K & I would like to dedicate this Night to Manreet – For so many reasons, but chiefly, for loving our Happiness as much as we do. We are damn delighted to have you on this journey! ♥
Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina, New York
The warm kiss of sunlight pulled her from sleep. As Khushi opened her eyes, the first thing she registered was the sensation of being wrapped completely in male. Strong, luscious male.
She was held possessively within the circle of his arms, so close she could feel the steady beat of his heart where her back met his hard chest. With care, she turned to face him, allowing herself a few moments to soak in sunshine and Arnav. This was how she wanted to greet every morning, held by the man whose arms meant home.
A man who, by his own admission, was hers. She lay quietly, contemplating just what that meant.
That his only request of her in exchange for his beautiful promises was to stay with him was deeply revealing. She ached for the insecure eleven year old boy who still resided within the self-possessed man.
The need to touch was suddenly too sharp to resist. The dark strands of hair felt like silk between her fingers as she brushed away a contrary lock from his forehead. She traced a forefinger lightly along the bridge of his nose, before sending it across the lips that drove her to mindless abandonment last night. The beauty of him shook her.
She would love him, Khushi decided, love him in a way that would never leave him in doubt.
On impulse, she pressed a light kiss into the hollow of his throat, lingering to inhale the scent of his skin. This was Arnav. Intoxicated, she grew bolder in her exploration, gliding a hand across the skin that stretched tautly over his abdomen. When she reached the edge of the sheets, she hesitated.
“Don’t stop,” at the hoarse whisper, her eyes flew up, cheeks heating as she met his hot gaze. Self-conscious, she pulled her hand back, only for Arnav to capture it mid retreat. Eyes never leaving her face, he guided her hand back to its former place, then lower.
Order? Invitation? Or plea? It didn’t matter, for she could read the raw desire in his eyes, it was enough to give her the courage to respond.
Arnav’s breath hissed out in a long exhalation the moment she closed her hand over him. His hips arched upward to meet her caress. It was torture, but of the sweetest agony. Her tentative strokes were driving him quickly over the edge, yet he tramped down on his own need for release.
He had often scoffed at those who claimed that an emotional attachment to one’s partner heightened the act of physical intimacy. Yet, being with Khushi proved it true. There was no artificial coyness in her touch, no ulterior motive as she pleasured him. By a miracle, she had been thrust into his world. This woman, whose touch made him feel less tainted, giving him the hope of being whole again.
“Arnav,” her whisper slid over him, sending his mind careening back towards elemental need. She leaned into him, “You’re a prize Arnav Singh Raizada, not damaged goods. And I feel so lucky you’re mine.”
He came on a cry, spilling into her hand. Later, he pulled her to him, nuzzling his face against her neck, kissing the delicate curve with soft reverence.
“Make me yours again.”
“…A little,” she admitted.
Tenderness spread through him as he swept her into his arms and out of the bed.
“Where are we going? I’m naked!”
Arnav was amused as he looked at her, “Nothing I haven’t seen, or touched, or-”
He grinned even as he plucked his discarded shirt from the floor. It was this duality in her that made her so fascinating to him in the bedroom. A bold sensual woman in one moment, a sweet wide-eyed girl in the next.
He carried her to the bathroom, setting her on the vanity between the waterfall faucets before easing his shirt over her. “That should shield your modesty.”
When Arnav handed her a toothbrush then proceeded to lean against the adjacent wall with his own, her heart did a funny flip. There was an easy silence as they went about something that she had always regarded as private. Her experience with relationships may be limited, yet she knew instinctively that the intimacy between them was rare. It was something to cherish and nurture.
Her eyes went to the pristine oval tub. It was impossible not to as it was clearly meant as the centerpiece of the decadent bathroom. When Arnav’s hand flicked over the faucet, sending steaming water splashing into the white marble, her pulse jumped a full staccato. Anticipation. It licked across her skin like a greedy flame over dry wood.
“You’re missing rose petals,” she said playfully.
“You mean those?” She followed his chin lift to the vase housing three long steamed blooms. She knew without being told they were his.
He moved to her, taking one out of the vase, his expression thoughtful. In truth he had been awake long before Khushi had started her exploration of his body, it was his turn to return the favor.
He ran the velvet petals lightly over her face, sweeping them like a brush down the column of her throat, and down the exposed gap of skin between the edges of his shirt. He bent, setting his lips over her collar before leisurely following the path of the rose. Knowing she wasn’t ready for what he really wanted, he settled for placing light kisses over the smooth skin of stomach before moving back up.
When his mouth settled firmly over her aching breasts, Khushi couldn’t hold back the soft moan. She looked away only to catch their reflection in the mirror.
Their position left little to the imagination, yet there wasn’t a hint of vulgarity. The pale lonely girl who used to greet her had been replaced by a woman. A woman clasped passionately against the man who was currently worshiping her body.
“Arnav,” Khushi gasped.
“Look at us,” the breathy catch in her voice drew his attention. He gave her a playful lick before reluctantly inching back just enough to follow the direction of her gaze.
Neither spoke as they absorbed the visual rendering of their love. Slowly, as if they were players acting out a dream, he nudged his shirt off her shoulders, drawing her down from the vanity and guiding her into the steaming bath.
He slipped in behind her, urging her to recline between his splayed legs as the hot soothing water lapped around them.
He tilted her head back with a forefinger, setting his mouth firmly over hers. The kiss was tender. He fanned his fingers out over her face as he deepened his kiss. Khushi breathed a contented sigh that Arnav swallowed up as soon as it escaped.
Long moments later, he pulled back. “Okay?”
She smiled, allowing the sheer joy coursing through her to show. “Perfect.”
His eyes glittered, and she could see the satisfaction her answer had brought. When their bodies were submerged with water, he moved them forward to turn off the tap, grabbing a bar of soap in the process. Khushi melted into him as he settled her against his chest while his long fingers glided the soap lightly over wet skin, spreading soap bubbles in their wake. She closed her eyes, content to be in his care.
When he’d covered every inch of her body, he pressed the soap into her hands with a grin. “I never work for free.”
Laughter bubbled inside her as she opened her eyes. She worked the soap in her hands until she had a good lather, turning she rose to her knees, setting her hands on the body she took endless pleasure in touching.
Seeing their reflection and his response to it had shed her misgivings about being completely herself with Arnav. The knowledge that he wanted her as much as she wanted him was heady.
When the water cooled, he drew her into the shower, letting the overhead spray rinse the soap from their bodies as their lips mated.
She was wrapped unceremoniously in a plush towel before finding herself nearly dragged to the bed. Last night he made her feel loved, this morning he made her feel wanted. Love and lust was palpable as desire consumed them, acted out on the flesh between delicious whispers of rumpled sheets.
“You’re worth waiting for, Khushi.”
The words he whispered against her skin were so low she had to strain to catch them, but when she processed their meaning, she made a beautiful discovery. A fairy tale no matter how enchanting, held no real magic. Magic was the delivery of a mother’s wish of happiness through the act of love. In Arnav, she had found magic.
His phone rang near noon.
With a curse, Arnav stretched an arm across Khushi to grab it before it could wake her.
“I don’t pay you to interrupt us,” he growled.
“Took you back did she? Good, that’ll make this shit easier to deal with.”
“Gave you as long as I could mate, but we’re going to need you to put away lover boy and play CEO for a bit.”
“Fine. I’ll be there in two.” Arnav responded distractedly as Khushi stirred against him.
“Why two… fuck me, there’s no time for that! Your ass needs to be out of bed, in a suit, and on the copter in thirty.”
“Just so we’re clear, a PA’s job is to take orders, not give it.”
“Well since the CEO isn’t around to dictate, said PA had to step up.”
“Bast – ”
Arnav glanced down as he felt Khushi’s soft quiet giggle. “What?”
“You two. Cute.”
At NK’s roar of laughter on the other end rang in his ear, Arnav narrowed his eyes on her.
“Send the damn copter, we’ll be ready.”
“Do I send along a body bag?”
“If this reaches Aman, you can expect a salary reduction.”
“I feel obligated to remind you I have legal representation.”
“Yeah, but my lawyer is better.”
“I heard that!”
“Jesus, is Aman there with you?”
“You’re on speaker, brother mine,”
“I didn’t realize you two were fucking conjoined,” Arnav bit off.
“Boys,” Khushi broke in on a chuckle, “as much as I enjoy the display of male bonding, you all have a company to run.”
“We are depending on you to keep that arrogant prick in line, Happiness,” Aman chirped into the speaker.
“Let’s see how brave you are when I’m in front of you,” Arnav muttered darkly.
Ending the call, he made a grab for Khushi’s hands, imprisoning them in a firm clasp above her head. “Cute? I had credited you with a better lexicon. And you are to take my side.”
Khushi smiled at his sulky tone, however her voice held quiet gravity as she responded, “I’ll always be on your side, Arnav. Always.”
That earned her a toe curling kiss. She hadn’t known such kisses existed until this man. As they lingered over it, he let go of her hands, running his own down her arms and under her back. Dropping his forehead to hers, Arnav’s breath fanned her face.
Khushi tilted her face up to him, “What is it?”
“I’m needed at AR.”
“I know, you need to get dressed.”
“I don’t want to leave.”
Warmed by his honesty, Khushi melted into him, “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Come with me.”
“Were you serious about working at AR?”
“Yes, but there’s no time for me to change and-” something in his expression had her pausing.
She glanced at the glass dresser beyond his shoulders, “I suppose I’m going to find something of my size in there?”
“We had this conversation, but that was before you’re mine. I understand your need for independence, now more than before. I respect it and I respect you, Khushi. However, I want to take care of you. I hate how you’ve gone without, and since it’s in my powers to change it, I need you to give me that.”
Khushi bit her lips. In truth, there was a lingering fear that she was embarking on her mother’s journey. That she was allowing heart and passion to rule over mind and reason. Yet, the point of no return had been passed this morning when she had placed herself in his keeping.
Could she give him the final surrender? Her dignity was the constant she’d drawn upon for survival. There had been moments in the past five years when it was the only thing she’d been able to cling to. If broken, she would shatter.
Taking a deep breath, lacing their fingers, she gave Arnav the last piece of herself.
AR Corps, New York
AR Corps Headquarters was very much what she’d expected. Eloquent modernity presented through sleek grandeur. Against a sea of buildings, the seventy-story glass tower soared proudly into the New York sky.
As they emerged from the limo, a sense of déjà vu flashed through Khushi. She’d been all of fifteen the first time Papa had taken her to headquarters of Gupta Co. She’d walked through the lobby raked over by nerves, in part from wanting to make a good impression on his staff, but really, most of it stemmed from the fear of tripping over her heels.
The respect directed at her father had evoked a deep sense of pride in Khushi. She left determined to earn it for herself. While the written word had always been a source of solace and inspiration, it became her benefactor, a means of sharpening her mind. Had he lived, she would have grown up in this world. Had he lived.
Instead, life had taken her down a very different path. There was a pang, for the loss of what could have been. However, if the years had taught her little else, she had learned not to dwell on the things she had no power of altering.
Moreover, how could there be regrets when it all led her to this moment?
She felt blessed and beautiful. The ship’s wardrobe had yielded a simple knee-length cashmere dress in the deepest shade of red. There was nothing provocative about the dress, the style was something she would have picked for herself, albeit in serviceable black. However, the long discreet zipper running from the nape of her neck to the small of her back made it a sensual garment. It prompted the tantalizing thought of her lover lowering that very zipper; something she sensed was his intent when he’d glided the teardrop pull into place earlier.
As they walked through the revolving door and into the lobby, it wasn’t nerves running beneath her skin, but sheer resolve; the resolve to make herself worthy of her father’s legacy, of Arnav, and in her own eyes.
Khushi was jerked from her thoughts when strong hands captured hers in a firm clasp. Startled she looked up at him, “Arnav, we’re at your company.”
Her lashes swept down, indicating their laced fingers.
A predatory gleam entered Arnav’s eyes. “Are you concerned about my reputation or yours?”
“I want to work here with you, but how can I if you’re like this? What would your colleagues and staff have to say?”
“Nothing, since their opinion won’t be solicited. That you’re mine isn’t going to be some dirty secret.” This he delivered in a tone that booked no argument.
Warmth suffused her body. What more could a woman ask for when such a man was proud to claim her as his own? Yet she didn’t want to damage his image, something he had worked relentlessly to build. Throat tight she pleaded softly with him, “Arnav, that you think that means everything, but-”
“Take it or leave it.”
Exasperation entered her voice, “We’re negotiating this later, Mr. Raizada!”
“Despite your protests, I think you enjoy our bedroom deals.”
Their eyes met, black against green. There was a challenge, acknowledged and accepted.
In the middle of AR’s lobby, with dozens of people throwing discreet glances at them, Arnav slid an arm around Khushi’s waist and yanked her close. The rest of world receded as he looked at her upturned face. It was so expressive, he had been able to read every shift of her thoughts as they entered AR. It brought out the desire to protect, a need to keep her safe within the circle of his arms.
He pulled her closer, and then, as if it was the most natural thing to do, he leaned down and simply laid his lips over hers.
“We’re going to give AR a real show if you don’t get that look off your face,” Arnav murmured as he pulled back.
A flush shot up her neck, “You need to stop kissing me in public!”
He’d never claimed a woman, never understood the meaning of it, nor experienced the desire to do so. This constant need to connect was foreign to him. Before Khushi, he would have been horrified by such an open display. Now, he found he didn’t give one fuck what anyone thought. Touching Khushi grounded him in a way that nothing else ever had.
He had thought his heart had been buried in Lucknow. This morning he learned otherwise. It wasn’t that his heart was dead; it just hadn’t had a reason to beat. When he had been woken by the throbbing in his chest, feeling so damn alive, Arnav realized a reason had finally come into his life.
There was no middle road with Khushi. She wouldn’t love with half a heart, it was all in. He was eager to see how she would fit into the fabric of his life. This woman that he craved.
Lost in his thoughts, lost in her, he molded her to the contours of his body. Arnav lowered his mouth to hers, wanting to taste her again. Just once. But at the soft collision, he forgot all about his intention to sample.
“Hell I was afraid she’d turn you down and we’d have to put up with your nasty temper for life. Instead we’ll have to send AR employees to the city hospital for shock treatment.”
Khushi pulled back from Arnav abruptly, mortified as she met with Aman’s mischievous face. She could feel the gaze of dozens on them. This was not the first impression she’d wanted to make. She’d shown up kissing the boss, judging by the hostile looks the women were casting in her direction, it was an unforgiveable offense.
One hard look from Arnav was enough to send people on their way, eyes averted, but she knew they’d seen enough to keep the gossip vine flourishing for the rest of the day.
“Khushi!” Aman greeted with an easy grin as he approached them. His bright red suit would have looked silly on another man, yet he wore it with style and aplomb.
“I think it’s time I revised your job description. Don’t you have anything else to do?” Arnav demanded.
“Yes, recruiting. And you’re currently wrapped all over our potential employee.”
In a smooth move he extracted Khushi from Arnav, offering his arm to her. He gave her a wink before addressing his brother. “We have a nuisance that requires your personal attention. NK is waiting in your office. He’ll bring you up to speed while I give Khushi a tour.”
“Fine. And Aman? If she doesn’t sign on with us, you’re fired.”
“O ye of little faith.”
A mug was plonked unceremoniously onto the conference room table, “Your coffee.”
“Still the Raizada lap dog, NK? I must say I’m disappointed.”
“And you’re still a bitch, can’t say I’m surprised.”
Barely concealed animosity dominated her brown eyes as she glared at him. “Considering his status, it’s shocking how he would choose to keep such an uncouth mongrel by his side.”
“We can’t all be purebreds, too incestuous.”
“Arnav made a mistake the day he replaced me with you.”
“You mean the day he came in with one of our most important investor and you were executing Tales of the Kama Sutra on his desk? That would be stretching the word mistake to unrecognizable proportions, even if we are to go by your standards.”
“You enjoy getting rid of his women don’t you? Gives you a little rush. How will you dispose of his current whore once he’s done with her?”
“Ah finally, the reason you taint us with your presence. I was wondering how much longer we were going to do this dance of bullshit.”
“She was photographed plastered all over him. People are interested in knowing who the ‘Mystery Girl’ is.”
“It’s the other way around, but to a gossip columnist I suppose truth just doesn’t matter.”
“Journalist!” she snapped, “Not that anyone can expect muscle to understand the difference.”
“I understand just fine, the question is, do you? You look great, compliments to the surgeon by the way, but what he’s got in his bed now? You don’t stand a chance in hell.”
Her laugh was tinged with scorn, “A man of his class will want an equal when he finally decides to marry. Once her novelty wears off, he’ll discard her just like the rest.”
“Free lesson. When a man wants to leave? No amount of tears or begging will keep him. But when he decides to stay? Nothing short of death will deter him.”
The hands on the mug clenched. While she’d never cared for NK, the absolute certainty of his tone was difficult to discount. Had the impossible happened? Was she too late? No. No! He was lying. The buffoon had always resented her presence. He had lucked out when she’d made a rash decision that day. Embarrassing Arnav in front of a client had been a mistake. One she’d paid a heavy price for.
It had killed to leave him six years ago, but she had taught herself patience. The years in between were used to shape herself into a woman of asset, building a varied and wide sphere of influence.
She’d turned a blind eye to revolving door of women in his bed, even when jealousy ate like acid. They didn’t matter. He was a man, and they fulfilled a basic need. The time has come to make him see they belonged together.
At the brisk knock, her body locked in anticipation. It was him.
She stood, making sure to present her best side as the door swung open. She’d been all of nineteen the first time she’d laid eyes on Arnav Singh Raizada, knowing down to her bones that he was everything she wanted. It was still true.
“Arnav,” she raised a manicured hand, eager to feel the electric jolt.
The hand that closed briefly over hers was cold, accompanied by eyes that reflected a glacial sheen. The aloofness that characterized him only added to his appeal.
Say my name. Say my name.
She closed her eyes briefly in pleasure. What she wouldn’t give to have him say it when they were in a much more intimate setting. Forcing composure, she opened her eyes and gave him a bright smile.
“It’s so good to see you, Arnav. Thank you for agreeing to this meeting.”
“I didn’t. However, as you were very insistent with my secretary, you have ten minutes. I have someone important waiting.”
“Well Sheetal, it’s been… enlightening. Let’s not do this again anytime soon.” NK rose from his seat, making sure Arnav saw his smirk as he walked pass him towards the door. “I’ll go check on our VIP. Although you should hurry, mate, competition for her attention is fierce.”
“He is completely lacking in manners,” Sheetal fumed.
Arnav deliberately glanced at his watch as he folded himself into the executive chair on the opposite end of the conference table, “Why are you here, Sheetal?”
“Arnav, if you have an important client waiting, go handle it. I’m willing to wait,” she offered generously.
“I’ll be as brief as I can, then,” she retorted, stung by his indifference, “Payal Gupta Matthews wants to come on to my show.”
Had it not been for the sudden clenching of his jaw, she would have thought her words had no effect.
“What does that have to do with me?”
“Mrs. Matthews has a lot to say about ASR’s Mystery Girl.”
“Gutter innuendos on the private lives of celebrities not pulling in enough viewers?”
Her mouth tightened, “You’re a public figure, Arnav. And the public is interested in all aspect of your life, especially when it comes in the form of the opposite sex.”
“I’m surprised your producers signed off on it, there’s nothing that warrants a Late Night interview.”
“A slut trying to sink her claws into a rich man? You’re right that doesn’t warrant any attention. But Shashi Gupta’s illegitimate love child who had an affair with her half-sister’s husband? They eat that up.”
Arnav’s face darken, “Mind how you take her name, Sheetal.”
The menace underlying his delivery sent a cold finger of chill down her spine. She forced lightness into her voice as she responded, “You must forgive me, Arnav. There have been so many women who’d crossed through it’s hard to separate them.”
Arnav studied the woman on display in front of him. Before Khushi, he hadn’t been discriminate in his choice of women, yet something about Sheetal Kapoor had always left him cold. He wondered if she realized the calculation in her eyes falsified even the sweetest words.
“It’s why you’re here isn’t it? Name your price.”
“I don’t want your money, Arnav.”
“Then what the hell do you want?”
She got up and crossed the room. Easing onto the edge of the table, she raked a nail down his tie as she eyed him coyly. “You. Us. We would be perfect together, Arnav. Give me one night to show you.”
“What makes you think I would want something I already turned down?”
“I’m not that girl anymore, Arnav. Don’t you see? It’s a woman before you.”
“How exactly did you imagine this scene to play out?”
“Say yes and I’ll let you fuck me right here.”
“Easy as that?”
“For you, Arnav. Only for you,” her hands went to her silk blouse, slipping the tiny pearl buttons out of their holes with practiced ease.
When she laid back on the table, her body an open invitation, Arnav stood. His gaze raked over her lace clad form dispassionately, “For the record? I’ve had a lot of women. Some good, some bad. Now, I’ve experienced best. She isn’t a woman that crosses my mind, she lives in it.” His eyes went cold, each word carefully enunciated, “I would dismantle the career of anyone who tried to harm her. Are we clear?”
Sheetal gasped in outrage as humiliation burned through her, “You’re going to regret this, Arnav.”
“No, but you will. I’ve found that proximity to power tricks the weak into thinking they wield it.* Do not test me, Sheetal. You should know better than anyone I don’t issue empty threats. Get dressed and get out.”
After leaving Arnav, Aman led her to a corner elevator that whisked them straight to the top floor. When the door opened to the rooftop, Khushi’s eyes widen in wonder. AR’s Headquarters, like all things stamped with the Raizada name, was the last word in luxury. She had seen evidence of it in the impressive lobby, but this was in a class of it own.
The rooftop had been transformed into a stunning wrap-around terrace of glass that offered panoramic views of the city. A long reflection pool ran down the center, surrounded by lush greens. On one end sat a café sending the rich aroma of coffee drifting through the brisk air, while a full bar serving both drinks and appetizers dominated the other end. Between glass tables and heat lamps one had the option of wicker chairs, chaise lounges, and even day beds.
Aman grinned as he seated Khushi purposely in the raised corner reserved for their VIP guests, “What do you think?”
“It’s stunning, Aman,” she replied with enthusiasm, “A great use of space while adding value to both your employees and clients.”
“That was my exact argument when I talked Arnav into doing this last year. We’ll be converting the hotel’s rooftop this summer.”
“Did he give you a hard time?”
“He approved of the idea, but he wasn’t too keen on the final outcome.”
Khushi glanced around, trying to see it through Arnav’s eyes, a smile touched her lips as she turned back to Aman. “It’s the décor isn’t it?”
Appreciation slid through Aman, “You have that man tagged down to the T- must unnerve the hell out of him. His grumbling was that it was too damn romantic. However, with you here, I’m expecting gratitude for my foresight.”
Khushi ignored the knowing look he gave her as she tried to change the topic, “I thought you were going to give me a tour of AR?”
“That can wait. This can’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“What did you think of the Jalpari?” Aman asked.
“I didn’t get to see much of it,” she admitted.
“But you saw the most important aspect didn’t you?”
Understanding came to Khushi of what he was really asking. After learning of Arnav’s past, she was glad that he had two fiercely protective men by his side. For that, she didn’t hesitate to answer him, “Yes, I saw her.”
“I always knew my brother deserved someone special. About fucking time she’s in his life.”
“I’m not special, Aman, but he makes me feel that way.”
She startled when he suddenly roared with laughter.
“What’s funny?” NK called out as he walked up to them. He placed a cup of hot tea in front of Khushi before taking the seat next to Aman.
“She,” Aman tilted his head to indicate Khushi, “doesn’t think she’s special.”
A huge grin stole over NK, “Must have been some other woman Arnav Singh Raizada was kissing the hell out of in the lobby. The groveling and wooing was decently executed?”
“There wasn’t a lot of groveling,” Khushi murmured on a small smile.
At that, Aman smirked, “Well, at least he got the wooing part right. The Raizada name is at stake here.”
“Mr. Raizada, I do believe you’re quite incorrigible.”
“I accept that. And you’re Happiness. But the question is Khushi, are you our happiness?”
“Hell Aman, you’re going to scare the girl.”
“I’m securing her,” Aman retorted.
Khushi flushed under their stares. Two years of Robbie’s straightforward talking wasn’t enough to prepare her for just how open these men were with each other. Yet, she wouldn’t want it any other way.
There was something extraordinary about their bond, something precious. Having experienced so much loss; she never wanted Arnav to lose this. And if it took some adjustment on her part, she would do it willingly.
“He’s everything I want,” she blurted.
Aman’s eyes danced as he grinned at her “And you’re everything he needs. Knew that the day I saw you at Ku-”
Khushi bit her lips as he quickly cleared his throat. “I mean the day I saw you at Arnav’s.”
A laugh escaped her as NK gave Aman an exasperated look. Surprising both men, she got up and leaned over, placing a light peck on Aman’s cheek.
“Thank you for choosing me for him.”
She turned to NK, giving him a similar affectionate kiss, one on each check, “Robbie and I don’t keep secrets.”
“Why did he get two?” Aman complained.
Khushi smiled widely, “One for me, the other for making Robbie happy.”
“Those kisses are mine, why are you giving them away so freely?” a voice demanded from behind her.
Khushi spun around, not realizing that a glow came over her as she looked at Arnav. It wasn’t lost on the man approaching her. Acknowledging Aman and NK with a chin lift, he sat down on the chaise.
Khushi found herself pulled into his lap, his arms stealing around in a tight hold. Those dark eyes dropped to her mouth, tracing them with heat. He didn’t kiss her, but she felt kissed, it was enough to send her pulse soaring.
Her hands slid upward to grip the broad width of his shoulders, intending to extricate herself. She had no intention of providing an Act II to their earlier entrance, but all thoughts of getting off left her when she sensed how tightly he was holding himself in check.
Something was wrong. Khushi forgot her embarrassment and the presence of both Aman and NK as she focused on Arnav.
Lifting one hand to cup his jaw, she searched his face. “Okay?”
The hard planes of Arnav’s face softened as the rage in him melted under her touch. He could feel the ever tightening thread between them as he drew her closer. “I’m now.”
They were oblivious to others, particularly the woman standing several yards away, face white with rage as she witnessed their intimacy. Tenderness. The stone cold bastard was starring tenderly down at another woman, holding her as if she meant the world to him. Sheetal’s hands fisted at her sides even as her heart clenched painfully.
She had come here out of loyalty and a desire to protect him. Over the years, dozens of women had wanted to come onto her show with stories about Arnav after being tossed out of his life. She’d used her influence to shut them down, taking gleeful delight over their dejection.
How dare he respond this way to her love! She wanted to lunge forward, rip the slut from him, and finish up by scooping Arnav Singh Raizada’s heart out of his chest. If it didn’t beat for her, she didn’t want it beating at all.
“NK, get them to stop eye fucking each other, my sexual frustration can’t take this.”
Shifting Khushi neatly to his side, Arnav shot Aman an arched look.
“Quit your bitching and turn on that legal brain. We have a problem.”
“Hell, that means we have two.”
“Shyam called Anjali this morning. In bullet points, HP Daniels has an ax to grind and he’s going to do it as publicly as possible.”
“What does Daniels have exactly?”
“Lucknow and Lavanya, all of it.”
Arnav bit off a curse, “Was Shyam the one who sent him?”
“Yes, but he did attempt to buy off Daniels when he realized how damaging this would be to AR. Especially since we’re preparing to enter several new markets in Europe. Mohit would slaughter him for jeopardizing the partnership,” Aman confirmed on a grimace.
“Why did he call, Anjali?”
“Attack of conscious? Could also be the shared womb thing. She’s the only one who’ll vouch he was once human.”
NK turned steady eyes on Arnav, “Did the nuisance turn into a problem?”
“Yes,” he responded shortly, “Payal is scheduled to go on Sheetal’s Late Night.”
“Fuck, Arnav, would it have killed you to play nice?” Aman muttered, running a hand down his face.
“Her terms were unacceptable.”
Khushi had been silent during their conversation. Her stomach lurched upon hearing the strain in Arnav’s voice at the mention of Sheetal. She knew who he was referring to. The Late Night Show was a rating giant, a magnet for those eager to keep up with gossip on prominent public figures. But who was she to Arnav? Khushi pushed the thought aside, reminding herself that she didn’t have a right to his life before her.
Instead she turned her thoughts to Payal. For years she had done everything to avoid this confrontation. She was beginning to realize it may have been a mistake. Her sister… no, half-sister, would not be satisfied until she paid for the sin of being born with blood. She’d often wondered if it would be any different if they’d shared both parents. Somehow, she sensed that Payal’s antagonism ran deeper, but the why eluded her.
“How do you want to proceed with this?” NK’s question pulled her back to the present.
Three pairs of eyes turned towards her. Khushi focused on Arnav. “That’s what Papa always said when a competitor attempts a smear campaign. Take the impact out of their punch by beating them to the exposure.”
Eyes never leaving her, Arnav asked, “A press con?”
She gave it careful thought before nodding, “It would give you maximum advantage in shaping the delivery and subsequent opinion.”
Amazement flashed through NK as he watched their exchange. Khushi didn’t know, but it was rare for Arnav to seek anyone’s opinion, and not a single woman outside of his own grandmother. That she’d breached his walls were no longer a secret, but this trust was something he and Aman hadn’t dared hope for. While he was pleased for Arnav, it was cause for concern.
It would not be wise to dismiss Sheetal Kapoor. The woman was harboring an obsession, and that could lead to dangerous actions. Particularly against someone she would consider a rival. Fuck.
“We need to find out when Payal is scheduled to go on air. Put as much pressure as you can on the station to hold them off. As for Daniels, make it clear to every media outlet that those who picks up any of his stories will not be in AR’s good books. Aman, get PR on the press con. I want a preliminary draft as well as an appropriate list of media contacts to invite by the end of the day. You’ll need to personally extend the invitation.”
“I assume you’ll want to host it here, but when?”
“In four days. Three if possible, cross check our calendars and clear anything that isn’t urgent.”
“Arnav, you’ll need to have a conversation with Lavanya to prepare her,” Khushi reminded them.
“Right.” Arnav hesitated, he had wanted to delay this meeting, to take the time to prepare himself, but once again the choice had been taken from him.
“Aman, make the call. See if she’ll meet us here this evening.”
“Hell, not sure it’s a good thing that the first time we reach out to her it’s in the form of a favor.”
“Tell her the truth. This will affect her as much as us, but it’s her choice.”
Khushi placed a light hand over Arnav’s, “Maybe something less formal? Would Mrs. Raizada mind a dinner at Shantivan?”
Refusal was at the tip of his tongue until he made the mistake of looking at her. Since knowing of Lavanya’s existence he had looked at her through the lens of her mother. Rationality and fairness had never entered the equation. Yet, he now had a Khushi filter to contend with.
As if she read his thought, Khushi leaned closer, her softness pressing against him. “On her own merit, Arnav. She deserves that much from you.”
Luminous eyes implored him and damned if he didn’t simply want to give in. Was this how married men felt? He was aware of being gently managed, instead of irritation he was intrigued.
Avoiding Aman’s eyes, Arnav addressed the group, “Dinner at seven. I’ll call Nani.”
Aman exchanged a look with NK, but was wise enough to keep his satisfaction to himself. He wondered if Arnav even realized he hadn’t let go of Khushi since sitting down. The risk they took all those months ago had paid off in ways neither anticipated. They were lucky bastards and he’ll be damned if anyone fucks with it.
“Alright, I need to head out to see Anjali. She’s upset over Shyam’s call. I’ll follow-up with you at dinner.”
“Call me once you get a hold of Lavanya.”
Khushi rose from her seat as the men prepared to leave. When she moved to follow after NK and Aman, she was held back by Arnav.
“Where are you going?”
“To Shantivan, your grandmother will need help for tonight.”
“Give me an hour and I’ll take you.”
“You’re needed here. I’ll be fine.”
Arnav pulled her to him, “Don’t you want to ask me about Sheetal?”
Khushi didn’t pretend ignorance, “Does she matter?”
“To me? Never.”
“Then that’s all I need to know.”
“Thank you,” Arnav replied with feeling.
“For the trust … and jealousy.”
Her eyes flew up to him. “I’m not jealous!”
His lips twitched, “If you say so.”
“I… I… maybe… just a little.”
“Liar,” he whispered huskily into her ears.
“I’m not blind to how women look at you, but how can I blame them? You’re too handsome for your own good,” Khushi muttered.
Arnav tugged lightly at her hair until she was looking up at him; all trace of teasing left his face as it grew solemn, “I want to get this out of the way. I wasn’t a saint, but I didn’t bed half of New York’s female population, not even close. There were women, but none of them, not one, got what you get from me.”
“You’ll eventually run into some, I can’t control that, and there’s no telling what they’ll try to insinuate. When that happens, I want you to come to me for clarification.”
“Will you tell me the truth?”
“Even if it hurts?”
“I won’t leave you hurting, Khushi.”
She laid her cheek against his chest, “I suppose there’s no point in applying for any position beyond the executive floor.”
“Did you plan it?”
“What makes you ask?”
“Must have something to do with being kissed in the lobby and being in your arms now,” she accused.
Arnav’s grin was decidedly wicked, “There are still sixty nine floors, it’ll make for one hell of a make-out session.”
Khushi decided then that she must be shameless. Instead of being mortified by his outrageous suggestion, she felt the keen edge of anticipation.
“We need to go,” she said the words with reluctance.
“Take the limo and call your Robbie, I’ll feel better knowing you two are together.”
“Okay. And Arnav?”
“Whatever happens, I’m on your side.”
The arms around her contracted tellingly, but he kept his tone light as he answered, “Good, it’s where I expect you.”
Manhattan, New York
Aman’s long strides ate up the steps to the Jha’s savagely opulent townhouse. His future father-in-law did enjoy an unrestrained display of wealth.
As he entered the onyx-sheathed elevator, his thoughts turned to Lavanya. The call had gone remarkably well, all things considered. She’d been hesitant, but after his blunt explanation of the situation, she’d agreed to dinner. Ever the optimist he felt confident things would work themselves out now that Arnav was at least in an agreeable state of mind.
“In the kitchen!”
Leaning against the door frame his eyes wandered lazily over the woman who would soon take his name. He could not wait until the day seeing Anjali meant a trip to the next room instead of another city.
A sniff at the air was revealing. “Chamomile? I already spoke with Arnav, we’ve got a handle on Shyam, no need for you to worry.”
“It’s not that,” she said, taking the two cups to the plain wooden table that provided relief from the antiques her father had doused the rest of their home in.
As soon as they settled, he reached for her hand. Aman ran a thumb over the ring he’d placed on her finger. The tradition hadn’t interested him until NK had pointed out its use as a male deterrent. He’d gone on to purchase the largest rock Tiffany had to offer, it never hurt to make a strong opening statement.
“You’ve been troubled since our engagement party, what’s going on?”
“I get that. What about Shyam?”
“He wasn’t always like this Aman. It’s getting worst and I’m afraid he’s at his breaking point.”
“Anjali, in seven weeks, I’m going to be your husband. If you can trust yourself to me, then trust me with the truth about Shyam and we’ll figure out how to handle it.”
She picked up the tea cup, downing the bitter brew before looking at him squarely.
Aman smiled to himself. His Anjali. When it was called upon, she never took the easy way out. It was one hell of a refreshing quality to discover in a woman.
“I’ve told you we used to be close.”
“I still find that hard to believe, baby, but I’ll take your word on it.”
“He was a wonderful brother, Aman. Protective and loving.”
“Until,” he prompted.
“Until I walked in on him … being …intimate.”
“Okay, probably not the prettiest sight, but I don’t see- “
“He wasn’t with a woman.”
Aman’s expression turned thoughtful, “I see. What happened?”
“I … I was so shocked I just stood there, but I’m afraid he read something in my expression before I left. I was so embarrassed for walking in on him… it would’ve been the same had he been with a woman.”
“Does he know that?”
“I tried to explain – later, but he always shuts me down.”
“When was this?”
“My last year of high school. Shyam’d just moved out, but he’d given me a key and well, it didn’t occur to me to call first.”
“Anjali, is Shyam interested in Arnav?”
“No, not in the way you’re thinking. It’s Father’s fault really. After I met you, Arnav was all he talked about. You know how he admires your brother’s business accomplishments and well, he’s not too subtle about comparing Shyam to both of you, and making it clear who he finds lacking.”
“That explains the hyper competitiveness. How badly would your father take this?”
“I’m afraid he won’t acknowledge Shyam if he knows. He’ll see it as something shameful.”
“Are you okay with this?”
“He’s my brother, Aman. If it was Arnav, would it change how you perceive him?”
“No, it wouldn’t. What do you need from me, Anjali?”
“I’ve tried to approach, Shyam. He’s become a stranger, but I can’t stand to see him so miserable,” her eyes filled.
“Hey, no tears. You know I’m useless when you cry,” he brought her hands to his lips. “Do you trust me?”
“There’s no one I trust more.”
“I promise you I’ll think on it and we’ll figure out a way to approach him.”
“You won’t tell NK and Arnav?”
“Not if you don’t want me to.”
“I know you guys share everything, and I don’t mind, but this… ”
“Then it’s our secret.”
“You can thank me by paying my fee.”
“Aman, be serious.”
“Not kidding with you. You know I don’t care what you wear. You’re beautiful in anything. However, I have a request for our honeymoon.”
Hoping it wasn’t something completely out of her comfort zone, Anjali looked at him expectantly.
“A month long cruise on the Jalpari will require bikinis and lingerie.”
“Bikinis and lingerie,” she repeated.
“In any style you’re comfortable with. We can go shopping together,” Aman offered, immediately warming up to the idea.
“NO! No, I’ll figure it out.”
“Sure? Offer’s on the table if you change your mind. I need to go, you’re okay?””
Her mind still on his request, she nodded.
“Good. If you can free yourself from another dress fitting, come over to Shantivan for dinner.”
“Is something going on?”
“Lavanya is coming over.”
“Arnav knows?” Anjali asked in surprise.
“He gave the command.”
“I know how long you’ve hoped for this. Of course, I’ll be there!”
He gave her forehead a light kiss, “I’ll see you later then.”
Before letting himself out, Aman grinned and turned back, “And Anjali, when you go shopping? Keep in mind that less is definitely more in this case.”
Upper West Side, New York
Did you pack a bag?
Why the hell not?
Wipe off that disgruntled face. I want to laugh except it’s inappropriate while eating at a funeral
Feel lucky you’ve never sat through a business conference in Seoul. Talk about funeral atmosphere
Jet setting lifestyle too much sometimes?
One man’s meat is another man’s poison. An endless cycle of airports and hotels is a piss poor way of living
Feeling your inner cowboy?
You up for the cowgirl position?
I believe the one who needs to be up is you, Handsome
Not an issue
I’ll bet, but I’m afraid it’s a solo act for you
You enjoy yanking my chain don’t you – we both know that ass is in my bed tonight
This ass will be in Crown Heights!
Khushi and I have things to talk about
…..WHY are you smirking?
Dollface, unless pig sprout wings, there’s not a chance in hell Khushi will be spending the night at your place
As long as you promise not to be a sore loser
What are the stakes?
So uninspiring, not worthy of you
In my kitchen
Do you have a weird kink we need to talk about?
Gonna teach you a new way to enjoy wine
It’s how you like me. Your turn
You, as my PA….full 24 hours
Like the idea of me being at your beck and call do you
I rarely lose
Life is all about new experiences. Okay, I’m desperate, I’ll take monosyllables, but someone needs to start talking!
Pushing the cherry tomato around on her plate, Lavanya attempted to disguise her lack of appetite. Despite the warm luxury of the formal dining room, dinner was turning into a painfully quiet affair.
She glanced uneasily at Devyani Raizada’s composed profile. Other than a dignified nod of greeting, she’d been holding her own counsel as she sat at the head of the stately rectangular table of satinwood. On the opposite end, Arnav’s face was remote; the only relief came when he looked over at the woman sitting to his right. That she mattered to him was subtly conveyed in little touches and brief glances, yet the sum of them spoke loudly. This was surprising, considering what she knew of his reputation.
Her eyes drifted down the table, unexpectedly meeting the gaze of Anjali Jha. Was that pity reflected in the brown pools? Lavanya quickly broke the contact, returning to her bruised tomato. She hoped not. There was nothing worse than pity. Want to drown your spirit? Just throw yourself a pity party of one.
Family dinner. Who was she kidding? Her presence wasn’t wanted, it would never be. Why had she allowed Aman to persuade her into coming?
Because he had been incredibly kind and you can’t stop hoping can you?
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Well, now she knew. Time to make her excuses and reassure them she’ll cooperate on how they wanted to deal with the reporter – preferably through email. Bracing, she slid from the chair, forcing words past her dry throat, “Mrs. Raizada, thank you for having me, but it’s getting late and I- ”
She briefly considered making a run for the door, “I really need to-”
Her legs promptly obeyed the embedded command.
“This dinner is long overdue,” Devyani continued steadily, “I’m sure you’re all uncomfortable, but when you reach a certain age it’s easy to become lost in thoughts of days gone by.”
“Nani, you don’t have to do this,” Arnav interjected.
“If not me, then who?” She turned to Lavanya, “Your presence here tonight tells me two things. It tells me that you care and that you possess the rare bones of forgiveness. Your mother hurt my daughter. It was something I have struggled to reconcile with. It does not excuse how I and my grandsons have treated you. It’s not your sin, child, although it landed on your shoulders. And while I do not expect it to mean anything to you, I’m proud of how gracefully you’ve carried such burdens.”
“Mrs. Raizada.” This came out in a whisper; her throat was too clogged for anything louder. The wetness in her eyes spilled over when her hands were taken in a gentle hold.
“You’re not of my blood, but you share it with my grandsons. My denial of this fact has led to much pain. I only hope you can understand that it was a shared pain; we felt it as keenly as you. Tonight, there’s a choice to make, Lavanya. You can walk away from all this and we will do everything necessary to rebuff rumors of any connection. It will be a life on your own terms, without interference or shadows.”
“And my other option?”
“We give your truth to the world and learn how to be a family. It won’t be easy. In fact, I suspect it will often be as uncomfortable as this dinner, in public and in private. But I sure would like to try.”
Lavanya shifted her gaze to Arnav, trying to read his face. She was frustrated to find it carefully blank. She was being given a chance to have what she’d always wish for, but it came at a terrible risk. He’d rejected her before and it had hurt. However it would destroy her if she was given taste only to have it cruelly taken away.
Big risks, big rewards. She could remember watching one of Arnav’s old interview with CNN. She’d been on a plane ride headed towards a photoshoot in Miami. They had struck a chord within her, and she’d found herself adhering to it ever since.
Again her eyes slid towards Arnav, but this time, they were drawn to the woman by his side. Khushi, Lavanya suddenly remembered. They’d introduced her as Khushi. There was a strange sense of kinship. Impossible to explain, but strongly felt.
Taking a fortifying breath, she gave voice to her deepest wish, “I want to be part of this family.”
Upon her words, the room was slowly divested of tension.
“Good.” Devyani’s hand gave a firm reassuring squeeze. “I’ve taken on many roles and been called many things during my life. To me, there is no sound sweeter than that of Nani. It was first bestowed upon me by a somber eyed child, quickly joined by an irrepressible one. These past few years, three fine young men have given me much joy with their use of it. Now, I’d like to hear how it sounds with a feminine lilt.”
An hour later
Lavanya headed towards the front door feeling more than a little lightheaded. She had bid Mrs .Raizada a goodnight, not quite ready for ‘Nani’ and all its implications. The older woman had simply given her a regal nod of acknowledgement, along with another hand squeeze. Tomorrow afternoon she would be meeting with Aman to discuss her part in the upcoming press conference. It felt terribly surreal.
Three hours. Her life had just been turned on its head in a mere three hours. Elation, fear, and hope were zinging through her in chaotic frenzy. She didn’t know which emotion to focus on, so she was allowing them free reign.
She froze upon identifying the voice. Slowly turning around, she stood face to face with Arnav.
“Did you take a cab here?”
“No need to call for another one, we’ll drop you home.”
“That’s okay,” she said quickly, edging towards the door, “the cab is probably already here.”
“Lavanya, about last Saturday,I- dammit,” Arnav broke off, his whole body was stamped with frustration.
She winced as his guilt hit her squarely where it was still raw. “You don’t have you say it. I understand,” she said quietly.
Arnav cleared his throat, “How can you understand when I don’t even understand? Regardless, I am sorry. About the things I said you to. And I know the timing of this makes me sound less than sincere, but you didn’t deserve any of that.”
Later she would pin it on the emotional roller coaster she’d been riding since entering Shantivan, but in a gesture that shocked both of them, she hugged him.
From her position in the hallway, where Arnav had asked her to wait for him, Khushi could see him reel with shock. For a moment, as his arms lifted, she worried he would push the young girl away. Instead, he left them suspended in midair, ultimately dropping them back to his sides.
Her heart ached for them, but she knew that familial bonds could not be forced. Not when the wounds were still so close to the surface. She startled when she felt an arm drop around her shoulders. Looking up, her eyes met Aman’s.
“You found a way pass those walls sweetheart, she’ll find her own entrance.”
They were standing outside the curb of Shantivan’s private drive when it happened.
“Aman, you don’t need to drop me off.”
“I know you like your walks, baby, but the distance from here to home is a bit much.”
“I’m spending the night with Robbie and Khushi.”
At this Arnav turned sharply to Khushi. “When was this decided?” he demanded curtly.
“When you three were holed in the library,” Robbie spoke up, throwing a challenging look at NK.
Aman pulled Anjali to him, “This about earlier?”
Even in the dark, Aman could make out the flush blooming across her cheeks. “Hmmm, I can’t wait until our sleepovers,” he whispered into her ears.
“Truth is my trade, love,” he pulled her closer, “We’re about to see some fireworks.”
‘What do you … oh!”
“Oh shit,” Robbie muttered under her breath as Arnav turned abruptly and stormed down the sidewalk.
Needled by the distress in Khushi’s voice, her eyes narrowed on Arnav’s retreating back. “He really does have a problem with sharing doesn’t he?”
NK ran a hand across his chin, “I don’t think he’s the only one.”
Her brows came together, “I don’t know–”
“Yeah, you do.”
On a groan, Robbie face planted into his chest. “Is it so obvious?”
“No, but we need to address it. Preferably now.”
“I’m happy for her NK, I really am. And you know he’s growing on me. It’s just…”
“There’s a little resentment that someone’s honing in?” NK remarked astutely.
“How do you know this?!”
“Got four sisters, dollface. All mine to protect. How do you think I felt as they made that walk down the aisle like dominoes?”
Her sigh fanned across his chest, “I feel a NK lesson is about to be imparted.”
He reached out, running a hand through her hair. “It’s an important one, for all of us. There’s a weight of over 57,000 people on those shoulders.”
“Direct employees of AR,” NK explained. “And every day he makes decision that affects them and their families. It’s a heavy burden, loaded with relentless responsibility and little appreciation. His money is earned, Robbie, every damn dollar. Before your girl? His days started and ended with work, an endless cycle that was slowly sucking the life out of him. He didn’t have anyone to enjoy the rewards with and there sure as hell wasn’t anyone to share the burden with.”
“He had you and Aman,” Robbie pointed out.
“You know it’s not the same. Not shitting you, what we attempted months ago was an act of desperate men. She’s his miracle, Robbie. I can understand what you’re feeling, but don’t begrudge him when his need for her overwhelm yours. It’s how he’ll be until he wakes up to the realization that she won’t disappear. Give that. If not for Arnav, than do it for Khushi.”
Robbie peeked up at NK through her lashes, “Do you find me terribly selfish?”
“Your friendship and loyalty? Fucking beautiful. But things are much easier when it’s just the two of you. It’s letting others into your world that will test that bond. I’m part of that equation, Robbie. We’re different from them, but I think you know we’re not exactly the independent types. Healthy or not, we’re dealing with packages. You don’t get to pick and choose.
These last few weeks were relatively easy ones. With the holidays and Aman’s engagement, work was dialed down. That’s about to change. Khushi’s biggest competition for Arnav’s time and attention won’t be a woman. His work is his mistress and she’s demanding as hell. There will be times when he’ll be forced to choose it over her. That’s when you will be needed most, to be there for her when he can’t be. I’ve a fair idea of what you’re capable of, but that’s never been the question.”
She pulled back, looking at him, “Then what’s the question, NK?”
“Not everyone is lucky to find what we’ve found, but the road’s still bumpy and the shitstorm won’t stop coming. The question is, are you willing? Willing to see where this takes us and be the sister that Khushi needs. No bullshit, just Robbie.”
Robbie glanced over NK’s shoulder, Aman and Anjali were wrapped up in each other, yet he was also keeping a careful eye on his brother. Beyond them, she could see that Arnav had stopped; he didn’t turn back, but was clearly waiting for Khushi to catch up.
Crisscrossed threads. It was on that thought that clarity came to her. Here it was. Lights, labels and love. The dreams that seemed so distant, were all before her now. Did she dare?
“I hope you’ve stocked up on Shiraz, Handsome.”
It was not lost on Arnav as he headed towards his car that he was being an ass. It wasn’t unreasonable for her to want to spend time with others. It wasn’t her fault he wanted exclusive rights to her company. This woman that made him feel and do things he’d never felt nor done in his life. Fuck.
Her voice reached him and before it even penetrated he found himself locked in place. Great. Betrayed by his own feet.
“Khushi, it’s fine. Go. I’ll see tomorrow.” His voice sounded rough to his own ears.
“Arnav, please look at me.”
Checking his temper, he twisted around to face her. He starred at her blankly when she walked up to him, palm out.
“I need a keycard.”
Arnav scowled, “What for? You’ll be home.”
“No, I’ll be with two women who I really adore and want to spend time with. However, I’m not sleeping there.”
She moved closer, sliding her arms around his neck. When he stiffened she went on tiptoe, with her mouth against his ear, she murmured, “Because home is within your arms.”
Arnav’s body went completely still before his arms went tight around her. The kiss he crushed over her lips wasn’t gentle, it was intense, consuming. He hauled her into his body, deepening their kiss until nothing else existed for her except him.
There was a strange glint in his eyes when he finally lifted his head. “When you’re ready to leave, call me. I’ll come get you,”
“It might be a bit late,” Khushi warned him.
His mouth touched hers, “I’ll be waiting.”
So… watcha think?
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*adapted from House of Cards by Beau Willimon