OneShots

**NO COPYING, SHARING, OR POSTING ELSEWHERE ALLOWED. COPYRIGHT 2013 BY TINA.**

Table of Contents -- Scroll down to read:
TS: Honeymoon Games
OS: Chocolates, Roses, and Surprises (Valentine's Day Special)
Crossover OS: SP x DH x MG *Happy Bday Jyo*
OS: Arshi Remarriage (TS Contest)
OS: Surrender
OS: Full Moon 
OS: Dr. Raizada--A journey of love and friendship
OS: Rendezvous before Second Wedding
OS: Tearful Goodbyes (extended version of Shameless's Ch 20)
OS: Three Months from Now
OS: Almost Kiss (1 year Anniversary)
Leave your comments on the 'Comments' Page!
  
TS: Honeymoon Games
By: TINA!
Khushi woke up with a startle. She didn't know what had woken her up, but she'd sensed something even in the depths of dreamless sleep. Her eyes blinked open tiredly.
Darkness surrounded her.
Khushi squinted, but it was no use..it was like she was blind.There was not even a glimmer of light anywhere.
Her hand spread across the bed, reaching for something..someone.. But the spot next to her was empty. Khushi frowned, where was he?
She rose slightly off the bed, balancing on her elbow. "Arnav?" she called hesitantly.
No one answered.
Khushi's frown deepened. Where could he have gone?
The cabin they'd found for their honeymoon was small and isolated, he couldn't possibly have gone very far. And anyways, she reasoned, nibbling on her bottom lip worriedly, there was nothing beyond the cabin. Only an uninhabited forest spread across in all directions. And this time of the year, snow blanketed the surrounding area.
The wind howled suddenly. Khushi shuddered and reached for the side lamp. Her trembling fingers snapped it on.
But the darkness remained, just as penetratingly black as before. She frowned, but then she remembered Arnav's words when they'd arrived yesterday.
"A winter storm is on its way," said Arnav, glancing out at the darkening sky, "It should hit sometime tonight."
Khushi looked at him guiltily. After all, a honeymoon in the far reaches of Canada had been her idea. She'd wanted to be alone with him in some isolated place so much. But she'd never considered storms, blizzards..
"Will everything be okay, love?" she asked softly, watching the falling snow with rising worry.
Arnav smiled at her tenderly. He leaned across the jeep, his mouth pressing against her trembling lips.
"Of course, Khushi. We'll be fine in the cabin..probably won't even notice the storm.." he trailed off, smirking naughtily.
Khushi's eyes widened at what he was hinting at. Anticipation unfurled within her, followed by a wave of nervousness. But she clung to his hand..she loved him so much..
Khushi shivered as the memory washed over her.
Arnav had been right, they'd noticed nothing going on outside all day..all night long. They'd been so focused on each other, nothing in the world had seemed to matter last night except the two of them..warm and together on the plush bed.
A blush spread across her as she remembered all that had passed between them. She shook herself, rising up..she had to find Arnav.
She reached for the lamp on the other nightstand, but it wasn't working either. The blizzard must have knocked out all power, she realized.
"Arnav?" she called again, her voice slightly shaky this time.
He didn't answered again. Khushi fell back on the bed with a frown. He'd probably gone to check about the power outage, she reasoned. Yes, that had to be it, she was worrying needlessly..
This was their honeymoon, she thought smiling in the darkness, she wouldn't let anything mar it. How long they'd both waited for last night..
Blushing heatedly in the darkness, she recalled their wedding night vividly. He'd been relentless, his hands and lips possessing her completely and she'd been no less.
Khushi's blush deepened as she recalled just how shameless she'd been. Her eyes closed tightly, but that only highlighted other sensations.
Her body was sensitive under the soft blanket that covered her. She shivered as she felt the blanket touch her bare skin. She'd never slept like this before.
Pulling the blanket up, she embraced it tightly. Cold air still hit her though.
It was weird, thought Khushi, but she hadn't even sensed the drop in the temperature last night. Arnav's body on top of hers had blocked everything. The body heat between them had kept her so cozy. The bed had seemed like a warm cocoon last night.
Five minutes passed and worry was spreading in Khushi. Where was her loveable, slightly grumpy husband, she wondered?
She finally rose, wrapping the thick, white blanket around her body and tucking it under her arms. A hiss escaped her as her feet hit the cold, wooden floors of the cabin.
"Arnav?" she called, walking forward.
There was no reply.
Suddenly, Khushi had the most unnerving feeling..like someone was watching her..
She froze, looking toward the far corner sharply. There was no one there. Her eyebrows furrowed, but just then, a wild animal howled outside.
The noise shook Khushi and she hurried back toward the safe, warm bed. Huddling under the covers, she reached for Arnav's pillow, her hands clenched on it in a tight grip. God, it still smelled like him.
The howling noise came again and Khushi whimpered. Just then someone tapped on the window to her right. 
Khushi glanced at the window with round eyes. She couldn't see much, but she knew thick curtains covered the glass. Thank God..
She was breathing harshly when someone knocked on the cabin's front door loudly.
Khushi's heart pounded with each loud thud. Her heart rate escalated as she sensed someone right outside.
What if it was Arnav? she thought, getting up. But then she stopped. Why would Arnav be trying to break down the door..he knew the code to the number-lock door.
She shook with fear as the noises outside continued. Another loud howl erupted and she threw the blanket over her head, shaking.
Suddenly, she felt a hand on her ankle, wrapping securely. Khushi screamed, kicking desperately.
She heard a low grunt as one of her legs connected with something solid. Her eyes snapped open. She recognized that sound..
"Arnav!" she shouted angrily. "Where were you? You scared me to death."
But he didn't answer, just smirking in the darkness. He clicked a button on his phone and another howling noise burst forth.
Khushi shuddered in his hold, fear still clutching her. But even as fear spread across her, her body clenched as she felt another sensation--one that numbed her mind and made her throb and ache anew.
Her husband's moist mouth was sweeping across her feet and legs, moving higher. Khushi froze as she felt him rise up from the foot of the bed, covering her body with his once again.
Her heart soared as she recognized that his skin was warm and bare against hers. Her hands wrapped around him tightly. Her lips sought his.
Their kisses were hungry and heated. Arnav smiled as Khushi moaned his name and clicked a button on the app again. Another noise came: like someone was knocking on the door.
She froze in his hold, pushing against his shoulder restlessly.
"Arnav!" she said fearfully, "There's someone at the door!"
He mumbled something unintelligible against her throat, his lips moving lower. Khushi struggled to stay focused.
"Ar..Arnav..the door.."
He just sucked on her soft flesh in response, his hold on her firm. Khushi moaned again.
Another howling noise came. Khushi wrapped herself closer around her husband, her arms and legs tightening around him.
Smirking in the darkness, Arnav leaned down to kiss her again. His phone slipped out of his hands as he sought more of his wife's silky smooth skin. Their kisses were desperate, intensely passionate.
Khushi was entirely lost in him when she bumped into something unfamiliar. Her eyes blinked open in the darkness. She reached for the object, her eyes rounding as she recognized it. A phone. His phone.
She looked at it with a furrowed brow. Arnav was oblivious to it all, working his way down her pliant body.
Khushi pressed a random button on the phone's screen and a loud howling noise erupted.
Arnav froze against her. Khushi looked down at him with wide eyes.
"What the! You were doing this? You were the one making those noises?" she asked, reeling with shock. "I can't believe you would do that, Arnav! Dear God, you scared me to death!" She pushed against his shoulder angrily.
But he only grinned against her skin. Leaning down, he cushioned his head on her breasts. Khushi could just make out his twinkling eyes in the darkness.
"Arnav.." she began irritably.
He kissed her soft flesh in answer, making her shiver against him. Khushi hated her body's response to him. She was supposed to be mad at him--not arching up into his touch, silently pleading for more.
"I thought it would be romantic," he admitted sheepishly.
"Romantic?" bit out Khushi heatedly, "Scaring me is ROMANTIC?" She twisted and flailed in his arms.
But his hold on her only tightened. He slid up her body quickly, wrapping his hands around each of her wrists. His legs held hers apart.
"Ow," he muttered as she managed to nip his shoulder with her teeth. And then he kissed her heatedly, making her forget why she was so mad in the first place.
"You're so beautiful when you're all angry," Arnav whispered in a seductive tone. "So hot.."
Khushi could only gasp as she forget everything..everything except him and her. "Baby..you're lucky I love you."
He smiled as Khushi clung to him. "I love you too, Mrs. Raizada," he whispered against her neck.
Khushi tried to respond but passion was overtaking her, blackening all else. Her last thought before she lost all control: 'Arnav Singh Raizada, I'll show you tomorrow.'
The next morning, Arnav woke up with a yawn, curling his hand across his sleepy looking face. As his eyes fluttered open, he squinted at the sudden brightness. Warm, golden rays of sunlight poured from the windows.
A beautiful picturesque scene could be seen through the glass: tall evergreens dotted the snow-covered landscape with mountains overlooking. The storm had passed, leaving an almost fairytale setting behind.
His hand crossed lazily over the white bedspread, his fingers seeking warm, silky skin. But his wife was not there. The space beside him was empty.
Frowning, he leaned up on one elbow. "Khushi.." he called out, glancing about the empty cabin. Damn it, where had she run off to, he wondered?
But then he noticed the light glowing under the bathroom door and sighed with relief. Clearly, he had to relax.
But somehow he couldn't. He knew Khushi only too well. Something told him she'd find a way to get back at him for that phone app prank last night.
He smiled languidly as he recalled her clutching him tightly, the hot, angry expression that had crossed her face when she'd found his phone between the tousled sheets.
She really was the most beautiful when she was angry. He couldn't resist her then. His eyes glinted as he recalled all the days and nights of their honeymoon so far. Last night, they'd been insatiable, needing each other desperately. They'd only gotten a few hours of sleep.
And yet, he felt great. The happiest he'd ever felt in his life. He loved Khushi so much..
Arnav looked at the closed bathroom door longingly. Just give her a few minutes more, he told himself. And if she still didn't come out, he'd go and get her himself. Pick her up in his arms and take her back to bed, he thought with a smirk.

He wanted her--again. It seemed like the more he had her in his arms, the more he needed her. He couldn't get enough of her.
Arnav threw the still warm blankets over his head, trying to get a few last minutes of sleep. Because he knew that as soon as his wife neared, he wouldn't be able to let her go.
------------------------------------------------------------------
Khushi smiled at herself naughtily in the mirror. She'd planned everything to the smallest detail.
Mr. Arnav Singh Raizada thought he was oh so smart. That he could play his little games on her with no retaliation. She still hadn't forgiven him for that phone prank. He'd scared her to death with all those noises.
His ideas of romance were completely crazy, she thought, rolling her eyes. But what had followed had been highly passionate, intensely powerful, she recalled with a blush.

Still, she'd show him, she thought, zipping up the final coat. Show him what true romance was..
The layers of fur felt tantalizing against her still sensitive skin underneath. It reminded her clearly of where his mouth and hands had been. Khushi smiled at herself one last time in the large, oblong mirror and then stepped carefully outside.
She tiptoed closer to the bed where Arnav lay asleep, a blanket thrown over his head. Khushi grinned as she looked down at him. Let the game begin..
With a small giggle, she snatched the blanket off of him.
--------------------------------------------------------------------
Cold air stung Arnav's bare body. He frowned in his sleep, huddling into the warm sheets beneath him.
Was that Khushi's giggle, he wondered suddenly? His eyes opened slowly, in thin slits.
As he glimpsed his wife's glowing, laughing face, all thoughts of sleep left him. His hand reached out to her.
"Come back to bed, baby," he mumbled sleepily.
But she sidestepped. "No, Mr. Raizada, you can't always get your way."
Arnav grumpily turned toward her, finally looking fully at her. His eyes widened.
He rose up slightly, shaking with laughter. For once, he'd been rendered speechless. He couldn't stop laughing.
Nothing could have prepared him for the sight of his wife wrapped in at least five large winter coats. She seemed to have gained a 100 pounds from the last time he'd seen her. The outer coat was a giant, white fur coat.
God, he thought, she reminded him of a cute polar bear..
"What the hell are...are you wearing?" he managed to ask after several long moments.
Khushi gazed down at his laughing face with narrow eyes. She quickly reached down and grabbed his shirt and pants from the floor.
A vivid memory of her removing these from his body came to her, sending heat coursing through her. But she forced herself to stick to the game.
She looked at him pointedly and then ran for the main door, throwing it open. Arnav was still laughing as he watched her leave.
"KHUSHI!" he yelled out as cold, frigid air bit into his flesh. But Khushi just frowned at him over her shoulder, running out into the snow.
"Khushi!" he called, smiling still.
But she didn't reply, running out of his line of vision. Scratch cute polar bear, thought Arnav with a grin, reaching for his discarded clothes on the floor. She was more of an angry, cute polar bear.
His smile vanished as his fingers struck the empty floorboards below.
Snow was drifting inside from the open front door and Arnav shivered as another wave of cold hit him. Damn it! Where were his clothes?
He reached for the blanket, but it was gone too. Khushi..
She'd ripped it off of him, he recalled. What was she up to?
Wrapping the plain, white sheet he'd been sleeping on low around his hips, he darted to the open door, sticking his head out.
"KHUSHI!" he yelled.
As his eyes adjusted to the blinding white landscape, he could just make out a small, adorable figure going into the adjacent pool house.
His polar bear really fit into the surroundings, he thought with a laugh.
As an intensely cold wind sailed inside, Arnav banged the door closed. He hurried toward the closet in the far corner. Khushi..he'd catch up with her..
He slipped on his boots quickly, a sly smile crossing his face. So she wanted him in the pool, did she?
Anticipation made his fingers fumble, his heart pounded as he wrenched the closet doors open. He froze as he looked inside.
The closet was empty. His clothes were all gone. All the coats were missing. Every single one.
"Damn it...KHUSHI!" he screamed again, even though he knew she couldn't possibly hear him. He knew this was all her doing.
Flipping about, he looked around the cabin with narrow eyes. But it was just like he'd suspected, all the clothes and blankets were missing. Only a lone apron remained in the kitchen, almost tauntingly.
Arnav frowned as he ripped the bedskirt off the bed. He threw it around his shoulders and then ran outside.
Arnav was growling and cursing as he ran to the poolhouse.Cold air stung him, making him shiver.
Flying snow hit his exposed face as he jogged past, wetting his hair to midnight black. Who would have thought that on his honeymoon he'd be running around next thing to naked?
But leave it to Khushi, he thought, shaking his head. Of course, she would do something crazy. Something that would drive him crazy.
He loved her little quirks. Loved her playful spirit. Loved her. Period. But still, thought Arnav as he reached the pool house door, he wouldn't give in so easily to her--not this time.
So, with a last smirk, he schooled his expression, putting his ASR mask on skillfully.
"Mrs. Raizada?" he called as he stepped inside.
The pool house basically consisted of a large indoor swimming pool and a hot tub. A few chaise lounges were pushed against the wooden walls. And standing directly opposite him was his wife.
Khushi turned toward him with a toss of her hair, grinning wickedly. Her heart skipped a beat as she looked at his grumpy face, the transparent, white sheets that clung to his skin..
Her eyes widened. God, but he was so handsome. All she wanted to do was snatch the sheet off of him and---
Arnav raised a cool eyebrow at her. "Ahh, there you are, Mrs. Raizada. And exactly what are you up to? Really, Khushi, hiding all the clothes in the cabin is not funny!"
She only smiled impishly in response. Arnav tried his best to scowl at her. His hands itched to grab her, pull her against him, and remove all those damn coats.
But Khushi seemed to have heard his unspoken wish. Because just then, her hands reached for the zipper on the large, white fluffy coat.
Arnav froze as she slowly pulled the zipper down and threw it to the side. She just smiled at him naughtily in response.
"What were you saying, love?" she asked seductively, her hands reaching for the buttons on the brown coat underneath.
Arnav's eyes widened. He couldn't reply as desire and love unfurled within him. God, what was Khushi trying to do to him? He hadn't expected his laughing, innocent wife to be so bold.
Maybe it was because they were all alone in the middle of nowhere, he thought. But then his eyes darkened and he could barely think as Khushi threw the second coat off to the side.
Two more coats followed. Only a shiny, black coat remained on her body.
Khushi watched him with heated eyes as she pulled the zipper down. Arnav swallowed as he glimpsed her bare skin underneath. He watched the growing slit of exposed skin with hooded eyes. His heart beat wildly. He felt oddly breathless.

But Khushi stopped suddenly.
Arnav frowned as he saw her fingers fall to her sides. His eyes ran up and down her body.
The coat had been unzipped to the middle of her slim torso. Her breasts were half uncovered. Her legs and feet exposed as the black coat hit her mid-thigh. Arnav growled softly, motioning for her to continue.
But she shook her head at him, swinging her glossy, long hair over one shoulder in an innately sexy move. Arnav knew that Khushi hadn't even thought twice about what she'd done. Her actions came naturally. She had no idea what she was doing to him..
Khushi suddenly laughed and raced to the other side of the pool.
Arnav's eyes heated as he watched her. Damn, he had to end this game. He'd had enough. He wanted her now.
So with a slight smirk, he reached for the wet bedskirt draped around his shoulders. Khushi's eyes rounded as she saw him toss the sheet aside, her gaze tracing his exposed chest hungrily. But she forced herself to stay away.
Control yourself, Khushi, she told herself. Control.
Yet, she couldn't look away as her husband's hand reached for the other sheet, the one that was tied low around his hips. Arnav winked at her as he dropped the sheet to the floor, kicking it aside.
Khushi's pulse hammered. Her heart soared as she stared across at him.
Arnav suddenly darted forward, reaching her within a matter of seconds. Khushi yelped as his hands wrapped around her. She moaned as he picked her up slightly, crushing her to him.
His body was freezing against hers and she moved instinctively closer, her hands reaching out to warm him. Arnav had other ideas though.
He kissed her then, his mouth hungry and relentless against hers. Khushi's lips parted and her breath hitched as their tongues entwined. They kissed for several long minutes. And then cold air nipped her skin. Khushi backed away, staring down at herself with wide eyes.
"Arnav!" she cried, pushing him away. He'd somehow managed to unzip the last remaining coat.
Arnav smirked against her throat as he threw the black coat away. He reached for her again, kissing her soundly. Khushi's head tilted back as she clutched him to her.
Without warning, Arnav picked her up in his arms and jumped into the heated pool water. She shrieked, her eyes opening with a snap as she felt water lap against her bare skin.
She couldn't pull away as Arnav wrapped his hands around her body, drawing her flat against him. As he pinned her against the pool's tiled wall, he whispered in her ear: "No more games, Mrs. Raizada."
Khushi nodded with a naughty glint in her eyes, "Deal, Mr. Raizada."
They gazed at each other for a breathless moment and then Arnav lunged toward her slightly open, moist lips. Khushi's eyes closed as passion exploded around them.
"I LOVE YOU, DAMN IT!" she screamed minutes later.
Arnav smirked as he held her hips steady in the water. "I love you too, damn it!" he whispered, covering her wet lips with his.


OS: Chocolates, Roses, and Surprises
By: TINA!
Khushi's twinkling eyes traced over Arnav's sleeping face with silent adoration. He looked childlike as he lay spread-eagled beside her: his wavy hair tousled this way and that, his mouth half-open, his eyes sealed shut. But her husband was anything but innocent. Even now in the deep fathoms of sleep, his hand rested possessively on her stomach, keeping her pressed to him.
"I love you, Arnavji," whispered Khushi, dropping a feather-light kiss on his darkly stubbled chin. He instinctively edged closer to her, but remained fast asleep.
A wave of love and warmth rushed through Khushi. To think that this was the same man she'd once despised so vehemently. But no matter how much she'd resisted, she'd been pulled towards him right from the beginning. They belonged together; it was as simple as that. And today was their first Valentine's Day.
A beaming smile spread across Khushi's face as she recalled the TV report she'd seen yesterday. The reporter had thoroughly explained the annual holiday, stressing the romance of chocolates, roses, and surprise presents on this special day. He'd ended the program by wishing the viewers "A wonderful Valentine's Day with your one true love!"
But her one true love looked like he had no plans of waking up let alone celebrating, mused Khushi. Arnav Singh Raizada, you're lucky I love you so much..
A familiar loud noise buzzed just then. Khushi immediately closed her eyes, feigning sleep.
Arnav groaned as he blinked awake, turning off the alarm with half-closed eyes. He immediately fell back into his spot, pulling his wife closer. His arm curled around her waist, his face pressed against the side of her silky, soft neck. He gave himself five minutes more of sheer bliss before rising. A day of back-to-back meetings awaited him.
"Beautiful," he murmured to Khushi. "I have an early meeting so I get the bathroom first today." Before she could say a word, he'd already kissed her on the lips firmly and almost at the same time, jumped out of the bed.
Khushi frowned as she sat up, tucking the blanket under her arms. "Happy Valentine's Day to you too, Arnavji," she grumbled under her breath.
----------------------------------------------------------
A bouquet of red roses sat blooming on the breakfast table as Khushi and Arnav arrived.
"Wow," exclaimed NK, fingering a petal. "Who brought the flowers?" He looked at Arnav with raised eyebrows. "Nanav? It was you, right?"
Khushi's eyes shone as she turned toward her husband. But he was busy drinking his unsavory black coffee, barely glancing at the roses. "No, NK."
Khushi and NK exchanged puzzled frowns.
"It was Akash," whispered Payal, staring at her husband with a warm blush.
Akash smiled at her, reaching for her hand. "Happy Valentine's Day, Payal."
"VALENTINE'S DAY!" shouted NK, his eyes rounding. "I can't believe I forgot! It's my favorite holiday with all the lovey dovey couples getting chocolates, roses, and gifts. Good going, Akash!"
Khushi kicked NK under the table, motioning her head toward her husband. He nodded conspiratorially. Clearing his throat, he asked, "And you, Nanav? What are your special plans today with your valentine?"
Arnav narrowed his eyes at his cousin. "I don't believe in that nonsense."
Khushi's heart dropped. Nonsense? NK started to argue so she kicked him under the table once more, shaking her head.
It was hopeless. The Laad Governor would never change. She stabbed into her breakfast, watching with a frown as Arnav practically wolfed down his.
But then a glowing smile spread across her face as a brilliant idea came to her suddenly. It seemed it was time for a new plan..
----------------------------------------------------------
Arnav glanced at his watch as he navigated through the morning traffic. His first meeting would start in just 20 minutes. A car with colorful hearts drawn on its windows cut him off. Arnav scowled, pounding on the horn.
"Hai Devi Maiyya, why is it so loud?"
Arnav froze as that familiar voice hit his ears. He glanced at the rearview mirror and then turned to confirm it. But it was true; he hadn't imagined it. His wife sat in the trunk, waving at him.
"Good morning, Arnavji--again!"
The SUV swerved to a stop along the roadside. Within seconds, Arnav was outside, pulling open the trunk door. His wife winked at him. He shook his head. "Khushi, what are you doing here? I have an important meeting."
"I hid in the trunk," she admitted. "You know, like that time we went on that romantic trip to Nainital.." She sighed dreamily.
Arnav frowned. Romantic? From what he remembered about that trip, the car had broken down, they'd wandered through a forest, she'd fallen into a giant, muddy hole and some petty criminals had attacked them even. But leave it to his wife to romanticize everything.  A second check of his watch indicated he had only twelve minutes left for the meeting. His tone became noticeably on edge. "Khushi, I don't have time for this. Please, understand."
Her face fell. Tears pooled in her gorgeous eyes. "But, Arnavji, it's Valentine's Day! And everyone who loves someone is celebrating except for us. Why, Arnavji? Don't you love me anymore?"
"What the--! Khushi! Get back here!"
But she was already hurrying away, looking ready to run. He grabbed her thin wrist, swinging her around. Her eyes narrowed, flashing with sudden anger. "Let me go!"
"Never!" vowed Arnav with a smirk. And then in a flash, he picked her up, throwing her over his shoulder as he headed to the parked jeep.
"What are you doing? Put me down! NOW!" Her small fists pounded on the seat of his pants.
Arnav shook his head as he deposited her flailing form in the passenger seat.
As she opened her mouth to shout some more, he dialed a number on his phone.
"Yeah, Aman.. Cancel my meetings. I'm spending the day with my wife." The sudden glow on his Khushi's face was worth all the profit in the world, he decided, reaching for her hand.
----------------------------------------------------------
Khushi's eyebrows shot up as they entered a familiar house. Memories hit her of the past: dancing for Arnav in a flimsy black sari.. wiping his tears away as they talked under the stars.. making love for the first time with her husband..
The farmhouse was just as she remembered it. She stepped into the house quietly, her hand clasped in his.
"Arnavji, why are we--"
He lifted a long finger to her lips, shushing her. "I'll be right back. Give me a few minutes, okay?"
Khushi could hardly argue let alone speak when he looked at her like that: his chocolaty brown eyes melting with warmth and an almost tangible passion. She knew very well by now what that look meant.
Her body tingled as she stood waiting in the foyer, feeling shy suddenly. Her heart sped as she recalled all the moments they'd spent here: the passion, the love, his body on hers as they lay on the carpet..
A warm gel oozed down the side of her face just then. A surprised "What the--" escaped her parted lips.
Arnav laughed. The husky sound sent heat coursing through her. "Valentine's Day.. It's all about chocolates, roses, and gifts, right? So let's start with some chocolate, baby." He smeared some more chocolate syrup across her other cheek and then her lips.
Khushi's breath hitched. "Arnavji.. You're supposed to give a box of chocolates to eat, not play with this sticky goo."
His eyes twinkled at her, the corner of his mouth tipping up. "Who says I'm not going to eat it?"
And then, even as her mouth dropped open with shock, he set his lips over hers, licking away the chocolate. Khushi moaned as he sucked on her plump bottom lip, his tongue finding hers. For the next several minutes, the only sound was the meshing of their hungry mouths..
As her husband left her lips to taste the chocolate on her cheeks, Khushi held onto his chest for support, feeling limp.
"Arnavji.." her words were low with passion. "Your.. your diabetes.. you shouldn't be having sweets.."
"I guess not, but you can.."
Her eyes snapped open. "What?"
He grinned at her as he began unbuttoning his shirt, throwing it to the wood-covered floor. "Your turn, Khushi.."
Her eyes traced over his perfection and then unable to resist, she grabbed the bottle of chocolate syrup, splattering him with it.
The chocolate was almost icy cold as it hit his skin, but the next moment, Arnav barely noticed it. Because his wife's hot mouth was passing over his chest, licking and biting. He groaned as she made her way down his front, dropping kisses as she went. As she reached the top of his pants, he pulled her up, kissing her heatedly. There was only so much he could handle.
"Time for roses, I think.." he murmured against her lips.
She blinked as if confused. Roses? Now? Right now she had only one thing in mind and it wasn't anything botanical in nature. Not even close.
Arnav bit back his grin as he watched the emotions flash across her face. She was so innocent and he could read her so well. "That's what you wanted, right?" he asked, his voice husky from their kisses. "How can a Valentine's Day be perfect without roses?"
Khushi didn't know how to argue with him. She'd fought with him for a proper Valentine's Day after all. "You don't have to get me flowers.."
"I already did so come on. Time for roses.." He grabbed her hand, pulling her down the hall. Khushi wiped at her cheeks. They were still sticky from the chocolates and his mouth.
"But, Arnavji.. I need to clean up."
"I know, love," he said, taking her into a dark room. As the lights were snapped on, Khushi's eyes widened. They were in a spacious bathroom. The Jacuzzi in the far corner was brimming with rose petals. Khushi froze as she gazed at it.
Her husband's arms curled around her waist. His lips glided down the side of her neck. "Don't you like the roses, baby?"
Her chest heaved as his mouth and tongue met the crease of her neck, sucking. She could barely breathe, let alone respond.
"Well," demanded Arnav. "Do you like it?"
Khushi nodded against him, her eyes fluttering close as he gripped her. "I do.. but I think you're supposed to give a bouquet or something. That's what the news report said.."
"But I like to do things differently, sweetheart," he mumbled, cupping her soft flesh. "You know that by now, don't you?" His hands tightened on her.
Khushi gasped, moving restlessly against him. Her body seemed to melt as his hands and mouths took over.
And then she felt the brush of cool air against her skin.
What the?! Skin? Her eyes flew open. But one look at the floor-to-ceiling mirror before her confirmed it: Arnav had managed to undress her completely with her not even realizing it.
Her cheeks reddened as she looked at their reflection. She was bare and pressing against him with urgency, while he was dressed in just his dark pants, making his way down her pliant form.
His eyes met hers in the mirror. "Come on, Khushi," he murmured in a blatantly sexy tone, "Don't you want to experience the roses?"
She turned toward him in answer, her hands tugging off his clothes.
They fell into the tub with a splash, eager lips and hands meeting. Moans escaped them both as skin pressed against skin. Everything seemed to fade as Arnav pulled Khushi on top of him, his mouth trailing lower..
The water was freezing by the time they climbed out. Khushi hugged her husband close, not ready to let go after their powerful passion. "Arnavji, this was the best Valentine's Day!"
"It's not over yet.. let's stay this weekend here," he said, his hand slipping over her smooth hip. He suddenly pulled her hard against him, his face turning serious. "And Khushi, don't you ever doubt my love for you. I don't need Valentine's Day to love you. A single day isn't enough for us. I need you forever."
Khushi beamed, rising up on her tiptoes to kiss him. "I love you, my Laad Governor.."
"And I love you," he told her as he dried her long hair. "By the way, there's still one more surprise for you.."
"What?" asked Khushi as the towel passed over her face.
He smirked at her, carrying her to the bed. "A present, Khushi. Something sparkling.."
Khushi smiled as she remembered the news report. Now that she thought about it, it had mentioned jewelry and other gift ideas.
"Close your eyes," said Arnav as he laid her on the sheets. "And give me your hand.."
Khushi smiled as she felt his masculine hand incase her much smaller palm. So he was giving her a bracelet or a set of new bangles, she guessed.. how adorable.. Sure Arnav had done the chocolates and roses differently, but how could he go wrong with jewelry? She was sure she would love the bangles.
A thick metal clamped around her wrist. It felt oddly clunky. Khushi's eyebrows knitted together, but she still smiled. Okay, it seemed it was a little too big for her taste, but still, she'd love the bracelet, she vowed. After all, her dear husband had gotten it for her.
But then an odd clicking noise broke out. Khushi's eyes opened at once and then froze on her hand.
On her wrist was no bracelet or bangle but a shiny, silver pair of handcuffs. Her eyes widened. "Arnavji!"
"I told you I do things differently," he said with a naughty smile, leaning down to kiss her. "Happy Valentine's Day, Khushi!"
And then as their passion exploded and their cries rung out, Khushi was too overwhelmed to argue. Her Laad Governor, he was crazy just like her. It was true love indeed..
Handcuffs 
******
OS: SP x DH x MG *Happy Birthday Jyo*
By TINA!
Khushi bit down on her bottom lip in a telltale way, her eyes lighting up as she picked up the calendar. All signs pointed to some new plan taking shape in her head. Something "crazy and classic Gupta" as her husband would put it. She picked up a red pen, circling a date.
"Arnav.. Baby, guess what's in one week from now?"
He didn't even look up from his laptop. "Another Sunday?"
She rolled her eyes, grabbing his laptop and setting it aside. "It's something more than that."
"Khushi," her husband complained. "I have an important meeting coming up. Give it back."
She shook her head, her eyes twinkling as she instead plopped down on his lap, winding her arms around his neck. "You know you've become really unromantic lately, Mr. Raizada."
He paused at that, absently stroking her exposed waist. "Blame Aman for it. He just had to take off this week. I have a whole presentation to put together. I trust no one else."
Khushi pressed a kiss to his stubble, smoothing back the lines of tension on his forehead. "It's his birthday, love. And when was the last time Aman took a vacation? 1984? And you know, he really feels horrible about it."
"I guess," muttered Arnav, his lips still compressed. "But this meeting is so important, dammit. Did he have to be born this week?"
She tried not to laugh, failing completely. "It'll all come together, don't worry. But now, guess. Guess what's in one week."
He sighed. "I have no idea. Beyond your birthday and our anniversary, I don't remember much else."
"Gosh, you really are turning into a typical, lazy husband." She held up the calendar right up to his face. "See that? It's New Year's Eve, baby."
"Oh, right. So?"
"So?" Khushi huffed, swinging her hair behind one shoulder. "So I thought we could go somewhere romantic to celebrate."
He truly looked apologetic. "I can't. Not this year. Love, you know the meeting is that following Monday. I'm going to be busy that whole weekend."
His wife pouted up at him, staring at him with a wounded expression. "But I've been waiting for this--for weeks!"
"I'll make it up to you, promise."
"Not good enough, Mr. Raizada. I demand a renegotiation."
The corner of Arnav's mouth curved upwards. His tigress was back, sounding like a true businessman's wife. "What do you suggest?"
She stared at him hard, as if sizing him up. "That kissing game. Only our mouths can touch. First one to touch the other in any way, loses. If I win, we celebrate together. If you win, we stay at home and you can just celebrate with your laptop."
His eyes twinkled at her, glinting with something that made her blush. "Deal."
And then his mouth was on hers, leaving no room for any other thoughts. Khushi kissed him back just as heatedly, using everything she'd learned from him against him. He may have always won this game in the past, but this time she would win. She had to. She wrapped her arms around her waist to keep from touching him.
They were well-matched opponents, neither giving an inch. He stroked her lips and she nipped his in answer, mouths stubbornly fused. She bit back a moan at his touch and kissed him harder. She was close to giving in but just then she felt it: his hand gliding over her waist.
"I win!" She danced on his lap, placing a firm kiss on his cheek. "We're celebrating New Years somewhere magical this year."
"Where? New York again?"
Khushi winked at him impishly. "You'll see soon, husband. It's a surprise."
*****
One week later
"This is your surprise? A giant sandpit?" Arnav muttered as he helped her out of the car.
Khushi elbowed him. "It's the Thar. The desert is so romantic, isn't it baby?" She'd chosen Rajasthan after a lot of researching.
"There's nothing here. I'm not even getting a signal on my phone. Let's just check in at the hotel."
Khushi fought the urge to roll her eyes. Leave it to Arnav to find a five-star hotel anywhere in the world. It didn't even feel like they were in such an exotic place with luxury surrounding them on all sides.
"You know, the hotel has some tents set up in the desert. Wouldn't that be more private?" she said the words with all the seductiveness she could muster.
But her husband was glued to his phone. "The hotel is better. I can even have a teleconference there."
"Arnav, I won the game, you're supposed to be celebrating with me--not working!"
He finally looked up from his phone, smirking. "I said I'll celebrate but I never said for how long. Thirty minutes around midnight should be enough, don't you think?"
"What? Thirty minutes?" sputtered Khushi, hands rising to her hips. "That's unfair, Raizada. I demand the rest of the day and tonight as well."
But he was already tugging her inside the hotel lobby, ignoring her protests. "It's an important meeting. Sorry, Khushi."
Sorry, indeed. Well, it wasn't good enough for her. Later, as he went to shower in their lavishly decorated suite, she called up the hotel management.
"Hello, this is Mrs. Raizada in room 822. Could you please turn off the internet service to our room? Thank you."
*****
Exactly twenty minutes later, Khushi was trying not to grin as she watched her husband frown at his beloved laptop.
"Dammit, there's no internet. Where's the phone? The manager promised excellent internet service."
Khushi jumped to take the phone from him. His eyes narrowed on her suspiciously.
She smiled at him extra sweetly. "Remember the tents I told you about? You'll probably have a connection out there."
He didn't look convinced, and then shrugged. "Fine, let's go check."
As it turned out, the only way to get to the tents was by horse or camel.
"What?" Arnav growled. "What do you mean we can't take a car?"
The hotel staff gulped. "Well, sir, it's more authentic this way. Guests love it."
Her husband started to protest, but Khushi squeezed his hand. "It sounds fun, baby. Please?"
He stared at her with a not-so-amused expression, turning back to the attendant.
"Is there internet available out there?"
"Yes, sir. Of course."
A bit of the tension left Arnav at that. He nodded stiffly. "Fine. We'll go."
"Excellent, sir," said the man. "Which animal would you like?"
Arnav surveyed the horses and camels in the pen and then pointed toward the far back. "That black horse."
"The Arabian. Wonderful choice, Sir."
But Khushi was having second thoughts as the giant stallion galloped toward them. "Arnav," she whispered. "Do you even know how to ride a horse?"
He winked at her. "You'll find out soon, won't you?"
Not reassuring at all, thought Khushi, nibbling on her bottom lip. Maybe, this wasn't such a good idea. She was trying to talk him out of it when Arnav picked her up by the waist mid-sentence, setting her on the saddle. He swung up behind her, taking the reins.
"Just follow the torches," the attendant pointed. "Your tent is the red one."
And then they were off, flying across the sands. Khushi relaxed almost at once. Arnav rode well--really well.
"So you do know horseback riding."
He nodded, tugging her closer against him. "I do, but you need to stop squirming like that or we're going to fall off."
"I am not! It's you who's.. doing that hips thing."
She bit down on her lip as he mimicked that movement again, her chest heaving. This was beyond horseback riding, it was something distinctly hot and sensual.
"Arnav.."
"Shh.." His lips trailed kisses down her neck, his touch branding into her. "We're here."
Her eyes blinked open. She'd been so lost in him, she hadn't even noticed the tents. They were luxurious, and exotic as well, lanterns and silk pillows everywhere.
As Arnav helped her down from the saddle, Khushi couldn't help but admit: "Can you imagine riding like that for longer than five minutes? We'd go up in flames."
He chuckled. "For sure, baby. Now come on, let's check the internet."
Khushi frowned as he opened his laptop, pouring herself some juice and him some wine.
He took it gratefully, typing with one hand. "It's working."
"Great.." Not!
Her husband looked up with a hint of amusement. "It's not midnight yet."
Dammit. Khushi downed her glass, looking about the tent. It really was very beautiful. Her eyes froze on a wooden changing screen. A white and silver belly-dancing outfit hung there. Let's see how long he can resist now..
"Resist what?"
But Khushi had already disappeared behind the screen. She changed out of her clothes quickly, slipping into the skimpy ensemble. The silk felt tantalizing against her skin.
"Well, husband, what do you think?"
He almost choked on the wine when he saw her. "You look like a gypsy."And so damn sexy..
"Sexy? Really?" Khushi grinned, spinning in a circle.
"I didn't say that out loud." He looked confused now.
"You must have. I heard you."
He shook his head while Khushi turned away, putting on some music and dancing. She dipped low, each movement sultry.
Arnav froze, his pulse hammering as she slid a hand down his chest, her lips pressing to his for a breathless moment. She spun away again, shaking her hips.
Now, she's purposely driving me crazy. As if that barely-there outfit wasn't enough. Concentrate, Arnav, he told himself. Focus on the presentation, not on your wife--dancing and looking irresistable. Where the hell had she learned to belly dance like that anyway? She was the most beautiful distraction.
Khushi's mouth dropped open on that last word. "Oh, so I'm distracting you?"Good. It's just what I want. I can't believe I have to do so much to seduce my own husband. What a stubborn man!
"I am not stubborn!"
Khushi stared at him bewildered. "Did I say you were?"
"I just heard you, loud and clear."
"But I didn't say it out loud. I thought it."
"Are you saying I can read your mind? That's insane." If only it could be true,mused Arnav. It would make my life so much easier. Khushi was still a puzzle to him some days.
Puzzle! her voice interrupted in his mind. Well, you're not always easy to live with either! Mr. Unromantic!
His eyes widened. I can hear you in my head.
Khushi looked just as speechless. I can too. But how? Do you think it was the juice and wine?
Must have been. This is crazy. We're having a hallucination.
At the same time?
How else do you explain it, baby?
She couldn't. Mind Games?
Truth was she liked hearing his thoughts. It made everything so much less complicated. She could tell now that he was dying to take her into his arms, that he wanted nothing more than to throw his laptop away.
Didn't you already know that? asked Arnav.
Khushi shrugged, boldly straddling his hips. Not always.
"Well, then, Mrs. Raizada," He cupped her face in his palms. "I'll admit it to you: I desire you. I'm insanely in love with you."
Their lips met in a heady kiss. "I love you too, husband."
He stared at her hard for a long moment and then shut off his laptop, taking her into his arms.
They laughed as they rolled on the silk pillows, unable to get close enough.
Khushi looped her arms around his neck as the clock struck midnight. "Happy New Years."
He brushed his mouth over hers. "Happy New Years, love. I'm looking forward to another crazy year with you." Khushi wacked him in the chest and he added, "An entire lifetime.."
She grinned back at him. "Me too, my Dark Prince."
"Dark Prince?"
Khushi nodded. "It just fits." In this tent, this desert, it suited him.
He kissed her. "Okay, Princess. Now, let's celebrate."
"We just did."
"Again," he insisted with a rakish smirk, lifting her up in his arms. "On the sands this time."
Khushi blushed, sighing with contentment. "Take a sheet too."
Arnav nodded, grabbing the first sheet he saw. It was a thick black cloak. He shrugged, drawing it over his wife and striding out the tent. And then all was forgotten, except the two of them. On the sands.. as passion overflowed.. and hearts, bodies, and minds succumbed.
To the most overpowering emotion: love.
OS: Arshi's Remarriage

The memories were as vivid as they had been six months ago: the flames of the holy fire dwindling to ash, the heavy weight of her emerald lehenga pulling her downwards, and the knife-like pain riddling her heart as she finally realized it. Finally accepted what could no longer be denied.
Arnav was not coming to marry her.
It felt like the world had dimmed around her, as if she was teetering on the precipice of life and death itself. Khushi had been inconsolable, feeling more lost and alone than ever before. Buaji, Jiji, Amma, Babuji, and even members of Arnav's own family had stood by her, but it hadn't helped. Her heart longed for its other half...the one who'd become her very heartbeat.
It had surprised no one when she'd decided to leave Delhi. Her family had even seemed to understand. She'd made them promise not to tell anyone. But it was unnecessary, they loathed the Raizadas now--especially him.
As Khushi had climbed aboard the train that would take her far from Arnav Singh Raizada, she had known that his memories would never leave her. He was embedded in every broken shard of her soul.
"Khushi dear?"
Her head snapped up with surprise, momentarily forgetting where she was: not in Delhi, but in a small church in the hills of Nainital. Sister Mary Catherine stood in the doorway, staring at her with quiet worry in her aged eyes. The head nun had hired her as a cook and part-time teacher in exchange for boarding and a small salary. In just a matter of months, she'd become a motherly figure of sorts.
"Dinner is ready," said Khushi with a smile that did not quite reach her eyes. "I'll be just there."
"Take your time, dear."
Khushi brushed aside a tear as she slowly rose, trying to force thoughts of Arnav aside. But it was useless. She could never forget him.
Not when her body was swelling with his love...when his child grew under her heartbeat. Her hand trembled as it rested on her burgeoning belly.
And so, as utterly foolish as it no doubt was, she still waited for him, still loved him--even now. "Oh, Arnavji..."
*****
A breeze washed over Arnav's face. A familiar voice whispered in his ear:"Oh, Arnavji.."
He glanced sharply to this right, but as he'd known, Khushi was not there. How could she be when he'd ended everything between them with his own hands? She had every right to hate him.
And yet he would always love her--and only her--from the depths of his soul.
He'd needed time to accept the truth, to see that neither Khushi nor her mother could be blamed for his family's misfortunes. It had been his parents' choice to end their lives, and as hard as it was, he had to accept that.
Arnav had always heard hell was a place of fire and wrath, something as vague and unknown as the gates of heaven. But during these past six months, he'd lived in it. Hell, he'd learned, was living without love, without hope, or purpose. Hell was being without Khushi, the woman who'd taught him to dream and love.
As soon as he'd realized his mistake, he'd begun searching for her. But every road seemed to lead to a dead end. He wouldn't give up though. His heart would not allow that. If it still beat, it meant she was still there...somewhere...
"Khushi...Where are you, love? Where are you?"
There was a knock on the door, and for a second, hope kindled in his soul. But it was only Aman, a file in his hand.
"The conference has been delayed, Mr. Raizada. It'll be an hour from now."
Arnav nodded as he stood. "Fine. I'm going to be outside, but I'll make it back on time."
The fresh air of Nainital was soothing, but he felt none of it. Memories of the last time he'd been here flashed past his eyes. He could still picture Khushi, racing towards him with her lehenga clenched in her fists. Could still feel her against him as he lifted her in his arms.
He didn't know what led him to the old church. It felt as if he was guided by something he didn't quite understand. He'd never been a praying man, but his feet took him to the altar. His head bowed in silent prayer.
"Excuse me, Sir," came a voice from the doorway behind him. "Mass will begin in an hour."
He froze, afraid to hope again. But as he turned to meet the woman's widening eyes, he realized that it was real...that she was real.
"Khushi."
Tears came to his eyes as they swept over her face. Never had he seen anything more precious. And then as his gaze fell lower, going to her protruding stomach, the world seemed to shift beneath his feet.
"Stay away from me!" she cried, backing away. "You're nothing, but a stranger to me now!" And then before he could stop her, Khushi was gone.
*****
Over the next few weeks, he followed her like a shadow. They didn't speak, but their eyes spoke volumes. Agony, misery, desire, love--all flickered in those dark depths.
She could not send him away, not when everyone was welcomed in this sanctuary. He may not have broken through her walls, but Arnav quickly charmed everyone else. The nuns adored him. The children seemed to trust him, kicking around a ball with him after Sunday classes as if they were all long-lost friends.
Khushi though kept her distance, too afraid to trust once more. But the one thing she couldn't control was her love for him, her need to be held in his embrace. It took everything in her to stay away.
One afternoon, he brought jalebis for the kids and silently held out the box to her, staring at her with unconcealed longing.
Khushi's eyes were hard to read; the sparkle he loved so much was absent. "I don't eat sweets," she whispered as she turned away. "Not anymore."
And Arnav loathed himself more than ever. He'd not only lost everything, but he'd killed her soul as well.
Khushi tried to avoid him after that, but it was as if fate had other plans. Just like in the past, they would run into each other constantly. He would catch her whenever she stumbled, righting her quickly as his eyes washed over her with worry.
And just like that, love would pulse despite all divides. His touch unraveled her, reminding her of the night they'd spent in an old farmhouse...the love that had cocooned them like a warm blanket.
It was near New Year's Day that tragedy struck. Khushi had been reaching for a bowl when a sharp pain had hit her midline, its intensity sending her to her knees. She'd thought no one was around, but Arnav heard her broken cry. His arms caught her.
"Khushi!"
"The baby, it's too early! Something is wrong!"
Arnav kissed her forehead, lifting her even as more pain blazed through her. "I've got you, love. Nothing will happen to our child."
She wanted to believe him, but a veil of darkness fell over her eyes. And then there was only darkness...
****
It was sometime later that she woke, a familiar hand gripping hers tightly. Arnav was kneeling by her bedside, his voice comforting her even in the throes of relentless agony.
"Will she be okay, Sister?"
The old nun shook her head, tears in her eyes. "It looks unlikely. You'd best say your goodbyes."
"NO! Khushi, you can't leave me...not like this!" His lips pressed to her abnormally warm cheek. "I love you so much. I never meant to hurt you. Please, forgive me. Please, don't punish me by leaving me. I've seen hell, Khushi. I can't live through it again. I need you. I need only you."
A sob broke his words. He fell against her, his arm curving over her weakening body.
"And I love you."
Arnav stilled, certain he'd heard wrong. But Khushi was blinking awake, a small smile on her face as she stared at him. "I will always love you, Arnav Singh Raizada."
He kissed her through their tears, his hands shaking as he cupped her dear face. "We're meant to be, Khushi. Don't you dare leave me. Marry me...be my wife. This life is nothing without you."
Khushi's heart twisted. "I'm too weak. I can feel it...I don't have much time."
He pressed his mouth hard against hers, willing her to live. "You will not leave me! Never!" Tears streaked his ashen face as he pressed closer. "I should have married you that night six months ago, but I won't make that same mistake ever again. Will you marry me--here and now?"
In the end, she hadn't been able to refuse. Their vows were said quietly, whispers of love and devotion. A sacred bond bridged the two.
Someone passed sindoor to Arnav and he applied it to her parting in a thick sweep, kissing her forehead. "Now, fight, Mrs. Raizada. Fight for us...for our baby...for our love."
It was a long night. The labor was difficult. Khushi screamed and buckled on the bed, lost in a fog of endless pain. But Arnav was at her side throughout and she clung to his strength. Their love overpowered all else. Even death had to bow down to it. Everyone was surprised by Khushi's sudden turnaround.
The wail of an infant sounded around six the next morning. Neither Khushi nor Arnav had heard anything more beautiful.
"I love you," murmured Arnav as he set his newborn daughter in his wife's arms. "Both of you so much."
Khushi felt exhausted, but there was nothing but faith and love in her heart as she hugged her husband and child close. "And we love you, Arnavji."

OS: Surrender
by TINA!
She'd been about to step out the main door of Shantivan, a bright, beaming smile on her lips, when rough arms grabbed her, hauling her back inside. The door slammed shut with a loud thud.
Khushi shouted at the top of her voice, but the sound came out as nothing but a muffled squeak.
"NANI! ANJALI DI! JIJI! ARNA--"
The hard hand covering her mouth tightened, forcing her backward against a masculine body. She twisted away, desperate to be free but it was no use. She was trapped--hopelessly trapped.
Through the tinted windows, she could see her family pause mid-conversation as if they heard the faint rustle of the commotion going on inside, peering almost exactly to the spot where she stood captive. If only they could see her..
Mami nudged her son to go check but the man behind Khushi had come well prepared. He motioned to his much shorter accomplice and the man immediately stepped out, nodding hurriedly.
Khushi watched astonished as he spoke to her brother-in-law outside. And then to her horror, the pair turned away. One by one, each of her family members sat in the white SUV, laughing and joking. The accomplice too departed toward the crowded street beyond. And then with a squeal of the tires, the Raizadas were gone, not even once glancing back.
"NO!!!" shouted Khushi, fighting like a tigress. Her heart pounded as she realized she was left alone with him--her kidnapper.
Her body clenched as she felt his large palm glide to her hips, keeping her upright. Goodness, she was in his arms!
Hai Devi Maiyya, she prayed, Please, let it be a dream.. please..
But as his hand fell from her mouth and she turned to face the dark gaze of her captor's, Khushi knew it was all too real. She lashed out against him wildly.
"LET ME GO!" she yelled, elbowing him with all her force.
The man behind her swore as she struck his flesh. Khushi smiled with triumph, ready to hit him once again.
But before she could, his hands tightened around her, pinning her against the wall.
Khushi struggled in his arms for several long minutes with little success. It killed her to admit that she was stuck, trapped to the hard planes of his chest.
Sighing with annoyance, she finally asked in a terse manner, her eyes flashing, "What do you want? Why have you kidnapped me?"
He stilled for a moment as her familiar voice reached his ears.
"I'm not your kidnapper," he smoothly replied. "I'm your husband."
Khushi's anger spread in blazes as she glared at a smirking Arnav.
"No, you're my kidnapper," she insisted. "Who else grabs someone like that?"
Arnav sighed impatiently, "You're mine, baby. And I can take you whenever I want. It's that simple."
Khushi's eyes narrowed at his arrogance. "Take what you want.. How dare you! That is not how husbands should behave! Who do you think you are?"
Arnav pressed kisses to her cheeks and down her neck, pulling her closer yet. Khushi struggled to move away from his lusty caresses, but he would have none of it. Arnav pushed her against his body, his warm breath fanning her ear.
"Who am I?" he repeated, the sound of his amused chuckle sending tingles down Khushi's spine. "I told you, Mrs. Raizada, I'm your husband. Perhaps you have heard of me, I am ASR.."
He said the name as if it held some great authority. Khushi though frowned up at him, trying to ignore how intimately he was pressed to her. Dammit, you're mad at him, Khushi! You shouldn't be thinking of how handsome he is or how much you want to take his shirt off. Stay angry--you have good reason to be.
"What do you want?" she finally managed, exasperated, "Because of you, Arnavji, I missed--"
"You won't be going, Khushi," he informed her coldly. "Over my dead body."
"What! Why?"
He shrugged, looking almost bored. "You called me your kidnapper, right baby? Well, kidnappers don't need to give explanations. So stop the damn tantrums and surrender."
"Tantrums!" shouted Khushi, outraged. In the next breath, she reached to strike him again. But he'd been expecting it.
Arnav growled as he lifted her in his arms, taking her--flailing arms and legs and all--to their poolside bedroom.
"Stop this!" she cried as she realized his intent, her heartbeat escalating. "You won't get away with this! I'll find a way to reach NK or Buaji or--"
Arnav smirked, leaning down so his lips were only just brushing hers.
"Oh really? Well, then I look forward to it. Let's see who can take you from me."
Khushi stiffened at his arrogant tone, gazing up at him crossly.
You will not surrender, Khushi, she vowed to herself, Don't you dare even think of it!
"Did you say something, Khushi?"
Her head snapped up toward her captor. "Let me go! Right now! If you stop this nonsense, I could still make it! Hai Devi Maiyya, what must everyone else be thinking?"
He laughed as he pushed open their bedroom door. "HP told them you had very important plans with your husband and could not make it."
Khushi wrinkled her nose at the mention of his accomplice. But a rosy blush bloomed across her cheeks as she focused on the second half of that sentence.
"You didn't! Arnavji!"
He winked at her, throwing her on the bed without pause. His lean, fit body covered hers.
"Now," said Arnav, bracing himself on his forearms. "Do you surrender to me?"
Khushi shook her head, her glossy hair rippling across the sheets. "Never!"
He smirked at that and then buried his face against her neck, nipping and marking the delicate skin. At her gasp, his tongue soothed the same spot, laving gently.
Arnav pressed more kisses and then slid upwards, finding her mouth. Khushi tried to resist him but as soon as his lips settled on hers, she lost control, arching up to his every caress. He grinned against her, sucking on her bottom lip.
"Arnavji!"
Another breathless moan escaped her as she felt him reach for her sari, drawing it away easily. As his lips wandered lower, latching onto her heaving chest, Khushi drew him closer, her nails raking his back.
Teasing her, he tried to move away but she wouldn't allow that--her hands dove in his hair, tweaking and pulling with force.
"What the-- Khushi! Behave!"
She giggled, drawing off his shirt as she had longed to from the start. "Well, then Mr. Raizada, please tell me how should I behave with my kidnapper?"
His mouth tightened on her, drawing a sharp intake of air from her.
"You're the criminal here, not me. What kind of wife decides to leave her husband two weeks after their wedding? What was I supposed to do?"
She reached for his buckle, confident in her new role as wife and lover. "Well how about not kidnap me like that! Do you have any idea how much you scared me for a split second, Arnavji? You're lucky I know your touch so well by now, otherwise they would have heard my screams till Lucknow."
He threw off the last of her clothes, his hands wandering over each curve with possessiveness. "Well if you hadn't made that plan to leave in the first place, I wouldn't have had to take such steps."
Khushi rolled him over, trailing kisses down his chest. "Leave you? I can never leave you. I love you." She pouted adorably as she lay atop him. "But it was so important to me."
"A dessert exhibition in Mumbai is more important than your husband? Unbelievable. Did you even think about me once? I can't stay without you a single night and you were all packing to go with the rest of the family for three to four days!"
He closed his eyes, taking a calming breath. Why didn't she understand? They were newly weds, he needed her with him dammit!
Khushi kissed him repeatedly. "Sorry, Arnavji. I do see your point. But love, there were going to be 30 booths for jalebis alone! And I wanted to see it all so much."
He reached for her hand, dropping kisses on each fingertip. "Next year, I'll take you myself. But not this year. Tonight, I want just be with you.. I love you, Khushi."
She smiled as she threw herself into his embrace. "And I love you."
They were silent for a moment, listening to the calming sound of the other's heartbeats.
"Arnavji?"
"Hmm?" He replied lazily, his hands massaging her bare back.
"I haven't surrendered to you yet."
His eyes snapped open. In one quick move, he rolled his wife over, pinning her hands above her head.
"Is that a challenge, Mrs. Raizada?"
Khushi blushed, her knees feeling weak as she noted the look of passion and all-consuming love on his face.
"Of course, Mr. Raizada."
He was grinning as he settled back down on her, his hands and mouths missing nothing. She whimpered, wrapping her legs around his waist as he grew more aggressive. Dragging him closer, she responded to his every urgent kiss, every bold caress with equal fervor.
"Surrender to me.." Arnav drawled against her reddened mouth.
And without breaking his gaze, Khushi parted her legs, giving him everything. She'd already surrendered her heart to this man, and longed to be his once more.
"I love you, Arnavji.. my kidnapper."
OS: Full Moon
By: TINA!
A line of dark clouds drifted past the yellow glow of the summer full moon, snaking across like an outstretched hand. It was very late and the road ahead was barren as it curved along the dense forest. Beyond the tall shadows of the trees loomed a swamp and several steep hills.
Khushi stood confused by the muddy curbside. She frowned at the woods around her and then with marked uncertainty, began walking forward, her every step careful. As a cold wind hit her head-on, she wrapped her arms around herself, rubbing her seemingly frozen flesh.
The white silk nightgown and matching robe she was wearing were entirely unsuitable--so were her bare feet. Ignoring the discomfort though, she trudged on, walking alone down the wide expanse of the open road.
But then something changed. The air seemed to vibrate with tension.
She did not understand it, but her body recognized something was out of the ordinary.
Her pupils dilated. Her pulse galloped, its beat irregular. Even her breathing was changing, becoming increasingly harsh and uneven.
Run, Khushi, whispered something from deep within, growing into an unnerving scream. Run, now!
Tightening her arms around herself, Khushi marched forward, but her steps were beginning to falter now. It seemed as if she would fall. A twig snapped behind her, the noise piercing the quiet. Gazing over her shoulder with rounded eyes, she froze, stumbling to a halt.
A shadow stood waiting: tall and entirely black. The most disturbing detail was the blood that pooled at its feet, spreading with each passing second.
And then its hand extended toward her, a bony finger pointing.
Terror--cold and overwhelming--crashed over her. She screamed as she broke into a run, stumbling over her own feet.
A small green sign glowed ahead: "Lourdes Road."
And then she felt it, a hard hand on her shoulder. Even as she yelled to break free, kicking and screaming now, the hand tightened, wrenching her backwards. Into the darkness.
"Khushi! Khushi! Love, wake up!"
Her nightgown was drenched with sweat; her heart seemed to be pounding as Arnav shook her awake. His eyes were dark and stormy as he stared down at her on the bed.
"Love, it was just a nightmare, hush." Worry pooled in his gaze as he set his hand against her pale cheek.
She couldn't seem to find her voice.  Her eyes shifted about their familiar poolside bedroom, some part of her convinced that she was still at the remote road, a shadow chasing her.
"Khushi?"
She took a hiccupping breath and then with a whimper, threw herself into her husband's embrace.
Arnav kissed the top of her hair, massaging her tense back. But she couldn't relax--not this time.
"It's not a nightmare, Arnav."
"Of course it is."
Khushi leaned back, her eyes hollow. "No.. It's my guilt." And just like that, the terrifying memory of one week ago came to her..
She was laughing, her hand gripping Arnav's as he led her to the white SUV. It had become their daily habit. He was teaching her to drive. Or so he claimed.
Mostly, it was an excuse for them to be alone, Khushi thought with a grin.
"How about we go somewhere different tonight?" he suggested as she climbed into the driver's seat.
"But we always go around Shantivan."
Arnav nodded, watching as she clipped on the seatbelt and adjusted the rearview mirror.
"True, but you're getting really good around here. Let's increase the challenge."
A small grin crossed her face. She turned on the ignition, inching forward. "Where to Mr. Raizada?"
He pointed left. "That way.. to Lourdes Road."
The route he picked was picturesque, a scenic drive that curved along a forest. Under the glow of the full moon, it was hauntingly beautiful. But as the sun began to set though, Khushi grew a bit uncomfortable.
"Should we head back?" Her head turned toward him.
And just like that, terror struck. All in a single second.
"KHUSHI!" Arnav had begun to nod at her question, but now he grabbed the steering wheel, twisting it sideways. "WATCH OUT!"
But it was too late.
There was a sickening sound as something collided with the jeep. Blood smeared on the white SUV in crimson streaks. Khushi stomped on the brakes, a scream building in her throat as the tires squealed.
They missed hitting a row of trees by just a scant few feet. Her heart was pounding as she turned to meet her husband's gaze.
"Arnav.. Arnav, I hit someone. I--" She couldn't continue, struggling to breathe.
He gazed back into the darkness. His hand patted her shaking form. "Relax. It was just some animal. Let me check."
Khushi wanted to argue--she'd seen a tall shadow. It couldn't possibly be an animal.
But Arnav shook his head as he returned, slipping inside.
"I checked thoroughly. There was nothing. I told you it was just some animal."
"But we both saw--"
He kissed her forehead. "It was dark. We don't know what we saw, some shadow or something. But no one is out there now."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. I called out several times, love. Just forget about it, okay." He sighed as she remained unmoving. "Khushi, it happens. You didn't mean it. We both tried shifting the steering wheel, but it was too late."
As she sat silent still, he asked quietly: "Do you want me to drive?"
Khushi surprised him when she shook her head. "No, I'll do it."
She couldn't bring herself to tell him that she was half-afraid to step outside. She wanted to leave this awful place. Forget everything.
But her mind wouldn't let her. Guilt consumed her--even now. With every day her doubts grew. And in turn, her nightmares were becoming increasingly terrifying, more and more disturbingly real.
"What if I did? What if I did hit someone?" Her voice was soft and hesitant against him.
Arnav hugged her in his lap, murmuring gently. "Then it would have been an accident--nothing more. But love, we've been over this. You need to forget. Nothing happened."
She wanted to believe him. Taking a deep breath, she held onto him, wishing that the darkness would leave her alone.
*****
That morning, Khushi was greeted by the ordinary sound of scraping forks and knives as she took her seat at the breakfast table. NK was joking with Akash and a stern-faced Arnav as Nani dotingly patted Laxmi. Anjali seemed a bit distracted, her eyes hollow.
"Anjaliji?" Payal asked softly. "Are you okay?"
Khushi paused, staring at her sister-in-law. Her complexion looked almost gray, and there was a tenseness in the way she moved.
NK rolled his eyes before she could reply. "Of course not, Payalji! She's missing her dear hubby. Di, please, he'll be back soon from his meeting."
Anjali forced a smile, almost mechanically chewing on some toast.
As they sat there, Khushi sensed something.. something foreboding. As if something terrible was about to happen.
She'd just stood, a pile of plates in her hands, when a knock sounded on the door.
They were all startled as uniformed officers walked in, their expressions grim.
"Is this Shyam Manohar Jha's residence?"
Arnav strode forward. "Yes."
The man nodded. "You're his family?"
Unfortunately, he was. He'd never liked his brother-in-law, but his Di's vehement attachment to the slippery eel had complicated matters. "His brother-in-law--Arnav Singh Raizada."
"Well, Mr. Raizada, I have some bad news for you all.." They all tensed, Anjali darting forward.
"Is my husband okay? What happened?"
The officer stared at her with a grimace. "I'm sorry to tell you this but he was discovered last night in a four-feet deep swamp--dead."
No one seemed to react for a second, the news sinking in as if through a fog.
Khushi stood shock still, her grasp on the plates tightening.
"What?" NK's voice wavered.
"Are you sure?" asked Arnav.
Anjali's face had whitened several shades now, her eyes fluttered close.
"Di!" screamed several of them as she fell, swaying like a rag doll on her feet. Arnav caught her, holding her up. "Di!"
She was shaking as she raised herself up, her eyes on the police.
"It can't be.."
"We're sorry, Mrs. Jha. But there is no doubt. It took us most of the night to identify him--his body had decayed quite a bit."
"But he's at a meeting. He's supposed to be back next week!" Nani's eyes glinted with disbelief.
The man shared a look with his partner. "It is him--we have no doubts. We found all his information in his pockets, and his car parked about 30 feet away from the swamp. It was parked along the curb, it seems it broke down along Lourdes Road a week or so ago."
The plates crashed to the floor.
Arnav's head had swerved to Khushi. He could read the horror in her gaze as she stepped forward. He shook his head at her, his eyes telling her to stay back.
Tears streaked her face as she went to him. "I told you, didn't I? It was no animal, Arnav. I hit someone that night while driving at Lourdes Road.. I killed someone.."
The shadowy figure from her nightmares had a face now: a twisted face with harsh, accusing eyes and thin lips. It had been Shyam.. Shyam Manohar Jha.
"Is this true?" The officers hadn't missed the exchange. "Do you admit this freely and without coercion?"
Arnav was shaking his head, pulling her behind him. "No! It's some bizarre coincidence. And even if it was, it was an accident. My wife is not responsible."
But her guilt was gnawing at her insides now. Khushi couldn't look away from Anjali's pale face.
"I admit it."
Her husband turned to her with disbelief. "Khushi! Love, don't!"
But the police were already motioning her forward. "We'll need a formal statement, come along Mrs. Raizada."
Arnav was arguing outright now. Khushi was crying as she pulled away from him, heading to the door.
They'd just taken a step outside when a voice spoke behind them.
"Release Khushiji, it was me. I'm responsible Shyamji's death--only me."
And with that, Anjali collapsed on the floor.


*****
As awareness dawned, her eyes snapped open, rounding with ill concealed horror as she noticed her surroundings. Anjali's mouth opened to scream and water rushed in: green and murky.  It clogged her throat, cutting off her breathing and choking her with the strength of iron hands.
Instinct told her to raise herself up, to fight against the onslaught. Her heels dug into the mud as she did just that, coughing terribly as she finally managed to reach the surface.
Air.. faintly cool and yet more wonderful than anything she'd ever tasted, hit her pale face. Panting, Anjali sat up in the water, taking deep breaths. She was surprised to note that what had seemed to be a bottomless lake was actually quite shallow, no more than four feet or so in depth.
And yet, there was a gloom here. An eerie stillness as the full moon peeked behind the overhanging trees.
Swamp.. she realized. You're in a swamp.
For some inexplicable reason, the word terrified her. She could not recall why. Blackness seemed to cloak that secret in her mind. Whatever the reason, it shook her to the core, lancing her in the gut.
She had to leave.. had to leave right away..
Moss and mud stained her once elegant net sari as she rose up, struggling to stand. A sudden booming noise shook her.
Her head swung to the right.
An owl stood balanced on a thin tree branch, its eyes unnerving as they fixed on her. Anjali shuddered, and then on swaying legs, finally stood.
Water droplets slid off her, spraying in every direction. She had just taken two steps when she heard a splash behind her. Followed by the gurgle of a voice.
A voice that seemed to echo with the wind.
"Rani Sahiba.."
Fear stole her every thought. With a gasp, she spun around, her eyes widening as ripples sprung from the center of the swamp.
A shape emerged from the murky depths, tall and dark.
As the moonlight struck it, Anjali screamed, the noise piercing the quiet.
The body moving toward her was grotesquely scarred and decayed; green slime oozed down the harsh, angular face, mixing with streaks of blood. The eyes appeared murderous, the once white sclera now crimson red.
The most frightening part though was that she recognized this man.. it was her husband..
"You.. you did this to me, Rani Sahiba.." Shyam's voice was thick and slurred. "You killed me.. It's all because of you!"
Anjali stumbled backwards, shaking wildly. Her bare feet slipped on the muddy embankment, and with another hair-raising shriek she plummeted, plunging into the shallow swamp water. 
"Rani Sahiba.." He was closer now, hobbling ever closer with every passing second. "You took my life. And now, I will take yours!"
"No, no! I never meant to! Please, please Shyamji!"
There was no trace of humanity left in his hard gaze.
With a brutal roughness, his hands descended toward her throat, the fingers splayed wide like claws. Blood and ooze sprayed on her face as he towered above her.
"NO!"
Her eyes closed tightly. She couldn't bear to watch. "NO!"
"Di!"
The voices at her ear were completely unexpected.
Anjali was gasping as she sat up, her body shivering as she gazed up at the circle of familiar faces: Nani, NK, Akash, Payal, Mami, Khushi, and her Chote.
Even as she recognized them, her heartbeat raged out of control still. It was as if she was still in the swamp.. her dead husband ready to take revenge.
"Di?"
Her brother's voice was quiet and concerned as it washed over her. His face was the first one to come into focus.
"Ch--Chote?"
Arnav laid a hand on her trembling shoulder, turning her to face him. "You fainted, Di. You said.. to release Khushi and then you fell."
Fell.. fell right into a hideous nightmare.. 
"Di?" NK looked troubled. In his palm was a handful of bottle water. He sprinkled more on her whitened face.
"Don't!" she cried, twisting away.
It was just like being in the murky pond once more, her husband standing above her. The water.. so it had been just plain water and her mind had twisted it into blood and slime.
Her family would have let her rest now, but the officers standing on either side of a confused Khushi were all business.
"Mrs. Jha?" asked one. "Now that you are up again, will you still stand by your statement? Are you responsible for your husband's death?"
They were all startled, shaking their heads on her behalf. But Anjali glanced up, her eyes hollow and teary.
"Yes.. I am the sole reason," she affirmed again.
"Di! What are you saying--"
"Please, Mr. Raizada, let her speak. Go on, Mrs. Jha. How did you kill Shyam at Lourdes Road one week ago? And why?"
Anjali swallowed nervously. "I don't know anything about that road or what happened there. But I am still guilty. My husband.. he came to me right before leaving for his business trip eight days ago--demanding money."
"And you didn't tell me, Di?" broke in Arnav. "I would have handled that man. Just like I have in the past."
She shook her head, unable to meet his searching gaze. "I know you've never approved of him, Chote. And I do admit Shyamji had his faults. But my heart.. I couldn't help it. I always loved him. Only him."
"What did he want the money for?" The taller of the two officers asked, his eyes flying between the brother and sister.
Anjali shrugged, trying to recall her husband's exact words. "He didn't tell me, just shouted that he needed it. But the amount he asked for--it was too much. I refused to give him the check.. And then he turned to me with angry eyes, whispering furiously: 'You'll regret this, Rani Sahiba. Wait and see.'"
Khushi frowned. "That's all? Di, you didn't kill him, don't you see? You are not responsible."
Anjali wiped back tears. "Maybe I didn't directly, but I drove him to it. Shyamji must have been so upset.. he must have been walking on that road with thoughts of suicide because of me. And then, you accidently struck him, sending him to the swamp."
Arnav raised his hand. "Enough, Di. You are not responsible. And neither is Khushi. This is all some misunderstanding."
The officers though seemed to not agree, speaking to Anjali first. "From your account, Mrs. Jha, it seems your husband was threatening you. You are not responsible for his death. But, Mrs. Raizada.. do you still stick by your statement?"
Khushi couldn't bear to look at her husband. It hurt too much. But she had to stand by the truth. She couldn't live with this guilt.
"Yes.. I hit someone that night."
"Then, we'll need a formal statement. Come along."
Arnav this time threw himself in front of her. "I won't let you! She's just being emotional, officers. I was with her that night--I can testify that it was all an accident."
"Still. She needs to come with us." The man motioned Khushi forward.
It took everything in her to leave her husband's side. All she was wanted to do was throw herself into his arms and never let go. If only this was nothing but a horrible dream.
But of course, this time it was not.
As the argument traveled out the door, Anjali fell to the floor once more, sobbing uncontrollably. Nani and Mami clasped her tightly, whispering words of reassurance:
"Hush, bitiya. It's not your fault. It was never your fault."
*****
Later that day, Arnav was striding down the hallway on the second floor of Shantivan, his every step urgent.
"Did you contact the lawyers already?" he asked Aman. "Is everything set?"
His assistant nodded, following closely behind. "They're finalizing everything. Her defense is ready."
Arnav's lips thinned as he strode into his sister's empty bedroom.
"Khushi is innocent. She did not kill that man."
He pointed to the portrait of a too sweetly smiling Shyam.
"Of course," said Aman. "But there are complications.."
"Meaning?" Arnav strode to the armoire, searching through the piles of neatly folded clothes.
Aman hesitated. "The blood on the white SUV matches Shyam's. According to the police, the case is closed."
"Like hell it is," ground out Arnav, flinging shirts and sarees to the floor.
It was hard to keep himself in control. All he wanted to do was return to the police station again. But he'd been escorted out after several outbursts, and warned that he would be arrested if he didn't keep his voice down.
That wouldn't have stopped him. Not when it came to his Khushi.
But his wife's teary, pleading face had silenced him. She looked like she was on the verge of a collapse.
"Please, love. Please.. just leave for now--for me," Khushi had whispered.
He'd kissed her cheek, promising to be back in an hour and this time, take her home with him.
Twenty minutes had already passed and yet, he was no closer to that promise.
"Boss? What are you doing?" Aman asked, as he watched him turn over the mattress roughly, throwing it aside.
"I'm searching, Aman. For something.. anything."
He could not sit still, concern for his wife at the forefront of his every thought.
"The police are overlooking a huge detail," he explained. "Shyam was supposed to be at a business trip. How did he end up at Lourdes Road in the first place? There's more to this whole story, a lot more. I just know it."
Aman joined him, searching through the bedroom. But ten minutes later, both had to admit defeat. There was nothing important here.
"Boss?" said Aman worriedly. "We can search some more. Maybe at his office? Shyam would have never left any clue so easy to find."
Something clicked in Arnav at those words.
He strode out the room, heading to his own.
"That's it.. He wouldn't have left anything out in the open. He would have hid it: in a place secure and untouchable."
"What do you mean?"
Arnav grabbed his laptop. "Online. He was always doing something on his phone or laptop, don't you remember?"
Shyam's email account was easy to trace, but the password seemed impossible. They tried everything: variations of his name, Anjali's name, Rani Sahiba, etc.
Arnav recalled his brother-in-law's sick fixation with Khushi once and typed in her name.
Incorrect, popped a message.
His teeth gritted as he tried variations of his wife's name. When he'd first found out about Shyam's wandering eyes, all he'd wanted to do was throw him out, but Anjali had begged and pleaded, telling him that her Shyamji would never look his wife's way. Even the man himself had agreed--but only after a complete and total seal on all his accounts.
Arnav's hands paused on the keyboard. Yes.. there was one thing Shyam had loved above all else..
Money..
He typed the password carefully, his finger stabbing 'enter'.
Welcome, read the screen. You have 15 unread messages.
"You got it?" Aman appeared surprised as he set aside his phone, coming closer.
They both read the inbox list and then turned to each other with confusion.
"Naina Singhania?" said Arnav, scrolling down.
"The famous hotelier's only daughter? Why would she be emailing Jha for?"
Arnav clicked on the 'Private Chat' button, reading a series of messages quickly.
The first few were dated from twelve days ago..
Naina: I miss you, darling.
Shyam: I know, I miss you too. But I'll take the first flight to you. You know how much I love you, don't you, Rani Sahiba?
Naina: Really? Prove it first.
Shyam: ??? How?
Naina: Divorce that crybaby wife of yours. I can't stand her!
Shyam: You know I'm working on that. As soon as Anjali hands over me more money, I'll leave her--forever!
Naina: Don't wait for her to offer, darling. We both know how she is. You need to yell at her.. threaten her..
Shyam: :) Yes, I will. I'll scare her so much.
Naina: Hahaha. And then we can combine our money, darling. My dad will leave me everything eventually, but he still has some years left to live unfortunately. Till then we need that Raizada money. Daddy cut off most of my credit cards, you know. Can you believe it? :(
Shyam: Don't be sad, Rani Sahiba. I have a plan for even more money. Something beyond any check Anjali could ever give me.
Naina: What are you planning? Tell me..
As Arnav and Aman read Shyam's response, both exchanged shocked looks. Arnav printed several copies and then he was standing, heading to the stairs.
"This is it," he said. "This explains everything."
*****
Exactly two minutes before his promised time limit, Arnav pulled his wife into his embrace, massing her tense back as Aman handed over the printouts of the messages between Shyam Jha and Naina Singhania.
"Are you okay?" he asked Khushi.
She hugged him tight. "I knew you'd come. But how? What did you find out?"
He drew a second copy of the messages from his pocket, giving them to her directly.
As Khushi read, her eyes snapped to his with shock.
He nodded grimly. "Read it out loud, Khushi. Shyam's last message."
Her hands were shaking.
Naina: What are you planning? Tell me..
Shyam: To kill Arnav and Khushi Singh Raizada. If they're dead, AR Design's wealth will go to that arrogant Arnav's dear sister, and thereby me. ;) He's been taking his wife for driving lessons every night around Shantivan. I will have the jeep's steering and braking system switched to our favor. It won't be long before they crash. Haha. I will be a bit sad for Khushi's loss, but who cares? Now I have you.
Naina: And you always will, darling. When are you setting this plan into motion?
Shyam: In a few days.. on the full moon. Strange things happen that time right, Rani Sahiba?
Naina: Yes ;) Perfect, darling."
Khushi gazed up at her husband. "This means.."
Arnav nodded. "It means you are not responsible, love. With the brakes and steering tampered with, we couldn't have prevented any crash. That night, we tried, remember?"
Khushi sagged against him. "So Shyam killed himself. He never expected us to leave the lanes around Shantivan. But why was he at Lourdes Road?"
"Aman checked into it. Apparently, Lourdes connects to the main highway that leads to the airport. There is no doubt in my mind," said Arnav. "That Shyam was heading there when his car broke down at Lourdes Road. He was walking in the darkness, when headlights appeared. He planned for us to die, but he never expected that the jeep he'd tampered with would strike him, throwing him into a swamp."
The officers nodded grimly. "You are not responsible for his death, Mrs. Raizada. It seems if it wasn't for his own plans to harm you and your husband, Shyam Manohar Jha would still be alive today."
Khushi nodded, never leaving her husband's side as he led her out. They were both quiet as they headed home, their hands gripping one another tightly.
That night as they lay entwined, the comforting sound of her husband's heartbeat lulling her to sleep, there were no nightmares waiting for Khushi. There were only dreams.. bright, colorful dreams of love and family.
Strange things happened with the full moon.. strange indeed.

OS: Dr. Raizada--a journey of love and friendship
By: TINA!
I was ten years old when I first saw him.
It was a smothering warm day in Lucknow and I was cutting across the back gardens of Sheesh Mahal, trying to cover my giggles with my hand.
"Khushi!" called my mother from a distance. "Where are you? Come back here, bitiya!"
I shook my head impishly, my hair flying in the humid air as I ran on, darting behind the tall, looming trees that dotted the garden. As Amma called my name a second time, I glanced back and almost in the same breath, ran headfirst into someone. We fell on the grassy ground with a thud.
"Watch it!" snapped the boy as he helped me up, frowning at me with dark eyes. He looked just a couple of years older than me.
"Sorry," I mumbled, wiping at some dirt and grass on my pale pink dress.
He made a face, but then he noticed my elbow. He grabbed my arm, turning it so he could see the injury. It was a small, red scrape and hardly bleeding.
"Come on," he said, pulling me to the main house. I knew I shouldn't tag along, but I couldn't help it. There was something about him. And so I followed him on, ignoring all my parents' warnings to never go inside the mansion.
The boy though didn't act like there was anything wrong with me being in Sheesh Mahal. He pulled me inside the huge kitchen, reaching for a box of with a red cross on it. My eyes rounded as I looked around the room--it was easily the same size as our entire cottage out back.
"Arnav!" broke in a harsh voice suddenly.
We both glanced up: an old woman was frowning at us--well mostly me.
I instinctively moved behind the boy, peering around him toward the intimidating lady.
"Yes, Dadi?"
"What is our new gardener's daughter doing inside the house?" She spat the word gardener as if it was a terrible insult. "And with you? I told those Guptas to keep her out of here."
I shivered at her cold voice, huddling closer to Arnav. He hardly reacted, seeming used to his grandmother's ways. "It's not her fault. I brought her here."
Her face puckered. "She does not belong here, Chote."
A second elderly woman entered the room, her face softening as she spotted me.
"Sumitra, please. Let them play.. they're just children."
But his Dadi refused to back down. "It's a bad idea," she declared, her eyes boring into mine. "A very bad idea, I'm telling you." With a last glare, she turned on her heel, stomping out of the kitchen.
"Thanks, Nani," murmured Arnav. She winked at us, smiling as she left.
For a moment, we stood motionless, alone in the kitchen and then he spun towards me. "Give me your arm. It's Khushi right?"
I stared at him owlishly, barely feeling the sting of the cut. "How do you know that?"
"I sometimes talk to your dad in the gardens. He mentions you always."
I watched him closely as he cleaned the wound. He was so focused, so very careful.
"Arnav?" I murmured shyly.
"How do you know my name?"
"Babuji talks about you too. And your Dadi mentioned it just now too, " I reminded.
He nodded, dabbing at my injury with more gauze.
"Arnav.. Are you a doctor?"
He glanced up, shaking his head.
I smiled brightly at him. "You would be a great doctor."
He stared at me, silent again. And then shrugging, he went to put the first-aid kit away. I fingered the bandage, a smile curving my lips.
"Arnav?" I asked again.
"What now?"
I took a deep breath, speaking in a breathless rush: "Willyoubemyfriend?"  My palm reached across toward him, bridging the gap between us.
He just stared at me again, his eyes going from my outstretched palm to my dirt-streaked face and mane of wild curls. Tears came to eyes when he said nothing, but then surprising me completely, his hand closed around mine.
And for the first time, we smiled at each other.
*****
Five years later..
I had turned fifteen a few days ago and as always, I was scurrying through the gardens of Sheesh Mahal, my eyes searching for him. Where was that Laad Governor? My best friend? He had to be out here somewhere. We almost always met in the garden.
The house was still off-limits for me. Over the years, I had become very close to his kind Nani, doting parents, and sister, but his Dadi still loathed me. If anything, her dislike had intensified.
I ran on, heading toward the new flowers being planted in the West corner. And just as I had expected: there he was. Sitting cross-legged next to my father, listening to him explain all about the plants. Both were so busy, neither noticed me. I cleared my throat noisily.
"Bitiya," greeted Babuji, wiping back the beads of sweat on his forehead.
I nodded at him, but frowned at the young boy beside him. "Happy Birthday, you mean Laad Governor!"
"Khushi!" shouted my father, his eyes widening at my rudeness. "Apologize right now to Arnav bitwa."
I started to argue but Arnav stood up just then, shaking his head. "It's okay, uncle. I deserve it."
My eyes narrowed at his teasing grin. Did he think I would forgive him that easily? Making a face at him, I ran in the opposite direction, knowing he would follow.
His hand caught mine near some tall bushes, forcing me to stop.
"Khushi! You know I didn't mean it."
I pouted at him. "But you're still leaving. To that.. that Harvard.." My voice shook over the dreaded word. We'd barely been apart in the past five years and now he was leaving to some mysterious college. My heart squeezed at the thought of him leaving Lucknow.. making new friends at his fancy school.. forgetting all about me..
"There's still some days left," he whispered, but his face was worried too under the beaming sunlight. "And you know I can't argue against it. It's a Raizada tradition--we all go to that university when we turn 18."
I couldn't help it, I hugged him tightly. He hated it when I did that, but it never stopped me.  And then a brilliant idea came to me. I leaned back so I could meet his gaze. "How about a birthday party before you go then? Please Arnav?"
He shook his head. "I hate birthday parties."
"But--"
"No, Khushi. Stop being such a girl," and then before I could say a word, his grandmother's voice called through the trees. "Chote!"
"See you later," he said as he ran off.
Around lunchtime that day, I made a small chocolate cake for him, mixing and perfecting the batter under Amma's watchful gaze.
"Amma? Do you have some boy's clothes my size?"
Her eyes narrowed at me. "What are you up to now, Khushi?"
I laid a hand across my heart. "Nothing, I swear, Amma. But Arnav called me a girl today and I want to show him I'm not."
"But you are," she replied, shaking her head.
"Please? Please! Just for today?"
Amma sighed as she got up and I almost cheered with triumph, hurrying after her.
Later that afternoon, I walked across Sheesh Mahal's beautiful gardens, my every step careful for the first time. I was balancing the cake in both hands, staring at it worriedly.
I fervently hoped he would like my gift.
The black button-down shirt and blue jeans I had scrounged up were not as comfortable as my normal clothes, but I ignored the discomfort.  My hair was pulled back in a braid. I'd tried to find a hat to hide it under but hadn't been lucky enough.
And then out of the blue, fireworks lit the skies above me, sparkling. I froze, staring at the colorful display. Inching closer to the mansion, I was surprised to hear the sound of loud laughter and music.
I walked onto the veranda, peering in through one of the gleaming windows.  A party was going on inside. Balloons were everywhere. A bright blue banner read: "Happy 18th Birthday Arnav! Congrats on Harvard!"
My eyes widened as they found Arnav in the midst of the chaos. He seemed annoyed, his face drawn up as all his friends and family gathered around him. Dressed in a formal black suit, he fit in perfectly, unlike me. At his side were some teenage girls dressed in huge, flouncy dresses and a few boys in formal attire. I recognized some of them: Sheetal, Akash, Anjali, the Raina triplets, and some of his regular friends. I frowned as I looked down at my denim, tomboy attire. What had I been thinking?
"Time to cut the cake," called Arnav's Dadi, pulling him toward a six-tiered intricately decorated cake.
Arnav paused, the knife in his right hand suspended midair. And then to my horror, his eyes found mine. I ducked, but I knew he'd seen me, with my face pressed against the glass, peeping in. Spinning around, I ran toward the gardens, clutching my pitiful gift.
"Khushi!" His voice stopped me. My heart lurched as I turned toward him, trying to hide the cake.
I thought it couldn't get any worse, but it did. Most of his classmates had followed him out. They all gawked at me like I was some wild animal at the zoo.
"Who is she?" asked one of the boys, his voice high-pitched.
"She?" repeated Sheetal, her nose turning up with distaste. "Girls don't dress like that."
"Enough!" shouted Arnav, his face twisting in the dim light.
"What are you all doing out here!" interrupted his mother from the patio door. "Come on inside."
As their eyes finally left me, I slipped behind the trees, tears streaking my face as I ran to my favorite alcove. I sat on the muddy ground, hugging my bent knees tight.
I thought Arnav would leave me alone after that. How much humiliation did I have to bear tonight? But a few minutes later, he crouched down beside me, silent and expressionless.
"That cake looks yummy.. Is it for me?"
I couldn't look at him. Handing it over, I said nothing, listening to him take a few bites.
He licked his fingers. "It's better than that monster cake inside."
My breath hitched. I turned toward him, my eyes widening with shock. "What?" It couldn't be true. "Don't lie Arnav!"
His eyes were troubled as they met mine. His hand rose to brush away my tears. "It's the truth."
He didn't need to say it, I could read the truth in his chocolate brown eyes. More tears threatened. "Why are you here Arnav? Go back to your party--you belong there."
He sighed, leaning against the tree trunk. "They threw me a surprise party, I didn't know anything about it, Khushi. You know I hate parties."
I nodded, lost in thought. Despite his reassurances, I knew there was a glimmer of truth in my words--we did belong to two, very different worlds.
His hand tugged on my braid. "Nice jeans too by the way, but why the sudden change?"
A blush tinged my cheeks. "You said 'stop being a girl' remember?"
He laughed, the uncommon sound hitting me as always. I wished he would smile more, it made him even more handsome and charming.
I froze as that thought came to me: Handsome? Charming? What was wrong with me?
And then he turned me toward him, flicking a finger across my nose. "You're perfect just as you are, Khushi. Don't change, okay?"
I could barely nod, my heart constricting at the quiet warmth in his gaze. As the stars twinkled down at us, I leaned my head against his shoulder, my eyes closing as he tugged me closer.
Arnav.. how would I live without him?
****
Two years later..
I frowned at Arnav as he bent down to retrieve a shovel from the ground. His gardening hobby had grown over the years, much to his Dadi's displeasure.
It was summer break and it was one of the few lucky times in the year we were together. The other ten months of the year, I waited for him to return to Lucknow, chatting off and on. I had missed him so desperately this time, and it amazed me that within a week of his return, he'd managed to make me angry.
But it was all Arnav's fault. How dare he stride around the gardens like that? Wearing nothing but some low-strung jeans?
It would have been more than okay if it was just me admiring the view, but a handful of my friends from my 11th grade class had come over to study. More than the books spread across their laps though, they were all watching Mr. Raizada--a little too closely for my taste. My lips twisted as I noticed them stare at him. I stiffened as one girl practically drooled.
Straightening up, I strode toward Arnav. He turned behind some trees and I hurried to corner him, away from the glare of the prying eyes.
His eyebrow rose in surprise. He crossed his arms across his gleaming chest, his muscles becoming more pronounced by the simple gesture. I quivered, fighting to tear my eyes off him.
"What is it, Khushi?" he asked, stalking closer.
My palms felt clammy as I twisted my hands together. "Wear a shirt, Laad Governor!"
The corner of his lip tipped up as he buttoned on a maroon shirt. "Why? You didn't like your friends staring at me?"
My eyes rounded. "What! You knew? The whole time you knew!"
He didn't have to answer me, I knew the answer by his twinkling eyes alone. Acting like a total mad woman, I smacked my fists against his chest. "How could you? You were purposely showing off weren't you?"
His eyes darkened as he stared down at me. "Why do you care so much?"
My anger swelled, overwhelming me. "Why? Because.. because it's you!"
Arnav tugged me hard against him. "What does that mean?"
Everything I'd been feeling for years now spilled over. "This," I murmured, pressing my lips against his.
It was a chaste kiss, nothing but a fleeting meeting of mouths. As soon as I realized what I'd done, I jumped away, my face reddening.
But he wouldn't let me go. He tugged me back against him, and this time as our mouths met, there was a hunger to it.. a pent-up longing emerging from depths unknown.
He tasted me and I allowed him, relishing his every touch. I pushed against him, my eyes opening with shock as his tongue stroked mine.
Arnav froze against me in the same breath. And then without a word, he let me go, walking away.
My body quaked as I stood there; my breathing was erratic. I rose a trembling hand to my lips, touching the softness with wonder. My first kiss.. our first kiss..
I was smiling bemusedly the rest of the afternoon and into the night, coming up with crazy ideas and dreams: more kisses.. Arnav as more than a friend.. Arnav as my husband one day.. the father of our pack of naughty, wavy-haired kids..
I ached to go to him, but made myself wait till the rays of sunshine finally shone.
As I walked to Sheesh Mahal the next morning, I knocked softly. Dadi opened the door, but I refused to let her ruin this moment for me.
"Is Arnav up yet?" I asked, my eyes searching for him behind her.
"He's gone," she snapped, almost cruelly.
Her words hit their mark and deeper still, severing my heart in two. I couldn't believe it. He couldn't have gone.. not after--
But his Dadi nodded. "He left last night; he was in a great hurry. I've told you this before and I'm warning you again: Stay away from him, girl. He belongs in a world of riches and luxury, with someone like Sheetal or Natasha or some other high-class girl. Don't you dare contact him again."
My eyes narrowed at the threat. "What will you do if I do?" I asked.
Her lips thinned. "I'll fire your father. Who will hire an aging gardener these days? Think about it Khushi," she whispered, slamming the door close.
I was shaking as I ran back to the cottage, crying hopelessly. Arnav.. Where are you?
*****
Four years later..
"Khushi," said Veer, gazing up at me. "Will you marry me?"
I ignored the question, staring at him kneeling before me on one knee with rounded eyes. I tried tugging my hand free, but he held it securely, refusing to let go.
"Veer.. stop this!" I yelled a little too loudly, heedless to the curious onlookers gathering around us. My anger surged. How dare he corner me in the middle of a crowded area, purposely drawing attention?
"I love you," he continued on, overlooking my every attempt to be free of him. "Ever since you began working with me two years ago."
I frowned at him.  "I don't feel the same for you. Now let me go." My voice was colder and harsher than ever before.
His eyes flashed with anger. "It's that Arnav Singh Raizada, isn't it? You have feelings for him, don't you?"
Shock stole my speech momentarily. How did he possibly know about Arnav?
"Your Buaji told me about him. She said you were supposedly his childhood best friend.. Let me guess, poor Khushi fell in love with him and he didn't give a damn."
I spun away, my body shaking as I hurried off.
Veer though was unrelenting. "I hear he's back in town. Graduated from medical school didn't he? Dr. Raizada now."
I hailed down a passing taxi, slamming the door shut as Veer gazed at me with fury. I barely saw him. My mind, heart, and soul were lost in Arnav again.
Four years had passed. I was now 21. And yet even now, I remembered my childhood friend, my other half. Even my teenage heartbreak in the garden was fresh in my mind, as if it had only been last night that he'd left me.
We hadn't spoken since that fateful night. I didn't know what stopped him, but his grandmother hindered me. I had gotten a job once school had ended, but the money was hardly enough. And so I still lived with my parents in the shadows of Sheesh Mahal.
Arnav--Dr. Raizada as I had tried to dub him in my mind-- had been back for a week now, working at a nearby hospital. Outside of a few glimpses through the trees two nights ago, I hadn't met or seen him. But even that small moment had shaken me to the core. He was no longer the boy I recalled so vividly. At over six feet with a lean, toned shape, he was maddeningly handsome. But I recognized some hints of the teenager I had once known: his hair was just as messy and wavy, his face just as angled and chiseled. And yet there was a hardness to him now, a brooding quality that had intensified with time.
Amma had said he had come over several times to see me, but every time I had thankfully been away. I told myself I did not want to meet him. He had left me.. he had not even once contacted me.. but my foolish heart ached for him.. even now..
As the taxi passed through the crowded streets of Lucknow, I changed my mind, telling the driver to go to the temple instead of home.
I needed to calm myself, to build up my defenses against his pull.
As I strode up the steep, white steps, I suddenly paused. My heart seemed to quake. And then my eyes rose up, widening:
There he was, standing before me.
I thought of running away, but his gaze met mine. His hand rose to his sunglasses, removing them as he stared at me. The moment was unlike anything I'd ever felt. It felt almost holy. And despite all the feelings warring within me, I found myself walking to him.
We met halfway, our eyes latching onto the other with a pent-up yearning.
"Khushi.."
His husky voice crashed into me. I suddenly remembered my broken heart. I spun around, trying to flee.
His hand grabbed mine. A cry escaped me. A pain throbbed on my hand. He seemed to recognize it. Perhaps it was his medical education, but he found my injury before me.  His jaw tightened as he gazed down at my hand horror-stricken.
There was blood around my ring finger, where Veer had clung too tightly. Arnav's mouth tightened as he studied the nail marks.
"How did this happen? Are you alright?"
His concern nearly undid me. I could only watch as he wrapped his handkerchief around my ring finger, too shaken to do much else.
This close, I could see the specks of gold in his eyes, the light stubble that dotted his cheeks. I ached to touch him, to throw myself into his arms.
But we were not meant to be. His Dadi was right; we belonged to different worlds.
"Let me go, Dr. Raizada," I whispered indifferently, running away.
If only the words could be true. If only his hold on me could fade away..
*****
The next few days, Arnav kept trying to meet me--at home, at work, on a random street. But I avoided him each time. Why couldn't he leave me alone?
And then, while I was still grappling with him being back in my life, tragedy struck.
Babuji had a sudden pain while gardening. He collapsed to the ground, clutching his chest.  At the hospital, he was diagnosed with a heart attack almost immediatly. As Amma, Buaji and other family members gathered, I strode down the hallway, needing a moment alone.
And then that same breeze wafted toward me, curling around me. My heart squeezed as I gazed up.
There he was, standing before me with aggrieved eyes. He recognized my pain as always. Just as I did his. And in that moment, I realized that nothing else mattered.
With a cry, I ran toward him, throwing myself against him.  He was shaking against me, his hands at his sides. For a moment, I thought he would reject me, but then his hands rose, engulfing me in his embrace.
"I'm so sorry, Khushi," he whispered. "I'm so sorry."
He dropped kisses across my face, holding me close. "I love you, sweetheart. I love you so much."
His words pierced my heart. "But you left me.."
"I was an idiot," he admitted brokenly. "After that kiss in the garden, I went inside Sheesh Mahal, more happier than I'd ever been. Dadi though cornered me.. I guess she saw us kiss. She told me to stay away from you. She said you were too young and I had taken advantage of you. That I had done something unforgiveable. I couldn't face you after that. So I threw myself into university and then medical school. But you, I could never forget you."
I cried against him, my tears soaking his shirt. "She told me you belonged with someone better. I began to think the same."
"What?" he brushed back my hair, gazing at me as if I was something precious. "You're the best thing that ever happened to me--ever since you collided with me all those years ago. Dressed in a mud-streaked pink dress, grass in your hair. You're the one who told me to be a doctor, remember? You mean the world to me, Khushi. I can't live without you, I'm done trying to."
I kissed his tears away, my mouth quivering. "I can't stay away from you either. We belong together--we always have. I love you, Arnav.. love you so much.."
We kissed then, a happiness unlike any other overwhelming us.
*****
One year later..
I sat in our favorite place in the back gardens of Sheesh Mahal near some blooming roses. Arnav lay beside me, his head in my lap.
As I weaved my hands through his wavy hair, he brushed a kiss across my protruding abdomen.
"I love you, baby," he murmured.
"Oh, and what about your wife?" I asked in a teasing tone, smiling at him.
He drew me down, kissing my lips thoroughly.
"You I've always loved, Mrs. Raizada. Always will."
I kissed him again, laughing as he tickled me with his bristly stubble. "Have you?"
He smiled, his face creasing into soft lines. It amazed me every time how much happiness and love could change everything. How much this man meant to me..
To the world he was Dr. Raizada, the heir to Sheesh Mahal and one of the best doctors in Lucknow. To his family, he was the dutiful son and brother. But to me, he was simply Arnav--the man I'd loved for so long.  My best friend, my husband, and the father of our child.
"I love you too," I whispered, ruffling his hair. "Never let me go."
"Never," he vowed, drawing me down for more kisses.
And as always, I followed, pulled to him with an irresistible intensity.

*****
OS: Rendezvous before Second Wedding
     By: TINA!

Night before Arnav and Khushi's Second Wedding..

Khushi was trying to pay attention to what everyone was talking about as she sat in the lavishly decorated living room of Raizada Mansion.
Di and Nani were excitedly discussing the guests arriving tomorrow.
NK was telling anyone who would listen all about his new camera that had arrived just in time for the wedding.
Buaji and Payal were talking excitedly about the food preparations.
Khushi was trying to listen..she really was..
But it was difficult when she felt his gaze on her with every heartbeat..raking her up and down..leaving her all breathless inside.
She was pointedly ignoring him, trying not to even look at him.
Even though her heart, her soul ached to meet his stare.
She instead forced herself to smile at something Nani had just said.
What had she been thinking to come to here the night before the wedding, wondered Khushi, shaking her head slightly.
But it had made so much more sense at the time. After all, the wedding would be held at Raizada Mansion. And once Arnavji had explained that he and Khushi would sleep in different rooms, even Dadiji hadn't been able to argue against it.
"Picture time!" shouted NK suddenly, interrupting Khushi's thoughts.
"Hmm," said Akash, thoughtfully, "I think the bride and groom should have their photos taken first."
Everyone nodded excitedly except for Mami and Dadiji who frowned, their mouths twisting.
"Go on, Khushi! What are you waiting for, Sanka Devi?" whispered Buaji hurriedly beside her.
Khushi though hesitated.
She was suddenly so shy, so anxious, so breathless..
"Come on, Khushiji!" said NK excitedly, waving his new camera before her.
Buaji and Payal pushed her forward.
Khushi tottered slightly as she stood. She had no choice it seemed.
So with a harsh breath, she finally glanced up..finally met his knowing gaze.
Arnavji, dressed in a dark colored suit, was standing just feet from her, a slight smirk on his handsome face.
Khushi's hands fisted at her side, her heart raced.
How much she loved him..
How would she resist him?
Throughout the past few days, Arnavji had been after her. Finding time amid all the wedding preparations to tease her, whisper sinful words to her, touch her..
Khushi gulped as she stared up at him.
His hand suddenly extended towards her..
Khushi stared at Arnav's outstretched hand and then gazed back up at him.
He winked at her in response.
Khushi's eyes widened.
But once again she had no choice, her hand reached out shyly to clasp his..their fingers intertwined tightly.
Khushi's eyes closed for a moment at the contact. Her pulse raced.
Arnav was smiling softly as he turned his wife--and she was his wife, no matter what anyone claimed--towards a pillar.
They stood against it, smiling for NK's flashing camera half-heartedly.
Arnav looked out of the corner of his eye at Khushi.
She looked beautiful..heartstoppingly beautiful.
And she was his, thought Arnav with a smirk, all his..
He extended his arm behind her, curving it along her, till her supple, bare waist was in his grasp.
His fingers brushed her bare flesh with bold strokes.
Khushi shuddered at his touch.
She glanced at him surprised.
But Arnavji was still facing the camera, a naughty smile on his face.
Khushi's eyes narrowed.
That he could keep doing this to her..in front of both of their families..And then leave her melting..Did he think she would do nothing?
So with a small smirk of her own, she turned back toward NK's camera, her eyes twinkling brightly.
Her hand snaked around Arnav, massaging his tight muscles through the thin cloth of his suit.
He stiffened at her touch, inhaling sharply.
He turned toward her, she noticed, and she stared right back at him, smiling slyly.
Her hand continued the ministrations against him, rubbing his low back in small circles.
His eyes darkened, his jaw clenched.
His hand on her waist tightened, rubbing across her flesh with sudden possessiveness.
"Last picture, Say cheese!" said NK, smiling before them.
Khushi smiled toward the camera, even though it was becoming more and more difficult to concentrate, to breathe..
As the final photo of them was clicked, and NK turned to Akash and Payal instead, Arnav leaned toward Khushi.
His face was just a breath away from hers, their hands were still on each other.
Neither was ready to let go just yet.
"Mmm, Khushi. Meet me at the poolside in 15 minutes."
Khushi's head swiveled toward him, her eyes shocked by his command.
She opened her mouth to argue..how could she possibly manage to get away from all the festivities?
But he was shaking his head already at her, as if he knew what she'd say, "No excuses, Khushi. Don't make me come and get you myself."
And then with a last heated glance into her widened eyes, Arnav walked away.
Khushi fell back against the pillar, a trembling hand covering her heaving chest..
----------------------------------------------------------------
15 minutes later..
Arnav was dimming the lights at the poolside when he heard Khushi's hesitant footsteps behind him.
He closed his eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath.
And then he turned toward her.  His eyes shone, his heart raced.
Khushi was standing with her back against their room's glass doors, her body quivering, her hands twisting nervously on her sari.
"Arnavji.." she whispered softly, trying to read his expression in the dim light. "Why did you call me here?"
Arnav didn't answer her, instead he walked determinedly toward her, pulling her slim body against him.
Khushi's eyes widened as he held her so closely against him.
Her hands reached out to push him away.
God, what were they doing? The entire house was filled with guests, she thought anxiously.
But just then, Arnav's hands rose into her hair, tilting her face up.
His eyes were dark as they gazed down at her.
"I love you," he said gently.
Khushi's heart sped at his words. All thoughts of pushing him away fled from her mind.
Now, she only wanted him closer to her.
She smiled at him softly, her heart in her eyes. "I love you, too damn it."
He smiled back at her, tracing her face with his eyes. As his eyes moved down her face, they seemed to stop at her trembling lips.
Khushi was having trouble breathing as she watched his gaze darken even more.
His hand rose and he just barely brushed her bottom lip with his thumb.
Khushi took a deep breath, her heart pounding.
Her hands clutched him against her.
He smiled softly at her small movements against him, and then with a sudden yank, he pulled her even closer.
Their bodies were now fused together, not an inch of space separated them.
And then, Khushi watched with bated breath as his head moved towards her..closer..and closer..
His lips brushed against hers softly.
Khushi inhaled sharply, and at that movement, Arnav lost control.
He pushed her against the brick wall, covering her body with his.
His hands were gripping her tightly as his mouth descended on hers..hard and all consuming.
Khushi's eyes closed at his kiss.
Her body arched into his, as their mouths fused, their tongues entwined.
A few more blissful minutes passed..
Their kisses were becoming more and more heated..more and more hungry..
Arnav suddenly pulled away from her, gazing at her swollen lips, her bemused face with a hard glint in his eye.
Khushi's opened her eyes gently, revealing slightly tearful eyes.
She still couldn't believe it..their almost kiss from Diwali had happened in this same spot and tonight, they'd finally finished it.
She smiled up at Arnav brightly, looking beautiful, although her hair was slightly tousled, her makeup slightly smudged.
Arnav brushed the tears from her eyes tenderly..he knew what she was thinking about..he was thinking the same.
He gulped as he tried to smile back at her.
But it was difficult to forget his desire for her..to ignore how she looked..like she'd just been very thoroughly kissed.
Which she had, he thought smirking.
Khushi pulled him into her arms again, but Arnav surprised her by lifting her up into his arms instead.
He passed quickly through the glass doors into their bedroom.
Loud laughter could be heard from the hallway just feet away.
Khushi remembered their family and all the guests just then.
God, what were they doing?
She pushed against his chest, "Let me down, Arnavji. Anyone could come in!"
But Arnav didn't reply; he instead continued through the bedroom into the lavish bathroom in the far corner.
He set her down on the marble counter and turned quickly behind to lock the bathroom door.
Khushi watched him turn back toward her with a heaving chest.
They gazed at each other for one small moment.
And then they both seemed to reach for each other at the same time.
Khushi's hands wrapped around him as Arnav pushed her against the bathroom wall, his body imprinting into hers.
Khushi's heart was racing rapidly but she barely had a moment to think.
Because just then, Arnav's head swerved back toward her trembling lips.
His kisses this time were not the least bit gentle..rather they were possessive, hungry, and very thorough.
Khushi was quickly losing control as Arnav reached for the end of her sari, moving the fabric away.
His lips descended onto her throat, and then her chest..
And then traveled back up her neck, brushing across her cheek hotly
Khushi's head tilted back, her eyes closed as she felt him against her.
Her hands plunged into his hair, pulling him closer. Her mouth sought his desperately.
They kissed for several, long moments.
Suddenly, they heard a familiar voice outside.
"Chote?" called Nani, from their bedroom door.
Khushi's eyes widened, she pushed Arnav away urgently.
But Arnav was insatiable, he continued to kiss her as if he couldn't get enough of her.
Khushi moaned softly and just like that she was lost again as his mouth took complete control.
Her nails raked his bare chest and back.
But then she tilted her face away from his lips, saying softly, "Please, Arnavji.."
"Damn it!" he whispered hotly against her neck.
But then he let go of her with an angry huff.
As she quickly buttoned up his silk shirt, and he helped her with her sari, he smiled softly.
Khushi looked at the reflection of his smile in the mirror with a frown.
"What?" she asked as she tried to make her hair look presentable.
Arnav walked behind her, wrapping his arms around her.
He met her confused look in the mirror ahead.
"Nothing, it's just that tomorrow, is our wedding night. And no one will be able to interrupt us then."
Khushi's breath stilled as she watched his face light up, his lips brushing soft kisses on her shoulder.
She fervently hoped the same for tomorrow night..
As they walked back toward the party hand in hand, Khushi smiled softly.
She was so happy..
Everything was perfect..
As they were about to walk into the brightly lit living room, Arnav naughtily pulled her back.
She raised an eyebrow at him.
But he only picked up her mass of long, black hair and brought it towards the front.
"Khushi..your neck is all marked on this side from earlier."
Khushi blushed and hurriedly slapped his hands away.
She walked amidst their families trying to behave normally.
But his enticing voice in her ear stopped her, "I can't wait for tomorrow."
Khushi squeezed his hand in reply..she couldn't wait either..
She was dying to be Mrs. Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada..and for forever this time..

OS: Tearful Goodbyes
By: TINA!
Arnav's heart sensed Khushi as soon as she entered his hospital room.
His soul recognized her hesitant footsteps, her trembling breaths, her pounding heartbeat as if they were his own.
He braced himself, but just then, she came near his right side, looking down at him with tears pouring down her small, beautiful face.
"Arn..Arnav.." she whispered softly, her voice breaking.
Khushi could barely breathe as she observed him. Her husband looked so weak as he lay on the narrow white hospital bed, a jumble of cables and tubes connected to him. A thick, red-stained bandage was wrapped around his bare chest, Khushi stared at it worriedly.
Arnav swallowed painfully, his heart tugging painfully in his chest. With a trembling hand, he reached for her hand, entwining his fingers with hers.
She cried at the contact, placing her other hand over their clasped hands, gripping him tightly.
"Khu..Khushi," he barely managed to say.
She sobbed softly, unable to speak.
He rubbed his thumb soothingly across her palm, "Shh, baby.."
Her tears though seemed to only increase at his words, her body shaking as she stood at his side.
He tugged her down beside him so she was sitting just barely on the hospital bed.
"Please, baby. You've got to listen to me." He was hardly able to keep his own tears at bay.
He closed his eyes..God, how was he supposed to do this..
For the first time in a long time, he prayed for something..strength to say the words he had to say..
"Arnav!" she cried urgently, touching his still face with trembling fingers.
He opened his eyes at her frantic call, looking at her comfortingly. "Shh, I'm still here."
She nodded, leaning down, kissing his hands in hers.
He watched her bowed down face with a throbbing twinge in his heart.
His wife was so beautiful, inside and out..so young..so innocent..and had experienced so much pain..
He shuddered. Everything against her had been a well planted lie..those letters, the news stories of affairs and lovers, everything..
And she was still at danger.
He'd failed to protect her.
That thought gave him some purpose, and with sudden resoluteness, he met her terrified gaze. "Listen to me, Khushi," he said again, "We have only a few minutes left."
She nodded, looking down at him worriedly. Sobs still engulfed her, but she'd quieted.
He took in a deep breath.
This was it.
"There's someone after you Khushi, someone who wants to kill you at all costs. I didn't see the person clearly when I was running after them, just saw a long black raincoat, a black hood of some sort..But you're in danger Khushi, great danger."
He looked up at her worriedly, his eyes fearful.
"I may not be there Khushi," he murmured, his voice soft, yet firm, "You might have to face this on your own.."
Khushi froze as the meaning of his words fully hit her. 
Was he saying Goodbye to her?
Her heart stilled in her chest, she looked down at him horror-stricken.
"What are you saying Arnav?" she said loudly, "Nothing will happen to you. We'll solve everything, face everything together."
Face everything together..her words echoed in Arnav's head dully. It was something one expected a loving wife to say to her husband. But Arnav had never expected that to apply to him.
When he'd been a child, his mother had explained to him about marriages..about how God had created someone special for each person. About how a wonderful princess would enter his life and change it forever..And for a long time, he'd believed his mother's words..with his whole heart and soul..
Marriage had meant something sacred, something pure to him.
But then his mother had died, leaving him alone and broken. Even today, those wounds marked his soul, scarring him.
 In the dark days that followed, he'd quickly grown up, giving up on dreams of love, marriage, happiness.
Her death had shattered his world and his father's actions had shattered his beliefs.
Marriage had become a mockery for him.
If marriages were like what his mom and dad had shared, he wanted nothing to do with it.
He vowed that he would never allow someone to even come close to his heart, let alone capture it.
But Khushi had come..
She'd literally fallen into his life..and he'd been helpless to stop her..although God knew, he'd tried.
But maybe, what his mom had told him long ago and his Di had repeated to him was true..there was someone special for each person and once you found that person, you just couldn't let go.
And for him, Arnav knew with a surety that scared him still, that person was Khushi.
She was the princess his mother had always told him would enter his life one day..
A tear escaped Arnav's eye, "I pray that happens, but Khushi, there's a good chance it may not. You need to be prepared."
"NO!" shouted Khushi, holding his hand to her chest, "Listen to me, Arnav. Believe me, nothing will happen to you."
He smiled weakly at her. "I wish that's true. But be realistic, Khushi. The doctors have told me the chances I have. You have to realize that I may not make it..you must come to terms with that.."
"NO!" shouted Khushi again, her eyes flashing. "I refuse to even consider that. How can you give up like this? Do you want to leave me?"
Arnav's heart tugged at her pain-filled words.
Leave her? God, if it was up to him, he would tie her to him..not spend a moment apart. But he didn't have a choice.
His body was weak, and he was powerless. Completely powerless. He, who'd believed himself to be invincible once.
He closed his eyes tightly, it wasn't fair..
His mother had spoken of a girl entering his life, but she'd never warned him that each moment with her might be the last.
That his love could be so easily snatched from him..
He held onto Khushi's hand as tightly as he could. "I'm not giving up. I will fight this to the death. But Khushi, you have to be realistic. Please, baby, please promise me..otherwise I won't be able to relax."
Sobs rocked Khushi's thin body.
This couldn't be happening. The man she loved more than anything, anyone..the one whose name she had remembered when she couldn't remember her own..the husband with whom she had fallen deeper and deeper in love with couldn't be asking this of her..
How could this be happening?
Khushi's soul twisted.
Arnav watched her pained expression with his heart breaking..He loved her so much..and he was giving her pain upon pain..how had it all come to this?
But then she noticed the tears in his eyes and that shiny sheen shook her to the core.
She nodded forcefully, "I promise you anything, love. Just fight this. Please, you have to. I'll die without you.."
She fell against his side, crying.
Arnav's chest constricted at her words..she'd called him love..how long he'd wanted this..how long he'd dreamed of this moment..
And for it to happen now..when he was almost at death's door..it wasn't fair..
But then when had life had ever been fair to him, mused Arnav.
Fate had snatched his mother from him, pushed his Di into a marriage with a sickening man, and was now pulling Khushi from him, the only woman he'd ever loved..
His jaw tightened painfully. But his eyes fell just then on the clock above..they had just six minutes left, and he had so much left to say..
"Listen, Khushi," he said, "You can get in touch with Aman. I trust him. He'll help you. I have other properties, ones no one knows about. You can chose whatever you want, run away, take Buaji with you, build a new life.."
Khushi's eyes widened as his words penetrated her brain.
"What are you saying, love. Please, stop. I can't bear it.." she whispered, heartbroken.
She placed her fingers gently against his smooth lips, stopping him.
He kissed her fingertips, but shook his head.
Arnav's eyes were hard as they met hers, "This is important, Khushi. Take Buaji or.." he glanced away from her, "..or take NK, he'll take care of you."
"What!" exclaimed Khushi, shocked.
He glanced back at her, his eyes darkened, "I've always thought NK was the perfect person for you..he's carefree, happy, sunny like you, and he doesn't come with all my baggage. He's not a scarred man like me."
Arnav looked away from her. He wasn't able to meet her gaze.
NK was exactly the type of man Khushi deserved.
Not someone like him..who had only learned what love was when Khushi had stepped into his life..Who had failed to protect her..Who lay helpless like a child on the hospital bed..
Shock followed by outrage coursed through Khushi.
She grasped Arnav's face in her shaking hands, forcing him to meet her gaze.
"Listen to me, Mr. Arnav Singh Raizada. I. Love. You. I have always loved you, and I will always love you, only you."
Tears streamed down her eyes as she continued, "And I want only you..with your temper, your flaws, your baggage, your scars. You are the only one who completes me. You are the only man for me.."
Her voice broke into sobs, her arms wrapped around him.
Arnav's own tears finally escaped, trailing down his face onto the plain white hospital sheets underneath.
He hugged her back as best as he could..his soul soaring..
Her love for him pushed him forward, he felt like he could meet death now, strong and unafraid.
"You know.." he whispered softly against her hair. Khushi's face was buried against his throat, she was taking hiccupping breaths against his skin.
"..I've always loved you."
Images of the past flashed before his eyes..Khushi falling into his arms at that fateful fashion show..their almost kiss on Diwali..their wedding..their reunion after he'd been freed from the kidnappers..their growing love..the first time they said "I love you" to each other..their second marriage..
Khushi's eyes flew open, she looked at him amazed.
He nodded, his eyes teary. "I think from the day I met you in Lucknow through everything. Even when you hated me, I couldn't stop myself. When I heard about your yacht accident, I was shattered. And these past few days, as you've been the old Khushi, my Khushi, my love for you has only grown. I didn't think it was possible," he said, staring at her astonished.
"I mean, how is it possible to love someone else so much?" he whispered, gazing at her lovingly, his eyes twinkling.
He traced her face with his eyes, noting the quivering chin, her trembling lips, those eyes that seemed to see into his soul. 
It was funny, but who'd have thought that she would become such an integral part of his life, someone he couldn't imagine living without?
When he'd first seen her, he had felt something..something inexplicable.
They had both sensed the connection between them..no matter how hard they had both tried to ignore it..
And even though they'd never wished it, fate kept bringing them together, as if they were meant to be.
But, they'd both fought it, mused Arnav ruefully. 
He'd been cold, cruel, and mean to Khushi..not to make her life horrible..but to push her away.
Somewhere, perhaps in childhood even, he'd learned it was best to keep away from getting close to anyone.
Because if you got to close, you almost always got hurt.
But he hadn't been able to keep Khushi away.
Not when every fiber of his soul, his heart yearned for her so much.
Tears escaped Khushi's eyes as she stared at him.
She brought his hand to her mouth, kissing his flesh firmly. "I love you, Arnav Singh Raizada. So much..more than anyone..more than anything." She punctuated her words with kisses.
Arnav's heart raced as he heard her say the same words he'd often thought himself.
He brushed the tears away from her face.
"I've had so many dreams about us," he admitted.
Arnav closed his eyes..and as always, the dreams engulfed him again.
He remembered all those nights he'd spent alone, trying to sleep.
But it had been impossible..he'd needed her beside him..wrapped in his arms..
Without her, he hadn't been able to sleep a single night peacefully.
She hiccupped, holding his hand against her cheek.
Arnav smiled, "I've wished of you loving me, of spending each day with you, of going to sleep with your arms around me, of waking up with you in my arms."
Khushi smiled at him tearfully. "That'll happen, Arnav. I promise you it will happen!"
He nodded but didn't answer.
His mind drifted suddenly to a cloudy day months ago.
He and Khushi had already separated by then.
And he'd been trying to convince himself that he felt nothing for her..that he could live his life without her..
As she was doing, judging by the news reports, the scandalous headlines.
Just then, the signal ahead had turned red.
Arnav stomped on the breaks.
His jaded eyes glanced out the window wearily.
He noticed a young family just a short distance away from him.
They were walking out of a nearby park.
The wife's hand was in her husband's.
An adorable child, no more than two years old, sat atop her dad's shoulders, laughing loudly. One of her hands was holding onto a bright rainbow balloon, while the other hand was clasping her dad's face, covering one of his eyes.
But the man only smiled at his daughter, reaching up to tickle her.
The family was beaming as they walked past Arnav's jeep.
Arnav stared at them longingly..his heart aching inside him..
As the car behind him honked, Arnav glanced up startled, shifting the gears..
But the image of the happy family wouldn't leave him..haunting him..
That night as he'd slept..dreams came to him..
Of Khushi and him strolling through that same park, hand in hand.
A child that had his wavy hair and Khushi's twinkling eyes was laughing in his arms.
Arnav saw himself kissing his child's rosy cheek, making the child giggle loudly.
Khushi reached over to speak to their child, her arm wrapping absently around Arnav's waist.
"No no," she corrected, "the song is what the, what the.."
The child laughed, repeating, "What the..what the.."
Arnav saw himself turn toward Khushi sharply, reaching out to pinch her exposed waist.
Khushi yelped, slapping his hand away lightly.
The dream Arnav though only smiled in response, reaching out to hold her closer, his lips dropping a quick kiss on her forehead.
Khushi smiled, her hand resting softly on her visibly rounded stomach.
And then a blackness descended, taking Khushi from him, ripping their child from his arms..
Blackness had wrapped around him, and even though he struggled, he could only watch helplessly as his family was snatched from him..his wife and child crying out for him..
The dream had become all blurry then, and he'd screamed out loud as if it had all been real..
"KHUSHI!!!"
He'd woken up shaken, tears in his eyes.
How badly he wished that family could be his forever..
"I've dreamed of you pregnant with my child," he told Khushi softly, "..of you nursing our child..of playing on the Raizada lawns, all three of us laughing.."
Khushi noted the faraway look in his eyes with a throbbing heart.
It hurt to breathe suddenly.
She grasped his weak hand tighter, "We'll have all of that. I'll have our child..and we'll have not just one child, but a house full of children."
Arnav smiled naughtily, kissing her fingertips softly, "You'll spoil them rotten."
"But you'll be there to discipline them," she said lightly, smiling through her tears.
"I guess.. but I won't be able to say anything to my daughters."
"Why?" asked Khushi, her eyebrows knitting together.
"Because they'll remind me of you," he replied matter-of-factly.
Khushi's throat tightened. She loved him so much..God, couldn't take him from her..not when they'd just realized their love for each other..
How would she live without him?
She couldn't, she realized. Arnav was her life.
She took a shuddering breath, trying to keep her fears at bay.
"Love," she whispered, "Your dreams are my dreams. And they'll all come true. Just fight, baby. Please, for us..you have to fight."
Arnav nodded, but just then the nurse opened the door behind them.
"I'm sorry, but we have to take Mr. Raizada to surgery now."
A team entered behind them, unfamiliar hands started pulling Khushi away.
But her eyes were still locked with her husband's teary ones.
"NO!" she shouted as someone tried to pry their hands apart.
She rushed back toward her husband, grasping his dear face in her palms.
"I love you, Arnav. I am with you. You have to pull through..you have to.." her voice shook with tears.
Arnav looked at her sadly, trying to memorize her face.
He needed a picture of her to keep with him..the darkness was coming again. He could feel it growing..soon the pain would be back.
He clung to her hand, pulling her close.
"Please Mrs. Raizada!" said the head surgeon, trying to pull her back.
But Khushi didn't care, she stayed with her husband and then leaning down, met his shaking lips with her own..
His mouth was warm against hers, wondrously alive..
Khushi clung to Arnav, rubbing her lips against his.
He inhaled sharply, and then his hand rose weakly, plunging into her hair..
Arnav kissed her back, hard, as if he couldn't get enough of her..as if he was starving for her..
He sucked on her bottom lip, nipping gently. His tongue invaded her mouth, sweeping across her with complete possession..
Khushi met each kiss, each stroke of his tongue with her own..
Arnav kissed her firmly one more time and then gently pulled away from her, staring up at her reddened, bemused face with a slight smirk on his face.
"I love you too, Mrs. Raizada," he said. Khushi smiled gently at him, awestruck. His voice sounded stronger to Khushi than ever before.
His eyes were determined as he looked at the stunned medical team behind his wife.
"Let's go, doctor. I want to be back in my wife's arms as soon as possible."
Khushi's heart leapt at Arnav's words.

OS: Three Months from Now
By: Satina & TINA!
It had been three months. Three months since she'd seen him. Three months since they had separated.
And yet she still felt hollow.
Every minute without him was difficult..a test..
Her heart ached as she remembered the confrontation between Dadi and Arnav.
Arnav and she had just returned from their honeymoon, their faces glowing, their hands entwined.
But just then, Dadi had told everyone of her mother's past.
Khushi could still recall everyone's surprised gasps, the confusion that had met the announcement.
But mostly, she remembered Arnav's reaction. His disbelief, and then his horror.
His eyes had darkened with pain as Dadi whispered in his ear urgently, "How can you stay with a girl whose blood is the reason your mother died? How can you marry into that family? My God, Arnav, think of your poor mother.."
Pain sizzled in her soul as she recalled Arnav's hand dropping hers, and then him turning his back toward her.
She hadn't been able to stay in Raizada Mansion after that.
She couldn't live with his hate. With the way everyone gazed at her..as if she was the enemy..
She'd left three days later, going back to Buaji's house.
And Arnav, she remembered with tears, hadn't stopped her..hadn't even looked at her..
"Sanka Devi," said Buaji loudly, interrupting Khushi's thoughts, "What are you doing, sitting all alone here in the dark, come with me."
Buaji looked at Khushi worriedly as she pulled her to the living room. Her niece had completely changed. Gone was the happy, carefree girl she'd once known. Now, Khushi was a limp figure, never smiling, never laughing. Even the light in her eyes had dimmed.
Buaji cursed in her mind those Raizadas..who did they think they were to reject her niece!
Buaji shook her head adamantly, she'd show them.
She smiled brightly as she told Khushi, "Look, Sanka Devi..look here."
Khushi accepted the thick envelope with a frown.
She broke the seal, staring at the photographs inside with confusion.
"What is this, Buaji?" she asked softly.
Buaji laughed, "What do you think, Khushi? They're pictures of boys for your marriage."
Khushi's eyes widened, she dropped the photos as if burnt.
"What!" she whispered, horrified, "Buaji, I am married. What are you saying?"
Buaji frowned, "That marriage was just a cruel game. You spent 10 days with him. It's all very simple these days, Sanka Devi. You just have to get a divorce, and then you can marry again..be happy again.."
Khushi stared at her aunt, astonished.
"How can you even think like that?" she said, "Arnavji is my husband. I can't even imagine being someone else's wife."
Buaji's mouth tightened, "You just need time. Just look at the photos, okay?"
Anger spiraled through Khushi. She stood up, staring at her aunt with disbelief.
"Never!" she shouted, "Why don't you understand, Buaji? I love Arnavji. I will only ever love him."
Buaji made a face at that. "So you're just going to live your life like this..like a ghost, barely living?"
"I can't live any other way without him. And I refuse to consider a life with someone else."
"He's already out of your life!" shouted Buaji, shaking Khushi, "Why don't you understand? Why don't you accept it?"
"BECAUSE I LOVE HIM!" shouted Khushi.
Buaji shook her again, "You need to forget him. YOU MUST!"
Khushi shook her head, "I can't..never..And anyway, Buaji, who will marry me like this?"
She swept aside her sari, revealing a visibly rounded form.
"Don't you see, Buaji," said Khushi brokenly, "Arnavji is not just my husband and the man I love, but he's also the father of my child..how can I forget him?"
-----------------------------------------------------------
Khushi slept that night fitfully.
She woke up in the middle of night and stood by the window, gazing at the glowing moon outside.
Was he looking at it too, she wondered?
A frown crossed her small face as she recalled the argument with Buaji this afternoon.
She knew her aunt wouldn't give up so easily.
Why didn't anyone understand? thought Khushi, wiping a tear.
Her hand drifted toward her protruding stomach.
She touched the area lovingly.
"You understand, don't you, baby?" she whispered, "You know why Mama can't forget Daddy?"
She knew their child had to..after all this child was the symbol of their love..
She loved the baby more than anything..
But what future did the baby have..thought Khushi worriedly.
A child needed a father.
And Arnav wasn't in their lives..He didn't even know about her pregnancy.
Yes, decided Khushi, she had to think about the baby's future..her own broken heart came second.
----------------------------------------------------
The next morning, Khushi forced herself to take a sip of tea.
Buaji was sitting across from her, frowning.
Khushi ignored her, gazing at the newspaper open before her instead.
She read the headlines without paying much attention, her hand massaging her swollen belly.
And then she froze.
A bright, colorful full page ad was before her..
Annual Charity Ball Tonight at the Pavilion..Official Sponsors: Raizada Family (AR Designs Inc.).
Khushi's breath stilled..maybe this was the chance she'd been waiting for..
"What are you looking at, Khushi?" asked Buaji, coming to sit beside her.
Khushi couldn't answer as Buaji took the newspaper, reading the advertisement with widened eyes.
"You can't be thinking of going here," she said, "I've arranged for a boy nearby to come and see you this evening."
Khushi frowned, rising.
Her eyes were determined as she said, "I'm going Buaji. No one can stop me."
----------------------------------------------------
It wasn't too difficult for Khushi to get into the Pavilion.
She bought a ticket and quickly headed toward the backstage area.
"Sanka Devi, where are you going?" asked Buaji.
Khushi sighed, pausing, "Buaji, you go sit in our seats. I'll be there soon."
Buaji frowned but did as Khushi said.
Khushi turned then, entering the backstage.
A flurry of activity was happening there.
A troupe of ballet dancers was just coming off stage.
A choreographer was going over last minute instructions with a large group of kids, dressed in bright pink and purple.
Singers and a few jugglers waited nearby, while a few bands were strumming their instruments, tuning carefully.
Khushi walked to the edge of the curtain.
A crowded auditorium was before her, a sea of faces..
Khushi looked carefully and then froze.
There he was.
In the first row..looking so handsome and familiar it made Khushi's throat constrict.
Dadi and Di sat on his either side.
The rest of the family surrounded them.
Arnav looked up just then, and Khushi quickly hid behind the curtain.
Her heart beat out of control.
"Are you okay?" asked one of the men passing by, a clipboard in his hand.
Khushi nodded.
But the man stared at her closely. "Hey wait, aren't you that woman who performed to Heer Ranjha here?"
Khushi's eyes widened as she remembered that night..
So much time had passed..
"Yes," she mumbled, looking down.
"That was one amazing performance," recalled the stagehand, "Are you on the roster today?"
Khushi shook her head, "No, but I want to be.."
The man nodded, "One of the groups cancelled, I can add you in. But you need at least 7 other participants with you..this is a group concert."
Khushi gazed out confused, nibbling her bottom lip.
How would she find 7 other people so last minute?
But just than a small hand tugged on her sari.
"Khushi Di!" shouted a young boy.
Other kids surrounded Khushi quickly, hugging her tightly.
Khushi smiled, laughing.
Her entire group of tuition students were here.
"What are you all doing here?"
"We were going to perform, but our main dancer got chicken pox," said one of the girls, forlornly.
Khushi smiled.
"How would you all like to dance with me?" she asked, kneeling down.
The kids' faces lit up.
"Really?"
"OMG!"
"But we don't know the steps!"
Khushi nodded, "I really need you all today. And just dance what you learned or dance whatever you like."
They nodded excitedly.
"Is the Shaitan here too?" asked the youngest.
Khushi's heart ached. "Yes, he's here. We have to dance for him, okay. We have to make the Shaitan become Prince Charming tonight."
Everyone smiled, and leaned forward as Khushi hurriedly explained her plan.
------------------------------------------------------------
Arnav clapped half-heartedly as another performance finished.
"That was wonderful, right Chote?" said Anjali, her eyes shining brightly.
Arnav nodded, but didn't reply.
He'd learned about 3 months ago that it was better to just keep quiet.
No one understood what he was going through.
They all expected him to be back to his normal self almost right away.
How was he supposed to explain that he would never be the same?
That a girl had entered his life and changed its very foundation..
That every moment without her felt like a punishment..
Khushi..
Even saying the name hurt.
Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada..the woman he loved, his wife..
How was he supposed to forget her?
She lived in his each though, his every heartbeat.
3 months had passed.
3 months that he hadn't seen her face..hadn't heard her laugh..hadn't held her in his arms..
"And our next group is Khushi and the Shaitan Group.." announced the host loudly.
Arnav stilled.
Everyone around him clapped.
But he couldn't move.
He knew what that name meant..
God, could it be?
But just then Khushi walked onto the stage, looking so beautiful, and so frail that he couldn't breathe.
He couldn't look away..
----------------------------------------------------------
Khushi gulped as she met Arnav's eyes.
Her huge, slightly teary eyes met his shocked, shining gaze.
The song started playing just then.
The kids danced in circles around Khushi as the piano notes played.
Khushi took a deep breath, singing softly, "Kasam ki kasam hai kasam se.."
She extended her hand directly to Arnav, "Humko pyaar hai sirf tumse."
Arnav's heart raced at her declaration.
On stage, Khushi continued, looking at Buaji this time, "Ab yeh pyaar na hoga phir humse.."
Buaji's eyes widened as Khushi sang, "Log Kehte hai paagal hoon main yeh bhi na jaanu..dil lutaya hai maine..Ab kisi ki na maanu.."
Her eyes flew back to Arnav as she continued, "Chain Dekar Ke Maine Bechainiya Yeh Li Hai..Neende Udakar Ke Maine Tumse Wafaye Ki Hai.."
Tears came to Arnav's eyes as he watched her.
He'd expected her to hate him.
Dadi had said Khushi never wanted to see him again..
He'd gone to get her back the next day after she left, but Buaji had said Khushi was no longer his concern..
He'd been so sure she must hate him..
But here she was, singing with her heart and soul, "Kasam Ki Kasam Hai Kasam Se..Jee Rahe The Hum Tere Dum Se..Ab Yeh Pyaar Na Hoga Phir Humse."
Memories of their time flashed between them as their eyes met..
The first time she'd fallen into his arms..
The first time he'd seen her in a sari..
Every moment, every embrace..
Their wedding..
Their unforgettable honeymoon..
Arnav couldn't stand a minute away from her.
He stood up just then, singing back, "Kuch Ishaaron Mein Tumne Humse Jo Yeh Kahan Hai..Ab Yakin Aa Raha Hai Tumko Bhi Kuch Hua Hai."
Khushi's eyes filled with tears of joy as she watched him take the stairs to the stage..
Their eyes met, as he continued, "Kyon Tumko Dekhte Hain Kya Dil Mein Sochte Hai..Toofan Jo Uth Raha Hai Hum Usko Rokte Hai."
He reached for her hand, and Khushi trembled as their fingers entwined.
He hugged her to him, holding her close.
The kids laughed, dancing around the couple in circles.
Arnav leaned back, smiling, "Kasam Ki Kasam Hai Kasam Se..Yeh Milan Hai Sanam Ka Sanam Se."
He held Khushi closer, facing his family below with a firm gaze, "Ab Yeh Pyaar Na Hoga Phir Humse.."
Khushi smiled, cuddling into him.
They both looked at each other lovingly, singing together, "Kasam Ki Kasam Hai Kasam Se..Humko Pyaar Hai Sirf Tumse.."
A thunderous applause rang out as the song ended.
Arnav held onto Khushi's shaking form tightly as the curtains closed.
"Arnav.." muttered Khushi, brokenly, her tears staining his suit jacket.
Arnav kissed her head, her cheeks, as he brushed her tears away. "I'm sorry, love. I thought you didn't want me in your life anymore.."
Khushi leaned back, staring at him amazed.
"What?"
He nodded, brokenly. "Dadi and Buaji said you would never forgive me.."
Khushi shook her head, "I thought you hated me..that you wanted nothing to do with me.."
Arnav shook his head quickly, "Never, Khushi. I was just shocked that night, but I never blamed you. It's not your fault what that woman did.."
Tears fell from Khushi's eyes, as Arnav picked up her hands, kissing her skin softly, "I love you, Khushi..love you more than anything, baby."
Khushi smiled as they hugged.
But she had to tell him something.
She stepped slightly back, taking his hand in hers.
He looked at her questioningly as she lifted his hand up and placed it on her protruding stomach.
"We both love you too, Arnavji," said Khushi, her eyes bright.
Arnav's eyes rounded.
He looked into her eyes, and then down toward her stomach.
"Khushi.." he began, wonderstruck.
Khushi nodded, smiling happily.
She looped her arms around his neck, saying shyly, "It's true, Arnavji..I'm three months pregnant."
Tears came to Arnav's eyes..
He'd missed so much..
He leaned down, sweeping aside her sari to kiss her stomach gently.
And then, he stood, cupping Khushi's face in his hands.
"I love you both so much," he whispered, kissing her lips tenderly.
Joy coursed through both of them as they held each other.
Both of them vowed to never let the other go..
------------------------------------------
1 year later..
Khushi fidgeted in the white jeep, staring out the window worriedly.
Arnav smiled as he gazed at her.
His left hand left the steering wheel and entwined with hers..
"Relax, love," he murmured, rubbing her hand soothingly with his thumb.
Khushi tried to smile, but he knew her so well.
She couldn't hide her worry from him..
"But, Arnav, this is the first time we've left him alone.."
Arnav sighed, "Arman will be fine. He has a house full of people to take care of him.."
Khushi nodded hesitantly, she missed her baby so much..
"Come on, Mrs. Raizada, can you think even a minute just about me?" he asked naughtily.
Khushi laughed, squeezing his hand as their eyes met.
She was so happy..
She hadn't thought it was possible to be this happy..
But the baby had brought the entire family together.
Dadi loved him..and Buaji doted on his each gurgle..
Arman would be just fine, she told herself.
As they parked and stepped out, she looked up at the red carpet amazed.
It had been one year..
One year since they'd been here..at this same Pavilion..this same Annual Charity Ball..
"I love you," murmured Arnav as they posed for the cameras..
"And I love you.." she replied holding him closer.
Everything was finally as it was always meant to be..

OS: Almost Kiss (1 year Anniversary)
By: TINA!
The moon was reflected in the still water of the pool as Arnav advanced in deliberate steps toward Khushi.
But she didn't notice, her eyes downcast, her hands clinging to her chiffon sari.
It was only when he was just a breath away that Khushi glanced up, her eyes rounding.
She immediately retreated, taking several steps back.
Arnav's eyes hardened as he watched her go. But he refused to end it here.
He was pulled toward her.
He could no longer ignore the feelings this woman brought out in him. She appeared so fragile, so delicate, but she was the only one who'd ever stood up to him, who had screamed at him, pushed him away..
And now she stood before him looking so beautiful, he couldn't tear his eyes away.
Never had he been so mesmerized.
His eyes traced over her red sari draped body slowly, taking in her slight quivering, her heaving chest, her wide eyes, her parted lips..
Damn it!
He should leave, he thought, Go before he succumbed to the temptation before him.
"Arnavji?" asked Khushi softly, her eyes shining with uncertainty.
His jaw tightened as her trembling voice hit him.
What was it about her, he wondered, that drew him so? Why couldn't he leave her alone? Why did he keep running into her no matter what he tried?
When he didn't reply, Khushi frowned, biting down on her bottom lip.
Waves of desire crashed into Arnav as he watched her.
His eyes darkened with barely repressed hunger.
Whatever this pull was, he couldn't control it.
He needed more..
With hard steps, he stalked closer to her.
Khushi's heart pounded as she stared across at him. She edged back slowly.
What was Arnavji doing, she wondered? The way he was looking at her..Her chest heaved. This was wrong, wasn't it, she asked herself?
But why then did it feel so right?
Why did she want to give into the feelings this man inspired in her?
She'd tried for so long to suppress her desires, to forget about him.
She'd tried hating him, ignoring him, fighting with him.
But nothing worked.
A small whimper escaped Khushi's lips as her back met the brick wall of the poolside.
She glanced up at Arnav with wide eyes.
But he only walked closer, covering her with his body. His hands rose up, blocking her on either side. His dark suit just barely touched her sari.
His warm breath fanned her face, his eyes so soulful all Khushi wanted to do was lose herself in their depths.
But she forced herself to turn away.
This was wrong.
Forbidden.
He was Arnav Singh Raizada! And she was Khushi Kumari Gupta..two polar opposites, two people who came from two very different worlds.
How could she possibly have these feelings for him?
But she did, she realized with heart-stopping clarity, she did.
That thought shook her to her core.
Khushi's head swung toward Arnav.
He was staring at her intently, trying to read her.
Suddenly, his hands rose, cupping her cheeks.
Khushi blushed, her chest heaving.
All thoughts of right and wrong left her.
Only he mattered.
Only this moment mattered.
His eyes sizzled into her as he bowed his head closer.
Khushi's hands fisted on her sari as she felt his mouth near, his warm breath just grazing her parted lips.
Her eyes closed..
His lips descended on hers hungrily, kissing her fiercely.
He kissed her as if he was starving for her, as if he couldn't get enough of her.
A moan escaped Khushi as Arnav pushed closer, his tongue entwining with hers.
Her hands plunged into his hair, drawing him closer still.
She welcomed his touch, his possession.
Arnav picked her up in his arms then, taking her without hesitance toward the dark bedroom.
With care, he laid her on the bedspread, his hands going to her scarlet sari.
Khushi's eyes flew open as she felt air hit her bare skin.
She broke their kiss for a moment to stare up at him wide-eyed.
"Arnav..what are you--"
He hushed her quickly, his lips kissing her exposed skin, his hands branding her curves.
Khushi felt herself losing control as his tongue darted out, licking a trail down her body.
Her head thrashed on the pillows.
As he left her for a moment to remove his own clothes, Khushi gazed up at him a frown.
"This isn't what happened that night!" she informed him.
He smirked, throwing his shirt off his head.
"I know, Khushi. We just almost-kissed then."
Khushi sighed, her hands going to his belt.
"I asked you to recreate that moment, Arnav. It's been one year since that night, you know," she murmured.
His free hand glided down her body with familiarity.
"And I did, love. Everything was just the same."
At Khushi's pout, Arnav shook his head, his eyes darkening.
With a thud, he threw himself on top of her.
Khushi's eyes closed at the delicious friction.
Arnav Singh Raizada..he had no idea what he was doing to her..
"And actually, Khushi," whispered Arnav into her ear, his hands molding her to his liking, "I prefer this year..this year you're not Khushi Kumari Gupta but Mrs. Raizada, my wife..I can finally do what I couldn't last year."
Khushi curled her arms around his neck, rising up slightly to kiss him, "Hmm, maybe you do have a point, Mr. Raizada."
He winked at her as he leaned down to kiss her firmly, his hands pul
ling her closer so skin met skin.
Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada..he'd show her how right he was..
And as the candles blew out and their cries rang out, he did..

Leave your comments on the 'Comments' Page!



30 comments:

  1. i love reading your stories! and absolutely loved this one shot! so hot and passionate!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Spent last couple f days reading ALL your work. I am spellbound. No words to express what a wonderful w

    ReplyDelete
  3. Writer you are! Will be stalking your blog for updates!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lovely OS, hun...
    Enjoyed it very much....
    Thank you....

    ReplyDelete
  5. lovely ...any thing about arnav and khushi is beautiful....it look like we can't have enough

    ReplyDelete
  6. Fabulous Os Dr. Raizada -- A journey of love and friendship... loved it..

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just found this wonderful blog and have been reading the OS...loved how each is so different from the other...congrats on your publication...hope to read more of your work...good luck for the future! N I just realized that they are too many doctors who have succumbed to the ARHI mania, me included....wonder why though...not that I am complaining ;)

    Mrignayani

    ReplyDelete
  8. very nice..keep up the good job..read all o/s..thanks so much...I found out about shameless ff today as it is nominated in ff awards list...where is the link for it..all is so little confusing..thanks again..all the best

    ReplyDelete
  9. Whoa!!! mind-boggling...suspense, thriller ArHi FF....amazing!!
    Im guessing Anjali killed Shyam because he was cheating on her?

    loved the story..

    cheers
    what_the

    ReplyDelete
  10. I Loved the OS Full moon !! Amazing , Thank God Khushi didn't killed that Shyamu ! Your Writing is awesome Tina !

    ReplyDelete
  11. loved the full moon, bit different than other OS so far
    haha, Shyam fell in his own trap
    thanks for the PM:)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Read all the one shots in one shot.... And loved each one of them.
    Difficult to decide which was my favourite as each one was so different from the other but I loved the valentine one the most....
    Poonam
    IF. paaskhanna

    ReplyDelete
  13. How the hell do you do it? I was dying to read SOMETHING else after the update of SP, but I knew you'd updated everything, and then I came here, and found Surrender .... *sigh* Thank you! :D

    ReplyDelete
  14. 'Surrender'...that is what I do to you completely for such short and lovely OSes.....keep it rolling girl!

    Mrignayani

    ReplyDelete
  15. oke tina i red it
    wondrful
    that os with full moon was wonderful dear
    i was like did anjali posioned shyame or did she know he is creep nad killed him
    and then khushi having nightmarrie i thought shyame was vampier
    or wolf god

    ReplyDelete
  16. omg! read all the os's in one go
    superb! each one had such unexpected twists n turns
    loved every story
    do write more
    sending buddy request to u in IF
    plzz do accept n keep sending me pms of ur updates

    off to start reading ur FFs now...

    -Shree.Nanda [IF]

    ReplyDelete
  17. hey i heard ur a doc!!! i am so happy... coz i am one too!! and everytime i write stuff and ppl go like how the hell you write being a doc i wonder WHATS WRONG IN THAT NOW!!! but your work made me so proud... so happy!! i am really happy to get to know ur fic! they say BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!! i shall read all that i can!! cheers! ur rocking and it feels awesome!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've heard that a lot too lol. but many doctors have creative sides to them ;)
      happy reading!

      Delete
  18. wow...all stories were amazing...but my fav was tearful goodbyes and honeymoon games....tearful goodbyes was so emotional ..making me cry...soo lovely

    ReplyDelete
  19. awesome update, read the story in one go. eagerly waiting for the update.

    Swapna

    ReplyDelete
  20. Superb os . Loved all os.
    Joa123

    ReplyDelete

Followers