” Khushi, there’s a car here, come to pick you up for a meeting.” Payal informed Khushi through the window overlooking the verandah. She had been sitting there with her book in her hand, her head in the clouds.
“Thank you for yelling little sister. I was expecting it and shall be out presently. ” Khushi grinned and yelled right back through the window. Khushi wore a pale yellow tunic over blue leggings, with aquamarine drop earrings in her ears. Her feet were encased in glass studded blue juttis today. She looked ready to take on the battle of new adjustments with the orders. Or so she felt at the moment. Grinning at her image in the mirror, she moved over to the table where her clutch bag was all ready to be picked up, she got out of the house.
“Good morning Khushi ji. ” The driver of the car greeted her as she came down the steps to reach the car. Waving her sister goodbye, Khushi replied, “Good morning OP ji. Trust all is good with you? ”
“Jolly good ji.” OP replied back with a warm smile. “The family is excited and waiting for you at Raizada Mansion. ”
“Excited?” Khushi asked, a little bewildered.
“Well, Anjali bitiya’s excitement keeps everyone on their toes. ” OP said hastily, evading Khushi’s eyes.
Khushi relaxed at his reply, not noticing his evasiveness as she hunted in her bag for her mobile to check for messages from Shyam. For a moment there, his voice held a tinge of mischief that she had become suspicious of.
At exactly half past ten, Khushi stepped into the foyer of Raizada Mansion and was greeted by Anjali Raizada’s cheerful countenance.The bright smile directed at her made Khushi blink in surprise and then smile back just as warmly. Anjali Raizada had been, until today a cool and distant client; nice and kind, nevertheless cool. Khushi had not been bothered with her coolness, after all she expected her rich clients to behave so. The rich didn’t know any other way to behave, did they?
Anjali was draped in a pale pink saree with chickankari work done on it. She had diamond drops in her ears and a huge diamond pendant on a chain around her neck. Hooking her arm into Khushi’s, she chirped,
“I am so excited and so happy to see you Khushi ji! Let us go into the garden and we can sit and discuss the plans in peace. I have already asked JP to bring your favourite beverage – lemonade. ”
Khushi looked at Anjali with a friendly smile as they sat down in wide comfortable chairs set amidst the bush of green. ” You must know some sort of witchery then, since I don’t remember ever telling you anything about my favourite drink.”
Anjali laughed, the sound like tinkling of bells. “You think I wouldn’t have found out? My brother, to my surprise is very vocal when it comes to your choices.”
A sound like a choked sqweak came out of Khushi’s mouth. “Your brother? What has he got to do with it? ”
Anjali turned an innocent face to Khushi and said, “Er- Why nothing of course. You never told me you had worked for my brother at one time.”
Khushi, getting more confused by the second strived to be professional and calm. She smiled hesitantly and said, “Well, it never came up and your brother -”
“-is right here. Hi, am I late? ” Said a voice and the next moment Arnav sat down in the chair vacant next to Khushi.
Khushi went stiff as cardboard as Arnav sat down next to her. She worried her lower lip in anxiety. What was ASR doing here? She looked at him once and acknowledged him for politeness sake, “Mr Raizada.”
Arnav gave her a mock smile and returned the stiff greeting with one of his own, “Ms. Gupta.”
Khushi looked away from him. Trying to calm herself, she picked up the glass of lemonade in front of her and took a sip. In the next second, she nearly spewed all of it out of her mouth as Arnav said, ” So kind of you to invite me to the meeting Anjali. ” I thought the plans were final, so what are we discussing exactly?”
Anjali rolled her eyes and said, “Arnav, don’t be an ass. Nothing is fixed nor final yet- not until I feel totally comfortable with the whole scene. ” Oblivious to Khushi’s rising colour, Anjali poured herself a glass of lemonade too as she continued, “In fact, all the planning that has been done and finalised, is all thanks to Khushiji. Now for the mehandi function; have you been able to get dancers for the mehandi ceremony? ”
At Arnav’s surprised look, Anjali smiled sweetly, “Since women in our family don’t believe in dancing, I thought it might be an idea to get dancers to perk everyone’s mood up.”
Arnav laughed loudly, the sound curling Khushi’s toes as a small smile unwillingly touched her own mouth. She looked at him and then hurriedly down into her lemonade, trying to calm her racing heart. While he sat close to her, her heart beat erratically, but seeing him laugh, she could swear it had stopped beating for a second. He looked so young when he laughed, so mesmerising. Pity then, that he was so arrogant and cold most of the time- reminded a snide voice inside her head. It was best she focused on the job at hand and ignored him. Deciding that, she put the glass of lemonade down, adjusted her chair a little away from him and took out her notepad and pen. Next she composed her features into a suitable expression and cleared her throat, “Let’s get to the business on hand Anjaliji. With the changes made as per your request, there are some things that would also need attention. I have arranged for cars to take guests to the hotel, but where do you plan to get ready for the function itself? Would you like the girls from the salon come up here or to the hotel? You said all guests may require a spa day. When is that to be? ”
And so the meeting went on, with Arnav barely giving any input, grunting his yay or nay when Anjali asked him for his suggestion.
Arnav could have left them alone and gone ahead to finish off with his work. He had enough meetings scheduled later in the day, and he was not really interested in how Anjali wanted the function. He was not one of the guys who could participate in such events with glee, like some men he knew did. He thought of Anjali’s choice of groom and grimaced a bit. It had been hard to swallow that Anjali would marry the man he considered not worthy of her. He had threatened with non-attendance, and yet she had gone ahead. The family had bowed in to her wishes. He had relented after his grandmother had called him. She was right after all. Anjali was not a child anymore, but a grown woman and quite capable to looking after herself. If she was making a mistake, it was her own. He had not told him grandmother the reality of the to-be-groom- that the guy was essentially a gold-digger. Instead, he had found a way around it. He had used manipulation and in the end, got both of them to sign a pre-nuptial agreement.
He heard Khushi talking about the flower arrangements and sighed. Truthfully speaking, his modus operandi would have been to give a cheque and leave the management of the function to the organiser-had it been any other organiser. He hadn’t missed her reaction; how she’d gone stiff when he took the seat next to her, how she had moved her chair away from him, how she had not once looked at him since she had started talking business. A part of him was outraged at her behaviour, yet a part of him of was amused. Something close to tenderness touched his half closed, contemplative eyes. She was so cute, when she was not sexy. His body thrummed at the sight of her and thoughts of touching her intimately were always around when she was close to him. During these last months, he had started wondering if he was getting too old to play the field. He of course, still lived a full social life, but overtures from women had started getting on his nerves. At one point, he had started wondering if he was bored of sex and games. From the day he had arrived and met Khushi though, it felt as if his libido had returned back with full force. He mused what was it about her that made her so attractive to him, when he could have his fill of attractive women all the time.
He looked at her again. She was wearing what would be deemed decent in any casual surrounding- a tunic and leggings. His eyes widened slightly looking at her feet in glass studded blue juttis. They were the peep toe sorts. Her toes were varnished with pale pink and kept curling, her feet kept twisting and turning as if ants were walking over her legs. A small satisfied smile curved his mouth as he saw that telling movement. So she wasn’t as calm and composed as she looked. But didn’t he know that from the past?
He remembered the evening that had left an unforgettable impression of her in his mind and on his body. If he closed his mind to his present surroundings, he could very easily visualise it, as if it had happened just seconds ago.
He had, with terrific effort controlled his desire to see her for weeks, but on that evening, he had simply run out of control. It had been a perfect excuse. He had called her into his office to discuss a presentation. When she hadn’t shown up quickly, he had gone down and found her muttering to herself.
” -Stay calm. Deep breaths. He is not going to strangle you even if you might have made a mistake. ” and she breathed in deep and closed her eyes.
“He just might . If you don’t stop talking to yourself and get yourself moving.” He remembered saying, highly amused by pep talk she was giving herself.
She had been startled and flustered for the first few seconds, but then looked at him haughtily and simply reiterated by saying that she was on her way to his cabin, with her ever present notepad and pen. He had looked her over, and felt the quickening of his senses. To hide it, he had simply grunted and lead the way to his office. It had become difficult to keep his head away from her thoughts, but he supposed he had done a good job. Every time he looked at her though, he could feel the need to take her in his arms and kiss her senseless. He wanted to kiss every inch of her tempting body until she forgot all about composure in his presence. Fate had presented him with the opportunity only a few short minutes later.
There were a lot of points they disagreed on. He liked the fact that she could make an intelligent argument and stay focused on the point, but he didn’t agree with her. Sometime he disagreed a minor point simply to rile her up. He loved to see her eyes glint with fire when she was angry. Until finally –
Khushi kept making changes as per his instructions with a mild “Okay, so I have now changed it as per your suggestion Mr Raizada, but I still think you should think it over.” They were an hour into the whole discussion. This time she argued with him again on a minor point and he disagreed with her suggestion again, when Khushi suddenly exploded, “Fine. As you say ASR. I shall make all the changes you want. Why should I waste my time arguing when I see you won’t listen! I am already quite late, and have better things to do than sit here arguing with you. If you think your way is the right way, go ahead and make a fool of yourself. What do I care! “
He had been surprised by her sudden temper, but his own temper had come forward at her ill chosen words. He had grasped her arm when she had picked up her things and had almost reached the door, and growled, “No one talks to me like that Ms Khushi Gupta, least of all you! “
She had given an unladylike growl herself, as she’d tried to free herself from his grasp, unsuccessfully. The files fell on the floor along with her purse. He had tightened his hold and she had snapped, “Get your hands off me! I wonder how this company reached its peak with you behaving as if no one’s opinion counts but yours. “
Arnav had been incensed at her tone, “What the–how dare you question my judgement! You know nothing!”
Khushi had been too angry to care about the consequences. She had snarled back, “I may know nothing, but I do know more than you do in this case. If I had any sense, I’d quit and leave you to fall on your face.”
“If you think you’re so smart, open up your own company and we’ll see how that goes. In the meanwhile-“
Khushi had made a sound of frustration at her inability to free herself from his grasp, cut Arnav off with a grumpy, ” I don’t want to talk to you anymore. Let me go you–ASR !”
Instead Arnav’s hand had circled her waist while the other had caught the back of her head, and brought her close to him. They were both breathing heavily, emotions running high. She looked up into his eyes and he had seen her fighting the same desire he felt. With a groan, he caught her closer, “You know why we fight, don’t you? “
As she trembled in his arms, and whispered a breathless, “I don’t want to know anything. Just–please-” he had simply swooped down and muttered against her lips “-please what?” He took a quick sip from her lips. Her lips followed the movement of his lips. He brushed his lips again against hers, looked into her eyes, and a tortured confession broke from him, “You drive me crazy; so many sleepless nights- all because of you Khushi Gupta. “
Khushi had met his look, her brown eyes reflecting the same deep fire of desire that he burned from, her lips quivering under his, and simply closed her eyes moaning out his name. That was when he had lost control. He had picked her up, still kissing her and moved away from the door slowly, to one corner of the room.
She had wrapped her legs around his waist as they continued kissing. He had grasped her butt in his hands and said, “This had to happen- was inevitable!”
Khushi had moaned and he had taken that as her consent. They had moved to the long conference table then. While he sat her down on the table, his hands unfastened the buttons of her blouse. His mouth travelled down her throat, nipping her and then on to the creamy slopes of her breasts, encased in a white lace bra. He had captured one hard peaked nipple in his mouth, making her moan out loud while his hand had travelled to tug up her skirt.
“Arnav, what do you think of Khushi ji’s idea?”
Anjali’s voice broke into his past reminiscences. He shifted uncomfortably, closed his eyes for a second, deeply thankful that the table cloth hid his powerful arousal. In the next second, he opened his eyes and looked at his sister, his face devoid of expression. No one looking at him could imagine that he had been remembering his steamy encounter with Khushi from the past. Not even Khushi herself. In fact she avoided looking at him entirely. Knowing he had himself in control again- for the moment, he stood up, saying ” Frankly speaking, I think I don’t need to give any input at this stage. I do believe Ms Gupta considers herself capable of handling such issues without bothering you too much about it. I do not wish to bore myself with details at this level anyway. ”
Khushi was startled one moment at his confidence in her ability to manage his sister’s wedding plans and outraged the next. How dare he insinuate all her decisions were boring to him? She refused to look at him, gathered her pen and notepad, stuffed them in her bag and stood up too. Flicking an invisible thread from her tunic, she looked at Anjali with a polite smile and said, “In that case, all our plans are set Anjali ji. I must take your leave to immediately make the changes you’ve suggested. I shall see you at the hotel before the Mehandi function. ”
After looking flustered for a couple of seconds, Anjali composed herself, looking very much like her brother when he was about to make the kill. Giving a warm smile to Khushi, she said, “Sounds good Khushi ji.” and directed a sly look at her brother, “Arnav, how about you drop Khushi ji off to where ever she has to go next? I am sure she will appreciate it. Plus it will give you time with each other. ”
At Khushi’s squeak of shocked protest and Arnav’s icy look, she hastily added, “In case you had any suggestions or surprises for me that you might want to talk to her about; this is the opportunity. It’s the least you can do for me, Arnav. You know how I love surprises. ”
While her mind looked at the approaching scenario of time alone with Arnav in the car with horror, Khushi’s body tingled and peaked at various places in excited anticipation. Disgusted with her pathetic physical self, she looked at Arnav, hoping for his protest at his sister’s request, and then hastily looked away from the heat in his eyes. She opened her mouth to protest, but he beat her to it, smoothly agreeing and saying, ” Sounds good. Are you ready to leave Ms Gupta? “