Monday, October 19, 2015

Secret Passion 36-37

Hi everyone,

First of all, THANK YOU for all the messages and encouragement. I read each one and a huge part of me logging on again here was due to all of you :')

Second, I'm really sorry for the delay. I needed time to make some decisions but I didn't expect it be this long either. But my laptop straight up died a few weeks ago and I just got it back.

Now...
As far as continuing writing... Well to be honest I seriously contemplated just discontinuing but you all are right, it means much more to me than just a passing hobby. I missed writing SP, DH, etc. I missed our beloved Arnav & Khushi. I missed it all. So no, I can't quit--at least no completely--I realized.

Some of you mentioned in your comments other safer options and trust me, I'm considering them all. As far as making the blog private--> well I would not know even now where to begin on that. There are simply too many of you and though I do know most of the regular readers by name, as soon as I make this blog private I will literally get tons of messages from people saying they are regular readers too. It's really hard to know who's who in that scenario.

Now as far as ebooks--> my very close family member happens to be a lawyer and this is the recommended route legally speaking. It is a TON of work and you all know I have a really stressful and hectic job as it is. Also I'd miss writing on Arshi but I can't keep taking risks all the time too only to be left disappointed and dejected.

So...
I've decided that I will continue with Secret Passion. It is quite literally my ode to IPKKND and I can't leave it unfinished. Not when there's so much still to come.

Desert Heat-- I will not be reposting old chapters so please don't ask. This is my original story. I've basically put the IPKKND characters into it but the story is entirely my own so when it is copied time and time again, it's like a bodily slam each time. I will consider making this into an ebook at some point as some have suggested. As far as the ending, we were SO close to the end, so I am considering simply posting abbreviated chapters of the conclusion.

New stuff-- Since I didn't have my laptop these past few weeks, I started randomly writing a couple new stories on my email account. They're shorter than my usual stuff and feature original characters but I do see Sanaya and Barun playing the roles still in my head (lolz can't help it!). For those interested, I will post more information in the next few months. It's all in the early stages right now but I wanted you all to know that I haven't quit writing after all:)

Also want to mention that there will be darker themes and twists coming up in SP and DH. This is not because of the recent events. These were planned from the start so please don't assume that because I'm upset, the stories have taken a darker route. It's all part of a much bigger picture. There's shades of light and dark in both stories, especially SP.

Anywho, let me know what you all think! I will try to update this weekend...

--Tina
ps. if someone can spread the word about this note on IF I'd appreciate it. Running short on time...

**NO COPY OR DISTRIBUTION OF ANY PART OF THIS MATERIAL ALLOWED. THERE WILL BE ACTION TAKEN. THANKS TO MY HONEST READERS FOR ALWAYS ALERTING ME. THIS WORK IS COPYRIGHT PROTECTED BY THE AUTHOR.**
Secret Passion by TINA! & Satina
Episode 36: Dinner and a Date
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The woman's eyes remained downcast as she knocked on the home's mammoth oak door, casting furtive glances to the nearby alley. There was no one there, but she still had the uncanny suspicion that someone was following her, perhaps Khushi or her volatile husband.
She frowned at the closed door, knocking a second time. This time, it opened--just a crack. A stocky, middle-aged man dressed in a pristine uniform peered at her with a look of distaste.
"Yes?" he all but sneered.
"I'm...I'm here to see him. He's expecting me."
"And you are?"
"Rita," she breathed, drawing her coat closer. From the depths of the mansion, she could faintly hear a piano playing, the notes ringing out with a sharp eeriness. Though she was far from musically inclined, she recognized the tune.
The butler gave her a brief nod and closed the door. He was back within seconds, this time his demeanor one of detached formality rather than cold contempt. He held the door open and taking her gray pea coat, guided her inside the glass tiled foyer.
"This way, Nurse Rita."
She followed him with no little amount of hesitation though there was no reason for it. She had done everything as requested. She'd followed every single instruction flawlessly.
The man who had made those requests and paid her heavily for it sat playing in a massive, dimly lit room, instruments surrounding him. Rita glimpsed a guitar, a set of drums and even a harp. The butler did not announce her presence as she'd expected, leaving her there with barely a second glance. Her mysterious employer remained lost in his music, seemingly entranced and consumed by it. She cleared her throat, struggling with how to address him. She did not even know his name.
"Sir?"
His fingers stilled on the piano keys. The muscles of his back grew rigid. "How dare you interrupt me." His voice was low and almost polite sounding, but the hard edge to it was unmistakeable.
"I'm sorry, but I had no choice. I need the last of my checks. I'm leaving Delhi tonight, just as you wanted."
"You told them what I instructed you to say?"
"Word for word. I called Mr. Raizada crazy and insane multiple times before his wife. I did everything in my power to make it appear that he was truly mad."
The straight line of his mouth pursed as if he'd been expecting this. "And the paintings? Where are they now?"
"Moved to a storage unit on the outskirts of the city. Here's the key and address." She set the items on the piano. His fingers, long and strikingly elegant, closed over the key and he slipped it into his front pocket, his gaze trained on her.
"You have been very useful, Rita."
She did not know him well, but she got the feeling he was a man who seldomly praised anyone. She gave him a weak smile, the best she could manage. "Thank you, Sir."
His lips parted in a crooked smile, making him appear younger and friendlier. "However, your usefulness has come to an end now."
Her breath caught as she noticed a bizarre wildness take hold of him. Eyes that she'd thought friendly a moment ago morphed into those of a predator. One who'd found his prey. Backing away on unsteady feet, she knocked into the harp, sending it crashing. Her heartbeat hammered as she watched him approach her, his every step calm and calculative.
"Sir? Please, don't--"
"You are in no position to command me, my sweet. Nor will begging help you. You brought this upon yourself."
And then before she could react, his hands captured her throat, squeezing with a violence and force she could not have foreseen. Her vision grew dark and the opulent room seemed to spin.
"Why?" she mouthed, gasping for breath, her nails clawing at his hands. "Why?"
Master Horatio grinned. "Because I can." With a hard, quick motion of his hand, he snapped her neck sideways and then threw her limp body to the floor. Stepping over it, he walked to the piano, cleaning his hands with hand sanitizer before returning to his music. His smile was wide as he stabbed the keys, humming under his breath.
"Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder where you are..."
*****
"ASR?" Payal's voice rose with fervor and pent up glee. "I knew you'd call me one day! I just knew it! Had enough of Khushi, did you? Did you finally realize we're meant to be together? Darling, I've waited so long for your call and--"
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Khushi could remain silent not a second longer. Her voice was surprisingly calm though inwardly, she felt anything but. "It's not him, Jiji. It's me... Khushi."
There was a breathless pause and then suddenly and without warning, the line went dead. Khushi stared down at the phone in her trembling hand, her stomach rolling. Oh God--
A broken sob must have escaped her because almost at once there was a knock on the door, followed by another.
"Khushi? Babe, you okay in there?"
She turned the knob without thinking about it, her body functioning as if on autopilot. The moment she glimpsed her husband's worried face, all of her control splintered apart. She rushed into his arms, shaking terribly.
"Oh Arnav! You were right. You were right about it all," she murmured, her lips brushing against his bare chest with each uneven breath. In that moment, the steadiness of his heartbeat was the most soothing sound she'd ever heard and she leaned closer, the pregnancy preventing her from getting as close to him as she'd like. She wanted nothing more than to be enveloped in his strong arms. To lose herself in the safety and security of his hard embrace.
He held her against him a long moment and then kissing the top of her head, asked in a low, husky voice, "What happened?"
Gazing up at him with tear-filled eyes, she told him of Payal's words, her insistence that she belonged with him.
"You were right," she repeated, laying her head tiredly against his chest, her body feeling weary suddenly. "She doesn't consider me a sister or even family for that matter. Maybe she never did. No one would do something like this to someone they truly cared about."
Her husband's grip tightened on her, bringing her flush against him. "Shh, I'm with you. Payal doesn't matter. She never did."
Khushi gazed up at him, stricken. "But love, what she's done or tried to do does matter. She might have even tried to harm our children. We don't have solid proof but everything is pointing to the fact that it was her who pushed me into the pool. We almost lost our children that night. We almost lost each other. And it's not just that..." Her hands rose to grasp the the hard planes of his cheekbones, the sandpaper-like quality of his stubble rubbing against her palms. "She wanted to separate us. To take you away from me. The man I love more than anything. I won't let her get away with this."
Arnav smoothed a calming hand down her spine, his gaze solemn as he read the truth of that overwhelming love in her eyes. He'd once questioned her love for him. Had often wondered how someone as good and pure as his wife could ever come to love a man like him. A man who was scarred almost to the point of being beyond redemption.
But he no longer questioned it. Khushi's love had become a constant in his life, one he had come to accept over time. He'd felt her love. He'd lived and breathed it. He'd been consumed by it each time she'd worried over him, checking his diabetes medications, buying him new plants for his garden, acting silly simply to bring a smile to his face. He'd been engulfed by her love every time she'd given herself to him, the act of intimacy morphing to one of selfless love over time.
Sure, there was lust involved--that was a given--but their lovemaking had changed with time. They'd both changed. She was far more mature now than ever before and he'd tempered down, growing more confident in his ability to care for his small family. God knew, they meant the world to him.
It was that love that allowed him to keep calm when what he really yearned to do was find Payal and make her pay. Make her pay for his wife's every single tear. It was one thing to be betrayed by a stranger, but this was Khushi's cousin, the woman she'd grown up with and considered a sister in every way.
"I can't believe she would do this to me," his wife repeated, seeming so lost and confused he felt his throat constrict.
"Babe, we'll find more evidence against her," he promised. "We'll find it. You trust me, right?" At her fervent nod, he felt himself smile. Once such smiles would have been a rare sight. He'd had very little to smile about in his childhood when his parents had been alive and the years at RITA had stomped out what remained of the boy he'd once been. But Khushi... being with her had changed everything. He smiled often now, even laughed.
His hands rose to cup her cheeks, his head lowering to kiss away the salty remnants of her tears. He couldn't help but lick away each one, his mouth sliding closer to her parted lips and pressing firmly. She went shock still for a moment and then her mouth softened against his, her lips moving restlessly as she too felt the powerful need to come closer still. To erase every last distance between them.
It took everything in Arnav to pull away, his expression pleased as it focused on his wife's glazed eyes, the moistness coating her lips. "Khushi, everything is going to be fine. It's only a matter of time till Payal's crimes catch up with her. And as far as snatching me from you... well you know that no one and nothing can keep us apart. I wouldn't allow that to happen. Not now. Not ever."
She relaxed at his words. "I know, baby. I trust you and our love to overcome any obstacle. But Jiji crossed a line this time. She made the mistake of going after my family." Her gaze veered to the phone and hitting the redial button, she raised it to her ear.
"What the hell are you doing?" her husband cut in, looking ready to snatch the phone away. "I don't want you dealing with that woman anymore. I'll handle it. I won't have you under any more added stress."
She pressed a finger to his mouth. "I need to say one last thing to her. Please."
This time he did not try to stop her, but by the thinning of his lips Khushi knew that he was not pleased--not at all. The phone in her hand rang on. As she'd guessed, Payal would not answer it. As the voicemail began to play, her body tensed.
"I know you're listening, Ji--Payal. If you had done nothing wrong, if you'd been innocent, you would not have hesitated to speak to me. But you are guilty, aren't you? And cowardly too. How could you go after my family? My husband and unborn children?  How could you assume for a second that Arnav would ever see you in that way? He loves me, Jiji. And I love him. But you didn't respect that love, did you? You gave no thought to my marriage or my family. You're making another mistake if you think that I will let you get away with this. I may be kind and easy going, but when someone--anyone--goes after my loved ones, I will destroy them. I will make them sorry they ever looked toward my husband and children with ill intentions. I will protect them with my life, Payal. And that is a promise. So I will say it only once, stay far, far away from me and my family. Whatever relation we once shared died tonight. Forever." Ending the call, she set the phone on the counter, her chest heaving with each breath.
"Khushi..." Arnav muttered softly, angling her face up to him. His breath caught as he stared down at her. Even under all the stress, the shock, and the fatigue of pregnancy, she remained the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. His body reacted instantly. "God, I love you..."
She reached for him in the same moment and he drew her up into his arms, carrying her back to bed.
"Don't worry about Payal," he told her as he set her down, slipping in beside her. "I'll handle it."
She nodded, her eyes luminescent in the dim light. "I know you will." Rolling to him, she raised his hand to her lips, her gaze fixed on him. "I don't want to think about Jiji--Payal--a moment longer. I want to...to..."
He angled her chin up. "Want to what?"
She moistened her lips. "Lose myself in your arms. I want to forget about everything but us. Can we pretend that for tonight nothing else matters?"
He lowered his mouth to hers, his teeth pulling gently on her bottom lip. "We don't have to pretend. Nothing else matters but you...us...this..."
Khushi was on the cusp of responding, of telling him how deeply she loved him and always would when his hand descended, the smoothness of his palm sloping over her full breasts and protruding waist to the cleft between her legs. She was ready for him and when his knowing hand found her, clamping possessively, she gave a sharp gasp, her body arching.
He was on her instantly, his weight carefully balanced on his forearms, his mouth crashing down on hers like a thunderclap. His tongue delved past her lips, stroking the contours of her mouth while his hands continued to unravel her.
When she thought she could take no more of the sweet torture, his hand was suddenly gone, replaced by the mouth that she knew better than her own. Those lips... his tongue...
"Arnav!"
At her cry, he increased his relentless pace, his touch growing more desperate, more all consuming. It was as if he were feasting on her, falling upon her as if starving for her taste.
It was that thought and the white-hot heat of his mouth that sent her straight over the edge. She sobbed out loud, her cry piercing the quiet.
Her husband's breathing was ragged as he settled back beside her, gathering her into his shaking arms. Khushi held him tight, huddling closer so there was no separation between her skin and his.
"W-what about you?" she asked when her breathing had gotten somewhat under control.
"Hush," he murmured, spooning her back to his front. "You're exhausted. Just sleep."
"But--"
"I said sleep, Khushi."
She rolled her eyes in the darkness, a wistful smile on her face. "You're still as bossy as ever."
"And you're still as delectable as ever." His lips pressed to her nape, his hands coming around to toy with her breasts.
How it was possible for her body to react to him so instantaneously was something Khushi had long given up trying to figure out. She was attuned to his every movement, his every breath and caress. She couldn't help but melt in his arms. As she'd once told him, he'd seduced her from almost that first, fiery glance.
Flipping about, she ignored his scolding and pressed her lips to his. He lay unmoving for a heartbeat, his hands fisted on the sheets. And then without warning, his hands grasped her hips and he had her straddling him, his mouth latching onto her breasts.
Moaning, Khushi felt her head fall backward. She didn't even attempt to resist his pull. This passion...his touch...his every kiss and touch...meant everything. She was heedless but to give herself to him. To submit to his every desire...
*****
Garima frowned up at the gray clouds overhead. It was another smog-filled day in Delhi, one in a line of many. Her mouth pursed as she reflected on how many days it had been since Arnav Singh Raizada had stepped into Khushi's life.
Their first anniversary was by her estimate just two months away. She hadn't been informed much less invited to the actual ceremony--of course not--but Khushi had once told her of the simple wedding she'd had at some estate in New York.
Resentment festered in her heart for that ASR as she thought of it. It was just like him to whisk Khushi away from her family and friends to a different country and lure her into a sudden marriage. Of course he had not once considered doing things properly.
"Thanks for coming over on such short notice."
Garima gazed up to find Sarita setting down two cups of tea, her wrinkled face drawn in a warm smile. They'd gotten over their old arguments as if they had never happened weeks ago.
"How's the tea?" she asked.
Garima took a tentative sip. "Very good. What did you want to discuss?"
Her friend looked slightly affronted that she'd jumped right to the matter at hand but almost at once, her smile returned. "It's about Karan."
"How is he? Has he recovered from...from that terrible incident?"
"Oh of course," Sarita said, waving her hand dismissively. "My Karan isn't someone to let a bully keep him down for long."
"Still, Karan's lucky to have survived that attack. Even now I can't believe that Arnav Singh Raizada acted so savagely that day. He was like an out of control mad man."
Sarita nodded over her tea. "He's unstable, I'm telling you. He can't be trusted to look after Khushi, let alone two innocent children."
Garima set down her cup, her appetite gone. "That's what worries me most. Khushi is completely blinded by her love for him. She won't listen to a word against him. I've tried so many times."
"I know..." Sarita agreed. "But you're overlooking how he seduced and brainwashed her, taking her away from all of you, even her own sister. Once Payal and she were inseparable and now I hear they barely talk."
Garima nodded miserably. "I don't know what more to do."
"I do."
She looked up to find Karan entering the room. Despite his mother's insistence, the evidence of his fight against Khushi's husband was far from gone. He had a bandage on his chin and another below one blackened eye and as he moved forward, it was with a noticeable limp.
"Karan! Oh my goodness! What did that awful man do to you?"
He patted her hand reassuringly, sitting down with a grimace as if the act was painful still. Accepting a cup of tea from his mother, he settled back on the cushions. "It's not what he's done to me, Aunty, but what he could do to Khushi and the twins that frightens me. I told Ma to call you today because I wanted to do things properly. As they should have been done a year ago."
Her eyes flashed between son and mother. "What do you mean?"
Karan didn't look away, his gaze one of grim determination. "I want to marry Khushi."
Stunned, Garima could only stare at him. "But Karan, she's already married. Though we all may wish it was not so, fact is that she is Arnav Singh Raizada's wife. She's having his children!"
Karan cringed at the reminder. "Still," he insisted. "If there ever comes a time that she would not be married to that monster, I want you to know that you never need to worry. I will accept her into my life."
"Even with another man's children?"
He nodded. "I would raise them as my own."
Garima squeezed his hand. "You are very good, Karan. Most men would not be so...so accommodating."
"I love her very much. I never realized how much until she was taken from me."
"She's still taken," his mother reminded in an icy tone. "That ASR still has her."
Karan fought not to react. He could not voice aloud how much it killed him to know that Khushi was with that man at this very moment and willingly too! Almost every moment of the day, he was tormented by images of Raizada touching the woman that should have been his...kissing her...making love to her...
The cup in his hands clattered to the floor. The women looked at him, startled, and he disguised his inner turmoil with a careful, practiced smile.
"Sorry, Ma. I've gotten clumsy lately."
"Don't worry. This can be cleaned up in a minute." His mother hurried off in the direction of the kitchen, no doubt in search of a broom, and he took the time to meet Garima's gaze directly.
"I'm serious, Aunty. I will happily marry Khushi."
"Oh I know you will," she murmured, "But he still has her and--"
He hushed her ramblings by setting his palm over her hands. "That doesn't matter. What matters to me is that you accept my proposal for her. Will you support me in this? Can I count on you?"
She hesitated for a moment and then slowly nodded. "Yes. As I've told your mother many times, you are the husband Khushi deserves. Not one who physically assaults her sister, harasses her mother, and violently attacks her best friend."
Karan nodded. "You needn't worry any longer about Khushi. Now I'm there." In his mind, he was practically her fiance now, just the rings had to be exchanged.
Garima looked unconvinced but before she could reply, her phone rang. "Hello?"
"AMMA!" Payal wailed. "Oh, Amma! Everything is ruined! Everything!"
Her breath caught at the panic she discerned in Payal's tremor-racked voice. "What's wrong? What happened? Are you alright?"
"How can I be?" Payal sobbed. "How can anything be okay now? Khushi called me last night and ended our relationship. She said we're no longer sisters. That I'm no longer her Jiji."
Garima had been aware of the growing distance between them since Khushi's fall but never had she imagined it would lead to something so drastic. "What? How can she say something like that?"
"I don't know, Amma. Her husband has completely brainwashed her. He tried to...to come close to me and when I wouldn't succumb to him, he told Khushi that it was me that was after him! Can you believe it!"
Shock filled Garima as the secrets came tumbling out. She'd known Arnav Singh Raizada was a womanizer of the lowest types, but this was disgustingly low even for his ilk. How dare he want to have his way with not just Khushi but Payal too?
Karan suddenly snatched the phone from her hands. "Payal, please calm down. We can--"
"Karan? Oh Karan, you don't know how low ASR has stooped this time."
"Trust me I know. I heard everything. Don't worry, we will handle this. We'll beat that ASR at his own game."
"But how?"
Karan grinned. "My boss has connections. ASR will lose this time--not us. And hopefully when all's said and done, Khushi will be back where she belongs--on our side."
*****
Arnav stood leaning against the wall in Bayaz Khan's dining room, his arms crossed over his chest. By all rights, he should have been satisfied. He'd just had a wonderful meal, he was surrounded by friends and people he trusted, and nearby in the kitchen was his wife, talking animatedly with Baiyaz's wife, Tasneem. 
He hesitated going to her and suggesting they go home. This was the first time in a long while that he'd seen Khushi so lively, so carefree.
But hell, it took all his control not to march over to her like the overbearing husband he was and demand they go home. And why? All so he could get her out of the gorgeous cream and red saree she was draped in and into the nearest bed.
And who could really blame him? It was as if his wife was purposely driving him wild tonight. That rosy flush on her face, the sway of her hips, the fullness of her parted lips... It was all threatening to break his control. Khushi chose that moment to turn his way and wink.
Oh fuck-- Yeah, it was definitely deliberate, Arnav realized. His too gorgeous wife knew exactly how much he wanted her.
Throwing her hair over one shoulder, she gave him an eyeful of her backless blouse and he felt his mouth go dry. He'd taken one very deliberate step in her direction, grinning at the flabbergasted look on her face when NK appeared out of nowhere.
"Where are you going, Naanav? You're not allowed dessert, if that's what you're after. It has sugar," he explained, helping himself to another large spoonful of the rice pudding.
Fuck the diabetes, Arnav almost declared. His idea of dessert was having Khushi in his arms, naked, warm and soft after a lengthy spell of lovemaking.
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"So..." NK glanced over his shoulder at Khushi's glowing and rather flushed face. "Seems like you and Khushiji have made up."
Arnav nodded stiffly.
"I'm surprised she got over you postponing the bridal show so easily," NK said with no little amount of amazement.
It took Arnav a moment to recall what the hell his cousin was talking about. Shrugging, he declared arrogantly, "She can't stay mad at me for long...even if she wants to."
His gaze clashed with Khushi's then, charged with that burning sexual tension that had become second nature to their relationship. He couldn't help but be reminded of the long and intense passion-filled night they'd spent together. He wanted more of that--and fast.
He motioned his head to the door, knowing she was watching. "Let's go," he mouthed.
She shook her head at him, her glossy hair swinging low against her hips. Arnav started to frown back and then a slight grin took over his chiseled features. Perhaps his wife needed nothing more than a reminding of his seducing skills...
Khushi felt her heartbeat escalate as her husband sent another scorching glance in her direction. What was he doing? Undressing her with his eyes? It sure felt like that. Her skin felt strangely heated. She was so warm...deliciously so...
"Are you okay, Khushi?"
She forced herself to concentrate on Tasneem's question, nodding. Bayaz's wife was a warm and friendly woman and they had much in common, principally that both were recently married and madly in love with their husbands.
"I can't get over the way he looks at you," her new friend commented. "It's very romantic."
"Romantic?" she repeated with some surprise.
"Is there any of the rice pudding left?" a masculine voice intruded.
Speak of the devil. At his husky, oh so innocent question, she turned, finding him so close, her body brushed against his tailored suit.
"Hi..." he whispered in that tone that made her ache all over.
She was too speechless to react and as Tasneem hurried to the refrigerator to get some more of the dessert, Arnav took their moment alone to press his hand rather firmly to her behind.
"Baby!" she warned in a whisper, glancing at him scandalously.
Across the room, Bayaz and Aman were in a deep discussion and NK was at the patio door nearby staring up at the stars. Thankfully, Arnav covered her quite effectively but still...
"I want you," her husband mumbled in her ear, squeezing. "Now."
Before she could reply, his hand was gone and Tasneem was returning with the dessert. Khushi took it from her.
"Thank you, but he's not allowed sweets. He's diabetic."
"Oh, I'm sorry, I had no idea--"
"Don't worry," Arnav waved off. "One spoon won't hurt." He turned toward Khushi, his gaze expectant.
She couldn't bring herself to deny him. "Just one spoon," she said, rising it to his lips.
He held her wrist in a tight grasp, on the sly stroking her skin with the pad of his thumb. "Mmm. So good..."
Khushi was so mesmerized by him, she didn't realize how the bowl in her hands toppled--right onto her saree.
"Oh no--" She frowned down at the growing stains on her clothes.
Tasneem passed her several paper towels. "There's a bathroom down the hall. Do you want me to get you a change of clothes?"
Khushi shook her head, laughing. "Thanks, but I doubt you have anything in your closet that would fit me in my current state. I'll be right back." Rising on her tiptoes, she pressed her lips to Arnav's cheek and then headed in the direction of the bathroom, wiping the largest of the stains.
She'd just flipped on the lights and taken a quick survey of the mess she made in the bathroom mirror when a cough sounded.
"Need some help?"
Her gaze rounded. "What are you doing here?"
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Arnav appeared utterly nonchalant as he closed the door behind him and turned the lock. "Helping you," he said matter-of-factly, advancing toward her. "I'm the one who spilled the dessert on you so it's only fair if I help you clean up."
"You did that? But why?"
"Do I need a reason? Isn't it obvious?" With smirk, he reached for the end of her saree.
"Baby..." she began in a warning tone.
"Let me."
She was powerless to stop him, standing still as he unwound the material, exposing her heaving chest to his wanting gaze.
He was suddenly behind her, his arms stroking her expanding belly as his mouth descended to her nape. "You're so damn beautiful."
Khushi shivered in his arms. "You should leave."
His heated gaze met hers in the mirror. "Why? Don't you want me here?" As if to counter the argument on the tip of her tongue, his hands rose and slipped inside her blouse, playing with her turgid nipples. "I could have sworn you wanted nothing more than for me to be here," he taunted, his thumbs idly stroking the hardened ends.
Khushi forced herself to step out of his hold. "I do... but we can't. Not here. Everyone else will think--"
"I don't care what anyone thinks. And if it makes you feel better, they're all outside anyway. There's supposed to be a meteor shower tonight."
He moved with a deliberateness toward her in the small bathroom and Khushi struggled to think straight. "We still shouldn't... this isn't the place to...to have sex."
Her husband's grin was swoon-worthy. "Who said anything about sex? I just wanted to help you clean up and perhaps steal a kiss or two, but if you'd rather we make love, I won't say no."
His teasing was her last straw. She lightly punched him on the side and then rushed into his arms, throwing her arms around him and rising up to find his mouth.
"I know what you were doing out there," she muttered between hungry, desperate kisses.
"What?" he said innocently, his hands sloping over her curves and bringing her flush against him.
Khushi shivered as she felt his erection against her, hard and throbbing. "Seducing me."
"Is it working?"
Khushi couldn't help but laugh. "Very well. But baby, this just isn't the place for it."
He ignored her practical reason, jumping to another topic--one that caught her off guard. "Why did you sound so surprised when Tasneem called me romantic?"
"You heard that?"
He nodded, lowering his head to press kisses down her neck and into the low dip of her blouse, licking off the sweetness of the rice pudding. Khushi's attention was caught by the tantalizing image they made in the large bathroom mirror, his dark suit clashing with the brightness of her saree, his tanned hands clamping down on her pale skin. Her hands rose on their own accord, diving into his thick hair and holding him pressed to her.
"Khushi," he reminded, suckling on her nipple through the flimsiness of the blouse. "Tell me. Why don't you think I'm romantic? Do you want me to be?"
"I want to be exactly as you are. Brooding, possessive, and way too sexy."
"Sexy, huh?"
She nodded breathlessly. His gaze grew hooded. "Say you love me."
Khushi clasped him to her. "I love you more than anything."
"And you don't want me to be more romantic? Are you sure?"
"Very. I'm not sure I could survive more romance from you. You know how much you affect me as it is. Besides, I love when you go all ASR on me in the bedroom. Usually when you do that, it brings on my own temper, but when we're in bed...well, it's the hottest thing when you order me around. But only in bed, mind you."
His wry grin was enough to make her melt, her heart beating wildly as he took her hand and pressed it to his arousal.
"I want to be inside you. Is that direct enough? Am I being ASR enough for you?"
Khushi couldn't even manage a yes, her heartbeat thundering in her chest. Her husband seemed to understand, his sinful mouth descending to hers with purpose.
At the last moment, Khushi angled her face away. Arnav bit back a curse. "Khushi..."
"Not here. Please..."
He didn't hold back his swearing this time. Taking his coat off, he set it over her shoulders and took her hand in his.
"Arnav! Baby, what are you doing? I can't go out there dressed like this." The wet imprint of his mouth on her was hardly invisible.
He cast her an amused look, holding her soiled saree in his free hand. "Do you think I would allow anyone but me to see you like this? Even though we didn't have sex in that bathroom, you look as if we might as well have and quite thoroughly too... I'm taking you home. Party's over."
Khushi was not at all surprised to see that he was leading her to the main door. She glanced over her shoulder to the kitchen and patio. "But what about the others?"
Arnav opened the main door, pulling her out into the darkness, the wafting scent of jasmine flowers drifting in the light wind. "I'll text Bayaz once we're outside and thank him and his wife for dinner but say we couldn't stay, something important came up."
Khushi giggled. "Yeah...you."
His hold on her wrist tightened and Khushi suddenly found herself plastered against the side of their white SUV, her husband's mouth hot and urgent against hers, his hands shaking with the effort not to tear apart what remained of her clothes.
"Home. Now." He punctuated the words with hard kisses. Khushi watched amazed as he scooped her up into his arms and deposited her in the passenger seat, clicking her seat belt into place and kissing her rather thoroughly once more--all in a matter of seconds.
"You know," she murmured, drinking in his handsome image as he slipped in beside her and the car engine roared to life. "You can be very romantic sometimes."
He shot her a heated look. "Romantic is a bit boring, don't you think? I had something else in mind tonight."
"W-what?" she stammered, her heartbeat escalating.
He took her hand in his, steering home. "How about we skip the foreplay this time. I need to be inside of you. And later, there'll be time for romance."
"Promise?"
"Promise."
True to his word, there was no foreplay between them this time. It was hardly necessary when both of them were so desperate, almost embarrassingly so, thought Khushi with a bright smile. She was not at all surprised when they weren't able to even make it to their bedroom.
Almost as soon as they'd stepped inside Shantivan and the lock had turned, he'd be on her and she'd met him more than halfway. He'd ripped apart what remained of her saree and she'd given his formal shirt the same harsh treatment, sending buttons flying. Arnav had started to carry her upstairs, but she'd boldly grasped his hardness and interrupted that well-intentioned plan.
Her husband had growled an oath and Khushi had found herself naked on the carpeted stairs, her husband's mouth crashing down on hers, his eager hands finding her breasts, and his arousal grinding against her thighs. They'd gone up in flames. She was surprised to see the staircase still in one piece truthfully.
Carefully, she rolled onto her side to face him, flicking a sweaty strand of hair off his face and kissing his sinful lips. "You promised me foreplay this time," she reminded.
"You're insatiable." He took her hand in his, pressing his mouth to the center of her palm and then each finger, sucking firmly.
"And you aren't?" she asked as that same quaking took control.
"Of course I am," he admitted without any sign of reluctance. "That's been a given from the start--if you haven't noticed till now."
"Oh I've more than noticed," Khushi mumbled, scooting closer.
"I need a bit more time to recover and then you'll get your promised foreplay." Arnav drew her to his side, his hands sloping down to cover her belly. "The babies are okay, right? I didn't hurt you?"
"Of course not. You're always so careful. The twins are perfect, baby. Don't worry."
"How can I not worry? I love them so much already and I haven't even met them yet. It's a bit frightening but wonderful too."
"I know," Khushi agreed, "I can't believe that in less than three months they'll be with us. It won't be just the two of us, but four."
"Four," he echoed with wonder. "Our family. One we created. Together."
Tears stung her eyes and though she tried to blink the moisture away, leave it to her husband to notice. He noticed everything when it came to her.
"Khushi. Damn it. Why are you crying?"
"Because I'm just so...so happy."
His eyebrows rose. "I had no idea pregnant women could be this weird."
"Weird?" She slapped him lightly on the shoulder and his grin grew.
"Weird for sure. And amazingly caring, charming, and way too sexy."
Khushi grinned at him. "If you love me so much, can I have my foreplay now?"
He laughed out loud. "We'll see...let's start first with..." His mouth was descending to hers when a most unexpected sound broke out. Arnav swore.
"Baby, your phone."
He shrugged, leaning down to kiss her again. "Must be Aman as usual. I should edit his name on my phone permanently to cockblocker."
"Arnav!"
"What?" He lowered his head and their mouths had just met when his phone rang a second time.
"Fuck," he growled, drawing himself off of her and standing. He stared down at the trail of their clothes, locating his pants near the main door. Pulling out his phone from the back pocket, he all but barked, "What is it now, Aman?"
His assistant was silent a moment and then he said in a voice very much unlike him, "You need to turn on the TV as soon as possible. Tune into any news channel."
Ending the call and all but throwing the phone away, Arnav walked naked to the flat screen TV.
"What is it?" Khushi asked, coming up beside him.
He shrugged. "No idea. Aman didn't say much. Something about the news..." They stood hand in hand beside the sofa and as the screen bloomed to life, Khushi felt her face drain of all color.
"Absolutely scandalous!" the newsman was shouting. "A new blind has taken hold of the city tonight with it's news of a supposed intimate affair between a prominent fashion mogul and his sister-in-law! Let's go right to our panel. First up, Miss Xenia Chopra, gossip columnist for D6. Well, Xenia, who do you think this blind is hinting to?"
A woman in a black suit and red lipstick looked with gleaming eyes to the camera lens. "Well, first of all, let me say that if this is indeed true, this is an all time low. Only someone with a history of extremely wild days in his past would fit the bill. The only fashion mogul in the city who matches that description is someone we all can guess. Arnav Singh Raizada. He was well known for his playboy ways when he was single and honestly no one expected him to be faithful once married, but I doubt anyone would think he'd be involved with his wife's sister! She is quite lovely, but still! Just imagine the state his poor wife must be in. And his cousin. The whole family must be utterly destroyed."
Arnav felt bile rise in his throat, his body shock still as the newsman cut in, "Xenia, I'd like to remind our viewers that this is all pure conjecture. We are only guessing. Isn't that right?"
"Of course," chimed in the woman beside him. "But as the saying goes, there's never smoke without fire. Let's turn now to the pictures from Delhi's last Businessman of the Year award ceremony. Interestingly, ASR won the top award that night and who else was there? Why his sister-in-law, Payal Gupta Raizada."
As Payal's image filled the screen, the camera zooming to her slinky saree and nervous smile, Arnav saw red. He knew who was behind this attack on him.
"I'm going to kill her." Arnav's head snapped sideways to see Khushi glaring at the screen. He'd never heard her sound so angry before.
"How dare she do this!" Khushi stomped to the phone, intent on calling Payal every name in the dictionary and then some when Arnav stepped directly before her. "Baby, move," she gritted through her teeth.
"You don't need to do anything," he told her, the lightness that had been in his eyes minutes ago, gone now. "The lawyers will handle it."
"No they won't!" Khushi cried, stricken. "They'll once again say you're basically a public commodity and anyone can say whatever ridiculous thing they want against you as long as it's all harmless gossip. That's what happened in Nicole's case, isn't it?"
His hands caught her by the shoulders, his gaze intent on her furious expression. "Khushi, I know you're upset, but you need to get a hold of yourself. You need to think about the twins. All this stress isn't good and the pregnancy already has possible complications from the fall. Please, baby, I'm begging you. You need to let it go. The people who I pay a lot of money to handle shit like this, will."
"BUT THIS ISN'T FAIR! SHE CAN'T KEEP GETTING AWAY WITH THESE GAMES!"
"It doesn't matter to me!" he shouted. "Are you listening, I don't care what anyone says against me. The media can run with this affair story if they want, but we both know there's no truth to it. It's going to go away. In a matter of days, they'll all be after some other person. It's how the news cycle works."
Before she could argue, his phone rang. He glanced at the caller ID and grimaced. "Not now, Dadi. And no, for your information, I'm not having an affair with anyone. I'm very happily married. Do I have to wear a sign on my head for you and everyone else to freakin' believe that?"
"Calm down, Arnav. I just called to say that I wouldn't blame you if you were cheating on her. That wife of yours--"
Arnav cut the call and put his phone on silent.
"I hate this," Khushi mumbled, shaking before him.
He pulled her into his arms, running his hands up and down her back. "I know how you're feeling. I get it. But love, you need to relax. As long as you're with me, I don't give a damn what anyone else thinks of me or my character. Come on, let's go to bed now."
She didn't say anything, letting him lift her up and take her upstairs. She held him in her arms, unable to sleep long past the time he'd drifted into a restless sleep. More than the news report she'd seen, it was the knowledge that her husband had once more been attacked tonight that enraged her.
The image of his cold, dark cell at RITA flashed in her mind and tears slipped from her eyes. He'd suffered so much already. She'd wanted to shield him from anything remotely negative after that night. She'd vowed to surround him with nothing but love and happiness--he deserved nothing short of that. But why then did it feel as if she were already failing and their enemies winning? Nestling closer to his dizzying warmth, Khushi wondered how she could protect the man she loved.
*****
Arnav had believed it when he'd told his wife that the story of his supposed affair would die down eventually. But ten days later, it simply refused to go away. He was used to people thinking the worst of him and frankly he didn't give a damn of what anyone thought of him other than his wife, but the public scrutiny was reaching an extreme these days.
Paparazzi tailed after his car without fail, hoping to catch him with Payal in a clandestine meeting. Reporters clamored for a tell-all interview, offering him obscene amounts of money. Hate letters were being sent to his office and home--though he had one of the guards go through the mail and discard all such letters before his wife could see a single one.
Even more annoying than the hate mail were the letters petitioning to be his next lover--with provocative pictures included. Aman had long gone stopped opening the letters and simply taken to tossing them away.
More than all of that madness, what did annoy him--just a little--were the looks people gave him. His staff at AR Designs knew better than to question him directly, but he'd noticed the way people would begin to murmur once he'd walked by. It was downright insulting and his temper was held on by a very thin leash most days. He'd gone off on several people, fired or demoted a dozen others.
So it was no surprise that everyone seemed to avoid him--except for one. Khushi was constantly with him. Even when he'd instruct her to rest at home, she'd arrive with lunch and a beaming smile, insistent that he remind her of their earlier lunchtime encounters.
He'd gotten so used to her presence during that time, he'd taken to waiting near the front entrance for her like a lovesick puppy--or bulldog in his case. Whenever he'd see her, his own mood would brighten. As he'd lead her up the stairs to his cabin, he'd plan out how to make the most of their time alone. How to stretch out each kiss as if it was the last. 
No matter how he tried to downplay it, his behavior was basically that of a person smitten and smitten badly. His entire schedule revolved around Khushi, her doctor appointments and daily plans. Even when he was at the office, he'd often wonder what she was doing at that very moment. If she was happy... If she was missing him as much as he was aching for her...
His feelings were a bit daunting due to their sheer intensity. He'd never dreamt that one day he'd be so in love with someone. But here he was. Crazy in love with Khushi. And so it was no wonder that instead of looking through the stack of files he'd requested from Aman earlier that morning, he found himself texting his wife, though he wished it was sexting. Now that could always be counted on to make his time at the office go faster.
ASR: Babe, where are you?
MyGorgeousMoodyPregnantWife: Almost there
ASR: I'm coming downstairs. Do NOT get out of the car till I'm there. There's been a lot of reporters lurking around lately.
MyGorgeousMoodyPregnantWife: The guards are there. Don't worry.
ASR: You know as well as I do that I trust no one with your safety except for myself.
MyGorgeousMoodyPregnantWife: So possessive...
ASR: Always.
MyGorgeousMoodyPregnantWife: By the way, I'm kidnapping you again today.
He didn't even try to talk her out of it. ASR: I'm looking forward to being kidnapped again if it leads to what happened at that tree house;)
MyGorgeousMoodyPregnantWife: Haha, you might just get lucky because today's a special day...
Arnav frowned at the calendar on his desktop. He was awful with dates. Other than Khushi's birthday, their wedding date, and the twin's expected due date, he didn't have any memorized. ASR: Special how?
MyGorgeousMoodyPregnantWife: I knew you wouldn't remember lol
He racked his head, running a hand through his hair and making a mess of it. ASR: Tell me. Now preferably. 
MyGorgeousMoodyPregnantWife: Hmm, I think I'll make you wait...
ASR: *giving you my most severe frown*
MyGorgeousMoodyPregnantWife: so hot... frown at me some more, baby;)
ASR: KHUSHI!
MyGorgeousMoodyPregnantWife: ARNAV!
ASR: I'm serious. Tell me what today is.
MyGorgeousMoodyPregnantWife: Come outside and I'll tell you to your face. I'm here:)
Arnav practically flew down the stairs, ignoring the looks being sent his way. His wife was exiting the car and he'd just taken her hand in his when a group of reporters stormed in through the closing gate, charging at them with microphones.
"Get behind me!" he yelled to Khushi. Bracing himself before her, he kept her pressed to him, shouting for the security team.
"ASR! Mrs. Raizada!"
The reporters surrounded them like a hungry pack of wolves, getting far too close for his liking. As one edged toward Khushi, Arnav knocked him backwards.
"Get the hell away from my wife. And I want you all off of my property. Now!"
His guards were already moving people bodily away but there were simply too many. One reporter at the front of the chaos shoved a microphone at him. "Is the news of your affair true? Are you two timing your pregnant wife with her own sister?"
His temper sizzled. "I will say it again and I will not repeat myself so I hope your cameras are on and recording. I love my wife more than anything and I would never do anything to hurt her. My faithfulness is something only she has the right to question--no one else, least of all people like you."
"Mrs. Raizada! Mrs. Raizada, what do you have to say on the rumors?"
Khushi would not be held back this time. "They're pure bullshit. To the malicious and toxic person who planted this false story--and I'm sure she's watching right now since she has no life of her own--I'd like to say that Arnav and I are very happy together. Nothing and no one can tear us apart, especially a disgusting lie like this one. To those who are using this blind for their own ratings, shame on you! It's absolutely sickening and disappointing to see the media reporting on such nonsense when there's so much else real news to cover."
"Mrs. Raizada, what about--"
"LEAVE!" Arnav bellowed. "Did you not hear me? I think we've answered enough of your damn questions." As the guards forced the last remaining cameras away, Arnav drew Khushi into the lobby.
"Are you okay?"
"Yes, baby, but do you think I said the right things?"
He give her an unreadable look. "When you are right, how can anything you say possibly be wrong? Payal had to have been watching and she got the message: loud and clear."
"She will probably be discussing it with her followers on some weird website." Payal's fanpage centered on Arnav had suddenly disappeared right after her last phone conversation with Khushi. Though Khushi was certain that she was Mrs.Chote there was no way of proving it now. Everything had been deleted almost at once.
Arnav gave her a grin. "To quote you, she has no life. I heard from Di that Akash and she are living separately now."
"Di called?" Khushi said with surprise.
"I called her. Just to make sure she was all right and Jha hadn't contacted her in Nainital. We talked briefly. She's planning on returning soon but I told her to stay with Dadi a bit longer."
Khushi couldn't help but be grateful for that. "So everything's okay?"
"Of course." He drew her into his arms. "I thought your were going to kidnap me today, Mrs. Raizada. You're doing a bad job of it so far."
She looped her arms around his neck. "Why resort to such extremes when the person you want is already in your grasp and willing too?"
"Good point," he said, pecking her nose. "So are you going to tell me why today is special or not?"
"Eventually," Khushi conceded with an impish smile.
"Khushi," he groaned. "You know how impatient I am."
"Oh, I know, Mr. Raizada. So I won't make you wait too long. But instead of kidnapping you, I guess I should just ask you."
"Ask me what?" His eyes traced over her delicate features.
"Ask you out. Will you go on a date with me tonight?" She could tell she'd surprised him when he looked at her as if she'd grown two heads.
"We spend every night together," he reminded.
She set her hands over his chest, idly playing with his tie. "Yes, but I want to ask you properly this time. We never had an official date."
"Why waste time dating when you already know it's the real deal? But to answer your question: yes, baby, I'll go on a date with you tonight. There, happy?"
She threw her arms around him. "Ecstatic."
Arnav took her hand in his, lacing their fingers tightly together. "Where are we going on this special date?"
"Home."
He halted in his tracks. "Home?"
Khushi nodded, fighting a smile. "Where else? Now come on, I want to be alone with you."
He gazed at her with a heated glance. "You and me both." His husky voice sent tendrils of warmth shooting through her. 
As soon as they were on the road and once more in Shantivan's familiar confines, Khushi set her palm on Arnav's chest. "There are clothes laid out for you in our bedroom. Please wear those tonight."
"And you?" He'd grown used to sharing a room with her, watching her change and apply makeup while he watched.
"I'll change in the guest room."
As soon as the words left her mouth, he had her by the shoulders, his expression livid. "You better not be moving back into that room again." He hadn't forgotten that torturous week they'd spent apart after returning from Thailand. "I won't allow it, Khushi. Do you understand me?"
Her heart twisted as she sensed his panic, his vulnerability. "I'm not going anywhere, love. I just want it to be a surprise. Let's meet in fifteen minutes in the garden out back."
He looked as if he might argue still, but then nodded. "Ten minutes and not a minute more." Dropping a quick kiss on her lips, he hurried up the staircase.
Khushi padded down the hall to the guest bedroom. Her clothes too were out and ready. The dress caught her attention--just as it had the first time she'd spotted it while out shopping with Tasneem.
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She slipped into the delicate pink material, marveling over the softness of it against her skin. Taking but a moment to put on the matching necklace and earrings, she gathered her hair high in a loose ponytail, leaving a few strands to frame her face. She kept her makeup minimal and carefully slipped on her shoes.
There, she was ready. And an entire minute early too. Smiling at her reflection, she headed to the back doors, hoping her husband wasn't there before her.
But he was. He was standing just a few feet away, dressed in the black and white tux she'd selected for him. He looked heartstoppingly handsome, his wavy hair curling in the breeze, his hands on his hips as he surveyed everything she'd spent the morning working on. She couldn't see his face, but she could tell she'd surprised him this time.
Lanterns were floating from the tree tops. Disco lights were flashing near the rosebushes. An entire table had been set, complete with place settings and dinner for two. From behind one plant, music was playing from her iPad.
"Arnav..." she breathed.
He froze at her voice and then turned, his eyes widening slightly as he spotted her. He took everything in: the dress, her hair, the jewelry, the beaming smile on her face. He murmured her name low under his breath, walking to her as if entranced by her presence.
His hands took hers, raising them to his mouth. "You take my breath away, baby."
Khushi rose to kiss him, her mouth tugging on his bottom lip. "And you take mine."
Arnav took over the kiss, kissing her heatedly. "What's going on?" he breathed against her trembling lips. "What is all this? These decorations? Disco lights?"
Taking his hand, Khushi pressed it to her heartbeat. "I wanted tonight to be special. It's...it's our anniversary."
His brow furrowed. "No, that's a couple of months away."
"No...not that one. Tonight is exactly one year from the night I met you at Sheesh Mahal and signed the contract. You marked me with sindoor, remember? At least for me, we became husband and wife that night. It was what allowed me to leave Lucknow and come to you here. Step into your life...into your bed..."
His expression was unreadable suddenly, shafts of moonlight cutting past the trees and casting shadows over the smooth planes of his face. "I wasn't ready for marriage then. But I did consider you mine after that night as well. Has it really been a year already?"
Khushi nodded, slipping her arms around his waist. "If someone would have told me then that we'd end up here, happily married, madly in love, and expecting twins, I'd never have believed it. But I'm so glad, Arnav. So glad that we met. I'm incomplete without you, baby. You and this pregnancy are the best things that have happened to me. I didn't realize a year ago, but you're the missing half of me. The one I can't live without."
He brushed her tears away, setting his mouth to hers. "I can't live without you either. This life wouldn't be worth living without you. You are all that is good and right in my world. That you love me back still shocks and overwhelms me. And then the twins... Baby, you've given me everything. Everything I didn't even know I wanted...needed..."
"I love you," Khushi said, feeling her throat constrict at the emotions she read in his warm gaze. "I love you so much..."
"And I love you. Always have. Always will. Happy anniversary, babe."
Smiling, Khushi laid her head over his heartbeat, holding him tightly. He held her with the same taut grip and then after some time, asked in a low voice, "Why the disco lights though? It seems a bit out of place."
Khushi laughed. "Are you criticizing my choice of decorations?"
"Commenting on them, more like it."
"Well, Mr. Raizada, there's a reason for the disco lights and the choice of music."
His eyebrow cocked. "And that would be what exactly?" She glanced away. He wouldn't allow that though, his forefinger tipping her chin up. "Tell me," he demanded.
Khushi gazed into his eyes, bracing herself for his reaction. "I was wondering how to make tonight special and then I remembered when you cornered me into telling you about my first kiss at my parent's home. You were so certain it had been Karan and not you. You saw those pictures of us at the school dance and pictured us kissing afterwards."
He cringed at the reminder of those blasted photos. "Anyone else would have thought the same thing. You were smiling in every damn picture. And you looked so damn beautiful and innocent in that pink dress, how could Karan not be attracted to you? Of course I was jealous. Jealous out of mind that instead of me it was that fucker who got to dance with you...who could do something as ordinary as take you to a school dance. I couldn't, now could I? I was locked up in RITA and--" His voice broke off and Khushi knew in that moment, he understood. Her pink dress. The disco lights. It made sense to him now.
"And you couldn't be there," she finished for him, fighting back tears. "I know, baby. You deserved a normal childhood. I wish I had it in my power to take all of your pain and make it my own. To erase every memory you have of that awful place. But I don't. All I can do is give you new memories, memories that will give you nothing but happiness. So tonight, love, I'm finally going to the school dance with the man I wish I could have gone with from the start. Will you be my date?"
He glanced down at her open palm, looking more vulnerable than she'd ever seen him and then carefully set his hand atop hers. Khushi squeezed his fingers, leading him to the makeshift dance floor.
Their bodies meshed together with easy, natural familiarity, his hands going to her waist, hers looping around his neck. It was strange how right it felt, Khushi mused. He was all man against her, his muscles hard and steely, but the way he moved, twirled and dipped her was startlingly graceful.
"Did you dance with that Karan this closely?" he asked after a few minutes, holding her flush against him.
"Of course not. I would have slapped him if his hand was anywhere near where yours is resting right now."
"Good," he said with a smirk, lowering his hands to cup her even more intimately.
Gasping, Khushi's hands clamped down on his shoulders. "Behave, Mr. Raizada, or this dance will end very prematurely."
"I'm ready to move onto dessert if you are."
"And what about the dinner I made?"
He looked down at her, startled. "You made it? But I thought I saw pasta and we both know your pasta--"
"--isn't usually very good. I know. But I've been practicing and I think I finally succeeded."
The corner of his mouth lifted in a faint smile. "You've been practicing? For me?"
"Who else?" she teased.
His grip tightened, his features growing harsher in the dim light. "No one else. I'm your first, last, and only."
Once she'd have found such possessive statements from him strange, but now she understood. Understood exactly why she meant so much to him. Rising on her tiptoes to kiss him, she reassured, "I wouldn't want it any other way, love."
He relaxed at that, swaying with her to the slow beat of the music.
"You're a pretty good dancer," Khushi pointed out.
He arched a brow. "You sound surprised..."
"I am a bit."
Arnav spun her in a full circle and then back into his arms. "My mother taught me," he confided. "Just before her...her death. It's one of my last happy memories of her."
Khushi hugged him tight. "I hope we created another happy memory tonight."
His crooked smile made her toes curl. "Do you need to ask me that? Can't you feel how much this means to me? I never thought I'd have this."
She pecked him lightly on the chin. "Come on, it's not over yet. There's dinner too..."
As he helped her sit down and took a tentative bite of the linguine, Khushi held her breath. "Well?"
Swallowing, he reached for her hand. "It's good... Really good. Is there more?"
Khushi couldn't stop smiling the rest of dinner. After they'd shared a slice of sugar-free chocolate cake, taking turns to feed one another, she took her husband's hand, leading him back inside.
"I want you," she murmured in his ear the moment the lock clicked into place behind them, her eager hands pulling at his bowtie.
He swore under his breath, his hands fisting in her hair. "It took everything in me not to go all ASR on you, as you put it, during dinner. I wanted you naked on my lap from the moment we sat down."
"Next time," she promised, unbuttoning his shirt and pulling it out of its confines.
He groaned as her palms discovered the smoothness of his chest, pressing firmly to the muscles. "Khushi...take that dress off now before I rip it."
Holding his gaze, she tugged down the zipper and let the material fall to the floor. She was completely bare beneath it. Her husband looked as if it was taking all of his control to keep away. He would have dragged her into his arms if not for her jumping out of his reach. "There's one more thing first."
"What now?" he demanded, throwing the tie aside with marked impatience.
Khushi reached for the small container she'd kept on the corner table, holding it out to him. "Make me yours all over again..."
He met her gaze wordlessly and then swept a healthy pinch of sindoor to her parting, his expression pleased and at once, untethered. "Anything else left to be done?"
Khushi felt her breathing grow unsteady as he stalked closer, his eyes whipping over her. "No..."
She'd thought he'd be on her in seconds but her husband stood there quite calmly, his chest heaving with each breath. "Good. Now come back over here and finish undressing me."
"Baby?" she squeaked.
"You heard me. You want ASR, right?"
"I want you you in any way I can have you."
He held his hand out. "You have me forever. Now please stop driving me crazy and get back here. I need you in my arms."
She went willingly this time, pressing her bare body to his still clothed one. Their mouths and tongues tangled even as her fingers lowered to his shirtfront, undoing the last of the buttons.
"Unzip me."
Holding his gaze, she did just that, pushing his pants to the floor. He stepped out of them and lifting her in his arms, carried her over to the sofa. Khushi thought he'd follow her down but he instead stood there, his body shaking in the dim light.
"Baby?"
"Are you comfortable in this position?"
Khushi nodded, trying to read his gaze.
"Good. Now touch me."
Her hand slid over his chest but with an impatient groan, he took her wrist and guided her to the very heat of him. "Yeah, just like that..."
Khushi felt her own desire heighten as she watched her hand stroke him, his gaze piercing her with its intensity all the while.
"Stop," he growled a few minutes later. Suddenly, she felt him shift positions, his arousal mere centimeters from her face. "I want your mouth now."
Khushi started to part her lips but he backed away. "Wait, the light's too dim. I want to be able to see you." He clicked the remote and the massive fireplace to the left of them roared to life. "There, now where were we..."
"You were telling me you wanted my mouth," Khushi managed, reaching for him.
His gaze was scorching hot. "I do. I want all of you."
As he guided her back into position, his eyes narrowed to slits as he stared down at her. She held his gaze, taking him as much as she could. His groan was guttural.
"Yes, baby," he growled, pistoning his hips. "I want you so badly...so damn much..."
She loved him with her hands, mouth and tongue, watching with a raging heartbeat as he unraveled before her eyes. She could feel how close he was and as he made a move to retreat, she held on fast.
"You don't have to," he ground out.
She pulled him closer still. "I want to."
His taste, uniquely him, filled her mouth the next moment and she kissed him one more time before settling back on the cushions, her heartbeat still ricocheting in her chest. Her husband followed her down, cradling her to his side and cushioning his head on her heaving breasts.
"Your turn next. Just you wait, Mrs. Raizada."
Her body hummed at the promise she discerned in his words. Her fingers rifled through his hair. "I never knew it could be like this... That your touch could make me feel so deeply all in a single night."
He drew her to him for a thorough kiss. "What we share isn't meant to be understood. Only felt. Did you feel what you do to me? Did you taste it?"
She blushed slightly at his words. "Yes..."
He looked on the cusp of asking a far more intimate question when the phone rang. "Damn you, Aman," he growled, making no move to get up.
Shaking her head, Khushi managed to break out of his hold on her, padding over to the still ringing phone, one hand rested on her protruding abdomen. True to his word, her husband had edited and changed his assistant's name on his phone and she shot him an open-mouthed look of disbelief. He smirked in response, reclining back against the sofa with lithe, athletic grace.
"Hi, Aman," Khushi answered, brushing a strand of hair from her face. "Everything okay?"
Whatever he responded with made her grow pale and unsteady on her feet. The phone slipped from her fingers, tumbling to the ground. Arnav was up in an instant, drawing her into his arms.
"What is it? What did that coc--Aman say now?"
Khushi gazed up at him lifelessly, still silent, her eyes haunted appearing. It scared the hell out of him. He shook her by the shoulders. "Damn it, what happened? Answer me, baby!"
"Your sister... Di..."
Fear curdled in his gut. "What did Jha do now? Has she had another accident? Is she okay?"
His wife shook her head. "No...she's...she's dead."

Secret Passion by TINA! & Satina
Episode 37: Life and Death
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"How is he?" Tasneem murmured, nodding to where Arnav stood stoically at Shantivan's main entrance, his arms braced across his front, his face blank and guarded except for his eyes. His eyes were like gazing into a storm, darkened by a harrowing gleam of guilt and deepest despair.
Anjali's hastily arranged funeral had concluded but a few hours ago, her cremated remains spread in the same place their mother's had been by his own two hands. Khushi's heart tugged painfully in her chest as she studied her husband.
Since the news of Di's death, he appeared so in control, so unaffected, but he couldn't fool her. She knew first-hand how much he was hurting. It was all she could focus on, his grief overriding her every thought. Though he'd not yet shed a single tear, she could sense his fraying restraint, his slippery hold on the emotions he'd spent a lifetime running away from.
No, he couldn't hide it--not from her at least. Simmering just beneath the surface of his detached, hardened exterior was pain, the type of raw, brutal pain she'd never wished for him.
She spun around so he wouldn't notice her crying--again. "I can't see him like this... It's ripping my heart apart."
Tasneem squeezed her shoulder. "I'm sure he's just in shock. We were all shaken by the news."
Nodding, Khushi wiped her eyes with the end of her dupatta. "I still can't believe it... How did Di's saree get caught in a wood chopping machine? The most horrific moment was when we went to retrieve her body. They handed Arnav a small black bag. At first neither of us understood what it was because we hadn't quite grasped that Di was truly gone. But that bag... it contained what remained of the sister he loved so much and they just gave it to him like it was an ordinary garbage bag. There was no compassion. Nothing."
Tasneem glanced at her grimly. "You should go to him. He needs you more than anyone right now."
"I've tried, but he always tells me to go and rest each time. I don't know why he's pushing me away when I know that he needs me--now more than ever." As she watched Arnav politely chat with one of the guests leaving, she took a deep breath. "I guess I have no choice but to keep trying. He's got to let me in eventually." That was something her heart told her had to be not too far off. Arnav's resolve would crack and when it did, she'd be there, to support him...hold him...love him...
As her friend wished her good luck, Khushi took a few tentative steps toward her husband,  her hand rising to rest on her belly. Arnav's wary gaze caught her in its hold almost at once. His mouth thinned. His breathing slowed.
"You should be upstairs resting," he reminded her in that same scolding tone for what felt like the thousandth time.
Carefully, Khushi slipped her hand around his waist, leaning her head against his shoulder. "I'm fine, baby. It's you who we should be worrying about. You must be exhausted. Let's go upstairs together."
He didn't reply, his hand reaching up to cover hers. For a moment she thought he'd stroke her hand or perhaps intwine their fingers, but instead he forced her hand off of him, severing the fragile hold. Khushi hoped the hurt she was feeling wasn't visible to him as she met his turbulent gaze.
"I can't leave yet," he ground out. "There are still some guests around and--"
She stopped him by setting a finger over his lips. "Uncle and NK can handle things here. Come with me. Please."
This time he met her beseeching gaze with a thoughtful glance and after noticing something--perhaps the weariness on her face or the faint glimmer of tears in her eyes--gave a stiff nod.
Khushi couldn't quite believe it, but suddenly her husband was leading her upstairs, his hand on her lower back guiding her forward and reassuring her more than anything he might have said. I'm here, the simple touch seemed to say. I'm still here with you, love. Right beside you. Always.
As they crossed the landing at the top of the stairs, she noticed Tasneem giving her an encouraging nod. Tightening her hold on Arnav's hand, Khushi pulled him inside the poolside bedroom that had become her favorite place in Shantivan. 
But it too seemed different now. The very air carried it with tension, a strange, lingering blanket of anguish. It was almost as if there was no escaping the grief of Anjali's death. Even here, its reality prevaded the space.
Arnav was the first one to speak. He sat on the edge of the bed, his head in hands. "Fuck. It all went wrong. That wasn't the funeral Di deserved, Khushi. That wasn't what I wanted for her..."
She understood exactly what he meant, knowing he'd never envisioned today to be the media spectacle it had become. Paparazzi and a bevy of reporters were gathered outside the gates of Shantivan even now. The hall downstairs had been filled to capacity no doubt, but the guests were mostly various socialites and industrialists, more concerned with how they'd appear in tomorrow's articles and magazines than on poor Anjali. There had been very few family and genuine friends.
Payal and Akash of course had not been invited. Nani had been, but she'd been unable to make it, still in Nainital with Dadi, who'd collapsed upon hearing the news of Anjali's death. Neither had been deemed healthy enough for travel. Similarly, Mami had been unable to fly from Australia, her excuse feeble at best.
Other than NK, the Khans, Arnav's uncle and Aman, there had been no one truly consequential at the funeral. Even the ceremony itself had felt impersonal except for one moment--when Arnav had stepped forward.
Her heart twisted as she stared down at her husband. His eyes were bloodshot. His expression harrowed and those chiseled features she adored so much hidden behind two day's worth of beard. Since hearing of Anjali's accident, he had not slept and barely eaten.
"I'm so sorry," she whispered. "I had no idea someone would sneak a camera inside and televise everything." It had not once occurred to her to screen the arriving guests.
He stilled and then looked up, frowning at her. "Why the hell are you apologizing for? It wasn't your fault. It was bound to happen."
"Still...I can't help but feel that maybe I should have done something more. I know how hard today's been on you, and I feel like I'm not even helping you."
His frown intensified. "Of course, you're helping me. The only reason I could deal with all those people downstairs and everything that followed was because of you, dammit." At her look of surprise, he looked even more displeased. "If I'd been on my own...If you weren't in my life...I don't even want to think about how I would have dealt with it all."
Khushi stepped right up beside him and gently weaved her fingers through his wavy hair. "You're not on your own and never will be. I'm with you, baby. Always."
Her gentleness seemed to work, his cold exterior crumbled before her very eyes and he buried his face against her abdomen, his arms wrapping around her middle and holding fast. As if he'd never let go.
But as soon as Arnav closed his eyes, he saw it all again. The images playing out like a horrific parody of a kaliedoscope:
Anjali's last call to him, her wish to return to Delhi and how he'd not listened, insisting she remain in Nainital a few more days...The look on his wife's face when she'd told him his sister was dead...The black bag...And last, an image of Anjali being dragged into an industrial-grade, wood-chopping machine, her screams going unheard. 
"CHOTE!"
He wrenched himself away, his hands rising to his ears. "STOP! Stop!"
Khushi looked up at him, shocked. "Love, what is it? What happened?
He wanted to tell her. Tell her everything. But he didn't think he could stomach voicing the hideous thoughts plaguing him. Besides, his wife would never agree with anything he said anyway. She would never admit that he was not just mentally unstable, but for all intents and purposes, responsible for his own sister's death. A murderer.
"I need to go."
Her eyes grew more concerned at his sharp tone. The love he knew he did not deserve gleamed up at him those inky eyes. "Go where?"
"Away from here," was all he could manage. "Stay here and rest. I'll be back soon."  And then he was gone, ignoring her frantic calls after him as he took off toward the stairs. The damning part was he knew he would be back. As much as he felt he no longer deserved love or happiness, he could not for the life of him bear being without his wife for too long. He couldn't stay away--or walk away.
*****
"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star..." The tune played on as Payal dialed Master Horatio's number. Why wasn't he answering? She found herself needing to talk to him. These days, he was the only person she could talk to freely. Akash was of course out of the question and AJ was hardly a lover she could confide in. He had no consideration for anyone but himself.
She debated calling her father or stepmother but she didn't particularly enjoy being fake around them all the time. They'd undoubtedly go on and on about Khushi this and Khushi that and she'd have a hard time stifling her true feelings.
Just the thought of that woman made her blood heat with wrath. First, she'd taken over her house and family with her pitiful orphan act and then she'd gone after the man Payal had fantasized about for years--all under her very nose.
Even now, with Anjali's death making all the headlines, it was likely in Khushi's arms that her ASR would search for solace. Her teeth gnashed together. How she wished Khushi simply had never existed. If only she'd died along with her parents in that car accident... If only...
"What are you thinking about, Payal?"
AJ came around the bed. Unlike Master Horatio who never mentioned her name, AJ went at great lengths to taunt her by constantly calling her name in a mocking, sing-song voice. 
"None of your business," she whispered under her breath.
He heard her. He had an uncanny ability to almost read her every thought. His hands, rough and prone to violence, twisted in her hair. "I told you what I think about women who talk back to me. And don't forget, Payal, I own you. Every filthy inch of you."
As he swung her head away, Payal fought not to lash out at him. But the truth was she needed AJ's backing and money. It was the only way to get back at Khushi. Dangerous, possibly life-threatening missions required finances and AJ was one person she unfortunately could not dismiss from her life--at least not yet.
He was busy on his phone and against her better judgement--AJ hated snoopy women as much as talkative ones--she angled her head sideways to take a peek at what he was looking at so intently.
The video stilled her very heartbeat. It was a short clip of ASR. Her ASR. From what she could tell, he was walking in the area behind Shantivan, smoking a cigarette. Alone. No sign of that woman. Her longing must have shown on her face because AJ snapped the phone right by her face just then.
"You want him." It was a statement, not a question. "Aww, does stupid, little Payal have a crush on her own brother-in-law? Why you are truly good competition for me when it comes to who's more wicked between the two of us."
Payal didn't bother to deny it. "But only one of us has any hope of ever getting what we want. You want Khushi so desperately--I heard about what you said to her the day ASR beat you so badly--but Khushi wouldn't even dance with you, would she?" she laughed.
AJ slapped her so hard her entire face stung from the blow. "Soon," he promised, flipping her on her stomach and thrusting into her body hard and without warning, "It will be your little, delectable cousin in this position with me and I will no longer need you. Think about that, Payal."
*****
In Shantivan, things were unusually quiet. Most of the guests had left, including Aman and the Khans. NK was bunking for the night in his old bedroom and Uncle was staying in the corner guest bedroom. His flight back to Paris wasn't scheduled to depart till early the next day.
Arnav found himself still pacing in the garden, a lit cigarette in his grasp. His sister's last words to him...her accident...those screams... there was no escaping it. He suddenly stopped. What if it hadn't been an accident? What if someone had been there? But why would anyone harm his Di? He could think only of Jha but Bayaz Khan had been tracking him and he'd been nowhere near Nainital at the time. Then who? And why? The reason came to him almost at once. His breath jerked.
"Okay, son?"
He whipped around, his startled gaze focusing on his dead father's dearest friend but not really seeing him, his expression still ravaged by the truth. His voice when he spoke was low and direct. "They killed her because of me. It was all done to get to me."
"What? That makes absolutely no sense."
Arnav slammed his palm against one of the stone pillars bordering Shantivan's massive back gardens. "How can you not see it, Uncle? There's a pattern to this. This keeps happening to me."
The older man struggled to understand. "What keeps happening?"
"THIS!" Arnav cried, his eyes wild and rimmed with a bone-deep sense of loss. "I keep losing the people I care about...The people I love. One by one they're taken from me and I can do nothing about it--absolutely nothing!"
Uncle kept silent as he forced him to sit down, releasing a deep sigh. "Arnav... I know better than anyone how much you have suffered and at such a young age too. Orphaned, sent to RITA, and now poor Anjali's gone...I still cannot believe it. But son, all of this is simply a tragedy. A horrific tragedy. There is nothing you could have done to prevent it. Are you listening to me? Arnav, it's not your fault. None of it is."
But his godson seemed to not accept the truth of his words, his features appearing harsh in the dim light. "This is more than a tragedy...more than a coincidence... For the longest time, I thought maybe we, the Raizadas, were just cursed. Unlucky when it came to love and family. But these past few days have proven that it's more than that. Di..." He winced. "Someone murdered her because she was close to me. Because I cared about her. I know it."
"Stop now, Arnav. That is crazy talk and--" Realizing what he'd said, Uncle looked up startled. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean--"
"It's okay," Arnav said, his jaw clenched. "You can call me crazy if you wish, many have, but that doesn't change my gut feeling on this. Someone is out there going after my loved ones. You can't convince me otherwise, Uncle. I wish that cowardly son of a bitch would just confront me, but he or she goes after my family instead. Every single time. And that's what scares me most," he confided, his face lined with tension. "The only family I have left now is the person who means the world to me, whom I can't live without... If anything happened to Khushi or the twins..." He closed his eyes, swallowing thickly.
Uncle laid a calming hand on his forearm. "Nothing will happen to them. We won't allow it to. We'll hire the best people out there to protect them."
"I've done that already. I've done everything in my power to keep them safe but I still haven't been able to get my hands on the person or persons behind this! Don't you see, Uncle? Khushi has been in danger from the moment I stepped into her life. Before she met me there were no stalkers, no threats, no hints of violence in her life in Lucknow."
Uncle knew him well enough to realize that arguing would be futile. His godson had made up his mind and there would be no changing it. "So what have you decided?"
Arnav stared out at the glimmering surface of the pool nearby--the pool where his wife had nearly lost her life. The memory cemented his plans. "I'm going to do what I should have done a year ago. I'm going to stop being selfish. Fact is Khushi is not safe with me. She won't be as long as everyone knows how much I love her. I have to...to walk away. I have to let her go. Forever." 
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Uncle looked at him, stricken. "What are you suggesting? You can't live much less function without that girl and you're thinking of casting her out of your life?"
"It's the only way," he insisted in a resolute tone. "The only way of keeping her safe."
"She won't allow it. She'll fight for you, for your marriage."
Running a hand through his hair, Arnav shuddered. He did not need to be reminded of Khushi's strength and overwhelming love. He knew better than anyone how she would react. Uncle was right. His wife would not allow their marriage to fall apart so easily. She'd never understand or accept his reasoning. Never admit that she was safer without him than with him.
"When will you tell her?" Uncle asked with marked disapproval. "Tonight?"
Arnav shook his head. "Not tonight...In the morning..." Though Khushi did not yet realize it, tonight was their last night together and for these last remaining precious hours, he wanted for once no darkness to mar their lives. To lose himself in the fantasy of happily ever after...something he doubted he'd ever have now.
He felt as if he was being hurled back into the cold, dingy cell at RITA all over again, except it was much worse this time. Because without Khushi and their children, he'd be broken, as good as dead. Unlike before, he knew now what it meant to love, to lose yourself in a passion so tender, so brilliant that nothing could ever hope to rival it. How the hell would he survive without his wife? How would he let her go? How, dammit, how?
He'd often told Khushi that it was them versus the world, that nothing and no one could ever tear them apart. And that was undoubtedly true. No one could separate them--except for themselves.
Each passing second felt fast--too fast. It was like he was grasping sand, only to have it slip from his fingers. He was losing her, he realized. Losing the woman he'd never expected to love, but love he did--deeply, passionately, possessively.
Straightening, he walked away without quite knowing where he was going. It was only when he'd neared their bedroom that he halted, his gaze despairing. His wife rounded the corner just then and seeing him, rushed to his side, her relief visible on her delicate features. Her hands pressed to his cheekbones, tilting him down to face her.
"Where did you go, baby? I've been looking all over for you."
"I was..." He forced himself to clear his throat, hoping against hope she wouldn't discern the turmoil within him and the exact cause for it. It didn't help that she looked absolutely stunning tonight in a forest green saree, her hair left loose to fall about her waist. "...talking with Uncle... about Di, my parents..."
Her arms encircled his waist and she gazed up at him with renewed worry. "Are you okay, baby?"
He started to nod and then gave up, shaking his head. As she held him in her arms, for the first time, he allowed himself to cry. To mourn not just his sister but them. Their love. Their dreams. Their family... This time tomorrow, Khushi would hate him. He'd make sure of it, he vowed.
*****
It was a dark night. One of the darkest nights of their lives. They lay side by side on the bed, bodies entwined so that there was no separating the two. As Khushi held Arnav in her arms, her hands stroking him, her voice repeating reassurances till it grew hoarse, she felt as if she could never love him more than she did at that moment. He lay still beside her, gazing at her as if he could not look away, his eyes wet, his face ashen. 
She cupped his cheek in her hand and let her instincts guide her. Slowly, tenderly she pressed her lips to his. He remained completely still for a moment and then his breath released and his hands rose to plunge into her hair, jerking her to him. Khushi made a startled sound, but his tongue delved between her parted lips and it quickly turned into a low moan.
"I love you," she told him as he stripped her of her saree in a matter of seconds.
His fingers stilled. He swallowed and kissed her again: hard and quick. "I love you too. Never forget that."
She began to reply but his hands were suddenly on her hips and his mouth on her breasts, suckling hungrily. Khushi arched above him, pulling him closer still. Her body moved with urgent restlessness atop his and he more than answered, flipping them about so that she found herself on her back.
Cold air stung her skin but before she could call out his name, Arnav was against her, bare and hard, his weight balanced on his forearms as his mouth descended to hers. Their fingers weaved together on either side of the bed as the kiss went on, morphing into something darker, harsher. Khushi struggled to control her cries as her husband's hands and mouth made their way up and down her pliant body.
She felt him against her, and her eyes flew open. "We can't," she reminded.
His jaw tightened. He swore under his breath and then repositioned her, dragging her so that her back was to his front. As his fingers teased and twisted her nipples, his gravely voice coaxed her with its huskiness. "We can do this still."
She gave him a swift nod, though she couldn't help but tense up as she felt his palm slope down her spine and further lower still.
"Shh," he murmured. "Relax, love. I'll be inside you soon."
His voice had its usual instantaneous, melting effect. She was suddenly just as needy for it as him. As his hand angled her face to him and his mouth took hers again, he thrust his hips, his touch scalding and absolute.
"Arnav..." Khushi whimpered. He responded by toying with her breasts with one hand while the other slipped between her legs. His thrusts never once lost their rhythm.
"Khushi..." he echoed in a low, gruff voice. "Never forget this. Never forget us."
So caught up in passion was she, she could only nod, her body shifting to meet his, her mouth hungrily seeking one thing: him.
*****
Arnav knew something wasn't right the moment his eyes fluttered open. The room was too quiet. The air too still.
"Khushi?" he called, alert at once.
The space beside him was empty, the imprint of his wife's body and the smell of her perfume lingering still. "Khushi?" he said with more urgency this time.
A hand settled on his forehead. Cool fingers wiped the beads of sweat across his temple. He knew at once it was not his wife.
Gazing up, he felt his mouth go dry. "Di?" 
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Anjali smiled up at him through her tears. "Chote."
She had bandages all over, her blood leaking through their flimsiness, but she was alive. Miraculously alive. He embraced her tightly, his hands shaking. "Di, you're not dead. I thought you were. They handed me this bag and--"
"Oh, but I am dead, Chote. And the saddest part is that the person I loved the most is responsible."
"I didn't kill you, Di. I love you."
The blood on her bandages began to flow faster now, soaking the bed, staining his hands, his clothes. "Too late now, Chote. Life and death are not in our control. You can't save everyone every time. Goodbye."
"NO! DI!" As his hands fought to hold onto her, her image faded like wisps of smoke.
Arnav woke drenched in sweat, his breathing harsh and uneven. It was a feeling he remembered well from childhood when such dreams had been common. The only difference was it had been his mother with a noose around her neck, not poor, pitiful Anjali bleeding before his very eyes. Sitting up, he ran a hand through his hair, fighting to regain control. Beside him, his wife slept on, not knowing what he was about to do. What he'd decided hours ago.
Leaning down, he kissed her forehead, her cheeks, her lips. "I'm sorry, Khushi. One day I hope you'll be able to forgive me. To understand why I did what I did. And as selfish as it sounds, I hope you never stop loving me--even though by all rights you should hate me." And then he did either the bravest or the stupidest thing he'd ever done.
He walked away. Forever.
*****
Khushi woke in darkness. She thought it was still early yet, but a glance at the clock on the nightstand confirmed that it was actually well past 10 AM. She never slept in this late, but today, she couldn't seem to get up. It felt so good to just lie there, nestled in the warm blankets that smelled distinctly of Arnav's cologne. Sure, her body was feeling a bit sore in some unusual places this morning but overall, she hadn't felt this relaxed since before the phone call from Nainital.
That thought sobered her immediately. She rose carefully, winding a tangled bedsheet around her body. It didn't surprise her to find her husband gone. He was no doubt downstairs, seeing off NK or perhaps taking Uncle to the airport.
She tugged on the curtain cord and bright sunlight flooded the room. Stretching her arms and struggling not to yawn, she padded over to the floor length mirror in the corner. Her reflection revealed her hair in all its wild disarray, the rosiness on her cheeks and the slight smile on her lips--something that had been absent for a couple days now. She parted the sheet and studied herself more intently. The first thing to catch her attention was her belly. There was no avoiding that. She stroked it with a wistful smile. "I love you both so much already," she murmured, her voice barely above a whisper. "I can't wait till I finally hold you in my hands."
Like her growing baby bump, there was also no avoiding the faint reddish marks all over her body. Some were from her husband's mouth but most were from his stubble. Smiling at how passionate and carefree they'd been last night and making a mental note to tell him to shave, she pulled the bed sheet back into position. She was just turning around and heading to the bathroom when something on the bed caught her attention.
Her eyebrows puckered as she lifted the large manilla envelope to eye level. It was addressed to her in neat, typed up letters: Mrs. Khushi Raizada.
Her confusion grew as she pulled out the stack of papers inside. From what she could tell they appeared to be legal documents and then a word caught her eye and her entire world seemed to jerk to a halt. 
DIVORCE.
She flipped through the pages, not caring as some slipped from her trembling hands and fell to the carpet. She was sure there had to be some mistake. Arnav couldn't possibly-- He wouldn't! But on the second to last page, there was an X next to where she was supposed to sign. Just next to that was another line.
It was already filled. She recognized the handwriting instantly. It was tall and slanty, and hard to read. Arnav Singh Raizada.
He'd signed the divorce papers, last night in fact according to the date written just below his name. Stunned, she could only stare down at his signature, her gaze disbelieving. She kept staring down at it till the letters seemed to all blur, tears clouding her vision.
"I was going to give you those papers last night."
His voice, so unexpected, shook her. She whipped around to find him leaning against the door frame in a charcoal gray suit, his hair gelled back, his beard gone, and his expression one of cold detachment all over again. Gone was the man who'd made love to her so fiercely all last night. Instead, she was faced with a stranger who looked at her with ice cold eyes. Only the slight hardening of his jaw as he noted her crying gave anything away.
Khushi threw the papers to the floor. "What is this?"
He stepped up right to her, a few meager inches separating them. "What it says. All legal and binding too. You just have to sign it and we'll be free of each other."
Her hand rose on its own accord, ready to strike him, to make him feel one percent of the pain she was feeling, but she couldn't do it. She couldn't bring herself to hurt him. They both stood silent, their gazes warring as her hand remained raised between them.
Arnav's lips thinned. "Go on. Slap me. I deserve far worse from you."
Khushi stared at him with silent sorrow. "Why?" she managed.
"Why?" He grabbed her hard about the shoulders. "Because I was going to leave you. I was on the cusp of walking away from you, from the twins, because I got it in my head that you were all better out without me. Hell, maybe there is some truth to it. Everyone I've ever loved dies, Khushi. Every single time." The charged emotions in his eyes burned into her. "I would give my life in a heartbeat to stop anything from happening to you, Khushi. I'd do anything, including leaving you."
She stood still, afraid to believe him. Because I was going to leave you, he'd said. "You were going to leave me? But not now?"
His expression softened by a degree and he shook his head. "I can't. God knows I tried. I got into the damn car even, but I couldn't go any further than that. Maybe you're all better off without me, but no one could possibly love you as much as I do. And I don't trust anyone to keep the three of you safe except for myself."
Her body almost sagged with relief and as her knees gave away, he caught her in his arms, holding her so tight against him, she could feel his heartbeat.
"I'm sorry, baby," he kept repeating, dropping kisses on her upturned face. "So sorry for even thinking about it."
Her eyes blinked open, teary and wide. "Why would you for a moment think we'd be better off without you? I wouldn't be able to live without you. I'd be as good as a corpse and--" His mouth stopped her but Khushi angled her head away. "No, let me say it. You know exactly how much you mean to me...How much I love you...How could you think about leaving?" Her eyes sizzled with sudden anger.
He gave her one of those boyish, crooked smiles she'd never been able to resist. "Rethinking that slap now? I told you I deserve worse."
Khushi drew a deep breath and then launched herself into his arms. "You make it impossible for me to stay mad at you. It's not fair. But understand something, Arnav. If you were to do something like that or even think about it, you would do nothing but give me the most horrific pain imaginable. Do you see this?" she asked, holding her wrist out to him. "Arnav's Khushi, it says. There is no Khushi without Arnav."
"And no Arnav without Khushi." He held out his left hand. For a moment, she was alarmed to see his wedding band gone but instead of the familiar gold ring, was a name. Her name.
"You got a tattoo?"
He nodded slowly, studying her. "This morning. I've been wanting to get one ever since you did, but I've always had a problem with needles...At RITA, they would do these tests on me all the time to supposedly cure my madness and nothing shook me up more than that part. The electrocutions were a cakewalk compared to the needles."
Khushi couldn't look away from him, a lump in her throat. "And you still did this?"
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He shrugged as if it was no big deal, as if he hadn't just done something truly remarkable for her. "It's all you, love. You make me conquer my every fear, my every weakness. Hush, don't cry, Khushi. It barely stung."
She raised his hand and kissed the tattoo, over and over again. "I love you, Arnav Singh Raizada. Don't you ever forget that for a second. And please stop saying you don't deserve me and the twins. You deserve everything. Every happiness. Everything I can possibly give you in this lifetime."
"Do I?" he whispered in a sad tone.
"Of course you do."
He glanced away. "You don't know everything, love."
"I know more than you think," she countered. "I understand you. I know how much you loved your Di. How much you blame yourself for her death when you're not even responsible."
Startled, he gazed at her wordlessly for a moment. "But it is my fault. She called me days ago and said she wanted to come back home and what did I do? I fucking told her to stay in Nainital."
Khushi held him securely. "Listen to me. Even if you'd told her to return something might have happened. Horrible things happen sometimes, baby. Things that never should happen do. But none of that means it's your fault. You've always done everything for your sister. This was beyond your control."
Her words reminded him of his dream. Too late now, Chote. Life and death are not in our control. You can't save everyone every time.
He forced the images of blood and loss away, focusing on his gorgeous, extraordinary wife. His breath fanned over her upturned face. "I think it wasn't an accident. I think someone murdered Di to get to me."
Unlike the others, Khushi did not reject nor dismiss his suspicions at once. Instead she slowly nodded. "It's possible. No one was there when it happened. But baby, if you truly believe that, then that's even more reason not to blame yourself. Accident or not, it is not your fault."
After what seemed like days, it felt as if a burden was being lifted from his shoulders at her words--as if they freed something in him he hadn't even known needed freeing. After a long time, he felt like he could finally breathe again. Live again.
"I still have this fear that something will happen to you. I can't help but worry where you and our children are concerned."
She squeezed his hands reassuringly. "I don't know if you've noticed, Mr. Raizada, but I have a very overprotective husband and I also am quite formidable when I need to be."
He gave her a small grin. "No argument from me there. But still, I want to take some precautions. You've got to learn self-defense for one."
Khushi motioned down to her abdomen. "At almost seven months pregnant?"
He nodded. "As much as you can safely. I also want you to learn how to aim and fire a gun."
She looked up, confused. "Do you even know how to do that?"
To her surprise, he nodded. "I hung out with not the best crowd a couple years at RITA before I was put in solitary confinement. I know far worse things than handling a gun, baby. That's the least of it."
She recalled him telling her about how he'd stolen a car once to get away from RITA and also the rough way he'd beat Karan into a bloody mess weeks ago. Tightening her grip on him, she nodded. "If it makes you feel better, I'll learn."
"It makes me feel loads better. So does us the thought of us leaving this city."
Her head snapped up to him. He was entirely serious she saw. "Leave Delhi? Where would we go?"
"Anywhere," he said, rifling his hands through her hair and pressing kisses to the side of her face. "Though I do have a place in mind. I want to take you there. Just the two of us and not tell anyone. At least till the twins are born."
"But what about AR Designs? And what would everyone say?"
"Number one, I can handle AR Designs through conference calls and my laptop for the most part. That's not a problem. And as for your other question, I don't give a damn what anyone would say."
"My parents..."
He smirked. "Your mother will no doubt believe I'm being my usual monster self and stealing you away again. Maybe she's right. Maybe I am doing exactly that."
Khushi brushed her mouth over his, tugging on his bottom lip. "When do we leave, baby?"
His eyebrows rose. "You agree? Just like that? Without me even telling you where we're going?"
"Yes," she replied without any hesitation. "I'd go with you anywhere. Life or death, nothing can come between us."
His eyes darkened. "It won't come to that."
Khushi gave him a soft smile. "I hope not. Because I haven't had enough of you yet. I don't think I ever will."
He pressed her against the wall, his mouth hot and hard against hers. Khushi gasped as he tore the bed sheet off of her, his business suit effectively covering her.
"I thought...we...were...leaving," she murmured between drugging kisses.
"Soon, but I have to have you again first. Last night I thought I'd never have this again. What the hell was I thinking?"
"You weren't thinking, that's what, Mr. Raizada."
He gave her an amused look. "Khushi?"
"Hmm?"
"Shut up."
Her mouth fell open. "Make me," she dared with a familiar twinkle in her eye.
Lacing their fingers together, he met her halfway. "Game on." And then his mouth was on hers and there was no more talking. No more arguments. No more tears. Only them. Against the world.

To be continued...
Precap: Secret Passion by TINA! & Satina 
Episode 38: House of Glass
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70 comments:

  1. It's good to hear that u r finally going to start writing even after all these happend . Will eagerly wait for ur updates of SP. And thanks for not quitting writing.

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  2. That's the way to go! Too bad about DH, I was looking forward to missing chapters and reading the entire story top to bottom. However, I do understand! I will look out for the ebook once it is out. Cheers :)

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  3. OH MY GOD!!! TINAAAAA!!!!! Finally, finally, finally some news from you.... this has got to be the best news in the past two weeks for me! Thank you sooo much for continuing to write.... I kept stalking the blog after the last Note, but then I had exam trials ( which happened to end, today), and I came online to see this...yeay!!!
    I am extremely delighted to see you continue SP and as much as sad about DH, I was so looking forward for the missing chapters... and "abbreviated chapters" dont sound good at all, I wanted long updates with intricate details. :( ... (damn those stupid people for copying your work) ... but I understand, and I'll be looking out for the ebook. And about you writing new stuff... post it, post it, post it! I'll always read it! so thats about it. Will be waiting for an update this weekend. Best wishes... :D

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  4. Tina diiiiiiiiiii u r back i cant believe this..... i just open ur page in hoping to get any message from u n see my luck u posted... i am soo happy.... about SP n DH u see we are all ready for the darker turns but u see plz dont separate arshi lol... continue soon
    candyjan [IF]

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  5. Hey Tina
    Thanks a lot for coming back and not quitting!!!
    I understand your situation and I'm sure u have thought a lot before coming to a decision.
    Really missed your updates on SP
    Darker route on SP sounds scary but as long as Arshi are together the dark would be good to read hehehe
    Eagerly waiting for your updates!
    Thanks for the note :)

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  6. You are back...!!!! This is fantastic news and you are not quitting writing ffs.. This is even better. ..!!!!
    I'm soooo happy today....!!!
    We understand and accept that you are not going to repost DH....this is really sad..but it's fine...we can always buy and read it as eBook.!!!!
    Honestly If DH is going to be published.. That will the best thing......!!!!!
    I just can't imagine myself not reading your stories.. Even though i get e-mails I still stock your blog.. And keep reading old parts......!!!!
    Thank you sooo much.....!!!!

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  7. thanku soooooo soooooooooo much ..........
    for writing again................

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  8. Hi Tina, Welcome back... Really happy to know that you plan on continuing. I was one of the ones who probably would not have gotten access right off the bat if the blog had gone private... and you are right, you would have received a ton of messages from ME ALONE! As far as abbreviated chapters are concerned, I think, you know that we will take anything! So how do I out the note on IF. On the SP/DH threads... I thought the works were removed from there so the threads would be closed. Hmm... Also should I just say to check the blog for the note or copy/paste the note... As I write this... there is a small block right next to me that say...NO copying, posting or distributing of any part.... LOL! Anyways I will check it out... Thanks for coming back and regards,

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  9. much much much glad to see your note Tina!!
    really missing you & your update..
    my respect & love for you increases with leaps & bound by seeing you fighting spirit & never let that stealer ruled your life.. i cant express my happiness that you are not qutting writing..
    & i respect your decision of not posting DH previous parts, it is for best & for reading again we can always buy its ebook when its published..

    & for the darker phase in upcoming episodes, as long as Arnav & Khushi are together, they will face thatphase also..

    & sorry, i didnt get clear with one thing, is that about you writing new stories, you said its going to be original character, what that means its not on Arshi or what, if possible pls clear this..

    ps: as i m going to get married in nxt mnth, so i'll be away for a long time but i'll try to be back soon, but before going i want to read SP, i m here till this mnth, so pls plsss plsss update SP..
    & in coming times if you decide about making blog private or anything, plsss do send me the msg.. as i cant live without your stories..

    thanks..

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    Replies
    1. Thank you sooooo much,for returning and not stopping writing. It would be really very disappointing if we don't get to read the ending of the stories that we follow so committedly. So thank you for continuing them.I also hope that you find a safer way to protect your works.

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    2. Thank you sooooo much,for returning and not stopping writing. It would be really very disappointing if we don't get to read the ending of the stories that we follow so committedly. So thank you for continuing them.I also hope that you find a safer way to protect your works.

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  10. Hey Tina, I'm so glad your will be continuing with SP and DH. But i think u mentioned you will out up abbreviated chapters for DH but its something :) looking forward to it.
    Will wait for your ebook...
    You made my day :D
    And all you PLAGIARIZERS STAY THE HELL AWAY!!

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  11. Finally!!
    I am soo happy that you did not quit writing
    Plz update sp fast now..as i miss it terribly
    And regarding darker theme..the story is just soo awsome and till arshi are together ,there is noo problem

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  12. Oh Tina, thanks for the note. I have checked your blog atleast 2 times everyday. I am so happy you will continue writing. Please don't make the stories too dark. I am ok with intense scenes. But I don't want the arnav in SP or DH to hurt khushi physically.

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  13. Good to see you back.. missed ur stories.. waiting for d next SP update..also looking forward fr d new one.. keep writing dear...

    Brkn angl

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  14. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeee :) Thank God u r backkkkk :D n thankfully, u haven't decided to discontinue writing any of ur stories, especially SP. I just luv it :* Pls update soon :)

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  15. I was really upset and angry because of those cheaters we readers were not getting our updates. I can't understand how people steal n doesn't have ounce of regret within themselves but I guess people like them are out there that's why it keeps on repeating with you. But since u r back I m very much happy.You can't imagine how many times I have checked whether you have updated sp or not.I really love that story yaar.This doesn't mean I don't like dh.But that's my second favorite. Anyway would be eagerly waiting for next chap.

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  16. yoopiiiii finally a note. i was worried that you'll stop writing. Hope to see SP update soon :)

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  17. Hi so glad to see you back, Really happy that youre not quitting, We all love your writing as you know that 😊 Waiting for your SP update, But I have a request please upload the previous Chapters of Desert heat, Please I really want to read it, You should block those who steal your work, But please do repost the chapters as I am still into that reading zone but I could not find the chapters to read, Please do help me out, Its my kind request.

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  18. Hi tina, kamalapushpa here. Hope everything is fine on your end. Im happy that you havnt stopped writing. Ita your story n its your right to decide what to do. University n work has been keeping me busy. I hope to come back n read whatever i missed. Im with you in whatever decision you take 😀

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  19. so happy Tina that you are back and will not stop writing, cannot wait for the next update!!!!!

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  20. So happy to see a post from you Tina and more than happy to know that you don't plan to quit writing.. Well if our favourite writer like give up writing then whom should we fans of ARSHI, whom we miss so much will look at as reading stories of our dear ARSHI have only kept our ARSHI among us even after 3 years.. so please don't leave us and continue writing wonderful stories. God bless and Be Happy always!

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  21. Hi Tina,

    First of all glad to see a reply from you, I am happy that you have decided to continue with SP and DH, It must be so difficult for you because this is not the first time you have been through something like this. So thank you for deciding to continue with the stories, because to be frank, it would be unfair to the genuine readers of both the stories. I'm slightly upset that you won't be posting the remaining chapters of DH, but I won't push you too much because at least you are continuing with it, and that is huge already. I am desperately waiting for the updates, I am quite excited and nervous for what you've got in store for us regarding both the stories, regardless of what happens, as long as ArHi get a happy ending! Thank you once again :)

    -A

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  22. YAY! Thank you so much for deciding to continue. I know I'm one of your silent readers and not a frequent commenter, but I always feel really awkward commenting on each chapter for some reason. But I hope that you know that I have read every single chapter you've every posted, every single note you've ever sent, and every single sneak peek you've made available. I love your characters, you writing style, and the effort and passion and love you put into all of your stories. I can't even imagine how awful it is to have to repeatedly face plagiarism problems, but I am so glad you've decided to continue writing. And while I'm sad that I won't get to re-read Desert Heat whenever I want (you have no idea how many times I've read it start to end), I am really glad we get to find out what happens. So thank you so much for all that you do for your readers - we really appreciate all the hardwork and time and heart you put into your stories and are SO glad you've decided to continue writing =)

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  23. Hey tina..... thanks for this note and its really pathetic on part of ppl who cant run on their own imagination...... but m so glad u chose to continue........we r loyal fans of ur writing n ll continue wid it........ gud luck n b back soon.......

    Ritzzii

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  24. OMG OMG OMG! Thank you thank you thank you soo much Tina! I am ecstatic!!! I literally scared the living daylights out of my sister who is beside me hahaha. I am happy that you decided not to quit writing. Looking forward for the updates!

    Love,
    ongongong (IF)

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  25. Hi Tina new reader here.. must say you a awesome writer.. love the way you bring both Arnav, khusi and other characters alive in your stories.. brilliant stuff yeah.. glad your not giving up on your writting skill... don't let those ppl who plagiarize your stories bring you down.. I'm glad you back keep up the good work

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  26. OMG! OMG! Tina! This is awesome!! I know taking this decision must have been hard for you... Thank you so much for continuing it...specially SP.. your stories mean so much to us.... You are just awesome!!

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  27. OMG! OMG! Tina! This is awesome!! I know taking this decision must have been hard for you... Thank you so much for continuing it...specially SP.. your stories mean so much to us.... You are just awesome!!

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  28. I'm really happy that you decided to come back. I were very nervous that you wiil quit writing. I'm wating eagerly for the updates specially SP, it's my favourite then DH is the next in my list but i love all your stories.
    OK i just wanna say you're awesome and may ALLAH keep you safe and sound.
    Take care dear :)

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  29. thanku soo much for continuing to write.really glad to have u back.
    sida (IF)

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  30. Hello Tina it feels so good to hear u rather read your updates. And thanks a ton for not discontinuing updating your stories for some stupid people. It means so much to us. Will be eagerly waiting for your updates. Thanks a ton again.
    Nivi

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  31. So good to hear from u... Really glad that u haven't decided to stop writing bcz I am in love with your stories, but at the same time u should take every measure possible to save yourself from any unnecessary stress... Do whatever u deem right to protect your work but plz don't forget your loyal readers who have been a part of your incredible writing... Waiting for the next update of SP anxiously.

    Farheen75

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  32. Hi Tina .. Read your note! Sorry for the late reply!

    Thank you for continuing to write SP.. Have missed it terribly! Yes it feels very close to IPK.. And truly appreciate your hard work time and effort given you'd busy schedule'

    Hope your feeling better now and wish you all the best with all your work!
    (Amaypranay from IF ) Best Deepika

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  33. hi Tina it feels so good to hear from u again thanks u didn't quit writing .Hope to get an update soon:)

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  34. OMG!!! it so good to have u back my dear!! Absolutely fantastic news to know dat u will be continuing ur ffs. Really love n appreciate u for continuing, knowing all u been thro. May u always be Blessed!!

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  35. Glad to hear that you are continuing on the stories... will hate to have heard that you would stop... welcome back and waiting eagerly for the updates.....

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  36. Thank god i logged in blogger today
    i was like where r u? i was missing the stories like crazy
    welcome back
    Appreciate it that u r continuing thank u soooooo sooo much

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  37. Thank god you're deciding to continue. I was losing my mind because i dont really know what i would do without your amazing stories. you're honestly so talented. Also, sorry about the annoying things you have to deal with all of the time. With this much talent and time invested into your writing i can see why you wouldn't want to continue, but I'm glad that you are :) You make me happy! Best of luck moving forward and I can't wait to read new things

    india-forums: loveandluck

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  38. Hi Tina....

    Thank god that we finally heard from u....
    Phew..... I was seriously worried ....
    I know that ur not someone who would leave us hanging like this thus I was worried about u whether or not everything is good at ur end or not...

    Now that u r back, I m relaxed...

    Welcome back, sweetheart...

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  39. Welcome back dear.......

    Thanks a ton for continuing your stories. Love you dear.......

    Please update quickly.....

    (orchids8888 from IF)

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  40. Thank god u r doing well... Sorry for not replying earlier. I am bed ridden with viral fever so pls forgive the late commenting. I am really happy that u decided to continue with writing. Thanks a lot for that yaar. Now the usual anxious wait for the story.
    May god bless you for not leaving us in the middle. Thanks s ton Tina

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  41. AAAAAHHHHH!
    You are back!!
    Yayyyyy
    So glad you havent given up on writing
    Eagerly waiting for the updates :D

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  42. Glad to see you back dear...
    waiting for your stories like hell...
    But sorry unable to comment regularly...
    Now waiting for SP eagerly...
    Still toooo much sad about the recent mishap with our stories...
    Hoping from heart that it doesn't happen again...
    Wishing you luck...

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  43. Happy that you are continuing SP. Sad it would be last though
    I tried to get over my obsession about arshi many times,even deleted my first indian forums account but SP brought me back.Every time I log into it I check for your update so I am every glad you are giving closure.

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  44. Hey! I'm glad you're continuing SP. I understand that it can be very painful to have your work stolen and posted on other sites without your permission. I just wanted to let you know that your stories mean a lot to me. I suffer from depression and social anxiety and your stories allow me to escape from my reality. I thank you loads for saying that you will continue! And it is my sincere hope to see your published works some day. Thanks a lot!

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  45. Hi Tina, I am so happy to hear that you have continued writing. E-book sounds like a fabulous idea. I don't know how that works but whenever you get the time and are ready with it I would be all ready to buy it. I know that you wrote that you won't repost DH, my request to you is to make it an e-book too when you can as well as Mind Games and then all your stories. Sorry, can't help it you are such a damn good writer that can't make a request for one and not for the other. Also, wanted to know about the status of "Shameless"; I have never read it but have heard so much about it that I can't wait to read it. Seriously, Tina it is an absolute joy to read your writing, such an amazing stress buster that I can't thank you enough to continue writing on arnav and khushi !! As far as new stories go, anything you write is always such a gift for readers like me that I can't get enough !! All the best for all your writings and may you keep writing more and more and more !! :)

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  46. We are all glad that you are back, I thought this was one too many times and you had stopped writing. I'm happy thats not the case, Also cant wait for SP to be updated and what will happen to "enemy lines" I loved the concept and really want to read it and Im excited for new stuff too (will the stories be starring IPKKND characters??? I hope so!) I wish you never stop writing about Arshi.

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  47. We are all glad that you are back, I thought this was one too many times and you had stopped writing. I'm happy thats not the case, Also cant wait for SP to be updated and what will happen to "enemy lines" I loved the concept and really want to read it and Im excited for new stuff too (will the stories be starring IPKKND characters??? I hope so!) I wish you never stop writing about Arshi.

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  48. It feels so amazing to read this post because initially i was way too scared to check this blog thinking that there might be a post which would say that you have stopped writing or something like that :p . Extremely happy to know that you are going to continue writing. :)) excited to read your new stuff as well. Your last post actually stimulated many silent/new readers to comment for the first time and i am very glad that i finally did start commenting because a wonderful writer like definitely you needs to be acknowledged. I just hope that such a situation never comes up again.
    You are amazing and immensely talent so please keep writing and we all will keep commenting and letting you know how much we love you and your works. :))
    -Prachi
    (IF name- pra_s.96)

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  49. welcome back dear :)
    -xyzsm

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  50. Hey
    Am glad to see you are continuing both SP and DH,
    And all the other stories
    Hoping to continue reading your excellent works
    And I think eBook could be the best option
    All the best for whatever you decide
    Take Care :)
    Past: Shyam is master Horatio??????? OMG!!!!!!!

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  51. Yup, now I'm confirmed Shyam is master Horati. I akso think that AJ is helping Karan if not he wouldn't be so confident.
    I feel these people are idiots in not seeing arshi's love. It's strength is far too much for them to break.
    Really amazing update. Also the shock in the end can't be true, can it?

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  52. Hi TINA its KBS from IF... I hope you remember!
    firstly I want to request you to not to make it a private blog! Because your work is loved by many and graciously according to me every fab of yours comments regularly!

    I know fraud & stealing your stories has shaken you up but don't worry your readers are loyal to you, we will sought out the cheater!

    I don't want anyone left out.... I want everyone to read your stories!

    Now coming to the update

    You manage to push me on edge always! I hate Karan & Payal! they've played again! spreading rubbish in media! thank god Khushi trusts him!

    But I'm always in a fear that what if something happens! what if they get separated! what if Arnav lefts her or vice versa!

    I'm always in fear! its like I can imagine this story! I can see it playing before my eyes!

    I afraid to see the worst! Leave them... I will die crying if something happens to them -_-

    He killed RITA! oh god the enemies are getting strong! I'm genuinely afraid now TINA! ... is something bad coming up?

    I don't know what to feel about Anjali's death.... I'm neutral!

    But Arnav will be broken plus she has been murdered for sure! she must have got to know something!

    Two lovers & so many enemies! why god why!


    I was staking your blog ;P thanks for the hot moments in the update!

    LOVE
    KBS

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  53. Wow what a mind blowing update.. I absolutely love it ... is Angeli really dead? Oh my poor arnav just blow after blow sigh.. will there ever be peace in arshi's life. And that dirty Karen ufff just want to snap is neck.. update soon Hun keep up the good work

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  54. Awesome, wonderful update
    really loved it
    (IF) merehan

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  55. thanks for updating SP..
    though i still didnt get the chance to read it.. the reason i have mentioned ealier that i m getting married in this month & will be very busy. hopefull to read it soon..& get back to you soon..

    will try to come back as early as possible..

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  56. okay I read the whole story again... now this is a slam....

    When Arnav mother died he went crazy! then he was sent to RITA ... the horrible excuse of a rehabilitation!

    Now his Di is dead! it will a greater blow...
    And I'm afraid of following reason

    1. Dadi will totally Blame Khushi
    2. Arnav will be crazy, uncontrollable, again cold hearted... what if he shuts out Khushi....
    3. What if he listens to his Dadi (Maybe) and Blame Khushi for changing everything.
    4. I know there will be lots of twist & turns and one of them will be separation track which I'm dreading
    5. What if he shut down love and be the ASR he was before
    6. Its world versus them... what if the world wins (but I trust you... you won't let them win but still I'm afraid)

    7. If all above happens... What will I do (say jalebis?) :P

    I don't know how Arnav is going to react... I'm terrified... he will surely Shut off Khushi..... but I don't know l....

    Don't end this story! Its like my favorite novel!

    hope to hear from you soon hun!

    LOVE
    KBS

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  57. I am so glad you're back Tina and all your stories are spectacular and unique, so you should never give up on your write. Its a talent you use very well no doubt about it. Keep up the amazing stuff you do. What a gruesome death Angeli got man wow shivers.I can just imagine what Arnav must be going thru after seeing his sister for the last time in such a distasteful manner. I was really hoping Angeli wouldn't be dead sigh, apart of me is hoping that it wasn't Angeli's body in the bag and that she's still alive somewhere out there, I really hope it would play out that way. So glad that Arnav got sense in that brain of his and realize he couldn't live without Khusi. Khusi his is other half. Arnav what where you thinking LOL. Loved the, ending calm after the storm for now that is sigh. Lovely update Hun.

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  58. Even though i understand ur reasons i wish u would pay heed to the millions who love ir work. Waiting for next update. And pls update dh also

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  59. I hope you are reading this TINA
    I'm so glad that you updated! Chapter 37 was everything from love romance thrill....

    Oh god Anjali was chopped to death. The murderer is too dangerous and I guess someone close to Arshi.
    Can it be Aman? Just a blind guess. I'm now doubting even Arnav's uncle.

    I know Arnav is capable of protecting his family but still keep them safe

    Now, thank u for updating! Plz don't stop before u finish all ur stories.

    P.S- did u remove dessert heat?

    LOVE
    KBS

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  60. Finally
    l'm so glad that you update
    fabulous,,,,awesome update
    loved it
    continue soon please

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  61. Ok I have few doubts!
    I'm not sure if Arnav have really dropped the idea of leaving khushi.
    What if he take her somewhere unkown where no one can reach her and twins and then leaver her!?

    *just guessing*

    I'm terrified and I want Arnav to be there forever

    LOVE
    KBS

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  64. Perfect update.. First of all.. A very happy new year tina :) i was worrying that the fear of losing his loved ones will make arnav leave khushi but thank god he came back to sense..:) coz there is no khushi without arnav n vice versa:) loved it!!
    IF Dhrenu :)

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  65. Tina... . Please finish the story babe.. . Where r u? Are u ok?

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