Mind Games Pt 11-15


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Mind Games Vol 1 by TINA!
Part XI: Pillowfights, Secrets, and Net Bra

Arnav smirked across at Khushi from the opposite end of the sofa, his fingers massaging her suddenly tense legs.
Uhh..what? managed Khushi after a long pause, her heart racing as she thought of his scandalous fantasy.
It couldn't possibly mean..
But Arnav spoke out just then, his voice slightly gruff, his eyes dark.You heard me, princess, I'm imagining you dressed in only an apron..
Khushi looked at him flabbergasted, And underneath?
He shook his head naughtily at her, Nothing underneath..that's the point of the fantasy, get it?
Khushi nodded bemusedly, her eyes still wide.
She suddenly had a vivid image of herself standing in a short, prim apron before him. She'd stand there wringing her hands, half-thrilled and half-embarrassed. But Arnav would just gaze up at her mesmerized before he grabbed her, his hands latching onto her--
OMG! Khushi threw a pillow over her warm face as that fantasy hit her.
Arnav looked across at her tenderly, taking in her beautiful, heaving body, the feelings of love and passion that he felt from her.
The mental bond between them heightened every word, every touch..
He could no longer stay away from her.
He had to have his mouth on her.
So Arnav leaned slowly down, kissing her covered legs.
Khushi whimpered as his lips hit the cloth, her heart racing.
She quickly glanced up, her face still half covered with the pillow.
She bit down on her bottom lip as she felt his moist, hot mouth drop another soft kiss.
Arnav..she murmured, her hands tightening on the pillow.
He looked up at her, seeing his passion mirrored in her gaze.
He had to slow things down, before they went up in flames.
He leaned back, closing his eyes.
Think of the wedding night..think of Khushi's dreams..he told himself repeatedly, trying to regain control.
Khushi watched puzzled as Arnav's eyes closed, as his jaw clenched.
She put down the pillow worriedly.
Darling..she whispered, touching his foot soothingly beside her.
He tensed, moving away from her hand.
His eyes snapped open.
Khushi! said Arnav, Princess, don't..I can't handle it right now.
Khushi nodded, but looked at him with concern in her huge, shining eyes.
Arnav sighed, his hands fisting at his side.
Baby, he explained, It's not that I don't want you to touch me.
Khushi frowned. But why did you move away? she asked innocently.
Because if you touch me that way, I'll be on top of you within a matter of seconds, my body covering yours, my tongue plunging into your mouth..
Khushi looked at him shocked, her body quivering.
Arnav's eyes were hard as he met her stare. Do you get it, sweetheart? You can touch me in a while but not this minute..okay?
Khushi blushed slightly, nodding.
Fine, she said, moving her hair out of her face, I guess you have a point.
Arnav nodded, his fingers playing with her toes.
Khushi tried to ignore his touch as she said a little too loudly, I know! We're still playing truth or dare. And it's my turn, right? She didn't wait for his reply, continuing quickly, I choose truth.
Arnav smiled, pretending to think seriously.
Okay, Khushi, my question for you, and it has to be the truth: How happy are you right now?
Khushi looked at him puzzled. What kind of question is that? Really, Arnav!
But she was smiling as she opened her arms wide, I'm sooo sooo happy right now! I can't even begin to describe it. You here with me.She shook her head in disbelief, It still feels like a dream sometimes. Sometimes I feel as if I'm alone in my bed in Lucknow, dreaming of meeting you, dying just to catch a glimpse of you.
It's real, princess, said Arnav softly, We're finally together.
Khushi nodded, her eyes shining brightly. Yes, we are together. And more than that, we've finally admitted how much we love each other, and look, she said, wiggling the diamond ring at him, I have you forever this time, Raizada.
He nodded, leaning forward to catch her left hand in his.
For a moment they both just stared down at the ring, the tangible proof of their coming wedding, the symbol of their love..
Arnav bowed down suddenly, kissing the ring on her finger.
Khushi's heart ached as she felt his love.
Her right hand slipped into his hair, soothing him.
I love you, he muttered as he straightened, cupping her face in his palms.
Khushi turned her head to the side to kiss his hand, And I love you, Arnav..so much..
A tear escaped her eye, and he leaned forward to kiss it away.
No more tears, no more arguments, said Arnav, leaning back into his spot once more.
Khushi nodded, but then said impishly, But, I think a few arguments are a definite must..
Why? asked Arnav curiously, trying to read her.
She shook her head, her eyes lowering. Because..because we always have the most amazing kisses after we fight..she admitted softly.
Arnav's eyes widened in shock, and then he laughed, throwing one of the sofa's pillows across at her.
Khushi's eyes widened and then she threw the pillow back at him, hitting him on the head.
You minx..said Arnav naughtily, pulling her toward him.
Khushi laughed as they threw pillows at each other.
Arnav suddenly grabbed a pillow she was aiming at him, grinning triumphantly.
His eyes twinkled as he pulled a surprised Khushi to him, tickling her mercilessly.
Arnav! shouted Khushi, twisting in his arms.
They fell onto the carpet in a heap, Arnav half draped over her.
His hands continued to tickle her, it was as if he knew exactly the place to touch..
Khushi's face hurt from laughing, Please, baby, please stop..she managed between bouts of laughter.
Arnav smiled, relenting. He leaned down to kiss her on the lips once.
Khushi grinned up at him, her hands looping around his neck.
Umm..one more..she said naughtily.
Just one? asked Arnav, winking down at her.
Khushi bit her lip, pretending to think.
Hmm..okay, Mr. Raizada..she smiled up at him, I want about ten more kisses..
Arnav grinned, leaning down to kiss her.
Khushi's eyes closed as she felt his mouth against hers, his tongue entwining with hers.
She moaned, pulling his head closer.
After several moments, Arnav leaned back, TEN!
Khushi looked up at him confused, What?
Arnav tried to control his smile as he said seriously, That was the tenth kiss, Ms. Gupta.
Khushi rolled her eyes, I know you weren't counting..
How can you be that sure, princess?
I just know, she said stubbornly.
Oh, really? he asked.
Khushi nodded, and then her eyes widened.
Goodness, she was basically pressed up against the man..
She scooted back guiltily, trying to control her heartbeat.
Arnav knew exactly what she was doing.
He understood.
So he sat next to her on the carpeted floor, their backs against the sofa.
He couldn't resist putting his arm around her waist.
Khushi smiled, cuddling into his side.
Your turn..she whispered.
What? he asked confused.
Khushi laughed, Wow, Arnav Singh Raizada has forgotten something? It's your turn, baby. Remember, truth or dare?
Arnav shook his head at her, Fine, but it ends here.
Khushi nodded, glancing up at him, So..truth or dare..
Truth, said Arnav quickly, leaning back, That pillow fight tired me out.
Oh..you poor baby, murmured Khushi wickedly, leaning up to kiss his cheek.
So, ASR..Tell me a secret no one else knows about..
Arnav stilled against her.
And then he said quietly, I planned everything..
What? asked Khushi puzzled.
Arnav looked at her grimly. Please, don't get mad, princess. I did it out of love, I promise you. He took a deep breath as she held his hand in hers. I sent you that job advertisement so you would come to Delhi. I was at the train station that day you came from Lucknow. I even arranged this apartment, he admitted.
Khushi looked up at him stunned.
You did all that?
He nodded, Are you upset?
Khushi shook her head, I know I should be, but I'm not, not really. I can see why you did everything. And anyways, she said, hugging him,How else would we have finally met?
Arnav nodded, but one thing still plagued him..
Khushi..
Hmm?
Arnav closed his eyes, One last secret: I read your diary.
Khushi stilled beside him. You..what?!
Arnav nodded guiltily, The first time I came here, you went to make tea, remember?
Khushi nodded, her eyes widening.
Arnav watched her worriedly. I'm so sorry, princess. But when you said no to me initially, I kind of lost it. It was really wrong of me, I am so so sorr--
Khushi covered his lips, stopping his apology.
For that, she said grimly, I won't accept any sorry's.
Arnav frowned, but Khushi surprised him by launching herself at him.
Her fingers tickled him mercilessly.
Khush..what are you--..
But Khushi just laughed, Your punishment, ASR.
Arnav smiled up at her as he hugged her close. You're amazing, you know?
Khushi nodded, making him laugh. Arnav, we love each other, know each other so well. Please, no more thank you's and sorry's. I understand you, love.
Arnav smiled as they kissed.
----------------------------------------------------------
He ended up spending the night at Khushi's apartment.
Arnav didn't think they could handle being on the same bed together without tearing off the other's clothes, so they stayed in the living room.
Khushi couldn't help but agree.
So she slept on the sofa while he slept on the carpet beside her.
The sun seemed to rise extra early the next morning.
Khushi frowned in her sleep as the morning light hit her face.
She curled into the blanket, but then she remembered the night before..ice cream..kisses..dinner..truth and dare..Arnav..
Her eyes widened as she looked down.
Her heart soared as she saw Arnav sleeping, his face peaceful and almost childlike.
Her eyes widened as she noticed that he'd taken off his shirt sometime during the night.
She looked at the wide expanse of his bare skin shyly, her hands itching to touch him.
But she couldn't.
Her hand was already occupied.
She smiled as she noticed their hands still entwined from the night before.
Khushi leaned down, kissing his cheek softly.
Arnav smiled as he woke.
Morning, beautiful..
Good morning..said Khushi with a blush.
Arnav gazed at her mesmerized, and then asked sleepily, What time is it?
Khushi's eyes widened as she glanced up, It's almost ten! We are so late, Arnav! We have to get to the office.
Arnav shook his head, No, we're going to my house. I want you to meet Di and Nani today. Remember, we have a plan..honeymoon by next week.
Khushi nodded excitedly, Well, let's go, then.
Arnav stood up, reaching his hands around her slim waist.
You sure, princess?..I wouldn't mind being a little late..he said with a smirk.
Khushi's heart pounded at his suggestive glance.
She pushed him toward the bathroom with a shake of her head, I don't want to be late, Arnav. I want everyone to like me..
Like you? repeated Arnav as he turned back toward her, Nah..they'll love you, princess. Don't worry.
Khushi kissed him on the cheek quickly and ran away before he could drag her closer.
Arnav sighed as he watched her run to the bedroom.
Khushi Kumari Gupta soon-to-be Singh Raizada..how much he loved her..
Their wedding could not happen soon enough.
-----------------------------------------------------
An hour later, Khushi and Arnav walked hand in hand out of the elevator toward the main entrance.
She was fidgeting with her dupatta.
Arnav squeezed her hand in his, Shh, baby, everything will be fine.
Khushi nodded, gripping his hand like a lifeline.
She was so nervous suddenly.
She prayed his family would like her.
You look beautiful in the suit, Khushi.
She smiled at that. You picked it.
Arnav nodded arrogantly.
PJ, the security guard, was standing near the door. A second guard stood to his right, drinking tea.
"Good morning, Khushiji!" said PJ loudly, waving.
Khushi smiled as they neared, "Good morning, PJ."
The other guard glanced up. His eyes bugged out, his tea spilled onto the floor.
"Mr. Raizada!" he said surprised, "Good morning, sir."
PJ's eyes widened at the name. "Raizada.." he said confused, "As in Arnav Singh Raizada?"
He couldn't seem to comprehend it.
Arnav's lips compressed with barely repressed humor.
Khushi nodded sadly at the poor security guard.
The second one nodded, "Yes, PJ. He's the owner of this building, as well as AR Designs, and many other properties."
PJ looked at Arnav alarmed.
"I'm..I'm so sorry, sir. I had no idea that--"
"It's okay," interrupted Arnav, "Just make sure the security is kept the best here. My soon-to-be wife lives here..for now."
He looked at Khushi adoringly, his face transforming from the hard, cold lines of a businessman.
Khushi blushed as they walked out toward the mammoth white jeep.
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Later that same morning, Khushi smiled as she leaned back on the plush sofas at Raizada Mansion.
Everything had gone so well, better than she could have dreamed of.
Nani was wonderful, reminding her of Buaji with her quick wit and humor.
And Di was a sweetheart, bringing Khushi into the family as if she'd always been a part of it.
The rest of Raizada Mansion was basically a maze of large, empty rooms.
Khushi smiled at Arnav as he gave her a quick tour.
See, I told you, they would love you.
Khushi smiled, holding his hand tighter.
So it's just you, Di, and Nani?
Arnav nodded, Yeah, Akash and his parents stay nearby. And Di's never married, so it's always been just us. And you, of course. I told Di you were my pen pal years ago. So your name always came up.
Khushi hugged his arm to her. She couldn't believe it. They'd been talking about her for years! And she'd been in Lucknow, never even knowing that she had this other family.
She glanced up as Arnav stopped at a large, wooden door. He was looking at her closely.
And this is my room, he told her, opening the door.
Khushi walked in with a bright smile, taking in the large space, the pictures that adorned the walls, the modern furniture.
She glanced at the king size bed with a blush, her heart racing.
Arnav came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist.
Do you like it? he asked, It'll be our room after the wedding.
Khushi nodded, It's perfect.
He smiled. You can change whatever you want, except that, he said pointing to the far corner.
Khushi's eyes widened.
She walked to where he was pointing quickly.
Her hand swept over the giant black and white framed picture.
It was a photograph of her.
She didn't know when it had been taken.
But she was smiling in it, her eyes shining.
When did you take this? she asked, surprised.
Arnav kissed her nape in reply. When you stepped off the train station, the first time I saw you.
Khushi hugged him to her, I love you, baby..
I love you, princess..
He leaned in to kiss her, but there was a knock on the door just then.
"It's me," said Anjali outside.
"Come in," said Arnav with a sigh, stepping slightly away from Khushi.
His hand though stayed firmly on her back, playing with the doris.
Khushi looked at him scandalized, but Anjali entered just then.
"Sorry, Chote. Sorry, Khushiji," she said with a giggle, "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
"Of course not, Di," said Arnav shortly, massaging Khushi's bare back firmly.
Khushi fought for control, trying to move away, but he was relentless.
It reminded her of the time he'd touched her beneath the conference table, his every stroke bold and daring.
"Good, I brought you both some snacks," said Anjali, setting down a tray.
"Thank you, Di," said Khushi, smiling.
Anjali nodded, "And did you know, Khushiji, tomorrow is Chote's birthday?" said Anjali as she hurried back to Nani.
Khushi's eyes widened. Goodness, how had she forgotten!
It's your birthday tomorrow? asked Khushi, her eyes shining.
Arnav nodded, his eyes on her.
Khushi beamed, leaning to kiss his cheek.
What do you want love?
I have you already, I don't want anything else, said Arnav, pulling her close.
Still, murmured Khushi, There must be something you must want..
Arnav's eyes darkened, Hmm..I guess there is something. But I don't know if you'll give it to me..
Of course I will, said Khushi, astonished.
Arnav shook his head, but Khushi refused to let go.
What is it baby? What do you want?
His arm tensed under her palm as he swung toward her, his eyes burning hot.
He pulled her even closer, his lips near her ear.
I want you..dressed in that net bra..Will you give me that Khushi?
Khushi's eyes widened.
A tremor rocked her delicate body.
The black bra..the one she'd bought at the lingerie shop?
The one she'd sent him naughty images of from the fitting room?
She froze as she recalled the too tiny piece of black net, the one that caused her breasts to spill over the top..the one with the matching--
Khushi glanced up at Arnav in disbelief.
Arnav..be reasonable, love..
He shook his head, pulling her closer to him.
I want that..and only that..he said like a stubborn child.
Arnav..how can I..Khushi shook her head, It's not possible.
Arnav shrugged, You asked, princess.
Khushi frowned up at him.
But he didn't give her a chance to argue.
Come on, he said picking up the tray Anjali had brought, Let's just eat with Di and Nani downstairs.
Khushi followed behind him lost in thought.
She couldn't say no to him on his birthday, and yet, she couldn't wear that bra before him.
Goodness, what should she do, she wondered worriedly?
----------------------------------------------------------
Arnav smiled naughtily at Khushi as he took a sip of simmering hot tea.
She made a face at him, smiling instead at something Di and Nani were talking about.
Anjali suddenly turned toward Arnav, her gaze curious.
"Chote, I forget to ask. Where were you last night?"
Khushi turned red at the question, her eyes frozen on her teacup.
What should I say, baby? asked Arnav naughtily, That I was in your apartment, wrapped in your arms, talking about fantasies, kisses, and what not?
Khushi's head swung sharply in his direction. She shook her head at him just barely.
His eyes twinkled at her in response.
"I just had a late night meeting, Di," explained Arnav coolly.
Anjali looked suspiciously at the two of them. Arnav appeared relaxed, almost pleased with himself, while Khushiji was nervously fidgeting with her pink dupatta, her eyes lowered.
She smiled mischievously as she asked her brother, "And what was this important meeting about?"
Arnav answered at once. "Mostly about aprons and--"
Khushi choked on her tea at his words.
"Are you okay, Khushiji?" asked Anjali with concern, thumping her on the back lightly.
"I'm..fine, Di," said Khushi coughing.
Her eyes though were focused on Arnav. They flashed at him warningly.
Nani quickly intervened.
"Chote, I forgot to ask you," she said, "What do you want for your birthday?"
Khushi froze at the question.  Really these Raizadas were going to be the death of her, she thought.
And yet she couldn't help but glance sideways at him.
Arnav winked at her sneakily, You know what I want, don't you princess?
Khushi's heart raced at his heated glance.
An image of a black transparent bra passed through their mental link, making them both shiver.
And then just as suddenly, Arnav glanced away, taking another sip of tea slowly. Khushi frowned at his calmness. How dare he appear so at ease, as if nothing had happened between them!
"Nothing, Nani..I have almost everything I want.."
He glanced at Khushi intently.
Nani frowned, "Almost everything? What do you mean?"
Anjali laughed, "Please, Nani. We should understand. Chote means he already has Khushiji, now he just needs two-three kids."
Khushi and Arnav exchanged a quick, shocked glance.
"What are you saying Di! I meant--" began Arnav, his eyes wide.
Khushi couldn't control her giggle.
Arnav's eyes swung toward her with a frown.
What is so damn funny? he asked her frostily.
Khushi shook her head at him, turning toward Anjali.
"Di, not two-three kids. We want at least five."
Arnav choked on his tea as Anjali and Nani smiled widely.
Khushi winked at Arnav, lounging back to talk more with Di and Nani.
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An hour later, Arnav and Khushi stood outside Raizada Mansion, ready to leave.
"Khushi.." murmured Arnav, pulling on her elbow.
She raised an eyebrow at him.
He took a deep breath.
Did you mean it? he whispered, gazing down at her intensely.
Confusion enveloped Khushi.
Mean what, Arnav?
He pulled her closer to him, his hands cupping her face.
Did you mean what you said earlier? he asked, About kids..
Khushi blushed.
She threw herself onto him, burying her face against his crisp shirt.
She nodded breathlessly against him.
Yes, love. I meant it.
Arnav smiled, holding her closer. I've never thought about children honestly. It seems so in the future. Right now, I just want to enjoy us, you know?
Khushi nodded, hugging him.
But Khushi.. murmured Arnav softly.
Hmm..said Khushi, leaning back so she could meet his love-filled gaze.
I kind of like the idea.. he admitted softly, Really really like it, love it actually.
Khushi gazed up at him smiling.
He nodded, continuing, The thought of you pregnant with our child..
His eyes closed, I can almost see you like that..you would look so beautiful..
He leaned in to kiss her cheek.
Her eyes closed at his tender touch.
Arnav pulled her closer, his lips near her ear.
Princess, can you see it? he continued, Your face glowing with happiness, your hand on your round stomach.. My very own cute, loveable baby elephant..
It took a moment for that to register in Khushi's mind.
She'd been so lost in the magic of his words, at the images they created.
She looked up at him outraged as his last remark sunk in.
What. Did. You. Say? she asked icily.
Arnav couldn't hold back his grin any longer.
He laughed as he ran toward the jeep.
Arnav! shouted Khushi, chasing him.
----------------------------------------------------------
The rest of the day passed uneventfully Khushi.
Ever since Arnav had dropped her off at AR designs, she'd missed him..terribly..
His smirking face kept flashing before her eyes, his naughty words kept seeping into her mind.
She would have gone to him, but he was at an important meeting two cities away.
He wouldn't be back till late night.
Arnav had wanted to come to her apartment once the meeting ended, but Khushi had forced him to stay away.
After all what would Di and Nani think?
He'd only agreed because of her, thought Khushi with a huff, only because of her insistent words and kisses..
She blushed as she recalled the kisses they'd shared in the jeep..and goodness, Arnav had somehow managed to make her promise ten more when he returned.
He was quite the businessman, thought Khushi with a laugh.
The only solace the whole day had been to see Reena sent back to the first level. Khushi smiled as she recalled the way Lavanya and her gang had looked at her as she'd taken her rightful place across from Arnav's office.
Khushi fingered her engagement ring beneath her desk tenderly.
It still left her awestruck but it was quickly becoming an inseparable part of her.
She loved Arnav so much..and tomorrow, it was her soon-to-be husband's birthday
The smile on Khushi's face faded as she recalled what he'd ask for:
I want you..dressed in that net bra..Will you give me that Khushi?
She sighed, burying her face in her arms as she tried to come up with a solution.
She couldn't possibly give in..it was totally crazy, completely scandalous..
---------------------------------------------------------------
Arnav reclined wearily on the chaise lounge, his head throbbing.
It had been a long, tiring day filled with meetings.
And worse, Khushi, hadn't been with him so every moment had felt extra long and drawn out.
He thought of calling out to her, but decided against it.
It was 11:51 PM, she would probably be asleep.
He was just recalling how beautiful she looked while she slept, when her voice entered his mind.
Arnav..
Khushi! said Arnav, smiling, I was just thinking about you.
I've missed you all day, replied Khushi.
Me too, he said, Every minute has felt unbearable without you..
Khushi smiled and then said hesitantly, Arnav, if I ask you something, will you give me it?
Of course, said Arnav swiftly, What is it, princess?
Nothing much, I just need directions.
Arnav frowned, trying to follow her. Khushi and her craziness..she drove him mad, and yet, he loved her for it.
Khushi continued without taking a breath, How do I get to your room again?
Shock erupted in Arnav.
He got up quickly, heading to the door.
Are you on your way? he asked, Baby, there's no reason to take a taxi so late. I'll just come to you.
No! No! shouted Khushi, making Arnav pause.
Confusion enveloped him as he told her, God, Khushi, why are you always so stubborn?
I am not! said Khushi, You just never listen to me!
Fine, he said patiently, taking a deep breath, Just take the first right from that street at your apartment and then--
Khushi interrupted him, I'm already here. I am capable of finding my way around Delhi, Raizada.
What? shouted Arnav, focusing on her first words, Why the hell didn't you say so? I'm coming to the front door.
He started toward his bedroom door once more but Khushi's frantic voice made him stop.
No! Stop Arnav! I can't come through the main door, I don't want Di and Nani to find out.
She tightened the shawl around her. The night air was slightly chilly.
Arnav ran a hand through his hair, What do you want me to do then?
Khushi rolled her eyes, Just give me directions how to come to your room from the back alley.
Arnav looked startled at that. Khushi, there's a wall there, you won't be able to climb over. Just wait, I'm coming.
NO! she shouted, Someone will hear you. You stay in your room, okay! And anyways, I've already climbed the wall.
You what! shouted Arnav, shocked.
Khushi nodded, Now which room is yours?
Arnav sighed, shaking his head. He walked toward the poolside door.
It was pitch black outside.
My room is straight ahead, you'll see potted plants everywhere. Di and Nani sleep upstairs.
Khushi nodded, plowing her way forward.
She smiled as she saw him through the glass doors. She waved excitedly.
He shook his head at her, opening the doors.
Khushi was so focused on him, so involved in all her plans, she never noticed the slight ledge in her path until she's already crossed over.
Her eyes widened as she fell feet first into the pool.
A small cry escaped her lips as water splashed over her, leaving her shaking.
Arnav watched it all happen in slow motion.
He couldn't help but laugh. Khushi looked adorable all wet, her eyes outraged.
What is so funny? she asked him crossly.
Nothing, he replied, his eyes twinkling as he walked to her, I was just thinking you're lucky the pool was cleaned out yesterday.
Khushi frowned up at him, You should have warned me.
I thought it was obvious..I mean, who misses a pool, right? He leaned down a hand to help her out.
Khushi's frown deepened. She grasped his hand and then with a sudden yank, pulled him into the pool.
What the--!
Khushi laughed, splashing him with water, This is your punishment, Raizada.
He grabbed her, holding her squirming body against his.
Oh yeah? he whispered, Fine, but this is yours.
He leaned down, crashing his lips onto her laughing, open mouth.
Khushi's eyes rounded at his hungry kiss.
Arnav slowly moved away, cupping her face in his palms.
For a long moment, they just gazed at each other mesmerized, their eyes locked.
A familiar tune played in their minds as Arnav's hands drifted down her face, brushing water droplets away..Rabba ve..
Khushi smiled as she stared at the overwhelming love in his gaze. She cuddled instinctively closer.
Arnav's eyes darkened, tracing over her beautiful features..She was really the most sexy when she was all mad at him, he thought.
His hands settled low around her hips, forcing her closer.
Khushi moaned, curling her hands around his neck.
She leaned up for his kiss, aching for his mouth on hers.
He met her half-way, kissing her feverishly.
For several minutes, the only noise was the small moans that escaped them, the faint splashing of the water around them.
Rabba ve..
A clock chimed midnight somewhere in Raizada Mansion just then.
Khushi's eyes rounded, she pulled away from Arnav, breathing heavily.
He gazed at her heatedly, his mouth slightly reddened. Princess, come back..
But Khushi shook her head, taking a few steps back in the pool.
They were both still standing thigh deep in water, and yet, neither cared.
It's your birthday, Arnav, said Khushi, her eyes shining brightly.
He nodded, extending his hand out to her.
We'll talk later, just come here..he bid.
Khushi shook her head.
Her hands went slowly to her shawl, discarding the wet material.
Arnav looked at the black sari she wore underneath closely.
Khushi had never worn black before..
His eyes were drawn to her bare arms.
She'd never worn a sleeveless blouse before either..
But before he could ask, she swept aside her sari.
Happy Birthday, Arnav..
Arnav's breath caught as he saw Khushi before him, her sari wet and clinging to her hips, her upper half covered by just a familiar black net bra..
His hands shook, his eyes smoldered with heat.
Within a matter of seconds, he was by her side, pulling her to him, his lips hard and eager.

Part XIII: Arnav's Birthday
A moan escaped Khushi's lips as Arnav grabbed her slim body in his arms, kissing her fiercely.
She clung to him, her hands fisting in his hair, her eyes closing as he bent over her, teasing her mouth open with skill.
Princess..he murmured, tasting her hotly.
Khushi fought for control as his hands shifted lower, holding her indecently low.  Love..she whispered, her body arching up.
He responded with a growl, pushing her even closer against him. His movements were deliberate as he began pressing himself against her tightly.
Khushi's fingers tightened in his wet hair at the sudden passion, her heart racing wildly. Dhak, dhak. Dhak, dhak.
They were both breathing harshly as their hands ran longingly along the other.
Passion bloomed like wildfire, igniting them in the shallow pool. Heat sizzled as never before.
Their kisses became increasingly hungry, completely insatiable.
Arnav couldn't seem to get enough of her.
He parted her mouth over and over with his tongue, his every touch hard and possessive.
And then, he could control himself no longer.
His hand wandered up Khushi's exposed waist, stopping just beneath her heaving chest.
They both stilled at his careful touch, their hearts pounding.
Arnav leaned off of Khushi slightly, his hand still touching her brazenly.
Their heated gazes locked.
He'd never touched her like this before..
Arnav..said Khushi longingly.
His eyes darkened in response, his jaw clenched. His palm though remained firmly against her bare skin, just inches from the black net bra.
With a blush, Khushi glanced down at herself.
She trembled as she saw his tanned, masculine hand on her pale skin. The contrast was striking, shaking her to the core.
Heat pooled within her, leaving her craving for more. She needed more, she decided, she needed his touch so much..
Arnav..she said again, Touch me..
His breath hitched at that.
He stared at her intently, trying to read her passion-laden eyes.
For a moment, Khushi thought Arnav would turn away, but then with a slow sweep, his hand descended higher up, settling possessively over her breast.
Khushi cried out, her body clenching. She felt the ground slip beneath her feet at the unfamiliar, but intoxicating touch.
But Arnav was there, catching her limp body with his free hand.
Their eyes met, sizzling with barely repressed need.
Tell me to stop, princess, he told her in her mind.
Khushi pulled him closer instead.
And just like that, passion exploded once more between them like an inferno.
They kissed wildly, their tongues entwining, their wet bodies moving in delicious friction against the other.
And all the while, Arnav touched her peaks brazenly, cupping and rubbing the delicate net till Khushi was mindless with passion.
We should stop, said Arnav even though he was still kissing her forehead..her cheek..her lips..anything he could reach. His fingers were relentless, tugging at her breasts, his thumb smoothing the sensitive tips.
Khushi shook her head, cuddling even closer.
She barely knew what was happening. A part of her remembered her dream of a traditional wedding night. But as Arnav's touch ignited her body, the dream seemed to dim. How could something that felt so good, so right be wrong, wondered Khushi?
As Arnav kissed her once more, bending her over backwards in the pool, all thoughts seemed to cease. She was ready to surrender herself fully to him..to their love..
Arnav noticed the change in her. He knew the exact moment she transformed in his arms, her  touches growing bold and eager rather than shy.
With a groan, he pulled himself off of her, turning his back to her.
He was breathing harshly. His hands were fisted tightly at his sides as he tried desperately to keep himself from touching her.
Khushi almost slipped into the water once more as she lost his strong support. Her legs felt like liquid. She needed him..
But Arnav must have picked up on her emotions because in a flash, he was facing her once more, his arms reaching out to steady her.
He stepped back the moment she regained her balance.
Khushi frowned as he just stood there, watching her heatedly. His breathing uneven, his eyes dark with passion.
Arnav..We don't have to stop..
He shook his head, reaching for the shawl she'd brought along.
Yes, we do, he said firmly, wrapping the shawl carefully around Khushi, You may want to forget your dreams, but I won't let that happen. We'll have that wedding night just as you always wanted. We'll stick to the plan. Honeymoon in six days..
Khushi pouted up at him, but he just swept her up in his arms, taking her out of the shallow pool.
You have a countdown for our honeymoon? she asked him naughtily, brushing the water droplets off of his face.
He smirked at her as he set her down, Damn right.
Khushi grinned, hugging him close, I can't wait either.
His eyes twinkled down at her at that, a small smile crossing his face.
Overwhelming love enveloped Khushi as she watched Arnav pat her hair dry as if she was a child. His eyes were filled with concern as they swept over her.
You're completely soaked..he informed her.
Khushi rolled her eyes, I think that's all your fault, Raizada.
Arnav smirked, Oh, really? And who was it who decided to take a swim in the middle of the night, princess?
I Slipped! fumed Khushi, wringing her wet hair.
Arnav looked over her drenched, shaking body worriedly.
You're going to catch a cold, he said.
Khushi shrugged. It would be worth it. It all happened better than I could have ever planned. A romantic midnight swim..she smiled dreamily.
Arnav shook his head at her. But his eyes were shining brightly in the dim light. I guess.. although it would have been even better if we'd skinny-dipped.
Skinny-dip? What's that? asked Khushi, her eyebrows furrowing.
Arnav laughed, I'll explain it to you on our honeymoon..or better yet, I'll show you in six days.
Khushi raised an eyebrow, her mouth opening to ask more questions, but just then his eyes became serious, loving.
He pulled Khushi to him, cupping her face in his palms.
That was the best birthday present I've ever received, Khushi. Thank you, love. I can't believe you actually did what I said. I didn't think you would honestly.
Khushi smiled widely, hugging him to her shawl-draped body.
How could I refuse when I wanted to myself? she admitted, I love you so much, Arnav.
Arnav smiled, his eyes twinkling in the darkness, And I love you, princess..I always have.. I always will.
He pulled her back so he could see her stunning face.
You're so beautiful, he murmured, his thumb smoothing her full lips,So hot, so damn sexy..you have no idea what you do to me.
Khushi blushed, her hand rising to cup his cheek. 
But before she could say anything, a sneeze escaped her.
Arnav's eyes flashed.
Damn it! I knew it! Come on, Khushi. Let's go to my room, he said, his hand latching around her waist, There are towels and dry clothes there.
Khushi began to follow him, but then she remembered all the plans she'd made before her fall into the pool.
Her eyes widened. She froze on the pavement.
What now? said Arnav, annoyed, Damn it, Khushi, you're going to get the flu like this.
Khushi though barely heard him.
With a quick move, she sidestepped out of his arms, running back toward the potted plants.
Arnav sighed as he chased after her.
What the hell are you doing? he asked her, Princess, stop arguing, I don't want you to get sick. I refuse to let that happen.
Khushi ignored him, searching for the bag she'd brought along. It had slipped from her grasp the moment she'd crossed the pool's ledge.
She yelled with glee suddenly.
Arnav looked down at her exaspersated. Sanka Devi, as her aunt called her, was back.
I heard that! snapped Khushi.
She turned toward him just then, almost knocking him off his feet.  A bright blue bag was in her arms.
At his puzzled glance, she explained, Your birthday has just begun. The..err..surprise in the pool was just the beginning. After all, it's not every day my Raizada turns a year older.
Arnav shook his head at her amused, Oh, yeah? But that black bra was more than enough. You didn't have to do more. I'm not exactly a birthday person.
Khushi crossed her arms. I know you aren't the party type, but this is just us. Just me and you. It's past midnight and everyone else is sound asleep. And anyways, how can you not like birthdays? You always made such a big deal on my birthday every year! Always sending me gifts in the mail..Remember that huge teddy bear you sent me on my 14th birthday and the nail polish set I pestered you so much about the summer I was 16? And the diary when I turned 20?
That was different, he replied, It was you.
But this is the first time we're together on one of our birthdays, she insisted, And most importantly, you may not like birthdays, but I do. And now that I'm your to-be wife, you have to listen to me.
Oh, really? he said, crossing his arms.
His eyes glinted naughtily across at her.
Khushi barely managed a nod. Goodness, this man was too sexy for his own good. He had no idea what he was doing to her with that one look.
All she wanted to do was leap into his arms and kiss him endlessly.
Listen to you..he repeated, walking in a slow circle around her.
Khushi nodded, trying to control her quaking.
Arnav grinned at her deviously, leaning down so his warm breath hit her ear. Khushi almost swooned at his low, masculine voice.
You mean listen to you when you say to me: Touch me, baby..
Khushi turned bright tomato red as he repeated her passionate plea from just minutes ago in the pool.
She pushed him away, racing to his open bedroom door.
Arnav smiled amusedly as he followed closely behind.
He started to go with her inside the dark bedroom but Khushi blocked him at the entrance.
Arnav walked into her with a thump.
Oww, said Khushi, massaging her right arm. She looked down worriedly at the blue bag. But then she sighed with relief, everything still looked okay.
Are you okay? asked Arnav worriedly, taking her arm in his grasp. He massaged the skin, dropping feather light kisses in his wake.
It was a struggle for Khushi to push him away, but she had to. She couldn't let the plans go to waste.
As he looked at her bewildered, she said hurriedly, Give me five minutes, darling. I want your birthday surprise to be perfect.
Arnav shrugged, saying gruffly, Fine, but make sure you dry off your hair.
Khushi smiled at that. Only he could say something so adorable in such a grumpy tone.
She leaned forward to hug him one last time, but he pulled her closer again, kissing her cheek lovingly.
Khushi stepped back from him slowly, shutting the glass door. She winked at him as she swept the curtain across the glass, blocking his view.
And then she got to work, rifling through the blue bag excitedly..
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Arnav glanced impatiently down at his watch.
He hated not being with Khushi.
Especially when she was so close.
And in his bedroom!
His heart raced as he recalled their heated embrace in the pool..their frantic kisses..her soft moans..his hand on her bra..
He'd finally touched and branded her heady curves as his.
She was perfect in every way. He couldn't get enough of her.
It had taken everything in him to step away from her earlier. Never had Khushi been more irresistible.
Just one week, he thought, Just one damn week, and she's mine. My love..my wife..
Khushi's heart swelled with love as his thoughts entered her mind. She wanted to go and jump into his arms, but she still had a few last minute touches left.
Another minute passed by.
Arnav sighed, his eyes on his closed bedroom door.
Was it just him or was each moment passing by extra slowly?
He wanted to be with her so badly.
He ended up pacing up and down the poolside, his eyes darting every few seconds toward his bedroom.
Oh, Ms. Gupta, what's taking so long? he asked finally.
She giggled in his mind, Almost done, love. And Mr. ASR, correction, I'm not Ms. Gupta, but the soon-to-be Mrs. ASR or Mrs. Raizada if you prefer.
They both smiled on either side of the glass door.
I guess you have a point..for once, said Arnav naughtily.
Khushi's mouth dropped open. But before she could argue, he asked softly, So, Mrs. Raizada, what's taking so long?
Khushi didn't reply, sweeping back the curtain instead.
Arnav's head swung toward his room, his eyes widening as he looked at her.
She'd tossed aside the shawl and stood before him once more in the black sari. His breathing stilled as his eyes traced over her beautiful, innocent face, her sexy body, her slightly damp hair.
Damn it, he'd barely been able to stay away from her before..but now he knew that she wore no blouse underneath. Under the black sari, Khushi was wearing just her black, net bra..his birthday present..
How the hell was he supposed to resist her? he wondered, as he stepped inside his bedroom.
He froze as he finally managed to tear his eyes off of her and look at what she'd done..
Khushi had lit candles everywhere..roses were sprinkled generously on the wooden floors..a chocolate cake awaited them nearby..
Happy Birthday, Arnav! said Khushi, holding him close.
He held her tightly in his arms. Oh, princess..you went through all this trouble for me? I love you, baby..
Khushi leaned up for his kiss, balancing her hands on his shoulders.
I love you, she echoed, kissing him softly.
Arnav's eyes twinkled as she pulled him toward the cake.
It's sugar-free, she explained, Make a wish, Arnav..
He stilled, glancing up at her in the dim light. I have everything that I could ever want already.
There must be something, she insisted, singing happy birthday out loud and off-key.
Arnav smiled as he watched her.
He thought seriously for a moment, and then with a quick whoosh, blew out the candles.
Khushi clapped, feeding him a piece of cake from her hands.
It's delicious, he murmured, licking off the chocolate from her fingers.
Khushi fought for control as she felt his tongue on her delicate skin. She glanced up at him, her eyes narrowing as she noticed his satisfied look.
Arnav just winked at her in response, kissing off the last bit of chocolate.
He picked up a slice, feeding Khushi lovingly.
For the next several minutes, they took turns feeding each other, their eyes glowing with happiness.
They both wiped off the chocolate stains off the other's mouth as if they had always done so.
Afterwards, Khushi pulled Arnav down onto his green chaise lounge.
Present #2, she said, handing him an envelope.
Arnav opened it carefully, his eyes widening.
A phone bill? he said finally.
Khushi nodded happily, pointing out a recently made call. Look closer, Arnav. I called Jiji last night and told her about us!
Really? he said amazed, That's a day earlier than our plan!
I thought it was better to let them know in Lucknow. It was getting me so worried, keeping everything from them, she admitted softly.
Arnav's eyes gentled as he pulled her into his lap.
What did Payal say?
Khushi laughed. She was confused at first. But then I explained you were the same boy we'd met that day on the roadside all those years ago..the friend who sent me birthday gifts every year. She was shocked by that, but it's my fault. I never told them who sent me the presents, just said a family friend. I guess they assumed it was one of my mom's old friends or something..

Arnav looked taken aback, Wait a minute, they thought I was some Aunty?
Khushi laughed loudly, I guess..Sorry, love, I should have made some excuse like you did with the pen pal story.
Arnav kissed her forehead, It's okay..but anyways, did your family agree?
Khushi nodded happily. Jiji said she'd talked to Amma and Babuji tonight. She said they've been discussing their daughters' marriages lately so they will readily agree. Jiji even promised that she will do her best to bring them to Delhi by the last train tomorrow.
Really? said Arnav again, That's right on schedule. Honeymoon, here we come!
Khushi giggled at his words.
And then she jumped off the sofa, handing him a carefully wrapped gift.
It's not as surprising as the first or second gift, is it? he asked gingerly.
Khushi winked at him.
Present #3, she said , watching with excitement as he tore the gift wrap.
Arnav's eyes widened even more than the last time.
He looked astounded as he pulled out a flimsy, bright red cut-out.
Uhh..Khushi. I think this is yours..
Khushi laughed loudly, I know, but I bought it at the lingerie shop for you, remember? You can pack it for our honeymoon.
Arnav laughed as he pulled her back into his lap.
So you'll wear it for me on our honeymoon?
Khushi nodded, Whenever you want.
Really? he said, staring at her intensely.
She nodded, but it was more hesitant this time. Her body trembled as she glimpsed the wolfish look in his eyes.
Goodness, what are you planning, Raizada? she asked, trying to read his mind.
But he blocked her easily.
He smiled in triumph as she pouted at him. You'll find out on our honeymoon, Mrs. Raizada.
Khushi's eyes narrowed as she processed that, but then she jumped off again, handing him another gift.
Another one? he said surprised.
She nodded excitedly, Present #4!
He took the gift tentatively. You're not planning on giving me a heart attack tonight are you?
Khushi just shrugged, smiling impishly.
Arnav pulled at the ribbon, opening the gift carefully.
His breath hitched as he looked down.
His heart ached..
It was a picture of them, framed in a simple frame.
They were holding each other close, their love palpable.
It was their first photo together.
Arnav felt slightly embarrassed as emotions choked him.
He tried to hide it behind a cough, asking quickly, Who took this?
Khushi smiled widely, sliding her arms down around his neck from behind. She glanced down at the picture with pride.
It's from our dance at the office party. I tracked down the photographer and found it. I guess we weren't as careful as we thought, she explained, laughing softly.
She kept her head atop his, asking in a quiet voice, Do you like it, Arnav?
He kissed her hand in response, Like? You know I love it, princess. I'm going to put it by my nightstand, so I can see it before I sleep every night.
Khushi's eyes shone as she kissed his wavy hair. Only for a few days. Soon I'll be here with you always and you can look at the real me.
He nodded, rising up to set the frame atop his bare nightstand.
Khushi hugged him from behind, I love you..she said.
Arnav turned around, pulling her closer. That should be my line, he said, kissing her on the forehead, I love you. And I love all the birthday gifts..I guess I did want a birthday after all.
Khushi yelped with glee, I knew it! What was your favorite gift?
Arnav didn't even have to think. Number 1, he said right away.
Khushi blushed and then pushed herself off of him.
Hmm..well there's still one more present left. Maybe you'll change your mind after this.. she said, handing him a small remote.
But before he could take it, she pulled her hand back, looking hesitant in the dim light.
Khushi..prompted Arnav, watching her closely.
Khushi blushed, I just realized, what if Di and Nani hear?
Arnav bit back a smile as he replied, Umm, Sweetheart, they can't hear. They've gone to a wedding, they won't be back till tomorrow afternoon.
WHAT! shouted Khushi, looking at him flabbergasted. And you couldn't tell me this before? Like when I was climbed over that Great Wall of China? she said pointing to the property's back wall.
Arnav shrugged, his eyes twinkling, You never gave a chance to tell you. I told you I would open the front door, remember?
Khushi frowned, and then rolling her eyes, said shortly, Fine, since it's your birthday, I'll forgive you, Arnav. Here, take the remote.
Arnav looked puzzled as he pressed a button marked with 1.
The lights overhead dimmed instantly.
He quickly pushed the button that said 2.
And music started playing.
It was some loud Bollywood song, something he'd heard, but never paid much attention to.
It wasn't really his taste.
But then as Khushi began dancing before him, he thought, maybe he liked it after all..maybe he loved it..
The music blared from the speakers..Night ki Naughty Kahaani..
Khushi danced around him in circles, pulling him close.
She ran a finger down his face, over his lips..
He kissed her finger, and with a naughty smile, Khushi leaned up, kissing him on the mouth hotly.
Arnav made to grab her, but she smoothly sidestepped, dancing provocatively atop his bed.
Arnav watched her amusedly.
But Khushi had him wrapped around her little fingers.
With a knowing look, she swept aside the sari.
All of Arnav's amusement flew out of the window as he watched her dance once more.
A hard glint entered his eyes. His jaw clenched, his heart pounded.
Khushi slowed her dance, her movements becoming slow and bold.
As she heaved her net covered breasts before him, and his eyes darkened in response, she grinned.
She felt so feminine, so utterly confident..
Arnav meanwhile watched the half-draped beauty before him with growing need.
Damn it, but this was torture. Watching her heaving flesh and not being able to touch..
As she slid past him, he suddenly grabbed her forearm, twisting her around.
Khushi's eyes widened as he pulled her closer, his free hand turning off the music.
She stood before him breathing harshly.
He gazed down at her heatedly and then with a strong tug, pulled her toward him, his mouth crashing down on hers.
Khushi moaned, her hands curling around his neck.
Her breasts pressed against his rigid chest, burning him.
But he welcomed the sweet torture, pulling her closer still. He had to have more..
Khushi's eyes snapped open as his hands covered her breast, holding her tightly.
His eyes locked with hers as he touched her intimately.
She whimpered but kept gazing at him as he touched the bra, her exposed waist, her bare back, his mouth plundering hers all the while..
She kissed him heatedly, but worry was growing in her.
What if he stopped now? She didn't want that to happen..
So slowly, her hand rose to her hips, pulling at the sari.
Arnav groaned, his mouth descending in a trail of fire down the column of her throat.
"ACHOOO!"
They both jumped back.
Khushi cringed, gazing at him guiltily.
She tried to pull him back, but Arnav just frowned.
Damn it, he shouted, You are getting a cold. That's your second sneeze so far.
Khushi made a face, passing him the remote.
Please, love, I'm fine.
He looked at her doubtfully.
Khushi leaned up, kissing his chin.
I promise you, I'm fine, Arnav. Just press the number 3 button.
Arnav took a deep breath, but did as she requested.
The music changed instantly.
A slow song began playing.
Khushi smiled, dragging Arnav closer. Her hands fisted on his collar.
Dance with me, baby..she murmured, reaching up to kiss him.
Arnav frowned, gazing at her worriedly.
But he couldn't resist her.
As she pulled him closer, he followed along but refused to dance.
Khushi sighed, reaching for his hands.
Dropping an open-mouth kiss on each palm, she set them low around her hips.
His hands instantly gripped her, pushing her closer.
Her hands rose up, curling around his neck.
Their eyes locked, glowing in the dim light.
Khushi's eyes shone as they slow danced. Her lips widened into a beaming smile.
Arnav was not the best dancer in the world, but she had never felt more safe, more loved than she did in his arms.
She cuddled closer, holding him lovingly.
Arnav drew back, spinning her away and then pulling her close.
She landed against his chest with a sigh, pillowing her head on his soft sweater.
He leaned down, kissing her hair.
The dance continued on, both of them lost in the other.
As the last note ended, Khushi stayed against him, refusing to let go.
Arnav smiled as he gazed down at the love of his life.
She had given him such happy memories tonight..the best birthday he'd ever had..
He lifted her up in his arms with ease, moving toward his closet.
Khushi automatically buried her face against his neck, holding him tight.
Still holding her in his arms, Arnav opened the closet, and removed a loose, white shirt.
He then walked to the bathroom, setting Khushi down on the marble.
Khushi frowned as he stepped away.
But the frown became a smile when Arnav grabbed a towel and began drying her damp hair.
Change love, he said, passing her the white shirt, You're still a bit wet. I'll be right outside, okay?
Khushi nodded, watching him go with glowing eyes.
A few minutes later, she tentatively stepped out into the bedroom, her hand clutching the collar of Arnav's shirt.
It was huge on her, reaching just past her bare knees.
She fidgeted as she searched for him.
And then her eyes rounded, blinking owlishly.
Arnav was standing at the closet, searching for something.
He'd taken off his sweater; his chest was exposed.
Khushi's wide eyes ran over him feverishly, taking in the wide expanse of skin as if she'd never seen him before.
Arnav turned toward her just then, his dark eyes meeting hers.
Khushi could no longer keep herself away.
She ran to him.
He caught her in his strong arms, his hands settling over her possessively.
Khushi's eyes closed at his warm embrace.
She reached up, kissing his cheek heatedly.
Her lips met his firmly, and then descended down his throat, across his chest..
Arnav fought for control.
His hand entangled in her hair. With a deep breath, he pulled her up, picking her up in his arms.
As he settled her down on his bed, Khushi gazed at him with wide eyes.
But he only reached for the blankets, tucking her in carefully.
Khushi pouted up at him.
Arnav smiled gently, leaning down to kiss her on the forehead.
As he turned away, Khushi grabbed his hand.
Please, love..don't go..
He closed his eyes, Khushi, I told you we're going to wait.
Even if it kills me, he told himself.
Khushi smiled softly, I know, but we can sleep beside each other..
Arnav turned around slowly, gazing at her intently.
Are..Are you sure?
Khushi nodded.
I don't think we'll be able to stay away from each other all night, though, he said.
I'll put pillows between us, said Khushi excitedly, reaching for all the pillows.
He looked at her thoughtfully, and then climbed in beside her.
Khushi smiled at him across the pillows.
She extended her hand toward him.
He met her halfway, entwining his fingers with hers.
They looked at each other blissfully.
You know..said Khushi, This is the first time in my life I'm sleeping beside a man..
Arnav's eyes sizzled. Damn right. And I'm the only man you'll ever sleep next to, he growled.
Khushi smiled at him affectionately. Of course, darling. It's just different though..
How? asked Arnav, his hand drawing circles on her palm.
Hmm..well, I've never felt like this when I've slept beside Jiji or Buaji before, she admitted softly.
What the--laughed Arnav, God, Khushi, that's a good thing..It would kill me if you felt the same.
He came closer to her, What do you feel, princess?
Khushi's breath hitched. She said aloud, "Like I want to run into your arms and never let go."
Arnav leaned toward her, kissing her fingertips, "I feel the same. But only 6 days left. And then we'll always sleep in each other's arms.."
Khushi smiled as he continued, "Go to sleep, Khushi. It's past 2am. Goodnight, princess."
Khushi clung to his hand as she closed her eyes, "Goodnight, Nanav..ASR..Arnav..I love you."
He smiled, his hand tightening around hers, "I love you too."
As he turned off the lights, and they settled down on the bedspread, they both tried to ignore the heady pull they felt toward one another.
Several minutes of silence passed.
Arnav listened to Khushi's quiet breathing, thinking she was asleep.
But then Khushi asked him in a small voice, Arnav..are you sleeping?
Trying to, he replied.
Oh..
When he didn't respond, Khushi said again, Arnav..
Yeah, princess? he asked
What did you wish for? When you cut the cake?
Arnav paused, about to tell her his heartfelt birthday wish.
But then he changed his mind, smiling naughtily in the darkness as he caressed the diamond ring on Khushi's finger.
I wished for you..laying underneath me..with not even a bra on..
Khushi's eyes snapped open.

Part XIV: Jeep Kiss
Khushi sat up in the dark, her heart racing as Arnav's birthday wish echoed in her mind..
I wished for you..laying underneath me..with not even a bra on..
She raised her hands to her suddenly warm cheeks.
He wanted her bare..and beneath him!
She looked over the line of pillows separating him from her with wide eyes.
But she could only just make out his shadowy form, the flash of his smirk in the dim light.
And then he laughed. Sorry, princess, he murmured, I didn't mean to wake you up..
Khushi slowly settled herself back onto the bedspread. She turned to her side so she could better see him.
"Did you..did you really wish for that?" she asked aloud, flabbergasted.
Arnav reached for her hand, entwining his fingers with hers tightly.
In some ways..but mostly, I wished for you. To stay happy, and just as crazy as you are.
Khushi's mouth dropped open.
She reached across, pushing him lightly.
Not funny, Arnav.
He grabbed her hand, holding her close for a moment.
I'm serious Khushi, I love your innocence, your goodness, your craziness..Never change, princess.
Khushi's heart soared as their eyes met. Arnav Singh Raizada. He was so unbelievably handsome, he had no idea how much simply a look, a smile melted her.
She thanked God that they'd found each other. That she'd found someone who loved her for being her.
Her throat tightened, her chest ached with love.
She carefully brought their entwined hands to her lips, kissing his skin lightly.
His eyes sizzled across at her as even that simple touch ignited the passion brewing between them.
And I love you, Arnav, even with your temper.
Temper? he growled, I have no idea what you're talking about, princess.
Khushi rolled her eyes. Really? Who was it who refused to speak to me after I said no to eloping?
Arnav shrugged, That doesn't count. I didn't speak to you only for a day then.
But only after I forced you to talk to me, insisted Khushi.
Yeah, I remember that conversation, he murmured naughtily, You telling me about your lingerie shopping plans..
Khushi's cheeks stained with color in the darkness. Never mind, she said quickly, What about when you demoted me and put that Lavanya clone in my place? See, Arnav, you do have a tendency to lose your temper.
But only when it concerns the woman I love, he admitted, You, Khushi, have the power to make me forget everything. And as I remember it, I did not demote you.  You chose to go to the Bermuda Triangle.
Only because you were being so stubborn!
But you were no less, princess. Kissing me passionately one moment and ignoring me the next!
What! When? shouted Khushi, I don't think--
Her words stopped mid-sentence as Arnav leaned over, kissing her firmly on the lips.
Khushi moaned, pulling him closer.
Their tongues entwined, their bodies fused.
Arnav glided a hand down her body, leaving a trail of fire in his wake.
But he withdrew quickly, leaving just as suddenly as he'd come.
He was breathing harshly as he went back to his side, his eyes focused on the ceiling.
Khushi raised shaky fingers to her moist mouth, trying to control herself.
Part of her wanted to reach over, but she couldn't move. Not when she knew Arnav was only doing all this for her..for her dream of a traditional wedding night. She fell back on the sheets, her chest heaving.
I'm sorry, he whispered a few seconds later.
Khushi frowned, turning to look at him. Love, there's no reason to be sorry, I wanted that as much as you did.
Yeah, but I'm the one who crossed the boundary.
Khushi reached for his hand, squeezing. Arnav, it's okay.
Arnav fought for control as he looked across at Khushi's angelic, beaming face. He loved her so much. And to have her here in his bedroom, on his bed, and not be able to even hold her in his arms as they slept was sweet torture.
And you're right, I am short-tempered, he admitted.
Khushi smiled, And you're right too, I am a little strange.
They both turned toward each other, their faces glowing with matching smiles.
Good night, Princess, whispered Arnav, memorizing her sleeping face.
Khushi winked at him, Good night, love..
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Arnav woke up later than usual the next morning.
He turned toward the nightstand, his eyes blinking sleepily. A small smile crossed his face..
Atop his nightstand stood the picture frame Khushi had given him last night.
He looked at it slowly, and then shook his head.
Why look at a photo when the real princess was here beside him?
He turned onto his other side, staring across at Khushi.
She was sleeping soundly, her hand still wound around his.
She looked so beautiful, so innocent as she lay there, it was hard for him to tear his eyes away.
Arnav couldn't help himself from reaching across and kissing her on the forehead, his touch featherlight.
Khushi smiled in her sleep at his caress, turning in the opposite direction.
Arnav's eyes widened with surprise as she pulled his hand with her, shifting him on the bed.
He slowly extracted his hand from hers, rising quickly.
After a quick shower and change of clothes, he returned to her.
She was still sleeping, her body curled into the blanket.
Arnav smiled affectionately and then tucking her in once more, quietly left the room.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
HP looked up with shock as Arnav walked into the kitchen.
"HP, I won't be needing you today. You can take the day off."
The servant gazed up at him with round eyes, "But I haven't made breakfast yet."
Arnav shook his head, "It's okay. Just be back tomorrow, okay, Di and Nani will need you around."
The servant nodded, hurrying out quickly.
Arnav sat on top of the countertop, his feet dangling. He quickly grabbed one of his sister's cookbooks.
Page 30..How to Make Jalebis.
Arnav focused on the page as if preparing for an exam.
And then he smiled, launching himself off the countertop.
The recipe seemed easy to him.
Yes, he thought, rolling up his sleeves, he would make a whole plate full of jalebis in no time.
After all how hard could it possibly be?
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Twenty minutes later, Arnav was almost ready to accept defeat.
He was almost on the verge of ordering jalebis from a high-end bakery instead.
He'd tried three batches, but the mixture came out as an unappealing goo every time.
He frowned as he watched the next round of jalebis sink into the oil, their twisted shape unfurling.
Arnav cursed under his breath as he spooned out the limp jalebis, throwing them into the trash.
His frown deepened as he glimpsed around him.
The kitchen looked like a disaster zone, reminding him of Khushi's apartment just a few nights ago.
And he looked just as bad.
Arnav could feel flour against his cheek, but when he raised his hand to wipe it off, it did little good.
The syrup on his hands smeared across his face instead.
There was a small giggle suddenly.
Arnav glanced up quickly, his eyes narrowing.
Khushi stood at the doorway, dressed in his white shirt still. Her arms were folded across her chest, her eyes were shining with amusement, her lips parted in a wide smile.
She laughed as she sauntered over.
Arnav watched her closely, slightly annoyed by the way her hips moved underneath his thin shirt.
Since when had she learned to walk like that!
Damn it! And did Khushi not realize the white shirt was practically see-through? He could almost see her---!
His hands fisted tightly as she reached his side, laughing up at him.
Damn it! he thought again, She really had no idea what she was doing to him.
Khushi grinned up at Arnav, rising on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek.
Good morning, love, she said brightly.
Morning, he greeted tersely.
Her smile only widened as she looked around the messy kitchen. And what exactly are you up to this morning? Did the servant quit?
Before he could answer, Khushi quickly continued, Now, Arnav, what did we talk about last night? You have to control your temper. You probably scared the poor servant and he ran away.
She shook her head sadly.
Arnav rolled his eyes, Khushi..the servant did not run away..
That startled her. She looked up at him with wide eyes, her mouth dropping open.
What? But I was so sure..
Arnav shook his head, I gave HP the day off.
Khushi looked up at him surprised, Why?
He sighed, running a hand through his hair. I don't know. Because I had this crazy idea to surprise you. Especially after all of your surprises last night, he admitted.
Khushi's eyes seemed to widen even more if possible.
She stared at the burnt jalebis, at the open recipe book, at his flour dusted cheeks with shock.
Arnav! she cried, hugging him extra tight, You didn't have to!
He frowned. I didn't do anything, he said, pointing at the gooey jalebies, Nothing worked out. I don't know how you cook so well, but it's definitely a talent, princess.
Khushi just smiled, No, Arnav, you did surprise me. But love, jalebis take time to perfect. The mix has to just right, the ingredients have to be added at just the right moment..
Arnav's eyes twinkled as he watched her describe jalebis as if they were diamonds..
Here, said Khushi, I'll show you.
He pulled her close instead, We'll make them together..
Khushi nodded, reaching quickly for an empty bowl.
Do you want an apron? he asked mischievously.
Khushi froze as his fantasy from the other night flashed through her mind..you, princess, wearing an apron, only an apron..
A blush tinged her cheeks as she glanced at him.
But he only laughed, kissing her on the lips softly.
I'm just kidding love. We'll save that for our honeymoon.
Khushi nodded, reaching up to kiss him.
Arnav slipped his hands around her waist from behind, holding her close as she explained the recipe.
After that, you just add this much sugar, she said, holding up a small spoon, That way, you can eat a few too.
Arnav nodded half-heartedly, dropping kisses along her neck and shoulder.
Khushi's eyes threatened to close from his intoxicating touch, but she forced herself to focus.
Are you even listening? she asked.
Of course, baby, just that much sugar, replied Arnav, massaging her hips, kissing the crease of her neck
Khushi had to take his hands off of her. Otherwise, there would be no breakfast. She tugged off one of his hands, placing the mix in his palm instead.
Arnav looked down at the cloth in surprise.
See, this is the part I always mess up at, he said, I can't get the circles right.
Khushi sighed patiently, covering her hand with his.
Just like this, baby, she instructed, guiding his hand in circles.
Jalebies unfurled in the oil, simmering loudly.
Arnav smiled, kissing Khushi on the cheek.
------------------------------------------------------------
Later, they sat on the countertop, feeding each other lovingly.
Mmm, said Khushi, closing her eyes, It's delicious..
Arnav leaned forward naughtily, licking the sweet syrup off her lips.
Hmm, I agree..it is delicious..
Khushi looked up at him scandalized.
He winked at her in response.
With a blush, Khushi leaned up on her tiptoes, her hands balancing on his shoulders.
She reached forward, kissing off the syrup on his face.
Arnav's eyes fluttered closed as he felt her shyly kiss his cheek, his chin, his lips..
He needed more..
He was about to kiss her passionately, but he stopped himself, remembering his promise to her.
Just five days left, he tried to tell himself.
Khushi's crestfallen face didn't help him much either.
Arnav kissed her on the forehead firmly, pushing her toward the door.
Go change, love, he said softly.
Khushi walked away slowly. A sneeze escaped her suddenly.
Arnav watched her with concern-filled eyes.
And don't wear that black sari. I don't want anyone else to see that.
Then what should I wear? she asked, This shirt?
Arnav shook his head, grinning. No, that's for my eyes alone also. There is a suit waiting for you in the bathroom. I bought it for you awhile ago.
Really? Khushi's face lit up. She ran toward the bedroom with excitement.
Arnav ran a hand through his hair as he watched her go. She really had no idea that the shirt slipped up when she ran so fast.
Khushi Kumari Gupta, he thought, shaking his head ruefully.
5 days..he kept repeating to himself, 5 days..
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Later that morning, Arnav dropped Khushi off at her apartment building.
I wish you'd just let me come to the office with you now, said Khushi, pouting up at him.
Arnav shook his head. You've sneezed two more times this morning. And look, your nose is reddening. I think you're coming down with a cold, he said worriedly, checking her forehead for a fever.
I'm fine, insisited Khushi, Arnav, please, I want to stay with you.
He sighed, cupping her face in his hand. You just rest today, okay? Tomorrow, we'll go to the office together. I don't want you to get too sick.
Khushi opened her mouth to argue, but Arnav looked at her pleadingly. Please, princess. For my peace of mind, just rest.
Khushi's eyes traced over him, noting the concern in his eyes. She nodded finally.
He smiled at her, I'll be in touch okay. Just call out to me if you need me, any time. And I'll be back at noon with soup and lunch.
Really? said Khushi with excitement.
Promise, he whispered, leaning forward to kiss her.
Khushi sighed as his lips touched hers briefly.
And then she hopped out, waving at him through the window.
He slipped on his sunglasses, grinning across at her, Love you, sweetheart. Take care of yourself, okay?
Khushi nodded, blowing him a kiss. Love you..
As Arnav reversed and drove away, Khushi stood at the side of the road till she could no longer see the familiar white jeep.
With a beaming smile, she turned toward her apartment building, her thoughts filled with Arnav..
5 days, she thought with a blush, Just 5 days left..
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The slap came out of nowhere, knocking Khushi backward.
Her eyes widened as she cupped her throbbing cheek in her hand.
Her heart sank as she glanced up.
Amma and Babuji stood before her, their eyes bright with anger.
Buaji stood nearby, a vein popping on her temple as she gazed at Khushi in horror.
PJ, the security guard, was the only other person in the lobby.
He looked at Khushi with sadness, turning away.
"KHUSHI!" shouted Amma, reaching to shake her bodily. "What do you think you are doing?"
But before Khushi could reply, Buaji cut in: "Isn't it obvious Garima what she was doing? She was kissing a man in broad daylight, for the world to see."
Khushi's eyes widened, "I..I.."
"Enough, Khushi!" yelled Garima, "Don't you dare deny it! We all saw you, kissing that man in the jeep."
Khushi looked up at her family horror-stricken.
"That was Ar--"
But Buaji raised a hand, silencing her. "I don't even want to know the name of that man, do you understand? Never tell us."
Khushi's eyes rounded. Not tell them Arnav's name!
"No, Buaji," she cried, "Just meet him once. I love him.."
Loud gasps met her announcement.
"Do you see, Garima?" said Buaji loudly, her eyes hard. "This is why I told you both to make Khushi stay at my house. I could have kept an eye on her. And now look what's she done, she's ruined her name forever."
Khushi shook her head, gazing at her parents with tear-filled eyes.
"I..I promise you, I haven't done anything wrong."
Her mother and aunt stared at her with disbelieving eyes.
Khushi cried out, walking shakily toward Babuji. "Please," she told him, "You of all people, must believe me."
But before he could answer, Buaji pulled her back, staring at her with a deep frown etched on her face.
"Really, Sanka Devi? Since when did you start lying?"
Khushi sobbed, shaking her head.
But Buaji continued coldly, "We were here, Khushi. We've been here all night. Where were you?"
Khushi's eyes widened. All night? But Jiji had said they'd come on the last train today..
Her mother's voice cut in just then, "Your Buaji is right, Khushi. When Payal told us you'd met some man, we took the first train here. But when we came, you were gone, your apartment empty. Where were you?"
Khushi froze, gazing up at them stricken.
Amma rushed toward her, slapping her across the face hard.
"WHERE WERE YOU?"
"What's going on here?" said a soft voice.
Khushi turned around slowly.
Mr. and Mrs. Gill stood at the elevators, holding a few puppies. Their faces were disbelieiving as they stared at Khushi.
Buaji held up a hand toward them, "This is our family matter. Keep out of it, please."
The old couple frowned, but didn't leave.
Taffy broke from the pack, running toward Khushi. He nuzzled against her legs, barking up at her screaming aunt.
Khushi smiled tearfully as she leaned down to pet the puppy. "Go, Taffy, Go back to Mrs. Gill.." she whispered.
The dog looked at her with a frown and then hurried toward the Gills.
Tears streaked across Khushi's face as her mother twisted her around, "Tell me, Khushi! Where were you last night?"
She cringed at the implication, "It wasn't..wasn't like that..please, believe me..It was his birthday. I arranged a surprise party for him.."
Buaji laughed hollowly, "A party that went on all night long?"
Amma's lips thinned as she gazed at the weeping Khushi, "We are leaving. Back to Lucknow. This very minute. And you are coming with us."
"What?" cried Khushi, her heart sinking. No, this couldn't be happening..
Her mother nodded, "We've already packed your things."
She grabbed Khushi's hand, leading her to the exit.
"No, Amma! Please!"
 "Please, just listen to her," cried out Mrs. Gill, "We know Khushi so well, she's never done anything wrong. And he's a very good boy, I've met him. They're perfect for each other; they love each other very much."
But no one seemed to have heard except Khushi, who turned toward Mrs. Gills with tears in her eyes.
"I can't believe it," said Buaji as she led them toward the road, "Who would have thought that Khushi would fall in some rich man's trap? I thought she was smarter than that."
"You're absolutely right. What was she thinking?"
Khushi's heart broke as she watched her family talk about her as if she was not standing there between them.
She'd had enough.
Her eyes turned hard as she gazed at her aunt. "You're wrong, Buaji. He's not like that. He loves me."
Buaji snorted.
Amma looked at Khushi with disbelief.
Khushi shook her head, "It's true. You have to believe me."
And then it came to her..of course..
She suddenly held out her left hand..the diamond ring Arnav had placed there shone in the light.
Everyone gasped as they looked down at it.
"See.." said Khushi triumphantly, "He does love me. He wants to marry me. Just meet him once, please.."
Her mother grabbed her hand, staring down at the ring in horror.
"A rich man's gift.." said Buaji with disgust.
Amma's nails bit into Khushi's thin wrist.
She started tugging off the ring.
"You're going back to Lucknow, Khushi! You'll forget you ever met this man!"
Khushi cried out, fighting against her.
An image of Arnav lovingly placing the ring on her finger as they lay on his office carpet, flashed through her mind.
"NO!" she cried out, "Please stop!"
"ENOUGH!" shouted Babuji, startling all of them.
Khushi wrenched her hand out of her mother's grasp, holding the ring to her beating heart.
"Brother," said Buaji with wide eyes, "What are you doing?"
But he only held up his hand at her, turning to Khushi.
Khushi stared up at him pleadingly.
"Do you really love this man, Khushi?" he asked in a hard tone.
Khushi nodded swiftly, tears coming to her eyes once more, "More than anything, Babuji."
She ignored her mother's and aunt's blatant disapproval, her eyes on her father.
All of her hopes rested with him.
"And you are sure he loves you too?"
"Yes, I know he does," replied Khushi with confidence, "I can call him right now if you want."
He shook his head, "No, that's not necessary. Listen to me carefully, Khushi. When your sister told us about this man you'd met, your mother and I were naturally very concerned. We took the first train to Delhi. And when we arrived here and found you gone, that concern doubled. And when we did see you, what did we see? Our daughter, the one he had so much pride in, with some stranger in a big jeep?"
Khushi's heart ached, "I'm sorry. I never wanted you all to find out this way.."
Her father nodded, "I think your mother and aunt have given you enough punishment this morning."
The other two gasped, staring at him with confusion.
Khushi glanced at him with hopeful eyes. "So you'll meet him? You won't take me back to Lucknow?"
Babuji frowned at her. "You may believe in this love, Khushi, but we three do not. I didn't see that man's face, but from that jeep alone, you can tell he is very rich, someone who doesn't belong in our world."
Khushi opened her mouth, ready to argue, but he held up a hand, silencing her.
"I will, however, give you both a chance."
"Meaning?" asked Khushi confused.
"Meaning that you may keep his ring, but you will not marry him anytime soon."
Khushi's heart plummeted. Arnav's excited face, his countdown for their honeymoon flashed in her mind, making her heart ache.
"Why Babuji?" she asked brokenly.
But it was Amma who answered.
"Because you are the youngest! Payal will marry first, then you. My God, I can't believe I have to explain this to you! How selfish have you become?"
Khushi's heart shattered at the cold words.
Babuji nodded, "Your mother is right. That's what we came to tell you. Your sister will marry first, and then only will we even consider your marriage."
Khushi looked at him with tear-filled eyes.
"And if this boy loves you as you claim, Khushi, he will have no problem in waiting, will he?"
Buaji spoke out just then, "And I don't think you should be able to talk to this rich man till your sister's wedding is complete."
Khushi's head swung toward her aunt in disbelief. Not talk to Arnav! How could she explain to them that his life was already entwined with hers, their minds connected in an unfathomable way. He was hers. And she was his.
Her father nodded. "No communication of any kind till Payal's wedding, understand Khushi? And in return you can keep that ring and whatever promise is attached to it."
Pain sizzled in Khushi's heart, making it difficult to breathe, "No communication?"
Her father nodded.
"Do you agree, Khushi?"
"I will," she finally said, "But please, let me just tell him once."
Her mother and aunt shook their heads, but Babuji slowly nodded.
"Fine, one last time.."
Khushi's eyes darkened with worry.
Arnav..


Part XV: Pure Love
The phone rang with a shrill atop Arnav's work desk.
He grabbed it without looking, saying quickly, "Hello?"
"Happy birthday, Chote!" sang out Anjali and Nani loudly.
Arnav smiled, holding the phone closer to his ear.
"Thanks, Di and Nani. How are you both? How was the wedding?"
Anjali sighed, leaning back in the car.
"It was absolutely beautiful, Chote. We missed you and Khushji very much. But the wedding was spectacular..the lights, the flowers, the dances..Nani and I were just discussing your marriage as we sat there, planning out everything."
A smile crossed Arnav's face at the mention of his upcoming wedding.
Khushi..
He'd only just dropped her at her apartment building, and already he was dying to have her back in his arms.
"Really?" he said nonchalantly.
Anjali nodded excitedly, "We even found a lehenga for Khushiji. Nani and me couldn't resist buying it."
Nani smiled, leaning closer to the speakerphone, "Chote, Khushi bitiya will look beautiful in it."
"I know, Nani," said Arnav softly. His Khushi looked beautiful in anything, a simple white shirt of his even..
He could clearly imagine her as a bride, waiting with bated breath for him, her hands nervously twisting in her lap, her eyes shining with love..
How long they'd waited..
"Chote," said Anjali softly, "We are all ready for your wedding, but what about Khushji's family? Have you spoken to them yet?"
"Di, that's all taken care of," said Arnav, "Her parents are coming tonight from Lucknow. I'll officially ask them for Khushi's hand then."
Anjali smiled, "And will they say yes?"
Nani answered for Arnav, staring at Anjali with amazement. "Of course they will. Who would say no to my grandson? No one can love Khushi bitiya more than him."
Anjali nodded, "Chote, you and Khushiji are so perfect for each other, so adorable together. I'm so happy my little brother has found someone he loves so much. Khushiji is very lucky.."
Arnav shook his head, "I'm the lucky one, Di. So very lucky Khushi entered my life."
Anjali nodded, relaxing back into the seat, "That's true too, Chote. Khushiji's eyes speak volumes about how deeply she loves you."
Arnav couldn't stop his smile at that.
His eyes twinkled with happiness.
"Chote," continued Anjali, "We're on our way home. We'll be there this evening, okay?"
He nodded, "Take care, I'll see you both soon!"
Anjali and Nani smiled, saying "And Happy Birthday, Chote!" once more.
Arnav smiled as he placed the phone down.
Khushi's lehenga was done.
One thing off the checklist.
Their wedding was feeling more and more real.
He closed his eyes and an image of Khushi from last night swam up instantly.
Princess, he muttered thinking of his smiling, beautiful Khushi, I love you..
------------------------------------------------------------------
The next hour passed slowly for Khushi.
And for that she was thankful.
The taxi ride to the train station took longer than expected with the overwhelming Delhi traffic.
Her parents and aunt frowned as they looked about, muttering about the less hassle on the streets of Lucknow.
They looked towards her every few minutes, but otherwise, they ignored her, their expressions disapproving.
Khushi barely noticed though.
It felt like her life was being taken from her.
Every jerk of the taxi forward pulled her further and further from Arnav.
He was in her every thought, her every heartbeat.
She closed her eyes and his face came to her at once.
Arnav smiling..Arnav winking at her..Arnav teasing her..Arnav loving her..
Khushi threw a hand over her mouth to stop the sob that threatened.
She'd never in her life felt pain like this before.
It burned her, scalding her from inside out.
Arnav..she thought to herself.
But as if he had somehow heard, his thoughts drifted to her just then:Princess..I love you..
Tears streaked down Khushi's face as his familiar voice hit her, her heart breaking once more.
She stared out the window, closing her eyes against the pain.
Like a lifeline, she clung to the engagement ring, holding it against her heart.
She wanted so badly to speak to him, but her promise to Babuji hung over her.
She'd promised no communication..of any kind..
Because if that meant her family would honor the ring on her finger, she'd do it.
She'd end the mind talks. She'd explain everything to Arnav.
So even though she was dying to scream out for her love, she stopped herself.
No, she knew Arnav would come.
Their love was strong beyond measure..
And their last conversation would be face to face.
She needed to see him one last time.
And so, Khushi suffered silently, praying for Arnav to come..
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Arnav was talking to a wedding planner when he felt something unusual.
"Uh, Mr. Jay, I'll call you back. Something has come up."
He quickly ended the call, his eyes narrowing.
And there it was again..
Blazing emotions assailed him from all directions.
He closed his eyes, concentrating..
Khushi's face came to him at once.
His eyes snapped open.
Of course, the emotions that were crashing into him were not his own..they were hers..leaking from their connection..
He frowned as he felt her pain, her numbing sadness..
Khushi? he said uncertainly.
There was no reply.
Worry enveloped Arnav.
Khushi! he called out, his voice stronger this time.
But again, there was no response from Khushi.
KHUSHI! he screamed, Are you okay? Sweetheart, you're scaring me. Khushi, say something, PLEASE!
But their connection felt broken, frayed.
He could sense that she wasn't listening.
Arnav cursed as he wrenched himself up, heading in quick strides out of his office.
"Boss!" called Aman from down the hall, hurrying to catch up with him.
Arnav waved him off, racing ahead. "Cancel all my meetings today," he instructed.
Without waiting, he hurried down the stairs, taking them two at a time.
The employees glanced up with confusion as he sailed past. Lavanya tried to catch his attention, waving at him wildly.
But he noticed nothing.
His mind was only on Khushi.
Horrible thoughts kept crossing his minds..Khushi sick..Khushi in trouble..Khushi needing him..Khushi screaming for him..
He turned on the jeep as fast as he could, stomping on the accelerator.
Within minutes he was on the traffic clogged roads, his heart sinking with every passing second, his mind uneasy..
KHUSHI! he called over and over.
But only silence followed, shaking his heart.
Damn it! He knew Khushi was in trouble. He knew she needed him.
With a curse, he grabbed his phone, dialing her number.
It was the first time he'd ever needed to call her.
But no one picked up.
Arnav threw the phone aside, speeding through the traffic.
Khushi, he whispered, his hands tightening around the steering wheel,Please, say something..Please..Listen to me love, I'm on way. Do you hear me, Khushi? I'm coming, princess..I'm coming..
There was no answer.
And then, he, Arnav Singh Raizada, the one who believed in no God, the one who decided his own fate, closed his eyes, praying softly:
Please..Please let her be okay..Please..
------------------------------------------------------------------
Ten minutes later, Arnav jumped out of the jeep, slamming the door behind him.
He ran toward Khushi's apartment building, his heart racing.
He'd called out to her a hundred times during the drive, but every time, there had been no reply.
Never in over a decade had something like this happened.
Khushi always answered, even it was for just a second.
But her silence was piercing him, scaring him senseless.
Something was wrong, he knew. Something was very wrong..
His steps never hesitated as he ran as fast he could.
A memory of running toward her in Lucknow more than 10 years ago sailed his mind.
Back then, he'd found her on the side of the road, unconscious and bleeding.
His heart throbbed as he imagined her like that now.
He wouldn't be able to stand it a second time.
KHUSHI! he screamed again through the broken link, I'm coming, princess. Just hold on, hold on..
In a flash, he was inside the bright lobby, punching the elevator button.
When it didn't open right away, he cursed, running toward the stairs instead.
But a loud voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Mr. Raizada! Mr. Raizada!"
He looked bewildered at the security guard, waving him off.
"I'll talk to you later, I need to go to Khushi."
He was about to take the stairs, when PJ cut in again, "No, Sir! Khushiji is not there!"
Arnav froze, his heart plummeting.
"Not..not there? What the hell are you talking about?"
The security guard nodded bleakly.
"Her..her family came last night, looking for her. They were here waiting for her when she arrived this morning."
Arnav's eyes rounded.
"What!" he barked, "What..Never mind, just tell me, WHERE IS KHUSHI?"
He hadn't meant to yell, but he couldn't help himself.
Fear was choking him, making it difficult to breathe, to think.
"They took her back to Lucknow," answered a second voice behind him.
Shock and panic gripped Arnav as he swung toward the other voice.
Mrs. Gill stood just feet from him, a group of puppies nipping at her heels. She nodded at him tearfully.
"Why?" whispered Arnav, his eyes filled with pain.
Mrs. Gill wiped her eyes, "I tried to stop them, but her family wouldn't forgive her. They saw her with you this morning. From what they were saying, it seems they didn't see your face, but they saw Khushi being kissed. That plus Khushi not being here last night, and they assumed the worst."
Arnav's face paled, his hands fisted at his side.
His eyes darkened with shock and disbelief.
And then a horrible thought came to him, shaking him to the core.
It was the hardest thing for him to even voice his next question.
"Did they..Did they hurt her?" he asked through clenched teeth.
Mrs. Gill bit her lip, her face visibly troubled, "Her mother did slap her a few times, but mostly they yelled at the poor dear. Khushi was crying terribly, Arnav. She looked so broken as she stood there bravely, weathering their accusations alone."
Arnav staggered back as if he'd just been physically hit.
Despair and anger welled up in him with force.
"How dare they!" he ground out, "Khushi's ill, damn it! She had a fever this morning when I dropped her off! She's supposed to be resting. They should have called ME if they had any problem! They shouldn't have said a word to her! She's done nothing wrong."
PJ and Mrs. Gill looked at him with sadness.
Arnav's jaw tightened.
One of the puppies from the pack broke off, hurrying toward him.
Arnav though barely noticed.
His every thought was with Khushi..
Was she okay? Had her family done anything worse?
God help them if they had!
He wouldn't spare them if they'd hurt her.
Khushi may not fully grasp the accusations being thrown against her, but he knew.
Knew that her family had essentially labeled her a rich man's mistress.
His jaw tightened with barely repressed fury.
KHUSHI! he screamed out again, Princess, I'm here! I know everything. Say something..Please, just say something!
The silence that followed stung him like a thousand knives, breaking his heart.
"When did they take her?" he finally said.
Mrs. Gill looked at the clock above worriedly, "About an hour ago. I think if you go to the train station, you will still make it."
Arnav nodded, running toward the door.
But something stopped him.
Something pulled at him to turn around..it felt like Khushi was there, urging him to turn back.
As soon as he turned, a puppy with a bright blue bow ran toward him, crying at his feet.
Arnav picked up the dog, holding him close.
Mrs. Gill had tears in her eyes as she watched them.
"Mrs. Gill.." murmured Arnav, his eyes asking her silently.
She smiled brightly, patting him on the shoulder.
"Taffy has always been Khushi's favorite and she's his. She even wanted to adopt him, but she said her apartment was small and she lived alone."
Arnav's heart ached at the mere mention of Khushi.
"That won't be true when I get her back, Mrs. Gill."
Mrs. Gill smiled, "Then Taffy is both of yours from today..my wedding gift to you both."
Taffy barked happily, cuddling against Arnav.
Even PJ had tears in his eyes.
"Thank you, Mrs. Gill," said Arnav.
Mrs. Gill shook her head, "Don't thank me, dear boy. Go get your Khushi back, GO!"
Arnav nodded. "I'll get her, Mrs. Gill. No one can take her from me!"
And then he ran toward his jeep, the puppy in his arms.
"We'll find her," he said as he turned the engine on, "We'll find her, and never let her go ever again."
Taffy barked in agreement.
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The train station was crowded as Arnav and Taffy entered.
A mass of people, dirt, and smoke..
"Where's the train to Lucknow?" asked Arnav to a passerby.
The man frowned, "Over there. But it's leaving any minute."
Arnav ran forward, his heart racing wildly. It couldn't be too late..
People glanced up surprised as they saw a tall man and fluffy dog run past, their eyes curious.
But Arnav was searching for only one face in the crowd..his beloved Khushi..
Every moment they'd spent together flashed through his mind..
The night she'd rescued him at the construction site..their naughty talks..their passionate embraces..her twinkling eyes the night he'd admitted his love..her shyness when she'd swept aside her sari, giving him the best present in his life..
Arnav ran faster, his feet pounding on the pavement.
He couldn't let her leave.
He wouldn't let this happen.
They'd been waiting for so long, damn it! So many years..
Her parents had to meet him, had to see that they belonged together.
They would die without each other.
The train to Lucknow was just ahead, beginning to leave the platform.
"KHUSHI!" screamed Arnav as he ran toward it.
He was close, about ready to jump on board.
But a voice stopped him in his tracks.
He glanced up, his eyes widening.
Khushi stood at one of the entrances, clinging to the railing.
Her eyes were red and filled with tears as they met his.
KHUSHI! he screamed, hurrying toward her.
Stop, Arnav, she instructed, Please, stop.
He stared at her in confusion, his feet never slowing.
How the hell was he supposed to stand here, watching as she was literally pulled away from him?
But she nodded, tears streaking down her face.
I made a deal with my parents and Buaji.
What deal? he barked, Just let me talk to them once.
No! she said swiftly, They'll say no. It would make everything worse.
With a deep breath, she quickly explained all that had happened this morning.
Arnav was still running beside the train, just inches from her.
Wait till Payal's wedding? What bullshit is that? yelled Arnav, It's not the 18th century!
Khushi shrugged, That's how it is in Lucknow.
But not talking till then? asked Arnav, enraged.
That's..that's my punishment according to Buaji.
Arnav's eyes darkened at the obvious pain in her small voice. Listen to me, Khushi, you've done nothing to be ashamed of. Do you understand, princess?
Arnav jogged closer, his hand reaching out.
But Khushi shook her head, moving back. Tears streamed from her eyes endlessly.
Please, love. I promised them. This is the last time I'll speak to you till Jiji's wedding is done.
That could take months, Khushi! shouted Arnav, his eyes flashing.
Khushi nodded, My heart is breaking at the very thought. How am I supposed to live without you? You're my world, Arnav.
Tears came to both of their eyes as they stared at each other.
And you're mine, princess, my every wish, my every dream. Please don't go.
Khushi sobbed at that, I have to..
Arnav cried out in frustration, extending his hand forward.
This time their hands met.
Khushi cried, bowing down to kiss his hand.
Her kiss seemed to sear his heart, break his resolve.
"Please, Arnav, try to understand," she said, "The wait will be over soon. Promise me you'll take care of yourself till then. Please, love."
He shook his head, "NO! That's not good enough for me. We've waited enough. I'm not letting you go, Khushi."
Khushi's eyes were filled with pain as she removed her hand from his.
But Arnav wouldn't let go, holding on desperately.
Tears streaked down Khushi's face as she told him, "If you love me, you'll let go. You'll wait.."
Her words pierced him.
His hand slowly left hers.
His feet slowed down.
Tears filled both of their eyes as a distance grew between them.
The train was picking up speed now; within a few seconds, Khushi would be gone..
Tears filled Arnav's eyes as he watched her, his heart pounded.
"KHUSHI!" he screamed out suddenly.
He ran forward, trying to reach her once more.
But it was too late, there was no more platform left.
Khushi cried out as she watched him.
ARNAV! she screamed, I LOVE YOU!
KHUSHI! I love you too, Khushi! And I'll be with you soon, okay? Don't panic, love. No one can keep us apart.
Khushi nodded, crumpling on the train's jostling floor.
Arnav slid down on his knees on the cold platform, his heart breaking.
His eyes filled with pain as he watched Khushi cry, clinging to the engagement ring.
This is the last time we'll talk till Jiji's wedding, not even in our minds,said Khushi through tears.
He nodded simply because he couldn't see any more tears in her eyes. Promise me you'll take care of yourself Khushi. Are you feeling okay? You don't have a fever still do you?
Khushi's heart ached at his words. I promise if you promise, love.
He nodded quickly, I love you, princess. I will be here waiting for you.
Khushi nodded, her eyes hollow, her face marred by tears. I love you, Arnav..she said softly, her voice breaking.
Arnav couldn't tear his eyes off of her, wishing he could go to her, pull her into his arms and never let go..
Pain blazed through both as the train picked up speed.
And then as their eyes met for a final time, they both broke off the link that was forged between them, wincing with pain.
Khushi covered her mouth as she watched Arnav stare at her silently, still kneeling on the platform, tears streaking across his face.
She sobbed and then turned away, her heart shattering..
END OF MIND GAMES Vol I: Delhi
To Read Vol II Click Tab Above
Leave your comments on the 'Comments' Page!

21 comments:

  1. I just read vol one and it was amazing love the whole idea of mind games and brilliant can't wait for volume 2

    Emah04-if

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  2. oh my! you made me cry in the end...it was too painful..heart wrenching separation!
    There was so many light moments like where Arnav mentioned discussing aprons to Anjali and Khushi choked on tea..khushi falling into the pool during his birthday surprise...it was so good to be true...where I lol but the end caught my heart...I felt like killing Khushi's family!
    the last part was highly emotional dear..you wrote it very beautifully

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  3. amazing work....do continue..

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  4. loved the vol 1......... brilliantly written. waiting for vol 2.... update soon

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  5. loved it.i read this bz my sister suggested this story to me n i was deeply impressed.she told me u hv written one more update.but i cant see it here,how can i get it????

    n yea i really loved arshi's mind connection...they can keep tht connection atleast na,in this seperation.tht wud hv been soothing.yea can imagine the scandalous thing kushi's parents might hv thot.cant say they r wrong,but it is arshi here.im happy tht babuji showed some concern.it is ususally fathers who r more concerned in such states...

    the last scene u made me cry.omG.evnthough i hv seen such scene many a time in films still u cud bring the impact on me.im impressed *thumps up*

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  6. i just read volume 1 n all i can say is that through the whole series i went from :D to :( at the end. how can her parents be so so stupiddd!!! and as far as the story is concerned gr8 concept really out of the box i look forward to read the rest of it. gr8 work appreciate it

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  7. I can't believe Khushi's parents did this to them. Why can't they just trust her? I don't want ArHi to be separated for long. Can't wait to see how they get back together.

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  8. God I am so stupid... weeping like crazy. But somehow even the thought of Arnav and Khushi being apart is just so torturous and the show people were thinking of separating them for real in the show, they must have lost their minds, I mean wen this temporary separation seems so unbearable how could the creators even think of a permanent one.
    Anyway, lovely story, I just read the whole thing and actually the first 11 chapters thrice. Plz plz bring them together soon, cz when thay r together, everything seems alright and this world seems a happier place :)

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  9. Hi Tina, This is Nilima. Read this Whole FF. and i have only word to say about it. "Fabulous". beautifully written, i read it 1 day. couldn't stop myself from reading more and more. i will read Vol 2 when u r done with it, cuz i just can't till the next part arrives so i prefer to read it one go after the ff is finished. i hope u dont mind. Thanksssssssssss a lot for sharing such fantastic work with us. Really appreciate it. want to read vol 2 really soon so please update soon.
    Nilima

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  10. OMG i have no words to describe what im feeling right now... this is just fabulous ... mind blowing ... but i dont understand her parents...grrrr... the train scene was just too good - Ekta

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  11. Amazing story written beautifuly. I loved reading this. Felt sorry 4 both at last.

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  12. wow ...it is amazing.....just starting mindgames2

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  13. No words....
    Thanks sweets.....

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  14. Hey Tina! I just completed MG-1 and I'm crying buckets!!

    All this while you have no clue how much I was laughing, grinning,blushing, giggling like a teenager! This emotion that I feel now was least expected! I never ever thought I would be crying by the end of the story!

    How well you had written each and every scene! Be it the superb intro for their mind connection and how relationship built on from there! The Mind games they played without confessing their love and expecting the other to do so first!

    Till the confession and then the happenings fron there and this separation part! Mind blowing penning down work! Kudos man!

    The sweet talking, the naughy games! Everything was superb! The birthday specials the unconditional love all brilliant!

    But from Khushi's rerun to her apartment! The whole ff was taken to another level! Every emotions that was portrayed in the ff was just felt with the same intensity here outside the FF!

    Mind blowing man! Now off to MG 2


    Cheers!

    Ps: I found Desert heat and completed it and so stalked the blog :D

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  15. Just read volume 1...loved how you developed the story based on a concept

    Mrignayani

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  16. Just finished reading Vol 1..... And was crying reading the end...their pain of separation is so palpable and it is separation in truest sense cos they will not be able to talk via their mind connection.... Cannot wait to read how they handle this and overcome the hurdles...they HAVE to get back together.. Their naughty talk, mind games, forcing the other to confess was mind blowing and I love how you incorporate the scenes that I had loved watching (and still do at times) into the story... Off to read vol 2

    Also how can I buy your e- version of 'shameless'......

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  17. Amazing...totally n absolutely....esp the last chapter was astounding, moved me to tears..their separation was a shocker....my eyes are still tearing..and there is pain in my heart...(and its just a fiction)..... Kudos girl!!......never anticipated this twist......brilliantly executed....hopping to volume II

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  18. amazing story..!!! loved it just read vol one thier games was so naughty and hot khushi was so bold and the lingerie shopping was ahem ahem :P loved this alot going to read vol 2 now!!! plz pm me when u update secret passion my if id is kashmala.123 plzzz i love your stories..!!!!

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  19. Such a wonderful Story.... Love it....

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