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Never Say Never

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They’d been dancing around this thing between them since they returned from Paris two years ago. The Paris trip when Andrea had almost walked away from Miranda. She almost strode across the street towards the ornate fountain, but stopped in her tracks when the editor looked over her shoulder. To an average bystander, the flash of desperation and lips that mouthed her name would have been easy to miss. But to Andrea, the editor might as well have marched down the stairs and drug her along by her wrist. Back then the young woman was just coming to realize that she cared for Miranda as more than just a boss. In the midst of an attempted coup and another divorce, Andrea saw the woman behind the title. That was the woman she couldn’t just walk away from.

That afternoon Miranda initiated the type of conversation Andrea had been led to believe she never had. The editor didn’t speak to her assistant as a friend, but nor was it as the capricious artist that demanded the best for her magazine. Instead Miranda embodied the high powered female executive that  her title and pay grade indicated she was. After the last party of the day, she asked that Andrea stop by after they returned to the hotel and removed their couture.

When she hesitantly opened the door to Miranda's suite, she was stuck by the stark difference in the woman's appearance in comparison to the night before. The editor wrote crisp black slacks and a soft blue silk shirt. Andrea was deeply grateful that she hadn't chosen to wear pyjamas with Miranda dressed so nicely.

"Come sit, Andrea." Miranda's quiet voice was tired, but not unkind. The young woman settled in the same chair she has the night before looking appropriately uncomfortable. "It is time was started talking about your career."

"My career?" Andrea was displeased with how her voice squeaked in response.

"Unless you would rather be my assistant for the rest of your life."

"I..."

"I thought not. Surely in the last day you have realized that this is not just a fashion magazine. It seems as though with each issue it becomes more of it's own major corporation."

With those practically hissed words, the light bulb finally went off in Andrea's head. She could feel her face heating up in embarrassment. How could she have possibly not seen Runway like a normal company and Miranda’s its CEO? Suddenly the HR decisions seemed less arbitrary and more understandable. She took a deep breath and finally looked up to meet the editor’s eyes. They were alight with amusement and a touch of mischief.

“And the veil has lifted,” Miranda purred. “Good. Now we can move forward.”


 

And move forward they had. When they returned to New York, Miranda officially moved Emily on to her next job in the Accessories Department. Andrea assumed the first assistant role, where she had quickly found and trained her own replacement. Alisha was perfectly adequate. Andrea was under no false illusions that the girl would ever be a star, but she could follow instructions. And Miranda’s office was running more smoothly than Andrea had ever seen it.

Not that the editor had changed in any way. Miranda still altered schedules at the last minute without warning and made vague but urgent demands. Her first assistant had become so adept at anticipating her needs that she found herself seeking new ways of keeping the pair of young women off balance. She stopped calling Alisha “Emily” far earlier than she had previous assistants. Instead she wandered through a large selection of names that began with “A.” Miranda enjoyed the look of amusement on Andrea’s face the first time the young woman realized what she was doing. It was somewhat disappointing that the shifts in her behavior didn’t seem to throw her first assistant in the slightest. While Miranda appreciated efficiency, the new level of professionalism in Andrea killed some of the editor’s favorite little games she played in the office.

After reflection, Miranda found something that Andrea would not be expecting. And providing her with a mentor outside of Runway, but inside Elias Clarke would keep her from wandering off. The editor was not in the habit of conducting such matchmaking for her assistants, but Paris had been eye opening for her as well. Andrea was special. There was something about the young woman that drew Miranda in and made her want more. But so long as Andrea was her assistant there could be no more. She would invest in the young woman’s future, but she would not be the one to shape it. The most selfish parts of her did not want there to be any possibility that the beautiful young creature might confuse her for some sort of maternal figure. Even if she could never have anything with Andrea, she could not suffer the thought of being relegated to a surrogate mother.

Miranda relished the look of utter shock and confusion on her assistant’s face when she told her to schedule a table for two at that little Thai place she liked and to accompany the Vice President of Professional Publications at Elias Clarke to lunch. Susan was the perfect choice of mentor for Andrea. She had her hands in talent development, corporate strategy, and even editorial direction. More importantly, Susan was happily married to the love of her life and would pose no threat to Miranda’s desires. With a little luck, she knew that Andrea would thrive with a little outside direction. Miranda had seen the flicker of greatness in the young woman and Susan would be better to lead her towards professional success. And in the meantime, it would keep Andrea close and within the family.

And somehow two years slipped by. Andrea had again transformed before Miranda’s eyes. With Susan’s tutelage, she had developed a keen sense of business. Her professionalism led her to do more and better than any previous assistant. Somewhere along the way she had really stopped being a personal assistant and become an executive assistant. While Andrea did not offer artistic suggestions, she had made significant improvements in budget, expenses and processes. Somehow these changes held Irv firmly at bay.  

Miranda struggled to maintain her professional distance from the magnificent creature, but she had managed. She gave Andrea her muted version of approval, which made the young woman glow. Susan, on the other hand, had tested her willpower more than the editor cared to admit. Miranda had known that the blonde woman was affectionate, but watching her walk arm in arm with Andrea was bordering on torture. The young woman was obviously very relaxed in her mentor’s presence. Andrea laughed and smiled warmly with Susan. When they worked on projects together, the young woman would lean into her mentor’s personal space without thought. It was all entirely innocent, Miranda knew full well. She had been right that they were a good pairing, but it had caused her to believe that there were times when she was overly right.


For the last 8 weeks Andrea had been actively transitioning her responsibilities to others. Susan had been attempting to bribe Miranda for the last year to let the young woman go. While it was clearly what the editor wanted, for Andrea to no longer work for her, Miranda still insisted that it was on her terms.  She was positively grieved at the idea of no longer having the young woman at her beck and call, but Andrea was doing a remarkable job of leaving Miranda well cared for. The soon to be ex-assistant had convinced her new boss and mentor, to financially support her transition allowing another personal assistant to be hired and trained before she left. It had freed up Andrea’s time to train others on the non-personal assistant aspects of her job. Ironically, the shift caused her to spend more time with Miranda as a peer.

The change was trying Miranda’s sanity. Not because she thought herself above the young woman, but rather because this new version of Andrea before her was incredibly attractive. She was empowered and self confident. And like her mentor, rather inattentive to the usual 3 foot perimeter of space Miranda commanded. So as Andrea was explaining the distribution of her soon to be former tasks, she leaned perilously close to Miranda. The editor could smell nothing aside from her perfume and perhaps a whiff of her shampoo. It was intoxicating and more than a little distracting. When Andrea turned to look her in the eye, there was hardly any space between them. The young woman’s dark eyes sparkled with warmth and pride. Miranda could not help wishing Andrea would lean just a little closer.

“Does that all make sense to you,” Andrea said turning back to the piece of paper in the editor’s hands.

“Yes, Andrea. This is… acceptable. You’ve done more to make this to go smoothly than I expected.”

The young woman stepped back enough that she could look more easily at Miranda. “You must know that after all this time I would never abandon you,” she offered quietly.

The editor attempted to bury her immediate retort that Andrea almost had once. She said nothing aloud, but couldn’t help pursing her lips. Andrea flinched. It was something the young woman was doing less and less in her presence. The editor immediately felt bad for her reaction, but before she could say anything Andrea was turning away.

 

“Your coffee should be here any time. I will let you get back to it. I’m going to go to the 22nd floor for the rest of the day. If you need anything…” Andrea trailed off.

“I will know where you are. However the two you’ve trained have become rather adept as of late.” Miranda smirked waiting for her assistant to turn to see it.

But Andrea didn’t. It was clear that things were changing between them, but perhaps not in the way the editor had been hoping. She had been so patient and so restrained. She couldn’t help wondering if she was running out of time. The silly beautiful girl wasn’t going far, but that didn’t guarantee that she would want anything to do with a middle aged mother of two. There were a number of times over the last few years that Miranda could practically feel the vibrations of Andrea’s affection for her. But just as she was always looking out for Miranda’s professional well being, the young woman restrained herself almost as though she could sense her boss’ thoughts on the matter. The lines had been drawn with such decisiveness, that Miranda wasn’t sure how to blur them. She knew that she desired the potential Andrea offered, but didn’t wish to put either of them at risk unnecessarily.


Andrea had left Runway three months ago. And nothing had fallen apart. She had thought of every last detail and everyone was in place to make Miranda’s days go to plan. And yet, the time had only given Miranda time to compile a list of things she missed about the young woman. With her office running so smoothly, not a single one of them had to do with Runway. She looked at the list that usually resided in the hidden pocket of any purse she carried and realized that there was no longer plausible deniability. She hadn’t dated anyone since the divorce nor had anyone aside from Andrea been even the slightest bit interesting. Just earlier in the week, she had overheard Nigel bemoaning to Emily that Andrea was faring no better. He hadn’t been able to understand how a crush could overtake the young woman’s life for so long.

The stark truth of the situation sank over the editor in the quietness of her office. Neither of them could live in such limbo indefinitely. As a seeker of beauty, it was astoundingly hypocritical to intentionally avoid the thing that had the possibility to become the most profoundly beautiful experience of her entire existence.  She had unfortunately trained Andrea far too well for the young woman to ever beginning the conversation. It wasn’t that the junior copy editor lacked the confidence. She respected Miranda too much to force a discussion the editor wasn’t ready for. Even when they passed each other in the lobby, Miranda could feel the charge in the air between them. Inaction was no longer acceptable.

By rote memory, she pressed the first speed dial on her phone. She hadn’t bothered to change it. Doing so would have implied that anyone could ever replace Andrea. That thought alone was laughable. It only rang twice before it was answered.

“Miranda.” The young woman sighed out her name as though it was the most natural thing the world that she would be calling. Like she had been waiting for Miranda to call.

“Andrea.” She hadn’t expected the rush of adrenaline at making a non-work related call to the young woman. The editor didn’t do nervousness, but no one could deny the physiological response the adrenaline in the bloodstream.

“Its nice to hear your voice,” Andrea broke the moment of silence. “I’m not certain I’d realized how much I’d missed it until now.”

“Have a late dinner with me.” Miranda choked out the invitation hoping it didn’t sound too much like a demand.

“Of course. Or I could just come downstairs now. Was there a problem with one of the spreadsheets? It will only take a few minutes to repair.”

Miranda could hear the rustling of papers as Andrea prepared to leave her new office. “No, Andrea. I am certain the spreadsheets are fine. This is not a work invitation. Have dinner with me.”

“Oh.”

The editor chuckled. Even over the phone she could tell the young woman was both pleased and blushing. “Is there anywhere you’ve been wanting to try?”

“Actually, I know of this great little tapas place. It isn’t fancy, but the food and sangria are amazing.”

“That would be more than acceptable,” Miranda answered without hesitation.

“Great. I’ll text you the address. Should I get the table for 7?”

“I don’t think I can manage it until 8. Will that be too late?”

“Of course not. I thought you might need to get home to the girls. I didn’t want to assume you would be able to stay out late,” Andrea said with a charming sincerity that only she could manage.

“Caroline and Cassidy are on a week long school trip. So I am on my own this week.” The words were out of Miranda’s mouth before she could even consider how flirtatious they sounded. “I will see you at 8, Andrea.”  She switched off her phone before her mouth could say anything else inappropriate. There were certain things that needed saying before she could flirt with the gorgeous woman. It wouldn’t do for them not to be on the same page.


Miranda might not have recognized the door as that of a restaurant if Andrea had not been standing in front of it waiting for her. The young woman was dressed casually, but the clothes fit her in every way. The cut of the jeans alone was nearly inspiration to insist to Irv that casual Fridays were observed in the Elias Clarke building. But the attire didn’t compete with how Andrea’s face lit up as Miranda stepped out of the car. As the editor moved closer she was amused by the young woman’s perusal. It wasn’t the fanciest dress she owned, but she was well aware that it accentuated the most feminine parts of her.

“I had a number of charming things to say, Miranda. But it seems I can’t remember a single one of them,” Andrea whispered finally meeting her eyes.

“You too are a sight for sore eyes. Come along, Andrea. I was told that this establishment has sangria.”

The young woman chuckled and followed the editor into the restaurant. The hostess recognized Andrea immediately and greeted her warmly. They were led into a private corner booth that shielded them from the rest of the patrons. The small space forced them to sit closely together. As soon as they were once again alone Andrea said,

“Let me order for us. I’ve spent far too much time here. I promise you won’t be disappointed.”

“Very well,” Miranda answered with a single eyebrow raised in question.

“This is where I come to work when I need a change of scenery in the evenings. I’ve become a bit of a regular. They even try out new dishes on me occasionally.”

“Its lovely. I have no doubt that I will enjoy it immensely,” Miranda said surprised to find that she meant it.

Andrea poured a glass of sangria from the pitcher handing it to Miranda with a soft smile. She let the silence stretch between them. Just being in the presence of the older woman was refreshing after not having seen her in so long. She watched her take a long sip of the drink and sigh contentedly. She expected the sharp blue eyes to snap back open and catch her watching, but they stayed closed in apparent relaxation. When they finally opened again, she saw more of Miranda that she had in several years. And the context was so different now. Gone was the pain and shock she had seen that night in Paris. She saw adoration, affection and something she didn’t dare name.

“Andrea,” Miranda began quietly. She wasn’t one to speak loudly to begin with, but her current tone was so subdued that the young woman leaned towards her. “Am I wrong to hope after all this time that you might not ever truly leave,” Miranda asked after the pause.

ark brown eyes filled immediately with tears. Andrea opened and closed her mouth several times in search of a response. As Miranda’s thumb swiped away a tear from her cheek, the young woman leaned into the touch closing her eyes. She had never expected to hear such words spoken aloud. Long ago she had resigned herself to a life where at least she got to know the beautiful woman. Andrea had come to the conclusion that she had no romantic interest in anyone else. In the last 2 years she had found an inner peace. She wouldn’t settle for anyone that wasn’t Miranda, but she would also never attempt to force the older woman into anything. To that end, she had almost stopped believing that this was a possibility.

“No. Not at all,” Andrea chuckled through the tears. “It just wasn’t what I was expecting tonight.” She noticed the mirth in Miranda’s eyes. “You are taking advantage of the fact that you know there is no one else catches me off guard quite like you do.”

“Its one of my skills, Andrea. I assure you that there are others,” she purred shamelessly.

“I would be more than happy to assess them for you.”  

Whatever the young woman had planned to say next was going to be undoubtedly salacious, but sadly interrupted by the arrival of their dinner. The waiter, though clearly familiar with Andrea, was respectful of their privacy. With a sly look that could only mean that she was up to no good, the young woman took the first small bite between her forefinger and thumb. She waited patiently hovering the food just in front of Miranda’s mouth. Andrea’s expression was so earnest and full of desire that the older woman didn’t even consider denying her. She briefly captured the offered fingers in her mouth, kissing them gently as they were released.

“Oh,” Andrea whispered in response. She hadn’t entirely thought out what might happen if she started feeding Miranda. The first touch of those soft lips to her skin was a revelation. She both wanted more and wasn’t sure if she knew how to ask for it.

With an arched brow in interest and the trace of a smirk, Miranda offered a selection from another plate to Andrea. The beaming smile the editor got in return was enough to convince her that this was the best idea she ever had. Andrea closed her eyes as the bite entered her mouth. She moaned at the flavor or perhaps the gentle touch of those fingers. Miranda did the best to keep her face neutral, but it wasn’t easy with blood thrumming in her ears.  But being a little off balance was entirely worth the gorgeous blush that now crept down Andrea’s neck.

“How have you been, Andrea? Really?”

“Good. I think my transition in has gone well. I’ve started taking more responsibility.  Susan has been very supportive. I know that you dislike being thanked, but you essentially arranged all of this. I am very grateful.”

Though Miranda looked uncomfortable for a moment before she found her voice. When she spoke, it was nearly as quiet as Andrea had ever heard it.

“It was clear that this was how things were supposed to be. I… I could not be any prouder of what you have accomplished or who you’ve become. You’ve exceeded my expectations, as always.”

“I’ve missed you,” Andrea interrupted. Miranda would have minded, but those brown eyes were full of such warmth that she would have allowed the woman anything.

“It was necessary,” the older woman said allowing all of the regret she felt over the last two years to color her tone.

Andrea reached out and interwove her fingers with Miranda’s. “I know. I never doubted what you were doing. I trust you implicitly. And besides, this is much more satisfying so far.”

Miranda let the honesty and adoration wash over her. No one had ever looked at her the way Andrea did. And finally it was without walls or redirection. The editor knew that little about their life together would be as simple as this dinner. There would be press to deal with, not to mention their families and friends that might not understand. But there was a promise in the expression on Andrea’s face that bolstered her confidence. Without so much as a word, Andrea laid before her the plain truth of their future together. There would be one, all Miranda had to do was ask.