A thank you to everyone who participated in the Fav FWN Character Poll. In your comments, don’t forget to let us know who you voted for!
(We plan to have another poll after we reach the end of the story)
We are both very pleased with the results. To have a non-ficverse character be the favorite is simply mindblowing to us. And we are delighted that Arnav/Khushi tied. Aman took us by surprise though!
Fifth Ave, New York
“I’ll be in the office until six, what are your plans for today?”
“I have two interviews scheduled this afternoon.”
Arnav paused in the middle of fastening the cufflinks onto his white Oxford.
“Job interviews, Arnav. I’m no longer an employee of Kumar’s Catering remember?”
There was a notable moment of charged silence as they both relived that first meeting.
Arnav cleared his throat, “Yes, but why are you looking for a job?”
Khushi stared at him speechless. “Rent? Food? Clothes? You know, the basic necessities?”
“I can handle your necessities, Khushi. In fact, I can do better.”
She glared at him, “I can take care of myself!”
“I’m the man sharing your bed.”
“It doesn’t give you the right to dictate my actions out of it.”
He looked taken back and she caught the flash of hurt before he slammed the doors on his reaction, bolts sliding home until he wore a blank mask of polite iciness. A complete shutdown. Shit!
“Right. Do as you wish. I wouldn’t want to overstep my place.”
“Arnav,” she started, but she was talking to his back. He had already brushed past her and out the door.
Khushi stared at the space he’d just occupied, and winced. By attempting to protect herself, she had hurt him. Life had changed so much in such a short period of time she felt overwhelmed. The newness of them was wrought with too many possibilities for missteps and miscommunication.
It was Thursday, and since Sunday she and Arnav have not spent a single night apart. Each joining that followed was just as passionate as their first. He took pleasure in teaching her how much her body could respond to his touch…and how he could respond to hers. She should have been wilting from lack of sleep; instead she was radiant and full of energy.
Khushi allowed a sigh to escape into the room. All her thoughts these days somehow returned to Arnav. It was alarming, but since they became lovers, he had eclipsed all else in her waking hours. He had even invaded her memory, so that she constantly had the taste of him on her tongue, felt the rough warmth of his hands on her flesh. Falling for Arnav would be the most dangerous thing she’d ever done, yet she felt helpless to deny the effect he had on her. If it wasn’t love yet, it had undeniably gone beyond mere lust, and she was teetering on the edge of an emotional chasm.
During the nights he was hers, an insatiable lover, not just for sex but also for intimacy. In what had become a ritual between them, after burning the sheets, he would lift a hand to capture a tendril of her hair and softly demand another night. She slept each of them in his arms, and if she moved away from him he would wake and reach for her.
But something had happened while he was away on Monday. He came back withdrawn. He wasn’t cold, nor was it obvious, but she could sense a weary guard. She was also honest enough to acknowledge he wasn’t alone. She wanted to ignore the doubts, to fearlessly have her heart lead the way on this unfamiliar path, but a heart once bruised is cautious.
She recalled her confession to him in the limo. She had told him the truth. She did feel like she was drowning, and these last few days the sensation was closer to being caught in a storm of wild waves. She would tumble out of control until his arms reached out to anchor her, providing a lull, but one that never quite allow her to fully catch her breath before another wave would roll over, spinning her out towards the open sea again.
Furthermore, she couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that their days were numbered, as if they were on a countdown.
Pouring herself a cup of coffee, she settled on the sofa and dialed Robbie.
“So what’s our orgasm scoreboard as of this morning?”
“Robbie, I need your advice.”
Her voice was still cheerful, but became tinged with concern, “Trouble?”
“No. Yes. I … I, oh Robbie I’m so confused.”
Khushi woke as weak morning sunlight filtered through the windows. For one crushing moment she wondered if it had been a dream, a cruel twisted dream. Sweet Paradise. Then Nothing.
Had she actually been with Arnav last night or had her imagination conjured up the fantasy?
She felt a movement, turning she took in the masculine form beside her. Her breath hitched, afraid he might vanish, this lover who had explored and possessed with such tenderness. It was then that she consciously took in the pressure of the hand that rested on her bare hip, the subtle stings and aches that testified last night’s pleasures. Not a dream. Real. The best reality she had woken up to in years.
The warmth of his body made the bed a cozy nest she didn’t want to leave, especially with winter’s chill frosting the air. His face was turned toward her in his sleep and she took the opportunity to study it quietly. Arnav’s features were stamped with those of an aristocrat she decided with a smile. She wanted to trace her finger along the bridge of his nose, run a hand through his sleep-tousled hair, lean in to press a kiss along that chiseled jawline. Taking all of him in, she felt her body throb with need.
Despite the heady lovemaking, and the promise he had softly demanded from her afterwards, Khushi reminded herself not to make assumptions. The circumstances that had brought them together were still too surreal in her mind. She had known that from the beginning, and had gone into this with her eyes open. However, welling up from the reservoir of her tangled emotions was the need to belong. She was woman, and he was man.
No, she was his woman, and he was her man. As much as he would allow.
Arnav shifted beside her and she stiffened involuntarily. Naked and vulnerable, she lay watching a lover wake up for the first time. For one endless moment, black clashed heatedly with green. But nothing could have prepared her for what he did next.
Khushi held her breath as Arnav smoothed his hand along her hip, pulling her into his chest. His lids, with their thick lashes, lifted and he surveyed her glowing early-morning beauty with a satisfied gleam in his dark eyes.
“Don’t move,” he murmured throatily, brushing her hair back to press his lips into the small hollow below her ear. “You feel so damn good.”
Relief poured through Khushi. It wasn’t awkward; in fact it was just the opposite. It felt incredibly natural to curl into him. She allowed herself to relax and snuggled against Arnav. “Good morning,” she breathed against his skin.
“Morning,” he replied, taking her deeper into his embrace.
Taken. She felt taken, completely sealed from reality and the rest of the world. She would have been frightened, but within the safety of his arms, she could only think of how he had sheltered her while she shattered with pleasure and how tightly he held her while the world slowly reformed.
“I thought I wouldn’t be any good at … this… at sex.” Khushi flushed against Arnav’s chest, feeling mortified. What had made her blurt that out?
She felt him move, suddenly she was on her back with Arnav looming over her, looking mouthwateringly wicked and tousled.
“Well, I can attest that you are very good …at this.”
He took her arms and pinned them over her head with one hand, before resting his other hand near the apex of her legs. It had an immediate effect on her breathing. Ignoring the clamor of voices in her head that urged to guard her heart, Khushi embraced their physical joining. Knowing down to her bones that no matter what came next, she would never be the same again.
Khushi was halfheartedly responding to job advertisements on her phone, her mind on Arnav’s strange behavior. He had been distracted since last evening, returning from the office in a pensive black mood. Over coffee this morning, she saw questions in his eyes, yet he didn’t voice them. It frustrated that she didn’t know him well enough to read his moods, and considering how they shifted constantly, it would take time. Time she didn’t know if she had.
She heard the rattle of the door and quickly sat up on the sofa, her heart clamoring in her chest. He was back earlier than expected.
Which Arnav would be walking through the door?
He looked exhausted. She had quickly learned how grueling his work hours were. For all his wealth, he was more slave then master. What satisfaction does he seek in adding more zeroes to his bank balance? What void was he trying to fill?
Khushi moved to the bar, silently pouring him two fingers of Scotch, neat. Some things, she mused, were easy to pick up on.
Arnav accepted the drink with a curt nod of thanks, downing half the liquid while he tugged at the knot of his tie. Khushi took a step back, not wanting to crowd him, but her eyes lingered on his exposed throat, and her body began to stir awake in a way that was becoming familiar.
“Did your meetings go well?” she asked, deciding business was a safe topic.
“AR just acquired two new talented designers. They should inject some creativity for the next Fashion Week.” With a toss of his wrist Arnav finished the drink, setting the glass aside his hands curved around on her waist. Khushi tilted her head back to look at him.
His expression was too shuttered for her to read, but his eyes carried an odd gleam. “Is something wrong?” she asked, anxiety creeping into her voice.
Arnav gave a harsh laugh. “No, nothing’s wrong. It was just a long day.” Even as he spoke, he was shifting them towards the bedroom. Once there, he began to undress her, the action heavy with impatience. Once her top came off, her gaze locked on his face as his eyes traveled over her with visual hunger. Khushi sensed he hadn’t meant for her to realize his reaction, but she heard the audible intake of breath, caught the flicker of relief when she was naked just before he pulled her flushed against him. Feeling his obvious arousal gave her the courage to give into her own desires.
“I think we also need to get rid of this,” she whispered, tugging at his shirt, “and this,” she continued as her hands slipped between them to unbuckle his belt.
He was breathing harder, his body heated even through the layers of clothes. Instead of stepping back to undress, Arnav tightened his arms around her. With effortless strength he lifted her off her feet, carrying her to bed. Arnav fell backward, with her still in his arms, and then rolled so that she was beneath him. A little sound escaped her throat when he used his thigh to spread her legs, and he settled into the valley he’d just made.
“Khushi.” Arnav caught her face between his hands as he grounded his mouth against hers, reaching down between their bodies to undo his trousers. Khushi could sense his urgency, but understanding eluded her. She arched off the bed as he entered, her body unprepared for him, but she pushed her fingers into his hair and clasped his head, trying to give him whatever he needed.
Once inside her, the tension faded from his eyes and she felt his body uncoil. Arnav propped himself on his elbows. “Did I hurt you?” he whispered.
She gave him a smile as her body adjusted itself to him. “I’m okay,” she replied, applying pressure to his head until his lips met hers. The brief discomfort of his rough entry was gone, leaving an almost burning hunger to find release.
He allowed her to set the pace, their need fueling each other’s until they reached the blinding crescendo together. Wave after wave of hot ecstasy drowned out the doubts. For now.
Earlier Wednesday morning
He was still stretched out on the bed, a bronze god against the sheets.
Ignoring her suddenly parched throat, she shook his shoulders. “Arnav, wake up, it’s five thirty, otherwise you won’t’ have time for breakfast—”
Without opening his eyes he tugged on her hand, and Khushi found herself on the bed with him, sprawled over him in a very undignified position. Her eyes widened to huge green pools, and she began squirming in an effort to get back up, but her efforts were hampered since her feet had somehow become tangled in the sheets and she couldn’t get her legs straight.
His hand caught in her hair, holding her still. “I’d rather have you for breakfast,” he muttered hoarsely, his fingers exerting just enough pressure to ease her head forward slowly, an inch at a time, until he could put his mouth to hers.
Then he kissed her like he was out of breath, and she was air.
Khushi’s body locked, her mouth opening to his like a flower greedy for sunlight. His tongue lazily explored the softness of her lips, before easing past them to curl sensually around hers.
She wound her arms around his neck, hands clenching in his hair as her body writhed against his in a delicious dance. Feeling incredibly alive, Khushi soared as her existence focused on Arnav.
Breakfast was forgotten.
“I don’t understand, Robbie,” Khushi stated quietly as she finished sharing the conversation from this morning and how he left, wordless and angry.
Khushi didn’t pretend not to understand what Robbie was asking. “Terrified,” she admitted.
“That’s normal, babe. This is new. And your first adult relationship.”
“It isn’t the physical…”
“No, it’s the fact that your heart is involved.”
“Honey, do you know how happy I am for you? Not to mention envious? Not because the man in question is Arnav Singh Raizada, but because we’re having this conversation.”
“Let me finish. This was my wish for you. To find a guy who engages your mind, who can make your body burn and cause your heart beat to go wild. We both know not every woman is lucky enough to find it. Now, before I offer my take, I want to ask you something. Do you think he’s worth it? If the answer is no, then enjoy the sex and when it’s over chalk it up to experience. If, however, the answer is yes, then you need to be you. If he’s man enough, he’ll know a good thing when he sees it and he’ll bend over backwards to take care of it.”
“Robbie, what if I’m not enough?”
“Khushi, you are more than enough. The only one who doesn’t see it is you.”
Khushi’s hand tightened on the phone as she absorbed Robbie’s words. The beginning of things, of love especially, is necessarily vague, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing.* Could she do it? To live purely for the moment, to take each day as it came, enjoy whatever time she had with him, as if that were all there was, all there would ever be. More importantly, not setting a limit on how much of herself she would give to him.
Her decision now would not be influenced by the cloudy anticipation of passion, but a choice made in daylight hours.
“He’s worth it.”
Robbie smiled on the other end. “Yeah? His ugh… skill in sack not influencing you is it?”
“He may be off limits, but doesn’t mean I can’t indulge in a bit of fantasy.”
Khushi laughed. “Thank you, Robbie.”
“You already had the answer, Khushi.”
“Maybe, but it’s all muddled in my head.”
“Just like riding a bike, once you get the hang of it, it’s a breeze. Are you going in for job interviews today?”
“Good. Don’t let him boss you around. Now, you know I’m totally team Khushi, but in his defense I think he’s also navigating without a GPS. Give some room for both of you to mess things up a bit.”
“Okay, love guru.”
“I really should start charging for these sessions,” Robbie mused.
“Uh, huh. How are you and NK?”
“That will require a session of a different kind. Enough about enigmatic men, you sure you don’t want me to go with you today? With your intelligence, you’re truly wasted busing tables, Khushi.”
“Robbie, you promised not to bring that up.”
“But that was over a year ago! What is so bad you can’t even share with me?”
“It’s the only way I can let go. Besides, what’s wrong with earning an honest living?”
“Nothing’s wrong with it, except it doesn’t nurture you mentally. However, if that’s your choice, you know I’ll support it.”
“Thank you. Are you available to meet for lunch tomorrow?”
“You got it, babe.”
“Oops. Ok, a meet up with Arnav and NK?”
“You know, guys don’t get that when you say you’re not interested, what you’re really saying is ‘fight for me'”
“But NK is sharp. If he gets that, please don’t play games of the heart with him. Promise me.”
“Please? I just want you to have your own happiness.”
Khushi held back the rest, knowing she had pushed enough for now. “I love you, Robbie.”
She heard nothing for a moment, and then a giggle came down the line.
“It just hit me that out of all the things I could be sharing with one of New York’s wealthiest bachelor – it’s a woman’s heart.”
“That I am. Love ya too. Later!”
NK came out of the elevator just in time to catch a livid Arnav storming into his office. Pausing long enough to tell both secretaries to hold their calls, he sauntered in.
“Trouble in paradise?”
“I don’t understand women.”
NK slanted him a look, “You don’t say.”
“I take that back. I understand women just fine. She isn’t normal. Going on fucking job interviews. Job interviews, NK!”
“Yeah, a woman wanting to pay her bills and eat. Insanity,” he replied dryly.
“I can take care of her.”
“You’re not her husband, Arnav.”
“But I’m her – “ Her what? he asked himself, What the hell was he to her?
Lover. Yeah, he was her fucking lover. Of a handful of nights, the logical voice persisted. And since when did you give a fuck about what a woman does beyond the bedroom?
He had always hated it when women tried to suffocate him with emotions, but Khushi, she defied his expectations at every turn. A sensualist wrapped in innocence, gentle femininity guarded by fierce independence, a woman who had so little yet carried herself like a queen.
Her unpredictability was causing him to act out of character. He was feeling more and more off-balance. His formidable control shot to pieces by a slip of girl.
“She has pride, more than most. It’s probably also an issue of space. I would think you’ll be relieved she is so independent and willing to work rather than sit around and spend your money.”
“Of course, but dammit she’s –”
“What is the real issue here, it’s not like you to beat around the bush.”
“I already work twelve to fourteen hours a day, how much more space does she fucking need?” Arnav stopped as he took in NK’s knowing look.
“What?!” he growled.
“Jesus, never thought you would be the jealous possessive type.”
“I’m not fucking jealous!”
“Only green with it. This isn’t about her working, it’s you being an insecure asshole, thinking she’ll meet someone and realize beside your money you don’t have much going for you.”
“I don’t think it Arnav, you do.”
The restlessness was coming back, eating at him. He stood up, shoved his hands in the pockets of his trousers, and turned towards the window.
“And this is about Trent Matthews.” NK said quietly behind him.
Arnav’s body locked. Dammit to hell. One thing with NK, he saw too much.
Gazing down at the bustling city below, Arnav allowed his mind to drift over the last three days.
After giving in to the impulse to simply hold her, he had pulled her into the bathroom with its black-tiled shower. As steaming water poured over them, his gaze traveled lazily down her body. His blood leapt as he saw pale flesh bloom into rose hues.
“I… this…. you make me nervous,” Khushi blurted.
“Around you, my heart beats to this tune-”
To his surprise, she took his hand and held it over her chest, “Dhak, dhak,” she whispered.
Did she have any idea how beguiling she looked? How much her words affected him? He had to hold himself in check as he took her in. Standing there with bedroom eyes, flushed cheeks, biting down on her lips as water sluiced down her body, she simply took his breath away.
“You shouldn’t tell me that, Khushi.”
“It makes me want to do things to ensure it keeps beating to that tune.”
Her eyes suddenly burned into a brilliant green, the innate shyness moving aside for the sensual siren. Soaping up her lithe body, he mentally groaned. The thought of work had never been more unappealing. He wanted to spend the day wrapped around her, wrapped within her.
The bathroom was still steamy from their shared shower. So was Khushi. The fact that she had been obviously ready for him again by the time they got out hadn’t helped to cool him off. As he crushed her lips beneath his, Arnav was giving serious consideration to tumbling her back into bed when the sound from beyond his bedroom door captured their attention. Reluctantly, they broke apart, breathing raggedly.
“What the fuck?” he muttered.
Wrapping a towel around himself and pulling his robe over Khushi, they walked out to see NK, wearing his signature dress shirt with dark denim, grinning at them unrepentantly.
Arnav turned back to Khushi, “Is this really happening? Did he just barge in on us, again?”
Hands over hip, he watched Khushi burst into giggles. Seconds later, NK robust chuckles joined hers.
Schooling his features he turned to NK, “Just to be clear, I’m not finding anything funny right now.”
“That’s because you’re related to Ebenezer Scrooge, pre-ghost visits,” NK retorted.
“You came, you interrupted, you annoyed now you want to tell me why you’re here?”
“You told me to come first thing in the morning.”
“Jesus, it’s barely six!”
“Yeah boss, which is what you usually mean by first thing in the morning. But I see that’s changed.”
“So, are we revising?”
“First, I want your keycard, then find out how many copies Aman made and confiscate them. All of them.”
NK grinned. “She’s got nothing I haven’t seen.”
Arnav growled, “Yeah, but there won’t be any seeing on your part.”
“Like that is it?”
“Shut it. Go grab coffee, I’ll meet you in the lobby in thirty.”
He looked down as he sensed Khushi shaking against him, at his look she swallowed her laughter, but the corners of her lips curved up at him. Unable to resist, his lips twitched in response.
“You still haven’t left,” Arnav prompted NK.
“All right, all right,” NK gave Khushi an exaggerated wink as he walked out.
Khushi turned towards him, no doubt to say something to him about being rude, but he didn’t give her the chance. Maneuvering her against the door, he nuzzled into her hair. His soap on her skin was like an aphrodisiac. A scent his body was learning to crave.
“Arnav,” she breathed.
“Tomorrow night, no dinner, no friends. Just you and me. You with me?”
She frowned at his tone. “Are you asking me or telling me?”
He grimaced. “I’ve learned that asking usually doesn’t yield the right answer.”
“I don’t like being ordered about,” she informed him.
“No? You didn’t mind last night,” he taunted.
“That’s …that’s entirely different!” Khushi mumbled, then straightening her spine she gave him a pointed look. “I don’t take orders Arnav, any more than you do.”
He nodded, conceding her point.
“Now, try that again,” she encouraged.
Arnav tore his gaze from the slightly parted and damn kissable lips to look searchingly into the glowing depths of her eyes. “Will you give me you tonight, Khushi?’ he asked huskily.
“If I ask nicely, are you always going to be this agreeable?”
“Need to make sure you’re sated enough to give in then.”
He grinned, eyes holding hers. Then he leaned in close and whispered next to her ears, “I didn’t think it was possible, but you taste even better than you look.”
“And I thought Aman was the flirt. You’re going to be late if you don’t get dressed.”
“There are benefits to being CEO of your own company.”
“Uh huh,” she looked up at him, mischief spread across her face, “May I choose your weapon of the day?”
He laughter this time was incredible to witness. Khushi stared at him, entranced by the sound ringing so richly with carefree joy. It transformed the hard lines of his face until he looked almost boyish.
“I suppose it’s only fair.”
She rewarded him with a beaming smile, then told to him wait in the bedroom as she disappeared into his closet.
She came out with a chrome black Hugo Boss suit, the brand label appealing to her sense of humor, a white dress shirt, and a burgundy tie.
He walked to her, taking both suit and shirt. Turning his back quickly to keep her from guessing the intent in his eyes, he watched her reflection in the dresser mirror. Arnav found devilish satisfaction in catching the shock that flashed across her face as he casually allowed the towel to drop to the floor. Their eyes met in the mirror. Who knew innocence could be so erotic?
Dressed he turned and made his way back to her, “Well?”
Khushi looked at him blankly.
He nodded towards the tie in her hand, moving close enough to make his intention clear. She slipped the silk around his neck and despite trembling fingers managed a precise knot.
At his arched brow, she smiled eyes soft. “I used to practice so I can do it for my father.”
Arnav looked at Khushi, unaware that his own gaze had softened, “I need to go,” he told her.
“You’re here when I get back.”
“Bossy,” she muttered. She hesitated, then went on tiptoes to press a kiss to his cheek. “See you tonight.”
Arnav settled into the seat of the limo, feeling poleaxed. Why had he found her simple gesture so gutting? He scowled down at his phone, knowing if he looked at NK, the idiot would have a knowing smirk plastered all over his face.
This reluctance to leave her was unnerving. Since the time he took his first woman, he had never found it physically difficult to leave one. It fact, he made it a rule not to spend the night. What was it about Khushi that made him break his own rules? And at this point, how much did he really care?
As the limo eased into the morning traffic heading toward AR’s headquarters, Arnav turned to NK.
“There’s someone I want you to look into.”
“Trent Matthews, he’s likely still a New Yorker, but originally from Chicago.”
“Payal Gupta’s husband?”
“What? Payal? As in Shashi Gupta’s daughter?”
“Yes. They just confirmed their attendance for Aman’s engagement party.”
“I thought Garima turned us down? She hasn’t attended a single AR event since Shashi died.”
“Yes, but apparently Anjali sent a separate one to Payal. They attended Barnard College together.”
Arnav was no longer listening. His mind busy processing the new information. Was Payal Gupta the cousin Khushi spoke of? If so, it would make Shashi Gupta her uncle.
Arnav reeled in disbelief. His angel investor’s empire was worth billions. Despite the lax management of his widow, the company still brought in a decent annual profit. Beyond that, Shashi was a family man above all else. If she was related to the Guptas, what the hell was she doing by herself in the city?
He didn’t know Payal well, vaguely recalling a spoiled teenager from some events the family had attended before Shashi passed away. Yet, she didn’t seem capable of the vindictiveness of the girl from Khushi’s past. But how many Payals could there be in New York? That too, married to a Trent Matthews.
When things don’t add up, a businessman knew he had better start subtracting. He needed to acquire all the pieces before attempting to calculate.
“I want you to get all the information you can on Matthews. And find out if there’s a connection between Khushi and the Guptas.”
“Khushi? What does she have to do with this?”
“I want answers NK, not questions.”
“Arnav, have you considered asking her?”
“She’s not exactly a font of disclosures.”
“Didn’t you learn anything from flying fruits?”
“Yeah, how to dodge.”
“Fine, we’ll cross that bridge later. At the moment, we have a bigger problem.”
“Usually, but when you corner a wild dog, it bites. He’s been a busy man. We got wires on his devices –“
“Is that legal?”
NK’s pause was brief. “No, and in court, we didn’t have this conversation.”
“Right. Go on.”
“He’s not the first.”
“Yeah, but he’s digging where no one ever has before.”
“He has a plane ticket leaving from JFK airport next week.”
“Is it me or is he even walking funny,” Aman quipped to NK when Arnav entered his office holding the approved agenda for tomorrow’s meeting with their in-house designers.
“You should have seen him this morning,” NK joined in with a grin, “couldn’t keep his hands off her.”
“Are you my PA or his?” Arnav snapped.
“I’m taking a break. I’m legally entitled to one, right counselor?”
“It’s all there in black and white in the HR manual.”
Curbing the juvenile urge to toss something at them, he shoved aside some folders and sat down on the edge of Aman’s desk.
“Fine, since we are all here, and NK is taking his break, I want to know what went on between Anjali and Khushi while they disappeared yesterday.”
“Khushi didn’t tell you?”
“She was- occupied,” Arnav didn’t hear the satisfaction coating the words, but it wasn’t lost on either Aman or NK.
“I’ll bet. Should we revisit the orgasm scoreboard? I’m sure Robbie will be most interested,” NK smirked.
Ignoring the comment, Arnav steered the conversation back “Anjali?’
“I’m not sure, but somehow Varun came up in conversation and she was upset.”
“Does it bother you?” NK asked Aman.
“About Varun. A woman doesn’t just forget her first love, no matter how it ends.”
“If he was still alive, then maybe. But it’s hard being jealous of a ghost. A piece of her will always belong to him, but I get her now and all the days of our future together.” Aman responded honestly.
Did Khushi feel the same way? Was Trent fucking Matthews her first love? For Anjali it was different, Varun was dead. Matthews was still breathing, and if his guess was correct, come next Saturday the bastard would be within touching distant.
He wanted to pick up the phone and demand an answer, but that would akin to laying his damnable organ at her feet. It wasn’t safe or sane to want someone this much, this quick. But she’d been sweet and so damn tight he broke out in a sweat just remembering how it had felt when he’d entered her last night.
He could protect himself against everyone. Had found it easy to do so. Except this woman. It was as if his heart had been waiting for her to approach and walk right in.
He felt exposed, raw with it. Arnav could feel the old tentacles of vulnerability reach out to touch him with ghostly memories, but he pushed them aside. This situation was different, Khushi was different. She had to be. He couldn’t survive another betrayal.
Arnav lay in the darkness, feeling Khushi’s slight weight nestled against him, both of them naked in a tangle of sheets. She was asleep, her head pillowed on his shoulder, her breath even across his chest, her breasts pressed firmly against his ribs. Gently, unable to resist the urge, he rubbed the back of one finger over a satiny curve. He had discovered to his shock that he didn’t like it when she moved away from him during the night. For a man accustomed to sleeping alone, this was an unwelcome revelation.
He was restless and wanted nothing more than to wake her and bury himself along with these heavy thoughts in her. But he had kept her up for hours last night. Selfishly losing himself over and over in her warm, pliant body. She had responded to ever touch, clinging to him with abandon, opening herself to him whenever he wanted. So he’d allowed himself to feed his craving for her, giving his desire full reign.
When in bed together, they never quite stopped touching, and despite himself, he reveled in it. He’d known one night wouldn’t be enough. So he’d asked her for another to satiate the desire and let it burn out. However, before she drifted to sleep, he had found himself demanding more from her.
He’d done his best to hold her at a distance. But it was hard. And getting harder.
He knew she sensed his withdrawal yesterday. But he was helpless, too used to shutting down the walls to protect himself. He wanted her closer yet he wanted her far away.
If she ran, would he chase her?
“I don’t know what happened, but if it’s eating at you so why not just ask her?”
“I’ll think about it.”
NK sighed, taking in Arnav’s rigid back. He was glad Khushi had entered Arnav’s life, but also concerned. Whatever skeletons laid in her closet, he needed to find out and get to the bottom of it.
Arnav was tethering on an emotional avalanche. He was a man who didn’t love easily, but once he did, NK didn’t think there would be a limit. If such a man ended over a cliff, who the fuck knows what would happen.
He got up to leave, but as he turned the knob Arnav called out.
“She said she has interviews today… It’s not spying, she doesn’t recognize the dangers she could get into in this city.”
NK grinned, inwardly to himself of course. It amazed him how the world thought Arnav Singh Raizada was made of ice, the man had so much affection to give, “No worries, go make a few more millions, I’ll look after your woman.”
With that parting shot, he walked out.
Yes, Arnav accepted, she was his woman, and he was her man. As much as she would allow.
So… watcha think?
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* adapted from The Awakening by Kate Chopin