Arnav wore a black silk shirt and looked like sex on wheels. Khushi met his eyes and looked away as usual. She couldn’t deny that he looked handsome and that he did something make her heart do somersaults but she was damned if she’d admit it. So she raised her chin and looked at him again, defiance plain in her eyes. Arnav simply bowed his head very slightly, not for all to see but only for her as if acknowledging her defiance. When her gaze moved from him, she saw a lovely woman standing next to him, looking at him with a smile of joy and wonder on her face and then looking at her. Her smile radiated warmth and Khushi automatically smiled back at her even though her mind buzzed with hundred questions. Who was she and what was she to him? Her face though, remained clear of her thoughts.
Mrs. Raizada’s loud voice boomed in her ears, making her flinch. “Ah! Arnav, Anjali beta.. come come. We were just waiting for you.” She looked Khushi and said, “Payal, Khushi; beta meet my darling niece Anjali. She is Arnav’s sister and she too loves candles like Payal does.”
After hands were shaken and embracing done, Anjali sat down next to Khushi and Payal. She engaged Payal in small talk while Khushi wondered about her. So this was Arnav’s sister. She was so different from him! Like chalk and cheese this brother-sister pair were; with one being so mean and cruel while the other being extremely warm and sweet. Anjali was beautiful, thought Khushi. In that area of course, both brother and sister had been generously blessed by the Almighty.
“Useless to compare; she’s the sweet side of me.” Amused voice broke into her thoughts.
“I beg your pardon?” Khushi feigned ignorance.
“Anjali is my half-sister and thus perhaps missed the mean streak that I inherited.” Arnav said, “I know what you were thinking.”
Khushi fluttered her lashes at him and gave him a very obvious fake smile, “I had no idea you were a psychic. And are you telling me there actually is a sweet side to you? Wow.”
The statement was meant to insult him and it sure did. For a moment, his eyes caught fire and his jaw tensed but then, control took over. He visibly relaxed and smiled, “Oh yeah, I tried to show you my sweet side the other day but you ran away.”
“I didn’t run away!” Khushi protested, her glare deadly enough to kill a man or two. Then as if she realized she had just acquiesced with his statement in a way, she said, “I walked away like any female with sense in her head would. And if that was the sweeter side of you, god help us all when you -”
Aware that she was again putting her foot in her mouth, she shut up. Amber eyes bored into her, challenging her to continue. “when I what- Khushi? Scared to put your thoughts into words, are you?”
“Nonsense! Anyway, I don’t think sharks have a sweet side to them.” Khushi declared, avoiding his eyes. As if she couldn’t bear to sit there with his eyes looking at her, she stood up and immediately felt flustered as all eyes looked at her. Smiling hesitantly, she said, “I think I’ll take a look at all those candles and lights by the poolside.” Looking at Anjali, she smiled genuinely, complimenting her, “They look beautiful.”
Anjali smiled back at her, affirming her opinion that here sat a lovely woman who was an absolute antithesis of her brother.
Khushi reached the poolside and took a deep breath. She really needed to calm down when that man was around! She had no idea why he affected her so much but she couldn’t ignore the fact that he did. May be this was the first time she actually understood what it was like to feel attracted to a man. She had been the centre of attention for many guys in the last couple of years but she had been easily able to dismiss their attention, their stares. Nothing had ever affected her the way his eyes did. It troubled her that she had no control over her reactions to him. Why was she not able to control her heart beats around him? Why did she left him affect her so?
“Thinking about me?” A voice spoke softly in her ear. Deep in thoughts, Khushi took the voice to be a part of her thinking and simply muttered, “Great, now I hear him in my thoughts! Why is he affecting me like this? Not that I give a damn but-”
A chuckle broke into her thoughts and Khushi realized with horror that the voice had not been a part of her thoughts. Arnav was actually standing next to her. She moved away quickly and tried to mask her reactions. Acting nonchalant, she asked, “What are you doing here?”
“Helping you think more about me, obviously.” He tantalizingly replied. Khushi put all the scorn she could muster in her gaze while she looked up at him, “You give yourself too much credit. I was not thinking about you.”
“No?” He asked disbelief plain on his face.
Khushi moved further away from him, to the other side of the pool, where potted flowers lay on one side of the wall. “Of course not! I was thinking about- well, not about you for sure. And it’s none of your business who or what I was thinking about.”
“What if I want to make it my business?” Before Khushi knew what was happening, he had trapped her between himself and the wall.
“You- you-” Words failed her and Khushi tried to find a way to get out of the trap. Arnav came closer still until she could feel his breath on her face.
“I-what Khushi?” Arnav whispered, bending a bit so that he could whisper in her ear, “If you want to know, you’ve been in my thoughts too. Unwanted and unexpected but you’ve been there… in my unholy thoughts. Does that help you?”
“No.” Khushi could only whisper back an honest reply.
“What should we do about it then?” Arnav whispered, coming closer, his eyes resting on her lips that trembled when he touched them gently. “I know of a cure.”
“You do?” Khushi’s breathing had gone ragged by now, with his fingers working magic on her lips. She wanted to lick them, to take them one by one in her mouth and suck on them. Never in her life had she felt such sensations rocking her body before. She stared into his eyes that beckoned her to travel with him to places unknown. She felt as if she was losing herself in those deep pools of amber fire that burned with desire. It gave her a heady feeling of power to know that she could ignite such fire in his eyes. His next words almost undid her.
“Sure I do. Let me show you how to cure it.” Arnav said to her. Before she could guess his intentions, he took her in his arms, slowly placed one hand on the nape of her neck and bent down- to touch his lips to hers. At first his lips were gentle and soft but soon they turned demanding and coaxed a response out of her, devouring her.
Khushi had heard of powerful physical attraction but never felt it before. She was stunned for a second or two when his lips stroked hers. Then she forgot everything- who she was, who he was and simply melted in his arms. All the anger since the time they’d first laid eyes on each other went puff and the only thing that seemed to have remained was this attraction that they felt for each other. She wound her arms around his neck and opened her mouth in response, inviting him in to taste her deeply. Arnav groaned softly when he felt her mouth open under his and deepened the kiss. He caressed her back, moulding her body to his as if they wanted to be one.
God, what was she doing to him? He’d never felt this raging fire pulsing in his veins before. It felt as if he’d die if he let go of her lips. Their breaths mingled and tongues touched, making him want to explore more of her- all of her. At this moment he couldn’t remember his name, let alone the fact that they were by the poolside and anyone could see them if they walked by. He could feel her inexperience in that kiss and for some reason that excited him all the more.
Exerting immense control over his body, Arnav slowly removed his lips from hers and stepped back so that he wouldn’t grab her again. He had to control himself because he knew in his gut that if he held her again, they wouldn’t let each other go. He was now sure that until they had sated each other’s hunger, this fire wouldn’t burn out. But for the moment, he would have to gain control. His good intentions almost flew out of the window when he saw the expression on her face. Khushi still had her eyes closed. As his lips left hers, she slowly licked them clean of his taste and took a deep breath. He groaned out loud.
“For heaven’s sake, take pity on me darling. Right now, if we don’t stop I will simply lay you down and take you right here, right now.”
That seemed to have an instant effect- her eyes snapped open as she looked at him dazedly first and then with growing horror on her face.
Khushi opened her eyes slowly, her senses still under the spell of the kiss. What a kiss that was! It felt as if she had only just come to life with that kiss. She licked her lips and she could taste him. She didn’t know what she craved for, only that he do it again and again until she felt completely replete.
A groan broke into her thoughts, and then she heard the words, softly spoken. Her eyes snapped open, growing wide with horror, her breathing wild. She looked at Arnav and her hands came up to cup her mouth. Devi Maiyya! Oh my goodness! What had she done! What had HE done to her! She had been almost ready to make love to him by the poolside, in view of anyone who cared to walk by! She was completely confused about her feelings at this time but she surely was better than this! How could she have done this? He made her do it!
Disgust and rage took hold of her senses, the cloud of desire completely lifted now. “How dare you! You can’ go around kissing anyone you feel like. Just because you’re rich and I’ll grant you- good looking, doesn’t mean you can come on to me!” She raged, her voice hoarse from the emotions she was going through. She lifted her hand as if slap him but at his quiet, “Be careful Khushi. If you slap me, you may go through another round of roller coaster of emotions you’re not ready to face yet. You gave as much as you got out of that kiss.”
Khushi turned away from him, her anger evident by the trembling of her body, “Forget that this ever happened! It’s just the kind of thing I should have expected from you. I’ve heard about you Arnav Singh Raizada. You’re a playboy out there in London, with many notches out on your belt. Don’t you even think that I’ll be one of them! You are disgusting!”
“You didn’t find me so disgusting a few seconds back when you were kissing me back. Had I not stopped, I could have -”
Khushi motioned him to stop with her hand out in protest, her eyes spitting fire now. “I didn’t know what I was doing, naïve that I am in these matters but you did. And you were out to take advantage of that fact. I know all about men like you. You don’t respect anyone or anything apart from being selfish and take all that you want, by any means.”
Aranv looked at her as if he would throttle her. His body was still on fire; only years of tightly reined in self-control was helping him keep away from her. However, his anger was swiftly replacing desire by her hot and cold attitude. He took a step in her direction. He was tempted to call her bluff off. He knew very well that he was not going to forget her and he sure as hell was not going to let her forget him.
A part of Khushi quailed at his look, but she kept up her brave girl façade, standing her ground and warning him, “Don’t you ever come near me,Raizada! If you do, I swear I’ll scream the house down and then your “good” repute can say bye bye.”
Arnav looked at her, incredulity plain on his face. Was she serious? She was brainwashing herself and laying all the blame at his door when she was just as responsible for what had happened between them! What was her game?
A part of him that always hastened to caution him; a part of him that always carried bitterness inside from his past came up quickly feeding on this doubt, taking over his brain. He forgot all about his feelings, his intentions towards her as his mind started whirring in a completely different direction. She was probably one of those girls who felt the need to trap a man in her clutches and feed on him like a parasite for the rest of her life. She was probably just like his mother. Something seemed to harden in him at that thought.
“I don’t think you’re naïve Khushi, quite the contrary in fact. Any girl who can kiss the way you do already knows the score. In our case, I am honest with my feelings and can tell you that I want you. You however, wish to play games.”
“Why you-” Khushi spluttered but didn’t get a chance to go any further as with a look full of cold contempt etched on his face he said, “ I don’t play games Khushi Kumari Gupta. Especially not with your kind; who think they can trap a man into marriage by seducing them with their big eyes and fake innocence. I am not Aakash who falls for the wiles of a woman.” He deliberately turned his next statement into a gauntlet, “I’d rather have you in my bed for free than be trapped for my entire life. If you wish to take me up on my proposition, do let me know.”
Saying this, he walked away leaving Khushi to come to terms with what he’d said. He wasn’t sure why but he looked back once — and saw her struggling with her tears. She was standing exactly where he’d left her. As if feeling his eyes on herself, she looked up and met his gaze. Slowly a tear fell from her eye. Soon a steady stream of tears began. Hastily Khushi turned away from him and walked to the other side of the pool side where stairs would lead her upstairs into the prayer room.
Khushi closed her eyes as that memory took her over and tears rained down her cheeks and on to the pillow. That first kiss held bitter sweet memories for her. She hadn’t understood then why he’d been brutal with her but as the time had passed and they had come closer, she had found out all about the reason behind his cruelty that evening. She had then realized that Arnav was not a bad person by nature. He was just a man who struggled and fought every day against his past memories. Sometimes he lost and sometimes he won. That evening was the time when he had lost.