The memory of what had happened at the club terrace was never far from Khushi’s mind even though many things had happened after that. According to her, it was the only time when she had fought Arnav and yet given in to him. For a while, she had told herself that he had deceived her, just like he had done by the poolside. But that wasn’t true; she knew it in her heart. It had been inevitable that the fire that burned both of them would engulf them as soon as they were alone.
It had taken all of self-possession Khushi owned to decide what to do while maintaining her composure. Fine, he wanted to take a walk on the terrace with her and talk to her about work in private, she could do it. It was one thing to tell yourself that you’re indifferent to him; that the kiss was no big deal. It was easy to talk when there were people around them, but to be alone and in the dark with him- Khushi’s breath hitched in her throat. Her mind though was running on a different track, thinking- if she went with him it would definitely ensure him; it would teach him that she was really not interested in him or his doings. For once and for all, it would put them on normal footing. If she wanted that, she would have to take the walk.
Khushi looked up at him squarely in the eye and said, “If there is really something important that you wish to speak to me about in private, fine. I will walk with you on the terrace.”
Arnav’s eyes glittered with triumph, making him look too much like a dangerous predator. For a moment Khushi wondered if she was doing the right thing. What if- what if he kissed her again out there in the dark? Determination asserted itself. Of course, he would behave himself out there, knowing there were too many people milling about just a little distance away. Also, knowing what she did about him, she was sure that Arnav was mean and tricky but he had too much pride. He would not kiss her especially when he thought she was out on the hunt for a rich NRI husband. No, he wouldn’t kiss her now unless she would break down and indicate that she wanted him to kiss her. And she did want that, badly!
Keeping that voice of her heart out of her head, Khushi accepted the hand he held out, his eyes asking her if she was ready. “Come on, let’s go.” Arnav said.
Khushi took his hand. He held it tight for a second and then relaxed his hold. Her stomach somersaulted at his touch but she made sure none of her anxiety showed on her face. It was a bland mask. Thankfully, once they walked outside and on to the terrace, he let her hand go. Khushi jammed her nails on the palm of her hand to get rid of the burning sensation of his touch. He led the way to the stone balustrade that overlooked the club garden and the golf course further ahead.
On one side, a dark grove of trees stretched out. There was no one else on the terrace except them. Khushi gritted her teeth and willed her heart to slow. Her teeth were almost about to chatter with anxiety. She kept on telling herself in her head that nothing would happen. She would talk to him and ensure that they behaved like two civil people, who the next time they meet will be polite with each other. He will then not have this powerful hold of physical attraction over her. Her thoughts will be hers again.
While she was thinking all this, Arnav leaned his hips against the balustrade and turned towards her. His arms were crossed over his chest and he looked utterly sexy if he didn’t know it. “I’m not going to apologize for that kiss Khushi.”
Khushi looked at him warily, “So you’re planning to apologize for the way you behaved later but not for the kiss?”
Now Arnav being Arnav could never say he was sorry or even that he regretted saying anything harsh to her. The words didn’t really come easy to him. He simply added, “I mean- that is what I said; no apology for the kiss.”
“Excuse me!” Khushi gasped at his bold statement.
Arnav looked at her, his jaw set, “I will not apologize for kissing you. I wanted to kiss you as much as you wanted me to do it.”
Khushi blushed at the truth of that statement. She couldn’t deny it outright. The lie would stick in her throat. “Well, I just-“She started again and came up with a sarcastic retort. “Fine, I will accept your apology. I didn’t think you had it in you to apologize.”
“I’m not normally wrong but you’re proving that I could be. Anyway, the kiss-“ Arnav was interrupted mid-sentence as Khushi said, her agitation plain. “Enough with the talk of that kiss! Forget it. I sure have.”
Arnav’s reply was curt and to the point, “Don’t lie to me. You haven’t and neither have I.”
Khushi was fed up. She didn’t want to talk about the kiss. It unsettled her big time. He stood there talking about them kissing as if it was nothing out of ordinary. She tried to regain her quickly sleeping calm, “Fine, now that you’ve told me you don’t intend to apologize for that damn kiss, may I go inside?”
Khushi’s eyebrows went up at his reply. Arnav hissed a breath from between his lips and grated, “We are not done yet with this conversation. You said you are unaffected by it. So stand here and talk to me.”
“I’m done with this conversation.” Khushi said exasperatedly.
“Then you’re not as clever as I thought you were. You’re nuts.”
Khushi drew herself up to her full height and her voice went cold, “Excuse me? What did you just say?”
“Don’t deny it Khushi. It is between us today as much as it was the other evening. It’s like a live wire. I know it and you know it. At this moment all I want is to tear your clothes off and make love to you. I know you want it too.”
Stunned at the image his words created in her head, Khushi felt dazed with arousal. She could barely contain herself. So she turned haughtier, “Speak for yourself Raizada. I, for my part do not wish to have anything to do with your- body.”
“Stop lying Khushi.” Arnav uncrossed his arms and pushed himself off the balustrade that he was leaning on. He came to her, “That kiss was… addictive.”
Khushi’s heart beat like a crazy tattoo in her chest. Sudden inspiration seized her, “That kiss was probably a simple result of all pent up psychic energy you were exuding that evening.”
“Huh? What?” Arnav was puzzled.
Khushi waved her hand in the air, confident now that she could get out of this tricky situation. “You know! You were talking as if you knew all about me and my thoughts that evening. You made me angry when you spoke to me with so much familiarity. I made you angry when I walked off. The kiss was a result of that anger, built-up anger that was looking for a way out. Nothing more.”
Arnav looked at her, sighing, “Really. Built-up anger created that kiss… not because I tried to seduce you? I thought you’d accused me of taking advantage of you.”
“I wasn’t thinking properly then. Huh.. you could hardly seduce me with everyone present. It was-just what I said- anger.” Khushi declared, trying her level best to make it sound like an expert claim. She sure as hell was not going to admit how that kiss had affected her! She shrugged a shoulder as if that said everything.
“huh.. fancy that.” said Arnav, an amused smile trying to make its way towards his mouth. He hurriedly smothered it. It would not do to let Khushi see the smile. He would play her at her own game. She thought she was so smart! He spread his legs apart so that Khushi was right in between them, a few inches away from him and put his hands on his hips as if thinking seriously on her claim, “So you mean to say, we get the hots for each other when we meet up and get mad at each other?”
Khushi grabbed this opportunity to convince him. He sounded dubious at the moment and ready to believe. She quickly agreed, “Yes, exactly! I think that is the perfect description. It’s normal’; we’re just ordinary humans not Gods. It can happen to us you know.”
Arnav rubbed his jaw, as if saying, “Ordinary? Me? Speak for yourself!” He kept on looking at her, “I- am not so sure about this but I can say one thing. It does no good to us when we kiss each other. We have no business going around kissing each other.”
“Oh yes! That is so true!” Khushi agreed, nodding her head quite fiercely. Inside she felt piqued and annoyed. He didn’t think she was worthy of his kiss?
As if she hadn’t spoken and as if he was still talking to himself and thinking, Arnav said, “The dilemma is, how the hell do we stop provoking each other so that we don’t get angry with each other and not kiss each other in rage? We simply rub each other up the wrong way every time we meet.”
Khushi was thinking, her brain working overtime. “Uh- perhaps we should not meet” At his look she hastily added, “I know that is a little difficult. Maybe we- ah yes! Every time we meet, we smile and say nice things to each other. How about that?”
That should definitely achieve her goal of putting them on an even footing. A part of her was annoyed that it was taking him so long to take her notion on face value, but it would not do to be annoyed at him. To show him that she was angry would make her own reasoning sound silly and her solution inadequate.
Arnav stared at her, “That is not a bad idea actually. We can always have something nice to say to each other when we meet up by chance.”
Khushi was quite enthusiastically into this game of making him believe her point. He removed his hand from his chin and gave a firm nod as if he had reached a decision, “Alright then. If you’re willing to give it a chance, I am too. Why don’t you go first?”
Khushi looked at him, annoyed. “Why should I go first and why should you order me to go first?” So typical of him! He agreed to not fight and then insults her by ordering her, consequently raising a point of fight.
Arnav threw up his hands in the air as if he gave up on the fight. “Okay, don’t get your rear up in the air. I’ll go first if that makes you happy. Something nice about Khushi Kumari Gupta. Hmm..” He scratched his chin as if nothing nice came to his mind when he thought about her. That irked Khushi. He put his hands behind his back and finally said,”Okay, here goes. I really admire how easy you are with people.”
Before Khushi could protest, he held out his hand, “No it is not meant as an insult; hear me out. I always find it difficult to talk to strangers. I am a businessman and can talk shop with anyone but when it comes to making people comfortable or drawing them out, I think you do it very well. You make them feel.. good about themselves.”
Khushi’s jaw literally dropped at his statement. Arnav looked at her in astonishment. “Oh come on! You know that already Khushi. Or do you take that part of your character for granted? I should tell you that it is not easy for many people to be so at-ease with others. You could be a very good manager if you wanted to be.”
At the shake of her head, he continued, “In fact, had it not been for the fact that we kissed, I’d have offered you a job with me after that project.”
Khushi looked like she was planning to catch flies with her mouth. Arnav thought she was charming? A part of her that was still wary of him and expecting a hidden insult said, “Are – I am supposed to believe this?”
“Look if you want this “be nice to each other” thing to work, you’ve got to. And now it’s your turn.” Arnav said with his eyes on her.
Was that amusement lurking in his eyes? Khushi wondered and then said, “Ah, okay. My turn. Good thing about you.”
“I know I’m not full of virtues but hey, am not that bad either.” Arnav supplied helpfully.
Khushi licked her lips and thought, “Okay. It’s not that hard really. I think the way your run your company is admirable. I think you may be stubborn and an absolute horror when it comes to manners” at his look she added, “I mean that in general but when it comes to your employees, you have integrity. I’d even say you’re downright honest in your dealings with them.”
Arnav scowled, “I don’t believe it. You actually think of me as a nice person?”
Khushi quickly replied,” You wanted me to say something nice about you, something I really believed in. So there.”
Arnav stroked his chin with his hand, “Thanks, I think. I mean I know what you’re saying is right but- “ Khushi rolled her eyes at his boasting. This guy hadn’t heard of modesty, had he? He continued, “-but when you say it, it means I am not surrounded by fair weather public. You don’t really like me but you still think I’m nice.”
“So” Khushi chuckled, as she smiled at him, “See? We’re not angry at each other now. Wow.”
“Yes” said Arnav, his voice low, “A marvel indeed.”
Their eyes met and Khushi’s smiled faded slowly. They may not be angry at each other but the sizzling awareness that they felt for each other was as strong as before. It hadn’t gone anywhere. On the contrary, she felt it had become stronger now that she knew he thought she was charming and also due to the fact she had acknowledged that he had integrity and was honest.
“Unfortunately I don’t think it has fixed the problem Khushi, only made it worse probably.” Arnav stared at her fixedly, making her swallow hard.
She couldn’t deny it; he was correct. They hadn’t fixed the problem, only aggravated it. She wasn’t standing close to him right now but she could feel his aura surrounding her anyway. She took a step back and saw his amused gaze on her.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to kiss you.” He said.
“Oh.” Khushi’s voice, to her horror sounded as if she was disappointed. A corner of Arnav’s mouth quirked.
“That is not to say I wouldn’t like kissing you. I meant if we did kiss- which I am not saying will happen- but if we did kiss, it has to be you who takes the initiative.”
Khushi became still as a statue. The night air was cool while they looked at each other. All amusement seemed to have left Aranv’s face as he stood staring at her, his hunger for her evident in her eyes. Khushi could feel electricity humming around them, her inner motor of physical desire ready to rev. NO! She mentally took a step back. She wasn’t going to take any initiative of that sort, she didn’t want to kiss him! Not only that she didn’t want to- NOT AT ALL- but also that she couldn’t. That would be –
She hiccupped in surprise and looked at him, her eyes wide – that would be a lie. She wanted to kiss him. She wanted him like crazy but how could she? This was Arnav Singh Raizada, the playboy from London. He was much too playful with emotions, too masculine for her comfort, he was mean and nasty to her every time they met, he had kissed her so thoroughly that her knees had gone weak and then been harsh with her. How could she want to kiss him?
But her blood pulsed in her veins, making nonsense of all her thoughts, her insides melting and going soft at the idea of being in his arms again. She looked uncomfortable to meet his gaze, her fingers twisting in her hands betraying her nervousness. She imagined what it would be like to get close to him, touch him, put her arms around his neck, touch his chest, and lift her face to kiss his lips. It would feel- a gasp escaped her mouth- it would feel marvellous!
In the meanwhile, Arnav stood there next to her, silent and watching the play of emotions on her face. It made him feel rooted to the spot. He could watch that face all day long and not get tired of it. His male sexual power was controlled at this time, simply waiting- it was at her discretion. She would decide. His body thrummed with excitement at the idea of her holding the final word and then coming ahead to kiss him. He had never before liked the idea of losing control but with Khushi, he liked it very much. As if in a trance, Khushi took a step towards him. Yes! She took a step towards him this time, not away- thought Arnav jubilantly.
Khushi felt the excitement running through her like the twisting of the screw of a champagne bottle. She looked at his ever hypnotic eyes. They glittered but they didn’t look dangerous to her anymore; they glittered with the same madness that seemed to have taken over her being at this time. She could also see doubt there and fear- fear that she would move away from him and he would lose the touch of her. She saw vulnerability in his eyes.
That was probably what did her in. She would have pulled back the last moment and come to her senses but for that vulnerable look in his eyes. There was no way she could stop herself now. Her heart pounded madly as she reached up her hands to place them gently on the side of each cheek. Anticipation reached to the point of pain for Arnav but he held back. He was all man yes, but he wanted her to be the master in this instance. It gave Khushi a heady feeling of power, as he stood still while she touched him. She saw his nostrils that flared at her touch, the coil of need twined tightly around their bodies. He kept his hands by his sides as he saw her rise up on her toes and press her lips, ever so gently against his. Their eyes closed at the pleasure of that contact.
Arnav felt the air rush out through his nose as he kept tight control on himself. It was her initiative, her moment. He couldn’t ruin it. So he let her experiment with the pressure of her mouth on his. Despite this immense control, a small noise escaped from his throat.
For Khushi, it was pure delight to have him at her disposal. She could run her hands through his silky hair, she’d always known it would be. Slowly he started responding to her kiss. He responded to her light kisses by giving them back as he received them. She liked him so much the better for it! She nipped his lips and he nipped back. She pressed a little harder and he increased the pressure too. Just like her hands in his hair, his hands went up and into her hair, spiking the strands and holding her to him.
Khushi felt such power as she’d never felt before. His hard, strong body was hers to control, to play with. Arnav behaved like a dancer at this moment; a perfect partner who followed her lead and went where ever she wanted to go, did whatever she wanted him to do. She felt she wanted more. She felt exhilarated; it flowed in her blood like bubbles. She curved her body to his, leaning into him, moving her lips as if they couldn’t get enough of him. She was hungry for him. This need to get closer, more intimate had made her forget everything else. Her hands went down from his hair and on to his strong shoulders and then the chest, exploring through the coat, vest and shirt.
Arnav groaned silently, moving his jaw expertly and opening her mouth. This was the first initiative taken by him all by himself and Khushi found that she didn’t mind at all. It was alright even when his tongue found its way into her mouth, French kissing her. It was her second time that she had been smooched; the first time was by the pool. It gave her such a shock of pleasure; she found that she wanted so much more of it. Arnav’s breathing grew heavy and fast. His hands roamed up and down Khushi’s back. But it was okay for Khushi. She didn’t mind his taking control from her hands at this time. She felt satisfied that she was the one who had set the ball rolling, not let him control her desire.
Anrav’s hands were strong and assured of what they were doing as they caught hold of her waist, skimming the sides of it. Slowly he curved his hands over the surface of her sari, her blouse, and her breasts. The sensation that hit Khushi was so exquisite when he touched her there that she flinched. Her nipples had long since turned into hard pebbles.
Not that Khushi’s flinch stopped Arnav. He moved his hands over her breasts, sometimes teasing her by simply touching the undersides, sometimes taking them in her hands and massaging them, squeezing them. It felt like heaven! She threw her head back and gave a low moan when he touched his lips to her throat.
Khushi didn’t want him to stop this sensual onslaught he was raining on her senses. She could hear him breathing as heavily as her, as he slowly licked her breastbone. At the same time, he slowly and deliberately touched the hardened peaks of her breasts and squeezed them gently. She gave out a loud moan as she felt sensations beyond anything she had ever felt before. She’s never imagined making love was so marvellous.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Excuse me.” A voice interrupted, intruding rudely on the delightful scene. Khushi felt as if she’d jerked wide awake from deep slumber. She felt both herself and Arnav freeze. Once the person had retreated back into where ever he had come from, Khushi slowly removed her hands from Arnav’s hair. Arnav pressed his head against her collarbone, telling himself and her, “Okay.” His hands had stopped playing with her breasts and come down to rest on her waist. “Okay, okay.” She heard him murmur again. Slowly he lifted his head and let go of her, all of her and straightened to move away from her. He looked absolutely- out of control.
“Oh boy.” He said softly, his eyes still glinting yet showing how much control it had taken him to move away from her. He looked at Khushi as she self-consciously straightened her sari. Her gaze flitted up and then down.
“That being nice with each other didn’t really work.” Arnav muttered. All Khushi could do at this time was nod. She was not just embarrassed, but she was aghast at her own actions. She had nearly let him make love to her in public, on the club terrace! She, who always thought first about proprieties didn’t even bother with what anyone would think if they caught them together. What about the families? Arnav was the most unsafe man she had known, a play boy who would do nothing but use her and go back to London. But she had all but thrown herself in his arms. What was wrong with her!
Arnav tried to smooth his hair, his voice rough, his expression grim. He had never in his life thought he would lose control like this. What had begun as simple teasing to teach her a lesson had turned into fierce sexual hunger that was out of control. He shook his head. He had to play it differently. It wouldn’t help if he was out of control. He said, “We have to really avoid doing this again Khushi.”
“Yes.” Khushi’s voice was sullen.
“At the risk of sounding a little rude but I’m sure you’ll agree it’s only logical thing to do, I have a suggestion.” Arnav straightened his coat and his vest that had become slightly dishevelled at Khushi’s hands. Khushi blushed when she saw him do that. He continued, “ I suggest we should keep away from each other as much as possible. When we meet, a simple “hello” should make for the conversation and we should NEVER be alone with each other. Agreed?”
Khushi drew in a deep breath. This is what she wanted, right? Then why did it feel as if someone had tied a stone around her neck and thrown her into deep water to drown to death? Why did it feel so lonely, so disappointing, so scary to think of not touching him again? Not seeing him again!!- that felt like life sentence to her. But Khushi knew it was the only sensible course of action. She couldn’t-wouldn’t let her physical attraction for him take over her head, her brain. “Agreed.” She said.
“Because-“ Arnav was now playing simply hard to get “ there is no way we could have anything going between us.”
A frown placed itself on Khushi’s forehead, her eyes widening as she took in his meaning, “You mean- like a relationship?”
Arnav nodded and then flicked his glance away, straightening his tie this time.” We’re far too different and we want different things from a relationship. It would never work.”
“Too true.” Khushi said angrily. “So now that we’ve sorted that out, I should go inside.”
Without any goodbyes, she simply walked away. But not before she turned back again to look at him, still standing there, looking at her. His look took her breath away. It belied everything he’d said, suggested; it was a look that told Khushi that he didn’t really want to not talk to her. He didn’t want to let her go. The look indicated his want for her; if he ever got a chance to be alone with her, kiss her, make love to her, he would do it. Probably would do even more than simply make love to her, and that would be very unwise- she knew that. She would be wise to stay away from him; she told her heart- he had the power to hurt her very badly. He could take away her self-preservation and strip her clean of her mask of indifference by a look. No, best is she stayed away from him. She looked at him one last time, her mind made up and went back into the lounge.