A/N – Many thanks to the lovely Jazwriter for the awesome beta job she did, even while busy with her own life, job, and writing! She's the best. Also, thanks to the others who read and commented on this story. I would start naming names, but if I do that I'll forget someone so I'll just say, you know who you are and thanks bunches! :) I have changed/tweaked things since then though so Jazzy or anyone else should not be held responsible for any mistakes found. Those are all my own.
Hope you enjoy!
Andy looked around the fancy restaurant and sighed to herself. She had wanted to go to Serendipity, but when Lily claimed the wait was too long to get in there so they chose this place instead. Lily had been pushing to come to this restaurant anyway because one of her favorite actors was spotted here three days ago. Lily constantly wanted to go to high profile places when Andy came to visit. All Andy really wanted to do was get a gyro from a street cart and visit with her friend, but Lily insisted on dining out at various places where, in her words, the elite of New York were seen. Part of it was that Andy had an expense account, and thanks to hard work, wise investments and an inheritance from her grandparents Andy's own pockets weren't exactly shallow. She couldn't really mind all that much though; her job was much too stressful and she needed the break from time to time. Coming to New York and spending weekends with her best friend was as close to a vacation as she could manage. Gone were the youthful days when a week or two on some island or another was not unheard of.
"So..." Lily Goodwin looked across the table at her lifelong friend. "How'd it go?"
"With the clients or the book?"
Andy expected the choice, Lily had never been interested in what she deemed "boring legal stuff". "They liked it, then they tried to get me to sign a bullshit contract. I was practically going to end up paying them money for publishing it! There are tons of legitimate places I can go if I want to do that." Andrea Sachs laughed at the memory. "I threw it back in their face and told them that if I saw anything come from them that even remotely resembled my work I would own them the very next day." She shrugged. "I have an early lunch appointment with another publisher tomorrow. We'll see how that goes."
"Okay... what about the other things? Your consults."
Andy could see that Lily was clearly, immediately, beginning to tune out the answer to her own question. The rambling about all manner of legal crap, as Lily had always called it bored Lily to death. She had always been very supportive and had said that the Lord knew Andy was the best civil lawyer like, ever, but she'd always complained that the day to day drudgery of being a lawyer was incredibly boring to listen to. Andy had listened to many a rant about her career choice. Apparently, according to Lily, if Andy would have been a criminal lawyer their chats could possibly hold her attention, the cases on TV looked interesting enough. Andy agreed, but admitted that that sort of work took its toll on a persons soul. She didn't deny that she could very confident and could be tough when she needed to be, but not all the time. Eventually Andy knew she would need some downtime or a job like that, working with or for hardened criminals, would break her.
Andy let out an exasperated breath and rolled her eyes. Her hand dropped to cover her friends. For half a second she thought about how different they were, Lily's dark skin contrasting with her own pale white. It was just that difference that had intrigued Andy when she was seven and the new girl had arrived in their second grade class. It was amazing to her that they had become and stayed friends for so long. "That was fine. The corporate guys were happy, semi-happy... I guess."
Lily's eyes went wide. "You broke it?" Her face became a mix of amazement and joy. "The Great Cincinnati Shark strikes again. Andrea Sachs... top of her class at Stanford Law, of course you could break a contract?! That's why they called you. They needed the best."
Andy sipped her drink and glanced around the restaurant again. It was nice, much nicer than almost anything they had in Cincinnati. "I suppose so. It was really ironclad other than that one tiny thing." She wished she hadn't had to tell them about it. The people she was consulting with were Grade A jerks and after meeting with them, she wished she could have let that one, teeny tiny loophole remain hidden where it was. It would screw whoever it was out of a job without costing the company nearly as much as the payout for simply breaking the contract would cost. Andy was still a little amazed at the document. It was nearly perfect. Her friend from Stanford hadn't given her any details, all she knew was that somewhere there was a person, most likely female if she interpreted the other attorney's comments correctly, fairly high in some organization and was about to get a very unpleasant surprise. She kind of felt sorry for, whoever it was. Oddly, instead of being happy that there was a way to break the contract, the group of attorneys seemed to deflate at the news. Like they already knew that, and were hoping she would find some other way.
"And the other one?"
"That client is a total jerk and there is no way he's going to be able to get anything out of his ex-wife." Andy's eyes narrowed. Thinking back on them, the prenup and the divorce papers she had examined now seemed very much alike. In fact, several of the phrases were worded identically. It was too specific to be coincidental. The same attorney must have drafted both of them. She'd never seen such an ironclad prenup before. She really wanted to meet the person who created it.
Glancing around the restaurant, Andy's dark eyes fell on a couple just entering. She watched as the host directed them to their table. Lily's laughter, all the surrounding noise really, faded into the background as Andy watched the couple, more specifically the female half of the couple, being seated. Lily's hand turning and squeezing hers brought Andy's attention back to her own dining partner.
Blinking, Andy looked up just in time to see their waiter carrying their meals to their table. "Oh good... I'm starving." She smiled at her companion, and scooped a bit of the rice and mushroom mixture from her plate onto her fork but even as she lifted the bite to her mouth, Andy's eyes strayed back to the woman who had caught her attention earlier. The elegant woman with the silver hair.
Miranda's lips expressed her displeasure. "Why are you only telling me this now, Keith?"
"Don't worry..." The man never looked up from his iPhone screen. "I'll go in tomorrow and see what they want. It's all smoke and mirrors. The divorce has been finalized for nearly two years."
"So you are meeting with Stephen's lawyers..."
The man nodded, eyes still on the tiny screen in front of him. "And Michael will meet with the ones from Elias-Clarke."
"What?!" Miranda tilted her head. "Why?"
He shrugged and did actually glace up this time. "Don't know. I'll find out tomorrow."
Miranda's blue eyes narrowed. Being attacked on two fronts was disconcerting. Irv Ravitz, the CEO of Elias-Clarke, had been trying to replace her as editor-in-chief of Runway magazine almost since she took over the position. Miranda decided that she wouldn't put it past Irv, the annoying little man, to recruit her ex-husband into one of his schemes to oust her. This could be very bad. She was extremely displeased with Keith. Her own attorney should have kept her far more informed than this last minute announcement of meeting plans. She would have words with Michael as well, but Keith was the most senior partner in the law firm. Michael would have to do what Keith told him. If they communicated much at all. She stewed about it all during the meal. The food here was lovely, but the lack of conversation caused her to feel as though she was dining alone. Not a completely unfamiliar sensation, but, she could have done that at home.
"Andy... Andy!" Lily shook her head when her friend finally looked at her. "Did you hear me?"
Nodding dutifully, Andy repeated the last words Lily had said even as her eyes traveled back to the table across the room. "Cubbyhole."
"Right.. We haven't been before but it's a place I think you'll like." Lily grinned, her teeth gleaming against her dark skin. "You may even decide to stay in New York for a few more days..." Shaking her head, Lily turned to see what had kept Andy's interest all through their meal. She immediately spotted the woman and groaned as she turned back to her friend. "Andy... no."
"What?" Andy shrugged and turned her attention to the edge of her napkin for a whole ten seconds, before she was drawn, again, to the silver-haired beauty.
"You know what!" Lily shifted to break Andy's line of sight. "She's old!"
Andy scoffed. "She's got white hair, Lily." Andy tilted her head to look around her friend. "But look at her. She's not old."
"She's fifty if she's a day."
"So what?" Andy shrugged. She pulled her phone from her pocket and pressed a few buttons then set it down on the table. "I'm thirty..."
"Exactly! Didn't you learn anything from that fancy college of yours?" Lily pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. "Do the math. She could be your mother."
Andy smirked. "I suck at math." She stood and tossed her napkin on the table. Grabbing her phone, she brushed past Lily. "Be right back."
Miranda pushed her plate away slightly. She had only finished about half of the small entree, but there was too much turmoil in her head to allow her stomach to work properly. Why on Earth would Stephen and Irv both be grumbling now? At the same time? It was too much of a coincidence to totally ignore. She tried to recall all the encounters she'd had with them in the last few months. Difficult because she normally tried to forget those instances as quickly as she could. Was it possible that Stephen and Irv were working together? Stephen was not that smart, but Irv, she would not put anything past Irving Ravitz. Glancing across the table, she sighed to herself as she viewed her most familiar dinner companion, the top of Keith's head. She wondered why he didn't just get that device implanted in his skull. At this point, and not for the first time, she contemplated doing exactly that for him, right here in the middle of their meal. Fortunately for him, he was the best attorney in New York. An unfamiliar voice pulled her attention away from her uncharitable, bordering on murderous, thoughts.
Miranda looked up to see a rather beautiful woman. That was nothing new; she saw beautiful women every day. Most of them were not dressed in Armani suits, but still beauty was nothing new to her. What was new was the warmth and what could only be described as desire that seemed to flow from this woman's dark eyes. There was an unfamiliar sensation gathering just below her navel and Miranda opened her mouth to speak, only to find that the woman was not, in fact, addressing her but had turned and repeated her comment to Keith.
"Excuse me, sir?" Andy granted him a tiny smile when the man finally looked up from his iPhone screen.
"I just wanted to thank you." She smiled a bit wider. "I thought we had some real asshats where I live, but now I see that the biggest asshat of them all lives in New York."
"I beg your pardon?"
"It's not me you should be begging to, mister." Andy gestured to Miranda. "You're sitting in the middle of a world class restaurant, with the most beautiful woman I've ever seen and you haven't even looked up from your phone for more than a minute the entire time you've been here."
"Of course I..." His comment was stopped by Andy holding out her own phone, the stopwatch app clearly visible with the time of fifty-four point eight seconds showing prominently.
"If I had the chance, I would never treat her like this." Andy now looked directly at Miranda and smiled a million-watt, client-winning, smile. "If I had the chance, I'd be hard-pressed to look at anything other than her."
"Now look here.." This time it was Miranda's quiet voice that stopped him.
"Keith." Miranda's ice blue eyes bore into him. "Why don't you go? You have those big meetings tomorrow." Her eyebrow quirked slightly.
"Right." He slowly nodded and stood. He did a sort of half bow to Miranda and pushed his chair back under the table. "Good night."
Miranda tilted her head in dismissal and only watched him take a few steps before she turned her attention to the woman who had driven him away. She studied the tall woman for a few seconds before she licked her lips. Her eyes never left the younger woman's as she used the toe of her shoe to push Keith's chair away from the table. She smirked, gesturing to the empty, waiting, seat across from her. "Here's your chance." She was incredibly charmed when the woman graced her with another brilliant smile, placed her phone face down on the table and slid into the vacant chair.
Andy held the woman's gaze for a full minute before her phone began to buzz on the tabletop.
"So." Miranda's voice held a hint of disdain. "Your charming words are negated nearly immediately."
Licking her lips, Andy never took her eyes off of the woman across from her. She picked up her phone and, without even looking at the screen, sent the call to voicemail.
"Aren't you even going to see who it was?"
Shaking her head, Andy smiled. "Nope, doesn't matter. I'll call them back later." The phone chimed to indicate a message had been recorded. Andy gestured to the device, again without taking her eyes off of her companion. "You see? I'll find out what they wanted later. Technology is very helpful sometimes." In fact Andy thought she knew who it most likely was and a glance over at Lily, who was just putting her phone away, pretty much confirmed it. Shrugging, Andy again waved as if to dismiss the phone. "It was probably just my friend confirming our plans for tonight."
"Ah..." Miranda's eyes narrowed slightly. "I am just something to do to pass the time until then?"
"Oh... something to do? Well there's an idea." Andy smirked at the light blush on the woman's cheeks. "But I don't believe you are 'just' anything."
"You are very forward."
"I suppose so." Andy shrugged. "It has served me fairly well in the past." Grinning at her companion, Andy raised her eyebrows. "Not quite forward enough, it seems."
"I have yet to introduce myself, or learn your name." Andy grinned as the older woman chuckled but remained silent on the subject. "Okay then, no names." Andy leveled her dark eyes on her companion. "I need to call you something though."
"Some people call me The Dragon Lady."
"Yeah?" Now Andy's eyes glittered. "I love dragons. I always have."
"And you?" Miranda tilted her head in question. "What shall I call you?"
"Well," Andy chuckled. "Some people call me The Shark." Lily did at least, as well as some of her college classmates which is where Lily picked up the name, so it wasn't that big a lie.
"Ah." Miranda sighed. "Pity."
"Mmmm..." Tossing her napkin on the table, Miranda stood. "Dragons and Sharks are not compatible."
Andy stood, grabbing her phone and sliding it into her pocket as she followed the woman out of the restaurant. She reached out, placing her hand on the older woman's elbow. "Can't we try?" They stopped at the curb, obviously waiting for a car. Andy stepped closer, now able to feel the heat radiating between them but the stubborn woman refused to look her in the eye. "Meet me tomorrow evening." Andy resisted the urge to drop to her knees and beg. This had started as a random meeting that Andy decided to take a bit further, but now she was truly upset that their time together was ending. "I have nine o'clock reservations at Annisa tomorrow night." She smiled when that got her a quick look and urged, "Join me?"
A car pulled up, obviously Miranda's ride because she shifted as she prepared to move toward the vehicle. Pausing after one step, Miranda answered the invitation, "I will... think about it."
Andy nodded. "Great!" She smirked. "I like the idea of you thinking about me."
Chuckling at that, Miranda looked directly into the young woman's eyes. "I doubt I will think of anything else this evening."
Bowing gallantly, Andy waved off the driver, opening the door for her short-time companion. "Until tomorrow night, my dear Dragon Lady. Sweet dreams."
Miranda settled herself on the seat and looked Andy up and down. "Indeed."
Andy reluctantly closed the car door between them. She watched as the vehicle pulled away from the curb and became lost in traffic. Only then did she exhale softly and verbalize the experience. "Wow."
Miranda watched the lights passing them by before closing her eyes and resting her head back against the soft upholstery. This evening had began quite normally. Keith's announcement regarding his meetings tomorrow was certainly disconcerting enough but then the rather baffling encounter with the confident woman was just amazing. It was not often someone came along that could catch her attention the way the young "Shark" had done. Miranda thought about the descriptor of young for the mystery woman. She certainly looked rather young, but her confidence and manner marked her as a bit more mature than her appearance indicated.
The car slowed and stopped. Miranda waited for Roy to open the door. Walking up the few stairs to her door, Miranda felt the depression settle over her. The dark house swallowed her up as she entered. It always did when the girls were not here.
Times when the girls were absent were always the worst for Miranda but she knew that she could not keep her children with her constantly. They really couldn't be called children anymore. At fifteen they were becoming young women. Sooner rather than later they would be out in the world on their own. Now was the last chance for parental guidance either from herself or from their father. They loved their father and adored spending time with him. He, of course, made that easy by taking them on trips that would be the envy of adults everywhere. He did not have the schedule that she maintained and was very flexible in his availability to the girls and his ability to travel. Right now they were snorkeling in Tahiti and would be for at least another four days. As the end of their vacation drew near she fully expected them to call and beg for a few more days, which of course she would grant. Not for her louse of an ex-husband, but she would do anything for her girls, even miss them for a few more days if it ensured their happiness. She worried for a moment that there might be sharks swimming in the waters with her daughters. That concern brought her thoughts back to her unnamed woman.
She wondered if her mysterious Shark would get along well with the girls. That thought shocked her into stillness with her coat half off. Why on Earth would that thought even cross her mind? It was ridiculous. The girls were never going to meet this person. She wasn't even sure that she would see the confident woman again. Miranda had not been kidding when she said that she would think about it; even though her initial acceptance had been almost automatic. She carefully put her coat on a hanger in the hall closet as she tried not to think about sharks, or dinners, or dark, expressive eyes.
Her heels clicked on the tile floor of the foyer and echoed through the house. She didn't bother to turn on any lights as she made her way upstairs. Lights were unnecessary, she knew this house by heart. It was her center, the one place where she felt the most comfortable. It was one reason having Stephen gone was such a relief. Not having to deal with him, here, was the best sort of feeling. Only she and her daughters belonged here.
Quickly going through her bedtime routine, Miranda found herself surrounded by silk sheets trying to calm her racing brain enough to drift off to sleep. This was always the most difficult part of the night. There were so many things she had to do, had to oversee, had to think about. Sleep very rarely came easily to her.
Oddly, tonight the majority of her usual thoughts remained in the background, overshadowed by the memory of her mysterious Shark. She recalled the line of the tailored suit, how it accentuated the woman's long legs and slim waist. She recalled the luxurious hair falling down over the woman's shoulders. What she recalled most was the dark lovely eyes that had rarely moved away from her. Those eyes, Miranda knew she could drown in them, if she allowed herself that luxury. It was ridiculous. And, it was exhilarating. Closing her eyes, she called up the sensation of standing very close to the younger woman. Her very presence had caused a comfortable peace within Miranda.
Relaxing back into the softness of her bed, Miranda wondered if the woman's arms around her would be as comforting. That thought sent shivers through her. She sighed. It had been a long time since she'd been with anyone, even longer since she'd actually truly wanted to be. It was a bit frightening. The intensity of her need was unprecedented and it made her uncertain about everything. Still she had hope that the situation would resolve itself, and she hoped, as she never had before, that her Shark's final words would come true. She could hear the woman's voice in her head and mumbled the words aloud as she drifted off.
Andy entered the art gallery with a wide smile on her face. She passed by several lovely works, including the one she intended on taking home with her, as she walked directly to Lily's office. It was very difficult not to laugh when she found her friend, with her head down on her desk, groaning. Andy cleared her throat and brought forth her most cheery disposition. "Good morning, Lily!" It was still technically morning, the gallery had not been open for very long but it was getting very close to the time she needed to be heading off to her lunch meeting with the second set of publishers. She couldn't help but laugh when Lily looked up at her with the most evil look Andy had seen in a while.
"I hate you."
Chuckling at that, Andy carefully set a steaming coffee on the desk in front of Lily. "Awww... but I like you..."
"Ha!" Lily straightened up and wrapped her hands around the coffee. "If you like me so much why did you ditch me at the bar last night?"
"I did not ditch you." Andy dropped into a seat across from Lily's desk. "We arrived separately and we left separately. That's all."
Sipping her hot beverage, Lily groaned again. "You could have at least stopped me from drinking so much while you were there. My head is killing me."
Andy held up her hands in defense. "Let the record show..."
"Oh Lord," Lily mumbled, "Here we go, with the record showing..."
Grinning, Andy continued, "Let the record show that you were already drunk when I arrived..."
"Whatever." Lily sighed. "So, who did you leave with?"
"What?" Shaking her head at that, Lily asked, "Who are you and what have you done with my friend?"
Andy just shrugged.
"Girl, I know there were four or five women who would have gone back to your hotel with you in a heartbeat."
"Six," Andy smirked. "But... I dunno. None of them appealed to me last night."
"Still mooning over your old lady?"
"Don't call her that!"
"Wow..." Lily shook her head. "You really have it bad, don't you?" She held up her hands waving them in defeat. "Whatever. None of my business."
Andy dark eyes studied her friend closely before grinning. "So, who did you go home with last night?"
Lily shrugged. "Didn't catch his name."
"Don't get all high and mighty with me, Ms. "Six"." Lily snorted. "And don't try to tell me you know the names of all the people you've hooked up with either."
"Jesus, Lily.. You make me sound like a slut or something." Andy rolled her eyes. Of course from Lily's perspective Andy knew she looked like something of a slut, but there hadn't really been all that many. Most of the time if she left with someone it was because they were too drunk to be left to their own devices getting home. She always made sure they were safe in their own beds before leaving for her own. She had actually been with far less people than Lily believed. It was Lily's straight girl fantasies about how lesbian hookups worked that fed the delusion. And she did know all their names, thank you very much, at least she had at the time, because she'd looked at their IDs to get their addresses.
Waving off her friend's complaint, Lily sighed. "You aren't a slut... I'm just ticked at you for letting me get so drunk last night." She grinned evilly. "Why don't you buy a fabulously expensive painting and we'll call it even."
"Ha!" Andy gestured back toward the gallery. "I will browse through the gallery, just like I always do.. and I will probably buy that print that caught my eye when I first arrived." She impressed the next words on her friend. "For ten percent off."
Lily groaned again and held her head in both her hands. Her voice was pained when she spoke, "Yeah, alright." She normally gave Andy her employee discount, fifteen percent off, which meant she never got a commission on those items. Ten percent was a good peace offering, because Lily would actually make a bit on the exchange.
"Great!" Andy smiled. "Okay then, since I know you're okay I'm gonna take off." She checked her watch. "Hopefully traffic won't be too bad. I'll try to stop back by this afternoon if I have time." She knew that was a slim chance. After her meeting with the publisher she would be a bit busy preparing for her dinner with the Dragon Lady.
"Have fun." Lily didn't even look up.
Trusting that Lily didn't have any illusions about Andy's plans for the afternoon or evening, Andy nodded. "I'll see you tomorrow, before I leave."
"Yeah, yeah..." Lily waved her friend away and laid her head back down on her desk.