Sunday, September 2, 2012

Walk the Line - Chapter 29

It was one of those mornings when you wake up, stretch and say, Good Morning, World! with a smile on your face. A deep azure sky, dotted with fat, fluffy, cottony clouds hung over an earth glittering in the golden sunlight. Drops of rain from the previous day, refracted into tiny rainbows, and the green smell of the earth permeated the senses. Birds chirped and bees buzzed around the abundant flowers in the lawns of the Raizada House. It was a beautiful day for a bride-to-be to have her mehendi. The henna ceremony would be held in the Raizada house as well.

Payal Gupta, the bride-to-be arrived with her parents and two new guests. NK and Jaime had arrived in the early hours of the morning.

Khushi stood with the rest of the Raizada family while Payal was greeted ceremoniously by Anjali. She ran forward to hug her sister and her parents, before turning her attention to her two brothers, although technically only Jamie was her brother, and NK was a Rakhi brother.

‘NK. Jamie. I’m so glad you guys finally made it,’ hugging each in turn. Jamie twirled her around, her pale blue-green lehenga flaring out behind her.

It always amused Arnav to hear Khushi speak in English. When she spoke with Indians, her tone and pronunciation matched any Indians’. But when she spoke to Americans, her heritage came out in a drawl. Gone were the rolling r’s and sing-song note. She spoke pure American! He watched, smiling, as as she was hugged by NK next.

Everybody moved into the living area. Akash had found his way next to Payal, and was deep in conversation with her, before Mami brought a halt to the proceedings.

‘Okay, everyone. It’s time for our guests to arrive. So boys, are you going to be here for the ceremony?’

‘I thought we could go out for a bit,’ said Arnav holding NK’s eyes.

NK nodded. ‘Yeah, why not? We can come back later when you’ll are done and join you’ll?’

‘Hey, I wanted to see an Indian wedding!’ protested Jamie.

‘And you will, Jamie. But this will be boring. Bunch of ladies sitting around and putting stuff on their hands. We’ll come back later and we can party then,’ said NK.

‘Okay. Then let’s go.’

Akash, NK, Jamie and Arnav headed out the door. Arnav headed for his SUV, and they all piled in.

‘Where’re we going, Nannav?’ NK asked from the back.

‘I thought we could take a quick drive around India Gate and a few of the landmarks,’ he said, ‘so Jamie can at least get a glimpse of those. Then we can go to a pub and have a beer, maybe?’

‘There’s no alcohol at Raizada House,’ explained NK to Jamie.

They drove around for a while, stopping every now and then for Jamie to take some pictures. Finally, they arrived at Connaught Place and Arnav found a parking spot. They headed into a nearby pub. They found a seat for four and ordered some beers, urging Jamie to try an Indian beer, Kingfisher. Pakoras and four bottles of beer arrived, and they settled down to talk.

‘NK,’ began Arnav. ‘Has Khushi told you why she’s staying at our house?’

‘No,’ he said, suddenly turning serious as he sensed the underlying message in Arnav’s question. ‘What’s going on, Arnav?’

Akash looked at him, puzzled. He’d known there was something going on, and he’d thought it was because his brother wanted Khushi near him. But this sounded different. ‘Bro, what’s going on?’ he asked.

Quickly Arnav filled him in on the bare details, before telling them about what had happened while Khushi had been at the hotel and why he’d finally decided to shift her to Raizada House. He explained about his conversations with the police and how the CBI was now involved.

The three of them sat quietly when he finished, each mulling over what they’d learnt.

‘I’m surprised Khushi told you all this, Arnav,’ Jamie broke the silence.

He nodded briefly. ‘I didn’t leave her a choice. She was terrified that night.’

Jamie clapped a hand on his shoulder. ‘I’m glad she shared. She’s usually so closed up about it.’

‘Bro. What now?’ Akash as usual, was the pragmatic one. ‘What d’you want us to do?’

‘Akash,’ he said. ‘From you, nothing. It’s your wedding. You focus on that and Payal. I needed you to know about this. But you two,’ turning to NK and Jamie, ’I’ll need your help to keep an eye on Khushi. I’ve already told her parents about this. I’ll be busy with a hundred and one things. It’s my brother’s wedding, I don’t want any problems. Anything happens, and I mean ANYTHING, let me know.’

NK and Jamie nodded.

They stayed for an hour, discussing and planning. It was a sombre group of men that headed back to Raizada House.

***

The mehendi was over by the time they arrived at Raizada House. Most of the guests had already gone, except Lavanya, who had arrived after they’d left. She was sitting and talking to the rest of the ladies when they walked in. They would all be going out for dinner at a restaurant later.

Arnav found himself looking for Khushi as he walked in. He’d been feeling restless all day, and he didn’t know why. As soon as he saw her sitting with Anjali, a strange calm came over him. It was like being thirsty and dehydrated all day, then being given a glass of tall, cold, lemonade. His thirst was quenched immediately. He didn’t stop to analyze what that meant.

NK on the other hand, stopped in his tracks. His eyes were fixed on Lavanya. ‘Nannav, who’s she?’ he slapped a hand against Arnav’s chest and nodded towards her.

‘That’s Lavanya. She’s the COO of our company,’ a smirk lifted a corner of his face.

Akash took pity on NK and said, ‘come on, I’ll introduce you.’

They walked over to Lavanya and Akash introduced them. Jamie and Arnav stood by with huge grins on their face, as NK ran a hand across his well-styled hair, dimples out in full force, holding his hand out to her. Lavanya smiled at him, her dimples out in full force, as well. NK took her hand and led her away to another couch, where they settled down to some heavy-duty flirting. They seemed to have a lot to talk about. Everybody smiled on indulgently. They looked so cute together! This was a match made in heaven!

Khushi had known the minute Arnav walked in. Her breath had stopped for a second, before she spotted him coming in with the rest. He had looked at her once, but then, NK had diverted his attention. Now she watched as he walked up the stairs towards his room. He stopped half-way up, slowly turning to look over his shoulders right at her. His eyes blazed with something unknown, holding her eyes for a long moment, before he turned and walked away. She excused herself and went to her room. She wanted to change out of the lehenga into something more comfortable for dinner.

Her cell phone buzzed as she entered her room.

‘Did I tell you, you looked beautiful today?’ he asked.

‘No,’ she said, the smile automatically coming to her face.

‘You looked beautiful today,’ he repeated.

‘Thank you.’

‘You in your room?’

‘Yes,’ she replied.

‘Come by the pool,’ he said.

Heart thudding, she hung up. She found her way to the pool, avoiding the main living area. He was standing there, waiting for her. She stopped in front of him. His gaze seared her soul. He reached out and caught her hand, turning around and heading into his room. He shut the door to the poolside, before turning to her and swooping down to kiss her.

They kissed like they’d been starved for days. Her fingers spiked through his hair, his hands restlessly roaming across her bare waist, sliding along her back, made bare by the choli she wore. His fingers found the dori, the tie at the back of her blouse and impatiently tugged at it. His lips scorched across her neck as his hands reached her shoulders pulling the sleeves down to lay them bare for him. He took little sips of her skin. Her tongue found the side of his neck, the slight salty tang of his skin tingling across her taste buds. He shuddered and drew back; one arm went around her waist, the other under her knees as he lifted her up in his arms. Her arm clung to his neck, the other curled around his collar as she hid her burning face in his shoulder. He gently placed her on his bed, lowering himself fully on her.

She could feel his arousal now, with his legs on either side of hers. She raised a knee bringing him into closer contact, and low growl came out his throat. Her eyes were closed but she could feel him in every pore of her skin. She could feel the thundering of his heart on her breast, the deep heavy beats echoing her own racing ones.

Arnav opened his eyes and looked at her face. Flushed, eyes closed, slightly swollen lips parted to show the tip of her tongue. He kissed her again, his eyes closing, his lips fitting perfectly on hers, his tongue diving into the honeyed recesses of her mouth. They kissed for a long moment before coming up for air.

She opened her eyes and looked at him as he smiled down at her.

‘What have you done to me, Khushi Kumari Gupta?’

Her widened eyes questioned him. He rolled off her, one hand behind his head studying her face turned towards him, the other caressing her bare stomach. She sat up and he followed her. She looked into his eyes, trying to find the answer in them. They were still dark with desire. Unknown to her, he could see how her eyes turned a dark shade too, her pupils still dilated with an echoing fire. He tapped her nose.

‘Are you gonna change for dinner?’ he asked.

‘Then go. We should be leaving soon. And I,’ paused, ‘need a shower. A long, cold one.’

She choked, jumping off the bed and glaring at him. ‘What?’ he smirked, enjoying her discomfiture. ‘See what you did?’

‘Uff!!’ she stomped her foot and flounced out through the French windows, not waiting to see the satisfied smile on his face.

Have to give it to you, dude, said the imp with a satisfied smile. You always do this in a house full of people! Arnav just shook his head and headed into the shower.

Khushi stomped into her room, and headed to her bathroom. She needed to calm down. Why was he the one to control everything? she fumed. Control freak! Coming out, wrapped in her robe, she heard a knock on the door. It was Payal.

‘Khushi, I need to change out this,’ she said, walking in.

‘No problem, jiji,’ she said, going through the clothes in her wardrobe, wondering what to wear for dinner.

‘How come you haven’t changed yet? You came here like an hour ago!’ said Payal. She began to take her clothes out of the bag she had them in.

‘Ah... I ... ah.. was having a bath. A soak, you know,’ she managed. Her face had started to flame again, and she buried her head in the wardrobe. ‘Forgot to check the time,’ her voice muffled in the depths. Calming down, she turned around with her pick in her hands.

A deep red chiffon sari, with glittering gold thread work at the borders. The blouse was barely there. It covered her front nicely, but the back was held in place only by a jewel at the ends. The shoulders were almost off shoulder, leaving her back extremely bare right down to her hips, where she tucked the sari in. Make up, she thought. Tonight, she was going to stun Mr. Arnav Singh Raizada and what was he going to be able to do about it in a restaurant, with both the families present? Not a thing. Hah!! She put on make up carefully, noticing how her lips were still a little puffy and her cheeks still stung from his stubble! She twisted up her hair and held it in place with a glittering ornate pin, leaving it just long enough to cover the scar. Her bangs she left loose. A pair of red slippers with a ruby red gem between her toes completed her outfit.

Dressed and ready, she helped Payal finish dressing, before they both headed out. She was disappointed not to see Arnav in the group waiting to head out to the restaurant.

‘There you are!’ said Nani, spotting the two girls. ‘Come on, girls. One lot has already gone ahead, and we can leave now. I think everybody else is here?’

‘Yes, Nani,’ said Akash who couldn’t seem to take his eyes off Payal. Thankfully, his parents had already left, and it was only Nani here. He walked across to her and held his arm out. She took it shyly, while Nani beamed at them. Anjali and Dilip were also waiting to leave with them.

Arnav checked the room to make sure all the arrangements were in place. It was a private dining room in one of the best restaurants; a pair of batwing doors separating it from the rest of the main dining room. The room was resplendent with flowers. A small bar stood at one end, the bartender already handing out drinks to NK, Lavanya and Jamie. Shashi, Mamaji and Anna stood in another corner chatting. The table was covered in a burgundy tablecloth with white cutlery edged with gold, and white and gold matching napkins in gold napkin holders. Candelabras hung from the ceiling keeping the dining table lit, recessed lights dappled the rest of the room into a pied blanket. He looked around satisfied that everything was perfect!

He walked across to join NK and the rest at the bar, ordering a diet coke from the bartender, when he felt something. Somewhere inside Arnav Singh Raizada an antenna had tuned in and he turned around slowly. The rest of the party were walking in, Khushi trailing behind them. As she entered, his breathing almost stopped and he felt something squeeze his heart. He’d never seen her look like this! She was gorgeous! He watched her looking around the room until her eyes found him. He swallowed. She was looking so beautiful tonight, it actually hurt him. What was going on with him? He didn’t think he could feel this way about a woman, and the way she looked tonight, he wondered if he would be able to keep his hands to himself. As it is, it was hard enough, but tonight? Good Lord! he thought as she turned around to greet her parents. Her back! He blinked. That smooth back was just beckoning him. A hand tapped his shoulder pulling him out of his thoughts.

NK was looking at him puzzled. ‘Nannav, your drink,’ he gestured to the bartender who’d apparently been hold out his drink to him for some time.

‘Thanks,’ he said, deliberately turning his back to the room. He missed the grin that Jamie and NK shared. He missed the even bigger grin on the imp’s face. Dude, you’re in trouble tonight, he said.

Lavanya thankfully, was unaware of the little drama around her. She pulled NK’s arm leading him back to the main group. Jamie clapped his arm on Arnav’s shoulder. He raised his eyebrows at him, but with a smile on his face. ‘Dude, don’t break her heart, or I’ll break you,’ he said to Arnav quietly, before joining NK and Lavanya.

Break her heart? Is that where this was leading? Arnav was confused. When did the heart come into this? It wasn’t about the heart, or was it? He had never been in love. He wouldn’t know to recognize it if it hit him in the face. He didn’t even believe in love. So he couldn’t be in love with Khushi. The maitre’d came in and stopped his musing.

‘Sir, when shall we begin serving?’

He looked around the room. People were still waiting to get their drinks.

‘In about fifteen minutes,’ he said.

‘Perfect,’ said the maitre’d and walked away.

Once everyone had their drinks, Arnav tapped on his glass bringing the room to attention. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen,’ he said. ‘I’d like to raise a toast to my brother, Akash and his beautiful wife to be, Payal. Congratulations, bro. I couldn’t be happier for you. Cheers!’

Everyone raised their glasses to a ‘Hear! Hear!!’

‘And now,’ he continued, ‘please take your seats. Dinner is ready.’

Khushi was surprised to find herself seated between NK and Jamie. Arnav was far away on the other side of the table, next to his Nani. Somehow, she felt a little cheated. She’d seen the stunned look on his face as she’d walked in, but then NK had interrupted. He’d been busy after that, and she’d been getting the feeling that he was avoiding her. He looked grim when he wasn’t talking to anybody. In fact, he didn’t seem to be talking much to anybody from what she was seeing. What was going on with him?

Jamie drew her attention back to the present. The party went flat for her after that. She excused herself and went to the washroom, head down, missing the admiring looks of most of the men in the dining area.

She looked at herself in the mirror, taking a deep breath. She looked as perfect as she could be, she knew, so why was he behaving like she didn’t exist for him anymore? What happened between earlier this evening and now, that he was avoiding her? She had no doubt about it. Tears sprung into her eyes. She took a napking and dabbed at her eyes. The door behind her opened and someone came into the washroom. It was Payal.

‘Khushi?’ she said, as she saw her sister wiping her eyes. ‘What’s going on? Why are you crying?’

‘Nothing, Jiji,’ she said. She hugged her sister. ‘Just thinking that in a few days, you’ll be married and I’ll be back in America. I will miss you so much!’

Tears came into Payal’s eyes, too, as she hugged her sister back. ‘Silly girl,’ she said. ‘You’ll come visit me and I’ll come visit. We’ll talk everyday, okay?’

I won’t visit, Jiji, she thought. I can’t.

The two girls headed back to their private dining area.

A pair of eyes followed them, as long red fingers tapped against a glass of red wine.

4 comments:

  1. Madhu .. its getting hotter in here babe .. loving it to bits .. pls tell me what u want me to do to remove the writers block if u get it .. i am addicted to this story ...

    Superbly well written .. one mehendi the dori was tied & the other mehendi the dori was opened .. loved it .. can feel the tension mounting .. superb

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  2. Amazing update Madhu.....

    read 4 chapters in 1 go......feeling extremely satisfied!!!!

    the temp is inc degree by degree.....;)m loving it...

    Payal.

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  3. LOL two minutes after I write my request, you grant it magically! I love reading a finished fic. and i love the little things arnav is noticing about khushi.. and i love that the imp is so active these days!

    I really like it that arnav is providing zero interaction in front of his guests.. yes, the reason is that once he touches her , he wont be able to stop.. but it always gives enough cover from dirty eyes like RS..
    i love the way NK and jamie witnessed khushi dazzling arnav. and now arnav is beginning to recognize the love that has hit him i the face..

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  4. Finally Jamie, NK and Akaash know whats been happening. RS is in the restaurant too. Is it me but why didnt she take Payal with her when she left the group, she is being stupid knowing that its not safe... =(
    Loved jamies warning to Arnav, but what made me smile was how Khushi reyurns to the American drawl with Jamie and NK. I think those of us who are bilingual do tend to do that

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