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It was weird for Andy, going to work with Miranda at 7:45 in the morning, leaving the office at 6 to meet Angela for dinner, then going back to Miranda’s sometime around 11 every night. Strangely, the only part of her routine that changed was the place she slept. She didn’t miss her apartment at all, not even on the weekends. Saturdays and Sundays she mostly spent poring over interviews, writing and rewriting, consulting with Angela and Hank, the Times editor who was now fully involved in their project, and drinking what seemed like gallons of coffee.

It was even weirder that no one at all noticed that Andy was now, for all intents and purposes, living with Miranda at the townhouse. While there, Andy shared as little information as possible. She kept it extremely brief: she was onto a story, it was likely going to be published in the fall, and it would affect a number of people she knew. She didn’t say that a few board members who had fired Irv the day Miranda had implicated him had already known and kept quiet about a number of Irv’s privately settled lawsuits. She didn’t say that one of the women Irv had coerced into a relationship had attempted to harm herself. She didn’t say that Irv was about to take the reins of Emarco Global, an international entertainment corporation with production offices around the world and four billion dollars in annual revenue. She didn’t say that for years, Irv and his lawyers had paid an intelligence agency hundreds of thousands of dollars to dig up background information on his victims to prevent them from going public. Andy assumed that the same agency had broken into her apartment, but she had no proof. As expected, there had been no identifiable fingerprints left behind after her apartment burglary.

If Andy had thought her relationship with Miranda might escalate once they were living in closer proximity, she was wrong. The entire month of August, she could count on one hand the number of hours they spent together. But Andy’s mind was in overdrive; romance was the last thing she could think about. The only fringe benefit she enjoyed was watching Miranda descend the staircase of her home every morning, dressed to the nines and smelling like a beautiful garden after a spring rain. Andy grew reliant on the smile Miranda granted her during her initial appraisal, followed by the returned devouring look as she took in Andy’s style choice (although uniformly less daring than Miranda’s) each day.

By mid-September, Angela and Hank were as ready to go as they could be. The lawyers and the fact checkers had done what they could to cover all their asses, especially those of the women who had so bravely offered their stories despite the stranglehold of confidentiality. Three were willing to have their identities published; the rest would go unnamed. A dozen former employees had breached their own NDAs as well, both anonymously and otherwise. But they each felt compelled to speak out once they realized their own experience was part of a larger pattern that had gone on long before their involvement and would continue indefinitely unless they revealed the truth.

Hank had carved everything out into a series of articles to run over the course of a full five days in early October, beginning on a Wednesday and wrapping with a half-page feature on the cover of the Sunday edition. A graphic designer excited about the project was developing a special interactive timeline to accompany the digital version of the paper as well. For the most part, Andy’s work was done. With the help of a lawyer, she’d established a contract that afforded her a standard freelance fee per word and a co-author byline on all the articles. For so many months of work, it wasn’t much. But Angela had hinted they might continue their collaboration after publication. She had an idea for something bigger that would involve more writing, more research, and eventually, more money.

Meanwhile, action at the office was ramping up to the dull roar that always accompanied the approach of Fashion Week. She had briefly waffled over the decision to go along with Miranda on the trip to Paris. But when she thought about anyone other than herself at Miranda’s side for the shows, the dinners, the red carpets, she knew there was no choice to be made. She would attend, no matter what.

But as she helped the team prepare for Runway’s biggest week of the year, she understood that this would be the end of her time at the magazine. The article would come out only a few days after their return, so she planned to resign around the same time. Although in theory she could continue on, her whistleblower status providing legal protection, she would not. For one thing, she loved Miranda; she was certain Miranda cared for her as well. She hoped that once she was out from under the assistant’s mantle, Miranda would be willing to try some sort of relationship, whether clandestine or not.

But beyond that, Andy had truly found her calling. It shouldn’t have been a surprise; she’d spent five years focused almost exclusively on journalism in college, and two years before that in high school. If she was fortunate, a freelance contributor byline in a bombshell series of New York Times front page articles would help her find a new job.

Two weeks before their scheduled departure, Andy met with Angela for their standard dinner on a Friday night. This time it was Angela’s treat; she sprung for a delicious meal at Sfoglia, where Andy ate so much pasta and dessert she was fit to burst.

As she paid the bill, Angela said, “Consider it a thank you. You’ve been an unbelievable partner all this time. I’ve collaborated with a lot of other writers over the years, but ego always gets in the way. That never happened once with you. The work was always the most important thing.” She smiled in appreciation. “That rarely happens with new journalists. They usually take any criticism really hard.”

Andy laughed. “Oh, don’t worry, I had to get taken down a few pegs when I first started at Runway.” She thought back at the person she’d been on the day she met Miranda. “Okay, a lot of pegs.”

“I can imagine. I still can’t believe you’ve been able to pull all this off. How did you convince Miranda to let you out of the cage on time every night? I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about the hours her staff works.”

Andy flushed slightly, then worried her affection would show on her face. She could not let it slip, not now when they were so close to the end of the road. “I won’t say Miranda was unaffected when Irv left. She is known for being tough, some might say impossible to please, but it’s about the work. If you can’t do it, you can’t stay. She didn’t get soft, but she changed the culture with really small adjustments. When I started at Runway there were all these bizarre ‘rules’ I heard about that were actually just rumors. Stuff like you couldn’t have photos of your family on your desk, that you couldn’t eat at the office, or hell, you couldn’t eat anything because you had to be a size zero. Now, I will say that at the beginning Miranda had unrealistic body type standards, but she’s become more open in the last couple of years.” Andy still thought back to the day Miranda had called her fat. She wondered if she’d ever have the guts to bring it up and ask for an apology. At this rate, she probably would. “That’s growth in this crazy industry. Call it a work in progress. But off the record, Elias Clarke HR now requires modernized harassment training for new employees and annual refreshers for everyone either full-time or freelance. It’s not a joke anymore. I guarantee that would not have happened under the Ravitz regime.” Andy had also noticed a handful of names disappear from the Runway talent rosters over the last quarter in particular; names she had heard whispers about, unlike Irv. A few photographers who had been worshipped by the masses had quietly vanished from the magazine’s pages. Andy wondered who had finally spilled the beans, because Miranda never said a word about it to her.

“But that doesn’t explain how you were able to reduce your hours,” Angela prodded, reminding Andy that she was a crack investigator. She just wasn’t used to being the one under the microscope.

She presented the excuse she’d had in her pocket for a couple of months. “I’m hourly, and when we hired a new second, it was better for her to get the lion’s share of OT. I got a raise when I was elevated to executive assistant, so it works out. And believe me, I start early. I’m on the clock by 8 every morning at the latest, so I still get overtime. It’s an even exchange.” She also did not mention that assistants and coordinators across the Runway floor now were officially required to take 45 minutes (most managers gave an hour) for lunch, as directed by labor laws. Emily’s self-imposed 15 minute limit was out the window as soon as she left for the beauty department. Elias Clarke was lucky it hadn’t already been sued by past assistants, who would easily have been able to make a case for abusive practices.

“Makes sense,” Angela said, signing the receipt after the server handed it back to her. “I’m glad to reap the benefits. Have you thought about what you’ll do when the article comes out?”

Andy nodded. “I’ve decided to go to Paris for Fashion week, then I’m done. I’m hoping a contributor byline on a big story will help me land something at a paper or a monthly. Miranda always offers to help her assistants get gigs when they make it to a year, but I’d rather get something on my own.” She definitely didn’t want to add the why behind that reasoning.

Angela was staring at Andy as though she’d grown another head. “Andy, you’re kidding, right?”

“Kidding about what?”

She shook her head. “I guess we’ll have to see what happens. But I’m betting you won’t be hard up for offers once the story lands. I’ll just leave it at that.”

Angela stood from their table and Andy followed as they both donned their coats. Fall was in the air, a brisk breeze caressing Andy’s face as they stepped outside. “Want to share a cab? I know you’re downtown and you can drop me off on the way.”

Andy stilled. She hadn’t mentioned that she had only been back to her apartment sporadically to pick up clothes and throw away old takeout from her fridge since the break in. “I’m good. I’m actually staying with friends up in this neighborhood.”

Eyebrows raised, Angela replied, “Well-heeled friends.”

With a laugh, Andy just waved her off. “There is a thing called rent control in this city, you know.” It wasn’t exactly a lie, but she didn’t feel badly about the misdirection. She didn’t ask Angela where she slept every night. Besides, she didn’t want to attract any attention to the unusual situation she was in at the moment. Staying at her boss’s home, however innocent it might actually be, while investigating high-level harassment claims of a former CEO and the employees under him felt a little uncomfortable. But not enough to send her back home. She still felt like she was being watched. “I haven’t really been back since the burglary,” she confessed. “I’m too creeped out.”

“Yeah, I get that. I like having a doorman and a husband who works from home. So far we haven’t noticed anything odd, but I’ve also been in the business long enough to make sure my info is as invisible as possible. If they’re following me, they’re not getting into the building without being seen.”

“Yeah, a doorman would be nice. Even though it might still be a coincidence.”

Angela met her eyes. She cleared her throat. “Right.”

It was a quick walk “home” for Andy, who admittedly looked over her shoulder a few times on her trip. She put her key in the lock and was relieved when she got inside without incident. Feeling a little foolish, she shook her coat and hung it in the closet, noticing the Book still there on its regular side table. It was Friday, so that wasn’t too much of a surprise.

She heard the tap-tap-tap of nails on the hardwood floors before Patricia came into view, panting with her wide doggie grin. Andy happily knelt and gave her some good scratches, adroitly avoiding a long line of drool with skill borne of bad experiences. “Where’s your mommy, huh? Is she around?”

Patricia knew “mommy” because that’s what the twins called Miranda. She turned around and trotted to the staircase and up to the second floor, where Andy found the twins sleeping on a long couch. The television was on but muted as Miranda lounged on the couch opposite them, reading what looked like a novel. That was a surprise; Miranda rarely had time to read for pleasure from what Andy had noticed about her habits at home.

Andy leaned against the entryway and watched with a contented smile as Patricia took her place of honor at Miranda’s feet.

Miranda’s eyes lifted from her book, smiling serenely. “Early night?”

Andy nodded. “Just dinner.” She motioned with her chin toward the other end of the sofa. “I’m going to change for bed. Mind if I join you after?”

“Please,” Miranda replied, her glasses slipping a little down the bridge of her nose. “There’s wine, if you like.”

“‘Kay.” Andy quietly headed to the third floor bedroom that had become her temporary home. Miranda had ruefully accepted her Old Navy pajama pants and tees after offering in vain to replace them with something higher end. As Andy dressed in the soft, cotton drawstring pants, decorated with an assortment of dogs (including Saint Bernards), it occurred to her just how bizarre it was to be hanging out in her PJs on a Friday night with her boss and family in this magnificent home.

She had grown used to the sounds of life and activity here and dreaded the return to her apartment, filled with a different type of noise. Cars driving by, neighbor music (or arguments), parties across the street had never bothered her. They had felt like pieces of city life she had come to love. Now she knew she would long for the cool silence of the townhouse, punctuated by the occasional shrieks and laughter of two sweet kids, the barking of a lumbering dog, and the quiet affection for them all from the woman who had become the center of Andy’s life.

She blinked back the sudden onset of tears.

On her way downstairs, she ran into Caroline and Cassidy as they climbed to their bedrooms, one next to Andy’s and one across the hall. “Night, kids,” she said, surprised when they each went in for a half-hug from her, mumbling their own good nights in return. She stopped to make chamomile tea for herself, bypassing the open bottle of sauvignon blanc in the fridge.

When she returned to the living room, the tv had been shut off, the flat panel hidden behind closed cabinet doors. The only light was the one Miranda was reading by. Instead of taking the sofa the twins had recently vacated, she sat at the opposite end of Miranda’s couch and leaned back to face her. Miranda, in turn, slipped a metal bookmark into her book and closed it. Then to Andy’s pleasure, she mirrored Andy’s pose, her bare toes only a couple of feet from Andy’s in their fluffy socks.

“You look serious,” Miranda began.

“I have a lot on my mind,” Andy said, unsure where to start.

As usual, Miranda was already two steps ahead of where Andy was. “Please tell me you haven’t changed your mind about coming to Paris… Leticia is stellar but I’m not sure I can deal--I need you with me.”

It was a relief not to have to deny Miranda this one important thing. “Of course I’m coming, I promise. But… I think I need to give notice now and be done when we come back. I was thinking the Tuesday after would be my last day.”

Miranda closed her eyes and nodded once, sighing deeply. “I convinced myself it wasn’t time yet. But I knew.” When she opened her eyes, she looked so bereft it nearly broke Andy’s heart. “You don’t owe it to me, but is there anything I should be worried about?”

“You aren’t mentioned at all, except that you run the flagship publication of Elias Clarke. But I will say, it might be rough seas for a while. It’s going to be… well, it’s a bigger deal than I thought it would be.” Andy didn’t want to use the word bombshell, but that was what this story would be for everyone at the company. And possibly beyond it. “I could probably stay after everything comes out, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“Will you--will you go back to your apartment?” Miranda asked.

Andy had never heard her voice so broken, not even when Stephen had left. Considering they’d never so much as kissed, this non-romantic romance was killing both of them. Or was Andy creating a fantasy out of nothing? Not talking about the elephant in the room felt like a mistake at this point. “I--I want… I want a lot of things. But I can’t say what they are yet. Can you understand?”

Miranda tilted her head, eyeing Andy carefully. “Tell me more.”

Andy forged ahead. “Looking into this whole thing has completely changed my perspective on the line between boss and employee. I mean, we have sort of… an unusual arrangement, here. If you told me the day we’d met I’d end up living with you for any reason I’d have laughed in your face.”

That made Miranda smile. “That makes two of us. After I stopped laughing, I’d have been rather insulted.”

“Of course you would have been,” Andy quipped, shaking her hands at the side of her head as Miranda sometimes did when she wanted something to just go away. “But I--I want to be in your life, Miranda. I don’t know what you want from me, if anything, when all this is over, but I hope this isn’t the end of the line. I think,” Andy swallowed hard, trying not to tear up again, “I couldn’t bear to not see you anymore. Even as, I don’t know, maybe friends?”

There was a very long pause as Miranda watched her. “Is that what you want?” Miranda asked softly. “To be friends?”

Andy was trembling with nerves now. Slowly, she shook her head.

Miranda exhaled uneasily in what looked like a shiver of relief. “Well. That’s… that’s good.”

Andy hadn’t realized how tense Miranda had been till she practically melted into the sofa. “It is?” Andy replied, almost surprised. She knew what she wanted, but to hear that perhaps Miranda wanted it too was somehow unexpected.

Miranda nodded. “We’ll just… wait.” She squirmed slightly in her seat; Andy wondered if she was thinking about not being friends the way Andy was at the moment.

Now Andy wanted to spell things out a little more since she and Miranda were on the same page. “Neither of us will owe the other anything. I’ll find another job, and we’ll be even. I mean, not really even at all, but it won’t be this,” Andy said, motioning to the space between them, as Miranda had months ago. “The line won’t be there anymore.”

“I can help you find another--”

“I know you could,” Andy quickly cut her off. “I know you would. But I might not need help. Not after the, um, big thing happens.”

Miranda rolled her eyes. “I can’t wait for the day we don’t have to talk in code any longer. I don’t know who we’re trying to fool. No one’s listening in with a glass at the wall.”

“At least you have plausible deniability. Even though I’m living here and people are probably watching every move the both of us make.”

“I suppose. We certainly put on a good show for the cameras between the house and the car every day. You always look so put upon as I rattle off my list of impossible tasks before you even set foot in the office.” Miranda frowned. “Are you concerned that simply because of your proximity to me you’ll become part of the story?”

Andy shrugged. “Someone broke into my apartment and stole what they thought was data that would put a lot of people at risk. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that I’d relocate for my own safety. And I think you’re a lot scarier than your security guards, Miranda. You could kill an interloper with one look.”

Miranda appreciated that compliment, the flush creeping up her neck as evidence of her pleasure. “Would that I could. I’d enjoy that power very much.”

“Anyway, I’ll probably get drawn in no matter what I do. I’m pretty much blowing the whistle on a cover-up. But I’m not telling my own story at all. I’m just helping others tell theirs.” Andy thought about it for a minute. “I’m a conduit of the truth.”

“Well, we’ll both be targets then. No good deed goes unpunished.” Miranda’s gaze was flat and unimpressed when it settled on Andy. “It’s not a pleasant position to be in. I may not escape this scandal unscathed, no matter who is at fault.”

“At least we’ll be in it together,” Andy suggested more cheerfully than she felt. She hated the fact that Miranda was right. They might both be dragged through the mud once the media realized that Andy had worked for La Priestly, and Elias Clarke, till the day before the news broke. “I’ll defend your good name if it comes down to it.”

Miranda threw her head back and let out an exuberant “ha.” “That’s a first. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a good name to defend. You know what they say about me. Dragon lady. Career-obsessed. God only knows what they’ll call me now.”

Andy suddenly wanted to change the article to include all the incremental adjustments Miranda had made within Runway since Irv’s departure. She wanted to call Angela and ask her to add a whole section dedicated to it. Instead, she pressed her lips together and remained calm. Miranda would survive this. She had no concept of the breadth of accusations about to be publicly leveled at Irv Ravitz; she couldn’t know the seriousness of it, not to mention the financial and legal implications.

Miranda was many things; she might be career-obsessed, she might be impossible to please, she might be dismissive and thankless and yes, some might call her a dragon lady. But Andy had not once heard an inkling of sexual harassment or coercion toward any gender. She had never made even half a pass at Andy, who had spent months dreaming of kissing her and would happily have fallen at her feet many months ago.

“You might be surprised. I know what I’d say about you if anyone asked.”

That appeared to turn Miranda’s thoughts in a more pleasing direction. Her eyebrow lifted in easily the most sensual expression she’d ever displayed in front of Andy. “Oh?”

Andy tried not to let her mouth fall open as she made a conscious effort not to throw herself across the sofa into the arms of this woman. Why were they waiting, anyway? No one would know. It would be so easy, so effortless to just set down her mug and slide across the couch and -

But Andy would know. They both would. It would be all over their faces when they went to Paris. Andy knew that once she had Miranda Priestly in her bed, she would glow with the knowledge of it. She would shine and shimmer like a million-watt light bulb. She would--

Miranda waved a hand in front of Andy’s face. “Hello in there?”

“Huh?” Andy replied as she snapped out of her stupor. “What was the question?”

Miranda seemed to retract her body a few inches, following the path Andy’s traitorous brain had taken. She rubbed her face with one hand. “Never mind.”

---

Andy spent Saturday mostly holed up in her borrowed room, updating her resume and putting together writing samples, some of which felt like she’d written a thousand years ago. On Monday she would formally submit her notice so HR could put out a job description for a second assistant. Letty would, thankfully, be elevated to executive assistant and would have a direct hand in the hiring of her #2. She didn’t know it yet but she was about to get a promotion.

Andy wondered what Nigel would say when he heard she was leaving. He occasionally asked how her “side project” was going, but Andy had never given him any information about it. His lack of involvement would protect him from retaliation, or she hoped it would. Lots of people who worked for Elias Clarke would have known Janine and could have suggested Andy speak with her, so he would be free and clear.

Andy also skimmed the job boards, none of which looked particularly promising. She had seen a couple of interesting postings at The Mirror last month when she’d poked around, but those were now gone and there was word of layoffs coming on one of the gossip sites she followed. She shivered, relieved she hadn’t flown the coop earlier for what may have seemed like greener pastures.

On Sunday, Andy met Doug and Lily for brunch at the Mayrose. It was crowded, but not so much that they couldn’t get a table right away. Lily wrinkled her nose as they were seated, asking, “When was the last time we didn’t have to wait to get waffles?”

Doug snorted. “Never. Maybe this place is on its way down. Like the rest of the economy.”

Lily rolled her eyes. “Dude, my 401k is killing it right now. Why do you say things like that? Are you trying to freak me out?”

“Because there’s a recession coming, dude,” he replied. “You know it’s my job to watch this stuff. Real estate is in the shitter but the market hasn’t corrected yet. Put your money in bonds and staples and you’ll hang onto it. Or hell, just put it in cash for a minute and reinvest when things change. Normally, I’d hate to have you miss on compound interest and dollar cost averaging, but this time is an exception.”

“There’s a lot of information in there that I don’t have my head wrapped around, except the first one.” Lily said. “Recession?”

Doug nodded as he perused the menu. “Trust and believe in Janet Yellen. I do.” He set down the menu and said, “Omelettes always kill here. I’m going for it.”

“Hi, I think we also have a fire drill to deal with, money man. Will you help me move some money around? I don’t have much, but I’d prefer to be safe for a while,” Lily said, unable to shift her attention back to food.

“You know it. We can do it today, if you want.”

“I want. Andy, how about you?”

Andy laughed. Her 401k was puny, but she’d take the advice anyway. It was hard to lose your shirt when you barely had one to begin with. “Yep, guide us, oh wise one.” Maybe she’d give Miranda a tip when she got home.

“Laugh now, but in a year no one’s gonna be laughing. But that’s not what we’re talking about. Andy, let’s hear it. You definitely have news,” Doug said, elbows on the table, head in his two hands.

“Well, I do have news,” Andy started. “I’m um, I’m leaving Runway in a couple of weeks.”

Both her friends’ eyes grew wide at her announcement. “Holy crap, I can’t believe it!” Lily crowed. “Did you finally decide that fashion is the enemy of the people?”

“Or did you and Miranda finally do the deed?” Doug asked, leaning forward with excitement.

Andy gasped. “No!” she practically shouted. “And no. What the hell, Doug, why would you ask something like that? I would never sleep with my boss.”

He and Lily looked at each other, clearly in disbelief. “Andy,” he said carefully, “we know you’re into her. It’s okay. I get it. Miranda’s hot as hell.”

Lily nodded too. “She treated you like shit that whole first year, but this year was different. I mean, after you and Nate split, anyway. Seemed like things changed. And you always talk like you’re madly in love with her. It’s cool with me, if you’re worried, which obviously you shouldn’t be, after my thing with Amanda last summer.”

Andy had so much she wanted to share with them both, but it wasn’t time. “Well, I mean, yes, I am into her, but no, I didn’t sleep with her. It wouldn’t be right for either of us.” She glanced up at the ceiling. “Not yet, anyway. But maybe after I’m done. Maybe. I don’t even know if she’s really into me,” Andy said, deliberately not thinking of the change in tension between them since their recent conversation. “She’s been married a bunch of times.”

“Well, maybe there’s a reason none of those marriages ever took,” Doug said with a lecherous grin, tapping her on the nose with his index finger. “So, no sex is being had. But after you leave, where are you going? You must have something lined up.”

Andy took a deep breath. “Actually, no. I don’t.”

Both her friends, again, stared at her as though she had gone completely off the deep end. Lily was first to intervene. “Honey, you can’t quit without a job. Is there something happening that we don’t know about? A reason you have to go now?”

Andy bobbed her head, then shook it. “I have an iron in the fire. It’s something that will pay my rent for a few months while I get something else. I don’t have a ton of savings but it’ll be enough to get by at least till January. Probably February.”

The server interrupted them then, so they gave their orders as quickly as possible to get back down to business. Andy continued, “The insurance thing is annoying but I can make it work, simmer down, Doug,” she said, seeing the outrage on his face. “Sometimes you seem like a 63-year-old near retirement instead of a guy on the verge of 28.”

“I am that 63-year-old on the inside. Andy, you know I have total faith in you, but this is a risk.”

“Must be a big iron if you’re willing to leave your job over it. Doesn’t Miranda owe you a connection?” Lily asked.

“In theory, yes,” Andy said. “But I’m going to try and go it alone.” She looked down at her hands, feeling that innate sense of inadequacy where Miranda was concerned. “I know you guys were sort of joking when you were talking about us, but… I love her. A lot. I don’t want to use her to get ahead in my career.”

“Wow,” Lily said, reaching out a hand to cover Andy’s. “Love. That’s not… I mean, I shouldn’t be surprised. You’ve been mooning over her for a long time.”

Andy turned her hand over and held Lily’s. “I know it sounds nuts. The age difference alone could be a deal-breaker, but to be honest, it’s totally not. It’s just a fact. And I know her so much better now that I’ve been st--” And then Andy remembered that she had told neither Doug nor Lily that she had been living with Miranda since August.

“Since you’ve been…” Doug prodded.

Andy cleared her throat and replied weakly, “Staying with her.”

Lily sat up straighter in her seat. Andy could practically see the cartoon siren, flashing red and rotating wildly over her head. “That does not sound healthy. You’re living there?”

She grimaced. “Since the break-in.”

With a wince, Doug put a hand to his forehead. “Andy, this feels off. Why are you there?”

As much as she wanted to tell them about the article, she couldn’t. It would only be a couple of more weeks and then they’d know. Everyone would. “I was scared. Miranda thought it would be easier if she just put me up for a bit. She has a good alarm system. Since Nate left, I’ve been on my own and I was just kind of scared.” She crossed her fingers that this made sense as an excuse. For the most part, it was true.

“I guess, but it’s been a couple months. When are you moving home?” Lily asked.

Opening her mouth, Andy realized she didn’t know the answer. “Probably after I quit.”

Doug started to smile. “Or not at all,” he added.

Andy looked at him with uncertainty.

“Honey, I think you’re the most extreme example of the lesbian u-haul joke. You moved in before you started dating. You couldn’t even wait till the second date!” Doug clapped loudly as he cracked himself up, and Andy joined Lily in laughter as other patrons stared in irritation at their noisy table.

---

Later, Andy went to her apartment and packed the best of her Runway collection to bring to Paris. The rest she stashed in neatly lined up garment bags in her closet so it could all go back to the office once she returned to the states. She’d have to use some of her article money to replenish her work attire since she’d been dressing in styles way out of her budget for more than a year.

The first of her last two weeks sped by. She worked an old-school schedule of 7am to nearly 10pm every day, helping Letty not flip about hiring someone, making sure the events in Paris were scheduled down to the minute, confirming with Jeremy about picking up the twins on Wednesday, and packing her own things in preparation for the upcoming flight. By Friday afternoon Andy was exhausted like she hadn’t been for ages. At least on the plane, she might be able to get some sleep.

She checked in with Angela that evening to make sure everything was still on track. It was; the leadership hadn’t gotten cold feet and the legal team was confident as confirmations of all their work rolled in. Barring any discoveries in the coming days, they would flip the switch on the story.

And so the following afternoon, Andy got into the car with Miranda and an unfamiliar driver (Roy had the weekend off) took them to the airport. Their entire entourage breezed through security despite the Saturday rush due to an apparent head’s up--not from Andy in this case--that Miranda was on her way. Sometimes it was nice to get special treatment.

Miranda always flew first class but often her staff did not; they were lucky to get business and were sometimes stuck in coach. This year, the Runway team took up more than half the first class section of an enormous Boeing jet. Without Irv running things, the interim Chairman, Charles Landon, caved to nearly all of Miranda’s requests, which at this point weren’t really requests, as such. Landon had been a board member for a long time and was unlikely to be voted in for the permanent position, but at least he was making an effort to keep the boat from sinking. Sometimes Andy thought Miranda should get on the board herself. She could do it without sacrificing a great deal of time to the job, since she so frequently had to present to the board her own reports of the magazine’s financial status. Those presentations were a lot less stressful for everyone since Irv’s departure.

Andy was very happy to revel in her comfortable seat. There was some work to be done on the flight, but she was tired after so few hours of sleep and the day spent confirming what felt like a thousand arrangements both at home and abroad. Glancing over at Miranda a few feet away, she raised her eyebrows.

As it so often happened recently, Miranda seemed to read her thoughts. “I’ll wake you when I need you.”

With a grateful smile and a silent “Thank you,” Andy grabbed earplugs and an eye mask and promptly checked out.

Some time later, a bit of mild turbulence woke her from a sound sleep. She lifted her mask to recognize dim cabin lighting and flight attendants handing out warm towels to those who were awake. Sitting up, she checked her watch, already changed to Paris time. It was just about 6:45am, which meant she’d slept nearly the entire flight. When a blonde flight attendant noticed she was awake, he leaned down and said softly, “Can I bring you breakfast and coffee? We’ll touch down in a little over an hour so I can sneak you in.”

Andy eagerly nodded, making a lightning fast choice of an omelette, toast and fruit along with coffee, water, and juice. She had a full tray in front of her when Miranda raised her own eye mask and looked over. Her eyes were greedy as she took in the spread, so Andy waved over her new pal and ordered scrambled eggs for Miranda as well.

She ate quickly so they could spend at least a few minutes catching up. As usual for long haul trips, Miranda had an empty seat beside her, purchased so various staff could come and go without displacing one another. Andy thought it was an outrageous expense, but she also wanted to take advantage of it so it wasn’t a total waste of money.

After a quick freshen up in the tiny bathroom, Andy returned feeling more human than she had in days. “Hey,” she said as she slid into the seat, notebook in hand. “You didn’t have to let me sleep so long.”

“I most certainly did,” Miranda said as she sliced a strawberry in two. “You would have been useless with no rest. I know you’ve barely slept all week.” At that, she glanced around, realizing that it would not do for either of them to be caught having an intimate conversation. Most people were preoccupied, so she continued. “I heard you snoring.”

Andy just ignored her with a grin and opened her book to run through the schedule for the day, which was packed with meetings: lunch, drinks, more drinks, dinner, then drinks again, all with designers or couturiers. The same went for the following day, except jammed with shows between the various meals, drinks, and more meals. Today Miranda would do all her meetings solo, but tomorrow Andy would attend the shows as part of the Runway entourage. Throughout the rest of the week she had a bit of time to herself between events that she intended to fill with whatever she could. A walk along the Seine, a stop at the Rodin museum (she doubted she could fit a visit to the Louvre in), a stroll down the Champs-Élysées would be quite enough. She fervently hoped this would be the first of many trips to the City of Lights.

After touchdown, disembarkment and the trip to the Ritz were uneventful, even counting the throng of paparazzi waiting at the airport. It was nothing Miranda wasn’t used to, but Andy, even after so many crowded events hovering just behind her boss’s shoulder, still hated it. It made her dread the aftermath of the article and she hoped that she would remain anonymous for the most part. Andy spent most of the car ride staring out the window, awed by the beauty that was Paris. She continued to gape, to Miranda’s obvious amusement, when they arrived at the Place Vendôme. The staff at the Ritz handled everything with a speed and efficiency that Andy envied; she knew they were eminently capable but experiencing it first hand was another story.

When she arrived at her room, which turned out not to be a room but a suite, she gazed around with a frown, thinking that she’d inadvertently taken Miranda’s accommodations. But when she headed for the door, Miranda was there, observing her with a generous smile. Andy shook her head. “I can’t stay here.”

“Yes, you can. I chose it for you.”

Andy put a hand to her head, gazing at her surroundings, uncertain what to say. Miranda simply strolled through and out of the living room, so Andy followed her, taking in the gorgeous pale blue furniture and Louis XV style chairs, floor to ceiling windows, and a table with a little tray of macarons that were apparently there for her own consumption. They ended up in a bedroom with a fireplace and a crystal chandelier, and then went out onto a balcony with a small table and two chairs. From here Andy could admire the hotel’s remarkable architecture, along with an immaculately tended garden and a little café below. Miranda sat down, shielding her eyes as the sun peeked out from among the clouds. Andy sat as well, stunned at the extravagance. “You shouldn’t have done this. I booked myself in a room like the rest of the team, Miranda.”

“Well, I am the boss. For another few days, at least,” Miranda said, her half grin wildly appealing. “And I wanted you on the first floor, near me. With you staying here, we get the best of both worlds. Garden and city.”

“How do you mean?”

“Come along,” Miranda said, so Andy did. Within a minute they had moved to Miranda’s palatial suite, with crystal chandeliers, antique desks and chairs, luxurious couches, and a magnificent four poster bed that was a major distraction for Andy. But the pièce de résistance was the view of the Vendôme column, visible from a terrace and the many windows that lined the suite. Andy wished she could press herself against Miranda’s side, sliding an arm around her waist as they gazed out at the city. Instead, she put her hands behind her back, one hand grasping the other wrist to keep herself from reaching out.

“It’s incredible, Miranda. Thank you for sharing it with me.”

When Miranda’s eyes met hers, Andy felt the love inside her welling up and mirrored back. She looked away, unwilling to let it take over just yet. “I should,” she cleared her throat, “go unpack and let you get on with your day.”

“You’re coming to the welcome reception,” Miranda stated firmly, then softened her tone. “Rather, aren’t you?”

“I was going to unpack--”

“Let the butler service do it for you. I know you’ll end up tipping them whether you use them or not. Put it all on your expense account, please. Just don’t go overboard.” She sniffed. “Too overboard. Not everyone will respect your bleeding heart habit of overtipping.”

Andy smiled. “You know me so well.”

“Indeed.”

Andy scurried off, afraid if she stayed too much longer she really would go in for that embrace, or more than. The Parisian air had already started to affect her impulse control. Or maybe it was just the way Miranda looked in this place, the differences in the light caressing her features delicately, making her rose mouth softer, her eyes more blue.

She went back to her ridiculous suite, running into absolutely no one. She wondered where Nigel was in relation to them and hoped he was on another floor altogether. Quickly she unpacked her things and hung them up, ignoring Miranda’s advice and doing a quick steam of the most wrinkled items with the supplies in the closet. She’d brought far more than she would on any other trip, but she’d also need three times the clothes. As a Runway rep, she needed multiple options for morning, afternoon, and evening. She was glad she’d nabbed a few extra dresses from the Closet before she left on Friday. Already she had decided to wear one that afternoon to the reception in lieu of a few hours roaming Paris. But really, wouldn’t she rather hover in Miranda’s orbit, watching her shine for all those who worshipped at her feet? She would.

An hour later, she left some euros on her pillow under the assumption that housekeeping would be in to turn down her bed later, even though that creeped her out a bit. Miranda, on the other hand, had a massive amount of luggage and was used to other people hauling it around, caring for it, and then repacking it when the trip was over. Andy just wasn’t comfortable letting people she didn’t know touch her stuff. When the staff went into her room later, they would probably not be able to tell she’d been there unless they opened the closet door. All her valuables and the computer were in the safe and everything else was out of sight.

She went down the opulent hallway to Miranda’s room and knocked; a few moments later, Miranda opened the door and perused her in the usual fashion. A quick motion of her head south, then slowly her eyes crawled up the rest of Andy’s body, noting the little touches Andy had added to dress up her little black Zac Posen. Short boots with silver chains at the ankles, long matching necklaces hanging down her torso, a huge aquamarine ring on her index finger, and her hair brushed straight and sleek as she could get it in twenty minutes. A nod of response gave Andy goosebumps.

Only then did she admire Miranda’s structured military jacket with a little shock attached--the silver, draping chains at the shoulder matched Andy’s ensemble as if they’d planned it. Miranda wore it not with a dress or a skirt but figure-hugging black trousers, plus the knife-like heels she’d donned when Irv got the boot all those months ago. Most people thought Miranda would not wear garments twice simply because of her position, but she did so all the time. She just rarely paired the same selections together unless she really loved the particular look. She wore an enormous amount of black and white, often with a splash of red. But she gravitated toward unusual prints, animal or otherwise, and had taken a shine to a new designer whose digitally printed mandalas would be featured in the upcoming March issue. Andy expected Miranda to wear one of the as-yet-unseen dresses on Tuesday or Wednesday and was looking forward to it.

But today, she would enjoy the sight of those trousers. She felt the heat flaring in her cheeks as Miranda disappeared behind a set of double doors, perhaps to the bathroom to finish her makeup. Andy spent the time she had alone admiring the incredible suite. There were flowers everywhere; on a writing desk, on a glass coffee table, on a tall chest of drawers. The soft blush tones of the decor were calming; the design and details were more whimsical than in her rooms. She also noticed a portrait of the Duke of Windsor in a prime location and had a realization.

When Miranda emerged, she stopped short at the look on Andy’s face. “What?” Miranda asked.

Andy felt like a total idiot; she’d booked the suite herself more than eight months prior. She’d asked Miranda her preference, to which she responded, “You know what I like. Just not Chanel.” Andy had asked for the most romantic of the options and ended up with this one. “I think I know why it’s called the Windsor suite.”

Miranda smirked. “Go in the bedroom, you’ll recognize Wallis right away.”

So Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson had stayed here. Andy decided she did not want to go into the bedroom, because that would be just… too much. “I’ll take your word for it.”

“I used to stay in a different suite, but after last year I prefer something else. This is perfect. I’m glad you chose it.”

Ah, so last year was the Chanel suite, where she had heard that Coco had lived for more than thirty years. Only then did Andy consider what traumatic memories Miranda might have of this hotel--the divorce papers, the James Holt near-debacle, the discovery of Irv’s predilections--and that she should have selected another location in the city. “Oh my gosh, Miranda, I--”

“I told you I wanted to stay here, and I do. My second choice was the Hôtel de Crillon, but when one stands on their balconies it sounds like every bus in Paris is driving through the lobby.” She brushed her shoulders free of imaginary lint and tugged down her jacket to straighten it. “You would have enjoyed the views had we gotten their rooftop suite, however. Perhaps another time.” She disappeared again, leaving Andy to consider when “another time” might be.