Stay. The word caressed his mind, tender tendrils twisting into shackles. The trek across the airport terminal had been a struggle, each step birthing more chains, links of iron biting into flesh. He half expected his bones to crack under the weight.
It was those damn pleading eyes. Someone had found it fitting to deposit thunder clouds in to virescent worlds. Cosmic mysteries suspended on a delicately carved golden canvas that doused the flame of logic with ease.
Or perhaps his susceptibility lie not in beauty, but of being born neither master nor servant to numbers. Sewing himself under the businessman’s skin had been an act of self-preservation, basic survival instinct of a creature wounded.
Much later he had discovered that such an unnatural deed came with a corresponding price tag. The shell gnawed with grisly hunger at the soul, chunks of humanity devoured over the course of years until nothing remained of the boy.
The man had been content once the heart’s chambers fell dormant in quiet acceptance of its owner’s willful neglect. But something had changed. The beginning of which he could trace back to a moment in the rain.
Arnav’s eyes drifted toward the street lamp. Liquid pelted metal, framing the light with a fine mist. An exhale of smoke breathed life into the random splatter. His lungs seized as the painting gained vividness.
Wrapped in thin folds of clinging red she stood shivering in Delhi’s downpour. Punishment for pinching his ego. Yet, it was he who was held hostage in that parking lot. Feet nailed to pavement, preoccupied with a strange impulse to understand the uncommon weaves that made the tapestry of Khushi Gupta.
Hair matted to her forehead, lips chilled to bruises, and still her eyes spit fire at him. She was fucking magnificent. He had been torn by the opposing desire to kiss her senseless and to put as much distance between them as possible.
It was an intersection he found himself at repeatedly. Ultimately veering right despite every cell screaming for that left turn. Because he knew such a turn meant a collision with disaster, one in which there was no chance of recovery.
He had managed to aim leaden feet towards the building when the threat of oncoming headlights broke across his peripheral vision. Consciousness was relegated to a backseat passenger until he felt her fingernails digging into his skin. Only then did he realize his body had molded around hers as a shield.
While his arms absorbed her tremors, the knowledge of taking the wrong turn sunk in. In diverting danger from her, he had put himself directly in its path. But did he seek to immediately rectify his error by letting go and getting the hell away?
No. He had tighten his hold. With subtle shifts of bodies, it became an embrace. The air between them ignited, bolts of desire lashed across flesh as man and woman danced at the edge of recognition. He’d pulled back then, just enough to tilt his head down. Droplets of rain kissed his skin, heating, then stroked her upturned face.
Gravity was the victor that night, he had been powerless to resist the pull of the familiar stranger. Before he could regain his bearing, she’d tumbled into the hollowed halls that hung at his core.
It emitted soft thuds, faint and weak, until it latched to the rhythm of hers. Vigorously pumping until violet bloomed into red, coursing through the nooks and crevices, resurrecting wants and needs, dragging his soul from the shadows.
Arnav reached towards the glass pane, the twined figures dispersed upon his touch, merging with the last lacy wisps of the dying cigarette. Tension seeped through his hands before they balled into fists. The unshakable sense of danger that had punctured sleep now corded his muscles. Fuck.
He snatched the cellphone from the nightstand. The ringing pierced his ears as he waited.
“Khushi?” he bit off the moment the call connected. He was met with static silence before it was ended abruptly.
A chill climbed his back, settling into bones. That wasn’t her. Their silences thrummed of awareness, a thin curtain between a deluge of unspoken words. It had never left him cold.
He punched in another call, knowing this one would go through immediately.
“Aman, get me on the next plane to Delhi. Tell the cab I’ll be down in ten.”
Arnav tossed the phone aside, coloring the room with vicious curses as he made quick work of packing. The cobwebs of doubt dispersing with each tick of the clock. Out of fear of being led by his dick, he’d walked right into the viper’s nest. Because he had been polluted by past events, she’d been made to suffer. Again he’d allowed old ghosts to steal from him – from them.
Later. He’ll deal with his brother-in-law later.
Khushi needed him. The rest will hold.
Lavanya Kashyap pried her fingers from its white knuckled grip on the phone. Between the beats of silence, hesitation and omission had mated and bore the seed of deception.
He would never forgive, but she prayed he would forget.