Sunday, August 26, 2012

Walk the Line - Chapter 25

Khushi waited impatiently with the rest of the Raizada clan in the lounge. The Guptas were coming over for lunch and to spend the day with them.

She’d met her family last night, thanks to a certain someone, who brought a smile to her lips. Much to her disappointment, neither NK nor Jamie had been able to get enough time off to come for the wedding. So they would be arriving only a few days before the wedding itself and leaving right after that. Her parents had been surprised that she was not staying at the hotel, but Arnav had quickly smoothed over that slightly awkward situation, without raising any suspicions.

This morning, the two of them had worked companionably in his study, since the family would be taking some much-needed rest after the long flight. She longed to call her sister up and chat with her. But she would be here soon, and they’d probably get the time for some long-delayed girl talk. Her gaze wandered over to her soon-to-be brother-in-law. Akash sat at the edge of his seat, head down, his fingers nervously picking at his nails. She smiled and moved over next to him.

‘Akash?’ she said, the saccharine coating of her question bringing his head up. ‘What’s the matter, brother-in-law?’ her eyes twinkled mischievously.

Anjali caught onto the conversation and moved across to them, plonking herself down on his other side.

He looked from one to the other like a deer trapped in the headlights.

Mami and Nani chuckled as they watched poor Akash sandwiched between a sister and a sister-in-law. It was not going to be smooth sailing for him from here till his wedding. But it would be a lot of fun for all the bystanders!

‘Yes, Akash,’ said Anjali, ‘tell us whats the matter?’

‘Umm.. no.. nothing.. nothing at all,’ he stammered.

‘Really?’ Khushi pointed at his fingernails. ‘Then why are your nails looking so ragged?’

‘What?!’ he looked horrified at his nails. They still looked good as they had done after his manicure (yes, Akash had actually gotten a manicure!) ‘Oh no!’ he groaned, realizing that he’d been had!

The two girls broke out in peals of laughter, their voices reaching Arnav as he made his way down the stairs. His eyes were immediately drawn to Khushi’s face. She was glowing. He was glad they’d made the trip to the airport last night.

The doorbell rang, and Hari ran to answer it. The Guptas walked in.There was a rush of greetings before finally everyone was sorted out. Sergio has also joined the party, as it was a weekend and he would be on his own.

Lunch had been served buffet style in the garden, so that everybody could relax and chat and enjoy themselves. Akash predictably hovered around Payal, with both Anjali and Khushi barging in every once in a while much to the couple’s discomfiture.

Arnav sat with Sergio talking shop. He wore his aviators as much to protect himself from the sun as to hide his eyes, which seemed to follow Khushi with unfailing regularity. She was wearing D&G today too he knew, and it lifted up his spirits just knowing that.

Finally, lunch was over, and Arnav decided it was time he talked to Shashi Gupta about his youngest daughter. He excused himself and went over to Shashi who was busy discussing something with Mamaji.

‘Mr.Gupta, can I speak with you alone, sir?’ Arnav asked.

Shashi was surprised. The older Raizada sibling was a bit of a closed book, and he was surprised that he was seeking him out to talk to him. What could it be about? He followed the younger man into his study.

Arnav had taken off his sunglasses, and took a deep breath wondering how to approach the matter.

‘Please, sir, have a seat,’ he gestured to the sofa. He sat down as well, and was silent for a few seconds. How much should he tell this father?

‘Sir,’ he began. ‘Khushi is staying at our place at my behest.’ He blew out a long breath and then continued, ‘she told me about what happened to her four years ago. I didn’t think it would be wise to have her continue staying at the hotel, given the circumstances. So I brought her here. I’ve my own security, and CCTV coverage that is constantly monitored. Besides there’s always someone at home. At work, she is with people I trust. I just needed you to know that ...’ how much could he tell without scaring this father? There was another daughter’s wedding to be taken care of. But he had to make sure they understood that he had only Khushi’s best interest at heart

‘I just needed you to know that I am taking care that she is safe, sir’, he finished.

Shashi Gupta was astonished. That Khushi had actually told this man about her trauma was in itself amazing. She never talked about it, though the nightmares still came every now and then. He knew this boy’s character only by reputation, and yet Khushi had trusted him enough with her innermost secrets?! What did he mean - taking care that she is safe?

‘Is there a danger to her now, Arnav?’ he asked, his heart thumping again, as he felt that old feeling of helplessness grip him again.

‘Not that I know of, sir,’ Arnav answered honestly. He looked straight into Shashi’s eyes, willing him to trust his judgement.

Shashi looked back at him. He was impressed by the strong, steady young man in front of him. He knew that he ran a business empire that he had begun from scratch. He had a reputation as an ethical businessman - somewhat of a paradox in itself. There was something about him, an air of calm self-confidence and an aura of command, that inspired trust. Shashi nodded. ‘Can you tell me what happened?’

Arnav could feel the heat rising in his throat, and was glad he was sitting with his back to the window, so his face was in relative shadow. The memory of that night was something that he brought out occasionally, and that too, only in complete solitude.

‘She started getting phone calls,’ he said. ‘But I’ve changed her phone. It’s now a number that belongs to the Raizada corporate account and not to any one person. For all practical purposes, its untraceable,’ he said. ‘Since then, its been fine. But I still wanted to make sure that she was safe,’ he added. ‘That’s why I brought her here.’

Shashi looked at Arnav with new respect. Khushi’s sister was marrying his cousin, yet he had taken on her responsibility while she was here in India! Impressive. He looked at Arnav with new eyes. Was it possible? Khushi and this boy? no - this MAN. For it was a man he saw in front of him, not a boy. Shashi Gupta was a wise father. He would keep his thoughts to himself and wait for his daughter to open up. He and Anna would have much to talk about tonight, he thought. For the moment, he felt he could trust Arnav Singh Raizada. There was some comfort in that.

Meantime, he stood up and held out his hand to Arnav, who took it, standing up himself.

‘Thank you, my son,’ he said. Arnav just nodded.

*** 

Outside Khushi was talking to Sergio. She’d been aware that Arnav was no longer around, but suddenly she realized her father was missing, too. Oh God! She thought. Had he gone and told her Dad...? She hoped not without her being there as well. She nodded and smiled as Sergio continued talking to her. Thankfully, Akash and Payal joined them, and she could slip away.

She went inside the house, just in time to see her father leave from the next set of French windows. She decided to go look for Arnav, but then spotted him coming down the staircase. She marched up to him. He looked surprised to see her.

‘Have you been talking to my Dad?’ she asked when she was close enough to speak without shouting.

‘What?!’ he looked taken aback.

‘Did you just talk to my dad? About why I am here?’ she came closer, eyes flashing fire, hands on hips.

‘Yes, I did.’ His lips thinned. He looked over her shoulder at the people outside on the lawn. Bending down, he grabbed her wrist and started dragging her towards the stairs.

She wriggled her wrist trying to break free from his iron-hard grip. ‘Arnav! What the hell do you think you’re doing? Let me go!’ She was breathless trying to keep up with his long strides.

He shoved her into his room, shut and locked the door.

‘What’s wrong with you?’ he said.

‘With me? With ME?!’ her voice was rising as anger colored her cheeks red. ‘You’re the one talking to my Dad without my permission-’.

‘Your permission?’ he cut her off. ‘I don’t need your permission, Khushi Kumari Gupta,’ he ground out.

‘No, of course you don’t,’ she sneered. ‘You’re the great Arnav Singh Raizada’, she spat out, ‘of COURSE, you don’t need anyone’s permission. Didn’t it occur to you that I might want to talk to my Dad as well?’

‘No, it didn’t. He needed to hear it’.

‘From me, not you’. She shoved him as her anger reached a peak. He grabbed her forearms.

‘Stop it!’ he said. Just as soon as the anger flared, it died down. He pulled her close, resting his forehead against hers; both of them still breathing heavily. ‘Look. I thought it best if I explained to your Dad myself, why you’re here,’ he explained a little calmly - wondering why he needed to give her an explanation.

‘You could’ve asked me to join you’ll,’ she said, simmering down a bit as well, her eyes on the floor

He drew back, but still kept his hold on her. He tilted his head, trying to see into her eyes, until she looked up. He bent and kissed her, finally wrapping her in his arms. She did not respond for all of a couple of seconds, before parting her lips.

He kissed her with all the hunger he had in him, letting her feel it, and she didn’t hold back either. Her fingers curled into his collar, standing on tip toes, meeting him passion for passion. Finally, he drew back. His eyes crinkled into a smile and he tapped her nose. She blushed again. His smile grew broader, ‘you know, you blush a lot!’ She dipped her face, so he couldn’t see into it. ‘Go wash your face,’ he said. Her mouth opened into a full ‘O’, her equally round eyes darting up to his. ‘You look hot,’ he said, not even trying to hide the double meaning. She glared at him, before darting into the bathroom to wash her face. 

The imp just smirked and said, you go, dude. You managed ‘us’ time in a house full of people! He doffed his hat at Arnav who smirked right back at him!

5 comments:

  1. the passion & romance is back....:)

    love the convo between Mr.Gupta & ASR.....:)

    the wedding atmosphere......(sigh)....makes us remember the PayAsh wedding....:)

    ASR smirked at the imp!!!! tell me something Madhu....this imp is NK isn't it...;)

    Payal.

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  2. Madhu .. thank u thank u .. for the second update .. weekend bana diya tumne yaar .. superb one .. tell me when u r bored of hearing the word ..
    It was perfect .. the fact that Arnav spoke to shashi .. again superb way to progress their relation .. so olde world .. so perfect .. great going .. ab shaadi mein thoda masala to the starved souls pleej

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  3. I had forgotten to tell you how much i love the way you write the heated moments between these two. you literally write smokin' hot!

    and there is the misunderstanding.. will this be as big as the MU in the show? I really hope not! :D

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  4. Wow, us time... This imp is really cute... I'm glad shashi Gupta knows what's happening... He'll be alert too....

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  5. I liked the way that Arnav told Shashi that he will be keeping his daughter safe, that she had been receiving calls. Shashi also realises that for Khushi to have told Arnav, it ws a big thing, that here was more to the relationship than meets the eye.
    im also glad she argues with him and eill not stand for his high handedness. But simmering beneath it all is passion , even the imp agrees.

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