Lily if she might be interested in one of them.
Lily just stared at her in shock until she could breathe again.
"You're not serious."
"Yes, I am. You're a kind and generous young woman. Your parents raised you right, that's obvious from the concern you showed me. Why wouldn't I be serious? How about it? Could you live above a nosy old lady?"
"Move in here? Live in that fabulous place for nine hundred a month? Are you kidding? Of course I'd like to live here! I'd love to live here!"
Ruth got up from her seat, walked into the den and brought out a lease agreement. Lily took it and then got her second heart-stopping shock of the afternoon when Ruth asked her if she had a friend who might be interested in the third floor unit. For that price Lily could supply one and Andy was it. They agreed that Lily would bring her friend around the following morning and if everyone hit it off, sign the leases.
Andy had been just as thunderstruck as Lily with the story and the moment she met Ruth suggested they discuss the matter over brunch. An hour and a half later, Lily and Andy had tummies full of eggs benedict and new Upper West Side apartments. Doug had been drafted to help them pack and they moved in four days apart just before Labor Day. Andy's parents flew in from Cincinnati the following weekend and brought with them yet another stunning surprise.
Andy's beloved grandmother had passed away the year before and Andy had felt the loss keenly. But her parents had arrived with one last legacy from her Gran – she'd left Andy a nest egg to get her started on her own. With her move out of the semi-squalid efficiency she and Nate had shared, her grandmother's gift would make a world of difference.
New furniture and her mother's eye for decorating had set Andy up in a beautiful home. Her father's contribution had been a Weber grill for her deck and two cords of seasoned hardwoods from upstate stacked against the back fence. In Manhattan, a load of firewood like that was worth its weight in gold.
Lily and Andy had grilled steaks for a delighted Ruth several times before winter had set in and when it did, all three women had the luxury of sitting in front of their fireplaces, toasting their toes by the crackling blazes as frigid winds howled outside. Doug, for his part, cursed them both for all eternity and decreed that the price to keep him from murdering one or both of them for their flats was dinner at least once a week.
Settled and happy in a home that was hers alone, Andy's writing reflected the improvements in her life. Suddenly her articles had more punch and insight and her writing was crisp and clean. Her work started making the front page and her career at the Mirror took off.
So it was that Andy now sat in the back of a cab headed to the Upper West Side just off the Park instead of into the bowels of the Lower East Side cold-water flats. Arriving at the town home, she dropped off a container of soup and a salad for Ruth, picked up her mail and headed upstairs to get ready.
By 7:45 pm she had assembled the seafood salads and had the clam chowder gently reheating on the stove. There was a decent bottle of Kabinëtt Auslese chilled and she'd picked up a nice triple cream brie and some marvelous-looking grapes the day before at the local deli. Dinner was as ready as she could make it.
She was wearing a black Donna Karan sheath with a vintage Chanel jacket and a pair of Jimmy Choo evening pumps. Nigel should approve. He arrived promptly and gave her a long once-over.
"Not bad, Six. Not bad at all. At least you remember something from your stint at Runway."
"I learned it all from you, Nigel. So what's new and exciting in the world of high fashion? Get yourself a drink and give me the latest dish."
As they ate Nigel recounted all the latest goings-on at Runway since last they'd gotten together. That had been before Fashion Week, so he had tales of all the London shows and parties. Dinner was a delight of good food and sparkling conversation and the two friends reveled in it.
The town car had them at Le Cirque by 9:40 pm and they made their way to the private room above the bar. The party was a mix of the fashion and publishing worlds and Andy knew many of the people in attendance. She enjoyed herself immensely, sticking fairly close to Nigel and chatting with several acquaintances from her days as Miranda Priestly's assistant.
Miranda Priestly, editor of Runway magazine. The Dragon Lady, The Ice Queen, Fashion's Alpha Bitch, The Devil in Prada – Miranda's sobriquets were varied but consistent. Andy had heard them all along with the all-too-familiar mantra: a million girls would kill for the job. A year as Miranda's assistant and you could get a job anywhere in publishing.
Andy hadn't made it a year. Not quite eight months to be precise. She had walked away from Miranda and Runway eighteen months earlier in Paris during Fashion Week. Stunned and appalled by Miranda's betrayal of Nigel, Andy had left her high and dry on the steps of the Hôtel Crillon as she strode off across the Place de la Concorde and tossed her phone into a convenient fountain when Miranda had rung her. Returning to New York, she'd officially ended things with her boyfriend, started job hunting and tried desperately to salvage some sort of life from the smoldering ruins of what hers had once been.
To her amazement, Miranda had not crucified her but had actually given her a decent reference. The Mirror had hired her and the rest was history. But even as exciting as her job was, as good as her life was, Andy still had regrets when she thought of Miranda.
For eight months she had nearly killed herself to please the exacting queen of high fashion. In all that time she had never missed a single call from Miranda – until Paris. She had met impossible deadlines, accomplished insurmountable tasks, destroyed her personal life and never once received either a word of praise or of thanks. But the memory of Miranda in her luxurious Paris hotel suite, wrapped in a gray robe and stripped of all artifice still haunted her dreams. Miranda, announcing her impending divorce with a brittle calm that would have shattered with even the smallest breath of air. Miranda, wounded and human at last, worried about the effect her choices would have on her beloved twin daughters. Miranda, frightened and vulnerable and alone. And the next afternoon, Andy had walked away.
But if Andy were being honest with herself, she'd have to admit that she had never fully cut her emotional ties to Runway or to Miranda. She maintained her friendship with Nigel and kept at least a civil relationship with her fellow assistant, Emily Charlton. She'd followed Miranda in the press and through the two of them. She was never really sure why she kept up with her former boss's life and again, in all honesty, she didn't really want to analyze her reasons. There, there be dragons and she avoided that emotional minefield in unacknowledged terror of what she might discover in it.
The evening ended pleasantly and the town car dropped her back home before 11:45 pm. Shortly afterward she kept her date with the steaming tub, merlot and her novel. Andy had truly enjoyed spending time with Nigel that night. He'd been particularly light-hearted and informed her that things had been going very well at work lately.
"Of course, that's always when the ground is about to drop out from under you, but I'm enjoying it while it lasts. Miranda has been almost human lately. Even Emily commented on it. Personally, I think the fact that her divorce from Stephen was finalized helped tremendously."
"Was it rough? I followed it as best I could but Leslie must have worked overtime; there wasn't much in the press about it."
"It was vicious. Stephen asked for alimony claiming that Miranda was the primary wage earner and his lawyers challenged the pre-nup. He didn't win and he wasn't awarded alimony, but his claims prolonged the process and made for some very hard feelings. Then the news broke about his affair with Missy Hardesty. I thought his infidelity would send Miranda over the edge. But it wasn't until his lawyers made some noises about her being an unfit mother that the real carnage began. The moment Stephen tried to bring the twins into it she went berserk."
"How bad was it? I can't even imagine what she must have been like."
"It was a bloodbath, Andy. Nobody could do anything to her satisfaction. People quit every day then came crawling back the next. In the six weeks that the twins were in play the entire editorial staff and half the production staff quit and came back at least twice and were fired and re-hired at least once. Only knowing what Miranda was going through kept any of us coming back at all. And even then, some couldn't take it."
"My God, Nigel."
"But you know what's funny? That issue of Runway won four international awards and was one of the best we've ever put out."
Andy shook her head in wonder. She started to speak and hesitated. Nigel looked at her quizzically.
"How is she really, Nigel? How is she doing?"
"I'll assume you're not referring to your cohort in crime from the outer office. Miranda is…Miranda. She's a force of nature. She will allow no one and nothing to interfere with the excellence and pursuit of perfection that is Runway. Anyone that tries gets crushed beneath her Prada pumps."
"I'm not talking about the office. How is she?"
Now he hesitated. "I think things got bad with the twins. I know she's moved heaven and earth to get home for dinner more often. She fired one assistant because she neglected to remind Miranda three days in advance of a presentation Cassidy was making at school. And God help anyone who gets in the way of her attending a recital. I doubt anyone else would notice, but she seems…diminished. Some of the light went out of her eyes after Paris, Six. And I don't think it was because Stephen filed for divorce or because Irv made a power play, do you?"
Andy couldn't answer him as she felt an unexpected lump form in her throat. Nigel took pity on her.
"Well, that's a topic for another time. Oh look! Here's Paul and Jennifer. Hello you two, having a good time? You remember Andy Sachs, don't you?"
They had continued chatting and gossiping about the people in attendance when Nigel commented that he loved Andy because even after two years in the city she was still a naïve Midwesterner. Andy took exception claiming she had become quite sophisticated thank you very much and Nigel just laughed. Their friendly banter escalated into a wager on the level of Andy's 'urbanization'.
The stakes? If Andy won, Nigel would take in a Knicks game with her. If Nigel won, Andy would have to allow him to dress her for some future event. The friends shook on it and agreed that one true test of sophistication was the palate. Once Andy had agreed to that, Nigel knew he had her.
They'd stepped up to the sumptuous buffet with Paul and Jennifer from Runway's art department as witnesses. Nigel had eased Andy into the bet: biscotti with a simple pâté and a graphic description of its production. Andy never blinked and even commented how delicious the morsel was. Next, it was oysters on the half shell with the unsettling news that they were still alive as she was eating them. Again, Andy didn't hesitate. Then it was a large scoop of caviar. Escargot. Then a true foie gras. Andy looked unstoppable until Nigel unleashed his secret weapon. It was an innocuous dainty, a small piece of toast with a slice of meat and chopped mushrooms in a simple sauce. Nigel strategically waited until Andy was chewing the hors d'ouevres before he announced "Oreilleurs de Veau aux Champignons – veal ears with mushrooms."
Andy's eyes bugged out, her jaw stopped working and she spit what she'd been chewing into a napkin as her complexion paled noticeably.
"Veal…ears?" she whispered.
"With mushrooms," confirmed Nigel with a wicked grin.
Andy's face went from pale to vaguely greenish and she bolted for the ladies' room with a laughing Jennifer in hot pursuit to help if need be. When they returned several minutes later, a smiling but still pale Andy formally conceded the bet and asked Nigel what his plans were for her.
"I haven't decided yet, but I'll do my best to make it memorable. You can count on that."
The following Monday, Nigel was going over a stack of shots for a lingerie feature with Miranda when she asked him about the Kors party. Studying the photos intently, he commented absently that he had taken Andy and that they had enjoyed themselves. He realized his mistake as soon as the words were out of his mouth and he glanced up at his editor cautiously. For just a moment, the shocked blue eyes before him were unshielded and for that brief instant Nigel saw a longing that went far beyond any he had ever seen in them before. Then, as if she'd realized what she'd revealed, the Miranda Fashionista persona slammed back into place. And Nigel Kipling knew that if he gave one hint of what he'd just seen his career at Runway was finished.
"You took Andréa Sachs to the Michael Kors' party? My Andréa Sachs?" Oh shit! The icy rejoinder confirmed his worst fears. "I didn't realize you two were that close."
"We've kept in touch. We have dinner occasionally and attend events together if one of us needs a date." Stupid, stupid, stupid! Never mention Andy's name within earshot of Miranda. That had become a cardinal rule of survival in the executive offices of Runway.
"And the fry cook doesn't object?"
Oh, God! This is going to be worse than I thought. "Andy broke up with him before she went to Paris."
Miranda's eyebrow arched nearly to her hairline. "Really? So she wasn't actually cheating when she scratched that little itch with Christian Thompson. I'm amazed she showed that much integrity."
The uncomfortable silence stretched out for what seemed endless moments.
"I understand she's getting some exposure in that sad little rag she's writing for."
Nigel let out the breath he'd been unaware he was holding and prayed that a response was expected.
"She's…actually, she's won a couple of awards for her writing. Her series about the on-going health problems of 9-11 First Responders won her an SPJ Sigma Award and got her an honorable mention from Scripps-Howard."
"Amazing. I don't recall her being able to string together a cohesive sentence most of the time she worked here. But I suppose even a blind squirrel stumbles across the occasional acorn."
Nigel winced internally at the venom in Miranda's voice. Not that venom was unusual in Miranda's voice and it was generally agreed by the Runway staff that their Editor in Chief's sharp tongue could puree friend or foe alike more efficiently than a Cuisinart. But Nigel found it interesting that Miranda even knew where Andy worked let alone that she was getting articles on the front page. Emily had stunned him several months ago when she'd told him that Miranda had taken a subscription to the Mirror a few weeks after her return from Parisand read it every morning when she arrived at the office.
Why, he wondered, would Miranda even think about Andy if she despised her so much? She obviously wasn't going to destroy the girl in revenge or she'd have done so already. And why was Miranda reading the Mirror on a daily basis? She already read the Timesand the Post; a third opinion on current events would be redundant at best.
"She's a good reporter, Miranda. She's a much better reporter than she ever was an assistant here. You should read her stuff occasionally."
Miranda sniffed dismissively, but refused to meet Nigel's gaze. Intrigued, he decided to keep his eye on the situation. The fates conspired to show him all he needed to know two days later.
He and Emily were going over the agenda for the editorial staff meeting when Serena came through the doors and whispered urgently to them "You need to see this." Emily ordered the new girl to cover the phones and the three of them slipped out of Miranda's office suite and into an adjoining conference room. The wall-mounted plasma TV was tuned to NY1 and ongoing coverage of a carjacking that had occurred earlier at a midtown parking deck.
The jackers had taken the SUV as it exited the facility, pistol-whipping its occupants and throwing them to the pavement before they drove off, tires screaming. Sixteen blocks later, they'd blown through a red light, t-boned a delivery van and then gotten rear-ended by a cab. The thieves leaped out of the accordioned SUV, saw the puddle of gasoline under the vehicle and set it alight before they made their escape into the stunned crowds. None of which would have fazed most New Yorkers except for one small detail the jackers had ignored: the 26-month-old toddler in his car seat.
The driver of the smashed delivery van was the first to hear his cries and he ran up to the SUV trying to get a look through the tinted glass. The cabbie and a bicycle messenger joined him, but the electric door locks weren't working, the windows were up and none of the men could gain access to the vehicle. The flames were slowly engulfing the rear quarter panel and creeping toward the back deck as the men struggled to open the doors. Suddenly, a tall, slender young woman ran up and gestured for them to step back. Pulling out a Swiss Army knife, she opened the Phillips-head screwdriver blade and, turning her face away from the vehicle, drove it through the base of the passenger-side rear window. The glass shattered impressively and everyone in the vicinity could now hear the child's screams.
The delivery driver tried to reach back and grab the toddler, but the unsecured car seat had jammed itself in the rear compartment of the SUV and he couldn't reach it. Neither could he squeeze himself through the window far enough to reach the terrified child; he was simply too big. The woman shoved him out of the way and before anyone could stop her had jackknifed herself through the shattered glass and into the burning vehicle. Moments later, she passed the screaming child out the window to the cabbie and suffered several nasty lacerations when the delivery driver and messenger immediately dragged her out over the jagged shards to safety. The four of them stumbled away from the vehicle with their precious cargo just as the SUV exploded in a raging fireball.
These heroics would have been documented only by cell phone photos had not NY1 been filming some B-roll footage on the corner. A second-string news team got the exclusive and began broadcasting live from the crash site as the studio looped their tape of the entire crash and rescue. Nigel, Serena and Emily stared at the coverage in shock.
"That's Andy, isn't it?" whispered Serena as they watched the young woman shatter the window for the third time.
"That bloody cow! What was she thinking? She could have been killed!" Emily exploded, still unwilling to admit that she was actually rather fond of Andy Sachs.
"She was thinking she had to get that child out," murmured Serena.
"Well, of course she was, but still…"
Nigel hadn't said a word, but turned suddenly at a quiet sound in the doorway.
"What exactly is it you three think you're doing? The special summer issue is in shambles and you're watching television?"
"Sorry, Miranda, but it's Andy on the…"
"Miranda, there was a carjacking…"
"It's Andy! She's on NY1 in a burning car and…"
"Bore someone else with meaningless details. Get back to your jobs while you still have them." Serena and Emily hurried out of the conference room while Nigel walked over to shut off the TV.
"Wait." The quiet command froze him in his tracks. "Is that…Is that her?"
"Yes, Miranda. It's Andy," he confirmed quietly as his cell phone began to vibrate in his pocket. She stepped in front of the screen to watch the unfolding drama as he turned away to take the call.
"Nigel? It's Andy. I need your help."
"Are you all right? We're watching the TV. That is you, right?"
"Yes, it was me. But you're a little behind the times. I'm at Lenox Hill Hospital in the ER and they won't let me go home."
"Something about the pain meds they're going to give me. I tried calling Lily and Doug but Doug's at some off-site corporate meeting and can't be reached and Lily's not answering her phone. Once I get home, Ruth can watch me, but in the meantime, they want me to get somebody over here to stay with me."
"Lenox Hill? Somebody will be there in half an hour. But you never answered my question: are you all right?"
"I've got some stitches and a small burn on my left arm. But one of the cuts nicked a tendon in my hand and they're talking about a hand specialist and some internal sutures. Once the local wears off I'm going to need some heavy-duty pain meds. That's why they don't want me to be alone."
"You're still in the Emergency Room, right? Half an hour. Just sit tight and don't worry. I'll take care of it." He flipped his phone closed and turned back to the woman standing transfixed by the images on the screen.
"I heard. You'd better go."
"Thank you, Miranda." He turned away and headed out the door.
"Take my car; Roy is downstairs. She shouldn't be in the back of some filthy cab if she's injured."
"Thank you, Miranda."
"Just go to her. She needs you. And Nigel?"
"Let me know if she needs anything. Anything at all."
The silver-haired beauty continued to stare bleakly at the images on the screen long after Nigel had left for the hospital.
By the time he returned to the Runway offices late that night everyone had gone home. Gathering the layouts he'd finished that morning, he headed to Miranda's office to drop them off before going home himself. He was astonished to find the editor at her desk poring over The Book, the outer office dark and empty.
"What are you still doing here? I thought everyone would be long gone by now."
"The girls are at their father's tonight so there was no rush to get home. I got involved with the Galliano/Dior proofs and when The Book was delivered I sent the new girl home and started working on it. I've been rather enjoying the quiet."
"Well here are the Chanel proofs we were talking about this morning. I think we've finally got them looking like you wanted." He chuckled and nodded at the Starbucks cup on her desk. "I see you made the new girl get coffee before she left."
"Actually, I didn't. Did you know that if you press #1 on the new girl's speed dial you get the shop across the street? That one of their employees will deliver your order to the desk downstairs and one of our security people will bring it up here?"
"Miranda, I'm fairly sure that only happens for you. Us mere mortals wouldn't get that kind of service."
"I don't see why not. Surely that's just good customer relations on the part of the coffee shop."
"Miranda, Starbucks does not deliver. They never have. If someone brought your order across the street to the downstairs desk it's because they knew the order was for you. They wouldn't do that for anyone else."
"Really? They were fairly cooperative determining what I wanted. I can never remember the exact mixture of things in my coffee order. But I told them I wanted my usual order and someone over there knew what it was."
"Again, Miranda, that was because they knew it was for you. Regular customers don't get that kind of service, believe me."
She sniffed in reply and held out her hand for the layout boards. Nigel handed them to her and then pulled a chair around her desk and sat at her side while she studied them.
"Yes, you captured the flavor we were looking for here. That new font and the alternate color palette did the trick. Why everyone thinks we can only use pastels for spring issues is beyond me. I much prefer the vibrancy of those Caribbean colors." Still examining the boards closely she hesitated a moment and then quietly asked the question that had filled her thoughts all afternoon.
"Is Andréa all right?"
"She'll be fine. She's home and asleep now; her friend Lily is staying with her. They had to do some surgery on a tendon in her hand and she's got some major pain medication on board so it's a good thing somebody's there with her." He pretended not to notice her very un-Miranda-like sigh of relief.
"Were her injuries severe?"
"She has a total of about forty stitches in five or six cuts and there's a second degree burn on the back of her left hand. The doctors said she'll be home for a couple of days and then be fine to go back to work." He gave a short laugh. "She'll be lucky if the Mirror doesn't send a stenographer to her place to take her dictation."
Miranda looked at him quizzically and he continued.
"Naturally, the TV news crew on the scene wanted an interview but Andy wouldn't give them one. She got on her cell and started dictating an exclusive to her Metro desk and once the other heroes of the event realized that Andy was a reporter, none of them would talk to the TV people either. EMS took them all to Lenox Hill Hospital to be checked over and a team from the Mirror met them there to write their stories. It wasn't until the Mirror had published their exclusive that Andy and the others gave statements to the press. Lily and Ruth had their hands full back at Andy's place fielding all the phone calls from the media."
"There won't be any permanent damage, will there?"
"No, she'll be just fine. She'll be in an orthostatic brace for a couple of weeks to give that tendon a chance to heal but that's all. Once I'd gotten her home her editor called and told her not to worry about anything. Just come into the office and they'd work something out. He was so excited with the exclusive that Andy could have demanded a trip to Cancun to recuperate and he'd have sprung for it."
Nigel looked closely at his boss and realized that she'd been badly frightened and had been waiting desperately for news of her former assistant. Getting to his feet he told her he'd be right back and walked down the hall to his office. He pulled a bottle of Lagavulin from the credenza behind his desk and returned to Miranda's office, snagging two squat, crystal glasses and some ice from the service kitchenette off her waiting room.
"You look like you could use this," he said, pouring two fingers of the precious Scotch over the ice cubes and offering it to her. When he had his own drink he returned to his chair beside her and offered a toast.
"To Andy, our prodigal child; may she continue to dance between the raindrops."
Miranda acknowledged the toast and took a sip of her drink. She sighed heavily and Nigel could see the tension go out of her shoulders. Then, remembering she wasn't alone, she stiffened and looked hurriedly back at the layouts.
"Miranda," Nigel said softly, "You don't have to hide from me. We've worked together for nineteen years and you have to know by now that you can trust me. We've been through personal and professional hell together. I'm your friend, Miranda. Friends are there for each other."
The beautiful woman looked back at him hopelessly. "I know I can trust you, Nigel. It's just that… I don't know myself what I'm… There's nothing that can… it's complicated. But thank you for asking." She cleared her throat quietly. "Now, what are we going to do about the accessories layouts? Juliana just doesn't seem to get it; I'm afraid she might need to be replaced if she can't come up with anything more creative than this."
"Well, she's got a basic idea going here. If we just expanded on the…"
The two heads bent together over the layout boards and began to weave the magic that was Runway magazine.
Nigel thought about that conversation for several days as he continued to call Andy daily to check on her recovery. As he expected, she'd taken one day off and then returned to her desk in the Mirror's press room. She was typing her articles one-handed and Greg had offered her the services of a transcriptionist if she needed them. So far, she'd not found them necessary.
Nigel hung up the phone from their latest chat and settled back more comfortably in his chair. The pain meds she'd had on board had Andy completely out of it when he'd brought her home from the hospital and she had been stunned to learn, several days later, that she'd ridden home in Miranda's Mercedes. She and Lily had challenged Nigel on the point and it wasn't until Nigel told them to call Roy and check for themselves that they began to believe the story was true. Andy had hesitantly asked him how that had come to be and Nigel had related the story of what happened when they saw the story on the television. He told her gently that Miranda's response had been immediate once she'd realized that Andy had been injured; he had been ordered to take the luxury car for her comfort and care.
"Really? She actually…she cared?"
"Yes, she did. She's not the monster the press makes her out to be. Of course, there's no telling what or who she'll choose to care about, but once she does, she's a good friend to have."
"Oh, Nigel, how can you say that after what she did to you?"
"What she did to me was business, Andy. You keep forgetting that. She's more than made up for it since. But I'm talking about her personally. Because for some reason that I can't put my finger on, you're personal. And that changes everything."
"Personal. You're way more than just a former assistant. And I don't exactly know what to make of that yet."
As he replayed that conversation in his head, he realized that Andy's response had been just as unusual as Miranda's had been. Startled at the thought, he sat up abruptly and almost gasped as the realization hit him.
No, it can't be! Can it? Neither of them has ever… not that that matters. There was always something there that Emily resented. Still does, for that matter. I wonder…
Reaching for his phone, Nigel decided to extend the scope of his investigations.
So it was that later that evening, Smith & Wollensky delivered a complete dinner for two to Andy's apartment and she and Nigel sat down to a long evening of dinner, gossip and scotch. Even after a complete steak dinner (which Nigel had to cut up for her) Andy was a fairly short hitter and it didn't take but two glasses of Glenmorangie to loosen her tongue. A boozy and tearful confession quickly followed that would not be remembered in the morning.
So, Andy Sachs has a thing for Miranda Priestly. And it would seem, if I think about it, that Miranda Priestly has a thing for Andy Sachs. Well, well, well.
But what to do about it? Neither of the women was likely to even speak to the other let alone make any kind of move toward a… whatever. Should he let them remain apart and lonely or should he do something to bring them together? Nigel decided that even though he was of Italian descent he'd take a stab at playing yenta. After all, the role of matchmaker was an old and honorable one. And what did he have to lose? Only good friends, his job and his sanity.
But the thought of Miranda and Andy together…Totally worth it!
The first thing he had to do was figure out how to get the two of them in the same room. They moved in different worlds within New York; his first job would be to get those different worlds to collide. That was when Andy let it slip that she would be covering the grand unveiling of Barney and the gala planned to celebrate it. In an instant Nigel had his game plan formulated and put in motion.
'Accidentally' running into Irv Ravitz, Chairman of Elias-Clarke, Nigel commented on how exciting the upcoming event promised to be. Always glad to trumpet his pet charities, Irv had explained some of the technical details involved in assembling the fossil. Nigel raved about how fortunate the Museum was to have his patronage and how it was a shame that Elias-Clarke couldn't show more support for the project that obviously meant so much to Irv. Forty-eight hours later, private memos from the Chairman's Office were sent to the senior editors and staffers of every Elias-Clarke publication with their invitations to the gala and instructions that their attendance was not optional.
So much for worlds colliding. Now all he had to do overcome eighteen months of isolation and all the hurt feelings from Paris. Nigel reached for the phone.
It was mid-morning when the phone rang yet again. The caller ID said "RUNWAY MAGAZINE".
"Six? It's Nigel, darling."
Andy's pleasure was obvious in her voice. "Hi, Nige! What's up?"
"Am I remembering correctly? You've been assigned to cover the Barney unveiling and gala at the Museum?
"Sure have. The unveiling in the afternoon and the gala in the evening. Why?"
"Irv sent out a memo this morning. Barney is one of his pet charities and it's going to be a command performance for all of us. So I've decided to call our bet and I'm dressing you for the gala."
"Okay by me. You won fair and square. Where am I going and when do I meet you?"
"First fitting is at the Armani showroom tomorrow at one. Can you make that?"
"Tomorrow. One o'clock. The Armani showroom. I'll be there. So what knockout couture are you putting me in this time?"
"You'll see, Six. You'll see. It'll be a surprise."
Truer words were never spoke.
~ ~ (The next afternoon at the Armani showroom…) ~ ~
"You have GOT to be kidding me! I am sogoing to get you for this!"
Andy stood on the fitting box at Armani and stared at her reflection in the three mirrors around her.
Nigel looked at her contemplatively. "Hmmm – with basic black I think a splash of color. Let's go with the Louboutins – the strappy black ones. That way there will always be that flash of red as you're walking."
"Basic black? Basic black? How can you call this…"
"Well, what else would you call it? It's black and a traditional staple of formal wear. It's the perfect definition of basic black."
"It's a freaking tailcoat! A man's tailcoat!"
"Well, by the time Vincenzo gets done fitting you, it'll be your tailcoat."
"I'm going to wear white tie and tails to the Dinosaur Gala at the AMNH? That's how you're dressing me?"
"Yes. And you'll stop traffic, Andy. Now hold still or Vincenzo will stick you."
"Why do I have to wear a white tie? You never do."
"Because going sans tie is my signature style. You have no signature style so you'll have to be correct in all the details. I can't wait to see you in your evening cloak and top hat."
"Evening cloak? Top Hat? Are you nuts? Have you been drinking the punch at James Holt's?"
"Not a drop. Now hold still or Vincenzo will…"
"I told you to hold still."
~ ~ (A week later, back on Vincenzo's tailoring box) ~ ~
"Nigel, so help me God, I will get even with you if it's the last thing I ever do."
"Quit making empty threats. You look totally hot and you know it. Here, try on your vest. No, pull the suspenders up first then put the vest on. There you go."
"It will take me forever if I have to pee!"
"Nonsense. Just take off your coat then take off your vest. The rest is easy and the bathroom stalls have hooks."
"Aren't the trousers too long?"
"Not with your heels on they won't be. Here, I brought the pair you should wear. Slip them on."
The four-inch heels brought Andy to six feet exactly. Nigel looked her up and down with a critical eye. Legs that went on for weeks, vest fitted beautifully to emphasize the slender waist, more-than-adequate bosom and gently flaring hips. When she shrugged into the tailcoat the effect was stunning. Andy would have them walking into walls at the gala. A single blood-red rose boutonnière was all the outfit needed.
The day before the big event, a staffer from Armani delivered a garment bag to Andy at the Mirror with her formal suit. An hour later, a messenger dropped off a parcel from Turnbull & Asser that contained her bespoke evening shirt, her tie, a silk handkerchief, a set of studs and cuff-links Nigel had given her. As a final reminder of what was to come the next evening, a florist called demanding guarantees that someone would be home the next afternoon to take delivery of flowers. Andy assured him that someone would; she already had Ruth standing by.
The master plan for the next day was for Andy and her photographer, Bill Hooker, to meet at the Museum at 9:00 am. That would give them a full hour to interview kids and their parents before the official unveiling as well as the bulk of the afternoon to do so after Barney was open for viewing. She planned on filing her first story of the day and then returning to her place to get ready for the gala that night. Nigel was working as usual that Saturday, but would dress for the gala at Runway and then go to Andy's for dinner. They would meet Hooker at the Museum, attend the gala together and Andy would file the second part of her story afterward from home.
Saturday morning dawned fair and balmy. The weather gods were cooperating for Barney's big day, promising clear skies and mild temperatures until at least Monday morning. Andy woke early, showered and dressed quickly then trotted down the stairs headed for the local bagel shop. In the foyer she bumped into Ruth getting her paper and when the older woman discovered Andy's destination she offered coffee and scrambled eggs if Andy would supply the bagels. Just that quick it was a done deal. Andy always enjoyed spending time with her landlady and Ruth, for her part, called Lily and Andy 'my girls' more often than not. Rare was the week when the three of them didn't share at least a couple of meals and Ruth had practically adopted Doug, redoing part of the basement as a guest suite so he could stay over whenever he wanted to.
Breakfast was fun and when they finished, Andy ran back upstairs and made sure her messenger bag was fully stocked with notepads and pens and that her Treo™ and laptop were fully charged. She hung her press credentials around her neck and set off for the Museum, twelve blocks away.
Even an hour before the ceremonies were scheduled to begin there were crowds waiting to get in. Hundreds of kids and their parents were cheerfully queued up to have the chance to see Barney officially welcomed to New York. Hooker was waiting for her on the corner and the two of them waded into the enthusiastic crowds. The high spirits were contagious and a grinning Andy listened to stories of special units in class, field trips, guest speakers and historical lectures on the sponsoring groups. Hooker had literally hundreds of pictures of smiling kids and their parents, most of them wearing the "WE LOVE BARNEY" buttons the Museum had distributed to everyone earlier. Even Andy was sporting one.
Finally, the ceremonies began, mercifully brief in deference to the hundreds of children gathered. A couple of very quick speeches, a blaring fanfare by a brass choir and the drapes that had concealed the fossil dropped to the floor. The resulting cheers were heard several blocks away. Hooker got shots of everything and Andy was busy getting pull quotes from the delighted visitors as they beheld the exhibit.
Just as Andy was thinking she had enough, she spotted two very familiar red heads standing at the rail and pointing excitedly. Knowing she probably shouldn't but unable to resist, she came up behind them and introduced herself to the tall man who appeared to be escorting them.
"Excuse me? Can I bother you for a minute? I'm Andy Sachs of the Mirror and I'd like to get your reactions to the exhibit."
"Geoff Priestly. These are my daughters Cassidy and Caroline. Girls, do you have anything to say to Ms. Sachs?"
The twins looked at her oddly and Andy hastened to clarify her request.
"They don't have to comment if they don't want to. And their comments can be anonymous if they'd like. I'm just looking for as many reactions to the exhibit as I can get."
Caroline was the first to put two and two together. "You used to work for Mom! You were the one we actually got to bring The Book upstairs."
Cassidy trumped her twin with a personal zinger. "Yeah, you were the smart, fat one that left Mom in Paris. But at least you didn't leave until you got us the Harry Potter book."
Andy grinned sheepishly at their father. "They're right. I used to work for Miranda. But I've been at the Mirror for eighteen months and I really am a bona fide reporter."
"I know who you are. I've read your stuff. You've got a great writing style. So what do you two delinquents say? Got any pithy quotes for the press?"
Both girls giggled at his comment and proceeded to tell Andy all about the special unit on paleontology they'd studied in preparation for the exhibit. She wrote as fast as she could and got some great stuff on how the extinction of the dinosaurs could be related to climatic conditions similar to those of the global warming currently affecting Earth's weather patterns. Both the girls thought Barney was "Totally cool!"
Andy thanked them for their comments and spoke quietly to their father before she left to write her article, reassuring him that the twins would not be mentioned by name, merely cited as Dalton School 5th graders. He thanked her, chuckling that his ex-wife would have his head if he'd allowed them to be quoted by name. As Andy should well know. And well she did.
Thanking the Priestlys, she found Hooker and they grabbed a cab to the Mirror's offices. Andy pounded out her feature article for the Sunday edition while Hooker and the Features Editor pored over the photos and selected the ones that would best fit the special Barney Edition they would publish the next morning. She finished her piece by 3:00 pm and bidding the men good afternoon, headed for home.
When she walked into the entryway, Ruth was just coming downstairs.
"Oh, back already? You're home earlier than you expected. I just let the florist into your place. The flowers are just gorgeous and they smell heavenly."
Andy looked a bit confused. "What flowers? All I was supposed to get was the boutonnière Nigel ordered for me. There were more?"
"Heaven's yes! There were three arrangements. You'd better come up and check. Maybe they got your order confused with someone else's."
"Did they at least get the boutonnière right? That's the one I have to have for tonight."
"Yes, I put that in your refrigerator."
"Okay then, let's go up and check out these beautiful flowers."
Ruth hadn't been kidding; there were three stunning arrangements of tuberoses and lilies that filled the apartment with a marvelous fragrance. Ruth and Andy spread them out between the living room and den and then Andy made them a sandwich. Ruth teased her until she gave in and showed her the tailcoat Nigel had forced on her. Ruth whistled and gave her opinion that Andy would stop traffic in the formal suit.
"I'll be happy as long as I don't get laughed out of the gala. That would be embarrassing both personally and professionally."
"I wouldn't worry about that, Andy. I think you're going to start a new trend. Be sure and drop by with Nigel before you leave. I want to see you all dressed up."
"Okay, you've got it. We'll stop in on our way to the car. And no wisecracks about twins in tailcoats or anything, you hear? I'm nervous enough about wearing this suit."
"Darling, you'd look wonderful in a garbage bag. I wish you and Lily would believe me when I tell you that. But I promise not to give you a hard time about it. Now why don't you take a nap or a long hot bath before you start getting ready? And are you all set for dinner? Can I help with anything?"
"I've got seafood salad on pita bread. We're just going to have sandwiches, chips and veggies…easy to eat. Less chance of accidents on good clothes. There will be plenty of food at the gala. We'll be fine."
"All right then. I'll leave you alone. What time is Nigel coming?"
"He should be here by 6:30 pm. The gala doesn't start until 9:00 pm."
"I'm so excited. I've never really known anyone who attends these kinds of functions. It's wonderful to have someone close who does."
"Believe me, most of the time they're more trouble than they're worth. Most people attend them because if they didn't there would be trouble at their work or their businesses would suffer. Glamorous clothes are usually uncomfortable as heck and those stiletto heels kill your feet. They're not kidding when they say women suffer for their fashion. We really do."
"Well, I think they're beautiful. And I know you'll be beautiful tonight. Now go relax before your big night. I'll see you later."
As much as Andy hated to admit it, it was far easier to dress for the evening in the formal suit than it ever was in an evening gown. No push-up bras, torturously constricting bustières or whalebone-enhanced highly-engineered bodices to stifle your breathing. No pantyhose or garter belts. No slips or worries about static cling. In deference to the formality of the evening, however, she did slip into her best La Perla. But even the trousers had been tailored to fit loosely in the waist; the suspenders would do the bulk of the work keeping them in place.
When she first donned the English-tailored formal shirt she thought the tails far too long. But then realized that with the loose-fitting waistband of the pants and even with the formal vest a typical shirt would undoubtedly come untucked and ruin the look of the suit. Once she got the tails tucked into her pants they weren't noticeable anyway. The studs weren't as much of a problem as Nigel had hinted they might be and she'd had experience with cufflinks. The hardest part of getting ready was figuring out how to properly knot her tie. She'd done it for her father before, but doing it facing someone else and doing it for yourself looking in a mirror are two entirely different things. Finally, in desperation, she called Ruth to help and in moments the older woman had her cravat perfectly tied. Lily had been unable to resist accompanying Ruth or voicing her opinion of her best friend's ensemble.
"Damn girl, you're enough to make a good dog break his leash!"
Andy looked at her with a wry grin. "You know, if you were a man I'd bring a sexual harassment suit for that crack."
"The way you look? Sweetie, if I were a man you'd be able to sue me for a hell of a lot more than that."
"I take it you approve?"
"Approve? Are you kidding? You and I are going out clubbing in the very near future and you're wearing that outfit. You're stopping by Ruth's on your way to the car, right? I promised Doug pictures."
"You three are worse than my parents on Prom night. Yes, Nigel and I will stop by on our way out to the car. Now can I please finish getting our dinner ready? He'll be here in fifteen minutes."
By the time Nigel arrived Andy had finished putting their meal together. He made her turn a full circle in front of him, eyed the tailcoat safely out of danger on a padded hangar on the guest room door and broke into a huge smile.
"I did good. Woman, you look fantastic, even by Runway standards. I will be prouder than usual to escort you this evening."
"You're only saying that because we'll look like the Bobbsey twins."
Nigel doffed his tailcoat and they sat down to eat. After they'd finished and cleaned up after themselves, Nigel poured them each a glass of wine and indicated that Andy should sit with him on the sofa.
"Darling, we need to talk before we go. I know you think I'm crazy for dressing you like this, but looking fantastic notwithstanding, I had a very good reason for doing so."
Andy grinned. "I can only imagine what that was."
"Thankfully, you won't have to. I'm about to tell all. I dressed you this way because I'm tired of seeing you alone. Because I know why you're not dating and there's no reason for it."
Andy's grin faded and she eyed him warily. "And why exactly is that?"
This was the critical part for any matchmaker; gently forcing one of the interested parties into acknowledging their true feelings. But Nigel was no coward – he faced Miranda in her lair on a daily basis.
"Can you honestly sit there and tell me that you don't have feelings for her? I'm the one that's looking at you every time her name comes up. You don't hide your feelings very well, Andy; you wear them on your sleeve."
"Feelings for who? I think the stress is getting to you… you're not making sense."
He took hold of her hand and consciously made his voice as gentle as possible. "Andy, I'm talking about Miranda."
Her eyes darted around the room resting everywhere but on him. "I don't know what you mean."
"I'm talking about how you love her. Oh, I know, you've spent the past eighteen months telling yourself you feel guilty because you left her so abruptly. But the truth is she's an experienced and savvy businesswoman. Losing an assistant without notice is nothing more than a minor inconvenience and you know it. You feel guilty because you left her when she was alone and hurting. And you feel guilty because you care about her. Very much."
"That's not true. I'll admit that… that I felt bad. But that was only because I knew what she'd be like to the rest of you when I walked out."
"Andy, please. Give me a little credit. Do you think I've survived nineteen years at Runway without knowing how to deal with a furious Miranda? Yes, she was beside herself when you left. But she was beside herself because you left, not because she was suddenly without an assistant. Face facts, Six; the two of you have been dancing around your feelings for each other since before you left Runway."
"That's not true!"
"Oh? Isn't it? What was it you babbled to me that night you had too much champagne at the Press Club dinner? About what Nate said the night you two broke up? 'The person whose calls you take…that's the relationship you're in'. Why would he say something like that? Unless he realized that Miranda meant more to you than just a boss? And that just maybe your phone rang as often as it did because you meant more to her than just an assistant? C'mon, girl; it's time you faced reality."
Sudden tears filled Andy's eyes as she looked at him helplessly. "But Nigel, even if what you say is true, nothing could ever come of it. Miranda doesn't want me; she'll never be able to get past me walking out on her. And I don't think I could take her ridiculing me. It was hard enough when it was part of my job – now, it would break my heart."
How in God's name can someone this intelligent be so stupid where feelings are concerned? This one is almost as bad as Miranda. "Andy, there is a reason I dressed you in white tie and tails. A most excellent reason. Because you, in white tie and tails, will stop Miranda's heart when she catches sight of you."
"You heard me. I have known Miranda Priestly for the better part of twenty years and I can tell you with absolute certainty that her deepest and most closely-held secret is that beneath that cool, urbane and terrifying exterior beats the heart of a romantic. Inside, The Ice Queen is an absolute mush ball. A wistful dreamer that happens to think white tie and tails are the epitome of elegance and romance. A hopeful romantic who has carried a torch for you for eighteen long and lonely months. I'm tired of watching a woman I call a friend be miserable. So I dressed the woman she wants in the clothing she loves. Simple as that."
Andy stared speechlessly at him as he pressed on.
"And that's your in, Six. Oh, you're going to stop traffic at the gala, no question about that. But you in white tie and tails are going to make Miranda weak in the knees. You are going to be all her secret dreams come to life. You will leave her breathless. Now, the only question is will you have the courage to go after what you really want? Her defenses will be down; will you have the guts to let her know how you feel? To reach out and claim what your heart's wanted for so long? I hope you do, because I do not plan on spending the next ten years listening to you whine about how you blew it with Miranda every time you have more than two cocktails. So it's time to put on your big-girl panties and go after what you want."
"So what you're telling me is that without warning, I'm supposed to go up to Miranda tonight and declare my love for her? And that I'll be so dashing in her eyes that she'll just melt into a puddle and allow me to sweep her off her feet? You truly have lost your mind. I always knew inhaling those rubber cement fumes from the layout boards would do it sooner or later."
He just shook his head. They look but they do not see. "Okay, one more time. I'll speak slowly and use small words so you understand. You love Miranda. Miranda loves you. Miranda is Miranda and while she might tentatively admit to herself that she's never gotten over you, she'd die before ever acknowledging it to anyone else. So if this is going to happen, and for all our sakes I fervently hope it does, you're going to have to make the first move. Why else do you think I sprang for all the fresh flowers for your place? She loves fresh flowers, well, except for freesias, which you'll notice I scrupulously avoided. Cowboy up, Sachs. You're up to bat."
Mixed metaphors notwithstanding, Andy finally realized Nigel was right.
The town car inched toward the unloading area in the crush of arrivals. When they finally reached the red carpet at the foot of the Museum steps, Hooker was waiting for them. He was Andy's favorite photographer to work with not simply because he was good at his job, but unlike most other shooters, he enjoyed formal parties and knew how to dress. Even Nigel was impressed with his Versace tux.
Hooker's jaw dropped when Nigel handed Andy out of the car. Then his puckish sense of humor took over and he began to photograph her as if she was the cool, collected object of a fashion shoot instead of a nervous reporter trying desperately not to reach around behind her to check that her tails weren't tangled. As soon as Hooker's flash began firing, the other photographers, sensing a 'somebody' crowded in and began shooting too. Most of the reporters recognized Nigel and began shouting questions, but the cameramen were fixed on Andy as they ran the gauntlet of media and entered the Museum.
No sooner had they entered the Great Hall then Brian Kenwood, the entertainment reporter for the local NBC affiliate, and his camera crew accosted them.
"Nigel! Can I get your reaction to the opening of the exhibit? And who is this divine creature you're with?"
"I'm surprised you don't recognize her, Brian. She's one of your own; Andy Sachs, a New York Mirror feature writer."
"Well, you clean up pretty well for print media, Andy. Do the two of you have any comments on the exhibit?"
"All of us at Runway, like everyone in New York, have followed The Barney Project closely since the Museum won the bid. It's a source of great pride for the entire city."
"Andy, how about you? Anything to add?"
"Only that I had the pleasure of being here for the official unveiling this morning, Brian, and I can tell you that the children of New York are completely in love with Barney. The kids who were here this morning had an absolute ball and I know that Barney will continue to be a source of joy and wonder for the city's children for many years to come."
They nodded and took their leave as soon as the camera lights clicked off and Kenwood went in search of fresh fodder for his sound-bite machine. Nigel headed them toward the nearest service bar and grabbed two flutes of champagne as Hooker blended into the crowd to snap candids.
"Here, drink this. Quickly. You handled yourself well in the interview, but your hands are shaking. That won't do at all if you're going to get the interviews you need. Calm down."
"Calm down, calm down he says. I'm dressed like a Marlene Dietrich wannabe, he wants me to talk to Miranda and I have to interview the movers and shakers of New York. How the hell can he expect me to be calm at a time like this?" she muttered to herself as she swilled the bubbly.
"Feel better?" he asked as she drained the flute. When she took a deep breath and nodded he surreptitiously straightened her lapels and they set off into the crowd in search of familiar faces. They quickly found some in a group from Dior that Nigel knew well and once he was safely ensconced with kindred souls Andy felt free to circulate and get the interviews she needed.
Andy hit the jackpot when she found the Mayor and his wife a few minutes later. Hooker stayed back so that his flash wouldn't be a distraction as Andy spoke with His Honor and got his comments on the day's events. Nigel must have been right about her outfit stopping traffic, for no sooner had she begun chatting with the Mayor than a whole raft of the dignitaries she was in search of gathered around. Andy got an entire evening's worth of interviews and pull quotes in the span of thirty minutes while fielding admiring comments about her appearance from both the men and the women in the group. By and large, the women looked at her enviously and one even managed to say out loud what the others were thinking.
"You must be so comfortable in that!" Andy responded with a couple of funny stories about Vincenzo trying to fit her, but, in truth, their comments served to calm her down considerably. By the time she slipped her notebook and pen back into the inside pocket of her coat she was feeling much better about how she looked and, dismissing Hooker for the evening, she headed back to Nigel and his fellow Fashionistas to enjoy the party.
"All finished for the time being?" Nigel asked as she rejoined the group, now swelled in numbers with several Runway staffers and their spouses. He snagged two flutes from a passing waiter and handed her one.
"I've got more quotes than I'll ever be able to work into a quarter page lede. Hooker's on his way back to the paper to upload his photos. It won't take me long to finish my article once I get home."
"Good. Then you can relax and enjoy yourself. Now tell everyone why you're wearing white tie and tails."
Andy's laugh collided with the sip of champagne she'd just taken and she nearly spit it all over Nigel. "You mean to tell me that you haven't already?"
"Oh no. It's ever so much more fun to watch you wallow in your own defeat and just supply the delicious details. You may begin."
Andy gave a theatrical sigh and proceeded to tell the story of losing her bet to Nigel. She'd just brought on a fresh burst of laughter with her description of her undignified flight to the ladies' room when the atmosphere in the Great Hall seemed to change noticeably. A sudden hush then a soft murmur that rippled across the room.
Miranda had arrived.
The attention of any crowd generally fastened on her when she made her entrances, but this was different. Miranda usually looked stunning for formal occasions and tonight was no exception. But tonight there was something more – something almost magical.
Valentino may have officially retired the previous January, but when Miranda called, Il Maestro picked up his pencils and went to work. This time he had conjured a dream incarnate. Black, as her formal clothes almost always were, the soft material flowed around her like ebony liquid as she moved. Off the shoulder, two faux sleeves of transparent black tulle cradled her upper arms; the flawless ivory skin of her décolletage was shown off to its best advantage. Long drop earrings accentuated her graceful neck and her only other jewelry was an exquisite solitaire diamond on her right hand.
Miranda Priestly was everyone's fantasy come to life.
Every man in the room wanted her. Every woman in the room wanted to be her. Every move she made, every step she took screamed 'I am your every secret desire, every dream you've ever had'. Andy Sachs could not take her eyes off her former employer.
Nigel leaned close to her and whispered out the side of his mouth "Breathe, Six. Breathe!"
Andy couldn't quite manage coherent speech. "She's… she's… Nigel, I… oh, my God!"
"You know, Andy, for someone who makes their living with words you're not doing too well putting complete sentences together."
Andy turned glazed eyes on him. Nigel realized he had to do something fast or all his carefully-laid plans would come crashing down around them.
"Ho boy! Come on, girlfriend. We need to get you some fresh air." He grabbed Andy's elbow and navigated them onto the terrace of the Museum Café where another bar had been set up. Dropping her into a chair at a small table he got them drinks and handed her a tumbler.
"Drink. It's club soda and lime. Drink it down and get a grip on yourself. Honestly, Six. I thought you'd have better control than that."
"Better control? Nigel, did you see her? The woman is a fantasy on feet. Every person here with even a partial complement of hormones wants her. You saw how they flocked to her. I'll never even get close."
"Don't be silly. Every person here might want her, but how many of them will Miranda want to spend any time with? Very few. And she will expect her minions, that would be us, to rescue her from the worst of the hangers-on."
"Her minions would include you and Paul and Jennifer and…is that Emily in the flanker position? But they would not include me."
"Oh I don't know, once a Runway girl, always a Runway girl."
Andy couldn't tear her eyes away from Miranda as she held court just off the red carpet. "My God, Nigel, it's a wonder she doesn't burst into flame from the heat of the looks she's getting"
"She's used to it. But I must say, she's does appear to have gone all out tonight."
"'Gone all out'? Nigel, the woman is sex on stilettos! She's positively oozing pheromones. Doesn't she realize the effect she has on people?"
"Of course she does. That's why I commented that she's pulled out all the stops. She's certainly not holding anything back."
"But why? You said that Irv ordered the appearances tonight. Why would she dress to kill for an event that's not Runway business? I could see it for the Runway benefit. That's her night of nights. But for a museum she doesn't support?"
Nigel's smile took on a distinctly satanic glint. "I might have mentioned that a certain ace reporter who recently covered herself with glory on NY1 would be in attendance tonight at this afternoon's run through."
"That little tidbit just might have slipped out at the run through?" The full import of what Nigel was implying hit Andy like a Mack truck. "You mean… you mean…Miranda dressed that way… for… for me?" The last word in the sentence came out as an astonished squeak.
"So it would seem, dear. What exactly are you planning on doing about it?"
"For me? Forme? Nigel, I… why?"
Runway's Fashion director gave a huge sigh as he patted her arm. "Weren't you paying any attention to what I was telling you after dinner? Was I talking to myself?"
"I… but… she… Miranda… for me?"
"Welcome to the party, Andy. Do try to keep up. Yes, for you."
"We're back to that again, are we? Yes, dear. And that's why I dressed you in a tailcoat – for her. So the two of you are dressed for each other. Now, I'll say it again: what are you going to do about it? A yenta can only do so much you know. At some point in time one of the principals has to make a move."
"Why do I have to be the one?"
"We discussed this. Because she's Miranda, that's why. And you have to decide if she's worth the effort. Because she's Miranda and you will have to put forth some effort if you want her. Now, what's it to be?"
"I have to decide right now?"
"Yes, because we're about to be summoned into the royal presence. Emily is fifteen feet behind you on final approach. Emily! Don't you look wonderful tonight! That's the Vivienne Westwood, right?"
"Hi, Em! You look beautiful."
"Good evening… Andrea… you look… very elegant. Nigel, she wants to see you."
Nigel stood and Andy said, "I'll wait right here for you."
Emily made a small choking sound before she managed to bite off the words Nigel knew were coming. "She wants to see both of you." She turned and headed back to Miranda's side.
Andy rose. Nigel grabbed her elbow and whispered urgently as they began heading in Miranda's direction.
"Listen carefully. We're going for a kind of Gary Cooper thing. When you get within twenty feet of her, I want you to casually put your left hand into your left trouser pocket. We're going for casual elegance here, so don't screw it up. If she offers you her hand, take it, hold it and stare into her eyes as you say 'hello'. Beyond that, you're on your own."
Andy managed to execute the maneuver just as Miranda's eyes swung to her right and took in the sight of them approaching. Miranda's eyes never even made it to Nigel as they locked on Andy and widened perceptibly. She and Nigel exchanged air kisses and murmured their greetings and still Miranda's eyes never left Andy.
"Andréa," she breathed, holding out an elegant hand.
Andy never knew what possessed her, but instead of leaning in for the obligatory air kiss she gently grasped the extended hand, bowed over it and dropped a brief kiss upon its back. Emily gasped, Nigel offered an approving smile and the rest of the group chuckled at the gallant gesture.
"Miranda." Only Andy felt the shiver that coursed through Miranda as her lips brushed the warm skin. Straightening she held Miranda's hand longer than was strictly proper before gently releasing it.
"You all know Nigel Kipling, my Fashion Director. And this is Andréa Sachs of the Mirror."
"The Andy Sachs who pulled that baby out of the burning car?" inquired one of the people around them.
"Er, yes. But, really, it wasn't that…"
"I understand your recent adventures earned you a special award from the Mayor's office," interjected Miranda smoothly.
"I didn't really do anything. It was Carlos and Rob, the guys involved in the accident, who deserve all the credit. And Tommy, the bicycle messenger. Those guys knew what the danger was and still ran right to the burning car."
"Isn't that what you did as well?"
"I just ran up because I had something that would break the glass for them. It wasn't until we got the window opened that I realized the guys were too big to squeeze into the car and grab the baby. The reason I could dive through the window was that I knew they'd pull me back out. And what about the three guys who ran down the carjackers? Now those guys are heroes."
The murmured assent of the group moved the conversation on to other topics. Barney's impact on Museum endowments and attendance was hotly debated and Andy added her observations from the unveiling ceremonies. The Presidential race was heating up, well, at least the Democratic Primary season was. Opinions were sharply divided, but the conversation remained friendly despite all that.
Miranda watched the self-assured young woman across from her hold her own in the debate with some political heavy hitters. Her bearing was almost regal and Miranda had felt a rush of… something she hadn't felt in a very long time when she'd first caught sight of Andréa. And then when the little imp had the audacity to kiss her hand! Miranda had been torn between wanting to snatch it back and caressing the beautiful face bowing over it.
This will not do! This is some horribly clichéd midlife crisis. I am not wildly attracted to a female cub reporter half my age! My God, the brat deserted me in Paris when I needed her the most! Miranda's smile never wavered, but she had to wrench her attention back to the conversation that ebbed and flowed around her. When Andréa responded to a comment about her fashion sense with a wry grin and an airy wave at Nigel, Miranda's knees nearly gave way.
That grin! How I've missed that grin! Every morning she gave it to me like a gift. Oh, I never acknowledged it, but I needed it. I needed that grin like a drowning man needs oxygen. I'm not sure how I've existed for this long without it.
My God, what am I doing? Nigel drops a bomb into our run-through that Andréa will be here and I pull out a dress that puts me on display like Venus on a clamshell. For what? For her? She'll never even notice. But she did notice. She did! Why else would she kiss my hand instead of just shaking it like she should have? This is ridiculous! She's beautiful and talented writer. Her whole life is in front of her. What would she want with the middle-aged mother of twin hellions?
Miranda's gaze swept around the group and came to rest on warm brown eyes that were watching her. When they made contact, Andréa gave Miranda a soft smile and Miranda's breath caught in her throat. Those brown eyes seemed like a gentle caress as they swept over her. She does! She does want me. Oh God, what do I do? Do I behave like every other middle-aged fool besotted with a gorgeous youngster? How long will it be before she comes to her senses and kicks me to the curb? She left me once; surely she'll leave me again. I can't put the girls through that. I can't put myself through that.
But a small part of Miranda's brain kept bravely shouting the unvarnished truth. Yes, Andréa had left Paris and Runway and Miranda, but she had done so because of Miranda's actions. She had done so in defense of a friend. Could Miranda really fault her for that? As she finally acknowledged her part in Andréa's flight from Runway she realized that even though she might well become an object of ridicule she very much wanted to feel those brown eyes warming her skin again. For one of the few times in her adult life, Miranda Priestly had no idea what to do.
Everyone, including Miranda, appeared to be enjoying themselves so it came as a small surprise when she asked the group to excuse her and her staff for a few moments for some 'shop talk'. Andy made to step away but was stopped by the sudden touch of Miranda's fingers on her wrist. Turning back to the smaller woman she raised an eyebrow questioningly.
When the other hangers-on had moved away Miranda turned to Nigel and Emily and requested they fetch drinks. Nigel took his cue and, taking Emily by the elbow, suggested they take in the exhibit on their way to the main bar across the Great Hall. Miranda and Andy were suddenly alone in a throng.
Andy instinctively knew any chance she and Miranda were to have would have to be a partnership of equals. Perhaps not in corporate power or money, but an equal partnership in trust and mutual respect. Andy suspected Miranda hadn't seen much of either in the recent past. She took a deep breath and took her first step toward what she'd dreamed of for the past year and a half.
"Miranda, you look marvelous tonight. Valentino outdid himself." A warm flush spread over Miranda's chest at the quiet comment.
"Yes, Il Maestro exceeded my hopes in every respect. Speaking of exceeding expectations, your choice of eveningwear is certainly unique. What prompted it?"
"I'm afraid you'll have to blame your Fashion Director. It was his idea."
"Why on earth would he dress you in a tailcoat?"
"I believe his decision was based both on the fact that I'd lost a bet with him and on the hope that the outfit might… please… someone special." Andy's voice had dropped to a husky purr by the end of the sentence.
"Really?" The blue eyes opposite Andy sparkled in amusement. "Well, it's not totally unfortunate, I suppose. At least you had the sense to get it properly fitted. Armani?"
"Yes. Vincenzo and I are now engaged. I've never been that intimate with anyone without sex being involved in some way."
The corners of Miranda's mouth quirked upward in a near-smile. Unthinking, Andy touched her hand and said softly, "You have a beautiful smile when it's genuine, Miranda. You should do it more often."
"Should I? And why would I do that?"
"Because you're even more beautiful when you smile. And you deserve to be happy enough to want to smile." Andy's eyes pleaded with Miranda to understand how much she felt. How much she cared.
Miranda's eyes widened in surprise and the near-smile became a real one, full of the warmth that Andy's eyes had longed for. Then, suddenly, her expression hardened.
"Oh, no. It's Councilman Blaine. He wants me to champion one of his pet projects in the Bronx. I've turned him down twice already and he isn't happy about it. The man simply will not take no for an answer. Do something, Andréa. I don't wish to have a scene here."
"Then come with me."
Andy slipped her hand onto the small of Miranda's back and gently ushered her toward the terrace and its relative quiet. Andy thought her palm might blister from the heat coming off Miranda's body. Instead of pulling away as Andy had expected Miranda moved closer to her, giving Andy's touch a very proprietary feel as if they belonged together. Miranda's scent swirled around them as they passed through the opened french doors and onto the terrace, leaving Andy a touch light-headed.
They moved to a small out-of-the-way bench to one side of the terrace, away from the worst of the foot traffic. Andy was pleased to see Nigel and Emily taking up intercept positions to keep unwanted company away.
"Would you like something to drink, Miranda? Champagne?"
"No, thank you. The Museum trustees must be guarding their endowments; they're serving a mediocre Möet. I much prefer Veuve Clicquot…"
"… Grande Dame. Yes, I know." Andy smiled at the memory of Miranda mentioning how exquisite the special reserve vintage was. Her brain deserted her momentarily and she murmured softly, "You look so beautiful, Miranda. Not that you don't usually look amazing – but tonight you've eclipsed us mere mortals. Tell me, how do you get a retired Valentino to conjure you a vision? Because the dress you're wearing is simply magical."
Miranda smiled at her again, this time a bit wryly.
"Magical it may be; insulating it is not."
She gave a small shiver in the cool evening air. Again, Andy acted on instinct; shrugging out of her tailcoat, she stepped behind Miranda to slip it over her shoulders. As she did the backs of her fingers brushed softly across the delicate skin of Miranda's upper chest and Miranda leaned back against her, drawing the coat more closely around her as Andy rested her hands gently on her shoulders.
"Is that better?"
"Very much, thank you. You're certainly very courtly this evening."
"My mother raised me right. Although I must admit she kind of skipped over the 'give a beautiful woman your coat when she's chilled' part. I think that came from the 'we're going for a kind of Gary Cooper thing tonight' advice Nigel gave me."
Miranda's answering laugh was musical on the evening air. "Yes. Nigel. I believe he has been a bit Machiavellian about tonight. Whatever are we going to do about him?"
Andy's fingers squeezed her shoulders gently. "I, for one, plan on offering daily thanks for his friendship."
Miranda's cool fingers entwined with Andy's and she leaned back fully into the young woman's warmth with a soft sigh. Her response was almost inaudible.
"I believe I will too."
When Miranda's fingers had touched hers Andy thought her knees might give way. They might have had not she been totally focused on the gentle weight of Miranda leaning against her. Nothing in her life had ever felt as wonderful.
Then Miranda's fingers found and traced the fresh pink scar on the base of her thumb. Gently caressing it, she murmured "Is this where you cut yourself saving the child?"
"Yes. On the window getting out of the SUV."
Miranda gave a mirthless laugh. "My life span would be considerably lengthened if you would refrain from frightening me like that again."
"I'll do my best. I wasn't thinking too clearly right then – all we could hear was the baby crying and the flames melting the paint. It pops as it melts."
Miranda's brain was swirling with unanswered questions, fears and desires. Andrea's fingers felt like the only anchors her emotions had as they tumbled in indecision. Would the joy of their time together outweigh the agony Andréa's inevitable departure? Miranda wasn't sure she knew how to make a relationship work even if she desperately wanted this one to. Tears welled as she pressed her lips against the newly-healed wound.
Andy's heart nearly stopped when Miranda turned her head and pressed a soft kiss on the sensitive scar tissue. She gently stroked Miranda's cheek with her thumb and was rewarded with a soft sigh and the press of Miranda's cheek into her palm. Another moment passed and hot lips pressed a fevered kiss on it. She felt the momentary touch of Miranda's tongue and her fingers tightened on Miranda's shoulder. Her breath caught in her throat as Miranda's breath swept over her hand.
"Miranda… what are we doing?"
"I don't know… I don't care. I feel alive for the first time in so long. Because you're here. I don't want to lose that." Miranda choked back a sob as she forced herself to speak from her heart.
Andy released her shoulders and sank onto the bench beside her. Hesitantly, almost fearfully, Miranda met her gaze. To Andy's surprise the vivid blue eyes shimmered with unshed tears.
"Please don't leave me again." The raw pain in that whisper seared Andy's soul.
Now it was Andy's turn to feel tears well. "Oh love, I won't. I won't. I'm so sorry for that. But I know as surely as I know anything that I had to leave you so I could find my way back to you. We had to part so we could come together. Here. Now. You're my heart, Miranda, I can't live without you." Blindly Andy entwined her fingers with Miranda's and clasped them tightly.
And then Andy Sachs did something she had never dreamed she could do. Summoning all her courage and guided only by her heart, she rose to Nigel's challenge and reached out for what she had yearned for all these months. Ignoring the people, the babble of conversations, everything but the woman before her she leaned forward and placed the softest of kisses on Miranda's lips. She drew back and paused, a whisper away. Now the choice was Miranda's. Any future they might have hung on that simple fact.
Miranda, for her part, was terrified by the emotions surging within her. She knew the unspoken question Andréa was asking when she drew back from their kiss and paused. Pushing down her fears and the pain of her past, Miranda reached out too.
Acting on her hopes alone she closed that infinitesimal gap and kissed the woman she loved.
Nigel hadn't been exactly watching the two women across the terrace, but he had kept them in the corner of one eye. When he saw Andy lean forward and kiss Miranda he wanted to let out a whoop of joy. When he saw Miranda kiss her back he was tempted to leap to his feet and cheer. Thankfully, he restrained himself, merely turning to the stunned Emily, who had been watching the two women across the terrace, and verbally dragging her back to reality.
"I think you'd better call Roy. They probably won't be staying much longer."
Grumbling, Miranda's primary assistant complied but it was obvious she was put out by the events unfolding on the secluded bench and the questions she was hissing at Nigel were becoming more pointed.
"Emily, I know you don't approve, but even you can't deny there's always been something between those two."
"Well, of course there has. I'm not bloody blind, am I? I just can't understand why Miranda would waste herself on Andy Sodding Sachs. She still eats carbs for God's sake!"
"Yes, she does. But she also runs four or five times a week so she's still a size four. Face it Emily, Miranda wants her so you'd better get used to having her around."
"So, I take it I have you to thank for this new nightmare in my life?"
"Not completely, But I did nudge the principals in the right direction. Who knew I'd be such a good yenta?"
The subjects of his comments were still sitting beside each other holding hands and gazing in somewhat stunned disbelief at each other. Neither of them had quite managed to wrap her head around the fact that the object of her desires was not only sitting very close to her and holding her hand, but had just kissed her most delightfully in the middle of the Museum of Natural History's terrace. No matter that half of New York society was within a hundred feet of them.
Andy wondered just how much longer she could continue to behave in a civilized manner when every molecule in her body wanted nothing more than to discover what Miranda was wearing under that magical dress. Finally, in desperation, she said the first thing she could think of.
"Miranda, I still need to file my story tonight."
Miranda gazed at her steadily then gracefully rose to her feet still holding Andy's hand.
"Yes. We've been here long enough. Let's go."
The two women nodded to Emily and Nigel on their way back inside. As they re-entered the Great hall, Miranda slid the coat from her shoulders and handed it back to Andy who shrugged into it, now surrounded by Miranda's scent from its fabric.
At the checkroom Andy retrieved Miranda's wrap and helped her on with it. They bid good night to Barney and several bystanders and headed out the Museum entrance. Emily had timed her call perfectly and Roy and the Mercedes glided to a stop at the curb just as Miranda and Andy began to descend the Museum steps. By the time they'd reached the end of the red carpet, Roy was holding the back door for them. Andy handed Miranda into the car and then walked around and climbed in the other side.
Miranda fastened her seat belt and asked quietly, "I assume you'll need to file from home?" When she was belted in she immediately sought Andy's hand; needing some secure mooring to convince herself she wasn't dreaming.
"Yes, my computer's there. Roy, do you remember where I live?"
"Yes, I do. We'll be there in just a minute."
Miranda looked confused for a moment until Andy said softly, "I moved to the Upper West Side seven months ago. I live just around the corner." Both Andy and Roy were true to their words and the silver town car slid to a stop in front of Andy's in mere minutes.
Even with the slide down Roy couldn't make out the murmured exchange in the back seat.
"Will you come up? Whatever this is, I don't want it to end yet."
"Neither do I."
Andy pressed a kiss on Miranda's hand and got out of the car. As she opened Miranda's door she was simultaneously thrilled and terrified to hear Miranda tell Roy she wouldn't need him anymore that night and would call him tomorrow.
She's going to stay! Oh, thank you, God. And God? Please don't let me screw this up. She deserves somebody to love her and take care of her. Please let me be that person.
Andy handed Miranda out of the car and closed the door. They climbed the front steps of Andy's building slowly in deference to Miranda's dress, Andy gently holding her elbow as they did. Roy didn't pull away until they were safely inside the foyer.
"There's a very small service elevator in the rear if you'd rather."
"I don't mind the stairs."
Slowly, easily they made their way up to the third floor simply enjoying the knowledge that very soon they could be together away from the rest of the world. At the top landing Andy unlocked her door and ushered Miranda into her home. The editor looked around with interest.
"Your flat is lovely, Andréa. It suits you. But I have a bit of difficulty picturing you decorating it."
"Well, then you're right on the money. My mom decorated it. She's got the family talent for that. I'm hopeless but at least I can appreciate her efforts. Can I get you something?"
"It's a bit late for my usual coffee. A cup of tea, perhaps? If that wouldn't be too much trouble?"
"None at all. In fact, I'll make a pot for us both. I can use some while I try to write my piece."
Andy put the teakettle on to boil and then showed Miranda the rest of the apartment, explaining how she and Lily had happened across the flats and how her parents and her Gran had helped her make it a home. They finished the tour in the den as the kettle began to whistle.
Andy excused herself and went back to the kitchen to make their tea. She quickly arranged everything on a tray and carried it back into the den to find Miranda sitting on the sofa, thumbing through a magazine with her shoes off and her feet tucked under her. Andy had never seen a more enchanting sight.
She set Miranda up with her tea, slipped out of her tailcoat and vest (and hung them up as Nigel would have ordered) and taking her notebook and pen from the inside pocket, grabbed her own cup of tea and booted up her laptop. She pulled her suspenders off her shoulders, removed her cufflinks and rolled up her cuffs as she waited for the computer to fully come to life.
She sat at her desk, kicked off her shoes and thumbed through the pull quotes she'd gathered that evening, sipping her tea as she formulated the structure of her feature lede. Then she logged into the Mirror's composition system and went to work. Andy usually worked quickly as she had the ability to 'see' her article's structure in her head as she crafted them. But tonight she kept losing focus as her gaze was continually dragged away from her computer screen to the beautiful woman artlessly reading The New Yorker on her sofa. Andy blew out a breath in frustration.
"How the hell is a person supposed to write a feature article with you sitting over there looking like you do?"
Miranda responded with a glowing smile and a sweet, "Discipline, darling; a writer must be disciplined," before going back to her magazine. Andy wanted to bang her head on the desk but settled for gritting her teeth and wrenching her focus back to her work. But, despite her best intentions, it did not last long.
"Miranda, would you like some more tea? Are you warm enough?" Andy's palms suddenly got a little sweaty at the thought of what would most likely happen when she could devote her complete attention to Miranda.
Miranda put the magazine down and leaned over to put her cup and saucer back on the tray. "No, I'm fine." She rose gracefully from the couch. "Is there somewhere I can freshen up?" She bent down and picked up her evening pumps.
"Yeah, use the master bathroom. There's most of the Clinique line in there if you want. The face towels on the shelves next to the sinks are clean and there's a new toothbrush in the top drawer. I'll join you in a minute; I'm almost finished here."
Miranda seemed to float as she left the den and walked down the hall holding her shoes.
Finally, several eternities later, Andy filed her completed story and left it to the metro editor to deal with. Shutting down her laptop, she stood and stretched before closing her computer and turning off the lights in the den and living room. She popped into the guest room bath to quickly wash her face and brush her teeth then, trying to steady her breathing, she walked down the hall to the woman who had occupied her thoughts so much that evening.
Miranda was just coming out of the bathroom when Andy stepped through the doorway. For a long moment the two of them just looked at each other, both still trying to convince herself that she wasn't dreaming. Finally, Andy broke the spell and crossed the room.
"Miranda, I know this is sudden and that we have a lot of things to deal with, but…"
Miranda hushed her with a finger laid tenderly on her lips. "You're quite correct, Andréa. As you say, we have many things to speak of. And we will… tomorrow… over breakfast. A late breakfast, I hope. Because right here, right now, what you need to do is kiss me. Before we lose our nerve."
Andy's hands found Miranda's waist and she gently pulled the smaller woman close. She marveled at the softness of the lips she touched with her own. At the sweetness of their kiss.
As she drew back Miranda's hands swept up to her shirt and gently untied her tie. She casually tossed it over her shoulder onto a chair and began popping loose the studs on Andy's shirt. When she'd unfastened the top three closures she pulled the stiffly starched plackets of the shirt apart and very slowly leaned forward to press a hot, wet kiss on Andy's breastbone. As she pulled back and looked up at her lover her hands moved up the front of the shirt, over the slender neck to cup Andy's face in both palms. Miranda looked at her hard for a long moment and then without hesitation or fear or caution she kissed Andy Sachs like Andy Sachs had never before been kissed. Her lips left no doubt that Andy Sachs was loved beyond measure.
Andy's head swam and all her previous nervousness was forgotten as she clasped Miranda to her and lost herself in the feel of the woman in her arms. Her blood pounded; she could hardly breathe for wanting Miranda. She could not hold her closely enough, could not taste her enough and could not feel the wonder of Miranda pressed against the length of her enough. Her hands drifted over the back of the dress onto the incredibly soft skin of Miranda's bared back. The soft moan from deep in her lover's throat told Andy the effect her hands were having and she swept them down Miranda's back to the swell of her hips pulling her even closer. Miranda responded by snaking her arms around Andy's neck and deepening their kiss until they broke apart, gasping.
Pulling back slowly from their embrace and turning within the circle of Andréa's arms, Miranda whispered, "Unzip me please, darling," in a voice roughened by desire.
Andy reached out with a trembling hand and slowly tugged the zipper pull down its full length. Miranda wore no bra beneath Valentino's creation and now clasped its bodice across her bosom. Turning back to face Andy and taking a half step back, she allowed her arms to fall to her sides leaving herself nude to the waist. Andy couldn't breathe. All she could do was drink in the vision before her, thinking that not even Botticelli could have captured the beauty of Miranda adequately.
"I know I'm not a young woman any longer, darling, but…"
This time it was Andy's finger on Miranda's silken lips that halted her words. Eyes glittering with want Andy gazed at her and murmured "I have never seen anything more beautiful in my life," then dropped to her knees and gently eased the dress over Miranda's hips. Miranda steadied herself with one hand on Andréa's shoulder and stepped out of it. Andy rose and carefully laid it over the chair behind her then turned back to Miranda, now clad only in the briefest of lace panties. Her hands shook as she grasped the slender woman before her and drew her into another heated kiss.
This time when they parted Miranda's hands slid back to the studs of Andy's shirt and finished unfastening them.
"I believe you're overdressed," she husked with the sexiest smile Andy had ever seen. Andy's trembling hands tore her shirt off as Miranda unfastened her trousers and slid them over her hips to pool around her feet. Andy stepped out of them and kicked them aside with her foot as she flung her shirt in the general direction of the chair.
Stepping away from Andréa and smiling as she tsked, Miranda picked up the discarded clothing and reverently folded them on the chair. "Nigel would be so disappointed in you, darling."
"To hell with Nigel," panted Andy, reaching for her again. Looking back on it, Andy could never remember exactly how they finished undressing each other or managed to pull back the duvet, but very soon she and Miranda were in each other's arms on the bed, kissing deeply and separated only by a sheen of sweat.
As Andy's hand explored the softness of Miranda's breast for the first time she realized why men could rarely keep their hands off women. Never had she felt softness like this, and the feel of Miranda's nipple as it hardened against her palm nearly drove her over the edge. The heat and weight and sheer feel of it in her hand was like a narcotic she could not get enough of. She tore her lips away from the sweetness of Miranda's mouth to place tiny butterfly-soft kisses along her jaw line and down the pulse point of her throat. Not hesitating, Andy kissed her way onto Miranda's chest and was finally rewarded with her first close view of her beloved's breasts.
The faint blue veins around the pink areoles seemed to point the way to her heart's desire. Andy took a long moment to blow softly across the closest one and was dimly aware of Miranda's answering gasp before she gently took the pink bud in her lips. The tip of her tongue brushed across the tender nub and Miranda shook and cried out softly. Andy felt it pebble as her tongue laved it again. Unconsciously, Andy worked her thigh between Miranda's legs and the wetness that coated it gave ample testimony to Miranda's state of arousal. But instead of passion the realization caused internal panic.
I don't know what I'm doing! I've never made love to a woman before. I don't know how to please her or to make her… Hold on, hold on! Okay, so you've never made love with a woman, so what? You're a woman and so is she. You know how you'd want someone to make love to you. Just think of how you'd want it done and do that to her. How could that be wrong? The details you can work out between the two of you. She's Miranda, for God's sake; she'll let you know if she doesn't like something. Now relax; you love the woman, show her how much.
Andy took a deep breath and returned her attention to the task at hand. She always enjoyed it when her lover sucked on her breasts so she gently drew Miranda's nipple deeper into her mouth. She was rewarded with a moan and a surge of Miranda's hips against her thigh. She knew that was a good sign and, remembering mornings waking up with one side tender and the other not, she slowly kissed her way over to the other breast and paid it equal attention. Miranda's hands wove through her hair and pulled Andy's face more tightly against her as Andy continued stroking her with her tongue over and over.
Miranda was sure her head was going to explode if her blood pounded any harder. The gentleness of Andréa's touch aroused her as she had never before been aroused. She had become accustomed to the rougher attentions of her husbands and the softness of the woman she held dazed her. For the first time in her adult life Miranda Priestly understood the difference between just having sex and making love. And, now knowing the difference, she marveled at how she had lived without it for so long. How she, the woman who never 'settled' for anything in her professional life had been so willing to accept the mediocre in her personal one. Never again.
It had taken all her courage to get to this point. She'd almost felt nauseous when she had quietly told Roy that she would not require him further that night. What must he have thought? But she had persevered and allowed Andréa to escort her into her home and her bed with little resistance. And now all she could think about was how wonderful the girl felt in her arms and if maybe, just maybe, she had finally found a lover that she could let go with. That she could trust completely. A lover she could be vulnerable with who wouldn't use it against her. A lover strong enough to let her be weak, to need; to protect her and shelter her and keep her safe and warm in their bed. The lover she had dreamed of so many, many nights.
She gave a strangled gasp as Andréa's fingernails dragged down her abdomen to briefly tease the crisp curls at the juncture of her legs. And then there was nothing but sensation and need and want as they drifted down into her wetness and began to gently stroke her.
"Oh, God, yes! Oh, please… don't… don't stop…"
"I won't, love, I won't. Is that good? Do you like when I touch you like that?" The words whispered over her moist nipple were almost as arousing as the fingers slipping through her wetness.
"Yes, oh God, yes! I want… I…"
"What, love? Tell me. Tell me what you want."
"Your mouth… suck harder. Please, harder. I want to feel your… ohhhhhhh…"
Miranda's hips began to move in sync with the languid strokes of those fingers as Andy sucked the hardened nub deeply into her mouth and gently closed her teeth on it. She began to stroke it with her tongue again and felt an increase in the wetness on her fingers in response. Miranda began to moan with each breath and the rhythm of her hips grew faster and slightly erratic as Andy increased the pressure of her fingers. She shifted her hand slightly and stroked with her thumb as her fingers slipped through the slick folds to find the source of that copious wetness.
Slowly, she eased one finger inside and began to stroke the internal walls as her thumb stroked the sensitive bundle of nerves. Miranda could form no coherent words; only gasp her pleasure as her need rose higher and higher. But Andréa seemed to know what she needed. A soft whimper brought a firmer touch and the introduction of a second finger inside her. A moan as her hips thrust faster caused the mouth suckling her breast to do so even more firmly and Miranda's desire spiraled out of control as she writhed and moaned and gasped and sought her release.
Her hands fluttered on Andréa's head and she moaned her need when the hot mouth on her breast suddenly left her. But a moment later those marvelous lips kissed the shell of her ear and that desire-roughened voice whispered into her ear.
"That's right, love. Just let go. Let go and come for me. Come for me, darling. I've got you; I won't let you go…"
Her frenzy grew for a moment more, then Miranda's body stilled for an instant and exploded in orgasm. Her belly rippled with the force of the internal contractions around Andréa's fingers and she sobbed her lover's name as the waves of ecstasy washed over her.
Andy continued to stroke her until the spasms subsided, then gently eased her fingers out and wrapped the still-trembling woman in her arms. She whispered soft reassurances and loving nonsense as she reveled in the wonder of Miranda in her arms. Miranda, for her part, could only clutch Andréa to her as she trembled and tried to catch her breath. As she began to regain her senses, she became aware of the trembling caresses being lavished on her and the fact that Andréa's voice was still harsh with need. Taking a deep breath she raised her head and looked deeply into those dark brown eyes. She saw want and desire reflected in them.
Raising herself up on one elbow, she leaned over and gently kissed the woman who had brought her such pleasure. Andréa's lips were demanding and her breathing quickened as Miranda allowed one hand to drift softly across her breasts.
"I think someone needs me to pay attention to them," she murmured against the soft lips.
"I…I'm sorry…I seem to be… in a bad way for you…"
"Then let me take care of you, darling." Miranda dropped a last quick kiss on Andréa's mouth and then turned her eyes and her attention to her lover's breasts. She took a long moment to lick her lips and then, without warning, took a turgid nipple into her mouth. Andréa's entire body bucked at the touch of her mouth and she moaned her desire.
"I need you to… to touch me… below…"
Miranda's fingers tracked quickly down her lover's abdomen and into her slick folds. Instinctively her fingers found what they sought and Andréa surged against her, hips thrusting in a primal rhythm. It was only a matter of moments before Miranda felt her gasp and shudder as she climaxed. Miranda decided on the spot that she had not had nearly enough time enjoying Andréa's body and that they would definitely be doing that again once they had both regained the ability to breathe. In the meanwhile, this seemed like a marvelous time to cuddle with her lover.
As she laid her head on the pillow, Andréa turned her head to look at her with slightly glazed eyes. "My God, Miranda. I thought I was going to explode! How can it be like this our first time together? I mean, I've never been with another woman; have you?"
"No, darling, I haven't. But I think you and I have a special affinity. While sex with my husbands was always adequate, I've never…" Miranda flushed pink as she sought the right words, "…it's never been like this for me before either. Never this intense."
Andy drew her close in the circle of her arms and they reveled in the warmth and intimacy they found together. Andy shyly confessed to her moment of performance anxiety and the solution her logical self had come up with. Miranda chuckled quietly and commended her on her excellent sense. Languid kisses and caresses kept them content as they regained their strength. Then Miranda began a caress with definite intent. As she kissed and nuzzled that wonderfully sensitive spot just below Andréa's ear, one hand lazed its way to her lover's breasts.
"I think you owe me a second round. You came far too quickly for me to be able to enjoy you. I'm entitled to as much fun as you had."
Andy groaned in mock complaint. "Aw, do I have to?"
Miranda gave a wicked laugh and a surprisingly good imitation of Emily. "Just lie back and think of England, dearie."
Andy's answering laugh quickly morphed into a gasp as, without warning, Miranda's mouth captured her breast. All Andy could do was wrap her arms around her and hang on for dear life as her belly clenched with desire. Miranda's hand began a wandering journey down her side and over her hip. It stroked down her thigh, tickled the back of her knee and began a careful exploration of the inside of her thigh, creeping ever higher.
There was ample evidence of Andréa's earlier arousal near the thatch of wiry hair where leg joined hip. Slowly, teasingly, her fingers worked their way through the tangled thatch and found their way back to the sex-slicked nodule they sought. Andréa's hips began to rock as Miranda's long, slender fingers worked their magic; her breathing became rhythmic gasps as Miranda's lips and tongue tormented her breasts.
Just as she was about to beg Miranda to stop, that her breasts were too sensitive, Miranda began to kiss her way down Andréa's belly pausing for a short moment to lick her navel before continuing south. Her fingers had never stopped stroking, dipping down to the well of moisture regularly to spread more on the throbbing nerve bundle. Andréa's entire being was focused on it and Miranda's hot breath blowing across it caused a strangled groan to erupt from her.
The silver-haired woman said nothing, merely continued to position herself between her lover's legs. When she had settled herself, she stopped that paralyzing stroking and, ever so gently, spread Andréa's nether lips to feast on the sight of her exposed sex.
"So beautiful…" she murmured as she buried her face in those intimate folds and began to lick where before her fingers had so gently stroked.
Andréa nearly shrieked when that hot mouth took possession of her most intimate places and her hips began a frenzied thrusting against the press of it.
Miranda slid her arms around Andréa's heaving thighs and held her as she thrashed, seeking some anchorage in the tumult of the sensations bombarding her. She clawed at the bedclothes and finally found purchase on the ends of the pillow beneath her head as Miranda's lips and tongue relentlessly drove her passion higher. Finally, nearly incoherent and panting, the growing pleasure filling her entirely; for one endless moment she hung on the precipice and with a cry tumbled over the edge and erupted in orgasm.
Miranda kept contact until the spasms slowed then, placing one last lingering kiss on Andréa's center, she kissed her way back up her body and took her lover in her arms once more. As she looked down at the trembling young woman she was overcome with a wave of tenderness at the sight of tears on her lashes. Softly, she kissed them away and settled the two of them together, wrapped snugly around each other.
Both of them marveled at their ease together. There was no awkwardness or hesitation. Perhaps they had left all that behind when Andy had left Runway. Perhaps it was because, in their time apart, Miranda had come to realize her role in their separation and Andy had grown enough to be a match for her. Perhaps it was neither; just a perfect moment in time when two lost souls found safe haven together. Whatever the reason, Miranda and Andy both knew they had come home.
Andy was engrossed in discovering the feel of Miranda. Her fingers caressed softly, gently seeking out sensitive places and learning her new lover's responses. Miranda, for her part, had never had a lover who enjoyed just being with her. Oh, they had enjoyed the sex and had mostly taken the time to insure she had shared in their pleasures, but none had ever been content to be with her afterward. To hold her and be close and share the tenderness and intimacy that sex could foster. Her first husband usually rolled off, kissed her quickly and was snoring in moments. Stephen hadn't been quite that bad, but claimed he did not enjoy sleeping with anyone and had taken himself down the hall to his bedroom afterwards. Well, given the evidence that had come out in their divorce, it was only her he didn't enjoy sleeping with, but that was moot since the decree.
Now, unbelievable as it seemed, she was here with a woman half her age that used to work for her. A woman who delighted in holding her after making love. A woman who didn't fall asleep or leave her; a woman who seemed to love the murmured words, the soft caresses, the intimacy. With her. A woman who wasn't rough or stubbly or sweaty; who was soft and smooth and tender. A woman who was stroking her breast and whispering how much she would like to taste her.
Miranda chuckled deep in her throat. "Darling, I'm twice your age. I'm not sure I can keep up with you." Andréa's lips brushed her ear and her tongue delicately traced its shape. Miranda's breath caught in her chest as her nipple pebbled under the warmth of that hand. "I mean, once is enough; I don't need…" Andrea's soft breath against the shell of her ear made her entire body pebble into goosebumps.
"How do you know that once is enough? Have you ever really tried? You're a passionate woman, Miranda. I don't think once is enough; I don't think once has ever been enough. And it's time you admitted it."
With that, she began a slow descent down Miranda's throat, featuring kisses and lingering licks with an occasional quick nip of teeth. By the time Andréa reached her breasts Miranda was trembling and breathing irregularly. Hot lips captured one while nimble fingers rolled the other between them causing a rather embarrassing rush of moisture between her legs. My God, I'm like a horny adolescent! Miranda could not recall ever being either this wet or this aroused in her entire life.
It quickly became apparent that she was capable of far more when Andréa's mouth left her breasts and teasingly traced a molten path down her abdomen. Miranda's hips ground against her and the wetness left in their wake left no doubt as to Miranda's state of readiness. Andy settled herself between Miranda's legs and, as the older woman had done, gently separated the outer lips and gazed in wonder at the beauty of her lover.
"Oh, Miranda…" was all she could whisper before she lost herself in those fragrant folds.
Her fingers slipped into Miranda's velvet interior as her lips suckled on the tender nodule outside. Miranda's mind deserted her, she could only gasp and moan and writhe as the sensations overwhelmed her. Her hands pressed Andy's head more firmly against her and she sobbed in her need, hips jerking wildly. Still Andy drove her higher and suddenly she cried out as her orgasm crashed over her.
Andy felt the spasms lessen and finally cease, but instead of drawing away, she continued to lavish her attentions on Miranda's sex and was rewarded when her partner began to moan and writhe again.
"What…what are… you doing… to me?" she gasped as her hands fluttered against Andy's head. Still, Andy's mouth devoured her, sucking and licking until once more Miranda exploded in ecstasy, crying her name.
Andy felt the gush of moisture and the contractions around her fingers as they gently thrust into her lover. Again, she did not stop and again, Miranda's desire rose. Andy brought her to the edge and then eased her back, over and over, until Miranda was frenzied with desire and need. Then, drawing the sensitive bud as deeply as she dared into her mouth and thrusting powerfully with her fingers, she brought Miranda to a shattering orgasm.
When the cries and shuddering spasms eased Andy gently withdrew and kissed her way up a motionless Miranda. As she leaned over her inert lover and softly kissed away the tracks of tears on her cheeks she felt Miranda begin to shiver as her eyelids fluttered open. Andy smiled and kissed her gently, gratified when she felt Miranda's lips feebly respond. She drew back and gazed and the trembling woman beneath her adoringly.
Miranda raised a shaking hand to Andy's hair and whispered unsteadily, "You're trying to kill me, aren't you?"
"No, my darling, I'm trying to love you the way you deserve to be loved."
Andy's smile warmed the darkest corners of Miranda' soul, and with an uncharacteristic sigh of contentment, she nestled deeper into Andy's arms. Andy pressed a kiss on the tip of her nose and then gently disengaged for a moment, drawing the bedclothes around them and turning off the bedside light. Settling back into the warmth and softness of the bed, she drew Miranda back against her marveling at the feel of the woman in her arms.
"Now what was it you were saying about once being enough?"
"Oh, do shut up, Andréa. No one likes a braggart," Miranda murmured against her throat.
"Yes, Miranda. And Miranda?"
"We're sleeping in tomorrow morning."
"Thank God. Good night, Andréa."
"Good night, love. Sleep well."
Sunbeams streaming in the skylight woke Andy the next morning and as her eyes blinked open she became aware of an unfamiliar weight across her midsection and thighs. Breaking into a radiant smile, she took a moment to pity all the unfortunates in the universe not lucky enough to wake up with a gloriously naked Miranda Priestly in their arms. A gloriously naked Miranda Priestly who was snoring adorably. Well, not a real drunk-as-a-lord-rattle-the-rafters snore. More like a soft, extremely genteel buzzing with each breath. Andy fell in love all over again.
The weight across her middle and thighs turned out to be the arm and leg Miranda had managed to wrap around her during the night. Andy sighed contentedly with the feel of Miranda's cheek on her shoulder and silver hair tickling her ear. Her small movement was enough to wake her bedmate though, and in a moment, Miranda hitched a breath and opened her eyes. She gave a small yawn and then propped her head up on her hand to smile sleepily at Andy.
"Good morning, love. Did you sleep well?"
Miranda blinked several times in the bright sunlight and dropped a quick kiss on Andy's lips.
"Very well. You?"
"I don't think I've ever slept better. It was very nice to wake up with you in my arms."
Miranda looked at her evenly and then took the next steps into the rest of their lives. "It was rather wonderful falling asleep in them as well."
Now it was Andy's turn to reach up and softly kiss Miranda. "I even loved the oh-so-ladylike snoring."
"Snoring?" Miranda reared back, eyebrow cocked almost to her hairline. "You're mistaken. I do not snore."
"Oh yes you do. And it's adorable."
"Don't be ridiculous, Andréa. You must have imagined it. I do not snore and I am certainly not adorable."
"Have it your way, but I know better on both counts." Glancing over at the bedside clock she realized they had succeeded in sleeping in. "It's nearly nine. Can you live without coffee until we shower or am I going to have to wash my face real quick and jog to the nearest Starbucks for your usual latté?"
Miranda's eyes lit up at the mention of the coffee shop but she realized that demanding Andréa rise from their bed to go out for lattés on their first morning together might be just the tiniest bit… much. Although it would be just payback for the snoring crack. But in the interest of domestic tranquility, she opted for showers and home-brew.
"I can live without coffee for a short while yet. Frankly, I'm surprised you would still remember the order."
Andy hooted at that one. "Remember the order? Sweetie, if I live to be one hundred I'll still remember your Starbucks order. One no-foam, skimmed latté with an extra shot and three drip coffees with room for milk. Searing hot."
Miranda's eyebrow arched in appreciation. "Hmmm. Perhaps I should have you dash out for some if you still know it that well."
Andy pulled her close again and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. "That won't be necessary. I have everything we'll need to make that exact order in the kitchen. Doug's housewarming present to me was a De'Longhi Magnifica and Doug, Lily and I took a barista class at Starbucks' one weekend."
"The two-day civilian version of their Coffee Masters' course?" Miranda laughed gaily, "That's what the girls gave me for Christmas last year."
"So both of us can brew your drug of choice? That'll be convenient."
"Not to mention infinitely warmer on cold winter mornings."
"I don't suppose you've mentioned the fact that you're capable of brewing your own to your assistants?"
"Don't be silly, Andréa. If I brewed my own lattés they'd have nothing to do all day," sniffed Miranda. Andy could only laugh in reply.
Finally, getting control of herself again, she kissed Miranda and made to climb out of bed. "Why don't you stay here for a few minutes more while I shower and then you can jump in while I attend to our caffeine requirements?"
Miranda readily agreed and watched greedily as Andréa rose and walked, stretching to the bathroom. At the bathroom door Andy turned back to ask Miranda if bagels would suffice for breakfast and was struck dumb at the sight of the woman propped up on one elbow, bare shoulders peeping out of the rumpled bedclothes and her hair delightfully tousled. Andy decided on the spot that she would do everything necessary to wake to that sight for the rest of her life.
She closed the bathroom door, took care of biological necessities and turned on her shower. She was fortunate that her master bath had an oversized tub and separate glassed shower. She was just leaning back to rinse the shampoo out of her hair when she felt a draft of cold air that snapped her eyes open. They registered the sight of Miranda closing the shower door behind her.
"I decided that I preferred company to being alone."
"I see." Andy tried to blow the soap out of her eyes, failed miserably and then tried to wipe it away. "Shit. Hang on a sec." She closed them again and finally managed to rinse her hair and look at the woman lathering up under the second showerhead.
"Need some help with that?" she managed to wriggle her eyebrows suggestively. "Significant others are great at scrubbing all those hard-to-reach places." Miranda snorted and shook her head.
"I have no idea what I'm ever going to be able to do with you," she sniffed. "You may do my back."
Andy wasted no time in grabbing a washcloth, soaping it and enthusiastically smoothing it all over Miranda's dorsal side. She even elicited a pleased hum when her hands drifted south and gently soaped Miranda's behind. Just as she was debating whether she could get away with sliding them around to Miranda's front to see where that might lead, her lover turned and began to rinse the lather off her back. When she finished, she wrapped her arms around a delighted Andy and kissed her thoroughly as the hot water sluiced over them.
"Good morning. You have wonderful water pressure."
Andy laughed yet again. "Well, I suppose there are worse things to be told on your first morning with someone. Ummm…thank you?" She reached around Miranda and turned off the taps then slid open the shower door. "Hang on a sec and I'll grab you a towel."
A moment later they were both wrapped in thick bath sheets and Andy was using what appeared to be a chamois on her hair as Miranda looked on with interest.
"What exactly is that?"
"It's a microfiber towel. It's one of those super-absorbent towels like competitive divers use to dry off. It really helps when you have long hair. It usually takes forever to dry but with one of these it's lots quicker."
Miranda nodded absently, mentally blocking a feature on "Grooming Aids You've Never Thought Of" and deftly went to work on her iconic hair with Andréa's blow-dyer.
Andy quickly finished with her hair, ran a comb through it and pulled it back in a ponytail. She had just told Miranda to help herself to anything in the closet when there came a familiar pounding on the door.
"Damn! That'll be Lily. I'll get rid of her as quickly as I can. Will you be all right in here until I do?"
"I'll be fine. Go."
Andy quickly pulled on a pair of jeans and an oversized t-shirt and walked down the hall to the door. She checked the outside hallway through the peephole and then opened the door to her oldest friend.
"Hey girl! I brought your papers. What took you so long to answer the door?"
"I just got out of the shower. You're lucky I'm not dripping on you. What's up?"
"Ruth and I want a debriefing on last night." Several quiet sounds from the direction of the master bedroom made her glance down the hallway and then back at Andy. "Your special Barney Edition in the metro section looks great, by the way. Hooker got some terrific photos. Anyway, Ruth said that if you'll make the coffee for everybody she'll make eggs and… and… and…" Lily's eyes glazed over and her jaw dropped as she looked over Andy's shoulder down the hallway.
Andy had a pretty good idea what had struck her friend mute but turned to check just the same. She was treated to the sight of her lover sauntering down the hallway wearing only the still-starched evening shirt from the night before.
Miranda strolled up to them, wrapped one arm around Andy's waist and purred, "Shall I put the coffee on, darling?" Andy nodded with a grin as Miranda disengaged and padded into the kitchen.
"I assume you have fresh, premium-quality beans? Good. And Lily? ...it is Lily, right? Since you and Ruth will apparently be joining us and you're already dressed, go pick up some fresh bagels and cream cheese for us, why don't you?"
Lily did what every other person had done when commanded by Miranda Priestly: she capitulated unconditionally. "Uh… yes, Miranda."
And, as she walked into Andy Sachs' kitchen to organize their morning coffee, Miranda set about making sure Andréa's friends knew precisely with whom they would be dealing. It was done effortlessly with a cool gaze, a cocked eyebrow and a quiet…