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There's Freedom in Deception

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Author's Note: I've been thinking about this story for 3 months and I think I have to write it. I would love any comments on how I can make it better. So all mistakes are mine and I do not own any of these characters, nor do I profit from them. Please no flames. Constructive criticism is deeply appreciated.

 

Also I plan on moving around time lines and using both movie and book for general background.

 

Chapter 1

Miranda leaned back into her chair, sipping at her Starbuck’s. Nigel’s voice was quietly humming in the background as he spoke to Emily and Serena. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him lean further back to catch whatever Emily was saying. She wasn’t interested in their conversation so she relaxed a little before the next show was to begin.

She felt more than saw the people ebb and flow around her. They found their seats; they chatted with their neighbors and proclaimed loudly, for any and all that would listen, how excited they were and how amazing they thought everything was. Their excitement was palatable but ultimately uninteresting to Miranda.

It was her third show of the day, in as many days. There was another 4 days left. She hadn’t felt a flicker of excitement from any of the collections she had seen today and if she wanted to be brutally honest she actually felt like the shows in New York, London, Milan and Paris had offered very little to the fashion world that had not been seen a million times. It had been a very disappointing year. She felt utterly bored. No, she mentally shook her head at that thought; I’m not bored, I’m underwhelmed. Everything felt the same. A nod to the past was good and well but lately it felt as if the designers were just calling it in. Vera Wang wasn’t even bothering with Fashion Week in New York. She claimed that she had too many things to do and it was too hectic. The truth was that her designs were plain and uninspired. Miranda had almost frowned at one dress. Forget lips being pursed, the dress in question was so ugly Miranda had been unable to stop an honest frown from showing. No, things this year were not going to go well either.

To be fair, Miranda thought to herself, she had personally felt uninspired for some time. She wasn’t able to pinpoint the exact day but it had been more than a year, maybe two or three. She wasn’t sure. It was like a feeling that slowly crept in, stealing her joie de vivre. Not that anyone would have called Miranda carefree, then or now, but she had enjoyed her life. She had loved the fashion shows and their innovation and pageantry. She had loved the excitement of making the best magazine in the world. She loved the politics of outmaneuvering Irv. She had loved the power that came with holding a billion dollar industry in the palm of her hand. Lately though, it had all become rather routine. Very few collections inspired her. Irv had retired and the new CEO spent more time on failing publications than trying to cut the budget of the only publication to consistently earn money; what is what Irv should have been doing. The power was still nice but had lost its shine. Only her dedication to the magazine had not wavered. Much, she corrected herself. It had not wavered much. It was hard to put together something from the dreck that had been declared the best of fashion this last year. She and her staff had worked harder than usual pulling Runway together.

Nigel shifted in his chair again, drawing her eyes to him. He turned to face Serena, who was seated to Emily’s right side, directly behind Miranda. Nigel had continued to function as her Editor-at-Large and right hand man, but Miranda had increased his role within the magazine, allowing him to hire people that he’d like to work with. That and a healthy pay increase had smoothed over the unpleasantness that Irv and his machinations had forced down their throats.

Emily didn’t need to be at this show but she enjoyed attending and Miranda hadn’t seen any reason not to accommodate her. It wasn’t like they needed to pay for another room. Serena and she had shared a room for at least the last 3 years. Airfare and a seat behind Miranda could be written off as a job perk for the Bookings Editor; though most people would not consider it a perk to trail after Miranda. Emily was not most people though.

Serena had also recently taken over as the Beauty Director. She wasn’t ready now but if she continued to learn, Miranda imagined that Vogue or Elle might try to steal her away. She was beautiful and smart and most importantly she could adapt to new situations and see what she needed to do instead of what everyone else wanted her to do, unlike… Miranda shut down that thought. Paris always brought that stupid girl to her mind.

Internally rolling her eyes at the direction her thoughts had taken, Miranda focused on the people around her. A discrete look at her watch indicated only another few minutes before the show began. She took another sip of her rapidly cooling coffee.

Her daughters had asked to come to Paris with her this year. She, of course, said no. They needed to focus on school. Christmas break had just ended and even though they had already applied to a number of universities, this was not the time to slack off. She was a little dismayed when she found out both of the girls had applied to universities out of country along with a handful of universities scattered across America. Neither of them applied to an in-state university. The house would be very empty after the school year ended. Miranda already dreaded it. In her mind’s eye she could see herself spending more time at work, only coming home to change clothes and sleep for a few hours. Of course, when the girls came home on holidays, she would cut back but without them at home demanding her attention she could easily see herself living at the office. The thought briefly amused her. All those years of fighting with husbands and suitors, of packing her schedule to make time to see her daughters, all those distractions from Runway would finally be gone and she was dreading it.

She had made a lot of changes over the years, after her last divorce, 5 years ago. She was home more often. She ate dinner with the girls, talked with them about their day and attended every activity on their schedule. She started working after they went to bed, every weekend they spent at their father’s and most morning before they woke up. She attended every party and gala that was required but she also put in the minimum amount of time at each soirée. She would rush back home to finish that day’s work. Her time was split between Runway and her daughters. There was nothing else. She no longer dated. She never found a person she wanted to give her time to. Once or twice, there might have been someone who caught her eye. Someone with just the right color of eyes, or just the right laugh but ultimately it wasn’t whoever she was looking for. Not that there was anyone she was looking for and at 55, she thought maybe her drive had just faded away.

Dear lord, she shook her head, what morose thoughts. Paris always brought out the worse thoughts. She had begun hating Paris a few years ago. Everyone knew she disliked the city. Most thought she hated being separated from her daughters or the offices of Runway. It was somewhat true. She overhead Nigel once remark to Serena that Paris always seemed less bright after Irv forced her to give away his job. Miranda felt a slight twinge of guilt over that because she knew that no one forced her to do anything. We all make choices. It’s what she told…Miranda cut off that thought. Miranda really hated Paris.
Thankfully the show was going to start any minute. Miranda needed something to shake her out of these thought.

Another sip of the now cool coffee, Miranda turned to her assistant, handed her the cup and demanded a new cup at the end of the show. A quietly murmured “Yes Miranda” was the reply. Miranda refocused on the upcoming show. It was a new designer. He had come out of nowhere. She had only seen a small sample of his work. She had all but demanded a showing before Paris but he claimed he was unable to put together a collection to show her. Miranda wasn’t used to being denied and even with the silent threat of not being shown in Runway, he still did not capitulate. It was slightly intriguing. Nigel had been dispatched to gather information. He came back with a lot less then she had hoped for. His name was Rene Thermopolis. He grew up in a small manor in an even smaller country. Money wasn’t a problem for him. Apparently he had a financial backer. Who this person was, was unknown. Where he went to school was unknown. Where this small manor was located and which small country it resides in was unknown. Miranda knew next to nothing about him and it was intriguing. She didn’t know anything about him that a google search couldn’t turn up. Sure she could have hired someone to find out more but she wasn’t really that invested. Only once had she truly thought about hiring a private investigator to find out about someone. Sometimes, if she’s honest with herself she still thinks about tracking down…

“Andrea”
Nigel snapped his head to the right. “What did you say?”

But before Miranda could answer the music began and Nigel looked towards the catwalk. It took only a moment for him to understand why after 5 years, Miranda would say the one name that was not allowed to be uttered. The one name that could have you packing your desk before you finished speaking. There, across from Miranda and Nigel, sat Andrea Sachs dressed in Chanel and speaking to Linda Fargo.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

The lights dimmed and models began to strut down the catwalk, obscuring Miranda’s view of Andrea. Now was not the right moment to lose her concentration and so with a herculean effort, Miranda dragged her focus back to the models.

The first two dresses were passable. Nothing about them screamed fashion failure so already Miranda was counting this showing as remarkably better than the last. The third dress showed innovation and structure. The fourth and fifth were center pieces of modernity. The next two dresses were so severe in their structure their edges seemed almost metal like, rather than fabric. As the next models paraded by Miranda noticed that the structured dress were beginning to taper into softer lines. Each dress seemed to deconstruct the previous dress and give back something new. A metamorphous of the modern dress. The layout sprung nearly fully formed into Miranda’s head. This was something new. This was what Miranda had been waiting for, a bold, innovative designer that had a new vision and also the skill to bring it forth. Already Miranda had half of August, September and December planned. She was going to launch Rene Thermopolis into the stratosphere of designers. Two by two the dresses devolved from sharp lines to gauze strips of clothing, until the last dress. A masterpiece of black and white fabric wrapped around the torso of the model, forming structured lines that draw the eye in a never ending spiral around the waist. From there the lines of black bled into the white fabric until only a wisp of color remained at the hem of the gown. She could only hope that the next four weeks of fashion shows offered as much new material as this one show had. As Rene walked out, took his well-deserved bow, Miranda smiled, and the fashion world exploded.

The lights flooded the cat walk after Rene had bowed once more. Miranda turned towards Nigel. She paused a moment to catch her breath after such a display of talent.

“I know, “he began, “it was amazing. The last three dresses I can already…”

Miranda held up a hand to stop him from speaking. “We will go back to the hotel and regroup. The next show is at...” Miranda paused to recall.

“3:30” chimed a soft voice over her left shoulder. Jolene her assistant had returned with the previously ordered coffee.

“Yes, 3:30. That gives us an hour and a half for lunch. Jolene, call ahead to the hotel and have lunch delivered to the conference room, enough for” Miranda did a quick tally of who she needed to be there “6, plus yourself. I want you to take notes.” Miranda turned from Jolene. “Nigel send Mark over to Yiqing Yin. Have him bring Alicia and Teresa. I want you, Emily, Serena, Sarah and Jacob to meet me at the hotel in 20 minutes.”

Miranda quickly scanned the room, looking for Andrea. She was already gone.
“Nigel,” snapped Miranda, “ride with me.”

Miranda pivoted on her heel and with a few long strides, she was at the door. “Nigel,” she called back in a whisper soft voice.

“Yes, Miranda. Coming.” Nigel hurried to catch up. Miranda continued to talk to Jolene, who followed at her heel, furiously writing down the never ending steam of menial tasks that Miranda required completed as soon as possible. As he fell behind Jolene he heard the tail end of Miranda’s list.

“…Chanel and Dior. I want them couriered to Jocelyn today. I find it extremely disappointing that Sarah is here in Paris, doing Jocelyn’s job because she has managed to develop pneumonia. I expect her to have recovered by the time we arrive in New York. Also notify her that she will be attending Fashion Week in New York and Milan this month even if she has to outfit herself with an iron lung. Confirm my dinner plans with Donatella this Saturday. I will be remaining an extra day. Change my flight for Sunday morning. I wish to be back in New York to meet my daughters when they arrive home from their father’s. Confirm that I will be attending Rene Thermopolis’ party this evening. I want the car at the hotel at 9:30. I expect the car to be waiting for me at 10:45. Contact the Thermopolis studios and arrange a sit down meeting with Rene and his collection. Find a time that fits his schedule. If you need to rearrange my schedule use Emily to help coordinate. I want a meeting before I leave Paris. Do not disappoint me.”

“Yes Miranda.” Jolene began rapidly texting and dialing as Miranda slid into the car. Nigel went around, taking the other back seat, as Jolene sat in front. Before Nigel was comfortably seated, Miranda had already raised the privacy screen to block out the sound of Jolene’s phone calls.

Nigel glanced over at Miranda. She appeared to relax into her seat and gaze out the window. Experience told Nigel, this is when she was most dangerous. Relaxed is not a normal state of being for Miranda. Whenever she looked relaxed it was a lie. She was plotting. Nigel realized, too late, that he had been isolated from the others. He was trapped in a moving car. It would be at least 20 minutes before he could escape. This did not bode well. Nigel could feel what little hair he had; stand up on his neck as Paris rushed by.

Nigel tried to remain still. Any fidgeting would draw Miranda’s eyes to him. He briefly sent a silent prayer that Miranda was planning layouts in her head and would forget all about him. Some prayers are just not answered.

“Andréa was there today.” Miranda turned towards Nigel, her eyes focusing on him, pinning him to the seat.

Nigel nodded. Of course, he had seen her too, but before Nigel could work out what Miranda was asking for she began speaking again.

“Did you know that she would be there? Or why she was talking to Linda?”

Shit, Nigel thought. How am I to answer this?

“Umm,” Nigel hated the uncertainty that colored his voice and caused him to stutter a little “no. No Miranda I haven’t talked to her in a while.” A while was being kind. It had been almost 5 years.

Five years ago, Nigel had been angry and disappointed. After 18 years of working side by side with Miranda; 18 years of dealing with her mercurially changing moods and her icy tones she had taken his dream job and given it to her enemy. He had almost left. Forget what he said while sitting at the table next to Andy. He wasn’t sure Miranda would pay him back and to be honest at that moment there wasn’t anything he could think of that would replace the job he had been dreaming of for most of his life. All Nigel had ever wanted was to influence fashion, much like Miranda, and helping James sell to the masses had been a golden opportunity to influence millions. Well, thousands, at least. But before he could step out from under Miranda’s shadow, it had been snatched away. Five years ago Nigel had almost quit. Not as spectacularly as Andy. There would have been no phone chucking while in a foreign country; that was not a route for everyone. But still, he had all but planned the emptying of his desk upon arrival back to New York.

Surprisingly, the woman who had driven him to the edge had also pulled him back. She ordered him to sit with her on the flight back and spoke quietly of Irv and his back stabbing ways. She offered a raise and more responsibility. She would start letting him take over more of the editing work. He would work on the electronic Runway mock up and she would take the hard copy. Together they would edit and put together each edition. She would let him run Runway online, which was a lucrative side venture. He started meeting with advertisers and heads of departments. He would have to hire 2 people to work as junior editors and he got his own assistant. She really never apologized but it was enough. The changes were enough.

“Why not? I thought you were friends?” Miranda’s voice broke into Nigel’s thoughts shaking him from the past.

He knew why Andy hadn’t talked to him. Or at least he suspected the real reason. It was possibly the same reason that Miranda didn’t allow her name spoken in the office. But it had been 5 years and Miranda could be capricious. Maybe the old reasons no longer remained true.

“What’s this about?”

“What?” snapped Miranda, not used to having to defend her questions.

“Please,” Nigel rolled his eyes. “I’m not one of your minions. After all this time I’d like to think of myself as your friend.” Nigel was pleased to hear his voice had lost the shaky quality it had earlier. He may be friends with Miranda, but he knew if he pushed too hard for the truth, there would be consequences. “I’ll answer any questions you have, to the best of my knowledge if you can tell me why. Why is it important to know about Andy now? It’s been five years. She hasn’t been seen in New York. She isn’t your social circles. Her leaving Runway was so long ago. Why is this important to you?” Nigel waited for Miranda to reply. He could see her planning out her answer.

“It’s not,” Miranda haughtily answered. Nigel wasn’t surprised. It was always like pulling teeth with her to get an honest answer.

“It’s not important?” Nigel asked again, disbelief coloring his voice.

“No, she’s not important. I was just curious how she got to Linda and why?”

“Linda?”

“Nigel are you going to just sit there and repeat everything I say?” Miranda’s tone now icy and hard, sent a warning shiver up Nigel’s spine.

“No, not everything,” Nigel was careful to keep his face blank.

“So?” Miranda prompted, her patience starting to run out.

“So what?” Nigel pushed back.

“What do you know about Andréa and when was the last time you spoke with her? Why is she in Paris meeting with Linda?”

“I thought this wasn’t important?”

“Nigel…” Miranda bit out his name. Her patience was well and truly gone. Answering Miranda now with anything other than the truth would produce a very difficult work environment. Much worse than what was normally found in the Runway offices.

Nigel knew that he would get no answers from Miranda today. He couldn’t even get her to admit that she found Andy important, like pulling teeth, he thought again. He only hoped that after he answered Miranda she would be satisfied with what little information he had. He didn’t want to see Miranda destroy Andy.

It had been a very near thing 5 years ago. The mirror had called for a reference and Nigel had seen the original response. If Miranda had sent that, Andy would not have been able to find work anywhere in publishing. TV Guide would have been a step up for her. Heck, she would have been lucky to find work writing for the penny saver. Andy hadn’t deserved her wrath. She hadn’t deserved it 5 years ago and she definitely didn’t deserve it now. Nigel never knew exactly what had happened between Miranda and Andy in the car. He wasn’t sure he wanted to. Whatever it was it was enough to cause Miranda to want to blackball her and then change her mind. Nigel had been relieved when he saw the fax Miranda did send to The Mirror. Nigel had thought of Andy as a little sister, a little sister without any sort of fashion sense but still his family. It would have hurt him to see her unable to pursue her dream. It actually hurt him when Andy disappeared from his life. Nigel took a deep breath. He hoped that Miranda would not strike out. Not at him and not at Andy.

“I talked to her once, just once” Nigel raised his hand, stopping Miranda from interrupting. Surprisingly she nodded once and leaned back into the car seat. “It was maybe a month after she quit. She had just called to thank me. She said you had given her a good reference and The Mirror had offered her a position. Junior reporter, I think. She wasn’t happy though. I was surprised because that was what she had always wanted. Runway was just a stepping stone on her way to a Pulitzer or some such thing.” He waved his hand through the air. “I think she missed Runway or at least pieces of Runway.” Nigel kept to himself that he believed that she had missed Miranda and not Runway. God knows what Miranda would do with that information. “She asked how you were. I believed that she was worried that she had left you in a lurch. I told her you were fine. You had a new assistant before the plane touched down in New York.” Nigel heard Miranda suck in a quiet breath at that. Interesting. “After hearing that replacing her was no problem,” if Nigel hadn’t been looking for it he would have missed Miranda’s eye twitch, “she said she couldn’t take the job with The Mirror. She had to return home. There was something about a grandma and sickness. I’m sorry, I can’t remember if it was a stroke or something else. I admit I wasn’t paying attention. I think I was too surprised about her turning down the job she had always wanted. I remember telling her that dream jobs don’t wait around and that turning it down might mean that she wouldn’t ever have the chance to try again. Also something about Ohio just sucking her back in and going home was a stupid choice. What could she do for her grandma? She wasn’t a doctor.” Nigel paused, trying to remember Andy’s response. “She said something about choices you have to make are not the ones you want to make. I didn’t really understand why she had to choose to go home but…” Nigel trailed off. Miranda seemed a little, he searched for the word, almost shell shocked. Briefly he considered stopping.

“Continue.”

“Ah,” Nigel tried to remember his train of thought.” Yes, umm, so she was going home to take care of her grandma. I think. I know there was a lot of pressure to go home. Her family wasn’t all that happy about her job. I’m not sure they understood about paying her dues. I know her father was the worst. He really thought it was a waste of time. I heard her arguing in the hall once about her refusal to attend Stanford and choosing Northwestern instead. I asked about it one night after a few drinks. She didn’t say much. A little about the family business and she was supposed to study law. I guessed from that her father is a lawyer. That’s about all I know.”

“You never spoke to her again?”

“Well, I did try, at least after a month or so. I gave her a call but her phone was no longer in service. The boyfriend she was living with, I really don’t know about. It was rocky before Paris and I think they were done. He was a chef or something. I wouldn’t know how to even find him. She had a friend Tulip or Rose, something flowery” he waved his hand distractedly, unable to remember her name, “and a friend named Doug she had wanted me to meet. I think her friends weren’t all that happy with her job either. I know I never met Doug and she stopped talking about hanging out with them after a while. I just figured that without a job, family, or friends, New York no longer had an appeal. It’s a tough city and maybe Andy just wasn’t tough enough. The sad thing was that I thought she was.” Nigel finished speaking.

“I thought she was too.” Miranda whispered. Nigel wasn’t sure she even realized she had spoken aloud.

Miranda cleared her throat “So why did she show up in Paris with Linda of all people, if she is supposed to be in Ohio?”
Linda Fargo was only a few years younger than Miranda and as a buyer for Bergdorf, she was almost as powerful. Miranda counted her as one of her friends, maybe not a close friend but more than an acquaintance to be sure. To see Andrea talking with her and sitting side by side during a fashion show was unwelcome shock. Miranda refused to think about why it bothered her more than it should.

“Maybe she’s working here” Nigel answered.

“Working?” Miranda elongated the word and infused it with a bitterness that shocked Nigel.

“Well it’s possible. She could be working for Le Monde or Die Welt or a host of other papers.” Nigel shrugged. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched that she could have tried to seek employment in another country.

“Possible?” It amazed Nigel how much venom Miranda could inject into a single word.

“Yes, possible.”

“You’re repeating again Nigel.” Miranda admonished him. “I don’t see how Andréa would have mastered another language quickly enough to seek employment aboard. I mean she was smart and could have learned enough to get by but to have mastered another language well enough to cover Fashion week, well that truly is reaching for the stars.”

“Miranda,” Nigel quietly interrupted, “Andy spoke German and French fluently.”

“No,” Miranda replied calmly “she did not. She specifically said in her interview that she only spoke English. I remember that quite clearly.”

Nigel hated to argue with Miranda. It never turned out well for him. Taking another deep breath, his nerves were shot, as this had so far been one of the most confusing and stressful 20 minutes he could remember, he gently refuted her. “No. Andy spoke at least two languages, plus English. I heard her make all the travel arrangements to Paris in French. And not that high school level French. She didn’t stumble over words. She was fluent and I caught her writing down her notes in French. I speak high school French. This was not that. I am sure of that. “

“She also spoke German. Do you remember that layout, in August, 2009?” Nigel continued without waiting for a response. “Düsseldorf, at Medienhafen. There was a problem with the permits. I believe Amanda in Bookings forgot to fax something to the city permits’ office. I was coming to tell you that we had just wasted 250,000 dollars on airfare and things, when Andy asked if she could try. She said she knew someone who was good at these things. To be honest, I didn’t think she could do anything but I really didn’t want to explain to you why we couldn’t do what you wanted. So I gave her the paperwork. She dialed the City permits’ office and in 30 minutes it was sorted out. I’m not sure what she did, to be honest but German was definitely used. I don’t know if she spoke any other languages. I never thought to ask. I don’t know why she told you she didn’t but...” Nigel trailed off.

“So it’s possible, is what you are saying?” Nigel nodded quickly. “It’s possible that she is working for a newspaper,” Miranda elegantly waved her hand, “somewhere and she is just reporting on this week’s Haute Couture. But that doesn’t explain front row seats, not in the press pit and Linda.” Miranda finished assessing the new information in regards to Andrea. “Though,” Miranda continued “if she was interviewing Linda it would explain the seating arraignment.”

“You could ask Linda,” Nigel suggested.

Miranda dismissed that suggestion out of hand. It was one thing to have dinner occasionally with Linda but to call her up and ask about her Andréa. Not hers, Miranda chided herself. Just Andréa. To ask her about Andréa was something Miranda just couldn’t do.

“You aren’t planning to blackball her if she is working as a reporter?” Nigel asked with more than a little trepidation.

“No, no that ship has sailed. There is nothing to punish. Employees leave every day.” Miranda turned to look back out the car window, signaling the end of the conversation.

“Yes, but you usually fire them. They don’t toss a company phone into a fountain and quit.” Nigel continued. “Are you really…”

“Nigel,” Miranda cut him off, “I liked it better when you were afraid of me. You didn’t ask as many questions.”

“No,” Nigel replied “you didn’t. You’re just saying that because you don’t want to answer my questions. Besides,” Nigel tried to sound flippant, “I’m still a little afraid, if it makes you feel better, I’m just not one of your minions, who are so afraid that they shake and can’t even manage to ask you what color skirt you want.”

She sounded like an evil villain. Unfortunately, since her daughters had insisted she watch Despicable Me, when she thought of minions, those little yellow things popped into her head. Dressed in Westwood, Dior, and Chanel. The mental image caused her to snort. Surprising both herself and Nigel. Minions indeed.

“So Andy is not to be punished?”

“Nigel, why are you belaboring the obvious?” He only raised an eyebrow waiting. Fine, Miranda thought, if it will stop this conversation. “No, I will not blackball Andréa. If she wants to stay in some little country, writing for whatever small paper she managed to find work at, working on what I am sure are deeply moving stories about the underprivileged cantina workers from Guam,” she twirled her fingers, “she is welcome to continue. I’m sure today was a rare meeting and won’t happen again.”

Miranda ignored the little flash of pain at that thought. They finally reached the hotel and as Miranda exited the car, she decided to not spend any more time thinking about that girl, that irresponsible, doe eyed girl.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

The hour allotted for a working lunch passed quickly and Miranda was whisked away again, along with her entourage, to the next set of shows. It wasn’t until she arrived back to the hotel at 7 that she realized how tired she was. She slipped off her shoes and sat down with the days digital photos. René’s dresses were still the best of the day but surprisingly the other two shows had produced a fair number of interesting designs. It looked like this year would be one of the best in recent memory.

Setting the photos aside, Miranda called the hotel restaurant and had her dinner sent up. A glance at the clock that hung over the fireplace reminder her she had only 2 hours left before the car would arrive at the hotel.

Miranda walked into the bedroom and checked that tonight’s grown was crease free and hung in the closet properly. She then busied herself with laying out her lingerie, toiletries and jewelry. With everything ready, she returned to the sitting room, slid her heels back on and waited for her dinner to arrive. With still another 10 minutes to kill, she gave the girls a call. They had a half day today and although she would talk to them before she went to bed, she missed them now. The phone only rang once before Caroline’s smiling voice answered. “Hi Mom. How did today go?”

“It was a successful day. How has your day been?” Caroline rattled off the highlights of her day, most centered on a boy named Ryan and his hilarious sense of humor (Caroline’s words of course). Miranda, having heard this conversation before, in regards to how awesome Ryan was, let her mind drift along with her daughters words. It wasn’t what she was saying; it was the fact that she was saying anything. 5 years ago, when she and Stephen separated, her relationship with the girls was extremely strained. It was of course her fault. Avoiding Stephen at home meant not being at home and that had led to missing time with her daughter’s. They had pranked her assistants to try and garner her attention. She just hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten until Andréa… Miranda jerked herself away from those thoughts. It had gotten better needless to say when she began spending more time at home.
“…and then Marcel said it wasn’t true but I’m like, who knows.” Miranda made the appropriate noises despite not knowing what she was talking about or how Marcel fit in with the story. “So anyway, Cass just walked in. She got a letter today from Northwestern but…” Miranda could hear Cassidy yelling in the background, then the sound of the two of them wrestling and the phone hitting the floor. Miranda pulled the mobile away from her ear. 17, almost 18 years old and they were still fighting over little things. Sometimes she wasn’t sure they’d ever grow up. Sometimes she wasn’t sure she wanted them to.

Just as Miranda put the phone back to her ear there was a knock on the door. Walking across the room she opened the door. The waiter rolled in the dinning cart. She watched as he set the table with linen and silver ware before placing her dinner and it’s covering on the table. He made a move to uncover the plate. Miranda waved him away. As he let himself out, she called into the phone “Girls, I don’t have much time.” There was a brief “hey” yelled by one of them before Cassidy spoke.

“Sorry mom,” she began slightly breathless from her struggles with Caroline. “Yeah I got a letter today to Northwestern. I’ve been accepted but since it’s a safety school I’m going to wait until the deadline to accept.”

“I’m so proud of you. Northwestern is a good school honey.”

“I know it’s just not what I want.” Cassidy was trying not to sound too disappointed.

“Cassidy, what do you want? You and Caroline have been very tight lipped about your school choices. I know I told you that I wouldn’t influence your decision on which school to attend but I can help.” Miranda knew she could open whatever doors needed to be opened. There was no cost too high for her daughters’ happiness.

“Mom,” Cassidy’s voice wavered. Miranda could almost see her running her hands through her hair, a nervous habit that Caroline did not share with her. “We,” she paused again. “We told you that we wanted to do it ourselves. We both know you could, like buy a building, or something but then everyone would know we had to buy our way in. It’s like,” she paused again, “I don’t know how to say it. We don’t want it though. I’m sorry mommy.”
Whoa, mommy. Mommy was used only in emergencies and when they were worried they would hurt her feelings.
“It’s okay honey. Really. I just want what’s best for you. If I promise not to get involved, can you tell me which of the schools you really want to attend?” Miranda hoped that where ever they ended up it would be only a few hours away. She had heard the name Stanford and Harvard from Caroline but Cassidy was different. She wanted to write, or draw, or sculpt; something with Art for sure. Where she wanted to attend most was a tightly guarded secret, although Miranda had not found out why.

“You promise? I mean you really promise? And you won’t be mad?” Cassidy rushed the words together.

“Why would I be angry? It’s not community college is it? Or one of those learn-to-draw online classes? I promise to be proud of you wherever you attend.” Miranda felt a sliver of uncertainty. Cassidy was definitely her wilder child. Dear lord, what would she do if she went to Chico, California? Please don’t be a party school Miranda thought, please.

“Sorbonne,” Cassidy almost whispered into the phone. “Université Paris- Sorbonne.”

Miranda sat down a on the chair the waiter had pulled out for her. She wanted to move to the other side of the ocean. Not a state or two away. She knew they had both applied to schools out of the country but she had believed that it wasn’t a serious desire. But now Cassidy was telling her it was. It was where she really wanted to go and she knew, she knew, that Cassidy had the grades for it. They both did. Their test scores had been great and both had substantial trust funds for college, making the cost of moving to another country not a problem.

“Are you mad mom?” Her soft voice broke Miranda out of the stunned silence that fallen between them.

“No, no honey,” Miranda cleared her throat. “I’m not angry. I’m just a little stunned. I was unaware you wanted to move so far away from home.”

“Mommy,” Cassidy began. “It’s not about wanting to leave you. I hate that it’s so far away but they have an amazing art program and their language programs are very good. Caroline and I worry about you. We will both be so far,” Cassidy cut off abruptly.

“What about Caroline? Is she also planning to attend school in France?” Miranda tried to keep her voice steady.

“No, England. She wants to be a doctor. She’s applied to Cambridge and her adviser thinks she has a very good chance of being accepted.”

Miranda swallowed. Then, realizing her mouth was dry, reached for the water glass the waiter had placed on the table. She wasn’t mad, just incredibly sad that both her babies would be thousands of miles away.

Miranda shook her head at the thought. She would be happy for her girls. If this is what they wanted, then she would be happy for them both.

“Well, then I hope you both get accepted to the schools you want. I wish you hadn’t felt the need to hide it from me.”

“We might not get in. I mean, we didn’t want to upset you and when we applied it was fashion week in New York and it’s always a stressful time at Runway and…” Cassidy rushed to explain.

“Cassidy, you know you never have to worry about how stressful it is at work. You can always tell me whatever is on your mind. I promise it will be okay. I love you both and I will never be too busy for either of you. Now, we will talk about this next week. I love you but I have to go. Let me say good bye to your sister.”

“Love you too mom” Cassidy answered back before yelling at the top of her lungs “CAR”

“She told you, huh?”

“Yes she did. The better question is why didn’t you? Were you really so worried that I’d be angry?”

“No, that was all Cass.” Miranda cleared her throat. “Okay mostly Cass. I mean, I was like, maybe one percent worried.”

Miranda smirked. That was Caroline through and through. Cassidy was maybe a touch too dramatic. While Caroline was all business. “Like one percent,” Miranda teased back.

“Well, you know…” she tapered off, not quite finishing whatever thought she had begun to say.

“Yes, I know. So medicine?” Miranda removed the lid from her dinner.

“Yep,” came the taciturn answer.

“Cambridge?” She put the napkin on her lap before skewering a piece of broccoli

“Uh huh.” Caroline answered in as few syllables as possible.

“We’ll talk about this next week.” Miranda began eating while wrapping up her conversation. Time was now slipping away and she still needed to dress.

“Sure. Will you call tonight?” Caroline asked, finally using more than one word.

“I don’t think so darling. I have a party to attend and I’m actually very tired. Do you mind terribly?” Miranda chewed and swallowed before spearing another vegetable. She was suddenly ravenous.

“Nah, Caro and I have a ton of homework. It will be good to get it done before the weekend.”

Miranda rolled her eyes while finishing her bite. There was no way Cassidy was doing her homework on a Wednesday so her weekend would be free. “I’m sure,” was all she answered. “Alright, I love you, be good for Mrs. Hudson.”

“We always are. Bye mom. I’ll tell Cass to relax. Talk to you tomorrow,” and without waiting for reply, she discounted the call.

Miranda turned her attention to her dinner and was done in record time. She had only an hour to dress. Although, she reasoned with herself, if I’m late who would say anything. Driver was paid whether they waited by the curb or they drove her around. And with that final thought, she pushed away from the table and headed to her room to get ready.

At 9:27 Miranda swept through the hotel lobby. The town car smoothly pulled into the open loading zone and before the car could come to an idle; the door man had rushed forward and opened the door in a single, effortless motion. Miranda slid into the backseat, carefully, as to not wrinkle her dress. It was like magic and Miranda in the privacy of her own car smiled at the thought. She did love when everything came together.

A moment later, Jolene rang with good news. She had managed to arrange an early meeting at Thermopolis Studios with René for Friday. Miranda would have to miss the Textile, Hats and Scarfs shows but she routinely skipped these shows, preferring to let the Accessory Editor go in her stead. Since Jocelyn was not here, Sarah would have to attend. Oh well, thought Miranda, it couldn’t be helped. Now, all she needed to do was get through tonight’s party, offer her sincere congratulations and network for 45 minutes. Then she could head back to the hotel and finally rest. It had been a busy week so far and today seemed even busier than usual. All in all the day had been extremely successful even if it was exhausting. Miranda leaned back into the seats soft leather and watched Paris float by while she planned April’s main photo spread. Maybe something with industrial buildings and floral print dresses a garden in the city perhaps. Wild flowers against concrete walls, nature vs the cold, hard city. Hmm, Miranda thought, maybe.

 

Nigel, Emily and Serena had arrived together at René’s party, fashionably late of course but still before Miranda. Jolene had called to warn them of Miranda’s arrival. They had about 20 minutes before she would enter the building. After passing the message on, Nigel snagged a glass of champagne from a passing waiter. He was pleasantly surprised at the first sip. The quality of the champagne was significantly higher than what was normally served, which could be labeled as mediocre at best. He took another sip and mentally went through his day while people watching. Overall it had gone well. The car ride with Miranda had been a touch nerve racking but otherwise it had been a very good day. Soon Miranda would arrive and he’d accompany her around the room and then she’d kiss his cheek and make her excuses to go. He could be back in his hotel within two hours. Nigel took another sip.
A beautiful man dressed in Hugo Boss walked by Nigel. Or he could stay a little longer. The man turned and saw Nigel watching him; he gave a little wink and a smile. Nigel smiled back and took a slightly larger swallow of champagne. He’d stay. There was nothing stopping him from mixing a little business with pleasure. Still tracking the young man with his eyes, Nigel smiled again. Yes, today had been a good day and the night was looking to be even better. Nigel moved forward to follow him and then stopped abruptly. The crowd had parted and there in the center, stood Andy.

Andy in a pale white Chanel couture dress. Nigel contemplated the dress. It was this season. It was a one of a kind, this season’s dress. Most reporters don’t have one of a kind dress.

“Bloody hell Nigel,” Emily shrieked. Nigel had apparently stepped on the hem of Emily’s dress. Her voice startled him out of his train of thoughts. Before he could apologize, Emily turned her head to see what had stopped Nigel.

“Andy,” she breathed out. Nigel’s head whipped back to Emily. Emily had sounded, well the way she sounded when she was with Serena. Softer, gentler, something more than she showed at Runway.

“She looks good,” Serena chimed in, earning her a glare from Emily.

“Don’t you start. I remember the crush you had on her before.”

“English, it wasn’t a crush, I’ve told you. I just said she looked good. That shade of white is a lovely color on her.”

“I remember you watching her as she walked around in those boots. Don’t think for a minute I’ve forgotten.”

Serena mumbled something under her breath before pulling Emily into her arms. Leaning her head down, she whispered into Emily’s ear. “I only have eyes for you my English Rose, my beloved Emily.”

Smiling Emily kissed her cheek before pulling away “You better remember that.”

“So,” Emily turned towards Nigel, “what’s the plan? Miranda is not going to want to see her.”

Nigel felt like his head was going to explode. His eyes were swiveling back and forth between Andy and Emily. He didn’t have a plan. He had started to believe, like Miranda, that Andy was interviewing Linda. Linda wasn’t at this party. Which meant Andy wasn’t at this party but there she was. Standing there in a white dress, that really was lovely. She had kept her weight down to a 4, which was good. She still had a slightly curvy body that highlighted her femininity. Nigel shook his head to refocus his thoughts. Andy wasn’t supposed to be here. He turned to answer Emily when loud laugh rang out. His attention jerked back to Andy as she laughed while René gathered her into his arms and placed a solid kiss on her cheek.

“And there goes the plan of trying to make her leave,” Serena unhelpfully offered.

This was so, so much worse than Nigel could have imagined. After today’s conversation he was convinced that Miranda felt more for Andy than a simple employee-employer relationship, not that she would admit it. Hell, knowing her, she probably hasn’t even figured out her feelings for Andy. And now, now Miranda was going to have to deal with Andy because she was dating the one designer that Miranda wanted to launch into the stratosphere of fashion.

At that moment Andy caught Nigel’s eyes. She whispered something into René’s ear, and wrapped her hand around his lower arm. A brief look at Nigel’s watch told him he had 16 minutes before Miranda arrived. This could not have been worse, he thought, as they glided across the parquet floor towards him.

René offered a slight nod toward Nigel and the women now standing at his side. Nigel saw Emily clench her fist and Serena grab her other hand.

“Allow me to introduce my cousin,” René began. Nigel let go of the breath he had been unknowingly holding. He had been preparing himself to hear fiancée, not cousin. “Her Royal Highness Amelia Andréa Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi, Queen of Genovia,“ René finished with a deep bow.

Andy nodded at René, “We know each other, dear cousin.”

“I know but it’s cool to formally introduce you to people. Not many people have royalty in their family.” He grinned at her.

Andy smiled back. “Yes but it gets less cool” she used her fingers to make quotation marks around the word cool, “after the tenth time in 30 minutes.” She kissed his left cheek and patted his arm to take the sting from her words. “Now that you’ve introduced us, go mingle. This is your night. I’ll find you before I leave.”

“Yes, your Highness,” he mock bowed while Andy rolled her eyes at his playful behavior.

Nigel was unable to process all this new information quick enough. Not a reporter, royalty, designer’s cousin. Oh God, Miranda would be here in 14 minutes.

“Do we?” Emily asked.

“Emily,” Serena tightened her grip on Emily’s hand.

“No, she has to answer? Do we know you?”

“Em.”

“Don’t Em me, like we’re friends” She spat out. “You left. Do you know how many people Miranda fired after you left? Do you?” Emily’s voice was rising. “Eight. Eight people fired because of you. No one was as good as fat, little, carb eating you.” Emily’s voice rose in anger. “I had to manage on my own and that would have been fine but you just disappeared a month later. No reason, no phone call.” Emily’s voice broke. “You promised you’d be there and then you just left. You left me all alone. You promised and …” Emily whispered the last sentence, tears falling from her eyes.

Before Serena could comfort her, Andy had tugged her into her own arms, holding her close.

“I’m sorry Em. I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you,“ Andy spoke softly so only Emily could hear. “I should have but I just didn’t know what to say. I should have told you why I had to leave. I’ll make it up to you. I promise. Was it so bad?”

Emily only nodded. It had been terrible.

With a discreet kiss to Emily’s cheek, Andy pulled back and looked over at Serena. Serena smiled. Emily had told her of her unlikely friendship with Andy. She understood why Emily was so distraught. Emily hadn’t just thought of Andy as her friend but as her family. The only one Emily had left and when Andy had disappeared Emily had been beside herself. Thankfully Serena had been there to pick up the pieces. Serena wasn’t sure if she could ever fully forgive Andy for disappearing but it seems that there might be a reason why. She was looking forward to hearing it.

Andy leaned back towards Emily “I see I was right. Serena did like you. I told you it would work out.”

Emily let out a teary laugh “Yes, you bloody cow. You were right.” Emily suddenly remembered they were in the middle of a party. Horrified she looked around.

“No worries, Em,” Andy indicated to the three men that surrounded them. “They’re the souls of discretion.” Apparently sometime during her breakdown Andy’s security team had surrounded them, blocking off any on lookers.

“Yes, well. Um. I, “Emily laughed again, feeling lighter now. “ I need to go to the ladies room and repair the damage. I’ll talk to you later?”

A quick glance to her left told Andy what she needed to know. “I’m sorry Em. I’m leaving in a few minutes. Here’s my card.” She gave one to both Serena and Emily. “You can give me a call and when you come back for Paris Fashion Week we can have dinner together.”

“So you live here then?”

“I live near here. It’s on the border of France and Spain. But I’m in Paris a lot and it’s not hard to pop up here to meet with my dearest friend.”

Emily nodded, kissed Andy’s cheek and then she and Serena left to repair her makeup. Andy watched her walk away, remembering how she and the volatile woman became friends.

 

 

She had been working at Runway for 4 months when Lily called her up and begged her to go out with her. It was a matter of extreme importance she said. Nate was working and it was one of her only nights without any responsibilities. She had planned to make the most of it, curled up in a well-loved t-shirt, a pair of shorts and a pint of ice cream while being mildly entertained by Legend of the Seeker or The Office. Lily, as always, didn’t take no as an answer. So without any information, Andy was emotionally blackmailed into being dragged out into the night by her best friend.

Andy found herself sliding into borrowed clothes a mere 45 minutes later and rushing to finish her make up. Lily let herself into the apartment to wait while Andy finished up. Coming out of the bedroom Andy found Lily pouring a drink for both of them. As she liberated the glass from Lily’s hands, she asked “So what’s so important that I have to leave the house on my one night free?”

“Drink that.” Lily pointed at the glass of brandy Andy was currently warming in her hands. She took a small sip. “No, all of it.” She took a larger drink. This had the makings of a Lily-Greatest Idea Ever type of plan. The last time Lily ended up in jail because she thought we needed to add streaking to our college transcripts. Thankfully Andy was able to avoid that by reminding Lily of her grandmother and her possible reaction. The time before that she convinced Andy to take a ski jump she hadn’t been fully prepared for. She broke her forearm. Lily said if she had just jumped a little higher she would have made the landing. Before that Lily crashed her beloved mustang because she had the idea they could jump her car from one hill to another with enough speed. They couldn’t and Lily had been banned from driving in Genovia. Andy finished her drink and waited.

“So I need your help with an artist.” That did sound bad Andy thought . “Okay, so, um this artist likes to hang out at this club and I can’t go by myself. I mean I could but I need you to be my wing woman.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. Why don’t you talk to this person during normal hours?”

“Don’t you think I’ve tried that? She won’t take my calls.” Lily threw back her head, finishing her drink. “Look,” she slid her glass across the wood counter top, “I’m designing my first show and I really want her work but she is, sort of reclusive. I’ve tried her studio and no one answers. So I was talking to Owen who said he heard Gino say that Mark saw her hanging out at Eden and Julie told Jamie that she was going to be there after 11 on Saturday. So we have to go.”

Andy took a moment, swallowed the rest of the liquor and then asked the most important question she could think of. “You want me to go to some random club in New York because someone said that, someone else said that, someone else saw her somewhere and then someone else said, someone else heard she might be at this random place at this time? What the Fuck Lily. I could be in sweatpants or catching up on sleep. Go to the club. Pull up your big girl panties and go.” Andy turned away to rinse the glass she had just finished drinking out of. If she changed now she’d still have time to read a little, enjoy a bowl of ice cream and get a solid 9 hours of sleep.

“You don’t understand Andy,” Lily started to plead. “It’s Eden.” Andy looked at her blankly while drying her hands. “Eden? Really? Okay,” Lily began explaining like Andy was five. “Look it’s this really hot lesbian club and I don’t want to go alone because, you know...”

Andy didn’t know and so asked “What? What will happen if you go alone?”

“I’ll be hit on.”

Andy was flabbergasted. Really, this was Lily’s big concern. Apparently her thoughts manifested themselves on her face because before Andy could open her mouth, Lily rushed on with her excuses.

“You don’t understand, What if I get there and someone hits on me and because I have to stop and tell them no, I’m not interested, she gets away. Or worse, one of them turns out to be an artist that I want to work with and they remember me crushing their heart and now in a bitter rage they refuse to work with me. I’ll be cast out of the art world all because you wanted to sleep.”

Andy wanted to strangle her friend. This was worse than high school. “Lily, not every woman is going to hit on you.”

“How do you know? I mean I’m not gay but if I was I would totally hit on me. I mean I’m smart, artistic and have a job. I’m a catch. What’s not to love? In fact I’m so fabulous I’d probably be mobbed if I walk through the door alone. Which is why I need you to pretend to be my bitch tonight.”

At Andy’s sharp intake of breath Lily meekly asked, “Too much?”

“Yeah too much.”

“Do you think I need flannel? I mean on one hand it’s flannel and does not work with the Mark Jacobs, but on the other I want to blend in and I’m so hot I could rock flannel.”

“Lily, no one rocks flannel. And it won’t matter what you wear.”

“You think they won’t let me in?” Lily cut off Andy again.

“I’m not sure you could get in,” Andy said with a smile. “How will you fit that enormous head through the door?”

“Jerk,” Lilly stuck her tongue out and lightly tapped Andy’s arm.

“I’m teasing. I’ll go with you because I’m already dressed but I have a few rules.”

“Okay,” Lily was quick to agree.

“Don’t say okay yet. Rule one; I am not your bitch. Rule two; you have to call me Andy no matter how much you drink.”

“It was just that once.”

“Doesn’t matter why it happened or even when, it can’t happen again. Understand?”

“Fine” she grumbled.

“Rule three.”

“Oh my God, how many rules are there going to be. You’re sucking all the fun out of me.”

Andy just waited until she finished her tantrum. “Rule three; you can’t just take off without letting me know. I can not live through another night like Pi Kappa Alpha.”

“You know you were a lot more fun when you were 15.”

“I swear to God Lily. You left me stranded in a frat house with no ride, no wallet and no phone.”

“God, nothing happened. I said sorry like a million times.”

“You left me with Chester Manister the third for 3 hours. Mass murders are treated better.”

“I said I’m sorry. Hey, do you remember the next day, he followed you around for like a whole day and then you took him into that weird women’s study group we had signed up for and they were comparing dildos and the rise of fetishism. I never saw anyone run out of a class so fast.”

They both laughed. “So…”

“Yeah, okay. I won’t call you my bitch and I’ll call you Andy.”

“And you won’t fucking leave me, Lily!”

“Yeah, yeah, okay and I won’t leave you. God, can we go yet?”

It didn’t take long to reach the club and after a thankfully brief wait in line, they entered a rather tastefully decorated club. Immediately spotting her elusive artist, Lily abandoned Andy at the bar. Andy leaned over the bar to wave down the bartender. After paying $10 for a rum and coke Andy looked around. The dance floor was packed and the dim roar of voices competed with the music. Andy could feel her heart beating in time with the heavy bass line. Taking another sip of her drink she looked to her right. Lily was nowhere to be seen. Looking to her left, she didn’t see her either. God damn it. I’m going to kill her, Andy thought to herself. Andy decided to hang out for 10 minutes more and if she didn’t see Lily, she’d leave. Plan in place, Andy relaxed into her bar stool. The person to her immediate right got up to join their friends on the dance floor. Andy saw a flash of red hair from the corner of her eye. Turning her head to the right Andy’s eyes met a startled Emily.

“Oh, uh, hi Emily.” Andy gave a dorky little wave.

“Oh. My. God.” Emily dragged out those three words. “Are you kidding me?”

“No, I…”

“This is a nightmare. Really. A nightmare. Are you following me, because if this is some creepy Midwest thing you people do, there are laws against stalking in the big city.”

“No. I’m not stalking you,” Andy internally rolled her eyes at the thought. “Do you come here a lot then?” God she thought, stop talking. It sounded like she was hitting on Emily and badly. “I mean…”

“Why do you think I would want to talk to you?” she sneered.

“You Are talking to me,” Andy pointed out.

“Just go. God just go away.”

“I’m waiting for someone.”

“You’re waiting for someone? Here?” she drew out the last word slowly.

It dawned on Andy that announcing that she was waiting for someone in a lesbian bar may send the wrong message but before she could explain Emily started talking again.
“Really? Well, isn’t that interesting? The hairy cook not meeting your needs, then?”

Andy felt a blush spread across her neck and face. “Uhh, I,” she stuttered. She could feel Emily’s eyes tracing over her body.

”You’re not really my type but I can make an exception. I’m not against dipping into the company ink.”

This night could not get worse. “Emily, I really am waiting for someone, my friend Lily. She is,” Andy craned her head around before she spotted her coming towards her, “right over there.” She pointed.

“Hey.” Lily halfheartedly greeted Emily

“You’re not here because…”

“No.”

Lily, picking up on the vibe between Andy and Emily, but misinterpreting it, like she always did, blurted out, “Hey maybe you needed the protection more than I did. We’re here for 15 minutes and already some chick is hitting on you.”

Emily’s face paled.

“Emily, this is my friend…”

“No, don’t care,” and with that Emily spun on her heel and dashed out of the bar. Fuck, Andy thought.

“We can go now. I worked out a deal with Irene. Did I tell you her name was Irene? She’s developing this amazing technic...” Andy just let Lily drone on. Emily was embarrassed and that was going to make Monday terrible. God damn it Lily. Lately it seemed like it was all about her. Her sensitive friend was turning into a callous bitch. Before it used to be all about saving the world, then it was saving beautiful things, then it was making a statement about society with art. Now though, Andy looked over at her lifelong friend, happily babbling about her gallery show in October, it seemed to be about getting the money. She wasn’t promoting new artists. She was seducing artists away from their previous galleries with promises of more exposure.

She wanted Andy to hang out when she was free but she didn’t have time to hang out when Andy was free. Getting to relax was less important than her needing to sign an artist. When Nate ignored her, Lily took his side. Andy gave Lily the Marc Jacobs she was currently carrying around and then she turned around and disrespected the same job that provided it. At this point Andy wasn’t sure whether Lily really didn’t respect her as a person or just didn’t respect her job. Which is sad because art and fashion are the same side of the coin. How could she be a champion of art but ignore an industry that creates expression? Maybe Andy had always been a little blind when it came to her. She was her first real friend and she had been there through the ups and downs but there was always a layer of guilt she heaped on to Andy. She crashed her car, no big deal, Andy could buy another. She got arrested, no big deal, Andy would bail her out. Hell, she almost talked Andy out of her inheritance when she was 16. Maybe her grandmother was right. Andy needed to examine her relationship with her.

“So I said that would be great. Hey, you know we’re already out we could go to Max Fish or Marquee.”

“Lily, I want to go home. I only came out to help you.”

“Yeah, I know but you’re always so busy and we never hang out.”

“I told you we could do something on Wednesday. Miranda was out of town and I was home by 6.”

“Yeah but I was out with Gino and Jamie. I couldn’t just cancel. Come on. Just a little while.”

“Max Fish is more your scene then mine.”

“So Marquee. I always wanted to go there.”

Andy thought about what she knew of Marquee. On a Saturday night it would be impossible for them to get in. The line would be miles long and unless Miranda was actually with her, the velvet rope would not open for an assistant. “I am so tired Lil. We won’t get in on a Saturday.”

“I heard you could buy a table and then they let you in.”

“Oh you just heard that? How much is a table?”

“$650.”

“You have that? Because I get paid next week and I need to eat and pay rent.”

“Well, no but can’t you just,” she made her hands open like a tiny explosion, “poof.”

“You want me to use money to buy a table at a place I don’t want to go when I don’t even use that money so I can pay rent? Are you kidding me?” Andy turned stalking away in the direction of the nearest subway station.

“Well we could just tell them who you are.” Lily shouted out. Andy whirled around. She marched back over to Lily.

“You know over the years I’ve dealt with a lot of stuff from you. You never apologize and mean it. You put me in dangerous situations and you don’t listen to me when I talk.”

“That’s not true I…”

“You’re doing it now. I’m done. I have too much going on to wait around for you, hoping you’ll start being my friend again. Call me when you grow up, because this person you are turning into, it’s not the person I thought you were.”

Andy walked away, tears falling. She was done letting Lily walk all over her. Hopefully after a little time Lily and she could be friends again but right now there was enough stress between Nate and her and at her job. She did not need her friends to make it worse.

Andy didn’t talk to Lily anymore that weekend. On Monday she was out of the office most of the day following Miranda around. It had been a good day; Miranda was entrusting her with the book.

 

 

It did not go well. Besides having Emily dig her bony fingers into her arm while interrogating her about the night before and threatening her with ruin if she said anything about Saturday, she was sent on an impossible errand. Emily’s apparent joy at her misery did not bright her mood. But in the end she had prevailed and for once had beaten the editrix at her own game. Feeling like she was on top of the world, she dared to lean into Emily’s personal space and say quietly, “If you ever want to talk over drinks, or just hang out…” She left the sentence hanging and didn’t mention it again.

Two weeks later, in the first week of August, Emily hung up the phone looked at Andy and asked “Do you want to meet for coffee this weekend?”

 

 

Nigel unaware of Andy’s thoughts, turned to ask his own questions, when Andy's spine straightened. “She’s here Nigel. Emily has my card; you can get it from her. I’ll talk to you later.” As he hurried to Miranda’s side, he wondered if Andy was going to try to slip away before Miranda saw her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

Miranda, currently unaware of the unfolding drama, swept into the room dressed in a black and silver gown. The sweetheart neckline drew attention to her soft cream-colored skin. The corset bodice was detailed in small, brilliant crystals, spread into a pattern that reminded one of stars. It continued down over a full black tulle skirt that showcased the tiny crystals beautifully. It remind one of the heavens, which Nigel thought was appropriate as most people here considered Miranda to be a goddess.

Nigel stepped onto her left side. His shoes shining and his suit impeccably cut he was a perfect designer match to Miranda. Nigel had been playing her escort for the last three years. While, she was not uncomfortable attending these gatherings alone, it was lovely to talk with someone who knew her best.

After the necessary cheek kissing, hand shaking and small talk concluded. They stepped further into the room to begin the required 30 minutes of networking. It was always the same Miranda thought. A handful of celebrities would greet her at the door, exclaiming how lovely her dress was or other such nonsense, then try to start a small conversation, perhaps invite her to one of their parties, and then a near cheek kiss, in which neither she nor they would actually touch cheeks. It was a dreadful 15 minutes but a necessary one. They needed to be seen with her for all the gossip blogs and she needed to make sure everyone knew she was the most important person in the room. Such was fame. Miranda allowed Nigel to steer them around the room to great the other designers present. It may have been René’s party but free champagne brought in a great many people. After another 15 minutes passed and they were no closer to the host of the party Miranda finally decided to take charge of their directional meandering.

Nigel noticed that they were now approaching René; he desperately looked for Andy. Not seeing her, he relaxed a moment and let Miranda tug him along. It really was for the best he thought. He could tell her what he had learned later, when there were less people listening to their conversations in hopes of an insider scoop. Right before they reached René, Victoria Beckham stepped into Miranda’s circle. Nigel focused on René, tuning out Victoria. She was a lovely woman and any other night he would be delighted to speak with her but now Miranda’s time was growing short and René…René was moving again! Nigel set his hand on Miranda’s forearm as gentle warning. As he did Nigel saw out of the corner of his eye Andy reappear. At that moment Miranda turned toward René and Andy. Great, Nigel thought as Miranda sank her nails into his arm, holding him hostage as she steered them over to where René and Andy were talking. Just great, he bitterly thought.

“René,” Miranda began, eyes firmly trained on his face, trying to desperately ignore the pounding of her heart. Why was Andréa here and how did she know René? How is it that she keeps popping up today? It had been 5 years since the last time she had seen her and now twice in one day.

“Miranda, I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to meet with you earlier. It’s been so busy and this being my first show, well” he smiled coyly, “I really wanted it to be perfect. I’m so happy to finally meet you.” He extended his hand in greeting. Miranda grasped it and was pleased that even though he was nervous, his hand shake was firm. It showed a great deal of character, she thought to herself. As she let go of his hand, her eyes flickered to Andréa. She was lovely in Chanel. She felt her heart beat loudly in her own ears.

Seeing her eyes flicker over to his cousin, René prepared to introduce them. He knew that Andy was nervous about this meeting but it needed to be done and he promised to help her with this. Dropping the playfulness that colored his voice earlier, he drew himself up, as he had been taught to, formally bowed his head to his cousin and awaited her nod. When she dipped her head in acknowledgement he turned to Miranda who had been watching with a blank expression. “Excuse my rudeness Miranda. Allow me to introduce my cousin.”

Miranda felt the pounding in her ears slow down a little. Cousin was better than girlfriend, although why she felt that, she wasn’t ready to admit to herself. The bowing was a little odd. As was Nigel’s reaction. She watched as he stiffened. Miranda realized that he knew. He knew she was here and why. She’d deal with him later. In fact, she realized belatedly, Serena and Emily had been suspiciously absent also. This was unacceptable. She would have dealt with being surprised by Andréa’s presence but that she was the last to know showed an egregious lack of judgment by her staff. She’d rectify that lapse later. She turned her attention back to René. She was about to interrupt his needless introduction. The fact that he didn’t know that Andréa had previously worked for her was strange but of no consequence but before she could utter a word René continued.

“Her Royal Highness Amelia Andréa Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi, Queen of Genovia.” René bowed his head again and then straightened. Continuing this formal presentation, as was his duty as both Andy’s cousin and the host of this party, René then turned to Andy and said “Your Majesty, allow me to introduce Miranda Priestly Editor-In-Chief of American Runway.”

Miranda felt bewildered, which was not a state she often found herself in. Nigel seeing her flounder, turned to René and begun speaking, buying a little time for Miranda to pull herself together. Miranda half listened as Nigel spoke. Instead she watched Andréa eyes flick down and then back up to meet her own. This was unacceptable. This girl, woman, Miranda corrected herself, as Andrea resembled a fully functioning adult instead of the uncoordinated and ill-dressed girl she had hired all those years ago, had once again disrupted her life. Was this just a game? Did she just pretend to need a job? Auto world or fashion, she had said. Did she go home and laugh about it later with her friends? Miranda could feel her heart rate pick up again, this time in anger. How dare she? Miranda didn’t care if she was the Queen of some little speck of land she had never heard of. She wanted answers and she’d get them.

“So René I hear that you’ll be meeting with Miranda and I on Friday. We can’t wait to see your collection. I thought my heart was going to stop when I saw that…” Nigel tried to keep René’s attention on him.

Andy kept her eyes on Miranda while Nigel spoke. She watched Miranda carefully. Her face betrayed nothing but her fingers looked like they were digging painfully into Nigel’s arm. The tips had gone white from pressure. Andy observed Miranda’s eyes tighten and then that awful fake smile appear. Shit, this was going to go just as awfully as she thought it would. She felt a little bad about pulling René into this but she didn’t see a way out of this mess.

“So Your Majesty,” disdain coloring her voice. Nigel winced at her tone.

“Andréa, please,” Andy interrupted out of habit. She was used to the title but hearing Miranda say it felt wrong. It was dangerous to interrupt Miranda though and she knew that but she wanted to talk to her privately and if they had to stand there dancing around protocol there wouldn’t be enough time. She had already spotted her secretary Amanda heading this way. She should have left 15 minutes ago.

René also spotted Amanda and knew that time had run out for his dear cousin. “Nigel there’s someone I’d like you to meet. He dyes all my fabrics.” René nodded to his cousin. “Andréa it was lovely to see you. I know you must leave but will I see you on Friday?” His tone was perfectly bland, as though he stood in front of the Queen of Fashion every day. Truthfully he was scared to death but he loved Andréa dearly and he knew she need this extra time without Nigel or him eavesdropping.

“You’re leaving?” Miranda’s voice was arctic. “Running away again?”

Andy not quite sure how to respond to that, was saved by Amanda’s arrival. “Your Majesty,” she dipped into a slight curtsy. “The plane is waiting and you are already 15 minutes late. At this rate we won’t arrive until”, she rolled her wrist and looked at her watch, Andy and Miranda’s eyes followed her movements. “A little after midnight,” she concluded.

Andy sighed. Midnight and then awake up call at 600, breakfast and then a meeting at 900 followed by another at 1300. She’d be lucky to eat dinner before she needed to meet with her household manager. There was also a meeting with her chief of security and the police commissioner as soon as there was a free moment. Sometime during the day she also needed to fit in a quick phone call to her grandmother, who was on vacation in Australia with Joseph. Shaking her head of her overfilled schedule, she addressed Amanda while keeping her eyes on Miranda. “Tell the plane to prepare I’ll be leaving in a moment. Please tell the men to stay at the Embassy. I’ll take Lars with me for security. You can go now and finish whatever needs to be done before we leave. Thank you Amanda.”

Amanda backed away, offered a slight curtsey and then answer with “Yes, your Majesty.”

Without breaking eye contact with Miranda, Andy slightly nodded her head toward Rene and granted him permission to depart. She could see Nigel from the corner of her eye waiting for a similar order from Miranda. Who, at the moment was glowering at Andy and had ceased to notice Nigel patiently waiting. Nigel cleared his throat and broke Miranda and Andy’s eye contact from one another. “Ahem, Miranda it’s 10:45. Your driver has arrived.”

Andy realizing that this would be the perfect opportunity to speak with Miranda for a moment and control their immediate surroundings turned to Nigel. “It’s been lovely to see you Nigel. I hope we have a moment to catch up properly next time you’re in town. Please give me a call when you have a free moment. I know you’ll be very busy so don’t worry if we can’t get together until Fashion Weeks are over. Miranda would you care to accompany me to the car?”

Andy calmly waited for Miranda’s reply. It could go either way.

Miranda on the other hand saw Andréa’s maneuvering tactic for what it was. She hadn’t answered the question about running away and her secretary’s convenient arrival made her wonder if Andréa hadn’t somehow arraigned a secret signal to give her a plausible escape. Well, Miranda was no one’s fool and she was going to get some answers. Smiling her sharpest, smallest, smile Miranda answered Andréa’s politely worded request with “Of course, I’d be delighted.”

Nigel winced and hurried away with René. He was sure Andy was in for an unpleasant 10 minutes.

Andy heard the ice in Miranda’s voice; saw the anger in her eyes and that hateful smile. It didn’t surprise her at all. She knew this would be an uphill battle. She had spent many years thinking about what it would be like to meet her again. It was going better than her worse scenario and not at all well compared to her best. Time to bite the bullet.

“Miranda,” Andy dropped her voice to a near whisper as they moved through the crowds of people on the way to the coat check. “I know you have a few questions for me but I just wanted to take these few moments we have and say," she paused and drew in a deep breath, “I’m sorry. I wanted a job because I earned it, not because it was handed to me. You can understand that.”

Miranda interrupted Andréa “And what? You thought that I’d give you special treatment because your family is wealthy? Who do you think I am?” She spat out with venom. “A hundred girls a week try to work for me, thinking that I’d give them a job because their father is an important man or that their mothers and I have socialized. I’ve never offered them a single unearned opportunity. What made you so special that you thought the rules wouldn’t apply to you?”

Whoa, Andy thought she was a lot angrier than she had originally thought. “I didn’t think the rules didn’t apply to me. It was more…” Andy cut herself off as they arrived at the coat room. After they both donned their jackets, Andy once again tried to explain. “It wasn’t aimed at you.”

“Pardon?”

“I didn’t hide who I was because of you.” Andy wanted to pull at the ends of her hair, a habit she had trained herself out of when she was a teenager. Miranda made her feel extremely unsettled. “It was an agreement I had made with my grandmother. I wanted to be a writer. She wanted to keep our family name out of the press. Using my middle name and my step father's last name was an easy way to do that.”

Whatever Miranda had expected, it wasn’t that. She left a little of her previous anger fade and for a moment she let the confusion show on her face.

Andy continued speaking “I owe you an explanation and I would love to sit down and tell you everything but,” she motioned with her arm as her car pulled up, “I have to go now. Are you free for dinner on Friday? I will come back to Paris on Friday, are you free then?” Andy knew desperation was coloring her voice but she wanted a chance to earn Miranda’s forgiveness and she wanted to spend more time with the woman. She had missed her for 5 years.

Miranda knew she would meet her. She wanted answers. She wanted to find out why she had left her in Paris 5 years ago. It couldn’t have been for the reasons she had previously thought. But then, Miranda thought, what were her reasons? “You can call Jolene and she can check if there is an opening in my schedule. It's an incredibly busy time of year for me you know. I hope you didn't think that I would just drop everything just because you've added a title to your name.” She sniffed, as even the idea of rearranging her schedule was ludicrous.

“Great,” a bright smile graced Andy’s face. “I’ll have Amanda contact her tomorrow to find a suitable time. It was really nice to see you again Miranda. You look beautiful.” And with that Andy slid into her car and sped off into the night.

Miranda stood there as her car pulled up to the loading area. She could feel a blush coloring her cheeks. She’d call Jolene when she returned to the hotel and have her keep Friday completely free of appointments, save René. Who, she smiled an evil smile; she planned on vigorously questioning until she had enough information that she didn’t feel so overwhelmed by this new version of Andréa.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Thursday

Miranda promptly woke up at 6 am and reached for her reading glasses. What was that? She thought to herself as she pulled on a light blue robe. There was something on page 246. She opened her laptop and pulled up the electronic version of Runway. Just because her senior staff was attending the Haute Couture shows this week didn’t mean the magazine shut down. It was partly the reason why everyone was run ragged during Fashion month. They were all pulling double duty.

Yes there. She found the typo that had eluded her the night before. Flipping the next page she also made a comment about the coloring of the background picture. A touch more gold and a little less red. She continued to flip through the mock-up, letting its familiarity sooth her. She was often up early in the morning to work on the book. Between the girls and the must attend social engagements, morning allowed her more uninterrupted time to work. Rolling her now stiff shoulders, Miranda looked over at the clock. 2 hours had passed. Breakfast would arrive soon and she had a full day.

Miranda headed into the bathroom, twisted the hot water in the shower on and stepped in. She let the hot water beat down on her shoulders and neck, relieving the ache she had acquired hunched over the laptop. As she relaxed and washed her hair, she let her mind drift. What should she do about Nigel? He had withheld pertinent information she thought to herself as she rinsed away the shampoo. She’d wait to see what information he had for her and then decide her next course of action.

Turning her mind once more to her beloved Runway, Miranda thought of a photo shoot they could work into the May issue. Kanye West had been snapping at her heels the last few days and while he wasn’t her first choice she knew he would bring readers and hopefully expand their demographics. As much as she would love Runway to be pure fashion, Miranda knew she had to pander to the business side of things to keep it the number one selling fashion magazine.

Booking Kanye and his entourage for a photo shoot in 8 weeks to highlight an eclectic mix of designers and casual wear would be a gargantuan task. It would be difficult to arrange as Mr. West was a diva in his own right. If she had Shaun shoot it…Shaun could do it justice and it would fill the three open pages in May’s issue. Maybe contact Central Park Zoo as a possible location. Unleashed. She could have one of the writers add a little something about whatever project he was working on. She wouldn’t be showing his clothing but she could mention his label. It would fit nicely between the two stories on animal conservation projects they had currently ear marked for the issue. Satisfied Miranda turned her attention to finishing her shower and dressing for the day.

An hour later Miranda stepped out of her bedroom. Breakfast was waiting for her, along with a hot, skim, no foam latte with 2 natural sugars. Perfect. As Miranda sat, she mentally ran through her schedule. Four shows today, starting at 11. She’d be done quite early. She could question Nigel about Andréa over dinner, attend the Valentino party, stop by the Gaultier’s gathering and be back in her hotel suite by 11. She would have enough time to ring the girls before bed. Pleased with today’s schedule Miranda finished her breakfast and coffee.

At 10:30 Miranda headed to the lobby. The first show was conveniently located at 41 boulevard du Temple, which was only 11 minutes from Le Bristol. As she slid into the car Jolene opened the driver’s side door and took her place at Miranda’s left side. Miranda reminded Jolene to keep Friday clear and that Andréa’s assistant would be calling today. Also that she need to speak with Shaun Alexander today. Sometime after 8 this evening. Without putting too much thought into it, Miranda continued to list a series of menial tasks that she also needed done today. She finished listing her needs and just let her voice peter out.

Jolene waited until Miranda stopped talking to confirm that she had already heard from a woman named Amanda that inquired whether 7 would be a good time to meet for dinner. Miranda confirmed with a brief nod of her head and looked out the window. As they pulled up to Théâtre Déjazet, Miranda turned to look at Jolene for a moment. “I want everything you can find out about Genovia and its royal family in my hotel room by 8 tonight.” Satisfied Miranda exited the car. Whatever information Nigel was lacking would hopefully be turned up by Google.

 

Nigel woke up to a shrill ringing noise but because he had worked for Miranda for 23 years he could identify the sound of a ringing phone from a dead sleep. Blindly, without bothering with his glasses, he reached out and grabbed the vibrating, jarring thing and flicked it open. “Yes.” He peered at the digital clock. 7:00. He didn’t need to get up for at least an hour.

“We need to meet. You know she knows and I for one am not going to be thrown under the bus when she corners me.” Emily’s voice rapidly exclaimed. Not even a good morning.

It was too early to deal with Emily’s hyperactivity, so without saying another word, Nigel closed the phone. It rang before the lid fully snapped shut. He snapped it open again.

“Did you just hang up? I swear to…” click. He flipped it shut again. A second passed and Nigel reached for his glasses. The phone rang again. He rubbed his hand over his face and then donned his glasses. “Yes.”

“Good morning Nigel. Do you have a moment?” Serena’s silky voice asked. If Nigel had to guess Serena took Emily’s phone from her. At least Serena had the civility to say good morning.

“Good morning.” Nigel returned the greeting. “Of course. How can I help you?” He could hear Emily spluttering in the background with barely contained rage.

“Emily believes that Miranda will wish to question her today at some point and said meeting might not go well for her.”

“I believe Emily is correct and if she doesn’t corner Emily she’ll be coming for me. So what does our twitchy red-head wanted to do about it?” Serena muffled a laugh while Emily continued to rant in the background. Occasionally words like bloody and arse were loud enough to trickle over the line but Serena had covered the mouth piece muffling most of their conversation.

“I believe a breakfast meeting would be wise. Shall we meet downstairs at Epicure for breakfast? Say in an hour?”

“I’ll see you in an hour.” Nigel hung up without a goodbye. His morning of sleeping in was shot. 6 hours of sleep would have to be enough. God knows he’s made due on a lot less. Dragging himself from bed, he stumbled into the bathroom for a quick shower before facing Emily and Serena. He had hoped the Serena would have calmed Emily before arriving at the restaurant. She was too high-strung for him to deal with so early. He had no idea how Serena did it.

 

While Nigel Showered and got ready, Emily was having an epic meltdown in her room with Serena. Serena had been listening to Emily rant and rave for the last 30 minutes. It had taken her surprisingly long to realize that Miranda would have noticed their absence last evening. Serena was a little shocked that Emily had not worried about this last night but her English had been overwhelmed with seeing her friend again.

“English,” Serena lightly placed her hands on Emily’s shoulders, stopping her pacing. “Try to relax. We will meet with Nigel and have breakfast. Nothing will change. Miranda will not fire you because you saw Andy at a party.”

“Of course not.” Emily snapped back at Serena. Serena stared hard at Emily causing her to blush in embarrassment. “Sorry, of course. I just don’t like feeling like the bottom could drop out anytime.”

Serena pulled Emily into her arms. She kissed the side of her cheek and spoke gently to her. “No one likes that feeling, my love but with Miranda it’s a common feeling. You’ve been with her for 6 years. You do good work for her. We’ll have breakfast and then plan the rest of the day. The first show is at 11. We have plenty of time. Please take a deep breath.” Serena took a deep breath, as if showing Emily how. “I love you.” Serena bent to kiss Emily. Emily smiled and let herself sink into the safety that was Serena’s embrace. Whatever would happen, would happen. Emily decided to try to accept it.

 

An hour later Nigel, Serena and Emily met for breakfast. Nigel and Serena ordered two bowls of coffee while Emily asked for tea. They didn’t talk much as they were all tired and aware that waiters were notorious gossips. Instead they sipped their drinks while waiting for plates of bread and cheese to arrive. After the waiter had left their table Emily spoke first.

“So, what do we say?”

Nigel had been thinking the same thing while showering and had come up with the only possible answer. “The truth. We saw her before Miranda walked in but you had a small meltdown after speaking with her for a total of 2 minutes and I never had a chance to speak to her. Honestly I think you’ll be let off with a warning. I on the other hand spent nearly 30 minutes with Miranda and chose not to tell her of Andy’s presence. I doubt I will be let off so lightly. I see serious penance in my future.” Nigel took off his glasses and cleaned them. He had not understated his position. He was well aware that Miranda would be very upset with him today. Not that he’d done anything wrong, per se. Rather it was what he didn’t do in light of yesterday’s earlier conversation.

Emily took a bite of her bread as she thought over Nigel’s words. He was right. Oh. Poor Nigel. Now that Emily was no longer worried about her neck, she could appreciate Nigel’s position. Not knowing what to say, she took a sip of her tea. Tea may not be extremely popular in France but at least they were in a five-star hotel that understood how to make a proper cup.

Serena who had been quiet until now spoke up. “So what will you do?”

“I will tell her everything I know, which isn’t much. What I’d like to know is about you?” Nigel looked at Emily.

“Me? What about me?” Emily’s voice took on a defensive tone.

“What was that about yesterday? I thought you hated Andy.”

Emily set her cup down and tried to organize her thoughts. Serena placed her hand on Emily’s thigh and gave her a light squeeze. She turned her head and smiled at her girlfriend’s unconditional support. Emily turned back towards Nigel, “It’s a bit of a long story.”

“We have time.” Nigel sat back in his chair and swished his fingers through the air, indicating Emily to begin.

“It started when I met her in a club. It didn’t start off well. In fact I was quite angry with her…” Emily started the story of her friendship with Andy.

It hadn’t really been a friendship. It was more of just having someone to talk to. She had just hung up with her mum. She had called Runway again. It didn’t matter how often she had asked her not to call her at work her mother just didn’t understand. She couldn’t just hang up on her mum when she called either. What kind of daughter would that make her? But every time all her mother wanted to know was when Emily was going to stop with this nonsense and move back home. There was always a bloke her mum wanted her to meet from East End. She’d start off with saying she saw a job that would be perfect for Emily, a shop girl or window dresser. Something that would keep her down in the muck that she had tried so hard to crawl out of and the guy was always someone who “ain’t been at the Queen’s pleasure and he’s got a bloody good job too.”

She just needed someone to talk to and Andy offered. It was just drinks one night. Emily hadn’t planned on going out again but Andy was nice and listened without interrupting, even though Emily had been nothing but cruel to her the last few months. Then one night out turned into two and then three. After a while they just started hanging out and spending time together.

Nate was always working at night and on the weekend, according to Andy so she had a lot of free Saturday nights. It was during one of these Saturdays, that Emily brought up that night at Eden. She was just so tired of pretending to date guys. One night stands were getting old and she had found herself hopelessly in love with her best friend. Emily laughed while telling Nigel of Andy’s embarrassment and subsequent apologies. She had tried to let Emily down gently, only to have Emily laugh in her face. It wasn’t Andy Emily was interested in. It had been Serena but she was so scared to lose her friend that she hadn’t felt comfortable saying anything. Andy had tried to reassure her that Serena seemed to like her too but it was too risky. It was better to just be friends. It was a pretty painful time.

Andy encouraged her to either be honest with Serena or move on. So Emily had pulled away from Serena. She only spent time with her at work. She started spending most of her free nights with Andy. They hung out at her apartment a lot. Nate always smelled of garlic and stale cigarettes. It made Andy’s tiny flat just gruesome.

Emily listened to Andy talk about Nate. At first it was his bitching about work, then it was late nights and hanging out with his friends instead of spending time together. After a while Andy just stopped talking about him. Emily on the other hand missed Serena all the time but Andy never pushed her. She said she’d be there for her no matter what.

Emily had debated on coming out to her mother. She knew it wouldn’t go over well but she was tired of hearing the endless stream of complaints. She was tired of hearing how her sister had two kids already and her brother was dating a decent woman (her sister said she was a right slag). She was tired of hiding but her da had skipped out when she was small and she didn’t want to lose the only person who had always been there. Again Andy had promised to be there.

And then Paris happened. Emily was laid up in the hospital and Andy had hopped a plane for Paris. It led to a breakdown in their friendship. It was only after she came back with loads of clothes for her that Emily forgave her. It didn’t hurt that Andy was the most wretched thing she had ever seen at the time too. The boyfriend had taken off to Boston. Not that it was a bad thing in Emily’s opinion. The friends had shown their true colors and abandoned her. Plus she was without a job. Emily really couldn’t hold on to her anger when her friend was so miserable. And then she was gone. Emily’s only friend and support had vanished.

Emily had tried to find her but she was gone without a forwarding address. She really didn’t know Andy’s friends and Nate had moved. When Emily had tracked him down he hung up on her, repeatedly. Serena had seen Emily becoming more and more frantic to find Andy. She finally sat Emily down and told her she had missed her friendship and she realized that she had missed her chance at something more now that Emily had fallen for Andy instead, but because she loved her she would put aside her jealousy and help her to find Andy.

Emily smiled as she wrapped up her story. Serena squeezed her hand. “Of course we worked it all out and Serena learned that Andy and I were just friends but we never did find Andy. I guess we now know why.”

Nigel sat stunned. He had never even seen Andy and Emily exchange more than a handful of civil words at work. Nothing to hint at this deeper level of friendship. Emily gazed at Serena, completely forgetting Nigel for a moment.

“I’m so glad you reached out to me. You were the one good thing from all of this.”

“You deserve all the good things in the world, my love. I wish you didn’t have to lose Andy for us to find each other.”

Nigel asked a question that had been knocking around his head since yesterday. “Why did Andy ask if it was terrible?”

“Oh.” Emily looked down, then up to Serena and then back to Nigel. “I told my mum about Serena. She called me a slag and refused to speak to me again. My sister and brother weren’t any different.”

“Maybe they’ll come around,” Nigel offered, thinking of his own family. It hadn’t been smooth for him either but after a year they slowly started to accept him.

“Nah,” Emily’s accent coming through a bit more than normal. “It’s been 5 years and they’ve not contacted me once. My Christmas and birthday cards were always returned. The first three years, I sent money in them but they just took the money out and resealed the cards.”

Nigel was horrified at the callousness of the people who Emily called family.

“So now, I’ve just let them go. I have Serena.” Emily shrugged her shoulders in defeat. Serena smiled at her. “And I have a job I love in the most exciting place in the world.”

Nigel lifted his coffee cup “Cheers to that.” He glanced at his watch. It was time to get to the first show. As they rose to meet Miranda, Nigel wondered what he would say to her. He had learned a lot but nothing really about Andy. That Andy was kind and caring wasn’t new information, and likely wasn’t the information Miranda was would be interested in.

Shaking his head as the doorman open the taxi door, Nigel could only guess what the day had in store for him.

Unfortunately for the three of them traffic was a bit snarled between the hotel and the show and they were forced to abandon the cab and race on foot to make the show. They had just enough time to slide into their seats before the lights dimmed around the stage.

Miranda narrowed her eyes at their tardiness. It was just more proof that Nigel knew more than he was telling her. No matter she thought to herself. She’d get it out of him at dinner.

 

There was very little time for talking after the show. Thursday schedule was very tight and the venues were quite a distance from one another. Miranda contemplated having Nigel ride with her again but dismissed it. She wanted to focus her attention solely on him. The car ride would be too short and the driver would be privy to most of it. For a moment she briefly missed Roy and his dependability. He had retired the year before and now her driver came from a pool of waiting chauffeurs. It wasn’t the same. It was worse in Paris though. The driver was provided by the hotel. Normally it wouldn’t have bothered her but today’s car did not have a dividing window. No, the conversation would have to wait.

“Jolene, have you confirmed Friday?”

“Yes Miranda. Friday at 7. Amanda gave me the address. I’ll give it to your driver.”

Miranda held out her hand for the address. 73 Quai d´Orsay, 7th Arrondissement was noted in Jolene’s neat handwriting. Excellent, it was only 10 minutes away. There would be no reason for her being late.

“Tell Nigel I expect to see him at my suite for dinner. I have a few questions I’d like him to answer. Ask him to decide what he’d like from Epicure and have it delivered to my room along with my order. Let Eric know that I enjoyed his choice of meal last night but tonight I’d like his chef’s menu only I would like the caviar instead of the macaroni and the pigeon instead of the lamb. I’d also like to skip the tangerine peel but would like to have the full cheese course. The chocolate sorbet is fine but I will only have two glasses of wine with dinner. He can choose when and what types to serve. I’ll have Café Americano with the sorbet.”

Miranda turned her attention back to her window. It was only moments later that they had arrived for the next show.

And so the day continued. One show after another until finally the last show ended and Miranda walked into her rooms at Le Bristol. She slipped off her heels and changed into a casual ensemble for dinner. Navy slacks and a cream cashmere sweater with a scoop neck. She kept her heels off. After 23 years, she did not need to wear heels with Nigel in the room.

It was only a moment later when Nigel knocked on her door. He had also changed into a slightly more casual two toned gray sweater with a cowl neck and checkered gray and blue Ted Baker slacks. He looked down and saw Miranda’s bare feet. He let out the anxious breath he had held. Bare feet, not stacked heels. This was a personal meeting and not a work related issue. He leaned forward and kissed her cheek, catching Miranda off guard for a moment. She motioned him to sit. They sat in the gold and cream chairs talking about the girls and what they had seen today. Nigel wasn’t fooled for a moment. He knew Miranda was trying to get him to relax so she could dig out any information he had. The sad part was that Nigel had nothing to tell her. She’d never believe it, if he said that, so he sat back and decided to enjoy Miranda’s company and the good food.

Most people forgot that Miranda was exceptional good at small talk. She might not care for it but you couldn’t just bully your way up the corporate ladder. There were quite a lot of social niceties that must be maintained to smooth the way up. Those that forgot that Miranda could be utterly charming often found themselves bewildered when she outmaneuvered them. Nigel had not forgotten but he still felt himself falling into her trap. He spoke more about his family and his private life than normally. He had nothing to hide but like Miranda he preferred to keep his home life private. The food had arrived and they were half way through the cheese course before Miranda steered the topic of conversation to Andy.

“So Andréa.” Miranda half asked, half demanded. Nigel had been expecting the topic but had not figured out what to say.

“What do you want to know Miranda? I don’t know more than you at this point.”

“Oh I doubt that. You seemed awfully well-informed for someone who thought she was working as a reporter. Was that just a red herring to throw me off the scent?” Miranda’s voice had dropped to an arctic level.

Nigel wished he could just say what he wanted and not worry about the outcome. Instead he took a stabilizing breath, pushed his sorbet away and answered to the best of his ability.

“I didn’t know. I swear it. I saw her right before you arrived and she and Emily had a tearful reunion. By the time Emily pulled herself together, you had arrived and then I didn’t know how to tell you about her with so many people listening in.”

“Why would Emily be sharing a tearful reunion with Andréa?” Miranda demanded. I knew Emily was involved she thought to herself.

“It seems that they were extremely close friends during Andy’s tenure with Runway.”

Nonsense Miranda thought, Emily couldn’t stand her. Andréa came with her to Paris and Emily never could have forgiven that.

“Strange but true. There’s a story about supporting one another and coming out.” Nigel waved his hands like he hadn’t been stunned by the story he heard earlier. “I’m sure you can ask Andy about it. I heard you were having dinner on Friday,” he added cheekily.

Miranda’s head snapped up and her eyes bored into his, looking for dishonesty. “And pray tell, where did you hear that?”

Nigel, aware that he had stepped over the line, raised his hands in silent surrender. “I was standing next to Jolene when she took a call from Amanda. I remember her name from yesterday.”

Miranda appeased by both his tone and his reasoning, nodded once. “Yes, we are having dinner.” She sniffed as though it was of no consequence. “If you refuse to tell me,” she looked at Nigel to confirm that he would not be sharing that particular story. Nigel nodded. “Then I’ll wait to ask her myself. That’s all.”

Dismissed, Nigel left her room. Miranda, finishing her coffee also departed the dinner room. There were two parties to prepare for and Miranda still needed to dress for the evening.

 

Miranda arrived at the Valentino party just after 10. Maria and Pier welcomed her eagerly at the door and she swept through the room with a casualness that bordered on nonchalant. Nigel trailed after her with Serena and Emily only a step away. Miranda hadn’t said more than 5 words to them. Nigel didn’t know if she was distracted or displeased. After just 20 minutes Miranda stepped outside and was whisked away to the next gathering.

He, Emily and Serena arrived moments after Miranda to Gaultier’s party and even though he and Emily were on edge, no one else noticed Miranda’s small smile and tighter expression. Nigel wasn’t sure what it meant. Emily was sure it meant she would be sacked before sunrise. Thank God for Serena. She kept the two of them from self-destructing. Between calming Emily and distracting Nigel with caustic remarks about their fellow party goers, Serena was a God sent.

Miranda ignored most of her staff as she attended the parties. She just wanted to get back to her hotel room and read over the information Jolene had gathered for her. Finally at 11:30 she was able to wish a heartfelt congratulation to Jean Paul before escaping back to the hotel.

Miranda was happy to again slip out of her heels 15 minutes later. She may have been wearing heels for most of her life but after 12 hours she was just as relieved to toss them aside as anyone else. Reaching for her phone she dialed Caroline. It was only a brief conversation. Both girls were having an early dinner with Mrs. Hudson. Tomorrow they’d take the train to their father’s after school. Miranda listened to how their day had gone, said she loved them and then wished them a good time. She’d meet them at the townhouse on Sunday. After hanging up, she removed her gown and slipped on her robe. She wanted to wash her face but she was waiting on Jolene. Why she was still waiting she was unsure but until she arrived Miranda would wait.

Thankfully it was only 5 minutes later that Jolene knocked on the door.

“Sorry Miranda.” Miranda waved off her excuse. Two years as her assistant and she still offer excuses. “Right, umm, here is everything I could find out about Genovia and the royal family. I also typed up a bullet point style in case you didn’t want to read it all.”

Smart girl. “That’s all.” Miranda removed the thick stack of paper from Jolene’s hands and then closed the door. She put it aside and continued into the bathroom to finish her nightly absolutions. Afterwards she picked up the stack of papers and headed into her room. She’d look over them in bed.

Thumbing through the pages she could see that most of the information was just repeated from one publication to another. She picked out the bullet point list.

 

Genovia

Flag: Mint Green, White, Baby Blue
Royal Coat of Arms: Two golden lions on either side of a golden heart with a red cross on a white background
Motto: The Whole Body Works
Anthem: Genovia, The Land I Call Home
Capital: Pyrus
Official Language: French and English
Ethnic groups: 76% Genovian, 10% French, 9% Spanish, 2% Portuguese, 3% other
Government: Unitary Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
Monarch: Queen Amelia Andréa
Prime Minister: Paul Motaz
Population: 65,084
GPD: 4.810 billion
Currency: Euro

 

Miranda flipped to the next page.

 

Royal Family

Princess Amelia Andréa Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi born March 13th 1983
Queen Amelia Andréa Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi formally accepted the throne at the age of 16.
Her father King Phillipe Renaldi was killed in an accident while skiing when she was 14 years old.
Her Grandmother Dowager Queen Clarisse Marie Grimaldo Renaldi was appointed Regent until Queen Amelia Andréa had completed school.
Queen Amelia Andréa dismissed Dowager Queen Clarisse Marie formally on August 16th 2009.
Queen Amelia Andréa is currently CEO of Life Systems
Principal home is in Pyrus, Castle Miragnac
Castle Miragnac built in 1527, current home to Genovian Royal Family, 395 acres estate with floor area of 180,000 sqft
Princess Beatrice Amelia Marie Jacoby Renaldi born September 18th 2010.

 

Miranda looked at the page again. She has a daughter? She skimmed further down the page.

 

Married August 15th 2009 to Michael Anthony Jacoby, Duke of Kenilworth.

 

She’s what? Miranda set the bullet points aside and shifted through the papers. She was half way to dialing Jolene when she changed her mind. If it wasn’t on this page, it wasn’t going to be in these papers. Jolene was thorough. It was one of her best features. No Miranda thought unhappily. She was again being forced to wait. Maybe René would offer more information tomorrow. Miranda pushed the papers aside and set her alarm. Morning would come soon enough.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

 

René was feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment. Wednesday night he was able to ground himself because Andy was with him. She’s been his rock for so long that it just wouldn’t have been the same if she hadn’t come to his show. She hadn’t wanted to come but he had begged and pleaded. It was to be his first show. He’d known it would be great but it was his first show just the same. He needed her there. It was a little nerve racking introducing her to people. It was cool to show off a little but it was also a little daunting. She demanded that he maintained a formal approach to introducing her. At first he wanted to give a little shout out to his cousin Queen of Genovia over the deejay’s mic but she quashed that before he could properly convince her. She said “René, this is not MTV.” Like he didn’t know that. It would have been a tasteful shout out but she reminded him of his courtly training and even though it sucked he went around introducing her formally to his guests. She had made him promise to be as serious as possible when he introduced her to Miranda. She may be his cousin but at times she sucked the fun out of things.

René knew that she had a falling out with Miranda, but that was ages and ages ago. Sometimes she just couldn’t let things go. Miranda barely said anything to her. Nigel had done most of the talking but it seemed okay. They even walked out together. He didn’t know what Andy was so worried about. He was the one who should have been worried, but Miranda smiled at his show so he knew it would be okay. It was an awesome night. He couldn’t wait until the 27th of February to do it all again. He had a 9am slot during Paris Fashion Week. His Prêt à Porter line was almost ready. He could finish it in a week or so. He had one or two designs he wasn’t quite satisfied with but it would all work out. It always did.

But his real problem was right now. He was standing in front of his closet and he couldn’t decide what to wear. His black hair, a bit too long, flopped over his eyes. The towel tied around his waist had sunk low on his hips. His skin was still damp from his shower and he was unable to decide what to wear. Reaching over to his night stand he called up Andy.

“Hey. It’s me. Like what should I wear?” He asked while pulling a t-shirt out of his closet.

“Seriously, you called me so I can dress you? What are you five? You’re a clothing designer. Shouldn’t you be able to pick out something for yourself?” Andy asked him.

“Well,” he drawled. “Miranda’s like coming here in an hour and I normally wear those jeans you hate and a t-shirt. “

“Yeah, don’t wear that. Can’t you just pick one of the suits I bought you?”

“Hellooo, if I wanted to wear a suit, I would totally wear a suit. I want to wear jeans but it’s like Miranda you know, so is it cool to wear jeans and a t-shirt?”

Andy sighed, “René, first stop with the attitude. I know you’re nervous but you don’t get to call me up at 8 in the morning, during an incredibly busy day, just to give me grief because you can’t decide what to wear. Second, if you want to wear jeans, then wear jeans. But make sure they’re the nicest ones you have. Nothing from your university wardrobe. Those should be burned.”

“Hey! Those clothes are only a year old.”

“Yes and they were awful when you bought them. Wear one of your Lagerfeld t-shirts under a jacket. Do not wear the t-shirt with Anna on the front unless you plan on this being your only show. Miranda will not find it ironic or humorous at all.”

“Maybe she would. You only worked for her for less than a year and it was a long time ago. Maybe she’s different.”

Andy’s voice dropped to the steely tone he hated the most. She only used it with him when she was very angry. “There are some things that don’t change.” She breathed out softly over the phone, like she was looking for patience. “How long do you think she’ll be there for?”

“Honestly?” René shrugged his slim shoulders. “I’m hoping she wants to see Wednesday’s dresses and I also have about 10 models hanging around ready to show her a preview of February’s show. So maybe 2 hours. Does that sound like too much?” René asked nervously. His confidence quickly fading.

“No, plan for two but don’t be upset if she leaves after an hour. Don’t worry René. Your clothes are amazing. I wouldn’t have helped you open your own house right out of school if I thought you’d fail. Just be respectful when you’re with Miranda. No, like and totally, every other word. This isn’t spring break with all your friends.” Andy sternly warned him.

“Andy.” René paused a moment to swallow. “I know I don’t say it enough but thanks and don’t worry I will be on my best behavior with Miranda. She’s like a goddess. It’s because of her that I even wanted to go into designing clothes. She’s the ultimate muse and judge of everything fashion.”

“René, just get dressed and send out Jaime or one of the models for a tall Starbuck’s, no foam, skim, latte with two natural sugars and 3 drip coffees with room for milk. Make sure they’re as hot as they can make them. Use a thermos to move them from Starbuck’s to the studio, so they don’t chill and then place them back into their cups. Make sure there is a bottle of Pellegrino, sparkling, on the table along with a plate of sliced fruit and cheese. Also small napkins.”

“You still remember her coffee order?” René wasn’t sure if he should be impressed or worried.

“Like I said, some things don’t change. I’ve got to go. I’ll see you this afternoon.”

“Okay, Thanks Andy. Hey say hi to Bea for me. Love you.”

“Love you too.”

René tossed his phone on the bed and finished getting dressed. Be himself. Yeah, he thought as he walked into the bathroom to shave. He could do that. Just because he was meeting the second most important woman in the world didn’t mean anything. Looking into the mirror, he swallowed against a sudden feeling of nausea. No he thought, it meant everything.

 

Across town Miranda dismissed her staff, save Nigel, Jolene and Emily. They would be accompanying her to Thermopolis Designs. The rest of the US Runway contingent would be heading over to the last show. It was by appointment only. Miranda didn’t normally attend the smaller textile show, but her staff needed to. Accessories sometimes made all the difference. She’d look over the emailed pictures tomorrow. Her entire staff would be flying out of Paris at 4. Nigel, Emily and Jolene would need to travel directly from René’s studio to CDG to make their flight. Miranda was glad she was not under such time constraints.

Since the four of them were traveling together, the hotel had provided two cars for their convenience. Miranda, of course chose to ride alone in her car. Jolene wasn’t needed at the moment and Miranda wanted a moment to think about how she was going to approach René. It was important to stay focused on his clothes. She wanted him in Runway. Since, she and Nigel had blocked out major portions of August, September, November and December to showcase his Haute Couture collection, she was leaning towards an informal interview to highlight his achievements. She could send a writer, later, for in-depth interview. Yes, a few lines to accompany his dresses. She would have a legitimate reason to ask him questions about his personal life and perhaps slip in a few questions about his familial connections to Andréa. Plan in place, Miranda waited for the journey to Thermopolis Designs to end.

They arrived at 10:15. A full 15 minutes early. What Miranda never said to anyone, but she suspected that many had realized, was that she liked to catch people unaware. It showed how they really behaved when she wasn’t around. If a run through wasn’t ready at 9, it was never going to be ready at 10. Either the pieces were already assembled or they weren’t. The only reason to delay was if a particular piece was en route but that was so very rare, it wasn’t even worth mentioning.

Arriving early to René would offer Miranda a view into his working habits. Was he ready? Was he desperately gathering his materials? Were the models, he had lined up, in make-up or was it all last minute? Too often designers had disappointed her with their disorganized showings. It showed a sloppy work ethic found in many artists. It worked for art but fashion was also a business. It needed a particular type of person to manage both. Often Fashion houses needed to employee both designers and business managers. From what she was able to gather René was currently acting as both. A risky undertaking. Miranda would hate to hear of his house folding after such a promising collection.

 

The elevator opened directly into an open studio. A small sofa and a collection of chairs faced a screened area. René greeted Miranda at the door and took her coat, along with everyone else’s, and handed them to a man who looked as if he was an assistant of some sort.

“Miranda.” René held out his hand. He was unsure if he should shake Miranda’s hand or offer to kiss her cheeks, as was his normal custom. Miranda made the choice for him by lightly gripping his hand, while gently bussing both his cheeks.

“René. It’s lovely to see you again.” She was impressed. He seemed prepared for their meeting, even a full 15 minutes ahead of schedule. There was a flurry of movement to her left as another person stepped off the elevator with a full tray of Starbuck’s.

“I hope you don’t find this terribly forward but I took the liberty to find out your standard coffee order from my cousin and have it brought to you. If you would rather have something else to drink, I have also set out water and a choice of juices. There is also a small sampling of cheese and fruit on the table. Please help yourselves and I’ll have the models begin in just a moment.” With that René dipped his head, almost a half bow and stepped behind the curtain.

Nigel made eye contact with Miranda. She could see he was impressed. She was too. He had provided drinks and an assortment of small snacks for their enjoyment, taken their coats and was prepared to show his designs a full 15 minutes early. James Holt should have taken lessons from René. This type of treatment was usually reserved for the more established fashion houses.

René stepped back out from behind the curtain after only a moment. “Miranda would you prefer music to accompany the dresses or would you just like the model to walk out and stop so you may take a closer look?”

“Just walk out. I’d like them to stop here.” She indicated an area less than a meter from her seat. “And pivot, and then hold the position until I ask them to move.”

René darted his head behind the screen and murmured what Miranda believed to be her instructions. At her signal René called for the first dress.
A full hour had passed before the last dress had been shown. Miranda was quite certain after viewing the collection that René was a genius. Comparing notes with Nigel and Emily, Miranda indicated which dresses she wanted to have couriered over immediately to New York. Looking up she met René’s eyes. “It was a beautiful collection. Will there be any problem having these delivered this week?”

“No. I can have them sent over today if you like?”

“No, need for that. Emily here will sort out the couriering service and take care of all the arraignments. We won’t have them sent over until we have a time frame for you. I’m sure you already have buyers set up to whisk them away. You’re very talented and I’m sure the masses are already clamoring.” Miranda watched him to see if flattery worked.

It did. René blushed and spoke softly. “I have had a lot of interest but it was never my intention to send these dresses anywhere but Runway first, unless you did not want them.”

“My,” Miranda dropped her voice to a silky whisper and batted her lashes, “what have I done to inspire such loyalty?” She had meant it only as light flirtation. A little ego stroking went a long way she had found.

But René answered in a very serious tone. “You changed my life.”

Startled Miranda focused on his face. There was no disingenuousness there. Miranda felt that this could be a perfect opening to her “interview”. “Why don’t you sit down and tell me how I changed your life?”

“Oh,” René was a little flustered. “Um,” he raked his hand through his mop of hair, pushing it up, off his brow, “did you want to preview my prêt à porter collection too? I wasn’t sure, so I had it assembled for you. If you don’t have time, that’s okay. I just wanted to be prepared in case you were interested.”

Miranda felt like a child who was overindulging in candy, almost dizzy with sugar. Did she want to see more? Of course she did. She would always choose to see more of beautifully designed clothing. What she said was “That would be lovely, if you have them all ready?”

“One moment please.” René went behind the curtain to double-check that everything was in order. Miranda looked over at Nigel. He looked as stunned as she felt. He was already finished with his ready to wear collection. A full four weeks early. It was nearly unheard of. Miranda felt like she was possibly watching the birth of a great house. Of course his next collection could be a letdown, but Miranda believed it wouldn’t be. Based on the work she had seen already today, she had high hopes for it.

René popped his head back out. “The same procedure as before?”

“If you wouldn’t mind.” Miranda took a sip of her cold coffee, made a face and set it down on the table to her left. To her surprise, the assistant that had handed her the coffee earlier, removed the cold coffee and replaced it with a fresh Starbuck’s cup. Miranda nodded in appreciation. Beautiful clothes, fresh coffee and an attentive first time designer. It was like she was being finally rewarded for all her hard work.

René came out from behind the curtain and the show began. It took 45 minutes from start to finish. It was magnificent. Miranda knew this would be a landmark collection and would keep René’s name on everyone’s lips for years to come. There were at least two different tops that would inspire a new trend of fashion. Miranda couldn’t wait to feature these in Runway.

“And these?” she asked. “When would be the soonest we could borrow these for photographing?”

“Oh, I, I mean you, could have them couriered any time after the 28th of February. I’m showing on the 27th.”

“Wonderful. I’ll have Emily arrange everything next week. Do you mind if I ask you about your previous statement now?” Miranda wanted to pry but she also really wanted these clothes.

“Oh.” René colored again. Charming she thought. He pulled up a chair from the side of the sofa. “Well,” he ran through his hair. A nervous habit Miranda surmised. “It was after my parents died.”

Miranda wasn’t sure what to say, so she stayed quiet and let him fill in the details.

“It was sudden. There was a car accident and they died instantly. I don’t remember much about them anymore.” René had a dreamy expression on his face. “My mother’s smell and the way she would hold me. My father’s booming laugh. But their faces have faded and I only have a few photographs. Anyway” he shook himself out of the memory “I moved in with my Aunt and her new husband. He was Andy’s teacher when she went to school in San Francisco. They were real nice but they had a baby and I was angry. I didn’t talk much and I started getting in fights. My Aunt didn’t know what to do and so Andy, who was living in Genovia but getting ready to go to college, suggested that I come live with her. I was 11 at the time.”

“18 seems young to take responsibility for a child.” Miranda couldn’t help but to interject.

“Yeah, Aunt Helen said the same thing but Andy’s got a way of talking people into things. So Andy convinces her to turn over guardianship to her and they ship me off to Genovia. I was furious. I get there and it’s not a house, it’s a castle. Seriously there’s like 800 rooms. I was there for a month before Andy’s grandmother took me in hand. She’s a really great woman. She sat with me and we spoke for a long time about losing people who are close to you. Her parents died in the war and she was raised by her Aunt too.” René paused a moment to collect himself. Andy had warned him away from informal speaking.
“After a year, Grandma Clarisse asked me what I’d like to do. I didn’t have any real plans. I was only 12 and I couldn’t see why it mattered. Andy was in the States studying. My Aunt had sent me away. The only people I ever talked to were my tutors my Grandmother and Joe.”

Miranda hated to interrupt but she wanted clarification. “Andréa’s Grandmother is your Grandmother?”

“Oh, yeah. No. We technically aren’t related at all. I have never met my father’s parents. And my mother’s parents died before I was born. Clarisse said I could call her Grandma and we would always be family. It was important when I felt so alone. So” René searched for his previous train of thought. “So, she asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t have a clue, so she sat me down and told me to take a book from the library. I picked one on horses. After reading around 10 pages I thought it to be the most boring book in the world. She had me take another and another and another, until something sparked my interest. It was a long summer of reading. It wasn’t until September that I found the book. It was funny because it wasn’t in the library. My Grandmother had a copy of the 2001 September Runway issue. You know the one with Tom Ford’s winter collection.”

Miranda nodded. It was the only other time she smiled at a showing, private or otherwise.

“Well that collection was amazing. I was thumbing through it and it just stopped me cold for like 30 minutes. I just couldn’t believe that anything could be that beautiful and real. I took it to my Grandmother and showed her. This. This is what I want, I said. She had me start lessons with the Royal Dressmaker, and then sent me off to boarding school when I was 14 so I could make contacts and socialize. I hated it. They made fun of my American name and accent.”

Miranda paused René. “What do you mean, American name?”

“My name was Robert. Robert Michael Thermopolis. I changed it. Andy understood but my Grandmother was harder to convince. I think that Andy changing her name for school was the deciding factor for her.”

“If she let Andréa do it…” Miranda chimed

“Then she had to let me. Yeah that’s what we said too. So I moved to a new boarding school closer to home and went by René. I attended college here in Paris, majoring in Art and a minoring in business. After I finished university last year, Andy helped me start my Design house. She believed I could do it. And so now I’m here. So it was you who changed my life’s direction. Well you and Tom Ford.” René smiled sheepishly.

“A couple questions René?”

“Hmm?”

“How old are you?”

“24 in April.”

“And you attended where?”

“Ecole De LA Chambre Syndicale.” René answered quickly.

“Last question and then we’ll be on our way,” Miranda said with a half-smile. She hadn’t asked much but René had given her a lot to think about. Almost none of it was about Andréa though, pity. It looked like Miranda would have to wait until dinner tonight to get the whole story. “Do you mind if we send a person to do a full interview to run with a photo spread in Runway?”

“No, that’s fine. Just let me know when and I’ll clear my schedule.”

Miranda looked at her watch. It had been just a little over 2 hours. “Thank you René. It’s been a pleasure to meet you today. I look forward to seeing you again soon.” Miranda kissed both his cheeks and then headed to the elevator. A moment later both cars glided up to the front of the building.

 

“Nigel, you all are going straight to the airport?” Miranda asked.

“Yes.”

“Wonderful. It will give you and Emily time to come up with ideas for Mr. West’s photo shoot with Shaun. I expect to see dates and plans on my desk Monday morning.” And with that Miranda slid into her car and headed back to the hotel. She smiled to herself. She’d explain what she wanted on Monday but first she’d let them suffer over the weekend. She almost laughed out loud as she thought of Emily and her propensity for histrionics. That should be a fun flight.

Emily stood stock still for a moment and then turned to Nigel who had also frozen on the spot. “Don’t worry Emily, she won’t punish you. Bollocks. I knew she would. I knew it and now…”

Nigel didn’t bother replying. He had ideas to come up with, but first who was Mr. West? And which Shaun did she mean?

Chapter Text

Three hours after Miranda had left René’s studio, the elevator doors pinged, drawing René’s eyes to their gleaming doors, as Andy stepped off the lift.

“Please tell me that isn’t what you were wearing earlier today?”

René looked down at his clothes. G-Star fawn colored jeans with tan stripped suspenders, which hung at his sides, and a Lagerfeld t-shirt with a caricature of Karl on the front. He was currently barefoot but he had a tweed pork pie hat on his head. René stood and tipped his hat back. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”

“You look like an American hipster!”

“You suck. If anyone’s a hipster, it’s you. You and your crappy Mumford and Sons, indie label music.”

“Hey. Don’t bring Mumford into this. They’re innocent.”

René had crossed the room and pulled Andy into him, both of them laughing.

At a little over 6 feet, René easily folded his cousin in his arms. Andy patted his shoulder and he stepped back. Returning to his seat, he draped his thin lanky frame over the backwards chair so his chest pushed against the back.

“No, ass. This isn’t what I wore. Well, the shirt was but I had that velvet coat from Varvatos, the Joe’s Brixton jeans and the black wingtips. They’re over there.” René jerked his thumb in the direction of screened area. He saw something on his finger.

He brought his thumb to his mouth and discretely licked it.

Andy’s eyes zeroed in on his thumb and then to the table in front of him. “Did you just suck your thumb?”

René quickly pulled it from his mouth. “No.”

“Yes you…oh my God.” Andy’s eyes widened. “You had peanut butter on your hand.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Yes, you did. That’s why you licked your thumb.”

“Maybe I was reverting to an infant like state because you were treating me like a child.”

“Fuck.” Andy turned around in a circle, trying to see if there was peanut butter. “Did you touch my jacket, René, I swear to God…”

“Relax. It’s not like I wiped my hands on you. Jeeze. And stop spinning. You’re making me nauseous.” He looked over her jacket. “You’re totally fine. There’s nothing there.”

“Asshole.”

“Whatever. You want one?” René’s attention flicked back to the table in front of him. He made another sandwich.

“Are you just now eating?” Andy asked, her voice carrying a tone of censure.

“I wasn’t hungry earlier.”

“René.” Andy’s tone reflected both her disapproval and worry. There had been a few years, when he was a teenager, in which René hadn’t been eating properly and he had dropped down to a dangerously low weight.

“Yes Mom.” He snarked back condescendingly.

“It’s just…”

“I know.” He cut her off. “Don’t worry. I just wasn’t hungry earlier. This is like my sixth sandwich. I was all nervous and shit.”

“I know, I remember the phone call.”

René nodded and then asked again, “So you want one?”

“Sure.” Andy pulled up a chair, flipped it backwards, straddled the seat and asked “So how’d it go?”

He handed her the sandwich, swallowed his own bite and replied. “It went really well. She wants 46 of the 50 pieces from Wednesday’s show and indicated that she’d like to use more than half of the ready-to-wear collection. Plus she’s like, sending a writer to interview me. And she smiled. Twice.” René rushed through his words, his voice reflecting his excitement.

“I was super nervous and excited. I totally thought I would do that nervous laugh thing.” Andy nodded. She was familiar with the laugh. “But I totally kept it together. Thank God Jaime was here. He took care of the coats and juice and fruit and coffee. He even went out half way through the show and got more coffee. I only had to organize the models and clothes. I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I turned around and realized that this was really happening. Miranda ”fucking” Priestly was in my studio.”

“Please tell me you didn’t call her that?”

“Only in my head.” He grinned and the continued. “So anyway, the show rocked and she smiled.”

“You said that already.”

“Well it’s a big deal.” Andy indicated with her fingers for him to move on. “I had to duck behind the curtain at least twice to stop myself from shaking.”

Andy smiled indulgently at René. He had always been overdramatic but he had a good heart and was a hard worker. He deserved this chance. “I’m really proud of you.”

“Thank you again Andy for giving me this chance.”

“Nonsense René. You would have made it without my help. You’re very talented.”

René wiped his hand on a napkin and then reached over to Andy’s hand. “No.” He stared at Andy trying to properly convey his point. “I mean everything, not just today or this week. Thank you for everything. You didn’t have to let me come to Miragnac or put me through school. I could be living with Aunt Helen and Patrick in Ohio, working at 7-11 or some shit like that.”

Andy smiled at René and gripped his hand “You don’t have to thank me René, we’re family. No matter what, right?”

“Right!”

They both fell silent as they finished their sandwiches. As René finished his, he stood up walked to the small office fridge he kept in the corner, grabbed to clean glasses and a liter of milk. He walked back and poured the milk. Andy finished her sandwich and took one of the glasses. Nodding her thanks, she clinked her glass against his, as was their tradition, and together they drank their milk in one continuous swallow. René wiped his mouth on the back of his hand as Andy reached for her napkin. “Gross. Use a napkin.”

René laughed and then asked, “So how did your day go?”

Andy tilted her head side to side, as if she was unsure. “So, so. The plant in Pyrus is behind schedule but they think the new line will be ready by Wednesday next week. Which is good because I have a meeting with Astrium on Monday and I’d like to be able to tell them something. I think I’ll need to have Amanda set up a face to face with them in London in a few weeks to go over the new product line.” Andy shrugged. “Adam has been dealing with Boeing this last week. They want a meeting. I don’t have any open space on my calendar before the end of March. It will have to suffice.”

“What about Bea? You takin’ her?”

“Not to London but in March, yeah. We’ll stay a week or two and visit with a few friends. It should all slow down around Easter. I’m hoping to spend some time at home without having to run around so much.”

“Anyone else interested?”

“A few. We’re hearing whispers from Lockheed and Amsat. Nothing definitive but we’ll see. Hey do you think Grandmother will let me skip my birthday because I have to work?”

“Not even if you were on your death bed. How many people has she invited?”

“200, give or take.”

René let out a slow whistle.

“She won’t listen at all.” Andy rested her forehead against the back of the chair. “René use your big brown eyes and convince her I don’t need a ball.”

He gasped dramatically, setting his hand in the middle of his chest, as if he had lost his breath. “But Andy every girl needs a ball,” teased trying to unsuccessfully effect a southern accent.

She laughed. “Thanks Scarlett for your help.”

She looked at her wrist. “I’ve got to go now. I have a conference call in an hour and dinner plans tonight. Will I see you for breakfast?”

“Sure, around noon?”

“I said breakfast, not lunch.”

“Fine.” René pouted. “9?”

“9,” Andy agreed. She gave him a brief hug before leaving. As she left the lift, her body guard Lars met her and walked her to the car. Just before she entered, she looked up. René was standing at the window. He gave a little wave and a memory struck her. “Waving even more gently…” She wondered if her Grandmother had ever taken the time to teach him to wave properly. She waved back and then entered the car. She needed to make that call.

Miranda’s town car pulled up to 73 Quai d´Orsay promptly at 6:45. A slim built man with light brown hair, blue eyes and a small tight smile opened Miranda’s door. “Ms. Priestly?”

“Miranda,” she automatically corrected him.

“Yes, Ms. Priestly.” He leaned into the car and spoke to the driver. As the driver pulled away he turned back towards Miranda.

“Ms. Priestly I sent your driver back to the hotel. There’s no parking here and we have a driver nearby on stand-by. He’ll drive you wherever you need to go, whenever you’re ready.” The man bowed slightly at the neck and introduced himself. “My name is Lars and if you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Miranda,” she corrected him again. “Call me Miranda.”

“Yes Ms. Priestly.” He replied with a small smile.

Understanding that she was at a disadvantage at the moment, she let it go.

“Are we dining here?” She indicated the sidewalk they had been standing on.

“Forgive me.” He motioned to the glass door under the brass 73. He held up an electronic key fob and then punched in a code. The front door unlocked and he stepped to the side and waited for her to enter first. There were three doors to the right and three to the left. Miranda waited for Lars to indicate which belonged to Andréa’s. He motioned them past all six and towards the back of the foyer. Discretely tucked behind a reception desk were two small elevators. He stepped in front of the one to the left and again swiped his key fob over a sensor. The elevator door’s opened. Miranda stepped inside. She was slightly startled when Lars joined her.

She was only a moment from demanding he step out and take the other lift when he raised the key fob once more, slid it over a sensor and then keyed in another code. He pressed his thumb to the only button in the elevator and then waited. A chime sounded and he removed his thumb. He then took out a set of keys and turned the lock above the button. The elevator finally started to move. Miranda, feeling overwhelmed, tried to dismiss the entire procedure.

“Is this really necessary?” She tried to sound unaffected.

Lars wasn’t sure how to answer that. He and his family had worked for Andy and her family for at least 4 generations. He had joined her protect detail when she was 16 years old. He had been 35 then. It wasn’t until she started University that he had been reassigned to the castle guard. In his opinion nothing was too much to keep her safe. “Yes.”

Lars took a good look at Miranda. This was the first time he had met her face to face but this wasn’t the first time he had to deal with her. The last time, he had been sent to New York to check on Andy. Her Grandmother had been concerned by her recent emails. He had not felt reassured by the visit though and had said as much to Her Royal Highness.

Andy had abandoned dinner with him because of a phone call from Miranda. She was so overwhelmed; she smacked him in the head with a taxi door. Andy had been once step away from calling the National Guard and asking for a favor as a head of state. It took a few minutes to remind her why she couldn’t ask for that kind of favor for her boss.

Before Miranda could ask anything else the doors chimed again and slid open in reveal marble foyer. “Good evening Ms. Priestly. I’ll be waiting down stairs.” And with that the doors slid shut leaving Miranda standing alone in the cavernous entry way built entirely of Travertino cream marble.

It took less than a second before she heard Andréa’s voice filter into the foyer.

“No, I understand. Yes. Monday’s fine. Before 9 though.” Pause. “Adam.” There was another pause. “Adam. I need to go. No, not later tonight. Okay. Yes, thank you. Good night.” There was the click of a phone.

Miranda stood a little straighter, narrowed her eyes into her most chilling stare. She knew she looked intimidating. She felt like she was already a step behind and desperately needed to regain her footing. It seemed no matter how many people she talked to or what Wikipedia was able to tell her, it didn’t come close to answering the questions that she had.

Andréa walked up the stairs to right of the elevator giving Miranda a moment to watch her enter. Her head appeared first. Her pixie cut framing her face perfectly. Her ears were unadorned but she was wearing a string of pearls that wrapped around her slender neck. She had donned a black wool crepe dress, Chanel, with a jewel neckline. It hugged her waist and then swirled out around her long legs. As she cleared the last stair, her shoes came into view, Ferragamo black velvet heels. Miranda nodded despite herself.

Her heels clicked, and then muffled, as she crossed the marble floors and stepped onto the Persian rug in front of the elevator. “Miranda, it’s wonderful to see you. I’m so glad your schedule allowed us this opportunity.” Without pausing or allowing Miranda to return the greeting, not that she would have, Andy surged forward and boldly grasped Miranda’s right hand, while leaning forward and kissing her left and then right cheek.

Surprised, Miranda didn’t have a chance to step back. By the time the initial shock had worn off, Andréa was already moving away. “I apologize for the delay but work never ends, as you know.” Her voice lifted into a sing song tone as she explained. ”Can I interest you in a drink before dinner or would you like to eat right away?”

“A drink first.” Miranda struggled to make sense of this Andréa. She was supposed to be wary of Miranda. This was supposed to be the Spanish Inquisition not drinks at the Carlyle. Miranda felt very unbalanced as she followed Andréa. A drink would help. Obviously she’d needed to rethink her plan. Intimidation was not going to work here.

Andréa walked to the left of the elevator, towards a staircase. Miranda followed a full step behind her. Miranda allowed herself a brief look around her. They were ascending a marble staircase, surrounded by matching marble walls. The walls lent a claustrophobic feeling to the staircase. After 12 or so steps they reached a landing, also made of the light colored marble. The staircase turned to the right and continued up four more steps. Thankfully the right side of the wall ended, opening the space and allowed Miranda to take a deep breath. Enclosed space had always bothered her. A glass half wall-topped with a thin steel rail continued alongside the staircase. Miranda’s breath caught audibly.

Andréa turned back towards Miranda and paused. There was a light blush coloring her cheeks. “I know it’s a bit much but I hate enclosed spaces and I always wanted something like…well. Ah, have you ever been to San Francisco?”

Miranda nodded.

“Did you have a chance to visit the Conservatory at Golden Gate?”

Miranda still speechless, shook her head no.

“Well, it’s a lot bigger than this but I wanted something to remind me of my home town and…” She motioned with her arm. “This is what groundskeeper designed. I have a personal office downstairs that opens into the space. I spend most of my time there when I’m home.”

Miranda gazed out over the glass wall. Below her stretched an impressive atrium. The floor was made up of stone. In one corner there was a large orange tree, still in bloom, regardless that it was January. She could hear but not see, moving water somewhere in the small jungle that reached from the 3rd floor of the building to the 4th floor they were currently standing on. Miranda looked up. A skylight covered the area.

“Come with me. We’ll have that drink.” She motioned with her head that they should enter the open door way. Miranda looked back at the atrium. “We can take coffee down there after dinner, if you like.”

Miranda nodded and then followed Andréa in a well-appointed sitting room. White, french doors lined the far wall. A large marble fireplace dominated the other and in the center of the room sat two white sofas, facing one another with an oak table, inlaid with a tortoise shell pattern, between them. The color scheme reminded her own office at Runway.

Andréa motioned to Miranda to sit down as she walked to the bar discretely tucked away in the corner closest to the door. “What can I get for you?”

Miranda wanted to say a double scotch, neat and then throw it back in a single gulp. Instead she thought of an appropriate aperitif. “A white wine, perhaps?”

“I have the perfect bottle here.” Miranda watched as she opened a drawer and pulled out a chilled flask. “It’s dry champagne. It’s part chardonnay and part pinot noir from Laurent Perrier. Is that alright with you?”

Miranda indicated that yes, it would suffice. She watched as Andréa covered and then popped the cork with a simple twist. None of that complicated fanfare that the movies liked to portray. After pouring to glasses she walked over, handed Miranda hers and then gracefully sat on the opposite sofa. “Santé,” they both uttered at the same time, causing Andréa to grin and Miranda to offer her own small smile.

Miranda and Andréa each sipped from their glasses. There was a silence that wasn’t uncomfortable but still felt full. Miranda waited for Andréa to break it first but she seemed perfectly content to sit there, drinking her champagne and staring at Miranda.

Miranda still felt overwhelmed. She was used to having a certain power over her acquaintances. She could elevate or destroy a career with a few well-chosen words but as she watched Andréa, she realized there was nothing in her arsenal that could affect her. She lived in a house that was grander than the one Miranda resided in New York. Actually, Miranda briefly thought, this house may be worth more than both her homes, New York and London.

Just as Miranda was going to relent and break the silence Andréa spoke. “Would you like the 10 cent tour?”

Miranda dipped her head once while setting her glass down. “I would,” she said, standing up from the sofa. Andréa rose and moved towards the door.

“So this is the sitting room. I don’t use it very often.” She used her arm, like a game show model, to indicate the area they were currently standing in.

“Why not? It’s a perfectly lovely room.” Miranda rather liked the room and thought it tastefully designed. Why Andréa would not use it often seemed strange to her.

“Well, it’s made for company and when I’m here I’m usually alone.” Andréa stepped back into the hallway and waited for Miranda to join her.

So, the husband doesn’t travel with her. Maybe he stays home with the daughter. Miranda added the information to the dossier she was mentally compiling.

“Next door,” Andréa continued, unknowingly answering questions Miranda hadn’t asked yet, “is the formal dining room.”

She opened a set of heavily carved wood doors. They swung with ease. Andréa stepped into the room and moved away from the door. Miranda followed. There, in the center of the room, sat a magnificently long table. Its surface gleamed under three large crystal chandlers hanging from a recessed ceiling. Under the table laid a peach and cream oriental rug that stretched from one side of the room to the other, ending a half a meter from a great white marble fireplace. The walls were french blue boiseries with paintings of pastoral scenes framed in gold and centered on every other wall section. The ceiling was eggshell and decorated with carved cornices and medallions that had been gilded in gold.

“How very French Andréa. The boiseries are lovely though.” Miranda’s tone flat, as if it was dreadfully common. It was beautiful but overwrought, in her opinion. She preferred clean lines. The thought of dining alone, just the two of them, in here, was uncomfortable.

“Yes. I know it’s very French. I hope you don’t mind but I had planned on us eating in a smaller room off the private kitchen. This is for larger gatherings, like business functions or meeting with the Heads of State. Not that I meet with many Heads of State.” She rushed to explain. “But if I needed to, I’d use this room.”

Miranda noted Andréa said many Heads of State, not any. So she has political power despite being a figure head for her country. Miranda filed away the information.

Miranda waved her hand as if the explanation was unimportant. “Right, moving on.” She back out of the room and shut the doors behind Miranda. They passed a door. Miranda stopped and indicated she’d like to see inside. “Oh.” Andréa stopped at looked at the door. “It’s just a bathroom.

Miranda raised her eyebrow. “Right.” Andréa opened the door into a bathroom. The walls were a pale green with white boarders. There was the standard toilet and wash basin and a yellow orchid placed on what looked to be a storage cabinet. Miranda nodded and Andréa shut the door.

Miranda gave no impression of being impressed by the vastness of the home but she had been relieved at seeing such a standard bathroom in what had been an extraordinary home. In fact Miranda congratulated herself on seeming completely unaffected by her surroundings. Other than the atrium of course, she had not been able to hide her reaction to that. Even now, she kept sneaking peeks over the glass wall, searching for the source of water that was subtlety filling the air with a soft trickling sound.

They had reached the end of the left side, turned to the right and continued. “This is the household kitchen and small family dining room.” Andréa pointed to the two doors. “Did you want to see the upstairs also?”

“I asked to see the house, did I not? Was I unclear? Perhaps you heard me say I only wish to see one small part of the home? That could be the only reason you are asking me to repeat myself.” Miranda used her most scathing tone. Truthfully, she hadn’t asked but Miranda wasn’t one to quibble over unimportant things. Andréa was going to show her everything and answer every question she had before she left this building tonight.

“Great. I was hoping you’d want to see it all. Can you wait a moment? I want to pop my head in and speak to Marie.” Andréa was through the door before Miranda had a chance to answer, and before Miranda could follow her, she stepped back out. “Sorry about that I needed to let her know that we’d be a little while and that the smaller dining area would be fine.”

Again Miranda raised her eyebrow.

“Oh, uhh, Marie is the cook. She lives downstairs. You’ll, umm, meet her later. If you want of course.” Andréa seemed to lose her diction.

Interesting Miranda thought. When she glares and uses her frostiest voice Andréa doesn’t react at all but a raised eyebrow and she stumbles over her words like it was her first day at Runway. Something to ponder later.

Passing the next two doors, they reached the last door on that side of the hallway. Andréa pushed it open. It was a corner room. It also had French doors lining the northern most wall. Miranda could see, through the partially drawn curtain, the street below and the Seine on the other side of the sidewalk. What a lovely view.

“This is the TV room. I’m not quite sure about anything in here. I guess,” she shrugged, “if I wanted to watch TV or a movie, I could do it here. There’s some sort of TV behind the paneling there.” She pointed to the wall on the west wall.

Miranda walked over and spotted a cleverly hidden latch. She pressed it and the panels slid open to reveal an enormous TV. There was also a number of game systems and Blu-ray player built into the wall. Clever. The girls would love this room, she thought.

“You don’t watch TV?” Miranda asked, slightly surprised. Even she, occasionally, watched TV with the girls.

“No. I mean yes. I watch movies now and then but I use my laptop or the small TV in my room for that. I don’t think I’ve ever turned this on.” Andréa scrunched her nose as if trying to remember something. “I don’t think I’ve ever been in this room. I mean, after they finished building it, I think.”

“So all this is for?” Miranda waited for an answer.

“I didn’t really know what to do with this room and someone suggested that it would make a great TV room.”

“Someone?” Miranda was sure it was the husband. Husbands always wanted oversized furniture and the latest gadgets. Miranda had spied the PlayStation 4 built into the bank of systems. Her daughters’ had received one for Christmas from their father. Miranda looked around. The room was completely devoid of personality. There were no magazines or remotes on the side tables. No toys or games anywhere in sight. No paintings or pictures. Just an extremely large sofa, two end tables and a small coffee table. Tasteful but bland. Either her husband had no personality or neither of them used this room.
“Yeah, but the best room is next door.” Andréa’s face lit up. She grabbed Miranda by the wrist and pulled her out of the TV room.

Miranda was startled. Andréa seemed to touch her quite often. She didn’t remember her being so tactile five years ago.

Three meters from the TV room, down the third hallway, was another set of double doors. Andréa threw them open, like the whole point of the tour was to get to this spot. She grinned at Miranda before stepping through the doorway. Miranda curious to see what “the best room” was, was neither surprised nor dismayed when she entered.

It was a library. With ceilings at least two floors high. Books lined the walls floor to ceiling. Old books, new books, hard cover and paperback. She was sure there was an order to it all even if she couldn’t suss it out at first glance. She looked around the room. Andréa’s smile was infectious and without thought, Miranda found herself smiling back.

The room had a fireplace built into the wall. It was as grand as the marble fireplace in the formal dining room. But actually quite modern in design. There were two dark leather chairs, distressed and well loved. They wouldn’t have looked out of place in a stereotypical English manor library. The chairs faced the fireplace, inviting you to curl into them with a book, a cup of coffee and enjoy the heat from the fire. On the opposite side of the library were a soft white leather sofa and two more chairs with a glass table between them. Miranda turned and took in the room as a whole. There were two, beautifully wrought iron ladders that could be slid along the bookshelves. Another oriental rug covering most of the wood floor, giving the room a softer, feminine feel, despite the heavy leather chairs near the fireplace. Another set of doors opened out to what looked like a narrow terrace. Enough room for a table and chair, maybe a sofa she thought.

This felt like a room she would have. It matched almost perfectly with her own decorative tastes.

“Isn’t it great?”

For a moment Miranda forgot that Andréa was queen, that she was quite angry with her or that she had a million questions that she needed answers to. Instead Miranda just saw Andréa. Her assistant, who wanted to be a reporter but settled for fetching coffee, the girl who blushed when she walked into a room full of seminude models. The girl from Ohio who had walked around Paris in awe of its dazzling lights. The last thought shook Miranda from her wool gathering. The girl who lied. Dazzled by the light, right, she reminded herself. She practically grew up here. With that thought Miranda quickly lost her smile and stepped back into the hallway.

Andréa stepped out a moment later. She seemed shaken. Good, Miranda thought unkindly. It was time that someone else was unsure.

Andréa closed the doors. Her eyes shined a little in the light and Miranda for a nano-second wondered if she had hurt her feelings. She dismissed such a thought.

“Uh, this is the other bathroom, if you uh, want to umm, see it?” Andréa stumbled through her words and didn’t meet Miranda’s eyes.

“No. Let’s move on.” Miranda didn’t need to see the other bathroom. She assumed it was a plain and pedestrian as the other.

Miranda watched as Andréa shook her head and then straightened her posture. She motioned to the last door. “This is an access room to the elevator and phone and electrical systems. I believe the maid also keeps a closet full of cleaning supplies and linens here. The door stays locked. I don’t imagine there are many differences in broom closets.”

“So upstairs are the bedrooms. Are you sure…” Andréa trailed off.

Miranda again lifted an eyebrow.

“Of course you want to see everything.”

Miranda wasn’t sure why but a little ball of guilt had lodged in her stomach. Gone was the happy tone Andréa had been using so far. She seemed a little sadder, like she was being forced to show the rest of the house. She was, of course, but Miranda reminded herself that she didn’t care.

Five years ago the girl had run off and then made a mockery of her recommendation. She had felt guilt then too. It stopped her from black balling her like she should have. Andréa had been so young. She had wanted her to succeed. She didn’t want her to starve or take a job at some fast food place to make ends meet. Starve, Miranda thought as they walked up the staircase to the 5th floor. She was never in danger of starving.

Miranda realized they were standing above the foyer now. The elevator doors stood to her left side. The lay out was the same as the floor below. She peaked over the rail and still couldn’t see the water feature. She could see that there were a number of rooms around the atrium but a full glass wall separated them from the actual plants and forming an open glass hallway.

Andréa waited for Miranda to take a step back from the rail. Walking down the hall, Andréa pointed to the first 3 doors. “Those are guest rooms. They’re almost all the same but you’re welcome to look.”

Miranda opened the first door. There was a bedroom with what looked like a connected bath. It was a dark blue room with white trim. There was nothing special or amazing in neither this nor the next two rooms she peeked into. A full bed, with fresh linens and well-appointed bath with clean towels and new soap. Disappointed she looked towards the other doors. There were two more.

“This is my daughter’s room.”

Finally, new information. Miranda eagerly opened the door into the room. It was actually two rooms and a bathroom. The first room had a simple wainscoting around the walls instead of the more elaborate panels downstairs. Pale peach and white were the primary colors. There was a small half size bed in the corner with a gossamer canopy. Next to it was a half size nightstand with a nightlight Miranda knew well.

Cassidy had been afraid of the dark when she was young, frequently waking up in the night and crawling into her bed. Miranda had spoken to a child psychologist about what to do; his only advice had been to get a night light. Honestly, Miranda had been hoping for something more. She contacted a friend of hers who knew of a new must have toy that worked as a night light. At first, she thought it ridiculous, but tried it anyway. Cassidy never climbed into her bed again. It was so popular that Caroline demanded one too. They still have them. Twilight turtle. In gold and green.

Apparently Andréa’s child also needed one because there was a purple turtle sitting beside the bed.

Miranda went to step in further to look at some childish drawing that had been tacked to the wall, when Andréa spoke, startling Miranda. “Please.”

Miranda turned to look at Andréa and took a step back. Andréa cleared her throat and motioned back towards the staircase. “I believe that concludes the 10 cent tour.” Her voice had regained its original carefree tone.

Miranda looked towards the unopened door but Andréa was already walking back towards the stairs. Briefly Miranda thought of just opening the door, just to look, but realized that would appear insane. Instead she followed Andréa back downstairs.

When she reached the doors into the small dining room Andréa stopped and waited for Miranda. Miranda had stopped outside the library doors once more. Miranda looked at them standing closed and swallowed the guilt that swam in her stomach. To hide her reaction she peered over the rail again. She still couldn’t see a source of water.

Shaking her head she walked towards Andréa who was waiting. “What are you looking for?”

“The water.”

“Water?” Andréa parroted back.

“Yes, I can hear it but not see it.” Miranda said back, a little exasperated sounding.

“Oh.” Andréa laughed a light tinkling laugh.

Miranda drew herself up. She wouldn’t stand being laughed at. Andréa placed her hand on Miranda’s forearm and guided her to the rail. “See there.” She pointed at a black wall under the library before Miranda could jerk away from her. “It’s a water wall. Because it’s black, it’s hard to see the moving water in the evening and there’s no pond under it so there’s no splash to draw your attention. When we enter the lower floor the lights will turn on and highlight it. I normally keep the lights off because when I’m in my office or the library I can’t see it anyway.”

“Where’s your office?” Miranda’s curiosity about the water finally subdued.

Andréa smiled as she pushed the door open, “Downstairs. We’ll see it when we take our coffee in the atrium.”

Miranda stepped into the small dining room. The space was lived in and completely unstated. There were 6 chairs around an ordinary oak table. The table was oiled and shining under the recessed lighting but it wasn’t anything special. Like the bathroom it was a standard family dining room. Miranda spied a child’s booster seat in the corner and a stack of recipe books on a shelf. Miranda could see into the kitchen, which was separated from the dining table by a breakfast bar. The kitchen itself appeared to be all modern with its steel counter tops and white cupboards. The stove top was induction and there was a coffee machine at the end of the bar.

“Thank you Marie. I’ll serve.” Miranda watched as Marie bowed and backed out of the room.

“Wine?”

Miranda nodded. She watched as Andréa plated their food and opened a bottle of rosé wine from Chateau Barbanau. She set the wine down first and then brought over two seared Tuna Carpaccio with a teriyaki mayonnaise. Andréa poured two glasses of water and set them next to the wine glasses.

“Do you often serve yourself?”

“Yes. Usually. I’m home quite late when I’m in Paris. So I often just eat out or grab whatever is available. Marie usually sets a few meals in the fridge to choose from. Or I make a peanut butter sandwich.”

Miranda frowned at the thought of peanut butter. “So much sugar.”

“I know that’s what’s so great about it.”

Miranda looked up, surprised. She didn’t realize she had said that out loud.

They continued to eat silently after that.

Andréa removed their plates and wine glasses. She brought out two more wine glasses and a bottle of Pinot Noir. She poured and asked “So how was fashion week?”

“Really Andréa?” Miranda asked dryly. “Are we already to small talk?”

“Well we could just sit here not talking.” She walked back into the kitchen and came out with two small cups on two long plates. “It says on the instructions from Marie that it’s Mushroom Cappuccino and Icelandic Langoustines.”

Miranda looked at the small cup wearily. “It’s what?” She pushed it slightly away.

“To be honest I’m not sure but she’s not poisoned me yet.”

“That’s not terribly reassuring.”

Miranda watched as Andréa took the first spoonful.

“Oh, it’s mushroom soup.” And then she processed to demolish the entire cup.

Miranda ate slowly. It was delicious but filling. She sipped the wine between mouthfuls.

She normally sipped at champagne when she was out at parties. She switched out glasses often to give the appearance of drinking but wine had always hit her strongly. After two glasses she switched to sparking water. Very few people ever noticed. This was her third glass of wine in an hour and a half. The effects were noticeable to her.

“So fashion week? Besides René, how did it go?”

Finished with their soup, they both relaxed in the respective chairs. Andréa swirl the wine in her glass before taking a sip. Swirl, sip, and pause. It was mesmerizing. Miranda set her wine glass back on the table. If she found swirling wine to be mesmerizing then she had had enough.

“I’m sure René filled you in on our meeting today.” Miranda sniffed like the conversation was below her and she was being drawn into unwillingly. She was actually interested in how René saw her.

“He did. He said you reacted favorably and he hoped that he would develop a good working relationship with you. He adores you and Runway, so this is a dream come true for him.” Andréa replied honestly. “And the rest of the week? Did it live up to your expectations?”

“It surprisingly did. I enjoyed most of what I saw this week and I feel interested in coming back here in a few weeks to see the fall and winter collections.” Miranda uncharacteristically answered. It’s the wine she thought. It had to be the wine.

“I’m glad to hear that. I know how you hate disappointment.” Andréa fell silent as did Miranda. They both thought of five years ago, when Andréa was Miranda’s biggest disappointment. Andréa was the first to recover.

“And the girls? How are they doing? They must be getting ready for college.” She asked refilling both their wine glasses.

Miranda happy for the change of topic, found herself talking about the twins and how much they’d grown and what they had planned for their future and by the time she stopped talking she had finished another course and another two glasses of wine.

“Marie has made a fruit crème brulee but after that last glass of wine I’m not sure I can handle anymore carbs tonight. Would you like to go to the atrium and have a cup of coffee?”

“That’s a lovely idea. Will we also stop by your office?” Miranda took a sip of the still water that had been poured for her at the start of the meal.

“If you like.” Andréa replied.

“I wouldn’t have asked if I hadn’t.” Miranda felt slightly more than tipsy but not quite drunk. She had had more than twice her normal amount and in a very short time. She slowly rose from the table and followed Andréa as she led them towards the staircase.

Thankfully they took the elevator down. As they exited the elevator the area flooded with light. The tops of the trees were lit, the flower beds had small lights tucked into them and the source of her earlier frustration, the water wall, now gleamed in the artificial light.

Miranda took a moment to look around. Andréa took a step back while she bent to inspect an orchid. When she stood again, she turned to ask Andréa a question but the words died in her mouth. Andréa was watching her with such a soft expression that Miranda was hesitant to break the silence. A moment later Andréa shook herself out of what ever thought she had been having.

“The coffee machine’s in the kitchen. I can get the coffee if you’d like to sit down over there.” She pointed to a previously unseen table and chairs.

Miranda had a moment of confusion. Why hadn’t they taken the coffee with them? She looked up at the room they had just left. Andréa, correctly interpreting her look, answered the unasked question.

“There’s a professional kitchen down here.” She pointed to the doors at the back of the atrium. “That’s the staff quarters.” She waved her hands toward the doors that lined the hallways, separated by the glass atrium walls. “If they wish to live here, there is a series of rooms provided for them.”

“How many staff live here now?” Miranda looked at the doors counting four on each side.

“There are three here now. But I also have quarters on the second floor for my security staff. Two are full time and three travel with me. So another five people are currently in residence.” Andréa nodded as if she was satisfied with her accounting. “So coffee?”

“I’ll accompany you if you don’t mind.”

“Be honest Miranda.”

Miranda looked shocked at the charge she was being dishonest.

“You just want to see the kitchen and know all my secrets.” Andréa laughed as she walked away.

Miranda smiled. She followed Andréa out of the atrium and into the glass hallway. There was a stainless steel door to their right. Andréa pushed it open. It was a swinging door which surprised her and yet made total sense. Inside the room was a gleaming professional kitchen. It could have been in any restaurant anywhere in the world. There were steamers and fryers, bread ovens and a dozen appliances she had no name for. All gleaming in their stainless steel glory.

Andréa walked up to another coffee maker. A replica of the one upstairs. Jura. Not that Miranda knew anything about it but it seemed serviceable.

“Skim, latte, without foam?”

Miranda nodded and watched as Andréa spun a dial on the top of the machine. She used a touch pad to select the grind, the temperature and foam levels and then added in the amount of milk desired. Miranda watched as she hit select and a moment later a tall latte filled the glass Andréa had slid under the spout.

A second glass and a single button pressed, Andréa also had her own drink.

Miranda peered at the machine in closer detail. It was exquisite. She took a sip of her coffee. Perfect. She looked at it again.

“It’s Swiss.”

Miranda made a note to look into one. The machine she had at home needed replacing. It no longer produced coffee as hot as she liked.

“Come on. We’ll go sit in the garden.”

Miranda followed Andréa out but not before she looked once more at the coffee machine. Jura Giga. She made a mental note to research it.

They settled into the chairs. The water providing a soothing background sound as they sipped at their coffees.

Neither Andréa nor Miranda spoke. They just sipped and thought.

When the cups were empty. Andréa stood. “Come, I’ll show you my office.”

Miranda went with her. The effects from the alcohol had subsided while she had drunk her coffee. She had been thinking about how this night had gone. She felt as if she had been oscillating between anger, guilty and awe. The fact that this had been one of the more pleasant dinner she had had in recent memory, had not helped her settle her emotions. Something about this woman had always flummoxed her. And now she was following her into the last room of the house. This was the end and Miranda had not a single explanation for the last 5 years.

Andréa opened the door to the right of the kitchen. It stood directly across from the atrium and Miranda understood what Andréa meant earlier about not seeing the water feature. Although the bulk of the greenery could be seen, if you left the door open, the sides of the atrium were out of view.

“I’d offer you something to drink, “she motioned to the bar on the left, “but I think both of us are better off with water or a soda. Would you like water, or something else to drink?”

“Water would be fine.” Miranda looked around. There was a sofa on the right side of the room, two chairs across from it and a small table between the chairs and sofa. A small bookshelf stood against the left wall next to the small bar, along with a small file cabinet. Andréa’s desk was made of heavy carved oak. A laptop was lying on top of it, closed.

There were framed pictures all around the room. Miranda stepped closer to one and realized this is what she had been looking for in this giant house. There was a picture of Andréa and an older woman, both wearing crowns. Another of her wearing a Northwestern jumper next to a young man with curly black hair. A candid picture of Andréa and her Emily. There were picture of Stanford and holidays. Of people Miranda knew and some that she didn’t. A dozen pictures of a little girl around two. A couple of Andréa holding an infant. None of the man who was her husband. All the answers to her question but none of the context.

“Here.” Andréa broke Miranda’s concentration as she stared at a black and white picture of a little girl laughing. Other than her blonde hair, the child was a mirror image of the woman handing her a glass.

“We should sit down.” Andréa sat on one of the chairs, while Miranda took the sofa.

Miranda stared at Andréa waiting for the answers.

“I’m sorry. I owe you an explanation for everything. I wanted to tell you when I left New York but by then I didn’t know what to say and it’s not like I could call you up out of the blue and just tell you. I didn’t tell anyone.”

“Is that supposed to be better, Andréa?” Miranda dragged out her name anger coloring her voice. “Is it better that you abandoned your friends too? Is it supposed to make it all better that you were sorry that you lied to every person you came in contact with?”

Years of anger and disappointment filled Miranda. A white hot rage, unlike any she had ever known filled her. In that instant she could have strangled Andréa. Her anger knew no bounds and she unleashed it the only way she knew how.

“Is this the time you’ve set aside to humiliate me and yourself? Show and tell, dinner and then this? You wanted me to see your house. Was I supposed to be impressed? Maybe be grateful that I could say I knew you knew you wore sweaters that should have been made into rags? Was it fun to play dress up in pauper’s clothing and have to work for a few months?” Insult after insult flew from Miranda’s lips with cold, quiet accuracy. And Andréa sat there, doing nothing, not even crying, which only fueled Miranda’s anger until finally she stood.

With every intention of leaving, Miranda took a step towards the door. Andréa’s hand shot out and gripped her arm. “If you are quite done I’ll answer your questions now.”

Miranda had no intention of sitting down and listening to Andréa and what every self-serving explanation she was going to say. She moved to pull away but Andrea pulled her back towards her. Miranda, not expecting any sort physical response stumbled into Andréa’s arms and was pulled unceremoniously into her lap. Miranda struggled to free herself.

“Sit still and I’ll let you go. You’ve had your say and now it’s my turn. Sit still.”

Miranda stilled and was slowly released. She sat in the chair opposite of Andréa. The anger that had flooded her system, receded and then rushed back again.

If glares could kill Andréa would have died on the spot. No one had ever laid a hand on her and this woman had the nerve to do so and then command her like a dog to sit.

Miranda sat deathly still and glared. Daring Andréa to begin explaining herself.

Andréa took a deep breath and stood, pacing. “You make everything so damn hard. I had decided to let this all go and move on but then René wanted this life and with it comes you. I knew we’d meet. I tried to avoid it. I thought if I didn’t come here now. If I didn’t come to René show or party…” Andréa for the first time that night, showed signs of anger and hurt. She ran her hands through her hair and dragged in another breath.

Miranda on the other hand had lost hers. The anger that had been filling and receding and then filling her again, flowed completely away. If she hadn’t come to the show or the party, Miranda wouldn’t have seen her again. This dinner wouldn’t have happened and she would have looked for chestnut colored hair and warm chocolate eyes in every crowd for the rest of her life. She would have never known what had happened that made her assistant run and disappear when she had offered the world to her.

Miranda found her voice and breath. “Start at the beginning and don’t leave anything out.”

Andréa’s head snapped up and met Miranda’s eyes. She nodded once and then sat. Her took a long sip of her water and began telling her life story.

“I was 15 when my grandmother came to visit me in San Francisco. My father had died two years before. I never saw him and he’d send me gifts for my birthday and Christmas but that was the most interaction we had ever had. I had never met my grandmother…” Andréa told Miranda about Lily and princess lessons. Miranda smiled at the make over and Pablo breaking her glasses. She grew upset that even then Andréa’s friends weren’t friends at all and her mother didn’t fight hard enough for her at school. Instead she dated a teacher. If some cheerleader pushed one of her daughters around she’d sue the school so fast that their heads would spin. Media crews and tabloid press hounding a 15 year old. Shameful.

Andréa told her about coming to Genovia every summer and studying. She needed to learn all the laws, the politics, who the crown supported and who it didn’t. It seemed like an awful way to grow up.

She told Miranda about Stanford and the classes she hated. About turning 21 and her grandmother finding a suitable consort for her. Arranged marriage at 21? Was this a third world country? She told of a political coup and her success in avoiding both the loss of the crown and the escape of her marriage.

Miranda listened as she told the story rejecting Stanford Law and applying to Medill at Northwestern. Of begging for more time. To learn to be herself. Of losing herself in a fake persona. Of the boyfriend who only saw her as Andy the girl next door. “We could have never worked. He thought I was busy working for you. He’d never live with my schedule now. And to be called Consort. His ego wouldn’t have survived.”

“That was then Andréa. What about now?” Miranda’s voice was softer, more understanding. Andréa may have had privilege and money but the responsibility heaped onto her shoulder at 16 was too much. She would never have made her daughters face that kind of decision at 16. She wasn’t even old enough to vote.

“Now I have my daughter. And a business that I like.”

“And a husband.” Miranda reminded her, although the thought bothered her greatly.

“And an ex-husband Miranda.”

“I was under the impression that you were still married.”

“No. We divorced last year. There was an incident.” Andréa explained.

“Incident?” Miranda

“I should start at the beginning.”

“I already told you to leave nothing out. You know how much I love repeating myself.” Miranda intoned drolly and then smirked.

“Right, of course. Sorry Miranda.” Andréa looked up through her eye lashes and the smiled in jest.

Miranda’s breath caught unexpectedly at the look and what started as a small joke, The Editor and The Assistant, turned into something else.

Neither looked away at that moment, when they should of. Neither spoke, when it would have been wiser too and neither laughed, to break the spell. They sat there, drawing the moment out, imbibing it with a seriousness that neither could deny.

It was the sound of a police car outside which finally released them from a spell of their own making. Andréa drew in a shaky breath.

“So, uh.” She blew out forcefully. “I, umm. I had just come home from New York. My grandmother had had a stroke. She was fine but I no longer had the luxury of running away from my responsibility. She officially retired as Regent and I was crowned Queen.”

“Then the problems started. I wasn’t interested in marriage and although my kingdom had agreed that I could choose my own husband, but they wanted me to choose sooner than later. I was no longer a girl of 21 but now a woman of 26 and the game had changed.”

“The man I had been arranged to marry was of the right social station. He had lands and title in England but no claim to the throne. Now that Prince William has had a son, I think he’s 127th in line. Or he was. He renounced his claim when we married. It was the perfect match on paper. He didn’t mind that I didn’t love him and he didn’t love me.”

“I’ve found that marriages are not like business agreements and rarely work out when treated as one.” Miranda interjected. She didn’t really want to hear the story of Andréa getting married anymore but before she could ask a question that could lead them away from this topic Andréa and returned to telling it.

“Well ours didn’t work out. Or it did if you speak to the right people.” Andréa shrugged. “I got pregnant after 4 months. We shared a bed so infrequently that it was a surprise to us both. He was in love with the idea of being a father. I didn’t love him but I did care for him. He had convinced himself that he loved me and I’d come around in time. Why do people always want to change who you are?” Andréa asked rhetorically. “Beatrice was a month early and I almost died during child birth.”

Miranda sucked in a breath.

“The doctors said I’ll never have more children. Bea’s enough for me but I wish I had been able to have at least one more. Not because she should have a sister or brother but in case she wants to do something else with her life. Now she’s 3 years old and her life is already set in stone.” Andréa stopped speaking and took a sip of her water.

Miranda could feel her own sympathy well up for Andréa’s daughter.

“So, anyway, things were okay. I was happy with having only one child. Michael was in love with Bea. We were the happy royal family.” Andréa made a face at that statement.

“Bea was a little over a year old when I had taken her with me for the day. It was around 11 and she started to feel warm, so I decided it was better to go home and not risk her getting sick. And that’s when the Incident happened. I caught him and my former secretary together. I would have swept it under the rug with all the other skeletons we had both put there but he came to me that night and confessed. She was 3 months pregnant and she was keeping the baby. We had a row. And then divorced.”

“I still see him. Things are better between us now. He is free to leave Genovia whenever he likes but Bea can never be with him. So he lives there, on my grounds, with his new wife.”

“I’m not sure I could have someone who betrayed me live that close to me.”

“Well I have 320 acres of land; we don’t bump into each other unless it’s by design. Besides I hurt him too.”

“Well, you’re far more forgiving than I would have been. The girls will be 18 in two months and I have not spoken face to face with their father since they were four.”

“Like I said I hurt him too.”

Andréa stood and refilled her glass. “Would you like more coffee or another glass of water?”

“Coffee would be lovely but only if you show me how to use that machine.”

Andréa smiled and then laughed. “Deal.”

They walked back into the kitchen. Miranda watched as Andréa explained the buttons and knobs. The screens that lit up and the programing features. She watched her, not the machine.

“What is it you do Andréa? Besides run a country? You said you were very busy. Busier than when you worked for me? What is it you do?” Miranda voice trailed off to a whisper, her lips centimeters from Andréa’s. If Andréa hadn’t turned her head to meet Miranda’s eyes when Miranda started speaking, there would have been a respectable distance between them.

But she had and now there wasn’t. All she had to do was lean forward. Andréa licked her lips and swayed towards her. And then the coffee machine started grinding the beans. Miranda shook herself out of the moment and took two steps back.

Andréa turned back towards the machine, running a hand through her hair. Just like René, Miranda noticed. She wondered if that meant she was nervous like her cousin had been.

Soon as the machine stopped Andréa handed Miranda the cup and then leaned back against the counter top.

“I make batteries and thermal control systems”

What? Miranda blinked and then asked her when she found her voice “Did you get an engineering degree also?”

“Well, no. I should say my company makes solar batteries and thermal control systems that prolong the life of satellites by 5 years or more.”

“I fail to see how this is possible. Explain.” Miranda commanded.

“Can we go back to the study?”

Miranda waved her fingers signaling to Andréa to proceed.

“Genovia is famous for its pears.”

“Pears?”

“Yes. Pears.” She said as they took their seats in the office. “There are a lot of other things also but pears are our specialty. Now it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if there are 2 or more years of bad weather or a drop in prices our economy will suffer.”

“So when I took over as Queen I started to propose ideas to members of parliament. We opened up ski resorts and expanded our agriculture programs, but still we were dependent on weather and other people’s purchasing power.”

“In 2010 there was a little company in the capital, Life Systems. The owner came to me and asked if we could have a sit down meeting to discuss a new venture he wished to embark on. I took the meeting and he explained that he had been working on a solar battery for years and he now wanted to build one but there was no bank that would loan him money.”

“Why would he come to you?”

“Besides the fact I’m Queen?” Miranda nodded. “The Royal family controls all the banks in Genovia and has a regent fund of a little over one billion euros. I am the Royal family.”

Miranda leaned back in her chair and held up her hand. She needed to digest that. She personally had a significant amount of personal wealth. She could retire tomorrow and still leave enough for her children to live comfortably for the rest of their lives but what she had was nowhere near a billion dollars, let alone a billion euros. Realizing that the amount was too high to comprehend at the moment she waved Andréa on.

“So he came to me for a loan. But I don’t loan out money. Instead I bought his company. 51% of it. He and a board of directors control the other 49%. I acts as CEO and I get to use my language skills and International Policy degree to facilitate contracts between different governments. My writing skills are also handy. I write all the manuals for the average person.”

“Life Systems is now the leading designer of solar batteries that are specifically used for all major satellites and thermal control systems that prolong the life a satellite, leading to less space junk.”

Miranda watched Andréa as she explained. If she were a dog, her tail would be wagging. She really loves it, Miranda realized. Traveling and working. It wasn’t a pastime. Or something she did because she was bored. She found a way to be Queen and have a career.

“So you found a way to save the world? Solar batteries and space junk?”

Andréa grinned. “Yep and it only cost me 100 million euros in startup cash.”

“That doesn’t seem like a good investment.”

“Well it’s been only four years and the company is worth more than it was when I invested. Most importantly it brings jobs to my people and isn’t dependent of weather.”

“I see.”

Miranda finished her coffee and stood. “I must go now. It’s far later than I had anticipated.”

“I understand Miranda. I had a lovely time.” Andrea walked with her through the atrium.

Miranda curled her lip and raised an eyebrow in disbelief as they stepped into the elevator.

“Okay I had a mostly lovely time and I’d like to have dinner with you again.”

Miranda watched as Andréa produced an electronic fob and slid it over the sensor. Miranda agreed it had been a mostly wonderful evening.

“I wouldn’t be against that.” She replied coolly as the elevator descended.

“Good night Miranda.”

Andréa went to kiss her left cheek and Miranda, miss read the signals, she turned head just a little too far to the left and the gentle bussing that was planned turned into a soft kiss on the corner of her mouth.

Andréa blushed but Miranda just took a step back. “Good night Andréa.”

She slid into the waiting car and was back in her hotel room within 15 minutes. She undressed and prepared for bed. As she crawled between her sheets she thought about Andréa and the almost kiss. And then it hit her, she should have turned fully into those lips. It’s what she had wanted to do in the kitchen also. She wanted to kiss Andréa.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

 

Miranda awoke the next morning, refreshed after a good night’s sleep. She stretched and rolled to her side. 8:15. It was rare she had a chance to sleep in. She rolled back on to her back and yawned. She thought about her plans for the day. She had only stayed behind in Paris for a working dinner with Donatella. With everyone so busy preparing for the 4 separate fashion weeks, this would be the only available time either of them had to spare.

It was fortuitous that René had been able to meet with her and Nigel yesterday. At the thought of René, a shiver of anticipation traveled up her spine. Those dresses. She couldn’t wait to get her hands on them.

She smiled at the thought. Then her mind shifted to last night. Andréa. She wanted to kiss Andréa last night. She took a moment to think about it. Did she still feel that way? Or was it the wine and an overly emotional evening? Was it just relief at finally know what happened to the wayward girl? If she did want to kiss her, what did that mean? Besides she had an image to maintain and she knew nothing of being with a woman. Was she even attracted to women? She hadn’t been before? And if she was, would this be a one-time thing? An affair? She wasn’t sure if Andréa even wanted her. The blush was probably embarrassment for accidentally kissing her. Everything else was a byproduct of the emotional evening.

Miranda rolled her eyes at her thoughts. Sitting, or lying as the case may be, and questioning herself was not a normal past time she indulged in.

No, she sat up. No she wouldn’t think about it now. She had a magazine to get to the printers and New York Fashion Week was just 10 days away. She had enough to focus on. Besides, she thought as she rose from her bed, she said they could have dinner again. She would invite her to dinner when she was back in Paris for Fashion Week. The feelings would have disappeared by then anyway. Until then she wouldn’t think of Andréa again. Satisfied Miranda prepared to start her day.

She ordered breakfast to be served in her room at 9. She had the book to go through, emails she hadn’t had time for, photographers to call and blocking to begin on April and May’s issues. She needed to finish as much as she could because after Monday her days would be longer and busier than usual.

With a sigh, Miranda walked into the bathroom to shower. No, she just didn’t have time to think about the woman right now.

Unsurprisingly Miranda was able to completely focus on work. She kept Jolene on speed dial and Nigel was in the office fielding her calls before 5 am. She worked until 3. Taking a break she went down to the hotel spa. She relaxed while having a massage and facial. Refreshed after the soothing treatments she returned to the book. Satisfied with the finished product, she okayed it for print. She was 2 days ahead of deadline but she knew that this month would push them all behind schedule.

Fashion Week as actually 5 weeks of traveling and long days followed by long nights. She hated it and loved it equally. This year she was looking forward to her vacation in April. She was planning to take the girls to somewhere warm but not crowded. Maybe somewhere tropical. She’d ask Jolene to find an appropriate place for spring vacation.

Miranda continued to work, sending a stream of never ending emails to the heads of all the departments. For now, they all worked Saturdays. If God only needed one day of rest while creating the world, Miranda’s staff could do the same while creating Runway this month.

At 6, she put everything away and prepared for dinner. She laid out what she’d need for tonight and tomorrow and then rung the butler, Maurice, on her floor.

“Everything but what’s in this drawer and the make up on the counter will need to be packed up and stored by the door. I’ll be out of my rooms at 8 for dinner. I have an early flight and I expect the porter to be here promptly at 8:30 tomorrow. I will be checking out then.”

“Very good, Madame. Is there anything else I am able to do for you this evening?”

“No, that will be all,” Miranda walked away, while the butler let himself out. Miranda continued to her bedroom. She needed to dress for dinner at 8.

 

They met downstairs at Epicure. Miranda originally had reservations elsewhere but Eric had personally invited her to dinner earlier that day.

“I’ve made a menu just for you and your guest. To celebrate the end of your time with us.”

Not one to refuse such a generous offer, Miranda was happy to visit Epicure again. Donatella hadn’t minded the change of venue either.

It was enjoyable dinner. A working dinner but no less enjoyable. The Versace House was preparing for the Milan Fashion Week and looking over the sketches Donatella had brought with her, Miranda could see a place for at least two full outfits plus a small spread in the September issue. It was only when of designs and ideas had been hashed out for Fashion Week that Donatella brought up the real reason she wanted to meet with Miranda.

“Santo is trying to sell part of my house.”

Miranda wanted to be sure she understood what she was saying. “The Versace Fashion House. Gianni’s house.”

“Si. He’s convinced Allegra to go public.” She seemed on the verge of crying.

“And your house, will you also be selling?” Miranda asked. This could change things for Runway. If both houses went public and there was a designer change she would have to cut Versace out of all issues until they were stable. She couldn’t have Runway feature a designer’s collection only to have the house fall or the designer fired before the issue went to print.

“No. No, I will never sell my house. Only Gianni’s house. Santo wants sangue nuovo, new blood. Money to expand. He promises silence from them.”

“So a silent partner? And your daughter Allegra she thinks this is a good idea?” If they weren’t changing designers and Donatella would continue to work as creative director, Miranda agreed with Allegra. She was a bright young woman with a serious nature. Miranda personally doubted Santo could talk her into anything. Most likely it was Allegra who approached Santo.

“Si, that’s what he says.”

Miranda took a moment to think about what it meant to her, to Runway and finally how this could affect someone she thought of as a friend. “Va bene. Allegra is a good judge of these things?”

“Sì. Sì, she’s the best. I’m just worried that Santo…»

“Don’t worry about your brother. Did your daughter have a buyer?”

“Sì. A group from Milan. FSI. They are working out a deal. 20 % over 3 years.”

“Are you sure it’s done?” Miranda wanted to be sure.

“They will sign after Milan. Allegra will have 2.3 billion and Santo receives 1.8. I will have 918 million but I will not sell Versace Couture or Jeans. Those are mine.”

“Donatella, I think it will be okay. You’ll still have your houses?” Donatella nodded. “Then,” Miranda continued, “trust your daughter. She’s a smart girl. It will all work out.” Miranda patted her hand reassuringly.

“I’m sorry Miranda I forgot to ask. How are the girls? And you, any men?”

Miranda choked on her wine. She cleared her throat. “No, no men. The girls though…” Miranda proceeded to share the trials of teenage girls who were determined to run away to Europe for school.

Laughing at the end of the story Donatella reached over and squeezed Miranda’s hand this time. “It’s good, no? To have such hard working children. They want to have a life. Their own life. It’s a good thing?”

“Yes,” Miranda squeezed back. “It’s a good thing.”

They talked a little longer before saying good bye. Miranda would try to have dinner with her during fashion week if possible, if there wasn’t enough time they’d have to email, as they had done for many years.

Miranda returned to her suite and prepared for bed. She had an early morning and a long flight. At least she would have 8 hours of uninterrupted time to work as she flew home in time for dinner with the girls.

 

6:30 arrived quickly and Miranda prepare for a day of traveling. She had a cup of coffee sent up and drank it while she downloaded a copy of next month’s book. She’d start fine tuning the color scheme and fonts today.

At 8:45, she was ensconced in the back seat of the town car and moving through traffic on her way to CDG. Miranda took advantage of the Air France’s Première check in at Gate 2 E. The escort met the car and removed her bags. She was then ushered into the private check-in. After a few moments the escort guided Miranda to the private security check . It took less than 20 minutes before she was checked in and was sitting down to a breakfast provided by Alain Ducasse and the perfect center of the sun hot latte.

Miranda used their private work spaces until her plane was ready to board. The escort met her again and drove her to the plane. After the flight crew introduced themselves, she was shown to her seat. Settling in she opened her laptop and connected to the on-board Wi-Fi. She used the time before the other passengers began to board to send emails out to her editors reminding them she was in-flight and email responses would be delayed. After the mass email Miranda repacked her laptop, slid it under her seat and asked the flight attendant for a bottle of water.

Miranda sat back and drank the water as she watched her fellow passengers board. She hated to fly. No matter how much leg room there was she was still stuck in a flying tin can filled with combustible fuel. She was happy to see Air France add Wi-Fi to their Trans-Atlantic flights. Eight nonproductive hours, eight times a year, just made her have to miss more time with her daughters. Now it was like a full day at the office. She could even demand food when she was ready and hot coffee. She was still in a tin can but that really couldn’t be helped. Miranda stowed the water in the holder on the side of her chair as the plane taxied down the run way. It was going to be a long flight but at least she’d be home with the girls soon.

 

Eight hours later she was back in New York. Her driver, William, was waiting. “Roy, I’d like to be home as soon as possible.” The escort from Air France was already carrying her luggage to customs. It took her 20 minutes to clear the private customs and another 20 for her driver to finish loading it all in the car. It took them exactly 15 minutes before they came to a standstill in traffic. “Roy. Is there a reason we’ve stopped?”

“Sorry Ms. Miranda.” William replied.

Miranda wasn’t sure William would last. She had been using Elias-Clarke’s pool of drivers for the last year. She would have like to have her own again but so far none of them had shown the talent that Roy had. Until she found a replacement she was determined to call them all Roy. Why learn their names when they wouldn’t be driving her for long? From the backseat she could see William’s neck turn red. Either embarrassment or anger. She was leaning towards anger.

“Don’t be sorry. Just get me home. There’s no reason you can’t just go around this. I mean what are all these people doing out driving on a Sunday anyway? Doesn’t anyone use the subway? You use the subway, don’t you Roy?”

Miranda watched as William’s neck darkened even more. She knew he felt that she was being unreasonable. No matter what people thought of her she was aware of what was possible and what wasn’t. William couldn’t turn them around now if his life depended on it. They were stuck on the Triborough. What made Roy better than William, better then all of them, was that he would have checked traffic first before they left the airport. Miranda could clearly see that there were at least 2 cars involved in an accident. Had he checked with the latest traffic reports or even radioed in and asked dispatch, they would have told him to take the Midtown tunnel. Miranda knew how things worked. No, William would not last.

Miranda sat back and sighed. This would be at least another 15 minutes wasted. She had hoped to rest before the girls arrived home. Now she’d be lucky to beat them there. Miranda looked out the window. She needed to sit down and talk with the girls after dinner. It had to be tonight. The next month was a nightmare. The girls would be staying with their father when she flew out to London. He would be in the city while she was away and wished to have them stay at his apartment. It was closer to Dalton and Miranda couldn’t say no. As terrible of a husband he turned out to be, he was a good father.

Finally, William inched the car past the blocked lane and they started moving again. She’d be home soon.

 

It was nearly 3 when the car pulled up in front of Miranda’s townhouse. As William unloaded and brought in her things Miranda silently crept into the kitchen. Mrs. Hudson was at the oven, baking bread by the smell of it. Miranda waited a moment.

“I know you’re standing there Miranda.” She turned around with a smile. Mrs. Hudson was almost 65 years old, her hair, streaked with grey, was pulled into a messy bun while she cooked. Her apron was firmly tied twice around her middle. She was a short woman but fierce. She’d be retiring soon. An irreplaceable woman.

Miranda smiled back at her. Miranda had hired Agnes Hudson nearly 20 years ago and she’d been trying to sneak up on Mrs. Hudson almost the entire time she had been employing her. At Runway, in heels on hard floors, she could appear silently beside someone, often catching them off guard. Nigel had threatened to put a bell on her numerous times. But at home, without shoes, over thick carpets, she had yet to surprise Mrs. Hudson. How did the woman always know? After 10 years it had become a game. Miranda, of course, wasn’t the only one who tried to sneak around the house. Her daughters had also spent an inordinate amount of time trying to silently stalk the robust woman who ran their home.

“How were the girls? Miranda asked.

“Good. Caroline spent most of the time with her head in a book.”

Miranda nodded. Naturally. “And Cassidy?” Miranda prompted.

“She was well behaved.”

Miranda knew that was code for “she was on the phone or pc instead of doing any homework.” This was also unsurprising. Night and day, her twins were.

“Have they arrived home yet?”

“Yes, a few moments ago. They tried that creeping thing, none of you are good at. You should all give up now. How many more years will you try to stalk me like a lion and cubs? You never win. You should all save your energy and just behave normally.” Agnes continued talking and complaining about their unnatural behavior as Miranda just waved her hand and walked away. She had heard this speech many times. She assumed she’d hear it many more times.

She headed up the stairs to see the girls.

Caroline and Cassidy were sprawled out in the entertainment room. The TV was on and both girls had their laptops open. As Miranda walked in she could see Caroline was reading some sort of research paper while Cassidy had a fashion blog open. Miranda peered closer no, not a fashion blog exactly. It was, GoFugYourself, which Cassidy told her was a hilarious take on some of the crazy things and people in fashion. Miranda hadn’t the time to look at it yet.

“Hello girls.”

Both of them jumped up and came to hug her hello. She’d missed them terribly. Like she does every time she had to travel. She really didn’t know how she’d cope not seeing them every day when they left for school. Miranda kissed them both and then went to change. They had agreed to eat an early dinner downstairs and talk about school. While Miranda was changing into clean, comfortable clothing, the girls went downstairs.

A short time later, Miranda returned to the kitchen. She looked over at Cassidy. Cassidy shook her head no. They hadn’t managed to sneak up on the housekeeper. Next time, Miranda mouthed to her.

“Don’t encourage them. All of you are trouble. I should make you eat something terrible. You are trying to scare an old woman. Who does that? No one, just you.” She pointed at them reprovingly. Miranda and the girls smiled at one another. Mrs. Hudson was one of a kind and Miranda was grateful for her. She would never have trusted her daughters with anyone else other than their father.

“Do you need any help?” Miranda asked.

“Help from you? What would you do? Peel carrots? In that?” She motioned, with a knife in her hand, to Miranda’s gray cashmere sweater and cream colored linen pants. “No. Go. All of you. Underfoot and trying to give me a heart attack. Get out of the kitchen. I will call you when it’s ready, although you do not eat the food I make. Just pick at it like little rabbits…” She continued to rant about them as the three of them left the kitchen.

“So how was your trip? Better than last year? Cassidy asked as she and her sister flung themselves over the sofa and chair that decorated Miranda’s office.

“Caroline, feet.” Miranda reprimanded her daughter who had just set her feet on top of the coffee table.

“Yes, it was quite a bit better than last year. If your homework is complete…” Miranda trailed off and waited for her daughters to answer. Cassidy bit her lip and nodded her head yes. Caroline looked at her sister and then her mother and shook her head no.

“Is your homework complete?” Miranda asked turning her full attention on Cassidy.

“Well almost, there’s this paper. I’m almost done.”

“How much time do you need to finish?” Miranda questioned as she turned on her pc.

“Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes?” Cassidy sounded unsure.

“Are you asking or telling me?”

“2o minutes. I will be done in 20 minutes.” Cassidy answered.

“Well then,” Miranda pointed to the door. “Go finish and after dinner I’ll show you what I found in Paris.”

Cassidy bolted out the door and raced up the stairs. Miranda rolled her eyes. Would they never walk up the stairs like young ladies?

“And you?” Miranda turned to her reticent daughter.

“I’ve already emailed my assignments to my teachers and I finished reading the chapters for this week’s lessons yesterday.” Caroline sat studying her nails.

“Caroline, is there something you want to say?” Miranda asked quietly. She moved away from her desk and sat next to Caroline on the sofa. “Did anything happen this week you want to talk about?”

Caroline looked harder at her nails on her left hand and then her right and then clenched them both into fists. Miranda, now worried, laid her hand on Caroline’s left hand. She rubbed a small circle on the back of her hand until slowly Caroline relaxed her fists. Miranda worried about Caroline. She held her emotions in much like Miranda herself did. It made it difficult to get to the bottom of whatever was troubling her. Miranda would just have to wait until she started speaking.

Miranda sat there, next to her daughter, holding her hands and waiting. Out of the corner of her eye, Miranda spied Agnes coming towards her office but the woman stopped after seeing Caroline sitting with her hands in Miranda’s. She backed away and let the two of them quietly sit.

Caroline began to speak after a few minutes more had passed. “Dad’s getting married.”

Miranda let out a breath. A million things had gone through her head but that was not one of them.

“Honey?” Miranda wasn’t sure why this would be a problem. Jeremy had been married before. So had she.

“It’s just,” She let out a heavy sigh before squeezing Miranda’s hands and taking a deep breath. “It’s just you’re going to be alone. We’re going to school and you haven’t dated anyone in like 5 years and it’s unfair that everyone writes such mean things about you all the time. And Cass and I won’t be here to make sure you eat or sleep or take breaks and who’s going to make sure you do something fun and not just work all the time. I don’t want…”

Miranda stopped Caroline before she hyperventilated. “Honey, I love you but I’m a grown up. I will make sure I eat and sleep. And I have Agnes here to boss me around when I’m home. It’s going to okay. I promise.” Miranda pulled Caroline into her arms and held her.

Both her daughters had sensitive souls. Caroline had learned to hide hers under a strict, no nonsense persona while Cassidy hide hers under a carefree one. It worried Miranda that they had been thinking about this. She was the adult here.

Caroline pulled away from Miranda and asked again “Are you sure?”

Miranda smiled at her eldest daughter. “I’m sure. Now why don’t you tell me why Cambridge?”

“Well, it has the most comprehensive…” Caroline spent the next 10 minutes excitedly explaining why Cambridge was the only school she could possibly go to. Towards the end, Cassidy wandered in and started to add to the conversation. She also had a lot to say about the programs she was interested in and what she hoped to do when she had her degree. After 30 minutes, Miranda knew that this was the right choice for both of them. Donatella was right. It’s good for them to have their own lives. Even if they were far, far away from home.

“Miranda, dinner is ready now.” Agnes poked her head into the room.

“Girls, go wash up.”

Both girls went upstairs while Miranda waved Agnes into the room. “How much did you hear?”

“I didn’t have to hear anything. Those girls have been talking about it all week.” Agnes replied.

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Ahh,” she shrugged her shoulders. “I knew they would talk to you. Those girls love you.” She went back into the kitchen to serve dinner.

Things really had changed in the last 5 years. Something Miranda was thankful for every day. A lot of it was due to the woman that had been standing in front of her. As Stephan moved out and Miranda buried herself in work, Agnes saved the day by helping the girls weather the storm. And when it was too much she sat Miranda down, knowing it could be her job, and gave Miranda a stern talking to. Reminding her it wasn’t about boogie boards and new books but time. Time she spent with the girls.

Agnes had been there for Miranda through her first marriage, the birth of the twins, her first divorce and every other milestone good or bad. After 20 years Agnes was a stand in mother figure, a confidante and a friend. Miranda would never fire her and she would work for their family until she no longer wished too. She had no other family, no children or grandchildren to return to. She had been married only once.

Agnes’s husband had died in a fire, nearly 40 years ago. He was a fireman in Jamaica, ladder 127. They had been married for just two years. Miranda asked her once why she hadn’t remarried or tried to have a family with someone else and she explained it to her like this. “I can’t breathe without him. He’s gone. I survive and live. But I don’t breathe.”

Miranda thought when she and Jeremy separated it was the worse feeling she ever felt but never did she feel like she couldn’t breathe. Maybe she just wasn’t the kind to risk her heart like that.

Miranda went into the dining room. “It looks lovely, thank you. We’ll take it from here.”

Agnes hung up her apron and then turned to Miranda. “Don’t try to make breakfast tomorrow. I won’t have my kitchen look like it did last time. How can three women destroy a house while making pancakes? You don’t even have that giant dog to blame anymore for your messes.”

“Yes, Agnes. No pancakes. I promise. I won’t be home for dinner this week.”

“You say this like I can’t read a calendar. I know what week it is. I will not see you except in the morning for two weeks and then you will abandon this mad house for your own personal carnival. I know this. Twice a year we put up with this madness.” Agnes continued to talk and complain as she left the room. Miranda heard her go upstairs to say good bye to the girls. Agnes would only need to put up with their “madness” for two more weeks. Then the girls would be going to their father and Miranda would again have to cross the Atlantic for Fashion Week in London.

After Miranda had unpacked and said good night to the girls, she looked over the dresses Cassidy had circled from Paris. Three of them were not on her list to use but she looked closer. Yes, she could see what had drawn her daughter’s eye. She’d talk to Nigel tomorrow about adding them into August.

And with that thought Miranda changed for bed. It was a busy week ahead.

 

Monday morning Miranda strode into her office before 9. She was a woman on a mission.

“Jolene, call Emily and Nigel. I want them here now.”

Miranda flicked through the assorted papers on her desk while sipping at her coffee. A moment later a breathless Emily and Nigel slide into her office. They looked extremely tired. Good.

“Where are the plans I asked for? I don’t see a shooting schedule or mock-ups or even a clothing list here.” She motioned to her desk. “Why are neither of you ready? Is it too much to ask for my senior staff to complete their jobs when I ask them too? Do you feel like you have too much work? Should I find someone else to do your jobs as you both seem unable to cope with a little photo shoot.” Miranda took another sip as she waited. She watched as Emily stared at Nigel until finally he broke the glaring contest between them and answered.

“Yes about that. We have a list of clothes here.” He grabbed something out of Emily’s hands and passed it to Miranda.

Emily decided to join the conversation while Miranda perused the list. “The zoo can accommodate us either for an evening shoot or on a Sunday. We’d need to contact the city planner’s office for the appropriate permits. Also Runway will need to make a donation to the park. Shaun Anderson said he’d be happy to do it and could clear his calendar anytime you want him to be here as long as it could be this week. He’ll be in New York this week, so logically it would be best if we had him shoot before Fashion week. Otherwise he will have to wait until after the Paris shows in March. ”

Miranda was impressed. They had worked out quite a bit over the weekend but she noticed that for all the details there was one big one missing. “And Mr. West?”

Again they stared at each other until Nigel broke again. Miranda had to hand it to Emily. She could glare with the best of them.

Nigel blew out a breath and then took off his glasses and rubbed them with the handkerchief he pulled from his pocket. “Miranda, we couldn’t figure out how to contact Mr. West.”

Miranda took a sip of coffee and hid her smile behind the cup. How to contact him? She almost laughed. No the problem wasn’t contacting him, the problem was that they hadn’t asked Jolene for help. Emily should have remembered that her assistants knew nearly every detail of her life and most of her ideas. Had they asked Jolene on the plane she would have told them about the instructions Miranda had given her on Thursday.

“Jolene, bring me the contact information for Mr. West. My editors can’t figure out our computer system or the internet.” Miranda watched them both wince at that. A faction of a second later, Jolene handed a slip of paper to Miranda. Jolene returned to her desk.

“I’m afraid that unless you hurry Kanye will be unavailable until after March.” Miranda handed the contact details to Emily. “That’s all.” They both scurried out of her office to try to pull together a photo shoot in less than 10 days.

Miranda had no worries. She had Jolene call Shaun last Thursday; that’s why he was in New York an entire week earlier than he needed to be and Kanye’s manager to discuss his client’s availability. He would be available on Thursday or Friday. Emily could handle the zoo and Nigel can deal with Kanye’s entourage. The manager was already aware that they wanted to use Kanye’s style but not his clothing. The shoot would happen without a hitch. Miranda began to sort out the rest of her day. A million things to do. “Jolene…”

14 hours later Miranda dragged herself through the door. Agnes had gone home. The girls were in bed. She walked into the kitchen and came to a dead stop. There on her counter was Andréa’s coffee machine. She walked over to it. There was a letter in a sealed envelope leaning against the chrome plated front. Miranda blinked and then blinked again. She was looking at a coffee machine that only one person would have sent her. She opened the letter.

 

Chère Miranda,
Thank you again for the pleasure of your company. I found myself missing your witty repartee on Saturday. I sincerely wish that the rest of your weekend went well.

I noticed you liked the coffee on Friday and seemed interested in seeing how the machine worked. There is both a manual and DVD for it and if neither are of interest I’ve included the address for a YouTube video outlining the functions at the bottom of this letter. The girl is great, the guy needs a haircut. I hope you enjoy the machine.

I’ve also enclosed my personal business card.

Cordialement à vous,
Andréa

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUgA-4XfFA0

 

Miranda ran her fingers over the paper. She had written the note by hand. Briefly Miranda wondered if she had also personally shopped for the machine. It was too late now to respond. She would thank her tomorrow. Miranda turned and left the kitchen, paper gripped tightly in her hand along with the business card.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

 

The day dawned early and Miranda rose slowly. She hadn’t had time to look over the book last night. She instead awoke an hour earlier than usual. She dragged herself into the shower and turned the water to hot and high. The water beat down on her as she leaned her forehead against the cool tile. She had not had a restful night. There were too many issues to deal with and problems to solve. Thankfully Emily and Nigel buttoned down the last of the details for the photo shoot yesterday so she could clear that from her mental check list. It seemed that every year, the to-do list was longer and the days were shorter. Miranda finished in the shower and prepared to greet her day.

As Miranda came into the kitchen the new coffee machine came into view. Taking a moment to look it over she figured out what went where. She walked over the fridge and took out the container of skim milk. She set it into the container. Selecting her preferred beverage she pressed select. The coffee poured out just like it had at Andréa’s. Perfect. Miranda decided to stay in the kitchen and look over the book. An hour later Agnes walked in.

“Do you know how long it took me to figure out that machine?” She offered Miranda in lieu of a good morning. “I had to mess with it for 20 minutes. If you’re going to replace things you need to tell me. Next thing you know I’ll come in here and the stove will be gone and then where we be.”

“Good morning Agnes.” Miranda offered the woman without looking up. “I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I just pushed a button and everything was fine.”

“Of course it was fine. I programmed it for you. You need coffee if you are going to survive the next two weeks. I’ll make you breakfast now while you go change.”

Miranda took that as her cue and went upstairs to finish dressing for the day.

After another cup of coffee and a plate of scrambled egg whites and toast, Miranda was picked up and delivered to work.

Her day went downhill from there. As she entered the building, Nigel called her. There was a usb stick with 6 photos missing from his office. She entered the elevator and her phone rang again. Kanye’s manager had gotten her number from someone and called to tell her that Kanye wanted to meet with her before his photo shoot on Thursday. As she stepped off the elevator Jolene greeted her with the news that two advertisers had not renewed their contracts and that the marketing department as a whole did not want to face her wrath, instead had passed the message to Jolene via text message.

“Call Kanye’s manager and explain there would be no meeting and if he called her direct line instead of the office line again, she would personally make sure that A.P.C. was never featured in any magazine ever. Then call marketing. I want Thomas and Silva in my office in the next fifteen minutes. Have Mark go help Nigel. I want those dresses found before 9. Have Serena come by at 10 with the samples I gave her yesterday. I want to see Jocelyn today at 1030 and have lunch delivered at 11:30 today.” Miranda tossed her jacket and purse on Rebecca’s, her second assistant’s, desk.

It was going to be a long day.

It was 7 o’clock when she finally had a moment to breath. Six meetings, a dozen problems and a bevy of last minute choices that all had to be decided today. It was only Tuesday and already Miranda was tired. Miranda took a sip of her fresh coffee when she remembered Andréa. She should send an email thanking her. Miranda found her email address and thought about how to word the letter.

 

Dear Andréa,

My weekend was quite satisfying, thank you for asking. The coffee machine was an extremely, if unexpectedly, well timed gift. I have already put it to good use.

You, of course, were wrong, neither the woman nor the man was okay in that video but it was informative never the less.

Sincerely,
Miranda

 

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were nearly the same as Monday and Tuesday. A million issues packed into days that never lasted long enough. At least Nigel’s photo shoot went well and the pictures would work perfectly in May’s summer issue. As she knew they would.

Miranda let herself into the house at 10 on Friday. The girls were out with friends and would be staying overnight. They’d spend Sunday together. Miranda swung by the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. It really was a great addition to her kitchen, which reminded her that she hadn’t heard from Andréa.

Taking her coffee and the book into her office, she flipped on the pc while opening to page 215. She circled and set a post it on the top. “TOO RED.” She flipped the page. 216, fine, 217 fine, 218 “MISSING COMMA.” 219 fine, 220… and so on and so on. When she reached the end of the book she started to go through her recent emails. As she scrolled down she saw an email from Andréa. Clicking it, Miranda read her response.

 

Chère Miranda,

I am sorry it’s taken so long to respond. It’s been very busy here with the rains that are decimating my country. Thankfully no one was hurt with the recent avalanche and mudslides we have been experiencing with this warm winter weather.

I am happy to hear that the coffee machine was well received and immediately put to use. New York Fashion Week starts next Thursday and I could only guess that coffee would be appreciated. Worse case scenario was that you hated the machine and gave it to Nigel. I know his coffee addiction almost rivals yours.

How has your week been so far? I’ve been up to my knees in mud. And after looking at that video again, I bow to your superior criticism. I’m glad you found it informative.

Cordialement à vous,
Andréa

 

Miranda decided to email back right away.

 

Dear Andréa,

I’m sorry to hear about your countries recent troubles. It’s a relief to hear that no one was injured. Why were you up to your knees in mud? Are you also the head of your National Guard?

I would sooner buy Nigel a year’s supply of Starbucks then give him the coffee machine. I find the coffee to be equal to Starbucks and the convenience of having it ready 24 hours a day with the press of a button was a godsend this week.

This week has been long. Fashion Week, and the week before it arrives, is always a busy time for us. I look forward to relaxing in London. It will be nice to sit and watch Harold and Caroline have a turn at running around and dealing with models, photographers, press and the designers.

It’s like herding cats.

Sincerely,
Miranda

 

Miranda clicked send before she changed her mind. The first email was to say thank you but now she was… What was she doing? Small talk? She had decided to not think about Andréa until her turn to Paris and here she was trading banter in the form of emails. She shook her head. Two emails. She logged out of her account.

Miranda then turned off her computer and went to bed. She had another day of work before she’d be free to enjoy Sunday with her daughters.

The weekend passed in a blurry of paperwork, deadlines and a disappointing trip with the twins to the New York MOMA. At least when they went out for dinner that evening the food had been acceptable. Cassidy was far more upset than Miranda herself, railing against the waste of film, as the paparazzi had hounded them in and out of the museum. Caroline had just pointed out that when the twins attended different schools in different countries, it would make it more difficult for the photographers to identify them. “Instead” she pointed out, “they’d most likely be told they looked like someone famous. Because now photographers just looked for twins with red hair.”

Then Caroline proceeded to remind them all of the time they were swarmed by a group of tourists because they thought they were the twins from The Parent Trap and no matter what they said no one believed them. The girls laughed about that. They had spent the afternoon making up answers to questions about working with Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson. The tourist just wouldn’t believe that they weren’t Lindsay Lohan and that she didn’t have a twin.

After arriving at work, providing her list of things to do to Jolene and discarding her coat, Miranda turned on her pc to check her email. Nothing from Andréa. Miranda chastised herself. She had far too much work to be sitting here waiting for emails. She turned away from her pc and instead looked through the contact sheets Nigel had dropped off sometime last night or today.

After lunch, as she flipped through the new layout, she saw an email pop up from Andréa. Setting her work aside, she opened it.

 

Chère Miranda,

Am I Head of the National Guard? Yes, actually. We have no standing army so our only defense is volunteers. What kind of Queen would I be if I asked my subjects to do something I would not do? Thankfully we have not been at war since 1958 when we finally signed a peace treaty with Germany. We had originally been forgotten in the peace treaty ending World War II until then.

But in this case it wasn’t the National Guard that landed me in the mud. With all the heavy rain, my land has become water logged in some areas. I was helping free two of my horses from a particularly muddy area. Unfortunately, the very next day, half my sheep got free from their pens and ended up scattered over the countryside. I’ve just spent four days crawling through brush and bramble to find them all.

I saw you and the girls in the paper today. Did you enjoy the MOMA? It was one of my favorite places to visit while I lived in the city.

Although I’ve never herded cats, I imagine it’s a bit like leading petty politicians. This week I wish to dismiss my entire parliament and have re-elections. Technically, I could but the headache of a constitutional crisis is just not worth it.

You mention Caroline in charge of the London Show. I’m guessing your daughter has not been chosen to run the British Fashion Council. Although she couldn’t have done worse than last year’s council.

Andréa
P.S. I’ve enclosed a picture that René took after I finished dragging back the last sheep.

 

Miranda clicked open the picture and had to cover her mouth to stop from laughing out loud. There was Andréa in a field of mud. Her hair was windblown. There was a streak of mud on her forehead and cheek. Her face was ruddy from being outside. The wool sweater had seen better days. Its front had a wet looking brown spot that covered most of the fabric. She was wearing a pair of brown riding pants that were tucked in high black boots. While you couldn’t see the back of her pants, the sides were completely caked in mud, leading one to guess that she had fallen over at least once. A small looking, bedraggled sheep was escaping her grasp as she threw her head back and laughed. She was a mess and Miranda found herself running a thumb over the picture before she could stop herself. Miranda wrote back.

 

Dear Andréa,

Sheep herding looks a bit messier than cat herding, as that is mainly an indoor sport. I’m enjoying the picture immensely and have plans of framing it.

You’re Queen, head of the National Guard , C.E.O of a company and sheepherder. Is there nothing you won’t try?

As for my Caroline, she is not running Fashion Week. I privately agree with you she could have done a better job than the BFC did last year but Caroline Rush is working along Harold Tillman so I expect things will be better this year.

I too enjoy the MOMA but Sunday’s visit wasn’t as pleasant as I had hoped. With Fashion Week only 3 days away the paparazzi are rabid. We were ambushed by a group of 10 camera welding stalkers on our way into and out of the museum. I’m sure a few of them tailed us through the inside too but the guards helped with enforcing the no flash photograph rule.

Why do you want to disband your government? Although, if they are anything like the board of directors here, I could understand the impulse to have them booted out the door.

Miranda

 

Miranda looked at the photo once more and then printed from her personal printer. “Jolene, find me a frame.” Miranda called out to the front desks. Miranda smiled again and then turned her mind back to her work. A million things to do…

Miranda didn’t hear anything back from Andréa although she did check her pc more than once. The picture of Andréa sat on her desk at home, next to the one she kept of her daughters. She went to bed, tired but pleased. The day had gone well.

Miranda walked into Runway, tossed her coat to the second assistant and went straight to her pc. Jolene was already running errands. Miranda had called her from the car to save time. There was no email from Andréa. Miranda felt a momentary twinge of disappointment. No matter, she thought. There was only two days left before Fashion Week.

Miranda checked her email multiple times before lunch. She was staying on top of problems. That’s all. There was no email from Andréa that day. She fired Silva from marketing.

Tired and drained Miranda dragged herself home. It was only 9 but she was exhausted. She didn’t need to go over the book tonight because she had been able to edit it while waiting for Nigel to finish editing an article she wanted to place in between photo layouts. She turned on her pc out of habit. Miranda looked at her email. There were three new emails from Emily confirming a variety of bookings, two from Jolene, one confirming her vacation plans at The Viceroy in Anguilla. Miranda opened it. It was a four bedroom villa on an island in the Caribbean. Tropical, private and relaxing. There were enough things for the girls to do but the island itself seemed rather undeveloped. Good. There wouldn’t be too many paparazzi to deal with then. Miranda printed the brochure, she’d let the girls look over it, and saved the email. As she went to click the email from Emily, Andréa’s name popped up. She smiled, feeling less tired, and clicked it open.

 

Chère Miranda,

You had it framed? Really? I don’t know if I’m pleased or worried.

I’m not sure if my parliament is as bad as your board. Right now they are delaying spending for clean-up of the major towns and our city. It’s the people’s tax money. I believe it should be used to help the people who need it. Eventually it will get done but they drag it out forever.

There are many things I haven’t tried but herding is not one of them. My Grandmother demanded that I learn about all the animals we have on our land. I’ve spent countless hours mucking stables, feeding the pigs, shearing sheep, hauling hay, etc.

Her reasoning was that if the Queen OF England could work as a mechanic during World War II I could at least learn how to take care of my own animals. I think it was supposed to be a lesson in humility and work ethic. Which worked of course but I don’t think she was expecting that I’d enjoy it so much that if I’m not working in the office or home, you can find me cleaning stables and feeding animals outside. I like helping out.

According to my secretary it’s good publicity. The Queen saving sheep and freeing horses, shows a sense of solidarity with the common man.

Have you ever done anything to generate good publicity?

Andréa

 

Miranda smiled and began typing. There was a knock on her door. “Come in.” She minimized the email window as Caroline walked in.

“Hello honey, what can I do for you?”

“Your home early mom. How’s the week going?” Caroline asked.

“Fine, fine,” Miranda waved her hands. “It’s busy like it always is but next week should go smoothly. Would you like to look over the resort I’ve picked out for us to visit during Spring Break?”

Caroline took the printed pamphlet and looked it over. “It’s great but why 4 rooms?”

“There isn’t a smaller villa and this has its own pool and a place for a chef to come in and prepare meals while we’re there. I’m sure you and Cassidy could each bring a friend if you think it’s too boring with just the three of us.” Miranda explained. She hoped to just spend the time with the girls but she realized that they would be 18 and both would probably want to hang out with people their own age instead of her.

“I don’t want to bring anyone but Cass might. She’s been glued to her pc all week. Mathew has been emailing and texting her all the time. She always has this stupid look on her face and she’s printed like a million pictures of him. She’s like the over-attached girlfriend without being the girlfriend.” Caroline rolled her eyes.

Just then Cassidy walked in.

“What’s this about a boy named Matthew?” Miranda asked.

Cassidy blushed and then glared at her sister. “It’s nothing. We’re just friends. He’s like totally funny and smart and he like, gets me. We just hang out and stuff.”

“So you’re not dating?” Miranda asked slightly unsure. It sounded like dating.

“No, we’re…” Cassidy started to say.
“You totally want to be though. You have like every picture of him and I’ve seen the way you watch him. Admit it. You want to kiss him. You’re like totally flirting.” Caroline interrupted her sister.

“Shut up Caro!” Cassidy yelled.

“Both of you stop. Caroline stop teasing your sister. Cassidy stop yelling. Now finish what you were saying Cassidy.” Miranda stopped the two from bickering.

“I was saying,“ she paused, to glare at her sister. “That we aren’t dating. Maybe a little flirting but it’s nothing yet. We just really enjoy talking and I like him. A lot, but right now we’re just friends.”

Miranda nodded okay. “Tell me if it changes.”

“I will. Anyway I just came in to say good night. Will we have dinner together next Thursday? After the shows finish up?” Cassidy asked.

“Of course we can but wouldn’t you rather go out on Friday?” Miranda flipped though her desk calendar, circling 8pm Thursday.

“Mom,” Cassidy said. “Friday’s Valentine’s Day. We both have plans.”

“Right. So it is.” Miranda answered. “Okay then Thursday. Pick where and I’ll arrange it.”

Cassidy kissed Miranda’s cheek. “Good night mom.”

“Good night, darling. Oh Caroline has the brochure for the resort I’ve picked out for Spring Break.”

“Okay. I’ll look at it tomorrow.”

“Good night mom.” Caroline picked up the brochure to take with her and kissed Miranda’s cheek. Just like her sister did.

“Good night honey. Sleep well and stop picking on your sister.” Caroline just grinned and left the room.

Those two, Miranda shook her head. She maximized her email again. Cassidy and Caroline’s words came back to her. I like him a lot. We just talk and maybe flirt a little. A million pictures. Miranda looked over at the framed picture on her desk. We email and talk. She’s glued to her pc and emails him all the time.

Miranda pushed herself away from her desk. What is she doing? First she wasn’t going to have any contact or think about Andréa until Paris. Now she’s checking her email often. Miranda was honest with herself. It was more than often. She looked at her email every hour, sometimes multiple times in an hour. When Andréa didn’t email her earlier today, she was miserable but as soon as the email came, she was smiling. She can’t do this.

 

She erased the email she had begun writing and typed out a new one.

 

Andréa,

How you feel about me printing your picture is up to you. I personally use it as a charming reminder that no matter how high you climb in life you’re one step away from landing in the muck.

Positive P.R., of course, what did you think my last relationship was? It may have not worked out but then most things in life don’t.

Miranda

 

With the email sent Miranda turned off her pc. She wouldn’t be dragged into the muck because a charming woman made her smile. Miranda decided to go to bed. She suddenly felt extremely exhausted again.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

 

Miranda rose Wednesday, almost as tired as when she went to bed. She took more time with her make-up to hide the damage of a sleepless night. She checked her email as she drank her coffee. Just a backlog of work.

Miranda reminder herself that this was for the best. It wouldn’t be wise to be distracted right now. She had a million things to do and New York Fashion Week began tomorrow. With a final click of her mouse she left for work.

It took her thirty minutes to arrive at work. “Jolene, move my flight from Friday the 14th to Thursday after 9pm. Call the girls and find out where they want to go for dinner. Remind them I’ll be flying out to London directly from dinner so choose a place to eat that serves early. NOBU would be acceptable.” Miranda tossed her coat at the second assistant. She turned on her pc and opened her email. There was nothing from Andréa.

Lunch came and went. There were no emails. The work day ended and there were no emails. She arrived home at 10, looked over the book, filling the pages with post-its and red ink and there were no emails. Good, she thought to herself. I have a million things to do and I can’t be bothered with this now. She went to bed early. First show was at 9.

Thursday dawned bright and cold. The snow had been cleared and everything was perfect. The designers and models were in place. She would be meeting Nigel at The Pavilion right before the show. She had front row seats to the entire circus.

She wished the girls a good day at school, had a second cup of coffee and checked her email. Just to make sure there were no last minute problems. There wasn’t. There also weren’t any emails from Andréa.

She left the house with a feeling of discontent.

She attended all the shows that day, and the after party for Tadashi Shoji. It was a successful day. She did not check her emails. Instead she headed to bed. There was another full day ahead.

It was 2 am when Miranda got up and opened her email. She had been unable to sleep. There were no emails from Andréa. Despondent she went back to bed. This is what she wanted.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Miranda checked her emails in the morning. She checked them after she came home from that days shows, she checked them before bed or she woke up and checked them at night. There weren’t any emails from Andréa. On Monday she chastised herself for acting like a love sick fool. There would be no more checking of emails. They were friends, nothing more and checking her emails every 15 minutes was both absurd and extremely childish. Especially since she drove her away, she reminded herself.

On Monday night, after a long day Miranda finally acknowledged she needed to apologize to Andréa. She missed her banter and the flirting. She found herself staring at the framed photograph, which on Sunday night moved from her study to her bedroom. There had been a number of dreams where Andréa was the main star. The fact she didn’t quite remember what she dreamed about, only that she and Andréa were both there, was probably the only thing keeping her sane. And telling herself that she needed to focus but then spending every free minute checking her email was asinine.

Miranda sat down at her desk and turned the pc on. She opened her email account and at the top was an email from Andréa. Miranda clicked on it with a sense of trepidation.

 

Chère Miranda,

The last email has given me pause. I believe an apology is in order. I had assumed that you enjoyed corresponding with me. I understand that I was too forward. I apologize. I see that I have already taken too much of your time. I understand this is your busiest time of year and I am intruding on it.
Forgive me.
Whatever you use my picture for, I am still glad you have it.

Votre plus grande deception,
Andréa

 

Miranda let out a small sob before her hand covered her mouth. Your greatest disappointment. That’s what she had written. Miranda flicked off the screen hiding those damning words and went to bed. Tomorrow would come. She’ll decide on a course of action then.

Miranda slept through the night for the first time in 6 days. The combination of pure exhaustion and crying had worked better than a sleeping pill. She woke up Tuesday morning and felt better, calmer. She got up and dressed before getting a cup of coffee and returning to her study.

She thought about the last week. She had been a mess. Not sleeping, the stress of fashion week and waiting to see if Andréa would respond to that last email, had sent her into overdrive. She hadn’t been able to focus and just made herself crazy. Miranda looked at the picture of her girls. She abruptly stood and went back to her room. She grabbed the picture from her nightstand and took it back to her office. She caressed the frame with her finger tips before placing it back on her desk.

She needed to make a decision. She needed to be in Andréa’s life, that was obvious after this last week. The question was how. She could just be friends and write an email apologizing and asking her how her day was. Or she could try to be more, to pursue, Miranda searched for the correct label, a relationship of some sort, and she could email an apology and tell her she missed her. Both options had their pluses and the minuses.

Miranda took out a blank piece of paper and divided it in half. She’d make a pros and cons list. The last time she needed one was when she found out that she was pregnant. She had just taken over as Editor-In-Charge and the time had been difficult. The list helped her decide what she wanted. She never regretted the decision, even when she found out there would be two children instead of one.

It was very rare that Miranda needed help figuring out what she needed or wanted but it did happen. This was the easiest way to sort it out. Pros first she decided.

 

*Andréa was wealthy and wasn’t looking to use her to climb higher up the socio-economic ladder.
Yes, she thought, that was quite attractive.

*I find her physically attractive
Miranda thought about that statement. She tapped her pen against her lips. She was 55 now and hadn’t felt attracted to anyone since Stephen. If she was being honest with herself, she had stopped being attracted to Stephen long before they divorced.

*She knows me.
Not just Miranda and not just the Editor. She knew Miranda on a deeper level that very few people ever managed. Andréa had seen her at her worst and still accepted her.

*She makes me smile and laugh.
It’s sad, she thought, that so few people do this. Her daughter, Donatella, her first husband before he was her husband. Andréa had managed it even while Miranda was angry. She managed to make her grin every time she looked at the picture of her covered in mud.

*She listens when I talk, no matter what it’s about.
Her husbands just nodded at her when they thought they should. She could always tell when they were tuning her out. Speaking softly helped because they had to pay attention to hear the social cues but still they weren’t hearing her.

*She notices what I’m interested in and when I like something.
Andréa sent a coffee machine because I admired hers once. Stephen took 2 years to figure out that she always threw away the freesias he bought her because she was allergic.

*We share the same taste in decorating.
It seems like a silly reason but she remembers how it was when Stephen moved in. That ugly leather sofa and matching chairs with the oversized TV. He wanted comfy, she remembered his words. He said everything about their house was too perfect. How something could be too perfect when the meaning of perfect was that everything is as it should be.

*She wouldn’t embarrass me in front of other people.
Not like Stephen calling my boss little guy in a room full of that “little guy’s” employees. Andréa had tack. Jeremy had been worse, caught with his pants around his ankles and a known “working girl” on her knees. She was lucky that police report disappeared and there weren’t any photographs.

*She understands the commitments and long hours my job requires.

Miranda looked over the list. 9 things. Going over the pros was making her wonder why she ever settled with Stephen and Jeremy. Shaking her head, she moved on to cons.

*She lives in another country.
It was a big point but she traveled to Europe two months a year for work and there was holidays and vacations. Andréa herself traveled often for work. It’s not like they’d move in together. She dated Stephen for 3 years before they discussed marriage.

*Paparazzi would be relentless.
She was royalty and Miranda was the Ice Queen. The headlines almost wrote themselves.

*There could be a host of issues from her job and Andréa’s.
She thought about that for a moment. No, her job was safe. She drew a line through that. She had an iron clad contract. Andréa, well she wasn’t sure what the rules were for same sex dating if you were the Queen of a country.

*Andréa was 25 years younger.
Miranda felt older just reading that sentence.

*She doesn’t need me to help her up the socio-economic ladder.
A double edged sword she thought. Miranda would be on equal footing as far as a relationship went.

*Her daughters might not approve.
Although they had never seemed bothered by anyone else’s choice of partners there was a difference between someone else and their mom.

*She works long hours and travels frequently.
Another double edged sword. Miranda sighed.

*She has a young daughter.
Miranda sat and looked at that sentence. While she was unsure about wanting to raise any more children at her age she also wasn’t planning on moving in or having Andréa move in. Besides Andréa had a nanny. No, she crossed that out. It wasn’t a con.

 

Miranda looked at the lists. 7 cons. But 2 of those cons were also pros.

She didn’t write on the list that Andréa was a woman. That didn’t bother her. It might shock the people around her to know that Andréa wasn’t the first woman she had been attracted to. When she was much younger she met a woman who she could have pursued. But at the time she had just started seeing Jeremy so she hadn’t. Honestly the thought of Andréa kissing her was thrilling.

And at that thought, she crumpled the list up and threw it away. If she felt, that even a kiss from Andréa could be thrilling, then she would pursue Andréa. At least as long as Andréa wanted to be pursued. Everything else was manageable barring her daughters but she didn’t plan on telling them unless she needed to. Which brought her right back to the beginning. What should she write in the email?

 

Miranda looked at the time. She picked up her phone.

“Nigel, I won’t be at the Tory Burch show. I’ll meet you at J. Crew instead.”

“Oh, my God. Are the girls okay?”

“They’re fine. I just have something I need to do first. That’s all.” She hung up before he could try to get information from her. Next Jolene.

“Jolene, tell my driver to arrive in 30 minutes. I’ll go straight to J. Crew.” She clicked her phone shut and pressed compose.

 

Dear Andréa,

Do not apologize. You have done nothing wrong. I have had a stressful week and took it out on you. I was wrong to do that. I won’t promise that I will never do it again but I will try to restrain myself from inflicting my anger on you.

The picture still sits here on my desk. I take great joy in seeing your smile every day. Your impression of a grown up Little Bo Peep is quite endearing.
I’ve missed your words. Tell me about your week. Tell me about the weather. Tell me anything you want. I have all the time in the world to email with you.

Miranda

 

Miranda looked at it with a critical eye. Was it too much? Over the top? Maybe, but if she ruined this thing with Andréa before it could become something more than a few emails and an almost kiss… Well it wouldn’t be the first time she’s sabotaged her own happiness or even a possibility of happiness. She hit send before she could overthink it. The car should be outside, she thought as she shut down her pc. It was time to start her work day.

Her missing the first show did little to lighten her work load. The knowledge that she had apologized to Andréa made the day bearable. The clothes today seemed superior to yesterday’s offerings, the models prettier, the shows more organized and the designers more risky. Even the starlets who flocked around her seemed more tolerable. Miranda wasn’t even upset when she called security to remove a woman who was trying to get those same starlets to pose with her underwear. Miranda didn’t know if she was selling them or they were her actual underwear but either way she was ejected from the tent.

The day moved briskly and she was home and in her study by 1030 with the book and a glass of red wine. She checked her email before she began the book. Fourth email from the top, Andréa.

 

Chère Miranda,

My week? My week has been strangely busy and yet completely desolate. I’ve missed you too. I felt that maybe I had misread our recent interactions but the last email has cleared that up for me.

The rain has stopped her and turned to snow finally. The ski resorts are up and running. Do you ski? I’ve mostly downhill skied but last year I went cross country skiing with Haakon and Mette-Marit from Norway. Have you met them? I know they were at the MET Gala in 2011 and they regularly attend Paris Fashion Week.

They’re lovely people. I was invited to go sailing this summer with them but I don’t care for boats. Bea was too young for skis but it was fun to pull her behind in a sled.

You have all the time in the world for me Miranda? Should I take you at your word? I feel like I am emailing too often as it is. If I email you every time I think of you, I would never do anything else.

I am glad, as I said before, that you have my picture. I am happier to know it makes you smile than what you claimed it did for you last time.

How’s Fashion Week going? Better than last year?

Andréa

 

Miranda smiled and read it again. She missed me and she is definitely flirting. Miranda decided to write back and work on the book after.

 

Dear Andréa,

My week had also been empty yet busy. For reasons I am not willing to address in an email.

Fashion Week has gone better than last year. But that is not a crowning achievement since last year I believe I told Nigel that the designers had resorted to using rags and shower curtains instead of actual fabric. Most of the craziness that stalks these shows has been surprisingly absent. I’m not sure if I miss it or am grateful for its disappearance. Either way this week has led to an array of wonderful designs and styles. Of course my editors will need to find appropriate places to use them and match them with the right models. Something I’m unsure they are capable of doing at the moment but I have hope.

And if they can’t well then I will hope that their replacement can.

I have met the Crown Prince and Princess of Norway once. When they attended the MET. I am not on first name basis with them though. How did you meet?

Miranda.

 

Smiling she logged out of her pc and started on the book. Today had ended monumentally better than yesterday.

 

It was Wednesday. Fashion Week was coming to an end. Miranda traded one more email with Andréa before work. It was a full day of shows and then an after party for Michael Kors. It was midnight before Miranda made it home. She checked her email but not seeing anything from Andréa she went to bed.

She was awake at 6. She needed to go over the book. It was the last day of New York Fashion week. Most of her staff would be flying from JFK to London at around 7. She would be leaving an hour later so she could have dinner with her daughters. Miranda dressed as always and retrieved her cup of coffee along with the book from the foyer.

Agnes would finish packing her things today and all Miranda had left to do was look over the book once more and attend the shows. Tomorrow, it would all begin again but without her at the helm. Thank God. She needed a little down time. She circled page 157 Jump into Spring “Does not jump yet”. Looking at the book, half her editors had fallen asleep on the job. Page 175 she circled a half sentence. “And what…where has the text gone?”

Miranda flipped on her pc and opened her email. Still nothing from Andréa. She sent two emails to Nigel decrying the state of the book and asking what is happening in his department because it seems as if they have either staged a mass exodus or they no longer wish to work for Runway and this is the clever way they are writing their resignation notice. Which, she would be very happy to accept. Fix it, was how she signed the email.

After she clicked send an email popped up. Andréa

 

Chère Miranda,

Will you be in London on Friday?

Andréa

 

Miranda quickly wrote back.

 

Dear Andréa,

Yes. I’ll be arriving Friday morning.

Miranda

 

Only moments later another message popped up.

 

Chère Miranda,

Will you have dinner with me on Friday? I will be in London from Friday until Wednesday.

Andréa

 

Miranda felt her heartbeat speed up.

 

Dear Andréa,

I’d like that. The last show ends at 9. Is 9:30 too late?

Miranda

 

There was no answer. Miranda went to retrieve another cup of coffee. When she returned there was a reply.

 

Chère Miranda,

9:30 is perfect. I too, must work late. I’ll be staying at The Dorchester, Terrace Suite. Do you mind if we eat in the suite? Or is there somewhere you’d like to go?

Andréa

 

Miranda wrote back that she had nowhere she particularly wished to eat. Privately, she thought it would be nice to have dinner without gawkers or people who were looking to overhear conversations so they could sell the information to whatever rag was buying. She had never stayed at The Dorchester, as she kept her own home in London. Andréa sent another response.

 

Chère Miranda,

Wonderful. It’s a date. I’ll send a car to pick you up from your house. Unless you’d like me to send the car to retrieve you from another location.

Have a great day at the shows. I’ll see you Friday.

Andréa

 

Miranda smiled. It’s a date. She logged off. It was time to go tackle the last day of New York Fashion Week.

 

The fashion shows raced by until the last show reached its conclusion and Miranda escaped the tents to go have dinner with her girls. Miranda arrived first at NOBU. Her daughters called and said they were stuck in traffic and would be arriving shortly. She pulled out the tablet she had received at Christmas. She clicked through today’s pictures along with any shows she had been unable to attend this last week. She pulled up the Rodarte show.

Thankfully she had sent Nigel to Rodarte while she attended Naeem Khan’s show so she wasn’t there to witness this atrocity. Most of the dresses were appalling. Flicking through the 70’s inspired clothes Miranda saw a picture of Anne Wintour, smiling. Good, thought Miranda. Let her magazine show those dresses. She might find something to say about the Star War inspired dresses but she would not be featuring them. She continued to flick through the photos when the scraping of chairs broke her concentration.

“Hi mom,” Cassidy greeted her with a smile.

“Sorry we’re late,” Caroline offered with a slight tweak of her lips.

“Traffic was a mess,” Cassidy finished speaking for the both of them.

A cocktail waiter appeared at their table to take their drink orders. After ordering they indicated to the waiter they were also ready to order dinner. He excused himself to find their waiter, who arrived within seconds. Since this was a favorite restaurant of the girls, they had their orders memorized. Ordering was finished in a matter of minutes. Which was great as time was at a premium, they only had an hour before Miranda needed to go.

“How was your day, girls?” Miranda asked once they were alone again.

“Eh.” Caroline shrugged.

“Great!” Cassidy exclaimed at the same time.

Before Caroline could expand on her answer, Cassidy started talking. “Matthew asked me out. He said that he wanted to ask me out right away but he thought maybe we should talk first and make sure we liked each other first. And besides, starting to date right before Valentine’s Day is like a lot of pressure. So we’re going out on Saturday.”

“So you’re not going out tomorrow?” Miranda tried to keep up with Cassidy’s excited squealing/talking.

Caroline answered for them both “No, we are going out tomorrow but not like a date. It’s just some of us hanging out, at like, a group thing. We’re going to Chelsea Piers, with the batting cages and stuff.”

“Stuff?”

“Yeah, bowling and basketball. Stuff.” Caroline said with a grin.

“But I’ll also go out on Saturday with Matthew.” Cassidy chimed in.

“You’ve talked to your father about this?” Miranda wanted to make sure they weren’t just running around the city.

The waiter returned, bringing their food. They waited for him to leave before they began eating and resumed their conversation.

“Yeah he said it’s cool. He wants us to hang out with Amber.” Cassidy rolled her eyes and made a face.

“Give it a rest Cass.” Caroline chided her sister. “She’s okay just,” she shrugged “not like a step parent or anything.”

Cassidy snorted. “She’s so…” she paused looking for the right word.

Miranda waited for the word young to pop out.

“Blonde.” Caroline offered.

“Yeah, that’s it. Blonde” Cassidy nodded.

“Blonde?” Miranda was confused.

“Yeah! Okay she’s like younger than dad and everything but that’s okay.” Cassidy said.

“Yeah that’s not the problem. She’s too pink.” Caroline supplied.

“She’s blonde and pink?” Miranda asked, after she swallowed the bite of food she had been chewing.

“Pink” Caroline agreed before taking another bite of her own food.

“You remember that guy with that line of clothes you said were too tacky to be considered awful?” Cassidy asked.

Miranda nodded. It was hard to forget something that hideous.

“Well she likes that. She likes everything that’s tacky and pink and fake nails and blonde hair.” Cassidy explained.

“She tries too hard. She’s always bringing up celebrities or saying yolo or swag, like it’s cool.” Both girls rolled their eyes. “She can’t be like that all the time. At least I hope not.” Caroline explained as she pushed her empty plate away.

“Oh?” Miranda wasn’t sure what to say at this point.

“It’s not that she’s 26 and dad’s 58. It’s more that she acts like she’s 16 and that’s weird.” Cassidy said also pushing her plate away.

“So the age doesn’t bother you?” Miranda asked.

“Not really.” Caroline answered.

“Kind of.” Cassidy said at the same time.

Cassidy explained. “It’s not really about her age. It’s more about how mature she is. She’s never gone anywhere or done anything. She giggles at dad’s jokes, even when they’re not funny. She talks about going out to concerts and parties. I’m not sure how dad met her or what they have in common and then a couple of weeks ago he announces that he’s getting married. It’s just strange.”
Miranda felt a little lost. Obviously the girls had talked about this with each other. She on the other hand had just learned that Jeremy was getting married week and a half ago and now was finding out he was marrying someone who the girls found to be immature.

They both nodded at Cassidy’s pronouncement of it being strange.

“We’re not even 18 and we both think she is childish. She could be trying too hard. We’ll find out while you’re gone I guess.” Caroline added, trying to give Amber the benefit of doubt.

“Speaking of which, your 18th birthday. It’s only two months away.” Miranda hijacked the conversation. “Have you thought about it?”

“Yeah, we want to have our parties together. It’s too strange to have two parties on the same day.” Caroline answered.

“And it’s hard for one of us, to decide to just have parties on two weekends.” Cassidy quipped with a pointed look at her sister.

“I have to study.” She defended herself.

“Yeah, I would hate for you to skip the library two weekends in a row.” Cassidy answered with a smirked. Caroline rolled her eyes.

“Girls,” Miranda’s voice reminded them to get to the point. “Caroline, don’t roll your eyes at your sister.
Have you…” Miranda began to say.

“Talked to Jolene? Yeah. She found us a venue. We’ll check it out after school on Monday. We’ve almost decided on a menu and a caterer. We chose Alice’s Tea Cup to make our cake. It’s based on” Where The Wild Things Are”.” Caroline answered.

“Where The Wild Things Are?” Miranda’s eyes went shiny and her voice caught.

Both girls blushed but it was Cassidy who spoke. “It’s our favorite memory, you reading that to us. We just thought,“ she looked over at her sister, “that if we could have something from when we were little at the party it would be nice.”

“It’s lovely.” Miranda agreed.

Caroline cleared her throat. “We also decided on a dj instead of a live band and no, we haven’t picked the dj.

“Well it sounds like it will be a wonderful party and you have everything under control. Did you want dessert?”

“Nah, Agnes said she’d make us cheesecake today.”

Miranda paled at the thought of so much sugar.

“Yeah.” Cassidy laughed. “She said carbs don’t count when The Priestly is out of the country.” Both girls laughed at Miranda’s glare.

“So full day tomorrow?” Caroline asked while they waited for the waiter to bring back the credit card slip.

“Yes, I’m afraid I won’t be able to call you. I’m not sure when I’ll be free.” Miranda took a sip from her water glass.
The girls looked at each other and then Cassidy asked innocently “Oh? Isn’t the last show at 8?”

“Well yes, but I have dinner plans after.” Miranda took another sip.

The sisters looked at their mom and then back at each other. It wasn’t what she had said. It was the light blush on her cheeks after she said dinner plans.

“Dinner plans?” Caroline pounced on the new topic.

“Yes.” Miranda felt hunted. She could feel the girls and their curiosity circle her like little lionesses. Where was that waiter?

“With?” Cassidy took up the conversation.

“A friend.” Miranda was feeling caged in.

“Just a friend?” Caroline asked sweetly. “On Valentine’s Day?”

“Well, uh…yes a, uh friend.” Miranda stumbled over her words. The waiter appeared. Miranda almost ripped the paper from his hands as she stood. “I have to go darlings. Be good for you father.” She kissed them both and headed to the car. Miranda headed off to the airport, sighing in relief.

The girls sat quietly in the restaurant sipping the last of their drinks.

“Do you think it’s serious?” Cass asked.

“Have you ever seen her blush or stumble over words?” Caro answered.

“Should we ask her again?” Cass worried her lip with her teeth.

“No, not now. When she gets back. I want to see her when we ask again.” Caro replied.

Cass nodded. They stood and left. It was time to go home.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

 

Even with a private plane and a speedy customs and security check, Miranda missed the first two shows. She arrived in time for the Braganza show. She would have missed the whole day if her daughters had wanted her to have dinner on Friday night.

Now that New York Fashion Week was over she didn’t have to attend every show. She was not the one in charge and she trusted Nigel to make sure there were adequate photos of any shows she would have attended. She had a twinge of sympathy for her staff. The first day of London Fashion Week was difficult. They would have went directly to the airport after the last show in New York, flown to London, checked into their hotels and then run to the first show at 9. She expected them to be tired and exhausted, which was why she would not demand them to meet during lunch or hold any meetings that day. Tomorrow they would have had sufficient time to sleep and then she’d met with them one by one.

 

London Week was packed into just five days. Many shows were double booked so Miranda would have to rely heavily on her staff to catch everything. These weeks were like sitting down to a filling meal only to be served the meal 4 more times in a row. There was no digesting time between courses.

Only Nigel and Miranda would be attending all four weeks. Sarah was here, as was Jacob and one assistant for each of them. Emily, Serena and Jocelyn would attend Milan along with Nigel and herself plus a small group of support staff. Then in Paris all her editors would attend, half of the junior editors and 3 assistants. Jolene would join Miranda in Paris but not before.

Nigel, Sarah and Miranda all attended the Braganza show and then the show for Bora Aksu but as soon as it ended Sarah left for the Haizhen Wang followed by the Mark Fast show. Jacob headed over to the Golan show.

Nigel and Miranda went to the nearby Savory Grill for lunch to discuss the first two shows, the online magazine and current issue of Runway they were working on. 45 minutes later they went back to see the Daks show, Nigel departed after to attend the Amanda Wakeley show, while Jacob returned to Miranda’s side in time for the start of Eudon Choi. There was a brief break between the Choi and Raeburn show so Miranda called the office to check in with Jolene. There were a few messages. Miranda spent a moment debating wither or not to send someone for her laptop but when she glanced at her watch, she knew that it would be a waste of time. By the time she would be able to secure a Wi-Fi connection and check if Andréa had written her, the show would be ready to start. If Andréa had written her she wanted to read it without a distraction and that would not be possible now. No, Miranda decided she’d have to wait.

Instead she returned two phone calls, visited the bar for water and then returned to her seat to await the next show. It didn’t take long before Jacob came and joined her. She assumed he had gone to eat dinner or pick up something from one of the many bistros surrounding the area. The show began and when it ended Jacob left her side to travel to the Todd Lynn show. There was only a brief moment before Nigel slid into Jacob’s seat and whispered that he thought Miranda would be pleased.

Unfortunately, before Miranda could ask any questions, the lights dimmed again and Nasir Mazhar’s show started. When it ended Miranda bussed Nigel’s cheek, wished him a good evening and left to attend the PPQ show across town while Nigel stayed for CSM show.

Sarah joined Miranda for the last show of the night. Miranda appreciated the gift of coffee Sarah brought with her.

 

When it was over Miranda finally entered her home. It was a beautiful brick town house on Albion Street near Hyde Park. She didn’t get to visit it as often as she liked but it was remarkably similar to her home in New York, which is how she liked it. It was just 8:30 and she figured she had very little time to change and touch up her make up. Miranda had already selected her dress.

She recently had become the proud owner of 1947 black Dior cocktail dress. It was selected to wear during Paris Fashion Week but she decided instead to wear it now. As she slipped into it she thought about what she wanted to project with her clothes. She smoothed her hands over the soft percale top and down the smooth satin skirt. She stood in front of the mirror and studied the way the dress fell. It had a deep, plunging, portrait neckline which could be seen as immodest but the waist was tightly cinched and dropped into a ¾ length skirt. The sleeves were ¼ length. It was the perfect blend of sex appeal and ultra-femininity, mixed with a softness that invited friendly conversation and a neckline that hinted at the possibility of more. Yes, Miranda nodded, this was the dress. She paired it with a simple choker necklace made of silver and diamonds. Beautiful, elegant and slightly understated. She matched with a pair of diamond stud earrings and then touched up her make-up. It was 9:10. The car should be arriving. She went downstairs and removed a black mink wrap from the closet. She slipped on the nude colored heels she had worn earlier. Her phone vibrated with a sms. The car had arrived.

She opened the front door, locked it behind her and by the time she had walked 4 steps to the car, the driver was there to opening the door to the black Bentley. As soon as Miranda was seated he shut the door and resumed his position behind the wheel. He smoothly pulled into traffic and a stray thought stuck Miranda. Is she pursuing Andréa or is Andréa perusing her? And if she’s doing the pursuing should she be bringing flowers? Her ex-husband had brought her flowers. Miranda suffered a brief moment of panic. This was nothing like trying to get a man’s attention she decided. She would just have to wing it. Miranda put aside thoughts of flowers and protocols and instead enjoyed riding in a Bentley.

 

It wasn’t an everyday experience. The car was wonderful. It’s too bad Elias-Clarke wouldn’t spring for a fleet of them. The backseat really was amazing. Trying to nonchalantly check out the car she looked around. The head rests contained two TV screen. She opened the center console. There was a small box of tissues, and a remote control, possible for the TV. Also a small slot for what looks like DVDs, perhaps also for the TVs. There was a refrigerated compartment and a track pad. She lifted a small lid. A pen and notebook were fitted into the space, along with two usb ports. Miranda closed the lid and saw a small button on the side of the console. She pushed it. The panel in front of her opened and folded out to reveal a small touch tablet with a mini keyboard. It was connected to Bentley Wi-Fi. Before Miranda could press more buttons, the car pulled up to the hotel. She quickly pressed the console button again and the panel closed itself just as the door man opened her door.

 

Miranda entered the lobby. She spent a moment unsure whether to head directly to the elevators or to the front desk. Just as she decided she needed to find out which floor Andréa’s room was located on, a man in a formal black jacket and trousers with a silver colored vest approached her.

“Ma’am, if you come with me I can escort you up to the room.”

Miranda nodded and followed him into the elevator. As they step out onto the 9th floor, Lars met them.

“Ms. Miranda.” He dipped his head, greeting her.

“Lars.” She returned his greeting. The gentleman who accompanied her in the elevator took a step back and departed down a hallway to her left. Lars led Miranda down the hall to one of the three doors, two on the left and one on the right. He stepped to the side and indicted that Miranda should proceed. Miranda knocked and the door was opened by another gentleman dressed in a black suit and silver waistcoat. Miranda stepped into the room. The butler held out his hands to take her wrap and purse. As she handed them to him Andréa came around the corner. Miranda felt her heart jump. She was dressed in a black bustier dress with gold embroidery from Alexander McQueen. She paired the glittering dress with sparkling gold stilettos, a dash of smoky eye make-up and a neutral blush colored lipstick. She was breath taking.
“Wow. Miranda that dress.” Andréa started and then stopped.

Miranda watched as Andréa seemed to struggle with forming complete sentences. It was everything Miranda wanted. Andréa’s eyes caressed her form, lingering on her bust line. Miranda watched her lick her lips and then bite down on her lower lip. Her eyes darkened and Miranda felt herself respond.

“You look lovely, Andréa.” Miranda took a step forward as did Andréa. As they closed the distance between them Miranda leaned forward to place a gentle kiss on Andréa’s left and right cheek. She felt Andréa breath in and lean closer. Miranda sucked in a shaky breath, Andréa’s scent filling her nose. For a heartbeat, maybe less, Miranda considered delaying dinner and dragging her to a heated kiss. Miranda pulled back. Less than two minutes in her presence and Miranda wanted to pull her into her arms and devour the woman. She needed to get control of herself. Andréa seemed to arrive at the same conclusion and pulled back two steps.

“Would you mind if we ate? I haven’t had the chance today and I’m famished.” Andréa’s voice shook as she spoke.

Miranda smiled internally. It was wonderful to know that she wasn’t the only one affected.

“That would be acceptable. I too, have not had a moment to eat since lunch today with Nigel.”

As Andréa walked towards the dining room she asked “How is Nigel doing?”

“Did you not contact him?” Miranda would have thought they had been in constant contact since they had been such great friends all those years ago.

“No, not yet. I have been extremely busy and I assumed he had enough on his plate this month.” Andréa explained.

Miranda was pleased to hear that Andréa had made time to talk to her but not anyone else. “Well, yes. You were correct in assuming that. It’s been an exceptionally busy few weeks.”

 

As they sat at the table overlooking Hyde Park, the butler poured each of them a glass of champagne. Miranda sipped. It was crisp and reminded her of green apples. A wonderful apéritif. A chilled salad of lobster and caviar was placed in front of them and then the butler stepped out of the room. Miranda watched as Andréa took the first bite, her eyes momentarily closing as the taste filled her mouth. Miranda followed and began eating.

After a few minutes of quietly eating Andréa spoke, “I’ve always been fond of caviar. I admit when I was a teenager it didn’t seem like it would be something I’d enjoy but when my grandmother imprisoned me with Hermès scarfs it was the only thing on the table I could reach so I tried it and fell in love with the salty, nutty flavors.”

“Your grandmother imprisoned you?” Miranda’s eyebrows climbed in disbelief.

“Well imprisoned may be a little harsh. She tied me to a chair.” Andréa tried to explain.

“Andréa that doesn’t sound better.” Miranda held back a smirk at the idea of Andréa tied to a chair. Tied to a chair with silk scarfs and at that thought Miranda no longer smirked. Instead she felt all her blood rush to somewhere else and her mind wandered down a path of possibilities. So lost in her thoughts she almost missed Andréa’s explanation.

“I was…,” she blushed but continued her story. “I was in the middle of princess lessons. She wanted to correct my posture at the table.”

Miranda looked at Andréa, trying to clear her mind of the inappropriate thoughts. “I see nothing wrong with your posture.”

“Yes and you have Hermès to thank for that.” Andréa answered with a smile.

Charming, Miranda thought. “I’ll be sure to thank them next time I order scarfs.” Miranda replied with a smile of her own. The butler reappeared and removed their plates and champagne glasses. A new wine was poured.

Miranda rolled the wine in her mouth before swallowing. It had a honeyed taste and a tint of peaches. It wasn’t unpleasant just slightly sweet. A course of seared sea scallops with Jerusalem artichokes and truffles appeared in front of them. Andréa again steered the conversation but instead of offering tidbits of her past she guided Miranda into sharing her week. It wasn’t until the table was cleared and the next course laid, that Miranda realized she had been sharing all her ideas for future layouts. She didn’t even share those thought with Nigel. At least not until she was sure they could be done but there she was, chattering little a school girl about all her daydreams. Andréa brought out a talkative side Miranda wasn’t aware she possessed.

Miranda tried to get hold of the conversation and steer it back to Andréa as they ate a course of venison with a butternut squash purée. The wine, much to Miranda’s amusement contained a strong, rich, coffee note.

“So you’ve cajoled me to tell you all about fashion week, what about you? What have you been doing?” Miranda smiled as she asked. She didn’t want it to sound as if she was interrogating her.

“Just this last week or from the last time we had dinner?”

“Dinner.” Miranda quickly answered, wanting to know everything about Andréa’s life.

“Well, I was stuck in Paris for another two days after you left. I had a series of meeting with two aerospace companies. We’ve, Life Systems that is, had a breakthrough in technology. We can now build a battery that last 5 years.” Andréa excitedly explained.

Miranda tried to understand but gave up after a moment and just asked. “Is that a significant improvement?”

“Yeah. Right now batteries only last for 2 years, which means either a satellite had to be outfitted with more than one battery or destroyed after only two years in space. Now companies can have their satellites obit longer with less weight, which saves on the cost of launching them into space.” She explained.

“So after the meeting, in which I secured two new contracts,” Andréa proudly continued. Miranda smiled at her, finding her excitement infectious. “I went home to my daughter and found my country flooding and my sheep missing. As you know.”

Miranda smiled thinking of the picture sitting on her home desk.

“So once I finished playing Little Bo Peep,” Andréa smiled as she said the phrase. “I had to come back to Paris to actually have the contracts signed. I finally got to go home and spend time with my daughter on Wednesday. My week took a little dip and I mainly slowed down and stayed in for the next week.” Andréa’s tone fell as she recounted the time between their emails. Miranda felt guilty over hurting her. Andréa seemed to shake herself out of her thoughts. She took the last sip of her wine and waited as the butler efficiently cleared their table and poured a dessert wine to accompany the little pots of dark chocolate and fruit.

Andréa took a small bite of the dessert and hummed in satisfaction. Miranda felt the tendril of desire curl in her stomach. She took a sip of the wine, enjoying the light apricot taste, while she pushed away the feeling of want that was currently sweeping through her. It had only grown in strength as they talked. Miranda had never felt so free and unguarded around anyone who wasn’t Agnes or her daughters.

“And now I’m here.”

“So you are. How long will you be in town?” Miranda asked casually.

“I have a meeting on Monday and if everything goes smoothly I can finish my work by Tuesday. So I will fly out Tuesday around lunch time. I hope.” Andréa answered.

They both finished the dessert just as the butler came in once more with coffee and assorted small candies.

“Is there anything else Your Majesty?”

“No, thank you Harold. You are dismissed for the evening.” Andréa replied. Miranda saw Harold start too abject but Andréa continued talking before he could form the sentence. “I don’t need you to clear our cups. They may stand here until breakfast tomorrow.”

Harold bowed “Yes, Your Majesty” and backed out of the room.

Miranda continued to sip her coffee. After a moment she spoke. “Is it strange to have people bow to you?”

“No. Not really. Other than the years I spent studying and living in New York, I’ve had people bowing to me since I was 16.” Andréa answered Miranda and then sipped her own coffee.

“You’re remarkably well adjusted for having had so much power at such a young age.” Miranda was nearly done with her coffee and it way 11:30. She knew she was stalling for time, wanting to spend just a little longer in Andréa’s presence. Not that she would admit that.

“Yes, well one day, when you meet my grandmother, I think you’ll understand.” Andréa said and then blushed.

Miranda teased “So you’re planning to introduce me to your family already?”

Andréa blushed a deeper red before she mumbled something inaudible.

Miranda laughed, feeling carefree and relaxed. “I’m teasing relax. I expect at least 3 more dates before I’m ready to broach the subject of family.” Miranda continued to tease her, enjoying the blush that now covered her cheeks, neck and was creeping across her chest.

Miranda looked at her watch, it was nearing midnight and she had another busy day. Already thinking about tomorrow’s schedule Miranda began saying her good byes. “I had a lovely time.” Miranda stood. “But I’m afraid I must leave.”

Andréa rose from the table and walked with her to the door.

“I’m glad you could come Miranda.” Andréa replied as she placed Miranda’s wrap on her shoulders.

Miranda could feel Andréa’s fingers slide over the fur. She spun on her heel to face Andréa. Desire flared up and she felt trapped in Andréa gaze. Andréa’s eyes sparkled with longing and Miranda felt want flood her system.

Neither she nor Andréa seemed inclined to move but somehow one of them did. Miranda spoke without thinking, “I had a wonderful time darling.”

“Darling?” Andréa whispered back.

Miranda embarrassed that the term of endearment slipped out without her meaning to, broke eye contact and prepared to step away. Andréa moved forward and placed her hand on Miranda’s cheek stroking her soft skin before drawing her forward, slowly into a soft kiss.

Andréa drew back after only a heartbeat.

Miranda, stunned, had not returned the kiss. She watched as Andréa’s face fell and Miranda cursed herself for freezing.

She surged forward and kissed Andréa firmly. She could feel the softness of Andréa’s lips against her own. Her hand rose by its own volition and she stroked Andréa’s hair, tucking a strand behind her left ear. Miranda pulled back and then pressed a series of small soft kisses against Andréa’s lips. She felt Andréa’s tongue lightly dart out and swipe her lower lip. Miranda opened her lips and Andréa’s tongue swept across her own, deepening one of the small kisses. The feel of her lips and the soft hums coming from the back of Andréa’s throat were intoxicating. Andréa’s hand, which had found its way to her back, suddenly pulled Miranda closer. The second they came in full contact Andréa broke the kiss.

Miranda could feel her heartbeat racing against her chest. Her eyes met Andréa’s. The chocolate orbs blown wide by desire.

“I’m very glad you were able to come” Andréa politely said as if their bodies weren’t pressed together, crumpling their clothes.

Miranda threw her head back and laughed breaking the tension. “Well yes. It was a lovely dinner.” She said with a smile.

Andréa took a step back. “Good night Miranda.”

“Good night Andréa.” And because Miranda wanted to, she lightly kissed Andréa once more before opening the door and leaving.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

 

Saturday dawned bright and cold. Miranda started her day as she normally did. Shower, dress, apply make-up, retrieve coffee; a routine so ingrained that Miranda hardly noticed. It wasn’t until she walked into the kitchen, that she turned her mind from the day’s schedule to her immediate surroundings.

Her small espresso machine sat on the kitchen counter. She eyed it balefully, wishing for the newer machine that would produce her coffee with a touch of a button. Seeing no immediate solution, Miranda deigned to use the older machine to make herself a cup of coffee. The machine would be replaced as soon as possible, Miranda thought as she heated the milk and finished her no foam latte.

Not long after she finished, her housekeeper /cook for the week appeared. Barbara was a middle aged, slightly plump woman sent from a reputable agency. She nodded her good morning to Miranda and left the kitchen. Miranda alone again with a fresh cup of coffee, turned her mind to her very full day. Back to back shows, without more than hour set aside for lunch. Again, her staff needed to bounce from show to show and some time during the day, she needed to meet with each of the Editors, either in person or on Skype, to review what they were currently working on in the book. Nigel’s department seemed particularly behind and she would like to avoid firing someone over the phone. That’s something best done face to face.

Miranda picked up her coffee cup and headed to her office. She needed to review the book before she left for the day’s shows and she wanted to check her email account. She expected Andréa to email sometime during the day.

As her pc started, Miranda sipped at her coffee as she let her mind wander over last night’s dinner. The series of kisses she shared with Andréa were…Miranda looked for the correct word to encompass the feeling. Amazing, electrifying, fervent, wanton; all would be correct but Miranda censored herself from using them, even in her own mind. She wasn’t willing to sound like a love struck teenager even in her thoughts. She focused on her pc.

Miranda’s email account opened to show 38 new messages. She scanned them as she drank her coffee. The book, of course was there, and some 20 odd emails from Runway, New York, a dozen from various designers and near the bottom one from Andréa. Miranda clicked it open and smiled as she read.

 

 

Chère Miranda,

I want to see you again. As soon as possible. Sunday? If you’re able.
The memory of your kiss has kept me awake. Many times, I have dreamt of your lips pressed against mine but never did the dream feel like this. I could never duplicate, in my slumber, the feel of your lips, the sheer intoxication your presence endowed. I still feel the touch of your fingers as they threaded themselves through my hair, the press of your body which doubled my heartbeat. Did you feel it? Beating wildly? The soft sigh you made when you lightly kissed me goodnight, still echoes in my ears.

I need to see you again. So, please if you are able, Sunday? Maybe around 9?

Andréa

 

 

Miranda looked at the time stamp, 12:02 a.m., Saturday. She must have written the email shortly after they had parted. Miranda touched her lips, reliving the sensation of kissing Andréa. She wished she could clear her schedule and see her tonight but there were shows until 10 and a party she needed to attend. Today was impossible. Miranda wrote a brief reply.

 

 

Dear Andréa

Yes, Sunday. 9 is perfect. How about The Ledbury? It’s in Notting Hill?

Miranda

 

 

She wanted to write more but didn’t trust herself not to say too much. Why this woman made her forget herself and lose control, she’d never be able to explain. Regardless as to why, Miranda censored her writing. It wouldn’t be seemly to write that she also missed her and Sunday couldn’t come soon enough; that she wished she could sweep her into another series of kisses, that her fingers missed the feel of her hair. Miranda shook herself out of those thoughts and opened the digital book. She needed to finish it before she left this morning.

An hour later she closed the file and emailed it back to Jolene. She then slogged through the other emails. No, to individual designers, there would not be time to meet. The Runway staff required simple answers of yes or no. Yes to the red, no to Arial Black over the photo spread on page 174. It took only another 30 minutes to completely finish off that morning’s emails. As she went to log off, Andréa’s name popped up.

 

 

Chère Miranda,

The Ledbury is fine. Shall I pick you up?
I wish seeing you sooner than Sunday was possible, but you and I, both have busy days today. Tonight I have a dinner with a friend and then maybe we’ll go out after but I would cancel my social engagements for a chance to spend time with you.
You said yesterday that Sunday was your first free night. So Sunday it will be, and I’ll count the moments until I see you again.

Andréa

 

 

Miranda quickly wrote back that she would meet her at the restaurant and that she too wished that there was time today but she did not have the luxury of canceling because the party was not a social affair but a business one. Miranda was relieved that Andréa understood her demanding work schedule better than most and apologizing for working was not something she had to worry about. With the email answered, Miranda logged off. She had a busy day to start.

 

Miranda’s day unfolded as she had anticipated. She rushed from show to show, without looking like she was rushed at all. As Miranda sat for the J.W. Anderson show, she felt a twinge of relief. It was good to finally sit. The last 3 shows had been standing only. It reminded her of her first turn as an accessories assistant at Vogue UK.
Rushing, rushing, rushing, she was always on her feet, 12 hours a day back then. She had just turned 20, and she was working for slave wages, while waiting for a full time paid spot to open. Constantly being harassed by celebrities and models, photographers and fashion houses, she had developed a steely look and calm demeanor that helped her maintain control. The same glare and demeanor that she currently used, to her great advantage as Editor. It had been a long climb and the hours had never gotten shorter and the rushing had never calmed but the money and the power had risen over the years. So had the seating, she sarcastically thought, as she watched two women squeeze onto the back bench, craning to see the unlit runway. The show began and she forgot about the past. The now, was beginning to walk down the lit runway.

Miranda’s day continued at a brisk pace until the last show dimmed the runway and raised its lights at 9:45. She was situated in the back of her car by 10 and on her way to the party at Red Bull Studios. While traveling Miranda thought about Andréa again. She wanted to see her. If she had thought about it earlier, she could have arranged coffee after the party. Maybe she could have limited her time at the party and had a late…she shook her head at these thoughts. One date and she was planning on reorganizing her schedule. No, she looked down at her phone, clutched in her hand. No, she would not call her, even if her number was programed in. Besides, she thought, Andréa was out with a friend, dinner and a party right now. Sure, in an email, she said she’d clear her night but that was just words and Miranda wasn’t about to demand to see her. No, these were ridiculous thoughts. She’d attend the part for an hour, as previously scheduled and see her tomorrow night.

At precisely 10:30 Miranda entered Red Bull studios and Nigel appeared on her left side. They traveled the room, holding court, smiling, congratulating those designers that showed earlier, and expressing excitement to the designers that had yet to show. After 30 minutes, all the main players had been greeted. Nigel was dismissed to network on his own and Miranda decided to get a drink from the nearby bar. Setting her nearly full glass of champagne on the tray of a passing waiter, she glided to the bar and waved over the bartender.

 

“Scotch with a splash of water.” A moment later Miranda received her drink. She took a sip, letting the high quality alcohol burn a trail down her throat.

A deep, raspy voice asked “So you like this stuff?” Surprised, Miranda swallowed the scotch too quickly. Coughing, she whirled around to decimate the fool who would utter such a ridiculous statement. She was met by Andréa, wearing a blinding smile.
Miranda could feel a blush spread across her cheeks.

“Hi Miranda,” Andréa beamed.

“Andréa,” Miranda tried to sound unaffected by her sudden presence. She had been trying not to think about Andréa, and now here she was.

“Perfect Martini,” Andréa ordered from the bartender who appeared to take her order. “So how has your day been so far?” Andréa asked Miranda while keeping an eye on the bartender as he mixed half dry and half sweet vermouth with gin. The bartender slid the drink over to her. She took a small sip and nodded, then turned back to face Miranda.

Miranda took another sip of her drink before answering. “The day has been acceptable. But Andréa,” Miranda elongated her name adding a sensuous twist to the syllables, “I was under the impression that you were attending a dinner.”

“I was,” she paused and took a sip. “But dinner ended and my friend brought us here. I wasn’t aware that this, was the party you were attending or I would have said something when I found out.”

Miranda finished her drink and signaled to the waiter she’d like another. A moment later, Miranda had a fresh drink in hand. She rolled the crystal glass in her hands, warming the scotch between her palms. She watched as Andréa seemed transfixed by her hands.

Miranda discretely looked around. No one seemed to be paying close attention to them, so she dropped her voice into a husky whisper and said “if you had mentioned it to me earlier, I would have arranged for a car to pick me up sooner, and we would be having a different sort of conversation, in a much more private setting.” Miranda watched as Andréa licked her lips and drew a ragged breath. She took a sip of her drink before raising her eyes from Miranda’s hands. Her eyes had a shine to them and had dilated at Miranda’s suggestion.
Miranda tore her gaze away from Andréa’s, pleased at her reaction.

Andréa took another two steadying sips from her glass before speaking. “Miranda,” Andréa’s voice purred, “say the word, and my car will be here and my friend can take a cab home.”

Miranda tossed her head back and laughed. “Don’t be silly. We can wait until tomorrow Andréa.” Miranda leaned slightly against the bar. She caught sight of Nigel, weaving in and out of the crowds. The room was full of people, some more inebriated than others and the dj was beginning to incorporate some quicker dance music into his playlist. Soon the floor would be filled with celebrities and models throwing themselves around in a drunken frenzy. That was always Miranda’s cue to leave.

She looked over at Andréa, dressed in tight dark blue denim and a Rag and Bone print t-shirt. She was fully leaning against the bar. She could have passed for one of the numerous models or celebrities attending the party. Andréa turned and waved the bartender for another drink. He quickly made the drink and went to serve the other party goers.

“As you wish Miranda,” Andréa spoke after taking a sip of the new drink. “But my offer stands. I would leave here…”

“I know.” Miranda cut her off before taking her own sip. They stood in silence, each lost in their own thoughts.

“So,” Miranda cleared her throat and took another sip of the scotch. “Who’s your friend?”

“Huh?” Andréa shook her head. “Sorry? My friend? Oh yeah, sorry, my friend. Zara, her name is Zara.”

Miranda found Andréa’s befuddlement charming.

“She’s actually my cousin twice removed.”

“Do you have many cousins?” Miranda asked.

“Mmm, yeah, I do. I don’t know them all.” At Miranda’s look, she explained. “I mean I haven’t met them all, but Zara and I met a few years ago, and had some of the same interests, so I try to have dinner with her when I’m in London.”

“So you’re close then?” Miranda discretely checked her watch; she only had 15 minutes left before her car would arrive.
“No, not really. We email once in a while and visit if we have the chance. Maybe Christmas cards and an occasional dinner or lunch but that’s about it.” Andréa answered while scanning the crowd. “That’s her.” She pointed to a statuesque blonde, wearing fashionable clothing in a sea of young people. As she turned Miranda’s breath caught.

“Your friend is Zara Phillips? Princess Anne’s daughter and you wanted to make her take a cab?”

“She would have been fine. And yes, Zara is my friend. Have you met her?” Andréa waited for Miranda to answer.

“Contrary, to popular belief, I don’t know everyone in England, even if I am British.” Miranda answered sharply, but she smiled taking the sting out of the words.

“I didn’t mean to imply…” Andréa stopped. “You’re English?”

Miranda nodded.

“Really, I would have never guessed. I’ve never heard even a trace of an accent when you speak.”

“Yes, well.” Miranda blushed and sipped at her drink stalling for a moment. She hadn’t planned on reveling her heritage. “I worked hard to lose it. It’s only if I’m really tired that it slips out.”

“Well, consider yourself successful. You have a perfectly rounded American accent.” Andréa lifted her glass in a small salute.

Miranda dipped her head to hide the blush she could feel burning on her cheeks.

“So,” Andréa dragged them back to the pervious conversation. “You haven’t met Zara before?”
“No, I’ve not had the pleasure.” Miranda answered.

“Would you like to be introduced? I can call her over.”

“No.” Miranda laid her hand on Andréa’s forearm. “It’s not necessary tonight, maybe another time.” Miranda removed her hand, two scotches and Andréa company was loosening her control.

Andréa finished her second drink and again waved the bartender over. “Two waters,” she looked to Miranda. Miranda nodded. “Pellegrino?” Again she waited for Miranda’s brief nod. The bartender quickly reached under the counter and produced two green bottles and crystal glasses. Twisting the cap off in a smooth, practiced movement, he poured both into the waiting glasses.

Miranda and Andréa quietly leaned against the bar, sipping their waters. The dj had started playing more dance music. It was time to go. Miranda took another sip of water. Andréa had started to bounce her foot to the music, and when Miranda turned to ask her if she was planning on staying to dance, Andréa started to hum along with the music.

A fraction of a second passed and before Miranda could find her voice, Andréa looked into Miranda’s eyes and sang along with the music. “I know you want it, but you're a good girl, the way you grab me” and then she smiled as the next lines played over the speakers.

Miranda, never one to be out done, dropped her eyes and slowly scanned Andréa’s body while breathing out the next lyrics “What do they make dreams for, when you got them jeans on. What do we need steam for, you the hottest bitch in this place.”

And at the word bitch, Andréa threw her head back and laughed. Miranda smiled at her.

“So, Blurred Lines?” Andréa asked. “Not what I had pictured you listening to.”

“No. It’s not my regular type of music, but I do have two teenage daughters, and Runway is always on top of trends, both in fashion and elsewhere.” Miranda answered.
Andréa smiled and finished her water, while Miranda set her glass on the bar.

“It’s been a pleasure Andréa.”
“The pleasure has been mine Miranda.” Andréa leaned forward to buss Miranda’s right cheek. When she was close she whispered softly into her ear, “I’m looking forward to learning more about you tomorrow, Miranda.” And then she pulled back.

Miranda leaned into Andréa and bussed her left cheek and whispered back playfully, “Yes. Tomorrow, I’ll see more of you tomorrow.” Miranda chuckled as Andréa breath caught at the implied statement.

“Good night Andréa.” Miranda turned and walked away, feeling Andréa’s eyes burn into her. She was looking forward to tomorrow night.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

Miranda woke moments before her alarm sounded. She smacked her hand down on the night stand, before swiping the clock off the table to the floor. Blindly groping for the clock before the loud alarm started to ring, Miranda half fell out of bed. She closed her fingers around the plastic box as a loud piercing sound started to blare from the blasted machine. With her eyes still closed, she slammed it against the table twice; smiling in satisfaction as it abruptly stopped shrieking. She resisted the desire to burrow deeper into the covers. Instead, she hauled herself from the soft, warm bed and into the shower. After her morning routine, she went to fetch her first cup of coffee.

Jolene had not been able to replace the coffee machine yesterday, so Miranda forced herself to make a latte with the old machine. Miranda glared at the machine. It didn’t seem bothered. She strategically retreated to her office with her cup. Tomorrow it would be gone and she would be victorious. The battle of coffee single handily won by Miranda Priestly, well Miranda Priestly and an Amex card.

Miranda smiled at her flight of fancy before shaking herself into the day’s tasks. She covered her mouth as she yawned, took a sip of the hot coffee and then began dissecting the digital book. Mistakes were highlighted, missing punctuation underscored, and style follies received notes written under them in RED.

There was only two weeks left before print deadline and she was not impressed with the way the book was shaping up. Nigel needed to get his department in order because Mark was not living up to his responsibilities. If this continued, Nigel would need to go back to New York next week to personally oversee the issue. They would not miss print deadline.

Finishing the book, and emailing to remind Jolene that that machine must be in her house today, Miranda looked over the rest of the emails. There wasn’t anything from Andréa but she wasn’t too surprised. They would be having dinner tonight. Miranda smiled as she clicked off her pc. It was time to go to work.

Like the days before, the hours passed rapidly in a blur of colors, lights, faces, fabrics and catwalks. Lunch came and went. Nigel was informed of Mark’s unacceptable work. Jolene called to say the machine was programmed and waiting in the town house. The shows were acceptable. Her daughters sent a text saying hello.

 

It was 8:30 and Miranda was finally able to set aside work and focus on seeing Andréa. She directed the driver towards the The Ledbury, as she leaned back into the leather seats of the town car. She felt butterflies in the pit of her stomach as they drew closer to the restaurant. She had only experienced that feeling a few times in her life; her first day at Vogue, her first staff meeting as Editor-in-chief at Runway and before she married her first husband. Back when she believed that her marriage would last. The thought of her first marriage brought Miranda’s train of thought to a halt. What was she doing with Andréa?

Friday, they shared a series of kisses that were explosive and last night there was some heavy flirting. Just remembering Andréa last night, in those skin tight jeans and the look in her eyes, as Miranda had perused her outfit, was enough to drop Miranda’s stomach and cause her brain to fog up.

Miranda looked out the window and watched as the homes and shops moved past her window. For a moment, she struggled to control herself. She could feel that her pulse had quickened and she could feel her breath leave her lips slightly shaky. She focused on those houses moving past the window. She took a deep breath and then another until her body was firmly in her control. She would be mature about this. She would not lose control of herself.

She wanted Andréa, which was undeniable at this point. Andréa wanted her. They would embark on an affair of sorts. Long distance dating. They would see each other as often as possible and that would be enough. Satisfied with her plan, Miranda watched as the restaurant finally came into view.

The doorman opened her door, and as she stepped out, another car pulled up behind her. Andréa exited the car, talking on her phone. It took her a moment to notice Miranda and when she did, she hung up on whoever she had been talking to without saying goodbye. She smiled as she moved closer to Miranda.

They bussed cheeks and Andréa said loudly “It’s so lovely to see you.” As she leaned into Miranda and kissed the other cheek, she whispered into Miranda’s ear. “There are 3 paparazzi on the corner to your left.”

Miranda pulled back with a slight nod and they both turned towards the restaurant and the door man, who was patiently holding the door open for them. Miranda took a slightly longer stride than Andréa and entered first. She felt Andréa casually run her fingers across her lower back and felt a shiver race up her spine. Dear lord, Miranda thought, this was a mistake. How were they supposed to get through dinner in a public place? She should have suggested dinner in the hotel or her house. The maître d guided them to a table, just left of center. Perfectly on display, she thought as she lowered herself onto the chair.

 

Miranda watched as Andréa looked around the room. It was a modern restaurant, filled with whites, creams, dark browns and black. Miranda had dinned here once or twice in the past and had found it subdued design to be quite pleasing. Now though, she wished for the dark, heavily draped booths, of Le Gavroche. It would have given them the privacy that The Ledbury would not. If only that restaurant was open on Sundays. Miranda sighed internally. There was nothing to be done now.

The waiter poured water into their glasses and then handed that night’s menu to each of them. As they read the selection of four courses, he began to describe the accompanying sauces and details of each of the dishes. It took only 2 minutes after the waiter finished speaking before she and Andréa had decided on their selection. It amused her that their dinner selections were identical except the dessert. They would both have the ceviche scallops with Tokyo turnips, followed by grilled mackerel with pickled cucumber. The main course for both of them would be pigeon with quince. For dessert Miranda chose a passion fruit soufflé, while Andréa opted for the sweeter banana and malt tartlet. Orders taken, the waiter backed away. Wine was chosen and poured by the sommelier and finally they were left alone.

Miranda felt her stomach explode with nervous butterflies. She reached for her water glass and then took a sip before asking, “How was your evening last night?”

Andréa reached for her own water before responding. “I left shortly after you.”

“Really?” Miranda asked with surprise coloring her voice. She would have thought Andréa and her friend would have stayed longer, enjoyed the dancing and other things that young people enjoy.

“Well,” Andréa ducked her head and then looked up through her lashes, causing Miranda to suck a breath of air between clenched teeth and let out a ragged exhale. “There wasn’t a reason to remain after your departure.”

“There wasn’t?” Miranda struggled to keep her voice even.

“Of course not, you’re like the sun, dazzling. The room lights up when you enter. As soon as you left, there was no reason for me to hang around.” Andréa finally shifted her eyes and sipped her water.

Miranda felt her cheeks bloom with color. “My,” she blinked once to clear her head, “you certainly have a way with words Andréa.”

Andréa leaned towards Miranda, and her voice dropped to a husky whisper, “Lucky me.”

“I think you’ll find it’s lucky me.” Miranda responded her voice thick and low. Miranda felt her pulse pick up and she clenched her thighs, as she crossed her ankles under the table. She watched as Andréa drew a ragged breath and slowly let it leak out between her teeth, like a soft hiss.

But before Andréa could reply, a waiter appeared with their drinks and their first course.

Andréa cleared her throat, while Miranda sipped her newly poured glass of wine. Miranda leaned back, remembering suddenly that they were still in a restaurant surrounded by people.

 

They both turned their attention to their food and ate quietly with the hum and the click of the restaurant provided a soothing background sound. Miranda’s butterflies had melted away but they had been replaced with a throbbing energy that pulsed in time with her heart. They finished eating and placed their silverware down. A waiter appeared and whisked the plates away and another replaced their now empty wine glasses and used silverware. When they departed Andréa spoke.

 

“Speaking of luck, I read a book a few years back on the subject.” Andréa kept her voice light and her fingers firmly wrapped around her water glass.

Miranda “mmm’ed” softly, encouraging her to continue.

“There was a particular study from the book, that I felt encapsulated everything I believe about luck.” Andréa paused to sip at her water.
“Well, don’t keep me in suspense, Andréa.” Miranda smiled as she elongated her name, causing a slight blush and a deep breath from Andréa.

“Yes, well.” Andréa cleared her throat, her voice a bit deeper than before. “They found 100 volunteers; 50, who thought of themselves as lucky and 50, who thought they were unlucky. They gave them a newspaper to read before they interviewed them. In each paper, there was an advert that read ‘Mention this ad to the Interviewer and receive £20.’ Every lucky person mentioned it but only 3 unlucky people did.”

“And what did that say to you?” Miranda was curious to hear Andréa’s thoughts.

“That we make our own luck by recognizing opportunities and taking chances.”

“Is that so?” Miranda was intrigued with Andréa’s reasoning. Miranda started thinking that she’d have Nigel find someone to write about luck and individual responsibility. Something light for summer, maybe in the June edition…

“…and that’s why I am.” Andréa finished.

Miranda’s attention whipped back to Andréa. “That’s why you’re what?”

“Lucky,” she repeated. “That’s why it’s lucky me.” Andréa took a sip of wine.

“Because you recognize opportunities? This is an opportunity?” Miranda asked fully rejoining the conversations. Runway would wait until tomorrow.

“Well, yes, but this is not the opportunity I was talking about.” She pointed between Miranda and herself.

“It’s not?” Miranda asked.

“No it’s not. The opportunity was the walk to the car at René’s party and the chance was asking you to dinner. You agreeing to see me, that was luck. I’m lucky because I saw the chance to get to know you and I took it.”

 

The waiters reappeared again, interrupting their conversation as they served the next course. Miranda wanted to tell them to just go but didn’t. God, she really should have suggested somewhere more private. When they finally left, Miranda asked the question that had been waiting on the tip of her tongue. “You really feel lucky to be having dinner with me?” Miranda kept her voice steady as she asked.

Andréa leaned forward and soft answered. “Of course. Every time I see you I have to remember to breathe because you make my breath catch, as I am stunned by your beauty. I count the minutes until I will see you. I check my email a million times a day. I love the way you think. I love your dry humor and sarcastic quips. I…” Andréa cut herself off and took a sip of her wine. “Just getting to see you and talk with you makes me the luckiest person in the world.”

Miranda raised her eyebrows at this.

Andréa, seeing Miranda’s disbelief, repeated “The luckiest.” She leaned back and began to eat.

Miranda thought over that statement as she ate. Andréa really considered herself lucky to be with her? She continued to turn that over. There was no reason to doubt Andréa’s sincerity, but no one had ever considered themselves to be lucky to have Miranda in their lives. Maybe her daughters, maybe.

Certainly not Stephen, he felt more entitled; entitled to have a powerful woman by his side. Her name next to his, until soon after they were married, he realized her name was in front of his and he was always going to be forced to play second fiddle to her. Their marriage crumbled after only 5 years. And the girls’ father, lucky, no. He believed Miranda was lucky to be with him. When they married, he was wealthy and powerful and Miranda had just become Editor-At-Large at Runway. Jeremy had chosen Miranda because she was young and beautiful. He liked young and beautiful things and that was fine because Miranda had loved him, but after 8 years of marriage, Miranda found out, she was not the only young and beautiful thing he had chosen to be with, and that was that. So Andréa, feeling lucky just to spend time with her, was absolutely overwhelming.

They finished the second course and the waiters appeared and removed and reset everything with military precision. Miranda sipped at her water while they finished.

 

“So, Andréa what else have you been doing in London?” Miranda tried to steer the conversation back on to safer grounds.

“No.”

“Excuse me?” Miranda asked surprised by Andréa’s abrupt answer.

“I don’t want to talk about me this time.” Andréa smiled to take the sting out of the words. “Tell me about yourself?”

“What do you want to know?” Miranda hated talking about herself. She thought of ways to turn the conversation back to Andréa.

“Anything you want to tell me.” Andréa answered with a blinding smile that caused Miranda’s heartbeat to speed up.

“I’m an open book.” Miranda smiled back. Andréa dipped her head and tried to hold back a laugh.

“That’s a bold faced lie, Miranda.” She smiled.

Miranda pretended to be shocked at Andréa’s statement.

“How about you tell me something simple? How you got into fashion? Did you always know that you wanted to work in publishing?” Andréa rattled off the questions like she had just been waiting for the right moment.

Miranda sipped at the fresh glass of wine. “You could just google it, Andréa. I have a wiki page.”

“I could,” she agreed “but I only want to hear what you want me to know.”

“And if I didn’t want you to know anything?” Miranda asked, having already decided to tell her anything she asked.

“Then I would be disappointed but would accept your answer. Miranda,” Andréa leaned in, “I would never ask for more than you want to give me.”

Miranda felt herself swoon a little. How does she always manage to say the perfect thing? Miranda shook her head and then offered her own smile.

“I didn’t start in publishing and when I first started working, it was just a job. Unemployment was high and any job was better than nothing. I was 16 and liked fashion but at first it was just a job. I was going to be a teacher when I grew up.”

Miranda started telling tales of her first months working as a sewing machinist for Mary Quant’s house. It was a job, a friend of a friend, helped her get. She was 16 and nervous. On her first day, she sewed herself to a mini skirt and had to be cut free. It was humiliating, but despite a few ups and downs she learned and worked her way up.

She was encouraged to begin university and studied English and design. She had planned to continue with Mary Quant until she married and then become a teacher. Miranda spoke of friends and acquaintances that of the first three years. It was their influence that turned her from dreams of teaching to dreams of fashion.

“Of course, I knew that I didn’t have the talent for my own designs. My gift, laid in finding other’s flaws, and fixing them. It helped me rise in the machinists ranks very quickly. When I turned 19, a friend of mine moved to Paris and invited me over for a visit.” Miranda leaned back and sipped her water. Andréa had laughed as Miranda recounted her humorous beginnings. She had asked very few questions; mostly she had leaned forward, captivated by Miranda’s storytelling. It was heady having, Andréa’s full attention on her.

 

The third course arrived, just then, and they both relaxed while they ate quietly. This time Miranda watched Andréa, as she seemed to roll questions around in her mind. As soon as they finished and plates were removed, Andréa began asking questions.

 

“You went to Paris? Did you stay there? How old were you then?” At the last question Andréa seemed to remember where they were and a bright blush colored her neck and cheeks. “Sorry, you were saying.” She leaned back in her seat again and waited for Miranda to begin.

Miranda bit back a laugh and instead let a small smile pull at the corner of her lips. “I was 19, almost 20 and yes, I did eventually move there, but not then.” Miranda recounted her small visit to Paris that changed her life.

“I had taken the Night Ferry over on a Thursday night. The Night Ferry,” Miranda explained, “was a boat that loaded train cars and then took them from England to France, overnight. So you didn’t have to embark or disembark. There wasn’t a tunnel then and it was the easiest way to travel. I arrived on Friday morning and met my friend at the train station. Daniel, my friend, had a surprise for me. He had arranged an interview with a woman named Abigail. I was furious of course.” Miranda paused to sip at her drink. “I was unprepared and I have never been fond of surprises.”

Miranda continued to weave the tale of Daniel’s good intentioned, surprise interview. Unsurprisingly, it had not gone well. Abigail was wholly unimpressed. Miranda had been furious and had every intention of return back to London, when Abigail had called Daniel’s flat. She offered Miranda a job, not well paid, but a chance at something other than sewing. It was the decision that changed it all.

Abigail was Abigail Price, Editor-of-Accessories, at Vogue UK. She had been in Paris working for the last week, when Daniel had suggested Miranda as a possible candidate for a paid internship that had opened up suddenly. It wasn’t until Miranda became a full-fledged, Associate Editor for Vogue UK, that Abigail told her that she had only hired Miranda because Daniel told her to take a chance on her. Miranda was, in Abigail’s opinion, completely unsuited. She was the quintessential smart, fat girl, from some beatnik village. Two years later, Miranda had lost the village accent, and 8 stones. Abigail moved on and Miranda became Editor of Accessories at the age of 24.

“So, that’s how I got here, or at least how I started.” Miranda concluded.

“Did you finish University?” Andréa asked.

“No, I left a year shy of completing my English degree.” Miranda spied the waiter heading towards them with their desserts. She waited as they set the last course.

Miranda tucked into her passion fruit soufflé, while Andréa enjoyed banana and malt tartlet. They both hummed in appreciation, causing them to both look up and smile at the same time. Miranda finished first. She watched as Andréa ate the small chocolate treat, her eyes at half-mast. Miranda felt a spike of arousal shoot down her spine and the relaxing atmosphere changed, as her eyes darkened and Andréa looked up. Miranda crossed her legs again, trying to ignore the throbbing she felt as she watched Andréa lick her lips. Andréa leaned forward and for a moment Miranda was afraid that Andréa would kiss her. She was equally afraid, in that moment, that Andréa wouldn’t kiss her. She licked her lips unconsciously, causing Andréa’s eyes to dart down and then back up, ensnared by Miranda’s gaze again. Their breath had become ragged. At the last moment, Andréa caught herself and jerked her body back into the chair. Miranda sighed with relief and disappointment.

 

“What you do to me Miranda,” Andréa mumbled quietly.

 

Coffee and small chocolates were served. They both sat sipping the hot drinks. Miranda tried to control her breathing but it was fast, catching in her throat. She felt like the room was too warm and her thoughts were foggy. Andréa set her hand on the table, flat palm down, while she continued to sip at her coffee. Slowly, without drawing nearby attention, she rested her finger tips next to Miranda’s hand. Miranda’s fingers twitched at Andréa’s nearness. Miranda watched out of the corner of her eye as Andréa slowly began to stroke Miranda’s fingertips. Miranda could feel each stroke increase her heart rate. Her hands had always been extremely sensitive. Andréa slid her fingers between the spaces of Miranda’s. Feather light strokes fanned the flame of arousal coursing through Miranda. Andréa wasn’t just touching Miranda’s hand; she was seducing her in a restaurant full of people. Miranda couldn’t bring herself to care. Each stroke increased her desire. Her fingers sliding softly of the backs of Miranda’s fingertips, all while holding Miranda’s gaze. Miranda could feel her face and neck flush. She bit down on her lip to keep herself from making any noise.

At a nearby table someone broke a glass, releasing them both from the spell they had woven. Andréa leaned back in her chair and a waiter arrived with the check. She signed it and then turned to Miranda.

Miranda leaned in to ask Andréa to come home with her. As she began to speak, her phone rang with Cassidy’s ring tone. She moved to answer, when the phone abruptly stopped. Miranda furrowed her brow; her hand paused between her chair and her nearby purse, when there was a chime signaling a text message. Miranda grabbed her phone and opened it.

 

Text from Cassidy:

Please call me!

 

The arousal Miranda had been fighting drained from her body. Andréa stood and reached out her hand to help Miranda up. Still gripping her cell phone in her hand, she stood and let herself be led by Andréa. She was helped into her coat while she tried to think of what could be going on. The girls never called while she was away unless there was an emergency. There shouldn’t be an emergency because they were at their father’s. Miranda stepped to the side and dialed Cassidy. When the phone was answered there was crying and then a scream and the phone disconnected. Not sure what was going on Miranda turned to Andréa.

Andréa smiled at her, looked around and then discretely kissed her lips. “Don’t worry about it. Go do what you need to do. It was the girls right?”

Miranda nodded.

“I thought so.”

Miranda began to apologize. This was not how she wanted to end the evening.

Andréa set a finger against her lips. “No. Don’t. If it was Beatrice I would leave too. Call me if there is anything I can do. I can have a plane ready to go in an hour.”

Miranda felt overwhelmed by Andréa’s gesture. She kissed Andréa twice before leaving the restaurant. Already on her phone dialing Cassidy, she slid into her waiting car. When she didn’t answer, she dialed Caroline.

“Hi mom. There’s a small problem.” Miranda headed towards her house 10 minutes away, listening as her daughter explained what was going on.

Chapter Text

“Where’s Cassidy?” Miranda asked, her voice shaking slightly.

“Just let me explain okay?” Caroline answered.

Miranda’s hands felt slick with sweat and although she would never wipe them against her clothing, she had no problem with wiping them against the cloth seats in the back of the hired car.

“Where is your sister?” Miranda repeated. Caroline’s non answers were causing her heartbeat to double and then triple.

“Umm, she’s in the bathroom?” Caroline’s voice rose on the last word causing it to sound if she was unsure.

“Are you asking me or telling me?” Miranda’s grip on her phone tightened.

“No. I mean, yeah. She’s in the bathroom.” Caroline calmly answered.

Her blasé tone actually helped Miranda’s heartbeat slow, slightly. If Cassidy was seriously hurt, Caroline would be in a panic. “Is she hurt? What happened?”

“Mom, relax. I’m trying to tell you but you keep interrupting.” Caroline’s voice rose in volume, either from frustration or fear.

“Caroline Alexis, you will lower your voice and answer right this minute.” Miranda barked out. Cassidy might not be seriously hurt but Caroline had still not explained. Miranda was not a patient person to begin with and not knowing what was going on with one of her children was not making her patience increase.

“Fine. She’s fine. Cassidy is mentally unbalanced and childish” Caroline’s voiced rose as she talked away from the phone towards Cassidy, Miranda presumed, “but physically she’s fine. I only know a little bit of what’s happening. So I’ll explain what I can and then,” Caroline yelled away from the phone again, “Cass can get out of the bathroom and tell you the whole thing.”

Miranda felt a headache start behind her right eye. “Why didn’t she answer her phone? And why was there screaming?” Miranda interjected before Caroline could start explaining.

“Oh yeah, that was my fault.” Caroline’s voice dropped to a low whisper.

“Excuse me?” Miranda was unsure where this conversation was going at this point.

The car pulled up to the house. Miranda was out the door and sliding her house key into the lock before the driver had released his own seat belt. Without a backwards glance, Miranda let herself into her home, locked the door behind her and set the alarm.

 

“Wait a moment Caroline.” Miranda set her phone on the side table. She shrugged out of her coat, hung it up, and slipped off her shoes. It was a little after midnight and morning was coming quickly. She picked up her phone again and started for the stairs.

“So the scream?” She asked as she climbed the stairs to her room.

“Uh. So, Cassidy called you and I tried to stop her because it so could have waited until you called us tomorrow, uh, there was a,” Caroline’s voice disappeared, “and then I screamed.”

Miranda had pressed her phone tightly to her ear but could not hear what Caroline was trying to say. “Caroline, enunciate and speak louder please.”

She huffed a breath into the phone, and then said quite clearly. “I was fighting with Cass, she bit my hand and I shattered her phone against the wall.”

“So, neither of you are hurt.” Miranda recapped.

“Well my hand is…” Caroline answered.

“No, that wasn’t a question. Your father is alive?” Miranda removed her left and then right earring, juggling the phone as she did so.

“Yes” Caroline answered in a smaller voice.

“The house has not burnt down?” Miranda mentally rolled her eyes while putting her shoes away in the closet.

“No.”

“Agnes hasn’t been murdered?” Miranda slid first her earrings and then her necklace into their jewelry cases.

“No.” Caroline dragged out the one word answer.

“Do I need to write down what consist of an emergency for you and your sisters? Again?” Miranda asked slightly exasperated. Her fear now completely subsided.

 

“But this wasn’t my fault.” Caroline’s voice whined.

Miranda rolled her eyes while positioning herself on her bed. She got comfortable while she asked “Is Cassidy still in the bathroom?”

“Yes.”

“Very well, start explaining.” Miranda waited for Caroline to begin. There was a rustle of fabric and a soft sigh, as Caroline also made herself comfortable. Miranda smiled at the sounds. Caroline truly shared many of her mannerisms.

“Okay, so on Friday we went out on that group thing and then Cass was going out with Matthew.”

“Matthew, the boy Cassidy had been flirting with?” Miranda interrupted to clarify.

“Yeah.” Caroline confirmed. “She was all excited about it on Saturday, but then when she came home at night she was, like, not so…” Caroline paused, “I don’t know. Not as excited, I guess. She said it went alright and then went to bed. Which was strange, because I thought she would be all spazzy, and make me listen to ‘and then he said and then I said and then he said’ thing that she does.”

Miranda hmmed to indicate she was listening. Caroline’s description was causing her level of fear to ratchet back up. She may need to leave fashion week tonight.

“So anyway, I asked her about it this morning and she said it was ok again. She went out with Amy from school and Erica.” Caroline continued.

“Erica Burkeland?” Miranda questioned. She typically didn’t have a strong opinion about their friends but Erica Burkeland was trouble. She spent far too much time trying to emulate starlets like Miley Cyrus and Lindsey Lohan. Her parents had absolutely no boundaries. Miranda had been pleased to hear that they weren’t friends with her anymore 2 years ago. If Cassidy was back to hanging out with her, well, she’ll have to deal with that later.

“No! Aggh! Not her. We hate her. No Erica Mayes.” Caroline reassured Miranda.

Erica Mayes, on the other hand was a lovely young woman.

“Go on.”

“Well, that’s sort of it. She left and then I tried to hang out with Amber, like we promised dad. After like, an hour, I left to go to the house and get my iPod. When I got back Cass and dad were in an epic screaming match and then she ran into her room here. I followed her and when I opened the door she was texting you. I grabbed her phone because I wanted her to tell me what was going on and then she freaked out when her phone started ringing. She bit me.” Caroline’s voice had risen again but before Miranda could ask her to lower it she quietly mumbled out the rest.

“What? I couldn’t hear what you said.” Miranda hated when they mumbled.

Caroline let out a big sigh. “I said I got mad and threw her phone against the wall and it shattered the screen and a piece of the phone broke off.”

“Caroline.” Miranda didn’t raise her voice but she didn’t need to.

“I know. I’m sorry. I’ll give her mine and use THE NOKIA until I get my allowance next month.”

 

Caroline’s willingness to use the old Nokia was proof enough that she understood the severity of her actions. It was a nearly indestructible phone, but it did not have internet or a camera. It was referred to as THE NOKIA and used when Miranda need to punish them. She had to have a way to contact them so taking away their phones was not a probable punishment. Instead she gave them a phone that only allowed phone calls and had snake as its only game. She had two NOKIAs but had only rarely needed to resort to using them. Often the threat of having such a hideously out of date phone was enough.

“Very well. Ask your sister to please take the phone. I’d like to speak with her now.” Miranda steeled herself. She hoped by mentally preparing for the worst, that it would help in some way but really all it did was make her heart hurt. Today, she hated her job. She should be home right now. She should be able to pull Cassidy into her arms and help her with whatever started this crying, screaming mess.

Sighing, Miranda waited as Caroline knocked on the door and in hushed tones told her that mommy was on the phone. Miranda winced at the smallness of Caroline’s voice. Please, Miranda prayed to a God she wasn’t sure listened, Please let her be okay.

“Mommy?” Cassidy’s voice tumbled over the line. Miranda could feel tears spring up. She blinked to clear them.

“Darling, my darling what happened?” Miranda softly asked. The question was too much for Cassidy and she started sobbing. Miranda’s heart clench as she listened. Miranda waited while her sensitive daughter sobbed into the phone. She offered small soothing sounds and repeated declarations of love. She reminded Cassidy she would love her forever, no matter what. After a few moments Cassidy’s sobbing petered out.

“Dad and I got into a really ugly argument.”

“Is that why you were crying” Miranda gently asked.

“I was just so mad and I just burst into tears.” Cassidy answered.

“Why don’t you start at the beginning?” Miranda waited while Cassidy gathered her thoughts.

She began by explaining that Matthew had been the perfect date and it had gone so well but when the date came to an end, he wanted more than a good night kiss. Cassidy hadn’t be too enthusiastic and cut their date short. Erica told her that now he was going around and telling everyone that she slept with him. Apparently everyone believes him because he’s such a nice guy.

“I really thought he was a nice guy though.” Cassidy said at the end of her story.

“It wasn’t just you Cass.” Caroline offered, the voice floating closer to the phone, “I thought he was a nice guy too.

Miranda cleared her throat and asked to be put on speaker phone. “Honey you did nothing wrong. You owed him nothing. There will be people in your life, people” Miranda thought about how to word what she wanted to say, “ people who will try to take advantage of you, who will ask for more than you want to give. You always have the right to leave, to say no.”

“I know mom. It’s just that I really like him and I thought he liked me too.”

“I could come home.” Miranda offered. She hated being so far away from her daughter when her heart had just been stomped on.

“Mom,” Cassidy’s voice broke through her thought. “That wasn’t why I’d called. It was because of dad. He heard me talking to Amy about Matthew telling everyone we slept together on the phone and he completely flipped out. He thinks I slept with Matthew and when he started yelling, I started yelling.

Miranda felt her headache come roaring back. Miranda questioned, well aware of Cassidy’s temper and questionable language. “What did you say exactly?”

“Okay, don’t be mad.” Cassidy started.

Miranda pinched the bridge of her nose.

“Okay?” Cassidy asked again.

“I’ll try.” It was as far as Miranda was willing to go without knowing the exact words.

“I was really angry and he didn’t even try to listen. He was like, basically saying that I deserved a bad reputation if I slept with a boy on a first date.”

Miranda sucked a breath between her teeth, producing a sharp hiss.

“I said something like, ‘You have no right lecturing me on reputations when google turns up a rap sheet of you caught with a prostitute.” Cassidy fell silent as she waited for Miranda to say anything.

Miranda sat there stunned. That Jeremy would attack one of the girls verbally was indefensible. What Cassidy said back was, well Miranda thought, it was just horrible. Even if she privately agreed with her daughter, she was not raising them to be disrespectful.

“Cassidy,” Miranda’s tone was full of reproach.

“I know. I know. I shouldn’t have said that. I’ll apologize.”

“Do you want me to come home? Call Agnes?” Miranda waited while they silently decided. Two years ago she wouldn’t have asked. She would have just flown home and missed the end of London and the beginning of Milan but now the girls were older and so she asked.

Caroline spoke first.

“Don’t call Agnes. She deserves a vacation.”

“And don’t come home.” Cassidy answered. “I’ll talk to dad and we’ll work it out. Besides I owe an apology to Amber also. I may have, also insinuated that dad only picked her because she was trashy.”

“I’m very proud of you girls, both of you. But if you change your mind I’ll cancel everything and be on the first flight home. A friend of mine offered their private plane, if it was needed.”

“Is this the same friend you had dinner with on Friday?” Caroline was quick to ask.

“Yes.” Miranda felt wary all of a sudden. “Back to our previous conversation, I can come home if you change your minds. Cassidy?”

“Hmm?” She hummed back.

“I’d like to talk to your father about Matthew, if that’s okay with you?” Miranda was treading carefully. She didn’t want to make Cassidy feel worse.

“Yeah, it’s okay. Maybe it’s better if you can tell him. I can, you know, just apologize.” Cassidy mumbled through her words.

“Okay,” Miranda said softly. “I can do that.”

“Mom,” Caroline interrupted. “How did your friend know you might need a plane?”

“I was at, uhh, dinner with them when, umm, you, well your sister, that is, called.” Miranda stumbled through her own words, unable to properly articulate. The thought of Andréa and their dinner together sent a small rush down her spine.

“Two dinners, huh?” Caroline questioned. There was a tone of mischief there that Miranda didn’t like.

“So…” Cassidy drew out the word. Miranda felt an entirely different type of shiver race down her spine.

“So,” Miranda decided to cut her off. “If I need to come home I can be there very quickly.” Miranda paused and then began speaking again.

She wanted to make sure Cassidy understood that in no way was this her fault. “One day you’ll meet someone who is kind for the sake of being kind, who wants whatever you’ll give and who you can be yourself with,” Miranda smiled thinking of Andréa. “You’ll meet them and things will just fit. I’m not saying that it will be a Disney movie or anything but you’ll meet them and life will just seem brighter. A bit more, just more.”

“Mom,” Caroline interrupted, “we understand.”

Miranda heard the seriousness in Caroline’s voice. This was not what she meant to do.

“Yes, well. I just mean that you don’t need to think you did anything wrong. That boy was despicable and if it was possible I’d have him run out of the city.”

“Thanks mom.” Cassidy answered with a small smile in her voice. Hearing it caused Miranda’s own lips to quirk upwards.

“Besides,” Caroline added, “who wants a Disney movie for their life? It’s always running and fighting and having to be saved or saving someone. I just want to meet someone who likes to read quietly on a sofa with me.”

Miranda chuckled. “Okay on that note, good night darlings. I’ll call your father when I hang up.”

“Night mom,” both girls spoke together before the line went dead.

 

Miranda dialed Jeremy. It was short conversation. Jeremy promised to apologize and acknowledge his fault in the conversation. Miranda was sure he had understood. The girls would never step foot in his home again if he ever spoke to them like that again. Miranda allowed him to parent in his own way but she would not stand for him shaming the girls. It was counter-productive and damaging.

It was nearly two. She needed to sleep but felt wide awake. It was too late to take a sleeping pill, not unless she wanted to be drowsy all day. She decided to go make a cup of chamomile tea. It couldn’t hurt she thought. While her tea seeped, she turned on her pc. Near the top was an email from Andréa.

Miranda smiled. She felt a little guilty for thinking about Andréa while her daughter was suffering, but ignoring Andréa wouldn’t help Cassidy either. Miranda clicked open the email as she took the first sip of tea.

 

Chère Miranda,

I hope everything is alright. Please let me know if there is anything I can do. I was serious about giving you my plane if you needed it. I will be leaving London today but I’m more than willing to fly commercial.

Please let me know how things are going. I hope the girls are okay.

Andréa

 

Miranda smiled as she thought of Andréa’s kindness before the second half of the email registered, Andréa was leaving today. She had forgotten that in the evening excitement. Miranda thought about what she wanted. Tomorrow was Monday. She had a full day shows tomorrow until the end of the Tom Ford show at 8 and then 3 shows on Tuesday before she would fly to Milan. Nigel would accompany her to Milan, while the other editors would stay here in London and finish taking notes on the remaining shows on Tuesday.

Miranda would go to Italy while Andréa would return home. They wouldn’t meet for another week and a half. That wouldn’t do. Without further consideration Miranda wrote back.

 

Dear Andréa,

Things are okay with the girls. There was a problem but it’s being resolved. I must, sheepishly, admit that I had forgotten that you would be leaving today. Are you able to stay one more day? I’d like to have dinner with you again.

Miranda

 

Miranda hesitated a moment before hitting send. She was unaccustomed to putting herself into situations that could lead to refusal. It was now after 2 am and she needed to try to sleep a little. She sent an email to Nigel and Jolene. She would attend the Christopher Kane show at 10 but not the first two shows of the day. She still had to book to review.

Miranda set her cup in the kitchen and went back to her room. She reset her alarm for 7. Weariness had descended upon her and she found herself quite tired now. Without another thought, Miranda slept heavily until the piercing sound of her alarm roused her a mere 5 hours later.

She began the process of dragging herself from her bed to the shower and finally downstairs, for her much needed cup of coffee. At least it was the new machine today. Cradling the beverage in her hands she went into her office to begin her day.

First she needed to read her emails. First on the list were two emails from Nigel and Jolene, confirming her instructions.

Jeremy also wrote her an email. He had a long talk with Cassidy. They were going to keep talking. He had overreacted and she had cut him deeply with her words. Something she had learned from Miranda, he clumsily implied. She didn’t bother to respond. She already said everything she had to say to that man. He was an ass.

Next was an email from Andréa. Miranda nervously clicked it open.

 

Chère Miranda,

I can move things around and stay one more day. I’ll have to switch hotel rooms, as these rooms have been already booked for tonight according to the front desk, but it’s not a problem. Where and when would you like to dine?

I’m glad the girls are okay.

Andréa

 

Miranda smiled at her good fortune. She quickly emailed back.

 

Dear Andréa,

I will be done with work at 8. Would you like to meet me at my house for dinner at 8:30?

Miranda

 

Miranda would have food delivered and they could pick up where they left off, but this time without the waiters and other restaurant guests. Her house keeper would leave at 5 like always. She would be back to clean and close up the house tomorrow at 1. It really couldn’t be better.

A few minutes later there was a new email.

 

Chère Miranda,

That sounds lovely. I’ll see you tonight.

Andréa

 

Miranda clicked open the digital book, she smiled as she circled and highlighted changes. She would see Andréa very soon.

As always, the day flew by. Miranda, for not the first time this week, wished the day would go faster. There was hardly enough time to breath between shows but still Miranda wanted the day over with. Andréa was coming over. Miranda repeated the thought over and over in her head. She hadn’t felt this excited to see anyone in a very long time.

Eight finally arrived and she was the first one out of the tent. She’d have to call Tom tomorrow and smooth things over, but tonight she wouldn’t be delayed by anyone. She willed her driver to arrive at her home faster. They arrived 15 minutes later. Miranda was in the house within seconds. She shut her door as the driver pulled away from the curb. She hung her jacket and looked into the kitchen. The food had arrived. The small kitchen table was set. Everything was either in warmers or the fridge. Miranda quickly climbed the stairs. She changed from her working attire into an egg shell white scoop neck sweater and a pair of black Donna Karen slacks. She quickly looked in the mirror, satisfied with the way they looked. She checked her make-up and re applied her lip stick. She turned and left the bathroom. As she headed down stairs, the bell rang. Andréa had arrived.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

 

Miranda hurried to the door. Before she reached to open it, she turned to the mirror hanging on the foyer wall. She quickly smoothed the lock of hair that continually fell over her left eye and checked her clothes for any wrinkles. Satisfied with her appearance, she opened the door.

Andréa stood, with her hand raised of the doorbell. She dropped her hand and flashed a brilliantly bright smile. “Hi.”

Miranda felt her own lips curve into a matching smile. “Hello.”

They both stood there for a moment until Miranda remembered to take a step back and allow Andréa to enter. Miranda shut and locked the door after Andréa had walked into the foyer.

“No need to trap me here. I’m a willing guest.” Andréa teased.

It took a moment for her words to filter into Miranda’s mind, and when they did a blush covered her cheeks. “Well, no, I mean.” Miranda shook her head. “It’s a habit.” She turned to unlock the door feeling foolish. This wasn’t how she had planned the evening.

“I’m teasing. Miranda,” Andréa reached out and grasped Miranda’s wrist, halting her movement. “I was teasing. It’s a good habit to have.”

Miranda felt her pulse flutter at the feel of Andréa’s fingertips on her skin. They stood there a moment both trapped in each other’s eyes, again before Miranda remembered her inner hostess and moved to help Andréa with her coat.

Andréa shrugged the black coat from her shoulders and handed it to Miranda. Their fingertips brushed as she set it on a hanger. A jolt of arousal passed from her fingertips to her stomach. Miranda tamped down on the feeling. ‘For God sakes’, she thought, we haven’t even left the hallway. As she turned from the closet towards Andréa, Miranda came to a stop. Andréa’s outfit was now fully on display.

Miranda took in the outfit in its entirety before seeing the individual pieces as she scanned Andréa from the ground up. Batignolles Patent leather Louboutin, shoes, tailored black Akris wool pants, and a top that stopped Miranda cold. A sin, Miranda thought as she looked at the fabric. Andréa’s top had a deep v neckline. It plunged to her navel, but offered a bit of modesty with a panel of fabric that covered a large portion of skin that would otherwise be on display to Miranda’s eyes. The neckline did offer a tantalizing view of her cleavage. The color though, ‘wow’, she thought. It wasn’t red exactly. She had trouble finding the right color. Sangria or Vivid Auburn maybe? It appeared red but as Andréa slightly adjusted her stance, the color shifted with her, sliding from red to near black. She could see no buttons or ties. Without realizing, Miranda had taken a step forward and was running her fingers over the fabric. Chiffon blend, she confirmed. Her fingers slid over the collar and then down the neckline. The stitching was exquisite. Hand sewn she was sure, but so tiny was the work that it didn’t pull at the fabric at all. The fabric had a movement to it. Andréa’s sharp intake of breath dragged Miranda’s attention from the shirt and back into the moment. She currently had her fingertips resting to the side of Andréa’s right breast. Miranda’s hand dropped and she quickly took a step back.

“I apologize. I just,” Miranda shook her head, she was ruining the night before they had even sat down. It was a new record for her. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Miranda watched as Andréa took a stuttering breath and then a second one before she spoke in a gravelly voice. “It’s from René. He made it himself. Fabric and color.”

 

 

“Dinner’s ready, if you’ll follow me.” Miranda abruptly turned and walked away before she did anything else foolish. She could feel Andréa eyes on her as she walked into the kitchen. Miranda felt her heartbeat racing. The room was too warm and she felt flushed. Just being in Andréa’s presence was affecting her. She could hardly focus while she plated their food.

“Can I help?” Andréa’s voice tickled her ear. Miranda felt her fingers go lax and the serving spoon fell from her hand. Without saying another word, Andréa reached around Miranda and picked up the spoon. Miranda felt Andrea’s breath on the back of her neck as she leaned forward to finish plating dinner. Miranda’s pulse doubled and her own breathing became shallow. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could stand there before her self-control would disappear and she’d turn around in Andréa’s loose embrace. The seconds slowly ticked by and then it was over. Andréa took a step back. Miranda took a deep breath and tried to ignore the throbbing between her legs. Dinner was plated. They’d eat before anything else.

Miranda steadied herself as she picked up both plates and carried them to the table. Andréa trailed behind her carrying a bottle of wine and a bottle of water that had been set out to accompany dinner.

 

 

Their dinner wasn’t as elaborate as Friday’s or Sunday’s meal but it was perfect for a private dinner at home. Miranda kept a tight hold on her level of arousal. It was difficult at first but then they started talking about their day and the upcoming weeks. Small tidbits of information were shared as the plates slowly emptied. The atmosphere became less charged and more casual. Laughter sprung up easily and organically between them. An hour passed quickly and after a quick question of “would you like coffee and one of the chocolate tarts for dessert”, Miranda fetched dessert and coffee from the kitchen. As she carried it back to the table, she mentally congratulated herself on not running Andréa out of the house.

Dessert was consumed and coffee was finished when Miranda felt the casualness of dinner begin to fade. Looking for a reason to keep herself busy and avoid any awkwardness, she scooped up the plates and headed towards the kitchen. She wasn’t going to wash them, but she would stack them in the sink. Preoccupied with her thoughts, she didn’t hear Andréa follow her out with the remaining dishes. She jumped as Andréa set down the items on the counter. Miranda reached out and grabbed a cup to stack with the other dishes, when she felt Andréa’s hand caress her hip. Miranda gasped, her skin electrified by her nearness. She felt Andréa take a step forward and press herself tightly against Miranda’s back.

Miranda dragged lungfuls of air in, her heart beating wildly. The cup slipped from her fingers, as the previously banked fires of arousal flared out of control. She heard the cup break in the sink but spared it no thought as she felt Andréa’s lips descend on the base of her neck.

“Tell me to stop Miranda.” Andréa breathed into Miranda’s ear. “I’ll stop.” She kissed the skin beneath her ear before tugging on the earlobe with her teeth. Miranda tilted her head back and to the side as Andréa’s lips continued to move against her skin.

“Don’t stop.” Miranda answered and then moaned lightly as she felt the small space between their bodies disappear. Andréa’s teeth scraped lightly down her neck before she soothed the sensitive skin. She felt Andréa’s lips against her pulse point as her heart pounded violently in her chest.

Miranda turned in her arms, meeting Andréa’s darkened gaze. There was a brief pause before they both lunged forward and met in a crushing kiss. Miranda’s insides liquefy from the intensity. She felt untethered and for a moment leaned back, as if to break the kiss, only to have Andréa step closer and press her into the kitchen counter. Andréa’s hands flexed and gripped her tighter, anchoring her in the moment.

Miranda’s hands traveled up Andréa’s back and wrapped themselves in her hair. The short strands entwined in her fingers. She tugged, causing a moan to erupt from Andréa. Miranda tugged again, producing the same reaction. She smiled into the kiss. Andréa broke away from her lips and started kissing her sensitive neck again, dragging a series of moans from her own throat.

Andréa shifted, her leg coming to rest between hers. The ache that had been building intensified and without conscious thought, Miranda flexed her thigh and pressed herself against Andréa’s leg. The fabric of her panties slid against her flesh and a loud moan was pulled from her. The echoing sound reminded her that they were in the kitchen. This was not where she wanted her first time with Andréa to be.

Miranda tried to speak but at that moment, Andréa bit lightly on her throat while pressing up against her center. She couldn’t think of forming words, just the pounding between her legs and the heat pouring from her body. She muttered out the word “bed”, the last rational thought she could form. But as long as Andréa didn’t stop touching her, she really couldn’t bring herself to care anymore.

Andréa heard the muttered word and dragged her lips away from Miranda’s skin. A soft cry fell from her lips as she lost contact with Andréa.

“Bed?” Andrea asked, her breasts heaving, eyes blown wide with desire.

Miranda nodded. “Upstairs, second door,” she croaked out, her mouth dry.

Andréa half pulled, half pushed her out of the kitchen and to the base of the stairs. Miranda kicked off her shoes and attacked Andréa’s kiss swollen lips. They climbed the stairs, clumsily stumbling over each step, their hands traveling, their lips breaking away and then crashing together in unrestrained passion. Clothes were pulled out of shape. Miranda paused at the sound of a button hitting the wood stairs, distracted for a faction of a second before Andréa growled out, “René will fix it.” The wonderful creation was now a wrinkled causality in their passion. They slipped, missed stairs, Miranda’s elbow hit the banister, but they didn’t stop, didn’t slow down. Finally they reached the landing and crashed into the master bedroom.

Andréa’s shirt was just a ribbon of fabric, hanging from her shoulder. No sewing or dry cleaning would ever repair it. Miranda locked eyes with Andréa and took a step back. Without a word they both peeled off their clothing. Bras were dropped and ruined underwear was discarded. Miranda wanted Andréa, maybe more than she had ever wanted another person. With a smile on her lips, she reached out and pulled Andréa into her arms.

 

 

Naked, they tumbled into bed. Legs slid apart and bodies aligned. Miranda pushed pillows to the floor as she slid her leg against Andréa’s wet heat. Andréa’s back bowed, lifting her off the bed for a moment. Miranda lowered her head and pressed Andréa back down. She gently licked at her nipple before raking her teeth over the erect flesh. She listened to little puffs of breath leaking from Andréa’s lips as she swirled her tongue. She sucked the tight bud between her lips and Andréa’s breath hitched. Her teeth lightly abused the tip and Andréa moaned. Miranda switched her mouth to the other breast repeating the same movements. She kissed her way down the soft skin of Andréa’s abdomen. She felt her nails rake over her back, drawing a light hiss from Miranda’s mouth as she softly bit the skin over Andrea’s protruding hip. Andréa moaned as she bit the corresponding side hard enough to mark.

She could smell Andréa’s arousal and it sent a jolt of pleasure skittering down her own spine. She paused a moment and waited for Andréa’s eyes to snap open and meet hers. When they did, she lowered her mouth and took her first taste of Andréa. Her tongue slid over the hot folds of flesh. She didn’t press with any real pressure, just a gentle stroking. She sucked lightly, drawing the skin into her mouth and rolling her tongue over the surface. Andréa panted and moaned above her. Her hands coiled tightly in the bed sheets as she strained to press further into Miranda’s mouth. Miranda withheld herself from touching the swollen flesh with anything other than a light touch. She continues to lick and suck, to roll and tease the hot, wet skin until Andréa’s hips were constantly rolling and her moans had taken on a keening quality.

“Oh.” Andréa uttered when she finally flicked her tongue over her clit. “Oh” she repeated, her hands pulled at the bed sheets.

Miranda carefully drew the pulsing flesh between her lips while sliding her fingers over the slick skin. Fluid coated her fingertips as she stroked lightly, not entering, just teasing the opening.

“Miranda,” Andréa moaned.

Miranda slowly slid two fingers into Andréa’s tight channel. Her fingers were gripped and held in place as Andréa’s mouth fell open. Miranda licked small circles while keeping her fingers still.

“Please, Miranda, please.” Andréa’s voice begged and then repeated over and over. “Please, Miranda, please.”

Miranda smiled against her flesh before deeply sucking her clit between her lips. Her fingers moved, sliding in and out, carefully pressing up with each stoke until Andréa’s legs shook and her thighs clenched, trapping Miranda in place as her back arched from the bed. Miranda slowly continued licking until she felt Andréa’s hands wrap in her hair and tug her up towards her lips.

She kissed Andréa deeply and then laid her head against her chest, listening as Andréa’s heartbeat slowed.

 

 

Andréa's breath returned to normal and then Miranda found herself on her back looking up into Andréa's smiling face.

Andréa’s lips descended upon hers. Miranda’s head spun as Andréa’s tongue darted out, entwine with her own. She felt Andréa’s fingers slid from her arms and begin to trace light patterns over her skin. Miranda pulled her lips from Andréa’s as a moan erupted from her throat. Her overly sensitive skin was sending each light stroke directly to her throbbing center.

Andréa moved her fingers over Miranda’s body until they fluttered against her wet folds. Miranda arched up. Andréa plunged into her. Her back bowed violently and her legs fell open wider than before as she drew Andréa’s fingers deeper. “Yes,” fell from her lips as her hips canted up. Gasps and pants burst from Miranda’s lips as rode against Andréa’s fingers with a wild abandoned. She felt her body pull tight and with a final thrust and Andréa’s palm against her clit, Miranda plunged head long into orgasm.

After a moment, Andréa softly and slowly removed her fingers. Miranda winced; it had been a long time since her last lover. She pulled Andréa down on to the bed and curled around her while her breathing returned to normal.

 

 

“That was spectacular.” Andréa was the first to break the silence.

“Quite.” Miranda agreed. There was peacefulness in the moment that Miranda had never really felt. She basked in the feeling of Andréa’s fingertips tracing small patterns on her skin.

“Can you stay?” Miranda asked quietly not ready to let go.

“I can stay Miranda. There isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be.” Andréa answered softly before yawning.

Miranda pulled her closer and then softly kissed her. Andréa sighed into the kiss. They continued to share slow, light kisses for a few moments before Miranda pulled away.

“I haven’t slept next to anyone in a very long time.” Miranda warned.

“Five years isn’t so long.” Andréa was quick to point out.

“It’s a very long time Andréa.” Miranda felt a light ache between her legs. Five years was a very long time.

“Well let’s see how it goes. If you can’t sleep then I’ll just go over to the other room.” Andréa offered.

Miranda felt slightly embarrassed and wanted to explain, “It’s not you. I want you here, it’s just...”

Andréa leaned in, “I get it. Just rest. I promise to keep my hands to myself.” She smiled and kissed Miranda once more. “Good night bien-aimé”

“Good night Andréa.”

 

 

Miranda promptly fell asleep. When she awoke she was flat on her back. Her left hand had clasped on to Andréa’s thigh, anchoring her to the bed and her left foot was hooked over Andrea’s. Miranda smiled as she watched her sleep for a minute before she leaned over and gently kissed her awake.

Chapter Text

Miranda lightly kissed Andréa’s lips. Her dark, inky, eyelashes fluttered but she did not awaken. Miranda smiled as she carefully tucked an errand hair behind Andréa’s ear. She leaned down and kissed her again; once, twice, three times.

 Each kiss was a mere brushing of lips. Her fingers gently slid from the smooth shell of her ear, down her neck and over her shoulders.  Miranda let her fingers dance in a soft swirling pattern as she watched Andréa struggle to wake. She leaned down to offer a fourth kiss. As her lips connected with Andréa’s, she felt her smile into the kiss and then deepen it. Miranda pulled back, smiling, “Good morning.”

“Mmmm,” Andréa moaned and then arched her back as she stretched. Miranda kissed the hollow of her throat.  “Good morning,” Andréa replied, her voice gravely from sleep. “What time is it?” She let her eyes close as she snuggled deeper into the duvet and closer to Miranda.

“Early,” Miranda offered while slowly pressing soft kisses to Andréa’s neck. Her fingers continued to glide, in never ending patterns, over Andréa’s neck, shoulders, and arms.

“When do you need to get ready for work?” Andréa arched again as she softly licked at Andréa’s hyper sensitive skin.

“In two hours,” Miranda murmured against her neck, her teeth lightly worrying the skin.

Andréa moaned at the sensation. “The bookkk?” She stuttered out as her breath caught.

Miranda smiled and let her fingers slid over Andréa’s erect nipples. She rolled the textured flesh gently between her fingers as she continued to kiss Andréa’s throat. “My editors are either in the air or on their way home today. There won’t be a book until this evening, when I’m in Milan.” She lifted her lips from the delicate skin to answer before she lowered her head and replaced her fingers with her mouth and sucked against the sensitive nipple. She lifted her head again and asked “Any other questions?” before she lowered her lips again.

Andréa gasped and then arched into her mouth as Miranda pulled the flesh between her teeth and lightly bit down. She felt Andréa’s hands gently wrap themselves in her hair. There was a light tug and then another, forcing Miranda to break away from Andréa’s skin and meet her eyes.

“No Miranda, no more questions,” Andréa smirked and then pulled her head up until they were face to face. She captured Miranda’s lips in a searing kiss before quickly flipping them over.  Miranda, surprised by the move, erupted in laughter before moaning as Andréa leaned down and kissed the base of her neck. “Let’s not waste any more time” Andréa whispered against her skin before she resumed kissing Miranda. ‘Delicious way to begin the morning,’ thought Miranda.

 

Two hours passed in a shimming haze of lust and sweat until they were finally forced from bed by a blaring alarm clock. Over a quiet breakfast, they discussed their upcoming weeks and shared small stories of their children. As they were preparing to leave, Andréa to the airport and Miranda to Anya Hindmarch show, Andréa pulled Miranda towards her and kissed her briefly. As she pulled back she smiled and brought up the topic Miranda had been avoiding.

“You can choose what to tell people,” she said frankly.

“What are you…” Miranda started only to have Andréa set her finger delicately against her lips and spoke again.

“I can stand in a closet or not. The press will be what it is and I can weather it, but if it will affect you and you’d rather not be out in public, I’m okay with that. This can be your decision completely.” She lowered her finger allowing Miranda a chance to answer.

“I.” She stopped as she collected her thoughts and then began again. “I’m not worried about the press. They’ve written horrible things about me in the past. At least now the headline would be Dragon snatches Princess or something equally pithy and not Ice Queen Freezes New Man.” She watched as Andréa winced. “I would like to talk to my daughters first, before the press catches wind.”

“Of course,” Andréa quickly agreed.

"That doesn’t mean that I want to parade this,” Miranda pointed between them, “to the whole world. I want to be honest with the people around me.”

“That’s fine with me. I would also like to tell my friends, not now and not all at once but if they ask.”

“By friends, I am to assume you are referring to Nigel and Emily?” Miranda asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes, them and a few others. I’ve kept too many things from those two as it is.” Andréa answered and then bit down on her lip, betraying her nervousness.

Miranda rolled the idea around her mind, besides her daughter, she would most likely have to tell those people too. She nodded once before asking “And your family?”

“Oh my mom won’t care. I hardly see her. René will probably not be shocked. He’s good like that and my daughter is 4. She won’t even notice.”

Miranda couldn’t help but notice that Andréa didn’t mention her grandmother. As she opened her mouth to ask, Andréa continued on.

“My people might be a little shocked.” Miranda raised her eyebrows again. “Okay, very shocked but I’m not the prime minister and I’ve provided an heir. The entire kingdom knows I’m barren so there wouldn’t worry of another heir. My grandmother,” Andréa stopped and took a deep breath, “well, she won’t be so understand, but her husband Joe, might help soften the news.”

“We don’t have to tell anyone, if it’s going to be a problem.” Miranda offered. The idea tasted sour in her mouth; sneaking around at her age.

“No. I’m a grown woman. I don’t need to sneak around. I would like you to accompany me to dinner, when you have time. I don’t want to park a block from your hotel and sneak in the back entrance, just to have dinner with you in a hotel room.”

“So we agree to tell those that are close to us,” Miranda clarified.

“Right, but not confirm or deny to the paparazzi.” Andréa added.

Miranda pulled her into a kiss before slipping into her coat. “I’ll see you in a week,” she whispered against her lips before kissing her again. They both stepped out of the house and slid into their waiting cars. Miranda felt a slight pull in her thigh and smiled. What a lovely way to end London Fashion Week.

 

 

Five hours later, Miranda and Nigel were flying over the English Channel on their way to Milan. It was a short flight so Miranda let herself lean back into the soft business class seat and relax. She replayed her time with Andréa, unaware that Nigel was studying her.

Nigel had woken to an interesting email from Emily this morning and he had been quietly assessing the situation. During the first two shows Miranda wasn’t truly present. Of course, no one else would have even noticed but he had been working with her for 23 years. He could tell if her attention was fully on task or not. It was in the way she moved her head. When she focused her laser like attention on something, her eyes never left the target. Yesterday, she bobbed her head slightly with each step the model took, as if she was cataloging each individual movement. Knowing her, she probably was. Today it was a glance to the left as the model stepped out and her eyes followed the dress until the model pivoted but no bobbing. She had the same distracted countenance on Friday and Sunday.  In fact, she had been distracted the last day in New York also. Adding that to this morning’s email, Nigel was sure he knew what was up. He hoped he was wrong.

“You’re staring.” Miranda drawled out in her typical quiet voice. Nigel paused before opening his mouth. She sounded okay. Or at least not angry, which was always a plus.

“Are you,” Nigel swallowed and then closed his eyes. He was hoping that this would not result in his being chucked from the airplane.

Nigel began again. “Are you seeing Andy? Or, um Amelia, I mean?” Nigel silently groaned over the word jumble. He should have thought this out more.

Miranda’s attention snapped from the airplane window to Nigel’s face. He was holding his eyes closed and there was a tell-tale blush on the back of his neck. Miranda thought about what she wanted to say. Confirm or deny. If she denied now, it would seem ridiculous later when Andréa told him. She hadn’t planned on answering this question so soon though.

“Why do you ask?” Miranda replied.

Nigel’s eyes shot open. That was not a denial. He had thought there was a possibility but at the same time, this was Miranda. She didn’t date outside of the box. Sure, she was the cutting edge of fashion, the Queen of Runway but in her personal life, she was all about the right image. This was Scandalous with a capital letter S. The press would tear her apart. And Andy, what about her? She was a Queen in Europe and no matter how gay Europe could be it was still extremely conservative when it came to relationships. Nigel noticed that her eyes had narrowed. ‘Fuck,’ he thought, ‘I should have kept my eyes closed.’ He took a stabilizing breath. “I got an email from Emily this morning.”

Miranda couldn’t fathom how an email from Emily, in New York, could possibly have led Nigel to this topic of conversation. She nodded for him to continue.

“You know that she reads all the gossip pages?” Nigel waited for Miranda to confirm that she knew this and when she dipped her head, he continued speaking. “Well you’re in one blind item from Friday. Dinner at the Dorchester. There wasn’t any mention of you meeting someone there, so most likely a paparazzi outside. There was a set of pictures however, of you greeting Andy, uh Amelia, outside of a restaurant on Sunday.”

“The Ledbury.” Miranda supplied. “And call her Andréa or Andy, if you must, just settle on one name.”

“Right.” Nigel tried to keep his jaw from hitting the floor. Miranda wasn’t denying anything.

“So, two gossip mentions and you jumped to us dating?” Miranda smirked.

“Actually, I didn’t say dating. That’s on you. I just said seeing. So you’re dating then?” Nigel asked with a grin.

Miranda blinked once and then twice. It was a good thing they had decided not to hide; she apparently couldn’t keep a secret.

“Yes,” she answered quietly. She couldn’t help the soft smile that bloomed on her lips as she thought over this last weekend.

“Oh, wow.” Nigel lost the grin and set his hand on hers. He hadn’t seen that smile in years. “So, are you sure this is smart? I mean you’re,” he gestured aimlessly with his fingers, “and she’s…”

“I know and no. I’m sure this is the opposite of wise, but there’s this…” Miranda shook her head. “I just couldn’t…” Miranda uncharacteristically stumbled over her phrasing.

“Well at least you have good taste.” Nigel snorted. Watching Miranda struggle for words was extremely telling. He felt the little voice in his head sigh. He hoped it would work out for them, even if he couldn’t see how. “So what will you do about her living here and you…”

Miranda interrupted. “In New York? We haven’t talked about that, but she travels and I travel. It’s quite perfect. I can work for months at a time and then clear a stretch of space and she and I can be together then.”

Nigel nodded. It sounded anything but perfect. He had never seen Miranda successfully navigate clearing a long period of free time in 23 years. She took conference calls during both her honeymoons. She’s skipped dinner, forgot anniversaries and birthdays. She canceled two vacations with the twins because of a print deadline. It will be interesting to see how she manages it this time. He only hoped that neither of them would be hurt. He would try to help as much as possible. The more he thought about it, the happier he was. Andy and Miranda. Wow what a world.

 Nigel and Miranda continued to talk quietly during the remained of the flight. They mostly spoke about the day’s shows, about what Nigel was planning on pushing live on the online edition and what they wanted to focus on next month.

 

 Although Miranda hadn’t worked on the book yet, 95% of the next edition, May, was complete. There was a final check and the last bit of advertisement to set, plus her Editor’s Letter. She wrote a short three paragraphs about summer giving bloom to new ideas and designs. She also included a sentence or two about change. Her readers will most likely think she’s talking about fashion but she knew those sentences were inspired by her daughters. Everything was ready and after tonight she should be able to send the magazine to print tomorrow. A full week early, giving her a chance to work on June’s edition and she would be able to take a week of with her daughters at Easter without the interruptions that normally plague her.

Finally the plane descended. There were three text messages from her daughters. Their father had taken them skiing in Colorado for the week. It was spring break and while the girls liked going to the Haute Couture shows, they were less enthusiastic about the ready to wear collections. It was Jeremy’s scheduled time with them and after the date Cassidy had a Saturday, Miranda was happy that they were leaving New York for a while. They wanted to check in before they hit the slopes.  Caroline was using the NOKIA; Cassidy had taken a picture of her holding it with two fingers, like it was contaminated. The second text was also a picture of them; they were standing side by side dressed in their ski clothes. The last text was another picture. Miranda didn’t recognize the woman. She was dressed in all pink, the putrid pepto bismol pink. She was waving at the camera, blonde hair sticking out of a fuzzy knitted hat. She scrolled down. AMBER. Oh my, she thought. The girls were correct. She really was a bit too pink. Miranda checked the time stamp. They had sent the pictures an hour and 45 minutes ago. She’d wait until this evening to call them. While she was checking her messages, Nigel had found their driver and directed their luggage to the car. She slid in first and Nigel walked around and sat behind the driver. He opened his phone to check his messages.

 

“Oh,” Nigel’s mouth dropped open and the single syllable tumbled out. He looked at Miranda and then back to his phone.

Miranda genuinely worried for her friend asked “What’s happened?”

“We need to pull the Kanye West photo shoot.” Nigel started to type into his phone.

“I’ll need more information before we toss out those pages. Especially since print deadline is in 8 days,” Miranda replied.

“Mark just sent me a message. He was talking with Kanye’s people. Kanye wants to expand the 3 pages into something more. Mark was explaining that he couldn’t do that because he’s just a Junior Editor.” Nigel spoke as his fingers flew across his screen.

Miranda nodded at Nigel’s explanation.

Nigel continued as he began another text message on his phone. “He said he’d have to talk with me and I was on a flight. Apparently, they’ve demanded that I speak with them immediately after debarking.” Nigel rolled his eyes and then hit send on this phone. He began a third text.

Beside him Miranda bristled. They demanded one of her employees contact them. She did not take kindly to people wasting her employee’s time. Particularly for a photo shoot that has already been wrapped up.

“That’s not the important part though, while Mark was telling them I was unreachable, Kanye’s people let slip that he and Kim would be on the cover of Vogue and that they expected Runway to fall in line and put them on the cover too.”

Miranda was incensed by the thought of someone telling her to put them on the cover. No one tells her what to print, just as she would never tell someone else what to publish. She has only suggested what she would like to see not published. There was a big difference between the two.

“Pull it. Call a department head meeting as soon as possible.  Sarah and Jacob will be en-route to New York so they are excused from the meeting. I want Emily and Serena to meet us as soon as they arrive,” Miranda hissed out, her voice a mere whisper. Nigel’s arms broke out in goose bumps. Even after all these years she could still cause a tremor of fear to snake down his spine.

“I’ve already texted all the heads of departments. I’m just awaiting their responses.” Nigel answered, holding up his cell phone as proof.

Miranda nodded and turned to look out the window. She thought about the three pages she had suddenly open. She could use something from June’s issue but the only thing that would work was 4 pages long. She would need to cut something to make room. And the font would need to change, plus the cover needs to be redesigned. She closed her eyes envisioning the book.

“We’ll need to rework the cover and pages 195 through 200. I want anything to do with Kanye scrubbed out of the issue,” Miranda said. “I will not have Runway look like its chasing trends. We are not InStyle. What is she thinking? First Star Wars dresses and now a Kardashian?” Miranda mumbled to herself.

The idea of having the woman on her cover was repugnant. She had been willing to toss Kanye into a photo spread but to feature him and his fiancée. No. She would never do that. She had given up 25 years of her life to make Runway into the magazine it was. She wouldn’t degrade its pages for cheap publicity. She was sickened by the thought that Anna had folded and lowered the already slipping standards of her magazine. She was chasing the almighty advertising dollar. Miranda could understand her choices intellectually but she would never travel that road herself.  Runway would never become Cosmo. Vogue on the other hand had just taken its first steps in that direction.

Not only would she drop Kanye’s photo shoot, but his people tried to strong arm an editor into approving a cover shoot. They had just become persona non-grata at Runway. Oh she’d word it carefully and inoffensively but nothing they touched would grace the glossy covers of Runway.

The car came to a stop. She turned to Nigel as the door opened. “West and the Kardashians are persona non grata. Do you understand?”

Nigel nodded. “I’ll make the announcement.”

Miranda stepped out of the car.

“Welcome to The Four Season,” the door man said in lightly accented English

“Grazie,” Miranda spoke as passed him.

 

An hour later Emily, Serna, Jocelyn, and Nigel sat across from her in the hotel’s conference room. Jolene and Thomas from marketing were on Skype. The book was pulled apart, each editor combing through their areas. APC was out of Runway until West was no longer designing for them. Thomas balked at canceling their contacts but Miranda waved him off. Either he’d find a way or he would be joining Silva.

Adidas would also need to be notified that Runway would not be interested in highlighting any shoes designed by Kanye. Thankfully, for Thomas, Runway did not have any contracts with them. Emily was given the task to discreetly drop a word in the right ears that Mr. West’s collaborations with Louis Vuitton, Bape and Zanotti would not be featured. It was a delicate job; Zanotti designed most of the shoes for a good number of designers.

It was nearly midnight before everyone stumbled out of the conference room and into their individual rooms. They had removed a number of ads, mentions and plugs for Kanye’s collaborations. The good news was that the article Miranda had been considering now had room. The bad news was that at least 5 pages had blank spaces and there was an empty page in the middle of the book. Exhausted Miranda quickly rang her daughters. They sounded good, happy. After a brief conversation, she wished them good night and dropped into bed. First show was at 9:30.

 

 Six A.M. and Miranda was already pulling herself into the shower. They would be having breakfast in her suite’s dining room. She didn’t need Jolene and Thomas today so the conference room was unnecessary.  She hurried through her morning routine before fetching her first cup of coffee from the bar in the living area. There was a small espresso machine on the bar top and milk in the small fridge. As she steamed her milk, she wished for her new machine. Would it be too much to have one installed wherever I went? Miranda smiled at the thought. Who would have ever guessed that Andréa’s gift would make such a difference? And at that thought she dropped the milk. She rushed to clean it up while mentally kicking herself. She had forgotten to email Andréa last night. Only dating one weekend and she already has to apologize.

She flicked on her laptop and signed on to the hotel Wi-Fi. As soon as it connected she opened her email and third email down was from Andréa.

 

Miranda,

Thank you for one of the best weekends I can remember. I missed you the moment I slid into my car. I knew you would be addicting. I’ve arrived back home and I find myself thinking of you during random moments.

My daughter is glad to see me return and I’ll be honest and say I missed her terribly. Other than Bea and a few things to set right at my office, things are relatively smooth here. One of my horses will foal this week, we hope. So I have that to look forward too. I have stacks of paper work to also occupy my time and my Grandmother is trying to bankrupt me for my birthday party.

I can only imagine your schedule in Milan. I understand this is a crazy month for you. So if you miss a day or two of contact, don’t worry, I understand.

On a side note, René is “super excited” those are his words, for Paris. I am too but for far different reasons.

I’ll see you in a week.

Yours,

Andréa

 

Miranda smiled as she read the email. She wasn’t upset that she hadn’t written. She only spoke of missing her and understanding. Miranda felt the lump of worry in the pit of her stomach relax.

 

Andréa,

It was one of my more memorable weekends also. I’m afraid I may be busier than you might guess. I have run into a problem with my current layout. It needs a top to bottom reworking and it needs to happen before print deadline.

Milan is actually a lighter schedule than London or Paris, which I am happily thankful for. Plus, I have seen nearly every design for this season so it allows me to skip a few shows here and there. Which, I might need to do.

I have a dinner tomorrow, Thursday, with Donatella, which may be one of the few things I’m looking forward to this week.

I think it’s good that I met you now, at this point in my life. I fear that if we had met when I was younger I would have been tempted to call in sick this week and spend it in bed. As it is now, I have to force myself to finish getting ready. I have an editor’s meeting in 30 minutes. Working breakfasts, working lunches, working dinners. The madness never ends.

Miranda

 

Satisfied with her response Miranda quickly clicked send before she was tempted to write more. She had a day to start and a deadline looming.

Breakfast flew by, as did the day of shows. Emily and Serena went to the Francesco Scognamiglio show, while Nigel and Jocelyn joined her for dinner. They hammered out the missing spaces on the pages and Nigel and Mark used Skype to redesign the cover page. There was just the missing page to fill.

At 9:30 Emily and Serena joined them.  Thomas called at 11 with an idea. Vera Wang’s marketing department called and wished to buy ad space. He suggested that Miranda use just one dress on one page. Thousands of people get married in May and June. It wouldn’t be groundbreaking but it would fit with the overall theme of that month’s issue.

Miranda thought about it. They had a photo shoot that they had scraped in November because it didn’t fit. She locked eyes with Nigel.

He took off his glasses and polished them. “The November shoot?” He asked and he put the glasses back on.

“Can you do it?” Miranda asked, her fingers drumming a little beat against the dining table.

He ran his hands over his smooth head. “I’ll need to miss the first two shows tomorrow and Mark, Jacob and Sarah will need to put in some serious overtime but, yeah,” he sighed tiredly. “Yes I can make it work.”

Miranda nodded. “Alright.” She dialed Jolene. “I need you to work as Nigel’s assistant. Have Emma handle the phones and everything else.” She disconnected and turned towards Nigel. “Use her. I mean it. After Paris next week her two years are up. I want to see how she works for you.”

“You’re thinking of sending her to me?” Nigel asked and then yawned.

Miranda turned to Serena, Emily and Jocelyn. “That’s all.”

They mumbled a good night as they tiredly dragged themselves out of Miranda’s suite.

Miranda went to the fridge and retrieved two bottles of water. She poured hers into a glass and gave Nigel his bottle. As he twisted the cap off, she answered his question.

“I’d like you to consider moving Mark to another department.” She held up her hand to forestall Nigel’s protest. “His work has been inconstant. I told you 5 years ago that you could make your own hiring choices but I’m afraid that you’re letting your friendship with him cloud your judgment. I won’t demand that you fire him but I am suggesting you see how he fits with Emily in Bookings. She needs another person to help her. Also she is a strict task master and it might be what he needs to shape up.” Miranda sipped her water while Nigel thought about what she had said.

“I’d like to keep him with Runway. He’s got a good eye and a sense of space but I see what you’re saying. I’d like to think it over?” Nigel unintentionally phrased it as a question.

Miranda nodded. It wouldn’t be the first time Nigel had to let people go but it would be the first time it was a friend. Mark could do well in Bookings but he was arrogant enough to believe it was a step down. If Nigel offered him the position, he’d turn it down flat. She knew it and Nigel knew it.

Nigel finished his water. “Good night Miranda.”

“Good night.” She watched him leave.  Well, it was a sour note to end the evening on but at least the evening had ended, she thought.  It was just after midnight. She closed her laptop and dragged herself to bed.

 

She woke with a slight smile. The magazine would go to print on Friday, still ahead of schedule, even with the Kanye problem. She still couldn’t believe that he tried to force his way into her magazine. She shook her head as she rose from bed. After her first cup of coffee she opened her email. The new cover was there. She looked over it before printing it out. Looking at the paper print out carefully, she inspected it for any disconcernable flaws. Finding none, she sent back a brief reply. After Nigel finished with the new page and she looked over it once again, she’d send it to print.

She clicked open the next email.

 

Miranda,

I have a hard time imagining you playing hooky, even when you were young. But if I it was possible I’d have a plane waiting for you in Milan as soon as you said yes.

I’m sorry to hear about the layout problem. Will you make deadline? Is there anything you need that I can provide?

I find myself thinking about you on and off, throughout the day. Would you like walking though the pastures with me? I’ve only seen you in the city. Would you enjoy riding? Do you ride?

I know a million things about you. How you take your coffee, what your smile means, and every facial tick. I know your clothing size, favorite color, meal preference, and personal style. But I have no idea if you like the country or animals; if you ride or swim, if you have any hobbies or if you have ever played any sports.

I’m counting the days until I see you again. It’s hard not to manufacture reasons to fly to Milan but so far none have presented themselves. I find myself wish that we had more time together.

I hope your dinner with Donatella goes well.

Andréa

 

Miranda quickly clicked reply.

 

Andréa,

I was a very different person when I was younger. I told you of my beginning, how it was only a job not a career. If I had known you then I would have called in, maybe not a whole week but at least a day. Now it seems impossible. I’m the boss and I work more than I ever had. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve longed for a lighter schedule and more free time.

Do I ride? Yes, but not in many years. The girls were desperate for a pony when they were younger. I decided there was no way I’d let them ride something that could kill them. They begged every day for a month before I finally relented and took them to a riding school. It was a whim to also sign up for private lessons. I enjoyed it very much. The control and partnership between you and the animal; it was exhilarating although I never rode outside of the paddock. I had become quite adept in dressage before the girls moved from ponies to puppies. Patricia was found and the lessons had stopped.

Looking back, I think I should have continued them. I did enjoy carving an hour out twice a week for something other than Yoga and spa treatments.

I can swim. I don’t swim other than on vacation. Hobbies, no. I had a number of interests when I was younger such as music and art, which I still enjoy but hobbies I had never had any, even when I was a child.  Sports? You jest. I can just imagine the headlines now ‘Ice Queen Freezes Opposing Team’. No, Yoga and a private trainer, three times a week, is the whole of my physical activity. I played handball when I was younger but I quit when I began secondary school.

As for the country, I’ve never spent much time outside the city if it wasn’t for a photo shoot. I’m not sure it would be for me if I had to be covered in mud like your previously sent photo indicated.

The layout is nearly done and these emails help me immensely. I enjoy our conversations even if they are only in digital form.

I’m sure dinner will go well and I too am counting the days until Paris.

Miranda

 

Miranda checked her other emails before signing off. It was another busy day. At least the layout should be finished before the night fell.

Around 4 in the afternoon, Miranda received a text message from Donatella. Drinks at 19? Miranda called her between shows. Donatella explained that dinner wasn’t possible. Santo had requested her presence after 10 to discuss a new contract.

Miranda checked her schedule. She could send her team to the last two shows. She’d be at Prada until 7. They agreed to meet at Miranda’s hotel lounge at 7:15.

Stepping into the lounge, Miranda spotted her friend right away. She had chosen a table near the far wall. Perfect.  It was far enough away from the piano that it wouldn’t force them to shout but also near enough that there was little hope that they’d be overheard. It would have been easier just to invite her up to Miranda’s suite but meeting privately before a showing was ill advised. It led to all sorts of speculation.

 

Donatella stood and Miranda approached and they bussed checks and said there hellos as a waiter appeared to take their orders.  They both ordered a gin and tonic, something the lounge was well known for, and a small sample of hors d’ oeuvres.  Miranda leaned back into the cream and gold brocaded chair and waited for the return of the waiter. It took only a moment for their order to appear. After Donatella dismissed him, she leaned towards Miranda.

“So, has fashion been treating you well? You look very happy?” Donatella took a drink.

Miranda sipped at her gin and thought about how much to share. Besides Nigel, Miranda considered Donatella to be her only real friend.

“I am happy.” Miranda answered with a smile.

Donatella leaned closer. “You’re in love?”

“Why would you jump to that? Perhaps it has been two glorious weeks of Fashion and I am truly please with the world.” Miranda smiled as she replied.

“No, no it’s not work. See there,” she pointed at Miranda. “You’re smiling.”

“Please,” she scoffed. “I smile all the time.”

“No,” Donatella interrupted. “You don’t. You smirk, your lips twitch, but a full smile is very rare.” At that Miranda smiled again. “See. So what’s his name?”

“It’s a her.” Miranda offered the pronoun with a touch of caution. Nigel took it very well but Donatella was an unknown. Miranda figured this would be a very good indication of how she would be received throughout the fashion world. She waited while Donatella leaned back into her own chair and took a small sip of her drink.

“It’s serious then? This woman?” She asked.

“It’s,” Miranda paused. “It’s new but yes. Yes, it’s serious.”

“So,” Donatella leaned in with a wide grin. “How did you meet?”

 

Miranda breathed out a sigh of relief and then explained about running into Andréa in Paris. She kept it simple, glossing over the fact Andréa worked for her and she was secretly the queen of a country. She gave the very basic details about their courtship. Sharing with Donatella was making her feel like she was a 17 year old girl, giggling over her first crush.

“It’s so romantic, no? You see her across the room and you think she belongs to another. Only she doesn’t. You argue and then in the heat of the moment you kiss.” Donatella recapped.

“It wasn’t quite like…” Miranda tried to say.

“Yes, yes,” Donatella waved her hand. “You tell it one way but I can see the truth. So you didn’t chase her around the office when she was your intern?”

Miranda was offended by the accusation and reared back from the table. “I would never.”

“No, you would not. I didn’t mean to offend,” she offered Miranda as an apology.

“Besides she was my assistant not an intern.” Miranda finished off her drink and waved over another.

“Why are you here?”

At Miranda’s blank look, she clarified. “In Milan?”

“I think you’ve had enough to drink if you don’t remember it’s Milan’s Fashion Week.” Miranda said in a bland voice.

Donatella rolled her eyes before trying again. “I mean, you will only see her for a short time, certo?”

“Yes, that’s correct.” Miranda waited for Donatella to continue.

“And you spend it here? At a hotel, away from your dearest love?” Donatella finished with a sigh.

Miranda desperately tried to not roll her eyes at her dramatic actions. “I didn’t say my dearest love and yes I’m here. Have you forgotten that if I wasn’t here I wouldn’t see your show tomorrow?”

She waved away the question before asking her own. “Have you seen my drawings I had couriered to you?”

Miranda nodded.

“Did you see everyone’s?”

“Of course,” Miranda set her glass down on the polished table.

“You trust your staff, no?” She asked as if she was talking to a child.

Miranda bristled. “Yes of course.”

Donatella set her hand on Miranda’s forearm. “So why are you here? You’ve seen all the designs? Do you need to be here? Nigel can run Milan. You can go on holiday. What do you call it?” She snapped her fingers, “a long weekend. You could go on a long weekend.”

“But your show.” Miranda tried to protest even as the idea was taking root in her heart. “It will send the wrong message if I don’t attend your show.”

“I do not worry about what other’s think. We are friends, no? Since when did other people tell you what to do? You will still put me in Runway? And the others? You do not need to sit and watch those models strut by. If it was London or Paris, I know. There are too many shows, but Milan? No. We do not rush. It can be seen by one person.”

Miranda shook her head. She didn’t need to be there. Not for Milan. Nigel could easily take over. She only needed to approve the final layout. She could leave tomorrow. “I don’t…I need to find a flight and oh…” Miranda felt a little light headed at the idea of leaving work to spend time with Andréa.

“You’ve been with Runway for how long now? 22 years?” Donatella cut into Miranda’s minor panic attack.

“Almost 25,” she corrected absently.

“Certo, so now you go. You say to Nigel that he’s the boss and you call your Princess.”

“Queen,” Miranda corrected as she tried to get a handle on the conversation.

“Fine, Queen and you say she can send that plane.” Donatella finished up.

“Plane?” Miranda’s concentration snapped back to Donatella.

“Si. She offered a plane in her email. You say to her Yes and then you go.” Donatella finished her drink, looking pleased with her plane.

“I…” Miranda stopped unable to finish her sentence. Could it be so simple?

“Prego. I’ll pay. You go and pack. I must go to the office now. We talk in Paris? And I meet her, your Princess?”

“Queen.” Miranda corrected with a smile. “And yes.” Miranda stood and in a moment of abnormal behavior she hugged Donatella, “Thank you my friend.”

Donatella carefully patted Miranda’s cheek, “Non c'è di che.” They separated and Miranda turned and left.

She quickly returned to her hotel suite. She dragged her laptop out and opened her email.

 

Andréa,

If the offer for a plane to visit you still stands, I can leave tomorrow any time after 12. I must attend Armani before I leave, but I can take a long weekend and return to Paris on Monday evening.

Miranda

 

Miranda nervously clicked send. There was a chance that her earlier emails were nothing but talk but Miranda decided to take a chance. This wouldn’t be the first time she had skipped Milan but it would be the first time she had left for someone who wasn’t her daughters. Miranda downloaded the book and then looked through it once again. Nigel had done a beautiful job with the Vera Wang dress. It fit but it wasn’t spectacular.   As she finished and typed her approval, a new email chimed. She continued to answer her work emails until with a final click the book was sent to be published and her inbox was empty, save the one email from Andréa.

 

Miranda,

The plane will be there at 11 and will stay there until 7. If you change your mind or something comes up, I’ll understand.

Otherwise the pilot will call when you are up in the air and I’ll meet you at the airport.

Andréa

 

Miranda felt a million butterflies erupt in her stomach. She could say something came up. Andréa offered her an escape. Miranda rolled the muscles in her shoulders. She’d never run from things that frighten her before. She wouldn’t do so now. She would go to Genovia, see Andréa and meet her daughter and grandmother. Miranda’s stomach rolled as the butterflies multiplied.

She sent back a brief email saying she’d be at the airport as soon as possible. As she hit send there was a knock on her door. That would be Nigel, she thought. Not only did she need to go over tonight’s shows but she also needed to sit down with him and tell him he was in charge. Miranda caught sight of herself in a mirror as she walked over to the door to open it. A blush had sprouted across her cheeks and her eyes had a manic look to them. She took a moment to calm herself before opening the door.

“Nigel, come in. We have a lot to discuss.” Miranda said casually. As she closed the door behind him, she couldn’t help but smile. Butterflies or not, tomorrow she’d see Andréa and spend the next 3 days with her.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

 

Miranda stepped off the plane at 2:30. Lars greeted her on the tarmac.

“Welcome to Spain,” he said and retrieved her luggage from the flight attendant. “I expected more than two bags,” He offered with a smile. He nodded his head towards the black town car and the other two SUV’s waiting just 100 meters away.

“I don’t travel so lightly as a habit but I didn’t have many things that could be referred to as Country approved, which Andréa has indicated would be necessary.” Miranda answered with a small smirk.

“Indeed,” he answered with his own smile before escorting her to the waiting cars. She opened her own door and climbed in while he set her bags in the trunk. There was a moment of blindness as her eyes shifted from the outside light to the darkness of tinted windows. She felt a surprise tug on her hand and she inelegantly tumbled onto the seat.

“Hi,” Andréa smiled before kissing her once and then twice. Miranda’s glare stopped before it could ever form. A smile formed instead.

“Hello. I wasn’t sure you’d be in the car.” Miranda raised her hand to smooth down any hair that had been jostled.

“Of course, I’d come. What kind of girlfriend would I be if I didn’t pick you up from the airport?” Andréa beamed.

Miranda felt a blush spread across her cheeks, girlfriend. Yes.

A moment later, Lars slid into the front seat and started the car.

“Why did Lars say Welcome to Spain?” Miranda leaned into the seat and turned to watch Andréa. She couldn’t believe she had left fashion week to spend time with her girlfriend. Her blush intensive at the thought of having a girlfriend at her age.

“Oh, well, we’re in Spain. Genovia is too small and what flat spaces we do have, we’ve used for agriculture so we lease a hanger here. Commercial flights land in France and most people travel by either car or rail,” she easily explained. “I can’t believe you’re here. I keep thinking I’ll wake up and it won’t be real.”

“Have you been dreaming about me often?” Miranda teased. She understood the sentiment, she had the same thoughts.

“Yes,” she breathed out. “Every day for months.”

Miranda was slightly taken back by the intensity of her answer. Months? Did she really affect her so?

Before Miranda could answer Andréa had moved closer. “I’m going to kiss you,” she warned. Miranda didn’t bother answering; instead she tilted her head and leaned towards Andréa. Their mouths met in a series of soft kisses until Miranda deepened it. A soft moan bubbled between them and they both pulled apart.

Andréa laughed suddenly but before she could ask why, Andréa explained. “We just missed most of the drive.”

Miranda glanced down at her watch. It was 3:00. They had kissed for a little over 15 minutes. Miranda took a deep breath. Wow, that was a first.

 

“Come here,” she pointed to the space beside her. Miranda shifted into place, hip to hip. She carefully tucked Miranda’s white fore lock behind her ear and then smiled. “See that,” she pointed to a spire that jutted into the sky in the distance. “That’s the church my family built in 1650. Over there is my bank,” she directed Miranda’s eyes to the left. There was a modern building of glass facing a river bank. The car crossed over a bridge. “This river bisects the entire city. Up there,” Andréa indicated the mountains, “are terraced plots of land. Most of our pears are grown on the mountain side, saving the valleys for grain and animal production.”

Miranda nodded, following along as Andréa explained the city layout. They crossed from the outskirts of Pyrus into the downtown area. There were tourist shops, restaurants and art galleries crowded around the river banks. They crossed the river again and passed through what Andréa explained was the financial district. Here was another of her banks. After another minute Miranda asked a question that had been niggling her the entire drive, “where’s all your security?”

“Hmm?”

“Your security? In Paris you have the Fort Knox of apartments and here, a town car and driver?” Miranda watched as Andréa looked around the car and then laughed.

“I’m not laughing at you.” She quickly explained. “It was the idea of Fort Knox as an apartment. The Paris apartment is a little different. I don’t know if you remember but I only live in the upper floors of that building.”

Miranda nodded.

“The lower floors are Life Systems. There are people working constantly so security is a little higher there than in London. But,” Andréa turned in her seat and pointed out the back window, “there is a car with 4 of the palace guards behind us and there are two cars in front of us also with my private security. Normally I’d have a small motor brigade but I wanted to slip through the city as quietly as possible.”

Miranda tried to image traveling with a minimum of 3 cars in New York. She’d never get anywhere. “I see.”

Andréa leaned over and quickly pecked her lips. “I hope it’s alright that I kiss you. I would like to do so whenever I like and for you to feel comfortable to also initiate any kissing.”

That brought the conversation with Nigel and Donatella to her mind. “I need to warn you. Apparently, I’m easy to read and both Nigel and Donatella know about you.” Miranda waited. Yes, they had agreed to tell people but they had both thought there would be a bit of time before everyone knew.

“Well, I was going to tell Nigel but Donatella?” Andréa shook her head and smiled. “How did that happen?”

Miranda explained about Donatella pushing her to leave and spend the weekend here. She laughed. “Remind me to send her a gift.”

Miranda smiled and then sucked in a breath. Miragnac came into view. She turned to Andréa. It was one thing to see a picture of it but the true size was astounding. A long drive bordered by a white fence and columns of trees led them across large tracts of green land, to a castle. Round turrets separated by wall of carved stone made up the front of the building. Three stories high with long windows set in rounded archways. The entire façade was intimidating. Lars pulled the town car to the left, away from the front. Here the castle boasted another set of turrets but instead of an imposing block of stone between them, there was a deep recess.

“There are a few things I need to say before we step out of the car, okay,” Andréa said while taking Miranda’s hand.

Miranda nodded. She was still trying to wrap her head around the sheer size of the building. Miranda’s home was the size of one turret and there was at least three, she could see.

“My grandmother is here. She will probably invite us to a meal sometime this weekend. You will need to meet her.”

Miranda nodded again. She was prepared for that.

“What I was saying about contact. I want to be able to touch you. My daughter will meet you momentarily. She was napping when I left so she’ll be awake now. My ex-husband, if we run into him is already aware. The palace people, well they’ll know unless you prefer to stay in the guest quarters.”

Miranda raised an eyebrow.

“That’s what I thought. I was hoping to install you into my private apartments. It’s like a flat. There are four bedrooms, a living room and a private office. It’s built in one of the turrets in the back overlooking the river and gardens. I’ll have your things taken to the bedroom that connects to mine.”

“That’s not…”

Andréa interrupted Miranda. “You should have a private area to escape to. So back to the original topic. What do you want? Should I refrain from any kissing or hand holding unless we have absconded to my private rooms?”

Miranda briefly thought about it. Emily and Nigel had been able to deduce her dating status from two photos; Donatella from her smile. How long before this was public knowledge? Did she really care? No. She had already decided that this would be worth it. Her daughters would be skiing and for the most part did not read Page Six or The Gawker. She would talk with them when she returned home in 13 days.

“It’s fine Andréa,” she kissed her and then continued. “I would prefer to avoid any inappropriate photo opportunities but we had decided not to hide so if you feel the need to kiss me, then you may. Hand holding is acceptable if you must.” Miranda sniffed as if the idea of holding hands was below her but the streak of color spreading across her face betrayed her. She very much wanted to hold Andréa’s hand.

“Great. Now that that’s settled I have a daughter I want you to meet.” Andréa stepped out of the car and held out her hand. Miranda took a deep breath and stepped out.

 

Before the door closed, a streak of blue ribbons and blond hair came darting out of the castle recess and barreled into Andréa’s legs, nearly knocking them both over. An older, attractive woman came out soon after.

“Apologies, your majesty. She was waiting by the window and saw you pull up before I did.”

Andréa turned to the woman while smoothing down the little girls hair. “No worries Brigitte. You can take the rest of the day free. I’m home for the day.” Brigitte curtsied once before returning to the castle.

Andréa continued to stroke her daughter’s hair while she spoke. “That was the nanny. And this,” she cupped her daughter’s cheek, “is Beatrice.”

The little girl squished herself tightly into her mother’s legs, hiding her face. Andréa smiled and waited. Curious the little girl slowly turned towards Miranda. Her right cheek was still creased from a pillow. Her hair was plaited down her back and tied with a cerulean ribbon. Miranda couldn’t help but smile as she looked over the little girls clothes. She had on white leggings, with green leg warmers, a blue skirt and a yellow sweater with a butterfly.

“I swear she dresses herself.” Andréa spoke after watching Miranda catalog her daughter’s clothing. “I laid out a pink dress this morning and the white leggings.”

“Mommy, this was better,” Bea spoke for the first time.

“It was?” Andréa asked, turning her attention from Miranda to her daughter.

“Yes.” She nodded. “This one had the butterfly. And butterflies are happy. And the green is grass. See.” She pointed at her legs. “And blue for the sky.”

“You’re right. It’s much better.” Miranda watched as Beatrice rolled her eyes.

“Do you remember that I said a friend of mine was coming today?” Beatrice nodded. “This is my friend Miranda.” Andréa motioned to Miranda.

“I like your hair.” Beatrice offered instead of a hello.

Miranda smiled. “Hello, Beatrice. Thank you. I like your sweater.”

The little girl turned to her mother and smiled a wide grin.

“How about we go inside now? We can show Miranda our house.”

No longer shy, Beatrice grabbed hold of Miranda’s hand and started to lead her into the castle. As far as first introductions went, she thought this one went quite well.

They spent the next hour going from room to room, Beatrice giving the running commentary while Andréa corrected the information as needed. After an hour though, Miranda was happy to finally reach the private apartments and sit.

Beatrice’s chatter continued until Andréa sent her off to her room.

“She’s very energetic.” Miranda said as she eased herself into the chair. She worked out regularly but these Choos were not made for walking.

“She is that. Half the time, when I finally get her to bed at 7, I’m ready to fall into bed myself.” Andréa agreed. “So let me show you to your room while Bea is busy.” She extended her hand for Miranda to grab and then pulled her up, out of the chair. “I’m going to kiss you,” she whispered before leaning and capturing Miranda’s lips in a chaste kiss. They separated and Andréa started walking them towards a staircase.

“This is the main living room. The office is through the first door,” she pointed to a door on the left wall, “there’s a small kitchen and bathroom through the second door.” They passed the second door before going upstairs.

“There is Beatrice’s room and Brigitte’s room.” They could hear the little girl singing in her room. It was just nonsense rhyming but it put a smile on both their faces as they walked by.

“The nanny stays here then?” Miranda asked.

“We tried to have her keep a room elsewhere but when I travel it is much easier if she is on hand. She won’t be here this weekend but normally yes, she stays here unless I dismiss her.”

Miranda was happy to hear that the nanny would not be joining them.

“Both of the rooms have joining bathrooms and share a small living room. I’m afraid it looks less like the intended library and more like Barbie’s vacation home at the moment.” Andréa gave Miranda a lopsided grin and pulled her up another staircase.

“These are my private rooms. Like Bea’s level, the two rooms share a common space. My grandmother had the space transformed into a closet for my 21st birthday. So the rooms are still connected but the center is filled with closets and shelves. Both rooms have their own bathroom and locking doors, so if you need to…”

Miranda cut off whatever Andréa was going to say and instead kissed her. She pulled her through the first door into what Miranda could only assume was Andréa’s room. Miranda spun her around and pressed her against the door. She kissed her like they had been apart for months. Andréa’s hands threaded themselves through Miranda’s hair and pulled her even closer, until there was no space between them. Miranda moaned into the kiss and Andréa yanked her head back to take a needed breath. Miranda, not to let an opportunity pass, latched onto her neck, kissing the skin. Andréa moaned as Miranda’s lips found the sensitive hollow between her throat and her shoulder. Her legs parted as she widened her stance. Miranda pressed a thigh between her legs and a second moan was pulled from Andréa as ground down against Miranda’s leg. Miranda reluctantly pulled away.

“I,” she took a steading breath. “That wasn’t what…I” She ran her fingers through her disheveled hair. “I only wanted to kiss you.” Miranda tried to calm herself. She was seconds away from pressing Andréa back against the door and finishing what they started.

Andréa was flushed and breathing heavily. The linen pants and button down shirt were wrinkled beyond repair. She was breathtaking. Miranda’s eyes must have shown her intention because Andréa moved away from the door. “Later, please kiss me like that later.” She took Miranda’s hand again and pulled her further into the room. The room was laid out in creams with gold inserts. There was a touch of lilac around the canopy bed, and the color was repeated on the bench at the end of the bed. A set of slipper chairs, and demilune chest and dresser completed the look.

“I would have never imagined your bedroom looking like this.” Miranda tried to reconcile the furniture and design with who she thought Andréa was.

“Do you spend a lot of time imagining my bedroom?” Andréa teased, flashing a dimpled smile at Miranda.

“Only your bed,” Miranda flirted back. “What I mean is this looks like…” She stopped to censure herself. “I apologize. I was…”

Andréa waved her off. “I agree it looks like something only Disney could come up with. It’s too much. But the bed is fabulous and the furniture was hand made for this room, so moving it is problematic. I only sleep here. The other room is one I decorated and you may use for your private rooms. Is it wrong that I am both excited and afraid to show you my closet?”

“Already dragging me into your closet?” Miranda chuckled. “You wouldn’t be the first to be afraid to hear what I would say about their clothes.”

Andréa also laughed before opening the door to a supremely organized closet. There were two walls of closet doors. Both sides contained full length mirrors. There was a floral arrangement in the center of the room. Both entrances contained two chairs and a small table.

“It’s finished in pear wood.” She explained pointing to the high gloss reddish wood.

“Pear?” Miranda asked, as it was a nontraditional finish. “I thought that was used only in musical instruments?”

“It is but I think my grandmother was trying to remind me of my heritage. I honestly don’t know but I think it’s beautiful. It could be that it doesn’t warp, which would ruin the mechanics of it all.”

“Your wardrobe has mechanics?” Miranda raised her eyebrows.

Andréa smiled and reached for a remote that had been lying on the table. With a press of a button, closets opened and shut. Shoe racks displayed themselves and then rotated to display others. There were drawers that held sunglasses and watches, underthings and other every day wear. One panel did not open.

“And there?” Miranda asked.

“That’s the crown jewels.” She flippantly answered. “I’m kidding. It is a wall safe and does contain jewels among other important things. The actual crown jewels lay further in the castle and are under constant supervision.”

Miranda was impressed. The remote control was a gadget she wasn’t interested in but a button on the side of each closet to rotate her wardrobe bore thought. Miranda nodded. “It’s lovely.”

Andréa again laced her fingers with Miranda’s. Miranda couldn’t remember the last time she held hands with another person. They opened the door from the closet into the other bedroom. This was a lot closer to what she imagined Andréa’s room looked like.

The walls were a natural linen color with a simple reupholstered bed in the center of the room. The headboard was covered in a charcoal grey fabric with sapphire pillows and white sheets. There was a series of demure art prints over the bed and two bamboo nightstands. Miranda stepped closer to the bed. Not art prints. They were the originals. There was a large white tufted rug that covered the polished wood floor. The entire room felt relaxed, calm and soft.

“It’s beautiful.” Something struck Miranda as odd. She turned and looked around. There were pictures and small pieces of art, all round the room. The main bedroom held none of these things. “Andréa is this your bedroom?”

Even if she hadn’t answered, the blush would have given her away.

“I don’t want to take your room.” Miranda started to walk back towards the other room. Andréa caught her wrist.

“No. I mean yes. This is the room I use most. The bed is comfortable and the bathroom is empty. Please stay. The other room is far too busy if you need to relax. Your things are already here and unpacked.” She pointed to a smaller closet across from a writing desk.

Miranda watched as she stepped away and turned back towards the other room. She swallowed the nervousness that manifested itself and said “Stay. I want you to stay. Here with me.”

Miranda felt like this was her very first sleep over.

“Are you sure?” Andréa cautiously asked.

Was she sure? Last time they were together she wasn’t sure she’d even like sleeping in the same bed and now she wanted to share a room. No, she wasn’t sure at all but if she was going to leave fashion week to spend time with her, then she was going to spend time with her. Straightening her posture Miranda replied in her frostiest voice, “I’m not in the habit of asking twice Andréa.”

Andréa smiled and pulled Miranda towards her. Just as she leaned down to kiss her, Miranda pulled back. “Does this mean I need to share a sink?”

Andréa laughed and then walked her towards the bathroom, where there were dual sinks.

Miranda smiled.

 

“Come on, we’ve left Bea alone long enough.” And with everything decided Andréa laced their fingers together once more and headed downstairs to find Beatrice.

What they found was a little girl covered in glitter and glue singing to a group of heavily decorated dolls. Her microphone was a hairbrush and blue glitter had been liberally sprinkled on each doll to make a sparkly eye make-up. Beatrice was standing on top of a wooden chest and the dolls were propped up on the floor like an adoring crowd.

Before Andréa said anything Miranda watched her fish her phone from her pant pocket and snap two pictures. “Beatrice Amelia Marie,” Andréa called out to her and as the little girl whipped around she snapped another picture. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Miranda watched and tried to smother her smile as Beatrice cocked her head to the side and smiled. “I’m singing a song.”

“I can see that. What did I say about make-up?”

Beatrice took a moment before answering, “that I don’t need it. Little girls hafta wait. But Mommy it’s not make-up. See.” Beatrice hopped off the box and in her haste, a jar of glitter fell off the table and scattered on the floor with the previously abandoned glue stick.

Miranda threw her head back and laughed. Beatrice smiled wider and ran over to Miranda. “Hi Miranda. Are we going to go see the horses now?”

Miranda looked over at Andréa.

“Not right now,” Andréa said. “Now you need to help me clean up your friends and the glitter. Can you grab the vacuum?”

Miranda, assuming that Andréa was speaking to her, went to ask where the vacuum was but Beatrice ran towards a closet in the hallway, yelling okay as she left.

“Sorry. This might take a while. Would you like to go downstairs and wait while I clean up?”

“Nonsense Andréa, I have two daughters. I’m familiar with glitter and a vacuum. I can help you.” Miranda looked around for a wall socket. Preoccupied with looking around she didn’t notice Andréa take a step towards her. Andréa’s fingers lightly wrapped around her arm and within a second she found herself being thoroughly kissed. “If vacuuming results in a kiss like that, what will you do if I wash the dishes one day?” Miranda smirked.

Before she could answer in came Beatrice hauling the vacuum. Miranda relieved the little girl of the canister vacuum and began to plug in the machine while Andréa rounded up Beatrice and all her friends to wash their faces in the bathroom. 15 minutes later Andréa emerged with a freshly scrubbed Beatrice and rolled up sleeves. Miranda had vacuumed up the glitter but now kept picking it off her hands and her shirt and her pants.

“Oh my.” Andréa tried hard to stifle her giggles but was unsuccessful. “You look like you’ve been to a rave.”

Miranda deciding her clothes were a lost cause stopped picking at the shiny bits of metal. “I had forgotten how it gets everywhere. I swear I still find glitter years after the girls last used it.”

Andréa looked down at her now slightly damp and wrinkled clothes. “I think we both need a wardrobe change.”

“Bea,” Andréa turned to the little girl no longer wearing a mismatch of colors but in a pair of riding pants and button down shirt. “Let’s go downstairs and you can watch Barbie and The Musketeers, while we change, okay?”

“Yea!” Beatrice shouted and ran out of the room.

“Don’t run,” Andréa called after her. “I’ll start the movie and then come upstairs to change. I promised Bea a chance to check on the horses today so if you’d like to come, you’re more than welcome.”

“I’m afraid I don’t have the appropriate clothing for a trip to the stables.” Miranda thought about what she had packed. There wasn’t much. A few shirts and slacks, her underthings and two full outfits besides what she was wearing. Lunch with Royalty, she had that covered. Walking in mud, no.

“I think we can find something for you, if you really would like to go,” Andréa offered.

Miranda nodded once. She hoped that whatever Andréa rustled up for her would be appropriate.

 

45 minutes later Miranda joined Andréa downstairs. Andréa, clever woman, had taken the liberty of ordering 2 pairs of riding pants, a winter riding jacket, two button down shirts, wool underthings, boots, Wellington’s and a rain jacket. Miranda had to admit, they might not know everything about each other but they knew the important things. Everything fit beautifully and would have been something she might have picked out for herself, if she had planned on being in the countryside.

Andréa held hands with Miranda as the strolled through the back gardens and over a bridge that crossed the castle property. Beatrice ran between them and then in front and then back again. She hopped and skipped and jumped all while telling Miranda about her horse. “Pony,” Andréa stage whispered.

“It’s a pony?” Miranda asked.

“Well yes but she also named it Pony. The animal’s actual name is Sundance but she only comes to Pony now.” Andréa explained.

They came to the stables after only a few minutes. Beatrice bounded off in search of the stable master. It wasn’t long before Henry joined them with Beatrice by his side.

“Your Majesty,” Henry bowed as he spoke.

“Henry. How’s is it going? Is she doing okay?” Andréa asked worriedly.

“She’s doing great. You want to see her?”

Andréa turned towards Miranda. “Would you like to go see last year’s birthday present from Haakon and Mette-Marit?”

Henry chuckled and with Beatrice holding on to his belt, her little feet on his, they lock stepped away.

Miranda feeling a little out of place just nodded and let herself be led around, her hand still firmly grasped in Andréa’s.

They reached a stall towards the end of the stables and there stood a very strange horse.

Andréa correctly interpreted Miranda’s facial expression and answered before she could ask. “She’s a fjording. I was sent a pair for breeding when I mentioned I loved to ride.”

“They sent you a pair of horses for your birthday?” Miranda asked.

“Yes and I sent them 4 pear trees for their wedding anniversary,” Andréa answered back with a grin.

“I see.” Miranda looked closely at the horse. She was in no way an expert but she seemed small. “Isn’t she a little small?

“Actually, she’s not exactly horse size but she’s just above the cut off for a pony. It’s particular with this breed. See the thick neck.” Andréa stepped behind Miranda and let her hands drop to Miranda’s hips, carefully steering her body toward the horse. “Its body is small but thick and muscular. She’s a strong farm horse but can be ridden or yoked.”

Miranda felt Andréa press her hips against hers. “She has a strip in her mane,” Andréa pointed out a black strip running the length of the mane. “We keep the hair clipped short so it’s visible. It’s striking, don’t you think?”

Miranda wasn’t sure what to think at the moment. Andréa was pressed against her and they were in the middle of a stable with a four year old and a weathered looking cowboy type. Her heart was furiously beating in her chest and her mouth had gone dry. Never in a million years would she have guessed there would exist a moment like this.

“Just breathe.” Andréa calmly spoke as she stepped away from Miranda.

“No.” Miranda pulled her back in place. “Don’t move.” Miranda pushed herself more into Andréa’s arms. She held her hands in a tight grip.

“I’m not going anywhere.” Andréa let her arms fall loose around Miranda but kept their hands fused tight.

“It was,” Miranda sighed. “I am not used to such casual affection. You seem perfectly fine with how quickly things are going and I’m a little overwhelmed.” Miranda wasn’t usually one to admit or speak of her feelings or insecurity but the last few years she had been working on sharing herself with those she deemed important, her daughters, Donatella, Nigel on occasion.

“I’ve had time to come to grips with it.”

She turned in Andréa’s arms. “What do you mean? How could you have time?”

Miranda felt Andréa squeeze her hand and then step back. “Come here,” she tugged Miranda over to a small bench next to the stall.

“I knew, before I got married that I would never love him. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with him exactly but I knew he wasn’t the one that my heart beat quickened for.”

“What does that…,” Miranda tried to interrupt.

“Just let me explain, please,” Andréa pleaded. Miranda nodded and held off with her questions.

“My father was a big believer in love. He fell for my mother in college. He was 26 when I was born. He thought they would lead a happy life. Did you know he was the second son?”

Miranda shook her head no.

“He was but when he was 25 his brother came to him and said he wanted to join the church and abdicate. My father became King just as I was born. He thought my mother would come here.”

“But she didn’t?” Miranda asked, already knowing the answer.

“No, she said she couldn’t imagine standing behind someone but from what I’ve learned of my father she would have stood at his side, not behind him. She had a wonderful speech about how the divorce would allow my father to produce heirs and find a socially respectful wife. But he never did and then he died. He died still madly in love with a woman who was afraid of taking a chance.”

“When I turned sixteen he left me a journal that said basically you should live your life. If you make decisions based in fear, fear of what could be, of the unknown, you don’t live life. I thought he meant, at the time that being a Princess or later being Queen would be the courageous thing but now I don’t think it was.”

“I think he meant this.” Andréa pointed between herself and Miranda. “I think he meant that being courageous personally. The more I understand of my father, the more I think that he would have thought this relationship was a worthy and courageous endeavor. So yeah, I’ve thought about what I want and how this relationship would affect me and in the end, if it all disappeared and worse case scenario, they dissolved the monarchy, it would mean I would have to find a smaller house and pay my staff with my own money.”

She sat speechless for a moment. There were so many thoughts going around in Miranda’s head but the only one that was clear was how lucky she was. Not knowing what to say, Miranda stood and held out her hand, “So tell me more about this horse of yours.”

Andréa smiled and spent the next hour introducing Miranda to all the horses. Beatrice joined them half way through the introductions to drag them over to Pony. Pony was an actual Shetland pony and Miranda couldn’t help but miss Patricia. They were nearly the same size.

It was 5 when they headed back to the castle. Dinner would be served soon. Thankfully Beatrice’s energy levels had finally exhausted themselves and now she barely dragged one foot in front of another while they walked back.

As they reached the apartments, a maid delivered a sealed note to Andréa. Miranda watched as she set it on a side table and then opened the door into the previously mentioned kitchen.

“Dinner’s ready.”

Dinner passed quickly with Beatrice barely able to keep her eyes open. There was a moment when Miranda was sure her little head was going to fall into her plate but Andréa just scooped her up from the table.

“Tell Miranda good night munchkin.”

“Night Miranda,” She mumbled against Andréa’s shoulder.

“I’ll be back in a few moments. I just need to settle her.” Andréa smiled as she left the room. Miranda gathered their dishes and set them in the sink. She was waiting in the living room for Andréa to reappear. Finally Andréa came down the steps with Miranda’s laptop in hand.

“You left this on the bed and I thought you might need to look over the book tonight.”

Miranda smiled. “It can wait.” She didn’t want to ruin the atmosphere with work. She had too many people in the past tell her she was career obsessed.

“Are you sure? Because I have a number of things I need to do tonight on my laptop. I also have a few papers I must look over before Monday.” Andréa picked up the note that had been delivered earlier.

“If you really don’t mind?” Miranda asked as she opened up the laptop. She clicked on the available Wi-Fi.

“No really. Do you need the internet connection?” Andréa asked as she opened the letter and read it before folding the paper and setting it back down. “My grandmother requests our presence from lunch tomorrow at 12:30.”

“Should I be worried?”

“No, it will be a very civilized affair. Wi-Fi is Princess Bea and the password this week is Pony19?J.”

Miranda typed in the password and raised an eyebrow in question.

Andréa just flashed a bright grin, while she opened her own laptop that had been tucked under the sofa. “Bea chose the password this week. We change it weekly.”

 

Miranda shook her head and began going through her work. She looked up routinely and gazed at Andréa. Andréa had given her a lot to think about today. Miranda still wasn’t sure what to think about her time in the stable. She wasn’t sure how lunch would go tomorrow. It dawned on her for the first time that she and Andréa had only had two dates, four if you count today and Saturday at the party. She laughed drawing Andréa’s attention. “I just realized that counting the party on Saturday and today, we’ve had three more dates from our first one on Friday.”

Andréa continued to look confusedly at Miranda.

Miranda rolled her eyes. “I said I expected three more dates before I met your family.”

Andréa smiled and closed her laptop.

“I think I’m done for tonight Andréa. Are you ready for bed?” Miranda asked as she packed away her laptop and followed Andréa’s example of sliding it under the sofa.

Andréa stood and pulled Miranda up from the sofa. “Do you remember me telling you later? To kiss me again later?”

Miranda swallowed and nodded.

“It’s later Miranda. Come to bed.” Quietly without saying more, the two of them ascended the stairs, flicking off the lights as they went until finally reached the bedroom.

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

 

It was early when Miranda awoke the next morning. She looked over at Andréa, watched her chest rise and fall as she slept. She contemplated waking her with a series of kisses, like she did in London but instead suppressed the urge. She needed to spend a little time with her laptop and try to clear away the work that she was sure was piling up.

 Quietly and carefully, she detached herself from Andréa. Sometime during the night she had rolled to her side and entwined their legs together. She slipped out of bed and snagged a pair of cream linen pants, her underthings and a simple buttoned down shirt from the closet. It wasn’t until she was in the bathroom that she realized that it was Andréa’s shirt and not one of the newer ones she had been provided with yesterday. Miranda stepped towards the door to find another shirt and then changed her mind and slipped the shirt on. It was a size too big but Miranda felt comforted by the light scent of Andréa that clung to the fabric. She tucked the oxford shirt into the waistline of her pants. After completing the rest of her morning absolutions and applying a light covering of makeup, Miranda looked at herself in the mirror.

 The white forelock continued to drop over her left eye. Her hair in general seemed to have more body. She saw herself blush as the image of a sweat soaked Andréa gripping her hair and tugging Miranda up to feast of her mouth, shot through her thoughts. The blush added a bit of color to her pale features. She had opted to use a peach lip color and it, along with the fluffy hair and pink blush, made her look at least 5 years younger. Her makeup paired with such an understated outfitted was the most casual Miranda had looked in years. She looked around the bathroom for her jewelry. There was a simple necklace sitting on the counter, which she donned. Her rings were in the bedroom. She blushed again as she remember the exact moment she took them off.  Other than a pair of small hoop earrings, which she also used, there was nothing else in the bathroom. She nodded once to herself and then quietly slipped out of the rooms and down the stairs.

 The apartment was quiet as she let herself into the kitchen and found the coffee machine.  Being familiar with the machine helped as she reprogrammed it to produce a very hot latte, without foam. She added two sugars and then stopped. She looked around the kitchen. The plates had been cleared and washed and there was fresh fruit on the counter tops. Miranda decided that she would work in the bright kitchen instead of on the sofa in the living room. She retrieved her laptop and with her cup of perfect coffee, opened the first email of the day.

 

 Miranda,

Here are the pictures from yesterday’s shows. I’ve marked those that I thought bored mention and noted the 6 that I will be pushing live on Saturday if you don’t have something to add. Tod’s was bland but useable and Versace was sublime.

Your luggage is packed and Jolene has arraigned for it to be moved to Paris on Monday. Everything is running smoothly and I will send the next day’s photos this evening.

Nigel

 

Miranda smiled. It seemed that Nigel was handling things well. She opened and clicked through the pictures. She made notes on the small notepad she had found in the kitchen. May’s issue had been printed and now June was in need of work. Most of the blocking had been set. Miranda copied and pasted a good number of photos from the London and Milan shows. They would go into the August, September and October issues. There was still a considerable amount of planning that needed to be done. She emailed her department heads and requested ideas to be presented for the fall issues. Nigel’s team would be in charge of setting previously written articles and photos into the current issues.

Miranda, intensely focused on her computer screen, didn’t hear anyone come into the kitchen until a small voice said “Good morning,” and startled her. She looked to her left and there stood Beatrice. Miranda internally sighed. She hadn’t had to deal with small children in such a long time.

“Good Morning Beatrice. Is your mother awake?” Miranda hoped that Andréa would enter the kitchen soon.

“No. It’s Saturday. She sleeps on Saturday’s,” she replied dashing Miranda hope.

“Oh…” Miranda began.

“Whatcha doin’?”

“What are you doing?” Miranda corrected absently.

“Yeah.”

Miranda waited for Beatrice to continue but she just stood there with sleep mussed hair and wide brown eyes. “I’m working. Would you like something to eat or drink?” Miranda took a guess at why she would have wandered into the kitchen at, she looked at the clock, 7 am.

“Working?” She asked, ignoring the question. “What are you working? Are the pictures work?” She pointed with her small fingers at the current fashion show stills. “I like this one. It’s sparkly. Do you have that? Do you know her?”

Miranda found herself smiling lightly and then, with a patience she was not known for, she simply explained what she was doing. No, she didn’t know her, and no, she didn’t know any of the other women. They were models and she picked out what she thought was pretty and put them in a book.

“Models? Like Uncle René’s friends?”

Miranda nodded. “Yes, like your Uncle René. In fact I’m going to put some of his dresses in my book.”

“Oh.” Beatrice hopped from one foot to another and then ran from the kitchen.

Miranda returned to her work but few minutes later she was interrupted again.

“Like this one?” Beatrice had fetched a copy of January’s Runway.

Miranda smiled. “Yes. But not like this one. It is this one.” Miranda opened the magazine to her Editor’s page.

“That’s you!” Beatrice exclaimed. “Are you a model too?”

Miranda laughed. “No,” she smoothed down the worst of Beatrice’s hair. “I pick out the pictures that go in the magazine, remember?”

The little girl nodded and then pulled the magazine back towards her.

Miranda sighed and missed her daughters. They had been the same when they were four. Too many times she brushed them off and retreated to her study instead of taking the time to sit and explain her actions like she was doing with Beatrice. She thought there would be more opportunities but time slipped away so quickly and she focused more and more of her energy on Runway until finally they stopped asking her to explain. Melancholic thoughts filtered through Miranda’s mind; fortunately Beatrice took no notice of Miranda’s drifting attention and continued to talk about the pictures in the magazine. Miranda shook her head and interrupted Beatrice.

“Beatrice?”

The little girl looked up from the glossy pages.

“I need to finish this so we can go outside later.”

“Okay.” Beatrice wandered back out of the kitchen.

Miranda finished emailing her department heads and quickly wrote out a brief email to Nigel agreeing with his choices. Next up was the digital book. Already 70% of the content was in place. There was an attachment sent along with possible advertisements and previously shot photos. She began clicking through them and dragging them to the empty spaces. Once she was done she would have Nigel’s team look over the font colors and overall placement and then she would continue to edit it day after day until it was error free and the overall design formed a cohesive statement. Being as this was the June issue summer was the main theme but she want to carefully steer them away from beach scenes. Runway would not look like every other magazine. The front page was already set. Lady Gaga in a spectacular Versace lilac print mini skirt with a sleeveless metallic tank top. Currently she was standing against a white background with the Runway logo in gun metal grey behind her.

Miranda’s thoughts were interrupted again by the sound of a chair being dragged alongside her. Beatrice set a thick book and a handful of colored pencils on the table before going to and pulling open the fridge. She watched as the little girl pulled a juice box out and a piece of bread. She shimmied into the chair and ate the dry bread.

“What are you doing?” Miranda asked. She had thought the girl would have gone to watch cartoons or play with her dolls. Instead it seemed as if she had gotten dressed. Her outfit was a near copy of Miranda’s. Miranda smirked as she took in white leggings and a long sleeved button down shirt, half tucked in.

“Working.” Beatrice answered, surprising Miranda and pulling a laugh from her.

“Okay. Do you need help with the juice?” 

She didn’t answer but instead thrust the juice box towards Miranda and continued to eat the piece of bread. Miranda popped the straw into the box and handed it back.

“Thanks.”

Miranda watched as she pulled open the book and began to color. With a smile still pulling at her lips she focused again on her own work. She sent another email off to Nigel. June would feature a book list for summer reading like it did every year but now she was thinking of changing it from summer reads to books you should read. Summer or otherwise. She wanted to recommend the book The Giver and then in July have the cast on the cover of the magazine. July was a dead month for Runway. She would be back in Paris for the Haute Couture shows and then two weeks for vacation before August when her daughters would start packing for school.

Having the cast of The Giver would tie into the summer reading list and the magazine would be on Newsstands a month before the film was due for release. It will be a nightmare for Emily to schedule but worth it. She could already see the cover. Annie would do a fine job. She could have Nigel assign someone to interview each member; find out what they thought of the experience and what made them decide on joining this project. Alexander Skarsgård and Meryl Streep would be interesting to her readers and perhaps Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift and Jeff Bridges would increase sales. Brenton Thwaites the star of the movie could talk about how he landed not one but two films this summer. Maybe even find a way to work in a few questions about what is was like to play Prince Phillip in Maleficent. Miranda jotted her ideas into an email and sent a copy to her team.  They’d find a way to make it happen. They always did.

Clicking the book closed Miranda opened her other emails. Nothing too time consuming. Most were CC from her team. The last email to open was from Donatella. With a deep sigh she clicked it open.

 

Miranda,

Darling, you should skip out more often. Maybe you are becoming too predictable? I’ve heard the most delicious rumors about you.

Your lack of attendance was noted by many. I heard that some of the minor designers have despaired. Not to worry, I am making the rounds and quietly letting them know it wasn’t them. Of course everyone wants to know why and where you’ve disappeared too. My show was packed with gossip mongers and b-list celebrities trying to be photographed. It was glorious.

We were spotted by the paparazzi in the hotel bar and a stunning picture of you smiling and then hugging me has hit the papers. According to gossip, no one can find your flight information and so it is assumed that I had a hand in smuggling you out of Milan.

So far I have over heard that you are in rehab, have returned to the underworld to check on your minions, ducked out for secret spa treatments and or surgery because you look far too young and that you have a young boy toy that you have shacked up with. Possibly in Paris. Current money is some tennis player you were spotted with last month. I assume you will be swamped by paparazzi when you arrive in Paris on Monday so do be careful.

I hope you are relaxing and having fun with your principessa. I expect a dinner invitation in Paris.

 

Donatella

 

 Miranda rolled her eyes at her friend’s dramatic words. It seems that Nigel had left quite a bit out of his previous email.

 

Donatella,

Thank you for soothing any ruffled feathers. Yes, I am relaxing and yes, I’ll make time for a dinner with you. For the last time she is a Queen not a Princess. Regina not Pricipessa.

 

Miranda

 

“You two are up early?” Andréa’s voice caused both of their heads to snap up. “What are you doing in here?”

“Working.” They replied in tandem causing all three of them to break into grins.

Miranda shut down her pc while Andréa crossed over to the coffee machine and pressed a button.  A moment later she was behind Miranda and kissed her gently on the side of her mouth and then bent down to kiss her daughter on the cheek.

“And what are we working on?” Andréa asked as she went back to the coffee machine and grabbed her cup. She took a sip and made a face. “Did you re-program my machine?”

“I programmed the machine correctly, yes.”

“Miranda was picking pictures and I made this for you.” Miranda looked over at what Beatrice had been doing. She had drawn a circle with 4 green lines and a pink one. There was some orange in another circle.

“It’s my dog.”

“Bea,” Andréa sighed and ran her fingers through her hair. “We’ve talked about this. You can’t have a dog right now.”

“But…” Beatrice looked up at her mother with wide brown eyes shining with tears and Miranda felt her own heart clench. She would have given her a dog.

“Go put your things in your room and wash up and I’ll make you eggs.”

“Fine.” She climbed down from the chair and slowly dragged herself from the room, sullenly.

Miranda watched as Andréa quickly removed a pan from under the stove and began making breakfast. “What would you like for breakfast?”

“Eggs and fruit are fine. Why won’t you let her have a dog?” Miranda responded while drinking the last of her coffee.

“It’s not that she can’t have a dog. It’s just difficult right now.” She cracked the eggs into a pan and then added butter. Miranda watched as she stirred the eggs. “What did you do when the girls turned their sad eyes on you because honestly every time she looks at me I just want to say yes?”

“I caved. I believe I told you about riding lessons and then Patricia.”

Andréa smiled. “Yeah, I remember.” She continued to stir the eggs. “She can have a dog soon but not now. I have to travel a lot and I don’t want to bother the staff to watch the dog. They have enough to do. Maybe after she turns five in a year, I’ll cave but until then it’s just not feasible.”

A minute later Andréa had plated the scrambled eggs, alongside a small serving of fruit salad.

On cue, Beatrice came bouncing through the door and climbed into her chair for breakfast.

It was a peaceful affair. Beatrice told her mother all about Miranda’s job of picking pictures and how Uncle René’s dresses will be there. Miranda just smiled and enjoyed the little girls chatter, adding in a word or two when it was required. After the plates were empty Andréa suggested a walk. Beatrice bolted from the table to get ready. Andréa also rose and pulled Miranda to her feet.

“It’s not that I don’t love what you’re wearing,” she let her eyes drop to Miranda’s shirt with its top buttons undone, “but it’s a bit crisp outside and I suggest something warmer.” Miranda had a pair of woolen slacks that she could change into and the winter jacket Andréa had provided would be acceptable.

Miranda leaned in and kissed Andréa before grabbing her laptop and sauntering out of the room to change.

 

A short time later the three of them walked the back gardens along the river. It was cool, almost cold and the flowers were not in bloom but the grounds were still lovely. Their glacial pace would have normally irritated her but Miranda was content to pass the time strolling. She and Andréa traded stories. She talked about working for Vogue and why she moved from France to New York. Andréa told her about picking her ex-husband from a slide show and her work with the local children’s home. Beatrice jumped around them and explained what flowers were where and their colors were something, Andréa confessed, she had just mastered.

As the sun started to finally peak out of the clouds Andréa’s assistant arrived with Brigitte.

“Your Majesty,” Amanda dropped a shallow curtsy before continuing. “Ma’am there’s an urgent phone call from Adam.”

“Your Majesty,” Brigitte also curtsied before speaking. “I’m here to take Bea for the day.”

Beatrice ran to Andréa, “No mommy. I don’t want to go.”

Andréa knelt down and scooped Beatrice up into her arms. “Bea, you need to go with Gitte. You’re going to have a riding lesson in 20 minutes and then lunch. Plus you have lessons with Aimée today.” Miranda watched as she kissed Beatrice and then Brigitte whisked her away while Andréa stepped away to take her phone call.

For a moment Miranda was left alone. Just for a moment though, Lars quickly came into view and walked over to Miranda.

“Ms. Priestly,” he began.

“Miranda,” Miranda gripped his forearm, “please.”

He nodded and began again “Miranda how are you enjoying the grounds?”

“They are lovely.”

Lars started to move away but Miranda called him back to ask a question that was weighing heavily in her mind.

“How is this, me, going to affect Andréa?” She asked.

“Personally I don’t have an opinion. She’s my Queen.”

“Yes. But what about the others, her people?” It felt strange to ask someone else’s opinion about this but Miranda had been thinking about those rumors and when she returned to Paris in two days there would be an exceptional amount of paparazzi to deal with. If she and Andréa were going to continue this relationship it would be thrust into the public eye very soon. Miranda needed to prepare her daughters but other than that there was no real fall out for her. Andréa on the other hand…Miranda needed to know.

Lars looked around and then took a step closer. “Honestly?”

Miranda nodded, hanging on his every word.

“Before she became Queen, Genovia was known for its agriculture, pears in particular, which is not a stable export; now its banking and satellite systems. She has increased the minimum wage, refined our educational system, increased the number of jobs and personally funds both the children’s hospital and all the state run homes for orphans. At this point, I think she could start a relationship with a pear and the people would not say a thing. It’s the Dowager Queen that will be most disapproving.”

“I see.” Miranda looked over to where Andréa previously was talking. She had pocketed the phone and was now on her way over.

“Lars,” she greeted her bodyguard.

“Your Majesty,” he bowed.

“Out enjoying a stroll around the grounds?” Andréa raised an eyebrow in disbelief.

“Just normal security rounds Your Majesty.”

“Well don’t let us keep you.”

Dismissed Lars bowed once more. “Your Majesty, Miranda,” and then he turned and left.

“He called you Miranda. I’ve known him since I was 16 and not once has he called me anything but my Royal Title. Sorry about the phone call. Adam, he runs the US division of Life Systems, needed my okay for an issue at the plant.”

“Do you need to go into work?”

“No. No, it’s fine now. It was a small wrinkle that couldn’t wait until Monday though.” She looked at her watch, “but we do need to prepare for lunch.” Andréa grabbed Miranda hand and pulled her along. “I just want a simple weekend with you. I wish we could skip lunch.”

“I thought you liked your Grandmother?”

“I do. She’s just…she wants me to be a certain kind of person and I’m not.” 

Miranda decided to be blunt. “She wants you to marry again and she will not be please with, A, I’m a woman. B, I’m older. C, I’m common. Correct?”

She nodded and then added more, “D, you’re American.”

“I’m English. “ Miranda was insulted at the accusation.

“You live in the States. You’ve lived there for more than 10 years, you’re American. Plus E, you’re poor.”

“Excuse me? Now you’re just being rude.”

Andréa laughed and then pulled Miranda into her arms. “Forgive me.”

Miranda sniffed, “You have a lot to be forgiven for. You called me common, old, American and poor.”

“Don’t twist my words Miranda.” She kissed Miranda briefly on the lips. “I never said old or common. That was all you sweetheart.”

“Hmmff.” Miranda was abruptly cut off by Andréa as she kissed her again.

She pulled back and loosened her arms, allowing Miranda to step away. “Come on. We have to hurry now.”  She stepped away and with a wink walked away causing Miranda to chase after her.  “You can punish me after lunch.”

Miranda let a small smirk grace her lips at the thought.

 

 

Lunch was to be held in the formal dining room. It was a good thing that Miranda was prepared for the meeting. Knowing what the Dowager Queen thought of her before she entered helped immensely. 

First there was the curtsy she was expected to perform. Luckily Andréa had taken a moment to explain proper protocol. Next were the formal introductions. That was handled by Andréa. Miranda had been reminded to greet Queen Clarisse as Your Majesty and then as ma’am for the remained of her visit unless otherwise instructed. Ma’am as in ham not mum. Her lower class upbringings had been pulled into focus as she had repeated ma’am incorrectly. The back of her neck still burned from the blush.

Introductions were completed and then the first course was quickly on the table.

“So Miranda,” Clarisse began, her voice lilting in a pleasantly soft English accent. “How are you enjoying your visit to our humble country?”

“It’s lovely. I haven’t seen much of it but what I have seen has been beautiful.”

“Yes. It is lovely here. Not as exciting as New York though. I’m surprised you were able to take time away from your busy schedule to join us here.”

Miranda heard the censure in the statement and adjusted her tone to match. “Yes, well even I have to take a moment to recharge now and then.”

“I’m sure. So you’re American.”

“No, I’m English.”

“Really? I’m surprised that I can’t detect an accent. You must have lived in the States for many years for it to fade so completely. I myself have never lost my accent, even though I only lived in England during the war years.”

“Yes, well I worked hard at perfecting my speaking voice long before I immigrated to the States for work.”

Andréa jumped into the conversation and tried to steer it into something safer. “I spoke with Henry yesterday. He thinks Atla will foal today or tomorrow.”

“Yes. Has Andréa mentioned her friendship with the Crown Prince of Norway? They’re distant cousins of course. I do hope they’ll be here for the ball next month.”

Miranda watched as Andréa rolled her eyes. She nearly smiled but was able to bite down on her cheek and avoid it at the last moment.

“About the ball…” Andréa interrupted.

“I don’t want to discuss it again. The invitations have been sent and the menus planned. Everyone, who’s anyone, will attend. It will be the highlight of the season.” Clarisse ended her statement on an up note just daring Andréa to argue.

Miranda had many questions about this ball but for now she was content to let it go. She was not use to being a passive participant at a luncheon and it was quite enjoyable to watch Andréa spar with her Grandmother.

Andréa was successfully arguing that if they were going to hold a ball, then she wanted the people of the city to also enjoy the festivities also. Miranda watched as Clarisse tried to agree and disagree at the same time.  She could see who had given Andréa her strength of character.

Lunch ended rather quickly after they finished speaking about the ball. Andréa and Miranda rose. Miranda curtsied and Andréa kissed her Grandmother’s cheek.

“A moment Andréa?” Clarisse asked as they reached the door.

She nodded to Miranda and Miranda stepped into the hallway. The door was pushed closed but instead of the latch catching it bounced leaving a slight gap. Miranda debated for a moment but her curiosity was too strong and she moved closer to listen to the conversation.

 

“What are you trying to prove?” Miranda could hear the anger and disappointment color Clarisse’s voice from the door. 

“There’s nothing to prove. I told you what I wanted. I gave you an heir. Should I spend my whole life trapped in a marriage until we develop a respect for each other? I don’t want that life.”

“There’s nothing wrong with arranged marriages. So the last one didn’t work out, you just need to find the right man.”

At that Miranda lost the thread of the conversation because Andréa switched languages. It was almost French but not quite. French and German maybe. Words jumped out of course.  Lesbian and husband. Something about freedom. 

Clarisse answered back in the same language. Maybe it was a local dialect, like Swiss German. It was much too fast.  Vulgar and something about a cat. She caught the word paparazzi and then their voices dropped and understanding became impossible. Miranda backed away from the door just as Andréa opened it.

Their eyes met and Andréa asked in a tired voice, “how much did you hear?”

“Enough to understand I believe.”

Andréa smiled a small smile. “I thought as much. Would you like to go for a ride with me?”

“Are you sure?” Miranda stepped closer and laid her hand over Andréa’s. “I can leave if this is going to cause you…”

“No. Don’t leave. I want this. I want you. Stay. There really isn’t a problem. Even if you weren’t here I’m not going to live like she did.”

Miranda didn’t say anything only laced their fingers together.

“Come on, I want to show you something.”

Miranda was pulled down the hallway, through a corridor and up a set of stairs. She had forgotten the immense size of the castle. Previously, she had only seen the inside of one turret and half of what Andréa had referred to as the family wing. 850 rooms, that’s what Jolene had written.  She had seen 12.

The stairs opened into a cavernous space. Paintings lined the walls. Andréa walked towards the far end of the hall. “This was my Grandfather Rupert.” She pointed to a man with strong features. He had a stern look and was wearing a military uniform. “It was painted shortly before he became King. He was 22.”

Andréa moved to the next painting. It was clearly her Grandfather and a much younger Clarisse. “This is the wedding portrait. My Grandmother was 17 when she was married to my Grandfather. It was arranged. They didn’t meet until a week before their wedding.”

“They, by all accounts, had an okay marriage. It wasn’t love but my Grandmother told me that they grew to respect one another. He had women on the side, she pretend to not know. This is my Uncle Pierre.”

“I thought you were the only heir?” Miranda asked in shock.

“I am. He abdicated in 1982. A year before my Grandfather died.”

“He was very young, your Grandfather.”

“Yes. Just 53. He died suddenly from a heart attack. And this is my Father.”

Miranda could see the resemblance between Grandfather, father and Andréa. All of them had dark eyes, dark hair with a slim, tall build. “You have your Father’s ears.”

Andréa flashed a wide smile. “Thank you. I brought you here for a reason.” Andréa reached out and pulled Miranda into her arms. She pressed her front against Miranda’s back and rested her chin on Miranda’s shoulder. “The one thing all these portraits have in common,” she waved towards the dozens of paintings lining the wall, “is that not a single family member married for love other than my Father and my Mother ran away from that.  I checked.  For almost 400 years, each marriage was arranged; often without the bride and groom meeting beforehand.”

Miranda looked at the sheer number of portraits. “Has your family been ruling for 400 years?”

“Nearly. House Renaldi has ruled since 1619 and before that it was House Grimaldo. The records fall apart around 1207 so I am unable to trace my lineage further.”

Miranda stood in Andréa’s arms. “So is that what you want then? To marry for love?” Miranda felt her heart pick up at the thought. Love, marriage, it was all too much.

“No. No I don’t think so. I don’t want to marry again. I’m unable to produce heirs so the need to legitimize my children is a moot point.”

“Andréa, what are we doing?” Miranda felt like she needed to know what Andréa wanted from this, from her.

“Right now, we’re looking at my family and in a few minutes I hope we will go riding.”

Miranda stared and waited.

“Not what you meant I know, but Miranda I don’t have an answer for you. I wanted to spend time with you. I enjoy seeing you when it’s possible. Can’t that be enough?”

Miranda leaned in and kissed her softly. “It’s enough. So riding?”

Andréa flashed another grin and offered her arm. They walked out of the portrait room together.

 

 

Miranda found herself astride a very large pony. She was not amused.

“For the last time Dagur is not a pony. He is an excellent horse.”

“Andréa, I’m riding a pony with a zebra stripe down his back.”

Andréa sighed and rubbed her hand over her face. “Give him a chance. You’re already dressed. You’re wearing the wool underwear and socks right?”

Miranda rolled her eyes. 

“Fine. So like I was saying, you’re already dressed. He’s already saddled and you’re already sitting on him.” Andréa clicked her tongue and her horse began to slowly walk forward.

“It’s been a while since you last rode, so we’ll walk for a bit. Do you see that hill?”

Miranda stared into the distance for a moment and then nodded.

“If you want we can run the horses up the hill and walk them back down.”

“Why can’t they run down?” Miranda thought if they were already running, why stop them at the top.

“It’s easier to lose your seat downhill, since you lean forward. Okay so here we go.” Andréa led them out of the paddock are and over the fields.

Miranda wasn’t going to admit to anyone but it was a lot harder to keep her seat then she thought it would be. After 30 minutes she could feel her lower back ache. She was bouncing in the saddle causing herself and the horse discomfort.

“Are you sure about running?” Andréa pulled her horse back so they were sitting side by side.

Miranda nodded once.

“Okay, I’ll go first. Dagur will want to run and catch up. If you feel like you’re losing control, pull back sharply. He’ll stop. If for some reason he doesn’t, call out and I’ll stop Marcus and Dagur will also stop. Got it?”

Miranda nodded again. She didn’t trust her voice. She was nervous. What had she been thinking?

Andréa led Marcus away from Miranda and then called back once more, “Ready?”

“Yes.” Miranda had to raise her voice to be heard. She could feel her hands shake.

She saw Andréa press her heels into Marcus and he jumped into action. Miranda clicked her tongue and pressed her heels into Dagur and they were in pursuit. Her horse may have been small but his legs were powerful. They crested the hill, side by side. Andréa pulled back and Marcus came to a stop. Miranda had to pull twice and then steer Dagur back to where Andréa waited.

“How did that feel?”

She threw her head back and laughed. “That was wonderful.”

Andréa smiled. “Come on, we’ll walk them down the hill and then we can run down that road there until we get to the forest.”

 

 

A short time later they arrived at the edge of the woods. Andréa jumped off her horse and helped Miranda down from hers.

“I thought we’d walk a little,” she said as she led them towards a lake. When they arrived at the lake they let the horses drink before tying them to a tree. Miranda watched as Andréa fished out a thermos, two cups and small box from her saddle bag.

“So is that why you brought a saddle bag?”

“Yes.” Andréa continued to root around in the bag. “I also needed to pack a first aid kit and a cell phone in case there was a problem.”

“Mmm.” Miranda didn’t have anything to say about that. It was smart and something she hadn’t even considered.

“Come on.” She cocked her head towards a small stone table and a bench with a high back that sat under a tree. “I’m very glad you don’t like foam in your latte. I’m afraid it wouldn’t have survived the ride but,” she shook the thermos, “a center of the sun, hot latte with steamed milk, I can provide.” She grinned and slid on to the bench.

Miranda watched as she poured two cups of coffee and then opened the small box. There was a small pear tart, which Andréa divided with a small knife she pulled out of her pocket. She passed the tart and the coffee to Miranda and then leaned back to enjoy her own cup.

They sat there quietly. Miranda couldn’t remember when she had last enjoyed such a simple moment. Not since she was in her 20’s maybe? Before she started at Runway? She wasn’t sure.

“I used to come here a lot. I had the bench and table installed when I was 19.”

Miranda jumped a little, not expecting Andréa to speak. “Hmm,” Miranda continued to sip her coffee, waiting to hear if Andréa would continue. She did.

“I was on summer holiday from Stanford. I had just returned to Genovia and it’s never really a holiday when you’re Royal. There are so many expectations. I just needed to get away one day so I grabbed the first horse I could saddle and rode here, to the lake. I was thrown there.” Miranda looked to where she pointed. There was nothing special about the spot.

“Maybe thrown was the wrong word. I fell, knocked myself off the horse when I went to duck under a tree branch. I chipped a tooth, busted my lip and gave myself a black eye the day before I needed to address Parliament. It wasn’t my finest moment.”

Miranda wasn’t sure if she should say anything so she just stayed silent. She did reach over and squeeze her thigh. Andréa laid her hand over Miranda’s and let it rest there.

“I told you about Parliament demanding that I marry when I turned 21 and that there was a struggle for power right?” Andréa began, while looking out across the water.

Miranda nodded.

“I didn’t tell you how that coup was orchestrated. There was a young man, Nicholas. I met him at a ball; just like the one my Grandmother has planned for March. Nicholas was sweet and gentle and he saved me from an embarrassing misstep. I was a terrible dancer.” Andréa laughed in a self-deprecating way. “At the same time a marriage was being arranged for me with another man, my ex-husband Michael.”

“The plan was for Nicholas to get close to me and ruin my arranged marriage, therefor causing me to default on a wedding contract and make it impossible for me to meet the timeline Parliament had given for my betrothal.”

“How long did Parliament give you?” Miranda asked curiously.

“30 days.”

“What?” Miranda was shocked. 30 days.

“I think that was my own reaction at the time too.” She tightened her hold on Miranda’s hand.

“Nicholas’s plan was stupid and would have never worked if I hadn’t fallen for my TA two years earlier. My female Teacher’s Assistant. I knew I could never be with a woman. So I thought that I just needed to find someone, a male someone. I jumped from relationship to relationship, trying to find one that would fit. Michael, Nicholas and then later Nate but…”Andréa trailed off

She entwined their fingers together. “That’s what I have been trying to explain to my Grandmother. It’s why even if you were to leave today, which I don’t want; I wouldn’t be able to please her.”

“Are you trying to tell me you’re gay?” Miranda asked as she watched Andréa’s facial expressions.

“No. Not really and I don’t think of myself as gay. I’m just me and I don’t need any more titles added to my name.”  She sighed and then continued. “I’m not going to apologize for what you overheard. I know you were prepared before we sat down with her. I just wanted to explain. This thing between us has nothing to do with the argument between my Grandmother and I. She knows that I won’t remarry and she knows that I won’t date men but she is struggling to accept it.”

Miranda finished her coffee and thought about everything she had heard and learned. Nothing had changed for her. She still enjoyed Andréa’s company and she was having a lovely time. The press would say what they liked and Lars had reassured her that the only real opposition to their relationship would be her Grandmother. The same Grandmother Andréa just finished telling her would have a problem no matter who she had decided to date. All in all there was very little to do or decide.

Miranda decided to enjoy her time with Andréa and not think about it. She leaned against Andréa and appreciated the warmth of the sun on her skin and the softness of Andréa’s hand against hers.

It was with a start that she opened her eyes and realized she had fallen to sleep holding Andréa’s hand. Her fingers and wrist ached and she moved to disengage them.  Andréa yawned.

“Oh. I didn’t mean to fall asleep. We should get back Bea will be waking up soon.”

Miranda stretched and then stood from the table. Her back popped. “I meant to ask earlier, what sort of lessons does a 4 year old have?”

Andréa shook out her hand. “She’s three and a half and they’re not really lessons. We just call them that. She’s a little ahead for her age group and I try to keep her mind busy so I hired Aimée. She speaks French with her. I speak English and Brigitte speaks in German.  Aimée also teaches her tumbling and they paint together.” Andréa stuffed the thermos and box back into the saddle bag.

Miranda untied her horse and started to follow Andréa out of the woods. “It’s not too much for a three year old?”

“I don’t think so. She has a lot of fun with Aimée and Brigitte. A year ago she would cry whenever I would leave, now it’s only once in a while that she doesn’t want to go.” Andréa wrapped her reins around a branch at the edge of the woods. “Ready to ride? I’ll boost you up.”

“You’ll what?” Miranda’s eyebrows shot up.

“I’ll boost you up. Or you can set your foot in the stirrup and pull yourself up if you want. There’s no box here Miranda.”

She felt a blush paint her cheeks.  The pony, as she had called Dagur, was still fairly high off the ground. She would need to set her foot in the stirrup and then use her arms to pull herself into the saddle. The saddle was English and so had very little to hold on to. Miranda had never been able to mount without a box. She warred with her own embarrassment before admitting to herself she needed help.

“Fine you can boost me up.”

Andréa walked over to Miranda. “Okay, I’ll hold your leg and you just push yourself off me and into the saddle.”

“Can’t we find a rock to stand on?”

“Miranda it’s this or me shoving you into the saddle. Now don’t misunderstand, I’m happy to have my hands on your ass but shoving you into the saddle might be the least dignified way to mount.”

Miranda dipped her head and then did as Andréa asked. Safely mounted, Miranda was handed the reins and then watched as Andréa stretched her leg and then placed her foot in the stirrup. She fisted a handful of the horse’s mane and then with a slight bounce pulled herself up and into the saddle. Miranda was impressed.

“Ready?” At Miranda’s nod the started back towards the stable.

 

 

An hour later they were met by two grooms who took their horses and rubbed them down. Miranda reached out and held Andréa’s hand, earning her a bright smile as they walked back to the castle.

Upon opening the door Brigitte met them. “Ma’am,” she curtseyed before continuing, “Amiée wore out Bea and she fell asleep while coloring. I’ve laid her in bed and she’s been asleep for the last 10 minutes.”

“Thank you Brigitte. Will you be able to stay for a little longer? We need to get cleaned up and I don’t want Bea to wake up alone if possible.”

“Of course ma’am. I’ll be in the library if you need me.”

Andréa nodded once and then pulled Miranda to the stairs, as they climbed the last flight she whispered “We have about an hour and I think you said something about punishment.”

Miranda gripped her hand tighter and pulled her into the room. She would make that hour count.

 

 

When they resurfaced, showered and in fresh clothes, Bea had woken and playing with her dolls.

“Thank you Brigitte. I don’t think I’ll need you tomorrow until 1.”

“Ma’am.” She genuflected and then let herself out of the apartment.

Andréa scooped up her daughter and kissed her. Miranda watched as they chatted about what she had done for the day. She showed them all her new moves. Twirling, jumping, balancing on one leg, no wonder she was tired, Miranda felt exhausted watching her.

Beatrice raced off to her room to get her art work to show them. Andréa pulled Miranda on to the couch and then asked “Would you like to go swimming tomorrow with Bea and I?”

Miranda smiled. She couldn’t think of a single thing Andréa could suggest that she’d say no to. “I assume you mean to go in the morning?”

“Yes, there’s an indoor pool and Jacuzzi on the lower levels of the castle.”

“The lower levels?”

Andréa laughed. “Fine, in the dungeons but we haven’t used them since World War II so they were remodeled into a swimming and spa complex. There’s another pool on the eastside of the Castle. It’s a ‘natural pool’.” She made quotation marks with her fingers.

“What does that mean?”

“It’s a fresh water pool fed by the river. There’s a filtering process and it empties back into the river. It’s too cold to use now but it’s nice in the summer. It’s not really natural but it looks lovely. My Grandmother had it built.”

“Hmm, interesting. Maybe I could see it sometime.  Swimming would be acceptable but I don’t have a swim suit.”

Andréa grinned. “Because Bea will be there I have a tasteful one piece you can have. It hasn’t been worn and it should fit you fine, if you would like to borrow it.”

Miranda smirked and asked “And what will you be wearing?” She leaned in and trailed a finger slowly down her sternum. Andréa’s eyes dilated and she moved closer, their lips brushing. Just as she started to speak, Bea came back. Both women sprang apart, as the little girl hauled in a large bag filled with things.

“What’s this?” Andréa asked her voice a little shaky.  Beatrice started to spread out her ‘art’. There were Popsicle sticks and beads and crayons, a few feathers and reams of colored paper.

“Whoa, stop Bea. This needs to go back into your room. I’ll help you put it away and then we can have dinner and watch a movie okay?” Bea nodded and with a smile, Andréa started to repack the bag. Miranda decided now was a good time to excuse herself.

“I need to work a little this evening.”

“Of course, you’re welcome to use the kitchen, bedroom or my office if you like.”

Miranda walked over and kissed her softly. “I don’t like to work in the bedroom. That room is for other things. I’ll use your office and join you when it’s time for dinner.” Miranda kissed her once more before sauntering away.  She was already looking forward to tonight’s bedroom activities.

 

 

The rest of the weekend passed in a relaxing blur. There was time spent with Beatrice, time working, time exploring the castle and time swapping stories with Andréa. Every conversation brought them closer and when it was time to leave Miranda didn’t want to. Logically she knew they would see each other soon. Andréa was coming to Paris for René’s show on Thursday and would stay until Sunday. She could spend those evenings with her. But this, this unfettered time, was a rarity and Miranda would miss it.

 

They kissed good-bye at the door of the apartment. They kissed good-bye again at the car. As the car pulled away Miranda looked back and watched Andréa disappear into the distance. Thursday she reminded herself, she would see her again on Thursday.

Chapter Text

The flight to Paris was quick, and before 6 Miranda was already entering her hotel. Jolene met her at the door and guided her towards the elevator.  Miranda nodded her head and Jolene dashed into the open carriage with Miranda.
 

Miranda removed her glasses and caught Jolene’s eyes.
 
Jolene began immediately speaking. “Your luggage arrived two hours ago. It’s been unpacked. Nigel is currently in his suite and will met with you in an hour as requested. Most of your staff has arrived. Mark and Jocelyn are still in the air. Dinner will be delivered promptly at 7. I’ve laid out all your papers and magazines.”
 
Miranda suppressed her smirk; Jolene was by far the most capable of all her assistants. It was a shame that her two years were up in June. The elevator dinged as they arrived at her floor, stopping Miranda from responding. Jolene led her to her standard room.
 
She took a deep breath as she entered. The familiar gold and cream brocade chairs helped Miranda find her center. She had spent the last 4 days in awe, something that rarely happened to her. She was happy to step back into her life, a life she had spent 30 years building. Jolene fidgeted behind her, reminding Miranda that she needed to continue into the room. She tossed her coat and bag on to a chair near the front door and continued towards the table that had all of the days papers fanned out, ready for her perusals.
 
“Jolene, why am I looking at a Page Six article?” Miranda looked towards her assistant with distain. Page Six was the last thing she wanted to read and after two years Jolene should not have made this mistake.
 
“Yes, well,” Jolene struggled with finding an answer.
 
Miranda’s expression tightened. “Yes, of course,” she drawled. “That makes it completely clear now. Have you been in an accident recently? Suffered head trauma in the 24 hours? Why is this,” Miranda picked up the papers with her thumb and index finger, holding the pages away from her body as if the ink itself could infect her. “On my desk?” she hissed out.  Miranda watched Jolene take in a deep breath and steady herself.
 
“There has been,” Jolene bit down on her lip as she sought the words that wouldn’t end with her being fired, “a number of articles this weekend, about Milan.” She explained.
 
“I see.” Miranda dropped the paper. She had been expecting a bit of gossip, maybe a mention in a gossip column but not articles or Page Six.
 
Jolene, unaware of Miranda’s thought continued. “I have copies of everything but that,” she pointed at the previously discarded papers, “is the gist of what all the others say.”
 
Miranda felt a headache building. She knew there would be some fall out from leaving. Nigel had been uncharacteristically closed mouth about it all she realized.  Donatella had been quite open about the rumors but she hadn’t mentioned the papers picking it up. Miranda turned away from Jolene. She needed to prepare for tomorrow.
 
“Coffee. That’s all.” She heard Jolene scramble towards the door. Miranda sat down, took a deep breath and picked out the online article Jolene had printed out.
 

Page Six
'It's not professional': Giorgio Armani blasts Anna Wintour for skipping his fashion show.
The U.S. Vogue editor skipped Mr. Armani’s show in favor of Paris Fashion Week, which starts today. On the same note Mr. Armani seems unperturbed by Miranda Priestley’s no show.
 
By Misty White
 

Giorgio Armani has called Anna Wintour 'unprofessional' for skipping his fall 2014 show in favor of flying on to Paris Fashion Week.
Mr. Armani is so furious that he held a press conference to openly denounce the U.S. Vogue editor after his fashion show on Monday - Milan Fashion Week's final day.
‘She took an airplane, dumped [me] and went to Paris…’ said the designer, 79, whose brand…
 
 
Miranda continued to read. It seemed that Anna had also missed Milan this year. No wonder the gossip columns were picking up the story. Miranda was only slightly surprised that Giorgio called a press conference, dismayed but not surprised.  The article continued in the same vein. Miranda was about to cast the paper aside when she skimmed over the last lines.
 

Ms. Priestley’s absence was also noted and although Mr. Armani was shockingly silent on her abandonment, another source disclosed that Miranda had skipped Milan to chase after René Thermopolis. Our readers may remember Mr. Thermopolis’s collection from Paris earlier this year. Our unnamed source alluded that Ms. Priestly has granted Thermopolis a number of pages within Runway this year. His sudden rise to fame was at her behest. “Miranda cancelled everything and dropped an important photo shoot just to run off to Paris.”  While no one has confirmed Ms. Priestley’s presence in the city of lights…
 

Miranda crumpled the pages in her hand and then tossed them on to the table.
 
“So you’ve read them.”  Miranda turned quickly towards the voice.
 
Nigel held out a cup of coffee and a thick folder. “I let myself in after I relieved Jolene of your coffee.”
 
Miranda reached out and took the coffee from Nigel. She wanted to ask why she wasn’t told about this but instead took a sip of the burning liquid, raised her eyebrows and waited.
 
Nigel answered immediately.  “There’s no insider.” He set the folder on the table near Miranda.
 
“Naturally.” Miranda never doubted that. Her staff had ironclad non-disclosure agreements. Breaking that would find them jobless, on a permanent level, very quickly.
 
“Right,” Nigel fidgeted. “Jolene spent the weekend tracing down the source. So far she’s only been able to figure it’s someone in Kanye’s entourage. She suspects that his management team knows that they are out of Runway and barred from ever appearing on its pages in any form.”
 
“Yes, Nigel. A blind man can see where this is coming from.” Miranda paused before continuing. “What I want to know is how René’s name was coupled to mine?”
 
He removed his glasses and began to polish them with a pocket square. “I believe that Emily has been using a number of couriers for René’s collection. One of them may have mentioned Rene’s entire collection being sent over to Runway. Plus he’s been singing your praises all over town for weeks.”
 
“I see.” Miranda put her coffee on the table and crossed over to where her phone was lying.
 
“Miranda,” Nigel hesitantly called out. “He doesn’t know about you and Andy, does he?”
 
“No. I don’t believe he does, otherwise I wouldn’t have to put up with this foolishness.” She snapped her phone open.
 
“Miranda.” Nigel again called out and then paused. He swallowed and then cleaned his glasses again before putting them back on.
 
“Well, spit it out. You know how I love to wait.” Miranda glared at Nigel.
 
“It’s just,” he swallowed nervously. “He’s young and he didn’t…”
 
“For God’s sake,” she cut him off. “I was going to warn him not have him executed at dawn.”
 
She quickly dialed. “I want dinner here at 730 and Nigel’s dinner brought at the same time. Have everyone not still in the air meet me at 8:15.”
 
She turned back towards Nigel. “You have 1 hour to bring me fully up to date. Do not leave anything else out.”
 
He nodded before seating down at the table. “Clothes or gossip first?”
 
Miranda just stared and refused to answer such an asinine question.
 
“Right. Clothes. After you left the Emporio Armani show, we divided up the next 4 shows. You saw those. I also had sent a few stills of Tod’s. I don’t know what he was freebasing but his collection looks like something used…” Nigel continued to talk while opening the folder he had previously been holding. He pulled out a number of stills. Things he hadn’t sent Miranda, things he had. He included all the back stage chatter and finally, after wrapping up everything that had been said, done or written about in the last four days he fell silent.
 
“I see.” She thought about her next move. Denying her involvement with René would just fan the flames.  The press would be stalking her this week so she needed to be careful or her relationship with Andréa was going to be reveled much quicker than she had previously thought. She would need to talk to her about that. She also need for the revel to not happen this week. It was the last week of Fashion Month and she wanted to talk with her daughters before the press storm. All communication with René would continue to be handled by Nigel and Emily.
 
“I have an idea.” Nigel interrupted her thoughts. He hurried on to explain as she waited. “I will deal with René.  After you call him, of course.” Miranda nodded she had had the same idea.
 
“Will Andy be joining you this week?”
 
“On Thursday.”
 
“Is she attending the Dior party with you on Friday?”
 
Miranda internally sighed. She hadn’t asked Andréa to the party. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to have her there. Rather, it was the fact that if she was there Miranda felt she wouldn’t be able to resist spending all her time with her; which was the last thing she needed to do in a room full of gossips and vultures.
 
“No.”
 
“Great.” At Miranda raised eyebrows, he cleared his throat and continued. “Not for you of course, but for me. I’ll ask her to come to the Yamamoto party with me. I’ll be sure to bring René and introduce him to all the young women there.”
 
“How is this a plan?” Miranda disliked the idea but she was unsure if it was because this was a stupid plan or if the idea of wasting one of the few days she had with Andréa was the reason.
 
“Well, I’ll also be letting everyone know he’s a star and that he’s available. Everyone knows that you’d never allow someone to cheat on you.”
 
Miranda considered that. It was true. She divorced her first husband over that and it was a well-known fact that she hates him to this day.
 
“You need to take him around before Thursday. If this is going to work, everyone has to know he was out picking up women before his show on Thursday. I need them to watch me approve his collection after hearing about him going out with other women. There can’t be any question as to whether I know or not. Not just for me. I don’t want René’s work to hang under a cloud of question. He has talent. I don’t want to see it waste away under innuendos.”
 
She watched Nigel consider her point. It was a stupid plan but also one that would work; as long as René went along with it. She would make sure there were a number of photographers to capture René going home with someone else. Then the next day, when they would be expecting her to retaliate she would instead congratulate him on his success and wish him well.
 
On cue, there was a knock on the door and then dinner was brought in.
 
“Tomorrow then?” Nigel asked after the wait staff had left.
 
“No. Wednesday. You don’t want the press to think there was a chance of forgiveness between Tuesday and Thursday.”
 
Nigel nodded once more and then began to eat. Miranda made a mental note to reach René as soon as possible. There wouldn’t be time and Miranda wanted to speak with Andréa first. At the thought of her Miranda’s heart beat faster. They had parted only a few hours earlier but already she missed the easiness of her company.
 
With dinner concluded and a basic plan outlined, Miranda relaxed into the rest of the conversation. Soon her staff would be joining them to update everyone’s schedule. The last week of fashion was about to begin.
 

It was after midnight before she dismissed everyone from her suite. There had been a number of issues to sort out, things that had nothing to do with the week’s schedule. It couldn’t be helped. There was always the next issue to work on. She clicked on her email.

 
 

Andréa,

 
I have arrived in Paris amidst a hot bed of rumors. It has been reported, and I use that word loosely, that I may have embarked on an affair with a younger man. René to be exact. Normally, I would ignore this and in time it would die down but with your arrival, I don’t believe that will be possible.
 
Nigel plans on introducing René to a number of women on Wednesday and on Thursday I will approve his show. I have every confidence that it will be a success. The paparazzi will die down after that. God knows I would never approve a designer that had slighted me, let alone one that cheated while maintaining a relationship.
 
Unfortunately darling, I need us to continue to be discrete, at least until I have a chance to speak with the girls. Do you mind terribly if we do not have dinner out on Saturday?
 
Miranda
 
 

 Not able to stay awake and wait for an answer, Miranda shut down her laptop and went to bed. Tomorrow would be a long day.

 
 Miranda awoke early and headed straight to her pc. She turned it on and waited for a moment before clicking the email from Andréa.
 
 

 

Miranda,

 
Whatever you need to do is fine. René is waiting for your call.
 
I hate to do this but I have a series of issues that have popped up. I am clearing my schedule as quickly as possible but I need to rearrange a few appointments still. 
 
Unfortunately, because of my schedule change, I am going to be in Paris less than I wanted. I will attend Thursday’s show and remain in Paris until Saturday morning. I need to go to England on Saturday and then back home on Sunday. I have a number of unmovable meetings on Monday. Amanda has cleared Tuesday.
 
I am sorry that I had to cut our time together. Nigel has contacted me about attending a party on Friday with him. I assume you already know this. Will I see you Thursday night at least?
 
 
Andréa
 
 

Miranda quickly wrote back.

 
 

Andréa,

 
Yes to Thursday. Emphatically YES to Thursday. I’ll come to you after my last show at 9. I do know about the party invite from Nigel. You should attend. I will see you after the party. 
 
I am sorry to hear about the lost time together but Tuesday is fine. Donatella will be in town for the final day of Paris Fashion Week and has mentioned us having dinner with her. Tuesday at Epicure?
 
 
Miranda
 

 

Satisfied with the email, she clicked send and left the table. It was time to start her day.

 
It wasn’t until 10 that Miranda dragged herself into her room. She had just finished a working dinner with her staff. It wasn’t the most pleasant way to spend her evening but necessary. She needed to get ahead of her schedule so she could spend every possible moment with Andréa. Miranda looked at the mirror in the foyer as she kicked off her heels and hung her coat. She looked tired. Which, she thought, was appropriate, month of traveling and 15 hour days does that to someone, at any age, she reminded herself.
 
She took out her cell and called the girls. She had been missing them more than usual. Spending time with Beatrice and Andréa had increased her longing for her own children. They picked up on the first ring and proceeded to tell Miranda every moment of their day. Miranda listened with a slight smile on her lips as they recounted the trials and tribulations of being teenagers living with an over protective father.  When the phone call ended with declarations of love Miranda smiled and felt renewed. She was looking forward to coming home.
 
Miranda finished her nightly absolutions and donned her robe as she checked her email. The normal amount of email for work sat waiting for her. She would take care of it in the morning. There was only one email worth opening tonight and it sat towards the bottom of the page.
 
 

Miranda,

 
I’ll be waiting for you on Thursday. I have contacted Nigel and will be going around with him and René Friday night. I’d rather be with you but I understand the reasons why I can not.  Tuesday with Donatella is fine as long as I can get you alone on Tuesday night. It will be sometime before I am able to see you again. I want to see you as much as possible before Fashion Week ends.
 
Beatrice drew you a picture. It’s you on a horse with a large dog. She has gone from drawing a dog for herself, to drawing you with a dog. I scanned it and sent it to you. She says hi.
 
I hope your day has gone well and I’ve missed you. I’m looking forward to Thursday. 
 
Andréa
 
 

Miranda smiled as she opened the attachment. She was glad that Andréa explained what she was looking at. She would never have guessed what it was.

 
 

Andréa,

 
The day was acceptable.  Thursday can’t come soon enough. Please tell Beatrice that I loved the drawing.
 
I talked to the girls today. They have had a good weekend and are happy to be back in school. The drama that surrounds them is astounding. I listened to a blow by blow account of the current rumors that are flying around Dalton. Thankfully, none of them seem to be about Caroline or Cassidy, but their groups of friends are apparently quite the hot bed of scandal. 
 
Thank you for speaking with René. It was lovely to talk with someone who understood everything the first time and was agreeable.
 
Good night darling. It’s a busy day tomorrow so I really must go to bed.
 
Miranda
 
 

Wednesday was packed with back to back shows, a luncheon and then a quick staff meeting over dinner before Nigel departed the hotel looking tired but dapper. It took only a single phone call from one of her staff to have a group of reporters lined outside of the party attended by Nigel and René.

 
While Nigel was out on the town Miranda was absconded in her room, pouring over the book. June’s issue was coming along.  She anticipated having it ready to print on time without many problems. July was also mostly blocked and other than a few straggling writers, most of the articles were in the process of being edited.
 
After finishing with her work Miranda emailed Andréa. There wasn’t much to say but she found the act of typing out her day soothing. She was looking forward to seeing her. Even just a few days apart were too long. Miranda wasn’t sure how she was going to deal with months.
 


Thursday dawned and Miranda dragged herself through her morning ritual. She took extra time with her make-up and clothes. The paparazzi would be relentless today. As she stood in front of her closet, she changed her mind about that day’s clothes. She had planned on a modest suit. Something attractive but understated. Instead she reached for the La Petite Robe by Chiara Boni. The top was black and had a low cut neckline. The bottom of the dress was a series of black and white asymmetrical lines that wrapped around and highlighter her slim hips. She stepped into the dress. It was zipper free and form fitting. The ¾ length sleeves were appropriate for today. She picked out the Armani white coat with an exaggerated collar. It would drape beautifully. She then stepped into a pair of black t -strap Louboutin sandals.
 
She took a step back and looked at her self closely in the mirror. The dress accentuated her narrow waist and the neckline drew one’s eyes downwards. The heels were classic. The coat hide the dress from prying eyes but when open and draped across her shoulders highlighted the dress and her cream colored skin. Perfect. She was looking forward to feeling her lover’s eyes at today’s show.
 
She hung her coat back in the closet and then continued her normal morning rituals.
 
 


It was a long day of paparazzi and flash bulbs before 6pm rolled around and Miranda pulled up to the Thermopolis Designs show. After clearing the red carpet, she entered and removed her coat. It took only a moment before Andréa appeared in front of her.
 
“Miranda, it’s so good to see you.” Andréa leaned in to give the standard air kiss but paused a moment to whisper, “I love the dress. I can’t wait to see you tonight.”
 
“Yes.” Miranda swallowed and tried to ignore the blush she felt creeping up her neck. “It’s lovely to see you too.”  Miranda backed away from Andréa, while Andréa nodded once and then went to find her seat on the other side of the runway.
 
Miranda greeted those who wandered into her sphere but her eyes never left Andréa. She watched as her dress flowed around her calves. A dress made for spring. Unfortunately all Miranda could think about as removing it from Andréa’s lovely body.
 
Nigel leaned over and softly whispered, “You need to stop looking at her.”
 
Miranda snapped her head towards Nigel. “Excuse me?” Her voice dropped and her glare sharpened.
 
Nigel swallowed nervously and then continued. “You are staring at Andréa like a lion looks at a zebra.”
 
Miranda huffed and opened her mouth to disagree when she noticed that she was, in fact, still looking at Andréa and she couldn’t deny that she was filled with an intense longing and deep, throbbing hunger. Miranda blinked twice and then shook her head. Thankfully the show began and she found something else to concentrate on.
 
The dresses were just as wonderful as the first time she saw them and when the lights went up she smiled and offered two quick nods to René as he took the stage. She was the first to stand as the lights came on but instead of sweeping out of the tent, which was her custom, she went towards the backstage. She found René right away. She kissed his cheeks twice and again offered her congratulations.  She saw Andréa enter the back stage area and cock her head to the right before disappearing behind a dressing room door. Miranda walked towards the door and then after a quick look around, opened the door and stepped in.
 

 

Miranda felt her back collide against the door as Andréa pressed into her. She feverishly kissed Andréa. Andréa drew her head back to draw a breath and Miranda began kissing down the column of her neck, eliciting a breathy moan.

 “Oh God,” She whispered into Miranda’s ear as Miranda scraped her teeth gently against her delicate skin. “The way you were looking at me. I wanted you the second I saw you shuck your coat.” Miranda smiled smugly against Andréa’s skin.

 
There was a quick rap of knuckles against the door causing them both to freeze.
 
Nigel’s voice floated softly through the door. “Miranda the car’s here.”
 
“I have to go darling.” She kissed Andréa once more. “I’ll see you tonight.”
 
“You better,” Andréa replied with a smile before kissing her deeply once more. “Now go before I drag you to the sofa and have my way with you.”
 
Miranda blinked twice to shake the image from her mind. She hadn’t even realized that there was a sofa in the room and now that she had been made aware, she could see a number of ways to put it to good use.
 
Andréa groaned. “Go. Hurry and go before I do something foolish.”
 
Miranda nodded once and then stood away from the door and straightened her clothes. She yanked the door open and walked out. She did not dare turn around and say good bye. Looking at Andréa flushed, eyes blown wide with desire and lips red from kissing would have been disastrous.
 
She walked to the car with Nigel quick on her heels. When they were seated and pulled away into traffic, he discretely slipped something into her hand. It was a compact and a tube of lipstick. He kept his eyes forward but she could tell he was holding back a smile. “Thank you,” she mumbled before snapping the mirror open and reapplying her lipstick. The next three hours would be excruciatingly long.

Chapter Text

It was hours later when Miranda finally exited the final show. It had taken longer than planned but the day was finally done. She looked down at her watch.  It was late, maybe too late to visit Andréa. The responsible thing to do was to continue on to her hotel and send a quick text saying that tonight was impossible.

Miranda pulled out her phone as she waited for her driver. As she started to type out an apology, a car pulled up.

“Miranda.”

Hearing her name, her head snapped up. There was Lars standing next to the Bentley that Andréa sent the last time.

“I was sent with a message.” He handed her a cream colored envelope and held the door open while she slid into the back seat. Using her finger, she sliced the top open and pulled out a piece of paper.

 

Miranda,

 

It may be late when you finish tonight. Feel free to make use of the car and Lars. He will be on stand by for the rest of the evening. I may be in the middle of a conference call to New York when you arrive. It may be late. I will try to wrap up my meeting as soon as possible. I look forward to seeing you tonight.

Andréa

 

 

Miranda made up her mind. “I’m ready to go,” she called up to Lars. To Andréa, she thought with a smile. It didn’t matter that it was late, that she had been delayed. Miranda had no need to apologize and it was freeing. With that thought, she leaned back into the leather seats and closed her eyes. She would arrive shortly.

And it was shortly, the traffic was nearly nonexistent by Paris standards.  Lars escorted her to the elevator, fiddled with the security fobs and then the doors opened on to the fourth floor, where Andréa was casually leaning against the wall. As Miranda stepped out of the elevator, Andréa shot off the wall and into her arms before the doors closed behind them.

“I thought you had a conference call?” Miranda asked after she pulled her lips away from Andréa’s.

“I finished it when Lars texted and said you were on your way.” She ran her fingers through Miranda’s hair; fluffing it and smoothing it back down. “Would you like a drink or something to eat?”

Miranda shook her head no. She was neither hungry, nor thirst in that moment. She laid her head against Andréa’s shoulder as the younger woman continued to run her fingers through her hair. She had missed her. Maybe more than she had missed anyone. She tried to remember the last time she felt content to just stand in someone else’s presence and couldn’t remember. In such a short time she had become completely besotted by the younger woman.

“Something wrong,” Andréa murmured the question into Miranda’s hair. Miranda smiled before standing up straight and sweetly kissing her again.

“No, just tired.” She pulled back as she answered.

 

“Can you stay long?”

Miranda thought about it. No. No, she couldn’t stay long. She had a staff meeting at 7. The book needed her perusal. She had scads of work to complete, unanswered emails and calls to return.

“Long enough,” she tilted her head up and passionately kissed Andréa who enthusiastically kissed her back.

When they broke apart again, Andréa tugged her into the elevator with a smile.

Sometime later Miranda was curled around Andréa, playing with her hair. Their passions had subsided and left a feeling of calm. Andréa had fallen into a light sleep. Her breath fluttered out and caressed Miranda as she held her. Bliss, she thought, complete bliss. How had she ever lived without this? It was too soon to say of course but the words of love were there. Or, Miranda briefly stopped stroking, maybe it wasn’t too soon. When Andréa moved closer in her sleep, Miranda continued the hair stroking as she thought about the recent events that brought her to this time and place. For 5 years she had been hyper aware of the missing woman. She was often in her thoughts and dreams. Could she have wanted her all this time? No, she reasoned. No, not wanted but something like want. She could admit to a certain attraction to her while they had worked together and the last week of her employment for Runway, Miranda had been aware a growing desire for the attractive woman but that was cut short by a disastrous fashion week. Miranda shook her head clear of the thoughts. It mattered not. They were together now. She glanced at the clock beside the bed. 3 am. She should have left hours ago but she couldn’t force herself to shorten their love making and now the idea of pulling away from her Andréa while she slept was uninviting.  She carefully reached over to the nightstand. Her phone was lying there. She set an alarm for 530. She could be back to the hotel and dress for the day if she left at 530. With a sigh, she wrapped her arms tighter around Andréa and let herself fall asleep. A couple of hours of sleep were better than none.

 

Beep, Beep, Beep. The alarm shattered the peaceful morning and with a groan Miranda reached over and shut the evil device off. 5 more minutes she thought before a startled Andréa shot up in bed, completely dislodging her from her warm cocoon.

“Oh my God, Miranda wake up. You should have left hours ago.” Miranda cracked her left eye open and then the right and watched as Andréa jumped out of bed, sans clothes and called down to her driver.

“Stop,” Miranda croaked out, her voice rusty from sleep. “It’s okay.” She pulled Andréa back into bed and kissed her softly. “I wanted to stay. I’ll go back to the hotel and dress for today and then meet with my staff.”

Andréa settled into Miranda’s arms before asking “what about the book and all of your work?”

Miranda breathed in slowly, drawing in Andréa’s scent. “It can wait. I’m right where I want to be.” With that said she pulled Andréa closer and peppered her face with light kisses before kissing her neck. “But you are right,” Miranda said after a moment. “I do need to go darling.”

Andréa yawned before nodding. “The bathroom is through there and my driver will be arriving in 5 minutes. Would you like some coffee?”

Miranda nodded, kissed Andréa once more and headed to the bathroom. The day would be long but Andréa would be staying with her tonight.

 

Nigel watched as Miranda turned her Starbucks’ cup left and then right. Left and then right. Left and then right. She was fiddling. She never fiddled. Nigel wasn’t sure how to interrupt this. Was she bored? Was fashion week not up to her standards? He hadn’t heard any complaints before now. Well, not any new complaints. She always complained but nothing unusual. She looked tired. Nigel wasn’t sure how long he had been watching Miranda but he knew it had been too long when her laser like focus swung to him and pinned him to his chair. He quickly looked away and tried to focus on what Serena was saying.

Finally the meeting ended and Nigel accompanied Miranda to the first show. It was the only show they both would attend together that day. As he sat back in the car he watched Miranda sink into the seat and close her eyes. “I’ll go over the book today and have the changes taken care of so it’s ready tonight.”

“It’s not done.”

Nigel was sure he misheard until he saw a blush paint Miranda’s neck. “It’s…so I’ll…umm.”

He wasn’t sure what to say. This was the first time the book hadn’t been edited. She had looked over the book on her wedding day, both of them. She perused it when the twins were born. Rain or shine, sick or well, she always looked at the mock up. Except for now. She looked tired and hadn’t looked at the book. He continued to stare. She didn’t look as if she was dying. Just tired and now the blush had spread from her neck to her cheeks.  She left after the last show. She left without Jolene after the last show…and the light bulb flashed above him. Good God, she ignored the book for Six. He smiled and then turned away.

“Stop smirking.” He whipped his eyes back to Miranda who was still leaning back in her seat with her eyes closed. “I can hear you smirking,” she said.

“Yes Miranda,” he tried to keep the humor out of his voice but knew he had failed when the blush brightened. He had so many questions for Six tonight. He couldn’t wait.

 

 

When Nigel finally climbed into the waiting car to escort him to the party he was struck with a case of nerves. It had been 5 years since he had spent any real time with Six. It was different, he thought, when they spent 5 to 8 hours a day with each other. Make over moments aside; she had become a good friend during her short stint at the magazine. But as the cab hurled through the streets of Paris, he started to really think about it. He didn’t know her at all. He thought he knew who she was, a country bumpkin who didn’t know an eyelash curler from a curling iron, but even when he was dressing her in a poncho and cattily offering Crisco as a dressing aid, she had already been crowned Queen of an entire country.

The cab came to a stop and as he exited it, he wondered if anything she ever told him was true. A flash from a camera broke his train of thought as he entered the building. Snagging a champagne flute from a passing waiter, he turned to find Andy in the crowds.  It didn’t take long to see her, although Nigel heard her loud laugh long before he caught a glimpse of her. She was stunningly dressed in one of René’s creations and had her arm tucked into his as the fashion elite swirled around them. She was the center of attention and she seemed quite comfortable there. Nigel again felt doubt begin to swallow him. Where was the blushing Six?

He began to turn away. Not running away, he told himself, just taking a moment to gather himself. He hadn’t taken the time to miss his friend. Honestly he had always hoped she’d pop back up in New York and he hadn’t really entrained the idea that when they met again she’d be someone completely different.

“Hey.”

Nigel spun around.

“Did you just get here?”

He nodded in response. “Yes, just. You look lovely my dear.”

He watched her blush prettily. “Thank you. It’s a bit overwhelming being surrounded by so many people sometimes. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it.”

And with that single sentence Nigel relaxed. Six might not be the exact person he remembered from 5 years ago but she was still Six. “Well, let’s get you a drink and you can tell me all about it.” Nigel grabbed another flute as a server swirled by and steered her away from the crowds.

“So belle of the ball I see.”

She threw her head back and let out a throaty laugh. “God no, that’s René. I’m just his supportive cousin in all the chaos.”

“Just his supportive cousin?  Surely not.” Nigel watched Andy as she turned to watch René across the room.

“No really. I’m just so proud of the man he’s become. He’s worked really hard to make his dream happen.”

Nigel tapped his glass against hers, drawing her attention back to him. “To Rene and his dreams.”

“To René,” she repeated. “Speaking of dreams how’s Runway doing?”

“Oh you know, impossible standards, hysterical crying, the usual.  But what about you my dear? You’re every little girl’s dream come true.”

Andy sighed. “Oh you know how it is, impossible standards, hysterical crying.” She smiled a toothy grin. “The usual.”

“So not what you wanted then?”

“No, it’s...” she paused “it’s good. Really.”

Nigel looked at her skeptically.

“I’m not explaining this well.”

“Okay how about you tell me what you were doing in New York fetching coffee to begin with?”

Andy looked around before snagging another flute of champagne. “I guess you could say that it began when I was 16. My father had died and my grandmother came…”

Nigel listened as Andy briefly explained how she ended up going from San Francisco to Genovia, then Stanford and Northwestern. “…and then I knew I couldn’t stay working with her because what was I going to say? I’ve fallen in love with you and by the way I run a smallish country on the border of the south of France.”

Nigel desperately looked around for another glass of champagne but not seeing a waiter nearby, he gave up. “I could see how that would be difficult. But why a reporter? “

“No comment about falling in love with Mirada?” Andréa arched her eyebrow in mild surprise.

“Pssh, everyone is a little in love with Miranda. What I really want to know is why go into journalism?”

“I thought that if I could get a few by lines under my belt I could make the jump to online journalism and no one would really know. At least for a while. I just wanted something of my own. Something I decided to do, not something I had to do. Does that make sense?”

“Of course. Remember,” he points to himself, “skipping soccer for sewing lessons. I get trying to be different then what life has decreed for you. Following my family’s footprints was not for me. Can you imagine me roofing?”

“Roofing?”

“I kid you not. Kipling and Sons roofing in Rhode Island.”

Andy tilted her head. “I don’t know, you could maybe pull it off. A little beer gut and a pair of saggy jeans.”

“That’s not even a little cute.”

“Oh it’s a little cute.” Andy nudged him and then smiled. “I’m teasing.”

Nigel just smiled as a waiter finally circled by and he was to finally grab another drink. “Yes, well. What about the rest of the fairy tale. Did the Princess live happily ever after?”

“No and yes. Things have recently become much happier.”

“Indeed. But for how long?”

“Hmm?”

“How long will you be doing this long distance thing?”

“I don’t know Nigel. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have all the rules to this game. I’ll just try to be where she wants me, when she wants me to, as often as I can.”

“But is that enough?”

Andy took a deep breath and looked out over the room before turning her attention back to him. “Honestly?”

He nodded.

“I don’t know. I do know that not seeing her these last 5 years were agony. I mean I don’t regret anything because I wouldn’t change my daughter for the world but…” she tapered off.

“I understand.” He laid his hand on her arm. “I hope your dreams come true Six.”

“Me too.” And with soft smiles they both rejoined René and the rest of the party.

It was a few hours later before Andréa was able to extradite herself from the mass of people and head over to the hotel.

 

 

Miranda swung the door open as soon as she heard the light tap against her door. She wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone else, but she had been hovering near the entry way, awaiting the arrival of Andréa, for the last 15 minutes. Ushering her into the room Miranda took a moment to admire the young woman’s outfit. She was stunning in every way and without a word, she gathered Andréa into her arms and placed a gentle kiss upon her waiting lips. She felt more than heard a gentle hum as she wrapped her arms more firmly around her. Andréa let a small puff of air escape, tickling Miranda’s neck.

“How was your party?” she asked, still holding her close. Andréa burrowed further into Miranda.

“Lovely.”

Andréa stepped back and gently tugged Miranda’s hand leading them back towards the sitting room. She stepped out of her short heels and pulled Miranda on to the settee with her. Miranda let her own, much much taller heels, fall to the floor and curled into Andréa’s side.

“Lovely? Nothing more?”

Miranda’s eyes closed and a low moan rumbled in the back of her throat as Andréa combed her fingers through her hair. Her eyes closed as she pressed herself closer.

“Nigel and I drank copious amount of champagne while we gossiped.”

She turned in Andréa’s arms to kiss her lips. “Copious?”

Andréa giggled. “Copious,” she dragged out each symbol.  “I promised to meet up in the future with him, probably when I meet up in New York with Emily.”

Miranda relaxed again. “Do you know when you’re coming to the city?”

“No, soon though. After the ball but before Easter. There is a tentative meeting on the books for the 7th of April.”

“I’d like you to meet the girls while you’re visiting.” Miranda began plotting out her calendar in her head. She’d need to pull some very late nights throughout March to be ahead of schedule while Andréa was in town, not to mention the time she was taking off for Easter break. Maybe Andréa and Beatrice would accompany them on vacation. She’d need to tell the girls by then. She’d wait to extend the invite. Lord knows how her girls were going to react to the news that she was dating, let alone the fact it was a woman.

“Sure,” Andréa answered breaking Miranda from her thoughts. Andréa yawned widely and scrunched her nose, causing Miranda to laugh.

She stood and pulled the woman to her feet before capturing her lips in a short passionate kiss. “Come on. If you’re tired we can just sleep.” She took a step away pulling Andréa towards the open bedroom.

“I’m tired and a little drunk, not dead Miranda,” and with that said pulled Miranda back into her arms a delivered a blistering kiss.

Panting, Miranda pulled away and then flashed a smirk towards Andréa, “well come along then, you know how I love to be kept waiting.”

With a laugh Andréa followed Miranda into the bedroom and shut the door. “Oh I know all about how you love to be kept waiting.”

 

 

 It was early when Miranda woke. The room was dark but her eyes adjusted. She gently stoked her fingers over her lover’s cheekbones, smoothed her thumb over her full lips and watched as her inky eyelashes fluttered as she dreamt. They would part soon and this bliss she had found in Andréa’s arms would be tempered with long distances and absences.  Even now the thought of a lengthy separation cause a little burst of unhappiness in her chest. She had never felt this way before. Was this what love truly felt like? Before Miranda could fall too deep into her thoughts, Andréa’s eyes opened and she smiled.

“Hmmm,” she moaned before arching her back and stretching. Miranda felt a spark of arousal shoot through her as their bodies pressed tightly together. “What time is it?”

“4:30.”

“I have to leave. I’ve got a breakfast meeting in London at 8.” She leaned up and captured Miranda’s lips in a kiss.

“You’re not really convincing me to let you go.” She ran her fingers down Andréa’s pale throat, watching as she swallowed.

“I don’t want you to let me go, but…”

“I know darling.” Miranda pulled off the sheets covering them and reached for the hotel phone. She called down to the front desk and asked them to deliver her standard order before she turned back towards the bed.

“I love,” Miranda’s heart stuttered in her chest as Andréa began to speak, “watching you move. I have half a mind to just ravish you again and just cancel the whole day.”

Miranda smiled “I have half a mind to let you.”

Without warning Andréa grabbed her wrist and pulled her back into bed. She fell tumbling with a shriek and then giggled. She would have been mortified if Andréa hadn’t taken that moment to kiss and then gently bite down on her neck, drawing a sigh instead.  Andréa’s quick fingers slid over her skin, causing her blood to heat and a moan to fall rapidly from her lips. Within minutes she was arching into Andréa trying to increase pressure against her clit. Never had a lover aroused her so quickly. 

Harder, she wanted to beg but her breath was coming too rapidly for words to form. Andréa didn’t need the words though and a moment later she had plunged her fingers into Miranda, twisting them just right and throwing her into orgasmic bliss. Just as her heart settled, there was a knock on the door. Panicked, Miranda looked for her robe before remembering it was hanging in the bathroom. She hurried to grab it before nearly running into the living room to answer the door

When she walked back into the bedroom Andréa dissolved into hysterical laughter. “Oh my God. The look on your face. It was like you were being caught by your mom.”

Miranda was not amused and with a small huff she spun on her heel and headed towards the bathroom. She had nearly made it to the door when she felt the strong arms of her lover wrap around her and she began to gently kiss her neck. “I’m sorry.”

Miranda felt her anger evaporate as Andréa continued to kiss her.

“You’re forgiven. This time,” she added with a little glare. She didn’t want Andréa to know that she found it impossible to be upset with her when she kissed her neck and her lips whispered against her skin. “I’ll be out in a moment. There’s coffee in the living room.” Miranda quickly pecked her lips before entering the bathroom.

Miranda joined Andréa in the living room shortly and they enjoyed a cup of coffee before she need to leave. With another round of heart stopping kiss, they finally parted and Miranda began her day. 3 days apart before they’d be together again. With a sigh, she continued to work on the book. It would do no good to dwell on it; she’d just carry on and work like always. She could do that.

 

 

Miranda’s day was overly packed and allowed very limited time for emails or text message. A moment here and a moment there is all she had to spare and those moments were used for eating and returning a back log of calls. Not only did she have Saturday’s shows, there was also the networking she should have done in Milan that she now needed to take care of. As Nigel passed her his iPad with today’s pictures already cued up, she realized that she’d have to attend two parties this evening just to meet with half the people she needed to. She called Jolene to adjust the schedule.  Miranda turned her mind to the pictures and let the rest of the day float away from her mind. Jolene would keep the schedule, Miranda would kiss the cheeks and stroke the egos, Nigel would organize the daily pictures and the day would end with everything completed, just like clockwork.

And it did pass like clockwork. Saturday, Sunday and Monday flew by and finally on the second to last day of fashion week Miranda got the text message she had been waiting for.

 

I’m back. Dinner at 8 still on?

 

Miranda gripped the device a little tighter as she typed out her response.

 

Yes. I’ll meet you at my room at 7:45.

 

She checked the time on her phone, another 4 hours until she would be back at the hotel. She turned her attention back towards her staff, willing the show to start on time.

At 7:30 Miranda’s heels clicked across the marble entryway. She was 45 minutes later than she had planned. Now she’d have enough time to retouch her make up before Andréa arrived but little else. She blew out a frustrated puff of air while standing in front of the elevator. Everyday seemed longer than the one before. Miranda turned her thoughts inwards as she traveled upwards. The feeling of disappointment again swirled through her. Was the end coming? Was it time for her to step away and hand the reins over to someone younger. No, that was silly. She loved her job. She shook herself from her dark thoughts and stepped out on to her floor. 

She let herself into the room and kicked off her heels. 10 minutes, she glanced at her watch. Just enough time for a touch up and with that final thought she headed to her room to freshen up.

She had just stepped out of the bedroom when there was a sharp rap against the door. A smile came unbidden to her lips as she swung open the door.

Without a word Andréa stepped into Miranda’s space and gathered her into her arms and soundly kissed the reapplied lipstick away.

“Hi.” Andréa blushed as she stepped back.

“Hello”, Miranda smiled and then stepped back into Andrea’s space and pulled her into another deep kiss.

After another minute they both pulled away. Miranda let her fingers trace Andréa’s lips, wiping away her lipstick. They both smiled and Miranda excused herself to reapply a second time.

They both left the room and traveled to the restaurant, trading small stories of their day while their fingers tangled and untangled. Miranda tried to calm her quick beating heart. She felt like a teenager when she was around Andréa.

 

As they entered the restaurant they were flagged down by Donatella. Apparently she couldn’t wait for the maître d to seat them.

“Finally,” Donatella exchanged air kisses with Miranda.

“Donatella this is Andréa. Andréa this is my good friend Donatella.”

 “The pleasure is mine. “ Donatella was quick to pull Andréa close for a light bussing of her cheeks.

“Likewise.” Andréa returned with a smile. “It’s lovely to finally meet you face to face after so many years.”

Miranda turned and stared at her friend with a shocked expression. “You know each other? I was under the impression you had never met.”

“It wasn’t like that. We had never met.”

Donatella interrupted, “Well not face to face but…”

“We have mutual friends.” Andréa finished.

“Will you both cease talking over one another and explain what is going on before I leave this table and no longer speak to you both.”

At her words both Andréa and Donatella stopped smirking and adopted remorseful expressions.

“I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m sorrier my dear friend. I will explain.” Donatella looked over towards Andréa for permission to continue. She leaned back into her chair and fluttered her fingers in the universal sign of “get on with it”.

“I knew your Andréa when she was a teenager. A Princess.” Donatella stressed the word. Andréa just rolled her eyes. “She was terribly dressed. Glasses and headbands…what’s the word?” She paused a moment “ah yes, dork. She was a dork and Paolo contacted me for a fashionable wardrobe. I only picked out the clothing. Everything I knew of her was from my good friend Paolo. But I had not seen her since then and have only spoken to the Dowager Queen when she stole Marissa from me.”

“Marissa?” Miranda turned to ask Andréa.

“Our seamstress. She taught René. And,” Andréa turned her attention towards Donatella, “I wouldn’t brag about being friends with Paolo. He sold me out to the tabloids when I was 16.”

“But you still hired him back for your wedding,” Donatella countered.

“Yes and what a mistake that was.”

Miranda took a deliberately slow sip of her water. “I see.” She watched as her dinning companions continued to squabble about Paolo. When they showed no signs of stopping, she discreetly placed her hand on Andréa’s thigh, stilling the conversation. “I think now would be a good time to order.” She nodded her head once and a waiter appeared as if summoned by magic.

After he left, Andréa turned to Miranda. “I wasn’t hiding anything Miranda. Just, well,” she paused to run her fingers through her hair, “you said Donatella wanted to meet me and I didn’t know if she remembered me from before.”

“And I,” Donatella cut in, “did not realize at first that Andréa and Amelia were the same and then when I realized they were I was unsure if you wanted to know I dressed her as adolescente.”

“You know we did not steal Marissa.”

Donatella waved her hands dismissing Andréa. “You can tell it your way but I know the truth. You seduced her away from me, my most talented seamstress.” She added a dramatic sigh.

Miranda caught the small smile and relaxed as her oldest friend and newest love continued to bicker over their shared history. This was going better than she had hoped.

Two hours later and as many wine bottles, dinner was finally over. It had been an amusing evening but it was after 10 and her time with Andréa was rapidly disappearing. After a brief good bye with a promise of continued contact Miranda was finally free to continue her evening with Andréa.

 

 

The next morning was torturous for both of them. It was the end of Fashion Week Paris and Andréa had to return to Genovia while Miranda needed to return to New York.

“When will you be in New York?” Miranda hadn’t slept instead she had kept them both awake though the night. They talked and kissed, made love and rested but neither was willing to waste the night sleeping. They would be spending a considerable amount of time apart soon enough.

Andréa placed a kiss on Miranda’s neck before answering “I’ll be arriving on the 7th of April. I have a few meetings that week and then I was planning on taking a little time off, a mini vacation around Easter.”

“I’d like you to meet the girls if you’re able.” Miranda watched her lover’s face for any hesitation.

“I’d love to. Bea will be with me.”

Miranda tilted her head and soundly kissed Andréa. “I look forward to seeing her.”

Before either could say anything more, Andréa’s phone started to ring. She reached over Miranda and picked it up. “Yes. Yes. No, that’s fine. Yes. Alright. No. No I’ll meet you out front. Fine.” She tucked her phone under the pillow before kissing Miranda again.

“Problems?” Miranda hiked her eyebrow in question.

“Problems? No. The plane is waiting and Lars will be here in 30 minutes.” Andréa started pulling herself out of Miranda’s arms.

“Here, here or downstairs?”

“Here at the door, here. He doesn’t want me roaming the halls and being attacked by an assassin who has been lying in wait hoping that I might show up unscheduled at this hotel.”

Andréa sat up on the bed and looked over her shoulder at Miranda. “He watches too many movies,” she said before standing up and stretching. “I’m getting older. Staying awake all night used to be easy now I’m just happy I only have one meeting today.”

“I’m sorry to have kept you up.” Miranda replied a little frosty. This was not how she planned to start this day. Already the weeks without Andréa seemed long and the phone call popped their solitude and thrusted them back into the real world; it was unbalancing to say the least.

Andréa spun around and looked over at Miranda sheets pulled up to her neck, hair well and truly untidy, “that’s not what I meant at all. I just…”she censored herself for a moment, “I just didn’t want our morning to start, like this. With Lars and my job intruding. Last night was one of the most intimate nights of my life.”

“One of?” Miranda smirked.

“The most?” Andréa answered back with her own smirk in place.

Miranda nodded. “For me also.”

“I would rather spend the day with you but I have an unmovable appointment. Thank God I don’t have fittings until Friday.”

“The ball?” Miranda dropped the sheet and began dressing. It was early but she also had a plane to catch in a few hours.

“Yes.” Andy pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweater. “I really dislike being forced into celebrating my birthday with 200 people.

“Is that what you’re wearing?

Andy quickly looked down at herself. “Only to the plane. I have my suit waiting there.”

“Why in heavens name didn’t you bring it here?

Andy walked over to a semi dressed Miranda, “I didn’t want to waste my time with you showering and putting on make-up.”

Miranda smiled before rewarding Andréa’s answer with a kiss. A moment later a knock sounded.

“And that would be my ride. I’ve got to go but I’ll talk to you later?”

“I’ll be waiting my dear.” Miranda lightly ran her fingers over Andréa’s face, watching as her eyes fluttered shut and she leaned into Miranda’s finger tips. She would miss Andréa.

Opening her eyes Andy gazed at Miranda, “I’ll miss you.” She then kissed Miranda’s finger tips before leaning down and kissing her once more. It was time to go. She gathered her small bag and walked out.

Miranda stood still until she heard the room door close. Already she missed her but she reminded herself, she was the Ice Queen and she would be fine until the next time they met.

 

An hour later Miranda was off to the airport with Nigel. He looked as tired as she felt. It would be good to get back home. She missed the girls. When the flight finally boarded and left Paris, Miranda had finished going over the book, chosen most of the pictures that would be appearing in the next issues. With a tired sigh, she watched from the window as the land dropped from sight and blue was the only color. At least she had 8 hours to catch up on sleep.

Miranda awoke 40 minutes before the plane began to descend. The flight from Paris had never gone so smoothly, although she had never been so tired before a flight either. Maybe that was the key to great trans-Atlantic flights, a night of great sex and no sleep.  While Miranda gazed out the window Nigel mentally prepared himself for the afternoon. Miranda would go home to the girls and he would head to the office. Normally she would have used the entire flight to deliver a stream of never ending orders but for the first time ever she had slept. Oh, he still had a long list of to-dos but without the side of biting comments and frosty glares. It was a nice change, although he wasn’t stupid enough to think it would last.

As the plane touched down and taxied to the gate he turned on his phone. No, the seat belt light hadn’t gone off but they were on the ground and really at this point what could go wrong. He saw the flight attendant side eying him. He ignored her and typed in his code. 28 messages. He looked at his phone again and then opened his call log. 28. All from Runway. Everyone from Runway was on the plane. 28. He couldn’t comprehend what could have happened that warranted 28 phone calls. With a shaky finger he dialed up his voice mail.

 

"Hi this is Emma. I…Nigel I need you to call me back."

 

He waited for the next message.

 

"Hi this is Emma again. I know you’re in the air but I need to have someone call me as soon as possible."

 

With a growing sense of dread he waited.

 

"I’ve contacted Leslie. That’s who Jolene has on file. No one has their phones on. There was the sound of ringing phones and then the message cut off."

 

He looked around. They were debarking. He grabbed his case and followed after Miranda, phone glued to his ear.

 

"I’m not sure what’s happening but Leslie says be prepared."

 

At this point Nigel disconnected from his voicemail. He needed to know what was going on.

 

“Miranda Priestl…”

“Emma.” Nigel cut her off, “What is going on?”

“Oh thank God,” she began. “They’ve been calling all morning and it’s all the major online sites. I don’t even…”

“Emma, I need you to take a deep breath and explain what you’re talking about. Hold on a moment.” Nigel walked through customs and passed over his passport. He saw Miranda clear customs in the lane to his right, Emily and Serena to his left. “I’m back. Now what is going on?”

As he asked Miranda stepped in front of him, he naturally fell a step behind, Jolene to his right, Mark, Jacob, Alicia, Jocelyn, and Sarah grouped behind him with Serena and Emily trailing behind them.

“They have pictures.”

He turned his attention back to Emma.

“Pictures? Who has picture of what?” He felt a chill.

“Of Miranda. Miranda and a woman. Page Six has 2 pages on the woman. It’s terrible Nigel. The headlines are terrible. And they’re camped out at the townhouse, Runway and the airport.”

Nigel stumbled. “The headlines?” The doors to the pick-up area began to slide open.

“Miranda.” He called out but it was too late. They walked into a wall of sound and flashes.

Chapter Text

“CAROLINE!”

“WHAT?”

“WHERE’S MY CHARGER?”

“WHAT?”

“MY CHARGER, YOU HAD IT YESTERDAY.”

“WHAT?”

“Will you two stop yelling?” Mrs. Hudson walked out from the kitchen and on to the second story landing. She looked down the stairs at Cassidy and then up at Caroline. “It’s far too early for this nonsense. What would your mother say about this behavior?”

“That we are not children,” Caroline answered quickly.

“And that we were brought up to not scream like howler monkeys,” Cassidy finished.

“But,” Caroline continued.

“Mom isn’t here,” Cassidy chimed in.

“And won’t be back,” Caroline smiled as she watched Mrs. Hudson roll her eyes.

“Until this afternoon,” Cassidy finished matching her twin’s smile.

“Cute. Now really, what’s going on? Your breakfast is getting cold.”

“I was looking for my phone charger that Caroline borrowed yesterday. I need it to take to Cynthia’s today. We’re supposed to meet at her house to study in a little while,” Cassidy answered, without yelling.

“Oh, sorry, I forgot. I used it in Mom’s study. I thought we were studying with Lucas?” Caroline questioned.

“We are but Lucas called last night and most of our study group suddenly became “sick” so we’re combining groups.”

“Regardless of who you are studying with on your school free day, both of you need to come eat breakfast before you go.” Mrs. Hudson turned back towards the kitchen. “And no more screaming,” she warned over her shoulder.

Both girls left the stair area and continued their previous tasks. It was Caroline who made it to the kitchen first.

“Geeze,” She snagged a piece of buttered toast from Cassidy’s plate and set it on her own, giving herself two pieces of bread and her twin none. “How long does it take to find a charger?”

Right then Cassidy came waltzing in and grabbed her plate from the counter and headed to the table. “I didn’t find my charger.”

“Oh, maybe it’s in my room. Sorry.” Caroline offered as she bit into her toast.

“That’s…hey why don’t I have toast?”

Mrs. Hudson, who had been listening with only half an ear, turned and looked at the two plates. “Caroline, give your sister her toast.”

“Fine,” she made a movement that looked as if the bread would be passed over but as Mrs. Hudson turned back towards the sink, she snatched it back and licked it. “Here.”

“Gross. You licked it.”

Agnes rolled her eyes. It was hard to remember that they were nearly 18 and not 8 when they behaved like this. She turned around again. “Caroline.” She stared the girl down.

“Sorry.” Caroline mumbled out. Agnes continued to stare. “Fine,” she slid out of her chair, “I’ll make you toast.”

This was not the first time Caroline was forced to make toast for her sister, or pour her milk or make her a new sandwich. Caroline, for some reason relished provoking her sister. The last time landed her with The Nokia, which she just got rid of 2 days ago and now she would have to eat cold eggs because her family couldn’t have a normal toaster; no they had a state of the art, takes twice as long toaster. She sliced the bread and as she pressed the lever down on the toaster she contemplated reheating the eggs. How long before they got cold? Should she eat them at room temperature or reheat them? Caroline was so focused on her eggs that she had missed whatever Cass had started to speak about but as the words filtered in she decided that eggs might be the least of her problems.

“…and I answered it but it was Emily and she was talking really fast. I don’t think she meant to call here or if she did, she thought it would magically get to mom. I don’t know. That woman really is…”

“Emily called here?” Caroline interrupted. “But she’s on the plane.”

“No, she’s at the office.”

“Why would she be in the office? She’s with mom.”

“Not that Emily,” Cassidy rolled her eyes. “Obviously I meant Emily the second assistant.”

“Cass, her name is Emma.” Caroline stared at her twin. She didn’t really think she was called Emily?

“No, mom called her Emily.”

Yes she did apparently. “Hello? Cass, mom calls all of them Emily. There has only been one actually named Emily.”

“There have been two but she was your mother’s first assistant and before you were born. Now stop interrupting your sister and let her finish.” Mrs. Hudson steered the conversation back towards the phone call.

The toast popped up and as Caroline buttered the bread while listening.

“As I was saying,” she pointed a haughty look in her sister’s direction, “Emma called the house phone that mom insists we have in case of emergencies. She was talking really fast and none of it made much sense but the gist of it was that it’s totes hectic at Runway and both Leslie and the press are involved. After like 30 seconds of speed talking she hung up. Oh and Leslie would be calling.”

Caroline had seated herself at the table, ultimately deciding on the cold eggs versus eating reheated rubbery ones. She passed over the toast as Cass finished talking.

“Thanks.”

Caroline shrugged. As she opened her mouth to ask a question Mrs. Hudson’s phone rang.

“You girls finish up your breakfast. I’ll be right back.” She stepped out of the room.

“So,” Cass began, speaking around mouthfuls of toast, “what do you think?”

Caroline finished off her eggs and then took a drink of the juice Mrs. Hudson had poured for them. What did she think? “I think it’s about mom.”

“Well, duh.”

Caroline rolled her eyes. “And” she stressed the word “her dating.”

“We don’t even know if she’s dating someone.”

“Please. That Woody Allen routine before she left,” Caroline hiked her eyebrow up. “That’s proof enough. She’s definitely seeing someone or wanted to. Oh,” Caroline snapped her fingers at Cass, “where’s your phone? It must be online if Emma is calling Leslie.”

“Why do we have to use my phone?” Cass asked while fishing it from her pocket.

“Mine’s upstairs.”

“Fine. What am I looking for?” Cass pulled open a browser.

“I don’t know, search her name and gossip, I guess.”

“Whoa.”

“What?” Caroline moved closer.

Cassidy clicked open the first link.

 

 

7:28 AM EST-TMZ STAFF

Dragon Snaps up Damsel or

Does the Queen Privately Pardon Dragon

 

Pictures are surfacing of Runway’s Miranda Priestly canoodling with Queen of Genovia, Andrea Thermopolis. Miranda had tapped new comer Rene Thermopolis as the one to watch 5 weeks ago but now we have to wonder if there isn’t some family connections happing there. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words and here are two.

Seems a bit intimate for a business meeting at The Ledbury. And again Her Royalness is seen leaving from a hotel that The Queen of Fashion has a room at, at 5 AM. Coincidence? A Royal meeting? We didn’t think so either. Eyewitness claim that Ms. Thermopolis was very into Ms. Priestly during a dinner with designer Donatella Versace. Maybe the Versace Mogul knows more than she’s telling.

 

See also

Miranda skips out of Milan

Armani Blasts Wintour

More than Clothes Being Passed Around In Paris

 

Read more: http://www.tmz.com

 

 

 

They looked at each other before Cass clicked a different gossip site.

 

 

Inside sources are claiming that hot and heavy is the words used to describe the couple. So who is this woman that has melted The Snow Queen? Surprise, surprise she is also Royalty. With a capital R. Owns her own country. We have to wonder if The Fashion Queen is looking for another kingdom to impose her will. Has New York gotten too small? Pictures floating online show more than a thousand words.

 

 

“Well, that one was stupid” Caroline leaned back into her chair.

“Do you think it’s true?”

“Do you?” Caroline asked back.

Cass took a moment, “Yeah. I mean mom was never nervous before and then she didn’t say anything about dinner out. I mean even when we talked with her she didn’t say she was meeting anyone.”

Caroline nodded with each point. “Wait, go back to TMZ.”

“What? Why?” Cassidy asked while already bringing up the article.

“There, click on Miranda skips Milan.” Caroline leaned closer to the screen to read.

After a moment Cass put the phone on the table. “Did you know?”

“About her skipping? No.”

“I can’t believe she lied to us.”

“I don’t think she did. Wait just a second before you jump all over me but what did she say when you talked with her.”

“She said she was having a nice time in Milan.” Cassidy answered quickly.

“No. Think. She called us and what did she say exactly.”

Cassidy huffed out an exasperated breath. “I told her about my day at school and then I asked her how her day was.”

“Right, I did too. What was her answer?”

The lightbulb lit. “Oh she said she was having a lovely time.”

“Right. A lovely time. Nothing about the clothes or the incompetence of Runway. A lovely time. We should have figured it out then.” Cass nodded. “When has mom ever said she was having a lovely time, other than with us?”

“Your right. I even asked about the shows and she said she’d seen a few pictures from Nigel that looked promising. I thought that they just went to different shows but…”

Caroline nodded once, “Yeah she was being very careful with her words but she never lied.”

“So what do we do?” Cassidy asked.

Caroline looked towards the door. Mrs. Hudson was still on the phone. She lowered her voice and leaned in. “What do you mean?”

“Pranks and stuff, how do we make sure she’s not after mom’s money or just with her for fame.”

“Cass, think about it.” Caroline’s lips pulled into a smirk. “The woman is a real Queen, like of a whole country. I doubt she needs mom’s money or fame. Also I think we’ve out grown pranks.”

“Oh, yeah. Shit. I hadn’t really thought about that. Is this the first time mom’s dated someone richer?”

“It is not,” came a voice from the doorway.

Both girls shot up straight, blushes creeping up their necks. They should have known not to talk here. Mrs. Hudson was silent like a ninja.

“Your father was quite a bit wealthier than Miranda when they first met. But that is either here nor there. Your mother would not appreciate you gossiping about her.”

“Do you know this woman, Andrea?” Caroline asked.

“What did I just say? I am not going to stand around gossiping about your mother and neither should you. I’m sure your mother will speak you about Andréa when she arrives.”

“Andréa.” Cassidy drew out the second symbol.

“Not Andrea.” Caroline said.

Cassidy tilted her head, Caroline mimicked her actions. “Andréa” they said in tandem.

Mrs. Hudson rolled her eyes. They were worse than their mother at times.

“Why does that name sound…” Caroline began.

“Familiar?”

“Yeah,” Caroline nodded.

“You both can head upstairs and begin working on your studies.” Mrs. Hudson quickly chimed in, trying to steer them away from their current line of thought. This was something their mother should speak with them about. “The press has begun to camp outside. I am sorry but neither of you can leave the house today.”

“What!” they both exclaimed.

“That’s not fair,” Cassidy continued.

Mrs. Hudson held up her hand to stymie any objection. “I know it’s not fair but it’s only today. Your mother will be home this afternoon and it’s a normal school day tomorrow, until then you both need to stay inside, away from the paparazzi. You can use the skyping to study with Lucas.”

“It’s not the skyping, just skyping Mrs. Hudson” Cassidy corrected.

“Either way.” She waved off the correction; she had heard it many times before. “Today will be difficult for your mother and you will not make it worse.”

“Yeah, we get it,” Caroline chimed, “nothing makes mom lose her cool like us on Page Six.”

 With a long protracted sighs of suffering, both girls slowly left the table to head up to the third floor to begin studying.

 

 

They made use of the library and their individual desks set near the fireplace. Their bedrooms were also on the third floor but further from the stairwell and neither wanted to study alone. Thirty minutes passed before Cass exclaimed, “Harry Potter.”

Caroline looked at Cass. “Cass, it’s Chemistry not Magic.”

Cassidy rolled her eyes. “I know that. I was thinking about the woman mom’s dating.”

“Isn’t it a little weird that mom’s dating a woman?” Caroline asked the question that had been bouncing around in her head.

Cass tilted her head and looked at Caroline. “I don’t know? A little I guess. But she couldn’t be worse than Stephan.”

“Of course but…”

“I don’t think,” Cassidy interrupted, “mom would care. She always said it didn’t matter to her who we fell in love with as long as they treated us well.”

“I know. It’s just…”

“What? Do you think mom should only date certain types of people?”

“No, it’s just…”

“What?” Cassidy asked.

“If you’d let me finish a sentence.”

“Sorry, go on.”

“It’s just mom hasn’t dated for a while and I guess it’s just weird to think that she might start now. “ Caroline finally finished her sentence.

“Oh,” Cass sat back in her chair. “Yeah that’s a little weird but we were worried she’d be all alone after we left for school.”

“Right.”

“And now she won’t.”

“Uh huh.” The girls stared off into the distance, both lost in their own thoughts until Cassidy again broke the silence.

“Harry Potter. I knew I knew that name.”

“It’s a name in Harry Potter? I don’t remember an Andrea.” Caroline looked at her sister quixotically.

“Not Andrea, ANDRÉA.” Cassidy elongated the name. At her sister’s blank look, Cassidy huffed and narrowed her eyes. “Andréa call Patrick, tell him I want those proofs on my desk tonight, not tomorrow, not next week. Tonight. Am I asking for the impossible? No. We have a contract and if he finds himself unable to fulfill it there are a million other photographers who would kill for the chance.”

“It’s scary that you can remember and mimic mom’s conversation.” Caroline stated looking mildly impressed.

“Whatever. So?”

“So what? Cass, I’m not getting what you’re trying to say.”

“Aggh.  Andréa. It’s Andy. One of mom’s assistants.” Cassidy made a vague hand motion, trying to will her sister into connecting the dots.

“I don’t think mom would have hired a Queen to get Starbucks for her. Well,” she amended, “mom would definitely hire a Queen and demand Starbucks, but I doubt a Queen would take a job like that. I’m sure there’s other Andréas.”

“Fine.” Cass flipped open her laptop and started trolling celebrity news. Paris 2009. “There,” she pointed to a picture.

“What? So, that’s mom.”

Cass wanted to strongly roll her eyes. “I know, behind her.”

Caroline leaned closer. “Okay. Andy.”

“Right, the one that got us Harry Potter. And this,” Cass clicked open Page Six, “is Andréa, Queen of Genovia and mom’s not so secret girlfriend.”

“Holy Shit.”

“I know, right?”

“Holy Shit.”

“So what do we think now?” Cassidy waited for Caroline to answer.

Caroline moved back to her desk and threw herself down into her chair. She looked at her Chem book and then at the library ceiling. Cassidy could see her practically planning out every possible outcome. She got that from mom.

After a minute, she sat up in her chair and ran her fingers through her hair. “I think that we should be supportive and ask to meet Andréa. If,” she stressed that word if, “she’s the person we think she is and she really cares for mom then we stand 100% behind their relationship.”

“And if she’s not?”

“If she’s not the person we think she is or if she isn’t really into mom?” Caroline asked for clarification.

“Yes.”

At that both girls chucked and could feel the seriousness seeping out of their conversation. “Then we glue her purse shut, toss her phone into the gutter and lock the front door.”

Cassidy smiled and replied, “I thought we we’re too old for pranks.”

Caroline just shrugged her shoulders and offered her younger sister a smile before turning back to her chemistry book. Mom would be home in a few hours and she really need to get studying out of the way.

 

 

“Excuse me.”

Andrea looked away from the tablet she was currently reading. “Yes?” She focused her attention to the flight attendant standing at her side.

“There is a call for you.” The attendant handed her the plane’s onboard phone before she turned away.

Andrea looked down at the phone. It wasn’t often that she needed to take a call while in flight. “Hello? This is An…”

“Hey!”

“René?”

“Yeah, uh have you seen the gossip blogs?”

“Which blogs? I’ve been in meetings all morning and I just took off.”

“Uh, like any of them.”

“René you know I don’t read gossip. Did you do something?”

“Uh, yeah, no. It isn’t what I did.”

“God, could you be more annoying. René, I really don’t have time for this.” Andrea set the tablet down on the seat next to her and reached over to the table for her cup of coffee.

“You better make time cus because you’re their leading headline.”

“What? Fuck.” Andrea spilt her coffee across the table. The flight attendant quickly appeared with a towel. “Thank you.” Andréa turned her attention back to the phone.

“…but then Grand-mère called and…”

Fabulous, Andrea thought. “Wait. I spilt coffee and haven’t heard anything that you’ve said. Start at the beginning.”

René took a deep breath. “Apparently someone saw you leave the hotel and from the gossip I’ve managed to read and hear about they’ve linked you to Miranda. There are eyewitness accounts surfacing about you having dinner together and having dinner with Donatella.”

“Women eat dinner together all the time.”

“Yeah, but someone got a picture of you entering the elevator with Miranda and you do not look like friends.”

“What?”

“You’re kissing in the elevator.”

Andrea thought back to last night. It had been torturous to sit at the table while Miranda had snuck small, unnoticeable touches throughout the meal. It was all she could do not to turn and grab her at the table. When they had bid their goodbyes and entered the elevator, Andrea hadn’t waited until they reached the safety of Miranda’s room. As the doors closed she pressed Miranda to the wall and kissed her until the elevator dinged at their floor. She hadn’t thought about someone snapping a picture in those few seconds.

“Okay, so it’s just one photo and…”

“Yeah,” René cut her off again, “but then the rumors started.”

“What rumors?” Andrea wanted to lean her head on the table. It wasn’t that she planned on hiding. She just thought they’d have a little more time before the press started hounding them.

“The rumors about Miranda disappearing into a locked room at my show and her taking off in the middle of Milan’s fashion week. People have started connecting the closeness of Genovia to Milan and it’s only a matter of time before someone at the airport confirms that she arrived there.”

Andrea sighed. “What were you saying about grand-mère?”

“She called me to find out where you are? She is not pleased.”

Of course, Andrea thought why not add this on top of everything else. “Tell me you’re going home today?”

“I hadn’t planned on it. I was thinking about driving down this weekend.”

“How about a change of plans? I could pick you up.” Andrea motioned to the flight attendant. As she drew near she covered the mouth piece. “Can you ask the pilot to change course and head to Paris?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“René, get to the airfield. We’ll pick you up.”

“Andréa it’s not that I would mind flying home instead of driving but I have so much to do and fashion week…”

“You can use the plane to fly back. Please” she cut him off in desperation, “I need you to help me with her. She likes you better.”

At that, René snorted. “That is so untrue. But fine. I’ll be there in an hour.”

Andrea gave in and laid her head down on the small table. It had started as such a good day.

Chapter Text

As the car rolled to a stop Andy looked over to René, "You'll be there to run interference?"

"Every step, but I still don't see why you need me."

"She likes you better."

"That is completely untrue. She loves you. You're her granddaughter."

"Yeah but in her eyes I'm The Queen first, granddaughter second. Plus she's not all that pleased with…"

"The gay thing? Yeah, I know. She told me."

"Which just proves my point, she likes you more."

René chuckled, "Whatever. Are we getting out of the car?"

"In a minute. I need a minute more." Andy took a deep breath. "It's going to be alright, right?"

"It's going to be fine." At Andy's raised brow he back tracked a little. "Well it's going to fine eventually. It's worth it right?"

"What?"

"This," he twirled his fingers in the air, "thing between you. It's worth this right?"

A small smile appeared as she thought about Miranda. "Yeah, it's worth it."

"So hold on to that and it will all work out." René offered an encouraging smile, "Come on now. I see Charlotte waiting."

Andy took a deep breath and exited the car with René at her side. "Don't worry," René grabbed her hand and gave a gentle squeeze, "I'll be by your side the entire time."

"Thanks René," Andy flashed a smile in his direction as the mounted the stairs and entered the palace.

"Your Majesty," Charlotte curtsied before continuing, "your grandmother would like to speak with you at your earliest convince."

"My earliest convince?" Andy glanced over at René who just rolled his eyes. She and René began walking further into the palace.

"Yes ma'am."

"And if that was tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow?" Charlotte squeaked, trailing alongside them.

"Uh-huh," Andy continued walking towards her grandmother's study.

"Then I'm sure Her Majesty would be amenable to that."

"Charlotte?"

"Yes ma'am?"

"You're still a terrible liar and I'll see myself into her study."

Charlotte looked around and realized that they were almost to the study. She let out a little sigh of relief and then blushed. She really was a terrible liar. She curtsied again and then hurried off.

Andy looked over at René once more.

"Don't worry; I'll be there the entire time."

A quick nod and she pushed open the study door.

"Amelia. We have things to talk about. René," at his name René bowed slightly, "please leave."

"Sorry," he whispered as he bowed again before stepping into the hallway. He felt a moment of guilty but then pushed it aside. Dismissed by the Queen Dowager was not something to argue with. He yawned and then decided to go make a sandwich and wait for Andy.

"Inviting him here was a cheap trick and I expected more out of you." Clarisse leaned back in her chair and watched her granddaughter cross the room and sit in one of the chairs. She waited for her to settle. "I can't believe you've done this again. Two pictures again. When you said you wanted to pursue this nonsense…"

"It isn't nonsense. I'm in love with her."

"In love, please. I understand that you were hurt by Michael but this…" Clarisse waved her hand.

"It is love. And I don't want to talk about Michael. I never should have married him but the country demanded it and now…"

"And now what Amelia? Did you think being royal changed because you had a break up? In my day we stayed together."

"Yes," Andy rose in anger, "you stayed together but for what? Was I supposed to ignore Michael and my secretary? Or maybe adopt their child? Pretend?" She spit out the last bit of the sentence.

"Of course not. That's not…"

And interrupted, "not what? Not what you meant? I know what you meant. You've said many times what you meant but this is my life."

"Your life?" Clarisse stood, her own temper firing up.

"Yes, my life. It's taken a lot for me to be here and tell you that I love her."

"It's taken you a lot? You? It's taken this family hundreds of years to get here."

"I know that."

"And now this! This is all we'll be known for. "

"I'm sure I'm not the first. My cousin Bartholomew is a Contessa for god's sake."

"Yes but he isn't on the throne."

Andy abruptly sat down. Screaming wasn't going to get her anywhere. "No, he isn't. Grandma, I just want to be happy. Can't I be Queen and be happy?"

"Happy?"

"Yes, happy."

"You're not happy?" Clarisse also sat down.

"No. Haven't you been listening? I wasn't happy when I married. I wasn't happy before, during or after. I was never going to be happy with a man. I knew I didn't have a choice. I had to produce an heir but other than breeding..."

"Amelia!" Clarisse interrupted.

"Fine, "she rolled her eyes, "other than giving birth to an heir I had no interest in settling down with a man."

"What about what's his name? The scruffy one?"

"Nate?"

"No, Lilly's brother? Or the blond boy? Josh something."

"I was trying to, I don't know." Andy broke off her sentence and then stood. She poured herself a glass of water before standing beside the window, gazing out over the grounds. "I knew that I should like them and I did. Sort of. Lilly's brother was great. Funny kind and so nice and Josh was the one boy everyone wanted. And you remember me then? I wanted to fit in so much."

"Yes, I remember."

"It was safer. Then at Stanford there was this girl and I just knew I liked her more than Josh or Michael, Lilly's brother. That was his name."

"Really? Your first boyfriend and husband share a name?"

"You didn't realize that?"

"No, that's remarkable."

"I think you mean disturbing." Andy laughed and Clarisse joined in.

"So this girl…" Clarisse started up the conversation again.

"She wasn't anyone important. I mean she was someone but just a girl and I was…" Andy took a moment to search for the words, "it was like seeing in color. Like everything was grey and washed out and she was just, POW." She mimed an explosion.

"But why didn't I…"

"Meet her?"

Clarisse nodded.

"A lot of reason I guess. The main one being that I wasn't ready for the explosion of color. I knew what was expected of me and where I was going in life. I wasn't ready for it then."

"And now?"

"And now," Andy put the empty glass down on a nearby table, "now I am. I've been in love with Miranda since worked for her." At her grandmother's raised eyebrow, she hurriedly explained. "Not at first, of course. She was horrible but then after time I started to see what she did and how she did it. I could see her and at the end I understood her so well. And when I understood her, well," Andy could feel the blush climb the back of her neck, "I fell in love with her. I've never meet anyone so fascinating and I doubt that I will."

"So this is a real thing. You and her?" Clarisse leaned back in her chair.

"It is for me."

"And if it doesn't work out?"

"Are you asking me how I will deal with a broken heart or something else?"

"Yes." Clarisse answered without clarifying her question.

"I guess I'll be heartbroken. I don't really know but if you're asking if I'll married another man, then no. I'm 100% sure of that."

"Okay."

"Okay?"

I want you to be happy. You're my granddaughter but I feel like I owe our people too."

"I can understand that. Thank you."

"So what I'm going to say next is going to,"

"What?" Andy quickly interrupted.

"I have done something that's well… I had the best intentions."

Andy quickly found a seat. "Just tell me."

"I," Clarisse stalled looking for a better way of saying and not finding one decided to say it as quickly as possible. "I invited every eligible bachelor that might be suited as marriageable material to your party next weekend and…"

"Oh God...there's more?"

She nodded, avoiding eye contact with Amelia. "I made Charlotte invite your ex-boyfriend Nate."

"What?" Andy stood abruptly and glared at her grandmother until Clarisse made eye contact. "He didn't even know who I was."

"Yes that was difficult to explain but he seemed quite keen to journey here for your birthday."

"He seemed…" Andy stood completely silent. "Why?"

"I thought maybe this was just a phase after being hurt by Michael. I just…"

"Thought I hadn't met the right guy?"

"Yes," Clarisse looked away, "and you were so happy in New York I thought maybe he was the reason. I didn't understand or I didn't want to. I'm sorry."

"I was so happy in…" Andy trailed off. "So you…"

"I am truly…"

"Sorry. I know. It's fine. Well, not fine but you know it's…you didn't invite Lilly or anything right?"

"No. No. I…"

"Just," Andy held up her hand. "Let's stop with the apologies. What I am I going to do?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean I have a girlfriend who is going to be hounded by paparazzi, an ex-boyfriend visiting me and a ball to prepare for."

"I will manage the ball."

Andy looked doubtful.

"No more surprises, I promise. I'll take care of the ball. I'll have Lars and Charlotte run interference with any overzealous guests. I'm sure your Miranda can handle the press." Andy blushed at the thoughts of her Miranda, "And René is here to finish your dress."

"Oh René has to go back to Paris today."

"So you just brought him down as a distraction?"

Andy smiled sheepishly. "He'll be back this weekend to finish the dress."

"Fine." Clarisse stood from behind her desk and pulled Andy into her arms. "I love you dear girl. Nothing you could do would change that. It's just, well this is new and happened so quickly. I thought I'd have more time to adjust."

Andy tightened her own embrace. "I'm sorry grandma. It was supposed to be slow."

"Well," she moved out of Andy's arms, "what's done is done. Why don't you go find René? I'm sure he's in the kitchens."

True to form Andy found René eating a sandwich in the kitchen. "So?" Andy leaned against the counter.

"It went…" Andy sighed. "It's okay. I think we're in a good place now but I just found out she's made my birthday into a speed dating night and invited my ex."

"Fuck! What?"

Andy nodded and then headed to the fridge to grab some milk. René pulled to glasses from the cabinets.

While Andy poured the milk René leaned back and thought for a moment. "It was the gay thing right."

"Yeah."

"And now?"

"I think she understands that even without Miranda, I'll still be gay and there will never be another husband in my future."

"Wow, some heavy stuff. Anything I can do to help? Want me to be your date?" He wiggled his eyebrows.

"Ass." She laughed. "No, I can handle a few bachelors. I'm not so thrilled about Nate but too late to do anything about it."

They each grabbed a glass of milk, chinked for luck and then in a single go, drank them. Andy snagged the empty glasses and set them into the dish washer.

"Okay, then. I've got to go back and wrap up my week. See you in two days?"

"Mmm hmm. Plane's on standby. You can use it on the weekend. Just call when you want it and I'll have it fly up to get you."

"Thanks Cos. Kiss Bea for me when she's up from her nap."

"I will. Thanks René."

"No problem." He leaned in and gave Andy a quick squeeze and a peck on the cheek.

Andy headed towards her wing. She wanted to be there when Bea woke up. Plus she needed to check her email. Nothing more about her dating life would be solved today. She'd have to wait for Miranda to contact her.

 

Miranda slid into the car waiting, along with Nigel. Everyone else would find their own way home. Her assistant would retrieve her luggage. She refused to wait in that mad house a moment later. Thankfully she didn't even need to focus her attention on Nigel before he turned towards her and started to explain.

"They're everywhere." At that Miranda did raise an eyebrow but it was mostly in shock. She was popular for sure but not enough to draw hordes of paparazzi.

Nigel continued to speak at a rapid pace but Miranda had already checked out of the conversation. Everywhere he said. That meant the town house and the girls. Miranda felt the blood drain from her face. She had never fainted before but she could feel the space around her waver. She shook herself out of it. She would not faint like some Victorian debutante. Taking a deep breath, Miranda waited for the world to right its self. She lowered the privacy window. "Roy, there is a change of plans. Take me home first. Nigel you'll continue to Runway. Avoid the crowds and remind the staff of the NDA they have all signed." Nigel nodded at the instructions and turned to look out the window. Miranda let her own thoughts wander. The girls knew. How much was unknown but they knew. Her plans of slowly breaking the news of a new relationship had been tossed out the window. With an internal sigh she tried to think of what she'd say to them. They were almost 18. They would be fine. But what if they weren't? Would she lose Andréa? Could she lose her? It had been such a short amount of time but already she could feel her importance. Not love she reminded herself. Love was a foolish emotion. But something else was there. As she wrestled with these thoughts, New York passed by. William drove them into Miranda's aft forgotten garage under the house.

"Ma'am?"

Miranda turned in her seat to look at her driver.

"I have called to both your assistant and the airport. Your luggage has arrived and is being transported here as we speak. There will be a man from the airport accompanying them. He will carry them into the house. I've left a message for them to ring as they get close so you can choose if you would like them delivered here or to the front door."

Miranda regarded the driver. William, she remembered, finally a driver that seemed to think ahead. A month ago she wasn't sure he'd make it. "Thank you William. I'll expect you tomorrow at 6. I have a full day so check with Jolene for my schedule."

"Thank you Ma'am."

"Call me Miranda." Miranda opened her door and walked away. It had only taken 4 years to find a replacement for Roy.

Miranda entered the house and ascended the staircase. The girls, if they were home, would be somewhere above. She heard the sound of voices coming from the third floor. She paused, no closer to knowing what to say than before.

"They're upstairs." Agnes's voice startled Miranda and she jumped, her hand flying to her chest. Miranda took a step forward. Agnes laid a hand upon Miranda's arm, "why don't you come for a cup of coffee before you talk with them."

Miranda turned towards the kitchen instead. Agnes had something to say and Miranda wasn't in a hurry to talk with the girls.

Agnes busied herself at the coffee machine, while Miranda gingerly sat at the kitchen bar. She felt a little like a child as she waited for a stern talking to. She pulled herself up right at that thought. No one was going to treat her as such, let alone someone who works for her. As she opened her mouth to dismiss Agnes, Agnes began to speak.

"The girls know. I'm not sure how much they know but I'd guess almost everything. They are clever. Maybe too clever but either way I'm sure they know by now."

Miranda sat gob smacked as she waited for Agnes to continue. Agnes ignored Miranda's stare and slid the cup of coffee in front of her. Miranda wrapped her hands around the cup. "I would suggest talking to them and answering their questions. Perhaps," she cocked her head, "offering them a chance to meet her. I know they worry about you being alone and this is a good opportunity to show them that you won't be. Of course it's none of my business and you do what you want but if it was me…" She trailed off. "You should drink that before it chills." And without another word Agnes stepped out of the kitchen leaving an open mouthed Miranda staring at her cup.

Miranda pushed the now cold coffee away from her. She should have anticipated Mrs. Hudson. She had ambushed her when she and Stephan had divorced 5 years ago. Miranda stood and looked towards the door Agnes left through. Shaking her head she sent a silent thanks to whoever had guided the woman into her life. No longer able to put it off Miranda headed towards the staircase and climbed the stairs. She still didn't have a plan of what she wanted to share but she'd keep Mrs. Hudson's advice in the forefront of her mind.

"Girls," Miranda stepped into the study quietly, her heels hardly tapping against the floor as she opened her arms. Both of girls rushed towards her and enthusiastically hugged her. Three weeks apart was difficult for them all.

"Mom," Cassidy mumbled into Miranda's shoulder. It still surprised her when she hugged the girls and they were the same height as she was.

"So how was your trip?" Caroline pulled away first and spoke as she settled into the sitting area. Cassidy followed her sister and folded herself into the sofa, leaving the small sofa across from them open.

So it begins, she thought as she sat gingerly. Across from the firing squad, her mind supplied without humor. "It was fine."

"Just fine?" Cassidy pressed.

"Well, some days were better than others." Unbidden, the memory of Andréa panting under her flashed into her mind and she could feel her skin warm and a blush creep up her neck.

"You're blushing." Miranda felt her blush deepen. Caroline wasn't going to give her a break. "Mom," Caroline continued as she reached across the space and placed her hand on Miranda's knee, "just tell us. We already know because of the vermin on the front steps."

"Oh," Miranda's mouth opened and her eyes took slightly shiny look, "I didn't. I mean I wasn't. I hadn't planned…" Miranda wasn't sure where this feeling had sprung forth but it raced through her unexpectedly.

Her daughters looked towards one another with a sense of worry. This hadn't ever happened before. Without speaking they both rose and sat side by side. Cassidy reached out and held her mother's hand while Caroline spoke gently, "It's okay Mom."

"I'm sorry girls." Miranda wiped at her eyes. "I had planned on telling you when I got home. It wasn't supposed to be like this."

"Like what?" Cassidy asked. "You mean the cameras outside?"

Miranda nodded.

"But wouldn't they come regardless of when they found out?" Caroline asked.

"Yes, but I had hoped to be the one to talk to you first."

"So, pretend they're not there and tell us now." Caroline continued.

Uncharacteristically Miranda was at a loss for words. Cassidy and her impatience were a blessing at that moment when she offered a starting point.

"You met her in Paris right?"

"Yes Bobbsey, at The Haute Couture show in January."

"So a month ago?" Caroline asked.

" Around 6 weeks, yes, but I knew her before."

"Right she was your assistant." At Miranda's surprised look, Caroline offered "Cass remembered."

"Yes she was but I hadn't seen her in 5 years"

"So you, what, saw her across the room at a party and you just clicked?" Cassidy asked.

"Well," Miranda tilted her head and thought about it, "it was a runway and if by clicking you mean I threatened her, then yes."

"Wait," Caroline interrupted laughing, "you met over Runway?"

"Haha, and no I saw her over a runway and then met her later at a party."

"Well, obviously it's fate." Cassidy offered in a wistful tone.

"Fate?" Miranda turned to look at her daughter.

"Of course, you met at a party and drifted towards each other. It's like West Side Story."

"Let's hope mom's love life doesn't have groups of gangs and a gun fight."

"Goodness," Miranda's hand flew up. "I should hope not."

"Could you imagine mom snapping her fingers and singing about the Jets?"

At that both girls laughed and starting assigning everyone they knew a part. Nigel would be the shop keeper or Riff. They started arguing over who was Chino when Miranda interrupted. "If you don't have any other question, I have work to do."

"When are we meeting her?" Caroline asked.

"I'm not sure. I believe she'll be in New York the first week of April with her daughter."

"Great. They can come here." Both twins opened their phones and tapped open their calendars. "How about the 7th?

"No, Cass. I can't I have a study group on Mondays."

"Oh yeah. I forgot. Sorry Car."

Miranda watched in amusement as the girls arranged her love life.

"Friday is definitely a no go. I'm hoping to have a date" at Miranda's raised brow, "or something to do" she hastily added.

"The 10th or the 8th?"

"I have a dinner on the 10th," Miranda offered "in case anyone cares."

"So the 8th?" They turned to their mom for confirmation.

"Girls," she held up her hand to stop their questions, "I'll ask her when I speak with her again. It's not just your schedule that has to be accommodated. Now if you'll excuse me."

"We love you mom." Caroline offered as she stood and pulled Miranda up from the couch. She offered a kiss to her cheek before crossing the room to study.

"Are you sure there's nothing else you want to know before I go?" Miranda asked Cassidy.

Cassidy stood, "Eww. No. I mean you're happy right?" Miranda nodded. "Then we'll meet her and all that but as long as you're happy and she's good to you that's all that matters, right?"

Miranda smiled and kissed her daughter's head. "Yes, that's all that matters," and with the conversation done Miranda turned and left the room with a smile still on her face and a lighter step. That's all that mattered.

Chapter Text

Andréa paced; 15 steps, pivot, 15 steps, pivot. Bea was in bed. She looked at the clock. Miranda should be home by now. It was nearly 3 pm in New York. She should email her. She stood next to the chair, her laptop on and her email open. She shook her head and continued pacing. What was she going to say? How much of the story should she tell? If she says something about the eligible men coming but not about Nate it would seem that she’s hiding something. If she tells her about everyone it will poison the already tense situation between her grandmother and Miranda. If she says nothing and Miranda runs across it in the paper, she’d be forced to lie and say she didn’t know he was coming. Andréa thought she’d be past these dramatic moments by now. Weren’t things supposed to be easier when you reached 30? She pulled out her chair and nearly threw herself into it.

 

Chère Miranda,

 

Andréa took a breath and then another and then looked at the clock again before picking up her phone.

 

“Hello?”

“René?”

“Andréa? What’s wrong?”

“I’m unsure how to write to Miranda.”

“How?”

“Or rather what to say.”

“Say?”

“Damn it René, are you just going to repeat everything?”

“No but I don’t know what you are trying to say?”

Andréa rubbed her hand over her brow. “I don’t know either.”

 

“Andréa I think you need to call her. This isn’t an email thing.”

“You’re right. Of course.”

“I’m always right. Do you need anything else?”

“No. I guess not.”

“Just remember you’re The Queen.”

Fat chance she thought as she hung up. I’m adult and I did nothing wrong. She remembered Rene’s earlier question and Andréa smiled and took a breath. It was so worth it.

 

 

Chère Miranda,

 

I already miss you and wish we could have found more time together. I would like to speak with you as soon as possible about what is going on at your earliest convenience.

Yours,
Andréa

 

 

It was short and didn’t really give any information but it was the best she could do for now. She’d just have to wait until Miranda had a spare moment.

 

Miranda continued towards the kitchen for a fresh cup of coffee. Seeing the coffee machine, she could feel her smile getting larger. Andréa was truly thoughtful. She slid a cup under the spigot and pressed a button, within seconds coffee started to flow into her cup. Miranda brought the coffee to her lips and sighed at the fragrance. The only thing better would be if Andréa was here she thought. The stay thought startled Miranda and her hand shook. She set her cup down and then picked it back up. That’s silly. I enjoy spending time with her but nothing. She walked from the kitchen to her study. I’m besotted nothing more.

Miranda flicked on her pc and opened her mail box. Andréa’s name caused a little flutter of excitement. It’s normal, Miranda thought to herself. She decided to open her other emails first. There were at least 10 about the new layout. There were dozens about pictures and storylines. Miranda mentally kicked herself for sleeping on the plane. This would take hours. She looked at Andréa’s name. No. she willed herself to focus. She may be besotted but that wouldn’t slow her down. When she finally cleared her email, Mrs. Hudson had served and cleared dinner, the girls had wished her goodnight and she could feel the muscles around her left eye jumping from strain. At least, she thought as she pushed send on the last bit of instructions to Nigel, she had Andréa’s email to enjoy. Clicking it open, Miranda frowned and then looked at the clock. It was far too late to call now. Damn it, she should have just opened it instead of waiting. She would go to bed and call in the morning. Shaking her head she closed her pc screen and went upstairs. As she slipped into sleep, her last thought was of Andréa.

A few hours the obnoxious sound of her alarm roused Miranda from a deep sleep. She smacked her hand down on the alarm, one eye half open. The red numbers showed 6:00. I hate jet lag, and sleeping on the plane made everything worse. With a sigh, she left the comfort of her bed and headed to the bathroom to start her routine. An hour later and 2 cups of coffee, Miranda called Andréa.

 

“Good Morning” Andréa’s voice chimed as she answered the phone.

Miranda felt her own lips quirk into a smile as she answered, “Good Afternoon.”

“How was your flight?”

“Long as always but is that why you wanted me to call? You wanted to talk about my flight?”

“Well, no, I just…there was a lot of press and…” Andréa stuttered to a stop. She wasn’t sure how to explain everything.

“Darling,” Miranda took control of the conversation, “I’m used to the press and it was rather unfortunate that it was reveled in such a way and at a time not of our choosing but it is okay. I’ve talked with the girls and they’d like to meet you. They’ve figured out that you used to work for me, so I believe the correct thing to say is they’d like to meet you again. You said you had a meeting on the 7th of April? Would you be able to make dinner on the 8th? I’m afraid the girls have already penciled you in for then.” Miranda paused waiting for Andréa’s reply.

“Uh, yeah the 7th I have a meeting and I’m sure I can make the 8th.” Andréa looked at her calendar. “I’m actually in New York on the 5th or 4th. It hasn’t been decided and I can’t tell you for sure because this line isn’t secure, or rather your line isn’t and…”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. Of course this line isn’t secure. But what about our emails? In either case…”

“Miranda,” Andréa felt like she had to interrupt or she was going to get side tracked, “Chère our emails did not contain detailed travel plans nor did they have any secrets. They were fine. As is this conversation. Yes I will be in New York around the dates I’ve said. No I can’t tell you exactly when. Yes I’d love to meet the girls again and everything else but that’s not why I needed to speak with you.”

“Oh, then pray tell what is it you need to speak about,” Miranda answered a little frostily. She was not usually interrupted.

Andréa sighed, this was not how she wanted this to go but then she couldn’t imagine how this could be better either. She’d just have to bite the bullet and explain as quickly and in as few words as possible.

Apparently her sigh was audible and her wool gathering had gone on too long because Miranda spoke again “Andréa, you know how I like waiting.”

“Right, sorry about that. I have a birthday soon. We’ve talked about that right?”

“The ball, yes?” Miranda’s voice tilted up in a question.

“The ball, yes, I…there has been a small issue. Of rather a medium sized one and normally it wouldn’t have even been noticeable but with the press interest and the way things are going here, it might get picked up internationally and I just didn’t want you to see it before I had a chance to explain and maybe..”

“Breath Andréa and start from the beginning.”

“My Grandmother,” Andréa began. Miranda could feel her jaw tighten at the words. “She has invited everyone in the family to the ball and a number of what one might call the social elite.” Miranda didn’t really understand where Andréa was going with this as it was not new or even interesting information. “And not so elite as it turns outs.”

“What does that mean?”

“Well,” Andréa paused; she could feel her neck turn red. How was she supposed to say this? “She invited everyone she thought might be worthy of marriage to a Queen,” apparently quickly and without warning is how her mouth decided to clarify.

“Excuse me?”

“And,” Miranda wasn’t sure she wanted to hear more but Andréa gave her no chance to interrupt. “And my ex-boyfriend from New York, who until last month didn’t even know I was, well, me.”

“Andréa, I believe there is something terribly wrong with this connection because I thought you said that your grandmother just turned your birthday into a live tinder experiment and added people who have seen you naked.”

“Well, if you want to be exact I believe most of my family has seen me naked when I was a baby so there is like 50 or 60 people.”

“I fail to see the amusement.”

“Right, basically she thought I was happy in New York and she though it was him not you that caused that. I can’t stay mad at her. She was just trying…to I don’t know, help I guess.”

“I made you happy in New York?” Miranda repeated in a softer voice.

Andréa could feel the blush engulf her face. “Well, not at first but yeah at the end. It’s, I,” she blew out an exasperated breath before continuing. “I…”

“Don’t, don’t say it on the phone.” Miranda stopped Andréa from continuing. Miranda shook her head to clear it. “So back to the ball, family and friends plus an ex and every eligible bachelor in Europe, correct?”

“That’s the gist of it. Look it’s not ideal but I cannot cancel, nor can I just skip out. It’s nearly 300 people and it’s doubtful I’ll spend more than 5 minutes with anyone. René will be here and my grandmother promises that she’ll stop now.”

“I see.”

“I, uhh, the ambassador from Genovia will be attending.”

“I fail to see the relevance.”

“Hold on, one moment please?” Miranda waited as she heard voices enter the room and then the door shut. “Sorry about that René arrived early and is here to fit me. He says hello.”

“Yes, well, I still haven’t heard why…”

“Of course,” Andréa cut in. “The ambassador is leaving from New York on Friday evening and returning on Sunday. My private plane will be ferrying him back and forth, so it wouldn’t be a problem for you or if you want, you and Nigel to also use the plane.”

“Nigel?”

“As a plus one. Or not. I’m so sorry Miranda but I need to go. I’ve got a million things today.” “Hold on,” Miranda hears from Andréa as she muffles the phone piece. “Chère I have to go. I’ll send the invitation and you can think about it. It’s next Saturday so if you just can’t make it, it’s no problem.”

“Alright,” Miranda answers cautiously. This conversation had spun wildly away from what she thought they’d talk about.

“Goodbye.”

“Good bye darling.” Miranda looked at her cell phone. Well. Without much more thought, she finished getting ready and tried to put the conversation out of her mind. Busy day at Runway and she couldn’t afford to be distracted.

 

 

But she was. The paparazzi outside her home reminded her of the fact they were waiting for the next juicy tidbit. Would the ball be that tidbit? Would Andréa dancing in another’s arms be ignored or gossip fodder? She was not a jealous person but just the thought was causing a burn in her stomach.
Throughout the day a picture would come across her dress and she’d remember the show and how after the show she spent her time devouring Andréa. This had never happened to her before. By 6 pm she was exhausted and no closer to resolving this issue. Leaving for the day was a blessing and on her way to the car, she could see that the paparazzi were already moving on to better stories. She would continue as nothing had changed. Pretend that Andréa hadn’t invited her to the ball and that she burned with jealousy, although she refused to call it that. Pretend that she hadn’t almost said love and that Miranda wanted to say it back. Snorting in disgust, who says I love you after such a short time. Her traitorous mind reminded her that she had been looking for the brunette on and off for years and she had married her first husband after only a few months of dating. Before she could travel further down that train of thought William pulled up to the townhouse.

 

“Good night William.” She dismissed her driver and went inside. The paparazzi had completely abandoned her town house. Good riddance she thought as hung her coat. She found Mrs. Hudson finishing dinner.

“An early evening Miranda?”

“A long day Mrs. Hudson,” Miranda answered before heading towards the coffee machine.

“Hmm, dinner will be served in a moment. Sit down and I’ll get your coffee.”

Miranda changed directions and sat on one of the stools around the island countertop. It took just a moment before Agnes was sliding the coffee in front of Miranda. She turned back towards to stove top, allowing Miranda to gather her thoughts.

“How long before…” Miranda cut herself off.

“What?” Mrs. Hudson turned the stove off and turned towards Miranda.

“Never mind, it’s none of my…”

“Spit out the question. You never shied away before. Don’t be starting now,” Mrs. Hudson interrupted.

Miranda nodded once and sipped her coffee. “I find myself at…no rather I…,” She choked off her sentence. She took another sip. “Andréa. She’s having a birthday and her ex is invited and all available suitors.”

“Her choice?”

Miranda shook her head no.

“She tell you about it?”

Miranda nodded and took another sip.

“So are you going?”

Miranda opened, then closed her mouth before slowly shrugged her shoulders rather inelegantly.

“I see.”

“You see,” Miranda questioned, “because I’m at a loss. I’m not some school girl that would traipse after someone.”

“Is that what she’s asking?”

“Well, no, not now but eventually. They all do.”

“So you want to draw a line in the sand now because…,” Mrs. Hudson stopped and waited.

“I’m being ridiculous.”

“I would never say that.”

Miranda drank her coffee. “I’m besotted.”

“Besotted? I think it might be a bit stronger than that if you’re already having moments of jealousy.”

“I’ve never felt jealous before.”

“No?” Mrs. Hudson took out a loaf of bread from the warmer and began to slice it. “What about Jeremy?”

“The girls’ father was different.”

“Hmm.”

“He was. We were married and he was in fact running around. I just started dating Andréa and she is nothing like my ex-husband.”

“I wasn’t saying she was. I was just pointing out that you seem to have some strong emotions for someone who’s just besotted.” Mrs. Hudson turned and grabbed a bread basket from the counter. “Dinner is ready now. I’ll call the girls in before I leave for the day.”

Miranda nodded distractedly. She decided to put it out of her mind and enjoy the evening with her daughters.

 

 

Chapter Text

“So, you’re sending the plane for Nicholas?” René asked as soon as Andréa disconnected her call.

“Yes.” Andréa turned away from where René had cast himself on to a sofa and picked up a paper on her desk skimming it before setting it back down.

“Since when,” René asked skeptically.

“I was always…” she began before René cut her off.

“Don’t lie. I know you dislike Nicholas.”

“I don’t dislike him.” Andréa looked away again.

“Fine,” sarcasm dripped from his voice. “You don’t dislike him but you don’t like him either.”

“Well how would you feel if your ambassador tried to manipulate you into marrying him?”

“Which is why you don’t like him.” René pointed out with triumphant glee.

“Agh, fine I don’t like him, much, but that was a long time ago.” Andréa rolled her eyes at René’s behavior.

“I wasn’t saying that it wasn’t but you are,” he emphasized and raised his eyebrows, “suggesting that Miranda and Nicholas travel together.”

“I fail to see your point René.”

René rolled his eyes, “My point, dear cousin is that you are mixing your ex and your current partner together.”

“That’s ridiculous.” Andréa huffed out a breath.

“I agree.” René responded causally.

“No, I mean Nicholas was never my ex. The entire thing was a political maneuver. He didn’t even like me.” Andréa walked around her desk and sat across from René as she spoke.

“Are you sure about that?”

“Completely.” Andréa smoothed a crease on her pants.

“I don’t know,” René started to say.

“Besides which, Nicholas would likely find Nigel more to his liking,” Andréa cut off René.

“No,” René whispered in shock. “Who told you this?”

“Came right from the horse’s mouth.”

“No. Do you think Nigel would go for him?” René sat up and leaned forward.

“Maybe but did you come here early just to gossip?”

“Of course not,” René stopped to consider “but it’s a perk.”

Andréa smiled and leaned into the chair. “I thought you wouldn’t be back until Saturday?”

“I returned yesterday and found out one of my employees had ruined an entire bolt of material and it can’t be delivered before Monday.” René answered without much emotion.

“Oh God, René, will you be able to cope with that kind of delay?”

“It will be difficult but, ehh… I’ll manage.” René cracked his neck before abruptly standing. “Come, I need to finish the dress and I have a few alteration I want to do, now that Miranda and Nigel are going to see it.”

“We don’t know that she’s coming,” Andréa cautioned him but already trailing him out of her office.
René waved his hand, dismissing her statement while continuing towards Andréa’s private room where the dress was currently waiting for him.

Andréa rolled her eyes once more. It was going to be a long weekend.

 

In New York, Friday dawned and Miranda was no closer to a decision. Pressing on, she powered through the day. She refused to spend one minute of her day thinking about the ball, so instead she spent hours telling herself not to think about it. The girls were away Saturday night so Miranda went into work to escape Mrs. Hudson’s knowing stare. She stumbled home late in the evening and worked through Sunday. Of course, if Miranda was at the office, then so was half of Runway. By Monday morning everyone was exhausted.

 

“So, are we going to talk about it?” Nigel sauntered into Miranda’s office, interrupting her morning.

Miranda looked up and narrowed her eyes as Nigel lowered himself into the chair across from her. “Talk about what?”

“Whatever is making you…”

“Careful with your next words Nigel,” Miranda interjected with a warning.

“Fine,” he pouted for a moment before choosing a word, “distracted.”

“I’m not distracted.” Miranda turned her eyes back to her paper.

“This is what you look like distracted Miranda.”

“You’re treading into dangerous territory.”

“Miranda, I want…,” Nigel waited until Miranda looked up, “look, we’ve been friends for a long time and you know I’m on your side no matter what but if you are going to be here every weekend…”

“It was one weekend.” Miranda’s voice dropped to a steely tone.

“Yes, one weekend, now. Regardless, if you are going to be here on the weekends, you’re going to burn out the staff.”

“So, what you’re really saying is that you aren’t here to check on why I’m distracted but to offer friendly advice about people who should be able to cope with their jobs?”

Nigel mentally rolled his eyes before dismissing most of what she just said, “So you admit to being distracted.”

“I,” Miranda looked over at Nigel, who seemed to have all the time in the world to pester her, “I am not distracted but there is a decision that I am currently thinking through.”

“Can I help?”

Miranda cocked her head and considered it. “I’ve, actually we’ve, been invited to Andréa’s birthday this Saturday.”

“Fantastic. I have the perfect jacket. What are you wearing? I don’t want to match, but I don’t want to clash. Oh, it’s been a while since I’ve got to break out those diamond studs you gave me for Christmas that one year.”

Miranda held up her hand to stop his taking. “It’s in Genovia. And it’s white tie”

“So no diamond studs; got it. Should I call for plane tickets?” Nigel raised an eyebrow in question.

“She’s sending a plane. Rather, her plane will already be here.”

“This is going to be fabulous.”

Miranda just stared.

“Am I missing something?”

“Well, if you’re done prattling like a school girl…”

“Fine.” Nigel sat back and watched as Miranda struggled for words.

“Her ex is coming.”

“The husband?”

Miranda took off her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose. She had forgotten about him. “No, yes he is coming. I meant her other ex, from when she worked here.”

“The cook?”

“Apparently,” Miranda answered dryly.

“Why?”

“Her grandmother has invited a who’s who of eligible bachelors.”

“Aren’t you...” he trailed off.

“Yes.” Miranda waited.

“Oh, I see. So grandmother is not the supporting type.”

“According to Andréa she is, but the invitations have already been sent and it’s far too late to alter plans so…”

“Hence the invites,” Nigel finished the sentence.

“Precisely.”

“And you don’t want to go,” Nigel asked, his face wrinkling in confusion.

“I,” Miranda stopped. “I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” Nigel could feel both his eyebrows lift in shock.

“If I go, if we go, the press with start up again. They’ve dropped off this week because there aren’t any new pictures of us together but the second the plane touches down, they’ll be all over us.”

“And Andréa doesn’t want that?”

“No, she said it doesn’t affect her. Apparently her job as Queen is well established and unlikely to change in her lifetime.”

“So you’re worried about your job?” Nigel felt very confused.

“Of course not.”

“Then your daughters?” He tried again.

“No they said it was fine as long as I’m happy.”

“Then page six…”

Miranda cut him off, “I don’t care about that drivel.”

“I’m not seeing the problem Miranda.”

Miranda sighed, not believing she was even having this conversation. “I’m not someone who chases after others.”

Nigel leaned back and thought about it for a moment. “Maybe that means something.”

“What are you on…”

This time Nigel interrupted before Miranda could finish her sentence. “In all your relationships you’ve never chased after them. They’ve come to you. Correct?” He took off his glasses while Miranda took her time answering.

Miranda narrowed her eyes before nodding.

“But when it comes to your job you’ve always chased after the next idea, the next turn in fashion. One could say you have savagely hunted down designers.” He smirked. He hurried on before she could react, replacing his glasses and tucking away his handkerchief “maybe it means something that you want to chase her down.”

“I think I prefer Mrs. Hudson’s opinion,” Miranda responded.

“Oh and what was Mrs. Hudson’s opinion?” Nigel’s eyes twinkled in mirth.

“That I was jealous and had strong emotions for such a new relationship.” Miranda sniffed to show her displeasure at such a statement.

“I love that woman. I’m going to marry her one day.”

“What?” Miranda asked in shock.

“She’s the perfect wife.” Nigel continued with a grin.

“Just because she is paid to clean and cook does not make her the perfect wife, in fact I find that highly insulting.”

Nigel, seeing Miranda wound up, decided to pester her a bit more “I never said that’s what made her a good wife. She’s supportive,” he raised his hand and counted off her qualities. “She’s kind. She offers great advice. She doesn’t put up any bull and she would never want to share a bed with me.”

“If you’re quite done now, some of us should be working. Besides she’s too old for you.”

Nigel stood and walked towards the door. “I think you of all people shouldn’t be talking about age gaps.”

Miranda, momentarily stunned, watched as he made it to the door but before he stepped out she spoke again, “Remember Nigel it’s only murder if they find the body, otherwise it’s just a missing person.”

Nigel laughed and called back, “I’ll pack for the weekend. Let me know when we’re going.”

Miranda shook her head. She’d have to tell Andréa that they were coming.

 

 

Dear Andréa,

I apologize for being so busy that I haven’t written since Thursday. Nigel and I will be attending your birthday party. Please forward the flight information to me. I’m looking forward to seeing you soon darling.

Miranda

 

Satisfied Miranda sent the email and then turned her attention back towards work. There would be no chance for the physical book to be completed before she left on Friday and when it did arrive it would be Sunday afternoon before she would be able to review the electronic copy. It was going to be a long week. Thankfully the girls would be with their father this weekend.

 

“Jolene.” Miranda waited until she heard Jolene enter her office before she began speaking. “Cancel any plans I have for this weekend and clear my schedule from 3 on Friday. The book needs to be delivered to my house by Sunday morning but not before. I’ll be out of town so make sure that the book is sent electronically. Nigel will be accompanying me and get me Hedi Slimane.” Without looking up Miranda finished reading the paper on her desk.

“I have Mr. Slimane.” Jolene called out.

Miranda picked up the phone and started planning René’s photoshoot.

 

The week flew by for Miranda, interspersed with quick emails about her day to Andréa. Andréa’s emails were also equally brief. Apparently Clarisse managing the ball now meant that every decision had to be approved by Andréa, filling her days with additional tasks. By Friday they were both exhausted.

 

Chère Miranda,

Mr. Nicholas Devereaux will be meeting you and Nigel at the airfield. I’ve forwarded the information to your assistant as well as Nigel. Mr. Devereaux has been informed that you are my personal guest and that every amenity should be made available to you. Don’t hesitate to put Nicholas in his place. I’ll see you tomorrow chère.
Andréa

 

It was 7 pm when William dropped Miranda and Nigel off at the airfield. They were escorted to the plane and introduced to the crew. As they settled in Mr. Devereaux boarded and the doors closed as he made his quick introductions and apologies for his tardiness. When the seatbelt light finally turned off and the cabin crew had poured drinks, Nicholas joined Miranda and Nigel at the large table.

 

“So Nigel, is it okay if I call you Nigel?” Nicholas waited for a quick nod from Nigel before he continued. “Is this your first trip to Genovia?

“Yes.” Nigel took a sip of his drink. “Do you fly home often?”

“Often,” Nicholas laughed. “No. No this is the first time in 8, no 9 years.”

“That’s a long time between visits. Although New York is the capital of the world, I can understand why it would be difficult to leave.”

“Yes, difficult,” Nicholas shook his head, “it’s not.” He paused and leaned back in his chair. His gaze left Nigel and settled on Miranda. “Are you truly seeing Andréa?”

Miranda’s eye snapped up from the tablet she was reading to focus on Nicholas. “Excuse me?”

Nigel took a gulp of his drink. He hoped there was enough alcohol on the plane to get though the flight.

“Sorry that came out wrong.” Nicholas sipped at his drink. “I only meant to inquire as to how close you were before I spoke about Her Majesty.”

“I don’t see how my personal relationship with Andréa is any of your concern,” Miranda answered, her voice steely.

“Yes, well you’ve answered my question.”

“I have not.” Miranda set her tablet down and turned her attention to Nicholas. What did Andréa say…to put him in his place. She would have no trouble doing that.

“You called her Andréa,” Nicholas continued as if Miranda hadn’t spoken. “Most people call her by her royal title. You didn’t and since you are on her private plane I’ll assume you are really with her and therefor answering questions about why I haven’t been home in years will not be telling tales out of school.” Nicholas turned to Nigel again, “It’s not that I love New York as much as I am not welcome at home.”

“But you were going home for Andréa’s birthday,” Miranda asked.

“No. No I was informed on Monday to pack my bags and travel home. I had not received an invite nor did I expect one. In fact I’ve been trying to think of why I’d be called home and the only reason I can come up with is I’m to be replaced and executed.”

“Executed?” Nigel gasped.

“Well I believe the Dowager Queen told me that if I stepped on Genovian soil again she’d see me thrown into the dungeons and then killed.”

“The dungeons are a pool and spa complex,” Miranda interrupted and then cocked her head to the side. Her fingertip landed on her lip, which she tapped twice and her eyes narrowed. “Nicholas” she dragged out his name. She had heard it before. “Nicholas,” she repeated before touching her lip once more. “Are you the Nicholas that tried to steal the throne from Andréa?”

Nigel gasped again. This was better than reality tv.

He huffed out a sigh, “Yes.”

“And you were invited on Monday?” Miranda again tilted her head. Monday when she wrote Andréa that yes, she would attend.

“Yes.” Nicholas watched wearily as Miranda stared at him.

Miranda didn’t say more. Nigel had a million questions though.

“So how did you steal the throne?” He set his drink down and leaned forward.

“I didn’t steal the throne exactly. I just plotted to. In my defense, I thought I was doing the right thing.”

“The right thing,” Nigel questioned.

“Well she was young and had only been the Princess for a few years. Plus she hadn’t even lived in the country more than a few months. I didn’t think she’d guide our people.”

“And you thought you’d be better?” Miranda asked.

Nicholas swallowed nervously before he downed what was left of his drink and answered, “at the time, yes.”

“I thought that Andy was loved by the people.” Nigel also finished his drink.

“She was loved by the commoners, mainly because she was Queen. She hadn’t done much. I mean she was only 21.” Nicholas caught the eye of one of the attendants. He nodded towards his glass which was promptly filled as was Nigel’s and Miranda’s.

“And you were how old,” Miranda asked pointedly.

Nicholas mumbled his answer. At their pointed stares he repeated “23.”

“So you thought at 23, you had more experience than someone who was rightfully Queen and had been training for the job, so to speak, for the last 7 years.”

“Well I…”

“No,” she interrupted, “that wasn’t a question.”

Nicholas leaned back, a little pale. He took a handkerchief from his pocket. He knotted it in his hand before stuffing it back in his pocket. “I can admit that I was wrong. I was young and misled by my uncle.”

“Your uncle?” Nigel was fascinated and couldn’t help himself from interrupting again.

“Yes. He convinced me that my father wanted me to be King.”

“Your father? What did your father have to do with your uncle?”

Nicholas took a drink. “My father had an accident while I was away at school. I returned immediately, of course, but he had died hours before I arrived. After the funeral my uncle took me aside and told me of our young Queen’s wasteful spending and neglect of our people. He convinced me that my father had decided to challenge her rule and wanted to rule the country justly. The fact he died from a riding accident on the Queen’s property,” Nicholas paused and licked his lips before continuing, “he led me to believe that it may not have been an accident after all. I was an idiot and said I would challenge the Queen in my father’s place.”

“Why didn’t he challenge her?” Nigel saw Miranda gripping her glass tightly in the corner of his eye. This was news to her also it seemed.
Nicholas tilted his head side to side. “He couldn’t. He married into the family. He was in parliament but not in direct line for the throne.”

“And you are?” Miranda had set her glass down and like Nigel had leaned forward.

“I guess I forgot to mention we are distant cousins.”

“You tried to seduce your cousin?” a shocked Nigel gasped.

“Distant cousins,” Nicholas stressed, “and I was only trying to delay her marriage to that pratt.”

“Why would you delay her marriage,” Nigel asked slightly confused.

“Andréa need to marry within 30 days to keep her throne,” Miranda supplied.

“Right,” Nicholas agreed.

“So Andy doesn’t marry and you become King.” Nigel was a little confused by this point.

Nicholas rubbed his neck, “not exactly. There would be a crisis in the line of succession and then my uncle would put me forward as an heir.”

“That would have worked?” Nigel felt the need for another drink.

“He seemed to think so,” Nicholas answered calmly. “But it didn’t matter because after I met and spent time with Amel…sorry Andréa, I realized my uncle was wrong and I told her of his plan.”

“And that’s it? Why the exiling then and not prison,” Nigel asked.

“Well what could she do? I hadn’t broken any laws so they couldn’t send me to prison.” He shrugged. “She promoted me,” he curled his fingers around the words promoted, denoting his real thoughts about it, “to ambassador to the United States, a position which had never been needed before and that was that. I packed my bags within an hour of the Dowager Queen’s word and I’ve never returned.”

“And your Uncle?” Miranda picked her tablet back up and opened it again.

“Alas, he retired from politics and moved to one of his estates.”

“She just let him go?” Nigel asked shocked that Nicholas would be exiled but the uncle just retired.

“Oh, no, I believe you would call him a fugitive. His estate is in Ecuador. I heard that the United States has refused him entry. His Genovian titles and land have been reabsorbed by the crown. Now this may be my last meal, so let’s make it a good one.”
Nicholas waved over the attendants and asked for dinner.

Miranda smiled and tuned out of the conversation. All this at 21, her Andréa was quite clever. She turned her mind towards work as Nigel carried on chatting with Nicholas and explained to the attendant how Miranda would want her sirloin prepared.

Without looking away from her tablet coffee appeared in her line of sight. Perfect.

After a few hours Miranda put away her tablet and leaned back in her chair. Just as she closed her eyes the flight attendant appeared.

 

“If you are ready to retire, I can show you where to stretch out. Gentlemen,” she broke into the conversation between Nicholas and Nigel,
“both these chairs,” she motioned to the chairs they were seated in, “lean back into a nearly 180°. Just push this button and the table with fold in two. The sofa behind you also can be used as a bed or you may pull out the lower section and make it into 2 lounge chairs. The lavatory, as we said earlier, is behind this door.” She touched the panel next to her. “The tv is connected to apple tv and there is a catalog of around 100 movies stored on our in-flight system. I’d be happy to get you anything you need including sleep masks, earplugs, headphones, pillows and blanket. Ma’am,” she turned towards Miranda, “the bedroom in the back is prepared for whenever you are ready.”
Miranda lifted an eyebrow at the attendant before standing. “Good evening Nigel. I’ll see you in 4 hours.” Without saying more, Miranda followed the woman to the door behind them. As she opened the door, she saw a full size bed to her immediate left.

“There is a wet room for showering” she waved her hands towards another door facing a mirror, “and this panel,” she touched the wall and a panel appeared, “is used to activate the intercom system. The tv remote is here,” she pointed out a small controller installed in the wall, much like the panel. “Would you like to me to wake you before we land?”

“No, that won’t be necessary. I would like coffee in,” Miranda glanced at her watch “4 and a half hours and a light breakfast, if that’s possible.”

“That’s fine ma’am.”

“It’s Miranda.”

“My apologizes,” she dipped her head, “Miranda. That would be fine. We will be arriving in 6 hours.”

“And my carry on?”

“Oh, of course, it’s here,” she opened another panel. Her luggage bag stood waiting. The attendant turned and left the room, shutting the door behind her. Miranda took a moment and admired the space. She had been on private jets but this was the most luxuriously appointed one so far. Taking her toiletry bag from her carryon she headed into the bathroom. Glass, chrome and dark, glossy wood greeted her. There was a small window, not that she could see anything while it was dark and the handheld shower was a welcome surprise. It was all very tasteful and like the house in Paris, very expensive. Miranda pushed that out of her mind. She finished her nightly routines, set her alarm and fell asleep.

 

The beeping of her alarm sounded minutes later. She slowly blinked awake and fumbled for her phone. She finally turned it off before she dragged herself into the shower. She never thought she’d shower on a plane. She carefully kept her hair dry. It would take too long to dry and restyle it. She applied her makeup and then dressed. After a double check and a quick nod, she gathered her things and repacked her suitcase before opening the door. Nigel was waking up.

“There’s a shower in the back if you want to hurry.”

Nigel sprinted to the back. Miranda smirked. As she sat, a plate of scrambled eggs, another of cut fruit and a third of pastries were set on the table. Most importantly so was a cup of coffee. Miranda sipped at the coffee before taking some fruit and eggs. As she ate Nicholas wordlessly joined her and they ate in silence. Nigel appeared 20 minutes later looking refreshed. She was slightly appalled as he wolfed down food, but when the flight attendant appeared and apologized because she need to take everything away for landing, Miranda understood.

Miranda finished her coffee and then waited to land.

Chapter Text

Moments after touch down, a town car pulled up. Miranda and Nigel slid into the back while Nicholas nervously climbed into the passenger seat.

 

“I’m sure it will be fine. I mean you’re here and no one has shown up to haul you off to jail.” Nigel tried to reassure Nicholas.

Nicholas swallowed and replied, “We haven’t arrived yet.”

Without anything more to say Nigel leaned back into his seat.

30 minutes later they pulled into a wide drive. Nigel was surprised at the size of the castle. He looked over at Miranda, who looked nonplussed. He schooled his features and waited for the car to come to a complete stop.

 

Andréa was waiting for them. Miranda stepped out of the car with Nigel following, before either could greet her, Nicholas darted forward.

“Your Majesty,” he said as he bowed low.

Andréa stood passive for a moment, and then took a step forward, whatever she said was too low for them to hear but he vigorously shook his head before answering. Andréa turned to look behind her, shook her head and then said something else. Miranda decided she had waited long enough and walked forward, Nigel on her heels.

Andréa dismissed Nicholas as they approached. He stood to one side as she greeted Miranda. “Miranda,” she smiled and then leaned in to kiss her cheek.

Miranda smiled back, “Andréa.”

“Nigel, it’s good to see you. Nicholas here will be your tour guide. I’m sorry that I can’t spend more time with you but we’ll catch up later.”

With a nod Andréa dismissed him and grabbed Miranda’s hand leading her into the palace.

“Nigel,” Nicholas rejoined Nigel, “I’ll show you to your quarters. We’ll both be in the East wing.”

“Wing?” Nigel’s voice trailed off as Nicholas led him away.

 

Andréa pulled Miranda into her private quarters.

“Where is Beatrice?”

“With Brigitte,” Andréa answered before capturing Miranda’s lips in a kiss.

“And the ball? When do you need to get ready?”

Andréa pulled Miranda up the stairs. “The dressers will be here in 5 hours, receiving line at 7, dinner’s at 8.” She pressed Miranda against the bedroom door and kissed her again, her hands slid over Miranda’s spine, and drew her closer. Miranda moaned and Andréa fumbled for the door knob.

They spilled into the room and Andréa guided them to the bed. Miranda felt her shirt being lifted and removed. Her own hands unbuttoned Andréa’s slacks.

Andréa pulled off her shirt and then kissed Miranda, hands busy at Miranda’s buttons. As Andréa kissed Miranda’s neck, Miranda panted,

“What are you doing about Nicholas?”

Andréa pulled back, topless, pants kicked to the side and looked at Miranda, disheveled, bra half off, and pants unbuttoned. “Do you want to talk about this now?”

Miranda pulled Andréa back down. “We don’t have to talk at all.”

 

“So,” Andréa wrapped her fingers in Miranda’s hair, she lightly tugged her into a kiss, “how was your flight?”

Miranda rested, her body languid, against Andréa. “Fine. Thank you for sending the plane to New York for me.”

“Hmm,” she hummed into Miranda’s hair. “It was already going…”

Miranda stopped her, her fingers pressing against her lips. “I know you hadn’t planned on sending it. Nicholas said he wasn’t even invited until Monday.”

“Oh.”

“Yes.”

Miranda lifted her head and leaned on one arm, her body pressed tight against Andréa. She ran her fingers over her beautiful face. Traced her chin, her lips, her nose. She let her fingers dance over cheeks and sweep over her eyelids. They had only been apart for a week and a half, how she had missed her smile. “Don’t lie,” she kissed her full lips, “we can’t work on lies.”

Andréa smiled, “It was a small untruth. I missed you and I wanted you to be here.”

“Well I’m here, so tell me about tonight and Nicholas.”

“Nicholas?” Andréa stretched, her body pressing up into Miranda’s before settling again. She yawned. “What about Nicholas?”

“Does he face execution?”

Andréa smiled. “No. I believe that my grandmother may have gone overboard with the threat. When I learned of it, I felt no need to correct his perception. New York has been good for him and his absence has been good for me.”

“And now that he’s back?” Miranda allowed her hands to stroke over Andréa’s soft skin.

“He’s,” her voice stuttered as Miranda’s fingers brushed over her nipple, “not, uh, he’s not back. But he’s allowed home for visits.” She arched into Miranda again, pressing her body into Miranda’s palm.

Miranda kept her touch light “And your chef? Have you seen him?” She tugged lightly on Andréa’s nipple, pulling a moan from her lips. She dipped her head down and let her teeth tug on Andréa’s ear.

“I, ah, I,” Andréa lost her train of thought. When Miranda let her earlobe go, she turned her head and captured her lips in a passionate kiss.

“Andréa,” Miranda pulled back, “what about your chef?”

Andréa’s grip tightened and pulled Miranda close and trapped her hands between them.

“He’s not mine, but if you mean Nate. I’ve been told that he’s arrived.” She pecked Miranda’s lips. “I’ll find so time to speak to him during the ball.”

“I don’t see why that’s necessary.”

“It’s not but at one time I meant something to him and he meant something to me, so I’ll give him 15 minutes of my time, but Miranda you get me after the ball?”

“I believe I get you now also,” and Miranda decided that nothing more needed to be said before she slid her body fully over Andréa’s and freed her hands.

“Yay.” Andréa laughed into the kiss.

 

A few hours later they joined Beatrice for lunch and enjoyed a few hours walking the grounds before they separated to get dressed.
At 6:45 they met again but only had time to share a quick peck to the lips before Andréa was swept away and Miranda waited for Nigel to arrive.

 

“Wow, these are some handsome digs,” Nigel announced as he strolled into Andréa’s apartments.

“Nigel,” Miranda nodded.

“You look beautiful.”

Before Miranda could reply, Nicholas swept into the room. “You both are beautiful and I am handsome and this is so much better than I imagined,” he said, spinning around the room. “When I heard Amelia, I mean Andréa had taken over the turret I didn’t think it would look this good.”

“Ahem,” Miranda cleared her throat, “Nicholas. I see you still live. If you’d like to remain living you’ll explain why you are here.”

“Sorry. Yes, of course René sent me to escort you both to the receiving line. After which I am to remain by your side throughout the night.”

“Did René say why you are babysitting us this evening?” Miranda‘s voice dropped to icy levels.

“Don’t think of it as babysitting. I’ve been promoted to royal advice giver. I’m to lead you both through the Royal Protocol.” Nicholas slid his suddenly sweaty hands on his pants.

“I see.” Miranda drew herself into an imposing stance.

“While I believe that neither of you would be harshly criticized for committing a gaff, the same would not be said about the Queen.” Nicholas was quick to explain.

“Why would they criticize Andy?” Nigel adjusted his boutonniere. He had gone with a small gardenia and it just didn’t sit right.

Nicholas walked over to Nigel and knocked his hands out of the way. “You’re going to ruin it, here.” He tucked it into place and secured it. “And to answer your question, everyone here knows about Miranda,” he cocked his head towards Miranda, who watched as Nicholas helped Nigel, “so anything she does is seen as a reflection of Her Majesty. You’re here with Miranda so your behavior also reflects on Andréa.” He brushed the lapels of Nigel’s jacket. “Well, now that that’s sorted,” Nicholas straightened his own jacket, “I believe we are ready to join the other to be announced. I’m to take you through the castle to the receiving line so you can skip the red carpet. Although,” he paused in the doorway, “I was instructed to tell you if you wanted to walk the red carpet, where all the photographers are, I can take you that way also.”

Miranda had no need to walk the red carpet. “Though the castle is fine Nicholas,” Miranda nodded at the door.

“Right, so a quick run down,” Nicholas began as he led them though the castle. “We’ll arrive in the antechamber and wait until we are announced. Thankfully the receiving line is short so it will be Charlotte and then René. Have you met Charlotte?” Nigel shook his head while Miranda nodded yes. “Right so,” he turned to Nigel, “she’ll be the first one in the line. You don’t shake her hand. René will greet you next. Then it’s Andréa. Make sure you back away from her. Don’t turn.”

“Why not,” Nigel asked as they moved through the seemingly never ending hallways.

“It’s just rude. Okay, we’re here.” Nicholas adjusted his jacket once more and the stepped through the open door.

 

“You’re kidding,” Nigel whispered to Nicholas as he followed him in.

“About what,” Nicholas scrunched his eyebrows in question.

“This is for real? I mean I know we’re in a castle but,” Nigel discreetly gestured to the enormity of the room.

The room was filled with people milling around. The women were dressed in full length gowns and draped in jewels; most had small tiaras and sashes. The men, Nigel and Nicholas included, were dressed nearly identically, in white tie regalia. The floors were polished marble and crystal chandeliers hung overhead. Liveried waiters glided between guests, offering champagne flutes that were tipped in gold. The guards stood at attention. Their uniforms consisted of a purple coat of velvet, cut-back frock style and single-breasted with seven buttons of gold running along the edges and embroidered with gold; the cuffs were wine colored with matching gold embroidery. A wine and gold silk waistcoat was worn under the coat. The breeches were cream colored velvet, with three gold buttons and gold buckles at the knee. Cream silk stockings, black patent leather shoes with gold buckles, gold hilt swords with cream colored scabbards and white gloves completed the uniform. Nigel stepped forward to really inspect the stitching; maybe, he thought, we could use this. He thought of the gowns that would be displayed in July. Yes, a formal ball as the theme, right before New Year’s. He turned to say something to Miranda when Nicholas guided them to two more guards at the doors. He whispered their names and waited. A moment later the doors opened and a receiving line began.

“I assure you Nigel, it’s completely real.” She remembered her own sense of awe when Andréa had led her through these same rooms.

“Remember, just follow my example,” Nicholas whispered as they walked in.

 

“Lord Nicholas Devereaux” Nicholas introduced himself to Charlotte, the first in the receiving line.

Charlotte smiled before turning to her right and introducing him to René.

René stuck out his hand to shake that of Nicholas. “Nicholas. A long time.”

“Duke Thermopolis,” Nicholas returned and felt as René squeezed his hand extra hard before turning to his cousin.

“I trust things are going well Lord Devereaux,” Andréa greeted him with a tight smile.

“As well as can be expect Your Majesty,” he bowed low at the waist and hovered a moment, careful not to touch her before standing to meet her eyes. She nodded once and he backed away, 5 steps and waited for the others.

Nigel felt a little overwhelmed. He followed Nicholas’ example and bowed low over Andy’s hand.

“Nigel, you don’t need to bow. Nicholas is not in favor with the court and is trying to prove he respect The Crown,” he felt her whisper.

“It’s good to see you. You look very handsome,” Andréa continued in her normal speaking voice.

“And you, Your Majesty are stunning.”

He watched as she blushed prettily before turning to walk away. Nicholas grabbed him and stopped him in mid turn. “Remember you can’t turn your back to the queen,” he whispered, “Just take 5 steps back and turn to your left.” Nigel felt Nicholas back away and now his own face blushed. He hoped it was half as pretty as Andy’s.

“Miranda,” Andréa breathed out before leaning in and bussing her cheeks. “You look delicious in that gown and I can’t wait to remove it later,” she whispered and then stood back. Miranda felt over heated as she nodded and then also stepped away. She had been told before about not turning her back to the queen besides she was having trouble tearing her eyes away from Andréa’s delicious figure.

With a backwards glance, in which she caught the wink the Queen gave her, she headed to the bar. Nigel looked like he needed a drink.

 

As the receiving line looked to be ending, Miranda, who was not eavesdropping, heard “Nate, uh Nate Grenier.” Miranda turned and watched as he stuck out his hand. Charlotte smiled and introduced him to René. René grabbed his hand and shook it, before he turn to Andréa. “Nate Grenier.”

Andréa didn’t reach out to touch him as she had Miranda but she did lean forward slightly. “I’ll find you during the ball. In the meantime enjoy the food.”

Nicholas rejoined Miranda. “Ah the least famous ex-boyfriend; I’m not sure I would have shown up.”

Miranda turned to look at Nicholas. “For a man stuck in New York you seem to know a lot about the comings and goings of Andréa’s personal life.”

“Oh, well I used to date someone on the staff, so I spent the afternoon catching up.” Nicholas looked around, the receiving line had finished.

“I see,” Miranda sipped at her drink. “It wasn’t the nanny was it?”

“Brigitte? Ha, not in a million years. He’s a footman. We’ll be going into the dining hall in a moment. I’ll grab Nigel.”

 

Nicholas and Nigel rejoined Miranda as dinner was called and the wait staff started herding them towards the tables. Even Miranda took a deep breath as they entered the room. The room had 30 foot high ceilings with sparkling chandeliers hanging every 15 feet. Large canvases covered the walls along with the decorative gold plates and gold trim ran the length of the glass double doors on each side of the dining room. Behind the head table hung a massive Genovian flag with the royal family’s personal coat of arms. The flag was supported between two enormous columns that were decorated and topped with marble statues. The tables were covered in fine cream linen, flowers and golden candelabras. The chairs were gold backed and a gorgeous red patterned carpet ran from wall to wall.
They were guided to the table on the left, near the middle.

“Not too bad,” Nicholas whispered.

Miranda turned to look at him.

“This is prime real estate. We are in the eye sight of the Queen. We’re guaranteed food.”

“Was that ever in question?” Nigel chimed in.

“Well the Queen is served first and when she’s done we’re all done. Plates are removed. It’s widely known that her great great grandfather hated banquets so he would eat really fast, so fast that often half of the guests never received food before the course was removed.”

“You’re joking.”

Nicholas raised his hand, and smiled as he said, “swear to God.”

“See the massive flag behind the throne?”
Nigel nodded.

“That’s an escape route. Rumor has it that it splits into a warren of tunnels. Only the Head of Security and the royal family know which tunnels led out and where they led to.”

“When do we sit?” Nigel toyed with the back of his chair.

“When she does,” Nicholas nodded as the Queen, Dowager Queen and René entered the room. Waiters sprang into action and new champagne flutes were given to each guest.

Andréa took a moment to straighten her train before she nodded towards René. He stepped forward and bowed to his cousin, as he straightened the room fell into complete silence. “Thank you friends for gathering here today to celebrate the birthday of Queen Amelia Andréa Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi. I ask that you all raise a glass in celebration. To Her Majesty the Queen.” René lifted his glass.

“Long live the Queen.” Echoed across the room.

Andréa stepped forward. “Thank you.” She sipped her own glass before she sat. At that signal everyone sat and waiters swarmed the royal family and then the tables of guests.

 

Dinner passed with pleasant conversation and good food. When all the courses were cleared, René stood again and invited the guests into the connecting ballroom. Miranda looked for Andréa but she had disappeared.

Nicholas offered his arm as he stood from his chair. “Her Majesty will join us after everyone has assembled in the ballroom. She will open the ball with the first dance. René is her escort so they will dance together first and after she will be required to dance with the Prime Minister. After that maybe a few dances with leaders and anyone else who catches her eye.”

 

Miranda allowed Nicholas to lead her into an equally beautiful room.

Nicholas craned his head and looked around. “It’s around 10:00 now. I don’t believe she’s ever kept a ball going past midnight so she should be joining us shortly.”

Miranda didn’t say anything but she noticed right away that the cook was missing.

 

“Nate, hi, we met earlier.” René stopped Nate from entering the ballroom.

“Yeah,” he ran his hands through his hair. “I remember.”

“Right. If you come with me I’ll take you to the Queen.”

Nate straightened out his jacket. “Sure, uh lead the way.”

René took Nate into an antechamber.

“Uh,”

“Just wait,” René relaxed and waited for Andréa.

At her entrance, he bowed. “You can wait outside René.”

Dismissed René backed away before shutting the doors behind him.

Nate just stood and looked at Andy.

“It’s good to see you.” Andréa wasn’t quite sure what to say. She resisted the urge to wipe her hands on her gown.

“Uh, yeah, you too.” Nate, while handsome, looked uncomfortable in his fitted jacket. There were no pockets to shove his hands into and he too seemed to have no idea about what to say.

“Would you like to sit?” Andréa offered and pointed to the two chairs near the wall.

“Sure.” Nate looked around as he sat before making eye contact with Andréa again.

“So…” She wasn’t sure how to start. This wasn’t a situation she had to face before.

“Yeah…” Nate swallowed twice; he looked like he wanted to be anywhere else. “Andy what am I even doing here?”

“Why did you come?”

“I was invited…”

“I know that, but still.”

“Well some snooty woman called me and said you missed me and would love to see me. So I rented this monkey suit and flew here.” He pulled at his jacket.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know beforehand. But that still doesn’t answer why you came? Even if it was true and I did miss you, we’ve been done for years. We haven’t spoken since I left New York. What did you think would happen?”

“No, you’ve been done. I didn’t know you left the city. I’ve just been waiting to run into you at some farmers market or that coffee shop we used to get those croissants from. I tried to ask Lily but she moved to San Francisco. I even…” he cut himself off. “I don’t know what I thought. Maybe there’d be dancing and I’d sweep you off your feet and back to New York.”

“Nate.” Andréa spoke his name softly. “There was never, I mean I can’t ever…”

“I mean how was I supposed to know that you…this. I,” he rubbed at his face. “What was I? A joke?

“No. Never. I…” Andréa sighed… “you were so sweet, when we met and earnest and passionate and I loved that about you.”

“Did you love me?” His voice broke.

Andy smiled, eyes watery, “I tried. I wanted too. It was easy being with you. There weren’t any expectations. I wanted to be content.”

“So what, you liked me because I was easy. That’s bullshit.” Nate’s own eyes began to water but he shook his head and tried not to cry.

“I didn’t say you were easy, I said being with you was easy, in the beginning. But you were right when you said at the end that the person who calls I took was the relationship I was in.”

“Well, yeah. I mean I’ve seen the papers, so I get it. Were you with her back then?”

“How can you ask that?”

“I don’t know. Maybe because I don’t even know you.” Nate’s tone hardened.

“I…you knew me. You knew the real me. This,” she waved hand around, “is just a job with a specific set of perks. But you knew me then. The clothes and money were… it never was important to me, but…”

“Really,” he cut her off. “So you would have given it all up, to what? Live in an efficiency flat while we struggled to make rent. God, what a joke. All those months, worrying about rent when you could have just…”

“It wasn’t like that. I wanted a chance at a real life before I had to come back to this. This, it’s hard. I know it doesn’t seem that way.” Andréa defended herself.

“Yeah, real hard,” Nate snorted in disbelief, “people falling all over themselves to bring you whatever you want, whenever. Must be terrible.”

“See, that’s one of the reasons we couldn’t work,” Andréa replied, anger evident in her voice.

“Yeah because you’re too spoiled,” Nate said haughtily.

“No because you look down on money and people who have it.”

“That’s shit Andy. I know lots of people with money.”

“Yes, but you work for them. And don’t try to tell me you don’t think that all rich people are spoiled. I know you. I remember you coming home and bitching about how some princess wanted you to change the menu or how…”

“That’s different,” he cut her off again.

“Of course it is. My point is that you resented people who have money, especially if you feel that they haven’t earned it.”

“Well you used to be the same. You mocked those, what did you call them? Clackers.”

“I mocked fashion then because I didn’t understand it. Not because I thought people with money were stuck up. You mocked them for spending money on things you deemed useless.”

“Well,” Nate started.

“And you resented it when I worked for Runway and started to appreciate the work that goes into fashion,” Andréa cut him off this time.

“Because you were never home,” Nate raised his voice.

“No, you were never home, “Andréa countered.

“I was home,” Nate leaned back into the chair sulkily.

“Yeah, after 2. I had to get up every morning for work.”

“Well that’s not true, you obviously didn’t have to work.”

Andréa breathed out, her fingers rubbed briefly against her temples. “That’s what I’m talking about. This is a lot of work. You said something at the end, right before I left for Paris.”

“I know what I said and I was right,” Nate interjected, “you were in a relationship with her.”

“No, you weren’t right. Miranda and I weren’t in a relationship at least not in the way you meant. We didn’t…you know that’s not what I was referring to. It was right before that. You told me to stop pretending we had anything in common. I realized that you were right. We no longer had anything in common.”

“So then why the invite? Why all this? Just to rub it in,” Nate’s voiced had taken a petulant tone.

“Nate, was I ever one to gloat?” Andréa tilted her head annoyed.

“Only over monopoly,” Nate flashed a boyish grin.

Andréa felt the bands around her heart loosen and chuckled, “yeah, okay, maybe but you’re worse.”

“Yeah,” Nate shrugged, also seeming to relax.

“It wasn’t you. It was me. Back then it was me. I should have told you. I just wanted, you know.” Andréa allowed herself to inelegantly shrug her shoulders.

“I guess.”

“Your Majesty,” René opened the door and interrupted.

Andréa waved him away.

“I’m sorry Nate. I have to go and open the ball.”

He snorted, “yeah I think I’ll just…”

“You won’t stay?”

“Nah, it’s not really my thing besides I want to get back to my restaurant.”

“I understand, and Nate, congratulations on the opening of your restaurant. I heard you’ve had great reviews.” Andréa stood.

“Yeah, it’s going good.” Nate followed suit.

“I have to…” She nodded towards door

“Yeah I’ll,” Nate tilted his head towards other door.

Andréa leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. “Good bye Nate.”

“Bye Andy.”

 

Andréa took a moment. Seeing Nate again after all these years was more difficult than she had thought.

“Andréa,” René called out softly across the room.

She turned, smiled crossed the room. He leaned in and kissed her temple. “Don’t worry cousin, everything will be fine. We’ll dance a little. You’ll have your toes stepped on by the Prime Minister and then after midnight you’ll be alone with Miranda again.”

“You always know what to say René.” She smiled as they entered the ballroom doors.

“It’s a gift.” He led them to the center of the room. As the piano and the violinist began, he took a step back and bowed low, his gloved left hand pressed tight against his back. Andréa did not curtsey but did incline her head before René stepped into her space. Their hands met in a loose hold and her left arm came to rest on his shoulder just as his right hand rested against her upper back. Then they started to move. The Butterfly Waltz played as René led Andréa round the ballroom.

 

“She really is very graceful.” Nigel stood beside Miranda and Nicholas as they and the rest of the guests watched as Andréa and René danced a full circuit around the area.

“Umm,” Nicholas agreed, “but she wasn’t always. The first time I met her was at a ball and she stepped right on to my toe.”

Miranda sipped her champagne and used the glass to hide her smile.

After two turns around the floor the waltz ended. René bowed again and stepped back. Immediately a rather rotund man stepped forward and bowed. After him, the floor filled with guests and the Blue Danube waltz played.

Nicholas turned to Miranda. “May I?”

Miranda set the champagne flute down and followed Nicholas to the floor. He bowed, she curtseyed and they joined the quick moving couples.

“The man dancing with Andréa is the Prime Minster; terrible dancer but a good friend to the family. After this dance, she will dance with few more elected officials,” he paused as they turned through a crowded area of the floor, “then she will need to partner with René for the Genovian waltz.”

“The what?”

“The national waltz and then the orchestra will take a break. The Dowager Queen will then toast her and retire for the evening.”
Miranda tightened their clasp as they passed a group of swirling couples.

“After the orchestra is back, René will partner her again for the Viennese waltz. This time they will be joined by Andréa’s inner circle. Then she’s finally free to dance with whomever she wants. Well,” he tightened his grip and offered a sad smile, “almost any one.”

“Yes.” Miranda didn’t say more. She wasn’t ready to swirl around the floor with hundreds of eyes on her. “You are awfully well informed for someone who just arrived.”

“Well, we can thank René for that. He wanted to tell you himself but you were indisposed.”

“Indeed.” The song ended and Miranda nodded and Nicholas bowed and then led them off the floor.

“So,” Miranda asked as she claimed a new flute from a passing waiter, “will she dance with anyone who asks?”

“Yes and no. There are people in this room she shouldn’t snub but she can choose not to dance with them.”

Nigel returned to Miranda’s side. “That looked fun.”

“It was nice to dance again.” Miranda sipped and watched as new couples formed and danced. Andréa was of course the loveliest of them all.

 

Nigel danced and then returned to Miranda. Finally the orchestra broke for a small break and the waiters made sure everyone had something to drink. Miranda had found herself engaged with two Duchesses when Andréa joined her.

“Miranda,” Andréa nodded at the two women who quickly excused themselves, “are you enjoying yourself?”

“Yes, I was, but not as much as you my dear. That’s an awfully large smile you’re wearing for someone who didn’t want a ball.”

“Hmm,” Andréa took a glass of water from a passing waiter, “I don’t like the formality of it. I do like the dancing.”

“Yes, you’re quite skilled. The last dance…”

“The Genovian waltz?”

“Was very lovely,” Miranda finished.

“I can assure you when I first learned it, it was anything but pretty. Did Nicholas tell you about the next dance?”

“He did.”

“Good, it’s my last formal dance and then I will need to dance 1 or 2 more dances but after that I want to dance with you.”

“Andréa…” Miranda looked at Andréa in shock.

“Oh, I know not here but,” she looked down and then back up through her eyelashes “I want to show you something and then we can go shortly after.”

“Don’t you need to stay until everyone leaves?”

“Do you stay at the MET until everyone leaves?”

“No, but that’s quite different.”

“Miranda, I’m not going to see you for 3 weeks. I don’t want to waste more time than I have to.”

Miranda allowed a smile to bloom. “Well, it is your party.”

“Exactly.”

At that moment the Dowager Queen stood from her chair. “Thank you all for attending this evening to celebrate my grand-daughter’s birthday. Please raise your glasses. To Queen Andréa.”

“Long live the Queen,” echoed across the room.

“Excuse me; I need to say good night to my grandmother.” Andréa quickly dropped a kiss on Miranda’s cheek before she hurried away.

 

René arrived in her place. “Miranda.”

“You danced brilliantly René.”

“Thank you Miranda. If you’ve enjoyed it so far, I think you’ll really like the next dance.”
Before he could say more, the orchestra returned and René went after his cousin.

 

Miranda noticed a number of young men and women file out of the ballroom and the audience seemed to take a collective step back.

“What’s happening,” Nigel asked as he slid into place next to Miranda again.

“It’s the Viennese waltz.” Nicholas answered as he also materialized from the crowd. “It’s rather spectacular to watch. I saw last year’s ball on youtube.”

The orchestra began. The beginning notes of Sphären-klänge filled the room. A line of men and women, led by René and Andréa entered the room. The women’s left hands rested softly on the back of the men’s right hand. The men’s left hand, gloved in white, tucked behind them against their black jackets. The dancers came into position and then rose on their toes and pivoted towards one another. Miranda watched as the women crossed in front of the men and then switched hands. The men skillfully guided their partners around in a circle twice before lifting them at the waist. The women were lowered down, then shifted to the right of their partner, came into dancing position again before being dipped and held for a long moment. The women then rose and they all floated across the floor and formed a perfect circle before bowing and curtseying. Then they began to dance. They twirled in sync, spun out and in, arms stiff and lines clean. The circle of dancers tightened and then the men lifted the women again. The music quickened and so did the dancers. They expanded the circle, twirling faster and faster until the circle became two lines and then four. They glided, lifted, dipped and swung their partners in perfect synchronization. It culminated with a deep dip and then a flip of the women over their partner’s shoulders. The guests broke out in applause as the dance ended and the dancers bowed and curtseyed.

“We should…”

“I think a white tie theme…” Nigel and Miranda spoke over one another.

“The MET next year,” Miranda continued.

“Oh yes,” Nigel agreed.

“We’ll need dancers.” Miranda wouldn’t chance that celebrities could pull off such a dance.

 

As Nigel and Miranda planned, Nicholas stiffened.

Miranda watched as a man snagged Andréa’s hand, without so much as a by your leave, before she was steered onto the now full dance floor. She couldn’t read lips but she could see the anger on Andréa’s face. Nicholas stepped towards the floor.

“Who is that man?” Miranda asked Nicholas.

“Erik von Detten of Munich. He’s a cad and a disgrace and beloved cousin to Baroness von Troken. How he got in here is suspect. He never would have been invited.”

“And why is that?” Miranda watched as he kept a tight grip on Andréa. She felt her ire increase, how dare he keep touching her.

“His family is next in line if Andréa and her daughter die. That family has been trying to get a hold of Genovia for centuries. If you thought what I did was bad…” Nicholas trailed off.

“What have they done?” Nigel loved gossip.

“It’s mostly court chatter but many believe that they have had a hand in a number of court deaths.”

“Deaths, like murder,” Nigel asked shocked.

“No one has been able to prove it of course.” Nicholas nodded as he spoke.

“Are the police involved,” Nigel moved closer.

“What would the police be able to do?” Nicholas looked at Nigel questionably.

“Well, investigate.” Nigel cocked his head. “Don’t the police investigate murder here?”

“Oh, I see,” Nicholas nodded his head. “Yes, of course they do but the last court death was 120 years ago.”

“We’re talking about deaths from 120 years ago?”

“If you two are quite done, where is her security?” Miranda looked for Lars as she asked Nicholas.

“Andréa waved him off.” Nicholas answered.

They both looked at Andréa who had almost come to a standstill on the edge of the dance floor. Her jaw was tight.
Erik had his lips against her ear. Whatever he was saying was definitely not pleasant.

“This is ridiculous. I’m going over there.” Miranda decided as she skirted around the dancers, reputation be damned.

As Miranda reached Andréa she heard her say “…I wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole,” before she stomped down on his foot. Without a word she caught Miranda’s wrist, turned her head towards Lars, who had also arrived, “remove him at once. Find his date and have them both removed. Talk to Paul about having his visa revoked. I don’t want him within 100 miles of me.”
Lars bowed and then forcefully removed him from the room.

“Let’s get out of here. I don’t want to dance with anyone else.”

Miranda followed as Andréa steered them through a door and out into a garden. Heat lamps cast a soft glow over the area. Music seeped out of the ballroom, slightly muffled but still auditable.

“I’m glad you’re here tonight Miranda.”

Miranda reached out and cupped her lover’s chin. “Andréa…”

The soft beginning of the Second waltz filtered out around them.

“May I have the last dance of the evening Miranda?” Andréa whispered, their lips nearly touching.

Miranda felt Andréa step closer as her hand came to rest on Miranda’s lower back. Their palms slid together and Miranda felt her heart beat quicken as Andréa began to lead her around the courtyard. Their dresses brushed together as they kept time with the music. The glow of lights cast a soft warm light over them as they moved. Each turn brought them closer until finally Andréa captured Miranda’s lips in a heated kiss.

When they broke apart Andréa whispered, “Come on, the night’s not over yet.”

Miranda followed her hurried steps. 3 weeks until the next time they’d meet, Miranda fully agreed that the night wasn’t over yet.