Mind Games 2: Pt 6-10


A light, romantic story of love and seduction with a twist.. and some naughty conversations, a few fantasies, and a handful of lingerie thrown in for good measureEmbarrassed




*DO NOT plagiarize, share, or distribute my work. Copyright TINA!. All rights reserved.*
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MIND GAMES
by TINA!
Chapter 6: A+K
The next morning, Payal groaned as she stirred awake. Her head was throbbing and her stomach felt oddly queasy.
"Payal.." whispered a voice from her bedside.
She turned away, snuggling deeper into the covers with a frown. "Go away, Buaji," she muttered under her breath.
"Payal," said the voice again, "Are you feeling okay?"
Her jaw tightened. Anger sizzled. Couldn't Buaji see that she clearly was not okay? She felt downright horrible. As if she's eaten rotten jalebis or something.
"Payal.."
Her head whipped toward the voice, ready to scream. The room seemed to spin as she moved. As the blurriness disappeared, Payal's eyes widened.
"Akash?" she said, shocked to see him kneeling near the bed.
He nodded, smiling nervously.
She jumped away from him, glancing around the room. How had she ended up here..in this unfamiliar bed, she wondered?
Her eyes froze on the empty spot beside her. "Did you.." She looked at him with alarm.
His eyes rounded behind his glasses as he caught her meaning. He shook his head at once. "No, Payal, of course not! You slept here alone. I slept on the sofa over there. You weren't feeling well last night.." His eyes shifted away guiltily. "Uh, you see, your juice got accidentally spiked with alcohol at the G.N.O. I didn't know what to do. And you looked so uncomfortable sleeping in the living room. I couldn't leave you there.." His voice trailed off uncertainly.
Payal nodded, closing her eyes. She was trying to follow him but he was speaking so fast and her head was still spinning. She suddenly felt an unwelcome urge.
"Akash.."
Akash didn't hear her quiet voice. He was trying his best to remember all the lines he'd practiced last night as he'd lain on the sofa, wide awake.
He wanted to compliment her today. No talks about vegetables! he told himself again, Or Buaji! Just tell her those three special words..
Payal moaned, feeling uneasy. "Akash, can you--"
He suddenly grabbed her hand, confusing her all the more. "Payal, you are such a wonderful person. I think about you all the time. You have no idea how much you mean to me."
Payal shook her head. "Akash--"
But he continued with pause. "Everything about you mesmerizes me. You're the most beautiful, most wonderful girl in the world. I'm still amazed that you're going to be my wife."
"Please, Akash, just listen," insisted Payal. Her free hand rose to cover her mouth.
"No, Payal," said Akash, a look of determination shining in his eyes, "Please let me say it this magical morning.." With a gulp, he closed his eyes, taking a deep breath, "Payal..I love you.."
He expected a hug or if he was lucky, a kiss on the cheek. But instead, there was an odd, gurgling sound.
Akash's eyes flew open. Payal looked horrified and slightly green as she vomited again.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Downstairs, Anjali felt awful. Her best friends, Sarah and Juhi looked just as miserable as they lay on the sofas.
"This hangover feels terrible," said Juhi, her eyes tightly closed, "How the heck did we all get so drunk?"
Anjali glared at the empty glasses on the coffee table. "It must have been the juice. How could the servants have made such a mistake? I will definitely speak to them."
"You better," said Sarah with a nod.
"Thank God, Naniji didn't notice us earlier when she went out."
"She probably did, but ignored it," said Sarah, "She's so very sweet."
"Unlike that Mami of yours," added Juhi, "But thankfully, 'Hello, hi, bye, bye' never wakes up before noon anyway."
Anjali nodded, looking thoughtful. She thanked God again that no one had discovered how the G.N.O. had gotten out of hand--even if it had been unintentional. There was something else that kept nagging her..some drunken phone call. But it had to have been a dream, reasoned Anjali, there was no way she could have really called him up and said 'I love you!'
No, she couldn't possibly have, she reassured herself.
"Where are Khushi and Payal?" asked Sarah, glancing around.
Anjali welcomed the distraction. "They're probably upstairs in the guestroom."
"Right," said Sarah, "They're probably getting ready. Come on, we should go there too."
She reached for Juhi and Anjali, pulling them up with a tug.
Juhi groaned, swaying on her feet. "Can't we just stay down here forever? I don't think I can walk."
"No," said Anjali and Sarah at the same time, shaking their heads.
The doorbell rang just then.
Anjali paused at the stairs, glancing back.
"That must be Nani..you two go on up, I'll be right there."
They nodded, walking unsteadily up the staircase.
Anjali hurried toward the main door as the bell sounded again. "Coming!"
She reached for the door knob, swinging the door open, a wide smile on her face, "Good morning, Nani, how was--"
Her words stopped midsentence. Her eyes widened with horror. Her heart seemed to still. It couldn't be..It couldn't be..
"Good morning, Ms. Raizada," said Aman, looking over her carefully.
It was hard for Anjali to find her voice. "Morning.." she said after a long pause, completely flustered. Her hand shook as it rose up, brushing her hair nervously back. She cringed as she felt his gaze on her reddened face. She could just imagine how terrible she must look. He, on the other hand, looked so handsome it was hard for her concentrate.
"Come in," she said finally, "Chote will be down soon."
Aman stalked past her, staring at her wordlessly.
"Please sit down," she said, motioning toward the sofas.
He nodded, asking, "How are you?" as he sat down.
Anjali shivered slightly as his smooth voice hit her. "Umm.. fine," she managed shyly, her eyes downcast.
Aman wished she would glance up and meet his gaze. He was searching for the right words when she announced suddenly, "I'll just go and call Chote."
"Wait!" he exclaimed. She was ready to sprint away by the look of it.
She froze, turning toward him with nervousness, "Yes?
"I didn't come to see Boss."
Her heart raced as she held his gaze. "You..you didn't?"
He shook his head.
"Then why?"
He rose, coming to stand before her trembling form.
Aman held up his cell phone, "Caller I.D., Ms. Raizada."
---------------------------------------------------
A pleasurable warmth seeped into Khushi as she nestled into the blankets. She smiled softly in her sleep, rubbing her cheek against it.
Princess..murmured a familiar, husky voice, Sweetheart, are you up?
Her lips curved at once at Arnav's call, but she stubbornly kept her eyes closed, feigning sleep.
A masculine hand ran up her arm and into her messy hair, lingering.Princess..he said in that blatantly sexy tone once more, I know you're awake.
She shook her head, Five more minutes, baby..please, I'm so tired..
Before he could argue, she wrapped her arms around him, holding him pressed to her slim form.
As soon as her hands touched him, she froze, her body tensing. Sleep left her at once.
Her hands glided underneath the blankets once more, confirming what she'd just sensed. But it was true.
Her eyes snapped open. She bolted upright on the mattress, looking at him wide-eyed.
Arnav! Where are your clothes?!
He grinned at her, reclining back on the bed, shirtless.
Morning, Khushi, he said, ignoring her question. Rising up on his elbow, he leaned toward her, kissing her on the lips softly. I love you so much.. He dropped another kiss on her mouth.
Khushi's eyes rounded even more as she watched the blanket slip, exposing his chiseled chest and toned abdomen.
Ar..Arnav..your clothes..why-- But she paused midsentence as he abruptly reached for her hand, lacing their fingers together.
Arnav raised their entwined hands to his lips, his eyes smoldering with heat and love as he considered her tousled hair, her bewildered expression.
Khushi.. he sighed, his mouth brushing across her knuckles, You're the one that took my clothes off, why are you asking me about that?
What? Me! She could barely believe it. You mean I took them off?
Yeah, he said, glancing at her surprised. You practically ripped them off last night. Don't you remember?
She shook her head slowly, speechless for the first time in her life. Her mouth opened and closed several times, but no words emerged. Even the mind link seemed frozen from her end.
Arnav bit his lip to keep from laughing out loud at the play of emotions across her shocked face. Never had he seen Khushi at such a complete loss of words.
You came into my room yourself, explained Arnav, A little tipsy..
Tipsy? She froze as snippets of last night came to her. Something about juice, a game, boxers..and..
You said you wanted kids..
Her head snapped towards him. I said that?
Yeah, mumbled Arnav, his eyes tracing over her naughtily, You said you wanted lots of kids..that looked like me.
Embarrassed, she glanced away, her hands fidgeting nervously. I do.. she admitted, But how did I get here? I don't remember..
Arnav smiled lazily, relaxing back. You blew me away last night. You were so wild..so passionate..
He watched amused as she stilled, finally noticing the rumpled bed sheets, his clothes strewn between them.
Her mouth dropped open. A sly smile crossed his face.
Did we.. Her head swerved toward his, panic blooming in the depths of her eyes.
Schooling his expression, he nodded seriously. I know we wanted to wait for the wedding night. But Princess, it just felt right last night. You were an absolute wildcat, so adamant about having your way with me.. I couldn't win against you this time..
Khushi's face paled, she could barely speak. So we..we..we really..
Arnav nodded, Yes, Khushi, we made love..all night long.. He pressed a tender kiss on her lips.
She stilled, freezing. Her lips trembled.
Arnav paused, concerned for the first time. She looked like she would start sobbing any second, and he'd never been able to handle her tears.
Khushi..love..he began gently.
But before he could continue, she grabbed a big, fluffy pillow, hitting him right in the face with it.
What the--! Khushi! But she continued without pause, slapping the pillow against his head, and then across his exposed chest with a well-aimed swipe.
Before she could attack him again, he wrenched the pillow out of her hand, throwing it to the floor.
But she just lunged at him the next moment, one hand pulling his hair, the other pinching the side of his left arm.
Oww! With a quick motion, he grabbed her wrists, pushing her down onto the mattress. Khushi! That's enough! He had to cover her body with his to keep her from lashing out.
Little did that help though. Khushi was fighting him wildly, her lithe body squirming uncontrollably beneath his.
Stop it, Khushi! he shouted, as one of her kicks made contact with his shin, Stop it right now!
NEVER! she screamed, her furious gaze finding his. Glints of fire seemed to spark in her chocolaty brown eyes. How could you do this to me! she said, enraged, How could you, Raizada! She kicked him again, wildly fighting to break his hold on her.
Arnav grunted as he pressed into her, his legs holding hers apart, his hands wrapped around her wrists still. The bed was shaking outright from their heated fight now. Just calm down, Khushi, and let me explain.
No way in hell! she shouted in his face.
His eyebrows rose in surprise. Khushi had never cursed before. A small smile curved his mouth as he gazed down at her: her hair all messy, her skin tinged a dull red from all the fighting, her eyes sparkling with anger. She was even more beautiful to him when she was all worked up like this.
Khushi must have sensed his growing passion because her frown deepened visibly. Don't even think about touching me again. You're never touching me again! That's your punishment, Arnav. How could you do this to me?
He shook his head, It was just a jo--
Don't you dare try to explain this! she interrupted. Do you hear me, Arnav Singh Raizada? I can't believe you would do this to me! Do you have any idea how long I've been waiting to make love with you!
He froze as her words hit him, stunned. His hands released her wrists, limp suddenly.
Her anger spilled forth, unleashing all her pent-up desires without a thought. Khushi pounded against his bare chest with her small fists. Arnav barely felt the hits. His every thought was entwined with hers.
It meant so much to me! And I don't even remember anything! How dare you ruin that for me, ASR!
Surprised, he looked down at her, considering her words. Let me get this straight.. you're not angry about last night, but just mad that you don't remember?
Damn right! she shouted, pushing against his chest hard. And then with one last jab, she fell back on the tousled sheets, her body going still. Her eyes closed, a tear escaped one eye.
Arnav's breath hitched, his hand instinctively rose, wiping the tear away. Princess, I'm sorry..it was just a--
I don't remember anything..she interrupted glumly, Not even one damn kiss. Her eyes flew open, fire erupting once more. How could you, Arnav!
He could no longer stay away from her. Arnav caught her hands in his, pushing her deeper into the sheets. As her mouth opened to shout some more, he pressed his lips against hers, kissing her hungrily.
She froze for a second, completely surprised and almost ready to attack him once more, but his teeth nipped her bottom lip just then, demanding entry.
With a moan, she opened her mouth, kissing him back with just as much passion. Their tongues entwined, their hands gripped one another tightly. Khushi wrapped her legs around his waist, tightening her hold on him even as she plunged her tongue into his warm mouth, her touch blazing and possessive.
Arnav could barely reign himself in as she began moving wildly against him, their kisses so heated he was half-sure the sheets were singed underneath them. Never had they been so completely out of control, so out of their minds with need.
Harder, she moaned, arching up against him. He gave her what she wanted, his hands slipping beneath her flimsy top. She cried out as his hand touched her warm, bare skin, leaving streaks of fire in his wake.
Her fingers fisted in his hair, keeping his mouth fused to hers. They kissed feverishly, fighting for control.
Make love to me again, Arnav, ordered Khushi, as she sucked on his bottom lip, I want to remember every damn second this time.
Arnav paused against her as her words entered his mind. He began pulling away, but she would have none of that.
No, Raizada. Don't you dare! We are not leaving this room till you do as I say. Her expression was half-angry and half-sensuous.
Khushi..began Arnav again, realizing that maybe the joke had been on him after all.
NO, BABY! cried Khushi, bringing her mouth to his again, her hands tightening around his bare shoulders, I won't let you leave this time.
Arnav sighed, smoothing her hair out of her face. He brought his forehead to hers, his eyes closing. Without a word, he sent all of his memories of last night to her through their mind connection.
Khushi froze beneath him as she searched through the memories. Is that all?
He nodded uneasily. The kitchen staff messed up, he explained,The drinks Akash sent for got exchanged with the fruit juice you girls were having. And then--
We didn't make love? she interrupted, her gaze fixated on him.
Arnav shook his head slowly, waiting for another outburst. No.. I just thought it would be a fun way to wake up, you know? Look, I'm wearing shorts..
Khushi glanced down, her face expressionless. Let me up, she said after a long pause.
He frowned at her icy tone. Princess..
Get off of me! she shouted.
He pulled away with a sigh, standing at the foot of the bed. Khushi followed his lead, but her legs were caught in the covers and she almost fell back into the bed. Arnav's hands rose to steady her, but she avoided his touch. Don't! she said, her voice steel-like.
Arnav ran a hand through his hair as he watched her slide out of the bed, grabbing her dupatta from the floor.
Without so much as a glance at him, she held her chin up, walking toward the door.
Arnav reached for her hand, his voice soft, Princess, please..
Her eyes shone with fury as she spun in his direction, wrenching her hand out of his grasp. Don't touch me, Arnav!
Khushi, please, it was just a joke. His eyes pleaded with her, twinkling. And plus, you've hit more times than I can count already. I'm sorry, Princess. I really am..
Her lips thinned as she considered him, trying to ignore the sexy look in his eyes, the fact that he was still shirtless before her. She schooled her expression carefully.
I don't forgive, Arnav Singh Raizada, I get even.
And with that, she wrenched the door open, leaving him open-mouthed behind her.

------------------------------------------------
Khushi slammed open the door to the guestroom. Anjali, Sarah, and Juhi glanced up in surprise.
"Finally!" said Juhi, "Where were you?"
Khushi hesitated, remembering her fight with Arnav. Never had he made her this mad before. "Umm.." but Payal entered the room just then, leaning back against the oak door.
"Payal?" said Anjali, "Are you okay?"
"Jiji?"
Payal nodded. She was still lost in the stolen moments with Akash. After she'd puked, he'd been so nice to her, helping her clean up even. A small smile crossed her face.
"Just fine, but tell me, did last night really happen?"
Sarah nodded grimly. "It really did. We got drunk and called your Buaji."
"So there really was a Mrs. Dangu, I didn't dream it up?" asked Khushi, sitting crossed legged on the bed.
Juhi nodded. "Yes there was a Dangu, which rhymes with--"
Sarah clapped her hand over Juhi's mouth. They all giggled, except for Anjali. She was still thinking about Aman downstairs. His voice kept repeating in her head: "Caller I.D., Ms. Raizada.."
She cringed for the umpteeth time. "Aman's here," she told the girls.
They looked at her astonished. "What!"
She nodded, "He knows it was me that called him last night."
"OMG," said Juhi, throwing her arm around Anjali, "What did you say?"
"Nothing," said Anjali, "Nani came just then. But she did invite him to the wedding. So I'll have to see him again at the mehendi tonight."
"Anji," said Sarah softly, "Maybe this was all meant to be. Now there's nothing holding you two back. He knows how you feel. Maybe, your love story is about to begin."
"I doubt it," she said, closing her eyes. She couldn't forget about her damaged leg.
"Come on, girls, cheer up!" said Sarah, "I have presents for all of you." She gave each of them a silky night gown.
Khushi accepted the package hesitantly. "It's red," said Sarah with a wink.
A blush crossed Khushi's face at the mention of Arnav's favorite color. And then she remembered how mad she was at him.
"Thank you, Sarah. Di, Jiji and I should go, Buaji is probably wondering where we are. It's almost nine and the mehendi is today."
Anjali nodded, rising up. The girls all hugged, promising to meet up again at the mehendi later that night.
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Arnav hurried down the staircase. He'd quickly showered and dressed.
Khushi..princess..please, talk to me..
But the silence continued from her end.
He sighed with frustration. Why was she always so stubborn, damn it?
Ahead, everyone was already sitting around the dining table, their forks and knives clattering on the silverware as breakfast was served.
Arnav frowned as he realized the Gupta sisters were missing. What the hell! How was he supposed to talk to Khushi now? She was ignoring him completely.
She must be around here, he reasoned. She couldn't have left without a word to him.
"Di, where's Khushi?" he asked at once.
She raised an eyebrow, smiling. "Good morning to you too, Chote. Your Khushi just left."
"Left?" he repeated, stunned.
Akash nodded. "You just missed them, Bhai. I got to say goodbye to Payal," he added with a soft smile.
Arnav glared at him, turning on his heel.
"Chote!" called Nani after him, "Your breakfast!"
"Not hungry," said Arnav, going upstairs. He kicked open his bedroom door, slamming it shut behind him. He glanced down at his watch. It was 9:30 AM. There were hours left till the mehendi. How the hell was he going to get through another long day, he wondered?
Princess, please. I'm sorry, just talk to me. I'm going crazy here..Khushi!
Two words, Raizada, she said suddenly in his head, Go away!
Princess, I said I'm sorry. What do you want me to do?
Nothing, she bit out tersely, closing the link with a snap.
Arnav sighed harshly, throwing himself face-down on the still tangled bedsheets.
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The Gupta household was bustling with activity as the Raizadas entered. Flowers hung from the rafters, bright lights were strung along the walls. Music and laughter drifted through the still air.
Payal was sitting in a circle surrounded by her friends and family. A middle-aged lady was applying an intricate mehendi pattern on her right hand.
Arnav's eyes though skipped over everything, searching for his love. He froze as he sensed Khushi's presence.
His heart raced as he turned toward her, taking in her beauty, her slightly grumpy expression.
Without a word, he went and stood beside her.
She refused to meet his searching gaze.
Khushi, please. I'm sorry. Talk to me, love.
She raised an eyebrow toward him, considering his request.
His eyes pleaded with hers. Sweetheart, please.
Without a word, she walked away. Arnav sighed, about to go after her, when she whispered softly, Meet me in my room in 5 minutes.
He nodded at once, his eyes lighting up.
Anything, love.
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Anjali was laughing with her friends when she sensed someone's gaze on her.
Aman motioned to her from the door, turning toward the patio.
Anjali gulped as she watched him go. "I'll be right back," she told Sarah and Juhi.
They looked at her confused, but without waiting, Anjali hobbled away.
The back porch was almost empty. A few kids were running around in the grass nearby.
"Ms. Raizada.."
Her heart stilled as she turned toward him. "Yes?"
He glided toward her silently, his eyes boring into hers.
Anjali glanced away, feeling strangely breathless.
"Did you mean it?" he asked suddenly.
Her head snapped toward his, her eyes rounding.
"Kids!" called a voice from the nearby door, "Come inside now, dinner is starting!"
Aman and Anajli froze, their eyes fixed on one another.
A group of laughing kids raced inside, not noting the couple standing motionless in the corner.
Anjali gulped as the door swung shut and she realized they were alone.
"We should go.." she muttered, turning away.
But Aman grabbed her hand, refusing to let her leave. "Did you mean it, Ms. Raizada?" he asked again.
Her eyes darted away, "Umm..mean what?" She hoped he hadn't heard what she'd said last night.
He reached for his phone, pressing a button.
Anjali froze with horror as her voice broke out from the device, "I love you!"
"That..did you mean that?" asked Aman, gazing at her intently in the dim light.
"I..well..you see.."
"Anji!" shouted Sarah from the porch, her eyes widening as she noticed them, "Oh, my! I'm sorry. Please, carry on."
A blush covered Anjali. She pulled away from Aman, hurrying toward the door.
"It's fine, Sarah, we were just coming inside."
As she limped to the door, she turned back toward Aman. He was still standing in the same position, his eyes on her.
"Yes.." she said, her heart fluttering wildly, "Yes, I did mean it."
And with that, she hurried inside, just barely seeing Aman's wide grin.
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Arnav stepped inside Khushi's room carefully, making sure no one noticed him. A familiar hand grabbed his arm, pulling him inside.
He watched surprised as Khushi turned to the door, locking it.
Princess, I'm so glad you're not mad anymore.
She frowned at him, her eyes flashing. Oh, I'm still mad at you, Raizada. Now, take that shirt off.
He looked at her with shock. He must have heard her wrong.
You heard me. Shirt off, now!
Khush--
Don't make me! she said, crossing her hands over her chest.
Arnav hesitantly reached for his buttons. He must have been too slow because with an annoyed sigh, Khushi reached across, lifting the shirt up. The dark sherwani fell on the floor with a dull thud.
Khushi tried to control her heartbeat as she took in his bare chest.  She pushed him onto her bed.
Sweetheart, what are you up to? he asked, trying to read her.
What? she said innocently, I'm trying to figure out if you lied to me about the boxers too.
The what?!
She nodded, her eyes tracing across him. Last night, you said you wore boxers, right? I want to make sure you weren't lying. You lied about us making love. Who knows, you probably lied about the boxers too.
Arnav looked startled and confused at the same time. So why did you want my shirt off.
Khushi shrugged. My choice. Now, for the pants. She reached for his belt.
Arnav covered her hand with his, What the hell, Khushi! Is this your plan to get back at me?
She frowned at him, her face scrunching. I'm not like you, Mr. ASR. Fooling people.
A slight smile crossed his face as he considered her. His finger trailed over her lips.
Fine, he said finally, Go ahead, Princess.
Khushi fought to keep her blush under control. What the! Arnav was taking this completely wrong. He was supposed to be shocked, not turned on!
Both of their breaths were suspended as Khushi unbuckled his belt. The line of his boxers came into view.
Okay, maybe you're not always a liar, said Khushi, jumping away,See you later.
He grabbed her hand, pulling her down on top of him with a single tug.
No way, Princess. I won't let you leave just like that.
No? she asked, avoiding his twinkling eyes.
He shook his head, cupping her cheek in his palm. You got even alright, Khushi. Now, please, forgive me. I need you. I love you.
Her eyes sparkled as she looked down at him. Her hands plunged into his hair as she brought her mouth to his.
I love you too, she murmured, kissing him passionately.
Do you forgive me? he asked, his tongue rubbing across her bottom lip.
She moaned, pressing kiss after kiss against his mouth. Yes..
He smiled against her lips. With a laugh, he flipped her over, covering her body with his.
Khushi grinned, her hands clenching on his bare back as their mouths met again.
Several long minutes passed.
We should get up.. murmured Arnav breathlessly, his hand curving along her bare waist.
She nodded, pulling him down for another hungry kiss. We should, but I don't want to..
We're gonna miss the mehendi, he reminded her, his mouth pressing against hers possessively, urgently..
I don't care. She reached toward the night stand, grabbing a simple cone of henna.
Arnav growled as their mouths lost contact. Baby, come back..
Shh, she muttered, falling back into his awaiting arms. They kissed slowly, and then Khushi grabbed his hand.
Using the henna, she wrote in small letters: A+K.
He smiled, grabbing the cone from her. He wrote the same on her palm.
There, said Khushi happily, Mehendi done.
He grinned, dropping a firm kiss on her palm. Seriously, we should get up. Everyone must be wondering where we are.
Khushi nodded, but neither moved an inch away.
Five more minutes? suggested Arnav, his mouth falling on hers again.
Deal! she said, pulling him closer, their bodies pressing together restlessly. Both were careful not to smear the 'A+K' on their hands.
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Veer Mehra strode into Payal's mehendi as if he was the chief guest. His eyes searched for Khushi. A frown tightened his mouth as he noticed her absence, along with ASR's.
Buaji was hurrying by, and without a word, he grabbed her arm, pulling her aside.
"Hai Re Nandkishore! Veer bitwa, what are you doing?" Her eyebrows rose up.
Veer smiled at her charmingly. "Buaji, tomorrow is the sangeet, right?"
"Yes," said Buaji slowly, trying to follow him, "Tomorrow at 5 o'clock."
"Great," said Veer, "Listen, Buaji, I have a great idea. Khushi and I can dance together tomorrow. I think it'll bring us closer."
Buaji's eyes widened. A smile crossed her face. "That is a wonderful idea, bitwa. Don't worry, I'll arrange everything." Her beefy hand patted his.
Veer grinned as he watched Buaji hurry away. He hummed as he followed behind her, his thoughts filled with Khushi, "Teri meri prem kahani.."

Chapter 7: Sneaking Around
"Please be careful," said Khushi, watching closely as a young woman applied mehendi on her hands. She didn't want anything to happen to the 'A+K.'
"Of course," replied the woman, drawing an intricate vine design.
Exactly how long is this going to take? drawled Arnav, looking bored as he stood leaning against a pillar, politely nodding to guests.
The night just started, baby.
He sighed. But I want to be alone with you.
Khushi shook her head just barely in his direction, her eyes shining as their gazes met from across the room. We just kissed for 20 minutes, Arnav!
Oh, and that's supposed to be enough? I want you to myself.
She rolled her eyes at his stubborn, gruff tone. Baby, we'll meet up tonight okay? My room.
Arnav nodded. I'd already planned on that. But, I want you now.
Heat shot through Khushi as she noticed the blazing look in his eyes, tracing over her slim body. His eyes seemed to pause over a few choice locations.
Stop looking at me like that! she chided, her pulse racing.
Like what? he asked, knowing exactly the effect his gaze had on her. I'm being honest, Princess. I want you. Preferably alone and with not so many clothes on.
Khushi's head snapped up, locking with his. He smirked, winking at her stunned expression.
"All done! Now onto your other hand.." said the woman, reaching for a new cone of henna.
Arnav sighed impatiently. Where's a drink when you need one? Damn, this is torture: seeing you so near me and not being able to touch you.
Khushi's eyes pleaded with his. Baby, I want you too. Just wait till tonight, okay?
Not okay, Princess, he replied, greeting a guest at the door. But I might agree just because I love you so damn much.
Thank you.
Not so fast Mrs. Soon-to-be Raizada, said Arnav, shaking his head at her. I said 'I might' agree. I haven't yet.
She could very well read that look in his eyes. She sighed, rolling her eyes. What do I have to do this time?
He grinned slightly in her direction. Not much. My condition is that in return for waiting, you'll eat with me tonight.
Surprise bloomed in her warm brown eyes. Arnav, how will we manage that?
Leave that to me, he said as he sat lazily on a sofa, his legs spread out before him. Just agree.
Khushi had never been able to say 'no' to him. Agreed, she said, winking at him.
-----------------------------------------------------
Anjali stood laughing with her friends when she felt his eyes on her.
Aman was still standing by the door, not quite a part of the festivities.
Her heart stilled as their eyes met. She suddenly wondered if he'd eaten anything or if he was hungry at all. "I'll be right back," she mumbled to her friends as she walked to him, almost as if she was pulled toward him.
Aman's eyes shone as she neared. "Want to take a walk, Ms. Raizada?" he asked quietly, motioning toward the dark garden. "It's so crowded here."
"Yes, but one condition: you call me Anjali from now on." They both smiled as they stepped out. Night had set in. Overhead, stars shone brightly, twinkling.
"Umm..Anjali, I--"
There was sudden loud laughter. A few boys around 12-13 years old were pointing toward Anjali, hooting with laughter.
"Look at her walk!"
"Hey, guys. I can walk like that too," said one, limping in an exaggerated way.
"That's enough!" shouted Aman, his eyes blazing with anger. "Get out of here before I--"
"Please.." murmured Anjali, pulling at his sleeve, her eyes downcast. "Let's just go."
He was about to argue but she glanced up just then. His heart stilled as he noted the tears glimmering in her eyes. "I'm used to it, Aman. Please, please leave it."
With a final glare at the boys, Aman pulled Anjali toward a quiet corner of the garden, his arm curling protectively around her waist.
As they reached a small bench, his arm dropped from her abruptly. "Sorry," he murmured as he sat down.
Anjali instantly missed his touch. For a few minutes, they were silent, gazing up at the stars.
"You shouldn't have gotten mad," she finally whispered, "It happens to me every day almost. And it's only natural..my limp is the first thing people notice about me."
He shook his head, his eyes meeting hers. "That's not true." As she shrugged and gazed down at her lap, he continued softly: "The first thing I noticed about you was your smile."
She froze, her eyes swiveling towards him. But his eyes were on the glowing moon, his eyes hooded as he recalled the past. "You were entering a shopping mall, the same time as me and my younger sister. You didn't notice me as you stepped out of the car, your face glowing from laughter. There were two girls beside you, but I don't remember them. My eyes were just on you."
"Probably Sarah and Juhi," murmured Anjali, her heart thumping. "Why didn't you say anything?" she asked softly.
His eyes darkened as he turned toward her. "I wanted to. But we didn't know each other. I'd just come to Delhi looking for a job. And you'd just walked out of a Mercedes. What was I supposed to say? 'Hi, I'm Aman and I'm currently jobless, but I really like you?'"
"Maybe.." she whispered.
He sighed harshly. "That first week in Delhi I kept thinking about you, kept hoping I'd run into you, although the chance was one in a million. Then, I got a job at AR Designs. And one of my first errands was to drop a file at Raizada Mansion.."
"And I opened the door.." recalled Anjali, her heart twisting. "I remember that day. You were so handsome and there was an honesty about you. I wanted to talk to you. But Aman.." she said brokenly, "That was..that was three years ago."
His sorrowful eyes met hers. "I know. Believe me, I know. But what could I do? You were Boss's sister. Our worlds were so different.. I decided to ignore my own heart, although through these past three years, I just fell deeper and deeper in love with you."
"And I fell in love with you."
Aman grasped her hand in his, his heart aching. "I didn't think it was possible," he whispered, "But then that phone call last night.. I had to come and see you."
A tear slipped from Anjali's eye. He wiped it away carefully, his hand shaking.
And then Anjali could no longer hold herself back. She threw herself into his arms. He froze for a second, and then slowly, enveloped her in his arms, holding her tightly. Anjali cried against him, her tears streaking across his blazer as she wept for them..for all the time they had lost. As she glanced up, her heart froze. There were tears shining in his eyes. She couldn't help but lean forward. Her lips met his softly.
Aman inhaled sharply. And then he cupped her face in his hands, deepening the kiss.
Pure happiness and love flowed between the two as their mouth met, crickets chirping softly in the grass beyond.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Khushi was admiring her mehendi when Buaji swooped down on her. "Sanka Devi, don't smear it! It needs to dry."
She nodded. "I'll be careful," she promised, her eyes searching for Arnav. Where was that Raizada, she wondered?
Walk straight and turn left, he replied at once.
A thrill rushed through her at his husky tone. She smiled secretly as she made her way through the guests, her decorated hands held aloft.
She followed his instructions, her eyebrows rising when she didn't see him. Arnav, where are--
A strong hand grasped her upper arm, pulling her into a small room. Arnav locked the door behind him, his hands crossing across his chest, his eyes darkening as he gazed at her. But Khushi's eyes for once were not on him. She glanced at the boxes and clutter around her with a frown.
The storage room? she asked, baffled. Really?
He shrugged with his usual grace, his eyes twinkling. It's the only place that's not filled with guests. Now come on, you owe me dinner.
Khushi shook her head, holding her mehendi-decorated hands up.Sorry, love. You'll have to wait.
But I'm hungry.. he whispered, stalking closer.
She looked at him wide-eyed, her heart beat escalating. Dhak Dhak, Dhak Dhak.
He was smirking as he dragged her into his arms, kissing her. Khushi instinctively rose on her toes, her mouth meeting his. She ached to wrap her arms around his neck and pull him close but her hands were still wet. Damn the mehendi!
He laughed against her mouth, dropping another kiss. You're sexy when you talk like that.
Khushi blushed. Oh, it's all because of you. You drive me to swear! You know very well I want to touch you.
Well I kind of like this, he replied, his hands massaging her bared midriff and slipping underneath her choli. You, at my mercy..
Heat pooled in Khushi as his hand cupped her bra-incased breasts. She felt her legs go weak as he touched her so intimately. Arnav..
Khushi.. he echoed, kissing her deeply, his hand tugging at the lace with urgency.
She forgot all about the mehendi. Her hand rose to touch him, but at once, Arnav jumped back, shaking his head. Khushi pouted, Baby, come back here..
Not now, sweetheart. It's time for our dinner.
Khushi frowned, her mouth red from his kiss. The henna hasn't dried yet and--
But Arnav was arranging a few cardboard boxes, throwing a makeshift tablecloth over the top. He reached for a plate brimming with food from a side table.
You haven't eaten for the past five hours, which I think is a record for you, Princess. Come on, you must be hungry.
Khushi's eyes glistened as she neared him, watching him quietly as he fed her a syrupy jalebi. As he rose his hand to her mouth again, she shook her head. Your turn.
Arnav shook his head. I'll eat later.
I know you haven't eaten either, Arnav.. all day, right?
He glanced away. I wasn't hungry.
You know you're not supposed to do that with your diabetes, Her eyes pleaded with him. Baby, please.. for me..
He gazed intently at her, and with a small nod, finally ate.
Khushi's heart turned over as he fed her, taking a bite himself once in a while. Who knew dinner in a storage room could be so magical?
-------------------------------------------------------

Later that evening, Khushi's magenta lehenga billowed through the hallway as she ran. The mehendi was still going on around her, but her head was filled with sweet, overpowering love. Her heart raced as she thought of Arnav waiting for her.

There was definitely something intoxicating about a secret romance, something that made every moment so exhilarating.

As she neared her destination, her pulse raced.


The bathroom door stood wide open, and dark.

Arnav-- she said hesitantly.

Inside, he murmured, his tall, lean form separating from the bathroom shadows.

Khushi glanced around to make sure no one noticed and then ran inside locking the door behind her.

His lips were on hers the minute the door closed, his tongue plunging into her mouth.

Khushi moaned between kisses, You didn't look at my mehendi.

He grabbed her hands, heatedly kissing the 'A+K' on her palm.Beautiful.. he murmured, his hands fisting in her hair as he returned to her reddened mouth.

Several long minutes passed with the only noise the meshing of eager lips and tongues.

As his hands grasped her low around the hips, pulling her tight against him, Khushi moaned into his mouth, arching against him. Baby! I need..

He knew exactly what she needed and moved against her hotly, his lips branding a trail down her throat.
What if someone saw us? she asked, her head thrashing against the bathroom door.
He kneeled before her, his lips moving urgently across her midriff. No one did.
Khushi was having trouble breathing. What if someone knocks?
He tugged her top higher, his lips tasting her silky skin. No one will.
What if Buaji comes?
Don't you dare mention that woman right now.. he said, his tone husky. He exposed her bra-incased breasts to his eager eyes, his gaze smoldering. Damn, you're sexy..
With an impatient growl, his warm mouth descended over the lace, tugging wildly. His tongue swept across the sensitive tip. A moan escaped Khushi, she pulled his head closer, senseless as desire struck her to the core. Her being seemed to be centered on his lapping tongue, the searing heat of his mouth..
There was suddenly a knock on the bathroom door. "Someone in there?"
What the--!
 It's Buaji!
If the door is locked of course someone's inside. What is wrong with her?
Arnav! cried Khushi, frantic. What are we going to do?
He pulled away with a harsh sigh. Calm down, love.
"Who's there?" asked Buaji. "Hello! I'm waiting!"
Damn, she's impatient.
Arnav! I don't want her to find out like this.
'Course not. Relax, princess. I've got this.
But before he could say a word, the lights overhead turned off.
"What!" squawked Buaji, "What happened to the electricity?" Her heavy footsteps darted off.
Arnav, let's go!
One minute, he said, One more kiss till tonight.
Khushi gawked at him. Baby, we almost got caught!
So? he said, smirking in the darkness. His hands settled over the lace with firm possession.
Arnav! Stop! You are so insatiable.
Only for you, Princess, he said against her temple. Now about that kiss..
You're impossible! said Khushi, grabbing his head for a long, thorough kiss.
As they pulled away, she said in a breathless voice, her heart thudding. Now, let's go!
With secret smiles they quickly snuck out into the dark hall.
--------------------------------------------------------
That night, Khushi sat atop her bed, her hands weaving through Arnav's wavy hair. He was lying with his eyes closed, his head in her lap. Khushi..
Hmm.. Her hand paused.
I was thinking.. maybe we should tell your parents about us. I know they would accept me now.
She nodded, looking thoughtful. I think so too. Tomorrow maybe?
Done, he replied, bringing her hand to his mouth. He kissed her soft flesh slowly. Although, I'm going to miss this..
Me too, said Khushi as she recalled all their secret moments of romance and passion. She bowed her head down, kissing his lips.The sneaking around definitely gave me a few heart attacks, but I wouldn't change it for the world.
Me either.. I needed to be close to you.
She nodded, a worry entering her eyes. Arnav.. Baby, we won't be able to sleep together from tomorrow.
His eyes blinked open, staring up at her. Why the hell not?
Because once my family knows about us, they'll keep an eye on us. Amma sleeps beside Jiji now. And I'm sure Buaji will be sent here.
What! She'll take my place? Outrage rang out in his gruff voice. I swear that aunt of yours never leaves us alone. He frowned, thinking hard.
Khushi smoothed her hand across his chiseled face, holding him close. Shh, love. Just a few more days, and then I'll be yours forever.
Arnav smiled, rolling her over abruptly so his body covered hers.Damn right, he said as their mouths met.
-----------------------------------------------------------
Early the next morning, Khushi woke to Arnav's firm kiss. See you in a few hours, Beautiful!
She smiled sleepily, watching through half-closed eyes as he pulled on a gray hoodie, getting ready to leave. Love you, she murmured, rising up.
His eyes lit up as they flashed to her. He reached for her hands, his mouth finding hers. Love you too.
And then with a last shared smile, he hurried out, slipping through her bedroom window.
The sun was rising as Arnav jogged to Sheesh Mahal, his heart pounding as he thought of the day ahead. Today, he'd let the whole world know the exact nature of his and Khushi's relationship. She was his, damn it! She loved him! How dare her family think otherwise?
He was still grinning as he entered his lavish home, quietly opening the main door.
His sister sat in her favorite arm chair, quietly sipping tea, a soft smile on her face. Her eyes shone as she spotted him.
He held his hand up. "Before you ask, Di, yes, I'm khush today, very very khush. I'm going to ask for Khushi's hand in marriage today."
Her smile widened as she rose to hug him. "Oh, Chote! I'm so happy for you and Khushi."
He nodded. "It feels like I've been waiting forever to make her my wife."
She laughed at his grumpy tone. "Sometimes I still can't believe you fell in love, Chote. It feels so surreal."
"Sometimes I can't either," he admitted, "But Khushi is unlike anyone else. I need her, Di. I can't live without her."
She patted his arm. "She'll be your wife very soon, I'm sure. Now, let's tell Nani, we have a lot to prepare." Her eyes twinkled as she pulled him toward their grandmother's room.
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Khushi sat in the back gardens, surrounded by piles of flowers.  She smiled bemusedly as she made another long garland, her mind filled with Arnav. Today he was coming to ask her parents to marry her. It felt like her dreams were all finally coming true.
"Sanka Devi!" called Buaji, waving to her. "Come here, the sangeet rehearal is beginning."
Khushi nodded, dusting off rose petals as she stood. A large canopy-topped stage had been created outside, rows of white chairs stood aligned. A choreographer was running through steps with a group of children. Khushi waved at Pihu and Ananya.
"Now, you're next," said Buaji, pulling her toward the stage.
As the kids ran down, Khushi ascended up the steps, waiting for the choreographer to begin.
A tall, dark shadow stepped onto the stage beside her.
Khushi's eyes widened with alarm. "You!"
Veer smiled at her, his lips curling. "Now, now, Khushi. Is that any way to greet your future husband?"
Anger sizzled through Khushi. Her hand rose as her eyes spit fire at him. "Are you blind?" she asked. "See this ring? I'm engaged. I love my fiance and only him. I'd die before marrying you."
He chuckled. "We will see. Now, come, let's dance."
"Never!" she shouted, darting down the steps.
Buaji caught her arm, twisting her around. "Sanka Devi! What are you doing? Why are you ruining your sister's sangeet?"
Khushi met her gaze with resolve. "I refuse to dance with him. Never."
Garima came closer, frowning. "Khushi! Everyone is looking here. Get back on that stage!" she said in a hushed voice.
Khushi shook her head. "No. Never."
Buaji's hand tightened on her wrist. "Look, Sanka Devi, I'll speak to the choreographer. You won't have to dance with Veer,  just dance next to him."
Khushi frowned, pulling her hand away. "I don't--"
"Please, Khushi!" pleaded her mother, "I will forgive you for that Delhi incident if you do this. Just stop making a scene!"
Khushi looked back and forth between them, uncertain. Maybe if Amma forgave her, her parents would more readily agree to Arnav's proposal, she thought. "Fine," she bit out finally. "I'll dance next to him, but if he comes near me, I'm done."
Her mother and aunt nodded with relief, hurrying to the choreographer.
Veer Mehra smiled with glee as Khushi stepped onto the stage beside him.
-------------------------------------------------------
Arnav walked with his usual commanding grace into the Gupta household, his sister and grandmother following closely behind. They were very early, the sangeet was not till 5:00 PM, but Arnav wanted to meet with Khushi's parents privately. He could wait no longer.
"Hello," greeted one of the neighbors, welcoming them in. "I'm sorry, but everyone is out back. The sangeet rehearsals are going on."
They nodded politely, walking toward the pointed direction.
Arnav didn't know what he'd been expecting as he stepped into the sunny backyard. But nothing could have prepared him for the sight of his Khushi on stage, dancing with an unfamiliar man. He froze, rooted to the spot.
"Chote.." whispered Anjali, looking at him worriedly.
He couldn't reply. His eyes were glued to Khushi. He noted the frown on her face, the way she kept a large distance between herself and the man next to her.
He was thankful for it. He couldn't handle anyone close to her.
But his hands fisted at his sides as his eyes drifted to her partner: the clown was dancing out of sync, his eyes running hungrily over Khushi.
"Chote," said Anjali, grasping his rigid arm, "Just wait till its over, okay. Khushi clearly does not want to dance with that man."
He nodded, but just then the man on stage did something that made him see red.
The clown suddenly picked up Khushi in his arms, trying to kiss her.
She flailed in his arms, slapping him across the face before his mouth could reach hers. Arnav was already racing toward them when Khushi ran off the stage, going toward the back hall. The man ran after her, "Khushi! Listen to me, darling!"
Arnav! called out Khushi, crying.
Arnav's hands shook with rage as he changed directions. Buaji's loud laugh rang in his ears as he ran after Khushi: "Sanka Devi is such a baby sometimes. Veer bitwa was only playing."
Arnav's jaw clenched with barely repressed fury. Veer.. so that was the *******'s name!
Without pause, he walked into the empty back hall, the same place he'd first kissed Khushi after their separation. The flowers that had once been there were long gone. Saris and a large assortment of clothes hung from rope lines running across the room.
Arnav weaved his way through the saris, searching for his love.
He heard her voice before he saw her.
"Get out of here! I hate you!"
Veer laughed. "Get used to my touch, Khushi. And look, I can do it again--"
But his outstretched hand never touched her. Arnav stepped between them, punching Veer in the face with all his strength.
"How dare you touch her!" he screamed, his eyes blazing.
Veer's eyes darkened. "So it's you, ASR. Look, you may not know, but I'm marrying Khushi. She's my soon-to-be wife."
Arnav didn't reply. His fist slammed into Veer's face once more. "Like the hell she is! You're never going to come near her, let alone marry her!"
Veer frowned, his anger spiraling. "Why are you so interested in my Khushi?" he asked, "She's sexy and beautiful alright, but get it through your skull, ASR, she's all mine!" He reached across, trying to punch Arnav.
But Arnav quickly sidestepped, pushing Khushi out of the way. With a growl, he struck Veer once more, before throwing him to the floor.
He pulled Khushi into his arms, shaking as he glared down at Veer. Khushi curled her arms around him, her face buried against his chest. "Khushi is mine. She loves me. And I love her. If you so much as come near her again, you will regret it." His hands tightened on Khushi possessively. "Now get the hell out of here! And never come near my Khushi, this house, or this area ever again!"
Veer stood up with a deep frown on his face as he looked at the entwined pair. "You'll regret this, ASR, not me," he said as he walked off, his hands fisting.
Arnav yearned to go after the clown and hit him again, but Khushi was trembling badly in his arms.
He hugged her close, dropping kisses over her silky hair. Shh, Princess.. I'm here, now. You're safe.
She raised her face toward him, tears pooling. His breath hitched as he looked at her pale face. Lowering his head, he kissed her thoroughly, his hands massaging her tense back.
Arnav.. she finally said. I was so shocked and afraid when he picked me up. I hit him as hard as I could.
I saw that, he said, smiling. You did great.
She nodded, relaxing in his arms. I can't believe he tried to kiss me, in front of everyone.
Arnav kissed her again. Shh, he won't bother us anymore. He's not allowed near this house. I'll speak to that aunt of yours. His eyes tightened as he recalled Buaji's laughing words.
What is it? asked Khushi, trying to read his turbulent gaze.
He closed his eyes, sending her the memory. She looked up at him, stunned. How could Buaji say that?
Princess, I wanted to speak to your family politely about us, but now I just want to throw it in their face.
She couldn't argue with him. She'd had enough of everyone ignoring her love, passing over her deep, endless feelings for this man as if it was a childish infatuation. Anything you want. But how?
I have a plan. Arnav smirked down at her. Tonight you're going to dance with me at the sangeet and that dance alone will show the world our relationship. Your family will have to see that we belong together.
With a dance? Will that be enough?
He winked at her. Princess, I don't know if you realize this, but we have this sizzling chemistry. Not many couples do. We're gonna burn that stage down tonight.
Khushi smiled, looping her arms around his neck as they kissed hungrily. Deal, baby.. I can't wait for the sangeet now.

Chapter 8: Teri Meri
Veer Mehra's eyes flashed with fury as he spied on Arnav and Khushi from behind a bright blue sari.
They'd barely exchanged a word since he'd left them, but their eyes were focused on one another. Their mouths met with fervor. One heated kiss bled into the next.
His hands shook as he watched ASR splay his hand across Khushi's lower back, pulling her indecently close. His lips attacked hers with possessiveness.
But Khushi was willing and more than that, she was kissing the ******* back. Her hands shifted over him feverishly before clenching in his hair.
Veer's jaw tightened. She'd refused to so much as dance with him, and here she was, letting that ASR touch her as he pleased.
The arrogant man's words flashed in Veer's mind: "Khushi is mine. She loves me. And I love her. If you so much as come near her again, you will regret it."
With a final glare at the embracing couple, he turned on his heel, exiting the back hall quietly. A few guests were mingling outside. He pushed past them, dying to reach one female.
Where was Buaji? He couldn't wait to tell her all about her dear Sanka Devi's vulgar behavior. He almost laughed out loud as he imagined her reaction. Khushi's reputation would be blown to smithereens. She'd have no choice but to marry him.
Veer's eyes lit as he spotted Khushi's aunt exchanging gossip with some friends. He was just about to shout her name when a hard hand clamped on his shoulder.
"Who are you?" he asked the unfamiliar man, pushing him away.
But the man held on, dragging Veer to the exit. "I work for ASR," said Aman simply, his eyes darkening. With a shove, he threw Veer into the littered street. "Don't come back here," warned Aman. "I just received Boss's message. There will be guards positioned outside now. If you so much as try to come near Ms. Gupta or anyone in her family.. well, let's just say, the guards won't be as nice as me."
Veer's face knotted as he watched Aman leave. He gritted his teeth as he sulked into the darkness.
----------------------------------------------------------
"Hello?" answered Payal as she brought the phone to her ear. She was sitting atop her bed, surrounded by a circle of colorful clothes and jewelry.
"Payal!" said Akash, his voice extra loud. He cringed slightly. "Sorry to bother you, I know you must be busy with the sangeet preps. But I had to speak to you.."
"Of course, Akash. What is it?"
He took a deep breath. "Just.. well.. How are you feeling? The puking has stopped I hope."
As Payal blushed, Akash felt like kicking himself. Before she could reply, he continued hurriedly, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked--"
"No, no, Akash. I'm feeling fine. Thank you again for all your help. It was very sweet of you."
Akash smiled. "No thanks necessary, Payal. And anyways, in a few days, we'll be husband and wife. And then it'll be my job to take care of you."
The conversation came to a still for a few seconds, but for the first time, it wasn't an awkward pause.
And then Payal murmured softly, "Akash.. can you say what you said that morning again?"
He froze, glancing down at the phone. "Now? Are you sure?"
"Yes," said Payal, her voice very quiet.
Akash took a deep breath. This was it. "Payal.. I love you."
Her face lit up. She pressed the phone closer, her heartbeat escalating. "Akash.. I love you too.."
"What?" he replied, his face scrunching. "Payal, there's some static. I can't hear you. Can you say it again? Louder please?"
"I LOVE YOU!" shouted Payal, throwing her arm wide.
A body collapsed on the floor.
As Akash beamed, gazing down at the phone in wonder, Payal's eyes rounded as she looked down at the limp body.
"Amma?"
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Only forty-five minutes were left till the sangeet would officially begin. Khushi Kumari Gupta stood before the oblong mirror in a small guest room, dressing up. Her bedroom had been taken over by some of the guests from Agra and Delhi hours ago.  
She narrowed her eyes as she analyzed her makeup, pausing at the glittery light green eye shadow, the rosy blush on her cheeks, and the soft pink on her lips. She brushed her hair carefully back, deciding to leave it down. She didn't have time for anything more fancy. And anyways, like Arnav had said, they had blazing chemistry.. that would be more than enough. Khushi grinned as she imagined the coming sangeet.
Princess? murmured a familiar, gruff voice in her mind.
Arnav! Baby, are you here already?
Yeah, just walked in. Where are you?
Khushi hurriedly pulled on her petticoat, tying it in place around her waist. You know that small guest room, way in the back of the house? I'm there.
Cool, he said at once, I'm on my way.
Khushi's eyes rounded. Her hands froze on the flimsy green blouse in her hands. Arnav, no! Come in a few minutes.
Arnav raised an eyebrow, making his way through the throng of guests. Why can't I come now, Khushi?
Umm.. because I'm changing. It wouldn't be appropriate. Her voice trailed off timidly.
But Khushi, I've seen almost everything already.
Arnav!!
What? he asked with a smirk, moving toward the small room undeterred. It's the truth, love. I've touched and kissed mostly everything too.
Khushi blushed hotly. She couldn't deny his words. With a shake of her head, she replied: There are so many guests. We'll get caught, please understand.
He paused at that. She did have a point, as much as he hated to admit it. Fine, he said with a sigh, glancing at the closed door with heated eyes. Come out soon then, I'm waiting.
Give me five minutes, Arnav. Khushi smiled as she slid her arms into the blouse. Her hands twisted around as she brought the ties together.
But it wouldn't latch on. Khushi gritted her teeth as she tried again.Come on, Khushi Kumari Gupta soon-to-be Raizada, she told herself, fighting with the fastening.
Baby? muttered Arnav, standing confused outside.
Khushi sighed with defeat as the eye and hook slipped in her fingers yet again. Arnav, could you please call Jiji, or actually not her, she'll be busy. But maybe Di then instead? I need some help.
He frowned, gazing at the closed door. Why? Are you okay, Princess?
Yes, love. It's just.. I can't seem to tie my blouse on.
He was silent.
Arnav? she asked, brushing her hair out of her face.
Let me get Di, he finally answered, his heart racing as he imagined Khushi half-dressed inside.
Thanks, baby, she replied with a bright smile. I love you.
Love you back, he said as he walked away, searching for his sister in the crowd.
------------------------------------------------------------
There was a soft knock on the door. Khushi threw a blanket around her upper body, running to the door in just her petticoat and unfastened blouse.
"Coming, Di!" she said almost at the same time as she unlocked the door. Her eyes rounded as she looked out. She froze in place.
Arnav stood in front of her, his hands in his pockets. Before she could say a word, he slid inside, locking the door behind him.
Arnav! she finally managed to say, What are you doing here? Baby if someone sees--
No one did, he interrupted. I made sure the hallway was clear.
Khushi's mouth opened and closed. She didn't know how to react to that sudden wolfish gleam in his eyes.
Arnav.. she muttered, her breath halting. Without thinking, she began retreating backwards.
Arnav smirked at her, stalking closer. Hmm?
Her chest heaved under the blanket. Di.. Um, I mean, Where's Di?
His lip tipped upward. I never went to her, admitted Arnav, coming even closer. I was about to, but I couldn't resist you.. I had to come, Princess.
Their eyes met and held: his warm and sensual, hers huge with awe.
So your blouse.. reminded Arnav, You needed some help, right?
Khushi's pulse hammered. She nodded slowly, glancing away. He wouldn't allow that though. His bronzed hand reached forward, tugging on the blanket cocooning her. Khushi.. let go, love, he urged.
Her head snapped toward his. Something wordless passed between them. And then with just a slight motion, Khushi let go of the blanket. It fell to the floor in a heap.
Khushi wanted to throw her arms across herself, but she couldn't seem to move. Standing rigid, she faced him, her blouse slipping off her shoulders, the cups of her pale pink bra visible.
His eyes smoldered. Khushi felt his touch criss-cross her skin even though he hadn't even touched her yet. She waited with bated breath for him.
He neared her slowly. And then with a sharp pull, dragged her half-dressed body against him. Khushi gasped, her fingers flattening against his dark blue shirt. His eyes darkened as he gazed down at her, his hands dragging her even closer.
His head lowered toward her trembling lips, descending slowly. Khushi fought the urge to throw herself into his arms. But she couldn't forget the coming sangeet..
Baby, she whispered, just when his lips were a hair breath away. I have to get dressed..
He shook his head stubbornly. Two minutes, he demanded.
Khushi was powerless to argue. She nodded slowly.
With a groan, he pushed her against the wall, his mouth crashing down on hers. They kissed hungrily, their hands sliding over one another with almost palpable heat. They were mindless to everything except one another.
Arnav.. murmured Khushi as his tongue swept across the tops of her breasts. We have to.. We have to stop.. Her quivering voice did not sound even half-convinced to her own ears.
One more minute, he demanded, kissing the plump flesh firmly, branding her with his searing heat. Khushi arched against the wall, urging him closer.
Just when she felt her control slipping, he pulled his mouth away, breathing harshly. Khushi shuddered, holding on to him for support.
Her eyes were suddenly drawn to the mirror. She felt her mouth go dry as she looked at the carnal reflection: she was half-undressed, pressed to his rigid body, her eyes slightly glazed, her mouth red from his touch.
Arnav's eyes met hers in the mirror. He winked at her, his chocolaty brown eyes twinkling. You're beautiful, he mumbled, his hand curving downward. He dragged her so close to him, her front flattened against his chest.
Khushi bit back her smile. Beautiful? You've ruined all my makeup! I spent 20 minutes perfecting it, she scolded lightly, stepping away.
Arnav leaned against the tall mirror, watching intently as she touched up her lipstick. It warmed his heart to see her like this: dressed in just her green petticoat and lacy, pink bra, fixing her makeup.
It felt like such a homely scene, something only a husband would be allowed to see. And to think that just in a few days, he'd be hers.. and she'd be his wife.
What are you thinking? she asked, dusting powder down the bridge of her nose.
How lucky I am.. he admitted softly. I can't believe you'll be mine.. forever, Khushi Kumari Gupta.
She winked at him. You'll never get rid of me, Arnav Singh Raizada. I love you too much.
He smoothed a hand down her arm, kissing her bare shoulder. And I love you. Damn, our wedding cannot happen soon enough.
Khushi nodded seriously. How much she ached to be his.. in every way. Help me with this blouse now, Mr. ASR, she instructed, presenting her back toward him.
Sure, Ms. Gupta, he whispered, dropping kisses down her spine. The tie finally snapped on.
Thank you, baby, said Khushi, her eyes shining. She spun around in his arms, kissing him lightly. Before he could deepen it, she reached for her sari.
He watched mesmerized as she wrapped the plain green material around her, folding pleats so precisely his eyebrows rose.
As she draped the sari across her chest, he murmured softly,Ready? She swept a hand through her hair one last time.
At her nod, he led her to the door, his hand resting with familiarity on her hip.
Arnav.. said Khushi just as his hand settled on the door knob.
He paused, gazing at her wordlessly. What is it, love?
It's just.. Khushi nervously brushed her hair out of her face. We haven't rehearsed anything. Are you sure we can do this?
He smiled, placing a feather-light kiss on her mouth. Yes, we can do this. The passion and love we share is unfathomable to most of the people gathered tonight. She still seemed a bit nervous, so he leaned in closer, whispering in her ear: "Just imagine that it's just the two of us. No one else matters. Just focus on me, Princess.."
A bright smile spread across her face. All of her nerves seemed to fall away at his husky voice.


-----------------------------------------------------------
The sangeet had already opened by the time they stepped out into the night air. A group of kids were performing. Arnav followed Khushi to the canopy-topped stage. He made sure she was seated with her friends before turning away.
Where are you going? she asked him, trying to ignore the way many of the women were drooling over him. Her lips thinned. He was hers, damn it!
To speak to that aunt of yours. That clown is not allowed anywhere near you again.
Clown? He looks more like a lizard, don't you think? she asked seriously.
She beamed as a small grin spread across his face. And then with a last wink in her direction, he was gone.
It didn't take long for Arnav to find Buaji. She was standing in the far corner, her loud voice carrying over the music. "Hai re nandkishore, where is Veer bitwa? Let me call him."
Arnav frowned as he stepped by her. "That man is not allowed here, Buaji."
Her eyebrows rose as she spotted him, standing in the grass nearby. "What? Why ever not, Arnav bitwa?"
His jaw tightened. "Because of the unacceptable way he behaved. Not just to your niece, but to me as well. I will not tolerate his presence. You understand, I hope?"
Buaji nodded hurriedly. As much as she liked her best friend's son, she could not compromise Payal's wedding in any way. "Of course, bitwa. Please don't think a minute more about him. Enjoy the sangeet."
"You too.." murmured Arnav as he walked away, thinking of the dance ahead.
---------------------------------------------------
Anjali, Sarah, and Juhi were just coming down the stage after performing to an old Bollywood number when Arnav took his seat in the front row. Applause and whistles greeted the trio. Khushi jumped up from her spot, running to hug them close.
Arnav's heart squeezed to see that happy glow on his angel's face.
He vowed to always protect her, always love her. They'd both been unlucky when it had come to family. He had lost his in a tragedy that still haunted him and she was an orphan as well. Sure Khushi had been adopted by the Guptas but over the years he'd sensed her sadness. Never being deemed good enough, always excluded in some small way or the other. He was sure her adopted parents and aunt loved her, but as much as Payal? He doubted that. There was a difference, he'd understood it ever since he'd arrived in Lucknow. It made his blood boil, made his heart swell with love for her. Aggression and tenderness warred within him.
She must have sensed his shifting emotions because she turned toward him just then.  You okay, love?
He nodded, standing up. Yeah, Princess. Are you ready? It's our turn I believe.
Ready, Arnav. Let's set this stage on fire.
----------------------------------------------------------
The lights on the stage turned off overhead. The audience leaned forward as the first notes of the music sounded.
And then a spotlight was shone on Arnav. He looked very handsome, dressed in dark blue, his eyes focused on the darkness to his right.
"Teri meri, meri teri prem kahani hai mushkil.." He extended his hand toward a slim, willowy figure standing in the shadows. "Do lafzoon mein yeh bayaan na ho paye.."
A second spotlight turned on, highlighting Khushi. She stood tall in her plain, green sari, her eyes focused on her love. There were murmurs of surprise in the audience.
But Arnav and Khushi ignored them all. Their hands entwined on the stage. "Ek ladka, ek ladki ki hai yeh kahani nayi.. Do lafzoon mein yeh bayaan na ho paye.."
Arnav and Khushi slow danced, their bodies moving restlessly against the other. His hand drifted into her open hair as he tilted her face up so their eyes met.
Heat blazed between them.
Arnav bent over Khushi, nuzzling his face against the column of her neck. "Teri meri, meri teri prem kahani hai mushkil.. Do lafzoon mein yeh bayaan no ho paye.."
"Hai re nandkishore! What is Sanka Devi doing?" cried Buaji, her eyes widening. "This is so improper!"
On the stage, the entwined couple moved as one, their passion unleashed. As Arnav murmured, "Ek dooje se huye judaa, jab ek dooje ke liye bane," Khushi leaned up, kissing his chin, her eyes shining brightly. No one will ever separate us again, she vowed, her lips drifting across his stubble.
Garima choked as she watched the kiss, feeling like she would faint all over again.
Arnav's hand drifted down Khushi's spine, bringing her even closer to him. Their bodies collided as he spun her in a circle, his eyes glowing. "Har ehsaas mein tu hai, Har ek yaad mein tera afsaana.. Do lafzoon mein yeh bayaan na ho paye." Her eyes fluttered close as his breath fanned over her face. Her chest heaved as she felt him position himself behind her.
And then his large, masculine hand drifted across her exposed waist, lingering over her silky skin.
"Saara din bit jaye, saari raat jagaye.." He flattened his hand on her stomach, holding her with blatant possessiveness. "Bas khayal tumhara.. Lamha lamha tadpaye.."
Veer's eyes looked murderous as he watched Arnav's lips trace across Khushi's shoulder. He was standing in the neighbor's property, spying on the sangeet from a small gap in the fence.
"Yeh tadap keh rahi hai, mit jaye faasle yeh tere mere darmiyaan, joh hai saare.."
The couple on stage exuded an almost primitive heat, drawn to each other again and again. And then the arrogant man did something that slammed into Veer like a punch in the gut.
Arnav turned Khushi so they faced one another. And then with a firm touch, he raised his hand to her shoulder, detaching the sari. Making sure she was covered to the audience's eyes, he slipped between the soft material and her skin, her sari curling around his back.
There were loud gasps, as well as a few whistles. Juhi, Sarah, and Anjali were clapping wildly as they watched the romance unfurl on stage. "Go, Chote!" shouted Juhi. "We love you, Khushi!" shouted Payal and Anjali as 'Teri Meri' went on.
But the couple dancing had eyes only for one another. Khushi was standing on her tiptoes, her arms looped around Arnav's neck. She held onto the end of her sari with one hand, ensuring she was covered to the audience's astounded gaze. Arnav's eyes smoldered into hers. His grip on her hips tightened as her breasts rubbed across his shirt. I love you, Khushi..
I love you, Arnav.. she whispered, leaning up to kiss his cheek again as the last notes sounded. "Teri meri, meri teri prem kahani hai mushkil, Do lafzoon mein yeh bayaan na ho paye.."
As the song faded and the lights dimmed once more, Arnav turned Khushi in his arms in the darkness.
He cupped her cheek in his palm as he brought their lips together, kissing her thoroughly. They barely noticed the commotion behind them, where raucous applause mingled with expressions of visible anger.
----------------------------------------------------
Thirty minutes later, Khushi stood in the living room, facing her parents and aunt's wrath. The Raizadas sat on the sofa nearby, looking uneasy. Everyone else had been shooed away after what her aunt termed her "scandalous dance performance."
"What do you have to say for yourself, Khushi?" asked her father, his face stony.
She shrugged casually. "Nothing, Babuji. I am very proud of my dance."
"Proud?" shouted her aunt. "You made a fool of yourself and ruined Payal's sangeet! And now you're standing here before your family not even the least bit ashamed?" Buaji shook her head, her eyes darkening. "Why you deserve.." She raised her hand, ready to strike.
Arnav stepped in between them, his anger palpable. 

"You will never touch her," he ground out through his teeth. "Never.. Do you understand?"
Buaji looked astounded as she watched him stand before Khushi like a shield. "She has behaved improperly," she told him, "We are her family and it is our duty to reprimand her. Please bitwa, do not come between us. This is our family matter."
Arnav opened his mouth to argue, but Khushi slid beside him, her eyes blazing. "No, Buaji! He has every right to speak. You see, Arnav is my childhood penpal.. the man I love.." Her eyes flew to his. "He is my fiance."
The Guptas' eyebrows shot up. They looked with disbelief at the pair.
"What?" cried Garima. "Khushi, what nonsense are you saying?"
"It's not nonsense," said Arnav, sliding his arm around her slim waist. "Khushi is my soon-to-be wife. We love each other."
"So you lied to us, right from the beginning you lied to us!" shouted Buaji, her face reddening. She turned to her brother. "You cannot allow this!"
"Why not?" shouted Khushi, her anger unleashing. "Why must you all always ignore my feelings? I told you all in Delhi how much I loved my fiance, but you didn't even meet him! You took me away from him!"
"Be quiet, Khushi," warned Buaji.
"No, let her speak," interrupted her father. "I want to hear what she has to say."
Arnav massaged Khushi's tense back, encouraging her silently. Go on, love. I'm with you.
Khushi took a deep breath. "I love Arnav, Babuji. I've always loved him. But no one ever respected my love. No one ever even listened to me. My feelings were always overlooked." Her eyes flashed. "Well, not anymore. I've had enough. Arnav is the man I love, the one I will spend the rest of my life with. We will get married in three days. You can decide whether to give us your blessing or not, but either way, no one can stop me from marrying my Arnav."
Her mother and aunt's faces whitened. "Three days? You mean with Payal?" asked Garima, trying to grasp everything.
"But what about Veer bitwa? He cares about you!"
Arnav frowned at Buaji, his hand tightening around Khushi. "So? Khushi told him repeatedly she doesn't care for him--she loves me. How can you be so biased, Buaji? I kissed Khushi and you took her away from me, and when that clown tried to kiss her forcefully, you laughed it off?"
Her aunt's face tightened. Arnav shook his head at her as he turned to Khushi's father. "Look, sir. I love your daughter and she loves me. Nothing else is or should be more important. So, like Khushi said, you can either bless us here and now or let us leave.."
There was stunned silence.
And then Shashi Gupta rose from his chair, going toward the couple. Khushi's hand clenched around Arnav as he neared. The old man gazed at them intently, noting the determination radiating in their eyes. And then with a sigh, he extended his hand. "Welcome to the family, son."
Buaji's face paled. "How can you allow this? Sanka Devi deserves to be punished not--"
"That's enough," interrupted her brother. "Not another word about this. I've made my decision. Three days from now, there will be two weddings in this house: Payal-Akash and Khushi-Arnav. Prepare for the haldi, it's only two days away."
As her aunt stomped off, Arnav and Khushi smiled, accepting congratulations from the remaining Guptas and all the Raizadas.
I love you, she said hugging him to her.
And I love you.. He dropped a kiss on her forehead, his heart soaring with happiness.



Chapter 9: Making Out

The Dangus lived only a short distance from the Gupta's home, but to Khushi's Buaji the trip felt never-ending. Glancing behind her shoulder every now and then, she crept through the crowded lanes, trying to stay in the shadows.
By the time she reached the Dangus' home, she was more than a little tired and completely out of breath.
Mr. Dangu opened the door, looking surprised as he invited her inside. His eyes darted behind her, making sure no one was watching.
"She's gone to her sister's," he informed her as he read the question blazing in her round eyes.
Buaji nodded, flopping down on the sofa. Mrs. Dangu's absence was the first good news she'd heard all day.
"Everything okay?" asked Dangu, passing her a glass of water. "What brings you here so late at night?"
She drank it in one gulp, her eyes staring up at him. Mr. Dangu's once coal-black hair was now gray, his stomach bulged visibly, but he still made Buaji's heart flutter. She'd liked him since she was a young teenager. But fate had other plans. They'd moved to different cities and eventually gotten married to different people. But then the Dangus had arrived last winter and what had once been childhood love had become a warm friendship, although Mrs. Dangu still thought otherwise.
"Sanka Devi is getting married to Arnav Singh Raizada, that's what."
"What?" His eyebrows rose. "But what about--"
As if on cue, the doorbell rang. It was Mr. Dangu's favorite nephew.
Veer Mehra strode inside, his anger palpable. "Buaji! How could this have happened? I thought you liked me best, not that ASR!"
She patted his hand soothingly, but he flung it off. "You know I love you like a son, bitwa. I did my best, but Sanka Devi is just so stubborn. Once she makes up her mind, there's no going back." She gazed at Dangu apologetically and then back at his nephew. "I think you should forget about her.."
Veer's hands tightened on the armchair. His eyes blazed with pent-up rage. "Forget about her? I love her!" His anger shifted to desperation. "Look Buaji, I know if I can just talk to her once, she'll see that I'm better than that ASR. He's nothing but an arrogant, spoiled rich brat. Someone who got everything easy in life."
Buaji exchanged a worried glance with Dangu. He cleared his throat. "Veer, I think you should listen to Madhumati. She wants only the best for you."
Buaji nodded hurriedly, but Veer stomped away, his hands tightening into fists.
---------------------------------------------------
Arnav watched bemusedly as Khushi stood laughing beside his Di, her face glowing.
As their eyes met from across the room, he winked at her. She blushed prettily, and then after a careful look around, winked back at him.
A smile crossed his face. She was so amazing.. so damn perfect. An angel on the outside, earth-shatteringly beautiful and delicate looking, and a fiery temptress inside, passionate and loving. She drove him crazy with her antics, made him laugh and smile as he never had before, argued with him one moment and fervently kissed him the next. She made his world magical..
And now she'd be his wife. A happiness unlike any other overwhelmed him as he accepted 'Congratulations' from their family and friends. But then a small problem occurred to him.
Khushi glanced at him immediately, sensing his changing mood. The smile on his face was gone, he looked worried.
Arnav? Baby, what is it? she asked, trying to read his mind.
He didn't hide anything from her. It's just I won't get to sleep with you tonight.
She shared his concern. How would they sleep without one another? They hadn't been apart a single night since he'd arrived in Lucknow.
Khushi's heart turned over at his lost puppy dog expression. Baby, I don't think there's any other option.
His mouth tightened as he thought of her Buaji. I need you beside me, Khushi. I feel uneasy when you're not there.
And I need you in my arms, she admitted at once. Your heartbeat lulls me to sleep, baby. Your touch soothes me..
Arnav knew what she meant. He's seen it first-hand how her body seemed to soften and relax as soon as his arms closed around her. He felt the same. But what the hell could they do?
"Chote?" asked Nani, gazing up at him thoughtfully.
Immediately, a plan came to him. He disconnected the mind link, talking in a low voice with his grandmother.
Khushi frowned as she watched him. What was that Raizada up to now? Why wasn't he letting her listen in to his plan?
Because I wanted to surprise you, he answered, raising his head toward her. With dark, hooded eyes he sauntered over to her, reaching for her hand. As much as their secret encounters had been thrilling, he loved being able to touch her publicly.
"I'll leave you two to talk," said Anjali with a knowing smile, gliding away.
Khushi nodded and then turned to Arnav, raising an eyebrow. "Well?"
He kissed her cheek tenderly. Pack your bags, Princess.
Her eyebrows rose higher. What! Why?
He smiled down at her. I spoke to Nani and explained to her that it only made sense for the wedding to happen at Sheesh Mahal, now that there are going to be two. She's going to speak to your parents about all of you staying there for the next two days.. it's more convenient you know, he explained with a flirty wink.
Khushi's eyes flashed to Nani. She was talking softly with her parents. Amma and Babuji looked taken aback, but after a few reassurance from Nani, they grudgingly nodded.
Khushi clasped Arnav's hand in excitement, almost jumping up and down. Oh my God! I think they just agreed! I think we're coming to Sheesh Mahal then. She rose on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. Baby, I think we could probably manage to sleep together now!
He grinned, his arm curving around her waist. Anjali limped closer, shaking her head with mirth. "Was this all your plan, Chote?"
"Of course, Di," replied Khushi for him, looking at her soon-to-be husband with unconcealed pride.
Anjali laughed as Payal and Akash joined them.
"Have you all heard?" asked Akash, "Everyone is coming to Sheesh Mahal! The Gupta family will be staying in the topmost guest floor." They all nodded, smiling.
"Oh, Di!" said Payal, "Does this mean we're having another slumber party? Please call Sarah and Juhi too, it'll be so much fun!"
Anjali's eyes lit up as she reached for the phone. As the two made plans excitedly, Arnav and Khushi exchanged shocked frowns.
Arnav..
What the--! he said furiously. We just can't catch a break today.
Khushi grimaced, her hand soothing his tense back. At least we'll be under the same roof.
His frown deepened. The plan was to sleep together and make out at the very least. But now instead of Buaji, it's my sister and your sister. He sighed, turning away.
Khushi quietly followed him out onto the veranda.
Making out? she said, trying to cheer him up. So that's what you had planned, Mr. ASR?
He didn't answer, his hands tightening on the railing as he gazed out at the bustling street. All of his plans had gone to waste. And now the night would be even more torturous, knowing Khushi was so close and not being able to be with her..
Baby, what's wrong? she asked, cupping his sandpapery cheek with her silky smooth hand.
What's wrong is that you won't be in my arms tonight, Princess, he bit out, his temper leaking through.
Khushi's eyebrows rose, her cheeks pinkened. He was angry, she knew, but just because he wanted to be with her so badly. How do you love me so much? she asked him, tears pooling suddenly in her eyes. No one else ever has..
Arnav's throat constricted as he turned to her, cupping her face in his hands. His eyes traced over her lovingly.
Because you're you, Khushi. So innocent, so genuinely good.. and damn sexy.
His naughty words had the desired effect. Her tears slipped away as she looked at him in surprise, Sexy??
Arnav nodded with a certain seriousness in his eyes. His twinkling, chocolaty brown eyes locked with hers.Very sexy.. and the best part is you really have no idea what you do to me.
Khushi's heart beat fast, but she forced herself to meet his darkening gaze. What do I do to you?
His eyes turned midnight black, his breath stilled. You--
"Khushi! Oops, sorry," muttered Payal as she noticed their close proximity from the doorway. "Umm.. we need to pack. Everyone is calling you."
Khushi nodded, reaching up to kiss Arnav's cheek as she followed her sister in. This conversation isn't over, Mr. Raizada.
His laughed at her business-like tone. Of course not, Princess. Now, go and pack. I can't wait to take you home.
---------------------------------------------------------
Two hours later, Khushi was whacking Juhi and Payal with the fluffy pillow clutched in her hands. The girls were all laughing as the pillowfight went on in one of the spacious suites in Sheesh Mahal. Music blared from the speakers.
They were all wearing the silk slips Sarah had gifted them at the G.N.O. along with matching robes.
Khushi laughed as she scurried to the other side of the room, just missing a close hit from Anjali. She started edging to the door when her sister grabbed her hand, pulling her back to the pillowfight.
The smile on her lips was genuine, but slightly tense. She was having fun with the girls, but her thoughts kept drifting to a certain Raizada.
He was somewhere nearby, in the same house.. Under the red silk of her nightgown, her body tingled, aching to be near him.
Khushi gazed up at the clock. It was about 1 AM and the girls showed no signs of sleeping any time soon. Maybe she wouldn't get to sleep with Arnav after all..
Princess? he asked just then. Can you get away?
She ducked to miss a flying pillow. I don't think so, baby. I'm literally surrounded by screaming girls and pillows.
He smiled as he pictured her down the hall, laughing like a child during a pillow fight. He wished he could get a glimpse of her. Sounds dangerous. Take care of yourself.
Of course, baby. I'm so sorry I can't come to you. I miss you so much and--
Don't worry, he interrupted quickly. It's enough that you're under the same roof as me. I'll see you in the morning, okay. Good night, love.
Good night, baby. I love you!
Love you too, he said as he disconnected the link.
Arnav sighed as he reclined back on the sofa. Akash was at his usual spot on the bed, not even bothering to hide the Bollywood movie he was watching. Some romantic song on some snow-topped mountain was playing.
Arnav shook his head as he closed his eyes, trying to relax. He was just about to fall into a very pleasant dream about Khushi when a loud scream erupted from the door:
"Nanav, mere Bhai! Akash! Guess who?"
At the doorway stood his too happy, overly colorfully dressed cousin, N.K. He held his arms wide open toward them.
Akash paused his movie, and embraced their cousin. Arnav groaned as he forced himself to get up, extending his hand.
N.K. though grabbed his outstretched hand, pulling him in for a hug. "Congrats, Nanav! I thought I was just coming for Akash's wedding. But what's this I hear? You're getting married too!"
"Yeah," said Arnav through clenched teeth. "Nice to see you too, NK. You can let go of me now."
His cousin laughed at his grumpy tone. He dumped his bags on the floor and sprawled on the sofa. Arnav crossed his hands at his spot being taken over from his cousin from Australia. So he took the bed, forcing Akash to make do with the carpet below.
"Wow, a double wedding!" said N.K. with a glowing face. "It's going to be double the fun. I can't wait!"
Arnav shrugged. He didn't much care how fun it would be. He just wanted Khushi to be his wife. Period. He'd get married to her anywhere, in any circumstance. Garden, courthouse, pool, zoo.. it didn't matter.
"Let me call for some snacks and drinks from the kitchen," said Akash, reaching for the intercom.
"Make sure they don't mix anything up," ordered Arnav, straightening up. He remembered the chaos that had followed last time. A smile crossed his face as he recalled Khushi adorably sitting in his closet and then modeling for him with a large pillow stuffed inside her clothes..
"I can't wait to meet this Khushiji!" said N.K. loudly. "I mean she must be super special to fall in love with you, Nanav!"
"What's that supposed to mean?" he barked, folding his arms across his chest. He wasn't that damn terrible.. was he?
"Oh you know, Bhai," answered Akash. "You're just so Mr. Brooding CEO all the time, I'm sure that's what N.K. Bhai means."
"Exactly, Akash!"
As Arnav opened his mouth to argue, the snacks and drinks arrived and the conversation lapsed to the coming double wedding.
Arnav downed his glass, trying to forget about his cousin's words and enjoy the night. But it was tough. Khushi was at the forefront of his every thought.
It was going to be a long night.. thought Arnav ruefully.
----------------------------------------------------
It was around 2:30 AM and Khushi had yet to fall asleep. The girls had forgone the plush beds and instead camped down on the carpet, joining several blankets together. Khushi was sandwiched between Juhi and Payal. Everyone else was fast asleep.
After several minutes of tossing and turning, Khushi rose on her elbows, frowning. Maybe a tall glass of milk would help, she decided.  With that thought, she very carefully got up in the darkness, grabbing her silk robe from the floor. On tiptoes, she quietly stepped into the hallway.
Part of her wanted to call out to Arnav, but she had a feeling he'd be asleep and she didn't want to disturb him. With a sigh, she felt along the unfamiliar wallpapered walls, making her way downstairs.
The kitchen was dark and empty as she entered. Khushi headed for the refrigerator, light spilling forth as she grabbed the milk. She poured it into a tall glass, drinking it in small sips.
"Couldn't sleep either?" asked a familiar voice.
The glass almost slipped from her hands as she spun around. Arnav grinned at her. He was sitting atop the countertop, his long legs dangling just off the floor.
Khushi shook her head, feeling tongue-tied.
His grin widened as he jumped off, heading toward her with twinkling eyes. He took the glass from her limp fingers, setting it down. And then with one strong tug, pulled her close.
God, this feels so amazing, he said, his eyes closing as he buried his face in her hair. I missed you so much, Princess.
Her arms wrapped around him. A beaming smile crossed her face as she pressed her face into the crease of his neck, breathing him in. I missed you so, Arnav.. Hold me, baby.
Damn yes, he murmured heatedly. His hands fisted on the silk nightgown as he plastered her to himself. You look gorgeous in red by the way.
She kissed his stubbly chin in answer. I thought you'd like it.
I do--too much, he admitted.
Khushi leaned back, her eyes tracing over his profile in the darkness. Her hands looped around his neck. So, Mr. Raizada.. we finally managed to meet. Aren't you going to kiss me? Or did you forget all about your making out plans?
'Course not.. he whispered, dragging her so close their bodies collided. I'm dying to kiss you, but first, I have to ask you something.
Khushi's eyebrows knitted together. What, baby?
He glanced away. Do you think I'm too brooding?
Surprise filled her. What? Why would you ask me that now?
Forget it, he said. It's just something stupid my cousin N.K. said, and I--
She placed a finger over his lips, stopping his thoughts as their eye locked. You are a bit brooding, baby but that only enhances your appeal. I'm drawn to you.. To your warm eyes, your wonderful heart, your naughtiness, your quick temper, your scorching touch.. your raw sexiness..
Sexy, huh? he murmured in a low voice.
She nodded, feeling breathless. Very sexy.. you undo me with a single heated glance, she admitted.
He grinned, leaning close so their foreheads touched. You do the same to me.
Her eyebrows rose in surprise. It amazed her that she could have such an effect on him. Really?
In answer, his hands slipped over her silky curves, pulling her tight against him.
Khushi whimpered, clutching his shoulders for support as she felt him.
Now, do you understand? he ground out, Now do you feel what you do to me?
Khushi closed her eyes at the intense emotions blazing through her. But the next second they flew open.
His lips fell across hers, nipping at her bottom lip. She opened her mouth at once, moaning as their tongues entwined.
He picked her up in his arms, setting her on the countertop. She pulled him closer, her hands fisting in his hair as one ravenous kiss slipped into the next. Her legs wrapped around his waist.
He groaned, kissing her with growing passion. His hands found the sash of her robe, untying it.
Eager hands moved across silk as he left her lips for a second to kiss her slim neck.
Khushi arched up, unknowingly pressing her straining breasts against the tightly coiled muscles of his chest.
His lips slid down her neck and then unable to resist the soft flesh being offered to him, his hot mouth closed over a red-silk covered peak.
Khushi bit her lip to keep the loud moan that threatened from escaping. She shuddered as his heat seared her, as he tugged on her, his tongue grazing the silk with blatant possessiveness.
Arnav..
Shh.. he whispered, his hand curving down her waist and latching onto her thigh.
Khushi had to touch him. She suddenly leaned up, tugging his mouth off her breast for a heated kiss. He groaned as he surrendered to her. Kisses bloomed with a growing heat and urgency.
Her lips left his to trail down his throat. Her nimble fingers pulled up his shirt, sliding along the hard planes of his chest.
Damn.. he whispered brokenly as her lips traced over his bare chest. His eyes closed, his hands fisted in her long hair.
Love and heat blazed between them. With a deft hand, Arnav drew her up for another long kiss. They kissed as if they were starving for one another, as if it had been months since they'd last touched.
Khushi was a shivering mass in his arms, holding him close for another kiss.
Baby, please touch me..
His eyes met hers. Without a word, he slipped his hand under her silky neckline, holding her soft flesh in a tight squeeze.
Khushi felt the ground slip beneath her feet. Nothing.. nothing could compare to his warm, hard hand cupping her bare skin in such a blatantly intimate way.
She moaned, kissing his mouth again and again as his hand tugged and pulled and caressed.
Arnav was about to push her down on the countertop and cover her body with his own. He froze as that thought came to him. With an oath, he backed away from the temptation before him, his body shaking visibly.
Khushi could barely stand: her chest heaved, her lips were red and swollen from his mouth, her skin still burned from his lingering touch.
Arnav.. she called.
He turned back to her, stroking her cheek gently. Baby, we have to stop.
I don't want to..
His eyes tightened. Neither do I, he admitted. But only two days are left till the wedding. Tomorrow is the haldi and the day after, we'll be husband and wife.
Khushi nodded, sobering up slightly. She felt cold without his heat surrounding her. Hold me?
He did more than that. Arnav picked up his princess in his arms, taking her out of the dark kitchen.
Baby, where are we going?
The one place we can sleep peacefully in this house, he replied with a handsome smirk.
She fell against him, kissing his shoulder as he took the stairs.
The rooftop was empty and surprisingly cool at this time of night. Arnav set Khushi carefully on the hammock strung in the far corner and then joined her, his front spooning her back.
Khushi smiled as she held his arm to her chest, kissing his fingertips.
 I love you so much, Princess..  he whispered hoarsely.
And I love you. How much she loved him. For always putting her dreams first. For stopping when she knew all he yearned to do was continue. Her heart swelled with love.
She was so grateful for the mind link just then. Sometimes words felt so small to describe what she felt for this man. But thankfully, he could sense her overwhelming emotions through the link and could feel just how much he meant to her. He was her everything.
I love you just as much, he whispered, pulling her close. Now go to sleep, Princess. I'm with you.
Khushi smiled softly as she finally closed her eyes, rocking in the hammock.
--------------------------------------------------
The next morning, Arnav sat on the breakfast table, drinking his black coffee, his eyes on the stairs. Where are you?
Just coming, answered Khushi. Two minutes later she descended the stairs, dressed in a flowy, pink salwar kameez, her hair faintly damp from the shower.
Arnav watched her mesmerized.
But instead of coming to his side, his soon-to-be wife walked toward the man sitting across from him, a wide smile on her face.
"Aman!" she greeted, waving at him excitedly.
He smiled back, setting some files aside. "How are you, Khushi?"
Khushi shrugged, glancing naughtily at Arnav. "Very good," she answered. "And how is the Laad Governor this morning?" It was the question she'd always asked Aman while working at AR Designs.
I am sitting right here, you realize, said Arnav grumpily.
Hush, you, she replied, her eyes on Aman.
"He's in a very good mood," said the assistant. "But I think that has mostly to do with you."
Khushi blushed as her eyes flew to Arnav. "Does it?"
He couldn't hold back his smile. You know it does, Princess.
"Now, Aman," he continued, clearing his throat. "What did you want to talk about?"
Aman looked slightly flustered, his eyes darted toward the kitchen, where Anjali nodded at him.
"Ahh, boss.."
"Is this about the Japan trip? I told you I just want to do the bare minimum. I'm going to be on my honeymoon first and foremost."
"Not exactly--"
"Then what? The new commercial? Did you bring the details?"
Aman shook his head. "I'll just go get them."
Khushi watched him go with a frown and then turned toward Arnav, her frown deepening.  Under the table, she kicked him .
What? he asked, spluttering coffee. You're so crazy sometimes, Gupta.
She shook her head. And you're so blind sometimes, Raizada.
What is that supposed to mean? he asked with confusion.
She sighed, speaking to him slowly as if he was a child. Aman.. He was trying to talk to you about Di.
What? Why would he talk about Di?
She looked at him pointedly. Haven't you seen them looking at each other? Who does it remind you of?
Arnav sat back, stumped. I haven't seen anything. He sighed with exasperation as he read her eyes. Really, Khushi, just because we're in love, doesn't mean everyone else on the planet is too. You're just imagining things. I've seen Di and Aman for the past three years, there's nothing between them.
Khushi shook her head. I'm right, Arnav. Just look into it.. please, Raizada.
He nodded hesitantly, looking taken aback still.
--------------------------------------------------------
The morning was busy as guests from all over converged at Sheesh Mahal. Arnav and Khushi had managed to find a quiet spot in the back gardens. But instead of making out as they longed to do, they had been put to work, stringing flower garlands.
I can't believe this, said Arnav, frowning at a blooming red rose. We're the bride and groom for God's sake and we have to work so much!
Khushi laughed. Buaji says with two weddings, there's a lot of work left to do.
Arnav smiled grudgingly back. Well, if making these over-the-top garlands gets us married sooner, I could do this all day and night long.
Khushi leaned forward, cupping his cheek in her palm. You're amazing, you know that?
He nodded, his eyes sizzling. Damn right, he mumbled, pulling her on top of him with a single tug.
Arnav! she cried, gazing about scandalized. Someone could come!
I don't care, he said, staring up at her. Kiss me, Princess.
She blushed as she leaned down, their mouths meeting tenderly. She allowed two more kisses and then wrenched herself up, scooting away from his tempting touch.
Khushi! He licked his lower lip, trying to hold on to her taste. Come back here, love.
She shook her head. Baby, anyone could come along..
As he pouted at her and she was about to give in, a group of laughing kids ran to them.
Most jumped on Khushi, hugging her close. They glanced at Arnav with wide eyes.
"It's alright," said Khushi, winking at Arnav. "He's very nice."
"Is this your Prince?" asked six year old Pihu, gazing at him with wonder.
"Yes, he is," said Khushi, her eyes shining as they met Arnav's.
The kids attacked Arnav at once. He looked shocked as they swarmed around him.
Khushi glanced across at him with a wide smile. Ananya and Pihu were clinging to his either side, a two year old boy sat in his lap. Arnav looked slightly surprised as he sat between them, listening to the girls talk animatedly.
Khushi smiled widened. The kids seemed to love him. His ASR persona was no hindrance here.
Her eyes met his. She winked at him. I love you..
He winked back. And I love you..


                                          Chapter 10: Touching You..

"Akash, have you called the caterers? What time are they getting here?"
"On it, Bhai," he  answered, dialing yet another number.
"Di, is there anything missing for the ceremonies?" continued Arnav, going down his checklist. He stood outside Sheesh Mahal surrounded by wedding chaos. Workers were stringing up a thousand lights, flower garlands were swinging from the trees, and a giant canopy had just taken shape.
Anjali shook her head, her face pensive. "I don't think so, but let me speak to the pandits once more."
As she scurried off, Arnav turned to Aman. "Are all the Japan plans set?"
Aman smiled, handing over two plane tickets and a set of keys. "The flight leaves exactly three hours after the wedding tomorrow, just like you wanted, Boss. And the house is all ready and waiting for you both."
"Great, Aman. Can you check on the preparations with Di? I want everything to be perfect."
As Aman walked off after Anjali, Arnav looked at them carefully, trying to notice if something was really going on between them. He made a mental note to keep an eye on them. Was there something more than friendship between them or was it all his Khushi's overactive imagination?
And then as if she'd heard, Khushi replied with a sigh: You know I'm right. They love each other, Raizada.
We'll see, Princess. His lips tipped up. Are you done packing already? Really love, you won't need that many clothes in Japan.
Khushi blushed, added a few last-minute things to her suitcase. Baby, we can't stay in the bedroom for two entire weeks.
Why the hell not? His eyes twinkled as they drifted to the room she was in. A warm glow emanated from that window.
Her blush intensified as he sent her some fantasies of what he'd planned. She had to sit down as a quivering took over.
And don't you remember your own ideas? Us wrapped up in red silk sheets? In the shower together?  Clothes will just get in our way, you know?
Arnav Singh Raizada! She shook her head at his naughty tone. But a smile crossed her face as she sensed his overwhelming happiness and excitement; it matched her own. I've never been to Japan and I'd like to see some of it on the honeymoon, understand?
If we get time, sure. But I'm planning on keeping you very busy, Mrs. Raizada.
You're impossible! she laughed.
Love you too. And then as he noticed some workers mixing up the lights, he was off, snapping directions at them. Princess, get down here fast. I'm missing you.
I'll be there soon, love. Khushi smiled as she zipped up her suitcase. She glanced down at her mehndi filled hands, bending down to kiss the prominent 'A'.
 Arnav.. she couldn't wait to be his forever..
And I can't wait to be yours, Khushi. I already am..
---------------------------------------------------------
A half an hour later, Khushi walked out into the sprawling backyard. It was teeming with people and decorations. And standing in the middle of all the chaos was her Arnav, shouting directions, asking questions, overseeing everything. With his Bluetooth strapped to his ear and a clipboard in his hands, he reminded her very much of her snappish boss at AR Designs.
Khushi sneakily brushed past him, heading toward her sister and friends.
His arm immediately curled around her waist, pulling her back against his chest. And where do you think you're going, Princess? Did you think I wouldn't notice you?
Khushi shrugged, a naughty glow in her eyes. You just seemed so busy, baby.
I'm never too busy for you.
She smiled, reaching up to kiss his cheek. So.. what do you want me to do?
He looked taken aback. What?
Khushi brushed his wavy hair out of his face. Well, you're yelling at everyone to do something. What do you want me to do?
His eyes darkened. Are you sure you want to know? At her nod he smirked, leaning toward her ear. I want you to kiss me.. here and now.
Khushi froze, her heart racing. Baby, you can't be serious. We're surrounded by people.
He shrugged, all ASR once more. I don't care. Make it happen, Gupta.
She glanced around and then wordlessly, grabbed his hand, taking him to a private corner behind some trees. She couldn't believe she was actually going to do this. One quick peck on the lips and then she'd run.
Oh and it better be a thorough kiss, quipped Arnav, reading her thoughts. I want everything, Princess.
Arnav, how can I possibly do that here? Someone will see!
I don't care, Gupta, you asked for this, not me. He winked at her.
Khushi blushed as she gazed around. Thankfully, no one seemed to be watching. Her arms looped around his neck. Her face rose to his. His arms wrapped around her waist at once. Their mouths were just about to meet when a loud voice sounded: "Nanav? What are you doing in the bushes?"
Khushi immediately pushed Arnav back, her face aflame. Arnav bit back a curse, his eyes narrowing.
N.K.'s face though was all shining as he neared. His smile widened as he noticed Khushi beside his cousin. "Khushiji! At least I hope your Khushiji!" He shook with laughter.
Arnav's eyes tightened, but Khushi smiled back. N.K. was a hard person not to like. "Yes, I'm Khushi. And you must be N.K., Arnav's cousin from Australia."
"Yeah, that's me.." he said., staring at her as if mesmerized. "Wow, you're so pretty and nice, Khushiji!" That remark earned him an open glare from Arnav, but he seemed to not notice it. "I can't believe you fell for Nanav here."
Khushi laughed, sliding an arm around Arnav's waist. "Yes, he is quite bossy and brooding sometimes, isn't he?"
What the--!
N.K. high-fived her. "Exactly, Khushiji! That's why I'm so surprised such a sweet girl like you is marrying him. Sorry, Nanav."
Arnav's temper seemed to ignite, so Khushi soothingly massaged his back, grinning. "But, he is also so wonderful and caring, it's impossible not to love him. Arnav means the world to me."
He relaxed at that. He was about to give N.K. a blistering reply when someone called his cousin's name loudly.
N.K. waved, dashing off. "See you later, lovebirds! And congratulations!"
Khushi waved back but Arnav stood frozen, his arms crossed across his chest. God, he's always annoying me. Right from when we were kids.
Khushi laughed, hugging him close. Baby, he's not that bad. I liked him.
His eyes narrowed. Don't you start, Princess. He interrupted our kiss if you remember.
Khushi didn't even try to hold back her smile at his grumpy tone. She glanced around and then rising on her tiptoes, placed a quick kiss on Arnav's cheek and then mouth.
There! she said triumphantly, You got your kiss, Raizada. And please don't forget baby, it was all because of N.K. that I called you Nanav for so many years.
Ahh, don't remind me. I can't stand that name.
Khushi looked up surprised. But you've never told me that before. I thought you liked it..
He cupped her soft cheek in his large palm. I do--when you say it. Anything from your lips I love.
Khushi looked confused. Anything from my lips? she repeated.
He leaned down, his mouth a hairbreadth from hers. You heard me, Gupta.
They were about to kiss when Nani called Khushi's name through the trees.
Khushi smiled apologetically as she pushed away. Sorry, baby.
Damn his family! thought Arnav watching her gorgeous shape scurry away. He would never get one decent kiss with them around.
----------------------------------------------------
Anjali was struggling with a large tray piled high with flowers when she almost tripped. A strong hand steadied her, pulling her aside.
"Be careful," murmured Aman, taking the tray from her.
She could barely manage a nod, captivated by him. She'd loved him for so long and to see that love reflected back in his warm gaze was overwhelming.
"You're working too hard," continued Aman, pushing back a strand of hair from her face. "Why don't you and all the other ladies go take a break for awhile? We can handle it."
Anjali smiled tiredly. "You've been up since dawn too, arranging everything. Have you even eaten anything all day?"
Aman nodded, his gaze turning serious. "I'm sorry by the way.."
"Sorry?"
He glanced away. "I tried to talk to Boss this morning and I couldn't.."
She tilted his face back to her. "It's okay, Aman. I know it's hard for you."
His breath hitched at that look of pure love in her gaze. He couldn't stop himself from leaning down, kissing her soft cheek.
Both had wide smiles on their faces as they straightened, gazing at each other over the tray of blooming flowers. A throat cleared behind them.
Aman and Anjali turned toward the voice with wide eyes. Arnav stood silent, his expression unreadable.
"Boss, I--"
He held up his hand, his eyes on his sister. "Di?"
A small grin crossed her face. She nodded shyly to his unspoken question. Arnav smiled as he strode forward, extending his hand to Aman. "You know if it was any other man, I wouldn't have been this happy. Welcome to the family."
Aman looked astounded as he shook his boss's hand. This was the reaction he'd been hoping for but had never expected. "Thanks, Boss."
"Arnav," he corrected, hugging his sister.
NK was wandering nearby and halted as he heard their talk. His eyebrows rose to his hairline. "No way! You too, Di?" His eyes bulged comically. "Are we having a triple wedding now? God, this marriage thing is definitely contagious!"
Anjali and Aman exchanged a look and then with a smile, shook their heads. "Not so soon," said Anjali. "We want to enjoy some time together first. But we were hoping to get engaged."
Aman nodded, his arm curving around her waist. "We really love each other and this feels like the perfect time."
N.K. looked thoughtful. "Hmm, so true. How about an engagement party tonight then?"
Anjali shrugged. "Chote, would that be okay? We don't want to intrude on your haldi."
"Di, please. N.K. is absolutely right. After the haldi, we'll have more than enough time for your engagement."
Anjali and Aman practically glowed, staring at each other with such love that N.K. murmured "Awww" in a soft tone while Arnav rushed off to tell everyone else.
--------------------------------------------------
Thirty minutes later, all the girls were gathered once again in the upstairs suite.
"Oh my God!" yelled Juhi, hugging Anjali close. "I can't believe you're getting engaged, Anji!"
"Me either," she replied, smiling widely as Sarah and Payal congratulated her.
Khushi was pleasantly unsurprised by the news. Told you, Raizada.
Fine, you were right.. he answered, For once.
Khushi rolled her eyes inwardly as she jumped up to hug Anjali. "Congrats, Di!"
"Thank you, Khushi," said Anjali, "Now before you all smother me again, I wanted to tell you about my new plan."
"Plan?" repeated Sarah. "Like your juice plan at the G.N.O?" They all laughed at that unforgettable morning. But Anjali was already moving to the window, pulling aside the curtain. In the gardens below, Arnav, Aman, N.K. and Akash were busy with the arrangements.
"I think the boys deserve a small gift, don't you think?" asked Anjali. "For all their hard work?"
Khushi couldn't help but agree, her eyes tracing over Arnav's tall, lean form. He'd hardly taken a break all day. "But what will we get them, Di?"
Anjali crossed the curtain, turning toward a colorful brochure. "What do you all think about this? They can be ready in just a few hours.."
It seemed perfect.. 

-----------------------------------------------
Shortly after a quick lunch, the five girls ventured downstairs, armed with their gifts.
"Well, go call them," said Juhi, pushing Khushi, Payal, and Anjali forward. "Me and Sarah will find N.K."
It was almost too easy for Khushi to find Arnav. He was near the same secluded spot where they'd made flower garlands that very morning. Except this time he stood high on a ladder, adjusting some lights.
Khushi flushed slightly as she admired the view. Baby..
He hadn't been expecting it. Even as he turned toward her, his grip on the ladder slackened. His left foot slipped.
Khushi didn't know how to catch him, but she did her best. His much larger body crashed down on hers, pushing her against the dewy grass with a thud.
Ouch, murmured Khushi as his weight fell on her.
He immediately jumped away and then ran his hands down her body, checking for injuries. Are you okay, Khushi? Anything feel broken?
Khushi closed her eyes tightly, feeling frozen suddenly as his hands passed across her. Goodness, even his innocent touch felt too much to bear.
Princess? he asked, gazing down at her with a frown. Are you okay?His hand ran through her hair, tilting her face up. As Khushi sensed his growing worry, her eyes fluttered open.
He expelled a breath, leaning down to kiss her forehead. God, baby, you scared me. Are you okay? Where does it hurt?
Khushi couldn't seem to look away from him. She reached for his large hand and placed it over her chest. Her heartbeat echoed against his palm.
"Hurts there, baby. I can't handle being away from you like this. It feels like forever since we were alone."
Arnav's eyes darkened as he met her gaze. With a careful glance around, he leaned down, kissing her firmly. "I missed you too, love. Thank God tomorrow is our wedding."
Khushi couldn't argue with that. Her hand curled around his as he pulled her up, carefully dusted off the grass clinging to her.
Are you sure you're okay? he murmured, surveying her.
Khushi nodded, weaving her hand through his. Come on, I have a surprise for you.
He tried to read her mind, but she blocked him effectively, shaking her head at him. Don't even try, Mr. ASR.
If you insist, Ms. Gupta soon to be Mrs. ASR.. Their hands tightened around one another at that.
By the time they reached the rest of the group, gifts were already being exchanged. Arnav's eyebrows rose as he looked at the T-shirts Akash and N.K. were wearing.
N.K.'s shirt was bright pink and read: 'East or West, N.K. is the best!' He looked thrilled beyond words as he modeled it.
Akash on the other hand  appeared a tad uncomfortable, but he was smiling widely. His customized neon orange shirt read: 'SRK Fan? Yes I am!'
Aman was pulling on his T-shirt from Anjali. It was parrot green and printed with the phrase 'Bread Anjam Forever'
Since when does Di like bread and jam so much? asked Arnav, confused.
Khushi shook her head. Anjam equals Anjali plus Aman. Get it?
"Khushi!" cried Sarah. "Here's your newly printed gift for Chote."
Khushi took it from her, handing it toward Arnav. "I hope you like it."And you better wear it; I designed it!
"Thanks," he said accepting it gingerly. We'll see.
Khushi bit back a smile as he opened the package as if it contained a snake inside. Well?
Arnav was pleasantly surprised as he looked at his shirt. It was royal blue and had the letters 'ASR' printed in a large, bolded font. "Wow, Khushi, I actually really like it. I was sure you were going to do something crazy."
Anjali, Payal, Juhi, and Sarah giggled as Khushi smiled outright now. "I would read the back first, love," she advised sweetly.
Arnav turned his shirt over, his eyes widening. Across the back was the phrase: "I'm Sexy and I know it!"
His head snapped up toward his impishly smiling soon-to-be bride. "I can't wear this!"
"Of course you can," she said. Please, Mr. Sexy, I made it especially for you. She pouted up at him.
Arnav couldn't refuse her--as always. Damn it! he thought, reaching for the buttons of his shirt.
Khushi's mouth went dry as she got a glimpse of his perfectly toned chest and abs. And then his perfection was covered up once more by the T-shirt. Khushi frowned at it. What had she been thinking to give him a shirt? It was completely the wrong gift.
"Well?" he asked, standing in front of her.
"You look very handsome," admitted Khushi grudgingly. I prefer you without the shirt though.
He grinned at her, leaning across to kiss her cheek. I prefer you without so many clothes too. The only exception is when you're wearing my shirt or some naughty lingerie. That I'm okay with.
Oh, really? she asked teasingly.
He nodded, brushing a hand across her waist. Yeah.. like when you were wore that black bra on my birthday. That was perfect.
Khushi smiled, leaning up to kiss his sandpapery cheek. Juhi tugged her arm, "Let go, Chote. We have to dress up your Khushi for the Haldi."
Arnav frowned as they pulled her away from him. Was it just him or was their wedding taking forever?
It's not just you. It's becoming unbearable now, she replied, winking at him over her shoulder. Her eyes admired the royal blue shirt. By the way baby, I got you one more present. It's in your bedroom.
Ignoring all the chaos around him, Arnav headed to his room. Sitting on top the bedspread, on top of his clothes for the Haldi, was a carefully wrapped package. It was noticeably smaller than the first.
Arnav's brow furrowed as he ripped it open. He froze, his eyes widening. Khushi had gotten him boxers! They were plain black but then he remembered her words from before: "I would read the back first, love."
He flipped over the soft material with hesitancy. And then laughed out loud, his eyes shining.
On the back of the boxers in large letters it read: 'Property of KKGSR.'
--------------------------------------------------------
Khushi was trembling as Anjali and Nani escorted her out. She looked beautiful in the off-white carefully pleated sari, her hair ornaments and jewelry made entirely of blooming flowers. Her cheeks were rosy, but instead of the shy blush many guessed it to be, it was actually one of nervousness. Arnav hadn't talked to her since she'd sent him to his bedroom.
Had he liked the gift? she wondered with a wave of embarrassment. It was so odd, but even after all they had shared, she still had some timidity where he was concerned.
Her body quaked as they made her sit down. She focused on her hands.
Princess?
Khushi froze, her head snapping toward his pull. She hadn't been expecting him.
But there he was: sitting directly across from her, dressed in traditional white.
Hey, he murmured.
She could barely speak. Hi..
You look beautiful.
She smiled, her face glowing. Really?
He nodded. Very sexy.
The butterflies in her stomach intensified under that very thorough look from him. She tried to change the topic. How did you like the surprise gift?
I didn't like it--I loved it. Do you want to see how much? He smiled at her confounded expression as his grandmother and sister applied the bright yellow haldi on his cheeks.  Her parents did the same to her before moving toward Payal.
As more and more guests swarmed around them, Khushi blushed, trying to calm down her racing heartbeat.
And then as the final guest left her and everyone stood, Arnav sneakily reached for her hand, pulling her aside. He brushed back a strand of her hair.
Khushi couldn't keep away from him. Meet me in my room in 10 minutes, she whispered breathlessly.
His eyes sizzled down at her, darkening. It's a date, Princess..
------------------------------------------------
Exactly ten minutes later, Khushi stood in her room, her hands twisting together.
And then her eyes closed. She sensed him entering. The door locked behind her.
Arnav neared her slowly, his eyes devouring her bare back.
His hand rose, applying haldi across that smooth surface. I love you, Khushi.
His mouth fell on her bare shoulder, drifting across. With a careful hand, he turned her to face him.
Khushi's eyes were closed. They snapped open as he traced a finger over her lips. It was too much. Arnav..
He leaned forward, rubbing his soiled cheek against hers. The friction was acute as his stubbly cheek brushed her silky soft skin.
Arnav.. please..
He gave in to her unspoken demand, his mouth slamming down on hers. They both moaned as they kissed, their hands fisting on one another.
Arnav reached for the end of her sari, drawing the silky material off. His lips traveled across her exposed skin, a devastating combination of mouth, teeth, and tongue.
Khushi pushed herself against him, her hands drawing up his sherwani. She needed to see his chest again. And then as the shirt lifted off and she saw the topline of his pants, her heart froze.
His boxers peeked slightly over the top. They were black.
Khushi's breath caught as she turned him around, pulling his pants slightly down.
'Property of KKGSR' was proudly displayed.
She smiled as she wrapped her arms around him, kissing his bare back. I love you so much, she said laughing.
I love you too, he answered, turning in her embrace. His lips crashed down on hers, hungry with pent-up desire. One more damn day, and she would be his wife.
And you'll be my husband, she vowed, dropping a kiss over his beating heart.

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  1. loved it awesome i hate veer he just not going to back off is he i hope he doesn't come between arnav and khushi cant wait for the next update please update soon! thanks so much for this story i am missing IPKKND so much it is driving me crazy but i read your story very day and it gets me through the day i go back to the old chapters but i love it so thank u so much! (IF id) IPKKNDbigfan

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    1. oh wow! its so nice to know there are ppl like u out there who like MG so much. Im missing ipkknd too, that's why I started putting this story up:) Enjoy more of vol 2 soon!

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    2. post soon plz!!!!!

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  2. I hate Buaji :( Amazing and steamy update dear. Can't wait for the sangeet - I just hope Arnav and Khushi gets to dance together (that is what u r planning rt?) Let Veer's plan go down the drain :D

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    1. :) would arnav allow anything else?

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  3. amazing. I love the storyline and how naughty arnav and khushi are!

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  4. lovelly update...
    really n amazing chap...
    luv u arshi
    .
    .
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    next chap update soon..
    :)
    :)
    :)

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  5. loved it!!! cnt w8 for next update :)

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  6. <3 love love love the whole story! sends goosebumps all over me :) thank you fro sharing it with us Tina :) cant wait to read more!

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    1. glad u like MG! its my small dedication to arhi..miss them so much. keep reading!

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  7. dont even go there dude
    only teri meri happening is with our arhi
    so if i were you i would forget it
    no way in hell is arnie gonna let you any where near his princess trust me
    and if you try well then god save you mate
    oh trust me ASR dont like it if someone has their eye on his wife to be and he is very possessive of her
    haiyye teri meri it was from this day for a week a year ago when this happened on the show
    and am sure yours will rock even more than what happened on the show
    so let me get this right
    khushi was mad at him not because they made love but because she forgot all about it
    really is this girl for real
    and then she makes him go through it again so she would remember this time around
    see arnie your jokes sure do back fire on you only with this girl
    who can be such a innocent but deadly seductress in a blink of an eye
    this whole GNO drunk bit sue had interesting impact right on all concerned well the three girls concerned
    it got payal to be with akash even though she was sick when he was confessing to her
    anji because aman knew she had called well he sure gave her a blooming heart attack when he told her of caller id and he knew she called him
    chalo at least this way she confessed right which she wouldnt have otherwise naa
    haiyye aman is so hottt aint he and his jodi with anji is just perfect right
    hope it works out with them am sure it will
    for all you know there might just be three weddings in the end there instead of two
    and last but not least khushi gotta spend more time with arnie even though there were some MUs there too
    cant believe she was mad at him that it didnt happen between them she can be so funny and weird for sure
    and then what happened in her room was so worth it though
    all was superb mind blowing and all except we had to hear from that stupid veer but thats okay as we know he cant come between arhi as it is the poor dears have been apart for too long and this time ASR wont let anyone between them no matter what
    oh forgot about the whole checking of boxers really khushi you are unbelievable but we love ya nonetheless
    haiyye cant wait for teri meri now
    cheers for pm

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    1. woah! i love ur comments as always! keep reading:)

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  8. i love this sooo much!! update soon :)

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  9. Awesome. Update soon!

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  10. Tina, please update chapter 7 on your blog, please update soon!!! Mind Games is my favorite story!! I loved it!!

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  11. And you leave us hanging with that ENDING - UNFAIR. Sizzlign hot and am glad he flattened The son of a bitch VEER-who named him that? It shud hv been SCUM

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  12. loved chapter 7!!! continue sooon!! update chapter 8 soon!!! please don't end this story, I love reading this story!!!

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  13. vry vry awsaaaaaaaaaaaamm i love it n i want to punish that veer on the face asshoul

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  14. Tina Update soon plzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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  15. What is wrong with Buaji? Seriously is the woman just retarded...Veer was just playing?!! Unbelievable!
    The dinner in the store room was really cute.

    And Anjali & Armaan's budding relationship is cute...

    And now for THE Dance...bring it on quickly :)

    - Khushi

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  16. Tina, please update chapter 8 soooooon!!! I can't wait, I am so excited for arshi teri meri!!! love this story so much!!

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  17. Loved chapter 8. !!!!! Continue soon!! Update chapter 9 soon!!! Please don't end this story so soon!! Make it up to at least chapter 50 please please please Tina!!!!! Thanks!!! Will be waiting for chapter 9 soooooooooon!!!

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  18. Ha!!!! Finally!! after what seems like eons for the duo...
    Loved the teri meri seq.. whatever may come and go ARHI's Teri Meri can never be beaten for records... *sigh* oww i so miss the show... but i am glad as long as writers like you are there .. there is nothing to miss so much wrt ARHI!! :)

    Thanks for the update tina... :)
    BTW when are u sharing Shameless fully?

    ~Leena
    IF ID LeenaRocks

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  19. yayyyyyy its out!cant wait to see the wedding and arnavs naughtiness!

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  20. Oh my God!!

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    Finally!! i love you Babuji!!!

    In your face Buaji!!!

    They are getting married!! yayyyy!!!

    Loved the update!!!

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  21. Finally finally I caught up with this story.....it's too hot and too sweet.....wonderfully done...
    Can't wait to read about the wedding, about veer getting what he deserves, about Anjali and aman , Japan...everything ...
    Great job

    Polkadots78 - IF

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  22. loved it...u r an amazing writer!

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  23. Amazing...
    Just hope that buaji doesnt create problems
    i loved it!

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  24. Can I get a precap of chapter 9 please !!! Loved chapter 8!! Please please please don't end this story after arshi get married continue it till atleast 50 th chapter please!!! I love this story so much, it's one of the best arshi story I have ever read!!!! Please don't end it!!! Continue soon!!

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    1. check home page for precap, up now:) MG not ending anytime soon. We're only halfway through vol 2. technically this is chapter 22 if u put both volumes together.

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  25. Thank You Tina!!! the precap is so exciting!!! Now, I am very eager for chapter 9!!! update soooooooooon!!! thanks for assuring me that Mind Games won't end anytime soon. now I can actually be stress free, all this time I was thinking my most favorite story of arshi to going to end, glad it not going to end anytime soon! Thanks again for the precap! Update chapter 9 (chapter 23) soon!

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  26. i just read ur story
    i didn't sleep until i finish it
    its simply awesome in every way
    just loved

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  27. just read the part 8. it wasbrilliant. just went to the memories of sangeet where the song was beautifully pictorised.just loved the way khushi stoodup before her parents. once again a good part where we can say turning part for this ff.

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  28. lov ur story
    makes me want to read more arshi fanfic but urs is my fav.
    continue until chapter 50 or more but dont qut right when they get married.plus we want to see jealous and possessive arnav. lov ur story the best.

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  29. Tina can you please give spoilers and teasers of nest chapter please please please tina!!! I am too excited for future updates!!! continue soon and update chapter 9 soon!! please give spoilers and teaser on home page!

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  30. Tina can you please give spoilers and teasers of next chapter please please please Tina!!! I am too excited for future updates!!! continue soon and update chapter 9 soon!! please give spoilers and teaser on home page!

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  31. TINA....YOUR TERI MERI WAS WAS MORE SENSUOUS THAN THE ONE IN THE SHOW

    LOVE HAS MADE HER CONFIDENT

    LOVE HAS MADE HIM BOLD AND TENDER

    BUA JI GOT WHAT SHE ASKED FOR

    VEER KO VEERGATI PRAPT HUI FINALLY

    UPDATE SOON

    THANKS FOR THE PM

    DON'T KNOW HOW I MISSED THIS UPDATE





    KKKA

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  32. TINA ..SORRY FOR THE EXTRA ''WAS''IN MY FIRST SENTENCE



    KKKA

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  33. loved the update
    yayy!!! they're getting married in a proper way
    can't wait to read more
    thanx for the pM:)

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  34. Hello! I just came across this FF last night and finished reading it in one go. The concept sure is different & you write very well. It was a delight reading this fun and mischievous FF. *Haiye* The dance sequence brought back memories, after reading I immediately went on to Youtube to watch the Teri Meri dance sequence. Made me realize how much I miss the show. :'( I went on to read your other FF “Shameless” but I noticed that it’s taken off. I saw the note that it’s coming out on a E-book soon, Congrats!! Eagerly awaiting the next chapter. :)

    -Shalu- from IF

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    1. Aww thanks! Glad u liked my stuff. Yeah i miss ipkknd so much too, that's why i keep writing lol.

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  35. phew! FINALLY! i caught up with it. i was trying it since long but wasnt able to...aww...i just loved the updates....what is wrong with buaji? obssessed with that chipkoo veer! and the teri meri dance...aww...it was bang on! right at their faces....and so they are finally getting married....eagerly waiting for next update..

    --peehu--

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  36. loved the update! you go girl!Son nice to see this kind of Arnav and Khushi! Keep up ur Good Work. i lov it.

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  37. Loved chapter 9!!!! Continue soon!!! I was so eagerly waiting for your update that I would keep checking now and then to see if you updated and when I checked today, I smiled widely seeing chapter 9!!! I miss ippknd so much wish it never ended but I am glad we have writers like you Tina who keep us entertained even though ipkknd isn't no more!!! Thank you so much Tina!!!! Will be waiting for chapter 10, the precap is exciting!!! Continue soon!! Please never stop writing, I really love your style of writing, mostly I love how you write mind games, this is one of my very favorite story!!!

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  38. hey there..

    i just read out your FF mind games in one go starting from IF & had to come here for continuation... superb concept i must say... i'm trying for shameless, but in vain. then i notice your note relating shameless in kind of book. plz mail me once you finish with shameless, i wanna do read more your works..
    all the best for continuation. let me know on how i need to get update from your side.

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  39. Buaji and Mr.Dangu i can't believe this... i hate her
    N.K Arrived there is so much fun
    eagerly waiting for their Honeymoon
    Actually its a grt idea MIND Link you are amazing TINA

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  40. Ohh wow!!

    that was pretty good!! and a yummy update eh?

    ohh cant wait to know how things go ....

    ~Leena

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  41. i just caught up with chapter 3 of season 2 till this last update.
    the story is progressing really well it has all the elements to make it awesome love, possessivness, care, faith and chemistry.
    sometimes i wonder would they be as good a couple without the magical connection because they are just perfect.
    bauji's likness toward veer is illogical to me just cuz he is the nephew of her old flame does not mean she has to go gaga over him.
    arnav knows how to handel her family. the big strong independent prince.

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  42. LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT. Read literally everything there is to read on this blog<3 AMAZING. Veer... ASR will kill you and the Dangu's wont be able to find your body! GIVE UP MAN.

    Nannav and his Princess belong together<3

    I HONESTLY LOVE THIS!

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  43. cant wait!
    good update Tina! keep rocking.prince and his princess belong together!
    bac off Veer!
    really nice update Tina. plz update the nex chapter soon :)

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  44. OMG this is just so beautiful... loved it :*... Tina i cant say enough how talented writer u r... amazing amazing story with the correct balance of romance/drama/comedy... pppls update soon... pretty please :) -Ekta

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    1. Finally logged in... this is me again Ekta

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  45. Loved chapter 10!!! Khushi surprise for Arnav was lovely!!! Continue soon!!

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  46. awesome going
    after so many hurdles
    atlast their wedding day is coming
    only one night left
    hope no problem occurs

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  47. this is the most sensuous story that i have read! totally love it tina :)))

    -cherry227

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  48. Amazing updates. Loved the entire 5 chapters. Expressing their love as 'teri meri' in front of her family was a fantastic idea. The dance was just amazing. Buaji going to meet her childhood love when his wife not at home, disgusting lady. And she calls khushi characterless. Glad that khushi's father agreed 4 the marriage without considering buaji's protests. Akash confessing to payal first time was a hilarious scene. Liked khushi's both gifts to arnav, she s being naughty.
    nnsunn(IF)

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  49. This comment has been removed by the author.

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