Andy sat with her legs curled beneath her on a midnight-blue, overstuffed chair, a fluffy Sherpa blanket covering her legs and a book opened on her lap. She could feel the welcome heat from the fireplace and hear the rhythmic snapping of the wood, soothing her as she gazed out the window at the falling snow. It muted the traffic, the sounds of the city, even the sounds within the townhouse.
It boggled Andy's mind to think about how merely two weeks ago, she walked away from Runway, from Miranda, from her feelings and sat in a Parisian café, crying. Yet, Miranda found her, wiped away her tears, and brought her back. Back to the Parisian hotel. Back to the dizzying world of fashion. Back to Runway.
As promised, Miranda had opened up to her, revealing the details of an attempted coup and how she maneuvered to retain her position as editor-in-chief, at the cost of Nigel's new position. She allowed Andy to see her motivations, her fears, even her bitterness at knowing no one would understand or approve of her decisions.
And she never asked Andy for anything other than to stay in her life. To not run away again. To listen and watch and feel. Miranda gave Andy the gift of seeing behind her Runway persona and unveiling the harsh realities she faced when making hard decisions others might not understand.
Certainly, Andy hadn't understood until she had all the facts. She knew most people would condemn Miranda for her actions. That no longer included Andy. Nor did it include Nigel, who lost his dream job. He knew even when it happened that it was not meant to hurt him. He knew the woman behind the façade regretted having to remove him from his new venture. And now Andy did, too.
Refocusing on the snow, she felt a thrill shoot through her. This was the first proper snowstorm she'd experienced while living in New York. She had fond memories of playing in the snow while growing up in Ohio, of sledding and ice skating and throwing snowballs and constructing snowmen. More than the activities, though, Andy remembered the feeling of wonder she felt when she first saw the unbroken, pure white blanket stretching across the land. The feeling of excitement to be the first person to jump into a snow drift and gather some in her mittens to form the perfect snowball. She equated snow with freedom and wonder and new beginnings.
She loved the snow.
The girls were upstairs, enjoying their first day of winter break. Andy had opted to remain in New York instead of flying to Ohio to spend Christmas with her parents. It was an easy choice. Although Miranda did not say anything, fear had shown brightly in her stormy blue eyes when they discussed the holidays. She knew Miranda still feared she would leave and not come back. So, when Miranda extended an invitation to spend the holidays with her and the girls, Andy hadn't hesitated to agree. The kiss she received had expressed all Miranda could not say, and Andy's stomach warmed as she replayed that moment in her mind.
They were still in that nascent phase where she could remember every kiss they'd shared. The sweet introduction to Miranda's lips in that Parisian café. A more insistent goodnight kiss later that night in the hotel. Several delicious, demanding kisses—their desires merging as they made unspoken promises to each other—while in the town car before Andy was dropped at her apartment door once they returned from Paris. Last Wednesday night when Miranda surprised her with dinner when Andy delivered the Book.
That particular kiss had led to a retreat from the front door to the comfortable sofa in the den and uninterrupted kissing for twenty minutes. She'd tasted the texture of Miranda's lips, swallowed her moans, and explored every inch of her delicious mouth. Andy would have stayed that night if Miranda had asked, but with a world-weary sigh, Miranda had shown Andy to the door and bid her goodnight with a soft smile and shining eyes.
Even more disappointing, they hadn't shared more time together since then. Miranda had a schedule paced with her daughters' school activities, often overlapping with the typical end-of-the-year work responsibilities. All Andy had to keep her going were the heated glances she intercepted at work for over a week and fleeting touches when she delivered documents or coffee to Miranda. Most of those days Andy found herself roaming the city to complete Runway tasks since Emily had a broken leg, and when she delivered the Book, Miranda was at some work or school event.
It wasn't until this morning that Miranda called her into the office, indicating that Andy close the door for added privacy.
"Andrea, I owe you an apology."
Searching Miranda's razor-sharp gaze, Andy remained mute. She didn't understand what Miranda meant, and doubt began to gnaw at her stomach. Was she rescinding her invitation to spend the holidays with her and the girls? Was she sorry for the kisses they'd shared? Had she decided to reconcile with her husband instead of proceeding with the divorce? Her thoughts spiraled at a dizzying rate, a high-pitched ringing filling her ears.
Blinking several times, heat suffused her face at the look of concern she saw. "I'm sorry. What did you say?"
"Leave it to you to miss one of the few occasions upon which I have ever delivered a heart-felt apology." Miranda's voice was severe, but her lips quirked. Andy winced. "Where did you go?"
"I got lost in my fears, I guess." She shrugged. "I thought maybe you changed your mind about us."
Miranda leaned forward in her chair, cocking her head to the side as she stared at Andy. "On the contrary, I was apologizing for not making more time for us. Or really, any time for us." She sighed. "The truth is, I miss you. Will you come over tonight? Stay through the holidays? We have plenty of room, and our work obligations will slow down after today."
"Oh." Andy's face broke into a wide smile, her relief palpable. "I'd love to. I'll dash home before the Book is finished to gather what I need."
Miranda waved her hand. "No, no. You will leave now and go directly to the townhouse. The girls will be home by the time you arrive, the Book will be delivered to me in two hours, and I will be home in time for dinner, which I hope you don't mind, I've arranged to be delivered." She stopped, a small smirk gracing her features. "How does that sound?"
Andy was sure she was levitating off the chair. Miranda had taken steps to arrange time for them to be together. In her home, with her daughters, without the constraint of prying eyes or too many deadlines. Nodding, Andy stood. "That sounds wonderful. I'll be waiting for you." She left the office before she gave in to the increasingly strong urge to kiss the woman, regardless of where they were or who might see.
And now she sat watching magical snowflakes sweep away the ugliness of the city, the unsullied snow like a paintbrush transforming the canvas into a new vision. It served as a gateway to new beginnings, a symbol of hope and purity, a nexus to a joyful beginning of what Andy hoped with all her heart would become a fulfilling relationship with Miranda.
In the back of the town car, Miranda leaned her chin on her hand, elbow on the side door, and patience on a fleeing angel's wings. She growled in the back of her throat, pushing her lips together to keep any vitriol from spilling out. The last thing she wanted to do was blame Roy for the delay. He was doing his best to deliver her safely, and she appreciated it. The snow was coming down fast, sticking to the roads and sidewalks and milling crowds.
There was nothing worse than snow in the city. Oh, it might look pretty, but it was dangerous. It ruined designer shoes and complicated commutes. A person could slip on the substance and get hurt. The snow hid everyday hazards, and once the temperature dropped, it turned into treacherous ice. She remembered her childhood when she had to trudge through the dirty slush, feet turning into blocks of ice and her face whipped by the pelting snow. Worse, after she made it home, she'd have to return outside to help her brother shovel it before their father returned home.
One of the best parts about wealth was never having to deal with that torture again. She didn't have to walk or even drive through such precipitation. She didn't have to shovel. She didn't have to worry about the risks it posed. And she was able to extend that privilege to her daughters.
Finally arriving home, Miranda's heart thumped pleasantly with the anticipation of seeing Andrea. She was staying through Christmas, and if Miranda was able to convince her, through the New Year. During that time, she was determined to make the woman hers in every way. She knew she would have to be vulnerable and open with her, but she'd discovered that it wasn't a scary prospect. Not with her Andrea.
The stairs were already shoveled, a light layer of snow all that remained, and Miranda made her way into the house with careful steps. She took off her outerwear, huffing as the floor became wet. She saw a neatly folded towel on one of the side tables and smiled faintly. She was sure Andrea had anticipated her needs once again. After wiping the moisture away, Miranda kicked off her shoes and wandered into the den, heartened to see Andrea seeming so comfortable in her home.
Andrea was gazing out the window, the streetlight illuminating the snowflakes as they continued to cover the street. Her face lit up when she realized Miranda was in the room. "Miranda." Andy caressed the syllables, her voice breathy. "Isn't it beautiful?"
Confused, Miranda tilted her head. "What?"
Andrea pointed toward the window. "The snow."
"You like the snow?" Miranda peered at Andrea as if she were an exotic, rare bird.
"I love it. To me, it signals a new beginning. Everything is white and soft and pure and fresh." Andrea's dark brown eyes glistened. "It's a time to cuddle before the fire and count your blessings." She patted the space beside her. "And I'm finally with someone who can keep me warm, no matter how hard it's snowing outside."
Taking the hint, Miranda joined her on the oversized chair, humming when Andrea placed an arm around her waist and pulled her closer to share the blanket on her lap. It was cozy. Intimate. Peaceful.
"The children?" Miranda murmured, nuzzling behind Andrea's ear and reveling in the slight gasp she heard.
"Upstairs. They wanted to finish wrapping presents before you got home." Andrea twisted to wrap both arms around Miranda, lips parting as their eyes connected.
"You know," Miranda said, "I believe I might begin to love the snow. I never did before, but your words…they've wiped away all the reasons I had for not liking it."
"Like with the rain," Andrea said. "I used to hate the rain, but now I think of you each time, and it makes me smile."
Miranda leaned in to capture plump lips, feeling something settle within her. She took her time to reacquaint herself with the addictive taste and when the kiss ended, Miranda showered Andrea's face with loving pecks before settling back in the circle of her arms.
They watched the snow fall, the silence filled with a tranquility Miranda had never experienced before, and she knew that although they had so much to work out, she had no cause to worry. With Andrea in her home, in her life, in her heart, Miranda was certain of one truth: they could weather any storm together.