” Why is it that every time I try to do something nice for you, it backfires?” Anjali asked her brother, thoroughly put out by his attitude that evening.
Arnav looked at his sister, amusement plain on his face. His sister’s tactics were not unknown to him but to have invited La to be his date for her Mehandi evening without even asking him stretched things a bit far. And he was quite sure that she had no idea what a can of worms she had opened up by inviting Laavanya to India in the first place. He shrugged and said,
“Who knows ? Maybe you should stop thinking you’re being nice to me by giving me unplanned surprises. Unlike you my darling sister, I don’t like them.”
He had been surprised to see La this morning, when she had suddenly come up to his office and announced herself. Politeness and long ingrained teaching of never leaving a friend in need alone had urged him to take her up on her offer of showing him around the city. He had cancelled his appointments for the rest of the day and gone out with her, only to listen to her mooning about the only love of her life- Shyam Jha.
His hand fisted at the thought of him and then the fist tightened when he recollected Shyam and Khushi together, with her hand in his. Unexplained rage had erupted in his head at the sight of Shyam dragging Khushi away from him. He had wanted to snatch her away from Shyam, and keep her by his own side.
It had taken a few moments for such irrational thoughts to fade, and sense to kick in. Recalling Khushi’s behaviour he had realised that she had not objected to Shyam’s hand in hers, nor had she protested when he had led her away. The rest of the day had become unbearable with his head partially filled with thoughts of Khushi and the question of her relationship with Shyam. La had tried to be bright and chirpy but by evening, she had fizzled out; opting out of going to the night club as originally planned.
On arriving home, he had been greeted by Maamiji who had wanted to know if La was coming to the house later on. Initially he had been taken aback by her suggestion, but later on realised if Anjali had organised La’s coming to India, it was quite possible every one thought, he and La were an item again. He had excused himself after firmly dispelling Maamiji’s doubts about his relationship with La.
Once in his room, he shed his clothes and made straight for a cold shower. Unwillingly, he had thought of Khushi. As usual, she had tried her best to ignore him. That had only annoyed him more. Deliberately he had tried to rile her up, only to fall flat on his face as she had dismissed him by calling him ignorant about New Delhi in not so many words. She had even dared to imply that he was one of those men who wouldn’t go out unless he had an escort. Distaste of that thought had left feeling him bitter in the mouth.
Once dressed in casual chinos and a white t-shirt, he had come down to be grumbled at by his sister.
Anjali continued, stuffing flowers into an already neat flower arrangement. Arnav winced for them as Anjali said, ” I thought having La here would cheer you up. I wasn’t sure if you were together any more or if you have moved on to pastures new, but she’s a nice girl. I like her. “
The last was said in a defensive tone. Arnav stopped her from putting a rose in the arrangement, chuckling, “Any more in there and the entire arrangement will be choked to death Anjali! ” He put the rose down on the table and said, “La is a good friend, has always been. But there is nothing of the kind of relationship you think between us. She has her sights set very firmly on a man since she was a teenager.”
At Anjali’s raised eyebrows, he had to defend La, “The time in London was a smokescreen! She needed a fiction and I did too.”
“Did you now? Hmmm.. it must’ve been to keep the horde away I’m sure.” Anjali gigggled at her brother’s frowning face and said, “Imagine that! La prefers someone else to you! Who I wonder is this guy?”
ASR scowled as he recalled Shayam and with him, Khushi. He growled out the name in annoyance, “His name is Shyam; the son of Manohar Jha; the owner of Manchester Cotton Textile .”
Anjali’s face took on a speculative look. “That’s not a bad choice. I remember the guy from the corporate parties I had been forced to attend last year, as a board member. You joined hands with his father for a project, didn’t you?”
“That’s right. His father is a good businessman, so I am quite sure he won’t be averse to the match between his family and La’s. However it is this man himself who has been a bit shaky on commitment.”
Anjali absorbed this and Arnav continued, “Coincidentally he is also here these days and we bumped into him today. He was with that girl; Khushi Gupta.”
The last words came out really bland in tone. Anjali looked at her brother, realising that he was hiding very strong emotions under the bland voice. She pretended ignorance about Shyam being Khushi’s photographer and said, “Our Khushi- the wedding organiser and your ex-employee? How does she know him? “
“I have things to do for your wedding. I’ll see you later, okay?” Arnav said and walked away instead of answering her question. Anjali observed the taut profile of her brother walking away from her and smiled slowly. Things were definitely taking a very desirable turn, small thanks to unprecedented luck on her side. She might just be able to pull off her stint and finally fulfil her mother’s dying wish.
Anjali sat down on the chair by the flower arrangement on the table, her eyes misting. She still remembered her mother’s deep sigh and her words, spoken to her when she was only eighteen and Arnav was twenty-three. Anjali had been crying of guilt because Arnav hadn’t eaten for two days; they had fought bitterly over her latest crush who had been paid off by Arnav. He had shown her tender teenage eyes the real picture hiding behind the object of her infatuation’s charm; a man ten years elder to her and only after her money. It had been too much to bear then and in rage, Anjali had lashed out at her brother.
Her mother had been travelling with her father to Paris for a business event that weekend when the incident occurred. Upon return, she had taken the matter into her own hands and had the matter resolved in minutes. She was the only one Arnav ever listened to, without any argument. When he had gone back to his room (after accepting Anjali’s apology with a smile), Anjali had asked her mother why her brother had been so brutal with the truth. Her mother had given a sad sigh and said to her,
“My darling son and your brother is a complicated character. When your father died, I married Sebastian and sometimes I wonder if that is what started his cynicism of relationships. He knew; he was six, old enough to know that I had married Sebastian not because I loved him, but because we wanted companionship, and also because I wanted financial security to raise the both of you. He had already seen what his own father had done to us as a family. Your father had thought he would climb the social ladder by marrying me and he did so too, by squandering my inheritance and betraying my father’s trust. Arnav had loved your father dearly, made him his idol. Sadly his love had never been returned. Your father was not the one to love anyone but himself. One day Arnav realised the truth. Turned out his charming idol had feet of clay. That was his first disillusionment. When I married Sebastian for financial security, it was his second disillusionment. Later on, as he grew up he realised there was a lot more to our relationship that that, but it did give birth to the cynic in him.”
Lost in her thoughts, she had then smiled, and proceeded to say, ” I have never regretted my decision to marry Sebastian, and I was very happy the day you and Arnav decided to accept him wholly and call him your Dad. Sebastian truly loves you as his own.”
Anjali had smiled brightly, held her mother’s hand and kissed it. Her mother had squeezed her hand in return and continued,
” I think its was the greatest sign of acceptance when Arnav decided to accept his new name. I know that he loves being called Alex by Sebastian, but he is also aware of how different his life might have been had he not been given the life and love he has, by Sebastian. When you father died, all I had was you as a toddler in my arms and Arnav, and a whole lot of debts that his womanising and gambling had left behind. My mother couldn’t forgive me for choosing such a man, and I couldn’t forget that I had chosen such a man. Yet I had loved him wholeheartedly. I can never regret meeting him or marrying him, because he gave me you and Arnav.
Anjali, I sometimes wonder if there would a woman brave enough to love him and fall in love with him, despite his weaknesses. I am not blind to his faults darling, nor am I unobservant. He is clever and brilliant at what ever he does, and your father says he will go far when he joins the business next week, as his successor. I have no doubt about it. But I have seen bitterness reflecting in his attitude, made only worse by his broken affair. His eyes are already of a man of thirty, cynical. He is the son of a prestigious businessman, has money and he is aware of it. He knows that girls-women may like him only because of his wealth. So many girls flock over to him, and I have no doubt he has his share of girlfriends and fun. What man his age wouldn’t? My fear is, even if he does fall in love one day, he is so pig headed, he might just screw things up, to run away from his one fear- disappointment. Remember my words, darling. If I am not around at the time, you make sure your brother finds his soul mate.”
Tears ran down Anjali’s cheeks as she remembered this conversation with her mother. This was the last close conversation they had had together. Two weeks after, her parents had been killed in a plane crash, while travelling across the Atlantic. Mr Rothwell senior had happily named his successor, given a party for the occasion, and decided to take a holiday with his wife. They had been travelling to America when the plane had crashed.
Anjali wiped tears off her cheeks and sniffed, going into her bedroom, more determined than ever to ensure her brother’s happiness. She knew what she had to do next.
Arnav closed the bedroom door and turned around to face Khushi, who was already sitting on the bed, her legs folded, ready to talk. Her eyes were troubled, her face pale. Constant thoughts plaguing her mind could be seen very clearly in her eyes. As he stood by the door for another minute, Khushi burst out,
“Arnav ji, do come here. I – must know. We must talk.”
Slowly Arnav approached Khushi and sat down next to her on the bed. Taking one of her hands in his own, he smiled into her eyes and said softly, “Let me get ready for bed and you do the same. We’ve got the whole night to talk. “
Khushi made a face, “No we don’t. You have to wake up early and then go to work too. I don’t want you going to work all tired.”
Arnav kissed the palm of Khushi’s hand, making her quiver as he said, “How very wifely of you, my darling.” Humour glinted wickedly from his eyes.
Khushi smiled widely, “That’s because I am your wife Mr. Raizada. But I want to know—“
Arnav laughed softly and put a finger on her lips, “Quiet wife. One of your duties is also to listen to your husband—sometimes at least!”
Khushi giggled and Arnav smirked, then said, “Ab jaao. Get ready for bed my love. Once we’re cosy, I’ll tell you all you want to know.”
And so it happened that 10 minutes later, when they were both under the covers, cuddling that Khushi raised the question, “Arnavji, is it true that Aparna lied to me? That these 5 years of unhappy living and keeping our sons away from your fatherly love was all simply because I’d been foolish enough to believe her? “
Arnav sighed and kissed her hair, “You are a good person Khushi. It is not your fault that you believed in her lies, not your fault that we suffered so much these last years. You did it thinking of a little boy and his happiness. That doesn’t make you a bad person or foolish; on the contrary. “
Khushi stayed quiet, but took refuge in Arnav’s arms by snuggling into him and hugging him even tighter than before. Arnav squeezed her back and continued, “Yes, she lied to you- to everyone who knew her actually at the time we did. “
“I always wondered why she kept on harping on about how she didn’t want anything from life anymore, how her life was content. A person who is content doesn’t keep on repeating it every second, you know. The day you told me about the DNA test and Vishal being born out of wedlock, and accused me of being a neglectful father, I knew a deeper game was at play. To feel the waters, I spoke to Aparna about it. Of course, initially she pretended to deny it all and then gently cried out to me in not so many words that Vishal was my son, and she and he were my responsibility.”
Khushi looked astonished, “What? Why didn’t you tell me about it?”
Arnav looked sheepish for a second and then grimaced, “I think I should have. It might have helped you realize what was happening, and you’d have never left me. But in my arrogance, I thought I’d solve it all by myself and then you’d never have a chance of any doubts in future.
Anyway, when you left, I became absolutely distraught. I tried finding you everywhere obviously, despite all your instructions. But it looked like you’d completely vanished. Everyone was worried. Babuji never said a word to me, but I could feel his accusations every time he looked at me. Everyone looked at me for answers Khushi, and I have nothing to give.”
At the amount of pain in his voice, Khushi grasped his hand and kissed it. She took it between both of hers and held on to him, trying desperately to absorb some of that pain of his, to lessen it. Regret washed her being in waves. She should have realized how everyone else might feel. She shouldn’t have left like that.
A pool of tears formed in her eyes as she mumbled, “I’m sorry.. so sorry Arnavji. I should’ve thought it through. I hurt you and everyone I love so badly.” She raised her tear filled eyes to his, beseeching him to understand, “But believe me, I thought I was doing the right thing! I thought, I was coming in between the happiness that Vishal and you deserved.”
Arnav leaned in and kissed her forehead. Sighing heavily, he placed his chin above her head, as she folded more closely into his arms.
“I know you Khushi. I know you thought you were doing the right thing. I don’t blame you anymore; no one does. Yes, I was distraught. I was angry when you left. But after the whole thing was sorted out, I knew exactly why you’d done it.”
Khushi raised herself up on her hands and kissed Arnav on his lips. “I love you so much. And I caused you pain.” A frown marred her brows, “But what was going on? If I was in the wrong and Aparna was doing something that was—I don’t understand Arnavji.”
Arnav kissed her back hard and smirked, “You’re not as brilliant as you think you are Khushi Singh Raizada.”
At her indignant look, he said, “Alright. I won’t tease you for now, because you do need to know it. We talk about it this time, finish the tale and never speak of it again.”
At a cautious nod from Khushi, he continued,
“ Aparna underestimated my love for you. A week after you’d left, she tried to come on to me. The first few days, she sympathized with me, cursed you for leaving me in such a condition, for leaving “her” in this compromising position where she’d have to “fill a gap you left behind”. That’s what she thought it was, and she said it.
Then one evening, everyone had gone out. I came back from work, as usual and I saw her wearing your sari and cooking in the kitchen, like you do. When I went into my bedroom, she came in after a bit. Said she’d cooked my favourite food to cheer me up. I knew a seduction game was about to roll. I set the record straight that evening, and told her there was not going to be any grand reconciliation. Even if Vishal was my son, Khushi was my wife. I didn’t want any other. She left the room that evening, but not without uttering vile words for me, that I will not repeat in front of you.
She could see her plan failing, and me slipping out of her hands. For the next two weeks, she tried to befriend me. By this time, I had already had investigators working on her case, and the results had just started coming in the evening she had tried to seduce me.
Aparna had spent the last three years at the order of the court in correctional institution. She had already been sentenced once for about six months, for embezzlement, fraud and slander. Another interesting bit also came out. There was a restraining order against her. Do you remember the architect, Arun Varma from the parties we’d attended together ? – he had filed it. Apparently, Aparna had tried to pass herself on as his girlfriend, and created differences between him and his real girlfriend. When he exposed her, she became aggressive towards his girlfriend. In the end, the restraining order had been put in place. “
Khushi listened to this, her mouth open in shock. “She was mentally sick?”
Arnav shook his head in regret, “Sadly not. Women like her are never mentally sick. It was just a way of getting out of tight spots she had gotten herself into every time. She was cunning to the nth degree.”
“How did you expose her then? And where was Vishal all this time that she was facing all these charges and in the mental institution?” Khushi asked, her frown pronounced.
Arnav took a deep breath and said, “Vishal was where he had been happy, even if alone. He was in the orphanage, where I officially adopted him from after the whole fiasco had been sorted out.”
At her dazed expression, Arnav nodded to himself, “Yes, Khushi I know. For you this all seems incredible, but the thing is, not everyone is as decent as you are, my love. Aparna had planned very carefully. She had adopted Vishal and trained him as befitting my son a few months before she accidentally bumped into us. The DNA reports that you’d seen after you’d sent the sample were fake, because the samples had been switched by her.
I could’ve let go of the whole thing, even let her leave after all the destruction she’d caused, had it not been for the fact that she’d included an innocent child into her game plan and used him, almost killed him to achieve her goal- me. “
Khushi looked up alarmed, her hackles rising, “What do you mean Arnavji? “
Taking a deep breath, Arnav said, “She tried to poison Vishal to get family sympathy.”
Ignoring Khushi’s horrified look, Arnav continued, “Vishal went through a tough time, with you leaving us, and he felt he was to blame to some extent. I had tried to cheer him up at times, but he had started getting morose. Then one evening, when I came home, I heard Aparna tried to force feed a medicine. He kept on saying it smelled vile, but she wouldn’t listen. When I tried to intervene, she told me that Vishal was a sensitive child, and according to the doctor, he needed a sedative to help him get out of low moods. What a load of rubbish! When I asked her to show me the pill she wanted to feed him, she snapped at me and told me to mind my own business.
Vishal had started crying by then, refusing point blank to take the medicine. I could see Aparna starting to become aggressive in her stance. To cool off the atmosphere, I told her, I’d give Vishal the medicine prescribed by her doctor. For my sins, I helped her feed him poison.
Khushi, that pill had been coated with rat poison. Aparna left him with me, saying she had to go out for a meeting with a prospective client. In an hour, Vishal had started vomiting and was showing severe signs of poison. Without any delay, I took him to the hospital. He was there for two days, since the poison had affected his body severely.
Investigation proved that the pill had been coated with rat poison. Aparna came to the hospital teary-eyed and accused me of trying to kill her son. What she didn’t realize was, I had already gathered all the evidence to prove her guilt. A short court battle ensued, where needless to say, I came out the winner. She was sentenced for five years, with attempt to murder. “
Khushi’s eyes were wide with shock, her voice locked in her throat as she heard the entire story unwrapping. It was almost like a TV drama, except it was real, especially since it happened with herself and her family. Had it not been for her own foolishness, none of this could have happened – she cursed herself for having being so gullible.
Silence reigned for minutes, until she let out a long breath and in a tearful voice said, “Oh my God. All this, because she wanted you, and I was foolish enough to believe all that I heard and saw.”
Arnav cupped her face between his hands and said, “No Khushi. She never wanted me. She wanted the wealth and fame that came with Raizada name. I had nothing to do with it. And you, you my love, were foolish- yes. But it was not because you were stupid. It was because you believe people are good. And that is one of the things I adore about you.”
Khushi sniffed, her nose turning red as she snuggled against Arnav, her voice breaking, “Poor Vishal. What he went through!’
Arnav soothed her, his hand moving gently in her hair, as he said, “He knows he would never have to be through anything like that ever again. He knows he is loved. I adopted him after all this, and last year we got his leg sorted out. For him, the mother that has been, the mother that is, is you Khushi. You know that. “
“Yes.” Said Khushi, glad to have the past sorted out. She looked up and smiled, the calmness in her husband’s eyes soothing her, “ I am so glad you didn’t give up on me.”
“NEVER.” Arnav vowed as he held the most precious gem of his life in his arms. “I did not know what love was before I met you, and I will never be able to love you any less for who you are. You and our children are my biggest wealth, and I am only thankful to God that you came back to me with our sons. “
Khushi smiled with her eyes at him, curving her hands around his neck, as she reached his lips and whispered, “We are not two worlds apart anymore, darling husband. If I am your wealth, I am ready to be spent– on you, by you.”
“In that case…. ” Arnav said huskily, as their passion took over.
“So you deliberately left me with a note stating the obvious – that you were leaving me, no reasons given and decided to raise our sons by yourself.” Arnav’s statement, said in a deceptively soft voice belied the seething rage he was in. He looked at Khushi.
Khushi quaked with fear inside but put up a brave front. She gave him a calm look and her voice was just as controlled and quiet as she said, “I thought it was for the best. You already have a son so you definitely don’t need mine. I thought the divorce papers would have made things easier for you; easier to marry your long lost lover and adopt your son. I thought-“
“You thought wrong.” His voice was icy as if he was near the edge of a precipice. He spoke through gritted teeth, his anger evident,” You took four years of my sons’ lives from me and you shall pay for it Khushi Singh Raizada; starting now.”
Before Khushi could make a coherent reply or even guess what he would do, he caught her in his arms and kissed her. When he let her go after a few moments, Khushi could barely stand. He held her as he said, “Make arrangements. Quit your job, you and our sons are coming home with me.”
After much thinking and consideration, I’ve decided that the story has indeed ended and it is time for a new plot of come forth. So I give you the epilogue. Hope you enjoy the new story coming soon! In the meanwhile, don’t forget to read “LOVE CONQUERS” on the other blog: http://amateurstorywriter.wordpress.com/
The ordinary girl’s extraordinary affair turned into a full-fledged wedding affair soon afterwards. Khushi acquiesced to his request and accepted his proposal of marriage after about six months of him formally courting her, with the permission of her father and her grandmother. During these six months, Arnav went to London every month for a weekend to oversee his business interests that were being handled efficiently by his team there.
Once such weekend, he brought along Anjali and Dean who were overjoyed to see the happiness that surrounded Arnav and Khushi. Khushi urged Anjali to stay back for a bit and help her out with the house they were furnishing in Nainital. Anjali, happy to be included in her brother’s life welcomed the request and stayed back for a week. Khushi hired her long-time gardener friend in Nainital to landscape her garden and was very happy with the result. Her garden was now exactly like her life was- green and blooming.
During these six months, she also went to London twice with Arnav; once to help Anjali shop for her trousseau and the second time to attend Anjali and Dean’s wedding. Khushi was welcomed by Arnav’s friends in London very warmly. She stayed at his house and declared that she loved it as much as their house in Nainital.
After much thinking, they finally decided to stay put in London after the wedding, where Arnav’s current base was, with bi-yearly visits to Nainital. It was only once this decision was made that Arnav went ahead to officially ask for Khushi’s hand from her father.
During all the traditional customs that had to be followed before the wedding ceremony itself, he had had a hard time keeping his hands off Khushi. He had been able to meet her and touch her during the Roka ceremony, the Shanti Hawan ceremony, the Sangeet and Mehandi ceremony as well as the Haldi ceremony. Hell, they’d even been able to steal some private time together and some kisses with the help of his cousins.
It had been complete torture when he had been ordered to not meet Khushi or talk to her for 24 hours before the wedding, after the Haldi ceremony. He had been annoyed at all these customs that had to be followed but as his family had tried to explain it to him; it was something Khushi wished for. So – despite his frustration, Arnav patiently waited it out.
They had a grand wedding in New Delhi where Arnav and Khushi got married in the traditional Indian style. Khushi wore a lehanga in red, her figure showing to the advantage and Arnav all but fell at her feet then. She was a radiant bride, with joy of her love shining on her face. When she joined him at the wedding mandap, their love was in their eyes for everyone to see. He wondered how in the world she’d called herself ordinary and how had he ever thought he’d be able to live without her. She was one of the most extraordinary people he’d ever known- in fact she was the only one who mattered to him in his life from now on.
Now that the wedding was over and he was officially her husband, he wanted nothing more than to carry his bride away from everyone and make love to her. But there were still some more customs to be followed. He sighed, he must be yet be patient.
He looked around with satisfaction as their family and friends laughed and chatted away while attending the wedding reception. Anjali and Dean were on the top of the world; not just because Arnav had finally settled down but also because after coming to Nainital, they had discovered that Anjali was about to have a baby. They were both happy and Arnav couldn’t have asked for anything better to happen to his beloved big sister.
Aakash and Payal were enjoying themselves now that all the problems were solved and Aakash was able to take time off business. Arnav suspected another baby in the making there. Mrs and Mrs Gupta along with their mother, senior Mrs. Gupta were joyous that both their daughters were happily married and had loving husbands. Senior Mrs Gupta gifted Arnav and Khushi her Nainital estate as their wedding gift. Khushi had been overwhelmed at this gesture and invited Mrs Gupta to visit them soon in London.
Arnav Singh Raizada was still full of arrogance but he knew the boundaries that limited his arrogance. Smirking at the thought of beautifully decked Khushi waiting for him in the bedroom, he thanked the guests as they took their leave. Arnav who thought he couldn’t ever be bothered to fall in love looked up at the stars and thanked the mighty powers for bringing him such happiness. Then he proceeded to the room where his newly wedded bride awaited him.
I wish to thank all my readers who have encouraged me in writing this Fan Fiction based on Arnav and Khushi. Do read the other story NOT based on Arnav and Khushi but a love story nevertheless on my other blog romanceandstories.wordpress.com.
Awaiting your comments. In the meanwhile, do enjoy the chapter and let me know how you like it. 😉 Cheers!
It was almost ten minutes before he had come back to the table, with their orders on a tray. Khushi had been ready with her reply on the tip of her tongue earlier but now she tripped.
“What took you so long? “ Asked Khushi
Arnav wiped his hands on his khakhi pants. The vulnerable look in his eyes was something Khushi was coming to know well. He was nervous. Who’d have thought there’d be a time when the arrogant and “I-am-always-right” Mr Arnav Singh Raizada would show his vulnerability?
“Err- to be honest I was plucking courage to come back. I need to ask you what your decision is going to be before I gulp anything down my throat and choke.” His eyes look on the look of a man who was drowning and looking at his saviour with hope of being saved.
“Khushi, I know I am looking for forgiveness from the woman that I hurt beyond forgiving. I don’t know if you can ever forgive me. I haven’t been able to forgive myself for my stupidity and cruelty! All I know is that since the day I realized my mistake, since the day you left me I ached for you until I knew I would go out of my mind if I didn’t come here to beg you to forgive me, take me back.”
Khushi looked down at her hands, searching for the right words to speak. She knew he was sorry, but she was not sure if he really loved her as much as she loved him. What if he changed his mind? Could she take that risk again? She wanted to very badly say yes and forget about what had happened earlier but a side of her brain that was sensible, kept on pulling her back. She had her decision ready and she knew what she was going to say. She looked up at him and said, “Arnav, I believe you. I believe you when you say you’re sorry. I can’t easily forgive and forget everything that has happened between us in the past. The bitter words were too bitter for me to simply spit out of my mind you know.
I know that there are many things that were against me, starting with your own prejudice that had originated from your own past experiences. You had declared then that you had only ever felt lust for me, not love—even – even when I-I-“ she took a deep breath and continued,” I had known that I loved you. A part of me died the day you told me you didn’t return my feelings. When you told me a few days back that you had lied to me, to yourself; that you were always in love with me, I rejected your statement out of hand.”
Arnav held his breath. He wanted to hold her in his arms, ask her what she thought now about his declaration, what she felt about his love for her. If he could die a thousand deaths for all the pain he gave her, he still wouldn’t forgive himself. She sounded so dejected.
A fear took hold of his heart. Did she still not believe him? She said that she had forgiven him but then, that was Khushi, wasn’t it? She would forgive a murderer if she found a single clue that the guy had some sort of goodness in him. Personally speaking, he didn’t think this lifetime would suffice for what he wished to do to get her forgiveness. But he needed her love; he wanted to love her in return. He wanted to make her happy. His insides were quivering with anxiety but Arnav kept a calm front. He took Khushi’s hand in his and squeezed it gently. Slowly he looked up into her eyes and asked, “And now Khushi? What do you feel now? Do you still don’t believe me?”
Khushi looked up at him, her doe eyes swimming with tears. She put her other hand on his and said, “I’m scared Arnav. I gave you myself completely the last time and you almost shattered me to bits. I trusted you with my life and you simply threw it all away. I recovered the last time with great difficulty.. maybe am still not completely recovered. If you ever break my heart again, I will not be able to make it. What if you don’t trust me again? What if I am unable to trust you again? This is what scares me Arnav. You say you l-love me now—but what if you change your mind again? You had said earlier that you felt you were falling in love with me, you trusted me but then, you changed. What if you d-did that again?”
Arnav closed his eyes as self-loathing and disgust took hold of him. If only he could take back all those things he’d said to her! He opened them again as he felt the pressure of her hands on his own and looked into her eyes.
He groaned, “I will do anything to prove my love for you Khushi. Today was just a small example of how it can be between us once again. I promise you I shall never hurt you again Khushi. You once told me love needs no proof. I can see you love me just as you can see I love you. It is there in our eyes.”
“What about trust, Arnav? Love can’t breathe a single moment of happiness without trust.”
His dark amber eyes were pooled with liquid honey. A tear slowly made its way out of his eye. He took a deep breath and said, “Look at me Khushi. Gone is that Arnav Singh Raizada who was an asshole, who was ruled by his past and his bitterness. You brought light into my life Khushi. I never realized how bitter I had been with my life until you made it better, my love. Gone is that Arnav who simply demanded your love, without knowing its true value.
Today the Arnav that stands before you is the one who has given himself up completely to you. I trust you with my being Khushi. You are a part of my soul, my heart, my life that I can’t dream of living without. I have done great wrong to you and I am aware of it. I told you before and am again saying it today. If you still feel I’m not worthy of your love, of your trust—I- I am ready to let you go. If that is the price I have to pay to see you happy, if you can be happy without me in your life, I – will let you go. If however you give me a chance, I swear to you, Arnav Singh Raizada will leave no stone unturned to keep you happy. Let the next few days prove it.”
Arnav shuddered as he said this, as if a great evil shadow had taken hold of his soul. His eyes grew bleak as he looked at Khushi who had her head down and was mute. He felt dead inside. Pain was a constant raging roar in his head now, his heart beating him for having lost the only thing in life that could have brought him peace. He closed his eyes to absorb his pain within himself and slowly got up.
“I think your silence has answered my question. I-I love you Khushi and I will accept your decision. I only wish for you to be happy. I hope that- that –“he almost broke down but bravely continued, “I- I hope that you will be happy where ever you are, whoever you are with. I will learn to be happy for you and shall not bother you ever again.”
“Why?” Khushi still didn’t look at him. Arnav looked at her, puzzled, “Why what Khushi?”
“Why will you not bother me ever again? Will it give you joy to see me with another man? Will you be happy to see me become some man’s wife, his love?” Khushi asked him as she slowly looked up. Tears were streaming down her face. Arnav groaned and caught her in his arms. She went into them willingly, silently still crying. Sniffing, she asked him again. “Tell me Arnav Singh Raizada. Why would you be happy to see me with someone else if you love me so much? Why?”
“Khushi- I- I-“It was a moment where Arnav found his tongue wouldn’t move. It was stuck and his throat had closed. He tried again, “Khushi, are you telling me-“
Khushi moved away from him with great reluctance and looked around for her bag that had her handkerchief. She hiccupped and said, “I can’t talk here. Let’s take our Cappuccinos and get out of here. Take me somewhere else where we can talk.”
Arnav silently picked up both the paper cups and lead her out, “come with me love. I know just the place.” His voice had started gaining some confidence. His heart was ready to leap out of his chest with joy as his brain had got back into gear, trying to make sense of what Khushi was trying to say. Hope filled his heart to the maximum but he was scared too. Maybe she was only trying to be nice and say something nice, maybe she was not at all saying what he thought she was.
They left Khushi’s Scooty pep in the parking. Arnav led her to his car and opened the door for her to get in. Khushi quietly got in, her face down. Arnav got in and put on their seat belts. Khushi had her face averted from him. He was unable to bear it; he couldn’t see his Khushi crying. Gently, he took hold of both her shoulders and moved her face towards him.
“Khushi, please don’t cry. I respect your decision, even if it means I will have to spend the rest of my life alone, with only your memories surrounding me. I can’t bear to see you cry honey.”
“Damn you, Arnav Singh Raizada! I am giving you my decision NOW!” Khushi spoke vehemently, making Arnav fall back in shock. Khushi sniffed as she continued, “Prove to me in the next couple of days that you will be Arnav that you are right now and won’t turn into the beast that hurt me badly. I-I need this Arnav who is right now sitting beside me, the one that trusts me and loves me; what’s more is, I can see his love for me reflecting in his eyes. Prove to me you won’t change and I’ll be with you all my life, past forgotten.” Khushi looked at him while she said this; hiccupping and her eyes full of tears.
The light of hope that had been flickering until a few seconds ago now burned bright in Arnav’s heart. With her statement, his whole demeanour changed. He was the confident Arnav again; his eyes reflecting his happiness as he looked at her,
Arnav started the car and looked at her, his face beaming with a smile joyful enough to melt Khushi on the spot, “To the place where I hope we will be able to plan the next few days now that you’re giving me a chance to be with you again.”
Khushi wanted to ask more but kept quiet for once. She knew he would need to focus on his driving. They soon reached the house that Arnav had bought for Khushi. Khushi squinted at it in the darkness. “Where are we Arnav? What place is this?”
Arnav’s quiet, “Trust me Khushi.” had her head turning to him.
He honked the horn of the car twice. Suddenly there were lights being switched on in the house and outside. Khushi gasped as she looked around. It was a lovely house from the outside. She turned to look at him, “Who’s house is this Arnav? “
Arnav turned to look at her, his amber eyes all fired up with wariness as he said, “ Ours, if you want us to live here.”
Khushi gaped at him, her mouth open. “O-ours?”
“If at the end of this fortnight, you think you can honour me by becoming my wife, and if you wish to live here, this will be our home.”
A loud gasp escaped her even though she tried to control it. “You are asking me to marry you?”
Arnav bowed his head in acquiescence, a rueful smile on his lips,“again. I know that this time I want to do things properly. We will get engaged when you deem the time to be correct and then get married. I want the happy ever after with you Khushi.”
“Oh Arnav.” Khushi all but threw her arms around him. God she did love this man and nothing, no bitterness, no anger could ever wipe this love she had for him; she was sure. A part of her brain warned her though, if she wanted to stand firm on her ground, she should go slow. So she smiled tenderly and leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek. A mischievous part of her urged her to say, “Thank you for this gesture and the proposal. I shall reply to it when the time is right, as you said.”
Arnav grinned, back in full mode as Arnav Singh Raizada and Khushi felt herself being pulled by the strings of desire. She leaned forward too and kissed her quick on the lips. “To give me the strength to hold back until you finally say yes firmly and unequivocally.” He explained innocently and Khushi burst out laughing. “Let us go and look inside. I want to see what kind of house you have bought for me.” She looked up at him, her heart in her eyes.
Hi there! 🙂
I’ve been busy the last two weeks moving house and now I shall be gone for another two weeks to my folks’ place. I will try to post Chapter 21D and Chapter 22 from there. In case I can’t please bear with me until 20th August and then I’ll be back for good. 😉
Enjoy the fun and don’t forget to read the new FF “Love Conquers” (not Arshi but something refreshing) on the other blog: romanceandstories (http://amateurstorywriter.wordpress.com/) Do tell me how you like it when you’ve read it. Thanks! Enjoy!
Do forgive me if you find any mistakes despite having proof-read the chapter beforehand. My eyes are killing me right now with that acne inside the right eyelid. 😦
A bright new morning woke Arnav up from his peaceful slumber with a smile upon his face. Obviously the reason for this smile was his dream about Khushi and the much anticipated day out with her. Sleep had eluded him last night for a long while his guilt of his earlier treatment of her gnawed at his soul.
He wasn’t sure if he would ever be able to forgive himself for all that he had done to hurt Khushi. Ironic wasn’t it, that he had been the one to hurt her the most when he was supposed to be the one to bring utmost happiness into her life. After much pacing around the room, he had decided that his current modus operandi of winning back Khushi was the right step if ever wanted to live peacefully with his conscience and in his life with the woman he loved. He sat up, stretched and headed purposefully towards the bathroom with his newspaper, a spring in his step.
Khushi had been up and about long before Arnav woke up. She had been roaming about in the garden thinking constantly about where she would take Arnav today and how they’d spend the day. Strange that she didn’t really feel her sanity endangered as she would have a month back. The only feeling that persisted was an exciting fizz in her stomach as her heart wondered what may happen during the day time when they were alone together. She mocked herself- a month back, she’d have run miles with the thought of spending any alone time with Arnav at all, but things had changed today, and so quickly too! She was ready to spend time with him without any coercion or seduction.
She refused to become anxious and kept the worries her head warned her off at the back of her mind. Now was not the time to be scared or give in to cowardice. This was the time to face Arnav, show him how unsuitable she found him the way he was, with his “kiss-my-feet-I-am-the-King” attitude. However there was a part of her head that rang alarm bells and made her body nerveless, the part that reminded her of how cruel he could be.
This was not to say he was all bad, her heart argued with that part of her brain. He was kind, loving and generous to the people he loved or cared for. He may be ruthless and not give a damn in the business world but he had never mistreated any employee. Sure, when he got angry the whole office could walk on eggshells for all her cared but he was never unfair. As long as the company employees worked in his well-oiled office, giving their best performances, he was happy.
In his personal life, Khushi had seen more than one example of how he behaved with people he cared for and people he disliked. She had seen both the sides of him. The side that worshipped her sister, the side that kept people he had to socially interact with but regarded with distaste at bay, without being rude or impolite, the side that was nice to children and the side that desired her so much so that–Drat! Despite her rigorous efforts, her heart kept on sending memory messages to the brain bank, taking it back to the events of the past.
The time when Arnav had cornered her in the office at a party, the time at Raizada house, at the tennis club, the day when they all went to the temple for special prayer and how he asked for her forgiveness with his eyes for his earlier behaviour kept coming up. And that was not all- the time when he had gotten mad with rage when she had refused to go out with him and break her date with another of her friends guided by plain jealousy, the times when he would catch her unawares with his eyes, the times when he would be there to take care of her and protect her before she came through any harm, the weekend at the Goa beach house when they had finally given in to the feelings and desires, the wild night of passion on the beach that had followed the weekend; all of these memories kept wanting to surface again and again while she pushed them back.
Khushi told herself that this was not the time to indulge or live in past memories; not when there was new memory to be made – the one that would be the first step towards deciding whether Arnav was worthy of her love or not. She had given it unconditionally earlier but now, she would keep it safe until she was sure he deserved it.
Last night, she had informed her grandmother of her decision and had been wished good. Mrs. Gupta had been surprisingly calm about it, simply reminding Khushi that her happiness rested in her own hands and if she thought Arnav worthy of a second chance one way or another, she should throw all the doubts out from her mind as one throws garbage out of the house. Negativity needs to get out letting positive thoughts take hold of the mind so that peace may prevail.
Khushi had kissed her grandmother good night and assured her that she will first and foremost look at the positive side and only then count the negatives against the positives. However she would also make sure, she vowed to herself, that she would not fall into the trap of physical longing this time and give in to his demands and wishes.
She grabbed her bag from the nearby table to check the contents of her bag, to ensure everything she’d need in the span of this day was there.
She was dressed today in a blue Kurta that had little white flowers embroidered on it with white tights. The sleeves of the Kurta were organza fabric and the dress was her favourite cotton for summers. She was about to put on her glasses and then debated with herself. Should she wear her lenses? Maybe not. She didn’t want Arnav to think she was wearing lenses especially because of him. She put on her glasses more firmly on the nose. So firm was the push that she got hurt on both sides of her nose by the frame of the glass.
“Aowww damn it!” Khushi swore and despite several lectures to not go there, her brain transported her to the time and the incident when he had taken her to his beach house in Goa for the weekend before he had proposed.
Hello readers! Here’s presenting the next chapter. As usual, shall wait for your likes and comments. 🙂 I have decided to divide this chapter into A-B-C sections so that I am able to do justice to all the thoughts portrayed by Arnav, Khushi, their outing as well as the flashback that is an essential part of this chapter. Enjoy 19 A. 19B comes tomorrow. 🙂
Chapter 19 A:
Time seemed to have stopped for Arnav as he waited for her in Barista, occupying one of the love seats near the glass window. He kept looking at his watch every five minutes, waiting for his happiness personified; his Khushi to enter. She was late today and it was already quarter to five. It was also very unlike her since Khushi was always the one girl he knew who prided on her punctuality. He was anxious, no he was worried. His heart was sure he would come to meet him, but his logical mind gave him doubts. His head kept on telling him, he was insane to think she’d even entertain this meeting in her head in any way. Khushi in a way, was as ruthless as he was.
His heart refused to admit defeat though. Now that he knew what he felt for Khushi was way beyond lust, maybe even love he was not ready to let her go. He closed his eyes and willed his heart and mind to become one thought, one purpose. And just as quickly opened them. She was here!
Khushi entered the cafe after a lot of contemplation. It was alright to sit in the room and decide that she’d meet him. But when the time came to actually see him, she had grown cold feet. She’d been standing outside the cafe, in the parking lot since the last one hour, since the time she’d seen Payal off at the railway station. She hadn’t been able to muster enough courage until now to get her feet to move towards the cafe. It was constant encouragement that her head had given to her “almost-faint-with-anxiety”heart that had made her finally move ahead. She looked at herself in the glass doors. She had not particularly dressed up to meet Arnav today. In fact, her defiance had been such that she had donned her glasses, and worn a salwar kurta. She knew Arnav would expect her in her natural look-jeans and T-shirt with no make up on. That had made her wear a bit of make up too. She had braced herself for the astonished looks from Payal and her grandmother when she’d come down her room. Both had done exactly that but kept quiet. For that, she was grateful.
It had been alright until she had said goodbye to Payal and made her way to the cafe. Doubts about her appearance came up then. Was she overdressed? Had she applied too much make-up? What would he think when he’d see her like this? She’d gained weight and looked curvy. Maybe wearing salwar kurta had been a bad idea since she looked very – filled in in her dress. And why did she choose the red one when she had been planning to wear the blue one? She kicked herself several times mentally for her dress, her looks. She worried non stop all the way and while standing outside for an hour.
Debate raged on in her head if she should go home and change. Finally, a bell rang in her head and her heart eagerly complied to this thought. What did it matter how she looked? She was giving him a chance to gain her trust, her love; not the other way round. He should be worried about how he’d behave with her, and she should not at all bother to look good for him!
Arnav knew the exact second Khushi came in as his breath hitched in his throat. She was wearing red! Nothing else could have put that smile on his face as that dress did. He knew in an instant that it must be have been an unconscious decision because from the way he looked, he knew Khushi had dressed up in defiance. Khushi almost never went for make-up if she could help it and today she was wearing it. Earlier Khushi would’ve worn a pair of jeans and a top to defy him but no more. Today she wore an Indian traditional dress to signify that she wished to follow the old fashioned rule of courting. Her glasses, that had been absent in Delhi told him that she wanted to him to see her with her as she was. So she wore glasses, so she had bad eye sight. What she didn’t realize is that such things didn’t bother him. It may have at one point in time, but no more. She could wear sack clothes and dress like a clown and he’d still find her beautiful.
Khushi felt his presence a split second before she saw him sitting like a royal prince in one of the love seat by the glass window. Hesitation and discomfort took hold of her being. Was she doing the right thing by coming here to hear him out? But how could she not? She had promised Jiji and herself that she’d give him a fair chance. She looked at him again while she walked towards him. Her heart beat just that little quicker seeing him dressed casually. The man was a powerful dynamo and no matter what he wore, he still looked dazzling.
She schooled her features into a mask and gave him a polite smile as she took the other seat. “Hope you’ve not been waiting long, sorry am late.” she said.
Arnav raised his eyebrow and smiled, “What happened to Hi?”
She never even cracked a smile, “Hi.”
Arnav smiled in acknowledgement. “Hi. It was no problem waiting for you. If needed, I’d have waited all my life. What happened though? You’re never late.”
“I – got waylaid by something.” Khushi grabbed the first excuse that came to her mind. Thankfully Arnav didn’t question her any further on it. Instead he asked, “What would you like for refreshments? An espresso as usual?”
“I’ve changed a bit Arnav. I don’t drink espresso anymore.” To the standing waiter she smiled and said, “one mocha please.”
Arnav ordered his usual double shot of espresso and said, “So you’re off espresso?”
“Not really but I don’t feel like drinking espresso so often any more. Even when I do, I drink cappuccino or mocha these days.” Khushi replied.
They stayed quiet for some time but it was not the kind of quiet that was uncomfortable. It surprised Khushi to feel that while they were quiet, the comfort level of simply sitting there with him was very high. She was not at all on the edge! Instead, some part of her was waiting for him to speak on the main topic, the reason for which she had today agreed to meet him. Apparently, he didn’t intend to speak about it as yet.
Arnav looked covertly from under his lashes as they waited for the coffee to arrive. She looked prepared to sit with him and talk. It encouraged him a lot more than he’d have thought and granted him the strength to hold on until after the coffee had arrived. His earlier instinct had been to quit all this wooing and courting. When she came in to the cafe, he had looked as if she’d run away if he even spoke a word. His heart wanted him to simply go down on his knees and beg her to come back to him but now he realized she waited for him to court him in the right way, thereby earning her love back. He was ready to go it.
When the coffee arrived, he thanked the waiter and said to her, “Do you come here often with your friends?”
Khushi picked up her mocha cup with care as she replied, “Sometimes. I don’t go out much. Mostly I like to take my car and go away on a long drive. Sometimes I simply go to Bhimtal or sometimes to the nearby towns.”
“Your maternal family has always stayed here, in that house?” asked Arnav.
Khushi took a sip of her mocha and said, “As a matter of fact, yes. My mother grew up here and was married from here. Everyone out here knows our family and gives it the respect it has earned. My grandfather build two schools out here; one for the girls and one high-school. He along with my grandmother had been one of the most loved couples. Even today, grandmother is respected throughout the town. I love this town and have been coming here for my holidays since I was kid. I know all there is to know about the town and the nearby places simply because I thought one day I may settle down here and maybe manage grandmother’s estate. I guess I will be doing that.”
Arnav ignored the red herring. “I’ve been to Nainital before but only when business demanded it and only for a day or two. I never got a chance to know much about the city.” Arnav said, finally taking the first step towards his well thought out plan. “Can you tell me something about it?”
This request surprised Khushi. She had thought he would simply come to the point, as he always did and demand that she forgive him. If she was honest with herself, she felt a new pleasure in knowing that he wanted to know something about the place she loved.
She sat quietly for a bit and then spoke, “Do you know how the name Nainital came to be?” At the shake of his head, she smiled, “It’s something to do with the story of Shiva and Sati. Did you know that they were the first lovers of the Universe ? When Sati died, Shiva was devastated. He was inconsolable, he roamed about the universe with Sati’s dead body in his hand until Lord Vishnu cut Sati’s body into pieces. It is said that Sati’s eye fell in the lake here. The eye is called “Nain” in Sanskrit and lake is called “tal”. Thus the place got its name Nainital.”
“Lovely story that despite being mythical sounds reasonable. And the lake is quite something, isn’t it.”Arnav mused. He wasn’t religious but he knew Khushi was and it would not do well to mock her sentiments at any time. In fact, he could actually empathise with Shiva. To lose the one woman you love is devastating.
A first genuine smile appeared on Khushi’s lips since the time she had entered the cafe. She said, “Nainital is called “lake paradise” and Naini lake is one of the main attractions for the tourists. Kingfisher yacht race takes place here. It is also a great source of fresh water and fresh water fish. In this season you will find yachts, boats; both paddle and rowing boats aplenty on the lake. If you have the time or the inclination, you can go there and enjoy an afternoon out.”
“Hmm..”was all Arnav said as she gulped down his espresso. Then, as if thinking about it, he said, “What are the other places to see in and around Nainital?”
Khushi raised her eyebrow, “You plan to make this a touristy visit Arnav?”
Aranv nonchalantly shrugged his shoulder, “I’m here as long as I need to be here to convince you that I’m not that bad a guy and do deserve a second chance.”
Khushi hurriedly looked down. A thought occurred to her, “So you’re not here on business?”
Arnav shook his head slowly, his gaze showing the seriousness of his reply, “No Khushi, I’m here simply for you. My business is on hold until I can prove myself worthy in your eyes as well as my own. “
“Arnav–” Khushi started to shake her head but was ruthlessly cut off as Arnav said, “Please Khushi, let me finish. By coming here, you’ve given me a ray of hope that maybe I still hold a modicum of respect, a place in your heart somewhere. I know that I have wronged you badly but all I am asking you to do is give me some time to prove I am still worthy of your thoughts, your love. After that, if you still can’t find any love for me in your heart, I will leave. I will never ever bother you.”
“I don’t know how to do it Arnav.” Khushi placed her situation in front of him honestly. “Even if I may forgive you, even I found it in my heart to love you, how will I ever live with the fact that you once thought of me as-”
“Stop, please. Let the past be where it is for now. All I am asking you to do Khushi is to look at me without colouring me from what happened between us in the past. Let this be a new beginning? ”
“How?” Asked Khushi, bewildered. Her heart wanted to give him a chance, desperately even though her mind quaked at the thought of it.
“Spend the day with me tomorrow. Show me the places you like in Nainital tomorrow Khushi.” Arnav put forward his proposition at a gaping Khushi.
“You want to see Nainital with me? Why?”
“I want to see it the way you see it. I want to know the reason why you love this town. Will you show it to me Khushi?”
She could have said no, but a part of Khushi wanted to do that–she wanted to show him her haunts, her favourite places. She wanted him to see what she liked and tell him why she liked it. Maybe that could be the first step towards better understanding? After all, didn’t she say she’d give him a fair chance?
She nodded her head in acquiescence. “Okay Arnav. I will show you around tomorrow. But I have a condition. We will go around the town like ordinary people. No attitude, no suits, no fancy cars, no bodyguards, no expensive hotels for lunch. You will be an ordinary man with 500 rupees in your pocket and I will be who I am. I have seen your world and now I want to show your mine. I want you to see what it is like to not be a billionaire with the world at his feet.”
“Deal.” Arnav agreed to her condition immediately. She was ready to show him around and that in itself was a feat!
While he was still digesting the fact that he had gotten Khushi to agree to his plans, Khushi placed some money on the table and got up, “Dress casually but keep a light sweater with you. It tends to get cool in the evening around these parts. See you tomorrow morning at 8 Arnav. I will meet you here. Here’s my share of the money for coffee.”
Arnav had no intention of arguing at this time. “See you.” Before she could guess his intention, he leaned in and gave her a peck on the cheek. Thoroughly taken aback by this gesture, she looked up and was alarmed to find those liquid amber eyes so close to her. He looked into her eyes and Khushi felt as if she’d melt. Her eyes strayed to his mouth close to hers as he whispered, “I’m allowed to do that, aren’t I?”
Khushi simply looked at him, her eyes pools of want that made Arnav want to kiss her again, this time around on the lips. But her lashes quickly fell over her eyes and when she opened them, they were devoid of the fire that raged inside her. She simply nodded and left.
Arnav saw Khushi leave, his dark glasses hiding the emotions that showed plainly in his eyes. This round went to him, with Khushi agreeing to show him something of Nainital tomorrow. He dialled Mrs. Gupta’s number. It was picked up immediately by her. He smiled and he was sure Mrs Gupta could hear his smile, “Mubarak ho naniji. Khushi has agreed to show me Nainital tomorrow. We shall leave tomorrow morning by your car. She has demanded that I travel in her car and learn something of Nainital with the eyes of an ordinary man.”
“An ordinary man? Whatever does that mean?” Mrs. Gupta asked from the other end.
“What she means is- I should leave my rich and arrogant billionaire attitude behind along with my riches. In her words, “I want you to leave your “pompous-ass-I-am-always-right-self” behind and see what Nainital looks like with my eyes. Look at it with the eyes of an ordinary man and you’ll understand something of me. She’s smart, your granddaughter.”
He heard Mrs Gupta laugh and unwillingly a smile lit his face too. He was thankful to her wholeheartedly for her assistance in getting Khushi back. He could never forget how she had calmly but firmly reprimanded him during their first meet. He had wanted to tell her everything but she had refused to listen to him, saying she knew he had broken Khushi’s trust in some manner. If anything would persuade her to help him, it would be Khushi’s happiness because at one level she knew her granddaughter very well and realized that without Arnav, she would always remain unhappy. She knew that no matter how much Khushi may deny she was in love with him. That had brought tears to his eyes. Arnav had hung on to this small sliver of hope.
For the first time ever, arrogant Arnav had been absent from that meeting, overtaken by Arnav the humble man. He had declared his love for Khushi to her and convinced her that he wanted to win her trust, her love back. Mrs Gupta had told him then that she would help him only if she found Khushi’s reaction in his favour after their meeting at Mallika’s engagement. Once the meeting had been done, Mrs Gupta had called him herself, extending the hand of help and declaring without a doubt that Khushi could be happy only when she would accept his love for her. Today was the first step towards his redemption.
Mrs Gupta said, “Yes, I know she is smart and that will make your job a little more difficult. You have chosen to fall in love with a woman who can stand for herself, think for herself.”
“I’m proud of the fact naniji that Khushi is such a woman. No one else could have seen me the way she does.” Arnav said with heartfelt sincerity, in a tone that was tinged with hestiation. “Maybe I’m not good enough for her naniji. This is the reason why I am going to prove myself to her as well as myself and then let her decide.”
“My blessings are with you my dear Arnav. Best of luck to you for tomorrow.” Mrs. Gupta blessed him and they said their goodbyes.
Tomorrow morning couldn’t come soon for Arnav now.
After having the entire night with memories of her past flashing by, Khushi gave up her attempts to sleep. She hadn’t slept a wink the entire night, yet sleep eluded her. Exhaustion seemed to be the only companion for her this morning. But one thing was certain. She was going to meet Arnav at Barista today evening at 4:30 and see what could come out of that meeting. She was torn into two parts. While her head denied any possibility of giving him a chance to prove himself her heart; the one that had ruled her all her life, wanted to meet him and find out if his feelings were genuine this time around. It wanted to give him an opportunity so that she may get her own chance at happiness. Let no one ever accuse her of not giving him a chance to prove himself. Let no one ever say she had maintained the same attitude that she had once accused him of- of being unfair.
Birds were beginning to sing on the trees and dew was still fresh on the green grass. Khushi roused herself from the bed and went to sit by her window as dawn came in to spread grey light from the clouds over the land below. Slowly the Sun rose high up in the sky becoming a full glare when you looked it in the eye. Khushi upped herself up and away from the window, giving her confused thoughts a rest. A knock on the door alerted her to the outer world, the others who wished to converse with her.
“Coming!”” She raised her voice so that it could be heard. Today the sun had decided to play hide and seek. It crept slowly out of the clouds spreading a burst of bright light and then, just as suddenly it disappeared, making the world a dark place. August was close by and the weather had already started changing. Maybe it indicated the change in her life too. Khushi was never too philosophical to think about such thing but today seemed like a good sign of the change she could let loose in her life. The only difference would be that her life would be facing autumn with her barely warm attitude towards Arnav and if he didn’t improve winter would proceed further with no promise of spring.
The day went forward where Khushi kept looking at her watch time and again. Lunch was done and Payal was ready to depart to the station to catch her train to Delhi. After teary goodbyes to Mrs. Gupta and Lalita, Payal was taken to the station by Khushi in the car. At the station, Payal caught Khushi’s hand before she boarded the train,
“Khushi,you know I love you and I know I shouldn’t interfere in your life but I have a request to make.” Khushi looked at her elder sister, puzzled by the pleading tone of her voice.
“What is it Jiji? If you need my help with anything, you know I’d sacrifice my life for your happiness.”
Payal clutched on to the pallu of her sari. With tears in her eyes, she hugged Khushi again, “I know that my darling. But I wish for your happiness, our family’s happiness. Since you’ve left Delhi, Mum and Dad have been unhappy. I have no body to talk to either and miss you desperately sometimes. When I didn’t know your whereabouts, I felt as if a part of me had gone missing. Mum says the same thing Khushi. Sometimes she roams about the house absent-mindedly making stuff you like. Then she breaks down and cries, not sure what to do. Dad doesn’t say much but he looks worried. They miss you so much Khushi.
Aakash tells me things were not pleasant at work either with Arnavji yelling at everyone after you’d left. Daddyji has been silent about this whole affair but he worries about Arnavji non stop and so does Dadiji. Arnavji went near crazy for a while after you had disappeared.
If Arnavji comes here to persuade you, I only wish that you give him one chance to redeem himself in your eyes. I do not know what happened between you two, Aakash won’t tell me either. It seems as if he now knows that had happened and why you decided to leave all of a sudden. But when I asked him, all he did was sigh and say that you are right in what ever you wished to do after all that has happened. Khushi, I am not going to ask you what happened since I know you do not wish to tell me. However, if it is your decision, I want you to consider everything. You’ve never been more unhappy in your life as you are now, Mum and Dad have never been as worried as they are now with your absence from the house and my whole family, my in-laws are unsettled. Whatever you do, we will abide by it but if Arnavji is asking for forgiveness for whatever he’s done, at least hear him out. If you love him, don’t let your ego come in between Khushi. Forgive him and accept his proposal when he proposes. But whatever you do, do it for yourself, not just for us or for him.”
Khushi was astonished by her jiji’s speech. It was absolutely unexpected since Jiji never scolded Khushi, never even advised her. The only time Jiji had shown her displeasure was when Khushi had gone away for the weekend with Arnav and– Khushi put a break to her thoughts right there. It was not a path she wished to take. She assured her Jiji of her well-being, not disclosing her dealings with Arnav these days, “Jiji, be assured I will give him the chance he wishes for when I deal with him. Maybe he doesn’t deserve it but I will give him the opportunity to prove that he truly regrets what he’s done. I can’t promise that I will be able to forgive him completely and accept him in my life or that thing will be as they were before with him. What I can do is promise you that I will give him a fair chance. I will not let my ego come in between. I have no desire to win this battle Jiji. This is one game where we both lose, no matter what the outcome.”
Payal gave a deep sigh and said, “What ever you do Khushi, please don’t shut me out. I have always been and will always be on your side.”
Khushi hugged her elder sister for those words. Oh, how she loved her Jiji! She crossed her fingers, “I will Jiji. I will come to you the next time if I go through any problem. Ab khush?”
Payal smiled and cupped Khushi’s cheek, “All I want is my sister’s happiness. Humain aur kuch nahi chahiye Khushi. Tum Khush rahogi toh hum sab khush rahenge. Tumhari khushi main he humari khushi hain.”
Khushi gave one last hug to Payal when the train whistle sounded, announcing the departure. With load of last minute instructions and a reminder to call when she’s reached, Khushi wished Payal goodbye.
Arnav was a man with diverse needs, complex nature and ruthless in his machinations when he needed to be. The hard set of his jaw, his well-shaped mouth forming a tight line made many girls around the world swoon and set many hearts to flutter. However today Arnav looked very different. He didn’t look like a man on the mission.
Today he looked more like a man who knew everything he had would be laid down on the table at the mercy of someone else while he played the biggest game of his life- fighting for love. He donned on green T-shirt with black horizontal stripes and dark blue jeans. With determination etched on his face, he left the room of his new bought house and went into the garden. He knew Khushi would love this garden; she was one of those green thumb persons. He’d bought this house not on impulse.
Arnav Singh Raizada never did anything on impulse. With a firm thought in his head, he had planned ahead. If Khushi said she wanted time to think, he’d need a place to put up. If she said she didn’t want to leave Nainital yet, he would marry her and stay here with her. He had bought this house keeping Khushi in his mind. He had left the grass growing, the weeds waiting for the lady of the house to come and sort them out, the wild roses waited for the hand who would pluck them lovingly for the house vases, for the nose that will inhale their heady perfume.
In short, everyone waited for his Khushi, literally his happiness to return to him so that his world could resume. He gave himself a mocking grin. It all rested upon how he would play his cards and the rest would be in the hands of- Khushi’s grandmother. She was the only one who could guide Khushi back to him. She was the one who would help Khushi decide what was the best for her. If Khushi decided to give him a chance, he would leave no stone unturned to ensure that she realized the depth of his feelings for her.
A man not given to vanity, Arnav looked at his reflection in the glass window to see he looked presentable and left for Barista on the Mall Road.
Precap: Chapter 19:
Arnav saw Khushi leave, his dark glasses hiding the emotions that showed plainly in his eyes. This round went to him, with Khushi agreeing to show him something of Nainital tomorrow. He dialled Mrs. Gupta’s number. It was picked up immediately by her. He smiled and he was sure Mrs Gupta could hear his smile, “Mubarak ho naniji. Khushi has agreed to show me Nainital tomorrow. We shall leave tomorrow morning by your car. She has demanded that I travel in her car and learn something of Nainital with the eyes of an ordinary man.”
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.