His gaze drifted to her lips, lush curves that featured prominently in his mind’s night theater since that first bewildering collision.
She was an itch he’d wanted scratched. Unfortunately, it was a want he’d forced himself to ignore.
She was eighteen to his twenty eight. Between those years laid endless miles of life experience and an ocean of emotional maturity. Concentrating on the irritation prompted by her woman-child antics had made it possible to ignore the temptation that tore sleep from his body night after night, put a leash on his desires. Barely.
Tonight, that leash had snapped. Control and good intentions obliterated the moment their eyes locked on the stage.
A series of movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music.
A goddamn revelation.
It had delivered intimate knowledge of impossibly soft skin and the sweet intoxicating scent of woman. More, those deep inhales, the unsteady graze of her fingers across his chest, the gentle press of her body against his own, had exposed her awareness of him.
In the span of three minutes and some odd seconds, months of long denied need coalesced. Khushi Kumari Gupta was no longer an itch, she was a craving.
Dazed, Khushi stared up at the strong jaw dusted with a five o’clock shadow. How did they get here?
A moment ago she had been about to slip out of the sari while attempting to ignore the rock ‘n’ roll in her chest. Halfway through a new set of guitar riffs and drums she’d sensed him.
To the cacophony of piercing dhaks dhaks, she’d spun and found herself face-to-face with the devil responsible for her battered ribcage.
A wild spiral of tension coiled her limbs as his eyes ran deliberately over her in a slow lazy sweep, lingering briefly now and then. The impact was like a physical stroke, pitching her temperature to high fever.
Throat dry she could only stare. He stood perfectly still, arms folded across his chest, a shoulder leaning against the closed door, as if waiting for something.
What? What does this man want from her? And why does she want to give it, whatever it is, to him?
She’d swept her hair back with a simple silver clip secured at the crown, wanting it out of the way. Now, she felt exposed, vulnerable. Khushi licked her lips nervously, biting down on a corner.
Had she blinked she would’ve missed it. Within the second his gaze fixated on her mouth, she finally saw what he’d kept hidden. Hunger. Raw male hunger.
Air exited her lungs, but before she could grab the necessary breath to fill the suddenly too tight organs, he moved– no, that wasn’t right; he prowled into the room.
She held her ground, mesmerized by the purpose slashed across the hard planes of his face. It overrode every instinct of self-preservation screaming for the obvious – feet towards emergency exit posthaste!
Yesterday she would’ve complied, an hour ago she would’ve made the feeble attempt to restore the rapidly shrinking buffer between herself and that focused intent.
Not now. Not when she could still feel the warmth of his breath against her neck. Not when her body was still recalling the sure glide of his hands over dips and curves, as if he had every right to them.
Despite having watched him take every step, his actual presence before her was startling. He’d stopped abruptly a mere foot away, the air of determination now stamped tangibly on his whole frame.
She hadn’t realized what she was doing until he caught her upper arm, pulled her against him and shuffled her back. Some mysterious steps later, her back hit the wall adjacent to the door, his face filling every inch of her vision.
Devi Maya! No wonder things were blurring. Khushi closed her eyes, hurriedly sucking in several choppy breaths. Just as she’d sufficiently corrected the issue of oxygen deficiency her brain disengaged from the act of breathing all together.
They were chest to chest, thigh to thigh, because of that she felt it. It started as a slight shake along their merged points, peaking into a full rumble as he threw his head back and burst out laughing.
Her chest compressed. The rock ‘n’ roll was back. This time as accompaniment to the most gorgeous sound she’d ever heard. She wanted to taste it. See if it was as rich against her lips as it was upon her ears.
Bemused, she stared up at him, drinking in the grooves bracketing curved lips, the crinkles around his eyes that took away the remote chill of unfathomable irises.
He face was still coated with delight when he grinned down at her. Carefree. Gorgeous. But whatever he saw inked on hers took away the lines of amusement, replacing them with thoughtful contemplation.
Holding her gaze, his hand reached behind her. Khushi’s body drew taut when she felt the release of the clip. Dark tresses spilled from the crown, straight into his hands. With solemn concentration he ran his fingers through the length, testing the texture by entwining the fine waves between his thumb and forefinger.
It took herculean effort to throttle the whimper of pleasure clawing at the base of her throat.
Upon reaching the tip he looped the ends together. With slow deliberate motions he began to wrap the strands around his right palm. Tangled knots, messy weaves, interlocked threads, visible and not.
When he’d gathered most of the heavy mass, he gave a light tug, tilting her head back. His left arm slid around her waist. Within an eternity and a heartbeat later, Arnav Singh Raizada crushed his mouth down on hers.
Her lips parted and his tongue swept inside. Fuck him. Why had he waited so long for this?
She felt incredible in his arms. She tasted even better. Better than he imagined. He drew her closer, intent on relishing the lush pairing of tart apples and cream.
He gave as much as he took. Using kisses in lieu of words. Telling her with each union of lips of a year’s worth of misunderstanding and pent up desire.
The small palms against his chest curled, fisting into fabric. Tension melted from her body, flowed into his as her hands slid up, one curving around the back of his neck, fingers going into his hair. Then she deepened the kiss.
Hot. Wild. Passionate. Khushi kissed as she’d fought. No hesitation, no bullshit display of coyness.
She wanted him.
The little gasps escaping her throat sent a riot of heat straight to his groin. Those tiny moans demolished the possibility of returning to their prior relationships, opening a single tunnel forth that included them on a flat surface, her body moving under his.
Heat. So much heat. The thickening in her veins couldn’t be blood. It was pure gasoline. And his touch had ignited the inferno.
Khushi moaned helplessly against his tongue as Arnav bent forward slightly, arching her over his arm, sealing every gap between them. There was fierce adamant greed to the way he held her, making it impossible to ignore the sensation of being thoroughly claimed. The world burned away till there was nothing except urgent liquid kisses, one after another.
In some faraway, vague recess of her mind that wasn’t intent on his body pressed against her, Khushi registered the approach of light footfalls.
“Khushi?” Her name drifted through wood panels, followed by a knock.
Arnav tore his mouth from hers, swearing under his breath as he buried his face in her neck.
“Khushi, what’s taking so long? Do you need my help?” Payal called out softly from the other side of the door.
“Send her away,” Arnav demanded. His voice was a rough tortured scrape, as if he’d had to force the words out.
Jiji? JIJI! Khushi was abruptly yanked out of her Arnav induced stupor. How could she have forgotten why she was in Laad Governor’s presence?
“I’m fine, jiji!” her voice hit the air at an unnatural pitch, “I’ll…I’ll be out in a few minutes!”
“Okay, but hurry!” Payal hesitated, “Khushi, have you seen Arnavji? Anjali’s looking-”
Yes, her brother has your sister pinned against the wall.
“No!” Khushi yelped as the besharam bit down on her earlobe.
“Khushi?’ the door knob twisted, “Are you sure you’re okay? Open the door.”
His soothed the bite with his tongue, before taking interest in the shell of her ear.
Goddess Maya who’s the crazy one?
“Arnav!” she hissed.
“Get rid of her,” he repeated, his breath fanning her oversensitive skin as he skimmed his nose along the column of her neck.
Why? Of all men, why did her acidity insist on visiting only when this infuriating man came within vicinity?
When no one answered, Khushi cleared her throat. Forcing lightness into her tone, she called out, “Jiji, the stage lights were so bright I got a little dizzy. You go back first and I’ll be out as soon as I change.”
Payal Gupta’s body carried neither a confrontational nor assertive bone. Thus, after seeking assurance that Khushi was fine, she turned and headed quietly down the hall.
Arnav lifted his head as Payal’s steps faded. His eyes were back to smoky black pools, making his thoughts impossible to decipher.
It suddenly registered that she was inside a locked bedroom with a man who’d spent the last five minutes devouring her lips. A feast she had been fully engaged in. If they were to go by his usual modus operandi, Dr. Jekyll was about to be supplanted by Mr. Hyde.
The silence stretched, reeking of text loaded with subtext. When Arnav finally opened his mouth, Khushi tensed, mentally bracing herself for soul wreckage.
“It’s the dance!” she blurted, cringing as soon as the words escaped.
Arnav was pensive as he took in the satin sheen of red tracing the contours of her face. She was handing him the perfect excuse. One that would allow them to write this off, to go back to the way things were.
In a way she was right. It was the knowledge imparted through that dance that led them here. But while accompanying her through the crooning rendition of “Teri Meri” had been an impulsive decision on his part, their kisses just know were not. He had needed to know what she tasted like. Now that he knew, it was too late to turn back.
“It’s not the dance, Khushi,” he denied softly.
“I want you.” The confession was unadorned, so rawly spoken they vibrated thickly in the air. He dropped his forehead to rest it against hers and murmured, “Do you want me?”
Arnav was perturbed when she gave him the un-Khushi like response of silence. He pulled back, releasing her hair as he slipped an index finger under her chin, using it to lift her face up to his – reeling when he received a sucker punch to the gut. What the fuck!
“Want,” she admitted quietly. “Yes, I want you.”
Had he heard this before looking at her face, he would’ve been filled with elation. The words were right, however-
Desire and doubts slashed shadows in her eyes, but overwhelming both was fear. Why? Before the question fully formed, the answer arrived, delivered by the sharp talons of the undeniable.
Because he’d pushed her away whenever she came too close. How often had he fed her his venom, uncaring how it hurt her as long as it protected him? And yet, here she was, in his arms; beautiful, willing, but afraid to give her trust.
He moved to press his lips against her forehead and stated simply, “I lose.”
She blinked at him. “What?”
“Fought the pull of you, Khushi. Fought damn hard. But now… it’s no longer the war I’m interested in winning.
This admission cost him. It was terrifying to make himself vulnerable to a woman, particularly one who had such a hold over him. It was cushioned by the sweet ache of relief to take a leap of faith he had not attempted since he was a boy of twelve. Since the day all that was safe and familiar had crumbled to dust.
His thumb stroked her cheekbone. She would take care. His Khushi. To be wrong about her would finish him.
“I’m going to leave. Change your dress. When you walk out of here, come to me.”
“Come to you?” Khushi questioned with a slow drag, mining for the hidden meaning.
“Yes, come to me.”
“What happens after that?” she whispered.
I’m not letting you go.
He didn’t answer. Instead, he took her hand and led her to stand before the full length oval mirror. Khushi felt cool air on her back as Arnav swept her hair over one shoulder. Stepping behind her, he untied the dory, deftly undoing the tiny fastenings that held her blouse together.
He leaned down, pressed a kiss to the place where her shoulder met her neck.
“I’ll be waiting.”
His hands pulled the tucked ends of the sari before he turned. Stunned Khushi watched the reflection of Arnav’s departing back in the mirror. The soft click of the door reached her as moss green georgette pooled to her feet.
She stood at the entrance, eyes searching. She found him on the peripheral edge of the crowd, his figure casting a lone shadow on the wall behind him.
She took a step in Arnav’s direction before stopping in hesitation.
He’d hurt her, this man with his rare smiles and even rarer laughter. Hurt her with his coldness. He wasn’t indifferent, which etched every cruel rebuff deeper. Because despite feeling the pull between them, it had always been too easy for him to give her his back and walk away.
He was twenty eight to her eighteen. An ocean’s gap of experience surged between the shores of those years. She knew this well, and yet…
An impossible distance was words once spoken at the base of mountains, the banks of rivers, and to the faraway stars.
It had always been a question of willingness.
There were still tangles in her hair left from his fingers. The taste of their shared heartbeat lingered at the tip of her tongue.
She’d been hurt by him, but instinctively she knew, she also had the power to hurt him.
His head lifted and their eyes locked. For a moment his chest goes wide, as if he’d pulled in a sharp breath. A bittersweet note plucked at her heart. The want he spoke of was merely the threshold to more. She could love him if he let her. Standing right there, Khushi finally acknowledged a deep truth.
He was the only man in the room, the only man in the world. She could spend the next eighteen years looking, but Arnav Singh Raizada would always be the only man for her.
She started moving, wanting only to abolish the solitude of that shadow. Her feet bridged the distance, each step steady and sure, so unlike her stumbling; because for the first time, she had a clear destination.
When she was before him, Arnav offered his hand. Once she placed hers in his, he carefully folded her to his side. The fingers of their joined hands laced together.
What was the real distance between two hearts?
Perhaps, only a leap of faith.
We hope you gals like where we took the story. Or more accurately, where these two took all of us. Whether it’s a yay or nay, please share your thoughts with us in the PG!
For those who were anticipating sheet clawing action, maybe the next round. 😉
To those who kept us company all week – MUAK!
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