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The Tides

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Part 1

Miranda gazed across the steely blue expanse of ocean, exasperated. Where was the sun? The shoot was not turning out well, and Miranda could blame no one except Mother Nature. That didn't mean she could not focus her anger on someone, though. "Emily." Feeling more than hearing her erstwhile first assistant move up next to her, Miranda did not bother to turn her head. "Where is Nigel?"

"He went to scout out some possible sites. I think he said Castle Rock and the Light Tower. They're up the hill a couple of miles."

"Hmm." Miranda did not bother to acknowledge the information, frustrated that nothing was happening quickly. Although she was tempted to take out her ire on Emily, she refrained. Emily had received the brunt of Miranda's impatience and unhappiness for quite a while now. Miranda feared her assistant was close to collapsing. Or quitting.

Miranda continued to stare at the ocean on the coast of Marblehead, mesmerized by the whitecaps rolling toward shore as seagulls wheeled overhead. Although she had visited Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard several times over the years, this was her first trip to the northeastern coast of Massachusetts. Breathing in deeply, she tasted the salt even as the breeze ruffled through her hair like a lover's hand. Not that she had felt such an action any time recently.

Nine months ago her soon to be ex-husband, Stephen, had served her divorce papers while she had struggled to preserve her position as Runway's Editor-in-Chief. Nine months ago her world had fallen apart, yet she had been unable to do anything other than shore up the land shifting under her feet as best she could and pretend nothing had changed. Nine months ago she had realized just how easily happiness could slip through her fingers when she was not vigilant. Nine months ago she had learned that she could not hope to maintain a balanced, fulfilling life if she focused solely on her work. Nine months ago she had realized in one agonizing moment that making assumptions, casting quick judgments, and acting on what had turned out to be faulty suppositions could, and had, left her bereft and empty.

As Miranda had pretended nothing was amiss, her battered heart had grieved. She was no closer to accepting the truth now than when it had slapped her across the face in Paris. She was unsure whether she would ever truly acknowledge what had happened. It confounded her to admit that she had not recognized what she had been feeling, what she still felt, or how much she meant to her, until she had walked away without a backward glance during Miranda's busiest week of the year: Paris Fashion Week.

Restless, Miranda firmly pulled her thoughts away from Andrea Sachs, telling herself, as she had for the last nine months, that they were not meant to be a part of each other's lives. Andrea had walked away. Andrea had begun to live her dream as a journalist. Andrea was better off without having a high-maintenance, mother of two in the middle of yet another divorce, editor-in-chief pounding on her door, asking—not demanding—for her time so that the days would once again contain some semblance of brightness.

"Emily. Go rent a motorboat. Be quick." Miranda heard her assistant scamper away as she leaned against the storm wall in front of her, located at the end of the causeway. Breathing in deeply, she took a moment to just be. Once Emily returned they would explore the coastline to determine whether their photographer might be able to take the shots needed for the next issue. Miranda thought that by having their photographer take the pictures from a boat while the models posed at the edge of the rocky coast, they might just be able to capture the dichotomy of the untamable ocean and the halcyon beachside.

After several minutes, Emily returned. "Miranda, I got a boat, but since there is no rental place around here, I had to beg some guy to use his—" she began as she shifted from foot to foot.

Shooting a quelling look at Emily, Miranda rolled her eyes, glad when the worthless information stopped cluttering the air. "Well?" she asked, irritated that Emily was not leading the way to this precious boat she had had so much trouble procuring. As if she cared. When she gave orders, she expected that they would be carried out completely, perfectly, immediately. That's why she was so successful—she expected the best, and people attempted to comply. If they wanted to continue working within the fashion industry, they were successful.

Miranda looked at the sorry excuse for a boat with disbelief. "You expect me to get into that?" Miranda demanded. With a heaving sigh, she looked around. No one was nearby. Redirecting her gaze to the metal contraption bobbing as waves pushed it against the shore, Miranda wondered whether her idea of exploring the coastline was worth pursuing. Emily stood silently, holding on to the edge of the skiff.

Shielding her eyes, Miranda looked across the ocean once more, as if searching for an answer. She saw a small island close by with several cabins scattered across it. Nodding her head, she pulled off her shoes and walked into the shallow water to climb in the boat. Evidently, Emily was a bit stronger than she appeared, for she kept the boat fairly steady as Miranda got settled. Moments later, she joined Miranda in the boat and used an oar to push them off the rocky shore before starting the motor.

"That way," Miranda directed as she pointed northeast, toward the island. Miranda swiveled so she could look at the mainland, searching for likely areas where models could lounge on the rocks. What she saw was not heartening. The coast was rocky and hard to reach. She hoped Nigel was having better luck. Feeling water sloshing over her bare feet, Miranda looked down in confusion. The bottom of the boat was filled with water.

"Emily. If I wanted to swim, I would not have been so subtle as to ask for a boat. How hard is it to navigate without drowning us?" Miranda ground out. The water was cold, and her feet felt unpleasantly numb. She shifted so that they rested on the side of the boat.

"I'm sorry, Miranda. I don't understand what's happening." Emily's eyes jumped frantically around the interior of what Miranda was starting to believe to be a deathtrap, as if looking for a neon sign to provide her with the answer as to why water kept seeping in.

Miranda spied a small beach pail toward the front of the boat and slid forward to grab it. Eyes widening a bit as she noted how much water was now in the boat, Miranda began to bail the water quickly. After a few minutes of Miranda's manual labor and Emily's panicked breathing, Miranda scanned the horizon. The island was farther away than she had anticipated. They were about two-thirds of the way to it. Firming her lips, Miranda got back to the task of bailing the water out of the bottom of the boat.

"Find a spot to land on the island, Emily. There are houses on it, so people must visit it." At least, she hoped so. She had no intention of being stranded on a deserted island with Emily, of all people. Now if she were with Andrea…she rolled her eyes at the absurd thought. So ridiculous. So pathetic. To be thinking of her still after all this time, to be fantasizing about being with the assistant who had walked away so proudly, so easily.

The waves slapped at the boat a bit more forcefully as Emily steered them toward shore. Just in time, too. Miranda's arms were beginning to tire, and she was not bailing the water out quickly enough to compensate for the leak. She was sorely disappointed by Emily's inability to rent a boat that wouldn't sink. The task had been a simple one, yet Emily had failed. What did that mean? How could this have occurred? Emily was the most competent assistant she had ever employed. If one discounted Andrea. Grimacing at the wayward thought, Miranda shook her head slightly, as if that would dislodge such rebellious musings from her mind.

Emily cut the engine as the tide pushed the boat on the sandbar. Miranda got out, becoming progressively annoyed as water splashed her pants, and helped Emily pull the boat up more so that it would not drift out to sea when the tide came in. If it weren't full of water by then.

"I hope you didn't pay too much to rent that deathtrap," Miranda sniffed as she looked up a slight incline. The land was sandy and littered with different-sized stones. No boats were on the shore, unfortunately. Perhaps the island inhabitants had moved them inland.

Looking around them, Miranda noted the entire area was uneven, the rocky ground sloping upward. The sand beneath her feet was packed down, but small rocks pricked her feet. It must be close to high tide, she surmised, as she saw how sundry pebbles, seashells, and seaweed created a marked line merely ten feet inland. As if to reinforce her thoughts, waves pushed at her legs, urging her to take action. "Emily, we need to pull the boat up more," Miranda directed. They silently pulled it over the land, dragging it to softer sand.

Miranda found her cell phone in her purse and held it close to her face so she could read the screen. No service. Scowling, she looked over at Emily. "Call Nigel immediately."

A moment later, Emily's hesitant voice told her what she had feared: her phone could not find a signal, either. Miranda sighed, thoroughly frustrated.

No one was around. The only sound she heard was the hypnotic rhythm of the ocean. Taking a few fortifying breaths, Miranda glanced toward Emily. She looked on the verge of tears. Miranda rolled her eyes. That's all she needed: a maudlin Brit. Knowing Emily would follow, Miranda gingerly picked her way through the rocks to higher ground. Sandals would be welcome about now. Or water shoes. Something to protect her feet from the punishing debris that blanketed the sand.

Cresting the incline, Miranda stopped while gazing around. She saw three cabins spaced out on this side of the island. She heard nothing, saw no one. The area was peaceful and calm. She knew several more structures were on the island. Miranda hoped she would not have to bang on every door to find someone to help her return to the mainland. She supposed, at worst, she could stay in one of the cabins overnight. No doubt, Nigel would report her missing, and they would investigate. She would be found—she had no doubt of that. It was just a matter of time.

With a sigh, Miranda made her way to the front door of the house closest to them. She knocked and listened for several moments. Nothing. Miranda walked to the next cabin, Emily wordlessly following, and repeated the process. Nothing. Even before she reached the third cabin, she knew no one would answer.

She supposed, if watching, some would expect her to direct Emily to knock on each door as she situated herself comfortably off to the side somewhere, enjoying the late afternoon weather. People had odd ideas. She was a go-getter, a person who waited for no one.

Why have Emily search for help when she was just as capable? Not to mention, Emily had already failed at her last task, and Miranda knew that her assistant was probably feeling pretty uncertain. That type of mentality would only attract more disappointing results. Better to allow Emily to regain her balance before making any other demands. Miranda would be sure to make her next demand attainable, although Emily would never know Miranda was setting her up to succeed.

Another misconception. People believed that Miranda wanted others to fail, particularly her underlings. That simply was not true. She knew what others were capable of—many times, they did not. When she demanded certain tasks be completed that seemed undeliverable, she was really providing them with opportunities to prove not just to her, but to themselves, that they were able to accomplish whatever they set out to do. Many merely did not believe in themselves. She enabled them to become empowered, self-reliant, confident. It was just that so many believed they would fail at their assigned tasks, so they did. Self-fulfilling prophesies.

Miranda studiously avoided any thoughts regarding the Harry Potter manuscript. That was a different matter entirely.

Shaking her head to dislodge those thoughts, Miranda picked her way around the curve of the island, her eyes sweeping the area for more houses. Four more were clustered on the top of a small, rocky plateau at the top of a hill. Some green shrubbery hugged the jagged rocks surrounding the well-worn path she ascended. As the dirt path wound around beach brush and hardy plants, Miranda found herself charmed by the simplicity of the island. Primitive though it was, it was a change from the City, where everything was congested and people filled every area. Here, she could hear herself think.

Once she reached the top of the gentle incline, Miranda paused. One of the cabins had the front door wide open. Tilting her head, Miranda listened for the sound of voices. She heard what sounded like a man and a woman talking. From the cadence of their voices, it seemed they were arguing. Miranda's eyebrows rose. She was not keen to interrupt a domestic dispute.

With misgivings, she walked slowly around the cabin. Her eyes fell on an elevated rock some twenty feet away where a long wooden table and matching bench rested. In the backyard itself, Miranda saw a ring of rocks around a shallow depression in the earth—obviously, the fire pit, with logs ringing it. A hammock swung gently in the wind, attached to two steel rods anchored in to the rocks. With no trees on this small island, the owners had been forced to improvise.

It struck Miranda that every piece of material used to erect the structures must have been brought over by boat, as had all the food, supplies, and recreational items. Truly, this was a world away from civilization.

"—No matter what I say, no matter what I do, it's never enough. She's always in your mind. I thought that once you had quit, we'd have a chance to make this work, but it's only gotten worse. Jesus! You even say her name while you are asleep! I can't compete with—"

"Miranda?!"

Hearing her name pronounced so particularly, as if she were some ghost arisen from the grave, Miranda turned her head quickly and felt her heart begin to pound as the impossible became her reality.

"Oh, for fuck's sake! Of course she's here! Did you invite her? Is that why you're breaking up with me?" a scruffy young man exclaimed, hands in the air as he stared at Andrea Sachs.

"Wha—what? No! Nate, I had no idea." Andrea swung toward Miranda. "How is this possible?" Her eyes were wide and wet, her hair wind-swept and tangled. She wore a navy blue tank top and khaki shorts, revealing more sun-kissed skin than Miranda had ever witnessed on her former assistant. She was gorgeous.

"Do you have a phone I can use, Andrea?" Miranda asked. A shake of those dark locks caused Miranda's heart to skip a beat even as it signaled bad news.

"I'm sorry, Miranda, but phones don't work over here. We have a two-way radio with the harbormaster, but that's only for emergencies," Andrea said.

"We need to contact the mainland. Our boat has a hole in it," Emily said, her eyes flittering between Andrea and Nate.

"Well, isn't this just great. All of us on one cozy island. Too bad I'm leaving!" the petulant man-child said as he leaned over to pick up some abhorrent sneakers. "You can have her," he snarled at Miranda.

"Take me with you," Emily said. Miranda tore her eyes away from him to look over at Emily with raised eyebrows. As if in answer, Emily explained in a low voice, "Once I get back, I'll contact Nigel and find a way to come back to get you."

The thought of being left on the island alone with Andrea, who was plainly distraught, caused a bolt of energy to surge through her. She had spent the last nine months actively pushing thoughts of this woman away and now it seemed that not only would she be forced to interact with her, but she would have to do so directly after witnessing a heated exchange between Andrea and her boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend, if Andrea had indeed just broken up with the man.

"Let's go, Red," he said as he strode away without a backward glance. Emily followed him.

The air seemed charged, whether from the argument Miranda had just witnessed or from her being alone with Andrea, she could not determine. They stared at each other as if not quite sure whether the last few minutes had really occurred. It all seemed so ridiculous and unlikely. How was it that after nine months of not seeing each other, they both had ended up on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts?

Truthfully, Miranda had no desire to speak. She did not want to enter the next moment where declarations and explanations were made. That would precede reactions and decisions she was not ready to make. She gazed at Andrea, appreciating her beauty, while accepting the feelings Andrea's special aura always made her feel—safe and cared for. She inhaled a large breath of the salt-tinged air and let it out, squeezing the bridge of her nose with two fingers. A whimper brought her eyes back up.

Chapter Text

Part 2

"Are you all right?" Miranda asked carefully as she automatically stepped forward, surprised not only that she had broken the silence but that she had uttered those words. She wanted to know, though. Andrea looked beaten up. Her shoulders were rounded, and her eyes were haunted. Miranda did not like it. Where was the woman who stood up for herself, the one who believed in herself?

"I…I don't know," Andrea whispered. She looked away and, as Miranda had a moment ago, drew in a deep breath. "You always did have impeccable timing, Miranda." Andrea looked back with a tremulous smile.

Before her mind could catch up with her, Miranda was in front of Andrea, so close she could see the freckles on Andrea's shoulders. With a sigh, Miranda pulled Andrea into a hug, ignoring how the woman became rigid before melting into the embrace. Miranda held her tightly and was gratified to feel strong arms wind around her waist. Miranda breathed in the heady scent of lavender, brine, suntan lotion, and Andrea. She felt Andrea burrow her head into the crook of her neck, felt the woman tremble as the first sobs broke free. Miranda held her tighter, trying to communicate to Andrea that she was safe, that she could trust her.

This feeling of protectiveness did not surprise Miranda. Although she had fought her feelings viciously, they had waited patiently just out of reach. She cared for this woman. Seeing her so obviously distraught did not sit well with Miranda. If she could provide comfort for even a few moments, she would. As Andrea's cries wound down, Miranda realized she had been rubbing Andrea's back soothingly while murmuring nonsense phrases—it's all right, you're okay, it will get better, don't worry—phrases she had used countless times with her girls when they had needed comfort.

She could feel Andrea calming while in her arms, and Miranda rejoiced in the feeling, in knowing that she had helped. She did not lend herself to others in this way often—really just to her daughters. She could not remember the last time she had provided such comfort and support to another adult. The irony that she was providing it to Andrea was not lost on her. After all, hadn't she hurt Andrea many times during their association? Hadn't she bruised her tender heart so badly that she had walked away?

Today seemed to be a test in believing in the unexpected, the unimaginable, and accepting them as they presented themselves. Feeling Andrea stir, Miranda was unsure what to do. She did not want to discuss anything just yet. She did not want to face their past or even explain her presence on this island. She just wanted to hold Andrea and believe the nonsense phrases she had uttered to Andrea mere moments ago.

"I don't want to let go," Andrea whispered.

Miranda gasped, hearing her wishes spoken aloud. She tightened her arms, one hand coming to rest on Andrea's lower back while the other one found a home at the base of her lovely neck, covered by the chocolate forest of Andrea's fragrant hair. Goosebumps rose on her arms as she felt Andrea's hands tighten, grabbing on to her back as if she were afraid Miranda would disappear unless she held on securely.

She could feel her emotions spiraling out of control. What she wanted, what she felt, how she had missed Andrea all these months, all these emotions swirled like a maelstrom, and Miranda was the little toy sailboat being propelled by the forceful current.

"Andrea," she whispered. Miranda had not felt so befuddled, so unsure as to what her next actions should be, in years. So, she did nothing except hold the beautiful woman for as long as she was allowed.

Eventually, Andrea pulled back to look into Miranda's eyes. She didn't know what Andrea was looking for, but Miranda withstood the scrutiny silently. "How much did you hear?" Andrea asked in a low voice.

"Just the tail end. I am sorry to have interrupted. I know how mortifying it can feel," Miranda said. She remembered when Andrea had witnessed one of Miranda's many arguments with Stephen. Miranda had felt so vulnerable, so powerless, and so embarrassed. She had punished Andrea the next day. She had wanted Andrea to feel as she had, wanted her to suffer. Andrea had surprised her, impressed her, though, by obtaining the unpublished Harry Potter manuscript—Miranda's unreasonable demand the day following Andrea's unwitting and unwanted intrusion.

Andrea's chuckle lit up her face. "Yes, and I know how it feels to witness it." She smiled warmly. "Well," she said. "Let's get you settled. Emily won't return until the morning, and you must be getting hungry." She released Miranda and turned toward the cabin's backdoor.

"Why won't Emily be back today?" Miranda asked as she followed Andrea into the cabin. It had a homey feel to it. Old, wooden furniture—chairs, an ancient couch, and a bookshelf—decorated the large main room. Books, magazines, puzzles, cards—all forms of entertainment littered the area. No electronics. No lights—just hurricane lamps and candles. A large brick fireplace was stacked with wood waiting to be lit.

Turning, Miranda saw a large cooler. Dried goods were stacked on top of the counter, and in the sink sat a large pot filled with water. Leaning forward, she saw lobsters moving slowly within its confines.

"High tide will be here in about an hour, and then it will be dark. Unless it's a medical emergency, no one will want to venture over here until the morning. Don't worry, though, there are two bedrooms here, and a bathroom with a solar shower. I have some spare clothes you can change into so that you won't ruin those, and we can have the freshest lobster for dinner that you've ever eaten," Andrea said. When Miranda did not reply, she added, "You do like lobster, don't you?"

Nodding, Miranda tried not to let her imagination carry her away. Alone on an island with Andrea, just as she had wished earlier. What other wishes might come true? "I do," she answered, then cursed herself silently for how low and sultry her voice sounded. Clearing her throat, Miranda wandered around the space. "This is a nice cabin, Andrea. Have you owned it long?"

"No. Nate moved to Boston for a sous-chef position right around the time I joined the Mirror, and we decided to try to salvage our relationship. I came up to visit each month, and a few months ago, we visited here with one of Nate's colleagues. Ben's an older guy, and he'd owned this place for decades. He said he was moving to Florida, and he wanted to give the place to someone who'd take care of it." Andrea looked out the window toward the ocean, a contemplative look on her face.

"He gave this to you?" Miranda prodded when Andrea said no more.

"Yup. Nate didn't want it, so Ben conveyed it to only me. Good thing, I guess. I get the feeling Nate won't be back. It's probably lucky for me you came here when you did. Otherwise I might be stranded here alone."

"And instead you are stranded here with me. Yes, you are lucky indeed," Miranda delivered dryly while rolling her eyes. Andrea's laugh made the joke worthwhile. "What's the island called?"

"Tinker's Island. As you already know, it has no telephone. It also has no electricity or plumbing. We bring in what we need and take off the trash. But it's a nice break from the fast-paced world we live in."

Miranda nodded and looked around once more. It was a cozy place, certainly ideal for short getaways. "Let me get you something to wear," Andrea interrupted Miranda's thoughts and disappeared into another room.

Miranda pursed her lips. All this time, Miranda had lived with the decision not to pursue Andrea. She had thought it was the best choice for all concerned. When Andrea had quit, Miranda had just received divorce papers from Stephen. She had not trusted herself or her motivations for wanting Andrea near. Using her would have been unconscionable. Regardless of her public persona and well-known reputation, she refused to hurt Andrea in that way. Yet, nine months had passed, and those feelings had roared back, demanding she listen this time, as soon as she saw Andrea again. And holding Andrea in her arms felt divine.

"Here you go." Andrea handed her some jeans and a t-shirt while placing a pair of water shoes before her. "I know it's a far cry from couture, but they are comfortable. Oh, and the jeans are probably too big. You know, fat girl," she said as she indicated herself nervously.

Miranda regarded Andrea pensively. "I should not have said that. You are certainly not fat. You are merely not model-thin. But you know," Miranda continued as she unfolded the clothes and looked at them carefully, "many celebrities are also not model-thin. There is a trend moving toward more realistic sizes. And you are as beautiful as any celebrity who has graced our cover."

Miranda smiled slightly, seeing Andrea's slack-jawed reaction.

"Where can I change?" Miranda prompted after enjoying the fiery glow gracing Andrea's cheeks for several moments. Andrea silently pointed toward a door on the other side of the living room.

Alone for the moment, Miranda looked around a small bedroom with a chest of wooden drawers and a bookcase filled with books. Of course. She smiled. Every room had bookcases overflowing with books, it seemed. Miranda disrobed and pulled the jeans on. Levis. Not too bad. Certainly comfortable. And the roominess at the waist allowed it to rest low on her hips. She rolled up the cuffs, amused by how long Andrea's pants were on her. Pulling the t-shirt over her head, she felt a bit dizzy as she smelled Andrea's scent. It surrounded her. The t-shirt was old and faded. Obviously, well-loved. She wondered whether she could somehow keep these clothes. She could well imagine watching Emily hyperventilate once she saw Miranda wearing them.

Exiting the room, Miranda found Andrea in the small kitchen. She leaned against the doorjamb watching as Andrea removed the lobsters from the pot, placing them on the counter, and dumped the water before refilling it. Picking up the two lobsters, Andrea looked over her shoulder and froze, surprise and pleasure reflected on her expressive face.

"You look—I mean, they seem to be doing the trick," Andrea stumbled, her face once more turning red.

Miranda smiled fully, unable to resist. The tableau of Andrea, hands filled with snapping lobsters, staring at her with unabashed appreciation caused Miranda to feel the tension roll off her shoulders. This is what she had missed—honest emotion.

"Yes, they are quite comfortable. Thank you, Andrea." Miranda pushed off the doorjamb and stepped forward, only a few feet from Andrea. "May I help?"

Looking flabbergasted, Andrea stuttered, "Uh, um, no-no, that's okay. You can just—yeah."

Pleased by her response, Miranda smirked again. "Very well. I will just 'yeah,' as you suggested," she teased. Her smirk broadened into a smile, soaking in the tension between them, knowing it was a good indication that Andrea was attracted to her.

Andrea turned and placed the lobsters in the sink, then picked up the full pot. Understanding what she was attempting, Miranda quickly stepped toward the screen door and pushed it open with one hand so that Andrea could walk outside. Andrea was forced to pass by closely, and both gasped at the proximity. Miranda followed and stood next to the cabin as she watched Andrea carry the pot over to the fire pit. She ignited the wood and set-up a platform upon which to rest the pot. After a few minutes of fiddling, she straightened up, taking several breaths and squaring her shoulders before turning to Miranda.

Miranda tilted her head, arms crossed, as she wondered what Andrea would do next. She watched Andrea wet her lips nervously before approaching Miranda.

"Miranda," she said quietly once she reached her. Miranda held her breath as Andrea extended a trembling hand and grazed her cheek with the back of her fingers. Miranda stared deeply into those amber eyes and saw the affection, the desire, the fear.

She closed her eyes, relishing in the hesitant touch. Her eyes fluttered open a moment later when the touch stopped. Andrea seemed so uncertain.

"Andrea," Miranda said. "Tell me what you are feeling." She captured Andrea's hand with her own, the hand that had just touched her, as she gazed into dark eyes. She could feel tingling extending out from that hand up her arm, across her chest and down between her legs. The energy invigorated her, empowered her, stimulated her.

"I…I've missed you, Miranda. Walking away from you was the hardest thing I've ever done, and I've regretted it every day since." Andrea shifted her eyes away.

"What is it you regret? No longer retrieving my coffee, no longer running around town to pick up couture, or no longer delivering my dry cleaning, Andrea?" Miranda said with a smile.

Andrea's eyes flew back to look at Miranda incredulously before her face split into a wide grin. "Well, not that so much. But I didn't say I missed the job, just you."

"Mm. That is quite a distinction. And what exactly did you miss about me? My constant demands, my witty barbs, my disapproving glares?" Miranda hadn't exactly treated Andrea well. She found it hard to believe that Andrea had missed her.

"It's true that you were a harsh taskmaster, but you were my boss. I was supposed to do my job perfectly, and you do not suffer fools gladly. I learned what a work ethic is all about from you, and how my personal code of ethics might conflict with my aspirations. I know walking away was unprofessional—I know I should have just given my notice, but that last lesson was hard to accept."

Miranda felt a chill sweep through her. To think that Andrea would judge her, deem her actions in Paris as unethical and unacceptable, angered her. She had been fighting for her job, her livelihood. When Irv Ravitz, CEO of Elias-Clarke, had conspired to push her out of her position as editor-in-chief of Runway, Miranda had taken decisive actions to protect herself. It had been unfortunate that Nigel had lost his dream job in the process, but Miranda had needed to give his new position to the person Irv had planned to use as her replacement. Nigel understood how cutthroat their industry was. He harbored no ill-will. What right did Andrea have to hold that event against her? She dropped Andrea's hand with the intent of walking away. Andrea apparently had other ideas, though.

"Oh, no, you don't!" she exclaimed as Miranda found herself pinned against the side of the cabin. "You'll listen to this. Besides, where are you planning on running? This is an island, Miranda. Just, just listen for a minute, will you?" Andrea said heatedly. Miranda nodded slightly and felt Andrea's hold loosen, although she kept a hand on her arm.

"Say what you will, but I refuse to explain what happened in Paris. It was necessary. We can't always do what we want to do. Sometimes we have to make the hard choices, the choices that may hurt others." Miranda cursed under her breath. Here she had just proclaimed that she would not explain herself and then she had proceeded to do so.

"I know. I understand what happened, why it happened. And I realized that you would not have hurt Nigel if you could have avoided it. But I didn't have all the facts then. And I was still at the beginning of my education, of learning what it means to be a part of the business world. Nothing is clear cut, and nothing is easy. People aren't always nice, and if you mess up, you're done."

Andrea loosened her hold even more and softened her voice. "But you didn't ruin me when I messed up. You weren't cruel even though you had every reason to be. You gave me a recommendation, instead. That action showed me more than anything else that business and personal ethics sometimes conflict because of our emotions. You chose not to hurt me. You made a personal choice."

"Perhaps I chose not to ruin your career so that you would be indebted to me," Miranda challenged.

Miranda watched uncertainty flicker and fade away in Andrea's eyes. "No. That's not why you did it. You care about me. And even though I expressed my ethics poorly, you admired my willingness to walk away from a road that might have led me to write for any magazine I wanted."

"It would have. After one year you could have written for anyone. It will take you longer now. However, your writing is good. You will go far, Andrea Sachs. You do not need my name to smooth the way." Miranda gently pushed aside some hair that had fallen in front of a glowing eye and cupped a cheek. "Are we done sorting out the past now, Andrea?" She watched Andrea nod. "Good. I believe you promised me a lobster dinner."

After another minute where they stared at each other, Andrea surprised Miranda by tightening the hold on her arm and pulling her in for a quick hug. Miranda smiled as she felt Andrea's other arm slide around her waist and squeeze. Before Miranda could respond, she felt herself released.

They walked over to the boiling water in companionable silence. "I'll go get the lobsters. Be right back," Andrea said softly. Miranda remained outside, enjoying the slight breeze. The temperature had dropped a bit as sunset approached. So had the wind. Miranda couldn't remember the last time she had been able to just enjoy the peacefulness of a summer afternoon. She was glad that she was able to share it with Andrea, Andrea who obviously had feelings for her. Miranda felt a thrill overtake her.

"Here we go," Andrea said as she carefully placed the lobsters in the pot to boil. "It's a bit barbaric, I know. Some people get really upset about boiling live lobsters, but I just think about how good it's going to taste."

Miranda chuckled. "I assure you, I do not have that problem."

"Oh, good. I'm going to get the butter to melt and set up the picnic table. This won't take long. You can just enjoy the weather. I'll be right back." Andrea left to finish her self-appointed tasks.

Spying a large boulder nearby, Miranda sat on it and closed her eyes, head tilted back to feel the sun fully on her face. She did not often indulge in sunbathing. She usually slathered sunscreen over her pale skin to protect it. She doubted her skin would tan much, if at all, from any exposure this late in the day. The sun's caress was relaxing, though, and she enjoyed the freedom of sitting silently while she had no responsibilities to fulfill.

An undetermined time later, as Miranda's mind wandered over countless subjects without dwelling on any of them, she heard Andrea's soft voice close by. "The lobsters are ready." Opening an eye, she saw Andrea standing in front of her, a tender look in her eyes. Miranda was charmed by the extended hand, and she took it, allowing Andrea to pull her off the rock. They stood closely for a moment before turning and walking, hands still linked, to the table.

The table was set with paper plates, lobster crackers, picks, mallets, small buckets, napkins, and bibs. Two bowls were filled with melted butter. Miranda could feel her cholesterol rising just by viewing the meal. Bottled water and Chalone 2003 Pinot Blanc, an acceptable California wine, were positioned off to the side.

Not having actually eaten shelled lobster before, Miranda took her cues from Andrea, who caught on quickly and gallantly offered to crack the lobster. Miranda, however, would not be deprived of the experience by allowing Andrea to do it.

Working to crack and hammer the lobster, pick out the meat, and dip each bite made the meal extremely satisfying. At one point some juice squirted out and hit her in the face. Andrea's look of horror tickled her funny bone, and Miranda could not help but laugh. This entire sequence of events was entirely out of her normal realm of existence. Andrea surprised her by reaching over with a napkin and gently wiping away the moisture.

"God, you are beautiful," Andrea whispered.

"With lobster juice all over my face," Miranda scoffed.

"With lobster juice all over your face," Andrea echoed softly. Miranda got lost in the moment, in the open eyes and soft touch.

They finished the meal with many searching looks and careful flirting. Miranda was confident that Andrea was interested, but she could not afford to make a mistake. It did not help that Andrea had just ended a relationship. Just as she had not wished to pursue Andrea directly after her relationship with Stephen had ended, so she did not want to be the recipient of misplaced emotion now that Andrea had broken up with Nate.

As if hearing her thoughts, Andrea said, "My relationship with Nate ended a long time ago, even before Paris. We kept trying, but I had changed too much. He wanted me to change back to the old Andy, the one who liked to get drunk and party, the one who made fun of people we didn't know or understand, the one who could talk about things that interested him. But I liked who I was becoming. I couldn't undo what I had learned, and I didn't want to."

"You should not have to change in order to keep someone's love, Andrea," Miranda murmured.

"I know. But he doesn't. Or maybe he does, but he just doesn't want to accept that I am different now and we can't go back." Andrea sipped her wine as she thought for a moment. Miranda did not break the silence, knowing that Andrea had more to say.

"He claimed that I was hung up on you. He thought once I left Runway that I would move on and we could work on the relationship. It didn't help that he'd moved here, but distance really shouldn't matter, not when you love someone." Miranda watched as Andrea swallowed nervously. "He was right," she said so softly that Miranda had to lean forward to hear. "I was drawn to you, and once I no longer saw you, I grieved. So, I have missed you, Miranda—your energy, your essence, your brilliance, your work ethic, even your sharp eyes and even sharper tongue. I am so glad to see you, and I hope that I'll get to see you again once we are back in the City."

Miranda gazed at Andrea for several moments, recognizing that she seemed braced for the worst. Miranda could not help but admire her willingness to risk her heart. Placing a hand on Andrea's where it rested on the table, Miranda said, "We will see each other again, Andrea, if that is what you desire. But you must know that I will not allow you to walk away again so easily." Miranda held Andrea's eyes, watching as she began to believe Miranda's words. The blinding smile Miranda received a moment later made her heart skip.

"Right," Andrea breathed. She nodded. "I won't walk away again. I promise." She turned her hand over and squeezed Miranda's hand. They smiled at each other.

Chapter Text

Part 3

"Um, if we hurry, we can watch the sunset from a really beautiful spot on the other side of the island. Let me just clean all this up," Andrea said suddenly and hopped up, gathering their soiled plates and napkins.

Miranda gathered the bowls of butter and the used utensils to bring inside, ignoring Andrea's objections. She did not need to be waited on, and she wanted to help. She waved away Andrea's words and deposited everything in the sink so that they could wash them later.

Turning, she nearly walked into Andrea. "Let me just get us some jackets," Andrea said nervously as she removed her hands from Miranda's hips, where they had ended up when they had nearly collided. Miranda's skin burned from the contact. She nodded mutely.

"Okay. This way," Andrea said brightly as she led the way outside and turned left. They picked their way downhill and around the bend. The sun was nearly at the horizon, causing the sky to burn orange, red, and purple. They stopped at some large boulders close to the high tide waterline and sat on one, so close their thighs touched.

It was magical. The colors intensified before fading over the calm, dark ocean. Miranda felt so full. She could not quantify her feelings, but she knew she was glad to be sharing this day with Andrea. Feeling eyes on her, Miranda turned her head and caught her breath. Faces close together, they gazed at each other. Miranda watched as an expression of wonder overtook Andrea's sweet face, and she could not resist any longer.

Cocking her head slightly, Miranda saw Andrea copy the motion as they moved toward each other slowly. Miranda focused on parted lips, and soon she felt them pressing against her own. The explosion of feeling overwhelmed her, and she moaned. Slowly, they moved their lips against each other, not moving any other part of their bodies—only connected by this delicious kiss. When Andrea's tongue touched her lips, Miranda felt a strong current of lust rise to the forefront. She groaned and pulled Andrea forward by the back of her neck for a deeper kiss. Chills ran through her as their tongues tangled, and Miranda stroked the inside of Andrea's mouth provocatively.

Miranda felt desire overtake her, dictating that she explore this woman's body. "Andrea," she whispered when the kiss broke. She wanted Andrea to be sure. She wanted Andrea to want this as much as she did. She wanted to know that this would last more than one night.

"I have wanted this for a long time, Miranda," Andrea said, again reading Miranda's thoughts easily. "Tell me you want this, too. Tell me you've missed me, you've thought about me, you want me."

"I do. I have." Miranda admitted before crushing her lips against Andrea's mouth for another kiss, this time much more heated and just as intoxicating. She felt strong arms embrace her, moving restlessly over her back before cradling her head with such care that it made Miranda shudder.

Andrea pulled away abruptly and rose from the rock, pulling Miranda off and into her arms. They hugged, and Miranda loved feeling Andrea's body against her. Sliding an arm around Miranda's waist, Andrea led the way back to the cabin. Miranda vibrated with awareness, wanting to get back quickly so she could feel those lips again.

"I have to finish cleaning up," Andrea said apologetically. "It won't take long."

Miranda nodded and entered the cabin while Andrea remained outside. Seeing the sink, Miranda made quick work of washing the bowls and utensils and placing them on a dish rack to dry. She opened a door off the side and, seeing it was a small bathroom, used the facilities to wash up. Noticing a new toothbrush wrapped in cellophane, she was even able to brush her teeth. Feeling cleaner, Miranda reentered the kitchen just as Andrea came in from outside. They gazed at each other for a moment.

"Let me, I just have to," Andrea indicated the bathroom. Miranda smiled. Andrea really was adorable when she was nervous. She moved out of the way so that Andrea could pass by. When Andrea became level, Miranda leaned in and kissed her smooth cheek. Andrea smiled shyly. "Be right back."

Wandering out of the kitchen and in to the living room, Miranda lit some candles and one of the hurricane lamps. She debated whether to start a fire in the fireplace but decided to see what Andrea wanted. Sitting on the couch, Miranda admitted to herself that she was a bit nervous. This step they were taking would change their dynamic dramatically. Miranda would not be able to dictate their interactions. They would be equals. And as their relationship changed, Miranda would be more susceptible to becoming hurt. Although she did not believe that Andrea would seek to hurt her, that did not mean it would not happen. Was she willing to take that risk?

A hand taking hers refocused her attention as Andrea sat down beside her. "Are you all right?" Andrea asked.

Miranda thought about that question. Although she had concerns, she felt better now than she had in quite a while. She knew that was due to being with Andrea. Smiling slightly, Miranda answered, "I believe so. You have taken me by surprise, Andrea, although I suppose I should have anticipated my reaction toward you. There's always been a certain tension between us."

"Mm. Yes. It took me a long time to figure it out, though. I just had no clue. I never expected to feel this way. I have to admit, I find it incredible that you feel something for me, too."

Andrea's words washed over her, warming her. Miranda smiled fully. "I do feel something. I would like to feel more." Reaching out, Miranda wove her fingers through silky strands, welcoming Andrea's kiss. They kissed softly, short kisses that whetted her appetite and left her wanting more. Tamping down on her desire to demand more, Miranda slid her lips over a cheek to suck on an earlobe, smiling as she felt Andrea's body tremble. She licked the shell and kissed behind the ear before kissing a line down her arched throat. At the base she licked the indentation where the collarbone rested before sucking on the protruding bone. Arms pulled her closer as she made her way to the other collarbone and repeated her actions.

"Miranda," Andrea whispered fervently.

"You taste wonderful, Andrea. That boy was a fool to let you go. He'll realize that too late. You are in my arms now, and I will make sure you remain there," Miranda whispered into Andrea's ear before nipping it. She pulled Andrea toward her as she leaned against the couch. Soon Andrea's body draped over her prostrate form, and Miranda reveled in the heat emanating from the body resting on her. She framed Andrea's lovely face with her hands, holding back the curtain of chocolate hair to search passion-stained eyes. "Is this what you want, Andrea?" she asked seriously, not willing to go further if Andrea was unsure about her feelings.

"Yes. I want this. I want you. So much," Andrea answered firmly.

Miranda believed her. She pulled Andrea's face forward and delivered a heated kiss. Miranda sucked on Andrea's tongue, loving the moans and mewls she heard as she continued to get lost in their kisses. Miranda explored Andrea's body, her hands touching the skin readily accessible under the hem of Andrea's tank top. She traced the curve of Andrea's spine, lifting up the top as she did so, and ended the kiss to gaze on rounded breasts heaving against her chest. She pushed Andrea up slightly so she could view tight nipples begging to be tasted. Miranda pulled the top off completely and slid her lips down Andrea's chest. She circled a nipple gently before licking the bud, eliciting a long groan. Taking the nipple into her mouth, Miranda leisurely began sucking it, licking it, pulling at it as Andrea practically sobbed her pleasure. She kneaded the side of the breast with her hand while her other hand explored a long, toned leg.

"Oh my God," Andrea moaned. "It feels so good. You feel so good." Spurred on by Andrea's enjoyment, Miranda switched to the other breast and began to lavish more forceful attention on it. She nibbled on the bud, gently biting it and sucking strongly. Andrea's body moved against her, distracting her enough that she paused to look down. Her hand stroked a shapely hip as Andrea's legs bracketed Miranda's jean-clad one. Moving her hand inward, Miranda cupped Andrea's backside, massaging one glorious globe in time to her movements.

"Don't stop. Oh, please, don't stop," Andrea wailed as she practically thrust a breast back into Miranda's mouth.

Andrea's lower body pressed against Miranda inflamed her. She continued to suck on a breast while her other hand found the waistband of the shorts and slipped beneath the thin panties. Not wanting to wait even another second, her hand searched for Andrea's center, loving how hot and wet and open she felt. Miranda hummed as her fingers slipped effortlessly through slick folds and inside Andrea.

"Yes!" Andrea exclaimed as her movements became more focused. Miranda curled two fingers and thrust in and out of Andrea while rubbing strongly each time she was fully inside Andrea's channel. Andrea's heavy breathing signified that she was close, as did her jerky movements. "Ahh, Miranda, Miranda, I'm gonna, oh my God, this feels so incredible. I'm gonna—co—ahhhh," Andrea expelled in a loud groan as her head snapped back. Pulling Andrea's body even closer, Miranda raised her knee slightly and guided Andrea's gyrating body against hers while continuing to thrust in and out as fast as her wrist and the limited space between Andrea's waistband and her body allowed.

As Andrea began to slow down, Miranda delivered kisses to her glistening chest, licking at the perspiration. Her hand continued to push and pull at Andrea's backside, signaling that she should not stop her rhythm, although she did allow the pace to slow down. Miranda withdrew her other hand enough so that she could rub against the protruding center of nerves. Andrea's body reacted strongly to the new touch as Andrea cried out.

Searching lips found Miranda's, and they kissed with more and more passion as the pace sped up once more. Miranda was so hot—she was burning up. She wanted her clothes off, she wanted to feel Andrea's skin sliding against hers, she wanted to feel Andrea's hands all over her. But first, she wanted to watch Andrea climax again.

Andrea broke off the kiss, wild eyes staring into Miranda's. "Jesus! What are you doing to me? How are you doing this? Oh my God! I'm gonna—"

Miranda watched in awe as Andrea's eyes slammed shut and her body arched back as another orgasm hit. Miranda's eyes widened at the sensuality so obvious in the rolling of the woman's hips. Each thrust was long and slow. Andrea's mouth was parted, eyes still closed, and neck curved toward the ceiling. Her arms were on either side of Miranda's body, holding herself up as she slowed her pelvic motions with a low "mmmm" that skittered down Miranda's back. When her eyes opened, Miranda gasped, and watched breathless as Andrea slowly licked her slightly swollen lips, much like a well-fed lioness. "That was fantastic. I want you to feel just as good. Let me make you feel good," Andrea said as she leaned forward to deliver an ardent kiss.

Miranda was not objecting.

Strong hands pulled Miranda up into a sitting position as they continued to kiss, finding their way under her shirt to torture sensitive breasts. Moaning her assent, Miranda attacked Andrea's mouth, kissing her with abandon. She hardly noticed when her jeans were unbuttoned or the zipper lowered, but she most certainly noticed when hot fingers explored her, gathering her excitement and rubbing it against her clitoris. Miranda muttered, "Andrea," against those addictive lips as her hips began to move against those wicked digits, chasing them as they moved everywhere but where she needed them to be. "Andrea!" she complained, not appreciating the chuckle against her lips, and certainly not liking when the hand was withdrawn completely. Opening her eyes, she watched as Andrea licked her fingers before bending forward to remove Miranda's pants and underwear in one swift motion.

Miranda gasped as hands roughly pushed her legs apart and lips firmly sucked her clitoris. Fingers entered her as she undulated helplessly, not knowing where to focus, all the sensations working to overload her ecstatic body. A tongue began to deliver a staccato beat on her engorged nerve center, and she knew she would not last long. "Andrea," she panted as she felt tension build low in her belly, growing and expanding rapidly as fingers pushed inside her forcefully, just the way she loved. Her back bent so much that only her head touched the couch as the orgasm washed over her, and all she could focus on was the intense sensation of wave after wave of bliss flowing through her, over her, drowning her, making it hard to breathe, to think, to do anything other than accept the moment and everything that had led to it.

When her mind caught up with her body, she found that her body continued to tremble with pleasant aftershocks. Andrea kissed her hip while sliding her fingers out, and Miranda watched with half-closed eyes as Andrea took great pleasure licking her fingers clean. Catching her eye, Miranda raised an eyebrow.

"I love how you taste, Miranda. If I have my way, I'll be tasting you as often as possible," Andrea said as she kissed Miranda's belly and nuzzled the underside of one breast.

That sentiment alone stirred Miranda's blood into a frenzy. She pulled Andrea up to her and kissed her voraciously, her hands divesting Andrea of her shorts and panties expediently. Feeling Andrea smiling against her, she murmured, "What are you smiling about, Andrea?" even as she smiled in response.

"I think you have too many clothes on," Andrea answered before pulling off the t-shirt and bra Miranda wore. "And I think we need more space."

Moments later they were splayed against each other on a bed, skin to skin as they kissed languidly. Miranda knew they had much to discuss, but she also knew that Andrea would not walk away. With that assurance, she would do what was needed to make sure Andrea never regretted that choice.


 

Miranda opened her eyes before the sun rose. She was surprised, really. They had enjoyed exploring each other's bodies late into the night, and Miranda was tired. Yet, her internal clock would not allow her to sleep late, not even in Andrea's comfortable arms. Turning her head toward the window, she felt a breeze ruffle through her hair and smiled, remembering Andrea's hands feeling just as gentle merely hours before. Disentangling herself reluctantly, Miranda used the facilities and showered quickly, wanted to save some hot water for Andrea. She idly wondered when Andrea would be returning to New York. Perhaps they could travel together.

Moving to the kitchen, Miranda found some coffee to grind and set about making breakfast. Andrea obviously knew how to rough it—she had all the necessary supplies to make the stay quite enjoyable. Just as she was finishing frying some eggs over the fire, she felt a kiss on the nape of her neck. Looking over as Andrea stood next to her, she smiled slightly.

"Morning," she heard Andrea greet her. "How did you sleep?"

"Very well, Andrea." Miranda handed over a cup of coffee and transferred the cooked eggs to two plates. "I would very much like to see the sunrise. Is there a particular place on the island that affords a good view?"

"A great view. I know just the place."

They ate in companionable silence before cleaning up and making their way to the eastside of the island. They rested on rocks, listening to the waves as they crashed against the shore. "When will you return to New York?" Miranda asked softly.

"Today. I have a car on the mainland, so once we get back, I'll probably find some place to have lunch and then drive back. Would you, I mean, if you want—" she said before looking off in the distance.

"Andrea." Miranda waited for her to look at her. "If you are inviting me to join you, then I do want." She smiled at the relieved look on Andrea's face. "Or, if you prefer, I can assign someone to drive your car while you travel back with me. It doesn't matter to me, as long as we travel together. And I would very much like to come back here with you some time soon. Perhaps with the girls at some point, but I cannot say that I am quite ready to share this with them just yet."

"I, that would be great. That will be great. I don't think anyone will want to drive my car, though. It's old, and the air conditioning doesn't work." Andrea shrugged.

"Well, then, that's settled. We will go back in the town car. That will give us ample time together. Someone else can drive your car. It's the least Emily can do after renting us a boat with a hole in it." Before Andrea's pride could get the better of her and make her object, Miranda kissed her. "I'd like to spend more time with you." That seemed to take the fight out of Andrea as her eyes softened. Miranda smiled.

They turned their faces toward the east and watched the sun rise. Miranda was reminded of Langston Hughes' poem, "Walkers With the Dawn."

Being walkers with the dawn and morning,
Walkers with the sun and morning,
We are not afraid of night,
Nor days of gloom,
Nor darkness-
Being walkers with the sun and morning.

Miranda did not realize she had recited it aloud until Andrea said, "I love that poem. And we are. I feel invincible with you by my side. This sunrise," Andrea pointed toward the sun rising over the ocean, "it's different with you, brighter."

Humming her agreement, Miranda leaned in for a kiss. She knew exactly what Andrea meant. If she had her way, she would never walk alone again. Neither of them would.

A sharp cry pulled them away from each other. Miranda turned to see Emily and Nigel standing nearby. Irritated by the interruption, Miranda glared. Andrea's soft chuckle pulled her attention away from her soon-to-be-fired assistant.

"Looks like the rescue team has arrived. We might as well get our belongings and get going." She leaned in and whispered to Miranda, "The sooner we get back, the sooner I can hold you in my arms again." Miranda shivered at the promise delivered through those words. Nodding, she stood up and extended a hand to Andrea.

Andrea's bright smile rivaled the sunrise as she took Miranda's hand. They walked toward Emily and Nigel slowly, Miranda shooting a warning glance at both of them. Nigel just smiled and nodded at Andrea.

"Six! Fancy meeting you here. But I suppose if Miranda were going to be shipwrecked, it's only right that you be around to rescue her." Nigel clapped a hand on Andy's back as they passed him.

"Hi, Nigel. Yup. You're right. I'm like the tides—I may come and go, but I'll always come back again. I just can't help myself, I guess."

"So, Miranda's the moon, then?" Nigel joked as he flanked Andrea, Emily sulkily walking to his right.

"The moon, the stars, the sun, the world." Andrea laughed, and Miranda felt herself flush with pleasure at those heartfelt words. She looked over at Andrea and smiled warmly. She wanted to make similar declarations. She wanted to make Andrea feel as loved as she felt, but it would wait. She had time. They had time.

Andrea was right. Like the tides, they were pulled toward each other. Miranda had never stopped feeling the pull. And as she had told Andrea last night, she would not allow her to leave so easily this time, not now that she knew their feelings were mutual.

She could say one thing, though. "I don't believe I can be all those things, although I appreciate the sentiment. If I am the sun, though," Miranda tapped her fingers against her lips in thought, "I suppose that makes you the morning." Miranda cocked her head in thought. "My daily beginning, my horizon."

She leaned in to whisper to Andrea, "And I cannot wait to warm every inch of your delectable body once more." Watching her beautiful face blush, Miranda teased, "You see? I have begun already."

Andrea's carefree laugh warmed Miranda from the inside out, flowing over her in waves. Looking around she noted how the sun was burning away the fog, delivering its warmth to the welcoming land. Yes, that's how she felt. Finally, she was burning away the haziness that had enshrouded her, and her future was clear. And bright. And warm.

The End.