Mind Games 2: Pt 1-5

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Chapter I: Lucknow
Arnav whispered the word brokenly, calling out to her..always her..
But as always there was no reply.
Arnav's eyes snapped open as he lay on the green chaise lounge, slightly tearful.
Pain stung him in all directions as the silence continued.
God, what he would give to hear her voice..just once..
To listen to her laugh..just once..
To hold her in his arms..
To kiss her smiling mouth..
It had been slightly over a month now.
And not a single word from Khushi..not a single damn syllable.
Did she care at all for him, he wondered hopelessly? Did she love him still?
His hands fisted at his sides, his eyes closing with agony.
Khushi's face flashed before him, as always.
Khushi teasing him..fighting with him.. kissing him..Khushi peeling her sari away.. crying as they separated at the train station..Khushi loving him..
He wrenched himself off the chaise with a cry, running a hand through his wavy hair.
She loved him, damn it!
He'd felt it. Lived it.
Yes, he told himself reassuringly, She loves you just as much as you love her.
Despite the questions plaguing his mind, he was confident in their love.
Their love was unstoppable, powerful, and passionate.
She was his, damn it! And he was hers.
And yet, her family had not agreed.
Arnav's lips compressed with anger as he thought of them.
How easily they'd labeled their own daughter his mistress and used her innocent feelings against her happiness.
He strode out into the poolside.
It was a cool, breezy night.
And yet, he felt nothing. He felt frozen, alone.
The plants he'd tended to so carefully for years were dead around him.
He hadn't cared for them for the past month.
How could he when his life had been snatched from him? When they'd taken her from him?
There was a small bark at the glass door.
Taffy ran toward him, nuzzling against his feet.
Arnav shook his head sadly, reaching down to pat the puppy.
His Di and Nani seemed to understand his pain, but in some inexplicable way, he thought that no one shared his grief more than Taffy.
They were both depressed without Khushi. Both incomplete without her love surrounding them.
Every day, Arnav would go to work and return home on time, his every movement mechanical.
He ate a single slice of toast every morning because he'd promised her.
He went to meetings because he'd promise her.
But he couldn't be happy without her.
If there was anything that sustained him, it was the memories of the past.
He'd lay awake at night, remembering every moment with Khushi. The first day they'd met, their conversations growing up, her first day in Delhi, their every office fight, kiss, and mind game.
They'd been such idiots, he thought looking back.  Trying to resist the heady pull they had for one another.
And he'd actually forgotten to tell her "I love you!" When those words meant the world to him..when she meant the world to him.
Arnav strode back inside, sitting wearily on his bed.
The picture on his nightstand caught his attention, as always.
He picked it up, staring down at it. His jaw clenched as he traced over Khushi's downcast eyes, her beautiful face..
I love you, princess..he whispered softly.
For a moment, he was convinced she might reply, but of course, it was another silly dream.
There was no one listening to him.
He was alone, completely alone.
4 weeks of hell continued uninterrupted.
Each day passed slowly, one day bleeding into the next. Each breath felt painful.
Love and concern for Khushi was always in his mind.
Was she okay? Was she taking care of herself? Was her sister married yet? Did she miss him as badly as he missed her?
Arnav sighed, laying back on the bed.
He held the picture of her to his heart, his expression troubled.
God, what he would give to be with her..
He loved her so damn much.
And then, when he was least expecting it, a small voice whispered, Arnav..
The past month had been a nightmare for Khushi, an unending nightmare.
Ever since she'd lost sight of Arnav at the train station, she hadn't been able to think straight.
To live without your heart..
Khushi shuddered, It was a pain she wished on no one.
Arnav was in her every thought, her every dream.
During the day, she would relive all her memories of him, picturing his handsome face, his twinkling eyes, his teasing smirk..
And at night, she would fall into his passionate embrace, recalling every fiery moment between them.
But the dreams proved to be a nightmare when she awoke, alone in her bed, tears streaking across her face.
She'd cry herself to sleep almost every night.
"Sanka Devi," interrupted Buaji from the doorway, "Hurry with the jalebis, he's coming soon."
Khushi nodded wearily, brushing the hair out of her face.
Another potential suitor for Payal was on his way.
The past month had been much the same: A hunt for a groom.
A wave of dizziness swept over Khushi as she stood over the piping hot jalebis.
She gasped, holding a hand to her forehead.
It had been over a day since she'd last eaten a bite.
She'd made Arnav promise to take care of himself, but she hadn't been able to do the same.
How could she eat when the world had lost its color?
When jalebis had lost their flavor?
What will Arnav think when he sees you? she scolded herself.
She grimaced, looking down.
She'd lost considerable weight. Her face had lost its rosy glow.
She felt so tired, so lost these days.
If her family noticed the changes, they never commented, except for Payal.
Payal always looked at her with concern, although she never said anything outright.
But Arnav..he would be broken to see her like this, thought Khushi with worry.
She suddenly recalled him standing over the stove in Raizada Mansion, trying to make jalebis for her, his eyes etched with love and laughter.
Tears came to Khushi's eyes.
How much she missed him..How much she ached for him..
And so thinking of him fervently, she forced herself to eat a bite.
"SANKA DEVI!" called her aunt from the doorway, "Stop eating all the jalebis! They're for the guests. Now hurry up!"
"Coming, Buaji," said Khushi, quickly.
She glanced down at the diamond ring sparkling on her ring finger.
A small smile broke out.
It was his symbol. Their vow.
It was the one thing that got her through each day.
Khushi frowned as she lifted the heavy tray of food, walking carefully into the main room.
A young man and his parents sat waiting.
Payal sat across from them, dressed in an orange sari, her eyes downcast.
"And this is Khushi, our other daughter," explained her father.
Khushi forced herself to smile at the guests, setting the tray on the coffee table.
And then she stood off to the side, gazing down wordlessly, absentmindedly playing with her ring.
"Well, what do you think, Veer?" asked Buaji excitedly, glancing at Payal's handsome, young suitor, "Isn't Payal beautiful?"
Veer didn't answer, his eyes elsewhere.
Buaji laughed on, her voice extra loud. "What did I tell you, Garima? Veer is my best friend's son. He's practically like a son to us already. I knew he would like Payalia."
Garima nodded excitedly, looking at Payal with pride.
"So, bitwa," asked Buaji eagerly, "Will you marry our daughter?"
Veer's eyes sizzled as he looked around.
"Yes," he finally replied, "I will marry your daughter."
There were smiles and claps all around.
Even Khushi found herself smiling.
Payal was getting married..that meant she and Arnav could be next..
Happiness enveloped her for the first time in weeks.
"I am so happy!" shouted Buaji, reaching over to hug Veer.
But he threw his hand up, warding her off.
"Wait, Buaji," he told her in a hard voice.
Everyone frowned at his harsh tone.
"What is it, bitwa?" asked Garima, her eyes wide with concern.
Buaji nodded, "Yes, what's the matter? You should be happy, you just agreed to marry our daughter."
Veer nodded, staring at Buaji with hard eyes. "I said I would marry your daughter. And I will. But not Payal. I will marry her," he pointed.
Everyone's eyes rounded as they followed his hand.
Khushi froze with horror as she found his hand directed toward her.
What the--
But it was true, Veer was staring at her, his eyes raking her up and down intently.
Khushi looked at the assembled group aghast.
"WHAT!" shouted Buaji, her eyes wide, "How can you..I mean, Khushi is the youngest, you cannot marry her, bitwa." She tried to laugh it off awkwardly.
Veer though shook his head adamantly.
"I will marry Khushi only. And I don't care if she is the youngest, times have changed."
Khushi felt sick to her stomach as she felt him stare at her so.
But she didn't say a word, her face twisting into a deep frown.
Buaji and her parents were there.
Any minute now they would throw this despicable man out.
"But Payal is much more beautiful," said Garima, looking at Veer with wide eyes, "Much more respectful. She will make a better wife."
"I don't care," said Veer stiffly, staring at Khushi still.
There was tense silence for a moment.
Khushi waited for her parents to speak out.
Garima finally began.
"Well, bitwa, maybe that can be arranged," she offered hesitantly.
For a moment, Khushi thought she'd dreamt it all up.
Her mother couldn't have..
Khushi's eyes widened.
Her heart stilled with horror.
"What!" she cried out finally.
Her parents looked at her apologetically.
Buaji shrugged, "Listen, Sanka Devi. Your mother has a point. Veer is perfect for you."
Khushi's mouth dropped open.
"How can you even think that!" she shouted, her eyes flashing, "I'm engaged, Buaji! You promised me. You promised me if I didn't communicate with him, you'd honor my vow to him."
Her father looked at her sadly, "Khushi, I'm just asking you to consider it. This is the real world, Khushi. Not every middle-class girl gets a rich upper-class husband. We know Veer. We don't know whoever it was you met in Delhi. I think Veer would keep you happy."
Pain stabbed into Khushi. "Money and class have nothing to do with it! I love him for him! I can't even think of another man, NEVER!"
Buaji growled, reaching out to grab Khushi's thin arm.  Her nails bit into Khushi's skin as she spat, "This man has probably forgotten about you. Are you going to waste your life waiting for him?"
Khushi pulled away from her aunt, frowning. For the first time in weeks, her voice sounded strong.
"He's staying away because you, babuji, and amma made us separate. And you know what, Buaji, even if he never comes for me, then yes, I would happily live the rest of my life alone. He is the only man I will ever love."
Veer gazed up at the fiery Khushi with amusement. She seemed like a challenge, and he loved challenges.
He smiled confidently. By the end of the week, she'd be telling him "I love you," he thought arrogantly. He couldn't wait to see her fire in bed.
"Enough!" he shouted, rising to stand. "Enough, Khushi. You will listen to your parents and you will marry me."
Khushi's eyes lit up with rage.
How dare he!
"NEVER!" she screamed at him, "Never! I love someone else, and I will always love him and only him. See this ring, I love my fiance. He's my life. So don't even think of trying to take his place."
Veer laughed, "Looks like some rich man made a fool of you, Khushi. Some loser who--"
But his words stopped midsentence as Khushi slapped him hard across the face.
Everyone gathered gasped.
Buaji looked mad enough to eat Khushi alive.
But Khushi ignored it all, her eyes on the angry looking Veer. "Don't you ever say a word against him, do you understand? You are nothing but scum compared to him, and you'll never be more."
With that, she ran from there, as quickly as she could.
Behind her she could hear shouts, Buaji was placating Veer.
"Don't worry, bitwa, I'll speak to her."
A sob escaped Khushi as she entered her door, locking the door behind her.
She fell on the ground, her body shaking.
Dear God..
She'd been so naive..
She'd thought her family was actually giving her love a chance. But they'd been waiting patiently, hoping she'd forget Arnav.
Forget Arnav!
How could she? He was in her blood. She was his, and only his.  And he was hers.
She glanced down at her engagement ring.
Her family had broken their deal.
They'd promised to honor her vow in exchange for no communication before Payal's marriage.
But now they themselves had ruined everything, offering her to Buaji's best friend's son as if she was unattached.
As if she was not someone else's.
As if her love not true, but a childish infatuation.
Khushi's heart throbbed with pain.
And then she brushed the tears out of her face, telling herself:Enough, Khushi. Enough of people taking advantage of you, trampling on your love. Now, Arnav, only Arnav matters.
Her family had broken the deal, and so now, she was free. Free to do as she pleased without any remorse.
And so with a hiccupping breath, she called out for the first time in weeks, Arnav..
Arnav's eyes flew open as that familiar voice hit him. Was it..was it really her?
He couldn't help, but wonder if he was making it up in his mind.
Khushi..he said wondrously.
She cried out at that.
ARNAV! Love!
He sat up, his heart beating wildly.
KHUSHI! Oh, God, Khushi! Is it really you? Are you okay?
Khushi wiped a tear away. It's me, Arnav. It's me.
Arnav closed his eyes for a moment, trying to seal her voice in his mind.
Tears gathered in his eyes.
Khushi! I can't believe I'm actually talking to you. Tell me I'm not dreaming, love. What if I'm making this up all in my mind?
Khushi laughed brokenly. You sound like the first time we talked, and you were sure you were going crazy. Sweetheart, it's real. Just like for the past 10 years, I'm really here.
Arnav's heart soared with happiness. Baby, are you okay? How is everything in Lucknow? Has Payal gotten married? Is that why you can talk to me now?
Khushi shook her head, her heart throbbing with pain.
Arnav..she began, her voice breaking.
Arnav frowned as he felt her pain. Khushi, what happened? Tell me, princess.
Khushi nodded. I've missed you so much Arnav, every day has been so difficult without you. I love you so much..
I love you too, Khushi. I've been hardly alive without you. I need you, Khushi, I can't stay apart from you any longer.
I need you too, you're my heart, Arnav, my world.
Arnav clung to her every word, enveloping himself in her love.
Khushi, he whispered, What happened? Tell me, love, I can tell something happened. There have never been secrets between us; you can't hide your pain from me.
Khushi nodded sadly. My family..Oh, God, Arnav..I was so foolish. I thought they would honor the deal between us. But they didn't. They've broken my trust, Arnav, into pieces. Jiji isn't married, and they're pulling me away from you.
Arnav's eyes sizzled. What the--
Enough, Khushi, he bit out, I won't stand by any longer.
I'm not asking you to, said Khushi, I'm telling you to do whatever you want, love. I won't hold you back anymore. My family has broken the deal between us, so nothing can stop us from talking now.
Arnav nodded, Baby, what exactly happened?
Khushi leaned her head back against the door, her eyes closing with dread, They're..they're arranging my wedding to someone else.
Arnav's eyes widened, his hands fisted at his sides.
And then a glint of fire erupted in his eyes, his face tightened with anger.
Khushi nodded, wiping the tears from her eyes, Yours, Arnav. Only yours. But my family doesn't agree.
Arnav's eyes darkened. To hell with them! Sweetheart, listen to me, I have a plan..
What plan? asked Khushi.
Arnav smirked, his eyes hard as steel. If they won't accept me as Arnav..well, then it's time they met ASR.

Chapter II: Prince and Princess
That night Khushi slept peacefully for the first time in over a month.
Arnav's voice was her constant companion, loving her, encouraging her.
Go to sleep Princess, I am with you..always, he said, We'll have everything we dreamed of: a wedding, a wedding night, a honeymoon, a future together..I promise you, Khushi.
I know, Arnav. I love you.
I love you too, he echoed.
Her eyes closed softly, her lips curved in a smile as she slept on the rickety bed in Lucknow.
Arnav though was wide-awake in Delhi.
As soon as he sensed Khushi had slept, he turned to his phone, dialing quickly.
Aman picked up on the first ring.
"Well?" asked Arnav, quickly. "Did you show Payal's picture to Akash?"
Aman nodded, "Yes, Boss, I slipped in the photo into his file and all afternoon, Akash sir was just staring at it."
"Great," said Arnav, relaxing back, "And Aman, book six tickets to Lucknow for tomorrow morning."
"Under whose names?" asked Aman.
"Akash, Mami, Mama, Nani, Di, and myself."
Aman nodded, hanging up quickly.
Arnav smiled then, relaxing for the first time in weeks.
Just a few hours more, and his love would be in his arms, as she was meant to be.
Khushi was his, damn it!
There was no way he'd let another man glance in her direction, let alone marry her.
Arnav's hands fisted as he thought of that unknown man. How dare he!
Just a few more hours..just a few more hours.. he told himself repeatedly.
And then he reached for his phone again. He still had one more call to make.
"Hello?" answered an unfamiliar voice.
"Hello, is this Mr. Shashi Gupta?" asked Arnav, his voice business-like.
"Yes, who is this?"
"Arnav Singh Raizada. Sir, I have a proposal for you.."
Shashi glanced up in surprise, motioning his wife and sister toward him as the stranger on the phone continued uninterrupted.
The next morning Khushi woke up with surprise.
Loud music was playing, the sound of laughter was drifting from the open window.
Arnav.. she whispered in her mind.
He answered right away. Good morning, Princess.
Morning, darling, she replied happily, smiling bemusedly.
But Arnav was all business today, as he said hurriedly: Now, hurry up, and dress up, Khushi. No more tears today.
Khushi nodded as she sat up, pulling her hair up into a high ponytail
It's so loud here, Arnav, something's happening.
Arnav nodded, Baby, you'll find out soon. Now, I'm really busy at the moment, I'll talk to you soon okay?
Khushi nodded as she felt him end the mental link.
She rose to go to the window, wrapping a shawl around her slim shoulders.
One of her friends from nearby was passing by.
"Pooja!" she shouted, "Over here!"
Her friend looked at her in surprise, hurrying forward.
"Khushi! Why are you not dressed? It's your sister's engagement today!"
"What!" said Khushi, her eyes rounding, "You mean with Veer?"
Her friends shook her head. "No, some other guy. I heard your aunt say, everything was arranged last night itself."
Khushi frowned, but her friend continued, "Go, Khushi, get dressed. Payal's soon-to-be husband is probably on his way."
Khushi nodded, shutting the window.
Confusion filled her..Payal's engagement! How had it happened so fast?
And then her lips curved.
Of course..ASR..
The sun was shining brightly, music filtered from the open window as Khushi sat in front of the mirror, putting her earrings carefully on.
She glanced up, staring at her reflection with amazement.
She was still too thin, but her eyes were shining, her skin was glowing. For the first time in weeks, it felt like her heart was beating again.
She laughed softly.
All she'd needed was Arnav and everything felt different.
The world felt beautiful once more.
Small giggles came from the doorway.
Khushi glanced up in surprise.
6 year old Ananya and 7 year old Pihu stood smiling at the doorway, dressed in elaborate lehengas. The two were sisters, who lived nearby.
"Wow, Khushi Di, you look beautiful," said Ananya shyly.
Khushi smiled, waving them to her.
They laughed as they ran to her.
Khushi hugged them close.
They looked up at her with awe.
"Yeah, Di, you look so pretty..like a princess."
"So do both of you," said Khushi, smiling widely.
She clasped each of their hands in hers, leading them toward the loud gathering outside.
"Come on, everyone must be looking for us," she said.
They were just about to step out the door, when Pihu tugged on Khushi's right hand urgently.
"What is it, Pihu?" asked Khushi, leaning down.
"I was just wondering, Di, if you're the princess, where's your prince?"
Khushi grinned, "In Delhi."
The small girl looked surprised, "So far? Don't you miss your prince?"
Khushi nodded, "More than anything. But I know, he'll come one day for me."
Arnav honked the car in front of him.
"Damn it!" he whispered under his breath.
Anjali though was sitting next to him in the passenger seat and heard.
"Chote," she said, gazing at him with amusement, "Relax. We're almost in Lucknow now."
"I can't, Di," said Arnav with exasperation, "Not till I have her back in my arms."
Anjali nodded, patting her brother's tense forearm.
"Everything will be fine, Chote. We'll all do exactly as you said. Right everyone?" she asked, glancing back.
Nani and Mami sat in the middle row; Akash and his dad were in the back seat.
They all nodded.
"Yes," said Nani, "We'll all act as if we've never met Khushi bitiya before."
Mami snorted, "Which will notz be to hardz for me and my hubby. We've never met this Khushi Wushi."
Anjali smiled, "Perfect. See, Chote, we're all with you."
Arnav nodded, gazing ahead at the traffic clogged roads.
It had all been surprisingly easy.
Akash had been taken with Payal at first glance. And after a long phone call, both were waiting with bated breath to finally meet.
Everyone else had agreed quickly as well, except for Mami of course.
She had viewed Payal's simple family with distaste.
But Arnav had gotten her "yes" in the end as well.
All it had taken was 25% of AR Designs stocks being transferred to Akash and Mami had readily given her approval.
"Look, Chote!" interrupted Anjali excitedly.
The turrets of Lucknow were visible now.
They were finally in Lucknow..finally in the city where Khushi was..
Arnav smiled softly, his heart beating fast.
She was near, he could sense it.
He wanted to call out to her, but he stopped himself.
He wanted to surprise her, wanted to see her face light up with joy.
I'm coming, Princess. I'm coming..
An hour later, Khushi felt lost as she sat beside her sister.
Around her, music blared from the speakers.
Women danced in bright, colorful lehengas.
It was Payal's engagement.
She was marrying some businessman Khushi had never met.
Khushi's heart twisted as she looked at the party around her.
She remembered suddenly her own engagement.
It hadn't been this loud, or this festive.
But it had been perfect.
Just her and Arnav, laying with each other on the office carpet, their eyes glowing with love.
Pain sizzled in Khushi's heart as it always did when she thought of him.
"They're here!" shouted Buaji suddenly, her face alight with excitement, "They're here!"
Khushi smiled at her sister reassuringly as she stood to greet the guests. But the smile felt false on her lips, not quite reaching her eyes.
All she wanted to do was run back to Delhi, jump into Arnav's arms, and never let go.
Her heart cried out for him.
She missed him so much..
Every day, every moment had been a struggle without him beside her. Without his mind entwined with hers.
She was barely focused on anything as the door was opened and Payal's groom and his family strode in.
Her eyes were downcast, her hands twisted in her lehenga.
And then something made Khushi glance up.
Something pulled at her..
Dhak Dhak. Dhak Dhak.
Her eyes widened as she looked up.
She seemed to freeze in place, her heart stopping..
Arnav stood before her, staring at her with dark eyes.
But before she could say a word, Buaji jumped between them, smiling widely.
"What are you doing, Sanka Devi? Is this any way to greet guests? I apologize, Arnav bitwa," she said loudly, "Let me introduce you both. This is my niece and Payal's sister, Khushi. And this Sanka Devi, is Mr. Arnav Singh Raizada, Payal's soon-to-be husband's brother."
Khushi's eyes rounded, her eyes glowed with shock and happiness.
Arnav finally smiled at her, "Pleasure to meet you, Khushi."
She looked at him dumbfounded as he grabbed her hand, laying a firm kiss across her knuckles.
Pure love overwhelmed them both at the simple touch.
He winked at her as he glanced up.
You didn't think I'd let you go so easily, did you princess?
Khushi couldn't reply, staring up at him in amazement.
Across the room, dark eyes watched Arnav and Khushi with malice..Veer Mehra growled as he watched another man look at Khushi so..She was his. Only his..
Khushi's eyes shone as they met Arnav's.
Love..are you really here? Standing before me?
Tears came to her eyes.
His eyes grew troubled as he stared at her, his hands itched to brush her tears away.
But damn it, this wasn't the right moment.
He instead sneakily rubbed his hand across her bare waist amid the hugs and welcomes being given around them.
Shh, baby. It's me. Please, don't cry, Khushi.
More tears threatened, but Buaji jumped between them once more.
"Sanka Devi!" she said loudly, "Go get the flowers from the hall out back! I forgot about them. Go now, hurry!"
Khushi nodded, her eyes locked with Arnav's.
She stared at him a second more, and then ran out.
Her feet felt light, her heart turned over with overwhelming love.
Arnav was here!
And in her house!
It felt like a dream.
One that she never wanted to wake up from.
Khushi entered the empty hall quickly, glancing at the flowers surrounding her.
The door suddenly slammed shut behind her.
Khushi turned around, her eyes widening.
Arnav was locking the door.
As he turned, their eyes met, their minds locked.
For a moment, they just stared at each other longingly, their eyes shining brightly.
And then, Khushi could no longer hold herself back.
Arnav! she cried, running toward him, her lehenga clenched in her hands.
Khushi..he echoed, meeting her half-way.
They both cried out as their arms wrapped around each other, holding on tightly.
Khushi looped her arms around his neck, dropping kisses against the side of his neck..his cheek..his chin..wherever she could reach.
Oh God, Arnav..I love you so much. I missed you so much.
He lifted her off the ground in response, holding her pressed to him.
His hands shook as he drew back, cupping her face.
His eyes shone with happiness.
Baby, I love you too. I can't believe you're finally in my arms agan.
Khushi tightered her arms around him, Never let me go again.
Never, he vowed, holding her as if she was the most precious treasure in his life.
Khushi couldn't stop touching him, her quivering hands reaching up to entwine in his wavy hair.
Their eyes roamed over the other breathlessly, feverishly.
And then Arnav could no longer hold himself back.
He had to taste her.
With a cry, he brought his open mouth to hers.
Khushi moaned as their lips met. She opened her mouth at once, entwining her tongue with his.
They kissed hungrily, their mouths fusing with need.
Arnav drew Khushi back against an empty wall, his hands supporting her.
She plunged her hands into his hair in response, her mouth kissing his desperately.
How much she'd missed his touch, his love..
She wanted to drown herself in him.
Their kisses grew more heated by the second.
Arnav's hands lowered from Khushi's hips, holding her tight against him.
Khushi moaned out loud as she felt him, throwing her legs around his waist.
And all the while, their kisses went on uninterrupted, a meshing of lips, tongues, and hearts.
Arnav hand's clenched around her possessively.
Mine, he told her as he thrust his tongue deeper into her warm mouth, You're mine, Khushi.
Yours and only yours, she vowed, welcoming his possession, And you're mine, Arnav. I love you, baby.
Love overpowered as they reunited.
They kissed fiercely.
And for once, Arnav did not hold back.
His hands tightened around her bare waist, his lips never lefts hers as he began grinding himself against her without restraint.
They both moaned at the sweet friction growing between them.
I need..I need more, Khushi, whispered Arnav his hands gliding up along her bare back.
Khushi nodded, dazed with passion.
Without a word, she drew her dupatta off, giving him a clear view of her red cloth-covered, pert breasts.
Arnav growled as he looked down.
With a groan, he threw his hands over her peaks, molding her with possession.
Khushi cried out, holding him closer. Her head thrashed against the wall as he touched her blatantly.
Yes, this was what she needed.
She pulled him closer, arching up to meet his hungry mouth.
They kissed desperately, as if they were starving for one another.
Arnav fought for control, but for once, he couldn't stop himself.
It had been so long since they'd been together.
And now to have her soft flesh in his palms, her mouth open beneath his..it was sheer bliss.
He groaned, kissing her expertly.
One of his hands left a straining breast to tug on her dori.
Khushi moaned as his mouth shifted to her neck, marking her pale skin.
I love you he said in her mind with each kiss, his hand massaging her bare back.
Khushi echoed the same, arching up against him.
There was a loud knock on the door just then.
Arnav and Khushi stilled for a moment, drawing back.
Both were breathing harshly, their hearts beating wildly.
At Khushi's wide eyes, Arnav cupped her face in his palm, kissing her gently.
It's okay, Princess.
She nodded, but the knock came again, louder this time.
"Khushi!" screamed an unfamiliar male voice.
Arnav's eyes narrowed, Who's that?
"Khushi!" the voice screeched outside.
I think it's that man who wants to marry me.
Arnav's jaw tightened with anger.
Arnav frowned, drawing off Khushi.
He carefully turned her around, tying her dori.
Khushi's eyes closed. Her heart skipped a beat as he helped her, arranging her lehenga back in order.
He started to go to the door, but then stopped, turning to Khushi with a wink.
Forget him. He's not important. Let him knock on the door all he wants. I'll deal with him later.
Khushi walked into his awaiting arms, wrapping an arm around Arnav's waist.
They each grabbed a bouquet of roses and then headed to the back door, smiling.
At the opposite door, Veer knocked on the door without pause, "Hello? Is someone there? Khushi!"
Arnav and Khushi snuck out the back entrance, walking back to Buaji's house.
As soon as they stepped outside, Arnav dropped his arm from around Khushi.
Khushi frowned, glancing up at with him questions in her eyes.
Arnav..why did you let go? And why did you act like we've never met before earlier?
Before he could say a word, a group of laughing children ran by.
Arnav pulled Khushi quickly behind an old, towering tree, shielding them from view.
He hugged her close, kissing her lips.
Princess, all I want is to hold you..kiss you. But this is the only way we can be together right now.
Khushi's face scrunched. What do you mean?
Arnav sighed, brushing Khushi's hair out of her face. I spoke to your parents and Buaji last night. I didn't tell them about us, just arranged Payal and Akash's wedding. But even from that one conversation, I found out a great deal.
His eyes darkened. Khushi, they're not worried about you at all. They just spoke about Payal the whole time, even when I tried to bring your name up.
I'm not surprised, love. The way they've been ignoring me..
Her eyes teared up.
Arnav sighed, leaning forward to set his mouth atop hers.
I. Love. You. he said, punctuating each word with a kiss.
Khushi blushed, staring at his mouth with wonder.
She curled her arms around him, hugging him tightly.
And I love you. I only need you, Arnav, just you.
Arnav nodded, Princess, from this moment on, you have to behave like you don't know me. If we tell your parents about us, they're going to keep us separated, I just know it. And I don't want to stay a single second away from you.
Khushi nodded, Me either. But what do we do then?
Arnav smiled, his eyes filled with confidence. We'll meet whenever we get a chance, and.. we will get married on the same day as Akash and Payal.
Khushi's eyes widened. How?
We'll make it happen, promised Arnav. For now, just know, that ever day brings us closer to being together.
His eyes became tender as he gazed down at her. Khushi..
Hmm.. she mumbled, trying to process it all.
Arnav gazed down at her with concern. Love, Payal will be having all the rituals, the mehendi, sangeet, haldi, everything. All the attention will be on her. But your wedding is approaching too. It'll just be the two of us, but I want you to have all those rituals that you always dreamed of.
Khushi smiled up at him. Arnav, as long as your attention is on me, nothing else matters. I don't need anything more.
He drew her close, kissing her on the forehead. So we've already had our engagement, we're a step ahead of Akash and Payal there.
Khushi nodded, And I wouldn't change ours for the world. It was perfect..
A memory of that day flashed through both of their minds.
They leaned towards each other, kissing tenderly.
Tomorrow is a family picnic Di's arranged, and the day after is the mehendi ceremony.
Khushi looped her hands around his neck, as music blared from the speakers in the distance.
So that means its my mehendi too?
Arnav tugged her closer, his eyes locking with hers with contentment. Yes, Princess.
Chapter III: A Midnight Encounter
Khushi smiled happily, leaning up on her tiptoes to kiss Arnav.
He growled with appreciation, pulling her closer. But before he could deepen the kiss, Khushi slid out of his reach, plucking the bouquet out of his unsuspecting hands.
A laugh escaped Khushi as she glanced at his lost puppy-dog expression.
Princess.. said Arnav enticingly.
But Khushi shook her head. She tossed her hair behind her, her eyes glittering with naughtiness.
Arnav's breath hitched as he gazed at her.
She was so beautiful, so innocent..
"Sanka Devi! Where are the flowers?" screamed Buaji's annoyed voice from nearby.
Khushi's beaming smile immediately dimmed. She glanced behind her worriedly, biting her lip. I'll see you inside, love.
Arnav frowned as he watched her hastily run back toward the main house. Silently, he followed.
Buaji's loud voice hit his ears as soon as he entered the Gupta household.
"Where were you, Sanka Devi? Did you not understand what I told you?"
"Buaji, I was--"
But her aunt cut her off, "How can you be so careless, Khushi? What kind of wife will you make if you can't even do one thing right?"
Arnav saw red at that. "Buaji!" he interrupted loudly.
She looked at him guiltily. "Arnav bitwa..I didn't see you. Do you need something?"
He looked at her with hard eyes. "I just had to tell you that I met Khushi outside and caused her to be late. It wasn't her fault."
Buaji's eyes blinked owlishly. She laughed awkwardly. "Oh, why didn't you say something, Sanka Devi?"
Khushi looked at her flabbergasted. "You haven't even let me say a word, Buaji."
Her aunt looked taken aback by Khushi's firm reply. "Well..that is.."
Arnav cut in again, his voice hard as steel. "I think you owe your niece an apology, Buaji."
Khushi and her aunt both looked at Arnav with alarm.
Love, that isn't necessary, whispered Khushi.
Oh, yes it is, said Arnav, his lips compressed, his eyes hard.
Buaji's mouth opened and closed several times and then she finally mumbled, "Sorry, Sanka Devi," before hurrying away.
Arnav watched her go with a frosty expression. Does she always treat you like that?
Khushi shook her head. My parents and aunt have never behaved so harshly. I think they're still mad about the kiss..
Arnav's jaw tightened. I'm your fiance Khushi. It's not like you were kissing a random stranger.
Khushi nodded, I know. But Arnav, look at it from their perspective: I wasn't home all night and when they do see me, I'm kissing a stranger and coming out of an expensive jeep. Of course they're still punishing me.
Arnav frowned, It doesn't make them right. But his expression changed as he glanced at Khushi, becoming intense in seconds. His left hand sneaked across, rubbing the side of her bare waist, his touch firm. And for the record, you'll make the best wife in the world. I just need your love, nothing else.
Khushi's heart throbbed. She ached to hold him but some of her aunt's friends were gathering nearby.She settled for placing her hand under his crisp coat, massaging the tense muscles underneath. You'll always have my love, Arnav.
He leaned into her touch, his face etched with emotions.
Khushi blushed, glancing around, I better go help with dinner.
Arnav watched her go with a soft, knowing glow in his eyes.
Dinner was hastily served thirty minutes later. Khushi was scurrying around, handing out plates piled high with food.
As she reached the Raizadas, she couldn't stop herself from giving quick hugs to Anjali and Nani.
They smiled broadly, "Nice to meet you, bitiya," said Nani with a wink.
"Chote was miserable without you," whispered Anjali in her ear, "We all missed you."
Khushi nodded, mouthing 'me too.'
She smiled as she passed a plate to Akash, "Welcome to Lucknow, Jijaji."
He accepted the plate gratefully. "Thank you, Khushi." His parents were talking with Babuji nearby; Khushi left their dinner plates with Anjali.
And then she grabbed the last plate.
Her eyes shone as they met Arnav's.
"This is yours," she explained. He nodded, taking the plate from her hands. His fingers strayed on hers for just a moment longer than necessary. There's no sugar in anything, added Khushi, wishing she could stay by his side.
Thank you, love.
Khushi's eyes locked with his. Love and passion clashed between them.
But before anyone around them could notice, she turned away, moving toward other guests.
Minutes later, Khushi sat across the room from Arnav, surrounded by her close friends. A plate was balanced in her hands.
She took bites every now and then, her eyes soft as she gazed at Arnav bemusedly.
And even though all of her friends noticed, no one said a word. Because they too were staring at the groom's handsome older brother.
"My God, he is so good looking," said one, looking at Arnav dreamily.
Another nodded eagerly, "Uff his hair..his eyes..his body.."
Khushi couldn't help but agree, sighing softly. But the faraway look in her eyes evaporated suddenly. A frown crossed her face as she finally tore her gaze off of Arnav, glancing at her friends.
It deepened as she looked at their obvious interest in her Arnav.
Jealousy flared, her eyes narrowed.
He was her husband--well almost--damn it!
Arnav must have picked up on her shifting emotions as he glanced across at her, raising a cool eyebrow.
You okay, Princess?
Khushi nodded half-heartedly. Just fine..how's the food?
Arnav took a small bite, winking in her direction.
Her friends swooned beside her. "OMG," cried one, "I think he just winked at me!"
Khushi frowned, crossing her hands across her chest. What was that Raizada trying to do? He was way too sexy for his own good, she thought with a frown.
But just as she began to chide him, he said in a soft, low tone, Mmm, the food's delicious. After all, my princess made it.
Khushi's head snapped up.
How did you know I made it?
He shrugged slightly. I just know. And I'm right, aren't I?
He looked at her with smoldering eyes.
"Oh gosh, I think I'm going to faint," said the girl beside Khushi, sighing melodramatically.
Khushi's lips thinned.
"Can you imagine waking up in his arms?" asked another.
That question made Khushi pause. Imagine waking up in his arms? Actually she could, thought Khushi, smiling softly. She'd almost spent the night in his arms on his birthday, although a mound of pillows had been between them then.
She suddenly made up her mind that tonight, she'd have the same, with one exception: No Pillows.
She grinned at the thought, making Arnav glance at her with narrowed eyes.
Khushi just winked at him in answer.
Payal and Akash exchanged rings with soft, glowing smiles on their faces.
Arnav clapped along with the gathered guests, sneaking a look at Khushi.
Their eyes met..
Heat sizzled even from across the room.
An impish grin crossed her beautiful face. His eyes darkened in response.
But before he could call out to her, a loud voice screeched loudly, making Arnav's ears ache.
"OH MY! Congrats, my dears!" screamed Buaji, hugging the newly engaged pair forcefully.
Arnav cringed. He hated such loud, over-the-top events; had avoided them purposely for most of his life.
And yet, now he willingly stood in the midst of colorful chaos.. all because of Khushi..
He'd do anything for her..damn it!
"I am so very happy," whispered Nani, clapping softly beside Arnav. But her smile dimmed as she gazed up at him sadly, "Now if only.." She glanced at Khushi hugging her sister just feet from them. Tears filled her eyes.
Arnav looked at her with alarm, but thankfully his sister intervened just then.
Anjali hugged her grandmother from the opposite side, saying smilingly, "Soon, Nani, soon Chote will get his happiness."
Arnav nodded, "Exactly, Nani."  But his words only made more tears gather in his grandmother's eyes.
Akash walked up to them just then, frowning slightly.
Arnav and Anjali looked at him in confusion.
And then Arnav finally said in a rush, "What the hell's wrong with you? Don't you dare say you made a mistake."
"Chote!" chided Anjali, glancing around with wide eyes, "Could you be a little more tactful? I have no idea how Khu-- um, I mean your soon-to-be wifey handles you."
Arnav looked ready to argue, but Akash said in a quiet voice, "No Di, Bhai's right to ask. I am happy I'm engaged to Payal, really I am. It's just that her family always takes her away."
The other three Raizadas looked at him bewildered.
They glanced to the side: The applause and shouts of "Congratulations" had finally begun to die down. Buaji had whisked Payal to the far corner, showing off her neice's dazzling diamond ring to her close friends and neigbors.
"Umm, Akash, Payalji's just a few feet away," said Anjali, puzzled.
"I know," he replied, looking upset, "But I've hardly gotten to spend a minute with her."
Arnav was unsurprised by that. This was exactly the reason he hadn't told the Guptas about his relationship with Khushi. He couldn't handle being separated from her, Buaji's hawk eyes on them every second.
The month they'd spend apart had been hell, pure, crushing torture. He still couldn't believe she was finally with him.
He looked out the corner of his eye. His heart calmed as he saw Khushi laughing with her friends across the room, looking so damn beautiful all he wanted to do was grab her and kiss her passionately.
He suddenly needed those full, reddened lips on his..her silky, smooth skin under his rough palms..
Nani sniffled loudly next to him just then, interrupting his thoughts. "At least Payal is officially your fiance, Akash. Chote and Khu--" her voice broke.
Arnav ran a hand through his hair, messing it slightly. Really, this was why he hated weddings. Stress and emotions always ran high.
And then, with his grandmother crying and his cousin complaining beside him, a soft voice entered his mind, throwing him off once more..
He glanced up surprised, finding Khushi's twinkling eyes.
What Princess? Can it wait? I'm a little tied up right now.
She shook her head naughtily, No, it cannot, Mr. ASR.
He sighed, exasperated, making Anjali jab him in the side for his inconsideration. Akash and Nani looked at him with a frown.
He fought to follow both conversations simultaneously.
Fine, Princess, he said hurriedly, What is it?
Khushi ran her eyes over him, her cheeks pinkening. And then she finally said: I want to sleep with you.
Arnav's head reared up. His shocked eyes met hers through the crowd.
His family's conversation..the loud music..the crying kids..the gossiping aunties..all disappeared into the background.
His gaze locked with hers.
Only she mattered.
Everything else fell away.
Was it really his Khushi that had said those bold words?
What the--! What did you just say? he asked, stunned.
Khushi grinned, winking at him, You heard me..I, Khushi Kumari Gupta Soon-to-be Raizada, want to sleep with you, Mr. ASR.
As Arnav looked at her as if she had grown a second head, Khushi fought to hold back her smile, adding in a sexy voice, Oh, and love, it better be tonight..
With that, she sauntered away, her hips swaying tantalizingly under her yellow lehenga.
Arnav watched her go wide eyed, his body stiffening.
Anjali tried to see what her brother was staring at so, but she couldn't see beyond the guests wandering around them. She reached up, snapping his chin close.
He stirred at that, brushing away her hand as if it was a pesky fly. "What, Di?"
"I should be asking you that, Chote. Why are you standing like that, with your mouth hanging open?"
Arnav looked startled, "Umm, never mind, Di. I'll be right back." He stalked off without another word.
"Chote!" called Anjali. She looked exasperated as she tried to calm down Akash and Nani.
Khushi ran breathlessly into her room, trying to calm her racing heart.
Laughter bubbled, her cheeks reddened as she realized what she's said.
Oh God, what must Arnav be thinking?
A giggle escaped her as she finally stopped at her window, gazing out at the darkening sky, the stars shining overhead.
She waited impatiently, even though she knew he'd come.
They both knew each other so well. A decade of friendship and months of pure love had brought them so close; there were no secrets between them.
And then as if on cue, she heard her bedroom door creak open behind her. Heard the knowing sound of the lock being turned. And then firm footsteps approached her without pause.
Footsteps she recognized..
Her heart beat wildly, her body clenched. Rabba ve..
Khushi..he replied, walking to her.
Strong, masculine arms wrapped around her waist from behind, pulling her close.
His lips fell against the side of her neck, kissing her heatedly.
Princess, muttered Arnav behind her, What are you trying to do to me?
A soft moan escaped Khushi as his tongue stroked her silky skin, as he kissed her exposed nape.
Her body felt limp and warm in the circle of his arms.
Me? she asked sassily, trying to fight for control.
He smirked against her skin, dropping more soft kisses. Don't pretend you don't know, Khushi. We've played this game many times before..
Khushi covered Arnav's hand on her bare stomach with her own, her eyes closing as he kissed her.
How much she'd missed this..How much she'd missed him..
Have we? she whispered, arching her neck to the side so his mouth could devour her more.
He nodded, his wavy hair ruffling against her face.
Yeah, we have, but Khushi.. were you serious? Do you really want to sleep with me tonight?
Khushi stilled against him.
His blunt words, his lips moving against her skin, the huskiness in his voice unfurled waves of desire and love within her.
Arnav paused mid-kiss, his breath warming her neck as he waited for her answer.
Princess..he pressed, kissing her exposed shoulder.
Khushi's eyes sealed shut.
More than anything, she finally admitted.
He smiled against her throat, kissing her collarbone again in answer.
A blush tinged her cheeks as she continued, I do want to sleep with you..that way. You know that, love. But I know we're waiting for our wedding night.
He nodded, hugging her close, Just a week more, love, till that night.
Khushi smiled blissfully, But Arnav..I do want to sleep with you tonight too..like the night of your birthday.
Khushi, began Arnav, shaking his head, It's way too risky and--
But she quickly interrupted him, twirling about in his arms.
She looped her arms around his neck, pouting up at him.
No arguments, Arnav. You will sleep beside me tonight.
He looked exasperated. Princess, be serious.
I am, she replied, her eyes tracing over his face tenderly, This past month..being without you..has been a nightmare. Every day and night apart has been unbearable. I still can't believe you're here, holding me..loving me..
Tears came to her eyes.
Arnav's breath hitched, his hands rose, wiping away her tears.
Khushi, love, please don't cry. You know I can't handle it.
Then, agree, said Khushi, her eyes huge with unshed tears, Sleep with me tonight. I need to be in your arms, Arnav.
Arnav leaned forward, kissing her lips. Khushi rose on her tiptoes, kissing him hotly. Her hands plunged into his hair, pulling him close.
But he drew back, leaning his forehead against hers. Sweetheart, I want that too..more than anything. But try to understand. There's a wedding going on, there are so many guests..It's not possible, Princess.
Khushi frowned, pulling off of him slightly. Her eyes turned frosty.
I don't care how. Just make it happen, she said.
Arnav shook his head. Princess, if you'd try to understand--
"Khushi Di?" asked a small voice outside the bedroom door just then.
"Coming," replied Khushi, staring up at Arnav.
She moved to the door, glancing back at him just before leaving.
I don't care about anything or anyone. But I will spend tonight in your arms, Arnav Singh Raizada. Her voice was firm, her eyes clashed with his.
Arnav sighed, Khush--
But she'd already left.
Arnav ran a hand through his hair, Damn it, what would he do now?
Sleep with her? He ached to, but it was too risky. The Gupta house was teeming with guests for the wedding. Somehow they'd managed to pack in more guests than he thought even Raizada Mansion could hold.
He didn't want to be caught with Khushi in such an intimate position. Personally, he didn't give a damn what anyone thought about him, but he couldn't handle the thought of anyone pointing fingers at his Khushi. They would never understand the inherent innocence, the overwhelming love in her request. No, everyone would jump to malign her reputation, just like her family had done a month ago.
But did Khushi understand his dilemma? Hell no!
Arnav kicked the wall in front of him in frustration, following his Princess out.
Minutes later, Arnav and Khushi stood facing each other near the Gupta's front door.

The Raizadas were leaving.  Garima and Shashi were smiling as they led them out. 

Nani turned to Garima, asking, "And you will all be at Sheesh Mahal tomorrow morning for Anjali's picnic, right?"

"Of course," answered Buaji, "We'll be there an hour early!"

Everyone smiled.

Except for Arnav and Khushi. Their eyes were only on one another, clashing silently.

"Say goodbye, Sanka Devi," prompted Buaji, nudging her.

Khushi nodded, tearing her gaze off of Arnav. She smiled broadly as she went to give Anjali and Nani quick hugs.

Akash smiled at her as she said, "Goodnight, Jijaji."

"Goodnight," he replied, sneaking another glance at a blushing Payal.

Khushi bid the same to Mama and Mami, and then turned her eyes to the last Raizada.

Arnav's eyes blazed at her as she stopped before him.

Khushi folded her hands discreetly, "Goodnight..Arnavji.." And you better sleep with me tonight.

Fire bloomed in the depths of his eyes at her words.
He shook his head, saying stiffly, "Goodnight, Khushi." And stop being so stubborn.
Khushi wrinkled her nose at him, and then smiled. Two could play this game.
She concentrated for a moment and then in a flash, sent him a jumble of images through their mind link.
Arnav stumbled slightly back as he was hit with the memories: Their first kiss in the coat room, their hands slipping feverishly over each other as they kissed wildly..The hallway encounter at AR Designs, her silky sari pressed tightly against his rigid body..Her standing in his pool, peeling her wet sari off on the night of his birthday..Their separation..Their reunion..His possessive hands on her breasts earlier today..
Arnav hissed, his eyes narrowing as he looked at Khushi. She was grinning impishly. Oh, and that's just the beginning, love. I can send a hundred other images.
His eyes glinted as he glared at her. You don't play fair, Princess.
Khushi shrugged, looking at him with a challenge in her eyes. Don't you want to sleep in my arms, Mr. ASR? Our bodies entwined, our hearts beating as one, your head cushioned on my boo--
Arnav's eyes widened at the unfinished sentence. He stilled, his hands fisting at his sides.
"Come on, Chote," called Anjali from the door, raising an eyebrow at her seemingly frozen younger brother.
Arnav's eyes remained locked with Khushi's. "Coming, Di." See you tomorrow, Khushi.
See you tonight, Arnav, she corrected cheekily.
He shook his head at her, turning away.
As he stomped away, Khushi smiled smugly, crossing her hands across her chest. Oh and Arnav..
He paused at the car door outside, his back rigid as her soft voice hit him from behind.
What? he asked, his voice gruff-sounding.
Khushi smiled even more broadly. I love you, baby..
His head snapped up at that. He turned toward her, his eyes lighting up.
I love you too, you temptress.
Khushi smiled, waving at the group below.
Veer frowned as he watched Khushi. His eyes flew between Khushi and Arnav.
Something was going on, he just knew it.
He marched up to Buaji, tapping her on her shoulder. "Buaji, I need to talk to you."
Buaji sighed, patting his cheek as if he was two. "Later, bitwa. It's very late now. Good night!"
Veer growled as he was led out. It seemed like he was no longer important. Those Raizadas were hogging all of the attention.
Khushi breathed a sigh of relief as she entered her room, locking the door behind her. She'd just finished up cleaning the kitchen and preparing for tomorrow's picnic.
Outside her window, the moon glowed brightly.  It was almost midnight.  In any normal household, everyone would be sound asleep by now. But not in hers. Of course not.
Downstairs, Buaji had organized an impromptu celebration party, inviting her close friends. The sounds of loud laughter and song seeped under Khushi's closed door.
Maybe it was too risky for Arnav to come, thought Khushi, wringing her hands.
But then she shook her head, they'd both gone through hell the month they'd been apart..nothing and no one could stand in their way tonight.
She would sleep in his arms, she vowed, her eyes twinkling. Arnav had to come.. he just had to.
Khushi smiled as she sat before the oblong mirror, taking her hair down. She brushed out the tangles, her eyes lighting up as her hair fell to her waist..just like how he liked it.
She applied her makeup carefully, keeping it simple..just like how heliked it.
When she was done, she grinned at her reflection. There was no way that Raizada would be able to resist her now.
Khushi was still smiling as she walked toward her small closet, combing through the hangers.
Her eyebrows knitted together as she analyzed each outfit. And then her eyes lit up. She smiled brightly as she pulled out a dark blue velvet and pure white lehenga.
It was about four years old, but she'd never been able to throw it away. It was her personal favorite.
She hugged the fabric to her, hurrying to change.
She'd look beautiful for him, she decided, so irresistible Arnav wouldn't know what hit him.
Ten minutes later, Khushi was about ready to admit defeat.
Either her favorite outfit had shrunk or she had gained weight.
While the bottom skirt still fit, it hugged her body tightly now, outlining the flare of her hips, her outer thighs.
But that wasn't even the biggest problem.
It was the top.
Khushi frowned as she tied the dori behind her, analyzing herself critically in the mirror. She sighed, it was hopeless..
The blue velvet material stretched tautly across her chest, causing her breasts to spill over the top. The flimsy cloth just barely covered her as her full breasts strained upward.
A blush stole over Khushi's face as she gazed at herself.  How could she possibly wear this in front of Arnav? She was barely decent.
She quivered as she imagined standing in front of him like this. Her eyes closed, her chest heaved.
"Come on, Khushi..you can do this," she whispered to herself, "You've said such romantic things to him, danced in your bra in front of him, there's nothing to be embarrassed about. It's just Arnav, your best friend, your soon-to-be husband..the man you love more than anything.."
She pulled herself together, reaching for the dupatta.
There, that's not too bold, she thought, hiding the too small top behind the long, white cloth, He'll never know now..
"Never know what?" interrupted Arnav from the window.
Khushi shrieked, covering her open mouth with her hand. She whirled toward her bedroom window.
Arnav stood right outside, looking so handsome in a plain, white shirt, Khushi had trouble thinking straight. Arnav! You scared me to death!
He smirked, pulling himself inside her room in one quick move and drawing the curtain close. Why?
Khushi froze, Ahh..no reason..
Since when does my princess lie to me? whispered Arnav, looking at her intensely. You should have been expecting me, after all this was your idea, wasn't it, Khushi?
He advanced towards her in firm, deliberate steps.
Khushi's eyes rounded as she watched him near, her chest heaved. With his every step forward, she took a hesitant step backward. Arnav's eyes shone with amusement as he stalked closer.
When her back met the hard wall behind her, Khushi shuddered, her breathing uneven.
She closed her eyes tightly as he stopped before her.
But that only highlighted other things. She could sense him still. His masculine cologne hit her senses, leaving her shaking.
Arnav's eyes narrowed as he reached for Khushi, drawing her to meet his smoldering gaze.
What's wrong, baby? His warm breath fanned across her trembling lips.
Khushi's eyes fluttered open. She could barely respond as he looked at her so. Umm..nothing..
Arnav smiled down at her, his eyes twinkling. Don't tell me you weren't expecting me here tonight..
Khushi shook her head, I was, but not so early. I was sure you were going to make me wait.
He shook his head slowly, leaning down to kiss her cheek hotly. I would never make you wait. We're probably out of our minds to be doing this, but I can't stay away. And you know that too, don't you, Princess? You know I can't resist you..
Khushi's heart throbbed at his quiet confession. She could no longer stay away. Her hands trembled as they reached up, cupping his stubbled cheeks. She needed him so much. Loved him so much. She slowly tilted his face so their lips met.
Soft moans escaped them both as they kissed.
Arnav drew Khushi backward, guiding her against the wall. His hands fell to her bare waist, molding her to him so not an inch of space separated them.
Khushi kissed him heatedly, her hands sliding in his wavy hair.
I love you..so much..she moaned, as his tongue traced over her bottom lip.
He lifted her up, Love you, Princess..put your legs around me..
Khushi obeyed at once, her legs tightening around his waist.
They both moaned as their hips aligned.
Oh, Arnav, said Khushi, pulling his lips to hers, Move against me, baby. Like by the flowers earlier..
Arnav's eyes sizzled down at her, but he did as she requested, his mouth turning hot and possessive over hers.
He caught her passionate cry in his mouth, moving against her restlessly. Khushi struggled to stay upright, falling into his fiery embrace. She arched up against him, her eyes closing as a tantalizing friction ignited between them.
Their kisses grew heated as passion ignited like an inferno. Arnav reached for her dupatta, drawing the flimsy white cloth away.
Khushi's eyes flew open at once. Arnav, no! she cried out, reaching out.
But it was too late, the white dupatta fluttered down from her fingers, falling on the floor between them with a soft thud.
Khushi's looked down at it with wide eyes, and then glanced up at Arnav.
He was standing rigid as his eyes traced over her, locked on her barely covered breasts.
Khushi whimpered as she turned her back toward him, a blush tingeing her cheekbones.
Khushi.. whispered Arnav, his eyes dark as he studied her, Is this why you were so anxious before?
Khushi nodded, her eyes downcast. It's..it's tight on me, she said in an embarrassed voice.
Arnav's jaw clenched.
He leaned close to her, his mouth brushing across the side of her neck.
Princess, he whispered, You're beautiful..
He leaned forward, kissing her gently.
Khushi's eyes closed tightly at his tender touch.
But Arnav was not finished. He gently turned her around, pointed toward her velvet incased chest. This is a little small on you, and I would never want you to wear it in public, he admitted, But, here, with us alone like this..it's perfect..so sexy..
Khushi's heartbeat escalated as she noticed the blatant admiration in his gaze, Really?
He nodded seriously, You're so beautiful..so sexy, it's hard for me to control myself. I want to touch you so damn much.
He glanced away, breathing harshly, his hands fisting at his sides.
Khushi stared at his half-turned, stubbled face for a second and then reached for his hands. She brought his fists to her mouth, kissing them softly. He hissed, but remained rigid, his face turned from her still.
Khushi smiled as she opened his clenched hands, laying his open palms over her breasts. I love you.
Arnav's head jerked toward her. His hands tightened on her, making her tremble.
Baby, she whispered, cupping his cheek, You are touching me now.
They both glanced down at his hands on the blue velvet.
Damn.. whispered Arnav, and then with a cry, he grabbed her, kissing her passionately, as his hands molded her soft flesh.
Khushi cried out, her body clenching as his fingers massaged the velvet relentlessly.
I need more, Khushi..tell me if you want me to stop.
Khushi nodded, her eyes dilated with passion as he watched her with hooded eyes.
Arnav kissed her hotly and then his lips traveled down her throat, moving toward the heaving, exposed upper slopes of her chest.
He kissed her skin firmly, branding his lips against her. Khushi's head thrashed against the wall as his mouth and tongue moved across her.
"Sanka Devi!" interrupted a familiar, and unwanted voice outside.
Arnav bit back his groan against Khushi's skin, his lips thinning.
What the-- Buaji just had to come now and interrupt us! he groaned.
Khushi clutched his bowed head to her chest, her heart beating wildly.
"Ye..Yes, Buaji?" she finally managed to ask.
"Khushi," said her aunt, her tone placating, "The ladies are having a dance competition now, do you want to join in?"
Arnav shook his head hard against her.
Khushi smiled naughtily, hugging him close, "Do you want me to come, Buaji?"
Arnav frowned against her. What the hell, Princess! Why are you asking her that? To annoy me purposely?
"What?" asked Buaji, "One minute, Sanka Devi, the phone's ringing." Her footsteps receded quickly.
Arnav and Khushi remained unmoving inside her darkened bedroom, Arnav's head pillowed still against her heaving chest.
Well? he prompted, his hands tightening on her hips, Why did you ask your aunt that?
Khushi shrugged, her fingers rifling through his wavy hair, Maybe just to see what you would do..if anything..
Arnav tensed against her for a moment and then smirked. Oh really? Well, then let me show you what I can do..
He moved his mouth down, enveloping her peak in the warm cavern of his mouth.
Khushi cried out, pulling his head closer.
His tongue grazed over the soft velvet, moistening it.
"Sanka Devi?" called Buaji again, "What were you saying? I didn't hear you!"
Khushi's eyes widened. She tried to moved Arnav off of her, but he just moved his mouth up to her exposed slopes.
"Uhh..I said.."
He lightly bit into her skin with his teeth in warning.
Arnav stop! said Khushi, scandalized. But he just sucked on the same spot in answer, pulling her closer. Buaji's waiting, Khushi..
Khushi struggled to finish her sentence, "No, Buaji. It's so late now, and I'm so sleepy."
Arnav grinned in triumph against her skin, kissing her with approval.
"Hmmph, that's true too. Well, good night, Khushi!"
"Good night!"
Khushi breathed a sigh of relief as her aunt's footsteps retreated.  Almost at once, loud music sounded.
Did you like that, Princess? asked Arnav, his voice husky.
Khushi nodded, leaning down to kiss Arnav.
A small giggle escaped her.
What is so funny? he asked, raising an eyebrow.
Nothing, it's just that Buaji always comes at the wrong time, doesn't she?
Arnav frowned, leaning off her. That's not funny, Khushi, it's annoying as hell.
His breathing hitched as he glanced down at her.
It feels like its been ages since I've seen you laugh so freely..with pure happiness.
Khushi curled her arms around his neck, That's because I am happy. More happy than I thought possible.
He hugged her to him, Me too. I was miserable without you..along with Taffy.
Khushi glanced at him in surprise, Taffy? Mrs. Gill's puppy?
Arnav shook his head, He's our dog now. Our wedding present from the Gills.
What? Really? said Khushi, her eyes shining, Where is he?
In Delhi, said Arnav, I wanted to bring him along, but Lucknow is pretty far. Don't worry, Princess, he's fine with HP and the other servants.
Khushi nodded, I'll see him soon, right?
The day you step inside Raizada Mansion as my wife.
At Khushi's beaming smile, Arnav leaned forward to kiss her forehead.
Come on, I'll tuck you into bed. I need to get back to Sheesh Mahal.
Khushi's eyes widened. She tugged her hand out of his grasp, looking at him in shock. What? You're leaving! But you promised you'll sleep with me.
Arnav sighed, Sweetheart, please. I came here tonight, right? We'll get to spend the night together soon, I promise.
Khushi shook her head, pouting.
Fine, go, she said, turning away, her back rigid.
Arnav frowned, retreating toward the window.
Just then, the loud music from Buaji's party changed..A slow romantic song began playing.
Arnav smiled as an idea came to him. He knew exactly how to make his princess smile again. He approached Khushi slowly, tapping her on the shoulder.
A dance, Princess..before I leave?
Khushi tried to ignore him, but she could feel the imprint of his body along her back, his warm breath fanning her hair.
Please..he murmured.
Khushi had never been able to resist him. She turned around, placing her slim hand atop his tanned, masculine palm.
Outside, the music blared even louder as they began to move..
Saans me teri saans mili toh mujhe saans aayi
Mujhe saans aayi, Mujhe saans aayi
Arnav's eyes smoldered as he pulled Khushi close..
Khushi promised herself she wouldn't let him leave as she met his gaze. Arnav had to spend the night. She wouldn't sleep unless his arms were around her.

Chapter IV: Extra 'Khush'
Khushi's fingers clenched around Arnav's billowy white shirt as he pulled her into his arms.
I love you, he said, his eyes twinkling down at her as they danced in the cramped bedroom, I love you so much, Princess.
Her throat constricted with emotion at his soft, heartfelt words. She began to tell him just how much he meant to her, how he occupied her every thought, her every dream, but he spun her in another circle, his smile so bright it left her awestruck. Never had she seen him this happy.
He pulled her suddenly close, his body colliding with hers. Khushi gasped as passion bloomed. I didn't think it was possible.. continued Arnav, caressing her bare waist with a lingering touch.
It was difficult for Khushi to speak, her body quivered in his embrace. Didn't think what was possible? she finally asked, her lips trembling as she felt his strong hold on her tighten. Her eyes closed tightly as passion unfurled.
Arnav leaned down, grazing his lips across her plump bottom lip, nipping it gently. "I didn't think it was possible to love someone this much," he breathed against her mouth, looking at her with wonder.
Khushi threw herself against him, her heart overflowing with love for this man. She cupped his face in her palms, her body lightly swaying against his. We are so lucky..you are everything and more than I ever dreamed of. I love you, baby.
His eyes shone at her, he could never get enough of those words. Khushi loved him. Him! He didn't know how she'd fallen for him. He was dark and brooding often, his mind scarred by images of the past.
And yet she, a perfect angel with all her light and love, had chosen him to spend the rest of her life with. It still staggered him. He didn't know if he deserved her, but as she cuddled against him, her lips pressing hot kisses down his throat, he vowed that he'd never let her go..that he'd always protect her, always love her..
I wish we could run away and be together, she murmured against his skin suddenly, her hands massaging his tense back, I want us to be husband and wife so much, Arnav. There was a world of longing in her quiet voice
Surprised, he raised a cool eyebrow at her. Are you the same woman who rejected me--twice!--when I mentioned eloping not too long ago? he asked, his tone mischievous.
Khushi blushingly nodded, looping her arms about his neck, It was different then. Now..she paused, gazing into his dark eyes wordlessly, I'm ready to be yours..in every way.
His heart soared at her confession. He sighed, caressing her soothingly, Don't tempt me, Princess. If I had it my way, I would get married to you tonight. But, Di and Nani really want to attend. And besides, I want you to have a complete wedding, with all the rituals, obnoxious music, annoying guests, over-the-top dancing..A ghost of a smile touched his lips.
As long as you're with me, it will be complete, argued Khushi seriously, I just want you.
Arnav couldn't control the fire that burned in his veins then. Standing in front of him was the woman he'd always loved --since he was a teenager in fact-- asking him to make her his.
His heart shook as he bent her over backwards, kissing her passionately. His lips pushed against hers urgently, his tongue plundered her mouth, his every touch marking her. And she welcomed his feverish kisses, her body molding against his. How much she ached to be his in all ways. Without thinking, she began pulling him toward her bed.
It took everything in him to stop, to pull away from his love. He stepped back slowly, his eyes noting with satisfaction her dazed expression, her heaving chest, her swollen lips..
At the question he read in her eyes, he answered, Khushi, we have to stop. At this rate, we're going to end up making love tonight.
A blush tinged her cheeks, making her so beautiful he had to clench his hands to keep from touching her. Would that be so wrong? she asked innocently, her eyes downcast.

No, never, he told her right away, brushing his hand across her soft cheek, Our love is pure and true.
She nodded, So stay then. I need you Arnav. This past month without you almost killed me--
He pressed his finger against her reddened lips, stopping her. Shh,he said softly, his eyes rueful, Sweetheart, I know how hard it was. I lived that month of hell alongside you. But you can't forget, that before becoming your fiance, I was your childhood best friend first. You've told me your dreams of a traditional wedding from the time you were just a little girl. I know what marriage means to you.. I want to fulfill your every wish. Give me the chance, love.
Khushi nodded, her eyes pooling with tears. I love you, she said, hugging him close, You're amazing you know that?
He nodded right away, his eyes lighting up as she laughed out loud. Khushi covered her mouth with her hand, her eyes flashing to her closed bedroom door. Buaji's dance party though went on without pause, lapsing into another romantic song.
Khushi sighed with relief, this time holding out her upturned palm toward Arnav. One more dance? she asked softly, Before you leave..
He swept her into his arms without a word, both of them shuddering at the heady feel of the other. This time as they danced, there was no conversation. Just two people, deeply in love, holding onto one another without restraint.
The air was charged with emotions as the final note faded. Neither was quite ready to let go.
Tears pricked Khushi's eyes as she felt him step back. It was completely illogical, but her heart shattered at the thought of him leaving.
Arnav.. she murmured softly, her voice breaking.
His gaze was turbulent as it met hers. Without a word, he kissed her tenderly on the forehead and then turned his back toward her, heading toward the corner window. He had to leave now. Another second more, and he wouldn't be able to. Good night, Khushi. I'll see you tomorrow at the picnic.
Panic assailed her as she watched him go. It was as if she was at the train station again, watching helplessly as they separated. With a small cry, she ran to him, throwing herself against his back.

He shook as he felt her pressed against him so.
Turning around, he plunged his hand in her long, flowing hair, bringing her mouth to his.
They kissed as if they were starving for each other, as if it was their first kiss since the train station.
His hands swept over her, his palms cupping the blue velvet possessively.
She pressed herself into him, her hands holding onto his broad shoulders for support. One kiss slipped into the next as their mouths met wildly.
Her eyes flew open as she felt him lift her in his arms, his mouth ravaging hers still.
He set her on the bedspread carefully, his breath hitching as she pulled at his shirt collar, urging him to cover her body with his own.
He reached for the blanket instead, tucking her in as if she was a child. Their kiss broke as Khushi glanced down at the blanket with a pout.
Arnav leaned over her, kissing her softly. Go to sleep, love. In just seven days, we'll be married and then I promise you, no one and nothing on this earth will keep me away from you.
Khushi couldn't stop the smile that crossed her face at his unyielding tone.
He kissed her one last time and then stepped away. Their eyes met as he opened her bedroom window wide: hers slightly tearful, his charged with emotions unlike ever before.
And then he was gone.
Khushi stared at the blowing curtain wordlessly, her heart twisting. It felt like her heart had been severed from her. Stop it, Khushi, she told herself, kicking the blankets off, Arnav is still close. You'll see him in just a few hours.
But try as she might, she couldn't convince her heart. His touch lingered on her, his cologne wafted in the air around her, reminding her over and over of her empty arms..her empty bed.
Why was she so emotional? she wondered as she sat up, hugging her knees to her chest. She never cried so much. But then as his thought crossed her mind again, she realized her love for him was the one thing she couldn't control.
She'd just seen him after so many sleepless nights. She wasn't ready to let him leave her sight, especially when she still couldn't believe he was finally here..in Lucknow.
She ended up sitting against the wooden headboard, her eyes closed, her legs stretched out before her as she contemplated the long, lonely night ahead.
There was a sharp intake of breath.
Khushi glanced up, her eyebrows knitting together.
But before she could even begin to fathom it, Arnav surged between her legs, holding her desperately close.
Arnav! she cried out, shocked completely.
He drew her to him, kissing her tears away. You didn't say a word, but I could sense your pain, he whispered, How the hell am I supposed to leave you? I can't.
Khushi wrapped her arms around him, snuggling close, And I can't bear to be separated from you. I kept telling myself that you're so close, that there's no reason to be emotional. She pressed her face against the crease of his neck, breathing in his scent, But it's actually worse that you're so close. All I want to do is run to Sheesh Mahal and be with you.
He kissed the top of her head, running his hand soothingly down her back. I can't stay away from you either, I'm pulled towards you.
Their eyes met. Smiles spread across both their faces.
Khushi's hands latched around his waist as if she still couldn't believe he was actually in her arms. We're quite the couple aren't we? Can't even handle one night apart.
Arnav smiled, I can't wait till you're married to me, then every night we'll spend like this.
Oh, really? teased Khushi, And here I thought you wanted to do more than this.
Arnav's gaze pierced her, scorching her with a sudden heat.Princess, I want to do a lot more..a hell of a lot more. Don't tempt me more. Now go to sleep, I'm here with you.
Khushi kissed his cheek and then pushed lightly against his chest,Let me up for a minute, I have to change. And then I'll sleep with you, Mr. ASR.
Arnav glanced down at her flimsy top, his eyes darkening.Yeah..good idea. You're barely decent.
Khushi raced to her closet, pulling out a plain, cotton pink suit. She looked at it with a frown, wishing she had something nicer. If only she'd bought some more lacy lingerie that day in the shop, instead of just that red satin cutout and black bra, she thought, biting her bottom lip.
But tonight she had nothing else.
With a sigh, she reached for her dori.
And then her eyes widened. Khushi Kumari Gupta, what are you doing!? she screamed at herself.  For a moment, she'd completely forgotten that she was not alone in her bedroom.
Her head whipped toward Arnav. He was laying comfortably on her bed, his eyes closed. Still, something made her hesitate.
Umm..Arnav..she said softly.
He turned toward her lazily, What, Princess?
But one look at the pink clothes in her hand and her flustered expression, and he was off the bed, going to her side.
You want me to turn my back towards you? he asked, his eyes twinkling as he approached her.
Khushi shrugged awkwardly, I..well..
He looked at her amused and then reached into the closet behind her, taking out a sari.
It was the same red sari she'd once worn to the office party, the night of their first kiss..
As Khushi watched perplexed he tied one end of the sari to the closed window and then swept across the room.
There..it's the best room divider I can come up with, he said, tying the opposite end of the sari onto the far wall.
They exchanged small smiles across the scarlet sari.
And then Khushi reached for her dori once more.

Arnav sat on the bed with his back to her, setting his phone and wallet on her night stand.
He fought to ignore the fact that Khushi was just feet away..undressing..
He swallowed as he heard the soft rustle of fabric..the small sigh that escaped her parted lips..
Think of Buaji! he told himself, closing his eyes tightly, Imagine Buaji!
And as if she'd heard, Khushi's aunt called out just then, "Sanka Devi, don't forget about the picnic tomorrow! Is your alarm on?"
Arnav and Khushi's heads swerved to the locked bedroom door.
"Yes, Buaji," said Khushi hurriedly, "Good night!"
"Okay, good night!"
Arnav released a pent-up breath as he heard her leave. He turned to Khushi with a knowing smile.
But all his amusement vanished as he froze, looking at her as if he'd never seen her before.
His eyes were draw to her long, sloping neck, her pale, exposed shoulders over the sari curtain.
Before his gaze could lower across the near transparent material, he forced himself to look away. He stared at the ground almost fixedly.
But a white lehenga fell to the floor just then. He watched riveted as Khushi gingerly stepped out of it, going on her tiptoes against the cold floor. Heat rushed through him as he gazed at her slim legs.
He could sense her smiling, and a quick look at her impish face proved it: She knew exactly what she was doing to him.
Since when did you become such a temptress? he asked gruffly, turning away.
Since I decided that we've kept away from each other long enough,she answered.
How the hell was he going to stay away from her tonight, wondered Arnav? He wanted to pull aside that damn curtain so much..
Think of Buaji! he commanded himself again, Think of Buaji!
Khushi giggled as she climbed in beside him, Mr. ASR, I didn't know you liked Buaji so much!
He rolled his eyes, sulking. Khushi just laughed again, I thought you'd be thinking of me! I hope there's no reason to be jealous..
Haha, so damn funny, said Arnav, but his eyes were twinkling as he gazed at her shining face.
He opened his arms, and she threw herself into them at once, burying her face against his neck. They both closed their eyes for a moment, savoring being so close.
You know..speaking of Buaji, said Arnav, She's being really nice to you tonight..checking in on you twice.
Oh, so now you're complimenting her too? While you're sleeping with me! said Khushi naughtily, Now I have reason to be jealous.
He tickled her in answer.
Stop, Arnav! she cried as they rolled on her bedspread wildly, pillows flying in all directions, Stop! Someone will hear!
After a few more strategically placed tickles, he relented, kissing her softly as he drew the blanket over their heads.

Seriously though, said Khushi, snuggling against him, You're right. Buaji has been extra nice tonight.
Maybe I should have made her apologize earlier, said Arnav with a smirk.
Khushi nodded, throwing her leg across his waist.
He smoothed his hand across her thigh, kissing her forehead.
You should sleep, he told her softly a few minutes later, It's been a long day.
The best day..she corrected, but her eyes were drowsy now.
Sleep, Princess, said Arnav, I'm here..beside you.
I love you, said Khushi as her eyes closed, I love sleeping with you.
He grinned as she snuggled closer, Me too.
Arnav didn't sleep much that night, but it was also the most peaceful night of rest he'd had in over a month.
As the morning light seeped into the room, he twitched awake, his eyes blinking open slowly.
Softness surrounded him. What the--
How had they gotten into this position? he wondered, running a hand through his hair.
Somehow, during the course of the night, Khushi had climbed over him, taking his side. Her arms and legs were thrown across him, holding him tightly even now.
He'd ended up spread across her, his face pressed against her stomach.
He untangled from her slowly, being careful not to wake her. He quietly went to the night stand, gathering his things.
Arnav..murmured Khushi sleepily, her hand searching for him.
He smoothed her hair back, covering her with the blanket.
I'm going to leave now, before anyone gets up, okay?
Khushi nodded, falling back into a deep sleep.
Arnav watched with shining eyes as she reached for his pillow, hugging it tightly.
He reached down, kissing her soundly. I love you, Princess! See you at the picnic.
Love you..she murmured, half-asleep.
And then with a last glance at her, Arnav finally headed out, jogging to Sheesh Mahal in the dim morning light.
Anjali was sipping her tea as her brother strode in, a soft smile across his face.
"Good morning, Chote!" she called, looking at him with amusement.
"Morning, Di." He reached across her, picking up an apple.
"Where have you been, Chote?" she asked, raising her eyebrow.
"Jogging.." he answered between bites, not quite meeting her eyes. An image flashed in his mind of last night with Khushi:
"Really?" asked Anjali, her eyes narrowing at him.
He shrugged uncomfortably, "Yeah..Anyway, I'm going to go shower. See you in awhile."
Anjali smiled as she watched him head for the stairs.
"Chote.." she called.
"Yeah, Di?"
Anjali shrugged nonchalantly, "Nothing..It's just that you're looking extra 'Khush' this morning.."
Arnav looked at her slightly surprised, but recovered quickly. "I am.. I am very happy, Di."
Anjali smiled as she watched him go. She closed her eyes, praying her brother got his happiness for keeps soon. Khushiji, she thought,Chote needs you.
Khushi was excitedly packing up last minute things for the picnic when she heard her mother's quiet voice talking on the phone.
"Yes.." said Garima, "I think that would be best, too..See you tomorrow."
Khushi frowned as she made her way to her.
"Who was that, Amma?" she asked quietly. It was the first time she'd spoken to her since her mother had offered to arrange her wedding with Veer Mehra.
Garima smiled slightly, looking tired. "Just the Raizadas..Akash's Naniji."
"And what did she say?" prodded Khushi, "Everything's okay at Sheesh Mahal, isn't it?"
"Of course it is," said Garima, "She just wanted to inform us that Anjali's picnic has been cancelled."
"Cancelled!" cried out Khushi, startled, "But why?"
Garima laughed, "Where have you been all morning, Khushi? Look outside! It's been raining for some time now."
Khushi frowned as she noted the pitter-patter of the rain. She hadn't noticed it till now; her mind occupied with plans of sneaking off with Arnav at the picnic.
But that was all dashed now.
Garima shook her head as passed her younger daughter. "There's no reason to be upset, we'll see them tomorrow at the mehendi."
Khushi's frown though only deepened. Her mother would never understand, but she didn't know how she'd go an entire day without seeing Arnav.
It was torture knowing he was so close, and being forced to stay away.
Nani knocked on Akash's door softly. Anjali stood behind her, a tray brimming with snacks in her hands.
"Come in!" answered two voices.
Their eyebrows knitted together as they exchanged a puzzled glance.
As Nani pushed the door open, smiles crossed both of their face as they looked at the scene inside:
Akash was sitting atop his bed, reading a book with a look of utter bliss on his face. Arnav was lounging back on the sofa, his eyes glued to his laptop.
"Oh good, you're both here," said Nani, sitting down, "Saves us a trip, doesn't it, Anjali?"
Anjali nodded, setting the tray down. She walked behind Arnav, ruffling his hair before he could block her.
She laughed at the childlike look of annoyance on his face. "Nani, doesn't Chote look extra 'Khush' today?"
As her grandson glowered at Anjali, Nani nodded seriously, her lips curved into a slight grin, "Yes, now that you mention it, he does look extra 'Khush' today. Did something special happen?"
They both erupted into giggles as they stared at Arnav.
"That's it," he said, setting his laptop down, "I'm going to my room."
"No, no..Please, stay, Chote!" said Anjali, "Okay, sorry.. now stay."
With a gruff sigh, Arnav relented. "Fine. But one more time, and I'm leaving."
Anjali turned from one brother to the next.
"And how are you, Akash?"
"Okay, Di.." he murmured, staring down at his book hard.
Arnav's lips curled. "Romeo, has a picture of Payal tucked in the pages," he whispered to his sister and grandmother.
They all laughed as they turned to look at the dreamy look on Akash's face.
I hope to God I don't look like that when I'm thinking about Khushi,thought Arnav with a shudder.
"Well, my ASRs, I have some bad news," announced Anjali suddenly, her smile dimming.
"What, Di?"
"Is everything okay?"
She shrugged. "Unfortunately you both won't get to meet your lovely soon-to-be wifeys today.. the picnic has been cancelled."
Arnav and Akash's eyes widened.
"What! Why, Di?"
"I've been looking forward to that all day! I haven't gotten to spend two minutes with Payal!"
"Have you both looked outside?" interrupted Nani, pointing to the falling rain.
Arnav shrugged, "So? The rain will stop soon. That's no reason to cancel the picnic."
"Yeah," agreed Akash, nodding fervently, "It's just a drizzle."
As if on cue, thunder sounded loudly outside.
Arnav and Akash both frowned as they looked out.
"So, nothing today?" said Akash quietly.
Anjali shook her head. "Sorry, boys.. but the mehendi is still on for tomorrow."
It damn well better be on, thought Arnav, he needed to see Khushi. This was sheer torture..being minutes away from her, and not being able to be with her. But did his family understand? Of course not, except for Romeo maybe..
"Speaking of the mehendi, we have a lot to prepare, Anjali. We should get going," said Nani.
Anjali nodded, rising to follow her.
As she closed the door behind her, glancing at her brother's somber expression, a brilliant idea came to her.
She excitedly limped to the phone, dialing quickly.
Khushi picked up right away, "Hello?"
"Hello, Khushiji, it's Anjali."
"Oh, Di, how are you?" said Khushi, smiling widely, holding the phone closer to her ear.
"I'm okay," said Anjali, "But my poor brothers are completely depressed with the picnic being cancelled."
Khushi nodded hopelessly. "Yeah, me too. Even Jiji looked upset when I told her."
"Khushiji," continued Anjali, "I have a plan in mind for us all to meet.."
"What? Really?" said Khushi excitedly, almost jumping up and down, "What is it?"
As Anjali explained, Khushi's smile widened and then dimmed. "Di..it's a great plan. But I don't think Buaji will allow it. She's very traditional, you know."
"Give her the phone, Khushiji. I'll convince her."
Khushi nodded, calling Buaji.
"And Khushiji," continued Anjali softly, "Will you do as I suggest?"
Khushi nodded, "I'm on my way there next. It feels like the right thing to do. I've been thinking of doing the same for some time now."
"Good luck!" wished Anjali.
As soon as Buaji arrived, Khushi thrust the phone at her, sprinting away without a word. Her aunt frowned, looking at her as if she'd gone crazy.
But Khushi ignored it all, hurrying to her sister's room.
She found Payal sitting forlornly beside the window, gazing at the falling rain.
Softly, Khushi shut the door and timidly approached her. "Jiji.."
Payal smiled. "Khushi. Come and sit beside me. I'm so bored."
Khushi gingerly sat opposite her, her hands twisting nervously.
"Khushi?" asked Payal, her eyebrow rising, "What is it?"
Khushi blurted it all out without a thought. "Jiji, you know my fiance in Delhi..Well, he's here."
Payal's eyes widened. "Here? In Lucknow?"
Khushi nodded, "Jiji..you've met him too."
Payal's eyes rounded even more if possible. "I have?"
Khushi looked at her apologetically. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you. We had our reasons. But I don't want to hide it from you any longer..My fiance, the man I love..is Arnav.."
"Arnav?" Payal looked flabbergasted as it hit her, "You mean Arnavji? Akash's older brother?"
"The very same."
Payal froze, considering it. And then it dawned on her. "He arranged everything, didn't he? My wedding to Akash?"
Khushi nodded hesitantly, "Please, Jiji, you mustn't tell anyone."
Payal looked thoughtful. "You know, Khushi, when you told me you were in love with someone, I wasn't too sure about it. You're just so innocent, you know? And when Amma and Babuji brought you back to Lucknow, that love made you sink into a depression. I didn't understand it then..but I do now.."
Khushi looked at her amazed, "You do?"
Payal nodded, grasping her hand. "I know what love means now. And Arnavji seems perfect for you, I'm surprised I didn't notice there was something going on between you."
Khushi beamed as it hit her: finally, someone in her family approved of Arnav.
"He's such a wonderful person, so strong and loving. I love him so much, Jiji," she gushed, "He's always on my mind."
Payal seemed surprised. "I know what you mean. I keep thinking of Akash all the time too. Is this normal, Khushi?"
"What, Jiji?"
"This feeling..I feel like I'm going to throw up every time I'm around him."
Khushi laughed, "It's just new for you. You just need to spend more time with Jijaji."
"We never get to spend any time alone. And now, the picnic is cancelled too." She looked out the window, watching hopelessly as lightning struck.
Khushi smiled. "That's the other thing I have to tell you. Anjali Di has made a brilliant plan. You will get to see Jijaji today, after all. And I'll get to see Arnav."
At Payal's amazed look, Khushi leaned forward, explaining everything.
Two hours later, Payal and Khushi stood at the door of the Gupta household, small suitcases in their hands.
"I don't know about this," said Garima, looking torn, "I've never heard of such a tradition."
Buaji shrugged, throwing her hands up. "Anjali bitiya insisted so much, otherwise I would have said no. I don't know why they want a 'Jean Oh' so badly."
"Not 'Jean Oh'" corrected Khushi, "G.N.O."
"Yeah, yeah, Sanka Devi," said Buaji, "Whatever the name is, I don't like the idea of you girls staying overnight with the Raizadas. The wedding is still six days away."
"Buaji," said Khushi, "It'll be just women at the G.N.O. And Naniji will be supervising. Everything will be fine."
Her aunt and mom still looked unconvinced, but they had no other reason to refuse.
Khushi and Payal waved at them as the car Anjali had sent over honked from the curbside.
They raced under the downpour the minute they left the house, laughing as they sat breathlessly in the warm confines of the luxury car.
"I can't believe they agreed!" said Payal as the car moved forward, the wipers swishing loudly.
"Me either!" said Khushi, "Arnav and Jijaji have no idea we're coming. I can't wait to surprise them!" Her eyes shone as she glanced out.
He'd surprised her last night, coming to her room and staying all night long.
Now, it was her turn.
Arnav and Akash were both busy on their laptops, sitting in the same positions Anjali and Nani had found them in earlier this morning.
Akash had given up on stocks and was watching a romantic Bollywood movie secretly, his black ear plugs just noticeable.
Arnav meanwhile was busy planning his honeymoon. He hadn't decided where, but he'd made some discoveries:
First, he'd realized that he wanted to go somewhere isolated..just him and Khushi. He was sick of people always interrupting them: her aunt, his sister, the neighbors..Yeah, he decided, he'd take her somewhere no one could disturb them.
So that took all the touristy places off the list.
Second, he found that he liked the idea of going somewhere warm and sunny. Where they could be outside..and wouldn't need to worry about packing too many clothes. Plus, he wanted to show Khushi what skinny-dipping was all about, as he'd promised the night of his birthday.
So that took off several more places off the map.
Third, he realized he wanted to go somewhere close. There was no way he would be able to sit on a never-ending flight. He wanted his honeymoon to start as soon as possible. So that took the entire Western Hemisphere off his list.
He was just browsing through some online reviews, when a scream made him glance up, surprised.
His eyes widened as Khushi flew across the room at him, hugging him close.
Hello, love! Surprised?
He was speechless as he stood up, pulling her into his arms.
Akash and Payal averted their eyes from the embracing couple, gazing at each other nervously.
"Payal..Hi.." mumbled Akash, rising up.
Tujhe dekha tho yeh jaana sanam..
Pyar hota hai deewana sanam..
Khushi and Arnav turned toward the sudden music with surprise.
Akash turned beet red as he realized his ear plugs had come loose. He hurriedly bent down, turning down the volume on his laptop.
"I thought you were checking stocks," said Arnav, grinning. Khushi buried her face against Arnav's chest to control her laughter, her body shaking.
Payal though just sweetly smiled. "Akash.."
"Yes, Payal.."
"Hello!" interrupted Anjali, smiling broadly, "Sorry, my dear brothers, but I've come to collect my sister-in-laws. They're here for a Girls' Night Out..here at Sheesh Mahal. I've called some other friends too."
"What?" said Arnav, his arms tightening around Khushi reflexively, "That's not fair, Di. They just got here."
"Yeah," said Akash, "Can't you give us five minutes alone, please." He crouched down, pleading in front of her dramatically.
Anjali laughed, "I'll give you fifteen. Time starts now."
Arnav grabbed Khushi's hand, leading her to his room without pause.
"Arnav!" she cried blushing.
What? he said, his feet never slowing, I'm giving Akash and Payal some time alone.
She rolled her eyes as she followed him down the hall, Sure you are..
Now, don't fight with me. We have fifteen minutes. And I want to make the most of it.
Really? said Khushi, blushing.
Yeah, answered Arnav matter-of-factly, I have a feeling Di is going to keep us away from your girl's night.
Yes she will, said Khushi, Only girls allowed. Sorry, baby.
He shrugged, his eyes twinkling at her as he pulled her into his spacious master bedroom, kicking the door shut behind them. No problem. You can spend all the time you want with those girls. But tonight..
Hmm..murumured Khushi, entwining her arms around his neck.
He kissed her thoroughly, hungrily..Tonight, you'll spend with me.
Are you asking me to sleep with you? teased Khushi.
Damn right, he said against her lips, I'll come down there and pick you up in my arms myself if I have to, but you're sleeping with me tonight.
Khushi smiled as she leaned into his touch, rising to kiss his cheek.
Yes, Mr. ASR..always..
And then no words were spoken, as Arnav pushed her down on the mattress, covering her body with his, their mouths meeting feverishly.

Chapter 5: Drunk?!
Anjali stood waiting in the hallway, her eyes trained on her wristwatch. Around her neck was a simple chain, a metal whistle dangling from its end.
"Anjali, what are you doing standing like that?" asked Nani from the stairs, her eyebrows raised. "The guests will be arriving any moment."
Anjali spun around, her heart beating fast. She hadn't told anyone else about the 15 minutes she'd given her brothers. She smiled extra brightly. "Oh, Nani, could you please welcome them? I'll be right down."

"Please, Nani.." Her eyes pleaded with her grandmother's.
"Fine, Anjali. But, hurry."
Anjali nodded at once, a sigh of relief escaping her as she was left alone again in the narrow hallway. She glanced down at her watch: Two minutes were left.
Should I interrupt them? wondered Anjali. She didn't want Nani to get too suspicious. She was just about to knock on the doors when her cell phone buzzed.
"Hello?" she answered hesitantly. No one really called her except Chote. And from what she knew, Chote couldn't possibly be calling her right now.
The voice on the other end was all business though. "Hi, Ms. Raizada. Sorry to disturb you, this is Aman, Mr. ASR's personal assistant."
"Of course, I know--"
"I have an important message for Mr. ASR, but I can't get through his phone," cut in Aman hurriedly, "Please tell him to call me right away, it's very urgent."
"Okay, I'll let him know," promised Anjali, looking confused as the call was disconnected.  Urgent message? She hoped it was nothing too serious.
She glanced at her watch again. 30 seconds were left, so she let them have it.
She looked up with a wide smile, but her brothers' doors remained firmly shut.
With an amused shake of her head, Anjali hobbled toward Arnav's room first.
It was very quiet inside, but just as she was about to knock, Arnav's husky voice broke out from within, "Khushi..your hair..your eyes..you're so sexy, love.." The conversation elapsed into soft moans.
Turning bright red, Anjali wrenched herself away. Okay, maybe Arnav could use a minute or two extra. She decided to go to Akash and Payal first.
She tentatively neared his bedroom door. His voice rang out loud and clear, "Payal..I really love your buaji's food..lunch..dinner..it's so yummy.."
Anjali covered her mouth with her mouth, giggling. Okay, maybe Akash could use a few extra minutes--or more like a lot of extra minutes-- too.
She waited about three minutes more and then brought the whistle to her mouth, blowing as hard as she could.
Arnav and Khushi almost knocked their heads together as what seemed to be a fog horn sounded outside.
What is that? cried Khushi, clapping her hands over Arnav's ears.
He covered hers, looking toward his door with a frown. Di..I think.
Khushi's eyes widened. She pushed at his chest urgently. Let me up. God, what must she be thinking?
Arnav shook his head naughtily, refusing to move. No, not yet. First, kiss me, he demanded.
She looked at him shocked. What? Arnav, behave! We just kissed--and a lot! She pushed him again. Let me up now.
He thrust her back against the mattress, holding her firmly. Kiss me first, princess.
Khushi shook her head, her eyes glinting impishly. You can't always get your way, Mr. ASR.
Watch me, he murmured, leaning down toward her parted lips. Khushi closed her eyes, unable to push him away any longer. Her legs entwined with his, her hands slipped into his wavy hair, pulling him closer.
They were just about to kiss when the whistle blew again, louder this time.
Anjali knocked on the door outside. "Time is up, Chote! Please, don't make me come in there."
"Coming, Di!" called Arnav, although his eyes remained locked with Khushi's. He had no intention of letting her go without one more heated kiss. He bent over her, but Khushi pushed him back, squirming underneath him.
Arnav, stop it! Di's waiting! she said, scandalized.
One minute more is not a big deal, he said, keeping her pressed into the bed, And baby, you better stop squirming like that, otherwise we'll not leave this room for a long while.
Khushi flushed and then leaning up, kissed him swiftly on the cheek.
There! You got your kiss, Raizada, she said, Now let me up!
"CHOTE! Khushiji?" called Anjali.
Arnav growled as he straightened up. Khushi practically leapt off the bed, grabbing her dupatta from the floor as she hurried to the door.
Arnav grabbed her wrist before she could make it, twisting her around.
Arnav! Baby, please!
But he just gazed at her mesmerized, Shh..one second.. He cupped her face in his palm, his fingers stroking across her reddened lips.

Khushi's heart raced at the look in his eyes. Part of her wanted to push him back onto the mattress and kiss him endlessly.
But Arnav simply massaged her slightly swollen lips, and smoothed down her hair.
There..at least now you don't look like I've completely ravished you,he muttered, his lips curving into a pleased grin.
Khushi touched her face self-consciously. This is so embarrassing,she told him as she imagined the scene outside, And it's all your fault!
Arnav shrugged. If a bit of awkwardness meant he could make out with Khushi for a good 25 minutes, he'd take that deal any day! She was so beautiful..so amazing.. His eyes drifted over her adoringly and then paused at the side of her exposed neck. A small reddish mark was beginning to form there. His eyes twinkled as he noted the evidence of his touch on her.
Oh, Princess-- But Anjali knocked once more just then and without waiting another second, Khushi threw open the bedroom door wide.
Anjali, Akash, and Payal stood waiting outside, looking at them curiously.
Khushi froze with embarrassment, her eyes darting away.
But nothing seemed to faze the man behind her. She could sense him smiling. "Sorry we're late," said Arnav casually. His hand fell across Khushi's tense back, massaging the soft skin sneakily.
Khushi looked at him warningly, but Anjali grabbed her hand, pulling her away.
"Khushiji has nothing to be sorry for," said Anjali firmly, "I know it must have been you, Chote!"
"No, Di, it was all Khushi." Right, Princess?
Khushi narrowed her eyes at him. "Come on, Di. It's time for our girls' night out. No men allowed." Got that, Raizada?
Their gazes clashed heatedly.
Arnav began to say something, but Payal jumped between them just then, confusing him completely. She smiled up at him shyly. "Khushi told me about you both. Welcome to the family, Arnavji."
"Thanks," he murmured, genuinely surprised. He hadn't really noticed her presence till now.
That's because your mind is always filled with you-know-what, said Khushi, shaking her head at him.
Arnav smirked, glancing out the corner of his eye at her. Filled with what? Explain it to me, Princess..in detail..
A blush tinged Khushi's cheeks. She turned away with a toss of her long hair, looping her arm through Anjali's. "Let's go, Di. I'm so excited for this G.N. O.!"
As his sister led Khushi and Payal away, Arnav leaned against the doorframe, his eyes trained on his love.
Hey Princess..
I'm ignoring you, she said, firmly. Do you have any idea how embarrassing that was? I couldn't even look at Jijaji! You can't always have your way, Arnav.
Fine, ignore me. Let's see how long that lasts.
Khushi glanced over her shoulder, their eyes locking as he smirked. God, thought Khushi, how was she supposed to scold him when he looked like that! Damn, his good looks.
As she descended the stairs, Arnav jogged after her, stopping at the railing.
By the way, love, I would cover your neck a bit more on the right side.
Khushi's eyes rounded as she clapped a hand over her neck, adjusting her dupatta hastily. A memory of his stubble, lips, and tongue over the tender spot flashed through both of their minds.
This is all your fault, Arnav! she said with a scowl.
He grinned slyly, the corner of his mouth turning up. You still owe me a kiss, Khushi. That cheek one doesn't count.
You're not getting one anytime soon.
His grin widened. Oh, love yes I am. I always get my way.
Not this time, said Khushi.
"Chote!" chided Anjali, "You can't stand up there and spy on us! Only girls allowed." Khushi nodded, her eyes meeting his amused gaze. "Some people just don't understand, Di.." she murmured.
Anjali's eyes flew between them. A small smile crossed her face. Never had she seen two people more in love than Chote and his Khushi.
"Agree completely, Khushiji," she said, "Chote, leave your soon-to-be wifey alone now. Or I'll.." She waved her whistle at him warningly.
Arnav's eyes widened. "Fine, I'm going, alright? Just don't blow that whistle again, Di! I feel like my ears are still ringing."
His eyes raked over Khushi one last time as he turned away, tracing over her petite form very thoroughly.
Khushi quaked slightly, but controlled her yearning for him. Stop looking at me like that, she chided, I know what you're doing, love. It won't get you your kiss.
We'll see, said Arnav arrogantly. And then with a last wink at her, walked away.
"Chote!" called Anjali behind him as she suddenly remembered, "There was a call from the office! Some important message."
Arnav nodded, "I'll handle it, Di." See you soon, baby.
See you, replied Khushi grudgingly, not able to keep the smile off her face as her eyes traced over his tall, lean retreating form. Goodness, he shouldn't be that good looking, she decided. It was so hard to stay mad at him. Her eyes twinkled with mirth as she made up her mind to not give him that kiss so easily.
Arnav kicked open the door to Akash's room, his eyes narrowing as he noticed Akash pacing before the bed.
"Bhai!" cried Akash, jumping towards him. "I ruined it, Bhai. I totally wasted the 15 minutes!"
Arnav rolled his eyes, relaxing back on the sofa. He reached for the pitcher of orange juice on the coffee table, pouring himself a tall glass.
"It couldn't have been that bad," he murmured absently, still lost in Khushi and their 15 minutes-or more like 25 minutes in his room. It took everything in him not to go downstairs, pick her up in his arms, and take her somewhere no one would disturb them.. for hours and hours..
Akash shook his head, his eyes panicky behind his glasses. "It was bad, very bad. I don't even want to remember half the things I said to Payal..you know, voluntary amnesia or something.."
Arnav took another sip of his drink, glancing toward his phone.
"I think I talked about Buaji's potatoes most of the time," admitted Akash.
Arnav's head snapped up, he almost choked on the orange juice. "You what?"
Akash nodded, looking depressed.
"You need to make the most of every minute, Akash. Why the hell would you talk about vegetables?"

Akash ran a hand through his hair, deep in thought. "Well, to be fair, she asked me what I liked. And I thought to compliment her on the food she made--I read that in a book: 15 Secrets to Pleasing Your Wife. But see, then I realized that she hadn't cooked for me yet. It was Buaji. So I.."
"So you talked about Buaji?" asked Arnav incredulously.
"I think so," said Akash, scratching his head, "At least from what I remember. My memory's a little foggy about what exactly happened. But this is bad, right? I should have complimented her somehow. If only I could talk to her for a minute."
Arnav shook his head. "Don't even think of going downstairs right now. Di's walking around with that whistle of hers. Really, it's a Girl's Night Out."
Akash sighed hopelessly and then turning on his laptop, flopped back on his bed.
Downstairs, Khushi was finding it hard to turn her thoughts from Arnav as she sat beside her sister and his sister. Nani and Mami had already retired to their rooms. She was contemplating a plan to sneak into his room when the doorbell rang.
"That must be Anjali Di's friends," whispered Payal. Khushi nodded.
Two girls entered the room, rushing to hug Anjali close.  Anjali smiled as she pulled them toward the Gupta sisters, "These are my best friends: Sarah and Juhi. And these are my beautiful sister-in-laws, Payal and Khushi."
Everyone exchanged smiles. Sarah looked back and forth between the two quizzically. "And which one of you is in love with Chote?"
Payal pointed toward Khushi before Khushi could say a word. Anjali's friends looked at her with raised eyebrows. "Oh you poor dear!" said Juhi, smiling wide, "Really? You don't have a fever or something do you?"
Sarah hushed her, turning to Khushi apologetically, "Ignore her, Khushi. It's just that we've seen our dear Chote grow up. He's like a younger brother to us too."
Juhi nodded, "That's why we were so surprised when Anjali told us. I honestly didn't think Arnav would ever get married. He's always so business-like you know. I can't believe he fell in love. You must be very special, Khushi."
"Oh, you should see Chote now," interrupted Anjali with a wink.
"Good," said Juhi, "I hope he's at least a bit romantic with you, Khushi."
Khushi nodded with a blush. But Payal answered, "He's very romantic..The way he looks at her.."
The girls turned toward Khushi, amazed. "Wait a minute, are we talking about Arnav Singh Raizada? The man that walks like this.."
Khushi burst out laughing at their impression. "It's actually more like this," she said, demonstrating, "But he has another side to him.." She smiled as she thought of her Arnav. Sure he was at times ASR, but she loved that side of him just as much.
As everyone laughed, the doorbell rang again. "That must be the women from the salon," said Anjali, "I've arranged for manicures and pedicures for all of us."
Sarah squealed, hugging Anjali. "Oh, I can't wait!"
"I'll go get a movie to watch," said Juhi, running toward the giant flat screen TV.
Khushi smiled as she relaxed into the plush sofas, wondering what Arnav was up to.
Arnav was making more honeymoon plans when he noticed the six missed calls on his phone. He called back Aman at once.
"Hey, Aman. Sorry, my phone was on silent. Anything important?"
Aman hesitated. "Boss, the Japan deal hit a set-block. I think you'll have to go personally."
"Sure," said Arnav, "When?"
"In around 10 days."
Arnav stilled. "10 days? No, Aman I can't. I'll be on my honeymoon then. Tell them to reschedule."
"Boss, I've tried everything, believe me. You have to go."
"Well, I can't," said Arnav firmly. He'd imagined a good two weeks at some secluded beach house with Khushi. No way he'd let that dream go.
Aman sighed. "Look, Boss. As your employee, I'll follow whatever you say. But as your friend, I'm telling you that this deal is very important. It could open a whole new market for AR Designs."
Arnav ran a hand through his hair. "Aman, look, I've been to Japan a few times now. It's a beautiful, crowded cosmopolitan. I just don't want my honeymoon there."
"What if I find the perfect place?" suggested Aman, "Just send me your requirements, and I'll figure something out."
Arnav agreed hesitantly. "This isn't final though. I need to speak to Khushi too," he said as he hung up, emailing Aman all that ideas he'd come up with so far.
"Akash!" he called suddenly, "Akash!"
His cousin looked up surprised. He removed his ear phones, pausing the movie. On the laptop's screen, a drunk Devdas was calling out for his love. "What, Bhai?"
"If I say Japan, what's the first thing you think of?"
Akash frowned, thinking hard. "Umm, sushi?"
Arnav closed his eyes hopelessly. Yeah, a honeymoon in Japan didn't sound the least bit romantic.
"I'm hungry too, Bhai," said Akash, "Good idea. I'm going to call down to the kitchen for some sushi and drinks. Your usual, right Bhai?"
Arnav didn't hear him, his mind on his honeymoon. He was about to call Aman back when he sensed Khushi crying.
Without a word, he was on his feet, heading downstairs.
The living room was pitch black as he entered, on the TV some movie was playing.
The girls were all sitting on the floor, their eyes glued to the screen.
Arnav squinted as he tiptoed closer.
He heard Khushi's sniffle before he saw her. She was sitting the furthest back, her shoulders shaking slightly in the darkness.
Without a word, Arnav sat crossed-legged behind her, and then lifted her into his lap with one quick tug.
Anjali frowned, glancing toward Khushi. She could barely make out her shape in the darkness. "Everything okay, Khushiji?" she asked.
"Uh.. just fine, Di. I was just so caught up in the movie."
Anjali nodded, turning back toward the screen.
The minute her back turned, Khushi wrapped her arms around Arnav, holding him tight.
He kissed her neck and then brushed the tears from her face.Princess, why are you crying? What happened?
Oh, Arnav. This is the saddest movie I've ever seen. I don't think I can handle such stuff. I should just stick with Salman Khan.
Arnav frowned as he glanced at the colorful scene: some old man was leading a plump boy along. Umm..Khushi, it's an animated movie. I don't think it's that serious.
She shook her head, It's so sad though. He and his wife were so in love, like us. And then she died.. Tears pooled in her eyes.
Arnav couldn't help but grin slightly in the darkness. Leave it to Khushi to sob during a movie like 'Up.'
Shh, he murmured, If it's true love, it's never goodbye.
Khushi nodded. She turned in his lap, snaking her arms around his neck. I love you, Arnav.
And I love you, he murmured, covering her mouth with his. She seemed to have forgotten all about ignoring him, he thought as he kissed her thoroughly.
I have to ask you something, he said as they parted.
What? He could just make out her eyebrows rising in the dim light.
About the honeymoon..I've been planning things, but I want to know what you want too.
Khushi paused, leaning against his chest for a moment. She kissed him softly as she said, I have only three requirements, love.
What, Princess? I'll make it happen. Just tell me whatever you want.
I want you, a bed, and a locked door, she replied matter-of-factly, smiling.
Stunned, he stared down at her in the darkness, leaning down to kiss her thoroughly. Perfect, Khushi. I want just that too.
A loud whistle sounded. The lights snapped on.
Oh no.. 
Damn it--
Khushi flushed as the girls all looked at them, amused. She scooted off Arnav's lap hastily.
"Well, well, well. So I guess it is true," said Juhi, "You really have changed, Chote!"
Arnav rolled his eyes at his sister's friends as Anjali blew the whistle again.
"No men allowed, Chote!"
"Yeah, yeah. I'm leaving," he glanced at Khushi one last time. "Love you.." he mumbled as he took the stairs two at a time.
And I love you, Raizada.
Anjali shook her head as she watched them. They were so adorable, so completely in love.
"Ma'am.." said one of the new servants, "Your juice.."
Anjali smiled as she passed a large glass to each of the girls.
Upstairs, Akash wondered why the alcohol and juice drinks he'd asked from the kitchens didn't seem so strong.. He shrugged, downing them anyway.
The movie had just ended and the five girls were lounging about, giggling every now and then.
"This is so good.." said Khushi, downing another glass. She shot her hand straight up. "One more for me, please!"
"Khushiji! That's your third glass!"
Khushi smiled bemusedly, "I don't know how, Di, but this is the best juice ever!" She dissolved into a fit of giggles along with the other girls.
"Time for a game," said Sarah, clapping her hands.
"What game?" asked Payal, tottering slightly.
"It's easy," said Sarah, her eyes slightly unfocused, "We each are asked a question about the man we love. And we have to tell the truth. If your answer's good, you don't have to do anything. If it's bad, the others can ask you to do anything. Winner gets these silky night gowns."
Khushi's eyes popped out. She suddenly remembered her plain cotton suits. "You have to win, Khushi Kumari Gupta soon-to-be Raizada!" she told herself quietly, although her voice came out very loud.
"I don't think I get it," said Anjali, feeling a little dizzy, but very happy.
"But I'm not in love with anybody," cried Juhi, moaning, "Am I out?" She looked like she was about to cry.
"No, no," said Sarah, her words slurring a bit. "Just imagine a celebrity or someone you wish you were in love with instead."
"Okay, first question goes to Payal!"
Payal looked shocked. "Me! But I can't answer anything about Akash. I haven't met him enough. Buaji is always interrupting us." She looked down at her lap forlornly.
"Then call this Buaji!" shouted Juhi, her voice extra loud, "Right now! Tell her how you feel."
"I don't know..Khushi?"
Khushi smiled widely, laughing. "I think it's a great idea, Jiji. She's always interrupting me and Arnav too."
Anjali dialed the number, putting the phone on speaker.
Buaji answered at once. "Hai re nandkishore, who is it so late?"
Payal giggled, "It's me me me! You need to get a boyfriend, and leave us alone!"
"What!" cried Buaji, her eyes widening "Who is this? Is that you, Mrs. Dangu?"
Anjali disconnected the line right away, as they dissolved into fits of laughter, rolling on the floor.
"That was brilliant!"
"Who's Mrs. Dangu?"
"Okay, next is Juhi!" They all turned to her, but she was fast asleep on the floor, her cheek pressed against the carpet, her mouth open wide.
Khushi was sitting beside her and poked her with a finger. "Ju..wake up, Ju.."
Sarah grabbed her hand away, "Let her sleep, Khushi. Next can be Anjali instead!"
"I don't have anything to say either," said Anjali, shaking her head, "The man I love doesn't even know I exist."
"Oh please, Di," said Payal, hugging her close. Her head pressed against hers. "Who wouldn't love you? You have the best blouses and saris.."
"I know, right?" said Anjlai, downing another glass, "But he always ignores me. I've loved him for so long now."
"Call him! Call him! Call him!" sang Khushi, passing her the phone.
Anjali frowned and then looked at the phone with determination. "Yeah, I will. Who does he think he is anyway?"
She dialed a number on speakerphone.
"Hello?" answered Aman, his voice crisp and business-like.
"I love you!" shouted Anjali before disconnecting quickly.
Payal, Sarah, and Khushi looked at her bewildered and then started laughing loudly.
"You didn't say your name," said Khushi, giggling, "What if he thinks it's some animal from the zoo calling?
"I love zoos, especially monkeys," said Sarah seriously, "Let's go to a zoo everyone!"
"Oh God," interrupted Anjali, tears coming in her eyes, "What if he recognized my voice?"
Payal shook her head, "He can't. You sounded different."
"Different? How different?"
"Just different different.. right, Khushi?"
Khushi nodded, passing Anjali another glass. She watching happily as Anjali laughed bemusedly. "Your turn, Khushiji!"
"I know everything about Arnav," said Khushi proudly, "We talk in our minds you know."
"Me too!"
"Me three!"
"Me five!" said Anjali.
"Fine, Khushi," said Sarah, "If you know everything, than tell us this: boxers or briefs?"
Anjali clapped her hands over her eyes, "I don't want to hear this!"
Khushi frowned, thinking. But her mind felt all floozy. "I..can't remember," she finally admitted.
"Go find out! Go find out!" chanted Juhi suddenly, waking up from her nap. They all shrieked as she rose from the carpet like a zombie, and then the others clapped along, "Go find out! Go find out!"
Khushi nodded. She stood up unsteadily, swaying. "I'll be right back, girls! Don't drink my juice while I'm gone!"
They nodded, laughing as they watched her go upstairs.
Khushi felt giddy as she strode into Arnav's room. It was empty but a light shone under the bathroom door.
Hiccupping, Khushi headed to the closest, throwing it open. She pulled at the drawers, looking for boxers or briefs.
The faucet in the bathroom turned off just then. She glanced back in time to see the door knob being turned. Without a thought, she climbed into the closet, shutting the door behind her.
Arnav walked into his bedroom, glancing around. It was weird, but it felt like Khushi was near. He could almost smell her perfume in the still air.
He opened his closet, pulling out a jacket. His phone rang just then.
"Yeah, Aman."
"Boss, I think I found the perfect place in Japan. It's completely private and almost beach like."
Arnav nodded. "Great, text me everything," he instructed cutting the call.
Arnav was just about to step away, when a hiccup sounded behind him.
He froze, his eyes narrowing.
A second later, he was back at his closet, throwing it open wide. His eyes rounded as he looked inside..
What the-- Khushi!
With a whimper, Khushi clapped her hands over her face, hiding from him.
Arnav pulled her hands away, Princess, what the hell are you doing in my closet?
Khushi glanced away and then giggled. Boxer or briefs, baby?
What?! For once, Arnav was completely confused.
Khushi smiled at him, snaking her arms around his neck. "I'm playing a game," she said out loud, "And I want to win.. I have to. Tell me, boxers or briefs, two Arnavs?"
"Two what?"
Khushi blinked, looking confused as she pointed to his right. Arnav 1 and Arnav 2.
Arnav came closer. His eyes widened as he smelled the alcohol on her breath. Have you been drinking? he asked, dumbfounded.
Khushi nodded fervently. It's the best fruit juice ever! You should have it too..but tell me na, boxers or briefs? Otherwise..you can't sleep with me!
A small smile crossed Arnav's face as he looked at her cute, angry expression. Boxers.. Now come on, let's get you down.
NO! shouted Khushi, staying firmly inside the closet, You have to lift me out.
Arnav shook his head, opening his arms towards her.
NO! shouted Khushi again, On your back!
Arnav sighed, turning around. Khushi giggled, throwing her arms around his neck as he picked her up.
She was laughing as he set her carefully down on the bed. I've wanted to do that since I was a kid, she recalled, stretching back against the bedspread.
Okay, calm down, Princess, said Arnav, brushing her hair out of her face, Now tell me, how many glasses did you have?
She threw her hands up to, indicating six. Arnav looked at her surprised.
Khushi, you really..I can't believe it, he said laughing.
Khushi threw her hands across his neck, pulling him down. Stop laughing! Kiss me now!
Baby, you've had too much to drink. Just relax, okay?
NO! You always stop us! At this rate, I'll never be a mommy.
Arnav choked as Khushi continued without pause, I want lots of kids, Raizada. That look like you. And you better give me them!
Promise, he said, his eyes twinkling. Now, just close your eyes. He patted her forehead, trying to keep her in place.
Khushi suddenly started crying. You'll still love me, right, when I'm pregnant? You called me an elephant once.
That was a joke Khushi, of course I'll still love you.
Are you sure? She suddenly shot out of the bed before he could stop her, grabbing a pillow. She stuffed it under her suit, modeling in front of him. What about now? Love me still?
Arnav was shaking with laughter, Yes, I love you..even more now.
Khushi finally nodded, closing her eyes as she walked into his arms.Arnav..baby, I don't feel so good now..
Shh, just rest, he patted her head. Carefully, he tucked her back into bed, covering her with the blanket. Within seconds, Khushi was fast asleep.
Arnav was still smiling as he made his way downstairs. His eyebrows rose as he saw his sister, her friends, and Payal fast asleep on the sofas. He headed back upstairs, stopping at Akash's door.
"Hey, fyi, I think the drinks you sent for ended up at the G.N.O instead. I think Payal could use you downstairs. Coast is clear now."
Akash practically ran past him. "Thanks, Bhai!"
Arnav nodded, walking back to his darkened bedroom. Khushi was still sound asleep, snoring softly. He grinned as he climbed in beside her, holding her lightly in his arms.
Khushi..Khushi.. he thought with wonder, bending down to kiss her peaceful face, Would she ever stop surprising him? He hoped not.
Love you, Princess, he murmured before closing his tired eyes too.

To Continue reading Mind Games Click Tab above


  1. Tina! This is sooo exciting! I'm glad you started the second volume!

    You probably have nooooo idea who I am. I don't usually comment on I-F. I'd rather comment on people's blogs, so here I am :D

    Can't wait for more!

  2. Oh God!! i have been checking your blog religiously to see if you updated your FFs. This one by far is one of my favs - and i have read quite a few on IF!! Please do update soon!!

  3. deal broken...seriously khushi family make me think they are useless as parents...march2011 if

  4. Aww... She called out to him... Soooo sweet... And he responded.... Loving your story...

  5. ur ff's r seriously much better than the drama itself....beautiful write up.....:)

  6. Woww can't wait for more!

  7. jst speechless....u r an awesome writer

  8. Yaay I am glad you continued it. Poor Arnav not knowing what to do except missing her. Khushi finally called out to him. I didn;t understand why the family has such a big issue with Arnav? Is it only because of the money? They could have still met him just to see why Khushi is so adamant on marrying Arnav.

  9. That was wonderful.
    Arnav is indeed Khushi's prince.He is here to take her.
    Excited for the future parts





  11. awww i love thiss!!!!!!!!

  12. loved both the updates....love arnav in ASR mode...it always works...hehe
    cont soon

  13. Wow what a story... It's so different their bond, the way they communicate everything. You are such a nice writer and amazing with words.... Do update soon really anxious to know what happens further.

  14. awesome update loved it beautifully done asr is here and veer my boy better watch your self because asr does not share and mami disgusting he had to gave her 25% so payal could marry akash awesome update loved it thanks for the pm

  15. Hi TINA!!

    woah!! i read all of Mind Games today!!
    and i just loved it !!
    sucha different concept!!i found it all amusing when i started it off!!
    but this was exciting ... never heard of sucha thingy before... just brilliant!! ha ha
    I loved it dear!!
    and now cant wait for the next update!! please please update soon!!

  16. awwww loved this! arnav in ASR mode aha ;)

  17. superb update tina.......can't wait for the next one

  18. Luv ur ff but cant find d next part:(

  19. why arnt u updating ? :(

  20. Good God, that VEER - somebody run him over with a car.

    Loved the update sweetie - still giving me goosebumps :)


  22. When are you update wanna read more.. Great story!! Continue plz

  23. Wow Tina! This was really a mind blowing and risky episode. Loved every little bit of it. Loved how ASR took over and made Payal's engagement happen. Poor Arnav! He has it really bad. And Kushi, why is she risking everything. What if they are found out? What if Veer makes Buaji see things. Geez, Kushi should really listen to Arnav. It's just to damn risky! I'd like to know how they are going to be married on the same day as Payal/Akash? That her family never cared for her is pretty obvious even to Arnav, but they will for sure raise a stink when they find out! And will they allow her to be married to him? Or perhaps because of Payal , they will have no choice. I hope that stupid Veer does not do something. Thanks for the PM. Have been waiting for a long tie for both your fantastic FFs. Glad to know Shameless is coming soon. Waiting....

    kbtr (IF)

  24. OMG!!! OMG!!

    Finally an update on MG!!

    I love u Tina!!

    Thats truly some midnight magic!!

    All the way i was so tensed abt this Veer guy!! but thankfully nothing happened ... however i cant be sure of this in the future ...
    ohh MG always plasters a wid grin on face as i read ....

    oh! so Arnav actually stays back?!? wonder whats next!!
    also so looking fwd to to the trip that anji's arranged.. :)

    bring it on gal!!
    waiting fro the next update!!


  25. wow it was a lovely update and a very romantic update.....loved it loved it like hell i use these two extreme words to show their intensity as u have showed it in there love......after reading the update i was feeling i m gaining a lot of calories nd to be honest i was a little wet too wid your detailing i was imagining too many wild things.....wondering how would khushi and arnav manage to marry on the same day ....i think during his stay he would make them realise thay should imp. To khushi and love her unconditionally ......he would provide her respect which she deserves....i hope they dont gt caught while trying to sleep together.....it really was an awesome update....continue soon ....thnx for the pm....commented on IF as well .....GOD BLESS U.......love u tk care....
    Keep smilin......

  26. WOW Tina!! this is amazing .The way you wrote this FF is beautiful. Thank You for writing this beautiful FF.

  27. OMG I love this second volume of MG!!

    So Khushi and Arnav are going to be married! The scene between them in chapter III was just so sensual :-) so hot!! So glad Khushi reached out to contact him with her mind and he came for her.

    I hope no other obstacles are in their way now! And Taffy is a wedding present - sooo cute!!

    Cannot wait for more!


  28. Lovely update... Adore Mind Games Part 2 as much as Part 1. Do update soon... Please!

  29. I love their talks through minds..Khushi is becoming mroe bolder...cool!

  30. tinaaaa... it was AMAZING..!!!!
    all the time i was reading it ma heart was in ma mouth LITERALLY.!
    ohh i so loved it.! i soo missed them though. but you really kept them alive here. loved it.

  31. Amazing update! Loved it so much.
    I am so happy that you are continuing it with vol 2.
    Do update soon.

  32. wonderful story.love it.

  33. OH wow! What a way to start the new year. Amazing chapter.I just read this update and was floored. Khushi is indeed going to keep Arnav on his toes. Way to go K! Please update soon.

  34. yipeee
    and more yipeee
    and sorry gotta do it again
    double the yipeee
    man you are back with extra dosage of MG haiyye main mar jawan
    of course he is looking extra khushi ppl
    after all he met his fiance after so long so he is bound to be extra khush
    after the separation of this long its only natural for them both to be happy
    so he didnt leave her huh for the night
    and spent it with her but not the way her family would have seen it
    aww am so glad they are able to spend more time with each other
    and that arnie has already started planning of their HM
    but where can they go as the destinations dont seem to match what he wants
    as in isolation not too far warm climate
    hmmm well we still have seven days till we need to go for HM
    but i likes how anji managed to get the girls here for NGO
    and i was like what the hell is that till you told us what it was
    so this time it will be her turn to visit his room at night awww
    am glad that khushi told payal about her fiance being arnie
    now they both are in the same boat missing their other halves
    well that sure was remedied by anji naa by inviting them for a girl night
    and she told her buaji its tradition in their family
    now thats a good one anj no really
    cant wait for more of this
    and this mindless reader will wait for the next installment

  35. wow... A&K are getting too naughty.. loved how Anjali helped her brothers.. devdas kahin ke..

  36. Ouh!!!
    that was soo gud!!
    loved it a lot!!!

    cant wait for the next!!

    IF id arushi_fan

  37. TINA u r the best!!!!!!!!!!!! i love u! i love MIND GAMES! the best story i have ever read keep up the great work u r the best this was a great update THANK U SO SO SO SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much


  38. lovely update tina....Love the way you present the love between them....

  39. lovely update
    superb story
    looooooooooooooovely story
    just dont have words 2 say
    just brilliant
    update next chap soon plzzz.....i ll be waiting..!!:)

  40. lovely update dear.....Buaji is horrible isnt she ? Garima is also so selfish and Shashi too.....always thinking of only Payal....

    Khushi and ASR shudnt wait now.... just do a simple ritual and then let all the elaborate thing happen later......that way Veer wont be able to do much, else i think he will soon find out and poison Bua's mind against ASR

  41. loved the update..i so love this arnav..he is so caring and loving..the way he treats khushi is so endearing..he actually treats her like a princess...love aakash too..he is too cute...
    anjali is a darling sis..arnav and aakash are lucky brothers to have her...
    can't wait for the next update
    cont soon

  42. thanks everyone for the comments above! really means a lot to me and makes me want to update sooner rather than later :)

  43. awesome, loved it!

  44. As always -FRIKKIN' AWESOME!!! that was just mind blowing. I cracked up on the boxers and briefs discussion- that was priceless!! The prank calling Buaji and Aman were hilarious too. Can't wait for the next part....

    1. haha thanks: ) writing drunk khushi is super fun

  45. hahahaaa...

    She drank wine instead of juices...

    And Akash, Talking about buaji and potatoes!! Hilarious!!!

    At least Arnav knows how to make good use of the time given...

    I wonder what Payal might be thinking... I hope she is not too shy like Akash...

    And Buaji, She will have a hard time sleeping tonight...

    I hope Aman recognizes anjali's voice... Will Arnav be okay with them being a couple??? I hope not... They'll make a great couple... If only they showed us in IPK what Aman looks like...

    I love Arnav and Khushi's chemistry, and their romance too...

    Love Anjali, She is the best sister ever...

    Loved this Long Long update...

    And most of all I love You Tina for writing so long long great great wonderful wonderful chapters...

    You Rock!!!

    Cant wait to read the next update...

    And Congrats on the new thread...

  46. Ahh!1 That was tooo gud!!

    he he he

    i thoroughly enjoyed this!!!

    eager to see how this goes on!!

    IF id LeenaRocks

  47. loved the update...this is so fun filled...i just loved every bit of it...poor khushi..must be so embarrassed...lol...arnav has big appetite for kisses..hahaha...
    boxers or briefs???? seriously??? hahahahaha..this bit was the most hilarious one...i couldn't stop myself from laughing..
    too good....can't wait for the next update
    cont soon

    ~if id- luvraj4ever

  48. tina u r just amazing great update thanks!


  49. fantastic all GNO's should be like this.....

  50. so so cute and lovely......

  51. i just caught up with these updates of volume 2.
    they are all so interesting so intense. arnav n khushi relationship is perfect may be because it has an element of magic or may be because love actually is like tht. what ever the reason i just love the chemistry, the trust, the emotions they share.

  52. Hey Tina... im really enjoying reading this ff... u are an amazing writer... thanks for sharing... really appreciate it... love arshi mind games.. they are just too gud :D - Ekta

  53. Hey Tina ur writings are mindblowing...........simply awesome Im finding no words to appreciate u.......it was really humorous Im just glued to the screen.........thanks and all the best!

  54. Amazing update. Loved reading the whole 5 parts. The girls drunken part was really hilarious especially payal telling buaji to get a boyfriend and anjali confessing to aman. Buaji seemed to be more loving towards khushi after the apology, feel something fishy.

  55. Amazing update. Loved reading the whole 5 parts. The girls drunken part was really hilarious especially payal telling buaji to get a boyfriend and anjali confessing to aman. Buaji seemed to be more loving towards khushi after the apology, feel something fishy.

  56. i loved it. read it all in one go. waiting eagerly for your SS and shameless e book.

  57. At some pion your story wasn't movi ng fast enough....
    But soon tgat changed I I was back in the story....amezing writing...
    Thanks sweets.....

  58. I'm loving it.....the last chapter in vol I was so heart wrenching....was so happy when they got back together.....looking forward to see how they get married....moving on to next set of updates.....thanks a ton for this beautiful FF....