I have seen my fair share of the luxury hotel rooms while traveling with Miranda. The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago still baffled me. The size of it alone was enough to intimidate anyone. Well, not Miranda of course, who swept into the place like she owned it. It didn't surprise me one bit that the entire staff recognized her and catered to her as if she did own it.

As we rode up in the elevator I watched Miranda pull out her cell phone and tap at the screen with impatient fingertips.

"The girls?" I spoke quietly, not wanting to startle her as she seemed so far away in her thoughts.

"What? Yes." She handed the phone over to me. Add something from you after my text."

Oh wow. I blinked against the burning sensation behind my eyelids. I wasn't going to ruin anything by annoying her with tears. I didn't read her message, but wrote, "At the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago with your mom. We have rooms so high up I'm not sure I'll dare look out the window. Hope you two are having fun still! /Andy"

Miranda took the phone back and hit send without reading my message. As we stepped off the elevator, the bellhop was waiting for us, having already put our bags in the two-bedroom suite. Miranda's phone pinged as the young man left after I tipped him.

Reading what had to be the girls' text, she smiled and handed me the phone. "Read all of it. It seems to be addressed to the both of us." Miranda began unpacking her suitcase, something she normally had either me or the hotel staff do. I wondered if this unusual change in her routine was part of the 'learning that we're equals' thing.

"Mom, you didn't say you're staying at the Peninsula. That's seriously cool. You mustn't force Andy to look out the window. She can get sick from vertigo and barf all over you. Close the drapes if she starts turning green. Andy, we know you always take good care of Mom. It's only fair she takes care of you now. Bye. /C&C

I stared at the message and then started laughing. Miranda gave me that look stating 'you think you're cute, don't you?' I honestly didn't, but the idea of a frantic Miranda yanking at the drapes for fear of me throwing up all over her was just too funny.

"Why don't you unpack and get settled?" Miranda clearly struggled to sound businesslike, but a persistent smile played at the corners of her mind. "I have a surprise for you."

"You do? For me?" Immediately I was torn between being excited, and fearing some super-pricy gift. Not that I'd think she'd ever shower me with diamonds or anything, but still.

"The feature editor was impressed with your work on the article you edited. She has something else for you to dig into. Unless you're tired?" She was teasing me now.

"I'm not. I'm fine. What is it?" I completely ignored my suitcase and bounded over to her, hugging her close. "She really liked it? Did you? Was it good enough?"

"Yes, yes, and yes." Miranda wrapped her arms around my waist. "She wants you to edit a short biography of one of our lesser known, but highly influential designers that passed away a month ago. It's not a eulogy, but a brief account regarding her importance to Runway in particular. Once you've edited this, Clair wants you to write some captions for the spread of the designer's best work. I want those captions to be meaningful, not just a list of what we're looking at. You understand?"

Editing and writing? Even if it was just captions, it was not just captions. It was writing no matter how you looked at it and Miranda had high standards. The highest standards in the fashion magazine business. I was speechless. At least for several seconds.

"I'm not going to let you down, Miranda," I said, knowing full well how intense I sounded. Preparing myself for her being jaded enough to shake her head at that, I could have wept when she merely adjusted my bangs and kissed me lightly.

"I know you're not. I have faith in your work ethic and abilities."

This was almost too much. Editing, writing, and amazing praise from Miranda. I was going to short circuit.

"I'm going to take a shower and then I'm off. Order anything you want from room service or use the restaurant if you want. I'm not expecting you to 'hide in the room the entire time' or how you put it. You're not my prisoner."

"Just your favorite kept secret?" I joked.

"Oh, that you are. Definitely my favorite." She gave me a smoldering gaze before cruelly leaving me to unpack. I heard the shower run in the biggest of the rooms. And now I was confused again. Should I unpack in the other room, to keep up appearances as maids and other hotel employees would enter the suite at times? I could always unpack in there, mess up the bed so it looked slept in.

I decided to follow my clever plan and unpacked into the dresser and closet in the smaller, but just as luxurious room. Eyeing the large window carefully, as I do loathe heights, I set my laptop on the desk for the time being. I couldn't wait to dig into the next assignment, but knowing myself well, I would end up on the couch with the laptop on my knees.

"Andrea?" Miranda stood in the doorway, dressed in a thick, white terrycloth robe. "I hope this is just for the sake of appearance?" She glanced at the closet and then the bed.

"Yes." I found it increasingly easier to not feel presumptuous when I assumed we were on the same page. "I figured I'll ruffle the bedding after the maid has turned down the covers tonight."

"Hm. Good." Holding the rob together at her neck with her left hand, Miranda restlessly walked the fingers of her right hand up and down the doorframe.

"Anything I can help you with?" I asked out of habit, but meant it from a lover's point of view. I hoped Miranda could tell the difference as she was adamant that this was not a working trip for me.

"Actually. Yes. If you don't mind?" Miranda rolled her eyes. "The dress Nigel and I picked out…well, I don't know what we were thinking. There is no way I can fasten it in the back myself. I did wonder what Nigel meant when he said, 'you will figure it out'. Did he mean me, or you, or us?" Pursing her lips slightly, she looked only seconds from tapping her foot, which I took upon myself to stop.

"Nigel has a naughty sense of humor." I smiled gently. "And he knows about us, don't you think? After all, he was the one who alerted you to my situation. And he's seen us together. Now he thinks he's funny—and a bit cute, no doubt—but he doesn't mean anything by it." I framed Miranda's face with my hands, still a bit awestruck that I could do so. "And besides, you know I adore dressing you almost as much as I love removing your clothes."

Miranda gasped, her eyes widening before closing hard. "Andrea. Not helpful"

"Sure it is," I claimed. "Now, let me look at that dress. We can't have you gallivanting around Chicago half-dressed."

"Heaven forbids." Miranda returned my smile now, though shaking her head at the same time. "And just for your information, I never gallivant."

I begged to differ, but that was of course how you interpreted the word. I perused the dress that Miranda was going to wear and knew I was in trouble. Not that I couldn't put it on her, but how was I supposed to remove this dress and keep from ripping it to shreds? The color was very unusual for Miranda who normally stuck to the neutral color scheme, preferably black or navy. This dress was dark blood-red, spaghetti strapped, and with a long zipper in the back that ran from the top of her ass to shoulder blade level. This wasn't the problem with the dress from Miranda's point of view. It was the miniscule buttons along the zipper that would hide it once they were closed. I quickly estimated that there were more than forty buttons. I would have to really, really be careful when she got back tonight. Glancing at the label, I saw it was made by that new Swedish designer Miranda was so secretive about, Solveig Krona.

"This will look amazing on you. Nigel was right. You are one of very few that can pull off such a dress." I licked my lips. "This is a power-dress, for sure."

Miranda blinked. "Power-dress?"

"Yeah. The equivalent of a power-suit. Just more stylish and high fashion than that. Trust me. It's giving me oxygen problems." I ran my hand down the red dress. "What kind of makeup are you going for?"

"Classic. Winged eyeliner, red lips." Miranda spoke absent-mindedly as she followed my hand with her eyes as I felt the fabric again.

"Oh, God. I'm doomed." Groaning I closed my eyes, only to snap them open when Miranda took my hands in hers and pushed them in under her suddenly unfastened robe.

"What a ridiculous thing to say, darling," she purred. "Surely you're not that affected by a simple garment?" A wicked grin stretched her lips.

"The garment, no. The person inside said garment, you bet your sweet ass I'm affected by her. If I had my way, I wouldn't let you out of my sight, dress or no dress." I pressed my lips to hers, happy she was free of makeup right now. I parted my lips, getting ready to persuade her to let me in, when Miranda took me completely by surprise. Pivoting, she pressed me against the wall, right next to the closet door where she had hung the red dress. Pressing her knee in between my legs, she simultaneously pushed her tongue in between my half-open lips. Groaning, she kissed me for what seemed like an eternity, kneading my breasts and rocking her pelvis into my hipbone.

Pulling back just enough to speak, Miranda gasped between words. "You're driving…me crazy…Andrea. You say things…you do things…that makes me forget…where I am. Who I am. Damn you…"

I nearly lost completely cohesion in my knees. Clinging to Miranda, I tried to fathom what she meant. I drove her crazy. Well, she wasn't much better in that department. I made her forget who she was? What did that mean? "If it's any consolation, you do the same to me," I managed to say between kisses. "You—you are amazing. Beautiful. And I—I—" I wanted to tell her I loved her, but so much was still hanging in the balance—I just couldn't do it.

Perhaps Miranda understood. I think she did, because she merely nodded her head briskly and said, "I know, Andrea. Same here."

It was mindboggling enough. I held her tight and slowly the fire turned in to that comfortable, sweet slow-burning feeling I loved so much; where I felt utterly safe and that nothing could hurt me if Miranda held me like this, and regarded me with such softness in her blue eyes.

"All right, Andrea." Miranda kissed me tenderly. "Time for makeup and then the dress. This luncheon is going to be a nightmare. Too many people in one place." She cupped my chin. "And promise me you'll call if you hear…I mean, if you need me."

A cold icepick stabbed me superficially in the chest. I didn't want to think about the biopsy results. I wanted to be here when Miranda returned and peel the dress off her and take her to bed. "I promise," I said quietly.

"And everything will be fine. I can feel it." Miranda squeezed my hands again and reached for her beauty box. Sitting down at the vanity, she expertly did her hair and applied her makeup. Every now and then she glanced at me in the mirror where I stood frozen by the wall.

So much had already changed, most of it in a fantastic way, but a lot was still uncertain and I didn't think I was being overly dramatic when I interpreted the sensations in the pit of my stomach as pure fear. Shoving it back in the shadows again, I decided to merely enjoy Miranda's transformation from sultry lover to the Devil in Prada. There was a time when I wasn't sure which of her personas that made me weak at the knees. Nowadays, I knew without a doubt, it was Miranda the Lover that I would always love.


Continued in part 14